Things are changing very quickly in Myanmar and this guide may be obsolete by tomorrow. But if you are relying on the 2011 edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar, there are some things in here that you will need to know. Please note that I am only including the details of contacts that cannot be found in the Lonely Planet or on the internet.
First of all, international roaming is now possible on a network called MM900. But, for now, it only works for calls and not for text messages. WiFi is sloooooooow.
Cash is still king in Myanmar. Yes, bring crisp, unmarked dollar bills. And, should you pay in dollars at a market, be sure to show the vendor the quality of your bills. One vendor returned to us with a frayed bill, kicking up a fuss that our money wasn't any good. We had no way of proving that it wasn't ours so we had to take it and replace it with another bill. The bill, of course, will be accepted anywhere else in the world, but just be aware that this can happen.
The black market is no longer the place to exchange dollars. Now, the best place to change money is with the banks, and 1000 kyat is worth more than one dollar (which, at most, fetches 982 kyat) so most services and goods are now priced in kyat. We only encountered dollar prices with the airlines, five-star hotels, and factories that also export their products abroad. So, yes, change money at the airport bank in Yangon, which is most likely to have a better rate than provincial banks.
We didn't know this when we flew in and tried to change money with our hotel in Yangon, but they wouldn't do it. We asked at a restaurant and they wouldn't do it either. We ended up paying too much for everything until we finally managed to change money at the airport in Bagan. (If you need to change money at the Nyaung-U airport, when you exit customs, there's a bank where all the tourists queue, but across the table where they collect tourist fees for the Archaeological Zone, there is another table that does money exchange. There are no queues there and they offer K1 more than the bank.)
The best rate that we got was K981 to the dollar. The lowest rate we got from a bank was K974. Kyats are paid out mostly in one and five thousand notes.
When we ran out of kyats at one restaurant and tried to pay in dollars, we were told that they had a very low exchange rate (K700 = $1). It's a good thing there was a Burmese travel agent seated at the next table who was a regular at the restaurant. Our waiter asked if she would change our money and she gave us a rate of K900 to the dollar.
I totally recommend flying with Air Mandalay. They were very quick to reply to my email and confirm our flights. They sent someone to our hotel with our air tickets (which we paid for in cash) when we arrived in Yangon, even though it was after office hours. But what I liked most about Air Mandalay was that they were very lenient about our baggage allowance, something that we are very grateful for.
Some things to know: They use the same planes that Cebu Pacific flies to Siargao, so entry/exit is from the rear of the plane, which is also where the lone lavatory is located. They only assign seats flying out of Yangon; elsewhere, it's free seating. Snacks are served flying to and from Yangon; otherwise, they only serve drinks. Oh, and two out of the three flights we took were delayed.
There are no metered taxis in Myanmar. You have to agree on a rate with the driver before going anywhere. Following were the going rates when we were there.
WHAT TO WEAR
At the temples, bare shoulders and knees are definitely a no-no, for women and men. Even in modern Yangon, men and women still dress conservatively, often wearing the tradtional longyi (or what we know as a malong) so be mindful of this and try not to dress too provocatively.
Bagan is hot and dusty so be sure to wear a hat, sunglasses and, if the dust bothers you, you may want to consider a dust mask or something similar.
Inle Lake is definitely much cooler than Yangon or Bagan. You'll feel the change of temperature as soon as you land in Heho. Bring a scarf and jacket, especially for the boat trip. You'll also need that hat. And lip balm!
Wear sandals or flip-flips so that you can remove them easily when you get to temple grounds.
We only stayed in Yangon on our way in and on our way out.
On our way in, we arrived at night so I booked a hotel near the Shwedagon Paya that I absolutely cannot recommend. It's not likely that you'll stumble upon it anyway as it isn't in any of the guidebooks. (It was a recommendation from someone from the Thorn Tree forums years ago.)
Shwedagon Paya is best visited at sunrise or after sundown when it is all lit up. There are four entrances (north, south, east and west). We got a guide (K8000) who, unfortunately, took us up to the pagoda via an elevator. I suggest taking the scenic route - and having a bit of exercise - by taking the stairs.
Afterwards, we ate at Aung Thukha, Lonely Planet's Top Choice for eating "Outside City Centre". It was a turo-turo ("turo" is the Tagalog word for "point"; there's a selection of food at a counter where you point out what you want). There was a strong, foul smell as we entered but we quickly got used to it and, after a while, didn't notice it at all. We ordered a selection of curries and the food probably would have been better had it been heated, but it's wasn't bad and was a good introduction to Burmese food.
On our way out, we arrived in the afternoon and I booked the May Shan Hotel for its location by the Sule Paya. If you can't get the rooms with the view (701 and 601) then you're better off booking elsewhere as I hear its other rooms are small and windowless. Our room was big but had a tiny bathroom where you could do everything you need while seated on the porcelain throne. Its breakfast was just toast and eggs.
While waiting for our room to become available, we headed for the nearest teahouse for some, um, tea. Although Thone Pan Hla is the starting point for Lonely Planet's walking tour, it was surprisingly and refreshingly tourist-free (apart from us). I loved it! I could have sat there for hours, drinking tea with condensed milk and eating the snacks set out on tables, while watching the locals go about their business.
We abandoned the idea of doing the walking tour because of the heat, although I did walk to the Bogyoke Aung San Market on my own while Nicolas siesta-ed.
While crossing the street, I got to talking to a man who very kindly pointed out buildings to me while he rushed to a meeting. Before parting ways, I learned that he was with the Ministry of Finance.
I liked the walk there because of all the street food along the way and at the market itself. The Burmese are very friendly and offered me free tastes of their wares. We had already done all our shopping in Bagan and at the lake so I really didn't need to buy any thing, but I still got myself an unsewn men's longyi (K4500).
In the evening, we had drinks at The Governor's Residence, which is definitely worth a look-see.
I had initially made reservations for the Myanmar curry buffet but Nicolas balked at its K48000 price tag so I cancelled it. But, when we got there, he changed his mind and we had the most excellent meal. Their duck curry was to die for! I must say that I enjoyed their meat curries (duck and tea leaves, mutton and potato, pork and mango, and chicken and sweet corn) more than the seafood ones (soft shell crab, shrimp, fish). The salads and desserts were interesting, but I didn't care much for the soups and the skewers. So, yes, it was pricey for the most succulent duck curry ever but I still dream about it so, for me, it was worth it. The buffet also comes with unlimited beer but, seriously, how much beer and curry can one possibly have? (I am now kicking myself for choosing this time to be reasonable about my food. Doh!)
Note that The Governor's Residence discourages credit card payments.
We had after-dinner drinks at The Strand because we wanted to check out the hotel but it paled in comparison to The Governor's Residence and can be struck off one's itinerary.
We spent three nights in Bagan, although you can pretty much do the "highlights" tour in one day. There are thousands of temples in Bagan so you really have to choose a few that you want to see before you get all templed out. My recommendations are the following:
On our last day, we did a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River (a.k.a. the Ayeyarwady). I booked it for 4 PM for one hour. Cost was K12000 but the owner informed us that sunset was much later so, for an extra K3000, we could stay out till after sunset. What we didn't know was that the boat would take us up to a certain point, after which, it would cut its engine and we'd sit, surrounded by other boatloads of tourists, till sunset. Nicolas and I got bored of it very quickly and asked the boatman to turn back (- that was K3000 wasted) and watched the sun set instead from the riverside bar of our hotel with a few cocktails. (We stayed at the Bagan Thande Hotel, which was nicely situated by the river in the Archaeological Zone, but it was rather old and dated, although it still had a charming colonial air about it. Food was so-so, but I did like the mohinga that they served for breakfast.)
For food, I recommend The Moon Restaurant (Be Kind to Animals). It's full of tourists and service can be slow but the food is worth it, and I say this from the point of view of someone who is definitely not vegetarian. Stand-outs, for me, were the lentil soup with lime and ginger - which ruined all other lentil soups for me - and the tamarind shake.
We mistakenly ate at Sarabha II Restaurant when I really meant to eat at Sarabha III. Sarabha II seems to be a popular tourist bus stop, but I must say that they had the best butter fish curry (K4500) that I had in Myanmar. It was better than the one that I had at the lake and the one at The Governor's Residence in Yangon.
In New Bagan, we ate at The Black Bamboo. The beef curry (K5000) was just okay (- one serving is good for two) but it's worth going to just for the homemade vanilla ice cream with caramelized cashew nuts (K2000). That was awesome. (Don't bother with the chocolate version.)
We were in New Bagan to check out the laquerware shops but they turned out to be too touristy. Our driver took us to the much quieter Lotus Laquerware Factory, where we learned to appreciate what goes into the art of creating laquerware. Not that I actually understood anything, but I now know that a lot of work goes into it. And I did get the hsun-ok that I've always wanted. Yay!
In Nyaung-U, Nicolas and I bought these beautiful umbrellas that will look great by the pool in Siargao. At the shop, a good-sized personal umbrella - made of cotton, not paper - cost K19000, but I did some canvassing and you can get one at the markets for K12000.
But you don't really need to go very far to do any shopping in Bagan. The temples double as market places. Sometimes, you'll find vendors right at the foot of the Buddha, where, oddly enough, they won't allow you to take pictures but they won't mind selling you something. They're shrewd too. They'll strike up conversations and then hit you for a sale. They're very persistent so it can all get quite tedious.
The most efficient way to explore Bagan, albeit the most unromantic, is with a car and driver. While you may want to ride a bicycle or - godforbid - walk around the Archaeological Zone, remember that you'll be hot, sweaty and gross by the time you get to the temples. A horse cart is quaint but is slow going.
We spent two nights here but, like Bagan, you can do a "highlights tour" in one day.
The day tour started with a foray to the Ywama market, which Nicolas and I loved. It isn't as touristy as the Lonely Planet makes it sound and there were a lot of locals buying stuff at the market too. We also visited local craftsmen's shops (weavers, black smiths, cigar rollers, silver smiths) and wandered around the village of Inthein (a.k.a. Indein) and its stupas.
The long-neck women weavers of the Kayan tribe.
The most touristy stop on the tour was - get ready for it - the Jumping Cat Monastery, where monks supposedly make cats jump through hoops. It was rather late when we got there and the monks weren't in the mood to entertain. The tourists hung about waiting for a show, taking ridiculous photos of cats, while the monks drank tea and looked like they just wanted everyone to go away. Needless to say, Nicolas and I didn't hang around very long.
We liked our Inle Lake experience more than Bagan because we got a better insight into the life and culture around the lake than we did in Bagan. In Bagan, our interaction with the locals was limited to the vendors at the temple markets. At the lake, we got to observe life around the lake. While we did the touristy stuff, it didn't feel touristy at all.
Most tourists supposedly stay in the town of Nyaung Shwe rather than on the lake. The only advantage I see to this is that one would have more choices when it comes to where to eat, unlike if you stay on the lake, you're pretty much stuck where you are. (We weren't impressed by Paramount Inle Resort's food, but they did serve a good breakfast.)
While they were a lot of restaurants on the lake, it's not like there are taxi boats that you can randomly hail to take you around. Although I really don't think that anyone staying on the lake would be in much of a mood for larking about after sunset in the cold and dark.
It is most likely that the same boat that brought you in from town will be the same boat you will take on the lake tour and the same boat that will bring you back to town on your way out.
Technorati Tags: 2011 edition, Ananda Pahto, Archaeological Zone, Aung Thukha, Ayeyarwady, Bagan, Bagan Thande Hotel, beef curry, Bogyoke Aung San Market, Buddha, Buddhism, Burma, Burmese, Burmese food, Cebu Pacific, cotton umbrellas, curries, Dhammayangyi Temple Shwesandaw Paya, Heho, homemade vanilla ice cream with caramelized cashew nuts, hsun-ok, Inle Lake, Irrawaddy River, Jumping Cat Monastery, Kayan tribe, kyat, Lonely Planet, long-neck women, longyi, Lotus Laquerware Factory, malong, May Shan Hotel, Ministry of Finance, MM900, mohinga, monks, Myanmar, New Bagan, Nyaung Shwe, Nyaung-U, Paramount Inle Resort, Royal Border Taxi Service, Sarabha III, Shwe Inn Thar Boat & Car Rental, Shwedagon Paya, Siargao, Sinpyagu, Soewin, Sulamani Pahto, Sule Paya, Supreme Court Building, teahouse, Thatbyinnyu, The Black Bamboo, The Governor's Residence, The Moon Restaurant (Be Kind to Animals), The Strand, Thone Pan Hla, Thorn Tree forum, Yangon, Yangon City Hall, Ywama
Last week, while helping pack meals for evacuees from typhoon-ravaged areas, Markus Schmidt, owner of Firma, exclaimed, "If it weren't for the private sector, more people would have died!"
It is true. Working through and around the frustration with government bureaucracy are private individuals and corporations that have given selflessly of their time and resources to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in whatever way they can.
A friend on mine who lives abroad recently sent a message: "Is there anything I can do that will actually make a difference [instead of] ending up in some organization's overhead?" This has been echoed by others. I understand the distrust. I myself have decided to donate to private entities instead of the big charities.
I have thus compiled a list of initiatives that you might want to look into, should you wish to help. None of them know that I am writing this, and I have indicated any ties that I may have to them - that I am aware of, at least. (This is the Philippines. Most everyone is separated by only two degrees.)
Bear in mind that these are private endeavors and any donation made to them is not tax deductible. And it is most likely that they only have local bank accounts for receiving donations, and bank transfers are subject to fees.
Siargao delivered! It was one trip we will never forget. Tiring, depressing, yet very fulfilling. For two days ,we distributed relief goods that fed ALL 880 HOMELESS FAMILIES of Barrio Sulangan, Calicoan Island, in Guiuan Samar. Around PHP900,000 worth of food packs, rice, medicine, and construction materials were given out. And how fitting it is, we took an Aussie Military plane out of Guiuan to Cebu! The people and the surf community of Guiuan send their biggest appreciation to everyone! We just landed here in Cebu and we will tell our story very soon.
Fund-raising will continue.
It is no secret that one of my home bases in the Philippines is in Siargao, and most of the people involved are my friends.
Our target was to be able to raise money for 25 wheelchairs. Would we be able to fill those seats? We thought of canceling the dinner because, at the start, we only had three who signed up. Then slowly, people started to call, text, send me messages on FB that they could not make it to dinner but were happy to [donate P3000 for a wheelchair]. A friend from the UK said her friend heard about PROJECT WHEELCHAIR and wanted to donate too! A friend of a friend saw my post and donated her used crutches - and shared our post to her friends who also sent donations. AS OF THIS MORNING, WE HAVE ENOUGH TO BUY 39 WHEELCHAIRS AND WE HAVE TWO CRUTCHES. LET'S AIM FOR MORE. NEW TARGET - 50 WHEELCHAIRS BY DECEMBER 15. Please share our plea for donations of used wheelchairs and crutches, and for pledges for new wheelchairs too! Wheelchairs are P2400, walkers are P1000 and crutches are P600.
Dedet is part of a food group I belong to. I am attending the dinner tomorrow night.
Lastly, there are relief efforts to resupply fishermen with boats they have lost - which, I believe, is a worthy cause. As far as I know, I have no ties with anyone from these groups.
If anyone wants to donate these enviroment-friendly disposable utensils to those packing meals for evacuees, that would be great.
I think these Luci solar-powered lights will go a long way to helping light the Philippine countryside. Not just for the typhoon survivors, although they definitely should be a priority, but for people living in areas of the Philippines that do not have stable power supply (like the whole of Mindanao). I have gotten in touch with the company behind these lights and they are willing to give a sizable discount if ordered in bulk. I still haven't worked out how to import them, but if you can figure out how to donate these (and the taxes that go along with importing them), please let me know.
Technorati Tags: Alphaland Cares, Ateneo, Austria, Balikdagat, Basey, Cebu, Dolores, environment friendly disposable utensils, Firma, Guiuan, Iren Dornier, Let's Help Philippines, Luci solar-powered lights, Malapascua Island, Malapascua Relief Project for Victims of Yolanda, Mindanao, Philippines, Project Wheelchair, Rotary Club Makati-Dasmariñas Chapter, Samar, SEAIR International, Siargao, Typhoon Haiyan, Yolanda
Monday, 11 November
My one-meal-a-day resolve didn't last very long. I shelved it today for three massive meals with mounds of rice. I am doomed.
Tuesday, 12 November
I have officially reached saturation level with Kalinaw's Campagnola Di Parma pizza. Yes, Nicolas and I had it again tonight and I don't want to see it again for the next two thousand years. Okay, maybe just for a few weeks... Doh!
Wednesday, 13 November
Today, I gathered our permanent staff and their families, and our foreman, to show them videos on YouTube explaining storm surges. Here are two informative videos which, for some reason or other, I cannot upload onto my blog:
What is storm surge?
Not all storm surge is the same.
I also showed them clips of Yolanda's storm surge. This was not one of them, since I only came across it afterwards:
I told them they should always take storm warnings seriously, and that they should identify a place that is inland and elevated that they can evacuate their families to the next time another super typhoon comes dangerously close to us again.
Then I showed them the trailer for Midway, something I'd been meaning to do forever.
We finally talked about plastics and the need to cut down on how much plastic we use and to be concerned about how we dispose of it. To illustrate my point, I showed them the plastic I collected on the little stretch of beach in front of the house. I had collected a whole bag full in less than 20 minutes.
Nine Bar owners, Peter and Elsa, came over for lunch and we ate so much that I had to skip dinner. (I cooked my favorite chicken with mustard-tarragon cream.) Declined dinner with the boys but went to watch movies with them at Drop Inn later on in the evening. I finally copied some of their BBC documentaries onto my hard drive.
Thursday, 14 November
My sober self finally met up with Swedish couple, Pontus and Frida, at the boulevard for some beer after dinner, and then we caught up with the tail end of the pub crawl to raise funds for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda at Palaka Siargao Dive Center. Some of us continued on to Nine Bar afterwards.
I may have puffed on a few cigarettes...
Friday, 15 November
I probably shouldn't have scheduled lunch at my place after a night of drinking. Still, I woke up bright and early, made bacon hamburgers and chili, then biked to GL to get a few more things we needed.
Since I still had time before my guests arrived, I got my last session of the 30-Day Shred out of the way.
I must say that I am a true believer in this exercise video series. If I weren't constantly binge eating and drinking, you'd see what I mean and agree, since I am currently a fat sow, I don't have much credibility, do I?
Finally, my guests arrived, just as a delayed-onset hangover hit me hard and left me shaking. I felt like shit. But that didn't stop me from knocking back a few beers while we were hanging around the pool after lunch.
We took a break for a few hours before regrouping for a wild night at the jungle disco.
During the break, I did my laps in the pool. Please note that I absolutely do not recommend and actively discourage anyone from swimming while hungover/inebriated. That was not a good idea.
Saturday, 16 November
Felt like shit again after another night out. Did not have energy for plyometrics. So I just swam.
I had dinner with Gerry at Sagana. I brought him some paella. I wanted him to try it because he had been a fan of our paella when we had our resort, and I wanted to know if he thought our new maid was doing it just as well as our former cook did.
He gave it his stamp of approval.
We said we'd have one beer at Kawayan Resort afterwards and, with that, totally jinxed ourselves. We had a few while he played pool with the boys, and then had a Stella Artois for the road.
Sunday, 17 November
I met new Siargao residents, couple, Kim Novak (American; no relation, I assume, to the actress in Hitchcock's "Vertigo") and Mark Pacey (British) through Liam and Carl and they invited me tonight to a lechon party they were throwing at their place to raise funds for the typhoon survivors.
I learned that Mark had spent some time in Japan, by way of explaining why he was busy in the kitchen preparing sushi and sashimi for starters when I arrived. They turned out to be an excellent treat.
The wine flowed throughout the evening and, when it finally ceased, we switched to the beers I had brought.
I smoked a lot. I really shouldn't do that again.
It really is my last week in Siargao. For now. Am off to Manila tomorrow.
Technorati Tags: 30 Day Shred, biking, boulevard, Campagnola di Parma pizza, Drop Inn, GL, hangover, Hitchcock, Kalinaw, Kawayan, Kim Novak, lechon, Midway, Nine Bar, Palaka Siargao Dive Center, pub crawl, Sagana, Siargao, Stella Artois, storm surge, super typhoon, swimming, Vertigo, Yolanda
Siargao is reaching out to its fellow surf island, Guiuan in Samar, ground zero for Typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda)'s landfall in the Philippines.
Surfer, Paolo Soler, reports from Guiuan.
Last Thursday, a pub crawl was hastily put together. For a minimum donation of P1000, a cold beer was waiting at 15 different establishments. It kicked off at 2 PM at Villa Maya, then ended at Palaka Siargao Dive Center. Free dinners at various resorts were raffled off, as were bamboo skateboards made by one of our Aussie residents. The island's guests and residents were inspired to give and, at the end of the evening, P91,700 was raised.
Since then, P270,000 has been raised. A couple from Surigao City has donated the use of their boat and crew to deliver relief goods to Guiuan. It can carry 20 tonnes of cargo. The community is hoping for more donations to fill up the boat before it departs.
A few more pub crawls may be organized in the weeks to come to raise more funds for the storm survivors.
To help, please contact any of the following:
The stories and images coming out of the typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines are horrifying and heartbreaking.
Super Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name: Yolanda) first made landfall in Guiuan, Samar last November 7 at its peak intensity of 315 km/h, making it the strongest typhoon in recorded history. Then it hit Tolosa, Leyte. It made four more landfalls (in Bantayan and Daanbantayan in Cebu, Panay Island and, lastly, in Busuanga, Palawan) before emerging over the South China Sea on November 8.
"It's an infrared capture of the cyclone's eye, taken by the Suomi NPP satellite early November 7." (Source: "Super Typhoon Haiyan: The Most Powerful Cyclone in History?")
So far, the bulk of the news reaching the general public has been out of Leyte. There has been very little to almost no news coming from the other affected areas as communication lines are down and some of these places were already difficult to reach even before the storm, resulting in their further isolation from the rest of the world.
Apart from the areas already mentioned, we've heard that Malapascua in Cebu is badly affected, as is Iloilo, and the islands of the Calamianes Archipelago in Palawan, which include Coron. Everyday, more and more provinces are being added to the list of affected areas as information slowly trickles in:
There's so much information on Facebook on how to help that I thought it best to collate what, in my opinion, is most important so that it doesn't get lost in the rubble, so to speak.
First of all, if you are thinking of volunteering in the areas affected by the storm, you may want to reconsider.
From Oona Paredes, as relayed to her by humanitarian aid workers in the past: IMPORTANT: People without emergency response/humanitarian aid training should NOT try to go visit the directly-hit areas to check on relatives. If you do, you will only get in the way of relief efforts and use resources that survivors and relief workers need in terms of transportation, water, energy, food, sanitation services. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!
A Kathy Chua-Grimme echoes this as she shares her father's experience in Guiuan:
My dad just got back from [Guiuan] yesterday. He said the whole town was completely destroyed. They're desperate for help.
He also suggested consolidating donations (prepacked or otherwise) to the larger organizations already on the ground. Sending volunteers just to distribute small scale relief goods may run into more logistical problems like finding shelter and providing meals for the volunteers (meals that could be allocated to people in need). He was lucky to have two meals in two days. The other concern was safety for the volunteers. They're looting, even in Guiuan, because there's absolutely nothing left.
But if you still insist on going where you shouldn't, there's a post from a Saintz Knight, although I'm not sure if the message originated from him, with tips gathered from Search and Rescue Teams on how to survive volunteering in a disaster area. While it is written rather cheekily in Taglish (Tagalog-English), it is a reminder of the harsh realities one will have to face over there. If the following sounds awkward, it's because I'm not a skilled translator. This is a loose translation from the original:
1. Keep a low profile, especially when it comes to the supplies that you have. When the victims get hungry, no one will be able to control the crowds if they mob you.
2. There should be a wall in a public area where people can post the names of the missing. Bring lots of paper, tape, pens, especially if the power and communication lines are still down.
3. In the evening, camp in a secure place out of sight. It's depressing to camp in the vicinity of the hungry because they stare at you from morning to night and you'll be too ashamed to eat in front of them.
4. Never cook out in the open.
5. Wear old clothes. Blend in with the crowd and don't stick out. Best to look like you lost everything too. Don't walk in packs so that you don't attract attention.
6. Don't make eye contact and try to walk amongst the crowd. Place all stuff in old used bags.
7. Be discreet when using your mobile phone. Everyone has someone they want to call. Conserve your battery life by setting a specific day and time when you and whomever you have to talk to can talk again. Even mobile phones are hot commodities.
8. Expect that you too will have problems finding decent water supply. You should have designated assembly points A, B and C in case of sudden anarchy. Tip: Identify a tall landmark. Don't forget to bring extra can openers and lighters. Bring alcohol, a stove and a map.
9. Don't panic.
10. Don't panic.
Make no mistake, it is dangerous out there. Do not underestimate hunger and desperation. To quote Edward Gualberto, a storm survivor from Tacloban, Leyte: I am a decent person. But if you have not eaten in three days, you do shameful things to survive.
But don't lose heart. There are other ways to volunteer.
In Manila, interested volunteers may go to the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) NAIA Chapel Road, Pasay City (beside Airport Police Department & back of Air Transportation Office) with telephone numbers 852-8081, 851-2681 & 0918-930-2356. The Center is open 24-hours and volunteers may repack on shift.
In Cebu, you can go to the Provincial Capitol or call (32) 254-7198/(32) 254 8397 for more information.
If you need directions getting there, Google and Google Maps should show you the way.
You can also volunteer to cut tarp. From Maria Parsons:
We need volunteers to cut down and prepare tarps for use as temporary shelter material. Victims in storm ravaged areas have no means of staying out of the elements, a simple tarp coupled with scavenged materials provides adequate temporary shelter.
We have 2 tons of tarpaulins that need to be cut down to size and packed for distribution. If you are interested in volunteering please go to:
145 Yakal Street
894 1636 or 894 1618
We are open 24 hours for this effort.
For medical professionals:
When preparing goods to donate, it might be best to heed the counsel of those who've done this before:
Also from Saintz Knight:
1.) DO NOT PACK NOODLES, RICE OR ANYTHING THAT NEEDS WATER. There is no water and electricity so it is impossible to cook this kind of food. Stick to bread, canned goods that are ready-to-eat and can be opened WITHOUT THE NEED FOR A CAN OPENER.
2.) PACK MEDICINE. Most especially basic medicine (Biogesic, Bioflu, Robitussin, etc). Also if possible, include medicine for surface wounds as many have been wounded because of the debris and fallen rooftops.
3.) PACK AT LEAST ONE BOTTLE OF WATER. People are raging for water (some have even become violent just for water). There is no source of water at all in any part of Tacloban.
4.) PACK CANDLES AND MATCHES. There will be no electricity for a minimum of two months so all people will need these.
5.) ENCOURAGE YOUR RESPECTIVE GROUP/ORGANIZATION TO DONATE BODYBAGS. Bodies are lying around the roads within the city and some of the places have already been filled up with bodies.
From Horis Varos: From past relief ops experience -- canned goods with easy pull tabs, donations wrapped in usable blankets are highly suggested.
From Trinazinha SG: FYI, a DSWD standard food pack contains 3 kilos of rice*, 2 cans of corned beef, 4 cans of sardines, 6 packs noodles* and 6 sachets 3in1 coffee*. Good to copy the amounts as they are good for 3 days for a family of 5.
*Given the lack of potable water in the affected areas, I would substitute the rice, noodles and coffee for biscuits, more canned goods and bottles of water.
From Bel S. Castro [with edits]: In response to a call made by the Philippine Red Cross... a typical family of 5... should receive
**To cut down on plastic waste, I suggest providing one big bar of soap rather than five small individual ones, and perhaps a big bottle of shampoo would be better than sachets.
This is also another good idea:
LBC is a courier service based in the Philippines with branches worldwide. It is accepting donations for typhoon victims at all of its outlets until November 30. Please check if there is an LBC near you to get your relief goods to the Philippines. On November 30, they may also need volunteers to repack goods. Here is a list of their branches in the Philippines and around the world.
My first choice would be the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Their website has a drop-down menu and you can choose which cause you want to donate to.
For direct donations to the Philippine Red Cross:
Here's a list of other options:
Again, from Oona Paredes: Organizations like World Food Programme have a very good rep in terms of maximizing their funds. You might want to look at Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, CARE, Samaritan's Purse, again IFRC (which is the largest single operation in the country). They all work with local partners in the Philippines. And they were all on the ground either right before the typhoon hit or immediately after.
I would add to that list Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). Please tick the box to restrict the donation to the Philippine relief effort.
If you are in the United States, donating can be as simple as sending a text message to donate $10 to relief operations (source: Huffington Post):
100 percent of all disaster donations will be used for relief efforts and "to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors." Text TYPHOON to 80888 to Donate $10 or give online.
The Los Angeles-based nonprofit is sending much-needed water purification supplies to victims and seeking corporate partners to help with delivery. Donate $10 by texting AID to 50555 or give online.
Remember that kindness and compassion go a long way. Treat survivors with respect and dignity. It could easily be you or someone you love at the wrong end of a disaster.
The Filipinos are a strong, resilient people. We will rise again.
Technorati Tags: Air Transportation Office, Airport Police Department, Bantayan, Busuanga, Calamianes Archipelago, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Cebu, Coron, Daanbantayan, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Doctors Without Borders, donations, DSWD, Facebook, Filipino, Google, Google Maps, Guiuan, how to help, Huffington Post, IFRC, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, LBC, Leyte, Malapascua, medical professionals, Médicins Sans Frontières, National Resource Operations Center (NROC) NAIA Chapel Road, Operation USA, Palawan, Panay Island, Pasay City, Philippine Red Cross, Philippines, Salvation Army, Samar, Samaritan's Purse, Search and Rescue Teams, South China Sea, strongest typhoon ever, Super Typhoon Haiyan, The New York Times, Tolosa, volunteer, World Food Programme, World Vision, Yolanda
Monday, 4 November
Gloomy day. Nicolas is wondering if his flight back to Cebu might get cancelled. I made him some bacon and cheese sandwiches to bring to the airport in case he has a long wait ahead of him.
I'm trying to be good today. Will have green juice the whole day, and only have dinner.
Went to the market.
Nicolas called. The plane circled overhead a few times but it couldn't land and it returned to Cebu. Of course, as he is telling me this, the weather had cleared and it was bright and sunny. He rebooked his flight for tomorrow and scheduled an afternoon game of golf with the Frenchies.
There's talk of a very strong typhoon coming this week.
Nicolas and I had a nice, simple dinner of grilled panga (tuna jaw) and guisadong monggo (sauteed mung beans). With rice, of course. Doh!
Tuesday, 5 November
Breakfast: green juice. Then I went biking to General Luna (GL). So far, so good.
When I got back, there were fresh crabs being delivered. Nicolas asked the maid to prepare a crab omelette and the claws for us for lunch. How could I resist fresh crabs? I had to have lunch.
After lunch, Nicolas left for the airport. At the airport, he called me. Apparently, the typhoon was a serious one. He made arrangements for me to evacuate when necessary to Villa Maya, Alon and Venus Dassa's hilltop resort, so that we could, at the very least, be safe from the storm surge.
Had dinner with Liam and Carl at Kalinaw. It was my third time there in the space of a week since I rediscovered their pizza, particularly the one that they call "Campagnola di Parma".
I think I'm addicted to it. We ordered four pizzas and a bottle of wine.
The best pizza in Siargao.
Wednesday, 6 November
It's a beautiful day. We spent it preparing for the storm. Boarding up the place, elevating machinery and sending all the construction workers home.
I went to the grocery and the bakery to buy some food. When I got to the bakery, the "German" bread was being brought out from the oven. It was delicious, although I'm pretty sure that I didn't have to have that second piece of bread...
When I got home, I cooked some chicken-tarragon macaroni, a slightly more posh mac and cheese, to take with me to Villa Maya. I had been craving a good mac and cheese forever so, of course, I had to have a plate of it for lunch.
Thursday, 7 November
It rained through the night, but this morning was just a little bit cloudy. I wanted to take my time at our place before having to evacuate. The typhoon wasn't scheduled to hit till next morning anyway. I told the staff we'd leave after lunch.
While I was working out, it started to rain very hard. I worried about the staff that had stayed on because they live nearby. They still had long walks ahead of them to their respective houses in the fields. I immediately arranged for transport for me and my dog to Villa Maya, since I knew that the staff wouldn't leave as long as I was still there.
When we got to Villa Maya, the rain had stopped. While it was a bit cloudy, it seemed like a perfectly good day. The calm before the storm. With nothing to do, we began to drink and eat. I tried reading for a bit but eventually joined the boys at the bar. Typically, I was the only girl drinking. We had a few beers and rum cokes. Before the storm had even begun, we had gone through most of the junk food we had brought.
We had been there so long that we started to laugh about the typhoon being a non-event. As we sat there, cracking jokes, Typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) was developing into the strongest storm in recorded history.
We went to bed as the winds picked up. I couldn't sleep. My dog, Apollo, and I were sharing space with Villa Maya's guests on the second floor. The windows were all boarded up so we left the door open and Apollo chose to sleep out on the balcony. At around 2 AM, with a tempest howling outside, I tried to get him to come inside but he was dead to the world and I had to drag him in.
The rain was coming through the window next to the sofa bed I was on, so I laid out the small mat I had brought with me and lay on the floor, listening to corrugated iron sheets rattle in the wind.
Friday, 8 November
As it started to get light outside, we got up to watch the storm from the balcony. David Frachou of Kawayan Resort and Alon were there too. All of a sudden, a big gust of wind lifted something from the floor above us and smashed it along the stairs. Glass broke at our feet and sent us scurrying back inside the room.
Then the wind started to die down. I promised Gerry Degan (of Sagana Resort) that I'd make him breakfast so I did. Later, I took a walk with Apollo and the resort's guests over to Cloud 9 to check out the waves. The waves were monstrous and there was a lone kite surfer out.
Apollo and I were back at our place by noon and I made myself a second breakfast.
Apart from fallen coconut leaves, everything seemed to be fine on the island, considering that GL was only about 60 km. from the edge of the storm's eye. We were very lucky. In the meantime, other parts of the country were being turned into wastelands.
Mobile phone signals were intermittent the whole day, but the electricity was finally restored in the early evening. I hadn't slept and was exhausted but it was also the eve of Liam's birthday so I went to Drop Inn where we had pasta and finished a bottle of Patron XO.
Saturday, 9 November
I had twisted my foot in Alon's kitchen on Thursday night, while heating up the macaroni in the microwave, so I skipped doing Shred, but the pool was finally cleaned and I did my laps today.
Given that I had eaten a lot of junk on Thursday and ate two breakfasts (that involved rice) and pasta on Friday, I decided to be good today and only have dinner. But, when it was served, I still wasn't hungry and ended up feeding most of my dinner to the dog.
Which was a mistake, because Liam was having a few people over for his birthday (including Pontus and Frida, my hosts when I was in Sweden) and it meant that between my first drink over at their place at around 8 PM and 4 AM, when I found myself sitting opposite where I originally was on the balcony, watching movies with Carl, I have absolutely no recollection of what happened. (Since Pontus and Frida arrived some time during my blackout, it means that I have no recollection of having seen them although Frida has confirmed, through text messages, that they were indeed in the company of the Evil Twin.)
Sunday, 10 November
I wasn't hungover but I hadn't slept much since the typhoon so I decided that I wasn't even going to think of exercising today.
Nicolas wisely had his flight to Siargao moved from Friday to today. (He leaves for Cebu on Wednesday and will no longer be returning to Siargao until after the project he is working on in Cebu is launched.)
After he arrived, I went to the market to buy some vegetables because we had, apparently, run out. On my way back from the market, I stopped at Maridel's in GL to buy myself some lunch. I'm so tired of our own food that I am quite happy to eat at Maridel's any time. I bought about four different things, heated it up at home and devoured it like I had been starved for years.
I asked Nicolas about the damage to the house. He said he estimates it at about P30,000. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is really nothing.
I am finally catching up on the news and am horrified by the destruction that Haylain has left in its wake. Which is the nature of the beast, isn't it? Every time we heave a sigh of relief that Siargao was spared from being devastated by a typhoon, it only means that somewhere else, there's another village, another town, another city, another province that is being leveled to the ground. And we turn over in our beds at nights, knowing full well that it could have easily been us.
Please click here to find out how you can help the typhoon victims.
Technorati Tags: 30 Day Shred, biking, Campagnola di Parma, Cebu, cheese rolls, Cloud 9, Drop Inn, ensaimadas, Evil Twin, fresh crabs, General Luna, GL, green juice, grilled panga, guisadong munggo, Homemade Treasures, Kalinaw, Kawayan Resort, kite surfing, Level 3, Maridel's, Patron XO, Sagana Resort, Siargao, Sweden, swimming, Typhoon Haiyan, Villa Maya, Yolanda
Perhaps it was this morning's liquid lettuce and mango that made me wander onto Homemade Treasures' Facebook page - who knows? A few PMs, one phone call and one bank transfer later - and half a dozen cheese rolls and half a dozen classic and Greek ensaimadas should be en route to Siargao in a few days.
I can't wait to sink my teeth into one of these. "'Greek Ensaymada', made with Epirus Butter from Greece, churned from sheep's milk, and topped with Kefalotyri Cheese." (Photo and description of the Greek Ensaimada from a photo Homemade Treasures' wall.)
Monday, 28 October
Good grief. I've been in Siargao for a month and I'm almost done with Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred and I still haven't lost any weight! I really have to put some serious effort into dieting. I've instructed the maid to only make green juices for me. Today, I'm having liquid lettuce and mango. Sigh... Spam and fried rice it's not.
Of course I have to eat when dining out and I did have a girlie lunch scheduled at Isla Cabana today. (I made sure to do my last session of Level 2 before heading out.) Typically, I over-ordered and ate more than I should. I also tried their lychee mojito, which wasn't really a mojito but was strong, the way I like my drinks.
When I got back, I walked the dog to the 4 km. marker (2 km.+) and swam 30 laps. Skipped dinner.
Tuesday, 29 October
It's been raining the whole day. Plus it's the second day of my period and I feel terrible, which is a good excuse to delay starting Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred. I didn't even swim.
Today, I had liquid kangkong (water spinach) and banana. Gross.
In the evening, I hung out and watched movies with friends. We had steak and mashed potatoes, and chocolates.
Wednesday, 30 October
Drank green juice the whole day.
Thursday, 31 October
I had to eat something before going to the Halloween party at Nine Bar so I had a nice little Thai dinner at home of tom yum goong and chicken with cashew nuts.
I drank a few beers at the party but managed to keep my Evil Personas at bay. Stayed out till about 4 AM.
Friday, 1 November
No Shred today because Nicolas arrived and napped the whole afternoon.
He did finally bring the baklava over from Cebu. I don't know why but it was yummier the first time I tried it. Now, it's just too sweet. I'll still eat it though.
When Nicolas is here on weekends, I thought I'd stick to drinking green juice the whole day and only join him for dinners.
And I would have succeeded at that today had Nicolas not asked if I wanted to go out after dinner. It's a rare occasion that Nicolas wants to go out so of course I said yes. We went to Kalinaw and joined the other Frenchies, including Vincent Lampert of Dedon who is visiting from Cebu. None of them had eaten dinner yet so they ordered pizzas. When the pizzas were served, Nicolas and I couldn't resist. I had three slices, plus a dessert. We went to Nine Bar briefly afterwards where I had a Red Horse.
Saturday, 2 November
On Fridays, our Canadian friends who have an organic farm in Burgos, in the northern part of Siargao, sell their produce at the airport. Yesterday, they butchered a lamb and I was able to reserve a few parts for Nicolas and myself. Last night, we had lamb chops for dinner. So, this morning, I attempted to recreate the plov that I had in Uzbekistan many years ago with the leftover lamb. I steamed broccoli and carrots in the leftover drippings and sauteed the rice and lamb in it too. It was awesome. I had it for breakfast and dinner.
And, with that, the diet is out the window. For the weekend, at least.
I did only have green juice for lunch...
It was a friend's last night on the island so I went out on my own after dinner to meet up with him and a bunch of other people. We karaoked on the boulevard. Rather, they karaoked and I heckled. Then a few of us went to Tattoo, the jungle disco, afterwards and pranced around for a bit.
Sunday, 3 November
While I only had five beers last night and was home before midnight, I feel horrible today. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept much since Thursday and have the ugliest dark circles under my eyes. And I think I got up at around 4 AM and threw up a lot of acid in my stomach. I ate a big bag of Chippy (corn chips) at the karaoke place last night and I don't think it agreed with me. I also found a lot of Reese's wrappers in the room this morning. I wonder if it was me or Nicolas who ate the chocolate. I suspect it was me.
But even if my stomach isn't too happy today and I don't have much of an appetite, I am still eating. For breakfast, I had two fried eggs, sardines and fried rice and, for lunch, I ordered a croque monsieur from Kalinaw, which the Frenchies brought over at 2:30 for their golf game with Nicolas. As I write this, I am contemplating asking the maid for some crepes. And, in a few hours, Nicolas and I will be going to Kalinaw again for dinner.
I don't think I'll be working out today...
Last night, I got the number of the habal driver who brought me home. I laughed a bit when he said his name was Rayary. The locals have some pretty weird names here but that's the first time I encountered a Rayary. This morning, I sent him a message to confirm his number. It turns out his name is Bernard. Geezoos.
My regular habal driver, Tata, with me, Candice Lumayno and Gina Gamboa. Taken last week in front of Kawayan Resort.