Sunday, July 29, 2007

Puerto Princesa

Sunday, headed home

It was our last day in Palawan, we stayed at Casa Linda. Like any other day I woke up early before sunrise. It rained all night. I went up the street to take a pic of the main road. It is pretty site, with big Acacia Trees at both sides of the road with their canopies sprawling towards its center. 

We went for pasalubong shopping at the market. We bought cashews. And I bought a bunch of sea foods that will be cooked athome. Though I love fish, I’m not good with names, and occasionally their already cooked when I eat them, so I really don't know what they look like when raw. I just asked the vendor for which is which. I ended up buying maya-maya and lapu-lapu, as requested by my father. I also bought prawns and small lobsters/crawfish. Palawan is known for sea foods, especially crabs. I'm allergic to them, but sometimes when it's really fresh I don't get an itch.  I had them all packed in a box at the market for an amount which I'm not sure if it’s cheap or not, and I also had to pay for the labor. What I know is that the seafood are cheaper here than in Manila.  

With few hours left, we hurried to the airport only to learn that with our heavy baggage, there are no trolleys available. And besides the airport is in need of renovation, it's near dilapidation. It's ironic that the government is pushing on with tourism, but they have neglected the main gateway to the areas they so called "WOW" places. My father even told me that the air force was the one who built the runway, is he telling me that the airport or part of it, is that old?! They just had to rebuild or renovate it.

We're looking forward to going home and seeing our families, but part of us wanted to stay longer, in my case, I wanted to "live" there. 

All in all, we celebrated our birthdays in a fun new way, discovered new places, met new people, learned about lives, friendships forged and fears conquered. I've heard somewhere that a real traveler has no plans on where and when to arrive. I guess I'll be that for the rest of my life.

I've always love to be around nature, especially, tropical islands. My friend Grace and I dreamt of owning and managing our own island resort. Nothing's impossible. She always asks me to sketch up the plans. I can't blame if almost all the folks we talked with are not native of Palawan, I can't blame them, and it’s easy to fall in love with the place. I myself would do it, if ever there comes a time and opportunity. Living there is simple and stuff there is cheap and everything's fresh.

I would truly miss lazing at the beach. I'll miss dusting off the sand from my sandals. I'll miss the bright blue and also the rain clouds.

I'll miss the people and the food. I guess I will miss everything. It was a short trip but it was all worth it. Grace and I are both thankful that instead of giving us a slice of cake for our birthday, God gave us a slice of paradise. And it really tasted goooood. 

Saturday, July 28, 2007

San Vicente To Sabang

We went back to the resort gathered our stuffs, took the big boat and sailed for Sabang, where St. Paul's Underground River is located. It's a tough 2 hours, the sea a bit rough. It's scary but it's an interesting trip. It's scenic all the way. We passed by several empty white beaches, with mountains rich with thick forests. In some parts the shores are cladded with sharp almost black lime rocks. It looks pre-historic; they are formed diagonally as if they were awakening from the depths of the ocean. Unlike the ones at Coron and El Nido, the lime rock formations are vertical. The boat trip is such an adventure, it's almost like we were surfing the waves, surrounded by dark almost black waters. It's a humbling experience. At one point, the skies casted rain on our left part, while on the right, half was sunny with fluffy clouds. It reminded me of the "The Mummy" movie, where they were chased by a cloud/body of water. I felt that as if we got to get across before that dark haunting cloud reaches us, but in the end we weren't able to escape it. We still got wet in the end.

Near Sabang, the islands are covered with long spans of golden beaches with beautiful coconut trees. I wonder if it's ok for me to built a hut there and call it home. We reached St. Paul’s Bay, and ran through the path towards the cave. I was caught off guard when Grace pointed me to the monitor lizards roaming around the path. 

The trail is in the middle of the jungle which opens to an emerald green pool of fresh and salt water which reaches out to sea. It smells bad because of the bat droppings. Actually, I was a bit hesitant in going in there. With helmets and life jackets, we entered a world new to us. Our guide was paddling our small boat. The water almost reached the rim of the boat. 

The rock formations inside is totally out of this world. Dark hard marble descends from above, with water dripping everywhere. The river is 9m deep, and our guide consoled us and said it was low tide so it’s only 8m. I said it didn't make any difference, it's still deep. He loved to joke. I love the vegetable section. And I like the main chamber, with a giant stalagmite shaped like a big candle. We also saw a big fresh water eel and a small shrimp with eyes aglow. The outer part of the cave is filled with bats and swiftlets (balinsasayaw). We also went to a canal they call Highway, due to the horizontal flat rock formations. 

Grace was quiet during the trip and confessed she didn’t like cave and she got a bit nauseated inside. At one point, we turned off all the lights, and it was pith black, awesome. Seeing the underground river is totally a great experience.

San Vicente Palawan Islands

Saturday, the Best Day

I woke early again to watch the sunrise, it's more beautiful now. The colors ranges from pink, orange, yellow, a bit of purple and bright blue skies. The island is so magnetic that we don't want to leave. 

We had our breakfast, Grace with pancakes and I had the home made bread which is really good. It is crusty on the outside and soft and dense on the inside. Kuya Abi, took us island hopping. He is actually a native of Ilocos. 

For our first island, we went to Exotic Island. Where little kids freely play and for them their beach is a common everyday thing. The sand is a bit grainy and has little shells. 

Then we went to Albaguen Island, an uninhabited beach. It has very fine white sand and the most beautiful turquoise water. I wished we could stay longer but we had limited time. 

Then we headed for Blue Cove, a beach resort still under construction. We had a chit-chat with the caretakers who aren't natives of Palawan. The old man is from Pasig and the bartender is from Cavite. I can't blame them, if they chose to live there. I myself can leave everything and migrate to a private island. They say everything is simple and cheap there.

 We continued our boat trip, we passed by Double/German Island owned by a German of course, which is a private resort. We weren't able to see Long Beach, the longest beach in the Philippines.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cacnipa Island

Friday, Tarits' B'day

July 27, 2007

I woke early to catch the sunrise, even though it rained all night, I was hoping fro clear blue skies. The sunrise is in soft hues of orange, yellow and pink. I spent most of that morning walking barefoot on the sand which is still wet from the rain that evening. We decided to stay on the island and rescheduled our boat trip for the next day. Grace and I had a code name for the resort; we called it “secret destination/island". We have it all to ourselves. (Almost)

We met some folks there, two guys who are nephews of the owner, one is also an architect and one ECE.; the couple from Israel and a family who wasn’t dressed up for the islands, with long-sleeved shirts and denim pants. For breakfast, we hit the restaurant, I had scrambled eggs with veggies and Grace had the rice with onion and eggs. I had to share mine with her, because of the big food proportion. Then we hit the beach again, we're there all day. At sea or at the hammocks, we were really relaxing. It's is totally fun, just lazing around. From time to time my celfone would beep whenever there's signal. It's hard to get signals there, in a way it’s a good thing so no one can bother us. We were like ducks that day, one moment we're dry and one moment we're out at sea getting wet again. Lounging at the beach is awesome. We were just taking in everything or it's the opposite, we're letting the island take over us.

That afternoon, I went for a short siesta. It sometimes would rain hard. I remembered how fun was to bathe in the rushing rain so we headed for sea again. Before 6pm, we went discovered the other sides of the beach. To the far left are the interesting rock formations where we took lots of photos. I saw different creatures, one looks like a sea cockroach, a black spiny starfish and a big shell that smells bad. We even lounge and tried to drink beer with our acquaintances.

At dinner, we were surprised with the very big grilled fish. It tasted so good. Every time we ordered for food, it seems as if the serving gets bigger and bigger. After dinner, we watched TV, where I saw a big mouse climb up the TV box. A girl also saw it, and it crossed the room past her back. Everyone screamed and big laughter followed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Port Barton To Cacnipa Island

Thursday, Grace's B'day

It's totally relaxing. The long trip was well worth it.We reached Puerto Princesa past 9 that Thursday morning. We rode a tricycle to San Jose Terminal and with luck on our side; we caught the trip to Port Barton, San Vicente. I've never saw such big jeep i my entire life, we literally have to stretch up our legs to reach the seat up front. 

The almost 4 hours trip is a feast for the eyes. It was a scenic tour through the never-ending concrete highway. The drop-off and pick-ups was a bit of a hassle, we're just all too excited to reach P.B. A portion of the road lies around the hills beside the sea. When we reached the junction, it gave us the feeling that we're near our destination but it's still 22 kms to Port Barton. It was rough road from then on. The ride itself is an adventure. We had a flat tire; it reminded me of race car drivers in the middle of a race. Our dinosaur jeep has its own crew; I wonder what Schumacher will  to say about that. Four to five men leaped out from the roof of the jeep, scurrying off and changing the big tire as if they were born with the skill, or let's just say they're all too familiar with the situation. Sometimes they would push or pull whatever it takes to gear up the engine.

We passed by 2 green rivers which takes out the uniqueness of Loboc and mountains covered with trees that seem to be untouched. At our right is the mountain wall covered with ferns and the ravine on our left. And who can forget about the muddied road covering a portion of the road. We drove along with the help of the crew not once but 4 times actually. The mud is deep; it reached up to mid of the big tires. It's too much suspense every time we ran over one. We almost got stuck on one; I was staring at the tire, as if it's rotating in pools of Wendy's Frostee. I was just really damn hungry that. I finally knew why the jeep has too be that "BIG".

At last we saw the view of the calm blue sea. We reached Port Barton past 3pm, at the time when almost all boatmen were at siesta or just had a big drinking party the night before. PB is surrounded by blue South China Sea and kissed with golden sands, sprinkled with coconut trees all around.  It's a quiet town in between Puerto Princesa and El Nido, and is also accessible via Sabang on the south. 

We shared a trip to Cacnipa Island with a couple from Israel. The 45 mins. boat trip was a breeze. We passed by several islands, some populated and mostly uninhabited. Tired and very hungry, we reached our island resort. It is quiet and almost empty just the way I liked it. The cream colored sandy beach is adorned with tall proud coconut trees. The native huts gathered along the further part of the resort. And now we're alive and feeling the island vibe. I love the lush green bermuda grass. 

With so much excitement, after taking our backpacks in our own private hut, we changed to our swim wears and ran towards the sea and lounge at the warm waters. It's totally relaxing. The long trip was well worth it. We decided to stay at the island and say El Nido can wait. The sand is fine, there are small crabs along shore playing hide and seek with us. The beach has very interesting geological features, vertical sharp lime rocks and round river stones. That night we ate pancit guisado, it's Grace's b'day; a Filipino thing for long life. And we enjoyed our meal with Calamansi juice. I jokingly asked the cook if she used a dozen, because it was too tangy, she said she only filled half of the glass with it. Yikes. Grace asked for sugar and I asked for more water. I guess they just knew we lack vit C. If you check out their menu, you'll be surprised that they offer Italian food and what's ironic is they don't have fresh seafood available. But we requested for them. What's an island without fresh seafood?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


1st Day

We arrived at Tagbilaran Port after two hours ferry ride from Cebu. It was truly a hot summer day. The sea is calm and the sky in the brightest blue. We went straight to Wregent Hotel, which is in the heart of the city. After a short rest, we rode a tricycle to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s grand and its architecture is mix of the old and new. We walked around town to get the feel of the place. We visited  Bohol Museum, an interesting place to learn how Bohol island and the Chocolate Hills were formed. Bohol is where old and new co-exist, in terms of structures. There are Spanish colonial houses as well as new commercial buildings.

Bohol is always alive with their people and with their music.

 2nd Day

Early that morning, we rode a van to Dumaluan Beach at Panglao Island. Half of the beach is owned by a private resort and half of it is open for the public. We tried to walk up to the edge of it but it was quite hot so we headed back and decided to eat “kalamay” for breakfast under the nipa shed. We went for a swim until noon and sailed towards Alona Beach, the well-known beach there. For me I was more pleased with the beach in Bohol Beach Club side than Alona.

At Dumaluan, BBC side,  the water is very clear, calm and shallow. The sand is a bit coarse at shore but very fine and powdery at sea. Infact, it’s finer than Boracay’s white sand. Oftentimes we accidentally step on starfishes, they’re  everywhere. The place is picturesque, and it’s everything you’d like your private beach to be. It’s not crowded and very laidback.

That noon, we sailed to Alona and hunted for a place to eat. The boat ride was awesome. The water ranges in color from clear, to emerald and to dark blue.

Alona Beach is commercialized, boats are scattered everywhere, the shoreline is not that wide, and the water is deeper. There are lots of resorts. There are few restaurants around, we ate at one open air resto but the food was a bit disappointing, but we were very hungry so we can’t be choosy. We spent the rest of the day there at Alona.

On our way back, we went to ICM or Island City Mall for dinner and to make a quick shop. There’s a fabulous pastry shop, Bread Cottage. The Torta Bicolana is a must try as well as the bread with hard boiled egg, which looks like a bird’s nest.

3rd Day

1st Chocolate Hillls

Mang Chito fetched us for our day tour of Bohol. First stop is the famous Chocolate Hills. The view on top of the hundred plus steps view deck is great. It’s a nice feeling to be able to see it in actual and not just I postcards. There are thousands of that brownish hills around Bohol. The sky brightened up the backdrop while the fluffy clouds perked up the scene.

We made a short stop at the newly opened butterfly farm. The place is simple. Every time they open the gates a butterfly would escape. They have lots of species there, and that’s were I’ve learned that the giant Mariposa is not a butterfly but it’s a moth.

3rd Mahogany Forest

Driving through the roads of Bohol is a breeze due to the newly constructed road. We also stopped by the Mahogany Forest. It’s dense and it’s quite beautiful, somehow with the forest canopy we were spared from the hot rays of the summer sun. The tree planting was a project of the local government 30 or 40 years ago.

4th Hanging Bridge

We also went to the Hanging Bridge also known as Tarzan Bridge. It’s made out of weaved strips of bamboo with steel cables supporting it, so there’s no need to fear. At the end of it, there are souvenir shops and a guy who sells fresh coconut, which my friends really dig. There are so many tourists on the bridge, so it was tougher on our way back. It was also surprising to see “Buko King”, gnawing away the coconut husks. I think it will be harder for him to take on the husk of young coconuts than those dried ones.

5th Tarsier Sanctuary

It’s noon when we arrived at the Tarsier Sanctuary. They really are charming and cute. They’re world’s smallest primate. They are also nocturnal so they weren’t that active that time. They have a thick chocolate colored fur, with big eyes blinking, and with long tails. They say they can turn their heads 360.
6th Loboc River

The place is along Loboc River so we decided to take a boat ride. We had two choices, downstream to the nipas or upstream to the falls. It’s a sounding upstream for us. The river is deep green in color and is very alive. We passed by the cold spring, and the resort Nuts Huts which reminded me of a scary movie. There are floating restaurants in the river, but it’s advisable to take boats if you want to reach the waterfalls. Passing along, we were serenaded by the children’s choir and they also danced for us. Then we entered a cove guarded by a century old tree. We reached the twin falls at the end of the river.

7th Loboc Church

Back on our tour, we headed for the Loboc Church, the second oldest church in Bohol. We visited the museum; it somehow explained that music is always a part of Bohol. We heard the Loboc children’s choir practice their pieces for their 2pm concert. The church is in need of restoration but still there wasn’t any help coming from the government.

8th Prony

After that we visited Prony, the largest python in captivity. He was asleep but when I was infront of him, he woke up suddenly, maybe mistaking me for his big lunch. We were also entertained by Marimar, the gay guardian of Prony, who claims to know 25 languages. She sang, danced and even done cartwheels for us.

9th Sandugo Site

We drove to Sandugo site or Blood Compact Site, it is where Raja Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi did a peaceful blood compact. Not like what happened in Cebu, where Lapu-lapu killed Magellan.

10th Baclayon Church

The oldest church in Bohol, built during the 1520’s with limestone and egg whites. The church is fronting the sea. At the museum, the view from the window is awesome. The Spaniards colonized the Philippines for hundred of years, this is one of the thousand churches built under them which still stands firm and proud.

Nearing dinner, our driver/guide Mang Chito brought us to Sinugba ni Abdul, an open air restaurant, famous for the Ati-atihan chicken. The food is totally great and is not heavy on the pocket. The grilled squid is also delicious.

 4th Day

Mike fetched us 5:30 a.m. and took us to Alona Beach, where our big boat awaits us. We headed for the sea near Pamilacan, to spot on dolphins roaming that area. We are lucky to be able to see them at their natural habitat. They freely swam and jumped and made twists. It was fun especially at times when they swam beside the boat. There are more that 2 dozens that morning. As I’ve learned, in a day the place reaches a thousand dolphins visits. It is where they eat Galunggong. There are 7 dolphin species there and sometimes there are also whales. We also went to Balicasag Marine Sanctuary where some of my friends snorkeled. The water is pretty clear and calm. From the boat you can even see the bottom with corals and blue fishes.

Before lunch we went back to Alona and rode trikes to Dumaluan and spent most of the afternoon lounging on the beach. It was low tide that time.

That afternoon, we went to St. Joseph to celebrate mass. We waited at the town plaza, where at exactly 6pm, the black birds would fly from the cathedral to the bare tree, and they would sit there and adorn the tree as if they are leaves.

At the mass, the choir sang and sounded great as well as the priest.

Bohol is always alive with their people and with their music. It shows the festive spirit of Pinoys. It is very easy to fall in love with Bohol . The place is rich and it won’t fail to make you wonder. You would be asking for more and it will give you more than you expect.

5th day

 With hearts not wanting to leave and with boxes full of heavy pasalubong, we boarded our Supercat to get to Cebu, where we’ll also be touring around, just hitting two birds with one stone, I guess.

It’s so much fun that we were able to see and experience so much in a day.
We arrived at Cebu port after two hours, Kuya Allan fetched us. We were cramped inside the vehicle with big boxes and bags and all. It was noon, when Arch. Dondon and his family invited us for lunch at Ayala Center Cebu. We ate yummy and greasy CNT lechon(spit roast pork) with puso or rice in a heart shaped wrapping. A very authentic meal, lechon with vinegar and not sarsa, the way Cebuanos loved it.

After a hefty meal, Divine went with us to buy danggit(dried fish) and etc. We went and bought danggit and dried squid to our hearts delight. We also bought some dried mangoes and fresh mangosteen. Then we rushed ourselves to Magellan’s cross. We even passed along Colon Street, which is the oldest street in the country. And we went to buy guitars. Cebuanos are known for their craftsmanship and their love for music. Then we rushed to the airport, only to be notified that our flight was delayed so it was our luck. We were able to see other sites in Cebu. We went to Mactan Shrine where a big statue of the country’s first hero Lapu-lapu stood brave.

 Then there was the urge to buy lechon, we felt like we were hunting for treasure. Every shop we got to runs out of it. We ended up circling the whole of city for that hard to find delicacy. We got lucky at the CNT fronting SM. We held on to our boxes. With the taste of sinugba still haunting us, we asked Divine is she knew a restaurant for grilled food, we ended up in “New Larsian”, sinugba mecca. It was more than we asked for, it was a compound filled with stalls offering grilled food. We ended up on filling up with blue marlin, pork, chicken, liver barbeque with puso, ofcourse. We ate with our hands because that’s the custom there, no utensils but water and soap to wash our hands with.

 All in all, our Cebu trip is fun. The food and people are great. It’s cosmopolitan and also laidback and minus the pollution of a city like Manila. It’s so much fun that we were able to see and experience so much in a day. And I can’t wait to see the parts of northern Cebu for the fabulous beaches also.