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Where the Woods Meet the Waves

The entrance to the path in the woods

A place where the water whispers, reminding friends of things important

That August morning, the breeze came with a playfulness to it, tickling the back of my neck as I sat on one of the heavy wooden chairs. The room known as Anahaw glinted merrily from the early rays; its burnished wooden furniture smooth and shiny. Behind me, a row of windows looked out into a stretch of green, both garden and forest. It was quiet save for the dull methodical chopping sounds from the kitchen to my left. The three ladies manning it were all smiling. I mouthed an invite for them to come and join us. They merely nodded, insisting that I go ahead.

All things proper

From across the table with beautiful dark swirling grains, my best friend Tophee was busy snapping photos of our breakfast: homemade tocino, a good-looking omelet, crispy anchovies, and a fragrant bowl of fried rice. The sight of such a hearty meal made me salivate. But like all things proper, I knew how to be patient.

The wait was worth it, it turned out. Everything was delicious. The omelet especially. My taste buds were swooning from the butter while the bell peppers brought them back to sense.

“Mmmmmm.” I couldn’t help it.

Tophee stared at me like I’d gone mad.

“Tastes like pizza,” I told him pointedly.

“Try it.”

He did. And he agreed. So much so that, between the two of us, the omelet was gone in just a few heartbeats. That omelet was the best I ever had.

Full from the hearty breakfast, we decided to go for a walk, to see more of the place with an onomatopoeia for a name: Mirisbiris.

Our hearty breakfast

Our hearty breakfast

The kitchen in Anahaw

The kitchen in Anahaw

In the thick of nature

Mirisbiris Garden and Nature Center, or simply Mirisbiris, is a 10-hectare property tucked in the deeper folds of the town of Sto. Domingo in Albay. It’s a not-for-profit events place that doubles as a quaint bed-and-breakfast. The main house has a total of four rooms ample for up to 30 people, while the villa by the beach could house eight.

Here in Mirisbiris, Tophee and I found, it was easy to be in the thick of nature. The surroundings of the main house were made into half a botanical garden, half an organic farm, with the kitchen getting most of the inventory. The fragrance of herbs and flowers was soothing. Our favorite feature, however, was the trail through the forest.

The entrance to the path in the woods

The entrance to the path in the woods

Tune of the blue

Across the street from the main house was a trail that anyone could visit for free. A nondescript arch marked the trailhead, leading to a narrow paved path that meandered through a lush rainforest. The trail was well-maintained, the wildness held at bay so as not to intimidate. It was cool in here. The towering trees formed an awning overhead, and the sunlight barely poured through.

At one point, the path forked: continue on to the forest, said the left; head out to the beach, said the other. Tophee and I opted for the latter, and it wasn’t long until we heard the whispers.

A fork in the road

A fork in the road

Indeed, we heard it before we saw it. The babbling of the stream, gregarious and eloquent. A base tone from which all of the forest takes heed. It was everywhere. It followed us even when the trees cleared out. Getting louder and persistent as the green gave way to an unimpeded blue, abbreviated by absolutely nothing. Mirisbiris, the Bicolanos called this sound. A proper name for this place.

Where the path ended, the shore began. And we stood on a cluster of dark boulders. To my left was a cove of crushed corals and rocks: our own cozy patch of beach. I picked a spot and stood there, comforted in the familiar scent of brine. The breeze still playful and eager. I looked to my right and cried out in delight.

“It’s the Mayon,” I announced, awed by the different vantage of this ubiquitous form. Albay’s cityline marched along its periphery, and before it, was a stretch of sea.

Tophee appeared beside me.

“Beautiful,” he intoned.

I couldn’t agree more.

We proceeded to take some photos, not missing the chance to capture Mayon in all its glory. We were even more delighted by how great mobile reception was in there. Millennials through and through, both of us.

Mayon as seen from Mirisbiris

Mayon as seen from Mirisbiris

The place of us

We’ve been friends – best friends – for more than half of our lives. I met him in sixth grade. I was 11. He was a year older. We were seatmates. Bonding over a mutual cheekiness, we immediately hit it off. Since then, we’ve been inseparable.

“We’re each other’s constants,” he told me once. And it’s true. Through the years, we’ve featured prominently in each other’s lives. Some things and people come and go, but not my Tophee.

Tophee and I, we’re like that phenomenal omelet we had for breakfast. We pack our own individual flavors, so strong and poignant on their own that some would think they would never come together, but they do – and then we prove them wrong by becoming one helluva dish. Just like that omelet, Tophee was the best I ever had.

Mirisbiris, too, reminded me of my friendship with Tophee – its quiet wildness and all. It was raw in a sense, not too much to be abrasive, just enough to make it interesting. This rawness comes with the comforts of a cherished home and a serenity all of us are seeking.

Tophee, to me, is like that. Our friendship could be tough sometimes, utterly confusing and wild and frustrating. Our untamed cores would clash, would attempt to take over the path we’ve maintained lovingly over the years. But, in the end, we’d come around and we’d find ourselves here, in this cluster of rocks, where the ocean meets the forest – where our own brands of wildness would coexist, creating something beautiful and worthy of envy.

“This place is us,” I told Tophee as he set up the timer.

He smiled knowingly.

He was thinking the same thing.

Best friends of more than a decade

Best friends of more than a decade

 

By CELINE REYES
Photos by TOPHEE MARQUEZ

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