Leaps of Faiths for Random People
This is a guest post from one of your fellow travelers, Mico Bule. He joined us in our recently concluded Singles Road Trip #2 to Mercedes, Camarines Norte. Mico works as Technical Specialist in Cynder.
He believes being single isn’t a curse, rather a gift that only certain people can appreciate. It does not mean being lonely for long periods of time or even eternity, but an opportunity for an individual to fill the gap of loneliness with either another individual to be intimate or a group of individuals that shares the same gap of loneliness. It may also mean that an individual is matured enough to know that he’s still not ready to commit into a relationship AND that he’s matured enough to know that committing into one also bears the risk of hurting his partner and possibly other people. Lastly, being single is the best way to explore not just the world but your life, your limitations, your dreams, your talents, your goals with all the freedom in the world, without restrictions at all.
Read on to see his side of the story.
“Define a similarity between randomness and you’ll see that they’re not random after all.”
Last June 5 – 7, 2015, I joined an event titled Singles Road Trip, organized by a travel group called Experience Philippines, spearheaded by none other than the founder of the group itself, Mr. Gian Gallegos. The trip was originally designed to be a matchmaking event for single people, with a twist of it being a travel adventure. However, due to the random nature of the trip itself and the lucky participants who joined, it ended up like the best “barkada” trip that I’ve had up to date.
The following is a detailed summary of what happened during the 2-day event, based on the perspective of the writer.
Here goes nothing…
Being an early bird, I arrived at the meeting place even before the organizers got there. At that moment, I was still hesitant about everything, but I tried to calm myself down and repeatedly told my mind that everything will be just fine. As the organizers and participants started to arrive, I became more hesitant because I’m now sitting in a room full of random people from random walks of life with obviously random personalities. The usual me started to quietly observe, initially trying to figure out several set of scenarios before, during, and after the trip itself. A few hours passed, and we’re about to depart Manila, after a few minutes of talking with my seatmate, I just told myself the usual “here goes nothing” line and lulled myself to sleep for the long ride.
Our Mystery Destination Revealed
We arrived in Daet on the cold morning of Saturday, June 6, at around 5AM. We met with our local tour guide, Mr. Arvin Aragon, who led us to the city proper where we had our breakfast, and fortunately the first few connecting conversations with several other participants. After that, we headed straight to Mercedes, Camarines Norte, still having no idea what’s waiting there for us.
After an hour and a half of bumpy roads, province aroma, and the cold morning sun, we arrived at Colasi, apparently hometown of our local tour guide, Kuya Arvin. We immediately settled at a nearby church, and were told to change into the “outfit of the day”: something comfortable to trek and get wet with. We were then briefed that we’re going to traverse the mountains to get to Colasi Falls. The trek started out as a winding path filled with stones, going up the mountain. A few water streams and cliff edges later, we reached the most dangerous part; the steep climb to the main stream before the actual falls itself. We had to climb down man-made wooden ladders without any safety devices except the provided helmet, of which when we fall down would probably do nothing but protect our heads from being bashed on the big rocks below. Reaching the bottom is hard enough, but strategic walking on big, slippery, unstable, and sometimes sharp, rocks along the stream just to get to the falls is harder. However, once we reached the end of the trail, we were greeted with stunningly majestic waters of the Colasi falls. The feeling after the tiresome trek was so rewarding that everyone immediately jumped and bathed in the cold and clean waters, while our local tour guide, along with other community members, prepared our scrumptious lunch. With the rare event of seeing blue-colored rice, the feast was composed of ginataang manok (chicken cooked in coconut milk), ginataang langka (young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk), sauteed squid (with overflowing black ink), and one of their local dishes, the tinuktok (also known as pinangat) which is made of ground shrimp or crab wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in coconut milk. The province is abundant with coconut, so don’t be surprised why almost everything is cooked in or with coconut milk.
After lunch, and a few attempts of reaching the falls itself via the bamboo raft, we trekked back to the streams, up the steep climb, and down the mountains. We arrived at the church, only to be greeted by Kuya Arvin’s family by an overlooking view of the San Miguel Bay, with our merienda composed of kamote-cue (sugar-coated deep-fried sweet potato) covered in sesame seeds, steamed sweet taro, and loads of coconut juice inside freshly picked coconuts. At this moment, the sensation of body pain, fatigue, lack of proper sleep, the carb-filled merienda, the freshness of the buko juice, the strong breeze of the sea, the early sunset, and the bonds of friendship slowly forming among the participants, are all coming together in a harmonious fashion inside my mind. My doubts for this trip was slowly fading away as I realize how fast things can change between random people in a random adventure in just a couple of hours.
After the merienda, thinking we were all just gonna take a rest and chill for the rest of the night inside the church, our local guide told us that we need to pack our bags because we’re gonna be traveling to another destination for another hour and a half. I can feel everyone’s exhaustion as they boarded our jeepney transport, and even in uncomfortable positions, they managed to sleep along the ride.
We arrived at a beach front (I don’t know the name of the location, and Google Maps doesn’t show it either), and we were told that we’re going to an island where we’ll have dinner, and finally take a shower after a day of grime and sweat. The next thing we knew, we were on our way to Apuao Grande island on three separate boats, with another local guide, Kuya Mike. After settling in the house provided for us at the island, I and Tom, one of the organizers, went to look for water source for everyone to take a shower. To our surprise (and dismay), the only reliable water source is a water pump located at a residence about a few hundred meters away from the house. Acting only on instinct, also with Kuya Arvin’s boy scout skills providing us with instant soap and shampoo, me and Tom already took our “shower” beside the pump. Others followed suit, including brave girls, because they all wanted to be refreshed before everything else. When everyone else had freshen up, we all went to the nearby hut for dinner, which was also prepared by the local community in the island. The menu was composed of kaldereta (tomato-sauce-based dish of beef or pork, with cubed potatoes, carrots, and green peas), liempo (roasted pork chops), and fried fish.
Off Dinners, Talongs, Oranges and New Discoveries
Dinner was over, and everyone was full, when Cielo, also one of the organizers, and apparently our travel manager, announced that we will have games for the night to kick off the drinking session. The whole group was divided into two teams, which I will just name based on their chosen “hugot” movie: Team One More Chance & Team That Thing Called Tadhana. The first game was the undying “Trip to Jerusalem”, the NSFW version where the guys hold eggplants in front of their legs and the girls circle around them and must grab an eggplant when the music stops. The second one was also an undying game, the “Relay”, with the version where the members must pass an orange fruit by using their necks (use your imagination on how that happens). The last, and tie-breaker game is the Funny Bones (thanks Cielo for the input lol), the can-be-NSFW version where a boy partners with a girl and the game-master tells who-would-touch-what-of-the-other-with-what (ex. the boy would touch the hair of the girl with his right hand). Team One More Chance won the Trip to Jerusalem (someone from that team is an expert of grabbing eggplants from the market) and Team TTCT won overall by winning the Relay and Funny Bones. After that, we then proceeded with the drinking session.
The shots started to rotate the group as we started to settle in the hut and played “Lasing Bobo”, where someone in the group would just give a category and everyone else must state something under that category and that it cannot be repeated. If a player repeat what someone already said, or if he fails to say something valid within a certain amount of time, he takes down a shot of alcohol and then proceeds to give a new category for the group to play with. As the night, game, and alcohol goes on, the categories went from simple fruits and vegetables, to hard-to-remember characters of old 90’s shows, to batshit crazy such as categories of horror movies.
When we’re done with “Lasing Bobo”, they then started another undying game of “Spin the Bottle”. That’s when it started getting crazier. As expected, and simply because everyone else is considered single at the moment, the truths and dares were mostly related to matchmaking members of the group. Of course, there would always be favorites, and so when the game ended, matches (sort of lol) were actually made between participants.
Life Isn’t Always Fair
Of course, the drinking session wouldn’t be complete without sharing stories of how and why each of us ended in that trip. I shared mine as the one who woke up one day browsing Facebook and technically saw a suggested post about a random road trip for single people, and eventually joined it to meet new friends and for the experience. Most of them joined because they’re trying to move on from something, and of course to meet new friends and for experience too. Some from break-ups, a few from misguided relationships, and a few more from failed attempts of finding or getting the “one”. From those moments on, I knew that it was not coincidence that we were all on that trip together. That we were there because we all are trying to escape from the bitter reality that life isn’t always fair. And from those moments on, I knew that everyone else in the group doesn’t really care who’s who and which is which, but all they cared about is that they found a group of people that knows how they feel deep down inside when all the lights seem to fade out.
When the last drop of alcohol was drank (some even wanted more) and the last of the sad stories have been told, most of us resigned to sleep because it’s late. Some of us, including me, however, still managed to stay up long enough for one of the island caretakers to notice and took out two large mats by the sea shore for us to lay down on. Sleeping in the sound of gentle waves by the sand under the starry skies was probably one of the best way to cap off the night. Just don’t forget to apply mosquito/insect repellent if you don’t want to be served as midnight snacks to the little creatures.
Waking Up With New Friends
Waking up and having coffee by the sea is even better when you’re with your friends (I don’t consider them participants and organizers anymore at this point), having breakfast to the tune of 90’s boybands like N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. After breakfast, we then packed our bags and walked our way to the nearby bat sanctuary to observe them, well, flying. On our way back to the shore, one of our participants was stung by a jellyfish, so all of us immediately had paranoia of dipping in the water.
We then rode the boats again and made our way to another island, Caringo, where the local community served us binutong (glutinous rice with coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves) and coconut juice for snacks before lunch. While some of us went snorkeling, some remained, including me, to chill out (we drank down a bottle of beer for fun). The local community then prepared a boodle-fight for our lunch, composed of roasted tomato-stuffed squid (what can I say, we’re near the sea so it’s all seafood all throughout), roasted chicken, laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, topped with chili), tinolang manok (chicken cooked in ginger with chili leaves and unripe papaya), ginataang suso (seashells cooked in coconut milk). It was a feast fit for kings and queens that even the desserts prepared looked amazing. Watermelons sliced, cubed, and served inside the watermelon fruit itself that looked like a basket, pineapples sliced, and served in the fruit carved as boats, and lastly the exotic jelly made out of seaweed, which they did a demo on how it was made.
After Caringo, we then set sail for Canimog island, where we’re supposed to see an old lighthouse. However, it was low-tide that afternoon that the rocks and corals were too shallow for our boat to dock, and only a few of us went up the island, our group then decided to just wait them out at the sea while some of us jumped off the boat to see the underwater view around the island. I just chilled out on the side of the boat while thinking of going back to the office the next day. A few minutes later, when the group who went up the lighthouse was about to return, our group was startled when one of the boatmen jumped up on one of the boats and started yelling “salabay”, which means jellyfish in their native language. Everyone in the sea immediately went up on board as the kid literally picked the big, white jellyfish by his hand and threw it far into the sea.
When everyone was already back in their respective boats, we then headed to Mercedes fish port in the mainland in preparation for our dinner and our departure back to Manila. Upon reaching the port, everyone else is pretty much exhausted, and again feeling sweaty and sticky, so we all went to a resort to freshen up and tidy our things for our departure to Manila. However, because we all took different tricycles to the resort, one particular tricycle got lost, and one of the passengers is our travel manager, Ms. Maria Del Cielo Gamboa (who is also supposed to pay for the trike fare lol). We all got worried that I and Kuya Arvin even went back to find them. They eventually found their way to the resort, and explained that there was a miscommunication about the name of the resort. After I finished my turn in the shower, Kuya Arvin arrived and announced that he will be taking orders if anyone is interested for pasalubong or souvenirs. I and two other participants volunteered to go with him, while the rest of them gave their orders.
The whole trip, I was talking to Kuya Arvin, our local guide, about his life as a tour guide, his rates, and all sorts of stuff about Camarines Norte. When we’re in the jeep going to Daet to buy the pasalubong, I was talking to him and asking him how much does he earn for guiding visitors like us. Apparently, I learned that for a whole day’s trip, regardless of wherever he guides the visitors, he would only earn P500. So for his services to us for two full days, he will only earn P1000. I was so surprised and immediately felt the urge that I needed to do something, because Kuya Arvin is probably the best tour guide I’ve ever known. He’s kind, joyful, and he even cracks jokes for the group. When we got back to the resort, I immediately approached Cielo about my concern, and she redirected me to Tom for that matter. Tom then told me that they already planned to tell us about collecting money from the participants voluntarily to raise a decent amount to give to Kuya Arvin as a “tip” for a job well done, and offered me the chance to talk it out with the group. So while they distracted Kuya Arvin downstairs while we were in the restaurant for dinner, I opened the situation to the group (I honestly almost cried), to which they gave a positive reaction of their willingness to contribute for Kuya Arvin’s extra tip. We almost got caught when Kuya Arvin suddenly went upstairs while I was collecting money, so we had to quickly cover it up as me collecting money for gambling (whatever it is that we’re gambling on).
Goodbyes, Thank You’s and “Sepanx”
Before dinner started, the organizers, Gian, Tom, and Cielo gave a formal closing to the event by giving us ExperiencePH tags and sticker quotes as tokens for the event. They thanked us for joining this wonderful and awesome roadtrip, and for the friendships that were formed during the event. After dinner, we celebrated (for the last time) the birthday of one of the participants, Mr. Iris Orizar, who turned 27 (and we made him drink alcohol at least once more) on that Saturday. I then announced Kuya Arvin’s extra tip, which he graciously accepted. We then headed downstairs where the bus bound for Manila was waiting for us.
There wasn’t much to talk about our journey back to Manila, except the fact that it was pretty noisy at start compared to our journey to Daet when this trip started, plus the fact that Cielo almost went back to Daet because she almost rode the wrong bus at the bus stop, and the fact that the bus ride back to Manila was much crazier in terms of speed and recklessness compared to the ride to Daet. When we got back to Manila, I can feel a bit of temporary sadness with everyone as we part ways to go home (and probably return back to our normal lives), only to be surprised that they’re already connected via social media.
Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg, for without you I wouldn’t have found out about this event, and we woudn’t be chatting noisily right now while I’m writing this. 🙂
My Final Thoughts
Overall, the trip was worth so much more than what we’ve paid and expected for. In my own play of words, it may be true that money can’t literally buy happiness, but it can certainly provide good experience and happy memories worth keeping.
Yes, everyone can technically travel anywhere, anytime, with anyone, given the right provisions.
However, it’s not everyday you’re given an opportunity to do a leap of faith, explore some place far away and unknown, trust people you barely even know, and form bonds of friendship that might last a lifetime.
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Hope to see you on our next Singles Road Trip! Come and let’s travel differently!