Monday, May 30, 2011

Ilocos and Cebu trips 4

(Continuation : Ilocos and Cebu trips 1 , Ilocos and Cebu trips 2 and Ilocos and Cebu trips 3)

After that decent meal, it was a bit drizzling yet we continued on to our plan of that day tour so we were busy as bee preparing. At around 8:30 in the morning, the clear sky appeared, so we were relieved and happy :D

The two local trikes arrived and we just picked our pick and rode the way to our first stop which was the windmills of Bangui - first ever wind farm in the Southeast Asia. The ride took us 30 minutes I guessed. And when we arrived there, it was really a wonderful sight. The wind was really strong and it felt like a bit of a sand storm rushing to our faces. It is advised to wear some sunglasses to protect your eyes. Well, we did not have to contain and hide or shy away from this new experience. All we have got to do is gear up the cameras and click it all the way. There were some weird poses and unskillful jump shots, solo poses and group ones, too. The place is beautiful specially the curved bay where the windmills standing tall and proud from afar, end to end - we were almost halfway of the windmills and there were like more than 20 or these towering icons. We then bought some mini windmills as souvenirs and it was fun playing with it - obviously we were like kids. After another photo ops, we then went back to our trikes and the next stop was to see the rock formation in Kapurpurawan. It was not that far from where we were, say 15 minutes I guess. We then arrived at the parking area and had to walk for like 10 minutes to reach the rock formation. Well, it's worth it, as it was wonderful. The huge rocks were painted white. If you touch it, they were actually sands sticking on to the rocks which was quite interesting. The place was a bit of crowded though so wanting to get a solo picture will need some doze of patience. Anyway, after we took some nice pictures of the place, we decided to go back to our trikes. It was halfway when the sky started to pour and the drops became huge. We were ran as fast as we can but we were still soaked.... Anyway, it did not matter much as we were prepared and knew the fact that it was gonna rain as it was the early morn. The next stop was the Bojeador light house. It was not that far because it took us 20 minutes to get there. There was nothing unusual as I have been to a lighthouse before. It's just that its really old, built in 1892 and its historical value is immeasurable. It has also served the island such an important role in trade and commerce. After checking out the place and appreciating some bits of history, we then took some pictures and left. It was already noon and we were screaming for food. We ask the trike drivers to bring us to a local eatery one that serves local food and not the store at the town center which was a ripoff. Good thing we were brought to a clean eatery and the serving is quite decent and the foods were tasty, plus, they were showing the Pacquiao Mosley fight. Guess what, we stayed there for almost 30 minutes up to 7 rounds of fist fight, watching the greatest boxer of the world who is a Filipino. It was an interesting lunch, I supposed. After our lunch, our next stop was the Kabigan Falls. It was a long ride and prior to that, we stopped at a Pagudpud signage and took some pictures. Then the ride continued on. It was getting hot and no sign of a downpour which was a good thing. I wanted to have a good tan by the way :)) We arrived at the Kabigan Falls entrance and there was a fee just for maintenance I guess of the place and they will provide us a tour guide. There was call of nature on my part so my friends waited for me and when I got out of the comfort room, the shutter clicked and there you go, my face was digitally captured. It was such a funny experience .... Then we started walking together with our guide. Quite a long walk and I kept on asking as to how long are we gonna walk and the guide said around 30 minutes which was quite far. That made my expectations higher because of that long walk. I was personally expecting the falls to be really beautiful .... Then we met some people on the road selling fresh coconut and MJ would say later and we encountered like three ladies selling the same thing with MJ uttering the same replies. We were greeted by thick forest though paved and some rice farms. From a distance, we could hear the river gushing. After that long walk, we could see then the waterfall and when we got closer, indeed, it was beautiful. The water is so clear and the height of the falls is gorgeous. We took some photos and then we bathe. The water was cold as ice but it was beautiful and it felt so refreshing. I was happy just bathing with my friends in a beautiful Kabigan falls. Hoping people will take good care of the place. After that fleeting experience, we decided to journey back to our waiting post. It was another 30 minutes of walking but we were having some fun. It was also a chance of taking some photos and laughing really loud. When we arrived to Kabigan outpost, which was managed by the local cooperative, we paid the bill and geared up for the next stop, the aqueducts, the interesting male and female islands, just imagine the shape of the islands, then the beach which peaked my interest, the blue lagoon. To cut the story short, we spent most of the afternoon at the beach, enjoying the breeze, the sun, the wave and deep blue sky. The water was really blue at the blue lagoon =)) what else =)) by virtue of its name ? After, frolicking at the blue lagoon, we decided to call it a day. We rode back to our homestay villa but prior to that, we bought some barbeques for dinner as we intended to have a sunset dinner. The beach at the homestay villa was just a stone throw away. We also bought the special empanda which has longganisa in it. By the way, they did not have puso or hanging rice :( Then off we went to our beach quarters. When we arrived, we paid our drivers for the whole day service and then we packed our things for the sunset dinner by the beach. We were in hurry by the way because the clock was ticking and there was no take too of the said experience. We were just in time, as when we set our things by the beach, the sun was starting to illuminate the sky and began changing hues and painting in bright red, comes with orange and yellow - a lovely sight indeed. We ate and enjoyed the sunset. There was this balot vendor and MJ called him out and since I haven't tasted balot ever and it was a bit dark, I was forced to or rather I got interested to end my curiosity. I ate balot which was dated 18 days where the chick has started to form. It was such an unforgetable experience for the balot and me =)). Darkness has covered the place so we decided to really call it a day. We cleaned up our mess and packed up, then proceeded to our nest. After a few minutes of chats and laughs we went to our own cocoons....

The next morning, MJ and mommy Zhet went out to buy fresh catch from the fisher folks. I was in bed and woke up because Atan was shaking me that the thermos was there already and he needed someone to help him pour some hot water on his cup of corn flakes. I then managed to jump off my bed and went outside and did it for the kid. Good thing he said thank you or else I would have devoured him alive as I was still busy sleeping and dreaming :D Anyway, MJ and mommy Zhet arrived with some fresh catch but they were really small fishes. They said that when they arrived, all the bigger ones were already sold and good thing there were still some fishes left.... MJ asked the house owner to cook the fish "tinola" and "inunon-unan" style. We had to eat that later and so we just bread and some oats. After that, we prepared for the next activity which was again by the beach. We bathe the whole morning and took some photos until we begged to stopped because we were hungry. I liked the beach all in all except for one thing, the water was quite deep after a few meters from the shoreline so its a bit scary to really go far. Anyway, we enjoyed the sun and the beach so it does not really matter in the long run. After that, we decided to pack up and eat. We arrived at our place and there the food was ready to be served. We had a feast in our table and the fishes cooked the Filipino way and specifically with the Ilocano touch made it just right. It was an enjoyable lunch.... After the feast, my tummy felt exploding =))

We were planning to leave early so after some few minutes of rest, I went to the shower. After the shower, I felt wanting to sleep :P It was going to be a lazy day I think for everyone but yeah were going to have a long ride going back to Manila. Anyway, after finishing our bills, the owner of the house had us sign something of a slum book. Since nobody wanted to write and I had said yes, it was I who volunteered myself in short. After the picture taking, we then set for ride to the town center to catch a bus going to Manila. When we arrived at the town, we were told that the bus was not ready and so we decided to take another bus going to Laoag then. The ride will take us 3 hours or more but we did not mind much. The bus collector sensed that we were tourist so he gave us the wrong change and then MJ asked the collector in a huge voice about the correct fare and so he gave us the change which was rightfully ours. Then everyone went quite an I went to a nap. After that three long hours, we arrived at Laoag and we took another ride going to the bus terminal. It was already around 4PM and the attendant told us that the bus going to Manila will be ready at around 5:30PM. So we just waited there and sensing another hunger, we decided to buy "empanada", again.

The clock struck 5:30 and the bus arrived. We made our swiftest move to get inside the bus as fast as we could so we can choose the seats we liked. And we decided to go to the back seats. After a few minutes of waiting, the bus fired up its engine and drove away bound for Manila. It was a bit hard to sleep because of the noisy rascals in front of us and the ride felt so bumpy. At around 9PM the bus stopped for dinner. I was not particularly hungry but I wanted to eat so there, I went out of the bus and dined together with the gang. It was such an expensive meal for an eatery. After the meal, we got back to the bus. I saw the empty seats of noisy rascals and they were also about to settle to their seats and since the adult moms were not with them, I decided to take their seats. They arrived and stared at me but I did not move a single cell. So the noisy kids decided to go out of the bus, maybe complaining to their moms. And so, I got up and went to my proper seat, and Atan who was telling me that it was not my seat was actually chucking of what has just transpired. Then the bus was beginning to be filled with people. The journey then continued and after an hour ride we stopped at this "pasalubong" or gift counter - usually delicacies of the locality. We just went out of the bus and checked some good stuff and nothing much that interested us, so we ended up not buying anything.

The bus ride to Manila continued and that the rascals were reprimanded by the bus attended because of their noise and he turned their lights off which was great for us. From there, we were able to have a serious nap already.

At around 4 AM we arrived in Manila. We took a cab going to Philam village and after unpacking a bit we went to our nests.... I had a wonderful sleep but had to wake up a bit early because we were planning to tour the old Manila. I have been to Manila before and in fact stayed in Makati for a year but never in my life been to the old historical Manila. Everyone were waking up and Ate Mars went to the shower first, after she's done, I went next and then after that, MJ - our host and tour guide. The place was a bit humid so I stayed outside just sitting in the corner while waiting for my friends to finish their stuff.

We went to the mall first to have my Singapore dollars into Philippine pesos and Ate Mars has to withdraw some cash as well. But prior to that, we ate first at Tokyo -Tokyo, a Japanese fast food.

We decided to take the MRT going to Taft then to UN Avenue if I was not mistaken. The ride was smooth though crowded. Alighting at the station we had to walk out and put on our shades as the sun was up their and glorious. Manila has not changed much as it was still really crowded and a bit dusty because of the buses and the jeepneys plying like kings of the road. Then we arrived at the National Tourism then the National museum. The buildings were old and the architecture were beautiful. In from of the museum was the statue of Lapu-Lapu who looked different from what we have in Cebu. Then we went to Intramuros, the famed Spanish walled city in Manila. We took the "kalesa" or horse carriage to feel the history of the place and this chatty caballero was having some interesting historical rhetoric. We had fun but he asked 50 pesos each from us after the ride which was okay.... Then we toured the whole of Intramuros going to the garrison of Rizal. We eventually went to the Manila Cathedral then to some arts and crafts house. Then we went to Rizal park. We could not wait for the fountain display and since we wanted to buy something, we went back to the MRT station and off we went to Ayala specifically, Glorietta mall. We bought some Krispy Kreme and then we decided to have dinner at the Kitchen and the bill was on me :D The Kitchen hasn't changed as food was really delicious. After that dinner, we decided to call it a fun day and we went back to PhilAm village and prepare for my early flight tomorrow. My flight was at 7 and Ate Mars had hers at 12, but then she decided to go with me so as to save fare and aside from that, she can have company. It was a quick ride early dawn and the guard asked us of some ID and I gave my passport to him to show my identification which did not really matter because we were already leaving the village. The guard then helped us get a cab which was just nearby waiting for some customers. We then rode the cab and proceeded to NAIA terminal 3.

By the way, I cancelled my flight back to Singapore which was the previous day and I decided to go to Cebu for my high school reunion and also to buy some properties :D

(To be continued....)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ilocos and Cebu trips 3

(Continuation : Ilocos and Cebu trips 1, and Ilocos and Cebu trips 2)

We rode the bus going to Batac, Ilocos Norte and took us an hour. The bus was non-air conditioned and it was just fine, though the weather was humid it was also very windy and the air was also fresh. I was kind of sleepy all through out the journey so sometimes I found myself napping a bit. Be warned, the fare is around 40 pesos but the bus collector was collecting more, so if you are Filipino, just pretend to be local and pay the exact fare - no huge bills please :D Then we alighted at a corner opposite to the Marcos Museum and Imelda's. We were looking for the waxed dictator but were a bit lost so we decided to take some photos. Since it was late noon and we were hungry as beasts, we decided to have lunch at Chowking. I had a Shanghai Luriat which was so yummy - it was a familiar taste when I was still working in Makati City where I always ordered that meal.... After the meal, Mars and I went looking for a liter of bottled water and found one just opposite side of the road where Chowking was. Then we followed Atepuya and Mommy Zhet to Imelda's museum. I can feel the people of Ilocos adored the family. In fact, Imelda is back in Congress, Imee her daugther the governor of the province and her son, Bong-bong is a senator, doing the upper house. Anyway, the museum houses some news clippings glued all over the wall which showed the fist couple their stints locally and abroad. Interestingly, there were documents of some sort about back notes and all the finances of the government to various institutions worldwide. I wonder if there were some truth to these documents but then I was a tourist and no time for being a journalist or investigator of some sort. People and history has judged them as corrupt and tyrants and so be it! After visiting Imelda's den, we went to the waxed Marcos. There were people queuing to see the preserved president and I was one of them. I saw him lying there but wondered if he's at peace with himself and his creator. He looked some kind of a biological specimen where people tries to view and even examine him. Anyway, there was a blooper as the attendant thought I was selling something and he called me up and asked me what I was selling. I just replied I was selling nothing and went out of the dark room. Good thing he did not interrogate me or my mates. Its difficult to explain in Tagalog which we both understand so I'll be forced to speak in English which he might find as arrogance on my part. Well I was just thankful nothing messy happened and just gave the whole situation a laugh. I was with Mommy Zhet and her kid, waiting outside for Ate Puya and Mars. After that, we decided to go to the Baroque church of Paoay. It is a UNESCO heritage site same as the Calle Crisologo. We couldn't find any jeep so we decided to ride in a tricycle. We reached the church rather quick and indeed it was beautiful from the outside and we couldn't stop ourselves from taking pictures. There were other tourists enjoying the view of the church from outside and there was some wedding to be held in the church as the outside was decorated with flowers and some tables and chairs dressed in white. Then we went closer and inside the church and as tradition taught me, I said some simple prayers of thanks and wishes for family and friends. After the church visit, we were going to Laoag and catch a bus going to Pagudpud. There were no jeep traversing the not so busy street and good thing there was an elderly walking our way so we asked her where we can ride a jeep to Laoag. She then gave us detailed instructions in Tagalog ofcourse and not in Ilocano. After some few minutes of walking, we found the jeep terminal. We then fastened ouselves and after an hour ride, we reached Laoag. The jeep driver also was not that honest enough as he gave us the wrong change and since we confronted him, he then explained this and that and so he took 60 pesos more from our fare. I did not want to argue with the crook so we just go our way and rode the bus going to Pagudpud. After a few minutes of waiting, the bus fired its engine and the journey began. It was a long journey and we were greeted with beautiful greenery and some vast farmland and sometimes some hills or mountains. I was a bit exhausted so I was not able to pass on napping and this time it was a long one. I did not mind the uncomfortable seat in fact. Well, after two hours of travel I was awaken by a sudden stop of the bus and there was this passenger arguing with the bus fare collector they were talking in Ilocano so it was gibberish to us. Then the bus continued the journey and from a far we saw the windmills - that was the sign we were nearing to our destination. After more than hour or more of riding the bus, we arrived at the town proper. We alighted and saw that the town is not that crowded. The homestay inn attended was informed by MJ that we have arrived and as advised, we ate dinner in a store because according to instructions, the food near the beach could get very expensive. Well for the naive tourists as we are, the food at the town was also pricy but was not worth its value. We were hungry so we just ate our food and did not mind much of our angry pockets. Then MJ sent a message to the driver who will fetch us and there we found him parked just outside the store. After we paid the food bills, we rode the tricycle and off we went to our homestay inn named Lilia. The place was getting dark already and once we arrived at our destination, we unpacked our stuff and prepare to bed. MJ arranged for a whole day tour tomorrow and they're going to pick us up around 9:00AM. After I cleaned myself up and surfed the net, I jumped into bed and hibernated for quite a long while.

Morning came and I was awakened by some movements from outside. Mj and the rest of the gang wokeup already and they were preparing for something to eat. I had noodles, bread and oats, same as the rest of my friends.

(To be continued....)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ilocos and Cebu trips 2

(Continuation : Ilocos and Cebu trips 1)

It was time to prep up and start the Vigan tour. Well I was the last one to rise from bed. My friends were waiting and they have left their stuff at the counter since we were checking out already. After a few minutes and done with all the personal stuff, I went out of the room with my things and left it too, at the counter. MJ informed the lady clerk that were were going for a half day tour and will get back to our things around noon.

We went out of the hostel and walked our way to the plaza. Along the way, the historical buildings then showed up. The first old structure that greeted us was the Vigan cathedral and convent at the right side. The church was painted white and it was a Baroque architectural wonder. It was early morning then and the town plaza was surprisingly alive as there was a marathon held during that time. People were gathering and enjoying some kind of celebration. There was also a fair on the side where people sell their native wares. On the far end was also a flower for sale stop. MJ told us that they have an "empanada" of some sort and since we wanted to have a taste of a local food, we did not hesitate to try their "empanada". The food was interesting - it has sprouts, some meat, and egg and the dip was a hot and spicy vinegar with soy sauce. After we ate, we then continued to roam and since we were a bit hungry and did not have breakfast, we decided to eat. We had another local food and I find the beef soup weird but interesting as it was a bit bitter with a slight tang and spice. It was new taste for my friends and I. After we filled our tummies, we decided to get a McDonalds float. From McDonalds, we roam the Vigan strip leading to the world heritage site of Vigan the Crisologo street. It is a street lined up with very much preserved Spanish houses dating back as early as 18th hundreds. I was by the way intrigued by their commercial buildings as they were very much also in theme of the place. Take for example the CAP building, the Scout's building, Maybank, and even McDonalds were attuned in time which was in Spanish era. After more than a mile of walking, we decided to go to the Baluarte, which the Governor of Ilocos has created a private safari. We hired a tricycle (local transportation) and we paid for 10pesos, which by the way is the fare for tourists I suppose. They actually charge differently if you are a tourist. I find it weird because we were Filipinos wahahahah even if we were admittingly tourist but not really foreigners. Anyway, we reached Baluarte almost noon already so the sun was up and the weather was really dry. We saw some bird species both local and foreign, the very interesting ostriches, their deers and the ferocious tigers. I then was confused if it were really a safari or a zoo :D After some photo ops, we then decided to visit a local pottery. Good thing the driver brought us to the place where we wanted to be. Each one of us then had a chance to do some pottery which was really really fun. If you want to go to Vigan, this activity should never be missed. The workers were actually very friendly and there was this one guy who really guided us through in making our own masterpieces. For our sincere thanks, we gave him a good tip. After the tiring the pottery, we went back to the main plaza and looked for something to eat and we decided to have the special "empanada" again. After the meal, we then went to our hostel on foot. We got our stuff, thanked the lady clerk and then rode a tricycle going to the bus terminal. Our next stop was to Batac, Ilocos Norte.

(To be continued....)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ilocos and Cebu trips 1

My planned vacation would just have been to Ilocos but I made last minute changes and decided to also visit Cebu....

My first stop was at the NAIA terminal 2 in a bustling Manila, where my PAL flight from Singapore taxied. I arrived at the airport way too early which was 4AM to be exact. I will be meeting Ate Mars at NAIA 3 at around 6AM and MJ, who played host, will meet us at around 7AM. When I alighted the plane, I immediately went to the immigration area which was full packed as other airlines also arrived. So it took me a bit forever and since I had a bit of colds, the situation was not that helpful. I felt a bit exhausted and my eyes were straining. When it was my time to meet the officer, she signaled something then I noticed I had a masked on my face. Good thing the officer was really friendly and it was a quick verification. When I was out or the airport, I had to go meet Ate Mars and I didn't want to hire a taxi, so I went to the airport police to ask about the free shuttle. I waited for the shuttle for almost 30 minutes already but yielded nothing so I decided to go out of the terminal and look for a jeepney, a Philippine public transport inspired from the World War 2 military jeep and we call it jeep for short. I got lost upon looking my way out and good thing when I was about to enter another gate, there was an airport guard who was kind enough to help me with the direction.... I got out of the airport eventually, then rode a jeep. I was not familiar of the place and just told the driver that I was going to NAIA 2. He then told me that I have to alight and there was a tricycle waiting. The tricycle just zoomed after I suited myself rear seat. We plied a busy street and since I do not want to call any attention of some sort, I had to take off my mask. I couldn't see any smoke or dust but my throat was a bit itchy as if I have inhaled something foreign. The driver then told us that we have reached NAIA 2. I did not talk much, I just followed the other passengers because they looked like airport laborers. It was a long walk as the tricycles were not allowed to enter the departure or the arrival area. I arrived NAIA 2 around 5:30 AM and Ate Mars will be arriving soon. The security check at the airport was really tight, and I was surprised why they got a Category 2. Anyway, after I passed the security, I looked for some place to settle and wait. The airport was a bit cold, and even if I wore a jacket, my nose was feeling the torture. When the clock struck 6, Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu arrived and the waiting was over. After a few minutes, I saw Ate Mars and called her attention by waving my right hand. We did the usual beso-beso - for Filipinos, its like a check to check greeting :D Ate mars told me that she had messaged MJ already and she was coming. We then looked for a place to wait, still inside the airport. We just talked and talked about dogs, house and lot and investment stuff. Then MJ told us that she just arrived at the airport and on my way out, I saw her, so I hurried my steps to a run and called her name out loud. Ate mars, then followed suit and everyone hugged :D We then went to look for a bus going to the MRT. It was a short ride traversing the Roxas going to Taft. Then we rode the MRT going to Quezon City where, MJ reside. MJ and her housemate mommy Zhet rented a simple room at Philam village in Quezon City. The ride was smooth and we were able to get good seats. It was not a peak hour but the train was almost filled. Our initial plan was to actually go immediately to Ilocos but since it was a bit hectic, we decided to go to Ilocos on a night bus. Yes a bus which will take 9 hours :P When we arrived at MJ's place, we met mommy Zhet and simply introduced ourselves and greeted each other. Since we did not have breakfast, and I was a bit sleepy, I asked MJ that I'd like to have an hour nap before we go out and eat.

It was 9AM and I had to wash my face. Everyone was like awake and waited for me. MJ, Tmars, and I went out to have breakfast. We ate beef mushroom with rice (rice was overflowing for it was free). After that simple breakfast, we went back to MJ's place. We were planning to go get our tickets later but then we needed to have some rest. We just decided to go to the bus station at around 12.

Manila was hot and I guess hotter than Singapore. I did not mind much because I also wanted to get a tan. I just applied a bit of Nivea Sun lotion for protection against sun burn. We planned to buy the tickets first, so we hired a taxi and when we arrived at the station, the teller told us that they do not accept reservations - which was a crazy thought because it's pretty unusual to not have one for a bus company. Anyway, the teller assured us that there are lots of buses and that they had a trip going to Ilocos at an hour interval. Since Trinoma was a bit far, we hired another taxi and believe me, it was hot. The fact that the taxi was just parked from a far and had his air-condition off, the cab was an oven. No more complaints since we were in a hurry. We arrived Trinoma and strolled the mall. We ate ice cream crepe which was really delicious. We checked for some nice shades and found them very expensive. It was a bit of window shopping that took place. We got tired traversing the mall so we decided to just go back to Philam village. But before that, we bought some snacks at a grocery inside Philam. After that, we decided to just take the 4PM bus sked so we had all good two hours to nap.

We found ourselves waking up around 4PM. And I was second to the last to take a shower. MJ was still in her dreamland. Eveyone finished quite fast including me and then MJ. We left Phil-am just on time going to the bus station and the sun was still hot and mighty. We wanted to eat so we went to this pancit malabon food bar. I had deep fried bangus or milk fish with pancit malabon and rice - which was really tasty. After we finished our early dinner, we rode a taxi going to the bus station. There was a no queue at all and found ourselves directed by the the bus personnel and we found random seats inside the bus which was about to go.... After 5 minutes of waiting, the bus torched its engine and the journey to Ilocos has started.

After almost 10 hours of sleep, we arrived at Vigan the capital city of Ilocos Sur. It was still dawn so have to get a simple accommodation near the historical town center and the tricycle brought us at the Vigan riverside inn. There, we slept for three hours before we started our Vigan city tour conducted by us =)) Yeah, we did not hire any tour operator, as it was a free and easy Vigan tour which spelt adventure to us.

(To be continued....)