\n<br n\/>"Be my laydeh..." Martin Nievera crooned as I entered the bus, this first bus I saw with a "Dau" sign on the dashboard, on EDSA near Munoz Market.<br n\/><br n\/>"Comfort me through all the pain and be my laydeh..." Martin seemed to serenade me as I plopped on a seat I had all to myself. It's almost the same. Like being transported back in time, I told myself, as I surveyed the inside of this generic bus I can't even remember the name of.<br n\/><br n\/>Red curtains shielded us passengers from the sun's harsh rays. Backpacks and plastic bags were stacked overhead. The seats were covered in plastic. There was a TV overhead behind the driver, but it was turned off. The bus smelled old. The word 'kitsch' stuck in my head.<br n\/><br n\/>Then came Ric Segreto singing "Lovin' you oh-oh is such an easy thing to do..." and I relaxed. I've been through this before, something like more than 20 years ago, on a bus on the way out of Metro Manila with 80s music from cassette tapes. I was on one of my "nakikiprobinsiya" trips back then, like now.<br n\/><br n\/>For college, I went to a university in Manila that seemed to be a melting pot of people from different regions. I gave a quizzical look the first time someone asked me, "Taga-saan ka?" "Sa Quezon City?" I answered, kinda asking myself if I gave the right answer. "Hindi, saan ang probinsiya mo?" a classmate asked. "Um, sa Batangas ang Daddy ko, pero ang Mommy ko sa Bulacan. Pero ang roots ng Daddy ko sa Ilocos. Pero ang Mommy ko dito na lumaki sa Manila. Dito na rin kami lumaki." Lotsa "peros" or buts as the question simply couldn't be answered in one word.<br n\/><br n\/>A number of my classmates though would rattle off provinces they hail from left and right: Batangas, Pangasinan, Benguet, Pampanga, Laguna, Albay, Davao, Nueva Ecija, Zambales. Those were really where their families were, and they were just staying in dorms in Manila. When sem break, Christmas break, or a long weekend would be nearing, my probinsiyano classmates seemed to be more excited and would ask each other, "Uuwi ka? Kailan?"<br n\/><br n\/>Then they would come back refreshed and happy with tales of their vacation, and of how traffic was light or heavy going back to Manila.<br n\/><br n\/>I, on the other hand, would have most likely spent vacation in --where else--Quezon City, in the comforts of our home. <br n\/><br n\/>And so it was that I started inviting myself to the provinces, at times "imposing" on others, employing as much charm as I could muster.<br n\/><br n\/>First, Christmas and summer vacations at my cousin Kuya Roger's house in Batangas City where Ate Cory would lovingly cook longganisa and pochero for me. Then came sleepovers at my friend Erli's house in Angeles City, Pampanga, where she introduced us to Aling Lucing's sisig by the riles or old dilapidated train tracks. I would spend three days or more at my best friend Richelle's house in Dagupan, and discovered Bonoan bangus. And I remember "ambushing" my friend Boy in Alitagtag, Batangas with two other "kaladkarin" org mates, and buying tulingan at the wet market.<br n\/><br n\/>At Nini's in San Pedro, Laguna, we rode the sidecar after riding an 80s kitchy bus, a treat for me since there were no sidecars in our part of Quezon City. Then there was a time almost a whole jeepney-load of us went to Ching-Ching's place in Angono to spend the night and wake up before dawn in time for the Easter Salubong. And how can I forget submerging my feet in the waters of Malay, Aklan near Marlie's grandparents' place after watching the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo?<br n\/><br n\/>Sometime in between starting work and raising a family, though, my provincial visits became few and far between. These came in the form of family road trips, office outings, or coverages for lifestyle articles.<br n\/><br n\/>Good thing my 17-year-old son had an out-of-town trip recently. It was then that I hopped on the first Dau-bound bus I saw on EDSA to visit Erli again for a sleepover and a sisig dinner, and relive those memories of a time when there was more time to explore the world.<br n\/><br n\/>"Doobidoobidoo bidoobidoo," the Apo Hiking Society seemed to cheer me on while I sat smiling to my forty-something self in this old kitschy bus.