Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zamboanga: Asia's Latin City

More than the Spanish touch of the Chavacano tongue, there are some things that make Asian’s Latin City one of the best attractions in the Philippines. Zamboanga City is known as "Asia's Latin City". And indeed, this highly urbanized city in the south-western part of the Philippines offers other interesting facets beyond its rich heritage and culture. 

An itinerary in Zamboanga wouldn’t be complete without visiting the different attractions in the city proper as well as going to Pasonanca where one can visit parks and climbed a hill to have a good view of the city. 

Latin or Filipino Touch?

These days, tourists will be glad to know that Vinta Sailing is offered at
Paseo del Mar during weekends. The boats docked there are managed by
fishermen who, after heading out to sea in the morning for the day’s catch,
unfurl the colorful sails on their boats and, weather and wind conditions
permitting, offer rides around the area.

Baby Comes with Mommy to Work

Barako Ice Cream to Keep the Conservation Going on a Late Night
(Country Chicken)

The food most associated with Zamboanga City is curacha, coconut crabs that
can only be found in the deep waters of Zamboanga. The dish is served at
the Alavar Seafood Restaurant, an institution here and a top destination
for serious foodies in Zamboanga. 
Curacha is served with a delicious blend
of coconut milk and spices at the restaurant located along Don AlfaroStreet.

 Seafoods and Buco Juice for the Strong Tummy

 Knickerbocker of Palmeras  - A Bestseller We Can't Leave Without
(mixture of watermelon chunks, banana slices, papaya with gelatin chunks
 and topped with Strawberry Ice Cream)

Colorful Trike, Inspired by Vintas

"Mas Alegre na Zamboanga" - Kids at Play

Go Crazy with "Lokot-lokot" - an indigenous delicacy found in Zamboanga
Also called Zambo Rolls -  crunchy roll made of rice powder
 which looks like thin noodles bound and rolled into this crunchy rolls

Go visit Zamboanga, Asia's Latin City.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Day I Went to Jail

“I went to jail because I was charged with murder, twice for attempted murder and the last time was frustrated murder. During those trying times, I didn’t care. All I wanted was to get even.”

The man next to me said these words and looked at me intently, without blinking an eye.

I listened with interest and smiled.

If I had stumbled upon this guy out in the streets, I would have trembled in fear upon hearing his statements. But no, not in a setting like this. 

We were in Marikina City Jail – the nearest haven for prisoners and detainees in my hometown. We visited the inmates to conduct a preaching campaign to interested detainees and inmates, thirsty of guidance from God. In coordination with mature organizers and elders in our team, the City Jail warden and officers were very much cooperative in this endeavor.

There were two areas (male and female section) and visits were scheduled on a regular basis. Upon entry, we had to surrender our mobile phones, umbrellas or any violence-triggering tool.
I noticed that not all in jail committed heavy crimes. Some were just accused of things they have not committed (such as stealing, money matters, etc.). Some were sentenced to short prison terms because of minor acts (offensive acts to neighbors, etc.) while others remained detainees if their cases stay unsolved.

Nevertheless, it was very heartwarming to see the inmates listen, embrace the truth, and apply these changes in their everyday living. Truly, “...the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12.

Yes, reading God’s “word,” or message changed a lot of the inmates' lives. It helped them to examine themselves as never before. The way they reacted to the message revealed their true thoughts, even the very intentions of the heart.

The inmate returned my smile. He never blinked an eye because he felt inner peace and happiness after sharing how he changed for the better.

“What I did was very bad,” he said contritely.
It took some time before he ‘forgave and forgot’ and I’m sure he’ll continue improving.

Some of the inmates are released for good, but as they leave, they also leave shadows of the bad past. Some inmates stay in prison, but now they face life more positively and look forward to a brighter future with Jehovah God to back them up.

Is Your TV Watching You?

With the emergence of the latest innovations in technology, the couch-potato-career also takes a boom. The releases of flat-screen LCDs, top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer a breakthrough in the entertainment industry. Yes, relaxation now means Lazy-Boy-sitting style, gobbling a handful of popcorn and gluing your eyes on the tube for loooong hours.

People who on average spend six hours each day watching TV can expect to live 4.8 years less than those who watch no TV. Put another way, every hour of TV reduces a sedentary adult’s life expectancy by about 22 minutes.” – British Journal of Sports Medicine, Britain

Indeed, all too much is bad. So time to hit the OFF button on the remote control and exercise your body (and mind). Talk to your family, go for a walk outside or visit your old-time-bookshelf like this.

Happy weekend folks!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

HABAGAT - Days Without the Sun

I treasured the moment I last saw the sun.

This thought reverberated through my head as I stayed awake and wide-eyed before the earliest morning alarm clock went off. Distracted by the heavy rains and the images of deadly floods surrounding major cities of the Philippines, a heavy sigh was all I let out to express fear and disappointment as my hometown Marikina got more swamped.

This catastrophic incident was similar to Milenyo (2006) and Ondoy (2009). Having learned life's greatest lessons, residents and local government of Marikina are now more aware and more-than-ready to prepare each family’s survival kit – a strong will to live and help others survive.

To friends and family who are asking for our condition, we are fine. Thanks for the concern.

Despite the alarming peak of 21.4 meter-level of Marikina River, gushing floods out in the streets, alarm sirens sounding on and off every now and then, impassable roads, and hoarding of goods in nearby stores; we are all in good condition.

Let me share some photos of how "habagat" or seasonal monsoon rains worsened and caused widespread flooding in the Philippines.

Swamped Shoe Capital

Marikina River's Raging Waters 

'Drowning' Marikit-Na Statue 

 Walang makapasok na manggagawa :(

 The Vllage that Never Slept

Forced Evacuation for Residents Near the River

There are things that, once again, were proved. Priority and values are really unsinkable. Floods may rise, rains may pour, but a sacrificing character and indefatigable humor survive. No material thing can surpass family togetherness and faith in God.

After days of darkness, finally we saw the sun shine this afternoon, a truly treasured moment for all of us. There's hope to see Marikina as beautiful as beforeAs I sleep tonight, I hope and pray that when we open our eyes tomorrow, a new day will start with the sun shining brightly. Goodbye to the days without the sun.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Taste of India

They say the way to a (wo)man’s heart is through his stomach. This might be what an Indian restaurant owner wanted to prove as he bubbly roamed around his restaurant serving the exotic Indian dishes to big-eyed customers. Big-eyed, not because of the food, but because of the belly dancers expertly swinging their hips dancing to the beat of the chanting drums.

Even I got big-eyed, as I try to comprehend how the belly dancers tried to pivot their bodies around their not-so-lean waists, creating an artistic groove for everyone’s awe. But what made my eyeballs even bigger was when the restaurant owner came over to our table and presented their best-sellers. His smell was ‘different’. Yes, different from the usual scent I am used to. Noticing my look, he said ‘The food we serve makes you hot.” We placed our orders (hurriedly) and food was served.

Indian dish is known for the way it is being prepared. It contains a lot of herbs and spices. Tandoori (name of the restaurant) comes from the type of cylindrical clay oven, a tandoor, in which the dish is traditionally prepared.

We ordered Nan, a leavened, oven-baked flat bread, which is a staple food of India. There’s plain Nan and we also tried the egpgplant-flavored one. Nan was mixed with Keema Curry and Tandoori Chicken. The curry experience is different because the taste is meaty, thick and powerful. The dishes are ‘saucy’ and they’re heavy on chicken, lamb and veggies. I almost forgot about the belly-dancers as I consumed the dishes. The spices and aroma was strong but the experience was worth it. 

For those who have an adventurous palate, try visit Tandoori Indian Restaurant.

As we left the restaurant, I smiled at the belly dancers, thanked the owner and said to myself that if this is the way to a (wo)man’s heart…  I’m sure there is another way. ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fun Under the Sun in Bantayan

The farther you travel, the more beautiful the destination is. Not guaranteeing that this applies to all places, but for Bantayan Island it surely does.

Cebu boasts of many shores where the land, water and sun meet; but going a bit farther from Central Cebu brings us to a hidden paradise. Situated on a tranquil island in Cebu, Bantayan never fails to fascinate its visitors. The idea of an hour-plane-flight, followed by a 3 hour road trip and a 75-minute ferry ride may be overwhelming to some; but the moment you buried your toes on the white fine sand of Bantayan Island, everything else becomes adventure. Just be sure to get your body (plus mind and heart) ready for the journey.

Here are tips for those who want to reach this hidden paradise:

  • Check out the website Wow Bantayan which is especially designed for Bantayan Island visitors.
  • Allot 5-6 hours of travel time from Manila to Sta. Fe Port (where Bantayan Island is). This time allowance helps you plan your itinerary for your stay.

 Sta Fe Port

 Ferry Boats Travelling To and From Sta. Fe

Recommended Resorts:

 - Ogtong Resort - Classy yet a bit pricey, offers free trip to Ogtong Cave

 - Budyong and Kota Beach – there 2 resorts are situated opposite to one another. With good rates and great beachfronts, these resorts are strategically located (walking distance from the market, bars and restaurants, police station, food stalls, groceries, pasalubong shops, etc.)

Welcome to Kota Beach!

 Fine white sand

Crabs mean sustenance for this kiddo

 The captivating sunrise - a time to savor
life's perfect moment

All set to sail

 Sand dunes

Dusk and dawn

In Sta. Fe, there’s a strip of bars & restaurants. It's very convenient to travel in Bantayan Island. If too tired to walk, tricycles are abundant.Try the famous lechon Cebu if your heart permits.

Local people sell pure honey for pasalubong at quite an affordable price (P125 per bottle). Definitely a good buy but also a good cause of delay during luggage check at the airport.

During island hopping, destination is the Virgin Island. There is an entrance fee of P400/head (depends on the group size) and cottage rent. The boatmen expects you to have lunch on the Island, thus they will offer to cook fresh fish/meal (P150 cooking charge).

If you plan to stay for the rest of the day in Virgin Island, be sure to bring along food and spare clothing. Virgin Island offers serenity and is truly a place for beach bummers out there.

If it’s fine, white sand, pristine beaches, perfect sunset or great adventure that you’re craving for, then it's time to  book a flight to Cebu and visit Bantayan. Truly a perfect place to marvel at God’s wonderful creation!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leslie's Famous Bulalo - Tagaytay

A visit to Tagaytay would never be complete without a visit to Leslie's Bulalo. Perfect for Tagaytay's cold weather, this beef stew will satisfy your palate and craving for a heart (and tummy) warming trip.

Bulalo price: P599 (good for 4 or more pax)

Leslie’s Restaurant
Aguinaldo Highway Crossing, Silang
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 413-1065

The next time you go on a road trip, visit Leslie's - the famous bulalohan in town.

Surprised by Longganisa Sorpresa

Not just for breakfast, but served all throughout the day.

Who would have thought that the Pinoy-all-time-favorite-meal would be the main attraction of a restaurant in the metro? Loved by Filipinos and most people around the globe, the longanisa is a Filipino sausage packed with flavor mixed by various cultures in the country. It is well-renowned as a breakfast fave, but trust me, cravings for this doesn’t just settle for the early birds.

Now in SM North, this mouth-watering classic is offered by Longanisa Sorpresa. Situated in the mall’s Sky Garden, the restaurant’s homey location takes the diners to a regional tour of the places in the Philippines. The Longanisa Platter offers variant flavors: Longganisa Lucban, Alaminos, Tuguegarao, Cabanatuan, Laoag, CDO, Cebu, Gensan, Davao, Batutay. The condiments (particularly vinegar) are also showcased featuring distinctive regional tastes.

They also have a branch in Pasig City. For more info, you may visit their website.

So hop on to this culinary journey and be surprised!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BAYOYOY – A "Celebrity" from Bohol

If you think you’ve visited enough of Bohol, think again.

There’s a part of the itinerary on a trip to Panglao. Going to Bayoyoy the dwarf is included in most Bohol and Dauis-Panglao tour packages because it is very rare to see a real-life “dwarf”.

Bayoyoy was born on Jan. 10, 1947. His real name is Jesus Doldolea, a children of 3rd-degree cousins. He lives in Dauis, Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines. When our driver recommended the place, we were at first hesitant to go since the house was just like a typical Filipino house with a small “sari-sari” or convenience store with Bayoyoy’s name. When we entered the gate and Bayoyoy’s younger sister invited us to go upstairs, our hesitation turned into curiosity.

We found ourselves facing Bayoyoy. Almost as small as a 1-year old baby, he sat on a stroller. Bayoyoy’s sister relates the story. Their parents died some years ago. There were 12 children in the family and 6 of them suffered from dwarfism. The 5 other dwarfs died early and only Bayoyoy survived. He is now 65 years old and only consumes milk, oatmeal and cereals. He is blind and could only hear. Since his condition requires special treatment, his sister take care of him. The pictures posted on the wall revealed that a lot of celebrities and media people visited him and offered assistance. He was eve featured on national television. Before we left, we handed financial assistance to the sister for Bayoyoy’s use. This, according to our driver, is a normal custom done by visitors.

As of today, I haven’t heard of any news about Bayoyoy and I’m not sure if he’s still doing well. But I feel privileged that I was able to meet this ‘celebrity’ from Bohol and I still express my gratitude to people who helped him survive the hard times.

So the next time you go to Bohol and enjoy its beauty share your blessings with Bayoyoy.

Click here to see more of my Bohol adventure.

A Remedy Under the Sun

“For every ailment under the sun,

There is a remedy or there is none.

If there be one, try to find it.

If there be none, never mind it.”

These words struck me as I listened to the speaker fresh from New York. This spiritual brother visited the Philippines to strengthen the faith of more than 30 thousand listeners – brothers and sisters in faith from all over the country who eagerly assembled to attend this special meeting.

As he spoke, realization dawned on me that sometimes, we ourselves complicate matters turning it into an ‘ailment’. We are caged in negative vibes prohibiting us from moving on (and moving forward).

If there are some things we can change (or find remedy), then let’s do it and be positive.However, there are some things we cannot change. Instead of ranting and mourning over such things, let’s accept and adjust our mindset in order to positively proceed with life.

One good example is a Sign Language student I met. She was a 40-year old woman, strong and lively, but hearing-impaired. Another thing, she’s blind! Does she rant non-stop, lament over life’s burden or mourn all the time? No! Since she cannot change her ‘ailment’, she positively embraces life’s course and works on things within her control. Though she can’t see and hear us, the affection and care she receives from everyone fuels her passion for love and life. She lives joyfully and is satisfied with life.

We all have our own moments of ups and downs, but remember, The only difference between a good day and a bad day is our attitude.”