First Time at Laiya Aplaya

Laiya Beach at Sunset

It was a much unexpected outing. Our boss from Los Angeles came into town and of course, would like to get a taste of the Philippine sun and sand. After browsing and inquiring several beach resorts near Manila, we finally decided to head for Laiya, the last beach frontier in Batangas. I read and heard rave reviews about this new fun place under the sun, and I was simply curious about it. In fact, I haven’t been here! ‘Twas my opportunity to conquer this Batangueño treasure, even if it hurts my budget for July.

Laiya is located some 20 kilometers away from the heritage town proper of San Juan de Bolbok in southeastern Batangas, bordering already the province of Quezon in the east. It was an outdoor campers’ secret. Its relative isolation and inaccessibility has preserved many of its laidback assets. It was only recently when the government has constructed good roads from the town proper that made this several kilometer long cream-white sand beach more accessible to tourists.

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How to Get In and Out of Davao International Airport On Tight Budget?

Davao International Airport, or officially known as Francisco Bangoy International Airport, is the busiest airport in the entire Mindanao island. It is the gateway of Davao region and south-central Mindanao. DVO is located in Buhangin District, some 15 kilometers away from the city center—but slowly being encroached by urban space. The airport has been serving Davaoeños for half a century already, from once an unpaved parcel of land donated by the Bangoy clan, into an international airport that serves Mindanao and the rest of BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area).

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The Pulsating Gensan Fish Port

Yes to Gensan Manong Kargador! Mabuhay ka! (Long Live!)

If it is yellow-fin tuna, it’s got to be Gensan (General Santos City)! The fifty billion peso tuna industry has been synonymous to General Santos City, the boom town sitting beside the deep harbor of Sarangani Bay. Ever since 1970s, armadas of both small and commercial fishing boats have been disembarking the “chicken of the sea” in Gensan or Dadiangas, from the bounties of The Pacific and Celebes Sea. Because of this, it has attracted a lot of investors in setting up tuna canneries, processing plants and other investors—along with workers, generating thousands of jobs in a highly-industrialized city. Because of the growing demand, General Santos City was in need of better facilities for trading yellow-fin tuna. In 1999, the General Santos Fish Port Complex was opened. It wouldn’t be “The Tuna Capital of the Philippines” for nothing, right?

The prized catch from the sea--Yellowfin Tuna

General Santos Fish Port is located at Barangay Tambler, some 15 kilometers south from downtown Gensan—quite far if you’re not used to the distance. But no traffic here, so it’ll be just a quick ride in the industrial districts of Labangal, Calumpang, and Tambler.

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The Halls of the People of Cotabato City

Old Cotabato City Hall

Cotabato City was and is still one of the most important political cities in the country, historically holding several edifices that handle such vast and wild land. The Stone Fortress itself was a palace-fortress—made to become a political center of Central Mindanao. I have already made an article about the Old Provincial Capitol of the “Empire” Province of Cotabato located beside PC Hill—and a lot doesn’t know that it even exist!

It was a lightning rush tour—seemingly opposing my “local integration” with just sightseeing. Kulang sa time. It’s a good thing I was accompanied by locals Chris and Jam along the way in this city that is still alien to me.

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Don’t Tell my Mom That I was in Maguindanao

November 23, 2009, the Filipino nation and the international community were shocked with the killing of 50+ victims in what is now known as the “Maguindanao Massacre”—the worst election-related violence at that time. Brought up by rivalry of powerful families that ruled the Cotabato basin, the supposedly peaceful convoy for filing candidacy was turned into bloodbath when armed men allegedly belonging to the ruling family intercepted the convoy and mercilessly killed, mutilated and hastily buried the victims in the hills of Maguindanao—leaving their lifeless bodies, crushed cars and a backhoe bearing the name of the ruling clan. Most number that was killed were journalists, same as with the wife of the opposition leader, his relatives, and some who weren’t part of the convoy at all. The event has left a lasting imprint to every Filipino psyche regarding Maguindanao—armed, lawless, deadly and violent. As of the time of writing, the province of Maguindanao, now under the then-opposition leader’s rule, is still under state of emergency.

Somewhere over those hills, the howling and the wailing of the dead seeking justice

Personally, I myself was stunned by the event. That same highway that I passed in 2005 (read my article on my 2005 trip at Maguindanao) was the same highway that the convoy was intercepted. I got numb when some of Tacurong City Hall people, whom have helped me in my thesis in college, was also murdered point blank-despite their non-involvement at the convoy. It was unbelievable that such cold-blooded act happened in this modern day and age—barbaric and devoid of civility. Then the opportunity came in, I was to visit Cotabato City when I went to GenSan—no other choice but to pass by Maguindanao once more. This time, I face Maguindanao on a different light, a different era…

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