A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: E. Sandalo

“My Family’s 2010 Mindanao Vacation"

My Sister Myrna’s Birthday in Gingo-og City - the Conclusion

I visited our Lady Mayor – Sadeka Garcia-Tomaneng. She is the daughter of my “igso” or “kinakapatid” in filipino. The purpose of my visit was to borrow a car that could take us to Gingo-og City. Gingo-og City is an old chartered City in Misamis Oriental, the next province of Agusan del Norte going to the direction of Cagayan de Oro City. It is where my sister Myrna lives. I am so thankful to Mayor Sadeka for being so kind to lend me her adventure for the second time. We used it to pick up my daughter Kira and her husband Martin at the airport. I will bear in mind her request: if I could make arrangements to invite either John Lloyd Cruz or Jericho Rosales to our guest during our town fiesta in July. I am more confident to talk to Jericho about the invitation since we are currently working together in Green Rose. I hope to make it a reality.

We left my hometown for Gingoog City at 9:00 am on 27 December. I t was my sister Myrna's 64th birthday. Gingo-og is 90 kilometers drive of concrete road and we made it in two hours. Upon our arrival, my sister assigned her son JD to help us get settled at the Dinah Beach Resort where she paid two rooms for us. Quickly, we returned to their home on Lugod St for lunch.

My brother-in-law – Gingo-og City Councilor Polkim Motoomull was very proud of the food preparation for the banquet. Mostly, according to Polkim are indian cuisine. You see, Polkim has indian ancestors who are related to the De Lara and Guingona families. In fact, I had a small talk to one relative who told me that Director Leo Rialp is also from Gingo-og City. His mother Betty is the sister of Mayor Ruth Guingona. Mayor Ruth is the wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

The food included lamb curry, kilawing kambing, beef kaldereta, grilled tuna, kare-kare and lechon to name a few. I enjoyed the food specially the native lechon!

My daughters enjoyed quality bonding time with their cousins. I showed the videos that I recorded during my niece Kanna's wedding and those recorded in Tubay and Surigao Sur. We had good night's rest at Dinah Beach Resort.

The next day, we left for Butuan City airport to end our 2010 Mindanao Vacation. It was only an hour drive from Gingo-og City. The PAL flight was very smooth and was on schedule. My daughter left our car in the parking area at the Ninoy Aguino International Airport Terminal III which charge an affordable parking fee of P50.00 per day.

A few days after we left Mindanao, we heard the news that the Caraga Region was badly hit by continuous heavy rains (Amihan or tail-end of the cold front) which lasted for three days. I saw photo in the Philippine Daily Inquirer showing the concrete highway in Agusan del Sur under water! Thanks God! You made us enjoy our stay in Mindanao with good weather while we were there!

Posted by E. Sandalo 05:54 Comments (0)

"My Family's 2010 Vacation in Mindanao"

The surigao del Sur visit: The Tinuy-ay Falls in Tandag and the Enchanted River in Hinatuan

On the 23rd of December, my eldest daughter and her husband Martin arrived from Manila to join us in our Mindanao vacation. We heard the christmas eve mass in my hometown's catholic parish church. I guess I made a statement: I am a baptised UCCP Protestant, but my wife is baptised catholic and same with my two daughters, but in the spirit of unity with my town mates we heard the catholic mass . I humbly feel that having played as Father Jude in “May Bukas Pa” made me more catholic in practice sans the basptism!

My sister Myrna contacted her friend Shelda to arrange for a van for hire that we could use for the Surigao del Sur trip. Surigao del Sur had become an elusive place for me since childhood. As a proud native of Caraga region, I grew up to memorize the landmarks of the towns of my home province – Agusan del Norte. From time to time, I used to pass by Agusan del Sur on our way to Davao City. Surigao del Norte is a frequent alternative point of entry from Cebu and I had relatives in Surigao City (the Yuipcos) whom we used to visit during summer. But not Surigao del Sur which is a known bailiwick of the New Peoples Army! So, as part of this Mindanao Vacation, I googled Surigao del Sur. Two tourist spots emerged to be so exciting and intriguing at the same time: Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig and the Enchanted River in Hinatu-an. I read several blog entries on these two tourist destinations and my curiosity made me decide to include it in itinerary.

The Hyundai Starex Van offered the van for a total of P5,000.00 for the Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River trip. Although eventually, the driver asked for an additional P300.00 for the gas, still it was a good deal considering the distance we travelled. Besides, the gas price has really increased!

Our rented van arrived in our home at 6:00 am as we agreed upon to be our pick-up time. We left home in Tubay, Agusan del Norte at 6:15 am. We travelled through the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway leading to Butuan City until we reached Barangay Ampayon where we turned left towards the direction of Agusan del Sur. When we reached San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, we went around the rotonda and followed the road leading to Surigao del Sur. There is a junction where the another road would lead to Davao del Norte.

We arrived the area where the Tinuy-an Falls is located in Tandag, Surigao del Sur at 9:30 am making it in three hours. We immediately went through its gate where we paid the entrance fee of P10.00 per person. After a few steps, we were already gazing at an amazing God's creation, a curtain-like waterfalls which is a smaller version of Niagara Falls! My family enjoyed the magnificent view of the waterfalls and we were busy taking videos and photos from different angles. I told my family that we should only stay in the falls for one hour or else we will be running out of time to visit the Enchanted River in Hinatuan town.

We left Tinuy-an Falls by 10:30 am and headed for the Enchanted River. We were already hungry when we reached the Enchanted River at t11:50 am. I immediately headed for the entrance gate leaving behind my family in the van. I thought that we could move faster if I go ahead first and make arrangements for the pump boat ride. After paying the entrance fee of P10.00 per head, I asked the person manning the entrance gate where the queue for the pump boat ride is. I followed the trail passing along the bank of the marvelous blue lagoon or river on my left side with a sea of humanity either walking or preparing to make their dive into the river. When I reached the pump boat ride control table, I was told that we would be the next in line to take an available pump boat ride! The man in-charge of listing the people for the ride told me that we will pay after the ride. I immediately went back to the van and told my family to pick up our food preparation for our lunch and we headed for the pump boat ride. I asked the pump boat operator to take us to an island first where we could have our lunch. While we will cruising, I realized how organized the pump boat owners/operators are. They were patiently giving rides to the guests following a queuing system. Moreover, I told myself it was an advantage that I had previous information on the arrangements in the enchanted river. Considering that there was a sea of humanity who visited the place at the time that we arrived, not all of them knew that there is a pump ride available. Although most of the people may have interest on simply swimming in the lagoon and do not have intention of taking a pump boat ride.

The pump boat ride was for me a main feature of the visit to the Enchanted River. You see, the river which flows from an underground tunnel forms a blue lagoon about 150 meters long and 10 meters wide. This is where most of the people are swimming, taking a dip or simply sitting on the lagoon enjoying the refreshing cold water of the river. The river drains towards the sea where there are islands and man-made fish cages.

We had the entire island all for my family when we anchored at 12:45 pm. The island has a beautiful white sand beach. It is planted with coconuts. There was a “koprahan” or an smoke-drying house where mature coconuts are placed for smoke drying. There was a small shed on its side which we used as the place where set our food. My daughters took their plates after filling it with food on the white beach and had lunch there.

After our quick lunch, we boarded the pump boat leading to the fish cages. Although the sight of the school of fish and sea turtles swimming side by side with the little boys who were also visitors is nice to see, it failed to impress me. The sight of the fishes failed in comparison to the fishes in the Ocean Park in Manila.

We paid P320.00 for the two-hour pump boat ride which for me was very reasonable. When we arrived on the lagoon, we spent an hour swimming. The swimming was interrupted by the feeding time of the fishes on the lagoon. Feeds were thrown into the lagoon where waiting school of fish were visibly competing in catching the feeds.

The place has simple but inadequate facilities for taking shower after swimming. But, we were able to change our swimming trunks/suits inside wooden dressing rooms. We left the Enchanted River at 3:30 pm. Passing the highway, we noticed that the Philippine military personnel manning the check points were serious in doing their business of checking the passing vehicles. My family slept on our trip back to my hometown. As I gazed at the sight of grim poverty and underdevelopment of the rural areas of both the Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur, I could only give a a deep sigh realizing that the concrete highway is the only visible infrastructure that had been investment by the government. Admittedly, the highway opened the two impoverished provinces to the world. 30 to 20 years ago, the highway that we were passing was not safe to travel because the NPAs planted land mines on the highway. But, needless to say, the concrete highway is not enough. Development needs other things.

We arrived home safety at 7:00 pm tired but very satisfied with the trip!

The next day, I heard the news on the radio that the day that we went to Surigao del Sur was the anniversary of the founding of the New Peoples Army. That day, the NPA showed its strength publicly in Mt. Diwata Surigao del Sur, a few mountains from where we went!

(to be concluded...)

Posted by E. Sandalo 03:41 Comments (0)

"My Family's 2010 Vacation in Mindanao"

Of Baryokes, Jessa Zaragoza, River Dredging...etc.. Part 2

19 °C

I immediately made a walk around the neighborhood before sunset. Since our home is just a few steps away from the river (Calinawan River), I noticed that there were large boats and backhoes mounted on separate boats. A DPWH billboard installed on the riverbank educated me on what is the use of the heavy equipments on the river: the Calinawan River is currently being dredged. Heavy siltation brought about by the erosion of soil from the mountains into the river for years had deposited on the riverbed which caused the river to be shallow and prone to flooding our small town. The backhoes are being used to dig the soil/sand on the silted river bed and are then loaded into the large boats. Of course, any engineering student would agree that it is a welcome project if only to save our town from flooding. However, the dredging work with its humming sound coming from the boat carrying the backhoes continues till the evening, I was telling my wife and my daughter to brace for possibly a sleepless night ahead.

I totally agree that the dredging work is a welcome activity on what used to be a clean river where I first learned how to swim dog style. Aside from the direct beneficial effect that it will bring specifically the prevention of flooding, the project has brought in addition money to the economy of our 5th class municipality. Some 40 staff and crew of the project added the local demand for food commodities (including the cheap tamban fish) but most importantly, same crew become instant avid clients of the baryokes (a word coined to mean the Philippine-made electronic machine similar to its 1960's counterpart – the jukebox where an aspiring singer drops a five peso coin, push the button to choose the number of his favorite song and presto, the audio of the selected song containing the minus one being played by a full band comes out in blaring volume with the lyrics of the song displayed on the tv screen with sexy bikini-wearing foreign models as background.)

The owners of the baryokes related to me though that most of crew of the dredging project are singing on credit to be paid on paydays! I counted four baryokes which are surrounding our home. One owner promised to me that the blaring volume will be reduced to tolerable level after 9:00 pm in compliance to a municipal ordinance providing such. However, ever as the blaring volume of the baryokes is being reduced, the humming sound of the dredging continues till about 11:00 pm.! Tsk, tsk, tsk!

My body system and that of my wife and daughter had easily adjusted the audio challenge from the baryokes and the dredging such that the next evening, we used to the audios as our lullaby to dose us to sleep!

I have a separate compliant though. I have no problem listening to Jessa Zaragoza's 2004 hit song “Parang Di Ko Yata Kaya” even if it could be considered as old time favorite. However, if it is being replayed and replayed for 18 times straight in a row it is a different story! I was tempted to discuss the matter with our young Lady Mayor Sadeka Garcia-Tomaneng if the local council can pass a local ordinance limiting the number of replays of the same song not only Jessa's but all the songs in the book of entry of the baryoke to at most only 3 times! This is my personal tolerance level!

My routine while on vacation in our ancestral homewas to wake up at 5:00 am to check on the faucets since the local water system opens only the water for 30 minutes from 5:00 to 5:30 am. After filling all the water containers, I walk along the rive side going to the delta and finally into the beach fronting the open sea (Mindanao Sea). Since my youngest daughter's boyfriend gifted me with a Panasonic SRD-S26 handy cam, during this trip, I made my first video shots. I have videos during the wedding of Kanna and Awing, the birthday of Auntie Nita but my videos during these early morning walks with such subjects as the river, the dredging activities and the arrival of the fishermen from an evening fishing expedition are the most notable ones. I will usually buy freshly caught fishes (tamban was only P20.00 a kilo!) and cook it for breakfast. We then just sit down the rest of the morning and sleep in the afternoon until Jessa's song will wake us up to signal our visit to the grave of my parents.

I was surprised to receive a text message from the Talent Coordinator of Green Rose while I was busy doing the above laid back routine that supposedly I had a taping last December 20! I texted back that I was already on vacation in Mindanao!

To break the monotony of the fresh fish as viand, I brought my wife and daughter to the next town - Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte. We usually do some marketing of meat and vegetables in the local mercado or eat in the town's most popular restaurant Yang Chai!

(to be continued...)

Posted by E. Sandalo 01:37 Archived in Philippines Tagged river baryokes calinawan dredging panasonic srd s-26 Comments (0)

"My Family's 2010 Vacation in Mindanao, Philippines"

The Homecoming - Part 1

20 °C

One thing that I have been missing so much since I started to get regular tv assignments is the luxury of spending my vacation in my hometown. In 2009, we still had tapings for “May Bukas Pa” days before and after christmas. As a certified Homing Bird, I promised myself that after that show, I will spend 2010 christmas in my hometown in Tubay, Agusan del Norte!

God in all His wisdom, guided me as I started to plan for that long overdue family vacation. After “May Bukas Pa”, the rest of my 2010 was blessed with more tv projects. I was tapped to be in the cast of “Lumang Piso Para Sa Puso” of the “My Precious Hearts Romances Series” as Mayor Gasti. That episode with Kristine Hermosa and Oyo Sotto was taped in March and April. Then I got small but memorable bit roles for Agua Bendita and Momay. Since May, I was in the cast of Rosalka as the lawyer of Cecille Dimaano (played by Mickey Ferriols). While tapings for “Rosalka” continued, sometime in June, a staff of ABS-CBN informed that I will be in the cast “Green Rose”. I also did an indie film titled “Will of the Heart” where I played a rich haciendero and grand father of Blue de Deon who is paired with Roxanne Barcelo in the lead. Despite of these, I was still determined to go home on christmas.

As early as June, I was in Mc Donald (the branch fronting the Asian Institute of Management), while I was waiting for my class in the Trust Operations Course that I made up my mind to start on-line booking for our 2010 trip to Mindanao. A few days later, I got a call from my sister Dr. Myrna S. Motoomull that her eldest daughter Kanna was getting married with Winston G. Idulsa on 18 December in Cagayan de Oro City. I told myself, this will mark as the reckoning date of our vacation. I planned to get a ticket for a Manila to Cagayan de Oro flight on 18 December. For our return trip,it will be on 28 December. This decision was arrived at after considering that I have tapings for Green Rose, my family always make it a point to spend the New Year's eve in our home in Bulacan, and most importantly it will be my sister Myrna's birthday on December 27.

I had already received flight confirmation from PAL on those dates when the course timetable for my class in Trust Operations was announced: we will have an exam on 18th December, the date of our flight to Cagayan de Oro! Since the flight to Cagayan de Oro was at 6:00 am and the exam was at 9:00 am, I immediately got a new booking for an afternoon flight. However, Kanna's wedding was at 3:00 pm, so told myself chances are I will be able at least be able to catch the reception! But, as God would intervened, I already had a new ticket for an afternoon flight when it was announced in class that the exam was moved to 11 December and there will be no more class on the 18th!

I informed our Green Rose Associate Producer Joy Mangilit-Tarce and our Production Assistant - Queenie Quiro our of my vacation schedules. In fact, in the same manner, I informed them of my three-day trip Ho-Chi Minh City in Vietnam with my wife last November. Luckily, there was no taping for me while we were in Vietnam.

The SSS Christmas party was held on the 17th of December, so I made it a point to go home early despite of the party since we have to wake up early to catch the 6:00 am flight to Cagayan de Oro. I was able to request my eldest daughter – Kira to take us to the airport. Joining me for the flight was my wife and our youngest daughter Purita Angela.

Since for the past several years the cheap fare promos of Cebu Pacific had magnetized me to travel with them, the PAL flight we took was a relief from the usual very ordinary Cebu Pacific flights. For one, the cabin crew was so classy: their features (face value, height, physique) and enhanced with their classic uniform was a breed several levels higher than their short pants-wearing Cebu Pacific counterparts. Another thing, while the Cebu Pacific girls became notorious with their dance rendition of the flight safety features, the PAL crew remained seated as the overhead tv monitors showed a video presentation of the flight safety features. Finally, while the Cebu Pacific girls are known for the skills in selling junk foods produced by a subsidiary of Cebu Pacific – the Universal Robina Corporation, the PAL crew serves free coffee/water with cookies and peanuts!

My sister Myrna gave us a free hotel accommodation in Country Village Hotel which was also the venue for the wedding reception. The wedding was in a way a reunion with my siblings- our eldest sister Ely, another sister Atty. Dorothy S. Cajayon and my brother Riki also attended the wedding. There was no time to take a beauty rest since the whole morning was bonding moments with my siblings and my nieces and nephews. We had an assigned service van to shuttle us from the hotel to the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro City which was the venue of Kanna's marriage to Awing which was officiated by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.; D.D.

The line up of the wedding sponsors was headed by no less than Gingo-og City Mayor Ruth L Guingona and my auntie – Trinidad Ong Oh Go. My auntie Trining was with my uncle Gonzalo Go who was recently elected as Barangay Chairman in their barangay in Cagayan de Oro Cty.

During the reception, my sister Dorothy and myself acted as the emcees. The reception lasted till almost midnight. There were pure fun and merriment typical of a filipino wedding!

Early the following morning, we joined my auntie Trining in their Hi-Ace Van to Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte. We have to catch the lunch banquet for the birthday celebration of another auntie Concepcion (Nita) Ong Oh Chu Te. We arrived at the beach house of my cousin Ruby and Louie Libarios in Tolosa, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte. Again, it was a family reunion and more bonding time spiced with anecdotes, story-telling and children talent presentation. My cousin Grace Chu Te who created my website was home on vacation from Australia.

At 4:00 pm, my uncle Boy Ong Oh offered his Toyota Fortuner to take us to our home in Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Finally, an hour later, we we settled in my own home, sweet home!

(to be continued in four installments)

Posted by E. Sandalo 01:31 Archived in Philippines Tagged del mindanao norte tubay agusan Comments (0)

"A Brief Exploration of the Soul Of Ho Chi Minh City Part 2"


overcast 34 °C

Using the map of HCM given to us by the hotel front desk staff, I realized that located near the Independence Palace is the War Remnants Museum. We simply walked again to this museum. Upon entering the gates of the museum, we saw displays of different US military equipments left behind by the withdrawing US military forces months before the fall of Saigon in 1975. Helicopters, tanks, airplanes etc... are arranged neatly on the front and left side of the grounds of the the museum. A display on the right side of the caught our attention: series of prototypes of solitary confinement cells used by the american forces (one made of barbed wires where a prisoner of war could not make any movement; another made of concrete and steel doors with a small opening that would only allow the guards to peep if the prisoner is still alive) for the vietcong prisoners of war. There was also a real guillotine which was used by the french military forces during the french
colonization period.

There was a display of large unexploded bombs like B-52 bombs which were as big as a human being. But, what really hit me hard was what we saw when we entered the ground floor of the museum. Immediately after the museum main entrance are a group of victims of the orange bombs used with american forces during the war. About 10 people with physical deformities (small legs, distorted faces and short arms) were making handicraft souvenir items made of beads and other local materials. A bulletin board with a write up on the inhuman effects of the orange bombs says that those people were either second and third generation children of the survivors or the survivors themselves from orange bomb attacks. Immediately after the war, the americans denied that they used orange bomb nor napalm bomb or any chemical warfare but overwhelming evidences proved the indeed orange bombs and napalm bombs were used during the war.

From the ground floor up to the third floor, there were displays of real US military armaments (armalite was said to be the most popular automatic weapon during the war, different kinds of land mines, hand grenades and orange bombs). There were plenty of photographs depicting how cruel and destructive the war was. Most notable was the photos of a US Senator who admitted that when he was a soldier sent to Vietnam, he killed a family of vietnamese civilians.

Upon sifting all the displayed materials it left two important things in my memory: first, the might of the US forces was so invincible and second, the destructive effects the war brought to HCM including not only deformities among the victims of the orange bombs and other chemical warfare but also the poisoning of the environment was so enormous.

Having seen the seemingly invincible forces of the mighty defenders of democracy, I told my wife, we should appreciate how the supposedly the “communist vietcong forces” was able to convince President Van Thieu and his american allies to move out of Saigon. The following day, we went to Cu Chi Tunnels by bus. We were able to arrange for this local tour with a local travel agent located on Pham Ngu Lao Street near the Hostel where we booked for our early morning airport arrival It was a 5 US$ per person trip on board an air-conditioned bus ride from HCM to Cu Chi tunnels (70 kms.) and back with an english-speaking tourist guide. There was an additional entrance fee of 80,000 dong per person for the entrance of the Cu Chi tunnels system.

The tourist guide succeeded in imparting to us Vietcong's secret weapon against the mighty american military hardware. This secret weapon is far more significant than the then already mounting worldwide criticism which pressured the americans to pull out from Vietnam. This secret weapon proved the resilience and determination of a people to win back their independence. Vietnsm was occupied the longest by the chinese, then for hundred years by the french colonizers, followed by the mighty americans. Through out this long era of struggle to finally have a country of their own, the vietcongs have this secret weapon: the Cu Chi Tunnels!

Now known as the Cu Chi Tunnel Historic Vestige Site, the tunnel system was the proof of how the vietcong with small body physique was able to outsmart the bigger americans! During the war, the americans referred to it as their inability to familiarize with the local terrain. The common scenario was that as they engage a battle with a ragtag vietcong patrol, as soon as they start to pursue the vietcongs, the latter would suddenly dissapear in the jungle wilderness. Then as the americans continue to roam around the jungle, they found themselves stepping into the waiting poisonous traps and getting killed in the process.

The americans did not have the slightest idea that under the ground of Cu Chi that they heavily bombarded with B-52 bombs was (to use the words from the tourist leaflets given to us at the entrance of the Cu Chi tunnel) a unique project of architecture, as an underground system of tunnel deeply located in the ground bed with numerous floors and alleys like a cobweb of over 200 km long with its places of accommodation, meetings and fighting. The tunnel system shows the resilient will of determination, wisdom and pride of Cu Chi people as the symbol of Vietnamese people's revolutionary heroism.

Using manual crude digging tools with a bamboo basket the vietnamese dug the tunnels disposing the soil diggings into the nearby Saigon river seldom get noticed by the americans.

We saw for ourselves the Ben Duoc Tunnel portion situated within the Cu Chi tunnel system which was the base of the Zone Party committee and the High Command of Sai Gon – Gia Dinh Military Zone and was classified as national level vestige.

Since the tunnels (which I had gone inside myself) are small enough to accommodate only the small body size of the vietnamese in a kneeling position, there was no way that the americans can pursue the “now you see, now you don't” vietcongs!

I imagine that the vietcongs had all the advantage during that protracted guerilla warfare as they engaged the americans using the tunnels as the battlefield with their improvised weapons mostly poison traps crafted out from the recovered unexploded bombs of the enemies.

For 15 years, from 1960 till the liberation of Saigon in 1975, some 14,000 vietcongs stayed in the Cu Chi tunnel systems during the day time eating only cassava (locally called tapioca) and getting out into the Saigon River to dispose of body waste at night time that is if there was no americans to lead into the deadly poisonous traps!

After 35 years, the fear of getting infected with Vietnam Rose in HCM is no longer felt despite the presence of massage attendants openly displayed in front of the massage parlors. My personal feeling is that the vietcongs are after all as gentle and meek as a lamb and not vindictive. In fact, majority of the boat people who fled Vietnam after the liberation had already returned home. The economy of the country is steadily getting stronger showing proof that communism should have not motivated the americans to do a Rambo everytime they lost sight of vietcongs taking shelter in the underground tunnels!

Back into our hotel room, we read a tourism leaflet for a sidetrip to Cambodia for only 10 US$! Next trip, perhaps, next year, a Vietnam flight and into Cambodia!

Posted by E. Sandalo 18:56 Archived in Vietnam Tagged people Comments (0)

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