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El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

How to Be as Happy as a Woman Dying from Cancer…

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Let me paint the picture for you. 

We just arrived at the first destination of our long-awaited trip around the world. We arrived at a place that has been on my bucket list for a really long time – El Nido in Palawan.

It landed on my bucket list a few years ago when I had a conversation with a billionaire who loves to travel. He had been to over 80 countries around the world, and when I asked him what place was his favorite, he said without hesitation, “El Nido.”

That was good enough for me.

The journey to get there was not an easy one. We had to fly from Manila to Puerto Princessa and then take a 7-hour van ride to El Nido. 

 Once we arrived, we got settled into our “villa.”

I use that word very loosely. It was more of a cardboard box with a tin roof. No air conditioning, non-working shower, and filthy. But it was right on the beach with spectacular views which made up for all of that.

One of the cool things about the villa was it was part of a local “baranggay,” or community, so we got to interact a lot with the locals.

One such local had a major impact on my life. 

We decided we wanted to explore the surrounding islands, pristine beaches, and hidden lagoons so we were directed across the dirt road from our villa to a lady named Ezra. She was a really sweet middle aged lady who ran a small business out of her very modest home. Think a whole family in one room, a tiny kitchen, and doubled as an office.

She owned a small boat and had a guy that operated the boat to bring guests for tours around the islands. We walked over to her house and inquired about the different options for the tours and then told her we would discuss it over dinner. We asked if she had a small scooter for us to rent so we could get around town.

Her reply, “You can take mine. It is free for friends.” Friends, I thought? We just met two minutes ago. I was speechless, which doesn’t happen often and graciously accepted.

I was moved that this woman who barely has enough money to take care of her family was offering and trusting a stranger with her only mode of transportation. 

That was lesson number one. Find ways to give with no expectation in return. 

The next lesson after dinner I learned from her was even more powerful.

We arrive back at her home to confirm the tour we were going to take with her. She was no longer on the porch so I called for her from outside, and she asked us to come in.

As we entered her home, she apologized for not being able to come out to meet us, but she has difficulty walking due to bone cancer. This lady is raising 3 young kids with stage 4 bone cancer and she was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met.

The whole experience was wonderful with her and her generosity continued throughout our stay in El Nido.

She was more concerned about everyone else rather than herself. And under the circumstances, she would have been more than justified in focusing on herself. 

She never made anything about her. She was present. She was peaceful. She was loving. She was compassionate. 

She immediately became a role model for me.

When interacting with her, I realized I need to be kinder. I need to be more present. I need to be more loving.

Because if she can do it, I can do it.

- Matt