Tuesday, November 03, 2015

To Market to Market to buy a Fat Pig

Wednesday, January 21st - Dumagete to Cebu to Manilla and home to the U.S.A.

Today will prove to be long and torturous, but it starts out with promise for all but the livestock and the fish.  We have arranged for a driver to take us to the Wednesday market, nearly an hour outside Dumagete. Our driver picks us up on time and we arrive at the market early.  Our flight to Manilla leaves early afternoon and Joe instructs our driver when and where to wait for us and writes down his cell phone number. Our time is short at the market and we start down the single lane road lined with tiny stalls selling fruits, vegetables and in sundries. I love markets and even the stalls selling coils of yellow rope are interesting. 

Yellow Rope for Sale
Elder Musician at Market

Women Selling Vegetables
Market Day

Bull to Market
Tools for Sale

Fish and Squid

Roasted Pig

There are open air restaurants, under permanent shaded roofs at the far end of the market,  They are crowded with patrons sitting at long tables and Art wants to try some fresh fish. These restaurants are not prepared to  accommodate tourists and we are unable to read the menu or understand the protocol. The service is terrible and all is confusing. John, Joe and I pass on the food in frustration but Art chooses to order a bowl of raw fish Ceviche and slurps it down with dissatisfaction. 


We wander into the livestock stockade where PETA would have a field day. The air is ripe and pungent with manuer and cattle are being prodded and pulled by their rings noses, by impatient men.  Pigs are being shoved squealing into burlap bags and sheep and goats are crammed into tiny motorized carts for transport.  It is fascinating and I try not to judge but am glad that I am making an effort to be vegetarian. 

Pig to Market
Pigs to Market

Pig in a Sack

Pig to Market

At the appointed time, we are waiting at the crossroads of the main road and Joe calls our diver. He doesn’t pick up and when he finally does, it seems that he has gone back into Dumagete to pick up another fare.  Time is ticking dangerously by and we are likely to miss our flight so we hire a trike to take us back to Dumagete. Trikes cannot travel at the same rate as cars; they are dangerous and uncomfortable but it seems that we have no other options so the four of us climb onboard one of the heartier looking trikes and bump and jostle the hour back into the city. We grab our luggage at the hotel and take a taxi to the airport, just a few minutes the other side of town. My blood pressure is rising but we arrive in time for our flight only to discover that the flight is delayed 2 hours.

An hour later, an announcement informs us that the flight is delayed yet another hour. The plane is delayed time and time again and we are now in danger of missing our flight from Manilla to S.F.O. The Dumagete airport terminal is dismal with minimal amenities and we are all hungry and tired. There are no restaurants, only a few food kiosks with sad sandwiches left too long in the open. John, Art and I play it safe and buy cups of noodle, nuts and drinks and I pass the time writing this blog. We pay little attention when Joe eventually wanders off in search of food. I glance over and see him eating a sandwich and hope that Joe doesn’t get sick this time around. 

Dumaguete Airport

Dumaguete Airport

 Our plane to Manilla finally boards and we arrive in time to catch our flight back to S.F.O.

Manilla to S.F.O.
Manilla to S.F.O.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Apo Island Dive Paradise

Tuesday, January 20th  Dumagete to Apo Island

Our pick up for Apo Island is at 8:00 A.M. and we stop first at a dive shop along the way for John and Art to get outfitted for their dives.  Not only do we have a driver plus our guide, Bong, but we now have a dive master, Pat, and four crew members for the mid-sized catamaran that will motor us to Apo Island.  We wade out to our boat and climb the wooden stairs up to our boat. The day is sunny and bright and we can see tiny, Apo Island floating on the blue horizon.  

Apo Island Cove
45 minute later we arrive at Apo Island and wade to shore. There are just a few hotels and guest houses in the tiny village and one small and stylish resort hotel accessible by a rock stairway off to one side of the village.  We go to the resort hotel to pre-order our lunch following which Art and John depart with Pat via the catamaran to make their first dive.  Bong stays with Joe and me and we wade out over algae covered rocks, put on our fins and snorkel gear and swim after him. As soon as I put my mask in the water I see sea turtles. Hawksbill and Green Turtles are grazing on the sea-grass on the shallow sandy bottom and are not at all bothered by our presence. They bend their heads awkwardly to tear the grass from its sandy roots.  Shimmering patterns from the sunlight through the water dance on their patterned shells. They swim weightlessly in the water, graceful aquatic flying saucers, some the size of small table tops.

Apo Island Beach
Marty, Apo Island

When we have had our fill of turtles we snorkel further out to the coral beds. The corals are breathtakingly beautiful, pristine and alien. Plates of table top coral stretch 30 feet or more and colorful fish slip in and out from between the overlapping plates. Spaghetti like aneonmies, the color of pasta, sway in the current, and clumps of more brightly colored aneomies shelter their particular species of clown fish. The view below is a solid bed of corals; soft ribbon corals who’s edges form graceful liner folds meld into plates of hard coral, brain coral, bursts of flowering coral, and countless varieties of stag-horn coral. Their colors are mostly muted; ranging from soft yellow to ochre, pale pink to lavender, moss greens and orange.  An occasional bright blue star fish or red aneomie contrasts the Dr. Seuse landscape below.  The shifting light patterns reflecting on the coral through the rippling water is magical.

It is 11:00 A.M. when Joe and I swim to the beach and Art and John return from their dive minutes later. Although they will make three dives today, it is decided that we will have lunch at the resort before their second dive. We sit under thatched umbrellas, sip pineapple and mango juice and I eat the best vegetarian curry of the trip.

Joe’s and my second snorkeling foray is from the beach in front of the resort. We follow Bong into the water and swim out towards the rocky point. Coming up from the sand are hundreds of bubble streams from thermal activity below. The bubbles sparkle in the crystal water as they rise to the surface.  We snorkel around the point where huge slabs of the rock cliff have slipped vertically into the water. The slabs of rock are completely blanketed with coral.  I see a three foot pipe fish and a dozen barracuda flash by. A school of needle fish hang vertically, heads down, suspended in a protected pocket of coral and an occasional brightly colored parrot fish cruises past. Although there are quite a few colorful reef fish, the main event here is the coral.  

 Joe and I sit under the shade of the umbrella on the pristine beach, sipping Coke-cola from a chilled bottle (the bottled cokes here are the only soft drink worth the calories; it must be real sugar instead of corn syrup?) We look for faces in the jagged rock formations and wait for the catamaran to return with our divers.

Coconut Tower, Apo Island Village
Apo Island Laundry

Apo Island Village
Art and John need 1 ½ hours surface time before making their third dive and we pass the time walking inland to the village.  We meander the narrow village pathway, coconut trees and palms shading the path and tropical flowers growing along the fences.  Most of the houses are made of wood interspersed with small cinderblock houses. The village compounds all have stick fences with laundry hanging out to dry and I marvel at how beautiful and tidy it all is. There is a posted sign about garbage collection and recycling and hundreds of plastic bottles are “corralled,” waiting for recycling day. We come to a school, pass a few micro stores and see a group of men drinking beer in the dirt courtyard of a simple wooden hut. The village is tidy and the locals friendly.  Three women approach us with bags of T-shirts and sarongs for sale. One sarong is printed with lizards and I buy it and a turtle sarong. John and Art choose Apo Island T-shirts.

Off Shore of Apo Island Village
Our final snorkel and dive will be from the boat off the other side of the bay. I watch Art and John get suited up and roll backwards from the boat, splashing into the water. Minutes later, Joe and I are in the water, following Bong, first towards shore and then around the rocky point. This dive site does not have the endless coral carpet blanket, but there are huge islands of coral, the various species fitting together like pieces of a puzzle, each piece unique in color, texture and shape. I can only surmise that coral reefs were an inspiration in the fanciful imagery of Dr. Seuse’s  Tufulo Trees.  In trying to absorb the bounty and beauty of this coral garden, I notice that what I am observing below is a mirrored variation of the fauna and flora above water. Some coral formations are shaped like carnation flowers, others like lichen, branches and twigs. There are coral formations that look like stalagmites and bright ochre honey cone shaped coral suitable as a hive for giant underwater bees. Small fish take shelter in the coral crevices, iridescent splashes of brilliant color.  Schools of inch long fish reflect silver and gold in the sunlight; the entire schools changing direction and shape in the blink of an eye.   

John Preparing to Dive
Preparing to Dive off Apo Island

Their first dive is straight off the main beach at Apo Island. They scuba to the edge of the reef and drop down to a depth of 80 feet, working their way back up to 30 feet. Art reports that it is wall to wall coral, pristine without any degradation.  A diver from another group with his fancy underwater camera is photographing a stone fish and they are fortunate to see this ocean oddity as well as a frog fish. They encounter a hawksbill turtle in a small patch of sand between beds of coral.  

Drift Dive off Coconut Point, Apo Island

Their second dive is a drift dive off of Coconut point, where coconut palms mark the edge of the reef and the drop off.  There is a fairy swift current and they drift along the coral shelf.  The dive master cautions Art and John not to get caught in a deeper current that would take them down and out to sea. They leave the drift current and swim at right angles towards the shore above a pristine, soft coral garden.

Their final dive is on the other side of the main beach. They see numerous species of anoemeis and they are amazed by the variety of clown fish, each species designed and color coordinated the anoemie that it lives in.  They come across a small hawksbill turtle that appeared to be sleeping on the sandy bottom next to a patch of coral.

Motoring Back from Apo Island

We motor an hour back to the dock and the waiting car takes us the hour back to Dumagete. It’s been an incredible day of snorkeling pristine coral, coming eye to eye with sea turtles and exploring island coves and villages but I am exhausted. The boys head back to the hotel and I set out walking the meager town shops looking for gifts to take home.  I have not had time to do much if any shopping on this trip. I  decide to ferret out the new location of the art co-op listed in my guide book. I walk many hot and dusty blocks in search of the address but when I arrive I find that the shop has closed and I return to the hotel, tired and disappointed.  Tonight is our last night in the Philippines and I hope for a good meal. We take a trike ride along the waterfront, returning to LaBas Restaurant where we ate last night. The service is slow and it is obvious that Art and Joe do not want to be there so we take another trike ride back to the main strip of waterfront restaurants and randomly make a pick. Art urges Joe, who does not drink, to have a cocktail and one round later, we are all getting silly and enjoying our last evening together. If I remember, dinner was reasonably good:)

Celebrating the Final Night of our Trip
Last Night Celebration

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Taglibaran to Dumaguete

Monday, January 19th  Taglibaran to Dumagete

I wake at 5:30 A.M. to a distant chorus of cathedral bells. The musical serenade continues for 30 minutes and I drift in and out of sleep. At 6:30 I wake and shower and just before 7:00 Art and I go downstairs for breakfast. We Skype Alisha and she tells us about Emily’s and Graham’s wedding at Natural Bridges beach; that Molly was the flower girl and Sterling the ring bearer and how cute they were and how beautiful the wedding was. I wished we could have been there but their wedding was planned at the last minute and our trip to the Philippines was actually planned around Joe’s wedding to Julie-Ann in Samur, which did not come to fruition.

After checking out of our hotel, we take four separate trikes to the ferry terminal; reportedly an eight peso ride but we pay and tip our drivers 20 pesos each, about 35 cents. The sun is sweltering and we wait in line for seat assignments and then in line again to check our luggage ($100 pesos per bag) before going through security. We place our carry on’s on the moving belt of the ex-ray machine and I am gently patted down before entering the waiting room of the terminal.  Our four seats across are downstairs in a mid row and there are no escape doors should the boat capsize. The two hour ferry ride passes without incident and at 12:30 we dock at Dumaguete Port. 

I Love Dumaguete
The hotel shuttle picks us up to drive us the few short blocks to a Chinese run tourist hotel. Posted prices here are $1800 pesos for a delux king room. (About $45) Our 6th floor room with large windows should have a reasonably good street and mountain view but the view is clouded by severely fogged double pane windows and when we check in, there is no water.  I read the two pages in our guide book about Dumagete city and the four of us set out walking back towards the waterfront to find lunch.  The clientel at many of the beach side restaurants is mostly European and ex-pat and we choose a dingy little restaurant bar, order an uninspired lunch and watch the goings on.  Our ferry has arrived too late for us to do any real touring and after lunch we walk to the University and visit their archeological and history museum.

A Lovers Photo Opt at our Hotel
It is extremely hot and humid and the boys return to the hotel but I want to find the Stillman University cooperative listed in the guide book. The current cooperative is relocating and I go to the relocation and am disappointed to find it empty until “permits” are submitted.  I want to buy Alisha a special gift and have not seen anything suitable for her and I go into  two clothing boutiques but the styles are uninspired, cheaply made and much too small for our tall daughter.

The guidebook recommends several restaurants along the waterfront and at 5:30 P.M. the four of us hire a trike to take us to Labas Restaurant, just north of the ferry dock. It is a two story, open air establishment and we climb to the second level and choose a table at the edge of the balcony, overlooking the sea wall and ocean beyond.  Coincidentally, our travel agency has an office downstairs and Art and Joe go in to discuss tomorrow’s details of our snorkeling trip to Apo Island.  Because of the hurricane and the resulting ferry cancelations, we are missing one day of island hopping. Apo Island is reported to have excellent scuba diving and Art would like to adjust the plan so that he and John can go diving there. In the meantime, John and I each order a margarita, relax into Island time and watch the activity on the street below.  It is a balmy evening and trikes and scooters come and go and the restaurant begins to fill with patrons.
Trike Ride to Dinner
Trike Ride to Dinner

Art is able to adjust the plans so that he and John will dive from Apo Island and Joe and I will snorkel as previous planned.  There are a few minutes of disharmony since the change alters the price and pick up time which affects us all.  Ultimately, we get a refund for the tour day lost and end up getting a $3,000 + peso refund. ($75)  John and I enjoy or vegetarian meals but the servings are small and Joe and Art are not all that happy with the dining experience, recommended as the best sea-food restaurant in Dumagete.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait - Palowan to Taglibaran

Sunday, January 18th – Palowan to Taglibaran

Kathy and Alberto pick us up at 8:00 A.M. to take us to the neighboring Bee Farm. We have a brief tour of this organic vegetable, bee and raffia farm. There is only one demonstration hive of 60,000 bees because they buy the honey elsewhere and process it and sell it here. The short tour is far from inspirational and ends at the usual gift shop and Joe buys a bottle of honey wine.

Bee Hive

Bee Hive

Our next stop is at the island’s shell museum; an extensive, interesting and dusty collection of shells displayed in rickety wood cases with grimy glass tops. John and Art are fascinated by the scientific presentation but to me the most interesting of all the shells are the species, xenophora. These species of shells collects detritus and other bits of shell and seaweed to attach to their shells for camouflage

Xenophoridae Shell Species
Example of Xenophoridae Shell

Shell Museum

Giant Tridacna Clams

When we arrive at the port we find that the morning ferry to Dumagete has been cancelled because of the hurricane. It is doubtful if the 3:30 ferry will sail but we choose to find a hotel close to the port so that we can check easily on the ferry status.  Kathy drives us to a nearby resort hotel but we balk at the $90 per room price and we go instead to a very sweet backpacker/local hotel with double rooms for $1300 pesos. (About $30 including breakfast.)  It is 11:00 A.M. and our rooms will not be ready until 2:00 P.M. so we set out walking in the noonday sun to have lunch at the Buzz Café operated by the Organic Bee Farm.  We have not thoroughly checked on its location and the day is blazing hot. We cool off at a Chinese restaurant and drink Calamansi Juice, quite similar to lemonade. (In the interim, I walk back to the hotel to get better directions to the Buzz Café.)  We take two tricycles a few blocks further to the Buzz Café and enjoy an excellent lunch of organic lettuces and stir fried vegetables, fresh baked breads with herb spreads and a vegetarian pizza. Art orders a shrimp and noodle soup which unfortunately is not as good as our meals.

Ferry Ticket Pricing
Joe at the Ferry Terminal

 Our simple hotel rooms are ready at 2:00 P.M; each with a harbor ocean view and we rest for the afternoon. About 4:30 Art, John and I set out to explore our port city, (not highly recommended in the guide book.)  We take a trike to Rizal Plaza where on this Sunday afternoon, families and friends are gathered to picnic and relax. The adjoining cathedral is having its afternoon mass and with standing room only, people congregate outside the open doors and archways to listen to the music and hear the mass. We are all rather bored and Art and John get haircuts and shaves to pass time on this lazy afternoon.
John getting a shave

Bohol Park

Art getting a haircut

We wander several gloomy malls and find a K.T.V. bar at the top level of one. The tinted windows are grimy but with a birds eye harbor view and we order inexpensive (and terrible) drinks. Had they been decent we might have moved on to share a pitcher or a tower of margaritas. There is a basket ball game on the television and oddly enough, John identifies the stadium as our Santa Cruz stadium.

 It is dark when we walk back to the Sun Avenue Hotel stopping first at a Chinese Restaurant for dinner. We order spicy fried tofu, stir fry noodles, pineapple fried rice and sautéed broccoli. The servings are generous and reasonably tasty; especially when washed down by a can of St. Miguel beer. Joe has not joined us for dinner and we find him on the internet in the lobby of our hotel and turn in early.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

January 17th - Rest in Peace Show Off

January 17th, Saturday.  Snorkeling at Balicasag Island

We set our alarm for 5:00 A.M. for a 6:00 A.M. pick up to go dolphin watching and snorkeling. By 5:10, we are in the dining room for a pre-dawn breakfast and I call home and talk with Alisha. My beloved lizard, Show Off passed during the night and I know Alisha is as devastated as I am. Last night I dreamed about holding him to my chest, and I so wish I could have said good bye and comforted him. 

Show Off

Show Off and Marty in 2011
Shadowed by Show Off’s death, this will not be our best day. Our 6:00 A.M. pick up is late and we are confused, not sure if we are to be picked up by a van or if an outrigger boat is coming to the beach to collect us?  At 6:45 a boat arrives at our beach and we wade out and board a small outrigger that is lacking a muffler, making the 45 minute ride out to see the dolphins’ ear shattering. Apparently at dawn each morning, pods of dolphins feed at a particular spot between these islands and we are late. When we arrive, a half dozen outrigger boats, all larger than ours, are following the dolphins but in spite of being late, we see several pods of dolphins leaping in unison as they hunt for their morning fish.


Dolphin Feeding

We motor on to Balicasag Island and arrive at 8:30 A.M. and wade to shore. The island is quite small and not particularly pretty. A dozen village owned restaurants are just inland from the coarse coral sand beach and our two catamaran boatmen, apparently related to one of the restaurant owner, steers us towards one particular restaurant with rickety tables shaded by tarpolins stretched between the trees.  We order coffee and sweet bread and ask our boatmen what the plans are for the day?  A few small boats are anchored at the edge of the coral reef and a dozen snorkeler’s bob in the water, but the morning is cold and overcast and snorkeling doesn’t seem very appealing. 

Balicasag Island 
John, Balicasag Beach

Art and I walk inland along a narrow trash laden dirt pathway into the village.  There are a few goats with darling young calves, chickens and roosters. The houses are a mix of bamboo, correogated tin and cinderblock, all in need of paint and repair. There is an abandon lighthouse, replaced by a tall beacon light tower and a tiny immaculate church. I surmise that the tourists seldom venture to the interior of the island because we are greeted several times with surprise and one woman asks; “Lady, where are you going?” 

Balicasag Village Goats

Balicasag Light House

We return to the beach and negotiate a price to see the giant clams and to rent flippers. Snorkeling just off the main beach is included in the price of our package but we have heard that there are giant Tridacnid clams in another area and suspiciously, fins are not included as part of the snorkeling gear? We settle on $800 pesos, down from $1400 pesos for fins and a guide to take the four of us out to the edge of the reef.  I am the first one in the water and the snorkeling is amazing.  I swim along the rim of the reef, coral gardens to my right and a deep abyss to my left. The reef is pristine with table top coral growing and terraced down along the edge of the reef down into the abyss. Beds of stag-horn coral are the home to schools of tiny, blue-green and orange Damsel fish, undulating with the current. There are clumps of brain coral, beds of ribbon coral and countless anomenie each with their unique species of resident clown fish. The sea is calm and the boat follows us as we swim and snorkel together.  John free-dives down along the edge of the reef and I see his long lean body jet down, Go- Pro in hand to explore the life along the edge of the reef.  The Go-Pro has a digital timer and he uses this to time his free-dives, allowing himself 35 -40 seconds underwater before knowing it is time to resurface for air. I am surprised to see several scuba divers swimming up from the deep along the edge of the reef and know John is pleased with himself to be able to free drive 20 - 25 feet down. I spot an anomenie unlike any I have ever seen before; it is bright purple, bulbous and about 24” in diameter. John swims down and photographs it, gently prodding it’s soft membrane with the lens of his camera. 

I startle a sea turtle, foraging at the edge of the reef, and it turns and swims out to sea, seemingly in slow motion with remarkably graceful strokes of its flippers.  I swim after it, slightly anxious about leaving the presumed safety and shallows of the coral reef and entering the deep blue realm of the bottomless open ocean.  I call out “Turtle” and John follows, soon overtaking me with his strong kicks as he pursues the turtle. We have been snorkeling for over an hour and I am tiring and growing cold and my left leg cramps unbearably. I call to Art who in turn signals our small boat and our guide paddles to my rescue but I am unable to pull myself into the high wooden boat. Happily, John is focused on the turtle and does not have the Go Pro aimed in my direction as our guide hoists and pushes me onto the boat where I land hard and awkwardly. ( The large purple bruise on my hip is now the same color as the unusual purple anemone I spotted earlier.)

Art is snorkeling in circles just above a pocket of giant clams. Our guide rows over to the spot and I slip back into the water to see the tridachnids. There are a dozen of them in this area; 18” – 24” across with their shells open exposing purple fleshy lips and undulating spouts filtering the water. We caution John to keep a safe distance; one can imagine the Hollywood underwater nightmare of a limb getting caught in the huge jaws of these clams and the diver having just a few seconds of air remaining to wield a knife and cut off the ensnared limb. This is the most remarkable snorkeling experience I have had and Art tells us that this is what the reefs off Okinawa were like when he was a kid growing up.

It is 12:30 by the time we are back onshore and we order lunch at our “designated” village restaurant.  They have stowed our back packs, phones, cameras and money and it is all accounted for. We order two vegetable platters (a mistake) and French fries. We watch several teen age kids with grimy hands, peel the vegetables before they are stir fried in copious amounts of oil. After lunch we wade back out to our catamaran, plug our ears with Kleenex and make the hour ride back to our hotel. On the return trip, we see other resort hotels along the shore and one particular beach area that looks to be happening.

John, Trike to Alonha

John, Trike to Alonha

Art, Paying for our Trike Ride
At 4:30 we set out with a plan to go to Alonha and walk up the gravel road from our hotel to the main road connecting Pangalo Island with Bohol Island. At the crossroads we hire a tricycle to drive us the 7 or 8 kilometers into town.  Joe and I squeeze side by side onto the narrow seat of the side car and John contorts his long body and folds into position on the floor at our feet. Art rides side saddle behind the driver on back of the motorcycle powering our tricycle pod and we take Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride into Alonha. Motorbikes, tricycles and vans zip past us and by American standards, this overloaded tricycle ride is dangerous but it is also great fun and we arrive in Alonha safely. 

Alonha Tourist Shops, No Photos Allowed

Alonha Night Market

Alonha is a small tourist destination with beach front restaurants and bars lining the water front. We stroll along the promenade looking for happy hour specials and checking out the various restaurant menus and prices. Many of the restaurants have table out in front, displaying fresh fish, squid and shrimp on ice to be cooked to order. We choose a Thai restaurant at the end of the beach, order drinks from a transvestite waitress and watch a glorious fuchsia sunset over the shimmering icy blue ocean.

Beachfront Dining
Joe, Beachfront Restaurant.

Alonha Sunset
After dinner, Art and Joe take a trike back to our hotel but John and I wander along the beach front restaurants people watching and talking. John puts his arm over my shoulders and I ask him if he is not embarrassed to be walking with his mother; and he reassuringly replies both verbally and with his body language that he is proud and happy to be here with me. We eventually choose a tiny, colorfully lit bar for our final drink of the evening and talk about life and love. 

Alonha Bar
Alonha Bar

When we leave and walk up the main street, there are many waiting trikes but one driver in particular has been keeping an eye out for the rumored mother and son combo and tells John that his father told him to wait for us.  We negotiate the $200 peso trip down to $150, squeeze into the sidecar and make the bumpy ride back to our hotel.

There may be some glitches to our ferry departure to Dumagete tomorrow morning. 
*There is a category #1 hurricane in the Northern Philippines that may affect the seas and interrupt the ferry services. Joe calls our tour agent to make tomorrows pick up time earlier so that we will have earlier  ferry options to Dumagete Island.
*Pope Francis is visiting Tacloban, the area that was hit by the hurricane in 2013 and he has been forced to cut his visit short because of this tropical storm.
* The annual Sinulog Festival in Cebu is this weekend and ferry traffic and tourism is at its height for Cebu and the neighboring islands.