Mornings smell of Barako – my earliest travel memory


I started traveling – at least my earliest recollection of getting from point A to point B – when I was around 7 to 9 years old. My mom’s family was originally from Mindoro, an island province off the southwestern coast of mainland Luzon. During summer and when school’s out, the family, with my aunts and uncles and cousins would spend a good week or two in Mindoro.

I would look forward to riding that big ship from the Batangas port. It wouldn’t always be a calm, fun ride through the waters of Batangas Bay towards Calapan Pier, an area known to be infested by sharks. There was a vividly memorable trip one stormy December day when the ship we’re on felt like a big fish getting tossed over in a large skillet by these massive waves. The cabin reeked of vomit.

My grandmother was from Calapan City. A couple of quieter towns out of the city into the countryside, she and my grandfather own a small estate on some hill or mountain. As a kid, it’s big enough to be mountain. We would arrive at the foot of this hill where across the street was a shack that sells Lambanog. Our parents would share pleasantries with the owners and shortly, we would trek our way to the little hut where my grandparents live. There was no electricity, no tap water, no toilet. And food was anything they can grow in the farm. You know, like okra and kangkong.

The morning air would always smell of Barako coffee. The day would go about at the slowest possible pace. Shortly after lunch, my cousins and I would run to a nearby brook to take a bath. And as the brook babbled, there were leeches in the rocks.

This would happen almost every summer. As a little boy, I always looked forward to this summertime adventure. This was my oldest memory of saying hello to the world. I did not realize I will get hooked.


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