Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oriental Mindoro to Caticlan, Aklan

We left White Beach, Puerto Galera (PG), last December 22, Tricycle ride to PG town proper is P150 per trip. Jeeps and air-con vans going to Calapan, the provincial capital of Oriental Mindoro, share the same terminal. Fare to Calapan is P80 for jeeps, P100 per head for aircon vans, P80 for seated children. 

From PG to Calapan is a scenic ride, lots of zigzag and rolling hills, the sea on the left and forested mountains on the right. Good road too, ideal for road bike riding. At Baco  town, roads become flat and generally straight. Travel time of the van is about 1+ hour.

Calapan is bursting with many tricycles, cars and structures. Our van from PG stopped at a terminal near the public market. Aircon vans going to Roxas and other towns south of the province are also in the same terminal.

Fare for aircon vans from Calapan to Roxas port is P180/head, 3 hours travel time. This is the port going to Caticlan, Aklan, near Boracay island.

We reached Roxas port before 5pm, December 22. There were so many passengers, buses, cars and trucks waiting for a ride to Caticlan. There are three shipping lines plying the Roxas-Caticlan route, Montenegro, Star Lite and Super Shuttle. 

It was very difficult to get a ticket as the ticket offices of Montenegro and Starlite were already swarmed with people, queuing perhaps as early as 2 pm, or even earlier. They don't issue tickets until about 6pm. Super Shuttle has a sign in its office that it is fully booked already for the trip that night.

Montenegro's boat is supposed to leave Roxas around 8pm, the boat arrived before 7pm. The ticket office opened before 6pm, I joined the fray. Lots of pushing but no fights, some shouts, some laughter, some expression of disgust and disappointment. I persisted and stayed. Just when I was in front of the lady giving the tickets, around 7pm, she closed the window and entertained the bus conductors, each bus would have 50+ passengers, so the counting  of tickets and  money was time consuming.

After she gave tickets to  the bus conductors, about 8-10 of them, she kept the window closed. I showed the ID of my 4 yrs old daughter Bien hoping that she would open the window and give me tickets, she did not. Other passengers were getting angry because she and other staff of Montenegro inside were not responding if they would still issue more tickets or not. I kept calm and did not utter bad words. Until we have boarded a boat, I would not say bad words towards them despite my anger and disappointment. I left the ticket office before 8pm, yes, almost 2 hours standing and pushing, and have no ticket yet.

I talked to the port guard and asked for the name/s of any high official of Montenegro in the area. The guard gave me his name, I looked for him, I went back to the ticket office, but I went to the back door. The door opened, I entered and I saw the lady issuing the tickets, she just finished her dinner. I talked to  her and begged that I have two girls with me, 4 and 8 years old. She immediately recognized me and  said yes, then I gave her the money. I waited outside, after a few minutes she went out and gave me four tickets, 2 for adults and 2 for children. I was very happy and  gave her a tip; she refused to take it but I pushed it in  her hand, she laughed and  said thank you.

Whew, it was really good that I did not say bad words towards her or other staff of the boat earlier despite my anger and disappointment. Patience and good human relations pays.

The Montenegro boat scheduled to leave 8pm finally left before 10pm. Only the passengers of buses, cars and some trucks were allowed to board. I learned later that some of those buses have been there by 6am, 4am, or even earlier.

Another boat came around 10:30pm. By 11:30pm, we boarded it. People were rushing and walking fast, hoping to get good seats as it is a free seating boat. We got good seats, with a long table. The boat finally left Roxas port around 2am. Some buses and their passengers also came. The passengers said their bus from Manila going to Iloilo arrived Roxas port around 6am of December 22, and the boat left Or. Mindoro 2am of December 23, wow.

It was a good ride, some big waves were encountered but it's a big boat so we were fine. Our boat arrived Caticlan port shortly before 7am. The two girls were still sleeping, they slept almost 2am, playing and talking inside the boat.

Finally we were in Panay island (composed of  four provinces -- Aklan, Capiz, Antique and  Iloilo). Then we went to the ticket office for a short boat ride to Boracay, our 2nd destination.

The last time I took the bus-RORO ride from Manila to Iloilo was about five years ago. I traveled alone as it was also a Christmas season, my wife and lone daughter that time, Elle Marie, went home to Iloilo earlier on a plane.

There is a boat plying the Batangas-Caticlan route (hence, no more land trip in Mindoro island), 2GO (, about 8-9 hours travel time.

The three shipping lines plying the Roxas-Caticlan route (4 hours) are:

Montenegro Shipping Lines, 4 AM, 10 AM and 8 PM
Tel. Nos. (043) 722-18-73,  043-723-89-89, 723-89-89

Starlite Ferries, Inc.  2 AM, 11 AM and 2 PM
Tel. (043) 722-01-62

Super Shuttle Ferry (AMTC), 12am and 12pm
Tel. 6219519, 6210519, 6431507

See also:
Manila-Mindoro-Iloilo, 2003, November 20, 2005
Going to Boracay, January 16, 2008
Roxas Port, Oriental Mindoro, April 17, 2009

White Beach, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro

Last December 21, more than a week ago, my family (me, wife, two girls) took a bus and went to Puerto Galera, among the famous white beach resorts in the Philippines. Here are  some pointers going there by bus. First three photos are from the web, not from my camera phone.

1. We took Ceres aircon bus at LRT Buendia station in Makati. Fare is P157 per head, students with discount P125/head. The bus stops at Batangas pier about two hours travel, passing by three expressways (SLEX, SLEX extension, and STAR). 

2. Boat fare, Batangas to White Beach is P275/head, students P200. Children (maybe below 6 yo) free. Terminal fee about P40/head. It's a big boat with outrigger, can seat perhaps 100 people. Travel time today was around 1:20 hour.

3. Boat stops at Muelle, near the Puerto Galera town proper. There are air-con vans to take passengers to White beach, free, part of the fare. About 15 minutes ride. Sometimes the boat goes to White Beach after unloading passengers at Muelle, but I think this is seldom done.

4. The provincial government of Oriental Mindoro charges P50/head environmental fee for tourists/visitors; locals are free. Children visitors below 12 yrs old are also free.

We have no reservation in any hotel in Puerto Galera. Our plan was to walk around and see various resorts to compare prices and facilities. But at the Departure lounge of Batangas Pier, a lady from Sea Jewel beach resort befriended us, said that their hotel is nice. two beds room to accommodate 4 people is P2,500 but she can give it to us for only P2,000. I haggled for a bigger discount, we settled at P1,800. I paid right there, got the receipt. When we got off the van right in front of the resort, a staff was already waiting for us with a plackard of my name.

Nice room, but no swimming pool, no breakfast. The beach resort is about 250 meters away.

These are the neighboring resort hotels of Sea Jewel, much bigger.

Another resort hotel on the other side.

White Beach, PG. Thickly forested hills and mountains at the background. The island and its two  provinces (Mindoro Oriental and Occidental) generally have thick  forest cover.

It does not appear to be attracting many visitors. Maybe it will be full between Christmas and New Year, or during the hot months. Besides, there are other resorts in other parts of Puerto Galera, like Sabang.

The resort hotels and their restaurants at the ground floor. There are few beach front hotels there. Restaurants, bars and shops mostly occupy the beach front. So there are many places to eat and hang around there.

Elle Marie doing her favorite activity when visiting a beach resort -- building a sand castle.

We stayed only one night in PG, then moved to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, to catch a boat going to Caticlan and Boracay. Tricycle ride from White beach to PG town proper is P150 per trip. 

See also:
Batangas Port, April 17, 2009
Christmas 2014, December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Dear friends and readers of this blog,

Merry Christmas. The holiday season is a good time to relax, step back from our normal busy schedules and have reunion with our families and clans, friends and former schoolmates and officemates, meeting new friends,

On my part, my family took a bus/roll on roll off (RORO) trip to several islands of the country and the two girls enjoyed two great beaches so far.

Last Sunday, we went to White Beach, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro province. This used to be a very famous destination for those who want white sand  beach. But I think people now have more choices to visit, thanks to budget airlines, more comfortable vehicles and buses. In short, P.Galera does not appear to be so attractive to many people now in Metro  Manila  and surrounding areas. Nonetheless, the two girls enjoyed the place.

Then we went to Roxas, the southern municipality of Oriental Mindoro (P. Galera is on the north) to take the boat to Caticlan, Aklan province, so we can go to Boracay.

We took this boat from Roxas to Caticlan, about 4 1/2 hours. We boarded  the  boat around 11:30 pm, it finally left Roxas port around 2:05am. It was full  of passengers, buses, trucks and cars. Safe trip. It was also the first big boat ride of our two girls.

We checked in early at La Carmela hotel in Boracay, it's good there  was a vacant room as there were many people in the island-beach.

Lunch at Astoria Boracay. They have a promo, they were selling a club membership package, they gave free buffet lunch before the seminar. Nice food,  nice hotel.

Only one night and we travelled to Iloilo, to my wife's family.

It was a tiring but good trip.
Dec. 21, we slept at Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.
Dec. 22, we slept at a boat, moving from  Mindoro to Panay islands.
Dec. 23, we were in Boracay, Aklan, and
Dec. 24, we were in Iloilo City, Iloilo province.

Memorable trip.

Once again, Merry Christmas friends.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Terraces in the Farm

Building new stone terraces or expanding the existing ones is my hobby when I go to the farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan. It's called the Millora farm, an agro-forestry project. Below, terraces near my treehouse, photos taken March 2014.

Below, photos taken last July 2014. This area is also near my treehouse.

Here, photos taken in August 2014.

Below, photos taken last October. Before and after clearing the grasses, raising the height of the terrace.

Another before and after shots, taken only last month.


See also:

Trees in our Farm, Bugallon, Pangasinan, September 07, 2012

Trees in Our Farm, Part 2, February 16, 2013

My Treehouse in the Farm, Bugallon, Pangasinan, April 11, 2014

Bien and her Best Friend Allyson

Bien Mary has moved to her new school, The School for Academics and Arts (TSAA) last November, from her  old school, Kids Playlab Preschool (KPLP), both are not far from our apartment. At KPLP, Bien has her favorite and  best friend, Allyson Villanueva. Below, with Teacher Kayla and Allyson, at one of the special events of the school, September 2014.

Below, Allyson, Julia and Bien; lower photo, with Issa and Allyson, sometime in March 2014.

When Bien moved to her new school, she resisted in  the first few days, she wanted to go to her old school because Allyson is there. When I talked to some  KPLP staff and Joyce, Allyson's mom, they said that Allyson was sad that Bien is no longer in their school, and would look for Bien from time to time.

Last November 23, 2014, Allyson held her 4th birthday party at KPLP.  Teacher Kayla and Joyce informed me and my wife about it days before. Bien would surprise Allyson with her presence. My wife bought a gift for her and the night before, Bien was very excited to give a gift to  her best friend the  next day.

On her birthday, while the kids were already eating their favorite Jollibee meal, Bien came with her gift. They were both excited and shy -- look at their eyes below. Seems they could not believe that they are seeing each  other again, hahaha. Then Bien sat beside her for the meal, see again their eyes :-)

I left Bien at the party. When it was dismissal time, Allyson's two grandmothers and Joyce told me that Allyson was a bit shy in her party. When Bien came, things turned around 180 degrees, she became jolly, happy and excited. Until the party ended.

Outside the school, Bien and Allyson  did what they were doing after class -- running outside and playing around. They can run for 15 minutes or more, until we have to  leave and I needed to pick up Elle at the other school.

The two girls need to see each other again.

See also:Bien Mary's Moving up Day, April 05, 2014

Elle and Bien at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, June 29, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Agriculture Seminar in Sweden, 2003

On September to mid-October 2003, I participated in an international training seminar, "Sustainable Agriculture in an Environmental Perspective" sponsored by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). I was one of about 23 participants from about 16 countries.

Among the things that awed me in Sweden agriculture (or European agri in general), was the use of huge machineries. They have wide lands but small population and wages are very high. It is more economical to use lots of machines than people in the various phases of farm preparation, crops planting, monitoring, harvesting and hauling.

Like this huge truck, I think it is a harvester and drier at the same time. We visited a farm with about 2,200 hectares of land planted to various crops, mostly wheat and potato, and they have only about 18 workers. Even the farm owner drives one of the tractors or other heavy machineries.

Tne farmers there hardly touch the soil, the machines and tractors are reliable workers for them.

A huge tractor pulling a seed planter. Computers equally distribute the seeds dropped or planted by this red container at the back. With Trung Nguyen from Vietnam and Peter Kiyonga from Uganda.

There are also "moonlight farmers" or part-time farmers. These are people who have regular office work at day time, and they do farming when they come home, say from 6-10pm during summer. A part time farmer can be tilling around 30 hectares on average.

A tractor from a part time farmer. Usually each part time farmer has one house, one big warehouse where the harvests, some small tractors, are housed. Here with Tony Cudjoe from Ghana.

We also have few tours aside from farm visits. Below from left, standing: An (Vietnam), Orasa (Thailand), Emile (Burundi), Ani (Indonesia), Inger Ahman, seminar director (Sweden), Dorothy (Uganda), from Sri Lanka (forgot her name), Josie (also from the Philippines), Hugo (Venezuela), Nahid (Morocco), Gunasinghe (Sri Lanka). Also sitting was Jhansi (India).

One of the beautiful gardens that we visited.

Please disregard the date in the pictures. It's not 1987 but 2003. I don't remember whose camera was used in these photos.


See also:

Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Oct. 2003, November 21, 2005

Bavarian Mountain, Germany, March 07, 2012

Beil Family, Miesbach, Germany, December 25, 2012

Gummersbach, Germany, Part 2, October 13, 2013

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Link's Fresh Market, Hong Kong

Fresh food is among the foundations of good health of the people. The more fresh the food, the more nutritious it is. And it's good if fresh food is also more affordable to more people.

Last week, on our last day (November 08) in Hong Kong after attending the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference, November 6-7, 2014, a friend Simon Lee, organized a "fresh market tour" for interested EFN conference participants. It was a short, 1 1/2 hour tour.

Simon and his two staff, Lisa and Paul, brought us to Lok Fu fresh market in Kowloon.

It was not a supermarket inside a big mall. Rather, just an open space on the ground floor of a ahigh-rise HK government housing. As these two pictures show, the vegetables are fresh, they did not look like they came from a freezer, unsold items the previous day/s.

Upon arriving at the site, Simon turned over the briefing to  Myron, a sharp, articulate, bright man who is an officer of The Link, the owner and administrator of the Luk Fo fresh market.

Below, our team. Simon Lee standing on left most, Myron is 3rd from right, with a portable microphone. More should have joined but our departure from the hotel was delayed by almost one hour because the bus that would pick us from our hotel somehow went to another location.

Myron quickly started the briefing. His English is good and fluent. The place is very clean. No foul smell whatsoever, something that is familiar in public markets, non-mall supermarkets in the Philippines

This shop of dried food is cool. Neat and clean and only one person manages the whole store.

The fresh seafood  section. The floor is not wet, no mud or scattered fish body parts.
Crabs, seashells, other crustaceans. Some of those sea creatures I don't see in Philippine seafood markets. I would assume that some of these products are grown via aquaculture and not caught in the open sea.

Wow, those huge sea cucumber-looking creatures, I don't know their name. Although I am from a coastal city of Negros island in the Philippines and fishing is the main industry there, I don't see these products, nor in Manila's seafood markets.

This is cool. I don't know what it is though.

More live crabs and lobsters.

Prawns, shrimps, seashells, cool.

Karthik Chandra from India, a fellow conference participant, was also amazed at the sights of fresh seafood that greeted us that day.
Another friend, Lorenzo Montanari from the Americans for Tax Reforms (ATR) in Washington DC seemed awed by the variety of these live sea creatures sold at affordable prices.

Then we sat on this simple row of tables where Myron gave more discussions, and we asked more questions. Some food samples, tea and red wine were also served us. Yummy and  nice.

Then Myron bid ba-bye and Simon took over and continued the mini-lecture. Then we went to a nearby shopping mall, also owned by The Link. Then we headed back to the hotel in HK island.

Thanks again for that short but great tour, Simon, Lisa and Paul.

Thanks also to The Link's friendly staff, Myron, Kevin and Acky. Nick Sallnow-Smith, The Link Chairman, knows well how to choose his own people.

* See also a public market in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Harbour Grand Hong Kong, Part 3

This is my second stay in this hotel. Last year, I stayed here for two days during a Reading Club Salon 2013  sponsored by the Lion Rock Institute (LRI). This year, I will stay here for 6D/5N starting today. I will attend three different seminars/conference, tomorrow until Friday, same hotel.

My room, nice and big. I should stay in an ordinary room for one person but my family will join me tomorrow. 

My working table on the right is long, nice. I must read two hard-copy books plus several reports and an e-book, related to the two seminar-worskhop in the next two days.

The bathroom with glass divider. I like this set up.

Seen from my room in the 15th floor. The IFC and other buildings on HK island, and Victoria Harbour. It was cloudy when I arrived today. When our plane landed at HK airport past 10am, the pilot said outside temperature was 21 C. Cold compared to Manila of course. It should be around 28-29 C in Manila around that time.

The swimming pool on the 3rd floor, seen from my room.

Last year, this was my room. Huge bed and a lean work table.

Ok, back to work. Have many papers to read and blog later.

See also:

Harbour Grand Hong Kong, October 18, 2013