I woke up with a minor hangover from the previous night’s Pinoy Henyo party at Hotel Vida. It was the 8th and last day of Lakbay Norte and it really doesn’t feel like it. Has it really been eight days already?
Our last breakfast was held at Widus Hotel’s Salt Café. I’d have to say that their dishes almost beat Baguio’s The Manor! I grabbed crunchfuls of fried bacons, sausages, eggs and fried rice and let my Norte-mates take care of the rest. I haven’t even tasted a fourth of their offerings, but I guess eight days of non-stop eating would have done the same to anyone.
After sipping a cup of scalding black coffee, the routine boarding announcement was made and we piled to our bus again. We’re headed to Puning for a relaxing hot spring dip.
I have no clue where or what Puning offers and my curiosity was really not that piqued. A jeepney transfer later and we were subdivided into 4x4’s, we’re gonna crash through the ash-fallen grounds of Porac’s side of Mt. Pinatubo.
I was absolutely astounded with the scenic karst-like formations made by Pinatubo’s destructive ashes. I have been to Mt. Pinatubo before but this side’s so much beautiful than what I have experienced before.
Rolling through clouds of white ashes, we traversed small streams and passed right through a long gorge with walls towering high on both our shoulders. S, who was with our group was frantically deleting previous photos from his camera in order to get a few more space for this fantastic ride. Never mind the achy bumps we suffered through the rough ride, we were whooping and hollering all the way through!
Puning Hot Springs loomed far ahead, looking like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Helm’s Deep with its fortress-like stone walls.
Wasting no time, we all went a-dipping in its scaldingly hot pools. My gosh, the water equals that of Maquinit’s in Coron, Palawan, it is freakin’ hot! I was unable to quickly submerge my whole body and had to do it in small increments to adjust to its torrid temperature.
All sweaty from our hot spring dip, we then headed to for another hot date. This time we buried ourselves in a pile of steamy sand. We sweated another bucketful before we were moved to a cold and soothing mudpack treatment.
The Lakbay Norte bus plied the road for an hour again for our lunch; it was gonna be a Filipino feast at Angeles City’s Camalig.
The restaurant, which was a former camalig or granary, served us dishes with a distinctly Filipino twist.
I so love their sweet Spaghetti which as A of Lakwateso says remind me so much of childhood birthdays. Their pizzas were also something else, my fave is their Doy’s Kapampangan Pizza which is a mishmash of longanisas and salted duck egg over an onion and pickle relish. A pizza can’t be more Filipino than that.
After finishing off their weirdly tasty kamias shake, we then headed to Prado Farm at Lubao.
Greeted by a gate made of colorfully welded LPG gas tanks, I knew at once that I was gonna have a field day taking photos at this place.
My gut feel proved to be right as we entered the compound. The place was just eclectically delicious! Amid lush trees, vividly painted old houses stood one after another. It was like being brought back to turn-of-the-century Philippines but from a hippie’s trippy standpoint.After trying out the smallest longanisa in the country (like less than an inch small), we toured their farm using a carabao caravan and bikes. And after the end of the tour we ate again, this time on salads and crispy organic pork lechon stuffed with a duck. Sounds weird, but it was perfectly yummy!
The sun was retreating down the horizon, casting sad orange glow in the sky, as we again boarded our bus. We were headed to our last destination, Robinson’s Starmills in Pampanga to do some pasalubong shopping and dinner.
We were served pasta dishes and pizzas, which looked real good but we were just so full we were only able to eat a few spoonfuls.
It was 8pm as we boarded the Lakbay Norte bus for the last time. Everyone was feeling the weight of reality coming back in just a few hours time and we were hoping for an extension. After a flurry of numbers exchanged we played Pinoy Henyo for the last time; one for the road.
With heavy hearts, we alighted from our bus which had become our home for the last eight days at the Kamias Victory Liner station a few hours later.I still recall the first day of Lakbay Norte at this station. It was almost exactly the same; the rows of buses, the passengers waiting for their ride back home, the same night sky. I remembered how alien it felt at first, entering the heavily-stickered bus and meeting a busfull of unknown faces. My mind was racing then if I would be enjoying this trip at all with these strangers.
It was now 10pm and I am having a hard time walking away from the Lakbay Norte bus. I found it hard to say goodbye to these same people who I once thought of as strangers. The passing days had made a rowdy bunch out of us and glued us all together in some strange way.
For eight full days we shared a bus that we called home on an unforgettable northbound trip, it’s not everyday that you get to do that with a group of individuals with nothing but travel on their minds. And with almost everyone gone, I finally waved my farewell. I miss Lakbay Norte already.
L A K B A Y N O R T E 3 S E R I E S
ON THE ROAD: LAKBAY NORTE 3 CAVING AT NORZAGARAY & BASS FISHING AT PANTABANGAN DAM
TOPLOADING & WHITEWATER RAFTING AT KALINGA | SHOOTING LANDSCAPES & SURFING AT THE BLUE LAGOON
PADDLE BOARDING & BIRDWATCHING AT PAOAY | HIKING AT HOLCIM’S ECOTRAIL & AIRSOFT AT BAGUIO COUNTRY CLUB
RIVER CRUISE AT DAGUPAN & GO KARTING AT TARLAC | JUNGLE SURVIVAL, SPA TIME & PINOY HENYO AT SUBIC
PUNING’S HOT SPRINGS & LUBAO’S PRADO FARM
HOW I JOINED LAKBAY NORTE 3 LAKBAY NORTE 3! | PICKED 4 LAKBAY NORTE 3!
LAKBAY NORTE IS AN ANNUAL MEDIA FAMILIARIZATION TOUR AROUND NORTH LUZON
ORGANIZED BY NORTH PHILIPPINES VISITORS BUREAU