Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ferry to Boracay

The first time we went to Boracay back in 2004 we didn't have so much money (well, actually I don't have so much more now) so we took the Superferry instead of a plane. I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive in the beginning but the trip turned out to be quite pleasant. We stayed in the economy class without aircon on the uppermost deck of the ship. I am claustrophobic, I hate airconditioning and I was consumed by a morbid thought that it would be easier to swim away if I stayed on the upperdeck than if I would be in the rooms below in case the ship sinks, so being on the upperdeck seemed like the best idea. Anyway, the sea breeze was so fresh I didn't see a need for airconditioning. My only problem with this trip is sharing the toilet with hundreds of people, but in fairness the crew kept it reasonably clean. I had a great time observing the other people in the ship which was very easy considering that the bunkbeds are so close together. The ship left Manila Saturday evening then in the early morning of Sunday, for 800 php one way, we were in Aklan! The best part of taking the ship is to wake up to the view of Manila Bay during sunrise (One needs to admit that the pollution is contributing positively to the drama of the picture below). I would do it again for sure if I have more time. Actually, we thought of taking the superferry again to go to Coron in March but the schedule did not match ours, so we will fly with Asian Spirit instead since they are more flexible.

P.S.
Negros Navigation is also sailing to Boracay and Coron

Related Post:
Boracay on a budget

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Culture Lesson No.2: Walang hiya ako (I have no shame)

Hiya is a concept that I had difficulty making my husband understand. Roughly translated to being ashamed, it is a strong desire to live up to expectations and standards of society. I guess it evolved as a way of controlling social behavior. If one is criticized, or does not live up to expectations the result is deep shame and lost self-esteem affecting not only the individual but his whole extended family. In the Philippines, being called walang hiya (you have no shame) is the ultimate insult. My husband just didn't get it. In Switzerland, children are educated to speak their minds and to be independent. They are trained to have no shame (walang hiya) and go after what they want as long as they are not breaking any law.

An example of this is opening of gifts. In Europe, when someone gives you a gift, it is normal to open it in front of all your guests. In the Philippines, we don't open gifts in public because of hiya. Why? If the gift is too cheap compared to the rest of the gifts received, it will be too shameful for the giver of the gift. Also, we like to save ourselves the embarrassment of pretending to like the gift. When we receive gifts, it is customary to open it in private where we are free to express our real emotions without embarrassing anybody. In the beginning of my stay in Switzerland, I really hated it when I had to open gifts in-front of the people who gave it to me. The problem is, most of the time they are watching my facial expression as the gift is revealed. I hated to have a pretend smile and a ready exclamation of "Wow, thank you!" even if I had no idea what the gift is used for.

Another example is admitting ignorance for something. In the Philippines, if you ask someone for directions, no one will admit that they have no idea what you are talking about. So most of the time the person you ask will just point to a random direction. Usually, you will know if you found a person who knows the place you are looking for if the person is more specific in giving you directions. If the person you ask just points somewhere and says "I think it's there" that can be translated to "I have no idea what you are talking about but I will send you somewhere just to get rid of you".

Anyway, after living in Switzerland for four years and working with a lot of Swiss and Germans. I really had to throw away my hiya. It was quite difficult because it was deeply ingrained in my soul. If I don't understand what my boss is telling me, I have to admit that I don't understand. If I don't agree with someone, I have to say that I don't agree. Here, it is quite normal to argue openly (with shouting and everything) with colleagues and it would not be considered personal. I have to be walang hiya otherwise I will not be successful in my job. The problem arises when I go back home to the Philippines for a vacation because I am still programmed to be walang hiya which doesn't rub well with a lot of people....

Culture Lesson No.1: Don't look me in the eyes

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sagada

Sagada is a tranquill and mystic place. Unfortunately, we didn't spend a long time in Sagada so we only had time to hike through the Echo Valley where we saw the hanging coffins on the limestone cliff, the Lumiang Burial Cave (picture), and the Sumaging Cave. The Sumaging Cave is so wonderful! The entrance of the cave is a bit steep and full of bat shit but as we went deeper inside the more beautiful it became. I love the way the fresh flowing water sculptured the cave making dramatic limestone formations. By the way, it is necessary to get a guide if you want to go hiking or caving. You can get one in-front of the municipal hall.

We stayed at the Green House, a very basic but cosy place. There is only one bathroom without hot water but for a few pesos they would heat some for you. The best place for dinner is Log Cabin. When we were there we had to place our orders a few hours in advance because it can get quite full. For breakfast you shouldn't miss the Yogurt house where you will find the yummiest yogurts.

Sagada could get cold at night so make sure you bring warm clothes.

From Sagada we went to Baguio taking a bus that passes through the Bagiuo-Bontoc road or the Halsema Mountain Highway (yeah right, dirt road is a more correct term). If you have 10 hours to waste, take this road because the view is so breathtaking. Taking this road is an adventure unto itself. On the way to Bagiuo we passed by several landslides and sometimes I was sure that the tires of our bus went a few inches from the cliff (picture). I am not sure if it is adviseable to drive on your own here because the road is really treachearous.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On being Filipina in Switzerland

In a lot of countries, the word Filipina is synonymous with domestic helpers, nannies, mail-order brides and prostitutes. This we have to accept. I have nothing against people engaged in these trades, hey prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. I cannot argue with that. Obviously, it's necessary for the existence of mankind.

With a risk of sounding like Malu Fernandez, I have to admit that in the beginning of my stay in Switzerland 4 years ago, I did not appreciate being asked if I was a mail order bride or if my husband bought me (yup!) or if I take care of children. I was trying to be a scientist but all I got was judgmental stares as I walk along Zurich's streets. I felt that I was being dismissed and belittled just because I was Filipino.

Just paranoia? I don't think so. Once, while collecting insects in a field just outside Zurich with my husband (who is Swiss) for a biological experiment (we used to work together), a Swiss farmer on a tractor saw us. He immediately jumped out of his tractor and ran towards my husband. The farmer while staring at me, excitedly asked my husband where he found me, if I cook well and if I have a sister! I felt like a cow for sale getting appraised.

In Rome ( in Italy, not in Switzerland) while
on
 vacation, I was refused entry to a McDonalds! I felt so humiliated when a crew pushed me out the door while shouting at me in Italian. I bit back the tears as I went back to my husband waiting outside for his food. I couldn't comprehend why I was treated that way. Is it because I was Filipina?

For a few months, I resented Filipino mail order brides and OFWs all over the world who I thought was responsible for my difficult time in Switzerland. I resented them for not being proud enough to refuse to sell their souls only to be second class citizens of another country. I blamed them for my inability to get respected in my new world and for being stereotyped as a domestic helper. I went as far as to pretend to be South American!

Please don't burn my blog just yet and continue reading.

Perhaps because of my indignation when a Lebanese colleague remarked to me that she was very surprised to find a Filipina working in science in Zurich when all the Filipinos she heard about in Lebanon are domestic helpers that I changed my mind. She mentioned innocently that they have a problem with Filipinos because we are known to trick employers into paying for our plane tickets only to move to another employer who will pay more. She said that is why it is common practice in her country to take the passports of the Filipino helpers and to lock them inside the house to prevent them from leaving. "But that is illegal and inhuman!" I cried. I was so horrified I couldn't say anything more! I was talking to an educated person who sincerely believed that Filipinos should be locked up.

In my mind something clicked. Filipinos are proud! We are so proud that we brave horrible conditions abroad just to provide a good future for our families! We sacrifice the joy of holding our own children in our arms to take care of someone else's. We are so secure in our resolve to give our children a better life that we do not tremble at the possibility of being raped, killed, and abused in a foreign land. If that is not strength of character, I don't know what is.

After that I evolved, now I am proud of our OFWs. I am proud to be Filipino. We export love in all its forms, there is nothing wrong with that! If the Swiss are into banking, and the Germans are into cars, we are into love! We export motherly love so that foreign children will know what true maternal love is, we export helpers to care for homes abroad and we export conjugal love so that western men would experience how to be loved by a good wife.

I spoke with a good friend of my husband's who had a Filipina nanny as a child. Now, he is probably 35 years old but together with his siblings they have maintained good contact with their beloved nanny. They would visit her regularly from Switzerland. I feel their deep affection for her. I feel proud of the genuine love that these children got from a Filipina for them to consider her as a second mother.

The respect that I wanted soon followed. As soon as I was not ashamed anymore of where I came from, people started to respect me for who I am. I now hold my head high. I managed to go inside the Louis Vuitton shop at the Banhofstrasse in Zurich without getting thrown out (although I will never even think of buying a bag for 3000 USD in this lifetime). My colleagues admitted to me the other day that before meeting me, they thought all Asian women with a western man have somehow been bought or mail-ordered, and that Filipinas are like sex slaves. Well, apparently, my endless stories about our way of life and history have made them all realize their mistakes. Now, they think that Filipinas are strong, intelligent and capable women that they shouldn't mess up with.

All things considered, as a biologist, all my grand work will be published (or not published at all) and forgotten but no one will ever forget the love of a Filipina. Being a nanny may not be the most glamorous profession in the world but for sure it is one of the most noble.

Submitted to Filipina Images

Friday, February 22, 2008

Philippine Visa

We got a little bit carried away when we booked our flight to the Philippines a few weeks ago. The original plan was to stay for only 21 days, as tourist from most countries are allowed to stay 21 days in the Philippines without visa. In front of the computer, looking at the photos of Boracay, and immediately after reading a travel blog about Donsol, we unanimously decided that 3 weeks is way too short. So we decided to stay 1 more week. This trip home will be very special as I will bring not only my husband but also a good friend from Italy. I want them to see the Philippines as much as possible. Anyway, I thought that it shouldn't be a problem for my husband and my friend to get a visa. So, we decided to stay for 26 days! After 2 clicks it was final (I really like the internet booking system!) !!!

I was right. The Philippine embassy in Berne was so helpful. My husband doesn't even need a visa, we just have to fall in line in the Balikbayan line at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and then show our marriage contract (then he can stay for up to 1 year). My friend needs to get a visa but she only have to send her documents by mail and then pay 51 sfr then the visa will be mailed back to her in 3 days. She can then stay for 59 days. Easy. No hassle at all!

I'm really proud of the Philippine Embassy in Berne because in the 4 years that I've been living in Switzerland, they never gave me any hassle. I needed to get a few important documents from them a couple of times and they were always prompt and efficient. I was able to renew my passport in 3 days without problem whereas I know citizens of some European countries even needed to go home to renew their passports. I know a Russian girl who needed to go back to Russia for 1 month to get her passport renewed.

Anyway, here is the official site to get information about getting a Philippine Visa.
Here is the link to the homepage of the Philippine Embassy in Berne. It is not so easy to find their website because they are not yet in google. To get information about the Philippine embassy in your country and your country's embassy in the Philippines click here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Culture Lesson No. 1: Don't look me in the eyes!

One of the first things tourist should know when traveling to the Philippines is Filipinos don't look people in the eyes when having a conversation. Is this information worthy of a travel blog post? The answer is a big YES! Why? Because this fact can be so strange for western tourists that it may set a dark mood for the whole vacation. The fact is, most western cultures require eye contact in conversations. Without eye-contact, distrust and uneasiness sets in. In contrast, in the Philippines, fixed eye contact is an aggression/provocation. I observed myself a few times and I noticed that when I am talking to someone, I prefer to look briefly at the person I am speaking with and then look away.

Actually, I had a big problem about this difference the first few months I was in Switzerland. I noticed that when speaking with some people, I get nervous/agitated. Sometimes I cannot speak at all and most of the time I would act like a fool. It really ruined me socially a couple of times. I was enlightened as to why I get so agitated after reading the book Culture Shock. The answer to my problem is EYE CONTACT! I get so nervous when the people I'm speaking with hold my eyes! Knowing this helped me a lot. Now, I don't get nervous anymore.

Foreigners coming to the Philippines don't know about this and they expect people to look them in the eyes while talking. In Switzerland, if one is not capable of fixed-eye contact while conversing means that one is not honest and so cannot be trusted. I guess this simple difference in culture can cause the lot of misunderstandings between tourists and locals. Maybe, this is the reason western tourists always feel like they are being cheated (ok, sometimes cheating really occurs).

Message to western tourist: We don't look each other in the eye while talking. It is an aggression/provocation. Try not to mistake shyness for dishonesty.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tourist beware! The Kalesa Trap

I really hate to have to write anything negative about Filipinos and the Philippines. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary. I would like to warn people about hiring a kalesa in Manila to tour around the Malate area. We hired a kalesa last year in Malate because we thought it would be fun to see the city with it. We agreed with the kutsero or "driver" that the trip would cost 300 php for 1 hour. Okay, that seemed fair. Because I was pitying the horse and I wanted the driver to be able to feed his horse well, I didn't argue so much about the price. Well, halfway through the trip his whole attitude changed --he stopped being friendly. He said that the price is actually per person (so it's 900 instead of 300 because we were 3). I started to feel very uncomfortable. With my husband we argued with him that it was not the price we agreed upon. We just then asked to be let at the Robinson's Mall without finishing the 1 hour trip (we rode for only 15 minutes, actually). At the mall, he argued that the mall is not part of the trip so we have to pay extra. I felt that he was really getting worked up and I felt threatened. We were in a public place so I was not really really afraid of what he can do to us. I gave him maybe 400 and then walked away (I was pitying the horse). The author of My Egg Noodles had a worse experience riding the kalesa on their first day in the Philippines. At the end of their tour, another guy hopped in and then they were brought to a dark alley to be harassed for money. I am really disappointed that this kind of thing happens. If the Department of Tourism really wants to increase the number of tourist going to the Philippines then somehow this modus operandi should be stopped.

Note: The picture of the kutsero in the kalesa above is not the guy who harrassed us.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Siomai from scratch


My craving for siomai was so great one weekend that I learned how to do siomai from scratch out of extreme desperation! This favorite is an product of chinese influence on Filipino cooking.

Dough

4 1/2 cups (500 g) flour, sifted

1 tbsp oil

100 ml water

Filling
500 g minced pork
2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 big onions, chopped
3 tsp ginger, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1 carrot, chopped
Spring onions, chopped

Instructions

1. Mix the flour with 100 ml of water and oil to make a dough. Knead until smooth

2. To prepare the filling, mix all the remaining ingredients.

3. Divide the dough into 2 portions and roll like a jelly roll. Cut each into 50 pieces. Flatten each piece and roll into thin circles about 2 inches in diameter. Place 1 tbsp of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough over it, enclosing the filling. Pinch the edges together to seal. Makes about 50 dumplings depending on the size.

4. Steam until cooked and enjoy


Dipping Sauce

Mix the following together in a small bowl:

6 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps lemon/calamansi juice
Chili as desired
Dash of sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

Please check out my food blog Bubut's House for more recipes!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dental Tourism in the Philippines, Why Not?

My dentist-cousin has been taking care of my teeth since I was young, and for me he is the best dentist on earth (kuya ;))! I am proud to say that I have a perfect set of teeth which is proudly Philippine-serviced. I am based in Switzerland now but I still do all my dental work back home. Anyway, I cannot afford to pay the dentist in Switzerland. Imagine a permanent filling in this land of overpriced services can cost 300-500 sfr per tooth without the nice bedside manners. In the Philippines, a permanent filling only cost 300 php (8.3 sfr)! So, everytime I go home I pass by the dentist to have my teeth cleaned and to do whatever else that needs doing. One of the questions on your mind I guess is hygiene. Western people tend to think that we are so backward that we have not heard of the concept of hygiene. No worries, our dentists have heard of the word and are actually practicing it (I had a few microbiology courses so I know what it takes). Since my dentist-cousin is very active in the Philippine Dental Association (officer in our region), I will try to extract from him a list of accredited clinics for dental tourism and then I will post it here, okay?
The picture above was photoshopped by a German-friend back in 2004.

Schnitzelbank, Heidelberg, Germany

This is probably my favorite restaurant in Germany. I first came to this restaurant 2 years ago when we were brought there by the organizers of the training course that I attended at the EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory). At first I was not so enthusiastic since I was not the biggest fan of German food. Considering the name of the place, I thought we were going to eat Schnitzel (breaded pork chops). Surprise, surprise! No, they don't just serve schnitzel but also other wonderful traditional German food. The restaurant is called schnitzelbank because the place where the restaurant is located used to be an old schreinerei or a place for woodworks and schnitzel are the the small flakes of wood that you get when you make furniture. This is the restaurant that made me appreciate sauerkraut or fermented cabbage (and German food in general). I learned that sauerkrauts are not created equal. Prepared well, it can be so delicious! I am also not the world's biggest fan of potatoes but this place made me crave for it. Here, I usually order schweinshaxen mit sauerkraut (pork legs with sauerkraut). They also serve good beer and the region's wine. Don't miss this place if you are around Heidelberg.
Weinstube-Schnitzelbank
Bauamtsgasse 7
69117 Heidelberg
Tel. nos:
06221-21189
0172-6331944


Philippine peso vs US dollar exchange rate

I should be happy because this means our economy is improving. I should be happy because our currency is the best perfoming Asian currency last year. I know I should be happy but this situation is this is hurting my finances a lot! =( My money lost 20% of it's value in 2 years! I know that this is really hurting Filipinos working abroad and their families in the Philippines. This is not only the result of the US dollar performing very bad but also of the Philippine peso doing very well. The combination of both is quite disastrous for my bank account. To make matters worse, travelling in the Philippines is now quite expensive for me.

Most recent exchange rate post

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Introduction

I cannot agree more with Irish writer George Moore when he wrote "A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it". I am a Filipina who had been living in Switzerland for 4 years and there is not one day when I didn't wish that I was home in the Philippines. I didn't come to Switzerland to find myself because I knew who I was when I left. I came here rather for personal, professional and economic reasons as are the reasons of every migrant Filipino. As required of any successful adaptation, I can't help but rediscover who I am in the process of clawing my way into the strict Swiss socio-economic structure.

I don't have so many Filipino friends in Switzerland. In a way, it is a blessing in disguise because having mostly European and Swiss friends helped my thoughts and feelings evolve into new dimensions. I now see myself and our country in a different perspective and surprisingly, it is not a bad view at all.

I believe now that what makes the Philippines poor is our lack of pride for who we are and for our country. We are the first ones to belittle ourselves to the world for no reason other than because insecurity was imprinted in our psyche by our colonial masters. Unfortunately, the world tends to think what we want them to think about us. We have a beautiful, abundant country filled with wonderful, talented, intelligent people who are constantly looking beyond the pacific to define who they are. The moment we stop doing this will be the moment we will stop being poor. Because ultimately it will be pride who will clean our polluted rivers, save our forests and our coral reefs. For one will not destroy what one loves.

Often when my husband and I travel in the Philippines and we reach a place off the tourist track, the first questions that locals ask us are "are you from here?" and "If you are not from here why would you like to come here?" and when we reply "because it is a beautiful place and we would like to see it", the first thing they would do is to look around and wonder what it is that we find so beautiful. When we travel in Europe, locals of remote forgotten towns would point to us a small street and declare with pride "look how beautiful this place is". Love can transform a small street into a grand boulevard. Pride makes a big difference. We cannot wait for other people to be proud of our country for us.

As I travel around Europe, eat French food in expensive restaurants, frolick in the Mediterrean Coast, wander around old streets of Rome and Napoli, and hike in the Swiss Alps, I grow firmer in my belief that the Philippines have something different and extraordinary and in a whole new league of its own. Granted, we have no thousand-year old monuments, but nowhere else in the world would you find a cuisine which is a mix of Southeast Asian, European, Chinese, and South American, endless magnificent coastlines due to being an archipelago of 7100 beautiful islands, a culture based on family, hospitality and friendliness, and abundant flora and fauna brought about by our unique location of being the bridgeway between mainland Asia and Australia. We have everything! We just have to open our eyes and see it!

With this blog I hope you will see what I see, a country full of all the wonderful gifts nature could give just waiting to be appreciated, loved, cherished and protected.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Don't think of coming to the Philippines if....

I was inspired to write this post after reading the travel blog of a woman from the UK about the Philippines. She was complaining about a lot of things! In Boracay, she complained of the lack of culture (you go there for the sand mainly), in Bantayan island, she complained of the people harassing her (we had been there and we were not harassed at all), then she went to chocolate hills late in the afternoon from Tagbilaran then complained of not having any transportation to go back (I would have asked around first for the transportation schedule), in Zamboanga she was afraid of terrorists (then she should have read first about Zamboanga before going) and lastly in Zamboanga she couldn't find accomodations but fortunately there was a Filipino family who took her in, she wrote that anyway she didn't feel so comfortable because there were 10 people in the house and there is really no space to sleep (the right attitude is gratitude). Of course, throughout her post she was complaining about the Filipino's love of Karaoke, how slow it is to travel by ferry and sex tourists.

So, please don't come to the Philippines if:

1. you are not open to new cultures and new ideas. We do things differently. You have to arrive in the Philippines without expectations and ready to be surprised. You cannot expect people to think the way you think and judge them wrongly if they don't think like you. Remember you are the foreigner, you have to adapt to the locals and not make the locals adapt to you;
2. you have not yet internalized that life in the Philippines is slow. You cannot expect to land in Manila by plane, go to the Banaue Rice Terraces, and then be on the beach in Pagudpud the same day. Yes, all these destinations are on the same island but we don't have a fast-train like the TGV that goes 300 km/hr. Mostly you will be on dirt roads riding a jeepney that will break down every few kilometers;
3. you do not own a travel guide telling you about bus schedules and ferry schedules. Even if you do, you have to double check anyway because maybe the schedule changed already. Take note that ferry schedules are typhoon-dependent;
4. you are not flexible regarding time. In the Philippines, we don't care about time. Relax, and cool down. Noone is running after you;
5. you will judge the country from a western point of view. In the beginning, my husband and I argued a lot about the Philippines because as a Swiss he thought that a lot of things could be done differently (like traffic management etc). He will get irritated about how things are done (or not done). I agree with him on some points but the big point is the Philippines cannot be like Switzerland because Filipinos will never be like the Swiss. =) We have other qualities =) that I will never trade for Swiss dependability. This goes in the same direction as this joke:
In Heaven: the cooks are French,
the policemen are English,
the mechanics are German,
the lovers are Italian,
and the bankers are Swiss.

In Hell: the cooks are English,
the policemen are German,
the mechanics are French,
the lovers are Swiss
and the bankers are Italian.
6. you are a pedophile;
7. you are sex tourist;
8. you have a penchant for complaining; and
9. you are expecting the Philippines to be like the countries of indo-china. I've read in many travel guides that the Philippines is a Latin American country lost in Asia. Indeed, we are very different from our neighbors because of our history. I have to say that I also feel more connected to the Latinos than the Thais. If you find no buddhist temples or spicy food, that doesn't mean we have no culture, all it means is that you didn't find the culture you were expecting. Maybe you should have read more about the Philippines before coming.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bizarre Foods

I found this in you tube yesterday. If you are planning on coming to the Philippines don't worry you will also find "normal" food. Actually, I must admit, I only eat 3 of the bizarre foods featured in this show (the cheese and yam ice cream in a bun, dinuguan and sometimes balut but only when the embryo is very small). The rest I have never tried in my life (maybe later I will, who knows?). I find it strange though that the host found eating cheese and yam ice cream in a bun stranger than eating live worms from the tree!

Part 1 of 6

Part 2 of 6

Part 3 of 6

Part 4 of 6

Part 5 of 6

Part 6 of 6



Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wonder Island, Calamba Laguna

Sitting in the middle of Laguna de Bay, the Wonder Island Resort is a perfect venue for every occasion. This place is very close to my heart as this is where my husband and I got married . The ceremony was held in their chapel and the reception in their conference hall. Since I am based in Switzerland, I availed of their wedding package because I really didn't have time to fuss over flowers and tablecloths. I arrived in the Philippines just 1 week before the wedding to fit my dress. Aside from the invitations which were designed, ordered and sent out by my sister, all the other details of the wedding itself I left to the people of Wonder Island. They didn't disappoint at all! Everything was arranged to perfection! The flower arrangements were beautiful, the chapel was beautiful, and most importantly the food was good. It was perfect! Our wedding was perfect and quite hassle-free!Apart from weddings, I think it is also possible to go there for a day or for a weekend, and for seminars and conferences. There are two air-conditioned dormitory units with a capacity of 20 persons per unit; two family units (for 6-8 persons in a unit), with 3 air-conditioned rooms each; and a complete 2-story bamboo house (maximum capacity: 12 persons). There are also 6 swimming pools of various sizes and designs, a view deck, 2 jacuzzis, a 2-story conference hall for seminars and social functions, and a sports hall.

Wonder Island Resort 0063(0)49- 545-1766 and 545-6491. Day rate: Adults P784; Kids P700; Senior Citizens P690. Rates include use of swimming pool, food, boat transfer, picnic huts.

Click on picture to enlarge

Wonder Island Resort Website which I don't find very informative...

P.S. Their chicken galantina is really really really good.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Laiya, San Juan, Batangas

This is the nearest dream white beach near Manila. The sand here is more on the course side but it is okay for a weekend trip from Manila. We didn't stay overnight because it was too near from our home in the Philippines. This place has one big advantage--it's very near Manila. Unfortunately, this advantage is also it's major disadvantage. Laiya's proximity to the big city makes it expensive. Even merely hiring a hut for a day picnic will costs you 1500 pesos. Overnight rates in the peak season starts at 3000 pesos for a native fan room. If you bring your own food and drink be prepared to pay corkage fees.

What I didn't appreciate in Laiya is that the beach is not for everyone. In Boracay, even if you stay in the cheapest possible place at the center of the island, you are allowed to go to the beachfront of Fridays or even Discovery Shores, in Laiya not. As soon as you walk on the beachfront of a resort where you are not staying there will be a guard shooing you away immediately. Even the locals are not allowed to enjoy their town because they are not allowed to go to the beachfront. I thought that beaches are public property. Private properties just starts so and so meters from the beach. Can a lawyer clarify this?

Accomodations:
Balai Resort
Laiya Cocogrove Resort
Triple G Beach Resort
Sabangan Beach Resort
Virgin Beach Resort


Boracay Island -Yahoo's Best Beach of 2007

Boracay made it again to the top of the world's best beach list! Cebu also made it placing third on the yahoo best beach of 2007 list.

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