Sunset in Ajos is worth waiting up for.
Six hours of road travel. About 200 kms south of Manila. Endless chatter among friends in the van. Broken only by pee-stops. Then more chatter. Laughter Hardly anyone sleeps on the way to Ajos in Catanauan, Quezon south of Manila.
Tina's Slice of Heaven
Tina runs a farm/factory somewhere here. It is her hometown. The house by the beach does not look like your typical farm house. Made of concrete, two-storey high, wide windows. She greets farm and factory hands left and right as we enter the "compound" which includes her beach house and a brother's house somewhere near. Coconut trees dot the landscape. Free-range chickens and a mommy pig with her litter grace the backyard. There is a pond "guarded" by this huge lizard who spies on the free-range chickens as if he is eyeing his next lunch. A makeshift kitchen at the back of the concrete house is manned by a staff of 3 who seem confident about what they are doing. The freshest ingredients include freshly-caught fish brought in by fishermen with their small boats called "bancas"
. I try not to think of the chicken and pork dishes as having been "harvested"
Time Enough For Those Exercises
You have the whole day in front of you. Easy to be a couch potato esp with the freshest food you dine on here. So, go ahead and exercise!
from the free-range creatures who trot like they are the master's pets . I remember little Patricia asking why the chickens have no homes. City-bred, this little girl has no idea of free-range livestock. She probably even "pitied" those homeless chickens, not knowing how much happier they are than their caged cousins.
Don't Miss The Sunrise and Sunset
Wake up time is anytime. But waste too much time on bed and you miss the sunrise. That's what happened to me. All mornings I was there. But I waited patiently for sunset, while dripping wet from a swim at the beach. As for my other friends, there is one who dutifully did her exercises by the beach every morning. Easy to do that. Your only audience would be the lizard, chickens, pigs and the neighborhood dogs. Then, it is time for breakfast. By this time, I have left my bed for a better activity. Eating. Sapsap
is a flat fish that makes a good breakfast fare. Simmered in tomatoes and a little salt, we feast on this plus Tina's homemade beef jerky called tapa
. Thin slices of beef, smoked and dried, then fried with very little oil. Mountain
Way to the Beach
I counted them. Just 50 steps from the door to the beach!
rice complements the beef and fish dishes. And this rice is freshly-harvested and milled too. The joke amongst us is that Tina does not serve anything without a proper biodata. Each dish, each chicken, duck , cattle or pig hails from somewhere. It is like Tina knows exactly what time they were born, as well as their ancestry of course.
Peace and Quiet
In Ajos, one almost misses the honking of cars, the bright lights, the traffic. Day activities include swimming, eating, going to the market, reading. When night falls, there is more reading. All's quiet but for the lizard making his presence felt. The mosquito net shields us from mosquito bites, though there weren't too many of them. The fresh air from the beach is almost salty. The coconut trees sway each time the wind blows through the balcony.
Living in the city has many pitfalls. Leaving it for a long weekend in Ajos makes up for it. Aside from the gustatory delights, it is the seclusion of the beach, the peace and quiet, and the utter simplicity of countryside living that make for a good and restful vacation. No wonder Tina
chooses to go home to Ajos every so often. Five to six hours of road travel is no joke, but then one easily rejuvenates upon reaching Ajos. Such is life. Life is good. Happy birthday, Tina!
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