's like a having a week long reunion and then parting afterwards, a lifelong of hellos and goodbyes...funny we never get tired of it.

Jun 2, 2014

Baler: Roadtrip for the Holy Week

First of all, it was an unplanned trip.  However, came early morning of Good Friday, I found myself behind the wheel cruising the narrow road leading to what have been dubbed as the Philippines' surf capital - Baler.

Normally, I prefer spending the Holy Week observing traditions like doing the Visita Iglesia, joining a "prusisyon", and most importantly, attending the Easter Vigil.  But a promise is a promise, and I gave one to a cousin to take him surfing in Baler before he flies back to London for work.  Holy Week was the only available time he had.

Taking into consideration that Holy Week is vacation time for majority of Filipinos, and Baler slowly becoming a major tourist destination, one of the concern I had in doing the trip was if we would be able to find an accommodation once we get there.  Good thing my cousin was able to have a travel agency reserve a room for us at Jamjen's Lodge that was located just a few steps away from the beach.  For a bunch of backpackers like us, the lodge was cozy enough, with amenities that included a parking space, an air-conditioned room, and a clean bathroom.  It also helped that the staff were very accommodating, ensuring that all our needs were taken care of.

By the way, for a first timer, I didn't find it hard traveling to Baler.  Maybe it helped that we had relatives in Cabanatuan that gave us a tip on the best route to take, and specific instructions on how to get to the entry point to Baler.  But all that would have been hard to follow if not for the signs and directions that lined the entire route to our destination, especially the ones on the crossings and turns.  The police personnel that have been strategically placed in almost every corner once you enter Baler were also very helpful.  Just to be clear, we took the route Canili-Pantabangan route (i think it's called that).

Now, on how our trip turned out, considering that I was joined by some of the coolest people I know (which includes my wife), that I was able to stand up on a surfboard and actually do a bit of basic surfing on my first day of trying, and was able to buy a cool shirt for souvenir, not to mention still being able to catch a blessing after a "prusisyon" and visiting the church of Baler to have at least observe a bit of the traditions for the Holy Week, I'd say that it was really great. 

Just one of the downside though, for an upcoming major tourist destination, there seem to be a shortage of places to eat in Baler that most restos or even "carinderias" are always jampacked that you have to be there very early or else you'll have to wait in line to have your meal served.  Apart from that, Baler is a place worth visiting over and over again.          


Aug 6, 2013

Destination: Anawangin

“It’s the type of place you go to when you want to forget about the world, the type of place where you can be alone and not worry about being alone.”  This was the thought that lingered through my mind as I looked back at Anawangin while our outrigger made its way to Pundaquit for our trip home. 

Ours had only been an overnight trip, but in that short span of time, and despite the fact that it was no longer the off the beaten track destination that it once was, Anawangin had already made an impact in me that all I could think of while on the short 15-minute boat ride back to Pundaquit, was of being there again, regardless of who I’ll be with, or even on my own.  My only wish was that even with its growing popularity, nothing of the present set-up for visitors will change.  No big commercial establishments, no paved roads, no piers and ports, just the old-fashioned outdoor environment.  After all, it’s the reason why people go there in the first place.  

Aug 2, 2013

A Fond Remembrance

One morning at the office, talk had been about surgeries and confinement.  An officemate remarked that he loved being confined because it gave him a valid reason for not going to school or being absent from the office.  I expressed the same view, citing the "pasalubongs" as my reason, then followed it up by narrating that I’ve only been confined once.  And then it hit me, that time when I was confined, Mama was the first person I saw when I woke up.  In fact I couldn’t remember anybody else being there for the whole duration of my stay.  I can’t exactly remember how many days I stayed at the hospital, but those days had been fun, with me and Mama playing with the flash cards Auntie Linda sent me.  Basic mathematical operations, and then pictures of things, Mama was a very good teacher.  The thimble, that one I found hard to name. 

Mama…how can I ever forget such a woman?  If there ever was a perfect mother, she’d be that person.  Of course almost every child thinks that way about their moms, but I’m sure everyone who knew my mom would agree with me that she was such a very nice person.  The type who would give anything and do anything for her friends, relatives, her family.  What I’d give to see her again, to live those times when I was with her - the trips to Tacloban, those afternoon strolls to Imelda Park, the early morning jogs, the "pasalubongs" when I was sick, visits to Bulu-an, and the those times when she would accompany me on school events.  But as it is, one of life's reality is either you’ll miss or you’ll get missed.  

At times, I wish that I wasn’t living in a dynamic world, that things just stay the same, that people didn’t have to die, or that people need not leave the ones they love.  There are also times when I wish that everyone had the power to turn back time, or if not, live the lives they once lived.  But wish is really all that we can do.     
photo courtesy of Aldwin Eugenio

Jul 22, 2013

Samar: An Alternative Destination

Allen, Samar 
For those who have been accustomed to spending their summer outings or vacations in places like Boracay, Bohol, and Batangas, the name Samar may sound a bit below the scale.  But Samar may just be the perfect place for you.  Being a SamareƱo, I guess I have the authority to say that you can take my word for it.  Pristine beaches, springs, falls, a rustic environment, a laid back lifestyle, and an eclectic mixture of things and activities to do - these are just some of the things my province has to offer.

San Juanico Bridge, where vehicles bound for Samar from Tacloban pass
Accessible through two major modes of transportation, Samar can be reached either by buses going to Leyte and Bohol, or by plane via Tacloban in Leyte or Calbayog.  Of the two, I personally prefer traveling by bus for not only is it cheaper, you also get the opportunity to pass by the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, and Bicol.  With stopovers in almost each province, the trip will be like an instant 18-hour roadtrip, complete with a 2-hour ferry boat ride from Matnog, Sorsogon to Allen, Samar.  If you’re lucky, your bus may even experience an engine failure in Albay right in front of Mt. Mayon (speaking from experience), giving you the opportunity for a photo op with the famous volcano as background.  But if you’re a bit short on time, traveling by plane will always be the best choice since travel time will only be 3-4 hours – almost an hour from Manila to Tacloban, and 2 to 2 ½ hour land trip from Tacloban to Catbalogan City, Western Samar’s capital.   For your convenience, I suggest that you take the vans of Grand Tours or Dap Tours.  Directions to its terminal can be obtained from almost anybody at the airport.  On the Calbayog route, I really can't comment on the exact duration of travel, but I guess travel time will be a bit shorter since the city is nearer to Catbalogan than Tacloban (about an hour shorter, Calbayog being already in Samar).

Divided in three regions, namely, Eastern, Western, and Northern, one may consider Samar an all in one destination since each region has its own share of attractions which both local and foreign tourists alike will surely appreciate.  However, as I was born in Catbalogan, I have only been able to visit spots which are within the city’s proximity, places like the Kinabut-an cold springs, Buri Baras, and the Sierra Islands.  Though still Spartan in nature in terms of amenities, the places make up through the sheer beauty of its natural surroundings.  Kinabut-an for example can be found in the heart of Paranas’ wilderness and before you reach it, you have to travel a long length of sand and gravel amidst mountains, trees, and rice fields.  Paranas, by the way, is one of Western Samar’s municipalities.  Same thing in reaching Buri Baras, a beach with a long stretch of grayish white sand, which is reachable either by outrigger passing limestone cliffs and different beaches, or through multi-cab wherein you still have to walk a narrow path through thick vegetation before getting there.

Kinabut-an Cold Springs Resort 

Rama Beach in Cagutsan, one of the islands of Sierra

Of all the places I’ve been to in Samar, I guess one of my favorite is the Sierra Islands.  Much like the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, though a bit small in number, the Sierra Islands is a group of islands with each having their own attractions.  Ranging from activities like island hopping, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, trekking, scuba diving, and a lot more, the Sierra Islands may well be considered an adventurer’s paradise…at least for me.  During my last visit, me and a few friends decided to spend a day in Cagutsan, which is one of the larger islands.  A friend from Manila who was a first timer was very much awed by the place not only for its beauty, but also because of how cheap we were able to buy what would be our dish for the night.  I wouldn’t be surprised, where else can you buy three large lapu-lapus for P30.00, and 3 large squids for P80.00?  Certainly not in places like Boracay or Puerto Galera, the latter with squid prices ranging from P100-P200 a piece.  The rest of our stay was spent drinking tuba (or coconut wine) on a rooftop, under a bright and breezy night sky, with the moon as our only source of light.

Rama Beach
As Samar has yet to realize its full potential as a tourist destination, discovering its hidden treasures may prove to be challenging for first timers.  But try to look at the challenge as part of the adventure, who knows, you just might keep coming back for more.  Most of my friends did, and most of them were apprehensive when I first introduced them to the idea of spending their vacations in the province.  However, for those who want to play it safe, you can always give me a buzz and I’d be more than willing to guide and arrange a tour for you.  I assure you, the experience will be worth it.

Payao Beach (Catbalogan, Western Samar)

Other places worth visiting

Calbiga (Western Samar)

Calicoan Beach (Guiuan, Eastern Samar)

Balangiga Massacre Shrine (Balangiga, Eastern Samar)