BY RICKY MONTECILLO
September 2, 2020
It was Araw ng mga Bayani or National Heroes Day last August 31, 2020, making it a 4-day weekend.
The National Capital Region is still under General Community Quarantine because of the game-changer COVID-19 pandemic. I haven’t been out riding my motorcyle for several months and it was the opportunity to breathe, even with a surgical mask, and get out in the open road again.
The Long Riders actually planned this trip earlier in August to celebrate the birthday of our veteran member Tito Peter Barrientos. He is well-known in the big bike commumnity and is well respected.
But towards the original date of the ride, the government reinstated the status of the NCR from GCQ back to the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. So we had to cancel.
And so the Team led by “Bahala-na-si Batman” Restie Renia reset the ride for August 31 to Porac, Pampanga. We also planned to share some relief goods and gift items to the local Aeta community up the mountain where we were camping. More than 25 riders and friends signed up and several came in SUVs and 4×4 pick-up trucks while 8 of us brought our motorcycles.
At the meeting place, Restie announced to the group the sudden change of plans. Apparently, the Aeta community requested to postpone our camping trip because many of their residents were uncomfortable with visitors, for possible in infection from COVID-19. We had to respect that. There’s always a next time.
Atty. Paul Yusi who is from Pampanga then suggested and offered his piece of property up at the foot of Mt. Arayat. So we all agreed to go there, raring to enjoy the mountain, nature and a bit of relaxing.
Arayat is not so far from Manila. It’s only about 120 kilometers and not even a 2-hour ride.
Before heading off to Arayat, Paul brought us to his favorite kambingan in Angeles Pampanga where we had brunch of kaldereta, sinigang and of course papaitan soup.
At the karinderia, Doc Von, and Jimmy Vidal started to warm up with scotch whiskey to prime the day.
Some of the SUVs and pick-up trucks went ahead of us to Mt. Arayat. We arrived shortly after and learned that the advance group missed the spot and drove further up.
The problem was one of them, Jake Yu and his kids, got stuck in mud. The rescue truck, a fully equipped Toyota 4×4 Hi-lux, also slid down a deep rut of mud.
We had to go up in Restie’s Ford Raptor to rescue them. We hopped on the Raptor’s bed with Tiger beers in hand.
After a couple of hours, all the stranded vehicles were able to drive back down to Paul’s property. But when we arrived, the caretaker said that they had left and drove down to the JJTan Resort.
Whew! The resort was a relief.Rather than roughing it up in the mountains with limited facilities, with mud and rain, JJTan offered rooms, a clean camp site, food, service and swimming pools. Paul and Carlo Esvover talked to the owners to accommodate us.
When you ride with the The Long Riders, such twists of fate, of good fortune happens all the time. Who would have thought that we would end up there? JJTan resort is owned by John Tanchueco.
The place right beside the Baliti Dam, which is a water reservoir, and also used as the local tourist spot. It is closed at the moment because of the quarantine but normally it operates as a boating and fishing place. It helps the local government raise funds,too.
And so the ride, camp and socially distanced merry making began and seemed to never end. I thought alcohol made people relaxed and sleepy but I was wrong. Between the antics of Jimmy Vidal, Roland L, Jake Yu and the rest of the gang, the energy was just overwhelming. We just kept going and going.
All those days in quarantine and the anxiety the pandemic has brought upon us must have stored all those laughter and plain good vibes expload. After all, we are social animals.
The Baliti Dam is surrounded by thick forests and has the view of Mt. Arayat. We walked early in the morning around the dam and the fog in the mountains and green forest, with the dam made for a refreshing walk.
We met with Barangay Captain Julio Puno after breakfast and had our group picutre taken. We talked about a possible medical and dental mission for his barangay.
JJTan Resort and the Baliti Dam in Arayat was what we needed. A fun-filled relaxing day by the mountains, with dear crazy friends. Happy birthday Tito Peter, Sael Requierme and me too.