Weekend Travel: The Philippines (1)

by Evans Yonson

I love weekends. Not that I hate getting up early on a weekday morning to begin a five-workday but Fridays are something to look forward to week-in and week-out. Weekend for me is travelling whether just walking the streets of Barcelona or flying out of the city on a very early morning flight to my get-away destination. Here are some thoughts of my past travels and what could be aptly called the do’s and don’ts of being trapped in a city that maybe yours for now or theirs forever.

… in the city of golden friendship. Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. If you can walk to school, don’t. Take a motorela. It’s a great invention by a Kagay-anon, it’s like a mini-bus propelled by a motorcyle that can seat at least 6 people plus the driver. If you can stay in the park, don’t. Live there. There are so many things you can do in Gaston and MacArthur Parks. If you can buy food at the supermarket, don’t. Go to the market. Cogon. Agora. Carmen. Puerto. Bulua. There is one public market near to any place. It promises a great experience from the freshest catch to the tender and juicy meat, from the delicious meatballs and rice cakes to everything – dried fish, fresh flowers, boiled duck’s embryo (balot), pirated CDs and DVDs, souvenir items, pots and pans, condiments, and whatever you could ever imagine in a market. Cagayan de Oro markets are not your too-bright and too-dry types. But the vendors are so warm that they always brighten any gloomy day. If you want to see a river, go white-water rafting in the Cagayan de Oro River. It’s the country’s first rafting adventure and probably the most famous.

Before the hitting the 14-km. white water rafting adventure with river guide par excellance, Chisum Factura.

… in the volcanic island called Camiguin. If you want it warm, go and dip in the hot springs near a crater. If you want it colder, take a 15-minute drive then you’re swimming in the coldest spring you could ever put your body into. If you want a white island to yourself, rent a small motorized boat then bask under the sun infront of five volcanoes. If you a very slow-paced life, then the island is for you. No need to worry for food, everything’s fresh in the market nearby. No need to worry for contact with the outside world, internet shops and satellite TVs are found everywhere. You can call anyone in the world from a small island. There is an authentic Italian restaurant in the island that serves your preferred pasta and pizza with imported ingredients. If you want to see the whole island’s 64-kilometer road stretch in a day, hire a mini-van for less than 30 euros (around 1,500 Philippine pesos). The driver is always the best tour guide and the 5 euro tip at the end is not bad enough.

The volcanic island of Camiguin.

… in the city of man. Manila, Philippines. If you can take bus, don’t. Take a taxi. Otherwise, you’ll end sweating profusely and smelling like you’ve showered for a week. If you can rent a videotape, don’t. Watch a movie. The cinemas in Manila are a delight to anyone even the foreigners. They are big and some are even considered as a weekend escape. If you can eat at home, don’t. Dine at a restaurant. Or take the streets for the public food stalls and shops. Even these cheap stalls can always give highbrow restaurants a run for their 5-star cuisine. If you can stay at home during a heavy rain, don’t. Manila during the monsoon season is the best place to be. Witness how a country’s capital turn instantly into Asia’s version of Venice. You will see how highly ingenious Manila residents become human bridges, piggybacking pedestrians across flooded streets. Or how public buses become gondolas.

There is nothing like the Manila flood.

(to be continued)