Jason’s dream for us to resume our camping life at last comes true and the tent we have not used for more than a year (or two) is brought out, gets wet with cold morning dew and feasted on by greedy ants while we slept. It’s in our family DNA to backpack and bask in nature’s glory. Why did we ever wait this long to rediscover this old truth? All thanks to a typhoon that got us stuck in Iloilo and after two nights of living too comfortably in a hotel walking distance from the usual gigantic SM mall, we thought too much convenience is not good for the soul and sought the mountains.
At first, it was quite a bummer not being able to take the RORO to Bacolod where we ideally wanted to celebrate Christmas with our friends who have become family. Ferries were canceled because of the impending typhoon Ursula. Somehow, we managed to squeeze joy out of the hassle because right across the hotel was a street side restaurant that served fresh oysters for P80 a bucket. Jason and Lele, his friend from China and our travel companion, insisted on having both lunch and dinner back to back in the oyster place, since where else can you get such a bargain? Our friend from Bacolod tipped us off about Bucari, the Baguio of Iloilo where we found a campsite. Though we didn’t stay in a tent that rainy night, the facilities were only for those willing to rough it out.
Jason was back in his element cooking for us. Instead of eyes glued on a hotel TV, the kids played chess with their dad. Two sets of bunk beds served as Jimmy’s gym. The next morning we hiked up the fourteen stations of the cross and were treated to one gorgeous vista after another.
After calling the coast guard every day to check on the ferry service, we were given the go signal on December 26 and took the third RORO of this trip, and once again experienced the chaos and inefficiency that’s sadly the hallmark and trademark of our nation. Par for the course, expected, psyche yourself up — we smile through it all because a reward awaits on the other side. Joan and her family prepared our favorite Chinese hotpot and it was amazing relief to plop our exhausted bodies in what felt like second home. Giddy with excitement, Joshua and Jimmy were reunited with playmates Andy, Dylan and Kylie. Joshua dared to eat balut because he saw Kylie relishing it. We have homemade youtiao for breakfast and corned beef far from the blandness of budget inns.
Joan’s husband, my husband and Lele belonged to an outdoor club in China so it’s only fitting that our three families would celebrate the season with a camping trip with two treks to the waterfalls of Guintubdan. Three men from China showed their cooking prowess on the grill and portable stove. Six kids ran amok playing hide and seek in a wide, lush, terraced area. One Superwoman from Bacolod orchestrated it all while one Filipina couldn’t stop eating.
Jason chose a spot to pitch our tent further away from the noise of other campers. It was a spot suffused with the scent of flowers more intense at night than the day, a spot were the stars were closer and brighter, a spot where Jason could build his own fire and toast his feet above the coal.