I spent the weekend in one of my favorite places in the world, Malaybalay, a small city of pine trees and streams, seated deep into the heart of Bukidnon province.
A year after I graduated from college, I took up a work assignment in this small city for three straight years, until I decided to come home and take up another career. Yet, the city has always held very distinct memories for me. Every cafe, park, and street corner tells a story; and even the stars, brighter than those in the smog-filled city, have their own tales to tell.
I traveled over the weekend primarily to get some downtime – and take some really good pictures – so that’s exactly what I did. And it surely did not hurt that I was traveling with one of my bubbliest friends in the whole wide world, Nashy. So it was laughter most of the time, and lots of shopping trips on the side.
We stayed at the 1st Avenue Apartelle, a cozy inn tucked away in some lonely street off the main roads. Since the Kaamulan Festival had kicked off more than a week before our trip, booths have already sprouted all over the Capitol Grounds, where sellers and a lot of restos have set shop. Streetdancing weekend was still one week away though, so there were no big crowds anywhere. The pace was relatively relaxed, with just a few tourists and locals milling all over.
We checked in at the inn by lunchtime. After depositing our bags, Nashy and I chose to have lunch at Amadeo Steak and Asian Cuisine. Kicking our shoes off and putting on our sunglasses, we ordered pasta and seafood and ate in a Bali-inspired cabana in the garden, over candlelight (there were a few annoying bugs, being in the garden and all, so I asked for candlelight). I ordered the saffron pasta, which was divine, and relaxed a bit before heading off to the Kaamulan Park/Grounds for some photographs.
There are a good many things I love best about the Kaamulan Park, especially during the Kaamulan Festival: towering trees, horses and horseback riding, log cabins, and wooden guest homes that look like gingerbread houses. A small stream runs through the park, and on quiet afternoons one can hear the sound of bubbling water tumbling over the rocks. We planned to go horseback riding, zip lining, and even wall climbing that day, but the 2 o’clock sun proved too much for us. So we simply surveyed the park for a few minutes, sat on verdant grass to gaze at the skies, and snapped our cameras.
We whiled away the rest of the afternoon visiting booths, haggling prices, and shopping for a bit. I bought some anthurium plants and a rose cactus for Mom, while Nashy splurged (with emphasis on splurged, haha) on her purchases. Dinner was uneventful, as power interruptions spoiled our plans of visiting cafes and having coffee, so we simply stayed at the inn, watched some movie with Jim Sturgess in it on cable, and slept early for our eight o’clock Mass at the Monastery of Transfiguration the Sunday after.
After the Mass, I could not leave the place – of course – without taking home the famous Monk’s Blend coffee, so I bought a small pack, to sample with my new coffeemaker back home. I was looking forward to breakfast at Bukidnon Brew Cafe after leaving the church at the Monastery, but I forgot that they were closed on Sundays. So, after a routine brunch (without coffee! :<) we headed to the shops again to haggle some more. I stopped along a few interesting items, took some snaps, all without giving in to my usual shopping impulses. I almost congratulated myself for not really splurging. Well, mainly because I’ve already bought some shoes on bargain the night before. Ooops.
So by 12:00 noon on Sunday, we checked out from the inn and stayed at some pastries shop downtown, while Nashy and I waited for her sister, who was driving through Bukidnon from Davao, to pick us up. We finally set for the bigger city before 1:00 PM; the fierce heat and the lovely sight of the trees by the roadside and the washed-maong skies beyond lulling us peacefully throughout the almost 2-hour drive.
Next time I’m in Malaybalay, I hope to go horseback riding at Quadra Eco Resort, spend an entire afternoon reading the books at Bukidnon Brew Coffee over fragrant coffee, and have my favorite Beef Teriyaki again at Le Cafe.
Having visited the place again after two long years, Malaybalay is still the same, yet different in so many ways. Or perhaps, it is I who have become different, albeit in little, unobtrusive ways. I left this city for good two years ago, convinced that I spent too long a time trying to love a a place that will never love me back. Still, there is nothing quite like the sight of mountains and trees and the small-town feel of a charming tree-bordered town over a short weekend – gone too soon! These are just a few of the wonderful things you don’t get in a crowded, humid city. Different or the same, I know I will always be going back.
Many people have fallen in love with Malaybalay, Bukidnon, myself included, and it’s easy to see why.