at the doorstep of heaven (or unforgettable summer places, and a few escapades too)

if i were to have an equation about summer, it would be like this: summer + scorching heat = wanderlust; where wanderlust is equal to beaches and mountains; and where beaches are greater than mountains. easy enough to remember, right, even for math haters like myself.

but seriously, i always equate summer with the beach. not really swimming, no, just sitting on the sandy shore, sleeping probably, or staring at the blue seas and wondering what's underneath them, or where do those waters end. it's because i grew up near the beach. you see, our family used to live inside a military camp and just across it was one of samar's unspoiled beaches teeming with life.

i remember endless summers as a child playing there all day long. i love it when it was high tide, usually during lunch time, and i and my friends, all children of military men, would play any game that we can think of, chasing each other on top of motorized boats that were parked near the shore, then jumping on the sea; or pretending we were drowning and needed to be rescued by the navy.

late afternoons, around four, were also great, when the water had receded and the beach became a huge playground made of sand. we would play piko, volleyball, or chase small crabs that would usually go out of their holes in the afternoon. we had to be very careful though in handling these tiny creatures because they bite using their scissor-like hands (or "sipit" as we call them in the vernacular).

my older sisters, who would be home during the summer break from the universities in cebu, would scold us because we looked so dark. you have to understand them. like typical filipinas, they love their white skins and thought our sunburnt skins were ugly and lowly. "baga kamo han mga parag-uma!" one of them would scold us (me and my two little sisters) in vernacular.

but we never listened.

to stop us from hanging out at the beach, they required us to go to sleep right after taking our lunch. we hated that. what we did was escape by jumping out of the windows and head to the beach, where our friends from the neighborhood were playing all day long.

we did not mind even if it meant being punished when we head home at dusk for dinner. punishment usually meant cleaning up the dining table and washing dishes, or when they were in  a bad mood (that is, they had lqs with their military boyfriends, then we would be asked to stay inside our rooms, kneel on the floor, with our hands stretched like jesus on the cross, while they beat our buttocks with walis tingting. argh!)

enough of the nostalgia.

here are some of the places that i won't mind going back again and again during the summer: (sorry, i know we all hate seeing lists, but there's no other way that i can compose this post, an ode to the queen sun and her cohorts -- the hot wind and dusts, the sleepy afternoons or siesta time, etc, so pardon moi).

- dalupiri island in san antonio, northern samar.

getting there was tough (hours and hours on the car and then the boat), but it was well worth it. the last time i was there, there was no cellphone signal, and electricity came only at night -- six pm to five am - because the island's power supply can only afford that limited service. the place was not that well developed. no shopping malls, the cottages offered just your basic amenities -- room with a spectacular view of the sea, a bed, a shower; no aircons, personal refs, etc -- but they were all lovely and summery.

what it lacked in amenities was more than made up by its white, powdery, very fine soft sands, clear blue sea that you didn't need to go snorkeling to see what was underneath the water. since it's out of the usual touristy spot, it's unspoiled, peaceful especially at night. no wild parties, drunken noises that have become the bane of popular beaches such as boracay.

when i was there, i spent days roaming around the island in motor banca, or just walking, or by biking around. lying on the sand, beer in hand, working on my tan. as if! we feasted on fresh seafoods that were quite cheap, of course, compared to manila.

- siquijor island, mysterious, alluring, seductive.

a long time ago. a week before christmas, bored and stressed out from all the christmas carols that hounded me like a wild beast, i decided to fly to dumaguete. famous for being a university town (mainly because of siliman university), its summer writers' workshop, cakes and pastries from a cozy coffee shop, and its gorgeous, mestizo men, there was no other getaway for me but dumaguete. i didn't even mind the expensive air fare then because i booked a flight for the next day, first one out of manila.

the next day, i found myself in a hotel just across the famous silliman university. after checking in and taking a hot shower, i explored the university. first stop, the library. then the campus, classrooms, the houses for professors and other university staff. then the coffee shops around the university.

in one of the coffee shops was where i met this gorgeous couple in their twentys -- an english literature professor at silliman university and his equally handsome boyfriend, who just won a famous beauty search for men in the visayas.

at night, the couple brought me to this italian restaurant for dinner and drinks on the boulevard, a strip where bars, hotels and restaurants abound. the pizza was divine, so was their own brewed beers. but their company was even better, two cute guys in shirts and jeans, telling me stories about the city, its past, the gay scene, the famous writers that they've met during summers.

after dinner, we explored the city's night offerings and ended up in hayahay bar, where the city's young and beautiful had their nightly conventions on school breaks. that night was not an exception because the dance floor was crowded. there, i met a handsome model from cebu who asked me to come with them (him and his equally stunning male friends) to siquijor for a new year party.

that was how i ended up in siquijor. we boarded a jetstar ferry (very nice, comfortable, clean. much like the ferries in hong kong) and forty five minutes later, we disembarked on siquijor: quaint, quiet, mysterious, much like any other far away places in the country where civilization has yet to take root.

of course i have heard all those talks about siquijor : the aswangs, mangkukulams. but i was not afraid. after all, i was in the company of four young men who seemed to know the place.

the resort where i stayed, owned by the same people who ran the hotel where i boarded in dumaguete, was nice. quite far from the civilization. it had a swimming pool, a restaurant right on the beach front, and the cottages were made of bamboos, sawalis, nipas, resembling the famous nipa hut in the old days. tall coconut trees and flowering plants abound. i love!!!!!!!

(the boys, by the way, stayed at a nearby resort.)

this was my bed for a few nights. the cottage had no air-conditioner, but there was a ceiling fan. since it was december when i was there, it was quite cold (and i was drunk most nights) so i didn't mind. i slept, by the way, with the windows open. happy to say i didn't see nor hear any winged creature that was ready to devour my flesh. hahaha.

there was a pool surrounded by trees, and where the bar was submerged in the water. nice.

the beach was ordinary. didn't even come close to dalupiri's fine white sand and azure sea. but it was fine and did its purpose. swimming after all was far from my mind, and so were the boys.

during low tide, the beach looked like this. a small island of rocks where locals gather seashells.

this was where we hung out most of the time, eating, drinking, talking from dusk to dawn. the new year's party wasn't really a party. it was just us and a few guests of the resort (mostly foreigners from europe). the resort was owned by a german businessman and his filipina wife. when i told them it was my birthday on the third, they happily gave me a huge discount so i could spend my birthday there. (i was supposed to leave on the second). they even gave us complimentary drinks that night. grand!

(the facade of the beachfront restaurant)

- dumaguete city reminded me of cebu when i was there studying. a bit provincial, with just three popular malls (gaisano and plaza fair downtown and rustan's uptown), antiquated cinemas (two of them showed x-rated movies), no traffic, less crowded, safe, and a generally genteel people, who spoke sweetly, unhurriedly and always cheerful.

in dumaguete, not to be missed was silliman university, the school where the best minds and most handsome faces came from and whom i've met when i was in college attending those national meetings of the college editors' guild of the philippines. one of them was a dreamboat, who would always get the most number of love notes on the freedom wall posted near the dining hall.

the hotel staff recommended a place called forest camp, a thirty minute ride away from the city. the place was nice. there was a lagoon (or was it a river) with a shallow water not for swimming, obviously, a hanging bridge, a wishing well, a lovers' nook, gorgeous coffee shops. it was a nice place for photo shoots for weddings, or holding intimate parties with friends.

going around the city, and venturing out, was not a problem even if there were no taxis. i rode tricyles, or just walked around. i didn't mind getting lost because the locals were very helpful and friendly. it helped too that i could speak and understand the dialect.

another not to be missed: the sans rival coffee shop. a walking distance from the boulevard, the center of dining and wining activities in the city. it lived up to the hype -- great food, cakes, pastries, and coffee (or in my case, cappuccino. what can i say, i am pretentious and a french wanna be. hahaha). the place was cozy, neighborly, even homely but without being too familiar.

it was during the peak of my pretentious years when i first landed in dumaguete (since then, i have been  back several times, but i no longer looked like this. haha), so i kinda wore todo outfit as though i would be going to a vanity fair photo shoot. hahahaha to those days!

looking at this photo now, i realized i looked like a clown who was visiting from uranus. hahaha. but that was me then, young, eager, thinner, i have to say that, and thirsty. rest assured that i have mellowed now, even or specially on my taste for clothes.

former national treasurer and beloved mentor madam liling briones (who is from dumaguete and in fact was chair of silliman when i was there that time) recommended having a breakfast at the city's market of hot tsokolate and suman, which i did and enjoyed them tremendously.

at an early hour (around six), the market place was alive, pulsating with activity, with the hum of money changing hands, and of sweaty men without shirts carrying heavy loads of fish, vegetable and whole dead pigs, still bloody, fresh from the butcher's shop. they looked harmless, though, the men not the dead pigs, as they kept their focus on the business at hand, even if they were big and burly and carrying deadly knives. too, they smelled of the sea and far away mountains.

unfortunately, i forgot my camera at my hotel room so i wasn't able to take photos.

late afternoons, i would stay at the boulevard, enjoy the breeze from the sea and the view. priceless.

two weeks after, i left dumaguete with a heavy heart. i had a brief affair with someone who was then deeply committed with someone else. he wanted to follow me to manila, but i told him he had to break his relationship first. but he refused, saying he wanted to marry her.

at the airport while waiting for my flight to manila, i was hoping he would call or text and tell me he wanted me instead. that he was begging me to stay. just like in those molly ringwald movies. (movie on my mind: pretty in pink. soundtrack: it must have been love from pretty woman).

silly me, no such thing happened.

the irony is, just when you wanted life to mirror those romantic movies, it disappointed. oh well.

(more travel stories and places in my next post.)


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