Palawan the Sequel

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At Sabang Beach

Just like any sequel, this one promises to be bigger. Yes, bigger- new cast members, more drinks, more parties- wilder parties, new exotic locations, more van and tricycle rides plus new modes of transportation- boat and motorcycle; and more parcels sent. But wait! There’s more!- more skin shown…by Lea. The budget for making this possible has been doubled from the first one, though I don’t think we were happy with that one.

But on the more important matter- it has lesser bike rides! So instead of calling this the “Palawan Bike Ride with Side Tours”, it was decided to call this the reverse- “Palawan Tour with Bike Ride in the Sidelines”- to be politically correct about it. It could not have earned a place in this blog but on my blog, any kind of bike ride would do so bear with me. If we have space for bike-lamon and papogi rides, then we can accommodate this one.

The Team

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(L-R_ Dindo Narciso, JP Cunada, Lea Latayan, Ichay Bulaong, me and Jon Lloyd).

Returning riders – Dindo Narciso, Lea Latayan, Jon Lloyd and myself- were also upgraded- heavier and of course a year older. Though that description does not fall under the “new and improved” category. We were like veterans called from semi-retirement to face new challenges; a noble way of saying- we haven’t been riding for a while or candidly- we were out of shape! This was the main reason why there were lesser rides this time.

The same crew who did the Palawan 1.0 were joined by two crazier people- Ichay Bulaong, a riding buddy of Dindo in Coron which seems more of a drinking buddy and JP Cunada, a new MMS recruit to cross-over MMS Bikers with all the expectations on riding with the older members whom he might not be aware of- were on their cycling menopausal stage. So I wonder what bike-life lessons he can pick-up from “The Indispensables” of MMS Bikers. As supporting casts, the team was joined by Ann Cortes and Kenneth Ang who went there to assist them in the ensuing party at El Nido. Yeah Right.

The Ride

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At San Vicente Long Beach (Photo by Lea)

When we did Palawan a year ago- we were enticed by the other parts unknown. It was at the back of our heads or hearts to someday go back and explore those remaining blank patches on our explorer’s map. In less than a year and after not having any planned bike tour somewhere else, we decided to give Palawan a second look. A sequel. This time we will be concentrating on the Northern Territories as the Aussies would say. We will also be concentrating on the western side particularly Sabang, Port Barton and San Vicente and then redeem ourselves by riding what we have left off from last year- the Taytay to El Nido segment. Our initial plan would be to ride Sabang from Puerto Princesa at 36 KMS, then Sabang to Port Barton at 155 KMS and then from Port Barton to Taytay for another 119 KMS and then from Taytay to El Nido at 75 KMS. We made this rough plan based on Google Maps and later we will find out that using Google Maps is inaccurate as it has weird reference points. So besides the term GMT (Google Mo Tanga), there should also be a term- GAT (Google Ang Tanga).

Going back to the route- the plan was still ambitious for our state of fitness with a total of 385 KMS. But in the back of our heads- these plans were as fluid as water and bailouts were openly discussed this time. No worries.

Pre-ride

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We- “they’re selling it so..I guess its ok to drink here” – on drinking at the airport.

When the plan was first laid out to our FB group, it seemed nobody was interested. I personally confirmed with Dindo since we had been biking before even if it was only the two of us so if he and I are confirmed then it will happen. The FB post is only a formality in our group and if somebody will join from there, then that would be great. JP confirmed earlier on. A week before the ride, Jon contacted me and then Lea contacted Dindo so were now 5. Then Ichay also confirmed with Dindo so there will be 6 joining the ride. We initially pegged the last week of October but I forgot I had tickets to the Sagada Music and Arts Fair happening that weekend so we moved it to the first weekend after November 1. We were still targeting the holidays of the All Saint’s Day week so it was then set to November 1 to 8.

Day 1 Nov 1. WED

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Fun at the Van

Because Ichay’s flight from Coron was diverted, we ended up riding the same flight coming from Manila. With the convenience of FB Messenger, we were already updating each one on the day we were traveling to Puerto Princesa. We all met at the Airport and while waiting for our flight, we had some few drinks at the airport (in the tradition of the first article, I will keep a tab so- Drinks 1, Ride 0). In our flight, the Cebu Pacific promotional game was about millennial hashtags- so I guess it will either be a boring or a learning experience for most of them (as in THEM…not me). After we arrived at the new Puerto Princesa Airport and being handed with a few days to expire Maxx Chewing Gum, we looked for our van ride to Sabang. Yes, we have decided to ride a van to Sabang since it was already too late for a bike ride. We also found out, and by Lea’s insistence that Puerto Princesa to Sabang was actually 70+ Kms and not 36 Kms only. I just remembered the same error from last year that if you search for Puerto Princesa in Google Maps, for strange reasons, it shows the intersection of the road to Sabang, 30+ km away from the Provincial Capitol which was supposed to be the kilometer zero when you type Puerto Princesa.

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Jon doing his antics.

If we did ride this section, we could have been cursing one another at the middle of a dark forest, tired, hungry and afraid. Dindo was concerned of hiring just one van for the 6 bikes and 6 persons, but we were able to fit all in one van by having the two bikes with cases as top load. From our route, we searched for a store to have some drinks while traveling to Sabang (Drinks 2, Ride 0). After we arrived at Sabang, we have asked the driver to take the two bike cases to their terminal at Puerto Princesa for our pick-up on our last day while the rest of our stuff to be delivered to El Nido. Yes, we have learned the power of the van courier service in Palawan and their graciousness to store your stuff for a given time. But the quick sorting was a stressful exercise as if you were given a few seconds to separate the lambs from the goat. We checked in to our hotel- Dayunan Tourist Inn, not to be confused with the more expensive Daluyon Beach Resort. We then had our late dinner at Tara Resto-Bar and again had our drinks there (Drinks 3, Ride 0). We then continued our session at the hotel lobby (Drink 4, Ride 0) and after emptying the bottle, we called it the night but we will later find out, two members of the team sneaked out for a few more drinks with the locals at Tara.

Day 2 Nov 2. THU

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The world famous underground river.

We started early with a breakfast at Tara (No Mr X, solo drinking does not count on our tally) and then prepared for the impending Under Ground River Tour. Being inducted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, doing this trip is a must for whatever reason that would be. We waited for our tour guide and after she arrived, she introduced herself as Mona- the namesake of Dindo’s wife. We were told that all river tours were canceled the day before due to bad weather so there was more tourist doing the tour that day. The underground river was an interesting natural phenomenon. Only 3 kilometers of the mapped 8 kilometers system can be ridden by boat while the tour is only about 2 kilometers in length. After finishing the trip and partaking in the included buffet meals less the Tamilok, our next concern was taking the boat from Sabang to Port Barton. The bad weather was a concern but apparently, today was a good day to ride the boat for such a long trip.

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Accidental Tourists

We decided to ride a boat because the map seems to show that it’s reasonable and closer to do a boat ride than bike a total of 155 kilometers to Port Barton. But we will find out later that it’s actually cheaper and maybe faster to just take a van from Sabang to Port Barton. We have also got confused that Port Barton is near San Vicente. That is another story- the rough roads from Port Barton to San Vicente is only about 30 kilometers of rough and muddy roads that are not passable by vehicles that time. The usual route from Port Barton to San Vicente is by going back to the main HI way- a whopping 100+ kilometers apart. We have also booked our accommodation at San Vicente so we ended up deciding to ride the boat to San Vicente instead of Port Barton. These confusion and others were actually things that made this trip more exciting and gives the feeling of exploration so overall- all’s well that ends well and these made the trip more memorable.

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What to be declared as our “Brotherhood of the traveling Emperador”

However, as I have said, even the trip from Sabang to San Vicente should have been done via Van. It was a long 5-hour boat trip with an unmuffled motorboat that breaks your eardrum and with the rough waves, it was actually uncomfortable. But the sights especially upon entering the Port-Barton-San Vicente Cove makes you forget that earlier suffering.  Prior to leaving the port, when we were just a few meters offshore, we told the captain we forgot to buy some drinks so he immediately gave the life vest to the lowest ranking crew and asked him to swim ashore and buy our drinks. He was then seen returning to the boat with one hand with some snacks and the other with a bottle of Emperador. We were a bit guilty of that episode but was also amazed and appreciative of the star crew.

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Love and Peace Resort at San Vicente

As I have said, it was a long and difficult boat ride. We tried doing everything from sleeping to listening to our iPods and eating but what nobody dared to is to drink the Emperador that the crew painstakingly acquired. The rough waves were enough to give us our dose of “tama.” We arrived at San Vicente a little before dawn. We rode our bikes to our Hotel at San Vicente, interestingly named- Peace and Love Hotel. I was holding the bottle of Emperador in my right hand and my small bag for my bike shoes to my left when suddenly, that bag went inside the front wheel making me go flying over my handlebar. My knees were bruised and aching but I composed myself immediately since there were bystanders looking- dyahe. My knees actually ached the entire trip from thereon and up to this day that I was writing this article. The owner of the hotel was a European named Steve. He was accommodating and had given us useful information for our days ahead. It was advertised that they had the best pizza in town (as if there were others) so we had our pizza dinner (and of course- drinks 5, ride 0) and over dinner, we have decided to cut our days in San Vicente and just ride our way to Taytay the next day. That would give us an extra day in El Nido and ample time to travel back to Puerto Princesa on our last day. So everyone was excited about our first ride on our third day of the trip. As usual, it comes to excuses in terms of performance the next day. JP as the newbie to these talks had no excuse so we asked him to create one. That night before bed, I went to the reception to ask for some betadine for my bruises. After treating my wounds, I went to bed as JP was left in the Veranda beside 3 European women who were loudly talking about what nationalities they had sex with.

Day 3 Nov 3. FRI

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Fort Sta Isabel in Taytay Palawan

Everyone was tense but excited for the first ride. After our breakfast, we packed our things and we have asked Peace and Love to send some of our stuff, including the Emperador to El Nido to further lighten up our loads. After the customary group picture, we rode to Long Beach to check the place out- a 14 kilometer stretch of beach that made San Vicente famous. Then we started our ride to Taytay.

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And that view is great for…

Our total ride will be 66 kilometers. The first 20 kilometers was flat with some muddy sections. Then when we started the hills. I struggled on the climbs and from being in the lead during the flats, I then went to the last. We reached the intersection of the main hi-way which will then be the same route we already rode last year. Our concern from there was the two big hills, one, we named- Jon’s Hill or the Fall of Australia, which was the spot where Jon gave up last year. Passing by those hills, Jon redeemed himself and I was again on the tail as I was struggling with the heat, my breathing, and my knee injury. After a quick rest along the roadside, we continuedly crawled towards the end of the day’s route.

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Wasted after the big hill. (Photo by JP Cunada)

We then arrived the Taytay AUV terminal where we had our lunch last year and we also had our lunch there. One of the sales girls insisted that I was Efren “Bata” Reyes. It was not really a compliment for me. After lunch, we went to the Hotel Steve from Peace and Love suggested- Casa Rosa. But they no longer have aircon rooms so we asked for referrals and ended up at Promise Keeper’s Suite. So from Peace and Love then Promise Keepers- cool names! The view from Casa Rosa was awesome with the view of the cove and of Port Isabel so we decided to have our dinner and drinks at Casa Rosa (drinks 6, ride 1). Earlier we tried going to Port Isabel but we arrived past 5 PM so it was already closed. Some blamed the Friday flag ceremony where we were stopped to pay respect but it was actually due to going out too late in the afternoon. Port Isabel was actually an interesting place with an interesting historical background. I will not write about it here but I suggest you look at it at Wikipedia.

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The well paved and low traffic roads of Palawan that make it ideal for bike touring (Photo by JP)

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and negotiated for them to prepare breakfast for us. Lea was concerned of the second-day distance and hills but I think it was easier. It so happened that Jon recorded our van ride from last year from Taytay to El Nido and we found out that it was half of the hills from the previous ride (our first ride had about 1000 meters elevation gain while this one has around 500 meters only). It was also only about 60 km in total distance.

Day 4 Nov 4 SAT

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Sophias at Curongcurong El Nido

We woke up early to avoid the same heat of the day we encountered the previous day. But we were delayed by one hour after waiting for the early morning rain to lighten up. We started our ride with a very light drizzle. After leaving town, the first marker says its 58 kilometers to El Nido so I was happy. Also since we already know the hills profile from Jon’s Strava record, we were already anticipating the hills. From my end, I feel better this day as if my old form came back so I did well this section. So old riders without training only need a day to shake off the rust from the armor. We were lucky having some sections with the misty cool environment but had about 3 dog chase encounters. We had a quick break at the midpoint and after around 3+ hours, I was surprised to saw Marimegmeg.

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Arriving at El Nido

I was expecting a long climb to Marimegmeg but it was not as expected. We waited for the rest of the team to arrive to get our team photo at the “Welcome El Nido” sign. We then searched for our Hotel which Ann booked- Sophia’s Beach Guest House.

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Strolling around town.

Our stuff from Taytay was already there. Our stuff from Sabang was on the terminal for pick-up while the one from San Vicente took a long route via Puerto Princesa and got delayed for a day. After freshening up, we went to the town proper to have our lunch (drinks 7, ride 2). We then returned back to the hotel for a siesta. We converged that afternoon to visit Marimegmeg beach (drinks 8, ride 2). There was this Moon Party happening at the beach but being old people we are, we left before the party started. We went back to town and had some few more drinks (drinks 9, ride 2). We then parted ways while some continued partying the night away.

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The view from our hotel.

Day 5 Nov 5 SUN

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Me and my pink motorcycle.

Since this is a free day, everyone was encouraged to do what suits them. For Jon and JP, being newbies to the El Nido Islands, they went off to join their island tours. For the rest, we decided to rent a motorcycle to explore the Kayawyaw Falls south of El Nido then Lio to the north. The last time I rode a motorcycle was in 1999. I was a bit tense if I still have it. Lea was also a newbie but knowing Lea- she is more liberal in terms of experiencing new stuff- even risky endeavors. Ken was also the same. Ann decided to try her luck but the rentals denied her as she was obviously a newbie the company may get sued later on if ever they let her handle a motorcycle. So she ended up a broke-back rider. Kayawyaw Falls was 32+ km south so my first ride after a long time would be 70+ km in total. Kayawyaw was a big and impressive waterfall. But since I have seen a lot of waterfall in my life, it was not really that big a deal for me. It was just a checklist that needs to be done. Going back to El Nido, I was more relaxed and of course slower partly because my hands were already aching being tense as a newbie in handling the motorbike.

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Kuyawyaw Falls

At El Nido, we decided to proceed to Lio, the ambitious resort facility by Ayala near the El Nido Airport. The facilities were impressive and there were several “Manila-grade” bars. We went to Manille Bar since Ichay knew the bartender. We later found out the bartender was a former contestant on Pinoy Got Talent. We had good foods and great drinks (drinks 10, ride 2). And before alcohol would make it dangerous to ride our bikes, we left to return our bikes to the rentals. We went back to our hotel to freshen up and then returned town, this time with Jon and JP for our last night of parties. We started at Pukka Bar (drinks 11, ride 2) where we met Ichays daughter who was now residing at El Nido. We then transferred to another bar near Arts Café and finally finished off our night at Sava (drinks 13, ride 2).

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At Manille Bar

DAY 6 NOV 6, MON

We left El Nido at around 6 AM for our trip back to Manila. Everyone was there when we were leaving as if we were OFWs on our way to Saudi. Well, I guess- bike riding and drinking bonds people. In the words of Ichay- our bunch were drinkers with bike problems- see drinks 13, ride 2. I got the feeling this will not be the last of it.

By the way, I had the Emperador back home in Manila safe and sound.

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Oh Palawan

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The total distance of the actual ride – 450 kilometers

Oh Palawan…how do I describe thee?

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Our home base at Puerto Princesa

I am cautious to utter- “the best bike destination ever!” as this is the usual thing I say after a bike tour. But there is something in this ride that is still lingering in my thoughts- just like the odor of beer on your breath after waking up the day after a revelry. I guess it’s the reason why amongst all the ride I did, this is the one where I have written my notes immediately after the tour- trying to recall that feeling and define what it is that makes it special.

Palawan is described by a lot of adjectives. It was voted as the “Most Beautiful Island in the World” by several international publications. It is considered the Philippines center of Bio-diversity and owns some of the most beautiful beaches of the world. But despite the accolades, it is considered under developed and accordingly gets the moniker- “the Philippines’ Last frontier.” All those descriptions definitely excited us in our planning, but the under developed part as well as some reported security issues on the southern part also gave some apprehensions. It’s the fifth largest island, but compared to the other bigger islands that we rode- it is the largest in terms of the coastal roads that traces its outline- approximately a whopping 2000+ kilometers to cover a “loop” compared to the usual 500+ kilometers for bigger islands such as Panay, Negros and Mindoro. A 1000 kilometer one-way ride would entail about 10 days to do but we only decided to plan for a 5-day ride, so instead of doing a loop, we decided to just do one ride down and then one ride up since the starting point will be at the middle- the center- Puerto Princesa City.

DAY 1- At Puerto Princesa

We (Me, Dindo and Jon) arrived at Puerto Princesa on November 16, a Wednesday

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The views immediately after leaving the City

which we also considered a free day to explore Puerto Princesa. There were no taxis in city, or maybe except two to three units, so UV Express vans are the staple transportation and good thing they don’t charge that much compared to the swindlers in Manila. We had a van from airport to hotel for 300 Php only for the three of us including our bikes. But instead of exploring Puerto Princesa on our free first day, we ended up drinking our way over our first day (what’s with old people?). We did a late lunch and some drinks at Ugong Rock Grill (Ride 0 – Drinks 1). Then we checked in to our hotel- Go Hotel (at 800 Php per night via Agoda) which is a convenient place to stay as it is beside a mall for provisions and ATMs and it is accessible to both the roads for our southern and northern trip; though its farther away from the center of the city which is Rizal Street. We had another rounds at Kinabuch-which according to our motorcycle enthusiast Dindo was owned by a biker named Butch. Lea, the only woman and the fourth member of our team arrived later in the evening and we had our dinner and another rounds of drinks at Gerry’s Grill (Ride 0 – Drinks 3). By the way- Lea did a Philippine Tour and she had already ridden Palawan so she is also sort of our guide. We anxiously slept that night looking forward to our big day tomorrow. Our Day 1 ride- Day 2 for the trip.

DAY 2- Ride from Puerto Princesa to Narra

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The first leg of the tour.

We had our breakfast at the hotel and then took off for Narra. Since we will be back at Puerto Princesa on the third day, we just left some of our stuff and our bike bags at Go Hotel. Go Hotel charges 50 Php a day to secure your stuff (free if you want to just leave it under the stairs). Since there are only a few towns in Palawan, the land areas of each towns are huge that the kilometer markers were more of a gruesome reminder than a guide. Immediately after leaving the center, the markers say its 68 kilometers to the next town- Aborlan. The views though were amazing especially upon entering the Acacia forest a few kilometers from PP. There was also a mangrove reserve for the bearded pig whatever animal that is. We have also chanced upon Iwahig Penal Colony which was surprisingly extensive in term of lot area. The route from PP to Narra is considered rolling hills but on the heavy side (bigger hills). Puerto to Narra is only 98 kilometers. We could have pushed for the next town of Sofronio Espanola but there are no decent accommodations at that place. Also

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The Acacia Forest

Google Maps showed a distance of 150+ kilometers to Sofronio but we were surprised how inaccurate that was. We had our lunch at Aborlan, 68 kms from Puerto- we had the rotisserie chicken in one of the stores to err on the safe side (how would you go wrong with a roasted chicken?). Then due to the heat of the afternoon, we decided to go to the municipal grounds park for a quick siesta for about an hour. We then continued with our ride for another 40 kilometers to Narra. The entire road from Puerto to Narra were well paved except for some sections under repair. Narra has a Jollibee store- most probably the remotest one in the country. We found a hidden gem in Narra- Maydavian Resort but note that its 4 kilometers way off the main road and on rough roads but the extra mileage is worth the trip. It is owned by a former Manila resident married to a foreigner. Since this is remote, you need to buy provisions at the town center, if you need to, before proceeding to the resort (about 10 kilometers from the town center). We spent the afternoon relaxing at the resort, with good food and drinks (Ride 1- Drinks 4).

DAY 3 – Narra to Brooke’s Point

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Leg 2 of the ride.

From Narra to Brookes Point is another 100 kilometers as if it was evenly split (Puerto to Narra to Brookes Point). Brookes Point was somewhat familiar as it is one of the places in Palawan mentioned by TV stations when they do the sign-off for the day. Further research showed that it was indeed the last town south before, but it was now split into 2 other towns- Sofronio Espanola and Bataraza- the now southernmost town (in mainland Palawan). The hills were a bit smaller on this portion except for some few big ones so the ride pace was faster. We arrived Brookes Point at around 2 PM. Prior to that, we did a stop at Abo-abo, the intersection for the southern “8” loop and then had our rotisserie chicken lunch (again) at Sofronio. Abo-abo is the intersection to Quezon- the less popular tourist destination but significant in terms of Philippine archaeology. This is where the Tabon cave is located where the oldest human remains in the country was found, thus dubbed as the Philippines cradle of civilization. I bet most people who have handled a 1000 Php bill noticed the burial jar (Manunggul Jar) at it’s back face- that artifact was found in Tabon. Majority of the view from this leg is that of

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Siesta Time

Mt. Mantalingajan- the highest mountain in Palawan island which is becoming a popular climbing destination.  Just a few kilometers to Brookes Point we had another break, an ice cream break before entering town. I was not able to resist the Ice Cream ad in one of the stores due to the heat of the noon sun. Our original plan was to go down to Bataraza but due to uncertainties on accommodation and security- we opted to just finish the southern leg at Brookes Point. Brookes Point was where the world’s largest pearl was found- the Pear of Allah but which is now being contested by a new finding also in Palawan dubbed as the Pearl of Puerto. I guess Palawan literary gives the meaning of the Philippines being the Pearl of the Orient. We didn’t planned for a southern loop that would go back via the West Route- via Rizal Town as we have heard a couple of warnings that the west side was much

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Abo-abo Junction

dangerous. But on our way back to Puerto, our van driver told us that, yeah- there were bikers that did that western part already. Maybe next time. Rizal is famed for a primitive tribe known as Taong Bato (Stone People- not stoned people). There were gossips around them- one popular is the cause of the death of the popular broadcaster, Reyster Langit who died of Malaria doing a feature in Rizal. Locals however attributes his death to his encounter with the Taong Bato. While I just found out that Bataraza were in fact closer to Malaysia than Tawi-tawi. Our van driver told us that during the olden days, lumbers were being shipped to Malaysia from Bataraza while the returning trucks bring back supplies coming from Malaysia.  I also found an article about a promising beach destination in Bataraza- http://www.choosephilippines.com/go/islands-and-beaches/4431/onuk-island-palawan-finest-beach/ – something to consider to those travelling to Bataraza.

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Before leaving Mydavian.

Back in Brooke’s Point, we had troubles with the original accommodation Dindo reserved as they offered it to someone else (maybe they didn’t believe a couple of guys in their bikes would really show up at Brookes Point or reservation is just a suggestion in the boondocks). So we scoured the town for alternate accommodations. We ended up in I think the best place in town- Maruyog’s Hotel (not the farm). Though Brookes Point was supposed to be the most developed town south of Puerto Princesa, there are very few establishments, no tourist spots in the town itself and no fast food (there was once a Chowking that closed down). We decided to ride a tricycle to a popular water falls- Sabsaban Falls but it was about 20 kilometers from town. Palawan’s tricycles are quite amusing- ceiling are too low that drivers hunches to fit in- not sure why they have to endure it and why don’t they adapt the

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R&R at Narra

Manila tricycle designs. On our way to the falls, the tricycle me and Jon riding suddenly hit a dog and the dog was dragged for a few meters before it was shaken off. Not sure if the dog died but it was a shocking experience for us- so now a dog was killed in the making of this trip! And the falls was not really “the” falls for me- seems just a river

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Welcome Brooke’s Point

that went further down. We were told that Gina Lopez (the current DENR secretary) had some structures created there but was stopped by the local council. It was the second comment we had on Lopez- another one made by somebody in Narra on an alleged mining firm she is related to. Not sure if those are true or if it’s part of a black propaganda hearsay since Lopez is anti-mining- the bane of mining firms whichever is true. Back at Brookes Point, we went to the best restaurant in town to have our dinner- a port side seafood restaurant with videoke rooms- a place you may pass off for dinner if it were in Manila. The food was good though. We went back to Maruyog and had a night cap (there was a big party happening with the who’s who of Brooke’s Point- duh, where else will they go?) before we rested for the night (Ride 2- Drinks-6). By the way, the road from Narra to Brooke’s point was well paved and we were told that it is up to Bataraza. The western part is still under construction though.

DAY 4 – Trip Back to Puerto Princesa

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Estrella Falls

We hired a Van for 4K Php to Puerto and we have arranged for some side trips since our entire Day 4 was free. We passed by another water falls- Estrella Falls which was better than Sabsaban. It reminds me of Taytay (Majayjay) Falls. We had our lunch at Jollibee Narra. While driving the 200 kilometers to Puerto, we were just amazed on the distance we have covered from the two previous days.  Then suddenly, the van hit a dog- the second time so it’s now “2 dogs were killed in making this trip!” How I wonder how many dogs are killed in Palawan each day due to the speed of the vans, the light traffic and the number of dogs out on the street. These two dog-hits made us cringe every time we encounter a dogs on the street for the rest of our stay in Palawan. We then passed through the Palawan Wildlife Rescue an Conservation Center formerly called Crocodile Farm. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable as she was able to answer all questions we have thrown at her regarding crocodiles (influenced by watching lots of National Geographic programs). One surprising fact though- the crocodile products like the meat being sold in Palawan came from Antipolo and Teresa Rizal, a neighboring town from my home as the facility only

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So this is how a Bearded-Pig looks like.

breeds for later release to the wild. I wonder if the local residents appreciate those releases! How I fantasied releasing crocodiles in Laguna de Bay to bring the lake back to its Spanish era as described by Jose Rizal in his novel Noli Me Tangere. We went back to check in to our Go Hotel- got our stuff there for the next leg of the ride north and stored back our used clothes. We finished the day with some food and drinks at Max’s Robinson’s where Jon brought a lighter backpack as the one he brought was heavy (am a bit guilty as I gave him the go signal to buy the Osprey pack thinking only of the brand and pictures he sent without really seeing the actual pack). He got a local Lagalag pack. We were warned by the clerk at the local store that the northern roads are more challenging since there will be mountain passes. Back at Go Hotel, Jon and I had our massage to relieve some pains if ever that would help even a little. (Ride 2, Drinks 7).

Day 5 – Puerto Princesa to Roxas.

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Leg 3- Go North!

The Northern part of Palawan is also a Loop but we didn’t intend to ride back to Puerto Princesa. However, we were initially ambitious to target El Nido or even Taytay in just one day. Later on, we will find out that its best to do the Puerto to El Nido, not even in 2 but 3 days. We woke up early and had our breakfast at a 24 hour Jollibee store as the hotel restaurant opens a little later. Since the Go Hotel has a partner hotel in El Nido, I was able to convince them to bring some stuff (laptop) at El Nido in their shuttle for free- though I gave them a hundred pesos as gratuity. I also found that morning that I left my water bottle at Maruyog’s Brookes Point! Since it’s a special water bottle (Fabric), I called them up and they told me they will have it sent to Go Hotel but it will arrive only by Wednesday so I improvised my hydration using bottled water.

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Rain on our way north.

It’s amazing that stuffs are moving around for free (Laptop to to El Nido and Water Bottle to Puerto)- so this is indeed still a province where people are still nice and accommodating. We started our ride after checking-in our stuff again at Go Hotel since we will go back to Puerto on our last day before going back to

Manila. It was a tense day due to the alleged climbs. A few kilometers after PP, we started to ascend but not really that steep. It rained that morning but eventually stopped later on and then it became hot and humid.

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Emergency Service

Our progress was pleasing though, as we were already at 70 kilometers when we had a major break. Puerto to Roxas (by this time, we were already realistic and convinced that day 1 will be up to Roxas only) was at 130 kilometers. By 80 kilometers, suddenly I broke my pedals. So the plastic Crank Brothers Candy was not reliable- one should have a metal version for touring. We did some brain storming and tried contacting some options until we just decided that Dindo and Lea will just push forward to look for options.

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Emergency struck.

I was then informed that a tricycle will fetch me to bring me to a machine shop for possibility of fixing the pedals. They were not able to fix them though so I decided to hire the tricycle to take me to Roxas for another 50 kilometers. Wow 50 kilometers on a tricycle!? Worst it was an open cab and it started to rain again so I was fully drenched. I reached Roxas and started going around town to look for a clipless pedals but as expected there was no such thing available there so I ended up buying

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The stretch to Roxas.

a cheap platform pedal used for the local ”K-mart” bikes. I was able to fix the bike for the final ride the next day. I waited for the team and an hour later they all arrived at Roxas. We searched for accommodations and again there was only 1 place- SR Hotel. Roxas seems to be more backward than Narra and it was interesting since this is a major hub for tourist going to El-Nido. This was the Midpoint as Roxas to El Nido is another 130 kilometers. We had some beers at SR and then we just asked the hotel to buy us- surprise- surprise- rotisserie chicken for dinner! (addicting?) I went to the store again to buy cheap shoes since I will be in platform pedals the next day. I ended up buying cheap fake Nike shoes (again there were no decent shoes in town so people here need to travel 130 kilometers for a decent pair of shoes). Later in the evening me and Dindo went to the town center to have some more drinks and there was only one 24 hour food store in town (called 8 to 8- most probably for the lucky number 8 to Chinese- but still means 24 hours).

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The only party place n town.

By 8 PM the town was already like a ghost town so we headed back to the hotel. Inside our room, there were two beds, 1 big and 1 smaller. Jon took the bigger bed as he had more mileage that day. (Ride 3 – Drinks 9).

DAY 6 – Roxas to El Nido

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4th and Final Leg.

We were uncertain on what to expect but we were more tense since we were already sore and we were anticipating the bigger climbs of the entire Palawan ride. We had our breakfast on the same 24-hour restaurant. Since I had extra shoes, I have decided to leave some stuff at SR since we will be passing the place anyways on our way back home. The other followed suite. Now my stuffs are scattered all around Palawan (laptop to El Nido, water bottle from Brookes Point to Puerto, bike case and stuff at Puerto Go Hotel, Shoes at SR and me biking to El Nido). As expected, hills were bigger. The dogs are also more active as we were chased a few times. We hit 3 big climbs and we were already wasted as we started walking sections on two of those climbs.

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The white man is not invincible after all…

That was not a good sign. Jon was also hit by the humidity and heat so he decided to ride a tricycle a few kilometers to Taytay. The tricycle actually offered the ride for free but Jon gave him some money to the driver’s surprise. We actually crawled our way to Taytay which is 70 kilometers from Roxas. We have another 70 to El Nido. This was the feeling of bonked. Jon will also not able to finish the ride to El Nido so we all agreed to hire a van from Taytay to El Nido which is another 70 kilometers. And that

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The Northern part has better sceneries.

ended up our bike trip. On our way to El Nido the van offered for a side trip to a water falls- all declined which is a sure sign that we were all tired. We were able to check in at Mansion Buenavista Guesthouse owned by A Filipina at a Dutch couple who were very accommodating. I was able to retrieve my laptop so I was able to start my work. The Dutch speaks Tagalog and was a hands on owner so it was also amusing. We spend the day going around El Nido. We spent the sunset at Marimegmeg beach the haunting place of foreigners. Then we walked by El Nido town proper and had some drinks at a popular grill. By the end of the day- (Ride -4 Drinks – 12). Since the bed were also of different sizes, I had the privilege this time of getting even and getting the bigger bed as I had more mileage than Jon this time.

DAY 7 – El Nido to Puerto Princesa

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Life is a Beach!

We spent the day exploring El Nido. We went back to Marimegmeg to rest and relax. We decided to return to Puerto earlier so by 2 PM we already left El Nido. At Puerto Princesa, we looked for another place since our Go Hotel was already fully booked. We then got our stuff from Go and checked in to the new hotel when I found out that I forgot the water bottle again at Go Hotel so I asked a tricycle to get it from there to our new hotel. That water bottle was really a problem. We packed our bikes and then rested for the plane trip back to Manila the next day.

DAY 8 – Puerto Princesa to Manila

We went to the airport for our flight early the next day. While waiting for our plane we had some few more drinks so the tally was not yet over. After that- Ride 4 – Drinks 13. Then after 50 minutes on the air- we were back to reality.

POST RIDE

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Oh Palawan!

Palawan is a great place to ride. It is a wonderful place to ride! It has been off our (and maybe most bikers) radar as it seems it is still un-developed (rough roads) with security issues. It also seems far though its just a 50 minute plane ride. But I was surprised that 99% of the roads are paved and even much better than the roads in Manila. The hills was not that difficult but challenging enough to make the ride interesting. You will not also think about security issues while there- not with the local hospitality. Though some places were under developed, there are still ample resources available and even some gems like resorts on remote locations. The sceneries are awesome and the wildlife encounter was amazing- imagine a hundred different birds, some snakes (road kill) and even a turtle crossing the road- how often do you ride your bike and encounter a turtle? Even the road kill was interesting as we encountered one Palawan porcupine (not the best encounter but still something different).

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Paradise

All the trees were kinds you will no longer easily see in Luzon or on the other islands. Imagine giant trees along the road! I was told that wait till you visit San Vicente. The ending of an El Nido is more than an icing on the cake. Its one of the best, if not the best place in the country! Its quite interesting that beautiful remote places in the Philippines has more foreign visitors than locals. Maybe because the older tourist- the traditional ones thinks of travel as a luxurious experience and non traditional sites without good infrastructure is a turn-off. But things are changing with the younger Filipino travelers. Luxury is already in their homes so they search for adventure!

There are other promising options if you have more time to ride Palawan. Quezon (Tabon Cave), Sabang (Under Ground River), Port Barton and San Vicente (The new upcoming beach resorts) are other places worth the visit. Progress is great but sometimes you want to see the simple life- some towns in Palawan were just like frozen in the 50s. [added Dec- CebuPacific Inflight Magazine features a Palawan ride done by Mt. Everest Sumiteer- Garduce- they did a more different route over 12 days]

But much more important than those are the people, the friendly and accommodating people. People who still calls a white man Joe even though they are not Americans- last time I heard it in my hometown was in the 70s. In fact, my most touching and unforgettable experience is on our way back to Puerto from El Nido. It was 4PM and it was time for children to go home from school. They were in groups walking on the streets having fun. Simple fun on simple things like going home. Things that we could no longer afford in Manila, in a lot of ways like the security of children walking their way home or of having fun without any gadgets. The Palawan bike ride is a sensory overload! Maybe I just missed my era when I was just a kid…

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Time to go Back to Reality

10 Ways to be a Dick

Read this article:

10 Ways to be a Dick in your local bike shop

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I also have my own list of the other end- the bike shop; and these lists are based on real experiences that if I mention the shop, I bet those familiar with the shop would agree-

10 Ways to be a Dick Local Bike Shop (D-LBS)

1. Use the dreaded word- “bibili ka ba” ? (Are you buying something?) And assess your capability to buy based on your appearance. If they think you don’t have the money- then you will only get token assistance.

2. Grouchy sales people. And the worst- grouchy owner! This has caused a decline of one popular shop.

3. Clueless sales people. If matched with number 2- then its an LBS nightmare. This is common in the Philippines as most bike shops do not employ real bike savvy sales people. They don’t even read magazines or access internet articles to update themselves as they are not really into it. Worst some have stock knowledge and will even contest your well researched opinion based on their limited information.

4. Too much closeness with shop regulars that any “non-regulars” who comes in the shop will feel like an outcasts. When you enter those shops, you would feel like you have entered some private party where you do not know anyone while they knew each other well- so what that makes of you? Gate crasher? Worst is if the discrepancy on how they treat customers is glaring and they are not even discreet about it. So to the shops out there- try to decide if you want to be a bike shop for all or a bike shop for your pathetic amateur bike or tri team only.

5. And to be a “regular” in that shop; to be included in the “in-crowd”- you should have some credentials (short for fame and/or fortune). For mere mortals, it will take you a year of visits and confidence to be included on the list while for the rich and famous- only one visit is required and that is even if they only brought a piece of screw.

6. Selling used items without informing you that it’s second hand.

7. The alleged “distributor” without any support nor other significant product from the supposed brand. They only have a handful of items and that qualified them as distributor.

8. Selling something without the corresponding required product- i.e. you brought an expensive frame, only to find out there is no headset and bottom bracket and they do not have the required headset and bottom bracket for that very frame they have sold you so you will end up ordering from the web, or scouring the other shops or worst- waiting for another month to get that product.

9. Selling fake products without informing you that its fake or in their own “sanitized” term- “OEM” or “Replica.” So whats the difference between a fake and a replica?

10. Give a lot of freebies only to find out the product was way too over priced from current market price. And the freebies are their ways to offload non moving stocks.

Mountain Bike History

The Killer Ambuklao to Baguio Ride

I have been to some of the countries fabled climbs from Bugarin to Sierra Madre in its entirety (say Infanta) to Baguio-Kenon/Marcos to Bicol’s 3M and Andaya Hi-way and even Halsema, Sagada, Banaue and Besang Pass. There will definitely be steeper roads but their short distance disqualify them from being epic- like the fabled Maarat wall. But based on riding those routes, nothing compares to the Ambuklao to Baguio route of Pacdal Road. We already did Pacdal once from Baguio to Pulag Ranger but I would say that it is way easier than the reverse route.  This may be half-truth as there are several factors involved like my fitness level, age when I did it, etc. But I would still insist if it’s not the top one- it will definitely be on the list of tops.

Ambuklao

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The downhill to Ambukalo

We started out our ride at Baguio and made our way to La Trinidad and then Halsema. There is a point in Halsema where there is a road that goes to Ambuklao. I first saw this route more than 10 years ago on our way to Mt. Pulag when our driver avoided Pacdal for some reason. Then again a few years ago when we did the Globe Cordillera Challenge; we discovered this route as an awesome downhill road. In fact we are still considering doing this ride again due to the sweet downhill but next time around, upon reaching Ambuklao, we will just ride our SAG back to Baguio than riding it by bike.

Going back, after reaching Ambuklao, we said it was great, we are already halfway the ride

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Dindo, me and Al

few hours before lunch. But we were in for a surprise- it was a relentless 30+ kilometers climb back to Baguio with very little opportunity to rest (meaning very few flats for recovery). This was the first time that, I only not lost my leg power (bonked) but even my arms was gone so even the idea of a bike push is exhausting. Marcos and Kenon is also in the range of 30 Kilometers climbs but those are not purely uphill. Maybe the climb in Halsema was a contributing factor- that if you only do the Ambukalo to Baguio will be different but still- I would consider this a Killer Route on its own class.

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We did this ride- me, Dindo Narciso, Al Jumarang and George Saguinsin.

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Post ride will all our supposed supporter who were there actually for the drinks.

Ave Maldea

Bike Magazine Asia features Ave Maldea- the bike builder I grew up with living in Taytay Rizal- a stone throw away from their shop in Cainta Rizal. I remember I had my bike frame repaired by Ave when I was in college in 1990 and lately when my daughter tried duathlon, I had him create a bike frame for her since her size is difficult to find in the store-

The Birth Place of Mountain Biking

Tam2Though this is not related to biking in the Philippines, just want to share an opportunity I had last October of 2015- to visit the sacred grounds where mountain biking was born…

Hope to be back and next time around- to pedal the very same roads where the pioneers rode before us.

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Kaliraya Lake

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With Jhoric De Guzman, my wife’s cousin visiting from San Fro.

I had a previous entry on doing a Laguna historic route which is a big loop around the historic and interesting tourist towns in Laguna. This is about the smaller loop within Kaliraya Lake (Lumban, Kaliraya, Cavinti and Pagsanjan). This is ideal as a side activity when you are staying in one of the popular resorts along Caliraya Lake. Since Caliraya is located in a higher elevation- there will be challenging climbs from Lumban to Caliraya. Total distance of the loop is around 45-50 Kms.

 

Kaliraya

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There are a couple of affordable resorts (even through airbnb) along the lake so a perfect biker’s long weekend is to spend a day in one of the resorts and have a short ride early in the morning.

Batlag Falls

This was a photo taken late last year with a ride with Ronald Millevo. Batlag Falls is within the Daranak Falls Complex from the Sampaloc-Tanay road. You can ask for the location of this falls when you are already in the park entrance of Daranak. The facility can host an overnight camping.

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Taal Loop

T3A few years ago- doing a Taal Lake Loop is a bit more challenging than today. You either have to go all the way to Tagaytay or endure the unpaved roads of Agoncillo-Laurel-Talisay. With the opening of the Taal Circumferential Road, doing the loop is a now a bit easier. The total distance of the loop is around 100 kilometers (50-100 kms. shorter than Laguna Lake Loop depending on the route taken).

You can start the loop at any point convenient but would assume since Tagaytay is the best access to the loop, then Talisay would be the best starting point. In our case, since we have an activity in Balete, we have chosen Balete as our start/end point.

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The crucial part is in the Tanauan Area. There are a  couple of possible routes but one mistake (like what we did) would cost you around 10 kms more and were talking here about steep climbs. Here is our planned route:

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And here is our mistake:

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When we got lost, we needed to pass through a small river to get to the other road:

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The new Taal Circumferrential Road:

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Here are the ride stats:

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I was with Mar Alrey Jumarang and we started at around 6:30 AM and finished at around 3 PM. From Balete, you will climb around 300 meters to get to Lipa, then rolling to the town of Alitagtag. From Alitagtag, it’s downhill to San Nicolas. It is relatively flat from Agoncillo to Laurel with some few hills and then a “cardiac assault” to Talisay. It will then be totally flats again till the final climb to Tanauan and then finishing with a downhill to Balete.

Here are the sights along the route:

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A closer look at Taal Volcano (Mt. Binintiang Malaki)

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Old Taal Church Ruins at San Nicolas

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Pansipit River

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Al Jumarang posing at Cuenca Batangas with Mt. Maculot as backdrop

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Mt. Maculot from the other side