Moving is the only time I seem to clear out unnecessary stuff; not that I’d call myself a hoarder, perhaps more of a sentimental ‘just-in-case’ keeper. Living in shared houses and studio flats meant my space was always quite limited, but moving into a bigger flat a few months ago gave me an opportunity to look at all my gumpf with a sense of scale. Seeing my miscellaneous items lined up along one wall in my living space made it seem like so little when it felt I’d shoved things into every nook and cranny in my last residence. Finding a place for it all I tried to trim it down with the philosophy of if I didn’t know it was there I could get rid of it. This was mildly successful and now things are stored in a more orderly fashion, although I could probably get rid of more.
I was scrabbling around in a bag (my equivalent of a man drawer) yesterday for a cable and I found the digital camera I haven’t used in years. In it was a memory card which I eagerly put into my laptop to discover it’s bounty. It felt like paging through my parent’s photo albums, except instead of smelling the crinkly plastic sheets mixed with a hint of dust, and hearing the crackle of the aging spines of old volumes containing my childhood, I found altogether different nostalgic sensations.
The memory card contained all the pics from the amazing trip I took to the Philippines with friends for a special wedding. It was a two week long adventure and I spent ages scrolling through these pictures reminding myself of what a fantastic time we had. I wrote on the blog about our most daring day visiting a cave of bones in Kabayan and seeing the pics I refreshed the posts and shared them again. (Click to read Part 1 and Part 2) That was one of my favourite travel days, and I thought I’d share some more from this trip. Come fall down the rabbit hole with me…
Another mini adventure we embarked on was to find a beach. Since we were in Baguio, which is a high altitude town about seven hours by car inland from Manila, this wasn’t as simple as one would think. We asked around at a pre-wedding dinner and found out we were about two hours away from the coast, which as a day trip felt doable. I can’t remember how, but we organised a van to take us and some new friends in the wedding party from our hotel to a beach and then to pick us up in the evening.
The rate the driver charged seemed expensive, somewhere around 3000 Pesos (the region of £45) but it seemed the easiest way to get to our destination. We also placed trust in our driver to take us to a lovely location. I recall him being a bit grumpy, but we were all in good spirits feeling like we were finally on holiday. Driving down the windy mountain pass I tried to take in my surroundings which all seemed so surreal.
As we got to the bottom of the mountain the congestion increased and we could tell we were approaching a town. Houses, cars, traffic and people made me think we must be near a touristy spot. The driver then made a left turn down what looked like a residential road which we continued down for what felt like a mile. It seemed an odd place for a beach resort.
Trusting our driver we all seemed relieved when we arrived at a parking lot, but it was weirdly empty. Announcing we’d arrived and the beach was down a path at the end of the lot we negotiated a time for our return journey and nervously ventured toward where he had gestured.
There was what looked like a ‘clubhouse’ type building, but it seemed empty so we wondered if the ‘resort’ was closed. Walking down some stairs, I think (I remember a gradient) but what we found was nothing like what we’d imagined. What lay before us was a dark, dirty, rocky, deserted stretch of sand which felt like it was recovering from an oil spill. We optimistically strolled down it for a little to see if maybe a beauty spot lay around a corner, but after dodging broken glass and avoiding a mangy looking dog we turned back. This did not feel safe at all.
Not wanting to waste the day we decided to walk back up to the main road and try find another beach ourselves, passing some very creative nativity scenes in the gardens of houses we passed. Making light of the situation we named this original destination ‘dog beach’. Speaking to some locals we found out we should head for San Fernando, and we jumped into a jeepney for a short ride down the road.
Meandering through a few more legitimate looking resort buildings we finally arrived at an ideal location. A beautiful beach with pale sand, people, warm surf and even a bar! We averted disaster and had a glorious day. Making our way back to dog beach for our return journey we resolved that we’d be back, but find another way now that we knew where we were going. A perk of our driver though, was he stopped at a lookout point halfway up the mountain to let us take pictures of the mist rolling in, simply stunning.
It was Christmas eve when we returned to our beach. We had found a bus at a local depot that would take us down to San Fernando for a ridiculously cheap 150 Pesos (£2.50) and we could hail one of these liners along the road to return which was incredibly convenient if not bizarre. After spending another day frolicking in the warm sea and consuming more Red Horse than one should in the sun, while wearing santa hats, we flagged down a bus, but saw once we boarded that there weren’t any available seats. Thinking we’d have to get off and wait for the next liner, a conductor produced small plastic chairs, the kind I imagine my niece and nephew sitting on now around a low table for a play dough session.
Placing these down the aisle we squeezed into them for the mountain ascent. A unique travel experience, I remember my still soggy cosy making me feel cold as air conditioning blasted us. I also recalled feeling the same kind of satisfied tiredness from beach trips as a child and now, years later, I reflect on these Filipino beach memories as part of me, as much as those memories in those decades old albums.