1. surviving a 12-hour long road trip from QC to Ilocos Norte with the entire family that includes an 8-month old princess and a 3 ½ year old tyrant
2. singing with Jen at the top of our lungs as we pass the familiar highways of Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac, to the tune of anything in my celfone’s playlist, from Beatles to Blue Jeans, Unfaithful to Under the Sea, O Sole Mio to My Immortal
3. finding out that there are still certain things your parents don’t know about each other even after they’ve been married 35 long years, as they swap childhood stories throughout the ride
4. the inviting waves of the beaches in La Union that look close enough to touch all the way from the car
5. a brother-in-law who lives two minutes away from Paoay Church
6. Paoay Church. Unesco Heritage Site. Built in the 1500s. Perfect from every angle.
7. the picture that I take of Jen against the backdrop of the Paoay church entrance, lovely and tragic at the same time
8. the sound of bagnet crunching in your mouth, in there with tomatoes, onions and bagoong, and Yoshi pleading for more of the “white” and “crispy” (meaning the taba and balat)
9. gobbling up Vigan empanada dripping in sukang Iloko while getting a kick out of the many production numbers in the Paoay Lake National High School JS Prom
10. the serenity and myth of the Paoay Lake as viewed from the balcony of the Malacanang of the North
11. calesa ride all around Laoag City with Yoshi dearly clutching on to his The Promise DVD that he buys from a Moslem woman who sells pirated discs right beside all the chichacorn and native delicacies
12. the myriad of colors of euphorbia blooms in Auntie Claire’s and Auntie Azon’s gardens
13. having my picture taken with Jen in a hallway draped with a million tivoli lights in Fort Ilocandia
14. the view of the coastline on the drive to Pagudpud, with Christian pointing to the exact spot on a big rock where the Wow Philippines commercial was shot, and Yosh bugging me thru-out, “Mommy, magbo-boobs ka ba?” (meaning am I going to wear my bikini hahaha)
15. the giant windmills of Bangui (and Popsy regrets not stopping at the look-out point that he sees on cable tv weeks after)
16. screaming in total abandon as the big, strong waves of Pagudpud kick you onto the shore, with Yosh, Teody, Ches and myself never wanting to leave the water, and the absolute lack of crowds and stunning beauty of the place
17. Cape Bojeador. Built in the 1500s and still guiding ships till the present. Offers a panoramic view of the South China Sea. Makes you forget you’re supposed to be acrophobic.
18. the cobblestones and brick houses of Vigan that take you back to another era
19. a funeral band that gamely poses for pix with Jen and later on play Cueshe’s Borrowed Time as the coffins are brought out of the Vigan Cathedral
20. Jen’s big fight and long extemporaneous speech directed at the Chow King-Luisita manager whose staff made the fatal mistake of not putting the right number of sago and beans in her halo-halo. Classic and priceless both.