We arrived at Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao late afternoon. The chaos of people running around, grabbing passenger’s bags trying to lessen their load, is much more pressing than on Visayas (Central island group of the Philippines). As soon as we left the harbor, the chaos caught me off guard, immediately a man grabbed my bag and lifted it up his shoulder. I yelled ‘put it down!’ The man ignored it and replied “it’s okay, my friend. You need taxi?” I again told him to put my stuff down, but he ignored it and walked, if not ran, down the road to a taxi we agreed on taking the moment we walked off the harbor. I shook my head as I got annoyed. I followed the man and sat down in the taxi while the driver and the skinny man put our bags in the trunk. After the skinny guy was done he immediately walked to my side of the car, holding up his hand as if he expected me to tip him. I gave him a tip. The taxi drove us to a hotel, where I could recover from my fever. I had one of the strongest fevers ever. If my girlfriend wanted me dead, she could have easily choked me to death using a pillow in one of the cabins on the ferry. The next day we took the bus to Davao that would last 6 hours while my girlfriend suffered from motion sickness that would last another 12 hours upon arrival. We stayed for about 5 days in Davao to spend time with a fellow Rewilder. Welcome to Mindanao.
The day finally arrived, May 13, the day we would meet Constantino, the father of a good friend of mine, who I always call Latraca (which is her last name). We packed our bags, took the taxi to the bus terminal where we would meet, Nita, another daughter of Constantino and drove off to Eastern Mindanao. 8 hours later, early evening we arrived in Lingig. Seeing Constantino was a happy moment. The man, around 70 years by now, would teach me how to live in Philippine jungles. At least so I was told. The first few days were simple and nothing interesting really happened. We spent some time with the family of Constantino and celebrated Fiesta. After Fiesta, the family informed me that there was something wrong with the lot I was interesting in buying –I wasn’t able to buy it for a cheap price anymore. But Constantino offered a piece of his land for the same price. The next day Constantino and his oldest daughter guided us through the jungle, where immediately I noticed that it wasn’t jungle, but coconut-, cacao-, banana- and fast-wood plantations. Most of which was owned by a foreigner. After an hours walk, we arrived at Constantino’s land. Most of it was plantation but some parts were unmaintained and thus were a little wilder with here and there a few hundred meters of real jungle. I wasn’t quite happy, but happy enough at first. But told them I had to scout around for a while to see if I would like it. We agreed that me and my girlfriend would stay in their house for 4 weeks.
The next week we scouted around and soon we realized there was almost no wild life, the monkey was driven away from the area, with occasionally a lost monkey looking for food, a few kilometers to the east there was a settlement, north and east was nothing but a road and ocean. Begin second week we came in contact with a local who worked around the plantations. I asked him if he knew any place where there was wild jungle. He told us there is still some forests, but it’s occupied by the revolutionary group New People’s Army (NPA). I asked him if he could show us the place. At first he declined because it would be too dangerous for me as they kidnap foreigners some times, according to him. I told him I wasn’t afraid and wanted to see the place, asked him again if he could guide us. I was willing to pay money but he declined the offer for money and agreed to bring us anyway. We followed him back to the settlement on the west, crossed the road, and walked on a path going into the plantations on the west of the road. After an hours walk, we walked onto a small clearing with a wooden hut on the middle of a hill with a small creek running around it. He invited us in, and his son, who lived there, offered us food. We ate and talked. An hour or so later we walked north through the plantations, while he showed us kangaroo rat (or so we vaguely understood) traps, to the place he said was the last wild place around. He was very cautious while walking. We walked around the area, which was only a few hectare, if I remember correctly, and went back to his son’s hut where we learned that the he was an ex-NPA and ex-military. The NPA considered him a traitor for leaving the NPA and wanted him dead. The year before they shot him in his shoulder and he showed us the wound. The son showed us a shotgun they used for hunting. We ate some more and we took a nap. After waking up we talked some more and I learned that the whole area, of more than 50 hectare was owned by a foreigner, and went back to the settlement east. I wasn’t happy with the area and could see no future for me there.
A few days later, May 24 2017, we heard that the president of the Philippines, Duterte, decleared Martial Law in all of Mindanao after firefights in Marawi, Mindanao, between Philippine government security forces and affiliated militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. I wrote the following on my Facebook wall May 30:
It’s 7 P.M. and I’m sitting in front of an open window –rather a hole in a wooden wall that supposed to represent a window– looking out into the night sky full with enchanting stars. I probably ended my search for wildness here in the Philippines after seeing that the 50 hectare forest I was supposed to live in had been removed to make room for coconut, cacao and banana plantations, its wild life removed due to over hunting caused by the need to feed overpopulation and rivers contaminated by industrial processes like anywhere else on this planet. What is life if not lived in a natural and wild environment? I’m dreaming again while looking at the night sky of something that we have lost, I’m dreaming again of high mountains covered with natural wild habitat, green forests filled with wildlife. Wildlife that children naturally have an innate need for to interact with, trees they can climb in and pick fruits from freely, clean rivers we drink from, streams filled with shrimp, crab and fish, the sky filled with birds in search of berries, the howl of a distant wolf and the thunder of clouds opening up the skies with fresh water for plants and trees we depend on. That in complete wildness.
But no, again I’m faced with reality: mankind has destroyed most of it and is now hoping for new planets to occupy and destroy, the president of the United States thinks he’s doing an awesome job, Duterte sees it as a challenge and tries to keep up by declaring Martial Law to control others because he cannot –like none of us really can– control the course of his own life, the threat of nuclear war, climate change, artificial intelligence and gene manipulation…
…in the name of progress.
We decided to go back to Davao, Mindanao, a week later to prepare to go back to Hinigaran, Visayas. The last night in Davao I cleared my heart and told my girlfriend what I wanted and that I wasn’t sure if I could be stable, ever. I explained her that I had to go back to Europe, for at least 3 months, to be homeless for a while, to live with as little money as possible and hitchhike my way through Europe. Not knowing if I would return.
Most people want to break free, but stay stationary: because it’s the hope that keeps them ‘alive.’ The hope of freeing themselves some other day.
So I decided to break free, after a failed attempt to live in Philippine jungles due to, among other things, its severe natural habitat destruction, and to plan my journey out of the Philippines and start hitchhiking again into the unknown and sleep under the stars with as little money as possible, foraging, trapping and dumpster diving for food. I never really felt contented staying in one place for all too long. The times that I did stay at one place for longer than a few weeks became depressing. It’s time for the ultimate adventure.
I told my awesome girlfriend about it and that it was probably going to break us up. Yet she understood my needs and chose to stay [in the relationship] and [wanted] to come with me. I also made clear that marriage is not an option for me, ever. Not because I don’t want to call her my wife. but because it will pin me down to an invisible obligation –even though it’s not an obligation, subconsciously, it feels like it– that I cannot fulfill without killing the spark that keeps me alive.
It’s simple for me; I’m keeping note of my natural urges but it will not affect the choices I make in order to obtain more wildness. I truly understand now that I need wildness in my life, without it I’m a dead person, thus not worth living.
Two days (or so) later we arrived back in Hinigaran, I installed my computer in our hut and we started watching Lost for the next few weeks, did a few things around the hut and dreamed about my upcoming homeless life. Somewhere around June the 22nd I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, where my brother picked me up. We drove to his caravan, north-west of Germany, where our sister lives as well, in a separate house. After spending there a few nights I called my mom one morning, which I did once a week to say hi. She asked me why the connection was so clear and asked me if I was in Germany. I told her I wasn’t, to surprise her. I hitchhiked to my Mom’s to surprise her, spent a few nights and prepared my backpack.
I had it all, but threw it away for wildness. Today is the day that I’m ‘officially’ homeless. By choice. I’m homeless because I don’t want a house, nor a house on wheels, I’m jobless because I don’t want a job, I am paying comfort but get wildness and freedom in return, I have no health insurance and have little money. I’m a vagabond, a tramp, a wanderer, a nomad, a free soul, ready to live life in utter wildness. I’m rewilding myself.
See you on the road my fellow rewilders!