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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My El Nido Tours A and C vs Halong Bay Cruise



This is one of the many photos I got with karsts on it. 
The pristine beach, the fine white sand and the smiles of the tour guides 
will always be the feature of this tour.
This is from EL NIDO, Palawan, Philippines!

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This is one of the many karsts I photographed in Halong Bay, North of Vietnam.
 The monstrosity and the number of karts will amaze any traveller.

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I decided that my El Nido Trip vs Halong Bay Cruise are two different experiences. I encourage all Filipinos to take the El Nido trip as one can really appreciate the truest sense of the word archipelago when one gets to see the beaches and karsts there; it also made me prouder of our natural riches.

Friend Doc Judy Ann, a certified traveller and top-notch photographer, says, "One should see El Nido in his lifetime... Truly a wonder of nature... God's gift to mankind... I would want to visit El Nido again and again..."

Meanwhile, my multi-awarded photographer friend Bernadette says that "El Nido is heavenly!"

As for the Ha Long Bay tour we had last year (2012), it was more of the wonderment in the number of karsts (2,000 of them) and the joy of cruising at night too that made such experience unique.

I must add that the Filipino tour guides are all around and happy to serve while the tour guide we unluckily had in our Halong Bay Tour (who of course came from Hanoi) is such a snob and has no manners as genuine as the tour guides we experienced in Palawan. His name is SAM, and we call him SAMBAG because he is as sour as a tamarind.

More hails to our kababayans. I think I must dedicate a blog page on a tale about the all-around Palawan tour guides! <3 p="">

Friday, June 14, 2013

We loved SaPa Valley of Vietnam and this good cause...



Please like this Facebook page of SAPA BACKPACKERS. We met Peter Thuong in SaPa valley, north of vietnam last year in his SaPa Coffee Corner, a non-profit org dedicated to teach English to street children in Sapa Valley, where one source of livelihood there is tourism. They now have Sapa Backpackers and Peters Coffee Corner, a Non-Profit Organisation supporting Minority Kids with Food, Shelter and free English-Classes where children can now sleep and learn. Also they can accommodate (Page says at 3$ a night) tourists as well as volunteers. If you happen to go to Hanoi this year, make it a point to go to Sapa too!


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Here are some of our photos when we passed by Peter Coffee Corner in SaPa when we had our vacation last July 2012. We stopped by and were offered the Vietnamese Mountain Tea which is bitter but has a surprising nice taste.




My friend Bernadette sitting beside Peter. This makeshift coffee corner is facing the small classroom where minority children were taught basic English so they can communicate with tourists. Tourism is one source of income for the minorities in SaPa Valley.

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The colorful classroom. There is no Philippine Flag yet, so we added ours right away!

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The appointed painter! Hahahaha....

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One of the announcements posted on the wall.

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Mabuhay Philippines affixed in the wall of Sapa View Coffee... 
Please check out for me if this is still on the wall, and let me know!

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Palawan represents our archipelagic riches: My Puerto Princesa Travelogue* (Part III)



TWO DAYS IN PUERTO PRINCESA

We had a City Tour in Puerto Princesa and experienced the Firefly watching in Iwahig to cap the day. We started the tour in the Japanese-donated Crocodile Farming Institute, then headed to Rancho Zipline Adventure to inhale some farm air and have some pastoral view. From there, we headed to the Baker's Hill, a bakeshop popular for its Hopia. After grabbing some pasalubong, we had a quick round of the garden and had a good time there. After Baker's Hill, we went to two pasalubong centers.



From there, we went to Plaza Cuartel located just across the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and had the chance to get inside despite it was dark already. Thanks to the kind caretaker who also explained the marker to us. Plaza Cuartel is the site where American prisoners-of-war during WWII was burned by the Japanese. One survivor, made a sculpture immortalizing the pain and sorrow of the war experience.




After Plaza Cuartel, we went to quite-a-distant Iwahig Firefly Watching at Mangrove Eco-Tourism and Wildlife Park. We were treated to the wonders and beauty of the firefly christmas trees while navigating in the waters flanked by the mangroves. The guide is full of fun and not-so-fun facts on fireflies which entertained us during our 45-minute boat ride.


On our way home, we passed by the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm. The kind guard let us in but we did not venture any farther from the gate because it was dark anyway. We just had some photos outside. So our jam-packed day one ended.

The next day, we prepared for the underground river tour but since our schedule was in the afternoon, we made a side tour at the Ugong Rocks where after braving the cave and some rock climbing, I and my three senior citizen companions had our first zipline ride, all because we cannot imagine ourselves undergoing the same route in going down.

From there, we had our buffet lunch where I braved to try the popular seafood in Puerto Princesa called Tamilok, which is also known as shipworm, but technically, not a worm. It is an elongated mollusk that grows inside the dead trunk of a mangrove tree.

Then we headed to the registration center and wharf going to the Sabang where the Puerto Princesa Underground River is found. PPUR is promoted as a World Heritage Site and a natural wonder that features 8.2 kilometers of navigable Underground River, reputed to be the longest, that winds through the spectacular cave before emptying out to the South China Sea. Cathedral Chambers, wide hallways and interesting geological formations greet the wide-eyed visitor to the grotto hidden beneath the St. Paul Mountain.




Our smiles never end as we went home. The guides are well-trained to entertain us as we navigate the cool and sleep-inducing atmosphere of the cave. And yes, I must include here that I loved the smell of the bats there; I thought they smell like toasted sesame seeds.

AND SOME MEMORABLE STOPS

We stopped by the Linapacan Island on our way to El Nido from Coron and got a glimpse of the real island living. Also, on our way from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, we stopped by Taytay, another municipality in Palawan. We took memorable photos of the historical fort there called Kutang Santa Isabel. While in Puerto Princesa, the three of us experienced Zorbing for the first time, where each of us crawled inside a water-filled big ball and allowed ourselves to be rolled down the hill together with the ball while all of us experienced riding the ATV.


There are still many more water and outdoor activities to do in Palawan like scuba diving, camping out in an island, visiting the Batak or Tagbanua community or the vietnamese village. One just needs to have some planning, and an open and brave heart to enjoy them. If Team St. Lukes, Team Iloilo and Team Negros (which included three senior citizens) did it, you can, too!

Lastly, I assure you, no one left Palawan in travel lite, literally and figuratively.




St Luke's team: Marissa, Cooky and Sharon!

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The Negros Team: Nida, Gerlie, Roger and Julie!

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The Iloilo Team: Jo and Jess!

For more of my eats and trips, please visit beforesixdiet.blogspot.com and footandfire.blogspot.com.



*Published in June 4, 2013 issue of Sunstar - Bacolod  and at the Sunstar website: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/bacolod/lifestyle/2013/06/03/my-coron-el-nido-and-puerto-princesa-travelogue-285566

Friday, June 7, 2013

Palawan represents our archipelagic riches: My El Nido Travelogue* (Part II)



TWO DAYS IN EL NIDO

El Nido beachfront is inviting especially that we reached the place just before sunset. We swam just a little after sunset which starved us and sent us searching for a good dinner thereafter. We want to have dinner in the beachfront but it is full house and for a company of nine, we have to be waitlisted. We found a Thai-inspired resto that we chose because they can accomodate us right away and we seem to like the reggae band on the resto next door.


The discomfort of town's regular brown-out from 6 am to 2 pm and limited water supply which we woke up to in El Nido kicked our patience out. But once we started the tour and as we approached the karsts and the same got clearer and clearer, our memory of the discomfort also got blurry. We started the day with Tour A.


We rented the boat for P2,500 for the whole day, mask and snorkel (P75 each) and two kayaks (P700 each). We started the day with the secret lagoon, then the small and big lagoon which all feature the nature's wonder, the karsts.



Karst of all shapes and forms abound in El Nido and as defined in Wikipedia, it is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. It is characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems. Karst topography is a geological formation shaped by the dissolution of a layer or layers of soluble bedrock usually carbonate rock such as limestone, dolomite or gypsum, but has also been documented for weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions.


After feeding our eyes with the beauty of nature, we proceeded to then the zimisu beach for our lunch and capped the day in the 7 commando beach where we enjoyed a sunless swimming as it rained on our way to the said beach after the Zimisu beach but then the rain stopped in the middle of our way. We had a great time swimming and playing in the 7 Commando sand sans the sun. This last beach, so named according to our guide because of some military exercises done there before, serves for a fee cocktails but we opted to have fresh buko juice!


The next day, we took the Tour C and I recommend this tour in case one has only a day to enjoy El Nido. This tour gives one an overview of the giant karsts up close and personal as well as enjoy the white sand beach of El Nido. We started the day two with photo taking before the giant karst in Secret Beach which also has a small cave. Then, we went to the Matinloc Shrine where we had a nice time touring the abandoned hotel once maintained by a religious order and climbing the pointed karst. We then had our lunch at Talisay beach where we came to observe the fruit plating skills of tour guides. After lunch, we then headed to the Hidden Beach where we entered a small entrance in a big karst, only to be welcomed by a small beach inside. It was such a feat for a non-swimmer like me. After that, we capped the day in Helicopter Island which is also a white sand beach but we did not enjoy the waters much as it was windy and the big waves were smacking the rocks in the shore. This is a picturesque part of El Nido too.






*Published in June 4, 2013 issue of Sunstar - Bacolod  and at the Sunstar website: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/bacolod/lifestyle/2013/06/03/my-coron-el-nido-and-puerto-princesa-travelogue-285566

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Puerto Princesa City Tour: A visit to Plaza Cuartel, Iwahig Firefly and Iwahig Prison




Plaza Cuartel. Sa pook na ito na dating tanggulang militar noong ikalawang digmaang pandaigdig naganap ang pagsunong ng mga sundalong Hapon sa humigit kumulang 150 amerikanong bihag ng digma noong 14 Disyembre 1944. Ilang nakaligtas ay lumangoy sa dagat patungong Iwahig. Ang mga labi ng mga nasawi ay dinala at inilibing sa St Louis County sa isang pangkalahatang libingan sa Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri, Estados Unidos, 1952.

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Plaza Cuartel.

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Plaza Cuartel.

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The commemorative marker with the sculpture of Don Schloat, an American veteran 
and was once a POW in Palawan. 

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Valley Center artist Don Schloat is a World War II veteran who recently dedicated a memorial in the Philippines to 139 American POWs massacred by their Japanese captors Dec. 14, 1944. Prisoners at the camp, on the island of Palawan, were killed when the Japanese thought the island was being retaken by Allied forces.

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This blogger shall quote the article from the above link, entitled, Veteran won’t let massacre be forgotten: Memorial created at Philippines site.

VALLEY CENTER — Soon there will be no more witnesses to what occurred on the Philippine island of Palawan on Dec. 14, 1944, when Japanese captors massacred an estimated 139 Americans in one of the most horrific episodes of World War II.
But Don Schloat, a Valley Center artist and veteran who was a prisoner at the camp before the mass murder there, was the driving force behind a new memorial at the site of the killings. With the help of the municipal government of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, a permanent monument now graces a city park to honor the men who were slain on that day 65 years ago tomorrow.
The massacre has haunted Schloat, 88, for decades. Ten years ago, he completed a series of 77 paintings that depict the slaughter in abstract, impressionistic and realistic forms. It was a gruesome but cathartic enterprise. The paintings have been exhibited over the years in the San Diego area, and today all but one are on permanent display in Santa Fe, N.M.
Schloat said that by March, he had concluded that without his personal efforts, a memorial probably would never be built at the site of the massacre. He said he had thought about the need for a memorial in Puerto Princesa City for years.
“You would think the United States would have done it instead of a private individual, but they haven’t,” Schloat said last week. “I’ve been waiting for our government to do a monument, to do something, so they wouldn’t have died in anonymity.”
Schloat traveled to the Philippines a handful of times earlier this year, meeting with officials from the city government. He paid a local architect a few hundred dollars to design plans, and during a trip to Puerto Princesa City in September, the monument was finally built.
Schloat had originally planned to pay for the monument himself, but the mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Edward Hagedorn, used city funds to pay for the supplies and a crew to construct it.
The site of the massacre actually has had a small monument that displays the names of the handful of survivors — Schloat’s name is mistakenly included — but there had been no official memorial to those who were killed.
The new one is a simple obelisk with bronze faceplates that tells the story of what happened and bears the names of the men who died there. A bronze statue created by Schloat sits atop the memorial. It depicts a tortured male figure writhing in pain as flames rise from his feet.
Schloat had been an Army medic at Bataan before being imprisoned at Palawan early in the war. Nearly two years before the massacre, Schloat tried to escape but was quickly captured and sent to Bilibid, a POW camp in Manila.
He spent the rest of the war there, racked with dysentery, beriberi, pellagra and scurvy. He learned of the massacre after he was liberated Feb. 4, 1945.
Eugene Nielsen, now 94 and living in Ogden, Utah, was one of 11 survivors of the massacre. Captured after the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, Nielsen was sent to a prison camp at Cabanatuan, north of Manila, and then to Palawan. There, he and 300 other prisoners were forced to build an airfield in stifling heat. Random brutality was common on Palawan as the men crushed rock and coral to build the airfield.
By late 1944, half the men at Palawan had been transferred to other camps, leaving about 150 POWs.
In December, U.S. planes were attacking the island, dropping bombs on the uncompleted runway, Nielsen said.
About noon Dec. 14, shortly after two American P-38 fighters flew overhead, the Japanese guards yelled at the Americans to get into earthen air-raid shelters.
They immediately poured gasoline over the shelters, set them afire and tossed grenades inside. Men scrambled out only to be bayoneted to death, Nielsen said.
Nielsen, at one end of a shelter, struggled outside and in the mayhem hid in a pile of garbage for several hours before diving through a barbed-wire fence, over a cliff and into the ocean — getting shot several times as he escaped. He estimates he swam for eight miles before meeting up with Filipino guerrillas.
“I just couldn’t quite believe that people, that any human, could be like that,” Nielsen said last week of the brutality of his captors.
Today, the monument represents not only a part of American history, but Philippine history as well, Schloat said.
“The monument tells the story of what happened there, and that will go on for generations, as long as granite and bronze lasts,” he said.


Bruce Lieberman: (760) 476-8205; bruce.lieberman@uniontrib.com


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Palawan represents our archipelagic riches: My Coron Travelogue* (Part I)



     After my Palawan vacation together with my parents, cousin and friends, I decided that it is indeed the ultimate destination that represents our archipelagic riches, with her string of islands, fine white sand stretches of beaches, giant karsts, cool caves, different corals, colorful fishes, lush mangroves, and infinite series of blue waters. Added to that riches is our signature Filipino smile which can easily be found everywhere in Palawan, from the tour guides, the boatmen and often, the Visayan-speaking pedestrians.



Our day started with a meeting at the airport. My cousin Cooky with her two friends Sharon and Marissa emerged in the airport fresh from their respective hectic nursing duty at St. Luke's Medical Center, and two more friends of hers, Jo and Jess, a mother and daughter tandem, came from Iloilo City while I and my parents and family friend Nida, came in the airport in travel lite mode. And the fun began!

TWO DAYS IN CORON TOWN AND CORON ISLAND




We were so enamored with Coron Town in Busuanga. The little town perches the Maquinit Hot Spring, the 700-steps Tapyas Mountain, the wet market filled with fresh catches, cashew nuts and some dried fishes as well as the wharf for boats plying different destinations, including the Coron Island loop.



On our first day tour, our first stop was Siete Pecados, a site teeming with fishes and corals. It was such a lucky day for us as when we stopped by, there are no other tourist boats so that we were spared of hurried snorkeling and swimming. We also enjoyed feeding the fishes.

After Siete Pecados, we went to the most picturesque part of the Coron Island Loop, Kayangan Island. We went up the rocky and hilly Kayangan Island then stopped midway to visit a cave and to take breathtaking shots of the most popular Karst of Coron Island. From there, we descended the rocky cliff and trailed the steps along the Kayangan Lake. We sampled the bracky waters of the lack and swam towards the small cave. There are majority of non-swimmers but the invitation to to swim (with the assurance of the life vest and our guides) is irresistible. We swam along the stick fishes which abounds the lake.



We had lunch at Banol Beach then went to Skeleton Wreck to snorkel and observe the most visible wreck in Coron Island (there are a lot of them!) and feed some hungry and not-so hungry fishes and capped the day with a swim to the Twin Lagoon where one has to pass by a crevice that serves as entry to the other lagoon.

After some rest, the group headed to Mt. Tapyas after almost climbing the 700 steps. The cross on top of the mountain can be seen from the shore and all around the town. When one is already on top, one can see  the bird's eye view of the town, the islands and the waters plus the breathtaking sunset!


*Published in June 4, 2013 issue of Sunstar - Bacolod  and at the Sunstar website: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/bacolod/lifestyle/2013/06/03/my-coron-el-nido-and-puerto-princesa-travelogue-285566


Sunday, June 2, 2013

The charm inside 'The Ruins' of the Braga-Lacson Mansion



An old photo of the mansion-in-the-making.
The ruins of the mansion of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson was built in loving memory of his deceased wife Maria Braga after her death in 1911. The mansion of Italianate architecture was designed to be a monument of their enduring love affair. In the eve of WW II in 1942, the mansion was torched by the guerilla fighters and was burning for 3 days, leaving behind reminders of a glorious past.

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The couple, Don Mariano Lacson and Maria Braga.

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