We’ve been in prison for over a year now. And any chance I get to go out, as long as it’s safe, I go for it. When we did the show for “Footprints” and had to travel to the north of Luzon, it reminded me of what life was like before this pandemic. There were hardly any crowds gathered, the fresh air and breeze outside Metro Manila had become a safe haven.

Chester and Joyce Gellido’s property in Jala-jala Rizal

I was invited by a close friends Chester and Joyce Gellido to their haven in Jala-jala, Rizal. It was quite a drive getting there but the trip was so worth it. Their place is right in front of Laguna de Bay, where almost the whole day, you have a gentle, cool breeze blowing. It brought back memories of freedom from this pandemic with lots of fresh air, clear skies, and relaxation. Fish and vegetables are inexpensive, fresh and abundant. What attracts me to this place is the presence of hot springs. They have a tiny pool beside a bigger one where we waded and just relaxed. After dinner, we slowly dipped ourselves into the pool with our ankles first until we eventually had our necks under the 51-degree hot springs. I am told it will address a lot of body aches and pains as well as many skin disorders. After about 15 minutes, we just dunked ourselves into the cooler pool, where we spend some more time ribbing each other and talking about anything under the moon and the stars. Then we went back for another hot spring dip. It was the most relaxing break I have had in almost two years. Your deep sleep is unequaled. I guess your body relaxes and circulation is at its peak.

The pool faces the stunning Laguna de Bay

Our meals were very simple but the freshness of the ingredients was something many of us overlook but, I’ve realized, is a major factor in terms of taste and how much healthier they are. Joyce cooked delicious kare kare and crispy binagoongan while I prepared a vegetable dish similar to gising gising. I combined sliced sigarilyas and sliced sitaw. I then sautéed garlic and onions, added bagoong alamang and then the vegetables. I threw in a chicken cube and some freshly squeezed gata ( they have a lot of this) and some chili sauce and diced siling labuyo. I covered all that until the veggies were still crispy but cooked. I then added patis to make the final seasoning and then topped the cooked veggies with crispy dilis.

The author (right) with a kitchen aid preparing food

Our drinks were fresh buko juice and dessert was bright-red watermelon, both of which we just bought along the road. We also had fried crispy fish filets straight from the bay.

The greeneries surrounding the estate

I remember visiting the next town, Pililia, decades ago where my friend would make uling or charcoal and sell it to the market in Manila. So, I asked to buy two sacks to bring back. I’ve been doing a lot of grilling lately, plus I use it for my charcoal oven. Normally a sack in Manila costs P500. I got mine for P180 per sack. Those tiny victories make my two-and-a-half-hour drive so worth it. I am just waiting for another invite to experience another break from prison. I know what to bring to make a dinner, knowing what fresh ingredients I can make use of when I get there.

Breath-taking sunset from the Gellido residence

Meanwhile, I am looking at the place for real estate investments. I am certain, this place will boom in the near future. With the guidance of friends Chester, Jun, and Lalaine, we hope we have discovered gold in Jala-jala not only in terms of food but also in land investment.

I loved this break!

Email me for inquiries at sandydaza@yahoo.ca.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/04/23/theres-gold-in-jala-jala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=theres-gold-in-jala-jala)