Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bicol - Stories on Distance Traveled

As recounted by Butiking Pasay No More. Her blog account was a "network only" settings so I'm sharing it instead. Not that I don't have my own accounts on it, but it's too long it will bore you to death.


It used to be that my only taste of Bicol was Glenda's Bicol express. And even that, I only tasted once. (I don't blame the food, I blame Glenda's cooking hehe)..

For this year's antique-friends summer get-away, we went to my friend's hometown of Sta. Magdalena in Sorsogon in the Bicol region. (Itinerary- Manila- Donsol- Putiao- Sorsogon City- Sta. Magdalena- Matnog- Sorsogon City- Manila) Again, there were only 3 of us who were able to come, myself. female friend: a.k.a. "Nene" and male friend: a.k.a. "Tabio"

I'm jotting down the highlights/ comments/ survival guides of the April 12-16 trip!

1. Bituka ng Manok overtake. It's not really advisable to sit directly behind the driver if you're the nervous type. I am quite the kind, with my sugar rush and all. So, when we were passing through the "bituka ng manok" section in Quezon, imagine my heartbeat when the Amihan bus (at past midnight) overtakes every vehicle in sight. And in my “dreamlike” stages during the ride, I really thought that Phils changed to right hand driving! Really.

2. First stop in Batangas, and as always for long trips, my “comfort food” is hotdog! Tabio and I each bought a “superlong” and unlike, “superlong” in Manila, the hotdog was really that long, 3 rulers combined, picture that!

3. Early morning view of the Legazpi ghost town. Against the backdrop of the perfectMt. Mayon, with red streaks of the rising sun, the town looked creepy. I still tried taking shots of the Mayon but it came out eerie. I still have goose bumps whenever I think of the feeling when we passed by that area.

4. Paparazzi pretending to be tricycle drivers. We got off at Donsol before 8 am. First taste- blasted trike drivers all over us, trying to get our bags, coaxing us to ride with them to wherever we were going. I’ve had experiences like this, even overseas and it’s still irritating and scary no matter how many times it happens to me. I really don’t blame them. Their business is tourists. What is irritating is they know we are tourists and we know that they were going to rip us off. So we fended them off and laden with heavy bags stubbornly looked for a carinderia to buy some breakfast. They were still stalking us like paparazzi. One was shouting they’ll take us to the palengke. What a laugh, we turned a corner and came by the palengke already. If we rode the trike, they’d most probably drive us around in circles.

5. Welcome reception by the Manang white hair, proprietor of the carinderia at the palengke. It was a refreshing sight when we found a carinderia and a very helpful and friendly manang. Plus hot lugaw (for me) and hot coffee (for my friends). She told us we should’ve come next week for the Butanding Festival. We missed that!

6. The Butanding hunt. We came to the local DOT office (for the required briefing before jumping into the waters). There were several other foreign tourists, which (as a previous tourism student and a proud Pinoy) made me very happy! There was a registration fee of PhP 100 and the boat (with a trained diver and boatman) costs PhP 3,500 for 3 hours. If there’s only a few of you (like there were only 3 of us) it’s advisable to wait for other tourists and share the boat with them. Luckily for us, there were 2 others who shared the boat with us. The Butanding briefing was quite quick. They only showed a video.

At 9 am, we were in the middle of the sea. Although, it was the perfect schedule for Butanding watching, it was still quite awhile before we saw our first Butanding. We went around in circles, and saw other boats roaming around. There was one boat with it’s passengers already snorkeling. But we were dubious if they can see butandings already because they were the only ones that were down in the water. (Haha, is this is a competition or what?!)

By almost 10 we saw our first butanding. In my excited state, I earned my first scar (that later is so much insignificant compared to my other scars). I was taking pictures when Manong Boatman shouted “Hayun! Hayun!”, I hurriedly shoved my camera in my bag and zipped it up, and voila! Instant scar on my finger! Manong Diver prepared to dive. Tabio prepared to dive and arranged his flippers. Nene decided she’ll just stay on the boat and watch. I was decided on jumping to the water as well, but I wasn’t wearing the lifevest yet. So Nene and I just made ourselves content by watching them on the boat.

On the next Butanding sighting, I was already wearing the lifevest, but when the diver shouted “go!” I was too late, by the time, I’m ready to dive, they were miles away. The irritating thing was, ours was the only boat, who didn’t linger around the divers. And ours was the only diver who thinks we’re in some military camp or something with his booming one word command "DIVE!"

I got tired of attempting to dive and just watched from the boat. It was okay anyway, we saw lots of butandings going under our boat.

By almost 12 pm, we called it a day.

7. Literally crossing mountains to get to the middle of nowhere. There was no direct bus or jeep from Donsol to Sta. Magdalena. So the 4 hours or so of travel time, we had to divide into 3 rides: jeep from Donsol to Putiao, Bus from Putiao to Sorsogon City and lastly, jeep from Sorsogon City to Sta. Magdalena. By the last leg, we kept asking “Is it near already?” My friend kept answering “it’s quite near”. What he didn’t say is that it’s been years since his last visit and couldn’t remember much about the places we’re passing by. His “quite near” answer went on for an hour or so! I kept glancing at the window trying to catch a glimpse of a beach or sea (an indication that indeed, we are “quite near”) but all I could see were endless trees and towering mountains.

But it was a lovely ride, nonetheless. It was fun to note that the places we passed by, or Sorsogon as a whole, seemed to have a split personality disorder. At one point, you’ll see endless farmlands and at its edge, it will turn into a coconut land! I’ve often related coconut to seaside, not ricefields!

We arrived at the tiny town of Sta. Magdelana at around 5 pm. This seaside town is behind rows and rows of mountains, facing the island ofSamar. Which means, we are at the edge of Luzon. As we turn towards the town proper (where my friend’s house is located), my friend told us that he once asked his grandfather where he was during World War II. His grandfather told him unaffectedly that he was at home, tending his fields. Apparently, because of its location, Sta. Magdalena was never discovered by the Japanese.

8. “Na” Friday the 13th at the Sawang Experience. Great day to swim, laze around and get sunburned! It was an early start for us (or for me, that is, I got up at 6 am! This always happen to me in the province, no matter where). I had to drag the two around for our early ride to the beach. We went to the Balading Beach area (the most popular beach spot in Sta. Magdalena). At 8 am or so, there were very few visitors and we were able to get a nice cottage. The sand was white, although there were full of corals, perfect for snorkeling. You really have to wear aqua shoes. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed my friend’s advice when he told me to buy a pair back in Manila. And on that day, I forgot to bring (although I had it with me during the trip), I didn’t bring my “pambundok” sandals in lieu of the aqua shoes.) I went barefoot in the water to swim. Nene came with me and we swam in the shallow part. It was quite uncomfortable with all the corals, seaweeds and all but "survivable".

Tabio, went straight to the snorkeling area. The beach was divided into 2, the swimming area (you can also snorkel here) where there are no waves at all and very shallow. The deepest part only reaches up to my shoulder. This area stretches for about 50 meters or so and very uneven. At the edge, there are waves crashing into a 10 feet cliff (which they call Sawang), where the view for diving and snorkeling was wonderful. The area (swimming) was very uneven, when we walked to the Sawang, there were areas where the water is waist high, and then we’ll step on seaweeds and corals where the water was only up to our ankles. Near the Sawang, there were several rocks, which served as sort of a measuring device. From the rocks, you can tell if it’s low tide and therefore safe to go snorkeling.

Nene and I were content on splashing in the water and snorkeling in the shallow area. When Tabio invited us to go to the Sawang with him. I was feeling adventurous, but not that adventurous to snorkel in the deep area. I was originally just content on going to the rocky area. Nene was vent on not going at all. She said she knows she’s a total klutz and will never attempt anything to damage herself hehe.. So Tabio and I went.

I wore his aqua shoes and snorkeling gear with the mouthpiece (for breathing) and he wore my tsinelas na goma and the snorkeling gear (without the mouthpiece). I went as far as the edge of the cliff and watched him snorkel, one round around the Sawang. Then, he told me that the view was great and that I should try it. My swimming was average and I have tried snorkeling several times before, but always, with a lifejacket.

I am not sure, but it must be my adventurous streak, the clear blue sky, the temptation of snorkeling in a cliff and my friend’s assurance of holding my hand while we snorkel that gave me the guts. So we dove. At first, wow, it was really amazing and I can’t believe I was there, snorkeling in that deep area. We were making thumbs up signs telling each other we were doing okay. I know I was. And then the unexpected thing happened, he let go of my hand. I was surprised and frightened that he did (although I was very well floating and swimming on my own). I simply panicked. In my state, I released my hold of the mouth piece of the snorkeling gear. I couldn’t breathe and I was swallowing mouthfuls of water. I tried to hang on to him. At this point, I didn’t know that I was dragging him down when he was trying to come up for some air and to help me. While I was struggling, seriously, I was thinking.. this is it? I’d just die like this?” I couldn’t calm down. And then suddenly, when I had thought I had panicked myself to death, a drop of rationality penetrated my oxygenless brain, and I turned my body and swam towards the edge of the cliff. While I was doing this, I lost the aqua shoes (and yes, I even thought, oh no!) and tried to drag myself up for some air. My friend came up behind me and helped me up.

I came out (after almost finding out if there really is an after-life), with several bruises on my left leg as I drag myself up in the cliff. Later on, my friend told me that he let go of my hand because he was going to show off and dive. Well, we should’ve planned what we were going to do once we were there. And I shouldn’t have panicked. But in any case, I’m here alive to write this off as a “water scare” (Now I have an “air scare” PAL August flight, a “fire scare”, all I lack is earth! Hah!) :p

(By the way, we recovered the aqua shoes before it floated further away)

9. Buko drip. After the beach, we visited one of Tabio’s (numerous) Uncles to get some buko for his Lola. Again, their place is in the middle of nowhere, so we had to walk to the waiting shed to wait for a tricycle. I forgot that there’s a thing called isopropyl alcohol, and yelped when the juice from the two coconuts I was lugging dripped in my bruises collection. Ow!

10. Top of the world drive. Yes, my adventurous streak didn’t leave me at the Sawang. With bruises and all, we went home in a tricycle and I sat on top of the trike! Hehe.. Take note, this isn’t really an unusual sight with 15 people riding a tricycle. But people kept staring at me as we passed by. What was unusual was my way of sitting at the roof of the tricycle (I looked daw like a “nuno sa punso” sitting! Hehe), and the fact that I looked very much like a tourist. What a ride! There were still areas in the town that are not yet paved so imagine how tight I held on! The blast of wind, scenic views and afternoon sun made it so worth it!

11. Tabio’s introduction. It was both fun and weird to hear us being introduced by my friend. There’s a pause before introducing us as his kababata, sometimes, kaibigan, or kabarkada and most often ka-classmate. And when they say, “ah.. college” He’ll say, hindi, elementary.. Haha! Who has ever heard of hauling your elementary friends (elementary! Antique na talaga!) in the middle of nowhere?

12. Heaven sent rice cooker. We were living “survivor type” in their not-yet-made- house and as “free-riders” of his Lola hehe.. (Our routine was to go to his lola for food). So we were so elated when we unearthed a—rice cooker! Hehe.. Our motto was: with a rice cooker you can do anything! It was a feast one morning when we cooked, rice, corned beef, egg and boiled water for our hot chocolate. Perfect!

13. Bisakol talk. The town being at the edge of Luzon and just one ferry away from the Visayas region, the town's language is fondly called "Bisakol" hehe.. Bisaya+Bikolano. Mom is from Leyte (and naturally, Waray, is already like, our official language at home eversince we moved out from Tarlac!) I was delighted to find out I could understand some words like: "Maupod" which means, sasama. Or "Hain?" which means saan.

14. Mountain climbing with Bukoy. One heck of a climb! We scaled the mountain for about 2 hours with one of Tabio’s relatives named Bukoy. He wasn’t a boring tour guide, in fairness.

Within 20 minutes of hiking, nobody was speaking (possibly for fear of passing out from shortness of breath) except for Bukoy who continued to chat and lead the way. At the first stop, I was determined to take not only pictures but videos as well. Until he said “Sige, para may kasamang engkanto”.. Oookay.. We walked some more and then advised us “pag nawala kayo, baliktarin nyo ung t-shirt nyo).. Ookay! And walked some more “May ahas dito, pero minsan lang naman” Is he scaring us out of our wits or what?! Hehe..

Nevertheless, the view from the top was so stunning. Bluest sea, I could even see the Sawang, stretches of farmland and the confusing coconuts.

Before going home, we stopped by a batis to refresh ourselves with the cold mountain water. I was going to refresh myself, until Bukoy regaled us with a story of a ManileƱo na naengkanto and went back to Manila with an enlarged part of his body. Hokay! As much as I want to double up my size, I’m passing up on that enlargement, no thanks. But Bukoy was quick to add that “magtabi-tabi lang daw kami”. I did, but I still didn’t wash. Tabio, short of taking a bath in the batis, washed his head. When we were walking home, Bukoy told us that the old man (who was also on the batis) was shooting daggers at him. I thought Tabio did something to the old man. The reason was because the old man saw my friend washing his head. And apparently, this is a no-no thing after hiking, unless you want to bleed out. Fortunately, he didn’t.

15. Lunch hunting. We came home from the trek at around 12, rested our aching limbs for awhile, washed and headed to Ulango Beach. This is another favorite beach spot in Sta. Magdalena. And we were told that this beach is more fit for swimming, more sand, less corals. We decided to just have our lunch there. Nobody told us that the resort has just closed down right before Holy Week. Like most of the places, the beach was in the middle of nowhere again so when the tricycle dropped us and sped off, it was too late when we realized the resort was deserted and there was no place to eat.

Although, the resort was closed, the beach area is still open, and we could still lay down our malongs in the sand. There were varying stages of the sand. On one part of the beach has a white sand. Then sprinkles of black sand will appear. And then totally black sand. By black sand, it’s really black, (not black as Subic or Pangasinan black). It was mud-black. They said it came from the mountains. When I dug my foot into it, it was surprisingly soft and smooth.

There were very few people swimming. We moved around the beach looking for a store. Our walked seemed eternal (our growling stomachs confirmed that), when we decided we’ll never find a store in the beach and went back to the street side. We were walking when we passed by some locals and asked them for a direction to the store. By this, time it’s not only our stomachs that are complaining, our skins as well (the heat was unbearable, even from me who relishes the sun). We almost fainted when they told us that the store was right across the entrance to Ulango (where we came from). So we went back, again!

It was a tiny store, but thank goodness they have electricity so we bought cold softdrinks. They didn’t have cooked food and we begged Aling tindera to cook some pancit canton for us. Unfortunately, they don’t have a stove, and to cook, they still have to prepare the uling. Ye-gods! So we just made ourselves content with eating the local donut and monay. And taking pictures against the backdrop of Jaja (the poster of a candidate for Board member) and Manong “Exhibitionist” :p in glowing blue briefs. hehe..

(We spent the next day, whole day, at Balading beach and some other miscellaneous stuff: drinking session while playing lucky 9, tong-its and pekwa; making a “scandal” videos (haha!); playing cards and shooting the breeze by day at the beach; reading Shanghai Baby and making some more videos.

16. Geeker alert! Seriously, I’m clueless as to how 3 geeks survived together for 5 days! Haha! Every item/ talk etc etc. has got to have some explanation, reason or trivia from the buoyancy level of the seawater to alcohol content of coconuts. When somebody starts rambling some nerdy stuff, we already have an alerting “wang wang sound” hehehe..

17. Leisure ride to Matnog. We departed on Monday. There was only one bus from Sta. Magdalena to Manila and it wasn’t leaving until 3 pm. So we decided to go to the adjacent town of Matnog. Matnog is the “ferry” town where people traveling by Bus to Samar, Leyte,Davao etc.. passes by to get off the bus and ride a ferry to Samar. We’ll have more luck in finding buses here (from Visayas or Mindanao) that will take us back to Manila.

It was only a 30-minute tricycle ride from Sta. Magdalena. And it was a good thing that Tabio’s relatives know the trike driver. He was instructed to pass by the beach on the way to Matnog. The view was heavenly. As most of our tricycle rides, I insisted on riding at the back of the driver. I made a lot of videos and Manong Driver was kind enough to drive leisurely and we even stopped over for some pictures.

18. Amazing race in Bicol. It all started with our idea of catching a bus from Matnog to Manila. When we got off to Matnog, we found out that all the terminals here are for ordinary buses. They said that if we want to ride an aircon bus, we have to wait for a ferry from Samar. So we went to the pier and ate breakfast. This was 8 am. We were told a ferry will come by 9 am. Nene and I decided to go around and search for pasalubongs. Unfortunately, we can only find one manang selling pili in exchange for gold! It was so expensive! They say we still have to go to the palengke, which was what 20 minutes away. We might miss the ferry.

So we just waited in pier terminal. By 9, a couple of ferries came. I just have to mention that our baggage by this time, doubled its size with dirty clothes, muron and rice. Dragging our baggage behind, we hurried to wait for the buses. With our baggage, the heat and all hopes of finally getting on a bus, imagine how my temper flared when we found out that all buses were ordinary. There’s another ferry coming in but at 1 pm. They told us we’ll have a better chance at Sorsogon City, which was freaking 2 hours away.

So we walked to the jeepney terminal bound for Sorsogon City. I was steaming by this time but Nene had to stop me from crossing a road and to exclaim that there’s a new Manang selling pili nuts! Seriously, so in my heated state, I just gave her a curt nod and proceeded to walk. I toned down when we got on a jeep and yes, even went down again (while we were waiting for other passengers) to go back to the new manang to buy Pili.

By almost 1 pm, we arrived at Sorsogon City. We were told that there are several terminals. So we divided into two and went separately to search. We found out that the earliest aircon bus bound for Manila, is, get this, at 4:30 pm! What the?!

So, our 3 pm bus in Sta. Magdalena became a 4:30 bus in Sorsogon City. Did we save any time? We’ll find out later, that it’s a big no. We had thousands of stop overs and a detour toCavite ending up with arriving in Manila at 6:30 am!

By the way, we ended up at Chowking in Sorsogon City to kill some time and a visit to the palengke for some pasalubongs.

The whole trip was like a movie with adventure, action, scandal (hehe), comedy, documentary :p all in one! Hehe..

1 comment:

  1. Hi! May I know your name? Or from where you are in Sta. Magdalena? Taga didto man ako.


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