Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sanctity of a Man-Made Forest

 To step foot on the man-made forest of Bohol is to tread on hallowed ground. There isn't a human soul out there that would not be captivated by the sight of these towering mahogany trees rising side by side to the sky. It must be a kingdom straight out of plant lore, in that every direction the eye takes is one eternally pervaded by the presence of these trees. Here, life is in a state of unmatched ubiquity. The silence, combined with the windy whispers and rustling of foliage, inspires a much-welcome chill to trace the length of one's diminutive spine. In between the intricate system of leaves and branches shaped and weaved on so many heights, shafts of light pour through spaces to bathe the earth with a tender warmth. It is, in many ways, akin to standing directly beneath the dome of a majestic cathedral - the sanctuary in front, endless rows of pews and columns behind, rays of light streaming down from rose windows to coalesce on the floor, leaving shadowy patterns in their wake. Here, like in those holy places of worship, sanctity is unquestionably accorded.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The (Chocolate) Hills Are Alive

From the website of the province of Bohol:

"The Chocolate Hills are probably Bohol's most famous tourist attraction. They look like giant mole hills, or as some say, women's breasts, and remind us of the hills in a small child's drawing. Most people... can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact... this idea is quickly abandoned, as the effort would surely surpass the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. The chocolate hills consist of are no less than 1268 hills (some claim this to be the exact number). They are very uniform in shape and mostly between 30 and 50 meters high. They are covered with grass, which, at the end of the dry season, turns chocolate brown. From this color, the hills derive their name. At other times, the hills are green, and the association may be a bit difficult to make." 

You gotta love the similes. 

It was mid-morning and summer in the Central Visayas. The sun was intent on burning every square inch of skin in sight. The principle behind these photos (Nokia C3-00, for the nth time) was point and shoot. No time to measure the angles, calibrate the framing, all that photography shiz. And as always, before uploading, no editing, no Adobe Photoshop - just the original pics. 




Flowers and Tank.



 Home base.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Late Afternoon in Bohol

We arrived at Tagbilaran port at roughly 3:30PM, hoping to catch the 4:10 ferry back to Cebu instead of our original 6-ish. Guess what? 4:10's fully booked. What do we do, lounge around the place?

For a gateway to a premiere tourist destination and nature hotspot, the port terminal was a messy watering hole straight out of an African safari. Seriously, they should fix the place. People were scattered all over the place, the atmosphere was sweltering, seats were not enough. I was sweaty, children were crying, pieces of luggage dominated the floor. What a change of scene that must have been for the departing tourists.

An idea hit me. We spied a herd of idle taxis outside and headed for it. 

"What's the most... sosyal, high-end, hotel here in Tagbilaran?"

The men looked at us. "Bohol Tropics," one of them said.

"How much would it cost us to get there?"

"We'll have to do flat rates. P100 for the three of you," the eager one replied.

Screw you! The influence of bitch taxis from Manila is indeed spreading all over the country like an epidemic.

"Take a trike, that will be cheaper," he said. Idiot.

It took us P30 and less than five minutes by trike to get to Bohol Tropics Resort. Looked impressive, all majestic and wide open spaces and green paint and lots of plants. We ended up eating their halo-halo and sandwiches at the cafe on the terrace overlooking the sea. 

But to my mother's horror and disgust, the only female restroom for public use in the place was an untidy stink hole. The floor was evidently unmopped. There was unflushed feces in one of the bowls. (Okay, I realize that's disgusting.) Their reason for this extremely disappointing display? The janitor in charge went to mass. Here's another photo (Nokia C3-00) to wash away the imagery. Those guys might as well be parted lovers.

Claudined the Other Way

The weekend of "Thrilla in NAIA" a.k.a. when, in the urban wilderness of Manila Airport's Terminal 3, sort-of-powerful sorta-journalist got into a brawl with husband of famous actress after HFA caught SPSJ videotaping FA while she roasted employee of inefficient trash budget airline over baggage problems, I was in Cebu. Internet memes now define 'claudined' - a neologism, in case one gets bamboozled - as to lose one's tact and breeding in a state of anger (yes, that makes it a verb - I suspect it can also be an adjective, like "Rosalinda becomes a claudined zombie when her sister is around).

Here is a cellphone picture I took as our plane departed Mactan Airport on an early Tuesday morning bound for Iloilo. Some of the city's landmarks, the trained eye might recognize - Waterfront Hotel Mactan just behind the terminal building, and in the distance, castle-like Waterfront Hotel, Crown Regency Hotel and Towers (the tallest structure in the city), and Marco Polo Plaza on the hills, to name a few. 

The twenty minutes or so that preceded this takeoff, however, was the highlight of the morning. Our flight was scheduled to commence boarding at 5:40AM for a 6:10AM departure. Because of taxi issues at the hotel (bitch taxis also exist in Cebu, we discovered), we arrived at the airport a few minutes before 5:30. We breezed through check-in as there was miraculously no line - the 60+ other passengers, I overheard the attendants, were already done. So, as planned, I waited near the terminal fee counters while Mother and Sister exited the building to buy Cebu's famous lechon at an outlet across the street. 

When they returned not a short while later, the PA system came to life and screamed for all the world to hear, "Calling the last three passengers of AirPhil Expess flight blah to Iloilo, please board the aircraft now." We fell in line to pay our terminal fees. "Final call for boarding for the last three remaining passengers..." We arrived at the final security check. "Calling the last three passengers..." And they announced our names!

It was 5:40AM. What the heck?! We were supposed to just start boarding at this time and now they have everyone onboard except us? We even had one of their attendants personally escort us like lost schoolchildren all the way to the stairs to the plane. Less than five minutes after we took our seats, we were rolling down the taxiway.

Lore has it that my grandfather, in those days of old when air travel was still a creepy thing, once chased after a train he was supposed to catch. I praise AirPhil Express for their efficiency, but it's just too weird a system for me. Claudine takes one of their flights, checks in, goes out to buy lechon as peace offering to the Tulfos (in your dreams!), takes a very long while outside, and gets left behind by her luggage. Oh dear. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kanlaon, Cloaked in Majesty

My fascination with mountains and volcanoes began before I was ten. I suppose, and I often say this, that's what you get for having an older brother who ate books as a kid. Now he only feasts on Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine and uber geeky stuff like that, but still.

I remember we had this name-game on the peaks of the Himalayan system, and another time, on the highest peaks of each continent - the Seven Summits, they are called. On the former, I still remember Everest (duh!), K2 (also known as Godwin Austen, thought it's actually part of the Karakoram), Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, Nanda Devi; for the latter, there's Everest (again), Kilimanjaro, McKinley, Aconcagua, Elbrus, Vinson Massif, and Kosciuzko. I think I may have sounded a bit nerdy there.

And then there are the volcanoes - to name a few, Etna on Sicily, Santorini and its ginormous volcanic past (and - bonus - the lore of Atlantis), Mt. St. Helens over at Washington state, and the mother of all volcanic topics: Hawaii. That must be why I found the cinematography of The Descendants, um, captivating. (Yes, it's possible to be confronted with huge close-ups of George Clooney's morose face and be the least bit moved.) I suppose someday I'd eventually meet someone out there who'd find this excess of trivia in my brain... sexy. "Hey there, has anyone ever told you how much you resemble Kilauea? I mean, deep down, you're all hot stuff." And before I forget, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are miles taller than Everest if we start at the bottom of the sea, okay?

So now, behold the following photos, captured once again with my beloved Nokia C3-00. One of the best reasons to fly the Iloilo-Cebu vv. route is the chance to gaze at the beauty of Mt. Kanlaon - 2,435m high and just 30km southeast of the major city of Bacolod.

From the mountain climbers and hiker's haven Pinoy Mountaineer, run by Dr. Gideon Lasco of UP College of Medicine 2010:

"The country's largest active volcano and Visayas' highest mountain is Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island. As the highest mountain in the Visayas, it is majestic. As the country's largest active volcano, it is fearsome. Its majesty lies in its forests, waterfalls, lagoons, and culminates in its crater, vast and desolate."  (

The first two photos were taken on the morning Iloilo-Cebu flight of AirPhil Express, Saturday, May 5, and the last two, on the return trip three days later. Notice the volcano's distinctive shave around its peak - a crown, if metaphor-speak be allowed - and how the clouds, in the fashion of literature, become its 'white cloak of majesty'. 

Yep, I just said that... white cloak of majesty. Think I just made lots of dead people proud of me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Visayas from a Plane

To be in two places at once has always been a mind-tickling idea. I think of A Walk to Remember, the Mandy Moore film based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. I think of physics and quantum mechanics, then I realize I don't really know much about that. I think of Nightcrawler in the X-Men movies - blue-skinned Allan Cumming with a prehensile tail - but oh wait, that's teleportation. 

It's not really omnipresence, or god-like ubiquity. It's more the thought of breaking free from the singularity of place. It's about tearing down a limited human dimension, and in the process, see more than just what is.

For now, we settle on 'bird's eye view' - seeing more than one place at a time, in this case three. The photo was taken aboard AirPhil Express' early morning Cebu-Iloilo flight on Tuesday, May 8. The foreground is the northern end of Negros island; the thin strip of land on the middle-right is Cebu, and above it, almost an extension of the clouds, is Leyte. My camera is a Nokia C3-00, if offended DSLR users are wondering.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old Mr. Pork Tendon

Old Chinese man selling dried pork tendon barges into the store. I'm the one in charge while Mother is at the salon. Dear Lord, what infernal punishment is this? The following conversation takes place in Hokkien.

Man: Boy, is your mother here?

Me: Uh no, she's away.

Man: Where's your father?

Me: He's on his way.

Man: Oh. (Senses the perfect opportunity to *fool* me.) Well you have to buy these pork tendons, really good, P260 only.

Me: Uh, yeah, let me call Mother first.

Man: Ah yes, okay okay, do that.

I attempt to call Mother. Takes a very long to establish a connection. Then, she answers.

Mother: Yow punk, what is up? (That's basically the essence of what she says.)

Me: Uh, are you gonna buy dried pork tendons?

Mother: Ohow! Is the old Chinese man there? (She says exactly that. Apparently, old Chinese man is a regular. Then again, my parents have to deal with secondhand fame in the Ilonggo Chinese community, courtesy of my paternal grandfather, God bless his soul.)

Me: Spot on, woman.

Mother: Tell him we're not getting yet.

Me: (Relieved that Chinese man will have to leave soon.) Suree you beauty.

Then to old Chinese man, whom I've asked to sit. He's admiring our images of the Chinese gods. Yes, it's requisite for every Chinese business establishment to have them. 

Me: Mother says we're not getting yet.

Man: Oh, okay okay, I better get going then. So your Mother says you're not going to sell?

I'm confused. In Hokkien Chinese, the words for 'buy' and 'sell' are both buei, just that the former uses the first (higher) tone and the latter, the fourth (harder) tone. 

Me: We're not gonna sell?

Man: You're not gonna sell?

Me: Uh, I'm sorry?

Man: Oh boy, you gotta go brush up on your Hokkien, huh? You're gonna need it someday.

Me: Uh, yeah man, I don't understand your mumbling?

Of course I don't say that. I just smile as he exits, smile like an ambassador for peace