Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Island of Siargao



Perfect setting for murder. That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Cloud 9 in Siargao at night. The sound of the crashing waves will drown out screams, the pitch black night sky will conceal the act and the perpetrator, and the huge waves and the reef breaks will ensure that whoever you want to kill will be dead before dawn. Shove someone off the planks and poof! Gone.

That's my criminal mind talking.

From our island-hopping activity, we proceeded to Cloud 9 around 6PM to drop-off our new Taiwanese friend and check out food options for dinner. I was expecting a vibrant night life comparable to that of Boracay since this is a popular surfing turf, but I was surprised that the shore was free from crowded establishments. The only thing loud is the sound of the waves. Visiting the Surfing Capital of the Philippines in December is a quiet escape from the holiday bustle. Think of the usual province where there's coconut trees, sand, and occasional houses, then somewhere in this setting, add gigantic waves and killer reef breaks!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Negros Occidental: The Nitty-Gritty


It's unmistakable. Bacolod is the most laid-back the word 'laid-back' could get.  I like Bacolod City. Try googling Bacolod and you'll find out that it once ranked Number 1 as the Most Competitive Mid-Sized City in 2005 and was named as the Best Place to Live in the Philippines last 2008 by Moneysense magazine, with Makati as second and Manila down at 11.

If one believed in signs, a flight delayed for 7 hours might have been the end of it. Good thing I don't. Instead, I made good use of the time we've camped out at the airport to catch up on my reading. Thanks to Airphil Express, we had  to scratch everything on the itinerary and worked it out from there.


Where to Stay:
We finally arrived at the Bacolod-Silay Airport at 10PM. We saw flyers of Pension Bacolod, which according to the flyer, has been awarded 5 times as the Best Pension House in Bacolod. Their aircon room is priced at P395.  The AC rooms were all rented out so we took the double non-AC room priced at P315. The room was close to the restaurant which had free Wi-Fi. Pension Bacolod is perfect for those who need a cheap place to crash in at night. If you want to stay at something more luxurious, check out L'Fisher Hotel or Saltimboca Tourist Inn. Pension Bacolod is located at #27 11th Street, a short walk from Lacson St.

The pension house looks like a small castle with flags displayed outside. It's indeed 'international' since we saw mostly foreign guests. Contact them at (034) 433-33-77.

Our flight back to Manila was set at 5AM so we opted to stay near the airport on our last night.  We chose the Baldevia Pension House, located in the heart of Silay. Their non-AC double room is priced at P450. Contact them at (034) 496-51-40.

We were able to adjust and fit most into our shortened schedule, but we had to take Danjugan Island off the list. Danjugan Island is a marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary found off the coast of Sipalay, south of Bacolod. That's another reason (aside from food) why I have to go back!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Travel Time: 16 Hours to Palaui Island


The long bus rides to and fro Tuguegarao were reminiscent of the nights we spent on the bus going around Myanmar. This is by far the longest bus ride I ever took in the country. Various airlines offer flights to Tuguegarao but because the trip was a last minute decision (meaning no seat sales), we chose to take the bus instead. I have no trouble catching sleep on the bus so the 13-hour trip was not a biggie. Scoring the bus tickets proved to be a challenge though. The lines in Victory Liner were too long 2 weeks before the Holy Week.

Thank goodness Victory Liner now has online reservation and booking system for trips going to Baguio and Tuguegarao from all terminals in Manila. I reserved seats, paid at Metrobank, and had the tickets delivered to my office. No sweat!

We laid out 2 possible itineraries. Plan A was to check first if there was a ferry bound to Calayan (part of Babuyan Islands) from Santa Ana to join Ed of Eazytraveler. Plan B was to proceed to Palaui Island and visit the famed Cape Engaño lighthouse. This is Plan B.With that set, we exited Manila along with the majority of the population who wanted to spend the 5-day weekend in the provinces.

After 13 hours, we finally walked the streets of Tuguegarao. I enjoyed a cup of coffee on the sidewalk while we waited for a couple of hours for the first trip of the van to Sta. Ana. The 3-hr ride to Santa Ana was brimmed with views of endless rice fields coupled with mountain ranges as backdrops, plus occasional glimpses of the vast Cagayan River.

The last kilometer marker up north is found near the San Vicente port (or SanV as the locals call it) in the municipality of Santa Ana. 642km from 0 point in Luneta!


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Singing Kids and Dancing Fireflies at Cambulo


Back from our morning trek to Tappiyah Falls. We came home to Mang Ramon's Homestay, with our lunch of steaming brown rice and crispy porkchop waiting for us. 

The day's second agenda: visit Cambulo. A village located north of Batad, reachable by 3-4 hours of trekking on rice paddies and terraces. I didn't know a thing about Cambulo but Dandy mentioned guiding a group to the village the previous week. So we said, "Sige kami rin!", gaya-gaya mode ON. He said there's no electricity in Cambulo so there will be no meat for our meals. Patay. I can't live without meat.. yet. So I asked Irene to fry me some porkchop for my baon.

Thankfully, the sun was not shining so harshly when we left Batad.  We listened to Dandy's tales of the trail but most of the time we walked quietly (or hummed a tune) and let ourselves be engulfed by the serenity brought by all the shades of green.

Ridge

Trekking along the landslide ruins

It drizzled halfway through the trek and we were drenched again on our second day. On our way, we ran into a man with a rifle, with a kid trailing him for a sidekick. Tall, dark, toned, and and yes he was a handsome Ifugao, with a rifle slung on his shoulders, wearing a brown vest. I muttered, "Wow, action star!" I swear he looked like one! May kasamang sidekick pa kasi.