Wakeboarding in CamSur

In a recent news report, Camarines Sur was the no. 1 tourist destination in the Philippines for 2010. The two main attractions that drove tourists to this part of the country is the Caramoan islands and the Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC). In our recent Bicol trip, we planned to go island-hopping in Caramoan but we did not have much time. We did have time to visit CWC!

Wakeboarding is a form of water sport where a person is “towed” by a cable while riding on a board.  It is a like a combination between waterskiing and surfing.  CWC is the pioneer and said to be best wakeboarding complex in the Philippines.

In the middle of the complex is a man-made lake where all the action occurs. A complex cable system is responsible for towing the riders one at a time.

As I changed into a more appropriate outfit, I was contemplating whether I would try to wakeboard or not.  I was on a “let-me-check-it out- first” attitude.  A friend already signed up and we were her cheerleaders. I was her ‘unofficial’ photographer so I was really close enough to observe how it is done.

Beginners are given instructions before riding. I did not listen to the instructions though. I assume that it was on safety and some helpful tips on how to successfully take off and maneuver the ride. Beginners kneel on the board first.

My friend took off successfully in her first try and did five laps around the lake.

She had fun. Another friend tried it and took off successfully. I was close to deciding to try it myself but I succumbed to pressure.  My shyness demons prevailed. Thoughts went into my head: “How embarrassing would it be if I fall?”, ” What if I chip a tooth again?” So, down the drain went my adventurous spirit.  I wish in the future I can muster enough courage to try this one.  There was one friend in the group who planned to try but was unable to because something came up.  Maybe we can both try together next time.

The complex had other amenities like massage services, huts for overnight stay and a swimming pool.

Because I did not wakeboard, I felt the need to do other things so I settled for swimming. It was fun being in the pool with friends even if I do not know how to swim.

For more information, check out their website.

Namiyesta ka na ba sa Peñafrancia sa Naga? (Part 2 of 2)

The reason we went to Naga was to experience the Peñafrancia Festival. My friend made a fair warning that there will be lots of people. We might experience a lot of shoving and pushing.  I psyched myself up to just go with the flow. There were 6 of us braving the sea of people. I did not feel like I was a needle in a haystack.

Although I did not do much research on this celebration, we made a visit to the Peñafrancia Museum and I got a little more insight on the history of the festival.

This is the statue of the person responsible in bringing the image to Naga.

Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias

This is the story. The museum displayed some of the crowns and aureola used on the image. Aureola is bejeweled halo around the image. The Manto is the intricately-beaded covering on the image.

Manto

The museum had dioramas depicting scenes on the history of the Peñafrancia.

One of the dioramas in the museum

This is the scene depicting the procession during Peñafrancia. This is what I experienced. (More story on that below.)

Peñafrancia 2011

We were supposed to attend mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral but with the traffic, we arrived late.

This is just a preview of the throng of people I expect to face.

The procession started at around 3 p.m. so we had the time to eat lunch and roam around. The streets were in a festive mood.

Buntings

There were so many people near the market area. Security was visible. My friends went souvenir shopping. Before 3 p.m. we started to find a good vantage point to view the procession.  The ideal place for us would have been on the steps of the local mall but it seemed like everyone else thought of the same thing. We settled comfortably on the sidewalk. We sat on a garbage bag that our host brought.  Clever.  Oh, did I mention I wore a dress just like what I planned before? Yes. I sat on the sidewalk in my white dress. Only in Naga! I did not mind. I welcome new experiences. New experiences mean new anecdotes. Besides, there are others who also sat on the sidewalk.

I took a photo of the man’s shirt. Voyadores are street dancers or devotees who follow the procession. They surround the image as protection and pushed the cart that carried the image.  Some of them are barefoot.  The downside is that some of them were drunk. I could smell alcohol reeking from where some of them stood. Some can get a little rowdy.

This is what we waited for for more than an hour.

From where I stood, I was drowned in a sea of people. As the voyadores pass by, they look for spaces where they can walk through easily.  A mass of them passed through in front of us that we had to step back. For a few seconds, it felt like being suffocated by different aromas. I feel like I survived a stampede. Personal bubble spaces burst.  It was an adventure for claustrophobic and agoraphobic people. Ha!

Our next stop was to check out the fluvial procession. The crowd has already settled in their positions that by the time we got there, I can no longer see the river. Taller people stood in front of me. No matter how I channeled my inner ballerina, my tiptoes could only lift me as high as the length of my foot.  I only see the fluvial parade through the camera of people in front of me. No regrets though. God knew I tried.

The devotion of the Bicolanos to Ina was evident. Ina is Filipino for ‘mother’.  Our Lady of Peñafrancia is called as such.  To those who are not used to such adulation, it would seem like fanaticism. For me, it was devotion. I am a Catholic but I am not the religious type who follow feasts, rituals and novenas. I am prayerful but in the confines of my home. To show love of God in public with much conviction like these Bicolanos is love. It is love that made these people brave the crowd just to watch the image pass by.  It is love that made some vow to follow the procession barefoot year after year. I might not experience Peñafrancia again since I live far.  I felt blessed that I did.

Let me close this post with a prayer:

Part 1

Namiyesta ka na ba sa Peñafrancia sa Naga? (Part 1 of 2)

Fair warning: long post

The title of the post is taken from the line Lea Salonga sang  in that 2003 music video of “Tara na, Biyahe Tayo!”. The title when roughly translated: “Have you been the Feast of Peñafrancia in Naga?”

February of this year, I found myself scouring the Cebu Pacific website for their promo fare. I was able to book 5 people for a trip to Manila. Little by little, I was about able to find a good deal to fly to Naga from Manila.

My friend was a Jesuit Volunteer and she was assigned in Naga for one year after graduating from college. She was the one who invited me to go with her in this trip. We stayed in her friend’s house so we saved on hotel bills. Her friend’s house was a mansion-in-the-making so it was like staying in a hotel. We had clean sheets and nice bathroom. The room was air-conditioned but the house was designed to be energy-efficient. The large windows when opened invited cool air in the evening.

Unlike my HK trip, I did no research for the trip because one of my friends who also joined this trip was a thorough researcher. Our itinerary was laid out complete with time and date. Our host also made a complementary itinerary to further enhance our Bicol experience.

There was so much to see in Camarines Sur. The  trip was refresher course in geography for me. I have never been in this part of the country.


View Larger Map

If I expand the map, one would find Mt. Isarog figured prominently in the frame.


View Larger Map

Mt. Isarog National Park

We hired a jeepney for the whole day to reach the spots on our list. One of such destinations is the Mt. Isarog National Park.  As the jeepney ascend to the area where our trek would commence, I heard my ear pop. I knew I was in an area with an elevation. After several minutes of walking uphill, this welcomed us.

Mt. Isarog National Park

I felt the muscle in my legs tighten as it received its much-needed toning.  This is the beginning of  an adventure going down to see Malabsay falls.  The steps were tricky as we navigate the trail.

To Malabsay falls

There was even an area where we had to crawl.

At this point, the sunglasses I hung in my neckline fell into a ravine. Our gracious host became my hero for the day. He climbed down the treacherous ravine to rescue my sunglasses even if I said he does not need to get it for me. I’d rather lose my father’s sunglasses than face the risk of him falling. He descended like Spider-Man. The few seconds he spent on the slope seemed like minutes as I was praying to high heavens. My stomach churned as the acrophobia in me kicked in. He handed me my sunglasses before I can even say ‘Amen’.

All the fear and anxiety vanished when I heard the water rushing down from the falls. Mist lightly clung into my camera’s lens but did not succeed into ruining my photos. Malabsay falls was breathtaking.

Pardon me if I had to load lots of photos. It is a sin not to.

Malabsay falls

Emerald Grotto at Calvarrio Hill

A quick trip to Iriga City brought us to this Emerald Grotto overlooking Iriga City with Mt. Iriga at the background.

View on top of the grotto

When I posted the photo above on Facebook, one of my friends remarked that the roofs in this place are nicely painted. Prominent in the photo is the roof of a convention center.

This is the reason we went to Iriga. (Side note: Nora Aunor is from Iriga)

The Emerald Grotto stairs

It is a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Since it is in cave-like structure, there were bat poop in the floor in the crucifix area. When I looked up the ceiling, bats were sleeping ( lower left corner in the photo above).

 Visita Iglesia

Visita Iglesia is a Catholic practice during Holy Week to visit different churches and pray. It was not the holy week but by the number of churches we visited, we were church-hopping one after another. Bicol is full of beautiful churches.  Although my city of Butuan was the site of the first mass in the Philippines, all that is left to us is the ruins of an old church. I guess Spaniards easily warmed up to the good-natured Bicolanos compared to the fierce Butuanons. I guess they did not come back to Butuan after the first mass.

This is the church in Bombon with a leaning bell tower.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish

We were allowed to climb up the bell tower.

While in Iriga, we dropped by this church.

In Naga, there were four prominent churches we visited.

The Peñafrancia church.

Read some history of the church

Miguel de Covarrubias brought the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia to Naga.

This is the facade of the church.

Peñafrancia Church

This is the Metropolitan Cathedral. It looks like any other old church in the Philippines.

What makes this special is that it has covered gazebo in the middle where can be used as a stage when there is a large gathering of people. An orchestra played music to the devotees who flocked to see the image of the Blessed Virgin.

During the Peñafrancia, mass was celebrated outside, too.

But the grandest aspect of the Metropolitan Cathedral is the Porta Mariae. It reminds me of  the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

This is the view on the other side. Isn’t it majestic?

This is the San Francisco Church right in middle of the busy streets of Naga. It looks like an old church but it was actually a newly-built church.  I attended mass here in Bicolano and I did not understand a word. I tried to follow the mass by observing the rites. I think all Catholic masses had the same sequence.

I like their retablo. It is simple and elegant.

Below is the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia.

In the ranks amongst churches, a basilica is a notch higher than a cathedral. I think the pope needs to proclaim it as such before it is called a basilica. I bet there are other requirements for such a classification.

The Basilica is the home of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. At the center of this ornate altar is the image of the Blessed Virgin. Devotees can touch the image by climbing up the steps on the side of the altar.

Even Ateneo de Naga University has a beautiful church.

More stories on my Naga trip will be posted in the coming days.

Part 2

Weather and Travel

This is the satellite map from PAGASA as of  11:32 PM of September 26, 2011. Several provinces in Luzon are under Storm Signal No. 3.

Typhoon Pedring

Living in a tropical country facing the largest ocean in the world, this is a regular phenomenon.  Every year, about 22 storms hit the Philippines. (This statistics is taken from the deep recesses on my addled brain.  Further research needed.)  Two years and a day ago, ‘Ondoy’ hit Metro Manila. It caused massive flooding in large area, killed lives, displaced hundred of thousands of people and ruined properties. I remember watching the devastation unfold live on television while I was looking after my father who was gravely ill. I thought about what I would do should it happened to us while my father was bedridden. It would have been a nightmare. I found myself wiping my tears.

Travel

Two weeks ago, I went to Naga with friends. It was trip booked in February this year.  The Peñafrancia in Naga is on the third Saturday of September.  June to October is tropical storm season for the Philippines. Naga is in the Bicol, a region often hit by typhoon.  I cannot control the weather nor postpone Peñafrancia. The best thing to do for me is pray for good weather.

Before we left for Naga, Onyok is in the PAR (Philippine Area of Resposibility). It is only a tropical depression,  a category lower that a typhoon.  I think it did not make landfall. I was monitoring the PAGASA website.  This was the satellite pic on September 13, 2011.

Satellite pic as of 1:32 PM September 13, 2011

It looks like a good weather.  On the day itself, I visited the website before I left for Manila.  The weather is also good.

The latest update posted on September 14, 2011

This was our conversation whe I told my aunt I was going to Bicol.
(Translated from Bisaya)
Aunt: There is a coming storm.
Me: It is already in the country. It is on its way out.
Aunt: The report on TV said that there will be 4 storms this month .
Me: That is based on statistics. June to October is typhoon season.
Aunt: So, why did you book that date?
Me: September is Peñafrancia. Besides, there are no promo fares for summer months. Remember there was a storm a week before we went to Hong Kong and a week after returned home? Prayers work.

God and prayers are often my closing argument with my devout Catholic aunt. It is a discussion-ender. I sincerely believe prayer works. God answers prayers; sometimes the answer is “No”.

If God said “No” to my Bicol trip, there are other provinces to explore with my round-trip ticket. I know Butuan-Manila flights seldom get cancelled when a storm hits Luzon. There is Baguio, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Bataan, Cavite and a lot more to explore.

Even with Typhoon Pedring, the cancelled flights yesterday did not include Butuan-Manila.

Cebu Pacific Advisory

The weather was fine the day we traveled.  It rained in the afternoon in Naga.  It usually rained in the morning and by the time we go out  to explore, the rain disappeared.  When I think about it, we were always indoors when it rained. It makes the temperature cooler when exploring outdoors. Thank you, God!

This is Naga in the afternoon of September 14, 2011. Streets are wet when It rained a bit. No puddles. Ideal for strolling.

While in Naga, I got a call from my aunt asking me about the weather. It rained hard in Butuan the afternoon of the day we left. I took note of that event. It will be a good point to raise when my aunt and I will have a discussion about travel and weather in the future. 😉

Typhoon Names

PAGASA lists typhoon names alphabetically. The typhoon names are already chosen until 2016.  Typhoon names are reused. The names of the typhoons that were devastating are retired.  Thus, we know that Ondoy and Peping in 2009 were 15th and 16th typhoon for that year and those two names will not be used as a typhoon name again. This week’s Pedring is also the 16th typhoon for the year.

Taken from PAGASA website.

The complete list is posted here.

I spy my second name on the list for 2012.   Thus, I made a remark on Facebook, “ I just learned that my second name will be a Typhoon name in 2012 (the end of the world. ha!). Should I warn PAGASA? My first name was a devastating hurricane.

I’m traveling next month. Thus, I am praying for a typhoon-free country from October 20 to November 1.

I end this blog post with this positive quote:

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  ~John Ruskin 

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

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