Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The day it rained for the whole month

ondoy buendia baha ILast Saturday started out like another rainy Saturday. It rained the whole night of Friday (which seems to be no big deal for isn't it the rainy season?) and waking up on Saturday at 8am seemed and felt like it was 5.30am.

Tropical storm, Ondoy, Pagasa said, will be making a direct hit on Metro Manila. But nobody, perhaps even the weathermen, knew that the amount of rainfall Ondoy will bring was more than the total amount that fell all-month-long.ondoy de la rosa makati bahaI consider myself very lucky as all i've experienced was to wade through almost waist-deep water to buy food and provisions. Watching the tv reports and monitoring facebook and plurk, i was shocked that a lot of our kababayans were not so fortunate. Some lost all their belongings. others, their lives.

Maybe it didn't help that trash continues to clog our waterways. But the amount of rainfall that Saturday is just mind-boggling. Could it be because of climate change? Or is it nature's not so subtle way of reminding us who's boss?

It's raining again as i started drafting this post and people in social networking sites were openly alarmed. And who wouldn't be?  In a single day, lives were changed. can we ever see the rain again the same way as before?makati buendia flood from ondoyNote: two of my favorite beneficiaries are soliciting for donations to benefit the victims of the flood caused by ondoy - PHILIPPINE NATIONAL RED CROSS: to donate via text, send RED (space)<5, 25, 50, 100 or 300> to 2899 (Globe) and 4483 (Smart) • CBN ASIA/700 CLUB - 810.7717 (metro manila) or 1-800-1-888-8700 (nationwide). while we're all eager to help out, we must be careful in just sending help; best to check reliable sources like the philippine daily inquirer for info on legitimate organizations and their contact numbers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Catanduanes: exploring the falls of Maribina and Balongbong and passing thru Luyang Cave

maribina dramatic rocks and cascadeAfter a day of blue skies and sunny beach-walking, the weather turned somber and grey as we headed back to Virac from Puraran. Ahh, a good time to catch up on rest as we can't expect a glorious sunset or sunrise to shoot. Ditto, a clear night sky for long exposure sessions. so we slacked off for the rest of the afternoon and decided to try out the oft-mentioned Sea Breeze restaurant at the Virac wharf.  (read our review at happyfoodies.com)wharf scene from sea breeze restaurantThe food was good, the ambiance excellent, the food prices even more amazing. Save for the dim lighting and pesky mosquitoes, it was nice to dine out near a wharf which doesn't bear the stench of dirty waters. With no clear night sky to shoot, it was early lights out for us so we can get started early the next day.balongbong fallsAs we have a rented tricycle at our disposal, we were able to go around and sightsee more freely even on a rainy day. Catanduanes is known for its waterfalls and even though the sun hid the whole day, we had to visit a waterfall. We were billeted at Monte Karlo Inn which is located just a few minutes away from bato town so going to balongbong falls wasn't much of a hassle. there were twin cascades that flow to a big catch basin. further out, there was the remnant of a man-made pool, now strewn with dried twigs and leaves which is a sorry sight to see. I find M0aribina Falls in Marinawa more appealing with its lush surroundings and more dramatic boulders and cascades. The catch basin is deeper and more dramatic as well but a word of caution though, a dayo (visitor from out of town) recently perished when he dove into the waters in the aftermath of a typhoon. dangerous beauty indeed.luyang cave bridgeMaybe it was due to the somberness of the day that we decided that if we can't shoot the outdoors much, perhaps we can go and visit a cave. That we did, venturing westward to san andres for the Luyang Cave. We had a most amiable and knowledgeable guide/driver who took us through a circuitous but more scenic route passing through Igang, Lourdes, Magnesia, Buenavista, Palauig and Lictin.

it was humid outside but stepping inside the cave, there was palpable dampness. was it the cool, damp air? or something supernatural? after all, the cave became the tomb of natives massacred by pirates during the 17th century. the altar at the entrance of the cave was constructed to appease their souls. an interesting feature near the other end of the cave is a bridge across a deep chasm. bugs crowd our lone headlamp as we go deeper inside the cave. turning off the lamp to fend off the pesky bugs, the place becomes pitch black and very, very silent. there was a path leading upwards to the forest but we decided to go back the way we came in followed by a palpable presence and the eerie silence. 

INFO: tricycles can be rented to go to the outlying areas; fees vary so haggle well; the passenger/s is expected to shoulder the gas/fuel expense • alternatively, motorbikes can be rented out for as low as P500/day; just ask around in virac • bring a headlamp and spare batteries when exploring luyang caves (or any of the caves for that matter) as there are no petromax (gas lamps) available. luyang cave may have built-in concrete steps but it can be slippery when wet and ordinary flashlights will not suffice in the pitch-black conditions

Getting published without my consent (or how a travel magazine grabbed my images online and said it was an honest mistake)

The thrill of having my works published hasn't diminished a bit. Seeing my photos come to life on the printed page still gives me a "wow" moment. But this was not the case when northbound magazine of Pico Manila grabbed my Callao images off the internet and used them for publication. Even after i politely told them that the high-resolution images are missing.

I very nearly wanted to shove this thing aside and charge it to experience. But after praying and contemplating about it, I figured I have this responsibility to warn my peers about such a practice. Maybe I will be paid my due, maybe I won't, but the least I can do is to keep it from happening again.

I guess there are also deeper, underlying reasons why some publications think they can get away with it. Going to court is expensive and often long-drawn out. And there will always be photographers, especially the up and coming ones, who will be willing to let their photos be used for free. While I respect this point of view of my peers, it's degrading to the photography industry. Anybody can take a decent pictures nowadays and use Photoshop to make a shabby shot look great, right?

In any case, I write this post to make my plight be known. getting published is great but getting ripped off is not. (for the complete account, please follow this link)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catanduanes: faces of Puraran

catanduanes mang domingo abaca farmerWe only had a day to spend in Puraran as our itinerary was only 3-days long and we're taking advantage of promo fares during the weekday (airfare jacks up to double, even quadruple during the weekends) but we weren't short on fun. Along the way we met interesting people (and lots of friendly dogs as well). going up the hill from Puraran to look for cold soda to quench our thirst, we met Mang Domingo, an abaca farmer. He was out drying his batch of abaca fibers for selling to the market. a kilo fetch like P25 he said, lower than in recent years, but still he continues this trade.puraran doggie at the doorWandering around, we met the barangay captain, Aling Celia, who owns Puting Baybay resort. She turned out to be the aunt of Aireen, who in turn, runs Majestic Puraran Inn. Small world indeed. Back home at Majestic, we were greeted by European surfer-types who were there, hoping for a bit of bad weather and the excellent surf that comes with it.puraran surfer boyBut the guest we really got into a deeper story-swapping mode was the one we least expected to. Jun is an ex-advertising/magazine executive from Yokohama. She was also the lone woman among the guests. We got to share the jeep with here on our way back to Virac and it's remarkable to see a woman traveling alone. She was going to catch the ferry to Tabaco, Albay and we gladly shared with her destinations to look into for her one-month vacation. I hope and pray she reached her destination safely and find her Philippine vacation a great one.http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3508/3918932476_aa889214ca.jpgOh, lest I forget, we had our share of friendly dogs on every trip and this one is not any different. We had Brad, the amiable fellow of Majestic as well as a coterie of dogs who were just too happy to meet another guest to play with.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Catanduanes - enjoying the sand, sea and surf; seeing the sun, shore and sky at puraran

puraran hut on the beachOn our first day in Catanduanes, we decided to venture 30 km northeast of Virac, the capital, to puraran. the Zest Air flight Otook was delayed for an hour so i was hoping we can still catch the 10am jeep headed for Gigmoto via Baras. The almost one hour jeepney ride took us through roads alternating between rough to smooth and concretized, then rough again. All the while, one notices the spectacle of hilly, forested terrain, green fields, and friendly-looking communities.baras municipal hall and jeepneyI haven't really caught up on lost sleep when the jeepney unloaded us at Baras. after a bit of haggling, we rode a tricycle up and down the hills before we saw the beach of Puraran.

Home for the night will be a cottage at Majestic (formerly Elena's Majestic Inn), the place that lies closest to the beach.  I'm not really a beach person but the sight of blue skies, emerald waters, dramatic karsts near the shore, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and not to forget, friendly neighborhood dogs, cast a spell on me.puraran karst and sand patternsOur community of cottage dwellers are a motley group -- 3-4 European surfer-types, a lone Japanese woman, and us, a pair of Pinoy travel photographers. While we didn't come for the surf (which Puraran boasts of, being the host of national and international surfing competitions), we found Puraran to be a quiet, friendly place to grab some rest and appreciate some sand, sea and surf as well as take photos of the sun, shore and sky. With Aireen's (Majestic's friendly manager and cook) tasty meals and bottles of cold Coke, it's easy to just unplug for the day.puraran off to surfINFO: to get to Puraran, ride the jeepney to Baras at the Virac terminal; fare: P35; travel time: approx. one hour • there are trips twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon during weekdays; twice in the morning and once in the afternoon during weekeends • from baras town, take the tricycle to Puraran; fare: P150/trippuraran majestic cottage interiorACCOMMODATIONS: there are three beachfront accommodations: majestic puraran managed by the friendly aireen and her family; (0919.5581460 or 0927.6282251); 6 cottages available at P350/pax; meals: P80/pax, website: www.majesticpuraran.com.phPuting Baybay Resort, single cottage - P300; twin bed - P400; family cottage - P500; rooms with communal TB - P250/day; 0910.3145482; and Puraran Beach House; 0917.8041020 or 0920.3199742 • MOBILE COMMUNICATION: best to bring a Globe sim as the Smart signal drifts and fluctuates at the beach site

Monday, September 14, 2009

Heading to Catanduanes to escape Manila's rains

Catanduanes Baras Colorful BroomsMaybe it's because i've seen Jens Peters' shot of Puraran that kept this island province of Catanduanes in my head for the last year or so. I already booked a flight to this place last february but had to let go of the chance to visit because of work. But i guess, one can always try again. 

We left rainy Manila and landed in sunny Virac, belying the province's moniker "land of howling winds". From the air, the hilly terrain greets the eye. Catanduanes' location, separated from the rest of Luzon to the east by the Maqueda Channel and gulf of Lagonoy, as well as facing the pacific, probably keeps it from most tourists' itinerary. But as we found out, catanduanes is a nice place to be in, being given a reprieve by the fickle weather.Baras Municipal Hall Bright FacadeInfo on how to get to Catanduanes:  fly via any of the three airlines currently servicing the route from manila - Cebu Pacific, Zest Air and PAL Express. you can also catch the ferry from Albay headed either to San Andres or the capital town of Virac.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Having coffee, taking a break, looking at life ahead

intramuros silahis crafts masks statues and mug of coffeeIt was raining one weekday and having a bit of time on my hands, Iwent to Intramuros with my buddy as an usi (kibitzer) during a shoot. I'm making a transition to my new life phase as a freelance photographer and writer and i guess this is one of the luxuries of that - seeing a bit of Manila that i was too harried to look at before. So here i am, an observer instead of a shooter (save for these two images I had to borrow my friend's camera for), a bum instead of an office worker (for the time being). As i write this, i'm off to an out of towner before work (and the new phase of my professional life) takes over.intramuros silahis crafts picasso face

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nueva Vizcaya - going beyond Imugan to explore the magical pine forest of Salacsac

We woke up to a good weather the following morning after a good night's sleep, overshooting our target wake up call of 6.30 by almost two hours. Then again, it was nice to catch up on sleep, especially when nature provides your air conditioning. Our second day was alloted to going to the pine forest. The previous day, we had made arrangements to go through the Malico pass enroute to Salacsac via two tricycles. Alas, there was no tricycle available. But through the kindness and resourcefulness of the dormitory caretaker, we were able to hire a jeepney.Nueva Vizcaya Salacsac Trail Lone TreeMuch of the 10 kilometer road passing thru Malico is rough. I asked our driver if the reason for the name "Malico" is because of the way the road snakes and winds through the mountainsides. He laughingly nodded and along way, he points to an AUV which narrowly escaped certain mishap, miraculously because of a small tree that blocked its fall. The ravines are glaringly treacherous with no side bar or concrete barrier to break one's fall.Nueva Vizcaya Salacsac Trail Pine TreeThe area, according to my buddy, Ironwulf, is still Kalahan ancestral territory. Malico also has a historied past, the site where thousands of American, Japanese and Filipino soldiers perished during the Second World War. After around 45 minutes, we negotiated a path up to a school. we thank the heavens that the previous days were relatively rain-free. Otherwise, we would be hiking early as the dirt road would be too slippery for our jeep to negotiate. The path to the forest is clearly-marked and as cliche-ish as it may sound, the view is just amazing with verdant mountains stretching as far as the eyes can see.Nueva Vizcaya Salacsac Dining under the PinesIn under an hour, we hiked up to the abandoned school of Santa Rosa. Up a hilly terrain, we decided to unpack our lunch of adobo and kangkong, eating with a panoramic view of Dagupan and Itogon. It was not even 1pm when the clouds began to roll in and cover the forest in a fog-like shroud, a scene that seem to come out of Lord of the Rings.Nueva Vizcaya Santa Rosa Abandoned Elementary SchoolAs we got to our waiting jeepney at the Malico ridge, the air was heavy with moisture. the rains came down on our way back to imugan town proper. It was tempting to head back to slumberland after a morning at the magical Salacsac forest.Nueva Vizcaya Salacsac Foggy Forest

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nueva Vizcaya - chilling out the afternoon at Imugan falls and shooting the stars at night

Nueva Vizcaya Imugan Falls and Red LeafWe arrived in Imugan at lunchtime and even with a late lunch and catching up on a bit of sleep, there was still time left in the afternoon to spare. Since the Kalahan community dormitory was on the way to imugan falls and the good weather was holding, we took off for the falls.Nueva Vizcaya Imugan Falls Wide Angle ViewI don't wear a watch so i approximate the hike time to around 30-35 minutes, going through forests redolent with the smell of wet grass and leaves, the air still and quiet disrupted only occasionally by shrill bird noises. There is only one distinct trail and is easy to follow save for a path where flowing water breaks it. As we neared the falls, the sound of gushing water was unmistakable.Nueva Vizcaya Imugan Falls Beautiful CascadeI personally have a thing for waterfalls. I love to shoot them but there's still a part of me that remembers what happened to my Nikon D200 in cCamiguin. More often than not, i'm afraid more for my gear than my footing. But then again, Imugan falls is a charming one with a catch basin alive with fresh water small crabs, a smaller falls on the side and a viewing deck near the major cascade. (later that day, we heard from our dormitory-mates, researchers from an NGO, that there are two other falls that feed this one. the rough trail leading to it takes that out of our itinerary though). I couldn't resist packing my gear early so i can take a dip. Oh, did i say that the water feels like it has just come from the freezer? But after the initial shock, the water felt good. Even more the mini-cascade on the side of the major falls, where the strong pulsating water beats any pulsating shower.Nueva Vizcaya Imugan Star TrailsOne of the fringe benefits of spending the night over in an un-touristy forest town is the privilege of watching the star-filled sky. With the clear, cloud-less sky and little light pollution, the compulsion to spend the after-dinner hours just watching the night sky becomes greater than the determined bid of mosquitoes to discourage us to spend more time outside. There was little to do anyway apart from share stories, sing songs, swap silly jokes while waiting for our long exposure shots to be processed.We stayed up way after the only radio station broadcast, Spirit Radio FM, signed off at 10pm, swapping ghost stories and counting spiders and insects on the walls before letting slumber take over in the chilly hours of the night.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Diwata ng Lahi sails off on her maiden voyage

Balangay Maiden Voyage amidst the ships in Manila BayAfter days of reluctant sunrises, yesterday turned out to have a beautiful morning. It was a good time to sail, PAGASA noted, and indeed it was for the "Diwata ng Lahi," the balangay recreated by visionary and dreamer, Art Valdez and Bajau shipbuilders from Sibutu. It was supposed to sail off Manila bay weeks ago but the habagat weather didn't allow it. But now, the time has come for the balangay to fulfill its promise.Balangay Maiden Voyage Bajau FacesThe battle cry for this project is the same as that of the everest team - "Kaya ng Pinoy" (the Filipino can do it). And we, in the audience of supporters who gathered to pray and celebrate the maiden voyage believe the journey of retracing the migration of our austronesian ancestors, much like the ascent of Mt. Everest, can be done. It is with hope, optimism and confidence that this sentiment be felt by Pinoys everywhere.Balangay Maiden Voyage Kaya ng Pinoy CapsINFO: the Balangay's Philippine journey will have 10 legs and stop at major ports - leg 1: Manila to Calapan (Sept 1-10) • leg 2: Calapan to Boracay (sept. 12-20) • leg 3: Boracay to Bacolod (Sept 25-oct 5) • leg 4: Boracay to Cebu City/Mactan (Oct 10-26) • leg 5: Mactan to Butuan City (Oct 27-Nov 16) • leg 6: Butuan to Ozamis (Nov 20-30) • leg 7: Ozamis to Zamboanga City (Dec 2-13) • leg 8: Zamboanga City to Cotabato City (Jan 7-20) • leg 9: Cotabato City to Davao City (Jan 2-Feb 8) • leg 10: Zamboanga City to Siluag (Feb 14-26 • for its phase II journey from March to July 2010, the Diwata ng Lahi will go to Sabah, Brunei, Kalimantan, Singapore, peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Taiwan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nueva Vizcaya - Imugan: life in a forest town

Nueva Vizcaya Kids toploading on Imugan JeepneyI'll be the first to admit, i'm no big fan of tourist traps though i'm not entirely a scrimp-to-the-max backpacker. If there's a bit of budget left, i'd go for a bit of luxury (at least to me) so I guess i'll resist putting myself in any category. But every once in a while, it's nice to go someplace where i can escape from the trappings of modern life like the omnipresence of the mobile phone. I got my wish in going up the forest town of Imugan.Nueva Vizcaya Jeepney in front of the Imugan Barangay Hall30 minutes of going up almost a thousand feet of elevation, the air turns nippy akin to Baguio but without the urban air pollution. The jeep left way past 11 o'clock because here, as with other places in the Philippines, transport skeds can be alas puno (leaving only when the vehicle is filled up). But even though we were a bit jampacked, it was nice to chat with the friendly folks, most of whom are homeward bound after having bought supplies in Santa Fe.Nueva Vizcaya Imugan Dormitory FacadeI nearly went here for a writing assignment a few months ago and i'm glad that i finally did, on the prodding of my best buddy, Ironwulf. He went here to photodocument the carbon trading project of an NGO so he knew whom to approach and where to go. We were billeted in the Kalahan community dormitory, a 5-minute walk from the town center. The appointments were spartan, with double deck beds and toilet & bathrooms in an outhouse. but washing on the outside sink, the view of the nearby mountains are really a sight for city-sore eyes.Nueva Vizcaya Dormitory BedsSigning our names on the logbook, we find most of the visitors are researchers, both local and foreign. We seem to be the only tourists here but we don't mind. In fact, we welcome the thought of spending the long weekend of communing with nature (as cliche-ish as it may sound) with the town all to ourselves.Nueva Vizcaya Kalahan Community HallINFO: the Kalahan Community Dormitory is open to guests especially those who come to imugan for research purposes and have advised the caretakers in advanced. there are around six rooms, each with two double-deck beds. fee is P100 (approx. US$2) for each guest per night. beddings, pillows and blankets are charged separately but for a very nominal fee. the proceeds go to the upkeep of the place as well as the community.


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