A Year of Travel

2013 seem so distant yet a few hours ago, everyone was celebrating like it is the last night of the world. For instance, I was on my way to Sydney (or the nearest place to be) to watch the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks. Alas, we can’t even get near Balmain backstreets or get a parking space for people were getting ready to party. The fifteen minute spectacle was viewed in a faraway park with only the upper half of the fireworks can be seen. I knew from that moment, that I will be back in NSW – Sydney to be exact for another run of the NYE celebration.

Another run holds true for the travels I have made in 2013. My travels were more of revisiting the places I have been to in the past. Not bad for some have changed through the years. Some changed after I left. Some changed me.

January was revisiting San Vicente after a long hiatus of field work in the area. It was also a return trip to Ilocos after a long time. It reignited my love for dinuguan (blood stew) with crunchy pork strips and Batac empanada.  February was focused on Siargao for the much needed presentation of the one year work we have done in the island. March is a birthday in Guiuan, which will never be the same again. It was also an opportunity for me to visit Indonesia for the first time. Ties were binded among ASEAN representatives and German colleagues after we were holed in Bogor for nineteen days.

Windmills in Bangui

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Surf Camp in Calicoan Island, Guiuan

Dinner at Bohol Bee Farm

Dinner at Bohol Bee Farm

I am grateful with my work which showers me with travels once a month. Second quarter of the year gave me an opportunity to visit Bohol, Cagayan and Hanoi. Places you learn to love as your own. A stay in Bohol Bee Farm was all natural, including the fresh flowers as salad. Tuguegarao and its vicinities made you realize there is more to Region 2 aside from the Sierra Madre and hot weather. Hanoi was an adventure for it was my first time to negotiate with the airline staff after my luggage was left in Hongkong. It made me realise that I don’t get intimated when going out socially with people from G8 countries. (big smiley here)

Inside Callao Cave, Cagayan Province

Inside Callao Cave, Cagayan Province

Tuguegarao Church

Tuguegarao Church

It was an adventure for the women in the family when we all visited Hongkong in the height of Typhoon Utor. The storm signal no. 8 didn’t deter us from walking along Mongkok, Nathan Road, Disneyland and Lantau Island. I wish to have more trips with Nanay and Lyn in the future. After Utor/Labuyo, it was all habagat on my way to Legaspi City. Thankfully, Mayon Volcano welcomed our LGU guests with open arms (and beautiful view of the cone).

Night Market in Hongkong

Night Market in Hongkong

Magayon na Mayon, Legaspi City

Magayon na Mayon, Legaspi City

The last quarter of the year was a roller coaster ride. I experienced first hand the magnitude of Typhoon Haiyan when I was in Tacloban on the day it made landfall. I endured the nite of sleeping in cold floor, the day with minimal water to drink and the long and depressing walk out of the city. No interviews, photos and videos can describe the fear I felt from 7.30 AM to 9:00 AM on 8 November 2013 in Algo Homes in Tacloban City.

What was left of everything after Haiyan. San Jose, Tacloban City.

What was left of everything after Haiyan. San Jose, Tacloban City.

George River in NSW, Australia

George River in NSW, Australia

As they always say, there is a rainbow after the rain. What a big rainbow indeed! Christmas and New Year were spent in Australia after months of dreaming of coming back. I remembered posting that I wanted to go back there in the midst of summer. Look, I was there when Sydney reached 40s. My three week stay in a suburb, faraway from home, was an eye opener. I realize that wherever you place me, I will find a way to see the sights. I will always be a wanderer by heart.

Happy 2014! More opportunities to get lost!

Made for long walks.

Made for long walks.

Peaces of Places

Port Barton

Port Barton

As much as I like taking photos, I also like to be in the photo. There are instances, though, that a selfie or a selca wont cut it. I prefer showcasing a place instead of my humongous forehead grabbing the spotlight.

 

Cloud 9, GL

Cloud 9, GL

San Vic runway

San Vic runway

Daplak, Boayan Island

Daplak, Boayan Island

Manmade Forest in Bohol

Manmade Forest in Bohol

Sto. Nino in SVP

Sto. Nino in SVP

I’ve been told that this became some sort of my signature pose. Kinda. Sorta. Maybe this means I found peace in every place I’ve been. Maybe it is just Love holding a Peace sign.

Beauty of San Vic

Since the first time I set foot in mainland Palawan a year ago, I’ve been to this not so hidden treasure called San Vicente. For all 12 months, I saw how it transformed from being just the site of local Survivor reality show  to must visit area in this side of Palawan.

First quarter of 2013 is not yet complete but I have been in the area twice. It is not an easy feat given the long and winding road going to San Vicente. Yeah, it  doesn’t beat the half day trip to Bantayan but the still in progress road improvement can turn off some people.  I am so lucky that we got SanVic as one of our project sites. I feel at home in the town proper. I’ve befriended FRNDZ’ owner and at first name basis to some of the locals. Oh yeah, I even saw my childhood friend in one of the remote barangays in the area. It is a small world after all.

When the airport is completed, I think that SanVic will be a completely different story.

But as for now, I have to savor every experience.

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Daplak in Boayan. Coral nursery + crystal blue water + fantastic host (and house!)

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From the exposed scaffoldings to this lounge area —Gemma and Kuya Germs have gone a long way!

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A row of themed Christmas trees by the beach

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Enjoy while there are no establishments yet.

 

OLWgetthere


 

San Vicente is a 4 hour drive from Puerto Princesa City. Ask a tricycle driver to take you to the shuttle van terminal going to Poblacion, San Vicente.

The fare is about Php300. If commuting with other people is not your thing, you can hire the whole van for around 3000 (one way) and 1500 going around San Vicente.

Boayan Island can be reached by hiring a small outrigger boat (around Php1000-Php1500) with a request to stop at the Naked Island.

Surviving San Vicente

San Vicente in Palawan used to be unheard of long time ago. That is, for someone like me who is always in search of the next great beach ala Boracay in the early 90s. Buzz was created after the Philippine edition of Survivor had its location in this part of the last frontier. Geez, what is so special about San Vicente?

Straight out of Chinese film. If one is so lucky to be taking the flight to San Vic, one will be so mesmerized with the view from above. And I am not talking about the islands for the Honda Bay island hopping nor the long stretch of white sand. San Vicente, for one, boasts of pristine old growth forests with almost intact forest cover. Greens and greens of large mountains welcome one on the right side of the plane. There is a portion, though, that towering rock mountains dominate the area -and a little fog and bluish hue, one can imagine Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi flying out of those large structures.

Up in the air

The 14-km beach. Unadulterated. Fine white sand and gentle waves touching the shore. Secluded. When we were up in the air (thanks to a 6-seater plane), a part of the beach can be seen from the left side window. It may look like a small stretch of beach from afar but it looked endless when one started walking from Km. 0 – that entrance with a cashew tree on the side. The area is good for skimboarding, I must say. Bring out the skim boards, peeps!

Last I heard, a number of well-known personalities own some parts of the beach. Hope they won’t fence their side of the beach so that everyone can enjoy the long patch of paradise.

Welcome to the VERY Long Beach

The 5 hour drive from Puerto Princesa. San Vicente is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Puerto Princesa City. The long winding and bumpy ride was even monickered as taking the “abortion road.” Yeah, it was the bumpy but everything is so worth it.

Discover the shores. One of Discovery Shores' project (rumor has it).

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Ultimate beach lounging

Discovery of some shores.Table corals. Calm and crystal clear water. Secret beach. An area a couple of minutes from Port Barton is heaven with the beach all by yourself (until the developer eventually turns this into a tony hideaway). As for now, one can enjoy swimming with the fish, lying in the sand while counting the leaves of the beach tree or stare at nothing.

Not so stranded in Port Barton.

Port Barton is a famous drop off point for all island worshippers. It houses various types of accommodation – from the fan rooms to the A/C-ed version. And one can definitely not get hungry while in the area. One thing for sure, you won’t be bumping into a Pinoy tourist every ten steps walk on the beach. Yes, most visitors are from the colder countries. I must say, it is now our turn to see San Vicente. Way beyond the rewards, challenges and tribal councils.

The set of Survivor Philippines

A morning greeting after a 600-step climb in Caparii

Coron: Predep

When in Coron…

After asian spirit called me at noon on friday that the plane for busuanga met some mechanical problems, it was an “uh-oh” moment for me. i had to smile and blurt out loud, “what else is new?” wala ngang storm signal but here it is again. another entry to add on my list of “reasons why i should not plan a vacation 3 months earlier.”

i had to inform owen, the organizer of the diycoron tour, that we couldn’t join the group. just when i was fully prep with all the gizmos i acquired for this trip, hmp! he was too accommodating that he even fed us information where we can secure the fastest flight for busuanga. to end the predep story short, we got hold of an early morning flight c/o asian spirirt on sunday. we were at the airport as early as 4AM. yep, that excited plus the bad experience during the boracay vacay in march, we really tried to wake up early and commute for the old domestic airport. my golly, the airport was uber quiet with the transfer of cebu pacific to naia terminal 3. it was like a ghost town with empty seats in the departure area.

(Old domestic at 4AM; The bored look)

and then, it was announced that our flight to busuanga was on hold. looks like we’re not that lucky. probably, the sky cleared after an hour since it was announced that we are boarding in so-so minutes! yippee! time to celebrate that we are actually leaving manila for busuanga. the trip was uneventful since i slept most of the time. and in a few minutes, i can see patches of small islands when i looked outside the window. OMG…this is it! as we scrambled with the ahjussis and ahjummas and fellow pinoys for our tiny bags, we can’t believe that we arrived in palawan safe and sound given that it was a pretty turbulent ride up there. we learned that it was raining in the island since saturday.

since we dunno a soul in busuanga…even where to get a jeep to take us to coron town – we lined up on a jeep which we thought is a puj. maybe shirl and i don’t look like we can afford club paradise that the manong on the other jeep called us that his jeep is going to the town. it was a bumpy ride. make that a 30 minute rough ride to coron town. kulang na lang magkapalitan ng mukha with fellow passengers. but the future seemed bright. there is an ongoing road construction that will pave the way for a smooth ride from coron town to busuanga airport and vice versa.

View from the top


the road so far
we got off at coastal road and met richel who is owen’s contact. richel takes care of patrik’s guesthouse (our lodging place for our overnight stay). we decided to take the coron island tour—more like island hopping – 8 sites to visit! damage was P1,800 with us paying the entrance fees to the different sites. not bad…but it could have been great if we were able to join owen’s group since 2500/head for more that 8 sites with overnight at banana island (entrance fees are included) plus free food and meeting fellow lakwatseros and lakwatseras.

Coron: 7 Sins, 2 Lakes and a Beach

Into the Blue

After a blah breakfast at one of the carinderias and buying something for lunch at the nearest bakery, off we went to our first destination – Siete Pecados.

Siete Pecados
Seven Sins, right? There were 7 small islands scattered around the area. I heard, Dyesebel shot some scenes here. Well, move over Dyesebel ’cause we are here. The view below was a sight to behold. Walang sinabi ang Coral Garden in PG nor the one off the island of Boracay. The fish were in a feeding frenzy when Ponpon (our guide) threw some bread. Of course, I had to test the newly bought underwater case for my p&s. it did work! walang pumasok na tubig. So, while the fish were scrambling for bread, i was busy taking pictures of nemo’s relatives.
Next stop was Kayangan Lake. The ride to the island was peaceful. As we were passing by large rock formations and cliffs along the way, I can’t stop gushing “wow, ang ganda!” It was like you’re trap in another world with the magnificent view one can see. It was a feast to the eyes, definitely.

And we reached the entrance of the lake…we have to pay 200/person for the entrance but I am not complaining. The ride to the area is already worth more than 200 bucks. That is my willingness-to-pay. The water is clear, the place is clean but this is not yet the lake. We have to climb up to the island slash rock formation to enjoy the lake. Well, we gotta stop by the small cave on top for that photo-op with the most famous view of coron daw. But we can’t wait for that photo-op so I actually used the gorillapod and attached it to one of the make-shift handrails…tada! me souvenir na!

And our climb started – with us stepping on muds and muddy rocks as we go up and down the trail. the climb is really a piece of cake…when it is not raining, that is. as we get near the lake, we hear voices, not of diwatas and engkantadas playing in the water but with fellow byaheras that we saw in the jeep on the way to town earlier. after a little chika, off we went with our own business—that’s swimming in the lake and playing with the tiny fish that look like swordfish. and then it rained hard. now, how can i take pictures of these cute fish? bad timing. shirl and i just wade through like ducks in the pond. well, we’re like two giant ducks in a ginormous pond.

The serene lake
Famous Coron view

Not Swimming with the Barracudas
A short distance from Kayangan is Barracuda Lake. The view on the way to the lake is as spectacular as the one in Kayangan but this time, you see limestone cliffs instead of large rock formations. The Tagbanua manning the area assured us that the lake is a short climb compared to Kayangan. “Dyan lang sa kabila ng malaking bato,” he assured us. Oh yeah, the other side of the cliff looks really near but you have to climb those almost-sharp edged limestones. It was not a walk in the park, not even a walk in the treadmill with 15 degrees incline. You gotta hold on tight and carefully study your next step of you’ll slide your way down to the large stones. Hats off to my besty for braving the climb. And many thanks to manong to helping us out.

Entrance to Barracuda Lake
After a not-so-easy climb and descent, we were greeted by a jaw dropping view. It is a small lake with towering limestones and rock formations surrounding it. The water is so dark blue that you can imagine there is actually a barracuda swimming around (nah, no barracudas in the area, just that sword looking tiny fish again). The lake is so serene and the water not so cold. It was peaceful you can float there all day to relax your tensed muscles from all the climbing done earlier.
Welcome to Barracuda Lake

The Beaching Part

Next destination is a beach. No more snorkeling or floating in the lake. It is now swimming on the beach. Time to head to CYC beach.

It was a bit of a long trip to CYC but who is complaining. As we were approaching the beach, I can smell uling and inihaw. Looks like there are a lot of people on a Sunday noon at CYC. The island has a small patch of white sand with a number of bakawan nearby. Reminiscent of Casa Rica in Surigao but with finer white sand. We didn’t anchor near the shore since our banca is too big but it’s fine with us since it was low tide. Anywhere you go, it seems that the water is just waist deep! We spent a couple of minutes swimming and giggling and chatting. It was refreshing to actually swim in literally tubig alat.
No entrance fee at CYC Beach
It was sad to note, however, that some people actually abused the island. We learned that there is actually uneven “floor” near the shore due to people getting large amounts of sand for their own resorts. tsk tsk tsk…I bet, there could have been a sandbar somewhere. Maybe CYC should start asking for entrance fees and let the natives protect it.

Shirl and I decided to forego Gunboat Wreck and Twin Peaks. Our last stop was Twin Lagoon. Like the name implied, there are two lagoons connected by a tiny opening one can swim or kayak through. We anchored at lagoon no. 1 and I set myself to some floating around the area.

Shirl decided to stay on the banca, OTOH. There is really nothing to see underwater. The water is so dark blue and if your imagination’s wild…just think that some monster or undercurrent can pull you down. Hehehe, of course, that didn’t happen.

Floating in the twin lagoon has a great view—not from below but from above. The blue sky cut by giant rock formation then deep blue water, who could ask for more? You can stay there forever until your skin is wrinkled like prunes for prolong exposure to water. 🙂

Main entrance to the Twin Lagoons