Maripipi: A Very Brief Reunion

After almost a decade of being away, I went home on the 27th, not exactly for a vacation but to attend a friend’s wedding, which was on the 28th. It was a really short stay at the island I miss the most but nonetheless, fun and refreshing.

On the 27th, at 9 a.m., I was aboard Seair on the way to Tacloban. Estimated length of travel is an hour and fifteen but we landed at Daniel Romualdez Airport approximately 45 hours after take-off. My friend Jomari met me at the airport and took me to Kuya Kent’s house for lunch.

After a home-cooked meal and a brief siesta, we went to the terminal of Van-Van’s to board a shuttle to Naval, which is the capital of Biliran, my province. It was a 2-hour ride.

Image source: biliran.boards.net

Image source: biliran.boards.net

The sun has set when we reached Naval, hence, there were no more motorboats bound for Maripipi, my hometown. We then took a tricycle to Kawayan, a town directly facing Maripipi. It was a short ride, about half an hour. It was already dark when we reached the port of Kawayan, but the sky was full of stars and the moon was bright, buttery yellow. It was a lovely sight.

Image source: biliranisland.com

Image source: biliranisland.com

Then it sunk on me, I was almost home. The sea wasn’t so rough when we crossed to Maripipi, just a mild swelling of the waves. It was a beautiful summer night. Van Gogh would have fallen in love with it.

If you want to know more about Maripipi, the size, population, livelihood, history and what have you, you can easily use Google and/or Wikipedia. I’m not going to detail those information for you. What you need to know is I grew up in this island and will always consider it home. The town has a close-knit community, and many of the people I love are from and/or here.

Image source: www.flickr.com

Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Recently, the island has become popular to  tourists. They fell in love with the blue waters, especially that of Sambawan.

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Since I started my trip back home at early morning, I was pretty beat when I got to the Zafico’s house. That’s where I stayed for the weekend. Polay and Jayby Zafico are my childhood friends, and their parents Nay Delia and Tay Pedring are one of the nicest people in the island, also close friends of my parents. After a dinner filled with catching-up, we headed straight to bed. The sea breeze, crickets and the sound of the waves lulled me to a deep sleep.

I woke up refreshed at around 6, without an alarm, which is kind of a rare thing for me back in the city. The house was already abuzz with the two kids, Dwayne and Jedric, playing at the yard; Nay Delia fixing breakfast; and Polay packing clothes for the beach wedding.

This was the scene directly from where I was sleeping.

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I eagerly took my tablet and went outside, circling the house and took shots. I was like a giddy tourist. This is the mainland of Biliran, a view from the back of the Zafico’s house.

Mainland Biliran

Mainland Biliran

The house stands on a cliff and surrounded with trees. Down below is the sea.

view from the bedroom

Bananas don’t come from the fruit aisle of the grocery. They come from a faraway place.

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Tay Pedring had just finished painting this table. Ain’t she pretty?

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Nay Delia still prefers using a traditional stove for cooking meals in their dirty kitchen rather than the gas-operated one they have inside.

Old school

Old school

After breakfast, we were off to town to board Ma. Lourdes (motorboat), which would take us to Sambawan where the wedding will be held.
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Sambawan is a group of islets, which has white sand and pristine blue waters, home to a diverse marine life. This was recently developed and has been made more accessible to tourists.

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Although, personally, I was disappointed with how they’ve run the development and of their new policies, I’m still grateful to have visited Sambawan again. The last time I was there, I was still in my early teens.

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After the reception and fully enjoying the waters despite the unforgiving heat of the sun, we headed and boarded a motor banca. I was shocked when they initially asked for a 700-peso fee. That was just outrageous. 300 is the usual amount. This is what tourism brings to some people, capitalism and greed. Polay haggled with the banca operator and they agreed on Php 400.

After a quick shower to wash off the salt, Polay and I went back to town. I wanted to visit the church and light candles. It is tradition to do so plus I wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving that I was able to visit the island again.

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This is the St. Michael Archangel parish church. It stands on a hill directly facing the sea.

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The islanders believe that St. Michael watches over and protects the whole town from natural disasters, pirates and all sorts of bad things.

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I grew up in this church and I love the stained glass windows. I wish I could get married in this church, if only because when you go out of the front door, you’d be facing the sea.

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Early Monday morning, I was aboard Ma. Lourdes again to take me to the mainland. After a short reunion with my island town, I was again on the road back to the city.  While I was on the boat, the sun had exploded into a beautiful array of colors, and so then I started slowly counting the days when I’ll be back.

early morning

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Great Friends Take You To Chateau Royale For The Weekend

Nice: rich friend

Nice: rich friend

By great, I mean, rich. And by rich friends, I mean, Nice is one of them. She is not named Nice for nothing. So anyway, Nice has paid for a 2D/1N reservation for four at Chateau Royale in Tagaytay. Her family is supposed to use it but due to change of plans, we ended up going instead. And by we, I mean, Nice, Ann, Karen and me.

The four of us started the journey at the Batangas bus terminal in Pasay but was dismayed at the queue. This was at 12:30 noon. Apparently, most people were trying to escape the heat in the metro. An unsolicited advice from a woman behind us in the queue prodded us to wait for a bus instead at EDSA. And so we did. After what seemed like eternity (approximately 15 minutes) and our skin slowly being burnt to a crisp, a bus heading to Tagaytay picked us up. I can’t tell you if traffic was bad because right after we ate our takeout from McDonald’s, we dozed off. Then we got off at Olivarez in Tagaytay and boarded a jeep that would take us right at the front gate of the Chateau.

I’m no expert when it comes to aesthetics so I really can’t explain to you the overall design of the resort. It looks contemporary with some Japanese influence. The resort has lots of Japanese sculptures (mostly of Buddha) and some Indian ones, too. I think.

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

For the accomodations, there are three types: the hotel, the single-detached cabins and the log cabins. The hotel looks out of place in the resort, like a sore thumb in a Japanese-ish ranch.

Single-detached Cabins Photo source: www.sulit.com.ph

Single-detached Cabins
Photo source: http://www.sulit.com.ph

We stayed in a log cabin, which is a 7- to 10-minute walk from the front desk. There’s a shuttle and golf carts but they weren’t always around whenever we had to leave our room. By the way, the only Japanese indication in our room is the minimalist design. No tacky paintings and just white sheets on the beds, which actually felt surprisingly restful for me. If there’s a way they can increase the water pressure in the bathroom, I’ll give them a better rating.

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

The Chateau boasts of superb amenities and various recreational activities (rock climbing, zip line, etc.) but we were only interested in one thing, swimming. They have a great pool with actual sand surrounding it.

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Our reservation included dinner at the Chateau’s Floating Restaurant, which at that time was more like a dry-docked resto because there was no water beneath the tiny bamboo huts. They serve the food buffet style. That night the menu consisted of Bird’s Nest soup, rice, pancit, fish fillet, okoy, grilled pork and pineapple and watermelon for dessert. Iced tea and water were served in a nicely set table. The soup was salty. The okoy was good. And the rest are just barely passable. Sorry, I don’t really know how to review food.

Surprisingly, they more than made up for the food the next day at breakfast. Same setup as dinner except for a chef who cooks eggs on the spot, sunny side up or omelette. The menu was lugaw, fried rice, corned beef, tinapa and watermelon for dessert. They had unlimited kapeng barako (Batangas brewed coffee), which I personally love. They also served pineapple juice. The corned beef was a bit salty but overall, it was a delicious breakfast.

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

By the way, they have a Veranda Cafe, adjacent to the lounge and front desk, where they serve the welcome drinks, namely, pineapple juice. They don’t serve cocktails there, just locally made alcoholic beverages. Also, food is pricey but tasty. We tried their Royale Club sandwich with fries for Php 270 and Batangas Burger for Php 280. Service is slow so don’t go there hungry.

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The resort also sells fresh produce at really low prices, half of the price of veggies here in Manila. Also, they sell pasalubong like espasol and other native delicacies. Their buko and langka espasol is a must-try.

Overall, despite the disappointing dinner and welcome drinks, it was a great weekend getaway, mostly because the place is lovely and the people I was with are lovelier.

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Thank you, again, Nice. You definitely made it to the Jobet 500.

Nice is the American-ish girl at the right.

Nice is the American-ish girl on the right.