Sunday, March 30, 2014

my hot date

In the middle of nowhere, at the foot of an ancient volcano..

..there's an abandoned hot spring resort with water temperature rising between 38 to 40 degrees. Some locals have no idea where it is. The signage doesn't help either (what is left of it from the national highway is just the metal frame). The way is rough and dusty with patches of concrete road in between. Getting there is already half of the adventure.

After wading through the lukewarm river, the abandoned facilities beckon. The moss has thickened and rust seems to take over. 

I was here a year ago. Nothing has changed. Still abandoned. No other people in sight.

Pay homage to nature! #skinnydipping 

location: Baslay Hot Spring, Dauin, Oriental Negros 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

passport renewal (for the legally clueless)

Forget about the long lines and the 6-hour processing time.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has trashed all the hassle. The renewal of my passport took me a record time of only 30 minutes!!! at DFA Regional Consular Office in Robinson's Place-Bacolod. That's a stark contrast back in the day when I had to line up at 6AM for a processing that ended at 11:30AM in DFA Cebu.

Welcome to 2014 and to the most efficient government agency! Hooray Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)!

How to renew or apply seamlessly for a Philippine passport?  First, avoid DFA Offices in big cities.  I heard they do things differently there. Like an appointment system. I choose Bacolod so I can just show up unannounced. I've also heard excellent feedback about DFA Bacolod and since it's closed to where I am based, off I went to Bacolod. Be clueless no more!  

The main entrance of Robinson's Place Bacolod opens at 9AM (for DFA-related transactions). The guards will check your old passport (renewal) and complete requirements (for those applying for the first time). DFA Bacolod is located at the 3rd level near the Food Court.

Here's a quick guide on the application procedure:
  1. The guard at DFA will hand you the application form for you to fill out.
  2. Proceed to the photocopy section and have your requirements photocopied.
  3. The DFA staff assigned at the foyer will check your requirements and if complete, the same staff will forward your application to the counter.
  4. Proceed to the waiting area in front of counters 1 to 3 and wait for your name to be called. I waited for 5 minutes only.
  5. Once the staff at counters 1 to 3 have counter-checked your information, you will be asked to proceed to the cashier.
  6. Pay to the cashier. 
    • Regular processing (15 working days): Php950.00; 
    • Express (7 days): Php1,200.00   
  7. Proceed to the next counter for picture-taking and to counter-check your personal data. No earrings. No smiling. Hashtag poker face or Mona Lisa smile.
  8. Once done, proceed to the LBC counter (same staff in photocopy section) and hand in your old passport, write the address where you would like your passport to be delivered and pay Php100.00. You're done!  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What to do in Boracay? Eat. Play. Love.

Where to begin in the world's best beach? 

photo lifted from the web

You arrive at lunch time and with a couple of hours to burn before check-in, you inform the front desk that you will be back at two when the bed is ready. You endorse your backpack for storage, put on your wayfarers and off you go barefoot to the White Beach.

The beachfront is already filled with half-naked people halfway through their lunch. You fancy an Italian meal so you head out to D'Mall and happy to find Aria. You order a glass of white wine and pasta con gamberetti e zucchini. While waiting, you fish out your book and phone from your sling bag, flip to where the dog ear is and put on your earphones.

After you wipe out the last morsel of bread on your plate, you linger for a few minutes. You've seen the most number of well-sculpted bodies in one place and nudge yourself to go back to the gym after this trip. Then a couple, each nursing from a mineral water bottle thick with color, passes by. Jonah's fruit shake! without skipping a beat, you walk a few meters and get the buko-flavor. A local approaches you and offers you island-hopping package tour for tomorrow. You smile and shake your head. He walks away.

Late in the afternoon you meet other travelers lounging in the common area. Like you, they just arrive too. You overheard one of them mentions couchsurfing and the conversation soon becomes more kindred.

You are now on your fourth bottle of beer with the talcum-fine sand on your feet and the most stunning sunset before your eyes. The parasailers that dot the horizon earlier are all gone. Your new friends invite you for a dip but the guard calls your attention. Bringing of drinks in the water is not allowed he said. You all oblige then leave the half-empty bottles on the sand and swim in the crystal clear water. The paraws swiftly sail on the millpond flat water. In shadow and light, you can make out couples seated on the net spread out on both outrigger beams of the paraws.

At sundown, after dinner, you all get ready for Boracay Pub Crawl. The island transforms into a frenzy. The pulsating energy at Red Coconut rubs off on you. Between now and sunrise, as they say, what happens in Boracay stays in Boracay. You silently agree.   

After a bad hangover for two days in a row, all you want is a quieter Boracay. Bulabog Beach is an option. You love the idea of kite surfing but you soon find out that you need to cough out half of your whole budget for this trip so you ditch the plan. Earlier, you've seen a bike rental shop along the main road just across D'Mall and decide to pedal to your best spot in the island--Puka Beach. Puka Beach has earned the buzzword as the Boracay in the 70s. Not a resort in sight. Just you, the beach and the occasional tourists.

There is still a spot quieter than this. A secluded white beach embraced by a cove. So you hit the road again and turn left at the forked road. Then you find it. Exactly the same as you imagine it.

You are happy to be back.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where to stay in Boracay? 3 Budget Accommodations

3 Cs--Cheap. Comfy. Cool. Three budget accommodations (for solo backpackers) in Boracay are in my little red book on budget travel.

MNL Beach Hostel Boracay photo

Get ready to mingle. Here, recommends:

No. 3 | Frendz Resort Boracay
Address: Off-Station 1, Balabag Beach, White Beach, Boracay 
Phone:(036) 288 3803
Rate: starts at Php400/person for dorm room

+ points
  • a minute walk to the White Beach
  • friendly staff
  • 2 minutes to the D'Mall and to food and entertainment venues
  •  known for its house party. great place to meet other backpackers
- points
  • spartan accommodation (you get what you pay for)
  • no hot shower

No. 2 | Tree House Boracay 
Address: Station 3, Angol, Manoc-manoc, Boracay 
Phone:036.288.3601, 0908.810.0738

Rate: starts at Php200/person for dorm

 + points
  • beachfront property
  • friendly staff
  • quieter side of White Beach
  • cheapest rates along the White Beach
  • good food and cheap beer
 - points
  • a bit far from where the action is
  • no hot shower
  • rooms have seen better days

No. 1 | MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

 The epicenter of the most interesting backpacking crowd in Boracay! Easily the top pick!

Address: Road 1A, Bulabog, Barangay Balabag, Boracay 5608
+ points
  • newest hostel in the island
  • friendly staff
  • pod-style bunk beds for privacy 
  • built-in facilities like personal socket, lamp and ledge
  • 8.5 inch spring mattress 
  • hotel grade linen and pillows
  • heated rain showers
  • FREE Breakfast, FREE Linen, FREE Bath Towel, FREE Beach Towel and FREE Locker 
  • movie night
  • karaoke night
  • Bring Your Own Meat Grill party at the roofdeck

 - points
  • far from the White Beach
 Happy travels~