About 174 kms north of Manila, there is a quaint little town, called Morong, in the province of Bataan; a small town with a big beautiful picture. Morong, relives a drama that is forever imprinted in the history of the world. Bataan was one of the last places to surrendered by the Japanese army, during World War II. Thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war were held in the mountains of Bataan, for three months before they surrendered and walked to the brutal parade of the 97 km Death March. During the Indochina unrest in 1975, many boat people from the former French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos took the dangerous journey to find their peace and resettlement in this little town.
But I only had read these stories, until one day I heard them first hand from locals. One weekend, we took the long bus journey up north of Manila. They said, in Morong, I would get a beautiful tan on the beach (I have brown skin that loves the sun), watch a beautiful sunset, enjoy less crowds and learn some proud Philippine history.And so started packing swimsuits, suntan lotion, camera, pen, notebook, a few travel books. And, of course a cute pair of flip flops of .
We left Manila, by bus, at about 8:00 AM.for the three hour trip. I love traveling outside Manila, especially going North. The trip is picturesque window viewing,of the beautiful and natural scenery. The bus stopped at another popular destination called Subic and we took an old-fashion bus, like an old, crappy school bus, paid little and enjoyed the beautiful side views of Subic Bay and the beautiful rainforest.
Reaching Morong, after a quick hotel check in, we checked out the beach. My crowd is addicted to blue waves and the serenity of the sea. The sand was not a perfect white but it was powdery soft, enough to make me fall in love easily. As it was lunch time we headed to the local market. Asking around for an ATM, we were told that there is no bank or ATM here. The Chorus was “ WHAT “ ?
Then our adventure began. Like a typical country side town, Morong is quiet, with one post office and one government office serving telegrams and telegraph. There is no existing telecommunication system and the only means to communicate here is two-way radios and the poor cellular phones due to limited signals.
We triped to the Refugee Processing Center, a small village that housed the Vietnamese refugees in the 70s- early 90s. To my delight, this camp was a large facility which could have made it as an industrial zone. We visited the museum that housed the actual boat used by the Vietnamese. I was having goose bumps when the curator retold the sad stories of how the Vietnamese took courage to cross the seas, in order to flee from the scourging war in 1975 and to escape the misery of communism in Vietnam. They pinched my heart when I heard about the loneliness of family separation and in general, endure the pain of afflictions. Such are stories we only hope to bury in the past and only recall with our new found peace. After listening to a heart-breaking migration story, we left for a popular tourist attraction here which the locals basically called the hanging bridge (real name is Kanawan Hanging Bridge) which was already the starting point to the famous Mount Samat. It was built as a sign of friendship to the Vietnamese refugees who have found a new home in this little village.
When arrived back just before the sunset, on the beach. In Morong when sunset is approaching, be ready for the bright hues changing the horizon and yes, capture the beauty of sun as it slowly sets. I was so love. And when the sun became completely intimate with the dusk, it was time for the real fun, a nice outdoor barbecue and a bon fire right in the beach front. It was time to play the upbeat songs that all rekindled us to salsa and reggae. Hooray, it was party time!
My long weekend was over. Morong became a more beautiful picture to me. I will remember it as a quiet laid back town, so different from the fast life in the city that I live. There, I did not check my watch. The brightness of the sky told me what time of the day it was. The dusk that enveloped the horizons told me twilight was coming. I loved the well kept Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an noodle place. Loleng was a worker at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center where she learned to cook Vietnamese dishes in perfection like hu tieu, a savory noodle soup and banh mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with meat and fresh basil.
Morong, another piece of story in my diary.