Putri is a nine-year-old Sama-Bajau girl born in a hut standing alone in the middle of the Sulu sea. Mother gave birth in the presence of another woman, who cut her umbilical cord with a kitchen knife and called the baby Putri, the Sulu sea princess.
Putri wakes up early in the morning, jumps into a small wooden boat, and paddles slowly, searching for solitude. She looks carefully for fish in the ocean without thinking of anything else. After one hour of paddling, she stops, gets up in the boat, closes her eyes, and looks up into the sky. The sun is burning her skin, but she doesn’t pay attention. Then she jumps into the water and starts slowly swimming on her back with her eyes still closed. She feels that she can swim all day without stopping. There is nobody around, only she and the sea. She likes how she feels and starts singing songs that her grandmother taught her. Even though she is alone, she sings quietly, almost in whispers. She is singing just for herself, and she doesn’t want anyone to hear her.
Thousands of small bluefish gather around her. She dives in and swims inside a small dark cloud of fish. There are fish wherever she dives. They seem to come from everywhere as Putri swims by. She loves them all: ray-finned fish have known for their aggressive behavior; the slow-moving green humphead parrotfish; scorpionfish – one of the world’s most venomous species; zebrafish with red, white, creamy, and black bands, showy pectoral fins, and venomous spiky fin rays. There are also white, hammerhead, and reef sharks. Their huge bodies and sharp teeth scare her, and Putri wants them to go away. Then she sees her favorite silver-colored large fish with orange and red stripes. It isn’t afraid of Putri. She catches it and swims with it, holding it with both hands.
The wind that is blowing from the north is getting stronger. It hits her in the face, nearly pushing her out of the boat. She needs to go home. She starts paddling against the wind while the wind screams into her ears. She paddles faster. She is not scared, and she keeps paddling. She gets tired and stops paddling for a minute to catch her breath. She shakes her hands three or four times, takes a deep breath, and starts paddling again. The wind is getting stronger and stronger. On the horizon, Putri sees dark clouds that are moving toward her. The waves are getting bigger. She paddles even faster and doesn’t see or feel anything: no turbulent waves, no dark clouds, or the endless blue and green sea; there is only desire to reach the hut. All of a sudden, a big wave hits the boat and throws Putri into the water. She disappears for seconds under the water, but she dives out and jumps back into the boat. Turbulent waves play with her boat like a toy. Paddle. Paddle. Paddle – the only thing she can think about. All of a sudden, something appears on the horizon like a strange mirage at sea. “Home,” he screams with joy. Soon she will be at home, reunited with her family, and listening to her grandmother’s stories.