Wednesday, 22 February 2017

isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort - An Island Dream

This post was written in May 2016 and because of some personal problems I never hit the Publish Button.  So the times and dates are a bit wrong, but I may as well send it off because now that the Resort is becoming popular I plan to post some Guest reviews here for people to read - A kind of 'Visitors' Book'.

May 2016
I haven't written here in such a long time.  And so much has been happening on the Isla.

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There are now three kubos, each sleeping up to 4 people and two stone units which can also accommodate 4, although I suspect, with the popularity of family holidays, might have accommodated an occasional 'floor sleeper' on a mattress.

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The kubos are 1500 pesos for the night and the stone units are 2500 pesos for the night.  I've written before about the kubos.  the traditional small hut made from bamboo and palm thatch.  When the resort was built, the idea was to offer a holiday destination that was affordable for a normal working Filipino family to get away from the stress of the city.  Even if it was only for a night or two.

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But considering that 1500 pesos is about $40 Australian, a couple travelling together can stay in one of these traditional huts for about $20 each per night.  Even the stone units at 2500 pesos a night mean a couple would pay about $35 each.  Yes, there are hotels in the big tourist spots that are not much different in price, but they don't offer the peace and calm of a small tropical island.

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We have had International guests since the very earliest days when the resort was still being built, and last month we had a couple from Ireland who stayed in one of the kubos.  But for the genuine back packer on a tight budget there's yet another option.

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During this year, Jo and Tess added a camp ground.  It is on the high ground, up behind the kubos and a short, pleasant walk from the sea.  There are some cement slabs to pitch tents on so that they are not on the ground if it rains.  And there is still room on the ground for a few more tents.  The camp site fee is the same whether you use the resort tents or prefer to bring your own, but it is very affordable.

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The resort can supply 2 or 4 person tents with bedding for 300 or 600 pesos per night.  Now, that is the cost of the tent and bedding,  So for example, a 2 person tent is 300 pesos, which is about AUD$4.50 for a night.  For the tent - or site.  That means a couple will pay less than AUD $2.50 per person to camp at Isla Verde.

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There are charges for providing a bonfire and if you don't bring your own food and utensils, there's the cost of meals.  But even those are cheap.

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Getting to Isla Verde is relatively easy because it takes only an hour and a half or so by bus from Manila to Batangas, then a short ride in a Jeepney or Tricycle to the beach where the bancas depart.  The Banca is the traditional Filipino boat, like a canoe with outriggers.  The type used as a ferry between islands is large and powered by a truck engine.  Isla Verde is only abot 5 miles from the mainland, so it is not a big trip, although it can take about 45 minutes because it is not a direct trip.

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The morning banca leaves around 9am and arrives at Isla in time for guests to enjoy a pleasant (short) walk to arrive at the resort before lunch.  The whole island is only about 7 klm by 4 klm.  Departing however, usually means being at the beach on isla around 4am because the return boat is taking workers and school kids across the passage.

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Aussies who have stayed on the uninhabited Queensland Great Barrier Reef islands will have an idea what to expect staying on Isla Verde.  The difference is that Isla is inhabited.  I think the closest thing I can recall to the feeling of Isla would be to combine Magnetic Island, off Townsville and Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays.  Like Magnetic Island, Isla Verde is a community of its own, but less touristy.  But the actual island itself has more in common with Cid Harbour in appearance and climate.

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The Philippines is not as popular as a holiday destination for Aussies as Bali and Bangkok, which is a shame.  The Australian Government actively discourages Australian tourism due to some apparent risks to tourists, and the airlines and travel agencies virtually ignore it.

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Walk into any of the major travel agency chains and look around and you'll see what I mean.  Standard airfares between Australia and all three places are about the same, but there are incredibly cheap specials available often to Bali and Bangkok.  Manila is left out in the cold.  And if you look around the brochures, The Philippines is remarkable for its lack of presence.

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This is a ridiculous state of affairs.  The Philippines has more to offer than many other places, not the least of which is that English is its second official language.  Add to that the warmth and friendly welcome from people everywhere you go and the most amazing variety in scenery and weather and you have the ideal holiday destination.

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And Filipinos LOVE their food.  Much of the meat you eat will be pork or chicken or seafood.  Steaks are a rarity.  But hey - there are dead cows to nibble on all over most countries.   And of course another staple is rice.  but it is the interesting things that Filipinos do in between the chicken, pork, fish and rice than makes Filipino food different.
I discovered that the first time my girlfriend handed me an amazing 'green mango shake'  one night when we were strolling along the esplanade at Manila watching the fireworks.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Meet JONEL - the newest member of our Isla Verde resort family

Some time ago we welcomed a new member of staff to the resort.  His name is Jonel and he has appeared in a few blog posts and on our Facebook page.  Jonel is a an 'old world monkey' of the type known as a crab-eating macaque.  More specifically he is a 'Macaca fasicularis philippensis', the Philippine long-tailed macaque.

Although called a crab-eating macaque, crabs do not typically form much of their diet, but in some countries where they live in mangrove swamps they are known to dive for crabs and other crustaceans.

Most of their diet is made up of fruits and seeds and they also eat leaves, flowers, roots and bark.  They are opportunistic eaters though and will also eat birds in the nest (chicks or adults) and lizards, frogs fish - whatever is convenient.  Jonel is partial to bananas and just about anything tasty and healthy.

Jonel and monkeys like him are not very big, only about the size of a large domestic cat.  Macaques are used to living in a family group composed mostly of females and babies.  They are quite intelligent and can become bored, which sometimes leads to unusual and occasionally destructive behaviour.  That's why he's living in his tree and not living in the house or given the run of the resort.  He does have safe shelter though when he needs his privacy or to get away from the weather.

One thing most monkeys love to share with their family is grooming each other.  It is not always a good idea to let your monkey become your personal hair stylist though.  This is Jo before and after a visit to Jonel's SALON..

Jonel is cheeky and playful and our guests love to see him.

Monday, 30 November 2015

My Life in Isla Verde - by Hanna

Recently we asked one of the young teenagers from our local High School to write a short story in English about what it is like to grow up on Isla Verde.  Here is Hanna's story.

It is not easy for a young person living on a small island like Isla Verde.  We are brought up to live a simple and peaceful life, but ordinary things like food and necessities are hard to find, especially during habagat and typhoon season, when rough seas and strong winds mean we cannot get across the Verde Island Passage to Batangas to shop for supplies.
Mostly we eat "tuyo", which is dried fish, and we pour "kape" (coffee) as soup for our rice.  We need to catch fish in the sea around Isla for viands and we eat kalamansi with salt and call it "dinidil".
There is not much work on Isla Verde.  So as a young girl I helped to earn money.  I fetched for other houses and with what I earned I bought food for my family.  There were times I went into the forest with my brother to cut firewood for cooking, and other logs for sale.

Because it is hard to find work in the Philippines and especially on a small island like Isla Verde, like many Filipino families, my parents went to work abroad.  During this time we were left to live with our grandmother and aunt.  They were very strict and I remember they used to scold us if we made mistakes.  It was especially hard for us when Christmas time came around.  At a time when most Filipino families are together to celebrate, we were apart from our parents.  I cried a lot, wishing I could spend Christmas with my mom and dad.  If I heard news on the radio or saw news about Saudi Arabia, where they were working, I felt scared and prayed they they would always be safe.

I study hard, and I am happy that I am one of the achievers in our school.  Even though we have to walk 5km every day to school, and it hurts my feet and legs I don't complain.  I have tried to become a much stronger, industrious and obedient girl, because I want some day to become an engineer.
Many people here just give up and give in to bad habits like drinking too much, gambling and they love to spread gossip.  I don't want to live like that and I hope never to be lazy like them.  With God's help I will continue to study harder and when I grow older I will help my family to have a better life.

I give thanks to some people who help us, guide us and care for us.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Manila – The Philippines – A Forgotten Destination?

First off - Sorry if you have video background or no background at all.  And for the music if any.  I am experimenting with something.  The blog will be back to normal soon.

For some reason Aussie overseas tourism seems to be focussed on cheap holidays in Bali and Thailand.  I have to admit that my own first overseas destinations were Japan and Thailand too.  But that changed when I walked out through the doors of the airport into Manila's daily life.

I had been warned that the city is dirty, smelly and that I would have to watch my wallet.  The reality was that it was no worse than some parts of Australia and I could have been stepping off a train into any one of Australia's bigger cities.

Before visiting Isla Verde I first stayed with friends at their home in Pasay, not far from the Ninoy Aquino National Airport.  Pasay is not the most glamorous destination in the country, but it is only a short walk or ride from many of Manila's historical attractions.  It also has in interesting mix of people and accommodation.  A short walk from where I was staying were big fancy homes, and around a few corners, slums crammed in along the banks of a smelly, dirty creek.  Yet it didn;t seem to matter where I went on my daily walks, I came across more smiles than frowns.

The Philippines is a fascinating place with a long history of involvement with Oriental and later, European culture.  This has had a big influence on developing the modern lifestyle of the country, which seems to be a fascinating blend of indiginous ethnic culture and modern practice.

One of the first things you notice in Manila is the traffic.  Another thing is the skill of the drivers negotiating this traffic.  In a city that seems to have very few traffic signals, there is a lot of use of the horn by drivers.  But it doesn't seem to be used much in anger as it would be in Australia for example.  In Manila, a beep on the horn lets you know someone would like to enter traffic and is asking for space.  An answering beep is not uncommon to let someone know it's ok.  Overtaking, merging, crossing - everything seems to have some sort of agreed procedure that is not technically goverened by 'rules'.  More by common courtesy.

I travelled in buses with only inches to spare and the drivers just seemed to fit into places, but still made room for cars, jeepneys, trucks and motorcycles, while all the time there were pedestrians and cyclists mixing in amongst all this apparent mayhem.

The craziest drivers seem to be the tricycle riders.  These motorbike and sidecar 'cabs' often make U-turns in traffic regardless of what is going on around them.  They drive the wrong way on the wrong side of the road and stop in weird places.  All in the attempt to grab a fare.

The jeepney drivers seem to live in a world of their own however.  Jeepneys are big, colourful and cumbersome.  With their rather primitive design, like an oversized 'stretch jeep' they have a lousy turning circle.  There's no such thing as a simple U-turn for a jeepney.  But some how they manage to get into and out of tight narrow streets and lanes.  I was amazed constantly at the odd places I found jeepneys.

Travel by jeepney or tricycle is affordable for most Filipinos, but for the visiting tourist, it is ridiculously cheap.  Even taxis here are so cheap I wondered how they made a living between the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicle, and the high cost of fuel.

Of course, all this means travel in the Philippines for a foreign tourist who wants to experience 'life in a tin can' is an amazing adventure.  We would often walk through crowded streets to the shops or the market.  Then outside, take a tricycle back to the house.  And of course, there's also that wonder of Manila, the Light Rail.  The light rail seems to go just about everywhere important and the fares are affordable.

For country travel there are obviously airports and some ferries.  But land travel is catered to by an extensive and again, affordable network of buses.  Everything from old buses that look like they should be written off, to modern air conditoned coaches that show TV channels when in the city limits, then switch over to a movie once they are out of town.

Travel on the coaches is an experience well worth while.  it is common to pull up at a stop for a few minutes and in that time roadside vendors work their way through the bus selling anythign form water, to skinny paper tubes of roasted peanuts, to pastries or sweets.  In many part of the Philippines, a district or city is more or less famous for a particular food or delicacy.  One example was on a trip when we passed through a place called Laguna, not far out of Manila.

The bus stopped and some people got on the bus offering what looked like an apple pie.  Jo looked at me and said we must get a pie.  It was only later I discovered that this is the famous 'Laguna Buko Pie'.  Now, I thought buko was just the generic name for coconut.  But I think it is more specifically the young coconut, which is kind of sweet and rubbery in textrue.  Whatever it is, buko pie is apparently made from this and a kind of custard based on evaporated milk and egg yolk.
(Photo - Martin Sordilla)
Leaving aside my lack of knowledge of Filipino cuisine, this pie is delicious.  I have never tasted anything else that is close to this and I can't even think of wordsd that describe it, because it doesn;t taste like the sort of dessicated coconut flavouring we in the west get in desserts.

The buko pie experience was just one example of roadside marketing.  I had the tastiest peanuts brought to me while I was seated on the bus and varous other nice treats.  You don;t starve while travelling in the Philippines and almost certainly won't fade away from starvation.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Isla Verde, The Place and The People - by Tatay Ross

Isla Verde (the popular name for Verde Island) is in the Philippines almost in the centre of the Verde Island Passage between Batangas on Luzon and Puerto Galera on Mindoro. It is only about an hour and a half by coach from Manila to Batangas. From there a short ride to Tabangao to take a banca across the strait.
The island is famous for the diversity of its marine life and people come from around the world to dive the surronding reefs. The Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort is right at the boundary of the declared Marine Park, providing easy snorkelling access to the shallower corals and fish.

The local people are mostly farmers and fishermen and although only a small island there are interesting places to see and things to do. Mahabang Buhangin, a pleasant walk across from the resort, is a stretch of white sand beach about a kilometre long which is popular for swimming and snorkelling. At Cueca Sitio there is a cave that leads to the other side of the island. and a lighthouse from which there are great views.

The two highest points on Isla, both about 360 metres high, are Mt Liponpon and Mt Dagit Dagit. Most statistics show My Liponpon as the highest peak on the island, but local residents claim that honor goes to Mt Dagit Dagit. A walk up to the summit of either will reward any visitor with great views of the islands and across the Verde Island Passage to Luzon and Mindoro.
Because it is only a morning's travel away from Manila Isla Verde is a great place for Filipinos to get away from the busy city life for a relaxing few days or a weekend. It is also a great way for international visitors to take a break from the bright lights and noise of the normal tourist destinations to see a little of the Filipino regional lifestyle. To become acquainted with the simple lifestyle, staying in traditional native accommodation, the 'kubo'.

A Kubo is the style of house that was once common all over the Philippines. It is a simple structure with the framing made from bamboo and the walls of a woven matting. The roof is thatched with palm leavs. Palm trees and bamboo are fast growing and plentiful all over the Philippines and this style of housing is renewable and eco-friendly.

Visit Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort

Friday, 22 May 2015

Isla Verde - Home and Away (by Tatay Ross)

So there I was, at Isla Verde and fresh off the boat from Batangas, following my friend along a concrete path by the shore.
It wasn't long before the pathway took us a short distance away from the beach and we began walking past the homes of some residents.  There were nods and greetings and smiles.  Something I didn't take much notice of at the time, although I began to realise it more later on, was that some of these houses had lovely gardens.
After a short distance we were walking through farmland and then very soon the block of land which would soon become the Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort came into view.  It didn't look much like a resort on that first day.  it was simply an overgrown piece of land with a concrete house on it.
But it would be home for my stay on the island and although the accommodation was very basic, the welcome was warm and friendly.

It was here I got my first look at a kubo.  It had been damaged in a storm and had become neglected, but I was interested in the simple economical style and architecture of the thing.  Basic and functional  Being a sailor and used to living aboard a small yacht, I like basic and functional.

What I really admired was the sleeping accommodation for my first night at Isla Verde.  Yes, that really is a bed made from bamboo slats under a mango tree for a roof.  Again, simple and functional, a concept I was to notice over and over in the Philippines.  And our first and most popular accommodation at the resort seems to be kubos.  And they also have the slatted bamboo beds.  However the resort beds have mattresses!

Don't forget to visit the Isla Verde Tropical Friendly Resort Blog and the Website for more information about this beautiful Philippines holiday spot.

The resort also has its own FaceBook  Page so you can  Like us on FaceBook

All The Best - (Tatay Ross)