Saturday, December 31, 2005


December 2005

I took my first 3 semesters in UP College Cebu, before moving to UP Diliman in the 2nd sem of my sophomore year. So, from 1980-81, I got familiar with Cebu City and some of the province's other municipalities, aside from learning the Cebuano language. From my home town, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental (64 kms. north of Bacolod City), the only route then to go to Cebu City was via San Carlos City, the last city of Negros Occidental bordering Negros Oriental. Then take a boat for a 2 hours (sometimes longer) trip to Toledo City, Cebu province. Then there were many buses competing for the alighting passengers. Once packed, they would be racing against each other as if to impress with their passengers that their buses are in good condition and the bus driver is expert in both the winding roads of Cebu's mountains, then the flat roads leading to the provincial capital, Cebu City. I had fun watching the "mini race", sometimes waving ba-bye to the passengers of the other buses that our driver has overtaken.

Since 1981, I never had the opportunity to take the San Carlos-Toledo-Cebu route. I had some opportunities to visit Cebu City, but by plane from Manila. So I arranged my schedule to take this route again, towing my wife Ella and her younger sister, Baby. I wanted to visit our relatives in Barili, a town south of Cebu City. We travelled last December 27.

San Carlos-Toledo is now served by fast crafts that can cross the sea in an hour, though the bigger boats that take 2 or more hours to cross the same distance are still there. The bigger boats charge lower fares and carry cargos.

Toledo City, western side of the province, has somehow improved compared to its 2+ decades ago apperance. For instance, there is a central bus terminal now. From Toledo to Cebu cities, you have to cross a mountain range, go down at the municipality of Naga (eastern side of the province), then a flat road to Cebu City. I was greatly disapppointed with what I saw. The Toledo-Naga roads have greatly deteriorated. Some portions of the roads are comparable to those I have seen in Cambodia (from Vietnam border) 5 years ago when I went there! Though there are a number of road construction and improvement being undertaken, they are patchy and isolated compared to a largely potholed and dilapidated winding roads. Many roads in my province are bad and never maintained for the past 3 or 5 or 10 years. But the Toledo-Naga road are a lot worse! I really wondered why this part of a province known for economic dynamism in the Philippines has regressed.

The buses that ply the Toledo-Cebu City are now fewer. Our bus was jampacked with passengers to the hilt, you can hardly squeeze in even a 5-year old child inside the bus! We were lucky that we were seated in the front, but bags by other squeezed-in passengers were also put in the front. Perhaps the bad roads have discouraged other bus companies to ply this route, so that passengers were willing to suffer the congestion just to get a ride. Earlier, I have thought that our bus driver was so greedy with passengers that he does not care if the new passengers have something to hold on as they squeeze in very tightly. Later on, as I saw many other people wanting to ride but the driver ignored them. I reckoned that perhaps, our bus driver is a little bit of a "hero" for giving rides to those people inside our bus. After all, suffering the congestion is better than no ride at all if you're in a hurry to go somewhere.

We reached Naga, time to get off the bus (heading north to Cebu City) and take another bus heading south (to Barili). Now, how do we get out considering that it's jampacked at our back? Simple: jump off the window! First, we gave our bags to the bus conductor. Then I jumped; Baby had no problem jumping, while I assisted Ella to land softly on the ground when she jumped. The two ladies' first time to jump out of a bus window!

From Naga to Carcar, it's mostly straight roads. From Carcar to Barili, the bus will climb again some mountain ranges and hence, another set of winding roads.
(Another posting on Barili alone in the coming days, as that simple town has lots of majestic attractions for visitors to see).

The province's road network are generally good and smooth. When we travelled from Barili to the provincial capital, I was happy to see that from Naga to Cebu City, it's now a four-lane highway (two in each direction). From Naga and neighboring municipalities, you can see Bohol island from a distance. There are occasional fraffic congestion in Talisay City...

Cebu City has become more dynamic and busier...

A new route between Cebu and Negros islands is via Tabuelan, Cebu, and Escalante, Negros Occidental. I don't know when this route was opened to passenger buses, perhaps 5 or 8 years ago. Curious to see this new road, we took this route. We wanted to arrive in my province early, so we have to take the first 2 bus trips, 4:15 and 4:30 am. December 29 morning and there were just too many passengers in Ceres bus terminal in Cebu City. We arrived at the bus station around 3:20 am and boarded the 4:30 am bus as the 4:15 am bus was already full. If we arrived some 10 minutes later, we would have difficulty boarding the second bus. Our bus left at 4am as it was already full.

After more than an hour of generally flat and straight roads on the eastern coasts, we reached the town of Carmen. Ceres buses stop here and the driver/conductor take their free meals, courtesy of the restaurant owners who are more than happy for bringing in with them captive customers. From Carmen, a few more kilometers of coastal ride, then the bus head to the mountains to cross to the western side.

Cebu's northern municipalities seem poorer compared to their counterparts in the southern part of the province. They're rocky and mountainous, though fronting a sea. There are few agricultural plantations, except for some occasional patches of coconut plantations. Corn and bananas are planted in hilly and sloping soil without terraces. The municipal halls (Sogod, ...) are smaller and more modest.

Tabuelan is a sleepy town which became more famous only in recent years because of its port that connects vehicles and boats to northern Negros province. The shipping route is monopolized by EB Aznar shipping company that operates the roll-on roll-off (RORO) boats between Tabuelan and Escalante. The boats take in cargo trucks, buses, small vehicles and passengers, take about 2 hours (or more) to cross the sea.

It's a tiring trip since you lack sleep and go to the bus terminal very early in the morning. Our bus reached Tabuelan around 7am, then you queu to get a boat ticket, then ride the boat. Just the prospect of reaching home to see your family and loved ones make the trip bearable.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


December 2005:

Panay island in Western Visayas region (region 6) is composed of 4 provinces: Aklan to the north, Capiz to the east, Iloilo to the south, and Antique to the west. Aklan is famous for Boracay island, known worldwide for its very fine, long white sand beach. The provincial capital is Kalibo, famous for the Ati-Atihan festival held during 3rd or 4th weekend of January every year.

I visited Kalibo with my wife Ella and other friends from Manila and Iloilo City who came to our wedding last Dec. 17. We did not have much time to move around the town, we were able to visit only 2 resorts, Sampaguita and Agzam. Sampaguita resort is is another municipality adjacent to Kalibo, along the coastline. It has a number of entertainment centers, from a big swimming pool to aquarium to children's playground to restaurants and cottages. Entrance fee is P50 per head, consumable.

Next place we visited is Agzam resort, really cool place. Coming from Iloilo-Capiz, this is before you reach Kalibo town proper. It has a big swimming pool; bamboo cottages are P500 each, consumable, with neat pillows and curtain. The place attracts lots of foreign tourists.

The road condition in Aklan is generally good. When you reach an arch announcing that you are now in Capiz province, the road suddenly becomes ugly with plenty of potholes. One can easily compare the quality of governance between the two provinces, at least in maintaining a highway. In some parts of Capiz's highway, the road is so bumpy that when it rains, piglets can possibly squeeze in the small pool right in the middle of the road!

After reaching an arch again announcing that you have left Capiz and entered the province of Iloilo, you will notice an improvement in the road condition. Iloilo province is generally flat, unlike Aklan and Capiz, so the roads are straight. You will also notice tall and fully-grown mahogany trees lining the highway, they really help beautify the highway.

Iloilo City, the provincial capital, is a cosmopolitan city. Its sub-districts are huge enough to be equivalent to one municipality in terms of population in the rest of the province. These sub-districts (Lapaz, Jaro, Molo, Manduriao, city proper, etc.) usually have their own public plaza and public market. What makes the city less traffic prone is the 5 bridges that connect the city proper to its sub-districts. Hence, vehicles are dispersed in all 5 bridges in moving to different directions.


Notes from my London trip, June 2005:

Nearly 13 hours flight from Manila, our plane (KLM) landed at Schiphol Amsterdam airport. It was my 2nd landing in this airport. The first was18 years ago, in 1987, when I went to Amsterdam to study a short course in Marxism -- well, I was a full-bloodied Marxist-socialist then :-) Took a connecting flight to London, my final destination. I'm going there to be one of the panel speakers in the "Global Development Summit" ( organized by the International Policy Network ( on June 28.

This is my first time to set foot on this part of the planet, so I was really excited. Immigration process at Heathrow airport was short, but the queu was long. It took me about 25 minutes before I get to the immigration officer, which just asked the usual questions -- purpose in coming to the UK, see the invitation letter, length of stay, etc.

My hotel is in the city of Wistmenster. A friend advised me that the best way to see London is to walk. Which I did. Trafalgar square is a huge park with the very tall monument situated prominently in the center. The Buckingham Palace is really grand, fit for kinds and princess to live. The changing of the guard, those neatly-dressed Brit soldiers in red and black uniform guarding the palace of the royal family, the ceremony is accompanied by drums and bugles parade, and succeeding march of same-uniform soldiers riding horses, yeah yeah. Many people a-watching the ceremony.

The Covent Garden is cool. Lots of public performers, a public market, a theater, restaurants and bars. My feet were complaining already of the long walk, but there were many other beautiful places to see - "London eye" ferris wheel is prominently seen along the river Thames. The famous House of Parliament and its elaborate external architecture and artworks is just nearly and really fantastic.

There are just too many parks in the city. If you're tired and wanting to sit down in a quiet place, there are a number of such places to go to.
I took the tube (underground train) ride only once, from covent garden to heathrow airport on my last day there. This was 6 days before the tragic London bombings London is really a very open city to everyon, locals and foreigners, tourists and terrorists. There are no police or private security guards or x-ray machines screening people who go in and out the tube/subway (about 3 million passengers/day), the malls, the double decker buses, and other public places and utilities.

Once I saw PM Tony Blair getting out of a building (I think the PM's bldg) near the houses of parliament. The police just blocked all roads around the building minutes before Blair's car got out. I saw only 2 motorcycles in front and 2 back-up cars behind Blair's car, and he's gone. Here in the Phils., you know the president is around because there are at least 10 black PSG pajeros, a dozen motorcycles, and several other local police and civilian cars, making all those siren-wailings, waving all other motorists to get out of the way because "God" is passing by...

Baguio-La Union

Going up to Baguio City, there are 3 routes.
(1) Kennon road -- shorter distance from Manila, some waterfalls to see. Buses and big trucks don't use this road (or maybe they're not allowed to pass there), only light vehicles pass here.

(2) Marcos highway -- longer by about 15-20 kms. but the road network is good and less prone to rock slides. Buses and trucks from Manila and Pangasinan take this road. Lots of good sights to see: the flyover, tunnel, rock catchments, cemented mountain sides, ...

(3) Naguillan road -- used by vehicles coming from Ilocos and La Union provinces.

From Baguio and there are some time to spare, take the Marcos highway, pass by Agoo (La Union), see one of the country's cleanest and greenest municipalities! I did not see a single pile of uncollected garbage in that municipality, whether in the town proper or in the barrios surrounding it, during our trip there last March 2005. Roadsides are planted with various tree species, some with flowers, and hills are thick with forest cover. Once you cross the border to the next town, Damortis, the trees on roadsides are either few or absent.

Also, visit Agoo Basilica, more than 400 years old (built 1578 i think). Part of the church has been renovated, but the structure still retains its 4 centuries past.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Notes from our February 2005 trip to Sagada, Mt. Province:

Sagada is among the most famous mountain resort and municipalities in the Philippines. It's about 6 to 6 1/2 hours by bus from Baguio City of Benguet province.
Among the prominent attractions of Sagada are:
(1) Thick pine forest vegetation, similar to Camp John Hay of Baguio.
(2) Cold weather due to its high elevation of around 5,000+ feet above sea level, higher than Baguio of around 4,500 feet.
(3) Many caves, including the big cave and the cave of old coffins.
(4) Hanging coffins on limestone rocks.
(5) Rice terraces to see, though not as expansive as the rice terraces of Battad, Banaue, Ifugao province.
(6) Waterfalls, more than an hour walk from the municipal center.

There are many places to stay there, generally walking distance walking distance from each other, just around the town hall and bus station. Among these are the Sagada guest house, Ganduyan Inn, St. Joseph Rest house, Masferres Inn, etc. We stayed in Ganduyan Inn; room rate is P125/person per day, common bathroom; some rooms have own bathroom and therefore, are less cheaper.

Plenty of places to eat as well; usually at the guest houses or inns, in some small cafeterias. Food (say, a cup of rice + meat or chicken) range from P50 to P100 per meal per person.

How to go there:
From Manila, take bus to baguio (Victory bus, Five Star bus, Dagupan bus, among the big bus lines), preferably the 11 pm or 12 midnight bus, you'll reach Baguio City about 5am the following day. Fare is around P300+ per person. The first trip to Sagada at Dangwa bus terminal leaves at 6am, so there's still time to eat breakfast somewhere (Session road has a number of 24-hrs. cafes). Lizardo bus line is the biggest (if not the only one) that plies the Baguio-Sagada route, there are no air-con buses. If you take the 6am bus, you'll reachSagada about 12 to 12:30 noon. Fare is around P200 per person for the 151 kms. trip, about 2/3 of which is on dirty and bad roads. If you like watching cliffs and dozens of mountain ranges, you'll enjoy the bus trip to Sagada.

Despite the circuitous route and bad roads, bus accidents very seldom happen. Bus drivers are skilled in going through such kinds of road. If you wonder in some wide areas though, where the trees are, well, they've been replaced by vegetable plantations, especially cabbages, baguio beans, as well as rice fields, or grasses have taken over.

People normally do not take guides in going around their way. One can buy a one-page map for P10 or P50 in most guest houses/inns and stores. Or they meet fellow tourists, and either they plan their trip together or ask for tips from those who have just visited certain places. But going to the big cave, a guide is necessary. The guides bring the lights (a "petromax") and ropes to guide visitors in some slippery parts of the cave.

Going back to Manila, there are 2 routes. One is to take the same route back to Baguio then Manila; Or via Bontoc (Mt. Province's provincial capital) and Banaue. If taking the second route, take a Sagada-Bontoc jeepney (about 50 kms., 1 hour), then Bontoc-Banaue jeepney (nearly 100 kms., about 3 hours).

Banaue, Ifugao.
There are plenty of beautiful rice terraces to see along the way en route to Banaue.
Bontoc-Banaue road is the trickiest road network in the country, I think.
You'll pass by the highest highway in the Philippines more than 2,000 meters above sea level!
The vegetation changes from pine forest to mossy forest as you go higher. Going down to Banaue, there are less pine trees, more dipterocarp forest species.

In Banaue town proper, you can find a number of viewpoints to see the beautiful rice terraces. But the famous place where you seem to have a 3D view of the monstrous terraces is in Battad. Was there 3 years ago, it took us 30 minutes ride by jeepney (fare about P50/person), then walk of nearly 3 hours! No electricity in Battad, lodging houses at P50/person/day (again, this was 3 years ago). The stone terraces are really huge and tall, some about 12 ft tall, and there are dozens of rows of them in each column.

From Banaue, there are air-con buses going to Manila (they usually leave at 5pm everyday), or you can take a Banaue-Solano (Nueva Vizcaya) jeepeny. There are many buses coming from Kalinga, Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya provinces going to Manila, via Nueva Ecija and Bulacan.

Some notes re. view in these provinces:

a) Benguet (Baguio city, La Trinidad city,...) -- mostly vegetable terraces. Sometimes a big hill or small mountain is almost bald of trees, but you'll see hundreds of vegetable plantations.

b) Mt. Province (Sagada, Bontoc,...) -- mainly pine forest, then dipterocarp and mossy forest; a few vegetable and rice terraces to see.

c) Ifugao (Banaue, Kiyangan, ...) -- lots of rice terraces; a few pine forest, mostly dipterocarp forest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Dec. 2000

Another posting in PF egroups, Dec. 26, 2000:

I'm now at Siem Reap, about 300 kms. & 8-9 hrs, by land, or 5 1/2 hrs. by boat, from Phnom Penh. We took the boat yesterday, a fast boat. We passed by Thon le sap river and lake, and it's a very big lake: more than 1 hr. of travel, you see nothing but waters! Before docking, we passed by a community of boat-living people, half-Viets, half-Cambodians, I'm told. There's even a floating Caltex gas station on boat!

Siem Reap is about 10 kms. from the port. This province thrives on tourism. Thousands of tourists come here every week. Because of this, many people, especially students, speak English, though a bit broken, but better than Vietnamese's english literacy. I just think that perhaps, our Dept. of Tourism and local businessmen can learn a lot from this place and further boost our tourism potentials. This place attracts both the high-end (there's even a 4-star hotel here, I guess) and low-end (back-packer) tourists.

Foreigners come here to see the well-prrotected trees and 9th-14th century Angkor Wat structures and temples, reputedly the most wonderful in southeast Asia. Though Cambodia is generally denuded, Angkor's park is full of big and mature trees. Just another proof that tourism & its money greatly help preserve the trees and the environment, while poverty kills trees. Some of those trees I can only find in some mts. we used to climb like dipterocarp species found in Mt. Apo (Davao), Mt. Makiling (Los Banos), Mt. Halcon (Mindoro), etc.

Internet costs in vietnam is around $0.80/hr, in Phnom Penh $2.30/hr, here in siem reap $5/hr, some shops even charge $7/hr! But then, at least it's available. I get to read some newspapers somehow...

Posted Dec. 29, 2000:

More observations that I want to share with you here in Siem Reap, Cambodia:

1. This is a highly "dollarized" economy. Even ordinary food stalls, newspaper stalls, accept $. The going rate is 1$=3,800 riels (3,900 in Phnom Penh). Say your bill is 6,000 riels, you pay $2, they will give you the change in riels.

2. Economists and planners of Cambodia are worrying about the future of garments industry, where supposedly 90% of its exports revenue come from. But a growing number of analysts are pointing at the high and growing potential of tourism. Earlier I said thousands of tourists come here "every week". Change that to"every day"!

3. To give you an idea of wage structure here: the lowest paid govt. employee receives only "slightly more than $10/month"! Next year they are planning a 15% wage increase, and to kick out "thousands of ghost employees" in govt. (pretty much like the Philippines ha).

4. But tourism-related industries here are making a lot of money. Our rental for motorbikes with driver is $5/day; others charge higher. Food here is more expensive than in Vietnam, almost comparable to those in M. Manila. We stay though in a budget guesthouse, $4/day 2-beds, with own bath and fan, and free laundry!

5. There are internet kiosks/shops here. But here in Siem Reap, they connect you first to Phnom Penh ( before you get connected to the site you want to go.

Vietnam-Cambodia border, Dec. 2000

My posting in PF egroups, Dec. 26, 2000:

We just arrived here in Pnom Penh, Cambodia. It was a tiring 12-hr. ride covering only around 230 kms. Some observations:

1. Vietnam's immigration office bordering Cambodia is in Moc Bai. The immigration officer (only 1 officer that day) is so inefficient & ignorant; he did not want us to exit vietnam because we don't have a Vietnam visa, not realizing perhaps that all citizens of 10-member Asean countries don't need visa to enter other member-countries for visits less than 21 days. The inefficiency of this officer caused a lot of delays in our bus crossing the border.

2. While Vietnamese border police are somehow arrogant, their Cambodian police & immigration counterparts just on the other side, are friendly and helpful.

3. Cambodia's immigration office in Bavet (border with Moc Bai) is a bit funny; they are just 3 waiting-shed types of structures, 1 each for the immigration, customs, and health/quarantine. No electricity, so immigration papers are either typewritten or handwritten.

4. No clear physical boundaries separating the 2 countries, say a river or stream or mountain, not even barbed wires. It's all rice fields on both sides of the road.

5. Cambodia's roads are "highway from hell", according to Lonely Planet guidebook; generally it's true; most of my co-passengers in the bus complained of aching butts because of the bad roads! Not me, mine is used to ride long hrs. in a racer bicycle, he-he-he.

6. Mekong River is muddy, even dirty; there's a barge that ferries at least 8 vehicles to cross to the other side. The part which we cross is perhaps among the narrowest part of the river, as Mekong's widest portion can be as wide as 5kms.

7. Cambodian children are funny; they would wave to passing tourist buses; some would even run from their house, get closer to the road, wave ba-bye, then goback to their house; when you wave back to them, they seem to be very ecstatic.

8. I thought Pnom Penh city is just as big as say, Tacloban or Bacolod orBaguio; well, i''m wrong. Judging from the traffic and the avenues, it lookslike smaller than Cebu, perhaps like Davao.

9. If you see this country, you'll be glad that we live in the Philippines; it's so poor, denuded, many idle lands, and majority of the areas don't have electricity. Some have electricity perhaps through generators and batteries.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ho Chi Minh, December 2000

Another posting in pilipinas forum egroups, December 25, 2000:

I had a glimpse of how the Viets, at least in Hanoi, celebrate Christmas eve last night. The city govt. put up a stage right at the center of the city near the lake, and there were acrobatic, circus, and comedy shows, free. Several meters from this full-packed area, still around the lake, there are "belens" and santa claus and other figures that attract thousands of people, many of them walking aimlessly.

Now we're in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and I would say that coming from the scenic environment and cooler climate of Hanoi, this place is not exactly a recommendable one for tourism. It's like you're in Cubao and Ermita, so why come here? Though there are many exotic places to visit, like the boat trips in the Mekong River (the river originates from China, down to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, out to the sea). There's not much trees around the central district; the streets are a bit dirty and smelly; and if the cyclo-people (ala-pedicab in manila) or motorcycle-taxi drivers sense that you're a foreigner, some of them would follow you for quite a distance, offering rides (at exorbitant rates, of course). If they fail to convince you, they'll later show pictures of girls and ask if you're interested to have "massage?", "pretty women?", "cheap only, $10 1hr; lower?", etc. The solution is to stop talking to them.

In the 1st district where we stay, there are a lot of back-packer type white people. Well, we have the same source for choosing this place - the LonelyPlanet book guide on Vietnam, and the author specifically recommends this area for cheap but clean accommodations. Comparing this district and Ermita however, I would say that this area attracts more white tourists than our Ermita.

Tomorrow is a long day for us. We're taking a 12-hr bus ride (air-con)from Saigon to Pnom Penh, Cambodia, starting 7am. I read the Lonely Planet book guide onCambodia, I just realize that the political instability has relatively ceased only in the late 90s, around 1998. The book is 2000 edition, and the author says it's now safe to go to certain places of Cambodia incl. Angkor Wat.

PS: you know how low wages are in Vietnam? the lowest paid govt. employee receives 200,000 dong/month, equivalent to around $13.8/month or nearlyP700/month! The shop sales lady I talked to in Hanoi says she teaches French language in the morning to elementary students and receives 400,000 dong/month (nearlyP1,400/month); to augment her income, she works as a shop saleslady and receives additional 200,000 dong/month, for a 2-9 pm work, 6 days/week. She said despite the low pay in the shop, she likes talking to customers and meeting foreigners so she can practice her English.

With these wage structures, it won't be a big question if foreign investors would go to Vietnam (& China) instead of the Phils. Inputing perhaps a higher cost of bribery to state officials of these countries, they might still feel better off locating in China or Vietnam or India. But despite these lower wages in Vietnam, I would like to believe that on "wellness scale", many people are still not that worse off. Food is cheap. I tried eating in "street food" corners, 3 viands (vegetable, fish & chicken) & 1big cup of rice is only around P20. I think they're safe because my stomach never complained afterwards despite testing it about 3x in that "experiment", he-he-he.

Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec. 2000

The following are my notes about Vietnam, posted in pilipinas forum (PF) egroups, December 19-21, 2000:

I remember it was Malou Tiquia who once wrote something like "soon, Vietnam will (economically) overtake the Phils." I could not agree with that statement then; the macroeconomic figures say it cannot be true: Phils' per capita GNP at $1,000+/year, Vietnam's at $300+/year; Phils' exports in 1999 around $37 billion, Vietnam's $10 billion. Phils' international reserves around $15 billion, Vietnam's around $7 billion. Somehow far out to compare.

Till I arrived in Hanoi last night, and I pondered that Malou may be right afterall. Why?

(1) Saigon's and Noibai's (in Hanoi) runway and adjacent areas (potential for more expansion) I think are at least 2x each that of Ninoy Aquino airport.

(2) Noibai is 30 kms. from central Hanoi, but that distance can be reached in 30mins. or less (last night, it was only 20 mins.) by car because of good roadinfrastructure; that's already around 1 hr. faster compared to say, QC to NAIA.

(3) In terms of "overall wellness" of people, I would say that people in Hanoi are generally a lot well-off compared to Metro Manilans(!) They enjoy the following which we don't have:

a) Wide roads, wide walkways, many trees and parks and lakes within the city(like "little, old Paris" accdg. to my friend who's been to Paris).

b) Cleaner air as bicycles and motorcycles far outnumber cars and buses in thecity.

c) Better peace and order situation as there is a lot less social inequality among people; a poor person can transport himself/herself easily from points Ato B 10, 20 kms away (or longer) without necessarily having a car or waiting fora long time for a comfortable bus because bicycles (& scooters) practically rule the city roads.

We rented a bicycle today for only 8,000 dong (around $0.60 or P30)/day. And boy, what an experience! It's really fast to move from one place to another, and no parking problem too. But bikers/motorcyclists cross intersections like crazy- as if everybody is "beating the red light". But collission among them I think is only around .001 percent! I think that it's one of the near-perfect examples of "fractals" or chaos theory in mathematics (something like "order in disorder").

d) People are generally more healthy (as in leaner/trimmer) than us Filipinos; I seldom see fat people here! Thus, health-related expenses will be a lot lesser both for citizens and the government.

There are fewer scycrapers, yes, but so are fewer beggars and squatters. I don't see private security guards in shops and restaurants (unlike in M.Mla); thus,there is less "less/un-productive labor".

I just notice certain inefficiencies in this country: telecomms infrastructure is still underdeveloped, so that overseas calls are expensive. While our not-so-good telecomm firms there now charge only US$0.50/min., smaller ones like Nextel even charge only $0.30/min. (at certain hrs. of the day?), a call fromHanoi to Manila would cost about $3-$4/minute, even $5/min. in hotels. Internet shops here charge 200 dong/minute or 12,000 dong/hr, equivalent to around US$0.80/hr. or P40/minute, similar to rates found in small internet shops in Mla and the provinces.

But I still like the bicycle culture here, he he he.

I read in "Vietnam News", the only English daily newspaper here, that the Viet economy is taking off high. Its growth rate in '98-99 was 6.2% average, and they are looking at 7-8% growth from year 2000 onwards. Based on what I observe, at least for Hanoi, this place is bustling with economic activities. Here in the Old Quarter/central district where I stay, the thousands of shops in many streets could rival the various shops of SM and other malls in M.Mla in terms of quantity of goods being displayed. Central-planning may be the official govt. policy, but out in the streets, free market is very much alive and kicking.

Riding my bike everyday here, it just occurred to me that this economy has little or no "bubble" compared to what we have in the Phils. The kids here are not pampered with cars and school buses while they're young. They start the"harder" life early on, so I guess their tolerance for hard work when they grow older will be higher than us Filipinos. Of course there are at least 2 major things that favor their bike culture than us: (a) the colder climate (comparable to HK and Baguio) and (b) bike-friendly streets.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Guimaras, Philippines

Guimaras is a small island-province, has only 5 municipalities. Aside from beaches (being an island), it's also known for its sweet mangos. The province is generally green, covered by various vegetations -- fruit tree plantations (mango, coconut, bananas), some rice, and pockets of forest tree plantation, mainly mahogany trees. No buses, only jeepeneys and tricycles for public transportation. Trucks are few since many cargos can be transported by jeepneys. Thus, since there are no heavy vehicles, the road infrastructure is generally fine and not dilapidated.

Boat fare from Iloilo to Jordan, Guimaras' provincial capital, is only P10 per person, quiet affordable for a 15 minutes trip. It's good that there are no terminal fee or security fee or VAT or other government-imposed fees and taxes that often distort fares and prices upwards. As a result of this affordable fare, movement of people and goods between the two islands is quiet fast. On a regular weekday, there's a boat carrying around 45 passengers that leaves every 5-7 minutes, I think.

Among the famous beach resorts in the province is Raymen resort in Alobijod, municipality of Nueva Valencia. White sand, the facilities are ok and cottages are plenty, but it can be crowded especially on weekends. It can be reached by jeepney, fare about P20 per head, then tricycle, fare P10 per head. Someone told us to check Baras beach resort, so we went there. From Raymen, we rented a boat (P350 first hour, P120/hour succeeding hours) since Baras is not accessible by land travel, only by boat.

Baras resort is a beautiful place to see and swim. White sand, not rocky swimming area, protected from open sea by huge rock formations and hence, the waves are small. Being inaccessible by land travel, not too many people go there, so it's not crowded. There's a half-court basketball area, a grass volleyball court, a billiard table, a kayak, and other facilities which one can enjoy for free, inclusive of the P50 per head entrance fee. Electricity is supplied by a generator, so electric lights are available only from 5-11pm.

From Baras resort, we asked our boatman to tour us. This part of the province has a number of small, white sand beaches, about 150 meters long on average, but not close to one another. What fascinated me further were the many small islands and islets or detached rock formations. This is definitely a minor version of the Hundred Islands of Alaminos, Pangasinan.

One can reach this and neighboring resorts by boat. We rented a 45-passenger (max) boat for P3,500 to bring us from Iloilo city to Baras resort and back. Travel time is more than 1 hour each way, and one can enjoy seeing the rocky sides of the island, the several white sand beaches fishing villages. I think it won't be long and those white sand fishing villages will become beach resorts too.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Osaka, Japan, 2004

After posting my Hong Kong travelogue, a friend, Alvin Ang, made this note. I also noticed only today his posting. Thanks Alvin :-)

September 23, 2004

Hi Noy and friends,

Thanks for your travelogue about Hongkong.

ako naman i want to share my latest experience here in osaka, specifically toyonaka city. our city, is one of the oldest and richest city within metropolitan osaka. as one of the richest city, toyonaka has the tradition of subsidizing family services to its dwellers and many osakans liked the way things are managed here. however, from the last 3 years, the city has been experiencing huge deficits and have not been able to arrest it. one of its programs is
privatization of services that can be easily or already being offered in the private sector.

last night, i went to a parent-teacher consultation in my son's day care center with toyonaka city officials. the reason - they were "informing" us that they are going to privatize the day care center in a year's time.

just a little background on how they operate day care centers here. they have public and private day care systems. as always, the public one is subsidized and if you want your child to enter it, you have to register him from the time of birth because you have to wait at least 2 years to get a slot. i waited one year and took the available slot when the city office called me even if it means that it is far from where we live. the monthly payment is computed based on your last year's assessed income - so for just getting a monthly subsistence allowance, i am classified as a way below minimum wage earner and i pay the basic fee of around P750/month. so even if it is subsidized, those earning above the minimum Y250,000/month or roughly P125,000, pay quite a sum. besides, you have to put in a lot of justification why you need day care, since most japanese wives stay at home anyway. Apparently, they have not anticipated that the economic gloom here have stretched for more than 14 years now and hence, the necessity to have mothers to work too. also, as i understood it, the public system is better because it is connected with the national
health system. so a day care will have a stationed nurse, a monthly physical check up and an extended care facility after 6 pm. the private ones are expensive and do not have the same connection with the national health system.

from the discussions last night, with my basic understanding of japanese, i could sense that the
parents were not really concerned with how much they are to pay - but if the same service will be rendered. i was looking at how the bureaucrat was explaining the reasons for privatization. he look pathetic and too technical. he bored the mothers and fathers there, especially me because he was using a lot of technical japanese. one of the vocal mothers finally interrupted him and said - i just want to know what you plan to do after, i don't care with your explanations since i don't understand them anyway. that caused an approving uproar and the poor guy was on the defensive till i left.

as i was going home with my boys, i was thinking what if this was in the philippines. i guess those who are going to be affected will act the same way. but the big difference here is that the city office has overstretched its desire to be of service to its people that it can no longer maintain or managed the services they have offered over and above the basic ones. in our case back there, our government has very little to show what it has done to improve or enhance
basic services and is now trying to increase the burden further. as it is in many studies regarding the behavior of lower income earners, these people are willing to pay for service or goods for as long as they perceive that they get a good service. consider the water or gaas vendors along the riles - the poor are actually paying more than the formally connected water users but there is no problem with them. hence, it does not matter much who provides the service. but if government does it and cannot sustain it - then it is better off not providing the service at all as in this example here in toyonaka. creating undue expectations have already expanded the satisfaction possibilities of people, hence, it is difficult for them to let go because it will affect their future work decisions. hence, given all things equal and majority of your dwellers are renters - you see an exodus to other cities where they can maintain their
current living satisfaction levels. and fair enough, the ADB just warned that if we are pushed further to accept new taxes without seeing just gains - the exodus....

Alvin Ang

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hong Kong, September 2004

I wrote this on September 22, 2004 after I arrived from a conference there. This was posted in one of my discussion groups which I just noticed today.

Some notes here about HK...

My first and last trip to HK prior to last week's was in 1998, during the PDE (UPSE) study tour. We visited then various govt. agencies and private sector offices (chamber of commerce, trade council, among others). The current airport, the HK Intl airport (Chek Lap Kok?) at Lantau island, was still under construction, so we landed at the old airport right in the city.

6 years hence and after recovering from the Asian financial crisis, it seems that my recollection of HK then was a bit hazy. Seated on the left side of the plane from Manila*, i was amazed by those plenty of clusters of tall buildings on various parts of HK and Kowloon islands, even in Lantau island. I was trying to remember if I noticed those many-many bldgs 6 years ago...

The airport is so big and modern; maybe about 6x the size of manila airport terminal 1 (NAIA). From the many gates, you take an underground tram -- comes every 3 minutes, clean, modern and fast -- to go to the main bldg. where the immigration stations and baggage claim areas are. Makes you think, no wonder why this country of 7 million people is attracting 10-12 million tourists/year, whereas the Philippines, a big country of about 85 million people on 7,000+ islands is attracting only 2 million tourists/year. The airport, a foreigner or tourist's first encounter (aside from view from the air) of any country tells you the level of economic development and discipline a country has attained. Oh well...

The road infrastructure is impressive. Wide, clear expressways from the airport to Tsing Ma bridge to the city. Zero or very little danger of rock slides cascading down debris from nearby hills down the highways -- they constructed tall and sturdy cement terraces on those hills along the roads. In addition, there are rock catchment structures above some of those terraces.

Tsing Ma bridge -- at 2.2 kms. long, is reputed to be the world's longest road-rail suspension bridge. I'm wondering, the road-rail suspension bridge between Copenhagen/Denmark and Malmo/Sweden seems to be longer than Tsing Ma bridge, more than 4 kms. if I remember it right... Anyway, this HK bridge is quite impressive too. HK is really a 1st world economy/country.

The city's skyscrapers -- awww! We stayed at Gold Coast Hotel, Kowloon island, quite a distance from HK island. When we reached HK city, I remember I had a stiff neck looking up those tall bldgs. of Chicago and NY. Who's got more skyscrapers, HK or Chicago or NY? Must be HK. The Intl. Finance Center (IFC), HK's tallest bldg., is new to my eyes. It wasn't there in 1998, right?

There are still plenty of tall bldgs. being constructed all over the economy -- HK, Kowloon, Lantau, other islands. And when they make buildings, they don't build 1 or 2 structures: 5, 8, 10 buildings of same architectural design per project. So if the leftists and militants, the politicians and state bureaucrats in the Phils. think the Ayalas and Gokongweis and other local real estate developers are very rich for building high glass towers and hence must be heavily taxed and heavily regulated, they really got backward ideas. Me thinks that instead of heavily taxing and regulating those developers for building tall structures, government should cut taxes and encourage more investors in this field if only to expand the supply of residential and office condos, to spur competiton by attracting other firms, local and foreign, to slug it out with the Ayalas and other local builders. End result will be more affordable housing and office units for more households and entrepreneurs. No amount of rent-control, price-control, rich-control, remote-control (ehek) can beat competition in beating down prices and supply problem.

The bars and night life... ahh, one of my favorite topics, he he he.
After dinner at The Peak -- a cluster of buildings and restaurants on top of a mountain overlooking most of the tall skycrapers of the city -- a Canadian-Hong Konger friend, Andrew Work, asked the participants who would be interested to stay and survey the city's night life landscape. Of course, the not-yet-retired-party-animal Oplas is among those who raised their hands. We ended up with 9 persons from 9 countries (a Canadian-Hong Konger, an American, Pakistani, Filipino, Hong Konger, Russian, Georgian, Lithuanian, and British -- see, globalization is beautiful and colorful). A new Filipina friend, an editor for a local newspaper catering to OFWs in HK who interviewed us earlier re. economic issues in the Phils., also joined us. So, 10 souls walked down the bars of HK. Andrew by the way, is the head of the Lion Rock Institute, a new free-marketer think tank in HK.

We first went to a strip of bars populated by mostly white people, on D.Aguilar St. First stop was a bar with Canadian flags outside; the crowd was mostly white people, the owner/manager is a HKer, but the waiters were Filipinos, alright! We asked the Pinoy waiters if they can play "My Sharona", "Jump" (by Van Halen), "Dancing Queen" (requested by our female friends), etc. In short, it was dance time!

Got out after a few bottles of beer and several ounces of sweat whisked away, we hailed 3 cabs, moved to another place, forgot the name of the disrict. 2nd stop was a bar with live band and much thicker crowd. Lots of disco and pop-rock songs belted out by the band, the small dance floor was rocking with several souls squeezing their bodies closer to their dancing buddies so they wont bump the other groups/partners. Later, the band belted out AC/DC's (Australian band) hard rock song, "Highway to Hell". Wham! It was the Lithuanian-Filipino duo which attracted the lead singer's attention and gave us the microphone! Man, I tell you, it was one great performance by this frustrated rock singers duo, he he he. Alright! Yeebbaa! Our Lithuanian friend's name by the way is Ugnius Trumpa, president of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute.

Third and final stop was a bar equally full-packed as the previous one. But here, the band was all-Filipino, the waitresses were Filipinas. My companions were amazed how the band could play various types of music -- rap, disco, pop-rock, heavy rock, etc. -- and really singing them well. Of course I bragged, "Oh, many many good bands like them in Manila", he he he. Another proof that the Phils. got good comparative advantage in the services sector.

Comparative price of beer... for similar bars with good and lively music background or with live bands, price of beer in makati (greenbelt), libis (eastwood) and malate (adriatico strip) is around P80/bottle. In HK, it was around P350/bottle, mahal! But then again, HK is one of the most expensive cities in the world, kaya enjoy na lang sa sayaw, hinay-hinay sa beer :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Canada, Alaska, Nagoya

May 24, 2004:

Some observations from the air on our trip back to Manila from Detroit last May 22.
(We first took a smaller plane from Dulles airport, DC to Detroit, then transferred to a B747-400 plane, a 400+ seater jumbo jet).

Detroit to Nagoya is about 11,440 kms. and 13 hours via the North Pole. I initially suspected that there's some engine problem with the plane because after about an hour or two on air, the plane was cruising only at an altitude of about 29,000 feet(about the same height as Mt. Everest), and not 39,000 ft. as usually taken by long-hauled planes. Also, the ground speed was only between 800-900 kph, instead of more or less 1,000 kph.

A. Canada and Alaska

The plane went north first towards Canada, near or around Ottawa-Toronto-Quebec-Ontario areas (as indicated in the plane's video). Later, the plane got out of North Canada airspace, crossed Alaska (US territory), in its northernmost part, about the same latitude as the northernmost portions ofNorway-Sweden-Finland triumvirate. It was already part ofthe north pole! So, I have seen the lower portion of the North Pole, alright! Cool man!
Here's what I observed there:
a) Huge rock formations (if not small rocky mountains) covered -- not totally though -- with ice and snow.
b) One huge mountain which rises above a wide carpet of clouds, snow-covered.
c) Roads in Alaska that are very long, straight, sometimes winding along the mouths of thousands of frozen small/mini-lakes, roads that seem to lead to nowhere.
I thought, how would it feel driving in this part of the Earth -- all ice around you, roads where you seem to be the only moving human soul, praying that your car won't encounter any engine trouble because the next car that will pass by maybe several hours away. Ahhhh, what an adventurous souls those people are who brave those roads! Well, observing those Alaskan rocks while listening to the plane's rock n roll music audio channel is cool! You shake and swing your head to the music of TheQueen, The Police, Led Zep, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Rollingstones, Aerosmith,The Who, The Doors, others -- yeah man, alright!

After Alaska, next scenes to see would have been Russia's westernmost lands (or ice). But by then, they started showing movies -- drama, again! So I opted to read or sleep.

B. Nagoya City, Japan

For some of us passengers who were not in a hurry to go home and haven't set foot on any Japanese city yet (like me), the plane having landed late is a "bonus". When we landed at Nagoya airport, the pilot announced that Manila-bound passengers will have to stay overnight in the city, fly the following day. So I was very excited! For one, my passport will have additional immigration stamps (he he, ang babaw ano ha) -- a shore pass entry, then a departure stamp the following day. Second, we'll bestaying in a 5 star hotel (Nagoya Tokyu Hotel), nice amenities, yummy-yummy food, and bus transfers to and from the hotel. And third, I'll be able to see some Japanese roads, buildings and other structures up close.

Nagoya is "small" compared to other cities like Tokyo, Osaka, etc., according to a friend who has worked and lived in Japan for several years. Tall buildings are scattered over a wide expanse of the city, there seems to be no big cluster of high structures, say a bunch of at least 50 tall bldgs. The roads are generally narrow, which partly explains perhaps why many cars are small, big cars and trucks are few. There's also bicycle culture, like in many European cities. Skyways are excellent, tollway system. Major streets have names in both Nihongo characters and the alphabet.Watching again the city from the air on our flight to Manila (finally!), my head is always on the window, as usual :-)

Very few trees in the city, though I saw one small forest park in the middle ofthe city, the area a bit smaller than Quezon memorial circle in QC. There arerice fields in some parts of the city(!), especially near river systems. More skyways are being constructed. There are plenty of wide reclaimed areas. Plenty of rivers and canals, though not Amsterdam-like canal system. There'sgreen/grass space between the roads and canals/rivers. Bridges criss-cross therivers, reducing traffic build-up in various road networks. More mini-forestparks as you go out of city centers.

Where the lands are generally flat, there are houses and farmlands, through the"edge", the feet of mountains. So I think that in terms of urban planning, this city's (and I would say, most Japanese cities) land use is optimized. The"division of function" between flatlands and forest lands are very clear. I did not see subdivisions or real estate projects on mountains. There are houses and farms though, on valleys and river deltas between mountains. The mountains are thick with forests, really dark-green view from the top. If Japan would continue its use of wooden chop-sticks, throw them away after a single use instead of many plastic, reusable chop-sticks, the country won't run out of wood.

And dams, man, I saw at least 8 dams on its river systems -- and that's only those that I have observed on the left side of the plane. I dont know how many dams there are on the right side of the plane. So, there, one of the "secrets"of Japan's prosperity -- optimal land use: agri lands, residential and commercial lands, forest lands, rivers and dams, etc.

Less than an hour on air, the plane was cruising at 35,000 ft. altitude, though at a slower speed of about 740 kph. Nagoya-Manila is about 2,870 kms. away, flying time 3:45 hours.

Arriving back home after a month of being away is refreshing. The country is not managed well by the government, but my good friends and family are here, so am staying here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Michigan, April 2004

Posted in pilipinas forum (PF) egroups, April 23, 2004:

Here now in Midland, Michigan. I and another Pinoy participant, Ellen Cain of Foundation for Econ. Freedom (FEF), arrived here yesterday after a 20-hours trip from Manila via Nagoya (1 1/2 hrs. lay-over) andDetroit (2 hrs lay-over). Our US sojourn is sponsored by Atlas Economic ResearchFoundation (, based in Virginia. Some notes here...

(1) Pre-departure inspections, NAIA, Manila.
Man, what a body search! You have to remove your belt, watch, cellphone, etc. 3x! First at the airport main inspection and X-ray machine area. Second, before the departure lounge, where the shoes have to be removed as well. Third, at the departure lounge and here, all hand-carried luggages are inspected one by one; cameras are turned on and off to show that they're indeed cameras. Then a full body search by metal detector -- from head to toe, from left fingers to right fingers; from the left ear to the right ear! Could a bomb be implanted in one's ear (an "ear bomb"), or nose (a "nose bomb"), or under the armpit (an"armpit bomb")? Ahh, some people indeed have armpit bomb ("putok") and it's a pollutive one, he he he. Damn those terrorists! They've succeeded in making many governments paranoid, and air travellers are now the most suspected creatures on earth and hence, are subjected to the most rigorous inspection. What a life! Or... is this type of inspection done only for US-bound passengers?

(2) Nagoya City and airport.
Though I've been to a number of Asian countries before, never been to Japan. And I'm impressed with what I saw from the air -- lots of skyways, reclaimed lands, seems no traffic in its various road network. But very few trees in the city center though the streets and overall land-zoning are well-planned. The trees are out there surrounding the city, and it's a thick forest land. The airport was not busy. I think our plane was the only internationally-bound plane at the time we landed. Lots of Japanese personnel at the airport (he he he).

(3) Detroit City and airport.
Wide tracts of agri land before reaching the city. This is my first trip to theUS, and again, I'm impressed by the good planning of the city; there seems to be no congestion of buildings and houses. The airport is filled with dozens of Northwest airplanes. Detroit is NW's hub, i'm told. Ahh, ok.

(4) US immigration.
Where potential terrorists could be skinned alive if caught... The young officer was serious when he looked at me, comparing my boyish-looking picture at my passport and US visa, and my current slightly long-haired, Bruce Springsteen look-alike face (ouch! ubo-ubo!). The usual questions -- your purpose in coming to the US, where you're staying, when are you leaving, etc. The fingerprinting (left and right forefingers) and picture-taking went well as I smiled at the small camera, thinking that a thousand bucks would fall into my hands if I smiled well :-)

(6) Midland, Michigan.
Saginaw airport is about 45 minutes by plane from Detroit, and the airport is about 15 minutes by car from this small city of Midland. Farmlands surround the city. At this time, sunset is around 9pm. Nice place, but the pedestrian lanes are empty of people! You will certainly miss Manila and many parts of the Philippines, with its multitude of people walking down the streets almost everywhere. No bicycles, people don't walk either. Cars and trucks dot the roads and houses. I think this scene is true in most states of the country. Maybe this is one reason why many Americans are fat (I read once that about 1/4 of all Americansare obese!). Unlike the Europeans where people walk and bike a lot. In Amsterdam for instance, there's a 3-level parking for bicycles alone at the central train station, plus hundreds of other bicycles are parked around the station. Sweden and Denmark are also bicycle-friendly countries.

Maybe one reason for the absence of bike/walk culture is the price of gasoline. In the US, only around P25-30/liter equivalent, whereas in most European countries, it's about P80/liter. I seldom saw trucks and big cars like Ford Expedition in Sweden and Denmark. There are far more Ford Expedition andChevrolet Suburban in Metro Manila than in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

(6) Northwest Airline.
Some observations here:
(a) Passengers -- mostly Filipinos! Hundreds of Filipinos really leave for theUS everyday.
(b) Food -- except for dinner, lunch and breakfast was not so delicious, at least compared to Thai Airways. I took Thai Air last year (Mla-Copenhagen,Munich-Mla, via Bangkok), and food was great!
(c) Movies -- from Manila to Detroit, 4 movies were shown, all drama and/or comedy. No sex & violence movies! My libidoic desires were doused -- he he, joke.

Our first assignment -- attend the Mackinac Center for Public Policy Leadership Conference -- will start today at 6pm, until April 24 evening. There will be 29 of us participants, nearly 1/2 of whom are from foreign lands (Phils, HK, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Argentina, Bolivia, Italy, Zimbabwe).

Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Oct. 2003

My trip in Europe in 2003, posted in some of my egroups...

October 18, 2003:

Here now in The Hague, Netherlands. Arrived here this morning after a 16 hours bus trip from Malmo, (south) Sweden viaDenmark and north Germany. Our training program on "Sustainable Agriculture" officially ended yesterday(Oct. 17). Was very sad bidding goodbye to my classmates (we're 21 from 15 countries) and Swedish course administrators who've been with me for 7 weeks. But some good things never really last, and we knew it would end.

I took Eurolines (bus line) because it is a lot cheaper than taking the train or plane, though travel time obviously is longer and less comfortable. From Malmo, the bus crossed the Oresund(?) bridge to Copenhagen; then we transferred to another bus, the Copenhagen-The Hague trip. Most of my co-passengers in this trip were non-white people and young Danish students. First major stop was Bremen.

This morning, around 3am, I don't know if we were still in Germany or in Netherlands territory already, a police car stopped our bus for random immigration check. Two police officers boarded our bus, checked everyone's passport. They netted one guy, a young, black man (must have a questionable passport or visa), escorted him down the bus, arrested and handcuffed him, hauled him into the police car while our bus went on.

Denmark has plenty of wind mills (or wind turbines, wind power stations, whatever they're called). Generally flat and has wide agricultural land, though smaller land area compared to the 3 other Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland and Norway).

My first and last visit to Europe before my Sweden training was in 1987. My recollection of Netherlands that time is a bit hazy now. But I can spot new changes in The Hague -- new, tall buildings, skyways. My host here, the couple Bart & Wads Wijnberg, are as friendly and accommodating as before. Bart brought me (again) and his Canadian friend to a naturist (nudist)swimming pool. Stayed 2 days and 1 night in The Hague (including a day trip to Amsterdam and back), then rode again a Eurolines bus on my way to Munich, Germany.

October 23, 2003:

From The Hague, Netherlands, took a 13 hours bus ride to Munich (Oct. 18). My German friend, Christian Beil, and his Filipino wife, Astrid, met me at the bus station in Munich. I stayed in their place in Miesbach for 4 days. Miesbach is about 50 kms. south of Munich and around 700 meters above sea level elevation, at the foot of the mountains of Bavaria. Christian brought me to a ski resort further south, near the border with Austria, hiked and climbed a 1,560 meters high Bavarian mountain (about the same height as Mt. Arayat in Pampanga) under frozen rain droplets and around -1 or -2 celsius temperature. After which we went to a lake-side resort, entered a 90+ celsius sauna, then jumped into around 5 deg. celsius pool, then entered another sauna at 60+ celsius temperature, to a jacuzzi, to another pool, etc. It was the most extreme roller-coaster temperature I’ve ever experienced and I enjoyed it.

Some notes here:

(1) Amsterdam, Netherlands. Plenty of people last Sunday (oct. 19), very few trams running. The reason – the Amsterdam marathon which attracted 7,000+ runners from many countries.
(2) Germany’s authobahn (highway). Theoretically, anyone can do a Schumacher orMontoya driving here, but it’s difficult to drive more than 200 kph as there are so many cars on the highway now. Christian accelerated his 18-years old, 292,700+ kms. mileage Benz at the Munich-Salzburg autobahn; at 185 kph, he has to slow down after a few seconds because of many other cars ahead. Nevertheless, that was the fastest ride I’ve experienced (my old Mitsubishi pickup can only manage a 130 kph maximum).

(3) Whining in Germany. Christian noted that so many Germans nowadays complain about many things. High unemployment (around 10% of labor force), weak business activities, declining pension benefits, etc. Well, when you’re (economically) high up there, it’s difficult to grow fast, unlike poorer economies like Afghanistan and Cambodia which can grow fast, but will take many years before overall economic conditions can really improve.

(4) Pinoys in Europe, in the rest of the world. When I needed a public toilet in Amsterdam, 2 Pinays (working as domestic helpers) I met on the streets gladly pointed to me the direction. A Dutch lawyer (Bart) and his Pinay wife(Wads) hosted me in The Hague. A German lawyer (Christian) and his Pinay wife(Astrid) hosted me in Miesbach. A Pinay engaged to an Austrian engineer-boyfriend for a year now chatted with me at the Munich airport. ThePinoys are everywhere and they can help you find your direction, give you warm house to stay and good food to eat, good local beer to drink, etc.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Luzon's Pacific Ocean side

A posting I made in January 2004 about Luzon's Pacific side.
That was before the strong typhoons which destroyed many areas of Real and nearby municipalities:

(1) Real, Quezon.
You can reach this place by car from QC in about 3 hours, via Rizal, then pass by 2 towns of Laguna (Mabitac and Famy), then Real. Nice roads here. Climb a small mountain at the Rizal-Laguna boundary, go down at Mabitac, left atFamy, climb again a lower portion of Sierra Madre mountain range, that's theLaguna-Quezon boundary. Go down, heading to Real.

What to see:
(a) plenty of beaches, though not white sand;
(b) Balagbag waterfalls -- beautiful! about 20 minutes by car from the bridge on a highway to the municipality, then 5 minutes walk from the parking area.
Entrance fee then was onlyP10 per head, nice and deep pool.

(2) Infanta, Quezon.
Next town after Real, about 15-20 kms. away.

What to see -- beaches, old church, etc.

(3) Polillo island, Quezon.
Go to Real town proper, port area, park your car (pay about P50-P75overnight). Take the boat, about 2 hours travel time. Waves are big during October-December.

What to see:
(a) beaches, of course, semi-white sand somewhere
(b) "Pulong Ibon", literally, birds' island. About 20 minutes from Polillo mainland by boat, go there at 5pm, you'll see hundreds of egrets ("tagak"?), other birds resting there for the night.

Btway, you'll also see from the boat Sierra Madre mountain range's thick and lush forest.

(4) Daet, Camarines Norte (Bicol).
Been there but i've never explored the place re. beaches, islands, etc.

(5) Catanduanes, Bicol.
Much farther, you have to take the plane.
If by car, via Albay. Never been there though.

Manila-Mindoro-Iloilo, 2003

Below is my account of my first land trip to Iloilo and Panay island via roll-on roll-off (RORO) bus, December 2003:

I left Manila Dec. 23 (2003) evening, took the Bachelor-Rural Transit bus in Cubao, Quezon City, bound for Iloilo via "Strong Republic Nautical Highway", just curious to see again Mindoro Oriental south of Calapan, the facilities in Batangas & Calapan ports, Roxas (Mindoro) & Caticlan (Aklan) ports. Man, what a monstrous traffic at the South Expressway that Dec. 23 evening! No need to elaborate :-) Btway, bus + boat fare from Cubao to Caticlan, air-con, is around P740 forBachelor-Rural transit. Around P820 for Philtranco air-con bus, i'm not sure.

Our bus driver asked his conductor to text the Phil. Ports Authority (PPA) inBatan gas to have one RORO boat wait for us and the other buses trapped in heavy traffic at the S. expressway. The RORO ship, Montenegro Lines, between Batangas and Calapan (capital of Or. Mindoro) was pathetic. Overloaded with vehicles and people, some passengers remained standing between 3am to 5:30 am during the trip because seats were limited and there were too many passengers. The trip should have been at 1am but due to the delays, the ship left 3am.

Around 6am, our bus driver and us passengers still groggy from lack of sleep, the bus moved again for the approx. 125 kms. road trip from Calapan to Roxas, at the southern tip of Mindoro island fronting Panay island. Nice observations here.

The Mindoro folks see big buses only those plying the Cubao-Iloilo route. Five or six buses (4 from Cubao -- 2 Bachelor-Rural Transit + 2 Philtranco, and1 or 2 from Pasay, Philtranco) pass this route everyday and they travel one after the other since they take the same RORO ship from Batangas. A number of rural Mindoro folks seem to be awed by these bus drivers and their passengers since these people endure the long bus-boat rides from Manila to the Visayas. The Nautical highway was opened only about last April 2003, I think. So, some jeepney and mini-bus drivers honk with hand-salute to our bus driver. And the bus driver grins from ear to ear like a politician, he he he. Tricycle drivers are either scared or respect these buses and they readily give way to let the buses pass easily. Unlike many tricycle drivers in Luzon mainland. The road network several kms. south of Calapan is rather bad, plenty of potholes. Roads approaching Roxas are better -- paved, fewer potholes, fewer curves.

The RORO ship Maharlike Lines, between Roxas and Caticlan, is big, has plentier and more comfortable seats for the passengers. Boat ride between the two points is about 5 hours. The boats are imported 2nd hand from Japan. How do I know? Japanese signs and labels inside the boat, hehe.

Caticlan, aaahhh, Boracay! About 15 minutes boat ride to Station 3, around 25 minutes to station 1. Fare is P17.50 per person. No need to elaborate about Boracay, constantly in the "world's 10 bestbeaches" every year.

Caticlan to Iloilo is about 200 kms, but travel time by private car is around 4 1/2 hours. Bad road network in Aklan and Capiz, except in areas near the provincial capitals -- Kalibo and Roxas City, respectively. Kalibo Ati-atihan is held every January and is considered among the most famous festivals in this country. The roads in Iloilo province are good, few potholes, straight roads. Iloilo city is very big.

A former classmate from PDE, UPSE, Ingie Bautista, brought me to UP Visayas, Miag-ao campus. Miag-ao is 3 towns south-west of Iloilo city, and just 1 or 2 towns before Antique province. UP has a big campus there, specialization in Fisheries, Marine Science research and related disciplines. The buildings are new but look less "hardy" compared to the buildings in UP Diliman, Manila and Los Baños campuses.

Iloilo City to Bacolod City is just an hour away by Supercat, Aboitiz Lines, fare P290 per person. Negros Navigation I think doesn't have Supercat boats. Those super catamarans or "supercats", btway, are already manufactured in thecountry, at West Cebu Industrial Park, a private industrial zone in Balamban,Cebu. I saw the plant some 2 years ago. Meanwhile, Guimaras island-province can be seen from Iloilo port.

Negros Occidental, my province. The land of coconut and sugarcane, rice and sugarcane, fishery and sugarcane, fruit orchards and sugarcane, Onyok Velasco and sugarcane, Canlaon volcano and sugarcane, sugarmills and sugarcane...:-) I have been to all 80 provinces of this country except 10 or 12 perhaps, and I always observe land utilization in these places. I can boldly say that my hypothesis (I formulated this more than a decade ago) is correct: In terms of optimal land use (ie, very little idle lands), no province can beatNegros Occ.!

North Phils., Feb. 2002 (part 2)

Day 4, Feb. 13, Pagudpud-Ilocos Sur-La Union-Baguio, 370 kms.

After a good and refreshing sleep in fresh-air, white-sand beach Pagudpud, prepared for another day of long travel. Pit stop at Laoag City, Ilocos Norte's capital, to refuel. Off to Vigan, Ilocos Sur's capital. It's really true that former President Marcos, an Ilocano, built good quality roads in these 2 neighboring provinces. After lunch, short walk at a district with Spanish-era houses; Army troopers are scattered on the streets to guard the promenading members of the caravan. Naks, gwardyado talaga kami.

Off to San Fernando, La Union's provincial capital; afternoon snacks at San Fernando airport, which is part of Poro Point free-port/Special Economic Zone (SEZ) complex, La Union. The head of the freeport gave a short briefing about the complex, the plans and projects being initiated. Nice place.

Drove back, climb Baguio via Marcos highway, though via Naguilian road should have been a much shorter trip. But the road may be too "narrow"for the long caravan. Good news here: the rock-shed tunnel and fly-over in Marcos highway, world-class quality, have been opened to traffic only last January - the road was spotlessly smooth, a-alright to a-drive ah! Ang galing! We reached Baguio about 7pm though. Another buffet dinner - hataw ang pagkain, may lechon baka na naman - at Camp John Hay, "Baguio by the Fire" party with 2 bands, one playing country music, the other pop-ballad. Syempre sayaw din ako pati mga kasama, sila Elma, Joy, our new friends, students from St. Louis University, who also joined the caravan.

Day 5, Feb. 14: Baguio-Pangasinan-Olongapo, Zambales, 350 kms.

We left ahead of the pack because I didn't want a stressful descent of Marcos highway like what we did in descending Ifugao. It allowed the 4 of us in the vehicle to take a relaxing trip downhill, view and discuss the balding mountains of La Trinidad, Baguio and other parts of Benguet to give way to thousands of new houses constructed -- population pressure. We also stopped by Agoo church, La Union, reputedly one of the oldest churches in Luzon.

Traffic in Dagupan City, Pangasinan that day was hellish! I don't know if it happens everyday or because it was a V-day. Well, Pangasinan has the largest population of all provinces in Luzon. Grand program in Lingayen, the provincial capital. Luzon Colleges' drum & bugle corps (dbc), the national champion in last year's dbc competition, was there to entertain us when the pack arrived. Imagine taking lunch on a beach front of Lingayen Gulf, and a band was playing Jennifer Lopez's "Let's get loud" - ayos! Toot-tot-tot, tot-tot-tooooot, tot-to-tot,tot-to-to-to-tooooot... (swinging our heads while eating). Then the female band members dance as the band played "Angelina... be my sigñorina", another round of cheerful applause from us. Pang. Gov. Agbayani gave a short talk.

At a park near the provincial capitol, WWII-vintage tanks, fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns are displayed, with photo exhibit of the landing of Gen. MacArthur in Lingayen, the Fil-Jap war, etc. The trade fair near the tanks showcase the place's known delicacies like bucayo & other souvenir items. From Lingayen, we headed to Lucap, Alaminos, to view the famous "Hundred Islands" (pero pag high tide, "less than hundred islands", hehe).

Short program and snacks at Iba, Zambales' provincial capital, where Gov. Magsaysay also gave a short speech. Off to Olongapo, already dark, we couldn't see lahar deposits in rivers and bridges of Botolan, Cabangan, and nearby municipalities.

Another big cultural night & party with a band in Olongapo, at Ocean View resort hotel. Young teeners, boys and girls, dancing ala-Caribbean style with bamboo torches along the beach. Olongapo mayor Kate Gordon gave a speech. Another buffet dinner, another lechon baka.

Day 6, Feb. 15: Olongapo-Subic-Clark-Manila, around 200 kms.

We toured Olongapo City - clean, no garbage, jeeps color-coded. Then the Olongapo Convention Center - modern, good facilities, big, can accommodate up to 1,700 people. Entered Subic, many employees greeted us with cheers and welcome banners. Ocean Adventure, Subic's latest and biggest showcase, is about 24 kms from the main gate. This smaller version of HK's Ocean Park attracts dozens of buses daily, full of schoolchildren from many schools of Luzon. Entrance fee is P400 for adults, P320 forchildren, more discounts for group tours. Inside, one can watch the sea lion show, whale show (about 15 mins. each show), meet the professionals (the sea lion & whale trainers), an aquarium, learning/lecture room, souvenir shop, restaurants, etc.

SBMA Chairman Payumo gave a speech during lunch. Then off to Clark via Floridablanca and Porac; here we experienced "lahar ride" in Porac's" laharlandia". Manageable even for non-4WDs; one can see some roofs of buried chapels and houses.

Back to Clark, Challenger Field, where we left 5 days ago last Feb. 10. Everyone was ecstatic - they "survived" the 6 days caravan. Well, some unlucky participants didn't complete the journey, like those who have to leave early. Or met accidents (scooters who bumped dogs in the highway; tail-driving van which bumped another participant's pajero in the descent in Dalton Pass on day 1 alone, etc.). Awarding ceremony was modest but jolly: a certificate of completion, a bag + cap + long-sleeve white shirt, all printed with "North Phils. Expedition, Explore 2002", then buffet dinner na naman.

Summary, other observations:

(1) Provinces covered: a total of 12 provinces were covered by the trip, counter-clockwise:
3 in Region 3 (Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Zambales), 3 in Region 2 (Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan), 2 in Cordillera region (Ifugao and Benguet), and 4 in Region 1 (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan).

(2) Roads: generally good. Nearly 3 years ago, in April 1999, me and my friend Mark Agaloos, another classmate in PDE, UPSE, went through this North Phils. tour: about 2,000 kms. in only 4 days, or the 2 of us were driving alternately about 500 kms/day. Our route then was clockwise:
Day 1: Manila-Bulacan-Pampanga-Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union-Ilocos Sur-Bangued, Abra.
Day 2: Bangued + nearby municipalities of Abra
Day 3: Bangued-Ilocos Sur-Ilocos Norte-Cagayan (Gonzaga and Sta. Ana, the country's north-westernmost part; barko na ng Phil. Navy ang dulo ng kalsada)
Day 4: Cagayan (Gonzaga, Tuguegarao, Callao Caves)-Isabela-N. Vizcaya-N.Ecija-Bulacan-Manila.

That time, several roads from Ilocos Norte to Tuguegarao were pathetic; many road cuts that would compel you to make sudden slow down from 80 to 20 kph. Now, except for a few road cuts, Cagayan road system is between good to excellent.

(3) Farm animals: I noticed that farmers in N. Ecija, N. Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan prefer carabaos; you can see many carabaos from the highways. Whereas farmers inIlocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan prefer cows. Do cows thrive better in the breeze of South China Sea and carabaos thrive better in the air of Sierra Madre mountain range and Pacific Ocean? :-)

(4) Crops: Rice fields as far as your eyes can see in Nueva Ecija. Then a mixture of rice and corn plantation in Isabela and Cagayan. There was one portion, I think in Isabela, where there was a very wide cornfield - pinakamalaking maisan na nakita ko. Sana hindi naman corn-y ang mga tao doon, ako lang, ho ho ho. Tobacco, more tobacco, in Ilocos Sur down to La Union. I thought if we want to minimize smoking in this country, cost of tobacco should increase, so, how about a new breed of pests that can destroy the tobacco plantations? he he he.

North Phils., Feb. 2002 (part 1)

These are my accounts of our simple adventure in 2002.
I posted these in pilipinasforum and other egroups, 3rd week of February 2002:

In February 2002, a 6-days travel dubbed "North Philippines Expedition" was organized by the North Phils. Tourism Council, Presidential Assistant for North Luzon, Ford, Castrol, Pagcor, PAF, among others. About 150 cars, vans, pick-ups, SUVs, and scooters participated. One AirForce chopper is on standby for the caravan for emergency airlifts. The night before the caravan, Feb. 9, I went to Clark, Pampanga, for the final registration, vehicle check-up, get documents, etc. Three female friends -- Llana Domingo, her AIM batchmate ('91-93) Elma Laguinia, and Elma's friend Joy Caccam -- would join me the following day in my 5+ years old Mitsubishi L-200 pick-up, definitely among the "oldest" cars in the caravan.

Day 1, Feb. 10, Sunday: Clark-Nueva Ecija-Nueva Vizcaya-Kiangan, Ifugao, 308 kms.

Assembly time was 6am. Llana, Elma and Joy came from Manila around that time too. It was fascinating to see a long line of numbered vehicles and motorbikes; drivers and passengers were excited to see new places, meet new friends. After a short program and final instructions to drivers, we left Clark around 7am. You can see and feel the amazement in the eyes of the people in the towns of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija provinces as they watch and wave to our very long line of cars and motorbikes.

Pit stop in San Jose City; this place is quite big and expansive, the last one city/municipality of Nueva Ecija bordering Nueva Vizcaya. We refueled, treated to a short program, drum & bugle corps number. We can see the lower portion of the bald Caraballo Mountains that separates the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. Soon enuogh, we started climbing Dalton Pass' mountainous & zig-zag road. This road is not as high and winding as the roads going up to Baguio (Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, and Naguilian Road), but some corners can be as tricky and narrow.

Lunch in Bayombong, N.Vizcaya's capital. A short program, an ethnic dance number from students of a local university, speeches by some LGU leaders, was held. Nearby is a photo-exhibit of major tourist attractions of the province. N. Vizcaya police were very efficient in stopping traffic from all directions that might block the caravan path. There were policemen even in small, barangay roads that connect to the highway where we pass by. Hats off to N.Vizcaya PNP!

Then off to Kiangan, Ifugao, about 32 kms. before Banawe. Ifugao is not as high as its neighboring provinces in the Cordilleras like Benguet and Mountain Province. Nevertheless, the road up is winding and some corners are pretty tight and narrow. Dinner was a bland lechon baboy & manok. Grabe, hanap ako ng asin para magkalasa! The province being mountainous and land-locked, people are not used to using salt when they cook. After dinner, an Ifugao Cultural night - colorful Ifugao wedding dance, festival dance, group dancing, speeches by the town mayor and Ifugao provincial Governor.

Ifugao's police and military were also as efficient and visible in greeting us from the boundary of N.Vizcaya up to Kiangan. Some good views of rice terraces in the municipality, though not as splended as Banawe's. The Kiangan campsite was well-secured by the PNP. Plenty of souvenir items to choose as plenty of stalls were set up at the camp site. Cold weather and tired, zzzz...ngorrrkkkkk early.

Day 2, Feb. 11, Monday: Kiangan-N.Vizcaya-Isabela-Peñablanca, Cagayan, 290 kms.

This is where I have experienced for the 1st time, descending at 50-60 kph on zig-zags (Ifugao), because the Ford expeditions, Explorers & new cars were in the front. Also my first time to drive at 110-120 kph on a 2-way flat highway (Isabela) with lots of on-coming tricycles and other vehicles because our group was trailing the main pack, a bit scary. Plenty of people converged and watched the 100+ vehicles in Santiago, a big municipality inIsabela, on our way to Magat Dam. The dam is simply big and fanta-bulous! Lunch at Camp Vizcarra, a riverside resort; good view of clear, strong water current that comes from the dam; there's a hanging bridge too. Two drums and bugle corps serenaded us as we walk down the resort. Buffet lunch with lechon baboy again (not bland this time).

Schoolchildren - ahh, hundreds of them accompanied by their teachers, in each public elementary and high schools that we passed in Isabela and Cagayan provinces, were waving and shouting happily on the roads, as if there was a fiesta! I slowed down, despite obvious signals by the cars behind me (they can't overtake me, my number's ahead of them, hehehe), to greet and wave back at the screaming schoolchildren. Tuguegarao City, Cagayan's capital, seemed to have a sudden and impromptu fiesta. Elementary scholl children were led out of their classrooms by their teachers, waving flaglets, designed either the Phil. flag or triangular flaglets with hearts on them (happy valentines kasi), also screaming and waving happily. Actually, of the 14 provinces that we passed by, Cagayanon children were the warmest. This one will make you proud you're a Filipino - the friendliness of our countrymen.

From Tuguegarao City, we went to Peñablanca, famous for its Callao caves and Pinacanauan river. What used to be rocky riversides were covered with soil and gravel so the hundreds of vehicles could park right beside the river. The locals are of course very happy because hundreds of visitors will be staying in their lodging houses, buying food, drinks & souvenir items, riding their bancas, etc. We rented a banca to mountainside where we could watch tens (or hundreds?) of thousands of bats going out of their caves, at exactly 6pm. For about 3-5 minutes, the bats slightly covered and darkened the sky!

Another buffet dinner, may lechon baboy na naman. Evening cultural show was splendid, courtesy of the Cagayan State University's dance troupe, where a friend, Vic Balatico (my classmate in PDE, UPSE) teaches Pol. Science and Economics. Again, speeches by the municipal mayor andCagayan Governor Lara. Security was overwhelming, combined PNP and Army forces secured us the whole night.

Day 3, Feb. 12, Tuesday: Callao Caves-Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, 290 kms.

Early splash at the Pinacanauan river (think I was the only one who plunged into the waters that morning), then drove back to Tuguegarao, refueled. The public school children in other municipalities were again waiting for us on the roads - waving and cheering; some schools even brought their drum & bugle corps to play while we pass. Caravan speed was a manageable 80 kph; when we pass by public schools with children cheering, the caravan would slow down to 40-60 kph. But I would slow even further, 20 to 40 kph so I and my 3 fellow travellers in the car could wave backto the children and the local folks, and the latter appreciated a lot by cheering and waving even more wildly! The rest of the vehicles behind me have to slowdown too; perhaps I compelled those in cars behind me to open their windows to wave back at the children as the kids kept on yelling. Ha ha ha, sorry na lang sila, pala-kaway kami sa mga tao eh. But then by doing so, I have temporarily cut the rest from the caravan, so I have to speed off again to chase the mainpack. Brooommm, back to 90-100 kph till I reached the next vehicle.

At the last 4 towns of Cagayan bordering Ilocos Norte - Pamplona, SanchezMira, Claveria & Sta. Praxedes - I made this conclusion: the more isolated the place, the friendlier the people. Here, not only school children, but also adults - farmers, vendors, house keepers, etc. - would go out to smile and wave us. Some have plackards, "Mabuhay turistang Pinoy!", "Thank you forvisiting us", "Come, visit us again", etc. These towns are relatively isolated as there are only very few buses plying the Laoag-Tuguegarao route. I remember Ozone Azanza's story when they came here a few years before, the bus they were riding would stop and wait for a passenger (possibly known to the driver) who at the time was still taking a bath!

Crossing the boundary of Ilocos Norte, the scenery changed from rice fields and trees to a wide, clear, blue ocean beyond a cliff... breath-taking, fantabu-lous, majes-tacular, and wonder-zing (he he he) view of South China Sea and northern-most part of Luzon mainland. We're in Pagudpud territory! Descending further, we reached the famous Patapat Cliff, among the country's longest bridges with breath-taking view of the ocean. Not in the plan to have a stop-over, but all vehicles stopped, passengers got out to take pictures. I had one photo where I looked like jumping off the several hundred meters deep cliff, arghh!!

The resorts of Pagudpud, all boasting of about 5 kms. of white sand beach. Pagudpud is also called as the "Boracay of the North". Buffet lunch again. This time, no more lechon baboy, because we had lechon baka na! Rest, swimming in the afternoon, then another buffet dinner. Magsawa ka sa bagnet at iba pang Ilocano delicacies. Beach party with a band, Ilocos Norte Gov. BongbongMarcos gave a short speech. While people were a-dancing and a-singing, our group chose to stay out of the noise and lied down on the beach, watching the stars and exchanging stories and some jokes. When they noticed I was already ngork-ngorrkkking-zzzzzzng, they pulled me up, led me to my room in the hotel.