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Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Coron with Governor Joel T. Reyes during the inauguration of the Busuanga Airport. Tourism business is pouring in the Calamianes Group of Islands.

SO MANY things are happening in Puerto Princesa and Palawan these days. I don’t exactly call Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit to Coron “a good thing,” considering so many broken promises made to us in the past, but she was there to inaugurate a SONA commitment made in 2006 — the improvement and rehabilitation of Busuanga Airport.

Governor Joel T. Reyes was happy, and so were other local government officials who went there to join the Calamianes Group of Islands’ recent feat in tourism. That picture above shows our governor showing Arroyo something on the map. Behind was 1st Palawan District Rep. Antonio C. Alvarez.

Alex of PNA, who has been covering Coron lately, said the President’s visit was seen as “something good” for the group of island municipalities that’s currently experiencing really bombastic booms. William Gatchalian, the plastics magnate, is reportedly eying an investment on an exotic property there called “Dinaran Island.”

There’s also a large islands tour vessel that has placed the Calamianes in its cruise map — 7,100 Islands Cruise Ship — and it’s ready to bring in visitors to see the beauty of the place. New in the sky Zestair is set to fly the route soon, after it opens here this month.

I miss Coron. I miss Darayonan, where I would stay whenever I’m there. And when there’s nothing to do at night, since I don’t like staying in ex-pat bars (coz they’re the only ones open late at night), I’d coop myself in the lodging place and just read magazines. It’s a fashion and home living magazines paradise. Although the issues were several months late, they’re still informative to read.

There’s also no forgetting that first time I went to Kayangan Lake. Our boat cruised on the bluest sea and the sky was amazingly lighter in the same shade, it was definitely the day to enjoy the outdoors. Though it was a steep climb before one can see the inland lake, it was all worth it. The view was just fantastic, and water was clear with little shrimps (I don’t know how they got there) promenading under, on the sand.

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Photo borrowed from http://malvado.net/coron2.htm

There’s a hot spring in Coron that’s just so lovely on a moonlit night, and its near the sea that cradles Coron Bay. Makinit Hot Spring is warm as it’s heated geothermally, and many say it can bring good therapeutic results to someone who’s tired and will take a dip. I did that. In fact, a friend who was with me then, took a picture, but I forgot where I’ve stashed it all these years.

Makinit can be better enjoyed at nightfall. With the melodic warbling of crickets and the stars for company, it’s definitely the place for a tired mind and body. Entrance fee is very affordable, and it only takes a tricycle to get there — trip is only a few minutes.

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Photo borrowed from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/9621688

If you’re up for a little Safari adventure, not too far in Busuanga is the Calauit Wildlife Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary (CGPWS) is located within Calauit Island in the northwestern part of Busuanga, the main island of the Calamianes, Northern Palawan. It is separated from Busuanga by extensive mangroves and the Ditapic Channel, where the waters of Illultuk Bay and the Ditapic River of Busuanga flow eastward. The CGPWS has a land cover area of approximately 3,760 hectares, wherein about 40% is open rangeland, 20% moderately undulating, and 40% hill areas. Average elevation is 50 meters above sea level (50 masl) with the highest point in Namultan Range with 237 masl. It has four major creeks that have sections that are usually dry during summer, except the Abanaban Creek that retains water even during the driest month due to an intact watershed. It has a pronounced wet season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. Average monthly rainfall is 39.4 inches, while annual precipitation is at 139.4 inches. Mean temperature is recorded at 27.6 centigrade. The marine zone area is approximated at 252 square kilometers, which is delineated seven kilometers from the mean sea level.

You won’t think a place like it exists in Palawan. Tales said it used to be Marcos’ hunting ground. He would bring his son Bong-Bong there to hunt animals, and also with his friends. Am not sure if this is true. Today, Calauit is already a tourist spot in the Calamianes with giraffes, Calamian deer, zebras and other animals, endemic or otherwise to Palawan.

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Photo borrowed from www.pcsd.ph/protected_areas/calauit.htm

These days, I dream a lot about going back to Coron. About that wonderful sunset I witnessed on my way to Culion. Calamianes’ personal contribution to me was it set me up to appreciate and love sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise offered a very beautiful spectacle; the water was quite unruffled, but the motion communicated by the tides was so great that, although there was not a breath of air stirring, the sea heaved slowly with a grand and majestic motion. — George Grey

And I ride with the wind… on a color-filled sky, with the sweetest sunset’s warm kiss.

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THERE’S A new airline coming in to Puerto Princesa, and it’s called Zestair. Sounds like a fresh mint, but hey, why not?

Zestair was formerly Asian Spirit, which was apparently bought by the owner of the popular juice drink in tetra pack, according to my visitor in Palawan Times office the other day. Am not sure who owns Zesto. I only encounter it whenever we go on medical and dental missions; it’s handy to give as refreshing drinks to our people in the team.

I don’t want to appear ignorant about Zesto Corporation so I went on a 3-minute Internet journey to personally meet whoever the owner is online. The chief executive officer of Zesto Corporation is Ambassador Alfredo M. Yao, who is quite good looking despite his age.

Yao also holds the chairmanship of Zest-O Corporation (excuse me, not Zesto as previously encoded). Simultaneously he is also the president and general manager of Solmac Mktg., Inc. (boy, I’m only limiting my www travel on Zest-O, am not looking for what this is) and president of other companies, including Semexco Marketing, Inc. and SMI Development Corporation.

Sounds like he’s a busy guy to be involved in running an airline company, but again… Zestair is flying Palawan so, why not?!

I was told that two aircrafts of Zestair are brand new 56-seater ones. They’re newly acquired and will be servicing several routes: Puerto Princesa, Cebu and Manila. There are more but silly memory forgot to take in every name of every place where it’s going to do business. What happened to Asian Spirit’ old planes?

Zestair will also be flying Coron, the newest tourism destination in the country today.

I came across this blog that says funny things about the name the new owner chose. The blogger claimed he doesn’t want to ride something that sounds like a drink… or something along this line of thought.

I had to smile at this blog. I must admit though that I like the way the blogger thinks — it’s kind’da fruity too!

Puerto Princesa is a favorite destination among domestic and foreign tourists. Last year, our tourism arrival doubled from 2006’ figure. Finally, we’re back on track after that Abu Sayyaf kidnapping incident at Dos Palmas Island Resort that rendered many establishments here to close shop. I can only name a few restaurants that remained in business while the weight of the disaster was taking its toll on us. Kalui is one of them.

Now that we’re seeing changes in our tourism industry get higher, new opportunities are, of course, welcome. Whatever sounds fruity, refreshing, minty, thirst-quenching, stimulating and energizing is welcome to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Welcome to the air, Zestair!

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IT’S BEEN so many weeks since I got back from a trip to Dipolog City to attend our national convention. It wasn’t one of the sweetest travels I’ve had lately within the Philippines, but it was certainly unforgettable.

Beautiful sunrise in Dapitan City. Taken on October 8, 2008.


Dipolog isn’t Dipolog yet if you’re coming in from the ocean via slow boats from Cebu. The boat docks in historical Dapitan, a second class city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. It is historically significant as the place where Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, was exiled by the Spaniards during their colonization of the Philippines.

I have stories about Dapitan, but let’s backtrack a bit as I want to (I need to) recall our Cebu gig that only lasted from 2 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and yet, felt like a lifetime for me.

Our arrival in Cebu in the afternoon of October 7 was welcomed with a mentally shocking thud made by the Cebu Pacific plane that landed on the airport tarmac like a taxi with broken wings. I couldn’t stop myself from being nervous. Remind me next time not to watch National Geographic Channel because it’s there were I’m getting all my paranoia about riding planes — INVESTIGATION OF FLIGHT so-and-so CRASH — who wouldn’t be obsessed with paranoia?

In the same blog that I had posted here in October 2006, I recall complaining about the same incident; Cebu Pacific planes land like the pilots were trained to maneuver taxis. Right now, however, it’s the only airline that offers the best travel fare… so why not?


This isn’t really the prescribed sleeping position at GP Lines. I wonder why they all had to face that wall there… hmmm… maybe SLEEP is there?


Cebu is the second fave big city of this irritatingly trying-to-be-self-confident-itinerant (hahaha!). I’ve always been amazed by the Cebu International Airport’s vigorous and forceful quality. It doesn’t make me think of what else is living and breathing outside its perimeter — crazy. Yep, I had been told!

I can live inside the airport, and I’d feel comfortable unlike Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) in that comedy-drama-romance movie The Terminal. As long as nobody chases me, or forces me to leave, or do latrine duties, I can probably do a LIFE there.

From the CIA, some of us (we were 7 in the group) packed ourselves in JCI Sen. Bobby’s Palawan Pawnshop car. We didn’t fit so Ian, Malou and I, hailed a taxi to reach Estancia. He has a house for his staff there, and if we decide to stay, we could.

I’ve been to Cebu a number of times, but I think it’s the first time I moved on foot there. There’s nothing spectacular in Estancia except for the water dispenser we found in one sari-sari store that has a hole for a coin before it allows a drink. That was a first encounter; the idea can be picked up in Palawan… probably!

The whole street is only a slight wider than J. Abad Santos Street where I live. The only mighty difference is that my house is in front of a barangay hall with a basketball court, while JCI Sen. Bobby’s house stands next to a line of small stores that sell different kinds of things — from Good Morning mineral water, to spare parts, to fried and grilled chicken, etcetera.

Friend and grilled chicken… ewww! Not ewww because the food’s horrible; I just realized I’m dead hungry. Super hungry, my goodness. All of us were.

We all left the place with the possibility of acquiring the wickedest kind of all psychiatric conditions as we were all delusional about FOOD, FOOD, FOOD… none of us ate before leaving Puerto Princesa. We couldn’t stop — no way, we still had to endure to find the office building of Cokaliong and GP Lines and get our tickets first to get out of the place as soon as possible. Susanne, Carlo, and Bong have an academy to attend the next day.

At about 4:30 p.m., with tickets carefully kept somewhere in the jungle in Malou’s bag, we headed to SM Mall to finally eat. We were so hungry, we all look like fried chickens to each other. Susanne gave me that stare I didn’t like. Hahaha!

“The proof of the travel is in the adventure,” this thought kept running in my head quietly because I don’t want everyone to hear it from the facial expressions I was making the whole time. We only stayed in Cebu for a few hours and yet, like what I’ve already said, all the hassle made me feel like I’ve lived there a thousand years. I wish I was back at the CIA as it was my connection to Palawan — besides, I like it there.

Quarter to 9 p.m. was the best laugh I’ve ever had that day. It was living on the edge of insanity. I think food didn’t do me good because I still think crazy.

By this time, a bus of the GP Lines had taken us to the pier. Upon reaching a terminal building there, it made a U-turn and stopped at the edge of the water. My calculation brought me to realize that I was only about 9 inches or so away from falling into the murky sea. It was night time, for dios por saint!

Talk about living on the edge, I got scared. I had to warn everyone to move carefully when they go down as I don’t want the bus to keel over with me sitting by the window.

Next stop… TRIP TO DAPITAN.

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NO MORE SUGAR: Carlo and Rogie with me at the Philippine Taoist Temple, Cebu on October 13, 2007.

IT WAS bright and sunny when Emilyn and I landed at the Mactan International Airport with a loud thud. That was October 9, Tuesday, I thought the tires of the plane would be separated from where they’re attached. Cebu Pacific pilots really land their planes like roaring taxis in EDSA. I was caught unaware, the feeling’s so intimidating.

But I was excited too. Not only is Cebu a dream place, it’s also where my brother Carlo lives now. I miss him so much so a meeting with him and his girlfriend Rogie is possible as soon as we’re all free from our own busy schedules. He’s assigned in Boljoon — strange name, I don’t know where that is exactly in Cebu.

From the international airport, Emilyn and I, and another friend, Maj. Junios Fernandez, hailed a taxi to look for Subang Dako where Singson Village is located. It’s where we will live for a couple of nights before we decide to transfer to a hotel. That is if we want to.

Subang Dako means “big river” in Cebuano. I thought it’s funny because “suba” also means river in Cuyunon, the ethnic language my family speaks. Sounds familiar, I told myself grinning. The only difference is that “big” or “dako” is “mabael” in Cuyunon. Subang Dako would be “mabael na suba” to us.

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Mactan Cross is in that building behind me.

We found Subang Dako a little over 1 p.m., Emilyn and I were so hungry but we didn’t want to disturb the owner of the house anymore by preparing late lunch for us. We told them we’d go to SM City and look for something warm and soupy. She and I just had mooncake all the way from Puerto Princesa, it wasn’t enough. Too bad Cebu Pacific is no longer serving free lunch or snacks.

We’re in Cebu because we’re attending the 59th JCI Philippines National Convention hosted by JCI Cebu, Inc., an all male local organization management. It will begin tomorrow, October 10, to October 14. October is always the time of the year when all members of the Junior Chamber meet. If I’m not mistaken, there’ll be over a thousand attending, and we’re excited to meet some of them, especially those that have become our sister LOMs.

At SM City, Emilyn ordered fish stuffed with eggs and tomatoes inside its belly from Island Grill. No, fish for me. I’ve been eating fish at home all the time because my father is not allowed to eat meat. I ordered for grilled liempo and requested for a manageable bowl of tinola. Major Fernandez ordered fish too, but it’s not dry. It has this pancit-like noodles that grow in the ocean.

I couldn’t eat grilled liempo without vinegar with a bit of patis (fish sauce) and garlic so I went back to Island Grill and requested its female food server for it. She entered a door to the kitchen, and when she got back she handed me soy sauce (toyo made of soya beans). Then I was struck by the thought of what my brother told me before. When in Cebu, patis is toyo. If you want it, you’d better ask for Rufina. Geez…

From the SM City food court, Emilyn and I lingered for a while just watching the scene inside the mall’s shopping area. No time to shop. Besides, we’re on a tight budget. But we did check out some iPOD models and mp3 players, telling ourselves we’ll buy one if we have extra money.

Major Fernandez had gone ahead of us to the pier where he would be boarding a vessel that would take him to Leyte to celebrate his father’s birthday with his family. The boat would leave at 5 p.m. His father was just hospitalized a few weeks before he left. Now that he’s well, my friend thought it would be better to spend time with him. I agree.

Since it’s still pretty early, just past 4 p.m., Emilyn and I decided to go up and see what movie’s showing. We saw Brave One starring Jodie Foster, one of my favorite actresses, and I thought we shouldn’t miss the chance.

The movie’s about the story of a woman who was seriously hurt in a mugging incident in New York. Her boyfriend was killed by the muggers when he tried to stop them from harassing her. A radio talk show host, Jodie’s character tried to go to the police so they can look for her boyfriend’s killer who also stole their dog. But the police station was so busy she decided to take matters into her own hand. She bought a gun illegally and started saving victims just like a vigilante.

There’s a black guy character whose an investigation officer, who, if not because he respects the law, would also like to avenge the death of a mother of a little girl. Jodie killed that guy. The movie has twists and turns that were all exciting until the end. If I give all, no one might see it. All I can say is it’s three thumbs up!

From the movie house, Emilyn and I went to Starbucks to wait for the Cebu afternoon fade slowly into nighttime. Cebu glitters like Manila as a big city. I think I like Cebu better because I feel safe in the place. I’m not intimidated by taxis like in Manila.

They said that in the Philippines there are many poor people. If you’re in Cebu, you won’t think that because it seems that they’re all in the malls. You see them eating, shopping, playing in the arcades, etcetera.

At about 10 p.m., we went home already to Subang Dako. It’s another day, and it’s not bad at all. Not bad at all to start a week in Cebu.

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