Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why I Love Traveling The Philippines, II

Second day of our Batanes trip.

We took the early morning 30-min faluwa ride (traditional Ivatan boat) to Sabtang Island. Upon arriving, we had breakfast near the Sabtang port. Our first stop after finishing our breakfast was the village of Savidug, where most houses were made from the traditional coral stones. Our next stop was Chavayan, but before heading there, our guides took us to Lime beach, the place where Ivatans baked coral stones so that they could use them to build the walls of their homes. This practice isn't being done anymore though.

After that, we passed by one of the most beautiful sights in Batanes. We were riding on the topload of our jeep, so we had a great view of the green fields that looked just like The Shire. It was hard to take a good picture since we were on top of a moving vehicle, but the place is really, really beautiful. I seriously wouldn't be surprised if I saw hobbits living there. Hell, I could live there :p

I think the theme for the day was overload of beautiful sights, because after seeing that place, our guide dropped us off on the Chamantad-Tinyan viewpoint. This is probably the most incredible view I've ever seen in my life. The green, rolling hills bordered by dramatic stony cliffs leading sharply down a cove to the clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The beach was lined by white sand and rocks that were being pounded by splashing waves. My pictures don't do it justice.

We finally reached Chavayan. Chavayan is a beautiful village filled with traditional stone houses on a backdrop of green-covered rock formations and hills. Chavayan is such a charmingly quaint village. We went to a house that sold traditonal weaved products, and took a pitstop on a small plaza where we drank some fresh buko juice served by a bolo-carrying lola. Apparently her father, Lolo Marcelo, is the oldest man in Batanes at 104, so she invited us to meet him. She also invited us to see their kitchen, which was used for a Nescafe ad.

After Chavayan, we went back past to Centro to Nakabuang beach, where we had lobster, lapu-lapu and adobo for lunch. After lunch, we just enjoyed the beach and taking pictures of the Nakabuang arch. The waves were pretty strong so we just waded around, and we were all pretty burnt by that time so we didn't stay long, which was good since it turned out the falowa going back to Batan island was already waiting for us, along with about a dozen other passengers.

Sabtang Island, in summary, was just unbelievably amazing.

Why I Love Traveling The Philippines

Batanes. There's really nothing else to say other than it is an incredibly breathtaking place made even more beautiful by its very nice and friendly people.

Mia, Kian, Ish, Geebee, Chrissy and I booked our tickets last February/March when Seair had a sale on its Batanes flights. We've seen nothing but good pictures and heard nothing but great things about Batanes, so we were all excited for it, even if the trip wasn't gonna happen until six months later.

So, six months later...

We started our Batanes trip by exploring the northern part of Batan island. For the second day, we headed to Sabtang island, which just completely amazed me. The 3rd day of our trip was spent going around the southern part of Batan island. The 4th day, Kian and Ish climbed to the top Mt. Iraya despite the heavy rains, while the rest of us were stuck in our hotel rooms because of it. The 5th day, we were supposed to go home, but Ester rained it all out. Instead we just stayed at our room watching Here Comes The Bride (hiliarious) and taking a short walk around the town, which was supposed to celebrate its town fiesta (Ester completely rained it out too. Not hilarious.) We spent about 5 hours of the 6th day waiting at the airport, since we were chance passengers on the two Seair flights. Only four seats were available for the six of us on the 2nd flight to Manila, so Kian and I ended up staying behind. So we just walked and biked around Batan island the rest of the time there since we were running short of money. We finally got home by Day 8.

Batan Island

The sights of nothern Batan island is very subtle. The beautiful rolling hills covered by the greenest of grasses, a church and a hotel made of stone, wide green fields parted by hedges, rock formations that were used as fortresses in the old times, a beach covered by huge boulders instead of the typical white sand, a lighthouse that provides you with stunning views of the sea and the hills and the cliffs and the setting sun... This part of the island doesn't pound you in the head with its amazing beauty, it doesn't insist itself the way other touristy places do, you know what I mean? It's very charming, and polite, if you can use that to describe a place. But don't mistake it for something else, because it's breathtaking nonetheless.

Now, the southern part of the island is nothing but subtle, with its amazing blue lagoon and Rakuh-A-Payaman (more popularly known to tourists as the Marlboro country), the cliff by the coastal road in Imnajbu, and the postcard-perfect Mahatao Lighthouse. The places we saw here were all just begging to be photographed.

See what I mean?

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm Not Sorry I Met You

A Batanes teaser first:

The sights, in order of appearance:
1. The rolling hills in Batan Island
2. Tukon Church (Tukon means hill in Ivatan)
3. Valugan Boulder Beach (The boulders were from a Mt. Iraya eruption)
4. A beach beside the Homoron Blue Lagoon. It has a natural breakwater that makes the water by the beach still, the clouds reflecting on the sea was an awesome sight.

The background music is by Your Ex-Lover Is Dead by Stars. I was listening to the song on my music player while we were at the airport, and something about the horns on the intro just fit with the rolling hills.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And A Delayed Iloilo/Guimaras Post

It was my first time going to the Visayas where Boracay wasn't in the itinerary. The best part about this trip? The plane ticket cost just 300 pesos, round trip! (Just kidding, the best part of course was seeing Mich and James get married. :D)

Iloilo is a great place to go binge eating. Seriously. I could eat La Paz Batchoy for breakfast and merienda everyday, and then go to Dulgies for dessert. Lunch and dinner would be anywhere that served seafood and chicken inasal. I couldn't believe that a plateful of oysters was just 40 pesos!

The (former) Team
The girls
The boys
Then, there was Miag-ao Church, which was just majestic to look at.

Miag-ao is about an hour away from Iloilo City. We hired a van from SM City to get there, and it was definitely worth the travel. The facade of the church was the most beautiful I've ever seen. the whole structure was very impressive, and reminded me a bit of the Paoay Church. I'm not big on going to church, but going out to see churches and other religious sites (like Angkor Wat, the Wawel Cathedral, and the Church of St. George) has always been a big reason why I love traveling.

After Iloilo, we went on a 15-minute boat ride to Guimaras Island. Guimaras was a lot of fun too. We stayed at Raymen Beach Resort in Alibuhod, Nueva Valencia. The beach in Alibuhod is really, really nice. The sand is really fine, the beach was not rocky at all, and the view around the beach (especially during sunset) is just beautiful. We also rented a small boat to take us around the island, where we saw more sandy beaches, unbelievably huge Lapu-lapus, and a nice small cave reachable by water near Baras beach:

Also in Guimaras? MANGOES. Guimaras mangoes are said to be the sweetest in the world, and yeah, these are the best mangoes I've ever eaten. It's sweet and juicy and huge and the texture of the flesh is really perfect for digging in. I bought 2 kilos of the mangoes, and a couple of packs of mango bars made by Trappist monks. The only sucky thing was that I didn't buy more haha.

A Delayed Singapore Post

Before I write about the great Batanes trip I just had, I think I should write about the two other trips I had last June.

First up, Singapore!

I had an awesome time at Singapore last June with Mia. We stayed at our former officemates' (Mike, Geebee, Ben, and Jyue) place at Sengkang. They're all living and working in Singapore now and it was great to see them again. We were at Singapore just in time for the IT Show. I wanted to buy a laptop for myself, and the IT Show was the perfect place to hunt for one. There were so many booths selling so many different laptop models that I almost couldn't make a choice on what to buy. So I ended up buying a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 instead, and I'm definitely not regretting the purchase. The Xperia X10 is awesome! It has a huge screen, nice interface and controls, a long list of applications from the Android market, the camera is fantastic, and it's just a beautiful phone to look at. Haha.

After the IT Show, we went to Orchard Road for some shopping, and I'm not really a big shopping guy, but it was nice to walk up and down Orchard anyway. It's a nice place for people-watching (just like Clark Quay.) :)

The next day, Mia, Mike, Karon and I went to Universal Studios, where we saw Shrek, Fiona, Puss, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, some animals from Madagascar, and a couple of freaks from The Mummy. The Battlestar Galactica dueling rollercoaster was still closed which was disappointing because that ride looked awesome. Good thing The Mummy-themed indoor rollercoaster was open because that ride was awesome! The line going to the rollercoaster was an attraction in itself.

The rest of our time in Singapore was spent meeting up with SG-based friends and eating(!!!) From the hawker stalls at Newton and more local food at a small restaurant at Bugis, to steak at Astons and some Swiss food at Marche. Seriously, I spent most of my pocket money on food, drinks and dessert.

Singapore was really fun but the best part was seeing so many familiar faces again (and getting a new gadget for a much lower price compared to buying one in Manila. But that's just a far second.)