Hanoi Parting Shots

Because of the major shift in our itinerary, we spent the last two days of our trip back in Hanoi. It’s a shame we couldn’t maximize the Halong Bay experience, but then again, there really is no bargaining with Mother Nature. On the bright side: Hooray for refunds and hooray for short-notice vacancies (Hanoi Chic Hotel, we love you already)!

Yes, crazy adjustments had to be made, but it was nothing a serving of spring rolls, stir-fried vermicelli, and a cup of Vietnamese coffee couldn’t fix.

Thanks to our bonus hours, we were allowed more leisure time in the capital:

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Halong from the Other Side!

We had just entered Halong City when our designated guide received a call from their head office. The unexpected inclement weather cast a literal cloud on what was supposedly a three-day cruise. Apparently, this country is immune to weather forecasts. Not wanting to put our four-hour bus ride to waste, our travel group unanimously decided to at least push through with a day trip via Seasun Cruise Ship.

No amount of volatile meteorological developments could stop us from witnessing the hypnotic splendor of Halong Bay!

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Hanoi on Foot

One thing we learned in our two days here thus far: you don’t just look left and right before crossing the street; you look in all directions while crossing. It’s an essential survival tool, I tell you. Unless, of course, you don’t mind being crushed by a motorbike stampede. It’s a lesson we took to heart yesterday as we ventured outside the Old Quarter on foot.

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Bb. Pilipinas 2016: My Final Picks

I’ll be out of the country this weekend and I’ll likely have no internet access on the days surrounding the pageant (If I do, hooray, then). So, I’m locking in my predictions early. There were definitely some major shake-ups from the initial short list I posted a couple of months ago and it’s not just because of the pre-pageant activities, mind you. I’m referring to the rather unceremonious pillorying and subsequent disqualification of Janelle Olaffson (Original Bb.#1) and Kim Ross de los Santos (Original Bb. #20).  Both Binibinis were expunged from the roster for allegedly participating in racy past photo shoots. The latter case was particularly shocking. The general public touted Kim Ross as the odds-on favorite – she’s the tallest in the group, she’s gorgeous, and to sum it up: she appeared to be the most poised to compete at a stratified international level at that point. And it’s rather frustrating that all appeals to bolster her cause wound up fruitless. I no longer wish to join the debate bandwagon over what defines or what doesn’t define “racy”, but I do sense a lack of due process.  As much as I want to continue lauding the organization for the stellar achievements of last year’s batch, this turn of events does strike me as a surprising step backward.

Of course, the show still must go on and, fortunately, there are still some worthy stunners in this lot. Six crowns are up for grabs this year and whoever wins will have big shoes to fill – for patently obvious reasons. So, here are my picks:

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Barangay Napalm

I spent my last few hours in Baler exploring a fragment of film history. This was where portions of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now (1979) were filmed. And while majority of the film’s sequences were shot in Pagsanjan, it was in this very town where they did this iconic scene with Robert Duvall:

Production was marred by several delays: The set was ravaged by a typhoon, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, and Marlon Brando‘s eccentric behavior drove Coppola nuts, just to cite a few unfortunate incidents. Fortunately, the film did go on racking up several accolades, including Oscars for Cinematography and Sound Editing. More importantly, it’s now considered as one of the quintessential Vietnam War movies. But for the then-untapped town of Baler, Apocalypse Now‘s legacy transcends the realm of cinema.

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By the falls and under the bridge

I stepped out of the hotel room that morning to find evidence of heavy downpour. Somehow, I forgot about Baler‘s susceptibility to bad weather – with its proximity to the Pacific and all that. Good thing the sun was kind enough to show up. We only had that day to sample Aurora‘s natural wonders.

Since it was everybody’s first time in the region, we hired a tour guide to show us around. Our first stop: the majestic Ditumabo Mother Falls 


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Haller, Baler

Prior to Holy Week this year, I never imagined myself getting this fixated with Baler. I mean, I’m no surfer. I don’t think I’ll develop the coordination and balance for that activity anytime soon (LOL). Luckily, it took an out-of-whim trip for me to realize that it’s more than a surfing Mecca.

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