Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Tale from a Half-Blooded Batanguena Coffee Addict

Ala eh!

This is the telling catchphrase everyone has associated with any Batangueno. I am a half-blooded Batanguena since my mother is hailed from such a rambunctious, full-blooded people of this province south of Luzon, where a simple “ungkutan”(get together) may result to such a boisterous shouting match, and the fun part is, no one is actually arguing.

Passionate may be the word that I can describe these Batanguenos. They are proud, gallant, arrogant and can come off strong.

I was born in Manila, but every summer vacation since I was a baby, Batangas has always been the place where I spend my vacation. Batangas is very near from Manila, and can easily be a destination for a quick vacation. Batangas also has glorious beaches found in the Nasugbu part or in San Juan. When you want to go diving, you can shack it up in Anilao. But when I was a child, I’ve gone beaching in Calaca where the waters are clean and crisp, and the sand is pure gray.  

When I was not beaching, I usually found myself in the rural sitio in Balete, Batangas City where my mother grew up. I remember how the sitio used to look like back when I was ten. Walking up the dirt road, my relatives’ houses will welcome you in the sitio starting with my Kakang Ayo’s house in the “kahanggan” (end part ). And a few walks further, in the middle, in the more forested part was where my Lolo's (the father of my mother) bungalow, can be found.

Along with the Indian mangoes, camias trees and kakawates, rows and rows of coffee trees lined up my Lolo’s backyard. I often tinkered with the ripe ones and helped my titas with roasting.  But what I loved best is when the coffee trees blossom. The sweet smell wafted in the air. And as a kid I pretended that these flowers were sampaguitas. I strung them into a lei and I pretended like I was a princess. 

I drank Batangueno coffee for the first time when I was about ten years old because of my Lolo who introduced me to it.  And yes, it was my lolo’s fault that I don’t think I can ever live without coffee, now that I’m a full-pledged adult. I especially liked kapeng barako.  My lolo had a habit of pouring the black gritty goodness on fluffy white rice. And that was my comfort food back then. Ahh. Simple joys.

this is what our coffee farm looked like years ago. I used to watch my Lolas dry the beans in the sun then afterwards they roast them. (this is a still from a local teleserye I wrote for-  coincidentally, the main protagonist worked as a coffee picker when she was a child)

Being the first granddaughter and the first apo technically, you can expect how my grandfather treated me – with fierce protection, with pride and sometimes with such a controlling fist. But with my Lolo, I’ve always felt invincible. I grew up a brat, with a sense of entitlement because I knew  that no matter what I did, I have an automatic ally in him, no questions asked.

It has been a long time now that my Lolo is not with us. And yes,  changes have been made in the rural barrio where I used to spend summers. I’ve seen the transformation in front of my eyes year after year -  some trees made way for more houses as my Titas and Titos get married and build homes for their families. Old houses were renovated. Farms were turned into manicured gardens, The coffee trees diminished in number, and some were replaced with Digitel telephone wires.
my brother and a younger cousin 

Whenever I visit other seaside areas of Batangas for a trip with friends I always find the Batangueno accent comforting.  Even with the shouting tone. (They don’t mean to sound so loud, they are, as I said, passionate).And whenever I go back to my barrio I always request for freshly ground Batangas coffee and smile.  

With its strong, offensive yet full-bodied and strangely comforting effect on me, I am always reminded of my Lolo.

some photos sourced from here and here

This is my entry for the 7th Blog Carnival of Pinoy Travel Bloggers with a theme of "Hometown" This month's blog carnival is hosted by fellow PTB Member Mhe-anne L. Ojeda . For more of the previous entries click here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Extraordinary Experience of a Typical Day for Dolphin Watching

The next day, some of my friends already left for Manila and I and a friend had one full day ahead of us in Dumaluan beach before the afternoon flight back.

So what’s left to do apart from swimming and beach bumming? Dolphin watching of course! Haha. Yeah, that’s a typical activity in Bohol – and one that you shouldn’t miss! Dolphin watching is included in the half day island-hopping package including a tour in Balicasag Island and Virgin Island (more on these later).

My friend and I woke up at 4:30 am hurriedly ate breakfast and rode the boat and by 5:30 am we’re off to sea. See I have always been fascinated with island-hopping, or err...sailing ever since I rode my first outrigger boat in Marinduque. Going to a beach destination would probably incomplete for me now without riding a boat. It’s kind of boring for some, but I love riding boats, feeling the sea breeze on my face and docking into an island or islet.  

So minutes later and we’re still in the middle of the open sea. I thought we were going to an island but I was surprised our boatman Kuya Toto lingered there. I noticed a lot of boats around and realized...ohhh everyone is here to watch the dolphins in their natural habitat!
Apart from dolphin watching itself, I am in awe seeing these many boats amidst the sunrise. What a glorious experience!

But the 10 million dollar question is: Was I able to see any dolphin? Sure I did, but it was too far from me. At first. Probably because they are scared of the many boats with humans who just want to have a glimpse of them.

And then...whoooop!!! there they go again!

I am one happy girl! 

 But...I am actually undecided about this. Some people say that some dolphins do get injured by these boats.  But being here, was indeed a blessing that I would love all of you to experience.

And now we’re off to the islands!!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Perfectly Pristine Panglao Paradise aka My Annoying Attempt to Alliterate

After the whole day Bohol Countryside tour, our tour guide brought us to Panglao Island where all Bohol’s pristine beaches are. 

Our accommodation is in Whites and Greens Resort in Dumaluan Beach. But before that we stopped by Bohol Bee Farm and where I bought spreads and organic bric a brac like crazy that I almost ran out of cash which is a hassle. (Tip: finding ATM in Panglao is difficult as there is only one ATM in the area and that is near Alona Beach, in mainland Bohol ATMS are available in BQ Mall and Island City Mall )

See I only found out about this now, but Bohol has two shorelines  - the more popular Alona and the more private Dumaluan. I must admit, prior to the trip I only knew about Alona Beach and Amorita but I am actually thanking my friends for choosing Dumaluan =)
We retreated early coming from a tiring countryside tour (see previous post).
But come morning ,I was amazed with a beautiful view of wide beach with white sand from Whites and Greens beach front. Gorgeous!

Though Whites and Greens is very chill and has beautiful shoreline, we took a daytrip to Bohol Beach Club which is a very short walk from our resort. BBC indeed has the best, cleanest beachfront in Dumaluan Beach. Day trip is 300 a day, consumable for weekdays. But for weekends, it’s priced at 500.

Of course, how could I ever leave Bohol without trying the buffet at Bohol Bee Farm?! (This deserves a solo entry!)
Lunching there is the experience but going there proved to be as excitng! See in Bohol, especially in Panglao, public transportation is rare if not nonexistent. So you actually have to ask your resort to book you a private car to take you to one place to the next. But since I only wanted to have lunch with a friend, we rode the habal habal which is waaaay cheaper! And yes I am recounting this experience because it was my first time to ride a true blue habal habal or motorbike. And I enjoyed it!!! =)

 Floral Salad is included in the best buffet ever, priced at only 510 pesos!

And the Bohol experience is far from over as the next day I explored Panglao's islands! Bohol is indeed beyond fabulous!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bohol! (part 1)

Yes nothing can sum up this trip but the name of the beautiful province with an exclamation point. I just want to share with you guys how awesome the trip was and how little I spent. Ahhh. Bohol can easily be the go-to province for a surefire relaxing vacation in the Philippines that won’t break the bank!

I travel alone depending on my mood, but travelling with two of my closest friends and meeting new friends made me feel beyond blessed!

Coming from Cebu port, (we traveled to Bantayan Island prior to traveling to Bohol. Bantayan Island posts coming up next), we took the Supercat to Tagbilaran. 

It was a calm hour and a half ferry ride for a little more than 500 pesos.  The interiors of Supercat is impressive. Very organized, clean and safe.

Once we got to Tagbilaran, we  met Kuya Jerry, our driver slash tour guide. Cool!  I have been to trips where I decide the itinerary, where I consult maps just to get to one place to the next, where I had to take a car ferry without manifesto just to reach the place, where I ride the jeep with locals. But sitting with friends in the van to explore Bohol is fun, dynamic and explosive!

Here are some highlights of the trip:

Blood Compact Site 

Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church Museum


Chocolate Hills and Loboc River Cruise and Floating Restaurant

Bilar Man-Made Forest

Hanging Bridge

Maybe I should change my title with Blessed Bohol? Because the province is really blessed. There are things to see in every corner. Everything was orderly, none of the stress of trying to get to one place to the next. 
Yes the province knew and breathed tourism like clockwork.  And who’s complaining? I sure am not.  Sometimes travel is all about chilling, seeing, discovering and just being with your favourite people. 

I am so enticed by Bohol that I am planning to treat my parents’ travel  here like when we traveled to Ilocandia last year. I’ll be back Bohol and I will bring the whole clan with me, I promise!  And I am just recounting my Day 1! Watch out for my Panglao Island post soon! 
Of course I hinted about how little I spent but did not include any computations. So anyway here's the computation for my first day in Bohol (Second day and Souvenirs and Plane ticket back to Manila not included =)

Bohol Countryside Tour: First Day Budget

Ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran: (Supercat)                                  550
Tour Guide slash Driver                        2500 divided by 7  =      360
Loboc Buffet and River Ride                                              =     300
Bohol Bee Farm Ice Cream                                                        50
Whites and Greens Dumaluan Beach     2000/night             =      285     
divided by 7  

 Total First Day Expenses                                                  =     1545