Friday, December 9, 2011

Rota road trip

IF there is one place in the CNMI that provides the perfect location for driving around at your leisure and following all roads free from the thought that someone from behind will blow their horn, it is the island of Rota.
This untouched gem in the Pacific, which carries loads of character and charm, is about a 30 minute plane ride from Saipan and boasts pristine beaches, beautiful underwater wonders, rich green jungles, cool mountains, cultural and historical memorabilia scattered all over the place.
A trip some months back to Rota gave me the chance to experience what it was to drive at my leisure, stopping every now and then to take photos of whatever caught my attention and just “follow the road wherever it leads,”  things you cannot do anywhere on Saipan or you face the risk of slamming your car into a tree or into another car.
Driving from the airport and heading toward the famed latte stones all the way to the Bird Sanctuary is an exciting experience for any first time visitor in the island.
When you drive from Sinapalo to Songsong village, roll down your windows and grab the opportunity to breathe all the fresh sea air you would want and feast on the beautiful coastal views along the way.
Having a whole day to myself gave me the freedom to drive at my own pace and drive through used and seemingly abandoned roads to satisfy my curiosity to where the roads lead and what was at the other end.
Driving on an unfamiliar road adds to the thrill and often times I reached a dead ends but it was always easy to turn back, retrace your way and venture into another road.
My aimless driving brought me to abandoned hotels and resorts that once thrived with life and laughter.
I roamed around and took images of dilapidated buildings almost obscured by thick vines and shrubbery and left at the mercy of the harsh elements of nature while fighting the goose bumps that one gets while exploring abandoned places all alone, even in broad daylight.
Driving toward the jungles at the foot of Sabana Mountain on the afternoon of my second day put an end to all my illusions that I was brave enough.
As I drove through the road that became narrower as I went deeper into the jungles, I was losing the nerve to go down and just snapped images from my driver’s seat.
The road suddenly took a curve when I reached a portion where thick vines hanging from the trees obscured the way.
I stopped and stared at the road ahead, my imagination playing havoc on me.
With the late afternoon sun casting eerie shadows, it looked surreal, like a scene from a horror movie and I panicked.
The road was too narrow to turn back, and I was too scared to drive on.
Taking a deep breath, I was left with no choice but drive on and as soon as I reached the other side, it was all over and I was able to find a spot to turn back the car.
The experience did not mar my enthusiasm to drive around some more the following day. There are still more roads on Rota that I haven’t explored yet, but I will be back. One day.
rota-road-trip [42354] | Around the Islands.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Movies and popcorn, anyone?

I FOUND it astounding that some people said they have never set foot inside the only place which offers hours of solace and relaxation for people regardless of ethnicity and age—the Hollywood Theater in San Jose.
I thought that was just a running joke, until one day when I dragged a buddy to watch one movie which I had been waiting for a long time and right in the middle when I was totally lost in the movie, he poked me in the side and confessed that it was his first time be inside Hollywood for his 10 years of being here.
Another friend who has been here for over 25 years said she also has never set foot inside the theater but would rather rent DVDs and watch movies from home.
I had been on Saipan but two months when I took the chance to see what this island had to offer in terms of theater entertainment. The name Hollywood would astound any newcomer of course but although there’s no comparison from the theaters back in the Philippines, the seven-screen multiplex located next to Price Costco or Joeten Superstore has eased a lot of ‘bad hair days’ for me and a lot of residents here.
The Hollywood Theater screens the latest first-run movies and I always had to curb the urge to watch on the first day because several times I’ve tried sitting at the topmost row where you can barely stretch your feet, and at the very front where you will get stiff neck afterward and come out of the theater dazed because of a very close encounter with the actors on the screen.
Watching movies perched in your sofa or from your bed is a good option because you can do it wearing house clothes or just a bathrobe, where you have the power to pause the movie if you want to have a restroom break or a few minutes nap but going to the theater is a totally different experience.
Opening the glass doors after you bought your ticket and inhaling the smell of popcorn is bliss, but carrying a huge bucket to munch on throughout the movie is priceless.
The Hollywood Theater is Saipan’s meeting place of kids and parents, friends and relatives especially during the weekends. It is one place here where I never hesitate to watch movies alone and still feel at ease, something I could never imagine doing back in the Philippines. This usually happens when my companions and I don’t agree with what movies to watch so we go our separate ways and meet up after.
When you feel the need to relax, steal an hour or two and make the Hollywood Theater your destination. Try the fun of hopping from one movie to the next when you have the luxury of time.