Tuesday, December 21, 2010

UP Diliman: Lantern Parade 2010

The holidays are mostly about tradition. One of mine is being able to attend the UP Lantern Parade. I religiously attended the UP Lantern Parade when I was still a student in the university and I still attend the UP Lantern Parade yearly as an alumni.

UP Lantern Parade 2010

One thing I noticed about the floats and lanterns of this year's UP Lantern Parade was that there were less large-scale, grand, colorful group projects from the different colleges, offices and organizations. Save for some lanterns from the College of Fine Arts, the lanterns of this year's UP Lantern Parade were mostly small held by, operated by or mounted onto one or two people.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Manila: Manila Ocean Park

When I first heard that the Manila Ocean Park, a marine park, recently opened in my city, Manila, I thought that that was so first world. Parks of this kind that I know of only existed in countries like the US, Spain and Japan. To be inside one of those tube aquariums, I thought, I would have to travel to those countries. Suffice it to say, that no longer applies.

Manila Ocean Park

Admittedly, our marine park is smaller than those in first-world countries. And it is. Depending on how fast you walk, you'll probably be able to go through the whole park in half an hour. But then I thought, hey, we got enough biodiversity in our seas to fill our marine parks with.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Intramuros, Manila's Old Quarter


It has to be done. I have been to quite a few places in and around the country and yet, I have never really explored the history of the city I was born in, at least not in recent years. I have seen and photographed remnants of the Spanish occupation in other parts of the Philippines. I guess it was time that I did so in my city, the country's capital, Manila.

Intramuros

Intramuros, Latin for within the walls, is a small territory located in the western part of Metro Manila, right by the bay and on the southern banks of the Pasig River. Back in the day, this walled city was considered the whole of Manila itself. Over the years, the territory covered by "Manila" expanded to the chaotic urban sprawl you see today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Puerto Princesa: The Baywalk

The hotel we stayed in while in Puerto Princesa, Puerto Pension, had this restaurant on its highest floor. And since the hotel sits on top of a hill overlooking the Puerto Princesa Baywalk, the restaurant had a 360-degree view of the place. This view was what greeted us in the morning for breakfast. It was perfect.

View Deck Restaurant, Puerto Pension

View, Puerto Princesa Baywalk

This gave me the idea that maybe, I could shoot one of Palawan's famous sunsets from the Baywalk. However, on our boat ride back from exploring Honda Bay, we could see ominous rain clouds in the distance. I guess I would have to wait another time, another trip, before I get another chance to capture a Palawe├▒o sunset. I was not hopeful, to say the least.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Puerto Princesa: Honda Bay

It was rainy the previous two days. So we were really banking on what locals were telling us that because Honda Bay was on the side of Palawan facing Sulu Sea, a much smaller body of water than the South China Sea on the other side, Honda Bay gets little to no rain. Thankfully, local knowledge didn't fail us.

Port, Honda Bay

Again, tour operators in Puerto Princesa are sort of centralized. Your hotel reception will know the people to contact to get you into a tour group and the people in charge in the tour group will know the procedures, permits to get, etc. Puerto Princesa is well set up for tourism like that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Puerto Princesa: Sabang and the Underground River

Sabang Town, on the outskirts of Puerto Princesa around two hours drive from the city, looks like the usual small fishing village I have seen a number of times throughout the country. It has one teeny tiny difference, though. It has a UNESCO World Heritage Site under its belt.

Sabang

The entrance to Palawan's Underground River National Park is located in a cove about 30 minutes by boat from Sabang Beach. The beach is on the side of Palawan facing the South China Sea, definitely a much bigger body of water than the Sulu Sea. Naturally, this is the part of the province that gets the gloomy weather.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Puerto Princesa: Ugong Rock

Summer was clearly over and we completely knew it. The weather has been gloomy all over the country and rains have been happening almost everyday. We, however, still went on with it. Puerto Princesa on a rainy August. And the answer is yes. Palawan is a rewarding place, rain or shine.

View from the Deck, Ugong Rock

The first activity I went on was the day trip to the very famous Subterranean River National Park. The park is actually a two-hour drive from the city center. Naturaly, there are stops along the way. One of them is the Ugong Rock Cave, named so due to the sound the rock produces when you knock onto it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cambodia: Siem Reap's Night Life

Siem Reap in central Cambodia is the gateway to the ancient city of Angkor. If you plan to visit Angkor, you will need to book a hotel in Siem Reap, stay in Siem Reap, eat in Siem Reap, buy souvenirs in Siem Reap, etc. Over the years, it has become a tourist hub, a fast-developing piece of land in the heart of Cambodia.

Angkor What?

Being a fast-developing tourist hub, you can imagine that night life would be very exciting and alive as well. And it is. On our first night, after having had a very happy dinner, we went straight to the famous Pub Street.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor

It is a little bittersweet to be writing this post. It will be my last about the temples of Angkor. Nevertheless, I find it appropriate that this set is the last one. As imposing and grand as Angkor Wat was, it was not the largest nor the most enduring of all ancient Angkor's structures. A much bigger territory was built just north of Angkor by a later Khmer king. He called it Angkor Thom, "the Great City."

Angkor Thom

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cambodia: Angkor's Royal Foundations

Then we go to the grandest of all the temples of Siem Reap, the most well-known, the most visited, the best preserved, the mere sound of which is synonymous with the country Cambodia itself. They have it on their national flag and on their bank notes. It is the source of their national pride. It is Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cambodia: Khmer Masterpieces of Carving

We have seen quite a lot of the temples of Angkor but we have yet to experience what the first European explorers felt when they first came here, when only the locals knew about these beautiful temples, when everything was still untouched for the longest time. We had a taste of that in the middle of the jungle, in Ta Phrom.

Ta Phrom

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cambodia: Angkor in the Early Period

Going into this whole Indochina experience, I knew Vietnam was just a pit stop. Saigon was rewarding in itself, but traveling to Indochina would not be complete without beholding the great temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Prasat Kravan

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vietnam: Tunnels of Cu Chi

During the Vietnam War, members of the Viet Cong guerrilla had to find safe hiding places and a way for them to go around without the American-backed South Vietnamese army detecting their every move. This necessity was what made the guerrilla army invent the now infamous Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cu Chi Tunnel Opening

Located at the outskirts of Saigon, the Cu Chi district was where the Viet Cong chose to create their highly complex network of tunnels and bunkers. That way, our guide explained, they won't be too far from Saigon's city center but far enough for them to securely establish communication channels with their North Vietnamese backers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vietnam: Sights in Saigon

This trip to Vietnam is the first time I ever got out of the country. So hell yes, I'm going all-touristy. What better way to do that but to walk around Saigon and see the city's history through its architecture, from communist to Roman gothic to French colonial.

Reunification Palace

Walking around Saigon to visit the more touristy sites is not that difficult. The only setback is the heat. The tropical sun can be unforgiving. So wear light clothes and comfortable shoes. Start at the center, at Ben Thanh Market, and go northeast. That will take you to three of Saigon's landmarks: the palace, the basilica and the post office.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vietnam: Surviving Saigon

Saigon is fast, energetic, confusing, chaotic, colorful and very much an in-your-face kind of city. This was the first time I left the comforts and familiarity of my own country and I dove right in. The first thing I noticed about Saigon, or as it is now known, Ho Chi Minh City, is that every inch of every street is riddled with motorcycles. They own them. They rent them. They hire them. And they are good drivers, too. On a busy roundabout, cross the street and notice how each motorcycle will avoid you.

Saigon Chaos

Interesting, really, how different this city is, and we are literally one sea apart. What is more interesting, downright bizarre, is how even though Vietnamese and Filipinos are both Southeast Asians, you can clearly distinguish one from the other. We were walking on one side of the road and each and every motorcycle driver and passenger were eerily looking at us. They clearly knew we were not one of them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Travel Log: Back from Saigon and Siem Reap

Just woke up 4 p.m. Tuesday in Manila. I am currently transferring the photos I took from this trip onto my notebook. On any given trip, I average at about 600 to 700 photos. For this trip, however, it totaled to almost 2,400 pictures.

Yet, I still don't feel that that figure was enough to have captured everything. Before sifting through the photos, I feel like I have to sift through all the things I saw, I learned, I felt, I heard, I smelled, I tasted. All the experiences I had during that five-day stay abroad.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quezon: Pahiyas Festival in Lucban

There was another thing that I thought was missing in my Philippine travels. Yes, I'm speaking as if I've traversed this country north to south, east to west. I have never been to a small-town fiesta or pista. Not since I was a kid, at least.

Bata sa Pahiyas

The last pista I remember going to was in a small town in Baras, Rizal. I was still a kid back then. From the very few things I recall, the one thing that stands out is this palpable "pista" air. People were on the streets, decorating their homes, cooking their handa with their big casseroles and woks. It was joyous and somehow, it was all very Pinoy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tarlac: Capas National Shrine

Our route to Mount Pinatubo took us to Capas, Tarlac. Capas is a very historical town in Central Luzon. This is the site of Camp O'Donnell, an American army facility turned Japanese prisoner camp during World War II. This was the final stop in the historic Bataan Death March.

Capas Shrine

In memory of this episode in Philippine history, what now stands in the site is a war memorial dedicated to the Filipino and American soldiers who endured and fell throughout the 97-kilometer march. The site is now known as the Capas National Shrine or the Paggunita sa Capas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Camiguin: Early Morning at White Island

There was one more thing we were to do in Camiguin before we make our way back to the airport, and then back to being drones in our mundane worlds. We had to see Camiguin's one and only white-sand beach, White Island.

Bahay Bakasyunan Sunrise

We had to get up early for this one. Our flights back to Manila/Cebu departs around 2 p.m. that day and the Cagayan de Oro airport was in another island, literally. It would take us at least 4 hours to get there from Bahay Bakasyunan in Camiguin.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Central Luzon: Trek to Mount Pinatubo

Having grown up in the 1990's, my view of Mount Pinatubo in Central Luzon in the Philippines has always been that of volcanic disaster in monumental proportions. Its June 1991 eruption destroyed much of the region, ending a way of life for many of the nearby residents, impacting global environment in its aftermath. Now, almost two decades later, its 1991 caldera has formed a brilliant blue-green crater lake. Lake Pinatubo, they call it. Seeing it, how serene and peaceful it looks, you almost forget how much power it wields.

Pinatubo Caldera

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Camiguin: Spring and Fall

Upon arrival on Northern Mindanao's island paradise Camiguin, we did not waste any time laying around. After checking in Bahay Bakasyunan, we hopped on our van and headed off to see a "spring" and a "fall." Ardent Hot Springs and the Katibawasan Falls.

Katibawasan Falls

The road to Katibawasan Falls is a treacherous one. The waterfall is hidden somewhere in the island's interiors surrounded by a tropical rainforest. At some point, the pavement disappears and all you have is this dirt road on the side of a mountain. It is all worth, though. The waterfall is lush and beautiful.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bitten

I stumbled upon this rather unassuming series on television once on the National Geographic called Departures. The show is basically a travel documentary. It caught my attention as I was flicking through the tube because, well, as a general rule, I stop clicking whenever some form of travel show is on.

I have heard it once or twice before but I heard it again on Departures. Before doing the show, one of the hosts showed his most precious collection of plane tickets and passes, gathered through his extensive journeys around the globe and back. Then he said something about the travel bug. It was something that bit him as a kid. He was bitten hard. My reaction was visceral. I smiled.

I'm guessing I, too, was bitten.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Northern Mindanao: From CDO to Camiguin

This Northern Mindanao trip was only to be done in three days and two nights. At this point, we have covered a lot, what with Cagayan de Oro's white water rafting and Bukidnon's zip lining. But there are roads that are yet to be treaded. So the next day at 5 a.m., we left CDO, and headed towards this region's island paradise, Camiguin.

Balingoan Port

To get to Camiguin from CDO, we rented out a van that took us from our hostel in the city center to Balingoan Port, Misamis Oriental. Travel from CDO to Balingoan takes around 1 to 1.5 hours. It was really early in the morning, so we got there within 40 minutes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Northern Mindanao: White Water Rafting & Zip Lining

It was all so fast. A few minutes after we landed on mountainous Northern Mindanao, we were whisked away higher up the mountains to the starting point of our white water rafting course. We chose the advanced one (even though none of us really had white water rafting experience) solely because people who have tried this adventure told us so.

Cagayan de Oro River

The starting point of the advanced course begins at some bridge by the Cagayan de Oro-Bukidnon border (CDO on one side of the river, Bukidnon on the other). We went with Kagay Adventures for this activity. They arrange these things for a fee, which may cover transfers, instructors, a photographer following you around, rafts, paddles and gear.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dumaguete: Walking Food Trip

If there was one thing I would recommend that visitors do in Dumaguete, it would be a walking food trip in Dumaguete. There are a lot of good foods in Dumaguete, foremost of which are chicken barbecue and sans rival. For our walking food trip in Dumaguete, we went to Citiburger and The Sans Rival Shop.

Food Trip in Dumaguete

The walking part for this food trip in Dumaguete is important here. One, even though Dumaguete is officially a city, it's a very walkable city, quite perfect really for a food trip. You can go from one foodie place to another in Dumaguete without having to hail a tricycle (the king of the road there). And two, you'll need the brisk walk going from one foodie place to another for this food trip in Dumaguete. Walk off the pounds you just gained.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baguio City: Oh My Gulay

There is a place in Baguio I always like heading to for a decent meal. And wouldn't you know it? It's a vegetarian restaurant. Me? Liking vegetarian restaurants? The thing is, Oh My Gulay in Baguio City is more than just a restaurant. It's more like an art space really, full of sculptures, installations, and various other art pieces. Owned and designed by acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, Oh My Gulay restaurant is found on the top floor of Azotea Building located along busy Session Road in Baguio City, the de facto capital and transport hub of the Philippines' northern highlands, the Cordillera region.

The food is great. The decor is even greater. And after a seven-hour bus ride from Manila, that sunset was breath-taking. Here be photos. Enjoy.

Baguio: Oh My Gulay

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009: Travel

If there was anything I could say about 2009, it would be that it was the year that I fulfilled my dream of traveling, of getting out of cramped and congested Manila, of venturing out into the rest of the country. I can seriously say that I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Coron Pier

And every scene, every landscape, every road I stepped on, every boat I got into, I tried to preserve in images. Really, the next thing I would say about this year is that it was the year that I finally held a camera, my own camera (at least for the most part).