Archive for the ‘Landscapes’ Category


Dark Clouds over Mindanao: Stop Killing Journalists!

In Culture,Landscapes on November 26, 2009 by ayshey

Mindanao has always been a fascinating travel for me. I have climbed its highest mountains and played in its white beaches. I have also been to some dangerous places (Pikit refugee area)  to co-teach photography to young Muslim teenagers. Davao is a favorite city. Then, last February 2009, I went to Cotabato City with a filmmaker friend to document an urban community that was doing something good for the improvement of their lives. I was happy to see a community that was formerly from a  slum area try their best to get themselves out and set new homes in a better locale outside teh city. When we finished shooting one day and we strolled back to the only decent hotel in the city, we noticed the expensive-looking vehicles parked outside the hotel compound. We saw  the women dressed in their best. It puzzled us that luxurious looking vehicles would be found in a city that was poverty-stricken. It was such a deep contrast to the general landscape. I relayed this observation to a friend who had grown up in Mindanao. She said it could only be two things–drug money or political power. That’s it. You either controlled the movement of illegal drugs or was a member of a strong politically influential clan or both.  The Ampatuans have sat in power for long. What happend on Monday when 100 gunmen killed 57 (as of last count) people –where 2 lawyers and 21 members of the media were also brutally straffed and dumped into ready-made graves seems to point out how  politically-embedded , wealthy, powerful Muslim families and clans like the Ampatuans can easily forget and get so drunk on their seeming “immunity” from the law. They are  the prime suspects in a crime that can only be described as heinous, an atrocity, an inhumanity that is also unparraled in journalists’ history, according to the Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

Talking to a friend from an international NGO, she wondered  why  journalists were killed  in this  country when in the West, they would be there to “protect” the people who are being harrassed. They would be feared because they would tell the truth. Ideally, that’s what journalists are taught to do–to uphold the truth. Here, journalists who try to tell the truth are silened forever.

Friends are saying this could be white-washed by Gloria Arroyo’s government. But people are so damn disgusted now. They better not do that. Our Facebook pages, emails, text messages are littered with the outrage of the nation. I dont want to think this will be so easy to forget–as we usually do. On the net, I find that the Philippines just supplanted Iraq as the most dangerous place in the world. How can that be? Its a maddening, saddening event in the country’s history.

But we will not forget. We should not forget.



The Calayan islands: Chasing a Humpy Tale

In Adventure,Culture,Environment,Hiking /Trekking,Landscapes,People,Photography,Portraits,Travel on August 8, 2009 by ayshey

Bigger Fish

I got back fifteen days ago from a wonderful but exhausting trip to Aparri up north in the province of Cagayan Valley. We also ventured into the un-touristy areas of Camiguin and Calayan Islands–both part of the Babuyan Islands. In fact, the Philippine maps are wrong when they refer to these islands as the Babuyan islands when in fact, they are the Calayan Islands. I should look into this again soon just so I can be more firm about my facts.

We left the bedlam of a Florida bus station in Espana at 10:30 in the evening. We were waiting for H  who was late–should I say, again? But she arrived in time and we then settled back into our nice Super deluxe seats. J had the misfortune of being seated next to a hyperactive little boy who wanted to befriend everyone that night. The Holy Week season always sends stressed-out people from Manila into the places we call “provinces”. And so  the bus rolled out of Manila and into the highway to the North.

It was the usual gang of R,C, J,H and myself. R had this brilliant idea of looking into these islands that no one seems to know much about. She asked someone from her Makati office if anyone knew of the area where the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) volunteers had sighted the humpback whales, where they do research. Looking back now, I think R wasn’t really into the humpbacks really–and there was no promise that we would see any since it was already April and they usually come around the Philippine waters in February and March. The idea was just to check out the islands because we have never been there before  and it was a “let’s just see what the place has to offer”. I think that was the attitude. That was good enough for all of us.

Canon G10 performs

I had a Japanese dinner with N and T –it was almost their birthdays, these photographer friends of mine. And then Wena arrived with her brand new Canon G10 and there was a short lecture on how she can maximize her camera while on her Tibetan trip–yeah, this was  another adventurous Pinay friend who will be traveling on her own to China. It’s a trip i would also like to do. But that’s for another time.

We arrived in Aparri at noon the next day. We went straight to St Patrick’s Hotel. We got this idea of staying at this hotel in Aparri from a guy we met on the  bus. He seemed to be the team leader of a group of backpackers. St. Patrick’s was reasonably priced and it was AC! Aparri was terribly hot and any cool air was welcome. That evening, we bought our supplies for the next few days. We also bought lunch and bottles of water for our boat trip to Camiguin, our first island for the trip. We enjoyed  the sweet custard cakes at Criselda’s. Later,we  decided to buy big plastic bags at the market  to protect  our food supplies and our backpacks when we cross the big blue sea the next day. R had to work so she went to a nearby cyber cafe. The rest of us went back to the hotel to repack our stuff and to take our much needed showers. Wake up call the next day was at 4am but we put our alarms at 3:30am. Geeze.


Next morning, while our bodies wanted us to continue lying in, it was Day 1 of our journey to a place /places we had never been before. We gathered our packs and struggled down to the main lobby with our  plastic bags of  food ( vegetables,red and white eggs,canned goods of corned beef,sardines,a bottle of gin,etc. ). We were ferried to the pier by a white pick-up which was probably owned by one of the guests, we really didn’t ask anymore. It was 4am! The pier was dark and there were voices speaking in Tagalog. I could hear the locals saying in Ilocano that the small banca will be bringing the visitors to the bigger boat first. The rest of them will just have to wait. Hmmm. That was so Pinoy –to think of the “bisita” first before the locals. But it was the rule of the morning it seemed. We got on the small banca with our stuff. It was still dark but light was coming up soon in the distance. Then we were on the boat called The Saint Vincent. We sailed for Balatubat, Camiguin island at around 7:30am after a Coast Guard inspection. The other locals had to go down because we were too crowded. J sighed in relief. Maybe I should have too but I was too busy thinking of things to shoot, what the stories will be about.

Balatubat, Camiguin. It is the center of Camiguin island. It is also where we would be based for the rest of the days but we didn’t know that yet. We went straight to the house of Manang Awit whose husband was waiting for us. Manang Awit’s son Jun Jun helped us with our stuff as we got down the smaller boat to land on Camiguin. Manang Awit’s house was the usual base for WWF volunteers, we learned later. It had a kitchen,a bathroom, rooms and beds and plenty of water. It was also near the beach where we spent much time playing around with our cameras. It had  great sunsets too.

Camiguin is just like any island town in the Philippine archipelago. There were rice paddies, mountain vistas,a water falls (Tappao Falls), and a fiesta.We arrived on the day of their fiesta. We did not go out to check  the action later that night. We were tired and had agreed to go to Calayan island the next day after R talked to the boat captain…After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

After lunch, we ventured out to the   settled down and made our beds on designated areas of the house we were in. Our food that night was vegetables and adobo

That same afternoon we arrived, we went to eat halo-halo at the nearby center of town. The fiesta mood was just beginning and the ice drop, the junk food, and other food was being sold.

I will just post pix  here so the story will be more complete. Enjoy!

Wreck 1

Wreck 2

I spent much time shooting these metal parts from some ship or other. I enjoyed the quiet time i spent on the beach. Great travel. Thank you, Ranhel for fixing this trip. Much appreciated.