Showing posts with label philippines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label philippines. Show all posts

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kamanbaneng Sagada: Finding Marlboro Hill, the Sun, Grazing Cows and Wild Horses in the Mist

Sagada Kamanbeng Marlboro Hills Grazing Cows at Sunrise
Cows in the mist on Komanbaneng Peak
Another day, another town, another early start. 4am on a Monday found us sloshing through wet grass and muddy trails headed up Kamanbaneng, one of the highest peaks in Alab. Hamlin, the strappy dog of Rock Farm Inn where we were staying kept us company for a while but decided to return to the inn through a gate in the woods. We've seen the spectacular sunrise in Kofafey in Maligcong days earlier. Would we be twice lucky to witness the same on a different peak given the moody weather lately? 

Funny but the original plan was to head to the Kiltepan view deck anew for a no-frills, just chilling-out sunrise experience though we knew the "privatization" and fencing of the road leading to Tekeng peak could become a complication.  A trip to the SaGGaS (Sagada Genuine Guides Association) headquarters on our first afternoon back in Sagada and talking to loquacious guide, Yakie, convinced us to try an off-the-beaten track, 18 kilometer circuit not yet popular with visitors.   The circuit commences with a hike up Kamanbaneng Peak, moving southwards to Kaman-utek (Blue Soil hill), then southwest to Balangagan Cave in Suyo, before heading back to the town on the road passing through Sumaging

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Maligcong, Bontoc: A Black Hole Vacation, A Dog Named Kunig and aMountain Named Kofafey

A breathtaking spectacle that even Kunig appreciates
"Wala namang magandang makikita dito sa Maligcong..."  

So said Aling Evelyn who mans the store cum guest registration post at the entryway to the rice terraces as we scanned the records and put our names in.  We have just crossed the terraces for Fang-orao and the end of the road, Favuyan, to get a view of the nearby fields and settlements, still green and waiting another 2-3 months before ripening to a golden hue.  Just this morning, we rose at 3am to hike Mount Kofafey for the sunrise and for lack of a more fitting adjective to describe what we saw, a most stunning cloud and fog show.  Hearing Aling Evelyn, I didn't know which stunned me more -- the sunrise spectacle we saw or this statement we just heard.  Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Backpack Photography El Nido Festival Edition this January 2014

Join Backpack Photography for a special guided photo tour to the Philippines' last frontier.  A few more slots still available. Visit for more details.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Overnight in Buscalan and Hiking Back to Tinglayan over the Boondocks

Buscalan - Lola by the fence
Buscalan tattooed elder by a fence
After a tattooing session with Fang-od, we went around the community to meet some of the villagers and to observe.  The only thing with an overnighter in a small village like Buscalan is that you end up being observed yourself and queried especially when there's not a lot of outside visitors around.  But that's life.  And a different story altogether.  Maybe next time, we can stay longer and be a bit more assimilated into the community so I can observe unhampered.

At first, Fang-od seems to me an anomaly, strong and nimble for her age of 93.  We chanced upon an elderly man assembling a broom by the light of a small window.  The light was beautiful though the overcast condition rendered the room a bit too dim for doing such a task.  Our guide, Francis, chimed in, "He's 93 years old, too."  And he's not alone in the 80- something demographic in the barangay.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Buscalan: Fang-od, Grace Palicas, and the 86 year wait for a tattooing artist successor in Kalinga

Buscalan - Fang-od inspecting the thorn
93 years old mambabatok, Fang-od
Would a 93-year old woman still have the clarity of vision and deftness of touch to create a tattoo?

To find out, we hiked for over three hours from the barangay of Bugnay to the mountain village of Barangay Buscalan; elevation: give or take 3200-3300 feet above sea level (sorry, wasn't able to calibrate my watch properly after battery replacement); households: 126; voting population: 668.

The jump-off point of our trek is Bugnay, famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) as the birthplace of Macli-ing Dulag (see previous post for a bit of the backstory), the tribal chief who opposed the building of the large hydroelectric dam in Kalinga in the 1980s and paid dearly for it with his life.  It's an almost 45-minute jeepney ride from Tinglayan  to Bugnay and though I'm digressing from my topic, the ride bears mention.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lagal[og]'s WittyPedia #5: Reading A Little Bit of Shakespeare

Lagalog WittyPedia iPad Mini  Book
A little reading never hurt anybody's eyes, literally
This is one of a 40-volume book collection of Shakespeare's works, part of the collection you can find at the Marikina Book and Ethnology Museum • Full story tomorrow at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another Day in Culion: Mesmerized by the Mangroves in Kabulihan and the Sunset in Lele

Culion - Lele Beach Boy
Lele Sunset Boy
The unseasonal rains fell in the early afternoon just when we were set to go southwest to Kabulihan, some 17 kilometers away from Culion town.  Coming from Coron, our original plan was to go to Balanga to see the mangroves and the waterfalls.   While you can see mangroves practically all over the country, Palawan is one particular place teeming with it as the entire province was declared as Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserves as per Presidential Proclamation Number 2152.  According to the Palawan Council on Sustainable Development, 58,400 hectares of the province's total land area of 1.485 million hectares is covered by mangroves which makes it the country's biggest.

Tourism guide, Hermie Villanueva, however, was honest enough to admit that Balanga is now a shadow of its old self as seen in pictures a few years old, its lushness supplanted by varied personal interests.  The falls, owing to the summer season, is now dry.  Sure appreciate the honesty as some guides are wont to take you places regardless of the current conditions just to earn their fees.  Besides, we only have the rest of the day to go around so we'd like to make the most of it not by cramming the hours with destination after destination but to head only to one or two and savor the moment.  On Hermie's recommendation, we opted to go to the mangrove forest of Kabulihan instead.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Culion: A Morning at the Museum, Reframing the Past and Putting into Words Things Largely Unspoken

Culion - Museum Wall Close Up
Wall of memories
Ah, you can get used to the quiet.  The only sounds we woke up to were the intermittent rumble of tricycles in the distance and the trilling of birds in the trees just outside the window.  Not to say that Coron is that much noisier than before, only that Culion is the quintessential tranquil town, perhaps helped by the fact that electricity is rationed at the moment.  No blaring radios, no out-of-place western pop to mar one's impression of the landscape and seascape -- it's a scene oft-missed by daytrippers, one worth staying a day or two for (longer if we had the time and resources at the time).

Choosing to wake up well after sunrise is a luxury savored well after the generator goes off at 5:30am.  We didn't have time to make arrangements for transportation to get to a good sunrise vantage point the night prior anyway.  But book a guide to the island's interior down south we did, scheduled for the afternoon.   That meant we had the morning free to see a bit more of the town.  Should be the museum, for no guest should leave Culion without seeing it and knowing its significance.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Culion: Like Seeing the Starry Night Sky with a New Set of Eyes

Culion - Immaculada Concepcion at Night
La Immaculada Concepcion on a clear, moonless night
The monotone of the boat engine and my nap kept being disrupted by the constant complaints of the short-haired woman seated near the kapitan.  A local judging by the way she keeps addressing (pestering is more like it) the crew, she tells everyone either the life vest issued to her or somebody's footwear smells like sewage, even challenging everyone including the passengers to stop and smell their slippers.  Mercifully, no one budged.  Save for this comedic drama, the one hour and forty-five minute banca ride southwest from Coron town to Culion was uneventful.  The sea was calm, the good weather holding.  

It bears mentioning the boat terminal in Coron as the wi-fi signal was better than in our lodge and the facilities were orderly, owing to the recent resumption of big ferry trips from Manila via Puerto Princesa.  The terminal's walls were plastered with 2Go posters advertising the promo fare of P1,200 which was impossible to miss and difficult to ignore -- something to keep in mind for a return trip hopefully in the very near future.

Hmmm, why go to Culion and not stay longer in Coron?  While I still like Coron, I personally wanted to venture somewhere new.  The last time I visited, we had a side trip to the wildlife reserve of Calauit farther north and enjoyed it.  This occasion is no different.  I was also eager to venture somewhere quieter, less touristy as I've always been a fan of small towns.  Besides, it's always fascinating to go somewhere I've only read previously in books.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Return to Coron: A Liveaboard Kind of Day

Coron - Kayangan View of the Entrance Karst III
Grand entrance to Kayangan
I've seen and marveled at these karsts before, floating on an emerald sea that even a stormy day in 2007 cannot obscure.   Fastforward six years later, these towering limestone behemoths still awe me.  I've seen the karsts of Halong Bay in Vietnam while riding a junk some  years back and biases aside, while I find the Halong limestone formations as impressive, the sea here in Coron and elsewhere in Palawan is so much clearer, so much so that from a plane, one can see all the way to the relative shallows, the darker hues hinting at their varying depths.

Just one mind-boggling fact: of the country's 7,107 islands, 1,780 can be found in Palawan while some 50 of these islets are in Coron.  Surrounded by so much water, it is almost impossible to visit without so much getting into the water or at the very least, drink in the wonderful scenery and get your feet wet, literally.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coron Revisited: Of Delayed Flights, Quiet Digs and A 700-Step Ascent for Sunset

Coron - Mt. Tapyas Sunset View of Smoke and Karsts IV
Sunset at Mt. Tapyas
For the first time in a long time, we'll be flying at midday, on a Monday yet.  That meant I had to run after taxis, competing with late office workers and had to settle for a contracted private vehicle moonlighting as a taxi.  The queues at T3 were long.  We tried checking-in via the Cebu Pacific computerized kiosks but found out that their turbo props were not included in the scheme.  The air conditioning in all areas of the terminal seemed non-existent.  We decided to use the remaining 15 minutes of waiting time prior to departure to have a quick meal which proved a smart decision as the perennial runway congestion resulted in a succession of delays.

It would be almost another two hours before we can take off aboard a Cebu Pacific plane that shared the airport's tropical clime.  Gaining altitude with the cabin remaining hot, the announcement of cold bottled water available for sale onboard seemed like a timely sales pitch rather than comforting news to hot and sweaty passengers.  Ahhh, traveling can really be more fun in the Philippines.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Filipinas Heritage Library Re-Opens at the Ayala Museum: Now More Accessible, More in Tune with the Times

Over 2,000 rare books digitized, made available in Flipbook form
It's really just a short walk from its old location in Nielsen Tower near the old stock exchange building along Ayala Avenue but I can only imagine the herculean task undertaken by the Filipinas Heritage Library staff to move to the Ayala Museum near Greenbelt 5 along Makati Avenue.  

In a lively chitchat with senior director for arts and culture of Ayala Foundation, Mariles Gustilo, and museum manager, Suzanne Yupangco, we learned it took all of five months to complete the move and at the same time, make the transition to the digital world.  Well, when you have over 10,000 books on Philippine history, culture, art, literature and social sciences; more than two thousand rare books from as early as 1608; over 35,000 photographs depicting Philippine life, culture and history dating back to the 15th century; and over 5,000 digitized Filipino songs from the 1900s, you take special care of your priceless valuables.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cocoon Boutique Hotel: A Very Bed Experience of being Cocooned

Cocoon Poolside Beauty
Poolside at Cocoon Hotel
I'm familiar with thread count but not really that particular.  I have not outgrown my sleeping preference -- flat on the wooden floor with only a banig (grass or pandan mat) separating me from the ground.  In my hikes, I've been known to sleep on rocks so you can say I can sleep practically anywhere.  Every once in a while though, I welcome a bit of variety.  In the case of Cocoon, it's a 180 degree turn -- from a banig to a fantastical, whimsical cocoon dreamily-concocted by a writer of one of 'em luxe magazines while crossing the threshold of lucidity.  Philippine Daily Inquirer writer, Marge Enriquez, detailed it wonderfully so in her piece "400-thread count linens, pillows whose supportive core is surrounded by soft down, and a mattress with pocket springs that follow the contours of the body... the bed's antibacterial memory foam wards off dust mites that breed allergies."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Featured Work: Now Onboard Singapore Airlines' Silver Kris Magazine

SilverKris 1
Iconic Manila City hall resplendent in the near-sunset hours
My image contributions to the wonderful feature "Enigmatic Manila" written by Kristine Fonacier are now featured in the January 2013 issue of Silver Kris Magazine of Singapore Airlines. To read the ebook version, please click here.  To access the online feature, please click here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Back to Guimaras Part 2: Visiting Inampulugan and Costa Aguada

Guimaras Costa Aguada Sunset Mangrove
The western coast of Inampulugan is fringed by mangroves
When we had an alfresco lunch by the beach in Nagarao, the tide was low and the water smooth under an increasingly grey sky. By the time we left for Inampulugan, the sea was already wearing a dark shade of green and the waves were gaining white caps. What usually takes 25-30 minutes to sail took us almost an hour to navigate. 

Mang Vic, a trim man in his fifties with an infectious smile that belie his stature as the island’s father figure, was patiently waiting for us at the alternate port on the northern side of Inampulugan. Five years of managing the affairs of this 137 hectare island has not slowed him down one bit, eager to welcome each new arrival like a family member. "We were worried about you,” says Manny, one of Vic’s staff. If I haven’t previously sailed in much turbulent conditions in these parts, I would also be worried. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back to Guimaras Part 1: Return to Nagarao, the Island of the Tree Spirits

Guimaras Nagarao Southern Coast Curiosity
The beautiful, rocky shore of Nagarao in the early morning
It’s always changing, the sea and the view of the islands that lie beyond the waters. This is what Emma sees from the window of the main hall of the resort in Nagarao, one of the small islands off the Guimaras mainland. After 16 years spent on this 10-hectare Eden and seeing her children grow up, she has yet to outgrow her fondness for looking at the sea and the scenery that frames it – the stretch of fair, fine sand on the northern coast, the rocky shores to the south that reveal the rugged textures underneath at low tide, the silhouette of the forest trees on the western end. 

Isn’t living on a small island unnerving or lonely, I ask her. She confesses to being discomfited by the silence at first but in time, “you get accustomed to the peace and quiet.” Whenever she goes back to her hometown in Iloilo, she finds the place noisy and can’t wait to go back to Nagarao she says with a hearty laugh. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sagada Sojourn: The sun that rose late, the guide who didn't show up, and the bus that runs on chaos

Sagada - Kiltepan Wulf
Early morning at Kiltepan Viewpoint
Waking up at 3 in the morning isn't easy when it's 17 degrees outside and all you really want is to sleep under a thick blanket until it's light. Still, the promise of seeing Kiltepan shrouded in mists is as good an incentive as any to part with the sandman prematurely, if only for one morning. Staying in Mabbay cut our hiking by over a kilometer and a half than if we were to start from the town center. The waning moon cast a bluish, luminous low on the tree-filled landscape as we hiked (er, I sleepwalked) past houses along the trail (never remembered seeing them years ago). After some moments of disorientation, we found our way through the clearing. There were overnighters near the viewpoint, their campfire still burning as they dozed in their tents. It's a privilege to see the rest of the world asleep, cocooned in darkness.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sagada Panag-Apoy: Snapshots from a Fiery Spectacle

Sagada 2012 - Panag-Apoy Boy
A young boy lights a candle to illuminate the night
We were in Sagada on all hallow's eve and on a whim, visited the town cemetery at night per chance to shoot the starry sky in a spot relatively free of light pollution.  Alas, the moon rose early and bathed the place with an eerie light.  No, it was not like a scene from a horror movie but rather a picture of serenity, as if the departed were in repose guarded by the moonlight and kept still by the constant breezes that pass through the mountains and make the pine trees murmur.  Contrast this to the spectacle of the next day when the Panag-apoy tradition is observed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quezon Roadtrip Part 2: 3 Days, 3 Towns, 3 Islands - Mauban and Cagbalete

Quezon Cagbalete Birds and Fern
Birds we found trilling high above the coconut trees in Cagbalete
This is the second part of my two-part post series on the Quezon Province roadtrip/test drive of Kia Carnival assignment for InFlight Magazine.  In this post, we visit the town of Mauban and cross over to Cagbalete.  To read the first part of the series, just click this link.

Setting out for Mauban and Cagbalete Island.  The closest we got to following our itinerary was on our third day when we traveled further northwest to Mauban, just three towns away from Padre Burgos and close to Lucena City, the capital of Quezon Province. Arriving early ahead of schedule, we had to time to look for a place to have Pancit Habhab (fried noodles laced with pork ideally eaten with pinakurat, a strongly-flavored vinegar made from fermented coconut water), the quintessential Quezon dish. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Imugan Microcosm: Small worlds

Imugan Hopper Closer
Green and beautiful
I guess it's just human nature to associate beauty with bigness, awe with grandeur.  A thundering waterfalls.  A neck-straining mountain.  A cavernous cave.  We went to Imugan in Nueva Ecija to see the first two but also found the beauty of God's creation in the small and miniscule.

I'm not an entomology enthusiast, just a nature lover with a newfound appreciation for  Yahweh's (very) small creatures. It must be because of the altitude or the forest location but out here, insects behave 'naturally'. We humans instinctively reciprocate in return, letting nature be instead of trying to be control freaks.


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