Amidst the constant rattle of the Bingo shaker, Good Friday (1999) at Gabby & Lita’s recluse in Sariaya, Quezon has shown all signs of being a perfect summer afternoon – only better.

Just 2 days before, the venue has welcomed all its Holy Week escapists, seeking refuge from the city and the responsibilities that go with it, with constant drizzle and heavy rains in the evening – showing little hope of a perfect long-weekend ahead.

Even the traffic was uncooperative, being a mere 126 kilometers (78 miles) from Manila, or 2-1/2 hours under ideal conditions (an extremely rare condition which to this day has only been proven to exist in top secret particle accelerator labs hidden miles underneath the north pole).

The last half-hour of this trip is made up of unpaved, country road which sneers & scoffs at your vehicles’ suspension with a wicked gleam in its eyes. Except that it also picked this particular time to piss in its pants and decided to make this arduous segment of the trip even more ardous – by laying a blanket of muddy, running water along its path, sending splashes of this muck careening through the air and over your car soon as you ran over the invisible holes. Not that they were invisible, you just didn’t know they were there.

Of course my RAV4 just sneered & scoffed back at all this, making my version of the trip look more like an episode from one of ESPN’s off-road specials.

Even CNN’s satellite weather map showed the Philippines’ grim outline behind some nasty, swirly shapes looking like a huge JPEG artifact twice its size.

Undaunted, the 5-vehicle, more-than-30 party convoy pushed on. 4-1/2 hours later, we arrived at our destination with less than fervent hopes of ever seeing even a glimpse of sunshine to burn our skin with.

4-1/2 hours, amidst cheating our way through the unpaved service road lining this 2-lane highway – makes one wonder who came up with the idea of calling this a highway in the first place. That’s 2 lanes – one going each way.

And this cheating is pinoy-style driving in Pinas – getting away with everything you can get away with: driving through the opposite lane’s service road included.

Obviously we all made it in one piece. And obviously the weather turned from bad to picture-perfect. Although not so obvious was the fact that this particular entourage even brought along a refrigerator, a TV set, and a Sony Playstation – mainly because I haven’t mentioned it yet.

A small tent city sprouted shortly after our dark & wet arrival. The tents themselves turned out dark & wet as well as the rain poured on that night.

Wednesday greeted its constituents with something totally unexpected – sunshine! After heavy rains the night before, everyone took to the water with renewed spirits – amidst the constant fear that all this might be just a shortlived promise.

Apparently it was not, so far at least. Lunch was a dieter’s nightmare: a whole lechon roasted right by the lunch table – with its fat dripping off its crisp, red skin as it eagerly awaits ingestion.

A huge group even hired a banca in the afternoon to cruise the uncharted waters for some fishing and basically just splashing around. Good thing there was that splashing around, as not much could be said about the fishing bit.

All the fish we caught would be considered illegal in more civilized countries – but then again, the dynamite fishermen within earshot of our location would make us candidates for sainthood as we fed more fish than we actually caught. The bait box was even heavier than the catch box.

Having survived Thursday with renewed spirits, Friday turned out even better, or worse – depending on whether you’re a sun worshipper or not. Friday was as hot as the hottest day you know, only hotter. It’s when you get sunburn on top of your sunburn…

Noon saw the first batch of home-goers take their last dip in the ocean. Mostly the younger generation, I’m stuck in the middle you see… 😉

At about 2pm, the average age of the entire group rose sharply. And this brings us back to the game of Bingo we started out with, which is still ongoing and hasn’t showed any signs of ending even as I end this story several hours since.

Then it rained, but later that evening – just before dinner, so it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it even cooled our tents and generally the entire place, which made our last night’s sleep all the more comfortable.

03 April 1999 @271 Internet Time