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Friday, September 23, 2011

Daruanak Island: Pasacao's Pride

You'll see Daruanak along the way
One of the mode of transportation in getting Daruanak from Balogo
Most Bicolanos, especially those who live in the nearby towns aside from its capital, Naga City when asked about Daruanak would agree that this island is one of the best place to visit in Camarines Sur. Located in Balogo, Pasacao, it's a 10 minute drive from the town proper and 15 minutes away from a boat ride. The locals said it's being developed as one of the tourists spots in the province. Daruanak is ideal for skiing, home to sea anemones, starfishes, sea urchins and other marine life. Daruanak is also a place where you can enjoy a deep-sea diving. And also, many photo enthusiasts, bloggers, travelers, visitors of this island posted their great experience and exploration of this place. Daruanak island is something that you don't have to miss when visiting the city of Naga in Camarines Sur. From LCC mall where the terminal is located, you can take a van or a jeepney for a 30-45 minute ride. There's a story that goes around the folks that there were treasures recovered from this island some years ago. Just when you are in the island, you will discover that steps were built going to the top of the island.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Naga City: Penafrancia Festival

One of the participants of the parade showing her skill
  The feast of Penafrancia in Naga  started with a whole day parade prominent in the main streets of the city. Most of the hotels could no longer accommodate guests, and as the price has gone up since its festivity, the rooms are still taken by the arriving tourists. The Bicolanos love fiesta as shown how proactive they are by merely going out to witness the annual festivity.

 A whole day parades at the main streets of the city
Penafrancia festival is one of the most exciting and fun-filled celebration among the Philippine Fiestas. It's a nine-day festivities in honor of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the patroness of Bicol. It is celebrated every third Saturday of September where it is considered as the biggest Marian celebration. The festivity is lined up with a beauty pageant, sports fest, the civic and military parades, exhibits, cultural shows and other colorful competitions.
parade stop over waiting for a signal to step forward

Front area of Sampaguita Tourist Inn
A room with ventillated fan inside Sampaguita Tourist Inn
From day one, I had barely found an inn with a vacant room so I could take a rest for awhile before going out to witness the event. I have one bag in black where my laptop and camera are kept inside, aside from the shirts packed inside my bag. But thanks, it took me an hour to find inn with a vacant room after cruising around the place and I found one just beside a river. Sampaguita Tourist Inn was affordable,though its price has doubled since its festivity took place. A small room with a toilet, a cable television, but there was no air-con, just an electric fan as most of the air-conditioned rooms have been occupied by the tourists few days ago; but I was lucky enough to get a vacant one - a non air-conditioned room. The room wasn't bad at all as the price is at an affordable rate. I supposedly wanted to extend my stay but I had to leave the following day as there's another guest coming in to take my place. The staffs did not apologize in spite of their error, who made a reservation to another guest without waiting for my check out time yet. They should have reserved the room to another guest only after I have checked out the room. This upsets me as it left me in a hanging state.I had no choice but leave the place as soon as possible. Sampaguita's regular rate is 300 pesos a day for non-airconditioned room.
Reception Area of Sampaguita Tourist Inn
It took me about an hour to get a room from another hotel and price of Aristocrat Hotel is a bit higher but what sets them apart from their competitors, they did not take advantage of the event to overprice the paying guests. The room was quite nice and bigger and the staffs are more accommodating and friendly to please their guests. No catches in paying additional fees prior to check in time. Aristocrat Hotel's daily rate is 900 pesos, not bad for an air-conditioned room as it  is quite large for one guest.
One of the rooms of Aristocrat Hotel
As part of the event taking place in the city, I had a free massage at the overcrowded main plaza of the city. It is one of the livelihood projects organized by a non-profit group where tips and donations are given to the therapists.

Free massage at the plaza
route to Balogo beach where daruanak is located
Meanwhile, I had my next stop to Pasacao, Camarines Sur a 30-45 minute ride from LCC mall where the jeepney and van terminal is situated. It's been almost two years the last time I was in Balogo and see Daruanak Island.
road trip to Daruanak Is

One of the beach resorts in Balogo
And by 4 p.m. I had to go back to Naga City to take some rests. But one few good things that I had missed - is some of the food hubs in the city where best cuisines are found, just like when I visited Chef Doy's early this year. Aside from Penafrancia festival, it is advisable to stay few more days in order to explore some getaways in the nearby towns.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Naga City via Bicol Express Train

The Philippine National Railway (PNR) had its soft opening for Bicol Express train two months ago.  After the operation was revived, the maiden voyage failed to reach its destination on time, as the train was derailed while on its way to Naga City, Camarines Sur. This lets my plan to visit Naga City by train being disrupted and causing me to postpone my trip, for riding a train is my preference instead of commuting with a bus. Some follow ups have been made via the internet and phone to keep me updated about its resumption. It was 11 years ago the last time I had a train ride with PNR to Naga City, Camarines Sur.
Passengers from Tutuban Station ready to be on board

4 Beds in each group at Sleeper Coach

Being a backpacker, I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of riding a train because I love to watch places and just like the bus, it’s the best glimpse how the people live as you can see them by the window pane. It’s so good to hear the sound of an engine and a loud honk of a train as it’s like a music to my ear. I stayed at the sleeper area where the beds are large and comfortable as you’ll have your own privacy by closing the curtain of your berth and each have their own lamp. You need to bring your jacket as the temperature is cold due to the train's aircon is cooling the entire coach. Since the train has 4 coaches , you can walk to a hallway once you get bored sitting for couple of hours. This reminds me about my 3-day trip via Amtrak train from New Orleans, Louisiana to Anaheim, California, which they have a two-storey coach. They have rooms and reclining chairs, observation area, and bar and restaurants. Coffee is available where you can get it for free.
Regular aircon

Meanwhile its operation has resumed a week ago, and I never had my second thought going to Naga via Bicol Express train so I decided to call and made my reservation in advance because I knew it was going to be fully booked as Penafrancia Festivity is currently taking place in the city.
Naga City Station

From Tutuban station, the train leaves at 6:30 p.m and arrives at 4:30 a.m. The train had 4 coaches where passengers can choose between the Sleeper Coach and Reclining Chair. Sleeper Coach had 4 beds of each bank, two at the top and two at the bottom. Between these beds is a window and a small table you can use for eating or drinking. Each bed has its own lamp for personal use while the rest of the lights are lowed. According to the staffs, the Executive Coach, wherein passengers will have their own room will be available this month. The rest room is quite clean as there’s a staff cleaning the toilet from time to time. There’s no food available and passengers are advised to buy foods from the point of departure as the train only stops shortly at some of the stations. They said canteen will be available soon. You can charge your cellphone as there is an available outlet in the train's hallway. But it's better to bring an extra battery as the outlet are in used by other passengers most of the time.

Bicol Express train carries a whiff of nostalgia to many as we also used this mode of transportation when we were just kids from Manila to Bicol and vice versa. And I'd be happy to ride again instead of commuting through a bus. It's affordable and you'll feel comfortable on the entire trip where you can relax especially when you are on a sleeper coach, and reclining chairs are big enough so you can move freely.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Exploring Quiapo

Quiapo is a merging Filipino religiosity and commerce. An "Old Downtown" where culture of devotion and traditions are well preserved throughout the decades. It is the home of the Quiapo Church where the Feast of Nazarene is held annually. In the heart of Quiapo was also the Plaza Miranda, a site of political rallies and "miting de avances". As an alternative place to buy cheap goods being sold at a bottom price, surrounding the church is a hodge-podge and over crowded outdoor market where items are displayed including religious icons, herbal products used for healing, toys, apparels, office supplies, fruits and vegetables, and more. In the corner lies some fortune tellers and massage therapists sitting and waiting for clients who would come to seek help and avail their services. Outside the vicinity of Quiapo is the university belt where some of the colleges and universities are a walking distance away from the place.

Here are some of photos I've taken from my recent visit at Quiapo:

Quiapo Church throughout the decades
Sellers beside the church selling religious icons  

Hodge-podge in the market place


Fruit vendor
  Fortune teller for over 20 years of performing her craft