It has been a month since I came back from Argentina. It has also been a month since I have been trying to put my impressions from my fantastic time there on paper. I get stuck on the same sentence for more than two hours. I write paragraphs just to erase them at the end of the day. This obvious writer’s block, of course, could seem as the most frustrating and infuriating feeling in the world, especially for someone who thrives — who has always thrived — on words. The right words. But truth of the matter is that for the first time in my life, I stare at my blank page — and not being able to find them feels right; because I know in my heart that no matter how I will spin it, it will only eclipse what I unearthed. As simple, or as complex as it may sound, I found my truth in Argentina.
The second largest country in South America was the last destination on my bucket list. The original bucket list (the well, as long as long as I live, is infinite). I dreamt of it. I longed for it. And even when I finally set the planning in motion, it was only until I saw the boarding sign blinking that I perceived reality. When my family was preparing for my eighteenth birthday moons ago — the famous ‘debut’ in Filipino culture, in other words, the day one becomes a woman — my mother wanted me to choose a quote that would, to some extent, chronicle my visions, my character — my life. I smirk today because in hindsight, asking this from a teenager seems preposterous — notwithstanding, I remember taking the task seriously because Who am I? is, all things considered, the question we spend our lives answering. Then, I deemed Eleanor Roosevelt’s “The future belongs to the those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” to be the tailored-made answer. I am nearing thirty-four now; and if I could pat my younger self on the back, I would. She deserves it. I dreamt. I pursued. I believed — and this future, at least some bits of it, is now carved into my story, my character — my life.
Deciding on the countries that end up on one’s bucket list has always been a fascinating concept to me. It says a lot about a person. Dreams, more than facts, reveal the most about a person. Not implying that the entire world does not deserve a visit — but I trust that we are drawn to specific places based, actually, solely on who we are. Not curiosity. Not discovery. — who we are. New York spoke to the street poet in me. Israel spoke to my spasmodic faith. The Trans-Siberian spoke to my dragged-out journey. Japan spoke to my quirks and last but not least, I was confident Argentina would speak to my fiery, unfiltered self. Not only have I loved these unfamiliar territories even before setting foot there, but I also had this intangible, deep-rooted instinct that I had to go there. As if I already knew I would find a sense of home. As if I knew I would find a piece of the mosaic. More importantly, I cannot shake off the feeling that the timing for these adventures was always just that — appropriately timed. In sync with my state of mind. In sync with that stage of my life. And Argentina was no different.
Have you ever seen anything like this? Memories past, like the pages of a flip book, rushed through my head. Red. Nuances of red. Mountains of love stretching as far as the eye can see. Impossible to contain my smile in the face of such majestic beauty, as candid as one can be, No, no, I have not. Rationally speaking, the dramatic scenery of Jujuy and Salta in Northern Argentina is of course “the product of a complex geological history, including above all marine sediments, lake and river movements elevated with the movement of tectonic plates” (https://www.earthstartsbeating.com). From a writer’s point of view, however, the better — and only valid explanation is that God, the natural artist, bursted with love on that day — and felt like painting. A work of art. A masterpiece. I have been fortunate to have lived in some of the most incredible mountainous regions in this world. With its postcardesque panorama, Switzerland spoiled it for me from the onset. Austria spoon-fed me as well. Norway, then, upped the ante with its whimsical fjords. Unquestionably, the hometowns set the standard high in terms of defining towering beauty; but it is only in the middle of Purmamarca, Humahuaca, Tilcara, Maimara and Quebrada de las Conchas that I finally understood, every ravishing, divine, bold creation -- in art or otherwise -- is the result of a heart that can bleed -- and mine does. Mine always does. "Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once for all, who he is." -- Jorge Luis Borges.
Red. Nuances of red. All my life, I have had to cope with the ramifications of my emotional outbursts. I am the happiest I will ever be and I am handicapped from sadness. I know no middle ground. Too much -- I heard it one too many times, I tried to defy it twice as often and in the months before I flew to Argentina, it had become something that I wanted to water down. Completely. I initilially flew to Jujuy to witness the Salinas Grandes, which did not disappoint at all — the salt flats are miraculous; but little did I know that those remote provinces were home to the most otherworldly creation in the world. There I was, far away -- both physically and mentally -- from everything I had ever known, the furthest I had ever been in my life, detached, stripped down — and I unearthed things that I never knew existed, or rather, that I always knew existed. For this fiery natural fresco reflected exactly who I was. Who I am. How could I forget: who I want to be . As unkind as it is at times, it truly is, my temperamental nature is also the reason I see beauty as intensely as I do. The reason that I can feel joy the way I do. The reason that I write the way I do. And in the end, that I love the way I do. To the point of madness. It is a strange feeling to talk about dreams in the past tense today. I set them free, in the process, I set myself free. And truth is, my truth, is that I am a heart that will always break easily. Let the light in.