October 21, 2004 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - My wanderlust has taken me around the Philippines. Recently, however, I came to the conclusion that I have not fully combed the many nooks and crannies of the archipelago. Thanks to On-Foot, the flagship TV show that can be seen on the Living Asia Channel (carried by Home, Dream, and Destiny Cable) twice a week and formed by Tim Tayag and Katrina Holigores, I was able to savor even further the beauty that abounds in our country. Mind you, our discovery of these sights and sounds was done, yes, on foot.

For their two episodes on Cebu and Palawan, Tim and Katrina invited me to join them on their domestic sojourn. "This is a different kind of traveling," Katrina enthused before we embarked on an Asian Spirit flight that would bring us first to the Queen City of the South. In Cebu, we were hosted by the beautiful Islands Shangri-la Mactan where we enjoyed the private white sand beach, the water sports, the friendly (and hungry) fish near the shore and of course, the sumptuous seafood that was served in great big heaps at Cowrie Cove.

From the resort, we fled on foot to discover more about what makes the city of Cebu tick and click. And our discovery is as fantastic as it is fascinating. Why not when On-Foot is a unique travel show with a comic twist. Devoid of tour guides, maps and travel books, self-proclaimed traveltologist, Tim Tayag, the host of the show, decides to get to know where he is, by asking the people around him. The show has nothing but a rough script and relies heavily on the kindness (although not so accurate information) of strangers. As always, the dexterous hands and imaginative mind of Katrina captured every moment of Tim on film.

The show’s purpose is to highlight world-class facilities in our country, promoting tourism from both local and foreign visitors, by uncovering both the well known and the little known "treasures" of every destination. When one travels "on-foot" and does away with the big tour groups or limits oneself to what one can read in a publication, one sees and experiences more.

My experience with Tim and Katrina made it clear to me that the gem of the Philippines is its people. No matter where we seem to go, we never run out of newly made friends who are not camera shy and generous in helping us find our way around. The show has three major segments: 1) the destination and what makes it so unique, from a landmark, or the view, services, activities that the place offers; 2) the food, which is always different and is a source of pride to the locals; and 3) the shopping, what could you possibly buy here that you could send back to friends and families abroad that will make them homesick?

Base on these primary elements of the show, we went crazy with our finds. We found a locals secret: Parr’t Ebelle. Just off the main shopping complex of SM Cebu, this place is a little "hole in the wall" that probably serves the best sinigang known to man. The owner, in his excellent rendition of his version of sinigang, uses three kinds of fish found at different depths in the ocean to flavor his stew. One of which is called "Haluan Tasik". The place gets very crowded after 11 a.m. and one can just have a heaping bowl of sinigang, with one of the three fishes found and, yes, a cup or two of rice. Of course, one can also get a grilled squid or blue marlin as they are being freshly cooked just outside the restaurant. The portions of fish are huge and are guaranteed to satisfy anybody as the prices are incredibly reasonable.

In terms of shopping, we decided to go to Tabo-an Market which is known for its dried fish. Instead of getting the normal and much recommended danggit we went for something more unusual. Dried fish bones! Sold in packs or by the kilo, this is a delicacy that is best served after being fried in oil. Don’t let its looks deceive you, the bones are actually incredibly tasty and soft once cooked.

The people behind On-Foot are a force to reckon with. They simply don’t run out of verve, zest and energy. Tim is not only the host and writer of the show but also the joker of the group. Katrina is the director and cinematographer. Incidentally, she was the cinematographer of the highly acclaimed film Bridal Shower. They have a fellow named Alan Bengzon who brings in steadicam operation and other useful equipment. Together they form Bacon Burger Productions.

Tim started from the old school of set-up and punchline, where he learned the basics of comic timing and writing. Standup comedy has been his forte for the last seven years performing both in the US and the Philippines. His subtle humor works magically well on the show. Most of the funny moments come from his naïvete and the reactions of the folks he meets.

Kat comes from a cinematography background. She was director of photography for several films abroad and in the Philippines. Though film is her first love, she learned the nuances of video and made it a viable medium for an artist of her caliber. Humble and reluctant to admit, Kat perfectly fits the role of director in the program. Her patience, hard work, and love for pork have sustained the production.

Alan, a British-trained steadicam operator, provides technical expertise and, at times, comic relief on the set. His camera work makes the show look like National Geographic.

Just in time when we were watching the rashes of our sojourn in Cebu that the On-Foot team decided to pack our bags and hop on the next flight that would bring us to Puerto Princesa, capital of Palawan.

Palawan, named the last frontier, is truly a nature lover’s paradise. On this trip we were hosted by Dos Palmas Resort which is a 50-minute boat ride from the mainland of Puerto Princesa. The boat ride was very relaxing as we coast along smooth azure waters filled with a rich variety of fish and bird species. Just below the resort’s reception area, you will see a big school of jacks, a couple of sting rays and even, closer to the shoreline of the beach, a school of barracudas. (Don’t worry, if they’re together they’re pretty safe and will ignore you).

Dos Palmas has consistently maintained its effort in preserving the environment. For instance, Dos Palmas uses a waste management system that is not toxic and may be used later on as a natural fertilizer. If you take a speedboat around the island, you may be treated to seeing a flock of egrets and other birds closer to the mangroves. (Tim was even ecstatic when he saw a baby black tip shark in the shallow waters.) There was also a manta ray spotted as we went island hopping to Isla Puting Buhangin, a private white sand island about 10 minutes away from the resort. We even had the chance to do some dolphin spotting and we were fortunate enough to spot four schools of these magnificent creatures.

At the city of Puerto Princesa, we began to walk again. The city is beginning to garner attention as a new place for artists to go and reside. One beautiful and eclectic find on Rizal Avenue is the Kamarikutan, a café and art gallery founded by former Baguio resident, Dinggot Conde-Prieto. The café is made of all natural material. It boasts high ceilings and open space and is surrounded by many trees and bamboos. Although it is located right across the airport it seems to be a private haven for artists to display their works. The place also serves vegetarian or pasta meals. The koi fish in the pond are very domesticated and they love being stroked on the head. There are many souvenir items to be here including journals made out of narra and mahogany. There are also T-shirts designed by local artists that depict local scenes and some marine life.

We were also brought to visit the Vietnamese Village where you can have an authentic Vietnamese meal and buy freshly baked French bread at P5 per loaf.

We had lunch at Ka Lui’s where we were treated to cattlefish sisig, tuna, grilled prawns, stingray and seaweed which we ate with aplomb. There’s nothing like fresh seafood. The interiors of Ka Lui’s is very similar to an art gallery.

Our escapade brought us further to Puerto Princesa’s National Highway where we discovered Phamati Souvenir Village, probably the best the place to get wood carvings and wood sculptures. We also found a weaver who does table runners and bags in brilliant colors.

All these and more were captured on film and annotated with wit and wisdom by a group composed only of three people whose mission in life is to bring to viewers the hidden treasures many well-known places have kept a secret for the longest time. Remember to get the maximum experience at a minimum expense–all you have to do is go on foot.

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On-Foot can be seen twice a week on The Living Asia Channel which is carried by Home, Dream and Destiny Cable. It airs on Sundays at 6: 30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 10: 30 p.m. with replays on Tuesdays at 4 a.m., 12 noon and 8 p.m.

If you would like to know more about the show or would like to suggest a destination or establishment featured, e-mail the producers at onfoottravel@yahoo.com

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For comments and suggestions, post me a note at miladay@pacific.net.ph

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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