The Atkinson Clock Tower and the Stranger

Time is something unstoppable. It is a race we try to win. It is something we procrastinate for it is endless. It goes fast when we need it more. It goes slow when we are anxious or depress. 
It goes. It flies.
However, on 2011 of November, I remembered an occasion where I need to race against time. I need to witness the beauty I longed to see - the Atkinson Clock Tower. But something happened along the way where my solo-plain travel became a Cinderella-kinda story.
I was exhausted after my free island excursion at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Since I declined an invitation from the Malaysian tourists because I had the Atkinson Clock Tower in mind, I had to find my way out from the busy terminal market.
Something changed my mind when I saw a mother and child seating in a market plaza overlooking the sea. "This won't do me harm," I thought. I sat beside them and tried imitating them. I felt quite satisfied with my acting when suddenly a Filipino looking man approached me.
He asked me something. It bewildered me.
He asked me again. But I couldn't understand a word. Finally, he spoke in English and then, I realized that he was asking for a direction.
I explained that I was a Filipina traveler. He smiled. He said he was half-Filipino because of his mom. He looked kind. 
So, I handed him my Kota Kinabalu map.
"Are you going somewhere, miss?" I nodded but didn't speak. 
"I think we can help each other," he added.
"Are you sure?" I finally spoke a word. 
"Yes. Tell me, which place do you want to go to?" he assuringly said the statement with a slight glimmer of a smile.
I felt comfortable already. He could help me. I concluded.
"I am looking for the Atkinson Clock Tower," I answered softly, a bit shy. 
"Let us go and find it then," he enthusiastically lifted the convo as if giving a hint that he was a trustworthy man. 
"Do you know how to use a map?" I asked him.
"We could do," he said.

I found myself walking comfortably with a cute stranger. He was holding the map while I busied myself looking around the crowded street.
It was 5 in the afternoon.
The city bus went to and fro just as the shoppers and students going in and out of the bus and from the market and malls and walking passed each other.
This was an ordinary scene. Nothing so peculiar about it. I had it in my city. Along the way, the Chinese-Filipino young man explained about why he was asking for direction. It was his first in Kota Kinabalu.
I gave a curious look. 
He said he lived in different island - Labuan.
It didn't ring a bell. 
I didn't know the place.
He toured me around the market. The sweets shop. The meat shop where I could smuggle beef and pork. It was fun. It was a good sidetrip.
At last, we came to a hill where the Atkinson Clock Tower proudly stood.
That clock tower I saw in the internet is finally towering right at my very own eyes.
We felt triumphant. 
He was happy. 
I was happy.
A scenic view played with our optic nerves sending bright tinges of yellow to orange to crimson sky. It was the sunset. It was beholding.
As the clock signaled six, I hurriedly asked him if I could leave. He asked me where I'd be staying overnight. I only remembered Penampang.
"The stranger took this photo. On top of Baker's Hill and the Atkinson Clock Tower"
"I have to go home before 7 otherwise, I might get lost," I told him. 
"I will go with you at the bus terminal," he offered.
We hurried down the busy highway and crossing different streets while racing against time. We need to catch up the bus at the bus station bound to Penampang or else I might not be able to spend a night in my hotel room which I rented for 10 days.
Good thing that there was still one more bus at that time of the night.
I thank him for the experience. That glorious day when I had a great island excursion and a city tour with a complete stranger.
Before the bus left, he asked my number and I did gave mine. 
And the next few days, we were already exchanging sms.
*Thanks to the stranger today. Thanks for the photos and yeah some information that I left out. Thanks for reading it, as well. Been 4 years, stranger...

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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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