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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.

 

First Philippine Guitar Festival February 21, 2010

Filed under: Arts,Updates — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 11:18 am
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I heard about the First Philippine Guitar Festival from an e-mail sent to me through my yahoogroups. After reading that the performers will sing haranas and that an international artist will play using a classical guitar, I was already sold.

I was thinking this is a chance for me to introduce a precious and at the same time dying culture of harana to my son. And although, I have a personal bias on classical guitar, I just can’t let this opportunity pass that my son won’t hear what a harana sounds like. I am hoping he picks up how beautiful the Filipino language is especially when it speaks about love.

Undecided which event to go to Steve Lin’s or the Harana boys, I said to myself who am I kidding. The ticket is sold for P200 pesos each. Why do I even have to think which one to go so I bought tickets for both events for my entire family. I invited my friends and other relatives and my friends’ friends. Finally, I was able to buy 14 tickets plus tickets we got for other friends who asked us to buy for them at CCP.

The first show I attended was Steve Lin’s performance. A few of my favorites are Matud Nila (A cebuano song) and El Negrito Angostura. I was so happy to find out that the “El Negrito” can be found in one of Steve’s CD which was being sold during the event. A CD was sold at P500 each. My cousin bought Steve’s other CD wherein he performs with another artist. Amazingly, my son enjoyed the “Yi Dance” and “A Journey Into Desire”. Steve said that those pieces are not easy to listen to but then it invokes imagery when you really pay attention to it and that you will hear unfamiliar sounds that will tickle your mind. True enough everything he said happened to me but maybe it has more dramatic effect for a young 9 year-old mind.

I went to the event thinking that Steve Lin’s performance cannot be topped anymore. On the second day, I attended Harana performed by Florante Aguilar, Michael Dadap and the Harana Boys. The pieces from the two events were not comparable at all. They are both excellent performances but I did not expect to be emotionally moved by the Harana songs. Florante Aguilar and Michael Dadap are masters in their field but when the Harana Boys sang the serenades coupled with the soft music coming from the guitars, ahh the effect to me was just indescribable. I felt that the stage was transformed into fields. I can imagine a young man serenading a beautiful damsel. I remembered my Lola singing to us to while putting us to sleep. I was just brought to tears. My favorite most of all was the song “Maruja”.

Unfortunately, the Harana boys do not have any CDs of their own to sell. So I bought a CD of Florante Aguilar entitled “Harana”. Another reason I bought the CD is because one of the cuts is “Ugoy ng Duyan” which is another masterpiece.

This event became a reunion of family and friends who share a common love for guitars. beautiful music and of course Filipino culture. I cannot wait for what the Guitar Friends will arrange for next year’s Guitar Festival.

Folks I assure you this is one of those good things in life you should not miss.

For events at CCP, you may contact them at their website
http://www.culturalcenter.gov.ph/

 

The Goldilocks 5th Intercollegiate Cake Decorating Challenge February 2010 February 12, 2010

Filed under: Updates — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 4:26 am
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Hi friends!!!

I just bumped into one of Goldilocks upcoming event. You might want to check it out to win a seat to the event.

What exactly are you getting? According to their site, “The Decorate with the Masters will give a rare chance for enthusiasts to get the chance to learn for cake decorating masters, Penk Ching and Heny Sison. 50 lucky people per class will get a 1-hour hands-on training from the country’s best cake decorating experts.”

To register log in to:
http://www.goldilocks.com.ph/icdc/register

 

Bubblewrap VALENTINE RAFFLE PROMO! February 10, 2010

Filed under: Updates — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 3:04 pm
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Dear Girlfriends,

When I saw the croc skin jewelry case in black, I instantly fell in love with it. I just want to figure out how many of those do I need to store my precious. I guess the problem is I just have too many precious.

So to get me started, I decided to join in Bubblewrap’s Valentine’s Raffle promo. Check out their website at http://bubblewrapshirts.multiply.com for details on how you can grab their exciting giveaways this February. Hurry, to join you have until February 11, 2010 midnight to join.

Happy Valentine’s everyone!

 

Your 2010 Reflection January 4, 2010

Filed under: Updates — luckyinspiringanecdotes @ 7:37 am
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“Often we don’t listen to who we’re meant to be because we’re so busy trying to live out someone else’s ideas. But other people and their opinions hold no power in defining our destiny.”

— Oprah

The quote above is from the weekly newsletter of Oprah. I have chosen the entry “Who am I meant to be” as one of the tools to help me make my reflections for the previous year and this new year of the Tiger. This is to help me assess what has happened in the past year and what else is about to come.

To take the quiz, click:
http://www.oprah.com/survey/omagazine/20091001-omag-meant-to-be-quiz

The result of my quiz covered about 90% of what I am as of now. Now you might be asking what is the point of taking this test? I think it is essential that we evaluate ourselves from time to time to check what and where we are in our life. By having a constant check of our goals, then we can track our life’s purpose. But then again, based on the finding I received I am a person who wants to be recognized so maybe my view may be different from yours.

There are several categories to be assessed on. By taking the quiz, you will be given a score for each category. The categories are listed below. After taking the quiz, you can check out the link below to see what is the best job for you.

http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/201001-omag-careers

The different categories are:

Striving to help
Striving to be recognized
Striving to be creative
Striving to be spontaneous
Striving to be knowledgeable
Striving to be secure
Striving to be in control

I hope you enjoy taking the quiz.

Happy New Year!!!