Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trekking Borongan

Borongan in Eastern Samar is not exactly isolated. But its relative obscurity among tourists and the difficulty in reaching it (up to 5 butt-numbing hour ride via van) have their advantages as much of the province's natural attractions are still intact. Borongan has a lot to offer to naturists and hikers. A cursory look at any decent guidebook will point to numerous caves, falls and hiking areas in and around the province. With very limited time on our assignment period, we barely scratched the surface as to what Borongan can offer.Island-hopping to Divinubo, we hiked across a limestone-laden slope and palm-filled forest to the rocky shores on the eastern side to catch the sunrise. The lighthouse is non-descript but the rocky coastline is beautifully-rugged as illuminated by the morning sun. towards noon, we had our r&r at the Karawisan Eco-Tour Park, eating fresh seafood and later retiring to a string hammock catching some zzz's under the Talisay trees. (If I had a tent, iIwould've gladly pitched one but then again, who's to pass up on the lulling sea breeze?) When the noon sun had cooled down a few notches, we took a five-minute walk to the Guiporo-e natural pool, a calm pool hemmed by limestone formations jutting out of the sea.Back on the mainland, there are several falls in the periphery of Borongan. Most are a full day hike away so we decided to visit the nearest one, Kaputian Falls. From the town proper, we took a roof-less, motorized pedicab for a 10 kilometer trip across rough, unpaved roads to Brgy. San Miguel. From the jump-off, it's another 30 minutes of hiking through a mix of underbrush, muddy, rocky paths and a river before we got a glimpse of the small yet charming falls. Popular with the locals due to its proximity, it can get crowded (and the path very slippery as I found out) especially on the weekends but it still is a good destination to cool off your heels. 

Tourist info: For a tour of Divinubo Island, get in touch with the CBRM (community-based resource management) or the Borongan City Tourism Office c/o Tourism Operations Officer, Marissa Acorin, (055) 5609700 or 0927.9321377; email muntour@yahoo.com or tourism staff, Marguerite Garcia at 0928.3931020

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eating Alisuso, Tuwad and Cupapa in Borongan

If the holidays are made for eating, then Borongan is the place to go for a daily serving of holiday eating. why not when food is plentiful and the treats are delicious, belying the province's ranking among the impoverished ones in the country.Being a coastal province, the variety of seafood is impressive.F or starters, there's the unusual-looking cupapa (rock lobsters); once you get past the funky appearance and into the shell, you'll discover the juicy, tender meat inside. On an island hop to Divinubo, we had banagan (petite lobster) crawling on our table before a hearty lunch. Want shellfish? You got plenty to choose from, like the ganga (spider conch) which tastes like escargot and tuwad (tiny conical shellfish) which is usually served stewed in coconut cream and ginger.Meat lovers are in for a special treat as siony aparejabo serves lechon, bisaya-style. We woke up at the crack of dawn to get a glimpse of how this special treat is prepared: the pig is stuffed with lemongrass, garlic cloves, onions, bay leaves and a secret sauce then slowly pit-roasted. The skin comes out very crispy while the meat has a hint of salt and herbs. no need for sauce here.Sweet tooths won't get disappointed as well as there are lots of kakanins (native sweet treats) like bakintol, suman (rice treats) laced with chocolate and wrapped in banana leaves; alisuso, a pyramid-shaped treat made from ground rice, young coconut and anise. There's also this curiosity: doughnuts made from sweet potato flour among so many other treats. if you love to eat, then Borongan is suited to satisfy your appetite for food adventures.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lagalog bids all a blessed Christmas

"For the Light was coming into the world. the true Light that enlightens everyone." - from john 1.1-18 

So much has happened this year, not all of them much to our liking. But still, there's so much to be thankful for -- for blessings received, blessings forwarded to others; friends made, friendships strengthened; prayers answered, prayers left unanswered yet. Lagalog takes a break from regular travelblogging to greet one and all a blessed Christmas. Image detail: one of the luminaires found at Sonya's Garden

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Borongan: Of handmade skimboards, big waves and swelling dreams

The wind picks up speed as the sun begins its descent. The waves whip the shore with mounting force and increasing frequency. With the stronger breeze comes a deepening chill. But this doesn't dissuade a handful of young men, most barely out of their teens, from coming out and challenging the waves.Meeting them up close, you can see that inspite of the ragged contours, there was a lot of polished craftmanship that went into the skimboards. Each is handcrafted from wood and painted (or left bare) to reflect each person's individuality. It wasn't hard to spot the leader of the pack, Roderick Bazar who's more known as Manoy. The moving force behind the Borongan Skimmers Club, he organized this team only a few years ago but you wouldn't know it as they have already been competing in tournaments. 

boronganon skimboarders are slowly making a name for themselves, competing alongside and learning from their surigao peers. the members dream of getting sponsors to afford fiberglass skimboards which are lighter and sturdier. but for the time being, their wooden boards and unbridled passion will be enough to tide them over.As the sun dips lower the horizon, the bigger waves they were waiting for do not come. But they are patient.T omorrow, as sure as the sun rises, they will be back with their handmade boards and dreams of bigger swells to come.  

Quick info: Best time to skimboard/surf: November to January • Other skimboarding spots nearby: Suribao, Locso-on, Sabang South • For tutorials/skimboard rentals, call Manoy at 0927.4028222 or Salabay Skim Shop, F. Abella Street at 0918.2173408

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas bright

It's been a long time since i woke up this early to catch the midnight mass. I must admit, I've never even come close to completing all nine days, nay even just a third. But this Christmas Catholic tradition lives on as we've found out going the rounds of churches the other day. Pinoys brave the chilly early morning air as well as the temptation to snooze as they find their way to churches.
Shooting at this early hour of the day carry with it its risks. Walking alone from the Manila Cathedral headed for San Agustin with my gear, I got nearly accosted by unlawful elements whose intention was not to attend the mass but take advantage of the early hour and the sleepy state of churchgoers. Tsk, tsk. Good thing there were mobile police cars plying the dark streets of Intramuros at that time.

In any case, we found the Manila Cathedral decked with impressive lights. A beneficiary of the Meralco's "Maliwanag ang Pasko" project(Christmas is bright), the church looked regal and stately, befitting its stature as a minor basilica. The message of a brighter future is evident in the way the church shone bright amidst the dark surroundings inviting the faithful to congregate and pray that next year would be better.Nearby San Agustin is less opulently-lit but is no less overflowing with churchgoers. Earlier, ironwulf found out from one of the security personnel of the nearby Palacio de  Gobernador that shooting the churches is prohibited during the daytime. I think that's a pity because they're really treasures that are ought to be shown to more people.For our third church, we stopped by at a favorite, the minor basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz. Otherwise more popularly known as the Binondo church, it is not bedecked in fancy lights but rather festooned with paper stars and the omni-present banderitas. (Incidentally, we also stopped by Quiapo church but were a wee bit disappointed to see it not really lit up for the season. maybe a case of energy conservation or something else.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lagalog shoots for Seair InFlight: 4 days in Borongan

WHY GO NOW? It’s a good time to surf in Borongan, with stronger waves coming in from the Pacific Ocean. and even if you’re not into surfing, it’s still a good time to observe rural life at Christmas and partake of the capital town’s specialty, spit-roasted pig or lechon stuffed with aromatic herbs, salted and basted with secret sauces. Like most small towns in the country, Borongan observes simbang gabi, nine days of dawn masses at 4am that culminates in a midnight mass on Christmas eve and a burst of fireworks as locals call out, “maupay na pasko!” (Merry Christmas). In January, there’s the big town festival, Ati-atihan, a parade of locals in religious and tribal costumes, and some dancing in the streets. 

GET YOUR BEARINGS. The capital town of Eastern Samar, Borongan lies almost midway on the coast of the elongated stretch of Eastern Samar in the island group of the Visayas. Sprawled across 58,289 hectares, it has the biggest land area among the 23 municipalities of Eastern Samar. With around 55,000 residents, it is also the most populated. Borongan also called the city of the golden sunshine, lies 196 kilometers from Tacloban City, and 586 kilometers southeast from Manila.

The city gets its name from the word “Borong” which means fog. once inhabited by Negritos driven to the hinterlands by interlopers from nearby Indonesia and Malay, Borongan was organized into a pueblo by the Spanish missionaries from 1595 to 1620. They gathered the early Boronganons into communities. A church, dedicated to the nativity of the Virgin Mary was erected in 1710 and stands to this day, sadly modernized beyond historical recognition. ISLAND SIGHTS AND STORIES. Start by visiting Borongan’s lighthouse, built by the Americans in 1906. it looks out to the Pacific Ocean and the view is well worth the effort.

To get to it, we started with a 10-minute boat ride from the main island’s Locsoon beach in Bgry. Lalawigan, southeast of the city proper to Divinubo Island at the ungodly hour of 4am. If we had approached the island in the correct conditions – 12 noon or midnight with a full moon or a new moon – we could have done it by foot, instead of cutting across the waters. Ronald Lapada, islander, and our tour guide for the day, said getting to the island by foot would take about an hour.

Our boat ride (P12 person, one way) was easy, but we had to walk up more than a hundred steps built on the side of a mountain, and take the rocky, muddy, potholed and spindly path with weeds to reach the slender lighthouse.N arrow outside stairs with rusty crumbling handrails curve up the parola or lighthouse, on top of which you’ll find solar panels. A flat-roofed structure in front of the lighthouse provides a great view of the island, the sea and the sunrise.

On Divinubo, the Guiporo-e Natural Pool, located after a five-minute through brush, sand and mangrove saplings, springs like a surprise from beyond a rocky bend – a horizontal clump of rocks festooned with mangroves in the near distance, cupping a placid pool.  If you fancy a dip, the water is nicely warm.Karawisan Eco-Tour Park Resort, still on Divinubo is also a good place to stop by for a relaxing few hours. You can rent a string hammock (P25) and snooze under the leafy talisay trees. the broad-leafed talisay tree bears nuts that’s as creamy as Bicol’s Pili nuts. Pecked by birds, the talisay nuts grow three times a year and turn yellow when ripe. Entrance to Karawisan is P5 per person. You can rent picnic huts at P200 a day or P250 if you want to stay overnight. There’s a small store if you want cold sodas and bottled water. Unless you’ve made previous arrangements, food is not available. Guests are charged P50 for the use of the kitchen. you can rent a straw mat for P50, pay another P50 if you want to pitch your own tent or P100 for a table with 6-10 chairs.

If you need a guide to the tourist spots on Divinubo, you can hire the services of tour guide Ronald Lapada, who also heads the island’s community-based resource management (CBRM) for between P200-250 for a whole day. You can also make arrangements to have CBRM members prepare your breakfast, lunch or snacks. Contact the Borongan City Tourism Office, headed by Tourism Operations Officer Marissa Acorin, for inquiries, trip itineraries and reservations. call: 055/5609700, 0927.9321377 fax: 055/26131267 or email muntour@yahoo.comA TREK TO THE FALLS. For starters, trek to the Kaputian Falls and forget Pangi Falls unless you are a die-hard trekking fanatic.

“Are you serious?” a staff from the municipal office looked at us askance when we suggested proceeding to Pangi Falls after a scheduled stop at the smaller and friendlier Kaputian Falls. Pangi, they said, while majestic, was a grueling three-hour trek up slippery slopes and across rushing rivers.

Kaputian Falls whose waters Waray Puey Quiñones says are crystal clear, is worth the trek, if only for the fresh air, exercise, and the rewarding sight of water rushing down a placid refreshing pool.

From the town proper, we piled into a roofless tricycle, which looked more like a pedicab, all five of us including our guide Migs de las Alas, balanced according to weight (P60 per person, round trip). The ride took 30 minutes along 10 kilometers of dirt and rut and brief sections of paved roads on which mats of rice husks and splintered coconuts dried out in the sun. in Brgy. San Miguel, we registered at the barangay hall, walked through the raucous village, past an ongoing cockfight held in an open dirt arena, past the smooth rocks and gentle grassy slopes of the Mt. Tarangban cave system on our way to the falls. The climb soon gave way to a tricky underbrush where the trail was muddy and required steady footwork, across a river, testing our foothold on the mossy rocks, the waters sloshing our thighs. Then it was on to more arduous trails, including a tight steep downward funnel that had a member of our party breaking a tree sapling for us to hold on to and break a possible fall. After a 30-minute trek, we caught sight of the falls, dropping three meters down to a small lovely pool.SURF N' SKIM. There’s growing interest in the swells of Borongan for surf enthusiasts. The Borongan Tourism Office has listed Guiuan, the southernmost tip of the province as its surf site.  Located 110 kilometers south of Borongan, Guiuan has powerful swells that reach from six to 10 feet. To get there, there are jeeps that leave Borongan in 30 minute intervals beginning at 4am. The last trip is at 2pm. the ride costs P150 and takes from three to four hours. then, take a tricycle (P30) to the town of Sulangan, which is another 25 minutes away. The only resort in the area is Surf Camp, according to the Tourism Office. Surfboard rentals can rage from P1,000 to P1,500 a day. Novice surfers can hire tutors at about P700 per day.

Skimboarding is another growing interest among Boronganons. Roderick Bazar, 22, who has organized the Borongan Skimmers Club (e-mail: manoy_skimmers@yahoo.com or call: 0927/4028222), said the waters of Borongan are good for skimboarding. Surfing is best from November to January when the waves are a little wilder or when there’s a brewing storm. Bazar lists Suribao, Locso-on, and Sabang south as good skim spots but you don’t need to stray far for a little board action.

Baybay Boulevard or the oceanside stretch featuring a two-kilometer shoreline is in the heart of the town and is a favorite spot for local skimboarders. Contact Salabay Skim Shop (F. Abella St., Brgy. C. call: 0918/2173408 and 0927/4028222) for inquiries on rentals or sales. NEW EATS. Borongan is a good place to taste the local delicacies and to indulge yourself in the freshest seafood, according to our insider guide Puey. On Divinubo, octopus still slithering in its net and lobsters, crabs and unusual shellfish tried to scuttle away as they were strewn on the wooden table before us for inspection before they were scooped away to be cooked the “sinaing” way, which is to simmer in a pot of water.

The cupapa or rock lobster (P350 per kilo, raw) is Puey’s special favorite. Cupapa is seasonal, plentiful during the months of May and October. Divinubo’s petite lobsters, also called banagan, sell raw for P450-500 per kilo. Then there’s the mamadas, a flaky white fish and the manlalara, also known as danggit, for P140 per kilo. Coordinate with the city tourism office to arrange for a seafood lunch at Divinubo.

The variety of shellfish harvested from the waters of Borongan is unusual and delicious. There’s the tojillon, made into napkin rings and the ganga, often seen only in souvenir shops. The ganga is a spider conch with meat that tastes fresh as the sea and a texture that’s reminiscent of snails. The Mabaroca Beach Resort will prepare it for you by special arrangement.

Call: Margarita Castillo at 055/5609377, 5609809, 0928/6220699 or e-mail: roncast_well@yahoo.com. Mabaroca is also the place to have your tuwad or tiny conical shellfish stewed in coconut cream and ginger. The shellfish sell for P2 each in the public market. The pointed end of the shell is sliced off before cooking because the way to coax these tiny morsels out of their burrows is to suck them out. “More flavorful than mussels,” the Divinubo islanders tell us.Then there’s the astonishing variety of Borongan’s treats, snacks and kakanin or rice cakes – pasalubong- perfect if you do your shopping just a day before you leave. Hit the Borongan public market in the heart of town and get the slender banana leaf- wrapped bakintol, a creamy suman flecked with chocolate (P5 each). Or the breakfast favorite, salukara, a pancake made from ground brown rice, sugar and coconut milk (P10 for four pieces). The pyramid-shaped alisuso is a smooth snack made from ground rice mixed with young coconut and flavored with anise (P5 each).

Head to the market’s dried fish section and take home Borongan’s special danggit or dried fish split. It’s P500 a kilo but a large bag worth P150 is generous enough. Borongan’s danggit is thin, crisp and seasoned perfectly. You may also want to try the dried dilis or anchovies, sapsap and ganga at P35 for 250 grams. There are also rows upon rows of rattan baskets brimming with a variety of local dried fish including tamba, manamsid, balanak, hasa-hasa, lusod, espada, iliw, mulmol and even dalagang bukid. You can also give the ginamos (P120/kilo) a try. It’s Borongan’s own bagoong or fermented dilis or anchovy.If that’s not enough, take home 62-year-old Luz Obina’s kamote or sweet potato flour doughnuts topped with a glossy ring of arnibal or sugar syrup made from kalamay, the local term for the molasses-like raw sugar next time, burrow deep essentials called panutsa. Obina has been making doughnuts for the past 10 years. To order, contact Luz through the office of Vice Mayor Licerna Abunda at tel.: 055/5609426.

Puey also swears by the pinyato, Borongan’s famous dried rice bars, flavored with kalamay, sesame seeds, peanuts and occasionally, anise. each bar costs P4. order Joy’s Penyato at mobile: 0906/7318786 or 0915/7160815. also try the special Pastillas de Borongan, at Beronio’s delicacies at mobile: 0915/6092673.

Finally, there’s Siony Aparejado’s special lechon or roast pig. Other lechon stores similarly tasty lechon. Siony’s special lechon is stuffed with garlic cloves, onions, bay leaves and a “secret sauce” Siony’s family concocted. the prized roasted pig skin is crisp, golden, flavorful; the meat salty, succulent and brimming with meatiness. It’s perfect with boiled gabi, Borongan’s staple root crop. When the pig is pried out of its bamboo spit and split open by a small piece of pipe hammered onto a cleaver, Siony catches the drippings in a bowl. It makes for perfect stock for sautéed vegetables and the juices are given to customers who order a whole lechon. Well-known fans of Siony’s lechon include Boronganon Boy Abunda and Rep. Mikey Arroyo. a whole lechon weighing around 20 kilos sells for P6,500.

From december 1 to 19, order your whole lechon two to three in advance at mobile: 0927/8607549. from December 20, Siony needs five days before she can fulfill your order. The lechon is sold on a per kilo basis (P300) only during Sundays. Visit Siony’s stall at Sivella St., corner E. Cinco St. in the town proper. HEAD FOR THE PUBLIC MARKET. Borongan’s public market is a great place for food browsing. There are red bananas — bark strips from the balaw tree used as cooking fuel; and black and red varieties of “malagkit” or sticky rice called pilit.  If you head to Ivy Carpeso’s dry goods stall, you can pick up a rattan duyan or hammock for P350, a fine-woven bilao (P180) or round bamboo tray fashioned from Manban, the material from bamboo used to weave nipa. An old-fashioned tirador or slingshot sells for P35, while the ingenuous silip (P65), wooden goggles with glass eyepieces held together by epoxy and strung with fisherman’s twine and industrial grade rubber strips sell for P65. Finally, if you’re a hoarder, take home an old school charcoal plantsa or flat iron, crafted from tin and hinged so you can open the top and stuff it with hot charcoal (P400). then, perhaps buy one of the most unique pieces, a “hotcakan,” or improvised pancake maker – two disks ridged with a waffle pattern and attached to wooden handles. Get one for someone who has everything this Christmas. It’s P250 for the small pancake maker, P280 for the larger one. Ivy’s native products is located at stall H of the Borongan public market. You can also call: 0918/2465092.Seair flies to Borongan every Monday. For reservations, visit: www.flyseair.com or call: 02/8490100 or Seair Borongan at mobile: 0917/81samar (0917/8172627). 

GETTING AROUND. Tricycles and jeeps are plentiful and locals say they ply the roads 24 hours a day. A tricycle ride costs p8, a jeep ride P7. Pay the minimum P8 for a multicab ride for the first 7km. Jeeps and multicabs have fixed routes. From the airport in Borongan, you can hire tricycles or multicabs at a negotiable fee. Insiders say that’s anywhere up to P200. If you want to hire a tricycle to get you around the city, a half day’s rental is P300-350. Expect to pay more if you wish to explore places outside the city. A P200 tip at the end of the day is fair.

The City Tourism Office will happily help you get your itinerary together. Call Tourism Operations Officer Marissa Acorin at 055/5609751 or e-mail: muntour@yahoo.com. You can also contact tourism staff Marguerite Harcia at mobile: 0928/3931020 and e-mail: margue_magz@yahoo.com or send her an instant message with the same ym handle. 

(Text by Ces Rodriguez, art direction by Jocas See, photos by Oggie Ramos, culled from Seair’s InFlight Magazine, Dec 08-Jan 09 issue)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Moleskines Organizer, Pacsafe Gear & Snap Watch: Some holiday gift ideas for the traveler

With the holiday season upon us, I just felt like sharing some gift ideas for people looking for presents for their traveler-friends. These are some of my favorite stuff i can really use on the road:

MOLESKINES - They're touted to be the notebook that legends like Picasso and Hemmingway used.I  find the mini notebook very useful as i use it to jot down notes like new finds, contacts, and expense accounting. Yhe paper is first-rate as with the the quality of craftmanship. Available at FullyBooked, Bibliarch, Powerbooks and thru moleskineph.com.

SNAP WATCH - I was never too comfortable with wristwatches as i found them constricting akin to shackling.G ood thing I found Snap Watch. They're made from real climbing rope and the rope snaps onto the waterproof lcd mechanism, hence the name. One caveat though: Snapwatch easily snaps free so just watch out if they catch on the handle of your bag or backpack.

PACSAFE POUCHES & CAMERA STRAP - I've read about Pacsafe from way back and found it cool that they're available here at Bratpack at surprisingly very affordable prices. The main selling point of Pacsafe is the steel mesh hidden inside the rope or strap they use which makes them virtually slash-proof. I don't travel with my wallet and would rather use the Pacsafe Pouch so my money and valuable documents are always close to me. I also replaced my Kata camera strap with the Pacsafe camera strap since I find the slash-proof strap reassuring and it looks good to boot. My only complaint though is the narrow cushion used on the neck support; it tends to slip when one twists and turns but overall, it is great.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Camiguin: Catching the reluctant sun in Benoni

Two days of glorious, sunshiny dawns gave way to a hesitant sunrise on our fourth day on camiguin. We shared the sun's hesitation, lingering under our respective blankets until close to 5.30am.A fter all, we eyed a patch of mangrove trees near the Benoni port within walking distance from where we were staying.

It seems Camiguin was just rousing from slumber. Children in uniforms were hurrying to school.A  fish seller on a tricycle was hawking his fresh catch.  The Supershuttle Ferry was unloading a fresh batch of passengers at the pier. And birds begun their medley of chirps and warbles high among the trees up the nearby cliffs. It was much later when the sun made a tour de force, when we were already leaving the island. We were set to go but not after reluctantly saying goodbye to our hosts, Mang Felipe and Manang Inday Kho of Islet Resort as well as their friendly dogs. Considering i've come again thrice to this island, who's to say I won't come back anew? 

Tourist info: iIslet resort is located in San Roque, Benoni. Within walking distance to the Benoni Port, it is also an ideal jump-off point for Mantigue Island. Rooms go for as low as P700 (twin-sharing, a/c) in the off-season. Contact owner Felipe Kho at 0916.3653966 or (088) 3874005

Friday, December 12, 2008

Camiguin: Another day, another falls

The rainy night gave way to another sunshiny morning. And the sunny morning flowed into a hot afternoon.O ur amiable boatman-guide, Jeffrey, found us lodging at the Islet Resort at San Roque town.I t is mere walking distance to the Benoni port which we find convenient as we planned to leave for Balingoan early the next day.

Islet Resort was spartan but the air conditioning was cold. The temptation to slack off was almost too much to resist. But it would be a pity to put the glorious afternoon to waste.

We've been to Katibawasan Falls on our first day so the lure of another falls, Tuasan, seem too good to pass up. Oh, how some of the locals dissuaded us as the trip entails rather long hiking over rough terrain. Through our habal driver-guide, Jun, we gassed up and made the over one hour trip to the town of Mainit. Honestly, the 45-minute walk under the blazing sun is not tiring at all. It's navigating through boulders with wulf's gear that scared me as it was too soon after my mishap at Katibawasan.

But with three young local lasses as our guides, we went through rocky paths, a forest, crossed a river stream and hiked through boulder-filled trails to find this beautiful, unspoiled falls. The falls might not have the 200 foot, dramatic drop of Katibawasan but it is, to my opinion, the more beautiful one.Going back to the jump-off trail before it got dark, we chose to make the hour-long trip to Mambajao, Camiguin's capital, for a rather fancy dinner of pizza and pasta at Rooftop. It's a nice, newly-opened spot that remains open long after the other shops close at 6pm, a nice way to cap our trip.

Tourist info: To get to Mainit, one can hire a habal (public motorcycle) for around P400.T he trip takes approximately an hour. The very rough road going to the jump-off means one has to make the 45min - 1 hour trip to the falls on foot. No special gear is needed but comfortable hiking footwear can help as well as plenty of drinking water.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camiguin: Hopping from White Island to Mantigue

The Sunday started with gleeful exuberance and continued to exude a cheery mood well into the afternoon. The sky continued to be an intense blue, the clouds hung like fresh laundry on a clothesline, the birds sung rather noisily, albeit in a pleasant way, among the trees. It was impossible not to feel invigorated especially after a night of rain. The mood was not lost on us, emboldening us to try our luck and visit Mantigue Island off the eastern flank of Camiguin. We asked around – the staff at secret cove, the saleslady at the nearby sari-sari store, even our habal driver, Jun.Lady Luck smiled on us as Jun’s sister knows a friend who actually lives on this island, also known by such names as Magsaysay and Turtle Island. So after a quick lunch, we beat a hasty trail to San Roque, the town next to Benoni where the port for ferries from Balingoan is located. Here, we met Jeffrey Saturos, a friendly twenty-something lad who took us to this outlying island in around 10 minutes.

While waiting for word on accommodations, we stayed at a cabana on the beach, taking turns to look after our stuff while the other explores the island on foot. The island is not that big anyway, taking just around 15 minutes to circle (we would've wanted to venture to the forest but decided to just wait for the sunset on the beach) what surprised me was how different the island was from Jens Peters’ description.T here were houses there, mostly made from sawali and wood with a few made of concrete. 24 families actually still occupy the island, down from the original 40, after the local government requested them to leave the island.T he official reason was the island was a bird and turtle sanctuary.T he locals have a different version altogether but i leave the matter to the Camigueños.We checked out the only cottage available for visitors and found the papag floors, sawali walls and bamboo beds to our liking. Later on, we found it was already booked. The island’s residents, however, came to our rescue, as Jeffrey’s sister let us sleep in their house. Power is supplied by a generator but not all the houses get its share every night so after a gasera-lit dinner of sugba (grilled) fish and shellfish, we each found a spot on the sala (living room) to try and catch some sleep. There was a bit of merrymaking until around 9 when the island simmers down to a deep stillness. It was a cloudy night, with impending rain, so the darkness was pitch black save for an occasional stray firefly.

Towards midnight, the rains came along with the rumble of thunder that seem to emanate from deep within the earth. We actually wondered if we would be able to shoot the sunrise the next day so we slept rather fitfully.

When morning came, it was a replay of the previous day – bright and cheery. The island's friendly dogs were out to greet us at the break of dawn, accompanying us as we shoot the sunrise. There was the temptation to take a dip in the clear waters (Mantigue is popular among divers for its rich coral grounds) but after seeing so many sea urchins and dissuaded by the preciousness of fresh water for bathing afterwards, we instead lingered over breakfast before heading back to the main island. It was a back-to-basic experience, sleeping in spartan conditions but being on the receiving end of the residents' warm hospitality.Tourist info: FEES: The local government charges fees for entrance to (P10) and activities conducted on Mantigue (P20 for swimming, higher for snorkeling and scuba diving).TRIPS: For visitors interested in visiting the island, you can contract a bangkero from Benoni or San Roque. Banca ride is around p400-500/one way. trip takes only 10-15 minutes on calm days. it would be best to contract a bangkero who lives on the island; otherwise, arrange for a return trip at a scheduled time. Our bangkero was Jeffrey Saturos, mobile 0929.6770331 • SUPPLIES: There are sari-sari stores on the island but don’t expect refrigerated stuff as the island’s power is rationed. WATER: Mantigue has no fresh water supply so it is a precious commodity in these parts. Even laundry water has to be imported from the main island.ACCOMMODATION: There is only one cottage available for guests, with 2 beds but the room can accommodate up to 6 pax; P700/night.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Camiguin: Return to White Island

The strong rains woke us in the middle of the night, leaving us with a dilemma: do we call off our 4.30am trip to White Island to catch the sunrise? With reluctance, I texted our boatman, Joel, of Johnny's Dive Shop. Traveling in the off-season means learning to cope with the hand that nature deals. But it sure is a sorry loss to miss out on this one.

Going back to catch some more zzz's, we woke to a bright morning. If anything, the long squall seems to have washed the land and skyscapes squeaky clean. The wisps of clouds on the horizon appeared like cotton balls fresh from the laundry shop.  The sky looked freshly-washed, with an intense blue hue.The deferment only helped our cause as we were able to capture white island in its pristine white-ness.I n the light of the late morning and early noon sun, the powdery sandbar looked even whiter against the blue sky. The makeshift stalls from my earlier visits were gone. And while that means being totally exposed to the fierce sun, it also meant seeing White Island as close to what nature intended it to be. Having no shooting gear this time around meant iI was able to swim and get a tan. And as a bonus, by the time my turn came to shoot using wulf's camera, the tourists have deserted the island, hence these series of White Island shots that depict its state of white-ness.
 
Info: Boats can be rented from any of the resorts in Yumbing town to cross over to White Island. Trip takes only 10-15 minutes and costs from P400-500/roundtrip. There are no shelters on the sandbar so bring either a tent or parasol. Don't forget your sunblock and swim gear as well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coming again to Camiguin

Maybe it's true what the stories say, that Camiguin has an otherworldly charm that keeps the visitor coming back again and again. Maybe I'm being true to its phonetic sound-alike, "come again", for this is my third trip to this island off Misamis Oriental.

As with any trip, pre-journey sleep is a precious commodity to me. Maybe it was excitement. or maybe an omen. But nevertheless, it's another long weekend I wouldn't want to waste. The nice part of catching a red-eye flight apart from the lower fare is that you get to your destination with enough daylight to do some exploring. The long queue at the check-in counter in Manila left us hungry on the flight to Cagayan de Oro enroute to Balingoan port. Our breakfast was a bit harried as we wanted to catch the 9.30 ferry to Benoni so we made amends by treating ourselves to a welcome lunch at j&a at the Tanguines Lagoon near the port.Finding our lodging, Secret Cove Resort, in Yumbing on the north-western side of the island was easy since we rode a multicab vehicle. Lack of sleep, the afternoon heat and the airconditioned room all connive to tempt us to slack off for the afternoon but we looked for a habal (public motorcycle) to take us to Katibawasan Falls and later, the Sunken Cemetery in Bonbon, just two towns away.Here's where my double heartbreak began. First, I find Katibawasan Falls less and less appealing with each trip -- the cascades are dry, the facilities were still in the same sorry state I've seen two years ago. And second, having shot Katibawasan twice in the past, I was looking for another angle when alas, my camera fell on the rocks beyond repair. The incident left me uninspired to even admire the Sunken Cemetery as the sun set.

But as they say, there's a lesson learned from this mishap -- to be a lot more careful next time. On the other hand, I'm very grateful I'm traveling with my best buddy who unselfishly shared his DSLR with me for the duration of the trip. My hat goes off to you wulf. 

Transportation tips: Multicab (multipurpose vehicles) and habal (public motorcycle) drivers at the port are wont to charge varying rates, anywhere from P1200-2000 for a day's tour. Always haggle to get the best possible price and clarify the routes/destinations covered. Motorcycles can be rented for around P400-500/day and are the cheapest (as well as faster) way to go around.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cebu Pacific blues

I'm a regular Cebu Pacific passenger and am generally pleased with the airline.B ut recent events make me ponder: is Cebu Pacific getting a lot more passenger traffic than it can handle? Or are its systems in need of honest-to-goodness troubleshooting? Last weekend, we were enroute to Cagayan de Oro, arriving early in Terminal 3 to find very long, snaking lines. By the time the public address system announced the final call for boarding for our 4.20am trip, there were a lot of grumbling passengers who were still in line to check-in their luggages. Seems to me that the centralized line for all destinations is simply not working. Passengers who check-in very early for the flights compete with those with earlier flights and only add to the already long queue. We ended up flying hungry after missing breakfast.

On a trip to Samar over a month ago, my art director's tripod ended up being sent to Cagayan de Oro. While CebuPac volunteered to forward the tripod to us, it was forwarded to Boracay. Oh, the tripod made it back to my art director's home -- after our trip. Now that made me apprehensive if that same thing happened to me on a photo assignment/business trip. Maybe, somebody over at CebuPac might read this post and enlighten us with some answers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Marinduque: Silhouette romance

Pardon my borrowing the title of a series of popular romance novel books from the 80s but i felt like using it to paint a picture of how much i love shooting silhouettes. Our short trip to Marinduque presented some nice opportunities to do so even with the foreboding weather as evidenced from this series of shots -- from the shoreline of Reyes Park in Gasan to the sunrise shores of Gaspar Island.
Any which way you look at it, Marinduque is a beautiful place to explore -- for its scenic views and for its warm people.A nd you don't need to wait for the crowds to flock in during the Lenten Moriones Festival to see what it has to offer either.J ust pack your bags, brave the long waiting during the trip and enjoy the scenes.

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