I closed my eyes and heard the gentle trickling of water below. I am in a place I have never been before. The sudden reprieve from the visual stimulus in front of me gave way to a heightened sense of sound and touch. I was made aware of footsteps approaching me on the right, quickly transforming to an excited dash towards where I was standing. I opened my eyes and saw this little boy. Without thought, we smiled at each other.
Are you going swimming?
He nods, a big smile on his face.
Who’s with you?
He rests his arms on the metal railing designed to stop a clumsy fall to the rocks below. We are in Collorado Falls, a place probably named by Americans who had traversed the mountains and landscapes of Benguet to reach what is now known as Baguio City. My companions have made it to the falls. I purposely made myself walk slow, trying to absorb another new landscape I have missed and am only experiencing now. Awed by his smiles and youthful enthusiasm, I asked the boy his name. Jilmar. A boy of 7 or 8. Shirt removed, obviously excited to swim in the refreshing waters of the falls. I asked him to go ahead and told him to enjoy his swim. I stayed in that place a while longer.
Eyes closed, I attempted to grasp the last fragments of childhood memories, the thread that tied me to youthful enthusiasm and adventures. Or none of it. The trips to the beach stopped when I was about 12 or 13. I was never encouraged to go on adventures. Instead, I was directed to seek adventure in the books I read and work hard to get good grades. Being able to experience new things, new places and people during recent travels is admittedly exhilarating, to say the least. My companions are often surprised by the revelation that I am not familiar with many places close to home. With a mix of embarrassment and sudden recognition that I have missed so much during my younger years, I accept the wonder and questions of my companions – what have you been doing all these years?
Meeting Jilmar was a wake up call of some sort. In meeting him, I found a thread I had lost as a child… A thread connecting me to enthusiasm for life and the gratefulness for adventures and experiences.