Luck with long-lost relatives

I admit, it all seemed too good to be true. I mean, to find long lost "relatives" through Facebook and get to know them online is one thing. But to actually meet in person for the first time and spend the weekend at their home in the faraway town of Limay, Bataan? That's a completely different story. Well of course we had our reservations. Save for our shared last name, they're practically strangers whom I know nothing about. But our grandaunt insisted that we tag along, convincing that the more we were, the safer we'd be. And who knows what fun we'd have for the next two and a half days with a bunch of potential criminals...?

Our little party of grandaunts, aunts, and nieces hit the road Saturday morning with Tito Nel and his daughter Kim. During the drive we already began tracing our family tree, hoping to find an immediate connection...but even we were confused with our own lineage. The loud and long conversations continued over lunch at a restaurant in Bataan with the rest of the clan already present. There, our Tita Mercy and their Tito Benny finally hugged it out and said, "We finally meet!" Later everybody else followed suit and exchanged embraces too, not minding the tinge of awkwardness the unique situation brings.

I find out that both our families are business-oriented--but while ours involved memorials, theirs were an unlikely mix of gasoline and pharmaceuticals. Other than that, they aspire to put up a humble farm rich with all sorts of plants and animals. After our heavy and hearty meal, they gave us a quick tour of the property which will soon become the farm they've been planning to have. I had to let out a "cool" at every turn; it was quite interesting and admirable to have such vision and slowly bringing it to life.

They soon brought us to Tito Ross' rest house where we'll be staying for the next two nights and as soon as we entered the lot, the initial "cool" turned into a collective gasp and then utter silence. The space was just beautiful, perfect for a staycation! And to have this conveniently at the back of the main house was just the wisest idea I've heard in a while. Tito Ross admits to coming directly here from his duty at the clinic and it just clears his head instantly. My eyes were drawn immediately to the gazebo and thought how much of an incredible work space that would be. (And obviously over the weekend I spent most of my time here, typing and clicking away...)

After taking a quick nap to recharge from that long drive, my lovely lady companions headed instantly for the pool. I, on the other hand, caught up with more shuteye before we were told to prepare to hear mass with the rest of the relatives at the church in the next town. Sometimes the simplicity of provincial life just gets to me, especially the unfailing big family bonding on weekends part. At the church after mass, we were introduced to a dozen more relatives and family friends. Even the presiding priest has our last name, can you imagine?!

It began drizzling on our way to dinner and we once again passed by the Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga which was surrounded by the city hall, the cathedral, a mall, a hotel, and other establishments. I reveled at its gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture—the lights were on, the fountains dancing with life, and I couldn't help but hum myself some Stacey Kent as we waited for the others to catch up. I mean, doesn't the scene remind you of The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain a little?

Come dinnertime we were gathered at the long table, exchanging plates with stories we thought worth-sharing. Kendi and I bonded with our ates Jo, Jill, and twins Ji and Jiselly on our side of the room over selfies and ice breaker questions on our favorite things until we all moved to the center to listen to Tita Aileen who had been such a trooper, serenading us with some classic love songs at our request almost all night.

Our Sunday started with a late heavenly breakfast inside an aunt's home, while light rain consistently poured outside. Sadly, the weather was just ruining the fun day the relatives planned out for us. My heart broke a little when we reached the top of Mount Samat and couldn't even see the beautiful view down below because of the fog. (Although for a brief moment I felt like I was in Baguio and that didn't fail to put a smile on my face.) We explored whatever we could in the Shrine of Valor Memorial Cross and the war museum and I marveled at every corner available. You know how much of a sucker I am for pretty, picturesque places, and especially those with a bit of history attached to them.

The rain was proving to be quite unpleasant that we decided to simply take shelter at the mall (Harbor Point) instead of checking more tourist spots. Sigh. But at least I got to know Ate Jo more as we walked around, window-shopped, grabbed a bunch of waffles and then coffee, and walked around until we got tired and had to meet up with the pack. Our long, slightly disappointing field trip was compensated with steaks overload for late lunch at Meat Plus and heaping scoops of dirty ice cream for dessert served right outside the restaurant.

For the rest of our stay we lounged about at our generous relatives' homes, adding up a song or two at the videoke then the record player, munching on meals upon meals, and catching up on reality television, all while basking in this newly formed friendship with our recently-but-finally-found long-lost family. We promised to keep in touch and that this won't be the last of our many visits to their humble abode and town. See, I love what luck had in store for us in such a random, spontaneous extended weekend!

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