By John Ronquillo and Nix Ramirez
There will always be a few trivial nuisances backpackers & amateur travel photographers like us may encounter upon choosing a relatively infant travel destination. This is especially true on destinations that are susceptible to unpredictable weather disturbances. Delayed flights happen. Restaurants, transportation, and service staff can be overwhelmed by the sudden & unanticipated surge of tourists encroaching the place. The weather fluctuates too abruptly when you least expect it. Epic golden-hour photography plans may turn into epic-fails within a few minutes.
All these are petty concerns, as a travel destination in its infancy has one big charm: its beautiful terrain that isn’t inundated with the deluge of tourists. Suddenly, your epic failure turns itself inside out to become a great opportunity. But you have to have the right mindset to see its unique allure.
We are referring to the eastern island-province in the Bicol Region.
Welcome to a road less travelled. Most of us have only heard about Catanduanes as the entry point for brewing storms. In a place that was once known as “The Land of the Howling Winds,” where all weather predictions go out the window, one would be forgiven to think this might be the dullest PiPho travel ever.
Of course NOT, on both counts: both on the photographers’ enthusiasm and the backpacker’s sense of exploration for the exotic. All these inopportune moments are a blessing in disguise, my friend!
Truth be told: Catanduanes is a “sleeper” gem! Although travelling within the island is a little prohibitive due to its mountainous terrain, limited public transportation and narrow roads, most of its awe-inspiring, beautiful landscapes are uncharted. It’s only a matter of time before it gets under the radar of modern commercialism. It’s even often compared to Batanes for its backdrop’s grandeur, which we have barely scratched.
Case in point: a halo-halo break in Barangay Balite along the south-western coast of Virac has turned into a brilliant photo opportunity as the hidden beach a few steps away from the halo-halo cart had a view of Mayon Volcano in the distance. Albeit it was too cloudy to take photos of Mayon, the white sand’s texture against the ebb was too good to be overlooked.
So what’s good about the rains? On a photographer’s perspective, its aftermath always brings intense drama to any photograph. An after-storm sunset furnishes the skies with multiple colors, filtered on what were previously storm-clouds, and fierier than any other day’s sunset. The aftermath also delivers the ever-elusive effect of moving clouds.
Opposite the rains is the scorching sun at midday, which most photographers avoid as it’s nefarious for producing bland colors. Yet with PiPho, the show goes on.
PiPho has only been to the southern-most tip of the island, but perhaps what makes this On-The-Spot (OTS) travel special is the place itself. Virac, the capital city, looks like any other Philippine capital city but you’ll notice the subtleties early on. Garbage seem to be picked-up on time, with the whole place squeaky clean before it wakes up in the morning and after it closes down for the night. Sure, there are tricycles but where’s the grid lock? Virac must be one of the cleanest places in the country.
Or perhaps what makes the travel special is meeting its people. Where would you find smiling tambays while asking help to push your vehicle that has just broken down, while we watched annoyingly thinking about how we haven’t gotten any decent photo for the day. Thinking back, we wouldn’t have been to a very pleasant abaca farm (and take photos of it) and met the locals had the vehicle ran smoothly. These locals are the very front-liners of the typhoons entering the country before they even hit our homes.
Perhaps it’s only incidental that this is Pinoy Photography’s 13th year that we got lucky with our shots? Maybe for us amateurs. And only if you’re superstitious. But producing awesome compositions become intrinsic in most old-timers, that each shot is effortlessly good.
Or perhaps the best part of this travel spree was that we went beyond the one-liner jokes we often hear on the Monthly Photo Contest (MPC) meetings: all 14 of us PiPho travelers earned rapport.
After-shoot nights and the seemingly barren times of heavy rains are story-telling and pusoy-dos times. Some shared their own versions of ghost stories. We’ve learned what our peers do for métiers, where they have been in the past, what music they listen (and sing) to, what’s on their Spotify playlist, the movies they like; we met their spouses, knew some of their strengths, and perhaps learned a thing or two about some of their vulnerabilities.
Those who braved the non-stop rains in Sakahon Beach still managed to take photos. Where else would you find dramatic shots of kids boogie-board surfing in the rain? While some still managed to play pusoy-dos despite forgetting to bring cards. And some sang the rains away on a 5-peso karaoke TV, but found the rains getting heavier as we seem to get more confident on the microphone.
Despair not when you miss the epic Virac sunrise. PiPho always finds a way. The team manages to run the show and shoot Virac Sunrise even at midnight:
What it all boils down to is that what started out as a hobby has gained us not only decent portfolio-worthy photos; it has brought us good friends as well.
The one-liner jokes would always be in the MPC meetings, but they may as well have found new heights and new meanings this time around.
And man, do the winds howl big time!
PiPho Catanduanes OTS
April 6-9, 2018
You need not be a professional or a gadget expert to have fun with us! Neither would you need top-of-the-line.gears. All you need is something that captures images. An entry-level camera would.do, with your enthusiasm to learn and explore new things. If you’ve endured reading this far, that means it’s safe to assume you fit both those criteria. Just fill-up the application form on our webpage http://www.pipho.org/pipho-application-form/ to join!
Text by Atty. Larry Marbella
PiPho conducted its first Milky Way photo shoot at Corregidor Island last May 7-8.
The historic island was chosen because it was one of the few places closest to Manila where light pollution from the metropolis would not interfere with the observation of the Milky Way. Also, the island’s ruins and existing structures made for unique and compelling foreground elements to the Milky Way.
Even with the right location, organizing the shoot still required a bit of planning. According to Lonely Speck.com, the Milky Way is best viewed in the northern hemisphere from March to October. However, shooting is actually limited to March until mid-May because of the rainy season that starts in June. The actual dates of the shoot were chosen because it was the period of the new moon, which allowed for the optimal viewing of the Milky Way.
The Milky Way shoot was coordinated with Sun Cruises, Inc., which operates the ferry services from Manila to the island and back, the Corregidor Island Tours, and the Corregidor Inn. PiPho availed of Sun Cruises’ special photographer’s package, which included an overnight stay at the Corregidor Inn, with lunch and breakfast. Sun Cruises arranged for one of its “tranvias” to take the group from the Corregidor Inn to Topside, where most of the historic structures and fortifications are located.
The PiPho group left Manila on May 7 on the first ferry trip to the island at the Esplanade Seaside Terminal, Seaside Blvd, SM MOA Complex. The morning was spent doing an ocular inspection of Topside for possible locations for the shoot, and to take some infrared photos. After lunch and a quick nap, the group returned to Topside to shoot the sunset.
The actual Milky Way shoot started around 11:30 p.m. on May 7, and lasted until 2 a.m. on May 8. The initial location was the Old Spanish lighthouse, looking east. The Milky Way rose from the southeast behind the lighthouse. As the Milky Way continued its way across the clear night sky, the group moved to Mile Long Barracks, and used its ruins as a haunting foreground element.
While most of the group returned to Corregidor Inn past 2 a.m., others stayed up to shoot the Milky Way at the camping grounds and the San Jose Chapel.
There are other places in Corregidor that PiPho can explore for future Milky Way shoots, such as Battery Hearns (where the Japanese Imperial Army had their infamous victory photo taken after the surrender of the island in 1942), the Filipinos Heroes Memorial, and the Japanese Garden of Peace.
On its 10th year, Pinoy Photography Organization (PiPho Org) travels to Siquijor via Dumaguete. This is part of the club’s yearly local photo trips.
The group of seven, headed by the club’s president, Jovi Ong, arrived at the Dumaguete Airport at 8AM on August 13. It’s just less than an hour plane trip from Manila to Dumaguete. The side trip to Dumaguete since the group needed to catch the next trip to Siquijor.
Siquijor is an island province that can be reached via a ferry ride at the Dumaguete New Passenger Terminal. So, from the airport, the group took a van to get to the ferry terminal. It was just a 10-minute ride. There are several vans for rent waiting just outside the airport’s arrival area. If you’re a big group, it’s recommended that you hire one. If not, you can either walk your way to the main road and take a tricycle or jeepney.
The next ferry for Siquijor was the GL Express 2 Fast Ferry. It was scheduled to leave at 10 AM. Enough time for the group to have breakfast at the terminal.
It was smooth sailing going to Siquijor. By 11 AM, the group arrived at the Siquijor Port at the municipality of Siquijor. The group’s local tour guide, Joam Camingao, was already waiting with his multi-cab, a smaller version of the jeepney.
Upon exiting the port, the group was welcomed by one of the century old churches of the island, the St. Francis de Assisi Parish also called Siquijor Church. Built in 1781, tourists will surely not miss this due to its proximity from the port.
The group then headed 12km south via the Circumferential Road to the town of San Juan, where the Capilay Spring Park is located. It is a free to use public park with a huge pool that has water coming from the nearby mountain.
Besides swimming, there were also locals busy catching freshwater shrimps, locally called Olang. It’s fascinating to see such creature. What’s more fascinating is that they just use a piece of tingting, a dried midrib of a palm leaf, to catch it.
At the back of the park are steps leading to St. Agustine Parish (Macapilay Chruch), also a century old church in Siquijor, constructed in 1863.
It was already noon and the group decided to head back to Siquijor town and have lunch there. Lunch was at Cebu’s Best Boneless Lechon (Siquijor Town). Guess what their specialty. Yes! Boneless lechon belly! The lechon served was tasty and affordable.
After lunch, the group picked up Homer and Lannie at the port. The two took a later flight The group then proceeded 6.4 km Northeast of Siquijor town to Guiwanon Spring Park. The park, which is located just along the main road, is a mangrove farming area with interconnecting bamboo bridges and treehouses. A minimal amount of PHP10 was collected as entrance fee. The park’s pathways and treehouses were interesting to shoot together with the mangroves, seagrass, and the sea.
The group then proceeded 9.3 km north to Larena where they checked in at Casa Dela Playa Resort. It was just a short rest period at the resort as the group needed to catch the sunset at Dumalaay Boulevard.
It was low tide that time. Patches of shallow puddles became visible and so are the corals and seagrass. Those were good signs for a good sunset shoot. However, it was still a bit cloudy and that became a challenge.
While waiting for the sun to set, the group stayed at one of the several street vendors at Dumalaay Boulevard. The vendors sell street food like barbecue (e.g. pork, betamax, and tenga), siomai, fishball, and refreshments including beer. The street vendors usually start late in the afternoon until the evening.
Dinner after the shoot was at Jo’s Chicken Inato located at Larena’s town proper. Then we went back to the resort for some much deserved sleep.
It was an early start for Day 2 as the group went to catch the sunrise at Bino-ongan, Enrique Villanueva. It was another challenging shoot since it was mostly cloudy the whole shoot. Nevertheless, the group was still thankful that it didn’t rain.
Breakfast was at a small local panaderia (bakery) near the shooting location. The various types of pastries/breads were interesting since most are not available in Metro Manila.
After breakfast, the group went to Lazi Town at the southern part of the island. It was a long 20 km ride from the panaderia.
First stop was the cascading Cambugahay Falls, less than 2 km from the town proper. It’s surprisingly accessible from the road. Just 135 steps down from the road. And that’s even a paved pathway.
There are three falls in the area. Each are just a short distance from one another. The first falls to welcome the visitor is the highest among the three. This is also where most of the tourists take a dip to the clear and clean waters of Cambughay falls.
After the refreshing and relaxing dip at Cambughay falls, the group headed back to Lazi’s town proper to shoot the Lazi Church and Convent or formally known as the St. Isidore Labradore Church and Convent. Built in 1884, an interesting feature of the church is its original wooden flooring.
The group then took a quick look at the Old Enchanted Balete Tree, still in Lazi town. There’s a fish spa underneath the big tree that’s free to use. Donation is highly (donations only). The century old tree is located 8 km east of Lazi’s town proper.
Lunch was at Noy-Noy’s Eatery in Poblacion, Lazi. It’s a carenderia that serves affordable and delicious meals.
The itinerary continued after lunch to two locations in Maria Town. First was at Kagusuan Beach where the water was very clear and the rock formations are just awesome to take photos of.
The second location was at Our Lady of Divine Providence Church where the so called black magic Mary statue is found. Actually it’s a statue of Saint Rita of Cascia.
The group then went to in Enrique Villanueva Town. There were many interesting things to shoot there. The marine life, fisherfolks, and fishing boats, just to name a few.
Since the marine sanctuary is not perfect for shooting sunsets, the group decided to take a second try to shoot sunset at Dumalaay Boulevard. By that time, the boulevard is just a few kilometers away.
Dinner was the fresh fish from the fishermen at Tulapos and meat from the nearby market. Dinner was prepared by the very hospitable relatives of our tour guide Joam.
The next morning was just spent packing up for the RORO (Roll On/Roll Off) boat trip back to Dumaguete City. The fast ferry service is not available on Saturdays.
Siquijor Island is a magnificent place and a true hidden gem. PiPho encourages people to go visit and help share to the world the beauty of the island.
SIQUIJOR PHOTO TRIP SUMMARY:
St. Francis de Asis Church (Siquijor Town)
Capilay Spring Park (San Juan Town)
Guwainon Spring Park (Siquijor Town)
Dumalaay Boulevard Sunset (Larena Town)
Bino-ongan Sunrise (Enrique Villanueva Town)
Cambugahay Falls (Lazi Town)
St. Isidore Labradore Church and Convent (Lazi Town)
The Old Enchanted Balete Tree (Lazi Town)
Kagusuan Beach (Maria Town)
Our Lady of Divine Providence Church (Maria Town)
Tulapos Marine Sanctuary (Enrique Villanueva Town)
The Pinoy Photography Organization Camera Club (PiPho Org) on it’s 10th year
travels to Marinduque for a photo trip and also for one of our yearly OTS (On- The-Spot) contests. As per usual, the schedule is tightly packed, starting quite early (or late) with a meetup at 11PM to drive to Dalahican Port in Lucena to catch the 4AM RORO (Roll-On/Roll-off) Ship (Montenegro Lines) going to Marinduque Island. We brought along 4 cars with us on our trip to get around in Marinduque; the cars “rolled” onto the ship via “drawbridge style” ramp.’
The RORO experience was the first for me (and for most of us). We were supposed to rest during the trip but with quite uncomfortable plastic benches, most of us just took photos of the ship and the sunrise instead. We arrived at Balanacan Port in Marinduque at around 7AM; most still without sleep, but all ready to go!
Our first task was getting to Luzon Datum located on Mt. Mataas in Barangay Hinanggayon, Mogpog. It is the primary geodetic reference or origin of all geological surveys in the Philippines which means all maps and surveys made in the country use the Luzon Datum as the reference point. The rough roads towards the starting point of the hike were too difficult for our cars to navigate.
We eventually decided to hire a jeepney with higher suspension (and no shock absorbers and other parts underneath it to worry about) to get us there!
What was supposed to be a 30min hike to the top became more than an hour! Clearly our itinerary maker, mountaineer and club member EdwinK did a number on us! The trek was worth it and I’m kind of glad EdwinK “fooled” us. However, I’m never going to believe guides when they say things like “it’s very near already” and “it’s just around that corner” ever again.
Luzon Datum was marked on a rock originally found on site. A nice monument was built around it. The view from the top was astounding! We could see the cove where our RORO ship docked (northwest) and over to the other side (northeast) you can see two beautiful white sand beach islands beside each other!
After the grueling trek (without sleep or breakfast), we found our way to Boac town were we had lunch (our first meal for the day) and checked into Boac Hotel. We scheduled some time for a powernap then off we went to Laylay Fishing Port for sunset!
The next morning, we shot some portrait photos of a Morion who we scheduled and discussed with the day prior. Ryan is one of 200+ Morions who march around town during the Moriones Festival on Holy Week. Ryan is truly dedicated to his calling and his role as one of the Morions. He refused to act comically while in costume (as it should be) and also did not want to carry a shield (his brother’s) because he said his character really did not carry a shield! It’s great to see and meet people like Ryan who is really involved in their own local traditions and practices.
We then shot the Boac Cathedral which was perfectly lighted by the morning sun before heading off for our road trip around Marinduque Island.
ROAD TRIP (GASAN, BUENAVISTA, TORRIJOS and SANTA CRUZ)
We were running late on our tight schedule so we had to prioritize our options. In Gasan we stopped by the Gasan Municipal Hall and then the Beautiful St. Joseph the Worker Church. Along the scenic but less zigzag route from Buenavista to Torrijos, we stopped along the road to shoot from afar the now closed Bella Rocca Resort (a posh resort that closed down probably because of the closure of the airport on the island). We also stopped to shoot kids jumping into the water along the coast.
Marinduque Island is a very hilly and mountainous island. The roads were built onto the mountainsides making them prone to landslides. The major thoroughfare is along the edges of the island most likely due to it being difficult to make roads cut across mountains. At Torrijos, we had lunch then went to Gabisan Pottery and the Poctoy Torrijos Livelihood Association both in Barangay Poctoy. We unfortunately had to skip going to Pulang Lupa Historical Park due to time constraints. We got back on the road towards Buyabod Port in Sta Cruz for our 4PM appointment with the boat going to Maniwaya Island.
30 minutes from Marinduque is the beautiful white sand beach island of Maniwaya. We stayed at the Residencia De Palo Maria www.rdpmbeachresort.com along the beach. The resort had a heated pool and had affordable food prices and room rates! We shot our sunset photos along the beach then had socials after dinner (what we call drinking time!). The next morning, we went island hopping; first to this super awesome sandbar! A thin strip of sand in the middle of nowhere! The waves near the sandbar were a tad dizzying due to them coming from different sides! We then passed by the Ungab Rock Formation on Mongpong Island before heading back to the resort to pack up.
RORO BACK HOME
We headed back to Marinduque to have some lunch and go to the port to catch our RORO back home. We had much difficulty but eventually found our target for lunch: Lola Ambo’s Crispy Pata (palomares corner burgos street) in Sta Cruz! Lola Ambo’s is actually just a takeout place (actually just a normal residential house). We took the crispy pata to a nearby restaurant (restau d’ rusti) where we were served the crispy pata together with other food.
We reached Balanaca Port at around 2:30PM for ample allowance time so as not to miss the Montenegro lines RORO ship leaving at 4:00PM. Upon reaching there, we were rushed through the RORO process (by the port staff) to be able to get on an earlier 2:30PM trip (starhorse shipping lines)! We were happy we made it despite all the dazed rushing (me being the last to get on the ship) as it saved us a good hour and a half! This ship however was smaller and the cars were parked on an open deck, exposed to the corrosive salt water. The seats in this ship though were plastic lounge chairs, definitely much more comfortable than the plastic benches in the Montenegro Lines ship.
We reached Dalahican Port in Lucena at 6PM and drove our way back to Metro Manila (having some kaldereta goat stew for dinner along the way). I got home at exactly 11PM, a full 72 hours from the start of our photo trip! Talk about maximzing time; a full 3 days and 2 nights! Truly a tiring but fun, tight scheduled and jam-packed Pinoy Photography Organization Camera Club signature trip! Until next time! More power to PiPho Org on its 10th year! #pipho10
Sept 21 to 25, 2013
Hanoi and Ha Long Bay
2013 PiPho Bataan Photo Trip