36-hours in Infanta

5:54 PM

“Infanta is a first-class municipality,” said my friend Blue, as we make our way to the town center onboard our chartered tryc.  I arrived the night before and so this was the first time I saw the entire town in daylight. And now as I gaze at brightly painted houses, it seems hard to believe that Infanta was underwater about nine years ago. 

Infanta is a town in Quezon Province which is situated at foot of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and faces the Pacific Ocean.  In 2004, it suffered from an epic flood. The entire town was covered in mud and its rice fields ruined by silt and illegally-cut logs snugly lodged several feet underground. My friend Blue is trying to find out if the farmers have indeed recovered from this disaster.  I was there to just simply help with the interviews. 

We were scheduled to interview several farmers at 9:00 am but first had to drop by the Infanta Integrated Community Development Assistance, Inc. office (ICDAI), a local NGO,  to pick up Alex - local boy and ICDAI's own superman.

Blue also had to buy snacks for our interviewees and so left me at Iona's refreshment parlor, the eatery across the ICDAI office, to break my fast. While waiting for my longsilog, I bumped into the former Ms. Maranan - the legendary brilliant and then maiden math teacher from my high school in Pasig. She became an inspiration to most single girls from our batch when, after moving back to her hometown of Infanta, she found love in her later years. 

We arrived at the baranggay hall just in time and promptly started. In the course of our interviews, we found out that most of these farmers also lost livestock to the flood, had to borrow money to clear the fields, and have just started planting last year.  Some of them received help from the government and NGOs, though some struggled their way back to normalcy on their own.

Short of the 20-25 farmers we expected, we headed back to the town center rather early and broke for lunch at Quatro Hermanas. The afternoon was spent visiting baranggay captains, scheduling more interviews for the coming days.

We then headed to Dinahican Fish Port where fishermen unload the day's catch. Unfortunately for us though, it was a rather turbulent day at sea so we were greeted by a very quiet pier that afternoon. We just hung out and enjoyed the sunset.

Supper was take-out fried chicken from town favorite Anejos. They basically just have a counter so we didn't have a choice but to eat at home. As it turned out, it was the best thing to do since their chicken was so yummy that it's a crime not to eat it with rice, much rice.

The next day, Blue and I were heading back home to Manila via a shuttle van.  But before we started on the four-hour ride home, we had breakfast at Queen Cakes. Locals say it's the one "proper" restaurant in all of Infanta where there's air-conditioning and staff to wait on you. Blue and I ordered sizzling bangus and after finishing off our meal, were quite ready to hop on the van and head back to Manila.

Iona's is a local food institution where you get to know the town literally and figuratively. Established in 1977, it looks and feels the quintessential Filipino eatery - bright, airy, and doesn't have an ounce of pretentiousness. 
The number is pretty old-school of cardboard and plastic cover. 

A welcome sight in recent Infanta: "working" rice fields.  

One of the four weddings I've witnessed in the span of 36 hours. 
Newlyweds pose in front of Infanta's St. Mark Cathedral. 
Infanta's town hall, all decked for the holidays. 

The town of Infanta from the ICDAI office. 
The bulletin board at the Comon Baranggay Hall provides all sorts of data from landownership to vehicle ownership.  

A farmer takes a break from tending the fields by talking to us. 
Our chartered tryc parked along the road. 

These shoes were hung to dry. 

There's a rooster at the pier. Wonder where he's going? 

A boy hanging out at the pier. 
Bayanihan gets redefined as these men try to load this drum into the tryc. 
This man, just back from the sea, got off the boat and onto the plank just to smile for my camera. 

You can't leave the bike, can you? 
A rather quiet Dinahican fish port.
No catch for the day due to a rather turbulent sea. 
Little girls playing in the port. 

Local boy Alex Malubay, gives us the lead on the whats, whens, and wheres of Infanta:

1. EAT "SINANTOL". Head to the palangke and indulge in one.
2. JUMP OFF BALAGBAG FALLS (in neighboring town of Real) and SWIM IN THE PINLAK FALLS.
4. RENT YOUR OWN "FLOATING RESTAURANT". Locals rent a boat that has its own karaoke machine, mini-bar, bedroom, restroom, and boatman. Great for parties, these boats can hold up to 50 pax.
5. WATCH THE FISHERMEN UNLOAD THEIR CATCH AT DINAHICAN PORT. The show starts at 3:00 pm and ends roughly at 5:00 pm.

23 APRIL: Farmer's Field Day, farmers sell their crops at the plaza
25 APRIL: Town Fiesta and Bb. Infanta Beauty Pageant at the Plaza

1. Cote d' Azur; www.cotedazurbeachresort.com
2. Bahay-Ugnayan sa Dalampasigan (BUD). Call 024-535-2146 and look for Alex or Gina.
3. Blue Pavillion; bluepavilionresort.com
4. Malachai Hotel and Resort; www.malachihotelandresort.com
5. Balesin Island Club for an A-list, private island type of holiday. Visit www.balesin.com for more information.

1. Suman
2. Pasingaw. It seems to me like an elongated sweet milky tikoy.
3. Sinantol

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