Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leyte: Transit in Tacloban, Leyte

This trip was in the works since I bought my P1 ticket on Cebu Pacific last February. But the funny thing was I had not planned at all for this trip! I simply rode the plane to Tacloban, Leyte and played everything by ear.

I had informed my brods that I was coming over. But I didn't want to hassle them. I was already seated in the waiting jeepney when I texted my brods informing them that I had arrived. What surprised me though was a reply from one of them for me to wait at the airport since he would pick me up. So I got off the jeep and happily waited. It really touched me since we had never met before.

He took me to the MacArthur Landing Site in the neighboring town of Palo. Just a few days before, on October 20, they had celebrated the anniversary of Mac Arthur's landing. We then had breakfast at the nearby MacArthur Park and Beach Resort, one of those classy resorts built during the Marcos days to house the Miss Universe candidates in 1973. It's supposedly a class "A" resort but service was crummy. When we arrived, they were cleaning up the restaurant from a wedding reception which obviously happened the night before (a real hotel cleans up right after the event) so the place was quite messy. What do you expect from a government agency like the PTA?

We then proceeded to the Duptours terminal to check out the schedule of vans to Borongan. I got a seat on the 11:30 a.m. trip and spent PHP180 for it. Since I still had time, I visited the DOT regional office a few meters away to get brochures since there were none at the airport. At least I could read up while I was in Borongan and decide where to go next.

Then I dropped by the Price Mansion further down the street which served as Gen. MacArthur's headquarters while he was in Leyte. It's now owned by CAP and there is a small museum inside with memorabilia of MacArthur's stay in the house. The even preserved the hole created by a Japanese bomb which luckily did not explode. Before leaving for Borongan, I had lunch in the house of a brod who lived in front of Duptours.

It was a four-hour trip and I got to pass by the San Juanico Bridge as well as Samar Province for the first time. I slept for most of the trip since I did not have sleep the night before (I took the 5:10 a.m. flight). Check out my photos in Multiply.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Around Leyte, Samar and Biliran

I went around Eastern Visayas and I got to visit five of the six provinces there. I've already uploaded my pics in six albums. That should do for now. But I should update the blog before I leave for another week-long trip to Cebu and Panay.

Anyway, here are the albums:
2007-10-25 Leyte & Eastern Samar
2007-10-26 Eastern Samar
2007-10-26/27 Samar

2007-10-28 Samar, Northern Samar & Leyte
2007-10-28/29 Biliran
2007-10-31 Leyte

Monday, October 22, 2007

La Union: Surf's up in San Juan, La Union

I just came back from a great weekend in La Union. I trooped to the San Juan Surf Resort with my brods and other surfer wannabes on Travel Factor's Surfvivor Surfing Tour. We left McDonald's El Pueblo at 12:30 a.m. on three vans loaded with surfing beginners. It was a coincidence that my China-ASEAN batchmate Carly and her friends were also going.

I was so tired and sleepy, I slept all the way. The only thing I remember was the 4 a.m. breakfast stopover in Jollibee Urdaneta. We arrived in San Juan a little before 7 a.m. As soon as we got the keys to our room, we slept.

Tikoy, the organizer, woke us up at about 9:30 a.m. to ask who wanted to join the first group. It may seem short, but the one hour lessons are exhausting. Some of us joined the first group while I took photos. I went for the second group later in the afternoon at 3 p.m.

Training us was Luke Landrigan and his pool of locals who gave us one-on-one lessons. I was elated since I managed to stand up on the board this time around! We decided we wanted more so we scheduled another hour the next morning.

Dinner was at Midway Grill in San Fernando, LU. It was value for money! Burgers and fries were priced at PHP39, while bottomless iced tea at PHP29. For dessert, I got the oreo brownie split for P120. Yummy! If you're on your way to Ilocos, this is a great stopover for lunch of snacks.

Later in the evening, we had drinks in the bar area of the resort with our friends. We got to sleep at 3 a.m. which is a wonder how we managed to wake up in time for the optional morning surfing lessons. After check out, we had lunch in Midway Grill again. Check out the Travel Factor and San Juan Surf Resort websites for more information.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Batangas: Las Haciendas and our Ambon-Ambon Falls trek

Today, we went chasing waterfalls again. I went with Bikoy and Nino to Las Haciendas in Laurel, Batangas. It's an upcoming residential estate and nature resort. And thanks to my MBA classmate, Dennis Morada, we got to visit this great place before the crowds start trooping to the place.

Our main goal was to trek to Ambon-Ambon Falls which is located inside the estate. After lunch at the clubhouse, they toured us around the place. We visited the campsite where overnight huts are available for rent. We also visited the Simbahang Bato, a cave which serves as the church of the local community. Then it was off to the jump-off point for the trek.

The trail to Ambon-Ambon was very easy, laid back trail. We forgot to bring slippers though. But we managed crossing the four streams on the way without getting our shoes wet.

After that easy trek to the falls, we went swimming in the infinity pool. My Pinoy Mountaineer partner Gideon Lasco followed but missed the trek. For more information on trekking to the falls, or if you want to camp overnight, please contact them at (0920) 9255044 or

They have a day tour package at P750 per head (minimum of 15 pax) which includes free entrance, use of mudslide (this looked like so much fun), trekking to Ambon-Ambon Falls, use of swimming pool, lunch and morning and afternoon snacks. There are also overnight rates at P1,500 inclusive of overnight accommodations in the campsite huts, two lunches, one dinner, one breakfast and three snacks as well as use of the facilities. Not bad!

Anyway, the four of us had dinner in Tagaytay where temperatures dropped. I wish we could have stayed there for the night.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Manila: Malabon, Metro Manila's hidden gem

Today, I joined a tour of Malabon called "Halina lusungin natin ang Malabon" organized by concerned people of Malabon led by Atty. Monchet Lucas of Rufina Patis, Leona Nepomuceno of DOT, Terry de Jesus a home owner, and Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA.

Our tour began with a briefing and a sumptuous lunch at the Pescadores restaurant at Letre Road corner Dagat-Dagatan Avenue. We then proceeded to our first stop, the San Bartolome Church. I had high expectations for this church knowing that it was one of the untouched churches in Metro Manila. But to our shock, it's in the process of being uglified by the current parish priest who is not even a native of Malabon.

The current hard-headed parish priest, Fr. Ric Torrefiel, has all but listened to the objections of the local community about his kitsch and tasteless renovations. Sadly, he was the same priest who bastardized the interior of the old Concepcion Church, also in Malabon.

I hope the townsfolk of Malabon stops this priest from wreaking more havoc to this historic church by halting all their donations to this utter waste of church funds. Why don't priests simply focus on their spiritual role rather than push their parishioners to cough out money to satisfy their whims and caprices? That money is best spent fulfilling the pastoral needs and responsibilities of the church.

Members of the group were aghast! From a simple but elegant centuries-old church, Fr. Torrefiel has managed to turn it into a cheap, gaudy, tasteless, kitsch, cabaret-like interior enumerating some of the adjectives blurted out by those in the tour. On the exterior, he painted fake brick lines! And when we asked the tour organizers about it, they said that the more the local people stop him, the more he pushes for what he wants. Now where is the CBCP when you need it?

Anyway, after that depressing first stop, we walked to Betsy's Cake House to have a taste of their broas and view the works of the silent artist, Serafin Serna, a contemporary of Fernando Amorsolo.

We went from one house to another. The group first entered the Dionisio House. Then we moved to Concepcion to visit three Luna houses, the Borja House, and Paez House, as well as the Concepcion Church which Fr. Torrefiel had already bastardized. We also dropped by Dolor's Kakanin to check out their sapin-sapin.

We also visited the home and gallery of Angel Cacnio, an artist whose works have been used by the Central Bank on our bills and coins. From Concepcion, we moved to the Rufina Patis Factory, passing by other old houses along the way. Indeed, Malabon is a treasure trove of heritage, which is sadly deteriorating due to the annual flood and subsidence (sinking of the ground).

From Rufina Patis, we were served a sumptuous Malabon merienda at the Martinez House. Of course, there was pancit malabon, puto bumbong, puto sulot, bibingka, pichi-pichi, sumpia (in Malabon, lumpia is fresh, sumpia is fried, what we know as turon is called valencia and when you say turon, it means it's filled with mongo beans), kikiam and camachile biscuits (which we thought were tamarinds), among many others.

Then we moved to the oldest known house of Malabon dated 1861, the Raymundo House. Behind the house, we got to see the Malabon-Navotas shipyards. The two towns are separated by a strait (and not a river) since we always forget that Malabon and Navotas are islands. In fact, during the Spanish colonial period, they were totally detached from the island of Luzon. It was Imelda who reclaimed most of the lagoons around the islands, thus erasing their former charm.

From the Raymundo House, we attended the soft opening of the Bahay Parokiyano Gallery, a place for local artists to showcase their works. Indeed, this trip to Malabon was most worth it! Thanks to the organizers for inviting us, and filling both our stomachs and our minds. For more photos of Malabon and Navotas heritage, check out Richard's Multiply.
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