Week 18, February 26, 27, San Fernando and home to Dasma
I wasn’t looking forward to returning to Dasma. But this is always true for me when I have enjoyed an experience – I don’t like it to end. In fact, I don’t like endings much at all.
I also wasn’t looking forward to the long trip. Our trip to Pagudpud was distributed over three days, albeit that included a long detour into the mountains to see Baguio. Our trip home was going to be two long days, at least six hours each segment, but as I’ve learned, everything takes longer than expected. The goal was originally to be the famous beaches of San Juan, except I had found a lovely hotel via Trip Adviser further south, in San Fernando, and pitched my stake there. Rommel wasn’t familiar with Sunset Bay Hotel and he warned me that this particular beach did not have the famous surf of San Juan. I reminded him I wasn’t a big fan of oceans except for the views, and that included surfing. Sunset Bay turned out to be another gem, even though I missed the sun setting into The Philippines Sea.
Our trip back down NH26 (hmmm, NH26 – I know what NH stands for but why 26?) was rather uneventful, mostly because we had seen most of what we wanted in the time available on the way north. Still, the human fauna and their habitat remains the most interesting aspect of the country, as it is in most countries and for most travellers; few of us are committed birdwatchers. Maybe it’s the author in me looking for stories in every face, or maybe it’s my unstilled brain responding constantly to environmental cues, but I am an observer. (I’m even a birdwatcher but not so dedicated.) I notice the look on the tricycle drivers’ burnt and stressed faces; the barefoot children with their hands out, contrasted with the schoolgirls in their dress uniforms* (or is it uniform dress?); the fact that those same schoolgirls always seem to be laughing in their groups of 3 or 4, and the one who is walking hand in hand with a boy; the periodic roadblocks as traffic control systems in school zones, and each time you enter a new town or province to check for livestock, or ‘criminality’, often unattended;
the ubiquitous shacks and sheds and stores butted up against the highway, and which eventually will be removed or moved back when they come to widen the highway; the goats with their kids in the fields, the tethered cows; the young moms with babies on their hips; the bronzed slim women tastefully dressed, out for some errand or other, passenger on those tricycles; the jeepneys crowding the streets of the more built up towns, their passengers crammed in the back, even hanging off the end, in tremendous contrast with our safety-obsessed Canada.
(* Did you know that students for every school in the country, public or private, are required to wear standard dress? and the dress is invariably a white blouse for the girls with a long skirt in the school’s distinctive colours, usually plaid, and shirt or teeshirt for the boys with the school’s colours or logo on it. I should have taken a picture for an example.)
I would stop Rommel from time to time to take a picture but I didn’t stop nearly as often as I would have liked – we had a destination to make and a schedule to keep. Damn.
But here is one I had to get, it triggered a thought in me of my recently deceased friend JC Paquin who would have been pleased that I took this picture.
We stopped for lunch in Paoay to note yet another Spanish colonial church and have lunch. It had occurred to me that most of these churches were of the massive bulky style of the Moors, not the elegant and light as air cathedrals of France and England with their flying buttresses and soaring spires.
We arrived in San Fernando around 5:00, total travel time about 8 hours. The road to the Sunset Bay Resort was particularly inauspicious as it bordered a thousand meter long eight foot high cement wall with barbed wire, the other side of which I later learned was the San Fernando Municipal Airport runway. We turned into the equally inauspicious driveway of the resort and I became increasingly nervous. At least they had my email request for an ocean view room, though I was yet to see the sea. But as the porter dragged our bags along a garden path and then past the dining area, there was the beach with sun perched at eye level. Our room turned out to be lovely, a canopied bed, and spaciaous patio. But I missed sundown and only looked up from my computer in time to catch this picture:
A quick walk along the beach, a dip in the tiny pool (shared with a ‘budding’ couple), and a lovely dinner al fresco only meters from the shore. It was a pretty nice day.
And that had to serve me well as we now faced the last run through Manila and home, another eight+ hour leg and stamina test.
Rommel did break up the monotony with a detour to another large shopping plaza in Manila. The goal? to find a TicketWorld outlet so I could purchase tickets to the Philippines Philharmonic Orchestra concert on March 13, at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in Manila. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on offer. We’ll stay at the famous Manila Hotel (home for General Douglas MacArthur for six years until 1941). I think Carmen is more excited about this than our entire Ilocas tour. I’m looking forward to it too.