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.
Sailing used to be the cheaper alternative to flying. But in the advent of LCCs, it mostly cost less – and for less travel time – to take a plane than a ship. One December day, though, we decided to welcome the new year in Cebu. The holiday rush shot flight fares through the roof; that was a given. What was not was going by boat, which basically meant going by 2Go, the country’s largest passenger ferry fleet.
Strawberry fields were not forever, contrary to Lennon’s lyrics. And no, it was something to get hung about. Ki and I took a jeepney from Baguio to the town of La Trinidad for its famous strawberry farms. I had woken up that morning with decadent dreams of sinking my teeth into the luscious fruit and slurping the tangy juice. Alas, we found the bowl-shaped valley striated with rows of plastic sheets used for mulching. Warm and wet July, it turned out, was off season for strawberries. Fresa fail.
Lakawon Island, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, the Philippines
November 30 – December 1, 2017
Regret put a damper on our trip to Lakawon Island from the get-go. Guimaras Strait made a winnowing basket out of our small boat. As billowing waves thrashed and tossed our asses off our seats, Ki scowled at every splash drenching our backs and bags. Wetness was the least of my worries; I feared for our lives. A recent celebrity death – Franco Hernandez’s – from drowning in similar circumstances was still fresh in my mind.
Siquijor / Lazi / Maria / Enrique Villanueva / San Juan, Siquijor, the Philippines
March 27 – 29, 2018
So near yet so far. Such was Siquijor from Ki’s hometown in Negros. During his walks along Dumaguete’s famous seafront boulevard, he wondered about the faint strip of land on the horizon. Somehow, it took decades for that curiosity to make the quantum leap to urgency. And it took a leap of faith for me to board a glorified banca run by GL Shipping Lines. The short distance between Dumaguete and Siquijor stretched to the longest hour in choppy seas.