Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anilao, Mabini, Calumbang Peninsula, Batangas

Was eating and drinking with friends all the way to Christmas Eve, so I decided to get out to the province to explore further.

This time, I headed south to the Province of Batangas where the second busiest port in the country is. The highway south (SLEX & STAR) is two part highway but the last stretch of 20km where they only got half the highway built. Some of the views are spectacular as you get out with stretches of flat open spaces which were sugar cane plantations or rice fields. You can also see spectacular mountain ranges and dormant Taal volcano from a distance. The last stretch to get to Anilao is a bit of a pain with traffic chocked full of Jeepney, tri-cycles, buses, as well as cars. You have to head to the town of Bauan, and at the junction of Santa Rita barangay, make a left to sign pointing to Mabini. You will come near a junction, the right to Anilao and most of the better resorts and the left to the city proper of Mabini. Just before the pier, there is a sign that points to 'Outrigger Resort', the road will lead to most of the better resorts in the area which is the north facing side of the Calumbang Peninsula.

The area of Calumbang Peninsula, the leaping point which is Anilao, is a diving paradise in recovery. At one time it had spectacular reefs but bomb fishing and pollution destroyed a lot. A program was put in place to help recover the sites and its quite successful with many divers making short trips from Manila. The whole north-west facing side of the peninsula is dotted with resorts while the west facing side of Batangas Bay is more residential formerly fishing villages is my guess.

The municpality is called Mabini and there is a tourism office at the Anilao pier (the sign says Mabini pier) you can make inquiries about diving sites, boats, prices, accomodations, etc.. You can park your car overnight for P150/night at the pier.

If you drive into Mabini town proper, and pass it, the drive down the east facing peninsula, is very charming with nice colorful houses that line the roads. There is not much of beaches to speak of as they are rocky as such diving places are. The hills of the Calumbang peninsula hugs the coast closely so there is not much open spaces but the sights of the hills against the sea is spectacular. People still do fishing in the area but I saw nothing interesting at the markets that I visited.

There was only a bit of sun during my visit but I enjoyed having a snack at the beach and drinking cheap beer. I checked out some of the resorts but they were what you expect of dive resorts, comfortable but not luxurious and rustic. However I thought it was rather expensive with rooms for as much as P5000 peso per night although you can share a quad for P900 peso per night.

There is also not much of choice in terms of restaurants or places to eat outside the dive resorts. I did check out the local famous lomi but found it wanting. I did managed to find some good lechon (Batangas is suppose to be a main pork-producing area). Anything decent can only be found in the town of Bauan which seems always choked full of traffic with narrow roads.

It rained a lot and at night it was cold given the time of the year. So it was kind of boring although the peace and quiet and the sea air was very refreshing. Those who plan to visit should just get their own stuff and cook and eat outdoors. Do a whole pig roast which I saw a number of families doing.

On my way back, I checked out the city of Batangas and its actually quite a decent size with one SM Mall and another SM Hypermarket. There are lots of decent restaurants there too but traffic was murder. You also have to go through the town of Bauan and a few other small barangays which is also choked full of traffic.

Anilao and Mabini is definitely a nice place to relax if the traffic can be avoided but building anything in such mountainous terrain is not going to be easy. However room rates of the resorts seems to suggest its not entirely impossible for a determined developers. In Japan such places make a thriving business of 1 price-all inclusive getaways that include catch-of-the-day meals, hot baths, and health and beauty spas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How badly do I want the BlackBerry Curve 3G

How badly I want the Curve: TAKE A LOOK!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pasig River

I had a lot to think about this weekend and so was looking to just exercise and think about things but I did not feel like driving anywhere to get some outdoor. So I decided to just hike around the neighbourhood and for a number of small reasons I decided to head towards the Pasig river near Fort Bonifacio. I was apprehensive because it meant going through some rougher streets and even past Makati Jail.

To my surprise I ended up having a real great Sunday morning. I discovered Makati Park - this is a small park along the Pasig River in the West Rembo Barangay. Its actually very well kept with bird cages, an open air theatre park, and a public swimming pool. The view to the other side of the river was actually pretty spectacular with tall buildings of Pasig City but at the same time the typical Barangay multi-faceted colorful family homes that cover much of this city residential area that lined the river.

Pasig River source is in the North East of the city but in the city it flows two ways - one is west into Manila Bay via the oldest part of Manila and the other South-East into Laguna Lake. Essentially for centuries it was the main artery of transport in this city and even to this day is commercially used. Due to the lack of infrastructure, it was polluted because it was the means of waste disposal for industrial, commercial and even human sewage. Ten years ago, they started cleaning it up. And today, there are both govt and private effort to rehabilate the river.

The effort to clean it up is not just romantic but all along the river represent opportunities to develop and create great commercial and living spaces. At the mouth of the river in the old city, its possible to create incredible tourist attractions - Sorrounded by Binondo, incredible govt building buildings, the old Spanish build Intramuros, old middle class spanish residential areas of San Miguel with Presidential Palace. There are still some incredible old houses and buildings belonging to old families in San Miguel, Pandacan, Santa Ana district. All along the river to the east/south-east are big pieces of industrial properties that can be developed into top grade residential/commercial spaces like well-known Rockwell. The various smaller properties along the river all also offer interesting opportunities for creative redevelopment. If you walk along the river, you can actually spot incredible huge beautiful churches that stands out frequently as go along it. Visiting the churches is already a worthwhile attraction.

The river has come a long way since they started cleaning it up. They even catch 50kg large Chinese carps and catfish once in a while. NGOS and even companies are continually putting in effort to improve things all along the river. Its not ready as mainstream tourist destination but if you like to see things in raw form, I recommend taking ferries and boat rides that is possible along the river and imagine what can be done with it. Its really a great river that can be again. There are photos available of the river in past that I find interesting and remind you that Manila was a city like European cities when Singapore was not even a real port.