10:34 AM Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm a weepy, emotional, hormonal mess.

And it's hard pinpointing the exact reason/s why.

Coron, Palawan

12:07 AM Friday, November 17, 2006

Fare - P1,814.80 (inclusive of fuel charge and terminal fee)
Accommodation - Cabin (6 to a room, 3 double-deckers, air-conditioned with TV and private shower/CR)
Meals Included - Breakfast

The facilities were nice enough... though I was told by a fellow passenger that Negros Navigation's ship's facilities were nicer. I didn't expect the beds to look that cramped (slightly narrower than a single-sized bed, but slightly longer too) but each bed was curtained (therefore, offering privacy... and shelter from the centralized air-conditioning) and had its own light (for reading, or whatever rituals one is bound to before sleeping). If you board early, Sharon Cuneta singing the Superferry jingle might get on your nerves (as it did on mine... i'm sorry but it's enough to make one crazy), but luckily they have this Volume knob which you can even turn off (only, you also miss their announcements) and they do stop playing the jingle once the ship sails.

I was also disappointed that Superferry 1 didn't offer much by way of entertainment... I guess I've heard so much of their ships having bars and whatever so I went about looking for massage and was directed to a sad-looking niche where one can get hair cuts and manicures. No massage being offered there... and in a way, that's ok because the place didn't look hygienic. There was a videoke singing contest of sorts that time... and the restaurant (ISLAND FIESTA, a fancy name for the cafeteria-looking place at the same level as the ward-like accommodations) there did offer delicious-looking barbecue and sightly-melted ice cream sticks.

I decided I deserved nicer and insisted we eat at the restaurant at the same level as the room-accommodations, HORIZON CAFE. The mushroom soup was nice (P40.) enough, the iced tea was a very strong Lipton blend, the guinataang tilapia tasted good enough but the tilapia wasn't scaled prior to coking (which annoyed my JRA so). I ordered ham and cheese sandwich with fries which cost P95 (their fries order cost P75 and the fries served is only slightly more than the fries I got... so better order what I did and get a sandwich too) was served with the bread un-toasted, much to my dismay.

But my full wrath rant goes to the chicken mami I ordered. First, it cost P110. and cost P30 mor than the expensive but tres delicious mami offering of Ma Mon Luk. Second, it was served in the same bowl-size that my husband's mushroom soup was served in (definitely small because it was served in a saucer too). Third, it only had slivers of chicken, and I swear you'd get more chicken if you ate the mac salad I prepare. Fourth, it wasn't served was lukewarm at best (the fries was served that way too) and last but not the least... it tasted like boiled garlic with a hint of cabbage. Very reminiscent of food served in budget canteens where students can't complain, only blander. I was really pissed off! I mean, I get that the resto probably pays premium for the exclusive rights to cater to Superferry clients... but the price for the quality (or lack of it) is just plain awful. A foreigner dining near our table returned the rice thingies she ordered. Gosh. To think half of those who can afford to eat there are foreigners...

Another really bad thing is that I didn't see any signage there instructing people to carry their tickets around with them. A person comes into the resto inspecting tickets (I guess to establish legitimacy, in case there are people hitching free rides). The thing is, the one doing the inspection could hardly communicate well in English... so the foreigners just got confused and thought he was asking for MEAL tickets.

And I did say, I didn't see any signage... I can't say for sure that there wasn't any. If there were, I guess Superferry folks should rethink where they're posting them. Or have them emblazoned on the tickets. Or have their receptionists and ushers advise their customers as they lead them to their accommodations.

And am not saying it was all horrible... for I appreciated getting my picture taken as part of the manifest (at least, if the ship sank and our mangled bodies were found, they could easily have identified us (they used webcams at the terminal).

The ferry leaves Manila on Fridays at 7:15 PM and arrives in Coron at 6:00 AM, staying there for an hour and travelling for some two hours more to Puerto Princesa. It calls in Coron again on Sundays, departing at 9:15 PM and arriving in Manila at 8:00 AM Monday.


We were offered lodging at my company's staff house in Coron and we accepted it so we can save some cash. Since it was Saturday, we didn't think the Culion Museum (two hours of boat ride from Coron to Culion) would be open. And since I still had my period, we couldn't really island-hop just yet so we slept the whole morning instead.

This is actually a carinderia located near the famous Seadive Resort and just near the fishport (bayan). The food is great for its price. The owner also has a disco place near the eatery and acdtually hails from Batangas. I ordered chicken mami there and it cost P30 only and tasted divine!

We ate here almost all the time, spending less than P200 (for 2 pax) each meal, inclusive of rice, at least 3 viands and juice/softdrinks. I have to admit I ate mami there all the time too. And papaitan twice. Try their tinolang manok... it tastes a little differently but it's good.

And Trining Bacsa actually offers a great pasalubong... bagoong/alamang. Each bottle costs P75 (we bought 4) and everybody (including those who have real high standards where fish sauce is concerned) who tasted it LOVED it. Aling Trining herself is proud to tell the tale of how one foreigner used it as spread for bread.

Get there riding a tricycle (or just walk to the place) at around P7 per person. The Coronians always boast of its 700+ steps. I believe it's the second-highest place in Coron, and their good people decided to draw travellers to its summit by building all those steps, with at least 10 rest stops (5 of which offers shade).

It does offer a great "Welcome to Coron" experience... because as you climb up, you see more and more of the many limestone formations/islands that make up Coron... and how pristine its waters are.

The climb could take less than an hour (a lot less if you're super fit), but one shouldn't really rush and miss taking in the wonderful view.

Am not sure if people can camp at the cemented summit but I guess it could be allowed provided that the campers maintain the cleanliness of the place. Oh, and be prepared to fall in love...

Just near Trining Bacsa's restaurant is a bakery (also near the Arevalo Store) where one can purchase freshly-made cakes. We bought the following coffee-choco-caramel at around P320 (other cakes cost less).

This cake is really, really rich... with a strong coffee taste and really moist cake. We bought one to share with my colleagues here, as a thank you for the hospitality.

To get there, one can either hire a tricycle (or using some other service vehicle) or a pump boat. A magical mystery (for me anyway) is that it's spring water that's salty. I also have no doubt that what the locals say is true... it's waters is hotter than that from Pansol (esply since resorts mix tapwater in their pools to control the heat) and Bicol (Tiwi Hot Springs).

We decided to go there late afternoon (because we felt we couldn't possibly tolerate the hot water during the day) so I was unable to get a good shot of it when the sun is still shining on its waters. And because the spring is so hot, we dared not really bring our cam closer to the pools.

Renting a tricycle would cost P150 (two-way, the tricycle driver waits for you)... and entrance fee is P100/ea for non-Coronians.

The thing was... it got so hot for me that I felt faint. I had heart palpitatios and coudn't breathe... and had to stay at the outermost poolside so I could breathe some fresh air. I just cupped water in my palms and splashed myself while I sat on the edge of the pool. My husband outlasted me by some 15 minutes... after which, he also had to get out of the pool.

People can bring in their own food there and have a picnic/barbecue. It's open till 10 PM. They say they don't have showers there and only CRs and changing rooms, but since there's running water, one can actually take a shower after dipping in the pool (but why would you? its waters is supposedly therapeutic!)

Bring a lot of drinking water with you because the heat is bound to make you terribly thirsty.

For pics of our first day, click here.


Going there is a pain.

It's 3 hours on rough roads plus a 5-minute ferry boat ride.

If you're going to go there via tours offered by resorts like Kokosnuss, it would cost you around P1,500 ea (exclusive of fees and truck hire). If you're just going to get there yourself (ideally, people at the Sanctuary should be notified so it's still best to go with resort tours even if you're not staying in that resort), van rent is P4,500. You can contact our driver, Mike, at 0928-8312099. Ferry ride (two-way) costs P300 (better call Mike talaga because other drivers/resorts drop guests off at a farther distance and guests are made to ride a smaller boat and pay P1,000 for it). Sanctuary fees cost P250/ea while rent of the safari truck is P200 (for the entire group).

The tour will last for more than an hour. But mostly, you're just travelling over hectare upon hectare of overgrown and unruly grass.

Is it worth it to go there?

Well, seeing zebras and giraffes and deers running about... free as the herons flying about is just really unexplainable. You feel happy for them.

But it's really expensive if you're not travelling with a group (to split expenses with). And the sanctuary really reeks of lack of care.

Blame it on the government that has:
1) Kept its caretakers in Job Order status for around 30 years (that means they don't get the usual benefits governement employees get... and with matching delays in salary);
2) Not provided manpower to tend to the plants and animals (they just invite zoologists and botanists and vets there because they don't have any... but Sir Froilan, who conducts the tours, was English-proficient enough and has learned to care for the wildlife like any pro);
3) Not done anything for the original Calauit Island dwellers that it evicted... resulting in informal settlers at the peripherals of the island... 'squatters' who hunt the supposedly protected deer and sell the meat as TAPANG USA in the mainland; and
4) Not allotted budget for the sanctuary, as well as supplementary livelihood for its personnel

So yeah, it was actually a bittersweet thing to go there... seeing the expanse of land untended... and then getting close to the animals that run freely on its grounds.

By the way, you can see mouse deer there... which are mostly kept in a pen since they're only as big as cats (or big rabbits).

On your way home, ask your driver to make a stop at Amik's Restaurant in the town of Busuanga... for cheap but great food... and the warmest greeting from the owner's very beautiful daughter.

For more pictures of our trip to Calauit, click here.

And of course, the trip back is just as tiring. Chances are, you'd easily doze off. But if everything about you hurts, get a MASSAGE from Miss Baby (0910-2205186). If referred by Mike (our driver), she only charges P200 (but please give her P300 because she's really good... and she's a widow with 4 kids, ahehe).

Many resorts offer such tours. The great thing about Coron (and Palawan in general) is that resorts don't really overcharge for such trips. Sure, they earn more when more people share the van or boat but really, nobody overcharges and rounds off, so you get your change and you don't feel ripped off.

Anyway, we rented our own boat. Again, Mike's friends :) At P1,500, the boat takes you to at least four (4) destinations, exclusive of fees and lunch.

LOS SIETE PECADOS (Seven Rock Islands)
Around 10 minutes from the fish port (so you can buy your packed lunch from Trining Bacsa's early in the morning), Siete Pecados is a cluster of seven limestone islands bordering an area of fish and corals. Palawan has a past of cyanide fishing, and it was only some 30 or so years ago that its people (and the government) became vigilant in protecting our country's last frontier.

Thus, some corals at this Marine Park are still dead. And your boatmen (you'd have at least two... and in the spirit of sharing, may I suggest that when you buy your packed lunch, you also buy them some? Tapsilog at Trining's only costs P35... they actually bring their own baon, but please be nice... who knows, you'd be lucky enough to be given some of their baon too... and am telling you, their TUYO is so delicious!) will tell you that it took at least ten years for the fish to come back to Palawan's waters.

I was actually freaked out by the corals. You are made to swim with lifevests on, and yes, do bring snorkelling gear. Anyway, if you sort of just tread upright on the water, the corals are just two feet or so from your feet! That's how close they are! And since it was kinda gloomy when we were in Coron, the waters were a darker shade of blue-green. I got scared of the corals (esply that anemone-type thing) and the fish (bring plain bread too, to feed them with).

It was absolutely, absolutely SURREAL.

And absolutely WONDERFUL.

Better go to Siete Pecados in the morning, because most island-hoppers go there in the afternoon (finishing at Maquinit Springs), so as to avoid banca traffic.


First, because its almost a secret place cared for by the Tagbanuas, with an entrance channel with clear waters, huge rocks and white sand.

Second, because it will require you to trek uphill, and then downhill. So make sure you wear shoes/sandals with grip. In exchange for the P200/person fee, the Tagbanuas have installed and maintain makeshift railings for you to hold onto.

Third, because the lake is just beautiful. Flanked by limestone cliffs, the water is so blue (or green) and clean. It's freshwater and you're sure to be tempted to just laze around in its waters, paddling about and just staring at the limestone cliffs and caves. Shrimp-like fish abound its waters.

Do not make the same mistake as I did, lying on the wooden bank for photo ops... and thus staining my board shorts with the mineral in Coron soil (that thing that makes the soil brownish red). It washes off in time but even the stain on your feet takes a while to brush off (and do note that most boats are white).

Enjoyment of Twin Lagoon is free if you've already paid your fees at Kayangan Lake. But going to Barracuda Lake will cost an additional P75 (there are whispers that the Tagbanuas don't encourage visits there as much, believing that a barracuda has indeed gobbled up one of their own).

Anyway, I've always thought that brackish water is something dirty... but it actually means that it's a combination of both fresh and sea water. It's wonderfully weird to be swimming in water where it's cold around your chest, and warm around your legs. Hubs said you can actually see the ripples of warm water underneath. And when we were there... it started to rain so the place was dark while we laughed and swam about.

You have to swim under a limestone formation to get to the lagoon. And then there are at least two makeshift harbors to anchor boats to. A kayak can easily pass through (but the rowers would have to duck) the stone to get inside the lagoon.

We ate our lunch back in our boat, amidst many other boats. Sea urchins abound in the rocks at the lagoon's entrance so be very careful. If not, urine supposedly helps with sea urchin stings.

I believe this is the last remaining public beach (others would require fees) in the area. It's a small white-sand beach surrounded by mangroves and corals. Perfect for snorkelling (very clean, and you can actually already enjoy the corals without swimming since the waters are so shallow) and fish-feeding (scaredy cat me kept screaming everytime the fish got carried away and fed off my hand... and this i did while standing in waist-deep water! the experience was both exciting and humbling!)

Alas... even if it was JRA who walked over rocks and corals brimming with sea urchins... it was I who got bitten by something. I shrieked and screamed and everybody thought I was had by a sea urchin or jellyfish... and all I could show for my cries is this tiny dot on my ankle that stung so badly, the blood vessels in that area raged!

Sniff. The boatmen said it's part of a fish's house (what do we call their homes anyway? nest? or is it the corals already?) and it's nothing. A part of my skin continued to sting and swell... the boatmen said it will go away soon enough. They advised me to put some vinegar on it if it continued to sting (I never got around to doing that). Anyway, that dot-sized thingie gave me this itchy, ugly, rough welt the size of a peso on my ankle... something I had to take allergy meds and steroids for. "Intense reaction to an insect bite" was the verdict. Sigh.

And clumsy me... avoiding another boat's anchor, I lost my balance and managed to barely save my right leg... I scraped my shin on the anchor (so yes, it's weird how I got so close when I was avoiding it na nga).

We were supposed to go to another beach as a finale but i've had enough... and hubs and I were adamant that I get some Betadine on my bleeding wound lest it becomes infected.

And I couldn't handle the stinging anymore.

Twas not a good ending alright... but the day wasn't wasted at all... because it was still NOTHING compared to the FUN I had and BEAUTY I beheld.

For more pictures of our island tour, click here.

Other tips/notes:
~ buy the panutsa-like treat here made of sugar and cashews for pasalubong. It's the same price as in El Nido or Puerto Princesa but the ones sold here use fresher cashews.
~ invest on cameras. Not only digicams but also underwater cams. The Kodak disposable one (P300-400) actually takes better pictures but it's too expensive. You can buy a reusable film cam with waterproof casing at Toby's for around P1,100-1,300. Outputs aren't as clear but they're good enough.
~ invest on your own snorkelling gear, unless you're ok with just renting them (or at least, bring goggles)
~ invest on cheap dive shoes (ours cost less than P200 ea) to protect your feet from the corals and rocks (mine had holes in them after going to Twin Lagoon)
~ just past Kayangan Lake, you can buy freshly-caught fish from this house/barge on the sea
~ Coron is, unfortunately, prone to brownouts that don't have a fixed schedule. Resorts don't really promise "NO BROWNOUTS" because gas is more expensive there, so sustaining generator sets isn't really a priority. Which is why air-conditioned rooms might prove to be more frustrating if there's power failure while you're sleeping in the dead of night.
~ Don't be scared of malaria. But do wear lots of sunblock and off lotion.
~ Always be courteous and respectful of the people... and heed signs against pollution and corruption of their natural resources. Meanwhile, you can generally trust the people not to rip you off or take advantage of you, even if you're a foreigner.
~ Around 2 PM, make sure to walk around the streets at the bayan and catch this jolly old guy selling TURON. It's divine! At P5 each... it's really absolutely divine. I never imagined banana fritters could melt in your mouth!!!
~ Unfortunately, I had to resort to peeing in the water because there's just no CR in any of the lakes/islands. It was really hard to do while you're floating on water which is why I patiently swam to that makeshift harbor in Twin lagoon so I can anchor myself to something and pee.
~ If you can, rent a boat that will take you to Banana island... the one they say can give Boracay a run for its money
~ In Coron , in particular, and Palawan, in general, there are just too many islands... and too little time.

a time to spend

8:27 AM Monday, November 13, 2006

Bonus time has come.

And because of Bagyong Milenyo, we were also offered the opportunity to file for a calamity loan.

Thus, lots of cash and gift cheques are on hand.

But alas, there are bills to be paid. I want to use most of the money to pay off some of the car loan we got for Maxime.

And we really should buy a spare tire na.

And I want to give some money to Py, Ela and my cousin Tin's son... since they need money more than gifts.

But of course, my other nieces and nephews would also require either money or gift (but i've taken to just giving money or gift cheque so their parents could buy them milk and whatever they really need...)

Then, I owe JRA a gift (birthday and Christmas). And am not so sure if the compact digicam (to support and replace for the meantime my broken S2) we plan to buy this week can stand as his birthday and Christmas gift.

And I have already spent around P6k just for stupid lab tests and consultations re my thyroid problem.

So, although deep inside I know how blessed I am to have money and spend it... I also can't help but feel bad that I would be left with almost nothing for myself...



Then again, I really can't think of any material thing I really want (I am mightily envious of JRA's new 60gb media player but I know I'd just treat it as a glorified mp3 player)... though I need new shoes and clothes (that fit). The only thing that made myself catch my breath is handling the Canon eos 400D... but that's for next year pa...

But I want to be materialistic! I want something tangible to reward myself with.

And I don't want to invest on food!


Where can I find cheap dancing classes? And climbing buddies who could be patient with a weak climber like me?

And a picture of tommy lee's *ehem* :D

my dermaladies

4:12 PM Tuesday, November 07, 2006

again, the Palawan post would have to wait


Watching The Devil Wears Prada around 2 months ago... I found myself getting bitten by something. I scratched the itchy bite and let go, knowing I have to stop lest it results in scarring.

Aba, after 3 days... there is that swollen welt pa din!

Aba, after a week... there is that inflamed portion pa din!

True enough, I should have worried much earlier. It turned out that the bite got infected and became some sort of impacted boil.


It had to be excised... and that required anesthesia.

So then, I had a hole in my leg. Yuck all the more.

And cleaning it entailed much poking with betadine-filled cotton buds.

Then I noticed, i'm getting irritated by the gauze pad and surgical tape. But no, I was actually getting irritated by the betadine! From a bite to a boil to a hole, it developed into some sort of eczema. My dermatologist was actually surprised to finally meet someone who's allergic to betadine. Sheesh.

Anyway, that boil episode lasted for a month. All from an insect bite!


A month later... while people were frolicking in the same beach as I am in Coron, and my husband was snorkelling about, I decided to just feed the fish from waist-deep high waters.

I was moving towards shallower portions when I felt something sting my left ankle. Afraid that I might have gotten unlucky enough to have stepped on a sea urchin, I pulled out my foot to see this plant-like dot on my ankle... that's causing blood vessels to 'pop out and get red' in that area.

I screamed.

I shrieked.

I was center of distraction... and not in a good way.

Half-carried back to the shore... one of our boat men wiped off the stinging something, told us it's nothing, just some particle from where fish live... and said I shouldn't worry.

Some inflammation after (and incessant pain, mind you), they said not to worry NGA coz the swelling on my skin would go away.

Well, it didn't.

Islands and days away, other boatmen would tell us it's nothing again. And sure enough, the seawater seemed to be facilitating the healing.

Then am back here in Manila, with that portion all itchy and rough and dark and dry and driving me crazy. It seems like our worst fears are true... and sure enough, my dermatologist told me that it's an "intense reaction to an insect bite... not yet an allergic reaction, but a very intense reaction... and we should care for it lest it becomes infected...etc... etc"

Caring for it requires topical cream applications, anti-allergy meds for a week... and STEROIDS.

Now, am getting more fat and acne than I need.

On top of my peeling, dark skin.



Still, I can't help but be grateful that am already married and need not worry about attracting guys anymore... because I sure wouldn't... not like this...


6:33 PM Wednesday, November 01, 2006

... had too much fun in Coron.

Having too much fun in El Nido.

Expecting a long and bumpy ride to Puerto Princesa tomorrow... and too much fun as well.

(ekshuli, I feel woozy right now because of the day-long boat ride and battle with the waves... and I just missed getting a massage tonight... but there are seafood buffets awaiting those who sacrifice massage time...)

See you when I become properly dry again... :)


Happy Halloween! May our departed continue touching our lives thru the lessons we can glean from the lives they led.