The Big Blue

Patricia Togonon

© Copyright 2022 by Patricia Togonon

Image by kai62 on Pixabay
Image by kai62 on Pixabay
I was around ten years old when I was introduced to Big Blue. Big Blue was the name of the first brand new pick-up truck that my hard-working entrepreneurial  Filipino parents bought. It was a shiny big single cab Isuzu pick-up truck which did not fit us, so my Dad had its truck bed customized with a camper shell and an air conditioner to fit me, my sister, our bikes, and  a big ass cushion at the back. Thus began our adventure.

School starts on a Monday and ends on a Friday. Once my sister and I get off the school bus we hurry to our rooms and start packing for our trip. This is the best part of our travel. We just pack our stuff not knowing where were going off to next. Travel before was simple. No reservations needed. Not unlike today…… you have to have a destination and most of all a reservation. The thrill and excitement of the travel is the adventure itself the “unknown”. I still get goosebumps up to this day when I remember this part of my childhood and let me tell you this was like 30 years ago, when travel and adventure was not as accessible as it is today.

Our adventures usually start at night when they get off work. We would ride the car and just drive. When I asked my dad why he just said it relaxes him plus it was not hot. We most travelled the path around Laguna Lake because it was the path the my Dad was most familiar with being from both Pagsanjan (this is where his maternal grandmother lives) and Los Banos (his hometown where he lives with his parents) these two provinces is surrounded by the lake.

Los Banos is a town located at the foot of Mount Makiling it is known for their hot springs,the University of the Philippines Los Banos, home of I.R.R.I. (International Rice Research Institute),buko pies and Maria Makiling (the Goddess of the Mountain). It is also well known for one of our adventures pili nut picking on Pili Drive where my dad will stop the car on the side of the road let all of us down (yes us including a gaggle of cousins) to hunt for the green fruit that contains the pili nut.It would be then be hammered with a stone and eaten on the same way it was found on the side of the road.      

On other times we would drive directly into the mountains and hike. This was where my clumsy sister almost fell through the ravine but luckily my cousin was there to save her.

Paete for me during that time is the most artistic places that you can go into with their wood carvings,paper machetes and paintings. Liliw has really beautiful hand made shoes and slippers though the jellie rolls (rolled cakes) for me are the most memorable part of the trip for me.

These trips were not done in one go but in a series of trips done in different times. The most important part of the trip was the camaraderie and love and passion that was developed during the travel. We were not always alone most of the time our cousins was with us. Since they lived in Los Banos we would pick them up and travel with them (they were around our age).Also, my other cousin from our maternal side was with us. So yeah,it’s a riot. Not only are we learning our roots but we are also learning about our history and how each town is different from one another.

On a side note, Victoria has the best roasted ducks which we would pack during our travel. Sta. Cruz has the kesong puti and Bay has the best monay ( round bread).

Pagsanjan on the other hand has the best adventure which is shooting the rapids,it is still done up to this day.However, one must be very cautious and only talk to authorized tourism officers to avoid being tricked. Afterwards,a sweet and cool treat from Talengs is an absolute must. The halo-halo from Talengs are made from the freshest ingredients that can only  be found in Pagsanjan.

The Lenten Season in the province is totally different. Since the country is heavily influenced by the Catholic faith tradition like the Salubong and Pabasa is practiced. The tradition that had the most impact on me was the one that I saw while travelling in the car was the Whipping of the Backs wherein the petitioners (or sinners ) would imitate the time that Christ was carrying the cross and he was being whipped by thorns. It was said that these people volunteered to do it to atone for their past sins. This I saw in San Pablo.

During this season (Lent) my Dad would take the vehicle around the Lake. We will go in through Los Banos and out to Quezon City. One of the most significant stops that I still remember to this day that is vividly seared in mind was the stop at the restaurant in the Rizal province called Balaw-Balaw. This restaurant has the most exotic menu which includes  pritong ahas (fried snake) ,tapang usa (deer jerky) and tapang baboy ramo (jerky wild boar) . Of course for us adventurers we had to try it. But today, the probability of it being eaten will be lower or next to none due to existing laws preventing these things from being eaten. If you ask me if I remember what these things taste like… I would say I just remember the snake being bony hehehe. The cricket ….would totally be in another story along with the frog. Hehehehe. If you think I am kidding I kid you not.

Being in Big Blue along with my family taught me a lot of things. One is the sense of adventure and wonder. In whatever you do, always look for the adventure of things. Two take things lightly and go with the flow. Three getting lost is half the fun. Four finding the way back is the real sense of adventure. Five food is fair game.  

I'm 41 years old born and raised in Manila Philippines
Mother of Three ( 1 girl and twin boys)
Wife to Romeo
Dog owner to a zany pet called Yang the Poodle
Lives in a house that dances during earthquakes
And floats during floods
Sells Plaques,trophies and food
Would like to try writing for a living

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