Pilipinas and Tagaytay

“I feel good,” I said.

“You feel good?” Erin replied, only to make certain she had heard me correctly. The comment had, after all, come after a long silence.

Jeepney in Manila

We were in our second jeepney of the morning, this time in the front seat, bouncing and swerving our way up to Tagaytay (tah-guy-tie), a cool mountain retreat famous for it’s views of Lake Taal below and for being a religious epicenter; it was the Vatican of the Philippines before tourism set in.

“Yes, I feel good. I needed this,” was my reply.

“You needed another jeepney ride?” Erin half-jested.

Our morning had started early–Grandma Maggie early–thanks to several days of overcoming jet lag which basically consisted of 5 to 7-hour naps midday. Starting with a jeepney to the central transport area of Manila followed by an hour of trying to locate the correct bus, hawks attempting to pull us in every direction and a 30-minute wait in a van that never departed, we were bound for Maryridge convent where we’d be spending the night soaking in Mother Nature and being served authentic home-cooked meals. The recommendation for this retreat had come from Ronald, one of five proprietors of Our Melting Pot, a non-profit hostel centered in Manila with the goal of spreading positive and sustainable tourism throughout the Philippines.  Ronald could sense we would appreciate this type of retreat the night prior, where he accompanied us to dinner, because we had insisted on trying local Filipino cuisine.

Lake Taal from Maryridge

Imagine a small lake within the world’s smallest erupted volcano. Next to it is another small, but active volcano, that canceled our plans to hike to the small lake, where you can take mineral baths in the sulfuric water. “Too dangerous,” says a local.  These two volcanoes are sitting in a lake that is nestled in what is the crater of a much larger erupted volcano. Perched on the edge of this volcano’s crater, is Maryridge convent, a nature-lovers paradise complete with exotic flowers and plants, sweeping views, and the constant harmonious hum of cicadas, tree frogs, and tukos.

“Nah,” I jabbed back, “I feel good because of the adventure and excitement of it all.”  We were passing pineapple farms, left and right, roadside stands selling coconuts, bananas, and of course, pineapple, while we steadily climbed up to paradise.

Moments like these are what drive us. The uncertainty of departure let alone arrival, the fumbling-around with a new language, and the smiles we receive for trying. The chance encounter with a vendor of meat and pigs head, only because we stopped and asked for directions. The jeepney driver who laughs at us as we try to pronounce good morning in Tagalog, magandang umaga,–the good-natured attempt that created the bond that would land us the locals rate on the final tricycle ride to the front door of the convent. The three-hour journey that would take one with a car.

“I know,” she said.  She knew what I meant.

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