How Riding a Bus Made Me Enjoy Life as an Ilonggo Again

By Harren Fegarido

The rapid progress enjoyed by Iloilo City today means we are now moving in a faster pace of life than usual. People here are now being taught to fit everything within an eight-to-twelve hour shift as the standards of living become more expensive. As the city lights started to hurt my eyes, I’m becoming afraid that the laid-back lifestyle of a simple, urban community will be eventually lost.

That’s why I made the decision of riding a bus, and I haven’t looked back since.

Five years ago, I dreamt of walking the rice paddies and farm lands, all while smelling the scent of my freshly brewed coffee in the morning and seeing the sun set during dusk beyond the majestic mountains and pristine beaches. I then made the decision of moving away from the city not to escape the urban madness, but to accept the invitation of working in a small rural town 200 kilometers away. I could still feel the breeze of freedom against my hands waving outside the window when I sat on the bus with my knees straining against my bags. If this is what means to leave “society”, then I was certainly happy with my decision to do so.

Going Back to Living

I arrived in the early morning of June 22, 2012 in a little town with quiet people. I rented a room with a single bed and chair and with wide windows and facing the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. It has no internet connection, no TV, no FM radio—it was hard, but fulfilling.

Every morning, I do my usual routine of meditation by embracing the breeze of nature. Mornings here are different, quieter, better. Fogs create waves in the foot of the mountains, emphasizing how insanely cold the weather is during early mornings. Coffee is compulsory during this hour; it is medicine for the morning silence that lures me back to sleep. After the sun’s heat dries the earth’s dew, the townspeople start with their daily tasks. Tricycles make noise and children start walking to school. It’s simple. No hassle.

During the day, people talk about the weather, food, farming, life. People talk with heart and with essence of living the life of simplicity. They don’t complain about the government and they don’t post witty opinions on current issues. However, they do know how to live with a little amount of money and appreciate the things around them without having to crave for anything beyond their means. They breathe in poverty and made it part of their lives. It’s a humbling experience listening to their stories of survival, simplicity and reality. People talk about the real stuff there. It’s simple. No hassle.

When the clock strikes 6 in the evening, the children line up to show respect to their elders by observing “mano”. For kids living in highly urbanized areas in the Philippines, this is indeed a vanishing practice of respect; best of all, it even extends beyond mere gesture. Kids are not allowed to go out after 6 (well, except for the stubborn ones, that is), and there are no late-night hang outs or 24-hour convenience stores to distract them. The silence accompanied by the sound of crickets and frogs is deafening, but it signals that I should be one with my thoughts and spirit tonight, to reflect on the day’s chores and tomorrow’s challenge. Simple. No hassle.

Of course, I haven’t even got to the best part of living here: fifteen minutes away from the town is a small island surrounded by white sand and populated with lots of beautiful people. Once in a while, I bring my tent and a few bottles of drinks for the local neighbourhood, and we talk over bonfire and acoustic music from night time until sunrise. I swim at its beaches and sleep all day on a hammock tied under a tree. This is what paradise probably is for me. Life is free. No hassle.

Enjoying the Silence

These past three years has been an ongoing communion with nature and God. Every day is a chance to breathe new life and hope that I pass through its struggles and continue to seek the meaning of its essence. Life in the rural area is indeed hard; the conveniences we take for granted in the city are almost nonexistent there. However, it certainly allowed me more time to think, more people to know, more stories to listen to and more lessons to understand. These brought me back to the core of living, and it allowed me to reconnect with my nature. No hassle. Less problems.

I am lucky enough in this regard to live in a place where people are allowed to pause, breathe and reflect on the essence of reality and brutality of life. Each of us already perceives the kind of life we want for ourselves and the paths we are willing to take that will lead us to true happiness. But living in a fast-paced world of money, technology and all things material, we overlook our essence: who are we really? What are our roots? Do we really recognize our nature and our real needs? Are we truly living?

Maybe the answer you are looking for is inside a bus.

Photo by the author

Harren Fegarido is a wanderer