Friday, July 31, 2009

Malacanang Kalayaan Hall - Palace Museum

our guide Ivan started discussing the Philippines before the Spanish colonial period when the presidential person approached and informed us that her excellency, the presidnet will drop by to see us.it was unexpected since Ivan's usual trip doesn't include the meeting of the president. but it was a privilege for us to see her there. it was my second time to meet her as the first one was at the Mansion in Baguio city. we didn't had the chance to take a photo shoot with her but seeing her made this tour even more special.we then entered the first hall which holds paintings and articles during the Spanish colonial period. Ivan through his stories brought us back when Chinese traders refers to the islands as Luzong. until the conquistadors arrived as led by Ferdinand Magellan.the construction of the Malacanang as a vacation house of the Spanish governor general shows how small Manila was at that time. it was when the walled city was called Intramuros while the area outside is called Extramuros.then came the end of the Spanish reign through the mock battle between the Americans. who then came over the Philippines and considered it as their new archipelagic possesion. the Japanese then came in during the world war II and destroyed major building structures. except for the Malacanang complex which was by that time partly secluded.the battle against the Japanese soldiers ended bloodily around the archipelago leaving thousands of Filipinos, Americans and Japanese dead. the Filipinos regained government but this time dependent from the Americans in order to recover from war. the Malacanang by that time was already used by the head of the state as its residence and office.the Filipinos gained full independence when the Americans finally gave way. yet the country continued to face the challenges which included the Marcos reign. where the country encountered one of the most significant fight against his dictatorship.
each hall has its story of which the Quezon hall retained the very chair and office which former president Marcos used. definitely one of the most beautiful room in this building.other rooms includes items of the different presidents who occupied the palace. from paintings to historical statues of people who are significant to the country's political timeline.but the largestl and most elegant hall in the second floor has a long center table of historical books and items. on each side stands wooden cabinets of piled books and effigies of the head of states from General Emilio Aguinaldo to the current president.today, the entire building of the Kalayaan hall is considered as the palace museum. what used to hold Imelda's collection of shoes is now a gallery of the presidents. the revolutionary flags that evolved throught the battle of the Katipuneros can also be seen in this hall.the tour was one great experience to see how the political system in the country evolved from the historical background as presented by Ivan. it became more interesting because we get to see some of the most significant items, visit the halls, where the head of the states roam, along with our uber witty tour guide Ivan.for tour arrangements with Ivan Man Dy, visit Old Manila Walks website. up next is the final stop of this tour for a fine dine merienda.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the Malacanang

a large lawn and a white painted building came into sight after we've undergone the standard inspection to the current executive residence of the Philippine president. originally built in the early 19th century by the Spanish conquistadors as a summer home located within the San Miguel compound beside Pasig river. during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, the central political structure was in Intramuros and the Malacanang was then just a vacation house.in the history of the Philippines' several leaders from the Spanish colonial period to the American occupation of the country has resided in this structure. what used to be a vacation house now expanded and has been the country's presidential residence and office.it got its name from the phrase "there is a noble man there" or in the Philippine language would be "may lakan diyan". our guide Ivan of Manila Old Walks mentioned that Malacanang refers to the whole complex ground and its structures while Malacanan refers to the executive building residence building.today, the whole Malacanang complex is composed of the major structures' Bonifacio hall, Kalayaan Hall, Mabini hall and the new executive buidling. the buildings has concrete walls with wooden doors and capiz windows.in this tour, we only focused on the Kalayaan Hall which holds some of the most historical items of the country under the many head of states who held office in this complex.up next is a historical tour within the Kalayaan Hall or the Freedom hall.

Monday, July 27, 2009

an invitation

it was when i was 10years old when i missed a tour to the country's strongest political structure, the Malacanang palace. it was because a day before the trip, my parents found out that i was infected by chicken pox. ever since, i only see it from outside the gate when i drop by the church of Saint Jude.but not until two weeks ago, when i received an email inviting me for a tour by the streetwalker and uber witty tour guide Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks. along with other travel bloggers byahilo, ironwulf, lagalog, lawstude and nina plus other balikbayans, travelers and foreign tourists.it was a privilege to have met Ivan and took part of this tour invite. he's also famous for touring Anthony Bourdain on a food trip in Binondo for the international culinary and cultural adventure program No Reservations.up next comes a series of posts of the Power Palace and a shot of Beer tour. that may lead you to wondering if we get the chance to see the president.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Philippines in International Travel Magazines

i'm off for a busy weekend again, so i wont be online but i got some really good news for the Philippines. one is it is featured on the latest issue of the travel magazine Get Lost. if you still remember, my letter to the editor was published in the previous issue. this time they featured Kalibo's Ati-atihan Festival as grand in style that goes with energy and passion. then Cebu was ranked 4th in the latest set of awards given by the travel magazine Travel and Leisure US edition in the best islands of Asia category after the islands of Bali, Maldives and Phuket.

wishing everyone a great weekend! expect new travel posts in the coming week.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

my seven wonders of nature

planet Earth is itself a great wonder! the campaign to declare the planet's Seven Wonders of Nature is on its final stage of choosing the seven from the 28 finalist that qualified the previous list of 77.

i already voted and here are my seven after reviewing all the 28 and made a brief read from wikipedia. (in no particular order)

[Puerto Princessa Underground River]
known as the world's longest underground river. a length of 8.2kilometers transporting visitors to giant chambers of stalactites and stalagmites. great limestone karst dominates this winding river on the Philippine's last frontier, the island of Palawan. it has some of the most important forests in Asia gaining 8 out of 13 types of forest in Asia.


[Angels Falls]
the world's highest waterfalls with a height of 979meters. a visit to this magnificent waterfalls located in Venezuela takes an experienced trekker. i first learned about this through BBC's Planet Earth collection. but did you know that it's even higher than the present tallest building in the world? Burj Dubai stands 818meters.


[Great Barrier Reef]
divided into 70 bio-regions off the coast of Australia is the world's largest coral reef system. home to the many sea species that adapts its rich underwater environment. built by billions of coral polyphs that vastly expands like into a wall-like formation. it is visible from outer space.


[Amazon River]
being the largest river in the world that crosses seven countries of South America that includes Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. it also has more than one third of all species in the world.


[Jeita Grotto]
amazed by caves, i included this underground cave system in Lebanon. it has a total estimated length of 9kilometers. it is composed of the upper and the lower cave of which the lower cave is an underground river of about 6,200kilometers. it is home to the world's largest stalactite in a chamber with 120meters in height.


[Grand Canyon]
a cut of layers and layers of rock believed to have been formed in a six million year period. home to the Native Americans and is a popular setting for movies. the intricate beauty of how nature formed this 447kilometer-long canyon makes it stand out.


[Galapagos islands]
one of the most diverse archipelago that holds to a great number of endemic species. popular to many as Darwin's studying site of his research on the theory of evolution. iguanas, tortoise, penguins and albatross inhabits the 19 islands and about 107 rocks and islets.


definitely each of the finalists has its own prime factor of taking the spot to be included in the Seven Wonders of Nature. but we're all given the chance to take part in this campaign so let's take part. vote now and share your own list now.

here's a link that leads to a more detailed information of each finalist in wikipedia.

take note of the following criteria:
  1. Unique beauty of the nominated site
  2. Diversity and distribution
  3. Ecological significance (in terms of either stand-alone eco-systems and/or their significance for human beings)
  4. Historical legacy (relation that human beings and/or indigenous populations have or have had with the site)
  5. Geo-location (even distribution of the 28 Official Finalists between all continents)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Manila's Chaotic Charm - CNN Travel Feature

upon browsing the CNN website, i got the chance to check the travel section and found out that it featured Manila. it featured the walled city of Intramuros, green spot Rizal Park, the shoe capital of Marikina, and the restaurant and bars of Makati.check out the article on the exciting Manila's Chaotic Charm. update on the photos of Pangasinan, good news is my friend kept a copy of my photos of Tondol but it may take some time for me to get it. hopefully within the week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

an unfortunate yet still hopeful night

just tonight when i was about to make my post on the Pangasinan series, i learned that the DVD where i transferred the photos is corrupted! what remained was the three photos that i saved in my laptop.my friend has a copy of this photos but i'm not sure if he still kept the photos. fingers crossed! i am for the meantime posting these photos taken in Tondol by Erik.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

eskapo's pangasinan series

not even the unpredictable weather forecast stopped us from a trip to one of Pangasinan's best beach destination. in this series eskapo features the beach of Tondol and the nearby town of Bolinao.

Monday, July 13, 2009

club manila east surfing

standing in a board over a breaking wave was something i've been so excited for quite some time now. until i learned about the program of the Philippine Surfing Academy program being conducted just few kilometers away from the metro.
many thought that one can only learn the basics of surfing through the waves of Siargao, Catanduanes, La Union, Quezon and Samar. not until Club Manila East in Taytay Rizal partnered with the Philippine Surfing Academy to establish basic surfing sessions just minutes away from the city.i visited this resort twice this summer and with all the good facilities a trip there will be great. it has giant pools, lazy river, pools artificial waves, slides and even kayaking.a wide parking lot, a foodcourt and some cottages are also available in the resort's big area. villas are also avilable for those who wanted to stay there for an overnight.but what's new is the establishment of the surfing lessons conducted here by some of the surfing experts. through the big waves created by the beach waves pool and the ocean waves pool, one can learn the basics of surfing.surfing today is becoming one of the growing water activity in the Philippines. through the influence of the foreign surfers visiting the country, more locals learned and even mastered what it is to get stoked by the waves.one of the best way to learn it is through the artificial waves of Club Manila East. i had my chance and took the basic lesson last summer. we were five in that batch and we had with us coach Ejay. he gave us a brief background of what surfing is about and what it requires. he also explained the advantage of taking lessons in an artificial pool which includes the use of a special board made for training, the danger of hitting rocks and corals in the shoreline, the lesser chance of getting drowned because of the pool's limited depth and the waves that comes every 2seconds. among the first lessons were how to carry the board, how to stand on it, where to hold, and how to balance.after the brief lesson, we were immediately brought to the pools waves to get the mood of being on top of the board with the waves. he guided us by pushing us with the board which exerts force to the board along with the waves. this gives us enough speed and force to stay on top and gain balance. it was'nt that easy but with the determination to do it and with the waves coming consistently, one can really grab the feel of being on top of the board.my purpose of doing it here was just to experience of riding with the waves. i enjoyed it and what more when i get to try it over the waves of the Philippines renowned surfing sites. you can also try the several basic lessons conducted in La Union. the blog Let's Go Sago offers a basic training on August 15-16.

Friday, July 10, 2009

when one shares the experience

the experience of roaming will always be memorable even without the magnificent mountain views or the luxurious and cozy rooms. many enjoy going out as a bunch of noisy excited barkada while others prefer the solo backpack style. just a week ago, you shared your most memorable road trips and ROAM team has decided! here comes the three winning entries."with my travel buddies, i had one of the best road trip. we roam the whole laguna for 3 days. considering we dont have a car. as in commute galore. we started at the rizal side of laguna using the zigzag road of rizal. we went down to siniloan then pakil which i can say is the most rustic places of laguna. had an stopover at paete, the most beautiful community ive ever seen in terms of heritage sites. had over night at pagsanjan. then to liliw and majayjay, where we had an overnight. the chill of majayjay was so awesome. then off to heritage site of laguna the famy and victoria then to LB where we savor the hot spring of the places then go home... too bad we miss the san pablo lakes." - bryz25

"My most memorable road trip was in Quezon province. It was an extreme adventure since the road was rough and rocky for a jeepney topload ride. I can just imagine now how adventurous I was in my younger years, unmindful of any danger in our trip. Some folks warned us also that some bandits were hiding in a nearby mountain. But we dared because our mind were set to see the beach and we proceeded then to Cagsiay. And what a breathtaking moment when we finally reached the destination. It was all worthy to have faced the challenges in getting there, to have witnessed such wonderful island, untouched and unexploited." - nuts

"mahapdi na ang mga mata ko habang nakasakay sa bangka kasama ang apat pang kaibigan. galing kami sa isla ng anawangin. nakatitig ako sa papalubog na araw, sa nagkalat na ulap na kulay dugo, at ang pagtalsik ng tubig ang pawang nagpapalamig sa katawan ko. gandang ganda ako sa haring araw na nais ng matulog, at bigla bigla ay may tumalon na isang dolphin.
kung pumikit ako ng oras na iyon, siguro magsisisi ako buong buhay ko." - ax

congratulations to the three of you and please email me at i.dongho@gmail.com for your copy of ROAM Magazine second issue. thank you to all those who shared which are for sure as memorable. thank you to the staff of ROAM magazine and October Eighty Productions.ROAM Magazine is now available on all leading bookstores and magazine shops.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

my most memorable road trips (second set)

like on my first set of my most memorable road trips, it took me a hard time looking back to those experience of just going out exploring the country's popular and some not-so-known yet worth seeing spots. but with this list, i was able to determine some of the most notable road experience that i took. so here goes the final set of my own experience of what it is to travel along the Philippines road system.[12] Manila to Alaminos and around (5hours). it was during the Lenten season that we decided to drive our way to Alaminos to go to the Hundred islands. we didn't know the shortcut so we took the way via Urdaneta and turned left to Dagupan. we stayed at the nearby Pugaro island. to go to the island, you have to cross a small bridge. it means you'll have to take a longer route but most of the locals there takes a boat trip instead from Dagupan port to this island. the island has a wide shoreline but with grey sand. then the next day we went on a road trip around the nearby towns of Manaoag, San Fabian, Sual, Mabini, Labrador and Lingayen and a visit to the hundred islands. to think it was just our first time there.
what to see:
nice mountain view in the areas of Sual and some scenic shoreline views.
what to expect:
stopover on food restos along the road. look for the Hitoan just within Dagupan. we ended up bringing home 5 of these grilled hito. so it's not just bangus that's really good there. road trip view: 3.5
road trip experience:
4.0
eskapo rate:
7.5 [11] Tagaytay to Taal (2hours). after a day at the Tagaytay highlands we found out that we still have enough time for an afternoon road trip so we drove our way down to the town of Taal. one of our companion has relatives there and lucky that it was the town's fiesta. excellent mountain views on this roadtrip. we dropped by the old but beautiful Taal church. late afternoon, the skies turned really dark and on our way back going uphill to Tagaytay, it rained so hard. surrounded by fog we cannot see the road ahead. so we were driving slow and the road was only revealed everytime there was lightning. this is one of my most dangerous road trip.
what to see:
excellent green lush mountain view, Taal crater lake, Taal church and a number of ancestral houses.
what to expect:
zigzag road, if you'll take a jeepney ride, make sure that you take the front seat or else you'll miss the great view. so it's still best if you bring a car and drive your way down.
road trip view: 4.0
road trip experience:
3.5
eskapo rate:
7.5[10] Manila Daet to Legazpi (13hours). many have taken this route but usually by bus. on our first trip to Bicol, we decided to drive our way there for us to be able to make stopovers. among the best spots of the road trip is the Gumaca coastal road just few kilometers away from Lucena. from there, you have two options, whether to take the road passing the town of Daet or the town of Tangkawayan. we took the former which passes the famous Bitukang Manok road, that goes zigzag downhill. when we reached the Bicol region, it was all mountains this time and the best part was the thrill of seeing the majestic Mt. Mayon.
what to see: typical provincial towns, Gumaca's coastal road, Mt. Isarog, Mt. Iriga and Mt. Mayon.
what to expect:
a tiring experience for the one who's driving but a few stops will help. don't worry because those stops gave us some great sights of Bicol's beautiful mountains.
road trip view: 3.5
road trip experience: 4.5
eskapo rate: 8.0
[9] Cabanatuan to Bayombong (4hours). a sleepless trip to Cabanatuan where we met with travel buddy lawstude. we just had quick breakfast around 4:30am and immediately left for an even longer trip up North. when we started the way up the Sierra Madre mountain range, it was all fog. we made our way up the Dalton Pass while it was drizzling but it didn't stop us from taking photos and climbing the hilly monument. good that we had our vehicle filled with food, thanks to ever-ready lawstude. the rain came and ruined our plans of visiting waterfalls but the stunning Sierra Madre's scenic mountain range complemented it.
what to see: Dalton Pass memorial, Region 2 welcome arc, great mountain view.
what to expect:
an uphill drive. i recommend that you take an experienced driver with you because there are areas which has zigzag road and are at times foggy.
road trip view:
4.0
road trip experience:4.0
eskapo rate:
8.0[8] Sta Fe to Bantayan (1hour). this must be one of the shortest road trip i had. but it was when i had the chance to rent a motorbike and drive around that made this a great road trip experience. since i really wanted to visit the Bantayan town church, which was about 30minutes away from our resort in Sta Fe, i drove my way to the town center. town is still rustic and so quiet even at mid day. since there was not much to see along the highway, i took some short stops on some of the inner roadways and found great views of the beach.
what to see:
the old church of Bantayan island, unbusy town and great beach views when you take some inner roadways.
what to expect: you'll pass by some big chicken poultries and expect the smell of chicken dungs. it is because Bantayan island is the largest producer of eggs in the Visayas. but the road is in good condition.
road trip view:
3.5
road trip experience: 4.5
eskapo rate:
8.0[7] Dau to Pinatubo drop off (2hours). i've been to Pinatubo twice taking two different paths. one was the old regular route way back 2006 and just this year the skyway route. the first time i had this trip, i was awed by the myriad of what used to be lahar's canal which is now a deserted space. our 4x4s were racing, wherein the one who lags gets all the dust from the leading 4x4. of course our 4x4 won! we stayed overnight at the crater and the next day we did race again this time to the nearby lake on the Northern side of Capas. it was an excellent adventure!
what to see: great mountainscape, expanse desert, remains of the Mt. Pinatubo's rage.
what to expect:
for trekkers, the old route will be great but for those who just wanted to see the crater, the skyway will be a good choice. during sunny days, expect a dusty road trip. we don't recommend you to visit it during rainy season.
road trip view:
4.0
road trip experience:
4.0
eskapo rate:
8.0[6] Marinduque and around (3hours). i was expecting my first top load jeepney ride to be in the Cordilleras but not when we had our chance in Marinduque. we arrived in the island around 2:30am with an overloaded RORO trip, due to the Moriones Festival and the holidays, passengers immediately rushed to the first jeepney. in minutes it was full that led us to the option of taking the next jeepney instead. but we noticed that the jeepney has a top load area, and so we asked if riding on top of the jeepney was allowed. the driver agreed, so travel buddy Nadz and i climbed up. it was only the two of us there enjoying the fresh breeze. but what we did not expected was the great coastal view of the island. we really recommend that you take the Dalahican to Balanacan boat trip when you go to the town of Boac in Marinduque. that's for you, not to miss this excellent scenic view.
what to see:
great coastal view from the mountain's highway, small Moriones monument and old ancestral houses of Boac.
what to expect: zigzag road that goes uphill and downhill when it reaches the town of Boac.
road trip view:
4.0

road trip experience:
4.0

eskapo rate:
8.0
[5] Malamawi island and around (1hour). this might be one of the most dangerous road trip but still it was worth the trip. this island in Basilan has one of the nicest beach in the country. riding on top of a truck running fast over unpaved road was fun. during the whole trip i was standing looking at the hilly view of the island. one must jus avoid trees as it can hit you. the closer you are to the beach, the more sand you can see along the road. what's great is the path approaching the beach has a great way of slowly revealing what is to be a very beautiful beach. one can choose to take a banca from Basilan island to this beach but the road trip experience is a great experience.
what to see:
view of the island's hills, expanding mangroves and a lot of stilt houses.
what to expect:
rough road and it can be very dusty during summer. you need to coordinate with the local tourism office to assure your security while you're in the island.
road trip view:
4.0
road trip experience:
4.0
eskapo rate: 8.0[4] Cabanatuan to Dingalan (2hours). a gloomy day didn't stop our pursuit to explore the off-the-beaten-path town of Dingalan. this was the second part of my trip with lawstude after the Bayombong road trip. we were welcomed by Sierra Madre's mountains in Laur covered with fog and really big hills on both side of the road. hills as beautiful as the Chocolate hills in Bohol but maybe five times its size. this was the trip that we've made so many stopover including a stop at raging river. but most excellent mountain view was when we reached Dingalan. the two groups of hills seems like guarding this small coastal town.
what to see:
excellent mountain range, the hills and the coast meets revealing a stunning road trip view.
what to expect:
the place is unpopular yet the road is really in good condition. so if you plan to drive your way there, it won't be a problem. i don't recommend you to commute because you'll miss a lot of the great scenic sights.
road trip view:
4.5
road trip experience:
4.0
eskapo rate:
8.5[3] Bacolod to Don Salvador (3hours). it was my father who recommended me this route but on the day that i was set to visit the town of Don Salvador Benedicto, it rained hard. so i cancelled the trip. the next day, sun came out and immediately rushed to the bus terminal and took a bus that goes to San Carlos. it almost has the same route that goes to Mambucal except that it turns left on one part revealing the giant Mt. Kanlaon. midway, the mountain view became even more rewarding and as we entered the town of Don Salvador, a kilometer-long highway of pine trees lined up along the road came into view. upon reaching the town, i rented a motorbike and paid somebody to drive since i'm not familiar to the different viewing sites of the waterfalls, rice terraces and great mountainscape.
what to see:
waterfalls, rice terraces and great mountainscape.
what to expect:
zigzag road that goes up and down on many parts giving an excellent mountain view. watch out for the really weird roof of the tricycles in the town of Murcia. road is at good condition.
road trip view:
4.5
road trip experience: 4.0
eskapo rate:
8.5 [2] Sibuyan island around (1hour). not so known to many but not to mountaineers as this island is the home to one of the country's most challenging mountain trail, Mt. Guiting-Guiting. it has some of the beautiful untouched beaches. but i was not there to climb but it was because one my uncle lives there. so we stayed there for two weeks doing a lot of roadtrips. the roads were still unpaved, no electricity that made the people dependent on generators. most of the time we took our bikes to get to nearby areas and occasionally roamed around the island driving motorcycles. this island has a lot of the untouched waterfalls, densed forests and even nice beaches. that was way back the late 90s.
what to see: the Mt. Guiting Guiting National Park that covers a large area of less explored forests and waterfalls.
what to expect: some areas are still undeveloped but jeepneys are now available for trips around the island.
road trip view:
4.5
road trip experience: 4.0
eskapo rate:
8.5 [1] Baguio to Sagada (6hours). what used to be known as the torturous Halsema Highway is the country's most beautiful mountain highway. awesome mountain views vary during the six-hour trip from Baguio to Sagada. the many rice terraces along the way combines the great wonders of nature and human ingenuity. a climate suited for this road trip that always set a travelers road trip experience in awe. if you sleep along the way, you'll miss a lot. it was a time when i realized that an airconditioned bus is unnecessary for this trip.
what to see:
the great Cordillera mountain range, Chico river, rice terraces in all forms and
what to expect:
on most occasions a foggy roadway, traveling beside steep and deep ravines. some parts road is still under repair but so minimal.
road trip view:
5.0
road trip experience:
4.5
eskapo rate:
9.5 making this list reminded me that we have a country to live and to love. if you thought that i've already explored the whole country, i say not yet. there's just too many to explore in this archipelago for a lifetime. so where's your next road trip?

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