Author: KennyG

Cebu City

Cebu City
Cebu City

Our journey to Cebu City started at 9:00 pm on the evening of the 5th of May. Michelle and I headed to the Libertad terminal in Bacolod City, in order to get in the line for tickets to Cebu City. Ceres bus line does their ticketing system as a first come first service manner, so if you wanted a seat on the bus you needed to make sure you were there in plenty of time. We stood there for about 2.5 hours before the conductor was available for ticket purchases. Normally not a huge issue, but we were up and out of the house by 6:30 am that morning for the SPA Natura get together in Mambukal. If you are interested to learn more about this outing visit the SPA Natura Post here on Runawayprop.

Expats and Foreigners

While waiting in line, there was about 30 people waiting along with us, when one gentleman arrived from Detroit. An older man, who had lived in the Philippines I think he said going on 34 months. For some reason expats ended up talking with one another, especially if you have the same mother tongue, but I could tell from the on set this was not going to be a good conversation. I fail to see why we as expats think it is ok to talk about locals in a non flattering way. He certainly had an opinion of how things should be done here in the Philippines and he spoke rather loudly, in a crowd of people that speak Ilonggo, but certainly understand English very well. My skin was crawling because all I wanted to do was get away from him…but you kind of made his way through the crowd to take up a place behind us. He spoke very unflattering of Filipina’s as he had by the sounds of things been married and divorced twice, and had many friends who had the same things occur. I wanted to say, it was the quality of the woman, and not the nationality, but I know this would have been not a good idea as he was ready for an argument, and I simply wanted to get away from him. I was so glad Michelle had her head set on listening to music and did not hear the terrible things he was saying….remember mate you are a guest in a foreign land and you should show more respect.

Ten Hours on the Bus

Michelle and I were so exhausted, we could barely keep our eyes open, I know when I finally sat in my seat, it was but seconds before I was fast asleep. Michelle as out like a light as well. I really do not remember anything about the first part of the bus ride, other than when we stopped for a quick Comfort Room break and then next thing I knew we were at the ferry. I have been on 4 different ferries here in the Philippines and this one was hands down the best one…for no other reason there were bunk beds on the upper deck, and Michelle and I had an opportunity to grab a 2 hour sleep at least in the horizontal position.

Once we hit the beach, and got back on the boat we had a quick stop for breakfast, and off to Cebu City we went. We pulled into the city about 9:15 or so, and off the bus near our hotel right on time at 9:30 am. One thing to note, it is rather difficult to figure out the bus schedule with Ceres as they do not have a web site, and most of the information you can find on-line are on people’s blogs stating the schedule and this is only as correct as the time it was written. We paid 520 pesos which was the bus fare including the ferry ticket to go to Cebu City, per person. I am writing this post on the return trip from Cebu City and already I know the cost and manner in which we are getting back is different still, so be flexible and don’t act like a foreigner.

Cebu City Proper

Our first couple of hours in Cebu City was interesting and I have to say, I was not enjoying it very much. The city is larger and busier then Bacolod City, which always takes a moment for me to have my senses catch up with me, and change gears to big city mode. Being pretty tired, and in need of finding the Medical Center where Michelle’s CIC medical was to take place we opted for a Taxi, and Michelle asked for the driver to take us to the hotel, which was called SoGo. It was noticeable in the taxi how the atmosphere had changed and the driver became very un-helpful.   I would learn as the visit went on that SoGo is more a Seeder place to stay and had a bad reputation to Michelle and I by the reaction of the driver, the public had an opinion.  If you want to learn more about SoGo be sure to read my review at Trip Advisor .

I booked the hotel through Agoda’s website, and though I was looking for a budget place, this looked pretty good based on reviews and pictures. My opinion is still out on the subject to be honest. I was not happy when I was told, I could get my room key, but I needed to go up the road to print off my booking to prove I had one. Even showing it on my phone, was not good enough, and the hotel had no means of confirming on email the actual bookings. This takes time, and I am out-of-pocket for the internet time to print off the email, and the printing it’s self. If you do not have an on-line ability as the manager of a hotel, then don’t take on-line bookings.

But the hotel was clean, and though they rented rooms by the hour, five hours, 10 hours and 24hours, there was no outward appearance of prostitution going on, though there are two free porn channels offered in the room.   The bookings also included breakfast, which though not spectacular was certainly edible and on time every morning.

Cebu City Sites

Michelle and I were in Cebu City as I say in order to get her CIC medical completed, which by the way went off like

Cebu City: Sto. Niña
Cebu City: Sto. Niña

clock work. We used the Nationwide Health Center and Michelle was completed in no time and all we had to do was wait for her blood test results. In our off time, Michelle and I went around checking out the city, and as everyone knows, I love Street Photography, and there is no end of things, places and people to shoot in Cebu City.

We first went to Sto. Niño in town and this church was spectacular, built-in 1565 and the architecture was so amazing. It reminded me of some of the churches I visited when I was in Palma De Mallorca Spain. I love the history, and old-world feel to everything. I know I have said this before, I cannot get over the intense relationship that Filipino’s have to the church. Michelle was at this church before in a time when things were hard for her, and she found solace being there to pray. Two years later life is different, and when she sat in the Pew the tears came flooding back.   I was able to take a couple of pictures in the chapel, and I will include one in this post.

Cebu City: Street Kids
Cebu City: Street Kids

On leaving the church we started to wander the streets to find something interesting and we ended up finding the ocean, and there we found some street kids playing the water. Michelle is a child magnet, kids for some reason know right away she is sweet and tender, and they will flock to her. The kids were very animated and wanted us to take their pictures in various posses, and in different areas. These kids, did not demand money like so many others who are on the street, they simply enjoyed the interaction. One girls quietly asked Michelle for some money, which was met with sorry…no money, and the girl smiled and never asked again. I know that hurts Michelle’s heart so much, as I knew she would give the shirt off her back for people if she can.

Not to long after the interaction with the children we happened across a boat called Logos Hope, as advertised the largest floating Library in the world. This is a must visit! The boat was staffed with people from all over the world, and their sole purpose is to bring books to different parts of the world. The company is an NGO, and you kind of pay to Volunteer, but this one girl (Janice) who we spoke with, said she had joined the boat right after getting out of high school and she has been on the boat for over two years, and she earned her Engineering Watch keepers ticket through the NGO, so they take care of their crew as well as people in which they give theirs books to. Very cool place I have to say!!

Cebu City: Logos Hope
Cebu City: Logos Hope

Yesterday we headed out pretty early, and our plan was to go to the Church in Sibonga called Simala and this place is huge!! It is almost difficult to describe, and I am so glad Michelle took me there. The trip there will take you about 3 hours on a Ceres bus that heads from the South terminal.   The area where you get off at is a small community, and the scenery is amazing lush green tropical forests. You take a motorcycle about 20 minutes to the top of the mountain and as you are headed there, you see off in the distances the largest Church I think I have ever seen. I think calling it a Monastery is more accurate. We spent the day, had mass, and then toured the area where Mama Mary’s spirit resides. This was another place Michelle visited back in 2013 and prayed to Mama Mary asking her some things, which she brought to her. The day is very spiritual to say the lease.

So, thinking of coming to Cebu City, and I so know and understand that diving here is supposed to be fantastic. Be sure to save a couple of days and visit the city and the places I described above, you certainly will not be disappointed!!

#cebucity #cebu #philippines #runawayprop

SPA Natura

Spa Natura at Mambukal
Spa Natura at Mambukal

Michelle invited me along to Mambukal on Tuesday for a getaway with SPA Natura and The Blade two of the places Michelle works at.  What a blast we had!  The people Michelle work with are so much fun.  The entire time was spent laughing and joking around.  Though I did not understand much of what was said, it was a lot of fun being around some fantastic people.

SPA Natura – The Blade

I had the privilege to meet and be around everyone in their work environment.  Everyone works very hard throughout their work schedule.  Mamalisa the owner of SPA Natura and The Blade was the person to make the arrangements for the outing as one of the ways to say thank you for all of your hard work.  She seems like a very sweet woman.

If you have never been to Mambukal it is a must on your travel itinerary while in the Philippines.  Michelle and I went there last August while I was in Bacolod and I thought it was very amazing place, there are so many things to do and see…though we only did the hike to number three falls, and then butterfly world.  This time we had the opportunity to do and see so much more.  Michelle and I got to enjoy a chance to ride the zip line.  I shot some video of Michelle as she was descending and I don’t think I have ever seen as big a smile as I did with her on this occasion.   We also went swimming in the pool, this was so refreshing and wonderful after a long hot day of hiking and the sun.  Afterwards we went into the hot pool, that is heated from the Kanlaon

SPA Natura @ Mambukal
SPA Natura @ Mambukal

volcano that is roughly a three-day hike from Mambukal. The water was amazing and I know with the sore back I have sported was such a great help.

Massage at the SPA

The other thing I want to say is that if you are in Bacolod, or Mambukal be sure to stop by SPA Natura, The Blade or The Blade Mambukal and take sometime to enjoy the services they have to offer.  I have on many occasions and after each time, I feel so good and rejuvenated.  I don’t think you can go wrong that is for sure!!

Copyright Ken Dunlop Photography

Apec 2015

Copyright Ken Dunlop Photography
Apec 2015

The past couple of days I have seen the PN police in full riot gear early in the mornings, when I am headed back to the house.  It was not until yesterday I realized that the Apec 2015 was being held right here in Bacolod.  I have to be honest, I am not to up on Apec, but after reading some of the articles on their website, it would appear that they are certainly trying to improve things in the Asia-Pacific, and here in the Philippines.  I read one article on Disaster Insurance that is being recommend for people, so they are covered in event of a natural disaster such as Typhoon, Flood, Earthquake that sort of thing.  My first reaction when I read it was to laugh, knowing what happens in Canada with our insurance.  Many many of the natural disasters are not covered unless you carry a specific rider which you pay an additional fee for.  A perfect example of this is the Earthquake Insurance rider you need to add on house insurance in British Columbia.

Protesters Out In Force

This morning I was down near Central Park and there was maybe 150 – 200 protesters facing off with the PNP.  Everything

Copyright Ken Dunlop Photography
Apec 2015 – PNP Stand their ground

seemed very peaceful, with someone on a loudspeaker in Ilonggo I suspect voicing his displeasure.  Many of the protesters carried signs demanding an increase in Minimum Wage here in the Philippines to 16,000 pesos a month which is only $438.00 Canadian based on today’s exchange rates.  Interesting, the demands are not much different from what you read in the news back in Canada.  Having lived here the past 8 months or so, I have to say the Filipinos work very hard for the litter they make.  Currently the minimum wages is 285 pesos a day, which in a month will work out about 7000 pesos after tax and SSS deductions.  Now, I have lived in Southeast Asia long enough to realize that Western wages are different, but when you actually sit down and look at things.  An average rent is approximately 5500 pesos a month, electric is 700 -1100 pesos a month, and water is 204 pesos which is the basic amount, so the cost can be much higher.  We have not figured in phone, internet and all the other services that we back home take for granted.

Philippines National Police

I was very very impressed with these guys, everyone did a professional job.  It seemed in some ways things were scripted, by the protesters.  They sat quiet while the guy on the loudspeaker said his bit, then everyone stood and surged forward to the barricades.

Copyright Ken Dunlop Photography
Apec 2015 – PNP standing the line

At this point in time the Riot police fanned out to block access to the street going towards SM.  Everyone closed ranks and simply stood their grounds.  There was not a weapon other than batons in sight, though just back a ways there were some heavily armed officers, but that was a contingency that was there in reserve, though not openly visible.  The fire truck with the huge water cannon was very evident however, and I suspect if things started to turn violent,  the water canon would have had a controlling effect I would think.

Apec 2015

The last day of the Apec 2015 is today here in Bacolod, and I suspect there will be another scheduled protest sometime later today, and I will do my best to be there to shoot pictures for it.  I suspect it will be peaceful as all the other ones have been.  I have to say, I hope someone sees the signs about increasing minimum wages for people here in the Philippines, there needs to be more money for people.  Start helping the people and not all businesses.

 

All images thanks to Ken Dunlop Photography

Mag-aso Falls

Mag-aso Falls
Mag-aso Falls

Michelle and I sent the the week after Easter touring through Mag-aso Falls near the city of Kabankalan.  We boarded the Ceres bus from Bacolod City.  The trip took maybe two hours with a couple of stops at various cities en route, we decided to take the Deluxe or Aircon bus and for the few extra Peso’s it cost its well worth it, as we do not stop every couple of minutes like the Milk run does.  There is nothing wrong with the Milk run, but it takes a lot of extra time that will take away from your time of exploring the Falls.

Dumaguete vs Kabankalan

Once we arrived at our destination and we were trying to hire a ride to Mag-aso Falls, all of the tricycle guys told us it was cheaper if we had taken the Dumaguete Bus from Bacolod as it would pass by the road we would travel up in order to get to Mag-aso Falls.  To little too late I suppose, after Michelle discussed prices with the Tricycle guy, we got the price down to 350 pesos for the 1.5 hour trip.  Well interesting as it turns out, Michelle and I had to walk most of the way once we reached the Mountain road as the guy could not get up the steep hills.  Not worry, no reduction in prices as we had already set the price.  Steep hike but enjoyable never the less.  On the return from Mag-aso falls our plan was to get dropped off at the Dumaguete stop, but the price was the same as it would have been if we went the full way into the Kabankalan bus station.  So no real savings either way.

Mag-aso Falls Resort

Mag-aso Falls
Mag-aso Falls

The resort was well off the beaten track for sure.  The cost of the cottage we stayed in was 1000 pesos per night and it was well worth the money.  It gave us more time to explore the area.  The resort was very nicely laid out, busy with plenty of visitors and lots to see.  First thing we did one we got there, was un pack and then headed down the stairs to the valley floor, and then followed the trail to the falls.  This is an easy descent, the stairs were well, and there are railings, the path is laid out well also, though when it gets wet the rocks are pretty slippery.  If you are not sure of foot, care needs to be taken.  I was using my Tripod as a walking stick to steady myself especially with the knee issues I have.

The falls are simply beautiful to view, there are many stalactites forming in various areas of the falls.  Spectacular to see, though I wish I could have gotten closer in order to see them and photograph them closer.  The water is cool, but nice to enjoy, and with all the limestone you can see the lime on the bottom of the various calm pools in the area.  It was nice seeing all the people playing and enjoying the water, as well the brave souls that climbed their way high up the cliff sides to jump into the deeper areas of the collecting pool at the bottom of the falls.

Mag-aso Falls is well worth visiting, I would even suggest you spend the night there, seeing the stars were beautiful, there are only two cottages so reservations in advance are a must.  If you have any questions by all means let me know.

Photo Credit: A Special Thanks to Ken Dunlop Photography.

Coffee Masters

Coffee Masters - GreenyLou
Coffee Masters – GreenyLou

Michelle and I were treated to a very cool event “Geographic Considerations for Coffee” that took place this morning at Starbucks Bacolod City.  I would be lying if I did not admit I have this thing for Starbucks, but this Starbucks is very special as there are many Coffee Masters here who love their jobs.

Every time I walk into this Starbucks there everyone says hello, not just to me, but to everyone.  You are treated to the same chorus of good-byes at the end of your stay when you are headed back on your journey.

Coffee Masters

This morning Coffee Masters – GreenyLou and Vina explained where the various coffee regions are in the

Coffee Masters - Vina
Coffee Masters – Vina

world.  They also explained about the temperatures of water, if coffee pressing how long the water needs to steep before you actually do the press.  Did you know that 4 minutes is the amount of time to wait. I can hardly wait one minute, but 4 oh my!

Also, new to me was the proper way to taste coffee.  If you have ever had a coffee with me, you know I simply drink it.  But, when comparing coffees from different regions there is actually a different scent, and also a different taste.  Also, if you slurp the coffee you can get the full flavors that are there for you to enjoy.  We had the Guatemalan roast which I found had a full body taste, and the taste of Coco, Kenya Coffee actually had an after taste of grapefruit and funning thing, I enjoyed that very much.  We also tasted Sumatra coffee from Asia Pacific, which I thought was a fantastic flavor though I am not sure I noticed any specific taste to it.

Starbucks

Coffee Masters - Learning to Press
Coffee Masters – Learning to Press

I have been to many different Starbucks all over Canada, the United States, Thailand, and now the Philippines, this is the first place I have seen that has seminars on coffee.  Of all the places, Bacolod Starbucks truly have Masters of Coffee working at their store.  Well done! I had a blast!!

Patag Silay

Patag Silay
Patag Silay

Michelle and I went to Patag Silay back in early April to go for some awesome hikes looking for some Waterfalls that are in the area and at the same time we got an interesting history lesson.  Patag Silay is very easy to get to from Bacolod City.  Take a Bata Jeepney to the North terminal a mere 50 pesos per person will get you to Silay, and then an additional 50 pesos per person will get you all the way up the mountain to Patag Silay.  We took a bus out of Silay, and we were loaded to the hilt.  People on the roof, and little wooden stools in bus so you could sit in the aisle and people loaded in doorways and hanging off the ladders.  The trip to the top of the mountain took about 1.5 hours as we stop at every little place and town on the way, but it was a cool trip.  The rice paddies are so beautiful.

Patag Silay, Silay City

Silay or City of Silay is a third class city in the province of Negros Occidental with a population os approximately 120,000 people and is a part of what is known as Metro Bacolod.  Metro Bacolod is made up of Silay, Bacolod City and Talisay.  Silay is often referred to as the “Paris of Negros” due to its artists, cultural shows and large collection of perfectly preserved heritage houses.  More than thirty of these houses have been declared as historical landmarks.  Silay is the second Philippine city to have been declared a museum city next to Vigan in Ilocos Sur.

History of Patag Silay

World War II

On the slopes of Mt. Silay lies Patag Silay, the site of the Japanese military’s last stand in Western Visayas

Bamboo in Patag Silay
Bamboo in Patag Silay

during World War II.  In 1945, US military forces landed in Negros Island. The occupying forces of Nagano Detachment of the Imperial Japanese Army retreated to Silay and proceeded up Mt Silay to Patag.  There, they established a defensive position.  Military forces of the Philippine Commonwealth and soldiers of the US 40th Infantry Division proceeded up the slopes of Mt. Silay with help from Filipino soldiers of the 7th, 71st, 72nd, and 75th Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Negrosanon guerrilla fighters and defeated the Japanese defenders.  Today, the site is marked by and monument dedicated to the efforts which led to the liberation of Negros Island.

Michelle and I did a couple of big hikes in the area in order to see some of the amazing waterfalls we have heard about.  Our first trip to the valley floor from Patag Silay had us following this trail that took us right past two caves carved in the side of the mountain by the Japanese during the war.  We were upon them before we even saw them.  If this was during the war we would have already died in an ambush.  Me with my military background of course really interested in this sort of thing.  I made a mental note to watch for them on the way back up, and I actually walked right past them and did not even see them.  I can only image what the US 40th Infantry Division endured during the war.

The trip to the first waterfalls was only about 30 minutes, and it was a beautiful falls to see, though the lighting was not in favor for decent pictures, it was still well worth the trip.  The area was pretty interesting there was cool mountain air, with the heat and humidity of the area mixed in.

Our trip to the second waterfalls was a 90 minute to 2 hour trip in then the same to make it out.  This trip is not

Patag Silay Waterfalls
Patag Silay Waterfalls

for the faint of heart that is for sure.  We hired a guide which is something I would not have normally wanted to do, but in this case there is no way we have made it where we were headed and back again I know this for sure.  The trail is not what we are used to back home, it was rough, rocky and narrow with little room for a mistake.  The mistake would have been a fall to the valley floor that would have certainly ruined our day for sure.

As we approached the second falls we could tell it was going to be spectacular.  We could hear the water cascading over the ledge and slamming to the bottom of the valley.  There were areas where we had to walk in the river, so be sure to know how you want to travel.  Michelle took her shoes off, where I kept mine on to protect my feet.  You need to realize we were in some pretty dense jungle for sure.  This was a long trip, I was hot sweaty and pretty spent by the time we reached the falls.  I think me anyways was pretty close to Heat Exhaustion, we were out of liquids and we had just made it half way for the second trekk.

If you find yourself in the area, a trip to Silay City, or Patag Silay is well worth your time.