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Whaleshark (Butanding) Interactions at Donsol – A review of Day 1 April 28, 2010

Last April 2010, my husband and I went to Donsol to celebrate our decade anniversary. We booked a flight last February 2010 to Legazpi to reach Donsol. Since it was just about less than 2 months before our expected arrival, we were not able to look for seat sales. The round-trip airfare cost us about 5k for two (excluding the air-fare tax). We planned our stay in line with the butanding festival which runs from April 26 until April 30.

Day 1: We left Manila at 6 am and arrived in Legazpi 10 minutes before 7 am. Before descending, we were surprised to note that you will have a very good view of the Mount Mayon from the plane. Just a trivia, Mount Mayon is one of the best examples of a perfect cone volcano. It is still active and we were told that if you took pictures of it at night, you can still see the recent lava flows on the side of the mountain to be a glowing red. Thus, it is best to get your cameras ready if you want to get a shot of this astounding volcano while in the air and capture the landscape below as well. We were also told that taking a picture of the Mayon is better when done early morning because there is not much clouds blocking the Mayon. We also took pictures of the volcano after stepping down the plane.

At about 7:30: We were the last to leave the airport due to some preparations we have to do and it was a lucky coincidence that we met our driver. He was supposed to pick-up somebody but because this person did not arrrive so nobody will pay for his return trip. Thus, he looked for visitors who are going to Donsol and offered his van for P200 each or about P400 for the two of us. If we opted to commute we will be paying about P230 (50 trike, van 65 x 2, trike 50). So my husband and I decided its already a bargain to pay a few more bucks for our convenience especially we have several bags to carry with our snorkeling gears.

Arriving at our hotel, we readily checked in at Vitton. We were brought to our rooms where we changed to get ready for our Butanding interaction. The Butanding Ecotourism office is just a stone-throw away from Vitton. Again, it’s convenient if you are hoping for less stress to reserve a boat right away, get more zzzz’s and lessen your carbon emissions since you’ll be just walking to and fro places. We heard our hotel is about P500 more expensive than other hotels which I think is a popular notion because everytime we mention our hotel the people’s first reaction was that it was pricey. However, for the fast service and polite and courteous staff around I considered the P500 to be my tip. Still, if we could find a better place which is cheaper and with the same service we will definitely consider it.

By 10:00 we were at the Butanding office where we paid for our registration (P100 for locals and P300 for foreigners). A boat costs P3500 which will accommodate 6 guests, include a BIO, a spotter and another boat man who will help you look for whalesharks in the span of 3 hours. You can reserve a boat and look for people who will join you or you can just leave your registration forms to the friendly attendants and when there are enough people in the boat you guys can pool in your money and pay for the boat. On the first day, we were joined by a French couple and a Dutch backpacker, Tays.

Our BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer) helped us interact with 5 whalesharks. For this trip, the last butanding encounter was the best one because it was the biggest and closest we have seen that day. In comparison, an average sized butanding is about as big as a bus with eyes as big as your closed fists. Butandings will have its characteristic spots and stripes and blue-gray color. Popularly known as the gentle giants, these whalesharks eat planktons and small fish only.

Hungry and extremely tired after 2 and a half hours of looking and swimming after Butandings, we went back at Vitton to grab lunch as it is the closest restaurant to us. The resto is run by Aling Nem’s who is the sister of Dr. Alcantara, owner of Vitton. We ordered half a chicken and a bowl of garlic rice good for 4 people, two bananas and 2 12 ounce of softdrinks. Our bill was about P350. Because the serving is big we had take-out chicken leftovers after our meal. Now full but still very exhausted, my hubby and I changed and slept the rest of the afternoon.

At about 5:30 pm, we woke up to get ready for some firefly encounters. We were told by Annie, manager in Vitton, that we should go to the “tulay” or bridge where there will be boats to take us to the fireflies. A boat will cost P1250 and can accommodate 5 people. We hired a trike to get there (which cost us P100) to bring us to the tulay and back to our hotel. When we arrived there were a group of people already reserving a boat. They were just waiting for two more people to complete a group of 10. We left in two boats and our boatman and tourguide, Manong Earl, brought us to a Talisay Tree which is also known as a Poison Almond Tree. According to Mang Earl, fireflies choose this tree particularly to nest and mate. We left the bridge at about 6 pm and the sun was still up by the time. When we arrived at the site it was already dark. However, thanks or no thanks to the almost full moon that time it wasn’t pitch dark. On your way to the fireflies is already an experience. You can see different birds, hear different animal sounds like gecko’s and bird calls, see bats and there are also locals catching shrimps. We heard that a serving of those fresh seafood will cost you about P10 bucks or not more than 2 dollars and its already dinner. Unfortunately, our tour guide is not familiar how it works and we were not able to partake of how this freshly prepared meal can be delivered to us.

Like I said no thanks to the bright light from the moon, we couldn’t see the fireflies too much. Only when you go under the tree where there is shade that you can really see hundreds if not thousands of fireflies doing their synchronized blinking. They really look like Christmas lights. We were fortunate to have one firefly visit us but to get a picture we would have to use the flash of our camera. This is not advisable because it will scare the fireflies away. Another thing not recommended is to smoke or cook while you are near the trees because it will drive the insects away as well. And fireflies being insects will move away as well unless what you want to visit you are just plain flies.

At about 7:30 we decided to leave the first site. We stopped by two or more trees to get more upclose and personal. However, there is no hope for a picture with lighted fireflies as it was too dark and our boat is not stable to be able to get a good focus of the area. It is one of those experiences you just have to engrave in your memory that in one night of your life you were surrounded by these amazing creatures in an ethereal place where nature sounds and soft breeze covered you.

At about 830 we were back for dinner. My husband and I did not feel so hungry so we just decided to eat our leftover chicken and order a big bowl of garlic rice. The staff at Manang Nem’s kitchen kindly reheated our dinner. For the bowl of garlic rice, 2 12 ounce softdrinks and 2 bananas we spent about P180. While dining, our friends from WWF visited. They informed us that there are about 129 photo-id’d whalesharks this season which is smaller than the 160+ sharks last season. They are worried that the intense commercialization of the place might drive the butandings away. Hence, their information campaign are still ongoing. I really hope that for the sake of these gentle giants there are more efforts to protect these amazing creatures. I will tell you more about it when I write our Day 2 experience.

We spent the night eating our simple dinner and after that my husband decided to look for ghost crabs. Being a marine biologist, he is really the expert on a lot of sea creatures. He had fun throwing them bits of rice and banana peels. Apparently crabs, don’t like garlic and preferred the sweet banana. There is no internet or television in the area. Not that the hotel does not want to provide it but because there is no cell sites or signal for Internet and cable television. You can opt to stay at the Morena bar for some drinks before you retire and just chat with your friends or better yet find new friends if you are still not sleepy. As for us, we have an early day tomorrow for our last butanding interaction for this trip so we decided to get some zzzz’s early.

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Hotel H2O – A review

Filed under: Updates — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 3:42 am
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I recently stayed overnight at one of the newest and poshest hotels in Manila this month of April 2010. During my stay, it happened that several rooms were also reserved for the ongoing Miss Earth 2010. Luckily, a room became available. There are two options when choosing your room: one has a view of the Manila bay where you can have picturesque sunsets and sunrises or you can be staying in a room with an aquarium as one of its walls. I was provided the latter for my stay.

Upon entering the room, I was impressed with the aquarium. Living with my husband who is a full-time aquarist, I appreciate the effort it took to put up something like that without making it look so plastic. For such a vast and wide aquarium, it is impractical and environmentally-cruel to use real corals. Hence, all you can use are artificial corals. Still I liked it and enjoyed the set-up and colors of the artificial corals. There are several fish of different sizes, shapes and colors. The effect of the aquarium is so serene and relaxing that I readily laid on my bed and snoozed a couple of minutes.

I find the aquarium extremely helpful especially at night when I woke up and find it hard to sleep again. I just looked at the aquariums and I find myself getting sleepy again. There is something really relaxing about aquariums which made my stay there marvelous.

On the other hand, there are still some things that would need improvement in the future:

a. the light switches do not indicate which side turns on or off the lights
b. there is no phone number to indicate how to contact the operator
c. there are no flyers to inform the guests what can they do inside the oceanarium, where can they eat, what events are ongoing
d. the air conditioning is noisy (such a contrast to the serene aquarium to hear a somewhat snoring sound at the background)
e. The hot shower doesn’t work that well. I cannot seem to adjust the temperature anyway I turn the knob which resulted to cold showers.
f. there are aquarium cleaners early in the morning (it might surprise you to see that there is a white long rod wiping your wall out from nowhere but don’t worry it appears you cannot be seen from your room but you will definitely see the white rod. You can opt to close the curtains if you are distracted by it)
g. Maintenance staff checking if the curtains are working an hour before you check-out (why can’t they do it after you check-out so as not to invade your privacy)

There are definitely other things I enjoyed about my stay. The first one is the very comfortable bed and pillows that will surely put some zzzz’s in your stay. The big mirror which gives the illusion that the room is spacious. I also like that the food and drinks in the room are inclusive in your stay. The toiletries provided are also decent. I especially liked the soap bar which reminds me of ocean smell. I am not very fond of the body liquid gel because it was too thick and slippery which reminds me of detergent. Oh and I love the thick and soft robes which was especially helpful after the cold showers. The big flatscreen television was also a welcomed treat. I wish there were provisions to order food in the room because it would have been a great chance to have those very long breakfast in your rooms just lounging and doing nothing. However, I was told that it is not available yet. Still, no worries there are several restaurants available in Manila Ocean Park, including my all-time favorite, Makansutra.

To experience sleeping with a great view of the ocean will cost you about 6k+ and it is inclusive of the food and drinks in your room. I can say that it is not just an ordinary stay in a hotel but an experience as well. Thus, staying here is like getting two treats for the price of one.

For bookings you may call, 2386100 and 2386188.

 

Nestle FAB: How to get the FIGURE you’ve ALWAYS wanted

A surprising gift from the mail arrived care of Nestle. I received a box of their Nestle Fitnesse cereal with a challenge of showing off the shape that you want in 14 days. Honestly, I have noticed that I have gained some pounds especially after I took Lifepak from Nu Skin. Before that, I can eat so much and not even gain a pound but after taking those vitamins I have been gaining a steady increase in pounds but that is another story. So to make sure I curb this weight gain, I told myself to try out this 14 day-challenge. This blog will chronicle my experience so everything I express here will be my own opinion and does not mean that will apply to everybody.

Day 1: 1 bowl of cereal (about 30 grams); 125 glass of Anlene milk; one slice of mango
Got hungry about 10:30 and ate a mango bar; a glass of pineapple juice and 2 slices of mangoes
Lunch: Fish, salad, juice
Dinner: soup, salad, a piece of chicken, half cup of rice
Exercise: Swimming for an hour

Day 2: Failed because I ate breakfast with garlic rice, sardines and freshly squeezed juice I made from Matstone.

Anyway, this was my first attempt to follow the 14-day challenge. I plan to get back sometime soon but I have to do something about those in between cravings. My concern is if I try to ignore the cravings by lunch time I will be so hungry which will make me eat more. However, how do I know if I was just eating enough just to satisfy the cravings. I am a junk food junkie some times hehehehe.

Well, see you in my second attempt to take Nestle’s challenge and hopefully I stay on the program for more than one day.

 

Street Fuzion X:Deceade Vision Dance March 12, 2010 April 10, 2010

Filed under: Arts,Uncategorized — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 11:15 pm
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I saw the poster of Street Fuzion 10 at the University of the Philippines, College of Education. Immediately I know that it will be a good source of inspiration for my son when he tries dance workshops this summer.

We reserved two P200 tickets through text message and picked it up on the day of the event. The tickets were being sold at P100 and P200. On the day itself, we arrived 30 minutes before the show to find already a winding snake of a line. After a few turns and corners we were able to find the end and waited for another hour or so before the doors of the theater opened. The show started 30 minutes late and my 9 year old has been asking me like donkey when is the show about to start. He entertained himself by running around in the field.

Nuggets: Bring something light to eat like a snack and drinks while waiting in line or you can buy from the roaming “kuyas” chips and ice-cold drinks.

This dance is presented by the UP Streetdance club together with The Crew, UP Streetdance Alumni and many more.

Finally we were able to get seats. We sat on the second row right facing the stage. The area, although not idea for your neck, was passable since my son and I want to see the action upclose. The show started with a performance from a solo artist and a DJ. After about 15 minutes of his rap, then came 10 different dances. I am no dance expert but from a layman’s point of view I can understand why its called Fuzion Dance. Some of the moves I can identify are: jazz, pop, ballet, ballroom, breakdance and street.

There were different kinds of moves that were presented as well. Overall I can say the performance was entertaining. It has its highs and lows. There are some parts that were dragging. I measure it by the amount of enthusiasm and attention my son gives. There were also some parts that made him sleep but there were other numbers that made him dance on his seat.

Nugget: You can use a camera to take pictures but please remove the flash. If you have a high-speed camera that will be really great. I have loads of “would have been an amazing photo” but it was blurry and unrecognizable because the subjects were moving.

After the performances, two of the hosts started a stand-up comedy where one of them impersonated “Krissy”. This was the most entertaining part of the show for me. I honestly think the tandem was appropriate and that the references to their sponsors were witty and hilarious. It was a good break from the performances. Luckily, I even won a Maldita GC for trying to give an answer. Anyway, thanks for not embarrassing me.

We weren’t able to finish the show since its past 10 pm already and we were just in the intermission. Just like the other shows I have attended in UP, sometimes the reason for the late ending is because of the late start as well. However, they really make it up for the level of performance.

If I were to grade this show based on UP-standards. I’d give it a “2” grade.

Till next year!

 

Review of Estee Lauder’s Event Rustan’s Makati March 27, 2010

Filed under: Beauty — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I’d like to keep this review simple and straight by listing the things I like, the things I think the staff can improve on and the things I appreciate a lot.

I have not encountered a blogger who wrote a negative feedback for events they have been invited to here in the Philippines. Maybe because of our Pinoy attitude which is to be eternally grateful (also known as utang na loob) and the art of “pakikisama”.

So when I went to this event, I was prepared to be an objective writer by reminiscing the points my editor and adviser in our HS paper advised me on how to write a feature article.

However, I just don’t want to write a narrative. Instead I have prepared some bullets on my observations for this event:

What I like:
a. The Estee Lauder station is near the entrance which makes it easy to locate.
b. The guards are well informed that there is an on-going event and they even plugged it when I asked for the directions to go to the Estee Lauder station.
c. The staff are friendly.
d. Everyone who dropped by the station was welcomed to join.

What I think they can improve on:
a. More details on what the event is for – is it a promotional event; is it an ongoing “sale” event or something else. I went there thinking there will be lots of people and that there will be beauty advisers I can readily ask about my personal needs. Unfortunately, it was different from what I expected. When I arrived, there were ladies selling the package and I became worried thinking I cannot leave without buying anything. Luckily, it wasn’t like that at all and good thing I did not rely on my first impression.

b. Give more information on what are the activities available during the event. I was prepped first for a make-up but upon hearing my seatmate’s conversation with an Estee Lauder representative I became curious with the advance skin profiling system. Thus, I asked the lady who was starting to put make-up on me if I can still have my profile after the “make-over”. Apparently, the profiling requires a clean face so I had to wait for at least ten minutes for the other lady to finish with her profile before I got mine eventhough I was at the skin profiling station 20 minutes before she arrived. Since there were only two ladies attending the make-up and profiling, they asked me to wait at the profile station. When the make-up lady was finished they called me and while she was preparing her stuff that’s the time the lady from the profiling became available and entertained the visitor who arrived later than I did.

c. I hope Estee Lauder appreciates my opinion but I think it will be greatly appreciated if they establish customer rapport and open communication before selling an item. I mean get to know your customers and their needs and show genuine interest. I was sitting there for more than ten minutes while waiting to get my skin profile but nobody was really talking to me. I don’t know why is that but there were several Estee Lauder ladies who seem to be really friendly as they happily chatted with each other. I started talking to the lady who was supposed to do my make-up but then she had to leave me for a personal reason and then that was it. I was asked once or twice what I was waiting for and I replied. Afterwhich, I was left alone.

Things I appreciate a lot:
One of the Estee Lauder representative’s stood out from the rest. She showed concern by explaining my skin profile without making me feel rushed or obliged to buy. After ushering me to have my make-up done with one of the staff, she continued to check up on me. She even gave me a free sample foundation. The brand was not CyberWhite Ex as stated in the invitation sent by StyleBible but it was the thought that counts.

For me getting to meet this person and the information she told me about the Estee Lauder skin products was the highlight of this event. I am really considering to switch from my loyal brand to try the Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher. I was really fascinated with the amazing instant result I received. Apparently, the Idealist when used day and night can help remove those stubborn dead skin cells showing off your natural glow. We spent about five minutes scrubbing my face gently as I remove a thin film of dead skin cells off my face. I looked extra glamorous after that treatment.

Finally a picture of me with my glamorous look was taken by Mr. Richard Ong. I came to know this because I checked Stylebible’s page and I saw my picture at http://www.stylebible.ph/gallery.php?id=1524&p=9. Thank you Stylebible for choosing my picture. I am really flattered.

So that’s the end of my posh event with Estee Lauder. I hope to attend more events like this from them. I really didn’t think Estee Lauder had really amazing skin products and I always connected them with make-up. It was a very informative event and for that I am very grateful.