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18 September 2012

Of Vans and Good Food - Our Samar Experience Day 8


Catbalogan City, Western Samar

This is our last day in Catbalogan. As usual, breakfast was a feast with tinapa, papaya, bread, etc. After breakfast, we decided to stay in our room to savor our last day there.

At around 11 a.m., Iosa knocked on our door to give us some merienda. Grabe, overflowing with food talaga. She gave us some suman latik and local puto. We finished 7 slices of suman latik. Ang sarap. Then I tasted the puto. Masarap din.

By 12 noon, it was time to grab some quick lunch because our trip to Tacloban was leaving at 1 p.m. So even if we were still full, we had to eat something. And by something, I mean shrimps, fish, etc. The fish was so good. It was filleted, I think, with mushroom then cooked with a bird's nest soup-like sauce.

After lunch, Rhuel and Tita Piding quickly exchanged notes about the Pedraza family tree. Turns out that Tita Pidings' lolo was a Pedraza (a brother of Mama's dad) who got a girl pregnant out of wedlock. The fruit of their union was Tita Piding's mom who opted to use her mom's last name, Cadiz. Tita Piding's mom, therefore, is Mama's cousin. She then married a Piczon.

So that makes Rhuel and Tita Piding cousins. Iosa is already Rhuel's niece and the kids are Rhuel's apos. Coolness. :)

Tita Piding had crabs and kesong puti for Mama. We were supposed to pay for them but because she's so generous, she didn't accept our offer of payment.

Afterwards, Iosa and Pia brought us to the terminal. After saying our goodbyes, it was time to head back home.

Tacloban City, Leyte

Our van left Catbalogan at a little past 1 p.m. Fare was Php170 (normal fare is only Php120 but since we're being brought to the airport, we had to pay an extra Php50) each.

We got to the airport at almost 4 p.m. The airport was crazy. There was no x-ray machine at the entrance so if you had to check-in some stuff, you had to go to the pre-departure area first to have your stuff go through the x-ray then you'll go out again to proceed to the check-in counter. Labo.

We were supposed to hand carry the crabs because according to Tita Piding, we can hand carry them. But the airport person didn't allow us to do so. So we had to check-in twice.

Our flight back to Manila was not delayed but as usual, we spent several minutes circling Manila skies because we could not land yet. Hohum.


I had a nice time showing my husband around Samar. Now he knows where I spent many happy summer years when I was young.

I love the place, even if getting there can literally be a pain in the ass (my butt was aching especially during the latter stretches of the trip due to the numerous van rides we had to take). My parents grew up there. I have a lot of relatives there. I have a lot of good memories of the place.

I love the long drive from Tacloban to Sulat or Borongan, even if it can be very tiring, because I enjoy watching the greeneries and appreciating nature. I don't think a lot of places in the Philippines have that. I just hope the place remains green and beautiful. I hope the people would become more conscious about throwing their trash properly. The beaches, though not comparable to Boracay, are good enough but because of the basura, they were not really appealing to the eyes.

I hope Borongan and Sulat will not be as overcrowded as Catbalogan. I wish they'll retain the probinsiya feel because that's the thing that keeps me grounded. It reminds me that I have relatives and friends who love and appreciate me, regardless of what I've become. They will always be proud of me. These places remind me that indeed, life is good. :)

I hope I will still have the chance to visit the place once in a while and I hope my future kids will also have good memories of the place. :)

Of Vans and Good Food - Our Samar Experience Day 7


Catbalogan City, Western Samar

I bet you're waiting for me to say that breakfast was a feast, and yep, indeed, it was a feast again. We had yummy longanissa, danggit, eggs and bread. I don't know how they finish everything.

After breakfast, Tita Piding had a tricycle bring us to the Grand Tours terminal where we will take our van to Calbayog.

Toto's right, Grand Tours is organized. Their terminals are conducive and comfortable for waiting, unlike Duptours. It's air-conditioned and they have comfortable couches.

Calbayog City, Western Samar

Our van left Catbalogan at around 8:30 a.m. Fare was Php100 each. In about an hour, we were already in Calbayog. The roads were nice but there were a lot of sharp curves.

Unfortunately, it was raining when we got to Calbayog. We hailed a pedicab and we asked him to bring us to the big church in the city. The church was huge but there was an on-going funeral mass so Rhuel could not take pictures. It was raining anyway so we decided to wait for the mass to be over.

After finally taking pictures of the church, we checked out the city hall which looked way better than the one in Catbalogan.

Afterwards, we decided to check out the college seminary where some uncles and cousins studied Philosophy. We took a trike but it could not go up the seminary because the road was steep. He dropped us off in a waiting shed. But because it was raining hard, we were stranded in the shed. Boo.

When the weather finally improved, we trekked up the seminary. There were 2 gates there so we took the one on the left. It was called the Nazareth Formation Center/House. I don't know if it's affiliated with the seminary, all I know is that that's not the name of the seminary. So after taking pictures of the chapel, we decided to leave.

Fortunately for us, we checked out the other gate because that was the correct seminary, the San Vicente de Paul Seminary.

There was no one there. Well, there were 2 students in the study hall and there were classes in one classroom. But the place was practically deserted.

We took pictures of the chapel and the surroundings.

Then it was time for lunch. Rhuel read somewhere that I's Plant Hotel and Restaurant served good food. We saw it on our way to the seminary so we decided to have lunch there.

We ordered Yang Chow fried rice (a platter's good for 3-4 persons, but yes, we finished everything), lechon kawali and fried chicken. The fried rice and the lechon kawali were okay but the fried chicken was dry and bland. Oh well.

After lunch, we went back to the city proper.

We checked out their tiangges and ukays but we were not able to buy anything. We decided to kill time in Jollibee. Rhuel had pineapple juice while I ordered a coffee float.

Then we remembered that Tita Piding recommended Ping-Ping's tinapa in Calbayog. So a few minutes before our trip back to Catbalogan, we went looking for Ping-Ping's. Turns out it was not in the city proper. The market sells Ping-Ping's but only late in the afternoon. We had to go to their house. It's a few minutes away from the city proper. 5 pieces of tinapa cost Php100. Keri na rin. Then we saw some kesong puti which Jomari requested. We got 2 containers of kesong puti, one for Mama and one for Jomari at Php125 each.

At around 4 p.m., it was time to go back to Catbalogan.

Catbalogan City, Western Samar

We got to Catbalogan at around 5:30 p.m. We decided not to have dinner at Tita Piding's kasi nakakahiya naman. We opted to try out another local restaurant which was again near the city hall. The name of the restaurant was Cafe Rosario by Charito's Delights. Charito's is a popular manufacturer of local delicacies.

We ordered set meals which were reasonably priced at Php95 each (I think). Rhuel had spaghetti bolognese with 1 slice of Hawaiian pizza. He also ordered grape lemonade for his drinks. I had baked macaroni, 1 slice of pizza and lemonade. The food was good. Sayang nga eh, I found out belatedly that they also serve baked spaghetti. Mas okay siguro yun. As a bonus, Cafe Rosario had very fast wifi too. :)

When we got to Tita Piding's, it was time to rest.

Of Vans and Good Food - Our Samar Experience Day 6


Borongan City, Eastern Samar

It's our last day in Borongan. Toto and Trish are leaving for Tacloban at 8 a.m. while Rhuel and I are leaving for Catbalogan at 10 a.m.

We had some quickie breakfast before we started repacking our stuff. Fortunately for us, Auntie Madge had a huge gym bag where our clothes finally fit. So we now had 2 backpacks, 1 gym bag and 1 hand bag.

Before we left, Rhuel had his picture taken with the uncles in the payag and with Auntie Madge inside the house.

When it was time to say goodbye, I found myself teary eyed again. Hay, I guess I'll never outgrow that. I used to cry in the past whenever my cousins would send me off at the bus terminal. But this time, I thought it will be different. I'll be with my husband and there will be no send-offs by cousins. But I cried just the same. Hohum.

Our 10 a.m. trip was slightly delayed and we left the Duptours terminal at around 10:30 a.m.

Catbalogan City, Western Samar

This part of the trip was exciting because we were meeting another set of Rhuel's relatives whom he never met in the past. He only heard of them through Mama's stories. This time, we were visiting his relatives on his maternal grandpa's side, the Pedrazas.

Tita Aging, Mama's sister, must have alerted their relatives that we were coming. Before we even left Borongan, Tita Piding (Piczon-Oral), the relative we were supposed to track down, texted Rhuel to inquire about our time of arrival. There goes our surprise, hehe. She told us to text her once we get to Buray so we can agree on a meeting place.

The trip from Borongan to Catbalogan took roughly around 3 hours. Fare was Php160 each. We sat in front of the van and Rhuel had to sit between me and the driver because Duptours has a rule that girls can't sit beside the driver. Eh ang haba ng binti ni Rhuel. So he was moving around all the time. I tried to nap but the ugly roads made it impossible for me to sleep. I finally decided to stop trying to nap when we got to Buray.

Tita Piding told us to get off at the fire station and she'll meet us there. She invited us to have lunch in their house. It was embarrassing because she thought my entire family was coming.

When we arrived at the fire station, Tita Piding was there waiting for us with her daughter, Iosa. We rode their van. Rhuel asked about affordable hotels or pension houses in the area where we can stay. But Tita Piding was gracious enough to invite us to stay in their house. Pasensiya na lang daw at tiyaga na lang kung anong meron sa kanila.

When we got to their house, betcha by golly wow, I don't know what she was talking about when she said tiyaga and pasensya. The house was huge, as in mansion. They lived in a compound and Tita Piding's house was the biggest. Turns out that the other houses belonged to her kids.

When she led us to our room in the second floor, ay wow-er talaga. May balcon, 2 big beds, TV, aircon, huge bathroom with bath tub, etc. Who can ask for more? And guess what, their water heater is even centralized. We didn't want to leave, hehe.

Our late lunch was a huge feast. She served us crabs, shrimps, lechon and one more dish that I can't recall. Grabe, parang piyesta lang din. :)

After lunch we freshened up a bit and we decided to explore Catbalogan. First stop was the Grand Tours terminal where we reserved vans for our Calbayog trip and for Tacloban.

Tita Piding's family owns Samar Colleges and her dad used to be the governor of Samar. She dropped us off at Samar Colleges and she told us to meet her there afterwards when we're done exploring.

We went around the city and visited the usual spots - kapitolyo, simbahan. And there was nothing else to see, hehe.

The city hall was so boring. It didn't look stately. Parang multi-purpose or barangay hall lang.

It was still early so we decided to grab some merienda. We saw a cafe that looked cozy. It's called Flaming Hat (yep, not hot) and it's beside the city hall. We ordered coffee, Rhuel had beef and cheese quesadilla (it was so good) and I had chocolate moist cake. We enjoyed our merienda. :)

When we got back to the school, Tita Piding already went home so we decided to take the trike to their house instead.

Dinner was a feast again. We had yummy kaldereta and fried lumpiang gulay. It's funny how their dishes tasted like the dishes Mama cooked. We met some other relatives like Anna, Tita Piding's daughter, and the rest of Tita Piding's apos like Pia, Matt, Ram and Mishka.

After the hearty dinner, it was time to sleep.

Of Vans and Good Food - Our Samar Experience Day 5


Borongan City, Eastern Samar

Mass day. We attended the 9:30 a.m. mass at the Borongan Cathedral.

Afterwards, it was time for some late and quickie breakfast at Tatay's house. I loved the crab meat. :)

Then it was time to head to Ate Che's house again. Tatay's family usually holds get-togethers after the piyesta. Most of the time, the venue is in their house because it's big enough to accommodate everyone. But perhaps they wanted a change of scenery this year so they decided to move it to Ate Che's house.

The get-together serves as a leftover party because all the leftovers from the fiesta are served. Hehe. The younger cousins had fun belting out their favorite songs in the videoke. Tatay made things more exciting by offering prizes: Php20 for those who score 75-80; Php40 for those who get 81-85; and Php60 for those who scored 86 and above. He had a lot of new bills which he was supposed to use as gala (the money people throw away while dancing the local dance, kuratsa). The prize challenged the kids.

The older uncles and aunties had their usual drinking session while listening to the younger ones sing.

At around 3 p.m., it was time for us to go because Rhuel had an appointment with a long lost relative. It turns out that Rhuel's maternal grandma (the Cunas) had a half-brother in Borongan, Mr. Antonio Cuna, Sr. He had a son, Antonio Cuna, Jr., who was a contemporary of one of my uncles. Unfortunately, Mr. Cuna, Jr. has already passed away. But Rhuel was able to meet one of Mr. Cuna Jr.'s sons, Ariel, who in effect was Rhuel's cousin. Confusing? Hehe.

Anyway, one of my aunties, Auntie Lyn, happened to work under Ariel and she arranged the meeting between the cousins. We went to the ancestral home of the Cunas in Borongan and Rhuel mentioned that it reminded him of Mama's ancestral home as well. He took some pictures of the house and the old pictures there. And of course, some photo ops with his cousin. He also met some of his nephews.

Rhuel did some research to further expand the Honorio Cuna (his great grandpa, I think) clan family tree because it stopped with Mr. Cuna, Jr. :)

After the reunion, we proceeded to the high school seminary, Seminario de Jesus Nazareno, where Toto spent his high school years. He gamely posed, kneeling down as if he was being punished for certain violations, similar to what he was exposed to when he was still studying there.

We also saw my inaanak, Cyrus, who is now a sophomore in the seminary.

The vice principal was Toto's batchmate who's now a priest. He invited us for merienda (lechon ang sinerve, sosyal) but we had to beg off because we were too full.

Afterwards, we dropped by Rawis or the port, where we used to hangout as teenagers. My cousin, Glo-Ann, would drive their motorcycle or their jeep so we can check out the "sights," hehe.

Then we had to go back to Ate Che's to pick up Nanay. She was going back to Sulat because she was joining the funeral of a friend who used to prepare the best mazapan de pili.

Nanay dropped us off Auntie Nimfa's (Tatay's cousin who's a balikbayan from the States) house. However, they were not home yet so we decided to check out the boutique below their house. The store's name is Double Happiness. They sold some good stuff and Rhuel wanted to get a pair of walking shorts. But they were unsure of the price so he got turned off.

We waited for Auntie Nimfa at Tatay's house. We watched some TV to pass the time. When we finally got word that Auntie Nimfa was home, we all trooped to her house.

Auntie Nimfa asked us to choose kikay stuff like lipsticks, lip balms, powders, etc. I only got concealers because that's probably the closest thing to make up that I use. There were powders but according to our make-up expert, Trish, they were for the eyes and cheeks kasi colored. I also got a lotion and rosary from Auntie Irma, Auntie Nimfa's sister. Rhuel got a nice polo shirt.

A few days before the fiesta, Auntie Nimfa and other balikbayans staged an ukay-ukay. Technically, they were not really selling ukay stuff because most of the items were new. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it in time for the ukay because we were still in Sulat at that time. I heard from Auntie Amy that there were still a lot of items left. After some pilitan and tulakan, Auntie Lyn finally had the guts to ask Auntie Nimfa if we can look at the ukay stuff, yey!

First box was the party dresses. I'm no party dress person so I was not really that excited. But Auntie Nimfa gave me a dress that fit perfectly and looked elegant. Yey. :) I also got a 3/4 blouse that I can use for the office.

Next was the box of shoes. I saw a pair of sneakers that I liked but one of the younger cousins was interested so I had to let it go. Tatay found a pair for Rhuel and it looked really nice. Black siya na slightly high cut. Material's mixed leather and suede yata. It fit Rhuel although he was apprehensive if it looked good on him because the design's kinda modern. After assuring him that it looked good on him, he finally got it. :)

Third box was the pants. Riot na talaga at this point. You just have to be patient while going through the heaps of pants and finding the correct size for you. And because I'm the girl, I had to look for pants for my uncles, hihi. They got some jogging pants and shorts. Rhuel got a pair of khakis. And maybe because I was a good girl, I got rewarded with 3 slacks. 2 were black while 1 was gray. Hooray!

The final box was the bags. I got one for my laptop. Auntie Nimfa raffled off two nice looking bags. I should have won but I gave it to a younger cousin instead. Matanda na nga ata ako, di na ko fas-yon, hehe.

We were all so happy and proud of our loot. :)

But we have not eaten dinner yet. We decided to drop off our stuff at Virech and head to the lugawan (which Uncle Jesse calls the food park and Asam and Auntie Madge say is popular for bulalo). My cousins and I used to frequent the place in the past. :)

We all had one order of lugaw each. I love their lugaw, especially if you add in patis and paminta. Yum. Then we ordered barbecues and jumbo hotdogs. Solve!

When we got back to Virech, we had a big problem. Ang dami naming damit. We only had 2 backpacks with us and it was just impossible to fit in everything to 2 bags. We decided to borrow a bag from Auntie Madge the following day.

Of Vans and Good Food - Our Samar Experience Day 4


Borongan City, Eastern Samar

Yey, piyesta na. Happy birthday, Mama Mary! :)

We woke up early to attend the 8 a.m. mass. The church was super packed so we had to stay outside. It was so hot. It was just impossible to hear mass solemnly and in peace.

Rhuel roamed around and he bought 2 face towels. He pretended to be a foreigner and the vendor believed him. I overheard them speaking in English. Poor manong, nabiktima.

After the mass, we headed to Tatay's house for some breakfast. Everyone was busy preparing the give aways for the visitors.

Ate Che, my cousin, invited us to their house in Barangay Bato. They live in front of the beach. It was a good escape to avoid the busy atmosphere in Tatay's house. Although, personally, I would have wanted to witness the influx of guests. Para talagang ma-feel ko ang piyesta.

Ate Che rented a videoke machine so we did nothing but sing, sing, sing. She also served mixed maki which we loved. It was also our chance to bond some more with our nephews Airan (who's also my inaanak) and Top and our kikay niece Erienne.

They also had wifi connection so we were able to check our e-mails and visit our social networking accounts, hihi.

Nanay called to inform us that some lolas and titas were at Tatay's house so we should go there to meet them. We decided to have lunch first at Ate Che's before heading back to home base.

When we got to Tatay's house, Auntie Ninang Joan and Uncle Ninong Emil were there. We said hello and then we proceeded to the quadrangle, a favorite tambayan of my relatives because a number of them live there. Lola Conching (my paternal lola's sister) was there.

The three lolas (Lolas Sayong, Conching and Asyon) were seated in the quadrangle, probably catching up on stories. They gamely sang their favorite songs and fortunately for us, Toto was able to record them. The moment was really priceless. I couldn't help but be teary-eyed while listening to them sing. Love, love, love them. :)

Afterwards, we went to Baybay, a beach in Borongan, to check out the tiangges. A long stretch of stalls welcomed us. And finally, Rhuel found his shorts. I think they were ukay stuff. We checked out the other stalls but were not able to buy anything else.

After shopping, we hung out at Tatay's house again while waiting for dinner to be served. We were made to get food from the big kalderos for dinner, hihi.

After dinner, Toto, Barney and Trish prepared for Ate Che's party. Rhuel and I took this opportunity to catch up on work. Our demanding bosses were missing us already because we have not been replying to e-mails, hihi. We were no longer able to attend the party.

Then it was time to sleep again. Piyesta's over.