Reflections on the Road: The Journey and not the Destination

Simply desperate to seek new sights apart from the cold, desolate, barren and bleak landscape I see everyday when I go to work, I filed a 3-day annual leave. It was sudden. I found myself printing the leave form and having it signed within an hour from 2 of my superiors, saying I have to depart the next day bound for Roxas City. The reason for which is partly influenced by the untimely death of Amy Winehouse.

Yesterday, 5:40am I was on a public bus to Malinta, Masbate. I should have been on a single motorcycle on a non-stop trip to the Kalasuche port in Milagros, Masbate but my driver failed to meet me at 5:00am. Yes, I got stood up. So I got on the bus instead, advised the driver to drop me in Malinta, and found a window seat. I should have known better. The wind was biting cold and it was drizzling so the drops hit my face hard.

 

Shivering and yet unmindful for I found amusement counting the number of passengers getting into the bus. It was stuffed to the core, mind you, with students getting on and off at every stop. I was grateful I had the chance to study at the city center when I was in high school and public commute was in the form of a 3-minute tricycle ride from my home. I pity the students and their disheveled hair, with their crisp white polo shirts and blue skirts now stained with mud and wet with rain. My first seat mate was a shy lass about my age, she was covering her face with a towel. She transferred to a seat in front, probably because she wanted a window seat too. haha, wrong move! My second seatmate was a man in his late 20s; I didn’t have enough time to “observe” him because he gave up his seat  soon after he sat next to me, to a lady and her newborn. Imagine boarding an overstuffed old public bus with your baby. Shielding the baby from being hit by rushing passengers and protecting it from being squished in your seat by the one next to you is such an enormous effort! Kudos to moms and babies in public transport!

 

An old lady in the front row informed me that it was my stop already. I thanked her and got off. A man shouting off “Milagros!” caught my attention. He took my bag and secured it  in the sidecar of his tricycle while I took the “backride” (next to the driver, more like a sideride if you ask me). Now the tricycle stuffing commences! Students picked up along the way, old ladies with freshly harvested bananas, men and their luggage. Front, side, back, interior, the tricycle was brimming with passengers!

 

Speaking a mixture of tagalog and Ilonggo (with the perfectly sweet-sounding accent ha!), I didn’t pass off as a non-local because the Masbateno dialect is a hodgepodge of ilonggo, bisaya, bicol, and even tagalog as the island is situated with certain portions facing the Bicol region, Panay island, and Cebu, among others. I understood perfectly from the boatmen that there were no trips that Monday, not even for Estancia, Iloilo where I could just travel overland to Roxas. Now another man started talking. Picking up certain context clues from what the man was saying in Masbateno, I thought he was about to lead me to another outrigger that could possibly sail for Roxas that day. But no! He was actually leading me to a supposed lodging place where I could spend the nights till the next earliest trip which is on Wednesday. I could not describe in detail what the place looked like because I don’t want to recall it. Suffice to say that at that time, at the back of my head, I figured “What the fuck is this? A drug den?” I hurriedly bid him goodbye and flagged the first tricycle that came to sight with no definite destination in mind. (Oh well, maybe he was just being uhhhhmmm, thoughtful?)

 

I told the driver to drop me at the terminal to Masbate City. It was yet another tricycle ride to the city, about an hour I was told. I found it quite interesting that long distance routes are accommodated by tricyles and motorcycles (habal-habal) and that there seems to be only a small number of jeepneys plying the town-to-town routes. And in the rare occasions that there are indeed buses, these are the Jurassic ones. Large and ancient, the makeshift window covers are wooden planks and rust is everywhere.

You know the first thing I did when I reached Masbate City? I ate pancakes at Jollibee. haha. Everything tastes better with butter and maple syrup cures all ills. Okay I made the second one up. And it was not even real maple syrup with my pancakes, it was sugar syrup. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my breakfast because I missed eating fastfood junk. It’s only recently that I’ve appreciated the modern conveniences of living in the metro. Working miles from the big city and seeing pollution only after every 6 weeks, I embrace EDSA’s traffic and MRT rush hour as if there were my long lost sisters. I buy the big fastfood breakfast meal because I want to get the morning paper (I have this thing with freebies). And I read it cover to cover like I’ve lost contact with civilization for a long time and i want to reestablish my being human. I also want to know the present date. haha

 

After breakfast, I looked for a hotel where I could spend the night without busting the budget. I found one for 550 per night with a matrimonial bed, aircon, and cable tv. I could have opted for a single bed with half the price, but there was no available room, the receptionist told me. Oh well, I thought, it was cheap anyway. So I took the room after they changed the sheets and gave me a blanket so thin and tiny it could as well double as a sheer scarf. What should I expect from 550, right? I was lucky enough to have been provided with soap. I should not complain about the TV where the channel browse function is nonexistent because some sick customer must have popped out the control keys when he got bored with playing hide and seek with the remote control. Yes, the remote control was missing too.

 

The hours went by smoothly afterwards as I fumble for the thin banket to wipe off my tears after watching some tagalog films by Star Cinema. I love you, Goodbye was as funny and witty as it was heartfelt and tearjerking. Now fastforward to the beach scene from Derek Ramsay and Angelica Panganiban. Nothing beats macro shots of the sand with holding hands, rubbing legs, and wet hair! I give the film  5 stars. My verdict in one word: ABS.

 

After some silly soulsearching and mindmapping which often led to thoughts on Europe and how unattractive John Lapus would be if he were straight (yes, I watched Here Comes the Bride too!), I succumbed to slumber.

 

Now, as of writing, I sit here by a windowside table in a fastfood restaurant in Masbate city, looking through glass and seeing nothing but pouring rain. With a cup of coffee keeping me company, and Jack Johnson in the background, I reckon this has been one of the most intimate personal experiences I’ve had in a long time. I thought it’d be nice to prop one knee up, with one hand wrapping it nicely, but I’m not in my pyjamas and this is not my home. I realize that I needed this escape not because I wanted to see a particular place or be with certain people close to me; I just wanted to be in transit and maybe, just maybe, find myself in the process.

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3 Destinations in One Go: CDO-Bukidnon-Camiguin Itinerary

Let me share to you our 3-day itinerary complete with incurred expenses (ha!) for our CDO-Bukidnon-Camiguin trip. Lucky me, I was able to book a roundtrip ticket from CebuPac for Manila-CDO for only 803.04pesos (with 15KG baggage allowance). We were originally 7 in the group, then we made two new friends during our rafting adventure and they eventually joined us in Bukidnon and Camiguin.

“Thank You for Coming, Camiguin!”

Born of fire and shaped through time, Camiguin wooed us with the natural wonders and historical sites which were in one way or another influenced by its being home to 7 volcanoes. With hot and cold springs for the nature tripper, old church ruins for the heritage conservationist, and fine shores for the beach bum, there is always something in store for folks from all walks.

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Flight by Wire: Experiencing Bukidnon’s Dahilayan Adventure Park

Two hours on the road was short enough since I was asleep all along. I love how easily I could fall asleep on trips when on normal days it takes me an hour of circling the bed before slumber takes its toll. (Or maybe that’s just due to my habit of drinking coffee before going to bed. yes, the irony.) By 3:30pm, Dahilayan Adventure Park was finally ours to experience. It was pretty cold at Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon and for a second I thought we were in Baguio sans the crowd and the flood of taxis. With pine trees and a cozy lodge, it somehow reminded me of Camp John Hay.

What made the ride on Asia’s longest dual zip line (840m, the last of 3 zip rides) worthwhile was being able to experience the beauty of flight. The cold wind against your skin, the breathtaking view from 4,500 ASL, your arms spread wide like wings, and the disappointment of knowing that this is all but fleeting.

 

I wish I could lengthen this post as much as I’d want the  experience to have lasted longer. But all good things must come to an end, so they say.  We simply have to savor the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thrifting Challenge: UKAY in CDO-Divisoria

Bearing the same name as Manila’s market district known for wholesale and retail goods at rock-bottom prices, Divisoria at Cagayan de Oro is a shopping mecca for pre-loved clothes, shoes, and bags. More than thrift garment and trinket finds, this plaza (actually Plaza Divisoria or more formally known as Golden Friendship Park) also boasts of mouth-watering foods, street magicians, and even live music (every Friday and Saturday nights for Divisoria Night Café and Night Market). We went to CDO on a Tuesday; now I’m making a mental note for future trips to CDO to go there on Fridays and Saturdays. Nevertheless, the experience was still fun and worthwhile because I went on to buy a bag and a pair of Keds!

Rows of stalls selling UKAY clothes line your path when you stroll by Divisoria. Some clothes are already hanging by the rack. These are usually the premium ones, branded and in mint condition but of course, pricier. Others are unsorted and just spread on sackcloth for everyone’s picking. This is where the challenge begins. Picture the shopper as a treasure hunter looking for that prized jewel. One should get down on his knees without any bags about him that could hinder his mission. (Leave that bag in your hotel and bring only enough cash if you want to go night shopping). Now in perfect hunting form, he collects and collects then finally selects. If he likes it and it’s good value for money (which in most cases it certainly is), he should pay for it pronto!

It’s a shame I wasn’t able to take shots during our night shopping as my battery was drained and I had to have it charged at the hotel (Casa Isabella). Still, I want to share my UKAY finds with you so I took pictures of them.

 

A little laundry magic should do!

 

Total shopping expenses: 150 pesos

Bag- 50 pesos

Shoes- 100 pesos (old and well-worn, but still worth a shot! with lots of character too!)

 

Game Face On: Rafting in Cagayan de Oro City

Lalang and Cocoy, as “bangkeros” and rafting guides, never ran out of jokes and myths and anecdotes during our 3-hour adrenaline-pumping rafting adventure. Pitching out stories on how one hanging bridge (which we saw during the ride) was the longest in the country since it connects 2 provinces (Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon) and how a small hut by the riverside also served as a factory (factory for babies, that is) had us all singing to the “Going Bulilit” theme. Of course some jokes were lame but we’ve got to give it to them for making the ride worthwhile and keeping us entertained, not to mention safe too.

The rapids have monikers descriptive of what they lead the paddlers to do. There’s “Kiss the Wall” where you could literally kiss the wall if the paddle strokes are not enough for the rubber boat to make the turn. There’s also “brave’s way” and “surprise”.  For one of the rapids, the guides told us to stand when paddling. With knees shaking and hearts rapidly beating, we braced ourselves for the turbulence. Fluid dynamics for the bold and the brave! With 15 rapids through, we demanded for snacks. We were drained already and the ride’s not over yet so we recharged with Vjandep’s famous pastel from Camiguin and some juice in Tetra Pak. Unmindful of the 16th rapid ahead, we breezed through the meal like famished children.

It was a long countdown to the last rapid with the boatmen instructing us what paddle stroke to use (heavy forward, back, right turn, left turn) every step of the way. I remember associating heavy forward strokes with them intentionally causing the boat to tip over (in safe areas I was assured). Being a non-swimmer, I cling desperately to the rope in my seat which was fastened to the boat to the disapproving nods of the guides as I may lose hold of the paddle.  Number 1 rule in rafting: never lose the paddle. They tell us to keep the paddling synchronized if we want to survive the rapids. Ok then. Let me just anchor my feet in the space between the seat and the rubber boat’s floor. Ha! Now look at the completely petrified look on my face:

And here’s how to put your game face on: maintain a semblance of the perfect paddling form, flash that undaunted gaze (as if challenging the rapids to give it all), keep the mouth open and the nostrils flaring. Voila! As a demonstration, refer to picture below (zoom in: man in green shirt, rightmost).

21 rapids conquered! Considering that Cagayan River is the largest and longest river in the Philippines, this is definitely a feat. If you want adventure in CDO, advanced white water rafting is the thing for you. Game face on!

 

edit (13Aug2011): Cagayan River in Luzon is the Philippines’ largest, and not Cagayan de Oro River.

Rafting Adventure Organizer:

Great White Water Rafting          

Package (Rafting bundled with Zipzone rides in Bukidnon’s Dahilayan Adventure Park, meals, and transfers): 2,000 pesos per person

Dumaguete City: On Cheap Frills and Being a Total G.I.

Food is plentiful and cheap in Dumaguete. I cannot believe the number of local restaurants dominating the city proper. And with the market of hungry university students looking for a great fill on a student budget, Dumaguete’s homegrown restos face stiff competition. We dined at Kawaway’s, a native restaurant serving mostly grilled fish and meat and filling stews, and the bill was just around 600pesos. Note that we had 4 viands, 4 cups of rice, plus drinks. For breakfast, we grab coffee at Mcdonald’s, just 2 blocks from our accommodation. Refills are free until 10:30am – a fact that I was unaware of till my last breakfast in Dumaguete where I didn’t even avail of the free refill as we were pressed for time. Or  haven’t I had enough Mcdo pancakes and sausages in Metro Manila to know that this is indeed the case with all Mcdo braches?

The night is alive with bars and grill restaurants providing local entertainment to enhance the gastronomic experience. Hayahay, for example, conveniently located along Rizal Boulevard was staging an acoustic one-man show when we stopped by to grab some drinks during our first night in Negros Oriental. We squeezed in some shuteye at our humble room in OK Pension House where the rates are perfect for the budget traveler who’d rather spend the money on his daytime adventures. An airconditioned room with a queen-sized bed costs just 440pesos a night. We were lucky enough to get soap and towels with that rockbottom of a price. Cheapskates as we were, we didn’t even buy toiletries from the nearby grocer.  My 3 shampoo sachets and 1 toothpaste twin sachet (emphasis on the twin!) proved sufficient for our hygiene needs. (I sense that sneer of disgust in you, reader!ha!) Don’t worry; I brought a deo all along. (Now a sigh of relief I hear!)

The second night’s socials was much affordable with 4 500-mL beers for just 168pesos at Garahe, a raw and rustic no-nonsense drinking arena which reminds me of Papus near ADMU and brings to mind another bar bearing same name in UP Diliman (yes bandang amorsolo. haha). We decided not to wait for the band playing as they were busy watching ‘Naked and Funny’ non-verbal comedic gags on the bar’s mounted TV screen. We then hopped to a bar our tricycle driver recommended where the showband’s female lead was earning raving reviews and howls of approvals from the old men in the front row of tables. Right there and then I knew why our driver liked this place. haha

When in the province, I cannot miss watching a movie on the big screen. Movie tickets are cheaper in the provinces compared to their Metro Manila counterparts. And as Green Lantern was right on schedule, we scored seats for just 110pesos each at Robinson’s Dumaguete on our second night. Back in my hometown, I watched Thor for a measly 60bucks. Now that’s cheap! You wouldn’t kick yourself and feel bad for falling asleep halfway through the film because it cost you just half of what you pay for that tall cafe mocha.

Going home late after the cinema’s last full show (which is not that late in Dumaguete, actually) is never a problem as tricycles are easily accessible for just 8pesos per ride (minimum). I was sorry and embarrassed to have haggled for my tricycle fare to the airport during my last day, only to settle at a higher price in the end. The Sibulan Airport was already too far from the city center, I have come to know. In this Negros Oriental trip, I have realized that not only do I have a tendency to become disoriented every 30 minutes; I also lack spatial relation and distance approximation skills. I’m a complete geographic idiot.