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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Guimaras Island


On Sunday we head out to Guimaras Island. It's actually a short 15 minute boat ride from Iloilo City. We took a jeepney which was maximized in it's seating capacity with about 30 passengers, for another hour to reach Brgy. Lawi, Jordan town in Guimaras and from there we took another boat ride for 20 minutes to Barras beach. It is situated in a tiny islet with cottages sprawled atop the rocky parts thus offering a perfect view of the sea.

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Along the way we passed by a few small islands suitable for an overnight camping and other rocky islets.

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When we finally reached our destination we immediately decided on what to eat. While waiting for our lunch we strolled around and it was then we saw the beautiful view of the sea from the island and its different parts. From atop a rocky hill, facing the sea, from the small trail leading to the cabins and looking back at the shore and even from a small window overlooking the sea. Each scenery were unimaginably wonderful.

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Well, I guess the pictures shows what I mean by the views being beautiful. After lunch we swam, paddled, lie around and most smart conversation were done by my friends Aileen, Chin and Mina while Tinay and her German hardcore backpacker Ben cozy up under a coconut tree with Ben's pet rooster "Tagay", I just sat there and listened to them. (listening to other people's stories is one way of getting to know them better - and I did and liked what I learned about them in the process). After a while I walked further around the tiny island and these are just some of what I saw.

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While waiting for the sunset I listened to Backpacker Ben's story about his travels around the world, as he puts it "before he goes back to his normal life" back in Germany. I was amazed on how foreign backpackers have more knowledge about the places in the Philippines than most Filipinos do. Most of us would dream about going to another country when there's so much places to go and see here. Ben was talking about the lost opportunity of going to Cuyo Islands, which if you consult the map you could see that it lies somewhere in the small group of Islands between Cebu and Palawan.

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There was this man again from Oregon who says he was reading a book about the different phases in a man's life. Among the phases of one's life were the warrior phase and the wanderer phase. He says he currently belongs to the wanderer phase. I would love to live that phase as well. It is still my dream to set out on a long journey on a longer time as currently, much to my dismay I can only travel during long weekends because I need to go back to work and live my normal life.

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However, I'll make sure someday to experience that wandering phase for like a year or two. Probably map out places that most foreign backpackers do when they go to the Philippines. To thread on less traveled route and avoid mostly touristy areas.

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At nighttime we lit up a small bonfire with little guilt that we're contributing to global warming, but it was fun though as Chin, Mina and Tinay made funny chicken slash fire dances around the bonfire while Aileen and I just watched them laughing.

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If you have an additional day or two to spare it's more rewarding to explore the rest of Guimaras island, as I understand there is still a few places around the island that has less crowd and more isolated. Go check out the Mango Research Facility and the old Trappist Monastery. Transportation around the island is easy to get as there are a lot of jeepneys, multicab and tricycle that serves different routes all day long.

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the room we got cost about 1,500 and is good for 5-6 people. A bit expensive for 2 people, so be sure you come in fives. It's a fan room with an average bathroom but comes with a magnificent view.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nomadic Pranksters and Miagao Church, Iloilo

I love traveling with friends both old and new. My trip to Iloilo was green lighted after an initial plan hatched by Chin. I first met Chin online in multiply about 5 years ago and has since been looking forward to meeting her in person. Also joining us on our Iloilo trip was another online buddy, Aileen - one of my favorite online buddies who used to work for UN projects in Mindanao. She is also a great photographer and has ventured out in wedding and portrait photography.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Around Iloilo City


During my first day in Iloilo, while awaiting for my friends Chin, Aileen, Tinay and Mina's arrival the next day. I spent the whole Friday walking around downtown Iloilo City. I tried La Paz Batchoy on both Ted's and Deco's (both located at Valeria Street). I'm not suited to be a food critic as I rarely encounter a food I didn't like. However, I still gave Ted's and Deco's a high mark for their La Paz Batchoys.

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I stayed at this cheap backpacker Inn that Mina found online called Ong Bun Pension House. Not much to expect but a place to sleep in and keep your things for the meantime. I was able to check in at lunch time after arriving very early in Iloilo at about 6:00AM, I spent the time in between walking around, having breakfast and buying ice cold drinks to quench my thirst.

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By lunchtime I was able to rest briefly in my room, a small space with an A/C unit, a single bed and a cable TV and a respectable size bathroom. After taking a bath I went out on another briskly paced walk around the area. I ended up Gaisano Mall on the opposite side of a bridge, I saw some remnants of old Iloilo in Calle Real, the old and new Provincial Capitol building.

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Iloilo actually reminds me of some areas in Manila like Escolta and Recto. Thriving with activity, seeing people from all walks of life engaging each other in their daily resonance and eaves dropping on conversations that echoes back in your ears like buzzing sounds and wonderful catchphrases. Chaotic for some, romantic for others. Well it could be romantically chaotic as most cities in the Philippines would present to visitors. Some would love and find it indulging, while others would like to escape from and settle on a more quiet and lazy setting of a tropical island.

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In my case, I dig both worlds. I may sometime grew tired of the big city setting here in Manila, Makati, Quezon City and might find wonder in almost similar set up in Cebu, Davao or in this case Iloilo City. Same but different and in those tiny set of contrasts one could see enough reasons to appreciate the diversity in how people live in different locations and all that add up to the charm of walking into and experiencing a new place.

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As night time approaches I settled back to my room and slept early to anticipate the arrival of my travel friends the next day. In the middle of my sleep though I was awaken by a mild earthquake, still half awake I went back to sleep and waited for the next day ahead in a new place.

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The next day (Saturday) my new friends started arriving one by one. Aileen and Chin (I first met the two of them online in multiply.com way back in 2005), Mina and Tinay along with her backpacker German boyfriend Ben and myself started our journey around Iloilo.

The first stop we went to was Miagao Church before proceeding to Guimaras Island the next day. We stayed at the same inn in Iloilo, this time on a much bigger room good for 5-6 people at about 850 pesos per night. Do the math its only about less than 150 pesos each. A good deal if you ask me. It still comes with an A/C unit, a cable TV, a bathroom with a view lol (as the next image would show).

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and a hallway that usually reminds you of horror films.

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It was a day spent on getting to know each other as I just met all of them for the first time in person that day. Aileen is also a passionate photographer, in fact she is doing it professionally as she puts it "I shoot people for a living", while Chin, just like me loves to write although she writes far better than me. So we kid her of "underachieving" because instead of blogging she should very well be having her own regular newspaper or magazine column as she definitely writes way better than most columnists we have today.

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Mina, works at the Philippine Daily Inquirer while Tinay, in between backpacking trips with her backpacking boyrfriend does writing gigs online. Backpacker Ben meanwhile is not your average Joe who spends Euro and US Dollars in third world countries like they're from a first world country (well they are) but not Ben, he is a hardcore backpacker who travels a lot BUT ala Chris McCandless, he travels by spending as less money as he could. He ditches beach resorts in favor of sleeping in a tent, he wont buy food and would rather cook pancit canton on his stove. He calls these rules as part of his "Backpacking principles".

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Not as hardcore as him, but I do share his notion that traveling should not be limited to rich people. One can experience the joy of traveling by not spending so much money and the thing that counts the most are the new things and experiences that you'll gain after a period of venturing into a new place. 

Just like my trip in Iloilo, I met new friends, learned a thing or two about traveling, was able to visit my mother's hometown of Dumangas. and most of all kept my itchy feet itchier than ever before. If not only for work, I'd be backpacking around the Philippines now for a much longer time. However I need to go back to my own life and by doing so, I'm already thinking and wondering about my next destination.

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Visiting my Mother's Birthplace - Dumangas, Iloilo

During my last day in Iloilo when my friends have already left for Manila. I decided to make a side trip to Dumangas, a town approximately 30-45 minutes from Iloilo City. It was a special trip for me because I was able to see with my own eyes the place where my mom grew up. Together with my other uncles and aunties along with my grandparents, this was the place they spent their formative and happiest years together.

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