Sunday, July 31, 2011

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

the house was already degrading, some rooms locked, holes on the wooden flooring and the sofa gone. this was the view of our ancestral house in the small village of Begang in the island of Basilan. left closed for almost five years now. the materials almost unrecoverable. a week ago, i had the chance to visit Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in the coastal town of Bagac Bataan. it holds a number of ancestral houses transferred from its original site, rebuilt to be part of a resort.walkways and main streets are made of cobblestones thus giving a nostalgic experience of the Philippines during the Spanish colonization. beautiful landscape of green and gray, fountains and lamp posts. out of the twenty plus houses, six of the houses has rooms open for overnight accommodations. among these houses, there are several stand-outs because of its unique architectural features and the historical value that it once had.
[1] Casa Escolta. the only structure built based on photos of the Old Escolta in Manila and not transferred from an original site. also the largest structure in the compound with 17 cozy rooms each with a balcony of its own.
[2] Casa Lubao. this among all the houses has a beautiful interior design with spacious living room and a nice balcony. two standing small figures welcomes the visitors. the ceilings used light colored paints as backdrops with some colorful fruits on some sides.
[3] Casa Luna. named after the Luna brothers General Antonio Luna and the artist Juan Luna. its ground floor is made up of red bricks and the rear stairs leads to a beautiful veranda. after one looks at the front and back side of the house, one would even think that these are two different houses. inside, it holds some of important items and the guide even revealed that there's a library in the building which is not open to the public yet. visitors are required to take off their foot wear when entering the rooms.[4] Casa Vyzantina. like Casa Escolta, this has three floors and is still under construction. one of the few structures that survived World War II also has large stairways. the covered balconies in the third floor are impressive. the view from the top can make one feel like he owns a whole hacienda.
[5] Casa Hidalgo. considered as one of the most beautiful house during the Spanish era. it soon became the first campus of the University of the Philippines for Architecture and Fine Arts. famous Filipino artists like Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino and Tomas Mapua also finished their studies for arts here.from outside, this building looks small but as one enters its doors, it leads to lined arcs. a small portion of the ground floor now serves as a venue where the celebration of the mass is celebrated on Sundays.[6] Casa Unisan. is a double house structure which has three dining areas and serves as the restaurant of the whole compound. with Cafe Miravent in the ground floor and special dining areas in the second floor. other houses includes Casa Baliuag I which has a beautiful lady pillar while Casa Baluiag II has its entire ground floor open. Casa Mexico which serves as the main lobby for the resort and Casa
the entire resort also has several fountains and statues representing typical Filipino games and symbolism. near the bay area is a swimming pool and on far North is a stone bridge leading to the beach side.
but in contrary, this reminded me of how valuable it would be to restore our own ancestral houses on its original site. it would be important for each province to hold and secure its own heritage houses, where it is still best to be visited and valued.
how to get there:
Take a bus from Manila to Bagac Bataan.
From town center, you can take a tricycle entering a small almost one way street to the resort. It will just be few minutes from the bus drop off point.

island: mainland Luzon
province: Bataan (Southwest)
gateway: Bagac

GPS location:

14^ 35" 60' N
120^ 23" 13' E

Friday, July 22, 2011

my seven links: a quick look back

it's twelve midnight now and i just finished packing my things for a trip this weekend. a last glimpse of some travel blogs before sleeping reminded me of the seven links project of Tripbase as tagged by Tina of Tina the Frustrated Traveler.

did this as quick as possible. given the short amount of time i have chosen the posts which first came into mind for each category.
Link[Most Beautiful Post] Vietnam's Cu Chi Tunnel.
Ho Chi Minh series is among my favorite series and i just realized that the whole series actually covered 15posts. the post on the impressive Cu Chi Tunnels led me to making a spot-by-spot feature with a trail map of the tour.

[Most Popular Post] Batad Rice Terraces
remains as one of my favorite spots in the Philippines. with this post i received a lot of inquiries and even requests of when i would be going again as they wanted to join. one of the photos was also used in a magazine.

[Most Controversial Post] A Stranger.
i dont seem to have a controversial post but this post could come close as traveling solo on a town whose people are not used to encountering a solo traveler. an experience that at once, almost led me to think twice of traveling alone again.

[Most Helpful Post] A Guide to Calaguas.
this group of islands has been a favorite for almost everyone who gets to visit the island. going there three times led me to make a guide to the island which included some of the rarely seen spots of the main island and the nearby islands. the guide also includes a island map with specific spots recommended for beach bums, photographers, underwater activities, and even volunteerism.

[A post whose success surprised me] Lake Mapanuepe.
not yet known to many that aside from the town of Bacolor in Pampanga that a village in barangay Aglao in Zambales was submerged and later formed a lake with the church topmost part being the only part visible from the village. it was just early this year when i went there with travel bloggers and friends Chyng and Ga-el. on;y when i posted it that i realized that very few have known of this place.

[The post you are most proud of] White Beach Malamawi Island
for several posts, i was waiting for the right time to feature the beach which i grew up visiting. it brings back my memories of the island which i first enjoyed exploring.

again thanks to
Tina for the tag.

since i noticed that most of the travel bloggers has done their own post on this. here to share instead a list of their seven links which i already read:

Tina [
Tina the Frustrated Traveler]
Chyng [
No Spam no Virus No Kiddin]
Nina [
Just Wandering]
Ed [SoloflightEd]
Gay [
Pinay Travel Junkie]
Mervs [Pinoy Adventurista]
Doi [
the Travelling Feet]

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

among mindanao's best blogs

i just recently got a copy of M Magazine which included Eskapo as one of Mindanao's Best Blogs as compiled by Ria Abella Jose of Life With Ria. the magazine features stories of Mindanao including travel destination of the Southern regions.
among my favorite feature in this issue is the "Journey to Taluksangay" that brings back to the town famous for its mosque built in 1885 and also being one of the oldest Islamic propagation in the country.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

encounter with the gentle giant - donsol

almost unbelievable that despite the technology for marine study has evolved for years, a lot of things about the whale sharks remains a mystery. it was just only 2years ago that the locals in Donsol Sorsogon in the Philippines first recorded a baby whale shark. National Geographic featured it in their article "Smallest Whale Shark Discovered".
it was the whale shark season again and we headed far South of Manila, where the largest number of these species in the Philippines are sighted every year. from February to May, the volume of planktons are enormous in the isolated village of Donsol. way back 2004, Time magazine named the Whale Shark interaction in the Philippines as the best destination for animal interaction.

as the years has passed, the volume of tourists both local and foreigners has increased. this lead the locals and WWF Philippines to develop a program to protect the sea giants and help sustain the locals to benefit from it. part of the program was the creation of the Donsol Tourist Center that established:
1. Video briefing for the do's and donts to maximize safe interaction
2. Limited number of boats allowed offshore
3. Limited number of boats allowed for a certain area of the whale sharks
4. Limited number of people per boat
5. Required wooden tool to protect the whale shark's tail from hitting the boats propellers.
after registration and video briefing, we were assigned to a boat, a guide, a boatman, and spotters. on peak season, one has to wait until the next boat returns. snorkeling gears and flippers are available for rent outside the center. sky turned darker and started to drizzle.
as soon as our group was called we went to our assigned boat, the guide gave the final orientation and some facts on the butanding, the local name of whale shark. our boat headed West and the spotters positioned on top of the boat's pillars.
after half an hour the sky was darker, still no sighting. we instead saw a group of dolphins off the shore to Masbate. after an hour, the whole group was still excited but the chance of seeing became less. at that time, i said "one sighting will be enough".
as the guide would always say, there's really no guarantee of seeing. the guide says that one factor that would cause the whale sharks to go deeper would be the dark skies as it signified rain and rough waters. we were also there in May, where the whale sharks were already migrating off the Pacific.
we went farther but still navigating along the nearby coast where the most number of sightings observed during that week. passed by some other boats, all with its own spotters showing no sign of giving up. we remained hopeful enjoying some of facts of the sharks from the guide.
until the time when all the boats went to the same direction. a sighting. finally! just as our guide directed us, we all positioned on one side waiting for the cue to jump. snorkeling gears and lifevest ready and as soon as the boat was in position the guide instructed "jump, follow me and look down".
water was blurry, no sign of what was supposed to be large and massive. suddenly a large and wide grayish fish passed about two meters below us. it was swimming gently so close that it seemed like it was already hitting the sea floor. we were actually just less than 20feet deep.
swam as quick and as far as i could to catch up with the whale shark. soon as it went off the blurry waters, found out that i was already far away from my group. had to swim back and find the boat assigned to us. the experience was amazing adding to the fact that we've waited for more then an hour.we then went ahead the direction of the whale and just while were still sharing our own experience, our guide shouted "position your self". we were to jump again for another encounter. the whale shark that we've seen was about 7meters, still a young one as sightings of adults were seen here reaching up to 10-12meters. after three encounters, we headed to another spot. this time, far off the coast in the East. we learned from our guide that whale sharks' top portion are the hardest part. used to protect it from its predator the great white shark. when we reached the spot, in just few minutes we saw the shade of another whale shark. it was surfacing that it was that clear even from the boat. we were in position again and this time, the whale shark passed by so close. just about two feet away that with a slight stretch of my arm i will actually touch its side but holding it was prohibited.

this one was really huge and the white spots were very visible. the fins, the tail, large. just as we went up, everyone was cheering. we did more jumps and ended up heading back the coast with three whale sightings and seven encounters. the experience was superb that i'll definitely be back next year.

just borrowed the video from Lenka in youtube.

how to get there:
by land: one can take a bus from Manila to Legazpi City in Albay (8hours) and take a van at the central van terminal to Donsol Sorsogon (1hour).
by air: there are daily flights from Manila to Legazpi City (1hour) and take the van to Donsol at the central van terminal of Legazpi.
when you reach Donsol, inform the van driver to drop you at the Donsol Tourist Center for the Whale Shark Interaction.

eskapo recommends:
1. sightings of whale sharks in Donsol are from February to May but the best time is February when the whale sharks are still in large volumes.
2. if you really want to catch up with the whales, you can rent fins but as caution, make sure that you don't hit the shark with these.
3. van trips to Legazpi are limited and has no schedule, so if possible arrange with the van drivers to wait for you giving them your estimated time of return which you can confirm from the tourist center.

escape factor:
accessibility: 3.5
coastal view: 3.5
tourist center system: 4.0
animal encounter: 5.0
overall: 4.0

island: mainland Luzon
province: Sorsogon
gateway: Legazpi City

GPS location:

12^ 54" 17' N
123^ 35" 44' E


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