Humans of Siquijor

Siquijor / Lazi / Maria / Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor, the Philippines

March 27 – 29, 2018

My trip to Siquijor came with a warning. Friends expressed mild horror with my choice of vacation spot. Rumors – more likely fake news – of the disheveled babaylan sticking needles into voodoo dolls had dogged the island province since forever. But from the get-go at Siquijor Port, I was witness to the human side, not the dark side, of this supposedly mystical island. As I was taking a selfie at the bike rental shop, a police officer approached offering his photographic skills. Small-town hospitality was charming as it was disarming; he ended up in my photo instead.

Touchdown Siquijor!

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Downfall of Downtown

Bacolod City, the Philippines

Early 1980s / January 16, 2011 / December 29 – 30, 2015 / November 1, 2016 / December 1 – 2, 2017

Never mind the world’s great ancient civilizations. The downtown of my home city had also risen and fallen. Downtown Bacolod of my childhood in the 70s was the place to be. Save for neighborhood markets that sold produce, the downtown was the center of capitalism and the Church. People worked and played, shopped and worshiped downtown. Such was the time when mall culture had not taken over the Philippines yet.

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Gallivanting High and Low

Sibonga / Dalaguete / Oslob, Cebu, the Philippines

March 24 – 25, 2018

The Cebu leg of our epic Central Visayas trip was just a layover. I wanted to breeze through it as I was focused on the main event that was Siquijor. But it exceeded the expectations I didn’t even bother to set. Cebu-phile Ki packed it with one highlight after another. In just a couple of days, we experienced the height and depth and breadth of southern Cebu.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, aka Simala Shrine @ Sibonga, Cebu

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The Missing Pièce de Résistance in Bacolod

Silay and Bacolod, the Philippines

October 30, 2011 / October 31, 2015 /November 5, 2016 / December 2, 2017

When people asked what my hometown had to offer, I could only think of one thing: FOOD! Bacolod, though not lacking in other cultural attractions, would always be known, foremost, as a foodie city. Much of the fame came with the iconic chicken inasal (roast chicken), a staple in Bacolod’s food trail. A visit to the city was never complete without a stop at the strip of inasal restaurants in Manokan Country. But how was it a cut above the usual chicken barbecue? Perhaps the difference lay in the secret marinade consisting, in part, of a bright red condiment. But you didn’t hear that from me.

Mom and Bacolod’s Iconic Chicken Inasal @ Manokan Country

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Boost and Bust in Busuanga

Coron and Busuanga, Palawan, the Philippines

May 1 and 3, 2017

BAM! That DC Comics-style thought bubble exploded in my head as we all bounced off our seats. The bumpiest landing ever was more a slam dunk than a touchdown. Perhaps it was that way for small planes with propellers. Or not. The landing gears slammed on the runway like dead weight; I expected the aircraft to break apart. But it was just my heart. I gathered my wits once the plane was taxiing toward the terminal in one piece. Welcome to Busuanga!

TTT @ Francisco B. Reyes Airport, Busuanga

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Out of Africa into Calauit

Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan, the Philippines

May 4, 2017

Bizarre on a Marcosian level. In a tiny island in the Philippines, African wildlife roamed freely. No wall contained them other than the sea. Giraffes, zebras, and several species of antelope had come to call Calauit Island in Palawan their new home. The safari park was one of the legacies of the Marcos dictatorship. The official story told of a conservation collaboration between Kenya and the Philippines circa mid-70s to establish a wildlife sanctuary away from war and drought. But of course, some quarters begged to differ, believing it was a front for the hunting hobby of Marcos’ son. In any case, decades after the strongman’s ouster, some of the species, now in their second or third generation, had survived the habitat displacement.

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Giraffe Feeding @ Calauit Safari Park

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Tour of Luzon

Tarlac and Ilocos Sur, the Philippines

February 25 – 28, 2017

It started out as an out-of-town sleepover, not the epic road trip it ended up to be. Friends and I drove to Tarlac at Perfy’s behest. She had just arrived from the US on her dad’s birthday. The bienvenida-cum-birthday party was to be held at the newly-built Limpin’s Farmhouse, her mom’s pet project. It was the resort’s soft opening as well. The triple celebration was a family affair.

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Limpin’s Farmhouse @ Victoria, Tarlac

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Bluetiful and Greencredible

Coron, Busuanga Island, Palawan, the Philippines

May 2, 2017

As above, so below. From the plane window, Busuanga Island gleamed like the bejeweled paradise that it truly was. The bluest sapphire wrapped its entirety; the greenest emerald adorned each cove and every inlet. Such was nature: spectacular at any perspective – bird’s eye view or sea level.

Bird’s Eye View of Busuanga Island, Palawan

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Reunion Tour

Antipolo City, the Philippines

July 10, 2017

Squad goal achieved! Way back when the world was not yet a wide web, I lost touch with grade school friends Ramir and Antonieto, one of my first beshies (best friend in non-millennial speak). It took the invention of Facebook to reconnect us. And a road trip through Antipolo, where Tony (three decades had cut his name) relocated in the intervening years, to regroup our squad, long-disbanded before the Spice Girls’ swan song!

With Tony and Ramir @ Hinulugang Taktak

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While They Were Sleeping

Tabaco, Albay, the Philippines and Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

November 22, 2015 and February 1, 2017

No kissing of the ground here as I wouldn’t want to wake these sleeping beauties. It didn’t mean I was less smitten at first sight by iconic Mt. Mayon (2,463 m or 8,081 ft) in the Philippines and Mt. Fuji (3,776.24 m or 12,389.2 ft) in Japan, both seductively conical and dangerously active stratovolcanoes. At times spewing fire and brimstone but mostly notoriously shy, these badass beauties were known to hide their graceful form behind a veil of clouds.

Mayon Volcano

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Hamming It Up @ Hamilo

Nasugbu, Batangas, the Philippines

January 5 – 7, 2017

When we could not take a vacation at an exclusive resort, we borrowed it. Without a condo unit at swanky Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club to our name, Ki asked an old friend for an overnight stay in her furnished studio. It trumped paying at the resort hotel or Airbnb rental. No sooner had she given the green light than we drove a few hours south of Manila to posh Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu.

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Sunset @ Pico de Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast

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Digging Digos

Digos City and Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, the Philippines

March 27 – 29, 2014

A city without an airport – that meant it was far from touristy. That was exactly how we found Digos, capital of Davao del Sur. Mom, sister, friend, and I flew in via GenSan in South Cotabato. Davao City was half that distance, but my brother who planned this trip thought otherwise. In the age of Google, we relied on assumptions. Well played.

TTT @ Leling Beach, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur

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Paradise In My Eyes

Sipalay and Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

November 2 – 4, 2016

We started on the wrong foot. We were just a party of three, but one woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Actually, he did not even sleep a wink. At our 7AM call time, he was just about ready to turn in. Never mind that we had a bus to catch for a 6-hour ride to a remote beach, and that we could miss the last boat ride to our resort. Alas, the majority had to acquiesce to the lone game changer.

The Splendor of Sipalay

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Gross to Gorgeous

Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal, the Philippines

November 20, 2016

From ewww to ahhhh. And vice versa. A road trip on a whim one Sunday afternoon ran the gamut of vowel-sound exclamations. After church, what was left of the weekend was enough time for an adventure. Or at least a joy ride. Ki drove aimlessly, eastward, until we stopped by the main church of Montalban (now called Rodriguez).

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The Selfie Lord @ Wawa Dam

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