Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Road Signs of Bohol

A few weeks ago, I went on a cycling trip to Bohol. What stuck to me the most are the old road signs I saw in between Loboc and Bilar. These road signs are made of concrete with the message engraved on them. Like this one two kilometers from the center of Loboc:



It made me wonder if the change in the way we represent the curve also reflects the change in how we see the world. I like the old road sign with the sharp edges. It does not have as many curves as the new one:



But the sharpness of the edges gives me a mental jolt that says: "Look, man (or woman), these curves are really sharp." The new one seems to say: "Well, this road winds but it's pretty mellow."

My favorite sign is the one that describes the road as "the intestine of a chicken":



Why don't we use metaphors more often in our road signs? Some metaphors are unambiguous enough that everyone can grasp the meaning right away, like a low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked with a fist clenched in anticipation. Some metaphors are vivid enough that they make good advice for people who are driving in the area for the first time.

Sometimes, the need to give out stern warning is so dire that it forces creativity. Near Cebu Port Authority in, well, Cebu, there is an intersection where accidents happen as often as breakups. So somebody got creative.

They posted a tarpaulin about two meters tall and three meters wide that posted deadly accidents that happened in the area. Those images depict what happens when the momentum of a seven-ton steel rams through human muscles, bones, and ligaments. Nothing is blurred except for the faces.

I think prefer Bohol's road signs. Descriptive and nice. Why can't we have nice things?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rock Climbing Mansorela - Outtakes and Lessons Learned

Two weekends ago, the mean boys and mean girls of Cebu Rock Climbing Community revisited Mansorela for a one-night rock trip. The short trip was an experience of a lifetime.

As someone who is some kind of a teacher, I have a keen interest in learning. After all, a teacher is just a learner who enjoys helping others learn. Here are some lessons I learned from the trip.

Climbing involves a lot of walking.



Salsa lessons are useful.



From a certain height, people can look so tiny.



Between gossips and climbing, you can spend time bouldering.



Helmets keep zombies from eating your brain and tiny rocks from splitting the scalp wide open.



It's possible to feel infinite and tiny at the same time.



Some people work hard to make us look good. These people don't get to have many photos of themselves.



People who know how to cook are important people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mansorela: Loose Rocks, Reggae


It is hard to comprehend this beauty.

I am, unofficially, one of the most useless climbers to climb with. My belaying skills are sketchy. When it’s my turn to climb, I get so scared that I overgrip all the way up a route (provided that I finish it). It seems that my courage is limited to a range between two and eight feet, with a 12-inch crash pad underneath.


The sight of this rock face made us hold our breath.

When I arrived at Mansorela last weekend, it seemed that my courage got a bit of a boost. It was like getting the third vial for tooth extraction. On all the routes I attempted, I climbed with sheer courage until the third clip. By then, the courage brought by adrenaline dropped like a free-falling rock, unrestrained by air drag and freely propelled by gravity.


Mervil sets up a 5.11d route near a river. The sound of water slamming against rock is still one of the purest notes.

But the most important thing is that I made myself look brave in some of the photos because we had our friend Lilay. She has a keen understanding of the connection between landscape and human emotions. She is able to find the perfect angle to capture the interlock of our courage and fear as we find our way up on a rock that was a complete stranger to us.


Lor got hooked up with this move. Slab routes always promise an imminent scraping of the skin.

We experienced a slight drizzle of loose rocks and dust in many of the routes because those are newly established route that were only climbed a few times.


Just as there are Knights who Say Ni, there are also toll keepers that say Moo.


When the universe "exploded," it left shrapnels all over its deck.


The night prior, we turned off the lights and listened to Space Oddity. Hence, the usual belay call was replaced with "Ground Control to Major Tom."


It is hard to control something as primal as fear. But when you manage your breathing, it just dis-a-fears. Yes, our trip was chunked with lame jokes.


I told them about some guy in the city who got caught growing weed. He argued that the evidence was planted.

Photos by Jo, Lilay, Jerald, and Lor. Kudos to Mervil for his quiet leadership.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Anda Bohol - BoWhole New World

Photos by Elki Balbuena



Anda, like most places that I've visited, brings a feeling of happiness and disappointment. It is disappointing for the same reason that most popular travel destinations are disappointing: people just throw their trash everywhere. The people who trash Anda are locals and it's ironic because they're destroying the very place that sustains them.

Getting to Anda

Anda is about 100 kilometers from Tagbilaran. Because Bohol is not cursed with traffic, it only takes two hours and 130 pesos (via van) to get to Anda.

From Tagbilaran Port, you can get a tricycle to take you to the Integrated Bus Terminal, which locals refer to as Dao Terminal. Lamentably, the tricycle drivers will overcharge you so be prepare to haggle for 20 pesos per person. It is still over-priced because the terminal is only 4kms away from the port, but that's as long as the fare could get.

From the Integrated Terminal, you can take a bus or van. Don't overthink your options, either is okay. From the terminal, it's a smooth sail on Bohol's eastern coastal highway all the way to Anda. I envied how well-paved that highway is.

Dapdap Beach Resort



We stayed at Dapdap Beach Resort. The resort is run by a wonderful family but they said they plan to sell it. Hopefully, the next owners are just as nice. I'll just drop their official website here. And yes, they serve good food. If there's three or four of you, get their platter of garlic rice and you wouldn't be hungry for hours.



Marine Life in Dapdap



From Dapdap Beach Resort, you can see a variety of corals just a few minute's swim out into the water. And where there are corals, there are also fishes. I've marked out some spots where you can find corals in Dapdap, here and here. These are just approximations so you need to do some searching yourself.



There's a guy on Panoramio named Peter Kock who was able to snap some nudibranch in the area. Our eyes are not as good as his so we didn't see some nudis. Also, Panoramio will be gone soon so you'll have to check out his photos before November 04.

Cateres Cave



Cateres Cave is just five minute's walk from Dapdap Beach Resort. It's more of a cove than a cave. Its tiny lagoon is a mix of salt and fresh water. Be prepared to be greeted by trash on the way to the lagoon. I'm talking about junk food wrappers, empty liquor and soft drink bottles, and shampoo sachets. The lagoon itself is clean.





Dapdap Beach to Quinale



Quinale Beach, at the heart of Anda, has the reputation as the finest white sand in the town but it's too dirty when we went there. There was litter everywhere and the water smelled of sewage. It is rather unfortunate because the sand is indeed as fine as the sand that you could see in an hour glass.



But don't let that stop you from going to Anda. When the tide is low, you take a walk from Dapdap Beach Resort all the way to Quinale Beach and you'll find many beautiful spots. There are tiny cliffs and coves everywhere. It's a four-kilometer stretch punctuated by several beach resorts.



You can still find empty lots where you can chill under the shade of coral rock coves. I think now is the best time to go to Anda, while it is not yet as crowded as Panglao.



Lamanoc Fish Sanctuary



I don't really like most of the tourism offices in the Philippines because it seems that they're just sitting around and raking in money. It was true in Bohol, a few years back. But now, I can feel that Bohol's tourism office is on to something good.

They give away free maps and brochures that offer legit information. The brochures don't cover the small things (I guess the whole point of traveling is to find out the small things that make places remarkable) but they're good enough to start with.



One of the things that you can find in the brochures is Lamanoc Island. It is an island that used to be a burial site for the natives and has remains of Boholanons who walked this earth a long time ago. I can't say much more because we didn't really go there.

We just went out to snorkel on the waters that meander around Lamanoc Island. I'm cool with dead people it's just that I'm more interested in living fishes and corals. If you want to get the whole package for the Lamanoc Tour, you'll just have to pay 300 pesos. For snorkeling, it's 130 pesos per person.



A local guide will take you on a boat to the snorkeling site because the water near the coast is too shallow. Also, the corals near the coast have been wiped out by a number of typhoons and they're still on the way to regrowing. However, there are some interesting things to see at the snorkeling area and your local guide will tell you where to go.



Can-umantad Falls



Water rapids scare me because even if you're just two feet deep in them, they can knock you off balance and take you to your unplanned demise. And when you go to Can-umantad Falls during rainy season, you can expect to cross a stream with strong rapids. But I'm not discouraging you from going there -- just giving out a word of caution.

It is best to go to Can-umantad by motorbike because they road going there is scenic. It is one of those times when you can say that the journey is as good as the destination. Or maybe I'm overstating it -- I'm just probably overwhelmed by the lack of pollution.



On the way to the waterfalls, you'll pass by Cadapdapan Rice Terraces. I'm not particularly crazy about it but I like it anyway, mainly because I love rice and I eat a lot of rice. The fields look golden when you go there an hour or two before sundown.

Motorbike Rental



We rented a motorbike at Dapdap Beach Resort for 300 pesos. I didn't realize right away that the bike we rented didn't have a working headlight. I got quite anxious about getting back to Anda before sunset but I didn't drive faster. I know some people would push the speed on their bike when they're in a hurry but for me the risk is not worth it. It's like saying you saved $50 on an overpriced dress because it was 50% off.

There are many bike rentals in Anda if you just walk around town. If you're lazy, you can go straight to Anda's tourism office where you can rent a bike for 500 to 1,000 pesos per day. Or a more convenient option is to get the bike from your resort. It's hard to pin an exact price because bike rental is not a regulated industry.

I wasn't at all upset with the bike that we rented for 300 pesos. It's a good deal anyway, and if it had a working headlamp it would have been perfect. Nobody likes to drive in the dark (which we didn't because we made it back just before dark).
Bal Marsius