Boat Trip to Magallanes

Anticipating the 4-day weekend this August, we already planned to visit Magallanes weeks ago. A friend, who lives there, is also celebrating her birthday so we decided that on August 27, we will be there and she will be our tour guide.

Magallanes is a municipality in Agusan del Norte. If you check out the map, the place can be reached (from Butuan) in two ways: boat ride and a land trip. We choose to ride the boat.


View Larger Map

Around 7AM on August 27, my cousin and I went to the Butuan Ferry Terminal at the PPA compound for our trip to Magallanes. The weather was good despite the fact that somewhere north of the country typhoon Mina is ravaging the area. The night before, my aunt warned us about the rain.

This was our conversation (translated from Bisaya)
Aunt: PAGASA said there will be non-stop rains all over the country. It was really raining hard this afternoon. Those who want to travel won’t enjoy the weather.
Me: Is it raining now?
Aunt: No.
Me: Therefore, it is not non-stop. (Don’t rain on my parade, Tita. I will see Magallanes tomorrow!)

When we arrived at the terminal, a boat was already docked and ready for passengers.

When I saw the plank, I doubted my ability to balance my weight on that  strip of wood. Failure was not an option because I do not know how to swim. I let my cousin walk ahead of me while I gathered courage to take a step. The boatman saw my predicament. He helped me cross that plank.

This was not my first boat ride to Magallanes. I spent 7 years of my childhood in that town. When I went to a kindergarten school in Butuan, Mama and I would shuttle from Magallanes to Butuan in this kind of boat.  I was kind of revisiting my childhood in this trip.

It took around 35-45 minutes to reach Magallanes but it felt like a shorter trip because there were so many things I found amusing.

This is a nice area. I wonder how to reach this place by land. Is this a private property?

Banza Church Ruins

Here’s the balangay docked at the Luna Compound in Bading, Butuan City.

When reached the port of Magallanes, we waited for our friend. There were benches in the port area and wind blew gently so it was a pleasant wait. It took some time before she arrived. She did not believe us when we told her we were coming. We called her the night before and thought we were just kidding. We went to her place to eat breakfast. We brought Spam, corned beef, eggs,  bread and brownies.

On our way, we passed by the municipal building.

Magallanes Municipal Building

I spent Grade 1 and Grade 2 here.  From the gate, I can see my Grade two classroom.

We dropped by the church to say a little prayer. After all, it was my friend’s birthday.

When we reached her place, we were met by her dogs.

Breakfast was yummy. It was already past 9AM. We were a little hungry so anything edible would be yummy for me. With spam, eggs, corned beef, brownies, bread and coke for breakfast, that was heaven!

The next stop of the day was to visit the Centennial tree.

I hope the marker will be replaced. I cannot read some of the text written.

This is the Philippine Centennial Tree. In the 1998 Philippine Centennial Celebration, there was a search to find the oldest tree in the country and this came out the oldest. The 500-year-old tree is called Bitaog.
The tree is so large that its branches canopied over the road.
The trunk is so wide.
To take a photograph of the whole tree, one has to walk several meters away to make it fit into the camera’s frame.
We already brought some meat to grill for our lunch. We only have to find a beach area where we can enjoy our humble meal.  Across the bitaog tree is a resort aptly name: Centennial Beach Resort.

They got a small pool area which we will try next time. We did not bring extra clothes.

The rates are affordable.

There are cottages for rent for large groups.  Rates ranged from P150 to P250.

For simple folks like us who only need a table,  there is a P50 table for rent.  The area is shady and cool. It is also near the grill area so we really like the location.

This was our simple lunch: grilled pork belly dipped in vinegar and soy sauce, rice, brownies and coke.  Burp!

We hang out a bit and we went off to see the Magellan marker then ride the boat home. When we reach the area, the site was closed so I took this picture behind the locked gates.

We walked to the port area. This time it is easier for me to walk through the plank.  There was an improvised railing which I held onto to be able to walk the plank.

See the novel way to add railing to the plank.

That was one cool trip. We arrived Butuan before 3pm. We will do this kind of trip again in the future. Magallanes fiesta will be on the 3rd Saturday of October and the town will celebrating their centennial this year.

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Hong Kong and Macau for the first-timers

Like what I mentioned here, my aunt and I went  to Hong Kong the day after independence day.  We slept at the airport the night before since we had an early flight.  The plane ride going there was uneventful. Thank you, Cebu Pacific!

I booked this trip in August of 2010 and we flew in June 2011. I had a lot of time to prepare for the trip. This forum thread is really very helpful. My aunt was amazed how easy it was for me to guide her through the itinerary I made. I was also her accountant. I kept her money and I pick what food to eat and what knickknacks to buy.  When we went there, it was 1 HKD= 5.5 Php. When she thinks  HKD100 is cheap, I would tell her, “That’s Php550. Would you buy that item for that amount in the Philippines?”  Yeah, I am frugal. I travel to see the sights and experience something new. Shopping takes a backseat.

Hong Kong is very tourist-friendly. Signs are everywhere so it is easy to get around the place. Their public transport system is very efficient.  Roads are well-paved so the more than 30-minute bus ride from the airport to the hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui was smooth.

Follow the arrow: To the city

In the middle of the busy streets like Nathan Road, there are still patches of green courtesy of the Kowloon Park.

Kowloon Park

There is also the Hong Kong Park just a train ride away from Tsim Sha Tsui area.

Two train rides away from Tsim Sha Tsui is the Nanlian Garden. It is worth the two train rides we took.  Plus, we had to go there twice because it rained the first time. All the hassle was obliterated once we set foot in the garden doors.

Nanlian garden

Since I traveled with a 65-year-old, walking can be difficult so I usually stick to the accessible  routes. This area could have been pretty at night but my aunt is too tired to experience the Symphony of Lights so we went to the Avenue of the Stars during the day.

Hong Kong Junk Boat: Here, it was used as a cruise boat for tourists.

The Avenue of the Stars is Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Notable Chinese celebrities have their stars in the boardwalk that stretched more than a kilometer, I guess. Hearing the whines from my aunt on how far we walked, I surmised that it was pretty far.  Of course, the most famous Chinese star gets a monument.

Bruce Lee

Almost every tourist  I saw who had their picture taken with the statue posed the same way. Haha! I had to restrain myself from doing the same.

HK Disneyland

Every kid I know wants to go to Disneyland. I am no exception. While my childhood was long over, my childhood dream is not. I just can’t go to Hong Kong and not visit Disneyland. So I allotted a day in Disneyland. Even if I read reviews that it is small and I can go to every nook and cranny of HK Disneyland in one afternoon, I needed one day in the park. At 9AM on the second day in HK,  my aunt and I are sitting on a bench near the entrance, holding our tickets, waiting for the gates to open at 10AM.  Excited much?

Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on earth! It is so hard to be sad inside the park.

I got to be a child again in Disneyland.

(Top) Train Station, Golden Mickeys Show (Bottom) The Festival of the Lion King Show, Sleeping Beauty’s castle

 Macau

Since we got 4 days to spend in this part of the world, we might as well visit Macau which is only a 1-hour boat ride from Hong Kong.  It was already the 3rd day of the trip. The weather is fine so we took the earliest ferry schedule to Macau. There were only a few of us inside the ferry. I was already warned by a friend that I should take Bonamine because the sea is quite rough. True enough, the breakfast I ate that morning found its way inside the vomit bag.

I am no stranger to motion sickness. Land travel messes up my equilibrium and it is a rare occurrence when I do not throw up during out-of-town land trips.  I take medicine for such trips and it usually do not work. What works is keeping a plastic bag and tissue paper at arms reach. While land travel is a bane, boat rides are okay.  But there is always a first time and it happened in one boat ride to Macau.

Albeit hungry, I arrived at the Macau Ferry Terminal whole. On our way out from the Immigration counter,  we were approached by fellow Filipinos offering their services as tour guides. I declined. I did my research so I know I can reach Macau landmarks using the free shuttle buses of the different casinos. Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia. Different casinos offer free shuttle buses to tourists.

Since we took the earliest ferry ride, we arrived at Macau around 8:30 AM. Shuttle bus services start at 9:30AM. (That’s what the guide told me. Thanks for the free tip. ) This was our conversation.

Guide: We can guide you in Macau for only 200. ( In my mind, 200 dollars? That’s 1,100 pesos. No way!)
Me: No.
Guide: Is this your first time?
Me: Yes.
Guide: You have a  friend here?
Me: No. We’ll just take the free shuttle buses.
Guide: Shuttle buses will be available at 930.  You’re going to waste 1 hour.
Me: We’ll visit the ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ first.

I think I have convinced him that I know my way around Macau.  So, he bid me goodbye. (Thanks to the Internet!)

Fisherman’s Wharf is an area next to the Ferry Terminal. It is a recreation spot filled with different shops, restaurants, coffee houses, event arena, hotel. Different establishments have different themes. In one area, you feel like you are in Egypt then a few steps away, Roman columns beckon.

Fisherman's Wharf

We took a shuttle bus to Grand Lisboa and walked towards Senado Square. Our goal was to see the Ruins of St. Paul.

Grand Lisboa is an old landmark in Macau. It was a setting in one of the 'Bourne" books by Robert Ludlum.

The instructions I got from the Internet is to just walk along the road to the right of Grand Lisboa. You will know when you reach Senado Square.

(top) City street from Grand Lisboa to Senado Square; narrow streets from Senado Square to the Ruins of St. Paul (bottom) Senado Square, Sto. Domingo Church

The Ruins of St Paul. This is Macau’s most famous landmark.

Ruins of St. Paul

My aunt was too tired to climb up the steps. I bet there are sights to see out there. I’ll check that out next time. This was not my last trip to Macau. I’ll go back when I can.  We retraced our steps and headed back to Grand Lisboa to avail of the free shuttle bus to the Ferry Terminal.  Thus, we started casino hopping.

The Venetian. We did not ride the gondola. I think we had enough boat riding for the day. 😀

The Venetian

We watch the Bubble Show at the City of Dreams. I had to convince my aunt because she was not too keen on watching. I told her, “It’s HKD30 now. The next time you want to watch this, this will cost more. Better watch now and get it over with.”  Then, we realized we had to stand inside the orb while the curved screen above us projects all these effects. Dragons would look like they were flying above us (or were they supposed to be swimming underwater?).

City of Dreams

By this time, my aunt was already tired. I convinced her that we drop by MGM Grand on the way to Ferry Terminal. She obliged.

MGM

We could have visited a lot more places but the senior citizen wanted to go home so I gave in. This trip was for her anyway. I will just visit the other sites next time.

From the ferry terminal, I took a photo of the Sands Casino.  Bye, Macau!

The next day, we went to Hong Kong Island. It was raining and we got lost looking for the Peak tram. When reached the top, we can’t see the view because of the fog.

Foggy peak

On our way down, this was all I was able to capture.

VIew from the Peak Tram

We were able to visit IKEA in Admiralty. It is the smaller store. There is a bigger store in other part of HK but we were not able to visit there. IKEA is <3. We were wishing IKEA will open in the Philippines. Food was also delicious and cheap. We got the Swedish meatballs, hotdog and chicken wings. We bought some goodies, too. We got chocolates, biscuits and candies.

On our last day, we packed our bags and headed for Tung Chung to visit Ngong Ping.  Tung Chung is just a short bus ride to the airport that why we brought our luggage so we do not have to go back to Tsim Sha Tsui. Near the MTR station is a Citygate outlet. In the basement level 2, there are self-service storage lockers. So,we left our luggage there. It is a learning experience how to operate the compartment. What a techie way to secure our belongings! I should have taken a photo of the facility.

Ngong Ping can be reached by cable car or bus from the Tung Chung area. When we were there, the cable cars are under maintenance so we had to ride the bus. It was a long bus ride to the top of the mountain. I had my ‘Are we there yet?‘ moment. Amazingly, I did not puke.

What to see in Ngong Ping:

Giant Buddha

Po Lin Monastery

Ngong Ping Village

With this, our trip to HK came to a close. We took the bus to Tung Chung. From Tung Chung, we took the bus to the airport.

What an experience! I will do this again.  I wish my cousins can come with me next time.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.  ~Mark Twain

P.S. This blog post is still unedited.


June 12, 2011- 113th Philippine Independence Day

Last June, my aunt and I went on a trip to Hong Kong. We flew from Butuan to Manila on June 12. Our flight to Hong Kong was on June 13 around 8AM. We have the afternoon of June 12 to spare. What better way to spend than to visit Luneta. It was Independence day after all.

Luneta is the park in Manila where a monument of the Philippine's national hero, Jose Rizal, stands. Almost every town in the Philippines has a Rizal park. Luneta is the mother of all Rizal parks. Luneta was formerly known as Bagumbayan. It is where Jose Rizal was executed by the Spaniards through firing squad.

I have never been to Luneta. My mother used to tell as a child that the Jose Rizal monument has guards. I remember my mother saying, “Why do they have to guard him when he is already dead? It was only just a statue. It is not like they (the Spaniards) can kill him again.”  I was amused at her story.  I was doing my grade one project on heroes when she told me this. (Papa recorded our conversations on a cassette tape. One day I will convert it to digital format. )  My father, on the other hand, had some riddle in Bisaya (or Ilonggo?) referring to Rizal: “Hantungtung habato, hapilit ha posporo, ha uwanan ha initan, dili hahilantan“. Roughly translated: ‘ On top of the rock, glued on the match. Rain or shine, he will never get sick.”

Jose Rizal: On top of a rock (concrete) and on a match

 LUGGAGE & MORE

Because our flight is on 8am the next day, I already told my aunt beforehand that we are going to sleep at the airport. She needed no convincing because my cousin’s house is in Fairview and my aunt knew how far is that place from NAIA Terminal 3. While I was planning for the trip, my only problem is where to leave of our luggage. I can carry my backpack but I do not think my 65-year-old aunt would want to carry her bag while we stroll Luneta. Good thing I came across an article about Luggage & More. It is a luggage storage facility in NAIA terminal 3. For P150, you can leave your small bag for 3 hours; P300 for more than 3 hours up to a day. Large bags have different rates . The facility is tucked in the right wing of the arrival area. Ask an airport personnel for directions. Luggage & More opens at 6am and closes at 11pm. If you have a plane to catch early in the morning and you leave your bags there, make sure to pick them up before they close.

NAIA Loop and LRT

The commuter in me already search the cheapest way to reach Luneta. The airport taxi’s flag down rate is P70. So, that was not an option for the budget travelers like us. Good thing there is the NAIA Loop. It plies from NAIA3 to Pasay Rotunda for P20 per person. Waiting time is longer though. I think we stood in line for 30 minutes. My aunt had some crackers and candies so the wait did not seem long. Besides, we were busy chatting. It was a short trip to Pasay Rotunda. All I knew was that we passed Baclaran area. NAIA loop dropped us at the terminal near Taft MRT station. There is a McDonald’s and Chowking in that area so we picked the latter for lunch. I already researched beforehand the nearest LRT station to Luneta which is the UN Ave station. I already checked google maps and saw that I only need to cross a few streets to get to Luneta.


The Taft MRT station connects to the LRT station. We just had to follow the signs. The fare was P15 per person. When added, our fare from NAIA3 to Luneta was P70 -a steal considering the flag down rate for an airport taxi was P70. I am giving myself a virtual pat on the back.

One probinsiyana (from the province) booboo though: A man standing beside me on the LRT asked me for direction. Uh-oh. I was not prepared how to react. I knew he was from the province like me. He spoke to me in Tagalog with a hint of Bisaya (like me!). Plus, he was carrying a luggage. He asked, while we were approaching the Gil Puyat Station, “Dito ba Buendia?” (Is this Buendia?) . I stared at my ticket. There is no Buendia in the route. So I answered, “Gil Puyat, po“. The man did not get off on that station but he quickly realized his mistake and hurriedly left the train when we reach the next station- before I can say sorry. I should have said, “I don’t know” so he can ask other passengers. Gil Puyat Avenue is formerly named Buendia Avenue. Oops.

LUNETA

The map was right. Luneta was a few steps away from the LRT station. Since it was Independence Day and a Sunday, there were a lot of people in the park. I see families spreading a mat and having a picnic in the park. Mental note: I should do that one in my lifetime.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines showed their wares (hehe power?). I saw people posing for a picture holding some kind of weapon. There were long lines of kids waiting for their free ride in an armored personnel carrier. Cameras clicked on people in different poses in different areas of the military tank. Some posed with the soldiers. If not for the number of people, I would have had my picture taken there, too.

Tanque de Guerra

What to see in Luneta?

There is the relief map of the Philippines commissioned by Ferdinand Marcos.

Information on the Relief Map

I was trying to locate Mindanao. It is somewhere there.

There is a very imposing statue of Lapu-Lapu (the Filipino who killed Magellan in Mactan). While I was looking at the statue, I was thinking, “Lapu-lapu or Dagohoy?” I know. My ignorance showed. I got confused why Lapu-lapu was given a prominent place in the park. When you think about it, Lapu-Lapu is the first Philippine hero. He fought against Spanish invasion. (Dagohoy led the longest revolt against the Spaniards.) He deserved to be immortalized in stone! ( or is that bronze?)

Lapu-lapu

There are beautiful, old buildings near the park. The National Museum is near the park. This is the Department of Tourism Building.

Department of Tourism

The highlight of being in Luneta is to visit the Rizal Monument. FAIL! My senior citizen companion got tired of all the walking. The weather was warm and sunny. It would have been a perfect time for strolling. There are trees for shade. I even wanted to go Intramuros. As we walked towards the road that will lead to Intramuros, my aunt hesitated. The roads were empty and she was afraid we will get mugged or something. I was telling her, ” Why should we be afraid? This is the Philippines. Our country. You should be afraid tomorrow. We’re going to Hong Kong.” It has been my wish to visit Intramuros but my travel companions before were not as thrilled as I was in visiting there. Neither was my aunt. Hmp! Maybe I should start traveling alone.

Not yet Rizal, not yet. I will visit you one day.

The Mall of Asia

Because of the heat, my aunt wanted to go the nearest mall. After a train and a jeepney ride, we arrived at the Mall of Asia. I told her we should watch a movie. We checked what is showing and none caught her fancy. I wanted to try any 3-D movie but she doesn’t. So, we just roam around the mall and passed by an open area. I was curious so we checked it out. It is the Manila bay!

The Manila bay from MOA

I was thinking, “This is a good time to experience the sunset!” I wanted to wait for it but my aunt was too tired and wanted to sit down. She wanted to be in an air-conditioned area.

Tired feet.

We were sitting on a bench where people gathered. My aunt dozed off while I watched people go about their business. There was Filipino music in the background so I sang along to the ones I knew. When she woke up, we decide to find a place to eat. As we went near to an entertainment area where the music came from, we found out there was a free concert featuring Kuh Ledesma. We looked for a good vantage point and enjoyed the free concert. Henry Sy was there. He was on his wheelchair looking down from the second floor. I did not see his face but I saw the wheelchair as Kuh acknowledged his presence. It did not look like he had many bodyguards. He was watching like regular people.

Nice concert. Thanks, Kuh!

After we had dinner at Jollibee (Filipino fastfood chain for Independence day), we rode the jeep to the MRT station. I made a mistake of using the pedestrian walkway instead of the LRT station to cross the busy EDSA traffic. It was scary. We were on this metal platform traversing over a very busy highway (EDSA). We could see vehicles in moving fast underneath us. I could feel the walkway vibrating as I took a step. I kept praying that the walkway will not collapse. Thankfully, we reached the NAIA Loop station in one piece.

Another booboo: I thought the drop off point of the bus in the airport is the same place where we took the bus. While quite a number of people got off in the middle of the arrival area where the bus stopped, we stayed on our seats thinking we should stop near the area where we took our exit because the Luggage&More is near that area. There would be less walking for the senior citizen. I saw the confused look of the driver when I asked to be dropped there. As we reach the door where we exited, I realized my mistake. There is only one entrance. The door we used to exit was for exit only. We walked (long walk) again towards the only entrance (where the bus stopped first).

We gathered our luggage and found a good spot were we could spend the night. I thought sleeping at the airport was my novel idea.  Nope, there were a lot of people who found a good spot for themselves. A lot of them were sleeping soundly already.

Some travel thoughts

Last year, I started dreaming about traveling again when I started to recoup from some personal tragedy. I can go melodramatic here and start telling my sob story-only child, orphan, no regular job. Instead of wallowing over things I have no control over,  I started dreaming and planning ways to reach my dreams.  Forget the big house with picket fence and tons of money, I am quite contented with what I have.  I thought about what will make me happy. A job that I love, yes. A happy family of my own, why not? While I search for that, I can’t just sit and watch the world go by. Traveling makes perfect sense.  Since I live off my savings,  I do freelance writing on the internet. Most of my articles are posted here. Working on the tight budget can challenging but it can be done.

Some of the things I do to be able to travel.

1. Be on the lookout for promo fares. Last year, I was able to book a trip to Cebu for 4 for P471.00 (roundtrip). Booked it on June 2010, we flew to Cebu on February 2011. I know. I booked 8 months ahead. Some people can’t wait that long. I can. I even booked a trip to Hong Kong on August 2010 and we flew to Hong Kong on June 2011. Blessings come to those who wait. While that amount may not be possible these days due to increased fuel surcharge, you can still travel cheap if you plan ahead.

2. Skip hotel accommodations. In Manila and Cebu, we stayed at a relative’s house. In Davao, we stayed in a pension house ran by a church. (We do not even belong to that congregation.) In Hong Kong, we stayed in a hostel. While in transit, we slept at the airport. Sleeping in NAIA Terminal 3 is allowed, many passengers wait for their next flight and opt not to find a hotel. We got to meet interesting people and learn a thing or two about their lives. (This is not for everyone, though.)

3. Travel light. For a short trip (less than 7 days), I carry a backpack. Some airlines charge less if you do not check-in your luggage. I’ve heard of stories of lost luggage and luggage picked by strangers. Worse, stories about strangers slipping illegal drugs into another person’s luggage. I have seen Brokedown Palace. It made an impact on me. If I have one small bag, I would be fine as long as I keep an eye on it.

On a trip to Singapore, compare my backpack to my friends’ luggage. (That’s my friend, Ann. One of those huge maleta is hers.)

On our 4-day trip to Cebu, I carried these.

On recent Hong Kong trip, my aunt and I carried these. The smaller bag behind is a foldable bag which we needed to use for our pasalubong. I know it looks gross to be putting our bags on the MTR floor. We were already going home. Our bags contained our soiled clothes. The bags are waterproof.

4. Use cheap public transportation. Taxis are okay if there are four of you sharing the cab fare. When traffic is bad, it is easier to take the train. Downside, be prepared to stand during rush hours. What impressed me most about Paula and Charlie was that they were very much comfortable taking public transportation. They took a jeepney, tricycle, small boat and habal-habal ride with me without showing any slight discomfort. They rode a van (together with other passengers) from Surigao to Butuan. If it were me, I would take the bus. (But then again, I have motion sickness. I need to be comfortably seated during land trips.)

5. Bring food. You will never know what food to expect in your destination. While I am quite adventurous with my food choices, sometimes my travel companions are not. Sometimes my stomach does not agree with me, too. Biscuits, candy, nuts can fill an empty stomach while you search for a place to eat.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
-St. Augustine

 

There is so much to explore in this world and I hope to see as many places as I can in my lifetime.

 

P.S. still to be edited for typos.

An Afternoon with @filipinadiver and @tulogboy

Prologue

I started following @filipinadiver on Twitter last year. A link to their blog, www.ourrestlessfeet.com, is in @filipinadiver‘s twitter profile. I learned that, together with @tulogboy, they went to Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig, Surigao del Sur and Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur the day after I went to the same tourist spots. (Missed opportunity #1) Furthermore, they spent some time in Butuan City and ate at a vegetarian restaurant that is two blocks away from where I live. (Missed opportunity#2) For those who do not know, @filipinadiver is Paula Peralejo and @tulogboy is Charlie, Paula’s travel partner. (Oops, I did not ask Charlie’s surname.) Paula used to appear in movies and television shows. What I most remember about her as an actress is that she was a part of the cast of a popular teenage-oriented drama, Tabing Ilog. Honestly, I did not follow that show. Hehe! I watched it a few times but I think it was aired when I was already in my 20’s. (Generation gap?) I watched more of Gimik, a popular show that aired years before Tabing Ilog. Judy Ann Santos and Rico Yan belong to my age-group. (Ha! I am revealing age! Aja! “30’s is new 20’s!”) The Internet introduced me to different ways in interacting with other people. I found Paula Peralejo, the student, in Pinoyexchange.com (a Filipino forum site) several years ago. Although she was not doing TV shows and movies anymore, she still shared some information about what she was doing at that time by answering questions in that forum and by maintaining a blog. She has an online presence. It is amazing to observe how she evolved from a teenage star into a UP Philosophy graduate (magna cum laude), animal-lover, world traveler, an advocate for the environment, Philippine tourism and a lot more. This is why I wanted to meet her. Just to shake her hand and say hello would have been enough but spending and afternoon with her and Charlie was a blast. I dream of traveling around the country (and the world) and there I was with two seasoned travelers. I was making mental notes of how to travel with ease like them. (More on that on a separate blog post.)

The Tweets: How these microblogs led to a memorable afternoon

On June 28, 2011, Paula tweeted this: It caught my attention. “Bucas Grande? Is this the one near the Sohoton caves?” I asked myself. Google confirmed it. I’ve seen photos of relatives and friends who visited the place. It is on my travel bucket list. Surigao city is just two hours away from Butuan. I tweeted Paula to ask if she is flying to Surigao or Butuan. “Surigao,” she replied. She added that she wants to visit Butuan again to explore Agusan del Sur. I suggested places in Agusan del Sur like the Agusan Marsh. She replied that it is one of her dream places and will visit the place when she is already good at birding. (Find info on Agusan Marsh here.) I tweeted her back that if ever she is in Butuan, I am open for a meetup. And if she needs a place to stay, she is welcome to stay in our house. I thought our tweets end there. On June 30, 2011, Paula tweeted: When I checked her timeline, I found out that their flight to Surigao was cancelled (probably due to bad weather). They opted to go to Cebu and fly to Surigao from there. Cebu-Surigao was also cancelled so they flew via Butuan and immediately took a land trip to Surigao. ( I thought that was missed opportunity #3.) On July 2, 2011, Paula tweeted: Thank God I was using the computer when I got the tweet. I was typing my suggestions fast in case the mobile phone signal wear off as they pass by different municipalities. She wanted to go to the museum so I checked my telephone directory to search for the number and to ask if the museum was open that day. The search was futile. :-/ In one of my tweets, I told Paula I am free and I can tag along, if they do not mind. Although she was unsure of their itinerary, she said she will tweet when she gets to Butuan. When they arrived at the hotel, she asked if the museum was open to which the hotel staff inquired for her. The museum was open. She also tweeted me that it is okay that I tag along. (Hurray!)

The Meetup

I immediately sent this tweet: I immediately grabbed my cellphone, money, handkerchief (to wipe my sweat) and umbrella (in case it rains). I decided beforehand not to bring my camera. I have not yet deleted pics from my recent trip. I am more concerned in getting them to as many places as possible. Having my camera and clicking away may attract attention from people. Paula may not be active in the entertainment scene but Paula and Charlie are two good-looking people. They get stares from people we pass by. If these people realize who she is, how will I control the crowd? We were using public transportation to go to places. I do not have that getaway vehicle to whisk celebrities out of a mob. (Secretly, I want the experience for myself alone. Selfish! *grins*) I arrived at the Butuan Regional Museum and asked the guard on duty and the museum staff if some guests arrived. They said yes and I checked the logbook. I saw Paula’s name. From where I stood, I saw silhouettes of people in the left wing of the museum. I let them take their time while I asked the staff on how to get to other tourist spots. I saw her emerge from the museum room. I saw that she was wearing a dress. Mental note: Must try to wear a dress next time I travel. (Hehe Girly stuff.) I approached them and introduced myself. I was silently shouting inside, “I shook the hand of Paula Peralejo!

(Intermission: On top of the bucket list of interesting people to meet: Lea Salonga. I’m proclaiming it now because we can never tell. By my power of positive-thinking, she will visit Butuan someday. I know it is more feasible if I just fly to Manila, watch her concert and find a way to shake her hand. Again, we can never tell. Ha! )
 

The Tour

Paula was taking down notes on what sites to visit.  There was a museum kiosk, a touch-screen monitor that lists down cultural and historical sites to visit in the city.  “This kiosk is the only one in the country”, the museum staff proudly said.  It was decided that we visit the Balanghai Shrine and Bood Ecopark that afternoon. Some info I am retrieving from my sometimes-unreliable memory bank (I suggest that you do your own research. It is an interesting read.):

Balanghai Shrine is the archaeological site where the balanghai boats were excavated. Before the Spaniards came, our ancestors were already trading with our Asian neighbors.  That is why we have Chinese wares excavated from different sites in Butuan, carbon-dated centuries before the Spaniards came. In an article I read from a school paper here (I think), the title was “In the beginning, there was no Philippines but there was Butuan. “

Bood Promontory Eco-park is a site where there is a commemorative statue of Magellan and his men celebrating the first mass in the Philippines and the supposed site where a large cross was planted.  Butuan claims that the first mass in the Philippines was held in Masao. Magellan landed in Masao, not Limasawa.  My father told me that when an American historian wrote about the history of the Philippines, he used Pigafetta’s  notes which says that they landed in place called Masaua.  The historian wrote in his footnote, “Probably Limasawa”.  Filipino historians adapted the footnote as truth. Butuanon historians claim that Pigafetta’s account contain the latitude, longitude of the site points to Masao.  Add to the proof  that trade already existed  in Butuan courtesy of the Balanghai.  Masao was clearly a thriving port.  Despite several proofs, the National Historical Institute still declared Limasawa as the site of the first mass while Butuan still insists it is Masao. 🙁

Word for the day:
Promontory
a : a high point of land or rock projecting into a body of water
b : a prominent mass of land overlooking or projecting into a lowland
(Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/promontory)

Now back to our tour: We rode the Route4 jeepney to Libertad . We were told to stop at Chooks to Go ( not to eat. Sorry, Lea. hehe plugging.) and look for the motorized trisikad parked near it.  We reached the destination in just a few minutes. Paula and Charlie were genuinely interested in seeing what was displayed-parts of the balanghai that was excavated in the area. The Balanghai Shrine is located in an area where some of the excavation was done. At the back of the structure, one can see a large puddle ( or lake?) that was formed on the depression where the boats were dug up.  Several camera clicks later, I hailed a passing motorized trisikad and asked Manong driver if he could take us to the riverbank for us to cross the river towards the Bood Promontory Ecopark. Manong agreed to wait for us while we roam the promontory.  I visited this place last year and we used the boat with a roof and katig (outrigger). This time around no roof, no katig- imagine two trunks of trees that were carved into a boat and fused together.   I heard Charlie asked the boatman what tree was used. “Lauan,” he replied.   I slowly and carefully took my seat. I am not a swimmer. Going overboard was not an option. 😀 I liked the boat ride. Mt. Mayapay can be seen from this area. It felt like I am in the middle of nowhere yet I was still in the city.  Paula and Charlie’s experience may have a little more substance (compared to mine) for they can identify birds in the area.  While we were on the promontory, Paula saw a rainbow. (A rainbow is said to be God’s promise not send the great floods.  With this sight, I say a little prayer for the people in Davao.)

The First-Timer

One of my suggestions of sites to visit is the new zipline adventure park in Bonbon.  It was not a priority since Paula and Charlie have already tried zipline in some other place. However,  Manong can drive us to Bonbon.  We might as well tick it off the checklist.  I have been to Bonbon on different occasions- fiesta, invitation by friends, company team-building and company sales exposure but I went in the village area where people live. The mountainous area is new to me. When we asked for directions on how to get to Delta Discovery Park, the suggestion was to ride a motorcycle (habal-habal).

Before we left to ride the habal-habal, Manong asked me: “Igsoon ni Rica Peralejo?” (Is she Rica Peralejo’s sister?)Me to Paula: Paula, nagtatanong si Manong kung kapatid ka ni Rica? (Manong is asking if you are Rica’s sister. ) Paula smiled at Manong: Opo. (Yes.) Me: Si Manong updated. ( Like me!)

I wonder at what point did he realize who was one of his passengers. Maybe some of the people we met knew but were not brave enough to ask the question. So why the title? It was the first time for me to ride a motorcycle with a stranger for a driver. If I could avoid riding, I would. There were a few times before that I had no choice but to ride in one with my cousin driving it. Ha! But, Paula and Charlie were game. ( I think it was not their first habal-habal ride.) So, bring it on! HAHA! The first thing that came to mind was, “Why are we not wearing helmets?” Scary thought. Purged it by observing the milieu: admiring the view, frowning at the areas that are being flattened yet wishing I have a small house on a hill. We arrived at the site unscathed. Unfortunately, the zipline closes at 5pm. It was already 5:30pm. We had no choice but to go back to the city and call it a day.

The Phobia

Paula and Charlie had not eaten a decent meal during their vacation. Both are vegetarians so the options for food are limited in this carnivorous country. I can not even think of a restaurant in the city with a variety of vegetable dishes. The vegetarian restaurant near our place is closed on Saturdays for the owners are Seventh-Day Adventists. The only restaurant I am familiar with the menu is Narra and it is in Libertad. So, Narra it is. I just assumed they can cook anything with the vegetables they have. (Side story: Narra is an old resto in the city. When I was young, we celebrated milestones in Narra: birthdays, weddings. After I took the Pisay exam, my father brought me there as a reward even if we were not sure I passed. I felt special. Incidentally, the previous owners also owned the old Narra hotel and the compound where the replica of the Balanghai is currently docked.) Paula and Charlie ordered omelet, four seasons (sauteed veggies), garlic rice, pineapple juice and coke. I ordered coke. (Oops, I forgot to pay for my coke. Embarrassing! Paula and Charlie, I owe you!) We sat in the open area in the restaurant. We were chatting and towards the end of the meal, Charlie said, “Uy, may palaka!” (There is a frog.) Being animal lovers, this is a welcome sight for them. Paula said, “Cute!”. No choice, I have to confess, “Ay, takot ako diyan.” (I am afraid of that.) I was keeping my cool because I might start to panic. Good thing that they were true-blue animal lovers. They did not try to scare me. They told me not to look. It seemed like there were two frogs in an area behind me. When I am with family and I see a frog far away, I start to go crazy and tell everyone there is a frog. I turn into a crazy, panicky and OA (over-acting) me looking at my surroundings for other sightings. Of all the animals, I am most afraid of frogs. Although I am afraid of other reptiles and amphibians, I am okay as long as they are at a distance. I am afraid of frogs even on pictures and on TV. When asked why, I always say it is because they are ugly. (kat, sabi ng frog, “pwe! di ka rin naman kagandahan!” ) Haay, I will never find my prince this way. We rode the Route2 jeep: me going home while Paula and Charlie to Gaisano because they will ride the tricycle there to get to their hotel. I bid them goodbye. Whattaday!

But wait, there’s more!

I am sounding like an infomercial. Their flight was scheduled at 2pm the next day. They planned to visit the Balaghai replica, do the Agusan river cruise, visit the Banza church ruins and visit the laksoy (local wine) maker in Babag. They could visit all this sites faster in a private vehicle. I thought of my cousin’s vehicle but when I called him, he had previously committed to drive his friends to the beach on Sunday morning. Wrong timing. I wanted to go with them again via public transportation but I was not sure if I can make it. I was supposed to go to mass with my aunt. We attended mass at 6:30am. We were home before 8am. As much as I would like to invite myself again to tag along, I messaged Paula that I could not go because I was waiting for something. I just told her to text me if ever they need directions on how to get there. (Actually, I was waiting for my BM*. TMI! The excitement confused my body!) I was glad to learn that they found the Balanghai replica. Sad that there was no river cruise. I guess it was only available during the festival. I missed that cruise, too. No one wanted to go with me and shell P150 for the cruise. Tsk tsk. I should have made an effort. We were supposed to join the free cruise/fluvial procession but we woke up late so I was only an observer from the Magsaysay bridge.

On July 3, 2011, Paula tweeted this: ♥ Awww. I would like to think I was part of this happy thought.

Thanks, Paula and Charlie for one memorable weekend! As my weekend ended, a friend had this status on Facebook:

"You have brains in your head. Your feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." - Dr. Seuss

I thought of the two people I met this weekend. I smiled and thought of my future travel plans. “Caramoan, see you in September!” *bowel movement

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