I took a leave from work yesterday so I could go to Zambales for my Lolo’s birthday. He’s turned 85, and my parents had the idea to invite his friends over for lunch. Tito Abet and I left Manila around 5:30 AM and arrived in Candelaria around 11.
Amongst all my cousins and siblings, I was the only one who was able to go so I was my generation’s representative. Many of Lolo’s visitors were his friends from way, way back. Some were fellow teachers, others were family and relatives. His godchildren also visited, one of whom is the current governor of Zambales.
It was a small affair, but a good one. They sang Lolo songs, told stories and wished him all well. They all had a great time and Lolo did too.
— I love being here in Candelaria. It’s so peaceful. It’s also quite good for writing as I was able to write a thousand plus words last night.
The weather’s great too. At mornings it’s sunny and comfortably warm. Around the afternoon, the skies would darken and it would rain, making it pleasantly cool in the evenings. I slept rather long last night, waking up nearly eight.
— Lolo hi-jacked my laptop for nearly four hours to talk with Tita Meyann over Skype. It was a good conversation though. I should buy him a microphone and good speakers for the desktop so they can talk more often.
— Tito Abet brought his DSLR and I’ve been playing around with it. I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to adjusting the settings. Sometimes it’s too bright, sometimes it’s too dark. Composition’s ok, but it still comes out blah. It’s fun to walk around taking pictures though. The chickens are good subjects because they stay perfectly still while you take a shot at them.
— One of the things I like about being here is that my skin’s so clean. Back in Manila I have to do all sorts of maintenance just to keep the oiliness at bay, or keep it clear. Here, just water is fine. Maybe I should pack gallons of it and bring it with me.
Heading back to Manila tomorrow. Today, I’m just going to relax. Everyone (my parents and all my siblings) are in Manila. Miks is taking the nursing board exam this weekend. It’s been a while since I had the house nearly all to myself. It’s as good as going to the spa.
Will post pictures later (I forgot my USB cable and the card reader).
— Other July 2 celebrants: My former boss Baby O’Brien and my cousin JC. Cheers!
P.S. Last weekend we had a barbeque to celebrate the June boys’ birthday. Miks and the rest of my brothers were absent though, but we had a good time, lots of food and booze and prepared for the next Iron Kitchen Family challenge.
A week after my Zambales trip with my friends, I was back. This time, I was with my family for a long overdue trip.
Very early Saturday morning, Todel, Tarose, Miel & I left Manila for the five hour trip to Zambales. We had breakfast at Delifrance along NLEX, and had a pretty much uneventful ride all throughout.
Historical stopover We passed by the Magsaysay ancestral home and decided it would be a good idea to stop by for a look. I’ve been passing this place for years and this is the first time I’ve ever been inside.
It wasn’t much different from the old house we have in our town. It had many similar designs, like the lower part of windows that open, or the very spacious second floor. The house was turned over by the Magsaysay family to the government so it can be preserved. I don’t quite like the mint green color though, but the house is full of interesting things.
Candelaria again Upon arriving in Cande, we stopped by at home to say hello to my grandpa, and take a much needed toilet break. I grabbed some swimwear and we went to the beach where my parents and sister were waiting for us with lunch. Needless to say, we all dived in with much gusto.
After an hour or so of chatting and rest, we went to the market to buy booze and ingredients for our dinner. We hung around by this man who was selling homemade fishballs that tasted really great.
Back at the beach house, we saw that the videoke machine my parents rented had arrived. So while waiting for a good time to swim (late afternoon again, so we won’t get sunburned too much), we sang our hearts out. I was the first (and for a long time, the only) one to get a score of 100.
We went for a swim just as the sun was going down. The water was calm and warm, which was very relaxing. Later we took a walk to Lolo Vering’s place (where we stayed in my last entry) and got to talk to one of our uncles. Making our way back, we ran into friends of my parents and another aunt. After a few minutes of talking, we headed back inside for dinner.
Miel’s parents and her brother Dan arrived just as we were getting ready to eat. We had our dinner while listening to songs courtesy of the videoke machine. Afterwards, we brought out the Absolut Vodka, Sprite and some pulutan. Unfortunately, all of us couldn’t make it past midnight so after several rounds of drinking and music, we all went to bed.
Day II: Potipot Island again The sky was already bright when I woke up and to my surprise, Otki, Miel, Tita Ruth and Tito Vic were already up. I went out and found them taking pictures of the sunrise. This was the first time in a while that I’ve seen sunrise from the beach, because most of the time, trees were blocking the way. We were lucky to have an obstructed view while the sun rose from behind the mountains.
After breakfast, we went our own ways. Tita Ruth wanted to take pictures, while Miel, Dan, Otki, Tita Rose and I wanted to go to Potipot. So Todel took us to the same place were we got the boat the last time. The water was a bit more rocky this time, and I was a lot more nervous than before. We arrived at the island just fine though, and after scouting for a spot, we dove right in.
There were still a lot of people, but slightly less than last weekend’s. We had a nice time just enjoying the water, taking jump shots and talking about responsible tourism. Later, we got up to find another spot and eventually we arrived at the driftwood again. Thankfully, there weren’t much people so we were able to take several shots. The water was low too, and we were able to get to the rocks just a little off the shore. Wish I had my aqua shoes though.
As we made our way back, we couldn’t help but pick up trash along the way. There’s really quite a lot of it, and we managed to gather about three plastic bags worth. We even picked up trash that was right in front of these people talking. This led to a discussion again of suggestions of how responsible tourism can be implemented.
Our trip back was really rocky. The waves were higher, and I was truly, truly scared (even if I had a life vest). When we got back on dry land I could just kiss ground. We met with Tita Ruth, who had halo-halo with Tito Vic and Tito Del at Dawal Beach Resort. We headed back to the beach house for lunch, then I headed home to fix my things.
Back to Manila Before leaving for Manila, everyone passed by the house to say hello to Lolo. It was around 3PM when we left. It was a rather quiet trip, but somewhere in Castillejos, we got caught in traffic, thanks to a Santacruzan. Because it really took a while, Miel and I got off and took some pictures. It let ToDel get some sleep too, so it was all good.
We met up with Tita Ruth at SBMA, where we had dinner at Xtremely Xpresso. It was as good as I remembered. Once again, we had the giant burger (which was already a meal in itself) and their delicious pizza. We took home the leftovers and after one last stop at the Petron station to refuel, we continued our way to Manila.
It was nealy 10 PM when we arrived, tired but still on a high. It was really great to have been able to hang out with my family, and I hope we could do it again soon.
Regular readers of my blog will notice that I often talk about my dad’s hometown, Candelaria, Zambales. Over the years, I’ve been inviting people over and so far only my two best friends have taken me up on that. Ironically, a few other people I invited went to visit on their own because they wanted to go to Potipot Island.
Anyway, fast forward to last weekend. I had invited some friends for a visit and we thankfully were able to push through. After a few delays, we got on the midnight trip to Candelaria.
Thus begins my rant.
In my past night trips, the lights were often turned down and music was kept to a minimum. The bus company also tries to limit extra passengers so, I presume, the trip would be quiet.
Well, that wasn’t the case in this trip. There were more than ten extra passengers, all who yapped until their stop. We couldn’t sleep at all.
I hope that people would realize that as much as it is their right to have fun while on vacation, they should also respect the other people who are on vacation as well, whether or not they know them. Oh, there’s a part two of this rant.
Anyway, we arrived home, got a few hours of shuteye then headed to the beach. We stayed at my great-uncle’s place for lunch, then headed for a swim later in the afternoon. Plans of staying overnight was ditched in favor or sleeping in actual beds, and we decided to just wake up early to head to Potipot the next day.
On to the island
When I was younger, Potipot Island wasn’t really given much attention. It was known as a resting spot for fishermen who, instead of going back to the mainland, would stay in the island until their day is done. Over the years, it’s been basically ignored by the locals, including my own family, for personal reasons. Ownership has changed hands so many times, it’s quite hard to trace back the original owners.
In the past few years, Potipot has become a popular vacation spot for anyone who wants to experience white sand beaches without having to compete with the crowds in Boracay or Galera. It’s also known for those who want to “rough it” without having to travel long distances (from the mainland it’s only a five minute boat ride).
During my first visit to Potipot several years ago, there were about less than ten people on the entire island: me, my sister, my parents, my friends Den & Ching, our banca man and one or two fishermen. We were able to go around the island in thirty minutes. Silly me forgot to bring extra film so I wasn’t able to take pictures.
My parents took us to Potipot Gateway, where we initially thought of getting a boat, but it was way too expensive for our budget. The place is nice though, much better than when I first saw it years ago. We decided to go to Dawal, where we could rent boats at a more reasonable rate.
In the end, we got a friend of my mom to take us to the island. We had fun swimming and heckling people, especially those who were hogging the big driftwood. We also aired our frustration at how people were so inconsiderate to just leave their trash on the beach. At first glance you wouldn’t see it, but at a closer look you’ll see bits and pieces like cigarette butts, chips and candy wrappers etc. It was so maddening that I’ve got half a mind to tell the governor to close the island to visitors. Haha, swapang.
Be responsible tourists people. Being there is a privilege. We should be thankful that the island’s owners are letting us use it for our enjoyment.
It was around lunch when we headed back and I was so glad to back on terra firma. We cleaned up, had some lunch and prepared ourselves for our trip back to Manila. The bus was full, but after a few minutes we got seats. Slept for most of the trip, then when I woke up, had a chatfest with Lorna.
Thanks for the great weekend girls! I hope you enjoyed it!
Holy Week has always been a big deal for me growing up. Every year, it signaled the start of vacation. It was when tons of relatives would make the trip home from wherever they are and spend a week or two here. My cousins, both first and second degree ones, would be here and we’d spend the entire day playing around the house or be at the beach. At the end of vacation, we’d be all brown and complaining of sunburn, but we all truly didn’t care anyway.
This year, not a lot of relatives came over. I guess real life kept them all busy, and they all had other places to go. It would be nice to get everyone together, see how they’ve changed and meet the new additions to the family.
Summer, specifically Holy Week, is also the time for family reunions. We’ve hosted quite a few in the past, before it was here at home, then later it was at Lolo Vering’s beach. Lola Lilay used to be the keeper of the registry and family tree, and she knew a lot about her ancestors, who married who and so on. This year, Otki and I manned the registration booth. It was interesting to see relatives arrive, people who I never met. It’s also funny when someone you know arrives and when you see them you’d go “Pinsan pala kita!”
Easter Sunday I woke up around 3:30 AM to wait for the procession that’ll be passing by our house for the Salubong. It is a pre-dawn re-enactment of Jesus and his mother Mary’s meeting after he was resurrected from the dead. Two groups of people would leave the Church: one for Jesus, one for Mary, and they’d go around the town then head to the plaza, where an angel would descend from heaven (in this case, a high platform) and take the veil of mourning off Mary.
My grandma used to participate in this, and I thought it would be nice to do it again. So I woke up early and waited. Turns out I woke up too early (about an hour ahead of their schedule). Later, as I was drifting off to sleep again, I heard some music playing. I ran outside and waited.
What I remember from my childhood is that the musicians usually come a few minutes before the Mary group, which is the ones the females join. The males join Jesus. However, for some reason the band is with Jesus, which is the one I ended up joining because the Mary group went the other direction and didn’t pass by in front of our house.
It was nice walking around town at 4:30 in the morning. It was cold, and quiet (if you don’t count the noise we made). Many people were also awake, and had candles in their homes as a vigil for Jesus. It was probably the same for the Mary route.
We met at the town plaza, where the priest and the “angels” (little girls in white dresses) were waiting. Once the statues were in place, the “angel” comes down and lifts the veil. Then we sing “Hallelujah” and go to the church for the mass.
It’s very nice to see people still doing this tradition. I’m glad I got to take a few pictures of it.
P.S. Eating nothing but fish and veggies for a week is good in not making me feel bloated.
In Candelaria now. Left Manila last night around 8:30. It had started to rain and continued up until we passed Pampanga. It was raining in some parts of Zambales too. I didn’t get to see much of Botolan, but from what I was able to catch a glimpse of, well, let’s just say that it won’t be the same. There were entire stretches where the only light was from the bus and street lamps. The houses were all dark.
My trip was fast, surprisingly. I expected to be in Candelaria by 2:30 at the earliest, but I was home by 1:30. Most night trips tend to be much faster than day trips. Thanks to manong driver for taking me home safe.
Thursday, I was in Baguio. Ching & I went to get some documents and met up with our college professors for our recommendations. It was great to hang out with them, catching up and joking. Sitting at the Inquirer office brought back my internship days.
We went back to Manila that same day. Tiring, but fun.
Tomorrow, we will go to the cemetery. Next week, Mama & Papa will work with some of their friends for a relief drive to Botolan. They said there were many families who still need help, and none are able to reach them. I hope I could come along and see how it goes.
I opened my Flickr account for the first time in months and saw a message in my inbox. It was from this person in Japan who stumbled across my photos and videos of Candelaria. He said that my last name was familiar as his first grade teacher had the same last name, and wondered if we were related.
At that, I smiled, but tears filled my eyes. I quickly typed in “Yes, we’re related. She’s my grandmother.” After that, I couldn’t finish and let myself have a good cry.
I miss you Lola.
*** It’s really nice to hear from people who stumble across my Candelaria and Zambales blogs. Some years ago a man from Germany wrote me asking for contact information to Coke Bolipata, my siblings’ violin teacher. Now, I’m getting messages from people who live in various places around the world but trace their roots back to Candelaria. It’s great.
*** I’m starting to believe that I may have this aura of “niceness”. I’m usually the person people (strangers) approach to ask for help, say, on the train or anywhere. The other night someone asked me if he could share my umbrella as we walked from the train station to the tricycle station. One lady, in a grocery store, beamed at me when she asked if I could help her with her things.
I don’t think it’s bad or bothersome. I just never really thought about it before.
Three day weekend, I decided to speed of to Zambales for a much needed R&R. My siblings were all there, and they said that my grandpa was asking when I’ll be home. I had planned to wait until Holy Week to go home, but I figured I could use the few days extra.
So after the TDT, I tried to catch a trip to Iba. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the Caloocan station, so I decided to take one from Cubao. Unfortunately, there were a lot of travelers so I had to compete with all those people. I couldn’t find the line for Iba, so I decided to get one to Olongapo and take a bus there to Sta. Cruz.
Luckily, I was able to talk to the conductor of the bus to Iba, and I got to grab the last free seat. Even though it was at the very back, I took it. To my left was a couple who sounded like they work in a call center; to my right, was a pair of middle-aged ladies who talked non-stop from Manila to Olongapo.
My parents picked me up from Iba, which was lucky since I missed the last trip to Sta. Cruz. Now I’m home… and tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Manila.
Waiting… hoping I’m worthy So I took the Talent Determination Test for the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman. Since I’m a UP graduate, I didn’t have to pay the fees and take the mental test thing. I did the interview two weeks ago, and took the test yesterday morning.
The interview wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was going to be asked some questions like “Why did you choose to take a second degree here in UP Fine Arts?” or “What do you expect to learn?”. I was quite surprised that it was very informal, and that we didn’t really get to talk much about my art. I was told though that they encourage students not to do much cartoon style work unless they can develop their own style. I can understand that, and believe me, I want nothing more than to do just that.
The test itself was alright. It rained during the first half of the test so the air was cool and I felt relaxed. I didn’t have trouble with the first part of the test (can I reveal it? Nah, I’ll play it safe and won’t), but the second part had me stumped for a few minutes and I was literally grasping at straws for ideas. It’s what somehow makes me worried about the test, especially when I saw the works of the other people. Talk about intimidation. Though I’m no longer as confident as before, I’m still hopeful and praying that I get a good birthday gift when the results come out on the 17th.
Snippets Congratulations to my brother Gerone who graduate high school yesterday. He’ll be heading to Manila for enrollment after the Holy Week.
Congratulations as well to my best friend Carmenez for passing the bar! I now have several lawyers to defend me if the need arises.
We got a new puppy and named him Samer. Had a chat with my friends via Skype. Went to the beach today with my siblings too. Didn’t swim, just hung out.
I love to travel. I love to go to new places, see new sights and bring home stories and pictures of my adventures back to my friends and family.
Growing up, my parents would often take me and Nunik to various places around Luzon. It was mostly due to my grandfather’s job as a district superintendent that let us go places. Baguio, Lucena, Mindoro, Lucban were among a few of those. Others, like Tagaytay, where destinations of most family outings. Places like Bicol and La Union were considered extensions of home as we had family there.
But always, the best place to be was Candelaria. When I was a kid, I often thought that my Candelaria was the original one, even though many people knew the Quezon town more than the Zambales town. I was the very few among my elementary and high school classmates who spent two months of summer vacation somewhere other than Manila. I’d come home, sunburned and peeling, thanks to endless days of beach fun. My classmates would tell me of their trips to Singapore and Hong Kong, but nothing for me beats the beach.
And what a beach it is. Long before people heard of Boracay, hanging out on the beach was the norm for me, my siblings and my cousins. We’d be hitting the surf as early as 6 AM (which is the best time for me, as the water would be very calm and clear, and the sun not too hot), rising only when we get called for lunch and be back again until the sun starts to set.
Sunburns, jellyfish stings, swallowed salt water, gritty sand… we all took in stride. It was part of summer, and it was part of a tradition, a heritage passed on to us by our grandparents and parents. One that we would pass on to our future families when the time comes. One that we could share with our friends, many of whom fell in love with the beauty our town and its beaches has.
Before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the only thing Zambales brings to mind is the Subic Naval Base and Olongapo City. Not exactly your typical tourist getaway. Often, those who go to Zambales were either invited by residents or heard about it through word of mouth.
I love how I have the beach all to myself on most days. Well, me and the rest of the clan, that is. I love how the entire stretch of it is empty of people except for residents and fishermen. Sometimes, especially when we’re there during the early morning, we’d help the fishermen pull the nets from the sea and watch as the fish flop around the nets. Among the usual catch we’d something see other creatures and be amused at them.
There’s just so much to do and to see there. Perhaps then, it is selfish of me to keep this all to myself. But I am afraid that having more people come in will spoil it for me, for the residents. I am afraid that commercialism will take away the peace and tranquility that I enjoyed in the years past.
I suppose I’m being pessimistic, but life has shown that often, when a spot becomes popular, the environment takes a back seat. Which is ironic as it’s the very thing that made the place popular in the first place. I don’t want a crowded resort where you have to deal with the noise of other people who play their music up to loud or be up until the wee hours of the morning. Yeah yeah, it’s supposed to be vacation but there are people living there you know.
Geez, I’m beginning to sound like my great uncle.
That’s how I feel about Baguio. I love visiting it as a kid and really appreciated it when I lived there for four years to study. I was greatly saddened when SM was built on the “park” a lot of my schoolmates and I frequent. Yes, it’s progress, but is saddens me that nature has to pay the price.
Seriously, I hope that when the tourism starts to boom for Zambales (and I’m seeing that happen in the next two to five years), it won’t leave the residents out. It’ll be bad if we let the big players hold the reins in the tourism area, making money for them and not for the locals.
Perhaps there should be some guidelines for those who want to put up a business to cater to the influx of tourists. Resorts shouldn’t mushroom here and there, and should be done with great consideration to the environment. Also, a good sanitation plan should be done, as well as some sort of clean-up brigade separate from that of the private ones employed by the resorts. Maybe even a financial plan so that prices of amenities would remain affordable yet competitive.
I remember how in Sagada tourists are required to register at the town hall and pay P10 per person. I believe this is for the maintenance of the area, in addition to whatever budget the local municipality has for tourism. I think it’s a good idea. Registering will act as a sort of guestbook for the visitors and there would be a fund for the people who help keep the tourism in order for the town.
It works two ways, methinks. The town is responsible for helping to keep tourist spots beautiful and as close to what Nature made it to be, and tourists should respect that. I feel sad when I see a natural or cultural heritage left to die because of neglect or disinterest, not just from tourists but also because of the residents who are supposed to be the guardians of those places. I hate seeing graffiti, or trash carelessly thrown by people.
The two foreigners I met in Sagada had a lot of good things to say about the Philippines. One of them said we have so many beautiful places we should see, but most of all, take care of. Regardless of whether we live there or just visiting, we should all do our part in helping maintain it.
Lastly, remember this adage that many travelers take to heart wherever they go: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
On that environment protection adage, here’s two interesting stuff you might want to read: