Monday, October 27, 2008

Losing a tripod, my footing and myself in Borongan

A divine hand must have been testing our collective patience for this assignment. To wit, my alarm clock didn't ring 2 hours prior to our red-eye flight.T hen after landing in Tacloban, we found out that Cebu Pacific misplaced my art director's tripod (it mysteriously ended up in Cagayan de Oro!). A  day later, i lost my footing twice in the trails leading to a falls. But that's getting ahead of my story.

We took the long route to Borongan, landing in Tacloban and taking the jampacked Duptours van after losing precious time looking for that wayward tripod (airline passengers beware checking in your valuable gear; we learned the check-in counter personnel didn't clearly wrote the destination on the slip, maybe due to the early hour).I 've taken far longer commutes but this was the first time i suffered from blood pooling in my thighs as baggages blocking the door prevented us from stretching our legs during stops.

As we were seated at the back-most part, we absorbed each and every bump on the road (and in all honesty, there were very many). The 4.5 hour trip made us a first-hand witness to the very poor road conditions i've only previously read about (as well as appreciative of the fact that we're taking the direct flight on our way home).

Borongan may be found in one of the country's poorest provinces, but the very warm welcome and hospitality we got from the Tourism Council belied this fact.
With only two days to shoot for this Seair assignment, seizing the moment is imperative. rising up at 1am on saturday to the sound of a squall, I waited until 3am to prepare for our banca ride from Lalawigan town to Divinubo Island, some 30 minutes away, to catch the sunrise.

Another 30 minutes of hiking took us to the eastern flank where we found a modern parola (much to my chagrin). Never giving up hope, Jocas, my art director and I scanned the horizon for alternatives and saw lovely rocks exposed by the low tide.

We spent the better part of the day pampered by the Divinubo contingent, lavished with food and attention as well as insights on the island. Divinubo, according to local stories, is an island that rose from the sea (hence, the word "tubo" or grow). A favorite chillout place among the locals, it is very clean, with interesting sunrise and sunset views. Another thing I found fascinating was learning that the island draws power from the mainland not through underwater cables but through power lines stretched above the sea on tall posts.

The island holds a lot of potential for tourists who'd prefer not to mind the rather austere accommodations in favor of a tropical escape, lingering on a hammock or feasting on seafoods under the shady talisay trees. I did both and it was pure bliss.
Jocas, Seair InFlight's affable art director surveys the sunrise scene 

Sunday was consigned to visiting at least one waterfalls. While I would've loved to explore one tucked deep in the forest, we had to settle for the more accessible Kaputian Falls. Some 30-40 minutes topdown tricycle ride (tricycles with no roofs) from the city proper, the trails to the falls takes one through fields, a river, rocky paths and a densely forested area.

We got to the somewhat compact but otherwise lovely falls at around lunchtime. Before long, the place was crawling with bathers eager to cool off on a sunday. I was willing to wait out for the crowds to disperse to no avail. I'm not famous for my sense of balance and with so many bathers making the ledge-like trail to the secondary cascade slippery, I slipped twice, bruising both my legs and my ego. the second time around, my camera backpack slipped into the water but thank God for Kata bags, my beloved gear survived without mishap. Whew!
During the rest of our short stay, I tried to get a piece of the skimboarding action right there on the banks of the Borongan Boulevard. Come late afternoons and early mornings, Borongan skimboarders barely out of their teens test the waters and skim the waves on their homemade wooden boards. Manoy, the amiable team leader, said that skimboarding is a nice way for young people like him to stay unstuck, unaddicted to the lure of internet cafes -- a very good point, really. The local tourism council is actively supporting the watersport in the hope that it catches on as most of the foreign tourists visit borongan for the skimboarding and surfing possibilities.

In the meantime, skimboarders like manoy continue to ride the waves; never lacking in athleticism and resourcefulness. they take to the water in the hope that the nascent sport, much like Borongan, finally takes off. 

Trip info: Seair flies directly to Borongan from Manila once a week, every Monday. For details, visit • One can also take the plane to Tacloban City and catch the almost hourly vans (4-4.5 hours, php 180/pax). There are also buses plying the route, taking far longer • There is Globe and Smart network coverage • Several atms like landbank's are around • Main mode of moving around the city are tricycles (P8.00/pax) • Electricity is available 24 hours a day in Borongan Cty; in outlying areas, check sked of power availability with the island/town authorities • Many thanks to the Borongan Tourism Council for their warm hospitality and support as well as Seair for this wonderful assignment


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