-And we interrupt this public service announcement for a bit of shameless hedonism-

I spent last summer in the Philippines, but somehow (workaholism?) never managed to go swimming. Determined to rectify this error, I took a trip with friends to what they consider to be the best beach near Davao City -- Canibad on Samal Island.

We were all geared up to take the jeep to the bus to the ferry to the motorbike to the beach -- but just as we were leaving, a truck pulled out of the lot across the street. On a whim, we flagged them down, thinking we might catch a ride into the city instead of waiting for the bus. It turned out, though, that they were going exactly where we were, and were happy to give us a lift. (Two of the workers chivalrously gave up their seats in the cab to Chay and I, and everyone else rode on top of sacks of cement in the back.

It was a journey of about 3 hours, the last 2 of which were on a fairly astonishing unpaved, windy and steep road along the Samal coast. But well worth the trip -- we had a pristine beach pretty much to ourselves, rented a picnic hut, made a fire, and slept under the stars.

All in all, it was a memorable experience, but what I think the return trip is what will stick with me for the longest. So far, my luck on this trip has been pretty amazing, but it wasn't good enough to produce a truck ride home, so we had to go the normal route. "Normal" in the Philippines meaning four passengers on one motorbike -- three clinging for dear life behind the driver, and one in the torpedo spot right up by the handlebars, cradled like a baby between the driver's arms.

As we approached one particularly steep, unpaved descent, the driver stopped to make sure we were all still attached. As he let go of the brakes, Chay leaned from behind me and shouted "Third World rollercoaster!" Racing down that hill, through the forest in the bright, bright sunshine, I felt newfound sense of the fragility of my own body, and so, so happy to be alive.