Thursday, March 30, 2006

(Part 4, Dos Palmas)

While we were still planning the trip, i was resistant to the idea that we stay at the bay cottages. What was so hot about staying at a cottage standing on stilts out in the open water? What if the high tide rose and rose and drowned us in our sleep? Or a wayward shark decided to ram the stilts and have us for a midnight snack? And so on.

As i was outvoted by my friends, we eventually did stay at bay cottage no. 8. And it turned out to be one of those small serendipitous things that spell the crucial difference between a so-so vacation and a truly enjoyable one.

Why? Because the clear waters beneath the bay cottages were teeming with fish, lots and lots of fish. And they weren't the Nemo-type fish better suited for aquariums. . .these were real fish that you could actually eat, and
there were schools and schools of them frolicking in the water with nary a care in the Neptune world. (well, at least it seemed that way)

Pretty soon, R.C. got into the habit of asking the Dos Palmas staff for leftover bread, which we broke into little bits and started throwing into the water to feed the fish. Some of these guys literally leap to the surface and gulp down the bread, while others are more poised, and simply take a quick nibble at the floating bread.

At times, two or more fish collide with each other while in pursuit of our bread, which proved quite entertaining. To liven things up even further, we throw many bits of bread into the water simultaneously, and watch as around a dozen or so fish converge on the morsels. Wow! And just for kicks, once or twice we threw in a whole slice of bread, and the fish all furiously swam towards it, each one biting off his or her respective chunk. Talk of an underwater stampede!

There is just something oddly therapeutic about feeding the fish, its like time slows down. Eventually, we were feeding the fish in the morning, then whenever we were in our cottage during the afternoons, and then late in the evening after dinnertime. I think nabondat sila [they stuffed themselves to the gills], since during late nights they sometimes refused to bite into the bread anymore.

To illustrate how extreme this new hobby grew, i was soon taking bread rolls from the buffet spread just for our fishy friends. Then we noticed that some types of fish were slower than others, and thus always getting left behind in the race for the bread. So we tried aiming the bread bits very close to them, with positive results. Ahh. . .it's a great feeling knowing you've done your good deed for the year, haha :-D

Then yours truly hatched an evil plot. Why don't we catch the fish and have them cooked? We could spread some sunblock on the bread before throwing these into water, and as the fish gobbled them up, they would get dizzy from the chemical smell and weird taste; thus, easy to catch! Unfortunately, this brilliant plan didn't get off the ground, due to the inconvenient fact that Dos Palmas strictly prohibited anyone from catching the fish. Darn!

One sunny morning, we noticed that some schools of fish were gathered together in circles (see photo above). What could they be doing? We tried throwing bread in their midst, to see if they would pursue it.

Nope, they weren't biting. Absolutely nothing could disturb them.

So, what could they be doing? Were these fish all part of one big family, and it was their weekly Sunday morning get-together? What were they talking about? The latest weather report? The new neighbors two nautical miles away?

Not about those three bums throwing all sorts of stale bread at them, i hope.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

(Part 3, Dos Palmas)

Pop quiz: The Philippines is an archipelago comprising how many islands in total?

If you're a smart aleck like me, you'd ask first, "High tide or low tide??"

So, here we were on this glorious day, ready to check out a few of the 7,107 islands, of which around 15 or 16 were set in Honda Bay. First stop was Islang Puting Buhangin (Island with White Sand), which is normally inhabited only by a caretaker. The Dos Palmas staff had arranged a picnic lunch for us here, which turned out very well. The food was delicious (the unicorn fish, in particular, was quite succulent!), and the scorching sun was tempered by the strong breeze. And best of all, this island has a long winding sandbar, so you could walk out to the open sea all the way to its end, at which the water is approximately waist-deep.

Then we took the motorized banca to Snake Island, which had a very long shoreline (3.6 km, if memory serves me right. By way of comparison, Boracay is around 1.7 km). The sand was on the brownish side, but the water was very clear.

Next was Pandan Island, which has this charm which i'm unfortunately not quite able to describe. A resort is being built on this island, so i guess Dos Palmas will have stiff competition in a few years' time. We sat inside a nipa hut and just took in the breeze. Then feeling thirsty, we ordered one buko each from the locals. Talk about freshness! They climbed the tree, fetched our coconuts, and split them open with a bolo right before our eyes.
All for just PHP20 each (Dos Palmas charges PHP70 per).

Last stop was Starfish Island, so named because of the numerous starfish lying around. Unfortunately, that was its only selling point, as this place looks like a dump; and to add insult, it even has a billboard charging PHP30 entrance fee! To whoever owns this island, get real, man.

(Note: We had assumed all along that the national government owns all these islands. Not true, after all. According to our boatmen, some are privately-owned)

Photos: (top) Pandan Island
(bottom) Islang Puting Buhangin

Friday, March 24, 2006

(Part 2, Dos Palmas)

I like a good brown suntan like everyone else. After all, what else literally screams, "Hah! i went to the beach and had a glorious time bumming around, while the rest of you worker ants had to endure another week of pencil-pushing and mindless doodling at your cubicles" than your newly oven-baked complexion? Nothing too burnt, i hope.

But i also know that too much sun makes your skin all shriveled up when you're 70. Besides, only chicken should be fried to a crisp, not your own skin, right?

Thus, i was armed with a boatload of sunblock for our Dos Palmas trip and wasted no time in converting R.T. and R.C. to the merits of slattering pasty, greasy, vile-smelling goo all over their bodies. R.C. was typically recalcitrant, and had to be cajoled to go along, though. Tsk, tsk.

Anyway, i've decided to do a review of the various sunblock lotions we used. Here goes:

1. Hawaiian Tropic Ozone (SPF 70) - reading the label, it claims to have mango/guava/papaya/passionflower fruit extracts. Funny, it smells rather like burnt leaves!

2. Hawaiian Tropic All-Day Sunblock (SPF 30) - smells a little better than its cousin above. Really adheres to the skin, living up to its water-proof billing. Stained R.T.'s shorts though.

3. Nuskin Sunright (SPF 35) - okay, not greasy on the skin. But smells a little "slimy" though.

4. Nivea Sunblock (SPF 50) - no smell, slightly greasy.

5. Godiva Green Tea Sunblock (SPF 25) - kinda chalky and wears off easily. Stained R.C.'s beloved Billabong t-shirt, a cardinal sin.

6. Coppertone Sport (SPF 30) - weird smell for me, but R.T. and R.C. liked it. Easy to apply, as it is sprayed on.

So which one was the best? Drum roll, please.

We voted UNANIMOUSLY the Nivea SPF 50 sunblock lotion as the best among all we tested!
[Important disclaimer: Given the miniscule sample size of 3, our survey results unfortunately have a margin of error of +/- 15%]

Thursday, March 23, 2006

(Part 1)

(Author's note: This is a series of rambling posts re my recent trip to Dos Palmas Resort, Areceffi Island, Honda Bay, Palawan. The reader is forewarned that this series will tend to jump around without rhyme nor reason, depending on my mood and degree of laziness)

As our banca gradually neared Dos Palmas Resort, i felt this palpable sense of excitement. The white bay cottages, their stilts set on shallow waters meters from the beach, looked really inviting. As we disembarked, the staff beat their bongo drums and handed us our welcome drink (more on this concoction later).

Then . . . silence. This resort seemed way too quiet. Where were the other guests? Why weren't they frolicking about and making lots of noise? Come to think of it, were there any other guests at all?

My friends, R.C. and R.T., and i started having misgivings. "We should have gone to Bora," one of us muttered, loud enough for the staff to hear. "What S. said was true, Dos Palmas is for honeymooners," said another. Well, obviously we were three guys with huge appetites and huge bellies to show for it, and not in any way were we honeymooning.

Checking into our bay cottage wasn't any better. The accomodations were, well, nice but nothing great. And R.C. raised a howl as there was no TV. Of course, being the contrarian, i pointed out that that was precisely the point. You didn't go all the way here just to watch TV, did you?

Well, apparently yes.

At least this will be one long vacation!!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (v. 2)


It is funny that there are so many restos in the metropolis, yet i'm hard-pressed to name that one resto which i would go back to again and again, simply because a) i like the food; b) it's the old stand-by, the place you eat in if you can't think (or are too lazy) to consider somewhere else. Perhaps closest is Teriyaki Boy, but they seem to have deteriorated a little bit recently.

So when my bubbly friend S. from the City of Pines was in town recently, i let her choose the venue for our dinner. Turns out she has this wish list of restos to check out, and to tick one off her list, we decided to venture forth to Bollywood in Greenbelt 3.

I enjoyed my strawberry lassi very much, but she made a wry grimace when she tasted her mango lassi. Haha :D
The free papadum was rather disappointing, and our roti was kinda lacking in flavor. I insisted on ordering the lamb kofta (lamb in meatball form), and ended up eating it all. The first piece is fantastic, but the law of diminishing returns kicks in quite quickly and i couldn't bear to look at the last kofta towards the end.

We also got the murgh makhani (chicken), and rogan josh (mutton swimming in spices), both best-sellers as claimed by the staff. S. made this funny joke about rogan josh and Josh Groban. . .oo nga naman :-d
And we got into this confusing semi-debate about mutton and beef and which animal it was that no motorist in India could run over and who is the god of the Hindus and who Gandhi was and. . .you get the drift.

Anyways, back to the food. The chicken was overwhelmed by its sauce, which tasted mainly of tomatoes. And josh groban? Passable but not earthshaking. All in all, extremely disappointing and we will definitely NOT be returning any time this millennium.

I'd advise anyone who reads this post/semi-review to eat instead at Queens Garden Resto along Jupiter St.. Food is much nicer, at more reasonable prices to boot. Now if i can convince S. to put this resto on her wish
list. . . .