Norzagaray

We went to Joseph Chua's farm and rest house in Norzagaray, Bulacan, about an hour and a half drive away from Manila, for the Agape sem-ender celebration. He invited us to have our planning session there last year, but we never had the opportunity to go until today. Sadly not everyone made it—they either had prior commitments, or they were already home in their provinces for the Christmas break.




Joseph's mother, Tita Maritz, graciously offered to drive us. The trip was smooth and enjoyable. The traffic wasn't as bad as we expected.


(Photo above is by Ruby King, via Facebook.)

We were all smiles when we arrived. Everyone was excited. We never had anything planned—there was no itinerary at all—except that we were decided that 1) we would have games, 2) we would eat good food, and 3) we wouldn't stay overnight (although Tita Maritz kept insisting that if we so decided, we could, and she could just fetch us in the morning).



The place had a rustic, provincial feel to it, which reminded me of home. The air was fresh, the grass was green—it was the typical Philippine picture of the countryside, a rare sight for us who stay in Manila.



The Chuas maintain the farm to serve as their getaway from the city life and to accommodate church camps, especially during Summer. That's a great ministry, I think, extending hospitality to churches around the area for the building up and equipping of their congregation.



As Joseph toured us around, we saw the kidney-shaped pool (his father is a nephrologist, after all). We would spend part of our afternoon here, swimming in the cold, refreshing water.



Scattered in the area were nipa huts of various sizes. Made primarily of bamboo, these are the traditional Philippine houses, ideal for the tropical climate.



Ruby King didn't miss the opporunity to pose as a dalagang Pilipina (Filipina maiden). Tradition has it that when a man desires the hand of a woman, he should go to her house and serenade her while she looks out the window. Ruby was merely practicing, of course.



Outside, JC Malabad and Jana Mier were reliving their childhood by climbing the balete tree. I wonder how many children, especially those who were born and raised in the city, still get to do that. I'm almost sure that they no longer do and, boy, are they missing a lot.





Abby Ortal enjoyed the swing. Here she is, letting her hair down. I say that literally.


After the short tour we had a heavy merienda and then videoke and a heavy lunch after that. The crispy pata was delicious—think of saturated fat, think of cholesterol! We were almost sure we'd have elevated lipid profiles in the morning. The food was overflowing, praise God!

JC and Lowie Calimag were singing Uptown Girl here, if I remember correctly.





(Photo above is by Ruby King, via Facebook.)

We waited until the noon sun abated. Around 3 pm we went swimming.




(Photo above is by Ruby King, via Facebook.)

Right smack in the middle of the property was the fish pond. I was told tilapia grew there.



We went fishing at 4 pm, when the sun wasn't so harsh and the light was diffuse, just perfect for photography. Here's Llaine Callanta, proud of her catch.



Joseph demonstrated how to hook, aim, and retrieve the fish.



Meanwhile here we were. The fish were testing our patience.



So what made this trip extra-special? I can think of several reasons. First, it was my first time to spend time with Agape friends outside of Metro Manila. Second, we saw and enjoyed the beauty of God's creation. Third, we hardly spent anything—thank God for the Chua's Christian hospitality! Fourth, we had clean fun. I praise God for these friends!

Let me end this account with two of my favorite pictures taken during the trip.

A reflection of the tree branches in the water . . .



And a picturesque view of the greenery under the afternoon sun.



Sa uulitin!

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