Archive for Philippine Travel

Philippine Travel: Friendship Kayak Will Go 3,300 Km In 100 Days Across The Philippines From Sarangani To Pagudpud

Posted in Duke420 Articles, Philippine Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by JJ Duque

Toby Martin – my batchmate in Upsilon Sigma Phi and fellow adventurer – just recently introduced me to Friendship Kayak, which is an expedition team led by Singaporean kayaker Khoo Swee Chiow whose current expedition challenge is to traverse the entire Philippine Archipelago on a kayak.

Needless to say, this feat has never been done before, and Khoo Swee Chiow along with Filipinos Buzzy Budlong and Arnel Gabutero, will be undertaking this expedition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Philippine-Singapore diplomatic relations. They will have a support team of Singaporeans and Filipinos (friends of the two expeditionists), who will haul provisions and handle certain logistics during their stops.

Friendship Kayak Expedition and Support Team

Friendship Kayak Expedition and Support Team

Khoo Swee Chiow has climbed Mt. Everest twice, reached the South Pole and the North Pole and holds 2 Guinness World Records, one for the longest scuba dive done in a controlled environment, staying underwater for 220 hours. Khoo Swee Chiow is also the first South East Asian to complete the 7 summits – Kilamanjaro (Africa),  Everest (Asia), Mt. Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), Elbrus (Europe), Carstenz Pyramid (Oceania), Kosciuszko (Oceania) and Vinson Massif (Antartica). When he’s not doing expeditions or adventures, Khoo Swee Chiow is a motivational speaker and adventure consultant.

Meanwhile, Filipino Buzzy Budlong may not have such an impressive resume as his kayaking partner, Buzzy holds his own as a veteran sea kayaker and white water rafting guide. He finished culinary arts, and mixes his love of cooking and love of the outdoors with an outdoors shop and Mexican cafe in Bohol, where he is currently based.

Arnel Gabutero will be joining the expedition as they paddle around Mindanao, but I’m not certain if he will still be part of the expedition as it heads out to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte.

The Friendship Kayak expedition has already started, and took to the shores of the Philippines on August 31st. Khoo Swee Chiow maintains a blog on his website where you can read all the documentation of what they endure. They even have an on-line tracker, so you can see where exactly they are at any given moment during the expedition.

I’m excited to see the wonderful pictures of the Philippines that the Friendship Kayak expedition will be coming up with as they kayak from Sarangani all the way up to the tip of the Philippine archipelago at Pagudupud in Ilocos Norte. I still haven’t really gotten word on where the last stop will be. Certainly, I would like to be there to congratulate the two of them and the entire crew of Friendship Kayak for their inspirational adventure.

Anyway, Friendship Kayak has some sponsors that will help them through this expedition, but from what Toby Martin said in his e-mail, the team still lacks some resources to complete the journey.  Based on what I read in the Firendship Kayak blog, I believe they underestimated the costs of the handling and release of their cargo, which included the huge kayaks among other things.

Toby Martin is helping the coordination efforts of Friendship Kayak, and I’m putting out a shout-out here for those who might be able to help them out for their expedition – like maybe a safe harbor to rest, and maybe some local delicacies to replenish – should they pass through your neighborhood.

Feel free to check out their blog and their Facebook page, where I’m certain there may be a way to donate.

Philippine Travel: Review Of Montemar Beach Resort in Bataan

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Environment, Philippine Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by JJ Duque

After New Year’s Day, the second of January 2009, I took a trip to Montemar Beach Resort in Bagac, Bataan to attend the wedding of my good friend Joey Zamora and his wife Geri.

I drove up to Bataan from my home in Paranaque, leaving home just a bit after breakfast at around 8am. The drive through EDSA in Manila was pleasant enough, and thanked the holiday season for not making it the congested traffic hell that Metro Manila is known for.

The drive along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) all the way to the end at Tarlac was also easy, and of course I really enjoyed the long straight drive along the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), which leads directly to Bataan via the Dinalupihan Exit.

After the exiting the SCTEX, it’s roughly another hour to an hour-and-a-half of winding roads that eventually lead to Montemar Beach Resort. What’s interesting is that the roads to Montemar follow the path of the historic Bataan Death March and also provides a great view of Mt. Samat. But anyway, that’s how to get there. It’s a long drive, but as long as you follow the explicit directions to get to Montemar Beach Resort, you really can’t get lost. Well, not really.

Anyway, Montemar Beach Resort has been around a long time, and it has gone through some renovations to keep it rated AAA by the Department of Tourism. The beach itself is awesome, covered with mocha-colored powder and receiving a cool breeze from the South China Sea. Very little rocks and corals around the beach, which makes it perfect for wading and comfortably lounging around. The ocean’s pulse also sends shallow waves, which offers a good opportunity for skim boarding, but not strong enough to suck a wader out with an undertow.

Montemar Beach Resort also has a very cool lagoon pool, and an awesome “backyard” that is abundant with green shade and a well-maintained garden landscape. In fact, I really admire the manner with which the Montemar staff constantly busy themselves sweeping off dry leaves to uphold the pristine cleanliness of the resort.

The rooms of Montemar Beach Resort are very spacious. I was given a basic room with a double bed and a balcony overlooking the resort backyard with the sound of the ocean surf  just hypnotizing a few meters away. Montemar Beach Resort even has huge inns that are capable of hosting families.

All in all, the Montemar Beach Resort experience is very relaxing. The only complaint I had was the breakfast bufet. I don’t know if it’s because of the meal pass that came with the wedding guest deal, but when I went down for breakfast at the main cafe and restaurant, there was a delectable spread of awesome breakfast dishes – beef tapa, pork tocino, salted fish, salted egg, scrambled eggs and longganiza among others. I was about to choose around 2 viands, but was told that I could only pick one among the many offered. That was a bit disappointing. I just wish they could give the entire option for the breakfast buffet instead of relegating the guest to just one viand. But then, maybe that’s the deal for the wedding guests and might not apply to the “regular” customers, but still… It’s the only setback I faced despite a near-perfect on everything else about Montemar.

Sunrise At Montemar Beach Resort

Sunrise At Montemar Beach Resort

What I found interesting also about Montemar Beach Resort is that their beach is actually a nesting ground for sea turtles, or what the Filipinos locally refer to as Pawikan. Sea turtles come to the shores of Montemar to nest their eggs. Once they hatch out, the sea turtles go back to sea, roam around the oceans to wherever, and return again to the beach once a year to nest once again.

The sea turtles nest every November, which prompted Montemar Beach Resort to come up with the Grand Pawikan Fest, which is held annually every November. Apart from witnessing the spectacle of the sea turtles in their nesting grounds, audiences are also informed on activities and ecological concerns of the sea turtle. As part of Montemar’s Eco-Tourism and Eco-Conservation efforts, a team tags the turtles and also raises funds through those who would wish to adopt sea turtles. Not that they get to take them home, but just that they get to name one and have a tagged turtle that bears their patronage.

In any case, the Eco-Tourism aspect of Montemar Beach Resort is something that I laud. It’s different and unique, and really offers something more than just what comes with just being a beach resort. Plus the fact, that Montemar Beach Resort really takes a step further in the conservation of the sea turtles is an admirable cause.

Anyway, for more information on Montemar Beach Resort, you can visit their site.

Philippine Environmental Solutions: The E-Jeepney

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Current Events, Philippine Environment, Philippine News, Philippine Technology, Philippine Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2008 by JJ Duque
The E-Jeepney in Makati City

The E-Jeepney in Makati City

The Electronic Jeepney, or the E-Jeepney, is a minibus that runs on electricity. The E-jeepney carries 17 passengers and can run 120km on an 8-hour charge from an electric outle using power from biodegradable waste.

In response to calls for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the rise of oil prices, Robert Puckett, the President of Solar Electric Company in the Philippines, made the E-Jeepney his brainchild. With the support of Greenpeace and through the office of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, four E-Jeepneys were deployed to ply routes around Makati City. Two of the E-Jeepneys were prototypes from Guangzhou, China and the other two were made by the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturars Association of the Philippines (MVPMAP). The E-Jeepney runs a maximum 40km per hour.

The E-Jeepney is still on its test phase, and will undergo technical and commercial test for 6 months in Makati City. If all goes well in the test phase, then the electric fleet of E-Jeepneys will increase to 50 units. Also, as stated in the project’s MOA, Makati City will also provide a facility that will generate power from the biodegradable wastes from the city’s food establishments and wet markets where the E-Jeepneys can be plugged.

Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, Baguio CIty in Benguet and Puerto Princessa City in Palawan have already also launched a similar campaign to make use of E-Jeepneys in their respective cities.

The E-Jeepneys are the first public transport system of its kind in Southeast Asia. Well, if you exclude the golf cart. Oh yeah, the golf cart isn’t public transportation, it’s privilege transportation.

Anyway, The E-Jeepny is a step in the right direction towards providing an environmental solution to the problems of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of the Philippines and Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s so damn good that Greenpeace and GRIPP (Green Renewable Independent Power Producer) extended their support during the inauguration.

In today’s edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, there were reports that Boracay mayor Wilbec Gelito will also be making use of the E-Jeepneys in the island of Boracay to lessen the air and noise pollution caused by the 2-stroke engine tricycles that are abundant on the island. According to the article, the tricycles in Boracay have increased by as much as three times over the last 5 years, with a total of about 1,800 tricycles in the area. These tricycles give out a lot of smog and are also responsible for the noise pollution which goes to up to around 70 decibels. Hearing damage due to long-term exposure is pegged at some 80-90 decibels and a jack hammer is at around 100 db. In other words, the tricycles are loud. However, they have been made the main choice of transportation because of its affordability, durability and easy maintenance.

But then, so far, the studies on the E-Jeepney have shown that eventually it will save money for the drivers because it will do away with the expenses for oil and gasoline. How much it will save is currently being studied with the Makati project.

My Two Cents on The E-Jeepney

I’m all for the E-Jeepney and I really do hope that more of these vehicles will be deployed in the country. Makati City will be deploying 50 units if the test phase works. That sounds good, but I’m sure they can do better. I see the potential of the small step being undertaken by Makati City, Bacolod City, Puerto Princessa City, Baguio City, GRIPP, Greenpeace, the Solar Electric Company, and “to whom else is concerned” but the 50 units that will ply Makati City is still no match to the thousands of carbon-dioxide emitting vehicles, which includes the buses and the other jeeps. Apart from putting the E-Jeepney into the picture, there should also be efforts to get rid of the smoke-belching vehicles from the streets. If you don’t take them out, the pollution will still be significant, and 50 E-Jeepneys might not be able to compete with the thousands of smoke-belchers in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. This is not Sparta! And worse still, the 50 E-Jeepneys might just add to the traffic problem. Of course, I mean that in humor and not in skepticism.

Eventually, the E-Jeepney should also be considered to become an E-Bus, so that they can replace the smoke-belching buses that ply the EDSA route. I’m sure everyone will appreciate an E-Bus on EDSA that runs 40km per hour.

Apparently one of these E-Jeepneys will costs around Php370,000. Well, at least the prototypes from China. Definitely, it’s not that cheap for the regular jeepney driver to afford, but then with the proper financing from other groups, corporations and organizations, then these can be made more affordable. Maybe even the oil firms of our country can step up to include an electric charging unit in their gas stations that runs on biodegradable waste. Bright idea there.

Personally, I would love to see the E-Jeepney dominate the entire public transportation system in the cities. Leave the buses for provincial routes, but let the E-Jeepney dominate the city scene. EVERY CITY!

Island No. 132 of 7,200 Philippine Islands

Posted in Duke420 Articles, Philippine Travel with tags , , , on August 1, 2008 by JJ Duque

Island No. 132

Lisa Rossiter shared with me this photograph while we were chatting the other day, and apparently this island is found somewhere here in the Philippines. “You’re guess is as good as mine,” she answers when I ask exactly where it is. I was skeptical at first. I mean, it could’ve been an awesome job done in Photoshop, but Lisa was insistent on its authenticity. Apparently, the same picture was featured by the dudes at National Geographic apart from being featured in another site called Purplyana: Culture of the Philippines. So, OK, I’m sold.

Now that I’m convinced that the photograph is real and authentic, next comes the question – where the hell do they get their food or their fresh water from? What about sewage? And who the hell was in charge of the zoning? And what kind of idiot would still want to add yet shanty No. 66 after discovering that 65 already packed the island? What can i say? Life’s a beach.

Well, the situation of Island No. 132 (I just named it that on a whim) is no different from what is going on in Metro Manila or in other parts of the Philippines. People crowd on an island and congest it to the max without regard on the need to adhere to some zoning and prepare the necessary resources such as a fresh water supply, or even sewage, or garbage disposal. And for lack of any creativity, they’ll put up Jojo’s Fresh Pineapples right in between Lucy’s Pineapple Stand and Betty’s Pineapples. Some idiot tourist, who notices the abundance of pineapples and pineapple stands, will still manage to ask “Miss, pineapple lang lahat, wala bang guyabano?”