Travelling safely after so long during the Covid-19 outbreak

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I haven’t travelled for over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak hit the world in 2020. Given the up and down cases of the virus, it’s hard to predict when is the safest time to travel. I was invited last May and June to travel nearby by my friends and when I was assured of the safety protocols in place, I dropped everything back home and said yes! I needed a break and we were going with people I feel safe to travel with.

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So we went to the nearby town of Boso-Boso, Rizal in May and the beach town of Calatagan, Batangas. In Rizal, we went to our friend’s camping grounds called Gabriel’s Sanctuary which is located on top of the Sierra Madre mountain range and around less than two hours of travel from Manila.

The camp protocols include wearing face masks, face shields and observing social distancing. It was pretty basic and didn’t require a swab test because Rizal that time was under MECQ rules so the cases of Coronavirus isn’t as high as before or compared to other places.

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The campsite has several huts made out of bamboo, there’s a main house for the staff and the common kitchen as well as an area to hangout. There’s also a common bathroom where guests can take a shower, which doesn’t have hot water but I really didn’t mind as I was used to travelling to remote places without the comforts of our homes. The entire campsite uses solar energy which I love and it’s completely off the grid so there is totally no cellular signal.

We stayed overnight during the weekend at Gabriel’s Sanctuary. On the first day after having lunch and resting in the morning, we went on an exciting ATV ride across the mountain range. It was my first time to do an off road driving and I’ve been wanting to do it for so long but it’s pretty expensive. Luckily it was cheaper here for Php2,000. It wasn’t an easy drive given there wasn’t a paved road and there were rocks you have to maneuver when driving.

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The very cool destination at the end of the dirt road is reaching Boso-Boso River in Rizal. I never knew there was a river in Antipolo and the river was surrounded by mountains where we went swimming for an hour and rested after the long drive. Afterwards, we had to ride back to the town but our adventure didn’t end yet because it started pouring down heavily so we were drenched including our bags. Luckily I had a garbage bag inside with all my things so it didn’t get thoroughly wet (I left my dry bag in Manila).

My ATV malfunctioned when I was driving because the rainwater went inside the engine and I had a slight incident of going backwards on one of my friend’s ATV. But the staff and owner of the ATV company were there and assisted us throughout the ride, making sure we were safe and sound.

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After the ATV tour, we went back to the camp and the heavy rain started again while we were going up. That was really hard as it was so slippery as the water went gushing down the hill. It was funny when the rain stopped when we reached our campsite, as if it cleansed all the heavy burdens I had the past years since lockdown.

We spent the rest of the day having dinner and sharing stories while drinking under the night sky sharing until the wee hours of the morning. Some of us managed to stay until the break of dawn to watch the sea of clouds which was utterly beautiful and so peaceful.

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A month after, we travelled again but this time to the beach at Calatagan, Batangas. There were more requirements because the country just emerged out of a stricter lockdown a few weeks ago. The province required us to get a medical certificate from a private or government doctor (from the barangay) to ensure that we are Covid-19 free and a confirmation of our stay at the resort we went to which is Velasco Residence.

I chose to do an online consultation since it’s still scary to visit clinics, especially hospitals these days. It was easy and I got the medical certificate sent via email. You can also get it from the barangay but I didn’t want to because the process might be more of a hassle. All of us got our certificates at private clinics for convenience.

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At the border of Calatagan and Lian, there is a checkpoint manned by soldiers or police where they asked us for our medical certificates, where we are going and for resort or hotel confirmation. It was fairly smooth and easy, though I admit it was nerve wracking at first because we didn’t know what to expect since during the pre-Covid days there weren’t really any of these checkpoints and medical requirements relating to the virus. But it’s good they have it in place to control the transmission of the virus.

So on we went to our final destination after the soldier let us through the checkpoint to our relief. It was the perfect sunny weekend we had at the beach. I’m pretty much a beach person and being away from it for so long since lockdown was so hard. It’s the only place where I’m at peace and I can really rest my head when things are hard or tiring, so you can’t imagine how happy I was to be one with the ocean and travel after such a long time.

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We spent the weekend eating delicious local food like the noodle soup called lomi which Batangas is known for. We had a great time swimming, playing beach volleyball, karaoke and drinking as we relaxed at the resort. I wish it was longer but I’m not complaining and just glad to be with friends and finally see the ocean.

On our last day we passed by Tagaytay where we had dinner at Mer-Ben Tapsilogan Sa Tagaytay and ate dishes the town is famously known for. We had delicious bulalo and crispy tawilis which I missed a lot as I haven’t eaten those for a long time. I was surprised how tourism is back in place again with restaurants and cafes full of diners. We chose an outdoor restaurant which is safer because of better ventilation to dine in. To cap our trip, we dropped by Loumar’s to buy some treats to bring home to our families.

How I wish Covid-19 is over soon so we can all go back to our regular travels anytime we feel burned out without worrying about getting sick but I’m lucky to even have the chance to travel despite everything that is happening in the world.