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07 April 2012

Visita Iglesia 2012

We had conscientious visitors for the 2012 Holy Week break. Conscientious because they brought their own supplies and they fed us. Hehe. My family visited us for 4 days and 3 nights for some bonding and relaxation.

It started with my birthday on April 4. We had dinner at Conti's in Solenad.

Thursday, April 5 was spent at home. In the afternoon, we went to church for the Maundy Thursday services. "Last supper" was at Yellow Cab in Solenad.

Friday, April 6 was home time for the boys (Tatay, Rhuel and Toto). Us girls, Angel, Daphne and Cher, er, Nanay, Barney and I had visita iglesia. It's a Catholic tradition of visiting 7 churches after the Maundy Thursday services and before the Good Friday activities.

I was the designated driver and we left Sta. Rosa at around 9:30 a.m. for our Tagaytay road trip/visita iglesia. Traffic was tolerable on our way to our first church.

It was surprising to note that the restaurant areas were full of people too. I guess people are not as traditional on Good Fridays the way they were when I was younger. Back then, there was no cable TV so there was nothing to watch. My siblings and I had to stay at home bored all day. We couldn't eat much because we were supposed to fast. We couldn't sing or play either because Jesus was "dead." Nowadays, commercial establishments are open even on Good Friday. Even the grocery near us was open. Oh well, things change.

The churches were not that full, save for the first church we visited. However, I suspect that majority of the people were there for the view and not for the sacrifice/prayer. But it's Holy Week so I will stop being judgmental.

But wait, allow me one complaint. Church #2 had 3 huge crosses, presumably for the Good Friday services. Some people had their pictures taken in front of the crosses where they posed as if they were being crucified (while smiling, of course). Don't get me wrong. I'm not overly religious. But I think that was just tasteless.

So here goes...Forgive the pictures, they're raw and unedited. I even had to steal one picture (I'll acknowledge the source, of course) because we left the camera in the car when we visited Church #3. I took pictures of the roof but I guess that's not acceptable so I had to borrow a picture. =)

Church #1 : Transfiguration Chapel, Calaruega in Batangas

Rough roads going there. Super crowded. We parked too far from the entrance. Only the parking gate was open. They only open the chapel gate when there are weddings so we had to hike going to the chapel.

Church #2 : Chapel on the Hill in Batangas

This is near Calaruega. This church is interesting because it does not have permanent pews. I think the stools are only placed in the church when there are activities.

Church #3 : Lourdes Church in Tagaytay

This is the part where I left the camera in the car. We only realized that we were not able to take pictures of the church when we were back in the highway. I tried to take pictures of the roof. Harhar. I loved how simple but elegant the church looked.  The chandeliers were really nice. Stations of the Cross were placed in the basement to protect the visitors from the sun.

 The Roof

Taken from http://lourdeschurchtagaytay.wordpress.com/lourdes-church-photos/

Church #4 : Franciscan Missionary Chapel, Tagaytay

This church is also run by the Franciscans, similar to the Lourdes Church. But it's smaller. It's cute. Very few people were there so I guess we had a more solemn prayer time there.

Church #5 : Perpetual Help Church in Laguna Bel-Air, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

Rhuel and I visited this church last year. The architecture's interesting.

The next 2 churches are the ones where Rhuel and I hear mass on a regular basis so no explanations needed.

Church #6 : Don Bosco Church, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

Church #7 : St. Benedict's Church, Silang, Cavite

We got home at around 2:30 p.m. We had a quick lunch then we left for St. Benedict's Church to attend the Good Friday services.

My family left this morning. :( Rhuel and I might skip the Easter Vigil tonight because the service tends to be lengthy. We'll just hear mass tomorrow.

Hope you all had a meaningful Holy Week. Advanced Happy Easter everyone! =)

Trina =)

01 April 2012

Beautiful Bantayan

Early last year, Rhuel and I booked a trip to Cebu. Thanks to Cebu Pacific's Piso Sale for making it possible. (We've deliberately ignored seat sales since then because they're bad for our budget, hihi.)

Since Rhuel and I have been to Cebu City in the past (separately), we thought of going to Bantayan and Malapascua Islands. However, 4 days might not be enough. Based on our research, Malapascua's more of a dive/snorkeling site. so it was eliminated. We're beach bums but we're not exactly adventurous. So we picked Bantayan.

Getting There

We were on Cebu Pacific's 4:25 a.m. flight on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. The flight was super early that we almost missed our flight. I had an upset stomach the night before and I was not able to sleep. We had to drop by the gas station before heading to the airport because the car's oil indicator was blinking. We left the gas station at 2:45 a.m. and we got to the airport at 3:20 a.m.

We always park the car in the airport whenever we travel. Good deal at Php50.00 per night. But the guards there have a gimmick. They always display the Overnight Parking Full sign. In the past, this only happened during rush hours (morning and afternoon). Recently, however, it happens even during the wee hours of the morning. You then have to beg the guards to help you find a spot. They'll tell you, "Sige, sir, late na kasi kayo, bigay ko yung reserved sa inyo pero kayo na bahala sa kin ha." They used to bring us to the Employee Parking Lot to make their story believable. This time, however, they allowed us to park in the Overnight Parking space. Since the guard "helped" us find a slot, we had to give him a Php50.00 tip. But when we checked the Overnight Parking area, there were still a lot of spaces available. Nadenggoy kami ni kuya!

Passengers should check-in 45 minutes before the flight. Since it was 3:25 a.m., we only had 15 minutes to check-in. Normally, that would be enough since it was still early in the morning. But there were too many people in the airport. Start na ata ng Holy Week rush. The check-in lines were super long. It didn't help that almost all counters were serving all domestic flights, regardless of destination. Rhuel was telling me we won't make it.

I asked one ground crew if the plane will wait for us considering that we might be late because the check-in lines were so long. He assured me that there will be a last call to check-in for passengers in our flight. I asked him if there was a different counter for those without check-in baggage, and he answered in the affirmative. Yahoo. He led me and Rhuel to that counter. The line was still long but it moved faster and it was shorter than the other lines. Whew. We were the 122nd and 123rd passengers to check-in for our flight.

We only had to wait for a few minutes at the boarding gate because it was almost boarding time when we got there. I heard the flight attendant say that there were 127 passengers on our flight. Photo finish nga kami. Hehe.

We arrived in Cebu a few minutes before 6 a.m. We rode the yellow airport multi-cab to the Marina Mall (fare: Php7.50 each).

Cebu Yellow Multicab from Airport to Marina Mall

Marina Mall, Mactan Island
We were told that we had to walk to the highway and cross to the other side where we'll ride an SM jeep that will take us to the North Bus Terminal. When we got to the jeepney terminal, the barkers and drivers told us that we missed the SM jeeps that pass by North Bus Terminal because they leave very early in the morning (around 5:00 a.m.).

Jeepney Terminal in Mactan
We were advised to take a Hi-way jeep to the Park Mall (fare: Php9.00 each). We were dropped off at the jeepney terminal where we rode the 01K jeep that took us to the North Bus Terminal (fare: Php7.50 each).

Cebu North Bus Terminal
We enjoy commuting in provinces so we didn't really mind that we had to make various transfers.

At the bus terminal, we boarded the bus headed to Hagnaya at a little past 7 a.m. There were aircon and non-aircon buses. The trip was going to take around 3 hours and we were quite hungry and sleep-deprived so we decided to take the aircon bus.

Ceres Bus to Hagnaya and Bantayan Island
Fare was Php150 per head. The bus was okay - working aircon and with film showing. The leg space was quite small though. It didn't help that we passed by a lot of road repairs. In some instances, only one lane was passable so vehicles had to take turns when passing by these areas.

Road to Hagnaya
Oh, and it was raining too. The bus had 2 stop overs, both in restaurants, I think. We got to Hagnaya at 11 a.m. Blame the extra hour on the repairs and the bad weather.

We were dropped off at the Hagnaya Port where we purchased our ferry tickets for Sta. Fe (Php170 each).

Hagnaya Port to Bantayan Island
Ferries leave every hour from as early as 5 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. We boarded the 11:30 a.m. trip of an Island Shipping ferry.

Island Shipping Ferry to Bantayan

Don't expect anything grand okay. There's no aircon. Chairs are long monoblocks. Ferry's not that clean. If you're lucky like us, you might even have the misfortune of sitting beside a kid who'll vomit. The trip takes an hour.

We arrived Sta. Fe at 12:45 p.m. Our pick-up was already waiting for us.

Bantayan Island

You might be wondering why we got off in Sta. Fe when we're headed to Bantayan Island. I was confused myself. Turns out that Bantayan Island is composed of 3 municipalities -  Sta. Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos. While the place is popularly known as Bantayan, there are actually more resorts in Sta. Fe. The port's in Sta. Fe too. The locals we talked with told us that the beaches in Sta. Fe are better. They might be biased though because they're working for Sta. Fe resorts. =)

Anika Island Resort

Our friend Magene who is based in Cebu recommended this resort. We checked the pictures on the Internet and we liked what we saw. Instead of cottages, the resort used remodeled container vans.

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island

The rooms looked clean, the beach looked nice and they had WiFi. I admit, Anika had me with their beach lounge chairs. Hehe. It's relatively new and the owner personally attended to our inquiry.

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
Anika has sea view (Php3,500 per night), sunrise view (Php2,500 per night) and garden view (Php2,000 per night) aircon rooms. These are inclusive of breakfast. Each room has a veranda. We picked the garden view room minus breakfast and we paid Php1,500 per night.

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
The room didn't disappoint although it appeared larger in pictures. It was really clean. And we loved the design and layout. The owner had good taste in picking furniture and fixtures to use. He didn't scrimp - the bed and the pillows were really soft and comfy, toilet bowl was American Standard, towels were soft, big and thick, back of the door had a full-length mirror, etc.Water pressure was good too. The space was really maximized.

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
When we got to our room, there was no TV. We complained and we were informed that the cable company had yet to install cable TV. The TV had no antenna so free channels were not visible either. We can have a TV in our room but we could only watch DVDs. They have DVDs in the resort restaurant but you have to rent them for Php30 each. We asked them to put a TV in our room anyway.

Our room had ants though. On Wednesday, we asked the cleaning personnel to spray Baygon or other insecticide to kill the ants. We thought the resort didn't have any insecticide because when we got to our room, it smelled so good but the ants were still there. We suspected the poor boy sprayed some air freshener on our room instead. However, on Thursday, a different cleaning person fixed our room. We gave him the same instructions re insecticide. Turns out they have one. The ants were gone. Yey! =)

Anika staff are really nice and courteous. They always greet you and they're always around to assist you. They borrow your key when they need to clean your room (perhaps it's their way of letting you know that they're going inside).

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
The WiFi's only available in the restaurant so don't expect to connect to the Internet while you're in your room. The resort was still undergoing landscaping when we got there. The laborers worked really fast and they didn't get in the way of the guests. The resort has 4 cottages, 5 (or 6, not sure) beach lounge chairs, 3 jet skis and 1 cabana in the beach front.

Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
Anika Resort, Bantayan Island
Over-all, I'd highly recommend that you stay in Anika. I think the price is reasonable considering that it's a beach front property with good amenities where you can get a quiet and peaceful vacation.

Anika Resort's Restaurant

When you get to Anika, you won't feel like going out. It didn't help that when we got there, the weather was not that good. So we had all of our meals at the resort's restaurant. It's located at the back part of the resort. It's open til 2 a.m. It's open-air so it's open to flies and rain too. The flies can be very annoying especially during daytime.

The restaurant's meals are good for 2-3 persons and the servings are generous. Here are the meals that we tried (price range Php200 to Php300 each):
  • Tuesday lunch - Lechon Kawali. It was okay. 
  • Tuesday dinner - Fried Chicken. It was really tasty. Huge serving!
  • Wednesday breakfast - Danggit. Mmm, nothing special. Disappointing since Cebu's known for its danggit. It tasted just like the danggit we cook here at home.
  • Wednesday lunch - I was able to buy 3 pieces (1/2 kilo) of crabs from a local. I paid Php100 for the crab and Php50 for the cooking. It was soooo good. Rhuel had clubhouse sandwich.
  • Wednesday dinner - Grilled squid. Tasted good but they didn't remove the ink and the plastic thingy. The ink squirted on my shirt. Thank God I was able to remove it. We ordered mango shake too. Again, we were disappointed because Cebu's popular for its mangoes and our shakes looked so pale. The following afternoon, we ordered mango shake from the nearby resort. Same same.
  • Thursday breakfast - We had ham and cheese sandwich. So-so.
  • Thursday lunch - Calamares by the beach. Yum yum.We had buko shake which tasted like milk.
  • Thursday dinner - Sinigang sa buko na hipon. It was soooo good. What the shrimps lacked in size, they made up for it in numbers.
  • Friday breakfast - Danggit.
During our first meal at the restaurant, we wanted some Nilagang Baka. However, they had no beef available. The following day, we tried to order another beef meal, but again, beef was not available. I wonder why it's difficult to get beef there.

The restaurant staff were really nice. We always borrowed an extension cord for our laptop and they always had one ready for us when we enter the restaurant.

Bantayan the Town

On Wednesday afternoon, we decided to check the Bantayan town. We were supposed to take a trike (fare: Php25 per head). We were advised that the trip would take around 20 minutes. The resort offered to lend us their vehicle and driver and we just need to pay Php300 for the gas. Thinking that there were many places to visit in Bantayan, we took the offer.

Indeed, the Bantayan town was quite far from Sta. Fe. We felt relieved that we didn't take the trike because it would have been a difficult trip for us.

Road from Sta. Fe to Bantayan, Bantayan Island
Unfortunately for us, our driver was not a local so he didn't really know where to take us. We just knew we wanted to see the church because it was old.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Bantayan Island
Kuya driver dropped us off at the church. It was really nice. After taking some pictures, we went to the plaza and there was nothing much to see there. Rhuel checked out a heritage house and I bought some merienda from Julie's. Hehe.

Abello Theatre, Bantayan Island

Pier from Bantayan to Bacolod
Afterwards, we went back to the resort. Lugi ang Php300. Hehe.


The weather was bad on Tuesday so we stayed indoors most of the time.  The sun appeared Wednesday morning and we decided to swim and lounge around the beach. The sun looked so harmless because it was super cloudy and I sat under a tree so I didn't apply sunblock. But when I got back to our room, I was so surprised to see myself with a severe sunburn. I was red all over. It still stings today. My feet are even swollen. I'm peeling and I look terrible. I've been applying Aloe Vera gel on the sunburn. Hohum. Moral of the story: always wear sunblock.

We spent Tuesday night watching The Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. It was a nice, feel good film. Wednesday night was for Milan starring Claudine Baretto and Piolo Pascual. Rhuel and I loved it. It was so sad to see the plight of our OFWs and how they still choose to work abroad despite being subjected to dangerous conditions and super expensive costs.Claudine and Piolo had good performances. Thursday was spent watching Nasaan Ka Man starring Claudine, Diether Ocampo and Jericho Rosales. Film was so-so.

When Rhuel walked along the beach, he saw several pieces of trash. He noticed that resort personnel clean only their respective beach fronts. We hope beach owners cooperate with each other and with the locals in ensuring that the island remains clean and trash-free. It's scary to already see trash scattered around the island even if it still has fewer visitors than more popular islands like Boracay. The island should be ready for the influx of tourists.

Some resort personnel and bangkeros offered to take us to the Virgin Island. It's allegedly better than Bantayan. There's a Php200/head entrance fee and you need to ride a pump boat to get there. Trip takes around 20 minutes. Pump boat rates changed. The resort's rate was Php1,500. Resort driver's offer was Php700. Resort personnel's rate was Php800. Rhuel found a bangkero (red boat with Meljun sign) who can do it for Php500. We didn't go to the other island because my sunburn was bothering me. But if you do decide to go to the Virgin Island, make sure to canvass for the lowest rates.

Thursday and Friday were sunny days.

Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Over-all, Bantayan Island's a nice place to visit. It's not crowded. It's quiet. You can do a lot of soul-searching there. I believe I failed to notice that I was getting a sunburn because I was too busy listening to the waves, feeling the wind and absorbing the island's beauty.

Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
If they could only find a faster way of getting there, Bantayan Island would most probably rival Boracay in our list of favorite vacation spots. There's actually an airport on the island but the lone carrier that flies there from Mactan's suspended. So, currently, the bus and ferry are the only means of transportation to Bantayan.

Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island
Going Home

We left Sta. Fe at  9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 30.

Ferry from Bantayan Island to Hagnaya
Ferry from Bantayan Island to Hagnaya
Our bus left the Hagnaya port at 11 a.m. The trip was a bit better and faster this time because it was not raining. The bus was crowded though. Note: Ignore the porters offering taxi rides from Hagnaya back to Cebu City as they charge two to three times the bus rate. There is a bus leaving every hour the whole day.

Bus from Hagnaya to Cebu City
Bus from Hagnaya to Cebu City
We passed by several towns like Danao, Lilo-an and Bogo.

Hagnaya Church, Cebu
Heritage House, Hagnaya, Cebu

Danao Church, Cebu
We got to Mandaue by 2 p.m. but traffic was terrible in the city. It was almost 3 p.m. when we got off the North Bus Terminal.

We rode a jeep to SM (fare: Php8 each. Yes, fares increased while we were away.). We had lunch at CnT Lechon across SM along Juan Luna St. The lechon was good and really tasty (Php180 for half kilo). They can even pack your lechon in boxes in case you want to bring them to Manila.

CnT Lechon, Cebu City
Afterwards, we went to SM to get my sunburn aloe vera gel. There were a lot of people because there was a sale. It was a lucky day for me because I was able to use Rhuel's SM Advantage Card points to pay for my sunburn gel. We also used his points to buy some dried mangoes for pasalubong. Yey. =)

At around 4 p.m., we hopped on a cab. Initially, we wanted to stay at the Marina Mall while waiting for our 9:40 p.m. flight. We wanted to stay near the airport because we were scared of being stuck in traffic. Later on, we decided to just proceed to the airport.

Cebu-Mactan Bridge, Cebu City
We were at the airport before 5 p.m. Rhuel worked on an e-book project while I read a magazine. I even saw a law school batchmate there. We couldn't use any of the WiFi connections though. We had dinner at Fruit Magic and then we picked up my Zubuchon (yum!).

You can call Zubuchon's pre-departure area branch (032-3402486 local 3304) to reserve. Smallest packaging is 1 kilo (Php490). You can have it fresh or frozen. You can reheat it in the oven toaster and it can last for 30 days.

Our flight left on time. Thank God because I was soooo exhausted.

Mactan International Airport, Cebu
Mactan International Airport, Cebu