Small Town

For about two weeks, I was stuck in the small town of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental relative to my work. I was originally planning of going back to Davao City during weekends so that I would not miss my graduate study classes. However, I’ve learned during my first night in that small town, that to go home, I would need to commute at least 7 hours by bus on Friday, spend the night in Cagayan de Oro City, so that I could take the early morning flight from Laguindingan Airport to Davao. Well, I’ve found out I am not that devoted to my grad studies. And so, for two weekends, I was practically enjoying the activities a bucolic place could offer – surfing the cable TV, marathoning some favorite romcom’s in my laptop, and my favorite pastimes, reading and having morning/afternoon walks. I felt like I was taking a retreat. It was very refreshing. I was grateful that I can’t easily get out. Deep inside of me, I was secretly thankful I have some valid excuse of not being able to fulfill some responsibilities. Because essentially, I was stuck.

But Plaridel was a good place to be stuck in. Just a few steps from my hostel was the Catholic Chapel, in which Wednesday and Sunday masses are held. In front of the chapel was a simple restaurant, regarded as the best in the town. A walk farther away was the sea port. In fact, if I take the narrow road at the back of my hostel I will find the beach.

During my first Sunday in town, I decided to take a walk around the town square. The walk took me to a public school which was built just a few meters from the shoreline. As I was walking near the school, I marveled at the sight and sound of the sea. I tried to savor the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves and wondered if the kids going to that school still appreciate the sea even if it has become mundane to them. The ocean was a perfect crystal blue, and the sky mirrored its color. I took my phone and snapped some photos. I also took the time to record the rhythmic crashes of the waves.   It was breathtaking that I simply had to utter a prayer of thanksgiving. How I wish I’m always filled with this kind of awe and wonder! How I wish my life would be as simple as the teacher who teaches in that school, and as carefree as the students in it.

I always wanted a simple life. As years pass, I realized I never preferred to be a city rat or an urban dweller. Though there are times I may have sought a fast-paced, adventurous life, I never had the ability to sustain the desire… I have learned that I usually end physically and emotionally drained, questioning why I have to pursue something that which my heart never really yearned for. Examining my heart deeper, I thirst for a peaceful existence, and quietly pursuing an academic career, as a teacher and as a writer. My passion for books and stories have grown to a level that I would want to write one, and would want to spend my life telling good, inspiring stories. In fact, my “quiet” preference is one of the reasons why I choose to retreat back to Mindanao and turn my back from the promise of Manila. And because of that innermost longing, I have to painfully give up some social circles and prospects of closer relationships with one of the most interesting and life-giving people I have met in the capital city. It’s funny how life seems to turn around when you pursue a deeper longing. Though the decision was scary to make, I was convicted that it was the Lord who intensified that longing. In one of my prayer times, the Lord said to me that I have to be uprooted from a spot that I have grown overly comfortable with, lest I remain stagnant in my faith journey. His timing was perfect. Looking back, had I stayed longer in Manila, I would have stemmed some superfluous attachments which could have been more difficult to prune.

The “ordinariness” of this small town reminded me that I am just going through this phase in life in which long-term decisions are being tested, and that my ability to stuck it out and remain faithful is being polished. Although I have anticipated that I will undergo a situation in which things do not turn out the way I want it to be, it is quite different when you are already in the situation. In challenging times, I have questioned my decisions, and sometimes I wonder if I really made adequate discernment. Thankfully enough, the Lord’s grace do not fall short in reminding me that He was with me when I made my decisions, and that His promises will still hold true even if I undergo trying moments. Thus, I am able to dispel temptations of self-pity and loneliness. There is grace in living an ordinary life. Oftentimes, living an ordinary life is one of the most difficult things to do.

Plaridel is far from being a touristy town. However, it’s funny to think that we will find moments of grace not from places that offer us a modern and active premise, but from those with a subdued environment but which can mysteriously pacify the souls of the restless.

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