While walking along Real Street from Robinsons Dumaguete, we were told that a particular area sells lechon along the road. I saw from across the street, I small store with a couple glass casings displaying what I thought was chopped lechon. When I got there, I found out it was deep fried pork intestines… that doesn’t sound so appetizing, doesn’t it? Trying to make conversation, I asked the lady what she was selling. She told me it was chicharon bulaklak. Maybe it was my poor grasp of the Cebuano dialect that got lost somewhere in translation .. but deep fried intestines is called chicharon bituka (as far as I know).
Chicharon bulaklak on the other hand are cracklings made from mesentery or the fold of the peritoneum (membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen) attaching the stomach, small intestine and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen. It is the thin, web-like structure that supports the small intestine while allowing for the changes in their size and position. When the intestine is detached from this mesentery, the outside thin part of the latter forms a frill or ruffled-like ornament resembling a flower, hence the name of the meat and dish. I guess, describing it, doesn’t make it sound so appetizing at all… but it does. It’s sinfully addictive.
Out of courtesy we bought two packs of chicharon bituka from the lady… after taking photos of the tubs and piles of chicharon. I’ve never seen (what seemed to me) a whole intestine deep fried… It looked like a big ball of rope. She broke off a portion and wrapped it in small plastic bags and handed it to us. Good luck to us! We were nowhere half of our mid-day photowalk and here we are about to snack on uric acid laden goodies.
I didn’t really like it… it was hard to chew rather than crispy and tasted a bit on the bitter side. Oh well! it was a curious sight nonetheless.
The rain doesn’t seem to want to stop and it was getting dark. We needed to head back to Bacolod City, so we took the chance even with a soft drizzle of rain. I was looking forward to visiting the Hofilena House, which was the ancestral house of a classmate from high school. There were just dark clouds and daylight was fading fast. We just had to cut this walking tour short. As we walked along Zamora Street to get to the Rizal Street to wait for a ride back to Bacolod, we could see the grand structure of the San Diego Pro-Cathedral. There was an ongoing mass so I was only able to take shots of the facade of the Cathedral.
The parish of Silay was established in 1776 and their first church was built with bamboo, cogon grass and nipa palm. Lucio Bernasconi was commissioned to to design a new church. In 1925, the construction for a grandeur and more permanent structure began. Money were raised from popular contribution though substantial portion of the funds needed to build the cathedral was donated by Don Jose R. Ledesma, a wealthy sugar baron. The work was completed in 1927 and was inaugurated in the same year. The layout of the church is the shape of a Latin cross with a cupola rising forty meters above the nave. It’s distinctive dome with it’s big cross lighted at night could be seen from the sea and serves as a beacon to seafarers.
It is the only pro-cathedral outside of the national capital region and is the only church in Negros Occidental with a dome.
I’ve been wanting to visit Vigan and Taal, Batangas, which are both known for their heritage sites. After doing some research , I realized that I should first pay a visit to Silay City. Not that I have never been to Silay… but to take a closer look at the old charm of this city. Dubbed as the Paris of Negros, Silay has a collection of old mansions built during the height of the of the sugar industry, which in my opinion (because this is my home province… hahaha!) is comparable to Vigan and Taal. Silay has 31 National Historical Commission-verified houses as of last count, surpassing it’s more famous heritage town counterpart, Vigan.
Silay City is about 30 mins north from Bacolod City. Just head to the North Terminal in Bacolod City and take any jeep (except for those headed for Talisay) or mini bus or Ceres Bus. A taxi can also take you there but will cost more since most drivers will ask for a fixed rate by the hour. Silay is also where the new airport is located. For those who are flying in other points of the Philippines, you can take a shuttle vans which will cost you Php 50.- per pax. There is also an aircon multicab operated by Nyala which charges Php 25.-. But if you walk to the gate of the airport, you’ll find parked tricycles that will take passengers to most parts of Silay and will probably charge less if there are other passengers with you.
The photos below were taken while walking to (rather trying to find) Balay Negrense after having a delicious merienda at Cafe 1925. Unfortunately, it started raining when we were about to leave Balay Negrense so we had to wait. By the time it stopped raining, it was almost dark so we had to cut our impromptu walking tour and head back to Bacolod. I still haven’t done a proper tour of Silay to this date… maybe because it is easy to take this city for granted being so near to Bacolod. But I plan to keep coming back… not only is it feast for the eyes but the food is worth the trip as well… =)
Balay Negrense used to be the ancestral house of Victor F. Gaston. The house was built in 1897. The structure was used by Victor and his twelve children from 1901 until Victor’s death in 1927. It was left unused and abandoned in the mid-1970’s until the Negros Cultural Foundation was able to acquire the house from the heirs of Gaston thru a donation. Repairs and restoration was done thru the support and donations from prominent families and the Department of Tourism. Balay Negrense Museum was inaugurated on October 6, 1990.
If you’re flying to Negros, Balay Negrense is a few minutes away from the airport. It’s at Cinco de Noviembre Street a few blocks away from El Ideal Bakery. It’s a good stop before heading to Bacolod.
All the stalls in the Painitan had the same menu, at least those I have managed to read. They all served Budbod, puto, pandesal, tsokolate (chocolate drink), and coffee (though we didn’t find any brewed or native coffee)… maybe there were a few more that I forgot or not noticed. But all the stalls also seemed to look the same. I was looking for stall #24 … having read somewhere that this served the best Budbod. Unfortunately, stall #24 which was the last among the rows of these small breakfast nooks in Katada Street was closed for that day. The old lady was packing several bags of Budbod which were special orders. Stall #23, have ran out of Budbod Kabog as well so the woman told me to go to count five stalls back…
The tsokolate which was made from tablea tablets had stronger and darker flavor rather than sweet. The tsokolate served in stall #19 was watery. I prefer to have it in a thicker consistency like the one served in stall #23 though it somehow tasted the same.
Whenever I go to the Painitan I would have Budbod and douse it with tskolate (chocolate drink). Most locals dip their Budbod in the tsokolate or pour the drink over a serving of hot steaming rice. I was looking for puto among the food displayed but I didn’t find any. The stall owner told me that puto was actually puto maya. Malagkit (glutinous) rice cooked in coconut milk with sugar and salt… though unlike Bubod, it was not wrapped in banana leaves. The rice had to be soaked in water for fifteen minutes before cooking. Curious as I was at this rice and chocolate concoction, I was already too full after four pieces of Budbod… and didn’t get to try this one. Neither did I take photos of the man heartily eating puto a few seats from me, he seemed to be enjoying his meal too well to be disturbed. I seemed that the stalls in the Painitan continuosly made puto maya… and the customers keep coming and ordering them.
May mom used to make puto maya when we were kids but nothing like the one they have in the Painitan. Mom’s version (as best as I can recall) was cooked magkit rice topped with grated coconut and white sugar or muscovado. I’m from Negros Occidental… hence my inclination for sweets.
Relatives who frequented the Oriental side of Negros often brought with them Budbod for pasalubong. I never paid much attention to it for I always thought it was a local version of Suman and a very down-sized version at that. Though what Suman is to the Tagalogs is actually “Ibos” and “But-ong” for us Ilonggos, rice cakes wrapped in palm or banana leaves. Let’s leave that for another post. I guess, I have to scout for some those native goodies at some nearby market soon.
A trip to Dumaguete’s Painitan, I have discovered there were two kinds of Budbod – Budbod Tanjay and Budbod Kabog. They all looked alike… same size, all wrapped in banana leaves and tied in pairs. Yet the one made from Kabog is more pricey… maybe because Kabog or Millet seeds is more difficult to source.
Budbod Tanjay is not not made in Dumaguete but a town north of Dumaguete called Tanjay. It is made of malagkit (glutinous) rice cooked in coconut milk, oil, sugar, and wrapped in banana leaves. There are those with either chocolate swirls or mangoes… or both. Budbod kabog on the other hand is not made from rice but from millet seeds. Budbod Tanjay sells Php 12.- per piece or Php 24.- seince they sell it by pair, while budbod kabog sells for Php 30.- a pair. I ordered a pair of both varieties and a cup of tsokolate (chocolate drink). I can’t quite remember how much the drink was but the total cost of my breakfast was Php 52.- (I think)… either my memory was bad or the cashier’s math was bad.
I can’t really say which I like better since the two varieties have each have distinct taste. One thing I know for sure, I like my Budbud doused in tsokolate.
A trip to Dumaguete will never be complete without having breakfast at the Painitan. A lot of travelers say that in order to know the character of a town or a city, one must pay a visit to their market. I guess, nothing says local cooking than food being sold at food stalls at the public market. After the first time I had breakfast at Dumaguete’s local breakfast place, I was hooked. I look forward to having my morning fix after waiting for the sunrise at the Boulevard. You can either walk from the boulevard or take a trike and head to Katada Street, which is right beside the public market. One side of the street is lined with stalls… each with tables with beautifully propped and stacked Budbod.
The first time we tried to find this place, my friend asked a local where the “kapehan” was… thinking that it was the usual coffee place found in local markets where one is treated to native brewed coffee. The local didn’t quite understand what we were talking about. We thought it was just a simple case of bad translation on our end since we didn’t really speak Cebuano. The keyword to finding the place was to ask where to buy budbod. Much to my friend’s dismay… we then found out that they didn’t serve native coffee only the ones in 3-in-1’s in sachets… Most people have tsokolate (chocolate drink) with an order of puto maya, Budbod or egg sandwhiched in pandesal.
It’s an interesting place to be. To see people, both local and tourist, old or young… converge in the Painitan very early in the morning to grab a snack or have their breakfast… some gather around small tables and talk intently over a cup of tsokolate or coffee… Well, there are others (like me) who wander around curiously learning local culture and snapping away photos… and taking home lots of memories.
It was an impromptu trip to Tagaytay. With nothing to do on a holiday, why not? Since I’m not not much on spontaneity, my mind wanted to cram and research the places we should see… or rather map out the place to maximize our trip. But since we only decided after lunch… why not throw the itinerary out of the window as well.
We got to Tagaytay City a little past three in the afternoon. We headed to the area near Splendido to have a view of Taal Lake and use whatever available light we have left. The guards were kind enough to allow us to take photos inside the grounds. We could see Taal Lake alright… but unfortunately, I couldn’t get a decent shot of the lake and the volcano. The sun was setting at the other side… away from the lake. Thankfully, we were beside this brick building overlooking the lake on the left side and the mountains of Batangas on the other side that was casting wonderful shadows.
The Philippine University Games or more know as the UNIGAMES, is a national collegiate sports competition in the Philippines. The UNIGAMES is composed of fourteen (14) sports disciplines namely Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Football, Chess, Lawn Tennis, Sepak Takraw, Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball, and Beach Volleyball. It is a Visayas-based national event and the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City serves as the main office and hosted most of the annual games.
I actually thought that the 2012 UNIGAMES was my first attempt at sports photography (I almost forgot that I got the chance to shoot some events during the 2012 Philippine National Games in Dumaguete — by accident). Though this was my first time to shoot a volleyball game… and it was a horrendous experience. I didn’t know how to frame my shots, lighting at the USLS covered court was terrible, I avoided using flash since it was prohibited during sporting events, my shutter speed was too slow, I didn’t jack-up my ISO high enough, and worse I didn’t know the sport at all.
I was disappointed that the Ateneo Lady Eagles was not playing that day. But the first game between the UST Golden Tigrsses and FEU Lady Tamaraws turned out to be an exciting one. I just wanted to capture spikers doing their thing… because that’s the only thing I knew about volleyball. But with my slow shutter speed, most of the photos were all blurred. Sigh! Since I was using burst mode to capture successive photographs, my battery was almost drained before the UST-FEU game was over. So goodbye DLSU Lady Spikers and UP Lady Fighting Maroons game.
When I got home to review the photos, I realized that I focused my shots on the players back. Since I didn’t know any of the players, it was easier to recognize them with their names on the back of their jersey… at naka off focus ang nakaharap.
I think I got to learn a lot of things after this misadventure:
always have spare batteries
use fast shutter speed… at least 1/300 or higher
don’t be afraid of high ISO
learn the game
know the players/know who to watch out for
Though there’s still no substitute for good composition. That one I’m still trying to learn.
… and another thing, the Golden Tigresses do have a lot of pretty faces.
I don’t think my mom was ever a fan of Lino Brocka’s films. I can’t remember her taking me to see any of his movies. My mom loved Filipino movies or maybe she was just a fan of Vilma Santos and Sharon Cuneta… hence, I’ve seen quite a lot of their films due to my incapacity to choose because of age. Don’t ask me what these movies where, I can hardly remember them.
To date, I don’t think I’ve seen any of Brocka’s films. After seeing clips or portions of his work in TV, I found them either too dark, too brutal, too melodramatic, or too graphic… or all of the above. There are only two things I know about Brocka before this assignment: first, he is touted as one of the best Filipino directors; and second, that he is an activist who was arrested and sent to jail during the Marcos regime. If you google “100 best Filipino films”, most likely, at least five of them will be by Brocka. Not only are his films recognized by local award giving bodies but also international movie critics and earned honors in international film festivals. So after decades of shying away from his films, I think these are worth watching… not only because movie critics proclaimed them to be so… but they mirror a certain point of our history that many have forgotten or chose to ignore… or maybe they are just too young or were not yet born.
Bayan Ko (This Is My Country) was deemed subversive by the government of Ferdinand Marcos, and underwent a legal battle to be shown in its uncut form. At the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, however, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or. It garnered four honors at the 1986 Gawad Urian Awards, including best picture. The story was loosely based on incidents that made news in the early 1970s before the Martial Law era, such as a strike that paralyzed Manila, the kidnapping of a businessman and the shoot-out between the kidnappers and police. Thus, the film made censors uneasy and its release was delayed with the intent of finding a way to keep the movie from being released. All rally scenes were ordered deleted, as well as the title song. Eventually, a few scenes portraying live sex shows were also cut out, and the film was released. The film was then smuggled into France and was shown at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival. A sensation was caused when Brocka announced to the international media that Bayan Ko was banned in his homeland for unexplained reasons. Due to this furor, the government realized that the film was highly critical of the current regime and ordered Brocka’s arrest. He was eventually released.
Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (The Claws of Light), which is considered by many critics to be the greatest Philippine film ever made – including British film critic and historian Derek Malcolm. The film tells the allegorical tale of a young provincial named Julio Madiaga who goes to Manila looking for his lost love, Ligaya Paraiso. The episodic plot has him careering from one adventure to another until he finally finds Ligaya. Much of the film’s greatness can be traced to the excellent cinematography by Mike de Leon, who would become a great Filipino filmmaker himself.
Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (Weighed But Found Wanting), which told the story of a teenager growing up in a small town amid its petty and gross injustices. It was a box-office hit, and earned Brocka another best-director award, this time from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS).
Orapronobis (Fight for Us) is a 1989 Filipino political thriller film directed by Lino Brocka. The film stars Phillip Salvador and Dina Bonnevie. After being released from a Philippine prison following the fall of Ferdinand Marcos, a former priest (Salvador) gives up his violent activities in favor of peaceful social activism. But he quickly discovers that vicious death squads, and notorious counter-insurgency operations, still plague his country, and soon he is considering joining the resistance again.
Insiang (1978) was the first Philippine film ever shown at the Cannes Film Festival. It is considered to be one of Brocka’s best films — some say his masterpiece. The film centers on a young woman named Insiang who lives in the infamous Manila slum area, Tondo. It is a Shakespearean tragedy that deals with Insiang’s rape by her mother’s lover, and her subsequent revenge.
We don’t have to agree with Brocka’s depiction of Philippine society during his lifetime. We may even struggle with finding the relevance of his messages and themes in contemporary times. Brocka’s films were mostly political and for certain generations, his work has been a catalyst for change.
In 2009, I was excited to watch the entries for the Metro Manila Film Festival for this was the first time I was watching during the festival week itself. I was quite surprised to see that there were a lot of people and families who came out to watch their chosen movie. My friends were teasing that we were going watch WapakMan. I’ve seen the movie’s trailer… I don’t know if it’s the funny costume, the corny storyline or it was simply Pacquiao’s acting (or the lack of it) that couldn’t get me to watch this movie even on a dare.
When we got to Gateway Cinemas, WapakMan has been pulled out from the theater because of the dismal turnout. One of the cinema staff jokingly told us that even the ushers didn’t want to watch the movie after seeing it once. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to go through the ordeal of watching the movie at full length.
Make no doubt about it, Manny Pacquiao is a great boxer even with his last defeat to Timothy Bradley. He is a hero and an inspiration to his countrymen. An eight-division world champion with ten world titles to show for it. As the saying goes do the thing that you do best. Pacquiao has ventured into politics, television, movies, music recording… What can i say? I hope he sticks to boxing.
WapakMan was not well received by the public and landed last in the two-week 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival. It was one of the two entries (the other was Dolphy’s Nobody Nobody but Juan) which did not win any award during the festival.
NAMETS! is an entry to the 2008 Cinemalaya. The film was shot entirely in Negros Occidental. It’s a romantic comedy, which stars Christian Vasquez and Angel Jacob… directed by Jay Abello. The title is a play on the Hiligaynon word ‘namit’ which means yummy or delicious.
Jacko (Christian Vasquez) is the chef/owner of Puccini’s, an Italian restaurant in Bacolod. But his cockfighting debts have caught up with him, and he’s forced to cede ownership of his beloved restaurant to Dolpo (Peque Gallaga), a local gambling lord/foodie. Dolpo likes Jacko’s food enough to give him a chance, making him the chef and a partner in the restaurant that he just gave away. However, this chance comes with a condition: Jacko must work with Cassie (Angel Jacob), a consultant and Jacko’s ex-girlfriend. Cassie wants Jacko to abandon Italian food and cook Negrosanon food instead, a suggestion that rubs Jacko the wrong way, but sends him on a journey to discover his roots and what his heart really wants.
Director Jay Abello who is an avid photography hobbyist and has worked as a cinematographer for several other directors has created a visually stunning movie, paying great respect to light and composition. It’s interesting to watch the places I frequent with family and friends come to life on screen. It also made me realize that there are more places to explore and things to experience in this province.
Ilonggo actors, Joel Torre, Monsour del Rosario, Ronnie Lazaro and Dwight Gaston, as well as other local theatrical talent playing supporting and cameo roles. Though there are a lot of scene stealers in this movie — the siopao-maker, Ronnie Lazaro and the boy who played his son, Dwight Gaston and his smart , to name a few… I have to give it Peque Gallaga who is the most lovable hoodlum I’ve seen.
The dialogues are primarily spoken in Hiligayonon with English subtitles. I used to get irritated watching local/Ilonggo soap operas or amused at Ilonggo actors in mainstream cinema with a very thick accent. But Namets! showed why a lot of people find the people in our province with accent and all endearing and charming.
But the real central character of this movie is Ilonggo food and cuisine. The film shows and talks a lot about food… and will make you hungry even before you reach the ending.
What is cinema? Cinema may refer to film, motion pictures, movies, film making, a movie theater… a visual medium that tells a story and exposes reality. It’s art, illusion and reality coming together.
My parents used to take me to the Capitol Park and Lagoon when i was a kid. Like many children in Bacolod, I took my first steps or those wobbly steps as a toddler in the park fronting the Provincial Capitol Building of Negros Occidental. The pair of carabaos standing at opposite ends of the lagoon seemed like giants for a little child. Today, the park still serves as a popular spot for families and the people of the city.
The Provincial Captol of Negros Occidental was built on 1924 to 1935. It has survived the Japanese bombing and occupation during World War II. When the price of sugar dropped in the 70s, so did the economy of the province. Insurgency and peasant unrest worsened with the deteriorating economy. The building was then ignored and was used by national government agencies like the NBI, COA, judicial courts, etc. Sometime in the 1990s, the Negros Museum was established in the main hall of the building. Other departments of the provincial government still held office in the Capitol building but the office of the governor and the sangguniang panlalawigan was transferred to the “New Administration Building” built beside the aging Capitol. Under the administration of the late Governor Joseph Maranon, the restoration and renovation of the Provincial Capitol was undertaken. Today, the seat of power of the provincial government is once again at the Provincial Capitol building. The governor holding office at the north wing and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by the vice governor is housed at the south wing. Hopefully, one day soon… people will realize where the real seat of power reside. That it is not in the massive and grandiose structures built by those who govern… but power resides in the people as it has always did.
It was nine o’clock in the morning. Business was slow at this time of the day. There weren’t too many people roaming around the Capitol Lagoon. An old woman was sitting on one of the benches, under the shade of the trees. Packs of puffed rice were neatly stacked beside her waiting for customers to buy and feed them to the Tilapia in the manmade lagoon. She was eating with her bare hands. Rice wrapped in a small plastic bag and a piece of fish held by the other hand. This must be breakfast.
We were done with whale shark watching at a little past nine in the morning. We got breakfast at one of the stalls in the beach — grilled whole chicken, liempo and rice. Since we were staying overnight in Oslob, we were now wondering what else to do with all the time we have… besides sleeping (sayang naman ang oras). We found ourselves on a multicab (once again arranged by Gwen, our homestay host), driving to the highlands of Barangay Tomalog, Oslob. After 15 minutes drive from the beach, we got to the drop off point where we paid Php 20.00 entrance fee.
We were told that the hike going to the falls would be around another 15 mins… or we could take a habal-habal going. We decided to walk since the road was paved though it was very steep… probably the reason why most vehicles don’t go beyond the entrance area.
The hike down probably took us more than 15 minutes… with the usual stops for photo ops and to catch our breaths. On hindsight, I think it is always a good thing to bring a thumb stick or hiking poles when going on hikes to help you keep your balance and reduce stress on your legs, knees, feet and back. It was a tiring walk but manageable compared to most destinations that require similar treks.
Imposing cliffs and a lush jungle surround the waterfalls. As you near the site, you are greeted by mini pools. It’s a good thing that they did not try to develop the area and put some artificial structures in the area.
When you get to falls, it is simply breathtaking. Unlike other waterfalls that overwhelm you with their power, Toslob falls is a large wall of cascading rainfall. It’s as gentle as you can get.
The fresh water cooled us down and washed away the saltiness from our skins. It was a good place to think or meditate. We somehow lost track of time and took us awhile to decide to go back to where our rented vehicle was suppose to pick us up.
We decided to take the habal-habal going back. Too tired… too lazy… by this time we were all sleepy.
The Capitol Park and Lagoon is a provincial park located in Bacolod City where one will find the 0 Km for the province of Negros Occidental. Among the features of the park are the matching figures by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti of a woman standing alongside a carabao and that of a man pulling another carabao which are located in the northern and southern end of the lagoon.
We would pass by the park often for it is located at the center of the city. My Mom would tell me that this is where I learned to walk. The place is still frequented by families especially during weekends. The park is popular place for jogging, aerobics, dance school rehearsals, arnis and martial arts rehearsals. Even at night, people hang around with their friends. You can see kids walking with their parents or learning how to bike. Thanks to the renovations done and added lighting to the park.
A man-made lagoon at the middle of the park contains live tilapia that kids feed with puffed rice being sold by vendors. Street food like dirty ice cream, fishball, kikiam, pancakes, etc. can also be found in the streets surrounding the park.
The main landmark of the park is the Provincial Capitol Building of Negros Occidental. It is the official seat of the governor of the province and houses the different government departments serving the thirty-one cities and municipalities of the province.
“Manong, may pating ba dito (are there sharks here)?” Maki nervously asked our boat paddler-guide as we were heading further away from shore. There should be. We have traveled through three provinces just to see the Tuki (Whale Sharks) in the waters of Oslob. Maki has been recounting the horrifying scenes and episodes from the TV show “Animals Gone Wild” ever since we planned this trip.
Whale shark watching in Oslob starts at 6:00 a.m. until about 2:00 p.m. We arrived at the port of Liloloan around 6:00 a.m. and decided to head to our home stay host in Daang Banwa so we can leave our stuff. We got an air conditioned room, which can accommodate six (6) persons with had it’s own bath and shower for Php 800.-. The beds looked so tempting after traveling for more than six hours. It was hard to resist falling asleep… but we have been looking forward to this adventure.
Gwen, our host, arranged for a multicab to take us to beach managed by the local government in Tanawan, Oslob. She also owned a small souvenir shop and arrange whale shark watching tours. When we got to the beach, we registered and paid the fees inclusive of the boat rental, guide, and snorkeling gears… Php 500.-, if you wish to go snorkeling and Php 300.-, if you’re staying on the boat, which I did. For foreigners, the amount is doubled.
Everyone was required to undergo orientation at the briefing center on the rules for interaction with the sharks. The orientation was very brief that I barely remembered anything what the lady said… Probably that’s the reason why they have illustrated version of guidelines in case you didn’t want to listen or tend to forget easily.
Let’s see if I got the DO’s and DON’Ts right.
maintain a minimum distance of three (3) meters from the whale sharks
My friends who went into the water had no intention whatsoever of invading the whale shark’s personal space or swimming within the allowable distance… but there seems to be a problem since the sharks like to swim within close proximity of the humans. They were caught by surprise when a shark brushed their feet while they were floating in the water.
do not undertake flash photography
Since I opted to stay on the boat, I took photos of my friends who swam with the sharks… and many times tried to swim away from the sharks who were heading towards them. I left Igor (my camera) at a locker we rented for Php 20.-… and used a Doc Argie’s point and shoot instead. Atty Maki also brought an underwater camera with her. There wasn’t much need for flash since it was a clear day and even underwater, you can get a clear shot of the sharks.
According to Atty Maki, she just pointed and clicked her camera… and hoped that she got a picture of the sharks. It wasn’t that difficult to capture them in the frame since they were quite enormous… some even bigger than the boat we were on.
do not attempt, touch or ride the whale sharks
Several smaller boats with lone paddlers called out “Seven”, “Francis”, which we later on realized were the names they gave to the sharks. In no time, sharks would swim towards these boats… the paddler would feed them with small shrimps. It was incredible to see that these giant creatures seemed to have formed a bond with the fishermen and how they seem to follow the boats around like pets. Though I wonder if the fishermen were also told not to touch the sharks since I have seen a few who would pet the shark that swam along side their boats.
do not use sunblock (I read this in the internet)
The use of sunblock lotion is discouraged since the chemicals will be harmful to the whale sharks and the other fishes in the area. If you don’t want to get burned by the sun, it would be good to come early when the heat isn’t as intense… otherwise, you can always bring an umbrella.
We saw at least four (4) whale sharks at the same time… though there could be fifteen (15) or more of them in the waters of Tanawan. Interestingly, they have grown to be the fishermen’s ‘pets’. You didn’t have to look or wait long to see them. The sharks seem to be too accustomed to the presence of humans (especially the fishermen) that they just appear right away. After thirty (30) minutes, we headed back to shore.
It was a surreal experience, though I stayed in the boat (because I can’t swim) and had to watch these gentle giants only as they surfaced from the water… it didn’t take away their magnificence and impressive size. The whale sharks (or Tuki as the locals called them) in Oslob have been drawing a lot of attention and hordes of travelers and tourists. Much needs to be done in terms of protecting these gentle giants. I’m not an environmentalist or an expert on the matter, so I don’t really know what is the best course of action at this point… but as visitors and travelers, we can do our share in following the rules even if no one is watching.