Page 1

October to November 2007 Volume 1. No. 2


inside: Music, Like Water For The Thirsty Traveler

Conspiracy Garden Café Where Magic Meets the Mundane

A Tale of Traveling to Siquijor Pyramids of the Sea: A Dive Volunteer’s Story

Let Your Feet Follow Where Your Mind and Heart Lead



t’s finally here, our 2nd issue. We’re a week late; forgive us. *sheepish grin*

The past few months have been a series of ups and downs, a deliriously evil rollercoaster ride that had those of us at the helm question our will to survive. Ang drama no?! But really now. Our small magazine is still struggling. We are still in the process of wooing advertisers for support. We are still expanding our distribution. We are still trying to establish ourselves as the premier free travel/eco-tourism magazine in the Philippines. Naks! Despite the nerve-popping months, I’ve seen a lot of friends and believers come through for us. I’ve felt support and some security in knowing that we will surpass these scares. Just you watch! :) Joining us this issue are some friends whom I admire. Jesette writes about her favorite haunt in Quezon City for the Metro Trippin’ section. Dana and Molly recall their trip to Siquijor. And Associate Editor Elaine writes about our time with the underwater pyramids of Calatagan. What can I say? The ride’s been worth it. I hope you enjoy this issue. Watch out for more of Yapak!

Yours and the sea’s! Roda Novenario

distributor’s box

Many Thanks to Ida Fernandez, Larry Novenario, Checa Cruz, Vickie Stohner, Carlo Mangoba, Angelique Umbac, Germaine Leonin, Sandy Allan, Travis Allan, Liza DeGuia, Jen Cucio, Tanya Garcia, Libay Cantor, Shelley Conradson, Jess Pena, Gary Harrison, Terry Schwaha and Emily Gom-os for their help. Photos in this issue are printed with permission from Gary W. Harrison of, Terry Schwaha and Emily Gom-os of Casa de la Playa Beach Resort, Jesusa Ayala Dayate, Wilson Uy, Shelley Conradson, Roda Novenario and Elaine Tolentino. Cover photo was taken by Terry Schwaha and Emily Gom-os of Casa de la Playa Beach Resort. © 2007 by CYS Publishing House PO Box 0278 , Las Pinas Post Office, Las Pinas City, Metro Manila, Philippines Telefax: 874-5902 Email: Visit us online at:

Yapak Travel and Leisure is also at Hodge-Podge Apparel at ABS-CBN Center, Luxuria Spa at Tandang Sora, Quezon City, and G&B Men’s Boutique at Glorietta 4; and given out to Etelecare Global Solutions and HSBC Electronic Data Processing (Philippines) Inc. employees.


All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without the written permission of the publisher.

the team Creatives

Roda Novenario is Editor-in-Chief. She has a degree in Economics from UP, which didn’t really get her any regular job except that one with an IT company. She freelances a career to this day. She has had her stab as editor and writer for several local and US commercial magazines. Roda is an avid diver who is in the process of ticking off some wanna-see marine creatures from her list. She wants to go back to mountaineering but needs a budget to buy a new set of gears. She is at Penguin in Malate at least once a week; is a pool shark and has been known to trek all the way to QC (from way down south of the Metro) for a game or two and Chocolate Kiss’s amazing Chicken ala Kiev. (Figures why she never got a regular job.) JL Timbreza is Art Director. She’s a graduate of UP Fine Arts; and at a young age, already has several local and US magazines and web sites to her credit. She is a relentless mountaineer and the President of Hakbang Kalikasan Mountaineering Society. She has climbed Mt. Kota Kinabalu and almost quit 10 steps away from the summit because of the cold. JL loves Enchanted Kingdom’s Rio Grande and Anchor’s Away. While everyone else might throw up after a ride, she gets into a trip and laughs her heart out. JL is a sucker for romance and romantic novels.

inside Jesusa Ayala Dayate is a Fine Arts graduate of UP; and currently works as web designer for a BPO company. She is not related to the Ayalas in business, nor the Ayalas in music – but she might as well be if only for the creativity common in their blood. Jessette prefers her music ethnic, tribal or psychedelic; she loves Alphonse Mucha’s graphic illustrations and is into magic realism in literary fiction. She is a mountaineer and can cook gourmet meals way up there. Jessette writes about her favorite bar in Quezon City, using lines reminiscent of the magic realism of her literary idols. Metro Trippin: Music, Like Water For The Thirsty Traveler p04

Elaine Tolentino is Associate Editor. She has a degree in Economics from DLSU; and her work background is heavy on social science research. Elaine is an avid diver, and an environmental and animal rights activist. She is vegetarian, not surprisingly. She has 6 dogs and misses them like crazy. She is currently freezing her butt off in Changchun City in China, as she embarks on her master’s degree at Jilin University.


Fortune Cookie, she who cannot be named, is a veteran in the advertising industry. She was an adventurer in her youth, indulging in combat training, sky diving, scuba diving and exploration. Mayette Dabuet is dedicated to sales as a profession; but torn between going up or down when it comes to her adventures. Her mountaineering has taken her to the heart of Benguet, into a little known community that she and her mountaineering organization eventually adopted. She is constantly bugged by her dive buddies about being missed on dive trips.

Finance and Accounting Rosa Leon Violy Novenario

for her research and activism. Dana is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fullerton. She has been conducting critical ethnographic research in Manila, the Philippines since 1999, following urban renewal and the production of gay urban spaces in Malate. She teaches in the areas of gender, sexualities, critical globalization and development studies, urban communities, transnational feminisms, political consciousness, and qualitative research methodologies. 2005 was Molly and Dana’s first trip to the Philippines together. They write about a trip to Siquijor that was both mystical and grounded. Out! Where Magic Meets the Mundane: A Tale of Traveling to Siquijor p09

Metro Directory p06 Pinas Trotter’s Dogma p07

Out! Directory p12 Where To, How To Speak Out! p13

Molly Talcott and Dana Collins are partners in life and in exploration. Molly is currently completing her PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and has gone to Mexico several times

Leave Nothing but.. by Roda Novenario Pyramids of the Sea: A Dive Volunteer’s Story by Elaine Tolentino p14


wants to sing the blues away. I close my eyes as I sip my Margarita…certainly not a rainy Monday for me.

MUSIC, LIKE WATER FOR THE THIRSTY TRAVELER Photos and Text by Jesusa Ayala Dayate


s the traveler fills each day with new adventures, sometimes her soul longs for sojourn. Like water for her thirst, she can find solace in discovering a new place she can call “home.” Here’s a week-long account of a traveler’s experience in a garden, this one known as the Conspiracy Garden Café.

Monday: The Garden Toss freshly boiled pasta in simmering pesto sauce. Let its aromatic flavor entice the traveler. Season with Rica Arambulo’s melodic voice and her piano keys. Serve while hot. I dive into the Pasta Pesto (110 pesos) and sip a glass of Margarita (100 pesos). A huge palm tree is the garden’s centerpiece; while big ornamental banana trees line up its walls. The round and star-shaped lights wrapped around these trees create dramatic shadows and glow romantically at patrons seated on the garden’s wrought-iron chairs. Rica’s sultry voice streams from the Music Room. Monday nights belong to her and her piano. Later into the night, the microphone will be open to anyone who

Tuesday: The Smoking Area Near the Music Room Dip vegetables in tempura batter. Deep fry in hot oil. Remove excess oil while Susan Fernandez’s crisp guitar strings fill the air with jazz music. Fascinated by the numerous empty bottles and small paintings that line one side of its walls, I sit in the smoking area near Conspiracy’s Music Room. I let the crunchiness of the tempura (90 pesos), the subtle sweetness of the vegetables, linger on my taste buds. I drink my fill of lemonade (45 pesos). A sliding glass door separates us from the Music Room so smokers can enjoy the night’s performance with cigars at hand. Tuesday is “Writers Night” and Conspiracy provides the venue for any writers’ organization that wants to hold events, such as poetry reading sessions and short film showings. Rent is free, with only a minimal requirement of 150 pesos worth of food order per person.

Wednesday: The Music Room Infuse the tender pork with flavorful herbs. Add in some romantic lyricism from Noel Cabangon’s timeless music. Serve while hot, and with love. Tonight, I let the sensual aroma of Herbed Pork (160 pesos, served with rice and hot soup) seduce my nostrils. I sip my house wine (110 pesos per glass) and allow Noel’s classic rendition of “Kanlungan” bring back memories of my childhood. I stare at the Music Room’s walls, decorated with ethnic multi-colored tubaos and occasional paintings. At this moment, I feel light and happy, and deeply believe that there’s still love in this world after all.

Thursday: The Bar Sauté the freshest tilapia in genuine coconut milk. Let the coconut milk thicken. Serve hot. Syrupy notes from a violin reach my ears. The earlier part of Thursday night is reserved for music students, with the musicians of the UP College of Music as


one of Conspiracy’s regular patrons. Content with my Tilapia sa Gata (100 pesos), I also treat myself to a banana split crepe (90 pesos). Hushed conversations fill this small space. I am seated at the bar, which is in another room close to Conspiracy’s kitchen and counter. My eyes dance with the artwork displayed all over this old house. Conversing with the bar’s co-owner and manager, Teresita de Quiros, she says that Conspiracy’s gallery is open to all artists. A portfolio of artworks is required for co-owner Cynthia Alexander to review. I finish my nightcap (a Gin Tonic for 60 pesos) with Cookie Chua’s voice drifting in from the Music Room.

Friday: The Music Room.

solo albums later, my soul has become enchanted with her songs. She may have been a high priestess in her past life, with her ability to touch the ethereal strings and provide comfort to my wandering spirit. Her music is my constant companion on my mountain treks. She ends the night with a soulful humming of “Comfort In Your Strangeness,” an emotional song that is almost like a prayer. “I have been to places far and deep, in my mind, only to find comfort in your strangeness.” — Cynthia Alexander, Comfort In Your Strangeness

A perfect song to end the night.

Let the freshly steamed baby potatoes swim in garlic and oil. As the potatoes absorb the flavor, take in Joey Ayala’s eclectic tribal and ethnic vocal concoctions. Dig into the potatoes and take a bite.

It was Cynthia’s music that led me to this place. Like water for a thirsty traveler, the Conspiracy Garden Café will enfold you in its eclectic beauty. Artful. Poetic. Friendly. Home.

I am not alone tonight. I’m with the man in my life. He’s the one who introduced me to Joey Ayala’s music and respectfully calls the man, “Sir Joey.”

*Conspiracy Garden Café is located at 59 Visayas Avenue,

Two beings bound by the same love for eclectic music, the same passions and the the same longing for mountain adventures. Two souls touched by the man’s lyrical and passionate love for his craft. Together, we raise our glass to toast to Joey Ayala’s heartfelt “Walang Hanggang Paalam.” There won’t be goodbyes.

Quezon City. Contact Numbers: 453-2170; 920-6517.

Saturday: The Music Room Use real Indian curry powder for an authentic curry taste. Blend in some multi-layered Indian-inspired music from Cynthia Alexander as the chicken cooks to perfection. Serve the Chicken Curry (150 pesos) with chapatti (20 pesos) while chanting “Gobinda.” Saturday is usually a busy night for Conspiracy. I nurse my San Mig Light (37 pesos) as Cynthia Alexander starts the night’s performance with a powerful chant. It was eight years ago at a UP Fair Concert when I first heard Cynthia Alexander’s music. Three


Vintage Pop Marikina Shoe Expo, Cubao, Quezon City


CAFES/RESTAURANT Greens Vegeratian Restaurant & Cafe 92 Scout Castor Street, Quezon City 1103 415-4796, 378-2781/ 0918-568-7649 Wheatberry Bakery and Cafe No. 84 Sct. Castor cor. Sct Tuazon, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City 1103 374-8470 374-8565 Mocha Blends SM Fairview Novaliches, Quezon City or marketing@ Behrouz Persian Cuisine 63 Sct. Tobias St., Timog Ave., Quezon 374-3242


Cafe Bola Araneta Coliseum Arcade, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City 372-5007, 375-5017 Cafe Breton Tomas Morato cor. Scout de Guia, Quezon City 374-6334 Chili’s Grill and Bar 199 Tomas Morato Ave. cor. Scout Fernandez, Quezon City Trellis 40 Matalino St. cor. Kalayaan Ave., Diliman, Quezon City 924-1056/57


Newsdesk Café No. 8, Scout Madrinan cor. Scout Tobias, Brgy. South Triangle, Quezon City Club Dredd Eastwood City Walk Fuente Circle, Eastwood Citywalk 2 188 E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Bagumbayan, Libis, Quezon City Xaymaca 71 Timog Ave., Quezon City The Basement Eastwood City Walk, Eastwood Citywalk 1188 E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Bagumbayan, Libis, Quezon City 421-3930 Gweilos Bar and Restaurant Eastwood City Walk Fuente Circle, Eastwood Citywalk 2, 188 E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Bagumbayan, Libis, Quezon City 421-2283

SALONS David’s Salon SM City West-Main Bldg. Branch 2/F Main Bldg. SM City West Ave., Quezon City 927-2316 FIX ABS CBN The Loop G/F #12 North Wing Eugenio Lopez Jr. Community Center Mother Ignacia St. Quezon City 410-1897 David’s Salon Timog Branch Unit 17 A Landsdale Arcade, Mother Ignacia St.cor., Timog, Quezon City

The Reading Room Shop #39, Marikina Shoe Expo, Cubao, Quezon City 0917-522-2100 Popular Book Store 305 Tomas Morato St., Bgy. South Triangle, Quezon City 372-2162 372-2050

SPAS The Spa Acropolis Acropolis Center, Acropolis Green Subd.,E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City 634-2848, 634-2709

Fax: 634-2267

Bioessence West Avenue 68 Carbal Bldg, West Ave., Quezon City 371-2931, 372-2649 Luxuria Spa Alondes St., Mira-nila Subdivision, Tandang Sora, Quezon City

elsewhere in the city

CAFES/RESTaurants Origin Coffee Company JAKA Center 2111, Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati City 844-0550 / 0917-888-CAFE Cafe Adriatico Malate 1790 M. Adriatico St. Malate, Manila 524-3795 Hap Chan Tea House (Malate)

Conspiracy Garden Café

59 Visayas Avenue, Quezon City 453-2170; 920-6517

70s Bistro 46 Anonas St., Project 2, Quezon City 434-3597

FIX SM North EDSA SM North Edsa Brgy. Pag-Asa Quezon City 920-6876

Bookstores and Collectibles Bound 105-A Scout Castor Street, Laging Handa, Quezon City 411-7768

305 Tomas Morato St., Bgy. South Triangle, Quezon City Phone: 372-2162 Fax: 372-2050



561 Gen. Malvar St. cor. Adriatico St. Malate, Manila 525-1635 Emerald Garden Roxas Boulevard cor. Arquiza Ermita, Manila 523-8510 Eastern Garden 954 Ongpin St. Sta. Cruz, Manila 733-6226 New Bombay Food Inc. Tower One, Ground Flr., The Columns Bldg. 6821 Ayala Ave., cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Bgy. Bel-Air, Makati City 819-2892 JNBM Art Cafe Shop SM Mall of Asia, 2nd Level, Entertainment

Mall Central Business Park, Bay Blvd., Bay City, Pasay City 854-6701 loc 8372 /0915-5781451 Men’s Clothing G&B Men’s Boutique Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City

salons Fix Robinson’s Galleria L/2 #090-092 Robinsons Place Galleria Edsa cor. Ortigas Ave. 637-4863 636-7501 David’s Salon Robinson’s Place Branch 3/F Robinson’s Place, Malate, Manila 536-8011 FIX Virra Mall Ground Flr., No. V-108 C, Greenhills Shopping Center San Juan, M.M. 723-9309, 727-1691

The Spa Greenbelt Ground Flr., Paseo de Roxas, Drop-off Entrance, Greenbelt 1, Makati City 840-1325, 840-1326 840-1321 Relaksasi Tower One, Ground Flr., The Columns Bldg. 6821 Ayala Ave., cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Bgy. Bel-Air, Makati City 0921-213-3571

clinics La Nouvelle Image Unit 701-702, The Linden Suites, San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City 637-7841 DermaDentics Dermatology and Dental Clinic Ground Floor, Times Plaza, U.N. Ave. cor. Taft Ave., Manila 521-2900

David’s For Rever

art galleries

SM Mall of Asia, 2nd Level, South Wing, Central Business Park, Bay Blvd., Bay City, Pasay City, MM

<Ar.I.A.s> Artist-run

bars Penguin Gallery Remedios cor. Bocobo St., Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila 0917-858-4486 Blue Room Restaurant and Bar 615 J. Nakpil St., Malate, Manila 524-6870 Oarhouse 1803 A. Mabini St., Ermita, Manila 450-8301 Hobbit House MH Del Pilar cor. Padre Faura Sts. Ermita, Manila

spas Garden Spa Makati 2nd Flr. Centerpoint Bldg. Chino Roces Ave. cor. Exportbank Drive, Makati City 887-6574 843-7064 Bioessence Greenhills 2nd Floor Fox Square Bldg., Connecticut Drive, Greenhills 722-0712 / 722-0658

dive supplies Aquaventure Whitetip Dive Supply Unit 101, Joncor II Bldg., 1362 A. Mabini St., Ermita Manila 521-0433 526-8191

guesthouse Friendly’s Guesthouse 1750 Adriatico St. cor. Nakpil St., Malate, Manila 0917-333-1418

travel agencies Anscor-Casto Travel Corp. 2nd Flr. Tuscan Bldg., 114 V.A. Legazpi Village, Makati City 810-0079, 810-2004 817-3468 Crown Travel Corporation 1200 A. Mabini cor. Arquiza Sts. Ermita, Manila 523-3349, 523-2793 523-2916

Independent Art Space 318-A LRI Business Plaza, Nicanor Garcia St., Makati City 895-9837 / 0916-4077191 bbby_nuestro@yahoo. com

bookstores Solidaridad Bookshop 531 Padre Faura, Ermita, Manila 523-0870 525-5038

dive instructors Wilson Uy

In Manila, Makati and Quezon City 0917-887-9576

Shelley Conradson In Manila and Cebu City 0917-811-0521


I’m sure we’ve all heard of “Leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but pictures.” If there’s ever a definite credo for any traveler, in the Philippines or elsewhere, that is it. My bit herein isn’t from an expert. I am far from being the guru of Philippine travel; I am still on an upward learning curve. But I do want to share what I’ve learned so far. This is my first five.


Do it now!

A month after graduation, I pursued what I was expected to

Along the way, we’d pass this 60-ish woman. She was alone, except for a porter who carried her bag. She trekked slowly and made frequent stops. Our group reached the crater all right, the usual. We complained about the crowd and the heat, had our lunch, swam a bit and left. It was just another long hot trek for us; we “conquered” Pinatubo. That 60-year old woman overcame a lot more.

3. No budget? Not an excuse. Good hiking sandals can cost as low as 500php, which is OK enough of an investment if one’s planning to take on mountaineering. Professional groups would require hiking shoes though, so that needs saving up. For starters, it shouldn’t cost a lot. During my first few treks years ago, I budgeted about 200php for those overnight

A Pinas-trotter’s Dogma By Roda Novenario Photos by Roda Novenario and Wilson Uy (inspired by Globetrotter Dogma, an article by Bruce Northam that was published at Blue magazine in 2000 which was later expanded into a book with the same name.)

pursue. A job at a bank (or something), a steady income – and life, in my head, was supposed to be eventually laid out in a golden platter for me. Of course, back then I didn’t know what life meant nor what I wanted in it. Fast forward, more than a decade after, I don’t think I ever got to fulfill any of those expectations. But I was/ am happy. I’ve ticked off to-do’s from that list I made in college. I’m on new lists to fulfill. And I know this sounds like a lot of chicken soup but life has a big big room for urges, for itches that have to be scratched, for joy; and yes, for mistakes along the way. Do whatever now; go wherever now. Windows of opportunity don’t open that often.

2. No one is too old. My first Mt. Pinatubo climb was during the community’s International Trek, wherein hundreds of people join in to support. The mountain’s relatively easy if one’s used to at least 30 degrees inclines; heat and trek hours are the ones that usually hit Pinatubo trekkers. Our group’s made up of experienced climbers in their late 20’s or early 30’s so we did fine – we took it easy and just enjoyed each other’s company.


weekends, inclusive of meals and transportation. It might cost a bit more now but it’s a good deal for an overnight out, right?

4. Don’t be meager. But when one does have some budget, do not be meager. That 50pesos haggled off a jeep fare might just mean a jolli-meal for you; but to the rural worker relying on seasonal tourism, it might mean the world.

5. Know that things, especially in the Philippines, can get messed up. Life goes on. Travel/vacation in the Philippines is no place for your PDA/planner. Your ride will wait for seats to get filled up. Maps aren’t always reliable, street names (if there are names) change; you can get lost. There will be traffic. Planes are delayed. So, unless you use an über-organized travel agency doing the worrying for you, RELAX. Watch as you wait. Sample exotic food. Some airports have great pasalubong counters. Just relax; take things a yapak at a time.

! Where Magic Meets the Mundane: A Tale of Traveling to Siquijor By Dana Collins and Molly Talcott

Photos are printed with permission from Gary W. Harrison of; and Terry Schwaha and Emily Gom-os of Casa de la Playa Beach Resort.

First Thoughts My first sight of Siquijor was from the shores of Camiguin, as I walked on its black sands in the early morning. The previous night, we heard sounds on the roof of our nipa hut; we imagined an aswang as my friend told stories of witches that inhabited the mystical land that marked the horizon. I wanted to see the home of witches and learn about their healing work. Witches, midnight fireflies, cascading waterfalls, terraced mountains, and the sea were what lured us to the island in 2005, on my second trip to the Philippines. I was aware of Siquijor’s spooky reputation among Filipinos. Were dangerous spirits really lurking in its waterfalls? What were the histories sedimented into the earth of this island? After a few days in the chilly and hyperactive malls of Malate and Makati, I wanted to see what life in the Philippines might be like on a small island where palm and banana trees outnumbered people and pedicabs.

Breathing the Island Air The plane made a sharp turn out over the blue waters as we descended

into Dumaguete. The island air enveloped us as we exited the plane. The peppery smoke of burning coconut shells immediately reminded me that I was going to spend some time in the province, away from the throat burning pollution of Manila. The heat seared our skin as we made our way to a motorcycle that would get us to the ferry off the port of Dumaguete. The city was sleepy during those early afternoon hours; we traversed tree-lined streets, passed lazy cafés, and hotels looking out at the water. I imagined poets, artists, and writers who have left their spirits in this beautiful seaside town. At the ferry, we purchased both tickets and Cokes; and spread out on the long wooden benches, anxiously awaiting our trip across the waters and into the unexpected magic of Siquijor. We were to be met at Siquijor’s dock by the owner of Casa de la Playa, the resort that offered beautifully decorated cottages on the sea, yoga classes, vegetarian meal options, and visits by local faith healers. The waters smoothed and mirrored our slow approach into the port. The island exploded with green plant life. Planks were laid as we set foot onto this much-feared island. I still didn’t feel spooked; no eyes peaking out from the thick forests up ahead nor older women who hold your gaze too long. We were delivered to our small, bright cottage and told that we could have our food wherever we wanted, on the circular bamboo open-air restaurant or on our front porch. Bohol’s shadowy presence was off in the distance. I was reminded of the spectacular archipelago that makes the Philippines. Wherever I travel, I was always looking off into the horizon at yet another spectacular island. That was how I got here in the first place. The tide was out and we witnessed a whole other world – smooth rocks, starfish, coral, sea plants, and crabs scurrying along the damp sand. Standing on our porch and looking out on the water left us with


the feeling that the world started and stopped right here on the shores of Siqujor. And yes, we had come here to stop our worlds for a while.

Re-making The World Both of us are problemsolvers in our careers; we examine social patterns, look for ways to minimize inequalities, think about things like human liberation and re-making the world. Somehow, these impulses followed us to Siquijor. But it was the island – small in size, little-known around the world, and a less-often traveled place in the archipelago – that taught us about how small, how limited our world views and designs can be. This epiphany began with one starfish, then another, then thousands. Walking along the shoreline, we became concerned as the tides receded yet the searing heat did not relent. A spiny mud-orange and blue starfish appeared to be shriveling from a lack of water. She picked up a stick to push the starfish into a deeper tide pool, maybe to hydrate it. As we looked at one another with feelings of accomplishment, we glimpsed a second starfish peeking out into the searing sun. As we move to rescue number two, we looked with a wider lens and saw a beach filled with shriveled starfish surviving in the sun. We were humbled; the starfish did not need our help, and neither did the island. We were the ones who needed it – and laughter accompanied our beautifully rendered dose of humility. Later, we followed a group of men and women, old, slight, bending over from the weight of their years, not of their bodies. They were scouring the tide pools and spearing through water with long poles. They placed their prize in a large woven basket, just over half their size, pitched on their back.


One woman had beautifully colored rags circling her head, wisps of gray hair blew with the sea air. She had a chance to meet this woman on another afternoon a few days later, while they delved into tide pools. The woman smiled a toothy grin and gestured to her basket, proud of her catch. Small urchins and sea cucumbers lined the basket. I was so engrossed by her work that I leaned down too close and bumped her head. We gazed at each other with embarrassment. My eagerness and clumsiness were apparent in my urgent look at her mundane and necessary work. Our worlds and experiences were so far apart.

Around Siquijor We kept to the coast on our second day, circling Siquijor in a rented tricycle. This offered glimpses of the shoreline, swims off waters that were surreal in their sun-speckled blue, coral and seashells. We also passed through bustling commercial towns. The markets were filled with women vendors who boldly spoke to us. We bought mangos and rambutan, politely avoided their questions, and reoriented conversations in the direction of faith healers. We asked about faith healers at every turn; someone had a tumor healed, another, a head cold. All spoke of going to healers first or last when medicine wasn’t available or affordable. We visited a cemetery that was overgrown, crowded, and crumbling; the narrow paths brought us past exposed bones and caricature carved in the stone. At the end of the day, we stopped at a beach and threw our hot and sore bodies into the cool sea. We ignored the tiny stings of small, invisible jellyfish just to lie in the water and stare at the blue sky.

Venturing Into Siquijor’s Heart All spoke to us about the island and outsiders’ tendency to be spooked by witches. Some said they

simply didn’t enter the interior, where the witches were. Rather, they’d call the faith healers to come to the shore communities when they needed their services. On the third day, we were recruited by a group of European tourists to split the rental of a jeep that would take us to the interior of Siquijor. They heavily negotiated the price of the jeep; I felt embarrassed by this cliché tourist practice, knowing that $5 was nothing to all of us and everything to the jeepney driver faced with paying increasing gas prices to do work. The trip was bumpy for much of it was a traverse through steep unpaved roads, cutting sharply at turns that threatened to throw us off the side of the mountain. But, with every turn we were offered a new vision of the green, lush interior, lined with communities who farmed the rice terraces. These terraces were like green steps to heaven the way they extended across mountainsides. Oh it rained, and the mist simply added to the mystical qualities of the interior. We had entered a whole other world, so different from the seaside geography of Siquijor. We hiked up to a lookout point that was overgrown with grass. The guide had promised a view of all corners of the island. Ancient gnarled trees lined our narrow mountain path and we slipped on green moss as we made our way up. The guide then delivered us to a pathway, which he wouldn’t go down from. Locals believed that a witch watched over the magnificent waterfall and cast spells over those who dared to swim in its waters. We learned this later after swimming in it, of course; I wonder what spell had been cast upon us. The waters were cool and powerful; we were surrounded by vines that dipped into the water and by sunrays that pierced through

the canopy of trees, spotlighting our swim. The closest we got to a faith healer was a very nice woman who came to the resort to give massages to tourists. She was trained in Swedish and Shiatsu – in Manila, not on the island of Siquijor. We asked if we could visit the faith healer known to the resort owner and learned that we had to have something wrong with us, something she could work on, if she was to pay us a visit. We scoured our health in search of something that needed attention. Nothing offered itself up to us; so we “settled” for a massage.

Lazy Days and Choppy Waters Our following days were lazy. We heard only of the outside world from other tourists, a bombing in London sent one British expatriate back to his homeland. We also heard of the approaching typhoon. I had been warned by a friend never to take a ferry when there was an approaching typhoon, and locals looked at us wide-eyed when we indicated that we were going to have to hit the choppy waters to make it back to Dumaguete for our flight. The night before we were to leave, our electricity went out and we spent hours listening to the howling wind and the pounding surf right outside our doorway. The lazy island had transformed into a formidable force as the typhoon approached. We cancelled our ride back and changed our flight; all warned us to wait out the storm. The next morning we decided to brave it. She was petrified and kept replaying in her mind the picture of swollen bodies retrieved from a ferry wreck off the coast of Mindanao years back. I kept talking about my excitement for the ferry ride, as she looked fearfully at the choppy port waters. We knew it was bad when regulars began throwing up in the little bags supplied by crewmembers. The boat tossed and swayed; neurotically she watched each swell as if her eye could somehow relay


this information to the captain of the boat. Water crashed onto the ferry’s windows and our hearts raced as the boat took on each new swell. Yet somehow, the ferry ride came to an uneventful end. The waters began to calm and by the time we made it to Dumaguete, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and punctuated

Speak OUT!: Real Places, Real People

by a few exploding white clouds. We exited the boat as if we had planned the trip to happen like this all along. We purchased our last bag of rambutan and made our way through the streets to the airport, en route back to the Manileños’ precious metropolis to tell friends about the spooky Siquijor sightings that weren’t.


We ask our readers what’s the scariest place they’ve been to in the Philippines and why.


elda S. Cu: Career Agent, Sun Life Financial

We were at a house in Batangas; it was our batch’s retreat. During mass, I saw a white lady figure peak in from the window. I ignored it, I thought my mind was just playing with me. It turns out, my other classmates also saw it. There were other occurrences that same night. The bathroom stalls would suddenly swing open and then faucets would run – there was no one in the bathroom. And during dinnertime, someone grabbed at my leg from under the table. Both the classmate sitting opposite me and I looked under, to find that no one was there.


ermaine Trittle Leonin: Government Lawyer Corregidor – Once the sun goes down and non-residents leave the island, the residents tend to stay indoors and not venture outside after dark for a good reason. The place holds too many tragic memories such that any visitor would feel haunted by its history. There, I wondered if the shadows and silhouettes are really just that, even when I’ve already moved away from the shade.

Next issue, tell us what makes a Hot Holiday Season! Email


No airlines fly directly to Siquijor. You need to ride a boat or fastcraft from Cebu, Dumaguete or Tagbilaran to get to Siquijor town or Larena, Siquijor. From Dumaguete, Delta fastcraft goes to and from Siquijor town four times daily. SuperCat sails from Tagbilaran, Bohol; stops over at Dumaguete City to pick up other passengers then goes to Larena in the evening and back to Dumaguete in the morning. Fare is around Php200 if coming from Dumaguete. From Bohol, fare is at Php600. To get around Siquijor, there are jeepneys that travel through major towns. Tricycles can take you across short distances. For tours, you can hire a habalhabal for a day at around Php800.

Casa de la Playa Sandugan Beach, Larena, Siquijor Telefax: (035) 484-1170 Mobile: 0917-314-0360 Email:


Hotel Cesario Mactan Island, Cebu (032) 340-0211

Kiwi Dive Resort

(032) 340-0615

Why Not Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (035) 225-4488

Sandugan Beach, Larena, Siquijor (035) 424-0534 / (63)921-643-0031

Mollie’s Place Panagsama Beach, 6032 Moalboal, Cebu

Solangon Beach, San Juan, Siquijor (035) 481-5024

Tubod, San Juan, Siquijor (035) 481-5006 / (035) 481-5008 Siquijor Department of Tourism

ML Quezon National Highway, (032) 340-5524

Eight Wonder Travel & Tours

(032) 340-9714/15

La Residencia, Al Mar, Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (035) 225-5968

Provincial Capitol, Siquijor,


(035) 225-0841/3563


(Officer in Charge)

Elsewhere Amazing

V. Aldecoa Rd., Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental

travel agencies

Marina Mall, Mactan Island, Cebu

(035) 344-2088; (035) 480-9076

Silliman University Medical Centre


Jossette A. Caducoy

Siquijor 6225

MEdical services

Mactan Pension House Mactan Island, Cebu

Coco Grove Beach Resort

Hibbard Avenue, Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental

(032) 474-0021

Coral Cay Resort

Siliman University Café

Jo’s Chicken Inato V. Ranudo St., Cebu City, Cebu (032) 253-1862 Last Filling Station Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, Cebu (032) 474-0068

Bethel Guest House

DIVE SUPPLIES Aquaventure Whitetip Dive Supply Aquaventure Whitetip Dive Supply Bagumbayan 2, Maribago, Lapu Lapu city, Mactan Island, Cebu

Rizal Boulevard, Dumaguete City,

(032) 492-0122

Negros Oriental (035) 225-2000 (035) 225-1374 The Forest Camp Valencia, Negros Oriental (035) 423-4017 Kookoo’s Nest Resort Tambobo Bay, Negros Oriental (63)919-695-8085

Leave nothing But... Scares

By Roda Novenario Have you heard about the story of a barkada who went off to a town up North for a vacation? They were goofing around inside a jeep, waiting for their ride to fill up, when an old man tapped one of them at the back of his shoulder. The teenager remembered a story he heard from friends about this practice, that it was a way for warlocks and witches to leave a curse upon their chosen victim. So he got out of the jeep, ran after the old man and tapped his shoulders to pass back the curse.

continued at p. 14


(cont. from p.13)

On any given day, in any small provincial town, that would be such a sight, right? An old man and a teenaged boy playing tag on the street, it’s funny. But what if it really happened, and what if the practice is true? What if witches and warlocks do exist and they can lay claim to our fate? I’m sure if it ever happened to me I’ll run after whoever and play tag on the streets for as long as it takes. I think most of us were raised with enough mystical awareness to not take these possibilities for granted. I like that our belief system is healthy that way – wherein most practice established religions like Catholicism and Islam while being keenly aware of what is beyond faith. I remember a climb at Mt. Cristobal, the legendary “evil” mountain among Manila mountaineers. If it’s true that everyone has a third eye, you could say that mine was as closed as it can get. Eye wide shut. But I was scared of course, what with all those stories I’ve heard! At around 3am, I was awakened by my tentmate’s snoring. It freaked me out actually, a guttural sound coming from such a petite woman. I had to check if it was still her beside me. Assured that it was her, I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t. I began to hear the galloping of horses, circling our campsite. At 3AM? And at the summit/campsite? That’s

Conservation At Work Pyramids of the Sea: A Dive Volunteer’s Story By Elaine Tolentino Photos by Shelley Conradson

Diving and Conservation Just recently, our dive group went to a marine preservation area in Calatagan, Batangas. Home to dive volunteers, within the two-hectare preserve lie large artificial reefs shaped like pyramids. These “Pyramids of the Philippines” were created to address the continuous deterioration of marine life in the area. Our first dive was filled with anticipation over the possibility of seeing sharks that were recently spotted near the


when I switched from trying to sleep to praying for sleep! I woke up fine the next day and tried not to speak of what I’d heard – until others offered up their experiences during the climb. Our wash-up at the foot of the mountain brimmed with baffled stories and, dare I say, renewed respect for the mythical. It was great :) On another note, I hope the disputes over at Sibuyan Island in Romblon can be resolved soon. Mining affects the environment, even when this activity is supposedly kept outside the perimeter of the preserved area. Landscape changes; soil is eroded; groundwater is contaminated; and this is just the start. To do this near a preserved area lacks ecological soundness; and puts to question mining as a sustainable industry within Sibuyan Island. Definitely, there are other industries that can boost local economy without sacrificing the environment – like eco-tourism. To those against mining in Sibuyan Island, you can sign the petition here: http://www. It’s a scary world we live in – from entities beyond our understanding to the abuse and inequity we see everyday. There’s a feeling of powerlessness that eats me up sometimes. But we can overcome these. We do what we can, within ourselves and for the ideas that we believe in. We will overcome.

reefs. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. We passed through a few small coral formations, and saw dead corals lying at the bottom-sea. These dead corals tell of a once abundant marine life that has suffered abuse and neglect from destructive human activities. As our lead diver said, “You see why they need environmental protection in the area?!” On our second dive, we descended directly above the pyramids. My disappointment from the first dive waned at the sight of these gigantic structures. Marine flora has sprouted from the blocks, both in- and outside. Connecting one pyramid to another are single-layered blocks that house giant clams. A cross sits on top of one of the pyramids in honor of a slain barangay captain who once vowed to protect the waters of Calatagan. Another structure has a pair of dive fins and a metal plate in memory of a fellow diver-volunteer. These large artificial reefs belong to an effort by Conserve and Protect (CAP) Oceans, a nonprofit group that has become as a venue for the marine rehabilitation efforts in Calatagan.

Its Beginnings The idea of the pyramids began in 2000 when a group of divers explored the waters of Barangay Bagong Silang in Calatagan and witnessed the dying marine wildlife.

According to Jeff Santos, one of the organizers of CAP Oceans, “Before we started, blasting, dynamite and cyanide fishing were out of control. It was because there were many aquarium fish. The water was so badly beaten, it was almost dead.” The group then approached Captain Sixto Atienza, the barangay captain at that time, and broached their concern. According to Jeff, one of them spoke to Captain Atienza to ask why nothing was being done about the issue. “Almost every day, I come here to have coffee for breakfast and I see explosions. Isn’t there anything that you can do?” To which, the Captain replied, “The people grew up in this situation (Kinalakihan na po kasi ng tao.). But if you will support me, I’ll catch them all.” This started the idea of building artificial reefs. The first artificial reef was built with the assistance of the Bureau of Fisheries, using cement blocks the size of refrigerators. However, after several months, they noticed that there were no signs of growth on these reefs. During the next attempt, the group thought of using dead corals instead of cement, which eventually led to some growth. Likewise, Captain Atienza did not take long to act on saving the ailing marine life. Through the issuance of barangay ordinances banning illegal fishing, his campaign led to the capture of 121 illegal fishermen, the establishment of the water sanctuary off the coast of the barangay, and the formation of a local Bantay Dagat unit.

The Pyramid Concept While the artificial reef was making progress, the group felt that the structure was too small to withstand the restive

sandy bottom. Says Jeff, “The original structure was halfmeter by half-meter; in a few years time, the structure will all be covered in sand.” That was when the idea of the pyramids came. Based on the pyramids of Egypt, which have withstood time, the group made use of blocks made of dead corals that weigh 80 kilogram each. They thought of constructing one pyramid with a cross on top.

A Home to Dive Volunteers Halfway through the construction of the first pyramid, Captain Atienza was murdered during a barangay fiesta. Atienza’s campaign against illegal fishing made him famous but also gained him enemies. That day in 2003, he paid a high price for protecting the sea. In honor of the Captain, the group conducted a memorial dive, and invited dive volunteers and local media. They rushed to finish the pyramid by June 24 (Araw ng Dagat). “We held the affair for Sixto Atienza, with 60 divers to put up the cross as a memorial to him.” This was broadcasted on television and drew the attention of several more dive volunteers. Volunteers grew to about 1,500 divers. According to Jeff, “The dive volunteer invitation has resulted to additional pyramids, up to 14 pyramids to date. We ended the pyramids project last year, and every June 24, we celebrate Sixto Atienza’s memory.”

Its Future Prospects “In the future, we plan to pick a site and grow it into a sanctuary. Then we will start tourism and encourage livelihood.” Jeff has also started a resort next door. The resort will be named after the foundation, and will be open for seminars and other activities. “Hopefully, things will start from here and encourage other locals to help develop the place for tourism.” While environmental problems such as the deterioration of marine wildlife cannot be solved overnight, there is still hope in reviving and protecting our reefs as exemplified by the efforts of dive volunteers in Calatagan. Their efforts merit our attention. Awareness and care are needed to protect our marine ecology so we can continue to enjoy its richness and beauty.

Additional sources: Marcelo, P. “Our Coral Reefs are Fast Disappearing” in 2006/oct16-31-06/current/features_current/feature3.html Quintos, A. “Pyramids Under the Sea” in *Conserve and Protect (CAP) Oceans is a non-government aimed at building a strong multi-sectoral advocacy for the conservation and protection of the seas and its rich natural resources. For more information, please visit their website at You may also contact Jeff Santos (mobile: 63921-227-1345) for more inquiries.


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Yapak Travel & Leisure Magazine (YTL) is a bi-monthly travel and lifestyle magazine that goes further and deeper than your ordinary travel...

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