Iba, Zambales | Of Bad Luck and Lost and Broken Things

Friday, April 12, 2013Ryan Mach

OUR HOST, MON, GREETS US with a rather flamboyant and disturbing display of his guy part thinly veiled by his scandalous pekpek shorts. The heat in Iba, Zambales - probably around 32 (°C) - hardly bothers us; it is Mon's bold attire that instantly gets us preoccupied. He waits for us by the side of the road so we are able to spot him easily as we traipse down from the ever boring Victory Liner bus (wifi's busted). The ride is awfully long. En route to Iba, Mon cautions us through a phone call that we don't comment on how long it takes to get us there. His aunt who helped him prepare our lunch will easily get offended by the mere mention of the long trip.
[Now showing: Mission Impossible]

With such a distracting view (I'm still talking about his shorts), we momentarily forget about the hunger we've been dealing with so much difficulty for the last leg of the trip. We exchange bemused looks as Mon leads us to their humble abode located right beside the busy highway. Over a sumptuous lunch, one friend decides to address the elephant in the room by, well, joking about it. We all double up. Mon pretends to take offense but pours us each a glass of home-made mango shake. He tells us we'll be having crabs and tuna for dinner.

[For lunch we had this, Pinangat na Dilis, grilled pusit, tahong and chicken]

Mon is our guy for this weekend getaway which he himself orchestrated on the holiest day of the year, Holy Friday. I was busy working at the office when he called, urging me to come with them, adding that it wouldn't be fun without me. A few of our high school friends are going and it has been a while since we last saw each other. It'll be a fun reunion, he promised.
[Mon welcoming us to our rented bungalow]

AFTER A SATISFYING LUNCH, WE MOVE ON TO WHITE SAND BEACH, a couple of streets away on the coastal highway of Iba. Our private bungalow (Php1,500/night) is housed inside a gated resort which also serves as a residential area. In front, along the busy highway, sits an abandoned building that turns into a place of worship on Sundays. It's a nice quiet place and the neighbors don't seem to mind what transient guests like us are up to.
[Boys' space]

Our accommodation is spartan but it's spacious for ten people. It has a kitchen, two comfort rooms, a bedroom and a small patio in front where we had booze. There is an extra bed at the living room but we strip the foam and transfer it upstairs right outside the bedroom.
[Main door]

"Where's the beach?" we ask Mon after settling our stuff. "It's right there," he points west.

"How far?"
About a hundred meters, he says. One smart-aleck of a friend argues that it can't be true since we see no beach a hundred meters from where we stand. Laughing and horsing around, we make our way past the resort crowded with locals drinking booze and singing karaoke (no bose soundlink 2 though) until we see the beach.
[The beach]

There is nothing special about the beach but it's got a rustic vibe. The beach front has no commercial vibrancy and uncrowded. It's lively during the day but as soon as darkness falls, everything gets very quiet. Most resorts lining the long stretch look rather ordinary and uninspired. Thronging the beach are families and gangs of teenagers, singing karaoke and playing volleyball.
[Sunset in the background]

We pitch our tent near the waters and play volleyball while waiting for the sunset. People gawk and observe Mon as he goes about his business - mainly taking pictures and strutting to and fro. Ignoring the curious stares he's getting from beach-combers, he urges us to take a swim. "The water's not too hot nor too cold. There are no tricky sections so you can swim comfortably without having to worry about sudden depths." We believe him but we don't leave the tent until the sun's out.
[Sunset, finally]

Bonfires,we surmise, are not permitted on the beach so we dismount our tent and decide to continue the fun at our nice little bungalow. Our neighbors lounge at their patio, having booze. We take their lead and hang out at our own veranda. There are no blasting karaokes around which is good because we get to have a conversation without having to shout or raise our voices. Mon cleans the sand off our feet by splashing them with water. He does his responsibility quite well - being a good host, that is.
[Margarita Shake, Mon's concoction]

Just like what he has promised over lunch, we have crabs and tuna for dinner which we gobble down like famished wolves. Right after supper, he starts shaving ice for his mango shake Margarita. As the night gets older, we become less sober.
We laugh hard, play the category game and just have a really good time. We sleep together, close together - the girls inside the bedroom and us boys are splayed on the bunk bed, sharing blankets and electric fans. We let the door open so we can see the stars gleaming above the cloudless sky. We sleep well.
[Kid selling orchids on the beach]

IN THE MORNING, BURNING OFF SOME OF LAST NIGHT'S ALCOHOL, we walk through the gray sand beach dappled by soft sunlight and littered with plastic wraps and bottles.

A few moments later, we are approached by some random boatman and asked us if we're interested to do some boat trip. We asked him how much it will cost us to go to Magalawa Island. He gives us a pricey quote. We say we'll think about it. But the truth is, we have decided to go to Magalawa Island by taking a different route. The bright Sunday morning beckons us to have some island fun.
Fun we had at Magalawa Island. After a day of beach bumming, we come back to our bungalow to shower and pack up. I leave the resort with a heavy heart. I'm not particularly sad that our weekend getaway is over. I'm kind of bummed out that this trip has caused me my phone.

"Bad luck ka, Rye no," one of my friends tells me, a bit concerned. She is right. Three terrible things have happened to me - someone from the group lost my goggles (it's not very expensive but I loved it), my phone got busted (after submerging it underwater without me knowing it) and a friend got mad at me for not being able to watch a play that I myself have planned in the first place).
We say goodbye to each other. The girls and two of the boys are taking a car and the rest of us are commuting back to Manila. We don't talk very much aboard the bus en route to Olongapo. And it hit me, I don't really talk with them a lot. We rarely see each other, and even if we're together, on a trip like this for instance, I can barely connect with them.
[A wallflower, that's me]

I realize that I am perhaps a wallflower.

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