Jumat, 05 Februari 2016

Travel Diaries: Philippines


Philippines

Book on the Austronesians of Batanes for sale at the Museum of the Philippine People
The Philippines is my new favorite destination within easy reach of Indonesia: it has a crazy cosmopolitan capitol (for chic, Makati beats Orchard Road hands down), incredible diving and scenic attractions; great cheap hotels, many massage options and wonderful museums. I had not been back for 15 years and was pleasantly surprised to find a clean efficient airport (Terminal Three; I flew Cebu Pacific from Jakarta) and navigable roads (on a Sunday between 0600 or after 0100hrs) and a revamped Intramuros — a 17th Century walled township built by the Spanish on the former Moslem settlement of Manila, controlled by Raja Suleiman — where I stayed at the quaint old Rafflesesque White Knight Hotel next to the 16th Century St. Agustin Church off San Luis Square. 
Seats 1A and 1B are reserved on Philippine Airlines.
So cute
On Cebu Pacific one can order cavity searches at any time
during the flight
Inside intramuros one discovers all sorts of treats: the excellent Rizal Museum inside Fort Santiago; the St Agustin Church Museum; the Restaurant della Mitre next door; the Casa Manila Museum of gracious 19th Century Manila lifestyle; even the Barbaras Culture Show in the Complex General (where the hotel is located) is excellent.
The National Art Gallery and the Museum of the Philippines People are just outside the Intramuros walls; Ocean Park aquarium (for the kids) is just a ten minute walk past the Manila Hotel and Lunet Park.

Roof top swimming pool at the Privato Hotel, Paseg City

The Rizal Museum at Fort Santiago highlights the life and death
of the national hero

The only way to get around Intramuros is by horse.
Rs 1000 per  hour O.N.O.
Cafe Juanita, Paseg city
I had a ball. December is the month for weddings at St. Agustin’s and my hotel had revolving doors for flash weddings — all the outfits were amazing.
Pinoys (Philippinos) love to love; love was in the air everywhere. Philippine Airlines even keeps seats 1A and 1B for gay couples (see photo this page). Gays are generally bottle blond to making identification easier. (watch the uber-awful ‘It takes guts to be a Guitierez’ on the E! channel). After an action-packed three days in Manila, I felt romantically recharged.
INTRAMUROS INFO
The beyond fabulous White Knight Hotel in Intramuros (my new comfort zone) has 24/7 wedding parties — situated as it is between the popular St Agustin Church and the colonial era Casa Blanca hall/function rooms. Pinoy men wear barong shirts which they discard early morning to reveal hard nipples under Swan brand t-shirts. It’s kinda Cuban the way they posture and prance. In the lane outside the barrio rocks!
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MEET ME IN CHOP SUEY:
Culturas Filipina dinner dance show at Barbaras in complex general Plaza San Luis, Intramuros — more ham than a speedingcroque monsier, but lavish ukele and string accompaniment. Part two: lurex and high kicks — a Mindanao fantasy.  Then the folk dances. It was just entertainment, but full of verve and most enjoyable — Brava Barbaras!! — Ps 600 includes great dinner
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The mid 19th century style Casa Manila museum (with furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries) in the restored 16th century Intramuros  walled city is the most beautiful of its type in S.E. Asia, with authentic interiors with period furniture and well designed restoration architecture. Indonesia has nothing to rival it: the museum Fatahillah has a wonderful collection but the interior layouts are spare. Closed Mondays. Entry fee Ps25
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When I move into the hotel White Knight in Intramuros with weapons grade ear plugs to write my magnum opus "Austronesian Roots", I will take every meal at the Restaurante della Mitre in front of the St Augustin Church on Plaza San Luis. The Cardinal's palace is behind the restaurant
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Best of Intramuros, Manila
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BATANES

The fantastic scenic coastal road around the big end of Batan Island — a one-hour drive
My party headed for the northernmost tip of Luzon Island, to Batanes, near Taiwan, the first stop during the ancient migration of the Austronesians towards Indonesia 3,000 ago and home to some of the most dramatic coastal sceneng this side of New Zealand.
It’s a short flight to Basco on Batan Island — Philippine Airlines has daily flights — but it feels like stepping back centuries. The towns are all still colonial tribal and the Ivetan people there incredibly attractive and hospitable.

Lovers catch the sunset at Rolling Hills, just north of the capitol Basco, Batan Island
There is no crime in Batanes, save the crime of being beautiful!
We stayed at the three - star Amboy Hometel on the beach just outside Basco (they have packages that include all meals, car and driver). Just up the hill is the more boutique hotel-style Fondasione Pacita / Abad Hotel. The Octagon House Bed and dine is another good base, right on the water, but it only has two rooms below the excellent restaurant run by blonds.
There are a number of tours to do on the Island — all pass through gorgeous villages and sublime courtyside. After a few hours there, one feels cleansed.
The quirkish garden of the Amboy Hotel, Batan Island 
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In the Philippines, domestic tourists wake up with their selfie stick (tongsis = tongkat narsis) erect in their hands. Like a presidential baton it precedes them into any room, restaurant or airplane. They wave it around like idiots waving miniature windmills. In the Batanes islands, where they travel in predatory packs of 6 or 8, consuming rice and fried eggs every half hour, they buy the local native furry raincoats and hats and make love in the ancient fishing village's main drag
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Architectures of Batanes
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Beautiful people of Batanes
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EXCLUSIVE PICS: ALTERNATE MISS UNIVERSE CONTEST IN IVANA VILLAGE, BATAN ISLAND, PHILIPPINES.
I sat with the mayor and the ‘Vice Gov’ and, on my iPad, showed them links between, ancient Austronesian tribes in the North Philippines, Nagaland and Toraja ― their eyes glazed over
SABTANG
After two days on lovely Batan Island I took a small (30 passenger) local ferry from Ivanna village to the unbelievably picturesque island of Sabtang (pop 3,000) 40 minutes across the Batan strait. We were met by driver John Wayne with his mini-van (all arranged by Amboy Hotel) who took us around the south coast to the villages of Savidug (6 km) and Chavayan (a further 4 km). Both of these villages are a healthy mix of fishermen and farmer, and both feature charming traditional architecture and stunning beaches.

The ferry from Ivanna, Batan to Centro, Sabtang — deckhands fish on the way
Centro harbor, Sabtang
The local homestays — each village has just one — are stone walled colonial - Batanes cottages. Adjacent aunties bring in wonderful meals (we got lobster at night).
One morning we went to the village of Sumnanga on the north coast — it is as idyllic a fishing village as one could hope to find on any island. Talk about happyhospitable, hotty locals. The food in the little warung (few and far between) is good; best in Centro, the island’s capital.
Sabtang is close to Taiwan; on a clear night one can see lights glowing there.
Church decoration in Chavayan, Sabtang
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Architectures of Sabtang
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Beautiful people of Sabtang
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