Magical Journey to Cagayan de Oro [Photo: Randy Chester]
Three weeks into my Philippines adventure, and suddenly I feel like Carlos Castaneda in Mexico, under the tutelage of don Juan Matus. My Filipino friend Fendi, aka “the shaman”, would seem bizarre and incomprehensible to most people, but that’s because most humans live their lives firmly shackled inside their culturally-constructed box. The shaman lives outside the box, and has no use for it.
Is it possible that even after living 15 years in Thailand, I’m still not completely purged of all my own cultural assumptions? Now that’s a disconcerting thought. I feel like I need to just shut up and observe.
This week I had to travel from Valencia to the coastal city of Cagayan de Oro, some 155 km to the northwest, to get a visa extension. I was hoping the shaman would go with me, but he insisted I make the trip alone.
“I’ve only been in this country 10 minutes, and I’ve never been to this place”, I protested in vain. The shaman’s mind was made up. “You can go alone”, he told me bluntly.
Almost from the moment I stepped out the door, it felt like I was on some surreal journey. Everything appeared to be Perfection unfolding. I mean, almost everything was so easy and effortless, like the Kosmos was dropping magical gifts into my lap.
The small bridge on the dirt road where I live had flooded the other day, leaving a muddy mess. I was wearing brand new dress shoes, along with dress slacks and shirt, due to the strict dress code of the immigration office. The shaman gave me two plastic bags to put over my shoes.
On the way, some friendly locals pointed to my bags and jokingly laughed. “Oh, hi-tech” I explained. More laughter. Yeah, well, whatever gets you through.
The bags not only worked to perfection, I was able to give them to a damsel in distress on the other side of the bridge, a college student who was practically in tears over the prospect of getting her clean uniform muddy. It was a win-win situation for everyone.
A passenger-less motorela was miraculously waiting (for what? me?) up the road at the Versatile Lodge when I got there, so I didn’t even have to walk the several more blocks to the main highway.
When I got to the bus station, I told the friendly guard I needed a bus to Cagayan de Oro, and he pointed to a red one just about to pull out. I jumped on and we took off immediately.
I was glad to see the back several rows empty, so I grabbed a seat and got out my camera. Only then did I notice it was a non air-con bus, but it was cloudy and so cool that air-con turned out to be unnecessary.
The bus conductor graciously allowed me to put down my window, and when I did it was almost too cool. Who needs air-con anyway?
I’d brought an awesome book along, “The Essential Ken Wilber”, to read on the bus, but rolling through the exotic countryside was so exciting I never even got around to opening the book.
Along the way, I waved and joked with the locals, especially those we passed along the side of the road, and also the food vendors who appeared at every stop.
Everything was going great, and as we neared Cagayan de Oro, a Westerner surprisingly boarded the bus. This was only the third Westerner I’d seen in over three weeks in the Philippines.
He took one of the seats behind me. Only later would I realize that the Kosmos had sent me an angel, cleverly disguised as an Australian tourist, to help me find my way around Cagayan de Oro.
This stranger soon struck up a friendly conversation. He announced his name as Peter, which upon later reflection I found both suspiciously Biblical and suspiciously sexual. I announced my name as Randy – explaining that my mother didn’t speak British English. He laughed and said, “Ha! That’s okay, mate!”
I told him the Brits I worked with in Bangkok chuckled so much over my name that I started using my middle name instead, which was spelled “Leigh”. Rather British-esque, huh?
The Aussie angel befriended me and offered some valuable information concerning the visa extension process. For example, I didn’t know I needed copies of two pages from my passport for immigration, as this information was not mentioned in the government website.
So I went with the Angel/Aussie to a nice mall where I got the copies. He even paid the full taxi fare. Somewhat suspiciously, he claimed he happened to be headed to this very same shop anyway. After offering to have lunch when we got our business finished, he then sent me to immigration in a taxi, instructing the driver where to take me.
He’d already adamantly told me on the bus not to go to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which was a different location from the Bureau of Immigration. Back in Valencia, two Filipinos had told me I needed to go to the DFA.
The taxi driver seemed to know where immigration was, but soon pulled over and asked another taxi driver. This one told him to take me to the DFA, so my driver headed there instead.
Four humans had now agreed that I needed to go to the DFA, and one angel had said no, that was the wrong place. Hmm, wonder who’s right?
That mix-up was the only thing that went “wrong” during the whole trip. But there’s an obvious lesson in it. Never trust humans over benevolent angels!
When I arrived at the DFA, the guard told me it was for Filipinos only, and that I needed to go to the Bureau of Immigration – precisely as the angelic Aussie had said. That’s the last time I will ever listen to humans over angels.
I arrived at immigration a short time later, and found a delightfully small office with friendly staff. I only saw one other foreigner/customer in there, and I was out in 10 minutes, business completed. If you’ve ever been to immigration in Bangkok, you know how miraculous this was.
I then took another taxi back to the bus station, the angel giving me the exact name, as there is more than one bus terminal in Cagayan de Oro, something else I didn’t know.
I easily boarded a bus back to Valencia, this time an air-con one. Again, the whole back section was empty, so I had my choice of seats and plenty of room. The windows were clean in this bus, so I could take good photos out of them.
Leisurely eating snacks I’d bought from vendors, I sent an sms to the shaman to tell him everything went amazingly well and I was now headed back. I mentioned that the Kosmos had even sent me an angel disguised as an Aussie tourist. (This was a bit odd because I never use the term “angel”. I always use “Spirit Guide” instead. I don’t know why I called the Aussie an angel.)
The shaman messaged back a “hahahaha!”.
About an hour later, I burst out laughing when synchronicity suddenly struck. They were playing good Western music on this bus, and now a song came on that I’d never heard before. As I listened, the lyrics kept repeating over and over and over, “Send me an angel, send me an angel, right now, right now.”
Anyone who can’t see that the Kosmos has a great sense of humor just isn’t paying attention.
As if that wasn’t synchronistic enough, went I got home I googled the song and discovered that it was a 1983 hit by an Aussie band called Real Life. Both angel and band from Australia? Hahahaha! Carl Jung rocks!
I now see why the shaman sent me alone on this journey. I needed to see the magic unfold for myself. And if he’d been along, there would have been no reason for the angelic Aussie to show up.
The following day the shaman told me he always travels with angels, and that he sent two with me yesterday. The Australian tourist was clearly one, but I’m not sure who the other was, though there are a host of candidates. Perhaps some reflection will reveal the identity. Or perhaps the other one was not manifested in physical form.
A few days before the trip the shaman had bluntly said to me, “Practice what you preach! You know what to do. You know how to raise your vibration, how to get in the vortex. Only you can do it. No one else can do it for you”.
And though he didn’t say it, I might have added “Yeah, you know far too much to ever go back. So stop wallowing in self-pity. Just tap into Source Energy, as you always do.”
Yes, that’s exactly what I needed to hear. And this magical journey to Cagayan de Oro was evidently part of the shaman’s plan to jolt me back into alignment. He knew I needed to take this trip alone.