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Philippines

"Hundred Islands, Amazing Limestone Islands"

Hundred Islands, Alaminos City, Pangasinan, Philippines

sunny 25 °C

“It was fine that we missed the entry to the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway, papa, at least we saved a lot of money for the toll fees!”, this was how my eldest daughter reacted when I told my family that I missed the entry towards Tarlac City after I exited from North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). I instead used the old Magalang road (Magalang, Pampanga) when I exited from NLEX. I told her it was good enough that we left from our home in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan early ( 4:35 a.m. Christmas day) and there was no traffic yet. Otherwise, one must really be extra aware so as not to miss the entry point from NLEX to Tarlac City . The irony was that I even asked the guy manning the NLEX Dau exit for the directions! The new 35-kilometer SCTEX from Dau in Clark Angeles City , Pampanga to Tarlac City is indeed a travel time saver. When we were already in Tarlac City, I again missed the left turn to the Tarlac-Camiling road! This, I could blame the lack of road signs in Tarlac City . Nevertheless, we made it to Lucap, Alaminos City in Pangasinan at 9:00 a.m. after we had breakfast at the Jolibee in Alaminos City . Lucap is the barangay 3 kilometers from Alaminos City where the wraft for the pump boats that will ferry the guests to the Hundred Islands is located.

I loved the smell of the freshly ironed beddings of 100 Islands Resort Hotel. Although it is an old hotel, I considered our room a good deal for a price of only P2,640.00 for four persons. It has an airconditioner, cable TV, hot and cold shower in our room. After, a quick check-in which was possible since I had booked the room through telephone after I got their numbers from the website of Hundred Islands , we simply walked for five minutes to the wraft.

I decided to take the pump boat priced at P800.00 with my family (four of us) as the only passengers. The pump boat rates are from P800.00 to P1,500.00 depending on the size of the boat. Out package of P800.00 pesos include a three-island hopping and a sight-seeing of the islands along the way to the third island. The pump boat returned at 4:00 p.m. to pick us up.

The first island that we landed was the Governor’s Island . It has a guest house but the swimming area is not good. We got near Children’s Island but decided to proceed to Quezon Island so we could finally get wet in the tempting waters of the Hundred Islands .

We had a cottage which we occupied privately for a rental of P300.00 from 11:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. I placed our Coleman ice chest which I filled with drinks. We brought our cold drinks to the swimming area. There were about 100 guests swimming in the fine white beach but I was able to find a secluded place for my family, actually a small beach with white sand and a naturally carved-out rooflike structure that provided protection from the sun. This is a formation made my the movements of the waves against the limestone walls of the islands.

Hundred Islands is composed of several limestone islands similar to the islands (Governor and Quezon )we had disembarked on. It is similar to the limestones formation in El Nido, Palawan although the El Nido limestones are much taller like a 12-storey building while the hundred islands are at most only 15 meters tall.

At one point my eldest daughter shouted for help when she saw a leaf hairy worm (higad) which is known to cause skin irritation. She told me to step on it I reminded her that the ecology of the island is very fragile composed mostly of vegetation that are drought-resistant that can survive in a salty environment. The left hairy worm has an important role in the fragile environment. Using a dried leaf I took the worm from the white sand and placed it back to the area where there are plants.

The sea water had only small waves when we had the 30-minute pump boat ride from Quezon island back to Lucap. It was really amazing to see all those small limestone islands lined up as we left another God’s gift to mankind – the Hundred Islands . Indeed, it was worth spending Christmas day!

We had a good night’s rest in our room as we plan to leave at 7:00 a.m. for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Posted by E. Sandalo 15:59 Archived in Philippines Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

"Planning on How to Spend the Long Christmas Break"

A travel plan to Hundred Islands and Pagudpud Philippines

overcast 24 °C

Christmas is the most important event in our lives as we in the Christian world would commemorate the birthday of our savior JESUS CHRIST. Since it is a holiday, Christmas is always a family get together affair, a time for reunion, a time to celebrate Jesus birthday together as a family.

This Christmas season, is significant considering that it is a long vacation, I count it 8 days! Time to relax with our love ones. Where to spend it in a more memorable and significant way, that it what I intend to share you today.

I had long been thinking of spending holidays in the Philippines’ Ilocos region or region 1 . Originally, I was thinking of driving my family to this part of the Philippines starting with a day in Hundred Islands, Alaminos City in Pangasinan, then another day in Bauang, La Union, a day inVigan, Ilocos Sur, a day in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, another day in the beach of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, a day in Aparri, Cagayan then 2 days in Tuguegarao City – the birthplace of my wife.

However, we have to make adjustments when my youngest daughter told us that she has lot of cases to read during the Christmas break. You see, she is now in her second semester in the UP College of Law. Her professors told her to study their cases as there will be oral and written examinations upon the resumption of classes.

So instead of daily overnight stop over in significant places in the northern part of the Philippines, this is our new itinerary:

We will leave early morning of Christmas day ( that is on the 25th of December) and drive to barangay Lucap in Alaminos City in Pangasinan. I have browse the internet using google search to reserve for a room in a resort in Alaminos City. We hope to arrive in Lucap before 9 a.m. and after settling in our rooms, we will then hire a pump boat to have an island hopping in the Hundred Islands till about 5 p.m.

We will then have an evening in a resort in Alaminos. At 8 a.m of the 26th, we will drive to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. I will see to it to stop for an hour in Vigan and another hour in Laoag before we will finally settle in Pagudpud. We hope to arrive in Pagudpud by 3 p.m. We will then spend time on the beach and let the night pass in a resort in that beach town. I will also make a reservation on line for our accommodation.

We will then proceed to Tuguegarao City. We will meet my mother-in-law and other relatives. We will then go back to Bulacan on the 30th of December. I shall give you a blow by blow account of this trip to northern Philippines!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Posted by E. Sandalo 05:54 Archived in Philippines Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

"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!

Nagmamahal,

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"

sunny

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"

sunny

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)

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