I used to do solo trips on my birthday, and it’s usually Baguio because it’s my happy place. In the past two years, however, I haven’t done solo birthday trips because I had been a little more friendly (yey!) and I brought people along with me.

But this year, I went for an impromptu trip to Pangasinan. Impromptu because I originally wanted to go to Buscalan with my friend Dan, but when we learned that it would take days to get tattooed by Apo Whang Od, we canceled it for some other time.

I had no idea where to go up to the minute I arrived at the bus station in Pasay. All I knew was that I’d be heading up north because that’s where the buses at the station were going.

I don’t know why I didn’t choose Baguio this time. Perhaps I wanted to go somewhere new. Perhaps I wanted to be in a less crowded place.

The signage of Lingayen at the waiting area caught my eyes. No bus there yet and only a few people were waiting. If there would be a trip to that place in the next hour, I told myself it would be Lingayen this time.

And guess what? There was a Lingayen-bound bus leaving in 20 minutes!

I arrived in Lingayen, the capital of Pangasinan, a little past 12 midnight. I was hungry, and I was told by the bus driver that the only open fast food was McDonald’s.

Thanks Google Maps, I didn’t have to ask a lot of strangers where McDo was.

But then I still had to walk in the dark to have dinner. I was already getting a headache from lack of food by that time. Last I ate was a piece of siopao before boarding the bus. The meal before that was my birthday lunch at home.

While at McDo, I searched Google for accommodation. First one I called was fully booked. The second one, luckily, had a single room left.

Not the best accommodation for P800 a night but it served the purpose – to provide me with a safe place to stay in for the night, plus a place to shower and change clothes.

I checked out around 11 AM to check out the Lingayen public beach which I read was just a few minutes walk from the hotel. It surprised me that such a long stretch of beach was public. Had it been in Cavite or Batangas, people would have built resorts on those shores already.

A little bit of history: The Lingayen beach was where the Allied armies landed during the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf (World War II).

So perhaps the beach was preserved and made available to the public for being a historical landmark. But then I heard there’s also a public beach in Dagupan, as well as in Bolinao.

How I hope all beaches are public… and all people are as disciplined as the Pangasinan in Lingayen who really throw their garbage in proper places (at least the students in other cottages while I was killing time, waiting for sunset).

Sunsets in beaches are always amazing. The colors, the shadows, the cool wind… and for me, there’s a sadness that goes with it.

Dark envelopes light, and darkness equates to sadness.

And if there’s something that plays in my mind whenever I watch the sunset away from home, it’s that Les Miserables scene where Eponine sings On My Own.

Sunset is synonymous to parting; for me it means goodbye.

After that sunset show at Lingayen beach, I knew it was time to go home. That sunset made me miss my mother.

I needed her hug.

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