After lunch outside Chi’s house in San Fernando, Pampanga. Chi’s nephew Matthew, Al, Chi, Ken, and I.

Went to Guagua, Pampanga last weekend (October 27-28, 2018) to celebrate my 38th birthday, as well as the birthday of my Metropolitan Mountaineering Society batchmates Dolfo Roxas and Naneth Pecson and Batch 2018 photographer Cindy Ferrer. We were hosted by Naneth and stayed overnight by the pond owned by her uncle.


Aldrin started playing the guitar and the party began.

This trip was postponed twice. The last was because of typhoon Ompong that caused landslides and buried fellow Filipinos in the mining areas of the northern part of our country.


Aldrin teaches Neth a song.

There were 10 of us in 4 cars. With me were Al, Chi, and Ken. With Aldrin were Karis and Tin.


My night shot of our campsite.

Al, Chi, Ken, and I left Manila at around 9 in the morning. We arrived at Chi’s house in San Fernando, Pampanga at exactly 12 noon. His parents prepared grilled dalag and egg plant for our lunch. We dipped them in tamarind extract with alamang.


Aldrin and Neth’s photo of the moon.

After lunch, we went to Guagua to Naneth’s house. We dropped by a bakeshop to buy a box of cheese bread and another store for crispy pata as an additional pulutan. We also dropped by a grocery store to buy additional drink, as I only had a liter and a case of beer in the cooler at the trunk of the car. I also bought a liter of gatorade.


Tin, Chi, Ken, Al, Karis, Aldrin, and I. Photo by Neth Pecson.

Naneth gave us the satellite coordinates of her house. But she wasn’t there yet when we arrived. I took a nap on the sofa in the sala while waiting for her. When I woke up, Aldrin, Tin, Karis, and Neth were already there. Neth made me transfer to her air conditioned room. But I guess I had my share of sleep that afternoon, I wasn’t able to sleep in her tidy room anymore.


Chi, Cindy, Ken, and Dops.

Neth prepared the tilapia, dalag, hot dog, and chicken for grilling as our pulutan. Outside, we started drinking the beer we brought and ate the cheese bread.


Long, Roy, Cindy, Tin, Chi, Al, Karis, Aldrin, and Dops.

At around 4 pm, we had an early dinner of dried dinuguan, lechon paksiw, and tinolang native chicken. Then Naneth’s father loaded in his tricycle the long table, a folding table, and a small square table, and a cooler with ice cube, and a deflated air mattress to the pond. Aldrin brought his guitar, chi his beat box. Neth brought her guitar too.


I am giving instructions to Long on how to find the bakery in San Fernando, Pampanga for the cheese bread. Photo by Neth Pecson

We were in the middle of three ponds away from the highway. We pitched our tents in front of the storage house for feeds. Ken was very happy to see a bamboo bed inside, he and Chi would sleep there later. The nearest house was about 500 meters away. When we arrived in the pond, the water was pouring out from the large plastic pipes into the pond. It was all we could hear plus our happy voices.


Al on a Sunday morning.

Aldrin came prepared with so many songs. It was the longest I saw him play the guitar–from around 6 pm until past midnight. Karis and Tin sang with Aldrin. Ken kept on requesting a song “Buwan” whose lyrics goes like this: “Ako’y sa iyo ikaw ay akin/Ganda mo sa paningin/Ako ngayo’y nag-iisa./Sana ay tabihan na…” He wouldn’t tell us to whom he was dedicating that song. Al was on the beatbox as his timing was very good. At about 8 that evening, Dops arrived with a box of beer in can–all the way from Bataan, by his lonesome. 


The morning after: Cindy, Al, Dops, Ken, Chi, Karis, Tin, ako, Aldrin, and Neth.

Aldrin took a break when he taught Neth how to take a pictures of the moon. Aldrin, with Abbie (who could not make it that night), are our batch photographer and videographer. During hikes, they love to take photos of the milky way, the sunrise, sunset, and the stars and the moon. The moon showed itself at about 7 pm. Aldrin and Neth went away to take a photo of the reflection of the moon in the water. By this time the water had stopped flowing out of the plastic pipes. We could hear Karis and Tin’s voice clearly.


MMS Batch 2017: Chi, Karis, Tin, Neth, Aldrin, Ako, Ken, and Dops.

Chi lighted the charcoal and started grilling fish. I helped him grill the rest of the tilapia. Then it rained we had to transfer inside the storage house. Neth was learning how to play the guitar. Aldrin taught her a series of chords to play as they accompanied in singing the song. Ken went outside and grilled the chicken.


The birthday boys and girls: Cindy, Neth, ako, and Dops.

When the rain stopped, we went outside again.

We were about to finish the second liter of whiskey, about 9 in the evening, when MMS Founding member Long Henson and current president Roy Lopez arrived. With them was Cindy who could leave her office only in the afternoon.

Long handed us another liter of whiskey. Then Chi remembered we still had the crispy pata which was no longer crispy.


Cindy representing her MMS batch.

At around 11 pm, Neth went inside the storage house, arranged the empty feed sacks into a mat, put the air mattress over them and pumped air into it.

At around midnight, I was so sleepy I told Chi I was going to sleep already.


At Neth’s house with her father, Nestor, in yellow shirt.

The following morning, I woke up at 5:30. I took the gatorade from the cooler, and counted 9 cans of beer floating with some ice. The uneaten dalag with about five tilapia were still on the table with the bones of both chicken and fish, the barbeque sticks and empty cans of beer. Brought a chair near my tent and drank the liquid from there. My throat was looking for water so I went inside the storage house to get water and saw Ken, Cindy, and Neth on the air mattress. While on the bamboo bed were Dops, Chi, and Long. I went back to sit on the chair beside my tent. After a little while, I saw Roy walking towards the storage house. I asked him where he had been. He said he checked if Long’s car was still there because he thought Long left last night without him.


At the side entrance of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, Pampanga. Photo by Chi

Neth woke up and sat on the chair outside the house with her camera. Roy lay inside my tent and I saw through the window Long, rising  from the bamboo bed. He went out to us and conversed with Roy. And they left at about 6:30 in the morning for Manila. 


Ako, Cindy, and Chi.

After we cleaned the area, Neth informed me that her family prepared lunch for us. One by one, starting with Aldrin, they left their tents and beds, pulled a chair and gathered in front of the storage house. Aldrin took portrait photos with his phone of some of us and uploaded them in his Instagram stories. He also taught me how to process photos using a phone application. Neth’s father arrived and took the tables, cooler, and the mattress. From the pond at around 10, we went back to Neth’s house where we were served with sisig, tinolang manok, and another dish which I didn’t bother about because the tinola alone was so delicious. Tinola was more than enough.


In the house of tamales and suman bulagta.

After lunch, we gathered outside Neth’s house, and consumed the last remaining beer. Neth’s Tita served us leche flan. Aldrin took out his guitar and the singing once again continued. Cindy was also learning to play the guitar, so Aldrin taught her the same chord progressions he taught Neth the night before and we sang as Cindy strummed the guitar. After consuming a can of beer, I went to take a nap in the sala. Ken went inside and told me it was 5pm already. I panicked. He said he was only joking as it was only 1:30 pm. I went outside and joined them around the long table.


Back at Chi’s house in San Fernando, Pampanga.

From Neth’s house, our convoy of cars led by Dops went to a church half buried by lahar. The main entrance at present used to be only the window of the church just over the original entrance. From the church, Dops brought us to the house that makes Pampanga’s delicacies. The cook took a piece wrapped in banana leaves, tied with a plastic straw. He cut the straw, opened the banana wrapper and gave us a free taste of tamales. Chi said aside from tamales, suman bulagta was also his favorite. So I bought the two.


Eating siomai at the back of Aldrin’s pickup.

From the house of tamales and suman bulagta, we went back to Chi’s house to get Ken’s special request from Chi’s parents: buro, Ken’s pasalubong for his father. We went back to the bakery again and bought boxes of the delicious cheese bread, among others. Next, we dropped by another store and bought our drinks and siomai which we ate at the parking lot at the back of Aldrin’s pick-up.

It was time to say goodbye as Dops was going home to Mexico while we were all going back to Manila. Our birthday celebration was made extra happy by Al who doesn’t only have excellent timing in the beatbox but also in delivering his timeless jokes that make me laugh even before he delivers his punch lines.