I’ve not been to Baguio since November 2010. And, for someone who’s pledged an undying love for the place, this was unimaginable. But, last May, I got to revisit this old love. And, with and for the person who was the source of which: Rio.
Our story goes a long way back. We met in high school. She was the cool senior and I was a nerdy sophomore. We barely spoke to each other, save for the times she would tease me during club meetings and when we talked once or twice on the phone for hours on end.
I’ve always liked her. I would get all giddy and tongue-tied when she’s around. But, back then, she was always the person I never thought would ever like me back. So, admiring her from afar was good enough for me. :)
At one point, though, as she reminded me a few years ago, she asked me if I wanted to be with her. And, I said no. Three times. I barely remember this instance. Or, maybe I pushed it so far back because I knew that it was something I really wanted that I let pass.
Then, she graduated from high school and we barely got the chance to talk. We went on our separate lives. She had several girlfriends. I had, too. She pursued medicine. And, after breaking up with my girlfriend in freshman year in college, which almost caused me to fail all my subjects for that semester, I just went on to finish my degree and didn’t let love and relationships get in the way of which.
In summer of 2004, after I completed my undergraduate studies, I saw Rio again. In Baguio.
We spent a couple of days together. Shared updates. Laughed. Enjoyed each other’s company. I was so present in every moment and cherished the few days I was with her. I forgot how it was to be in such space. Until being with Rio reminded me.
I had no expectations back then. I accepted the invitation of staying at her place because I thought that there was nothing there anymore. That what I felt for her was a thing of the past.
But, the excitement, the electricity that I’ve always known to be between the two of us, went back. Like I was just waiting for that moment to happen. It brought me back to my reality.
And, she was in a relationship with someone. So, it turned out to be a summer fling of some sort. A summer fling that I got attached to. For four years. I would go after her. She would respond, for a while. Then, disappear. I would long for her. Move on. Then, she would go resurface in my life again. During this time, I would go to Baguio every so often to see my brother who was enrolled in one of their universities. But, at the back of my mind, I knew that I was always hoping that I would run into her. I was hoping that, when that happens, we would both be reminded of the awesome couple of days that we were together. But, that never materialized. And so, the vicious cycle went on.
Until our paths crossed again in 2008. She had just broken up with her girlfriend. And, I had just broken up with mine, too. That was the only time we reconnected when we weren’t in any relationship, when we both had the freedom to explore the possibility of us.
But, I backed out. I chose to be with someone else. And, the longing, the what-could-have-been-but-I-don’t-know-what-happened, the I-know-there’s-something-there-but-why-the-hell-aren’t-we-going-for-it, ended then. In my mind, I had pursued her for so long and it was clear that she didn’t want to be with me enough to actually be with me. It was time for me to explore other possibilities.
That possibility lasted for four years. In the middle of which, I reconnected with Rio again. It paved the way to clear the air between her and me. No bitterness. No anger. No hate. We stayed up until 5 in the morning, a couple of hours outside the house I was staying at at that time, talking about anything and everything, like what we would always do.
I tried to make my relationship with that someone else work for a couple more years. Rio, on the other hand, went to the US in May 2012, where she was going to wait for her then girlfriend.
In July of last year, my “somewhat relationship” with that someone else formally ended. It wasn’t working out for her. It wasn’t working out for me.
I chose to spend time with my family and friends. Travel. Live my life. My friends tried to set me up with other people, girls and boys alike. But, I told them that I didn’t want to explore that path yet. That I was going to give myself a year and prepare myself for the next person and relationship I created to be with and in.
In May of this year, Rio came back home to the Philippines for her grandmother. I sent her a message on Facebook. And, another a few days after. The exchange of messages went on and on. And, yes, nothing has changed. We could still talk about anything and everything. I still enjoy talking to her. I still find her witty. I still laugh at her jokes, how silly they may seem to other people. I still like her. And, to me, it seemed that she liked me, too.
She invited me to go to Baguio and visit her and her Tatay. We had a few back-and-forths. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea, you see. She’s going through a breakup and I knew the value of fully experiencing such space, having gone through it myself. Once, she asked me if I would still consider being with her, given everything. I said I would because, if we were ever going to go for it, this would be the perfect time, with the caveat that I am not up for games anymore. I just think we’re too old for that.
After having cleared my thoughts and because I vowed to respect myself and the space I’m in, I packed my bags, bought a ticket, and went to Baguio. I really wanted to see her and be there for and with her this time.
I was so excited. Because of the place and because of Rio, for I haven’t seen both in three years. I barely got to sleep while I was on the bus. And, when we got to the tunnel, which, in my world, is where Baguio starts, I kept my eyes open and observed. Baguio really is beautiful, even at night. :)
Finally, I saw her. And, I smiled. Letting all the worries that I had before go, I gave her a hug. A hug for someone special whom I’ve truly missed. And, from then on, I just let things flow. I didn’t force anything. And, I didn’t resist anything. For I knew that if I was really intentional in living the life that I love, I had to respect myself and the space I’m in, I needed to let my walls down. I needed to let the universe work its thing.
And, what beauty the universe let me have.
Rio and I spent a few days in Baguio together. With her Tatay, she took me to my favorites and some places I didn’t even know existed. It was like visiting the city for the first time again. With the perfect person.
She took care of me the entire time – cooked for me, washed my clothes (I’m not too proud of this but grateful and touched all the same), made me all better when I got sick. We would have meals until it was almost time to prepare for the next.
We had conversations, a lot of them. I’ve always loved my conversations with Rio. The mental calisthenics, the openness, the authenticity. With her, I don’t feel the need to hide anything. I can say whatever it is I want to say and I know that Rio would get them the way I meant them to be gotten.
We cuddled. We kissed. We danced. I said “I love you” at the moment I found perfect to say it. She said “I love you” back when, she said, she couldn’t contain it anymore. Everything happened in its perfect time.
I know of kindred spirits who view Baguio as a solace. And, we all agree that Baguio gets us to appreciate who we are and where we came from, and allows us to embrace where we are going, regardless of whether there’s certainty for which or none. And, that’s where Rio and I are now. She’s going to be in the US for a while. I will be here in Manila. Neither one of us is certain where we’re heading to. And, we’re embracing the space we’re both in. Loving her comes so easily for me. She’s perfect. Everything’s perfect.
And, yes, I am happy and in love. With Rio in my world. And, all these started in Baguio, 9 years ago.
This is why I love Baguio. She is why I love Baguio.