Though I may have been too young to fully comprehend the Doña Paz tragedy at the time, subsequent news stories about it left an indelible impression on me. I grew up rationalizing that sea travel is a perilous undertaking—particularly in a country where antiquated vessels are commonplace.
After getting a glimpse of the province last year when I visited Ticao Island for a couple of days, I immediately regarded Masbate as vastly underrated despite its central geographical location as gateway to Luzon and Visayas. That brief tryst had me making a vow of returning soon. As good fortunes had it, I was able to go back recently for a more extensive journey that took me to the mainland of Masbate, Burias Island and at Ticao once again.
Clueless of the place we’re heading to, the scenery of rolling mountain ranges rising parallel to the mighty Chico River, and expansive farm fields gave me helpful hints to a bucolic countryside perhaps or even more. The latter was spot-on as I set foot in the village of Naneng in Tabuk, Kalinga.
Incredibly surreal, I think to myself as we glide over the choppy waters off the Bicol Peninsula towards the island of Ticao. My excitement at finally making it to Masbate, the 77th province I’ve visited in the Philippines, was palpable as our boat inched closer to the isle’s powdery shores.
A couple of days after being graced by the presence of National Living Treasure awardee Apuh Ambalang—a Yakan master weaver who unfortunately passed away at age 78 in February 2022—in Lamitan, Basilan, we continued our discovery of the habi (weaving) culture of Zamboanga Peninsula by making an educational stop at the Yakan Village.
Many decades after the painstaking filming of “Apocalypse Now” gave rise to the country’s perhaps first surfing destination when the film crew left their surf boards behind, the name Baler has become associated with surfing. While Colonel Kilgore in the film referred to the Viet Congs as “Charlie[s] [who] don’t surf,” in real-life Baler, everybody surfs.
THE recent maiden Philippine Airlines flights to Tawi-Tawi from Cotabato City paved the way for myself to explore the country’s southernmost province once again. I remember when I first went here, I met a slew of curious queries about safety when traveling to Tawi-Tawi. As we all remember, this province once hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
I can’t remember exactly where and when I first learned about the Wailing Wall. I’m sure it was sometime during my childhood. Being an earnest reader of history books, I came across the fascinating account of Israel, from its birth of a nation in 1948 to the Israeli-Arab Wars and going back to ancient times. Early on, I’m already made aware of its significance as one of the leading emblems of Judaism, and that it also played an integral role in other religions such as Christianity and Islam.
I WOKE up to the cold January weather of Rishikesh and was caught in between wanting to stay snuggled under my blanket, or start my exploration early. Half-dazed, I forced myself to saunter from across the room to the icy bathroom floor and find comfort from a quick, hot shower.
The sky was the color of mud, raindrops pelting us sideways and the wind growing stronger. All we could hear was the rambling of the hardly visible river. Our guide told us what we were expecting to hear the moment we arrived at the brook’s edge; “Negative, the water is too strong we cannot ride the boats,” he told us in Tagalog.
I was half awake when I stared out the window of the bus and saw the sky with strokes of sunrise. “Dawning of a new day,” I told myself. Instantly, a burst of excitement shot up my body at the idea of a forthcoming opportunity to explore. It was the first morning of the Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart where I was invited to cover.