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Winter Daydreams (New York to Palawan)

It’s cold out here.  With this whole polar vortex deal, going anywhere is a Herculean task what with my lazy self never having invested in proper snow boots, gloves, or a plane ticket to Miami.  And so here I was sitting on a cold subway bench on Friday night in a trance over the fact that not even 3 weeks ago, I was basking in the warm Filipino sun.  I shook my head, lamenting the fact that it was busy season for us accountants…


…I shook my head and marveled at the fact that I was on a boat headed to another pristine island.  On that beach, in a moment of rare hipster clarity, I wondered why we work so much in order to afford a few weeks off of paradise when humanity has the ability today to live in such a condition if they so wished.  I sighed…

…I sighed as I walked out of the subway station, gritted my teeth against the biting cold and stepped out into the swirling snow…


…I stepped out onto the soft, white sand.  Hopping islands in Palawan and there was no trace of work-related worries on my mind…at least for the moment.  We swam, ate, swam some more.  It was quiet, devoid of boisterous families and rich European tourists with their dolled-up Filipina wives.  It was as if nothing existed in the vast expanse of ocean around me…

…It was as if all joy fled the city, out into the warm homes in Sunnyside and the dive bars in Bushwick.  I trudged down two avenues, gingerly skating across black ice.  I stepped into a deep puddle, grimacing as the ice cold water seeped into my too thin leather shoes…


…I stepped into the ocean, grinning as the cool waters lapped around my ankles.  We pulled our goggles on and tore off a few pieces of pan de sal to feed the schools of fish swimming not 5 feet away.  Rumors on the street were that some rich celebrity was buying off one of the islands we were visiting.  I would’ve sighed had it not been for the fact that I was now several feed underwater, silence swirling with the now warm water…

…endless honking swirling with the wet snow.  I pulled my scarf tighter, my laptop banging into my leg.  I was tempted to chuck the whole thing into the street.  Then again, I knew full well that the cold…or busy season…makes you think crazy things.  The light turned red, forcing me to wait for another agonizing minute just as a howling breeze forced frigid temperatures shooting up my nose…



…just as the plate of grilled pork belly she had set down wafted sweet unctuousness up my nose.  We lined up eagerly, the young barkada in front of us tearing into the fish and beautifully plated eggplant.  No encouragement was needed as we piled our plates with green mango, fresh seaweed, shrimps…all cooked in such simplicity that it was hard to believe it could taste that good.  I paused only to snap a picture for posterity before dipping my shrimp into soy sauce spiked with fresh chillis.  I looked out into the distance at the boats, trying to push the creeping thoughts of going back to work in a few days out of my mind..



…I looked out into the distance at the people huddled in the cozy cafes, helpless against the endless to-do lists for the coming week clawing at my mind.  A few more streets and I’d be in the comfort of my friend’s apartment.  I hunched over, trying to bury my chin into my jacket…


…I raised my chin up, trying to soak more sun under the boat’s canopy.  The boat chugged along to our next stop.  Full from the feast, I dozed off, letting the waves lull me to a daze.  I hardly heard our tour guide as she talked about the Philippine tourism industry, the hum of the old motor drowning her out.  My mouth still tasted like the freshly poured coconut water we slurped moments ago.  Only moments later, we were already at the last island and we strode straight to the showers, in a rush to get cleaned enough to order an ice cold Halo-Halo and alcohol.  The island was a little more touristy than the first two with open huts for massages and a full service bar in the center.  2 young Arabs laughed as we dried ourselves in the open showers.  We sat the bar a few feet away and soon enough, I finally had a fresh mango margarita in my hand with my back to the sun and my eyes gazing back out into the ocean…


…I finally had the cold steel of the door in my hand with my back to the New York winter and my eyes blinking away the frozen tears.  I slumped into the elevator and closed my eyes, still shivering…


…I slumped into the van and closed my eyes, still warm from the aftereffects of the margarita.  As we drove back to the hotel, I smiled my umpteenth one.  I guess the impermanence of it all, the fact that these joyous moments of liberating exhaustion were not supposed to last forever, were what made them perfect.  The pure, concentrated nectar of life…

…I guess the impermanence of it all, the fact that these mind-numbing moments of dull exhaustion were not supposed to last forever, were what made them bearable.  The slow, laborious climbs in life.  My friends stepped out in front of me, searching for the address of our first stop that night…

IMG_20140111_045059 (1)

…My brother stepped in front me, ready to fall into the soft bed as the last stop of our night.

Filed under: All Posts, Savor, Wander

About the Author

Posted by

Paolo Española is a wandering diner in search of a good meal and an ever-elusive identity. He started this blog during a soul-crushing stint as an Accountant and later co-founded Hidden Apron, his side project that’s dabbled in everything from private catering, hosting pop-up dinners, podcasting, and everywhere in between. He is a contributing author to the best-selling cookbook, “The New Filipino Kitchen” and believes that food is a universal language that can solve the world's most challenging problems, help people believe in their own potential, create communities to shared stories, and realize that in Breaking Bread, we Break Boundaries.

1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: Won a Sunshine Blogger Award + 10 Blogs You Need to Follow Now | The Errant Diner


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