Of Silver Linings

Jen Parado


Trip Number JUAN: San Juan, La Union

Though I have traveled to other places because of work and family gatherings, I still consider this trip to be the one that began it all – my thirst for life.

Before this trip, only a few people knew what I was going through. My marriage failed, and while I never really felt pain because of the fact, I struggled to accept that I had made one mistake that cost me half of my freedom and happiness. So when my (ex)husband finally agreed to let me go (in all essence of the word – even legally), I went soul-searching with a long-time friend.IMG20141121223445

Pinky and I first met in college at Tarlac State University, where we worked together for the school publication. Those were the years of my teenage life. We had fun writing together and traveling to different places to compete and – wouldn’t you know it – win. This time in our late twenties, we worked together for the government and we were officially traveling buddies.

The first of our planned trips was in San Juan, La Union. This was from November 21 to 23, 2014.

The travel from Tarlac City to San Juan was over four hours by bus. The trip was expectedly boring. We actually planned on sleeping through it, but ended up chatting about everything we missed. After all, before this, we had a huge fight that made us avoid each other for a few months.

The first day was pretty much about the places where our feet could take us. Our guide – who was ironically a Canadian – had to go back to work. Firth let us off. We went to the famous Pagoda Hill, the viewing deck from the La Union Provincial Capitol and the flea market, all in San Fernando. Then we had Souvlaki Platter for dinner at Gefsies, a Greek Grill back in San Juan.

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Just after dinner, Firth met us for dessert at his mother’s house. I had real home-made yogurt then for the first time. And then slept soundly at Firth and his best friend Colleen’s place.

Second day was even more awesome. We met with one of Pinky’s friends – Reyn – and he took us around La Union. First stop, breakfast at Angel and Marie’s. Though I failed to take pictures of the food (since we were having fun chatting), I guarantee that they have the best-tasting omelettes.

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Second stop, La Union Botanical Garden plus Science Museum, where the traditional weaver showed us how to make traditional towels. Now to get to these places (located in Brgy. Cadaclan, San Fernando), we had to rent out a jeepney for Php500. The usual fare is only Php20 per head. But we wanted to go at our own schedule so we went right ahead and talked to one of the drivers.

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Next, we went to the famous Bahay na Bato (Stone House) in Luna, La Union. Luna is over an hour away from San Fernando by jeepney.

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Since we missed lunch, we went to have early dinner at Riverfarm Seafood, a floating restaurant in Bacnotan, La Union. Here, Reyn’s friend, Rhugs, met with us.

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Last stop for the night, back to San Juan’s Moonleaf for some dessert – cupcakes and milkteas.

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We woke up early for our last day so we could go surfing. San Juan is known as the surfing capital of the North and we wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to ride the waves. We were joined this time by Colleen and Mico, another one of Reyn’s friends.


Breakfast was still at Angel and Marie’s since we loved the omelettes so much. This time, I didn’t fail to take a picture. Below is also a picture of Reyn, Mico, Colleen, me and Pinky.

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The rest of the day was actually pretty much about food. Halo Halo de Iloko in San Fernando was one place to really dine in when in La Union. Here’s where we had late lunch. Food’s great. We had okoy (one with shrimp and one without, since Pinky’s allergic to seafood), squid, sinigang na isda in coconut, and palabok that’s topped with Ilocos longganisa. We didn’t order Halo Halo, though. Hmmmm. I wonder why.

Colleen and Firth were with us.

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We went back to the flea market right after our lunch and spent the whole afternoon shopping for almost nothing. You know that feeling of wanting everything you see and so you end up buying almost nothing? Well, that’s what happened. I was able to buy a plant for a friend, a scarf for another friend and a bracelet for myself.

Reyn, Mico and Rhugs are photographers and had agreed to help me shoot the sunset properly. After all, San Juan is also known to have the best view of sunset in the North.

I was supposed to meet Reyn and Mico at Flotsam and Jetsam Cafe at 5pm so we could chase after the setting sun. I ended up shooting it alone. I couldn’t recall what happened then exactly, but it turned out, Mico couldn’t make it and Reyn was at Seanymph, waiting.

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And we had dinner at Flotsam and Jetsam Cafe still. Nice cozy place, might I say. Bean bags for sitting, mattresses, mats over green grasses and overlooking the sea. Plus great food and drinks. You know that moment when you’re having too much fun and so you fail to take pictures? Well, this is one of them.

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At 1AM, Pinky and I took the bus back home to Tarlac City.

Overall, the experience was actually beyond what I had hoped for and imagined it to be. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I had then, just talking to the new friends I gained. Pinky and I? We never discussed the issue that came between us before this trip. Everything went as smoothly – and more – as we had prayed it to be.

Traveling to new places is a joy and I couldn’t believe it had taken me 28 years just to realize this. Meeting new people is an even greater adventure. For you’ll never know what you’ll learn and what you’ll miss while you’re out there, chasing sunsets and sharing thoughts. And you’ll never know what life is while you’re not out there living it.

A friend of mine once asked me if I had seen my country. I haven’t then. Maybe I haven’t still now. But I swear to myself: I sure damn will.

Keep dreaming with me.