Thursday, December 28, 2006



Summer usually means taking a trip to Boracay, the playground of beachbums from as close as Manila and as far away as Morocco. But if you would rather escape the madding crowds and find yourself communing with nothing but nature, your friends and the oddest looking creature since the platypus, then you should look into a trip to Bohol.

The 10th largest island in the Philippines, Bohol is a short flight from the capital of Manila and a two-hour boat ride across from Cebu. Teeming with culture and nature, Bohol boasts beautiful beaches as well as age-old churches; exotic dive sites and captivating views. Many weekend warriors take a two-day trip that allows them experience a majority of the top tourist desitnations. But to really be able to soak in all that Bohol has to offer, it is best to take things slow.
The beaches of Bohol are famous for pristine waters and quiet beaches. Not for them are the dusk-til-dawn raves and wall to wall crowds.

Panglao island, in particular, is a favorite for both divers and hammock fans alike. Connected by a brige to the mainland, Panglao is a gorgeous stretch of sand and surf. Dive sites are easily accessible by boat and kayaking is offered by the high-end resorts.
The richness of Bohol's rich marine flora and fauna are not exclusive to scuba divers.

Snorkeling, especially on the island of Balicasag, uncovers a variety of reef fish, soft corals and the occasional barracuda. A fish sanctuary has been established near the island of Balicasag to battle the devastation caused by less environmental times past. But if a day filled with activity is not on your agenda, take comfort in knowing that no one will judge you. Find a quiet spot under the shade (or in the sun) and let time slip away.

The Bee Farm is popular sanctuary offers private rooms and a relaxed atmosphere. But even those unable to book a room can partake of their delicious home-cooked meals. The organic honey and vegetables grown on the premises are incorporated into many dishes - including pesto spreads, cheese dips & fresh salads. Another interesting item on the menu is the home-baked kamote-bread.

Bohol wouldn’t be complete with a visit to the tarsiers. Tarsiers are tiny nocturnal primates with large round eyes, elongated fingers and a head that can rotate a full 180 degrees. The Philippine species is on the endangered list and conservation efforts have begun in areas of Bohol to protect the Yoda-like mammals. Nocturnal and high-strung by nature, tarsiers may look cuddly but are averse to human touch. At the conservation centers that educate tourists, it is highly encouraged that you look but do not touch them.

The famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol get their name from the brown color they take on during the dry months. In the wet season, the grass turns a lush shade of green and the hills resemble ancient turtles, slumbering amidst the rice paddies and houses. There are over 1,000 hills of about the same size, all cone-shaped, spread out over a 50 kilometer area. The best view is atop the long stairway - a steep climb that delivers a truly breathtaking spectacle. (The climb can also take your breath away if you aren't in good physical shape.)

Another perk of a Boholiday is being awake early enough to see the day come to life. How often do you see the sunrise? Savor the rare moment of stillness before the rest of the world stirs. Even better, make the effort to rise with the sun and hop on a tour boat to go look for the spinner dolphins, Bryde's whales, the occassional whale shark and even manta rays that have been spotted near Pamilacan Island. The spotters and guides on hand are former hunters, now committed to preserving the diversity of Bohol's aquatic life.

It took us well over an hour to spot our first pod. But it was well worth the early morning and the long wait. Dolphins swam in the wake of our boat, jumped and spun in the distance and generally evoked a feeling of being connected to the greater scheme of things. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t see any whales. Maybe next time?

Clear waters, fine sand and an itinerary that is brimming with nature's bounty. How could you not want to spend some time in Bohol?

Other items of interest in Bohol:

Bohol offers everything for the avid tourist. Ancient churces, cascading waterfalls, empty beaches and historical museums are all over the island. Here are some of the more popular choices:

The Loboc River Tour -- A half hour to an hour river cruise aboard a floating restuarant takes you down the scenic Loboc river. Around every bend is a photo-op. The longer tour takes you as far as Busay falls, worthy of a few megabytes of storage space on your digital camera.

The Blood Compact Site -- History has it that Datu Sikatuna, (a native chieftain) entered into a blood compact with the Spaniard Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, on March 16, 1565 in a show of friendship between the two races. The site of the compact is marked by a monument in Tagbilaran City.

Eva Cave -- Located in Odiong, just outside of Tagbilaran City) the area is the site of several wild orchids. tree ferns and tropical birds. Some of these birds build edible nests, which are gathered for consumer purposes.

How to Get There:
There are several flights from Manila to Tagbilaran City. The flight takes an hour and 15 minutes. From Cebu City, you can opt to take a ferry across to Tagbilaran. The slower boats can take up to four hours, while the fastcrafts make the journey in an hour and a half.

For photos go to: My gallery

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Party Costumes

For our latest Christmas party I was at a loss as to what to come as. See, we always have costume themes and this year I just knew a lot of people were going to work their asses off to top last year's display. Some were going to have outfits custom-made... others were going to hand-make theirs. And I 1. was not willing to spend too much money and 2. not crafts-y at all. So I culled my existing clothes to see what I could come up with.

1. A Jedi - using a Jedi-esque coat I scored in Bambang years and years ago for the Episode Juan party. But no, too many people were already going as Jedis.

2. Luna, the Sailor Moon Cat - all I needed was black pants, a black top, some pipe cleaner ears and whiskers and a tail. Plus a lot of people were going as the Sailor Moon girls so I would fit right in. Except I never did get around to making the ears or the tail.

3. Death from the Endless. Some liquid liner, heavy make-up and hot rollers should've done the trick. And I was all set to go as Dream's older sister... except, two days before the party I found out that Leda and Jio had found an even easier and more fun concept... so... come the Christmas party... we showed up as Cosmo, Wanda and Timmy Turner. Known to kids hooked on Nick as the cast of The Fairly Oddparents. Yes, click on the link to see what we came up with for the night.

To see what the rest of the office came as (and believe me, some of those costumes were excellent) click this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

November News

I know, I have been a bad blogger. I let an entire month pass with no updates. Eep! And sorry to say but I wont be able to give a detailed entry this time around either.

Suffice it to say that I spent a chunk of November juggling trips and work. The first trip was to Lanuza, Surigao del Sur for the next leg of the 2006 PSF surf circuit. I left Manila along with the number one longboarder in the world today: Josh Constable. Along with him were number 3 (Harley Ingleby) and eight other pro longboarders. These cats were super chill... not a single one of them had 'tude.

They were around for the first half of the competition, leaving on the same day that the swell finally came in.

To be honest, I was wishing I could've left with them because I was getting all Lanuza-d out already. Thankfully, the National competition was getting underway and keeping my occupied. Also Anna was around and we were able to play catch up with each other seeing as how I'd not seen her since September in Siargao.

Other highlights from the trip: Moro and I inventing Milo shakes, P5 mango shakes for the boys, surfing the beach break with Mayor Geri and Lemon, going twin-fin on the 7'6, listening to kuya Django's surf stories, and the never-ending supply of inihaw na manok.

We got back to Manila, rested for a few days, I got back into work mode... and then loaded up the van to head to Cabugao, Ilocos Sur for the final leg of the tour.

It was my first time in Ilocos and lemme just tell you: I loved it. Super scenic, really simple and even though it was too heavy for me that weekend to paddle out, I had a great time anyway. We ate tocino and sinigang nearly every meal and we never got sick of it. We were only there for three days and it felt bitin.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This is Jomar Gloria from Siargao. Surfing hard on a very windy Sunday afternoon, he scored top points and nabbed a P30,000 cash prize.

So that was basically what November was like for me. Oh, that and in the middle of Lanuza and Ilocos, Noelle gave me and Moro a puppy. He's a yellow labrador and we've renamed him Reggae. We took him up to Ilocos and he had the bestest time.

Photos from both trips will be up on my pbase gallery soon as I get around to them.

Sunday Sessions in Ter's Front Yard

It was the second day of Rimat Ti Amianan. But since I hadn't surfed all weekend (and some of my friends wanted lessons), Moro and I followed Aya, Philip, Nicola, Ter and the Gabs to a supposedly secret spot.

Well, it's not a super secret but to respect the local boys who call this their "backyard" I am not going to say where we were. Ter calls it the Front Yard. I called it Yeah, Yeah Piggery. Someone else likes to call it Boracay Station 7. What do the locals call it? That's the secret part. ;-)

Suffice it to say we had a great day of sunshine, surf and good vibes. Dont believe me? Check this out then photos

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's On: Expat article

As published in an edition of What's On: Expat (November 2006)

For photos please go to this gallery.


La Union's Surfing Break, spearheaded by The Dept of Tourism Region 1 Office and The Provincial Government of La Union in cooperation with Power Up and the La Union Surf Club was billed as a four-day pre-Halloween surf camp. On the schedule for the long weekend were surf lessons handled by the local surfers of La Union, frisbee clinics courtesy of the Philippine Ultimate Association and wall-climbing basics brought to the beach by Power Up. Thrown in just for the fun of it was a speed climbing exhibition and an all-locals surf competition. All backed by the ska and reggae tunes of various bands, top-billed by Coffeebreak Island.

For regular La Union weekend warriors, such as myself, it sounded like a circus was about to roll through their favorite surf getaway. Suspicions ran high that there was going to be a crowd. The cordoned-off Tent City set up along the beach may have been the first clue as to how many people had truly shown up to take part of the event. The rare sight of concession stalls selling everything from bikinis to cold beers was likely the second indication. And for the truly dense, the two hundred beginners that had signed up for the first batch of lessons on Saturday sealed the deal.

La Union locals took turns teaching half-hour sessions that covered the basics in board safety, paddling and popping up. Starting on the beach, amped beginners learned about the proper stance and position before heading out to the water to try it out "for real."

As luck would have it, the waves had picked up in size and the current was stronger than usual. But it didn't seem to matter to the students as they got their first taste of surfing's elusive stoke. Meanwhile, beachgoers ran up and down a bordered area set aside specifically for the Frisbee enthusiasts. And further up the shoreline, eye-catching in its 20 foot glory, stood the Power Up climbing wall, already dotted with climbers and would-be climbers alike.

With all this activity going on, it seemed only fit to pop a cold beer, sit on the beach with some friends and let it all buzz around us.

The second day of the event was just as alive as the first. A seemingly endless amount of energy was pouring forth from participants and organizers alike. Beginners were given the beach to themselves as more advanced waveriders took cars and jeeps out to other surf spots. Not even the prospect of the oncoming typhoon could dampen the rising spirits of the crowd.

Forces of nature are stronger than sheer good vibes and along with the darkening Sunday sky came the first signs of rain. The scheduled Battle of the Bands was postponed due to the inclement weather and the Power Up team took down the climbing wall to reduce the risk of having a Milenyo-esque accident happen.

Typhoon Paeng rolled through La Union at about 3am. People woke up to a slate gray, overcast and chilly day. A decision was made to hold off the last of the surf clinics until the weather got better later on in the day. Freed from their coaching duties, the local boys took to the water to get in precious practice time in preparation for their competition the next day. Huddled under hoodies and sipping hot coffee, their students watched in frank admiration of true surfing skill.

After lunch, the first rays of sun began to break though the canopy of clouds. The current calmed down enough to resume the last batch of lessons. Impromptu frisbee teams were created for a fun game and the ever-intrepid wall climbers began re-assembling the Power Up wall.

The high point of the day came when the sun went down… and the bands set up at Sebay Resort for the ska and reggae party. Headlining the night's party was Coffeebreak Island, who played to a crowd of thrumming and thumping bodies all ready to let loose and have fun.

Tuesday was slow in coming. It was as though it knew that it marked the end of the La Union Surfing Break. Come that evening, bags would be packed, cars loaded, buses boarded… all bound for Manila again.

But before the sad business of ending a great surf weekend, there was the spectacle of witnessing great surfing. Grommets on shortboards paddled into head-high waves, all vying for that champion's trophy and bragging right. Next came the big boys and girls of La Union. The Men's Open Longboard and the Wahine Longboard divisions showed the grommets what levels of surfing they should aspire for. Saving the best for last, La Union Surf Club showcased their seeded surfers in both long and shortboard divisions in a friendly expression session.

It was a fitting end for a weekend that was mellow yet slightly frenetic. It was the kind of weekend that leaves you tired but wanting more. A feeling long time surfers have grown accustomed to and one that will soon become familiar to the newly baptized brethren of wave riders.


Where: Urbiztondo, San Juan is the best place to head to for a weekend of surfing.

How: Buses leave for La Union on an almost hourly basis. The most popular of which is Partas. Get on a bus heading towards Laoag and get down at San Fernando, La Union. Alternately, you can cut some time off your travels by telling the conductor to let you off in front of Sebay Resort.

Driving up is another option. With the expansion of the North Luzon Expressway, the trip can be done in 5 hours.

Learn: Lessons can be booked through the various resorts and as well as through the La Union Surf Club. In Manila, boards and lessons can be booked through Fiveforty Surf Company.

Stay: There are several surf camps and resorts that line the stretch in front of Urbiztondo's beach break. Among the most popular are San Juan Surf Resort (Google-able) Hacienda Resort (no reservations, first come, first served) and Surfers Inn (mobile: 09285588265).

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