It was a gloomy afternoon and the sky was grey threatening rain when we arrived at Ormoc City from the province of Biliran. The air was warm and humid. The smell of the mountains still lingers inside my nose then gradually changed into a bitter, choking sensation of city smoke. Even if my eyes were fogged and blurred, I saw familiar scenes like market boutiques, buildings towering from each other, local jeepneys, buses and even timid tricycles across the streets bustled the hazed city with a trickle of smoke, trailing, ascending, a mist never-ending. “Oh! Nothing much changed. This is still the Ormoc that I once left”, I chuckled with a half smile on my face.
REMINISCING THE HARBOR CITY OF ORMOC.
2 years and 2 months. That long since I last set my foot in Ormoc City. I’ve been here four times – and now fifth – in Ormoc City and spent in a total of more than a month of staying. On that span of time, I ventured out with my friends living here in some unspoiled beaches, freshwater lake, and even crazy road trips and food trips at city night. During my stay in Ormoc City, my close friends opened their doors for me and sheltered me. No qualms and questions, I was welcomed warmly back then. I considered it as my second home because I never felt like a stranger nor a guest during my stay, I felt like I’m one with their family. Truly, there I felt the genuine hospitality of Filipinos.
AFTERNOON RUSH. ROAD TRIP TO LAKE DANAO.
Late in the afternoon, we haggled a jeep to cater our group to Lake Danao. The sky was still dull as we ascent to the lake on top of the Leyte highlands. Rolling plains covered several land mass on our views on the way up. It was dressed with hundreds of hectares of pineapple and sugarcane plantations. The slight rises and falls of the landforms beguiled us into thinking how blessed is this city.
While we were huddled in the jeep, the fresh cold wind came into our company. I sat at the back edge of the jeep by the window facing the scenery outside on my left with my legs stretched out in front of me. The cold wind was nipping at my face. It brushed softly against me, it felt fine. The chilly fresh air tingled my nose. It has a pleasant breaking on it. I stretched my left hand just a little outside the window with my palm open. I just want to feel more of the cold wind breezing on my skin, I just want to feel connected with nature a little more.
Suddenly, a blast of cold wind prickled along my skin, sinking into my very bone. The wind got colder. It’s fresher and felt more solace. The sight of the lush virgin forest displayed on the window along the way, it was appealing. Clouds kissing the mountains, shrouded images of coconut trees aligned on top of it, varieties of ravishing wildflowers thrived to life beside the road made the scene more provincial. It’s just a typical setting on the mountains but it gave a lot of heartwarming and gratifying story on it.
OVERLOOKING VIEW DECK. MY ZAP MOMENT.
It was a butt-numbing ride before we got to Lake Danao. The lake appeared as if by magic as we traced along the road. It looked so calm; statue still from a distance. To have a better view and appreciate the grandeur of the lake, we headed straight to the view deck. My heart was pounding with excitement as I was approaching the view deck. It was my first time here. Step by step, the image of the lake slowly unraveled before me. The scene was so glorious that I had a lightning bolt moment, a zap moment.
The view deck is set among a striking backdrop of dark green trees, imposing mountains and the placid Lake Danao. Shortly, the sun pierced through the dark grey sky that made Lake Danao glistened temporarily amidst the lush green mountains. The lake shimmered as if thousands of diamonds embedded beneath it. We’re all awestruck by the raw beauty of the lake. The idyllic scene took our breath away. Then mist floats across the mountains overshadowing the forest and the lake but still magnificent as it is. It made an impression that she’s glorious in all scenes. Curious and intrigued, we decided to make our way down to the bank of the lake.
Small stores now lining up along the road near the shore. It was a little bit lively compared to the last time I was here. But it concerns me how this gradual increase of small businesses will make an impact – may it be positive or negative – to the environment and ecosystem with the drastic rising popularity of Lake Danao. I hope they’ll do something good about it for the future.
PLACID WATER OF THOUGHTS OF LAKE DANAO.
As we walked by a cemented pavement to the bank, it was decorated with mahogany trees lining up with a beautiful background of the lake. The air is fresh and overwhelming with cool gushes of wind blowing. We were greeted by the music of nature; birds chirping, the sound of the winds in the trees, and the rustling of leaves. It’s as if we’re in the scene from a movie. From afar, water adventure junkies were paddling on their brightly colored canoes across the pristine lake. Dozens of floating cottages – with sizes unlike – designed after the traditional bahay kubo (nipa hut) settled on the bank. We rented one and floated out in the middle of the lake.
We also rented a canoe, different from those colorful ones; a canoe simply made from hollowed-out trees. We tried catching little ripples on our butts. Paddling and paddling. Harder and harder. Until we reached a spot of pure bliss. Serene, peaceful, and calm are only a few words I could describe what it was like on the water of Lake Danao. I was wistful for a moment, then asked myself, “If only life was that easy as paddling across the lake, our lives could have been better.” But the world is never what we want it to be. We wanted our lives to change. Change into something we wanted. It’s all about our capacities and perseverance. Fate has its eyes on every one of us. That even if time and faith were still left you to change into something different, you would most likely not wish to change. Or if you did wish to, you would most probably do nothing. Because, perhaps, in reality, there was nothing for you to change into. That makes you who you are today; your failures, your miseries, we learn from them. How excruciatingly arduous and unbearable it is to live. But we all got our friends, families, and those who cared most for us. They made our life’s journey less painful. All thoughts streaming through my head just a paddle away. I think less about it and we stirred our way back.
ANOTHER COLD WATER. ANOTHER WARM GOODBYE
I sat at the edge of the floating cottage with my feet dipped into the water. The air looming ahead of us began to relax my frayed nerves. The cool breeze and the placid waters of the lake prevailed. It lulled some of us easily into sleep. Its waters show calmness. I could feel the chill and tranquility of a fresh-water lake. The only sound was our joyous cackling voices. I couldn’t help but observe. This green hue mixes with the lake’s dark blue color, signifying the depth, that until today is not yet measured. Some squadron of dragonflies flopping the surface of the lake making distinct patterns of ripples. An eagle flies above the lake towards the grey sky. I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
The water is so inviting. I stood up, momentarily hold my breath, took a dive, and swam the waters. The water wasn’t that cold, it’s just enough to relax my torn out body. It’s a perfect place to unwind, chill out, and wind down all your worries. A place where you can feel all the energy surrounding you. It’s a place where there are no limits so it makes you think big. I feel the joy rising in my veins like the sap in the springtime. Frolicking in the waters; splashing, teasing and laughing. We had fun, more than it, like we were kids in a pool. It really was memorable.
The day is breaking. In a bit, we’ll be saying our goodbyes to the lake. Though it wasn’t a long time spending here, we felt whole as big as this lake. This leaves us with an additional separation anxiety. Another memory of our memory bank. Another place to reminisce. And another lake to revisit soon. Thank you, Lake Danao.