After a whole day of walking, my calves were sore and all I wished for was to rest on a bench with feet sprawled on the earth, like a bird perched on its nest. We rode a jeep back to the Carabao park and found our own berth under a lofty adenium tree, beside college students enjoying a subtle piece of afternoon delight.
The setting sun from the west marked Los Banos its mild warmth of farewell as some students bid their Friday goodbyes to each other. The day was beginning to end.
When I was in college, I read from a Jing Hidalgo short story that the saddest part of the day is the hour before supper. And from the way I perceived Elbi on that afternoon, I thought, maybe Dr. Hidalgo was right.
A few minutes later and it was dusk. As the atmosphere revealed its rapture in crimson and purple tinges, we gathered our things to explore the Los Banos beyond the campus gates. We wanted to try Mer Nel’s which is probably the most notable chocolate cake in the area. My colleague even told me that it is still the best chocolate cake she has tasted in her entire life. Who wouldn’t be curious with such claim?
Unfortunately, Mer Nel’s Cake House doesn’t sell cakes in slices. The smallest cake (heart-shaped, people!) was still too big for the both of us, plus my companion had coughs which meant that I had to eat most of it by myself should we decide to buy one. So we didn’t. We resorted to go inside a cafe instead.
Cafe Ella was a comforting place for people who wanted quiet. While the city was bustling outside, we found a neat space inside as we sipped on our tea and chilled milk. We left the shop after a couple of minutes and went back to the campus to find a restaurant for dinner. On the course of our search for a restaurant, we stumbled upon two students seated by the solid grounds and they gave us a brief oral dissertation about why we must dine at Spice Jar. And boy were we convinced.
And I am most thankful to those students for suggesting Spice Jar, because the food, especially the Spice-Rubbed Pork which costs only P65.00, was a palate treat. Honestly, the dinner was one of the highlights of this trip. I also wanted to try their Oriental Pasta (P70) which resembled Yellow Cab’s Charlie Chan a lot, but I was really full. Someday, Spice jar. Someday.
After dinner, we looked for the Elbi Square to grab a couple bottles of beer. As UP students know, it is a common thinking that Elbi guys are heavy drinkers. The students who walked with us to the jeepney station refuted this and expressed their sentiments about this misconception. But still, their campus has this drinking square and unfortunately, ours doesn’t.
As we walked, my travelling buddy even bumped into an acquaintance he hasn’t seen since high school. Small world.
It was around 8:00 when we finally reached it, and I was surprised to witness an almost empty Elbi Square. And it was a Friday. My companion explained that the usual drinking day for the people there is Thursday, because students go back to their home provinces on Fridays. And that actually explained why they parted early that afternoon.
I wasn’t able to take photos because I found it sad that very few people were there. There were approximately ten to twelve bars inside and we chose one that was well-lit, relatively.
We left Elbi Square at nine to catch the bus back to Manila. Luckily we reached the terminal on a perfect timing, when the bus bound to Alabang was about to leave. We found seats at the endmost part of the bus.
We left Los Banos around 9:20, tired but seemingly elated.
On our way back to Manila, we didn’t talk much. Maybe because we were tired, and the air conditioner blew an almost tangible definition of cryogenics and beckoned us to sleep. I put on my earphones to listen to “Maps” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
As I shut my eyes, I could see that Elbi pranced its rarity before me. Our experience there was an exclusive way to the divine I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Not even for a slice of the chocolate cake we were denied of.