Blotted Horizons

Sunsets. The illusion either above the horizon or below it. When day and night are linked in a way that cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. - Ebelsain Villegas

The thing about travel is that once you start, it doesn't seem to end. It takes you on a whirlwind ride across the earth, the ocean, and the sky and when you finally think that you've reached the last island - the final frontier - you see another island just a bit farther away almost like how the horizon never ends.

The opportunity to finally travel outside Luzon presented itself as a text in the wee hours of a random day back in February when one of our friends booked us promo plane tickets to Cebu. It's another one of those barkada outings but a bit more special because it was a chance for him to take us to his home province - Bohol. Fast forward to a few months later, on a rainy Thursday evening, we finally set off for the trip.

Doing things for the first time can sometimes be nerve-wracking but with the company of friends these moments usually turn into enjoyable and, oftentimes, funny moments. Aside from my first trip to the airport turning into a zombie fest because we arrived too early for our 4 AM flight we did have a few good laughs from our friends' reactions inside the plane cabin during take off and on the final descent. Sadly, I wasn't able to snap a photo of the high altitude sunrise because my seat was in the middle aisle. I could only catch glimpses of the view from the window and just as I was about to move to one of the empty seats by the window the "fasten seat belt" sign lit up.

NAIA Terminal 3

We arrived at Mactan airport on a rainy morning. Upon landing we rented a van to Pier Uno since the plan was to catch the first Supercat ferry trip to Tagbilaran, Bohol but it was about to depart when we arrived. We just bought tickets for the next one and used the waiting time to fill our tummies and to get some much needed sleep.

Just like the plane ride it was also my first time riding a big ferry so everything was new to me. I still wasn't used to the security protocols (almost the same as that of the airport). It was also good that I have switched to a more minimalist style of travelling which meant I didn't have to carry so many bags. I still have a long way to go (my backpack weighed six kilograms flat) and will try to optimize my travel gear until I can decrease it to about four kilos of stuff that's good enough for a whole week or even more.

Pier Uno

The whole cruise from Cebu to Bohol took about an hour. It was nice to just sit back and relax while everything else passed by. I quite enjoyed looking at the view through the window where I saw a nearly sunken ship near a boardwalk, a white object that looked like a shrine, and an airplane taking off from Tagbilaran Airport.

Based on our itinerary we will be renting a van (to be driven by one of our companions) for the whole duration of our stay in Bohol but there was a minor setback concerning the van that was provided so we had to exchange it for a better one. After everything was sorted out we finally set out to discover what the island had to offer.

Tagbilaran Port

On a fateful day back in 2013 Bohol was rocked to the core by a massive earthquake which caused devastation throughout the whole island. Four years later, the damages caused by the calamity are still pretty evident especially in the bridges and churches some of which are still under construction.

One the eve of our departure for Cebu, Leyte was rocked by a strong earthquake. Bohol and Cebu also felt tremors. All throughout the trip Leyte had numerous aftershocks that also reached the nearby islands. The main effect of the quake was a major power outage in Bohol. However, this seems to be a regular occurrence as all of the accommodations that we went to had their own generators.

Church damaged by the earthquake

Reconstruction of the damaged church

Moving on, our first stop was the Loboc River Cruise Floating Restaurant. We were already quite famished at this point of the journey so an eat-all-you-can buffet was a blessing even for someone like me who isn't a big fan of buffets. The cruise stops at certain platforms wherein performers showcase the local music and dance.

Floating restaurant

Jungle by the river

Before going to the cruise I saw a lot of signs advertising some sort of firefly watching activity being offered as part of the tourism campaign. I tried researching about it when I got back home and found out that it does take a bit of effort to see them. As part of the conservation efforts, visitors are also not allowed to go near the dwelling places of the fireflies. It reminded me of a fond memory back when I attended my cousin's wedding in Maria Aurora, Aurora province. We were hanging out outside one evening when fireflies just appeared out of nowhere. It was a sight to behold and we could freely interact with the insects, that is, until my aunt told us that when there is a swarm of fireflies then there is bound to be a ghost nearby.

We had a quick stop at the man-made forest en route to the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area. I didn't realize that having your picture taken on that road was such a life-threatening activity. It is one of the main roads that leads up to the Chocolate Hills so there was almost always a vehicle passing by.

A shot of the man-made forest

Waiting for the cars to pass by

I did a bit of research about the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area while drafting this blog post and it turns out that there were a lot of old blog posts warning readers not to visit the place because it is not a government-recognized conservation area and because they kept the tarsiers in cages. A little more digging up revealed that the place has been banned from caging the creatures some years ago. Whether they keep the creatures at night and only display them in the morning is a question that remains to be confirmed but it is up to the local government and the agencies involved to take the necessary measures. The place and its staff does need to be more strict in implementing the 'silence' policy especially on the areas where the tarsiers are so carefully placed.

Hiding tarsier

Sleepy tarsier

The Chocolate Hills view deck was our last scheduled stop for the day. Reaching the actual view deck required one to go up a flight of stairs which has quite a number of steps. It was funny overhearing some of the comments/complaints from the other tourists. Thankfully, the sun was already way past its zenith and was slowly making its way to the horizon so we didn't have to suffer too much from the heat.

Fun fact: I had always thought the Chocolate Hills were just teeny-tiny mounds of earth. I always saw them in low-quality pictures inside text books and in cheap posters thinking that the greenery around them were just tall grasses and shrubs. Imagine my surprise when I first saw a high quality photo of the hills.

Chocolate Hills

We had to leave soon because we had to reach our accommodation for the night before night fall. The road was a winding path across hills and mountains. We almost had to go back because of a muddy section on the road but thankfully it wasn't a long stretch of road so we just pushed on with caution. It did take us quite a long time to pass through the mountain region. Most of us also needed a rest room break so we stopped by Jagna, Bohol where I enjoyed watching soccer players doing training on the grass field near the Municipal Hall while my peers enjoyed eating street food.

It was already late when we reached the resort but we did make it in time before the resort kitchen closed so we ordered food upon checking in and then cleaned up ourselves before having a marvelous dinner. I was already quite exhausted so I went straight to bed afterwards while the others stayed for a bottle of beer or two.

The others were already enjoying the private beach and the infinity pool when I woke up from slumber. Famished, we ordered breakfast and enjoyed the scenery as we waited for the food.

View from the resort

View from the resort's private beach

It's one of the best resorts that I've gone to so far. All the facilities are well-kept and the food was exceptionally delicious. Sadly, we could only stay for one night because we had to move on to the next destination - Talibon - our friend's hometown.

We stopped over at Anda, Bohol's public beach before going to Talibon. The beach wasn't in its best shape during our visit but we still stayed for a bit and enjoyed drinking fresh buko juice before heading out.

Anda Beach

Just like the previous day, it was already night time when we reached our next accommodation. We just dumped our stuff on the rooms and then we were off to our friend's parents' house where we were treated to a sumptuous seafood dinner.

We discussed a lot of things after eating and one thing that really stuck to me was how the Catholic influence on the people of Bohol, or even Cebu for that matter, is so strong that most of them didn't believe in superstitions. Although Catholicism is prevalent in my home province - La Union - superstitions are still widely observed especially on major events like birthdays, weddings, and funerals so hearing of a place where people didn't believe them was quite a surprise.

The group decided to move to a new accommodation the next day due to the current one's sub par facilities. After having breakfast by the bay we were off packing baggages and buying food and other necessary items. The new resort is in an island far from the mainland so we had to have enough food to last until the boat comes back to pick us up the next morning.

View from the restaurant

The island was quite far so it took us quite a while to get there. I saw a lot of amusing sights on the way and was enthralled by this phenomenon wherein some of the distant islands looked like they had a mirror reflection. They also seemed to be floating above the water. I googled it a couple of days after getting back home and found out that it was a form of mirage called Fata Morgana which is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, a character from the Arthurian legends.

On the way to the island resort

The view from behind

Upon reaching the resort we immediately set up the table and had lunch so we could go see the sandbar nearby before sun down. We reached the sandbar in time for the sunset and had a blast taking group photos and admiring the 360 degree view.

On the way to the sandbar

An unforgettable sunset

The moon was already making its way across the night sky when we returned to the resort. It was already quite late when we finished eating dinner. The others still wanted to have a bit of alcohol so I just excused myself and headed to our room for some sleep. On the wee hours after midnight we packed our bags and headed back to the mainland. We had a lot of distance to cover so we hurriedly left Talibon bound for Tagbilaran. We didn't get enough sleep so most of us were listless on the ferry ride back to Cebu.

The group decided to hire a van and do a bit of sight-seeing before going to the airport. Due to time constraints we were only able to squeeze in a quick visit to Fort San Pedro, Magellan's Cross, and Museo Sugbo. We then proceeded to SM City Cebu for lunch and then took a shuttle bus to Mactan Airport.

I have read a lot of travel blog posts saying that Visayans, in general, ignore Tagalog speakers. Many reasons are given but the most common one is that they are very proud of their own language and, as a non-native Tagalog speaker, I don't think I can argue with that. I tried to listen to them carefully on several occasions and observed something - they sounded like they were singing. Maybe that's one of the reasons why Visayans are known as good singers. If anything else it made me realize just how inarticulate I am at my own native language, Ilocano, and how I have taken it for granted. I did manage to confirm something else. Saying you are from Manila might get you ignored but saying you are from Baguio does the exact opposite.

Fort San Pedro

Gallery inside the fort

The site of Magellan's cross

Museo Sugbo, Cebu

The courtyard at Museo Sugbo

Every time my friends ask me why I don't live and work in Manila I always say that I'd rather live and work in Cebu. When I finally visited the place, I knew I was right. Our little tour was quite short so I do plan on coming back in the future to experience the province in a more intimate level.

I had almost forgotten the feeling of being catapulted away from my comfort zone and I had also almost forgotten the feeling of travelling at my own pace and just doing the things that really interest me. I usually try to blend in like a local. Nevertheless, the trip proved to be an endearing one as I got a little taste of what the South has to offer. Despite the lack of sleep and rest, the constant travelling on the road, the lingering blackout throughout the whole island, and the many delays, all I can say in the end is, "It was worth it."


In Between the Sunrise and the Sunset

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. - Jack Kerouac, On the Road

A brand new year, a brand new page and what better way to fill it than go travelling with friends?It has been a custom between my circle of friends to go travelling every time another year ends. The original plan was to go to Iba, Zambales but we decided to go to Dasol, Pangasinan instead.

Morning view of the sea

I was excited for the trip because it has been a long time since I last went to the beach. We had everything settled in the accommodation and transportation department so all we had to do was prepare the meals, eat, lounge, and sleep. We wanted our cooking ingredients fresh so we made a quick visit to Alaminos Public Market before heading to Dasol.

It was surprising to see just how much rural Dasol is. We went to the town center to look for a place to eat but left unrewarded. Most of the establishments were just the bare necessities like the barbershop and the supermarket. We had no choice but to push on for Villa Balinmanok, our chosen accommodation, to cook our own meal.

A cozy place under the coconut trees

The first half of the first day was spent settling down and requesting for necessary equipment from the resort while the second half was spent going around the resort premises to see what it has to offer. The resort is divided into four different areas owned by siblings and each one offers a different view.

Tropical feels

Sunset

I am a firm advocate of lazy travel and try to shy away from itineraries as much as I can. Having said that, I do research beforehand for places that I could visit along with the directions but I try not to be too specific with the time and date of visit. There are cases, however, wherein itineraries are needed especially when it comes to group travel. The funny thing though is that it almost always never gets followed and that is exactly what happened to us.

Our meals during our stay - along with the schedule on who gets to cook, when each meal is supposed to be cooked, and who gets to wash the dishes - were carefully planned out before the trip. Aside from the actual meals and cleaning duties, most of the plans were never followed which is a good thing because it's usually the unexpected stuff that makes a trip more fun and memorable.

I woke up early the next morning so I could watch the sun rise and it did not disappoint. Sitting by the shore while the whole scene in front of me slowly turned from gray scale to full color is an experience that I would love to relive everyday.

Sunrise by the bay

Spontaneity came a knockin' and by lunch time we were already on our way to Cabongaoan, Burgos. My friend has been there a couple of times and suggested we try the beach. We passed by the house of the fisherman that he met some time ago and ordered some lobsters for delivery.

Kids enjoying the water

We ended up staying late which isn't recommended because the road back to Dasol was a journey in the middle of nowhere and there is a risk of running into cows, goats, and other farm animals in the middle of the dirt road due to the lack of streetlights.

The original plan was to stay in Dasol for the whole duration of our vacation but the lure of Cabongaoan's beach (along with other reasons) was too great so we decided to cut it short and spend the next two days in Cabongaoan. We then spent the third day lazing around the new beach and taking a dip in the cold water.

As the sun started to make its way to the horizon we decided to take a walk at the beach to pick up garbage. We managed to get a lot and were satisfied to have done something to help Mother Nature but ended up doing more damage instead because they burned all of it the following morning.

A fiery sunset

We spent the last morning gawking at the sea creatures on the reefs exposed by the receding tide.

I know people who love climbing mountains and reaching summits and I guess I feel the same way with the sea and it's sunrises and sunsets. There's just something about the sea that never fails to heal tired hearts and clouded minds - be it the sound of the lashing waves, the feeling of the soft sand, or the smell of the salty breeze - but, alas, as quickly as it started, our four days of vacation went by in a flash and it was high time again to dance beneath the city lights.

Planning to travel to Baguio, La Union, Vigan, or Laoag?

Learn Ilocano

The name‘s Kendrick and I developed a severe case of wanderlust last January 2014 and never recovered since. It was a bit daunting (and still is) for an introvert like me but traveling has opened up doors and helped me overcome fears and weaknesses (especially on the socializing department).

As a traveler, I try to go off the beaten path as much as I can. I continually seek for places of solace and of silence where I get to see the world in it’s brilliance. Be it from the secluded corners of museums to towering mountain peaks or disappearing islands.

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