Every thing you’ve never seen before seems amplified on this somewhat unpretentious little island off the north coast of Cebu called Bantayan.
A walk from Barangay Pooc to the main square, Poblacion along the beach line shouts with blue and white.
A smattering of waterside hotels announce their presence with bright flags on bamboo poles, but there’s no row upon row of beach chairs so tourists can manufacture a day at the beach like everyone else’s. A few tourists sun themselves on sarongs or towels. Walking along, you pass them once every few hundred meters. Even at Kota Beach resort—halfway on Santa Fe beach before you find a path that leads to Santa Fe’s Poblacion—the resort almost at capacity this start of the dry season in Bantayan after the last hurrah of the monsoon season, the beach seems all yours.
Waking up to birds, swallows, tittering from a tree. Walk around, the sound of low tide waves barely register above the silence of blue sky and blue water.
To amplify is to heighten each sensation, deliberately or mechanically, acting upon a desire for more. When we amplify something the privacy of it decreases and it becomes a public event, brought to consciousness in intentional showcase, perhaps designed for attention, imprint, resonance.
Amplification on an outrigger ride to Virgin Islands from Santa Fe is the purr of the small motor for shallow cruising. In the waters off Santa Fe the depths are varied, a sign warns. Here and there in the clear water the shadow of rocks, and telltale breakwater above the surface of the water means rocks interrupt the rush of waves to shore. The boatman steers the crawling outrigger in an unpredictable zigzag to get to deeper water. Paying attention to the subtle patterns beneath the water, I spot the highway, a clearing of rocks that fishermen have maintained, for safe passage during low tide. Without the highway, outriggers might snag on a rock and break.
Once out on deeper water, marked by a somber, opaque blue, the outrigger fights the current as it makes a diagonal line for Virgin Island. In the thirty minute crossing, in between islands, I wonder if this is the metaphor I’ve waited for these past weeks. A way to imagine the crossing of identity through metanoia.
David Whyte in my favorite book of meditations Consolations: The Nurture, Solace and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words talks of Vulnerability.
Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing disposition, or something we can do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present, and abiding undercurrent of our natural state.David Whyte on VULNERABILITY
When we pretend to be invulnerable, we shut out interdependence we need, a natural interconnectedness to all life and people. Alone, we isolate ourselves from the essence of who we want to become.
In between who we were and who we are becoming is the ecotone, that evolutionary terrain the self must necessarily traverse as it seeks transformation into its next iteration, and ultimate survival.
In between shores, vulnerability amplifies. No longer in the receding city of self built over past existence, its once overbright lights growing smaller and blinking out with distance, the remaining space spanning toward a vague destination.
There might be storms. It may be a clear day. The crossing strains against the flow of tide. It’s slow going.
In between islands, you understand what Whyte alludes to, that
“To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially close off our understanding of the grief of others.”
That “To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human…”David Whyte on VULNERABILITY
I want to get there. Soon.
But like the destination of the day, Virgin Island, I don’t know what that looks like.
All I understand is that it is a place I have desired and that when I get there, it will be safer from where I’ve come. Where tranquility is amplified. And, the crossing is essential.
The waves intensify with the strong winds from the open sea. Occasionally, the water jumps inside and beads on the bamboo floor of the banca, cold salty greetings reminding me that the crossing brings vulnerability to the elements. On a different day, the banca I’m on could be powerless and flimsy against wind and water, amplified.
Today, there are hardly any clouds. The sky is a solid slate of blue. The waves roll in lazy curls. The banca sputters through.
Virgin Island winks in blue and white as we approach its shore. We beach. I pay the PHP 500 entrance fee to be here.
It’s a temporary stop to a longer crossing. The vast archipelago I am here to become acquainted to find some destination, a querencia, a safe place, demands many crossings.
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance…”David Whyte on VULNERABILITY
The longer I travel, the smaller I feel in the vastness of journey. Distance and time amplify the fading of old fortifications and throws open emerging plans of new spaces.
The sand is so fine it squeaks between your toes. This feels like home, this sensation of being barefoot, feet planted firmly, attuned to a moment and unfettered by the anxiety it will not last. It is a temporary pleasant postcard, and that is all right.
I deliberately ask about 50 visitors to Virgin Island, “Are you staying long here?”
In between selfies and sips of PHP 150 mango shakes and self-brought Tanduay and Cokes, each one answers a variation of “Just for the day.”
Me, too. I am just here for the day.
The silence from one of the hammocks seems loud enough to listen to for a long, lingering while. I turn it up.
Once in a while, people exclaim their smiles. They laugh. People, alive, alive.