Bel-is: My Newfound Paradise

My Holy Week break this year has been memorable because I got the chance to come home in the province (Pandan, Antique) to be with my parents and siblings. Even if it’s just for a few days, still, the fact that your parents are happy to see you home and relaxing together with them are priceless. It also eases homesickness, which I still feel even if they are just a plane away.

I went home Maundy Thursday, around noon time, so that I don’t have to join the massive exodus of passengers going to the province which starts around Wednesday night until Thursday morning. It was also because I want to rest a little on Thursday morning before I fly out of Manila. Besides, I am not in a hurry because the flight only lasts 45 minutes (via Kalibo, Aklan).

The whole of Thursday and Friday I was only at home for the observance of the Holy Week. The town of Pandan, Antique (like any typical town) is devoutly Catholic and no merry-making should be done on those two holy days, to observe the death of Jesus Christ.

On Black Saturday, we are allowed to at least get some sun and sand because it is the eve of the resurrection (Easter Sunday). Besides, I am going back to Manila the following day and I don’t want to go back without some tan.

Panay Island, which comprises the provinces of Iloilo, Guimaras, Capiz, Aklan and Antique, is gifted with beautiful white beaches and abundant sea foods. The most famous beach tourist spot, Boracay, is in Panay, located in the town of Malay, Aklan. It is situated at the northern tip of Panay, bordering Antique. See the map.

I decided not to drop by Boracay because it is very crowded during Holy Week break. And I don’t like crowded places. So what I did was gather my high school friends in Pandan that time and go some beach which remains unexplored and not discovered.

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We were deciding on two beaches: Mararison Island (in Culasi, Antique) and Bel-is (in Buruanga, Aklan). Since Mararison is an island, we prefer Bel-is because it is more accessible (and nearer). From my hometown of Pandan, Antique, we rented a van going to Buruanga, Aklan via Libertad (Antique). It took us just an hour for the travel because the road is already paved. The scenery outside of the van is breathtaking because the blue sea is very inviting.

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My friends and I have never been there, so we have to ask (read: research) some basic facts about the place. Do we need to bring our own food? How remote or accessible is it? Are there resorts in the area? Things like that. To make the preparation part short, we bring our own food (picnic style), and sun block!

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We keep our expectations low on the place, all we know is that it is a white sand beach. When you google “Bel-Is” only one postcard type picture will appear. In short, not much visitors go there. A friend told me that the famous Ariel’s Point is located within the area, and that makes me excited because I saw an episode in Sports Unlimited featuring the place. But that was years ago.

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Going to Bel-is requires riding a motorized banca. It is not an island away from the main Panay, but because the place is rocky and mountainous, the best way to access the place is through sea. There is road going there, but the terrain is not car-friendly. It took us about 30 minutes to reach our first beach. From the banca, you can really see the clean, greenish water. A sight to behold.

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There are residents in the area, but only a handful. They are mostly fishermen. They are so blessed to witness nature’s beauty daily.

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The weather is perfect when we went there. The sun is out, not much cloud, and the blue sky envelops the water. The corals below are also visible. The sand is white, powdery even. It reminds me of Boracay during my childhood, when it is still unexplored, with no electricity. In Bel-is though, there are already resorts but these are just of low-quality. One of those we went to even have dilapidated facilities, a reminder that the place is not maximized. What a waste. Maybe the Aklan government can help in promoting this spot.

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Overall, we did not err when we choose Bel-is as our point of destination for Holy Week break. If the pictures are beautiful, it don’t hold justice when you see it real. That’s how beautiful the place is.

I am lucky to be residing in a place where all these beautiful natural resources abounds, and accessible. I will definitely go back there. Maybe with my Manila friends in tow? Before it becomes another Boracay, of course.

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Kuse

A dear friend came over to Manila, so we decided to have dinner on a Thursday night. Another friend suggested that we try going to McKinley Hill, because of good words we heard. When we got there, the place is like a campus with the plaza complex just like Alabang Town Center. Restaurants and bar mushroomed the spaces near the center of the plaza. They copy the architecture of Venice, minus the water and pigeons.

We decided to eat Pinoy foods, so we prefer Kuse. Ordered for bulalo, seaweeds, sisig and pancit. Yes, the sinful Pinoy foods. It was another good night of fun, catch up, and yes, picture taking.

@Abe

Our dear friends, Joy and Rommel, are here in Manila. One just came from the province, and the other is on a vacation mode after months in the high seas. As friendly rule dictates, we just have to meet and catch up on so many things, even if the stories are recycled. Trust me, we just don’t get tired of laughing at the same old funny anecdotes and punchline from things past.

We meet at Trinoma around dinner time. We decided to eat at Abe, with my moral persuasion, because the crispy pata is just to die-for! And I want to eat it again. So off we go to the restaurant.

Good thing, the restaurant is not full compared to other dining establishments nearby where people just overflow to the brim. It makes the occasion special, and laid back. Perfect for story telling and a fistful of laughs. Check some wonderful pictures below. I don’t have to elaborate further how special the night is. Just notice our smiles.

Lunch date @ Fely J’s

It has been awhile since my high school friends had a get-together, meaning, dine out in a nice restaurant in the metropolis. Most of them went home in the province during the Christmas break, and I was stuck in Manila because of work, so there was no chance of a get-together. I have to find a way for us to sit down and talk to each other, catch up on each other, especially what is happening around them. Not to mention, the latest gossips and rumours from our other friends who are not here, and batchmates from high school. Bad, but we are all guilty of this.

I chose a good restaurant for the get together. I had been hearing good news for Fely J’s, a restaurant in the upscale Greenbelt 5 in Ayala Center, Makati. I had been to Abe, which is owned by the same group who operates Fely J’s. I look for their contact number and specialties on the net, and I think I made the right choice of venue. We have not yet decided when to held the get-together. But because one of our friend is about to celebrate her birthday, we decided to do it on the same date. The celebrant is not joining the get-together, she is in the province. Usually, our get together is set at dinner time. But to make a difference, we agreed to have it over lunch. I made a reservation one day ahead just to make sure we don’t wait and we have seats ready for us.

It was a Sunday, January 24, 2010 at exactly 12 noon, the get together finally push through at Fely J’s Greenbelt.

The restaurant is named after the mother of Larry Cruz, the owner of the restaurant group, and her specialties. The setting is like your old Spanish-inspired house, complete with wooden ceiling fan. We decided to order sinigang in classic flavor (as opposed to the guava flavor), fried tilapia drench in sweet local spices, sisig, squid, broccoli, and adobo. A serving of one menu is good for 2 to 3 person, with a price range of P300 – P550. The price is a bit steep, so we are expecting something good once the food order arrived. It was a Sunday, so there are a lot of customers eating their lunch. Family and family in one long table. This might be the reason why our order came too late. We were pang with hunger already.

Once the food came, there was a collective salivation from the group. The tilapia really look nice. And the aroma of the sinigang reminds you of homemade version in the province. The tilapia is so crispy and flavorful. It must be from the spices and special sauce it was dip into. Highly recommended.

Mix this with good, funny stories thrown against each other, and the equation becomes perfect. It is one of those moment where you just have to laugh hard from the joke exchanges, and heightened by the nice, Pinoy foods of Fely J’s. Maybe the next time I go there, I will order their crispy pata. It looks like it is inviting as well.

After the heavy lunch, we troop to Seattle’s Best to take dessert and coffee. After all the food intake, coffee will surely help in the digestion.

What a fun day it was. I fervently hope that this will be repeated anytime soon. In a different restaurant already!