A few weeks before Holy Week, I asked my cousins what their plans are for the break. Specifically, I asked them if they want to come over at our place to hang out. I was thinking of taking photos of my niece and nephew. However, they already made plans to visit my cousin Jo-Ann’s in laws in Gumaca, Quezon. She then asked us if we’d like to tag along. My other cousin Jojo and his family are also coming. I was hesitant at first as I wanted to rest and avoid the Holy Week traffic, specially in SLEX. After a while, I warmed up to the idea, helped by Ariel’s enthusiasm. After all, it’s been a while since our last road trip. A plan was formed.

A few days before Good Friday, we started talking about what to bring. Basically, I didn’t have to worry about bringing anything as they will just take care of the food. I also found out that another cousin, Ate Mylee, and her family will come, too!
We met at the Caltex station in SLEX, just after the Carmona exit where we got out from Cavite. Aside from me and Ariel, we were joined by Jo-Ann, Alfred and their daughter Jana; Ate Mylee, Nonie and their twin sons Nathan and Nirel; Jojo, Richel and their little boy Riley. Jo-Ann’s sis and brother in law, Renren and Alvin, also decided to join us in this trip to visit their parents. It took our 4-car convoy about 3 hours to get to Gumaca town proper. It was a long, but pleasant drive. Traffic was light and the roads were good. We met Alfred’s dad, Tito Tony, in the town proper, and Alfred and his siblings first dropped by their grandparents’ house while we waited in our car. After a while, we drove on to the farm. It was about 10 minutes from the town proper. We took a left from the main highway into a dirt road which we later learned was specifically bulldozed off to create access to Tito Tony’s farm.

Into the farm
Tony’s Hog Farm is actually the retirement home of Alfred’s parents. They have a spacious house sitting on the side of a hilly terrain, surrounded by coconut trees and other fruit bearing plants and trees. Chickens were scattered all over the perimeter. A carabao was grazing nearby, and 30 pigs were corralled in a pen only a few meters away from the house.
The house was big for just two people. Clearly, it was built with vacationing kids and grandkids in mind. The house was designed with cemented roof deck instead of the usual iron roof. Glass tiles were strategically positioned all over the roof to let natural light into the house. This saves a lot of energy from using electric bulbs. The entire house was furnished with bamboo furnitures.
All bedrooms have doors leading out of the house, much like a beach cottage. The master bedroom has its own huge bathroom with hot shower. A bamboo-framed king-sized bed sits in the middle of the room. The space is big enough to accommodate another king-sized mattress and two single mattresses. Ten of us shared this room for the night.
The 2nd bedroom is a bit smaller but still quite spacious. It is furnished with a queen-sized bed and had enough space for another mattress. Tito Tony, Tita Cherry, Alvin, Jojo, Richel and Riley stayed here for the night.
Tita Cherry’s sister as well as Jana’s yaya Gina stayed in the 3rd bedroom which is furnished with a double bed. There is a second bathroom, as big as the master bath, in between the two smaller bedrooms.
The dining table is made for eight people but it was big enough to squeeze in 12 of us. Our first meal was sinigang na baboy and fried stuffed squid. The sumptuous lunch was made even more delectable with the happy chatter among us cousins and our gracious host. After lunch, we retreated to the bedroom to take naps since we woke up very early for the trip. However, instead of napping, we girls ended up watching a movie and chatting over junk food.
Time seemed to slow down in this sleepy farm. At around 4pm, we went out to explore the entire perimeter. We explored the rice field just a few meters from the house. We had to walk uphill through a trail and go down again into the rice field.

Field of Dreams
Sa Pilapil
City Slickers
Lovers in Bukid
The Art of handling a rooster
After a while, we all congregated at the roof deck for snacks of banana and camote Q, more chatter, and lots of snapshots.
The Malabanan's
The Uy's
A Cousin's Love
For dinner, we had Tita Cherry’s famous adobong baboy cooked in vinegar until the meat is fork tender. The best!!! It was paired with fried chicken and steaming white rice (brown rice for me).
After dinner, we shared coffee and trooped to the roof deck again to gaze at the stars. The sky was so clear and was dotted with the most stars we’ve ever seen. The roof looks really pretty with the glass tiles glowing with light coming from inside the house. We had fun posing for photos in the dark.

Let there be light!
Illumination 2
Every Saturday, at around 2pm, one of the pigs get slaughtered and the meat sold to regular customers. This is how Tito Tony earns from his pig farm. As we retired for the night, we talked about waking up at 2am to see the slaughter. Well, it didn’t happen. Most of us heard the cries of a pig about to be slaughtered but we were too tired to get up. By the time I opened my eyes, the sun was shining brightly through the glass tiles on the roof. We roamed around the house first and took photos.

Morning Chore
Mother Hen

Breakfast was fried rice, daing na bangus and tomato-onion omelette with garlic fried rice. YUMMY! After breakfast, we got ready to go to the beach. Our plan was to look for a clean strip of sandy beach and just stop for a quick dip. Sadly, the shoreline was littered with garbage. It took us a while to find a suitable area for even a few snapshots. At first, the kids didn’t even want to step on the sand. They eventually got the hang of it and was able to play a bit – but they didn’t want to get wet. I don’t blame them. With all the floating trash on the water, it is kinda icky to get yourself wet. We at least were able to take some nice photos.

The Girls
Faces of Jana 2
Tita My and Me
Beach babies
The Boys
After about an hour of beach time, we headed back to the house for lunch. Our last meal at the farm consisted of grilled liempo with fresh meat from the early morning slaughter, and steamed prawns. By this time, I totally ditched my brown rice and ate the steaming white rice along with everyone else. We rested a bit and packed our stuff to prepare for our drive back to the crowded city life.
By 4pm, our convoy left the farm premises. We stopped by the Gumaca church for some photos before leaving for home.

Gumaca Church
Path to "Holiness"
Gumaca Church

We were a bit sad to leave Gumaca. We had a great time at the farm and we were very thankful for Tito Tony and Tita Cherry’s hospitality.

The Reunion
l-r: Nonie, Nirel, Ate Mylee, Nathan, Gina, Alfred, Jo-Ann, Jana, Renren, Alvin, Tito Tony, Tita Cherry, Richelle, Jojo, Ariel, Alby (not in photo: Riley who’s asleep in the car)
We stopped in San Pablo for a bit of shopping (Richelle bought a stainless grill), and then in SLEX for dinner and coffee. Traffic was a bit heavy in Sto. Tomas Batangas area until the Star Toll exit – perhaps due to the Holy Week crowd heading back to Manila from the beaches of Batangas. We got home at past 11pm – longer than our trip going to Gumaca.
We all had a wonderful time and made plans to make this an annual trip – if not more frequent. It was great to bond with my cousins again. It was a reunion of some sorts for the Starex gang (We’ve gone to Sagada and climbed Mt. Pulag together, and another roadtrip here. We missed joining the group in their trip to Bicol and Coron.). Since the kids were born, we had not gone on a trip together and this is probably the closest we’ll get to another adventure. We have Riley and Jana as the newest additions to the gang, plus ate Mylee’s family joined us for the first time. We’re all definitely looking forward to the next adventure.
Written by Alby Laran

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