We work hard and we play hard. :) We were planning a trip North to see how Bantayan and the Bogo area were faring some 6 months after Yolanda, and our main mission was to find seafood and seafood products for an upcoming “venture” as well as for the rest of our outlets. We buy local ingredients whenever possible and this was one of the reasons we were heading North. But it also happened to be the 80th birthday celebration of our GM’s father, so we were invited to a birthday dinner as well. And we decided to take the management team and office crew with us. Throw on top of that the MM way of doing things, and this was an action packed, work-filled and surprisingly fun and invigorating overnight trip.
It started at 4am on a Saturday morning, and amongst the ridiculous things crew members had to endure, was a trio entering a McDonald’s (thankfully for the crew mostly deserted at that time of the day) in unusual garb and having to order breakfast for 15…
…the idea was to force them out of their boxes, to do something a bit outrageous, to loosen them up a bit. They were quite the game set of players, totally warming to the idea, despite a van full of tourists who looked at them in shock and amusement as they entered the store. I must say, the McDonald’s crew were totally unfazed and unimpressed and continued with their jobs as usual.
Next stop was a bank of puto vendors in Catmon, where three more crew members emerged, cleverly using the items in their “mystery bag” to wear while bargaining for puto and taking selfies with the vendors. This was all a bit more public, but since it was the crack of dawn, still far less people than would have made it more challenging.
This is all a bit ridiculous, but oddly, if done right, builds a camaraderie and confidence that helps at work. When I was a young strategy consultant, we usually had annual extreme type games and outdoor camping/challenges that really made a positive impression on the way I did my work. So this did have a bit of a purpose, albeit in a much less intense manner. Besides, it made for terrific social media fodder. :)
After a few hours snoozing for non-drivers, we arrived at the Hagnaya port, for a ferry to Bantayan island. We missed the intended ferry by minutes, and had to wait an hour or so for the next one.
Let’s just say the boat didn’t inspire much confidence, and I should have done a how to jump off safely with a life jacket in case of emergency briefing. But the seas were dead calm so the trip was a breeze, just 60 minutes on first gear (not that they probably had higher gears)…
…and the vehicles road a second boat that followed just behind the passenger ferry.
We cruised past large fishing boats (a good sign for seafood hunters)…
…and photographed other ferries en route.
If the 30+ people on a neighboring boat at dock had to fit into THAT dinghy and lower it on THAT rusty crane, I think I would rather swim to the nearest island.
Just a few steps off the ferry in Bantayan, and THAT is the view of a spectacular white sand beach called WHITE BEACH and our hotel just a bit in the distance…
…we stayed at Anika Beach Resort, in re-purposed metal container vans that were surprisingly nice and affordable and comfortable, and this was the beach directly in front of the hotel. Stunning. And notice how the coconut trees have a lot of leaves back, from a desolate brown landscape just months before.
We had a seafood lunch (more on that in another post), rested in the afternoon from the early rise, and that evening went off to attend the 80th birthday party with a “Hawaiian or Beach Theme”… Little did our hosts know, but we decided to take the theme to heart, and everyone donned grass skirts, men in flowery shirts and complete with leis and flowers…
…I can tell you this was a bit more than a spectacle on the dark streets near the main plaza of Bantayan town proper. We did our final preparations, the theme song of Hawaii 5-0 hit the karaoke machine, and we made our entrance…
…and actually put on an impromptu dance that was previously unrehearsed to the collective amusement or shock of 80 or so guests!
It takes nerve to pull this off, and while I started off with the troupe, I quickly exited to take these photos.
We left to take over a small bar/club on the island and folks sung karaoke, played billiards and had a few drinks until we were all ready to pass out. I had to rise early the next day to hit the fresh and dried seafood markets in town.
This was the view from our converted steel container. I have taken similar photos on Amapulo, but this time around the room cost just PHP2,500 a night for two people!
After a morning in the markets, hunting down ingredients, and shopping for lunch (unplanned, but the seafood was just so incredibly fresh), we went to Sugar Beach, which was even more beautiful than White Beach.
We hung out in simple huts like this, had our seafood grilled and sat down to a terrific lunch.
A group photo after dipping in the crystal clear waters and a hearty lunch.
After a hurried check-out, rushed to the pier, made a 245pm early ferry, landed in Hagnaya an hour early and the vehicles weren’t expected for another 1 hour and 15 minutes, so many of us jumped into tricycles for a 12 kilometer ride to the Bogo market for more ingredient hunting. Our HR Manager thought I was kidding, but instead of waiting around idle for an hour, I figured we should go ahead to the markets instead.
And on the drive back to the city, a quick stop roadside to catch the sunset, and this final group photo. A fitting end to a whirlwind 40 hour trip to Bantayan. And wait till you see the food photos!