Tuesday, March 29, 2005


March 24 - 27, 2005

warning: This is rather long... but with a point... I promise. Oh and Happy Easter!

Gypsies, by nature, must roam. To put down roots in one place is unheard of. So sometimes, even the most domesticated gypsy needs to heed the call of their itchy feet. And sometimes, this means having to wander without the rest of clan.

So it came to pass that just this Holy Week, my own Wandering Band took off on our own journeys. Paolo packed a board to explore the coast of Samar while Alex took his to Baler. Ana has been in Tokyo for a couple of weeks. Cat and her family headed to Camiguin. Zeny went home to the Caraga region. Even Millie – who has only been back in the country for two days – managed to take off for Daet. Tals stayed in the city... but she's been traveling nearly non-stop since her trip to Mexico that I think she's kind of hit her quota.

I took off for Bantayan Island, Cebu with my mom. Along for the ride were my mom’s good friend (my Tita Grace ) and her family.

(Fast facts: 1. My mom’s has family on the island and we used to go a lot when my brother and I were younger… especially for the Holy Week. 2. Bantayan has special dispensation from the Pope to serve meat during the week because most of the local fishermen are working on the religious floats. 3. The church at the center of Bantayan's largest municipality dates back to 1580)

And now back to our regular programming.

While I used to regularly visit my relatives there, it had been a while since the last family vacation. Actually, it had been a while since my last trip to the island, period. About four years to be exact with my friend Binky. So I’d not really seen what Holy Week was like on the island for at least seven years.

See, Holy Week is kind of a big thing on the island. Houses are thrown open for visitors. Locals pour into the streets every evening. Antique saints are dusted off and mounted on decorated floats. Processions are held every night leading up to the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Like I said, it’s kind of a big deal. Apparently, a much bigger deal than it used to be -- as tourists have found their way there. Loads. Of. Them.

And this is probably why we had so many “adventures” with local transportation.

Among them were:

- Apparently shipping lines do not adhere to their usual departure schedules during the Holy Week… which made us think we were late for the fast craft… which led to us buying tickets for the RoRo, quite possibly the slowest moving vessel known to man. Tortoises swim faster than a fully-loaded RoRo.

- We were going to go to Malapascua on Good Friday. We’d booked a seaworthy boat (large, twin-engined, etc) to take us there. And then, when it was decided that it might not be safe to travel on Good Friday so we moved the Malapascua trip to Saturday. And of course, because of the sudden influx of tourists our original boat was already booked. Long story short: we ended up taking a smallish pump-boat to the other island. What should have been a 90 minute crossing took us just under 3 hours. Yes, three whole hours.

- On our way back from Malapascua, we decided to go through the mainland and then from the mainland take the fast craft back to Bantayan. (Are you following that?) So we get to the mainland, take a van to the pier… and arrive just in time to see the fast craft pulling away. Lovely.

- We finally wrangled a ride on a boat that can supposedly seat 30 people. The deal? The boatman only gets paid if he makes the trip in 45 minutes. We get to the boat and see that what the man must have meant was that it could seat 30 undernourished children. Maybe 12 fully grown adults, tops. 30? I think not. But hey, he did get us back to Bantayan in just a bit over 45 minutes.

- Remember how I mentioned that the boats don’t run on schedule when it’s Holy Week? We didn’t figure that out until we were on our way home… thinking we would be on the 630am the now-mythical fast craft only to be told that it wasn’t even traveling that day. We landed berths on an express boat which finally left at 730am. To top it all off, we were traveling during the low tide. So just within sight of the harbor we were asked to transfer boats. In the middle of the ocean. Wild. With an H.

But see, despite all of this, I still had an excellent time. Highlights of which include:

- Meeting the Pacheco family who opened their rest home on the island to us.

- Notable as well in the "new people met" department: the Mayor, Travis & Marjorie (Oz-based tourists) and, obviously, Tita Grace's family.

- On the Pacheco property is a cave. Inside the cave is a small pool. The water is clean, clear and warm. We spent the morning swimming there, surfacing only long enough to dry off before lunch. When Tito Jun came to pick us up earlier that day, he told us his wife (Tita Susan) couldn’t join us as she was picking shells. Of course I assumed, he meant decorative shells. Little did any of know that he was alluding to fresh shellfish that she was planning to serve us for the aforementioned lunch. Along with this was fresh grilled tuna jaw, two kinds of pasta, and a dried fish soaked in vinegar locally known as buro.

- The trip to Malapascua may have been a small ordeal but the island itself was incredible. It was too late in the day to dive with the thresher sharks but we did manage to dive a wreck.

- Lunch on the island: Giant shrimp, steamed crab, tamarind soup and hot rice all washed down with a semi-cold San Mig Light.

- Going to the Easter vigil Saturday night. The church lights had been turned off. The only illumination came from candles held in the hands of the faithful, bathing the congregation in a rosy glow that bounced off the sloped ceilings. (Whew, long sentence!) The overall effect kind of took my breath away. It didn't hurt that this was centuries-old building ... history steeped into its very stones.

Bottom line? One thing I truly learned about myself during this trip is that the last few years of traveling have really taught me to just go with the flow… to roll with whatever is happening… to channel the energy that I could use towards griping or whining into looking at the positive side.

Worse things have happened to me on other trips -- like the time the bus broke down and we were stuck in the hot sun for 4 hours... or the ghetto bathroom I had to use where the lady in the cubicle beside me was taking a bath! And that one time I walked from the Vietnamese Village in Palawan all the way to Honday Bay looking for a ride back to Puerto Princessa.

So I allowed myself to feel put out for no more than ten seconds… to whinge if I must… and then let go. Because really, what use is it to let a bumpy boat ride ruin my enjoyment of the view from the Bantayan Marine Sanctuary? Or steal my stoke at going on my first wreck dive? Who benefits from that? I certainly don’t. The people I was traveling with wouldn’t have either. At best, you take it all as a learning experience. (Like I will never again go to Bantayan Island without an airtight transportation plan. Or maybe leave the next trip to a non-religious week.)

Besides, when it all comes down to it – I was on an island with (for the most part) beautiful weather… with good people… enjoying fresh seafood and spending time in the sun.

Some Photos:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Sugar Beach, Bantayan Island.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Zipping on the beach. Hook yourselves up with a pair through Planet Zips.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Easter Vigil at the church.

More Bantayan Photos are a click away. So... um... click away.

How was your Holy Week?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Ugly Postcard Contest

Some of you know that I am an active member of a travel message board filled with lovely people (and our fair share of freaks). About two years ago, I casually posted a message there about my love of snail mail - especially postcards. Long story short: to date, I have received over 100 postcards from all over the world. Cool beans. Some from people I have come to see as friends. Others from total strangers just willing to send a postie junkie her snail mail fix. They range from scenic travel shots to witty one-liners to self-designed. And I love them all.
Which brings me to late 2004 when I launched the Ugly Postie Contest. I gave everyone a month and a half to send me the ugliest/tackiest postcard they could get their hands on. I picked my top three. And had everyone help me decide on the winner. The winner -- a wonderful person who usually has amazingly good taste -- is soon receiving a prize in the mail. It has been long in coming as I had to really have long think about what prize to send. (Dearheart, if you are reading this, the gift should be arriving before April's end.)
The Top Three:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Gotten anything interesting in the mail lately?

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Four Horsewomen of the Apocalipstick

March 4-6, 2005
It was initially supposed to be a budget weekend trip involving The Princess and The Boys -- Maori, Miguelvis and myself parked in a borrowed tent. But in the three weeks it took to get to the slated weekend it somehow morphed into a mid-range weekend trip involving The Four Horsewomen of the Apocalipstick: Regine, Monica, Noelle and myself sharing a room at Surfer's Inn.

The weekend was, in a word: random.

The drive up was uneventful. Arriving, we found what my friend Gino likes to call a "Dior Gray" sky and ice-cold winds. We decided to sack out for an hour... secretly hoping that the weather would be improve by the time morning came fully around. And the sun did come out... the winds however had only picked up in speed.

But we were not to be deterred: we headed over to one spot to check out the waves (for me and Noe) and the sunshine (for Regine and Monica whose sole purpose for the weekend was to come home with a tan). No such luck. The line-up looked too competitive for our tastes... and the beach area non-existent. So we loaded up the car and headed towards another area. Of course we got a little bit lost on our way over... but looked on the bright side and chalked it up as an inadverted sight-seeing tour.

A stretch of beach facing an unsued pier, spot two is usually perfect for sunbathers. Also, the shallow waters allow us to walk almost to the line-up... making it popular in La Union with beginners as well. Except when the winds are howling and the sun has once again decided to go gun-shy. Even if the conditions were less than ideal and the waves were blown out, I still managed to catch some fairly fun rides.

But after half an hour of being buffeted by the wind, exfoliated by the sand and pumelled by the water, we were ready to call it quits. Especially after Noelle -- using her board as a shield -- lost her grip on it and got smacked upside the head. Off we went again... giggling over things that I can't even begin to explain why we found funny... and talking about running through the fields of tobacco we kept seeing along the way. (Regine and I recently quit smoking so the idea of an entire field of nicotine was... well... comforting.)

Back home, dry, and warm we did what any four girls stuck with the prospect of a gloomy afternoon at the beach would do -- we headed up to Baguio! The summer capital of the country was cold and crowded. But we didn't care as we tore through the racks of second-hand clothing... heads imploding over random shirts ("Heroscombie & Fitch") and oooh-ing over great finds (Regine's "Sunkist Good Vibrations" shirt for Php70).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com HEROSCOMBIE! (with our Mad Scientist Monica)

Three hours later, the trunk of the car filled with plastic bags and our bellies full of Pancake House, we headed back down to La Union... where we promptly found out there was a power outage. But only beginning at our place and down the road to our left. All the other resorts and inns had electricity. Hahahaha! (I told you it was all so random)

We hung around at Surfer's Retreat with the LU boys and my "kapatid" Neil for a bit. But the day's events had made us sleepy. And off to bed we went. The house was dark and we kept tripping over things on our way upstairs. And giggling because we felt bad for the guy who'd rented the bed on the first floor -- since he was probably pretty pissed off at all the accidental noise we were making. Least of all the sound of the cooler clattering to the floor when Regine lost her grip on it.

There is no other way to say this: Monica had the bright idea of turning on every single light in the apartment, so we would know when the electricity came back on. Of course, when the electricity did come back at 4 in the morning, we were not too pleased to be suddenly woken up by the yellow glare of every single light in the room. I dont even want to imagine what Downstairs Guy's reaction was. On behalf of our Mad Scientist, I am sorry if we ruined your Saturday night.

Sunday morning. Fresh sunshine. NO WIND. After a quick breakfast of banana chips, granola bars and assorted crap (we had a LOT of junkfood) we headed back to spot number two. And it finally lived up to the reputation Noe and I had been telling the other two girls about. We set up camp with the cooler, the mat and Brown Belly's official Huge Pink Beach 'Brella. Noe and I headed to the line-up. Regine and Monica coated themselves in various tanning products. All was good.

I had a couple of really good rides. And one particularly bad wipe-out. Then a few more okay rides. Periodically I'd come onshore to get a drink and chill out before heading back out. At some pointm random children came to sit in a semi-circle at our mat. I thought they were talking to Regine and Monica. When I walked up to them to take photos I realized they weren't. The kids were literally just sitting there looking at them. Random, I tell you. Random.

The small people left after we convinced them that neither Monica nor Noelle was a celebrity... (and after they "looted our snacks" as Regine puts it). Noe and I were back in the water and almost ready to call it a day.
And then it happened.
A wave bigger than I'd ever attempted to take. Luke told me to go for it, I didn't think it was wise. And then, for some inexplicable reason, I paddled for it anyway. And summarily got my ass royally kicked. My board was nose-diving, so I scooted backwards. It levelled off. And then... madness. The board flipped over. A fin got caught inside my rashguard. It sliced me at my hip then continued traveling up. I unhooked it -- the board flipped back over. The tail slammed into my throat and chin. And then I was underwater.

Oddly enough... I wasn't freaked. I'd had worse wipe-outs... this one just looked worse because of the blood and the bruises. But it hurt enough for me to come back on to dry land... to check on the gash and, admittedly, to try and even out my rash guard tan. We ooh-ed and eeew-ed over my cut. Laughed about Mang Bong chasing the umbrella across the sand and wondered what this one bag of potato chips we'd never tried would taste like.

Three hours later... we were heading back down to Manila. A random weekend full of random events. And enough estrogen to see a tweener to puberty.

The Randomness in Photos - go on and browse the pics... and comment if you must. We wont mind... much. Haha.
How Random Was Your Last Trip?