I dreamed of visiting the province of Capiz for some time, but all I was lacking was a push. Yes, that one great push that even my busy schedule could not hinder me from going. I checked my must-visit list and Capiz was not yet crossed out. It was the lone province left on my Panay checklist. Perhaps, I should not leave it lonely, uncrossed; I reckoned it should join the accomplished entries, so the next time I check my list it would no longer feel left out.
It was funny though that I had been living here in this island, Panay, for a long time now—in fact I was born, educated and eventually found work here—yet it didn’t occur to me to even pay a visit. It was the little incident when I visited the Mountain Province that pushed me. That little moment made me pack my bag, jump into the bus and before I knew it I was already in Roxas City enjoying the breeze and seafood at one of the grills and restaurants at Baybay Beach, excitedly hiking at the Culasi Point Lighthouse, contemplating at Sacred Heart of Jesus Hill, listening to the biggest Church bells at Santa Monica (Panay Church) tolling, and chilling with a long time university friend and her musically gifted newfound lover at Cafe Terraza.
A stranger from Roxas City, who I once met while waiting for the Kiltepan sunrise in Sagada, asked me if I had been to Capiz, his hometown, and I said “no.” He was surprised, of course, not because I skipped Capiz but how I was able to reach Sagada, which was 1,050.5 kilometers away from Iloilo City or a total of 25-hour travel if taking Western Nautical Highway. He eagerly insisted that it would be better if I could go there next time and I said “maybe” in my surprisingly dry snobbish lazy tone. I didn’t mean to be rude, but that was the way it came out. Maybe it was too cold, around 10 degrees Celsius, and too early, 6 a. m., thus the lazy response.
I saw how his beaming expression changed because he was somehow hoping I would say yes to the invitation; he then diverted his gaze towards his fiancée trying to ask for a backup. I just smiled and pointed to the sunrise—it was screaming subtly and I don’t want the couple to miss it because they were trying to convince me to visit Capiz. The Kiltepan sunrise was truly worth waiting only to be used as my excuse of not answering an urgent invitation from new acquaintances; it slowly made its way above the contoured mountains and fought its way out of the morning clouds. While the couple was busy with their amazement, I slipped away and that was the end of our conversation. The next time I met them was somewhere in Sagada; they waved goodbye and I did, too. They knew I was about to go down to Baguio City that same day. They were smiling, but perhaps feeling defeated for they didn’t get the answer to their invitation. I didn’t get the chance to know their names, but I would surely remember their faces. I felt sorry for myself, and for them, too.
A few weeks passed and that “maybe” I gave for an answer became a growing annoyance, like floaters that would usually appear when you stare blankly at nothing. It was too much to think about, so damn I decided to just go. Yes, off to Roxas City.
When the bus reached Roxas City’s Ceres Terminal, I didn’t know where to go first as if my feet were glued into the ground. I stared at the clear blue sky, blankly; I noticed that it was too wide and blue. Maybe it was due to the low hills not blocking the landscape or maybe it was my eyes that got used to narrow spaces of my confined room.
I was totally blank until a tricycle driver interrupted me in my oblivion. He then asked me where I was headed and I couldn’t think of any place. My random self kicked in and suggested we should start at the city’s cathedral. So yeah, I made my way through the cathedral-like I did with my previous trips. One could never go wrong with cathedrals as landmarks; they would always be at the heart of almost every city. It was there, the Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral, waiting for me—the random traveler—as if we were longtime friends. Looking for cathedrals in every city I visit was a habit I unknowingly developed; it made me feel knowledgeable where I should head next if I spot one.
I know I have a friend residing in the city, but I didn’t ask her where to go. I sent her a message that I was coming though. The night before the trip, I was giddily checking some travelers’ blogs written about the city. I honestly prefer random things only to find out that my friend would be meeting me up; she had an itinerary. After exploring and praying in the cathedral, she fetched me and the rest of the day unraveled like the pages of my Sidney Sheldon books. I would no longer narrate what happened next; instead, I would let the photos to be posted in my blog recount everything.
Like all trips, especially the unplanned day tour, there would always be an ending. It was around 6:30 p. m. when I bade goodbye to my friend and her lover. I was so happy that I didn’t want to leave, but I had to.
As the bus trailed its way back to the city where I came from, I sat myself comfortably nearby the window; the curtain moved subtly as the bus revved up its engine; the breeze coming from the air conditioner soothed my skin; it hinted I should take a nap by seducing my tired yet satisfied eyes. I could not figure out what was outside because the night’s twin, darkness, was already taking over. I could only see my reflection on the glass window and realized my face was already painfully tanned. I just smiled for I know I had the best random weekend that others couldn’t even have.
Not knowing where to go next was not a problem for me. Sometimes, an acquaintance from a trip would unconsciously point me to the next destination. That was the way of the world, at least for me.
Roxas City, Capiz, off my list.