And so, simply on account of the fact that I got to Tagaytay last Sunday WITHOUT incident, in the face of circumstances that included: (1) using a new route called EDSA (instead of C5) for the first time; (2) navigating with limited visibility on account of the driving rain; and (3) having hapless foreigners as vigilant passengers, the universe decided that it was high time I paid the bill (with interest) upon my return to the metropolis yesterday.
It all began when I decided to stop by Nurture Spa Village on the way home to pick up a canceled check. On my way out, at the only fork in the road that shouldn’t have confused me on account of its singularity, I took a left where (with the brilliance that comes with exasperated hindsight) I later realized I should have taken a right. After three kilometers of increasing bewilderment (why do none of these landmarks look remotely familiar???), I drove into a Petron station and accosted the three attendants:
“Where, pray tell, is the rotunda?” I asked politely.
“Rotun . . . da?” They repeated, savoring the word’s novelty.
“Yes, yes,” I replied impatiently. “The rotunda in Tagaytay that you pass on your way to Manila.”
“Manila.” They repeated, brightening at the word’s familiarity.
“Yes, yes,” I replied impatiently. “Manila, the terminus of the South Luzon Expressway.”
“South Luzon . . . Expressway?” The looks on their faces indicated that we were back on foreign terrain.
“The SLEX!” I started gesticulating in exasperation. Seeing that this had no noticeable effect on their facial expressions, I threw my hands up and uttered the sentence that was to doom me for the next three hours. “Just point me in the direction I should go to get to Manila.”
In unison, they pointed in the direction that I had driven for the last three kilometers with mounting anxiety. “Fine,” I grumbled. “As long as it heads to the metropolis.”
After one hour of driving through tiny roads infested by trucks the size of small asteroids and potholes the size of small planets and all manner of roadworks (designed expressly to make roads unworkable), I realized that I was in the heartlands of Cavite (Dasmariñas? Imus? Bacoor???) and that any hope I’d had of stumbling upon the SLEX had evaporated along with the rain.
At this point, Anoushka, who had never traveled from Tagaytay before but had been fiddling with my Metro Manila atlas ever since the Petron incident, politely asked me if I needed any help navigating.
“You’re English,” I said, with the self-assuredness that tends to come with stating the obvious. “You may have South Asian roots, but you’re a foreigner nonetheless.”
Anoushka shot me a look that roughly translated into: “It’s not like your being a local has been any help whatsoever.”
I smiled brightly. “Pleased to have your assistance then.”
And it was from that point onwards that things started getting really funny.
(Stay tuned for Part 2.)