Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Venice of Surigao City

Barangay Day-asan, dubbed as the Little Venice of Surigao City, is fast becoming a tourist destination because of some developments and promotional attention given in this coastal rural community. 

I can still recall how it looked like before.

The floating village is composed of timber houses built along the shallow waters with the entire neighborhood connected with thin bridges. The fisher folks make a living out of fishing and mariculture activities that includes raising first class fishes like the mouth-watering groupers and lobsters. Simply watching them swimming around is already an enjoyable experience. You can’t help drooling over while looking at their delectable healthiness.

Floating Village

Floating Fish Cages in Mariculture Farm

From a simple community surrounded by verdant mangrove forest, the following has now been added:

Earth School is one of the iconic low-cost housing projects developed by Social Entrepreneur/Commercial Model Illac Angelo Diaz, founder of MyShelter Foundation. Its distinct dome-shape design is built not with standard building materials but rather indigenous supplies and adobe and soil technologies. Earth School was featured in Dec. 07/Jan. 08 issue of Cebu Pacific’s Smile magazine from where I learned about this unique and cool school.

Daydream Laguna Resort and Teppinyaki Restaurant defies the simple image of the place by adding beauty and color to the floating village. Its grandiose tropical architecture contrasts the simple abode and humble lifestyle of the villagers. It simply puts Barangay Day-asan on the map as the residence of this reputed classy resort in town. Now it sets the trend as more and more investors ventured in putting up resorts in the area. 

Before the guests can actually reach the resort, they will be served with a prelude of exciting adventure as they are transported by boat traversing the still waters from the wharf to the resort.

Barangay Day-asan is about 30 minutes drive from the city proper with transport terminals located at Pier 2. Fare is P15.00.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tripping Tagaytay Highlands

Tagaytay Rotonda
Tagaytay is one of the memorable places to me. Taken during the one-week seminar i attended in November 2007, this is so far the farthest seminar I have attended, and outside Mindanao.

From the Centennial Airport, I took a taxi down to Pasay, near the Heritage Hotel, where buses going to Cavite and Batangas make a stop to pick up passengers. From there, I took the bus with the plate indicating the route to Mendez, as what the taxi driver instructed me, because it will pass by Aguinaldo highway where the hotel booked for the participants is located.

We were billeted at the Days Hotel - Tagaytay.
Days Hotel Tagaytay
Days Hotel is a modernly furnished accommodation located on the ridge overlooking Taal Lake. Its distinct style of architecture looks amazing. It is strategically located a few meters away from the rotonda.
An interesting piece of art placed by the hotel to adorn its hallway at the entrance is this life-sized wooden replica of an ethnic man. There was no label attached to it so there was for me to determine the relevance of it in their hotel. Let's just say a pure decoration.

We got a break on Sunday and the organizers toured us to the popular destinations in Tagaytay. Some of them the following:
The (controversial) People's Park in the Sky (which they say was supposed to be a palace to be built for former President Marcos)
Tagaytay Highlands (where access is exclusive)
Wide array of souvenir items, from small pieces to t-shirts and house ornaments.

Although some parts of the incomplete scaffolding of the supposedly palace in the sky looks unmaintained and rusting, the park continued to attract tourists because of its elevated location where one feels much colder. In a tropical place like the Philippines, somewhere cold is a magnet for locals. Some went to the beaches or nearest waterfalls and springs to cool down. But in the country's capital, Tagaytay is a sure choice because of its proximity.

One interesting attraction up in the park, though, is not only the suspended palace but the view of the grandiose and exclusive village of Tagaytay Highlands. This is one of the places where people of mid- and below income literally looked down on the rich people. Seemingly interesting from the top, people always wonder how the actual houses looks like in close view. Adding to that curiosity-tingling factor is the fact that the village can be accessed through a cable car. But access are only granted to people who knew or is known to one of its residents. Tough restrictions to view what's inside, eh?

From the People's Park, we then headed to Tagaytay Picnic Grove where we had our lunch together ala 'we are family' picnic. As its name implies and evident to the cottages around, the place is for picnics and hangouts. Some of the goers like our group brought packed lunch but some, especially the families, brought fishes and meats for grilling.
The Picnic Grove is not only for eating and bonding, it also have a long stretch of causeways all over the ridge like a rollercoaster where one can have long stroll to digest the food.
Taal Volcano (with a lake inside a lake)
Picnic Grove has a much closer view to Taal Volcano compared to the People's Park. From its viewdeck, one can have a perfect capture of the volcano.
On the entrance to the Picnic Grove, you can find this horse-ride adventure. But i reckoned twice to try when i learned i will be paying 200 pesosesoses just for a one-round ride.

Instead, we hurried to the Lourdes Church to offer gratitude that i have reached Tagaytay.

During our free time, me and my friend from Bukidnon roamed around the downtown taking photos of the amazing plants displayed and had fun searching for quality but affordable ukay-ukay in Olivarez Square. The place got a huge stalls and shops of cheap ukay-ukays. It may sound ridiculous but if there was one thing i missed most about Tagaytay, it is definitely the cheap ukay-ukays.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bohol Bonbons

Presenting the tourist destinations of Bohol that I’ve gone to. The entire province of Bohol is a tourism haven rich in history, heritage, and nature. It would take days to completely visit its bounties. Thus in my one-day tour, here is what i got:

St. Joseph's Cathedral, Tagbilaran City (built 1894)

Provincial Capitol (built 1860)

A Rizal Park flocked by doves is located in front of the Capitol Building and the St. Joseph’s Cathedral serving as the centerpiece. The Tagbilaran National Museum was also just the next block after the Capitol.

Blood Compact Monument (located in Bool, 4 km from Tagbilaran City)
A marker that identifies the spot where Datu Sikatuna, a native Boholano chieftain, forged a Blood Compact with Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, representing the King of Spain, for the purpose of fostering friendly relations between the two countries. The Blood Compact on March 16, 1565 is considered as the first “Treaty of Friendship” between the brown and white races. It is locally known as Sandugo which is celebrated by Boholanos every July.

Baclayon Church and Museum (located in Baclayon, 7 km from Tagbilaran City)
The museum is located inside the convent, or BaclayonChurch, one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines. It contains a rich collection of religious art, ecclesiastical vestments, librettos of church music printed in Latin on animal skins, and other priceless relics and artifacts dating back to the early 16th century.

One of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines. This ancient massive edifice still retains its century-old architectural design. Both in the external and internal portions of the church are various interesting relics and artifacts dating back to the early 16th century, which have been placed at the Baclayon Museum. Baclayon is also the oldest town in Bohol and the mother town of Alburquerque, Balilihan, and Sikatuna.
Museum Admission: Php25.00

See-a-Tarsier Stopover (along the road while heading to the key destinations)
One need not go to the Corella sanctuary of tarsiers especially if youre catching the 1-day tour. Along the road is a stopover where you can take a look of these primates.

Loboc River Cruise (located in Loboc, 21 km from the Tagbilaran City)
Enjoy a fascinating boat ride in the serene waters of Loboc River, starting from Loay Bridge which is the outlet of the river, and along the palm-fringed banks inland. The ride via motorized pump boat ends near the Tontonan water falls, where several falls with cascading water provides a pleasant bathing session.

Credit to Ceasar Montano for popularizing the Loboc River in his movie Panaghoy sa Suba. This getaway serving fiesta buffet and operates until 2 p.m. only is a hit to both Filipinos and foreigners; I even saw St. Paul Sisters aboard. Facing the Loboc river wharf is the 1608 built Loboc Church and Museum with the controversial unfinished bridge pointing on it. Story says the bridge was a front to a treasure-hunting plot.
Cruise Admission: Php280.00 inclusive of lunch

Tigbao Hanging Bridge (located in Loboc, 39 km from Tagbilaran City)
Backed by the influx of tourists, this link has become a stop. Many are entranced by the bridge itself, and the background – the clean Loboc River and the trees along the banks.

Chocolate Hills (located in Carmen, 55 km from Tagbilaran City)

The most famous tourist attraction in Bohol. Among the 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped hills which abound in Central Bohol, two have been developed into a resort. On top of the hills is a complex that offers accommodation, conference rooms, restaurants, and a view deck.

Another dream destination down and counting for more to conquer. Who would not dream personally sighting this wonderful work and a must to see wonder of nature? Well, I must say I’m a lucky one. Chocolates hills never fail to amaze.

If soonest is not your plan to take a sight of this world-renowned heritage, I hope you could just vote it to the New Seven Wonders of Nature tilt. Cast your vote here.
Admission fee: Php25.00

Loboc-Bilar Manmade Forest
Amazing shades of tall trees standing along the road. For a nature-lover like me, the forest is a means to commune with Mother Nature. From the humid climate in the downtown, the forest provides a soothing breeze that cools the heat down.

Clarin Ancestral House (located in Loay, 18 km from Tagbilaran City)
Owned and maintained by descendants of the Clarin family, the ancestral house is located at the poblacion. Guests are in for a nostalgic trip as they enter the house replete with interesting antique jars, lamps, kitchenware, and furniture.
An equally entertaining tour guide will bring you to every corners of the house in her expertise.
Donation: Php20.00

Prony, the biggest and longest python in captivity
For sure everyone have watched it featured in some television shows. At 5.5 feet long and an electric post size, I consider it gigantic. The caretaker says it was fed with a 50-kilo hog every month so it changes skin also that often and growing. As much as I wanted to take a pose and try caressing it, our arrival at past 5pm was already late for the photo ops. The python named after its adopted guardian Prony will celebrate its birthday on October.
Admission: Php5.00

With many tourist spots I missed going into and for not fully enjoying the tour because of the lose of my digicam that time, I would surely come back if I have the opportunity.

Some photo captions adopted from

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travelling: the poor traveler's way

Okay, let me spare your slow broadband connection from bugging down because of loads of photos uploaded in this blog. This time, just for this time, please allow me to wear the cape of a travel expert sharing experiences.

Here we go…

One misconception about traveling is that it is being viewed as a hobby of the rich and famous people. In my online web pages and previous blog, I often received comments like, “I envy you for being a well-traveled person. How I wish I have more money like you”, “You traveled a lot. You’re a rich person perhaps”, and “You got a lot of bucks. You travel anytime you want”.

Though it’s true that traveling entails money, it doesn’t mean that only rich people has the sole right to enjoy the world. Everybody deserves a treat and the poor needs a lot of it even. Just like me. Poverty sucks, and it sucks a lot more when you do nothing about it. Traveling just get in my way because of my job but it got me hooked because it relieves me from boredom and stress.

Here is how I made my travels possible, the poor traveler’s way:

1. Resources. Just a little enough. (And what is exactly "a little enough"?) It could be a savings, a sideline, allowance (for students). While it’s true that I owe much of my travels to my job, the fact is that I seldom enjoyed it because I am attached to the schedule of activities prepared by the event organizers. It spoils the fun. Big time! So I make sure I travel on my own itinerary. And I backed-up my finances with my savings. It doesn't need to be lavish. I don’t have the right. I’m just averaging a regular wage just like those blue-collar employees.

2. Budgeting and Planning. Planning ahead my trips and allocating a budget for it is a relevant step. I did researches on possible expenses like the transport fare, accommodation, food, souvenir expenses, and miscellaneous fees so I will know how much it would cost me and how much I would spend. Then make a cut in my daily expenses to save something for the trip.

3. Network scanning. Most of the time, it is my friends who are behind my travels. Before deciding on a target place for travel, I usually assess how many friends do I have in those places. They are of big help when it comes to expenses especially if I need a volunteer guide in touring around. Besides, traveling alone will be costly and boring so I invite some friends who could share the fun and expenses with me.

4. Advance booking. Fares are usually very very very low if purchased 3-4 months ahead the target flight. If you are targeting a domestic travel, fares are relatively lower and cheaper if purchased days ahead the scheduled trip. When the date is agreed and fixed, I booked tickets ahead of time so I’m sure I get a sure slot. If you know somebody in the transport service where you can get discounted rates, it is a leveraging factor -a cut in the budget.

Now start your tour! Be a tourist while you are alive.
If there’s a will, there’s a way they say. If you believe that you can make a thing, go for it. There are a million ways to realize it. And I would like to borrow this quote forwarded to me through SMS: “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are”.

But, traveling doesn’t need to be anywhere far. Interesting places that are relatively cheaper with the same guaranteed satisfaction compared to other places could be just around the corner near you. Start traveling within your place so you will appreciate more the places that you will be visiting. We got so many holidays and long weekends that you can make use of.

Will I qualify to become an expert travel advisor? :D

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sarimanokish Marawi

Islamic City of Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur and home to my sister’s alma mater Mindanao State University (MSU) can be best described with the Maranao’s colorful symbol, Sarimanok. Haven’t been to anywhere as colorful as this Muslim-dominated city. Affirmative to it the noticeable Dodols, a sticky delicacy rolled in colorful packaging, hanged and displayed outside some houses along the way to the city. And the colorful engraved designs can be seen everywhere.
Upon arriving at Marawi from the 12-hour land trip, I immediately took the opportunity to stroll around the wide MSU compound. Aided with the Marawi tourism info I printed out from the Internet and guided by my sister, here is what I captured:
Aga Khan Museum

A repository of Maranao and other Moro artifacts boasting a huge collection of indigenous and cultural materials, ethnic music, native tools and weapons used by the Muslims, and houses of different artistic designs. It was named in honor of King Aga Khan who contributed significantly to the realization of the museum.
MSU Golf Course

A 9-hole golf course laid out on the gentle greenery of the campus. Aside from golf, it is also a good place to relax, breathe the clean country air, and bathe under the gentle sun.
King Faisal Mosque
King Faisal Mosque
Marawi Resort Hotel
Marawi Resort Hotel
The Sleeping Lady (Mountain Formation)
Maranao Sambolayang in Peace Plaza
Mindanao State University
Melting pot of the south (producing cream of the crop professionals), campus of diverse culture (Muslims-Christians-Lumad gathered together), and university of survivors (students outlive and outlast). MSUan is a trademark of students of educational excellence in Mindanao.

The next day I requested my sister to wander on the city’s downtown area. Though a bit hesitant because she was scared, I was able to convince her anyway telling her it would be the last time she’s stepping in the city. In the jeepney, we kept on questioning a friendly Maranao named Walid seated next to us about how we would get to the places in the imprint. After warning us to be more extra careful, he volunteered to accompany us thereafter. These were our toured sites:
Sambitory Building
C&D Centerpoint. The only mini mall in the district
Jameo Dansalan
Caloocan Waterfront
Torogan sa Dayawan

The residence of the Sultan first constructed in the early 18th century by Sultan Boowa Ayop, founder of the royal house of Dayawan. In the early 19th century it was rebuilt by Sultan Conding and Datu Cotawato with the help of Datu Bacarat, Bae Dalomabi and Bae Cuyog.

In 1935 the Dansalan Declaration of opposing the inclusion of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan in the proposed Philippine Republic was signed in this Torogan.

The National Museum in coordination with the Mindanao State University and the National Historical Institute has declared the Dayawan Torogan a “National Cultural Treasure and Regional Museum of Living Traditions”.
Lake Lanao

At 2,300 feet above sea level, I believe this second largest and deepest lake in the country was a crater of once a volcano that had erupted centuries ago. Wondering where the Maria Cristina Falls get its water, which has been the source of hydropower and natural wonder? It may not known to all but no less than Lake Lanao provided it. Now one thing that the Marawi people should learn is how to conserve power and water.
Sacred Mountain

It is a 150-meter high mountain with a pond at its summit. Visitors are not allowed to climb the slopes in reverence to the mountain.
Agus River

If Lake Lanao provided the water to Maria Cristina Falls, the means to where the water is channeled is the Agus River. It serves as the outlet of Lake Lanao to Illana Bay.

I should consider myself lucky for the opportunity to go around the town because not everyone does. Most of the populace especially Christians are scared. Even my sister, in her 5-year stay in Marawi it was her first time to roam around. She should thank me for my courage. Hehe. And I thank our new Maranao friend Walid for touring us around Marawi.

One reminder: The Muslims are highly territorial people. I remember somebody said they don’t have real property tax in the city because Muslims believed nobody owns the land and it’s a God-given bounty. Perhaps the same reason why dorms and cottages mushroomed in the MSU campus making it part of the compound. But Muslims should not be feared of. Danger is anywhere. The right thing to do is to be cautious. One way to ease the worries when in strange land is to bring with you someone who knows the culture of the place and can vouch safety. Fear is only in the mind. You wouldn’t know if the thing is worth the fear unless you try it. Here, the motto “No guts, no glory” applies.

And my Marawi tour proved a one unique colorful experience in the land of mosques capped with fogs and seasoned with breeze of cold winds.