Saturday, February 26, 2011

hokkaido - japan's northern island

when one says Hokkaido it meant cooler summer and icy winters in this Northern island of Japan. i was there in September, Japan's climate was in transition from summer to autumn. but temperature was already reaching 9 degrees Celsius. now it's reaching negative degrees.
like most of my trips, i woke up five in the morning to experience local life. only to find that there was almost no one walking outside the streets of Obihiro, like a dead city. sun was already out that early, but there were only few taxis moving around.
walked around the town center passing by empty parks and large lawns, a contrast to Tokyo's busy streets. Hokkaido's capital city is Sapporo, also the island's busiest area. the 1972 Winter Olympics was held there.Hokkaido, though far from Tokyo is also connected to the main island of Honshu through the Seikan Tunnel. thus, one has the option to travel by land and underwater crossing the Tsugaru strait. but what captured my attention the most was those white pine trees. at first look, it looked like its leaves were already covered with snow but not on a season where summer is just ending. i've never seen one before.
a closer look at the tree showed that its leaves are itself white. a pine tree, unique to certain countries that includes Japan. from January to February, almost the entire island of Hokkaido is under thick snow.outside downtown Obihiro, are wide flat areas of farms and majority of Hokkaido's land area are mountains including five active volcanoes. making it an island also known for Onsen, hot spring bath. something one should not miss when in Hokkaido.
how to get there:
by plane: take a domestic flight from any Japan airport to Tokachi-Obihiro Airport
by train: take the JR line from major Japan train station to JR Obihiro station with scenic views of the mountains of Hokkaido.


island: Hokkaido
prefecture: Tokachi

escape factor:
accessibility: 3.5
city walk: 3.5
parks: 4.0
climate: 5.0
overall escape factor: 4.0

GPS location:
42^ 52" 22' N
143^ 12" 20' E

Monday, February 21, 2011

in transit - haneda airport

on my last day in Tokyo, to continue with the Japan series, i have to fly to the Northern island of Hokkaido. this time, i have to fly from Haneda Airport as it holds majority of Japan's domestic flights in and out of Tokyo. it remains to be the fifth busiest airport in the world.
as one would enter Japan, Narita International Airport remains to be the major hub. this made many passengers thought that this was the closest airport to Tokyo, which is about an hour bus ride to central Tokyo area. but Haneda Airport, also known as Tokyo International Airport is within Tokyo's main area. just 20minutes by train to the central area.
this airport was first established in 1931 to serve international flights, damaged during the World War II and became Haneda Army air Base in 1945. only after 7years when the US partially gave back a part of the airport to Japan to resume international flights.currently it has three terminals with two terminals serving mostly domestic flights. the new terminal has in itself a hotel, Excel Hotel Tokyu, where i stayed while i was in Tokyo. but i had to transfer to terminal 1 by bus which was just around 5minutes from terminal 2.
being the fifth busiest airport in the world and the busiest airport in Japan, i expected long lines on the check-in area, but with its efficient system, checking-in was easy. kudos to Japan's impressive airport system.
my flight to Hokkaido was around 5:55pm and would took me about an hour and half. that meant i'll be arriving at the Obihiro Airport by night time. it meant, i'll just sleep the whole flight.

Monday, February 14, 2011

lake mapanuepe

if you thought that it was only the villages of Pampanga that was hardly hit by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991. it's time that we look at the other side of the Tri-Cabusilan mountain range, a village submerged with only the cross tower of a church visible from the new formed lake.
along with two of my favorite Pinay travel bloggers Chyng and Ga-el, we hopped on a bus to Zambales early morning to explore a lake spawned out of eruption and continuous heavy rains. beside the San Marcelino market was the jeepney terminal for the barangay of Aglao, the lake's jump off point."we stayed, even when the earth was shaking hard" says one local who was on top of the jeepney with us describing his experience of the eruption which happened 20years back. as i was talking to him, i can't help but take shots of the expansive lahar channel which we were cruising beside for most of the first half of the trip.when the jeep started to ascend the mountain range, road was already partly paved but the zigzag made the jeepney move slower. one of the locals asked where we will be staying for the night, we wondered as we were planning to take the last jeepney back on the same day. unknowingly that no jeepneys will be returning back to San Marcelino on a Sunday afternoon.but with the view of the lake from there, we proceeded believing we will find a ride back with our fingers crossed. jeepney dropped us on a road that led us down to the lake. the place was under broad day light at about 12:00nn but the silence and the serenity of the place made me feel like it was 12:00midnight.after some time, we found a boat man who to bring us to the submerged village which was far East of our location. the lake was big that it can actually cover a large town. with almost nothing left out of the village except for the church cross tower, who would have known that below the lake's water are houses.
when we reached the cross, we had the boat docked on it and walk our way on the lowest remaining portion of the tower. there was almost nothing to see underwater even at daylight. the idea of exploring the lake from that point by snorkeling didn't sound like a good idea. the other side of the lake was a flat area with pine trees growing and an enclosed area for carabao's can be found. it gave us another perspective of the lake, which was also our last stop. that reminded us that we need to get back to the nearest village to check for the best option to bring us back to San was already pass 2:00pm and we haven't had our lunch yet except for what was left of the chicharon that we've munched while on our way to Aglao. good enough that we met Ate Allen who has a mini store and agreed to cook rice, some canned meal and ready-to-cook noodles. we for the meantime, played Bingo along with the locals. playing to about 6 rounds with nine cards on each game didn't even made me win.
after that late lunch, Ate Allen suggested that we meet the town chief who might be able to help us get a ride back. walked our way uphill passing by houses built on tilted ground. at a covered court, we met the town chief who was welding on a Sunday. it was a surprise to see a town chief doing this kind of task. "it is better to do this as it is expensive to pay someone else to do it. it is was my previous job anyway" he says when i asked why he was doing it.
we were blessed enough that there was a contractor with a jeep, who agreed to bring us along through the help of the town chief, back to town on that afternoon. the original village of Aglao was not the submerged village but it was in the area down along the lahar channel which was completely covered and washed out according to the town chief.

but what surprised me the most was when we learned that this lake was simply known to be as "Ang Lawa" and it was only some foreigners who visited the site that gave the name Lake Mapanuepe. simply the reason why most of the locals seemed not to be familiar to Lake Mapanuepe but more on the lake with a cross. "it was a different experience to sail on a lake with a semi-clear vision of a submerged village. And never leave the without setting foot in the sunken church. you'll feel the creep and its mystery" Chyng shown on photo above.

Chyng's take on our trip to "Lake Mapanuepe - Sailed Through a Submerged Village"Ga-el's take on lake mapanuepe "Tale of the Lost Village"

thanks to Chyng and Ga-el (shown in photo above) for joining me on this trip. to the whole community of Aglao, Ate Allen and daughter Jam (for the hospitality) and the town chief sir Mario Tagapuen for assisting us on the transportation back. photo below was taken by Chyng.

this is eskapo's contribution to Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival this month on "Dark Tourism" as hosted by Ga-el of The Pinay Solo Backapacker.

how to get there:
option 1: take a bus bound for Iba Zambales (recommended: Victory Liner), tell the bus inspector to drop you off at San Marcelino market. (estimated time: 3hours)
option 2: take a bus bound for Olongapo (recommended: Victory Liner), then take another bus from the same terminal in Olangopa to Iba Zambales. tell the bus inspector to drop you off at San Marcelino market. (estimated time: 3hours)

from San Marcelino market, look for the jeepney going to Aglao. tell the jeepney driver to drop you at the jump-off point of the lake. (estimated time is 45minutes)

island: Luzon
province: Zambales
closest gateway: San Marcelino via Subic/Olongapo

escape factor:
accessibility: 3.5
mountain view: 4.5
lake view: 4.0
boat ride: 3.5
overall escape factor: 4.0

GPS location:
14^ 58" 52' N
120^ 17" 43' E

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

open pinatubo adventure

the off road vehicles were built for rough and tough roads and one can experience it best in Mt. Pinatubo's Capas route. matched with some of the nature's awesome display of earth formation out of destruction.on this fourth visit to Pinatubo's crater lake, it will include an outreach to the remaining Aeta community in the Pinatubo caldera. an open invite to all for a daytrip 4x4 and trekking experience on March 19, 2011. for details, email me at deadline of confirmation is March5.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

tumauini church isabela

an ornamented brick was interesting but a church made up of ornamented bricks led me to visit a town North of Isabela province or approximately 475kilometers from Manila. that meant long sleeping hours in the bus.
so we took the plane on our way to Tuguegarao with Palaui as our main destination but i decided to take the bus back to Manila to grab the chance of dropping by one of the beautiful landmarks of the province of Isabela, the church of St. Matias in town of Tumaini.
it is known for its unusual bell tower standing like a tiered wedding cake with hanging ornaments. its paint already diminishing, on its peak plants are growing. built during the time of Fr. Domingo Forto around 1783. declared as a National Historical Landmark by the government in 1989.
when i saw it from afar, this brick church doesn't surpass the many bricks of the church of Liliw in Laguna. but when i looked at its pillars and corners closely, that's when i found those ornamented bricks. truly impressive.
with the main door closed i assumed that i wasn't fortunate enough that time to see its interiors, but instinct says there's a way in somewhere. so i dropped by the church office and people said that the church is closed because it was damaged by typhoon Juan.

i remember that our flight to Tuguegarao was almost canceled as we were there just few days after the typhoon and some areas along the Cagayan river were still heavily damaged. the caretakers allowed me to get inside the church which was still at its devastated state. water was still dripping inside, kneelers moved and part of its roof a country like the Philippines, one knows that the churches are among those structures that withstood the many natural calamities. often re-structured, refurbished but retains as an abode to Christians whose faith are built on a Rock.
how to get there:
option 1: take a plane to Tuguegarao (one hour) from Manila. since Tumauini is located South of Tuguegarao, you have to take a bus (45minutes - one hour) that goes to Manila or Ilagan (Isabela province capital town). tell the bus driver or collector to drop you at the central town of Tumauini. then take a tricycle ride to the church which is just a short ride from the highway.

option 2: take a bus to Tuguegarao which will pass by the town of Tumauini.
tell the bus driver or collector to drop you at the central town of Tumauini. then take a tricycle ride to the church which is just a short ride from the highway.

island: Luzon
province: Isabela
closest gateway: Tuguegarao, Cagayan or Ilagan, Isabela

escape factor:
accessibility: 3.5
church structure: 4.0
church historical value: 4.0
overall escape factor: 4.0

GPS location:
17^ 16" 27' N
121^ 48" 27'


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