The crowd starts to gather at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in front of the town hall when I arrive at 6:30 AM, trying to find a spot I can claim as my own, running in my head my guide’s suggestions for novice runners. As time passes, I am surrounded with people dressed in the traditional attire—all white, with a red scarf around the waist and a red handkerchief around the neck. I cannot help but notice the nervousness that shows in their faces and the many ways they manage to hide it.
As the countdown begins, everyone eagerlywaits for the signal the policia does a final sweep of the crowd, checking for things you’re not supposed to bring with you and removing the occasional drunk.
At 8:00 AM, the first rocket sounds off and you feel the tension in the air as runners look behind them. The second rocket sounds off and pandemonium ensues. People are running through cobbled streets, followed by the hooves of six bulls and their guiding steers.
You try to make your way through this throng of humanity, extending your elbows to keep from being crushed; looking in all directions, trying to find a way to move forward, sidestepping those who have fallen while, at the same time, avoid getting trampled by either the people behind you or the bulls. From the corner of my eye, I see the bulls coming up behind, thundering on.
Here I am in Pamplona, in the Navarre region of Spain, on the fifth day of the 426-year-old festival of San Fermín, which is held each year from July 6 to 14 and has the enciero, running of the bulls. The annual fiesta, made famous by American writer Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, involves a run each morning at 8:00 AM, starting on the second day of the festival. The run starts at Calle Santo Domingo, where the bulls are released from their holding pen to chase a few thousand people for about two to five minutes, and finishes in the bullring (plaza de toros in Spanish) where the bulls meet their end that afternoon.
The morning before I left Madrid for Pamplona, news coverage of the event showed two bulls staying behind on the route and wreaking havoc amongst the runners. The next day several runners were injured. I watched a guy being loaded into a waiting ambulance from the balcony of my apartment rental. During the festival, 12 people, including four Americans, have been gored in the running of the bulls. Despite the obvious dangers, people still come to experience the adrenaline high of running with the bulls.
San Fermín Festival is bigger than just the running of the bulls; it is a fiesta for all ages, young and old, men and women, and for people the world over. The Plaza del Castillo is where it all comes together, with live concerts and locals dancing to traditional music starting at mid-morning. Packed bars and restaurants stay open until the early hours of the morning. Surrounding the Plaza are several places to discover, and people walk around with a cup of wine, beer or sangria. Don’t be surprised to see people sleeping off their hangover in the streets anytime of the day. And let’s not forget the Spanish cuisine! It’s the biggest party in the world.
Pamplona has a lot to offer during the nine-day festival. Each day includes a bull run, a parade of Giants, a bullfight, live concerts, fairgrounds, all-day music by the brass bands from the peñas, Toro de Fuego (flaming bull), and an international fireworks competition. An in the hours between, it’s parties everywhere!
After the morning bull run, things tend to quiet down and you can take this opportunity to explore Pamplona. For pedestrians only, there’s the beautiful Old Town with its stone-paved streets that winds its way through the historical heart of the city. The Plaza del Castillo is the center of life and lined with restaurants, cafes and hotels. The most important monument of the city is Santa Maria Cathedral, which is part of the Cathedral Museum containing the largest amount of artistic and historical treasures. Other interesting places to check out include the Casa Consistoral (City Hall), Navarre Museum, Citadel & Vuelta del Castillo Park, Taconera Park, and the Church of San Lorenzo.
The morning before I left Pamplona, I managed to squeeze in my last run, this time making it all the way to the bullring. Once in the bullring, the bulls are directed back to their pens, and a few minutes later, fighting cows or Vaquillas are released into the ring with the remaining runners in an unofficial “bullfight.” It is quite a sight to witness the thrill of ordinary Joes acting like would-be matadors getting their butts kicked by the Vaquillas up close.
It was a wonderful end to six days of festivities, and an adrenaline-filled run with the bulls. This is one more thing off my bucket list. But, I might just go back someday for another run.
Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise
LOST IN PARADISE
Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.
by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder
Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.
The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.
Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”
The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.
The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.
In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!
For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com
(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)
THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard
With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.
by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt
The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.
“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”
All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.
Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”
The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.
The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.
Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.
And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.
(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)
Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant
Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.
Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.
Visit Da-In restaurant today!
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