Getting back on track (or on the tracks!)

2011 has been a great year for me when it comes to travelling and although I could not blog about those places the memories are intact so I would try to recall each one of them soon. I mean  experiences are meant to be shared and wordpress is a good tool. 2012 is another good year I believe and travel plans are already in my notes.


Baguio Panagbenga February 2010

Baguio panagbenga

Day 1 Friday

A.M. Central market then took a jeepney to la Trinidad for the 
strawberry farms. Pick strawberries at PHP 200 a kilo. We just took 
pictures and just bought a pre selected 80 pesos a kilo.

We took a  jeepney to Bell Church. The Bell Church is a Buddhist, Taoist, and  Christian temple according to Lonely Planet.

It is a series of pagoda roofed structures a little similar to the Taoist temple in Cebu. We had lunch  at the foot of the hill leading to Bell church . The store is “Nathalie’s Food Haus”  that serves delicious Filipino food at 35 pesos 
per set. Meaning 1 meat dish, 1 vegetable mix, a hefty serving of rice, and soup. Filling!

Then we headed to Mine’s View Park. We took a 
magsaysay jeepney this time. Then walked to Mcdonald’s session road to take a 
jeepney to Mine’s View Park.  Not alot of  things have changed in Mine’s View Park  though. A shop at the entrance to mine’s view park  got burned and only incinireated statues remained there. The place is 
full of pasalubongs and potted plants.

I felt a little sad seeing St. Bernard’s earning a living for their masters. They were forced to pose before cameras for a fee. I believed they are so tired PETA attention please! Horses were also marketed for this though. Well the elderly 
igorots as well. I wore their traditional costume to pose before the camera for a fee. Knowing that the profit would go to  these wonderful Igorot women. We walked a bit to Good Shepherd Convent  to buy some of their famous Strawberry and ube jam guava jam, and my favorite snawballs! White milk and cashew delicacy. We took a jeepney 
back to magsaysay to go back to Dely’s inn the one beside Benguet Pine Tourist Inn at Chanung street… We rested a bit for the night  activities….. At night we went to Abanao street for the Abanao  nights a series of night concerts featuring some popular rock bands.  San Miguel beer and Abanao Square, a mall on that street sponsored the  event. We had a pitcher of ice cold beer, barbecue, and innards. After some time the event got so boring so we went back to our accomodation.

Day 2

Grand street parade

I actually expected alot on the parade day but I was a little disappointed. There were not much variety and the flow was a little boring. The kids were very colorful and graceful. The culture of  the Cordilleras should be kept alive. We went to Baguio Museum to get a  glimpse of “Mountain Culture”. And as usual I was astonished. Other  people are bored with museums. Not in my case I love museums. The  repositories of culture. We headed to SM baguio just to take a look.  The mall does not need any airconditioning and the view from there is  fantastic. We had our late lunch at Jack’s Baguio Restaurant. Our  plate of chicken, pork, vegetables and rice is really filling. I  highly recommend Jack’s on Session Road. A scoop of ice cream from an  ice cream bar finished our meal. We took a jeepney at Central market  to Quezon Hills to visit Tam-Awan village, a park that has some native huts transported from different highland villages. The place is also dubbed as an artist haven.  This is evident in their galleries and  cafe.

Beside Tam-Awan village you can spot a native Ibaloi house that  is accompanied by a tiny photo gallery of native ibalois. They serve  freshly brewed mountain coffee that tasted so organic and healthy. Jen  the one who was our host there was very accomodating. Across the  street there was another art gallery worth visiting.
Suddenly it got a bit dark and we saw mist in the air. Jen said ” the 
heaven went down to earth” wow! We headed back to smoggy ( not foggy  like quezon hills) downtown to stroll in wright park. The dyed pink  horses are parading their”my little pony” charm and the 200+++ steps  to the mansion was inviting us to start the trek. The mansion is 
fascinatingly constructed on top of a hill the guards told us that if  we want to get near he have to get permits from malacanang in Manila.  Uh oh! The reflections of the pines in the lagoon is worth taking  pictures of if indeed it’s a sunny day! We wanted to party at night  but I was too tired. Time to hit the haystack.

(With Jen of Tam-Awan Village)

Day 3

We went to session road one chilly morning to witness the float  parade. And I was overwhelmed. The parade was like a miniature version  of the Pasadena parade of roses which I was hooked on when I was a 
kid. The parade was short but it was fun….

We know it would be hard  to get a ride to the bus station so opted to go early. The traffic was 
so bad and two hours was spent just hailing a taxi. We took our bus 
back to Manila.

All in all ” Panagbenga” was fun! So go there next year!

“An Open Letter to My Fellow Filipinos”

Have you ever been asked about the Philippines? What did you say? Did they ask you about its history? Yes? Were you able to give enough details? Were you able to explain about early migration there? or perhaps the old Kingdoms of Manila and Butuan? Were you able to tell them the meaning of the word Ma-i? Were you asked about the nice places you can find there? Did you answer Boracay? Perhaps Mindoro? How about Batanes? Were you asked about the food? Did you explain about Adobo? Were you proud about Bagoong and Balut? Were you asked about literature? Did you mention Rizal’s? How about Ambeth Ocampo’s? Bienvenido Santos’? Jose Garcia Villa’s? Or perhaps Nick Joaquin’s? Were you asked about music? Did you say Kundiman? What about Sarzuela? Where you asked about traditional Filipino clothing? Did you say barong? What about terno? Baro’t saya? Were you referring to the pre-war one or to Imelda’s? Loincloths with different patterns? Exotic clothes with lots of beads? Were you asked about the tribes of the Philippines? Did you answer Ita? or Manobo? Or Tausug? Did you expound on their heritage? Or what they wear? Or perhaps what they eat?

These are only some of the questions that might be asked about our country, especially before colonization. Do you know them? Don’t you think it’s time we learn them? Live them?

After all they represent us.

Day 4 in Batanes (Sabtang Island this time)

Entry for July 24,2008

“The Fallowa ride to Sabtang”

We woke up at 4:45 because we have to be out at 5, Jeepneys depart only around 5am from Basco. We’re heading to San Vicente, Ivana. This is the port area from Batan to Sabtang. Jeepneys were really scarce so we Kuya Romy (our guide) and his tricycle was there to rescue us once again. It took us 30 minutes to get to San Vicente. Knowing that Sabtang Island is the highlight of this trip I relaxed and waited for a fallowa, a small boat that doesn’t have outriggers. The sea was calm that morning and our trip was basically smooth. (Imagine riding a cork in a turbulent sea. smooth?) At last, our feet set foot (haha) on this seemingly Grecian island from the movie “Mama Mia!” (Santorini that is). We paid Php100 each for tourist tax then went on to meet the mayor! (Courtesy call eii!) Mayor Maximo Babalo, a very young politician at that. He was very kind and accomodating. He toured us around the island^^ Never have i met a Mayor so considerate as he! We visited the nice baranggays (small communities)  of Sabtang namely: Savidug, Chuvayan, and little Baguio. The other baranggays were near the centro (central area) and so I did not take the time to remember their names.( I only focused on the rustic baranggays of Sabtang.) Sabtang Island is really scenic, a place where time stops.  I dreamt of riding a bicycle on the slopes, meeting warm people with smiles on their faces, and just lazying around in the afternoon sun. Our last stop was the Arch and yeah the beach was like the one in the movie “Y Tu Mama Tambien” plus the special effects.

It was lunch time when we left Mayor Babalo and although we didn’t ask  for a Php 250 lobster meal, the nice big bowl of Parrot fish soup was equally satisfying. A nice meal for Php 50 per person. After about 30 minutes we found ourselves back on a fallowa, ready to brave the waves back to to San Vicente. The calm water in the morning turned into thundering waves in the afternoon. I really thought I was ready, but the turbulent waves and thoughts of capsizing made me dizzy. Dizzy that i puked when we got on dry land.

“Itbud, Itbud”

My friend Anna has stayed in Basco a few years ago and definitely some people there have treated her like family already. Coincidentally after my sick spell someone recognized dear Anna. He was one of the villager whom Anna met on her stay in Itbud, a baranggay in Batan. Itbud is one of the oldest baranggays in Batan, and in my opinion has the most number of ancestral houses still intact. We visited Anna’s “folks” in Itbud to experience again Ivatan hospitality.

We went to a small market back in basco to get ourselves souvenirs. At night, my body somehow became sore… I needed lots of rest but my mind and soul I guess was totally at their most relaxed pace.

Little Baguio

A quaint church

Some people in Sabtang dry their fish on their windows.

The rustic street of Hidalgo

Unspoiled beaches

Robinson Crusoe?

Going back to San Vicente

This entry would be my last one for my 2008 Batanes trip. I went back to Manila the next day. Special Thanks to Auntie Gie and Mayor Babalo. I’m looking forward to coming back. I love Batanes!

Day 3 in Unique Batanes

We woke up early to pick up two other friends from the airport. We walked to our lodge this time so they can have their first stroll in the quaint streets of Basco. After a quick breakfast we repeated the activities from day 2. (We can’t get enough of it you know!) We climbed the top of the Lighthouse and saw how grand batanes really is. We went to SDC canteen to buy cinnamon rolls and other snacks. At night, we laid down on the grassy lawn of their park to stargaze. Never have I seen the sky so clear that the stars are highlighted. We located different constellations and indeed had a very good time. Not until ants bit us. We have forgotten that the grass is their territory and we have invaded it. Anyway, it was getting late so we decided to go back to our home in basco. Mrs.Vargas was actually waiting for us at the lodge, she gave us “Palek” a drink that locals drink to keep warm so we drank some while sitting on the bay behind Ivatan Lodge. I’m really excited because tomorrow we’re heading to Sabtang Island!!!

Anna communing with nature.

Batanes is really dreamy. Like a fairy tale scene.

A strange little friend here…

Infinity pool…. Said to have healing powers…

Kadin… This is a fairly common scene….

the diseased in Sagada are put in hanging coffins, in Batanes they are put in giant egg-like pottery.

Sunsets in Batanes are always perfect! See you in Sabtang! (Sabtang would be my next entry)

“My Picture-Perfect Batanes Experience”

This is a late entry for July 21-25, 2008. “My Batanes Experience”

Day 1 Welcome to Basco!

 Today is our flight to Batanes and I can’t contain my excitement! I know that things I saw on pictures and read on blogs will finally be realized. (Including the weather and cellphone signals) At 2 in the morning my alarm clock started off and I know that I have to hurry up and be prepared in an hour. Finally at 3 am I am already set to take a taxi to the airport. Fortunately everything went on smoothly. I met one of my companions along the way as we gobbled up bread filled with fried eggs. I was a little worried since we didn’t catch much sleep and I know how weak people become when they are not equipped with enough rest. Together with prayers, we boarded the Asian Spirit flight to Batanes at 5:10 am and went on with the trip until 7am. Welcome to Batanes!

Upon arrival at Basco Airport, we took a tricycle to Ivatan Lodge. Ivatan lodge is a government property and so the published rates are cheap. Php400 for a double fan room is what we chose. The room is nice and cozy unlike the appearance of its exterior. We were greeted by friendly caretakers and later on by the lovely and charming Mrs.Vargas  who insisted on us calling her auntie Gie instead. (Oh! Auntie Gie! I miss her!)

 We had our first meal in batanes at Douques grill house. We ordered grilled tuna and rice. The fish was fresh and delicious. At Php200 for three slices of fish and two cups of rice how can you go wrong?

 As planned we treated the first day in a very relaxed way. A little walk in the plaza, taking pics here and there, and a lot of lazying around. Basco is very beautiful! I hardly found any ugly pics in my camera. The only problem was electric supply; they have schedules and on our first night it was off from 8pm to 2am. We were fanning ourselves almost the whole time nevertheless, it is only a trifle if compared to the many joys this place can provide…

Day 2: Basco and the things you can see there!

 We had our breakfast early this morning at  SDCcanteen- A canteen of a Parochial school. I had hotdogs and eggplant omelet while my friend ordered Tocino (Cured pork). We paid Php 148 for all that we ordered including two cups of rice and coffee. At around 8 in the morning we realized that we should start touring Basco so we asked Mrs.Vargas to hire someone to tour us around Batan Island. Kuya Romy was the one she recommended because of his long experience as a tour guide. He drives a tricycle and this would be our transportation in the tour. Kuya Romy is a good guide indeed. He knows the historical background of the places we visited, etymology, pop culture connected to those places and so on. Politics was also one of them by the way. Oops! Before I forget I still have kuya Romy’s numbers ( 0916-902-67-12) He took us to different places that delighted our senses. Here’s a list:

  1. Rolling Hills – Divided into public and private area.
  2. Basco Lighthouse- On top you can have a 360 degree view of the island. There is a quaint looking coffee shop nearby although it was still closed.
  3. Valugan Bay- This beach has huge round rocks piled up in a very organized way by nature’s hands.
  4. Idiang – A big formation of rock on top of a hill that served as an ancient settlement. (think The Flintstones)
  5. Japanese tunnels – Interesting tunnels with stairs and rooms.
  6. Fundacion Pacita – An artist’s gallery on top of a majestic hill overlooking the sea.(Pacita Abad)
  7. A view of the windmills
  8. Pacita church
  9. The House of Dakay –The oldest Ivatan house in batan island
  10. The famous Honesty Café
  11. The Ruins of Songsong
  12. Iza Calzado’s house in the movie “Batanes”
  13. Marlboro Country (Born Free)
  14. The American Base Ruins
  15. The Fountain of Youth and the love behind it. The fountain of youth is a small infinity pool. The water there is claimed by the local to relieve body pains.
  16. Mahatao
  17. Sunset view deck near Mahatao
  18. Mt. Iraya


 We went to SDC for lunch and SDC again for dinner.

Lunch: sauteed Ampalaya (Bitter gourd), pork and egg, and Chicken Tinola (Chicken soup with ginger, chilli leaf, and unripe papaya.

Dinner: barbecue, Chicken Afritada

(The Phillipines is Chicken Republic)

Tired, we went to our lodge and had a long conversation when the electricity was back we slept….zzzzZZZZZ

(To be continued…)

musings of an observer and wanderer in the Philippines and beyond…..