Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year-End Travel: Our Overnight Road Trip to Roxas City

Finally found time to make this entry. I know some of you enjoy my travel posts, so here’s a new one. My mother and I went on an overnight trip to Roxas City on the 28th-29th.  Roxas City is about 160-180 kilometers away from Iloilo City via car. It’s on the same island (known as Panay) as my city of Iloilo, but since we never really had any reason to go there, I personally haven’t been there for a decade.

Nagi goes everywhere with me~
Anyway, we booked a room in Urban Manor Hotel online in advance because it was near the city’s big mall. We were just driving there to have a look around the city – and since it’s less-developed and quite a bit smaller than Iloilo City (which is also quite small, by the way), an overnight trip would be sufficient to just see what the place looks like nowadays.

We planned pretty well for this trip, but as you are probably well-aware of, nothing really ever goes as planned. Still, while there were a few hitches along the way, the trip was over-all, quite enjoyable.

In preparation for the long drive, we bought several packed sandwiches from 7-11, good to eat until the 30th, 2 riter-sport candy bars, a 1l can of pik-nik and about 12 bottles of water which had been frozen overnight. We stuffed our provisions into a styrofoam ice-chest to keep them cold.
Our ice chest... which served as our makeshift fridge for the trip
I also charged my cellphone to full as well as my power bank because we’d need about 2 hours or more of continuous GPS guidance during the drive there. We weren’t very familiar with the road.

The trip began in earnest at about 8:30 AM. We took the new circumferential road that cuts through a good portion of Panay island. It was during this time that we learned that the GPS signal cuts off every few minutes – fortunately, it did turn back on when we were approaching a waypoint.

I set the GPS to take us straight to Urban Manor Hotel and while there was around a 20-minute delay because there was a routine checkpoint near the edge of Roxas City, we still arrived relatively early at around 10:46 AM.

We were delighted to discover that the hotel was just at the corner of the main highway and that it was actually just around 3 blocks away from Robinson’s Place Roxas – a brand-new mall, that, while smaller than our own Robinson’s Place Iloilo on paper, did look quite impressive.

My mother actually knew the manager of the hotel. (being an English teacher for over 20 years yields you many connections)  A “Ma’am Lovelia” who was also my sister’s former teacher. After a brief chat, we settled down into our room and it was quite nice. The wifi was adequate and the room itself seemed freshly renovated. The only thing that was missing was a mini-fridge, but we did have the ice-chest for that. The frozen bottles of water inside actually served to cool down anything else that we placed inside.
Inside our hotel room
Anyway, after showering from the long trip and unpacking our stuff, we set out to go to San Antonio Resort for lunch, which was a few kilometers away from our location. We asked for some directions from the hotel but mostly relied on the GPS. After some fumbling around, we finally found the resort. We chose a restaurant located inside the resort which was overlooking the beach.

The food was reasonable, but not really all that special – not that I was all that hungry after I’d downed at least two 7-11 sandwiches and some Pik-Nik shoestring potatoes during the long drive to Roxas. Also, my mother was pissed off that they didn't include the %12 EVAT exemption when computing her 20% senior citizen's discount. Here's the receipt as evidence.

We took some pictures and then took a short walk along the beach with our shoes/sandals off. There were several jellyfish-like things washed up along the shore. My mother warned me that they might sting, but we saw a local picking them up with his bare hands. He said that these were “burol” and that they don’t sting. They can also be sold as edible food and apparently go well together with fish… not that I’m all that interested. I hate seafood.
A local holding some "burol"
After our post-lunch beach walk, we took a little tour around the San Antonio Resort. My impression of it is that it’s a nice resort, but nothing that I haven’t seen in other beach resorts just a stone’s throw away from our house back in Iloilo.

Back to our car, we drove past a mall called “Gaisano” on the way to San Antonio Resort, so we decided to make a stop there. I think my mother regrets doing that based on her facial expression in this pic.

Clearly unimpressed
The mall was relatively small, but that’s ok. What is bad is that it was extremely crowded and dirty inside because it wasn’t very well-maintained. The floors were dirty, some escalators weren’t functioning, and some were functioning, but they roped off the right side of the handrail. Also, the air-conditioning was virtually non-existent. It was quite a let-down because the mall looked nice from the outside. Anyway, “don’t judge a book by its cover” finds much application here.
Only in the Philippines
 We left in a hurry and drove all the way to Robinson’s Place Roxas. While driving, I noticed that there were very few cars around us. It seems the main mode of public transport here was through tricycles – motorcycles with a sidecar that can fit up to four people max… but it’s not rare to see a tricycle driver attempt to squeeze in up to 12 people on his tricycle. It’s common practice no matter where you are in the Philippines. Also, the drivers here are much more considerate and I didn’t see any instance of the constant lane-switching and swerving that I’m accustomed to every single time I’m behind the wheel in Iloilo City. 

We might be miles more progressive than Roxas, but our drivers could take a lesson in civility from them. There was this one tricycle who wanted to enter the intersection but had to cut into my lane to do so, but instead of taking the lane right away, he actually signaled and then waited for me to acknowledge that I would let him pass through instead of just zooming straight into my path.
The impressive "Robinson's Place Roxas"
Now Robinson’s Place was light years better than Gaisano. The mall was divided into two floors and had ample parking space. There were several retail shops scattered all around and lots of floor space for visitors so that you don’t feel all cramped up inside. I noticed two stores that we don’t seem to have any retail outlets for in Iloilo just yet, “Res To Run” and “Petrol.”  They also had a bigger “Tokyo Joe’s” restaurant than what we have back at Robinson’s Iloilo. Furthermore, the mall was nice and clean and had working air-conditioning. The experience was like night and day when compared to Gaisano.

Anyway, we weren’t really planning on buying anything inside, so we just took a walk around to see what the mall had to offer and then decided to drive back to our hotel.

We arrived back at the hotel at around 4:40 PM. After showering, we both fell asleep. I suppose the road trip was a bit taxing on the body. I woke up at around  8:00 PM and my mother woke up at 9:00 PM. We had planned to drive to a particular restaurant recommended by the locals there, but my mother is a bit scared to go on a drive at night, so we just decided to have dinner inside the hotel’s restaurant.
Inside Urban Manor Hotel's Restaurant
Fortunately, that wasn’t a bad decision at all. We were the last two customers inside, but the food was excellent! About on par with any of the top-class restaurants from Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod or Manila, in my own opinion. The servings were pretty large, so we shared a plate of Ox Tongue, some soup and 2 cups of garlic rice.
Excellent Food with Generous Servings
After dinner, it seems that Roxas City still doesn’t have any real “night life,” so we just went outside the hotel and had a chat with the guards and the hotel employees. They taught us a shortcut that would apparently cut off hours from our trip back to Iloilo City on the next day. I snapped a few pictures of this poster advertising a guided tour of the Gigantes Islands -- which I blogged about earlier this year. I had a good chuckle about this.  
Heed My Advice: Don't Go There!
After that, it was time for some sleep after the long day.

Early next morning, we had to prepare to drive back to Iloilo. Fortunately, it wasn’t much of a hassle since we’d brought the car along – so much more convenient than relying on public transport. 

We were surprised to receive a call from the hotel lobby to claim our breakfast before 10 AM. Our reservation didn’t include a complimentary breakfast for two. The front desk operator informed us that it was a favor from Ms. Lovelia.

Breakfast was very nice… since it did come from the same restaurant the night before, after all. I had Vienna sausages with egg and my mother choose the bacon and egg set.  We both chose pineapple juice for our drinks.

Anyway, after breakfast, it was time to drive back home. We took the shortcut that they’d recommended and saw a place called “Christmas Village” along the way. It probably would have been nice to see it all lit up at night – but, those are the breaks.

The drive back home became unnecessarily long because of the shortcut we took. The GPS cut off at an inopportune moment and we found ourselves already 9-10 kilometers along the way to Kalibo, which was even further away from Iloilo City than Roxas.  We asked one of the locals along the road for some directions and got back on track – but we had quite a few miles of uneven, winding roads to traverse before we found ourselves back on the main highway. We started the trip at 9:00 AM, but arrived back at Iloilo at 2:00 PM – that’s a lot of time lost considering that it was supposed to be just a 2-hour drive. Anyway, that concludes our overnight trip to Roxas City.

It's worth noting that Roxas City purports itself to be a "seafood capitol," but that's not gonna do much for someone who hates seafood like me. :)
Final Impressions of Roxas

Polite Drivers

I am very used to the offensive drivers in Iloilo City and I’ve also witnessed the same behavior in Bacolod City as well as in Manila and Cebu, so it was a really pleasant experience for me driving around Roxas – even if we did get lost a few times while trying to find San Antonio Resort. No one honks their horns unnecessarily and the cars drive fast, but don’t cut in line when they’re in front of you. If they do plan to switch lanes, they actually signal first and then cautiously take the lane – that is very surprising for someone like me who is used to the roughhouse, redneck driving style of Iloilo City’s L337 drivers.

Perhaps a part of that has to do with the type of traffic they get in Roxas, with only tricycles for public transport and the occasional jeepney. There were lots of private cars, but they never felt the need to overtake everyone in front of them from what I saw.

A Throwback To Iloilo From The Early 90s

The buildings in Roxas City gave me a very nostalgic feeling. The architectural style and the lack of any big buildings aside from Gaisano City, CityMall, and Robinson’s Place Roxas reminded me of how Iloilo City was back in the early 90s. It was actually a very calming experience driving inside of Roxas.

Would I Live There?

… of course not! There are no retail videogame establishments nor any trace of anything otaku-ish or anime-ish in the city. As the old saying goes, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” It’s undeniable that Iloilo City is so much more progressive than Roxas City with the massive developments in infrastructure we are currently experiencing – but I will say this: progress isn’t always a good thing. Living in a more progressive city does not make anyone superior nor inferior to someone living in a less progressive city – it’s just a different place in a different setting. After all, like I’ve mentioned before: “People really are the same everywhere.”

In any case, this trip was really quite refreshing for me -- although my mother probably found it a bit stressful since I had her holding my phone and guiding me with the GPS -- and she is a bit xenophobic.

Have a Happy New Year and I hope to see you again in my future travels!

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