The first time I was here was eight years ago and I have always felt that this place was “home,” but when I decided to permanently move back to El Nido this year, I was not as prepared as I thought I was. The first month was truly difficult as my daughter and I went through the tedious process of looking for a house where we both could live peacefully and happily, and feel truly “at home” in all meanings of the words, and the adjustment to the weather, to the flora and fauna, and the new environment took its toll on our health.

For me, it was not so much about location, as I was not too keen on living by the beach front, but was most concerned about cost AND the speed of the internet connection. I have said this often to anyone who cared to listen, “The two things that make me happiest are, 1. really good coffee and, 2. really fast internet connection.” So I was looking for houses near where I knew, from experience, internet connection was fast enough, if not the fastest, in all of the town; but my daughter had an entirely different perspective about this new home of ours.She, of course, did not care about the cost, being four years old, and cared only a little about the speed of the internet connection. Lia was most concerned about comfort and her own idea of happiness – the beach, and being a child, lots of space to run around.

I was not too surprised when, going around houses in the middle of El Nido town, Lia did not find anything she liked enough. She only liked one house, its old paint made pale pink through neglect, because it was really big, with its three rooms and spacious living areas and a garden and yard going around the entirety of the house, that I was told rented out at Php20,000/month. There is only me and my daughter so we did not really need a three-roomed house, and so I started looking farther out of town where I thought it was going to be cheaper. In the end, we found the house a friend of mine was living in last year empty and available, and it sat directly on the beach. Lia, exclaimed exuberantly, “We’re home!” When your 4-year old child declares you are home, you just have to believe that and trust in her instincts. After, of course, checking out how fast the internet connection is. Never mind if it is an expensive bahay kubo! You are paying more for the view – and the opportunity to walk barefoot on the sand everyday, than the house itself.

For my part, I was paying more for my daughter’s happiness. Because as long as she is happy, then I can be happy. And I am saying that realistically. My daughter and I live alone, just the two of us. I have to be able to work, and take care of her, and do all of the house chores all by myself, and all these depend on whether or not she is happily skipping about, or digging sand castles in the yard, rather than clinging to my legs or walking about with a dour face, ninety-seven percent of the time.

I have not been blogging in the past months because between trying to make a home for just two people and trying to make a living, I just had my hands full. The first month was the most difficult as we both had to deal with adjusting to the weather, the island fauna, maladies of all nature, and just getting the basic necessities inside the house. I know I have been living in this little town on and off through the years, one week to two months every year in the past seven years after the initial ten months in 2005-2006, but there is nothing like leaving one home to another that was completely empty. When, after a full month, I went to Puerto Princesa to buy a stove, a rice cooker, a coffee maker, dishes and bowls, utensils and water glasses, brooms and dust pans and trash cans, non-slip bathroom mats, laundry baskets and clothes racks, hooks and hangers, and all kinds of foot rugs, was I ever truly able to breath and exclaim, “Oh, what joy!!”

Our first month was spent getting to know the neighbors, and acquiring a dog, in the process. Elvis, the black Labrador-Doberman mix dog, is our neighbor’s. But he spends the entire day with us while his “dad” goes to work diving during the day. He is Lia’s play mate, and they are almost best friends.

Lia also became friends with another neighbor of ours, a 5-year old little French girl. They spend a lot of time together. And with these three kids, as Elvis is only a year old, I sometimes have a very busy little day care center in our compound.

This is our new home:

It is a little cottage, a “bahay kubo”, and our monthly rent can be considered expensive, but it is right on the beach, and many friends have actually said, “I guess you are paying for the beach, and the view.” Because this is the view right in front of the house, on a sunny good day:

And even on not so good days.

And I get to have sunsets like this:

It wasn’t until we were finally decided that this is the house we wanted to be in for the next year that I enrolled Lia in school. The school where I was teaching back in 2005-2006, and 2012, Potter’s Place School, and is also, “our home.” Then it was days of getting up early to bring Lia to school and preparing her school snacks.

Just trying to manage work, businesses, relationships past and present, cash flow as there is no access to banks or ATMs in El Nido, and being an all-around single person and parent made me really busy. I used to blog everyday, sometimes, several times a day, but now I am lucky if I get to blog at all.

The first I was ever out to a party was a week after we first arrived here and I have not been out since.

These days, most evenings are spent having dinner and hanging out with my neighbors until nine or ten o’clock and then working for hours after, because there is no electricity during the day from 6am til 2pm – and usually, I use that time to clean the house and do laundry. Or have 2-hour long dates with my coffee cup while listening to Blondfire‘s “Waves” and staring out into the sea.