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Have Gas; Will Travel

I have no pretensions whatsoever about being the spontaneous type; which makes today’s almost totally unplanned tour of three provinces all the more remarkable. A friend and I agreed it would be a good idea to take advantage of the Lipa City fiesta to go on a joyride somewhere. Tagaytay seemed like a good idea. That was as far as the plan went.

We talked about the trip, in fact, last Tuesday. I did not see him all of yesterday; and in fact, I had all but forgotten about it. Since I do not like going to fiestas anymore, I was looking forward to spending a whole day in bed today.

Last night, though, my friend text-ed me that he would be picking me up around eight in the morning. Oh… That… Why not make it 8:30, I text-ed back, not letting on that I had almost forgotten about the trip. But for agreeing that we would go to Tagaytay, we had absolutely no plans whatsoever. Never mind, I told myself. I would make it a point to have a good time!

As it happened, it was past nine this morning when my friend arrived at the house in his car. My first question was, “Which way?”

The more logical route was to go to the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR; leave the highway through the Sambat exit; drive all the way up to Talisay; and ascend to Tagaytay from the town via the steeply-inclined road. But we had no plans; and my friend’s indecision was momentary.

We decided we would go via the Lemery route. “You know the way?” he asked me. “Of course,” I replied. That was really just bravado; I had not been to Tagaytay via that route since the mid-nineties. Which would only be about fifteen years…

So we drove on. I could not help but remark that the road to Lemery via Cuenca, Alitagtag and Sta. Teresita had become so much better than it used to be. We used to travel this way ever so often when I was a little kid when the family went to visit my Mom’s relatives in Nasugbu. Then, the roads were treacherous and the trip to Nasugbu sometimes took more than three hours.

There was, naturally, a sense of déjà vu for me as we drove on. The palikô road reading into Labac in Cuenca was as winding as it would ever be; albeit not as treacherous as it once was. The ancient mango trees still lined the road past Cuenca; as did the slanted houses.

There were so many more houses along the road in Alitagtag; although driving through Sta. Teresita, there were still sugarcane fields like there used to be in the old days. My friend and I were talking about just about anything so that I forgot to ask him to enter Taal instead of using the diversion road. And I was earlier thinking of taking pictures of the old houses along the road just before crossing the bridge to Lemery…

At any rate, in hindsight, skipping Taal gave us time to add to the places we visited later in the day.

Past Lemery, my friend was going to turn right into the road leading to Agoncillo. No, I told him. The years have not really dimmed memory all that much. Finding the right road to turn into was a piece of cake; helped, I have to admit, by a large sign that said TO TAGAYTAY.

We stopped by Fantasy World, this resort that overlooks Taal Lake. There were three tinderas who tried their best to sell us panutsas. I really had to pee; so it was unfortunate that the trio was there in the first place. I made the most of the situation by taking pictures.

As we continued our drive, I remarked to my friend that the ladies we just left did not look like Malays at all. More like Mongols; and not at all dissimilar to the mountain natives up in Baguio… They did speak Tagalog with Batangueño accents, though.

We stopped by a restaurant for an early lunch. Our timing was perfect. It was just past eleven and we were the first customers. After the waiter went off with our orders, we went to the edge of the cliff to snap some pictures.

Done, we headed back to our table. The waiter soon arrived with our orders. Eat your heart out if you are living abroad with no Filipino restaurant in the neighborhood. Or go visit the nearest PAL ticketing office. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. The crispy hipon was divine; ditto the molo soup. The crispy pata, as anywhere, was pampabatâ.

The waiter gave us directions to the Tagaytay Zoo; but rather than suffer the ignominy of getting lost, we thought it would be best to hang out instead at the Paseo in Sta. Rosa. Arriving at the place, I remarked to my friend that it was a glorified Caedo Commercial Center.

All the shops were air-conditioned; but outside the shops it was not. I could imagine the place coming alive at night; otherwise the al fresco stalls seemed like wishful thinking in the midday heat. Still, considering that there was nothing but tall reeds in this place just a few years back, the developments looked amazing.

It was still mid-afternoon when we got tired of the place; so we thought we would drive to the sports shop in Mamplasan. There were spikes galore on sale; but only for descendants of Goliath. My feet are size 10 US; and the smallest they had were 10.5. No good. Too bad because the spikes on sale were dirt cheap. As in, really cheap… There were Nike and Adidas spikes on sale for less than a thousand.

Next, we drove to a mall in Biñan. Biñan’s version of Fiesta Mall, was how my friend described the place. Close to it; but not really. The washrooms smelled good; and that is a significant difference. My friend was actually looking for the Guess shop; but it had packed up and gone somewhere else. We explored the other shops, though. We also ate at this Chinese fast food restaurant where the pancit mami scalded my lips.

On the drive home, we naturally took the Southern Luzon Expressway or the SLEX. I had been on the newly-opened road that connects the SLEX with the STAR a couple of times before; but this was the first time I was at the front of the vehicle. So, I happily snapped away with my camera-phone.

My friend and I reflected on the spontaneity of the day – and in the end, we both agreed that it was totally enjoyable. We covered three provinces: Batangas, Cavite and Laguna. We had next to no plans; and decided the next destination after short discussions. Nothing was contrived; yet everything seemed to fall into place.

Earlier, I worried if we had enough gas to continue driving along. My friend asked me if I remembered this jeepney that drove the Air Base-Lipa route, the one that had a sign that hung from the rear: “Have Gas; Will Travel.”

I did, I replied to my friend. That, in a nutshell, summed up the entire day. Sometimes, all you need is to just make a decision to go; and the rest of the day will take care of itself.