Archive for September, 2009

dude, where’s my (surf)board?!

Posted in artifacts, history, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, sports, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2009 by mijodo

de los santos family readies for the waves 

Well Dude, it might just be floating around at the beaches of Baler, Aurora.

Baler afterall is the Filipino surfers’ sacred ground. This is where the surfing action in the Philippines all started. If you are a movie trivia buff, you would know this was where some scenes of the graphic anti-war movie, Apocalypse Now of Francis Ford Coppola were taken in 1975. And apparently some people at the movie set had brought along their surfing boards and tested the waters of the Baler Bay which opens to the rest of the Pacific Ocean. After Coppola had packed up, the members of his team just left the boards to the appreciative local youths. Of course, the kids  just started to rock the waves since then.

From Genesis Bus terminal at Cubao, Quezon City, it is a grueling 8 hour bus ride that traverses northern provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija then goes a little bit more up north to Nueva Vizcaya and finally ends up at the eastern province of Aurora. In this travel, much of the roads are concreted and paved, but it is upon reaching Nueva Ecija’s Pantabangan area and Nueva Vizcaya where roads are rough and turns are tight. So just before reaching the destination, you are all shaken and stirred up. The sceneries which are undeniably beautiful and lyrical make up for the tiring bus ride. Definitely, you need to leave the driving to those who know very well the roads. And one more tip from experienced passengers: try to avoid the last trip of the day since if anything untoward  happens, no rescuing bus from the same company would pick you up.

Upon reaching Baler, just hire a trike to take you to Sabang Beach, popular to most surfers. There you are greeted by the sound of the Pacific Ocean’s roaring waves, expressing its power and ferocity. The robust incessant undulation of water can intimidate first time goers even during the relatively calm months of March and April when waves can only go as high as two feet. In other months, waves can get a lot bigger which would be more ideal for experienced surfers.

The shore at Sabang may not have the preferred pristine white sands, and may not have the commercial establishments which create panache to many tourists. Still you come to Baler primarily for the tides and waves which provide character to its beaches.

There are plenty of room accommodations in the area, particularly along Sabang Beach. Hometels are around 600 pesos per night with electric fans to cool you. But if you want to splurge, then Bahia Hotel is the right one for you. Airconditioning, cable television and even a terrace in this hotel will provide you all your urban needs in a resort setting.  Most popular to the backpacking surfers is Bay’s Inn where you can still get cheap rates. Yet you need to make reservations ahead for rooming during summer months, particularly during holy week as there can be a serious shortage when people come in droves. You may want to settle though in other hotels which do not have frontage of the bay, perhaps near the Kapitolyo, still in Baler.

Summer months would be the perfect time to learn the sport of surfing as the waves are smaller. In fact one young Englishman, Alex, fell in love with the place and has stayed in Baler after learning how to surf two summers ago. There are cool schools which are actually shacks, offering one-on-one tutorials to those eager to paddle through the waves, and hopefully would be able to balance themselves successfully in their surfing boards back to the shore. Groups of young college people and yuppies start to get their basic knowledge from men as young as 18 at a rate of P300 per hour inclusive of the surf board rent.  But of course if you have a relative for teacher, then it is for free. Joseph de los Santos, a professional lifeguard at Sabang Beach and a father to three daughters, had an early morning breakfast right at the beach to start teaching his kids and even his wife how to surf. “Gusto nila talaga matuto (they really want to learn),” he proudly explains.

But not all young people from Baler know how to surf. “There is not much of a pressure for everyone to learn,” Henry, a lifeguard too, mentions in a huddle with other surfers at their tower. Yet it is in Baler where there is the biggest surfing community in the Philippines. There are about a hundred people who can surf in this area alone. Probably, not only because it has an older history in terms of surfing but because Baler has a longer shoreline compared to other surfing areas in the country.

Qualified surfers in Baler are many times invited to other surfing areas in the Philippines to participate in heavily sponsored competitions where the top prize is as much as P50,000.00.  Just like other professional athletes, many surfers have their own corporations and companies funding them and providing surfing suits and accessories just to promote their brands. In a way, there is considerable amount of money and prestige that one can get when one goes seriously into this sport.

 And in Baler, it is at Cemento, near the fishing port where professionals compete and play, particularly during the Aurora Surfing Cup. From September to February when the Amihan wind patterns are consistent, waves at Cemento are spectacular enough for the adventurous kind to conquer. There, waves are what you usually get to see in magazines and movies. But of course there are other surfing spots, each with its own surfing qualities such as Lindy’s Point and Charlie’s Point which name has remained after it had been called as such in a major action sequence from the movie Apocalypse Now.

One basic and prime tip for those surfing is that the leash of the board should always be attached to the leg when in the sea. The leash is the lifeline for survival. Without attaching the leash to the leg, life is in danger and the scenario can be fatal as the current can bring you to dangerous places.

So Dude, I presume you forgot to attach the leash to your leg, and lost your surfboard somewhere because of the strong wave. And you are one lucky guy to survive it. 

“Yes, thanks for the info. But I think I have a bigger problem – Dude, where’s my boardshort?”

through a foggy road to gethsemane

Posted in lifestyle, locales, nature, people, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by mijodo

picturesque gethsemane

It was an early morning drive. My cousin and travel partner, Ate Mae Hipolito were en route to Bukidnon from Davao City. Ate Mae’s sister, Ate Betsy and her husband Dr. Ezranelson Alojado (Nong Nene) volunteered to drop us off near the quaint Seagull Inn and Resto at Kitaotao area along the Davao – Bukidnon Hiway. But just before we reached the inn, we had planned to have a stopover at Gethsemane, the Alojado family retreat area, nestled in the boondocks of Marilog District of Davao City.

The trip should probably take an hour to the Garden of Gethsemane, using  the beautifully cemented road going up the mountain area. It had been an easy drive until about 20 minutes just before we arrived at the junction where an adjoining road at the right proceeds directly to my cousins’ place.

As the sun slowly appeared on the horizon, the road was blanketed by heavy dense fog. There was practically zero visibility for the drivers still zooming along the road. Driving in such condition could be dicey, but for me, it was an exciting and thrilling ride, reminiscent of those treks to Baguio and Tagaytay.

We were lucky that it was not raining thus we opted to roll down our car windows.  Here I got to experience right away the brisk, nippy weather as the car gradually advanced to our destination, thanks to the good driving skills of Nong Nene.  Even in September, it was Christmastime climate in Marilog Hills.

It almost bewildered me. The fog was so thick that I could not remember if I had experienced the same in my travels to climate cold places in the Philippines, including Banaue.  In that substantial mist up in the hills, I could sense a difference in the ways of living in the area.  Children, in woolen sweaters, amble about towards school in an almost deserted road as jeepneys and other small public conveyances don’t ply the route. Young men still on the same road brought pots and vats of potable water as some of the residences in the area have no  access to clean water yet.  “These scenes could be featured on a National Geographic tv documentary,” I told myself.

Along the road, the area was so oozing with remarkable and natural beauty such that the place seemed remote and alien to citydwellers. Yet let it be known that  Datu Salumay is just one small locality of one big Davao City.

Amidst the fog, we tried to locate the access road that forks out from the main hiway. It was tricky, yet we found it  (a waiting shed would be the landmark to make that right turn). But what was trickier was the short drive, through rocks and gravel. A four-wheel drive car or truck was deemed necessary to get to the place. Then all of a sudden, the smooth cemented road appeared until we reached exactly the destined place, Garden of Gethsemane.

Pepito, the caretaker, welcomed us warmly, and told us that classes had been suspended in the area. I never thought that fog could even stop classes.

But at the place of my cousins, the gods of  Gethsemane perhaps cleared the fog for me. Immediately I got enthralled with the postcard prettiness of the place. The meandering stairway steps. The cascading waterfalls. The several pools and ponds – for swimming and for koi watching. The hanging bridges. The faux logcabin. The soaring pine trees.  The hundred blooms of dahlia, sweet honey, and lillies all over. The biting cold temperature (even during summers, I am told)  just enhanced the picturesque location, considered to be more than one hectare in land area.

I felt proud of my Ate Betsy, who has judiciously tended their resthouse gardens almost on a weekly basis.  I was told that people in Davao City have been wanting to stay for a night or two to camp out in the area. “Almost every weekend, particularly during summers, there were people renting our place. There is a hut that can accommodate ten to twelve people. But some would still opt to put up a tent, ” she said with glee.

“Some would use the karaoke machine until early morning. But if it were me, I would rather commune with nature in silence,” Ate Mae interrupted.

But I knew if I had the chance to stay, I would read lots of books, and commune with the interesting folks in the area, and forget for a moment my tv.

Too bad, Ate Mae and I had to cut short our visit at Gethsemane, as we wanted to be in Malaybalay, just before noontime. Nong Nene and Ate Betsy brought us at Seagull  Inn, about a kilometer away from the junction. At the inn, it was easier to take the bus. The fog was a little less dense at that time, but still considerable. We bade our good hosts goodbye, and were able to take the public ride in no time.  We were off again, still through the same foggy road, but this time – to Bukidnon.

 (For those wanting to have a weekend getaway at the Garden of Gethsemane, please call (082)2271628 or 09178119641 (Ms. Betsy Alojado).)

the vanguard island: sta. fe beach

Posted in history, lifestyle, locales, nature, people, travel with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2009 by mijodo

kid floats on his back at sta. fe beach

You gaze at an island with its white shores, abundant coconut fronds, and native dwelling structures, increasingly coming into view. Your heartbeat raises a bit as the ferry slows down to a halt at the pier of Sta. Fe. You anticipate how this place can rock you out with its facilities and yet relax your fragile body and soul, without much of the clutter of commercialism in other popular island destinations. Afterall, this is Bantayan Island, Cebu Province’s Northern most tip, far away from the hustle-bustle of its metropolis.

 Bantayan Island can be reached from Cebu City, with a two hour bus ride from the North Bus Terminal, although it can be accessed as well with airconditioned vans for hire, at SM Cebu. Then once you arrive at Barangay Hagnaya Port at the town of San Remigio, another one hour ferry boat is to be taken to the beaches of Sta. Fe which is among the three towns at Bantayan Island. Madridejos and Bantayan Proper are the other towns which offer inviting aspects for you to explore and encounter.

Mingle with its waters and people. There are just no two ways about it – because of the proximity of the waters and Sta. Fe town community, as you admire the fine powdery white sands of the shoreline, and the expanse of the turquoise colored waters, you also unobtrusively observe the simplicity of the people living in the area. In the morning, kids prepare for their flag ceremony, and by lunch time, they just hang out, at the sandy beachfront, not exactly cognizant of their fortunate existence in Bantayan. Some teens and adults will happily oblige you to some short conversation about life in the island.

The beachfront during the weekdays is almost deserted, save for some locals and travellers, taking a sampling of its calm sea. There are lots of dwellings to choose from. The more uppity Sta. Fe Beach Club, and Ugtong Cave Resort, pamper you as any five star hotel will do. But Ugtong Resort has a bonus, you can swim in the shallow pool inside the natural cave as its name implies. But if you are in a budget, there are good cottages at P350 per night. During the summer months, particularly during Holy Week, room rates can triple. But during lean months of June, July and August, price points take a dip. And you wish that Sta. Fe and the rest of the island will forever remain inconspicuous to marauding guests so as not disturb its tranquility and unassuming character.

For food, there are several open-air restaurants, usually in native hut motif which tempts you to savor its seafood delicacies owing to Bantayan’s rich amount of crustaceans, seashells and large fish. Have them your way – grilled, fried, adobo and kinilaw (raw food, usually fish, soaked in vinegar). You may even want to partake its famous rock lobster for about P160 pesos a piece. Mingle with the owners, some from foreign lands and are lucky enough to have beautiful native ladies for their wives.  Then develop deep friendships with travelers alike while having such meals. Afterall, the island can be intimate enough – balmy nights, secluded place, and in many instances, very few guests.

(continuation –