Thursday, April 07, 2011

small notes of a big trip

Traveling can be an excuse to escape the humdrum of anything that you’ve been currently in (unless, of course, you’re lucky and happy on where you’re currently in). But that might be the point of it all. Traveling, local or not, gives us the momentary thrill and newfound sense of familiarity of discovering foreign tastes, places, and people. Or basically the exact opposite of things we relentlessly complain about.

That is why from March 31 to April 3, the usual culprits grab their packed bags and put on their happy-joy-joy smiles, all giddy for the B.I.G. trip (that’s Bacolod-Iloilo-Guimaras for us who love to put a silly spin on our expeditions). But for such a short period of time, especially for three major destinations, we only had little snippets of experiences of the spots visited.

I am not particularly sure with the rest of my peers but the experience altogether is sufficient for the writing project I’ve been brewing on for the last couple of months. Yes, a personal project that involves a lot of traveling and a lot of cashing out, so that makes me half-mature for discipline and half-juvenile for indulgence. And for all the Amazing Race jaunting we had just to cover every inch of every new territory (for some), here is what I have got to say:


It’s still the same, the last time I have visited it eleven months ago, and the first time four years ago. There is a changed degree of busyness in the streets but the blanketing quietude is still there. A companion wondered where all the skyscrapers are. Fact one: despite the absence of tall buildings and towering billboards, Bacolod is one thriving city of cultural and business progression in Negros Occidental. And for me, fact two, the place is all about food. For our budgeted time, we had to settle to Chicken House for their inasal, Café Bob’s for their disturbingly reasonable top-notch coffee drinks, and Calea, of which it never failed in making me a sucker for their cakes and pastries. Hands down it’s one of the best.

After all the food binging, off we went to Talisay City’s The Ruins. Since no amount of sun-dance could bring the fiery sun out of the clouds, we remained thankful that the day did not offer us rain instead. (Fact three: locals shared that we were lucky—days and weeks before we arrived the province was washed in almost-ceaseless downpour, morning until evening). Story of the skeletal grand house replayed in my head but our guide, who was supposed to be enjoying his day-off if not for our timely appearance, is a comedic historian in a positive way. We listened to Roger, who impeccably pronounced his name as ‘Row-Jhur,’ even if I heard it all in the past. Time was running fast, so we purchased our mandatory pasalubong at Bong-Bong’s before rushing on to our next trip.


Though Iloilo supposedly followed in the chronology of our B-I-G Trip, we only got to linger in this city for a couple of minutes, in transit for the moment. But after our stay in Guimaras, we will have Iloilo City all by ourselves for one night and one morning before we all fly back to Manila.

We arrived at Guimaras’s Jordan Wharf in the Municipality of Jordan (it’s not a joke, though they articulate it as ‘hor-dan’) in the early afternoon of April 1. Between our twenty-to-thirty minute ride via multicab to Kenyama Beach Resort, we stopped over at a local dry market to raid boxes upon boxes of the island province’s world-famous mangoes. And here’s one important tip for future visitors: make sure the fruit stall where you’ll be buying your mangoes has a license or permit of something. This way you can assure yourselves of the sweetest carabao mangoes that appeared on the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995.

Not to dampen anyone’s spirits but one has to be as compliant as ever when it comes to accommodations. Some resorts basically had no 24/7 electricity and running water, so ours can be considered luxury at its best. Though the night was always young in Guimaras, seconds moving in turtle pace, we got some shuteye by twelve midnight to visit the white sand beaches in some nearby coves, caves especially one where you can drink water that drips from its stalactites, and the lonely lighthouse that sits on the edge of a cliff. Before six in the evening, we all returned to Jordan Wharf as the sun set, the pier turning gold like the island’s mangoes.


We were back in Iloilo, and I have never seen a province, or a city at that, packed with so much malls and department stores. Imagine, if I am not mistaken, three SM Malls! What is even more interesting to note is that they do not look cramped and crowded like other [over]developed counterparts.

Whether it is due to the looming flight back to Manila or the settling of exhaustion in our bodies, we find that the place seemed to be in a constant rush, people somewhat dressed for a special occasion, with nightlife throbbing at Smallville, a Western Visayas version of Eastwood City, Libis. But no one was complaining. We got to visit one mall for a pair of slippers and a headband, bought another set of pasalubong at Biscocho House, and dined at Ted’s for their piping hot bowl of special batchoy. After a few rounds of drinks at JAQ’s, coffee and buns at KopiRoti (yes, we specifically had to visit this branch in Iloilo), chatter, and more chatter, the grouped returned to Riverside Inn for a much-needed quick nap.

By 6:45 in the morning of April 3, we found ourselves in a plane cabin, all worn out but with smiles on our faces, that rare kind of smile that could only come across in days spent with the right people at the right time. Today’s Thursday, we are back to our office grind.

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