One of the close but a little inaccessible islands that I finally got to last month was Fortune Island. It is a smallish island located off the coast of Nasugbu, Batangas. It is famous for having greek columns on a cliff.
The thing about this columns is that they are obviously a replica and a little pretentious. If you know anything about Greek architecture or even just simple architecture, you’d know that the columns are supposed to support a roof of the building, hence, the columns should be around a square or rectangular space that enclose something. In the case of Fortune Island, there are two columns of on a narrow cliff. They’re just there for decoration (which is a great place for photoshoots but with no semblance of being authentic. Also,, they are obviously modern made replicas. The rebars on the cement columns are showing, rusting, and running down the concrete sides.
There are other Greek/Roman replica stuff on that cliff, such as these broken statues (where you can see a rebar poking out of the top). Also, I’m not so sure if there were lion statues in Greece/Rome (there could be).
Fortune Island was an exclusive resort. And by exclusive, I mean exclusive. The rich and famous of the country used to go here. It is/was owned by ex-Gov. Leviste of Batangas. I don’t know what happened and why the resort closed and came to such a state of disrepair. We stayed near the previous restaurant. It is a huge circular structure with the roof falling (particularly since the time we were there it was raining hard). We pitched our tents at the side of the structure and cooked our food and ate in one of the tables in the structure.
During the resort’s heyday, this could have been a beautiful and believable shipwreck. However, in its current state, it is obviously a replica. As you can see from the picture, the boards coming off the side shows probably insulation. On the inside are concrete slabs as floor.
Despite the state of disrepair and obviously fake replicas, the island is still a wonderful destination, especially for snorkelers and divers. The front of the island has a coral garden with lots of fishes. I saw a white-spotted boxfish (first time to see this), a big cornetfish, some batfish and a school of Moorish idol. The pictures of our freedive will be covered in another post. Around the island are other dive sites but we really didn’t have much time in the island as we arrived in Nasugbu around 2pm and the boat ride (a very choppy ride) takes almost an hour. We had to leave by around 11am the following day to avoid the huge waves. (The waves were so choppy that two of our companions were very nervous that the moment we left the port in Nasugbu, they already wanted to turn back).
To go to Fortune Island, you have to take a bus or travel by car to Nasugbu. Once there, you will take a motorized boat to the island. The boat can accomodate around 17 guests and you should maximize it as it is insanely expensive (compared to other boat rentals in other places we’ve been to) at P8500-P9000 for the whole trip. Since there were 11 or 13 of us, we were able to go there for less than P2,000 each (more like P1,800 including bus fare).
I went there with Oyet and her current and previous officemates. My usual gang did not go with us but we’re sure we’re coming back there sometime after October when habagat (westerly monsoon) is over so that the waves will be less choppy and it will be easier to dive.
Last weekend and up to Tuesday, we went again to Palawan! This time, in El Nido. El Nido is one of the three tourism areas of Palawan (the others being Coron, where we’ve been before, and Puerto Princesa, the capital city).
Anyway, I’d like to show you photos of a good friend and the the one who introduced us all to the joy of freediving, Elaine.
While we were all clinging to lifevest (several months back), Elaine was already enjoying the freedom of not using them and being able to go to depths and look at fishes and corals from a closer view. She was then an applicant for ISDA (probably an acronym for International Skin Divers Association or something and is also the Tagalog/Filipino term for fish). Now that we are on a level that she was several months ago, she’s levelled up to deeper depths, diving in stronger currents and breathholding for longer.
The next few pictures were taken in Small Lagoon, a stop on tour A in El Nido (tours being coded as A, B, C or D). As a snorkeling/freediving site, it really isn’t much. It is surrounded by limestone cliffs cutting out most of the light from reaching the bottom, hence, the lack of visibility down under compared to the other (probably deeper) sites. However, one good thing about this location is the rays of the sun filtering through the cliffs and the vegetation provides beautiful rays of light in the water. We went there first in the morning (arrived there around 10am) and the light streaking through the water was just awesome for taking these photographs.
This first picture was for me, the most beautiful of the lot. The light was wonderful, no distracting people in the background, just Elaine, her happy yellow fins and the water. Unfortunately though, her head is not seen as she arched her back to look down below.
Second one, more about her happy yellow fins (the one the camera chose to focus). She’s on her descent here.
Third one is where she’s making a turn from going down to ascending. Her body position seems awkward but I like the effect of here centered in all the blueness of the sea.
And this is her on her ascent. As taught by freedivers (and I guess for scuba as well), you need to raise one of your arms when ascending so that when you accidentally hit a boat (or worse a propeller), you’ll just hurt (or cut) your hand, not your head.
And finally, we see her face!
On our second to last dive site for the day (another area), I loaned her my long fins. Since my feet are much bigger than hers, she wore it with her booties and with the fin grip to prevent accidental slippage of the fins.
Yes freediving long fins are reeeeaaallly long. Probably as long as her leg and thighs…
These final two pictures aren’t the strongest of the lot (they are in fact, the least best pics of her) but they show the true joys of recreational freediving.
Being able to see sea creatures up close (this one’s a hawksbill turtle).
And enjoying freedom from heavy scuba gear and the joy and relaxation of moving effortlessly (more or less) through water.
That’s it for now, I’ll be posting more pictures from our El Nido trip (including the wonderful sea creatures underneath the surface of the water). In case you’re wondering how she looks when out of water, here’s her picture.
Our trip to Hundred Islands was motivated by our desire to go underwater. Luckily, Hundred Islands has a place for snorkeling and with giant clams as bonus!
I didn’t even think I’d even see giant clams. I once read a book about a boy whose leg was caught by a taklobo (giant clam). That was my first “encounter” with a giant clam and that was about 15 to 20 years ago. It was quite unreal seeing these magnificent (who are slow to close and the adult of which cannot fully close). They are of different colors, some blue, some purple and some green. Their lips are peppered with luminiscent spots. Good thing that there are many (probably hundreds) of them in the national park and that they are protected by the local government.
It seems that everytime I dive now, I can see Moorish Idols (so-called because Moors of Africa once considered them good luck). They are beautiful and graceful creatures that are very conspicuous in reefs.
Triggerfish are notorious for being very protective of their territory. In fact, another species of triggerfish bit my neck as I was diving down to look at some fish. It was a black triggerfish that hides under a rock/coral and went out to bite me. Fortunately, there was no skin break. Also, it is not this guy.
This one, I had trouble finding the identification on the internet. I first thought it was either an angelfish or a butterfly fish (based on its body). After combing through several sites, I found out that butterfly fishes generally have small mouth (such as this guy) and the color palette is limited to white, black, yellow and orange. This made it easier to narrow down the search to butterflyfishes and found the species name.
This fish I still couldn’t identify. From the body type, I assume it is a type of goby. The thing with gobies is that it is a very large family (or some other classification) of fishes that narrowing it down is difficult. So for now, I’ll just let this fish be unidentified.
Clownfish! Made very popular by Finding Nemo. I guess almost all people know this fish as Nemo. They are easy to spot due to their bright colors (though some are darker than the others). Once you find their anemone home, they are quite easy to photography as they will guard it very well. They will resort to intimidation tactics to try and scare you off. If you do not go, they may go inside their home and just peak and then go out to try and scare you again. Such bravado!
Other than fishes, snorkeling sites are often full of corals. Braincorals are the easiest to identify since they look like… brains.
Snorkeling and freediving for fishes is a fun activity. Another fun thing to do is trying to identify the fish species at home. For sure there’ll be more dives for me (just wish there is a better underwater camera for me though).
Hundred Islands is a national park located in Alaminos, Pangasinan (about 4-6 hours away from Metro Manila). It is composed of about 127 separate islands. Of these islands, only 3 or 4 are developed. The other islands are either too small, have no beach or both. There are undeveloped islands which are interesting – two of them are Monkey Island and Snake Islands, so named because of the inhabitants of these islands. Most of the islands are made of limestone and packed with vegetation, so dense are these vegetation that even if you manage to get on one of these islands, you’ll have a hard time squeezing through them.
The following two pictures were taken from Governor’s Island , one of the developed islands. Governor’s Island has the highest point (elevation) among the islands and these two pictures were taken from that point (using Olympus OMD EM5 and 12-50 lens). This highest elevation isn’t really that high as it takes only 125 steps up (through a cemented stairs). From this point, you can see most of the other islands but you’ll be hard pressed from distinguishing one from the other (other than they’re so alike, the hill is low so that in the distance, some islands looks like they’re merged).
The next picture (taken with Olympus TG2) shows Crocodile Island and Turtle Island, so named because they look like these animals. For the Crocodile Island, I can see the resemblance. For the Turtle Island, there is also resemblance to that animal but so does tens of the other islets near the area.
There is also another island called Marcos Island (named after former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos). According to our boatman, this island was named that because locals then believed that this is where Marcos hid some of his treasures. The island has a small beach and a small cave near the beach. There is also a path going towards the middle of the island.
The following two pictures (again taken with Olympus TG2) were taken at Quezon Island, named after then president, Manuel L. Quezon. This island is one of the biggest and the most developed of the islets. The island has two low rocky hills connected by a short sandbar. It is also one of the closest islands to the snorkeling area and to the giant clam sanctuary.
Quezon Island is probably the most popular among these hundred islands. There is a group of people who maintain the islands. There are two pavilions (with tables and chairs), some restrooms (which aren’t that clean and which use seawater, a couple of concrete cottages and a cute cottage on top of one of the rocks. There is also a small store that sells some food and essential at high prices. Other than our group, there were several groups camped in the island for the night but come Sunday morning, the island suddenly filled with people (who are there on daytour). We went to the snorkeling area for a few hours and when we returned, the island was dotted with people swimming, eating, etc.
For those planning to get there, it isn’t too expensive.
- Boat (can seat 10 people) – P2200 (P550 each)
- Overnight fee for all the islands – P80 each
- Tent pitch fee – P200 per tent (P100 each)
- Bus fare from Cubao to Alaminos – P395 one way (P790 both ways each)
- Shower (in one of the resorts in Alaminos) – P30 each
- Tricycle from town center to the wharf – P60 for one tricycle one way
- Food – you can bring your own food and cooking stuff
All in all, each of us probably spent less than P2000 for an overnight stay. Not so bad considering that this is the first time we say this National Park and the giant clams. Giant Clams!!!
A recent photo I took in Boracay. She’s wearing yellow (though the photo is in black and white). This one was taken with the Fuji XE1 and the 18-55 kit lens. To my eyes, the Fuji files are very very good in black and white but much too saturated in color. Also, the photos seem to be not very sharp, even compared to the Olympus EM5 with its less superior 12-50mm kit lens. This could perhaps be due to smearing as a result of the x-trans sensor whose output is not yet properly demosaiced by Adobe.
Some pictures of beautiful Nagsasa Cove. These were taken at sunset with the sky and hills reflecting on a small pool of water. Taken with Fuji XE1 and the 18-55 kit lens.
Another photo I took on our photowalk in UP.
This is probably my most favorite picture taken during our trip to Padre Burgos/Pagbilao back in 2012 (using my now broken 60D). This was a picture which I did not like immediately due to blown highlights and almost dark shadows and not so good composition (it was taken while we were travelling on a boat). Fortunately, it was shot RAW and a few months after taking it, I revisited the album and found this picture, converted colors, recovered highlights and pushed shadows and did other stuff to make it what it is now.
Browsing my album of Calaguas, I finally found the a usable shot taken using the Samyang fisheye in infrared. Unfortunately, this was shot in JPEG (got the settings mix up in the camera – again!) so some details cannot be recovered properly.