Friday, August 19, 2011
So last week I hopped in a van for the 6 hour trek north to El Nido. Cute little town with shops along the beach and THE spot for catching a boat to the many of smaller uninhabited islands of Bacuit Bay. Everyone sells the same tours: Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D. All of which are a full-day trip of exploring the pristine beaches and snorkel the crystal clear blue waters of lagoons and bays. On Tour A, I met a nervous-angry American and his filipina girlfriend. We set off on a pangka ride and learned not to ask questions. Because like some people, he really liked to talk and talk and talk, but never say a thing. I still have not mastered how to get out of that awkward social situation, especially when you are facing each other in a tiny little boat where your knees touch when we rode over a big wave...Mrs. Hornblower would be proud of my response (or lack of).
Halfway through the island-hopping, they pulled over and the two locals prepared our lunch over an open fire, very quaint and oddly enough tasty. Less talking with fish in your mouth:)
The next day I lingered around waiting for the rain to cease. I scripted 32 postcards to my class and got a massage at a little parlor across from my hotel. Since there is no electricity in the "city" from 6am to 2 pm, you have no choice but to get out and go once the roosters crow. Here is where I really lucked out. The owner, a tough Korean guy, decided to take his personal speed boat (only one in El Nido) out for Tour C. He invited me and a French couple to join him. We waited until the rain stopped and set off to a variety of isolated isles. We were the only people on these beaches and at one point I looked up at the tall limestone cliffs and took a mental picture. Literally so exquisite and so untouristy, I thought to myself, "One of the last frontiers." I feel lucky to have experienced Palawan before the inevitable hits and everyone starts to head there and ruin it.
So this leaves me back in Sabang at the fancy hotel. There are only 4-6 other rooms occupied and I have this grand place pretty much to myself again. Lucky me! I've been relishing this time, therefore no blog posts until now. Just 3 more days here, back to Manila and fly home again to make more money for next year.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Well, I couldn't post for a while because the internet service was blocking the blogger site...So here are some pics from Sabang and El Nido.
In Sabang, I stayed at a super-deluxe-fancy-pansy resort on the water, in which I am returning to tomorrow. That is where the famous underground river is found. It was quite spectacular, with the various limestone formations including stalagmites and stalagtites. More pics to follow.
After a couple days of R and R full of pool and sea time and of course my share of massages, I ventured on a 6 hour can ride up the coast to El Nido beach. There are very few people here considering what a gorgeous place it is. Probably due to the uncomfy arduous ride. Yesterday I went of Tour A, one of the 4 they offer. It took me on a pangka adventure through the limestone cliffs to many different small islands and lagoons. Did some snorkeling, but was limited on the underwater life, due to the dynamite fishing of the past. It's sad to see such a lovely and pristine place getting destroyed.
Now that the locals realize the potential the place can bring with its white sand beaches and secluded islands, they have put a stop to that. Since it's rainy season, there are not many tourists here, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I met a few people on the boat, one from the US.
Tomorrow I return to Sabang for the final 11 days of R and R....
I just found out that my students scored 74% proficient and advanced on the CST reading! Yeah! Another reason to celebrate!
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Woke up at 4:30 am for yet another fun-filled day! Myra's friend, Anna, had arranged a ferry to the neighboring island of Bohol. It's famous for it's chocolate hills and one of the smallest mammals in the world. After about 3 hours on the boat, we landed on Bohol. Our personal driver was already there waiting for us. He chauffeured us all around the island with dozens of stops at different points of interest. ALthough it was clearly designed for the typical tourist route, I didn't see many westerners on the journey.
One of the first stops was at a tarsier conservation area that was newly built to help sustain these little primates. It was spectacular! We were able to walk through the forest and spot them all on our own. Although, we were not allowed to touch or hold them, we were able to get up close and personal with these adorable nocturnal beings. As you see, Lefty found a girlfriend there:)
One of the next breaks on the tour was at a butterfly sanctuary. The guide there knew a lot about them and was very enthusiastic about showing and teaching us as much as he could in the brief time with him. The entire time I was thinking, second grade science curriculum:)
The famous chocolate hills were actually green this time of year due to the excessive rainfall, but still fabulous. After reading the information plaque at the entrance, I realized how they formed thousands of years ago. And that story did not match what our driver said. He claimed that long, long ago, two massive giants got into a conflict and began throwing rocks at one another, creating over 1,500 one-hundred feet high mounds scattered uniformly around the surrounding area that resemble Hershey's kisses.
Although no one knows for certain how the Chocolate Hills were formed, some scientists believe they were created when volcanic activity caused upheaval in the sea bed which the underwater currents then formed into the conical shapes we see today. Through years and years of erosion (4th grade science:)), they transformed into what we see today.
Further down the road, we stopped at a man-made forest. In efforts to prevent further erosion, the government planted these mahogany trees over 50 years ago and now they stand towering over the lone road creating a comfortable canopy.
By this time, our bellies are rumbling and we are sauntered off to the river. We walk across a long, bamboo swinging bridge and enjoy fresh coconut. Apparently there is a man there who can open a coconut with only his teeth, but we missed that:( We then boarded a riverboat for a traditional filipino buffet lunch. We were sat at the front of the boat adjacent to the singer. After we indulged in all of the delights, the captain set off for a cruise down the Rio Verde river. Ahhh....fresh air and lively music. The singer was great, but I kept looking for the television screen with the bouncing ball that drops over the words to each song, like in karaoke.
We stopped at a "native" tribe halfway down the river. It was comical. Reminded me of the Sapa rice fields tour I did in Vietnam. I told Myra that after our boat leaves, they drop their bows and arrows and return to their satellite television just beyond their "village." But she insisted that it was legit.
A few more stops and it is almost time to catch our returning ferry to Cebu. We raced through the downtown streets passing about 500 little tricycles along the way in order to get to the port in time. Each of these 3-wheeled taxis had a religious quote on the back of them, so I felt blessed the entire journey. Whew! We made it there just in time and were the last passengers to board the high-speed ferry.
Anna's husband was waiting for us at the dock. He shuttled us to a mall for dinner. We ordered the spread....fried pork intestines, oxtail and tripe soup, fresh lumpia, and all sorts of vegetables. By this time it is very late and my eyes are drooping. Back to the comfort of my hotel for a night's rest.
Today we are getting massages and rest. I leave for Palawan in the morning. Sad to say goodbye to Myra and her cousins, but eager for another leg of the trip.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Just left Myra's village in Leyte...I spent two fabulous days being part of her family, and is it a family! Aunties, uncles, countless cousins and great friends were always coming in and out of the family's ever-open door. Although I do not speak Tagalog, language was not a barrier. They all treated me like the Americana Queen. In their simple three bedroom house, I was given a room of my own and the family fan. I sat at the head of the table (by the fan) at every meal, and they shooed me when I tried to help clean up after dinners.
I am grateful that I got to spend time outside of the tourist bubble, living life simply the way they do day in and out.