I spent the last three weeks with my good friend touring around some Filipino islands. I went with some pretty big hopes of inspiration. A change of scenery and a withdrawal from painting usually gets me fired up with a burning desire to create new work. In addition, I was hoping to see some things that would rock my world and gives me some new feels powerful enough to launch a new series.
Well, I've been back for a few days now and I haven't picked up a brush. I've been taking the last couple of days to relax and settle in. The honest truth is that it wasn't quite as inspirational and not at all as relaxing as I had hoped. It turns out that short stays (3 nights max), coupled with my "can't-sit-still personality", is not a recipe for relaxation.
And wait, there's more. If you follow along with the news, you will know that current state of civil unrest happening in the Philippines. I've been to 7 other countries in Southeast Asia and considered myself a savvy traveler. As so we researched affected areas ahead of time and made deliberate plans to avoid any island that that been mentioned in the headlines.
The day we landed, the Canadian embassy (as well as the USA, UK, and other countries) issued a traveler advisory to avoid the exact region that we had planned to travel to. There had been kidnapping treats made to the island of Palawan, specifically the Subterranean River. After receiving assurance from the hotel that it was safe and they were taking all possible precautions, we did end up going to the exact area the travel advisory had named.
Luckily we were absolutely fine in this areaIt was actually the area we felt most safe in while in the country (in the morning, after arriving late at night down a long, dark road). But the advisory set the tone for the entire trip. Rightfully so, we were on guard and uneasy everywhere we went. This was an uncomfortable place for me to find myself in. I usually stay away from drama, but I had to quickly adjust to this unfamiliar feeling.
Over the three week period we were constantly given problems, and then had to develop solutions. Some minor, others more serious.
"We don't have anywhere to stay tonight"
"We were robbed in the night while sleeping"
"The ATM didn't dispense our money but charged us"
"Five men are banging on our doors and windows for hours in the middle of the night"
"The motorbike owner is threatening to call the police if we don't pay for the scratches"
"There is only one ATM and we are running out of money"
"Our bags are heavy, our necks hurt, we are sweaty, there are cockroaches"
"The power is out, again"
"The flight is delayed, I hope we make our connecting flight"
In the midst of all of these frustrating questions, we opened our eyes and were greeted by the most beautiful vistas. The water. was. amazing. It was unlike any other water I had seen. In every region it was a slightly different hue, but all just as clear. We were in continuous awe of just how lovely so many beaches could be.
We stayed at El Nino Resort on Miniloc Island for a night. This gave us the rare opportunity to kayak to the lagoons at sunrise, before any other tourists were around. It was a breathtaking experience that I will never forget.
We were lucky to have have been invited to stay at some really wonderful resorts. I'll mention some of them because I believe they deserve a shoutout: Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa, Daluyon Beach & Mountain Resort, and Club Paradise Palawan. Each of the these resorts showed us so much hospitality and kindness. It was a joy to be able to stay with them. They provide us a calm shelter outside of the chaotic hustle and bustle of the backpacker life.
Two days before I returned to Canada the advisory was lifted. I was surprised to also feel lighter upon reading this update. It's amazing how much stress it actually gave me. It's not until now, when I'm reflecting back on the experience, that I'm realizing how much I've grown from this trip. I'm going to continue to reflect on this and see where it takes my practice in the coming weeks.