Archive for the Philippines Category

‘Dive and Trek’ BATANGAS Adventure

Posted in Philippines with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2008 by alroy

24 May 2008. A week’s postponement to our intro diving caused by early stormy season in May didn’t dampen our high spirits. It even enflamed our excitement all the more. But sleeping at 3:00am prior to the under the sea adventure due to my abnormal limits of internet use, a 4:30am call time was obviously impossible. Our master diver Ryan should know better — even if it meant we were to be fetched, my pituitary gland automatically sent out messages to cause sudden muscle spasms.

Watch us jump

I normally rest good hours of sleep back in the days, but ever since I was introduced to the world of nomads my sleeping time became erratic it’s more apt to call it a snooze.

That’s true…I swear.

I heard endless missed calls at around 4:30am but my locomotive ability wasn’t sufficient to move a single hand until our “pick-up” personnel Ryan and Rissa finally had the lobby guard forcefully woke me up through my intercom. They had to eventually come up to my room to strip off what’s left of my drowsiness.

Late Start

At 6am our road trip to the land of interesting Filipino accent (aka Batangas) commenced. It was immensely enjoyable because it was a wacky group headed by our Master Diver Ryan, and the seven dwarves Rissa, Jason, Helen and her brother Greg, and I. We were just to meet the gruesome twosome KM and Simon at Dive and Trek Resort.

Just so everybody knows, there would have been a really great addition to our group, Jaja Valencia, whose real name we recently unearthed (it’s for us to know, for you to find out). But our ‘ever-reliable’(?) master diver gave out the wrong number of Rissa to her. Poor girl she had to wait in vain!

Sleepy Greggy

The Gang

Helen and Gregory Smith

‘Bagets’ Road Trip

Along the way we enjoyed the astonishing views in Tagaytay especially the breathtaking Taal Lake and Volcano, and had a stopover at ROWENA’S to buy us some snacks. I strongly recommend their Blueberry Cheesecake.

We also had delicious breakfast at Pancake House for some waffles Rissa had been craving for since the previous week. I sensed whoever maneuvered the choice of restaurant would be greatly chastised by her. Now that’s something you wouldn’t seriously wish to happen. Unless of course, you wish to meet a She-Hulk.

Viewing Taal Lake/Volcano

Pancake House backview

After a while of deliberation about our shared orders and complicated requests made to our server Neil, Jason and I ended up having a double-order of Waffles with Peach and we just had to pay for it because as Neil was repeating the final list, we were just nodding like slave dogs. It was a lesson learned the hard way.

Pancake House

Vacuum

Listening attentively

The Speaker of the House

Part 2

Ryan the Master Diver

Peach Waffle

30% of my energy during road trips is for non-stop talking and 70% for sleeping. And like any typical friend of mine, one of them just had to enjoy snapping shots of anyone sleeping. Unfortunately as always, I am one strong contender for “The Victim”. And as always, the main culprit is Rissa.

Exhausted from abusive internet use + road trip

Dive and Trek Resort

After almost 5 hours of journeying (with stops), we finally arrived at our destination in Batangas. The boat ride to Dive and Trek resort was about 15-20 minutes and we arrived at the resort at about 10:30am. According to our Master Diver Ryan, the Dive and Trek has the most beautiful diving spot closest to Metro Manila. Should any of you have violent reactions please course all your angst to Ryan Guzman.

Am I clear? I repeat, Ryan Guzman.

Boat Ride

Civilised

Barbaric

Front view

Warlords

Hmmmm

Before moving on, would you believe this retard was actually our Dive Instructor?

Master Diver Ryan Guzman

Yes, our fates and lives were totally under massive threat to meet final destination. *Knocks on wood!*

Anyway, there were a number of people who were at Dive and Trek Resort because it was a Saturday. But heck! Wherever we set foot on is our turf – and we will fight for it like mad dogs and territorial beasts.

Scuba lessons

Greg went first after a short introduction to scuba diving because he had to leave for Thailand the next day. Tip: You must have at least 24 hours gap prior to your flight otherwise you’ll end up having bends – let’s just say your veins would be like that of Incredible Hulk’s and you’ll eventually end up looking like a zombie character in 28 Days Later movie.

Ryan and Greg

Helen, Jason, and I spent more than an hour of snorkeling in the deep waters enjoying the colourful world of Poseidon. It was then Jason’s turn for scuba diving and Greg joined in on the snorkeling fun. We stayed too long my fingertips wrinkled like my great grandma’s until our tummies crumbled in protestations.

There\'s a shark. Now don\'t panic

Are those baracuda fish? hihi

Nemo!

Don\'t hide, fishy

Sad fact: Helen, Greg, KM, Simon, and I had to wait a long time for the rest for lunch. Oh, for 2000 pesos, it already included the boat ride and the scuba diving necessities, towels, life vests, the great food and snacks, and bottomless beverage of Milo and orange juice. It was all worth it.

Paparazziiii!!!!!

Paparazziiii!!!!!

After an hour of binging, I sunbathed whilst Helen was underwater trying to look for a pearl amidst the wide coral sanctuary.

Ryan and Helen

Ryan help!!! The fish is eating me

I gotta take this seafood sausage home!

It looks like a sophisticated lobster to me hihi

Then it was my turn. I caught a fish that bit my cheek, but I let it go because poking was not allowed in the first place. But it was just so tempting!

DON’T JUDGE ME.

It\'s my turn
It’s my turn to catch some fish for dinner
Crotch Grab is part of scuba diving

Crotch Grab is part of scuba diving

Birdy Mode

Birdy Mode

Chatting with baby sharks below the coral

Showing peace sign to baby sharks below the coral

Master Diver Ryan tried to feed me to the giant clam!

Master Diver Ryan tried to feed me to the giant clam!

Sizzling fishy

Sizzling fishy

I love this Fried
I love this Fried
I love this for my Tinola

I love this for my Tinola

I love this steamed

I love this steamed

I love this grilled

I love this grilled

I love seafood pasta!

I love seafood pasta!

Underwater Feather Duster

For Sale: Underwater Feather Duster

One giant pickle for take-away

One giant pickle for take-away

Rub the teat for some pearls

Rub the teat for some pearls

Underwater Version of Mother and Child

Underwater Version of Mother and Child

After serious eating, drinking of Milo, and long hours of snorkeling, we just can’t stop from taking silly pictures of ourselves, especially our all-time favourite, the jump shots. Move over, Michael Jordan!

Sweet

Retarded

Humanised fish

Humanised fish

Muscle mania

Up, Up, and Blag%#@$

Up, Up, and Blag!%#@*

spelled RYAN
Spelled RYAN
Oblation, Statue of Liberty, Buddha, Cleopatra, Jesus

Oblation, Statue of Liberty, Buddha, Cleopatra, Jesus

Street Fighter XXX

Street Fighter XXX

Shiva

Shiva

Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do

Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

Revitalising mode

Revitalising mode

We just can\'t get enough
Brown is the talk of the town
Studio 23

Studio 23

Meet the Gangsters

Ex-convicts

And there’s this strange dancing video that Rissa took of us. She tricked us! She told us to dance to the tune of that “wild music” blaring from her speakers for a “picture-taking”, only to end up making us the silly victims of her wicked video prank.

On Our Way Home

About an hour of hitting the road, Ryan’s car smelt of nasty sock burnt rubber we just had to stop at a dark place but with few houses around. It was already past 8pm. It turned out the few people who were living there were extremely hospitable I could sponsor for their sainthood. It’s not an exaggeration, except if they were a band of cannibals trying to trap a rowdy gang for our succulent meat. They even offered to cook for us upon hearing that we were on our way to have dinner at TAJ in Tagaytay. They also tried to fix Ryan’s car so I went out and slept at a bushy waiting shed. I think I was that hungry the snakes refused to come my way.

Since something important was broken in Ryan’s car, we decided to just leave and have Ryan stay at a hostel and return for it the next day. Without a single car passing by, a very kind tricycle driver was forced to carry 10 people inside (and outside) his small vehicle the bottom part literally scratched the road every 5 seconds. And it was a relatively long drive. Uh-oh!

How to Destroy a Tricycle with 10 Strays

How to Destroy a Tricycle with 10 Strays

We have babies inside those huge bags lol I kid!

We have babies inside those huge bags lol I kid!

Tres Marias de Lemery

Tres Marias de Lemery

The bus station was still closed so we first had our 10:30pm dinner at a street food joint for some Tapas, garlic rice, and cold Pepsi. Hmmm! Guess what? We found a lost soul…a Buddhist kid! Want proof?

Are we in Tibet?

Are we in Tibet?

I felt a strong repulsive force when Ryan and Bernard the tricycle driver came back with a bag of “Balut” – a Philippine-famous steamed duck-egg with a fetus monster inside plus few tablespoons of spoiled pee. I ended up throwing mine after a “serious” acting. I felt remorseful for cheating though, but I just can’t handle the smell and the baby monster. Gross!

I am totally clueless of what\'s to come
I am totally clueless of what’s to come
Each had manual laying of egg for dinner lol

Each had manual laying of egg for dinner lol

I hate Balut. End of Story

I hate Balut. End of Story

Lemery Bus Station

12:00pm. Rissa had to go diving the next day anyway so she stayed in Batangas with Ryan. We were too early at the terminal the first bus departs at 2am so we had nothing to do but to wait for a couple more hours. To kill the time, Helen, Greg, Jason, KM, Simon, and I played “Shaggedy(?)”, and Charades that lasted until inside the bus. Oh! Helen, Jason, and I won. Hooray!

Would you believe we were chasing our bus here? Joke

Would you believe we were chasing our bus here? Joke

Our day ended and started anew with only but smashingly great memories. However great a destination is, the basal strength of ultimate satisfaction lies with the people you share your experiences with. Good thing there wasn’t a single rotten companion included in our day’s adventures.

*Looks in front of the mirror*.

Or so I thought.

Family

La Buena Familia

Brigada SAGADA

Posted in Philippines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2008 by alroy

20 April 2008. A time of waiting was finally over. Tom the free spirit, Anna and Kirstin the peppy duo, and Mark the court jester had successfully found their way to the Philippines. Better yet, to my apartment.

Mark Lamb

Anna Kallett

Tom Plum

Kirstin Swiggum

AUTOBUS TERMINAL

To start off, we managed to arrive at the bus terminal an hour prior to the 10pm departure time. There I saw glossy orange buses that were notoriously reputed as what I’ll term as the “Rolling Snows”, “Wheeled Ice Blocks”, or “Honey, I Blew Up the Fridge”.

A couple of sources had me convinced to disseminate the info about the exorbitant temperature inside the bus, but it seemed two of my travel mates scoffed at my suggestions. This resulted to hours of self-whining and the feeble survival schemes to fight hypothermia.

Me

Fully Prepared

2/3 Prepared

Not Prepared

ARRIVAL AT BANAUE

Departing Manila at exactly 10pm, it’s sad to say that you can’t view the sceneries outside your bus window. It was pitch dark, and the freezing temperature just makes you want to hibernate all throughout the trip. Passengers’ requests to have it moderated was ineffective because the bus wasn’t modern enough to regulate the air-conditioning temperature. The moment they turn the aircon on is the moment you experience winter time right smack at the heart of Manila.

It was roughly 9 hours of bus ride from Manila-Banaue. We got off at the Banaue bus terminal at around quarter to 7am, and were clumped by jeepney drivers who were eagerly waiting outside. I looked for Kuya Abe, a jeepney driver, whom I contacted whilst I was still in Manila.

TIP: It is best to buy and/or reserve tickets for your Banaue-Manila travel already upon arrival at Banaue to ensure a seat back to Manila.

BRAVING THE ROADS TO SAGADA

For 300 pesos per passenger, we boarded on a jeepney which will take us further into the mountains. The trip from Banaue-Sagada took 3 hours because of the few stops to view the magnificent sceneries and the glorious 8th Wonder of the World and the only wonder in the world that was made by freemen and not by slaves, the BANAUE RICE TERRACES.

Of course, we had to stop at Philippine National Bank (PNB) at Bontoc to convert Mark’s travelers cheques into hard cash. Thank God there was a bank along the way.

GEORGE GUEST HOUSE

Kuya Abe dropped us off right at the parking area of George Guest House. It was a cute blue and white three-storey building located along a popular road in Sagada. I painstakingly searched for it online whilst in Manila, and we were just too fortunate to be quoted 250 pesos per head for a night accommodation.

For a group of five we were given a beautiful suite at the top floor with a homely everyday atmosphere, and our own spacious balcony overlooking the Sagada rice terraces, villages, and the surrounding mountains. It was nothing short of magical.

George Guest House - photo taken by John Piechnick

DARING THE HANGING COFFINS

After choosing our own beds, we instantly agreed on having our first adventure. We had our fill of food at Sagada’s famed YOGHURT HOUSE. Unaware of the town policy of a “required” registration at the town/barangay hall prior to any touring, we decided to go straight to the renowned “Hanging Coffins” without a map, and only armed with a couple of pointers from the locals we met along the way. 95% of our directions was based on our collective instinct.

Yoghurt House

Albeit Anna’s fear of headhunters, we dared the forest, hiked and climbed numerous mountains, slipped every now and then until we reached our first cave with hanging coffins. It was followed by a couple of other caves.

Into the Wild

Mini Cave

Second Cave

Tres Viajeros

The Cliff

Heaven Knows

Down to Nowhere

As we were nearing the largest cave, Kirstin slipped and lost a sandal in the mud. Her next move led to losing the other pair as well. It took her and Mark quite a while to unearth her precious flip-flops, whilst Anna and I were uncontrollably laughing at her muddy dilemma. Kirstin was that cool to just chuckle it off, and even smudging herself with mud. The funny part was a pair of her slipper snapped and so we had to sort of make a ritual and left her slippers on the cave wall to be known as the “Hanging Slippers of Sagada”.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

The heavens must have punished us after a massive amount of flashes from our cameras. We were that unstoppable from taking all the photos we can get of the dead. The skies dimmed at around 4pm, and wildly adventurous that we were, we opted to choose the new route to get out of that place. We took long walks that seemed totally pointless.

As luck would have it it started to rain. But we were still fortunate to have stumbled across a huge cave for shelter. I must admit I was a bit worried about getting into a secret society of cannibals, while Mark was trying to get lost beyond the caves and enjoying the waterfalls on his own. That got us awfully worried because he’s the “only” person whom we know who fell off the Great Wall of China. I hope Mark won’t cut my throat for exposing that.

At about quarter to 6pm, the rain finally stopped. That was just in the nick of time as I suspect the headhunters would be out at 6pm sharp. We proceeded to get back to our old route when we came across a group of students from De La Salle University who also happened to be our next-room neighbours at George Guest House, and whom we met at the bus on our way to the mountains.

Heaven-sent? Indeed! They were with a baby headhunter kid guide so we were sure to find our way out.

Our way out

On our walk home, we passed by the famous bakery and I was excited to buy the Cinnamon Rolls as strongly recommended by Rissa. We also stopped by a “Halo-halo” stall for dessert. Mark was utterly surprised as to how the lady vendor manually crushed the ice as opposed to their western ice grinders. What’s shocking to me though was the enormously strange macaroni ingredient included in the Halo-Halo. But it was amusingly resourceful of them for having it as an alternative to an expensive Nata de Coco, which I hate eating too anyway.

And whaddya know? We were being videoed for a Japanese televisioin show as we were appriaching our guest house. Our economic values were instantly elevated. What’s more, we were greeted by two radiant rainbows at our balcony. It was inspiring because some of my mates had only seen it for the first time in their twenty something years of living.

Majestic

Fresh from a “cold” shower, we went looking for a good place to have dinner at. Our fates brought us to LOG CABIN – a restaurant which only opens at night and serves only to customers “with reservations”. It was pure luck that they ended up giving in to my plea to have us dine at their place at that moment. For that I more than highly recommend them. But don’t expect them to allow you to dine without proper booking.

We had with us our five big bottles of local wine we bought earlier at a shop to celebrate our first night in Sagada. The food turned out exquisitely delicious. The local wines tasted like “pee”. With that same reaction from all of us, I wondered who amongst us really did taste a pee.

Candlelit Dinner

Cheers!

It was odd for me when I heard that Sagada has a 9pm curfew. Knowing me, I love hanging out on pavements like a typical street kid. But it’s better to abide by the rules than have ourselves abducted by cannibals I suppose yea?

After more than a couple of hours of eating, tasting our horrible urine-tasting wines, and “Never Have I Ever” card game that was heard by all the Log Cabin staff and customers, it was finally time to go home. Besides, it was already 9pm and we were the ones left at the restaurant.

On our way to the cashier’s register, all of us saw the delectable “LEFTOVER Bruschetta” of the Dutch lady. What’s totally shocking and outrageously bizarre was, Kirstin, Anna, and Mark wanted it for our take-away. Before they could even ask the waitress and the cashier for it, Tom and I already teleported ourselves out of the Log Cabin.

Surprisingly, they successfully managed to exchange our five bottles of wine for the “leftover” dish. We were voraciously feasting on it back at our suite together with our tasty Cinnamon rolls whilst drinking Rhum and Coke. It was frankly my first time to ever eat a leftover food from someone totally alien to me. But yes, it was worth the experience. I might even do it again anytime soon.

EARTH DAY (Second Day)

The cold weather in Sagada really makes your morning spanking new. We started our day with a sumptuous breakfast meal at Yoghurt House. The food was almost great – but the snag to it was that the customer service sucks – BIG TIME!

For our second visit we still hadn’t seen a single hint of smile from any of them. The main server was almost irritable at our kind requests for water – and ended up only giving us a glass for the five of us. I swear I could have confronted her had it not been for the kid who was seated nearby. They were like robots. I wondered if they were paid justly and fairly though. Still, that would have been a lame excuse. For a Filipino restaurant, I rate the customer service quality at Yoghurt House as 2/10.

Anyway, after a hearty meal of pancakes stuffed with banana and yoghurt paired with my very creamy coffee, we finally had the decency to register at the town hall. But not before we saw an extremely confusing, yet hilarious sign posted on its wall.

No Spitting of Momma?

There we all agreed to pay for a “guided” and a bit more expensive CAVE CONNECTION at 400 pesos each which allowed us to explore two connecting underground caves that went as deep as 700m. Good thing our two escorts each had an oil lamp to last a 4-hour caving. Little did we know that the first cave adventure was a matter of life and death experience. With no harnesses but you own sheer mental power and muscle strength to rappel near the cliffs, it could be dangerous to some people. A steep drop could instantly wipe out your consciousness forever.

Fresh

Slippery slope hihi

Like little ants working

Lampara

Shark

Jelly

Rice Terraces

going up

going up 2

Dirty

One unforgettable experience at the first cave was at its deepest, you will find a relatively large and definitely enticing swimming pool. After stripping down to our swimming clothes, we joined force and dived into the clear pool only to find out it was cold as purgatory! Not that I had been to Purgatory – but it was damn colder than iced water. I rapidly swam back to the side with a cramped foot, and was shaking like I just had convulsions or epileptic seizure. Never again!

Our cave connection experience was splendid and it was a timely event for Earth Day. What’s interesting though was that the strictly vegetarian girls wanted us to celebrate it their way. You know, the appointing of elemental names and role-playing our earthborn personas? Only, I was hesitating because whilst they chose to be fairies, goddesses, or whatever higher natural beings they thought of, they wanted me to be a Panda. Such bullies! Ha-ha!

Road to El Dorado

Road to El Dorado 2

Sagada Rice Terraces

Random Kid

Filthy and exhausted, we walked a long distance. But I was excited because I just got myself a box of Lemon Pie at the LEMON PIE HOUSE. Probably because it was that hyped by my friends, I ended up rating it as just 6/10. Maybe I’d love their other pies more. But that’s reserved for next time.

Lemon Pie hmmm

After a while of restoring our energies at our suite, we decided to go on our separate ways and will just meet up at the local market at 5pm because we were meeting a new friend” at BANA’S CAFE at 6pm sharp. It was still 4pm and we didn’t have any watch or cellphone with us – good luck. Mark went ahead for his walking spree as he loves getting lost. Anna and Kirstin went to an internet cafe, and since Tom’s pet-worms inside his tummy demanded food every short while, I decided to accompany him to MASFERRE’S COUNTRY INN AND RESTAURANT. For heavy meals, I strongly recommend that place.

Before we could finish our food, it rained for an hour so Tom and I decided to just chill and meet the others at Bana’s Cafe at 6pm instead. We enjoyed the homey ambiance and the good vibes at Masferre’s, and were captivated by the exceptional view of three rainbows. Sagada was really enchanting. Of course, it can’t escape my mediocre camera for a mad picture-taking.

Masferre\'s Cafe

Hearty Burger Meal

Chicken and Fries

Rainbow 1

Rainbow 3

Rainbow 5

French Window 2

We finally met up with the rest of the squad at Bana’s Cafe. And since the “new friend” didn’t make it, Anna and Kirstin decided to shop for vegetables. Mind you, the girls brought their own portable stove and pot. The three of us guys decided to stay put for dinner and were drooling over the “Pinikpikan” which was a local dish, and cost a whopping 800 pesos for a single order, but can be good for 3 average people anyway. It was frustrating that we couldn’t have it since it needs to be ordered the day before because it takes eight hours to prepare the dish. I will certainly come back for that dish on my next trip to Sagada.

We truly loved their “Afritada” and their “Boneless Bangus (Milkfish)”. And it was a pleasant surprise that at long last, there’s on eatery in Sagada that really had a superb customer service. All the praises go to our waitress (she was male by birth). After three hours of chatting, a friend of our newfound friend who failed to meet us at 6pm arrived…and the rest was history.

The girls

Tom

Me

Mark

ADIOS SAGADA (Third Day)

It was the last day for Mark, Tom, and I in Sagada because the girls were staying for a week and will head on to Baguio City after so the three of us woke up very early at 6am. We were determined to go to the famous Bomok-od Falls, or what’s commonly known as Big Falls, without a tour guide.

We had breakfast at a coffee house fronting the local market, and how I wish I could remember the name but it was religiously eluding me and hiding somewhere in the veiled corners of my brain. I tell you, it was definitely worth going for breakfast. And I loved the skimmed milk for my MILO. Hmmm!

Mark

Mark

Omelette

Milo

Toast

After a lip-smacking breakfast, we started our 2-hour walk to Big Falls which seemed endless. There were split roads, and had it not been for the locals we came across with, we would have seriously lost track and ended up joining the list of “Missing People”.

We thought we could get away with paying a tour guide at the town hall. But after more than an hour of walking, we passed by a small settlement and it was compulsory to have a tour guide for 300 pesos. It was required mostly for the safety of the tourists, so we obliged. And besides, it was cheaper for us since it was already close to our destination.

Early Morning

Tom and I

Road to Big Falls

Sagada Rice Terraces

Tom and Mark

Mark

Tom

Tom and Mark

Road to Big Falls

Kid

cute kids

The Big Falls was remarkably beautiful! It was huge, and the area was very windy. But nothing can stop us from abusing the waters. I think abusing is such a strong word. There were little boys offering their massage services (*eyes wide* I know, right?) but ended up swimming with us anyway in pure Sagada fashion – in the nude. Don’t worry that fashion style was exclusive to kids and not by all Sagadans. That would have been ghastly. Did I mention we dived into the waters like action stars?

Big Falls

Big Falls 2

Mark

Our Guide Adonis

Kids

In the nude

Philippine Tarsier

The climb back to the main road was such an arduous task I felt like meeting Zeus at Mount Olympus, or God at Mount Sinai. After some time, we were thankfully able to hitch a ride back to our guest house. All set and ready to leave, all of us went to the local market where we bought mangoes and my cinnamon rolls. It was truly a sad moment as we bid farewell to Anna and Kirstin. But poignant grief cannot endure forever. We just had to move on with our lives. *sniffs*

Mark

Tom, Anna, Kirstin, and Mark

An interesting jeepney driver paired with our own “CNN field reporter-like” Mark on our way to Banaue Bus Terminal for Manila really made our 2-hour trip flew by like seconds. Just listening to Mark’s stories, be it serious or not, was like watching Saturday Night Live. Along the way, I earned huge points for making them eat our notorious “Balut”.

In our 3-day and 2-night stay in Sagada we hadn’t taken a poop at all. I just wanted to explode it all out in one swoosh of nasty gastric air. But seeing the appalling “open back-view” of the comfort room at the Banaue bus terminal and the little kid smiling peeping through the sack-cover of the CR just instantly made me feel well like I had taken a pail of loperamide hydrochloride. I was sure I was still going to be all right for the next eight hours or so.

Finally, the rolling snow Autobus departed Banaue past 5pm. But during that time, I was more than prepared.