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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hitting the Road

It's been quite some time since I made an entry here and I miss it actually. It's a bit funny though that during the time that typhoons were hitting the country, the internet service in my area was working well, but when the typhoons left, my service provider chose that time to strand me, and the rest of my province. I'm still looking for the logic in that.

And so, one of the things I quite missed during those trying times was the opportunity to just get up and and drive a car to anywhere. Of course, for my part the easiest route to take would be the Manila East road, which is well maintained as you go on stretches with nary an encounter with a bump on the road. This is the only stretch of road where one feels like there are only a few people in the Philippines.

What I like about road tripping are the little surprises that you get when you just take the time to stop and be curious. On this road, there is of course, the window shops of Paete displaying their wood carvings for sale. If you travel there during the -ber months, there is quite a buffet of Santas to choose from to decorate your house. There is also the showcase of the barong tagalog and saya along Lumban. The trip through these towns are short since they are small places, but it makes for such wonderful sights to see the culture thriving along the road. Then you know that you've reached Pagsanjan as soon as you see the old but well-preserved colonial Spanish houses there and the old wall marking the province as
established during the Spanish era. Then, if you reach Magdalena, there you will appreciate at how neat and peaceful the town and its people are, with their famously old church. They even have a memorial inside it signifying the short time that Apolinario Mabini rested in probably the last of his battles against the Spanish before he expired. The blood stains on his hat and sword are still there, brown and preserved in age.

For us, the final stop would be Liliw again. One naturally lands on the town after Magdalena. It's a little uphill and into their narrow streets which curved this way and that. We reached a very charming place called Balay Celina, a Bali-inspired bed and breakfast, quite a few minutes from the center of town. We were greeted by a friendly caretaker called Lasi who took care of us the moment we entered the gates, which is a distance from the main entrance.

As we entered the foyer, we are greeted by instant tranquility from the sounds of trickling water from the indoor pond, lush colors from the variety of plants alongside it, and natural light streaming in from every angle. One gets a glimpse of the garden pushed at the back of the house, leading to the swimming pool and another cottage for bigger groups or families who would like some more privacy. Every square inch of the house is made with natural and contrasting materials that really go together beautifully.

Lasi led us to our room, which is quite big. There were two double beds, a living area and tv with cable. The bathroom is likewise spacious and can probably accomodate the toiletries of six people. Indeed, the rooms of Balay Celina are made for sharing. We weren't prepared, however, with the little detail that they dont provide basic toiletries like shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. But towels are big and clean.

The people of Balay Celina are very accommodating that they can drive you to the center of town for your shopping and sight seeing. Even if it takes you 2 hours to get there from Antipolo, one still gets tired from driving. An added note here is that parking spaces in the town proper are quite limited, so having them drop you off and picked up later in the day is an added and much valued amenity.

Sleep in Balay Celina is very peaceful and surprisingly cool. One then understands why the owners did not install air conditioning units in their rooms. Even if you close off your glass windows to prevent a variety of bugs from coming in, there are slits on the roof that allow air to come in and naturally circulate.

Breakfast at Celina is served generously. We were served pako omellette, which was an eye opener, pork longganisa, beef tapa, fried rice, fruits and coffee. You are given as many as you are able to wolf down. It is certainly your home away from home, as they would like you to feel.

Balay Celina has turned out to be just the reward you need at the end of a road trip. We will certainly come back.

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