Zambales – There was a bonfire, chips, drinks, and five warm-blooded beings. A bottle was being spun by several hands. Once it gets pointed to someone, one among us would be forced to answer a question. The game we played was coined as “Truth or Lie.” Every answer to a question will be evaluated whether a truth or a lie by each in the group. Questions got personal. Answers were purely revelations minus illusions. As questions got deeper, darkness slowly enveloped the atmosphere making us more alive playing the game.

THE BEGINNING

This trip was never meant to come to reality. It was never planned but it was later planned. In one occasion, two friends expressed intentions to visit my home province. I immediately said yes. In a separate occasion, another group of friends invited me to Vigan, I also agreed. As I was checking my calendar in the first quarter of this year, I realized that I could only accommodate one travel in January. So I had to make them come up to a consensus.

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On our way to Capones Island

And just like most of my out of town travels with friends, this didn’t spare me from minimal troubles – from venue to itinerary to departure and arrival. It almost didn’t push through. Until I made a conscience-bothering statement: “I have already prepared everything, even my mom is expecting us.” Of course it was half-truth and half-lie.

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Capones Lighthouse

Then our travel date came. We left Manila at 4 a.m., arrived in Zambales at 6:30 a.m., had our breakfast at home, and proceeded to Pundaquit in San Antonio – our access to other islands of Zambales. Everyone was excited for this trip, even I. Upon arriving at Pundaquit beach, we hastily leaped onto the boat and off we went to Capones Island.

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Enjoying the view

Capones Island was only a gateway to many things that are yet to unfold in this trip. While it signaled a refreshing start, it was more memorable to some of my friends who acquired bruises and soaring feet after the challenging climb to the top of the hill where the lighthouse is. From the top, one would revere the full view of Zambales.

FAILED CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

We didn’t stay long in Capones as we need to be in Nagsasa Cove before noon. Steamed fish, vegetables and shrimp in coconut milk, and spicy adobong pusit were served for lunch. We feasted like there’s no more next lunch. By the time we finished, no one dared to swim because the sun was too high. We all agreed to stay in the cottage and talk about ourselves.  The first game we played was a roundtable discussion where 100% participation is required. One would be placed on a hot seat while the rest would describe him/her, tell something about him/her whether positive or negative. Each has his/her turn to ask and be asked.

I never thought that it’s going to be serious, but it was. First shot was fired and then the rest followed. Of course the phrase “he/she is kind but… (insert something not good about the person)” never missed the picture — the usual positive phrasing of Filipinos. While each was taking their turn to speak, shots of rum were also going around. All played assassins, but no assassination happened because everyone lacks character to assassinate in the first place.

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Us getting serious

It lasted for two hours, sufficient for the group to absorb every word uttered. Although there were things mentioned that showed our weaknesses, most of the descriptions were affirmative, making us believe that we’re still part of the growing population of those who contribute in building a better community.

HAPPY TOGETHER

When the effect of the rum started to kick in, we took our well-deserved afternoon nap. As the sun set in, we got up and explored the place. Nagsasa Cove never grew old. It still acquired the same splendor that had gotten me the first time I saw it. Protruding Pine trees guarding the lagoon that passes through the ocean still looked grand, giving me reassurance that bringing my friends there is not inopportune.

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Nagsasa Cove

We were delighted at everything we saw as we walked barefoot — from the fine gray sand to the clean waters of the beach to the grassy mountain that occupied the cove. I couldn’t even paint a perfect picture of my friends’ faces as they turned amazed that instant. That was my proud Zambaleno moment.

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Beaching

By the time we got tired walking along the shore, we quickly ran to the beach and dipped. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, disrupted by hilarious anecdotes about ourselves. Each has time to share embarrassing experiences. Unfiltered and punitive words were thrown. Bullies came to life and got their chance to be bullied as well. Laughter and glee suddenly filled the humid air. We chuckled and growled as if we own the world. No one was there to watch over us, except for the vanishing sun that made us all awed. Its silver horizons left us wondering why some beautiful things must come to an end. So all we did was to savor our happy moments together.

TRUTH OR LIE

Hands didn’t get tired as the bottle continued to be spun. Questions piled up. Revelations got more serious.

Someone said she is contemplating on the status of her relationship with the person she’s with — weighing whether or not it’s still working out. Then a voice interjected telling the group that he loves deeply and doesn’t move on from past relationships easily. It was followed by another statement about hope in finding the one when someone blurted that she is still waiting for that right person to spend the rest of her life with. There was almost dead air when, abruptly, someone shared how happy she is with her partner, leaving the last person with no option but to admit that he’s about to end his relationship for almost a decade.

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Groupie

Oh, love! It was something we gorged on that night. If Nicholas Sparks were there, he surely would have another masterpiece to write; probably another best-selling novel. As the ocean’s breeze brushed our faces, the momentum of our emotions for more revelations started to pick up. Ears craved for more stories; some tongues became eager to share more; and five hearts were touched and inspired. Stories were mixed of melancholy and bliss. Suddenly, the game we were playing became “Truth and More Truth. “ Lies didn’t form part of the picture.

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Great view with great friends

Aside from the flame and ember from the burning woods, the moon was so full and bright to accompany us. The waves crashing the shore orchestrated our session. Each has a story to share – goals, struggles, love, successes, pain, and dreams. They weren’t just stories picked from the air; they were real from people who meant to share part of themselves with the group. Tears fell and laughter broke simultaneously.

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The view

The night went unnoticed until we called it off and began walking to our tents carrying the revelations we learned and heard. Before shutting my eyes off, I stared blankly at the stars. As I tried connecting the constellations, I was also counting the realizations that hit me during my conversations with my friends. That time I knew I was about to make a life-changing decision in the coming days.