Traveling wasn’t as big as then as is it now. When we were young, there were no budget carriers, cheap hostels or general easy access to information. Today, it’s as simple as entering your destination on the google search bar and there’s a flood of itineraries at your disposal. If you’re not the planning type, there are a whole lot of service providers who, at a minimal cost, can do the planning for you. The places I’ve been to as an adult were just names I had to memorize to fill that blank map during HEKASI tests. The farthest my lola took me as a child was Samar where she hailed from. We’d ride a ship and spend a day on board or we’ll drive the road to roro highway running the eastern side of the country. When I was a kid, the only travel we get was either to Samar… or Baguio.
Baguio is a special place for my family — all my entire father side of the family. All of the brood would go up and spend about two nights at a time. We little cousins will squeeze our tiny butts in my grandmother’s red hi-ace van — in between the baskets of food and the pots and pans. The van looked like a clown car when we get off to a rented transient house. We kids would busy ourselves with playing, or annoying each other — this was pre-dawn of internet and ipads. Lola and my aunties would spend the entire day in the kitchen. They would cook breakfast, clear up, cook lunch, clear up. There was merienda, then they’d clear up, and then dinner, and clear up. I never really noticed it until Jr, who grew up with hotel vacations, brought it up. The women in our family never leave the kitchen on vacations. They are just in the kitchen — cooking, chatting, getting each other caught up with each other lives. Cooking is not a chore in our family. It’s an exhibition of love. And what great, abundant, heart-filling (and clogging) love it is.
We grew up. I discovered I had itchy feet and piso fares and internet became a thing, so I went far. Far — very far from Baguio. It used to be a summer staple, but in the last 10 years, I may have made the trip there 3 times, a couple of times more just because I was en route to somewhere else. Baguio became a keeper of childhood memories, a dusty box tucked in the back of your closet you only reach for when you’re too happy. Or too sad.
Maybe it’s all the noise. You go out and you’re bombarded with noise. You stay home, alone, fire up the net and the noise gets louder. When I was growing up, Papa would always tell me if he had a choice, he’d just raise birds in the backyard. ‘Magpapalaki na lang ako ng itik‘. I always wondered what that meant. I was young, and see all the possibilities in the world. Why would you opt to live simply, raise ducks and expect that to bring you joy?
Well, I guess lately I find myself getting tired of all the noise — seeking a more quiet, simple life. So to speak, ‘gusto ko na lang magpalaki ng itik‘. Baguio was of simpler times. Here I am, desperately crawling back to simpler times.
Good thing, simpler times is a now little over 3 hour drive away. It’s NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX and then onto Kennon road. You could reminisce about how all your little cousins lined up along the huge Botanical garden wall for a group picture, in the obligatory company of locals in customary garb. You would say things like, “Di naman ganito katraffic dati dito.” or “Andami ng bahay!” or “Punta tayo sa SM na walang aircon.” You now go to Burnham Park to bike and introduce your nieces and nephews to the joy of entertaining yourselves for hours without youtube videos. And then when they grow up, during holidays, no matter how far they will go, they will always be reminded of Baguio — of the good times, of simpler times. Lucky for them, going back is just like a rush hour trip from QC to Makati.
But your own memories will always be those long 8 hour plus drives, where you are cramped in a red hi ace, sleeping with your knee on your chest. Those times when you swore there was a ghost in the transient house you rented in Teachers’ Camp. Those times where Britney Spears will sing her entire album 86 times over, Papa manually flipping the cassette from side A to side B and then switching to Shania Twain on the ride back ‘para makapagpahinga si Britney. Namamaos na.’. Those times when your father had to cross NLEX(!), water bottle in hand, to get water because your Honda was overheating the entire time.
Those memories are your own. Your nieces and nephews can make their own.