Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Balamban

Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest – Balamban

Oh dear! The dark skies were not as cooperative when we entered the town of Balamban :( It was not just raining … it was raining heavily hehe! Nevertheless, the trip had to go on. I could hear the drops tap on the bus window like little stones. It was a real bummer of a downpour! The skies went crazy. Lightning was all over the place and the roaring thunders sounded like it wanted to devour our bus! At one of those loud thunder-and-lightning duets that seemed to be too near us, an electric post was hit. I saw that big transformer atop the post emit a very bright spark. Then all the houses we passed by were a total darkness. OMG! I silently prayed that my assigned hotel had a back-up generator.

The bus stopped on our way to the plaza and tour guides announced we would turn back and be brought straight to our assigned hotels instead of the big big reception that the town has prepared. Damn rain! Not that I wanted to eat again… but judging from the past three localities that we have been to, I expected that the reception and entertainment here must have also been grand. Am sure the whole of Balamban was ready to receive us with their own brand of spectacle.

As our bus maneuvered to make a u-turn at some intersection, the views that we could see dampened many a heart. There they were, children in their Filipiniana costumes were either trying to seek cover on the sides of buildings and houses or braving the heavy rain to head home or elsewhere. The street was already a bit flooded with rainwater to submerge any footwear (though it was a steady rush to their drainage systems). People in uniform t-shirts (just like at the other towns) were even drenching under the rain just to help our bus along the narrow streets. Some older folks (probably teachers) also dressed and made up were headed home. The sides of streets were adorned with torches and bannerettes but were dark and wet. Ahh! The event has been cancelled. Oh my…

For a while… the whole busload went eerily silent in dismay… ahhh! But Tony recovered the noise with this question “what do we do if our hotel has no power since all hotels and resorts in this place are fully booked by us?” It was like a commotion again amongst all of us. Some were worried and offering suggestions while others were laughing. At first, I did not know if it was really a joke. All I could silently say was “OMG, mommy please bring me home”! Hehehe, it was a joke – at least for us billeted at Knight’s Café. I didn’t know and did not anymore care about those billeted in other hotels and resorts hehe!

Our night at Knight’s Café
It’s fairly an inn. More of the business inn type that you would see in the provinces. Something like an accommodation place ran by a family. Am sure you can now imagine what I mean. It’s not grand, not even spic-and-span tidy but it’s not ugly nor dirty. Its somewhere in between hehe. Keys were immediately distributed and the folks from the tourism office were readily at hand to assist us. Even the tour guides were there helping out. When my time came, the girl browsed her list and told me that the key was already with my roommate. That’s on the 3rd floor, so I went up, met my room mate, said a few small talk and went down again to the lobby-cum-restaurant – not to eat but just to witness how everything was buzzing.

The restaurant is purportedly one of the best hangouts in town as there is a big TV and they can play karaoke if customers want to sing. There is a mini-stage with instruments and gadgets. However, a waitress told me that the band only plays every Saturday, so nothing to watch or listen to on that rainy Friday evening. Unless (I thought), that is UNLESS, someone braves to croak on the karaoke! No one did! Oh gosh.

As I sat there absorbing my SanMig Light and as tour mates trickled in from their rooms, I was merrily watching what some folks were frantically preparing. Rows of buffet tables were laid out in a rush and food kept coming in those silver serving dishes with little lamps below to keep the food warm. At first I thought how sloppy of them to prepare everything just now. Then again, I reconsidered. Why was the food coming from outside when this is a restaurant I'm sitting at? And if it did not rain, weren’t we supposed to have dinner at the town’s reception – probably at the plaza? Now I thought I already knew. I heard from my newly arrived tablemates that all rooms were called and people asked to come down. Then we were asked to go for it… FOOD AGAIN! Gosh! I did pick some things that I considered worth a try but I was still bloating from the previous “food trips” at the other localities.

The very busy lady who seemed to be boss to everyone around was obviously exhausted – not really physically I think (though I saw her carrying some of the food or arranging some of the trays on the buffet) but probably mentally for coordinating this sudden change in plans. The word worry seemed to be boldly written all over her face! Fortunately for me, she tried a quick rest at a table near us while talking on her cellphone giving out instructions. As soon as she dropped that call, I asked her questions. So there I learned! She said her name was Rosie and was very apologetic that arrangements had to be like this since it rained. All of us in the table were almost in a chorus saying “no need to be sorry, it was not your fault”. And she told us many things that the town has prepared for to entertain us – and that all of those were now canceled. To console her I said, “Well, that only means we have reason to come back to Balamban”! Then her phone rang again, and she excused herself from us, as she had to run to the other hotels/resorts for the very same food arrangements.

When she was gone, my whole table went into the topic at how Rosie was taxing herself too much when she has many people to help her do the job. So I asked who she was and was told she is the wife of the town’s mayor Alex Binghay. All the more that I saluted that lady in my thoughts. She is the town’s first lady and I saw her that busy with the food trays? Even saw part of her upper garment wet with rain. My goodness, THAT is what I can call mother of the town! Very hands-on! Okay, we in our round table had food but mostly engaged the time in conversation to while the evening away. As we did so, one yuppy–looking dude on the handsome side with a shirt jack barong was roaming the various tables asking if everyone was fine and if there was anything more they can do to help. I almost told him “let’s get this place groovin in an instant party” hehe, but I controlled myself since most of my tour mates were of the Barry Manillow generation (peace my friends, peace)! Then I learned his name is Ace, son of Rosie and Vice Mayor of the town. Whoa!

At 10 minutes to 10PM, my tablemates have all gone up to hit the pillows. You guessed it hehe, I was left there guzzling more SanMig Lights, smoking and jotting on my Omnia anything I could remember of the day’s happenings! Most of those who remained at other tables were male tour mates also guzzling up “para makatulog”! Other personalities came and went to check or ask if everything was fine. While I did not know each one of them, I just assumed they too were officials of Balamban. Most of the time, they would ask one table beside me where the provincial tourism folks were having some kind of a debriefing though informally.

Then came another dude who also seemed to be boss to everyone. He is more on the down-to-earth approachable side. Looks more like a very friendly Sabungero than a pompous executive. And friendly he is indeed, as he went around tables with his bottle of beer and engaging in “men talk”. His laughter and the way he talks seemed like he was just one of the boys. However, I knew he was boss, as some of the hotel’s crews would approach to ask him about something or get him to sign on something. I assumed he was owner or manager of Knight’s Café. After answering a call, he said “mga pare, I have to go, tumawag na si ate, baka sa sala ako patulugin, mahirap na, malamig ngayon”! One oldie, even said “maghanda ka na, its your turn tomorrow, sana wag umulan”. Everyone was still laughing as he excused himself and went out into the rain. I asked one tour mate and learned that the dude is named Alan Adlawan, owner of Knight’s Café, ex-councilor of Balamban and now Mayor of Asturias – the next town we’re to see tomorrow! Wow!

Hey, some of the guys were already a bit loaded with the beer and yet no one dared face that karaoke up front and waiting hehehe! So nothing more to watch… I called it a night! Zzzzzzzz ngork!

Morning was very early for us since breakfast was at 630AM and we all depart at 8AM for the running tour of Tsuneishi. Alas my room mate was up as early as 5AM or even earlier. And he was done with the bathroom ceremonies when I awoke. My turn… water was too slow… it barely dripped and then gone! AHHH! NO WATER in our hotel! I heard most of the other rooms open up, going down, checking what was wrong and the whole place was suddenly alive with water hungry folks! I waited awhile to hear what was going on.

I was actually able to collect dripping water to at least almost full of that pail inside the showers. I could be fine with it but would have been better if I showered in the normal sense of the word hehe! Bad news came, the water pump blew, repair was in 30 mins to an hour, hotel staff came delivering those 5-gallon jugs of mineral water so everyone could take their baths. I waited for mine, it did not come as quick. I settled with the almost pail-full but my mineral water came when I was just about done. Thus, I bathed more, this time in mineral water hehe!

Breakfast was another plethora of everything cholesterol hehe. We had everything we could ask for. While I had a strip too many of the bacon, I also feasted on Bananas. I think I already have had enough of Danggit that I only ate a small piece! But the rice cakes and local breads with jam and butter kept tempting me, so pinatulan ko na! hehehe!

Oh well, we’re not done on Balamban. Let’s go to the Tsuneishi tour in the next article, shall we?!

VIDEO



For a chronology of the stories in this trip, click the following numbers:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12

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