Escape to Chocolate Hills
It has been half a year since I came to Bohol. I became used to the scenic views of the Chocolate Hills, the abundant forested lands and grasslands, the blue sea all around. These sights have become the norm for me, something which is odd, and very much welcome, for a city boy such as myself.
I grew up in the city, taking refuge in malls during the hot summers, walking to the crazy parts of Edsa, enjoying the comforts of cab rides and adoring the beauty of the cityscape at night. The bustling noise of Metro Manila somewhat offered comfort, the rush of harried, indifferent pedestrians every day a normal sight.
In contrast, Bohol is an entirely different world. I brought all the indifference of the city with me, and yet people greet me with a smile on the bus. After knowing I am Tagalog, they will engage me in conversation, usually about why I live in Bohol alone.
My usual answer is that I was relocated by my job. But that’s not the complete answer. The idea of my assignment started as a suggestion from my boss, rather than a direct order for me to pack my bags and go to Bohol. I thought it over for 30 minutes, and said yes.
Did I agree to this because of the additional benefits? An increase in my salary? A stronger résumé? New experiences I wanted to have?
No. It is probably a lot more basic than that.
I probably wanted to run away; to go to a place where no one would know me or recognize me. In going to such a place, I could become who I want to be with no strings attached. I would not fear any judgment from anyone I know over mistakes I make.
And so I packed my bags and went to Bohol.
What greeted me were vast fields of green, scenic views and a language I have yet to learn. Life here is much simpler, and the people are kinder. There are nights when I wake up in tears thinking of the life I left in the city. I still miss the bustling city noise, the crazy drivers, the chilly malls, the packed buses and trains, the scenic cityscape during the night.
I still wonder every now and then whether it was a good idea to choose to run away.
I think there is nothing wrong with running away, though. Choosing to face things later is a legitimate course of action. After all, confronting things without preparation is a dreadful experience, most of the time ending in humiliation.
I could still remember the times I ran away — from a loved one dying in the hospital, for instance. I still remember the smell of medicine and rubbing alcohol in the air, the hospital bed in front of me, and the beeping sound of machines desperately supporting life.
Or the time there was a strong downpour of rain, and I met up with her near the building with a very old tree. We looked at the pouring rain, and she shivered in nervousness just to say the things she needed to say to me.
Or the time I was going home on the bus with a friend. He sat on the seat in front of me displeased and cold, because I had retreated away, unable to tell him the answer to the question “why.”
All those things still haunt me even in my sleep.
I know running away is probably the worst option anyone could choose in situations that call for clarity and resolution. But it also seems the most reasonable especially when you are a person still figuring out what you are and what you want to become.
I know that, eventually, I will have to face all of them: the hospital bed, the girl in the rain and the friend on the bus. But for now, as I look out of the bus window and see the beautiful Chocolate Hills, I can only vow to work on myself so that, someday, I will not lose courage and will face things head-on.
* * *
Joshua Nathaniel S. Pineda, 26, is an area project manager of the Center for Environmental Studies and Management Inc.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.