I KNEW I made the right decision when I decided to escape from the daily routine of life for a whiff of fresh air at Eden Nature Park in Toril one Thursday afternoon but when I learned that the only convenient way of getting there was by riding a motorcycle (habal-habal) I began to doubt my decision.
I have developed a phobia for motorcycles after being involved in a minor accident a few years back but judging from my companion Gwen's look which bordered on excitement (to visit Eden) and disappointment (when she sensed that I might back out), I knew I had to swallow my fear and brave it. After all, the trip was my suggestion.
Gwen and I boarded one motorcycle while Bing, our other companion boarded another. I didn't remember much during the trip except that I was mumbling incoherent prayers, holding on to Gwen's shoulder with much pressure and expecting us to plunge down into the ravine below the road.
"So, this is Eden!" I expelled a long breath of relief when we arrived at 2 p.m. I gazed in wonder at the beauty of nature and man-made scenery.
The first thing I did was to innocently ask the guard at the gate where the forbidden tree was located, and if the snake was on duty, a question which left the guard's jaw drop as he stared at me in blankness and confusion.
The temptation to tease him was so strong I wasn't able to resist -- he looked so formal and serious in his stiff uniform that I wouldnt be surprised if he will consider making faces a criminal offense. (Excuse me, I'm human nature*!@#)
The cordial receptionist introduced the sites to us by giving us a vicinity map. He told us that they offer a 45-minute tour of the whole 40 hectares but we have to pay an additional P50 to our P165 entrance. In short, that's a rate of P1.12 per minute -- cheap enough (figures, figures) so we took the offer.
We were joined by a group of sickly senior citizens, making the trip longer as they took more time getting on and off the open-sided cab. I had to stifle the hysterical laughter bubbling inside me as I listened to the impersonal and toneless voice of our tour guide.
She droned on like a mechanical device, reciting from memory while at the same time pointing out the sights and structures to us. I guessed she knew her job too well she could have stayed at the office and orient us of the sights through a microphone from where she was, and be accurate.
It was hilarious to see the senior citizens who were with us turn their necks to the left and right to follow our guide's finger and see what she was pointing at. A tape recorder would have been a preferable companion, I thought. A quick glance at a red-faced Gwen told me that she too was trying to suppress laughter.
Forty-five minutes later, our P50-tour ended and we were free to do the rest of the tour by ourselves. We availed of the free snack pack at the resort's restaurant (most of it went to feed five peacocks who gathered around us that we began to think it was a package deal -- the management will give us snacks and the peacocks will eat it for us). I started it anyway -- they weren't paying attention to us at first (relief-that means we didn't look like peahens) but after I threw a tiny bit of tuna sandwich to the one nearest me, we couldn't get rid of them. They even climbed the table.
It was almost dark and the cold was seeping through my thin shirt but our tour was not over yet.
We proceeded to an elevated open cottage above the playing field and sat on the cement benches, feeling relaxation wash over us. Everything was so peacefully quiet except for the sounds of nature.
In the far distance, the multi-colored blinking lights of Davao City spread out in its full glory and splendor. Located 3,000 feet above sea level and sorrounded with nature, it gave me a feeling of being in another place and time, a mere onlooker as the world moved on.
I wished the feeling would go on and I wouldn't have to go back to the real world where the daily pressures of work waited, where I'll be pounding words into the computer with deadlines biting at my heels and I'll not be scouring for stories anymore which would later result to the ringing of the office phone and I would be the recipient of criticisms and libel theats.
How I wished that time would stand still, but a loud continuous beeping from my cellphone jarred me back to reality. It was already eight o'clock in the evening. We walked back to the main road and waited for the habal-habal to transport us down to Toril and back to reality.