Hello First-time Travelers!

Are you going on a trip to a particular place for the first-time? Will you be setting foot in a foreign and unfamiliar soil? This blog site is created for you. I have been to many places, and the first time I stepped into unfamiliar territory I had to feel my way and rely on what I have on-hand especially when all I had were travel books, maps and print-outs from the web. My friends and I make our own itinerary. It is truly advisable to check out anything about the place before going on a trip. Yet, you need not necessarily hire a travel agent or tour guide to get you around every time you visit a place for the first time. A little help from locals can add spice to your first-time travels. It can give you the freedom to explore the place and enjoy the feeling of not spending much, based on my own travel experiences. You can take my word on some tips and information on the places I visited but feel free to be creative and be adventurous. I may offer some advice here and there but, as they say, “experience is the best teacher”. So, read on and find out more about my first-time travel adventures.

I want to make things easy for you. If you want to view the articles I wrote in this site, click the Table of Contents tab.

Photos used in this site are taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

And since I’m from the Philippines, I invite you to travel to my country as well.

Video taken from the Best Destination Travel TV site.

First-time Heritage Walk Around Silay

Amid the darkened sky and the impending rain, the heritage homes in Silay City –  the Paris of Negros Occidental, a province in the Philippines — stood proud as they showed off marks of endurance that withstood the ruthlessness of tropical weather and viciousness of conflict and the changing times.

Café 1925

Situated in front of the Leandro dela Rama Locsin Ancestral House along Don Jose “Pitong” Ledesma Street, Café 1925 was a small structure with colored stain glass and a porch on its façade.

The Cafe 1925 signage from the street.

The Cafe 1925 signage from the street. That’s in front of the dela Rama Locsin house.

Elaine, our server, graciously welcomed us inside and handed us the menu. Poring over their list of specialties, we settled for bruschetta, marianna, bolognese, and churros con chocolate.

Paintings inside the cafe.

Paintings inside the cafe.

The café was quaint but artsy as the walls were decked with paintings of old houses or of the old Silay. Elaine asked us if we were to visit the heritage houses, to which we answered in the affirmative. At the end of our filling lunch, she handed us a brochure of Silay City and showed us a coffee table magazine of the city that featured most of the heritage attractions.

More paintings inside.

More paintings inside.

We wanted to take a peak inside the dela Rama Locsin Ancestral House but Elaine said that the descendants of the owners still lived there and the property is not open to the public.

Balay Negrense

Along Cinco de Noviembre Street loomed a towering acacia tree with its branches creating a huge canopy over the street. The brown façade of the upper floor of the mansion appeared invitingly as we approached the acacia. It was the Victor Fernandez Gaston Heritage House, or more known as the Balay Negrense.

The huge tree provided a canopy at this part of Cinco de Noviembre Street.

The huge tree provided a canopy at this part of Cinco de Noviembre Street.

A bell at the porch was the first thing I noticed. It served as a door bell for visitors to pull and ring when no one is at the front door. A lady approached us at the entrance and informed us that there is a fee of P50 per adult visitor. She then introduced us to Camille, a young tourism student from La Consolacion College-Bacolod who was having her internship at the museum.

The facade of Balay Negrense.

The facade of Balay Negrense.

Camille led us to the first door at the right. It looked like a small office with a huge desk and a wooden revolving office chair behind it. The tiny room contained the photos of the family of Yves Leopold Germain Gaston from France. He came to the Negros island and helped develop the sugar industry in the province. Married to Prudencia Fernandez of Batangas, Yves’ children were Maria Felicia, Victor, and Fernando.

The round table shows the descendants of Yves Leopold Gaston and is updated yearly.

The round table shows the descendants of Yves Leopold Gaston and is updated yearly.

In the adjacent room, a round table was placed at the center with the descendants of Yves Leopold Gaston filled out up to the present generation. Both rooms were small and were once bedrooms. At the other side of the house, the rooms were knocked down, giving way to receiving areas for visitors. At the farther corner at the left side of the ground floor laid a grand piano, a status symbol in olden times.

The left staircase is used by the ladies while the right part is for the men.

The left staircase is used by the ladies while the right part is for the men.

At the middle part was the foyer leading to two staircases. According to our guide the steps follow the “oro, plata, mata” way of building stairs with the last step usually falls under “oro” or gold. The purpose for the staircases is that the other side was for the ladies, usually with their long gowns, and the other side was for the gentlemen, so they don’t get to step on the gowns of the ladies.

The view of the street from the second floor balcony.

The view of the street from the second floor balcony.

The upper floor was off-limit to photography but the displays were more about the everyday life of the previous inhabitants of the house. The large area occupying the center was meant for social gatherings, with large windows overlooking the street. The dome of the church could even be seen from the upper floor. Rooms had connecting doors for children to move from room to another when there are social functions, as they are not allowed outside the rooms.

The dining area had one long table for the adults and on both ends of the long dining table are small round tables - one for the boys and one for the girls. The kitchen had ovens and refrigerators, which showed that the Gastons were far advanced when it comes to appliances during their time. The room leads to another kitchen, called the dirty kitchen, where food are cooked manually.

Behind the dining room was a washing area, which could also be used as a balcony. It had a “secret” staircase that leads to the servant’s quarters below. At the opposite end of the kitchen was the bathroom. Outside it was a staircase leading to an upper floor, which the Don Victor would go up so he could view if his imports had arrived.

The motorized bicycle parked at the back of the house.

The motorized bicycle parked at the back of the house.

At the ground floor, behind the foyer, was a driveway for the carriages. Across it was the servant’s quarters and the stockroom. The Gastons also once owned a motorized bicycle. Our guide also showed us the basement, which was built to ventilate the house. It wasn’t used as a place to store goods but just to let air pass below and keep the house cool during the warm season. A space from the earth to the floor could be seen, including the foundation and posts, which are made of balayon, a hard wood that was commonly used in building the ancestral homes in this area.

Manuel Hofileña Ancestral House

Our visit at the Manuel Hofileña Heritage House was the most interesting part of our exploration. One of the descendants, Mon Hofileña, who is an octogenarian, not only toured us in his home but also gave us insights that we haven’t known before. The man is a repository of knowledge and it was evident during our interaction with him that he thirsts for it and loves sharing his knowledge to others.

The Hofilena Heritage House.

The Hofilena Heritage House.

He showed us his collections from his travels, interesting finds, I must say, and from his passion for the art. The second floor, where photograph taking is not allowed, is filled with paintings from maestros and national artists, including a sketch by a young Jose Rizal. One particular thing that you should anticipate, if ever you visit his home, is the precious stone that even Queen Elizabeth II commissioned to have a necklace out of that stone be made for her.

Our guide, no other than Mr. Mon Hofilena.

Our guide, no other than Mr. Mon Hofilena.

The Hofileña family are also artists. His siblings included piano teachers, a ballerina, a dancer, and a theater actor. He is also the uncle of 80′s matinee idol, Rey PJ Abellana, the father of actress Carla Abellana.

Some of his collections.

Some of his collections.

Mon Hofileña  also conducts tours around Negros Occidental during December. I am already marking my calendar for this one.

The receiving area of the house.

The receiving area of the house.

Don Bernardo Jalandoni Museum

The Don Bernardo Jalandoni Museum was built at a prime spot along the highway. Painted in pink, you will never miss this house when you travel and pass by Silay City. The lower floor of the Jalandonis were intended for the horse carriages and the carabao-driven carrozas.

The pink house along the highway cannot be missed.

The pink house along the highway cannot be missed.

Our guide, Rose, led us to the upper floor and allowed me to take photos as long as I do not use flash photography. There we found interesting items, such as the old telephone hanging on the wall, the sewing machine used by women during those times, a stroller, and other household accessories owned by the family.

The carriages parked at the ground floor of the house.

The carriages parked at the ground floor of the house.

The house, a modern take on the bahay kubo structure, used the hardwood balayon that were imported from Mindoro. The ceiling was imported from Germany, with its intricate designs that made the interior of the house elegant. The Jalandonis also had an ice storage box, given that ice during their time was still being imported from the US.

The sewing machine.

The sewing machine.

The four-post bed with canopy.

The four-post bed with canopy.

A porch was found at the back portion of the 2nd floor. An old tamarind tree, that has been around long before the house was constructed, stood at the side of the porch.

The tamarind tree is also a heritage tree.

The tamarind tree is also a heritage tree.

Other Heritage Houses

We passed several other houses in the area, although I still plan to talk to the current occupants so I can also explore the interior of these houses and learn the stories behind them. Only the three houses above are currently open to the public, and the entrance fee for each is P50 for adults, with discounts for senior citizens and children.

The San Diego Pro Cathedral.

The San Diego Pro Cathedral.

We were able to pass by the ancestral homes of Soledad & Maria Montelibano Lacson, Leandro dela Rama Locsin, Sen. Jose Corteza Locsin, Jose “Apitong” Ledesma, Digna Locsin Consing, Teodoro Morada, Delfin Ledesma,  Maria Golez, Lino Lopez Severino, Josefina Tionko Lacson, Manuel dela Rama Locsin, and Kapitan Mariano Montelibano. We also visited the Cinco de Noviembre Monument, the San Diego Pro Cathedral, and El Ideal bakery.

Cinco de Noviembre marker.

Cinco de Noviembre marker.

El Ideal bakeshop.

El Ideal bakeshop.

This heritage walk is far from over. I would be going back there soon to get more information. I’ll post more about these houses in the near future. Meanwhile, I still have to pay the Silay Tourism Office a visit.

Sen. Jose Corteza Locsin ancestral house.

Sen. Jose Corteza Locsin ancestral house.

Jose "Apitong" Ledesma ancestral house.

Jose “Apitong” Ledesma ancestral house.

Teodoro Morada ancestral house.

Teodoro Morada ancestral house.

Digna Locsin Consing ancestral house.

Digna Locsin Consing ancestral house.

Maria Golez ancestral house, now an RCBC branch.

Maria Golez ancestral house, now an RCBC branch.

Lino Lopez Severino ancestral house.

Lino Lopez Severino ancestral house.

Other ancestral homes along the highway that now house various commercial establishments.

Other ancestral homes along the highway that now house various commercial establishments.

Top 10 Destinations for #MyAirbnbBucketList

Though I have hit the road many times and explored places many have not gone before, I still consider myself lacking when it comes to my travel experiences. I have seen a lot, but I have also seen quite few. It is because when I look at the map and browse through the pages of travel books and history books, I realize I have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Why is this so? First was the lack of time. With a few days allotted for leaves in the previous jobs I had, spending time in places I traveled is quite limited. Now that I have taken out that hindrance, the next main consideration is resources. I have to earn a lot, save more, and be wise in spending my money.

You see, I have certain places in mind where I want to visit and having enough funds is quite imperative. Of course, I would like to visit ALL continents, SEVERAL countries, and DIVERSE sights and cultures. But for this post, let me just share with you my top 10 destinations.

1. Oia, Greece

Ever since I have seen photos of this beautiful place in the Greek Islands, I fell in love with it instantly. Somehow, there is that gnawing desire to see the ragged cliffs with white and blue architecture. The place looks refreshing and ancient, cool yet warm, relaxing but challenging. Oia is like an enigma to me. There is something I want to unravel in this place and my curiosity will only be satisfied once I visit the place. I want to see how people seem to be sun gods.

2. Barcelona, Spain

Having Spanish influence in our culture has kept me interested in our nation’s history. What better way to learn more about this than to visit Spain where we inherited our Catholic faith, local food, some words in our own language, and ornate architecture. It is always fascinating to know about our heritage and how we arrive to our present-day culture.

3. Rome, Italy

Speaking of history, I would like to explore Rome where some of the greatest events in history took place. Oh how I would love to visit the Coliseum, the temples of the Greek gods, the cathedrals and churches, the Roman villages, and even the city-state of the Vatican.

4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sun, sand, mountains, and the Christ the Redeemer. Brazil is filled with sun-kissed beautiful people. But there are more for me to find out that are not written in the pages of guide books and travel sites.

5. Johannesburg, South Africa

It’s going to the wild! A safari would be a good travel experience that I would want to have in this lifetime. I love to visit zoos but I have always wanted to see these animals roam in a Savannah. There is great fun adventure in there.

6. Bruges, Belgium

One of the tiny nations in Europe, Belgium exudes history, art, and simplicity. My impression of Bruges is a quiet city. It will be a place where I can find a soothing balm to my ever thirsty mind.

7. Helsinki, Finland

I’ve never considered Finland as a destination where I should visit but since I joined this postcard swapping online community called Postcrossing, I have been filled with beautiful photos of Finland. Mind you, I might meet Santa Claus there one day. But whether that happens or not, I’ll be content to lie under the cold night watching the northern lights dance up in the sky.

8. Istanbul, Turkey

The bridge way between Europe and Asia. Turkey is a place where I can be in one continent and at the doorway to the other. They also have wonderful architecture. It would be delightful to have some Turkish delights from where they come from.

9. Thimphu, Bhutan

It is the Shangri-la. I have always been curious about this place which many regard as the paradise. Only a few can be admitted into this small kingdom. I would want to belong that “few” ones.

10. Alaska, USA

Alaska is the last frontier for me. I’m not prepared to go to the Arctic region so I’d be content to be in Alaska. Most of the attractions in the US are urban cities. But not Alaska. It is all about nature. The cold one, that is.

So there, you have my list. As I was on the subject of having enough resources to travel, I found out by browsing the web that I need not have so much money to visit these places. There is Airbnb where I can find the type of accommodation I want and need. What’s good about this is that Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 192 countries. Browse through the destinations you like and the homes where you can stay during your journey. Create your own #MyAirbnbBucketList by clicking through this link.

In search of the old

A few weeks before I fully left the bosom of Manila, I finished some volunteer work that is related to heritage sites. I scoured historical sites for structures 50 years and older around the vicinity of my place. These are the places I visited:

Pinaglabanan Church, San Juan

Also known as St. John the Baptist Church or San Juan Bautista Church, Pinaglabanan Church was constructed in 1895, a year after the parish was established. The church, which has a Neo-Romanesque design, was built with architect Luis Arellano supervising the construction.

During the fight between the Filipino and Spanish forces broke out in 1896, the church was damaged and it was repaired. Decades later, the church underwent renovation and expansion.

Pinaglabanan Church was declared as a historical landmark by the city of San Juan and was included in the five pilgrim churches in Metro Manila during the Year of Faith.

Facade of the Pinaglabanan Church.

Facade of the Pinaglabanan Church.

White Cross Orphanage, San Juan

The White Cross is an orphanage established by Victoria Lopez de Araneta in 1936 for the children of tuberculosis patients. Also known as the Quezon Preventorium, the orphanage was administered by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. 

White Cross orphanage in San Juan.

White Cross orphanage in San Juan.

However, when World War II broke out, the nuns had to evacuate to Welfareville in the neighboring city of Mandaluyong to be safe from the Japanese forces. The nuns and their ward returned to White Cross during the American liberation in 1946.

Guadalupe Church, Makati

Its formal name is Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church. Built in the 17th century, the church was constructed in Baroque Roman architectural style. Perched atop a hill, it was used as a military headquarters by the British forces in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the monastery was utilized as a haven for children of cholera victims.

The Guadalupe Church.

The Guadalupe Church.

The church also witnessed several earthquakes and parts of the structure had been damaged. Repair and renovation have been done on the church. To date, it is one of the favorite wedding venues in Metro Manila.

Museo ng Makati, Makati

The “bahay na bato” structure along J.P. Rizal St., which now serves as the city’s repository of historical artifacts, used to be the city’s old town hall. Built in 1918, it used to be the seat of the local government until 1961.

The old town hall is now a museum.

The old town hall is now a museum.

But prior to becoming the city’s museum, it was also used as the Municipal Library, then as the Philippine Eye and Ear Infirmary. The two storey-structure now stands comfortably at the street’s curb with the modern skyscrapers at its background.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Makati

Constructed in 1620, it is said that the Sts. Peter and Paul Church is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, church in Makati. Built by a Jesuit priest, the church is located along D.M. Rivera St. within a residential and commercial area in the busier parts of the city. Across the church is the plaza, which used to be the patio or the church cemetery.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church.

Casino Español de Manila, Manila

Established in 1893, the exclusive club was designed to be a social and recreational venue by the Spaniards based in the Philippines. The first structure was erected in 1913 but was destroyed in 1945 during the Liberation of Manila at the height of World War II. The club was temporarily housed at another location within the city of Manila.

Casino Español was rebuilt in 1951 at the site where the original structure was constructed. It has hosted several VIPs, such as the royalties of Spain.

The club's quaint building along Kalaw Ave.

The club’s quaint building along Kalaw Ave.

Asilo de San Vicente de Paul, Manila

A few blocks away from Casino Español is the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul, formerly known as Casa de San Vicente de Paul. Established in 1885 by Sr. Asuncion Ventura, DC, it is one of the oldest orphanages in Metro Manila.

The orphanage was burned during World War II but it was reconstructed in 1945. Apart from being a child caring institution, Asilo also provided educational services for a certain period of time.

The driveway and facade of the orphanage.

The driveway and facade of the orphanage.

Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila

I’m not sure when exactly the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center was built but it was during the Rufino Cardinal Santos (1953 to 1974). When I visited the center I saw a tarpaulin on the 50th year celebration of Pope Pius XII Catholic Center. The center has a friendship hall, a dormitory, and several other facilities. It also houses the Sta. Maria Goretti Parish Church, with its adoration chapel as one of my favorite places to pray and meditate.

The Pope Pius XII Catholic Center was the vision of Gabriel Cardinal Reyes but was realized by his successor, Rufino Cardinal Santos.

The Pope Pius XII Catholic Center was the vision of Gabriel Cardinal Reyes but was realized by his successor, Rufino Cardinal Santos.

There are many other old structures around the metro and all throughout the country, not just churches but even interesting buildings. It is good to preserve all these as our way of giving importance to our past and how it shaped our present times to pave way to our future.

Road Trip to Bacolod

It was an epic road trip that I have taken ever. I’ve travelled for six to ten hours to various parts of Luzon, the largest island in the 7,107-island nation of the Philippines. I’ve rode overnight buses and trains across Southeast Asia traveling from one country to another. I’ve taken a nine-hour train ride in California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

This one took me to four major islands in the Philippines and six ports. More importantly, it was a road trip that led me back to home. After two decades of spending my life in the capital, I’ve finally decided to be with my family once again. I had to think hard, really discern for it, and prepare for this grand adventure. (Read my post “Preparing for my Road Trip to Home”.)

Through this article, not only do I want to take you with me back to the journey I had, but I also want to share with you pertinent information that will be useful for those who want to embark on a similar adventure. I had to do intensive research, make several phone calls, and ask the advice of those who have taken the same route from Manila to Bacolod to know the cost, the time line, and other pertinent information necessary for the trip. Equipped with those, we were more than ready to take the Strong Republic Nautical Highway through the Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) barges.

Our route in yellow.

Our route in yellow.

START – Manila: Day 1 – 11:50am; 62,200 km in my meter

The sun was scorching hot as we loaded my things inside my hatchback car. Good thing that all my stuff fit perfectly at the backseat and the back compartment. I had to seek the help of my uncle who flew all the way from Negros Island to Manila to help me drive through unfamiliar roads. But first, I had to take the wheel while we were still in Metro Manila as I was more familiar with the streets and highways as well as the traffic rules in the city.

We made a short stop over after Muntinlupa, the last city of the National Capital Region in the south, at a gas station along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) for lunch and gas. At half past 12, we continued with our sojourn with, this time, my uncle driving the car. We passed through various towns of the province of Laguna.

STAR Tollway from Laguna to Batangas.

STAR Tollway from Laguna to Batangas.

The drive from SLEX to the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Toll was easy and fast as both highways are now interconnected. There were some parts of the STAR Toll that were being repaired and only a single lane was used at that time. Still, the ride was smooth and swift. By 1:40pm, we were already at the Batangas port.

Batangas is a province in the southern part of Luzon. Batangas Port, located in Batangas City, is one of the busiest ports in the region.

Batangas Port: Day 1 – 1:40pm; 62,277 km

As we entered the port, we were told to proceed to Gate II where a guard at a booth handed us a ticket for the Arrastre of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and for the toll gate fee. We drove towards what seemed to be a parking lot and a man signaled for us to proceed through a lane. He asked us of our destination and pointed us to a guard who let us inside the pier. There, we proceeded to enter Montenegro Lines’ Reina de las Flores which was bound to leave at 2:00pm.

All these we did without even have to step out of the car or line up at a booth. We paid for the car and extra passenger inside the barge. The two decks above were full. The lower deck had an air-conditioned area where passengers could dine and watch television. The upper deck had beds and benches where passengers could rest during the trip.

Oil depots at the Batangas port.

Oil depots at the Batangas port.

The ship left at 2:26pm passing through oil depots and the Verde Island Passage. I preferred to stay outdoors where I could see the view and take photos. Yet, halfway through the trip, when no breeze could be felt, I wandered around the ship and stayed at the front deck below the bridge. Suddenly, the three-island group near Mindoro was already in sight. Baco Chico Island was the largest, followed by Pulong Gitna (middle island), then by Pulong Munti (small island). Further on, Calapan pier was already visible. With more than two hours at sea, we finally docked in Calapan at 4:44pm.

Calapan is the city in the province of Oriental Mindoro, which is near the famous Puerto Galera beach. Mindoro is a two-province island known for Mt. Halcon, the tamaraw, the Mangyans, and various beaches and waterfalls.

We had to visit my mother’s cousin who has migrated to Calapan, where we opted to stay for the night. As they live in Barangay Sapul in Calapan, we had to traverse Roxas Drive and pass by the Calapan City Hall before we got to my aunt’s house.

Calapan port.

Calapan port.

Calapan, Mindoro Oriental: Day 2 – 6:00am; 62,286 km

Leaving Brgy. Sapul at 6:00 in the morning, we took the C5 road to the Strong Republic Nautical Highway. Passing through the towns of Naujan, Victoria, Socorro, Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud and Bongabong before we got to Roxas was easy because of the signages erected in strategic areas and distances. Also, the welcome arches for every town were artful and colorful.

Beautiful signages of towns in Mindoro Oriental.

Beautiful signages of towns in Mindoro Oriental.

My uncle was able to drive through Mindoro Oriental to Roxas port in about two and a half hours. But as we got to the port, we encountered the biggest setback in our trip. But I was warned as many who plied the same route had to contend with the challenges at the Roxas port.

Roxas Port, Mindoro Oriental: Day 2 – 8:35am; 62,408 km

We went to the PPA office only to be told to go to the Montenegro office first. Sadly, the person at the Montenegro office told us that we couldn’t take the 8:00am trip, although it was already 8:35am at that time, because we never made it to the cut-off.

Montenegro Lines office at Roxas port.

Montenegro Lines office at Roxas port.

From my research, I thought there was a 10:00am trip only to be told that the next trip is at 12:00nn. As I asked around the Montenegro office, other passengers, and the vendor at the pier, I discovered that there are only four trips during daytime and all are by the Montenegro Line. There was the 4:00am, the 8:00am, the 12:00nn, and the 4:00pm. At night, there are more trips as Starlite has two scheduled trips at night.

The window at the Montenegro ticketing office.

The window at the Montenegro ticketing office.

So we were told to come back at 10:30am for the ticket. We decided to eat breakfast and wait for until the office opens again to issue tickets for the next trip. At 10:15am, there was already a long line outside the office. We were given by the man at the Montenegro office a booking slip and told us to pay first the dues and Arrastre at the PPA office and come back to pay for the ticket. Since it was approaching high noon, the sun was unbearable but we had to go a few meters away towards the PPA. After settling the fees, we had to go back again to the Montenegro office for the ticket. Passengers were already impatient especially that the office opened at about 10:40am. While battling for the first slots at the line, I met Joy and her brother who was on their way to Dapitan, Zamboanga del Sur in Mindanao. They, too, were heading to Caticlan and Bacolod towards their ultimate destination.

The gate of the Roxas port in Mindoro Oriental.

The gate of the Roxas port in Mindoro Oriental.

There was one guy manning the cashier vis-à-vis the long line of individuals and vehicle owners wanting to purchase tickets. I guess maybe because there were a few trips and only a single shipping line was operating at daytime that the process was a bit of a hassle at Roxas port. Bear in mind that when you take the RORO, there is no reservations or advanced booking, so all the tickets for the barge were purchased at a first-come-first-serve basis. And when we thought everything was fine, we were stopped at the gate to ask if we already had the approval of the coast guard. I had to walk through a narrow alley to the back of a building to a makeshift office to get the coast guard’s pass.

To the coast guard office.

To the coast guard office.

As we entered the port’s premises, we ate at one of the stalls and waited until we would be allowed to board the car to the barge. Other stalls were also selling local products. My uncle bought garlic, which he was able to haggle at P200 a kilo, which is already P280 to P360 in the markets of Manila and Bacolod, respectively.

Reina Timotea.

Reina Timotea.

While we positioned our vehicles at the mouth of the Reina Timotea barge, we were told that passengers had to board the ship first. Joy asked me and my uncle if they can join us towards Bacolod as they do not know the way.

Boracay island at the background.

Boracay island at the background.

The 12:00nn schedule was again not followed as the ship left port at 1:05pm. And instead of just four hours at sea, we arrived the Caticlan port at around 6:00pm. We passed Tablas Island of the province of Romblon before we entered the Panay Island area. The ship went slow at the area of Boracay Island, famous for the white sand beach, to wait for another ship to first sail from Caticlan. While at the area of Boracay, we watched flying fishes, parasails and colorful boat sails. Resort hotels perched on hills could also be seen from the ship’s deck. Several planes took off from Caticlan airport.

Caticlan Port, Aklan: Day 2 – 6:00pm

Caticlan port must be one of the busiest ports in Western Visayas. This is due to the large influx of tourists going to Boracay. As we arrived, we were asked to get off the car to step on a large rug with disinfectant. From there, we proceeded towards the Aklan West Road. At first, the view at the coast of Caticlan was breathtaking because of its picturesque mountains and beaches. But quarries and construction projects seemed to be destroying these natural views.

Caticlan port.

Caticlan port.

As there are a lot of national highways in the island of Panay, I had to rely on my phone’s GPS to navigate us to Dumangas.  My uncle drove through zigzag roads, uphill and downhill, and through road repairs as we tried to make it to the next port at about 9:30pm.

The way to Iloilo.

The way to Iloilo.

The whole route is estimated to be run for about three hours and a half but we were able to finish it at less than six hours. The highway was already dark and we had to navigate carefully through the route. We had to stop several times to check on Joy and her brother who was following us. Also, at 9:30pm, when we realized we couldn’t make it to the schedule, we decided to stopover at Tres Hijos Restaurant at Passi, Iloilo.

Spectacular coastal view in Caticlan.

Spectacular coastal view in Caticlan.

It was past 11:00pm when we got to Pototan and Dumangas. We decided not to stop by another aunt’s house because of the lateness of the hour and we wanted to get to Bacolod at that time. We braved through a narrow dusty road with high grasses on both side. The fish ponds were not visible on the dark night but we knew that we were surrounded by water. At 11:45pm, we entered the gates of the Dumangas port and Montenegro’s Maria Teresa was getting ready to leave at midnight. After paying the usual Arrastre at the PPA office, we were directed towards the barge, were we paid for the fees onboard.

Boarded Maria Teresa.

Boarded Maria Teresa.

There were a few passengers but all of them have occupied the benches, lying on them as they took their sleep. Although this was the shortest sea travel in our journey, with just an hour and a half, we fell asleep easily because of the time. It seemed like we slept through an entire night before the ship signaled that we were docking at BREDCO at the Bacolod port.

Sadly, this is the only port in the entire journey where we had to pay for a fee as we arrive. But all’s well that ends well as we arrived home at past 2:00am, happy to finally reach our destination.

FINISH – Bacolod BREDCO port: Day 3 – 2:00am; 62,627 km

Below are some information that you might find useful:

Expense Cost
Luzon  
SLEX toll fee P 214.00
SLEX toll fee 25.00
STAR toll fee 67.00
Batangas port gate 30.00
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Arrastre 129.00
Fare – car with driver 1,536.00
Additional passenger 192.00
Mindoro
Roxas port toll 30.00
Marshalling fee 40.00
PPA Arrastre 129.00
Fare – car with driver 2,944.00
Additional passenger 391.00
Terminal fee 15.00
Panay
Vehicle pass 12.00
PPA Arrastre 129.00
Fare – car with driver 960.00
Negros  
Port fee 375.50
TOTAL P 7,218.50
   
Other info:  
Gas consumed 30.83 liters
Arrival at Bacolod port 62,627 km
Total km covered 427 km
Total hours on the road 10 hours 20 mins
Total hours at port (waiting and sea travel) 11 hours 45 mins

 

 

 

 

 

Doggficher

No, I’m no fashion blogger. But let me tell you why I’m writing about gowns and accessories.

One of the recent events I was part of was the PEP List, which recognizes celebrities featured in Pep.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal). It was a star-studded event, complete with red carpet, cameras, and live streaming.

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As part of the team that helped organize the event, what to wear that night was far from my mind. Yet, I must admit that it was a cloud above my head that was hounding me for days and nights.

Then came along Doggficher. Gio Raspall, who is behind this fashion design, was responsible for creating a dress for me. I asked him how he got the name and told me briefly that it came from dog and fisher, wherein he added G in the middle to represent his name. And since he has some European roots, it fits him well because of the foreign spelling of the brand. But there might be more to the etymology of the brand than from what I know.

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I wasn’t prepared as to what I would be wearing, anxious that I might end up a gown so bright and sparkly that could steal the spotlight from the honorees. Imagine my awe when Gio brought the dress on the day of the event. When I got into the gown, it seemed like it transported me to a lush forest, with the sound of waterfalls and birds in the background.

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I loved the fabric, which was earthy because of its texture, but elegant. More so the accessories and artwork that came with the dress. There’s the nice chain belt, the black roses at the back, and the amazing necklace. My recent trip to Romblon reminded me of my Doggficher outfit and how I like every inch of it.

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It was the perfect gown for me — for one who loves to travel, embraces the world, and prefers natural surroundings. Surprisingly, the material is light, and so are the accessories. I love it so much that I’d probably don this dress in several occasions, even in one of my travels. Its creativity is something that really made it special.

 

For inquiries about Doggficher, you may contact Gio Respall at doggficher01@yahoo.com.

Romblon: the Journey part 2

It was a bright morning as we packed our stuffs, left the Sanctuary Garden Resort and headed to the pier. The sea was calm. Yet, without any gush of wind and the sun rising up high, the morning heat was slowly becoming unbearable.

Mangrove trees at the Magdiwang port of Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

Mangrove trees at the Magdiwang port of Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

Even when we already started with our pump boat ride, I couldn’t be lulled to sleep as no wind caressed my face. I sat ready with my camera in tow for anything that might catch my attention. There was none. Good thing that I was seated next to a gentleman who is a passionate resident of Sibuyan Island.

He expressed his frustrations for the lack of infrastructure in the island and hopes that ABS-CBN Foundation’s “Journey to the Heart of the Philippines” will attract more attention to Sibuyan and draw people to visit the place. By his stories and the concerns he aired, it was obvious that he loves the place where he has grown. But the lure for greener pasture has led the younger generation out of the island onto the capital.

Sibuyan is the second largest island in the province of Romblon, with Tablas as the biggest and where most local officials are hailed. Although Romblon island is only the third in size, its location as the bridgeway between Tablas and Sibuyan and the presence of marble, among many other factors, have made it as the center of economic activities.

Rock formations in Romblon island.

Rock formations in Romblon island.

As our pump boat approached Romblon island, rugged rock formations came on sight. Some of the rocks were chipped off, revealing the white and yellowish texture of raw marble.

A miniature relief map of Romblon island.

A miniature relief map of Romblon island.

Romblon town has a beautiful harbor depicting that of European fishing villages. Its location and shape also made it a safe place for boats and ships to dock without the dangers of large waves.

Beautiful Romblon harbor.

Beautiful Romblon harbor.

It is a quiet town. As we toured the narrow streets of Romblon, I found that there are so many old buildings that have been built since the Spanish era and are still standing till this day.

San Jose Cathedral

The coral limestone and marble walls of San Jose or St. Joseph Cathedral provided a neat and sturdy appearance. And if one can find a spectacular view of the church based on its facade, one will even be in awe with its interiors. Marble columns, marble staircases, and marble balustrades. Everything were elegantly built in Romblon’s main product and resource — marble.

San Jose Cathedral

San Jose Cathedral

At the left side of the altar stood the image of the Holy Child of Jesus, which is believed by the locals as a miraculous image as it disappeared for many years and was found by an antique collector.

The church, believed to be built in the 15th century by the Recollect friars, although others claim it must be around the 18th century or after the Recollects arrived in the country, is considered as the oldest church in the province. The copper belfry still stands beside the church.

The church dome at the right side as seen from a vantage point.

The church dome at the right side as seen from a vantage point.

Municipal Building

A stone’s throw away from the church is the municipal building which also served as a cuartel during the Spanish era. During the time of our visit, it housed several government offices and the jail below.

Municipal building.

Municipal building.

The columns and the structure itself is still retained although the walls looked like it was freshly painted and a mural is found below the terraces.

Mural on the municipal building wall.

Mural on the municipal building wall.

Fuente de Belen

The carvings said it all. Still using the Spanish language, the water fountain was built in 1864 by a lieutenant named Eduardo Asuero y Soto. It was the source of freshwater during their time. At present, it serves as a little rotunda. Plants are found inside the fountain, instead of water, and the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which appeared to be ancient as well, stood top the structure.

Fuente de Belen.

Fuente de Belen.

Lim Building

We passed by one of the structures in Romblon and our guide pointed to it as one of the oldest buildings in the town. It is called the Lim building which now served as a commercial establishment, but till houses the descendants of the family in its upper floor.

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Fort San Andres

Fort San Andres, also built in the 18th century, stood atop a hill that provided a beautiful view of the town’s landscape and the harbor below. It was built as a fortification against Moro raiders and Dutch pirates. Its twin fort, Fort Santiago, at the other side of the harbor, was no longer restored.

Fort San Andres.

Fort San Andres.

A cannon at the Fort.

A cannon at the Fort.

Marble factory

Chinese and Japanese warriors, animals, angels, the Resurrected Christ similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro, and other images are carved by the side of the road where marble is cut and polished.

Unpolished rock.

Unpolished rock.

Romblon never seems to run out of marble. Our guide said that the rock was discovered in the early 1900′s but it was only in about 1970′s when the government invested in the marble industry.

Marble in all shapes and sizes.

Marble in all shapes and sizes.

 

Romblon Shopping Center

The factory didn’t have much small marble items to sell as they were making large images as well as chairs and other household fixtures. It was in the Romblon Shopping Center, just outside the port, where several marble souvenirs are sold. Some even provided carving services where tourists can have their names carved on the marble items they purchase.

Shopping Center.

Shopping Center.

Because of the old structures in Romblon’s town, it has been declared years ago by the government as a heritage town. But apart from its colorful history, Romblon has several other attractions, such as its beaches, wildlife and marine sanctuaries, and caves.

Romblon is a beautiful place to visit. Good thing there’s 2Go Travel which provides several trips to the province with its clean facilities. It was a worthy journey to the heart of the Philippines.

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All photos are by Claire Algarme. Check my photos at http://facebook.com/firsttimetravel. Also read related post on Sibuyan Island at CNN’s iReport.