Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tempura evening with three young extortionists

I took an after-dinner stroll at the boulevard to take in some fresh sea air. It was threatening to rain and so there weren't too many people around. Nevertheless, three young kids, all under seven years, popped by my side and started singing. It was all nonsense, in a seven-year old kind of way, but amusing enough. I told them I had no change on me.

"We've already sung for you!" the young girl reminded me.

"But I have no change on me," I said.

"You can buy us tempura."

I considered briefly. Tempura was cheap. I shrugged and told them we could head over to the end of the boardwalk where the tempura-and-tocino stalls congregated.

Bolstered by their success, the trio upped the ante: "How about balut instead?"

"How much does balut cost?"

"Ten pesos," said one young urchin.

"No, dummy, it's twelve pesos." And a noisy argument ensued. I started chuckling.

"It's ten pesos where it's nearer, and twelve pesos where it's further," they finally agreed.

"Look, it's a bit expensive," I said. "Can I just buy one balut for all three of you?"

"Ay! Ma-ot man." I don't think I need to translate.

So I vacillated between spending P36 as the price for my amusement and not spending on anything at all. We were about to approach a nearby itenerant balut vendor when I finally decided:

"Let's just get tempura instead. It's cheaper."

Yes, I know I am a regular Uncle Scrooge.

The girl and the younger boy eyed me reproachfully, disappointment etched in their faces. The other boy knew, though, that he would lose the deal completely if stood by balut.

"Sige, uncle, tempura na lang. It's cheaper."

So I started walking back to the tempura vendors, the boy following a few steps behind. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other two were holding fast and did not follow. Not for a while anyway. They magically reappeared when I was already at the first tempura stall.

"Three tempuras," I told the cook, and pointed to the three urchins. Disappointment was still all over two faces. I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but it only added to my bemusement. It didn't help at all that their faces were covered in white powder and they were wearing cardboard hats, making them look like some modern-day manic goblins.

The cook handed over the tempuras to the kids.

"Aren't you going to say 'thank you?'" the cook's wife asked the kids.

Small heads with glum faces and downturned mouths shook no.

"They're upset because they wanted balut," I explained. And the woman and I had a good laugh together.

Just another evening on the boulevard.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Last Fling of Summer: Panglao Circuit

I'm back in Dumaguete as I write this. I spent a little less than 24 hours in Tagbilaran and Panglao, and I really would have wanted to stay longer, but I have a party later tonight and I'm heading to Cebu tomorrow. Ah, well, the other sights will have to wait till next time. The trip was well worth it, though.

I started off at 5:30am as I knew this would be a much longer trip than yesterday's. The Dauis-Panglao road was about 18km end-to-end. The circumferential road around the island would be a little upwards of 50km.

I opted for a counterclockwise circuit as my first target stop was Hinagdanan Cave. I got there at around 6:15am. It had been turned into a full-blown tourist trap, complete with souvenirs and t-shirts. Since I was early, the shops were closed. Thankfully, the caretaker was already up and about, and after collecting my P15, she showed me to the entrance.
Hinagdanan is none too impressive but a worthwhile stop if it's along your way. It's really an underground chamber, around 1000 square meters. Limestone stalactites hang from the ceiling, and the chirping of birds that have made their home there completes the eerie effect. There's a pool of stagnant water in the main chamber. I took a few shots, but the cave was muggy and damp, so none of the pictures came out right. The guide will probably ask you, like she did with me, if you want to take a dip. Word of advice: refuse. The water is icky.

Afterwards, I stopped briefly at Momo Beach. The water was crystal clear but I resisted the temptation as I knew I still had a ways to go. The sand was powdery fine, though not very white. Typical of Panglao, though, is the relatively short beachfront area, and so it detracted a little from its appeal.

And then, once more San Agustin Parish, which told me I had hit the town of Panglao and the central part of the island.

I was glad I made it back to the church. I arrived a little late yesterday and so I really wasn't able to good shots. Today, I made up for it, from a very good angle, too.

On the plus side, I also found the clip for my helmet strap, which I had lost yesterday. A minor miracle! I found it inside the church, just underneath the kneeler. Now, why didn't I think of looking there yesterday?

The Spanish established the parish in late 1700s. The original baroque church was destroyed, and so the existing church is a little newer. Behind the church is a five-story belltower, supposedly the tallest in the country. It badly needs repairs.

Moving on, I hit the Alona beach area. The resorts along Alona tend to be on the pricey side. Fortunately, there are some public beachfronts that ask for no entrance fees. And the facilities are just as nice. More fine sand, more crystal clear water. Unfortunately, I was running low on time so I had to pass on any ideas of taking a swim. Maybe next time, when I have company. Moments like this I realize there are drawbacks to travelling alone.

Around 9:30am, I stopped by a roadside carinderia for some breakfast. There was one other customer there, a pretty Swiss backpacker named Krista. She had been in Panglao for four weeks (darn these lucky Europeans!) and was leaving in a few days. I told her about my biking adventures and that got her enthused. So she's going biking tomorrow, if she can rent a bike. Sadly, no pictures.

Realizing that I would miss the boat if I dallied further, I pedalled for Tagbilaran as fast as I could. There was a moment of panic as I thought I had taken a wrong turn and missed the bridge back to the city. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. It was just farther than I expected. I made it back to the hotel at 10:40am, checked out, and arrived at the port not long after that.

But I'm definitely going back. Aside from Panglao, there are several other great biking spots on Bohol island itself. That'll have to be for another time. Besides, how can I not go back? They take biking so seriously in Bohol. They even named one barangay after it.
Just kidding. It's actually Barangay Biking (pronounced 'bee-king'.)