Although not exactly a people’s person by nature, the thing that strikes me most when I visit a new place is nothing but the people who make that place seem unique to an outsider. While some give you wary glances, some only smile, some seem indifferent to your existence in their vicinity and still some make you feel as special as a celebrity! I try to look into their faces, sometimes a little longer than a glance and a little short of a stare, to dig into their features as if that will help me reach their soul.
While we manoeuvre our way through the narrow lanes of a shipping village in Philippines, we come face to face with what I would call simplistic humility. Nothing but bare essentials of life adorn the little huts of these villagers, but the smile on their faces remain warm and contagious. Guided by nothing but a torch light in spite of a bright sunny day that fails to reach the insides of this little hub, we reach the road to see more civilization. While teenagers make a style statement in their funky attires, children in all sizes and shapes are urged by their mothers to walk a little faster. A scene not peculiar neither new, since it almost felt like I was in my own country among my own people had it not been for the faces of these people with their chinky eyes and shiny skins, their round faces with toothy grins and a carefree gait. We share a common language to exchange pleasantries with the locals, but although our accents differ we still manage to convey what we want to say to each other. The sign language in between comes to our rescue. In the midst of nodding heads and waving hands as a mode of communication, and smiling at the confusion, we move on to the city.
The picturesque beauty of the place took a backseat while I explored the city among throngs of its local inhabitants and their myriad expressions. Greeted by a ‘Good-morning apo’ when we entered shops in the local market or a big mall, had the most distinct ring to it. Their eagerness to assist in the best way they could helped me shed off the last drain of the little apprehension that I carried within. Isn’t it always the people that makes you feel the way you do in a new place? It’s the way they receive you that can make you feel at home and accepted. How much would the beauty of a place matter if the people it constituted were unfriendly I always wonder.
The essence of a zone I think is always in the clan it comprises. They are the ones that can make a trip memorable and worthwhile, for in their warmth and smile they give you a part of them that you carry forward in your heart as mementos of a lifetime, as I will do when I depart. I will take with me some cherished times, only to look forward to another pasture, another time and another race.