My Dinagyang Fever

20 02 2012
Dinagyang Festival, 20 21 22
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Iloilo City, Philippines

I have had this fever for years. Finally, I had the last opportunity to do it. I did it with O.

I thought once I have the final schedule, everything will just be smooth. I started booking the flights since last month and I tried checking out the hotels only to find out they were full! After all, Dinagyang festivities will surely draw crowd since it is a cultural and religious celebration in honor of Sto. Nino. “Viva Sto Nino!”

One day before the flight, I still was not able to find the hotel. Upon landing the IloIlo airport, I went to the tourism desk. And voila! 3 flyers were there, waiting to take a chance with me. After several sms and calls, JC (Jesus Christ) heard my prayers. We got a Friday night hotel booking!

Our hotel was very near the festival’s venue, Freedom Grandstand. And the port for our Saturday side trip was just 2 blocks away! I told myself, I will deal with the Saturday night hotel booking tomorrow.

SAMPLE ITINERARY ON MANAGING DINAGYANG FEVER
(Swimming-Hiking-Touring SHT: one whole day side trip to Guimaras, then half day Dinagyang/city tour the following day.)
 
DAY 1 (Guimaras island tour)
0900 ETD Iloilo to Guimaras.
O and I started walking to the ferry terminal and headed to Jordan, Guimaras! We reached the destination after less than 20 minutes of cruising the Iloilo Strait, a narrow channel between Iloilo and Guimaras. It was a very welcoming and safe arrival. The local tourism on the island greeted us. We registered and they gave a 5-minute briefing on what are the interesting spots on the island. They told us their registration process whereby you will also have an idea how much the cost of the “contracted” vehicle per the 5 areas – Buenavista, San Lorenzo, Jordan, Sibunag and Nueva Valencia. More better than this, the locals were very hospitable! Although they speak different dialect (Hiligaynon/Ilonggo), they tried conversing with us in Filipino. (The country has a minimum 120 dialects all over the 1,707 islands around the archipelago.)
We hired a tricycle for us to maximize our day within the island. Tricycle is a local 3-wheeled motorcycle with an attached passenger sidecar.
 
 
1000 Start of island tour. White beach of Poblacion
We first targeted the “white beach” at the southern west part among the places to go to on the island. And ended up ordering early lunch at Raymen Beach resort. While having our seafood, we sat on the beach and frolic under the sun. We were awed by the beauty of white soft sand Guimaras castle made by some foreign and local tourists.
 
 
1330 Guisi Point Lighthouse, Dolores
After a refreshing underwater fun, we took some snaps of the historical Guisi Point, built during the Spanish era (1896)
1430 Sad-sad Falls
We did some 30 minute hiking (descending and ascending) to Sadsad falls so that O could see how it looks like in its actual form. This was the side trip of the side trip ’cause it was not really part of the deal! It will be a shame if I will not show a falls to this city person after she asked, “How does a waterfall look like for real?”
Melvin our driver took the challenge. We turned right at km 611, started trekking under a scourging sun and left our bags on the trail so that we will not miss our way back. Then after few minutes, we started hearing the sound of water. We were near the falls! We were able to walk on the rocks on top of the falls and peer over the edge. We saw the beauty of Sad-sad falls!
 
1530 Trappist Monastery – Our Lady of the Philippines in San Miguel
We did some meditation in the artistically crafted church and bought some “pasalubong” such as processed mango, ube, handmade bags etc from the Gift Shop
 
1630 Guimaras Adventure Park in Alaguisocs
We checked out the park, saw the zip line, the rappel and other facilities.
 
1700 ETD Guimaras back to Iloilo
We were already considering to stay on the island since we saw more spots for snaps
 
 
but the hotels were full as well. We then decided to take the pumpboat back to Iloilo.
As soon as we reached the main island, I started the hotel booking marathon. I almost reached the finish line but when I found out that the hotel charges on an hourly basis, I started doubting! I told myself, “This is not the hotel suited for a 12-year old Manila girl!”
Finally, we found a new hotel in Molo. When O heard that there was no aircon in the room, she told me with a smile that this will be an exciting experience for her. I uttered, “simple things give surprises!”
 
DAY 2 (Dinagyang Ati-atihan Parade/Contest and some historical city tour)
0900 Iloilo Dinagyang 2012
While heading back to the Freedom Grandstand area, O told me that she was surprised that the ceiling fan could be as cold as the aircon! Then we braced ourselves as we wandered through the crowd like a needle dropping incessantly. We saw the Ati-Ati street dancing where locals returned back in time pretending to be the Ati natives with bodies covered with soots and ashes. (Ati natives were the indigenous on the island before the Malay arrival in the 10th century). The crowds were chanting “Viva El Senor Santo Nino!”
After few snaps, I was already melting in the sun. We left the crowd and tried some local food.
 
 
 
1400 Historical tour to Plaza Libertad and Fort San Pedro
We took the “sicad”, the local pedicab and did 2 out of dozen historical landmarks within the city.  One, at Plaza Libertad, the spot where the First Philippine Republic flag was raised in triumph after Spain surrendered Iloilo to the revolutionaries in 1898. Then off we went to the second landmark, Fort San Pedro built in 1600s by the Spaniards. This was the place attacked by Dutch, British, American and Japanese troops.
 
 
1500 Recharge in the hotel then go to the airport.

I am sure I will no longer have Dinagyang fever. But would rather go back to Iloilo for more local food galore like at Roberto’s then explore more Guimaras island one day..h





Masala CNY

9 02 2011
Tuticorin – Chennai – Dhaka
Monday, 7 February 2011
Dhaka, Bangladesh

My Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila did not push through. I instead flew to the land of colourful “incredible India ” and Bangladesh .

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India Pilgrimage in Tuticorin

The Basilica of a Lady of Snow built 400 years ago caught my attention for its beauty having a blue and white façade. I have travelled to India in 2005 and this was the first time for me to see a very big Catholic church considering that the country has less than 3% Christian. To my surprise, the church also houses the miraculous statue of our Lady of Snows that arrived in the area since June 9, 1955 passing through Beach Road . To add up to the Indian pilgrimage, Ajay took me then to the temple that accepts non-Hindu.

Indian and Bangladeshi Cuisine

I had a very good Indian cuisine the whole time at Hotel DSF. The fast food called “Big Boy Fried Chicken” known as BFC in Chennai on the other hand brought the western with the Indian taste. Sonargaon buffet breakfast provided vast choices to start your day right. Chicken barbeque and “soup” would be a good experience for you too at Hirajheel Hotel in Dhaka . Make sure you go to this restaurant with a local, just like I did. Thanks to both Ekramul and Itrat who knew what to order for me.

The best vitamin C in Dhaka called Boroi is a good fruit tasting experience giving you a neutral taste for the palate. While the local Igloo ice cream adds up to the chill!

Shopping in Chennai

Chennai has a number of shopping areas. I only had Raahat Plaza from where I was. Looking around, I may say that items depend on one’s taste.

Killing time

Once you are in Chennai airport, kill time at Bica business lounge for news watching.

WHERE TO STAY

There are few well-maintained hotels in Tuticorin. I stayed in Hotel DSF Grand Plaza, a 3-star category with clean facilities and friendly staff that could assist you hundred times for the wifi connection. By the way, don’t be surprised seeing a lot of mothballs around your room. It is their “preventive” control at the same time used for room perfume. (You may opt then to tell the staff one moth ball would be enough).

In Chennai, the environment friendly Green Park Hotel brought me back to nature. And offered quite a number of freebees: welcome fruit platter, free night cap business cocktail that already filled my stomach and polo candy before going to bed.

While in Dhaka, I got pampered by the clean sheets, good breakfast, unlimited internet access, friendly staff of Pan Pacific Sonargaon.

WHEN TO GO

Depending on what your travel program preference is, both Tuticorin and Chennai welcome tourism any time of the year. During my CNY week visit, I was lucky for the weather was cool at 21 degrees Celsius.

HOW TO GO

From Manila, I flew in India on Chennai via Singapore Airlines and took the local flight with King Fisher to Tuticorin. From Chennai to Dhaka, I had one layover in New Delhi with Jet Airways. (You could look for other airlines for this India to Bangladesh leg since both my flights were delayed.)

WHAT TO BRING

Insect repellent would be a handy thing for those with sensitive skin specially in Dhaka Zia International Airport. h








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