Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Historic Town of Vigan

The Historic Town of Vigan was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. UNESCO inscribed Vigan in the World Heritage List because it “represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning,” and “is an exceptionally intact and well preserved example of a European trading town in East and South-East Asia.”



Batanes – A taste of Scottish landscape right in the Philippines

Now Here is the one that top my list on my next escapade next summer , I’ll go go somewhere else in December break and Semester Break. But next summer will be reserve to this place. Maybe elementary kids would tell this as the “Land of Typhoons” , yes that was taught during the elementary days , that the tip of the Northern Philippines is frequently visited by typhoons. I don’t know now maybe Global Warming could change the hot spot areas of typhoons in the Philippines.

Here is article about the Batanes the one that will go on the top of my next summer I mean , that will be next year.

First-timers to Batanes need to know one thing: The weather rules all. “Bring enough clothes for five days, at least,” advised a friend when she learned I was going there for three days. There’s good reason for the warning. Until recently, travel to and from the island has been limited, with storms cutting off access for days at a time. So much so that you’ll find people here have a fatalistic attitude toward life.

On the day we left, Manila was gloomy and there was every chance of rain. I envisioned Basco, the capital city on Batan island, in gloomy gray weather, but it was sweltering when we arrived. In the un-airconditioned arrivals area, which looked like a long barangay hall, people were taking off jackets and coats, no doubt feeling misled about the sunny day that greeted us.

Meanwhile, Basco may still be the size of a small sleepy town, but the city has also marched with the times. A few years back, tourists would be hard-pressed to find decent accommodations here. Today, although you still won’t find a Shangri-La hotel on the island, there are a good number of hotels and pension houses to choose from.

Surprisingly, “…we get a lot of local tourists,” says newly elected mayor, Demy Narag, when we talked to him. “These are the ones who would like to see untouched or unusual places.” And Batanes has these in spades. Again, blame—or maybe credit—the weather and even the province’s inaccessibility from the rest of the country. It makes people curious about life here. And while I don’t think Batanes will get hoards of tourists like Boracay because it’s simply too far away, Mayor Narag hopes that tourism will be one of the province’s major earners.

Being away from it all is part of Batanes’ allure. Jaded city-dwellers who want to recharge would do well to come here. The islands that comprise Batanes have a different topography from the rest of the country. By some geographical quirk, the province feels more like the Orkneys in Northern Scotland, with its craggy cliffs and rolling hills, than the Philippines. Batan, the biggest and most populous, and Sabtang islands have gentle rolling hills and slopes and friendly beaches. Meanwhile Itbayat, the most remote, has no natural shoreline and is full of craggy cliffs, prompting someone in our group to quip, “It’s not a good idea to go to Itbayat when you’re depressed. You just might jump off one of the cliffs!” The island is the least populated of the three, and we were told the sea is much more ferocious there. Batanes also has seasons different from the rest of the country. Batanes has a winter (yes, winter!) and a summer season. Winters here can be quite cold, say the locals, with the cold winds from Siberia and Taiwan making their way into the islands. Taiwan is a near neighbor, separated only by the Bashi Channel. In fact, the Ivatans are close kin to the Tao people of Orchid Island, Taiwan’s southernmost territory.

Batanes' geographical quirks makes it feel more like the Orkneys in Scotland than the Philippines.

The second day, we crossed over to Sabtang Island on a fallowa, an outriggerless boat common in Batanes. While most of us were accustomed to riding outriggers in our travels around the country, it was a bit daunting to be in a small craft in what can be considered the open sea without the slim protection of, well, the actual outriggers to balance our weight. But our guides say fallowas need to ride the waves and outriggers are not ideal for the waters around the island. An hour later, a bit deaf from the loud engine and more than little nauseous from the engine fumes and the swaying of the boat, we hit land. Immediately, cameras were taken out as we spy a picturesque lighthouse on a craggy cliff, one of several such structures dotting the province.

The famous Ivatan stone houses were out first stop. Young kids and teenagers ran alongside our jeep, shouting cheerful greetings. Barangay Savidu, with its rows of Ivatan stone houses, felt like a place time forgot. Except for occasional reminders of modern living—a sari-sari store sign, and radios in some houses—this must be what the village looked like a century ago. Our guides would later tell us that these limestone houses have at least three variations. One thing they all have in common though is the low-sloped roofs and the meter-thick walls, which provide insulation during the cold season and keeps the coolness in during summer.

Even the locals’ demeanor is old-fashioned. Us urban-dwellers are so used to being suspicious of strangers that it comes as a shock to be told we could just go into any of the houses and be made welcome.

“Are you sure we can do that?” we ask our guide. Such behavior is just not done in the city.

“Yes, they won’t mind. People here don’t lock doors,” says our guide. And thus assured, we’d wander into living rooms and kitchens at will, sometimes surprising homeowners with our presence. No one stopped us, the locals’ sense of ownership being totally different from ours. In one, an old woman sits on her wooden floor and weaves a vakul, the funky-looking traditional headgear Ivatans wear as protection against rain. In another, we examine a local still, with clay jars full of taru, sugarcane vinegar, and a big contraption in the middle of the courtyard for grinding sugarcane to extract its juice for palek, the local wine.

After resting up a bit, we were on our way to Murung Beach for lunch. Most people’s notions about Batanes don’t involve a beach one can actually swim in, but the province has a lot of little white-sand beaches along its coasts. Murung beach is one of them. Most of us didn’t bring swimsuits, but even those who did, didn’t venture into the water. I think just the thought of the rocks underneath those waves was enough to deter even the bravest of us. Along the way on mountain roads, we pass by huge outcrops of rocks in the distance called idjangs, natural stone fortresses common in both Batan and Sabtang islands that Ivatans way back when used as hiding places against invaders.

Later, back in Batan, our guide would tell us that it’s still the practice to leave houses and doors unlocked. And neighbors who need something from an empty house can just go in and borrow it, the owner assured that it will be returned…in time. People here just don’t seem that materialistic. Perhaps confronted with the vagaries of harsh weather, Ivatans just don’t see the sense in holding on to things.

What’s important are the intangibles—the people you love, how you treat others, the simple way of life. There’s a lesson here somewhere for all of us. To be sure, maybe I’m romanticizing, a common pitfall for a travel writer to make. But when we were exploring the islands, these are what mattered: pondering the mystery of cloud-capped Mt. Iraya as it looms over the island, the fun of scampering up boulders on TK beach, reflecting on the tragedy of Sossong village, which was wiped out by a tsunami in the 1950s, the shells of its houses a reminder of how savage nature can be, dipping fried dorado fish in vinegar-and-garlic, the simple pleasure of the bend down the road, paying up even when there’s no one to check if you’ve been honest or not, as we all did at The Honesty Coffee Shop—activities that didn’t have anything to do with moving up the corporate ladder, or making (and spending) money. Here, people hewed to a more traditional—and shall we say, more honorable?—way of doing things. Confronted with distance and harsh weather, everything is reduced to basics. And, hell, maybe they know something we don’t or have lost along the way—a stronger faith in people’s sense of decency, maybe, or a gentler way of doing things.

I seem to have gotten into a reflective mood. Batanes has a way of doing that to people. Later after buying up The Honesty Coffee Shop’s share of garlic and onions for pasalubongs, as me and my friends sit on top of a hill in Marlboro Country or Racuha Payaman, Ivatan for “wild pastureland,” I’d reflect on how perfect this day was. Standing on one of the hills, with the magnificent view of the coastline below and Mt. Iraya in the distance, even a confirmed atheist will find religion. Maybe it was the crisp mountain air or the unfettered 360º views, but we all went crazy up there. We jumped, shouted at the top of our lungs (believe me, it was a good place for catharsis), ran, rolled on the grass—a crazy thing to do given the goats and cows grazing nearby—and generally threw our cares to the four winds. Later, on the way back to Basco via a circuitous route along Batan’s hilly mountain roads, we stop for a group of young students walking home from school. The dearth of public transportation on the island means that it’s a courtesy to stop and offer a ride to people on the road. Despite repeated offers of a ride, the kids shyly refuse, preferring to walk the long route home.

Due to the lack of public transportation, cycling is the most preferred mode of travel in Batanes.

That evening, we met a famous resident of Batanes during dinner at Mayor Demy’s house—the fearsome-looking tatus or coconut crab. A live specimen was brought to our dining area where we were all busy cracking shells and stuffing ourselves with the delicious coconut-flavored meat of its more unfortunate cousins. A local delicacy, the coconut crab lives on land among rocks, prompting speculations among us amateur zoologists that it was in fact more a spider than a crustacean. The debate went unresolved as we dipped the crabmeat in vinegar-with-garlic and drank beer and palek. The general consensus was, whatever it is, it’s delicious.

Our last evening was spent talking and drinking. While we laughed and relived our adventures, the houses around us are dark, its occupants settling in for the night. But don’t be fooled, said the mayor, the houses may be dark, but he doubts if they’re asleep. Ivatans do know how to live it up. Socializing is done in backyards, with friends coming over for a simple meal and a drink or two. And that, in essence, is the magic of Batanes. Everything is a postcard, but in the end, what matters are the small things—like good company and lots of laughter over beer and tatus—and this, you have to discover on your own.
Need to Know
The Ivatan stone houses are made of pulverized limestone rock. The limestone is quarried and burned at high temperatures then pulverized. The resulting powder is then mixed with cogon grass and used to plaster the walls of houses.

How to Get There
Asian Spirit flies to Basco four times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The boat ride from Batan island to Sabtang costs P80/roundtrip.

When to Go
After winter but before the monsoon season hits, around April-June.

What to Bring
• Enough clothes for two extra days. The weather is unpredictable so this is the one place where overpacking is actually sensible. Include a jacket, shorts, swimming gear

• Sturdy footgear—sandals and hiking shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking.

• A camera, batteries, charger, several memory cards/sticks. Almost every nook and cranny is worth taking a picture

• Cash. I don’t remember seeing ATM machines in the capital.

• A first-aid kit, stocked with anti-dizziness tablets. Boat rides and even jeepney rides along winding roads may leave you reeling

• A hat

• A mountain bike. Batanes’ rolling hills and winding roads are perfect for mountain-biking. In fact, the province’s terrain is perfect for aficionados of extreme sports, be it mountain biking, spelunking, or mountain-climbing.

What to Do
1. Take lots of pictures. Either on your own or join photographer Mandy Navasero’s
Photo Safari.

2. Get interested in history and archeology. There’s an ongoing joint archeological dig by the University of the Philippines, the National Museum, and Australian National University on Sabtang island. While this isn’t really part of the island’s attractions, the archeologists are more than happy to chat with passing travelers about their findings into early Ivatan culture, if you happen upon them during breaks. Visit the remains of the village of Songsong, which was wiped out by a tsunami in the 1950s.

3. Bone up on local art and architecture. Visit the Ivatan houses on Sabtang island. Check out Fundacion Pacita, the late artist Pacita Abad’s residence-turned-museum in barangay Tukon, Batan island. Fundacion Pacita has reproductions of the artist’s works on display and the house itself is interesting. In fact, we thought it would be a good idea to establish a writers/artists’ colony on the property. Maybe a foundation can set it up? A few meters away on the next hill amid lush gardens is the residence of former education secretary Butch Abad. Caretakers will gladly allow you to tour the gardens and the surrounding property.

4. Go beachcombing. On Batan island, visit Boulders beach, so-called because its beach is strewn with huge boulders said to have rolled down or thrown when Mt. Iraya erupted. On Sabtang island, check out Murung beach, with its white sand, and eat your packed lunch under the naturally formed from limestone Murung arch.

5. Go on a road trip. The winding roads and nearly empty roads makes this the perfect place to drive around. You won’t be making quick time though as every corner is a perfect excuse to stop and take pictures or simply take in the view.

6. Make like Maria von Trapp. Batanes’ rolling hills, most especially the spectacular Marlboro Country will make you want to belt out The Sound of Music’s classic theme song. Guaranteed.

7. Contribute to the local economy—shop! The locally grown garlic and onions are smaller and more pungent than those sold in Manila. Bring home some palek, and tasty dried flying fish and dorado, and taru (vinegar). The Honesty Coffee Shop in Ivana town, Batan island has provisions to tide you over as you explore the islands. It also sells garlic and onions for pasalubongs.

8. Sample the local delicacies. Some dishes to try: tatus steamed in its own fat and dipped in taru with garlic, venes a vegetable dish made from gabi (yam) leaves. Put your food on kavaya (breadfruit) leaves, which are used as plates, much the same way we use banana leaves. And wash everything down with palek or beer.

Where to Stay
Batanes Seaside Lodge & Restaurant (single regular room, P450/night to P2,200/night for suites). National Road, Kaychanarianan, Basco. Tel: (+63921) 229-0120, (+63915) 940-4823; e-mail:

Pension Ivatan (From P980/night for a matrimonial to P2,500/night for a family suite). National Road, Kayvaluganan, Basco. Tel: (+63920) 281-1278, (+63921) 442-8841, (+63926) 957-6223.

The high school on barangay Sinakan on Sabtang island can also put up tourists for the night at P100/night.

You can also stay at the lighthouse on Batan island. Perfect for honeymooners.

Explore Batanes on your own or get some help from the locals. For tour guides, get in touch with Juliet Catalunya of the Batanes Eco-Cultural Tourism Cooperative. Her tel: (+63919) 455-9015, (+63919) 369-5341; or Chris Catalunya, (+63915) 373-8152

TRAVELIFE MAGAZINE is the Philippines’ leading travel & lifestyle publication.

The historical flavours of Iloilo

Iloilo City is the capital of Iloilo, one of four provinces that occupies Panay island in the Visayas region (the others are Antique, Aklan, and Capiz), and is actually independent from its mother province. Because of its strategic location and the presence of an international airport (the fourth busiest in the country) a half hour away, Iloilo City is considered the gateway to the Western Visayas region, which, apart from the aforementioned provinces, also includes Guimaras and Negros Occidental. It is also the country’s second oldest city (the oldest is Cebu City), which makes it one of the earliest regions in the Philippines discovered by Spanish colonizers and where they built their settlements.

This colonization is quite evident in the architecture. As you drive through downtown Iloilo, particularly through Calle Real (now known as JM Basa Street), try and ignore the tacky billboards, garish signs, and thick tangle of black electric wires and you will see beautifully designed old buildings. Unfortunately, many of these buildings have been left to decay or overtaken by commerce and turned into hardware stores or panciterias. You can’t help but wish that these colonial buildings were protected and maintained by the local government. They could follow the example of many major European cities—the facades of these old structures could be preserved, but the insides gutted and developed into charming cafés, quirky shops, or even small boutique hotels. In the 19th century, this row was the liveliest commercial district as it was the site of most of the town’s European and Chinese retailers.

During the city’s economic boom, thanks in large part to the development of the sugar industry in Iloilo and the neighboring Negros island, families turned their properties into farms for sugar production because there was a high demand for the sweet stuff in the world market. The Jaro district of Iloilo became the Philippines’ first “millionaires’ row” because many wealthy sugar barons built their sprawling mansions there. At the height of their affluence, we can imagine the illustrious families of Iloilo like the Lopezes, the Ledesmas, the Villanuevas, the Lizareses, the Montinolas, the Jalandonis, the Javellanas, and the Locsins, lounging in the verandas of their stately homes, playing croquet in the expansive lawn, or holding huge parties in the lavishly decorated salas.

These days, imagine is all a tourist can do. Many of these huge heritage houses have been abandoned because their owners have either migrated to other cities like Manila or Bacolod, or died. Some which have been left to caretakers are open for viewing by appointment or available to be rented for parties and events.

One of the most attractive is the elegant white mansion called Nelly Garden, built in 1928 and once owned by philanthropist and statesman Don Vicente Lopez and his wife Doña Elena Hofileña. Another notable house is the 200-year-old Casa Mariquit, considered one of the oldest existing houses in Iloilo and where the Javellana family once resided (one of the family members, Maria Mariquit Javellana lived there with her husband, the former vice-president of the Philippines, Fernando Lopez, Sr.). Our group managed to enter the brick-based house and surprised the caretakers—they were in the process of cleaning and sprucing it up for tourists. However, they were kind enough to tour us inside, while giving us a history lesson on its former occupants.

There are many other old churches to visit within the city, like San Jose Church (located right in front of Plaza Libertad) and Molo Church (the “feminist” church because of the presence of at least 16 images of female saints). If you dare venture a little road trip, however, we highly recommend the Miag-ao Church. Located some 40 kilometers southwest of Iloilo City, this over-200-year-old structure was declared a national landmark in 1973 and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list of “Baroque Churches in the Philippines” in 1993. It also holds the distinction of being one of the most photographed churches in the country, thanks to its unique architectural style. The façade has a decorative bas relief described as “native botanical,” featuring papaya and guava trees and a large coconut tree in the center, and flanked by two dissimilar bell towers.

Lest you think these architectural gems are the highlight of a tour of Iloilo City, locals will always take the time to make you taste their food. Ask any Ilonggo what there is to do in their fine city and they will almost certainly answer “Eat!” And at the top of the list is batchoy.

Batchoy is a hearty noodle soup dish that includes pork innards, crushed chicharon (pork rinds), vegetables, shrimp, chicken breast or beef loin, shrimp broth, and chicken stock, and topped with spring onions and chopped fried garlic. The original version used miki noodles, but to meet customers’ demands, other varieties were developed using miswa, bihon, and sotanghon noodles.

There is much debate on who invented the batchoy. Deco’s and Ted’s, two of the most popular batchoy restaurants in Iloilo, both claim to have concocted this filling dish. The original owners, Frederico Guillergan Sr. and Teodorico Lepura, respectively, each started out experimenting with a basic Chinese noodle soup back in the 1930s. They then opened up batchoy stalls in the public market and eventually expanded. One thing is for sure, though: It originated in the district of La Paz, Iloilo; hence its full name of La Paz batchoy indicates that you are eating batchoy, Iloilo-style.

Another source of Iloilo pride is the seafood. Many seafood restaurants line Villa beach and the most popular, no doubt, is Breakthrough. Tourists and locals alike head to this sprawling open-air restaurant, where you can pick out the fish, crab, lobster, or prawns you want cooked your way. Another must-visit restaurant is Tatoy’s Manokan & Seafoods. Their specialty is barbecued whole chicken stuffed with tamarind and lemongrass leaves and, of course, grilled seafood. These seaside eateries are generally very casual and you may even want to eat with your hands.


The Ruins Structure & Architecture

he  mansion of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson was built in the early 1900’s but to this day, the 903 square meter structure still stands tall amidst sugar plantation and its grandeur is a testament of the lifestyle of the hacienderos.

The structure of what’s left of the mansion is that we now call The Ruins, withstood the test of time mainly due to the oversized steel bars and the A-grade mixture of concrete used in its construction.  The wall finishing which were made of egg whites mixed with cement gave it its marble-like appearance.

The Columns

The Ruins Structure & Architecture

The structure of The Ruins is of Italianate architecture with neo-Romanesque columns, having a very close semblance to the facade of Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The intricate designs of the columns are still very intact and quite impressive. Whoever made those designs is truly a master in the art.

The Fountain

The Ruins Structure & ArchitectureThe 4-tiered fountain was built after the construction of the mansion was finished. Angelina, one of the daughters maintained a beautiful lily garden in and around the fountain. A Japanese gardener painstakingly took care of the plants until the burning of the mansion.

At present, The Ruins is beautifully landscaped and maintained by 5 gardeners.

The Simborio

The Ruins Structure & ArchitectureSimborio is the local name for smokestack or chimney. it was the vent used for the muscovado mill of the sugar farm of Don Mariano Lacson. In those days, they would make their own sugar by extracting juice of the sugarcane through the mill. transfer them in large vats where they are heated to a certain temperature, and cooled to allow it to crystallize.

Today, muscovado is pretty much prepared the same way as it was in those days. In addition to sugar refineries, muscovado is still a thriving industry in Negros Occidental.

The Veranda Lighting

The pipes used to channel the electric wires, embedded inthe ceiling, are the same ones used today. Note the rings beside the ceiling lights which used to hold the chains of chandeliers.

The Wooden Floors

The flooring used for the mansion were alternating red and yellow span, 2-inch thick, hard wood running from the main entrace facing the fountain all the way to the end of the dining room, with no joints. They were a meter wide and were about 67 feet (20.5 meters) long. The living room near the veranda and all bedrooms, downstairs and upstairs inclusing the belvedre, were all of wooden floor.

The Belvedere

The Ruins Structure & Architecture A belvedere at the second floor, facing west, in a glassed-in sun-room with bay windows affords a beautiful view of the sunset and the coastline of Talisay.

The Small Arched Window

This is the original window between the kitchen and the dining area. This is common in most Spanish homes in order to facilitate the movement of food and minimize foot traffic in and out of the kitchen. The original kitchen is now turned into a receiving room.

The Tiles in the Mansion

The Ruins Structure & ArchitectureThe tiles in the mansion were brought in from Spain. Arrays of varies designs of tiles used throughout the mansion have been grouped together at the foyer of the back entrance of the mansion. It is believed that the excess tiles were used in this area which was masterfully laid out.

The Rain Gutters & The Down Sprouts

The rain gutters all around at the top of the mansion are made of concrete and formed like canals. Rainwater runs to the back portion of the mansion where two large down sprouts lead it to a steel pipe to the ground where all the water is collected,

The Septic Tank

The origincal septic tank of the mansion now lies beneath the newly built toilets. The dimensions of the septic tank is 127in x 289in with a depth of 6 ft. The septic tank is watertight and has two chambers inside with concrete walls. Built in the 1920’s, the same septic tank is now being used at The Ruins.

Digging around the septic tank to locate the outlet revealed blocks of concrete which were the 1920’s molds used to make the balusters in the mansion.

The Initials

The Ruins Structure & ArchitectureAt first, I thought the owner has a penchant for letter E since these are molded onto the posts of the mansion. In fact, these are letter M’s, the initials of Mariano and Maria. The mansion was built after the death of Maria Braga so Don Mariano must have built it in remembrance of his deceased wide.

The Shell-Inspired Decor

The Ruins Structure & ArchitectureThe shell-inspored decor lined the top edged of the mansion. These same decor are used in those times in New England in the homes of ship captains. Maria Braga’s father was a captain of a ship.

The structure and architecture of The Ruins gave us a glimpse of life iof the hacienderos in those days. Only a few of these grand mansions still stand today and those which are no longer lived in are often destroyed in exchange for more modern structures. It is fortunate that the family of Mariano Lacson thought of preserving this historic structure as a family legacy and to share with those who have an appreciation for it. If The Ruins was torned down, much of these history will forever be lost.

More Images

The Ruins of Talisay, Negros Occidental

The Ruins of Talisay is Negros Occidental, despite its damaged state is still a marvelous sight to behold. Beautiful garden and fountain tiered with water lilies greets the visitors. During its heyday, it was a gem right in the heart of a sugarcane plantation. At night, the mansion ruins looks even more spectacular.

The Ruins of Lacson Mansion History

Wealthy sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson built the mansion in 1900′s for Maria Braga, his portuguese wife. He made sure that the mansion was furnished with imported luxurious items. The Mansion’s structure resembles that of the italian architecture with neoclassical columns. The facades of the mansion is comparable to the ones in Carnegie Hall. The belvedere facing west enables one to view the beautiful sunset through the bay window.

The garden of the mansion was tended by Don Mariano’s daughter Angelina. Imported lilies filled the garden and around the fountain. A japanese gardener was hired to maintain the gardens until he disappeared just before the war. It was found out later on that the gardener they hired was an informant to the Japanese Military. When the world war 2 broke out, the guerillas burned down the mansion to prevent the Japanese from occupying the area. The mansion burned down leaving behind the concrete structure that still stands to this day.

Okay… thats the History… I can’t write so much.. All I got is a bunch of pictures..