Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bikepacking to Tablas Island, Romblon

"Ano, ano?"

With that question and the plan was hatched (we're such idiots, a simple question and a look serve as a dare or a challenge). 

We were going to Romblon. And bring our bikes with us. Yup, we were rebels.

After watching a video about Romblon on Facebook and finding out we could RoRo there, we were convinced. Plus we wanted to look for Maoi's abandoned love child from the 90's (an inside joke but feel free to ask me about it).

Okay, planning starts now. #RoRoRomblon, here we come! Or #LetsGetReadyToRomblon? Whatever. We were on our way to find our marbles!

First, the participants. Maoi didn't want just the two of us. He was afraid I would hold his hands in public (I actually did. Please see in the video).

"Baket, kinakahiya mo ba ako?!", I asked. 

This was returned with a look that confirmed yeah, he was ashamed to be seen with just me. Thanks a lot, Mao. 

We then thought of former office mates who might be interested. Jing's wife just gave birth to a cute little boy so he was going to sit this one out. 

Enter Hans. He was thrilled with the idea and immediately and excitedly said yes (poor boy, I don't think he has that many friends). 

Let's go!

A thorough research then ensued.

How do we get to Romblon? Where do we store the bikes? Which of the three islands do we visit? Will my wife allow me (thank you again, my baby!)? When's a good time to take our leaves? Will the boss allow us knowing we could possibly die because it would just be us and she knew we have troubles just deciding where to eat lunch much more plan a trip? She only said one thing: "Walang mamamatay ha?!" 

Anyway, after going through several websites and blogs and messaging people, everything was set. Well, Hans had to buy a bike first (great deals online!). After that, it was game on! 

We booked our 2Go tickets (around P1,400 each, one way, for a cabin -- thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin from you guys). We booked our hotel room (Harbour Chateau in Odiongan - P1,500/night) and also booked our Calatrava tour (Deo's Islands Adventure Tours). 

We mapped out the trip. We chose Tablas Island since this was the biggest of the three and most developed and we figured there were more paved roads to bike on (paved didn't equate to flat roads, unfortunately).

Several meetings and back and forth Viber messages (yes, Shoe Mart Maoi knows Viber!) after, the day of departure finally came!

The organized and OC Manuel's Excel sheet though couldn't prevent work from interfering that day (work always gets in the way of everything!) and we were late getting to the Alabang Provincial Bus Terminal. We weren't going to make it to our 9pm 2Go ferry. 

The next bus came (Alps buses to and from Alabang and Batangas arrive and leave every 30 minutes for 24 hours according to a call Maoi made to their office) and we loaded our bikes inside the cargo area of the bus (we paid an extra P100 plus the P137 fare). It's best if you are the first ones on the bus so you'll have room for the bikes. We didn't have to take out any tires (on our trip back via Dela Rosa Liner, we had to remove our front tires but we weren't charged anything).

We knew we were going to miss our ferry even more when we realized the bus was passing Calamba town and not straight via the Star Tollway. Good job researching again.

Hans looked at the 2Go website and saw that there was a 10pm trip to Romblon Island. Okay, we would just proceed there and just ride another ferry to Tablas. 

We got to Batangas Port at around 9:30pm and quickly (yup, on our bikes) proceeded to the 2Go ticketing counter. I asked a bald 2Go employee who was smoking by the terminal fee window if the 9pm ferry to Odiongan already left and he said yes. We were doomed.

We quickly went to the ticketing counter and asked if we could just upgrade our Odiongan ticket to a Romblon ticket. The lady behind the counter quickly got up and said that the 9pm ferry was still there! Wow, we made it (I will never trust bald people again -- Hello Hans and Maoi).

The kind ticketing lady asked the security guard to assist us as she radioed someone to say there were three more passengers and that we would have bikes with us. 

Manong guard was so kind and escorted us to the boarding area after we paid the P30 terminal fee. 

Somebody then just told us to remove our front tires so we won't be charged extra for the bikes. So we did and we were able to board at once (thank you also to the nuns who were boarding at the same time we were -- God heard their prayers and nadamay kame!). 

2Go has neat bunkers in their cabins (thanks again, Mao for booking me in a different cabin -- I will bring this up forever) and we just ate our free dinner (and drank a couple of beer in cans) then went off to bed (we were asked to put our bikes by the Smoking Area). I then locked myself inside the bathroom (damn you, Maoi!) for 15 damn minutes because of the damn lock (what is it with me and locks and keys these days?)!

Anyway, here are some highlights of the Tablas, Romblon trip:

- Of course, the biking. We wanted to bike from the hotel to the Looc Marine Sanctuary which was some 21 kilometers according to We took a wrong turn and made the hilly trip into a total of 30 kilometers. The ahons were so punishing for us (we're newbies!) and we walked for a couple of meters just to get past some climbs. Our average speed was 10kph due to the hills. Fastest speed was around 41kph which was also a lot of fun. Biking through rice fields and by the shoreline was awesome. Also the fish sanctuary in Looc. It made all the climbs and walking worth it. Air in the province is really different. We were so tired we just got a tricycle (the one they use for transferring pigs) for our bikes and a separate tricycle for the three of us (we paid P500 for each).

- If you want to know about what Tablas Island offers, you have to book a tour with Deo's Islands Adventure Travels. Kuya Deo lives and breathes Tablas. Just tell him what you want to see and he will push for you to experience what you want in Tablas. With his Mad Max-like Toyota Lite Ace (which adds to the character of the tour), he will make sure guests of the island would want to come back for more. Aside from naming new tourist spots, he usually brings his guests to the never-before-seen sites of the island. He recently named a tourist spot (a cave and a small swimming area in one of the cracks of the rock formations) after a guest after she dropped her earring there on their maiden visit to the spot. He fondly calls it Pearl of Melody. I suggest you book him if you want to enjoy the richness the island and the surrounding water offers. In our tour, he brought along an American Peace Corps volunteer staying in Tablas named Bill and they dove several meters on what Kuya Deo calls White Rock. Bill dove 80 feet down--free diving! Amazing. Thanks again, Kuya Deo! You can contact him via, +63 999 002 0806 or +63 997 920 0270.

- We visited the Looc Marine Sanctuary (P100/pax plus P50 for the snorkeling gear) to play and feed the fish (there were a looot of them) but we were told by Kuya Deo and Bill that feeding the fish is actually bad for the corals in the area. Fish should feed on the corals and not be fed with bread as corals need fish to survive. Oops. 

- While there, we stayed in Harbour Chateau Hotel. It's just a kilometer away from Poctoy Port so it was a quick bike ride for us when we got there around 5am. Rooms (P1,500/night, good for three but I think the room can easily accommodate six since the there were three double beds). It's also by the beach so eating breakfast (free breakfast is Hotsilog) and having your morning coffee is an experience. Your stay is timed 24 hours so you can check in any time you arrive but need to check out 24 hours after or based on the time you arrived (basta 24 hours, you get it). Their pizzas are delicious too!

- Moving around the island, a group can rent tricycles as jeeps are hard to come by and usually have early last trips (sometimes as early as 3pm). You can text Kuya Arnel (0939-3781383) and/or Kuya Rey (we forgot his number-- Maoi lost it, actually) but you can look for him in the Harbour Chateau lobby. He usually hangs around the hotel for passenger pick ups at the nearby Poctoy Port). 

Next time we will bring along a responsible female friend (not Jing. Hans, ang sama mo). 

Because it was only us three guys who went on this trip, these things happened:

  • We miscalculated the time and almost got left behind by our ferry to Odiongan
  • We forgot to bring sunblock so naturally we weren't able to put some on during our bike trip (very bad mistake that we are paying for today -- ouch!)
  • Hans will never wear sando while biking under the intense heat again
  • We lost our hotel keys and had to be escorted by someone from the front desk everytime we wanted to enter our room
  • We forgot to bring toothpaste and had to do with Maoi's very small toothpaste (just one of the small things Maoi possesses)
  • We didn't check how to get home from Batangas Pier. Good thing we Filipinos are really helpful and people there gave us directions to Grand Terminal (there were buses to Alabang in the Pier parking lot but our bikes didn't fit their estribos so we biked around 5kms in the darkness...and up an overpass)

So we found out that Tablas was VERY hilly and might not be advisable for newbie rides (Odiongan to Looc). Odiongan to Calatrava looked more leg-friendly. Beer there tastes the same but we had to make sure so we had more than a couple. People there are very nice. We will definitely go back and explore the other islands as well. 

And hey, we didn't die!

Please see video of our trip below:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Zamboanga: My Province, My Home

Growing up, I used to avoid getting into discussions about where my province was. Why? Because I didn't have any that I knew of and at the same time envious of others who had one.

I knew my mom was born in Zamboanga and that she spoke something like Spanish but didn't try to know any more. I knew my siblings and I would get excited when my cousin and Uncle would visit from Zamboanga for the summer. That also meant Pan Monggo time. Other than these, I didn't know anything from Zamboanga and we didn't visit any relatives there during summer so I really didn't consider it our province.

My dad, on the other hand, was born in Baguio City but had always said that we were from Bulacan. It was so near Manila and we weren't visiting and meeting any relatives from there so I also didn't consider Bulacan, much more Baguio, our province.

I was province-less and I hated it.

My classmates were from Cavite, Bacolod, Pampanga, Bicol, Nueva Ecija, among others, and I was from, well, Manila.

But then our Tita Ruth treated me, my sister and some of our cousins to a trip to Zamboanga (plus Basilan and Jolo) one summer (thanks again for that, Tita!). We met some relatives and also ate some of the local food. I was in college and was more interested in drinking with my older cousins than appreciating what Zamboanga had to offer. I just didn't feel at home there then.

Then the Schuck reunion happened in 2006 (our great great grandfather, Herman Schuck, was a German captain who happened to dock in Jolo, Sulu and forged a friendship with the Sultanate).

Hundreds of Schucks from all over, including Manila (us), Jolo and even some cousins (or aunts and uncles) from Germany attended. It was such a surreal and fun event!

We met our second cousins John (and his wife Nelle) and his brother Fahd there and they were just so kind and took us in like we knew each other from birth. We were surprised, but most of all very very happy. We felt the love.

Anyway, fast forward to several visits there to our latest visit.

This was the wife's first visit to Zamboanga and I was so happy and excited!

So after being warned about the Samsung Note 7 by the Cebu Pacific purser and wrestling knees with my seatmate (he won), we were off!

Highlights of the trip were:


Local dancers moving and grooving to Zamboanga beats at the airport welcoming guests

The wife tasting the famous Curacha at Alavar

The wife eating satty at Andy's

The sister being one of the judges for the Zamboanga Mascotta Competition

The eary morning Regatta race

My first time to eat Knickerbocker!

The wife eating local Tausug food (Latal and Bangbang)

Me and the wife tasting Dennis Kahawa Sug (Sulu Coffee)

Meeting a Lim cousin (Hi Tong!) for the first time and having beers with him (thanks again for the treat, primo!)

Sumptuous Boodle at Antonio's in Pasonanca

Our neice Naya's second birthday party at Mcdonald's

Bummed I wasn't able to bring the wife to Sta. Cruz Island for some beaching and fresh seafoods but overall this is one of the best trips I've had there.

Here's a short video of our trip:

Thank you again Auntie Tiny, primos and primas John, Nelle, Fahd, Pet, Bas, Tong and our beatiful and pogi pamangkins Tiffy, Baby "Go Away" Naya, Iya and Mayhem Mace for the generosity and for going out of your busy "party party" (yes primo Fahd, that's you hahaha) schedules to entertain us.

Now, I have a province I can be proud of.

Now, I feel at home.

Jolo, here we come!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Gone, But Never Forgotten.

"Ang gago mo talaga."

"Sira ulo ka talaga."

"Di nga?!"

And with these expressions partnered with that hearty laugh, she made her mark in our lives.

Clarice Mia-Dumlao.

That was her name. Short. Sweet. But a name that definitely packs a punch. I should know. I've been a victim of those punches from her. They hurt. But not as painful as what she went through. Not even a bit painful of what she felt in her last battle.

But with those punches came a certain sweetness. A genuine care. She wanted you to know how tough she was, but she also wanted you to know that she only inflicts this kind of pain to people she loved.

We fondly called her "Rambo" because of her husky voice and masculine demeanor. She was "angas" even before that word was coined. She didn't back down from anything. She was tough. One of the strongest people I know. And like John Rambo, she fought till the very end. She didn't pull any punches. She went down fighting. Because that's who she was and because that was how she was brought up.

And she was one of the most generous people I know. She always welcomed us into their home. Always asked us what we wanted her to cook for dinner. Always offering that last bottle of wine from their cooler. Always giving. Rarely taking.

She was the type of friend that if she considered you her friend, she would do anything for you. She would fight anyone for you. Whether you're right or wrong (but expect constant scoldings when you're wrong). She lived up to the true meaning of friend. That was Cla.

She didn't only fight for herself too. She fought for us. Her friends, her relatives but most especially for her husband and son.

"Dinj, am I selfish?" she asked, when she called me one time.

I would often get these calls from her during her battle.

"Am I selfish for giving up? For not wanting treatment anymore?" she continued, also thinking about the two boys she might be leaving behind.

She hated the hospital. Eversince. And she didn't want to go back anymore. She had a scary and dangerous episode during her first chemo session and she was afraid something similar would happen again. She dreaded the thought of doctors being called into her room. She was very afraid.

But was she thinking of herself? No. She was more concerned about our reaction to her sort of giving up. She did not want to disappoint her loved ones. She did not want those who truly cared for her to think that they wasted all their time and effort praying for her and taking care of her only for her to tell them she couldn't take it anymore. But she was tired already. She was drained.

I do not want to remember her lying down, lifeless, on her last resting place. I want to remember her smiling. Intently listening to everything I was saying while I was telling her about the latest chismis in our batch. Slapping my arm when I say something offensive. Leaning her head back and with her eyes closed as she laughs whole-heartedly at my joke. When she laughed, Cla laughed. She also never held back. This is probably what I will miss most about her. Her genuine laughter.

And that husband of hers. Wow. I could never truly imagine someone so in love with another human being than when I saw how Otet took care of Clarice. He was by her side literally and figuratively. I salute this man for making the last few months of Clarice full of love and affection and as easy and painless as possible. She was his queen. And did he shower her with love and care only reserved for royalty. Otet, I salute you. You were a good partner. You, Raj, Cris, Gelene and everyone always by Cla's side. You guys are one hell of a troop. I'd take you guys in any war.

37 short years, you say? Not at all. She lived life to the fullest. I'm sure she'd take 37 full years than 70 years of loneliness and emptiness. She touched a lot of people. She opened her heart to many. For me, that was still a full life. That was how many years God gave her and she did okay. She did better than okay. She did it.

Thank you, Cla.

For all the laughter, the food, the tears, the hugs, the wines, the smiles, the scoldings, the reminders, the love, the beers, the stories, the advices, the gifts and for your time spent with us.

This one will definitely sting for a long time but that was how Clarice was. She wanted us to feel something. To care. To love. And boy did she care and did she love.

Rest in peace, our friend. We will miss you deeply.

Clarice Averille Mia-Dumlao
October 19, 1978 - May 28, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

That embarrassing "handshake that no one saw" feeling

Or when you say I love you to the girl of your dreams but she doesn't hear you.

Or when your boss doesnt hear your suggestion but hears the same suggestion from your other officemate and tells him "Good job!".

Or when you nod and say peace be with you to the person on your side during Sunday mass but she doesn't acknowledge.

Or when you lean in for a kiss on the cheek greeting but your friend turns away.

Or when you see an old classmate at a mall but you're not sure if he remembers you. You still nod and smile. But yeah, he doesnt remember you and gives you a weird look.

Or when the guard opens your village gate and you wave but he just looks at you.

Or when you're so excited about something and try to high five your friend but he gives you an unenthusiastic low five.

Or when you reach out your hand for your dog to lick it but he does an about face and shows you his ass instead.

Or when you break a personal record on that video game then you look around you for congratulations but no one's there.

Or when you enter an already smelly restroom then someone walks in and thinks you were the culprit.

That feeling.