September 2007 Archives
By Augusto Villalon Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Macau is a place of many contradictory realities, all happening simultaneously and almost independently of each other. Confined within a total area of around 25 sq km, the Chinese fishing village and former Portuguese colony is established today as the 21st-century gaming capital of Asia, its future anchored on the massive numbers of visitors attracted by its booming casinos. Macau is a city in perpetual motion. Las Vegas-type casinos continually pump cash throughout the day and night into already fully loaded city coffers. Money, lots of it, and everything that newly earned wealth can buy is everywhere in abundant Macau today. “The more the better” is the feeling that new Macau generates, and Macau definitely keeps gathering up more and more of everything. Once confined to small peninsula and its two adjoining islands, land reclamation has continually expanded Macau boundaries. Never has reclamation been carried out as in today’s grand, massive and absolutely obsessive scale, it seems that the hunger for more land cannot be sated. Aggressive reclamation rapidly opens new areas, giving the feeling of incessantly feeding Macau’s compulsion to construct more shimmering architectural trophies and casinos, while improving existing public facilities and housing for local residents. Macau is clearly on a roll. Reclamation The reclamation centerpiece is the Cotai Strip where huge casinos and high-rise hotels, some already under construction, stand side by side on wide boulevards, planned as an Asian Las Vegas, an improved version of the original Strip. New Cotai casinos play the game of architecturally one-upping the neighboring competition with flamboyant super “glitz-and-glitter” structures that follow the dictum that “bigger is always best.” So think of what Las Vegas looks like today as Macau leaves it behind in the dust. Macau will just be bigger and best. Once Cotai is fully developed, Macau improves its present image of being a vibrant, pulsating city with money coming and going into its many casinos and shops, a strong tourism magnet for China and the region. On the opposite spectrum of “bigger and better” and “glitz-and-glitter” architecture, Macau pays special attention to its old buildings and streetscapes, recognizing heritage as another resource to add to the tourism picture. Macau heritage is unique in the region. Centuries of Chinese-Portuguese interaction is so evident in every phase of Macau life, from language to religion, arts, cuisine and urbanscapes, that make it stand out in the region as the only city with this type of cultural fusion. Outstanding program With the goal of inscribing the center of Macau in the prestigious Unesco World Heritage List, the government established an outstanding program to recuperate its decaying Chinese and colonial heritage. The heritage values of structures were studied, documented, categorized. Finally significant structures illustrating the “Macau story” were grouped together. Since it was discovered that most structures were located along a tight road network running through the central Macau area, distinctive street paving was laid out, linking most heritage monuments on a spine of pedestrianized streets, an ingenious and effective urban-planning scheme. Not only were heritage structures conserved, their urban surroundings were cleaned up and improved to make them stand out better. Parking lots, tourist stalls, badly paved streets and sidewalks around pre-conservation heritage structures were removed, redesigned or replaced with landscaped open spaces, and in some instances existing plazas in front of heritage structures were framed with newly constructed colonnades that hid tourist stalls while allowing them to continue business. The detailed methods followed by the Macau Cultural Institute satisfied the most exacting internationally upheld requirements of heritage conservation, leading to the inscription of the Historic Center of Macau in the World Heritage List in 2005. Sophisticated Very sophisticated is the reuse of Macau heritage structures. Heritage buildings have been converted into offices, shops, boutique hotels and museums. Also very sophisticated is the way that totally modern structures are grafted onto heritage structures, as seen in the addition at the rear of the landmark Sir Robert Hotung Library. Macau’s reuse program shows an understanding of using heritage to enhance contemporary living. But if authentic heritage is not enough, Macau has plenty of instant heritage. It is also a heritage fantasyland. New hotels allude to European royalty: a replica of Queen Elizabeth’s carriage is parked outside the front door of one hotel; and in full view of the oversized pseudo monarchial portraits hanging in its mirrored, gilt-encrusted lobby, a pair of Buckingham Palace Guards in full costume march back and forth. Equally instant and absolute fantasy is Fisherman’s Wharf. On an esplanade jutting out into the water, an enormous development of convention facilities, restaurants, bars, shops all spread around an amusement park with replicas of Vesuvius (which erupts every hour on the hour, spewing fake fire and real smoke with lots of sound effects!), Lhasa’s Potala Palace, Colosseo of Rome, Eiffel Tower of course, and Tower of London. There are Moorish, Tudor, Portuguese and Chinese Villages, a Wild West area and the Latin Quarter of New Orleans. It’s a place where one can “travel” around an encapsulated world, taste all kinds of “local” cuisine depending on which quarter of Fisherman’s Wharf he is in, and shop away in the tempting collection of high-priced boutiques. A great diversion, Fisherman’s Wharf, and a perfect destination for those looking for that kind of reality. Too perfect? On the other hand, the conservation of authentic Macau heritage returns old structures to a state of near perfection, making them appear as if they were constructed yesterday rather than being centuries-old. With most of the patina removed, the conserved structures sometimes appear as brand new as Fisherman’s Wharf recreations. Do the realities of “new” and “old” and “fantasy and authentic” overlap in Macau? There is no overlap with continuing traditions in everyday Macau life. Away from the tourist tracks and despite overnight modernization, parents still walk their children to school, shop for supplies in markets, corner shops, or street stalls for fresh produce, slurp bowls of hot noodles on sidewalk stands for a quick lunch, pick up laundry after returning from work, and later, back in their flats, watch television in the evenings. Buildings in areas like these are not grand, nor are they sparkling clean or new, but they have the character of life. They tell the other half of the Macau story not seen in the casino strip or the heritage walk, the story that behind all the glitz the everyday life of Macau goes on. Young and old still gather in public parks. Children play while adults do tai chi or practice Chinese opera arias singing under the open air in full voice. I am told that shops specializing in traditional paper lanterns for seasonal Chinese festivals still exist. Craftsmen still fashion birdcages in the old way. Men bring their caged birds to tea shops where birds sing to each other from the safety of their cages while their masters noisily exchange the new gossip of the day. The other face of Macau is what I want to see next time I go, to experience the personal reality instead of the official tourist version of Macau. On the other hand, there’s a reality check here: walking into personal Macau may be straying off limits, intruding into someone’s home without an invitation. Where is the demarcation between tourism and community privacy?
By Margaux Ortiz Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--More foreign tourists are opting to stay longer in the country, making the Philippines "one of the most favored tourist destinations in the Asia-Pacific." Bureau of Immigration chief Marcelino Libanan made this observation Friday, saying that foreign visitors have paid more than P370 million to the government just to extend their stay in the country. Libanan said that BI's collections from visa extension fees from January to August 2007 amounted to P370.17 million, up by P57.9 million or 18 percent from the P312.2 million generated during the same period last year. "The income was sourced from 151,066 applications for extension of stay of tourists which the bureau approved during the eight-month period," the BI chief said in a statement, citing statistics from the immigration visa extension office. Libanan added that approved extensions of stay increased by 16 percent from the 129,666 applications for extension that the bureau granted from January to August 2006. "Visa extension fees accounted for a large chuck of the BI's revenue collection over the past few years as the number of tourists who visited the country has steadily grown," Libanan said. The immigration chief said the figures indicated that more and more foreign tourists are visiting and prolonging their stay in the Philippines. "The numbers speak for themselves. Our country is fast emerging as one of the most favored tourist destinations in the Asia-Pacific," Libanan said. He added, "The fact that foreign tourists are entering our country in droves is an indication that foreign investors' confidence in our country has tremendously improved as President [Gloria] Macapagal-Arroyo had stated in her last State of the Nation Address." Libanan noted that foreign tourists visited the country not only for pleasure but also to consider investment and business opportunities. He also reported that more foreigners arrived in the country from January to August, compared to the same period last year.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net IT was simply the hugest beach I have ever seen in my entire life. Boracay Beach isn't even half the size of the beachfront at Surfer's Paradise, the most popular stop in Gold Coast. This is how it looks like once you step into the beach at Surfer's Paradise. Notice how long the stretch of sand is before it breaks into the sea. The waves are simply astounding -- no wonder they call it Surfer's Paradise. I can spend an entire day just listening to the crashing waves. After much prodding, I had to take a dip. Lunita, a fellow journalist from Singapore and an avid surfer, said it's a must that anyone who visits the Coast should at least "be one" with the ocean by dipping one's feet in the water. Our plan was to get in the ocean but we got there late and it was a bloody cold spring night, and the strong waves made me think otherwise. The waves are so strong you need to be a strong swimmer or else the undertow might throw you back into the sea. For a while, I thought about Gold Coast as some sort of beach commune where after getting off from the bus, you can already jump into the sand and see surfers in action (and maybe ogle at girls in bikinis but like I said, it was already past 8 p.m. when we got there). Dead wrong. It was like this one big collection of hotels and skyscrapers by the beach. This is how the skyline looks like from the beach -- and that's just a small portion because it stretches along the coast. How we got there -- and why we missed the sunset -- is quite a story. Once the conference was over, there were three of us who decided on giving Gold Coast a go. The others wanted to see the kangaroo and koala sanctuary. No offense to them animals, but the idea sounded boring at that time. There's always Animal Planet, right? Brisbane Central Station to Gold Coast is about an hour and 15 minutes by train. But half an hour later, they cut the trip short because of an accident. So we got off along with this throng of people and from some station, we were herded into a bus to get to another train station. Finally after waiting for more than an hour, in the biting cold, a train finally arrived that would take us to Gold Coast. This is Lunita and Malovika (a journalist from India) on the train, still looking psyched to hit the beach despite the delay -- thus, missing the Gold Coast sunset. To get there, go down in Nerang station (fare from Central is around 10 Aussie dollars) and from there, a bus takes people straight to Surfer’s Paradise. We finally arrived around 8 p.m., just enough time for a quick McDonald’s dinner and a stroll on the beach. Less ideal without the sunset, we managed to take pictures anyway. The last train back to Brisbane is around 11 p.m., so that gave us about an hour to spend on Surfer's Paradise. Gold Coast makes for an excellent day trip -- catch the earliest train from Brisbane and then come back at night, ideally after getting yourself hammered with a few drinks on the beach. Surfer's Paradise is teeming with restaurants, bars and for aspiring surfers, almost every surf brand you know from Quiksilver to Billabong. Lunita even came back the next day to buy a second-hand surfboard. From how it looked, there are simply so many things to check out in Surfer's Paradise alone. One hour and some at Gold Coast was more than enough to convince me that this is one awesome place worthy of succeeding visits. �
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net WHAT'S the difference between alligators and crocodiles? Apparently not so much says this guy at Hartley's Creek Crocodile Farm in Cairns. The video below shows him feeding these nasty-looking crocs while telling us guests a thing or two about these reptiles. To answer my question, he says alligators have squarish mouths unlike these crocs in the picture that have pointed snouts. There are also fewer species of gators and they are likewise found in only a few countries. Whatever, these crocs still look nasty to me. Just hear them munch on the meat thrown at them. The fearsome sound is caused by the enormous pressure their mouths generate. Now that's what I call a bite. But seriously, when coming face-to-face with a croc, it pays to run fast -- in a straight line away from it and not zigzag, as myth would have it. Crocs are slow, lazy creatures and know when to give up the chase. They're so lazy they don't even blink their eyes that often. How about this? Crocs can suck their eyeballs into their skulls. They let us hold this 18-month old baby croc. Its mouth was tied, of course, even crocs this young already have sharp teeth. Cold-blooded to the touch but not as slimy and scaly like I expected it to be. I found out that they do serve crocodile meat as well. Our host, though, dared not serve us croc meat for dinner. Touching these creatures was more than enough experience for me.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net ON A TRIP to Cairns over the weekend, Systimax treated us journalists to a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. To an avid scuba diver, this sure sounds like heaven. I'm not a certified diver, but once we were told we could do some snorkeling… man, this is the Great Barrier Reef! To get close to the reef, we hopped on a boat from that would take us to Green Island. You could tell from the above picture it was early morning, people sipping coffee to go with some excellent hot muffins. Two hours on a boat sounds like fun, but not totally for seasick chumps like me. Green Island itself is a commercial resort. Now I know why there were flights from Osaka straight to Cairns: Japanese are to Australia as Koreans are to the Philippines. At the information counter, there's even a Japanese fellow to entertain tourists. The beach at Green Island isn't bad at all. Mary, a journalist from Sydney (and at the age of 60, an avid triathlete) warned, though, that Queensland could be hotter than most tropical countries like the Philippines. After taking this shot, I took off for snorkeling in the middle of the Coral Sea. The Great Barrier Reef contains the most number of marine species per square meter. For those who don't feel like getting wet, the glass-bottom boat is the next best thing to snorkeling. It's like being in 360-degree aquarium. Remember Dory from "Finding Nemo"? I can't recall what kind of fish she is, though. Anyway, fish are best seen moving so here’s a video I took during the tour.
ENJOY this video of the Apsara dance or Khmer classical dance of Cambodia uploaded by mboogiedown.
By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--While little is known about them, Mt. Iraya in Batanes and other volcanoes rich in biodiversity can be turned into "eco-tourism zones'' that could benefit local communities, environment officials said Friday. There are 16 volcanoes across the country, including those active, potentially active and inactive, which have been designated protected areas by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Aside from their natural features, these volcanoes offer other attractions such as endemic flora and fauna to climbers, adventurers and ordinary tourists, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) officials said. "The volcano doesn't erupt every day. Therefore we promote these as tourist attractions. And biodiversity is part of the attraction,'' PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said at a forum on volcano eco-tourism. Of the protected areas, Mt. Iraya in Batanes, Mayon Volcano in Albay, Taal Volcano in Batangas, Mt. Kanlaon on Negros Island, Matutum Volcano in South Cotabato, Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, Mt. Hibok-Hibok on Camiguin island are active. Mounts Apo in Davao, Isarog in Camarines Sur and Kalatungan in Bukidnon are potentially active. Mounts Kitanglad in Bukidnon, Malindang in Misamis Occidental, Inayawan in Lanao del Norte, and two others are inactive. Endemic flora and fauna thrive around most of these volcanoes like the freshwater snake in Taal Volcano, the Waling-Waling orchid on Mt. Apo; the hornbill and bleeding heart pigeon on Mt. Kanlaon; the cloud rat on Mt. Bulusan. At the forum, Lim admitted that there was no government eco-tourism program yet for these volcanoes, but said any "development'' would depend on each volcano and its unique topography. She said that some parts of these protected areas, except for the "strict protection zone,'' could be developed into eco-tourism zones, but this had to be cleared with the management board of each protected area. A protected area is divided into sustainable use, restoration, habitat management, multiple use, culture, special use zones, recreation and strict protection zones, among others, according to Lim. "There are zones where we allow certain development except in strict protection zones. So if you want to build a tourism facility, it's good to find out where the zones are, so you know where to locate,'' she said. "In Taal for example, we were asked about the spa and if it's near the crater, it lies within strict protection zone,'' she added, referring to the controversial spa project near Taal Volcano's crater that was scuttled following protests from residents. In her own presentation, Perla delos Reyes of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said that any developer should consider volcanic hazards before developing any part of a volcano into a tourist spot. "Make sure that there are no settlements in the permanent danger zone, or in areas identified as prone to volcanic eruptions and its hazards,'' she said at the same forum. "They are good for attractions but first, safety should always be considered,'' she added. "The natural environment should be preserved, and the well-being of the communities should be improved.'' Francois Dominique de Larouziere, scientific director of Vulcania Park, said he was willing to share the concept of building the museum-cum-leisure park in France with Philippine officials. "If the Philippines decides that this might be useful, it will be very good pleasure if I come back and help them elaborate the concept, and help them make something,'' he said in an interview. De Larouziere, however, said he would not advise Philippine officials to make a replica of the European Park of Volcanism, which cost a whopping €118 million, or $160 million. "To make a clone of Vulcania, I don't think it's the best way. What's important is first to speak of the volcanoes in the middle of volcanoes because people want to have a connection between the object and the reality,'' he said.
By Fung Yu, Contributor INQUIRER.net Author’s note: This article uses Apple’s QuickTime technology in providing an immersive experience by means of virtual reality panoramas. QuickTime is required to view the 360-degree VRs. Average VR size is 1.8Mb each. I LOVE churches, especially centuries-old ones. Apart from their religious significance, I like the tranquility of its ambiance, the intricate architectural designs of its interiors, and the historical and cultural attachment to its community. Being the only Christian nation in Asia and with over 400 years of rich Spanish heritage, our country is dotted with an abundance of these elegant structures. Built in God’s name, and for His glory, these bastions of Christianity are a testament of man’s faith, devotion, and artistic talents. The National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) listed the following four churches on November 6, 1992 for inclusion under the UNESCO World Heritage List: Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin, Intramuros; Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción of Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; and Church of Santo Thomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo. These were subsequently inscribed on December 1993 under World Heritage List No. 677 with the heading “Four Baroque Churches of the Philippines.” They were selected for inclusion based on their authenticity and qualities. “…As all four churches represent the progressive evolution of the structures of places of worship that has been in continuous use since their original construction.” “These churches are architecture built in response to local natural and climatic conditions by Filipino and Chinese craftsmen with no knowledge of European architecture. The men of God who commissioned them reinterpreted the European Baroque to establish a peripheral Baroque which is deceptively western in appearance but wholly Filipino in spirit and context.” Baroque being a period as well as a style that started around the year 1600 in Rome, Italy. It is characterized by “exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music.” “The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided at the time of the Council of Trent that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.” Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila. A site within the district of Intramuros was assigned to the Augustinian Order, who were the first to evangelize in the Philippines. In 1587 the impermanent earliest building in wood and palm fronds was replaced by a church and monastery in stone, the latter becoming the Augustinian mother house in the Philippines. As a result the church was richly endowed, with a fine retablo, pulpit, wall paintings, lectern, and choir-stalls. It was the only structure in Intramuros to survive the liberation of Manila in 1945. email@example.com.
By Pam Pastor Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The adventure starts way before you hit the water. When people start warning you about the dangers, when you hear about how hard you have to paddle, when you ask yourself if you’re really ready to hit the rapids. But you push those thoughts away and only start entertaining them again when you see the brightly colored jeepney pulling up in front of your hotel, with two big red rafts secured to its roof. You wonder if you should bolt back into the hotel room and hide under the covers. But, instead, you hop aboard enthusiastically. Long and bumpy The ride to the river is long and bumpy and by the time you get there, you have forgotten about being nervous. There are a lot of things to be done -- sunblock to be applied, life vest to be worn, helmet to be put on. Besides, your paddle is waiting. The guides ask you to get into the water for a quick orientation. The river is ice-cold and you stifle a scream. The guide asks the first-timers in the group to raise their hands. He then says it’s his first time to guide, too. You laugh nervously, telling yourself that he’s kidding. The guide demonstrates the different ways to paddle and you try to copy him. One of your rafting buddies starts laughing at the way you’re holding your paddle. Soon, you are asked to separate into two groups. You are grateful that you are in a raft with people who have gone white-water rafting before. Stellar klutziness Since there are just five of you, you end up sitting on the right side with only one other person. You are glad there is no one behind you. Otherwise, with your stellar klutziness, you would have ended up accidentally whacking that person on the head with the paddle. You find yourself in the middle of Cagayan River, paddling away. Your guide Mau says the current appears strong that day and you will be hitting 14 rapids. At that point, no trace of nervousness is left. You are actually excited. You keep your foot constantly locked to make sure you don’t fall out of the raft. Sure, the guide has taught you what to do in case you fell into the water (just lie back and spread your legs) -- but you have no plans of giving that a shot. Safe and extreme Mau says each rapid has a safe and extreme side. If he feels your group is good enough at paddling, he will give you the option of taking the extreme side. You are with a group of enthusiastic paddlers and you can proudly say you have taken the extreme side of every rapid except for one. After surviving each rapid, Mau would shout, “High five!” and you would knock paddles with the people with you, celebrating the fact that your raft did not tip over. Your group is so hyper that when you’re paddling between rapids, you actually make your raft spin to add to the excitement. Because the strong current has made your raft move fast and you have time to spare, your guides decide it’s time to give you a little treat. You are asked to get off the rafts. With a lot of difficulty, you slip and trip your way to what looks like a cave. The current is even stronger there and you have to form a line and hold on to the people beside you. Mau is there to guide you, asking you to lie back, spread your legs and let the current carry you out of the cave. They call it “riding the rapids,” you call it “getting river water into your nose and mouth and not caring because you are having too much fun.” The graduation rock Soon, you’re back on the raft, ready to hit the last two rapids. After the last one, Mau says you are headed to the Graduation Rock. That’s a rock where people who’ve survived the rapids can climb and leap off. Strangely, you feel a strong urge to do the jump. When Mau asks who would want to come, you’re one of only four people to raise their hands. You can feel the others’ eyes on you, their faces covered with expressions of disbelief. You, the sissy who dove into the middle of the raft to avoid falling into the water, would actually leap off a rock into the icy river? Soon, you’re grappling your way up the rock. There’s another guide there and he tells you where to stand. From up there, the Graduation Rock no longer looks like a rock, it looks more like a cliff. And jumping seems extra-difficult because you have no steady footing, the rock’s surface being too rough and jagged. The guide tells you to get ready. He says you have to make sure you jump far to avoid hitting the rock. Your heart starts pounding as he starts counting. “One, two, th---” Plunging to your death “Wait wait wait wait!” you say, looking at your companions who are sitting in the rafts, their cameras ready to capture your fall. You take a deep breath, telling yourself that it’s fine, that even if you plunged to your own death at least you were able to ask your companions to tell your mom that you just wanted to see if you could do it. The guide starts counting again, “One, two, three!” “Waiiit!” you say again. Your companions are laughing at this point and you start wondering if the guide is about to just push you off the rock. You take another deep breath and this time, when he counts, you fling yourself off the rock. Soon, you’re falling falling falling, and you have only one thought in your head. “Where’s the water? Where’s the water?” The answer comes soon -- when the water welcomes your body. High fives You grab the rope and pull yourself towards the raft. You climb onboard again, your knees still shaking. You exchange high fives with the other people who have jumped and you start wondering if you can do it again. Soon you’re paddling your way to the end of your adventure—and the end of the adventure signals the start of lunch. You have a feast of lechon, chicken, prawns, fish, steamed rice and bananas waiting. The river of your great adventure now serves as a backdrop for a good meal. On the way back to the city, heavy rain assaults the jeepney you’re riding, but you don’t mind. A little downpour is nothing, not when you’re dreaming of shooting more rapids and leaping off many more rocks masquerading as mini-cliffs. Have your own rapid adventure White water rafting costs around P1, 200 per person and that includes lunch (but sadly, not the lechon). Visit www.raftingcdo.com. Our guides came from Red Rafts River Tours. Photo by Jill Lejano
By Anton Diaz Inquirer WHAT makes a restaurant awesome? Some would say great food and the right ambiance. “Great food” is subjective and varies with each person’s experience and background, however. To be considered awesome, a restaurant has to take the overall dining experience to a higher level. That means food that leaves an indelible mark on your taste buds and imprints lasting memories in your mind in an ambiance that carves out a special place in the heart to share with other people. Every restaurant in this list has been carefully chosen. Each serves gourmet food with the freshest ingredients, and combines nature elements, artifacts or a sense of history in its atmosphere. Simply put, these restaurants have a story to tell that is spread via word-of-mouth. I can proudly say that these restaurants are found ONLY in the Philippines. Kubli Springs @ Kinabuhayan Café, Dolores, Quezon The road to Kubli Springs is literally the road less traveled, and when you do get on it, you’ll be glad you decided against taking your sedan car. Flashlights, candles, mobile phones, and the moon are the only sources of light. Occasionally, they may put up Christmas lights connected to a portable battery source to make the place special. You’ll find yourself in the middle of a forest, surrounded by boulders, a spring at your feet and a clear starlit sky overhead. You sit on rocks and makeshift benches, savoring the aroma of steak being grilled on the spot. Ah, this is the perfect time to play the acoustic guitar for a sing-along with the barkada (gang) without fear of disturbing anyone. For P500 per person, you get fresh salad with flowers, grilled steak, Jay’s special rice, and a fruit platter. The meal ends with lambanog and a special roast of barako coffee. For drinking, there’s fresh mineral water from the mountains. You’d wish the night would never end. Antonio’s in Tagaytay Dining at Antonio’s is like entering a magical portal to a world where any food you choose is worth a rave. The service is that of a six-star hotel where you need not worry about a thing. Even going to the restroom is a chance to appreciate nature and its beauty. The positive energy in the place encourages conversation and bears witness to thousands of memorable life stories. You won’t mind waiting for your food because you know it’s being prepared to perfection. The real flavor of the meat and other ingredients stands out without the sauce overpowering the taste. Any wine selection seems to match the food you order. My favorite in Antonio’s includes the Salad with Foie Gras, the steaks, sea bass and the soufflé dessert. I envision our silver wedding anniversary at this place because of the food, service and its enchanting garden. Ugu’s Pottery Garden Restaurant, Tiaong, Quezon It remains a secret place in Tiaong because Ugu never advertises and there are no road signs. Even the neighbors don’t realize that such a place exists. The whole of Ugu’s Pottery Garden Restaurant is a labor of love, with the entire family designing everything from the huts, the garden layout, the pottery and the food concept. Ugu is known for such dishes as Kulawo and Lato. Kulawo is charcoal-grilled banana heart with a smoky flavor that tastes like tuna, while lato is seaweed in vinegar. Both are traditional Filipino dishes you seldom find in Metro Manila. It’s home-cooked Filipino food served on Ugu’s signature pottery. I do hope it remains a secret. Isla Naburot, Guimaras Isla Naburot resort is like wine -- the older it gets, the more exotic it becomes. Electricity is supplied by solar panels that can only support the incandescent bulbs in the room. Even mobile phones seem superfluous as there are no charging stations nearby. Your itinerary revolves around swimming in the clear beach, playing sungka and spending quality time with the family. The main attraction is doing nothing and eating gourmet Filipino dishes prepared the traditional way. Fresh seafood is patiently grilled to lock in their natural juices. Meals are served with home made sinamak vinegar. Fruits are abundant, especially the famous Guimaras mangoes. The taste of the food is enhanced by the open air environment. It’s a foodie heaven I can’t wait to go back next summer. La Cocina de Tita Moning, Manila As you enter the gates of this old mansion, you can’t help but feel transported to a different era inhabited by the Old Rich. You are welcomed with drinks and pica-pica in the patio, before being given a mini-tour of the place, where antiques and turn-of-the-century design is evident in the living room, bedroom and especially the bathroom. It’s a treat to enjoy Spanish food cooked from recipes handed down from generations. You leave La Cocina raving about its paella and its bread pudding. The former could rival the paellas in Manila’s Spanish restaurants. The latter tastes like bread leche flan that melts in your mouth. The service is slow but sure. What’s important is that they serve you with a smile and exert every effort to make the experience memorable. Our La Cocina experience was way back January 2005, but I’ve never forgotten it since. Kusina Salud, San Pablo, Laguna We need to give credit to Kusina Salud for making the Viaje del Sol travel route popular. It’s the “Sonya’s Garden” of San Pablo, Laguna but even better because of its wide selection of gourmet dishes. Occasionally, you can chat with Nina and Chef Paul Poblador about the story of Kusina Salud. The place seems to smile back at the camera, with its odd pieces of furniture and accessories fitting harmoniously with styles from other eras. The best time is breakfast; go at 9 a.m. and use the place as your jump-off point to explore Laguna and Quezon. I long for the hamonado- style longganisa, fried adobo flakes and bangus (milkfish) belly for breakfast. Buffets are served on special occasions but I still prefer to order from the ala carte menu. Massage service is available and would be perfect if you make this your last stop before heading back to Manila. Vieux Chalet, Antipolo Operating for more than 20 years now, Vieux Chalet remains a mysterious place. The house cum restaurant on top of a hill in Antipolo rewards diners with an awesome view of Manila, especially at night. What keeps me going back to this place is the passion with which Susan Hassig prepares the food. You’ll never forget the taste of the homemade pasta, the freshly baked bread and the varieties of homegrown cheese. Some people go to Vieux Chalet to taste its refreshing lemon-grass drink or to indulge in its version of the Osso Bucco. This is our favorite hangout if we want to escape and eat good gourmet food. Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung, Pampanga You’ve never really tasted Pampanga cuisine until you’ve dined in Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung house. This is perfect for those long lunches with friends when you don’t even notice the hours passing by. Diners are greeted with frozen baby cologne-scented towels and steamed peanuts that bring back memories of childhood. The entire house is a showroom for Claude Tayag’s creative and artistic brilliance. Mr. and Mrs. Claude Tayag will serve you personally with simple Kapampangan dishes artistically presented. They will also entertain you with the history of Bale Dutung. My favorite dishes here include the catfish with buro (fermented fish) and green mustasa (mustard leaves), and Pampanga’s version of the paella. The meal ends with a simple Paradiso dessert made of smoked ube, camote and macapuno on sweet carabao milk pastillas. After the meal it’s so nice to just laze around the house and chat up Claude Tayag before saying goodbye. Charley’s in Lipa, Batangas I fell in love with the place after seeing the beautiful horses at Leviste’s Equestrian Farm in Lipa. Till then, I’d seen only the tired horses in Baguio and Tagaytay and never imagined seeing such thoroughbreds on Philippine soil. Lunch or dinner is courtesy of Les Roche-trained chef Popit de Leon who’s passionate about cooking his foodie creations either in his Makati condo or in Charley’s on weekends. Popit uses fresh herbs from Charley’s garden in all food served at the farm. Diners might even get a personal tour of the farm with Charley herself after the meal. Unfortunately, the place recently closed its doors to out-of-town diners. Popit now cooks exclusively in his Makati condo. This is a simple tribute and thank you for becoming part of our foodie memories, accompanied by a wish that the place opens its doors again. Entalula Island, El Nido, Palawan Imagine having an exclusive picnic with gourmet food on a white-sand island far better than Boracay. Entalula Island in El Nido is definitely a bit of paradise that you can enjoy privately for lunch or dinner. Everything is set up for you, and you can request exactly the food you like. Your imagination sets the limit on how creative you want the experience to be. It is definitely worth saving up for and reason enough to go back to El Nido resorts. When you book an El Nido vacation, make sure to reserve the island for your lunch or dinner date. Next time, I’ll have dinner here with just my wife and lay down after in the pristine sands with limestone cliffs as backdrop. For more information about these restaurants, please visit www.ourawesomeplanet.com. Anton is the publisher of Our Awesome Planet (OAP), one of the top 10 blogs in the Philippines. OAP is a photo food and travel blog about Manila's food and travel secrets shared through word of mouth. He is known as a food critic and has recently been passionate about running marathons. He currently works and loves his job as an IT manager in P&G Philippines.
By Cebu Daily News ROXAS CITY, Philippines--A Capiz provincial board member wants to capitalize on the province's abundant seafood as a come-on for tourists. In a privilege speech last Thursday, Provincial Board Member Alfonso Bediones Jr. appealed to hotels, resorts, restaurants and utility vehicle operators to improve their facilities and services to make Capiz more attractive to tourists. Bediones noted that the tourism receipts of Capiz reached P592 million in 2006. He said the province should maximize its strength as the country's seafood capital. Bediones, who chairs the provincial board's committee on tourism, said they would implement the Seafood Trip Tourism campaign to generate more tourists. An increase in tourist arrivals in the province would result in higher revenues, he added. Bediones said they came up with the new strategy after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo suggested, during a recent visit to Capiz, that the province come up with a strategy to attract visitors through its abundant seafood resources.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net FOR those visiting Hong Kong (it's going to get colder there soon, which means it's a good time to visit), here's a cheaper way to the mainland city without taking the Airport Express. After getting out of the airport, exit to the right and walk just right across to find the S1 bus stop. Hop on it, pay HKD3.50 and go down at the Tung Chung MTR station. From there, pay about HKD23-25 (depending on which station you're going -- Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, etc.) to get to the main city. At HKD30 or less, it beats the HKD75 you pay when taking the Airport Express. I learned about this route last week, thanks to these two Filipino settlers in HK I met at the bus stop who graciously told me about it. Otherwise, I would've taken this other bus that goes all the way to the city but takes an hour and 20 minutes. From Tung Chung, it's only about 20 minutes to the city. The Airport Express gets you straight to MTR Central station in about 15 minutes but it costs some HKD75 -- in peso terms times six you save at least P200. And you get to practice riding the MTR, one of the best city train systems anywhere in the world. Also, remember to have coins ready because buses charge exact fare. Coins are a precious commodity when you're traveling in Hong Kong.�
By Delmar Cariño Inquirer LA TRINIDAD, Benguet--Trade and tourism officials are pushing the "branding," or formulation of taglines, as a new strategy to promote the province's unique resources and attract more investments and tourists. But the marketing approach, designed to sell the province's potentials beyond its being the country's "vegetable bowl," is expected to stir some problems for tourism and local officials of Kibungan, one of the 13 towns being promoted. The Department of Tourism (DOT) earlier cautioned local officials on wrong impressions created by "inappropriate branding." Purificacion Molintas, DOT Cordillera director, said a foreign tourist became frustrated when he found out that there were no snow slopes to ski on in Barangay Madaymen in Kibungan despite being widely advertised as the "Switzerland of Benguet." Madaymen, a farming community where potatoes and carrots are grown, is Benguet's coldest village from December to February, with frost appearing from time to time. But to refer to Madaymen as "'Switzerland' would be misleading," Molintas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Wednesday. "This is a case of mistaken branding. In fact, the foreigner brought with him a complete set of skiing gear, but he was disappointed when he saw vegetables instead of snow." But an investment brochure that the Department of Trade and Industry and DOT will issue next month still identifies Kibungan as "Switzerland of Benguet," a tagline that Kibungan officials refused to remove despite objections from the DOT. In the brochure, the following lines accompany the tagline: "Kibungan is a cool place of rocky mountains and pine trees resembling that of Switzerland's." Molintas said Kibungan officials invoked a resolution that the town council passed earlier declaring the town as the "Switzerland of Benguet." Vilma Cruz-Abad, DTI investment promotions officer in Benguet, said the use of "Switzerland" became a subject of debate when the brochures were being prepared. Cruz-Abad was advised to ask the town council to pass another measure withdrawing the resolution that declared Kibungan as the "Switzerland of Benguet." The investment brochures for each of the 13 towns were part of an investment and tourism project the DTI and the DOT prepared in the last two years. No objections were aired to the other taglines: Benguet (Where gardens bloom beneath the heavens), Mankayan (The bosom of gold and copper in Benguet), Atok (Where vegetables flourish and cacti flowers bloom), Tuba (Cradle of nature's gift), Sablan (Fruit basket of Benguet), Bokod (The sulfur spring of Benguet), Tublay (Land of the fascinating caves), La Trinidad (Strawberry capital of the Philippines), Itogon (Land of golden opportunities), Kapangan (The cocoon producer of Benguet), Buguias (Vegetable panorama of the north), Bakun (Home of god Kabunian) and Kabayan (Home of the centuries-old mummies).
HERE are interesting clips of a Filipino carinderia and sari-sari store in Osaka, Japan posted by jvtigno.
By Cebu Daily News CEBU CITY, Philippines--Owners of pension houses and suites have organized themselves in a bid to upgrade the quality of rooms and facilities in Cebu. “(We know) that pension houses play a vital role in Cebu's tourism,” said Augustin L. Maramara, founding president of the Association of Pension Houses and Suites in Cebu Inc. (APHSCI). Maramara said the continuous flow of tourists in Cebu makes hotel rooms in demand, often resulting in room shortage. “DOT (Department of Tourism) projections tell us that more tourists are coming in. We better be ready. To keep them coming back, we need to give them a reason to stay. We don't want to lose this chance,” said Maramara. He said that with the high demand for hotel rooms, prices are also higher. Maramara, however, clarified that they do not position pension houses as hotel competitors. “We are targeting local and foreign tourists looking for good rooms at affordable prices,” he told reporters in an interview. Rooms in pension houses are 50 percent lower than hotels at between P550 to P600 per room for single occupancy and P1, 500 to P2, 500 per room for double occupancy. But to lure more tourists, low price is enough. Rooms and facilities have to refurnished, if not renovated, Maramara said. Upgrading pension houses cost between P1 million to P5 million, he added. “By upgrading facilities, creating good and affordable air-conditioned rooms, they (pension houses) can make more money,” he said. The APHSCI is currently processing its registration and is scheduled to submit the necessary documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) within the month. Its 10 founding members are D & L Apartelle, Apple Tree Suites, Casa Amigo, Essenes Pensionne, Casa Escaño Bed and Breakfast, NS Royal Pensionne, Casa Rosario, Palazzo Pensionne, Cebu View Tourist Inn and Verbana Pension House. Another 15 pension houses have expressed interest in joining APHSCI. Aside from their main advocacy of encouraging pension houses to upgrade their rooms and facilities, APHSCI will tie up with tourist destinations and pension houses in Central Visayas. According to Maramara, the average occupancy rate of pension houses is 80 percent. Sixty percent of their guests are local tourists while 40 percent are foreigners ranging from Koreans, Europeans, Americans and Middle Easterns. Initiated by Plantersbank four months ago, the APHSCI is the first move in the Visayas to unite pension houses and suites. At present, there are 56 pension houses in Cebu, each with rooms between 25 to 50. Cris Evert Lato
By Anne Jambora Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Leave your bag unattended in the airport departure lounge, freshen up in the powder room and return to find everything exactly where and how you left them. In an ideal world maybe, and in countries where theft means the loss of one or more fingers. But for those of us who live in less than ideal circumstances, the global brand Pacsafe may be the next best thing. The company is recognized by seasoned adventure travelers as the makers of “security-on-the-go” products, creating a more secure environment for their belongings where ever they may be. “The last thing you need to worry about when you travel is security of your possessions, whether you are at the airport, in a hotel, train or restaurant. What we offer is peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy your vacation, or relax and get down to business,” said Dustin Go Lim, general manager of the United Limsun International Trading Corp., local distributor of Pacsafe. The concept of security-on-the-go was started in 1998 by Australians who loved to travel. From a wire mesh device for locking and securing backpacks, Pacsafe today has a product lineup that includes shoulder and messenger bags, backpacks and laptop bags as well as security devices like TSA-ready (Transportation Security Administration) padlocks, metal cables, wallets and more. Since security is what the company is all about, Pacsafe anti-theft products feature patented security systems like the eXomesh. They are slash-proof, snatch-proof and tamperproof. The technologically advanced version of the original wire mesh, eXomesh is a flexible, high-tensile stainless-steel mesh, cable and crimps woven together to create a slash-proof core. Although the mesh is lightweight, it has a mean cable strength of about 198 kg, enough to thwart the most experienced snatcher. All securing cables are made of heavy-duty steel wire. “A very determined thief will ultimately get what they want—in due time. What the security features of Pacsafe do is to stall the pickpockets. No mugger in his/her right mind would waste several minutes figuring out how to break open or slash your bag,” said sales manager Irish H. Sun. Felons take advantage of that split-second of distraction, like when you glance at your watch or are looking in the opposite direction. Snatchers, after all, are opportunists, constantly on the lookout for a moment of weakness. The eXomesh acts as slash guards. Discreetly placed between two layers of ballistic nylon fabrics on belts, straps and vulnerable sections of the bag such as the lower section (contents can drop out without the victim knowing), it protects the bag from knives and blades. EXomesh can also act as a steel cage when wrapped over your things. But you do not need to travel long distances to find use for Pacsafe products. You may find it handy as you doze off during commute after a busy day at work or as you eat alone in a restaurant. Pacsafe’s snatch-proof anchor clips and locks make life a little easier for you. Metal clips on slash-proof belts and straps can be unfastened at one end to loop and anchor bags to a secure fixture, like the arm of your chair. Additional features on some products, such as the snatch-proof locking system, allow you to loop, anchor and lock your bag safely in place—the ultimate lock-and-leave system. For instance, when on the beach and everybody decides to go for a swim, you can safely leave your things behind. Just gather all personal effects in Pacsafe’s TravelSafe 100, looping the retractable steel cable around a tree trunk or branch, then locking it. The eXomesh locking system features a steel reinforced bullet-proof polycarbonate lock links, high-tensile stainless-steel draw wire, lockable belts and zippers. Though snatchers might not actually fire at your bags, Pacsafe is consistently looking for newer, durable and high-technology innovations, Lim said. Tamperproof zippers that lock closed or latch to metal clips are ideal for prime pickpocket locations like overcrowded malls. The flap-covered tamperproof compartments have hidden safety hooks. Pacsafe is available at Rustan’s, PowerMac, Bratpack and Travel Club branches. E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jasmine W. Payo Inquirer BEIJING--at the heart of the exhibit hall of the 2007 China Dive exhibition is a luminous underwater photo mural that never fails to captivate visitors. The mural is an image-based invitation to take a plunge in the Philippine seas. And judging by the queue at the booth that leads to the exhibition, indications are that the mural is doing its job as far as drawing the curiosity of foreign divers. "Diving is a recreational sport; you need physical fitness to support your safety," said Filipino-Chinese dive master Ding Bang Ho. "Why are we promoting diving in the Philippines? So that people will realize that we have such beauty in the country and it will be protected." The mix of sports and tourism may potentially turn into one of the country's drawing powers -- or better yet, one of its economic top-grossers. "Divers visiting the Philippines return by an average of 10 trips each; this is due to the rich and varied underwater scenery," Jazmin Esguerra, tourism attaché of the Philippine embassy in China, said during the exhibition, an international trade exhibit, conference and networking event held here. And there's a good reason the Philippines want to build on the enthusiasm of mainland China's diving community. "China has a billion in population, but their total number of divers is just 30,000; they're just starting," noted Simon So, a full-time dive guide and scuba instructor accredited by the international Professional Association of Diving Instructors. "We need to generate more divers and create the interest that the Philippines is an ideal dive site for them." The Philippines has more than 60 dive sites including the Tubbataha Reef and Busuanga in Palawan, Anilao in Batangas, Puerto Galera in Mindoro and Malapascua in Cebu. There are also 25 shipwreck sites in the country that more adventurous divers can explore. "The Philippines can be the best dive destination for those interested to start learning the sport," noted Esguerra. And expert divers guarantee that anyone can easily make a splash in the diving scene. "It's easier to learn diving than to learn how to skateboard," said Ho. But attaining the required level of physical and mental competence is also important. "You also have to take a course," said Ho. "A lot of people say that learning how to dive is like learning to drive a car. If you know how to snorkel, you can take an introductory diving course and go down to 15 feet. But in diving, there's also the physics on the expansion of liquid and air. There are lessons." Divers assured, though, the course is not as intimidating as it sounds. "It's not that technical," said So. "Since we're not born to be under the water, there are things we just have to learn."
By DJ Yap Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Since opening four months ago, the “Gwapotel Inn” run by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has apparently delivered on its no-frills offer: Safe, decent lodgings for out-of-towners on a frugal budget. And according to MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando, even white-collar types and traders have been checking in, taking advantage of the token charges: P20 for a night’s stay, a minimum of P5 for a bath. More than 40,000 transients had a generally pleasant stay in the four-story “hotel’’ on Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila, since its opening last May 14, Fernando reported in a statement on Thursday. The 710-bed inn, which used to house the offices of the National Power Corp. but now painted in “BF’s” signature pink and blue, posted an average occupancy rate of 73 percent or about 510 guests daily, the agency said. But unlike in regular hotels, the overnighters don’t get a room but share a common sleeping area, their double-deck beds three to four feet away from one another. Guests probably get to understand why the rates are incredibly low the moment they see this Spartan arrangement. Also, a transient, who normally is allowed to check in at 2 p.m., will have to pack up by 9 a.m. the following day as housekeeping needs to “hose down” the quarters for the next batch of bedspacers. Nevertheless, Fernando said he expected the occupancy rate to grow as more workers discover Gwapotel (“gwapo” is Filipino for handsome or sleek, and a recurring buzz-word in BF’s various beautification projects in the metropolis.) He said he expected the occupancy rate to reach 90 percent this month on word of mouth alone. Based on a guest list kept by the MMDA, most of the clients have been domestic travellers waiting for their ships bound for the Visayas or Mindanao, taxi drivers, call center agents, applicants for overseas jobs, port workers, and government employees. Many of the workers staying at the inn come from the Southern Tagalog region. Occasionally, guests appearing to be businessmen and white-collar personnel would show up at the inn, having run out of other lodging options in the city, Fernando said. Each floor has a TV set, electric fans for ventilation, security cameras, and beds for up to 200 guests. As many as six guards are on duty at any given time. Women are sheltered separately on the second floor. Each bunk bed comes with a pillow and leatherette matting, but an extra mattress can be had for P25. It is not uncommon for guests to bring their own blankets and sleeping bags. To take a bath, guests use coin-operated showers, where they deposit P5 for approximately eight minutes of water flow. After eight minutes, the shower automatically stops. Washing laundry is not allowed and eating is banned in the sleeping quarters. There is a major policy at Gwapotel that one will not find in other hotels: “No reservations.” Josefina Saliva, who heads an MMDA committee managing the inn, said guests who would like to stay another night have to check in again the next day. “The floor has to be empty between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. That’s cleanup time,” she said in an interview. Of course, there have been some complaints. Mosquitoes used to be a problem, Saliva admitted, but this was eased with the installation of “air curtains” and more frequent use of insecticides. Fights would sometimes erupt among strangers made to sleep close to one another, which Saliva said was “just natural in a room full of people. We just ask them to leave and settle it elsewhere.” And what usually triggers the fights? “Snoring.” Still, Fernando said, owing to the initial success of Gwapotel, MMDA will soon be opening similar facilities in three more cities in Metro Manila.
HERE'S a cool video of YouTube user maryeats' visit last year to Seoul's Little Manila market. Just don't blame us if this video makes you very hungry heh :)
By Gerald Gene R. Querubin Inquirer BOAC, Marinduque, Philippines–-People in the tiny, heart-shaped island of Marinduque welcome friends and visitors in a unique tradition befitting kings and queens in their own right. Literally meaning coronation or to crown, the putong (also called tubong) is a song of thanksgiving and, at the same time, a wish and a prayer for a long, blessed life. It has remained one of the popular traditions in this deeply religious province. The practice has been extended to visitors and guests as a gesture of hospitality. It is, in fact, a prayer for their success, health and prosperity, and has evolved into a song of love, respect, praise and thanksgiving. “The putong reflects the life of the people, frequently the common Marinduqueños,” said Prof. Rex Asuncion, director for culture and arts of the Marinduque State College. Folk music The putong can be classified as a folk music for it is an expression of folk concerns and often makes use of native folk poetry set to simple melodies, he said. According to beliefs, the patron saint rejoices at this kind of celebrations and intercedes for the honoree in his wish for long life, happiness and safety from accidents and bad luck. The putong is likewise performed during birthdays and anniversaries, and even when someone passes the licensure board examinations or wins in contests. Marta Jardeleza, an 80-year-old “mamumutong” or performer from Mogpog town, said she learned the song from a friend when she was 15 years old. She had taught her children how to sing the putong. Teresa Bunag, 79, said her aunt taught her the song. In the six towns of the province, the performance is basically similar, except for the melodies and lyrics. All singers wear costumes—the women in kimona and saya, and the men in barong Tagalog -- and bring baskets of fresh flowers, palm leaves, and assorted coins. They dance and sway to the accompaniment of musical instruments, usually guitars and banjos. The performance The ceremony starts with the “mamumutong” or the “manunubong,” who gather in front of the home of the host. The host may either be prepared for the event or taken by surprise. As they enter the house, they explain their purpose and request for the host’s hospitality. “Narito po kami, Mahal na maybahay. Tinugtog na namin ang instrumentong taglay (We are here, dear host. We are already playing our instruments),” goes the song. The first stage is known as the “pananayawan.” The verses are sung slowly until everybody is in the receiving room. At this juncture, the honoree is seated on a chair (supposedly the throne) at the center of the room or stage and flanked by two family members, each holding a lighted candle. “Pag-akyat namin sa mahal mong baitang, may dalawang anghel ang aming nadatnan. Tig-isang kandila ang kanilang tangan, sa tamang umaakyat ay tinatanglaw (As we enter your home, there are two angels waiting for us. They have candles to guide us).” The song’s tempo picks up and the celebration reaches its climax when the crown is placed on the honoree’s head. “Nang kami ay dumating sa loob ng Herusalem, ang palma ay sa kamay, korona’y sa ulo. Kahimanawari’y magkapantay ito, sambahi’t igalang nitong buong mundo (When we arrived at Jerusalem, palms in our hands, crowns on heads. Hoping that the world will praise and respect them).” Flowers and coins The honoree is showered with flowers and coins, symbolizing affection and wishes of good luck and prosperity. This is the cue for the host and other guests to throw candies, coins and paper bills to the honoree, as children and adults alike scamper for the bounty. Shouts and laughter fill the air. It is said that the crown and the coins must be kept for good luck. “Kahimaniwari’y habaan ng buhay, sa mahal na santong aming pinutungan. Kahimanawari’y siya ay ilagay, mahabang panahong walang karamdaman. Ipag viva natin tuloy ipagdiwang ang mahal na santong pinutungan (We are hoping that the saint that we crowned will have a long life. We are hoping that he would be free from any ailments. Let us celebrate for the saint that we crowned).” The putong ends with everybody shouting “Mabuhay!” and partaking of food, drinks and stories in a “salo-salo.” Asuncion, Jardeleza and Bunag agreed that the Marinduqueños should appreciate the putong as part of their cultural heritage that the next generations must preserve.
By Marlon Alexander Luistro Southern Luzon Bureau BATANGAS CITY--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared Nasugbu, a first class municipality in Batangas known for its white sand beach resorts, a special tourism zone. Executive Order 647 signed on August 3 likewise called for the formation of a private sector-led "Nasugbu eminent persons group" to oversee the development of the Nasugbu Special Tourism Zone. The NSTZ will cover the areas included in the Nasugbu Tourism Development Plan prepared by the municipal government and validated by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). The order gave the PTA administrative and control functions over the zone, in coordination with the eminent persons group and the municipal government. "Consistent with the avowed policy of the state to promote tourism in the country, the sustainable development of Nasugbu, Batangas as a priority tourism destination is hereby declared," Arroyo said in her order. Nasugbu, a 27,750-hectare coastal town, located 102 kilometers southwest of Manila, is a favorite leisure and vacation getaway, especially during summer. It is subdivided into 42 villages, with a population of 98,558 based on the 2000 census. The town's white sand beaches and tropical forests have attracted a group of real estate developers like the SM Investments Corp. (SIC), which plans to construct a 5,900-hectare resort, the Hamilo Coast, located at the NSTZ. Within the property is Mt. Pico de Loro, a national park and a favorite hiking and mountaineering site. SIC also intends to deliver a ferry service departing from the Manila Bay terminal of the SM Central Business Park in the Mall of Asia to Hamilo Coast, due to be operational by 2008. President Arroyo's order ensured that the government would plan, undertake, and cause the implementation of support projects and programs to preserve the attractiveness of Nasugbu, Batangas as a major tourism destination. The President said the functions of the five-man eminent persons group would include recommending to the PTA the rules necessary to ensure compliance with the requirement of Nasugbu tourism's sustainable development. She also tasked the group to ensure the preservation of the town's natural and cultural heritage and to get the locals to take part in the development effort.
By Ronnel Domingo Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Large-scale tourist accommodation projects in the Visayas region are helping make it the tourism corridor that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo described in her State of the Nation Address in 2005. According to the Department of Tourism, these projects include the $500-million Chi Spa Village at the Shangri-La Mactan in Cebu; $30-millon expansion of a resort in Palawan and the newly opened Iloilo International Airport. Existing facilities and attractions, however, are already enough to position the central islands as a tourism super region through the Philippine Travel Exchange 2007 trade fair slated this week in Cebu. Phitex 2007 project manager Tess Mauricio said in a statement that the event, which would be held at the Cebu International Convention Center on Sept. 5-6, was expected to host 120 of the world's biggest foreign buyers of travel packages. At the same time, 87 local seller companies would take part in Phitex 2007, including 54 hotels and resorts, three airlines, 28 tour operators and two convention facilities. "The CICC itself and other new tourism infrastructure and facilities in the region are expected to gain much of the international attention," Mauricio said. "Central Philippines makes a good representation of the country's brand image as a multidimensional tropical paradise of 7,107 islands since the region itself is more characterized by island clusters than the mainlands of Luzon and Mindanao," she added. Mauricio said this year's Phitex -- the 7th in a series of yearly gatherings of foreign and local industry players -- features presentations and one-on-one business meetings between buyers and sellers, and pre- and post-event tours for the visitors who will market the Philippines in their respective countries. In a separate statement, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said European buyers accounted for 26 of some 120 groups that have confirmed to join Phitex 2007. "These consist of seven each from France and Germany, five from the Czech Republic, one each from the United Kingdom and Poland, three from Slovakia, and two from Hungary," Durano said. He said other foreign delegations include 15 from Korea and China, 10 from Hong Kong, nine from Singapore, 10 from Japan, four from North America and India and three from Australia.
By Tarra Quismundo Philippine Daily Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Mountaineer Romi Garduce on Friday thought he could slip back into the country as quietly as he left two weeks ago. But Garduce, one of the first Filipinos to have conquered Mt. Everest, was pleasantly surprised to find media persons waiting for him at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport when he arrived Friday afternoon from Moscow. "O, anong ginagawa nyo dito? Anong meron? (Hey, what are you doing here? What's up?" said a grinning Garduce upon seeing the reporters and photographers at the airport. He did not expect the fanfare that came with his celebrated success in reaching the summit of Mt. Everest in May last year. But completing a trek up Russia's Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, was no mean feat for the 38-year-old information technology professional and he simply could not escape media's prying eyes. But while he has set foot on the planet's highest point, conquering any mountain is just never the same. "This is my second attempt sa mountain (Elbrus). I failed the last time. So there was an additional fuel for me to finish it. Right after you finish, you should be happy right? But when I got there at the peak, I only felt two things: First, relief that I finished it, and secondly, three more to go," Garduce said, laughing at the thought. He had been forced to abort his expedition up Mt. Elbrus three years ago because of severe weather. "You already start thinking what's next, what you will do the next time, when you are just descending the mountain," he said. Surprises The Balanga, Bataan, native reached the peak of 5,642-meter Mt. Elbrus at 11:02 a.m. (Russia time) on August 27. Besides Everest, he had earlier climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, in September 2002, and Aconcagua in Argentina in January 2005. While Everest was a colder and more tricky climb, Elbrus had its own surprises for the experienced mountaineer. "Elbrus is notorious for sudden change of weather, especially when you are close to the summit. In fact, 20 minutes before we reached the summit, we almost aborted because of strong winds and white-out. You won't see anything. White-out is like you're inside a pingpong ball," he said. As Garduce described it, the "tourist mountain" -- highly commercialized as it is surrounded by ski resorts -- has been an "underestimated" peak. Garduce and six other climbers in the international expedition stayed at the peak for just four minutes and headed back down, wary that bad weather might strike anytime. The entire trek took 10 days to complete. A day later, he related, two incidents of avalanche were reported near the summit, aborting the day's summit attempts. New challenge "Every mountain is a challenge. That's my realization. You can never be complacent that just because you've climbed Everest, you can climb all. It's not like that. Every mountain is a new challenge that comes with new difficulties, a different way of acclimatization," he told the Inquirer. Asked when his next expedition would be, Garduce said he would take a break first and focus on writing a book about his Mt. Everest climb. The remaining mountains on his checklist are the tallest peaks in North America, Australia and Antartica. "I haven't decided yet but maybe, the next mountain is McKinley in Alaska... but in the next three months, my focus will be my book. I'm writing my book first about the Everest experience," Garduce said.