Day Trip to Baguio
My sister and I woke up in Sto. Tomás, again, and piled into the car with Kuya G, Atsi T, and Auntie M, and drove down the road to Agoo and had breakfast at a place called New Iceland. Poor H wasn’t feeling well and had some problems with the tabu.
After breakfast, we piled into the car again and drove up the mountain to Baguio City. It’s a beautiful drive by all accounts, but I fell asleep. H had it worse in the back of the van; I think she was getting motion sick.
We got to Baguio, took a pit stop at Burnham Park, picked up Atsi T’s grandson N, and then drove to the strawberry fields in La Trinidad. Auntie M bought baskets and also all the vegetables. I had a coffee emergency, and everyone ended up having a coffee with me. Kuya G and H tried the strawberry ice cream.
After that, we all drove to Burnham Park and rented bikes. I tried a bike but found that all the seats stabbed me in my gentleman parts, so I decided not to rent. However H, Atsi T, and Kuya G all took rode around happily. A highlight of this portion of the trip was when Auntie M reached over and grabbed H’s bilbil, asking, “What happened?”
After the bike riding was dinner at a Chinese restaurant called “Rose Bowl.” By this time H was feeling really sick so she excused herself and lay down in the van.
Then we rode down the mountain back to Sto. Tomás, and I rode in the way-back so that H wouldn’t have to ride there again. I am too tall for the way-back, and got motion sick as well, but H got a picture of the Lion Head, so there’s that.
I’m a Tomasiño!
Once we all got back to Sto. Tomás, H was feeling too crummy to go out, so I walked around the corner to the Villanueva family house, which was right where I remember it from 1983. Cousin D and L live there now, and I hung out with them for a while, looking at old family photos, speaking Tagalog, enjoying some Coke Zero. At one point D showed me a video of his sabong performance, and even showed me the chicks, which lived in a box still until he could get them inoculated. D and L are soft-spoken and kind and I liked hanging out with them.
When it was time to go, they offered to walk me back to Auntie M’s place, but that seemed unnecessary, since it was only around the corner. They worried I’d get lost, or that the dogs would get me, but I told them not to worry, I’m a Tomasiño; I got it under control. As expected, I got back without incident.
Goodbye, Sto. Tomás
The following morning my sister made breakfast and then we said goodbye. We took one last walk to Tsismis Park and the place where Atsi T volunteers, and took some pictures. Afterward we drove to Agoo and waited for a Dominion bus to take us back to Metro Manila on the TPLEX.
I don’t regret having spent my entire last summer in Makati and not going home to the province; I was able to study Tagalog grammar with Ate B who is a professional teacher, and it was the background I needed. However now that I’ve been back to the province it’s really kind of the only place I want to be. If and when I get a chance to return to the Philippines, I hope to go back to our little town and learn Pangasinan. I know my Tagalog will improve there as well, since people seemed to have no interest in speaking English with me.
So the TPLEX and the NLEX are the expressways that cut the trip from the province from 10 hours to 4, and if you don’t want a back-road slow bus, I highly recommend using a bus that takes the TPLEX. We only made one stop in Tarlac, and the rest of the ride we listened to some DJ’s funny dance mix which had a very silly beat-track super-imposed on the music.
Snack in La Loma; Dinner at Kanin Club
We got off the bus at Balintawak Station and über’d back to the family house in La Loma. Niece G was super happy to see us, she is a ray of sunshine. Cousin Ate D fed us a huge snack immediately and Auntie B demanded to know how we managed to get there. We told her we just got off the bus at Balongkakawit Station, which she thought was charming, but Ate D wasn’t that impressed with.
We watched a bunch of news that was not news; most of it was preparation for the big Traslacion ng mga Replika through central Manila, and I wondered irreverently why Filipino Catholicism required so much suffering and busting-ass. Auntie B just shook her head at me and laughed.
Later we got in a car and drove to Kanin Club on Scout Rallos, which is prounced “es-kaw-trall-yos.” The veggies were a little salty for our tastes, and the non-veggies seemed bland, but it was good to be there. Cousin D also showed up, and I spent most of my time trying to mortify my teenage niece, who is gorgeous and amazing.
Later we fought over the bill in a grabby way, trying to snatch it away to pay it and treat the other. Yes, it’s tacky, and also, tacky is fun. In the end we lost when Auntie B threw our money into the car at us.
Airport Run and Dinner with More Cousins
The next morning, H and I hoofed it over to Toby’s Estate on Salcedo for breakfast and coffee at the same place–trust me–and then we got in an über to the airport to pick up Cousin L. She managed to text us from the terminal, so the driver agreed to just pick her up and circle us back to Makati.
L is a great traveler; had no problems with adjusting, super well-prepared, great attitude. We went for coffee at Habitual Coffee (check it, check it) which is a good place for Seattlites. L checked in with her brother and we put together a plan for the afternoon.
The plan included a massage, which we reserved. They cancelled on us 10 minutes before the appointment (unprofessional!) and we ended up walking into another place.
After a pretty good massage, we walked over to Mesa and met Cousins D and N to catch up. Also, Cris from Kalyespeak showed up, as did the S family, who was also on vacation (except for Uncle R and Auntie G, who live there now). I don’t remember much about the food but it was great to catch up.
After that, L wanted to try Grammercy, but there was a stupid dress code, so Cris took us to Hole in the Wall instead, which was quiet, rooftop, and casual: perfect. We had a quiet drink and chat before going home for the night.
It was H, L, and I. We had breakfast early at The Wholesome Table, and then a stroll through the Salcedo Saturday Market. Then it was über to Market! Market! and SM Aura. We ended up eating in the food center at Isdang Pulo; a fried crab, a pork sinigang, and a couple plates of lato (ararosep).
Business Class Upgrade
After lunch we went back to the condo, and I packed up my gear and said goodbye. My sister sent me off with a baggie of trail mix.
There was crazy slow traffic on the way to the airport, a bag scan at the entrance of the terminal, and then a long, chaotic, snaky line to check in. By the time I had gotten to the front of the line, I had already decided I was going to upgrade, since the thought of the middle seat they assigned me made me want to die. They told me they’d call me if there was a spot.
There’s departure checkpoint with immigration in the Philippines, and they wanted to see both my passports; the one I was traveling under, plus the one I had entered with. Then airport security, a second bag scan. Finally I got to the gate, and there was a third bag scan just to sit down at the gate! I chugged a water I had just bought before sitting down at the gate to anger-tweet about being hungry and isolated from the bathroom.
Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, I exited the secure gate area, went to the restroom, and afterword ate a tuna sandwich at the snack bar. When I went to return to the gate, the flight had been moved to two gates down, and everyone had been re-seated. I had to get in line to go through gate security AGAIN, and I had to wave at the gate desk from behind the velvet rope when they called me about my upgrade.
Finally, I got in, they assigned me a seat, and they asked me to board. My seat was 5C. I’m trying not to think about how much money I paid for it. In any case, it was a seat that folded into a bed, and that was amazing. I ignored all of the media and games; I didn’t even bust open my headphones. I just read a book on my kindle app and spent the rest of the time either sleeping or eating. The food was good and the bathroom was always free when I wanted it. I hope all my transpacific flights from now on will be in business class! and I know with my brain that it’s probably not going to happen again.
So it was a good trip to the Philippines for New Year 2016. It wasn’t actually a vacation, technically; I was working remotely. It was awesome to see family, to practice Tagalog and Pangasinan, and to spend time with my baby sister. I’m not sure when I’m going to get a chance to do this again, but I hope it’s soon.