San Juan, Batangas to crisscrossing Zamboanga peninsula

April 23-28, 2014. The past days have been a blur. At the heels of a week-long trip to Australia, I had not fully recovered from disorientation. I had not taken a lot of pictures the past days because my phone’s screen was already a mosaic of shattered pieces of glass precariously held together by some inherent Samsung adhesive, and one crack had covered the front camera. And aside from that, I have been un-inspired, suffering from a specie of ennui the past weeks. I’m not sure why, and I don’t really want to answer the question.

Together with my incoming and outgoing co-officers in the student council, we went to San Juan, Batangas for a beach outing, right before some of us flew to Zamboanga to attend the national convention of the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP). The trip to Batangas was a comfortable one. I ended up with a big bruise on my buttocks after falling off from the staircase, but it was all fine. The trip to Zamboanga on the other hand was punctuated by such an uncomfortable bus ride from Dipolog to Zamboanga City as we traversed Zamboanga peninsula in an effort to board our flight back to Manila.

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Lakbay Norte 2010: Rediscover the North

1,798 kilometers, 26 people, 8 provinces, 7 days, 1 bus.

Over the past week, I went with a group of print and online media representatives in a caravan around northern and central Luzon organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB), a not for profit organization whose aim is to promote domestic and foreign travel in the region.

Onboard a special bus provided by Victory Liner, we visited the provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. (We also passed through, though without stopping over, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Ilocos Sur).

Our accommodations, meals and activities were sponsored and hosted by local Convention and Visitors Bureaus and other local tourism stakeholders. The tour aimed to introduce northern Luzon as a re-emerging destination for tourism and trade. With growing infrastructure in the region and with the improvement of the North Luzon Expressway, travel to the north has been easier over the years and the tour aimed to encourage more people to “Rediscover the North”.

Indeed, it was a rediscovery of the places I’ve been to in northern and central Luzon, and a pleasant revelation of the places I’ve never been to–northern Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, La Union and western Pangasinan. If there was one word I could summon to give North Philippines, it is “potential”. The trip revealed how much is in store for the provinces of North and Central Luzon in terms of tourism and trade. The richness in he region’s natural wonders, in its culture and heritage, in its people make the north a viable destination for a robust and sustainable tourism industry.

Having a rich potential also means that there is a lot that can be done in terms of infrastructure and training in order to fully harness the possibilities and so that the people of the region and the entire country may benefit from the wonders North and Central Luzon has to offer.

Over the last few days I have written a chronicle of the places we visited and the organizations and establishments that have helped us “rediscover the North”. I hope one day, you also make the same discovery and rediscovery northern Philippines, and encourage others to continue and explore the vast potentials of the region north of Manila.

From Miag-ao, Iloilo to Culasi, Antique

April 15, 2009. Since the GASC (General Assembly of Student Councils) was able to select the new Student Regent in just a day, everyone had an extra day off to leave UP Visayas earlier and to go to Guimaras or to Iloilo City or to wherever they wanted to go around. Some of us decided to take on a friend’s offer to visit their town of Culasi, Antique. Little did we know that Culasi, Antique was a good four to five hours away from Miag-ao, Iloilo. That northern part of Antique is actually closer to Caticlan and Boracay already than it is to Miag-ao. The bus also has to pass through some mountain range which separates Antique from Iloilo, or from the rest of Panay for that matter. The tallest mountain in Panay Island can be found in Culasi, Antique, by the way (sorry, random information).

It was pretty easy to get a ride to Culasi. After lunch, we just had to walk a few hundred meters to the highway from the UP Visayas campus and wait at a pedestrian shed for buses that regularly ply the road from Iloilo City to Antique. I think I’ve mentioned it a few years before when I took a bus from Infanta to Manila, but I really have a penchant for taking long, open-air provincial bus rides–all the wind, the sights, sounds, smell, and the people gives for a relatively authentic traveling experience.

After winding through some mountains, the bus descends and takes a half-hour stop at San Jose, the capital of Antique, which is halfway through the entire four-five hour trip. Many of the passengers from Iloilo unload here, and are replaced with other passengers on their way north of Antique.

US Trip ’07: Night Bus Tour of NYC

May 27, 2007. After an almost two-hour loop bus tour around Manhattan’s downtown, I wanted to make most of our ride-all-you-can ticket and hop on a night loop tour around Manhattan and part of Brooklyn. My parents and my brother however, wanted us to catch up on jet lag and stay at the hotel. I was told I could go if I can handle being alone in such a foreign place. Wow, they might have not known, but that’s just my thing actually. The freedom to wander off and not be too restricted.

So hop on a bus alone I did. The tour around Manhattan and Brooklyn at night took around two hours.

The bus went through an almost-similar route as the downtown Manhattan loop tour, except that the bus eventually crossed Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn. It started drizzling in the middle of the tour, but it was okay, even though I stayed on top of the double decker bus. It got pretty cold and windy that night, in contrast to the summer heat during the day.

There was a minor thrill with taking the tour by myself. Though it would probably not happen in a guided bus tour, I would’ve wanted to get lost. I didn’t have any maps in case I do, nor a cellphone to keep in touch. By the way, you may view all the pictures here. I was able to get myself back to our hotel room eventually. My brother and my dad were, as always, already asleep. My mom, on the other hand, was watching a live telecast of Miss Universe. And I, after changing into more comfortable clothes, dropped dead asleep beside my brother.