Sunday, April 6, 2014

My favorite things... (yes, again)

It's been eight years since I've first listed my favorite things and two years since I've rehashed the list. I think it's a good time to go back and update my favorites so then I don't feel so bad! Maria's song from the Sound of Music soundtrack still makes me smile on the gloomiest of days... when the rose-colored glasses are off. I count these favorites of mine as blessings, reasons that make happiness the default decision for the difficult days. I have had difficult moments and have been past the breaking point a few times.

Spending time with family
With the parents and the brother on the other side of the Pacific and the sister now based in the northern part of the city, cousins mostly having their own families, and me home alone most of the time, I find spending time with them to be challenging these days. So when opportunities to spend time with them pop up, I'm all in. 

Recently, my parents went home for a four-week visit, the highlight of which was the trip to Bataan for a weekend of sun, sand, and historical architecture. There were also lots of visits with relatives and friends, meals in restaurants, and impromptu drives to Tagaytay City... oh, and Anna treated us, for the first time ever, for lunch and desserts. For the duration of the parents' visit, they were using the family car so I felt like I was back in college (specifically the days before I started driving). Back then, my mom and dad would drop me off in school before they went to work and then we'd meet for dinner somewhere near campus. During their visit this year, they consistently picked me up from the lab in the evenings; except that one time when Matty kindly gave me a ride to SM Calamba where my parents were supposed to join us for dinner (but met up with us at Starbucks instead). In short, I had a month of family bonding time.

Spending time with what's left of my family who can go out to watch concerts.

So when my parents left, it took me quite a while to adjust again to having the house all to myself. Luckily, ABBA Mania came to Manila to perform at the PICC and I watched it with Tita Tessie (my concert/theater watching buddy), Tita Lucy (a fellow ABBA fan), Ate Madie (who just finished her semester in graduate school that day in Manila), and Anna (who came straight from her capoeira session in Makati). It was a fun evening of 70s and 80s songs and dancing after weeks of quiet in the house.

Driving along the PCARRD-Jamboree Road in the morning
The view of fire trees in full bloom has always been one of the things I look forward to when I drive from Calamba to Los Banos. The narrow and steep uphill hairpin turns here are some of my favorite sections of road. I imagine myself driving up a shorter version of Kennon Road (a road I have never driven on because I'm normally the designated navigator on long-haul drives). 

I'll miss those fire trees that make my day every morning, even when there's a typhoon.

Recently, the decades-old trees were chopped down to give way for two additional lanes in this mountain road. The view became clearer and the drive during stormy days will see less debris from falling tree parts but I am sure that I will sorely miss those trees and their brightly colored flowers. I don't know why they cemented an additional lane without removing the electric posts though; driving on a lane riddled with electric posts is dangerous and ridiculous, if you ask me.

Drinking steaming hot chocolate milk on a cold night... and eating out with friends
Drinking chocolate milkshakes with friends and/or family is definitely much better than drinking it alone. I used to do this every weekend with Anna and cousins but the habit fizzled out when they moved... particularly when Ate Maddie left for her California adventure. Those left in the Philippines do still drink up but more rarely nowadays.

Drinking hot chocolate milk is better done with friends.

Spontaneous let's-have-coffee-tonight evenings has become such a rarity too. I have become thankful for friends who are game at a moment's notice... or those who I bump into by accident. Note: kaladkarins like me! For instance, Matty was up for coffee one night and he picked, of all places, my favorite cafe in Los Banos! We ended up with different versions of hot chocolate milk and as our cups arrived, in came Man and Nelzo! A relaxing evening with people I've been on road trips with (twice I drove; one time, I was the passenger) after stressful days? I'm all for it. 

Going out with friends has also become something that has to be planned several days in advance. But that's understandable since all of us have schedules that need to be coordinated. One of my favorite times was having breakfast with grade school friends though I am not a morning person. Then there's this time when we all met up for dinner and desserts days after we all attended the same wedding. I was really glad I made the four-hour drive from Makati because I had so much fun with them! I was teary eyed as we parted ways in the wee hours of the morning. I was crying while laughing because of our stories from the past and our present adventures. More recently, I've eaten dinners with Kathy, Hannah, and Jing, who all have interesting stories about their experiences being moms. There must be something about that bond shared among people who first met at the school playground. You won't be embarrassed sharing blooper reels with people who've seen you drink milk formula from a bottle, fumble with shoestrings, and dangle upside down on a monkey bar.

I realized I've had my share of really sad days when I found myself wiping tears of laughter during a weekday dinner with friends as Leo shared my klutz-in-the-jeep story to Ate Mary, Rona, and EJ last week. The story was really embarrassing: I was disembarking a jeep at Buendia when I hit my head hard on a metal protrusion in the jeep... hard enough that I collapsed back into the jeep and lost consciousness. When I woke up, the rest of passengers were looking at me and the driver didn't even move the jeep because I was lying on the floor. I stood up, dizzy, and walked towards Makati Avenue. Touching my head, I realized that I had a golf ball-sized lump on my head. 


Taking the road I travel less on
I've gone on road trips and walking tours quite a few times this first quarter already. But the latest of these trips is the most unique (so far) because it's a river adventure. Yes, this is the first time I've gone on a boat ride up the Pagsanjan River. And the view was beautiful! The activities happening on the river's edge was so idyllic that I felt like I've traveled to a time when life was a lot slower... back to the days when I'd be on vacation in my grandparents' farm. It amazes me that I live in a province with so many places to go to and I've barely scratched the surface. This is about to change, I am sure.

On the Pagsanjan River

Next on my list of things to see in Laguna: Caliraya Lake and another waterfall. Yes, I'd like to actually go on the lake and not just look at it from the road side. This man-made lake is a memorable place for me. On my first trip up (12-ish years ago), I parked so close to the water's edge that the car almost fell over! Now, there are several parking lots to choose from, at a safe distance from the water's edge so I don't feel apprehensive anymore about parking. Meanwhile, my friends have gone to the Majayjay waterfall but I haven't yet so I've added it to my bucket list of places to visit.

Photographing landscapes and going to great lengths to get them
My favorite view to photograph is the sunset. Unfortunately, when I drive, I don't have the opportunity to take photos of it... especially on that stretch of road in Lemery, Batangas where the sea is visible from the highway. So one afternoon, right after my car was fixed, I decided to take it for a spin to the  beach town of Nasugbu, Batangas. On the way, however, I got stuck in heavy traffic in Tagaytay City, so I sighed in defeat when I realized I won't reach the beach in time.  

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunset... that I didn't see on the beach.

I decided to call it a trip and make a stop at Sky Ranch, a new amusement park in Tagaytay. The rides were certainly cool but what took my breath away was the view: Taal Volcano and Balayan Bay (is that Anilao I see in the distance?) were visible as dusk settled in. I didn't have my SLR with me (again!) so I settled (again!) with taking a photo with my phone's built-in camera.