In the Isle of the Giants


I had the chance to revisit this wonderful piece of heaven in Carles, Iloilo. The last time I was here was about two months after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the place, and much have already changed! Bancal port is now bustling with passenger boats ferrying people to and from Isla Gigantes. The “tangke” is cleaner and safer and the climb to the “view deck” in Cabugao Gamay is a lot more safer with the ladders and railings. Scallops and wasay-wasay are still in abundance and the crabs get yummier and yummier!

IMPORTANT: Tourists, especially those arriving via tour boats from Estancia, are now required to register at the Carles Tourism Office, where they will be given “access pass” to the Tangke hidden lagoon after payment of P70 per pax environmental fee.

How to get there:

There are several entry points to Isla de Gigantes, but I would rather you take the route that will lead you to Bancal Port in the town of Carles; Isla Gigantes being a part of Carles.

From Iloilo City airport
  • Make use of the airport shuttles/vans/FX stationed just outside the departure area to take you to SM City Iloilo. From there, take a cab to the Ceres Grand Terminal (Ceres buses now have their own terminal), if you prefer taking the bus or to Tagbak Central Terminal, if you’re taking the van. Just make sure you are on the Carles-bound trip, which will take you directly to Bancal Port. [I’m not sure about the schedule of vans in Tagbak, but Ceres buses leave as early as 3AM]. Alternatively, you can just ask the locals what passenger jeep will take you to the Ceres Grand Terminal or Tagbak Central Terminal (Leganes-bound and Jaro-CPU jeeps are some options).
  • Once in Bancal Port, make sure you register at the Tourism Office before you board any of the passenger boats that will take you to Isla Gigantes.

Where to stay:

Several accommodation options are available. We stayed at Dela Vega Cottages (see photos for their contact details) for P350/pax/night in an A/C room for 6. The resort also offers meal packages (starts at P200 per pax) that will surely satisfy your cravings for seafood.


Talakudong Festival: Wear Your Hat

The Talakudong Festival in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat is a neo-ethnic cultural extravaganza celebrating the city’s rich and diverse cultures and tradition. The spectacle is highlighted by streetdancing and a field demo competition, participated in by various elementary and high schools across the region. Dancers in colorful costumes don the traditional “kudong“–the Ilonggo term for salakot–adorned in indigenous trimmings, and comes in various hues and sizes.

Celebrated every 18th of September, this week-long festivity opens with a float parade and agro-industrial fair, showcasing Tacurong’s best agricultural and industrial products.

When eating ‘poqui’ is as wholesome as munching ‘veggie balls’…

I have no idea where the name came from! Poqui-poqui or poki-poki is grilled eggplant sautéed in onion, garlic, tomatoes and egg white. It is usually a breakfast dish famous in the Ilocos region, however, there are many incarnations of the dish, depending on the mood of one’s palate, or how much time you have to prepare it.

The version served us by the chef at Kusina Felicitas at Grandpa’s Innin Vigan was very much similar to Japan’s takoyaki, albeit, with a crunchy crust. It was served sitting on two sauces — tomato and curry. For the more adventurous, a piece of red chili was provided to “spice” up the experience. A must try!

… and by the way, we also had a sumptuous feast (yeah, ’twas a feast!) of bagnet with KBL (kamatis, bagoong and lasona, a native Ilocano shallot), sinanglaw and deep-fried crispy frogs!

Kusina Felicitas, Grandpa’s Inn
# 1 Bonifacio Street cor. Quirino Blvd.,
Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Pleasure DOES come in twos

One of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~ Luciano Pavarotti

A trip to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan will never be complete without sampling the locale’s famous duo of stir-fry noodles — Batil Patung (some spell it as “patong”) and pancit Cabagan. For a gastronome like me, a pancit food trip is definitely in my itinerary.

The panciteria is to Tuguegarao, as Starbucks is to Metro Manila. The ubiquitous panciterias dot almost every street corner of this quaint city, with Felicia’s, Gretchen’s and Natan’s being the more popular ones. Having no idea which of these front runners is THE best, I turned to the ever-reliable Mamang Traysi — the friendly tricycle drivers that ply the city’s every nook and cranny. Of the five tricycle drivers I asked, all of them agree that while the top three panciterias are well known, their popularity is hinged on their ambiance. Oh, they’re quick to qualify their answer that the three do serve delicious batil-patong and pansit cabagan, however, they ‘highly recommend’ Lamud for batil patong and Gumiran’s for pancit cabagan. Lamud is located in Brgy. Cataggaman, a few clicks from St. Louis University, while Gumiran’s is within Centro and a short walk from San Jacinto de Ermita Church.

And boy! They were right!

Batil patong (sounds Malaccan or Indon, right?) is made from freshly prepared local pancit miki topped with sauteed carabeef, shredded cabbage and semi-poached egg. It is served with ‘sopa de huevos’ or egg soup, and goes well with a sauce concocted from calamansi, soy sauce, vinegar and a generous heap of chopped onions.

Pancit cabagan, on the other hand, is originally from the town of Cabagan in Isabela. It is made from cabagan miki, which is thinner than the noodles used in batil patong. The main ingredients are lechon de carajay, quail eggs and mixed vegetables. It’s distinct characteristic is a dark thick sauce or broth, typical of cooked cabagan noodles. It goes well with the similar sauce for batil patong: calamansi, soy sauce, vinegar and lots of chopped onions.


Today, the online word generator I’ve been using for my Project 365 gave me this word: EUREKA… and the first thing that came to mind was the feeling I had last night at work. So, to ‘immortalize’ it, I’m taking respite from my self-imposed one-photo-a-day challenge and give you this:



Speaking of eureka moments…

Today, I observed first-hand a crafty way to turn a potentially disastrous situation to one’s advantage. That AHA!-moment–kinda hilarious in its sneaky-ness–was courtesy of my daughter Abby, who’s only four years old.

… but, it’s a story for another time.

Note to Self-ies

The ‘selfie’ traces its roots to ‘MySpace pic’ — an amateurish, flash-blinded self-portrait, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror. These self-portraits, shot basically with cellphones, became a sign of bad taste during MySpace’s hey days in 2006 to around 2009.

Then came Facebook.

Social networking sites — especially Facebook — enabled people to connect with friends and families across the globe easily. The added bonus to FB is the digital picture. Facebook became not just a social network but a means of proving one’s social reach. Posed group photographs, tagged pictures, and friend counts were supposed to be benchmarks of social net worth, and a sign of healthy participation in the digital world. As FB followers grew exponentially, so did its model of what it meant to interact online. The subject of the MySpace bathroom selfie — with its tableaux of bathroom counter, mirror, face, and upper body — always looked, well, alone. It became apparent that selfies were for people without friends; the more popular, techno-savvy moved on to more advanced networks.

By the time FB overtook MySpace’s traffic in 2009, selfies seemed doomed to marginalization. However, the release of the cutting-edge iPhone 4, with its front-facing camera — meaning, you can now take a self-portrait while looking at the screen, allowing for perfect framing and focus, which makes selfies look as polished and crisp as posed group shots, and no longer require a mirror or an awkwardly contorted hand — brought selfies to its new-found prominence. Now, the selfie is back!

Yeah, now we get tons of them posted by teenagers (Awright! And some responsible adults, too!), who document everything from new hairstyles to new shoes to no particular occasion at all. People take selfies in public, posing everywhere and in every which way.

To most of us, selfies are annoying… well, not always. Here’s a fresh look at selfies from the perspective of a self-confessed ‘nonsubscriber’ to this love-it-or-hate-it digital photograph genre.

This piece is written by a good friend, Kiko Gacias a.k.a. Blue Bell Bantigue:

What would you do if you suddenly find yourself alone on Christmas eve?

I used to come home to a place where children would happily partake of the special noche buena, and excitedly open the gifts they received from their dad. But that was before, which is now almost a long,long time ago. I now live — alone — in a half-finished three-story house where my closest neighbor is, just like me, ‘again-single.’

So, would I sleep? Some neighbors are still merrymaking and their boisterous and inebriated laughter eclipsed the sonorous barking of the dogs from the former mayor’s house. And how could I lull myself to sleep when someone’s crooning Imelda Papin songs in a videoke? Nah, the bed isn’t inviting enough yet. So, would I do some house cleaning? The floor surely looked dusty… but sweep the floor at midnight? No dice. Sweating out before going to bed doesn’t look very appealing either. Would I turn to Facebook then? Forget it. It’s way past FB time.

Wait. There IS one thing left to do: I’d have some fun! I’d play with my camera, mess up my room, take ‘selfie’ shots and clone myself six times, perhaps; then pretend to have each of my carbon copy greet each other a Merry Christmas!

Ooooookay. I confess now. I used to look differently at selfies. I’ve never subscribed to Twitter or Instagram, and unless a personal photo is tagged unto my FB wall, I would normally avoid posting my own picture on my wall or profile. I used to think that more often than not, posting one’s own photo was an extension of one’s self-absorption or arrested adolescence — a form of vanity and, therefore, narcissistic. I used to think announcing to the world that you’re on headed to some posh destination, doing something in the toilet, in a party or in a movie house, is dangerous and an open invitation for thieves. I used to think posting the nouvelle cuisine or even the hawker food you had for dinner is an insult and is being insensitive to those who have little food on their table; and posting a photo of your new Hermes bag is plain hubris. In short, I used to think posting one’s own photo or activity on the Internet is either suggestive of one’s egotism or just plain over indulgence.

Well, I said, “I used to…” When Pope Francis and Barack Obama, two of the world’s most influential men, took to selfies, I decided to delve deeper into the phenomenon. Skimming through various articles written about the subject, including opinions shared by psychologists, selfie practitioners, and those who are vehemently against it, I ended up weighing the subject more in its favor. There are selfies and there are selfies. There are selfies that would evidently put yourself to physical risks or risks of ridicule; and there are selfies that would make you able to communicate better and put you in touch with the world. At the end of the day, I tended to highly consider joining the fray. I realized, didn’t Rembrandt paint dozens of self-portraits and weren’t most accomplished writers overly obsessed with the subject “I”?

Selfies may, after all, be reflections of self-exploration. The world is getting smaller by the day and selfies do provide a way of participating and affiliating with the world. Why avoid selfies and sulk in your own impenetrable shell?

So okay, I will do a selfie. I do not care how I’d look; but, I wouldn’t want just another selfie. How should I come up with a ‘different’ kind of selfie, anyway?

Folks, with your kind indulgence, here’s what I came up with… and, I wonder what Narcissus would have to say.

Here’s from me and my clones: A blessed Christmas and a bountiful New Year!


Sweet Disposition

In 500 Days of Summer Tom asks Summer, “Why didn’t it work out?” and she responds, “What always happens? Life.” Whether it is love or life, we are challenged with ups and downs and we can’t give up or stop ‘til it’s over.


Sweet disposition
Never too soon
Oh, reckless abandon
Like no one’s
Watching you.

A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh
A kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs…

So stay there
Cause I’ll be coming over
And while our blood’s still young
It’s so young it runs
We won’t stop till it’s over
Won’t stop to surrender.

Songs of desperation
A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh
A kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs…

So stay there
Cause I’ll be coming over
And while our blood’s still young
It’s so young it runs
We won’t stop till it’s over
Won’t stop to surrender.

A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh
A kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs…

Sweet Disposition, Temper Trap

This song is primarily a dramatic illusion and comic. The main lines that are repeated throughout the song are:

A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh,
a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs,
Won’t stop ‘til it’s over, won’t stop to surrender.

It talks about life — our life. We are happy for one reason, and sad for another. Things happen that we can’t control and we have to fight through the downs to appreciate and enjoy the ups. A sweet disposition. That’s what we need to get through this difficult life.

As they say, it ain’t over till it’s over… or would you rather like: ’til the fat lady sings?

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