Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fun side of Dumaguete

The video shown above was my capture of the Search for Ginang ng Santacruzan later that night we arrived in Dumaguete City. The emcee declared that it was the first of its kind, an addition to the Santacruzan festival they have been celebrating annually. The show, especially the talent portion, really proved the prowess of mothers in field of beauty pageantry. It’s a timely celebration of revealing mothers’ beauty and talent during the day the Mothers around the World are given honor; that Sunday (May 13) was a Mother’s Day. It was indeed a welcoming treat for us firstimers in the city.
It was about a decade since my last visit to this city; 2003 was too long to remember what Dumaguete is for me. It was granted to me by my first foreign-assisted project with Department of Finance, the Community-Based Resource Management Project (CBRMP). Now and again, I was given to chance to revisit the place through my new project under the DSWD, the KALAHI-CIDSS. We chose Dumaguete as the venue for the Training of Municipal Financial Analysts on Community Procurement and Financial Management Systems for areas in the Visayas covered by the Project. We were ushered to Plaza Maria Luisa Suites Inn, located at the heart of the city, which floors we were occupying towered over the city park, the Cathedral and some business establishments.
Structures you can find in the public park

Earlier that afternoon, I took the chance to have a glimpse of the city and captured from picturesque views of some of its landmarks: the Cathedral, the Grotto and the community park. I closed my day by attending the 6 o’clock Holy Mass.
The church and the grotto

After the strenuous first day of Workshop, I, accompanied by my colleagues, roamed around the city at nighttime. The route started a stroll at the Rizal Boulevard, where I caught a display of religious statues molded on clay and casted on wooden debris, where I took a pose with the landmark about the arrival of the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres in 1901 (I am a Paulinian myself, graduated at Saint Paul University of Surigao in 1997 and 2003). We changed course upon noticing the closed gates of Silliman University, which name and foundation year were engraved. Of course we took a pose before proceeding to more strolling towards the downtown and back to the hotel.

Tuesday night was another night at the boulevard. We dropped by the Sans Rival pastry first to taste test the pasalubong items. For the second time we strolled the boulevard with Lee Patarlas pointing to us the sites and bars existing since her student days in the city. This time around we entered the Silliman University campus to inquire for the museum. It was informed that the said museum was closed for two months now for renovation.
Picture-taking at the Rizal Boulevard the second night in Dumaguete
Weekend sidetrip was highly anticipated. Five of us, Amor, Beth, Lee, May Ann and myself, took a trip to the nearest Apo Island. It was only then that I learned Apo as one barangay of the municipality of Dauin in Negros Oriental, one of the new municipalities our Project covers this year until 2015. But the nearest port going to the island was through Malatapay port, a barangay of another town, Zamboanguita. Another new municipality enrolled in our Project. The point is that we have plenty of chances going back and forth the wonderful island.

We entertained ourselves taking pictures at the dockpoint where our hired boat will fetch us.

When we were in the motorized boat ferrying towards the Apo island

We took the non-aircon Ceres bus from Dumaguete City to Malatapay. The handsome, gorgeous, perfect teeth thus having a delicious smile, and bootilicious collector issued to us tickets worth P25 each. We walked about 50 steps to the port area, after the 30-minute bus ride, where we waited for the boat we hired to pick us up and ferry us to the island. We filled up the manifesto while waiting. The boat ride to the island took us about 45 minutes.

We can't wait to take a pose at the infamous Apo rock formations. Lee got the best pic however.

I don't wanna look hot, but what can I do? I can't help it! Lol!
Amazed at the look of the Apo Island Resort where we booked our stay, we asked the boatman to dock in front of the resort instead of the usual docking at Baluarte point. But still we dropped by the Baluarte to pay the entry pass worth P100 per head. Later we were informed by our guide from the resort that since we knew how to speak the local dialect we should have declared that we were all from Negros and be spared from paying that entry fee. Well, we will note of that.

Our gorgeous meal --- some kinda br-unch!

Read the signage, please...

On the way to snorkeling... By the way, that's Keken.
Arriving early that morning, we cannot check in until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, so we deposited our things at the counter and decided to go snorkeling right away. The guide named Keken confirmed that that time was the best time to snorkel since t'was low tide and that the sea turtles are about the shorelines. True enough, we were able to swim along with three giant sea turtles. Amazing! I should have owned an underwater camera to capture such moment. Snorkeling for 2 hours was, yes exhausting, yet satisfactory, fishes of different breeds and colors aplenty, live corals of different shapes and colors are magnificent; though most of them about the docks were destroyed. The supposed snorkeling at the marine sanctuary was never pushed through because it was destroyed by typhoon Sendong last December. It is undergoing rehabilitation.

The start of the Eco-trail climb.

Our version of pause to catch our breath from the exhausting climb.

At half past ten in the morning, after a couple of picture taking at the nearby rock formations, we felt very hungry. Earlier that morning before snorkeling, we asked Keken to prepare us our lunch. And so we shared a very sumptuous meal (Keken's family served us the sinugbang isda, kinilaw and tinolang isda, flushed with coke litro), we proceeded to the island's Eco-trail. The trail, which we found to be a steep climb, an exhaustive trek upward, was actually the way to the uphill view deck. We were all in awe upon reaching the peak, experiencing the bird's eyeview of the natural wonders below: more rock formations, the marine sanctuary (As I have mentioned, was closed at the time of visit because it is undergoing rehabilitation after typhoon Sendong destruction), and a small strip of white sanded beachline fenced by boulders of rocks on either side. My camera ran out of battery so we have not fully documented our arrival at the cottage at the top of the hill, the so-called view deck.

The cottage was actually furnished with chairs and tables fixed to the floor. We shared that shelter with other tourists, one German guy named Florian working on his laptop computer, and the other Australian guy named Craig along with her GF from Dumaguete. We enjoyed talking about a lot of things. Florian asked about Filipinos' indifference in sports. I argued that Pinoys are fond of indoor games basically because of the tropical climate --- the unpredictable exhanges of rainy and sunny season. Thus we appreciate more those sports like Basketball, Boxing, Badminton, etc.; but not Baseball, Football or Soccer, Rugby and more. That is why footballers, baseballers in the Philippines are more of mestizos, of foreign descent. Craig commented on Filipinos' appetite for food, that we used to have full three meals. Well, we told them that 3 meals are not enough actually; we even average at 5 meals in a day. And they're reaction was "you're impossible!" That may be because we are tiny people, only few of us gain weight fast.

The tourist arrival point where P100 entry fee is a must.
Obviously, the islet's map to keep when you roam around it in a day or two.

On our way back, we opted to change direction. We found this trail going down to the white strip of sand we saw at the top. It was steeper than the main trail and found May Ann having trouble maintaining her balance. Amor, Beth and her were found crawling up and down the rocks until we reached the white beach. We stayed for awhile, swim for a while. There was this group of marine researchers from Silliman University who snorkel to catch butterfly fishes for research purposes. My company borrowed their goggles to check on seaweeds; Ms. Lee gathered some "lato" and they all, minus myself, ate them.

We went back to the resort after. I felt my body ached after overstretching all the muscles at snorkeling and trekking. Right when my body slapped the bed in our room, I collapsed, to say it figuratively, and snored. The nap may be sweet yet shortlived, we need not waste time to check all that the island enstores for us. We need to climb another hill to reach the infamous lighthouse in the island. Both Florian and Craig have vouched the wonderment of reaching the top and see the world from there in 360 degrees.

And indeed we experienced being on top of the world!

We trekked upward once more... this time through the paved 314 (So they say; but per my count, t'was 298. I may have lost count to catch my breath.) steps up the hill overlooking the resort we stayed. We found the new and old lighthouse. We climbed more steps up the old lighthouse one at a time. I went first, followed by Lee, then Beth and finally, Amor. The sight was breathtaking! We can view the world's landscape from there, on one side the Negros Island, lying next to its right may be Cebu or Bohol, on the other side turning clockwise is definitely the Island of Siquijor, and on one more side the portion of Mindanao Island. We initially thought of waiting for the sunset but we feared the night to climb back down may be dark and treacherous.

This is the new lighthouse. The view is taken from the old lighthouse.

One more issue we talked about back at the view deck with Florian was about affordable accommodations. He criticised us to have spent more on hotel accommodation. He inquired if we know of cheaper room accommodation apart from Apo Island Resort and Liberty Lodge, which rates are know expensive. Well, in truth we really don't have any idea but the two, as mentioned. To save my face from them, I countered that we rather experience the luxury our tourism can offer first, which mostly foreign tourists enjoyed. Ms. Lee supported that our accommodation, no matter expensive, has power generator to provide electricity until midnight. It is known that the supply of electricity to the island is only from 6pm to 9pm.

One of the affordable accomodations in the islet.
We enjoyed the night drinking gin and sharing life's mementos --- family, love, adventures. The front lawn of the cottage with beach benches we occupied was the perfect venue; 1 liter of Emperador Light, Iced Tea and pica-pica at our center. The sea in front of us was dark black while the starry sky was a beauty to behold. Despite body pains, we lasted the night drinking and talking, until finally, the resort employee approach us that midnight to announce that the light will turn off in 10 minutes.

We rode back to the city full of smiles, filled with heavy breakfast of tinola and fried fish at Keken's household again. But most of all, t'was because we had experienced a very affordable funfilled sidetrip to Apo Island when we were in Dumaguete City. We took note of the following as our tour expenses:
Bus fare (b/f) - P50.00
Boat hired (b/f) - P2,000.00
Room accommodation (per head) - P800.00
Snorkel gadgets - P100.00
Lifejacket - P100.00
Lunch (per head) - P200.00
Dinner (per head) - P200.00
Breakfast (per head) - P150.00

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My 2012 Book Addiction

George RR Martin is lately the culprit of my latest book addiction.

Inspired by the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, I was lured by the story of its adaptation... in the books. I discovered that the whole story was based on the 4-book novel entitled, A Song of Fire and Ice.

I started scanning the first book, A Game of Thrones, and found the movie series very faithful to it. Just like the episodes in the movies, the book drowned me into the world of fantasy very relatable to current state of the Earth - the conflict, the war, the greed of power, the politics, the game of thrones!

A Game of Thrones was not enough to quench my hunger to know the mind of the author. I believe that book 1 was just the introduction, knowing its magnanimity and full of thrills, unexpected twists and turns, and an image of new world, the second to fourth books would definitely contain more of those. It kept me going... and going...

Book 2, entitled A Clash of Kings, deserved another patronage. It brought forward the adventures founded in its predecessor and deepened and expound the bits and pieces of plots, conflicts, issues thrown in book 1. It further my obsession to Matin's work of magic; a dark spell that bound me to read further on...

Here comes the book 3, A Storm of Swords. This is the story that can stand on its own at the same time merging all scattered foundations established in the preceding books. The sequel that is so spellbounding. My favorite book so far, of the three that I read. The one that gave me mixed emotions, I mean that it is complete of stories that made me laugh, made me cry, made me hate reading, made me love to read on.

But since the adventure is not yet over, given the thrilling and intriguing ending in Book 3,  the quest for the palatable ending is yet ahead. And as to date, reading book 4, A Feast for Crows, is ongoing.

And I won't stop reading even after A Feast for Crows.

A Dance with Dragons is definitely in line at my bookshelf.

Just like my obsession to Harry Potter books, I would be willing to queue for two more books my new fave author is lining up for release; of what date nobody is yet certain. It would be an honor to get hold of:

The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring