Yes, I live in the city now and relish in city life, but that need for country air, space and natural beauty is always beckoning to me. Not to mention the call of the ocean.
This city we are in now is full of adventure. It keeps us busy. We are in a heightened state of excitement, drawn by the mystery of what we will discover next. Yet Manila can be suffocating. The traffic congestion, crowded packed-in environment and constant noise prevents me from breathing some days. The lack of ocean close to my door…well, it is what it is and I choose not to think too deeply about it, rather focus on what I do have, what I am enjoying in this present moment, which is considerable.
Regardless of where I call home, for me being able to escape when I need to; that is important.
Last week was a flurry of activity. The highlight of our week? We brought a car! I don’t even know how to describe the feeling except I can say there is suddenly a weight I never noticed, off my shoulders.
Having our own car, with a Driver (who is so amazing), means escape. It means the restrictions we had on us from relying on taxis is lifted.
Having a car means I can leave the confines of the city. Whenever I want to.
So we did what one does when they have a new car. Over the weekend we went on a road trip. My only specification was that we found the coast. Other than that I was happy to just sit in the car and drive. That is what we did.
We had a friend with us from home, visiting for work so that made it more exciting. We decided to head down south, along the coast, checking out any beaches we found along the way. We would then head inland to Tagaytay which is so lovely we just wanted to share it with our friend.
On Saturday morning, we were on the road just after seven and before too long we found ourselves out of the city. We got into the Province of Cavite and as always I just loved gazing out of the car window at all the goings-on. The hustle and bustle of village life over here fascinates me. Everywhere you look people are cooking, selling, working, sleeping, walking around. As we traveled deeper in Cavite I noticed these amazing buses driving along the roads. They were like pimped up Jeepneys. Shiny and decorated in different designs these buses oozed character and I was smitten. I asked our Driver what they were called and he looked at me, smiled and said ‘just buses’. Hmm, okay. However they are native to Cavite.
We drove past rice fields where people were knee deep working hard in the slurry and as we drove deeper the mountains appeared on the horizon. Villages tightly compacted between rice fields, homes, sari-sari’s and churches were almost sheltered between mountains that rose out of the earth with such presence it was breathtaking. The view was just gorgeous.
We continued to drive higher into altitude and the mountains rose around us. Suddenly we were surrounded by forest. Tall trees with vines hanging effortlessly. The greenest greenery you have ever seen. I was waiting for Greystoke to appear with his Jane swinging from the vines. Before too long we looked out to our right and found the ocean. Rainforest and ocean together is a magical combination. I suddenly started to feel like I was home again.
The road became small, winding and filled with hills and tight corners. I asked our Driver what animals lived in the forest, do they have monkeys? He said yes so I created the game ‘Spot the Monkey’. One peso for each monkey. I really sucked at that game. I know that for visitors to Australia it is a novelty walking in the bush and having kangaroos hopping around. For us that is normal, and we love it. So for us being the visitors here, having monkeys jump out from the trees and cross the road in front of us is pretty incredible. They are big too. I wanted to get out and photograph them but our Driver pointed out that they can attack and bite. So I thought it best that I stayed put. Nothing worse than a cantankerous old monkey.
Back we went and this time we went down into the Marine Base to visit a beach the locals use. Entry into the Marine Base was an intimidating affair. A guard with a machine gun stood imposingly and we had had to fill in a few forms asking for all our personal details. This was followed by paying another rather exorbitant sum of money for the upkeep of the beach. Then off we went.
We drove past marines doing target practice on their field. All very interesting except they were pointing their guns towards the road, therefore us…hmmm.
We arrived at Katungkulan Beach. At first glance this looked like such a colourful cute place. Little cabana’s were lined up. A small shop sold snacks and an old fishing boat lay up on the sand. We walked down to the beach and saw it lay nestled between some lovely cliff faces. Sadly the beach was filthy, filled with litter. Despite this, families played, children swam, giggles and happy squeals filled the air.
Up at the cabanas families cooked over portable stoves serving up lovely smelling fair. Back on the beach, the sand was dark, and we felt nervous walking in bare feet, such was the filth there. BB and FB wanted to swim and we said no way. They put their feet in the water and picked up shells and then we left feeling disappointed and saddened. We were left wondering what that environmental protection payment was all about. Surely they could pay someone to clean up this piece of coastline. It is so disappointing that even this far out of town, you witness this inherent lack of care about the environment.
On we went, our next destination was back to Tagaytay which we visited only a few weeks back. We took the tourist route this time. A small road twisting and winding through the mountains, with more amazing coastal views. We stopped at the side of the road several times to explore, to take pictures. Just meters off the roadside we found a natural waterfall nestled into the face of one of the mountains. An elderly man and young boy were standing around in this space – in the middle of nowhere. They were waiting to be picked up by family. As we were taking photos our Driver started talking to this elderly man. Of all the random things, our Driver knew this man’s relatives, who live in his Barangay. In the middle of the mountains, another indication of just how small a world we really inhabit.
After lunch we headed back to Manila, stopping at Rowena’s for our pasalubong, Buko Tart.
As we were driving home the rain came in, and we watched with amazement as we always do, at how fast the roads start to flood. Then as quickly as it started it ended and we had safe travel all the way home.