Oslob Cebu

Let me get this out of the way first, the cheapest way to probably get to Oslob is to take a Ceres bus from Cebu City and pay P500 to snorkel with the whale sharks when you get there (P1000 if you’re a foreigner).

Now let me tell you how we got there. First we got in touch with Edgar Mirambel of Island Trek Tours. His website http://www.oslobwhalesharks.com is the first that pops up when you Google Oslob diving. He will contact you and then you have to deposit a down payment (50% of cost ) to his bank account.

We then booked our own accommodations separately. We chose to stay at The Henry Hotel which was excellent for two nights.

One of Edgar’s drivers Rolly picked us up at 6AM the next day. It took us only two and a half hours to get to Oslob so we really could’ve left at 7AM. When we got there a girl named Elise took care of us. She asked for the rest of the payment (P900 cheaper per person if you’re a local!) and then we sat through an orientation. Don’t touch the whale sharks or wear sunblock because it will disturb the whale sharks!

We then went to the scuba dive guide (P500 less if you have your own gear whether you are a local or a foreigner). His briefing maximum depth 7m because, well, that’s the bottom of the floor. And the big news, you can spend 40-45 mins. with the whale sharks. This is what makes scuba diving worth it. First of all you avoid the hordes of people and secondly you get more than the allotted 30 mins. And there were only two other dive duos and one individual with us plus their dive guides.

After 50 minutes and still half our air left, we went back to shore. We were then shuttled off by Rolly and Elise to Tumalog Falls which is surprisingly worth it (and part of Edgar’s package tour). Just be ready for a harrowing (helmet-less!) motorcycle ride. (Better than walking!)

Then back to lunch. By the way we also had a free breakfast of mango, sticky rice and hot chocolate before the dive. Lunch was very substantial. Kinilaw (raw vinegared fish), tinapa (smoked fish) chicken (with tomato sauce), soup, vegetables, and rice plus a soda or bottled water of your choice.

We got back to our hotel by 4PM. All in all satisfied with our trip.

Now the moral dilemma. Do the whale sharks look fine? They seem to be… But for the more eco-friendly traveller I would definitely suggest Donsol.

The Henry Hotel — The best boutique hotel in the country so far?

Maya at Crossroads strip mall — The king of Cebuano restaurants (They serve Mexican food.) The jam packed Fat Pho is also in this strip mall.

Canvas at Ayala Center — They have an Australian beef pie floating in gravy topped with green pea mash! Something I was looking for in Australia that I never found.

Taxi tip — Cebu taxi drivers surprisingly switch on their meters as soon as you board the cabs (175 pesos to the airport).

Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo

will be a watershed comic for the Filipino Komiks scene. The first Filipino full color comic I have ever heard of, Tabi Po combines aswangs, comedy, depth, artistry and what’s even more amazing is it’s free (online). Come to the Summer Komikon this Saturday at the Bayanihan Center in the Unilab Compound in Pasig. Welcome to the Golden Age (of Filipino Komiks!)

Tabi Po is now available at Fully Booked and Powerbooks.

Book Excursion

So we made an excursion back to Maginhawa Street. It seems Bookay-Ukay has moved to new digs. The new one is unfortunately too small. The sheer joy of a used bookstore is that it is big enough to accumulate a lot of eclectic books. But this is just part of Bookay-Ukay’s growing pains, maybe they are just in a process.

The main reason we were going back to Maginhawa Street was to see the book cafe Cool Beans Cafe. Many concept coffee shops fail because that’s all they are, a concept. This one did not disappoint. It had a deep enough selection of books to make it interesting and it’s coffee was great. If you are looking for good Sagada coffee, this coffee house is the real deal. And in ample sizes, too. The most interesting books they had were Marcosian book and classic 80s San Miguel beer books. Sitting down and reading a book for hours is totally encouraged. And sharing a book with other customers is de rigueur. Even their brownies tasted home baked at cheap prices. The place reminded me of Fully Booked and A Different Bookstore in their early days.

The biggest thumbs up I can give it is we want to go back :)

Cool Beans Cafe is located right in front of Holy Family School.

Pictures to follow.

Mt. Pinatubo trek

A staple of the backpacker trail, I finally got to climb Mount Pinatubo twenty-two years after it erupted.

Send a text to Weng Santos 0999 365 5069 for a trustworthy reservation.

Anyway, I got there by driving down the NLEX, connecting to the SCTEX, and got off at the Concepcion exit.  I turned left, drove into the town of Capas, Tarlac and took a hard right after the McDonalds (a great place to catch an early morning snack).

I turned left eventually after that.  There must have been a sign, and drove straight till I reached a satellite station of the Capas tourist office housed in a container van.  Here you can get a ride and a guide to the foot of Pinatubo if you don’t already have a reservation.

A jeeps costs P3000, P500 for a guide, P450 per person for taxes and P50 to park my car.

It took around an hour and a half drive to get to the foot of the volcano and another hour and a half hike to get to the top.  BIG TIP: If your shoes are kind of old, bring an extra pair of footwear, even if it’s just slippers.  A few old pairs of shoes in the group I hiked with didn’t make it back in one piece.

There’s really nothing to do there once you get to top.  Just hang out for awhile, snap a few pics, and head back down.

But the feeling of achievement is pretty awesome.

By the way, last trip leaves at 10am and starts at 5am because it could rain in the afternoon, causing flash floods.

One last question, should you ride the open-air jeep or the closed Land Rovers.  It’s up to you, the view was great in the morning from the open-air jeep but would probably be too hot on the way back.  We had to ride the closed Rover because we didn’t get a choice.  Happy tramping!

Pinoy Komiks

There is a renaissance going on with Filipino comic books.  At the vanguard is Visprint with their flagship series Trese  written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo.  There are others like Skyworld which is only enlivened when Trese shows up.  Filipino Heroes League is not so exciting but a valiant effort.  Elmer a one of by Gerry Alanguilan is impressive.  This one http://www.tabi-po.com is absolutely free and will become a Visprint title soon.  There are others that might be followed here http://www.rocketkapre.com

On the flip side there are a slew of mangalike stories like Ang Diary ng Panget.  The most famous of this genre are the Bob Ong books written probably by many ghost writers under one alias.  I was suckered into buying the former, thinking it was a comic.  Which would’ve been okay if I was a 14-year old girl which I am not.  Which is acceptable because they were probably written by them.  I’m not looking down on this genre, in fact I absolutely support and admire them, I just won’t read them… yet.

And there is one more thing I have yet to attend, a Komikon.  This year it’s happening on April 12, Saturday at the Bayanihan Center at the Unilab Compound in Pasig.  Gates open at 10am and close at 7pm.  100 pesos entrance fee.

My collection’s complete!

Here’s one I’ve been sitting on for awhile…

There’s a new craft beer (homemade beer) scene here in the Philippines!

Leading the pack is Katipunan beer.  Starting out in a kitchen, this enterprise has grown by leaps and bounds, as this video will attest to:

Katipunan beer video
Where to get Katipunan beer

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Second is Fat Pauly’s, a beer from Iligan I’ve been wanting to try, and finally did last Halloween. I had their Mont Lelong Smoked Mocha Porter and their Smashin’ Pumpkin 2013 Limited. The latter was better. Now I have to try their classic Iligan Pale Ale and their Ilaya Intensely Hopped Pale Ale.

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Third is Bogs Brew from Bacolod. I like their Primo more than their basic. Try to get it at the Ilonggo fair they throw once a year here in Metro Manila.

The fourth is 7107 Islands beer. I had their summer beer which was copious but not that exciting.

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And where can you get all these beers? At Global Beer Exchange, of course. Located in the Paseo de Magallanes Center, this unassuming bar is a mecca for local and foreign craft beers.

You can also get most of them from Anton’s High End Sari-Sari store in Bel Air Village (09178844111).

And so I’ve tried all the local craft beers… wait… what is this Craftpoint beer?

Back to the Barcave!

Update: I finally had Liberation beer by Craftpoint, it’s better than I expected. I expect to have another one ;)

2nd Update: An easier place to get Filipino craft beer is at Big Bad Wolf.  Located at its new location off Burgos Circle in Bonifacio Global City.  They even have their own brown ale which was pretty good :)