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Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in the Philippines

The celebration of Christmas in the Philippines begins on the 16th of December and ends on the first Sunday of January which is the Feast of the Epiphany (The Three Kings). It is quite different from the other countries of the world, it is the longest of the Philippine festivities stretching for over 3 weeks. This makes the Filipino Christmas celebration one of the longest Christmas season in the world. A rich tradition which dates back to the Spanish period.

Christmas or "Pasko" is the most awaited celebration and happiest event in the Philippines. This is also the time of the year when family get together, especially when family members from overseas come home with lots of gifts. ("pasalubong"), exchanging gifts and the family feast highligh the most loved celebration.

What makes the Filipino Christmas unique? Filipinos have a lot of Christmas tradition which makes us different from the other, here are some of them.

  • Parol - Filipino Christmas Lantern

As early as November, Filipinos houses offices, schools, shoppingmalls and even streets are adorned with these star-shaped multicolored lanterns.

  • Filipino Christmas Tradition - Simbang Gabi

"Simbang Gabi" a Filipino Christmas tradition, it is is a series of nine (9) dawn masses, the mass starts as early as 4:00 a.m. It begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of the 24th of December.

  • Monito Monita - Exchange Gifts

Christmas is the season of gift giving. In keeping with the tradition of giving, Filipinos have their own version of exchanging gifts or Kris Kringle, it is called Monito - Monita

  • Christmas Caroling in the Philippines  - Once the "Simbang Gabi" starts, children like to form groups and enjoy hopping from one house to another every night singing Jingle Bells, Silent Night and traditional Filipino Christmas songs.
Christmas Tree
Christmas is not complete without Christmas tree. Since pine trees grows only in a few places in the Philippines, not everybody can afford to have a fresh Christmas tree. Filipinos have created unique and original Christmas tree using different kinds of local materials, from recycled materials to a more exqusite form of art.

Giant, well lighted and decorated trees are a sight to behold in the city street, malls, parks and office building facades. Some big companies put their Christmas display with a different theme every year, and become a very popular attraction during the Christmas season.

Just like anywhere in the world Christmas tree is not complete without the gifts beneath and around the tree with eager children waiting for their gifts to be open on Christmas morning.

Noche Buena
In the Philippines the much-anticipated Noche Buena - a traditional Christmas Eve feast is eaten after the midnight mass, usually Filipinos attend the Midnight Mass and then return home for a family feast called Noche Nuena,

Some family who don't go to church for some reasons,dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Noche Buena fare, but this varies from family to family.

Noche Buena is a very special occasion for Filipinos, they used their best china and silver ware and cooked their best recipe. Food that are usually serve depends on the specialty of the family but there is always something special serve.

The most popular are morcon, embutido, relyenong bangus, lumpia, pansit, and for those who can afford the "Lechon ( roasted pig)

There is always ham on the table but usually not eaten right away, it waits until morning when sliced and fried for breakfast accompanied with Pan de Americano ( also known as sliced bread).

Suman sa ibos or sumang Pasko ( glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves or coconut leaves) served with Halayang Ube and leche flan (egg custard) are the most popular dessert.

Noche Buena is a statement of the Filipino Family close ties, It is not only about food, it is a family tradition.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tanjay City Board Walk

Tanjay City Board walk is located in Mainit Beach, San Isidro . The boardwalk project is initiated by the late Gov. Emilio Macias II. It includes view decks at both ends and will be used soon as a jump off point for dolphin watching in the village.

Panay Jawili Falls

The Jawili Falls in Brgy. Jawili, Tarngalan are composed of 7 bassins. They invite to jump in the clear and fresh water.

Swim, splash and have fun. The nature around invites you to explore on a short walk. You may also do a short walk to the Jawili Blue Starfish Resort. This resort is rated as one of the best on Panay Island. You may get a refreshing drink, have a snack or simply walk on the beach.

How to get there:
From Kalibo it is a short ride of 25 to 30 minutes. The distance is some 27km. Take a bus or a jeepney to Tangalan. In Tangalan you have to change to a tricycle for Jawili.

The 7 bassins of the Jawili Falls

Mount Talinis, Dumaguete City

Mount Talinis is specifically located in the quiet town of Valencia in Negros Oriental. It rises 1864 meters above sea level and towers over the entire Negros Island. Reaching the summit opens up a spectacular view of the Southeastern portion of the province.

Mount Talinis is an extensive mountain range with verdant forests and ranges still covered with mossy slopes. On some hillsides, agricultural has been developed and other areas have been cleared for such purpose. There are a number of lakes found at its base, the most popular of which are the twin lakes of Balinsasayao. These two small crater lakes are separated by a narrow mountain ridge. Lake Yagumyum is another lake found at the foot of Mount Talinis.

For those who seeking the thrill of an adventure in natural surroundings, climbing Mount Talinis is a worthwhile experience. The hike itself brings you to lakes with clear and calm waters where one can actually swim and catch some fish like carp and tilapia while being surrounded by trees and rare fauna and flora. Many birds and other biodiversity that have been declared as threatened species have been sighted around the Mount Talinis area so if you’re lucky enough, you might catch sight of a rare Visayan Hornbill.

How to get to Mount Talinis
Getting to Mount Talinis would involve a whole day trip. There are organized tours and group treks available in travel agencies and most of the hotels in Dumaguete City therefore there should be no difficulty scheduling an excursion. Overnight stays in basic cottages near the mountain could be granted however provisions such as food, drinking water and equipment should be brought along. There are also camping grounds near Lake Yagumyum provided for trekkers where tents could be set up. Spending the night in the middle of nowhere hearing only strange bird calls and the gentle lapping of the lake’s waters may perhaps be your idea of a genuine exploration while communing with nature.

Bird's-eyeview of Dumaguete City from Mt. Talinis

Tucked deep in one of the crevices of Mt. Talinis' foot is this majestic
From the summit of Talinis 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Puraran Beach, Catanduanes

Here you can find the beach Puraran - it is considered one of the major surf destinations in the world listed. Like most beaches here, it has not been developed so that it is basically small makeshift huts, sand and amazing surf. Puraran beach is the surfing capital of Catanduanes, it has clean, white sand beach, it is also known internationally as Majestic. Barras beaches on the other side is not as white as the other beaches, but it's clean, clear water. Puraran Beach, Baras, Catanduanes province - one of my five secretaries Mela office said that his home province is one of the best kept secrets of tourism in the Philippines because of its world class venues and great surf white sand beaches. March to August are the best times to visit.

The general landscape of the island of Catanduanes is rolling and hilly, more and more towards the center. Less than 10 percent of the area has slopes of less than 8 per cent are mostly broken and narrow strip of lowland areas near the coast, where most residents are located. Once developed Tabaco you have three ferries to choose from, go to Catanduanes. San Andres to Virac you can move on a jeepney or tricycle to what you want. The ideal time to visit Catanduanes is from March to August, when the weather turns dry. It is rainy and cooler from October to January the warmest in the beginning, from March to May

To hear the waves crash was, the crickets sing, has filed a blanket of stars above, and surrounded by the lights of fireflies us. What is another word for it, other than magic? Siargao Iceland presents some interesting contrasts, its huge and powerful waves generated by the proximity of the deep Philippines, is a dream for surfers. When you visit the island, you'll undoubtedly see some of the best surfers in the world on the air to breath. The land of the first places for the waves were originally discovered by the international community while surfing.

Dicasalarin Cove, Baler

Dicasalarin Cove is a secluded white sand beach where the verdant Sierra Madre foothills meet the Pacific Ocean. Dark, thickly forested hills contrast with the striking white shoreline. There are no resorts, no facilities on this fine stretch of sand. A freshwater river, flowing from the mountains beyond, trickles out to the sea. Dicasalarin Cove?s stunning beauty and relative isolation certainly make it one of Baler?s best-kept secrets.

Though it is possible to take a short boat ride along Aurora?s rough coastal waters, hiking to Dicasalarin is the way to go. The adventure will entail passing through most of Baler?s barangays, climbing up to a hilltop weather station where the vistas are breathtaking, tramping through lush forests, scrambling across rocky shores and finally to the desolate beach where the beauty is as rough as the crashing waves of the Pacific.

How to get there:

As mentioned, one can charter a bangka from Sabang to take you to Dicasalarin Cove. The trip takes about 45 minutes, hugging the coastline of Baler. We were warned, however, that this could be a very rough ride considering the strong currents of the Pacific. Remember that Baler is a surfer?s destination, especially from October to February where the swells can reach 15 feet in height.

Hiking is a more worthwhile option. From Sabang Beach, walk or ride a tricycle southwards to the edge of the Pingit-Kinalapan River. Just ask for directions to Castillo. At the banks is a ferryboat, which locals call a badeo, which you need to take to cross the river to Castillo. It costs P2 per head and the ride takes 5 minutes. At Castillo you may wish to hike all the way to the jump-off to PAG-ASA hill or save your strength by hiring a trike for P25 per head. Ask the driver to take you to the base of the hill where the PAG-ASA station is located. You may also request him to come back for you at your designated time, also at the jump-off point.

The ride takes about 30 minutes and will pass by the sitios of Castillo, Cemento, and Digisit. The jump-off point is where the concrete road to the weather station ascends from the main road. Trikes can?t make it up this steep road so this will be where you should ask your driver to pick you up later.

40 minutes of uphill climbing along an alternating concrete-and-gravel road will lead you to the abandoned PAG-ASA weather radar station. You may wish to go to the back of the building and climb the water tower for a nice panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre mountains. Dicasalarin Cove is also already visible from this vantage point.

A few paces from the station?s gate is the downhill trail to the beach. It is unmarked so look carefully for it. The trail cuts an easy path down the slope of PAG-ASA hill, shaded from the sun by medium-sized trees. We later learned that this is an already established hunter?s trail (we even picked up a couple of snack and candy wrappers). The hike down to the beach will take about 20 or so minutes.

You will emerge from the forest into Dicasalarin Beach?s reef side. Here, black rocks and dead coral line the stretch leading to a rock wall jutting out of the mountainside. There is a trail up this wall, traversing it towards the white sand beach, but you may opt to walk by the shore. Be careful, as the path is unestablished and is dangerously sharp and rocky. Your trek will be more complicated if the tide is high. A bit of rock climbing will be necessary. Indeed, for those who crave for a little adventure, it will be a worthwhile trek.

And so you will reach the pristine white sands of Dicasalarin Cove. The waves are gentle and there is an abundance of possible campsites. You may wish to explore nearby shores or climb the hills that line the beach.

Mag-aso Falls in Antequera

The Mag-aso falls in the town of Antequera is one of the major attractions in Bohol, Philippines. Because it is not usually included in a day-tour package, the Mag-aso falls is not as popular as the other attractions in the island such as Loboc River, Tarsier and old churches such as Baclayon Church and Sto Nino Parish Church among others.

Comparable to Tinago Falls in Iligan, Mag-aso fall’s name comes from the word “aso”, which means smoke. This is because of the haze produced by the 25-feet cascading falls that looks like smoke.

Located in Barangay Can-omay, Mag-aso falls is about 20 kilometers from Tagbilaran City. It is about 30 minutes travel by private car or motorcycle from the city center.

For those who love adventure, one can go down to the bottom of the falls by enjoying the slippery descent and doing an exhilarating climb, going up, with the use of shrubs and stones as foothold. There are also vines and other plants that help the adventure-seeker in pulling himself up.

If you are the typical tourist, you can take the 197 steps going down. Along the way, you will need to rest for a while to relax yourself from the tiring descent. Going upstairs is exhausting and those who do not have a healthy body are advised not to go down because coming up is really a challenge. If you think you are not healthy, do not dare try going down because you will surely suffer from heart attack or at least faint along the way. The drawback is that you do not see the breathtaking view below.

The picturesque view of Mag-aso makes one appreciate the goodness of God and the beauty of nature. Carved under the cascading waters is a deep pool that encouraged tourists to swim. Advised to stay away from the waterfalls, many still enjoy the hard fall of the waterfalls, which gives one a free massage.

Many foreigners enjoy swimming in Mag-aso falls because of the natural beauty of the place. Many of them do not experience this kind of fun in their country and that is one of the reasons they love the Philippines because it has a lot of natural wonders.

There are concrete tables and chairs available to the tourists at a minimum fee. Lifejackets and lifesavers are for rent at P50.

Pulangbato Falls, Dumaguete City

Pulangbato Falls is located in the Ocoy Valley in the town of Valencia Negros Oriental. It is aptly named so because of the waterfall’s seemingly red river water which is caused by the presence of natural reddish rocks found in the area. Pula is the native word for red while bato, for rock. Thus, if interpreted, the name would be red rock.

Like many other waterfalls, swimming lagoons and pools in the town of Valencia, Pulangbato Falls is blessed with calm and refreshing waters. This is mainly because of Valencia’s geography – 60% of its land composition being hilly and mountainous – that the climatic temperature is always moderate to cool.

Pulangbato Falls has a wide cascade. The water pours down into a swimming hole that is also deep enough for high dives. Enthusiasts clamber up to a nearby rock that functions as a diving point and free fall into the water basin. The shape of Pulangbato Falls has been considered unique because of its layered structure. At the first tier, the cascade begins narrowly and widens progressively as it moves down the next levels. At a distance, the waterfalls look triangular in shape.

It is also the color of the water in Pulangbato Falls that makes it more special. It appears to be red but quickly turns clear once taken out from the river. It must be only a reflection of the red rock formations that make up most of the landscape. Surrounding the waterfall is thick foliage of wild plants and vegetation coupled with some trees. The ambience is rather calming in an unsophisticated kind of way because of the impression of being far from civilization.

Except for the presence of some makeshift huts and small stores selling light snacks and candies, Pulangbato Falls is otherwise a non-commercialized area which is good because the serenity is preserved. This can also prevent the inevitable effects of tourism like garbage and pollution.

How to get to Pulangbato Falls
Getting to Pulangbato Falls is just as easy as getting to all other destinations located in the town of Valencia. It is basically only a 20 minute ride from Dumaguete City and from the Valencia town proper, another 20 minutes or so followed by a short hike to the waterfalls. The easiest way is to get van rental services to bring you directly there. There are also guided tours to Pulangbato Falls that can be availed of, usually organized by travel agencies and hotels, which one can join especially if traveling alone.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Simala Shrine, Cebu

People from all walks of life come out in droves to Simala Shrine in Lindogon, Sibonga, not just to pray for divine intervention, give thanks for their blessings or revisit their faith but to see what is clearly an architectural wonder in Cebu south. It is built on the side of a hill with a design reminiscent of European cathedrals. The shrine, even though evidently under construction when I went there last May this year, is magnificence for the eye - just a perfect house for the Miraculous Mother Mary of Simala which is run by the Marian monks.

As you queue up to see the statue of the Miraculous, you get to read all over the bulletins overwhelming testimonials from people who have been cured or miraculously survived serious illnesses and those who have successfully hurdled (dreaded) national licensure examinations. Some of them left their crutches, wheelchairs and school nameplates. They are beyond grateful for having been given a second chance at life or for all the guidance leading to their victory. I was told, out of gratitude, many have donated generous amounts to the shrine. That in itself speaks volumes about strong faith.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kagusuan Beach, Siquijor Island

It is noted for its picturesque seascape and rock formation. It is situated below a cliff and accessible by a concrete staircase. This secluded and undeveloped beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling and overnight camping.

This is the favorite beaches in the island because of its exotic and intimate feel to it. And in some days, this beach is completely deserted.

Getting to this beach can be tricky since it doesn’t have any signboards on the road. Plus, you might also get lost so it’s better if you have a guide with you.

Niludhan Falls, Negros Island

The three steep plunging falls of Niludhan that merge into a powerful cascade after heavy rains. Located in Sitio Niludhad, Barangay Dawis in Bayawan City, this towering cascade is located near and visible from the main road.