It’s been three weeks since I got back from the Philippines. Getting adjusted to the time difference took longer. I felt sluggish and sleepy often, perhaps due to not getting sleep at the right times. And maybe because my 5-week travel followed a very hectic schedule.
The week and a half prior to my return to California was just as eventful as the rest of my vacation. After our Baguio stint, we opted for a relaxed hotel stay at Mella in Las Piñas, Manila. The purpose was to catch up on rest, a respite from the rigors of road travels. The hotel amenities were outstanding, particularly the heavy breakfast that offered a rich variety from arroz caldo (flavored soupy rice), samporado (chocolate flavored porridge cooked in coconut milk), tocino (marinated and grilled pork), to sinigang (garlic fried rice), daing (fried dried fish, longanisa (pork sausage), omelets, fresh fruits, and several other items that I did not have the chance to get to. If anyone asks me why I want to go back to Mella – easily, I’d say, the breakfasts.
The hearty meal before my flight back to California – at Melodee’s home (Photo by Melodee Isaguirre)
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That was the first children’s party I had attended in a decade — the birthday of Tian-Tian, my nephew/niece’s (Siegfrid/Gerlyn’s) precocious little boy turned seven In February. A room full of attendees (half of them adults) at McDonald in Calamba, Laguna, reverberated with excited chatters mostly from the children. The dancing and action games elicited loud cheers that seemed to bounce off the walls. Amazing, I felt euphoric, and felt like a child again.
As I watched the contented birthday boy, I remembered that only a few years back, after seeing a Godzilla movie, he expressed his worry that Godzilla was in California where I live. In response to his concern, I blogged in my Babyboomerlola website – “No Tian-Tian, Godzilla is not in California”. I wonder if he still thinks that the scary monster is in CA.
After the party, we drove to Rabon in Rosario, La Union, my nephew’s home by the beach, one of my go-to places for spectacular scenery, refreshing relaxation, fresh and healthy sea breeze, and the calming music of repetitive ocean waves on the shore. All these, matched by the graciousness and kindness of our hosts, Chito and his wife Benita, and the lively company of my relatives.
I entertained great excitement and anticipation for Rabon, which made me antsy during the six-hour drive.
The lure of Rabon, La Union (Photos by Rorie Pandes and Melodee Isaguirre)
Chilling out at the Bonoan condo in Baguio (Photo by Rorie Pandes)
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Ah, Naga City, the home of my youth. I was there three years ago, right before the pandemic. Anticipating another visit thrilled me. The 12-hour drive from Laguna to Naga was like a pilgrimage. Traveling in my nephew/niece’s (Chito/Benita’s) comfortable Grandia with great company and an efficient driver, the bumpy ride on the truck-trodden roads did not diminish the excitement of visiting a city that bears youthful memories for me. To boot, I so looked forward to seeing a dear aunt, younger sister of my Mama. Auntie Rosie Manuel Cruz was our generous host during our week and a half stay, a loving matriarch, a model of strength and benevolence, a warm source of family memories.
My Bicol trip was a journey in nostalgia. Seeing old places now changed, and new or revitalized features of the cities yielded to sentiments of gratitude for what was then, and appreciation for what has become and what is now. The Naga of my youth will always stay in my heart. Very special were the bonding moments with family members, relatives, old and new friends. While touring and sightseeing goad interest and excitement during travels, nothing is as gratifying as reconnecting with dear ones one hasn’t been with in years. For me, this is the heart of my travels to the Philippines.
An impromptu family reunion at Auntie Rosie’s home in Naga. (Photo by Melodee Isaguirre)
Watching sunset at Cymae Beach Resort at Pasacao, Camarines Sur. (Photo by Rorie Pandes)
Vista Point at Legazpi, Albay, Bicol. (Photo by Melodee Isaguirre)
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