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A Highlander Vacationing in the Lowlands

Having been born and raised in the middle of the Gran Cordillera, the sea seems to be just an imagination. Its blue waters and majestic sunrise are only seen and appreciated in movies.

La Union is the nearest place to visit if we want to experience the grandeur of the seas. We ride a bus and in just two hours, the body of water which most highlanders thirst for is at the tip of our fingers.

Thus when Bryan Balintec, a web programmer at Rossking Pty Ltd, and her fiancée Karen invited us to attend their wedding in Iba, Zambales, my schedule immediately cleared up for the event. My soul was aware of my secondary purpose why I wanted to attend the wedding of my workmate- to touch the salty water and bath with the lowland warm air.

The Journey to Wonderland

At eight in the morning of March 15, I met with my co-workmates at Petron Station near the Baguio General Hospital. I used my Sagada Weaving backpack for my clothes and other stuff. I was in my high energy to ride at the back of my boss’s car called Rio.

We climbed down the famous Kennon Road, passed by the Lion’s Head, waved goodbye to the high mountains and cool breeze, and reached the lowlands in just minutes. The air became humid and warmer. The Cordilleras was totally out of sight.

My eyes enjoyed staring at the new panorama. The open fish ponds, the wide rice farms, the bamboo cottages, the growing palm trees, the blossoming mango trees, and the Spanish houses were all amazing. It may not be my first time to reach the lowlands, but I am a fan of anything that I do not see regularly.

Then we saw the horizon turning blue- it’s the seas! Everyone in the car cheered. I was half-excited; I realized I forgot my slippers.

My boss Martin Eyking, anAustralian, stopped Rio twice for a brief swim. My companions joined him while I stayed behind looking for a store selling slippers.

We stopped to eat lunch in a restaurant with totally bad customer service, then proceeded with our journey to Zambales. To kill the boredom, our boss requested if we could sing some Filipino folk songs. We started singing “Ako ay May Lobo” and “Bahay Kubo” until we saw a sign saying “Welcome to Zambales”.

The Zambales Fever

At three in the afternoon, we reached the house of the Balintecs in Zambales. Some of our companions already arrived ahead of us. A bowl of duhat was placed on the table and as expected, we grabbed some to start the feast!

After half an hour, we reached Tampisaw Resort which will be our vacation home for the next two days. Bryan already reserved rooms for us. However, we noticed that it seems our number cannot be accommodated by all the mattresses in the reserved rooms. At the back of my mind, I was preparing to look for my cousin Tomas Lizardo who is living in the same city with his family. Fortunately, I got a space in one of the cottages, with other co-workers headed to the house of Brian Basmayor, another co-worker who is from the Zambales also.

For dinner, we went to the Balintecs and left with our stomach overfed with fried shrimps, duck adobo, grilled fish, sea weeds, and bananas. It was heaven on earth filling my stomach with sea foods. I swear I was very thankful that night because I don’t grow allergies with sea foods, although I have already informed Merlene Leano, another co-worker, that I might need Buscopan tablets from her motherly medicine kit.

The service in the resort was not great but we just enjoyed the offers of the nearby beach. The sunset view was not that grand so we just enjoyed drinking bottles of beer before going to sleep. It was a deal- to get drunk, and we did not disappoint ourselves.

We woke up early in the morning to see the sunset. We noticed that the resort was situated in an area that does not face the east for sunrise but perfect enough the sun setting in the evening. We removed our slippers (I bought a pair from a store near the Balintecs) and made our dramatic footprints in the sand.

I was a bit worried that morning when we were preparing for the wedding. A video created by Xavier Arobo, our video editor at Rossking Pty. Ltd., was not downloaded fully due to poor 3G signal in the area. The video was to be shown at the wedding’s reception area.

The Wedding: The Reason Why I Was There

As an ignorant Christian, I never thought of wearing long pants for a religious event. I wore shorts, and Jennifer Francisco, our Human Resources Manager, cracked a joke saying she will  give me an Incident Report (IR) about the inapproporiate attire.

The wedding was set in St. Agustine Catholic Church, minutes away from the resort. The façade  of the old church looks is very fantastic and medieval, and its walls are made of rock bricks like that of St. Mary the Virgin Church in Sagada.

Some filthy Badjao children were playing in the church entrance. Others were lying on the chairs. They approached us to ask for money, and even my Australian boss memorized the immediate response “wala akong pera”.

After the parade of primary and secondary sponsors, celebrants and their parents, we went out to look for an internet shop where we could download the video. We found a shop with old computer models and started downloading the video from DropBox. After an hour, we were back with the copy of the video.

When we returned, the photo session had already started. The wedding reception was held in a spacious hall near the church. A program was prepared for traditional wedding rites like the Pasayaw wherein people pin money on the clothes of the dancing groom and bride. However, I was more excited to eat lunch.

The After-party Glory

After eating lunch, we all went back to the resort and took a nap. We then prepared ourselves to visit the Mangalawa Beach Resort. We rode an elf to reach the port for half an hour. We were more than 30. And I enjoyed making some nasty gestures with some cooperative boys beside me.

We rode a riverboat to reach the island resort. We were greeted by starfishes. Honestly, it was my first time to sea star fish. Denden Aguilar, another workmate, told me that the starfishes are protected so I cannot bring home one. What a barbariotic goal!

All of us were very excited to swim. However before we could all taste the sea water, Erwilyn Solito, my best friend co-worker, moved away from the sea howling in pain. His foot soles were hit by a certain sea creature with needle-like skin.

Black fibers were very visible pricked on to her soles. She was undeniably in pain. I was accompanied by Rosana Leal, another workmate, to look for some assistance from the resort owner.

We played volleyball along the shoreline before swimming in the clear water. The cream sand was very spectacular to me and I kept on urging my companions to watch the sunset (unfortunately, there was no grand sunset again that evening).

When the darkness came, the same river boat came to haul us away from the island. We paid P150 each for the ride back and forth and the resort entrance. Nevertheless, the word that best describes everything would be “sulit”.

We ate dinner at the Balintecs before going back to the resort where we drank some bottles of beer before calling it a night. In the morning, we packed up our things. I stared at the seas with a “thank you” message. The horizon stared back with a glowing sight. The tide was low and I can hear the waves echoing in my ears.

I was ready to go back to Baguio City- a place that is and will always be thirsty of the seas. We rode on the Rio and headed back, climbed the mountain and was welcomed back by the cold breeze of the Gran Cordillera.

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


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