Monday, February 27, 2012

a Filipina gypsy named Jeneen

I've been called a gypsy and a nomad by friends, and there must be some truth to it, because I have not lived in one place for longer than five months in the last five years shares Filipina backpacker Jeneen Garcia. In fact, she revealed that in the last two years, she has not lived longer than five months in the same country.

There are no accidents--we are where we are meant to be at every particular place and time. Every experience is an opportunity for learning.--Jeneen 

Jeneen's travel adventures and misadventures inspired me to kick-start my own. We hang-out together several times when both of us were still based in Cebu. I'm actually a big fan of her beautiful poetry (Church Rite being my all-time favorite poem) and a rabid reader of her newspaper column (Lost and Found) and blog (earthbound). As fate would have it, our paths crossed again. We hang-out several times in Dumaguete and Valencia in Negros Island.

I am fascinated both by vibrant big cities and the wildest of natural places--Jeneen 

Jeneen, who earned her degree in Environmental Science from the Ateneo de Manila University, used to work for an environmental non-profit as well as do freelance travel writing and photography for newspapers and magazines before she decided to take a break and get an MSc degree in Marine Biology/Water and Coastal Management. She finished her graduate studies in Europe as an Erasmus Mundus scholar. The scholarship involves a great deal of mobility, hopping from Uni. Plymouth in the UK, to Universidad de Cadiz in Spain and finally in Universidade do Algarve in Germany.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

cheap rooms in Siargao Island

The cheapest published room rate in Cloud 9, Siargao doesn't go below Php500.00 (USD11.00) but if you haggle, you can actually get one for only Php350.00 (7 USD) or less.

The local I met at the pumpboat to Siargao recommended Kesa's after I told her I was looking for a Php500 room. I got one room at Kesa's convinced that it was a good deal already.

It is actually a nipa hut or shack with two beds. Location wise, it's ideal. The staff are friendly and the free wifi connection is very reliable but I wouldn't really recommend staying at the hut because it's falling apart. The following morning, bukbok or bol weevil droppings were all over my bed already! When I asked for a discount when I checked out, the staff wouldn't give me. Epic fail!

The Boardwalk @ Cloud 9 Resort

Next to Kesa is The Boardwalk @ Cloud 9--located right smack at the heart of where the real action is. Room rates could go as low as Php250.00 for the shared room. Had I known that they have a budget room with the same rate as Kesa's, I would have stayed with them.

I had my dinner here for two consecutive nights and I'd have to say that this place rocks! Good service by the happy staff was very consistent and the serving of food that averages Php250.00 per dish caters to voracious of appetites.

Ocean Pacific Inn and Restaurant 
+63.908.393.2796 and +63.930.188.0363

The room rate at Ocean Pacific is also a deal breaker. During lean season, room rates that are pegged at Php500.00 can actually go for as low as Php350.00 per night if you bargain.

Surf's up, let's go!


Monday, February 20, 2012

A blob of quicksilver called Gringo

Austistic or artistic, I can either be both says Filipino backpacker Gringo Benedicto.

A man of disarming contradictions, the twenty-something Bacolod-based photographer and painter (who also dabbles in acting and has appeared in indie films and music video) finished Culinary Arts at the University of St. La Salle. I studied culinary arts so I can deal with cravings, he enthuses.

"I am usually up for anything fun as long as time, money and mortality allow it." --Gringo

Gringo the man-about-town has traveled to Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. As an active member in the couchsurfing (CS) community, he has been hosting couchsurfers since 2007 and having a blast at it. I was hosted by him once during the Masskara Festival and I’d have to say that he does it with a confident dash of a topnotch host.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mystic Place Hostel

... a home away from home. an artsy family-run bed and breakfast. off-the-beaten yet so close to everything. 

Discerning travelers (on a budget), this one's for you!

Thailand. The mere mention of the name paints a smile on my face. I've been to Thailand a couple of times and I only have good words for the country. Take out the temples, the beach and the shopping and I'd still visit Thailand any given day for its namnam food (the thought of pad thai eaten in the streets of Khao San makes me salivate already) and of course its people--one of the most charming and hospitable race I've met thus far.

In this first edition of weekend sweet deal, I will feature a hostel in Bangkok, Thailand. I've heard a lot of positive reviews about this place since last year. Consistently, it's a hostel that evokes a certain character, a mystic charm. Each of the rooms is individually designed by different local Thai artists. With room names ranging from "Wish You Were Here" to "Medicine Machine" to "Power of Positive Energy," they mean only one thing: a class all its own. 

The price on average is Php700.00 per person for a group of three (room rate is around Php1,800.00 good for two plus one additional person in extra bed or 2 children under 12 years old to sleep in existing bed).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“heart-rending and rip-roaringly funny”

It's been two months since I quit my job. Now that I am back in the big city with all the time in my hands, I keep myself busy checking the art scenes here and there. It's this palpable energy I sorely missed since I left Cebu four years ago.

In a few months, I'll get bored with this scene, I know. I'll pack up and then find myself elsewhere, again. For now, I am enjoying every bit of it while it lasts. 

For a couple of weekends now, I've been doing photography assignments for Little Boy--a production company specialising in theatre. With the assignment comes the privilege of watching the show for free. 

I've heard a lot of good reviews about the Palanca award-winning play Welcome to Intelstar written by Chris Martinez. It's an interactive comedy about the call center industry in the Philippines. For those who are not familiar, Mr. Martinez wrote the screenplay for Kimi Dora and 100, hit movies top-billed by Eugene Domingo (Domingo and Michael V have played the main character Miss Chelsea during its Manila run).

In Cebu, the main character Miss Chelsea is played by writer-editor and host--Jude Bacalso. 

Jude Bacalso takes on the role of Miss Chelsea, a high-level trainer conducting an orientation seminar to the audience who “plays” the part of her new batch of call center trainees. Dressed impeccably in a power suit and using the required “neutral American accent,” Miss Chelsea discusses everything you wanted to know about call centers but were perhaps afraid to ask. “Welcome to IntelStar” promises to be a funny and rare theatrical experience that is not to be missed.--lifted from

For lack of better words, the show was gut-busting. Do not miss the subtle kick in the gut found at the ending. Hugyaw ra!  

Catch the last run of the comedic monologue on March 4, 2012 (Sunday) at 3 and 5pm, CAP Arts Center (across McDonald's Jones). Tickets at only P150 at the gate.

special thanks to the kind Hendri Go for the invitation

Monday, February 13, 2012

(free) trip to Iligan, anyone?

The 5-day all-expenses paid trip to Iligan (home of 23 waterfalls) was a "deadly" experience waiting to happen. It was at this time of the year (in 2007) when I heeded the call for submission of application to the National Writers Workshop in Iligan.

I came to Iligan without the benefit of any mentor or regional writers workshop. So, like most beginning writers who came before me, it was, as always, a baptism of fire.

To make the story short, I was happy I made the cut. It never occurred to me though that the competition was way tougher than I thought it would be  (more than a hundred applied for the 15 slots). That same year, two of my batch mates won the Palanca.

Application for this year's workshop is now open:

"The Mindanao Creative Writers Group, Inc., and the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension (OVCRE) are accepting applications from writers to the 19th Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) to be held on May 14-18, 2012 in Iligan City. 
 Panelists this year are Erlinda Kintanar Alburo, Leoncio P. Deriada, Merlie M. Alunan, German V. Gervacio, Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, Ralph Semino Galan, J. Neil Garcia, John Iremil Teodoro and Christine Godinez-Ortega and this year’s keynote speaker, Victor N. Sugbo. 
 Fifteen (15) slots, five each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and one (1) slot each for the Manuel T. Buenafe Writing Fellowship (MTBWF) and the Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen Bursary for Creative Writing or a total of 17 slots are available for writing fellowships to the 19th INWW.

Friday, February 10, 2012

have Mabuhay Magazine, will travel

In the 90s, the opportunity to ride an airplane for the first time presented itself.

Inside the cabin, I found a copy of a magazine stashed in the seat pocket right in front of me. The ride made me excited and nervous at the same time. To make matters worse, I was assigned a seat far from my cousins. So, to keep my cool and not look probinsyano (hillbilly), I got the copy and flipped its pages with my sweaty palms while waiting for the plane to taxi the runway.

I enjoyed reading every story I just had to take it home with me. Good souvenir item too, I thought. But the deal breaker really was the photographs by George Tapan. My dream to become a travel photographer began to take its shape during that ride.

After college, I was extremely fired up to apprentice for George Tapan but couldn't find the person to put my feet on his door so the dream stayed in the back burner. For now, the closest I can get to working for Mr. Tapan would be to contribute for the magazine. It's a long shot really, but might as well give it a try.

Here's the blurb:

Mabuhay, the country's premier inflight magazine, is seeking Regional Contributors.

writers (send writing samples and story ideas)
photographers (send a portfolio of your work or a link to your online gallery)

If you are interested to be a contributor too, click this link to know more.

the real Ahcee Flores revealed

The plot thickens. ABS-CBN Central Visayas has traced Ahcee Flores.


The interview by ABS-CBN News Operation Specialist Ferdinand Dimataga Manus reveals that Ahcee Flores' real name is Joe Marie Alfuerto of Liloan, Cebu. But it doesn't end there. It turns out that Alfuerto and Ahcee Flores are not the same person. (see video above in full)

Alfuerto's photo is one of several photos used by those who did internet snooping at the height of the outburst.

The question begs, who is the real Ahcee Flores?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Pacific already purchased Philippine Airlines?

First Pacific is said to have bought the country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines. In an online news dated February 8, 2012, Hongkong based conglomerate First Pacific Ltd. thru CEO Manny V. Pangilinan is said to have paid US700 million.

Is there any truth to this?

Here's the screenshot from Indonesia online news site tempointeractive:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Amazing Race Philippines audition schedule

Shoot to fame with your love for adventure, knack for directions and quick mind (and a little drama won't hurt. lol)!

By now, you must have heard about the news: TV5 acquired the franchise of the reality game show The Amazing Race! My bestfriend and I are interested to join!

24 hours in Melaka

The moment I stepped on the cobblestone streets of Melaka, a riot of smell greeted me. Perhaps coming from a stew cooking slowly on top a burner in one of the shophouses lining up the river. Cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric. I couldn't tell. There was only one thing certain though: my old, restless soul felt so at home.

After making a wrong turn, I finally found my home for the night, a restored centuries-old Chinese shophouse called River View Guesthouse. Rightfully so, the terrace at the back empties to a magnificent view of Melaka River.  

One thing that endeared me to this city is how up to this day, the city is bursting with so much life and teeming with commerce unlike many colonial towns which are left to decay. In 2008, the city has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As soon as my room was ready, I left my backpack and made a quick dash to Jonker Street and grabbed a serving of durian cendol, just perfect to cool down under the sweltering Malaysia weather.

I imposed to myself that I should check out all the major museums scattered all over the city including the open grave of St. Francis Xavier (the saint was buried here before his relic was brought to Goa, India). After the obligatory visits, I was left with no energy to, at least, drag myself home. So, I hired a rickshaw. Sosyal na traysikad uruy! Fiesta theme!

I had a power nap. By the time I woke up, I was so recharged I sought out the party scene. Did I come during lean season because it seemed quiet everywhere? The quarter where I lived looked rather eerily romantic at night. I walked the length of the road until I reached Red Dutch Square. 

With nothing much left to do except console myself with the sight of one big monitor lizard crossing the river, I traced my way back and tucked myself to bed. 

The next day, I packed up and said my goodbyes to the very kind Malaysian couple who owns the guesthouse. I had a quick meal of the best nasi lemak and headed out to Melaka Sentral Terminal to catch the 12 noon bus to Singapore.

So there. Livin' la vida pica pica in Melaka, Malaysia!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

hunting for the head of one Ahcee Flores

Will the real Ahcee Flores please stand up?

After the intensity 6.8 earthquake hit Negros and Cebu, another tremor jolted Visayas. This time in social media circle. The target for the wrath and fury (just a snicker by some saying KSP or kulang sa pansin lang) is a woman named Ahcee Flores. 

Her disparaging comment in Yahoo News fueled an outrage among Filipino netizens from around the globe. 

“let us pray…na matuloy ang tsunami para maraming bisaya ang mamatay, para mabawasan ang mga baduy sa pilipinas."

In a span of an hour, a movement called Kill Ahcee Flores was created in facebook (with photos of her pa, ha!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

unverified tsunami reports caused panic in Cebu City

All hell broke loose after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit Cebu City at 11:49 am today.

I was inside a bookstore when the building started to shake. In split of a second, the image of a 20-storey building in rubble on top of my body played inside my head. I quickly snatched my camera bag sitting beside me and jumped out of my skin toward the hallway. On my way out, a metal the size of a plate fell from the ceiling. The sound of iron doors closing simultaneously filled the mall while everyone, with panic written all over their faces, scampered toward the nearest exit. It was good to see how orderly everyone behaved on their way out. The tremor lasted about 15 seconds. By the time the earthquake stopped, I was already in the skywalk with everyone.  

Outside a few seconds later: