The Clarks of New Jersey finally left Manila, a crowded city of intense traffic, drove south and discovered the charms of Batangas province.
We arrived in the town of Talisay, the ancestral home of the Gardiola clan, on the same day that matriarch Rosa De Leon Gardiola celebrated her 80th birthday. A large catered event is planned for Saturday (it's Thursday morning as I type), so more on that later.
Among the other early highlights in Talisay were a stroll to the water-front market, where the entire town buys fruit and vegetables, fish and meats. (No Walmart here. The largest grocery store is the size of a small bedroom.) Beng-Beng's husband Bart cooked up some locally grown Tillapia for breakfast, and everyone laughed when I declared it "masarap" -- a routine that never seems to get old among native speakers of Tagalog. We also enjoyed a ride in a "tricycle," the misleading name for a sidecar motorcycle taxi. And we spent $16 per head to enjoy a beautiful swimming pool at Talisay's resort of Balai Isabel. We had the entire pool to ourselves, and then we got most of our money back, because of the wash out.
"Inay" has discouraged all portrait photography up to this point, but this blog has acquired a fantastic picture of the two Clark ladies staring off at the largest active volcano in the Philippines. It's called Taal, two syllables. Shortly after this photo was taken, Neptune shook his gory locks in our direction with 60 mile-per-hour winds. Then, as in any one of a number of Joseph Conrad novels, the mini-typhoon was gone as quickly as it came.
Caption: Margie, left, and Natalie, with eagle eyes stare at Taal volcano.