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Pseudostoic's Outlet

The rants and musings of a sellout looking for a way out

Four Years Ago, I Tried Saving My “Sally”

I was trying my best not to stare at perfection.

She was manning the cashier of a bakeshop, oblivious to my presence outside. Visibly shaking and increasingly uncertain with every step, I reined in my nerves and took a big gulp out of the Mogu-Mogu I bought before approaching their store. Here goes nothing…

I entered, nondescript, and kept my gaze down. Picking a cinnamon bun and a chocolate roll, I proceeded to the cashier. To her lane. As I handed her the pastries, her head shot up to my nervously grinning face. Her face lighting up, I tried my best to play it cool.

“Uy, andito ka pala?”

The smile she gave me made my heart drop.

It started a month or so before J-Day (Her-Name Day LOL).

I was increasingly worried about her, our communication limited to a few text message exchanges. She stopped school because her aunt, who pays for her tuition, is mad at her. I tried helping her out but then, coming from another lower middle class family, there’s little to nothing that I could do.

A plan began taking shape in my head. I have to “save” her. From everything, from the world. I wanted to shield her, protect her. Take care of her. The only thing missing was the HOW.

First, I had no idea where she was. Second, I didn’t know if she really needed “saving.” Third…what if I wasn’t the hero she was hoping for? What if…there was already a hero saving her at the moment? Only one way to find out.

I picked some clues from our sms-es during those turbulent times. She mentioned that she was fooled by one customer who paid her with counterfeit money. She was so upset that she got charged with the fake money and that the thief got free cake to boot. Money and cake.

December 30, 2012. After a couple of days of non-stop layouting for our campus paper, we decided to stop work for a while and resume after New Year’s Day. We bid goodbye to each other and I proceeded to ride a jeepney to confirm what I had in mind.

I got off at a certain town and proceeded to a bakeshop there.

“Bakit ka andito?”

“Masarap daw ang tinapay dito eh.”

Smiles. One uneasy, the other as genuine as could be.

“Paano mo nalaman na nandito ako?”

“So ‘yun ang takeaway mo? Na pumunta ako dito para sa’yo?”

A sheepish smile. Gahd, this woman smiles a lot.

“Oo na. I was worried. Tsaka may dala ako.”

I gave her a plastic bag with several issues of our campus paper and her Peys shirt (The Associate Editor gets his way, apparently). Enclosed inside the magazine was a letter.

“Nanakaw ‘yung cellphone ko kaya ‘di na ako nakakapagtext. Anong number mo?”

Panic. She was already fiddling with the stuff I gave her, so nonchalantly I scribbled a number from one of the three simcards that I had back then (Long story short: I bought them all to win an Amazing Race contest). On hindsight, I should’ve known that it was my subconscious that wrote that number. I really didn’t want to say goodbye.

“Sige, aalis na ako.”

I turned away before she could answer. My heart at my throat, the ride going home was the longest in my life. That night, around midnight, I received one missed call and a couple of messages.

Although the message that I dared hoped she would send, one that I was willing to give it all just to hear from her lips…

Never came.

Four years later, “Sally” got married. And Marty is as miserable as ever.

The Mourning After

Hindi naman ako nag-eexpect na paggising ko, wala na kaagad. Na biglang okay na.

Ang akin lang, dapat siguro nabawasan man lang kahit papaano. ‘Yun bang tulad ng pagkawala ng hilo ko kagabi, giginhawa kahit konti ang pakiramdam ko.

Hindi pala. Mas matindi pa pala ang hangover nito. Yung sakit, kakaiba rin, nakakaadik. Gusto kong magpakababad sa sakit, paulit-ulit na ipaalala sa sarili ko na wala na talagang pag-asa, paulit-ulit na ipamukha sa humihirit pang puso na tapos na ang lahat. Gusto kong masaktan ng paulit-ulit, ‘yung tumatagos hanggang kaluluwa. ‘Yung tipong ang natitira kong kahenyuhan na lang ang humahadlang sa’kin na puntahan ka…

Gusto kong makita ka.

Gusto kong makita na nakaputi kang traje de boda, naglalakad papunta sa altar. Gusto kong makita kung gaano ka kasaya habang nakatingin ka sa kanya. Gusto kong makitang magpalitan kayo ng mga pangako. Gusto kong makitang halikan ka niya sa harap ng diyos niyo, ng pari, ng mga tao. Gusto kong makitang magtitigan kayo, ‘yun bang parang kayong dalawa lang ang tao sa mundo, ‘yung walang papantay sa saya at pagmamahal na nararamdaman ninyo.

Gusto kong yakapin ng hapis ang buo kong pagkatao. Magbabad sa lungkot at panghihinayang. Punuin ng pait. Gusto kong itulog lahat, aasa na paggising, ayos na ang lahat. Pero hindi, minsan hanggang sa panaginip andun ka.

Napanaginipan kita mga dalawang buwan na ang nakararaan. Magkatabi raw tayo sa jeep. Tahimik. May mangilan-ngilang sulyap, pero walang nagsasalita.

Huminto ang jeep sa tapat ng isang sementeryo. Sabi mo bababa na tayo. Pagkababa, pumasok ka sa sementeryo. Sumunod ako. Tapos nawala ka.

Sumigaw ako, tumakbo. Hinanap ka sa sementeryo. Sa bawat pasikot-sikot, sa bawat likod ng puntod. Takot na takot akong ‘di na kita makikita pa. Nagpaikot-ikot ako dun hanggang sa magising na ako.

Yan ‘yung dahilan kung bakit isang araw ng Setyembre, nakatanggap ka ng isang text message na nagtatanong kung ayos ka lang ba galing sa isang Smart na numero.

At oo, salamat sa hindi mo pagsagot.

Mukhang noon palang, sinasabihan na ako ng kalawakan na maghanda. Pero wala eh. Walang paghahanda ang sasapat dito. Wala.

Masyado nang mahaba ‘to, kaya eto na lang:

Masaya ako para sa’yo. Malungkot ako para sa’tin.

Lilipas din ‘to, alam ko. Pero gusto kong malaman mo, na sa totoo lang, naiisip ko na siguro dapat ipinagpatuloy ko na lang ang panloloko sa sarili ko na wala na akong nararamdaman sa’yo at tinuloy na lang din ang pagiging magkaibigan natin.

Gusto kong malaman mo, na sa lagay ng mga pangyayari ngayon, tatanggapin ko kung ano lang ang kaya mong ibigay kaysa tuluyan kang mawala.

Gusto kong malaman mo, na walang nagbago, simula nung una mo akong kinantahan hanggang ngayon. Na ginagawa ko ang lahat para maging ayos na ang lahat sa pagitan natin, pero mukhang matatagalan pa ‘to (Langya ka, ano bang pinakain mo sa’kin).

Gusto kong malaman mo…na mahal na mahal pa rin kita.

Bumulong ang puso ko sa hangin, humiling sa buwan.

Sana makarating sa’yo.

All the Best

I heard you’re getting married today.

I tried to play it cool, the logical and reasonable me assuring myself that this is the final nail in the coffin of my feelings for you…that surely, this is a step in the right direction, that finally, my heart would give up on its futile quest to…tangina, let me be honest just this once – na agawin ka from him.

And it kinda worked, for a few minutes. In the stillness of my being, I could hear my heart beat so fast, the radio playing Moonriver, and the electric fan whirling lazily across me. In that surreal world, I was truly at peace with my heart.

And then it hit me.

Like a punch in the gut, a slap in the face out of nowhere. With a vengeance it tore through the stillness, my heart, my soul. The very fiber of my existence. The pain was swift and brutal. It was like having a black hole in my chest, one that sucks everything, leaving nothing but emptiness that’s so encompassing. One that envelops me, completely. Utterly.

And it’s hard to breathe.

I gasp for air and inhale heavily, my fingers reaching for the keyboard. But instead it finds the bottle.

A glass of whiskey that tastes oh-so-fvcking-sweet in times like this. A few sips and I am better. A few more and I am as miserable as ever.

I reach for the bottle again. You were my happiness.

I pour some more. You were my world.

Two ice cubes. You were my warmth.

A few swirls. You were my light.

I inhale the scent. You were my everything.

Close to my lips. You were my soul.

Down my throat. You were my life.

And I savor. The taste and memories.

The smile, the laughter, the uncertainty that hanged between us. The unease that ruined the innocence of our conversations. The familiar energy that pulled us together and apart at the same time. And the words, all bottled, anticipating release any time.

The words that threatened to spill from my lips, from my fingers, from my mind. The subconscious that put a lid on words that can never be spoken, the words that will be daggers to our fragile friendship.

My mind tried fighting back. You let go already, it roared. You knew this would happen. You knew that this was inevitable. You did nothing and now you’re hurt? You were too nice, that’s why this happened. If you were serious about her, you would have done something, anything, to-

It stopped. Even it can’t say it.

To get her. Them.

For the last time, I finally let go.

And I feel that emptiness again. Encompassing. Utter. And it’s again hard to breathe. Again, I reach for the bottle. Again, I hope to drown my heart and mind and soul with whiskey and memories. Again, I am successful. Again, I am not.

And I sit before my laptop, again. Opened a notes app and began reminiscing.

Your voice. I start typing, slow, uncertain words.

Your face. Typing becomes faster, words turn into sentences. And then paragraphs.

Your presence. The paragraphs become coherent thoughts, not just random sentences pulled together without substance.

Your idiosyncrasies. The way you pout while your eyes smile. The way mischief and grace seem to dance with every word you say. The way you walk – slowly but steadily, looking down, timid and brave at the same time. The way you write.. Oh god.

Despite myself, I smiled. A sad, knowing smile.

And it’s beautiful again. It’s clear again. I drew the heaviest sigh and gave life to this soliloquy that, surprisingly, I meant every word.

Look, Jelyn, I will always have feelings for you.

I know that I haven’t been the best of friends during the past few months. I know that bidding goodbye just like what I did was the cowardly way out, and you bet that I know it pissed you off. You made that abundantly clear on the text message you sent after I explicitly told you NOT to reply. It pissed me off too, but yeah, water under the bridge.

It was never my intention to hurt you. On the contrary, I desire nothing more than your happiness. You’ve no idea how much a simple smile from you or one of your fake-sounding laughs (Yeah, what’s with that?) mean to me.

But yeah… I get it now. When I eventually get over you, I want to catch-up with you. Bring your husband and my godchild. Dinner’s on me.

Would I could tell you this in person.

All the best.

Kung Bakit Mali na ang Isinagot Mo ay OO

Hindi ko naman talaga binalak itanong ‘yon sa’yo. ‘Di ba nga tapos na ang kabanatang ‘yon? ‘Di ba nga, okay na ako? Kaya nga tayo nakapag-uusap na ulit eh. ‘Yong tulad ng dati pero hindi tulad ng dati? Naiintindihan mo naman ‘di ba?

Pero iba kasi ang nagagawa ng alkohol. Aba malay ko ba. Lingid sa iyong kaalaman, bukod sa telepono, ay may hawak akong baso. Isang kapat na whiskey, isang kapat na vodka. Kalahating porsyentong panghihinayang.

At tinanong ko, sumagot ka. Kinumpirma mo ang matagal nang inilalaban ng aking dibdib.

OO, sabi mo.

Na isang malaking pagkakamali…

Dahil ang hindi pagsabi ng “oo” noon ay maituturing din na “hindi” ngayon.

OO, maaaring hindi ko nasambit ang tanong noon, pero dapat pa bang hinintay munang mamutawi ang mga salita bago ipinagpatuloy ang isang bagay na doon din naman papunta? Hindi rin ba maituturing na negatibong sagot ang bigla mong pagkawala? At ang hindi mo pagpigil nang ako naman ang nagpaalam?

Dahil hindi mo na ito maaaring isagot muli.

OO, hindi na. Sapagkat ‘di ko na muli itong itatanong. Sa oras kasi na ako’y muling magtanong, hindi na ito nakakulong sa nakaraan. At sa oras na “oo” muli ang isasagot mo, hindi na ako mag-aalinlangan.

Dahil pinatunayan mo na ang isang bagay ay ‘di dapat nananatiling pangarap lamang.

OO, hindi dapat nagtatapos ang lahat sa isang pangarap, sa isang aparisyon ng hinaharap. Dapat ginagawan ng paraan, pinagsisikapan, hindi ikinukulong sa apat na sulok ng isang sulat na kahit kaila’y ‘di nakarating sa’yo. At kung nakarating man ito sa’yo, hindi rin dapat manggaling sa isang pluma ang mga salita, ito ay dapat bigkasin ng nanginginig sa kaba at antisipasyong bibig.

Dahil kinumpirma mo sa aking sarili at sa mga multong nanunulsol, pumipigil, nakaabang, nakabantay, nakasimangot, nakangiti, nakakuyom ang mga palad…na wala akong bayag.

OO na. Kailangan pa ba ng mahabang pagpapaliwanag dito? Kailangan pa bang ipaliwanag kung bakit mali na natakot akong lumayo ka? Kailangan pa bang ipaliwanag kung bakit mali na hindi ako sumugal? Kung bakit mali na namayani ang delusyong hindi mo kailangang pumili? At kung ikaw ay pipili man, na hinding hindi mo ako pipiliin? Lahat nang ‘yan, na hindi ko man lang naisip na kumpirmahin sa’yo?

Dahil, sa isang sagot, sabay mong winasak at binuong muli ang puso ko.

OO, muli mo itong winasak. At binuo. Nakalas sa ilang bilyong piraso ang puso ko sa nawalang pagkakataon, sa sinayang na sandali. At nabuo sa pag-asa ng mas mabait na tadhana, sa isang bukas na hindi na ikaw ang gugustuhin kong katabi sa paggising.

Dahil nahuli nang halos apat na taon ang tanong. At nang maitanong nga, huli na ang lahat para sa sagot.

OO, sa atin, sa pagitan nating dalawa, huli na ang lahat.

Maligayang Araw ng mga Puso sa lahat.

To Loneliness

I spent half of the second day of the new year deep in regret.

A different kind of regret. Not for things that already happened. But for those that will never do. The words that will forever remain unspoken, the scenes that will only play in dreams. The plans unrealised, paths untrodden. Ambitions unfulfilled.

It could have been us. There, I said it.

That thought always makes me run, makes the urge to escape all the more pressing, a matter of life and death. Why? Because it remains unanswered. Because I know the answer. Because I think I know the answer. Because a small part of me is still hoping. Because a small part of me is still hoping that after all of this, after all that has happened, after all the unnecessary anticlimactic drama…it’s still you and I in the end.

Hahaha. And now I have to run once more.

You know what, I’m not sure if you noticed, but the last time we were together, I almost passed out when you called me. It might be the heat, the crowd inside that tiny mall, or the proverbial chicken (in my case, super unhealthy lifestyle) coming home to roost (hypertension, anyone?). But my heart almost jumped out of my chest. I nearly choked before uttering…

“Is that my godson? Why is he so thin?”

I haven’t told anyone this, but me holding him right there and then, felt so right and wrong at the same time. When he fell asleep while I carried him, and you checking up on him… When, the three of us were walking, you holding his left hand and I his right hand… I almost wished that we were a family.

But I digress.

I love you enough to know that you’re happy with where you are right now, all things considered. And I’m so freaking hot to be a mang-aagaw. Come on now, you have to at least smile at that.

This is a toast to loneliness. To you. The heroine that rescues me, the heroin that drugs me. My greatest source of comfort, my greatest source of distress. The fount of my dreams and of my heartbreaking nightmares.

My life. The death of me.

– – –

If you’re reading right now, can you do one final favor for me? Please break my heart. Completely. Utterly and without any reserve. I want you to thoroughly break it, pulverised. I want to see little shards of my heart in rivers of blood, regret and sorrow. I want to see them drown, struggle to live and then die completely. So that I may start anew.

I want you to do that as one last favor. From one friend to another.

And then leave. Forever.

Hindi Pa Rin

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil…wait, ilang taon na ba? Dalawa? Tatlo? Apat? Does it matter? Ang point dito ay ang tagal na pero bakit hindi pa rin. Bakit sa hinaba-haba ng panahon na nagdaan, sa dami ng mga pinagsasabi ko about you, about us, about…sh*t, eh hindi pa rin. Tangina naman, ano bang meron sa’yo?

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil I’m all talk? Nakakatuwa kasi on hindsight, mukha ngang pinuwersa. Siguro dahill gusto kong magmukhang okay na the first time I saw you again a year after the “last” goodbye. Tanginang goodbyes ‘yan.

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil peke lahat ng goodbye na ‘yun? Langhiya ka kasi, kasalanan mo rin ‘to eh. Pinigilan mo ‘ko n’ung unang goodbye, well technically, hindi pigil ‘yun. You just dangled a carrot on my face, enough for stupid feelings to regroup and then mount a devastating counter-attack. And that carrot was all I needed. You shouldn’t have done that, you should’ve broken my heart.

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil bukod sa minadali, pineke? I mean, come on. You didn’t expect me to be super okay when we meet again, right? So kapag sinabing kong okay na, you just expect na…okay na? Have I always been completely honest with you? ‘Di ba hindi, lalo na when it concerned what little relationship we had before.

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil I still have these glimpses into the future, make-believe future, na tayo? Na may happy ending. And yes, all factors included. Gets mo naman ‘yung last sentence ‘di ba?

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil I’ve taken the coward’s way out? Just thinking about it makes me cringe. Jusko naman, alam mo ba ang ginawa kong measure of “success” before? Kung pipigilan mo ‘ko. Oo, gusto kong pigilan mo ‘ko when I said those goodbyes. Eh…hindi mo ‘ko pinipigilan. I mean, tangina. I didn’t even bother to ask you. Mali na kung mali, considering na you’re in a relationship, pero tangina sa closure. For closure’s fvcking sake ‘yun.

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil hindi naman kasi ganung kahirap tanungin…wait, tangina, mahirap nga. Pero considering na nag-fester na ng ilang taon ‘to, baka naman? Sige eto…Ay ‘wag na pala. Bakit pa ako manggugulo ng isang pamilya.

Oo hindi pa rin.

Siguro dahil….tangina naman. Napaaga ba ang longing season?*

*The date varies, pero most of the time, nararamdaman ng mga single ‘to every February, December and the month of their birthday (September sa’kin).

Here’s to Dreams

Heart pounding, I glanced back to the bluish green building I just left, and tried to make sense of what I was about to do.

It was a surprisingly cold Tuesday night, I left the office early clutching a two-page document that the email instructed me to print. All things considered, it was a good day compared to the hectic weeks before that, there were few deliverables and people we worked with were a touch more considerate.

Notwithstanding that, I had two printed documents with me: one that I need to present to the cashier when paying for an incredibly expensive roundtrip ticket to this country’s northernmost province and the other, a carefully worded resignation letter.

It was the night I decided to quit (and gut my savings). Classic Millennial. Impulsive, unreasonable and somewhat stupid.

Quitting turned out to be the easiest part of the plan.

It was actually kinda easy once you set your mind to it, not including the really awkward phase of actually telling your workmates about it. Or of actually submitting the letter-that-must-not-be-named to your supervisor.

The weeks that went by couldn’t pass fast enough to my dismay. But still, I tried my hardest to still appear interested in the endless pitches, to strive to be productive and contribute as much as I can. Though during the last few days, I’m pretty sure that everyone can feel my desire to leave.

You see, I am a journalism graduate who once had lofty dreams of becoming an investigative reporter. And due to several difficult life (and moral) choices, ended in advertising, the antithesis of journalism. I knew that I had to eventually leave when the full extent of what was expected of me became apparent.

Make no mistake, though. Advertising is a wonderful field, you get to work with equally (and sometimes more) creative people and I know that some are really passionate with what they do. However, my continued employment in that field flies in the face of my own set of ideals. Also, it just didn’t feel right.

Call me childish or naive, but honestly, I still haven’t given up on my dream to change the world for the better. Deep down, I am still the same wide-eyed and idealistic journalist wannabe that hopes to influence change through his writings.

When that someone, who had been silent most of the time finally started asking questions such as: “Is this what you really want to do?” and “What happened to your dreams?”

And when the same answer I always give (“I, we, grow up. That’s what happened.”) doesn’t cut it anymore, I just knew I couldn’t continue.

With that in mind, I leapt from the summit. No parachutes, no backups.

It has been a month since I last set foot in that bluish green building and frankly, I’m still unsure of what to do next. I still get a lot of “Andun ka na eh, bakit ka pa umalis?” comments from everywhere, but then I don’t really care. Also, there’s this thing called “bills” and I’m not sure how long I can continue stretching the few that I still have. Especially now that the year’s most expensive season’s coming.

But then, what the hell? I know I’m good with what I do, and I have this really awesome support group. What could possibly go wrong? (A bit pushing it, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, actually.)

Here’s to dreams, yours and mine. May we never tire in pursuing them, come what fvcking may.

Getting Inked by the Last Mambabatok on Earth – Part 1

Part 1: Getting There

June 1, 2015

6:00 AM

The sound that reverberated reminded me of road rehabilitation projects. Only then, there were no roads. There was just skin, my own bare skin, bleeding and swollen.

It was the tenth or so blow that eventually drew blood from my forearm, the previous contacts only softened the thick mass of uncertain and increasingly regretful skin. The blood formed a small puddle that held for a quarter of a second before it gave in to gravity and flowed downwards. She paused, grabbed a wet wipe from a pack and cleanly wiped the intertwining ink and blood off the swelling and bruised canvas. Then it was torture all over again.

Tak-tak-tak-tak…

I dragged my eyes away from the torture I was subjecting myself into and instead focused on the mountains beyond, looked at the visible part of the trail we had to pass through yesterday and contemplated the fact that we had to go through the same trail again on our way down. But there was no distraction nor thought that could block the pain, that of a suha (pomelo) thorn poking hundreds of small holes on my forearm.

As I sat on that small chair, my head turned stiffly away from the circus of blood, thorn and black soot on my own skin, I couldn’t help but think that all that happened during the more or less 20-hour travel time to that place was just a precursor to the mutilation, er, art I was subjecting myself into. And to think that Fang-Od, the last Mambabatok (tattoo artist) of the Kalinga people was just on the first layer of the design I chose.

Fang-Od paused, laid down the needle and grabbed the coconut husk containing the black soot she use as ink. Using a thin reed, she drew two small diamonds inside the bloodied shape of the first diamond. I braced myself for the fresh round of pounding after she was finished drawing and held my breath. It was no use.

Tak-tak-tak-tak…

May 29, 2015

7:30 PM

Carrying three heavy bags, I stood at Victory Liner’s Kamias Station and stared at the the departing Tabuk-bound bus. I knew there were no more seats, I called their station earlier that morning, but I was too stubborn to believe that. After mentally checking my other options and a quick glance at the mass of humanity grouped in snaking lines at the terminal, I found myself heading to adjacent bus terminals looking for a trip bound for Tuguegarao.

Getting Inked by the Last Mambabatok on Earth
Picked the wrong time of the year, apparently. (And kuya in black looks giddy with excitement.)

A quick look at the terminal revealed that again, there were no more available seats, but then, a security guard quickly whispered that there might be one more seat on the 8:30 PM bus. And he was right. The 8:30 PM bus arrived at 9:30 PM, the conductor blaming traffic in Nueva Vizcaya for the delay. Thus started the 12-hour trip to the Philippines’ hottest city.

May 30, 2015

9:00 AM

My stinginess got the better of me in Tuguegarao. While I could reasonably pay for two seats (80php each) and be comfortable, I opted to just pay for one and let the driver sort out where to put my stuff. There is a terminal at Brickstone Mall in Tuguegarao with vans going to places in Northern Luzon (Kalinga, Apayao, Abra, etc.). There, with 10 other people in a cramped van with open windows, I started the trip to Tabuk (as per the blog that I read, around 2 hours).

Getting Inked by the Last Mambabatok on Earth
The hottest city in the Philippines became a bit hotter that day.

The trip was pretty uneventful, save for my aching legs and knees. It was terribly hot, with all our stuff crammed inside that woefully small van. I was at the back, sharing the seat with an old man and across us, a woman and her husband. The centre seats were occupied by their four children, one of which, probably unaccustomed to long commutes, threw up an hour or so after leaving the terminal.

Even though she was facing the window when she puked, the wind carried tiny vomit projectiles to us at the back, splatters of which reached the rear windshields. And yours truly.

Wonderful.

May 30, 2015

11:30 AM

By the time we reached Tabuk City, the afternoon heat was already hitting its stride. There were few people outside, probably because of the heat. After calling Francis Pa-In, the guide whose number I got on the Internet, to ask where the terminal is for trips to Tinglayan, I went to the waiting area near RBL Store. Francis said that there would be two more trips, one scheduled for 12 PM and the last trip, 1 PM.

A van arrived, after a few minutes of waiting, filled to the top with passengers. While the passengers were busy gathering their stuff, I talked to the driver and asked him if there was still time for me to eat first. He answered yes and told me I could leave my stuff in the van to save a seat. Which I did.

Batil Patong in all its oozing-egg-yolk glory. Yes. That's just 50PHP.
Batil Patong in all its oozing-egg-yolk glory. Yes. That’s just 50PHP.

I went to a nearby Panciteria and ordered Pancit Batil Patong, which I had no idea what it could possibly be but I was too hungry to care. The large serving (for 50php) was a nice surprise, though. By the time I returned to the waiting area, there were already several people jostling for space in the van. I quickly went inside and sat where I placed my bags.

Several more people arrived, all going to Tinglayan. Four of them sat on top of the van, toploading it is, while the other three crammed inside. It was actually surprising that with so many passengers, the van could still move. It was 1:30 PM when we left Tabuk City.

Getting Inked by the Last Mambabatok on Earth
Believe it or not, the bags were more comfortable than the people inside.

As we left, all I could think of was how I survived commuting every day to the Metro and that this was child’s play compared to that.

The next three and a half hours would prove how wrong I was.

May 30, 2015

4:00 PM

After three and a half hours and my whole lower body aching, I reached Tinglayan’s Poblacion – the pit stop before the long trek to Buscalan where Fang-Od lives. I quickly went to Sleeping Beauty Inn, the inn where Francis was supposed to meet me. There was a group of people outside and was unloading their stuff from an SUV, so I skirted past them and went inside.

Nalie, the innkeeper, was a bit surprised to see me. She then told me that Francis, the guide that was to supposed to accompany me to the Last Mambabatok on Earth, already left.

“Magkape ka muna,” she offered. And a tired, aching and mildly disoriented me just nodded.

TO BE CONTINUED

A Soul Found in Sagada – Part 3: The long (winding and beautiful) road

PART 1

PART 2

It was a ten-minute ride to Dangwa Bus Terminal. Baguio City was eerily quiet and empty save for a few people on the streets and the occasional flickering of lights from a city that was, surprisingly, asleep.

Arriving, there were a lot of UV Express vans in the terminal, though there were no buses. I decided to eat first at the nearby restaurant (which I forgot the name). Inside, there are maybe ten to twelve people seated apart with big traveling bags.

If you happen to arrive in Baguio earlier than expected and wondering where you can wait for the buses going to Sagada, Bontoc, Banaue, etc., there are many restaurants/eateries at Dangwa Bus Station which serve hot meals at competitive prices (compared to Sagada at least…more about that later). There’s also a paid CR near the information booth at the right corner.

Tickets are sold in a lone ticketing outlet at the left corner and it opens at 6AM. Reservations are only valid for a day so you can’t really buy one in advance. It’s better to be there on or before 6AM since by the time it opens, the place gets a bit crowded.

Anyway, after waiting for nearly three hours (not the actual purchase part, but after arriving in Baguio), I finally had my ticket.

Someone must've told them that it was my birthday...
Someone must’ve told them that it was my birthday…

It was an ordinary bus with wooden seats that are somewhat comfortable enough (TBH, I was expecting worse), though a far cry from the deluxe bus that brought me to the City of Pines. I plugged in my earphones and decided to catch some sleep for the rest of the trip, I had to make do with the radio on my crappy backup phone (again, ef-yu to the thieves who stole my other phone). The main smartphone that I brought along with me, my trusty Lumia, is running out of battery fast. It was a really bad mistake not to charge that before my trip, I missed some great shots. REALLY GREAT SHOTS.

Scenes like this. (Credits to Ethnic Groups of the Philippines website for this image)

The weather was cold, the air was chilly and the roads were winding. The countryside, oh yeah, was BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. I really felt that I wasn’t on the Philippines anymore, the trees seemed greener, the sky was bluer, it seemed taken out of a National Geographic TV show or a Tolkien movie. I had a digital camera with me (as backup) but I dunno, maybe it was me living in the moment or just too mesmerized with the majestic views that I did not bother taking pictures.

There were just two stop-overs, the first in a town in Benguet (forgot the name) and the other, in Mountain Province. The bus stayed for about twenty minutes per stop and one can find clean comfort rooms and eateries in each stop-over place.

The highest point. (Credits to Boyp Lakwatsa for this image)

We passed by the Philippine’s highest point, highway-wise, but the bus didn’t bother stopping. There were parts of the road that were really narrow and there were also some, well, incidences. Anyway, by 11am, I can feel discomfort already. By that time, I could feel my backside being sore with all the traveling and my back is hurting as well. Yeah, I was already on the road for 12 hours.

There was a forked part of the highway, one marked as “To Bontoc” and the other “To Sagada.” Another twenty or thirty minutes of zigzag roads, ups and downs, scenic rice terraces and precarious roads being repaired (which made them more, uhm, precarious)…and we reached kilometer 395.

I reached paradise.

One sunset in Instagram Country...
How can you not want to go here?

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