Wake Up, Philippines!

Sabado night at sea

Posted in Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel, Visayas by Erineus on April 26, 2009

KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson Updated April 26, 2009 12:00 AM


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Sunset over the Calamianes Islands

MANILA, Philippines – In the past few years, on the evening of a Good Friday, every vacationing party girl and boy would start to drink quietly after dinner in the restos and bars on fabled White Beach in Boracay, observing a tacit arrangement that deferred to traditional Catholic conduct.

Until the clock struck midnight, when a collective whoop would shake the strip, loud music break loose, glasses clink together, voices rise, bodies shimmy — in riotous revelry that incandesced and thumped its way all over a kilometer stretch until the break of dawn.

It wasn’t so this summer. The serious penitents in the town council must have won out, urged on by parish priests, in forging a makeshift ordinance that prohibited partying from 6 p.m. on Good Friday to 6 a.m. the following day.

Well, some of the locals may have minded the ban, at least those who expected to see a spike in income with a full-blown blast of a party from midnight to daybreak. As it was, that celebration — live bands dishing deafening disco or rock or Latino, body shots, beer-quaffing contests, boogie-ing on the beach, fire dancing — had to be deferred to Sabado Night, with a coda of sorts on Sunday, before most everyone left to catch the start of a work week back in Manila, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu and Davao.

For the large assembly we were part of, it didn’t really matter much if any post-dinner revelry on Viernes Santo or Sabado de Gloria ever heightened past midnight. By evening we were back at sea, anchored in the channel a kilometer offshore.

Motorized lifeboats ferried us, some 150 passengers onboard the 7107 Islands cruise ship, to the northern end of White Beach after breakfast, and back by sunset for cocktails and dinner. Small parties returned to the island after dinner on Good Friday, and were ferried back from the closer jetty on the southern end as late as 2 a.m. of Saturday. Thus did the rest of us who stayed onboard receive reports of a tame night that broke with recent Bora partying tradition.

The Holy Week cruise started from Manila’s Pier 6 on Wednesday evening. First stop was Boac, Marinduque, where the ship docked the next morning, Maundy Thursday, allowing for a full-day excursion to watch the Battle of the Morions in a plaza by Boac River.

The costumes have become gloriously outlandish, with some of the usual Roman centurions adding a touch of sci-fi fantasy or whimsy to look more like characters in a graphic novel. Adding to the surfeit of creative imagination was a mutant’s mask that had three faces all morphed up, a lone reveler with a flowing cape made up of colorful woven strips of juice drink “tetrapaks,” and still another who had painstakingly assembled hundreds of nito rings for ersatz chain mail armor. Old ladies sported resplendent headdresses, while young kids joined the “battle” as armies of junior centurions.

Boac’s orderly grid of streets remained admirably bereft of trash, and altogether presented a quaintly charming throwback to colonial times with well-preserved two-story wooden houses, some of whose lower floors were given over to commercial business. Upper floors joined the circus of juxtaposition that’s typically, delightfully Pinoy, with fiesta buntings hanging over the streets in competition with tarpaulin posters advertising all kinds of institutional products, chief of these San Miguel Beer.

Before we knew it, our time was up at the Expo grounds where stalls sold handicrafts, butterfly-themed souvenirs items (since Marinduque prides itself on its butterfly havens) and assorted Moriones masks — ranging from elegant brass to carved wood to papier maché.

Laden with bagfuls of such souvenirs, we were herded back to several large jeepneys for the half-hour ride back to the port, in time for sunset and the magic-hour thumping on the pool deck by a five-man crew billed as the Boracay Drum Beaters.

Dinner at the Coron Lounge that can seat 200 in a theater/night club setting is followed nightly by musical entertainment from a large band and a featured performer, such as Marco Sison on our first night at sea. Everyone’s prodded to join dance lessons with ministering DI’s.

More sedate entertainment can be enjoyed at the smaller Boracay Lounge towards aft, with a pianist backing up the wonderful young chanteuse Princess Velasco, who teaches a marketing course at De La Salle. She’s been recently signed up by Viva Records, and is due for a pilot CD album release this year. Bonus gigs are offered by Armand TJ, a wiz on guitar and piano as he essays his own compositions — haunting island pop ballads such as 21 Days in Boracay, which is included in his first CD. And when he’s urged towards midnight to pitch in with his perfect pitch, former recording star Aris Demavivas, now the cruise ship’s GM after tiring of foreign gigs, also regales the late-nighters with his soothing solos.

Armand TJ is the cruise ship owner Steve Tajanlangit’s youngest son, while Aris is a fellow Ilonggo and lifetime buddy. Such is the nature of the family-type operations (distinct from mom-and-pop) that pervade the entire cruise experience, with passengers enjoined to join the floating family.

While docked at the Marinduque port, we welcomed Governor Bong Carreon onboard for dinner and drinks as a VIP guest, accompanied by family, including his sister, the book creator Bing Carreon-Buck. The ship’s entertainment features (and bars!) enhanced the instant camaraderie. Then it was sailing time close to midnight, for the 11-hour passage to Boracay.

Anchored offshore, Willy Revillame’s pair of yachts was pointed out as we were ferried past the stretch of White Beach by mid-morn of Good Friday. Our cruise party settled at the Boracay Terraces Resort or BTR with its restaurant-on-the-rocks marking the strip’s north end.

Here was where Steve Tajanlangit had started his pioneering tourism exploits, early in the 1980s when he purchased the property from the Tirol clan, well before he set up the underwater pipe system that transported water from the mainland. Since then he’s bought up more properties and figured as a friendly broker in the development of Fairways & Bluewater as well as the recently opened Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa that nestles on eight hectares of forest on the island’s northern headland towards Puka Shell Beach.

The media and video docu contingent is given a tour of the ritzy, classy affair that’s taken over the site of Steve’s modest, ecologically minded Puka Bora Resort. Steve had bought back over 50 hectares from the Ayala Corp., and thanks to Vivian Yuchengco, had passed on a beachfront chunk to the Kuoks. Another parcel has recently been acquired by San Miguel Corp. An inland part of the contoured zone is being developed by Steve himself, inclusive of an Eco Center.

We meet up with Vivian at one of the elegantly designed hilltop roosts that dot Shang Bora, overlooking the main beach strip. She recounts how Steve had taken her on a boat ride to the coves, and how a month later, her friends the Kuoks came knocking on Steve’s door. The fabulous resort opened last month, all of 219 rooms spread out over several layered structures, including condo-style tree houses fronting a second beach, replete with outdoor jacuzzis, as well as 36 pool villas and suites in secluded locations amid a veritable jungle with glimpses of the sea.

The appointments are as impressive as the residency rates, but it helps that the Brangelina couple was rumored to be recent guests. Motorized carts transport us all over the place, from the humongous main pavilion to Chi: The Spa, the swimming pools and main beach, water sports pavilion, an amphitheater that seems perfect for poetry reading, a marine center, and the entertainment center where no sun shines, but where excellent air-conditioning reigns over the billiards and football tables as well as an array of game consoles and Wi-Fi appointments that allow me a last-quarter appreciation of the Blazers’ upset of Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.

Lunch is at BTR, where PGMA has held Cabinet meetings and stayed overnight, in the Tajanlangits’ private quarters above the resto. Late in the afternoon, Steve herds some of us onto a dinghy that brings us to a borrowed yacht for a cruise past Diniwid Beach (fast being lost to erosion), Manny Pacquiao’s reputed resort-in-construction on shoreline rocks exposed to habagat winds (with a decidedly Vegas-type tackiness in the faux-Mediterranean alabaster walls that undulate above the water), Shang Bora’s beachfronts and jetty, and Puka Beach, before we head back to our own mother ship.

Next stop would be Coron on Day 4, where Gov. Joel Reyes joins us onboard on our first night at dockside. There would be the hidden lagoons and Kiangan Lake off Coron Bay to enjoy the next day, Mt. Tapyas’ giant white cross to climb up to, past 700 steps for an exhilarating panorama, and Maquinit Hot Springs for a soothing dip towards sundown. The next two days, the splendid islands of the Calamianes Group beckon, so we spend a full day each at magical Malcapuya and the snorkelling paradise that is Debutunay.

Then we’re off to Calauit to feed the giraffes and marvel at a magnificent Palawan cherry tree in full bloom, before we cross over to Lubang for garlic baskets thence Corregidor for a sunset tour on the eve of our return to Manila Bay.

The images and memories are all of a daze. If it’s Maundy Thurday it must be Boac. Easter Sunday means Coron town and the trek up Mt. Tapyas. If it’s Tuesday it must be Calauit where two stags among the roving herds of Calamian deer engage in lock-horns combat. Wednesday is the sail back to Manila by way of Lubang and Corregidor.

All that the photos can say now is that we’ve been there and done that, through an eight-day Holy Week cruise that certainly cleansed our islanders’ spirits.

* * *

For info and reservations for a 7107 Islands cruise, contact 7107 Islands Management Inc. at Palawan Center, 2/F, 832 Arnaiz Ave. corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati City, with phone numbers 752-8255 to 57, fax 887-4590, or e-mail info7107islands@yahoo.com. You may also visit the website at www. 7107islandstravel.com

View previous articles of this column.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=461170&publicationSubCategoryId=87

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