Traveling with TS Sendong

I traveled to Cagayan de Oro (from Butuan) last Friday.  Tropical Storm Sendong is already in the Philippine area of responsibility. I checked PAGASA’s website and Storm Signal No. 2 is up in Northern Mindanao.  I left Butuan early in the morning of Friday, December 16. There was rain early in the morning but it was short and not “Storm Signal No. 2 material”.  In the five-hour bus ride to Cagayan de Oro, there was no hint of the catastrophe looming ahead.  It rained in some towns but it was not strong enough to scare me. It looked like just another rainy December in Mindanao. Plus, Sendong was classified as Tropical Storm which is a notch lower than a typhoon in terms of strength.

This is how the Lim Ket Kai mall parking area in Cagayan de Oro looked like in the afternoon of December 16.

Looks like another rainy afternoon in CDO

I traveled to Cagayan de Oro to take a bus to Pagadian the next day, Saturday. I promised to attend a friend’s wedding. I met with a friend from Bukidnon as my travel companion and stayed overnight at her sister’s place in Nazareth. Her sister was on a business trip and her flight home that afternoon was canceled. We still went to her house and arrived there with no electricity and water was running low.  My friend’s girl scout instinct came in handy because she brought a fully-charged LED flashlight. I thought about my flashlight back home and, for a second, I pondered over my inadequate packing skills. Boy, was I lucky to have a friend who was packed ready for a battle? We freshened up with what meager water we had and off we went to sleep.

Around 1 am  (or was it 2am?), I woke up because rain was really pounding hard on the roof. I was not familiar with Cagayan de Oro weather since I have not lived there so I did not understand the effects of the heavy rains.

Still unaware of the situation, we left the house in the morning. We were supposed to catch an early bus to Pagadian.  As we went near the gate of the house, there was a hint of Sendong wrath: muddy street.  Another hint: fewer tricycles (motorela). We ended up riding a cab to the nearest Jollibee store where we planned to get breakfast. As we enter the door, the guard asked us if we were willing to wait for 30 minutes before we are served. Apparently, only the manager reported for work. Not one service crew came to work. We hope the crew were in a safe place.

It took time to find the jeep to take us to the bus terminal. Along the way, the devastation was clear. We passed by the bridge near the city hall. It was clear that houses along the river  there were ruined. I don’t want to know how many lives were lost there. We could still see the raging river below. There were people trying to salvage their things. Their faces showed distraught.

Bus travel was delayed for half a day. When we arrived at the terminal, the first bus of the day was still there. The drivers were waiting for a signal to go for fear there might not be passable roads ahead. We were able to leave Cagayan de Oro at around 11 am and this was the situation we saw. I took the photos along the way from Cagayan de Oro to Iligan City (before we reached the Iligan bus terminal.)

Traffic was expected. The muddy waters were still there.

Two taxis swept to the gutters.

I think there was an ongoing rescue/relief operations on this area.

Military personnel standing by

Part of the bridge going to Iligan was destroyed.

The old bridge collapsed. I asked my bus seatmate if the bridge collapsed long ago. She said it collapsed last night. Good thing there was an alternate bridge.

Even the railings of the new bridge were destroyed. One cannot see the concrete pavement. It is covered with mud. Enough proof that water reached that high.

People flocked the church. I am not sure if this is a evacuation center

We arrived Pagadian 8 hours after. The bus kept on taking in stranded passengers (which is a good thing). As passengers embarked and disembarked, we would hear several tales of a friend of friend of friend who lost loved ones in the storm.

I just got home from Pagadian this morning and I have a spitting headache from all the traveling but this headache is just a small inconvenience for me compared to what the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are experiencing right now so here I am creating this blog post.

How you can help

Wherever you are in the world, you can help.

There are many ways you can help  the storm victims. Jane Uymatiao listed down different organizations that welcome donations for the typhoon victims. Check our her list here: How to help victims of Tropical Storm Sendong

Here is a Google document that collates what Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City need and how you can help: Typhoon Sendong Relief Operations

A little act of kindness goes a long, long way. Let’s give the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City our love.

Intramuros, Quiapo, Divisoria in a day

I have always wanted to visit Intramuros. I have this romantic idea of walking along its streets with old buildings surrounding me. I pictured it would feel like I was in Europe or something.

A year ago, I planned to do just that. I studied the map, printed it and planned my walk using my map. I was with relatives and they wanted to go to the mall. One thing led to another. My Intramuros dream shelved. I got another opportunity on a National holiday this year.  Aunt chickened out. Intramuros shelved. I vowed to go there alone next time. I had the opportunity last September but I prioritized visiting someone who just got out of the hospital.

When our October trip came, I demanded that we allot Intramuros time. My cousin wanted to go to Quiapo. My aunt wanted to go to 168 mall. I figured these destinations are all in Manila so we could visit them in one day. Challenge accepted.

It was a challenge. We were staying at my cousin’s house in Fairview. I know how to get to Intramuros using the MRT-LRT  and on foot through Luneta. However, there was a Quiapo bus from Fairview so the plan was changed to Quiapo-Intramuros-168 mall.  I have no idea how to get there from Quiapo. Taxi would be my best bet.

It was a long bus ride. No thanks to traffic. No thanks to the bus conductor; we missed our stop at Quiapo. The next stop was near the Philippine Postal Corporation building. We might as well go to Intramuros first. Since we had no idea how to get there, we had to ask for directions. All I know was that we were near the area. The old buildings were clues that we were somewhere near. We asked the guard inside the building and we were told to ride the Pier jeepney.

Once inside the jeepney, I was on alert-mode. We shouldn’t miss the stop again or we would end up in the pier. Although we already told the driver to tell us if we were already in Intramuros, I could not just rely on his memory. I didn’t want to annoy him by asking “Are we there yet?” every chance I get. I just asked him to stop once I saw old buildings with ‘Ayuntamiento’ written on it. I dug into my grade school history tucked in the recesses of my brain. Ayuntamiento means town in Spanish.

As I look at the map now,  this is where we stopped.

Remember I was with two people who had different agenda for the day. They both asked me where Intramuros was once we alighted from the jeepney. This is Intramuros! HAHA! Remember that it is a walled city. Intramuros is a vast area with all the buildings. I knew what they meant. They meant Fort Santiago.  I had no idea. I know it is near the bay because it is called a Fort! I thought I could just roam around and just discover the sites as I walked along. I did not prepare for these two variables: my aunt and cousin. So I made a decision to just visit the two churches: The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin church.  It was almost lunch time and the two hungry tourists dagger looks could kill me. HA!

Here are my Intramuros photos:

The Manila Cathedral

Plaza Roma

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church is a UN World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside the church. It closes from 12pm to 1pm. We visited the arcade across the street and off we went to Quiapo.

The taxi driver dropped us at an area across the church. We had to use the walkway under the heat of the sun and grumbling stomachs.  We had lunch at Chowking which was a welcome treat since Chowking has closed down in my city. My cousin and aunt were already seated while I took a bathroom break. When I went back to our table, another person was eating beside them. Across him was a pleasant-looking man in decent clothes. I thought he was his companion. As soon as the man handed some change and my cousin did the same, he hopped to another table. He was discrete and he looked decent so anyone can be caught unaware of his modus operandi. I do not know if Chowking is aware of this scam. The man was just begging for money but it felt like being held up because he would not leave your table until you gave him money. I think my cousin gave him ten pesos. If I were in my city, I would have reported him to the police. I was in the city of Manila and in Quiapo. I just wanted to live. I just pressed my ignore button. I will fight this battle some other time.

Because of that experience, I did not take photos of the Quiapo church nor its busy side streets. It would have been a nice photo opportunity to display some unique elements in Philippine culture.

My cousin went to Quiapo for this:

She is a freelance make-up artist and she needed this make-up organizer for her gigs.  This organizer costs Php 3000 in Trinoma. A stall in Quiapo sells it for only Php1500.

The next stop is 168 mall. We rode a Divisoria jeep from Quiapo and after some walking, we finally arrived at 168 mall. My aunt just wanted to see what the fuss about this mall. It is supposed to sell cheap items which otherwise cost a lot more in the mall. She ended up buying only an umbrella. It was kind of confusing for her. They sell so many things that a buyer who is not firm in decision-making, like my aunt, ends up with nothing. HA!

Good thing my cousin bought us ice cream. All izzz well.

The last challenge for us was how to get home.  Home was Fairview. As long as I can get into an LRT or MRT, I know my way. Luck was on our side. No matter how confusing 168 mall was and how big Metro Manila was, we met someone from Butuan! My Tita knew her. The lady was buying stuff from 168 mall and she was sitting in the steps outside the mall. With her was her nephew/ tour guide. We asked how we can reach the nearest LRT/MRT station. He pointed us where we can ride the jeep. He told us to ride any jeep that goes to Morayta.

We found a Morayta jeep with LRT-MRT on its windshield. We asked the driver to confirm.  While we were inside the jeep, my cousin took notice of the woman beside me. When she paid for her fare, she told the driver, “MRT”.  We were cruising along a long stretch of highway when I spotted large pillars I thought to be an LRT track. I know LRT is old so I was confused because it looked new. MRT plies along EDSA. We were nowhere near EDSA.  Suddenly, the woman beside me alighted the jeepney. Instinctively, my cousin followed suit.  Once we were in the sidewalk, I took a good look at the area. We are indeed in a train station!  We were in the Recto station of the LRT Purple Line!  This was my first time to ride this train so I am not familiar with the routes. Good thing that there is a Araneta/Cubao stop. From Cubao we can ride the MRT to Trinoma.  We took a taxi to Fairview.

My soundtrack for the day while on the road was this:

Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.  ~Ray Bradbury

Ten things I love about Bantayan

I was supposed to write a chronological post about my experience there but I always end up looking at photos instead. I get sidetracked every time. Bantayan is such a beauty. I get mesmerized by looking at photos which consequently brings me to dream land and I start reminiscing the 3 days I spent there without writing them down. My thoughts run faster than my typing speed.

So I come up with the list of things I love about Bantayan Island.

1. The BEACH!

Of course! What else could it be? We stayed in the town of Santa Fe and the beach there is gorgeous. Do you see the sand bar? In the morning, when the tide is low,  that large area with water is all sand like this one below. 2. Bantayan Sunrise

We woke up early to catch the sunrise.  The cool morning breeze jolts us up. No need for coffee to perk me up. It is worth waking up early.

3.  The Bantayan Sunset

The sunset was also beautiful. We were fortunate we were near this area when the sun set. 4. Empty beach

I am quite selfish when it comes to personal space. This may be the reason why I was not a beach lover before because the beach near my city was always crowded. I like the comfort  wide open spaces bring. It is like owning a beach.  What I like most is that we can just leave our things on the sand and swim to our heart’s content without worrying about our belongings being stolen.  Well, there was one little scary moment when a dog sniffed on our bags on the sand while we were in the water. The dog went on his merry way afterwards. No harm done.  Mental note: Do not bring food on the beach.

5. Affordable food on the street

I like it when I can spend less that P100 for a meal. I had chicken barbecue, puso (rice in basket of coconut leaves) and softdrink. I think it only cost me around P60 for that meal.  Another meal I had is grilled chorizo on a stick.  One stick only costs P15. Not bad. I had fresh pineapple for dessert. Sweet deal!

Chicken barbecue and puso

Chorizo and pineapple

6. Clean streets

I like walking especially in streets that are not familiar to me. It is an opportunity to explore. Walks are lovelier on a clean street. 7. The small town charm

Bantayan town proper is small yet charming.  Key establishments surround the town plaza. The church, municipal building , market and port are all accessible by foot from the town plaza. 8. Danggit!

Danggit is a fish.  When one mentions danggit and Bantayan, the term danggit often refers to dried danggit. It is a boneless dried fish. It is cooked by frying. It is best eaten when it dipped in vinegar and paired with rice.  Our hotel served danggit for breakfast.

But that was not enough for me, I had to bring danggit home. Thus, we trooped to the market to buy a kilo. A kilo costs P400.

Other dried products were also available. I also bought dried squid.

9. Getting the tan

I am Filipino. I have brown skin.  I love it that way. After my trip to Bantayan, friends and family have noticed that I got darker than my usual brown color.  The thing is, I don’t fret over dark skin unlike some Filipinos.  My only concern is sunburn. I did not get it so I am fine. It has been 3 weeks since the trip, my cousin still teases me that I am dark. I do not mind. I love my color.  My father often told me before that I was red when I was born. Now, I declare I have the tan of Victoria’s Secret model.  I do not need to post a whole body shot to prove it.  My tanned legs (uhm, logs!) are enough proof. HA!

10. Zero-talent photography

I do not need photography skills to capture perfect photos.  Bantayan is just perfect that way.

 

Bantayan and my love for the beach

I am not a beach person. I do not get excited over invitations to go to the beach. What excites me though is the prospect of eating good food in the beach. From where I come from, the beach is at least 30 minutes away and people who go to the beach bring food- lots of good food. Some bring fresh fish and cook it over charcoal. My favorite is the grilled liempo. I love how the heat of the slow fire carefully seared in the flavor of a slab of pork belly.  Okay, I’ll stop here. Suffice to say, my love for the beach is actually my love for good food.

So while everyone else may go to the beach on a Sunday morning, I  was content to just have my grilled pork belly in the comforts of our home. After all, this is reason why I go to the beach.

Bantayan changed all that.

Friends of mine who have visited Bantayan several times already planned to visit again. The long weekend during the end of October this year seemed to be a perfect time to go especially for those with regular jobs. Thus, my friends chose these dates. In my case, it was the end of a long vacation for me. I just came from a vacation with relatives and I flew to Cebu the next day. Friends have called me “laagan” because of this.  (Rough translation: one who wanders around, one who is always out on the streets) Well, I call myself a risk-taker. The opportunity presented itself and I grabbed and took the risk: weather, budget, confidence to travel alone. This was my first time to travel to Cebu City alone.

From Cebu City, Bantayan is a 3 to 4-hour bus ride north and a 1-hour ferry ride. I have motion sickness and I do not adjust well to land trips. My friend and I agreed to meet at the Cebu’s North Terminal to ride the bus to Hagnaya port. Luckily, we caught the 7AM air-con Ceres bus to Hagnaya. However, we only got the rear seats. Amazingly, I did not puke nor experience the uncomfortable knot in my stomach or the unwanted smell I often encounter whenever I travel by land. Whenever I travel with friends, I always tell them that I have motion sickness, that I have my vomit bag ready, that I vomit more during land trips, etc. etc.  I am always mentally-prepared with all the puking. Almost always, it never happened. My friend and I theorized that I only vomit when I am with family because I let my guard down. I get too comfortable with family because somebody else will be responsible for me. When I am with friends, I am responsible for myself. I will test that theory the next time I travel with friends.

We reached Bantayan past lunch time so we were a bit famished. After checking in, we went to the nearby restaurant and ordered food. I had chicken with mushroom while my friend had kinilaw.

Once full, we changed clothes and headed for the beach. I was not a beach lover until Bantayan happened. Amazing.

How can I resist this?

We had a perfect weather. My friend suggest we try the Sugar Beach because the sand there is as fine as sugar.

Never mind the cheesy poetry.

I thank Bantayan for rekindling my love for the beach. I forgot that I used to enjoy the beach.

Mama, my cousin and I enjoying the beach.

Of Flying and Airports

I’m afraid to fly and I don’t know why.

Yeah, I borrowed the lyrics from a song. I have fear of flying. Traveling by plane, to be precise.  My first plane ride was in college. I wanted to go home one semestral break and my friends weren’t going home so I have to travel alone. My father does not want me to travel alone by boat which was our usual means of transportation. Fetching me was not option. It would time consuming for it was 32-hour trip on a ship (one-way). Plane tickets cost a lot then but it was the more practical choice for such situation. It was only a 1.5-hour trip.  I had to get a ‘Flying Student’ card from PAL to get discounted tickets.

My fear of flying did not start on my first plane ride. It was on a flight to Manila in 2008. I developed vertigo two years prior to that. For some reason, the condition showed up when the plane lifted off. My world began to spin. Literally. Vertigo is caused by some unbalanced particles in the inner ear.  Our ears are responsible for balance. The ears are quite sensitive to air pressure inside the airplane cabin.  Thus, poor me. I was traveling alone. With no one to hold on to, I mustered strength to keep it together the entire 1.5-hour flight. Unfortunately,  I threw up in a friend’s car. She came to fetch me at the airport.  Lucky for her, I am an experienced ‘vomitter’. Years of motion-sickness during bus rides have prepared me for this kind of incident. I can anticipate puking and holding it in until I can grab a plastic bag. Zero-mess in her car.

Despite the fear, I’ve been to 14 flights this year. Three of which, I traveled alone.  Since that 2008 incident, I’ve never chosen the window seat again.  Upon checking in, I usually pick an aisle seat when asked.  I figured the plane is more balanced in the middle and I won’t feel the plane tilt nor see the horizon inclined. But, on my recent flight home, I picked the aisle seat. I wanted to take pictures from above. I took precautionary measures like covering my ears during take off , closing my eyes when the plane tilts a little and praying. Lots of praying.

Here is Butuan City from above:

Butuan is my security blanket. It is where I feel at home. The best part of traveling is coming home.

I still have that fear of flying. My love of travel helps me ease the fear.

Airport woes

Uhm. I don’t have one. I, the budget traveler, have never been to the worst airport in the world, NAIA Terminal 1. It is ironic that the budget traveler like me have the NAIA Terminal 3 for an airport. A great equalizer, I must say. I may not travel business class but my airport is not the worst in the world. Lucky me!

These photos were taken in 2008.

As a bonus, there is a live plant in the rest room. Not that it matters but I like it.

Noted.

I saw pictures of the embarrassing state of NAIA 1. I feel so sorry for people who had no choice but to use that airport.  Think about those foreign tourists lured by the beauty of this archipelago who have high expectations of the pearl of the orient only to be welcomed by sight of NAIA 1. I believe it should be renovated. The government seemed to agree.

On his Facebook page, internationally-acclaimed designer Kenneth Cobonpue shared this video.

It looks promising. I am hopeful.

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