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Where else do broken hearts go (aside from Baguio and Sagada)?

This is a guest post from one of your fellow travelers, Jezrel Magpantay. She joined us in our recently concluded Singles Road Trip to Bulalacao, Mindoro. Jez works as an assistant manager for quality assurance for a major quick service restaurant chain, and loves wall climbing, ultimate Frisbee, traveling and nagging globe-trotting friends for postcards. Read on to see her side of the story.

***

On the weekend of overpriced flowers, fully-booked motels, and Fifty Shades of Grey, I entrusted my fate in the hands of 3 travel managers and the company of 18 other dateless individuals to be taken somewhere whose general orientation I could only roughly guess by the name of the bus station we were asked to meet on the evening of February 13. The email said, “7 PM at JAM Liner”, so it’s probably somewhere south of Luzon.

Throughout the journey, I wasn’t worrying so much about where were headed. Instead, I wondered about each participant’s motivation to join this trip: maybe to mend a broken heart, or Tinder failed, or a desperate need for a change in environment, to rejuvenate an ailing social life, or some possibly loved That Thing Called Tadhana so much they wanted to try soul-searching—the burgis way.

Our mystery destination

We arrived at Batangas Port slightly before midnight where Gian, one of the travel managers, conducted a quick briefing. We then took a RORO to Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. The 2-hour modest boat ride became an opportunity for us to know who we are travelling with: there’s a shampoo chemical engineer who can pole dance (!), a triathlete, a visual artist, a salesperson, an aspiring singing superstar, an Italian designer, among others. It was a pleasantly interesting mix. Though still clueless to where we were headed, I was certain the conversations are going to be awesome.

Another land trip and boat ride later, which took approximately 6 more hours, we finally arrive at our destination. It was probably already around 8:00 AM. The Island is Tambaron, and it is part of the town of Bulalacao (which literally means “shooting star” in Filipino). A little bit of research led me to learn that the mainland town is actually already the southernmost tip of Mindoro Island—which explains the long land trip.

Morning in Bulalacao, Off to Tambaron Island!
Morning in Bulalacao, Off to Tambaron Island!

It is neither Apo Reef nor Puerto Galera, yet in its modesty it had a charm. There was the tiny beach with the quiet blue-green waters that gave a feeling of exclusivity for our small group.

Relaxing at Tambaron Island
Relaxing at Tambaron Island

Discovering Bulalacao, and each other

As in all Filipino vacations, first order of business was sharing a good meal together. Afterwards, some went swimming, some went rowing on the tiny boats, while others rested a bit and simply enjoyed the view while making small talk to further get to know each other. Shortly afterwards we began our island hopping. In the boat, the conversations and photo-taking were going on left and right and the laughter has become louder and non-stop. People have begun to build sub-groups as they have gradually discovered who they are most likely to get along with.

Every traveler behaves differently. As we explored the other islands of Bulalacao, we were left to enjoy the places as we wished, save for that one game that Sheena, another one of our travel managers, organized to help us memorize our companions’ names (I sucked at it). There are those who were content taking photos of themselves, the scenery, and themselves with the scenery; those who explored every nook and cranny of each island; and some just chose to bask in the wind and the sound of the waves crashing against the sand. For myself, I initially planned to revive my love for taking photos using a real camera (and not a phone camera), but it was so smart of me to pack a set of new batteries only to forget the camera itself at home. So yes, I resorted to maximizing the use of the senses, and just hope that I’ll be included in group photos. And make moments so memorable that I don’t need photos to recall them.

Island Hopping Which was exactly what I did. In one instance, after some (maybe plenty of) peer pressure, I joined the mini-cliff-jumping bandwagon. Without a flotation device. Seriously. My nose was clogged for a moment after splashing into the water, and had some struggle to tread, but it was still worth it. I’m slightly embarrassed, really. I mean if one would see the cliff (I think it’s in the website), it wasn’t high AT ALL. Maybe I’ll try a jumping from a higher place next time and be more proud of myself.

Kamayan On The Boat
Kamayan On The Boat

We had our second meal of the day on the boat. As one of us said, everything tastes superb when eaten at the beach. And I’d have to agree. Maybe it’s our adrenaline, or the freshness, or the salt, or the open air, or the zero table manners that make the food taste a little better and more enjoyable. And speaking of no table manners, shortly after we got back to the island (at sunset), we were greeted by a delicious boodle dinner of grilled pork, fish and octopus, with sinigang, and loads of rice. It was quickly wiped out thanks to all that energy spent the entire day. It sure has been long, but we were not done. Well, Sheena wasn’t done yet. She made us play a conversation-starter game, where we would go around sharing answers to pre-determined personal questions to the others under time pressure. We had to share a previous personal experience, or a travel memory, or our ideal vacation. Initially, people were quickly closing the conversation. But towards the end, some were going overtime as the sharing became more candid and comfortable. I think the exercise was pretty clever, because it showed that no matter how different our backgrounds are, it was obvious that we were all in the same adventure not only to take in a lot of memories, but to share a little bit of ourselves to those we haven’t met before. All we needed was a little prodding.

Ten Questions

That… and maybe some alcohol. It was a Saturday night after all. I don’t know for sure how it happened, but the group just naturally split into two. One shared drinks over love and life conversations, while the other took shots over a juvenile/nerdy drinking game of “lasing bobo” (Highlights: “Cream Silk is conditioner, not shampoo!”, “Spice Girls is not a boyband!”, “Pine tree—uh no—a pineapple tree!”). People cope differently, so let the universe be the judge on which group is more miserable in real life. LOL. I was with the latter group and, modesty aside, a force to be reckoned with. I guess I retained a lot of useless pop-culture reference and useless information throughout my childhood. I think the rest of the guys hated me. At least I had the privilege of being sober enough to witness how people gradually got too happy, mildly put. Meanwhile, the serious group appeared to be giving each other love advice or maybe having a healthy debate on dealing with complicated relationships. I guess someone else has to fill me in here.

Self-appreciation Sunday

The following morning came, and naturally, the first topic over another hearty breakfast is who said and did what the night before. I think a budding romance even flourished (or so I was told :P). In the spirit of the trip’s mission of self-discovery, in between the morning chit-chat, we were asked to think of one adjective that would best describe ourselves, write it in a whiteboard and hold it in front of an instamatic camera for a quick souvenir photo. The descriptions ranged from the introspective (I’m worth it—two words!) to the humorous (I’m bacon), to the messianic (I’m Batman–o siya, bahala ka na ha?).

Affirmations

I chose to be one of the last to be photographed to buy more time, because I wanted my description to reflect why I took this trip and how I want to become after it (No pressure to the organizers—I don’t expect them to change my life. I just have issues.).

I finally settled with “I’m driven”. If I may take this on a more personal level, before a friend of mine recommended that I join this random road trip, I had a really tough year at work and in my social life. Travel has always been a hobby and a perhaps even a form of therapy. But over the years, I and my default kaladkarins have taken on different paths and it isn’t as easy to make travel plans anymore. I could travel alone, but there was not just any motivation for me to spend time on the nitty-gritty. It was a vicious cycle of not being able to take a break, therefore being unmotivated to work because there wasn’t something else to look forward to. Shoot me now, that sounded burgis. But seriously, when I found out that the trip was to an undisclosed destination and that it was only for the weekend with people I don’t know, I thought it was the perfect jumpstart to keep me driven in my day-to-day life until the next adventure. It was perfect because it was random, and all I have to do is to be excited and take in whatever is going to be thrown at us. I mean, shouldn’t life be really that? Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the right attitude.

“Sepanx”

We were set to leave Tambaron at 10:00 AM. After several group photos, we took a boat back to the mainland. Our journey back home was quite an adventure too with the top-loaded tricycle that almost backflipped, the 3-hour bus ride from hell where I almost threw up, and that photo-finish RORO ferry boarding where I especially almost did not make it because I think I dropped my terminal fee ticket (ooooh, a revelation…)! Thank goodness the terminal guy was in a merciful mood.

Sepanx

The boat ride to Calapan was just in time for sunset and I think it made us a bit sentimental. People started to develop some separation anxiety: exchanging numbers and Facebook accounts, taking group photos, and asking for work and home addresses. To formally cap our trip, we played two more games: a charades relay (Darth Vader—how do you act that!?) that frustrated the hell out of us, and finally, guess-the-name-based-on-the-face-contours-while-blindfolded (I just totally made the name up) just to double check if we still knew who we were travelling with.

I think I can speak for the entire group that it was a great experience, particularly for us first-timers. I’m not sure if I will say though that I want to do the exact same thing next year because that means we would all be still single by then! But I am certain that the goals of the trip have been met, because as of this writing, some of us have met several times for pocket night outs. Definitely sooner or later, I would want to want to take on another random road trip with an equally enthusiastic group of people with the same spontaneous spirit.

Last Day on Tambaron Island
Last Day on Tambaron Island

So now, Bulalacao is no longer just a shooting star to us that is—quite frankly—difficult to catch these days, but also a gem of a small town that already found a special place in our hearts.

A big thank you to Darlyn, Ciala, Jezrel, Kaye, Alvin, Gzon, Rogie, Mau, Gin, Joy, JCo, Ela, Ian, Jennifer, Diane, Debby, Ricca,  Genesis, and Sebastiano for joining us on our trip!

Photos by Experience Philippines, Sheena, Ian, and Gzon.

~~~

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About the author

A food technologist who works as an assistant manager for quality assurance for a major quick service restaurant chain. Wall climbing and ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. Loves traveling and nagging globe-trotting friends for postcards.
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