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Summer, so far: #LaBorawan

It was a bright, beautiful weekend that met my high school friends and I when our much-awaited summer getaway finally, FINALLY pushed through. Almost everything about the trip was uncertain until the day before; the only thing we were sure of was that we blocked the entire weekend for a trip with our plus-ones, but initial plans kept falling through until the last minute. We couldn't let the opportunity pass, though -- we were available, we were going with our plus-ones, we already had transpo. It had to take eleventh-hour decisions for the entire trip to come to fruition. But as it always happens when it comes to our group, things always turn out great in the end.

And great doesn't even begin to describe it.

We stayed at a cottage in Padre Burgos, Quezon, from where we were to take boat trips to three different islands around the area: Borawan, Dampalitan, and Puting Buhangin. The place is relatively unknown to regular folk, but research (aka Google) will yield you several articles and blog posts about this "must-visit" place. I was actually the one who suggested the place when we first started talking about our summer plans a few months ago, since my family and I went to Quezon over the Holy Week. My friends had other plans and resorts in mind, initially, but when we realized most famous destinations were already full, we had to look for something else both cheap yet still remarkable.

It was a 5-hour trip from Paranaque to Padre Burgos. But you know how when you're with your best friends, five hours never feels like an eternity? It felt like being on the bus again for a high school field trip, only this time we have other people as partners :)) It was our first time to go out-of-town with the Boyband (aka, our plus-ones) so you can understand why everyone was extra excited about the trip. It's nice that we can act normal and behave like 15-year-old convent girls again even in front of the boys.

Ludwin and I stayed awake for the entire ride because we had to navigate and help out our driver. (Thanks, Google Maps!) Padre Burgos is on the edge of Quezon, so it's a bit difficult and tricky to get there. You can understand why not a lot of people visit the place because it's a bit far, and the bypass roads going there are still under construction. We passed by Sariaya, Lucena, and Pagbilao before reaching the town of Padre Burgos.

The great thing about the accommodation Trixie was able to arrange for us is that it included everything we needed for the weekend: (1) a cottage that had four rooms (great for all 14 of us, including our driver) which was by the sea, but not by the beach, (2) the boat rental to go to the three islands around the area, i.e. the relatively-more-known Borawan, Puting Buhangin, and Dampalitan, and (3) three meals: Saturday lunch and dinner plus Sunday breakfast. It was definitely sulit. (Shout-out to our contact, Ate Irma.)

When we arrived we had a feast of liempo and sinigang na isda (I forget which fish though). Originally, the plan was to spend the entire afternoon at the farthest island then spend the next morning at the nearer islands. However, because we arrived way past lunch, we just decided to spend the entire afternoon in the "middle" island and wake up early the next day for the other beaches.

Posing before riding the bangka going to the islands. This was in front of our house!

The boat ride to Borawan Island took us around 15-20 minutes. We passed by several smaller islands before reaching the place. The beach was named such because of its white sand and pristine blue seas, similar to both Boracay and Palawan. (YES, true story, haven't you figured it out yet?) Lots of tents and huts were pitched along the shore because it wasn't a big island - it can't accommodate buildings and hotels. Some people opt to stay overnight and rent tents (which we were originally supposed to do) but when we saw the gray clouds hovering above us soon after we left Padre Burgos for Borawan, we realized it was a good thing we decided to look for a house instead.

On the boat ride to Borawan Island

Taking advantage of Mikka and Jumar's monopod, mehehe

One thing I always hear and read about Borawan is that its waters are filled with jellyfish. You really can't go beyond the net they've pitched around a certain area, unless you want to do an Anne Curtis. As such, we spent more time taking pictures instead of actually swimming. :))

Another nice surprise about this trip is that we had Anizza come with us! Anizza is a friend from grade school and high school who left for the States after our first year. It's been nine years since we last saw her, but I swear it felt like nothing has changed! She just graduated college and is about to enter med school when she goes back to Florida, so it will be a long, looong while before we will see her again. It was definitely great timing that she was able to join us, even on short notice.

The love teams, plus our balikbayan, Anizza in the middle

You may have already noticed that almost all of us were paired up by "love team" :)) TABING ILOG / TGIS style! Grabe, pang-90's Saturday afternoon teenage show! Summer out-of-town episode!

As I've mentioned before, this is definitely a new "era" for our barkada. We've never had this many plus-ones all at the same time! As my mom would joke, "Mga dalaga na din kayo!" Haha! Which explains why we're always so thrilled to be planning stuff that include the Boyband.

It's funny because we were such good girls back in high school - most of us were honor students, student officers, and varsity athletes. We didn't really go outside our comfort zones to explore "grown-up" stuff like drinking and smoking. And even in college, we rarely did as well. I can count the number of times we went out to drink in college. We don't even go to malls to hang out, unless we're eating at a restaurant. WE ARE SO LAME :))

But that's the thing. We're content with just hanging out and making daldal at each other's houses. We have sleepovers and movie marathons. We get along so well with each other that we can entertain ourselves for hours (and hours and hours) on end by just talking and laughing at each other. It's been decades of being just us, so to have these new guys join the "fray" and actually gel really well with us -- that's quite a feat! Imagine, they can last hours with us without alcohol! That's pretty impressive! Haha!

"Tabing Dagat" :))

It's great that our boys get along with us and with each other pretty well, that it makes sense to bring them along to all our recent dinners and lakad. I've come to realize that it's important to get to know the people who love the people you love as well - because it's nice to see your friends being adored and cared for in a completely different light. And also, it's a way to show these boys how to treat us with the same level of love and respect that we give each other, if not more. Hello, we've been friends since our "Teacher, may I go to the CR?" days! Dapat lang they treat us like the queens that we are! :)

Thus leading me to my next point: I love these girls so, so much, that I really value their opinion on the people I date. And likewise, I'm glad they seek my thoughts too when it comes to their boys (or rather, men!) Which is why when people hurt the people I love, I get really disappointed - not because I'm a sucker for happy endings and rainbows and butterflies, but because I'm sad that there are people who fail to value the relationships they make with the girls I treat as my sisters. In the last year, we really went out of our way to get to know each other's boyfriends and bring them all together - which is something we've haven't done since ever. It was a big deal for all of us; it was like meeting the parents. To have gained our approval means we have trusted you with our friend. So to let her down meant letting all of us down too.

(Yeah, I'm talking about one person. It's unfortunate that he made a poor choice, and it was our friend who had to take the hit. Too bad, ayan tuloy, he wasn't able to join this trip! Haha. The Boyband can survive without him, thankyouverymuch. And so can our friend :P #endrant)

Obligatory cheesy couple pics. Competitive love team kami eh!

So, back to Borawan.

Since we couldn't let Anizza be the default photographer, since she's the balikbayan and had to be in most of the pictures, Hope was "bullied" into the role. She can't blame us, she brought with her an SLR! And she was the one who liked taking selfies.

You can measure how much we've missed each other by the amount of hirits we can make about Hope. :)) That's how much we love our girl. Look at her on top of a big-ass rock just to take a complete picture of all of us!

"Tara, iwan na natin si Hope!"

After a few hours (!) of walking around taking pictures, at around sunset, we decided to go back to our cottage. The rain started pouring on our boat ride back to Padre Burgos. It was a good call to go back early as we didn't want to be stuck out there on sea with the waves getting all high and dangerous.

Our trip was really koboy, in almost every sense of the word. For instance, in Padre Burgos there is currently an interruption on their water supply. They've not had a decent supply of water on their lines for two months now. So.. not a single drip in our comfort room. We had to make do with the very, very weak water stream from the faucet we found outside our house. Buhos and ipon ng tubig sa batya! It was fun, though. Na-skandalo ata yung mga pabo and manok na nakatambay sa labas ng bahay sa dami naming naligo. :))

The boat ride back from Borawan. 

Dinner was a generous serving of adobong manok and inihaw na tilapia. We had fun talking about each other's love stories - which is really cheesy and corny if you think about it. But in our defense, Anizza asked. After all it's the first time she's seeing all these couples, so she had every right to inquire :)) Then again, we realized we don't really know the exact stories behind each pair; it was fun having great laughs over everyone's silly beginnings.

Much to our surprise we all had "similar" first phases. It's cute hearing the boys tell the stories! Grabe, it really felt like an episode straight out of a baduy youth-oriented program! Medyo nababaduyan talaga ako while typing this. HAHAHA. But all in good fun and the spirit of camaraderie, I suppose. Game naman lahat eh. Maybe that's part of growing up too -- accepting that life is short, love is beautiful, why hide it? Baka nga #LoveAbangs talaga. (Ramon Bautista, preeeach!)


After the cheese-fest that was revisiting our histories, we negated the mushiness by playing a serious, and very manly tournament of: CARD GAMES. Lol! This was the continuation of our Bet On Your "Baby" play-offs we had last Christmas. (Ludwin and I are still the defending champs! Oh yeah! ...Ludwin and I are also the only ones who still care. Mehehe.) Pusoy, Pusoy Dos, and Bullshit (aka Bluff) became so intense because we did it by team, with the boys playing and the girls... cracking jokes and making unrelated side comments. We kept saying how worried we were that the boys might find us super lame and un-cool because we didn't have any other "fun" activities :)) But if there's anything we're good at, it's our talent of building up on each other's jokes. Sobrang witty lang eh. If we can't impress them with booze, we can at least make sure they know we're smart. It takes brilliance to be funny! :))

The group all went to bed before midnight because we wanted to start island-hopping early the next morning. We wanted to stay longer at the other islands, and since we were informed that the trip would take us about forty to an hour each, we had to make good use of our time.

The beautiful Puting Buhangin beach 

There are very few words that can suffice to depict the beauty that welcomed us as we reached the shores of Puting Buhangin. It took us about forty-five minutes to reach the island from our cottage, but it was so, so worth it. The sand was pristine white and the sea, a clear, gleaming blue. The beach looked like a stripped-down, younger cousin of Boracay. It wasn't too crowded when we arrived; we managed to find a hut big enough to accommodate us for our meal. Brunch consisted of daing, corned beef, and egg. It's the best breakfast I've had in a long while - and yes, it had everything to do with the place I was at and the people I was with.

Puting Buhangin is a little off the coast of Pagbilao. On our boat ride we passed by Pagbilao power plant, (a place my dad has gone to countless times, thanks to his job) and several other mini-islands along the way. Another scenic spot on the island of Puting Buhangin is a partly-hidden cave, the Kwebang Lampas. It's a cave that goes through the other side of the island, from where you'll see the rest of the calming, exquisite view of Tayabas Bay.

Exquisite is an understatement to describe that view, I'm telling you.

I'll go as far as saying that's Puting Buhangin is so much more scenic than Boracay. (And of course, Borawan, which is a bit more overrated compared to the other islands surrounding it.)  Because the crowd is so small and the island is without establishments, the place offers a more remarkable experience. It's peaceful and quiet; stripped bare of telcomm signals, celebrities, and party sounds.  It's a view that literally makes you pause and say, "Wow." It's beautiful in its simplicity.

In true Karla fashion, I savored every Little Mermaid moment I had on the beach. Little-known fact: I find serenity in swimming. It's the only sport I *know* and it's also the only sport I really find great comfort in. Being in the water is refreshing for me in so many ways; it's like hitting a recharge button and letting the waves carry away unnecessary baggage. I love being out there at sea, but I love being on a pool just the same. As long as I'm in the water, I should be fine. Which is why I don't mind the heat of the sun as long as the sea is as clear and as spectacular as this.

By the shore of the gorgeous Puting Buhangin
Kye, Tom, Joa, Tixie, Kassey, Armand, Hope, Anizza, Ludwin, Karla, Mikka, and Jumar

Being there, so far away from home, it made me appreciate many things, small things and big things, most of which go unnoticed. Sure, there are things to feel worried about. But I have friends, family, people who love me; I have the luxury of being surrounded by the warmth and support of people who know my worth. What is there to complain about? :)

I find great solace in the fact that our group has managed to nurture our friendship after many, many years. As I've said before, we've been through so much: individually and as a group. But there's still so much growing up to do. At 22, what do we know, right? Life has changed in many ways for all of us, but I'm sure it's only the beginning of a lot more. I guess I'm waxing poetic about all this because as my third year in law school approaches, I realize how much work I still have to do as regards my my career. I'm still adjusting to a lot of things, despite being settled and comfortable in other parts of my life. Sometimes, I wish I could just go back to my checkered-black-and-white-skirt-wearing and Paulinian-Hymn-singing past. But then again, I wouldn't trade this level of friendship right now for anything. We've become this close because of the kind of people we've become after high school. We've grown up together.

But being with them also affirms the fact that there are certain parts of myself I shouldn't let go. There are parts of me that are okay, that are loved, that ought to not change ever - wherever life leads me. These are people who have stuck with me since we were doe-eyed graders learning to write cursive for the first time. We all learned Algebra and dissected frogs together. And now we're being good girlfriends together! We've loved so many versions of each other - I'm sure there's always room to love all the future versions as well.

Even this version of me that's such a cheesy girlfriend. :)) It was great having Ludwin with me for this trip. Travel has always been on top of our list of to-do's, and to have had this chance was definitely one for the books. It's always nice experiencing new things with him, because he's always game for anything but he never forgets his responsibilities. He embraces spontaneity, but he makes sure he's still also a step ahead. And he's so, so funny! I've never known a guy who cracks me up the same way he does. We're super weird together -- like, sniffing-each-other's-kilikili-when-there's-a-chance weird -- but we found out that we're weirder when we're out of Manila, apparently. Arguing-about-whose-mouthwash-is-better, deciding-who-puts-on-sunblock-better weird! And at the end of the day, isn't that what we all want? Someone to argue about mouthwash with? :))

Last stop: Dampalitan Island

Our group didn't want to leave Puting Buhangin (ever), but after a few hours, we had to take the boat ride to the other side of Padre Burgos, for Dampalitan Island. The trip back took about forty-five minutes, I believe. I forgot how long exactly though, because I think we all fell asleep!

But that didn't mean we had no energy left for pictures. Dampalitan was pretty much the same as Borawan: it had jellyfish in its waters too, which meant only a certain portion was safe for swimming. But the beach itself was beautiful too, and it was almost empty. We were probably the only large group there. We didn't swim anymore however, since it was already almost two o'clock in the afternoon, and we wanted to get back to Manila early. We took the obligatory couple selfies, complete group pics (thanks to our driver, Kuya Arnold), and kunwari-nageemote-sa-dalampasigan poses before finally heading back to Padre Burgos.

"Last-minute plans are always the best," --  that should probably be our barkada's motto by now. We came home wanting to plan ahead already because we had so. much. fun. But knowing us, even if we plan three years ahead, we'd still end up finalizing everything just the night before :))

I really hope we get to do this again real soon. And complete this time! (Hi Tin, Nica, and Inna.) I don't know how that's going to work out next year, since my "summer" will be on June and July. But we'll figure it out. We always do.

If there's anything this friendship (and this trip) has taught me, it's probably trust - in the universe, in your friends, in your friends' ability to Google last-ditch resorts available. And to trust that while there are things we can never be sure of, there are also things that will always stay the same.

Like friends, and great adventures, and the idea of Hope being our favorite comic. :))


(Photo credits: Hope Velasco and Mikka Valenzuela)

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