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Don’t go to Baguio to move on or find yourself

/ 06:44 PM June 17, 2015
Illustration by Lucille Tungol

Illustration by Lucille Tungol

Finally get on with that plan with your high school friends. When your parents won’t let you, point out why your older sister is allowed to go abroad by herself. If that’s not enough, emphasize you’re 20 and not 15—you have grown independent since you started college. After convincing them, plan your itinerary with your friends during a sleepover—except you don’t know how to plan these things so you let the three of them manage it instead. But try to suggest places from what you vaguely remember when you went there six years ago. Surely, a lot has drastically changed since then. Give up and let them decide on your three-day budget.

When the day finally arrives, make sure you’ve packed your antidrowsiness medicine and your neck pillow. Realize that traveling can be fun if only you don’t have motion sickness. Go to the bus station at 10 p.m. Curse loudly because there are no tickets left for the 11:30 trip. Let out a resigned sigh as the four of you take the 12:45 trip instead. Don’t tell your parents about this minor flaw because they will incessantly panic. In the meantime, find a comfortable place to sit with the rest of the waiting passengers. Feel jitters as you look at the volume of the crowd going to Baguio, men and women with the same impatient expression as you have, constantly checking the time. Realize you may have romanticized your trip a bit and the scene is not what you have hoped for. There are no bright palettes or film-esque scenery. Everything is just as ordinary as it gets. Nonetheless, brace yourself for an adventure you have been looking forward to for almost a year. This is not a trip for you to find yourself or to move on from something. You don’t need that. This is a trip to strengthen the bond you have with your closest friends by going to new places with them.

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Once you get to your seat in the bus, position yourself comfortably until you fall asleep. This is what you do—you enter a moving vehicle and suddenly your body has an automatic way of lulling you to sleep. Five hours on the road is not a big deal if you’re dozing off. Only wake when you feel the urge to go the loo. Pay the respective P5 fee. Afterwards, go back to sleep. Wake up only when you hear the sound of people yawning and getting out of their seats and bags getting unloaded from overhead compartments. Sort your things and get out of the bus. Feel the 5 a.m. coldness all over your body. Hold your jaw so it doesn’t involuntarily clench. Be grateful that the elevator at the bus station gives off a soothing warmth that you won’t want to get out of it for a long period if only that’s allowed.

Take a cab to the hotel. When you reach your room, push the two single beds together so the four of you could maximize the space. Don’t tell the concierge below that you’ve done this. Feel like you have accomplished a #lifehack. Rush to the nearest fire exit and take pictures of the landscape. You have missed seeing a view like this since you live in the city. Get a wallet-sized photograph of the guy you’re dating and snap a shot of it against the background. Call him while you try not to freeze to death. Go back to your room and ready your pocket money. Urge your friends to do the same. Bring out a small notebook and jot down your expenses so far. Afterwards, take a long nap. You guys deserve it.

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When you wake, the adventure starts.

* * *

Jan. 2, Friday

Bus ticket: 450

Bus ticket pauwi: 450

Taxi fare: 20

Taxi fare: 23

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Cafe by the Ruins meal: 270

Taxi fare: 20

Yosi: 20

Hotel split bill: 940

BBQ, isaw, shawarma: 76

Taxi fare: 20

Taxi fare: 15

Grumpy Joe’s meal: 175

Taxi fare: 10

Rumour’s bar: 50

Taxi fare: 20

TOTAL: P2,539

BALANCE: P4,307

Review your expenses. Realize food and transportation are the top two things you pay for. Shrug. Tell yourself that you are a tourist and this is what it entails. Eat delicious food. Get surprised that a P200+ meal in Baguio is worth the price compared to Manila, because the quantity of the serving is more than what you expected. Take cigarette breaks in between meals. Don’t think of it as a Manila girl thing to do like what movies tell you. It’s cold and you need the heat. Plan to eat dinner at 50s Diner but it’s already too crowded—it will be at least 30 minutes before you get accommodated. Shrug and tell yourself that it’s another ordinary American diner and Grumpy Joe’s is even better. The former looks like something out of “Mad Men” or “Agent Carter” anyway. Tell your friends it’s OK because it’s not what you deserve after traveling for five hours straight. Realize you’re just bitter. Shrug and eat a scrumptious meal at the latter. Plan to have cocktails at a bar in Session Road but end up drinking tea instead.

When you head home, call the guy you’re dating. Joke about him going on a bus and meeting you at Mines View Park. After all, he’s only an hour and half away from you because he’s in Pangasinan. Eventually, let go of the joke and tell him how your day went. Hold the conversation outside to get better reception—sit on the sidewalk across the hotel. Tell him that his voice is the last thing you want to hear before you go to sleep. Realize you want to do this every night for the rest of your trip. Have the urge to whisper “I love you,” but don’t do it. Tell yourself it’s too early. Think hard about the three-second silence before the two of you hang up, and wonder if he also meant to say “I love you” but didn’t want to do it yet too.

Look at the silent Baguio at night one last time before going back to the hotel. Have a good night’s rest.

* * *

Jan. 3, Saturday

Taxi fare: 26

load: 21

bread: 5

Jeep fare: 11

BenCab museum pass: 100

Cafe Sabel meal: 200

Jeep fare: 11

Skating rink fee: 90

chicken skin: 20

Jeep fare: 8.50

karinderya dinner: 100

Taxi fare: 20

Aunti Anne’s waffle: 65

Brownies: 60

Yakult: 10

K-Zone magazine: 100

wallet: 140

bonnet: 150

Taxi fare: 20

TOTAL: P1,151.50

BALANCE: P3,155.50

Wake up early for the second day of your trip. Go to the famous museum away from the city proper. Remember that this is one of the locations in “That Thing Called Tadhana” that a friend told you about. Take lots of pictures because it’s only a one-time thing. Order organic food at their own restaurant. Teasingly piss off your friends by getting a forkful of your pesto before they even get an Instagram shot of all your food. Stay by the small veranda for an hour because the three of them try so hard to get 3G working. Laugh at them for not being able to live without Instagram. Roam around the museum again while they’re at it.

Go back to town and head for the roller skating rink. Realize why you don’t skate in the first place. Struggle to move without holding your friend for support. Fail. Give up and watch kids do it effortlessly. When the three of them are done, treat yourselves to local food. You deserve a break from the expensive diners, and it’s time to blend in with the local lifestyle. Afterwards, go to SM and stay on the balcony, enjoying the night sky and the cold breeze. Sit on the floor and talk about your lives. Talk about your dreams. Talk about your fears about the future. Talk about how newness envelops you as you start your year in a different place. Talk about the constant people in your life. Talk until you think you have exhausted your feelings in one sitting. Take the cab home in comfortable silence. Feel the accomplishment you made with opening up. Sleep with a smile on your face.

* * *

Jan. 4, Sunday

Good Shepherd products: 475

Taxi fare: 22

Cafe Baterol snack: 218

Cheetos: 134

Taxi fare: 20

Jeep fare: 11

fresh strawberries: 150

strawberry ice cream: 20

kikiam, calamares: 32

bottled water: 25

straw hat for Pam: 120

Jeep fare: 11

Taxi fare: 77

Taxi fare: 15

Canto meal: 140

Taxi fare: 150

TOTAL: P1, 620

BALANCE: P1,620

This is the last day. Naturally, go to Camp John Hay. Take pictures and drink their local baterol. Then take a cab and head to Strawberry Farm. Don’t dare to pick up strawberries on your own, because it’s a waste of money. Let the farmers do the fresh pickings for you. Buy a basket of strawberries for your best friend. Remember to wash them when you get back to Manila. Help yourselves to street food outside the farm. It is not how you expected it to be: Dreary land full of parked cars, a portion of the ground with unsegregated waste. Nonetheless, this is reality and things change in the city. Realize how capitalism affects livelihood. Go to the little shops across the road. Buy a hat for your sister. Take a cab back to the hotel with keychains and other souvenir whatnots.

Wait for nightfall then go to the midnight tiangge. It’s OK if you don’t want buy anything—just rummaging through racks and piles of clothes is enough. Go back to the hotel with only three pairs of socks worth P50, while your other friend has four shirts and three cardigans she can hardly carry. Think of it as having a taste of the local culture in the form of a block-wide, open thrift shop. Another memory is in place.

* * *

In the morning before you pack your bags, buy the famous peanut brittle and choco flakes. Buy only what can fit inside your backpack. Go back to the hotel and finally pack your things. Make sure you don’t leave anything behind. Pack your used clothes. Pack your camera filled with memories.

Ride the bus back to Manila in a different air. You did not go to Baguio to find yourself or to move on from something. This is a trip that strengthened the bond with your friends, as you get to discover things with them while exploring a new place.

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