Monday, June 17, 2013

My Kalanggaman Island Journey - Palompon, Leyte

I am anxious to write this part of my recent Leyte trip because I feel there are important, significant, necessary, pertinent information you need to know if you are planning to go to Kalanggaman Island. Therefore, I will be writing about this first before the other trips we did in Leyte. Watch out for that one too, though. It was a fun vacay.

Kalanggaman Island is located in the province of Palompon, Leyte. Palompon is approximately 2-3 hours from Tacloban City by van and once you get to Palompon, you will get on a regular pumpboat or speedboat and ride to Kalanggaman Island. According to the Palompon-Leyte website, it takes an hour on a regular pumpboat and 45-mins on a speedboat.


1. CALL. Call the Eco-Tourism Office of Palompon beforehand and schedule your trip to Kalanggaman Island. We called their office a week before our actual flight to Tacloban. You need to be ready for the set time you will be in their office to get on the boat.  Let them know how many are traveling with you so that they can give you the amount to be paid for the boat. Unfortunately, there were only 4 of us. We were charged with Php3,000 for a regular pump boat that can accommodate 10 -15 people, I think, because that's the only boat available to our small group. There's also a charge of Php150 per person for non-Palompongan local tourist as entrance to the island.

Visit this pricelist from Palompon-Leyte Office (double-check with them once you are on the phone):

Their tourism office phone number is also listed in that page.

2. RISE EARLY! Very important. If you are not planning to spend overnight in Kalanggaman Island, schedule an early morning trip at the Palompon Eco-Tourism office (again, remember to call prior to the trip). And then make sure, really sure, to wake up early to start your trip to Palompon. Example, if you asked at the Eco Tourism Office to be taken to Kalanggaman Island at 7am and you are coming from Tacloban City, get going at 4am. I mean 4am, you are on your way to the Tacloban City New Terminal. 

This is why. If you are not planning to spend overnight in the island, you need to be back to the Palompon Tourism office before 12 noon. Because the last van going directly from Palompon to Tacloban City leaves the Palompon Terminal at 12 NOON. Yep, 12PM. 

So if you want to really frolic and hang out for hours on the island but would like to easily travel from Palompon back to Tacloban City carefree the same day, you need to schedule your time wisely, get on the island early so by the time you need to leave and get to the 12pm Tacloban van ride, you've had your fill of the island's gorgeousness. Yung tipong naka 1000 photos ka na, plus 20 jumpshots saka sangkatutak na selfies. (Like you've already taken 1000 photos with 20 jump shots and tons of selfie photos).

Now, if you missed this one or like us, you arrived at the Tourism Office at 10am and surely you don't want to spend just an hour in a beautiful island like that and come running before noon, there's another option but a little tricky.

The Palompon terminal is walking distance from the Tourism Office. We were told that there are vans in the terminal that travel from Palompon going to Ormoc, passing by a place called Lubayao (?) where vans going to Tacloban City can be found. The drivers of the van going to Ormoc would know this, you need to tell them that you need to be dropped off where you can ride vans going to Tacloban City. HOWEVER, the last van for Ormoc leaves around 3-4pm. So it's best if you start your boat ride from the island at 2pm so you can get to the Tourism Office by 3pm and start walking to the Palompon terminal.

Now, if you missed that one, you are in for the night. You need to get a room in Palompon and spend the night there until early morning, when the vans are again available in the terminal.

I am not saying that the above are the only ways but I am sharing what we've experienced. 

3. PATIENCE. It's a beautiful, picture-perfect place but it is far. Be ready for the 2-3 hours (mostly 3, from our experience to and from) van ride to Palompon, plus the 1 hr regular boat ride to the island. If you get hungry easily, bring food and drinking water. The driver will stop and ask if someone needs a pee break but I think there's no harm in letting the driver know you need to go. I guess he just needs to know where you can go, if you're a girl.

4. BRING YOUR OWN WATER. There is no water supply fit for drinking or bathing in the island. There's a CR and a dressing cum shower room but the water coming out is salt water. If you plan to have a feast there or stay for several hours, make sure you bring water to drink. If you plan to take a nice bath after swimming, bring your own bath water. For us, we brought 1 liter mineral water each to drink. We did some swimming but took showers in the Palompon Tourism Office. 

Yep, the Palompon Tourism Office allows people to take a bath there (2 stalls meant for bathing) but make sure you don't make too much of a mess like walking around outside the office, dripping with water or splash water around the restroom. Be nice and considerate. Di malakas ang flow ng tubig kaya (the flow of water is not that strong so) there it is again. Patience. 

5. DON'T LITTER. Even if you do see some candy wrappers or plastic cups in some places since it isn't legal yet to exterminate inconsiderate people, it doesn't mean you don't need to follow the island's request. The Palompon Tourism Office, before going off on the boat, will give your group two plastic garbage bags. The white one is for biodegradable trash, and the black one is for non-biodegradable. You can give them to your boatman once you are transported back from the island. 

How to get to Kalanggaman Island from Tacloban City:

June 8 2013 - We stayed at Go Hotels Tacloban which is beside the Robinson's mall. We saw a tricycle parked outside and ask if he could take us to the Tacloban City New Transport Terminal, it seems it's in a place called Abucay. There were four of us so he called another trike and we were charged Php100/2 people (Php50 each) per trike. 

We arrived at the terminal and boarded a van with a sign that says "Palompon". Take note that the van doesn't leave unless full so that's another time-related factor on this trip. I think we hang around the van for 15-20 mins(?) before a large group of teenagers boarded with us. The fare is Php150 per person.

It was around 10 mins past 10AM when we arrived in Palompon. The Eco-Tourism Office is located near the waters in front of an elementary school and right after the Palompon bus terminal and a church.

As it was informed during our call to reserve, we paid Php3,000 for a regular pump boat meant for 10-15 people. We were hesitant to join other groups because we don't have control over the time they want to spend in the island.  

It wasn't a big deal to me at first but when we learned that the last van to Tacloban City leaves at noon and that our last option is a van to Ormoc which leaves at 3pm, I was a little sad to know that we would need to watch the time and would only be spending a few hours in the island before getting our butts moving back to the Tourism Office.

Since we didn't have drinking water with us, there's a small store in the Eco-Tourism Office that sell snacks, drinks and mineral water. 1 liter costs Php40. We bought 1 for each of us.

The boat ride to Kalanggaman Island, especially if there's some rain brewing in the skies that affect the waves, is not for the faint of hearts. Or the jumpy ones. We went there June 8, and we've had some rains in Tacloban when we arrived so we were just praying to get some sun for a few hours so we can enjoy the island.

So the ride to the island was not really calm, there were some waves. Manageable ones. The sun did give us a couple of hours of sunlight which we appreciated and took advantage of. 

Kalanggaman Island is picture-perfect for me. The long sandbars. The fact that you will not be seeing any nearby mountains that indicate civilization. Calm and quiet.
There is a warning sign though at the start of the sandbar about rip currents. That day, we did see strong waves splashing on the shore at the right side of the island seemed to be treated as the "front", if you are standing facing the long sandbar where your boat is docked. The water was calmer on the left side near the boats but really good to be careful anyways. The "back" of the island is rocky. 

Kalanggaman Island has a barbecue area for everyone to cook food in. 

A dressing room with running salt water and two cubicles for toilets. 

A big nipa hut stands in the middle of the island where the tourist police and caretakers are posted.

There's a small store that sells drinks.

Tables and chairs are available for rent. There are also open cottages for rent and you can bring your own tents.

I saw some people have tents in front of their rented cottage so maybe, tent's the bedroom and cottage is the dining area? So cool. 

Since we will just be staying for only a few hours, we only rented a monoblock table and 4 chairs. The table costs Php30 and it's Php10 per chair. 

Our Kalanggaman survival food
We also did not pack any food to cook but instead bought food (Hungarian-silog) in Tacloban City and took it to Kalanggaman Island in microwaveable containers. No, there's no microwave oven there but we used those to secure the food during transport. Styros are unreliable and water might seep in from the sea during the boat ride. 

There were also activities that you can do by renting equipment from the island's caretaker. I saw some kayaks and bicycles (?) and a bigger, I don't know, bicycle? Just see the pictures below. Hehe. What do I know.

The first cruise ship that docked at Kalanggaman Island. I think it happened last year.
Don't forget to put on sunblock. We hardly noticed, taking pictures everywhere, that we were already toast. And since the sandbar is long, take the sunblock with you and re-apply every now and then. It's our mistake that we started for the sandbar to take pictures and left our sunblocks at the table. By the time we needed it, it was too far of a walk. Yes, ganun sya kahaba (yes, that's how long the sandbar was). At least to us. It could also be laziness. Kidding. My friends will kill me.

Far, right?
The white thing there, it's still part of the sandbar, it's just that the flow of water covered what's connecting it to the island.

 But around 2pm, we've decided to head back to the Tourism Office because dark clouds were beginning to form and move towards the island. We didn't want to get caught in the rain while we were there. We also need to catch the van to Ormoc.

Once we were on the boat back, that's when we really felt some big waves. Like my butt was bouncing off the seat (All 4 of us were seating in the middle of the boat but I was near the boat's front part). I could see the boat's nose go up and down. It was like that for maybe, 45 mins or 50. I am not sure if this is the case most of the time since it can also be credited to the fact that rainy season has begun in the area. 

So brace yourself and make sure your things are wrapped in plastic and are secured on the boat. The lady from the Eco-Tourism Office did assure me that before Tourism came to Palompon, the boatmen from their office are former fishermen. They know their stuff well and are used to the waves.

There are no words to express how relieved I was to finally see the Eco-Tourism Office. I kept thinking if we turn over, there are already people who can see us! We will be saved! Unlike the past 40mins. Brrrr! That's just me being silly. Not.

Okay so we got off the boat, (yey!) and asked to take a bath in their restroom which we were allowed to do. I am not sure if one day they might ask for a fee or a donation, which I would totally understand as long as it is not ridiculously high, but that day, we were free to bathe. Note that the doors of each cubicle don't have hooks to hang your clothes or stuff on. Go MacGyver mode and find a way. The water flow is not that strong so be patient. 

After our baths, we immediately head out to the Palompon Bus Terminal to see if we still have an Ormoc van to get on. There was! Yey! We asked the driver to drop us off to where we can get on a van to Tacloban City. He knows it and asks us to pay the cashier. I think he said the place is called Lubayao (? - double check this with the driver to be sure) I wrote it down and told the cashier. It costs Php90 each passenger. I know, but we were just glad we can go back to Tacloban City.

By the time we were riding the van, it was raining really hard. It was really a good thing we left the island before it rained and even got past the boat ride.  The driver drop us off to a T-like road. His van, going to Ormoc, will turn to the right and we are to wait on the side of the road for vans to Tacloban that will turn to the left. The driver was kind enough to holler at the "dispatcher" guy that our group is going to Tacloban. The "dispatcher" told us to cross to his side where a small nipa shed can shelter us from the rain. He told us to wait for a bit since there's no van yet. I think we waited for 8-10mins before he yelled at an empty van and said there are passengers to Tacloban. We were so happy to get on because we taught we might wait for a bit more because of the rain and because we don't know how often a van to Tacloban passes by. We paid Php100 each for this van ride and fortunately, it will pass by Go Hotels (yey!).

The van ride seemed even longer than ride from Tacloban to Palompon. Or maybe we were just tired. It's as if you don't have any choice but to try to sleep otherwise you'll get really anxious and be stressed. Not a good thing especially when you just came from a gorgeous island. So we slept the whole way. And finally we were at Go Hotels. 

Additional tips:
Tip: If you can avoid riding at the back, do it. It gets pretty bouncy.
Tip: Do your Kalanggaman trip at a day when you still have the next day for the rest of your itinerary. Time may not be as predictable.
Tip: Wear comfy clothes during the van rides.
Tip: Bring a large garbage bag for your things during the boat ride.
Tip: Plan out how you'll eat. If you will buy from Tacloban or around the Tacloban City Terminal or if you still have time to roam around Palompon for food.
Tip: Please take note of the "Important Stuff...." I wrote at the beginning of this post.

I hope this long story on my Kalanggaman Island experience is helpful. Please do follow my blog and/or subscribe if you like what you read. Leave a comment if you like. Take care! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

A House Full of Art in Bacolod City

In July 2012, I visited my friend S in her hometown of Bacolod City. This is not my first time in Bacolod so I was really more in to hanging out with S and catching up with each other.

Since we can't really stay at the house ALL the time, we also checked out some local places in the city. 

One of the places we went to is the J & L Maranon House. A post on the internet said it's near the Metrodome and one of the side streets along Araneta Avenue. I hope the screen grab here from Google Maps helps. I seem to remember a hotel before we turned right. The street, where the house is, is just an ordinary residential one, with a small sari-sari store and small houses with children playing outside. I don't even remember the road (street) to be paved in cement. Unfortunately it is not by the road so you can't easily see it going to the airport.

Unless your car is a convertible with the top down and you're looking up. Then you'd see a beast with wings on top of a tall house. 

Yep, that's how it is in the Maranon house. The imagination of the owner or owners, or whoever comes up with the idea for the sculptures and murals, obviously ran wild or still running wild in this house. You'd see a naked guy holding some sort of torch, a centaur with a crossbow and a small cherubin riding on him and some sort of a gargoyle.

We knocked at the gate, yes, that kind of gate, where you have a small lion head biting on the steel knocker (?). I was waiting for a gong to sound from inside the house. Or a low, growling voice, demanding for a "password" or an "answer to a riddle".

A girl answered the door and we asked if we can walk around inside and take pictures. There's an entrance fee of 30 per person and she will accompany you around the house. 

When we walked in, immediately, I was doing "aaahs", "eh?", "yaiks!", "whoa!", "ano yan? (what's that?)". Hehe, I know I sounded tourist-y (?) and gullible, but I didn't care. The stuff in there was worthy of every reaction I made.

Upon entering the gate there's a small  garden or space before the door to the house. Now, I feel like calling that area a "space" is not correct. It was full of art. It was packed! 

Murals, statues, a big stone feet, two big guys at two corners of the wall that seem like they are holding up the ceiling with all their might, a spider-man like sculpture that to me, is holding up a painting of a naked lady. There was also a big priest,  which stands from floor to ceiling, near a marble interpretation of the Pieta. 

There was a wooden divan with canopy and purple curtains around it and a Buddha on top that seems to be something out of Thailand or Cambodia. Like its made for royalty. 

An egg-shaped cushioned seat was hanging from the ceiling. It was made of curled iron and colored glass, fit for a princess in some exotic land like Morocco or Turkey. And it's still solid and strong because S and I sat in it and took pictures.

Time to enter the house. But before
we went in, there was a Terracotta warrior near the door and an interpretation of Venus De Milo, holding a garment in front of her, err, jewel. Okay, this is so worldwide, it's crazy.

The house, like outside, was highly decorated. I don't think there's a nook or cranny that didn't have an etching or a painting. Even around light switches, there would be paintings of fairies. I'm not talking about mounted paintings from a store, these are paintings on the wall, sometimes from floor to ceiling, and most ceilings have artwork. Like the owner of the house is an artistic Spiderman that crawls around the walls and ceilings, painting his cares away.

We saw a big chandelier made of iron, glass and carabao horns, surrounded by small light bulbs and glass beads. The archway towards the sitting area was also decorated with etchings and sculptures. It seems to depict Adam and Even reaching out to each other but they can't.

Pass the archway, was another chandelier, this time it was made of glass grapes and green-colored metal for leaves. It didn't look like a normal chandelier but more of a grapevines sprouting from the ceiling. It was pretty.

We came into a room where there was another girl watching TV. This room is like a sun room because the sunlight was coming in to where she was sitting. There were glass lamps hanging from wooden beams sticking out of the stone walls. It was like being in a section of a castle. Only thing that ruined the mood was the wall-mounted flat screen TV. Hehe.

Turning right from the "sun room", there was a small dining room. The red walls were etched with gold leaves, flowers and vines. Beside the table is a tall stack of square glass tiles. It was scary to move past it because you might bump into it and everything will just fall on you. Like a scene from Final Destination 2.

The girl showing us around took us upstairs. I had to take a shot of the stairs because it was a little creepy. it was solid marble (I think) but the railings seem to have brown snakes draped all over it. Or were they supposed to be old tree branches? It also looked like a flight of stairs with me, screaming for dear life, and the Babae sa Banga (Woman in the Jar - a classic Filipino horror movie) slowly climbing up after me. Aaahhhhh!!!

Anyways, so upstairs we found like a family room, with shelves of books and other reading materials. Like if it's a normal house, this would be where everyone in the family would be hanging out on a weekend watching a DVD movie or having a snack and catching up. Except in the Maranon House, there is a stone lady sphinx in the corner. Just sitting there, with her eyes closed, listening in to the latest news about the family.

As we were about to leave, coming out of the house, we looked up to the balcony where Venus De Milo was facing. It was one of the highlights for me of the house. There they were, Adam on one side and Eve on the other. Between them, a snake up on the ceiling and it had an apple in its mouth. Eve was reaching for it, Adam was pointing at her like, "Don't even think about it, woman!". Very cool!

Outside the gate, we took more pictures. We were amazed by the sculptures on the roof. The Maranon House is the kind of house that, no matter how un-snoopy you are or how straight you are in respecting other people's privacy and property, you will stop and gawk at. Even for a few seconds, you just really have to take a look.