A Travellerspoint blog

August 2008

"Ati-Atihan-Kalibo, Philippines Mardi Gras"

"Praising God Through Street Dancing-The Kalibo Ati-Atihan"

sunny -17 °C

From the most expensive local vacation we had in Boracay, my wife and I arrived in Kalibo, Aklan in time for lunch on Friday, 18 January 2008. We express our heartfelt thanks to our friend hosts – Mr. Ramil Ng and his wife Mary Ann for their very warm hospitability. For lunch, they served us kalibo lechong baboy which had a different taste compared to other lechons I had eaten. Ramil’s mother Mommy Luds and his sisters – Marlene Penalosa and Lai who came from Manila, gave us company to join this several centuries-old festival of praising God through street dancing named Ati-atihan! Specifically, it is praising the image of baby Jesus (Sr. Sto. Nino) during His feastday.

The center of the festivities is the town plaza (town square) facing the Kalibo Catholic Church. Right after lunch, we joined our hosts and their relatives in the “sadsad” - the Kalibo word for the street dancing. We walked from our host compound in Mabini St. towards the main street (M. Roxas St) going to the town plaza. Along the way, we met several groups led by drummers playing musical drums of different sizes and followed by street dancers.

The drummers of the groups play the traditional beat of “hala bira!” and they are followed by the rest of the members of the group who were bringing images of Sr. Sto. Nino and dancing to the beat of the drums. Since it was only a Friday, the groups that were street dancing were only wearing t-shirts with prints of the name of their companies – that afternoon the groups were from the different banks in Kalibo.

As the groups danced their way to the plaza, people who were there to simply watch the festivities were free to join the groups, took souvenir pictures and joined in their dancing. There were some who had with them a glasses and bottles of a local brand of brandy being obviously promoted by the manufacturers. The people in the streets were being offered a shot of the brandy from a common glass!

The Saturday street dancing was more lively with participants already in their costumes: there was a group with their whole bodies painted in black, another one group had their bodies painted like snakes, another one painted like Dalmatians.

The delegation of the Metro Manila Development Authority led by Chairman Bayani Fernando was an eye catcher! I was wondering why of all groups or agencies would the MMDA be there! Its tarpauline streamers said: “The Metro Manila Mayors led by Chairman Bayani Fernando joins the people of Kalibo in celebrating Ati-atihan! Viva Sr. Sto. Nino!”. The delegation were all wearing pink pajama-like pants, pink t-shirts, and pink head gears making them appear like pink panthers!

As the groups were dancing and making their way around the plaza, our hosts commented that there was a great reduction in the prizes of the contest as to the best delegations or groups from P200,000.00 grand prize to only P80,000.00 this year. I then understand the reason why on the vesperas (one day before the fiesta) or that Saturday, I counted only less than 10 delegations. Moreover, during the afternoon, it rained further reducing the number of people that went to the plaza.

We were booked for the first flight on Sunday. I must admit the Ati-atihan festivities did not meet my expectation before the event. Medyo may kulang. Kapos. Well, it was only two years ago that there was a bloody massacre inside the catholic church doing the event. Or maybe the reduced prizes for the best delegation was the reason. Whatever that be, I am sure that Sr. Sto. Nino would not mind if the celebration was not as lively as expected. Street dancing is just one way of praising Him! I am sure the devotees love Him much and are expressing it in several other ways!


Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 23:28 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, the Conclusion"


As we took the 10 minute pump boat ride from Boracay to Caticlan, I made a last glimpse of the world famous island: it is indeed living up to its claim as the “WORLD’S FINEST WHITE BEACH!”

I thought God love the Aklanons so much! It gave them Boracay: the main attraction of which is its powdery white sand beach which is evenly distributed throughout its shoreline coupled with a very safe gradual deepening of its crystal clear sea water. In the Filipino language, “hindi kantilado”. This fact makes it very ideal for swimming and all kind of beach and sea fun!

With this as the main attraction for tourism, the Aklanons have a champion dollar earner! As soon as it was discovered by the early local tourists and a few foreigners in the late 70’s, word about its beauty spread like wildfire among beach loving tourists. Even without the internet yet at that time, it just became a hot-selling commodity with high market value as throngs upon throngs of both local and foreign tourists visited the island to see for themselves its beauty and have fun.

As visitors of the Island increase, demand for better housing in the form of resorts with rooms equipped with at least the basic commodities like running cold and hot water, food, and electricity soon rapidly increased throughout the past 30 years. Soon enough, resorts sprouted like mushrooms, shops, restaurants and all types of services like motorcycles and pump boats that the tourists will require become available.

If there is one greatest benefit that not only the Aklanons but the rest of the Filipinos have been reaping from the Boracay phenomenon, it is the generation of massive employment. All sorts of services are being provided including of course – prostitution! We met a waiter who hails from Pampanga who is working is Kalinga restaurant co-owned by a german and Filipina wife from of course Kalinga in the Cordilleras. As the waiter puts it, “dito po sa Boracay, diskarte lang ang kailangan, magkakapera ka na” ( here is Boracay, if you are clever, you will earn money). No doubt, every time I see a local approaching us, I could see peso/dollar signs in his eyes!

On the negative side, as Boracay phenomenon required room accommodations, the construction boom put heavy much pressure on the carrying capacity of the Island. All sorts of unimaginable developments are being constructed including would you believe a golf course! Yes! There are visitors who would like to play golf after swimming! The environmental integrity of the Island at this stage is already questionable! For instance, there was a feature on ABS-CBN TV Patrol on the garbage landfill that accommodates the Island’s garbage disposal where question of seepage of liquid from the land fill penetrating into its white beach is a threat that could bring bacterial contamination of the Island’s sea water.

Since the foreigners have dollars whose earning and buying capacities are definitely greater that the local tourists, the local tourists have to contend to live up with the foreigners! They are paying everything is Boracay at dollar rates.

As today’s US economy is suffering a major set back, the tourist arrivals when we were in Boracay compared to same period last year, according to many waiters is 50% less.

Let me close with this scenario: the US economy continue to decline, tourist arrivals would continue to rapidly decrease resulting for the market forces to react with reduced prices of commodities and services! Boracay then will become more affordable to local tourists!

As always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 21:25 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 4"


After my wife’s hair braiding was done, we sat down on the beach and watched the Boracay sun as it slowly disappeared on the horizon. As I hold my wife’s hand, the Boracay sun first appeared bright red orange and second by second it moved slowly down on the horizon setting the entire place in a very romantic early evening darkness!

As the full darkness started to cover the Island, electric lights took the place of the bright sun and blaring music coming from the bars dominated the ambience of string of shops on Station 2. We walked farther down along Station 2 row and I led my wife to my early discovery: the cheapest restaurant that I stumbled on so far: SECS Restaurant which offers EAT-ALL-YOU-CAN BUFFET of native dishes chicken barbecue, steamed oysters, grilled pork, chopsuey, grilled tuna, adobo, menudo, chopsuey, and sweets for only 200 pesos! You pay additional 24 pesos and you will have bottomless ice tea! But we decided to have San Miguel Pale Pilsen which is BUY ONE-TAKE ONE from 6 to 8 p.m. for only 60 pesos!

After the cheapest EAT-ALL YOU-CAN DINNER in Boracay, we were so full and tired. We went back to our resort room which at a discounted rate of P1,600 per day is a big bargain compared to the rates of the resorts that along Station 2 which are priced from 1,800 - 2,000 to 5,000 to 7,000 pesos per day!

For our second day in Boracay, we woke up early and had breakfast which we decided to have in the resort where we checked in. A breakfast of tocino, egg, rice and coffee was priced at 120.00!

After breakfast, we went the beach to meet our tour guide for the island hopping trip. We walked on the beach to the waiting pump boat. For four hours, the pump boat took us half way around Boracay, anchored first off Crocodile Island for snorkelling and fish feeding for an hour, moved to Crystal Cove for a walk around the island where we entered two caves, moved back to Boracay for lunch in a picnic grove and back to Station 1. That was 1,800.00!

We spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping in the hammocks enjoying the cool wind. We had shower at 6:00 p.m., after which we took a motorcycle to D Mall for dinner. We had another EAT-ALL-YOU-CAN DINNER this time in Kalinga Restaurant. The buffet table was likewise generous with oysters, shrimps, squid, tuna, vegetables, pork, chicken and sweets. Beer was also BUY ONE-TAKE ONE at 60.00 till 8:00 p.m.

On our third day, I jogged the whole stretch of the white beach from Station 1 to Station 3 and back non-stop for 45 minutes. After my jogging, I walked further and saw several new resorts beyond our resort: there I saw the most expensive resort in Boracay – DISCOVERY SHORES with published room rates from 15,000 pesos to 28,000 pesos per day! The highest price goes with a “maid” who will be on the side of the guest for 24 hours!

The rest of the morning, I took my wife for a walk on the white beach beyond Station 1, we went inside DISCOVERY SHORES, passed by Microtel hotel, and reached NAMI. Nami is the last resort that could be reached by walking on the stretch of white beach in Station 1. We had swimming the rest of the afternoon, thanks God, it was a cloudy day, I did not get sunburned! Although I think the reason why I did not get sunburned was the large amount of sunblock that I applied on my skin before I went swimming!

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 21:02 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 3"

sunny -17 °C

We were already starving at 2:00 p.m. when we reached D’ Mall. I asked the first person I met where the restaurants are. The first resto that I saw was Bacolod Manok Inasal. I ordered for grilled chicken leg and breast for me and my wife. Later the waitress told me they run out of chicken breast. So instead, we ordered grilled liempo and added a stick of barbecue, a bottle of San Mig Light and Coke in can. My God, the grilled chicken leg costs 128 pesos and the grilled liempo was 135 pesos. Our bill for our first lunch in the Island including the San Mig light and coke was 460 pesos!

After the most expensive simple lunch we had on earth, we went around D Mall. Only 10 meters away, we saw Andok’s Litson and discovered that same size of chicken leg is only 45 pesos! I really felt robbed! Value for my money, I told myself how expensive our lunch was simply because the Bacolod Manok Inasal was located near the entrance of D Mall!

My wife went around the shops where malongs, souvenir boracay shirts, hats are displayed. I reminded her of the shopping tip that my officemates told me: shop during night time, it is cheaper! As we moved around D Mall, several foreigners were also milling around in their beach wears: Asian – Japanese, Koreans, Chinese; Europeans – germans, dutch, Britons; Americans and even latin Americans.

We reached Station 2 where the majority of the beach resorts are located: Boracay Regency, Boracay Peninsula, Tirol and Tirol to name a few. Several shops offering services like henna skin tattoo printing, hair braiding, and SPA massage to name a few. There are also various stores selling beer in cans, wines, liquors and softdrinks. Various restaurants/bars offer a wide range of kinds of food from native dishes, to European and American food, to Indian food, to Japanese and Korean Food are also lined up along with the Resorts. There are specialty shops offering services like scuba diving equipment rentals, parachute skiing and sailing. There are already bank ATM kiosks (Bank of P.I.; Metrobank, and Allied Bank) where one can withdraw cash. As we walked along the pure white sand beach, local men were following us offering island hopping boat rides, sailing and all sorts of water rides. To describe the entire stretch of Station 2, I will call it as the Central Business District of Boracay! Name it, you will find it in Station 2! I remembered a friend who is a frequent Boracay guest describing Station 2 as Manila’s Ermita district! Maybe because all sorts of foreign nationalities are represented in such a small place, or maybe because of the bars that are full of drunken foreigners!

My wife decided to have her hail braided. She told me it was very cheap at 200 pesos only while she had it at 800 pesos in Bali, Indonesia. While the braiding of my wife was on-going, I walked along the shops, rest/bars that are lined up to Station 3 where I discovered several restos that offer cheaper food and shops that have lower prices of their items! After almost an hour, I returned to where my wife was.

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:52 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

"Discovering Boracay, Philippines"

"My first travel to Boracay, January 2008, Part 2"


Our friends – Ramil and Mary Ann Ng who are now based in Kalibo, Aklan met us at the Kalibo airport. We told them that we will go straight to Boracay first and be back in Kalibo on Friday, 18th January for the Ati-atihan. We took an aircon van from Kalibo airport which we shared with four Japanese couples and some local tourists. Before the van left Kalibo, our fares were already collected from us: 200.00 per person for the Kalibo to Caticlan ride which already includes the pump boat fare from Caticlan to Boracay. We learned later from a waitress in Boracay that we were overcharged by the van operator: as locals we were supposed to have been charged only 85 pesos!

The supposed to be one hour and thirty minute ride was delayed by almost 45 minutes because when the van reached the town of Makato, there was a parade for the celebration of their town fiesta! The traffic stood still while the parade passed on the national highway!

It was already 12:30 p.m. when we reached Caticlan Jetty port. Before we boarded the pump boat to Boracay we have to pay an ENVIRONMENTAL FEE of 20.00 per person and a TERMINAL FEE of 50.00 per person. We were made o fill up a Visitor’s Information Form (similar to the usual form filled up as part of immigration requirements in foreign flights). We boarded a pump boat that has a sitting capacity of 20 persons for a 10 minute ride to Boracay.

We boarded a motorcycle from Boracay Jetty Port to Residencia de Tirol which is located in the farthest portion of the island – Station 3. We were charged 150 pesos for the ride which was less than 5 kilometers!

After we checked-in and had secured our baggage in our room, a resort staff gave an orientation tour of the resort premises. Wow! We were staying in a resort that is located in Station 1 – classified as the exclusive row of resorts. We went to the beach where there were local tour guides. The Resort staff introduced us to one whom we closed a deal for an island hopping ride for P1,800.00 which we set for our second day.

The resort staff told us that the stretch of white beach is divided into three, the dividing category and label is based on the pump boat landing stations, thus, Station 1 is the farthest from the Jetty Port, Station 2 is in the middle and Station 3 is the nearest to the Jetty Port. Those that have visited the Island a year ago are familiar that in the past, from Caticlan pump boats may land on either of the three stations. However, today, the local authorities ordered that all boats from Caticlan will have to land only at the Boracay Jetty port.

After the short orientation, we took a motorcycle to “D Mall” which is located in Station 2. Yes, the island has a Mall! It is not your SM Mall kind of a shopping mall however. D Mall which I learned later is owned by the Elizaldes of the Manila Broadcasting Company – DZRH, is made up of clusters of one floor shops constructed using light and concrete materials.


Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 20:44 Archived in Philippines Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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