Tag Archives: Philippines

Except Surfing: A Retreat to La Union

We boarded the 11-pm bus, rain heavily sprinkling on one side of the bus while the other side was dry and shielded by the wide roof overhang of the bus station. I wasn’t worried about the rain or about not being able to surf on the waves of La Union. All I had in mind was finding a nice local café and great local grub.

Silly. People go to La Union to surf!

Big waves tryin to pull you in 🌊 #beach #launion #philippines #rainydays #travel

A post shared by Reirei (@ririreirei) on

To be at the beach, away from the metro, the central source of all that’s mundane and stressful, was the primary goal. Even if it was raining, I couldn’t say the weather was bad. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t go into the water and stand on a board with a shark fin underneath, but it wasn’t that bad. It was just different.

You face the rage of the ocean, stand right at its jaws. It taunts you to enter the water, and you taunt it back, your feet right where it can snatch you away. You think it can’t, but it can. The next wave pushes on your feet and pulls back harder, and you stagger and struggle to stay up on your feet. You know you can’t go into the water because then it’s never going to give you back to the land that once owned you.

It’s not a scary thought. Just exhilarating.

File_004

There’s something about simply being by the beach, even when you’re not soaked and swimming in it—I didn’t have to. It was just the perfect environment that I needed. It was enough that I could dip my toes in the subsiding ripples of water and bury my feet in the soft and squishy black sand in every step, while listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the breeze that came with them. It was titillating.

We stayed at Puerto de San Juan on our first night. It was a little far from the surfing area, but that was okay. The beach at Puerto de San Juan was more secluded, so it let us have a long peaceful stretch of walk. The hotel is age-old and has maintained its retro interiors. It felt like we were in an old mansion. The facilities provided enough comfort for the duration of our stay.

That night, the hotel held an acoustic night at their restaurant, which redeemed me from the displeasure of the day’s indecision and bad choice of restaurant for lunch. Our dinner was great.

We had a mouth-watering serving of sinigang with kimchi in a big palayok (clay pot). It was the first time I encountered this concoction, and it was perfect. The kimchi contributed to the sourness of this sour Filipino delicacy and added a very mild spicy taste. I also enjoyed the grilled tuna, beautifully presented on a wooden plate, with vegetables and, of course, kimchi on the side.

I just sat there, on a table nearest to the swimming pool, watching rain pepper the pool. It was dark out there, in the ocean, but I could hear the waves from where I was seated. The waves were so strong  that, even if I couldn’t see them that night, it felt like they were thrashing on my chest.

The light of day let me find the waves.

In the morning, I left our room and went back to the restaurant for some brewed coffee and pancakes. Again, I took a seat near the pool. Beyond the pool, even if I couldn’t see the shoreline, I could hear and see the tall waves. I held my pen and wrote and doodled on my journal. It was a great time to be alone.

With the persistent and fitful downpour, we left Puerto de San Juan to get closer to the main surfing spot, Urbiztondo beach. We knew we couldn’t surf. We just wanted to be there.

We found and got settled in Sebay Surf Central hotel. The beach was just a few steps away from our room. But then again, I could only get as far as the shore, content with staring far into the horizon while breathing in the ocean breeze.

File_008

Cafes and restaurants were also just a stone’s throw away from Sebay. The best part of the (second) day was finding The Coffee Library just across the road. It’s a two-storey Vietnamese restaurant and café with Asian-inspired rustic interiors. I was, once again, deeply satisfied with a spot in one corner of the café. I stationed myself at a small wooden table, unconsciously listening to crowd murmurs that served as background music to the local café scene while I reviewed my journal.

diz Pho Ga is purrrrfect for the bed weather‼️

A post shared by Reirei (@ririreirei) on

The pho ga of The Coffee Library served as a great complement to the chilly downpour outside. I was happy to be sheltered in a cozy restaurant enjoying a mildly flavored Vietnamese noodle soup.

I also enjoyed their pan grilled porkchop! It was, as far as I remember, the first time that I could actually do away with gravy and just enjoy the chops. Every bite was tender and flavorful.

Other restaurants that we tried that afternoon (what else could we do but to go on a food crawl!) were Surf Shack and Olas Banditos. In the rainy afternoon that we came, Surf Shack was a sleepy little food corner with a few diners, but this place is known as a chill and musically charged hangout for foodies and surfers alike. Olas Banditos meanwhile is an airy Mexican diner with colorful graffiti walls that serves mouth-filling burritos.

The rest of the night (our last night) was pretty much uneventful. I just went on strolling around nearby establishments before grabbing some beer from the hotel bar to serve as a finale to my mellow out-of-the-metro vacation. I spent a few more moments contemplating while looking out to the once again dark sea. All I could hear was the roar of the waves. They were fierce and relentless, but nothing could be more comforting.

Advertisements

Fighting Fears: Canyoneering, College and Conquests

You’re standing above a vast landscape of the sea. Clear skies. Cool breeze. Sparkling ocean. And you’re standing at the edge of a cliff. Do you think you could jump?

Have you ever felt so scared that the hairs all over your body stand, butterflies turn into vultures in your stomach, and you feel like you’re going to poop? That’s how I feel every time.

IMG_3706

Heights is one of my worst fears. I don’t know how I got my fear of heights as I don’t recall any traumatic experience. I just found myself one day, around the age of 5, riding Enchanted Kingdom’s Jungle Log Jam and crying my intestines out, begging my father to just throw me over to the crew on the side of the river before reaching the upward rail.

Ironically, 2016 had been full of heights and high jumps for me.

This same month last year, I went canyoneering in Cebu with good fellows. Canyoneering’s main feature is, apparently, the canyons–which are really high FYI. And yet, my super-beginner self did not get any hint that it also involved a lot of cliff jumping!

So, I was there, at the edge of the cliff, and my fellows were already in the water screaming weee!, while I was still up there screaming MOM!!!

After a while, I started to feel jittery. It wasn’t because I was scared to jump though. I was worried that my friends were leaving me behind. They all looked so happy, and I certainly didn’t want to miss whatever fun they were having down there.

I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience.

1… 2… 3…? Uhm, okay, threeee!!! Then I finally plunged into the water. I overcame my fear of heights because I was more afraid of getting left behind. I was more scared of not getting a taste of that special experience. I don’t always get to visit canyons, and it was scary to miss this chance.

IMG_3716

Looking back to the good ol’ college life…

When I was in college, I stopped schooling for a while and got a job. I was young and totally hooked on earning and spending. A year later, I knew I had to go back and finish what I had started in college.

I walked into my university with the intent of taking the first step of readmission. And that’s when I saw her. She was behind Window 5 (if I remember well) for readmission applications. I approached her and asked with a kitten smile, “Ma’am, may I know the process for reinstatement?”

She responded with stuff like “Did you fill out these forms already? Did you write a letter to the College Dean? Do you have these documents? What, why not?”

I kept getting peevish answers from her that made me feel stupid and so embarrassed, and I got scared of asking anymore questions. She, along with the tedious lot of requirements, made me feel like reinstatement was going to be hell and it scared me.

It took me another year to go back and try again. At first I was hesitant, but I thought, this was already way overdue. I looked back on my freshman year and remembered my dreams after graduation. I thought of my parents who were excited for me to graduate.

At that point, I found a greater fear. The fear of not realizing my dreams and disappointing my parents. I held on to this fear as I walked back to my college and faced the grumpy lady again. She was still as scary as ever, but I held my position, politely and patiently until it was all over. It wasn’t so bad. I got reinstated! And two years later, I finally graduated.

There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

I conquered my irrational fear of jumping into a tedious process of college readmission with a better kind of fear. There is nothing scarier than hurting  the ones that we love and not living the life that we want just because we let irrational, counterproductive fears hold us back.

***

Life is a vast, intimidating sea but it is also the most beautiful thing. We should not miss the chance of experiencing life just because we’re too afraid to jump out of our comfort zone.

I jumped off terrifying cliffs. I got one of the best experiences that nature has to offer.

I jumped at the tiresome readmission process. I graduated!

And then, I jumped at my first Toastmasters International Speech Contest. I joined the contest with the fear of messing up and not winning. But I fought it with a greater and more meaningful fear.

I was more afraid of letting the chance pass–the chance of learning and the chance of sharing my message to others.

We all have different kinds of fears. Whatever your fear is right now, take the time to think: is it a good fear or a bad fear?

There are fears that hold us back, keep us confined in our little comfort zone. And there are fears that push us to our limits so we can become better, and stronger.

We should find the latter. When times get too difficult and too scary, let’s use the good fears to fight our bad fears away. Let’s fight fear with fear.

###

This was originally my contest piece for my first prepared speech contest. It was an opportunity for me to share a bit of my experience canyoneering in Badian, Cebu, and a bit of my struggles through college.

2 Broke Girls: Sassy in Nagsasa

Exactly one year ago, in the same month of April, I was in probably the most stressful job I’ve ever been in – in the field that is in fact notorious for high demands and long hours of work. Sleeping in at the office was the norm. We often went home past midnight or past the hour that I should’ve been eating dinner at home.

Without the time for a refreshing sight of family and friends, having companionable colleagues was a great solace. One in particular was even game for a bit of spontaneity and self-indulgence.

With the hopes of temporarily escaping all the work and heart-related stress, two broke girls went on an unplanned escape trip to Zambales in April last year.

IMG_3146
The 2 broke (but sassy) girls in Nagsasa Cove

I won’t go into detail about the itinerary or the expenses as this is not what it’s all about. This is about the best memories of two sassy girls and a proof that sometimes unplanned trips have a greater chance of materializing. All I can say is that it was supposedly a really cheap, budget-friendly trip to Nagsasa Cove, which two splurging girls couldn’t manage.

I remember well that it was a Saturday, and it was a national holiday. And we refused to answer any work call or any “request” to come in for weekend work. It was crazy right from the start. Since the trip was mostly unplanned, we came to the bus station without reserved tickets. Many buses were fully booked, which we didn’t expect, and we had to wait for about two hours to board. What was expected to be a 9 AM trip turned into a sun-struck 12 noon trip.

Since we were unfamiliar with the route, there were moments of panic when, for instance, we found out we were in Bataan and doubted if we rode the right bus because we thought Bataan was a place on the other side of the world (it’s not!).

IMG_2987
Seeking shade in Pundaquit while waiting for boat-mates
IMG_2964
A bonus: met a handsome new friend!

When we arrived at Pundaquit port, we were clueless about how to find a boat after failing to get a hold of our contact person. In our attempt to save money by splitting the boat fee, we made two new friends. We practiced our social skills and said hello to two newcomers and asked if they’d like to share their boat. They agreed—how could they say no to cost-cutting?

We got to the beautiful innocent beach of Nagsasa Cove late in the afternoon and immediately got ourselves busy with setting up our tent before going for a swim. There are no hotels or fancy amenities in Nagsasa Cove. Everybody goes by with a tent and a bonfire at night.

The time was perfect to get soaked in the water because it was already late in the afternoon; there was still light from the sun yet it wasn’t scorching anymore. I lay on the fine volcanic sand of Nagsasa Cove, a by-product of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the ‘90s, and relished the waves that rippled through my body.

IMG_3156

“Can’t believe someone left trash swimming around,” I uttered to my friend as we approached what looked like a plastic bag underwater. Another step closer and we shrieked and swam for our lives—it was a giant bluish jellyfish! And then we saw another one. Eeek! I was traumatized.

In the evening, we invited our boat-mates for a little drink and bonfire. A bonfire could be set up by the shore with a small fee, which again we divided among the four of us so it was much cheaper. Our two new friends, who were obviously awkward to us at first, got a bit more comfortable and spoke up more. I and my friend also learned more about each other. The night was lit up by bonfire and laughter.

IMG_3020

File_000
Resting on calm water

On the next day, I and my friend woke up early to catch the sunrise and take some pictures while the beach was still empty. It was also a perfect time to appreciate the place. It was a view surrounded by trees and mountains. The fine ashen sand sparkled as the first sunlight hit it. Fishing boats were resting on the shore while fish were wide awake.

We ate canned goods, which we bought prior to the trip, for breakfast. We packed them partly because we knew there were no restaurants in Nagsasa, partly because we didn’t want to carry a portable stove in our bags and partly because we were skimping. We were on a very tight budget that we seriously debated whether to buy two cups of halo-halo that only cost Php40 each. In the end, we thought screw this, it’s a hot day and we’re going to enjoy halo-halo by the beach.

There’s a small hill on one end of Nagsasa Cove where visitors could go on a hike to get a bigger view of the beach. I left my friend behind (she’s not in good terms with the sun) and went for a short hike with one of our boat-mates. It wasn’t really high; it was only steep and dusty on some parts. But once we got to the top, we could feel the wind and take panoramic photos of Nagsasa Cove. From above, the water looked perfectly blue, embraced by a crescent bay. This was not Boracay or Puerto Galera where people went for an exuberant vacation. This was a modest place, with scenery I could enjoy without it being tainted by banana boats and jet skis in the water or a bunch of people tanning on the sand.

IMG_3089

After we got down, it was very hot so we soaked in the clear and cold water near the hill. I told our boat-mates about our scary encounter with jellyfish and they, too, got caught in the paranoia. We were moving around in the water so it caused some air bubbles to rise, and seeing a bubble startled us every time because we mistook it for a jellyfish ambush!

Our boat came back for us in the afternoon to take us back to Pundaquit. The sail back was another unforgettable memory for me. The waves were a bit fiercer now than it was the previous day. And one thing I realized was that it’s scary for the boat motor to die down and the boat to stop parallel with the waves because it felt like the water was going to knock us over. I love swimming but am not enthusiastic about swimming with big waves, so I didn’t want us to get knocked over.

I was thankful for reaching land alive, but the predicament didn’t end there. I and my friend were then confronted by the possibility of not getting home because we didn’t have enough money. At this point, we regretted buying that halo-halo at Nagsasa Cove. We failed to properly keep track of our spending.

We checked every corner of our wallets to no avail. Pant pockets—nope. Backpack compartments—nil. Kitty coin purse—nada. We looked at each other with awkward, panicked laugh. “You must be playing a joke.” “No, but you are. Take the money out now.” It was a few seconds later that nobody moved to take out money that we started freaking out.

So, we found an ATM to check each of our cards, knowing damn well they were empty. But who knows? She inserted her card—empty. I checked one of mine—hopeless. I desperately tried another card and, lo and behold, we squealed and jumped and it had money in it!

Two broke girls could miraculously go home.

Elbi: Food, Coffee and Nostalgic Walks

Seeing men swinging small boards that said “Private Pool” on the side of the road made me feel restless because I knew we were close. A couple more minutes and we would arrive at the place I had been yearning for. The place that served as a true home during the days I was struggling with college and independence.

IMG_1575
The green road to my beloved Elbi (pardon the reflection of the tissue!)

IRRI-sistible!

We arrived in IRRI at 10 AM and grabbed breakfast at the cafeteria – a place I often came to as a student for cheap good food, with a view of the rice fields and the mountainous horizon. I ate a big serving of saucy roast chicken with rice, plus brewed coffee and a slice of cassava cake for dessert for only Php105.

The weather was a bit gloomy at noon and it rained a little, but it didn’t stop me from touring my friends and us from taking crazy photos. Actually, the bit of rain helped refresh the surroundings from the summer heat and the air became a bit cooler for a while.

I visited the pond at the back of the IRRI’s coffee shop, Bean Hub, which was closed at the time, and searched for the lone resident turtle to say hi. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it. Prolly it was sleeping in a corner covered by plants. I hope so.

IMG_1570
Man waiting for an Uber in IRRI?

Dairy-cious…

We left IRRI a little after lunchtime and drove to Animal Science, UPLB (University of the Philippines, Los Baños). We went to PCC’s (Philippine Carabao Center) Dairy Corner, where I used to buy fresh dairy products for a sweet treat after my PE or An Sci classes. My favorite has always been Milk-O-Jel (Php15, then and now❤️) – a small cup of soft carabao milk pudding with sweet syrup on top, sort of like leche flan. At this time, I also got Carakafe – coffee❤️ with carabao milk for only Php35. My other favorite items from Dairy Corner are their yogurts of different flavors and chocomilk. Obviously, all of their dairy products are made from carabao’s milk. They also have meat products. All so natural, so fresh, so delish.

After IRRI, we drove around the campus before heading out. I got off the car and bid goodbye to my friends who were returning to Manila. I, on the other hand, was staying for the rest of the day.

***

I checked in at One Providence, a dormitory near the campus that also rents out transient rooms. I walked along F.O. Santos street going to One Providence and discovered a few changes. Some old establishments I used to go to have been replaced by new ones. Most notably, Sizzlers, a restaurant located on the third floor/rooftop of a building, has been replaced by “Siblings.” I used to love going to Sizzlers for dinner because of the view from the balcony dining setup. It was quite a romantic setting. I bet Siblings retained that setup, although I’m not sure yet if they measure up to Sizzlers’ sizzling dishes (my personal favorite was sisig with egg).

Old street snacks

After resting for a bit in my dormitory room, I went out again for a walk, carrying my backpack with my notebook, pens and laptop. At 4 PM, my first stop was the small kwek-kwek (fried orange quail eggs) cart in front of Vega Arcade, right outside the UPLB gate. I bought a stick of four pieces (Php15) and resumed walking while dipping my kwek-kwek in my cup o’ spicy vinegar.

Along the way, I also stopped by Micha’s, a pastry and cake shop near Demarses Subdivision where I used to live. Whenever I was stressed out with acads (academic stuff), I would stop by and take out either blueberry cheesecake (I remember it’s less than Php100), cream puffs (Php12 for caramel-glazed, Php15 for vanilla-glazed) or chocolate chip cookies. Cream puffs were my favorite, so I decided to buy them this time. Prices didn’t change! I ate my caramel and vanilla cream puffs as I wandered on.

IMG_1571
There’s nothing like Micha’s cream puffs.

New food places

After a couple of minutes of walking along Lopez Avenue (Grove), I was kicking around whether I was going to eat at an old favorite or try a new restaurant. I decided to do…both! At 5 PM, I went to Bibap Korean Restaurant, which was a new find for me. I gave my order at the counter and went up to the second floor to find a low dining table setup. I sat on my floor cushion as I ate my jajangmyeon with delicious side dishes (Php135), while watching some Korean music videos on their TV. At this time on a Saturday, there are not many people at Bibap—in fact, I was the only one enjoying the solitude of the restaurant. On the other hand, perhaps it was too early for a heavy meal…

IMG_1572
Picture-perfect vanilla ice cream coffee at Productivity Cafe

Meanwhile, Productivity Cafe just on the other side of the street had a lot of occupied tables. Since my old favorite, Coffee Blends, was for some reason closed on that day, I decided to try a new coffee shop. Productivity Cafe was a small coffee place on the second floor of a new commercial building along Lopez Ave. that offered a special space for students to concentrate on their acads and for alumni like me to just blend in. When I entered the cafe, I almost thought I walked into a class. On one side, there were four long tables occupied by two young people each, who were perfectly lined up with their laptops set on the table. I occupied a small square table in another corner overlooking the road and set my laptop, notebook and pens on the little surface, with a smaller space for my vanilla ice cream coffee (Php99). Productivity Cafe encourages silence as respect for students who’re trying to work and plays soothing music that makes you feel more like you’re in a spa. It’s a good thing they had bright lighting, else I would have dozed off on my table.❤️

Eatsumo, always

I stayed at Productivity Café until around 8:30 PM. I crossed the street again to transfer to Eatsumo, an old favorite Japanese restaurant, for a second fill. I admit it’s not authentic Japanese, but I still love their donburi and california maki. Their meals were tasty and cheap—served justice to my scanty college budget. Whenever I craved for some Japanese meals, this was where I ran to. This time, I ordered the usual—”toridon,” chicken and egg donburi (Php70), which I found weird at first because I knew it was “oyakodon.” Anyway, tori meant bird or chicken in Japanese, so technically it’s not wrong to call it toridon!

I sat alone on a table while watching other students enjoying their meals and chatting with each other. I used to be like them—dining with a friend and ranting lightheartedly on after a stressful day of boring classes and demanding professors. Although, sometimes, I would just enjoy a meal alone and just be thankful for having the time to run away from papers, go out and chill.

Old nightly habits, nostalgia

After my dinner, at around 9:30, I walked around a little more. I passed by CDC (College of Development Communication) and remembered the nights I used to walk by this place filled with students chattering among themselves or practicing a class presentation or just waiting for friends they were meeting up with. I remembered the nights I used to walk by this place to meet my Dev Com friends. Strangely, as a Com Arts student, I used to have more close friends from CDC and other colleges. If I could be honest, I’d say I didn’t really match the wavelengths of my Com Arts batchmates. I saw them as loud, dynamic and high-maintenance. Their sassiness was a bit intimidating for me. I found it easier to get along with peeps from CDC and Engineering, who were more easygoing and scruffy (in a cute way!). But later on, I also got to meet good friends in my own college who made me comfortable and happy.

IMG_1574
My beloved college, CAS

Past CDC, I walked by the old CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) building with so much nostalgia. At the start of every semester, this was where I fell in line for several minutes to claim the most coveted Form 5 (Certificate if Registration). (And then, I would fall in line again for hours at the Admin office for payment of matriculation and at the University Registrar for stamping of Form 5 and class cards.) This was also where I endured classes with wall fans blowing warm air on our faces in summertime.

It was certainly not easy in college, but it will always be something I’d be willing to relive over and over because every end of the day was rewarding after you finished all of the day’s tasks. At the end of the day, there would always be friends, good food and fine coffee that would ease all the stress. I love you, UPLB.

Sunday morning

In the morning, before heading back to Manila, I decided to grab breakfast and coffee and chill a little more at Cafe Ella, probably the only cafe in Elbi that’s open at 8 AM on Sunday. Cafe Ella is also a nice place to hang around, with its cozy interior and free Wi-Fi. I tried for the first time their classic meaty red sauced pasta (Php175) and brewed coffee (Php65). When I was in college, I usually ordered fish and chips and caramel macchiato. I only went here when I was feeling lavish (when I had extra after paying rent!) because Cafe Ella was a little too expensive for me.

Sundays and holidays will make you realize that the students are the life of Elbi. When there are no classes, there are not many establishments to go to. Most restaurants and cafes are either closed or open late, and it’s hard to find a nice place to hang out especially in the morning. Without the young people, Elbi is like a ghost town.

IMG_1569
I’ll keep coming back to you, Elbi! Love you.

 

A Look Back on Good Ol’ UPLB Days

I graduated and left my university almost two years ago now. I lived in Los Baños, Laguna for a good six years, so surely it will always be a place with lots of memories to look back to. Los Baños, or Elbi as we call it, has been and always will be my second true home.

This Saturday, I will be going back to spend a day and a night there. And the thought of it makes me reminisce about the good ol’ days when I was a student of UP Los Baños.

My year as a graduating student was perhaps the best time of my college life. It was busy, with most days filled with anxiousness on finishing my practicum manuscript on time while fulfilling other major course requirements. I am happy I pulled through all those rather smoothly.

And this was how I did it. I recount here my daily routine as a graduating student in Elbi.

1. I would wake up at 4:30 AM and go out for a jog. My apartment was a short distance to the university campus. UP Los Baños was not only a good place for the brain but also for the body. I would always find fellow joggers at UPLB Freedom Park, a rectangular field about 1.4km in length. There were only a handful at 5 AM, and then shot up around 6. I would finish my rounds at 6 or 6:30, depending on how much drive I had on that day. I usually finished five to seven rounds of alternate jogging and walking. After jogging, I would spot a vacant concrete bench, usually the one nearest the big tree in front of the Student Union (SU) building, and sit for a while so I could breathe in the fresh morning breeze and just watch the surroundings. On that spot, I contemplated on my manuscript, on crushes or on the innocence of the morning. Only a few vehicles ran in the morning. It was only a few hours ’til they overpower the sound of crickets and birds (and cats, every once in a while) once again.

2. After my early morning jog, I would either take a nap or have breakfast at the two big fast food joints. It depended on my mood which one I chose. Mcdonald’s and Jollibee in UPLB had different vibes in them.

I would go to Mcdonald’s with my backpack that contained my yellow pad, laptop and pens. I contemplated, if not writing anything, on my manuscript. Mcdonald’s was students’ haven in UPLB because it was open 24/7 and closer to the campus. I liked to immerse in this environment early in the morning, so I could somehow absorb the scholarly vibe. My usual Mcdonald’s breakfast was a meal of two-piece pancakes and coffee.

I would go to Jollibee when I wanted to just space out. I would get my usual order of breakfast steak and coffee and take a table on the second floor, where I could get a view of Mt. Makiling against the houses and buildings below, and just contemplate. It was a relaxing sight. I didn’t usually bring my manuscript when I came here. There were fewer students, and families and elders were a more frequent sight in the morning. Jollibe, for me, just meant chill.

3. After my breakfast, I would take a bath and prepare for my classes. I didn’t have a full schedule of classes during my last year in college, so I usually had a lot of vacant time to work on my manuscript. When I didn’t have any class, one of my favorite hangouts during the day (there’s a different favorite for the nightly work) was the university library. Thank heavens to whoever championed the improvement of facilities at the library. In my first few years of college, the university had bad air-conditioning and only a few working computers that didn’t have access to the Internet. It used to be one of the worst places to be in when you had research to do but had no other choice but to go there. It was an old building.

Upon my return in the university after a few years of AWOL, I was so delighted to find the library with cool air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi for students! I could stay there for a whole afternoon. It was very conducive to studying and writing my papers. I would grab as many books as I could, lay them on my table beside my laptop and read on. I was productive when I was in the library.

4. If I wasn’t in the library, I would be in IRRI. IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) was another favorite hangout during the day. It’s just a quick jeepney ride from CEAT (College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology). Sometimes, I would even walk the whole way. The road from CEAT to IRRI is lined with trees and your surrounding is painted by nature. It was another refreshing activity for the mind and body (I looove IRRI). Another thing I love about IRRI is the good food. Sooo good! And when I say good, I mean healthy. IRRI specializes in agricultural research, focusing on rice and food security. Its cafeteria serves various dishes of meat and vegetables in different cuisines. Not only that, meals are also reasonably priced–very affordable for a poor student like me!

After finishing my meal (or meals if I was super hungry) and bussing my table, I would transfer to the café next door, where coffee and pastries were also affordable, with an added bonus of pleasant surroundings. A pond with a cute resident turtle at the back. A small garden on the side. And a larger field at the front. The café was where I either wrote my manuscript or just doodled on my journal.

5. Another favorite daytime hangout was Bon Appetea at UPLB Grove. Their “Love Potion No. 9” milk tea was my favorite. Surely it was a mysterious potion that made me fell in love with it. I forgot if number 9 meant anything–all I knew was that it had some oreo and milk in it. Because the place had free and fast Wi-Fi, it was another place I could hang around and bury myself in my manuscript for a long period of time.

6. In the afternoon, I loved taking a walk and going on a street food trip! My favorite street snacks were kwek-kwek (battered quail eggs) right outside the campus and proben (fried proventriculus) along Ruby St. in Raymundo. Super Cup’s milk tea was a super thirst-quencher. An afternoon walk was also a good time to refresh my soul by spending it with a friend. I usually called up my “Rumey” – an old roomie when I used to share an apartment with friends.

7. At night, my top and all-time favorite hangout was Coffee Blends, a modest café farther out UPLB Grove. They opened at around 6 PM, and I often came on time. Then, I would spend the rest of the night there, working on my manuscript or just daydreaming, while sipping on my favorite brewed coffee.

What I loved about Coffee Blends was that it’s a simple place, nothing fancy. Small tables, painted wooden chairs that looked more appropriate for kindergarten, no Wi-Fi. Even so, I still loved spending time here.

Maybe because food and coffee were cheap? I usually ordered brewed coffee for Php50 (Php75 if with a refill) and burrito for Php60 if memory serves me right. They also had pasta dishes and toast at about the same price.

Or maybe because of the ambience? Coffee Blends had ambient lighting, complemented by the tuneful songs they play. It was also rarely noisy here. I guess that helped inspire my creativity and emotions.

Or maybe because the service was good? The beautiful owners managed the café themselves. Although quite shy, they were always attentive and graceful.

Or maybe it was all of the above that made me love Coffee Blends so much. Like I often say, the best coffee places have no need to offer free Wi-Fi!

***

There are many other places and activities that I remember and miss in Elbi. For now, these are what immediately came to mind and made me want to write. Tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to Elbi. While I’m aware that there have been a lot of changes while I was gone, I still hope to find these old places again and relive my college days.

See you in a bit, my dear Elbi! ❤️