MY trip to Tabangao, Batangas City, was God’s Valentine’s gift to me. Everything really fell into place. The weather was good. My flight was on time.

At Naia Terminal 3, Aimee, my daughter, was ready way ahead of time to meet me. We took the South Luzon expressway (Slex). Since it was Aimee driving the 112 kilometers to Batangas City, I had time to appreciate the highway, plus the highway patrol officers who saw to it that people not only obeyed highway rules, but were safe at the same time. No wonder the toll fees were very high to an ordinary person like me but I guess people going back and forth to Manila feel the difference.

Along the way, I saw a house that looked like a miniature castle on a hill not so far from the Slex. Its shade of blue plus its spires that looked like castle peaks stood out. This was in Calamba.

Along the way, I also gaped at the portrait that Mt. Makiling made, as loving white clouds embraced its mountain tops with the blue sky as its backdrop. Slightly below the mountain top was a chump of mango trees that to me look like a stool that Maria Makiling could use. The legend states that she roams the mountain at will.

Those of us who remember Philippine folklore in grade school remember Maria Makiling who fell in love with a mortal. However, since her parents did not approve of a mortal, she died (I did not question her mortality then, since it was a good story anyway) of a broken heart. I enjoyed the idea of her roaming the mountain to look for her lover. If I didn’t remember the legend right, sorry but grade school was a long time ago.

I wish Tina Escaño Unchuan had taken the trip with me. It was really a breathtaking sight for her to paint on canvas that clear day.

Perhaps any of Luis King’s group of artist friends or Luis himself could capture that beauty?

Before I forget, the generosity of God’s love was really in abundance because Aimee, Cesar, Sinika and I were able to watch The King and I at the Newport Performing Arts theater at the Resort World. They bought our tickets knowing that I love plays and concerts.

What a treat. You’d never guess who was a row away: Fr. Manny Uy with some teachers from Sacred Heart School Jesuits-Ateneo de Cebu.

I recognized Nancy and Bebot since they are with the English department.

Just before the play started and during the 15-minute intermission, we oohed and aahed about how good Filipinos now are at great

productions and how far the director, Freddie Santos, has gone up in the country’s live performance industry from his early Joseph the Dreamer days. Santos once studied at Sacred Heart School for Boys and was in Cebu recently to attend their 40th year reunion. I encourage Cebuanos to see The King and I. The play is extended until May this year. It can hold its own beside a Broadway play. I felt I just had to share God’s bonus to me.

My big, big gift from God was my trip and stay with my daughter and her family. When one enters Batangas City, one enters a bustling, self-contained city, catering to almost all the needs of what is better known as the “Industrial Port City of Calabarzon.”

Two churches (the Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion and Simbahan ng Santissima Trinidad) and government buildings like the Provincial Capitol, and City Hall, etc., stand out. I was hoping to see Rep. Ralph Recto and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos but I wasn’t that lucky. (Sorry, dear Wilson Chua, I couldn’t relay your regards.)

I was just happy to stay at the home of Aimee and her husband Cesar. They are fortunate to stay in a place where there is so much greenery.

Name a tree and you find it there. Colorful flowers and fruit-bearing trees abound. Mother Nature blesses them with so much to appreciate. Colorful flowers just bloom because the soil is good. At her home, I was amidst so much beauty like gumamelas, red roses, santans, bougainvilleas, and other flowers I do not recognize.

The birds? Oh the birds! As early as 5 a.m., they trill and coo at each other. I’ve seen woodpeckers, orioles, Philippine doves and other migratory birds whose colors I dare not describe because I cannot. They came as close as five to 10 meters away and stayed to be admired.

I remember exclaiming to Cesar as we enjoyed the gentle breeze that wafted up the low veranda, “This is heaven!” His instantaneous reply was, “Heaven is what you make it, Mommy, with God’s blessings,” as he looked in the direction of Aimee and Sinika.

A bit earlier, Aimee recounted to me that she and Sinika were gaily planning a short summer trip to Cebu. Before they could get far in their plans, Cesar’s head peeped into the room as he exclaimed, “Ang galing-galing ninyo magsalita. Paano ako (Listen to the two of you talk! What about me)?”

In the short time I stayed with them, I realized what he meant about heaven. He, Aimee and Sinika are a single unit who carry so much love, tenderness, teasing and mischief as they treat each other as friends. I wish people would really make their marriage, with God’s help, a “Heaven on Earth.” God is a happy God and His generosity is boundless.