Travel: How Oslob Broke My Heart

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Early October, my cousin and I went to Cebu for some personal matters and we decided since we’re already there, we may as well visit some touristy spots. 3-4 hours from Cebu City is Oslob, famous for whaleshark watching. A friend of mind warned me about it, specifically she sent me this link and I was reading it on the bus ride. I wanted to see myself, still.

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We arrived very early so we waited for the first “batch” of tours at around six in the morning, they said it was perfect cause it’s the feeding time for the whale sharks (seems like humans fixed a “breakfast” schedule for these beautiful creatures). Before you get on a boat, you’re asked to attend to the discussion of guidelines. Which seems like it’s only done for compliance but no one truly pays attention to it. Tourists are also asked to wash off first if they’ve already applied sunscreen as it will be harmful for the whale sharks. We were also reminded to have at least 4M distance from the creature, we’ll be guided by the sea wardens along the tour.

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We were also asked to wear life vests which we were reminded not to remove them during the trip. One boat has 2 (?) wardens and 8 tourists. As soon as we got to deep waters, another banca would roam around to feed the whale sharks. Then the sea wardens would ask if you’re a good swimmer, cause if you are, you can ditch the life vest and swim and snorkel with the whale sharks.

As soon as we were interacting with the whale sharks, I wasn’t feeling too good about it. Yes, I loved seeing them, yes, I loved getting to swim with them, yes, I was truly excited seeing how majestic they were — but at the back of my head, I felt bad for these beautiful creatures. I felt like they were exploited. YES, EXPLOITED. A sh*tton of violations can be observed, not just by tourists but by the “SEA WARDENS” themselves.

I’d freak out every so often I realize how close they were to us.

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I left the GoPro so the bankeros can take photos of us, and here are some of the shots taken BY THE SEA WARDENS.

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At the end of what felt like one of the longest 30minutes of my life, yes I was happy I got to see the whale sharks, but the experience itself broke my heart. The whale sharks seemed like domesticated animals with feeding schedules, nudging the boats to be fed some more, and when I was on the boat, I tried checking out the whale sharks, I saw the scratches around their mouth the article was talking about.

Everything felt unnatural. It wasn’t as exhilarating like when I saw the dolphins in Mati, minding their own business, free in the wild, and even swimming away from boats — like how it should be, like how it normally should be. These beautiful creatures were begging for food. Some articles talked about how the whale shark got lazy, I don’t think so, they got exploited.

Would I recommend going to Oslob for whale shark watching? I don’t think so. I don’t think I can encourage this kind of tourism. Seems like humans are trying to outsmart these creatures for their own benefit. Oslob has a lot to offer, but this I feel like is too much.

maria

Travel: How Oslob Broke My Heart

Travel: Why I May Never Go Back

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I asked John if we could go to the beach after not traveling for almost two months. I wanted a relaxing weekend, just lounging at the beach and chilling. It was almost the weekend and we have yet to plan our trip. We had a couple of places in mind but nothing was set. I asked, “Puerto Galera?”, John agreed. Friday came and we found out that our officemates were going there too, not knowing anything about Galera, we decided to tag along. 

Bus from Kamuning to Batangas Port. Boat ride to the island. But no, since it’s summer, we failed to consider that. We waited two hours in the bus station, the trip itself only took two and a half hours, booked a boat trip for the 3:30 trip, boarded the boat at 5. I was trying my really best not get pissed off at how everything was not going well and how we wasted one day just to get to the destination. 

We arrived in Galera 45 minutes past six, we were ‘welcomed’ by these locals who were charging for environmental fee. Took a tryc cause we wanted to avoid all the people and went to the first room our officemate booked, he said that it wasn’t the room he paid for, but decided to take it anyway since it’s just for one night and everyone’s just too exhausted. Had dinner by the beach, along with seven hundred million tourists (JK), dinner was a tad expensive, but the entertainment was great. The following day, Sunday we decided to go island hopping. The price was sort of reasonable, but then you have to board a smaller boat to get to the corals – which they charged us separately. If you’re a broke traveler like us, Galera isn’t a place for you, or we have just not explored that option. I saw a turtle while snorkeling and that I think was the highlight of my trip, hahaha! 

All in all, I had fun. It was far from what I wanted that weekend but Puerto Galera didn’t offer that. Maybe because we stayed in White Beach where it’s the tourist capital. Puerto Galera was beautiful, but the flock of people just makes me feel like it isn’t worth it. Maybe it’s just me. And maybe it’s too soon for me to tell. To be honest, I don’t hate Puerto Galera, I mean, if given another chance and a better situation, I would definitely go back. Maybe when it’s off season or something. 

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Note: Bring cash since the island only has two ATMs. Puerto Galera truly is a tourist destination, almost all activities will cost you. Prices for food / water has tourist prices, be prepared. 

maria

Travel: Why I May Never Go Back

Travel: Summer Time Madness-Baler

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Hi there! So we just got back from our week long surf trip/vacation in Baler, Aurora. We usually do this every year for my birthday, last year we went to Ilocos Norte where we stayed at my friend Markee’s place (Currimao) and in Kapuluan Vista Resort (Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud) you can read about it more here.

Everybody likes the summer… right? Well I used to love it when I was younger. Two and a half months of sleeping late, road trips with friends, visiting relatives with the family, fun under the sun and no classes! Now that I am working and started to surf, my perspective of the summer season shifted from fun under the sun,into bummed under the sun. There I said it! *evil laugh here* For those who are not familiar with the surf season here in the Philippines, summer time is usually the time of the year where the waves lay flat and rest for a bit .

 

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Baler – Calm as a clam ^_^

 

This is true in most of the surf spots in Luzon (Zambales, Baler and LU) and it drives me insane! Not to mention the hordes of people you get to share the beach with and the exponentially  high chances of hitting a random swimmer while you get to enjoy that
1-1.5 ft set wave that you waited 45 minutes to come. Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, I like that other people are enjoying the beauty that is Baler but sometimes it just gets ridiculously crowded with swimmers and tourists. I get it, the price to pay for tourism and progress.

“Truthfully I was starting to regret the whole trip.”

This is where I got to think about the tag line of Rip Curl which is “Live the Search” it basically means that every person who surfs, long to discover or experience a spot where they can enjoy the waves with some mates and live the life of adventure, after all Baler is 328 km of pure coast, there is bound to be some ride-able waves somewhere. So I asked our local friends for any spots that might produce some waves during this season and some said that they tried finding a spot but to no avail, this actually bummed me out more and it’s already the 2nd day of our trip (Tuesday). I rarely check the surf forecast because I figured I couldn’t change the waves God gave us for our trips, but that night I figured I needed a miracle. I checked MSW (Magicseaweed.com) and just like an answered prayer, Thursday-Sunday showed the waves were going to be 2.5-4 ft.

“Like an answered prayer, the waves were going to be 2.5-4 ft.”

I told our surfer friends about the forecast and all of them were psyched with the news, so we got together and brainstormed about where we can take advantage of the incoming swell. Some decided that they would go to Dalugan, Aurora (3-4 hr drive from Baler, a virgin-ish surf spot with quality waves and pristine beaches. You can read more about it from my mate’s blog here)  and asked if we wanted to come since they were going with a friend anyways, unfortunately we had to decline since it was too great of a gamble to go “all in” on a trip that would require much of our time and resources, also Maria wouldn’t survive camping out without the luxury of a working bathroom. *insert evil emoji here*

 

 

On the fourth day of our trip (Thursday), Maria and I woke up early and checked if the waves were at least ride-able, to our disappointment there was barely a swell that we can work with. With hearts growing weary we sat down and watched some tourists swim and take surf lessons, catching their first waves (this got me stoked since I can see the same joy in their eyes that got me hooked into surfing). After 30 minutes of watching the waves, Neil told us that there was a spot called Villa Belen and that we should check it out since he thinks the tide and swell are enough to make that break work. I agreed since it was our only chance in getting decent waves,so we packed out things and mounted the car with our boards and drove to the spot.

 

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Neil – All hyped up and ready to go.

 

It was a 15 min drive to Villa Belen and honestly I felt we weren’t going to see any waves on that spot, but to our surprise and excitement the waves were great, 3-4 ft set waves and the intervals were short, best of all we were the only ones there! I was so psyched and fell in love with the place, imagine unadulterated beachfront with only a small shanty made out of wood and dried coconut leaves.

We immediately grabbed our boards and paddled out to the lineup, Neil grabbed a fast one and sprayed us with water as we get to the lineup. We literally surfed for hours till my arms felt like jelly from all the paddling, before getting my last wave for the session I took a moment to enjoy the view and take a mental photograph of the picturesque scenery that God let us discover that day.

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Nose ridein’ like a villain
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Tired AF

 

The following morning we woke up early and packed our things again since this time the locals planned to go to Dianed.  As we were driving to the spot, we were greeted by instagram worthy scenery. Lush green mountain side alongside azure waters and winding roads, it felt like we were on a scene from a surf movie with matching boards on rack. We arrived in Dianed at around 12 noon and it was just mesmerizing. White sand, crystal clear waters and a small shanty that used a tree as the roof, the waves were small (1-1.5 ft) and I honestly wasn’t disappointed too much because of how beautiful the place is. The locals said that the waves will be good as soon as the tide builds up, so we prepped lunch and grabbed some shut eye.

 

 

After a few hours I was awakened by the sound of crashing waves and excited chatter by the locals since the waves were already pumping, we paddled out over some rock and sea plants (it was so clear that I can see 10-12 ft through the water). The spot was a left point break that reached out for 20 meters till you have to bail out before hitting the bed of seaweeds. We surfed for about 2 hours till we decided to go back to Baler to catch some more waves and at this point I was already surfed out.

 

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View from our Shanty

 

On our way back to Baler, one cannot help to look back and be thankful for the week that has passed and realize how blessed he is to travel, experience things with the person he loves, and to share it with kindred spirits. If there is one thing that I would like to impart to you with my experiences on this trip, it will be “Risk it for the biscuit”. It doesn’t matter if you are a trekker, weekend warrior, lifestyle traveler or a food traveler. We as travelers are required to be open to change and adapt to the situation, yes we might have an itinerary/plan in place but that is just a guide and we have to constantly take risks to make the most out of our trips. So I urge you on your next trip wherever it may be, to consider the risks and be open to strange and exciting new things, you’ll never know you might just know how the feeling is of “Living the Search”.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below and tell us what you think!  🙂

 

john

 

 

Travel: Summer Time Madness-Baler

Travel: Surviving One Week in Baler

No, this isn’t a how to entry, and this isn’t a step by step guide how you’ll get by. Every year, we’d usually go to Ilocos for a week which has been our usual getaway for two years now. But this year since we originally planned to pick up a few of our friends in Baler then head to Ilocos, we just decided to stay in Baler for a week. We originally planned to stay in a nice ‘hotel’ worth 4500 a night for an article write up, we decided not to. We spent one night in one of the known hotels for around 2000+ a night. I know we could’ve spent that 2grand a better way, but you gotta do what you gotta do. On our second day, we called our uncle (no, we’re not related to him, but he takes care of us in Baler and lets us stay in his transient for a very reasonable price) but his transient is full so he let us stay in his in-laws home. It was along the road, a small hut with one bedroom on the second floor with AC, downstairs was a sala, restroom and a small kitchen. The kids decided to sleep downstairs in a mattress on the floor. One of the reasons why we need a decent amount of space, even if it’s just us two staying in Baler is cause more often than not, at least two kids will stay with us in our room. The first couple of nights I was down with a slight fever so I’d spend it in our room sleeping and trying to rest. The kids would then buy food and would leave some for me, John would accompany other friends for dinner and he’d buy me food to go, too. 

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Flat!

The first few days, there were little to no waves. Some of the kids went to another town and spent a couple of nights there. We decided to drive around, looking for waves we could try to catch. I would be wherever in my bikini and shorts just cause the beach is the only place I am most comfortable with. We also met new friends in the beach and while in the lineup. In the afternoon, when it’s flaaaat, we try to drive around and see what else we could do. Lala (a new found friend) mentioned a cake shop and on a whim, everyone decided to drop by there. It was an afternoon full of stories and laughter. 

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Everyday was somehow repetitive yet unique in their own way. I’d wake up very early, wake the boys up a after boiling water for coffee and then our day would start. I would usually have breakfast, else I’ll be too weak to surf after 30ish minutes in the lineup. The boys would have coffee and be in the water for two hours plus. I have no idea how they survive, yet they do. I really want to surf early in the morning only because there isn’t much people swimming and/or surfing. Mostly the people in the lineup are guys and would be a lot nicer to me, letting me take a wave they all have waited for 15+ minutes. John said I should take advantage of it cause it’s a perk of being a girl, lol. When I’m at the beach, I’d usually lounge around Kuya Cris’ surf shack, offering surf lessons to tourists. Yes, I’d yell “Surf lesson po?” once in a while. I also do a lot of people watching and story telling. Or some quiet time when everyone just wanna rest for a bit.  

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Stopping for a photo-op!
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Little hut in Dianed..

John and I are truly blessed to have a family in Baler.. Family not by blood, but by bond. Family who would take care of us, cook us food or take us to places we would have never visit if we do not know any locals. We went to Dianed on a flat day in Sabang, it’s a good hour trip from Baler. Dianed according to Wikipedia is a baranggay in Dipaculao, Aurora. IT. WAS. SO. LOVELY. A white beach with a small hut built by surfers in Baler, we had the place to ourselves. We brought our gas stove, an 11kg gas tank, pots and pans, rice and fish. The surfers prepared our lunch while we waited for high tide. A reef break which would be nice on season for pro’s and a lot nicer for beginners like me off season. I feel like I was the only one who enjoyed the waves since I think it was a tad boring for the locals. I on the other hand, had a  blast cause the waves were clean, easier paddle outs and a lot easier to paddle in to ride waves. I was able to practice my rides, squat in the board when I wanted to speed up. I have tried it in Sabang and I ended up losing control cause my board picked up speed and I ended up rolling in the beach. Unsafe, I know. 

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Longboards goes on top…
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Shortboards goes inside!

Some days we’d visit Villa Belen in Reserva, when it isn’t windy and the waves aren’t choppy, I would enjoy it. More than likely, I would take a wave or two after braving the harsh sets with no clean up trying to paddle out. I’d feel too exhausted and/or miserable after so I’d just go back to the beach and rest. The guys would enjoy it, I’m not complaining if I’m just relaxing in the beach. 

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On a Saturday when Sabang is too crowded, I still wanted to surf late afternoon, Lala accompanied me to the line up, I could not emphasize on how crowded it was, I took a wave and almost hit a couple of instructors had I only stood up on the board but they started screaming, then they’d ask why I didn’t stand up. Really, sometimes those guys are out to annoy me. Haha! John decided to stay in the beach, and he was in a roof deck of Smart Beach House, signaling me when to paddle for a wave, stage boyfriend of the year! Lala and I ended up surfing till 7PM, and I could no longer see and the ocean was almost pitch black. One for the books, I must say.

Sunday was our last day surfing, I had Mico (my eleven year old buddy, who now calls me “Nay” (short for Nanay or mother in English) – different story) accompany me in the line up, and put my trust in him to pick for a wave he thinks I could ride. I must say, I have improved a lot. But, then again if I have stayed in Baler for a week and did not improve my surfing, I would have hated myself. On top of all of that, I have learned a lot from this trip, from knowing that John and I couldn’t cook a decent meal for ourselves, how I am like mother who couldn’t stand dishes in the sink and how the people we meet trust us, a lot more that maybe I should tell in another entry. I have learned a lot about myself, too. 

maria

Travel: Surviving One Week in Baler

Travel: Badoc Island

Badoc Island is an uninhabited island found in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. It’s accessible by boat that can carry 5-6 people, for only Php700.

To be honest, I have no words to describe its beauty. It’s a breathe of fresh air since you get the beach to yourselves, there may be a group or two that’s visiting the island the same time as you are, but it’s a long stretch of beach, so there’s room for everyone.

I’m still at awe at how marvelous this beach is. We laid our stuff under a hut that I think some fishermen built for when they’re waiting for the tourists since what you paid for is to and fro the ‘mainland’. We were running to the beach, when my friend Sarah blurted out, “Who needs Boracay when we have this!”.

The guys had a couple of beer, shared it with the bangkeros and just really relaxed since it’s been a really long drive from Manila.

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The boat that got us to the island. Check out the main land in the background!
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Hut
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The gang!

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P.S.

  • It isn’t forbidden to bring food/drinks with you when you go to the island, just make sure to clean up after yourself.
  • Ask the bangkeros if the fishermen are in the area, they might hook you up with affordable and freshly caught fish and squid.
Travel: Badoc Island