A Christmas Story

When the wish fits the pure heart of the child…

Why am I not surprised when, at five years past 40, my mental age is just 16! Well, according to yourmentalage.com, anyway… Not that I fully subscribe to its “findings”,  but I somewhat agree.

Call it the perpetual child in me.

You see, one of the most evident traits that I have continuously nourished is my “childlike” attitude toward life. It goes down from my childhood, I guess. I am sort of the eldest in a brood of five back then. Christmas was not much an occasion for us because we really did not have more than enough, and my mother did not want to make it as a marked event in our young hearts, for she knew we can never have the things most children have. My father was working and studying at the same time and we were just getting by with whatever was left of his earnings. One thing though that my mother never failed to do was to tell us that Christmas was really a celebration of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the food on our table, for the shelter over our heads and the clothing on our backs, for a loving family and, most especially, for our Mother and Father.

1469810_675095172513038_635903336_nI have never really questioned why we never had what other kids had. What got stuck on my mind was that we were thankful. But as I was growing older and became more accustomed to being with friends, which at an early age seemed to be very natural for me, a name became an obsession: SANTA CLAUS!!!

My schoolmates talked about him as if he’s real. Whenever our teacher at school showed his picture on a card or sang those Santa songs, I did not dare ask my mother whether it’s true or not, because somehow, someway, she might just convince me that he is not real. I wanted so much to believe that there is a Santa Claus; simply because, the child in me wanted to believe that if you are good and nice, Santa will give you the gift you ask for.

But Santa Claus became real only through my being him to my siblings. I could still remember vividly when Kimmy was three and I, together with Kuya Texx, Bing-Bing, Bulilit and Balot, bought her a walkie-talkie (we pooled our savings from our daily allowances) with just one unit wrapped — the other used by us interchangeably, play-acting Santa and the elves. Boy, that was really fun! I could just go over and over that moment and still laugh-cry at the thought.

I am too old now to be believing in a fat, bearded man in a red suit; yet, deep down in me, the belief that Santa DOES exist was never extinguished. Every now and then, I would play around with the thought that one day, if I do good — if I really, really behaved — I would make it in the Nice List and Santa Claus will come and whisper in my ears that my gift — the one I have always asked for — will be there on Christmas day.

However, my wishes changed every year. I waited for them to come true but to no avail. Maybe, I had Santa confused as to what I really wanted.

But for quite sometime now, one wish persisted in my adult life though.

I have always prayed for someone to grow old with. Someone whom I can pour my deepest emotions with. Someone who can make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed. Someone who will support my love for work, and more importantly, my love for adventure! A woman who has also experienced life, had tried living outside the box — who can cry at her mistakes and triumphs, someone who can stand on her own and be her own. Say her own piece… and make things happen. Someone to whom I can tell my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad.

And for me to live life to the fullest without thinking of rules or limits, I can only do so much. I wanted someone who can live life for me… someone who can create an albumful of tales and anecdotes — all painted through words and snapshots.

Hush now… let me tell you a secret that was just recently revealed to me. A Santa Claus DOES exist! In fact, he already gave me what I have always asked for SEVEN years ago… and it took me that long to realize that what I have always wanted I already have!

Truly, when the wish fits the pure heart of the child, his perfect gift will come. Mine was wrapped in shrieks of laughter and giggles, of sweet whispers and tiny arms that wrapped me in warm hugs, and sweet lips caressing my rough cheeks with feather kisses.

She may not understand yet my rants against the world, but she has been patient in steering clear from me when I’m angry at something. She has displayed moments of strength when required, saying her own piece and standing her ground.

I cannot pour out my deepest emotions to her yet but she has shown willingness and excitement in listening to my stories, my exploits and bloopers, my escapades — good and bad. She has already proven herself to make me laugh aloud and do silly things and not feel embarassed!

She is only beginning to discover life but we have already created tons of beautiful memories together… and will be creating more.

She is, indeed, all that I need in my life now and for the years to come.

Now, all I need to do every Christmas is tell her how lucky I am to have received the perfect gift — the gift of fatherhood.

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Begin your own journey of discovery

My love affair with “exploratory” travelling began when I got bored of the same old “summer travel destinations” routine. I craved to experience the Philippines that you don’t usually see in travel brochures. However, with the travel boom we are experiencing in all corners of the country — ushered in, for the most part, by social media — we are now left with fewer options of unexplored territory.

travelokaLucky for most of us, many of our country’s “hidden gems” are still waiting to be rediscovered and appreciated anew. Traveloka‘s Top 37 Hidden Tourist Spots in the Philippines Travel Pros Rave About is a good place to start if you’re seeking for less-traveled roads.

Channel your inner Ed Stafford or Jessica Watson and satisfy your hunger for adventure. Begin your own journey of discovery and exploration. Blaze newer trails, chart rediscovered destinations, learn new things and re-experience varied cultures and local traditions.

 

… on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Oscar Wilde. Taken away from humanity too soon…

Oscar Wilde died on this day in 1900 after being imprisoned for being gay. I know, sucks to be gay in those days.

To pay homage to Oscar Wilde — the literary genius, the poet, the romantic — let me share this thoughts anew…

via … on Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis

Glamping in Dinadiawan Beach

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Glamping or glamorous camping has indeed caught the travel scene by storm — from Batangas to Tagaytay and Bataan to Zambales. Glam camps are becoming more and more popular, especially to weekend travelers, as they come already with a pre-pitched tent that feature airbeds or foam/cushion mattresses (with beddings) and basic amenities to make your camping more comfortable, eliminating the hassle of packing heavy camping gear.

Although a relative newcomer in the glamping universe, Sand and Stars Beach Camp — nestled in the fine-sand beach of Dinadiawan in Dipaculao — has caught the interest of many because of its close proximity to Baler, one of the country’s prime surfing destination. It offers various-sized glamping tents that can accommodate from four (Vega, Mars, Sirius, Rigel, Beta) to eight people (Supernova). Each glam tent comes with foam mattresses with beddings, a rechargeable fan and lamp, sockets for charging your gadgets, as well as a spacious “anteroom”, complete with throw pillows and a small table.

A couple of communal T&B are also available.

Published check in time is 0100PM and check out is 1100AM; however, depending on the availability of accommodations and volume of guests, management may allow early check in or late check out.

For rates and availability of rooms/tents, visit Sand and Stars Online Booking. For other inquiries, check out their FB page.

Suggested itinerary for a 3D/2N trip

Day 0
1200MN: Depart for Baler, Aurora via JoyBus*

Day 1
0500AM: ETA Baler
0630AM: Depart for Dinadiawan via D’Liner Bus**
0900AM: ETA Sand and Stars Beach Camp
1000AM: Buy supplies at Dinadiawan Market
0100PM: Check in / Free time

Day 2
You can opt to explore “Dinadiawan” Falls and Pamwasan Cove

Day 3
1000AM: Check out / Depart for Baler***
1200NN: ETA Baler
0100PM: Depart for Manila

TRAVEL NOTES
*   JoyBus is highly recommended for its comfort and prompt arrival in Baler, the jumpoff point to Dinadiawan. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time. You can book online at iWantSeats Online Booking. Fare is P730 per pax, which includes snacks onboard. Travel time is 5hrs.

DSC_7973**   D’Liner Bus (at Baler Bus Terminal, near the public market and a short walk from Genesis/Joy Bus Terminal) has two trips in the morning (6AM and 9AM) and one trip in the afternoon bound for Casiguran, which passes by Dinadiawan. Just tell the conductor that you’re getting off at Sand and Stars Beach Camp. Fare is P85 per pax. Travel time is 1.5hrs to 2 hrs. Several vans also ply the same route at P200 per pax.

***   You may opt to check out early if you want to catch the 0900AM D’Liner Bus to Baler. If not, you can take the shuttle provided by the resort. Make sure that you inform Ate Merly, the person in charge of the resort, the night before departure. Fare is P200 per pax. The last trip for both Genesis and JoyBus is 0330PM.

Dinadiawan Beach: Baler’s Quieter Neighbor

After a short hiatus from traveling, I am finally able to return with a weekender to Dinadiawan Beach in the town of Dipaculao, Aurora.

A little over an hour from Baler, it’s more popular neighbor, Dinadiawan is quieter, more relaxing — an ideal place to just chill out and destress.

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The crescent-shaped Dinadiawan Beach boasts of fine, “white” sand and one of the best sunrise I have ever seen… and with your back on the ocean, you can embrace the lush greenery of the mighty Sierra Madre!

Things to do

20170626_081809_1Aside from sitting on your butt downing your favorite beer or coffee (like I did) or suspended on a hammock, dreaming (like I did, too) or soaking the sun and sea (like EVERYONE else did!), you can hire a boat to take you to Pamwasan Cove.

Personally, I liked the water here, as it’s a whole lot clearer, more refreshing and, unlike the waters in Dinadiawan Beach, does not have that “fishy” smell. There are several spots where you can snorkel.

The beach is a little too “stony” and the seafloor a bit “grassy”, though. And during low tides, the locals gather here to pick up mollusks and seaweeds.

On a very hot day, Pamwasan Cove can be very dry and exhausting. Bring lotsa water.

Dinadiawan+Falls,+Aurora+DSC_1619+011_1You may also ride a tricycle and take a dip in the cool waters of “Sister” Falls… or “Daughter” Falls or “Dinadiawan” Falls or “Baby” Falls — the name varies, depending on who you ask. The falls is just a 5-minute easy trek from the highway. I was told that the LGU or baranggay there usually collects a minimal entrance fee of P50, but since I was just “solo” and the trike driver who accompanied me happened to be a ka-tropa, the fee was “waived”. I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too preoccupied enjoying the cool waters.

The kids who happened to be playing nearby “berated” me for not going there during the summer months.

“Kuya, sana nung summer kayo pumunta. Nakita nyo sana yung madaming mga paru-paro na kulay puti.”

“Kuya, sa summer ka pumunta para hindi maputik.”

“Kuya, balik ka sa summer.”

Et cetera…

On lazy afternoons, you can hook up with other guests, and some “village boys”, for a friendly game of beach volleyball (or wacky dance like the guy in the blue board short is doing 😀). I’m not much of a ball player but a flower sniffer, so I just contended myself to just being a passive participant and took these.

Where to stay

To tell you the truth, if not for this:

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I wouldn’t have given this place much thought, as I’ve been to much better beaches.

More on Sand and Stars and a suggested itinerary on my next post.

Marooned: A Calayan Experience

When people talk about a trip to Calayan Island, the topic of being stranded there for days never fails to creep into every conversation. Well, aside from the occasional sightings of whales and dolphins by some few — which has become the envy of many and one of several reasons why people still want to make the trip despite the “odds”, including myself.

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When the boat that will take you home decides to make a “no show”.

Indeed, the prospect of getting marooned on the island municipality of Calayan is very high. While the main cause of “lampitaw” trip cancellations is bad weather, erratic boat schedules come in close second. To date, there are about five or six passenger boats servicing the island — the M/B Rosario and M/B Lance (from Aparri) and the M/B Lagadan 1, 2 and 3 (from Claveria) — each with a capacity of about 30-60 passengers. Smaller fishing boats doubling as cargo/passenger transport also ply the route.

Stranded in Calayan: A deconstruction

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First off, forget doing a Tom Hanks when you find yourself on an “extended stay” on this island. It is not going to be a Castaway story nor a Survivor game. In fact, one of the most inimitable place to be stranded in is this quiet town of Calayan — its rolling hills, fine-sand beaches, clean crisp air and the slow, quiet pace of everyday life seem to drown all memories of metropolitan Manila, or whichever city you are from.

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One of several neighborhood grocery  stores in the poblacion.

The town of Calayan is a vibrant municipality where commerce is very much alive. There are small restaurants (check out San Jose Inn) and eateries or carinderias in and around the poblacion or Centro.

Potable water is also not a problem. Small sari-sari stores and neighborhood groceries line the main street, selling bottled water and other beverages, as well as canned goods and other food supplies.

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Buying a “portion” of this freshly caught talakitok from a fisherman.

Sadly, there is no public market here (not yet, anyway); however, you can get fresh fish and other seafood directly from the fishermen. You just have to wake up early in the morning to catch them offloading their “loot” after a night of fishing.

While it is true that there are no ATMs in town, it shouldn’t be a cause for panic, as there are several pera padala outlets where you can have some funds sent your way.

And if and when you do find yourself without a ride home on your supposed departure date after you have seen the sights, don’t fret. Calayan still has more to offer.

You can:

play hoops with the local Mythical 5 (er, 3?);

cruise around town on a kuliglig;

 or just watch the sun set (I’ll never get tired of this one).

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So, what am I tryna say here?

Don’t be hindered by the possibility “of being stranded” — plan that Calayan trip already! Ooooops… since “plan” has been mentioned, do plan your trip within the months of April, May, June*, July*, August* and, if you’re lucky,  even September*, which is usually the monsoon break. In fact, why not go in August and join in the town festivities during the annual fiesta and be among the spectators of the Comedia, Calayan’s answer to Marinduque’s Pugutan

… you might also be among the fortunate ones to experience what we did: rappelling down Tapwaken Cove!

Thanks to Daryl Comagon for facilitating this activity and our sincerest gratitude to Mayor Al Llopis for allowing us to scale down Tapwaken Cove.

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The T’Embang Gang (from R-L): Harry, Daryl, Angel, Mayor Al, Eric, Lex and me.

 

 

——–
* According to most locals we’ve asked, the weather in Calayan is generally fine during these months, except when there’s a brewing storm somewhere in the country, which makes the waves go berserk (like the ones we’ve encountered during our trip).

Captivating Calayan

A trip to Calayan IS NOT for the weekend vacationer nor it is for the weakened traveler. Blame it on the rain, they say. Well, partly true. Foul weather is the main reason why shuttling of passengers and goods sometimes grinds to an indefinite halt; however, even on hot summer days, chances of getting stranded for days to and from the island is VERY HIGH due to the erratic schedule of passenger boats leaving the ports of Claveria or Aparri.

I have never really fully appreciated the beauty of Calayan Island until recently. In my mind, and looking at some photos in various blogs, I kinda prematurely concluded that yeah, I’ve seen better beaches and more breathtaking viewpoints. For me, it is just a destination that needs to be ticked off my bucket list.

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Caniwara, Sibang and Cababaan coves as viewed atop Nagudungan hill.

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

These few words from Louis Armstrong (and a sigh of relief, grateful to be alive) reverberated in my ears the second Calayan appeared on the horizon. Indeed, Calayan is a beauty to behold.

Finally on terra firma, feeling the soft sands of the beach made me forget for a minute the arduous journey we had to endure — the giant waves and torrential rains, interspersed with howling winds that sent chills down our spines.

Time to chew in the scenery…

How to get there

Manila to Claveria or Aparri

  1. Direct route via Florida Transport Inc in Sampaloc (near Lacson St.) or in Cubao (Kamias Rd.) — Fare: @P750.00; Travel time: about 14 hours.
  2. Laoag-bound bus from either Sampaloc or Cubao bus terminals — Sleeper bus: @P850 / 2×2 Aircon bus: @P600; Travel time: about 12 hours. Then, either van (the terminal is near PLDT Laoag, near Jollibee Bacarra Road; fare is P150 per pax) or wait for Claveria-bound buses.
  3. Via Aparri (details to follow).

Claveria/Aparri to Calayan Centro

  1. Via lampitaw or motorized banca — Fare: P500; Travel time: 4 to 5 hours on a good day or almost forever on bad weather.
  2. Depending on the weather and the volume of goods/passengers, there is only one trip (supposedly) per day.

Where to stay

I highly recommend San Jose Inn along Maddela Street, where you can have semi-buffet meals for only P100 per pax! The owner, Ms Connie Agudo <+639075447692>, is very accommodating.

If you want some beachfront lodging, away from the hustle-and-bustle of the poblacion, you may want to try out:

  1. Villa Innocencia (+639496001931)
  2. Apollo Beach Resort (+639478939619)
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