I normally spend my day off at home. I would only go out in the afternoon to jog in Ayala. Then I’d go back to the house, have dinner, then plop myself in front of the laptop to watch YouTube.

I now have a very short attention span. Trying to find something to watch on Netflix, or Disney+, or HBO Asia or Prime takes forever. And I usually end up watching a show or a movie that I’ve already seen. So what’s the point? That’s why I stick to YouTube.

But last week was different. I received a call from my aunt asking me if I wanted to accompany her and Tito Lester to Bogo for an overnight stay. You see, he originally hails from there.

I haven’t gone out of town lately. Not because I don’t want to. In the past, I would go to Argao, my grandparents’ hometown, at least once every two months, to chillax. But the stress of getting there nowadays is just not worth it.

People who live in the south know what I’m talking about. I pity them, especially those who go home every weekend. The 66-kilometer trip used to take an hour and a half, tops, back in the mid-‘90s. But now, you’re lucky if you get there in three hours.

Anyway, I decided to go to Bogo. It has been more than a decade since I last visited the place. So I was kind of excited.

Plus I love traveling to the north because it is so different from the south. It’s like you’re in a different province. In fact, the green, rolling hills that greet you when you cross the border from Tabogon remind me more of Mindanao.

I’m not saying the north has better views because it doesn’t. It’s just different.

Trust me. Nothing beats driving from Dalaguete to Alcoy, especially when the fire trees are in bloom during the summer. It’s like being transported to the French Riviera, zipping through winding roads as you gaze down the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

At least, that’s how I remember it. Or maybe it was the drive from Ronda to Torremolinos in Andalusia. It has been more than three decades. Either way, the views were spectacular.

So where was I? Oh yes, Bogo-bound.

My aunt said I could hitch a ride with them. No problem, I said. I’d have to be in Consolacion by 7 a.m., she said. There was a slight hesitation on my part because I don’t get off from work till past 9 p.m. But hey, it’s not often that I break my routine. So no problem, I said, but with less enthusiasm.

She told me she wanted to get there well before lunch. It was then I found out that Tito Lester’s family was celebrating the fiesta of Barangay Sambag. No, not the one in Cebu City, but the one in Bogo.

Anyway, long story short, I woke up late. But I had an inkling the night before that that would happen so I texted my aunt that I would just meet them in Bogo. I would take the bus instead.

I left Cebu City before noon and didn’t arrive in Bogo till almost 5 p.m. I know it’s 101 kilometers away, and the drive there doesn’t take that long. But hey, I was raring for an adventure.

I initially hopped on an airconditioned bus, but found myself feeling a little claustrophobic. I don’t suffer from motion sickness, but there I was, feeling a little queasy, and doing my utmost not to hurl at the passenger sitting next to me.

So I got off. Luckily for me, an unairconditioned bus arrived soon after. I flagged it, and I was on my way. I estimated I would be in Bogo by 3 p.m.

Of course, I didn’t take into account the storm that slowed us down when we arrived in Carmen. Or that the driver and the conductor would stop to have lunch. At past 2 p.m.

My aunt called asking where I was. Told me Tito Lester’s mom, Mrs. Nadia Retuya, and aunt, Mrs. Remedios Hortelano, were looking for me. Told her about the situation. She said no worries. I may have missed lunch at the Retuya household, which is on the ground floor of their ancestral house, but we would be having dinner across the street at the Hortelano residence.

By the way, the street is named after Mrs. Retuya and Mrs. Hortelano’s father, Conrado de la Viña.

When I finally got there, they treated me like I was part of the family. It was as if we had known each other all our lives.

I had a quick nosh before we headed outside to watch the procession. Then I noticed that they had set up a table by the side of the ancestral house. A total of 500 food packs and juices arrived. The gates were flung wide open.

Apparently, the family has been offering refreshments after the procession since anyone can remember. It was “first come first serve” until supplies lasted. Tanods arrived to make sure the crowd didn’t get unruly and to man the traffic, while the children and the grandchildren of the de la Viña patriarch handed the food and drinks.

It was nice to see tradition being upheld.

I could go on and on about the experience, but then there wouldn’t be enough space. Let me just say that I am very glad that I decided to get out of my comfort zone. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have met all those wonderful people.

I would like to thank Tito Lester and his whole family for welcoming me with open arms. And, of course, I would like to thank Tita Mayet for the invite.