Removing my bandages to clean and wash up my many sandfly bites, I cringed internally and mustered whatever’s left of my patience to keep my head together. I peeled off the tenth plaster on my leg, and the festering wound started oozing with pus and blood.
“It’ll be okay, it’s just some bites on my legs.
Nothing too big I can’t deal with right?”
Close to tears, I surveyed the damage: it was as if I was glaring at the wreckage of World War II. Sandfly wounds dotting all along my sore, scarred limbs, each one was swollen, and begging to be relieved of its pain. With a bottle of godly iodine in one hand and cotton pads in the other, I battled to contain the virus, and re-patched my legs with 20 over plasters and bandages.
That night, I wore socks and slipped into my sleeping bag, hoping to leave the white bedsheets stain-free. I eventually fell into a shallow sleep, and looked forward to a brand new day of insect-free adventure.
I woke up to various alarms sounding off in our room, and a dull ache on both feet.
“New day to check out Boracay!!!” I thought optimistically. “It’ll be fun!”
Dressed in shorts, sunglasses and high black socks, I went out to cafe-hop while the others went wild with cliff diving and snorkelling. I roamed around with a group of friends and looked out for food worthy of my pesos.
Soon after, I was attacked by touters of every item imaginable — sunglasses, hats, bracelets, and cliff diving, island hopping, parasailing… The list never ends. Avoiding the locals selling their merchandise, I then became victim to the many flies surrounding my legs. Walking never felt more like a chore.
Groaning and wincing with every step, I pulled my black socks up higher and pressed my sunglasses closer to my eyes, as if being unseeable by others would make me invisible to the flies too. They continued buzzing around, frantic for a little more of my sanity and blood. I continued walking along the scenic beaches, but no matter how blue the seas were, I felt like an anchor rooted me to the bottom of despair and frustration.
I gradually settled to chilling in a cafe, away from the flies and sun. The day was filled with Instagrammable food, lots of caffeine and relief from one day less to deal with the vicious Boracay flies.
Touchdown in Manila International Airport after a pretty short transit flight, and we were welcomed with a free bottle of Coke. After a few days in beachy Boracay, my bites reassured me that they have become 100% infected, and made their presence known by continually festering, and swelling with pus.
I felt infested.
As I close my eyes, I imagined millions of bugs crawling around my skin, demanding to rule over my entire body. It was so disgusting, that I could hardly think of any positive frame to this situation, much less put a smile on my face to lift my mood up. While waiting for the luggages to arrive, I glanced around and saw hope: the Medical Clinic — maybe they could do something about my bites…
I pushed the door open and three doctors glanced up, eyes lit and surprised.
“What’s your name and where are you from?”
the doctor asked.
He grabbed a pen and scribbled my name on the third row of the page. I was only the third patient of the day, and it was already 11pm. Suddenly, I was surrounded with three to four nurses, all looking at my yellowed bandages, clucking their tongues and asking a million questions about my wounds.
“Please come over here, we will have a look at your legs.
Don’t worry you’ll be fine,” another doctor said.
I laughed hesitantly, trying to reassure myself that it will be okay. The nurses removed all my bandages, and I gasped as all of them fell apart. Staring repulsed at the multiple wounds and oozing pus around my feet, ankles, all the way up to my knees, I broke down in despair and fear. I was half prepared to say goodbye to my legs, for all the good it has brought me the past 20 years.
Then, the nurses began working their magic, and used swab after swab of iodine on my wounds, racking up a heap of cotton balls. They were fast, cleaning up the excess with more swabs of cotton. Chattering in a mix of Tagalog and English, they shook their heads occasionally and quickly replaced every dirty bandage with a new one. Soon, my leg was covered in patches again, and I was given two pills of antihistamine.
With reassuring pats and close friends to hold my hand, I calmed down and rubbed the tears off my face. Embarrassed and exhausted, I looked down at my hands while the doctor gave me further instructions on my wounds. I heaved a sigh of relief, thanked all the medical personnel and left the Medical Centre feeling more sanitised and clean.
Pushing the throbbing pain to the back of my mind, I had never been so grateful for iodine, cotton swabs, and my return flight back home to Singapore. Boracay may be a million shades of beautiful and blue mixed together, but nothing beats the beauty of my safe, comforting bed.
I showered, tumbled into my covers and left my head in the clouds.