Friday, April 25, 2014

My Treehouse, Versions 2002 vs. 2004

This is the original treehouse in the farm, just a small elevated veranda perched on a lone mahogany tree. Photo taken September 2002. The mahogany trees near the treehouse were small then.

On January 2004, I decided to dismantle it, as my architect friend from UP, Clifford Espinosa, has a good design for a bigger, two-storey treehouse to be perched on the same big mahogany tree. Cliff gave that favor for free, jamming at tagay lang kapalit. Super thanks, once again, Cliff.

The house was finished around March 2004. Last March 2014 or exactly 10 years after, the house got a facelift, the decaying bamboo floor were all replaced. A few changes in the 2nd floor was introduced. The treehouse as of March 2014, below. The surrounding mahogany trees are much bigger. The really big ones have been harvested last January this year.

The small treehouse then was supported by four braces only to stabilize it. The roof was nipa.

It has no toilet then, guests (females especially) must go down (notice the small wooden stairs). Male guests can pee on the rice plants below, if they were not in the mood to go up and down the treehouse. :-) 

On the left and right sides of the treehouse then was sloping. When the new treehouse was built in 2004, the sloping sides have been terraced.

The current treehouse is heavy, there are many posts supporting it, aside from the main tree where it is perched and locked.

The old treehouse from a distance.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Laguit Padilla Waterfalls, Bugallon, Pangasinan

About 45 minutes walk from our farm in Brgy. Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, Pangasinan, is the sole waterfalls in the municipality, aka "Besay Falls" by the locals. It's tall, perhaps around 40 meters high.

I brought some friends to the farm in October 2002. Then our caretaker guided us to the waterfalls.

Blurred photo (scanned from the hard copy), from left: Ozone Azanza, Grace Alindogan, me, Carlo Borlaza. October is still rainy season, so the river bed of this waterfalls was clean, no lumot, the water was clear.

Ozone jumped, I "kicked" him from behind :-) 

The water was deep too.
This photo is from a blog post, Besay, a beauty yet to be discovered, dated January 9, 2014. The author wrote, "it’s actually a hidden beauty in the mountains west of Bugallon, it is not yet developed and very people had been to this place."   

Well, not exactly. This waterfalls is famous among barangay residents, also with many municipal residents. During the four-days holiday of the Holy Week each year, this place attracts hundreds of visitors coming from many places. Some come from Manila, Dagupan, Lingayen, etc.

The last time I visited this waterfalls was around 8-10 years ago, or longer. I heard that the volume of the waterfalls is decreased due to diversion of some water to the barangay nursery and tree planting. I just hope that the municipal government will improve this place.

See also, Majayjay Waterfalls, Laguna, 1994, April 24, 2014

Majayjay Waterfalls, Laguna, 1994

Majayjay waterfalls is in a barrio between Lucban, Quezon and Majayjay, Laguna  town proper. I went there with some friends from Congress Mountaineers (CM) then, around March or April 1994 or 20 years ago.  In our group then were Philip Baguisa, Toto Gestuveo (RIP), Kosha Ancheta, Malou Acosta, Sherwin and Along, Malou's buddies.

This waterfalls is among several rivers on the foot of Mt. Banahaw, a huge and tall mountain surrounded by several municipalities of Laguna and Quezon provinces. The water was very cold and water volume was strong, I don't know now.

At that time, it was difficult to go there. Only mountaineers with sufficient camping equipment would go there and stay overnight; it was also accessible only by foot, or by horses. We walked for about one or two hours, I don't remember, from the barangay road between Majayjay and Lucban.

I was very thin and lean then. I think I could demonstrate my 6-packs in my tummy then. Cycling around 100 kms. a week + running and some weights training about 2-3 times a week + mountaineering about once a month. I was working at CPBO at the House of Representatives then, 1991-1999.

We males were gulping some hard drinks to help stay warm as the water and wind was getting colder in the afternoon.  

We saw some local kids jumping from the top and nothing happened to them on the water. Meaning there were no big rocks where the water falls, and the water was deep.

Wanting to prove that I could conquer my fear at such height, I also tjumped! Once or twice that day, I don't remember. It's good that the camera was fast enough to capture a falling body with modest resolution.

I was very ecstatic of course after surfacing from the water. I conquered my fear and nothing bad happened to me. :-)

Going back to Manila, waiting for a jeepney to Majayjay town proper.

Those were the days. I still meet some friends in CM until today. Our last climb was in Mt. Pulag, January of this year.

See also:

Mt. Pinatubo Climb, December 1994, January 24, 2014

Mt. Pulag Climb, January 2014, February 04, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

NLEX Traffic, Holy Week 2014

I drove to the farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan last week, Holy Thursday, April 17. My family came with me. We left Makati around 7am, no traffic congestion whatever in Edsa until Balintawak. Upon turning right to enter the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), traffic congestion started, just to pay the first toll gate (P45). This is about 1 km long from the toll gate. Crawling but at least moving. After the tollgate, it was fast again.

Then things went back to crawling speed just a few kilometers from that toll gate. Average speed about 15 kph for many kilometers until San Simon. Photo below from gmanews, morning of Holy Thursday.

I saw at least 3 incidents of car collision that morning in NLEX. Maybe some motorists were super-excited to reach their destination, or they were impatient with the crawling speed and when they had the chance to speed up, they became less careful.

I refueled at San Simon gas station, around 11am or more than 3 hours after I entered NLEX. My two girls had to go to the toilet too while my wife had to buy food as they got hungry. The gasoline boy told me that it was worse earlier, around 6am, traffic was almost at stand still. At least at 11am, vehicle movement was faster.

It was fast indeed after the gas station. Then another traffic build up about 2 kms. from Dau (the last) tollgate. After exiting the tollgate, most vehicles took the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), I took the Sta. Ines exit as I did not want to queue again to get a toll card, then queue again upon exit. At least at Manila North Road, no more queueing and there was no traffic congestion either.

Good Friday, we went to Bolinao, Pangasinan. Went back to Manila Saturday afternoon. NLEX was generally fast, until about 2-3 kms from the last tollgate. Photo below from Top Gear, Saturday around 5:30pm.

Another photo of the last/Bocaue toll gate, around 6:45pm, Manila bound, from Phil Star. Right lanes for vehicles with EC card, left and center lanes for cash payment. It could be worse later that night, or yesterday, Sunday afternoon until evening.

Some lessons and tips perhaps for Holy Week 2015 or other 4-days weekend:

1. If you cannot leave Manila around 3am or earlier of a Good Thursday, better leave at 9am; by then, traffic congestion is lesser.

2. During congested hours at the expressway, take the rightmost or slow/trucks lane, then join other motorists driving on the shoulder, prohibited on regular days but not well-implemented during the Holy week or other long weekends because of the huge volume of vehicles. It is faster at the shoulder.

3. Have enough fuel while still in Manila/QC, go to the toilet before entering the expressway, have some food and water/drinks inside the car. Gas stations in Bulacan area are so full, long queues at the gas station itself, at the toilets, at the food shops. You will lose more time if you stop there.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Punta Riviera Resort, Bolinao, Pangasinan

With some modest revenue from sale of lumber in the farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan, I brought my family, our farm care takers Nong Endring and his son Danny, plus Danny's family, to Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan, last Good Friday. After asking around two resorts nearer the highway, I decided that we stay at Punta Riviera Beach Resort. Here, my elder daughter Elle Marie enjoying the pool.

They have 3 swimming pools, the big and deep pool facing the sea (about 6 feet deepest part), a kiddie pool beside it, and another pool with artificial waterfalls.

Cavana near the big pool. There are two big swings in the middle, near this pool.

I was able to catch a sunset, around 6:14pm.

The Sun is gone less than one minute after I took that photo above.

A bridge from the 3rd pool to the white sand beach.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Treehouse in the Farm, Bugallon, Pangasinan

My treehouse, built around March 2004 or 10 years ago, has experienced a major facelift last month. Here is how it looks now, when I visited the farm two weeks ago.

And how it looked as of February 2014. The old cogon roof on the second floor facing the rice field has been replaced by iron sheets.

The slatted bamboo floor have been replaced with wood, from slabs of big mahogany trees that were harvested two months ago. Now, view from below, from another side of the house.

The extension on the left side of the second floor.

And the extension on the right side.

The slatted bamboo as flooring has been replaced by wood, about 1/3 x 4 inches, from mahogany slabs. Note new branches and leaves sprouting out of the trunk.

Another view of the new flooring on the second floor.

View of the rice field from the second floor.

The extension on the ground floor.

Before: old and decaying slabs behind our rotary club banner during my term as Club President, RY 2006-07.


The toilet on the ground floor.

Thanks to Sid, our carpenter for seven days. He was assisted by our caretakers Nong Endring and Danny Paragas, and Boknoy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Higher PH Tourism with US FAA and EU Decisions to Allow More PH Carriers

Today, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a Category 1 rating to the Philippines for its compliance with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This means that Philippines’ air carriers can add flights and service to the US and carry the code of U.S. carriers. Good news.

A friend, Coco Alcuaz made this timeline in his fb posting today: 

US FAA lifts ban on PH, allowing PAL to add flights, Cebu Pac to start. Cebu Pac also due to get EU approval tonight. Here's a history: 
1998 Philippine Airlines ends flights to EuropeJan. 2008 U.S. FAA downgrades PH to Category 2 (no new flights)March 2010 EU bans all PH carriersJuly 2013 EU lifts ban on Philippine Airlines (PAL)Oct. 2013 Cebu Pacific starts first long-haul flight (Dubai)Nov. 2013 PAL starts flights to LondonToday FAA restores PH to Category 1Later today EU expected to lift ban on Cebu Pac

This move by the FAA is consistent with the US government's more liberal granting of US visa to PH citizens. The US government wants more rich and middle class Filipinos to go to the US and spend money there, help improve business confidence. If more Filipino travelers are prevented from going to the US by denying them entry visa, these Filipinos will simply go to Europe or other Asian countries and spend their money there. 

Hours after the FAA announcement, the EU in Brussels also announced that it has cleared Cebu Pacific to fly to European air space.

Many people here welcomed this development positively. And rightly so because of the huge new business opportunities that will be opened, especially in tourism, trade and investment.

More competition among more airlines flying PH-US and PH-EU would mean lower fares, better services. Bad service and/or high fares by one airline will turn off passengers and buy their tickets for their next flight with another airline. 

Passengers and visitors are the main beneficiaries of more competition. Investors and traders will also be encouraged to fly in and out if there are more airlines to choose.

See also: 

World Airports 2: Most Hated, CNN list, December 01, 2011 

World Airports 1: Most Loved, CNN list, December 01, 2011

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Crowded Puerto Princesa Airport, Palawan

Last time I was at PP airport was 2013, and it is indeed small, cramped, crowded, hot, in relation to the big number of passengers. Below were posted by a friend, JB Baylon, in his facebook wall. JB regularly flies Manila-Puerto Princesa-Manila (sometimes, Manila-Rio Tuba-Manila, on a private jet). Well said, not much to add.

March 29, 2014


Scenes from the PPS airport, Puerto Princesa tonight...there were about four planeloads of passengers sweating in the sauna like atmosphere of the departure area of terminal....But wait: each passenger pays P100; there are about 3,000 passengers a day, 30 days in a month...Where does all that money go? CAAP? DoTC? Is someone fooling around with the funds, because we passengers sure feel someone is fooling around with us! Or maybe some idiot from CAAP or DoTC wants us to feel we are truly on a tropical island in a tropical country by making us sweat even as we depart Puerto Princesa? FIRE SOMEBODY!

The additional problem is that our government functionaries use VIP lounges and are given special treatment that takes them through an experience far different than the one the regular Joe goes through. Vaclav Havel spoke of the dangers of these as he himself experienced as President of the Czech Republic... Someone should get fired.

April 4, 2014


Dear Mr. President, Secretary Jimenez, Secretary Abaya: 

Facebook is once again getting filled up with horror stories of travellers going through hell, especially at our airports, including the airport complex that we have decided to name after Your Excellency's father -- and which now ranks among one of the worst in the world. Yet, at the same time, we go to town telling the world to come over because it is more fun in the Philippines. Can't we get our act together on this one? In Puerto Princesa alone, I figure that about 2500 passengers exit PPS daily, each paying P100 as terminal fee. Multiply that and you get P250,000 for the day, times 30 days x 12 months and....the air-conditioning fails right before summer while the Xray machines conk out! Where does the money go? And that's only PPS, Mr. President, Messrs. Secretary. Then again maybe you don't notice this because, well, you don;t go through the process we ordinary mortals go through: security check, baggage inspection, check-in queues, terminal fee payments and then the sometimes never ending wait in the waiting rooms that are steaming hot not only because it is summer but because 1) the cooling systems conk out and 2) flights are delayed so 3) there are more people in the area than it was built to serve! And no one has been fired yet?

Frankly, I am stunned that no swifter action has been taken to remake our international airport into one that would bring honour to the man for whom it is if no one cares! As I have said before, were I President with an airport named after my father that would rank among the worst in the world, some people would go missing the next day and the next day and the day after until I find an airport administrator who knows how to get the job done. In your case Your Excellency, being far more gentle than I am, you could just fire them, couldn't you? But why haven't you? What -- or who -- is stopping you?

We want more tourists but our infra is shot. We want more flights but delays are unbelievable because our infra is shot. We project travel here to be fun but our own locals are cursing travel to high heavens because our infra is shot. Ok, let's not shoot anyone anymore but can you at least fire someone?

Or do you want us, the Filipino people, to be the ones to do the dismissing ourselves?

By the way, that is not a threat but feel free to read it that way if it so pleases you.

See also Palawan Tour, by Patty Soliman, October 19, 2012