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!)
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! )
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.)
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.
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.
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!” *