The Fruit of Our Labor Day

Tarlac, the Philippines

May 1, 2014

My friends and I had to count years before we found the time to take this road trip. Our plans for a rustic R&R in the lupain (farmland) of our haciendera friend Perfy always fell through, our free time never in synch. Conflicting schedules aside, there was never a reason urgent enough to drop all other plans – until my BFF, Danson, came home for a month-long vacay after seven years overseas. Thanks to a non-working holiday, all five of us crammed into Vang’s car and drove to Victoria, Tarlac on Labor Day.

Bestie and Me @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Tarlac

Bestie and TTT @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Tarlac

Driving through Hacienda Luisita @ Tarlac

In no time we were driving through Hacienda Luisita, the controversial sugar plantation in Tarlac that had been a thorn on the side of two of our presidents. Not realizing there was a veritable member of Tarlac oligarchy among us, the hacienda gatekeepers denied us access, not even for Instagram photo ops. Only The Aquino Center, a museum showcasing memorabilia of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was open to the public, but we ditched the guided tour in favor of lunch. Immersing in the life of this modern Philippine hero would have to wait, although Labor Day would’ve been an ironic time to visit as this hacienda had become a symbol of the injustice done to plantation laborers by powerful landowners, his wife’s family particularly.

Hacienda Luisita @ San Miguel, Tarlac City, Tarlac

Ninoy’s Car during his Exile in Boston @ The Aquino Center Museum, San Miguel, Tarlac City, Tarlac

To a car full of growling tummies, all roads led to Isdaan Restaurant made up of several floating bamboo huts built over a fishpond, from which I thought our lunch would come (it turned out to be a koi pond). Neither the wobbly dining huts nor their boodle platter was the main come-on. In-ya-face statues of the famous (the Obamas), the fictional (the Incredible Hulk), the fabled (three wise monkeys), even the spiritual (huge Buddhas), among others, vied for photographic attention. Tacky only to non-camwhoring types, which we were not. Why decide to be solely a floating restaurant or a theme park or a pilgrimage site when it could be all of the above?

Isdaan Floating Restaurant @ Gerona, Tarlac

Boodle Platter @ Isdaan Floating Restaurant, Gerona, Tarlac

There were also hut-hopping service peddlers to keep customers preoccupied while waiting for their food. Danson availed himself of a quickie massage and we had a trio serenade our hostess, Perfy, with a performance-level rendition of Nasa Yo Na Ang Lahat that kept the original Daniel Padilla diction.

How telling that the restaurant’s most famous gimmick was an anger management corner where customers, presumably venting their frustration with the snail-paced service, could buy porcelain plates of various sizes to throw and smash onto a concrete wall as they shouted tacsiyapo (a Kapampangan cussword). Ki tried his hand at plate-smashing. surely imagining me as the target.  

Gimmicks of Isdaan Floating Restaurant @ Gerona, Tarlac

Before sundown, we made it to what we came for: Perfy’s farm in Victoria. As we set foot on the summer-dried ground, time slowed down and the late aftie held on longer than usual. But what would city mice do in a farm? Camwhoring, needless to say, posing as the characters of a primetime soap about hacienderos and obreros. I was in character, doing my Coco Martin impression: wide smile, slit eyes, flaring nostrils.

Mang Berting, the Trusted Farmhand @ Perfy’s Hacienda, Victoria, Tarlac

The Evolution of TTT

Playing Hacienderos y Obreros @ Perfy’s Hacienda, Victoria, Tarlac

After all the camwhoring, care of our director of photography, Vang, we surprisingly reached the tiny orchard in the middle of the field with the sun still out. We expected self-service mango-picking, but obreros were quickly dispatched to do the job. It left us ample time to be useless pester the livestock and pose for photos by the haystacks. The setting sun lingered a bit to smile at our shenanigans. Back at the newly-built farm cottage, bowls of sago with crushed ice and milk prepared by our hostess with the mostest, Perfy’s mom, awaited our return. Chillax to the max.

Animal Farm @ Victoria, Tarlac

Hacienderos y Obreros: Franco, Isabel, Mona, Samuel

UL: Mango-Picking / UR: Scarecrow Wannabe / LL: Carabao Cakes / LR: Farm Cottage @ Victoria, Tarlac

We retreated to the mansyon, Perfy’s ancestral house, for the night. The chalet-style house was still looking grand and elegant as I remembered it years ago when we had the pleasure of meeting luminous socialite and politician Tingting Cojuangco right there in the living room. I climbed several social strata that day! Until now we have been convincing Perfy to take the reins of the farm in due time. Mostly for selfish reasons – so we could always have vacación en grande in Tarlac, bask in farm freshness, and hobnob with the elites. In other words, have a taste of livin’ la vida Victoria.

Perfy’s Ancestral House @ Victoria, Tarlac

Perfy with Ki, Vanggels, Danson, and TTT @ the Escalera Principal of Perfy’s Ancestral House in Victoria, Tarlac

Mangoes and Meals @ Victoria, Tarlac

Flora and Fauna in Perfy’s Mom’s Garden @ Victoria, Tarlac

Our heartfelt thanks to Perfy’s family for their all-out hospitality, the there’s-no-tomorrow meals in her mother’s garden, the tanked-up van we used to tour the province, and, of course, the take-home mangoes – the fruit of our Labor Day!

Perfy and Family: Our Hosts in the Hacienda @ Victoria, Tarlac

Indian Mangoes from Tarlac

9 thoughts on “The Fruit of Our Labor Day

  1. hi there, supercute lackuachero prof,
    how cute naman the carabao in the animal farm marunong mag selfie, huh; the scarecrow, too; trying to compete with the cara-bow?……..juz kiddin’
    seriously though, the shot is so artistic, i mean the animal farm shot, like it! thumbs up!

    • That baby carabao is sooooo adorable! And those doe eyes. Playful as a puppy too. It was running after me, thanks for the leash though.

      Please invite me to your lupain in Albay soon. I don’t think I can wait for the ribbon-cutting of MIA (Manzano International Academy). Wanna go Bicol sooooooon!

  2. Hmm, you said you’re going to visit a friend in Daraga. I will still be here at DLSU until December of 2015, more or less; but I’ll try less, the sooner the better coz I have to work on my little palm-sized farm, make it productive, plant fruit trees, etc. and prepare a little (native) guest house, too. Hey, hey, hey I mean native materials not pygmy guest, haha. I have to be careful with my speech acts; my prof is sooo Puritanic, haha.
    juz kiddin’!

    • You have enough time to do all the planting and building of your hacienda mansion. Not really in a hurry to visit Daraga and Tabaco just yet. Still have other trips lined up so perhaps just in time for the launch of MIA.

      Yeah, be careful with your speech acts. I can identify them regardless of the words used, haha!

  3. weee?

    hmm, think i’ll make my own blog, too, huh; how’s that? i am already inviting you to visit me, the first invite, hmm, at least in the blog, as you can’t wait for the bicol trip, eh…

    • I’ll be your first fan and follower, Mia! I wonder what you’d be blogging about. Education? Philippine culture and history? Or perhaps interracial romance?🙂 Post the link here when you’ve put it up!

      • Oh, hi there, Sir! Long time no hear! Wondering what to blog about? Hmm, web-serye maybe….romance? Hmm, partly, yes. Please wait and see, I wonder though if you’ll find it boring, haha! Hmm, but I still have to learn how to do it, find it complicated. Thank you for keeping in touch. I’m still busy so can’t meet yet but soon, very soon. Thank you!

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