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Esquire Philippines|August 2016
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The road to the north is not narrow at all. But it feels narrow, as all roads are narrow, as a straight, taut bridge to somewhere in the far distance is narrow, no matter how wide the bridge really is, as the eyes narrow, even when you’re only looking at the map and there are no complicated directions, and even when you ignore the instructions given out by the rigid voice on our devices.

Sarge Lacuesta

n IS FOR NARROW. The road to the north is not narrow at all. But it feels narrow, as all roads are narrow, as a straight, taut bridge to somewhere in the far distance is narrow, no matter how wide the bridge really is, as the eyes narrow, even when you’re only looking at the map and there are no complicated directions, and even when you ignore the instructions given out by the rigid voice on our devices.

You will know your way by the cardinal direction on the compass, you will be pushed by a natural propulsion, like a foreign element in a blood vessel headed straight to the head from the heart, as we are when we leave Manila at seven or eight in the morning and hit La Union, steeped in the heat of late noon.

Lunch is beautifully cooked bagnet on rice at a partially hidden restaurant called Tagpuan, just across Urbiztondo beach, which is a strip of grey sand plied by healthy waves on the back of generous swells, and fronted by surf schools and restaurants.

These days La Union is everyone’s favorite day escape from Manila. Some people have taken to calling it “Elyu,” and I suppose it’s meant to give everything a cool, jaunty feel. As expected, there is the faint sound of reggae in the air.

But Tagpuan doesn’t look out at the sea. There’s no escape from the road to the north, where tricycles sputter by and trucks hurtle past, only a brief respite.

There is just a thin blade of shade; my five-year-old son instinctively takes his shirt off in the heat.

A few hundred meters ahead there’s a café called El Union, and despite ourselves, thinking of the long stretch ahead to Vigan, we drop by and suffer the Manila crowd taking portraits of their beverages. We pull away and push forward. When you’re headed far, coffee is coffee, and that’s all.

On this trip we take the new Ford Everest, a solid specimen of automotive engineering from the inside out. It feels like it’s the only sure thing we have now. My phone connects instantly with the audio system as though they were conceived in the same womb; there are none of the creaks or knocks or wiggles that are the trademark quirks of so many SUVs out there; and when we are in it we feel like we’re ten feet above the ground.

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August 2016