My Lakbayan map is a constant reminder for me on how much I’ve explored the Philippines. Despite that I’ve been living away for over four years now, my latest map tells me that I’ve traveled around my home country more than ever before. I’m happy to report that my Lakbayan grade is moved a notch higher. It’s C+ now.
Our visit to Cebu and Dumaguete last year definitely added up. After that holiday, we actually didn’t expect that we would come back soon. Yet for some reason, we’re able to manage to visit the Philippines again. Though I also wanted to explore other places that I haven’t been, our return to Pinas for a holiday was another revisit of sorts for me.
This 2015, Mahal and I visited Sablayan province in Mindoro island, my father’s hometown. Days before we left, we stayed at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
At this trip, I was able to capture images of a rustic, rural life juxtaposed with scenes of an ever-bustling, skyscrapers-filled city in the Philippines. Every place has its own charm, and as always, it’s another closer peek through the Filipino culture and traditions I grew up with.
Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro
My fond memories of Sablayan include—long winding road trip with views of rugged mountains, big (dried-up) rivers and green rice fields; fascinations over our ancestral home along with stories of dad’s family humble beginnings; meeting one of Asia’s most primitive tribes, the Mangyans for the first time; swimming around the Apo Reef, and enjoying the sun and the perks in the island.
This is something I actually wanted to experience all over again, as well as for Mahal too. Unfortunately for us, we had to weather the storm, literally a tropical one!
Mindoro island is known for its incredible diving sites, sandy beaches, exotic waterforms and expansive wild forests and jungle-covered mountains. It is split into two provinces by aptly named the “High Rolling Mountains:” Mindoro Occidental to the west, and Mindoro Oriental to the other side.
Sablayan is the largest municipality in Occidental Mindoro, also all over the country. It is home to Apo Reef, the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef system. The world’s largest is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Mahal and I were yearning for a get-away-from-it-all kind of vacation and staying at the small private resort in Pandan Island would have given us what we needed. The persistently strong current sadly tells us that all we could only do is to see Pandan Island from afar. Getting atop of Sablayan’s parola (watchtower), that’s how close we can only get to the island.
Nevertheless, we still made the most out of our stay in Sablayan.
…like, waking up a bit earlier in the morning just like these kids, so we can meet-and-greet mangtataho (taho peddler) for our taho, a classic Philippine (morning) snack food made of silken tofu, arnibal (sugar syrup) and tapioca pearls…
…or getting petrified watching sabong (cockfighting) where two gladiator-like roosters pit against each other for men to gamble on. Like a prized possession, the inferior and dead cock is handed over to the winning master for consumption; while the victorious one lives as it gets ready for another match.
“When a Filipino’s house catches fire, he first rescues his gamecock, then his wife and then his kids.”
A rather sarcastic proverb indeed, but it does reveal how cockfighting is revered mostly by Filipino men in the country’s rural side. If you want to know more about this fascinating cultural sport of ours, I suggest this comprehensive read.
Mahal has been constantly amused to see how Catholic churches in the Philippines get a full house, like this one here. Few hours away before midnight strikes for a new year, this quaint communal church is so full that others had to remain standing, within or nearly outside the church’s ground, in an almost 3-hour long ceremony. It’s indeed amongst the dozen scenes that reflects Filipino’s religiosity.
Paputok (fireworks) at every Filipino’s home is something that is expected for new year celebrations. These firecrackers come in so many shapes and go by very interesting names – judas belt (a string of firecrackers), super lolo (the “grandfather” of all firecrackers), kwitis (derived from the Spanish word cohetes meaning rocket), bawang (“garlic”), lusis (lightstick), watusi (a dancing firecracker), airwolf, dragon…
Children have their paputok minis such as lightsticks, while the grownups play up with bigger, louder ones. Personally, I’m not too keen to light them up for myself, especially that I already had a share of bad experiences with it. No matter how everyone is well-aware of its pitfalls, it likely seems that paputok is a deeply ingrained Filipino tradition that will hardly fade away.
We stayed briefly in Mamburao, another municipality in Occidental Mindoro. We were able to catch a beautiful sunset at Tayamaan beach.
On the way back to Manila, we decided to stay overnight in one of the beach resorts in Laiya, Batangas.
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Days before we left Pinas, we stayed for a couple of days at Bonifacio Global City.
Now known as an uprising financial district in metropolitan Manila, Bonifacio Global City is used to be called Fort Bonifacio, which was made as the national headquarters of the Philippine Army. Later on, this military-owned land was sold to private corporations. Major urban developments and robust commercial growth flourished in this district since then.
Here’s the nighttime skyline view we got as we stood at the our hotel’s roof deck. And at our room, too.
The Fort Strip — it’s one of the early establishments set up at BGC, where all the wild partying and clubbing began. Remember the top nightclub Embassy? It did earn a bad rep at its heydays that in the end, it got permanently shut down.
Actually Mahal and I came around The Fort Strip to check out Kasbah, the Moroccan resto where we had dinner with my friends. A year after that fun soirée, the restaurant was replaced with a new one. I heard that The Fort branch didn’t thrive, but on a happy note, the original Kasbah in Boracay (that my friends and I adore so much) is definitely doing very well.
A funky street art of Andres Bonifacio (at the lefthand side), a revolutionary that the city is named after.
So many things have changed here, and the city is still constantly developing and growing. It’s very modern and hip that sometimes I forget I’m in the Philippines. Not kidding me.
An afternoon trip to SM Aura was a refresher on what Pinoy malling is all about…
…and at Resort’s World, too.
Good morning breakfast for me and Mahal, it’s a classic Pinoy and a Western agahan (breakfast). And so it was – paalam, Pinas! Sa uulitin… (Goodbye, Philippines. Until next time…)