Between El Nido and Coron: Tao Expeditions
I planned an epic six-day sailing trip off the northern coast of Palawan, a tropical paradise in the Philippines. This trip was the first time in four years I (a Floridian) took a reprieve from the harsh Korean winter. Unfortunately, I had no idea I was leaving the frozen concrete tundra of Seoul for the middle of a storm. Life is full of unexpected surprises.
I was here, the pinnacle of my four years living abroad, and it was a disappointment.
In paradise, bad weather makes everything look normal, even mundane. Paradise is an illusion. We merely deify great days in faraway places, satiated by ignorance.
Being marooned in the same place with chilly rain and little cover for three days was never part of my plan.
We were behind schedule. No longer could we enjoy the best of what lay between El Nido and Coron. It would be a mad rush to reach Coron by the end of the trip with a few convenient stops along the way in an attempt to salvage the journey. Four days became two days, and those two days substantially dropped in quality.
Out of desperation, we left the Tao Center to settle fifteen minutes away at a nearby fishing village. The violent waves of the typhoon forbid further travel. Happy New Years.
A small fishing village of twenty-five families existed behind our new camp. Tao Expeditions bought the land instead of developers to protect the village. They spent years cleaning and restoring the beach. Prior to our arriving, several expeditions must have visited the village because the kids were well-versed in gangster signs for photographs — the beauty of cultural exchange.
Nevertheless, the village was my favorite part of the trip. Until then, I felt discontent. The reality of sailing through paradise fell short of my expectations, but the children saved me.
They had rotting teeth, but big smiles; simple toys, but abundant laughter; a small world, yet many friends. These children were happy, even in the middle of a storm.
Maybe discontent grows with age. Maybe discontent grows when we realize others have something we do not. Maybe misery evolves with age because our experiences in the universe fall short of our child-like expectations of how the universe should be.
Whatever corrodes people with age was absent in these island kids. They could rise above a storm by playing in the sand.
It was time to put up my camera and play in the sand, too.