Sunday, January 9, 2022

My 2021 Travels

by Regin Reyno

“In our fear of death, let us not forget to live.”—Krizette Laureta Chu

Entering 2021, I thought it’s going to be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was wrong. We all know it continued and even saw the most deadly strain of the virus in Delta.

Needless to say, international travel, was out of the question for this year. So, these are all domestic travels; all in the Philippines.

Despite the limitations and the scare, God still gave me opportunities, blessings, resources to be able to live life-to travel.

These were mostly road trips as it is the safest way to travel during this pandemic. Even though I am afraid of the virus, and is responsible in following government’s protocols, I am also afraid of a life not lived. 

So packed my weekender bag I did, and off I went to these locations.

March 2021

1.) Lantapan, Bukidnon

A quick get-away to the cool, mountainous Lantapan town, home of fresh vegetables, and Bukidnon arabica coffee. We brought our grandma for sightseeing, relaxation, and lunch at Cafe sa Bukid, a nipa hut cafe serving western dishes.

Lantapan is a beautiful place in Bukidnon. I see it as a future Tagaytay, which will be loved by foreigners, as well, especially, kimchi-loving Koreans.

Driving my Mitsubishi sedan, it was a convoy with my dad’s Toyota van-sedan crossover. A relaxing road trip and enjoyable lunch, followed by a visit to MVC’s waterfalls.

 April 2021

2. )  Lorega, Kitaotao, Bukidnon

A road trip to this town bordering Bukidnon and Davao del Norte provinces. This trip was during the Holy Week: Good Friday to be exact, so roads were empty. With my family, grandma, relatives, and cousins, we were aboard two Toyota vehicles, a sedan and a van-sedan crossover.

From Valencia, we had a quick stop at Quezon to grab some beverages and snacks at a convenience store. The view along the way was fantastic. Beautiful mountainous roads-a relaxing road trip. The fresh air from the mountains and forests of Bukidnon refreshed our souls.

We had lunch at the wonderful Bukidnon Overview Park enjoying the food that we brought. Then, proceeded till barangay Lorega in Kitaotao. This barangay is very beautiful and relaxing. It is like Baguio in the olden days. Beautiful resorts, log cabins, restaurants are in this area, too, amidst numerous pine trees.

Then, we had a relaxation, even meditation, at the Adventist Church on a hill in the mountains. It is the most beautiful SDA church I’ve been to here in the Philippines.

Coming back, had a relaxing lunch along the way at one of the restaurants with a view of the zigzag roads, then stop-over at Quezon, to have some bonding and snack with relatives. Road trips are always fun and memorable!

3.) Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental

Another road trip to one of the major cities of Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro, with my buddy, Ben, aboard his Nissan SUV. It was my first time to be back in this city after 1 year, since the pandemic started. Made some friends and had wonderful eating-out activities. The city was still pretty much empty, still suffering from the pandemic. I noticed that the downtown area, which used to be bustling, Divisoria area, was quiet even if it’s only 7pm. We dined at the upper part of CDO, Upper Carmen area, where the old SM is located and has lots of food parks, international restaurants, mostly Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.

Stayed at the Bridge Hotel, courtesy of Ben and Proxim-A company. Thank you.

Accommodation: Bridge Hotel
Transportation: private vehicle

4.) Butuan, Agusan del Norte

From CDO, proceeded to another beautiful city, Butuan! It was my first time in Butuan. After an early morning breakfast of tapsilog at the hotel’s lobby, using Food Panda delivery, we hit the road passing by Claveria Diversion road. It is one of the most beautiful roads in the Philippines for a road trip. Multiple lanes, mountainous, wonderful view, jungles along the way, and yes, the roads are just magnificent. Especially thinking this was just dirt road/rough road before.

Ever since the Duterte administration, Mindanao saw huge progress, especially notable are the infrastructures, roads, and high-ways. These are facts. Amazing. Thank you, Pres. Duterte, Mark Villar, and Sec. Tugade.

Butuan surprised me. I loved the city. It is an organized city (in terms of Philippine standard), bustling, progressive, and with rich history. I made new friends, met people, had relaxation moments at cafes, hotel lobbies and restaurants. We stayed at a rented house in a subdivision.

Going back to CDO, we took the other route, the coastal road. It is now much more improved with less traffic jam. Had a wonderful stop-over lunch of sutukil (sugba, tula, kilaw) at the sea side restaurant near Camiguin island.

Accommodation: rented house/Air BnB, Camella Homes Butuan
private vehicle

5.) Polomolok and General Santos City, South Cotabato

Since the surge is going down, (I think is was the Beta variant, South Africa of UK?), we decided to visit our relatives in Polomok, South Cotabato. Another road trip. The roads, high-ways going to South Cotabato via Tacurong is great for Philippine standard. 4-6 lanes, and wonderfully paved, except for the areas of Datu Paglas where the roads are terribly sub-standard, lots of potholes.

Great time with relatives at Polomolok. We visited Vladen Barbers at General Santos City, formerly Dadiangas (we miss Vladimir Lablab who is on a business trip, working on a project in Sierra Leone). We had a wonderful pampering at dining at GenSan.

Going back to Polomolok, we visited Mt. Matutum. Went up to almost halfway, then enjoyed the wonderful view. We also had an opportunity to connect and bond with uncle Toto, which unknowingly, was our last moments, in person, together, as he passed away, October of this year.

Accommodation: aunt’s house
Transportation: private vehicle

July 2021

5.) Can-ayan, Malaybalay, Bukidnon

For my dad’s birthday, we went on a camping trip in the mountains of Can-ayan, a beautiful barangay located at the boondocks of Malaybalay. Traveling from Valencia to Malaybalay was relaxing, with good views of mountains, rice fields, corn fields. Stop-over at 7/11 along the way, then headed to the dirt road going to the mountains. Our vintage Jeep Wagoneer did a great job in transporting us, crossing a river, and climbing the steep, dirt road going to the camp site. This vehicle served us since 1992.

The campsite is called Fortune Valley. Beautiful, relaxing, comfortable amenities, and the owner is friendly and welcoming. The best part is, there is no phone signal, no WIFI, so no distractions. I suggest bring a portable radio and a ham radio in your visit.

We enjoyed our time, just being surrounded by nature, bonding moments, and hiking. We were surrounded by beautiful treeless mountains, similar Mt. Pulag. Waking up in the morning, we were greeted by that view plus the sounds of nature.

Went on a visit to the main barangay, as well, courtesy of our friends, the Belicans. Thank you.

This trip, indeed, is one of the highlights, the main trips, of 2021.

Accommodation: Fortune Valley Campground
Transportation: private vehicle

(After this, there was a surge in the Delta variant of the virus. So, we just stayed at home, most of the time. Stuck again.)

October 2021

6.) Polomolok, South Cotabato

A sad news, a sad event. The passing of my uncle Toto. He is a great artist and painter. He influenced a lot of people. His works being very popular in Santiago, Isabela, Manila, and South Cotabato. Some of his works even reached the United States of America.

Doctors said it was a cardiac arrest, a heart attack.

We travelled to Polomolok, South Cotabato. Although, it was a sad event, it was also an opportunity of a reunion with relatives, especially my cousin, who we grew up together, and is now an architect, designing beautiful buildings in the Middle East.

Looking forward for that day when the dead in Christ will rise again.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26

Accommodation: aunt’s house
Transportation: private vehicle

December 2021

7.) Manila

My first flight since February 2020!

Ever since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020, especially during the start of the Philippine-lockdown on March 15, 2020, I haven’t flown. That’s 2 years of not being on a plane.

It was a joy to be at an airport again. Laguindingan airport, a very nice domestic airport was not crowded. Did my pre-flight rituals of relaxation with some beverage, after a wonderful meal of Solo B at Kenny Roger’s Roasters.

The road trip with my family from Valencia to Laguindingan was relaxing, because we took the Talakag diversion road, which is quiet, calm, not many vehicles, beautiful roads, and cool breeze, similar to Tagaytay in Cavite.

Arriving in Manila, it was a relaxing transfer from the airport, via Skyway Stage 3, another project of Pres. Duterte. I am really grateful for the having a president who strived to improve the situation of our country.

Most of our time was spent in a compound, bonding with family, strolling, tennis, and weight lifting in the gym. It is a lovely quaint compound in Caloocan.

Went for some cafe relaxation, as well, at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at the nearby Ayala Mall. We limited our going-out because of the virus.

Also had the opportunity of seeing my choral brothers, Philippine Male Singers, Jojit Feliciano and, of course, our choirmaster, the renowned choral conductor, arranger, and composer, Robert Delgado.

My dad, an artist and a painter, and my nephew a history buff, we went to visit the National Museum of Fine Arts and also Rizal Park during Rizal Day. The museum is impressive. We admired the works of the masters; paintings of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, and many others. It was a great experience. The museum's COVID-19 protocol is very impressive, too.

Accommodation: sister's house
Transportation: Cebu Pacific

8.) Silang, Cavite

A quick road trip getaway to visit PPH compound and AIIAS campus in Cavite (almost Laguna area). The cool December breeze of that hilly part of Cavite was appreciated. AIIAS was once again, admired and her beauty revisited. We met friends and relatives, had a Christmas dinner.

The PPH site is great. A testament to God’s faithfulness and excellent leadership of Pastor Ty and sir Tim Jimenez. It is a modern building, styled after state of the art workplaces, similar to the ones we see in major cities like Tokyo and New York, and yet nestled in a countryside, following the advice of Ellen G. White, to stay out of the cities.

9. Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone, Zambales

Ever since I was a kid, I was dying to visit Subic Freeport Zone. My mom visited Subic before and told us stories of her experience and how beautiful it is, its cleanliness and the presence of wild animals just lurking around, like monkeys and bats. But, I’ve hadn’t had the opportunity of visiting this famed, almost fairy tale area of the Philippines.

With its reputation of being clean, safe, progressive, organized, and surrounded by virgin nature. It has always been a desire to visit Subic.

So, I was so glad and fulfilled when I finally stepped foot on Subic with family.

We wake up early morning, boarded my brother-in-law’s Nissan sedan and was hitting North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) at 6am. I tuned in to my favorite FM station in Manila, DZFE, the Master’s Touch. A classical FM station on the Philippines. The music added to the relaxing, early morning trip.

We had a stop-over at one of the beautiful, vibrant gas stations of NLEX, for fuel and a cup of  hot beverage for me and some croissant for the boys, taken-out from Starbucks.

Entering Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Expressway (SCTEX), wow! I was impressed. Beautiful, spacious expressway, not a lot of cars, and the view was fantastic! Mountains and forests. I feel like I am in Thailand and Taiwan. It reminded me of their expressways.

Subic did not disappoint. It is very similar to Okinawa, Japan. The city is very organized, clean, many wonderful shops, restaurants, and resorts. It feels like you are outside of the Philippines. There is not even a single sari-sari store in sight.

Thank you, Richard Gordon, for what you did to Subic. Excellent.

After a breakfast at a hotel by the bay, we explored the forest area of Subic. The drive was relaxing. Roads are empty, views wonderful.

Then, we arrived at Cubi; a wonderful community with western apartments and villas in a forested mountains with a view of the sea. The beach area is the best, because it is surrounded by jungles, instead of the usual, unnatural, man-planted coconut trees.

We witnessed wild macaque monkeys and gigantic bats, to the amazement of my nephews.

For late lunch, we had an authentic Korean food, before hitting the road again. It was indeed, the highlight of my 2021 trips! Subic Freeport Zone, you did not disappoint. It is now one of my favorite places in the Philippines!

2021, we saw lots of tragic events, unexpected events, stagnation because of the pandemic. 

But despite of that, I still witnessed God’s hand at work; how He orchestrated things to work out for good in my life.

A year of opportunities for more family get-togethers, and family vacations.

"We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.”--Ellen G. White

Praise the Lord for these travel opportunities.

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