Thursday, March 31, 2011

Catch Me... I'm in Love


Presidential son Erick Rodriguez (Gerald Anderson) heads to Isabela in the Cagayan Valley for an immersion, an idea cooked up by his father to give him a different perspective in life. Tasked as evaluator is Roan Sanchez (Sarah Geronimo), a twenty-something social worker from a big family who has never been in a relationship, and harbors a secret crush on the guy. All this happens after an unpleasant meeting earlier in the movie. Taking a hint from the title it would not be that hard to predict (in fact you do not have to predict at all, spare yourself the trouble) that the two would fall in love, face some relationship problems in the form of overwhelmingly negative public opinion (who does not love gossip?), and overcome all that to force a happy ending which comes so quickly after the obligatory chase scene that it no longer gives you time to recover from the headache you get from all the blatant clichés in the plot.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

CAMARINES SUR: Budget and Itinerary

FRIDAY: March 25, 2011
Jeep (Washington - M Reyes) - 8.00
Jeep (M Reyes - EDSA) - 8.00
Jeep (EDSA - Nichols Terminal 3) - 8.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 200.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Naga) - 626.88
Bus (SM City Naga) - 12.00
Late Lunch (Shakeys) - 187.00
CBD Plaza Hotel (Economy Single Aircon/1 Night) - 600.00
Tricycle (CBD Plaza Hotel - Centro) - 40.00
Dinner (McDonalds) - 122.00
Tricycle (Centro - SM) - 8.00

NAGA: 04 – Pili Tarts and Hematomas

Before I took a quick shower, I went to check out Lago del Ray, a giant pool or lake where you could try out the inflatable sets or play water volleyball. I think you could even rent a jet ski. I did not see a lot because it was already dark and it was already devoid of people. My camera only managed to capture the flags amidst the darkness. Anyway, there was a free mini shuttle bus at 7 PM headed to Naga Central Station. Just perfect for my itinerary!

PILI: 03 – It’s Called Wakeboarding, Not Diving

For the beginner, you sit down on the improvised bench with your feet already strapped to the board. When a member of the staff finally hollers at you, you tilt the board and assume a semi-squatting position with your ass still on the bench. That way when the cable starts to pull, you are already in a good position to maintain your balance. Take off is essential because it determines your destiny, HAHAHA. Everything actually depends on that and it is really the hardest thing to do.

PILI: 02 – Brown Water and the Basics of Wakeboarding

There is a beginner’s course located near the lake where all the pros are. That course is easy because it is just a mini lake where you get pulled by a cable from one side to the other. There is a queue on both sides and you would have to go back at the end of the line whether you successfully cross that lake or not. This is not a problem at all since one is expected to always do a dive of shame, especially those without prior experience. Ahem, me, ahem.

PILI: 01 – Wakeboarders Don’t Give a Damn About Getting Wet!

It was a trip back to Naga for me after my quick and wet Caramoan escapade. I did not book a flight back to Manila. I wanted to try the 8-hour bus trip, yes... and Cebu Pacific ran out of promos going back, HAHAHA! Getting a van back to Naga is not a problem. Once your boat docks at the port you just have to follow the other tourists. For sure, one of them would be taking a van to the city. 

CARAMOAN: 05 – Going Back to Naga, Defeated

Did I enjoy my Caramoan trip? To give you an honest answer: NO, I did not. Do not worry though for it is not because of the place itself but rather because of the weather. You book a flight to Bicol to enjoy some of its famous beaches and the sun sends some rainclouds as proxy to welcome you. That sucks, especially when it is summer! Would I have enjoyed it if it was not for the weather? Of course! Are you kidding? Although tourist arrivals are increasing year by year, the place is still not as crowded as Boracay. Perhaps given the existence of the Survivor franchise that regularly shoot there, the island gets to improve little by little to provide more tourist infrastructure while still maintaining some air of exclusivity depending on how you define the term. One can still roam the beaches freely without worrying that you might step on someone sunbathing or collecting shells. Or maybe it is just because of the rain that not a lot of people were there when I was. Another factor is its remote location more than three hours away from Naga. Still, it is a wonderful place and pretty much worth the visit.

CARAMOAN: 04 – Rex Tourist Inn

The decision to go to Caramoan was a tough one for I was alone and most of the packages offered were for minimum 2 pax. I only found one package that could cater to my alone status and it was a tall order at 4,200 pesos for 2 days and 1 night at the Rex Tourist Inn, the feedback for which has been greatly positive all over the net.

CARAMOAN: 03 – Those Twin Beaches

Sabitang Laya and Bag-Ing are two beaches occupying different sides of the same island. I asked the tour guide why they have to be named separately but he does not know the answer either. I forgot which is which but I think the one with the big rock formations is Sabitang Laya and the side where our boat docked was Bag-Ing. 

CARAMOAN: 02 – 500 Steps to Mama Mary

What started as a drizzle became a shower after just a few minutes on the boat. I was not even aware if that was water from the sea, the clouds, or both. Besides, would you really care when you are already getting sprayed at from all directions? Now I could empathize with the people who rally at Mendiola. Improvise! I just used the bright orange life vests to shield my face and whenever possible, my shirt from getting wet. I was wearing two shirts and the one underneath was not that wet except for one sleeve. Nice. We got off at a makeshift port, no wading-through-the-shallow-waters drama. 

CARAMOAN: 01 – Off to Caramoan!

Caramoan is a peninsula made famous by its beautiful beaches and the various versions of Survivor that have chosen it as a venue for their show: France, Israel, Bulgaria, and Sweden among them, to name a few. Before I have come and gone there were already rumors that a handful of islands would be closed starting April 2011 to be used for two consecutive seasons of Survivor US. The beaches here far exceed their already notorious reputation. Even under the rain I was awestruck by their beauty and I know it would have been paradise had the sun decided to join us. And no, I am not exaggerating.

NAGA: 03 – How Not to Burn Alive During a Mass

I wanted to visit Mt. Isarog National Park but people were telling me that it was three hours away and it was already 4 PM. I just went to the city center and spent most of my time hiding under the Porta Mariae because of the rain. Now excuse me but I really just have to bitch on the weather right now. What the hell is your problem?! It is the end of March. What part of It’s summer! Summer! do you not understand? Luckily, I was able to avert a full blown flu by popping a Tuseran capsule and setting the air-con at its lowest temperature that night.

NAGA: 02 – CBD Plaza Hotel

I was already finishing my meal at Shakeys in SM by 2 PM. I checked in at CBD Plaza Hotel after that. Now, I highly recommend this one. It is just a stone's throw away from SM and is right in front of the Central Bus Terminal. They have Economy Single Air-con Rooms for only 600 a night. The only caveat is that the bathroom was a bit small and locating the room was like being in a mini version of the Amazing Race. Did I mention there was free WI-Fi? This has got to be the best accommodation I have ever had under a thousand pesos. They accept credit cards, by the way, and breakfast is already included in the 600 peso rate.

NAGA: 01 – To Stalk or Not to Stalk Cris Villonco

Once the capital of Camarines Sur, Naga (Nueva Caceres during the Spanish Occupation) is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines (I think third after Cebu and Manila) founded by the Spaniards. The name Naga supposedly came from the Bicol term for the Narra tree, which was said to be abundant in the area during that time. The airport is found in the provincial capital of Pili, a municipality which also plays host to one of the province’s most notable tourist destinations: the CWC (Camarines Sur Watersports Complex) a.k.a. the country’s wake-boarding Mecca.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ALBAY: Budget and Itinerary

SUNDAY: March 20, 2011
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 113.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 200.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Legazpi) - 626.88
Tricycle (Airport - Central Bus Terminal) - 40.00
Jeep (Loop 2) - 8.00
Entrance Fee (Ligñon Hill) - 20.00
Meryenda (Chowking) - 100.00
Zip Line (Ligñon Hill) - 250.00
Jeep (Legazpi Centro) - 8.00
Film Developing (Pacific Mall) - 174.00
Dreams Inn (Single Aircon/1 night) - 500.00
Tricycle (Embarcadero) - 35.00
Potato Corner (Embarcadero) - 50.00
Souvenirs (Embarcadero) - 190.00
Dinner (Embarcadero) - 207.00
Tricycle (Embarcadero - Legazpi Centro) - 30.00

LEGAZPI: 03 – One Night at Embarcadero

Embarcadero is Legazpi’s answer to Metro Manila’s Ayala Malls. The layout is the same, food is great, and there is music from a live band. The best feature would have to be the breeze coming from the sea. It is not named Embarcadero for nothing. Its location by the dock makes it an ideal place to chill at after a long day given that it closes quite late in the evening. There are enough restaurants in there to choose from along with some fashion and accessories stores on the upper floors. I also saw a race track for go-karts nearby.

LEGAZPI: 02 – Dreams Inn and Café

My plan to go to Cagsawa Ruins was foiled, again by the weather as it started to drizzle when I got down the hill. I also realized that I forgot to buy a souvenir but I was already halfway through the long S-road and going back up was so not an option. I was able to get into a jeep going to Centro before the downpour. I got off at Pacific Mall and left the disposable camera containing my whale shark pictures for film developing. After that, I went out to look for an inn and immediately found one right in front of the mall: Dreams Inn and Café.

LEGAZPI: 01 – Playing Hide and Seek with Mayon

Albay is a province in the Bicol region, which occupies the southeastern tail of Luzon. The province is always associated to either its most famous landmark Mt. Mayon or its spicy food, thus the abundance of red chili peppers on souvenir shirts. Legazpi City is the capital and the dominant language spoken is also called Bicol, although people understand Tagalog and English without difficulty.

[SORSOGON] Budget and Itinerary

SUNDAY: March 20, 2011
Van (Legazpi - Donsol) - 65.00
Tricycle (Town - Tourism Office) - 40.00
Tocino (Binalot) - 95.00
Mineral Water (Binalot) - 20.00
Kodak Disposable Underwater Camera (Store) - 750.00
Registration Fee (Tourism Office) - 100.00
Boat (3500/6) - 585.00
Fins and Mask Rent (Tourism Office) - 300.00
Souvenirs (Store) - 250.00
Tricycle (Tourism Office - Terminal) - 40.00
Jeep (Donsol - Daraga) - 50.00

TOTAL - PhP2,295.00

[DONSOL] Drowning in Glee

It was my first time to swim with fins and a snorkel. I held on to the life buoy as instructed but it went against my ego. See, I took two semesters of swimming classes, both beginner and advanced, as PE and during our time visibility in the UP pool was also low. Navigating the ocean would be a breeze, or so I thought. Then I saw something spotted and brownish  swimming under me. Hello, Butanding, we finally meet. 

[DONSOL] Shake It Like a Backup Dancer

The Whale Shark or Butanding, as referred to by the locals, is considered as the world’s largest fish, which means that it is really a shark, not a whale. Otherwise, it would be called Shark Whale (does not sound as dramatic) and would lose its claim to fame to the Blue Whale. Donsol is a municipality in Sorsogon, part of the Bicol region, where these sharks converge. The primary reason as to why they choose Donsol is still debatable, although experts sort of agree that it is because of the rich concentration of plankton in the area. Yes, they eat plankton, not people. This means that it is safe to swim with them, unless you look like plankton, or they accidentally swallow you, even though no such case has ever been reported before.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

CAGAYAN: Budget and Itinerary

SATURDAY: March 12, 2011
Taxi (Makati - NAIA 3) - 80.00
Terminal Fee (NAIA 3) - 200.00
Cebu Pacific (Manila - Tuguegarao) - 644.24
Quadsi (Highway - Chowking) - 10.00
Lunch (Chowking) - 115.00
Quadsi (Chowking - St. Paul's) - 10.00
Quadsi (St. Paul's - St. Peter's and Paul's) - 10.00
Quadsi (St. Peter's and Paul's - Jeep Terminal) - 20.00
Quadsi (Jeep Terminal - Callao) - 250.00
Boat (Pinacanauan River) - 20.00
Entrance Fee (Callao Cave) - 20.00
Boat (Pinacanauan River) - 20.00
Quadsi (Callao - Don Domingo Market) - 250.00
Jeep (Don Domingo Market - Iguig 20 x 2) - 40.00
Coke 8 oz (10 x 2) - 20.00
Tour Guide (Callao/Iguig) - 500.00
Quadsi (Around the City) - 20.00
Van (Tuguegarao - Sta. Ana) - 150.00
Papaitan with Rice + Coke 8 oz (Karinderya) - 50.00
Mel and J (single fan/1 night) - 500.00

TUGUEGARAO: 02 – Casa Ludivina

I got off the van in front of a mall, the name of which I forgot again! It is that mall where Christian Bautista and Aiza Seguerra would be having a concert. Near Jollibee. There is nothing much inside that mall where I strolled after checking in at Casa Ludivina, an inn which doubles as a bus station. Now I think I got very lucky with this inn and I am very much satisfied with my stay there.

SANTA ANA: 03 – Boracay of the North

My plan to wake up at 6 AM was postponed to two hours later. It was already 8 AM when I hurriedly checked out and saw the town in action. I bought five pieces of ensaymada (round bread with margarine, sugar, and sometimes, cheese) and two bottles of mineral water to bring with me to the trip. Since I had no transportation of my own, I had to settle for a tricycle to bring me to Anguib Beach. At first, I thought it was only accessible by boat, which would cost you upwards of 1,000 pesos. No, I am not in the mood to swim today. Anyway, I was able to haggle with the tricycle driver and we settled for 500 pesos round trip from the original 600 pesos being asked. All set!

SANTA ANA: 02 – Mel and J's Inn

We reached the end of the trip and I did not know where to go amidst the darkness. The city center had sufficient lamp posts though to illuminate the area. There was a bus headed to Manila waiting for passengers, although the rest of the town was already quietly asleep. I managed to find an eatery where I was able to buy leftover food for the day. After that I checked in at Mel and J, which was just right next to the stores at the town center. 500 pesos was the cost, and I did not like the room that much. The room could benefit from repainting and the bathroom, from some serious scrubbing with muriatic acid. It was just a place to spend the night and beggars cannot be choosers, especially in the dark!

SANTA ANA: 01 – Watch Out Boracay, Watch Out

Grab a map of the Philippines and look at the upper right side. On the north-easternmost part of Luzon is what seems like a thumb pointing at the group of islands up north. That thumb is the municipality of Santa Ana, home to the Cagayan Special Economic Zone. It has a casino frequented mostly by Chinese from Macau and Guangzhou but the said municipality has more to offer aside from gambling. The two most popular attractions are Palaui Island, which is home to the Cape Engaño Lighthous,e and Anguib Beach which is touted by the locals as the Boracay of the North.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

IGUIG: 01 – Big Jesus and the Big Bad Romans

The Quadsi driver took us to Don Domingo Market and got paid his due. I gave him 500. I know I suck at Math but this is more like a tip thing rather than a miscalculation. Besides, he would have made a silly excuse for not having coins for change anyway. We boarded a jeep going to Iguig and it took almost an hour, not because the road was long but because the jeep had lots of stopovers. We had to drop by a shop to pick up how many boxes of tiles, and then we stopped by another shop to unload them. It was like a semi-private trip. By the way, one pays the fare in Tuguegarao when you get OFF the vehicle, which I find weird since it is the exact opposite in Metro Manila. Moving on, you go uphill once you reach Calvary. Once on top you get to see Iguig Church (St. James Parish) and the life-size Stations of the Cross overlooking the Cagayan River. No joke, amazing view.

PEÑABLANCA: 02 – The Porn Room

Andoy (first-name basis?) told me that there is another cave perfect for experienced spelunkers: the Sierra Cave. The one we were going to was named Callao, the one with seven chambers and a church. Okay, let me clarify that. By church I do not mean as in a whole structure inside the cave. There are just benches and an altar in there right where the sunlight hits the interior of the cave. I managed to ask a stupid question in the form of Is this man-made? The boy was polite though and answered me with a Yes. I expected him to hit me with No, dumbass. The cave fairies have PhD’s in Furniture Making and the altar was molded by worker bats using Play Doh mixed with their very own excrement.

PEÑABLANCA: 01 – When They Said “Full” It Wasn’t a Joke

It was still early and I was still full of Chowking, but it was time to cross out an activity from my list and I decided that activity to be Callao Cave. The driver already stationed and waiting for passengers in front of the cathedral was old and only spoke Ilokano. Fearing we might end up in Baguio, I excused myself and looked for another Quadsi. I found one, who I think overcharged me by asking for 20 pesos when the distance covered was not that long. He brought me to a parking lot teeming with jeep and more Quadsi. The jeeps were all full. By full I mean as in up to the roof. They take the term overloading to a whole new level here. I am adventurous but I do not welcome the idea of being asked to ride on the wheels.

TUGUEGARAO: 01 – So They Love St. Paul That Much

Tuguegarao serves as the capital of both Cagayan the province and Cagayan the valley also known as Region II. The said region is composed of several provinces covering the eastern coast of Luzon and extending farther north up to the Batanes group of islands, which comprise their own province. One landmark you could see within Tuguegarao City itself is the Saints Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral, although most of the province’s distinguished landmarks are scattered in neighboring municipalities such as Iguig to the north (Iguig Church and the life-size Stations of the Cross at Calvary Hills) and Peñablanca to the east (Callao and Sierra Caves, Pinacanauan River), among others.

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