26 August 2008

Escape to Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon

Where can you be so close to nature that you can't help but feel awed at the sight before you?

Where shells big and small are not just washed-up remnants of a life they once lived, but are instead teeming with crabs seeking their protection? Where fish hastily glide by while you tread on their waters, and brittlestars take refuge amongst the rocks as the water recedes in tune with the low tide? Where else does the ocean become calm, breaking the surface with only the slightest ripple?

Where else, but in Cagbalete Island!

Cagbalete Island is part of the expansive Quezon province of which my wife also hails from. Last weekend saw us at this wonderful island, a place so remote from the main islands that it has no electricity and yet it can be reached in about 7 hours by land and sea (at least, that's what our experience was; in some sites the trip is . Our meeting set at 3AM, I did not dare sleep as I might miss the trip. I was at already at Wendy's Buendia a few minutes early but some even arrived much earlier. Our party complete, we headed for the bus terminal.

Here is our itinerary in a nutshell:
3:00 AM - Met at Wendy's Buendia, then proceeded to JAC Liner (P216.00 each)
3:30 - Bus moves for Grand Terminal
6:15 - Arrive at Grand Terminal, take a ride at the Mauban mini bus (P50.00 each)
6:30 - Mini bus leaves for Mauban (there's a mini bus departing every 30 minutes)
8:00 - Arrive at Mauban, time to go to market for supplies!
Don't forget to buy ice! For your fish and meats.
Villa Cleofas has ice boxes.
Electricity is available at Villa Cleofas at 6:00PM - 1:00 AM
You may just walk to the bangka (ask for directions from the locals), or rent a tricycle (P30.00 per person)
Go to the bangka as early as possible to get seats you want (P40.00 each)
Tip the persons loading your things if you ask for their help. They are a jolly, helpful lot.
10:30 - Bangka leaves for Sabang port in Cagbalete Island.
11:30 - Arrive at Sabang port
There is also ice here and stores in case you forget something.
Villa Cleofas had a bangka fetch our supplies and two of our company
was also able to hitch a ride at the bangka. P200.00
The rest trekked across the island for 20 minutes non-stop.

Welcome to Villa Cleofas!

The Grand Terminal

The boat transports not only people, but also goods. It was exciting because I do not experience this everyday and you get a feel for local life. Their language is the deeper version of Filipino but you'll manage.

The island is in view!

Sabang port. A dinghy will escort you to shore (no charge)

Trek time!

Villa Cleofas! to the left is the big cottage where we stayed, at right is the dining area. We cooked our meals using their gas range and their utensils and plates with a rental fee of P150.00 per use. We were charged 30 pesos per head for entrance fee as well. If you don't feel like cooking, ask Manang to cook for you and tip her. She cooks real well.
Low tide was upon us when we arrived...
Low tide here is dramatic. The water literally disappears!

I was at the shore when I took this shot. Look how far away that person is already, and the water is still so shallow!

The black speck beyond is bonsai island, which can be reached by simply walking at low tide.
Stranded boats
The sea is alive! Hermit crabs, polyps, brittle stars (pictured below), fish, and plants abound. You have to tread around carefully and observe them. It's wonderful just walking around looking at the abundance of life.
If you want to take a bath at the sea and you are at Villa Cleofas, I suggest that you don't swim in this area. Too many living things taking residence here. Instead, turn left from Villa Cleofas, walk 800 meters, and you will get to a river mouth! The river is waist-deep.

Cagbalete as viewed from the cottage.

My comment about the place?
It is certainly different from Boracay and Puerto Galera, where nightlife and abundance of people and entertainment are the highlights. Also very different from regular beaches where all you get is sand and water. Cagbalete Island is something else. It's quiet, you get to commune with nature, here time takes a slow turn and you can enjoy the peace and quiet.

The last time I have ever been to a beach with so much life teeming around me was in Marinduque 14 years ago. I was on vacation all by myself and I was staying with my grandmother. I would go to the beach almost everyday for 2 weeks and swim around by my lonesome. I loved it. The water so clear, and in the afternoons, the setting sun would cast rays of light underwater....

I felt the same thing for Cagbalete, although I did not have the chance to swim a lot. I would have wanted to stay longer.

The Villa Cleofas staff are also very kind and helpful. Their website is at www.cagbalete.com.

These photos came from my iPhone. I will post more photos from my friends' cameras some other time.

I would like to thank Zherwin and his blog for the enticing photos and the detailed "how-to-get-there" guide.

20 August 2008

A weekend in Tanay

Have you ever traveled to a place where everything happened so fast that you can't remember a lot of details anymore but you still remember what a great weekend it was?

Well, I had one such trip. This happened many months ago in one of those rare moments that I was in Manila on a weekend. I was invited to a weekend camping trip to Tanay in a private property. I tagged colleague Kenneth along. Of around 10 in the company, I only knew three and so Kenneth and I were really just tag-alongs. We stayed at the back of the van on the trip going to Tanay at the Rizal province and dutifully dozed off while the rest chatted about a great many things the rest of the way.

It was already past midnight when we arrived. It was a thrill driving by the rough roads expecting something would come out of the bushes and terrorize the goosebumps out of us. We even imagined a manananggal swooping by and holding on to Yoyo but he can't fit in the van window. It was hilarious, but we kept away from the windows just the same.

That night, we made small talk with the gracious caretakers who patiently awaited our arrival. And late though it was, we still made for the pool and a bonfire cackled happily nearby.

We spent the night in tents and resumed the swimming the following day. Soon enough, we were on the road going back to Manila. What can I say... time flies when you're having fun!

14 August 2008

Wall-E: a movie review

At long last, Wall-E has finally arrived on Philippine shores. I have been eagerly waiting for this film because it received rave reviews and it reminds me so much of Short Circuit's Johnny 5. (By the way, if you know where to get the Short Circuit film locally, let me know! Not the part 2 please, and not the VHS version. Thanks!) But - I soon learn - it is so different from that 80s movie and the critics hit the nail right on the head when they praised it for entertainment value.

Wall-E (an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) is a robot model tasked to clean up the over-polluted Earth while the humans left for outer space in a pleasure cruise, expecting that the clean-up will be accomplished within their lifetime. Its function is primarily that of a trash compactor.

Wall-E is a product of the huge business conglomerate Buy n Large, which has basically taken control of almost all aspects of commerce on Earth. Since it was thus also responsible for the humongous trash generated by its end-user products, BnL resolved to clean up Earth and give comfort to the displaced humans as well by making them as comfortable as possible. Hence the pleasure cruise.

It's difficult to spill out spoilers for this movie but the trailer does show a robot that's generations ahead of Wall-E visiting Earth on an exploration mission. Suffice to say that the conical-shaped, levitating robot is Eve which becomes the love interest of Wall-E (and so we conclude that Wall-E has developed a male persona).

Like the other outputs of Pixar, Wall-E is a purely computer-generated animation. But what's truly outstanding with this movie is that it does not try to outdo itself, but rather it tells the story in the simplest way possible. It's about the most basic of human emotions - the feeling of belonging and be loved - in the context of modern technology. How Wall-E and Eve connects in the movie is truly engaging.

The movie starts out with a sense of self-discovery, then opens to a bigger world. It's excitement, suspense, action, drama, love, and then happiness. Truly a unique adventure.

It likewise gives us a glimpse of what can happen to our future. We have a trash problem in our hands right now, and it takes into consideration the effects of zero gravity. But what we will not have is a Wall-E to help dig us out of our mountainloads of trash. It was an environmental message that I hope you, as a viewer, will take to heart as well.

Watch the movie with friends! You will surely love it.

11 August 2008

More toys errr... action figures

I hauled out some stuff that were hidden in boxes and remained that way ever since I moved most of my things to Baguio a couple of years ago. I am repacking them to send to my parent's house where they will stay for the time being. This is my simple treasure trove:

Star Wars Metal Cards. This was given to me by David, a good friend who I met only briefly.
Some anime-related stuff
Gundam SDs!
I started my movie tumbler collection with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and then it grew from there.
A testament to my fascination with robotics: R2D2 figures from the Star Wars movies.
Star Wars action figures from the Jollibee Kiddie meals

I have some unopened Star Wars figures as well.
Vintage and not-so-vintage Voltes V items!
M&M dispensers
More more more Star Wars stuff. These were in my display cabinet and will be hauled off to make way for Jo-Lo's toys.
A couple of Masked Riders. David also gave these to me in the 90s.
The Han Solo figure (which needs assembly and painting) was a gift from Arnold, a colleague and fellow model builder enthusiast (but that was sooo long ago...)

See the transparent Star Wars vehicles? Believe it or not, those were given to me by my former boss, Renan Velonza. He knew I loved Star Wars, and so every time he would go out of the country, he would go to a Toys R Us outlet and buy me one of these transparent figures.
More Voltes V items
They say that people are natural-born collectors. I also collected stamps, shells, and rocks. What about you? What is your treasure trove?

05 August 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; a movie review

Whoa. Brendan Fraser is making a momentous comeback to the big screen! After "Journey to the Center of the Earth" which was a wild adventure ride, along comes the third installment to the Mummy Franchise. I loved the first movie, and when Mummy returned featuring the Scorpion King, it was time for more mayhem! So how did this year's Mummy fare in my book?

What a nice Mummy comeback. The series, which has gotten the reputation of high action and thrills, has made a screen comeback. This actually came as a surprise, because we caught trailers only a few weeks before it was going to be shown. But since it was The Mummy, of course we had to watch it!

The characters reprised their roles, all but the feisty Rachel Weisz. Where is she? She's terribly missed. Kudos to Maria Bello for filling in her shoes, but Rachel Weisz's absence was considerably felt in this movie.

--- SPOILERS ---

The power-greedy Chinese Emperor and his terra cotta soldiers (taken from real-life context), were a nice angle to the story. It was even cool to see Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh in it. But... I don't know. There was something missing. Because when the movie finished, we simply got up and left.

Too much computer animation?
I got confused actually when the Yetis appeared.
Jet Li becoming a three-headed dragon?

I thought there was an exaggeration in these sequences. It would have been better if Jet Li could not transform into other beings because since he was able to do this after all, he could have transformed into a giant or some hideous monster and detroyed the skeleton army in one swift blow. But nooo. He had to spar with the humans.

Also, the place where the diamond shows the direction to Shangri-La, they had so much firepower that they could have simply riddled the tower with bullets until it was no longer usable when the explosives didn't go off.

--- SPOILERS ---

The plot was was not strong, computer animation got in the way of the plot, a lot of exaggerations. It's sad, but the Mummy ought to have been left where it was buried.

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