Waking up Christmas morning in the Philippines I felt more like myself than I had in months in Korea, though I suppose I’ll always feel that way waking in a new country, new flip flops on the floor, a light sweat that emerged in the night, and curtains drawn before an unknown window, the shapes and colours of its view still dark upon the midnight arrival. I wake and remember I am somewhere I have never been. This place that has always existed without me now exists as a part of my experience, something I can touch, and fold into my memories–one of which is a roasted pig that was laying on tinfoil on the countertop and served up the night before as part of Palazzo Pensionne’s Christmas Eve buffet, its pink head resting, half-eaten when we arrived, next to a bowl of spaghetti noodles. A Philippino woman with dark hair to her waist watching a re-run of the American Music Awards told us to help ourselves. “It was cold,” Joe says now, when I ask him how the pork tasted. “It had been out for awhile.”
The hotel staff and a few small kids who must have belonged to the staff had called out Merry Christmas as we stepped from the taxi and into reception, past the guard dressed in uniform and looking friendly even with a gun slung across his belt. The air-conditioner in our room was loud, rattling against the wall. I didn’t care. The bed was soft and I would awake in Cebu City, boarding a boat to Bohol that afternoon. We’d booked two nights in a hut next to a river and a jungle and four nights in a hut on an island called Siquijor. My sinuses were blocked and my head pulsed with a muted but continuous ache from a cold I’d been battling the last week, but I was convinced the tropical air would cure me.