An Overview of Sabang, Puerto Galera, Philippines

I’ve been to Puerto Galera’s local tourist destination of White Beach a couple of times but this was my first visit to Sabang beach. Now, Sabang is quite known to be frequented by foreigner tourists and a notorious hook-up place for old men and Filipina girls. But I never really let hearsay precede my judgment so off I went and here’s a snippet of what I saw:

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Tranquil scenery abounds in Sabang.

But the rumor, too, I found to be true. On the coast (albeit small area) of Sabang, a few steps from the island’s pier is the filthy beat that thrives day in and day out. Clubs that come alive early evenings are reminiscent of Filipino action movies in the 1990s (patay-sindi scenes without the police raids). Girls on stage gyrating their almost naked bodies on a pole, old white men, not-so-old Asian men. Skimpy-dressed, teenager-looking girls in full make-up chatting while munching on green mangoes, aged women falling into short naps along the sidewalk next to their makeshift stores. And on our way back to the hostel is a staple sight of a forsaken woman talking to herself, her back leaning on a huge stone. Kids flank the shore in early afternoons chasing small crabs, some swimming on the shallow, clear water, and little boys swinging by the locally-made boats’ wooden fins.

After a good snorkel, I seated at our hostel’s bar contemplating Sabang’s prostitution industry over two glasses of mango daiquiri cocktail (happy hour is buy one take one!) when the bartender told me an interesting trivia: prostitution is legal in Sabang. Seventy (70) percent of the island’s population is female and half of that is in the business of prostitution. It is a profession if we mean government-registered for purpose of taxation and regulation; prostitutes are required to have tests for sexual diseases every other week.  Jaw-dropping, really, if you take into consideration the backdrop of a conservative Catholic country who couldn’t even pass a decent reproductive bill because the Catholic church thinks population control is immoral and the only valid contraception is abstinence.

Prostitution is a moral issue, I agree, but I doubt one’s disgust has a teeny dint of space in a highly profitable industry that is as old as time. At the very least, the local government’s independence (or escape) from the moral dictates of the Filipino Catholic church is impressive. Liberal, brave, ground-breaking are a few other adjectives I could think of to describe a local government unit in the Philippines. We live in changing times, fellow countrymen!

Upnext: Diving and Other Travel Expenses in Sabang, Puerto Galera. Because diving is yet another side to the Sabang story. sabang fish

How Much to Travel in the Philippines: Camiguin Island Expenses

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Landing in Camiguin.

Des (browsing through the in-flight magazine): Look! There’s an Eiffel Tower in Japan!

Yoann: That’s France, always imitate, never coppayyd. (English translation: always imitated, never copied.)

I am starting a travel inventory. I want to keep a tab of how much Yoann and I spend whenever we travel. Spending money is probably the easiest task there is, and that is even made more true when traveling. So yes, I am starting a travel inventory. I used to do this all the time for my work so doing it again now is only coated with sweet nostalgia. I must say this list is accurate enough at 98%. I was able to keep most of the receipts!

Quantity and unit price is indicated below as (axb); 3×13; 3 qty x 13 unit price = total transaction amount. Laugh all you want at my attempt at Maths but YOU wouldn’t want to miss that for bargaining! Sundry /sundree/ pertains to miscellaneous, infrequent expenses (those that don’t fall under the other categories, basically).

Here we go!

Expenses Summary:

1st Day = PhP 2,595.50

2nd Day = PhP 4,406.00

3rd Day = PhP 2,690.00

4th Day = PhP 886.50

5th Day = PhP 5,650.00

6th Day = PhP 3,175.32

7th Day = PhP 1,827.00

Plane ticket for two = PhP9,062.38

TOTAL: PhP35,292.70 or 17,746.35 pesos per person. 

Remember: 7 days of good food and various island adventures!

 

 

Camiguin… Ang Itawag Mo Sa Akin

Mountains, seas
Here and there.
Fresh water falls
Spring everywhere.

Beach.
Dive.
Island bumming.
Guitar strumming.

As blue.
As green.
As pristine.
As beautiful.
As always,

A paradise.
In Philippines!

Hop in to paradise! Mantigue Island, Camiguin.

Hop in to paradise!

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And embrace your new paradise island-home!

Unless you can’t stand this view on a daily basis.

Chillin’ like a tourist, bargaining like a local! Me in Mantigue Island.

These smiles, I know so well. The islands were my childhood playground. Mantigue Island, Camiguin.

Ardent Hot Spring, Camiguin.

Yoann enjoying the warm waters of Ardent Hot Spring.

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Beautiful seas, beautiful landscapes, beautiful sunset. This island has it all.

The famous Sunken Cemetery.

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It can get dreamy. You on a white sandbar, in the middle of the sky and the sea. Don’t panic, it’s just Camiguin!

Thank you, Camiguin! We will come again.

 

Behold: Mount Pinatubo, Philippines*

A Top Attraction in Luzon Landia

Tourists from all over the world climb Mount Pinatubo to enjoy its natural beauty. In fact, more than 3,000 a month were reported to have visited it in year 2012 alone.

How fast time flies! Twenty-one (21) years ago, Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991 becoming 20th century’s second largest vulcanic eruption. It spewed out more than 5 cubic kilometers of magma and sent an ash cloud 35 kilometers into the air. This ash and sulfur dioxide output hastened ozone depletion and dragged temperatures down by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) for two years. The eruption was responsible for the death of at least 250 people and for $245 million (PhP10.1 billion) damages in crops, infrastructure and properties. The wrath and beauty of mother nature in one majestic site that is Mount Pinatubo, and that alone makes the site an interesting place to visit in the Philippines.

Getting There: Trek, 4×4, Camp, Hike & More!

A lot of blogs and websites and articles online will be more than happy to show you how to get to Mount Pinatubo. Blogger dude4food provides detailed photos of the trail that you almost feel like you are there traveling with him, while pinaykeypoint posted on her blog an overnight itinerary and even added her group’s bonfire photos. And here’s an excerpt from The New York Times article about how to get your way to Mount Pinatubo:

Around 100 kilometers from Manila, the historic town of Capas, in Tarlac Province is Mt. Pinatubo’s best-known gateway. From the Santa Juliana section of Capas, tourists follow a 25-kilometer trail to the crater of the 1,486-meter (4,875-foot) high volcano. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can navigate about 16 kilometers of the terrain to an hour-long ride and a two-hour hike, which can be arranged through travel agencies or directly with a local association of four-wheel-drive operators.

After hikers register at the tourism office’s branch in Santa Juliana, their vehicle travels through a military checkpoint at the entrance to Crow Valley. U.S. and Philippine soldiers still use the area periodically; when they do, tour vehicles are allowed to cross the valley only before 8AM and after 5PM.

Along the way, travelers may catch sight of the San Marcos and Tambo lakes, both created by the volcano’s eruption. Water has quarried the thick lahar into lofty cliffs and small plateaus in many places. And the trail gets rougher the closer it gets to Pinatubo, so the tour driver eventually parked on the last piece of navigable flatland.

As hikers start toward the “Old Way,” a gully that leads up to the crater, volcanic rocks called dacites and andesites dot the landscape called “batong buhay,” or “living rocks,” because they seem to grow larger as the nine-kilometer trail approaches its destination. Actual living things are seldom seen; on this day, hikers see only a herd of goats.

A wooden sign challenges hikers to complete the final distance in 20 minutes — or be labeled “senior citizens.” Beyond the sign, the path turns into an ankle-deep, tadpole-filled brook flowing into a hardy forest. Finally, the trail ends at about 50 concrete steps and the first view of Lake Pinatubo. Called Lawa ni Apo Malyari by the Aetas, the area’s aboriginal settlers, the lake is a turquoise expanse surrounded by high, uneven cliffs. Voila! Pick and shoot your view.

Been There: A Great Adventure With A Great View

Tripadvisor members gave an overall 4.5 rating (5 being the highest) to their Mount Pinatubo experience. As of today, it is ranked #17 of 821 must-visit attractions in Luzon, Philippines. Here are a few things Tripadvisor members have to say about their Mount Pinatubo experience:

Stijn from Ninove, Belgium considers Mount Pinatubo trekking as one of the highlights of his roadtrip in Luzon and wrote, “I highly recommend it to everyone who is a bit adventurous,” in his June 13, 2013 review.

Bubbles from Manila, Philippines advises everyone to visit Mount Pinatubo during the summer (around March – May in the Philippines). One major downside when visiting the mountain during the rainy season – around June  to August, is that the river and lakes can swell with little warning, so if the tours are not at all suspended, you might find yourself stranded in the mountain for hours to wait for the waters in the rivers/lakes to subside.

JZ of Shanghai, China wrote a review on May 1, 2013 and he put a high recommendation for the travel company they hired to visit Mount Pinatubo. He said their group went with TRIPinas who “provided detailed itinerary and expectations and they were reasonably priced compared to other vendors.”

And Alanpunter from London calls Mount Pinatubo “absolutely stunning” and ranks it second among his most loved destinations in Philippines, next to Banaue Rice Terraces in the North.

Have you visited Pinatubo recently? Why don’t you tell us about your trip? We’d gladly post it on the site and share it with everybody.

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*All photos by Ms. Joy Angelina ‘Geli’ Beltran Zaldarriaga

Parc des Oiseaux / Bird Park in France

When I visited Berlin all by myself for its Natural History Museum (click to be mesmerized by a Vogel mustache) in November 2011, it was freaking cold I literally froze (my ass off) yet I’ve nonetheless learned that the birds’ evolutionary descendants were dinosaurs. Such a remarkable discovery, I know! It was also during this trip that I met a young, early twenty-ish Spanish guy who felt guilty over Spain’s colonization of the Philippines centuries ago, and a 40-ish Spanish hobo whom I’ve recently seen on Facebook to have visited the Philippines!

Back to the museum, after spacing out for a few minutes looking at a glass-laminated fossil of birds’ supposed link to dinosaurs (that really looked like pigeon ribs – they were so tiny & as incomprehensible as how a pigeon’s ribs would look like, etched into a hardened mud), I was like, man, being able to fly is not enough huh. Birds are such a kick ass species! What can they not do?

And so it is with great honor that I present to you some photos from the bird park we visited yesterday. A living proof that humanity will always make the most out of its shortcomings… by holding those with greater abilities in captivity. Aha! I love them birds. The park is in France and the website has a proper version in English (hurray!). I tried my best to capture more than 3,000 bird varieties but alas! I’m only human. Enjoy!

Dinosaur in the flesh! Be very afraid…

Uh huh, someone was not quite pleased!

While others simply walked away.

Garlic Shrimp Brochette

 
Did you know that anything on a stick is called a skewer /skyuwer/ in English and brochette /brohshet/ in French? I didn’t. From where I come from, we indicate food-on-a-stick with a ‘que’ or ‘cue’ or ‘Q’ /kyu/. Hence, banana-que (bananaQ), barbecue, kamote-cue. Anyway, I made these yumsters below for an Asian lunch in Frenchlandia: garlic shrimp brochette paired with maki.Dig in!

My top fruit faves: mango and avocado in a shrimpy stick!

Voila! An apero or appetizer prettiness in one plate.


 

Foie Gras /fwa-gra/

Prior to my arrival in France, I knew about foie gras and how it is pronounced. I must’ve read the controversy somewhere how duck livers are made the duck’s biggest body organ (i.e. fattening it) to supply the demand for this French delicacy. I noticed in France, foie gras is always present in special celebrations (together with champagne). Other countries make foie gras, too, but this is certainly associated with the French.

The quality of foie gras mostly depends on the quality of the duck liver, everything else is secondary. You can eat it on top of a (good) bread but never press on it like a spread (or ruin it – so I’ve been warned!), cut a small portion and just let it sit atop. Eating it with fig jam is remarkable, still I prefer my foie gras with a spicy jam Yoann’s brother brought home from his trip to South Africa. I thought that was such a rich add-on, subtle sweet with a tinge of spice.

But wait, there’s more! A few months back, Yoann’s mom brought me to a wine fair nearby Peronnas, France.  Right away, my eyesight was caught by this wonderful display of vivid colors to the left of the entrance. Obviously they weren’t wines, not candies either! They turned out to be fruit-covered foie gras. The producer, Monsieur Paul, gave us a taste of his foie gras assortment and the rest is my version of foie gras history. I’ve always liked it but only then had I become an endearing foie gras fan.

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Foie gras fruit covers: fig (la figue), strawberry (la fraise), mango (la mangue), apricot (l’abricot) are a few I could still recall.

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Création de Paul.

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Fig-covered foie gras leading the pack, equally stunning are the assorted colors behind. The fruits are sweetened first in case you’re wondering.

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That glazing seals the deal!

The taste? Foie gras has a full and fine creaminess that only a duck liver brings. A texture that is very reminiscent of creamy butter but one that does not leave a greasy feel in your tongue. You can say it’s sinfully divine.

Personal Freedom Without Abandon

Love Plume by Olly Molly Golly Les.

Love Plume by Olly Molly Golly Les.

Anxiety springs from my lack of endurance to keep on trying to relate to something I have deliberately alienated myself from some years ago – hypocrisy. It is at most discomforting. One does not throw away twenty years of familiarity out of the window, especially that remembering is such a comforting human privilege.

Ex-lovers, I’ve understood early on, but I find myself still wondering why and how good friends become complete strangers. However, of late, I seem to have reached a stage wherein I find it painfully rustic to endure an affair with stubborn familiarity. Self-inflicted teenage wounds maturing into adult monsters growing by the day without recognition, blamed on others at worse, thanks but we are not getting any younger and I have better things to do with my time.

We’ve been told time and again that letting go is liberating and I concur. To do as I choose without stepping on someone else’s toes is what I am talking about here. I might be forever bound to my nostalgic sentiments but the consequences I’ve thought long and hard enough that I’m ready to face the future without you. The taste of freedom more than makes up for the grief. More importantly, I am not the one (to have had suffered and) to apologize for your lack of consideration.

Understand that to be held back by others is my and my expense alone, that I choose to confront my life – good and bad, a life I made you a part of a long time ago. Abandonment it is not for I remain open with all my heart and soul. I may not be there but I am always to be found.