OUT OF TOWN TAYO. With a thought that summer will be over soon, what happens when five friends give in to a spur-of-the-moment invitation to go out of town? Our reactions range from running towards the laundry area and placing whenever available dry clothes from the washing line in a backpack, including the hanger to calling girlfriends to let them know of the sudden road trip.
One of us made a phone call to inform relatives that friends will stay over the weekend in the family ancestral home located near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.
THE ROAD TRIP. A few hours before sunrise and without sleep, Ernan, Jepong, Ches, and myself were on South Luzon Expressway. Jepong was the driver. Ches suggested that we leave the windows of our mini van open during the entire trip to feel the provincial air. Ernan was our ‘knowledgeable’ tour guide who introduced us to some trivia when we passed by Canlubang and Batino exits. We felt the temperature suddenly turned nippy while at the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR Tollway. I told everyone that the cold air marks our entry to Lipa City.
In less than an hour, we entered Batangas City. We stopped by a roadside restaurant for generous servings of steaming lomi that is kept warm in four huge cauldrons. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch and its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver.
BATANGAS BAY. Jepong introduced us to his hometown. He recalls memorable vacations at his grandparent’s home that stood near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.
Batangas Bay is a natural harbor. It’s deep enough to allow big ships to park on its private and public ports. Along its coast are the towns of Mabini, Bauan, and Batangas City where large petroleum and chemical refineries and food processing zones thrive side-by-side with small fishing communities.
OUR PLAYGROUND. The deep waters of Batangas Bay became our playground for the weekend. We were introduced to activities like swimming towards and then jumping off from permanent anchors used for securing big ships. During low tide, these moorings look like giant tornillos jutting out from the sea.
On Sunday, we took a small motorized paraw that is sturdy enough to get us through the notorious waters of Verde Island Passage. At the tip of the bay, we discovered a pocket beach that we claimed as our hangout for the rest of the day.
OUR POCKET BEACH. No entrance fee. No parking fee for the boat as well. It’s secluded. The pocket beach was a surprise. We gathered around our little camp under the shade of an ipil-ipil. We sat on wooden logs that our friend Nero (who came late to Batangas via bus) picked up from the shore. There, we redefined beach life as eat, drink, and take naps.
Our pocket beach is located at the foot of the pilgrimage site known as Monte Maria.
MONTEMARIA. Beyond the city of petroleum refineries is Monte Maria, a pilgrimage site where a towering statue of Mama Mary that said to be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero is envisioned to rise. From the bay, the base for the statue looks like the Tower of Babel. The vast pilgrimage complex has structures with function rooms, a church, a hotel for pilgrims -all have overlooking views of the seas and the mountains.
Near the statue of the Nativity is a huge boulder that shares the same legend with King Arthur’s Excalibur and Thor’s Mjölnir. It is said that the smooth rock is miraculous and cannot be moved even by a heavy-duty bulldozer. Pilgrims make wishes and leave coins in its crevices. Some say the rock has alien origins but that’s another story.
BATANGAS BAY SUNSET. An hour before sundown, we stayed in the area guarded by the miraculous rock of Monte Maria. There we watched boats ferry passengers to Puerto Galera in Mindoro. There we waited until the sun sets behind the mountain of Maribacan Island.
EPILOGUE. The sunset in Batangas Bay made our spur-of-the-moment out of town memorable and worth sharing. So next time someone ask you ‘out of town tayo!,’ don’t hesitate to give in.