The pain of the past which I have tried very hard to run away from finally caught up with me. All the defenses I have built around me could not ward off the awful truth that the wounds of yesterday were still fresh as if I just had them. What I thought as scars were nothing but scabs that once peeled would expose the raw injuries underneath. The tormenting voice of the past kept echoing no matter how hard I tried to cover my ears. There was no choice left but to confront the pain for if I didn't, it would overtake me and leave me shattered in mind, soul and spirit. I opted to go back to the dark memories of the past to deal with every ghost that kept haunting me in the present. I relived rejection, abandonment, abuse, shame, guilt, anger, frustration, and fear. I revisited people of my yesteryears and looked them straight in the eyes to forgive and to ask forgiveness. Every step proved difficult. Every movement felt tormenting. It was like opening Pandora's box and all the ugliness of the past came flying out all at once into every direction. It was overwhelming and frightening that there were times I wished I did not open the box. At times it threatened to bring me to the brink of insanity and at times despair. But I had to stand my ground in order to silence the past, to stop it from hurting me. I wanted complete freedom from insecurity, loneliness, bitterness, self-hatred, unforgiveness and anger. I no longer desired temporary solutions for I was tired of running and denying. I was already tired of pretending that I was okay when in truth, I was wasting away inside. Uncovering the past required that I face the truth that I was terribly hurt and I sustained wounds far deeper than I thought I had and that these wounds have tied me down. I had to face the truth that every coping mechanism I know never truly healed my heart and soul. It hurt to face the fact that I was a broken person. It hurt to acknowledge the fact that I needed help for I have been used to depending solely on myself believing that nobody else can protect me. It was painful to shed off my "armor" and lay down my "weapons" and be naked and vulnerable, when all that people see is the tough and funny me. But it is the truth that would bring real freedom no matter how difficult and painful it is. The truth is that I could not heal myself. The truth is that people can only extend helping hands but not healing hands. The truth is that only Him who created me, who knows me more than I know myself, who sees the deepest part of me, can heal me. The truth is that the many things that I thought were true were nothing but lies that were created to lessen the pain, lies that I believed in order to protect myself. The truth is that in my attempt to keep myself from perceived harm, I isolated myself and built thick walls around me that only a few were allowed to pass through. The truth is that I had to tear down my perceived truth and hold on to the Truth that heals. And it is this Truth that freed me. It is this Truth that made me stand my ground as I dealt with my past and even if there were times that I would fall to the ground, it is this Truth that raised me up time and time again. It is this Truth that makes me win every battle and heal every wound that I sustain as I fight. It is this Truth that keeps reassuring that I would be able to live the way I was designed to despite the harshness of life and the people along the way because of the newfound strength, that I need not fear getting hurt for I will always be protected by the Truth who never once faltered in the many promises given.
How do you know it's over? It's when you start singing again. It's when your smile reaches your eyes again. It's when your laughter is filled with genuine amusement again. It's when you wake up and start loving again the rays of sun that touches your skin. It's when your heart feels lighter and you start feeling giddy again. It's when you close your eyes at night and start to smile because you're just thankful you're alive. It's when you are no longer easily angered by the slightest provocation. It's when the things that hurt you in the past seem distant and could no longer touch you. Then you know that the rain has stopped and the clouds have slowly been lifted. And you find that peace that seemed to elude you for the longest time. And you feel the solid ground under your feet and gravity seems powerless anymore. And you realize you're not broken into thousand pieces but you're whole, not because of what you or the people around you have done. But it's because Somebody who loves you despite of who you are remained faithful to His promise even if you never believed He would. And because the fog has cleared, you begin to see clearly that He never left you, not for a single moment. And you see yourself for who you truly are - loved, cherished, protected, secure. And your heart is filled with gratitude and you start writing and sharing the story. And you're ready for a new season.
What is supposed to be an adventure turned into disaster.
I have been looking forward to spending my birthday away from my family because I never really felt special on my special day. So I thought, if it feels like any other day, I might as well spend my birthday on a vacation, maybe not alone but with a friend or two to keep me accompany. Since nobody was free to be with me I planned to travel to Puerto Galera alone and go diving for 3 days. Maybe it’s my way to punish my family for what I think they did to me. And so I planned and planned about it. Then one day my friend asked me if I was pushing through with my plan and I said yes. He said we can go on his boat and we would be living in our tents for 3 days. It was an adventure for me – to cross from Anilao to Puerto Galera on a small boat, live in a tent which I haven’t done in a long while, and dive the days away. And so my friend and I went on to this trip. It was smooth sailing at first. The engine started just after three attempts and kept purring until we were just a few kilometers away from Puerto Galera. The waves were not so big and the sea was relatively calm until we reached the tip of Tinloy Island. It’s funny because I never felt scared during that time, maybe because I was too excited for my 3 days of adventure. Then the engine ran out of fuel just as we were in the middle of a seemingly open sea where the waves were bigger. We somehow managed to refuel and tried to restart the engine but we failed despite a few attempts. We decided to paddle our way to Puerto Galera. We would be there before sundown, we said. It was funny because the coast guard saw us paddling through waves and they didn’t even bother to find out if we were okay. And so we paddled for a few minutes until a big wave tossed our boat sideways and water started to get in. We had no choice but to jump off the boat and use our dive gears to keep ourselves afloat. It was scary at first but I could not let fear get the better of me. I needed to survive. We needed to survive. And so we jumped into the sea, inflated our BCDs, secure the paddle to the boat and more importantly, secure our water bottles to my friend’s body. Our bag of food floated away as we were trying to secure the rest of our belongings. I wasn’t really scared because I thought we would be able to swim to the shore of Puerto galera and I was with an experienced swimmer. I thought, it’s only in the movies that boats capsize and people die. I could not die. Not me. Call me dumb but it never occurred to me to be afraid at that time. And so my friend and I started to check on reference points to keep us oriented. And then we started swimming.
We swam and swam until it started to get dark. I prayed while swimming, asking God to turn the tide that will help push us to shore, for the sea to be calm so we can swim faster, for the wind to be calm so we wouldn’t be cold, and for help to come. I prayed for my miracle. I was asking God not to let me down, to show my friend that God exists and that He would act on our behalf. The sun set and the sky started to get dark but no help ever came. We thought that we would be in Puerto Galera in 2-4 hours. There was no reason to panic or so I thought. But the current that was helping us drift to our destination started to change course and we were drifting away from it and towards Calapan instead. The waves were also getting bigger and worse, I started to feel cold and was shivering. No matter how hard I fought it, I could not keep myself warm. And then I started feeling scared. We have been swimming for more than four hours at that time. My friend had to wrap the tarpaulin around us to keep me warm. It helped for a few minutes but it kept me from swimming and it was causing a drag. We tried to keep our bodies together but it wasn’t helping either. I decided to let go of the tarpaulin and decided to just swim harder to generate body heat. Waves were going to my face and seawater kept going to my mouth making me thirsty. I tried to put my mask on to protect my eyes until I decided to use it to cover my mouth and nose instead to keep the seawater from getting in and I would just close my eyes to protect them from the waves. During those times, I was asking God if I was going to die and He answered, “No, you’re not going to die tonight.” And I said, “Well, anyway God, if I do die tonight, please take care of my parents”. And then later on, I told God I didn’t want to die that way, all bloated and ugly (that is if they find my body). Then I had to face the truth. It happened because I disobeyed God who told me not to go. I felt like Jonah only that I wasn’t in the belly of a big fish but on the outrigger of our capsized boat hanging on to my dear life. Of course, when you’re being confronted by God, there’s no other way but to concede and ask for forgiveness. What would I not do to survive, right? But it didn’t occur to me that way. I disobeyed my God and had to repent whether I die or live. I was even telling God to do as He willed. He is not less than good if I die. God is still good no matter what happens to me because that is His character and whatever happens to me would not change it one bit. And so I made peace with God while I kept flipping my legs. Throughout all these, I never threw a fist on God. Maybe I was asking questions but I never blamed Him. It was I who brought it not only to myself but to my friend as well. I asked God to spare my friend’s life and just take mine, not because I hate my life but because I thought it happened due to my disobedience. But then I changed my mind. I told God not to let me die so that my friend would not blame himself and be burdened for the rest of his life if anything happened to me.
We swam into the night, adjusting our reference point every now and then, keeping our hopes up and kept reminding ourselves that we would make it. He would touch my hand and I would his to reassure each other that we would make it through. We had to encourage each other. We swam and swam. Seawater would get into my face and ears. I would get tired swimming but I never stopped for if I did, I would die of hypothermia. I was thankful that my friend’s spirit was up. He would sing and talk to me to keep me focused. He never showed fear even if he was. I never showed fear even if there were times I was starting to feel it. We couldn’t let it come and linger with us for if we did, we might lose hope and give up.
What we thought to be 2-4 hours of swimming turned into eight then nine hours. Then the current turned us back towards Puerto Galera and we were hopeful again. My friend noticed the lights getting brighter and the buildings getting bigger which only meant we were close by. We tried to swim harder and harder with our newfound hope. My friend was singing but I wasn’t. I didn’t have enough strength to talk and swim at the same time. But my mind praying and my body was swimming. But God had His plan. The current changed course again and we were back towards Calapan. What was worse is that the sea was getting rougher and rougher and I could see land less and less. The sun started to shine and we started to see things around us but the waves were getting bigger. We saw a ship and tried to get help but it never saw us. We saw Puerto Galera from a distance but it seemed so far away. I started to get scared because I thought the current was pulling us into the open sea and if that happens, the chance of us being rescued would be a lot slimmer. My friend tied his hammock on the pole of the boat in order to get attention if ever a boat would pass us by. While we were waiting for help, we swam and tried to push the boat to Galera again where there would be dive boats leaving the area that time. It didn’t matter if we had been swimming for more than 12 hours. We needed to survive. We swam our hardest and pushed the boat. We had to be rescued because my friend was feeling very cold. And then
my miracle happened. A ferry boat saw us and started rescuing us and then another ferry boat came. However, the first boat left after throwing us a rope. Why they left, I will never know. Then the second boat threw another rope at us. My friend let me go first. I held on to the white rope and let them pull me towards their boat. But the waves were so big and I felt like I was starting to drown. I don’t know what happened to my brain but somehow I started to struggle. And then I remembered what I saw on rescue videos, that death can happen during rescues. It was when I was being pulled that I almost hit the big outrigger of that boat and I was being engulfed by the waves and kept going underwater since my dive gear had been removed already. I couldn’t climb the boat ladder because I was too weak. And when I was already on it, I kept going underwater again. I had to hold on to the ropes or else I’d fall back into the sea. I could not die, not when I was being rescued. All through these, my friend told me he was looking out for me making sure I make it on the boat. The boatman asked me to take his hand but I didn’t think he would be able to haul me up so I held on to the ropes and climb the ladder backwards instead. I felt little relief when I was on the boat already because I couldn’t help worry over my friend who was still in the water no matter how good a swimmer he was. We both should survive – not just me, not just him. I only felt complete relief the moment he stepped on the boat and sat by me. We had to let go of his boat because of the condition of the sea and then we were taken to Berberabe where we could take a jeep going to Anilao. We were both silent on our way to Berberabe. We were both tired and sleepy, shocked and relieved. We were just thankful we were alive.
I had my adventure for 14 hours, from 530pm when our boat capsized until 730am when we were rescued. It’s funny how I was thinking of telling my story – the pride of having survived the ordeal, the stupidity of having gone on a small boat in rough waters, the disobedience against God, the shame for my stupidity and for dragging my friend into it. I don’t blame anyone for what happened - not my friend who invited to go on the boat with him, not myself for going on this trip, and definitely not God who allowed this ordeal to happen. Things happen for a reason to teach us life lessons and to reveal something about ourselves. No matter what happened I learned from it and I am thankful that I was given another life. What I would do with my new life would be some sort of thanksgiving to God.
This brought me back to my reason for going on this trip. I was so stubborn about doing what I wanted that I disobeyed God. He could have chosen to let me drift and drown to punish me but He chose to show His mercy and let me live. What happened brought me back to my God and it made me ponder about who He is in my life and who I am to Him. No matter what people tell me, I still believe that God never left me during those 14 hours. I believe it to be the reason why I was never gripped by fear despite the circumstances we were in. Despite the cold, the current and the waves, I had peace. God gave me the miracle I asked of Him. I came to realize that God would do things to prove His point be it happy or sad or scary. Nothing and no one can change the fact of how much God loves. It was also when I realized that I didn’t want to give up on life. It has changed my perspective about wanting to live. It is different now. I used to want to give up on life when I was in my lowest point but that has changed. It took me this adventure to open my eyes to things that I took for granted and to things that I refused to acknowledge. I came to know myself more from the lessons that I learned from this trip. It is just sad to know that it nearly cost my life and that of my friend’s.