Two months ago, from the 1st to the 7th January, Haze and I traveled to the Philippines for a dive trip at Anilao. The week long trip includes two nights at Manila and four nights at Anilao, Batangas. In this entry I’m going to talk a bit about the journey and Arthur’s Place, the resort we stayed while at Anilao.
Anilao is a pretty popular diving destination in the Philippines due to its proximity from Manila, as well as the myriad of underwater creatures the various dive sites has to offer. If you love macro (those small stuff like nudibranch, crabs, shrimps, etc), you will love Anilao.
I’ll be posting plenty of underwater photos on subsequent posts.
all smiles, driving to Anilao took about two hours
We flew Cebu Pacific and spent New Year’s day at Rich, my ex-colleague’s place at Manila.
On the next day, we drove about 2 hours to Anilao on a journey that’s about 75% highway and 25% slow moving busy town-roads. Our destination was Arthur’s Place where we will meet up with Dave, Caterina and others diving buddies (we dove together at Similan Islands and Tenggol Island)
Arthur’s place, love the lawn and the gazebo
Arthur’s Place has about a dozen rooms facing a lawn with a gazebo in the middle. The restaurant is located “upstairs”, while the dive center is half a level down, right next to the beach. It isn’t exactly luxury, but the rooms are clean, and comes with hot water and air conditioning.
Once we have our equipments set up for the first day, the helpers at the resort made sure we had fresh tanks of air for every dive, and transferring of equipment from boat to dive center’s usually taken care of as well. The level of service is excellent.
Dive center at Arthur’s Place
Our dive guide was Richard, the guy knows practically everything about dive sites at Anilao. All we had to do was telling him what we wanted to see, and he’ll know exactly which dive side and be able to locate that particular frog fish that’s only 2cm across, or the one sea fan with pygmy seahorse out of the hundreds of sea fans underwater.
If you are going to Arthur’s Place, I highly recommend getting Richard as your dive guide.
the pebble beach, not real sandy, but still a lovely view
The beach in front of Arthur’s Place isn’t exactly superb. The beach is made of broken corals, pebbles, and sand. A pair of booty is very useful if you want to take a stroll by the seaside. This is typical of beaches around Anilao and not limited to this stretch at Arthur’s Place.
Water is generally clear and you can snorkel or dive right from here.
awesome sunset everyday at Arthur’s Place
Arthur’s place faces west, which means post-card worthy sunset view every evening. We had the privilege of enjoying four golden sunsets here, and each time it takes your breath away.
some of the food we had, plenty of choices to last a week
Everything here is ala-carte basis, and that includes room, diving (per dive depending on number of divers, distance of dive sites), and best of all – food. The restaurant at Arthur’s Place carries a pretty decent menu offering traditional dishes such as steamed fish, chicken adobo, bangus (milk fish for breakfast), to Western entries such as their very delicious bacon cheese burger.
The prices are from around 80 to 200 Philippines Peso per dish, while on a slightly high side for Philippines, we had no qualms about how they tastes and looked forward to every meal.
KY, Haze, and Rich, partner in compressed air breathing
Over all we spent about RM 2,500 for 4 nights of accommodation, food, and around 20 dives for myself and Haze. It was money well spent and the trip was only made better by the excellent hospitality by Rich and San San.
Looking forward to doing this again. Underwater photos coming soon.
I’m by no means a philanthropist or a super passionate volunteer, but I do believe that every one of us should try to give back a little bit when there are chances to do so.
So when Dr. Melissa from MyDentist (where I get my Invisalign braces and my ongoing dental treatment) told me about Operation Smile missions in the Philippines, I jumped on the opportunity to go on my first volunteer trip.
Sta Ana Hospital, with Dr. Foo, Dr. Melissa, and our most friendly driver
First off, what is Operation Smile?
“Operation Smile is an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles, forever changing their lives.”
Founded by Dr. William Magee and Kathy Magee in 1982, Operation Smile provides free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities through the help of dedicated medical volunteers.
Dr. Melissa showing the device they use for cleft palate patient
The volunteers consists of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, dentists, pediatricians, speech therapists, medical equipment specialists, photographers, and more.
There were four missions in Philippines from running from the 22nd November to 1st December 2012 happening at Manila, General Santos City, Cavite, and Cebu City. We went to Manila on the 26th November to participate in the mission as first week is usually the screening process and thus have less use for dentists.
every morning starts with a briefing
The mission at Manila was held at the Sta Ana Hospital, one of the government hospitals located at greater Manila. It was about a 20-30 minutes van ride from the hotel at Makati.
Morning briefing starts at around 7 am everyday, so we had to get up by 6 am to have breakfast and catch the shuttle service to the hospital. The last operation usually doesn’t end before sunset. These are marathon sessions in surgery, but no one complain.
mission at De La Salle hospital, Cavite
I asked a local nurse where she resides, and her answer was “6 rides away”.
“Huh?” was my reaction. Then she explained that in order to get to Sta Ana hospital, she had to catch a jeepney, a bus, tricycle, then 2 more jeepney trips, and another tricycle. The journey takes something like 2 hours and she had to travel back and forth everyday to volunteer for the operation.
This is just an example of the dedication shown by the volunteers.
these kids will have a much improved life after operation
As for the international volunteers, Operation Smile provides hotel (decent 2-3 star accommodation, twin sharing most of the time), breakfast, and some food at the hospital pantry throughout the day. The volunteers paid for their own flights and other expenses.
This is very far from a “free leisure trip with some volunteer work”. A huge chunk of money collected by Operation Smile is used directly to pay for the surgeries of the kids who need them.
2 OR nurses and a dentist
On the third day of our stay, we moved to Cavite City to join another mission as the need of dentists were more pressing at that location.
The group at Cavite operates at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, Dasmariñas. The private hospital donates the usage of two operating rooms for Operation Smile and there were five plastic surgeons paired with anesthesiologists and operating nurses.
The mood in the operating rooms were usually quite relaxed and carries almost a celebratory mood. Everyone worked tirelessly but were always in a good mood.
then we had a gala dinner to end the mission
At the second to last day of mission, the Vice President of De La Salle University hosted a dinner at his residence to show appreciation to the volunteers, and there was a gala dinner a night after the missions concluded where volunteers from all four sites gathered at Manila to celebrate the success of the missions. Over 500 children benefited from Operation Smile across the four sites.
gala dinner at Manila
This trip opened my eyes and showed the better side of humanity that we seldom see. I felt embarrassed by the lack of help I could give to the mission other than spreading awareness through this space and other social media platforms. Perhaps I could be a imaging specialist or something next time.
Check out www.operationsmile.org for more information. If you are think you can help (especially medical professionals), contact Dr. Melissa from My Dentist and make a difference.
I’m currently in Philippines enjoying a dive trip, so I suppose it’s appropriate to introduce to you one of the dishes I discovered by accident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport of Manila.
I was waiting for my flight back to KL on the Operation Smile trip late last year, hungry struck, so we decided to stop by one of the small airport restaurants at Terminal 3 to catch lunch. The name of the place was Great Man Hann Restaurant.
dinuguan at Great Man Hann restaurant
The menu was full of vocabulary not found in my system, so like any adventurer, I picked the first item – Dinuguan, and asked the server about the dish.
“Sir, it’s pork cooked with pork blood”
He had me at pork blood, so I ordered, and it came exactly like what the server described.
Dinuguan from Philippines
Well, there’s also a side of steamed rice, and a green chili native to the Philippines on top. The “gravy” is made of pork blood and thus not exactly liquid but more like very tiny chunks of coagulated pork blood. Meat was delicious especially those with a mixture of fats in it, and when eaten with the chili, it provided an excellent kick.
It was an interesting dish and one that I would definitely try again. Since this one was from the airport, I’m sure there are superior versions out there, I shall try more. Especially those that not only include meat but intestine, ears, liver, and more.
Yum yum, so what’s some of the more interesting things you ate in 2012?
One of the most well known exotic Asian food must be balut from the Philippines. For those who hasn’t heard about this weird and wonderful traditional Pinoy dish, it is simply steamed duck embryo.
In my first trip to the Philippines back in 2009 I didn’t have a chance to try this delicacy, so when I went there again last week for Operation Smile (amazing experience, will write about that in depth soon), we make sure that balut is on top of our to-do list.
Well, here’s a video of the experience:
While balut is sold pretty much anywhere in Manila (and I suppose, most part of Philippines), they are not terribly easy to hunt down. The sellers usually operate out of a bicycle, so it’s best to ask a local where and also when you can get one.
We actually had to stop our bus once while traveling from De La Selle University Hospital back to hotel just to flag down a balut seller for some of these good stuff. A balut goes for about 10-15 peso, and usually comes with some salt, and sometimes vinegar.
check out the whole embryo separated from the egg white
As for the taste, it was like a cross between hard boiled duck egg and the tip of black chicken wings that is boiled in herbal soup till super soft. The beak can be just a little crunchy, and sometimes the feather does get in the way just a bit.
Quite gross when you think about it mentally, but really, it is delicious! I especially like the juice in balut, which probably is the allantoic fluid, or simply put, duck embryo pee. 😀
Skilled balut eater can also separate out the whole embryo from the egg to scare non-eating spectators, I shall learn to do that next time.
So if you’re in the Philippines, try a balut, or 4 (like I did)
A couple days ago I went to the Philippines, for a total of one day, with over half the time spent on the road (it was the Friday before Christmas, bad traffic). I messed up big time, I did not even get a chance to eat the famous balut!
If you have no idea what balut is, just take a look at the picture below.
Lovely isn’t it? Yes, I want to noms that down yumyumyum!!
There’s plenty to do at Philippines other than just chewing down balut, of course. The dried mangoes are super awesome, them pork dishes (at Cagayan, the Philippino restaurant at Centrepoint) are delicious, and there’re of course, pork rind and fried garlic I can buy back to Malaysia too!
Heck, there are even diving spots not far from Manila.
You guys will get to suggest and vote for what I do next when I’m there. What a concept right? (and there’s even a surprise for you if I manage to complete the task!)
Other than that, I also have to escape from a dangerous animal, so vote for me and I be your remote control blogger eating everything and anything you ask me to when I am at the Philippines! I need to win the Bloggers without Borders contest from Hotlink Prepaid Data Roaming.