Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tourist Points in Butuan

Banza Church Ruins

It's a shame! It's only this time of visit that I discovered Banza Church Ruins. Been to Butuan City for countless times that I regret I missed this interesting piece of Philippine Heritage.

As can be read in the concrete bank below, Banza Ruins was established in 1622 by the Augustinian missionaries. Just like most histories, the village mushroomed along the Agusan River and so was the church. What can be seen now is the symbol of history, the belfry of the church.

Once there, you will notice some ruins. I presumed the ruins is not the original church building but a replica. Capturing it added the historic mark of the experience that you have been to the Banza Church Ruins .


Being in the city for another official business, the rollout training of eFRS accounting system for the Caraga Region, I invited my colleagues (Ms. Cholet and Ms. Mayet) for the sidetrip to the ruins. We initially thought of commuting to the site from the hotel. But the DepEd Caraga officers were so accommodating that they provided us a private car.

Just in time for the sunset, we arrived at the historic site at half past 5pm. With the wide Agusan River in the background, we took several poses in the ruins, the belfry, the landmark, and even the huge Balete tree beside them.

Joven was our driver, Denny was some sort of guide (though it's also his first time to get there), we were enjoying the short trip to Banza Church Ruins.

Magellan Anchorage

Almont Inland Resort

I have seen Almont Inland Resort grew in prestige and sophistication. My first recorded stay here was in year 2003, when I was connected with Community-Based Resource Management Project in the Department of Finance; Caraga Region was among the 5 regions (with Regions 5, 6, 7 and 8) as project's area coverage.

The room accommodations and the amenities have grown varied and sophisticated. My latest stay here in this hotel before today was in 2012 when I had a 2-year stint in the Department of Social Welfare and Development as a consultant of the Kalahi-CIDSS Project.

Though not totally perfect, but the swimming pool is one of a kind. Pity, I was not able to take a dip, because I was sick. The pool is highly recommended for families; children very specially.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Water, a Natural Wonder in Malvar, Batangas

A call of duty led me to Malvar, Batangas for a week. A week is too long to stay in one place, so I googled on the potential tourist spots or natural wonders in the town or nearby places like Lipa City or Tanauan City. Then I found one very interesting plac in Malvar town itself, the Calejon Falls.

Located in Brgy San Gregorio (trivia: Calejon was the old name), I took the usual and only transport around here - tricycle. Those who have been here said in their blogs that the trip cost 50 pesos, but the driver (I didn't get his name) charged me 55 pesos per way. It was around 10AM when we crossed the STAR Tollway and reached the dropoff point.

One there, I noticed no signage, nor guide posts, no indication of which way, where to go, what must and what not to do. I realized that this supposedly interesting natural wonder, which should have been a touristy spot, is not maximized by both the municipal and barangay local government. I suspect the spot is privately owned. 

The trek down the river is challenging the fact that the stairways are old, dilapidated, not maintained, and abandoned. It was longer than I expected, may be because I was alone and the jungle gave me an eerie sensation. There were instances that tree fruits fell from time to time and caused movements in the grounds, grass and trees. My advice, go there in groups, or at least with a friend. At the riverbank, I noticed a hut on the right side and the small but wondrous Calejon Falls on the other side of the bank. A grotto was erected beside it. On the far left, you will notice a residence. That supported my thought about private ownership of the spot. 

I savored the moment of silence, the nearness of nature, the cleanness and clarity of water where waterfalls and the river meet, for about 15 minutes. I wish I brought with me pen and steno notebook to have everything scribbled in letters as they were formed then. The climb up the barrio was more challenging as the steps are eroding and concrete stairways are crumbling.

I skipped checking the Elsa's Sweet Candies, that most bloggers promoted as another interesting spot in Brgy San Gregorio, because people we inquired there claimed that many of them are now manufacturing sweet candies. They cannot even point for us Elsa, denying knowledge of any Elsa in the neighborhood.

My tricycle driver suggested to also reach Alulud Spring and Swimming Pools. Located in Brgy Bulihan, farther from the town proper than San Gregorio, he told me he will be charging 80 pesos a way. The road to the spot is hard for the tricycle, so we parked the vehicle in a spot close to the last house in the area on the way to the water point.

This time I asked the driver to walk me to the Spring, where a number of swimming pools surrounds the area, he told me. A concrete hut welcomed us. That signals the start of the stairways down the spring point. This destination is quite new or adequately maintained because the concrete steps are new, in place, and looked strong.

T'was a long steps down, but the view of the spring that falls down along the stairways was wonderful. All drops of water appeared foamy, looked pure and clean and felt cold. The 3-layered concrete swimming pools looked so inviting to a dive, a splash, and a dip. But I resisted because I just came by to photograph it, tag it, and enlist it for future getaways.

As it is sunny days, plenty of people would love to dip in the water, so much so in here. Youngsters mostly composed the crowd today. The adults were inside the single hut or cottage in the left corner of the place, centered by the river and the pools in either sides. I bet it would feel eerie at night because the jungles covered the area. But the karaoke jam, available in this cottage, may compensate the quiet and eerie overnight ambiance.

After quite a while of taking pictures, observing swimmers, and feeling envious of the dipping in this pure and clean body of water, I climbed up the same steps, then head back to the training venue. I paid the tricycle driver 220 pesos, but he seemed wanting for more.

I really enjoyed my short trip around Malvar, Batangas via tricycling! I believe I will return...

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Involvement in some Accidents

Shit happens sometimes, especially when you are in a metropolitan area.

I have my share of misfortunes while living in Metro Manila. I guess you won't survive the metro until you'll experience them. It felt normal to hear about them from other people's stories, but to personally experience it is totally a different story.

1. Pickpocketting

That very day was probably cursed. I went to the office late, caught by the heavy traffic at Edsa-
Kamuning area, so I got off the bus, climbed the GMA-Kamuning MRT Station and took the train. Due to very congested trains originating from North Edsa Station, it took me awhile to reach MRT Ortigas Station. Once there, I hurriedly walked my way through ADB Avenue, then Emerald and Garnet avenues. When I arrived at the office and unslung my bag, I found it open and half empty. My wallet and 2 cellphones were gone, picked and pocketed.

I immediately rung my banks and credit card companies to freeze my accounts. Fortunately, I left my ATM Card with large sum in it, since I just got paid for the month's salary. My wallet contained foreign bills in small denominations (my souvenirs), Thai Baht, Vietnamese Dong, etc. I emailed all my friends in my contact list about the pickpocket incident. Until my sister messaged me through YM that she was contacted by the Robinsons Galleria Security Guards Station.

I called up the station and they advised me to visit that soon. I found there the captured pickpocketer. He is gay as I am, and it felt awkward to find a gay pickpocketer. I recovered all my stuffs, the 2 cellphones, the wallet and all that's in it. They motivated me to file a case for this guy so prevent further pocketing incidents. So we went to Libis Police Station because the culprit claimed that he pocketed me in Cubao area. Only at the Police Station that I told the right story, which they realized that the Pasig Police Station has the jurisdiction, as I was pickpocketed in ADB Avenue.

Knowing also that I will pay for the medical exam of the theft, that my phones and wallet will be seized for case evidence purposes, that we will transfer to another station, I therefore decided to let the guy slept the night in the Libis Police Station and went back to work and my normal life. As if nothing of that sort happened to me.

2. Jaywalking

This may leave you in disbelief but yes I was arrested for jaywalking in Tacloban City, way before the Yolanda supertyphoon. I was asked whether to pay 200 pesos fine or do community service which is to pick trash from or sweep the roadsides.

The again I violated traffic rules in Mandaluyong area. I was trying to run after a departing jeepney on my way to the office. Once I hit the road, the jeepney careened away and I was left standing at the center and the traffic police spotted me. He waved me to approach him, but I noticed a couple of jaywalking guys queuing there for the appropriate fine and reprimand. I cannot stay for long because I was already late, so I ran away from that traffic policeman. I hid in the approaching and passing vehicles, climbed the next jeepney en route to the office, and lost him.

2. Car bumping

In February 2014, after my meeting with Ms Doreen and Ma'am Stella in Quattro Bar in Timog Ave, Quezon City, we boarded at the Ms. Doreen's car and agreed to drop Ma'am Stella in her hotel and then we'll head home (since Ms Doreen and I have same direction). Then at the East Ave corner BIR Road, we stopped at the red light beside a black Toyota Vios, but the approaching motorbiker at our backs did not respect the traffic light. He bumped his bike at the backlight of Ms Doreen red Toyota, then scratched the black car's right side, until he tumbled in between.

The owner of the black car freaking out, the motorbiker curling for pain, Ms Doreen complaining were the scene, until the Traffic Police officers from Sikatuna Station arrived. Then we were escorted to the station and waited until the police report was issued.

3. FX Door bumped by motorcycle

Just lately, on May 16 this year, I happened to be involved in car bumping. It was my bad, I opened the center-side door just in time that a motorbike overtook in the side. The bottom portion of the door interlocked with the rear section of the motorbike. The FX van shook, there was a bang when the bikers slapped the car before tumbling down to the sidewalk.

Shocked by the incident, I walked out of the van and found a father, his son and a nanny crying for pain in the sidewalk. They all, in including the FX van driver, blamed me for the accident. I said that I notified the driver that the next corner will be my stop, so he positioned the car to the side and stop at the red light. The motorbike had no right to overtake the van in the right side because the traffic light is on red, and the side is definitely for stopping passengers.

Anyway, I pitied the crying boy who complained of possible bone fractures in his left hands. So I accompanied them to the nearest Rodriguez Hospital in Marikina City. I was backriding the motorbike while the kid was in the van. We arrived ahead of the van so we have moments to clear out things. I told the other family members who went there the actual incident, which I believe they found no excuse. I told the father that when we subject the kid to x-ray in this hospital a police report is necessary because this was a medico-legal case. Such case will progress and may find out the right violators, which in this case they lose.

When the kid arrived with the nanny, he exhibited no more pain and denied going for hospital checkup. The father instead asked me any amount to pay for a clinic to have his kid checked up. Without much ado, I picked out a thousand bucks from my wallet and handed it to him asking, "Is this enough?" When he nodded, I asked again, "Are we good?" and he said yes. Without hesitation and any further ado, I left the vicinity, ran to the next jeepney loading bay, hopped on the next approaching jeepney, and went to the training venue I was guesting that day.