Archives

The day I circled an island

My previous work and even life at grad school involved a lot of traveling and most, if not all, of those destinations were packed with tourists. This is what made our trip to Divinubo Island special because we were the only tourists in that small island town. Within a day, we were able to circle the island, climb at the old lighthouse and drink fresh coconut juice while interacting with the locals.

Divinubo Island is only 15 minutes by boat from Cogon Lalawigan in Borongan City, Eastern Samar. If you are lucky to catch the scheduled boat trip, the fare is only PhP14 (approx .28 USD) per passenger whilst special trip costs PhP300 (6 USD) per way, though after 6PM it will increase to PhP500 (10 USD). There are two resorts in the island though when we were there, both were unable to accommodate us so we slept at a hostel in the city and went to the island the next day. The island is so tiny it only takes 1.5 to 2 hours to circle it.

The locals knew we were tourists the moment we docked on their shore (the island is small after all and everyone there might know everyone) so they suggested we take a guide who could lead us to safer tracks. Our guide was 72 years old Manong Moloy. We gave Manong Moloy PhP300 as a gesture of thanks for his time and generosity. He pointed to us the areas affected by typhoon Yolanda in 2013. We also saw the on-going construction of accommodations. I can imagine that in a few years’ time, the island will be flocked with more tourists.

Divinubo is not what I had expected at all. I imagined an uninhabited island with just infrastructures catered for tourists. On the contrary, Divinubo island is, in fact, a small town with a primary school, several houses both native and modern, wooden and concrete. The island’s beautiful surprises, however, are found around it. We went at low tide, the perfect time to explore. The scenery was beautiful and I extremely enjoyed watching schools of fish on hollow areas with clear, turquoise water. My iPhone’s photos can never do justice to such magnificence but here are a few of Divinubo’s beautiful scenery.

Tips: Circling the island involves climbing on the rocks and walking on slippery areas so wear appropriate footwear. Travel light. The sun can be extremely hot so wear a hat if you are lazy to bring an umbrella. And never forget your sunscreen!


Cheap and artsy place to stay in Panglao, Bohol

Being a Boholana, I’ve traveled to Panglao island in Bohol several times mostly on day-trips to the beach, though on several occasions I stayed overnight and paid over a thousand pesos for accommodation. After living abroad for over 7 years, I found that the island has significantly changed. There are more hotels, restaurants and shops now. I always had this perception that accommodations there are all expensive because it is one of the most famous beach destinations in the country with its very fine white sand. Little did I know that there already exist cheaper options for backpackers.

A friend who traveled with me to Panglao suggested D’ Backpackers’ Barn; what I shame though coz I’m the one who’s from Bohol yet I don’t know much information. I was hesitant at first because it is so cheap – at 400 pesos (approx. 8 USD) per person for a dorm-type room for 4 people. I imagined a poorly maintained place with dirty toilets. I thought I’d stay somewhere else but got lazy to do the research myself and decided to stay there.

I fell in love with D’ Backpackers’ Barn right away. It’s definitely my kind of place, totally opposite to what I had imagined. It’s a place that has a ‘character’. I loved how artistic it is, with life quotes spread all over which got me all pumped up. I even asked the receptionist where they got their decorations and who did their lettering so I can get some for our house. I particularly loved the mini-living room. We spent the night talking there with my friends. It felt so comfy; the rustic feel of the decors added good vibes because I love anything vintage-like. Most of all, I loved having breakfast there and sipping my coffee while looking at the plants at their backyard. Oh, and their toilet is clean too!

cheap-backpackers-accommodation-in-panglao-bohol-dorm-type

backpackers-accommodation-in-panglao-bohol

cheap-accommodation-in-panglao-bohol

cheap-accommodation-panglao-bohol-for-backpackers

where-to-stay-in-panglao-bohol

where-to-stay-in-panglao-bohol-for-cheap

where-to-stay-cheap-in-panglao-bohol

backpackers-barn-panglao-bohol

cheap-place-to-stay-in-panglao

Totally forgot to take a photo of the room itself but you can check their Facebook page here.


What a weekend with a meditation guru looks like

Sometime back I wrote on how it’s like to be in a room with meditators and how I learned to let some battles go from a meditation teacher who used to be a monk. That meditation guru is Australian and I was lucky to catch him at home after years of traveling to teach meditation while I was doing my graduate studies in Sydney. He and his sister were very kind to welcome us in their home in Gosford and his friend who is also a meditator was very kind to drive us around.

It took me and my friend about an hour and 30 minutes by train from Sydney Central station to Gosford. I enjoyed the relaxing view on the way from the thick greenery to the distant mountain tops, wide flowing river and the vibrant blue sea; such sweet respite from the concrete jungle of Sydney. Though I haven’t had enough sleep the night before I was wide awake on the train to savor the natural scenery. Oh how I love long train rides.

train-ride-from-sydney-to-gosford-nsw

From the station we headed straight to Somersby Falls. I forgot I will be spending the weekend with a meditator and nature lover so instead of wearing pants and running shoes I wore a dress and boots which made it so hard to walk on slippery tracks that was about 250 meters long. The waterfalls wasn’t as huge as I expected but it was pretty. After we set our picnic we meditated for a few minutes. How lovely it was to meditate in a rainforest while listening to the sound of the waterfalls, the chirping birds and rustling of the leaves. It was made even sweeter by a cup of coffee afterwards. It was one of those moments when I wanted to scream, “I love my life!!!”

somersby-falls-walking-track

somersby-falls-nsw

coffee-at-somersby-falls-gosford-nsw

somersby-falls-picnic

somersby-falls

After the picnic we drove around to see more of Gosford, headed to the farmers market to grab food then proceeded to a nearby park to eat our lunch. I haven’t taken much photo because being with meditators reminded me to disconnect from technology and be in the moment. I felt ashamed to be using my phone a lot, though I took some snaps while we rested for lunch and played with Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus). Lying on the grass felt so nice. We talked a lot but there were also times when we just stayed silent to meditate and be more aware of our environment.

img_4772

img_4771

picnic-at-a-park-in-gosford

Our last stop before heading home was Wyrrabalong National Park which offered a stunning view of the ocean below. At the Crackneck lookout we could see Shelly beach, which we visited the following morning. The Crackneck lookout has a picnic area and is a great spot for whale watching, too bad we didn’t bring binoculars! We walked deeper unto the park and climbed on a tree. Before leaving we did standing meditation guided by our guru surrounded with the lush vegetation.

crackneck-lookout-wyrrabalong-national-park

climbing-trees-at-wyrrabalong-national-park

wyrrabalong-national-park

wyrrabalong-national-park-gosford-nsw

In the evening we cooked a healthy vegetarian meal, pasta with veggies. After we had eaten and washed the dishes, we stayed outside of the house to gaze at the sky. The light pollution wasn’t so bad in their village so we could see more stars. Our guru realizing we loved stargazing decided to take us to the nearest golf course. It was so dark on the way, I could barely see what I was stepping on but he walked that area with mindfulness several times so he knew where to go even if we couldn’t see much.

pasta-with-vegetables

When we reached the edge we laid on the ground and looked at the stars silently. We could hear the sound of the waves splashing on the shore below us. It was freezing cold but I didn’t mind. The moment was a wonderful reminder that whatever we are going through, life is beautiful and sweet if we just know how to slow down to appreciate it.

The next day we woke up before sunrise and walked to Shelly beach passing through the golf course we went the night before. We stood at where we laid before for a few minutes of meditation or to simply take it all in and take mental pictures of the natural beauty around us. We then descended to Shelly beach as the sun began to rise. Our guru shared memories he had of the place while growing up. He also brought to our awareness the sound of Kookaburra birds. The beach had fine sands but there were rocky areas too. I stood on one of the rocks to do standing meditation while the waves passed by me. We walked barefoot until we reached the foot of Wyrrabalong National Park. We threw stones to the sea and competed which one could throw the farthest. I laid down on the rocky shore and meditated for a long while until we left.

The spot we laid down the night before to stargaze

The spot we laid down the night before to stargaze

img_1094

sunrise-by-the-beach

beach-sunrise

footsteps-in-the-sand

img_1177

33

31

central-coast

img_4763

meditation-at-shelly-beach-gosford

When we walked back, the sun has gotten hot and the beach was crowded with people. It was a pleasant weekend and I loved seeing families, especially those with kids, enjoying it. When we arrived home, I baked a muffin for the first time. It wasn’t rocket science of course but being someone who is scared of burning the kitchen, I was happy with that little achievement. We traveled back to Sydney in the afternoon and luckily since it was Sunday, we only paid $2.5 for the train ride. We brought back with us lots of happy memories and a book that our guru wrote himself.

muffin

books-on-meditation-and-forgiveness

It was a weekend of fun and many activities but above all it was a weekend of friendship, of being still and living in the present moment.