Sunday, September 2

Tales from the Dark Side

Last Wednesday, I headed off early in the morning southwards on a working trip with teammates from The Salt Mines and some of our clients. It was basically for bonding and brainstorming, so a nice, conducive setting far away from the everyday hurly-burly was required. Our venue was Hacienda Isabella, a hectares-wide resort/estate which consisted of sprawling lawns and groves dotted with various little villas and resthouses done in a lovely Mediterranean-style and filled with various antiques and relics. The place was the property of singer Kuh Ledesma, though we didn't have the good fortune to catch her there.

I really liked the old look of the place, though my groupmates expressed some fear that there may be restless spirits about. We were assured though by the katiwala (caretaker)that while the antiques were old and smelling of age, the buildings themselves were new and thus free of any ghosts. Which was fine, since us guys in the party decided to each take a big suite with 2-person beds to sleep in. My own room was a third-floor chamber with was basic but at least had a nice, soft bed with lots of pillows and a good, strong aircon.

The days were basically spent listening to research data and then later knocking heads together to plan stuff. But the good stuff happened at night, when we headed off to dinner. The first night, we ate at the much-talked about Sonya's Garden. This unique resto is built in the middle of what appears to be a forest, and boasts of a very green, natural ambience. We sat in the middle, enjoying the food amidst the sounds of trickling water from the surrounding waterfalls (man-made). Though I was at first taken aback by the word that the place was strictly vegetarian, I just hunkered down and made myself ready for whatever flowers I'd be served. ]

As it turned out, the place specializes in pasta and salads- the appetizer salad was simply incredible, with delicious dressing and crunchy greens that had me getting second and third portions. Nice, warm bread with various spreads ranging from sun-dried tomatoes to black olive patte and pesto tickled our palates further. The main course was fettuccine, with various sauces to mix and match. There was actually one sauce which had a bit of meat- creamy chicken- but regardless, I had a nice meal and was pretty full in a while.

The second night had us heading off to Splendido's, which seems to be a golf course or high-end real estate development. For now though, it was basically empty- a vast expanse of clear land- save for the Clubhouse that sat in the middle of the whole area. Since we went there at night, it was mostly an inky dark (not a lot of lights in this part of the country) until we finally focused on the cluster of yellow electric lights in the distance. The isolation of the place kinda mad me think that if Zombies took over Metro Manila, the rich and famous would hole up in here and spend their days eating caviar and imported sardines protected by hired guns.

Anyway, the place was mostly empty (since it was in the middle of the week) save for us and the suppliers we were meeting for a presentation. For the most part, I just sat and enjoyed dinner, which consisted of paella, a chicken dish, bulalo and more paella. The food was delicious but a bit heavy, and our hosts over-ordered. I soon found myself needing to walk around. The air was chilly, but even though I didn't have a jacket, it wasn't unbearable.

One thing that I will surely remember on this trip was the fact that the southern area still consists a lot of roads and areas that have little or no lights or lamp posts. As we drove from venue to venue, we often passed roads that were totally dark, the sides impenetrable groves of trees and wild vegetation. These inky spots filled the gaps between the area's residences, shops and commercial establishments. I found myself thinking, this is a nice place to visit... but I certainly feel lucky to live where I live.

And so back to the grind this week. After that enjoyable but tiring work trip, I'm glad to get back to the familiar, climate-controlled corridors I know as everday work. Sad, but true. Heh.

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