Enjoying our last full day

(Bolinao: day 5)

 

It’s a shame but we decided to leave tomorrow instead of Saturday because we need to get Marcus to the doctor because of his colds – although he has shown significant recovery. It was the main reason why we had to cancel our plans to go on tour to other places; we even had to cancel a trip to the nearby Patar beach where the caves and lighthouse are located.

Just a while ago we had our last dinner at the the resort’s dining area and well, it’s one to be remembered. I got pictures of everyone (who willingly posed) of the crew who’s been so accommodating since we arrived here.

Just some of the dining crews. Rear L-R: Janine, Jonie, Alfred (their boss) and Bridgette.
Just some of the dining crews. Rear L-R: Janine, Jonie, Alfred (their boss) and Bridgette.

 

Another dining crew, Marvin.
Another dining crew, Marvin.

 

Marcus only staple food. We brought along this one, and although this is corkage-free, the crews make sure that it gets more than just sliced - they present it like this.
Marcus’ only staple food. We brought along this one, and although this is corkage-free, the crews make sure that it gets more than just sliced – they present it like this.
Leo, the bartender allowed us to enter his work area and pose with him. Thats my Php 90 beer, by the way.
Leo, the bartender, allowed us to enter his work area and pose with him. That’s my Php 90 beer, by the way.
Alfred, the manager/performer, posing with us in front of the bar with me wearing his cowboy hat.
Alfred, the manager/performer, posing with us in front of the bar with me wearing his cowboy hat.

Tonight, I once again realized that there’s more to a vacation than stiff food prices. Sometimes I tend to forget to appreciate the people around us and sometimes I forget that the reason why we travel is because we want to discover the place, its culture and its people. And tonight, these people of Puerto Del Sol (from the security guard, room service, front desk and of course, the dining crew) are those that made our stay a pleasant and memorable one.

***

Discovery of the day: That we can actually ask for free coffee and tea refills from the housekeeping crews. It has been days since we’ve been taking sodas during snack. Ti abi.

***

Learning of the day: I’m starting to learn how to tread on water – longer and more confidently this time. Additionally, I did my first successful (however, improper) backstroke. Hopefully, before we leave tomorrow, I’ll have my 6th pool visit.

***

Bringing the Managerial Accounting (Garrison/Noreen/Brewer) book along with me during this vacation not only got me occupied for a couple of hours each day, but it also made me understand somehow the reason behind costly food prices. One factor, if not the main factor, that affect such is what they call in accounting as product costs which is distributed into three more categories:

  1. Direct materials – these are most likely food ingredients.
  2. Direct labor – this is the cost paid for the chef who prepared the food and the waiters who served it ones table.
  3. Overhead – yes I know, probably you’re like me who always thought about the ceiling every time you hear this term, but then again it’s not. This is the complete opposite of the first two cost because this refers to indirect labor (e.g., resorts maintenance personnel), indirect materials (e.g., plates, glasses, utensils and bundles of receipts which are items that cannot be directly attributed to the food you eat) and utilities (e.g., electricity, air-conditioning, water, etc.).

So there you go, every time you question why the food prices are so high, always remember the above mentioned factors. And just in case you don’t know, you actually have just two choices: either you leave (and select another place to stay) or better yet deal with it – you select the cheapest in the menu and eat as if money is not an issue. Oh by the way, please don’t forget to smile and say thank you all the time because the crew aren’t responsible for those questionable (just in case you’re not convinced with the product cost explanation). Bon appetit.

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

A vacation like no other

(Bolinao: day 4)

 

This title, and a short unfinished sentence, was all I’ve written yesterday afternoon when we decided to get out of the room to take a look around the seemingly empty resort. From our cluster we can just hear some newly arrived group of people occupying the resort’s huts facing the beach. The rest of the mansion clusters around us are unoccupied, silent…and lonely.

Seconds after this shot, I turned pale and had to be carried back to our room.
Seconds after this shot, I turned pale and had to be carried back to our room.

We headed straight to a nearby cluster on its second floor rooms to see the overlooking view and to take some pictures of it. And since there’s just no more guest roaming around the pool area, I thought its a good time to shoot it as well. My photo shoot continued just until the playground (where Marcus’ favorite monkeys are located) and that was when I all of a sudden felt light-headed and nauseous. My wife also noticed that I was indeed becoming pale; and eventually it worsened. Trying to stay up, I advised her to ask for help.

It was a good thing that help came in a short while. Some resort staff (and I learned today, that a guest helped as well) carried me back to my room with wifey and son tagging along, worried. While lying on the bed and while in my half-conscious state I can hear people bustling in and out of the room – some brought along medicine, water and an ice pack. Then it was followed by a couple more who checked my blood pressure reading. I got 120/80. Good news.

That event left us unable to get out of the room until night time. My wife had to order pizza instead and had it delivered to our room. For the first during this vacation I ate dinner without beer. Bad.

***

The reason why I drafted this post with such title is because I was actually thinking that there are just so many factors that made this vacation so different from what my wife and I have gotten used to.

Long drive. We’ve been to Mindoro, Bacolod, Subic and even as far as Kuala Lumpur. But during those times it’s just either a short drive or we traveled by either boat or plane. This trip to Pangasinan however, got me behind the wheel for almost ten hours, and I find it really good that at least my wife took over from NLEX ’til the end of SCTEX.

School works. Other than the stuffs that we normally packed, this time I brought along a couple of books to read, not for leisure but for school assignments; and it got me occupied for a couple of hours every day. (Interestingly, the accounting book I’m reading makes me understand why the resort is so pricey, but it’s for another blog post which hopefully I’d write soon).

Bum vacation. Having no work to worry about, the thought of getting unexpected phone calls is the least of our worries. Though it is probably a good thing, there’s an obvious effect to being jobless – I’m now conscious of everything we spend. And what’s worse is that we got into a resort where what we spend for food is almost comparable to eating twice a day in Saisaki. Like last night, while I was recovering from my headache, the price of the pizza almost made me collapse once again. Hahaha.

Having a baby. I realized that having a baby during a vacation, and to mention, a long trip, has its advantage and disadvantage – other than the fact that his stuff is more than half of ours and that traveling light isn’t applicable anymore.

What’s good about it is that the feeling that we’re bringing along someone whose innocence make him appreciate almost everything around him and that being a parent, we get the chance to tell him all about the trivia behind those things and feel proud about it. It’s also heartwarming to see him discover nature and every smile that follows makes every effort worthwhile.

The bad thing (well, it’s more really just a disadvantage) about it though, is that there are now limitations of the things that we used to do. We just can’t be on the go all the time, because there are things to be dealt with – baby’s health, feeding, nap times and my “favorite”, tantrums.

***

Here are other photos I took before feeling ill:

 

Shot of the empty clusters coming from the deck of another empty cluster.

Shot of the empty clusters coming from the deck of another empty cluster.

 

 

 

The resorts pool - my favorite place.

The resort's pool - my favorite place.

Way to the beach and the dining areas.

Way to the beach and the dining areas...and our son's favorite monkeys.

 

Next: Day 5

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

 

Bolinao: a town trying to recover

(Bolinao: day 3)

 

This morning we decided check out the town of Bolinao to see if we can buy some of our snacks and medicines for Marcus who unfortunately developed colds. We went out actually hoping to find some decent supermarket or at least a fast food restaurant – for the first time I craved for Jollibee burgers. I was likewise curious to see the extent of cyclone (not a typhoon as previously mentioned) Emong.

I haven’t driven far from the resort when the devastating effect of Emong became clear. Here are some pics I tried taking while driving.

Workers from Bolinaos electric company doing the tedious task of fixing one of the fallen posts and disconnect lines.
Workers from Bolinao’s electric company doing the tedious task of fixing one of the fallen posts and disconnect lines.
Another truck of men trying to rebuild the electric power.
Another truck of men trying to rebuild the electric power.
Some of the residents replacing the roof sheets that were blown away by Emongs strong winds.
Some of the residents replacing the roof sheets that were blown away by Emong’s strong winds.
One of the affected buildings in Bolinaos town proper.
One of the affected buildings in Bolinao’s town proper.
A building with damaged roof beside Bolinaos church.
A building with damaged roof beside Bolinao’s church.

***

Puerto Del Sol I think has finally recovered. This morning after we got back from swimming in the pool, we were surprised to see that the TV’s red standby LED is still lit up and that means only one thing – electricity is still on in contrast to the resort’s power on and off schedule. We waited for a bit expecting it to be turned off. It wasn’t. It stayed on until the whole afternoon. I don’t know though if it will remain this way until tomorrow onwards.

***

This afternoon, I was able to finally appreciate Bolinao’s sunset. This time we went to the beach, which is just more than 10 meters from our room, earlier than we did yesterday. The sun is still up high from the horizon when we arrived and that gave me time to set-up my camera and tripod, and play with its settings so as to capture the perfect shot – at least what the IXUS 70 can give.

Here are some of those shots:
 

This is how shallow the beach water is. I took this shot from more than 100 meters from the beach. That tiny speck near the hut on the left are my wife and son.

This is how shallow the beach water is. I took this shot from more than 100 meters from the beach. That tiny speck near the hut on the left are my wife and son.

I dont know if its just me, but seeing these makes me recall the Twilight Zone TV series
I don’t know if it’s just me, but seeing these makes me recall the Twilight Zone TV series
Shore line littered with some sort of sea weeds.
Shore line littered with some sort of sea weeds.
Sun is still up (obviously).
Sun is still up (obviously).
At last, the sunset shot that got away yesterday.
At last, the sunset shot that got away yesterday.
Holding the sun. An overused technique that I enjoyed nevertheless.
Holding the sun. An overused technique that I enjoyed nevertheless.

***

By the way, although I didn’t complain about it, one fixture (sink drain which had a stuck plug) in our toilet room was fixed. The maintenance personnel said that its replacement has been scheduled before. Hopefully, they’ll fix the rest – shower spray mount and towel hanger.

***

I learned from the crew that tonight, there are only nine (out of 40) occupied rooms since most of the people whom we saw yesterday have left. I don’t know if how many will be with us until Saturday. The resort is now almost empty. At least we’ll have the whole pool just in case

 

Next: Day 4
 

Mood: 2/10 Honks!


Power is out in Puerto Del Sol

(Bolinao: Day 2)

The steady hum of the air-conditioning stopped and while I was anticipating for the electric fan to automatically take its place, it didn’t. Suddenly, I realize that I wasn’t home. I immediately remember us arriving very late last night after an almost 12-hour trip coming from Cavite. I was on the other bed and my wife and son just right across. Marcus is still fast asleep.

We are in one of the rooms of Puerto Del Sol, Bolinao and the generator has just quit working and it has stopped earlier than scheduled. Yes, I know the schedule since after we checked in last night, and like the other guests, I was given a copy of when there will be no power in all the rooms of the resort. This is because, until now whole Bolinao is still without power after Emong unleashed its stormy fury in this northern part of the Philippines. Up to this date, and with the end uncertain, the resort is providing only power during the peak hours of the day. Power is out from 8:30 to11: am, and then from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm so as not to stress the power generator (at least, that’s what the flyer says). Electricity, and thankfully, air-conditioning, is provided in between the two periods.

I don’t know with the other guests, but for the three of us, this is our first time to experience such inconvenience but then again, why complain; the others outside the resort have so much to deal with other than just not having air-conditioning or cable TV.

***


Today we had the chance to discover Puerto Del Sol from morning ’til night, and here are the findings so far:

Room. The room is fairly okay. We got one with two separate beds, although, I wished it has one queen size bed so that we get to have our son sleep in between us to avoid him from falling on either side. It also has spacious toilet with a bath tub; of course, the standard TV and ref with pricey drinks are available. There are some things that may need improvement, though: some fixtures need to be fixed (isn’t that ironic?), a bigger cabinet (wifey’s complaint) to accommodate enough clothes for a week, and tap and shower water is obviously salty that we had to ask for purified water to be used in boiling our baby’s used feeding bottles.


 

Swimming pool. There’s one pool for both children and adult, and the water and the pool’s surrounding area is well maintained and cleaned. It could’ve been better though if the deepest is at least six feet – since I’m trying to perfect my water treading.


Breakfast. Left with no choice but to have buffet, we decided to try it out or we’ll have to drive out of the resort just find a cheaper alternative, that is, if there are any. Besides, it’s just our first day and a Php 320/pax (USD 6. 10% service charge is not yet included) meal may be after all worth it. Well, it soon turned out that it wasn’t. The food variety was just the regular ones and I’ve eaten better and cheaper buffet before. Of course, I felt satiated by the end of the meal, anyway. “Make them regret they served buffet, eat more.” Ti abi.

Beach. The obvious evidence that typhoon Emong was here are the toppled beach huts and these may be repaired or renovated after the peak season is over. The shore line is clean as well as the beach itself, but I was wondering if the water stays shallow all the time. I noticed that the level still hasn’t changed when we got back in the afternoon. I also saw that one has to go farther into the sea just to be able to swim and it’s dangerous for those swimming alone as it’s far enough especially for kids since they appear so tiny from the huts area. I’m also wondering if the sea floor has had sea weeds since then even before typhoon Emong came.

Sunset. I’ve read from Anton Diaz‘s website that the sunset here is not to be missed. So by around 5:30 pm we hurried to the beach with me tagging my camera tripod along and we arrived just in time while the sun almost setting. The beach indeed appears serene but I was disappointed that the sun went down so quick and was not able to capture a good shot of it. But I don’t know, if it’s just me or if it’s the time of the month, but I really don’t believe that sunset here is as picturesque as that in the Manila bay. Well, we still have four days to spend; maybe, I’ll see better ones before we leave.


Dinner. Having packed ourselves with buffet breakfast, hahaha, we skipped lunch and of course we soon feel the need to have dinner. Puerto Del Sol’s dining area has this nostalgic appeal at night. The room filled mostly of things made of hard wood (from its bar to its tables and chairs), the antique displays, ceiling fans and the dim lighting makes the ambiance solemn and perfect for one romantic dinner. And although I know that my wife would like it to be, we just can’t because there’s one little guy behind us tagging on the table cloth, spoon, plates and everything – Marcus. Anyway, over other expensive menu, we settled for the less costly ones and I think this time the price it just fair and the food tastes good enough.

 


 

The main reason why we got this place is because we had our time share exchanged and my (and wifey’s) expectation is that we can cook (or at least microwave) our own food during the one-week stay. However, just a week before we pushed through, we soon learned, from Puerto Del Sol’s Makati representative, and to our utter surprise that not all RCI exchange resorts allow such. That left us just prepared for fun and adventure but not for the costly daily expenses. With that said, I rate this place is 6 out of 10 stars (10 being the highest). This place is good if a Php 1000 + (USD 20 +) total expenses for food alone is not an issue; otherwise this resort should be avoided. This resort is also good if one has an itinerary for the whole week or if being in the pool then on the beach and back all over again isn’t boring at all; else the week should be planned with tours such as going to Patar beach (where the famous lighthouse and caves are located), an hour or more drive to Pangasinan’s hundred islands, etcetera.

 

Next: Day 3 


  

Mood: 3/10 Honks!


400 kilometers later

(Bolinao: Day 1)

On Thursday, we were informed of our reservation confirmation by a representative of Puerto Del Sol resort in Bolinao. She said over the phone that although the whole Bolinao is still out of power after the place was ravaged by typhoon Emong, they have power up using a power generator. Damn, that call was short of just saying, “Would you like to cancel your reservation for a later time instead, sir?” It was a dilemma, but with the pressing busy schedule at school and thinking that there won’t be any next time because rainy season is just around the corner, come June, my wife and I decided to push through despite the short notice.


May 16, Saturday. Just barely getting sleep after I crammed in finishing an assignment (which I regret having started it late, because I later find it interesting writing my own life book), I woke up with good weather beaconing outside. “It’s still summer, at least…nice sign”, I told myself trying to perk up my still sleepy self. By half past nine, we were on our way to an anticipated long drive.

Needless, to say, we got stuck several times in traffic, thanks (but no thanks) to the government’s infrastructure projects which I can’t help but wonder if there’s really a relationship between the timing of its execution and the coming election. By around noontime, and just having the packed sandwiches for lunch, we entered NLEX. My wife and I switched place, with her taking the wheel at the first Petron gas station in NLEX. She was behind the wheel until SCTEX’s Tarlac exit.

 

Wifey driving like Schumi in a Honda. See the G-force on the bobhead. Hahaha.

Wifey driving like Schumi in a Honda. See the G-force on the bobhead. Hahaha.

 

 

 

Rejoicing at the sight of a WiFi symbol at the first Petron station coming from SCTEX Tarlac exit.

Rejoicing at the sight of a WiFi symbol at the first Petron station coming from SCTEX Tarlac exit.

The perfect model for the Fat-Fat resto.

The perfect model for the Fat-Fat resto.

 

 

That exit, we soon learned, isn’t a good choice. We passed by two-way roads and had to deal with slow moving tricycles, road improvement projects (once again, take note), and reckless drivers. The worse was when we got stuck in Rosales where a newly opened SM mall was jam-packed with cars and people coming in to watch a couple of guest celebrities (whom I’ve never heard of). By around 5pm we were somewhere in Urdaneta, clueless of still how far we had to go. The worst came when we realized that we have a hundred kilometers more to go and that dusk is already setting in.

It was already dark when we passed by Dagupan and Lingayen and the lack of road signs (with me mouthing some remarks that its mayors will love not to hear) forced us to stop every now and then to ask for directions. Good thing most of the locals are quick to help. By around 8am I was navigating the dark, twisting and uphill roads going to Bolinao proper. Sooner, we saw what the resort personel was talking about.

Bolinao was indeed damaged. Like one bad nightmare, we saw what our car’s headlight can illuminate over the almost complete darkness. The electrical concrete poles are toppled; some are still leaning dangerously with only its electrical wires holding it from completely falling on the road. Large trees were uprooted; twigs, trunks and leaves littered on the middle of the road (and the need to weave in and out of these obstacles making the driving like one rally car race). And on the roadside are people trying to kill time outside of their houses probably since their favorite telenovelas and other TV programs aren’t available. I just can imagine what else we’d see had it been daytime. It may indeed take a long while before they can get this town back to normal.

400 kilometers and a mouthful of questions later, we finally arrived at Puerto Del Sol so glad that we got there safe and sound despite the unsafe road conditions. We checked in just a couple more minutes before ten with the three of us feeling like astronauts enclosed in a small space capsule for almost 12 hours; yet of course I with me feeling lucky and thankful, and partly guilty that while we’re about to spend a good night sleep in an air-conditioned room, the rest of the people around Bolinao are suffering from the lack of power supply, and worse may not even have homes to spend another night since the destructive typhoon.

Tomorrow, we’ll know how badly the beach resort is affected.

***

The last time my wife drove was already more than a year ago (it was also during a vacation), but thanks to the good road of the expressway plus the fact that it is a Traffic Discipline Zone or TDZ (why can’t we have a TDZ anywhere?), she just stayed confidently most of the time on the slow lane while trying to keep up the 80-100 kph speed limit.

Of course, most of the time I was a backseat driver (with our baby boy wondering why mommy’s driving the car.hahaha), or more like a coach because as much as I’d like to believe that in this expressway most drivers follow the rules, there are just some who seem to have utter disregard of their’s and other’s safety – these are drivers who would change lanes without signaling their intent, and overtake as if under the influence of drugs (or most likely, they are?). Some people just belong behind bars rather than behind the wheel, huh?

 

Next: Day 2

 

Mood: 5/10 Honks!