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Travelling to Nasugbu: Then, Now

I have written before that my Mom was a native of the coastal municipality of Nasugbu on the western side of the province of Batangas. I used to go there ever so often when I was a little kid; but because of career eating up most of whatever free time I used to have, the trips became rarer and rarer until I stopped going there altogether.

The last time I went there must have been in 1995 or 1996, when I made a flying visit to the now-defunct Nasugbu Institute. A colleague and I handcarried an invitation to that school for them to join an educational network that we were trying to set up. I had not been back since; until yesterday, that is.

Among the perks that I now enjoy is that I can go anywhere anytime; and this is not to say that I am always willing because I can get remarkably lazy. I had been procrastinating on a visit to the place for sometime. When I finally went, I wished it was for a better reason than to attend the wake of a relative.

Still, making the trip always promised to be an adventure because I was commuting. Unfortunately, there has never been a direct bus route from Lipa to Nasugbu. In the sixties, when I was still a little boy and used to travel with my late Tito Nald, his favourite way to go home to Nasugbu was to take one of those old rickety wooden United buses to the municipality of Lemery; walk the short distance to the BLTBCo. station; and then wait for the bus bound for Nasugbu which originated from Batangas City.

If the United buses were the rickety sort that had seats across rather than along the bus – with pull-down strips of moss green tarpaulin which served as doors whenever it rained – the BLTBCo. buses were even worse. They were smaller, made of wood and shaped like boxes. There were a few rows of front-facing seats; but there was also this compartment at the back that everyone called the cocina. It was open space with hard seats all around that must originally have been for cargo rather than people.

It was not unusual to ride in the cocina with people who carried with them their large bayongs, sacks of agricultural produce or, perhaps, even live animals like chickens and goats.

Although there was no aerodynamism to the designs of buses in those days, the drivers of both bus lines always tore down the roads as though there was no tomorrow. Funny that, in those days, everyone took the torturous trips as a matter of course; but then, those were days way before air-conditioned buses and padded seats.

And they were torturous, make no mistake about it! The roads were all roughly paved with asphalt and gravel. That patch of road from Pinagtung-ulan to Cuenca, in particular, became rough roads again almost as soon as they were patched up because of the soft soil underneath the surface.

The whole trip could take as long as three hours on a private vehicle; and as long as four by public transportation. As a young boy, I always thought the trips to Nasugbu exceedingly monotonous because the scenery was agrarian and – because we went there ever so often – I was familiar with all the roadside sights from previous trips.

The trips by public transportation were even more monotonous – particularly from Lemery onwards. In those days, the buses drove into the municipalities of Calacâ and Balayan to load and offload passengers. Both towns are cul de sacs and the buses went in and out via the same road. They also drove through the sleepy little town of Tuy – pronounced too-wee, and I never did figure out how the place ever got such a curious little name.

The strangest part of the route was one that the buses took into the town of Lian and then back the same road and on finally to Nasugbu. I do not think I have ever encountered such a strange geographical accident anywhere else. The two towns are at the two ends of a T that branch out from the main highway. My Tito Nald and I would get off at the corner just before the bus drove off to Lian and then we would catch a jeepney for the short ride into Nasugbu.

The route I took yesterday was a little different. Partly because I think jeepney drivers of the Lipa-Lemery route always think they are flying F-16s; and partly because I wanted to go in airconditioned buses. So I caught a bus at the Tambô exit of STAR tollway and was at the ALPS station in Batangas City in a quarter of an hour.

It was unfortunate that the last Nasugbu-bound bus had just left when I arrived. So I had to wait for about half an hour for my bus to leave the station. I did not really mind. It was cool inside the bus and the music was good. Besides, I really did not have an agenda for the rest of the day except for the wake.

Because I sat on the front row, I had a good view of the road. It was fascinating: there were countless roadside establishments where I remembered them to be farmlands or empty spaces. Indeed, what a difference a couple of decades can make!

I enjoyed my ride tremendously, even if there was a coughing lady who chose to sit beside me despite the rows upon rows of empty seats behind us. Because she was not covering her mouth like everyone is taught to do in elementary school, I brought out my hanky and pressed it against my mouth and nose. It turned out that was the medicine that she needed; her coughing mysteriously stopped after I did that.

I was pleasantly surprised that the bus did not anymore drive into Calacâ and Balayan, offloading passengers instead at the corners of both roads leading to the two towns. It still drove into Tuy like the buses of yore used to; and while I could have gotten off at the corner of the road to Lian – or Liang as one passenger told the conductor, the way the old folks used to say the town’s name – I had not seen the place for the longest time and stayed on the bus.

My butt was starting to hurt, of course. Because there were countless tricycles on the road, sometimes if the bus could not overtake we were travelling at 20 or 30kph. The entire trip took something like 2 and a half hours. My bladder had become quite full, as a matter of fact. However, returning from the stupid loop to and from Lian and finally driving into the road to Nasugbu, a smile almost unconsciously came to my lips just like in the old days when I travelled with my Tito Nald.

Rounding the bend into the town’s main avenue, I could feel a definite glow inside me; a glow of real pleasure. Although I was born and raised elsewhere, driving into that main avenue of Nasugbu always had, since I was a little boy, that feeling of finally getting home.

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