CAGAYAN VALLEY, Philippines--View from the Faro de Cabo de Engano, one of the major Spanish lighthouses built in the late 1800s, which is also home to the century-old Franciscan seminary. The lighthouse at Cape Engano, located on Palaul island in Sta. Ana, is 120 meters above sea level. Photo taken by INQUIRER.net online videographer Janie Christine Octia and sent through her mobile phone.
May 2008 Archives
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net WOULD you cross a 120-meter long bridge hanging 180 feet above the ground? Would you take the risk of sliding for 14 seconds across a zipline? Never did it cross my mind that I would be doing an extreme adventure of a lifetime which I only get to watch on reality TV shows such as "Fear Factor," "Survivor," and "Amazing Race." Until Acer Philippines brought different media organizations together for its Acer Media Summer Power Fest 2008: The Extreme South Expedition. On May 23 at around 1:20 p.m. we left the Centennial Domestic Airport. Stratus, cumulus and cirrus clouds took away my one hour and twenty minutes of boredom as they formed different animals that decorated the blue sky. A signage with these words, "Welcome to the City of Friendship: Cagayan de Oro," greeted us as we arrived at the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro. Here's a photo of our team, Team Aspire Blue. The real race began the day after we arrived. Not only physical strength was needed but mental abilities as well. The preliminary challenge was to solve an equation in order to open a vault containing the clue. Back in school, I remembered the MDAS technique wherein you multiply first, then divide, add, then subtract. With only ten minutes to solve the equation, we were under time pressure. This reminded me that the basics should not be forgotten. Fundamental math is still essential even if you have already left school. The arts should not be taken for granted as well. The next challenge was to design a T-shirt and make a statement. After creating a rainbow-colored shirt, we ran as a team from the clubhouse of Ridgeview Chalets towards its gate. We faced a dilemma on whether to take a cab or a jeepney. Taking a cab would mean a big slash in our given budget of P1, 950. In order to save money to gain points, we took the jeepney for our next destination, the Gaston Park. However, the jeepney stops every now and then because of the other passengers. Nonetheless, we arrived at the park and the next tasks were given. Good interpersonal communication skills was the key to the task. One of the tasks was to ask a Cagayanon to translate an English poem in their dialect. Luckily, they didn’t hesitate to help us accomplish the task. Bargaining with cab drivers was also a challenge. Due to time constraints, we agreed to a P400 fee for the two cabs to take us to the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village. One of the tasks was to name all the animals that can be found in the aviary. Naming the animals was somehow easy but going to the aviary made it difficult because of the sloping terrain in the area. After finishing the tasks in 10 minutes, when they were supposed to take 30 minutes, we proceeded to our next destination, the Columbia Store. The task was to play Sudoku. Sharp and focused eyes and minds were the keys to accomplishing the task. After the Sudoku game, we made our way to Macahambus Cave, where jumbled words were hidden. Crawling inside the dark cave, cracking the codes and arranging the jumbled words into sentences made me feel like "The Da Vinci Code’s" Sophie Neveu. As we finished the task, we went out of the cave from the other side as the historical Macahambus Cave is a through-cave, with two entrances/exits. Then we ran toward the next pitstop, the skybridge and zipline. If you have a fear of heights, you may faint while crossing the skybridge, which is 120 meters long and hanging 180 feet above the ground. With all the courage I could muster, I crossed the bridge and seized the moment with one hand holding the camera while the other was holding on to the rope as I followed my teammates. Then, before my turn to slide along the zipline, I asked Mang Toto about his experiences in assisting tourists in the Slide for Life. He related that no one falls from the slide, except the slippers of the tourists. He then made me ready as I took my turn at an exhilarating slide of life. I did not let the chance pass me by to capture the adrenaline rush moment for about 14 seconds. Tip: Scream as loud as you can to take away your fear. When my feet landed on the ground, I felt the thumping of my heart and noticed my knees shaking. It was unbelievable for a non-athletic person to conquer an extreme adventure. The last pitstop was the white water rafting race. On our way to the starting point of the river, the rain began to pour already making us wet. Nonetheless, the race continued. It was a test of endurance, strength, speed, strategy, and teamwork. The team paddled and hurdled rocks and currents along the 18-kilometer stretch of the Cagayan de Oro river for two-and-a-half hours. As dangerous as it may seem, it was such a thrilling ride, bumping into rocks and getting splashed by waves. Everyone was competitive in paddling toward the finish line. But in a competition, it is not about who wins or loses. It is about the experience learned along the way. It may take days before aching arm muscles heal, but the experience will forever be etched in memory.
IT'S tough enough participating in an "Amazing Race"-like competition, but how about making your way through those challenges while sending real-time updates via your mobile phone (or, in this case, your BlackBerry)? "Team Leader Leo, cash holder, decides anew not to buy water even after requests from teammates. Just one more hour & we can eat, drink free (Editor's note: Actual Twitter post has no period due to 140-character limit.)." This is the latest in the almost blow-by-blow account at twitter.com/talesofthenomad of the Acer Media Challenge 2008 now ongoing in Cagayan de Oro, sent from the field by one of the race participants, INQUIRER.net executive editor Leo Magno, using his BlackBerry. As you can see, you can also follow the action via the Twitter badge we have here at Tales of the Nomad. Leo is with our tech reporter Erwin Oliva and multimedia reporter Izah Morales, and they are part of Team Aspire Blue together with Media G8way's Sean de Jesus and Billy Allardo. The photo above shows Izah and Leo, and here's another photo that Izah e-mailed when they arrived in Cagayan de Oro Friday. This is Ridgeview Chalets, where the race participants are staying.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net HOW can you determine if a certain place has not been explored yet? You can Google it. I did that and found some travel websites and some online forums that had basic information about the place. But when I got to a Wikipedia entry, I was surprised that it only had a short description about Bantayan island. It included a short description of its location, the population, and the different towns on the island. Perhaps one travel website was right. Bantayan island is one of the "best kept secrets" of Cebu province. One possible explanation is that it takes half a day to get there, if you're coming from Cebu City. To get there, you have to travel from the city to Hagnaya wharf in San Remigo, where roro boats are docked. We went there using hired vans (I was sent there to cover an event of the Government Service Insurance System). The roro (a boat that can carry vehicles and people) ride took another hour to get to the Santa Fe dock. Here's a video I took of the roro vessel. And here's a photo of some kids diving for coins. Then using the same vans, it took us several minutes to get to Kota Beach, a resort with sugar white sand, and a beautiful sandbar just a few meters away from our cottages. Bantayan island is located in the western portion of the northernmost tip of Cebu (got that one from Wikipedia). I must admit that after hours of traveling, the sight of a wonderful, unspoiled beach made the trip worthwhile. I got this impression from other journalists who braved the long land trip and slow roro ride. A journalist had one word for Bantayan Island: quaint. It was quaint in the sense that it remained unexplored and unspoiled. Why? The Santa Fe dock was perhaps the cleanest dock I have seen so far in the country. Most of beaches in Santa Fe were untouched by human hands. There were also few people walking around, unlike Boracay where it was easy to bump into people during these months. If you want a quiet and relaxing getaway, this island offers some respite. The nightlife is also another story. There are several ways of exploring the island at night. The best ways is to rent the habal-habal or motorcycles that are for rent. One habal-habal can accommodate three riders. It can take you anywhere for less than a hundred pesos. But you can also walk to nearby bars and a 24-hour burger stand within the Sante Fe town proper. Some of these bars and restaurants are owned by foreign settlers. They usually serve seafood and meat (chicken and beef). Of course, most of them feature karaoke systems armed with hundreds of foreign and local songs. But you can also find live bands in some bars if you want a taste of the local music scene. During my brief stay, I can say that Bantayan island is a good place to go for people who want to escape the noisy and crowded city of Cebu. You can choose from a host of resorts. But if you want to go backpacking, the friendly local people can quickly point you to some affordable places. And before I forget, most people speak Cebuano on Bantayan island, but you can easily go around using English and a bit of Filipino. Here's a video I took of INQUIRER.net reporter Lawrence Casiraya talking about the pristine beach. Editor's note: Photos and videos taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Erwin Oliva.
By Candice Montenegro, Contributor INQUIRER.net I'M not very fond of horses (or animals for that matter), so horseback riding isn’t usually part of my Baguio itinerary. However, on my recent trip to Baguio, I figured that I had to try it just for the sake of saying that I went horseback riding, so I did just that. I found myself in Shalan ni Kabadjo, a small horseback riding place inside Camp John Hay, where we were staying. It was small, unlike other famous horseback riding spots like Wright Park. A small sign hung on a post showing their rates -- P350 for an hour and P200 for half an hour. Benjamin Ngo-Ay, the manager of Shalan, was nice enough to show me around and tell me about their riding path. He said that Shalan gets a lot of customers during the summer (especially around April) and over the holidays. Here's a video I took. Shalan has sixteen trainers who come in everyday to have their horses rented out. These trainers rely on Shalan for their everyday income. Since they all need to earn a living, they make sure that every trainer gets an equal chance to rent out their horses in a day. During lean months, some trainers bring their horses elsewhere while the rest split the money they earned for the day. He also shared that horseback riding is not as lucrative as it once was. Fewer visitors try it out (usually foreigners are the ones who do). He said that some trainers were forced to sell their horses and just find another job. But others like himself stuck it out and stayed in the business just because they love it. “Hindi ko iiwanan ito,” he said. “Napag-aral ko ang mga anak ko dahil dito.” I originally did not want to stay long, but Manong Ben’s stories made me stay. While he guided his horse Kopiko around the riding path, he told me amusing stories about Baguio, his family, and even some chismis about a local celebritiy who went riding in Shalan once. When you hear about horseback riding, you naturally think about the horses. Not a lot of people see the trainers who work hard to take care of their horses and earn a living. After hearing Manong Ben’s stories, I’ve found new respect for horse trainers like him. My horseback riding experience was not even about the horses anymore; it was about the people and their stories. I’m still not fond of horses, but I told Manong Ben that I’d drop by again the next time I’m in Baguio, that is if he’s still there. “Naku iha, siguradong nandito pa ako,” he said.
INQUIRER.NET reporter Erwin Oliva gives a quick tour of a roro (roll-on, roll-off) vessel, a boat that can carry vehicles across islands. It took at least an hour to get from Hagnaya wharf to the town of Sante Fe on Bantayan island.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net THE FRESH, cool, and crisp air of the province welcomed us as we were on our way to Nagcarlan, Laguna. Away from the towers in the metro, our eyes were refreshed by the greens of the trees and farmlands. Long trips can make your legs numb but it can make your brain wander in a wilderness of thoughts and daydreams. Numbness went away when we started exercising our legs and feet for a walk to the underground cemetery in Barangay Bambang, Nagcarlan, Laguna. Though All Souls’ Day is in November, people visit the graveyard because it belongs to the list of our country’s National Historical Landmarks. The brick and stone walls and iron-gate gave the feel of baroque architecture. As we went towards the old chapel, the tour guide talked about how the underground cemetery became a national landmark. She said the crypt below the chapel served as a secret meeting place of the Katipuneros during the Spanish rule. It was believed that the pact of Biac na Bato was first planned in the said area. Here's a video we took of the underground cemetery. The crypt gave us goose bumps as we made our way down the stairs which connect the chapel to the underground cemetery. The ceiling was covered with paintings while the tiled floor was slippery wet. The crypt housed 36 tombs according to the tour guide. She also related that the crypt was restored. However, it seemed to be renovated more than restored. Outside the chapel, we also noticed tombs buried on the brick walls. Before we left the town, we stopped by a store to buy espasol to take home. When I took a bite of espasol, I found myself wondering how this soft and chewy delicacy of Laguna is made. So I asked Aling Ester Almanzor how Aling Belen’s Special Espasol is made. Here's a video showing how espasol is made, and Aling Ester recounting how her mother, Belen Castelo, established Aling Belen's Special Espasol. As the rain started to pour, we decided to go home. I thought the trip ended with buying pasalubong but I was wrong. We were already inside a jeepney when two townsfolk started chatting about getting rich. The woman shared: "Alam mo, may kakilala ako dati na magbobote na tumaya sa lotto. Nanalo siya at yumaman kaso naloko sa sugal. Ayun, bumalik siya sa pagiging magbobote." On the other hand, the man said, "Kung mahirap ka, kampante kang matutulog na kahit bukas ang pinto mo. Kung mayaman ka, marami kang alalahanin. Mahirap din maging mayaman." Eavesdropping may be wrong but I could not help but hear what they were chatting about since we were in a jeepney. Not only did my ears hear real-life stories but my eyes also caught interesting signboards that I forgot to capture with my camera. My photographic memory made me remember what was written on the signboard: "Sugal na Bisyo Mo, Salot sa Pamilya Mo." Another signboard had this message, "Ang masipag umuunlad. Ang tamad naghihirap." Surprisingly, it reflected the conversation of the townsfolk. Long trips can be exhausting but the learning experience makes you richer -- even more than the millionaires. Editor's note: Photos by INQUIRER.net multimedia reporter Isadora Morales. Interview conducted by Morales. Videos taken by INQUIRER.net online videographer Janie Christine Octia.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net SINGAPORE--No, it's not your regular Ferris wheel ride. You won't be able to feel the wind blowing at your face. Instead of gondolas suspended from the rim, it comes with capsules that could carry more people. It says one capsule could carry as much as 28 people. The Singapore Flyer is currently the world's highest observation wheel. It is 165 meters high from the ground -- about 30 meters higher than the London Eye, with a diameter of 150 meters. The first time I saw the Singapore Flyer, it looked much like the London Eye from afar. I almost had my chance to ride the London Eye several years ago. After an afternoon session with a key executive here, Oracle Corp. decided to take the visiting Southeast Asian journalists for a ride -- a unique one. Most of us were first-timers. So everyone brought their digital still or video camera to document this 30-minute ride. The capsules were air-conditioned, making the ride very comfortable. At some point, you might think the capsule is not moving. The funny part during our ride was that we realized that we were too busy taking photos and video clips, we forgot to enjoy the view. It is best to ride the Singapore Flyer during sunset when you can witness Singapore transform from a concrete jungle with areas of green to a colorful and bustling metropolis that reminds me of Hong Kong at night. The observation wheel itself starts showing different colors at night. The view from up there is magnificent. In fact, you can see some parts of Malaysia and Indonesia from the top. Of course, you'll be seeing most of Singapore. You can find more facts and figures here. Just like the Taipei 101 experience, this is one Asian icon that you should not miss. Now, you can add this to your list of places to visit when you're in Singapore. Editor's note: Photo and video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Erwin Oliva.