Monday, July 6, 2015

My Impossible and Memorable Holiday - Day 1: Apo Island

Our trike chariot 
A month ago, a few college friends planned on meeting in Cebu for a late summer reunion. We were to meet our friend Minnie in Tacloban a day or two after we all rendezvous in the queen city, we all agreed.  Pinky offered to book our flight and I asked her if it is possible for us to plane into Dumaguete instead of Cebu, ferry going to Santader and ride the bus going into Cebu City.  She agreed because she wanted to see Apo Island which was near Dauin, a town away from Dumaguete city proper.
Our destination, Apo Island, at the horizon
Our steady and sure banca was comfortable for me to sleep in 
Two days before our planned flight we learned our other companions begged off from the trip and that it was only Minnie who confirmed to meet us, but she could only do so in Tacloban City.  So the only thing sure is that we would arrive via Dumaguete airport and that we would have to reach Tacloban to meet Minnie and take the plane there going home to Manila.  Time frame set is 6 days. Pinky and I only had Apo Island definite on our itinerary.  All else were left written on air.
There were also other bancas anchored near the village, probably also other day tourists
Cycads were abundant on one limestone cliff
On day 1 our plane arrived in Dumaguete at 6 am.  We collected our baggage (we tried to pack light which I found impossible for someone as big a person as me) and tried to locate a tricycle which would bring us to Dauin. Pinky booked us online on a day trip to Apo Island via the Dumaguete Divers' Cafe. We had to reach the cafe by 7:30 am if we were to make the booked banca leaving at 8 am. We made it with a little more time for the cafe to prepare our submarine sandwiches which they packed as our lunch.

The travel to Apo Island was a little less than an hour long.  The sky was quite cloudy, ideal for the boat ride but not so lovely seen in the pictures.  But i tried to manage.  When we arrived at the fringes of Apo Island, the banca's operators told us we were to make 3 stops on our day trip and we could swim and snorkel for 30 minutes to an hour at each stop. 
Some trees growing on the limestone had beautiful foliage, a nice contrast of colors
Jagged edge of the limestone cliffs significantly covered with greens
We travelled with a few foreigners, a couple (who looked middle eastern and went on scuba diving) and 3 other guys (another middle eastern-looking fellow and two Japanese). All, including Pinky, went down into the water to snorkel. I on the other hand stayed dry on the banca, catching up on sleep (I attended a seminar the night before which ended quite late).  In between my catnaps, I managed to take pictures of the limestone cliffs of the island.  I saw a magnificent contrast of greens, as the island is still significantly covered with lovely trees and vegetation.  I hope it stays that way conserved, the same way that the local community has conserved and revived their coral reefs (the reason why tourists are flocking to this part of Negros to dive).  Pinky also took a few underwater pictures (she was armed with a small underwater camera). 

Oxygen tanks for scuba diving 
Busy snorkeling
At 2 pm the boat was on its way back to the mainland.  We welcomed  the idea that we could go back to dry land and try find a place to stay in Dauin. We took a quick bite again at the Diver's Cafe.  At 4 pm we found a decent in a few hundred yards from the cafe, beside the beach.  But instead of trying to maximize our adjacency to water recreation, we used up the rest of the trying to catch up on sleep. We needed it as we still had 5 days ahead of us, with no solid itinerary. 

Resident sea turtle
Will continue on with our adventures in the next days as our open ended travels took us to several Visayan islands. The next day we ate our breakfast again at the Diver's Cafe and there a caucasian fellow asked us where we were heading next.  We told him we were contemplating on going to Siquijor.  As he bade us goodbye, he wished us goodluck and asked us to say hi to the witches.  We only smiled at him as we began the next leg...   
Caves at the island margins

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Midterm Blogging

I am extending my apologies to people who inquired via my email and through the comments section of this blog.  I have neglected logging into my yahoo account and even this blog because I got preoccupied with work.   But hopefully since it is midterm break I would have the time to do the replies and tell new stories.  I have a lot of stories to share and will start blogging in the next few days...

The Effective Propagule

Botong fruit on the beach
Iconic multi-sided fruit 
I saw this botong fruit on a beach in Siquijor.  Botong (Barringtonia asiatica) is a very common tree   in beach areas around the Philippines and the rest of the tropics, but i did not see a single tree on the beach where I saw the fruit. It probably came from a tree in the next cove, or from another island, or another province.  I may never know but what is certain is that this fruit is here and if conditions are right, it may grow into another botong tree.
Deserted Siquijor beach
Sadly these and other foreign stuff are also present on the beach.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Little Ipo Water Time

Five or less in a boat
My L Arch 206 class went to the Ipo Watershed to do their preliminaries for vegetative analysis. The class decided to visit the U.P. mountaineers plot which was quite far from the Ipo Dam's main superstructure. We would have to take a good 15 to 20 minute boat ride or walk a tiresome six hour hike towards the community and UPM's adopted reforestation plot. Since we were under time pressure to finish our analysis within a day, we chose to go on the shorter boat ride.  (But I was told that the walk was a different experience but maybe I will go on it another day.) 

A mistletoe on a tree branch
An array of green cover at the Ipo river banks
All 13 of us, myself, 7 students and 5 other volunteers mounted 3 small boats donning mandatory orange life vests. Even with the sun's scorching heat I enjoy taking the river ride because of the scenery and of course the prospects of finding flowering plants among the hanging vines and tall trees.  Apart from the flowering malabulak (Bombax ceiba specimens), our companions Ronald and Uly spotted a blooming mistletoe (Uly and Ronald are fond of mistletoes).  But because the plant specimens are quite high up on the tree branches, we did not get clear pictures.   But I took snaps of the mountainsides to show how some areas are green, but a few spots are obviously bald - void of vegetation.  

On a positive note, the U.P. Mountaineers' narra trees are growing steadily.   Some are already small tree height. Thumbs up!  
Our UPM guide Mitch admiring the green scenery
Bald spot in the greens

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loud Bloomer in Ipo!

A stand of trees at the ridge of the mountain
Lone tree at the dam fringe  
Quick Post: It is February and of course like clockwork the malabulak (Bombax ceiba) trees are in full bloom! And it is very noticeable particularly in the area from La Mesa Dam to Ipo Dam in Bulacan. 5 minutes would not get by without encountering a flowering specimen.  And with the bright red orange flowers, it is really hard to miss!

In the Ipo Watershed the adjacent mountains are colored with greens but the red orange silhouette of Bombax stand out from the verdant color.

Zoomed into the far end of the river where there are visibly malabulak flowering

Trees growing on top of the concrete shoring 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Regal Bloomer

The attractive violet blooms of D. victoria-reginae

Flowering leafless stalks 
D. victoria-reginae growing under a trellis
I've been wanting to see a flowering specimen of Dendrobium victoria-reginae, which is regarded as one of  the best native orchids of the Philippines. It is rare to find in Manila as conditions are too hot tfor it to bloom.  Today I was very lucky to see not one but two specimens of this orchid in bloom in the gardens surrounding Tagaytay. It is indeed beautiful with the bright violet flowers! They probably feel at home amidst the cool January breeze blowing into the Tagaytay rim.   

Return to the Artist's Garden

A new contrast of rustic yellow with the oriental blue of Chinese porcelain

A quaint sitting area against a large Osmoxylon 

Popo's studio
The pet dog's favorite spot
The last time I was in Popo San Pascual's garden was five years ago.  Today we found ourselves again driving through his gates and into his marvelous garden.  The artist is really indeed a plant lover as his plant collection remains lush.  The garden is with a few additions for the better.  He now has an Asian inspired archway adorned with porcelain oriental dishes. I never get tired visiting Popo's place with the rich detail and whimsical rustic character. 
Greens against the vibrance of other colors