THE first time I set foot on the island of Rota in 2011, I was immediately drawn to it, mesmerized by the feel of mystery and enchantment. It was like stepping into an undiscovered paradise, a gem of an island still untouched by commercialism.
I rented a car and ventured on my own, following the road until I reached the hotel in Songsong where I was booked for the next three days. I was there to cover the first Sweet Potato Festival and the event was in Sinapalo. I left my hotel early and drove to the festival grounds for the opening night. To cut it short, the opening event was successful, and very soon it was time to go back to Songsong.
It was already past 11 p.m. and it was raining. I was not looking forward to the drive back. I admit I’m not the world’s best driver, especially on an unfamiliar road on a dark and rainy night. I began hoping someone who can drive needs a ride. Unfortunately, the only one I found needing a ride was Angie from NMC Saipan and she does not drive.
Left with no choice, I got behind the wheel and slowly maneuvered our way into the dark road. I tried to keep focused on the road and was starting to feel at ease when we approached the curved part past Teteto Beach. There were no lights in the electric posts and the place was in total darkness, except for our headlights.
I was driving real slowly when suddenly the lights from a car behind us blinded me. It was so close and I was getting pissed off. I was driving an unfamiliar car on a dark rainy night on slippery, unfamiliar roads with curbs and bends. I couldn’t see the car behind us clearly because of the bright lights but I saw it was a truck. Muttering loudly, I said if he wants to overtake I don’t care. I told Angie the car’s headlight behind us was blinding me, and she looked at me strangely but did not say anything.
We passed another bend. This time the road snaked between a very high cliff on one side, with huge boulders and the sea on the other side before emerging into a straight road. I pulled over to the side and stopped so the car behind us could overtake and I could regain my vision without his lights blinding me.
Glancing into the rearview mirror, I saw no more lights or cars behind us. I waited for a few more minutes, but there was not even the sound of another car in the distance. I looked at Angie but was unable to voice out my question of where the truck went. Still not saying anything, she signaled for me to drive on.
The car behind us disappeared at the spot where there was no place to turn, between the cliff and the sea. I was sure it did not make a U-turn either, or I would have seen it. Thanks to my confusion and the delayed reaction I was able to drive us back safely to our hotel.
And it was only then that Angie told me there was no car, and she saw no headlights behind us. My hair stood on end as I realized she knew what was happening but didn’t tell me until we were back at the hotel.
Other guests and locals at the hotel said it also happened to some people before. Even now, as I’m writing this, three years later, I could not stop the goosebumps up my arms and legs. Little did I know that night was just my ‘welcome encounter’ I had with the occupants of Rota from the ‘other side.’ I was warned that more encounters were to follow in the future, and the warning was right.
I had more encounters with them later.