Asia, Philippines, Travel
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We Arrived: A Weekender in La Union

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I last posted about my travels here. So much has changed since that trip to Turkey, and I have tons of writing to catch up on. But exactly because a lot has changed, I think this is the best travel post to start with—a trip I went on exactly a year ago, which was also my first time to travel with a partner.

That’s right. I’ve gone from backpacking it solo to traveling with a significant other. Late last year, I made a compilation of personal travel tales that I haven’t yet decided to publish. The story below was included there. It’s cheesy and old, but there’s nothing wrong with some cheese once in a while. And since I decided to put this out here, I figured why not go all out and share the video I created as well?

 

18 August 2017

The sky was dark when we hit the road, but the moon smiled down on our journey. Armed with a tank of gas and a trunk of supplies, we tuned in to our playlist and followed Waze over 300 kilometers north to the surf town called La Union. The trip wasn’t a first for him, but it was for me and for Us. So, in a way, it was a first for him, too.

“Get some sleep,” he told me after our pitstop on the North Luzon Expressway.

“I don’t sleep when the driver’s the only one awake,” I said.

Up I stayed as we drove through provinces, dodging vehicles that lagged on the road and hurtling toward the changing sky. Soon, the first haze of light peered over scary, indistinct blurs of black. In the middle of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, we enjoyed the free show. I rolled down my window and, with the wind whipping me awake, captured part of nature’s greeting.

Months before, when We were just He and I, he and I had agreed in our preference for sunsets. That morning, he asked me, “There’s a different charm in sunrises, right?”

I agreed.

The last one I saw had been on my ill-fated flight to Santorini. I had been sleepy too, sitting alone in a plane full of strangers. I’d drifted off and woken up to find we were right where we started—in Athens.

This time around, I sat in a car with someone who had grown to know me better than most. I fell asleep somewhere in the first towns of La Union, but when I woke up, I found we had arrived exactly where we set out to be.

LaUnion-1

“What time are we going to hike?”

I groaned and curled myself tighter in the passenger seat. The last time I’d opened my eyes, he’d told me we were parked at the famous Flotsam and Jetsam hostel. He’d asked about our hike then too, but I’d closed my eyes and murmured I needed to sleep.

“It’s 8:30. Let’s hike now so we can have lunch then take a nap after.”

Through bleary eyes, I peered at him. I almost snapped. Didn’t he understand I needed to sleep? But it was my first time there, and we said we would hike. So I forced my muscles into motion, stretched out my limbs, and told him I needed to pee first.

After a long tricycle ride, we arrived at the jump-off point to the falls. Instead of excitement, I felt trepidation. My unathletic self was not prepared to hike. But hey, I survived Cappadocia and Santorini. This time, I had the proper footwear. I’d be fine. Or so I told myself—until I crossed that first river and ended up with a broken left sandal. Luckily, our guide Nixon volunteered his own sandal and barefooted it the rest of the way. The sandal was about two sizes too big, but at least my right one was okay.

Twenty minutes later, that broke too.

We hiked into the forest, passing small rice terraces and dramatic cliffs. At one point, we heard people singing karaoke. I realized that this adventure of mine was home to someone else.

“I think we’re near,” he told me as I huffed my way through the trail. He’d said that one time too many that I didn’t believe him when we actually were near the falls.

One close call along the river and more trekking later, we arrived. I heard it before I saw it—the rush of Tangadan Falls. Then I felt it, the gentle spray of water on my hot skin, and later, the insistent shove of the current against my body. There was only a spattering of people there. The solo female traveler and her guide. A couple of guys. Us. And it was just right.

“So, was it worth it?”

I looked at him with the falls at his back, and I breathed a sigh of relief and wonder. “Hmm. I guess it was.”

LaUnion-10

A long nap and a satisfying dinner later, we arrived at the main reason we traveled to LU. El Union Coffee. The small, open-air room smelled of the best beverage on earth and sounded of music and laughter. We took the last available table between the water station and a group of friends playing cards. I sat and captured the hand-drawn sign and coffee paraphernalia on video, while he bought me coffee like usual.

We often joke that I said yes to him because of all the gayuma he put in my coffees. Maybe if he had brought me that dirty horchata back then, we would’ve been a We months ago. Then again, maybe that was the perfect time for our journey—two months and six days after the night we drove home and I blurted out that random, “Okay.”

As we enjoyed our coffees and a big small serving of s’mores, I marveled at how we’d arrived there. Two opposites sitting together, sharing our love for sunsets (and sometimes sunrises), music, and coffee. And the girl who’d grown to enjoy wandering alone realized there might be something to traveling with a partner in hand. No less me, just now part of a We.

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