Where I Was Last Weekend

Like what I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I was in Subic last weekend of another ASP.NET talk. The talk went well only that it was after my talk I was reminded that I spoke for an hour and a half. No wonder I got carried away with my talk knowing that the venue is really a good place to talk. Even if my laptop malfunctioned before my talk (function key isn’t working until I brutally force it to work), the audience were delighted with the topic I presented.

All in all, we have 67 persons in attendance and at least 30 of them were students (though I think they comprise majority of the audience).

After spending 2 consecutive weekends out of Manila, I will be having a rest this week but hopefully can get around after. You can read the organization’s write-up here. I just realized, I should learn how to smile again in front of the camera. 😛

Back From Dos Palmas

I had a short respite in Dos Palmas, Palawan last weekend till Monday. I didn’t spend anything from my pocket to get there (except the airport terminal fees) since that’s a company sponsored team building event. As a self-confessed traveler myself, I never let this chance to slip away as Palawan is known as the last frontier of the Philippines. It boasts being the cleanest city in the Philippines and home to more than 1800 islands and islets.

Dos Palmas isn’t really that cheap but if you have the means, it’s a really must-see place. You can enjoy the hospitality given by the staff and I would say that you’ll have a worry free stay there. The courteous staff, the sumptuous food, facilities is superb. We don’t even have to check-in/check-out of the airport as they would be the one doing those for you and upon arrival, before you enter your room, your bags are already there. Other facilities that you wouldn’t thought exist there is WIFI, electricity, tap water, etc. In fact, to keep things in order, they have their own waste water facility that treats waste water coming from the island.

Continue reading “Back From Dos Palmas”

Batanes Journal : Day 2

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Day 2

Day 2 is the most exciting part of the vacation. It’s not because I don’t know what lies ahead of the day but what would I feel knowing that I am crossing a body of water where two giants meet: South China Sea and Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the crossing from Batan Island to Sabtang is southwards so the boat that we would be riding have to go east ward prior approaching Sabtang so that we will be just right when we maneuver the waves. I had initial apprehensions on bringing my camera to the island since there’s a chance for our boat to capsize as it was raining before we leave for the port. A common belief came into my mind that when it rains, chances are the sea would be rough and our fear is fueled further of our alarm clock – the slamming of the waves in the seashore. The sound is heard from the place where we are staying and that alone gave us doubts if we can proceed with the trip or not.

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After eating breakfast, Roger has arrived and informed us that the sea is calm and we can proceed with the trip. Armed with false courage, I gambled bringing my camera even if the possibility of that getting wet on the trip going to the island is high. The port where we boarded is near Ivana and there were already people in the area when we alighted from our jeep. We don’t have a dedicated boat unlike Mandy Navasero’s group (Mandy is a popular photographer here in the Philippines). We were joined by locals as well as other tourists as well. According to the boatman, a typical boat can carry up to 40 people and that alone shocked me. The risk is even higher if you put all those in the boat plus some cargo to bring on the other side. When everyone in the group (we were 16) has occupied their seats, we left the port and off to the island. My heart was beating faster that time since the sea is quite rough (on my standards) and yet they (locals) said that it was still calm. The boat doesn’t have any balance support on the sides (as compared to a traditional banca – “katig” in local language) but the balance is placed solely on the wide body that the boat has. The ride is full of thrill as you see waves coming from the Pacific Ocean pass by and sometimes the waves are higher than that of the boat but as they approach the boat, they just elevate our height. Mandy’s boat went ahead of us and from my view (at the back of the boat), sometimes we see them, and sometimes we don’t. If you are going to take this boat, I do suggest not occupying the middle area as you might sniff the diesel fumes emitted by the boat’s engine. On the trip going to the boat, I stood up in the back and enjoyed the waves as they pass, come and go from the boat.

Before our approach to Sabtang, the waves became stronger making it difficult for the boat to disembark passengers comfortably. An exciting event almost became disastrous for me as when the boat has positioned its anchors and when the passengers in the front started getting off; a strong wave splashed at our back and wet my camera. Yes, my camera got wet and what made it more scary was the fact that the lens attached to my camera then is my new wide angle lens. As soon as I got hold of my bag, I took my extra shirt and dried the camera. I felt relieved when the camera was still OK and thanks to the cheap filter that shielded the lens opening.

Upon arrival, everyone had their turns in the wishing well (aka wiwi – urinate) and when everyone was OK, we had to pass by the Municipal Hall to pay some ecological fee. I paid 100 pesos as entry fee to the island. Our mode of transportation there is not a jeep but a 4×4 vehicle capable of passing through rough roads. I noticed that majority of the roads in Sabtang are not yet cemented. To further enjoy the view, I opted to stay on top of the vehicle to maximize the sceneries available. Our first stop was at Savidug where we visited the limepits. These limepits are being used by Ivatans before as“cement” for their houses. According to the guide, dead corals are being mixed with stones and burned. The remnants of the burned materials are then buried under the soil for a year. After the incubation, these become a sticky material and being used as a construction material for building the stone houses. We then proceed to a small village where stone houses are found. Most of the houses there are already “modernized” with the exception of some old houses left as is from their original structure. There are already some abandoned stone houses and some are already renovated. From that village, our tour guide pointed us a mountain formation as if a lady giant is resting. The shape of the face is evident where there’s a “nose”, “mouth”, and even an “eye” formation on the mountain. The next stop of our road trip is towards that direction. Upon arriving in the area, we were welcomed with a majestic view of the Sabtang island facing the Pacific Ocean.

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Before heading for lunch, we passed by Barrio Chavayan where vaculs can be bought. Vaculs are the head dresses Ivatans use as a protection from heat and rain. Of course, there were stone houses and some places of interest. The children there are ready to pose for our cameras.

We took our lunch in Nakanmuan beach in Murong and ate near a stone formation. We were served with seafoods such as lobsters and white snappers. Mandy’s group was also there but I think they have a different caterer than us and I didn’t mind what food was serve to them – as long as it can fill our hungry stomachs and is edible enough, I’m fine with that. Our tour guide has to cut off our trip to Sabtang as we need to get a good time going back to Batan Island. According to him, the best time to leave the place is around 3pm and it was already almost 2pm when we finished our lunch. We weren’t able to pass by the lighthouse visible from the port where we were dropped off from the boat. Fortunately or unfortunately, the boat that was supposed to bring us back headed there without us. We had to wait 2 hours before the boat comes back and even if there’s a boat waiting, it would be risky to put 30+ people in it (Mandy’s group was 14 and we’re 16 plus the tour guides and other locals as well). Because of that, I had the opportunity to go to the light house. It’s actually walking distance from the port and can be reached in 10 minutes. The first town at the right of the port is Malakdang, and the entrance to the lighthouse is just few meters away at the end of the road and is near the diesel power plant.

It was already raining when we left Sabtang and even if the waves were stronger as compared to the trip on the morning, I felt relaxed with everything I see and felt in Sabtang. I must have loved the place so much.

Photos of Day 2 is in my Multiply site.

Batanes Journal

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edit: The pictures related to this post are already uploaded in my Multiply account. This post has 3 folders of pictures.

My trip to Batanes last 22-25 February 2005 is truly a memorable one. It’s not only filled with photos but with memories as well, also the chance of meeting some of my relatives. Yes, I do have some relatives in Batanes but I don’t specifically know them. Few years ago, I asked my Dad with regards to the family genealogy on his side and it was last year when I got a clear picture of what’s exactly to trace. During my trip to Cagayan De Oro last year, I was able to grab some 1950s pictures and perhaps, it would help me trace the relatives especially those of my grandparents and great grandparents that hailed from Batanes.

Batanes has been known to be a province here in the Philippines that’s always been visited by storms. Personally, I haven’t heard much of the place and that makes the trip more exciting. Fortunately, I already have my leave credits and took a day’s leave for the entire weekend getaway. February 25 was declared as a non-working holiday so it made my trip more enjoyable. Though, even if it’s a working holiday, I can go straight to the office from the airport since I still have ample time for travel to the office since the flight’s ETA in Manila is 0830H.

Pictures related to this journal will be uploaded later in my multiply account. 🙂

Day 1

Out of excitement, I have decided not to sleep on the eve of my flight. I was advised by my travel agent that I should be in the airport as early as 2 hours before the scheduled flight. In my e-ticket, the ETD of the flight is 0530H. I was wondering why the display of the flight schedules in the domestic airport isn’t the same as in our ticket. It was already 0515H and there’s no notification of boarding yet for Asian Spirit and I suppose that the schedule that will be followed would be that of the airport. It was 0525H when I noticed that the crew of our flight arrived and I told to myself that they are late for the flight. We board the airplane few minutes later and in less than 15 minutes after the call the boarding the flight, we are ready to leave for Basco, Batanes. Contrary to other field reports (FR) of Asian Spirit passengers, the flight was smooth if not only of the “bounce” that the airplane made when it landed in Basco. I just told to myself that it was perhaps because of the weather that the plane wasn’t able to land smoothly. The flight was approximately an hour and five minutes similar to the travel time distance going to Cebu from Manila.

I was awed at the place upon stepping down from the plane. Welcoming you is the view of Mt. Iraya, a dormant volcano in Batanes. I had to pull out my camera immediately and take photos of the place. With my recently acquired ultra wide lens (Canon EF-S 10-22mm), I had to test the lens and that moment was the best time to get started shooting at wide angles. Unfortunately, the place was covered with clouds and I had a hard time getting sharp pictures and at times, I have to slow down my shutter speed to get bright pictures but that would be prone to blurred pictures. I took few snapshots of the plane, the airport and the time that we were about to wait for our checked-in bags. The airport isn’t that big (which is quite understandable) and I think it can only accommodate short-haul trips. Aside from Asian Spirit, it caters to Pacific Air and Chemtrad for flights to/from Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley and Itbayat Island, also in Batanes. Sometimes, Asian Spirit uses the Basco Airport for some chartered flights to/from Taiwan. Taiwan is approximately 200 km from Batanes against the approximate of 300km away from Aparri, Cagayan Valley.

I almost got lost in the airport since I don’t know whom I am joining to. Most of my co-passengers in the flight have already boarded their respective rides and I don’t know what group I shall be joining. That could be one of the repercussions of traveling alone and/or being “hooked” to join a different group. I had to send my agent an SMS on who to look and shortly, I found the group and off to our accommodations. The place where we stayed is the Batanes Resort. This place is visible from the plane upon landing to Basco. Their rooms are named after different places/islands in Batanes and a typical room can accommodate 3 people. What I have booked for is a fan room but the room has an aircon! Electricity in our accommodation is 24 hours unlike in other areas of Batanes. Basco is also powered 24 hours so you can be assured of continuous electricity in the area. The main power source of Batanes is by diesel but there are some windmills in the area (not as big as those in Bangui, Ilocos Norte) and these supplies around 20% of the place’s electricity demands. Our tour guides were Roger and Anong (slang for Luciano). Apeng is our driver and I think he’s already used to driving tourists in the island as with my experience, he’s effortless in doing driving maneuvers in the cliffs. Imagine driving a customized oversize jeepney in a narrow road.

Going back to the group, I feel alienated at first since most of my companions came in groups and I was the only one who went there alone. After few chitchats and our welcome breakfast in the resort, I feel already at home with them. Of course, the friendly person I am (ahem!) joined with the rest of the group and later on, I was talking with them. Prior going to our designated rooms, we ate breakfast which is part of our package. We were served with day-old “daing na flying fish”, fried eggs, tomatoes and bananas. At first, I thought the fish was bangus (milk fish) but later on realized that it was flying fish. The first tastes good but quite bony. We rest for few minutes and arranged our things in the room and then we’re off to go our day tour in Batan Island.

Everyone was amazed with scenes added with the thrill of passing through the narrow road beside the cliffs. We had occasional stops at places/beaches to take pictures. The first official stop is the Tahuhura beach where you’ll find the 279 steps going down. There are some benches in the area where you can have yourself a picture pose. I took pictures of myself on the view deck and braved the steps going down the cliff where waves slap the coastline.

Our next stop was Mahatao. We had to pay 50 pesos as ecological fee (or whatever fee that is). We visited the San Carlos Borromeo Church and took some pictures on its façade. The current assigned priest on that Church is a Thomasian and according to him, he was just recently assigned there. Outside the Church’s garden is a small parola which according to our tour guide is an old lighthouse used long ago. Diagonal to that parola is another one and they work in conjunction with one another.

Going to Ivana, we passed by to some beaches and of course we have to stop for some photo opportunities. Ivana is the next town to Mahatao where my grandmother was born. I am suspecting that I could locate some relatives in the area and my tour guide was helpful enough to locate some of them. While locating for my relatives, we dropped off on a certain area along the national road and then walked and took pictures of stone houses in the area. Our guide has pointed us to a 17th century bridge (which I think is no longer used). I saw an old house being taken by other photographers and had myself a picture. Luckily, there’s an old Ivatan that lives in that place. At first, she was shy to pose for me but after my companions approached her, she readily sat at the door and there we went shooting. There are a lot of things that can be shot in the area and I just clicked on my camera. Attached with my camera most of the time is my wide-angle lens. It’s quite difficult to change lenses from time to time so I had to stick with it most of the time. I managed to talk to one of my uncles (following the genealogy information stuck in my mind) and I gave him my number for future reference. Of course, I cannot leave the group and as much as possible, I asked them if they can meet me at the resort, I would be glad to talk to them.

Moving further, we went to the San Jose Church in Ivana whose original altar is in ruins at the back of its current location. I didn’t explored the place that much, just took a picture of the façade and went instead to the dock in front of it. Near the church is the famous “Honesty Coffee Shop” and took some pictures. I took some items from it but with a tight budget, I only got 21 pesos worth of items. Since it was past 12, we went to Jojmoron Cove and ate lunch there. Again, we were served with inihaw na flying fish, chicken adobo, pinakbet and bocayo (coconut sweets). There were some carabaos and horses roaming in the area so we took some pictures after eating. The wind was strong but not enough for us to be pushed away.

Continuing the day tour, we passed by the ruins of Sungsung. According to our guide, the place was once hit by a tsunami and most of the houses there are destroyed. As such, it became a “ghost town” but slowly, people are coming back and start anew. We also passed by the house used by Iza Calzado in her movie “Batanes” and took some pictures of it. The next place that we went to is something I forgot to ask the place. It is where Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gomez shoot their movie “Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit”. It was drizzling then and raindrops start to pollute my filter. I just took some pictures and went back to the jeep. After that place, we proceed to Imnajbu (pronounced imnabu) to visit a wishing well. I was curious at first what that “wishing well” really was and later found out that it was the comfort room. “Wishing well” sounds like the Filipino slang for urinating which is “wiwi” and there goes the thing – no further explanation needed. After that “wishing well” visit, we passed by the Church where the first mass was held. The caretaker of the Church gladly opened the Church for us for viewing and some offered some prayers there. The last stop was the alapad hills better known as “Marlboro” country of Batanes. Inasmuch as I wanted to take pictures, my head ached and I was chilling very badly. I forgot to bring a jacket and too weak to go out in the drizzle and cold. After that place, we headed back to the resort and I immediately slept off. I just woke up for dinner, rest for a while and slept again.

I’ll continue Day 2 on the next post. 🙂

I’m on Heartache Leave

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I will be on heartache leave (aka vacation leave in work context) starting tomorrow and I will be off to some place to have my broken heart healed (apmf!). Perhaps, there will be no SMS, no e-mail, no internet on the place where I will find respite. Rest assured, I’m coming back when I have finally cleared or have my heart lessens the pain.

Preparing For Batanes

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(photo courtesy of Manny Librodo)

I’m quite eager to have a vacation in Batanes although I must say that is true that a trip to this place is quite costly (expenses can reach up to Php 20,000). Some of my relatives already went to this province since my grandmother hailed from this province prior their move to Cagayan De Oro.

While searching for possible trips, I came up with search results for Batanes trip in Lakbay Pilipinas.  For 4D/3N, the price is quite a good deal although the price comes for a group of 4 and most likely prices will shoot up should you insist going there less than the required number.

If going alone, based on my research, here are the prices:

  • Airfare (via Asian Spirit) = 4750 x 2 [+ additional charges + 200 for Manila airport terminal fee + 30 (assumed) Basco terminal fee]
  • Accomodations – quite unsure although 3,000 would be a safe estimate.
  • Food – quite unsure too although 2,000 would be enough.
  • Other expenses – for island trips, fare, souvenirs, pasalubong, et. al, 5,000 would be a safe estimate.

All in all, it would end up close to 20,000 pesos although quite exaggerated except for the airfare. The trip would be most probably next year, after all credit card installments would end and hope to be there during summer as the sceneries would be most appreciated on broad daylight. Hopefully, I can get a cheaper package or perhaps companions to join me with this trip. 🙂

A380 in Manila (and Clark!)

The world’s largest Aircraft, A380 has landed in Ninoy Aquino International Airport last 11 October 2007. In as much as I wanted to get a shot of it, I am constrained by work. Even if it would come from (landing from) the Antipolo side) the area where our office is located, I am quite far away from the window that will give me a clear picture of the plane.

Here are some pics taken off the internet. They are not mine but taken by others (from Mr. Anton Lorenzo, Jadran Dychioco and Kenneth Escalona of DPP). I just collated them here for better viewing. Of course, credit goes to them as rightful owners of the pictures. ‘^-^

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(Kenneth Escalona, touchdown at NAIA)

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(Anton Lorenzo, landing at NAIA)

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(Jad Dychioco, shots at Clark)

I am actually appalled with this beauty. According to some news, it would be Singapore Airlines who would first carry this airline commercially and deliveries would start this month. I don’t know if this is true but seeing this plane, even on photos is truly amazing. I am actually an airplane fanatic, I really love flying planes (err, meaning taking it as a means of transportation) only that I have limited funds to do it frequently. 😛 For more discussion and/or pictures, you can view it in this thread. 🙂