Thursday, May 28, 2015

Puerto Princesa

We arrived in Puerto Princesa the 27th of March, 2015 from Manila. Puerto Princesa has not changed very much since the last time we were there in 2008.  Although tricycles have been replaced by motorcycles instead of the leg pedalling, and now it can boast of big supermarkets,  the wet market, and many other buildings remained the same if not even worse.

Mel chose Charing's place, first of all because it reminded her of Tia Charing and more so because it is very well located in the center of Puerto Princesa and it is fully equipped with the basic needs like aircon, hot water and television, with two beds, a very good choice. A service van from the hotel was ready to pick us up from the airport as soon as we arrived, although tricycles can also take you to the airport.

After having settled in our room,  we went around towards the bay. We saw several interesting things.


We went around the bay, which as we came close to the waters gave away a stinky algae smell.  But this did not dissuade us from taking pictures.

There were street vendors with fresh fish, meat and vegetables ready to be cooked.  Mel ate a fresh Lapu-lapu in sweet and sour sauce newly cooked and pinakbet while I had roast chicken.  All for less than 500 pesos including two bottles of beer and soda, and in the bayfront.  That was really nice. We had more than enough so we gave away the rest to a boy that was begging for alms around the tables. We slept very well that night.

On  April 6, 2015, we had to go back to Puerto Princesa  to stay overnight  before we got back to Manila and we took the opportunity to see what we missed when we were there the first time we came before we left for Port Barton.  We went around the old town.

We saw the Immaculate Conception Cathedral while we gratefully coincided with some birds flying over the altar.  I thought that was very unusual. Capiz shells are used to light the cathedral and wide doors open up to the side streets as well as to the main street. we were already headed again to Puerto Princesa before leaving for Manila. 


A moving van with all sorts of snacks and other items for sale, gets its spot before the cathedral.

Curiously, this hotel is constructed to look like a ship.

We saw a store that sold  Halo halo (a mixture of several jellied fruits), which was so inviting on a hot day like it was that day. The waiting was worth it because it was the most delicious Halo halo that I ever had in the Philippines and for only 35 pesos special with leche flan (The Filipino version of crème caramel), which at the end we have not tried since it dropped accidentally on the floor.

In the meantime that we were waiting for the ice to melt, I took some pictures of Mel and with the permission of the store Mel was allowed to enter the kitchen and pose by the door.

I decided to bring my Halo halo and eat it on the way.  But I could not walk and eat at the same time so we hailed a tricycle to take us to the supermarket.  But there were so many bumps on the road and the driver was going too fast, I could not eat my Halo halo.  I ended up giving it to the driver, which he did not hesitate to accept gladly. There are security controls before entering supermarkets and they inspect your bags and other carry ons... but this is customary in all of the supermarkets.

Finally, we took off to the airport after checking out from our hotel.  Curiously, there is an assigned separate line for male and female groups.  There was a flight delay, so we had time to take pictures in the airport.

We had a light lunch and then said goodbye to Puerto Princesa, but not with a heavy heart.  Puerto Princesa is not a place that will be missed.  But it is a jumping point to the islands so that someday, we have to go there again...  Manila this time was waiting for us to come back and stay for a couple of days before we finally ended our trip to the Philippines.

Trip to San Vicente in Palawan

Mel and I  took the boat to visit San Vicente, which presumably has 14 kilometers of unspoiled powdery sand with nothing but the vast expanse of the West Philippine Sea and endless rows of lush forest and old coconut trees on both sides.  We wanted to visit Long Beach, which as we heard is going to be the new Boracay in the near future.  The boatman accompanied Mel and myself to get a tricycle to have us dropped by Ursula Beach.

We did not see any tourist at all while we were in this beach and we were gifted with the solemnity and the quiet silence which are so unusual to find in any beach.  We explored the beach area which except for a fisherman and us, was completely deserted.

We were glad to see several recycled materials decorating the trunks of the trees and elsewhere. This is what San Vicente looks like.

By the beach, there is a flea market which they call "bargain stores", where they sell all sorts of things.

This house bears a sign  that says:  Ihi (To pee) 2 pesos, Dumi  (To pooh) 5 pesos and Ligo (Shower) 15 pesos!

A cockderby is hereby being announced!

We did not stay long and in about an hour we were happy to go sailing again to another island.  San Vicente did not have much to offer, although we bought some fresh tuna fish for the boatman to cook over a charcoal fire.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Life in Port Barton, Part II Island Hopping

While in Port Barton, we maintained a daily routine.  By 8:30 am, we were already prepared to go on an island hopping trip which except for one day, we had the whole boat with our personalized itineraries as to where to go and how long we wanted to stay which ordinarily was from 9 am to 4 pm, but for us it lasted until almost 6 pm or even later.

Almost everyday, we had been island hopping and, occasionally, we came up into a lonely island where we enjoyed exclusively its fantastic views, cooking and sitting facilities.  This is the tourist office from where we used to take our exit to the boat,  just a few minutes away from our cottage.

Every beach has its own wonder and I took delight in taking pictures.

Here are several islands that we visited and if I remember correctly the names of the islands...

Luli Island, its name is derived from the words "lulubog, lilitaw" meaning that its existence depends on the tides, so there are times when you can see it and at times when it becomes hidden from view.


Cowrie Island 

The tour offered a buffet lunch, or  the boatman  prepared a barbecue lunch consisting of fish or meat (or both depending on choice), fresh veggie salad,  fruits and rice.

Paradise Island

German Island


White Cove

Palawan Camping

White Beach

Island with no name - In a nearby island in Port Barton, there is one beautiful island without any name.  Mel gave her name to it.  I think it is one of the prettiest islands...  I love its rocky formation, the powdery sand, the clearness of the waters and the quiet surroundings all for our delight.  We had our lunch here and it was a perfect scene.  While Mel went snorkeling, the boatman and his children cooking lunch, I was taking pictures everywhere...




We went island hopping primarily for Mel to go snorkeling and for me to take pictures not only of the lovely sceneries but also of the giant reefs and corals from the boat.  Here are some pictures of the amazing corals and reefs with Mel swimming around and over them.

With the crystal clear waters, one does not have to get wet but look and observe some of the wonders of the Sulu sea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Life in Port Barton Part I

From Puerto Princesa and as contracted through our hotel, we rode a van which took us directly to Port Barton.  It was an air conditioned van good for about 11 passengers.  Unfortunately, a lady passenger had a very strong unclean smell but I did not realize it was her until after a while when Mel told me so.  I managed to redirect the smelly body odor by moving the aircon window towards her and somehow, the disturbing odor went away.

The driver drove very fast and I was feeling dizzy.  I asked Mel for Biodramine for dizziness and in the first occasion that the van stopped for the rental of masks and snorkeling equipment, I told the driver to slow down specially on the curbs if he did not want me to throw up inside his van.  He slowed down! Upon arriving in Port Barton from Puerto Princesa, we were immediately received by a line of traders to offer us lodging.  Mel left me where we got off the van that.  It was extremely hot and I sat by the  waiting shed nearby with all of our luggages.  It took Mel quite some time to look around and find a good place for us to stay.  She was accompanied by one of the traders,  Mel  got the best price for the best place in Port Barton.  It was newly constructed last November, 2014 a cottage with 3 huge beds, an electric ceiling fan and with screened windows that surrounded the whole cottage.  It also has a shower and a terrace with a rack outside to hang clothes to dry. It has a wifi and a restaurant beside it. Perfect, and at 800 pesos per night when the usual price is 1500 now and in peak season at 2800 pesos! This is what it looks like.

Then we got to Port Barton, which we enjoyed even more than the trip to El Nido in 2008.  Although we do not share the same love for the sea in the same way, like Mel loves to snorkel and look at the richness of its colorful fishes, reefs and corals, I do not swim but I love to look around and admire the beautiful works of nature and I try to recreate whatever I can see with my simple camera, sometimes with the help of others.

Dogs are plentiful in Port Barton.  Sometimes, they get to become a nuisance specially at night. Whenever they detect noise and they cannot see anything due to the brown outs (daily from past 12 midnight till 6 am),  they start barking in the middle of the night, robbing you of your sleep.  But you get used to it just like you get accustomed to the roosters crowing all day or the gecko's clicking sound.  It was only the first night that it bothered me a little bit but it did not take the whole night. Port Barton has a lot of things to offer.  In the early mornings, you can find fishermen hauling their catch and with people already waiting to buy the best fish for the day.  Shark, anyone?

And if you are lucky you can have fish for lunch over charcoal like these.

An early walk will give you scenes, which can be as unusual as these:


These, however, are more common.


Sunsets are amazing by the beach and in Port Barton, they are much awaited for.


As to places to eat, we frequented Ayette's Bamboo House and Restaurant where they serve mango pancake with honey.  If you like ready pancake mixes, then they are okay, anyway the mango is fresh.

and mango crepe, but not good hamburgers...

Also to be mentioned is a place called Gacayan, where you can bring fresh fish and have it cooked for 50 pesos.  It is near the Paella Restaurant.

The GreenView Resort, probably has the best furniture and accessories in Port Barton and it has a prominent view of the beach.

Their mango pancake is better than Ayette's Restaurant, but service is quite slow. Their brewed coffee is also satisfactory, but in Port Barton and also in Puerto Princesa, it is difficult to find good coffee, but mainly powdered 3 in 1.

The French Café with its recycled materials is also an interesting place where to eat.

The Summer House is where I do the charging of laptop, camera and cell phones, everyday.  With any order, you get free wifi and internet connections including charging.  They have generator powered electricity so they have good internet connections.


A walk by the village will show you a majority of poorly constructed housing with their  pigs and carabaos nearby.

And if you are lucky, you may be able to hitch a ride on a carabao-driven cart.

In Port Barton, they have a second hand store called Ukay Ukay.

There is also a tailor in town.  He will sew anything for you at a very little cost and in no time at all.

What is quite peculiar in the church in Port Barton, is that it is open almost the whole day and animals like dogs, cats, chickens, chicks, etc., are free to come in and go anytime even when mass or any other event like funerals are being celebrated.
>Tricycles are not common,  they are used for cargoes.

Busses run everyday to take you to nearby towns, private vans also operate daily.

In a trip, there must always be some anecdotes.  And our trip to Port Barton is not going to be an exception.  Here are some of them.
In a small town like Port Barton, it is easy to be familiar with the people because you practically bump on the same people everyday.  Like there is the mother of Bernadette, the owner of the cottage where we stayed, who runs the sari-sari store next to the cottage. She always gives us the courtesy greetings every time she sees us pass by her store.  And her mother does the same.  One day she told Mel that she has a beautiful figure and then she looked at me and said:  "you are chubby, but it does not matter because that makes you look like a Donya!, jejeje".  But then she added: "but you are getting a good skin tone now, while Mel is already dark"....
The tailor,  whom we asked to cut Mel's dresses to suit more for the summer beach wear and the  atmosphere told me: ang bait mo!  and I was surprised so I asked her why she said that, to which she commented "because you find time to chat with us".  (And I am supposed to be anti-social).
The guy at the tourist office greets us every time he sees  us after we have contracted a boat trip from him, trying to sell us another trip.  Mel tells him that he does not have any accreditation and should wear something to identify him.  But he said that his way of greeting is a hand shake, so he gives us a hand shake every time he sees us, wherever we may be.  And when we said we had no more money he would say:  " well, if one does not have money, he just sits near the sea and waits for the sunset, and if he gets hungry, he eats ice candy.  But if one has money, he can go as far as he wants and be served as he wishes..." Obviously, he knew, there was still something he could get from us, but we chose to deal directly with the boatmen to avoid intermediaries that cut on their income.

Boatmen sometimes change their names when they do not have a clean slate.  I found it out when I was talking about one of them and nobody recognized his name.  He has a blacklisted name.
Tricycle driver says it is better to be a mahiyain (shy) than a walang hiyain "shameless".  That in the streets one must learn to signal with his hand rather than blow the horn  because you will never know when the  horn will fail and may cause you an accident. The wisdom of a driver shows. 
Whenever we walk home late at night, we seem to be guided by the gecko chirping.  When we hear its clicking sound it meant to us that either we should not continue walking on the same direction or head back towards the cottage...

Easter Sunday mass was held at 4am and I could follow the homily from the cottage lying in bed.
Roosters and chicks were free to come and go inside the church. 

Time flew very fast and before we knew it, the once had been a welcome has now turned into saying  goodbye.

It is so much fun visiting a new place and finding people with a warm welcome, enabling you to do as much as you wish to do and be there to always be giving you a smile, as well as a  helping hand in a disinterested manner.  A true blessing from Port Barton!

Monday, May 04, 2015

La Quinta de la Fuente del Berro, Madrid

Yesterday, we celebrated Mother's day in Spain. Ron came early with his gifts.
It was a cloudy spring day with temperature of about 24ºC.  Accompanied by Ron, I chose to go  to a nearby park in Madrid, la Quinta de la Fuente del Berro, which I discovered from internet and where we have never been before. 

The park offers  a stunning landscaped garden with various levels and formed by meadows crossed by winding paths and rustic stone stairs and is full of an important variety of trees as well as sculptures. In addition, there is a beautiful fountain with a great vase, two ponds with ducks, a lovely cascade and the remains of an old small palace. There are also statues dedicated to the Russian poet Pushkin and Becquer.

The steps made of rustic stones are steep but wide enough to rest in-between steps.





Homage to Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer  a Spanish poet and writer.

A homage to Alexander Pushkin, who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet.

A homage to Enrique Iniesta, a Spanish violinist.



Many years ago, it was a widely held belief that the water of the Quinta de la Fuente del Berro had healing properties and were even aphrodisiac. Due to this, the water was very much in demand by royalty and therefore it was taken to the Royal Palace. At a later stage, this water was always served in banquets and royal receptions. Such was its fame and reputation that many guests preferred to drink it rather than wine.  Source:  Blog Estate One.

And then we were three!  We decided to call Mel by Skype.   We ended up taking a walk with Mel around the park where we have not yet been earlier.  That was fun!

But it was time to end with Skype, Ron and I had to go for lunch in a place that was recommended to him by his officemate.  We had to walk up the stairs again to get out from the garden.
Ron invited me for lunch in a vintage restaurant not too far away from where he is working.  It is called "El Viejo Almacén de Buenos Aires".  It serves excellent Argentinian beef and has a friendly atmosphere.   The decorations have an Argentinian touch with a lot of pictures of tango dancers.

The food with Roquefort cheese and liver pate  We ate part of the salad as starters too.Everything was exquisite.

 350 grams each of succulent meat!

And for dessert, lemon roll with vanilla ice cream, chapo!

Time to leave.  Ron wanted a picture from this poster.  At first I did not want to have my picture taken, but then a lady who came accompanied by her husband and probably her son, encouraged me to do so saying when I said that I did not want to be in ridicule that the word does not exist.  That we should not be biased by such a word.  After they posed, we followed and the son took our picture.  That was fun to have people you have casually met to give you a push to do things you were hesitant to do at first, but which turn out to make you happy after all.  What a life!