Archive for the nature Category

(lg2a) this is not panama city, panama

Posted in architecture, artifacts, culture, events, food, health, history, interior design, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, sports, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2010 by mijodo


An aunt from Canada was to attend a family member’s wake and burial in Panama City, Florida. However instead of going directly to one of the gulf cities of Florida, she found herself in another part of North America –  at Panama City, Panama.

Probably this story has been retold amongst family members countless times, just to regale ourselves and have some hearty guffaws at such an oddball experience.  But it did happen, and can happen even in the Philippines. If you want to go to San Fernando, make sure which Luzon capital city you are stopping by – the one in Pampanga for some culinary experience or La Union for some surfing action in nearby town, San Juan.

When you think about “Cagayan,” you do ask yourself, “Is this the capital, Cagayan de Oro City of Misamis Oriental of Northern Mindanao or is this Cagayan Province of Northern Luzon?” Cagayan de Oro City boasts of whitewater rafting activities and a busy seaport while Cagayan Province has cave exploration and spelunking for tourists. But “Cagayan Province” should not be confused with “Cagayan Valley” or the whole Region 2 area,  which is composed of the provinces of Batanes, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, and Cagayan Province.

Another name, “Davao,” set in the Mindanao turf, sets chaos probably among the minds of Filipino students studying for a geography quiz. Davao City which is the business and tourism hub of Mindanao is independent of any province, including Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur. Davao del Norte’s capital is Tagum City while Davao del Sur’s is Digos. Interestingly, and even probably more confusingly, Davao del Norte’s official and newest name is Davao Province.
But heck, after some stressful geography lessons in the Philippines, I guess it is time for some destressing which you can get plenty of in Panama City Beach Florida which is distinct from Panama City, Panama.
(For some personal pics on my travel to America, please click on this:
Panama City may not be a top of mind destination in Florida. Miami and Orlando should be prime city targets among travellers in the socalled Sunshine State. However Panama City, together with adjacent environ, Panama City Beach has so much to offer for the sunworshippers – torquoise waters, powdery white shores, and magnificent sunsets. Americans from the Southern states usually enjoy the beaches and the countless high rise accommodations that line the area. Families during the summers and students the socalled springbreak troop to the 27 miles of stunning beachfront sceneries of Panama City Beach.
And between Panama City, Florida, and the country, Panama is the Carribean Gulf. This piece of info should settle the confusion once and for all.
As we try to hairsplit these geographical names, how about finding out where the phonetically troublesome and originally named town of “Sexmoan” is.
How about “Sasmuan, Pampanga.”

(lg2a) a world upside down

Posted in culture, events, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by mijodo

You think everything seems to be running smoothly. You feel that everything seems to be right with your life, just swimming along contently, comfortably in a world that offers much for your existence. Then a letter comes.

The letter asks you to radically alter your life; in fact the letter pushes you to move out of your shell and explore another world – America.

Hastily, you set on a journey to find out what USA is all about.  Then you get to realize that this part of the world is not “Sex in the City” sexy nor “Beverly Hills 90210” bitchy. Much of USA is all about strong work ethic and generosity of spirit – whether it is in the farmlands, industrial towns or the suburbs. There is apparent indication about the dire economic situation in almost every other town or city that I have been to, but it is the Americans’ friendliness and openess that warm the heart of this immigrant.

In the few days I have been here, this newbie has been welcomed and embraced by the relatives and friends who have worked long for years in their adoptive land either as medical professionals or bluecollar workers. I am still weighing the many options regarding my supposed stay here in this country. I am not quite sure how things will work out here in America, but I am assured by their love and concern about my unsureness, my unsteadiness. And I am overwhelmed and humbled with such gestures.

As my world has turned upside down, and some of my initial thoughts on America have completely been disregarded and erased, still the Philippines that I have cared much through this site has never been more pronounced and more vivid than ever.

In this regard, there will be postings on places and my musings on America that will intersperse intermittently with articles solely on the Philippines and Filipinos in this blog. Such thoughts on America will hopefully be relatable to what Philippines and Filipinos is all about, and should even enhance more my love for anything Filipino.  Such articles and postings will be categorized as “Letsgopinas Goes to America (LG2A).”

As early as now, let me also say that I miss my life, friends and family in the Philippines (I miss my work and bidet too). And I thank everyone who has been supportive and cared about me in my nativeland. From the land of supposed plenty – let me say to them “Ingat lagi at salamat.” 

mesmerizing merriment

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, history, locales, nature, people, religion, tradition with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by mijodo


“Aaalliiiwaaannnnnnnn!!,” a man’s voice bellows over the speakers, in a low yet forceful timbre. Then the big drums begin to give their tribal beat.

The call for the yearly Aliwan Festival to start, is raw, primitive and much spirited. It is a call for all the best representative tribes of the land to participate in a gathering of rhythmic music, animated ethnic dance movements, and unceasing gusto to showcase their centuries old, cultural way of living.

Produced by the media conglomerate, Manila Broadcasting Company which owns popular Metro Manila radio AM and FM stations, DZRH and Love Radio respectively, the yearly Aliwan Festival invites all the contingents from many parts of the Philippines to demonstrate their indigenous cultural way of life through costumes, music, and dance.

Each group must have at least 60 individual participants, but there is always power in numbers, thus many times a group goes as large as a hundred people. And each contingent is solidly backed by the respective local government which shoulders transportation to and from Manila, housing, and food for a couple of days. Financing for their stay in Metro Manila alone (usually in dormitories and low cost hotels) can come up to a hundreds of thousands of pesos. But still the provincial government or the municipal government is ready to foot the bill, not because of the One Million Peso Stake as prize for the overall champion, but also there is much pride in showing off what their places can offer in terms of festivities, revelry and folkloric experience. You may want to say this is the Olympics of all Pinoy Festivals – a gathering of cultural champions.

Every year, for some years now, many groups vie to be the grand winner in the Aliwan Festival. Each group has to do several minutes of field presentation in an open arena (usually both at the Aliwan Theater grounds and this year at the SM Mall of Asia Grounds, fronting Manila Bay) and street dancing along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard.  The Festival is usually done during summer months, particularly during May. Yet somehow over the years, the fete has been moved towards late April as rains have disrupted the celebration even during the summer month of May. The show starts around 4 in the afternoon and finishes toward midnight. By then, victors for each category are called, and an over-all champion is heralded.

 Photographers’ Delight. But on the eve of the awaited day of the events, there is a precursor. Each contingent has a muse who will outdo each other in a favorite of many Filipinos to watch – a beauty contest. Just like any town fiesta where a queen is crowned the night before the day of the fiesta itself, Aliwan Festival has to have its own Reyna ng Aliwan (Queen of Aliwan). Usually held at the Aliwan Festival Grounds, the ladies don their most elegant ternos (Philippine Gowns) and come up with witticisms to clinch the crown. But of course, it goes without saying, the winner has to be truly beautiful and epitomize the Filipina of today who still dearly holds old Philippine traditions and customs that can still be relevant during these times.

On the very day of the dance competition itself, at around 2 in the afternoon, one can see multitudes of men and lady participants, dressed in their most elaborate and most enthralling traditional costumes. Each piece of the garment, from the headdress to the footwear is a work of art. The refined embroidery of those coming from Marilao, Bulacan (Halamanan Festival), the feathered headpiece of those from Iloilo (Dinagyang Festival), the ornate jewelry from those coming from Cotabato (Halad Festival) – all done with a labor of love and dedication from their particular places. It is a heyday for all camera junkies as there is much to capture from their garb alone.

Although, from year to year, contingents and troops change, there are still somehow, favorites that take part almost yearly. Veritable overall champions Sinulog tribe of Carmen, Cebu and the Dinagyang group from Iloilo are among those who have shown up in full force and in full regalia this year. Throughout the years, the representatives come from places near and far – as near as Pasig catapulting the Pakalog Festival and as far as the Maguindanao, featuring not only one tribe but three tribes, each showcasing different ethnic festivals – Kaguinakit Ta Laya, Indarapatra Sulayman and Kagkawing.

Field Demo. As the famous Manila sunset slowly creeps in, the sound of the syncopated drums from each participating tribe becomes louder and more vigorous at the field demonstration areas. Every tribe should come up with its own rhythm and pulse from its own set of musicians to bring out the feel in their performance before an audience and the judges. During the field demonstrations, this is where creativity and production values of hired choreographers, managers, and directors can run wild. It is possible that the more gimmickry they come up with, in terms of presentation, the better chances of winning the coveted crown for their personal group. But of course, precision in its choreography and the authenticity of the ethnic dance movements earn big points too.

Each tribe is allowed a considerable amount of minutes to showcase a story or perhaps to just present a sense of the cultural identity of the place.  As such, the delegation from Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival imparts the importance of the Sto.Nino in spreading Christianity amongst the Aeta natives. The huge sets, the fancy props, the colorful costumes, and the searing music just enhance a strong and usually winning performance from the representatives of Iloilo.

Other groups will come up with ways of staging a performance that illustrates their respective specific cultural identity. Different kinds of flowers will be the focal point of Baguio’s Panagbengga or Flower Festival such that young men and women will form ways to create floral patterns during the show. The contingent of  Marilao does the graceful Filipino dance steps, featuring the lush gardens of Bulacan. 

Don’t Rain on the Parade. Each contingent upon completion of the field demonstration will need to parade through Roxas Boulevard to reach Luneta Grandstand, and do the same field demonstration for a bigger audience.

And during the parade of a kilometer or so, another set of jurors will be checking on the delegates’ intricate yet traditional dance routine moves inspired, of course, from the festival each group embodies. Each group must show exact and almost measured movements among all members, and yet, they need to provide the same jovial character just like any Filipino festival parade.

For several years now, heavy rains have not stopped the parade, nor the Aliwan Festival for the matter. Here the can-do spirit and resiliency of all participants are most appreciated. Men and women, the old and the young, residents or not (yes, there was a foreign lady student who gamely danced for a contigent) try their best not to get thwarted by the extreme weather conditions – whether under the heat of the sun or the impaling sudden outpour. Managers and choreographers habitually remind them to focus on their moves, and not get bothered by the cheering crowd nor the over-eager photographers who obsessively interrupt their march for good photos.

Some managers would be strict in implementing a triumphant choreography on the heavy cadence of a set of marching drums. But some would use this time to relax a little bit. Thus the assistants and managers would let the members sip on some water for replenishment, and even some energy drink to invigorate the body and morale while making through their way to their final stop.

Final Routine.  As each contingent provides a second and final dance routine at the Aliwan Theater Grounds, and as each winner is called out for the different categories in the wee hours of the night, it is safe to assume that every participant can only have the feeling that the immeasurable amount of time and finances for the rehearsals in their respective places have not been wasted at all.  The whole Aliwan Festival experience is an edifying test to the will and pride of the people and the local governments to boost unity not only with all other participants, but oneness with the unique and very Filipino traditions and culture passed on from one generation to another.  For some years now, one can say that the tribes of Aliwan have not only spoken and shown our deep heritage to a new young audience, but have stirred up the spirit of the Filipinos to a new cultural high. Mabuhay ang Aliwan Festival!

the vanguard island: madridejos

Posted in artifacts, culture, food, history, locales, nature, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2009 by mijodo

(preceding story:

Island gatekeeper. You then haggle with your guide to bring you to your final destination – Madridejos, specifically at the Kota Park. This is where you get to see vestiges of fortifications that had been all around the island during the Spanish Era.

The island during the 17th century had several mortal and coral watchtowers and two fort settlements which were protecting other neighboring islands such as the whole Cebu Island, Leyte, Masbate and even other islands in Mindanao from seaborne Moros hence the appellation  “Bantayan” (to guard).

But you need to wait for the sunset at its coastal line to appreciate the incredible beauty of the area. There you get to make out silhouettes of people as they pick some crablets for dinner from rockstones where the seawater has receded. It can be a powerful picture of the quintessential coastal life. And the long newly constructed way to its viewdeck just enhances the drama of the beach.

Daing for pasalubong. As you end your travel, with very inexpensive daing na danggit (dried fish) just bought from the market at Bantayan Proper as homecoming treat, and as the sea changes its hue from aquamarine of the shallow waters to blue cobalt of the deep ocean while taking a ferry out of the island, then you realize that Bantayan is only a memory that will linger for many months to come.


Posted in history, locales, nature, people with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2009 by mijodo

lonely road at la paz sand dune

Cousin Mayette and I just had to go to our last destination after covering much of Ilocandia. It seems that every year, during summer there has been a place that we try to discover within the Philippines. Last year, it was the carved boondocks of Banaue, and then this year, it was the heritage places of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

It was imperative to go this area as our last stop, not necessarily antiquated by the colonial past, but spectacular just the same. It was the La Paz Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte. These hilly sands are just outside of Laoag City, thus after our quick tour of the Provincial Museum of Ilocos Norte, we had to look for a tricycle that should take us there.

“Mama, puwede bang dalhin mo kami sa La Paz sand dunes (Sir, can you drive us to La Paz Sand Dunes)?”I asked the trike driver who happened to passby.

The driver just responded with a quizzical look, not exactly knowing the place that I was referring to. Mayette had to intervene, and asked almost the same question but in a different manner, “Manong, saan po ba nagshooting si FPJ ng Ang Panday (Sir, where did FPJ shoot Ang Panday)?”

The trike driver recognized her question right away and was able to readily answer, “Malayo po yon, P300 daan po. (That’s far, P300 pesos for the fare)”

 We had no choice but to consent with the seemingly huge expense, despite the very uncomfortable ride inside his cab. We agreed with one trike driver in Vigan, Ilocos Sur as he had boasted that tricycle cabs in Vigan are much roomier, and can comfortably seat two adults. The ones in Ilocos Norte aresquat-like and small in proportion thus we had to squeeze ourselves inside the cab going to the dunes.

Panday and the Dunes. It was about a 15 minute ride from the busy streets of Laoag until we reached the place that was bucolic in character – dry, dusty, and sparse in residential homes. There was just one rough road, covered with seeming dust all over, and somehow was occasionally used. The place was desolate, but turned out to be the just the entry point to a more expansive locale, with mounds of fine sand all over, light khaki in shade, with thin layers of wild vegetation growing randomly. At this juncture, we had to get off the tricycle, and had the wide vista for ourselves.

Suddenly my mind had this vision of the iconic movie of “Da King” himself, the late and almost president, Fernando Poe, Jr or FPJ (for short) as had mentioned in Mayette’s query to the driver. In the epic series of all the movie installments (3) of “Ang Panday (The Blacksmith),” I would watch FPJ as the highly principled, Flavio, brooding and making a trek in this hilly area of La Paz, trying to find his arch nemesis, Lizardo, played by the unforgettable contrabida (movie goon), the late Max Alvarado.

The scale of the whole dunes brought about also the hugeness of the main characters to the moviegoers – both the good and the bad. La Paz Sand Dunes provided a striking backdrop to the fight sequences, usually sword battles, between the protagonist and antagonist together with his cohorts. It had been an impressive choice by FPJ who doubled as the director to employ the whole La Paz dunes as an important feature to the movie.  Its dryness and barrenness created a dramatic emphasis on the richness of Flavio and Lizardo’s personas. Since these outstanding and highly popular movies were made, the landscape of La Paz has become truly iconic – as if the whole breadth of the place was the third most important personality in such films.

Other notable movies which had the dunes as part of the backdrop were Nora Aunor’s Himala and Tom Cruise’s Born on the 4th of July.

Wind Power. My visualization of such films was cut short by a key question. “How did this happen?” Mayette asked, still dumbfounded by the powerful and poetic undulations of the dunes.

No one could answer it, not even the trike driver who was patiently waiting for us to crawl back to our little trike hole. Of course we would rather be enjoying the virtual limitless space of the desert where occasional boulders and strange looking trees were almost thoughtfully placed.

But if one is to research the internet, we can find out that dunes are basically formed by the incoming wind within perhaps eons of years. The geographic location of the La Paz area is just right beside the deep blue waters of the South China Sea and the winds coming from the coast push up the sand very slowly to create the dunes that can be used as protective barriers to wave surges coming in also from the sea.

And truly we saw the coastal line of the South China Sea running parallel to the extensive sand dunes of La Paz. It was a little too far from where we are, but we saw a couple of all terrain vehicles or ATVs that saunter at the beach front area. Apparently, the provincial tourism officials, together with the Department of Tourism promote the dunes to those wanting to explore a unique Philippine geophysical formation, supposedly only found in the province of Ilocos Norte, and have fun, driving through its atypical topography with such rides. It is said that one can rent out such ATVs also inside the premises of the exclusive Hotel Ilocandia nearby where a smaller portion of the sand dunes are found too.

Footprints in the Sand. During the heat of the midday sun, we decided to climb a high portion of the area, but our feet would sink into the loose ground, thus the ascent was a little bit tricky. Not really able to get to the peak, we chose to go back as we feared that the unusual afternoon showers even during the height of summer would stall our early evening bus departure for Metro Manila.

As I was just about to get out of the sands, I just had to make a last look back at the foot imprints Mayette and I had made. And I pointed out these tracks to Mayette. It was our trail from the high point where we came from. We knew that in due time such prints would be obliterated eventually by the winds coming from the China Sea, but I was deeply aware that such footprints symbolized also the tracks of all the interesting points of the Ilocos Region that we had been able to visit. We might have been gone to many remarkable and historical places within Ilocos, and the physical traces of our visit would have been wiped away thereafter, yet our memories of these places, including the La Paz Sand Dunes would never be erased for many years to come.

dude, where’s my (surf)board?!

Posted in artifacts, history, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, sports, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2009 by mijodo

de los santos family readies for the waves 

Well Dude, it might just be floating around at the beaches of Baler, Aurora.

Baler afterall is the Filipino surfers’ sacred ground. This is where the surfing action in the Philippines all started. If you are a movie trivia buff, you would know this was where some scenes of the graphic anti-war movie, Apocalypse Now of Francis Ford Coppola were taken in 1975. And apparently some people at the movie set had brought along their surfing boards and tested the waters of the Baler Bay which opens to the rest of the Pacific Ocean. After Coppola had packed up, the members of his team just left the boards to the appreciative local youths. Of course, the kids  just started to rock the waves since then.

From Genesis Bus terminal at Cubao, Quezon City, it is a grueling 8 hour bus ride that traverses northern provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija then goes a little bit more up north to Nueva Vizcaya and finally ends up at the eastern province of Aurora. In this travel, much of the roads are concreted and paved, but it is upon reaching Nueva Ecija’s Pantabangan area and Nueva Vizcaya where roads are rough and turns are tight. So just before reaching the destination, you are all shaken and stirred up. The sceneries which are undeniably beautiful and lyrical make up for the tiring bus ride. Definitely, you need to leave the driving to those who know very well the roads. And one more tip from experienced passengers: try to avoid the last trip of the day since if anything untoward  happens, no rescuing bus from the same company would pick you up.

Upon reaching Baler, just hire a trike to take you to Sabang Beach, popular to most surfers. There you are greeted by the sound of the Pacific Ocean’s roaring waves, expressing its power and ferocity. The robust incessant undulation of water can intimidate first time goers even during the relatively calm months of March and April when waves can only go as high as two feet. In other months, waves can get a lot bigger which would be more ideal for experienced surfers.

The shore at Sabang may not have the preferred pristine white sands, and may not have the commercial establishments which create panache to many tourists. Still you come to Baler primarily for the tides and waves which provide character to its beaches.

There are plenty of room accommodations in the area, particularly along Sabang Beach. Hometels are around 600 pesos per night with electric fans to cool you. But if you want to splurge, then Bahia Hotel is the right one for you. Airconditioning, cable television and even a terrace in this hotel will provide you all your urban needs in a resort setting.  Most popular to the backpacking surfers is Bay’s Inn where you can still get cheap rates. Yet you need to make reservations ahead for rooming during summer months, particularly during holy week as there can be a serious shortage when people come in droves. You may want to settle though in other hotels which do not have frontage of the bay, perhaps near the Kapitolyo, still in Baler.

Summer months would be the perfect time to learn the sport of surfing as the waves are smaller. In fact one young Englishman, Alex, fell in love with the place and has stayed in Baler after learning how to surf two summers ago. There are cool schools which are actually shacks, offering one-on-one tutorials to those eager to paddle through the waves, and hopefully would be able to balance themselves successfully in their surfing boards back to the shore. Groups of young college people and yuppies start to get their basic knowledge from men as young as 18 at a rate of P300 per hour inclusive of the surf board rent.  But of course if you have a relative for teacher, then it is for free. Joseph de los Santos, a professional lifeguard at Sabang Beach and a father to three daughters, had an early morning breakfast right at the beach to start teaching his kids and even his wife how to surf. “Gusto nila talaga matuto (they really want to learn),” he proudly explains.

But not all young people from Baler know how to surf. “There is not much of a pressure for everyone to learn,” Henry, a lifeguard too, mentions in a huddle with other surfers at their tower. Yet it is in Baler where there is the biggest surfing community in the Philippines. There are about a hundred people who can surf in this area alone. Probably, not only because it has an older history in terms of surfing but because Baler has a longer shoreline compared to other surfing areas in the country.

Qualified surfers in Baler are many times invited to other surfing areas in the Philippines to participate in heavily sponsored competitions where the top prize is as much as P50,000.00.  Just like other professional athletes, many surfers have their own corporations and companies funding them and providing surfing suits and accessories just to promote their brands. In a way, there is considerable amount of money and prestige that one can get when one goes seriously into this sport.

 And in Baler, it is at Cemento, near the fishing port where professionals compete and play, particularly during the Aurora Surfing Cup. From September to February when the Amihan wind patterns are consistent, waves at Cemento are spectacular enough for the adventurous kind to conquer. There, waves are what you usually get to see in magazines and movies. But of course there are other surfing spots, each with its own surfing qualities such as Lindy’s Point and Charlie’s Point which name has remained after it had been called as such in a major action sequence from the movie Apocalypse Now.

One basic and prime tip for those surfing is that the leash of the board should always be attached to the leg when in the sea. The leash is the lifeline for survival. Without attaching the leash to the leg, life is in danger and the scenario can be fatal as the current can bring you to dangerous places.

So Dude, I presume you forgot to attach the leash to your leg, and lost your surfboard somewhere because of the strong wave. And you are one lucky guy to survive it. 

“Yes, thanks for the info. But I think I have a bigger problem – Dude, where’s my boardshort?”

through a foggy road to gethsemane

Posted in lifestyle, locales, nature, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by mijodo

picturesque gethsemane

It was an early morning drive. My cousin and travel partner, Ate Mae Hipolito were en route to Bukidnon from Davao City. Ate Mae’s sister, Ate Betsy and her husband Dr. Ezranelson Alojado (Nong Nene) volunteered to drop us off near the quaint Seagull Inn and Resto at Kitaotao area along the Davao – Bukidnon Hiway. But just before we reached the inn, we had planned to have a stopover at Gethsemane, the Alojado family retreat area, nestled in the boondocks of Marilog District of Davao City.

The trip should probably take an hour to the Garden of Gethsemane, using  the beautifully cemented road going up the mountain area. It had been an easy drive until about 20 minutes just before we arrived at the junction where an adjoining road at the right proceeds directly to my cousins’ place.

As the sun slowly appeared on the horizon, the road was blanketed by heavy dense fog. There was practically zero visibility for the drivers still zooming along the road. Driving in such condition could be dicey, but for me, it was an exciting and thrilling ride, reminiscent of those treks to Baguio and Tagaytay.

We were lucky that it was not raining thus we opted to roll down our car windows.  Here I got to experience right away the brisk, nippy weather as the car gradually advanced to our destination, thanks to the good driving skills of Nong Nene.  Even in September, it was Christmastime climate in Marilog Hills.

It almost bewildered me. The fog was so thick that I could not remember if I had experienced the same in my travels to climate cold places in the Philippines, including Banaue.  In that substantial mist up in the hills, I could sense a difference in the ways of living in the area.  Children, in woolen sweaters, amble about towards school in an almost deserted road as jeepneys and other small public conveyances don’t ply the route. Young men still on the same road brought pots and vats of potable water as some of the residences in the area have no  access to clean water yet.  “These scenes could be featured on a National Geographic tv documentary,” I told myself.

Along the road, the area was so oozing with remarkable and natural beauty such that the place seemed remote and alien to citydwellers. Yet let it be known that  Datu Salumay is just one small locality of one big Davao City.

Amidst the fog, we tried to locate the access road that forks out from the main hiway. It was tricky, yet we found it  (a waiting shed would be the landmark to make that right turn). But what was trickier was the short drive, through rocks and gravel. A four-wheel drive car or truck was deemed necessary to get to the place. Then all of a sudden, the smooth cemented road appeared until we reached exactly the destined place, Garden of Gethsemane.

Pepito, the caretaker, welcomed us warmly, and told us that classes had been suspended in the area. I never thought that fog could even stop classes.

But at the place of my cousins, the gods of  Gethsemane perhaps cleared the fog for me. Immediately I got enthralled with the postcard prettiness of the place. The meandering stairway steps. The cascading waterfalls. The several pools and ponds – for swimming and for koi watching. The hanging bridges. The faux logcabin. The soaring pine trees.  The hundred blooms of dahlia, sweet honey, and lillies all over. The biting cold temperature (even during summers, I am told)  just enhanced the picturesque location, considered to be more than one hectare in land area.

I felt proud of my Ate Betsy, who has judiciously tended their resthouse gardens almost on a weekly basis.  I was told that people in Davao City have been wanting to stay for a night or two to camp out in the area. “Almost every weekend, particularly during summers, there were people renting our place. There is a hut that can accommodate ten to twelve people. But some would still opt to put up a tent, ” she said with glee.

“Some would use the karaoke machine until early morning. But if it were me, I would rather commune with nature in silence,” Ate Mae interrupted.

But I knew if I had the chance to stay, I would read lots of books, and commune with the interesting folks in the area, and forget for a moment my tv.

Too bad, Ate Mae and I had to cut short our visit at Gethsemane, as we wanted to be in Malaybalay, just before noontime. Nong Nene and Ate Betsy brought us at Seagull  Inn, about a kilometer away from the junction. At the inn, it was easier to take the bus. The fog was a little less dense at that time, but still considerable. We bade our good hosts goodbye, and were able to take the public ride in no time.  We were off again, still through the same foggy road, but this time – to Bukidnon.

 (For those wanting to have a weekend getaway at the Garden of Gethsemane, please call (082)2271628 or 09178119641 (Ms. Betsy Alojado).)