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By: Myles Delfin / NES - GEO
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It all started oddly enough, wedged in a bus at midnight, caught in the middle of an absurd pile of provincial traffic. I stared blankly out the window, as I had done, for what seemed hours without end, looking out at multi-colored flowers of "gunpowder" exploding in the sky. I had been sitting in the same spine crunching position for over two hours, my pack resting precariously on my lap - threatening to topple over at each lunging motion of the otherwise stationary bus. The entire length and breadth of the provincial highway ahead remained completely at a stand still, all because it was "fiesta" somewhere up ahead! The few hundred people crammed into a whole assortment of immobilized vehicles had been reduced to scowling degenerates, fighting amongst themselves over each increment of pavement gained. Ironically, that grief was perpetrated by all the goodwill overflowing up ahead!

I was on the road since much earlier that evening, headed up to Mt. Makiling in Los Baņos, Laguna. Los Baņos is a town with a name that could be translated simplistically to "the baths". What's more, Los Baņos is just next door to the Historic town of Calamba - need I say it? The birthplace of Jose Rizal, the national hero! But Los Baņos itself must have been the site of many a colonial ruckus, amid shouts of a lascivious, exotic sounding swearing, interspersed with a lot of "patron-saint-name-calling" from the crowds in attendance. But of course there was a war then. Everybody went around with a veneer of foreboding angst on their faces and tidy white "kamisatsinas" on their backs. Los Baņos is a much cheerier place today, and a lot more fashionable for sure! With the countless hot spring baths, water slides, and private pools lined up end-to-end, it's one great big recreational facility! Then, of course, there's the looming figure of Mt. Makiling against the sky, like a matronly mother with her hands on her hips, glowering, wondering what we've done with her "petchay" garden.

After being freeze-dried in the bus for the past few hours, it was a welcome break to be finally on foot again. Walking across the dark campus of the University of the Philippines, in search of someone who might know the way to the trailhead. But everybody I had encountered thus far had all their attention tied up in more, ahhm, "pressing matters".
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