The Beach - Alex Garland

There isn't always time and opportunity to jet set to exotic and faraway destinations. Fortunately, there's a great alternative to actual travelling - reading. And for the first armchair travel entry on this blog, I'm going to feature an excerpt from one of my favorite books.

As you read Alex Garland's The Beach, you're bound to eventually realize that it's more about a paradise gone wrong than the perfect, pristine beach utopia. Yet one part of the book is innocent, optimistic, and isolated from the chaos and darkness of the rest of the story - the part which is perhaps one of the main reasons why I have gained such a romantic notion when it comes to sleeping under a blanket of stars on the beach. Read on and see what I mean.


"All These Things"
Excerpt from The Beach, Alex Garland

[Richard talking to Francoise]

"Do you want me to tell you something funny?"

"What about?"

"Infinity. But it isn't that complicated. I mean, you don't need a degree in-"
Francoise waved a hand in the air, tracing a red pattern with the tip of her cigarette.

"Is that a yes?" I whispered.


"Okay." I coughed quietly. "If you accept that the universe is infinite, then that means there's an infinite amount of chances for things to happen, right?"
She nodded and sucked on the red coal floating by her fingertips.

"Well, if there's an infinite amount of chances for something to happen, then eventually it will happen - no matter how small the likelihood."


"That means somewhere in space there's another planet that, by an incredible series of coincidences, developed exactly the same way as ours. Right down to the smallest detail."

"Is there?"

"Definitely. And there's another which is exactly the same, except that palm tree over there is two feet to the right. And there's another where the tree is two feet to the left. In fact, there're infinite planets with infinite variations on that tree alone..."

Silence. I wondered if she was asleep. "So how about that?" I prompted.

"Interesting," she whispered. "In these planets, everything that can happen will happen."


"Then in one planet, maybe I am a movie star."

"There's no maybe about it. You live in Beverly Hills and swept last year's Oscars."

"That's good."

"Yeah, but don't forget, somewhere else your film was a flop."


"It bombed. The critics turned on you, the studio lost a fortune, and you got into booze and Valium. It was pretty ugly."

Francoise rolled on to her side and looked at me. "Tell me about some other worlds," she whispered. In the moonlight her teeth flashed silver as she smiled.

"Well," I replied. "That's a lot to tell."

Etienne stirred and turned over again.

I leaned over and kissed Francoise. She pulled away, or laughed, or shook her head, or closed her eyes and kissed me back. Etienne woke, clasping his mouth in disbelief. Etienne slept. I slept while Francoise kissed Etienne.

Light-years above our garbage bag beds and the steady rush of the surf, all these things happened.

Talipanan Beach, Puerto Galera

Talipanan Beach is the quiet and little-known neighbor of the popular beaches along Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental. Located to the west of White Beach and nearby Aninuan Beach, it’s an ideal alternative to the party-at-the-beach scene if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet.

My trip to Talipanan Beach was one of those spur-of-the-moment kind of things which, based from experience, are usually the ones that push through more often. It was so spontaneous that the extent of my planning consisted of the following: (a) I made reservations by texting the resort where I planned to stay; (b) I bought a cheap and lousy backpack because I left my decent one at our other house; And (c) I checked the weather forecast about a day prior to my trip. Afterwards, I literally packed my bags (actually, only one bag) and just left.

I left Manila on a Saturday morning by riding a bus headed to Batangas Pier. The trip took over two hours and cost PhP 140.00. Upon arriving at Batangas pier, the chaos at the ticket terminal was a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get to the booth to buy a one-way ticket for a 1 ½ hour boat ride to Talipanan Beach.

Not a lot of boats dock at Talipanan Beach – most dock at White Beach, which isn’t really a problem, because you could easily get a tricycle to take you from White Beach to Talipanan. But on my trip I was lucky that the boat I rode from Batangas pier had another group of passengers who were also headed for Talipanan Beach, so it took us there after a stopover in White Beach without any additional charge.

Upon arriving at Talipanan Beach I was welcomed by Ate Margie (09204032173), whose family owned Mengie’s Resort, one of the very few resorts in Talipanan. Her family actually lived at Talipanan beach and has done so for generations, so the accommodations their resort offered were homey and simple, as if the cottages and rooms were extensions of their home. I was given a key to a room for one where I was to stay for the night. The room was clean enough, the bathroom fairly decent. I figured I was only going to stay there to sleep anyway so it was not a problem.

I got a lot of peace and quiet on my stay at Talipanan Beach. I read"Atlas Shrugged" but didn't finish it. I ate halo-halo and sat around by the beach. I went swimming. I saw a rainbow. When dusk came I walked and walked and listened to my iPod. The next morning, I woke up early and again took a long walk by the shore, where I saw a number of unfinished and abandoned structures, probably the beginning stages of various plans to put up resorts, plans that obviously never pushed through. I also befriended a nice middle-aged couple who had lived at Talipanan beach their whole lives - we talked real estate. My only regret is that I wasn't able to try the pizza made by the Italian guy who lived in the house at the farthest end of the beach.

By Sunday afternoon I was ready to go home. From Talipanan Beach, I had to go back to White Beach, where I was to ride a boat headed back to Batangas pier. There isn’t a lot of transportation available at Talipanan Beach, so for the first part of my trip home, I had to walk. A lot. I took the road behind Talipanan Beach that led straight to White Beach. I walked and walked, probably for about an hour, and took pictures of what I saw. I walked behind an old man and his grandchildren, who probably walked through that road everyday. I passed by what I think was a Mangyan village. From the road I could see the shore of Talipanan beach, which looked beautiful and serene. I walked under huge trees – sunlight seeped through their branches, which made for some beautiful pictures. I had walked a long way before I got to ride a jeepney that took me the rest of the way to White Beach. It was the most unexpected part of my trip, which turned out to be the most memorable too.

The trip to Talipanan beach was the first one I took alone - my first ever solitary trip, which is why I rather fondly look back at it as a coming-of-age of sorts. And through it I realized that going on solitary trips does have its charms, although of course, going with friends can be just as fun, if not more enjoyable.And while there isn’t much to do in Talipanan Beach, such is not necessarily a bad thing – that, along with the fact that Talipanan beach is so close to Manila, make it the perfect destination if you suddenly feel the need to make a quick escape from the city to relax, take a break and forget the many stresses of urban living.

SanFo Treats Caramel Apples

I was in Glorietta yesterday and passed by a new stall at the Activity Center that was selling a unique treat: caramel apples (or as my kid brother calls them, candy apples). I think it's a pretty common treat in the States but I don't think I've ever seen them sold here, so I was very curious and wanted to try one. I almost didn't, however, because the caramel-dipped, chocolate-covered apples were huge, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to finish one on my own. My curiosity got the better of me, however, and pretty soon I was heading home with a Cosmo Caramel Apple and a Caramel Smores Popper (forgive the food shots, I've never really taken pictures of food and haven't a clue how to make them look good).

The Caramel Smores Popper is basically a carmel-dipped, chocolate and icing-covered marshmallow with an Oreo cookie on a stick. The caramel and the marshmallow made for a very gooey and delicious treat, which tasted great with the cookie. And because it was a relatively small serving compared to the caramel apple, I didn't have any trouble finishing the entire thing. It was very affordable as well at PhP 20.00.

Now to the major event: the caramel apple. I couldn't choose among the different flavors so I asked the kind saleslady which of them was the bestseller, and she told me it was the Cosmo, which was basically a chocolate-covered caramel apple. At PhP 80.00 the Cosmo cost a bit more than the other caramel apples (most of which cost PhP 50.00), but it looked too good to pass up so I went ahead and bought one. I didn't know how to eat it at first - I didn't want to take a huge bite for fear of making a mess (and it probably also has to do with the fact that I once had braces and biting into stuff like apples was a major no-no). Eventually, however, I forgot about everything and just took a huge bite into the damn thing - and boy was I glad I did! The caramel apple was gooey, crunchy, juicy, sweet (but not too sweet because of the apple), and every bite was a delicious treat.

So the verdict? Although I don't think I'll be eating SanFo Treats' caramel apples on a regular basis, it's great if you suddenly feel the need to satisfy your sweet tooth, or if you want to treat yourself after a job well done or a long hard day at work. And like doing the cannonball in a pool and riding a bike, the best part about enjoying a caramel apple is how it makes you feel like a kid all over again.

SanFo Treats: The Original Caramel Apple

6282993, 09274637248
The Fun Ranch (beside Tiendesitas)
Glorietta (fronting Tag Heuer)
Megamall (fronting Toy Kingdom)

Bantayan Island, Cebu, Part 1 (Apr. 10-15,'07)

Situated north-west of Cebu province is Bantayan Island, whose charm lies in its friendly locals and serene white sand beaches. The island has yet to become an extremely popular tourist destination, so its beauty, simplicity and tranquility are wonderfully preserved.

How We Got There

From Cebu City’s Northern Bus Terminal, my friends and I rode an air-conditioned bus to Hagnaya Port for PhP88.00 - the trip took around three and a half hours, but was fairly comfortable as the bus was clean and well-maintained. The scenery on the way to the port was mostly of small towns, sprawling mountainside, and every so often we got a glimpse of coastline.

From Hagnaya Port, we rode a ferry to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island. The hour-long ride cost us about PhP130.00/head.

Where We Stayed

Numerous resorts line the shores of Santa Fe, and as suggested by our friend’s brother (who had been to the island a number of times prior), we made reservations at Kota Beach, a resort that was a few minutes’ ride from the Santa Fe port. Along with some other guests, we rode a van sent by Kota Beach to pick us up at the port, and after a few minutes we arrived at the resort.

Kota Beach (Tel. no. 438-9042)

We rented (and actually haggled for) a cottage that cost us around PhP 1,400.00 a night, to be shared by six people. The cottage was air-conditioned and had one bathroom, 1 double bed and 1 single bed (we requested for two additional foam beds). It also had a little terrace in front with comfortable wooden chairs and a clothesline (very important, as six people living in one cottage for four days meant that there would be at least six wet swimsuits that needed drying for the most part of our stay).

The beach at Kota was beautiful. Besides the fine white sand, the best part about it was the huge sandbar right in front of the resort. Various portions of it would sink and rise depending on the time of the day. From talking to the locals, my friend found out that prior to a big storm that hit the island a few months back, the sandbar extended to the other resorts, but during our visit only the portion in front of Kota Beach remained. Also, the water was a beautiful blue, and we couldn’t wait to jump in when we first arrived.

Food! Food!

One thing’s for sure at Bantayan island: you won’t go hungry. For the most part, we ate a lot of grilled stuff, from chicken to fish to pork. The seafood, however, was amazing – not to mention, extremely affordable.

For our first meal we decided to try the food at the resort restaurant. We ordered mostly grilled stuff, which was delicious, but fairly expensive compared to the meals we would be having afterwards. That’s because my Cebuano friend (who was also our host for the trip) met one of the locals, Remy (cellphone 09063578703), who was basically an all-around man, i.e. whatever you wanted, he could get for you, pretty much. My friend would ask Remy to shop for fresh seafood and meat at the public market, which his wife would cook for us. We would have grand dinners of delicious fish, shellfish, pork and chicken every night, and only for PhP 150.00/head or less.

Behind Kota Beach was a small town that was a ten-minute walk (pedicabs were also available for PhP 10.00) from the resort, and we would often visit to buy ice, water, toiletries, etc. We also got to try the grilled chicken and chorizo sold from a barbecue stand on a street corner. Apart from being totally affordable, eating at the stand made for an authentic Bantayan experience.

For breakfast we also had the nice lady at the meat shop cook for us, for which we spent less than PhP 50 for a huge pot of adobo, rice and bananas.

Now I’m not a soda fan, but one discovery at Bantayan Island might just change all of that: it’s called Sparkle, and it costs PhP 7 a bottle. Fondly pronounced “Sparcol”, it’s like Mountain Dew or Lift but with a lot of fizz. And maybe it was also the summer heat and the whole beach atmosphere, but Sparkle now stands as my favorite softdrink, and probably one of the things I will miss the most about Bantayan Island.

Read Part 2: What Happens in Bantayan, Stays in Bantayan...

Bantayan Island, Cebu, Part 2 (Apr. 10-15,'07)

What happens in Bantayan Stays in Bantayan…

…Or not, as I’m obviously about to share the things we did during our 4-day 3-night stay at Kota Beach. Here’s a day-by-day account of our list of activities, which as I’m sure you’ll find out after reading, will tell you that you won’t get bored in Bantayan Island.

Day 1: Of Beaches and Bonfires

It took us the entire morning to get from Cebu City to Bantayan, so we only had the rest of the afternoon and the evening of our first day on the island. After settling down, some of us took a nice afternoon nap, while others (like Rissee, Bert and I) went for a swim and took a walk along the sandbar. The water was nice and warm (and also cold at times), and very clean. Eventually all six of us were in the water, where we stayed until sunset.

That evening we had our first massive dinner of fried fish, pork, and shellfish (they looked like oysters but not quite, hehe), courtesy of Kuya Remy, whose wife also made this sauce that we put on everything - it was made of soy sauce, tomatoes, and onions. And as true-blue Filipinos, naturally we had heaps of rice. I’m from Batangas and I’m not sure I’ve seen rice the way it‘s cooked in Bantayan – they had the rice inside woven banana leaves, and they called them “puso”, which cost about PhP 2.00 / piece. It was a great, satisfying meal, to say the least. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen my friends eat so much except for the time we had shotgun lunch at Tong Yang.

Oh! And let’s not forget the most fun part: we ate on huge banana leaves, laid out on the table, with our hands. Now how often can you do that in Manila?

After dinner we hired one of Kuya Remy’s friends to set up a bonfire for us at the sandbar. We bought some alcohol and ice from town, brought our purchases along with a few mats to the sandbar and settled down around the fire. We drank, took pictures, watched the stars, listened to music from Jen’s phone, and talked a lot. The boys and Rissee (having been a girl scout) managed the fire, and would put dried leaves, branches and wood every so often to keep it going. By the time they had run out of stuff to throw into the bonfire, we decided it was time to pack up and call it a night (but not before briefly considering throwing in the leftover alcohol into the fire – we didn’t, however). It was midnight by the time we got back to our cottage.

Day 2: Snorkeling on a Sanctuary

I woke up early the next day and took a long walk along the shore with Rissee (the others were still asleep in the cottage). We checked out the resorts on both sides of Kota Beach and picked up some shells along the way. I also discovered that my friend Rissee, known Ice Princess and TFB (a.k.a. Trust Fund Baby, hehehe…love you Rissee!) had a penchant for picking up small crabs, turning them over and determining their gender. By the time we got back to our cottage there was a pleasant surprise waiting, literally, on our doorstep. A huge hermit crab was walking by, and Rissee, the crab-grabber that she was, bravely picked it up, no squirming or anything, and we proceeded to observe it more intently. After a while we kept him in a little enclosure so our other friends could see him when they woke up. Eventually the crab bit Kinns and we figured he was already getting too crabby for our taste, so we finally let him go.

Once all of us were up and about, we had adobo, eggs and rice for breakfast, after which an outrigger boat arrived to pick us up. The day before, Kinns had made arrangements for a boat to take us to a marine sanctuary and to go island hopping. We packed our lunches, brought them to the boat and by noon we were off.

We had to pay a PhP 50.00 / head entrance to the marine sanctuary, and rented snorkeling gear for PhP 75.00 a piece (I don’t know how sanitary renting snorkeling gear is, but I must say none of us contracted any kind of disease afterwards).

Our snorkeling / island-hopping trip then proceeded to become just a snorkeling trip. Much to my delight, all six of us were fairly good swimmers and apparently enjoyed snorkeling, so we decided to devote the rest of the trip to exploring the marine sanctuary. The water was 20+ feet deep and the sanctuary housed a massive expanse of coral that played host to various colorful fish. The fish was a bit disappointing as there were very few large ones, but nevertheless it was an enjoyable experience. Bert and Tiff discovered this huge, fort-like structure of coral that was a couple of yards away from the boat, so we all proceeded to check it out and take some pictures. It was so huge and weird-looking it was easy to imagine it as an alien space ship that sank millions of years ago. Gnarly.

We brought with us a loaf of bread for the fish, but when that ran out, we proceeded to feed them with the rice we were supposed to eat for lunch. It was so much fun watching the bits of rice trickle down to the bottom while schools of fish hastily approached and fed on them. We also spotted blue starfish and hermit crabs.

For most of the trip we were on the water, but we would take occasional breaks and get on the boat to eat what remained of our lunch, grilled chicken barbecue and a bottle of Coke. After eating, we’d put on a new layer of sunscreen (tanning oil for some) and jump right back in, snorkeling as far away as we can from the boat (and no floaters or life vests!)

On our way back from the marine sanctuary our boat passed by Virgin Island, one of the places we were supposed to visit had we gone island hopping. Apparently it was a beautiful beach perfect for swimming, but from what we saw, it wasn’t very spectacular. To begin with, it was far from being a “virgin island”, as I spotted a number of concrete structures lining the shore. For the most part, I think we made the right choice by using the whole day to swim and snorkel.

By the time we got back to Kota Beach we still had the energy to frolic in the water and only got back to our cottage early evening. We again had a massive dinner, this time with sinigang, grilled fish, crabs, and the put-it-on-everything-sauce. We also ran into a former teacher of ours at UA&P, who was staying at Kota Beach with her other colleagues.

After dinner we played the totally crazy “name game” on the sand (if you lost, the punishment was you had to do the crab dance along the beach, for all the guests to see), and afterwards, were off to bed.

Day 3: Bike Ride to Ogtong Cave

We woke up bright and early on our third day at Kota Beach, had a quick breakfast, brought our backpacks and met Kuya Remy, who was going to be our guide for the day. We were to go resort-hopping around Santa Fe and check out Ogtong Cave. We rented out bikes and began our journey. I hadn’t ridden a bike in ten years, so I started all wobbly and scared for my life. But the figure of speech holds true, I suppose, as pretty soon I had the hang of it and was riding like a pro (well, not really, but I was doing okay). Our first stop was this tiny, exclusive resort, where it cost PhP 5,000 a night to rent a fancy villa with a jacuzzi. It had nice, landscaped grounds and the villas did look amazing, but the beachfront wasn’t very pretty.

We then visited Santa Fe Beach Club, the resort immediately visible from Santa Fe port. The resort seemed nice and clean but too "resorty" for our taste, which led us to believe that we really did the right thing staying at Kota Beach.

Our last stop, Ogtong Cave, was located within a resort (aptly called Ogtong Cave Resort. Duh. Hehehe). On our way there we stopped to buy Sparkle from a sari-sari store and asked if anyone did henna tattoos in Bantayan. Kinns made arrangements for the henna guy to meet us at Kota Beach later in the day.

We had to ride our bikes through paved and rough road to get to Ogtong Cave resort, which made for a rather uncomfortable but otherwise enjoyable trip. The scenery along the way was of simple provincial life: humble houses, sari-sari stores, kids playing on the side of the road, a far cry from life in Manila, or even in Batangas. All the while Corrine Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" was playing in my head (Remember the video for that song?).

When we finally got to Ogtong Cave Resort, we had to pay an entrance fee of PhP 90.00 to be able to use the resort’s facilities. We then proceeded to check out Ogtong Cave.

A flight of stone steps had been paved on the entrance to the cave, where there was also a natural spring. Unfortunately the cave didn’t look so “natural” anymore because of the spotlights that had been installed in its various areas. But it was still slightly dark inside the cave, so we treaded slowly and carefully across it. We soon discovered, however, that it was a very small cave and there wasn’t much to see, so we hung around for a while, took some pictures, and got out.

That night, Jen would find out from a local that the cave was actually very long and used to opento a small barangay. The spring was also connected to a spot along the shore, where spring water would come out from among the seawater, and one would actually be able to drink it. Apparently, the cave also saved a lot of lives during World War II, when the locals would stay in the cave to hide from Japanese soldiers. We don’t know the accuracy of this account but it’s pretty interesting.

By noon we were again riding our bikes and were on our way back to Kota Beach. We stopped at a roadside barbecue to have lunch and Sparkle, and rode back to the resort. The henna guy was already waiting for us when we arrived, so we freshened up and had our henna tattoos done. Afterwards, we rented out a kayak and hung out at Kota’s beachfront. We stayed in the water until sunset, and afterwards waited for dinner to be served.

That night dinner was splendid as usual, and eating was accompanied by lively chatter. Jen had hired someone to give her a massage so we had to clear out of the cottage. Tiff stayed in with Jen and slept, while Rissee, Kinns, Bert and I went to stay at the beach. We brought some mats to lie on and eventually got some pillows and blankets and decided to sleep on the beach - a fitting idea as well, seeing as it was our last night at Kota.

I love sleeping on the beach, looking up and watching the stars in a massive expanse of sky. We settled comfortably on our sleeping spots and talked about anything and everything while we watched the night sky, waiting for shooting stars (we spotted a number of them throughout the night). Eventually the chatter piped down until it was replaced by complete silence. "Chasing Cars" ("If I lay here, if I just lay here...") played on my iPod until, like the rest of my friends, I drifted off to sleep.

Day 4: Bye bye, Bantayan

The silence and the sleep were shortlived, however. It was still a bit dark when Ris and Bert woke me up – we were going to wait for the sunrise. Eventually Kinns woke up too, and Tiff joined us from the cottage. We headed for the sandbar and looked for a nice spot to catch the sunrise.

I find it's rather difficult to describe the sunrise we witnessed that day, but we took loads of pictures, so you might want to check them out on my Multiply site. It was a perfect way to begin our final day in Bantayan Island.

We didn’t really have much time to do anything else on our last day except pack our bags and prepare to head back to Cebu City. We had brunch at a roadside barbecue in town, took some last pictures at Kota Beach, and soon after, we were on our way to Santa Fe port.

When we arrived at Santa Fe port a ferry was already about to leave, so we hastily bought and drank our last bottle of Sparkle, after which we finally boarded the ferry. We spent the hour-long trip back to Hagnaya Port looking at our pictures and sleeping, which made the ride seem like it lasted for a lot less than an hour. At Hagnaya port the only bus headed for Cebu City was already full, so instead of waiting for the next one to arrive, we opted to ride a van that charged PhP 100.00 per head. The trip back was pretty uneventful and after three and a half hours, we were back in Cebu City.

I’d love to go back to Bantayan Island soon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more activity-filled vacation. Everyday there was something to do, and I was never bored. The island was beautiful beyond words, the food was amazing, and the locals were extremely friendly and wonderfully welcoming. Of course, it also helped that I was with an amazing set of friends who were equally game to try out new things and participate in a lot of activities. All in all, it was a great vacation and a great adventure.

Check out more pictures from our Bantayan Trip on my
Multiply site.

About Filipina in Flip Flops

Daene Luna, twenty-something
Day Job: Cube dweller for a multinational

Favorite Travel Picture: There are plenty, but if I had to choose, it'd be this one -

Travel Must-Haves: My iPod, a good book, and a camera

Favorite Travel Book: It's a toss-up between Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and Che Guevara's The Motorcyle Diaries (it's more than just a travel book of course, but the idea of just leaving everything behind to go on an adventure with a good friend is inspiring to me)

Favorite Songs when Traveling: It changes on every trip but some songs that are always in my playlist include -
1. "No Stopping Us", Jason Mraz
2. "Insomnio", Alejandro Flores and Cafe Tacuba
3. "Better Together", Jack Johnson
4. "Underneath it All", No Doubt
5. "Kiss Kiss Kiss", Ananda Project

Top Three Dream Destinations:

Mt. Roraima, Venezuela

Tuscany, Italy
(The whole of Europe, actually)

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Image Credits:
Mt. Roraima:
Angkor Wat:

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