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By the end of 2012, the Multiply community site will be closing down. Which means we members will lose all our posts, photos, albums, blogs, etc IF we don’t back them up now. As in now na now na! Since there are precious memories and special experiences chronicled in that site that I simply do not want to lose, I am reposting some of my favorite pieces here, starting with my trip with the family to the town of Dolores in Quezon province one weekend in May of 2005. We stayed at…

Kinabuhay B&B and Cafe, owned by production designer Jay Herrera and his friend Winston Herrera. Here was my original piece about it:

It’s not at all your typical touristic B&B. Of course, each cabana — or kubo, if you will — has its own ensuite toilet & bath and a loft as sleeping quarters, complete with mosquito net. You can even choose to stay in the 2-storey treehouse! But don’t expect the usual “hotel” amenities like air-conditioning, etc. Think RUSTIC, although I did hear that they now have cable TV in each cabana. There was no such thing when we were last there. Kinabuhayan is for people who don’t mind roughing it a little (just a little) and are open to taking in unfilteredly clean and cool mountain air and communing with the great outdoors (and its denizens, too, if you’re “open” enough). It can be as close to nature as you can get, albeit comfortably. If you are open to trying the place, I suggest you bring insect repellent, though, unless you want to be THAT close to nature and have bites to prove it. Don’t worry, there are mosquito nets provided in each kubo, whether you like to sleep up in the loft or downstairs in the veranda/lounge area. And you will sleep. Soundly, deeply. The dark of night is very dark. And you cannot help but be lulled by the slumberous sound of swaying bamboo trees that surround you.

But the “roughing it” is more than compensated by the amazingly delicious gourmet meals that Jay Herrera whips up from his own secret recipes. He describes his dishes as “Pinoy food with a European twist”. This was the first place I had discovered the delicious combination of pasta with classic Laing (fresh taro/camote leaves cooked in spicy, coconut-creamy sauce)! And breakfast? OMG, the breakfasts! Divine!!! So good that even if you’re not a breakfast person, you’ll eat it all up, especially if you intend to go hiking, trekking, exploring, photographing, biking, jogging, etc.

The hostel looks pretty plain and ordinary outside. But inside, it’s like entering another world. Unstudied bohemian. Quaint in an offbeat, very artistic way. Faded photographs of family. Antique chairs and tables and decor. Imaginative and well-selected dinner ware. A broken blue vase lying on the pond. Ducks and dogs strutting aimlessly everywhere. And especially at night, the place feels as mystical and mysterious as the magic mountain of Banahaw that it looks up at. Do not be perturbed if you hear footsteps and laughter in the dark and find no one there. Just say “good evening” to the darkness and go back to sleep.

“You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

To this day, Mt. Banahaw is still closed to trekkers and pilgrims. It has been closed and guarded since 2004. To help the mountain cleanse itself and heal from the desecration, destruction, and indignities wrought by negligent, irresponsible, disrespectful, and litterbug visitors. But we did manage to get to the “first level” at the foot of this mystical place, which remains open to the public. It is called Santa Lucia. One just has to climb up and down the 259 steps that have been roughly and unevenly carved onto the mountain to get to the streams. Hell on the thighs and calves, but my mother (who was 78 back then and considered the oldest city-lady to make the arduous trek) managed it, with the help of a swig from water drawn from Santa Lucia’s springs every now and then. The people at the entrance to the mountain applauded my Mom when she finally took her final step onto level ground at her return from Santa Lucia, unscathed and unfatigued.

I did discover, to my dismay though, that my photographs of the various puestos (sacred prayer spots) were all blanked out, except for one. I remember the Banahaw people who watched me take shots had looked at each other knowingly but I just shrugged it off as the indulgent amusement of rural folk. Now I know they knew something I didn’t.

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