Flanked by the husband and the mother-in-law, I stood at the arrival hall of NAIA 3 to meet up with a guy I met in Bangkok the year prior. We have been keeping in touch and have arranged to backpack Philippines for four weeks. Alone. Together.
Mama wasn’t saying anything but was expectedly having a headache trying to make sense of the situation. My husband, on the other hand, knew that my only aim was to travel; who I travel with was insignificant in the scheme of things.
Insignificant, even if he’s a Dutch boy with blonde hair and blue eyes.
After dropping us off in the Sampaloc Terminal of Victory Liner, the husband tapped Matthijs on the shoulder and said, “take care of her.”
Devoid of Asian chivalry and social filter, Matthijs answered, “She should take care of me. I’m the foreigner.”
To this day, I still do not know how I survived four weeks with someone who said what he said on day one. But you see, I have an uncanny tolerance to brutally honest and often tactless individuals. Hence, the kind of people I travel(ed) with.
Once we settled into our reclining seats, the bus stewardess welcomed us aboard with a slice of cake, a pack of chips and a bottle of water each.
“Posh,” my companion mused at our first-class reception in a third-world country. The generosity of leg room alone distracted him for the first few minutes, enough for him to not notice the tragedy of Manila traffic.
By the time the road beckoned his attention back, we were in TPLEX, a seemingly misplaced bit of the first world. But after TPLEX, we were once again back in the narrow highways that stretched to forevermore.
I even recall Matthijs asking, three-hours into the trip, if we’d ever drive out to the motorway (meaning– another TPLEX) again, to which I giddily answered, “this is the motorway.” The look on his face while trying to comprehend how the presence of children running on the side of the, uhm, motorway, was even legal, was epic.
A little less than 6 hours, the city of Baguio welcomed us, just in time for the sun to start its descent for the day.
Armed only with the then novelty of #YOLO, we disembarked without a plan at all. But conveniently enough, the uncles at the Tourist Information Centre just outside the bus terminal, were more than willing to help.
At only 50php ($1.25), they loaded our bags into the back of the van and drove us through the string of accommodation on their list. We settled on a dated but centrally-located hotel, Belfranlt, and took a double room each.
At dusk, we walked along the busy streets of Session Road, recalling stories of fellow creatives— musicians, poets and dreamers— how the city helped shape imageries, that for years, have created ripples across the nation.
On our way to dinner, we sampled deep-fried street food and revelled at the hustle of the charming mountain city: her treasures hanging on the cheeks of mountain ranges. We ate fast food that night— Chowking, in particular — just because.
While hunting for a watering hole, we chanced upon an acoustic bar around a corner, serving cheap beer and cocktail. Aptly named Bohemian, the bar cafe exuded a laid-back and almost nostalgic ambiance. It felt like the kind of love that hurt; worse when spent on a cold night in a cozy city.
Tipsy, I suggested, “What if we skip Baguio and just go to Sagada in the morning?”
True to our brand, my Dutch boy with blonde hair and blue eyes pal shrugged his shoulders in the dim and clinked his glass with mine, “Sure, YOLO!”
This post is part of a travel series featuring a six-week journey around my home country.