Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Extended Summer, Week 8 (C&C in Iloilo)

It's been quiet in here for some time, thanks to the chaotic intrusion of one Carmel Vistal, Duchess of the Borough of Hillsborough, Muntinlupa City, and her squire Charles Patrick Uy (a.k.a. He Who Purportedly Listens to Genetics E-books To Fall Asleep) into our unassuming jungle-city lives. As tempting as it is to just whip up a Facebook album and stuff all the photos in there-- Who am I kidding? My Facebook is dead. 

June 2-6, 2014


I gave the obligatory out-of-town churches tour because everybody knows Carmel is a closeted nun. Our first stop was the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in the municipality of Miag-ao, some 40km southwest of Iloilo City. It is one of four baroque churches in the country designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. (The official designation is - guess what? - "Baroque Churches of the Philippines.") 

Miag-ao is also home to one of four UP Visayas campuses. This one has it owns beach.

Our third stop was the Church of St. John of Sahagun in Tigbauan, about 16km southwest of Iloilo City. Tile mosaics, the biggest of which lords over the sanctuary, adorn the interiors.


This was Bacolod day. Our mission was to show our allegedly profligate neighbors across the sea that an alliance still exists between us, despite Carmel's unpublicized recent trip to the delivery room. (She gave birth to a pair of fire-breathing iguanas and declared, "When my children are grown, we will take back what was stolen from me and destroy those who wronged me!") The other version of our mission goes like this: We went to Bacolod to eat, though I have no photos to prove it. 

This is The Ruins (of the Don Mariano Lacson Mansion in Talisay City, which is actually right next to Bacolod). Trivia: The funny tour guide here was featured in an episode of "Gandang Gabi, Vice!" 

"I'm wishing for the one I love to find me today." ---Snow White

Meet Francis. He is Pia's five-year-old nephew. I gave him a 25-centavo coin and told him to get atop that rock, look intently at the coin, and say, "My Precious!" Hey Peter Jackson, I've found the next Andy Serkis.

San Sebastian Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of the city.

The gazebo at the Bacolod Public Plaza is inhabited by alien fish that swim in a sort of Area 51-ish pattern and frequented by lovers as young as five. When Francis the young traveling knight felt he was done with the maiden in the photo and took off for the nearby swings where a gaggle of lovely ladies were combing their hair and putting on lipstick, I whispered to the distraught child, "Today, you learn to fight for your man!"

Later that day, Pia practiced her mommy skills. She is getting married before the year ends, after all. Or so the rumor goes.


We went to Guimaras Island with a bottle of Merlot, among other important stuff, in hand. This is Ortiz Wharf near Santa Maria Parish where the family hears mass. The regular fare for a one-way trip via pump boat is P14.

Guimaras is an island-province. The provincial capital is Jordan, which is not pronounced the same way as the basketball star. It claims to have the world's smallest plaza.

This is the Trappist Monastery in Guimaras. Pine trees thrive in the place, which should say something about its elevation. Also, we saw a monk from afar. CHALLENGE: Enlarge the lower-right picture, and tell me what you see. Clue: I was so thankful I did not touch the scallop shell.

Our main destination in Guimaras was Magic Island Resort, near the southern tip of the island. It is a little more than an hour by tricycle from the Jordan Wharf, not counting the 4km rough road leading to this settlement of boats nestled in the midst of a mangrove forest. Magic Island has its own motorized flat boats to transport its clients.

I mean, come on, these are mangroves!

The truth is that Magic Island is just one of roughly 49 islets scattered in the area. The approach to the resort is simply breathtaking. (Coron, anyone?)

Magic Island is still a work in progress. The caretaker told us they don't always have guests every day, but there are always guests every week.

We were one of only two groups of good friends sharing one wonderful one short day spending that Wednesday night in the resort.

The Magic Island overnight package includes three full meals and two snacks. Upon arrival, we were treated to a plate of biscuits and fresh buko juice.

This is the view from our balcony. (It is a common balcony, accessible to all six seaside rooms, but still.) Some time in the afternoon, I grabbed a chair, put my feet up on the ledge, and read Monica Ali's "Brick Lane" to an enchanting symphony of wind and water.

"What does that island look like?" the caretaker asked. "A duck!" I immediately answered. "That is what we call Swan Island," he said. And I was like, omgmcdbfmns I just couldn't.

Now here's the secret of Magic Island: Come evening, when low tide is the word, that expanse of water in the next two photos transform into what looks like the Hundred Islands of Sand (y'know, like the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan). It is this nightly juxtaposition of tide pools and sand islets that is the real magic of the place.

Lunch: Sweet-chili shrimps, fresh crabs, and sinigang na lapu-lapu, with Guimaras mangoes for dessert.

That afternoon, Carmel showed us what is known in her beloved high school Woodrose as the "Day-off" pose. It took us lowly creatures quite some time to decipher what she was getting at.

The ceiling of our balcony was home to this beautiful spider.

Mid-afternoon, we went island-hopping. (It was more like island-seeing, really, because we only did step foot on one island.) Also, I got stung by jellyfish, and it hurt like a bullshit (and here, I'm quoting Violet Weston).

Right across Magic Island is Mama Mary Island, obviously because it has a giant statue of the Virgin Mary. To get to the statue, you actually have to do minor-league wilderness trekking, and so to alleviate the pain from the jellyfish sting, I started singing "Let It Be" even though I knew an apparition of John Lennon was 98% impossible.

Sunset by the beach, or how Charles' fascination with crab holes made for an amusing sight. The first photo clearly shows a dark curve on the bottom half; that was the edge of the shore in the morning.

Dinner: Lechon kawali, sweet and sour lapu-lapu, and tinola na Bisayang manokwith Guimaras mangoes for dessert.

After dinner, it was biology time! Under the influence of a laboriously opened bottle of Merlot, we conquered the tide pools and played with starfish (I made a starfish pancake pile!), funny-looking crabs, trapped jellyfish (hurray!), sea centipedes, and sea snails. To borrow from Woody Allen, it was magic in the moonlight.


Breakfast: chorizo and fried eggs. From our balcony, we could see this big-ass orange starfish.

Then, it was rowing time. They weren't really kayaks, nor were they canoes, so I'll settle with rowing time. The funny start to rowing time was C&C's boat sinking because it actually had holes or something.

Behold, the morning-after look of my jellyfish sting.

Rowing time was the best part of this trip for me. We got to see some cool rock formations up close, scan the water for huge-ass orange starfish, put the physics behind two-person rowing to use, unintentionally hit some mangroves, and take badass selfies. And yes, my lips can get unnaturally red at times.

Then, it was time to leave. This was our double-twin-bed accommodation. There are presently six such rooms in the resort.

The last part of our Guimaras adventure was climbing Mt. Balaan, locally called Balaan Bukid, but one does not really go there to climb. During Holy Week, specifically Good Friday, people flock to this 170m mountain either in simple pilgrimage or to do the Way of the Cross - because yes, the stations are scattered throughout the trail to the peak, where a small chapel and a huge cross that's visible throughout Iloilo City await. And of course, a vista of Iloilo.

From the peak, I spied a clearing and a cow.

Obligatory turista photos.

It was time to cross the strait. These are scenes at the Jordan Wharf.


C&C's last day in Iloilo was a jam-packed city tour with yours truly as the great driver. Among the destinations were Jaro Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Jaro. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Candles and is one of the few in the country to have a belfry (photographed) separate from the main church building.  

After lunch at Breakthrough Restaurant, we dropped by the Sinamay House, where we saw this badass weaving machine and a chess set donated by Ian McKellen himself. 

We dropped by the reconstructed Fort San Pedro, next to the Iloilo Domestic Port. The place was built in the early 17th century to protect from invaders from the sea, but nowadays, it serves as the vacation home of Mrs. Lovett.

A stone's throw away from our house (in Molo district) is the Church of St. Anne, bastion of Catholic feminists because of its all-female-saint lineup (in contrast to Jaro's all-male roster). 

Meanwhile, in Molo Plaza, they've erected this fairly inaccurate ode to Grecian paganism. Star of the photo below is supposed to be Athena, but everybody knows the Olympians were overweight.

Finally, the day ended with a sunset walk along the new Carpenter's Bridge and the Iloilo River Esplanade. The old city abattoir is now riddled with hippy vandalism. The mountains signifying the border between Iloilo and Antique provinces finally appeared after days of cloudy skies. And C&C undoubtedly returned to Imperialist Manila a few pounds heavier, because that is the truth.

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