Sunday, April 27, 2014

Island Life

I didn't expect to come home this April. There were so many things to be done in Manila that I was afraid I would have to stay in the city for the next two months. But then I found myself rushing home for the Holy Week and enjoying the next few more weeks here before I'm needed back in Manila.

This week, we celebrated the Aklan Pina Fiber Festival, an annual crafts and trade exhibit that coincides with Aklan Day (basically the day when Aklan separated from its mother province Capiz). This year is Aklan's 58th anniversary and I'm glad to be a part of it. Most people think of Boracay when they think of Aklan:

(Frankly, I can't blame them.)

But there are also plenty of other places in Aklan that's worth a visit. If you ever find yourself in Aklan with a few days to spare, here are some sites you can check out:

Museo It Akean. (History/Culture) The little museum by the edge of Kalibo's town plaza is a good place to start. The ground floor houses a historical and geographical exhibit on Aklan (and occasionally, an art gallery and/or a traveling exhibit). A more detailed look at Aklanon history and culture can be found up the grand staircase. The artifacts and memorabilia found there can give you a crash course on provincial life. Other nearby places of interest are the Kalibo Cathedral, should you wish to pay homage to the Sto NiƱo, and the Kasafi Office on the second floor of the Mijares Building across the plaza, where you can see colorful Ati-Atihan costumes on display.

Bayangan Village. (Culture/Trade) Lezo is Aklan's smallest municipality (and it's also my father's hometown). You may not think that there's much to visit here, but a quick stop at the Bayangan Village where they make clay pots and jars is worth the side trip. Located to the left of the Lezo Church, this is a small strip of pottery workshops leading down to the Aklan River. You can watch the potters at work and bring home a souvenir or two! Plus it will really make you feel like you're in a very peaceful small town.

Row of potters

Tangalan Church. (History/Religion) Guests on their way to Boracay via Kalibo pass through Tangalan, where one of the oldest churches in Aklan is found. The edifice of the St John the Nepomucene Church was finished in 1889. Also found in Tangalan are the Jawili Falls with its seven basins (when I was very young I slipped on the third basin and never dared to climb higher) and the Afga lighthouse and rock formation.

St John the Nepomucene Church

Katunggan it Ibajay. (Nature) Ibajay has a 44-hectare mangrove forest that will make you feel like you're really in the middle of nowhere. There's an elevated footpath that can take you through the forest. There's another mangrove forest in Kalibo called the Bakhawan Eco-Park, in case you don't have the time to drive all the way to Ibajay.

Cold Springs. (Nature) If you're tired of beaches, try the cold springs found in Nabas. Hurom-Hurom is probably the most famous one, with a huge pool that acts as a catch basin for cold water coming from the mountains. Lots of locals come here, especially during the summer.

Trying to list all these places makes me realize that I can't get them all down in just one post! I'll try to post other suggestions soon (and maybe try to find some pictures). If I had all the time to travel, I'll definitely start in my own backyard.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Still Reading

It's been such a crazy year so far with more downs than ups. That's one of the main reasons why I haven't gotten around to posting a lot of reviews. But I'm still reading (no worries)! Always a good thing.

My book list, in no particular order:

1. The Ghost Bride (Yangsze Choo)
2. Snapshot (Angie Stanton)
3. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Denise Grover Swank)
4. Forget Me Not (Addie Lynn Co)
5. Frozen Heat (Richard Castle)
6. Tokyo Heist (Diana Renn)
7. Kids These Days (Luna East authors)
8. Staking His Claim (Tessa Bailey)
9. Temporarily Yours (Diane Alberts)
10. Dirty Trick (Christine Bell)
11. The Love Detective (Alexandra Potter)
12. The Ghost Writer (John Harwood)
13. The Year of the Gadfly (Jennifer Miller)
14. Blossoms and Shadows (Lian Hearn)
15. Blast from Two Pasts (Kristel Villar)

I'm trying to remember if there's anything I have missed so far. It feels like such a short list to me, compared to my reading progress a few years ago.

Books by female authors: 12/15 (+ one female-dominated anthology)
Books by male authors: 2/15
Books by Filipino authors: 2/15 (+ one local anthology)
• Noting here that Yangsze Choo is Malaysian-Chinese, Alex Potter is British, and Lian Hearn and John Harwood are Australians, but I still think I need to read more diverse people. Love Detective is set in India, while Tokyo Heist and Blossoms and Shadows are set in Japan.

There have been a lot of romances on my list so far and not enough fantasies or mysteries. I also have the #buqosteamyreads stories on my iPad so don't expect my romance reads to let up any time soon. I am also buddy-reading A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar but I'm thinking of sneaking a Perry Mason mystery in while I'm waiting for my buddy to catch up. I also have Murakami's IQ84 lined up, since it's on my reading list for 2014. Let's see if I can make more progress soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Where to Go: Map of Boracay

Summer's here! Flights are being booked, trips are being made, sunblocks are slowly disappearing from department store shelves. One of the most popular tourist destinations is Boracay Island in Aklan, where the white sand is always cool and postcard-ready and the fruit shakes always lead to brain freeze.

I asked good friend and brilliant designer Cla Ines to help me make a map of the island. Feel free to print it or share it (I only ask that you keep the watermark and credit back). You'll find the island's more popular sites here.

If you're visiting Boracay, you can fly in from either the Kalibo Airport or the Caticlan Airport (shown on the map). Make your way to the Caticlan Jetty Port and take a pumpboat or a fastcraft to get to the island. Most resorts will offer to pick you up at the Cagban Jetty Port. If not, you can hire a tricycle to bring you to your destination.

A long time ago, Boracay used to be divided by boat stations: Station 1 was the farthest from the mainland; Station 2 in the middle; Station 3 just a few barangays from the Cagban Jetty Port. Pumpboats would drop guests off at the beachfront of their respective resorts, then later on at the designated stations. The old boat stations are gone but people still give directions based on this. Station 1 is known for its wider beachfronts and more expensive resorts, and this is where Boracay's most photographed rock formation (Willy's Rock) is found. Head towards Station 2 along the stretch of White Beach and you'll come across D'Mall, a bustling hub of shops, bars, and restaurants. D'Mall is located near the narrowest part of the island, making it easy to cross to Bolabog Beach on the other side (not to be confused with Balabag which is where Station 1/White Beach is). Bolabog is well-known for its kiteboarding activities. During the rougher habagat months (wind blows from the west towards White Beach), this is where the island's water sports are found.

Boracay is also the setting for my first novella Cover (Story) Girl. Like its main character Gio, I live just a short drive from the island. Sometimes I'd be with my family and relatives, sometimes with my friends, and sometimes even all alone. I've once taken a shuttle to the island just to buy Bite Club burgers then come back home. Trust me, when you've been in Manila traffic, the hour-and-a-half/forty-five ride to Boracay won't seem so bad!

I don't claim to know everything about Boracay. But I've been going there annually for over twenty years so I really felt that I could write this story. I still have a ton of (mis)adventures that I've kept from the book! People can complain that it's crowded or overrated but the truth is, I have so much history with this island that it will always have a special place in my heart. The next time I go, it will be with a book in one hand, a mango shake on the table, and lots of sunshine on my SPF-protected shoulders. No worries.