Friday, June 19, 2009

What makes a good vacation?

Last weekend when I went to Baguio with my sister Alma and book geek friends Czar and Marie, I found out that the answer doesn't necessarily include sight-seeing. You can download pictures of scenic views, browse through magazines that show all the famous tourist destinations and read volumes about an author's description of his favorite vacation spots. Here's my list of vacation essentials:

Good friends. I can't imagine spending 3 days in a hotel room with people I don't like. Separate rooms can be a solution, but that's not fun; and if we had been left with no choice but to stay at Teachers Camp, that would have been cause for a heart attack. The interminable bus ride, the cab rides along zigzag roads--- all of which were an exercise in inertia and a test of bonamine's potency--- were bearable only because I enjoyed hearing Czar's rhythmic (of heavy metal persuasion) snoring and Ate Alma's persistent teasing that I would lose my lunch at the next bend. Missing the 7 a.m. bus and having to wait 2 hours for the next one, Marie scalding her tongue on piping hot sinigang during a stopover and having to intermittently change places with Czar while walking in single file to avoid being downwind when he, uhm, passed gas became laughable when they would have been otherwise irritating, pitiful and revolting. Friendships lend cheer to distressing situations; comfort in a shared and common lot.

Good food, or a general fancy for all things edible. The nippy Baguio weather was made more cozy with steaming arroz caldo sprinkled generously with kasuba and endless bowlfuls of pancit molo soup. The heavy downpour on Saturday afternoon was renderred inconsequential because we were stuffing ourselves silly with pasta primadonna, talong parmigiana, anak ng puttanesca and Oh My Gulay salad. The muddy market footpaths weren't such a nuisance as we waited in line at Garcia's, savoring whiff after whiff of delicious barako, Benguet, Italian espresso and various other coffee bean smells. Burdened with plastic bags from the market and Good Shepherd, we strolled along happily still, knowing that among our encumbrances were jars of rich Tantamco's ube, sinful chocolate flakes, snowballs that melt in your mouth and sweet caramel alfajors. Tired from all the day's activities, we recuperated with slices of O Mai Khan's cold calamansi pie. It achieved the perfect balance: tart enough to awaken the senses and to refresh the palate, but sweet enough to temper the luxuriant bitterness of the coffee with which it marries so harmoniously.

A sense of adventure. No one could have been less prepared for a visit to Tam-Awan Village then the 4 of us. Had we known what we were about to face, we would have worn shoes that maintained traction on slippery cement, muddy trails and jagged rock instead of high havaianas, flimsy ipanemas, unresilient mojos and white slip-ons. Still, we ploughed through--- slipping, sliding, getting our hair tangled in the lush vegetation, mumbling a litany of our wide expletive vocabulary as we gasped for breath. It was also our sense of adventure that pushed us forward at 11:40 p.m., uphill to Starbucks, crossing our fingers that we'd get there by midnight which was when they took the last orders. We were in our bedclothes, made decent for public scrutiny by jackets we didn't need as we were hyperventilating after the 10-minute run-gasp-brisk-walk-gasp-slow-walk-gasp-crawl--- conveying our orders through sign language to the barista, because our lungs had exploded on the way and we were out of breath. It was also this same temerity that made me try isaw, even when there was an abundance of other pulutan (french fries, barbecued chicken, grilled tuna, buttered and heavily battered chicken...), as I was in the company of fellow gormandizers.

A sense of humor. It was funny when Czar, waiting to catch my quadragenarian sister as she took precarious steps down a slippery slope at Tam-Awan, exclaimed "Wow, kaya pa!!!" as she landed ungracefully in front of him. It was funny when Marie, who was usually poised, unfazed and walked with a regal air, turned around and we saw that both her arms and her blouse were stained at the back like she'd been rolling around in soot. Ate Alma tried to clean her up with wet tissue, stopping at the elbows, teasing Marie that it would take her at least a year to get the dirt off those. Turning back at a particularly difficult trail to see the elusive Dream Catcher (which was probably just a crummy wind chime anyway...), we passed another group of vacationers. One of them asked "anong meron dun?" They thought it was hilarious when, without batting an eyelash and fueled by exhaustion, I answered "WALA!!!" And it was really funny when Ate Alma honestly thought that the show on the Disney channel was entitled "Shonda Sheep", betraying her jologs upbringing.

So the next time I plan to go on vacation, I'm stuffing Czar, Marie and Ate Alma in my bag so I can be assured of an adventure teeming with good food and where every conversation is punctuated with laughter.

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