San Remigio / Santa Fe and Bantayan, Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Philippines
December 31, 2018 – January 3, 2019
We rang in 2019, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Dominoes of delays came crashing down at Hagnaya Port in San Remigio, Cebu. We missed the last ferry out to Bantayan Island on New Year’s Eve. Not one to sweat the small stuff, I settled in with similarly star-crossed passengers on the non-ergonomic wooden benches, unmindful of the simmering anger beside me. Ki expected us to wait out the next ferry at 2:30AM in a hotel. I shrugged the idea off as unnecessary and impractical; he got his beastmode on. The only fireworks we had at midnight were of the verbal kind.
The urban squalor depicted in the acclaimed Brocka film Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag in the 70s persisted like a stain that wouldn’t come off. The glory days of Manila were long forgotten. In the 80s, I could not unsee children and grown men hanging from embankments and pooping directly onto Pasig River in full view of morning rush hour traffic. Thirty years later, little else had improved. Until Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso – popularly known as Yorme Isko Moreno – came along. Barely warming his mayoralty chair, he set out to scrub off the decades-old grime of our capital city.
Young people, I found, were not only the hope for the future but also of the past. Silay, home to some thirty ancestral houses accredited by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, could stand a chance against unbridled development because her sons had enough respect for the tangible legacies their forefathers had left behind. Their inheritance, in other words. The number of preserved heritage houses in Silay likely exceeded more famous “museum cities” in the country, such as Vigan and Taal.
This was a city tour like no other. There was none of the urban area suggested by the term. Touring Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan, was more about roughing it, including but not limited to rock climbing, spelunking, beach bumming, heritage shopping, and exotic dining.
March 26 – 27 and 29 – 30, 2018 / January 4 – 5, 2019
For most non-residents, Dumaguete was its famous seafront boulevard and promenade. Running through the heart of the city, Rizal Boulevard had long been the place to be. Casa de Gobierno, the seat of the Spanish colonial government, once stood at this scenic coast. That piece of heritage burned down in the 1930s.
Balai encompasses both house and home in meaning. So does Balai Princesa. The homiest boutique B&B in Puerto Princesa offers more than a roof over our head and ambiance for our Gram. The warmth and comfort provided by its service make it a home.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That was my motto on my nth trip to Baguio. Nostalgia had been the theme of all my visits to the country’s summer capital. I always tried to relive my childhood memories of a city under pine cover. That meant staying in and around relatively well-preserved Camp John Hay. Not this time. Ki, the veritable Baguio-phile, let me experience present-day downtown Baguio, the area around Burnham Park, with more of the city and less of the pines.