The budget traveller’s guide to Batanes : food, hotels and such…

Like most remote islands in the Philippines, it is hard to fly to Batanes on a budget. The Sweetheart paid $450 $425 for each of us on three-day, two night package tour arranged by a travel agency. Of course you know what happened after that - our three days became nine days which posed a challenge to our budget, considering that no credit cards were accepted and there were only government ATMs on the island.

I figure that what makes travelling to Batanes expensive is the airfare, which stands at something like $250 to $300 for a return trip. The route is not competitive at all (meaning no other airlines fly here) and I don’t know about Asian Spirit’s role in dictating the prices. Maybe it is not lucrative for them at all. It would have been cheaper if you can SAIL to Batanes, even if takes forever. There is a ship departing the island, but it only goes as far as Currimao, Ilocos Norte. We heard merchant vessels are going to ply the northernmost route from Manila soon. Don’t know how reliable this will be, given the island’s weather temperament. Let’s just wait and see.

My opinion is that Batanes shouldn’t be ‘unreachable’ at all to the ordinary traveler, especially Filipinos who dream of going there at least once in their lifetime. Paying $300 for airfare to see a beautiful, albeit, isolated part of the Philippines is an anachronism in this age of budget air travel when flying to Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan, Bangkok and Vietnam can cost you a little less than $200, taxes included. Surely, there is a way to travel by cheap to Batanes? Here are my notes and recommendations:

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The Male Feminist Experience

The downside of having friends who sometimes read your blog is that you can’t blog about certain real-life events without risking getting kicked out of that social group. I’m going to take that risk anyway and write about this guy I spoke to last Friday. Besides being interesting enough to be blog-worthy, somewhere in here is a valuable lesson that may be useful the next time you go about trying to impress girls (or people in general).

This guy, let’s call him TMF (you’ll realize what the acronym stands for as you read along). He’s a friend of my bandmate who goes to our gigs, though we’ve only exchanged a couple of sentences during those times. One those sentences he threw at me had something to do with how he spent some time in France hanging out with “real” street punks. Right. He piqued my interest, definitely, but only because there was something in the way he spoke, carried himself, and dropped random details about his life that seemed a little…off.

TMF and I got around to having a real conversation on Friday when my bandmate congratulated him on his promotion to COO (chief operating officer).

“COO?” I asked, my eyebrow raised.

“It’s all really hush-hush right now, and I’m sure you’re wondering what a guy like me in a place like this–” This referring to the small artsy-fartsy place we were playing at tonight “–is doing being the COO of a car dealership. You don’t believe me? Come on, I’ll take you to my car and show you my suit.”

Before I could say that that wasn’t really necessary, the bandmate and I were standing outside TMF’s shiny new car. True enough, he did have a black suit crumpled at the back seat, and he put the coat on to dispel any disbeliefs we had about his big corporate job. Disbeliefs that we didn’t have.

“Oooh, big capitalist monkey,” I said.

He must have detected the sarcasm in my voice because as he removed the coat and tossed it back into the car, he went on to tell me about how he had no real choice in the matter. His dad owns the car dealership and if he hadn’t accepted the position, he’d have gotten kicked out of the house.

“I need to eat too, you know,” he explained. “Everyone’s been congratulating me left and right for being such a big success at 23. Truth is, I hate my job and I hate what I’m doing right now. You know what I really want to do? All I really want out of my life is to go to New York, study, and make music. That’s all what I want to do.”

He almost had my sympathy there. Nothing tugs at my heartstrings stronger than people who feel trapped in their jobs and who can’t afford the freedom to do what they want with their lives. Then TMF ruined it by saying something that killed any sympathy I had for him whatsoever.

“Just think of me as a subject from a Virginia Woolf novel.”

Nothing irks me more than people who name-drop in ordinary conversations. Half the time it’s because I don’t know who those people are and what they’ve done to become name-drop fodder. The other half is because the name-dropper does the name-dropping with all the arrogance in the world. The worst part is when I see their eyes go “Aha! So you’re not as smart or as cool as I thought you were.” when I admit to not knowing who they are. Most of the time, I end up playing along because I hate it when people make me feel like I’m stupid.

Oddly enough, the vibe I got from TMF when he name-dropped Virgina Woolf, feminist writers, and indie bands was not one of arrogance. He was going out of his way to impress me or everyone else. I noticed that he was carrying a bunch of books with him throughout the evening, the Belle and Sebastian graphic novel included. Seriously - why would you bring that many books with you to a social event unless you wanted to show how cultured, sensitive, and artistic you are?

I wonder if he would have kept on talking me if I said that I have never read a word of Virgina Woolf in my life.

Over fastfood dinner at KFC, TMF unloaded his girlfriend, family, and life issues (not without making a reference to an obscure indie band every so often) at me, which I honestly didn’t mind. There’s a lot you can learn about life, people, and yourself, just by listening to people talk. The conversation I had with TMF, for instance, made me realize that if there’s one thing I can’t stand - it’s a Male Feminist.

“I think of myself as a male feminist,” TMF said. “I read all these novels by feminist writers and I feel this connection with them, you know? All my life I was bullied by people for being different, and now my parents expect me to be this and that. I can definitely relate to how women feel about being oppressed by society.”

If he had caught me on a bad day, I would have punched him the face for that. Male feminist my ass! Okay, I’m no expert at feminist theory but to me, a guy who says that he’s a male feminist is like a CEO of a big multinational company saying that he’s Marxist because he can “relate” to how hard the factory workers in China has it. Sure, I understand that men may be able to empathize with how women suffer and agree with feminist theories or writers. But secondhand oppression is not the same as experiencing actual oppression. The pressure you feel from your family and the crap you get from society for being different is on an entirely different ballpark from getting your tits groped at age eleven and being stared at like a piece of meat from assholes in the workplace. I don’t care how sensitive and emotionally vulnerable you are. Anyone who is born with a dick between his legs can’t declare himself a feminist and back up that statement by saying that he can “relate” to how women suffer. The only people who know how women suffer are women. Period.

If all that stuff about feminism was supposed to impress me, well, it didn’t.

I kept talking to TMF anyway because if there’s one thing he’s got going for himself, it’s his excellent taste in music. At some point in the evening we were talking about folk music and he offered to let me hear stuff by Leonard Cohen. I agreed, thinking that maybe he had an iPod with him or something. Two minutes later I was in the passenger seat of his car, being serenaded by Leonard Cohen from the CD player as I recalled a story about myself as a kid from my mom. When I was four she attempted, in vain, to teach me how to fend myself from strangers who might want to kidnap me and sell me into a life of sex slavery. “If a man stops you on the street and asks if you’d like to step inside his car and have a kitten, what would you do?” “YES KITTEH PLZ,” was my enthusiastic reply. Dead in seconds. I don’t know how I lived to see my 21st birthday.

After our band’s set, I spotted a friend I haven’t seen in over a year and went off to say hi and catch up with each other. From the corner of my eye I could see TMF trying to grab my attention, but I was too involved in the conversation for my attention to be diverted. Several minutes later, TMF tapped me on the shoulder and said that he had to go.

“Bye, see ya around!” I said cheerfully before turning back to my friend and picking up where we left off.

The look TMF gave me before he walked away said, “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say to me? No hug? No kiss? No cellphone number and YM name hastily scribbled on a beer-stained paper napkin?”

If this entry made me seem like a total asshole, I’d like to take a moment to defend myself here and say that I’m not. I’m just a normal girl who can’t stand it when people try to bullshit their way into my heart. Now I’m not saying that this guy is a liar - for all I know, he really did spend some time hanging out with “real” punks in France. The point is, when you want to endear yourself to someone - regardless if you want to sleep with her, be in a relationship with her, or simply be her friend - just be. Do not attempt to get close to someone by listing down all the cool things you’ve done or telling her about how oppressed you were by your parents and by society all your life. Even if the latter may be true, these things are simply too intimate to reveal in a first conversation and will only come off as bullshit. Also, people who have done REAL crazy shit in their lives almost never talk about them, even when asked.

Finally, don’t try to impress girls by saying that you can understand their issues because you’re a feminist. TMF was real lucky that I’m too passive-aggressive and non-confrontational to punch him for saying that.

O hai thar self-esteem crisis

Last November, I quit my useless office job at iWebmasters to pursue grad school and the Dream of Becoming A Member of the Academe. Despite my sometimes self-deprecating humor, which is really just for show, I don’t have any real issues about myself and my abilities. Not this time, though. Lately I’ve been plagued by the thought that I might not smart enough to do this grad school thing.

My frustrations come from the fact that I think and view the world in what the structuralists would call “ordinary language.” (See what I did there? I’m using words that end with -ist to make it appear like I’m learning something!) I don’t use fancy terminology, I can’t quote academics because half the time I forget the connection between the idea and the name and the other half, I just plain don’t get what they’re trying to tell me. Put an academic text in front of me and my mind shuts down. If I were given the same text in the original French or German instead of the English translation I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It’s as though these damn literary critics think on an entirely different plane of thought and use a language only academics understand, and for the life of me I can’t grasp how that language works and therefore, how their thoughts work.

Well okay, maybe I exaggerate. After crying a lot and smoking a lot, I go back to the text, read and read and read until my head is swimming in concepts I only have a vague understanding of. That’s the thing that bugs me. I only have a vague understanding of everything I read.

When I was in college, I used to roll my eyes at people who would freak out over their school work. It’s different now. This Dream thing is all I have and I feel pressured to live up to it. Unfortunately, I’m just an ordinary person with an average mind who would like to understand literature and the world and so far it’s looking like I’m not even competent enough to do that.

What I find really funny is that despite my plummeting self-esteem, I know I’m going to keep on crying and trying. Not necessarily because I want to achieve The Dream (at this point, I’m just keeping that on the distant horizon so I can fool myself into thinking that my life has some sort of purpose and direction) but because the only other alternative is to go back to being an office monkey, and I would rather kill myself than be chained to a cubicle again. That, and I have way too much pride to allow myself to get defeated by academic essays written by dead guys.

So yeah, I guess I’m going to cry some more then go back to studying. Maybe this time I’ll be able to make sense of whatever I’m reading.

When a Cat Meows From Under The Vehicle

Bloggers’ Kapihan 3.0 has come and gone. All thanks to Mr. Dohn Nalumen Jr. of Kape Tasyo, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Cristina Palabay of Gabriela, and all the attendees for the support.

Vencer did live blogging while I did live twittering (well, I tried). Hot damn that was hard! I easily lost focus on things partly because Robby was badgering me all the time. Blah. :) Tonyo released a press statement shortly after.

After the event, brother and I went to Gateway to meet up with our mom. I finally got to spend the Rustan’s gift certificate my dad gave me last year, and what better item to spend it on than a pair of new sandals from Havaianas? My first Havaianas, actually. I had to settle with the it because everything in Rustan’s was overpriced and absolutely way out of my league (both in size and price, haha). I could feed a family for a week with my goddamn slippers. How frigging unnerving. Imagine stepping on a thousand-peso cake.

Moving on…So my mom and brother and I waited for my dad at Seafood Island. This time around, we ordered the Bento Boodle - a classic feast of tuna sashimi, tofu nuggets, miso soup, salmon belly teriyaki, crab tempura, beef yakiniku, pork tonkatsu, chicken teriyaki, sauteed vegetables, and Japanese fried rice - all for PhP660. The order is good for three to four people, but we still had a little difficulty licking the leaf plate clean like this one. And agaaaiiiinnnn :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: when I tried to order Piña Colada, the guy inspected me and told me it’s an alcoholic drink.

Like, really! Do they do that all the time?!

Now where am I?

Oh, yeah. The title of the post.

My brother’s feeling a bit sick (no doubt because of his kakulitan) so my dad went to fetch the car instead of all of us going at the parking lot. And just when my mom and I were about to get in, mom heard meows…coming from under the vehicle. At first we couldn’t find the damned cat that was doing all the meowing. After a few minutes parked in front of the restaurant looking like complete idiots, looking for an invisible meowing cat, the security guard of Seafood Island approached us and asked what was wrong. A couple of eras later, a black kitten finally emerged and ran off to where the car was parked earlier. Like hey, we could have catnapped a damn black kitten!

And to think that if my mother’s hearing ability was a little less sharper, the poor kitten would’ve been home with us, if not poor-kitty dead.