(previous Blogger post, August 26, 2006, Saturday)

Time to list my favorite places. I have a terrible wanderlust. If money was no object, I probably would be difficult to locate at any given time. As such, I am still blessed to have had jobs that enabled me to travel to beautiful places. Oh well, traveling to a new place is always beautiful to me anyway. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heeded came from my cousins. When I started working, they told me to always set aside money for travel. No surprise there, really. We all share two addictions – chocolates and travel. That’s family, haha!

Ok, the list, in no particular order.

1. Baguio
A sentimental favorite. I could no longer count how many times I’ve been there, especially when I was a kid. I love the pre-1990 earthquake Baguio, where the lion at Kennon Road still looks like a lion (looks like a monkey now). Baguio way before Session Road became so crowded and polluted. And yes, Baguio when Camp John Hay was still an American base. I had that illusion that I was in another country because of the cold weather and using dollars instead of pesos inside the camp. The field near Mansion is probably the reason why wildflowers are my favorite. Baguio is always a blast with my cousins. The entire clan once went to Baguio when I was little. I was too young to actually remember details, but what I remember was that it was the happiest vacation I ever had with the family. Post-earthquake Baguio is still beautiful (but I hate SM in Burnham Park!) and I’m glad to have been back, with friends this time.

2. Capiz
Of course, my father’s hometown. I used to hate it when I was younger. I mean, I wasn’t really close to my relatives because I rarely saw them, I didn’t know the dialect, no phone, limited tv channels, etc. My thinking then was that provinces suck. Geez, I’m now blushing that I ever felt that way. Maturity and exposure to other provinces certainly changed everything. It also helped greatly that I’m better acquainted with my relatives. And the seafood! It is only in Capiz where I could eat my fill of shrimp and crab without making a major dent in our bank account. Ok, maybe a nick, but imagine if I did that here in Manila! It is now a tradition for my aunt prepare a breakfast of shrimp and rice after we arrive there. The flight arrives a little after 6am, so we’re home by 7, just in time for that yummy breakfast. The last time I was there (last summer), I think I ate meat only twice or thrice in six days. That’s something for a certified carnivore like me.

3. Paris
A dream come true. That trip wasn’t even supposed to be for me. It was for my officemate, who also happened to be a college friend. He wasn’t able to get his passport on time, so it fell to me. Funny thing though. He later confessed that even if he had a passport, he probably would still have let me go. He was apprehensive of going to a foreign country for the first time, alone, and at winter yet. Paris was just enchanting. I even enjoyed the winter chill. Conventional things I did: went to Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and even a monument (Flame d’ la Liberte) above the tunnel where Princess Diana died. The monument had nothing to do with Princess Diana whatsoever. Odd things that I did/happened to me: almost stalked a guy that was a Tom Cruise dead-ringer; thought it snowed the previous night because I saw snowflakes on a tree – turned out to be fake when I touched it; a miscommunication in the boulangerie resulted in me being given ham and cheese sandwich on the longest and hardest French bread – which I ate on a park bench in freezing temperature albeit under bright sunshine, and where two adorable little French girls tried to befriend me, though it didn’t work because I spoke no French and they spoke no English; got lost looking for Notre Dame and ended up at the French police headquarters and city jail (not actually inside, just passed by); got called “kid” – I was 24 already – inside a shop; going to the wrong airport terminal, and to get to the right one, I passed through a door where among the signs above it was “Naivete”.

4. Dumaguete and Negros in general
The boulevard! Dumaguete is a beautiful, quiet university city by the sea. It is perfect for walking around and the layout of the city center is such that you won’t get lost. If for some reason you actually do get lost, just look towards the boulevard/sea. It is where the sun is in the morning. Better yet, just ask the friendly people. I’ve been to Dumaguete on business thrice and once on vacation with my friends. I fell in love with it right away on my first visit. I was finally able to catch the beautiful sunrise on my last visit. Dumaguete is the sentimental home of Filipino writers, being the host of the oldest running writers’ workshop in the country. I can easily understand why so many writers find inspiration there. Soon I’ll be back there with my pen and journal, better yet, my Macbook, hehe (I wish!). Of course I’ll mention the food. Budbud kabog is so yummy! It is best dipped in native tsokolate. Slurp! I’m not a fan of sans rival, but I find myself eating it there. Their version is so yummy and buttery. Finally, my favorite breakfast at Bethel Guest House – danggit, fried rice, egg and tsokolate. Followed by a stroll on the boulevard. Aaah.

The road trip from Dumaguete to Bacolod has among the most beautiful sceneries I’ve seen in the country. Crossing over from Oriental to Occidental Negros is not just a physical experience. It is also a mini cultural cross. Bacolod is close to my heart because it is similar in dialect and culture to Capiz. I also have relatives there. Chicken Inasal in Manokan Country is the best! I was recently back in Bacolod with friends and it was my shortest stay ever – less than 24 hours. Whew! Hope to stay longer next time.

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5. Bantayan island
3-hour bus ride and 30-minute boat ride from Cebu City. It seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere, and it really FELT like it was when we got there. The resort we stayed in was the only one in that part of the island. The most amazing thing in Bantayan was the sunrise. Yeah, yeah, I woke up just for it. And no, I didn’t go back to sleep afterwards! I hit the ocean right away for an early morning splash – and almost stepped on a HUGE jellyfish! Bantayan faces east so it had a really early sunrise. Woke up at 5am on our first morning and we were surprised that the sun was already up! Hindi pa naman katirikan ng araw. But it was already light outside. So the following day, I woke up at 4:45, it was still dark but the rays were starting to peek over the horizon. One of my friends was already up, camera ready. Not wanting to miss a moment of it, we rushed out in our sleepwear. We took just enough time to brush our teeth and splash water on our faces. Of course, our Rebs, the worst sleepyhead, was still glued to her bed, hehe! Tin and I were silent the entire time of our sunrise-watching. Of course, it could have been because we were too sleepy to move our mouths. I still think sunrises are best experienced in silence. After that, it was “tara na!” A mad dash to our room to change into our swimsuits. Another mad dash to the ocean! A screeching halt inches away from the jellyfish. Watched a man bathing his dog in the ocean – complete with soap! Tried exercising in the water.

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6. Boracay
Paradise on earth. I wanted to roll all over the powdery white sand the minute it touched my feet. If Bantayan sunrises are perfect, then it’s sunset for Boracay. I actually have never seen a full Roxas Boulevard sunset (arguably the best in Philippines, according to some) so I don’t know how the Boracay one compares. I have also witnessed a lot of sunsets in many different places. It’s still Boracay in my book though. The clear water and shallow waves are perfect. I have yet to see a beach that matches Boracay. Maybe one day in another part of the globe.

7. Mt. Apo and the surrounding areas
Ok, I did not climb it – only got as far as its foot. But I was fortunate to see it – and its peak – up close at the PNOC Geothermal Plant. There is an area there that gives the best and closest view of the peak. That is, if you manage to rise early enough. Because Mt. Apo is so high, the peak is visible only in the early morning and late afternoon. There is also a steaming lake nearby, Lake Agco. The water is so hot (boiling point) that the lake is barely visible through the steam. One time we also went Barangay Manobo, about an hour’s ride from the PNOC plant – a rough, muddy mountain ride. But the view was spectacular! We were so high up in the mountains (and these are among the highest mountains in the Philippines) that it felt like we were on top of the world.

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8. Loboc River, Bohol
The lunch river cruise may be very tourist-y, but it’s still one of the highlights of a Bohol trip. This time I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

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I hope to have a part two of this list soon. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting – and actually going – to visit new places. My dream destinations: the rest of Europe, India, Nepal, the Great Barrier Reef and Egypt. Locally, Palawan, Batanes, Amanpulo, Camiguin, Malapascua.

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