After the mornings excitement I choose to spend the day in the hands of my missionary friends. We visit a local church where it is the first day of a two day convention. The hosts of my companions are guest speakers and delivering there sermons in the morning. I thoroughly enjoy the proceedings and join them and the minister for lunch inside the church. In the afternoon we visit a poor area of town and collect a large group of kids, put them in their best clothes and bring them to the church for the evening's activities and dinner. The day, the speakers and the children stir my heart, as the kids fight to hold my hands on our walk through the streets of Iloilo. I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa, "There is more need for love and appreciation in this world, than there is for food. "
I leave early the next morning on a boat bound for Cuyo island, a remote dot on the map, highly isolated and off the tourist trail. My idea, spend the weekend in quiet solitude, read the stack of books I'd bought in Iloilo and contemplate the stars. This is exactly what I do, finally finishing Moby Dick by Melville, along with The Princess and the Goblin (MacDonald), The Death of Ivan Ilynich (Tolstoy), The Bagavad Gita, The Da Vinci Code (Brown) and The Metamorphosis (Kafka). Amazingly, amidst all the artistic grandeur, I have time to visit the beautiful Cuyo islands with, a most "Fantastical" character, Mr. Karl Muerller. Traveling for almost 2 years this jolly German retiree can find the pleasure in any activity. Certainly a wonder to be around and a great teacher for the soul. His favorite saying, "It's Fantastical, Fantastical I tell you!".
Other than Karl and myself, the island hosts only two other westerners, a German and an Ozzie, both expats living with their Filipino wives and children. They prove interesting characters and short term friends during my stay at Nikki's Pension where the family seems to adopt me as one of their own.
My last evening on Cuyo the wind begins to howl and unable to sleep I venture out onto the silky beach. In the utter darkness, the recessing tide and on coming storm begin to tickle my mind and with chills floating up my spine I look to the sky for my familiar stars. Where was my good friend Orion? Taurus the Bull? Even the Big Dipper? Studying the strange horizon my heart jumps with joy. I see The Southern Cross, with a twinkle in his eye, peaking over the water, right where he belongs. Ninety degrees left of where I had watched the sun set hours earlier. I stare in happy revelry when suddenly, behind me, a huge dog barks, and leaping from my surreal state, I nearly piss my pants! Laughing, I return to the Pension to rest.
Back on the boat, for 15 more hours to Puerto Princesa, the storm builds, and packed in our open air bunks on the rickety Milagrosa-2, we are tossed and whirled on the ocean swells. With this thunderous backdrop I raise my volume to full and immerse myself in Yo-Yo Ma's "The Silk Road Journey" (thank you Cory) and marvel at my freedom to suddently live my life in a world filled with such creative beauty and character. As the seas calm, sleep finally comes to the gently rocking ship and its passengers, and we wake to the Island of Palawan, the Philippine's "Last Frontier".