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).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Camels Crossing - Trip to the Belly of Negros Island

I used to be able to do this breakway look back a lot. Now, my cardio sucks.

I’ve never seen a sign that says “Camels Crossing,” not until that time we pedaled the road between Murcia and La Carlota. I didn’t have the time to take a photo because Ride All the Way, who was on the lead, was pedaling on a solid pace. It wasn’t blistering, but she was relentless.

It was the third day of our bike trip in Negros. But let's go back to day one first.

Bound for Negros Island

We left Cebu on the midday of the 24th of February. We went to Toledo through the Manipis Highway. From Toledo City, we boarded a “fastcraft” bound to San Carlos City. We paid 180 pesos for our fare, plus 50 pesos for each of our bicycles.

We were initially charged with 75 pesos for each bike but I didn’t think it was fair because after we took the tires off our bike, it didn’t really take up much room.

The boat ride was not pleasant at all. I don’t mind a bumpy ride on an outrigger (bangka) because it’s in open air. But being cramped in a dimly-lit space that smelled of sweat, crude oil, and burning rubber is recipe for a vomit spree -- which I somehow managed to contain.

Bacolod via Ecotourism Highway

We arrived in San Carlos City after an hour and a half that seemed like forever. We stayed in San Carlos Guest House, a place with lots of wooden sculpture and vinyl. They also have a two-foot jar filled with 25 cents.

In San Carlos Guest House. These are made from recycled 1.5L soda bottles.

We left for Bacolod via Ecotourism Highway. It was a trip that was supposed to only take four hours but we did it in eight. There were so many reasons to stop.

One of the many stops that delayed our trip. It was a welcomed delay.

My favorite stop was Mowgli’s Cafe -- 53km from Bacolod. It was the first time that I paid 20 pesos for brewed coffee. But the most memorable part of that ride happened somewhere outside the town of Prosperidad.

Mowgli Cafe, 53kms from Bacolod. They serve brewed coffee for 20 pesos.

Ride All the Way had to have her brake fluid refilled and we didn’t have the right size of screwdriver with us and the wrench to bleed the caliper. We were happy to a machine shop somewhere along the road and were able to borrow what we needed.

One of the many bridges we crossed. I was so caught up in the beauty that I didn't bother to list down the places we passed by.

The hydro hose accumulated so much air that bleeding the caliper twice was not enough. That’s when our mechanic hero stepped in and did the job for us. He undid the bolt entirely, and used his thumb to control the bleed at “thumb point” accuracy. And we were immediately back on our merry way.

Before we reached Bacolod City, we stopped by a tattoo shop that serves batchoy. The server’s forearm was inked with Bob Marley’s portait and Tupac Shakur on the other.

Powerup Gym - Bacolod

We didn’t have much to do when we arrived in Bacolod so we dropped by Powerup Gym. We found it by accident while looking for a place to stay at.

Powering up at Powerup Gym.

It was really good to hang out with the Bacolod crowd. They had everything figured out. The live in a chill city. They didn’t have much to offer in terms of natural attractions but their food, culture, and art is there.

The people at the gym are very supportive. And, best of all, they sell soda. I love soda.

Bacolod - Day Two

Going up a dirt track that leads to Murcia, Bacolod.

We stayed in Bacolod for an extra day to meet up with Ride All The Way’s friend. As with all other people from Bacolod, she was really cool. And I learned so much from her husband -- I asked him questions that range from fitness, competition mountain biking, and politics.

“Kung nastre-stress ako, nagba-bike ako. Ngayong hindi na ako stress, hindi na rin ako nagba-bike,” (I bike when I get stressed out. Now that I’m not stressed, I don’t bike) were his words of wisdom. My favorite.

“Kasi itong mga taga-Bacolod, kung anong bago ‘yun ang tinatangkilik nila. D’yan sa Strip noon hindi ka makaupo sa dami nang tao. Ngayon, kahit saan, pwede ka nang umupo.” (Probably not his exact words.) It does reflect how Filipinos choose the places where they hang out.

Warmup Cafe in Bacolod. The best things in life are not free. But you can put them together in one place and that's worth paying for.

The dinner we were treated to was one of the other highlight of our day two in Bacolod. Of course, there was Warm Up - a bicycle service shop that doubles as a coffee shop. Somehow, someone was able to fit two good things that were larger than life - coffee and bikes - in one space.

Mt Talinis, Negros

Because I forgot the things that we did, I only have photos to share.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lick It Like Linikit: Mt Lanaya, Alegria, Cebu

After several years of being a smart guy, I've finally grown tired of it. Now, I just want to narrate things straight. It takes fewer words, fewer keystrokes, and less energy.

Last weekend, I went to Mt. Lanaya in Alegria with my workmates. I've never been big on camping or sleeping in a tent. What most people don't realize is that the name of my blog is a some sort of self-mockery.

An outdoorsman is someone you can count on. But someone who calls himself the "outdoor guy," is like the clueless technician who goes into your house in a plain white van and is almost completely oblivious to what he is supposed to do.

If you've worked in tech support, you'll know what I mean. (This bit requires a full explanation, but I'm cutting back on keystrokes today.)

So on we went, on a day when a storm was supposed to hit Cebu. On a day that started with our hopes weighed down by the clouds that made a supposedly bright Saturday morning a sleepy one.

But our bags were already packed. The tuna spread was ready. And our hearts were already ahead of us -- we had to push on through.

Doubts soon turned to cheers. As our bus danced with the winding road between Barili and Dumanjug, as we swayed left and right in our seats, the sun lit up the sea and the greenery just outside our window. The sun was up, so were our spirit and the volume of our voices.

We arrived in Alegria around lunch time. Dark clouds hid the peak of Mt. Lanaya, known to locals as Calo-calo. But we had enough of the bipolar weather. Our hopes were already up and we kept it that way.

A few weeks before our trip, we arranged for a guide with Sir Ryan, Alegria's tourism coordinator. He sent us Sir Noel -- and we couldn't have been luckier. Sir Noel is so unassuming, down-to-earth, and full of good cheer. He makes you feel home in a place that isn't your home.

He gave us time to buy some meal at the town market before he took us to the office of Barangay Legaspi. It was there that we settled our fees (see post below) and met our second guide, Niño.

Niño is a first year IT student at Cebu Technological University - Malabuyoc. He is a very nice and helpful guy, and we were happy to have him as our second guide.

Once we had the paperwork done, we headed straight up to the trail. We walked for twenty minutes to Sir Noel's house, where he let us eat our lunch at their balcony.

After we ate our lunch, he climbed up one of their coconut trees to give the seven of us some of the sweetest coconut water we drank in a while. He treated us the way a good host would and even showed us a map of the area around Mt. Lanaya.

I was not feeling at my best that time because I only had two hours of sleep. So I asked him if he had tobacco. He offered me his cigarettes but I asked for a "linikit."

A linikit, which roughly translates to "rolled up," is a roll of tobacco wrapped in a lumboy leaf (Syzygium cumini). I needed it to wake me up. Luckily, he had some and he gladly obliged to roll a few. It was a good one and we'll fundly remember the trail we took as "Linikit Trail."

I can write in length about how well he treated us... but lets move on to the next bit.

The trail right after his house is one of the best I've been to. We resumed walking at 2pm and the sun draped the brown grass in shades of gold. The weather lit up again and we couldn't help but be trigger-happy with our cameras. It was a view worth looking at over and over again.

I barely did any upper-body workout prior to this trip. I injured my pinky because of overtraining so I had to take a break from climbing for three weeks. I mainly did Asanas and I was surprise by how fit my practice kept me.

I carried 11 liters of water (utility and drinking) and a four-person tent, plus my own stuff. On the way up, I just kept in mind what my favorite YouTube yogi said in one of her videos: "Let your breath guide you." I made it to the top with very little struggle.

There are a few camp sites in Mt. Lanaya. The first one is on the Windows XP pasture, the second one is several minutes from the peak, and the third one is a short walk from the top. We stayed at Camp Three. We pegged our tents before summitting as the clouds started to hang low on us.

It did rain that night. Our guides got soaked in the rain as they went home. I feel sorry that I wasn't able to bid them good bye as I fell asleep early. I was glad that we were able to see Sir Noel in town the next day. We were able to thank him properly for his and Nino's awesome help.

The following day, a few of us woke up before sunrise to enjoy the view. It was so refreshing it felt like it was the first morning on Earth.

After we cleaned up camp, we walked down to the chapel in Lumpan to head to Cambais Falls. I'll get to that in another post. Meanwhile, here are a few things you might want to know:

Travel time from South Bus Terminal to Alegria: Four hours

Bus fare: 140 pesos / person

Bike ride from market to Legaspi Brgy Hall: 15 pesos / person

Guide fee: 500/guide

Environmental fee: 50 pesos / person

The town of Alegria requires one guide for every five trekkers. There were seven of us so we had to take to. It's non-negotiable.

photos by Roy Ferre
Bal Marsius