Monday, August 17, 2009

Honda Bay Island Hopping

Suntan oil and bathing suit? NADA.

Me and my cousins went on an impromptu island hopping the morning after Lola's birthday. I had no plans whatsoever in taking a dip, that's why I didn't bother to bring anything fit for the beach. *sigh* (next time I'd better pack beach stuff WHEREVER and WHENEVER I go to a place near water!)

Anyway, headed off to Sta. Lourdes at around 6:30am where we are to take a motorized boat ride through Honda Bay. The banca costs 1,500Php for the whole day. The one we got can accommodate up to around 10 people. Snorkeling gear is rented out at 100Php. Entrance fee to the islands varies from free to 50Php/person. Our bankero asked if we have specific islands that we wish to go to. Cousin Ian opted for Pandan Island first, then Snake Island, lunch at Starfish Island, then the last stop is a new spot for snorkeling.

Our first stop is Pandan Island.

Got its name apparently because the water is green.. not because of a pandan plantation there (LOL) that's what most of us thought. The sand is white and very fine. You'll actually see a lot of what looks like crab skid marks or 'footprints'. And the water is very, very clear. There was a particular section 'buoyed' out for snorkeling and there where like baskets attached to a couple of buoys. This we found out is where the caretakers keep live rock lobsters and squid for sale for grilling!!!

Ian says that this beach is also operated by the Legend Hotel, so I guess they would have facilities for an overnight stay here.

Second stop was at Snake Island.

It was so called because it's sand bar looks like a snake from the air. While my cousin Lala and her boyfriend snorkels, Ian and I went on a hike up to the snake's tip.

The sand is coarser. There are a lot of sand dollars and other shells, and it was very hot! Mangroves are abundant to the right. There's no crowd too, since it's almost a 20-minute walk from the main beach area. Very ideal for skinny dipping I may say, or nude sunbathing! LOL!

It's hot, windy, and very tranquil. The wind is all you hear. It's surprisingly very'll not even hear the waves. At the tip of the sandbar is a house on stilts. You'd imagine seeing just the house during high tide. On our way back to the main beach, that's when I realized that I already have a mean sunburn. OMG. Removing my shirt leaving my bra on should have been better--tan-wise (now why didn't I think of that?!?!)

Our third stop and lunch destination is at Starfish Island.

Starfish Island has been a favorite destination since I was little. Whenever I visit lola, our beach trip would always be at Starfish. But it has changed a lot! The sand isn't as white as I remember.

We were halfway eating our lunch of grilled squid (from Pandan Island) and 'pares' --hehe take-out time to prepare kasi eh-- when it rained. And it rained hard. We were sort of stranded in an island at Honda Bay in the middle of a storm (I swear you won't see those mountains anymore because of the rain), and there was I calling my mom and buddy about it! MAY SIGNAL ANG GLOBE AND SUN!!!!! Mama said that lola was a bit worried already because it was also raining hard in Puerto. It's past 3pm already and we have one more destination to go before we head home. There is a second party at Lola's house at 6pm.

Unfortunately for us when the rain stopped, and our bankero decided that it is already safe to go on, it began drizzling again and we had to fore go the final stop--which is at a location only for snorkeling. I'm hoping to go back especially to Pandan Island. The soonest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Tamilok Experience

Only for the brave and adventurous. Sabi nila.

The tamilok or 'woodworm' thrives on rotten mangroves. They grow to more than a foot long and are a delicacy in Palawan. Although it looks like a worm, it is actually a mollusk-- like a long, - very looong oyster. At Kinabuch's, in Pto. Princesa, this is one of the best-selling and highly sought after pulutan. After Lola's 89th birthday celebration yesterday, the young 'uns (kami yon), me, my cousins Ian and Lala, her boyfriend Johann, and my Tito Dante headed over to this famous watering hole.  Tamilok is best eaten fresh, according to our family's tamilok-expert Lala, straight from the rotten mangroves, cleaned, then dipped in vinegar-- the ultimate gastronomical experience especially when on island hopping, or on trips to Sabang or the Underground River. Some restaurants here serve it kilawin style-- with vinegar, chilies, onions, and calamansi (that, I definitely know I can handle!).

Lala would take nearly a foot-long tamilok and eat it. Her boyfriend Johann, who is half-Filipino, half-Belgian, would take a long one and chew it first. "Does it break down to pieces when you chew it?" I asked. "Hindi," he says. "Buo pa rin siya". OMG. Parang rubber pa ata. I could imagine why others would just swallow it in one gulp followed by gin or tuba. They pushed the plate in front of me--took a picture of it, photogenic siya! Reminds me of regular oysters lang. Taking a closer look, it does have those two whachamacallit eyes like that of an oyster or a scallop/mussel. Kaya ko ito.

For photo-op, I took a long one-- all smiles pa ako. Panay kantiaw na ng mga pinsan ko. Summoning all my strength didn't do me any good. Despite the eyes, it still looks like a worm.

I settled for a two-inch long instead. But what happens next is priceless---. When it touches your tongue, it does have a feel and texture of an oyster-- but the difference is that it's slimy and you'd immediately taste the smell of seaweeds and mud (that's my opinion).  There's a feeling of gag-reflex (if you'd term it that way), which may be one reason why tomadors wash it down with gin.  It's like eating a very, very slimy, and thickier fetuccini and it gets stuck half down your throat. And to think I just tried a measely two-inch one. If you like oysters, you'll like this :-)

Lola at 89.

..and still looking fabulous!

The party was held at the Fresh Cafe along J.P. Rizal Street in Puerto. It was a party for around 25 people, mostly close friends and relatives. The food was spectacular! Two of my favorites are the tinolang manok with coconut meat (reminds me of the pumpkin soup at Crescent Moon Cafe--they also use coconut with the recipe), there is a slight taste of coconut in the soup, yummy! There's spicy seafood curry, forgot how it's named, where the curry sauce can stand alone on its own--sans the squid, shrimp, fish meat, eggplant, and sitaw.

A light moment was during the blowing of the birthday candles. We laughed when Lola took he numbers 8 and 9 and inverted it to look 98. "Royal bloods have long life!" my Lola Au, her sister said afterwards. Lolas' cousins lived to be almost hundred, and that's no joke. A few years back they attended the 94th birthday of one of her cousins. And what a sight! Seating beside the celebrant are his siblings, also in their 90's! Now that's life worth it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Palawan: Back after 11 years

Finally. 2 days off and 4 VLs.

Last April, we (fortunately) chanced upon Cebu Pacific's promo for just 975.00 Php (you read that correctly!) for Pto. Princesa. Palalampasin mo ba yun?!?! It was actually a good thing because Mama is planning on visiting Lola on her birthday and also would be planning a grand reunion next year in August. It will be Lola's 90th birthday!

It has been 11 years already since I last visited. The city has changed so much since then. There are more tourists. Lots of good places to eat! There are now minicabs for transportation. Tricycles still rule but now they are color-coded, alternating from white on certain days, to blue. Looking forward to a relaxing vacation!