Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bogo to Daanbantayan

This was ‘goodbye Bogo City day’ and onwards north I moved. Thought of just hopping unto Medellin on my way back from further north so I headed straight for the town of Daanbantayan. This town was reason I embarked on this northern tour in the first place! To watch the Haladaya festival 2009.

Daanbantayan, the name
Why such a name? I did surf and asked around why such a name for the town when there is another named just “Bantayan”. It gets a bit confusing as both Daanbantayan and Bantayan are northern towns of Cebu province. Both are resort towns too! It even get’s all the more confusing when both towns grab top honors on a festival like the Pasigarbo Sa Sugbo. Here goes…

“Bantayan” is a Visayan word meaning “lookout”. This particularly applied to the lifestyle of yesteryears when each town or enclave of the Spaniards needed to have a watch for oncoming pirates. Due to the presence of such a lookout in the coastal area, the place was commonly referred to as “bantayan” until it became a town. This is the northernmost mainland town of the big province of Cebu. Now “daan” is a Visayan word that means old. (please don’t confuse that with the Tagalog meaning that is “path”). This word was purportedly prefixed to the original “bantayan” when a new lookout area was established – and that’s the western part of an island off and nearby (to the west of) this place. Thus, daanbantayan (old lookout area) in the long run became the name of this town. Don’t fret though, that identity crisis and eventual renaming into what is now Daanbantayan happened before any of your living politicians were born!

More confusion!
Funny, this town seems to stand pat on confusing the first-timer hehe! Its mayor (as of my visit anyway) is Sun Shimura. A Japanese? Nope! Half-Jap by blood but Pinoy nationality. The Vice-Mayor is Maria Luisa J. Loot (that’s pronounced lo-ot) is his mother! Ha?! Where did the Shimura come from? Well, the mayor is her son from a previous marriage (to a jap obviously)! Now, try picturing in your mind the face (and body) of a town mayor. Then look at the pics of Sun Shimura on the web. Whoa! Yea, he is a hunk of a young man hehe. He’s only 26 or so! He should be more of a matinee idol than a mayor, I agree. But no worries, the vice-mayor (who is his mom) has been mayor for many a term, so he won’t be deprived of ample advise! Oh, he’s attending law school, btw!

Daanbantayan arrival and accommodations
Okay, my notes hehehe!

Took a Ceres bus on its way to Maya via Bagay and the poblacion. This is the shorter route going Malapascua and the roads were either good concrete or under construction to becoming so! Just FYI, the longer route passes via the town of Medellin and that big barangay called Kawit before it passes the poblacion and onwards to Maya.

Arrived at a busy Daanbantayan poblacion where people seemed to be everywhere. Traffic had been diverted at some areas as they prepared for the parade. I liked the sights… it looked very much like a town fiesta (not a city festival) where everyone wore their best – even smelt their best! Luvit! And yes, on most parts of town (near and around the church) everyone had to walk as vehicles were not allowed to enter.

Mission 1 was to find accommodations. I did not do much research on this one. I knew that if this became a problem I’d hop back to Bogo or onwards to Malapascua. The two places I chanced on the web (Skip’s Beach Resort and Villa Meling) were both a bit off the town center. Tried asking the policemen and all were helpful to point me in the direction of what accommodations I might find. First up was a place that a police officer said was just a street away from the back of the church and I walked to its location under an already sweltering hot midmorning sun – just about 930AM. Had to wade through maddeningly crowded rows of bazaar-style and fiesta-style stalls. Couldn’t find it. Have given up on that when a curious bystander asked me what I was looking for. And I was told that it was exactly the house right in front of me. However, one of the guys in a group that has just about started their “red horse session” readily told us it was already full. The helpful bystander hailed a trike (pedicab) and told the driver to bring me to Lagkaw.

Lagkaw is a lodge, alright. The signage is prominent and it looks well kept. It actually is an old American-era house converted to a lodge. Hesitated by the gate… but I couldn’t discern the presence of a human being. Entered at the risk of being pounced upon by dogs… none! Entered the sala of the house that is probably the lobby but more like a very homely sala area of a private residence. Still no one… except that a little boy of about 3 came playing. After we smiled at each other, I told him in bisaya to call anyone… he seemed to have not gotten my message! Repeated the same message in Tagalog, then English… nothing he just looked at me as if curious! So I headed out to the street. Gosh, I could have carried their TV or the entire sala out without anyone noticing! Hmm, fiestas… everyone gets busy at the kitchen or the church or the cockfights!

I was surprised the trike driver stayed where I got off. He saw to it that I was safely attended-to before leaving the scene. He suggested I try the Yee’s Apartelle just across, so I did. When I appeared at their gate, one of four old ladies busy with their lively morning chat, stood up and said “come-in, come-in… happy fiesta” (in English). I said I was looking for a room or any type of accommodation. Another old woman shrieked for the house-help who immediately appeared. But her bad news was… ‘although the person in charge was not around’, she was dead sure they were already full. I believed her… she should know, she’s the house-help hehe! As I walked back to the gate, the old lady a bit hollered perchance to ensure I hear her say “but you can come back for lunch, its free, its fiesta” (still in English)! Whoa! Three down…

Trike driver seemed to have known what would happen, he motioned for me to hop back in. I asked if there was anything else, he said yes and just around the corner. We stopped at another dainty gate and I could see that the place was called “Vince Anthony’s”. I entered the cute little garden and unto the house… a manang approached me and immediately called the person in charge when I told her I was looking for accommodations. Only two choices: aircon room good for a family and non-aircon room with two beds. I went for the latter. I don’t even remember how much it was. Am sure it was cheap since it does not make any imprint on my lowly memory! Alrightie, I had a room and rushed back to pay and say goodbye to manong pedicab driver, all along waiting outside of the lodge. He was about to say “six-pesos” when I insisted in giving him fifty. The time he accorded me was valuable and appreciated… but the care and concern was priceless! Yep, sporadically, there still are those kinds of souls in this country!

The room and the key that almost ruined my day!
Have room… will rest? No, not me! Having gotten a room, I threw my backpack on one bed and tried my bit exhausted physique on the other. Hmm! Good enough! Turned the “stand-fan” to “high” and let it face one of the windows – it can’t oscillate anymore! This room btw, is all windows on two sides and on the other two sides all wall behind the hallway and the next room (the family room). Unfortunately, all windows in my room were of the jalousie type and screened with that fine wire mesh to keep mosquitoes away – so, even if outside was breezy, it is never easy for air to enter and vice-versa. But there was air enough to appease my trying-to-rest body hehe!

After some 5 minutes of lying on the bed, I thought a shower might have been a good idea to ward off more of the morning heat. This started a series of weird discoveries…

Checked the men’s shower room (everything is shared in this house btw) and saw that it was closed. I thought someone was using it. So I went back to my room… and what a wait. Went to check again, it was still locked. As I did so, the manang told me to just use the women’s shower room since no one was using it. So I hurriedly got my shower things and went for it. Water was a drip from the showers. No wonder there was a pail, so I filled it up to gather enough for my bath. Hey, water from that faucet was even also a drip – and I finished two sticks doing nothing in that bathroom/toilet just to wait for water to fill! Ahh!

Shower done, I headed back to my room, stuffed camera, batteries, memory sticks etc on my belt bag and off I went! Oops, just as I was about to leave, I remembered I should take the sunblock out with me, so I went back to my room. Oops again, realized I still did not have my key to the room. So I looked for the manang to get it. Her as-if-stricken-by-lightning response was… “ha? gi-lock nimo?” Already a bit alarmed, I calmly said “yes, why not”. That is how it is supposed to be, right?

She told me then that there was no key to the room since a previous occupant who checked out early in the morning did not return it. I told her there must be some kind of a duplicate or master key somewhere. She was even a bit irritated to tell me that that was the duplicate the previous occupant did not return. Her tone seemed to be on a pitch that she was blaming me for it. My now starting to simmer blood of a head could only muster “so what now?”. Her very ‘plausible’ reply was a shrug with “wala tayong magagawa, wala nang susi eh, hintayin nalang natin isoli”. That was it!

Seething in a temper as hot as the midmorning sun, I told her “listen woman, I cannot let this delay my objective to see the fiesta. Okay, I will leave now to see it. But you do something to get me a key and open that room when I come back. I don’t care kung kelangan nyo sirain o sunugin ang pinto na yan, but when I come back, you better make sure I am able to enter and see that all my belongings are intact”. I left her dumbfounded and just standing there looking at me. Out into the town I went.

Gosh and wow! Even the outsides of the church (yep, front and sides) were filled with church goers. I literally had to inch my way inside! After the service, I opted to stay awhile just to see the entirety of the church. But not all folks were going out. Many of them were in fact rushing to and queuing up at front near the altar. So I followed them. Oh devotion! I must say this was the first time I saw something like it… folks lined up, waited for their turn at the image of their patron saint – Sta Rosa De Lima. No no no… they don’t touch nor kiss the image nor wipe their hankies on it. A church volunteer holds the image and wipe it on body of the person in front of the line. Generally the image would be wiped on a part where there is an actual or perceived ailment. Most of the time though, each devotee would have the image wiped all over his body. Hmm, fantastic first-hand experience for me. I was a bit afraid to use my flash though lest they get mad at me. Even the aiming of my camera was quick and hopefully unnoticed.

Ah this church is old and made of the usual stones etc that you see in most old churches. However, it is rather small compared to most of the ancient churches I have so far seen. There are only two columns of pews, one on each side of the center aisle. Now, I find that cute. Interesting! Asking some of the old folks around I learned that this little big church (looks big outside and small inside) has been so since the middle 1800s. And the insides might have been subjected to various structural or aesthetic renovations; the frontage did not actually get that much damage from the elements and wars through all these hundreds of years.

Was a problem! People take note of this!
This was fiesta time and you’d think food was a plethora for the unrelated visitor, right? Wrong! Let me qualify that “unrelated visitor” thingy. I mean that to describe me/us who go to watch these festivals but do not know any local. Meaning just someone who went there to see it without necessarily knowing anyone in town who will insist that you partake of their bountiful feast. In short, there are not too many commercially available eatables for the visitor. Daanbantayan IS NOT that ready for this!

One: the town does not have so many restaurants that serve things up like your common Jo’s Inato or Chicken Ati-atihan much more the Jollibee’s and the McDo’s or the fine diners. The few that would be comparable were not in operation as it was fiesta time.

Two: there were/are some little eateries by the corners or sides of the streets but they too were not open for business as fiesta time meant they had to party with family and friends. No one to man their businesses.

Three: I did ask around why restaurants would close at such a busy day where thousands of prospective customers abound. The common answer I got was “fiesta is to honor Sta Rosa, so people must stop what they do to visit and offer prayers as a sign of respect and devotion to her”. THERE! I almost slapped myself having expected that all fiestas should be like the festivals in urban centers hehe. Shame on me!

Thus, I was left with the likes of Julie’s (bakeshop) and similar stores serving up just bread and sodas or the many sari-sari stores selling crackers, candies and other junk food! Common and plentiful everywhere were little temporary stalls serving siomai, siopao, fishball or grills by the sidewalks and under the sun – with a lot of following by the way.

Good that I found St. Gregory. It is a small canteen-like establishment that serves mainly home-cooked snacks like siopao, pancit, etc. Unfortunately, while many are on the menu, meals that needed to be cooked upon order cannot yet be available as the cook was out to church! So, at 10:54AM, I found myself snacking on coke and torta (that's a cross between a bread and a cake) instead of breakfast brunch or lunch! Well, every available store – even those that sold dry goods – had bottled water. I was happy with that!

Not so much for me as I dwell more on historical landmarks and other edifices or events. But for the shopaholics, well, virtually the whole of probably six blocks in the vicinity of the church and municipal hall turned into a dizzying expanse of flea markets, bazaars and “perya”. Hey while the trinkets and DVDs dominated the scene, there were locally printed t-shirts, local products and farm produce. Oh I circled the municipal hall where virtually every side was lined with people resting under the breezy shades of the big trees. Ah yes, their municipal building sits by the edge of the sea and the mouth of a river where children enjoyed splashing amidst non-biodegradable floating trash in the otherwise clear waters. Otherwise, the views from here out to sea are actually good! Whoa, btw, even the local police office at the back of the building was not spared by the fiesta celebrations! People – probably their families and friends were in there in fiesta mode with food aplenty!

I did not go much astray from center of town as I did not want to miss any of the festival’s action. Towards noon, I could see some of the kids in their costumes heading for some place outside of the town’s center. So I started to look around for lunch – which I knew was going to be futile hehe! But I remembered that when I went into Yee’s Apartelle earlier, I saw that the house just beside it cooked and sold meals where there were tables and chairs. I headed for it. Yes, it was overbooked for lunch where people stood by the side to grab a seat. And I stood in too, until I was able to grab my piece of tinola and rice. Hah! Oh, btw, back of this “restaurant” is a row of houses where people were already in a party mood and mode! Red Horse was clearly the dominant view and the karaokes blared from those houses!

Lunch finally over, I walked to my accommodation at Vince Anthony’s perchance to take a few minutes rest before the parade starts at 1PM. Of course I half expected to find that they still could not open my room and that my top might blow up again hehe. Well, good enough, even if they had broken the door knob open – which meant the door had no locks anymore. At least I got to see my things and was able to lie on the bed for a very short while.

Thought I might take another bath on this hot last day of August! Went for the men’s bathroom and miraculously, yes, it was again locked. I thought it must have been my unluckiest day on that bathroom. I listened a bit but there seemed to be no activity in there. And just by chance, the manang passed by and I did not even have to ask, she told me that a guest “accidentally locked” it and there was no key to that bathroom. Without saying a word I stepped into the women’s CR. Of course all in my head was disbelief but did not anymore say anything, lest it ruined my day. Ah!

Done, that was my 3rd bath since waking up this morning over at Bogo, on this hot humid day hehe. And as I changed into my shorts and shirt, I could already hear the drums beating. So I hurried out to watch the Haladaya Festival 2009 – live!

1 comment :

  1. Hello! It was nice reading you post. I am just wondering if you still remember the contact details of Vince Anthony Pension. If so, it would really help me if you share the information. Thank you very much!