This is a year overdue.
It was one Saturday in September 2015 when I decided to just disappear. The things that happened at that time were too much to bear. In a way, you can say I was on the brink of a breakdown.
I packed my bags, filled up my gas tank, and I left Manila without an itinerary.
I had to escape.
I called a friend and asked her if I can stay over before I go on this road trip. She lives in Pampanga and she gladly obliged. I asked her to go with me and maybe she had nothing better to do or maybe she saw I needed a friend. Whatever the reason was, she joined me on this trip. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Since I arrived late in Pampanga, we decided to begin the road trip in the morning. I slept a little better that night.
Prior to that night, all I had were nights of crying, asking myself why I was not enough, and Tove Lo.
Once the sun was out, we drove away.
Along the way, we decided to go to Baler. I have never been to Baler and neither did she. We just Wazed our way to the beach. We had no reservations but since it was lean season, we easily found a place to stay near the beach. When I think about it now, we spent days on the beach but we neither swam nor surfed. We just watched surfers, wrote our feelings on paper, and stared at the beach.
It really helped that phone signal was very weak in Baler. No phone calls or text messages. No social media. No emails.
It was freeing.
We spent three days in Baler. I trekked to the Mother Falls. I saw the ginormous Balete tree. I visited a church.
We drank and ate a lot. Food is amazing in Baler, btw.
We left Baler and headed out to Isabela. We had a friend there so we decided to visit her. Since we were already in Baler, we decided to take the route that passes through Quirino and not go back to San Jose in Nueva Ecija.
Big mistake. Or was it?
That was the craziest and scariest road I ever drove on. Since the highway that passes through Sierra Madre going from Baler to Isabela through Quirino is still under construction, we passed work-in-progress highway. It was a dirt road with a cliff on one side. There were backhoes everywhere. One wrong move and we could have fallen to our death.
Anyway, that was the drive that made me feel that whatever I was going through was trivial. The heartbreak, the sadness, and the self-pity were insignificant to what lies ahead during that drive. There was even one point when we had to cross a shallow river. I was just driving a hatchback.
There was no phone signal. No people or houses around. Only few cars passed the road. If ever our car broke down, we just had five liters of water and a pack of chips.
The area was so secluded and cars passing was unexpected that there was a part of that drive were we saw a man take off his clothes to take a bath on the side of the road. Since we were passing through a mountain, there were small falls on the side. He was not an exhibitionist and he immediately tried to cover his thing we passed. My car did not have tint.
After more than two hours of what felt like forever of driving, we were near Isabela. There was a gas station at the end of that highway where we freshened up, filled up, and took time to rethink what we did.
We met our friend in a mall in Cauayan City. Surprised that we drove all the way there, I know she knows there was something wrong, but we need not talk about it.
Every now and then we just bashed on my feelings so I can just forget. And heal. And move on. You know that thing when you keep on repeating something like a broken record and you just sort of get tired of it. Like if you play your favorite song over and over and over again. Suddenly, it’s your most hated song and you wouldn’t want to hear it again. Yeah, we did that.
My heart was bruised and broken at that time I wanted the escape to be permanent. I even said I’ll just work on their farm because no one will hurt me there. Jokingly. Half-meant. I’ll just arrange the corn, turn them over to dry every 30 minutes. Feed the tilapias.
After a couple of days in Isabela, trekking falls, going inside caves, and eating pancit Cabagan, I needed to go back to Manila because work.
I drove back to Manila straight from Isabela. This time I took the Nueva Ecija route. It was 10- to 12-hour of drive and we just took one stop to have lunch in San Jose. We did not have music in the car. I had no antenna so no reception for radio stations. We just sang our hearts out whenever we felt like it.
I dropped my friend off in Pampanga and then drove straight to Manila.
During my drive back, my mind was pre-occupied that I missed my exit, Mindanao Ave. I had to take Balintawak and face rush hour traffic. It was 6PM when I reached Metro Manila. After a few more hours on the road, I was home.
I was dead tired. I slept soundly that night. That was one of the best sleeps I had in weeks.