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Tagbilaran – Panglao Airport Arrival

The last time we were in Bohol, the airport was still in Tagbilaran City. One had to travel about 45+ minutes if you were staying at a resort in nearby Panglao Island that is part of the province. The old airport was closed (the runway though served as a venue for ) and replaced by a new airport. This one is located in Panglao Island and close to the resorts that are the main attraction of the province.

We deplaned via tube/bridge at the new airport terminal

A photo of the control tower from the bridge

Did the airport terminal architecture take inspiration from Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills?

The corridors were well lighted, again thanks to the building design.

Our plane at the tarmac or apron unloading luggage and cargo

We arrived at the baggage claim area ahead of most people. The carts were already placed across the conveyor belt by airport staff.

Belt 2 on the other side is for international arrivals. The airport already served international flights before the pandemic. These have yet to resume.

Passengers file unto the baggage claim area to pick up their luggage.

The hallway towards the terminal exit. The toilets are on the left side of the hallway.

The sign indicates international arrivals. The airport currently does not serve international flights but these will likely resume once the pandemic threat is clearly contained. Other airports like Iloilo and Bacolod have also suspended international flights.

The international arrival area at Tagbilaran-Panglao Airport

Airport driveway

Exit towards our destination

A view of the control tower as we headed towards the airport exit gate

The new road connecting to the national road circling Panglao Island, which connects to the local roads leading to the resorts and towns in the island.

It now only takes something like 10 to 15 minutes to many of the resorts in Panglao Island. This is a convenience to tourists. However, the distance from the main island of Bohol (the rest and most of the province) means a longer travel time for Boholanons or Bol-anons to/from their hometowns from/to the airport. This looks to be a non-issue considering the pros of the new airport outweighs its cons.

More on this airport soon!

Inflight snacks in the time of Covid-19

Inflight, there wasn’t really much difference pre-Covid-19 and now (not yet post-Covid-19) except perhaps that the flight attendants were wearing PPEs and masks. We were on full flights both outbound and inbound of Manila and the airport terminals were also already crowded. We flew on Philippine Airlines so there was no food and drinks for sale on the flight. But they did distribute some snacks and drinks to passengers.

Butter cookies and water were our inflight snacks for the MNL-TAG flight. For drinks you actually can opt for coffee or tea.

 

The cookies were by Figaro and not from some obscure manufacturer.
We had green peas and water on the TAG-MNL flight.

 

Nutrition information at the back of the pack.

 

The guisantes pack was manufactured in Cebu and is certified Halal.

 

I assume that longer flights on board full service airlines like Singapore Airlines or Japan Airlines would have modified their inflight meals service in light of Covid-19. We are hopeful that we can soon travel overseas to again enjoy the attractions in other countries.

Flying again – NAIA Terminal 2 Departure

It’s been more than 2 years since the last time I went on a trip via aircraft. We finally decided it was safe to take a brief vacation and to take advantage of the still few tourists heading to resorts out of Manila. Here are a few photos taken at NAIA Terminal 2 as we set out to travel to Panglao Island in Bohol for a much needed break from work and from Covid-19.

Check-in counters at NAIA T2 were already busy when we arrived at the airport

The scene at the terminal lobby was as if there was no pandemic (technically, we aren’t out of the Covid-19 pandemic yet).

Past the final security check and into the pre-departure area

Some sections were less crowded. This section where we had some light lunch as we waited for our gate to be announced was usually reserved for international flights. Here were gates for US destinations and it was spacious because of the number of passengers and the gauntlet-like security checks required for US-bound passengers.

Our boarding gate for our flight to Tagbilaran-Panglao Airport

Passengers waiting for their boarding calls near our gate

We can only imagine how much more crowded this terminal could still be once we go back to “normal” or pre-pandemic travel conditions. It is good to see at least most passengers wearing masks. All adults at least were wearing masks and only small children and infants weren’t. We also hope that airport terminal staff do their part in ensuring the facilities were disinfected regularly so as to minimize the risk of Covid-19 and other infections.

Island hopping again

It’s been more than two years since we last traveled by plane and 10 years since our visit to Panglao in Bohol. So its really something we looked forward to considering we now travel with our daughter and there’s a lot to write about on the experiences.

Our bangka leaving Panglao for Balicasag Island

And there’s a lot about transport to write about and share in this blog. There’s a new airport, the nice roads and the journey between Panglao and Balicasag, among others that I will be writing about soon.

Abangan!

Roadside scenes – the Kalayaan hydro power plant

Last weekend’s getaway allowed me to take a few quick photos of a familiar sight that is the Kalayaan hydro-electric power plant located in the town of Lumban, Laguna at its border with Kalayaan town in the same province. Built in 1982, it was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and is the only pumped storage plant in the Philippines. Basically, what ‘pumped storage’ means is that it can reverse its turbine to suck water from the basin at the level of Laguna de Bai to charge what could be a depleted Caliraya reservoir. It can then draw water from the lake to generate power. If water levels at the reservoir are normal to high such as during the wet season, it can draw water more than it needs to pump back into the lake.

Approach to the viewing bridge
Approaching the floodgates
There’s a viewing bridge like the one in La Mesa Dam and Angat Dam but it is closed to the general public. The barangay welcome marker is also located here.
The viewing bridge as seen from the road. It is closed to the public but people still stopover to take photos. One can monitor the water level from the tower at the end of the bridge.
One landmark near to the penstock for the Kalayaan plant is the welcome sign for Kalayaan town along the national road.
One of the Kalayaan power plant’s penstocks, a gigantic pipe connecting the Caliraya Lake to the plant at the level of Laguna de Bai
Another photo of the penstock, which is 6m in diameter and 1,300m long. This feeds into two turbines that generate power as water passes through them.

There is another power plant in the area, the Caliraya Hydro Electric Power Plant. It is not located along the national highway but to the west of the northern tip of the lake and near Pagsanjan River. I will write about that in another article.

On the road again for a weekend break

It’s been a while since The last road trip. We finally pushed through with our weekend break from our now typical work from home set up. Heading to our airbnb somewhere in Laguna, we passed by the Pililla Wind Farm. The gigantic wind turbines are a sight to behold.

A view of the wind turbines in Pililla from the highway

The wind farm is still closed to the public. The energy company or the LGU probably didn’t want people to be congregating there for sightseeing while there is still the pandemic. Along the way, you see a lot of motorcycle and bikers groups in numbers approaching pre covid level. Are they among the vaccinated? Or are they just oblivious to the risks they impose on others should they be infected but asymptomatic? Just asking…

Anyhow, here’s the view at the end of our trip:

Mystical Mt. Banahaw as seen from Caliraya Lake

Vaccine passports anyone?

As the Philippines, relaxes protocols to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, it is interesting to note that other countries have not let down their guard. And the latter includes nations that have been quite successful in dealing with the pandemic. Many countries have also received the vaccines and have started inoculating their populations. These received the doses ahead of the Philippines and have now vaccinated a significant % of their population according to their respective prioritization schemes.

But even as countries have started vaccinations, the question remains whether a vaccinated individual can now move around or travel as if it were pre-pandemic conditions (the old normal). Here’s a nice article to read as the topic of unrestricted (or restricted, depending on your take) comes up in discussions including those leading to certain policies to be formulated by governments:

Fisher, M. (March 2, 2021) “Vaccine passports, Covid’s next political flashpoint,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/world/europe/passports-covid-vaccine.html [Last accessed: 3/4/2021]

On the road again

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself doing my first long drive in months. I wasn’t a passenger but the driver when the wife and I went on an excursion with neighbors-friends, one of whom arranged for our lunch at Ugu Bigyan’s Potter’s Garden in Tiaong, Quezon. We had two options to get there – one via the scenic route through Rizal’s backdoor that takes one to Teresa, Tanay, Baras and Pililla in Rizal, Pakil, Pangil, Paete, Lumban, Pagsanjan, Sta. Cruz and San Pablo in Laguna, the other via C-6, SLEX and STAR Tollways taking us through southern Metro Manila, Laguna, and Batangas. We took the latter route as it was faster (shorter travel time by an hour) and it allowed us to test our newly installed Autosweep RFID’s for the two tollways we used along the way.

The photo below was taken by the wife upon my prodding. I had not seen an arch as we traversed Sto. Tomas (Batangas), and Alaminos and San Pablo (Laguna). These were all along Asian Highway 26 (AH 26) or the Pan Philippine Highway system. The arch marks entry/exit to/from (boundary) the Province of Quezon from the Province of Laguna. Laguna doesn’t have its own arch.

Arches like the one in the photo used to be the landmarks between towns and provinces. I wrote about these many years ago:

https://d0ctrine.com/2013/02/18/arches-in-la-union-and-ilocos-sur/

https://d0ctrine.com/2019/04/25/arko-along-the-highways/

I have other photos somewhere but have not scanned/digitized them. Others I think that I left at my parents’ home perished with the floods of Ondoy.

With DPWH’s road widening program, many of these arches around the country may have been demolished. Those that remain tend to constrict traffic as they have space for two lanes and perhaps narrow shoulders at either side like what is shown in the photo. Perhaps others will be reconstructed and even enhanced to reflect a town’s or province’s attractions or attributes?

On travel restraint and transport options in the time of COVID-19

Previous to the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there were typically a lot of trips being made that many can regard as unnecessary. These are not the typical “to work” or “to school” trips that are being made on a regular basis (e.g., every week day). With the easing of the quarantine everywhere around the country, it seems a lot of people who felt they’ve been cooped indoors or have been limited in their activities have gone out. Many seem to have thrown caution to the wind, too, as evidenced from the many photos being shared showing people doing mass (bike or motorcycle) rides, shopping in crowded streets, etc. It becomes even more worrying now that Christmas is fast approaching when more people are going out to shop or visit relatives and friends. The following are quite basic while we are still experiencing the pandemic:

a. Required/imposed travel restraint – reimposition of the number coding scheme implemented by the MMDA with variations in certain LGUs such as Makati City (no mid-day coding windows) and those in the periphery (longer coding windows during mid-day), and limited implementation of the truck ban for certain roads (these of course will have certain exemptions for vital goods);

b. Increased number of public utility vehicles – the DOTr and LTFRB have been proceeding so slowly (but surely?) in re-establishing or resuming public transport services as they realized there will be no other opportunities like this to implement their rationalization and modernization plans simultaneously. However, the pandemic necessitates physical distancing and other measures to reduce if not eliminate the risks of infection

c. Making all modes available and viable as an option for commuters – Needless to say but all options must be provided for safe travel (esp. commuting). By ‘all’ I mean both motorized and non-motorized modes must be given as options to commuters, whichever they choose must be a safe option for them. That means providing the necessary facilities for walking and cycling, and, as mentioned, adding or augmenting public transport supply where necessary. By ‘commuters’ I mean those who really require traveling. These include our front liners and essential workers. Despite the push for local tourism, I personally believe this should be limited and LGUs need to discourage excursions that have the potential for spreading the virus.

d. Voluntary travel restraint – this is for everyone to consider rather than set aside. I guess given the easing of quarantine restrictions, many people have already had their fare share of going out including children and senior citizens who can now go out for some fresh air. Those opportunities should have already contributed to easing mental health issues, too. However, with the impending (if not yet here) increase in the infections once again, perhaps we should exercise self restraint during these holidays. This self-restraint can also be considered as sacrifices not just for one’s sake but for others especially loved ones we don’t want to get sick with COVID-19.

We still do not know who among us are or can be carriers and who can pick-up the virus and become very ill. As such, we should still be very careful, and adopt and practice measures to reduce infection risks. This goes very well with the spirit of the season. Let’s make the necessary sacrifices to beat this pandemic. Do not ‘gift’ your loved ones with Covid-19!

Of inequitable allocations and accessibility

In the news recently were figures released supposedly by Philhealth showing the top hospitals receiving reimbursements from the agency for claims relating to COVID-19. Southern Philippines Medical Center, a hospital in Davao City received 326M pesos while UP-PGH got 263.3M pesos.  I was not surprised that my social media newsfeed included posts from both sides of the fence (The fence sitters among my friends on social media were not commenting about these anymore and seem content in just posting on food or whatever activity they were in.). Each were posting information divulged by the whistleblowers in the ongoing hearings on the issues pertaining to PhilHealth funds.

I will not go into the political aspect of this controversy but will just focus on the transportation aspects of the issue.  I will just compare the top two hospitals in the list to simplify the assessment while mentioning others in general.

The claim that the hospital in Davao was the equivalent of PGH in Mindanao doesn’t hold water as the hospital does not treat even 10% of the cases that PGH is handling and for a much smaller geographical area. While UP-PGH is accessible to a larger population and for less travel times, SPMC is not as accessible to say people coming from other major cities like Cagayan De Oro or Zamboanga City. Yes, there are other major cities on the same island that have sizable populations with ‘catchment’ or influence areas comparable to Davao City. They, too, probably need funds to be able to treat COVID-19 patients. It is true that there are many other hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) that have the facilities to treat COVID-19 patients. However, many of these are private hospitals that tend to incur more costs for the patient and are not generally accessible (read: affordable) to most people who are of middle and low incomes. Thus, UP-PGH can be regarded as the frontliner among frontline hospitals.

What? There are other public or government hospitals in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces? True, but many of those have very limited capacities in terms of facilities and Human Resources. The same applies to Davao’s case as well because there are also medical centers and hospitals in surrounding provinces. And to round-out the resources available to these hospitals, local government units have also (over) extended their resources to hospitals. Perhaps the allocations and proportions can be explained in another way that is not the “apologist” but based on actual numbers pertaining to cases handled by the hospitals?