Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Fulfilling my promise to my nephew, Keith, I booked our Boracay trip on April 25-28, 2014. This was my graduation and congratulatory presents altogether for having graduated in High School and passing the UP College Admission Test (CAT), respectively.

I initially offered this in exchange for an honor roll. But then after super-typhoon Yolanda struck Tacloban and for a while relocated the children to Surigao, I offered it for simply graduating high school. And then passing the UPCAT was an added value to this gift.

Firstly, I secured the round trip air ticket from Manila to Kalibo for 2 since the proposed vacation dates fell on summer time when airfares are pricey. Then a little later, Keith's air ticket from Tacloban to Manila and vice versa was bought. Then the online shopping for the cheapest but comfortable hotel accommodations followed. But we ended up finding the rooms on the spot.

There was this series of delays happening as we journeyed to and from Boracay via Tiger Air Philippines. On the 25th, on our way out of Manila, the flight was delayed for an hour due to delayed turnaround aircraft. Then later it was further delayed due to heavy air traffic in Kalibo, our destination. I was beginning to fear while waiting for 2 hours that the affordable room accommodations would soon sell out. We landed at Kalibo International Airport at about 9pm, 3 hours later than the schedule. We hopped on a passenger van heading towards Caticlan Port Terminal and found ourselves riding the boat to Boracay more than an hour later.

Yes, I have saved a lot from the airfare but the rest of the transport costs were biting and digging a pocket holes. The van cost each of us P250 (by the way, it already covers the boat fare, which I heard from the driver when we called to book us is worth P30 each), the terminal and environmental fees cost P175 each, then the tricycle from Boracay pier to your chosen hotel or resort cost P100 a trip.

But I found it tourist-friendly when some barangay staff approached you at the dock and asking whether you have room bookings. The 2 ladies in blue shirt as uniform inquired about my budget, which is P1,500 to P2,000 a night for a bed for two. They then escorted us and rode with us in the tricycle, commanding the driver to drive us to St. Vincent resort. Unfortunately, the P1,500 worth rooms were sold out when we got there. So we went to the next resort which gave us room for P2,000 per night. So we're settled. The place was just a 2-minute walk to the beachfront.

And the hunger set in. All foods round the island are expensive, even fastfoods chains. Each meal for Keith and me cost me an average of P500. Upon arrival, we dined at the nearest McDo which is situated at the lower ground floor of Crown Regency Hotel. The following brunches were spent at Andoks in D'Mall, then at Dapogan Carenderia, and then at Sands Boracay. We had one takeout lunch of Yellow Cab Pizza. Our 3-night dinners were spent at Army Navy and then Deco's.

There had been several activities in the island that weekend we were there. I ran at the Skyathon 2014 on the morning of April 26. Then we witnessed the Dragon Boat Racing that whole day. That evening we joined the crowd at the Summer Fest sponsored by Myx and spent the rest of the gig night at Electrolux Disco. I dipped in the beach water the whole day of April 27 and had Starbucks Coffee in the evening.

April 28 was our way out of the island. In fact, we spent most of the time in Kalibo downtown. And then a delayed flight worsen my day on April 29th. Our supposed 4am flight actually departed Kalibo at 6:30am. I feared that my nephew Keith cannot fly back to Tacloban because of this huge delay. We arrived at NAIA Terminal 4 at 7:45am and fortunately, Keith was accommodated in one of the flights to Tacloban.

I myself had still enjoyed Boracay, as it was my first summer vacation in the island. Of course I wanted to put them into record that I was there once again, as the following photos presented:

Look at the crowds!

Sails are major views in the island

Sunset and Grotto is Boracay

Dinner at Army Navy

Lunch of Yellow Cab Pizza

Night Swimming

Swimming pose

Swimming Day

The photo wall inside Electrolux Disco Bar

A pose at the famous Grotto should not be missed

While waiting for the gunstart of the 5th Boracay Skyathon

Despite the presence of green and slimy moss, the beachfront is still worth a picture

The coverage of the 8th Dragon Boat Racing was with AXN, so I saw Mark Nelson there.

A pose at Obama Grill where the Summer Myx Fest stage is being prepped for the night's party

My second bottle of beer at Electrolux Disco

Starbucks Coffee for the last night in the island

Monday, April 28, 2014

Entoy & Kikit: Gastardo's Future

I can never be prouder as a stage uncle to witness my two nephews march this school year's graduation exercises.

Mr. Emildan Macawile Gastardo, "Entoy"
Mr. Emildan M. Gastardo, LLB

Mr. Emildan Macawile Gastardo, "Entoy" as we dearly called him, the only son of my older brother Daniel and sis-in-law Emily, completed his College of Laws from the Fr. Saturnino Urios University in Butuan City. The graduation day on March 21, 2014 was attended by the whole family in both paternal and maternal sides. Coming straight from the Yolanda-hit Tacloban City were Ate Emily's family, Mama Fely and Waia. Riding along with them was my Papa Tantong and Ate Emily of course, from Surigao. Flying in from Manila amidst the bad weather brought about by typhoon Caloy were Ate Emily's half-brother, Arnold Cana, my Mama Dulcing, sister En and her 8-month old daughter, Wan-Wan, and myself.

A gastronomic dinner celebration was experienced on the eve of the grad day. The party was celebrated with my cousin who has residence and business in Butuan City, Rodel aka Anjing Gastardo and his family. We gorged at many recipes, from Grilled Fish (Sinugbang Isda), locally-made sushi (Kinilaw), Fish soup (Tinolang Isda), Stir-fried crabs, Beef steak, Pancit-bihon, What was worth remembering was the disappearance of the roasted turkey. It was only baby Wanwan who tasted a portion of the neck.

Large family, huh...

Entoy with Ate Emily's siblings: Waia from Tacloban and Arnold from Manila

Entoy with grandma Mama Fely

Despite the gloomy day, as typhoon Caloy poured rainwater every now and then, the graduation day was on. The whole bunch readied, dressed appropriately and arrived at the venue at lunchtime. Only to find out that we all gonna be staying in the University campus for some pictorials because only 2 amongst us can get in with gate passes. I ended up accompanying Ate Mely inside the gymnasium to actually witness the graduation ceremonies. The rest of the family went back to the hotel and Entoy's pad to await for the ceremony to end and then share a dinner with the graduate together.

Entoy with fellow graduates

With proud Nanay Mely

The whole graduation entourage

Lolo Tantong, Lola Dulcing, Auntie En-En and Baby Wanwan cannot be missed

Live streaming by Tatay Daniel, straight from  Dammam, UEA

Each graduate is given only two gate passes. Thus, only Nanay Mely and myself only were accommodated.

Garlands from Lolo and Lolas
Fortunately, the 6 graduates of Bachelor of Laws, Entoy being one of them, were in the top of the pack. They marched and were called on stage to be awarded with the diploma ahead of everyone, right next to the post-grad studies graduates. So, for Ate and me, the ceremonies were over. We left the venue early and booked a dinner at the nearby hotel, Prince Hotel. Entoy and the rest of the family members followed us at 6pm.

Baby Wanwan is practicing graduating by wearing hood and cap

 No one can be prouder than the mother who attended in the occasion in great shape and beautiful dress, and the father who monitored the graduation real-time via video-skype.

with Nanay Mely

Mr. Keith Robert Maurillo Gastardo, "Kikit"

Kuya Keith

Definitely a survivor!

Having survived the super-typhoon Haiyan or known for Filipinos as Yolanda, my nephew Kikit had successfully finished high school. We tried relocating them to Surigao to complete their high school but due to issues on complying all school records, which we feared are no longer available after the typhoon and the storm surge, we agreed to their decision to go back to Tacloban and finish school.

True enough, the graduation happened on April 3, 2014. To celebrate such momentous event, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Kikit, my parents and I graced the occasion. I flew to Tacloban City from Manila, and my parents took the ferry boat from Surigao on April 2. There we witnessed the simple but jubilant graduation ceremonies of 1,035 high school students who survived the Yolanda curse.

The grandparents, Lolo Tantong and Lola Dulcing, proudly escorted their second grandson to finish high school. I on the other hand acted as the photographer. The long ceremony lasted for 6 hours. But we cannot wait for it to end; we only watched Kuya Kikit received his diploma (since their the first section to be called up on stage), and then we went back to Hotel Alejandro to cool down in our room.

Grannies with grandchildren: Keith, Ayssa, Kim and Paula, with Ate Wen

It was also the time to reunite with kins... My pose with Uncle Totoy, Auntie Tina, with their grandson. My Mama Dulcing in the middle, with Adrick and his wife.

We then hosted a dinner for the immediate family at my Aunt Tina's, my father's younger sister (who's whole family also survived the storm), residence. Attended by Kikit and his siblings: Ayssa, Kim and Paula with their Aunt Wen (who acted as their mother since Yolanda since their mother died during the storm surge), my Aunt Tina's family: Uncle Totoy, cousins Adrick and his young family, Aileen and Alejo's wife (since Alejo is stationed in Cebu City), then Papa Tantong and Mama Dulcing and me, the dinner of roasted pork and chicken plus pancit and grilled fish was in fact a feast. Cousin Aileen chipped in a chiffon cake. And in our family, wine or brandy or rhum should not be missed.

The proud Lolo Tantong and Lola Dulcing

The grandparents stood in behalf of the graduate's father, who is in Jubail, United Arab Emirates.