On this two-hour ferry from Batangas to Mindoro, a breeze blows about us and the not-so-hot sun shifts in time with the sea. More than one hundred passengers are tucked in different pockets of this vessel—high on the deck, around the railings and hidden in air-conditioned spaces below. Twelve passengers from the NVM Gonzalez Centennial Writing Workshop ride this boat in search of a good story. Some of the writers are from the United States. One is living and teaching in Hong Kong, but he too is originally from the Northwest. One writer lives in the Bay Area and at 86, is on her way to her hometown in Calapan. Several of the writers are graduates from the University of the Philippines. One young woman studies opera, but her mother was a student of the writer NVM Gonzales and so she is taking this course, in honor of the late Philippine national treasure. I have been invited to teach the workshop and have traveled from my home in Miami.
I lean on a railing and watch the sea, bluer and greener than anything I could have imagined. In the distance, palm trees poke up from tropical mountainscapes, and coffee-colored beaches invite us to wade in the sea.
Four days later, on the ferry’s return to Batangas I will thank our ancestors for this great honor, for this ritual of belonging. I will take my crown of flowers with its wilted petals and brown leaves and I will make an offering to the sea. I will make my own ritual of thanksgiving. I will call the ancestors and send a blessing to my family everywhere. You will not find this ritual in books or local traditions. It is authentically mine.