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12 best places I visited in 2011

5 Jan

Capping my 2011’s wonderful and worth-reliving moments won’t be complete without giving them justice through photos.

Being an innate adventure-quencher that I am, I have been to several places around the Philippines as well as outside the country. While most of the places I have been in 2011 were more of a duty,( as part of my job so I can gather stories), I always took time to capture the beauty being offered in every place I set my feet to and immortalized them in photos.

1. Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The incredible Taj Mahal! I failed to visit Taj the first time I went to India and how sad I was. So the second time around, I was very lucky to finally get so close with this majestic, one-of-its kind world's wonder. To my amazement, I even touched every wall I passed through!

2. Bangkok, Thailand

What first caught my attention during my trip in Bangkok was the emanating bright colors of taxis and 'tuktuk' all over its street. These, for me, are simple treats for the eye. They are... lovely!

One, of course, should never miss the food delights on the streets. They are so delectable! Plus they cook the food to you right away and the whiff of it makes the food all the more enticing. This, too, is best to sate the rumbling stomach after a feet gone tired. 🙂

3. Enchanted Kingom, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

The Space Shuttle Ride. It has been a childhood dream to experience the 'magic' enchanted kingdom unselfishly offers. To complete my EK adventure, I summoned all the energy and guts to ride in this space shuttle and for the first time (ever) in my life, I felt how my soul literally departed from my body! It was uber fun, nonetheless!

4. Island Cove Resort and Leisure Park , Kawit, Cavite

Island Cove, Kawit, Cavite. This is a perfect place for a get-away for at least a couple of days after hustles and bustles from work. It offers various exciting activities such as outdoor paintball field, giant chess set, biking, horseback riding and a lot more. And the pool? It is sooooo inviting you'd love to keep your body dipped for hours!

5. People’s Park in the Sky, Tagaytay City

People's Park in the Sky, Tagaytay, Cavite. This is only one of the right places to have a wide appreciation of how beautiful the southern part of the Philippines is. At this view deck, you can see the ever-famous Taal Lake plus the Canyon Woods subdivision on the opposite side. It's a sure eye-treat!

6. Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort (Border of Tiaong, Quezon and San Pablo City, Laguna)

Villa Escudero. This place brings you back to the setting of a rustic Philippines where Filipino traditions come to life and constant appreciation. Riding in a carabao-driven cart serenaded by excellent folk artists are just some of the bonuses!

7. Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon

Pahiyas Festival, Lucban, Quezon. Being one of the most-awaited summer festivals in the Philippines, Pahiyas never fail, not even once, its spectators as select houses are grandiosely decorated with multitude of colors using 'kiping', a famous Lucbanin decoration made of rice dough. This century-old festival showcases the unequaled creativity of its townspeople as it brings out a lively and colorful festive mood during this prestigious gaiety.

8. Katigbawan festival in Catigbian, Bohol

Katigbawan Festival, Catigbian, Bohol. In this celebration, the kabaws are dressed up to the nines like “kings and queens” using every material available, indigenous as well as artificial. They blaze in all their glory with their painted nails, grandiose ‘gowns’, extravagant head dresses, colored eyelashes, and complete make-up at that. Very interesting! 🙂

9. Blood Compact Site, Tagbilaran City, Bohol

The Blood Compact site, Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Now this one is a true spectacle! This particular site was made in honor of a very important event in the Philippine history done between Miguel Lopez de Legazpi of Spain and Rajah Sikatuna of Bohol. At my back is the Panglao Island which also offers an array of pristine spots one can enjoy to its maximum.

Blood Compact Site

10. Streets of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur

Marawi City. Just some of the snap shots I took while roaming around the streets of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. All over, one can see buildings like this, the mosque for Muslims.

Marawi City street. And oh, this cute little boy. He is so angelic, isn't he? 🙂

11. Davao City

Durian fruit in Davao City. This city offers unlimited list of things to do and places to visit. But, for me, one's Davao adventure won't be complete without trying this exotic durian fruit. a very extraordinary and really a-need-courage-all challenge for first-timers is because of its foul odor that would make you puke the moment it is stuffed into your mouth. But for the second time around, you'll praise this fruit for it's exotic but mouth-watering goodness. Try it! 🙂

12. Chocolate Hills, Bohol

Chocolate Hill, Bohol. And lastly, my top favorite place--Chocolate hills. This has been one of the world's eight wonders. As to why it has named as "Chocolate hills" is because its lush green mountains magically turns into chocolate brown during the dry season.

And there you go—the best 12 places ever that has completed my 2011 and made it even better. Plus, this is my 70th post. Hooray!

‘Bulcachong’ is unlike your ordinary ‘bulalo’

12 Dec

The yummy bulcachong!

From exquisite landscapes to extraordinary treasure-trove experiences, Davao City speaks of nature’s beauty and the trappings of modern life all at the same time. And when it comes to unique, extraordinary food offerings, the city has a long list of must-see restaurants that can sate the rumbling stomach.

The long list includes various seafood cuisines and other delectable nourishments that one can choose from without having second thoughts.

One particular eatery in the downtown area which carries an intriguing name stands out as it has become a talk of the town for locals and tourists alike. It has become a favorite stop-over for travellers, too.

The name of the eatery is “Bulcachong”. It carries a tagline that says, “Rapa sa Toro, Sarap para sa lahat.” In Pilipino that’s “delicious carabao dish for everyone”.

The restaurant offers a unique dish that one must partake to capture its essence. The dish is also named bulcachong, a concoction whose secret is known only to its master chef—Chong.

Bulcachong is a buffalo meat recipe which can be similar to bulalo (Filipino beef shank and bone marrow stew) but is uniquely different when it comes to appearance, aroma, and taste.

Bulalo

The chunks of meat are meticulously cooked for three hours until it becomes very tender. It is then mixed with various ingredients that include atsuete (lipstick plant or annatto); a natural coloring, and a minute amount of flour which makes the soup orange and thick. It has a strong aroma which fills every nook and corner of the restaurant.

But what makes bulcachong particularly different and loved is its gingery taste which gives an extra spicy kick that lingers in the partaker’s mouth for at least a minute. It is not the most appetizing description to a dish but certainly a Davaoeño favorite. In fact, it has become a must-try exotic food like that of the famous durian fruit.

For a first timer, the first reaction is to back out due to its strong aroma, but as the thick soup slushes down the throat and the extra soft meat melts in the mouth, the wonders work by itself where the partaker finds himself or herself keep stuffing more into his or her mouth until his or her stomach can take no more.

And what’s the other secret? The calamansi juice which can be poured over the soup which makes it all the more mouth-watering that one opts to order again.

The master chef, Chong, commonly mistaken as a Chinese, is a Filipino. He is a gourmet cook and he likes preparing esoteric dishes such as the bulcachong which have gained popularity among locals and tourists alike over the years. He cooks the way he lived his life—meticulously and very properly.

The bulalo special which is good for 3-4 persons is sold at Php300. For the bulcachong, which serving is normally good for one person, there are two dining options. One can choose to dine outside the restaurant amid fresh air at Php75; or inside with an air conditioner which is served at Php90.

The main store is open for 24 hours. Its peak hours is from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. It has become very popular among locals who look for a hot soup to bring them back to a sober state after a night of drinking session.

While there are many restaurants and eateries that mushroomed all over Davao City, the Bulcachong restaurant continues to thrive because of its secret ingredient that no one has succeeded in imitating yet.

Since the Bulcachong restaurant was built, many locals would tried to mix and blend several ingredients just to come up with the exact exotic but delightful taste of the bulcachong but only to no avail. The secret ingredient, Chong said, will remain a “secret” in him and his most trusted co-chef who have worked for the restaurant for 18 years now.

After dining at Bulcachong, one, for sure, leaves with a satisfied and delighted stomach and exclaim: “Lami ah uy!”

That means: “unbelievably delicious!”

My Durian-eating challenge in Davao

7 Dec

Davao City is known to be a dazzling cornucopia of things to see and do. It offers a wide range of exciting and extraordinary adventures and activities that any tourists, even locals, won’t dare to miss.

Davao has been very well-known in housing the tallest mountain peak in the Philippines which is the Mount Apo. It is also home to the very rare and exquisite orchid—the waling-waling. Aside from these, it has also been inherently identified as the haven of the Philippine eagle.

But among all these treasure-trove offerings, the most exciting and must-try experience (for me) is eating the durian fruit. In fact, Davao City has been dubbed as the “Durian City of the Philippine” for this exotic fruit grows abundantly in this city.

As to why eating durian became a very extraordinary and really a-need-courage-all challenge for first-timers is because of its foul odor that would make you puke the moment it is stuffed into your mouth. The odor is like a fume from the unknown jungle (I might be exaggerating here but really the odor is no good at all). After eating, too, the smell in your breath won’t give up that easily. It would last until the morning even after having mouthwash or bubble gum.

I have observed from the durian eaters, though, that they would eat the fruit with their bare hands. This, they said, makes durian-eating all the tastier. Of course, I thought, the odor of the durian would stick on to their hands. The folks, though, gave a very simple hint that could wash the odor away. And that is by pouring water in the durian’s shell and washing your hand in it. Same thing goes with relieving the smell from your mouth. Pour water in the durian’s shell and use it as a gargle.  I did not try this tactic but these folks attested its wonders. I might try this when I get a chance to eat another durian fruit. I promise! It is not the most appetizing description to a fruit, yes, but certainly a Davaoeño favorite. In fact, it’s Davaoeños famous dessert.

And to give you an idea how this durian fruit looks like and how I struggled to stuff it into my mouth with all the super powers I can summon, take a look at the photos below.

The exotic Durian fruit!

I nearly puked!

Trying all might to swallow it.

One chunk down! Yahoo!

Success!

Just some of the left-overs.

I was able to finish four huge chunks! Yehey! And for an adventure-seeker, must-try-it-all person that I am, this is one of the challenges I’ll forever cherish. It wasn’t really easy to keep stuffing it in your mouth but indeed it’s worth a try.

After surpassing such challenge, for sure you’ll say: One more!

Pahiyas Festival 2011

18 Nov

Okay, so this may be out of date by now. I, however, am still compelled to make a blog about this as I first planned six months ago. Six months ago?! Wow. That’s way too aged now really. So before the calendar turns its leaf from 2011 to 2012, I am fulfilling my promise to one day make a blog about the various carabao (buffalo) festivals here in the Philippines that I was able to experience myself.

But before peeping through the photos, here is a brief description of what Pahiyas Festival is all about. The following photos will describe further.

Pahiyas Festival is one of the biggest, most tourist-studded festivals in the Philippines. As the month of May approaches, the townspeople in Lucban, Quezon are already on their feet for the big feast as it is thronged with thousands of people, tourists and residents alike.

Every single house passed by the chosen route of the year is draped with colorful, must-see chandeliers and other art decorations out of vegetable fruits and mainly with “kiping”. Kiping, on the other hand, is the famous Lucbanin decoration made of rice dough. When the grandiose showcasing of the arts that only Lucbanin’s can expertly handle starts on the 15th of May, the streets can be barely passed by a vehicle either big or small. Not even people at times.

And of course, the star of the festival kneeling upon the onlookers’ request, the carabao.

Plus the cute, little children who made the festival more charming as it has always been.

I have to have a photo here too. At my back is the Church of Lucban which was first built in 1595 and was ruined in 1629. The second church, according to accounts, was constructed between 1630 and 1640 but was seriously damaged in 1733. In 1738, this church was finally rebuilt and completed in 1738. So you can guess how old this church is. Pretty interesting.

And when I said that this festival is thronged with thousands of people, I was serious.

These people, like me, just don’t want to miss every single detail of the big affair. The displays and art works are simply stunning and jaw-dropping. And as the sun comes down, the displays just got even brighter as lights transcended and illuminated from each house delicately decorated.

These are just some of the photos about the festival but there are a lot more than the displays like the Lucban’s longganisa and pancit habhab which are really sought-after dishes. I promise to make a blog on this. Promise.

After a winding day taking photographs, running here and there, I and my boss finally took some rest. We were exhausted and drained snaking through the crowd to get some good shots. Nonetheless, the efforts were worth it. In fact, when you experience this yourself, you will surely tell yourself, just like my boss put it: I’ll keep coming back.

(Thanks to my boss Weng for some of the photos here.)

Indian foods are nothing but spicy and spicy

27 Oct

I have always been constantly curious with things, foods, or anything that is new to my vocabulary and list of experiences. And to quench such curiosity, I dive into it and plunge straight in. I dwell on the excitement and fulfillment it provides me so as not to live with regret that I let the very chance slip my hands.

When I first went to India, I told myself I should try every single delicacy available on the table (as there is no other option anyway). Most of my friends, however, don’t really like Indian foods because aside from its super spicy flavors, its smell is also very likely to lose your appetite.

Until I tried it myself. And guess what? It’s not really that bad at all. In fact, I loved Indian foods! And when I went there the second time around, I loved it more, especially the masala dosa (perfect for a snack) and gulab jamun (best dessert ever!).

Below are some of the photos I took during my unforgiving food quenching in New Delhi. I put every single kind of menu on my plate and finished it up to the last bite! I still have to research on the names, though. But to give you an idea how these foods look (and taste), here are some of it:

For lunch: Vegetable pasta. Chicken biryani, Makki Paneer Panora, vegetable kebab, papad (super spicy crackers) and Basmati rice. Mind you, the rice is also spicy hot!

For dinner: Bhelpuri (Vegetable pasta), Puran poli (like a pan cake), and other chicken and mutton recipes.

To be honest, papad is the only food (a cracker) that I never got enough with. It was delectable and sumptuous!

Spices and more spices. And yes, they are served fresh and in unimaginable large cuts! I tried eating the fresh onion cuts. And it wasn’t bad.

Masala Dosa (Photo from google). I can’t find where I put my photo eating masala dosa but anyways, this and papad, are my sought-after Indian foods.

You can see a lot of this along the streets of Connaught Place in New Delhi especially the road going to the Sarojini market. And yes, they are spicy, too. These are like chips. And corn bits.

Of course, some sweets to relieve the spicy tongue. Ice cream  and Gujiyas (it taste like a sweetened dumpling).

Lastly, a Gulab jamun (photo from google). This was the best dessert ever! I got so much indulged with the dessert that I forgot to take a photo. This one was amazing, so awesomely sweet that you’ll crave for more once you tried it!

And yes Indian foods are super spicy all over but they are great nonetheless!

At Enchanted Kingdom, the magic lives on

26 Oct

As a getaway to the south away from the subtle and bustle of office routines, I and my friends (who are also my officemates) planned to give a surprise visit for our dear friend (ex-officemate) in time for her birthday last June. Alongside with this, we also went to the Enchanted Kingdom (EK) to fill our bloods with exciting treats.

EK, as most describes it, is a perfect place to visit for another level of excitements. The place enthralls the throng with its seemingly magical kingdom. It is engulfed with various venues where the height of exhilaration keeps on going a notch higher with every experience.

Let the magic begin…

The gateway to the magical kingdom. Our friend, Leslie, celebrated her birthday with us here at EK.

Upon entry, EK greets you with its stunning fountain.

We also had an enchanting moment with Eldar the Wizard and Princess Victoria.

Anchor Wat. One of the best rides ever! I kept on roaring during the entire ride I nearly lost my voice! It was uber fun, nevertheless.

Flying fiesta!

Roaming around the kingdom and feeling every inch of magic flowing through our curious nerves.

It also offers exciting games where you can shoot exciting prizes such as huge, huggable stuff toys. My friend here just won a cute giraffe.

The giant ferris wheel!

For exciting mumble rides, Rialto is the way!

They also perform live shows when the moon starts to peep through the kingdom.

The Space Shuttle Ride

I was nervous, and twitchy, and scared beyond words! It was the first time in my life that I literally felt my soul departed from my body! For the whole duration of the ride, I was praying hard saying: God, if I won’t make it out alive today, please take good care of my family and please, please, let EK management burn this shuttle ride to save more lives! I was cursing the whole time my life was in peril!

So glad we made it alive! And I realized I just had the ‘bestest’ ride ever!

Bump cars!

Where there is magic, there is treasure.

And oh, the lovely carousel…

The EKStreme tower ride. So extreme I didn’t dare to ride. I’ll try it when I gain enough courage though. I am crossing my fingers and toes.

The magic was in full circles as fireworks splashed through the dark sky. It was simply captivating.

We bid goodbye to the magical kingdom. Our fantasies which ran free in our dreams for years were made real. And as the EK motto puts it: The magic lives on. And so it does.

Red Fort, India

21 Oct

I promised to make a blog about my very first travel abroad which is India but my schedules have been very unforgiving. So to start off, here are some photos I took (and some friends) during my visit at Red Fort.

As a first-time traveler abroad, I was overly amazed by every building I saw during my tours around New Delhi. When we were approaching Red Fort, I was stunned looking at the stretch of the fort, which according to accounts, Red Fort is perhaps one of the most magnificent specimens of Mughal architecture which portrays their creative and artistic genius to the fullest. In fact, it took several decades to build this extraordinary monument.

The Lahore gate

I, together with co-Action Partner, went to Red Fort basically to watch a show. We were expecting some surprises about the show. And guess what? We did get a surprise.

The organizer of our conference who brought us to Red Fort told us there will be a great show which starts at 7pm. So when we arrived it was already dark. The sight of the fort, however, is just magnificent as everything around is dramatically shed with different colors of light.

The entrance going to the ‘show’. I’m quite not sure what they call this gate.

We spotted our seats and waited for some surprise from the show. We were anticipating a real good show as the surroundings is in total darkness. Until different colors of light were coming through and sounds (like that of a war) echoing around.

Then we saw these:

And this:

For the first 10 minutes of the show, I was turning my head to every direction where the voice (rather sound) was coming through only to realize at the end that the show is portrayed through special lights and sounds alone.

Now I understand why we were greeted with rainbows of lights when we first entered the fort. It was a fantastic light show, though. Plus the voice overs sounded like real people doing a theatre play.

I had fun! 🙂

Coming next: Sikh temple 

There’s no other perfect place but the beach (Lemery, Batangas)

14 Oct

Being the adventurous and free-spirited that we are, I and my family decided to take a week-end get-away to the beach which is also a celebration for my brother’s 24th birthday.

The beach presented itself a grandeur formation of crystal drops that are seemingly coming from the hovering grayish-blue sky above. The sun, on the other hand, seems to be over friendly as it hides it scorching heat sparing our skin to get burned.

Even though it wasn’t a white-sand beach, at least there’s a li’l boat that can be used for some wave adventure. Plus the view from the other side is just equally magnificent.

What’s also good about being in the beach is that you can write anything with your bare feet and it looks utterly cute and dainty.

My slippers are having a good time, too.

What else is good about the beach is its being so friendly with kids who can freely play around and while being constantly amazed why the waves keep getting back and forth.

And yes, how about some kicks and acrobats in the water?

These folks just caught a school of fish! Yipeee!

No, these fish did not come from the beach. We bought it from the market. We could have tried fishing, though. But we’re just too busy playing and enjoying the waters that we didn’t mind getting to the middle of the sea to catch fish. Plus, it would be impossible anyways.

And what else is more fun spending a week-end trip with family?

It’s also a perfect place to just stare at the endless horizon of the sea while allowing the waves to be the only sound echoing through. It’s simply magical and a wonderful breather.

And of course, it’s also a perfect place to take some pretty pose. After all, I’m on a vacation.

The pristine beauty of the South

13 May

Tagaytay City, Cavite, Philippines 

I have always been a lover of natural wonders and a great fan of adventures. Since I was a child, to have my feet stepped on the lands on places which offer such was a profound longing.  The fact that I work with people who are equally enthusiastic of such happenings, we packed our things up, grabbed our cameras to complete the ensemble of our getaway, and geared for a three-day exciting and riveting escape to the south.

Having with us two great photographers, our spellbinding side trip to Tagaytay City was immortalized in impressive, worth-displaying photographs, and are indeed worth bringing home as a priceless memento.

The gateway to the People’s Park in the Sky. The sky seemed to dance in a halo as it welcomed us to this beauty bound place.

This place can’t get any fuller having these three lovely dahlins gracing its pathways to the sky of breathtaking scenery.

The stunning sky connived with our photo shoot made possible of course by a master photographer, Kuya Carlo. This scene brought us to the Pantheons in Rome.

And there we go, the sole evidence that we were at the People’s Park in the Sky!

The Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love came to life as we allowed ourselves get engrossed in this historical, holy place.

We were totally mystified at the sight of this place seen from the view deck of the park. It made me feel like wanting to have my rest house built here. The ever-lovely green landscape is just enchanting!

And yes, this place is a perfect place for a photo shoot for any occasion! I might even have my pre-nup here one day!

Finally, the most anticipated spellbound panorama, the stunning, jaw-dropping splendor, Taal Lake!

And here I am, completely engrossed with this wonderful gift of nature. Lovely, isn’t it?

More photos from the South coming soon that will surely entice you to put these places on your list for your next backpacking tours!


Another fun Friday and wistful weekend get-away

27 Apr

April 15-16, 2011

Everything started from a spark of excitement brought by bonds developed on our way back home inside Alexis’ ever-accommodating car one Tuesday night.

Being the free-spirited and adventurous young bloods that we are, we came up of doing something unusual but exciting activity to keep the flame of friendship among us flicker more. And to give ourselves a break from the daily routines in the workplace.

Charged with an impulse to do so, we came up of having a Friday night out and weekend escapade in Alexis’ hacienda.

Right after office hours, I and my friends-officemates went in this seemingly welcoming place—Digdig, Carranglan.

While all the others are searching for fire woods and setting-up the camp tents, I, together with these lovely men and women, busied ourselves preparing the vegetable fillings for the fish set to be grilled off.

Having talented guitarists and singers with us, we opted to sit down while waiting for the foods to be cooked and letting the sounds of music provide us the appetizers.

Though our ears were full with entertainment, we just can’t wait to be filled with the sumptuous, palatable, and lavish eatables on the table ready to be partaken by hungry stomachs.

And when I tell you it’s lavish and palatable, I mean it’s really a table of over-flowing foods and deliciously cooked by our ever-dedicated cooks headed by Venus.  And the most exciting part of this food partakes? Boodle fight! Who says we can’t hand-eat? Toothsome, isn’t it?

And because we just can’t contain ourselves with this dazzling place, we took some poses for mementos to bring home and immortalized them in photos.

Since we are conking on the riverside, the air is just as cold, but smooth-touching, as the waters in it. The bonfire was just not a warm and light provider but it also fired up our excitement for a night camp. Coupled with acoustic trips, bon fires are really enthralling!

To heighten up the fun, games likepinoy henyo,‘di ka makararating sa paroroonan kung di lilingon sa pinanggalingan’, and other exciting, mind-boggling puzzles were funneled. And the anticipated beguiling and hilarious night was indeed granted.

And guess what? The games lasted until 2am! Yes, we just can’t get enough of it. Forgive us but big laugh among us is just inevitable!

As the atomic blast of laughter and side-hurting burst of fun sink among us, we savored and enjoyed the infinite display of dazzling, awe-inspiring tiny bright lights in the sky. The stars seem to twinkle more indefinitely as they conspire to join us in our engrossing and exciting night. Star gazing is just captivating!

The morning comes so wake up sleepy-heads! Time for our water escapade! 😀

Who can say we were not excited and ready for our swimming excursion? These dahlins are simply fresh-looking and super lovely! Aren’t we?

Our nerves were so much filled with tingling excitement as we rode off in this inflatable tyre-turned-floater. And we called it…water rafting! Haha!

We were not only captivated by the river’s crystal-clear water and coldness but its giant rocks too that are as beautiful and breath-taking as these two women are. Agree!

Finally, taking with us another memento—a pose in this tree-turned-bridge. The view here is simply magical! And it’s not every day that we get to cross a river through this big, sturdy tree, yeah?

What seemed to be an unplanned get-away turned a very memorable, full of fun (and I mentioned the word ‘fun’ very often), and undeniably jaw-drop beauty only nature can offer. To encapsulate everything about the excursion (though I already used a lot of adjectives here), is that it was another FUN FRIDAY NIGHT AND A WISTFUL WEEK-END get-away!