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Saturday, April 28, 2007
The island of Catanduanes abound with abaca. You can notice it among the shrubs and trees as you travel in the island. If you are not keen enough you will not be able to distinguish it from a banana tree because they look alike. That's because they came from the same family.

Aside from farming and fishing, harvesting abaca is one of the occupations of the natives here. They harvest the fiber from the leaves and stems of the abaca tree. Once harvested they let the fiber dry under the heat of the sun. Then they bring the dried fiber to Tabaco, Albay where they are made into handcrafted products. These handycrafts are then sold in the locality or exported abroad.

Bags (as what you see in the photo above right) are the majority of the products they make out of abaca. They also do shoes, slippers, carpets, clothing, and certain furnitures out of this fiber. The first time I came to Tabaco, Albay which was 7 years ago, the bags are still very cheap. Nowadays they sell from PhP 160 to PhP 200 depending on quality. The bigger ones sell at PhP 200 to PhP 400.
These bags (photo below) I was able to buy at PhP 100 for 3 pieces. Colors range from green, light brown, dark brown, and orange. They are nice as pasalubong to friends.

These bigger ones sell at PhP 160 to PhP 180 when you buy them at Tabaco. When these same bags reach Manila, they will already sell at PhP 500.

posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 12:11 PM   0 comments
Fish! Fish!
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Part of our adventure while in the island of Catanduanes was boating. And part of this plan was to go fishing. Unfortunately, we were not able to catch any fish. So some of us went swimming instead in the deeper part of the water while others stayed in the boat. That's my mom and my kids in the photo (right side).

Most of the natives living in the island are fishermen. Most of the fishes they are able to catch are big ones (photo below) and these include lapu-lapu. I was really excited seeing the fishes. Back home in Pangasinan, I used to buy fishes as big as these ones but they are very expensive. They sell for more than Php 200 per kilo. There I was told that they only sell for Php 90.00 per kilo. How I wished I could bring them home still fresh. But of course that will not be possible so that we dried some of them in order to be able to bring them to Pangasinan.

posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 9:39 AM   0 comments
Mountain Hiking 2
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It was our first time to climb a mountain. It was also our (me and my kids) first time to ride a carabao. It was soooo difficult especially downhill. You have to brace yourself and contract your muscles for you not to fall down. It was an adventure.

The mountain you see on the right side of the photo above was the first mountain we climbed. Yes, its not so steep but for ordinary people like us, we really had a difficult time. There were two more mountains steeper than this one at the other side of this mountain which we also climbed. The view is breathtaking once you reach the top of this mountain. That's me on the photo below on our first stop over to take pictures.

It was before me and my husband got married when my husband last visited this ranch (photo below). There were so many cows now. We enjoyed the place, the fresh air, and most of all the coconuts.
My father-in-law went to get coconuts as soon as we arrived in the ranch. There was lots and lots of it. I was too excited and busy eating them that I failed to take pictures. Maybe next time!
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 11:09 AM   0 comments
Mountain Hiking
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On the 3rd day of our stay in Catanduanes, we went on a hike to the mountains. It was a 2-hour walk from the house we stayed. We climbed 3 mountains to be able to reached our destination - the ranch where my father-in-law raises his cows.
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 11:53 AM   0 comments
Ginataang Banagan
Sunday, April 22, 2007

During our stay in Tabugoc, one particular food which caught my attention is ginataang banagan. Banagan means lobster. I have tasted ginataan with any kind of seafoods - shrimps, lobster, crabs, etc.- but the ginataang banagan as they call it, is really one of a kind. It is no match to the seafoods served at Gloria Maris or in any other restaurants serving seafoods.

Bicolanos are known gata (coconut milk) lovers. They cook almost everything with gata - fish, meat, seafoods, and even vegetables. Being a Pangasinense, I rarely eat anything with gata when I was a kid. My parents did not serve any main meal with gata except the ginataang malagkit which I will post in the future. The first time I tasted ginataang seafood (seafood cooked in coconut milk) was when I was having a vacation in my aunt's house in Laguna (Tia Asela). That was when I was still in college studying in UST for my pre-med. It was also there where I learned how to cook ginataan.

Being married to a Bicolano made a ginataang dish ordinary for me. Since my maids are all Bicolanas, we always cook regularly with coconut milk. And my family loved it!

For this dish, it is important to prepare first the gata. The second extraction is put in a big pan and allowed to boil while stirring occasionally. When boiling add the seafood. In this dish, they used lobsters and crabs. When the seafoods are done then add the vegetables. They used squash in this dish. Back home, my husband uses upo. When the vegetables are done then add the kakang gata (first extraction). Then add salt and pepper to taste. If you want to make it a little sour and for best results, strain a few pieces of pre-boiled kamias. You can also divide 1 crab into two while still simmering so that some of its fat mixes with the sauce making it more delicious. That's it! So yummy! As Dora, the explorer says...Delicioso!

posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 9:05 AM   0 comments
Let's go swimming!
Friday, April 20, 2007
We arrived at our destination April 3, 2007 at exactly 7PM. We were very tired. The next morning we woke up early to have a swim in the beach. The water was calm, the scenery is very peaceful. There's something in it that makes me feel close to home.

I stayed in the water for about an hour then strolled in the shoreline to enjoy more the place. The breeze was very soothing. Something I sought for so long....

As I stayed in a hut watching my kids and my husband play in the water, several natives approached me and were asking for some free medicines. The last time we were here, me and my husband conducted free clinic with free medicines for the townsfolk. It was a 3-day medical mission. This time there was no medical mission because it was Holy Week. We planned to stay there for only a few days. Nevertheless, my husband, and me occasionally, gave free consultations during our free time. And we felt that the people really appreciated it.

Our stay there was perked up by the taste of delectable foods served to us by my in-laws. You will read this in future posts.
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 10:34 AM   0 comments
Trip to Bicol
Thursday, April 19, 2007

The photo on the right is a picture of the ferry boat which brought us to the island of Catanduanes. It is my younger kid's first time to ride on it and although we paid for the air-conditioned area, my kids stayed in the terrace most of the time. Well, they could not resist the view (pictures below). The beautiful Mayon volcano can still be seen from afar.

Most of the passengers who were with us in the boat rode in another bus which will carry them to Pandan, Catanduanes. That's why everyone was in a hurry to leave the boat when it reached the pier. I was surprised to see one bus filled up to capacity even on its roof (picture below) while we had our refill of gasoline.

The road from Virac to Bagamanoc is already cemented (picture below). This is a great improvement. On my last trip here 7 years ago, it was rough road all throughout from Virac to Tabugoc.

As we move on to the rough road, we see more and more of nature - waterfalls, rivers, plains, and hills. We saw lots of different kinds of animals. Our first near encounter of a carabao (picture below) made us decide to go into a hike to the mountain with the kids riding in a carabao.

posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 7:19 PM   0 comments
Mayon Volcano
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This is Mayon volcano now (picture on the right). I took it from the terrace of our hotel room on the morning of April 2, minutes before we boarded the ferry boat going to Virac, Catanduanes. The last time I saw it was 7 years ago on the same trip to Catanduanes.

From afar, I can see the smoke coming out from its hole. It's very beautiful! As the morning sun casts its light on Mayon, the more beautiful it's totally bewitching.

It was my mom's first time to see Mayon. She told me it's really beautiful that's why she can't take off her eyes on it. Actually, she fell in love with it.
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 2:08 PM   0 comments
Welcome to Bicolandia
The day after the moving up day which is Palm Sunday, we started our trip to Bicol. Our destination is Tabugoc, Pandan, Catanduanes. It is really a very long trip by land. Since 7 years ago which was my first visit to Catanduanes also by land, I was hoping that maybe the road was even better. Well....I was totally wrong!

From Pangasinan our first stop-over was in my sister in-law's house in Manila. From there we started our trip at 6am the following day going to Tabaco, Albay. We were in two cars. My brother-in-law, Sandro, and his family were in the other car. We were supposed to leave earlier but what kept us was that we were travelling with little toddlers.

Maybe because it was already Holy Week and lots of people planned to spend the holidays outside of Metro Manila, we were met with traffic before we even reached the South Luzon Expressway. The traffic extended up to Lucena. Our first stop over (for lunch) is in Max's Restaurant in Lucena City (picture below). I was quite worried by then because at the rate we were moving we might reach Naga City by midnight. I wasn't wrong.

We decided to pass by Maharlika Highway which was supposed to be a short cut. Oh! It was a totally wrong decision because the road is under construction (picture below). We were delayed by two hours on target. We reached Naga City where we had our dinner at 8pm that day. After dinner we moved on to Tabaco, Albay. Instead of going straight to Tabaco from Naga via a short cut, we missed it and we ended up passing through Legazpi. After the devastation brought about by Mayon volcano, the landscape of Legazpi was totally invisible. We were lost we can't find our way to Tabaco. There was too much delay. We were very tired. We reached Tabaco at 1am the following day. We checked-in in a hotel where we spent a few hours of the dawn. I just wanted to straighten up and freshen up before we keep on going.

It was dark but nevertheless my kids were very eager to see Mayon. From the terace of our hotel room they can just look at the silhouette of Mayon volcano. I asked them to go to bed because we only have 3 hours of sleep. We have to be awake on time for our ride to the barge going to Virac, Catanduanes.

My husband and Sandro, his brother, decided to get tickets for all of us and to have the cars deposited earlier to the barge. We were bringing them to the island so it's best that they're there earlier. By 3am after around 2 hours of sleep, they were at the pier. At 6:30am we were all inside the barge. We were really excited!
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 1:56 PM   0 comments
Moving Up Day
Sunday, April 01, 2007

Yesterday was my kids' recognition day. My elder son, Raymund, placed at second honors in his grade III class and my younger son, Ralph, got the most outstanding and the most independent in his kinder II class (pictures below). As a tutor to my two kids and of course as their mom I really am very proud of them.

The grading system at La Marea Academy is somewhat different. In most schools, when a child gets the highest final grade in his class he automatically becomes the first honor. In La Marea, they follow a certain range for a child to be given the first honors. If his final grade is 91 to 91.99 he should be in third honors, if its 92 to 92.99 he should be in second honors, and if 93 and above then he gets the first honors. So that no matter how many of them has grades that fall into a certain range it doesn't matter.

In Raymund's class there is no first honor but they are six in the second honors. According to my son's class adviser, Raymund required only a few points to be eligible for the first honors. Among the second honors he has the highest grade, according to him. Well, I think what's important is knowing that my son has high grades and I have very high hopes for him.

The moving up and graduation ceremony yesterday started at 2:30 PM with a baccalaureatte mass. It was followed by doxology in which Raymund played a part, then the national anthem. Part I was the graduation ceremony for the preparatory and grade school levels. It was really tiring having to wait for Part II which is for the non-graduating honor students. Since my kids' prepared for their intermission numbers, waiting was made easier because we were apprehensive on how they will perform on stage this time. What touched my heart was the part when honors were made to sing a thanksgiving song for their parents. After the song they went down the stage and offered flowers to their parents. I was quite teary eyed remembering those times when I had to carry my little boy in my arms and do everything for him. It was not too long ago...
It was a hot tiring day and we were very hungry when everything folded up at 7:00PM. It was already dinner time and we eagerly proceeded to Gloria Maris Restaurant for our family celebration.

To all kids moving up... CONGRATULATIONS!
posted by Amelyn R. Rafael,MD @ 10:44 AM   2 comments
About Me

Name: Amelyn R. Rafael,MD
Home: San Fabian, Pangasinan, Philippines
About Me: Family Physician, and Associate Professor (Clinical Anatomy and Medical Physiology)
See my complete profile
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