Sea Gypsies, Social Standing and the Rat Race

DSCF6912I took this photo during our most recent trip to Basilan.

If you’re not too familiar with these floating cottages, they’re traditional Bajau houses— abodes on stilts, made almost entirely out of driftwood. These houses forthrightly reflect the lifestyle of the nomadic people who live in them: simple, close-knit and pretty much wedded to the ever-changing whims of the ocean. Bajau communities of old were even more noteworthy; families lived in small boats called lepa-lepa. Traveling in a flotilla, they traded with strangers from lands faraway and bartered their bounty of fish for fruits, trepang for cloth, pearls for sacks of rice. Continue reading “Sea Gypsies, Social Standing and the Rat Race”

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Calayan, Cagayan: Arcadia of the North

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An overnight bus ride to the upper fringes of Luzon. Then, a grueling, five-hour lampitaw ride further north, to the haziest verges of the Philippine territory, all the while battling the tumultuous waves of the Babuyan Channel. This is how Calayan, the Arcadia of the North, tests its curious visitors. It makes sure that only the bravest, starry-eyed wanderers, those with the true heart of an adventurer, will ever tread its verdant pastures and wade in its turquoise waters. Continue reading “Calayan, Cagayan: Arcadia of the North”

Nostalgie de la Boue

12837728_1320755307940073_1636248642_oI grew up in a house where tuyô was a breakfast staple.

That salty bastard of a fish, along with a relish of tomatoes and onions, a vinegar-calamansi dipping sauce and god-knows-how-many-platefuls of freshly steamed white rice.

Back in the days, tuyô was an ubiquitous symbol of the great unwashed– after all, it was being sold at 50 cents each. While a breakfast of tuyô isn’t so bad, eating it every single day would still be considered a gastronomical torture. Continue reading “Nostalgie de la Boue”

Biri, Northern Samar: Alien Topography

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The otherworldy shapes and colors of Biri’s rock formations readily evoke a phantasmagorical scene, like something out of a Starcraft map. Tidepools display a mesmerizing gradient of turquoise fading into a subtle seafoam green; oddly-shaped metamorphic rock sculptures blanketed with a verdant carpet of grass, jutting out of the waters of the mighty San Bernardino Strait– whose elements, the wind and the waves, continue to shape, mold, twist, break and build even the grandest megalith in its unforgiving territory through the years– and maybe even through countless eons to come. Continue reading “Biri, Northern Samar: Alien Topography”

Tawi-Tawi: Heavenly Hinterlands

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So, Tawi-Tawi happened.

It was not really my most unnerving feat to date, as I’ve been to Basilan not just once, but twice. You see, Basilan is dubbed as one of the most dangerous provinces of the Philippines, along with Sulu. The province of Tawi-Tawi bookends the southernmost chain of the Sulu archipelago, earning an uncalled-for stigma of compromised peace and order situation that its neighbors are infamous for.

Continue reading “Tawi-Tawi: Heavenly Hinterlands”