The place in service of the company.
(Courtesy of adcorner.ph)
Having had a fixation for certainty in almost all aspects in my life, as far back as I can remember, it always puts me on edge when things don't go as perfectly as planned. But having also experienced enough of life to know that it is the nature of the beast (life) to keep throwing you curveballs when you least expect or want them, the next best thing to do is to roll with the punches, and go along for the ride.
Our recent "dinner only" in Tagaytay with old friends (you can read "old" however you want it, haha) morphed into a sleepover, which transformed into an into-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning chatfest, and cascaded into a sleepy interlude to waking up to the beautiful Taal Volcano view and ended with a filling breakfast at an establishment best known for their raisin bread.
Having gotten a message that the group Arthur and I toured to Beijing with was fortunate enough to have a free overnight stay at a condominium (courtesy of one of the members of our tour group), we decided to go (as the group was adamant about making the group "complete") but only to have dinner and then drive back home late in the night. We figured a condominium unit, no matter the size, would be hard pressed to include 15 people in one go and fit all of us comfortably, much less have sleeping accommodations for that same number.
We had our rendezvous point at one of the gas stations along SLEX (South Luzon Expressway), which I could never forget, courtesy of a previous trip decades ago, when my uncle could not contain his incredulity when the cashier told him the price of his drink, and exclaimed, "Wow! This literally is a highway robbery!" We proceeded to purchase various snacks and drinks to take along for the trip, and when the group was complete, we were then prevailed upon by the most senior member to take a detour to a famous eatery reknowned for its bulalo (beef marrow) soup.
While the trip towards the place proved to be a little arduous (we made three wrong turns searching for the place), we were placated by the fulfillment of the place's reputation: the soup that made them famous was inherently rich and flavorful, devoid of "thickeners" and superbly seasoned. (No, Art and I did not partake of the marrow.) We also had what was possibly the largest bangus (milkfish) I have ever seen, boneless and fried to perfection, among a host of other dishes that were competing to be the standout.
(I'm afraid to reveal the name of the establishment for fear that it will be descended upon by customers and we will no longer be able to get a seat there in the future, haha. As we were leaving (around 7pm), there were already 2 groups waiting, and one member of those groups speaking in a foreign langauge - which I understood - was lamenting that they would have to wait for 15 more minutes to be seated.)
We then headed to the place where the group was supposed to retire for the night - Art and I figured we would stay for only about an hour then bid our goodbyes along with a good friend who needed to go back to Manila also - but we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was actually a townhouse located at the nucleus of Tagaytay and affording us a spectacular view of the lake and volcano, which would have to wait because it was raining. (Yes, it was cold. Lovely weather in my book, this being a tropical country.) There were four levels, including the garage, with four distinct rooms and areas, making it superbly comfortable even for a group as large as ours.
The entire group started egging the three of us "soon-leavers" to just stay for the night, given the weather and difficult visibility situation. What concerned us whas that we didn't have any clothes, nor did we bring any bedding paraphernalia, since we thought we would be ensconced at our homes an hour or two later.
Which made us consider the development of Tagaytay as a boon, at least for that night: since land developers have been continuous in placing high rise buildings one after the other, establishments that cater to these places also mushroomed, making it easy to score any forgotten items on a trip. We went to one such supermarket to get toiletries, face towels, as well as some drinks and goodies requested by other people in the group.
The weather hadn't let up, so we stayed indoors, regaling each other with anecdotes and funny experiences the way good friends can only do so. Snacks were passed around freely, I got to taste my first Mojito (which rather resembled mouthwash, just sweeter), and attitudes were relaxed and cares were free. Before we knew it, it past 2AM and we did make plans to partake of the breakfast buffet at Bag O' Beans, a longtime Tagaytay establishment more famous for its coffee and baked goodies like Raisin Bread.
Sleep took a while coming because we were behaving like children who continued our laughter and conversations, albeit separately into 4 areas, as if it was a giant slumber party.
And as expected, my internal clock woke me up at 630AM on the dot. This time, I was grateful for it as I fully intended to enjoy the stunning view denied to us the previous night. Art and I proceeded to the topmost floor where there was a shaded seating area facing Taal Volcano, and we were joined by a few more early birds. (Coffee is always essential in these types of settings.)
After the visual treat, we then prepared for the gustatory treat by the aforementioned breakfast. It would continue raining in an on-and-off pattern, which made the weather cooler than usual. We had a great breakfast with the usual Filipino breakfast suspects all present: tocino, tapa, longganisa, hotdog, sinangag, daing na bangus, champorado, and a oarticular dish that caught our fancy, sarsiadong itlog. It was capped off by a performance of the children of an orphanage, and we were only too glad to give them a little token for their efforts to end our get together on a (literal) high note.
And that is the story of how a "simple" dinner turned into something much, much more. It's always great to have friends who know that while we may not see each other on a daily basis, all we need do the next time we see each other is to pick up where we left off, paying no attention to the interlude in between.
Here's to good friends who know what truly matters.