Thursday, October 20, 2011

Backpacker: Secret Blueprint

At first, it was a toss-up between Baler and Casiguran. Both towns nestle behind the humps known as the Sierra Madre, right at the eastern fringe of Luzon and whose balconies open to the Pacific Ocean, where the first rays of the sun cast its soft light over large swathes of mist-covered rain forests and remote white beaches. 

It must have been the result of watching too many episodes of Lonely Planet on Discovery Channel, but my idea was to pick a place less flocked by tourists. The anniversary was fast approaching and to celebrate our milestone, I was bent on surprising my partner by greeting him "Happy Anniversary" with the ocean behind me.

I cannot recall when the first plan was conceived. All I know is that I was already checking the departure schedule of the Genesis bus when Quiel pounded the eastern coast. The province of Aurora was directly hit. Damage was minimal but it was enough reason to change my mind and step back from pursuing my expedition.

Except that instead of picking a spot closer to home, I was aiming for a destination far distant and inaccessible to city dwellers like me.

And so what I did was to look for a suitable location at the northern tip of Luzon. Tutal naman, my true intention was to be as close to my other half - who is in North America - as possible. It didn't matter if I have never seen the place or know anyone there. I am entitled to indulge myself in some kind of adventure once in a while.

There was no excuse to pick another point on the map after I spotted the jutted land on Google Map. Searching the web was my next step after identifying what town to make landfall. All it took was one hour to learn what bus to ride and what places to see during my stay. Had I gone further, I could have booked the resort before my web surfing was over.

However, Ramon threatened to spoil my weekend getaway. Much as I would like to transform my abstract plans into something tangible, weather became my biggest worry. It didn't help too that I was beginning to suffer from my anniversary jitters. Made-up nightmares consumed what should have been my fervent drive to learn much about my destination.

The blueprint began to take shape one week before my departure. The bus company was a mere block away from Pilyo's place. After Papa Tagay's birthday inuman that Saturday, I lumbered my way towards the station to check the schedule. The first bus leaves on Friday at 12:30 pm. 

There was no time to go to work. I will have to sacrifice my leave credits.  

Between the ceaseless rains that made the landscape duller, and the Larawan and Bentusi projects which kept me busy during my rest days, a series of deceptive maneuvers made the plan a reality:

"My mom told me this evening that a friend of my dad sent a text message informing her about a property he left in Cagayan." I wrote in a letter. "This property is unknown to us and it is possible that he indeed had left something there as my dad was secretive in nature.

Being the eldest, I was tasked to investigate the matter and report everything to my mom."   

The boss didn't answer my email. After all he was out of the country busking for clients and was expecting me not to be absent at work. His non-response didn't stop me from putting a break on my plans.

By Wednesday, I already bought my bus ticket. The fare cost P600 pesos, one way, which was a bit cheap considering the distance of the province. By then, not even a bout of flu, muscle pains, or a typhoon could stop me from leaving the city. The next step would be to come up with a believable excuse I could tell at home.

Having the raketship immediately resolved my worries. I told my mom that a mayor in Isabela commissioned us to write an article about his town. You see, at this age, it is still difficult to secure a pass going to far places. Mom worries a lot, and though she hasn't turned down my vacation plans before (because I had none) instincts tell to shorten the distance to easily get her permission.

By Wednesday night, the issue was finally settled.

Between the constant weather monitoring at the Pag-Asa website (adik lang) and the frantic pursuit to finish writing the "Larawan" series on time, I was able to squeeze finding a place to stay before my "flight" out of Manila.

I only had two conditions for my accommodation. It doesn't matter if the place has an infinity pool, hot water coming out of the faucet, or even complementary meals to sweeten the deal. As long as the room rate never goes beyond my P1500 budget and that it has Wi-Fi connection, reservations could be done in an instant.

Besides, It was already Thursday and I'm running out of time.

The first resort to answer my text inquiry didn't have an Internet connection. The second, whose container-van inspired cottages that cost P250 a night was fully-booked until November. "Sun City" hit the ceiling. It was also too opulent for my taste. And while the other inn, which has rates slightly higher than my budget seemed a good choice, I settled with Jotay Resort, whose P1,300 room rate and free Wi-Fi connection already suited my requirement.

Advanced booking was done over the phone.

Once this final huddle had been crossed - to find a place to rest when I get there, it was easy to breathe slowly.

I was even able to put hundreds of new mp3s on my Nano without being rushed. Post the numbers of Pilyo, Rocco and Fox on my cork board in case I went missing, and write the pin of my ATM, which I also left inside my drawer in case of emergencies.

The next morning, I asked Baabaa to set our nightly (Atlantic Time) Skype session at an earlier time. I was all smiles and our casual talk masked whatever I was planning to do the next day. What he didn't know is that on my bed spread a pair of undies, a couple of shirts and shorts, and a small towel that would go inside my bag. On top of the heap was my blanket, the one I used that night to cover my body wherever I find myself in.

After saying goodnight, Dymion the laptop went inside my backpack. I took a long bath and slid my toiletries inside the backpack last.

Parting is a sweet sorrow and my mom was all tears (drama lang). Told her, I would be back before she feels my absence. Strict instructions to look after the matriarch was relayed to the household. They asked where I was heading and my happy answer has always been Santiago, Isabela.

Florida Bus Terminal, Espana

What they didn't know is that on my bus ticket, which was safely tucked in one of the small pockets of my bag showed my real destination. More than five hundred kilometres away from home, I was off to Santa Ana, Cagayan for my first solo, long-distance land trip ever.


the green breaker said...

Mugen, the Explorer. Bow! Haha. How did it feel like, boarding the bus to the thought that you'll be alone in the journey? No drawbacks?

Mugen said...


Abangan ang susunod na kabanata. The adventure has just begun. :P


habang binabasa ko ito the song runaway by the corrs is playing at the back of my mind.

miss those out of town trips with mamang. now it has become a luxury for me both time and budget-wise hehe.

pag inlab talaga bundok aakyatin, dagat tatawirin, kalawakan liliparin.

Leo said...

Wow, it feels like I'm reading a good novel. This chapter makes my hands glued on the book!

Can't wait for the anniversary skype/phonecall.

Feeling ko maiiyak ako... I'll ready my tissue.

This is awesome Joms.

Mugen said...


At this point, I'm not sure how to treat the story. But I tell you, I gave everything on the Final Distance, this is the journey part. Hehe. My own journey that is. :)


Kuya D:

Since I was taking the same route my mom and I had taken almost a decade ago, this trip goes beyond the presence, it was a celebration of a memory.

RainDarwin said...

natawa naman ako sa tawag sau ni greenbreaker.

for us (encantos), ang tawag namin sa kanya ay:


Nasaan ka Elisa? hahahahha.

Alter said...

echoing Leo, sweet mo naman mugs,

going the distance, were the pulsating waves are at warmest.

dabo said...

di ko pa binabasa hehe..but curious lang..

ano pakiramdam ng

sumakay sa floral imprinted na bus..

ZaiZai said...

cute ng bus! saya naman ng solo out of town trip mo mugen :)

kenchu said...

wow pangarap ko rin magawa to minsan! i'm excited to read about what happend on your trip :-)

Mugen said...


Subukan mo, marami kang matututunan sa daan.

Sinusulat ko na siya. Heheh. Salamat.



Sa sobrang excited ko, di ko na napansin na pink pala yung kulay nung bus. Baklang bakla lang. Lolz.


Wala pa yung story proper sa lagay na yan. Kumbaga, painit pa lang. Hehe.

Mugen said...


If I remember it correctly, you were the one who wanted to clone me. Lolz.


Kaw talaga, kaya pala muntikan na mabuko ang lakad ko. Lolz.

c - e - i - b - o - h said...

tawa naman ako kay green, ikaw na daw si Mugen the Explorer.. LOL!!

some things are really enjoyed more when done alone..

Mugen said...


Abangan ang susunod na kabanata. Hehe. :)

At salamat for reminding me what I have learned. :)

Sean said...

talagang pink pa ang bus.

nagadayo ti napanam ading.