Post 4 – Philippine vacation travel, hectic yet fun

By:  LPJ

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)

Actually, the trip to La Union was a smooth ride on well-maintained highways. I especially enjoyed the brief stopover at Jollibee for the crisp, yummy fried chicken, the popular chain’s signature offering, and the delicious palabok (noodles moistened by sauce mildly flavored with fish perfectly proportioned for a “hint”).

My favorite hang-out section of Chito and Benita’s home is the wide balcony facing the vast ocean. Chito recently reclaimed a portion of the sea, expanding the balcony ten times. His plan is to build a large gazebo in the center of the reclaimed area, and a firepit in front of it, he says, in time for my next visit.  I can hardly wait.  I imagine myself dozing off in that gazebo, lullabied by the loud rhythm of splashing waves, just like they did the nights I lay in the bedroom with open windows at Chito and Benita’s home.

It was fun watching the younger ladies in my group play with the splashing waves right at the balcony edge.  Karen, Hazel and May would stand by the railing overlooking the ocean at high tide, wait for the overly sized splashes to hit the balcony and then run like mad before the waves drenched them. They executed this “try to catch me game” over and over again, taunting the waves to reach them.  They did get wet a few times, shrieking wildly as they got caught.  No longer able to run fast, this baby boomer Lola wished to be in that game.  But I enjoyed vicariously, just watching.  It looked like absolute fun.

I so appreciated the abundance of seafood at the meal table – shrimps, talangka (small, sweet crabs), squid, and fresh bangus (milkfish) fried or boiled in sinigang, the Filipino version of the French bouillabaisse.  In bangus, I especially aim for the belly richly moistened with its fish fat. The fried dried/salted fish for breakfast (danggit) eaten with sinagnag (garlic fried rice) was a welcome breakfast regular. Meat was also an option at all meals. But I ate with gusto the tinola, chicken boiled with a mix of vegetables in richly flavored chicken soup.

With all the pleasurable amenities of Rabon, I most appreciated the stories that brought us to the wee hours of the morning, conversations that competed with the pounding waves outside.  It was nice to have brief chats with Kim and Jaja, Chito and Benita’s teenage kids.  The dinner at a Japanese restaurant near Agoo the night before we left La Union was delightful, especially because we enjoyed the sumptuous food with Benita’s Mom and brother Jerry.  Lively exchanges, over abundant tempuras, teriyakis, ramen soup and sashimis, crisscrossed the long dining table.  And after hours of dining, there still were a lot of shrimp tempuras to take home.

After frolicsome days by the ocean, we drove up steep mountains to Baguio, summer capital of the Philippines. There, we stayed at my sister Alice’s spacious condo, where we found some quiet and needed rest.  For the second time in my 5-week vacation, I was able to open my laptop and respond to a long list of emails and messages, doing all that while occasionally glancing at the tall pines and scenery beyond the French doors to the veranda.  In February, the weather in Baguio was very cold, remindful of cold days in California.  As planned, our sightseeing in Baguio was limited to driving around Burnham Park that features a lake and boat rides on the water, a drive outside the gates of the Philippine Military Academy, and a drive by Mine’s View that features lines of stalls selling local crafts and native products. We also joined crowds that tightly packed the Baguio cathedral for the Ash Wednesday Lenten ceremony.

On the third day, we  took the ride down the mountains and hills, through narrow roads past breathtaking views of forested mountain peaks and hillsides, of large houses that look precariously perched on slopes and over cliffs — back to Los Baños, Laguna and Manila for the week before my return flight to California.  My hectic travel schedule doesn’t let up – so more activities and experiences to report at my next blog.

Linda P. Jacob