Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Travelling from QC to Manaoag by Bus

If there's something that you've been praying extra hard for, they say to pray to Our Lady of the Rosary in the Manaoag Shrine and it will be answered.

From experience, prayers do get answered.

This is coming from someone who isn't prayerful at all: me.

I visited Manaoag for the second time recently. It was a solo trip via bus. And yes, I went there hoping for an answered prayer. As to what that is, let's keep that a secret for now.

Manaoag, Pangasinan, is around five hours away by bus from Trinoma, Quezon City.

I rode a Dagupan Bus that took me straight to the Manaoag Shrine. The bus fare is Php 314 one-way. If you're coming from QC, the bus passes Trinoma hourly starting at around 5am until around late afternoon. There are 2 major stop overs for wee-wee breaks: Dau bus terminal and SM Rosales.  

From QC, Manaoag is around 3 hours away via car and 5 hours away via bus.
Route: via North Luzon Expressway and TPLEx

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag is right at the center of Manaoag. 

After 5 hours on the bus, that's where you get off. It's just a few steps away from the Manaoag Shrine. 
Pathway leading to the Church. 
My objective was just to get some quiet time away and to pray. Just as I was about to leave, bells rung and mass was about to start! Glad I was able to catch this. 

Masses happen every hour.

Bought this from my first visit to Manaoag. Was surprised to find this in my bag that day so I had it blessed!
If you look up, there are huge fans called "Big Ass Fans".
Of course, the Church stickered out the word "Ass". Hehehe.

At the back, there's an area where you can light candles.

There's a candle gallery where you can buy all sorts of religious paraphernalia.  
In case the candle store is closed (much like what happened when I was last there), there are vendors around the exit who sell candles and other stuff. Candles are P10 each, if I remember correctly.

Bought two candles to light. No particular reason why I got two.
One didn't really want to light up. 

Prayer before lighting the candle...

Timing was just perfect that day. I got on the bus at around 12pm and arrived at Manaoag shortly before 5pm. I was able to pray, catch mass, and light candles. Caught the last bus heading to Manila at 6pm! Arrived in QC at 11pm.

Last Dagupan Bus headed for Cubao is at 6pm.
Hailed the bus right outside the Manaoag Shrine.

  1. If waiting for a Dagupan Bus at Trinoma, stand at the entrance of the bus terminal, watch out for the "Manaoag" bus passing along EDSA, and hail it. The buses don't come in and park at the terminal. If you'd rather skip this, go to the bus terminal in Cubao instead.
  2. Bring a jacket. It's really cold in the bus. 
  3. From QC, get on the bus no later than 12pm. This is so you get enough travel time and praying time before catching the last bus back to QC. Last bus departs Manaoag at 6pm.  
  4. Bring your own candles if you have them, though it wouldn't hurt to support the locals there.

As for answered prayers, we'll still have to see. I haven't done my part yet.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

When Dengue Strikes

I would often hear of dengue in the news and occasionally, friends of friends who would get it. I'd hear how difficult it'd be to have dengue and how others would even die from it. It never seemed like that big of a deal until it struck us.

July 31 seemed like a normal day. I just didn't feel 100%. I felt dizzy and felt a slight headache coming. That night, I couldn't sleep. I kept tossing and turning until 5am. My head throbbed. I was getting the chills. For some reason, even my eyeballs felt sore. The feeling was flu-like but worse.

A 38.3* fever greeted me the next morning. To my surprise, Dad and Bebeh, my little sister, also woke up with high fever. This didn't seem right. What were the odds that the three of us would simultaneously get sick? Could it have been dengue since one of our helpers had gotten it a few weeks back?

Mommy, Mommy, I feel hot.
Woke up with a 38.3* fever! Head throbbing and eyeballs feeling sore.

Researching dengue symptoms, I was almost certain we had it.

We took Paracetamol to lower our fever. We also took blood tests daily to monitor platelet counts.

One of the dangers of dengue is lowered platelets without our feeling anything. This can deep-dive to critical levels which can lead to bleeding, shock, and even death. *gasp!*

Bebeh getting her blood extracted. No tears!

I hate getting blood tests. Needles are such a pain. Literally.

Our platelet counts were normal during the first two days of being sick. Normal platelets range from 150k-450k. On the third day, from 175k, my platelets dropped to 117k! I even doubted the result so I opted for a second one to be sure. But alas, my platelets were really dropping. 

My blood test results on the third day. Platelet counts were down to 117k!

Such was the case for Dad and Bebeh. The doctor immediately advised us to get confined. 

We admitted ourselves to a small family hospital nearest to our house. It wasn't the best nor did it have top-of-the-line facilities. However, it did seem ideal for "minor" cases like dengue. There, it was confirmed (confeeermed!) that all three of us had dengue. 

My hospital room. Felt "homey" more than a hospital.

I also learned that there wasn't a specific medicine for dengue: just hydration. The doctors would say to drink fluid... any fluid: water, Gatorade, buko juice, tawa-tawa, or even beer! (I'm sure he was joking about the beer part, though.) HAHA! 

So we followed orders. 

Getting an IV wasn't as painful as I always imagined. IV fluids helps!

Beer? No. It's tawa-tawa! This helps to bring up platelets.
We drank it like water. Tastes like tea. 

During our stay in the hospital, we had to pee in this bottle to measure our fluid output.
Not the best feeling.

In the three days of confinement, our conditions improved. However, my dad opted to move to a better hospital in case something would happen. He was in the worst state out of the three of us and his platelets were also lowest (~50k). His muscle and back pain caused by dengue didn't help. 

Inside the ambulance going to Hospital #2.
Dad riding the first one while Bebeh and I here in the second.

Despite having reserved rooms at the better hospital, we had to wait for four hours in the ER before we could go up. Major hassle!

Because my left had was swollen from the IV, I had to get another one on the right.

Because of all the hullabaloo in the ER, our fever returned and our platelet counts took a nosedive. My platelets dropped to around 70k and Bebeh's was somewhere close. To our horror, Dad's platelets dropped to just 20k! The doctor told us that this was expected to drop even more after the fever subsides. (Just imagine my mom's stress levels!)

Thankfully, Dad didn't need a blood transfusion even after his platelets dropped to 19k. We were this close to preparing already, though. Interestingly, the doctor said that even if platelets drop to 10k, he still wouldn't be scared. 

Fortunately, our fever subsided and all our platelets made a u-turn and started to rise.

I actually felt fine by the 5th day of being sick. Was able to walk around the hospital.
Platelets were just being stubborn. Hehe.

We all had to record our fluid intake and output.
Couldn't write well because of the IV on my hand. 

After a week of being sick, I was finally able to go home. I was discharged the day after admission, then Bebeh, then my dad last. Even if platelet counts weren't at optimal levels, the doctor still discharged us given the absence of fever and the continual rise of our platelets. I was discharged with a platelet count of 100k.

When the horror stories you hear about dengue unfolds right before your very eyes, it can be very traumatizing. You worry endlessly, your imagination goes haywire, and you start to pray. Hard. 

  1. If you suspect of having dengue, seek a doctor immediately. 
  2. Take Paracetamol to lower fever. Don't take Ibuprofen as this may cause bleeding!
  3. Get blood tests daily to check platelet counts and hematocrit levels. 
  4. Get confined in the hospital if your platelet count drops! Normal platelets: 140k-450k
  5. Drink 2-3 liters of fluids everyday! Tawa-tawa helps, including grounded papaya leaves. 
  6. Blood transfusion isn't necessary unless the doctor advises. This can still wait until platelets drop to around 10k or so. Scary, I know. 

As selfish as it may sound, I take comfort knowing that if it's not your time, it's not your time.

Monday, April 6, 2015

BATANES 5D/4N Itinerary

Up until a few years ago, I was oblivious to the fact that there was such a place called Batanes here in the Philippines. I'd like to thank this coffee commercial for introducing me to it:  

Since then, Batanes was always on my mind. It seemed like the ideal getaway--perfect for pre-nup pictorials and weddings. And indeed, it is. 

Admittedly, Batanes is quite heavy on the pocket. But believe you me. It's worth every penny.

One of the many sceneries to enjoy. Pictures don't do it justice. 

Here's our 5D/4N itinerary:

DAY 1 
AM - Arrival, Check-in at Pacita Fundacion
PM - Batan North Tour
  • Mt. Carmel Chapel
  • Radar Tukon
  • Idjang Viewing
  • Fundacion Pacita
  • Japanese Hideout
  • Boulder Beach
  • Valugan
  • Vayang
  • Naidi Hills
  • Lighthouse
  • Sto. Domingo Church

Sabtang Island Tour

6:00 AM - Travel to San Vicente Port, Travel to Sabtang by boat
  • San Vicenter Ferer Church
  • Savidug Idjang (Fortress)
  • Savidug Community
  • Vernacular Houses, Limestone Production
  • Tinyan Viewing of Pacific Ocean
  • Chavayan Community Vernacular Houses
12:00 PM - Lunch

2:00 PM
  • Nakabuang Beach
  • Siesta (optional)
  • Swimming (optional)
  • Back to Sabtang Port
  • (Travel back to San Vicente Port)• Back to hotel

Batan South Tour

9:00 AM
  • Mahatao Town Tour
  • Chawa Viewdeck
  • Mahatao Pier
  • Vernacular Houses
  • San Jose Borromeo Church
  • Tayid Lighthouse
  • Sumhao Windmills
  • Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)

12:00 PM - Lunch

1:00 PM
  • Imnajbu
  • Old Naval Base
  • Alapad
  • Song Song Ruins 
  • Alapag Rock 
  • Uyugan Town Tour
  • Ivana Town Tour
  • San Jose de Ivana Church
  • Honesty Coffee Shop
  • House of Dakay (Oldest House)

Free Day
  • Biking / ATV

AM - Departure to Manila

Our itinerary looks packed but it's really not. Each tour would end at around 3-4pm each day and we were left with so much free time. Although ideal for rest and relaxation, we kinda had too much of it.

Being practical, some tours could be collapsed in one day instead of two. All these places were really near each other anyway... although time spent in each place would depend also on how long you take to do your selfies. Hehe.

For those who are planning their own itinerary, include Itbayat! I hear it's worth it.

PS. Will blog about each day's activities soon.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Interesting Observations in Batanes

Below are 10 random observations from my short stay in Batanes. Just pure observations. No hard statistics here, ok? Here goes:

1. It's as if you're not in the Philippines!
The mountains, hills, grass, rocks, and all the animals around make it seem like you're in... say, New Zealand. Every shot is picture perfect. Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you're still in the Philippines and it's that beautiful.


2. Batanes is closer to Taiwan than Luzon!
If you open social networking apps like Grindr or Hornet, you'd actually see more Taiwanese guys than Filipinos!

Screencaps. Opted to blur the pix for others' privacy.

3. Blue, green, and white are all over!
From walls, furniture, to books. It's actually a nice combination! Apparently, these colors are used to paint fishing boats. Leftover paints are used for other items to avoid wastage. No wonder!

4. Roads are extra narrow
Especially during our tours, the roads were extra narrow! Oftentimes, only one jeep would fit in the lane. It becomes tricky when there's an incoming vehicle! It's actually dangerous if you think about it.

5. Blow UR Horn!
These road signs are the cutest. These serve as warnings for incoming cars on blind turns.

6. Kids are very respectful
At first, I thought we were being mobbed by a group of kids when they ran towards us. Apparently, they just wanted to "mano po", as this was something taught to them by their elders. Cute!

7. Mobile Data and Wifi are very weak!
There's 3G signal from Globe but it was useless. I couldn't tweet, browse through my Facebook feed or upload photos to Instagram. Had to rely on the Wifi from our hotel's office. At least!

We'd spend our down time in the hotel office for free Wifi.

8. They like playing softball?
Yeah! Who would've thought? And they're good at it, too! I expected the usual: basketball.

9. Crab and Lobster shells are spiky and hairy! 
Scary! 'Nuff said. I'm not a seafood fan to begin with.  

10. "Hihintayin Kita sa Langit" was filmed here! 
It was on Alapag Rock that Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta were seen running in the movie! Wanted to recreate that scene but had no one to do it with. Lelz.

Poster from philja.com
Movie screencap from choosephilippines.com

What else can I can add to this list?

The Only Worthwhile Places to Eat in Basco, Batanes

If there was one disappointment in Batanes, it'd have to be the food. Not to say that I didn't find the food yummy... I just expected more. Perhaps I compared it too much with other provinces in the Philippines.

Why the disappointment?

  • Limited food choices. There were only four notable ones (below). 
  • Prices were steep--as if dining in Bonifacio High-Street all the time. 
  • Long lead times. Ordering hours ahead was needed. At least one hour prep time, too!

    Here are some of the places we ate in... and rotated throughout our trip, outside the tours.

  • 1. Ivatan Pension Inn
    We ordered the Pension Ivatan Platter to try local specialties: Batanes lobster, coconut crab, cuttle fish, flying fish, among others. It's good for 6-7 people. My personal favorite was the fried lumpia.

    The seafood was alright. It tasted like, well, the sea. I was never a seafood person...

    Ivatan Platter: Php 1,800
    Good for 6-7 people
    Look! The shells of the crabs and lobsters are so spiky and hairy!

    2. Casa Napoli
    Surprise! There's pizza! My favorite was the Garlic & Cheese. Up to this day, I'm not sure if it was good because we were just hungry or we didn't have too much of a choice.

    The fried sweet potato mojos that came with the chicken was yummy. The chicken was so-so.

    Casa Napoli menu. Pizzas range from Php 270 - 370.

    3. Octagon
    Home-cooked comfort food. The nilagang baboy soup was memorable. Perfect for a chilly afternoon while watching the sunset. While at it, you could feel the soup's oil coagulating on your lips. Hehe.

    Preparation time was extra long. Patience, indeed, is a virtue. 

    Click here to enlarge menu!

    4. Pacita Fundacion Nature Lodge
    Thank God for this place. Aside from having the best accommodations, they had the best food for all meals, including dessert! Food tasted legit and you can see that it was carefully prepared. Restaurant quality! Have your meals while overlooking the majestic view!

    Some of the meals I won't mind having again:
    Breakfast: Ivatan longganisa / Corned Beef (with garlic rice!)
    Lunch / Dinner: Turmeric Chicken
    Dessert: Cheesecake (super cheesy!)

    Click to enlarge menu!

    Don't worry about not being able to find these places. All the locals know them. Besides, there's only a handful anyway. You can get there via your hotel's transportation or through tricycle.

    Lastly, if you happen to see local delicacies, go ahead. Indulge! At first, it'll seem like the normal kakanin we're used to in Manila... but ingredients are mostly sweet potatoes! Also, notice how the corn is extra small and slimy! 

    Hopefully there will be more restaurants in Batanes for tourists soon. Wouldn't it be nice to have more food choices, and serving time wouldn't be that long? There's so much potential in the food industry there!

    For those who've been to Batanes, do you have any other suggestions? Please add to the list!