Unforgettable People, Memorable Encounters on the Road

Monday, January 07, 2013Ryan Mach

Sometimes, traveling isn't just about the journey or the destination; it can also be about the people you meet on and down the road. There aren't many people who travel because they want to meet individuals. They go to a certain place for the place itself, or for the food and mostly always for the attraction. And that's completely understandable. I mean unless you're a journalist whose business is to interview locals or a lonely soul looking for a different kind of 'fun, then you're not expected to meet people, or even talk to them. But you're bound to interact with them, one way or another.

Meeting people, some of them complete strangers, can take your journey into a whole new level, especially if you are able to make meaningful connection. My Dumaguete escapade was unforgettable because of the interesting people I met there.

A simple act of kindness, a heartfelt conversation, a scary encounter - here are some tales of memorable people I encountered on the road.

Persistent Pedicab Driver - Legazpi

I was on my way back to the hotel one rainy night from my food trip at Small Talk Cafe when I met an old pedicab driver along the side of the road in Legazpi City in Albay. It had been raining all afternoon and that night, the rain was just as hard as ever. I didn't think that going to the hotel could be a challenge. But there I was, stuck and fidgety, desperately waiting for a jeepney that hardly passed by. The street was dim-lighted and a bit deserted. I wasn't particularly scared because there were a few open establishments nearby.
SmallTalk Cafe along Dona Aurora St

I started to panic a little bit when I realized that I had been waiting for almost an hour. I was mulling over the idea of hailing a tricycle when I saw the man whose pedicab was parked a few meters from me. The only purpose of approaching him was to ask if there's a jeepney bound for Embarcadero where the hotel was located. He told me there was, although extremely rare because it's quite late. I glanced at my watch - it was only 7 in the evening.

The man, sensing my desperation, started stopping every jeepney that passed by to ask if it's bound for Embarcadero. I realized that he couldn't read, which explained why he had to ask each driver of the vehicle he had bothered to stop. His attempt proved futile because none of those jeepneys was passing by at Embarcadero. He then offered to take me to the hotel through his pedicab. He was charging me for only P20.00.

It was a good deal that I politely refused. What made me adamant about not accepting his offer was the fact that he smelt of liquor and he sounded drunk. With rain pouring hard and the road slightly dark, I didn't think we could get to the hotel in one piece.

At one point, he lowered his offer to P10.00, which was crazy because the hotel is relatively far. I told him I was going to take a tricycle and I was sorry that I would not be getting his service. I'm not sure if I did the right thing but before I got on the trike, I handed the man P30.00 for his assistance.

Kind Couple - Carabao Island

We didn't have an accommodation when we went to Carabao Island last April. But my friend, D, who was born and raised in the island referred us to his aunt whose humble abode served as our hotel for a night. We asked D through a text message how much would they charge us for a night-stay. He said it's up to us. But we clearly had no idea. D's aunt and uncle thought D was with us and we could sense that they were a bit disappointed to find out that it was just me and another friend, without D whom they've been hoping to see. Regardless, the couple treated us as esteemed guests, served us sumptuous lunch & dinner and gave us room, literally. They even gave us straw hats. They're concerned that we'd burn under the sweltering heat of the sun. Sweet couple!
My friend with the couple, right before leaving

Before leaving the next day, my friend and I handed some amount as a token of appreciation. But the couple waved it off. Napahiya tuloy kami. We couldn't thank them enough. Their generosity and warmth were part of the reason our Carabao Island experience rocked.

Proud Mom - Caramoan

My plan, once I settled inside the van bound for Naga, was to sleep, or think, or listen to the music. But I wasn't able to do any of these because as soon as the van left from Sabang, an old woman who sat beside me started to make a conversation. She began by asking where I had been. "Caramoan, ma'am," I said courteously with a smile on my face. She smiled and told me she lives there.

"Oh really?" I responded, a little more surprised than I intended. She went on to ask what I thought about the place. Awesome, I told her. She nodded and smiled. I knew right then and there that the conversation wouldn't end too soon. At first I minded because I'm not the type of person who enjoys talking to people while traveling. It makes me a little dizzy. For some reason however I felt no motion sickness the whole time I was talking to her.
Our conversation gradually transitioned from Caramoan to her youngest son who's also about my age. I could tell based on how she talked about him that she has massive admiration for her son. "He doesn't have a girlfriend, too," she told me. I was about to tell her that I do, because frankly, I didn't like it when she's being judgmental but I'm a bad liar. Anyway, she explained that her son is too busy at work that he doesn't have time for a relationship. "He's too focused and dedicated, my little boy. In fact, his company has just given him a promotion and he's got his own car!" There was no gloating in her voice, just huge admiration.

I told her I was happy for his son but in reality, I felt worse inside. All those talk about her son's achievement made me look at my own career, which seemed stagnant. I can't remember how our conversation ended. It just sort of died naturally. I recall looking outside the window, at the vast green fields we were passing by, feeling a void inside.

Dedicated Worker - Boracay

I was waiting for my order at some seafood restaurant in Boracay when I met her - this fellow kababayan of mine who's also a cousin of my high school classmate and friend. She wasn't assigned to take my order, she just happened to pass by at my table. I heard her talk to her colleagues in a very familiar language - Onhan, a mixture of Kinaray-a, Ilonggo and Bisaya. Instinctively, I asked her where she came from. Romblon, she told me. I became very excited. Where in Romblon, I asked. Sta. Fe, she replied.
Excitedly, I told her that I've been there and I have friends who grew up in the place. I cited one surname and she exclaimed when she heard it. Apparently, she also bears the same surname. I went on to tell her the name of my classmate, and she told me that she's in fact her cousin.

"How is she?" she asked me in our local tongue. I told her that she's good. I knew that she was because I've seen her just a month ago. "We've traveled together in Palawan," I told her, still smiling. She made a comment about her cousin being able to afford to travel because they're well-off. I didn't feel that she's playing the pity card, she's merely sharing her thoughts. Somehow however, for a minute I felt bad for her.

"How's Boracay treating you?" I asked her in a cheerful tone.
"Not bad," she said, smiling. She told me that her job as a waitress affords her to go home once a month. She misses her kid but she has to work.

She excused herself when my order arrived. She tended a bunch of customers who had just arrived.

Concerned Fellow - Mt. Tarak

The trek to Mt. Tarak was possibly the worst experience I had last year - terrible weather and awful campsite. Despite having a bad cough, I still joined a group of mountaineers intent on climbing even under the heavy downpour. I was under the impression that once we got to the campsite, everything would be okay. But I was dead wrong. We weren't able to eat well because the rain started to lash with vengeful blow as soon as our meal was ready. To make matters worse, our tent got flooded. Just thinking about how we were going to last the night inside a wet tent made me feel more sick than I already was.
Gloomy sky over Tarak

Our peers whose tents were in a much better condition could only sympathize with us. I was hoping that one of them could give us shelter, but their tents couldn't accommodate additional people. Some could only look at us with sorry eyes, while others thought we're going to be okay. Haha.

My companion and I were standing near our tent, holding an umbrella when the leader of the group offered his tent to us. It was an offer that's just hard to refuse but we're abashed to accept it because doing so would mean him sleeping under the rain. He said he didn't mind as he'd drink the night off anyway. When you're drunk, you wouldn't care where you sleep, he said musing. Here was a man so concerned of his peers that he's ready to give up his own comfort just to make sure others are okay.
This is Ian, our hero

I was humbled by the unselfish act and will be forever grateful to him. Ian, you rock!

What about you? What are you most memorable encounters on the road? 

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