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A 2-day family fieldtrip touring a portion of the island of Luzon included a reunion, a couple of one-night stays, return to where my Mom was born, saw a volcano, and went to church at a monument.

A view in Tagaytag after morning rain

I am not sure how many miles we drove during our family fieldtrip, how many towns we passed through, or how many relatives we met. I do know that we packed in as much as we could in less than two day.

“This is where I was born and grew up. We didn't have a lot, but we enjoyed life. -- Mom”

About a year ago when Mom mentioned to me and my brother that she wanted our families to meet her in the Philippines, she mentioned to one of her cousins that she wanted to have a family reunion on her father's side of the family. Why? Because most of them don't know the story or family tree on that side, and she wanted to reach out to everyone to hopefully have at least one representative present, let them know from where and whom they came, as well as plant the seed for them to remain in touch and help one another when they could. This reunion would take place in Batangas from where my Mom was born and raised.

At the reunion once the meal was done, my Mom was introduced and got up to thank everyone for attending and making one of her dreams come true. Apparently my Mom's talent for bringing people together in gratitude and understanding was something she got from her Dad. She quickly provided everyone the family history "Sabino Puyo Clan," as they fondly called the reunion, so that everyone there could determine in which puzzle piece they belonged within the fifteen (yes, 15) children. Quick run down---Sabino had 5 children from his first wife who passed, his second wife had 5 children, and then the two of them had 5 children together! My Mom spoke eloquently in her native language of Tagalog advising the younger generations to take the time to know from whom and where you came and to take the time to get to know your family whether they are immediate family or distance relatives. She stated that she was lucky to have the opportunity to go to America and become successful; however, she never forgot from where she came, the struggles and sacrifices her family went through, and how it is her plan to return to her homeland to live. She also reminded us all to always be humble and give what we can to share with others, as what we receive in return is a connection to someone else which is better than material gains.

Just a portion of the Sabino Puyo Clan - many meeting for the first time!

Whirlwind Trip

Once the reunion luncheon was over, it was time for our whirlwind trip around the a part of the island which included curvy and sometimes very steep roads. Climbing the steep roads with a sharp, curvy turn in a passenger van full of 14 people was interesting to say the least. Here is a quick run down of some of our stops in less than 48 hours with most of that riding in the van.

Kamantigue Beach and Diving Resort

We were there for a short, one-night stay. It's right along the shore, evening karaoke and bar, and little breakfast shops and roadside market just up the street within walking distance. Many tourists and locals are actually transported to this location for diving and swimming, as they were in a few groups going through safety instructions, as we checked out after breakfast to head on to the rest of our journey.

Montemaria International Pilgrimage & Conference Center

Sunday morning church services were held at Montemaria. It is a pilgrimage center dedicated to Mary, Mother of All Asia. It is said to be a Tower of Peace and hopes to be a pilgrimage destination such as as the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Statue of Liberty in New York, USA. From that location you can also see a beautiful view of Verde Island in the distance.

Dela Paz Pulot & Lobo Beach in Batangas

My Mom was born in Batangas, and she brought us to where she spent time growing up as a child in Dela Paz Pulot. She would play across the road on a pebble beaches of Lobo. The house in which she grew up is no longer there; however, she still has relatives that live in the adjacent property, and still a couple of the fruit trees on what was her family's lot exist. We had lunch at her cousin's home while we were there as she shared with us stories of her as a little girl after World War II innocently playing and growing up with her siblings on the beautiful shoreline.

Taal Volcano

Due to time constraints and the rainy season weather, we were unable to travel to Taal Volcano; however, we were able to stop at an overlook to get a great view. We had a brief period where the rain stopped, and the sun peeked out for us. We stopped again to be able to take additonal photos. Taal Volcano is famous for being the smallest active volcano in the world. It is actually a volcano within a lake (which used to be an old crater) within an island of Luzon.

The Lake Hotel in Tagaytay

After an island tour of Luzon, we decided to rest for the night in Tagaytay. We found out that many American expatriates, commonly known as "expats," live in Tagaytay with some of them retiring there. Tagaytay is a beautiful area and relatively inexpensive for foreign retirees.

Another beautiful view of Tagaytay

The Lake Hotel in Tagaytay

The Lake Hotel's lobby

Family Home in Singalong, Manila

One last stop before checking into our hotel in Manila --- our family home on Taal Street in Singalong, Manila. I have such fond memories of this small home in the city. Driving to Singalong Manila actually reminds me of driving into Brooklyn or New York City. My cousin and I would race to the corner to purchase fresh pandesal (Filipino yeast bread roll -- so yummy!) in the morning freshly out of the bakery's oven. We actually could smell the bread baking coming from the open window of our grandparents' home. We had lunch there, and I was able to show our son where I would play with my cousins, and the window where I would sit and read or draw. Another scent which reminded me of my grandparents' home was that of the sampaguita (jasmine flower) plants of which are still alive and well and can be seen from the window.

Our son Jason filming from the window of where I would spend looking out as a child

The island of Luzon not only includes the city of Manila, but a lot of towns and areas of which one should tour and discover. If possible definitely hire a driver who knows the area and is prepared to drive and maneuver the winding and steep roads if you are touring the coastline around the island.

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