Pink cosmos

Hello, my friend,

This week, I decided to be more intentional about my walks, partly because of encountering Craig Mod but also because I realized how unwise it was not to take full advantage of the place I currently live in.

I am currently living in Los Baños, Laguna, a town 63 kms away from Manila. It is one of the many places in the Philippines that are fortunate enough to be situated in the middle of a mountain and a large body of water. The house I am living at is literally at the foot of Mt. Makiling, while Laguna Lake is just about a 30-minute walk away.

Before the latest community quarantine in this part of the country, I went out for walks almost every day inside the University of the Philippines (UP) campus. It is where one can really start to feel the character of Mt. Makiling—trees start to get taller, bird songs become weirder, roads begin to ascend, and the wind starts to get colder.

I relocated here last January and I must admit that I have settled on the comfortable routine of walking on Mt. Makiling’s foot every day. It wasn’t until this week that I decided to look at the map of Los Baños and see where else I might be able to walk. I was astounded after seeing that Mt. Makiling and UP already took about half of the entire municipality of Los Baños. And as long as the quarantine continues, that half remains off-limits to people who want to walk.

Los Baños Map

Looking at the map—looking at things as they really are—I realized that there are a plethora of other places I could be walking to. And that is what I did.

My first line of business was to find a way to see the shore of Laguna Lake. Looking at the map once more, I saw that there are several barangays where roads and the shore seem to converge: Masili, Tadlak, Baybayin, Malinta, Mayondon, and Bayog.

Laguna lake shores in Los Baños

Last Monday, after visiting my girlfriend at Calamba, I decided to get off earlier at Baybayin and see if I can finally get to Laguna Lake’s shore. Among all the barangays I mentioned above, it has a street that goes directly to the shore: Burgos Street. I followed the map and I finally got to see the shore.

Laguna lake shore at Baybayin

It was the first time in more than a year that I saw a body of water as large as Laguna Lake. It doesn’t have the same waves you will see from seashores but the largeness of this body of water can create that illusion that one is looking at the sea.

I returned to the lake last Friday but visiting it through a new shore, on a basketball court at the tip of Mayondon.

Laguna lake shore at Mayondon

Seeing Laguna Lake both gladdened and saddened me. I was glad—very glad—that I heard waves again, that I felt that strong wind once more, that I saw the sunset in its most majestic form. But I was also deeply saddened because I realized that I felt, for the first time in what seems like a very long time, the emotions that the pandemic has deprived me—emotions I didn’t even know I was looking for.

Isolation may indeed be saving our lives, but that kind of life we are saving is not a full life. A full life needs the outdoors. And even if I was already frequently outdoors during the quarantines, I now see that those were not enough. Mountains, seas, roads, ridges—they’re all waiting for us.

During the old normal, it was already too difficult for many of us to see the beauty that is always around us. The pandemic did not make that any easier.

It did not just isolate us from each other. It isolated us from the planet, from the simple things that could bring us great joy.

These are things I am only realizing now even as I write these words.

Beauty is everywhere. It can convince one to continue living and by doing so saves lives. I know, because beauty has saved me more than once.

If beauty is so critical, so vital in convincing us to “stay a little bit longer” in this cruel world, then to see beauty is a skill worth developing.

It is my sincere wish that this newsletter contributes to your own search for beauty in any way.

More next week,



P.S. I would love to know what part of the world you are currently living in. Where is your current location and how are you developing your skill of looking for the beauty that is always around you?