Traveling with friends
TRAVEL UPDATE - Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - December 4, 2014 - 12:00am

I just had a delightful 5-day trip with my Sacred Heart School-Girls elementary/high school classmates, plus a husband.  First off, my initial misgivings were assuaged by the fact that Luz Pong Tan de Diaz was our de facto treasurer.  She has always been the treasurer ever since we elected class officers -- maybe by Grade 3!

The self-appointed tour coordinator was Linda Chua-Ong.  She has the curiosity and perseverance to book and buy the plane tickets well ahead of time (about 6 months ago), with consideration to prepay more weight allowance. That is, this efficient coordinator already foresaw the added weights in the return flight, after the scheduled stop at Mall of Asia, Chinatown and Divisoria. Notwithstanding the fact that she took the opportunity to bring back needed stocks for her business, taking advantage of the group check-in. Wise lady!

We had two balikbayan classmates: Menelea Lao-Masin from Switzerland and Aimee Lua-Leung, with husband Fun, from New York. So, I suggested we go down south and book an overnight stay at the bucolic Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon Province. I saw the relatively new accommodations the last time I was there.  Of course, Linda booked our rooms through the internet and even found out that they offer a package for drivers, at only P500.00 to cover overnite stay and three meals -- lunch upon arrival, dinner and breakfast the next day. Very reasonable!

From the airport, on a Friday, we headed straight to Villa Escudero using Anita Ngosiok-Chua's van and driver.  It was a leisurely drive, with us looking out for buko pie and other native delicacies to treat our balikbayan barkada.  But it was the greatly improved facilities in Villa Escudero that impressed everyone -- including me! The dam for hydroelectric purpose -- just a plan when I was last there -- is now a refreshing "waterfalls," hiding its utilitarian purpose. And eating lunch under a canopy of trees with your feet submerged in swirling spring waters from Mount Banahaw, is still a treat that never fails to charm any Villa Escudero tourist.

The show of native dance and music, performed by the tenants of the farm, has moved out of that small aircon room to the spacious dining area with a stage. National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan has since been hired by Don Ado Escudero to professionalize the performance to world-class level. Even the costumes are note-worthy in their craftsmanship and innovation. Really something to be proud of to show foreign visitors.

We attended Anticipated Mass upon returning to Manila, at St. Therese Church which was walking distance from Remington Hotel where we were booked at a discounted price, courtesy of Zenaida Sing-Chua of Worldwide Travel. Sunday morning was spent visiting our high school English teacher Sr. Rosario Justiniani, F.I. and our Chemistry teacher Sr. Teresa Yuen, F.I. at the Hijas de Jesus Retirement Home in Quezon City. The afternoon was for attending the fund-raising music concert at Sta. Isabel College featuring our Australia-based Music teacher Ms. Gemma Abos-Mckeown. She assigned Aimee and Leah to play a four-hands piece for the program, but the intended practice through skype just would not do...or so they say.

Monday, we went our own ways for our individual commitments and needs. Tuesday, before we headed for the flight home, we booked a morning culinary tour of Chinatown which ended by 1pm. It was interesting, to say the least.  As we are all foodies, this tour was to our satisfaction.

Finance-wise, our treasurer was so focused to saving as much as possible, so that we ended up with refunds during our dinner at my house for dear "Ms. Abos," as we still call her.

You see, traveling with friends can be an experience in itself, aside from increased enjoyment in the trip due to shared appreciation and lots of laughter.

Travel safely now!

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