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BINONDO: REVISITING 3 FAVORITE QUICK TREATS

We arrived around 8 in the morning yesterday in Binondo, a destination my husband and I have not gone to for more than 2 decades so this short trip was surely a sentimental one. Click a related post – BINONDO: A QUICK VISIT.

For the benefit of foreigners, Binondo* is considered the Chinatown of the Philippines, considered the oldest in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. It is a district in Manila, Philippines, and a hub of Chinese commerce.

We finally found a parking space and made our way to Ling Nam Noodle House at 616 T. Alonzo Street. Even this early, the restaurant was almost full.

Z-2-wall menuwall menu – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Ling Nam still has a limited, yet time-tested, menu consisting of: noodles (asado, beef, chicken, wanton, or combinations of 2 or 3 thereof), lugao (congee or hot rice porridge, with the following variants: bola-bola, chicken, fish, fish-bola, halo-halo, liver, kidney, or plain), siopao (steamed bun, in the following variants: asado, bola-bola, lotus, mongo and taipao – the 4-inch or largest meatball-chorizo siopao) and siomai (steamed Chinese dumpling, with or without soup).

Unfortunately, only siopao, siomai and different kinds of lugao (congee) were available that early (noodles are only available starting 9:30 am). So, we settled for CHICKEN LUGAO (175 pesos), HALO-HALO LUGAO (165 pesos), SIOMAI (2 pieces for 80 pesos) and ASADO SIOPAO (75 pesos).

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Complimentary Hot Tea – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Complimentary hot tea was served first, followed by our orders.

BeFunky CollageChicken Lugao and Halo Halo Lugao – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Both lugaos were served hot, accompanied by fresh calamansi (small, round citrus fruit also known as Calamondin). We squeezed the juice from the calamansi directly to the bowl and seasoned the lugao with patis (fish sauce) and a bit of pepper. This dish hit the spot and is definitely a comfort food for us.

 

Z-3-siomai-siopao2 pieces of siomai and asado siopao – Ling Nam Noodle House, Binondo, Manila

Siomai and siopao were then served. Toyo (soy sauce) and freshly squeezed calamansi juice were mixed as dipping sauce for the two pieces of siomai (per order) to be enjoyed in between spoonfuls of lugao. The siopao did not need any sauce because the tasty filling, along with the soft dough, was just right.

We asked for the bill and gave our senior citizen cards. An employee simply looked at our empty plates on the table and orally enumerated the quantity of the exact items we ate to the cashier who prepared the bill. Now I call that going paperless! So amusing!

Z-4-shanghai fried siopaoShanghai Fried Siopao – Binondo, Manila

We shopped for a while and found ourselves in the corner of Ongpin Street and Bahama Street, the location of (80 year old) Shanghai Fried Siopao. We ordered PORK ASADO fried siopaos, each costing 20 pesos. This hole-in-the-wall stall only has a simple store sign “Shanghai Fried Siopao” and offers takeout dumplings, kikiam (or quekiam, a steamed-deep-fried pork/seafood Chinese delicacy wrapped in bean curd skin), machang (the Filipino version of the pyramid-shaped Chinese steamed sticky rice-meat dish called “zongzi”), siomai and other cooked-food items, displayed on a small counter along the street.

Z-5-fried siopaoFried Siopao – Shanghai Fried Siopao, Binondo, Manila

The fried siopao displayed on the counter were not kept warm but you can observe that they were easily gone through the purchases of loyal and curious customers and the stock needed to be replenished regularly. The buns were still hot when it was handed to me. Amazing!

Z-6-fryer (2)Fryers used to make Fried Siopao – Shanghai Fried Siopao, Binondo, Manila

Just to be clear, we ordered FRIED SIOPAO which is steamed then pan-fried so that it has a toasted crispy bottom but still looks like a steamed siopao on top. It is definitely different from Toasted Siopao which is a baked “monay-looking” Bicolano specialty variation of siopao.

Z-7-manosaWe walked a bit more and could not resist to go to (30 year old) Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant.

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We ordered yummy maki (a Chinese soup with a brown, thick, starchy broth, and chunks of tender pork) which was served in a large bowl and can be shared by two seniors. We were still full so we did not order side dishes like kikiam and siomai.

Z-9-manosa-3Maki – Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant, Binondo, Manila

The maki was served hot and its thick, starchy and tasty broth was so satisfying, along with the tender chunks of pork.

Z-10-siopao-bitepoor fried siopao after I have eaten it halfway

We needed to leave Binondo, anticipating traffic going to our next destination. Sure enough, we were caught in traffic and decided to eat the Pork Asado siopaos we got from Shanghai Fried Siopao. They were no longer hot but we still ate them. When I bit into the siopao, I got a bit of a crunchy texture from the bottom, along with the usual soft siopao dough and tasty filling (of pork and leeks, among other ingredients; no need for sauce). We enjoyed the siopaos and I am sure that these would have been more satisfying when eaten hot. Anyway, we didn’t get stressed with the traffic! LOL

Next time, we need to stay longer and eat lunch or dinner in the famous restaurants in Binondo. Dear Seniors, do you have any recommendations?

Did you find this post informative? Do you also go to these places for a quick treat? Do you have your other favorite places to dine in Chinatown for a quick bite?  I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Don’t forgollow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*“Binondo,” accessed December 12, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binondo.

 

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JASMINE: IRRESISTIBLE CHINESE FOOD

Location: Level 2, New World Makati Hotel, Esperanza Street corner Makati Avenue, Ayala Center, Makati City, Philippines

My group of five were in the Greenbelt area and I was craving for Chinese food and salted egg so off we went to New World Makati Hotel’s Jasmine, its dining outlet at Level 2. Jasmine is open for lunch (11:30 am – 2:30 pm) and dinner (6 pm – 10:30 pm).

Z-1-Jasmine-facadeThe entrance to the main dining room was so inviting. We arrived at a little past noon and most of the tables were occupied.

Z-1-Jasmine-interiorThe Chinese Art Deco interior was cozy and simply elegant. It is my second visit to this Chinese restaurant and this will definitely be a “cheat meal”! LOL

Jasmine offers authentic Chinese dishes created by renowned Hong Kong chef Wong Kam On: a wide variety of Cantonese baked, fried, steamed and vegetarian dim sum; chicken, fish and pork century egg congees; rice rolls (served only for lunch); Peking Duck; seafood specialties; barbecued appetizers; soups; live fish and seafood (with your choice of cooking method); poultry and meat dishes; bean curd, noodle, rice, vegetable and vegetarian dishes; desserts; and different kinds of tea (along with Jasmine Tea and Jasmine Chrysanthemum). Set menus, priced per table of ten persons, are also offered.

Z-1-Jasmine-menuOn our round table was a menu for unlimited  yum cha (traditional Cantonese brunch consisting of dim sum and Chinese tea), for 988 pesos per person. It was so tempting but we settled for a la carte orders for the group so we could savor the salted egg dishes which I have been craving for.

Z-2-JasmineWe ordered 4 kinds of dimsum. The BARBECUED PORK PASTRY was a welcome treat because the pastry was so flaky and the pork filling was delicious. The generously-sized PORK XIAO LONG BAO looked so enticing: steaming hot with its delicate folds and thin, white casing. Its yummy mild broth was just right for the well-seasoned pork filling.

Z-2-Jasmine-hargaoThe HAR GAO was served hot, the dough shell was soft and delicate, and the seasoned shrimp filling was tasty and juicy.

Z-3-JasmineThe PORK PASTRY SPRING ROLL was a delightful appetizer as well.

We enjoyed sipping the hot JASMINE TEA while we savored the various dim sum as well as succeeding courses.

SPINACH SOUP was requested by our 5-year old picky-eater-grandson and he finished it all so that says a lot about this soup! This healthy soup was served at the right temperature and was pleasantly seasoned so the kid enjoyed it till the last drop.

Z-4-JasmineWe ordered five main courses. Finally, I will satisfy my salted egg craving! The SOLE OF FISH SALTED EGG YOLK hit the spot! I definitely rave about this dish and, dear Seniors, this is definitely a MUST TRY! The tender fish was fried with just the right amount of yummy salted egg.

Z-5-JasmineThe crispy DEEP FRIED PRAWNS SALTED EGG YOLK was likewise delicious, accentuated by the salted egg coating.

The CHINESE STYLE PAN-FRIED BEEF TENDERLOIN was topped with Chef Wong’s special sauce. The beef was so tender. The flavor and texture of the sauce enhanced the enjoyment of this dish.

Z-6-JasmineOur picky-eater requested BROCCOLI WITH OYSTER SAUCE. The broccoli was cooked just right and the sauce was tasty, but not salty.

Z-7-JasmineThe EGG WHITE SEAFOOD FRIED RICE with conpoy (a type of pungent Cantonese dried scallop) and pine nuts, with its subtle, yet flavorful blend of ingredients and seasonings, aptly complemented our a la carte orders.

Z-8-JasmineMango Pudding, Jasmine, New World Makati Hotel

Finally, we ordered two kinds of desserts: Mango Pudding and Mango Cream-Sago.

Z-9-JasmineMango Cream-Sago, Jasmine, New World Makati Hotel

Both desserts were a refreshing treat after all the dimsum and main courses we enjoyed.

The staff were so accommodating and gave personalized service. They changed the plates as needed, replenished our tea and water, and asked if we enjoyed the meal and what else we needed.

We will definitely come back for more, what with their December promo called “Feast on Festive Treats”: (1) a Yum Cha Buffet Lunch consisting of baked, fried and steamed dumplings, buns, rolls and noodles, at 1,388 pesos per person; and, (2) a choice among three 10-course set menus for December 24, 25, 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018, featuring Chef Wong’s signature dishes like Suckling Pig, Braised Abalone with Black Mushrooms, Pan-fried Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce, Pan-fried Scallop with Egg White and Black Truffle Sauce, at 9,888 pesos for a group of 6 persons.

Private dining rooms are also available for your intimate get-togethers, dear Senior Citizens. You can inquire/book at (02) 811-6888. Visit their website: www.manila.newworldhotels.com. You can view their complete menu at www.zomato.com, just type Jasmine – New World Makati Hotel Menu.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in Jasmine? If so, what were your favorite dim sum and ala carte dishes? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

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BINONDO: A QUICK VISIT

Location: Binondo, District of Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines

My husband and I were already in Metro Manila and decided to go to Binondo early for a quick and early visit since we haven’t been there for more than two decades.

For the benefit of foreigners, Binondo* is the Chinatown of the Philippines, considered the oldest in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. It is a district in Manila and a hub of Chinese commerce.

Z-13-BinondoI saw the familiar Welcome Arch and prayed we could get a parking slot.

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Binondo still looks so busy especially during this time of the year.

Z-12-BinondoMemories of our past visits with loved ones and friends crossed my mind while we passed through the last arch.

Parking was full but we were able to find one accessible to the places we wanted to go to. We first ate breakfast in Ling Nam Noodle House. We then went to shop a bit then ordered a couple of  fried siopaos (steamed then fried meatball-chorizo buns) at Shanghai Fried Siopao for takeout. Before we left for lunch elsewhere, we didn’t miss the chance to eat maki (a Chinese soup with a brown, thick, starchy broth, and chunks of tender pork) at Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant. Click a related post – BINONDO: REVISITING 3 FAVORITE QUICK TREATS.

Z-14-BinondoFinally, we wouldn’t leave this place without buying yummy, freshly roasted castañas    (chestnuts). Then off we went for an important errand.

Did you find this post informative? Do you often go to Binondo? Do you also crave for castañas come the holiday season?  I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*“Binondo,” accessed December 12, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binondo.

 

 

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GREEN PASTURES: FROM FARM TO TABLE

Location: G/F, Net Park, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

I had a scheduled meeting with someone in the Net Park area and arrived an hour before the designated time so I invited my companion to have a quick but not-so-sinful snack and we chose a casual dining and organic restaurant called Green Pastures, owned by Chef Robby Goco of Cyma, Charlie’s Grind and Grill, and Tequila Joe’s fame. It is located at the ground floor of Net Park and is open from 8 am till 10 pm.

Z-3-GP

For this restaurant, Chef Robbie offers healthy American and European homemade dishes which are made from fresh, organic, gluten-free and probiotic ingredients. Green Pastures also has 2 other branches: Eastwood Mall (in Bagumbayan, Quezon City) and (Level 4, East Wing) Shangri-la Plaza Mall (in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City).

We opted for outdoor dining despite the modern farm house interiors, ordered their Homemade Burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream), served with toasted bread, and requested it to be served fast so we need not hurry eating it and I won’t be late for my meeting. It came as promised by the waitress and it had a simple yet appealing presentation.

Z-1-GP

The texture of the bread complemented the softness and freshness of the cheese, served with Mt. Atok (in the province of Benguet) organic strawberries, cherry tomatoes and basil oil. It was priced at 430 pesos and was worth it! The cold refreshing drinks, Organic Dalandan Juice (juice of the tangy, Filipino variety of a citrus fruit) and Iced Tea with Organic Honey (small, 120 pesos each), were a welcome treat too!

I paid for this snack and all the comments are based on my dining experience. I will definitely go back to try the other items in the menu!

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining at Green Pastures in any of its branches? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

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A SENTIMENTAL PINOY MERIENDA AT VIA MARE

Location: G/F, Greenbelt 1, Greenbelt Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines

My husband and I were accompanied by three relatives when we were in the Greenbelt area for early Christmas shopping. It was the middle of the afternoon when we all became hungry and they agreed to join me in a sentimental Pinoy merienda (snack) at Via Mare in Greenbelt 1 which was one of my favorite casual dining Filipino restaurants when I was single.

Z-1-VMfacade – Via Mare, Greenbelt 1, Makati City

Now, dearest Senior Citizens (SCs), you might ask, why there, Tita S? There is one at Greenbelt 3 and it is newer. I know that, SCs, but this Greenbelt 1 branch is so memorable for me before I got married. Anyway, indulge me, please, ok?

This outlet is open from 8 am till 9:30 pm (M-F), 9 am till 9:30 pm (Sat.-Sun.), and 10 am till 10 pm (during holidays). It is located at the ground floor of Greenbelt 1, opposite National Book Store, my favorite bookstore. Via Mare’s facade and interiors still looked the same and the diners were mostly families or seniors, alone or with a companion.

I can’t help but think that the other seniors also eat there not only for the yummy dishes but recall delightful memories of dining there for years/decades as well. For me, it was way back 1990s.

This outlet offers breakfast, a wide selection of Filipino merienda treats and kakanin (native Filipino rice cakes served mostly for snacks), as well as different soups, main dishes, oyster specialties, vegetables and rice for lunch/dinner.

I was feeling nostalgic when I got hold of the menu and I wanted to order lots of native merienda (snack) treats but stopped myself because of eating out too much when I go to Metro Manila.

Z-Via Mare-2We ordered only four kinds of merienda items First was BIBINGKA VSP (175 pesos), meaning this traditional Filipino rice cake was very special because it had all the toppings possible. It was served warm and soft and its flavor was enhanced by the yummy toppings (butter, cheese and salted egg), accompanied by freshly grated coconut and sugar.

Z-Via-Mare-3PUTO BUMBONG, with two pieces per order, served with muscavado sugar (partially refined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor), quezo de bola (Edam cheese) and freshly grated coconut (106 pesos), was also ordered. It looked so delicious and we even ordered additional queso de bola for a more delightful combination.

Z-Via-Mare-4The PALITAW (a traditional, sweet, sticky Filipino rice cake), with three pieces per (55 peso) order and a generous topping of freshly grated coconut, sugar and linga (sesame seeds), was served next. It is definitely a MUST TRY, dearest Seniors! This boiled, flattened, small, rectangular, Filipino rice cake was so delicately soft, contrasted by the texture of the freshly grated coconut mixed with sugar and linga. We had to ask for an additional order because we couldn’t have enough of this native delicacy.

Z-Via-Mare-5DINUGUAN AT PUTO (205 pesos), another Filipino favorite, was a satisfying, thick, savory pork-blood stew with pork offals and meat, complemented by the small white putos (traditional, round, soft, Filipino steamed rice cakes).

Bottomline, we enjoyed all our orders but rave about the palitaw! My younger companions learned to appreciate these Filipino treats while I reminisced good times in this restaurant with every bite I took. Happy tummies! Happy memories! Happy meee! Happy weee! We will surely go back for more, perhaps for lunch or dinner!

Prices stated were based on charges when we dined in this outlet; they may change. Visit its official website: www.viamare.com.ph for outlets, catering services, updates, etc. You can also call (02) 815-1918. For a quick look at the menu of this outlet: (1) simply type “via mare greenbelt 1 menu” and click on the www.munchpunch.com option, or (2) type www.zomato.com and type café via mare greenbelt 1. View the menu at the bottom of the page.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in this restaurant or in any of its other branches? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

 

 

 

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EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

Location: Province of Palawan1, MIMAROPA2 Region, Philippines

In our fourth day in the picturesque town of El Nido3 in the province of Palawan, my husband and I felt that we gained weight after three days here especially with Sea Cocoon’s yummy buffet breakfast, Hello El Nido’s finger-licking grilled buffet lunch during our island hopping, and the seafood dinners we had along the beach! This is paradise, but is not-so-good for our waistlines! But what can I say! When on vacation, NO DIET! Or, we have a SEE-FOOD DIET, i.e., when we see food, we eat! Right?!

Did you see my posts of our first two tours of El Nido? If not, click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 1 and click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 2.

Anyway, our third tour called TOUR B – WHITE SAND GALORE: ISLANDS AND CAVES, costs 1,300 per person. Just like the first 2 trips, I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.

3-El Nido-Snake Island-Gani
Snake Island, El Nido, Palawan – Photo by: Gani

The first stop was SNAKE ISLAND. I enjoyed this unique island because it had a natural S-shaped sandbar visible during low tide. And guess what, it was low tide today, lucky us! My husband and I walked the whole sandbar and we wished we had a drone to video our walk. We finally reached the end of the sandbar which was a mangrove. We stopped a bit and headed back to the starting point where we were ushered to head up and hike to a small gazebo with a spectacular view of the sandbar and the clear water! The bottled water came in handy to hydrate us going up and down this trail. Take your time, dearest Seniors, it is worth the effort!

Next was ENTALULA BEACH, reputed to be the best beach in Bacuit Bay. It can also be reserved for an intimate lunch/dinner.

The CUDUGNON CAVE was the next stop and cash was handy to enjoy fresh buko juice/cold soft drinks. This site was believed to be the burial site during the Neolithic period4 (10,200 – 2000 BC).

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A brief stop at the CATHEDRAL CAVE followed but we did not stay long because the water was a bit rough. However, each passenger was given a chance to have pictures taken with the cave as backdrop.

4-El-Nido-Pinagbuyutan Island-Gani
Pinagbuyutan Island Photo by Gani

The PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND was the last stop. It is a powdered white sand island ideal for snorkeling, laying at the beach, or swimming with loved ones.

This last packaged tour is good but not as good as the first two … anyway, the sandbar was more than enough to make this a memorable trip! Thanks again, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

My final words re El Nido: This town is indeed a paradise and a precious treasure for all Filipinos and foreign visitors to visit and experience for generations to come! I pray it will not suffer the same fate as Boracay if they just continue to consistently and strictly implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)5.  I hope the local government will be able to continue to plan and successfully implement programs against the threats of high human activities and the booming tourism industry in the these towns such as: pollution from waste and sewage disposal; beach erosion; damage to coral reefs due to snorkeling, diving and illegal collection; and, disturbance of bird nesting and marine sites.

I would love to hear from you, dear Seniors! Did you find this post informative? Have you gone to El Nido? Did you also experience this package tour? What are your observations of the tourism impact to the environment? Just scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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1Palawan, according to the Wikipedia page, “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, s a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier. SOURCE: “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

2MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

3El Nido, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

4“Neolithic,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic.

5El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) is the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, It covers 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

 

 

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LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR: A HERITAGE TREAT

Location: Barangay Pag-asa, town of Bagac, province of Bataan, Central Luzon Region, island of Luzon, Philippines

6-Las Casas

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is an 18th-century heritage park and open-air museum located along Umagol River, in the town of Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. It was created in 2003 by Jose “Gerry” Acuzar, owner of New San Jose Builders, and opened it to the public in 2010. It is managed by Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corporation.

1-Las Casas

It presents a 400-hectare sprawling settlement of 27 Spanish colonial-heritage houses from various cities and provinces of the Philippines (e.g., Biñan, Bulacan, Cagayan, Ilocos, La Union, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Quezon City). Each house or “casa” was dismantled in situ (in its original place), brick by brick, numbered, transported to this site, where they were reassembled and restored. The houses are often made with a stone foundation on the ground level and made of wood on the upper floor. If parts are missing, bricks and woodwork were replaced to resemble the original structure.

19-Las Casas-layout

If you have arthritis, no worries, dear Seniors, the property offers the following transportation facilities to take you around:

  • Bicycle – reserve, for a fee, per hour;

9-Las Casas-jeepney-MarissaDG

  • Jeepney – pick-up starts in front of Casa Mexico and drops off at Casa New Manila;

 

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  • Kalesa – a horse-drawn carriage; reserve at the Concierge and meet Makisig, the horse, used for this traditional mode of transportation good for 2 to 4 persons;

 

10-Las Casas-A-golf cart-MarissaDG

  • Golf Cart – reserve at Casa Mexico for a fee per hour, whether self-driven (maximum 4 persons) or tour guide-driven (maximum 3 persons); and,

 

7-Las Casas-tram-MarissaDG

  • Tram – a vehicle which goes around the property along a metal railway or track.

 

For Seniors who can afford and who have an architectural, cultural and/or historical interest, this place is for you! You will also have lots of “muni-muni” (reflection) time while strolling from one house to another along the brick pavements or cobblestone streets, or while riding any of the above vehicles and feeling the gentle to strong (depending on the weather/season) wind from the Beach Area, direct from the West Philippine Sea. If you love taking selfies or unique Spanish architecture, more reason to go, just apply lots of sunscreen! If you enjoy spending time walking/strolling with family or “balikbayan friends”, enjoying freshly-baked pandesal from La Panaderia or native delicacies for “merienda” (snacks) at La Parilla/Pica Pica, indulging in local fruity-flavored “sorbetes” (ice cream) peddled by a roving “sorbetero” (ice cream vendor) wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, swimming, sunbathing and appreciating the beautiful sunset while sipping beer/cocktails by the beach, and without the “noisy” nightlife of the city even for just one night, then check this destination out!

4-Las Casas

Stay at least overnight to enjoy this unique resort and savor its beauty on a leisurely pace, preferably on a weekend, to witness traditional native activities (listed below). I visited this nostalgic property on February 2017, along with my high school buddies as part of our 45th jubilee. There are 217 rooms to choose from; check-in is 2 pm and check-out is 12 noon.

12-Las Casas-Casa-New-Manila-QCWe checked-in at the first “casa” or house upon entering the compound, the Casa de New Manila Quezon City.

3-Las Casas

I stayed with my husband in a Deluxe Room with a “retro ambiance” yet still enjoyed the comforts of air-conditioning, a queen-sized bed, television with cable, an in-room safety deposit box, a bathroom with hot and cold water and a separate bathtub and shower, and breakfast was also included.

Other types of rooms are the:

  1. Executive Suite – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza and gazebo; for 6 adults; with 3 queen beds with 2 extra beds;
  2. Family Suite – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view) or beach front, for 6 adults, with 3 queen beds and 2 extra beds;
  3. Large Superior Deluxe – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view, beach front, or plaza); for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds; and, the
  4. Studio with Loft – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza; for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds.

Visit its website for prices/availability/more information: www.lascasasfilipinas.com

16-Las Casas

The following tours are offered (but note that schedules/prices may be changed, so inquire beforehand):

  • A WALKING HERITAGE TOUR held about 7 times daily (9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 4:30 pm), subject to weather conditions, for 1,500 pesos. A trained and eloquent tour guide gives the history of each house. Experience this special one-hour tour with your “amigos/amigas” or family.

Here are some tips for you to maximize this tour: choose comfortable footwear that is easy to remove and wear (since you will be required to leave it at the door of each house before entry; wear socks for hygiene, if desired; wear comfortable and light clothes; during summer or hot days, apply sunblock, wear a cap or hat and even bring an umbrella; and, bring water for hydration. If it is windy, bring a shawl or something to keep you warm and, for ladies, apply a lip balm to protect your lips.

Since my husband and I stayed overnight, we availed of this tour and learned to appreciate more of our country’s rich history, architecture and culture. The tour guides were fluent in both English and Tagalog.

  • An ALL-DAY TOUR for a minimum of 5 persons, with 2,000 pesos nett per person, paid in advance, and cannot be combined with other promotions. There are several schedules daily, subject to weather conditions.
  • A RIVER/BALSA TOUR for a minimum of 4 persons per ride, on an “intimate and romantic” cruise around the property using a “balsa” (raft) for 500 pesos each. You can leisurely float along the Umangol River and the glide along surrounding balconies, brick walls, verandas and arched bridges.
  • A HOTEL DE ORIENTE TOUR is a tour of the faithful replica of the first luxury hotel in Binondo during the Spanish colonial era of our country, for 200 pesos. It is the property’s “premier 3-floor convention center” which can accommodate functions for at least 10 persons to banquets of up to 600 persons. Its lobby boasts of wooden sculptures crafted by Betis and Paete carvers, both well-known for wood-carving.
  • A WORKSHOP TOUR is an in-house workshop where woodcarvings and bricks are traditionally made. The tour starts at Casa Mexico and is held Tuesday to Thursday (9 am/3 pm) and Friday to Sunday (9 am/11 am/3 pm).
  • BATAAN TOUR PACKAGE – Please inquire at 09178329361 (Monday-Saturday, 8:30 am – 5:P30 pm) or visit their website mentioned above.
  • An ART TOUR is coming soon.

Dining outlets include: (1) The Beach Bar; (2) Café del Rio – a tapas1 bar at Casa Sta. Rita; (3) Café Marivent at Casa New Manila – a Filipino-Spanish restaurant at the 2nd floor of the said casa; (4) Cusina ni Nanay Maria – a Filipino restaurant located at Casa Unisan;  (5) La Bella Teodora at Basa Biñan – an Italian restaurant located at Casa Biñan; and, (6) La Parilla and Pica Pica – an open Filipino “street food and beverage” outlet located at Plaza de Castro. I enjoyed their turon (fried, sweet banana spring roll), bibingka (Filipino rice cake), puto bumbong (steamed, rectangular, purple rice cake) and salabat (hot ginger tea).

Other activities are (but schedules/prices/venue may be changed, so inquire beforehand):

  1. Carabao Parade and Race – A colorful parade which starts at 4 pm at Gate 2 and extends to the Beach Area every Saturday and Sunday. A carabao (Filipino swamp-type water buffalo) race and a “palosebo2” are also held at the Beach Area.
  2. Center of Filipino Arts and Culture – An exhibit at Casa Candaba, open daily from 9 am till 5 pm.
  3. Cockfighting – A famous Filipino pastime held every Sunday at 10am at the back of Casa Tondo.
  4. Cultural Show/Mini Fiesta – A show of traditional Filipino dances (maglalatik3, singkil4 and tinikling5) held every Saturday at Casa Hagonoy/Paseo de Escolta at 6 pm (sundown).
  5. Entertainment and Game Room – A room located at Casa Lubao, just a few steps away from Tulay ni Lola Basyang which offers billiards, darts and other board games free of charge, open daily, from 7 am till 7 pm. Contact a Game Coordinator for Filipino games like: patintero6, piko7, sipa8 or sungka9. Casa Lubao also offers fish feeding for 50 pesos.
  6. Fotografia de la Escolta – A professional in-house photography studio where you can schedule a photoshoot wearing the traditional baro’t saya10 or barong11.
  7. Music Shop – A guitar and ukulele shop located at Paseo de Escolta (beside Fotografia de la Escolta).
  8. Napiya Spa – The in-house spa and wellness center located at Paseo de Escolta (Room 212) which offers the traditional Filipino massages like “bentosa12”, “dagdagay13” and “hilot14”. It is open from 10 am till 9 pm.
  9. Pocket Performance – A performance held at the Tanghalang Tasulok every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 am/11:30 am/2:30 pm/4:30 pm.
  10. Sunday Mass – A Catholic mass held at the church called Santuario de San Jose every Sunday at 10:30 am.
  11. Swimming Pool and Beach Area – A “batis15”-inspired swimming pool open daily from 7 am till 9 pm; the Beach Area is open from 6 am till 6 pm daily.
  12. Water Activities – Activities such as banana boat, boat ride, island hopping, jet ski, kayaking and wakeboarding16, subject to weather and current conditions. Make it to Yasa Point for a zip line ride, ATV17 ride, mountain biking and wall climbing for the younger members of your family.

 

18-Las Casas-MarissaDG

This property is part of Historic Hotels Worldwide and part of the Conde Nast Jahansens Luxury Global Collection and Peninsula Hotel’s Pencities Luxe Guide. It is also the 2017 Asia Awards of Excellence winner.

17-Las Casas - Copy

Here are three “casas” and their stories:

11-A- Las Casas-Casa-ByzantinaCasa Byzantina, a 3-storey, intricately designed “floral” stone house from Binonda, Manila, built in 1890 by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, using Neo-Byzantine19 and Neo-Mudéjar20 influences with elaborate and delicate embellishments. It was demolished in 2009 and transferred to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

5-Las Casas-Casa Luna

Casa Luna, built in 1850 and owned by Primitivo Novicio, the uncle of the famous Luna brothers: General Antonio Luna (the first Filipino general who fought in the Philippine-American War) and Juan Luna (the renowned Filipino painter, sculptor and political activist). It was originally located in the municipality of Namacpacan (now Luna, in the province of La Union, named after the brothers). The house is symmetrically constructed and reflects the typical Ilocano18 stone house, with a “cochera” (a garage for carriages and “carrozas” as well as a storeroom for farm produce) at the ground floor, an “entresuelo” (a mezzanine for the servants), the main second floor for bedrooms, toilet and bath, the grand living room, kitchen, and an “azotea” (a flat roof/platform on the top of the house) at the back.

 

13-Las Casas-Casa Mexico-Pampanga

Casa Mexico-Pampanga, a stone house from the municipality of Mexico, in the province of Pampanga, salvaged from a junk shop and reconstructed based on an old photograph.

Overall and personally, this cultural escapade was memorable for me and my high school buddies. We had enough quality time to bond with each other amidst our leisurely strolls as well as “kalesa”/tram/jeepney rides. We had so many beautiful pictures to look back to in the years to come!

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced going to this destination site, either just for the day or overnight? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Thank you!

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1Tapas are small, savory Spanish dishes.

2Palosebo is a traditional Filipino game for boys during a town fiesta or on special occasions in the provinces using a long, straight, polished and greasy bamboo pole with a small bag or flag tied to the top as a reward to whoever could successfully climb, reach it, and retrieve the bag/flag.

3Maglalatik is a male folk dance from the Philippines where coconut shell halves are secured onto the dancers’ hands and on vests upon which are hung 4 or six more coconut shell halves. The dancers perform the dance by hitting one coconut shell with the other, alternately on the hands, on the shoulders and body, to the beat of a fast drumbeat. NOTE: The dance means “latik-maker”, from “latik”, a syrupy, caramelized coconut cream used as a dessert sauce or garnish, used in Filipino cookery.

4Singkil is a popular folk dance of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao (in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao),  performed during celebrations and other festive occasions, based on the epic legend, Darangen, the pre-Islamic Maranao interpretation of the ancient Hindu Indian epic, the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic poem which narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama to rescue his wife, Sita, from the demon king Rayana. This dance was popularized by the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, the oldest dance company in the Philippines, founded in 1957 by Helena Z. Benitez and debuted at Expo ’58 on May 27, 1958, upon the request of President Ramon Magsaysay. Originally, only royal women danced the singkil, as a conscious or unconscious way of attracting potential suitors. A kulintang (an ancient musical instrument composed of a row of small, horizontally laid metal gong kettles, upon a rack, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums, played by striking the bosses of the gongs with 2 wooden beaters) and agung (an ensemble composed of large hanging, suspended or held, knobbed gongs which act as drones) ensemble always accompanies this dance. The female lead dancer gracefully steps in and out of closing bamboo poles arranged in either parallel, rectangular, or criss-cross fashion, while skillfully manipulating either a fan, scarf or by just artistically waving ones bare hands. NOTE: The name of the dance means “to entangle the feet with disturbing objects such as vines or anything in ones path.”

5Tinikling is a Filipino folk dance which involves 2 people beating, tapping, and sliding 2 or 4 parallel pairs of bamboo poles on the ground (or on 2 raised pieces of wood) held by 2 or more sitting or kneeling “clappers” or “clickers” as a percussion instrument, and against each other in coordination with two or more female dancers, wearing embroidered baro’t saya19, and male dancers wearing barong20, who step over and in between the poles, weave through the rapidly moving bamboo poles with bare feet and ankles, traditionally danced to rondalla music, an ensemble of stringed instruments (e.g., bandurrias, guitars, laúdes, octavinas or ukuleles). Traditionally, the poles are tapped twice on the ground on the first 2 beats then brought together on the 3rd beat, with the tempo progressing faster and faster. The dancers need to be skillful and agile not only to follow the rhythm but also not to get their ankles/feet caught between the poles as they are snapped closed. The barefoot dancers start with their hands at their hips or clasped behind their backs, but when the tempo becomes faster, they hold hands, then end by letting go of each other’s hands and stepping out of the moving bamboo poles. NOTE: Tinikling means “to perform like a ‘tikling’, a local bird” which walk gracefully and speedily between grass stems and run over tree branches.

6Patintero is a popular, traditional Filipino street game, using 2 teams, an attack and a defense team, with 5 players each. The attack team must try to run along the perpendicular lines from the home base to the back end, and return without being tagged by the defense players, called “it”. The latter must stand on water/fire lines with both feet each time they try to tag attacking players. The player at the center line is called “patotot”. The perpendicular line at the center allows the “it” designated on that line to intersect the lines occupied by the “it” that the parallel line intersects, thus increasing the chances of the runners to be trapped, even only one member of a group is tagged, the whole group will be the “it”.

7Piko is the Filipino version of hopscotch where players stand behind the edge of a rectangular box, and each should throw their “pamato” (cue ball or flat stone). The first to play is determined on the players’ agreement on the placement of the “pamatos” on a designated line/location and whoever throws the “pamato” nearest the agreed place, will play first. The next nearest is second, etc.

8Sipa is a traditional Filipino game where players kick or toss a washer covered with colorful threads using a foot. A player is thrown upwards and the player starts to toss the washer and counts the number of times s/he does it successfully without the washer touching the ground. The player who has the most kicks wins the game. Sipa literally means “kick”.

9Sungka is the Filipino mancala game played in a wooden board and cowrie shells or stones called “sigays”. A boatlike sungka board has 2 rows of 7 small pits called “bahay” (houses), initially with 7 “sigays”, with an additional bigger hole at both end of the board for each player, called an “ulo” (head) or “inay” (mother) or storehouse, for the captured seashells or stones, owned by a player to his/her left. A player empties one of his/her small pits and distributes its contents in a clockwise direction, one by one, into the following pits including his/her own storehouse but passing the opponent’s storehouse. If the last stone falls into a non-empty small pit, its contents are lifted and distributed in another lap. If the last stone falls into the player’s onw store, the player gets a bonus move. However, if the last stone falls into an empty pit, the move ends and the player is “patay” (dead). If the move ends by dropping the last stone into one of your own small pits, you capture the stones in the opponent’s pit directly across the board and your own stone. The captured shells are “subi” (deposited) in your storehouse. However, if the opponent’s pit is empty, nothing is captured. The first move is plated simultaneously, after which the players take turns alternately. The game ends when no stones are left in the small pits. The player who captures the most shells wins the game.

10Baro’t saya is the national dress of the Philippines traditionally made of piña (pineapple fiber); the feminine equivalent of the barong20. This conservative attire is composed of a blouse is called “baro”, with butterfly sleeves, and the skirt is called “saya”, generally fashioned out of opaque plaid or striped cotton and sinamay varieties. An “alampay” is a square kerchief usually made of the same fabric as the saya, worn over the “baro” to cover the breasts which also doubles as a veil, later called the “panuelo”. An overskirt made of a darker and thicker material called a “tapis” is wrapped around the lower half of the woman’s body and tied at the waist or below the breasts. It is the pre-colonial clothing of the Tagalogs and Visayans made of silk in matching colors, exclusively worn by women from the upper class; those belonging to the lower caste wore a “baro” made from pounded white bark fiber.

 

11Barong is the short term for barong Tagalog, the traditional, lightweight, long-sleeved, embroidered, formal shirt for Filipino males. It is worn untucked over an undershirt. It is considered the national dress of the Philippines.

12Bentosa is an ancient Chinese method used to remove aches and pains and improve the circulation by cupping. It is also spelled “ventosa”. It has 2 types: fire cupping and dry cupping. Fire cupping uses a cup or glass to suction the cold parts at the back of the body which lack blood circulation and have blockages so that they will have normal energy flow. It is executed with a glass cup, candle and oil. Massage oil is applied on the back to create a better seal on the cups, then a candle is lighted with a cotton candle ball on the top. Once the candle is lighted, the cup is placed over the candle so the oxygen is removed and the suction will appear when the skin bloats or puffs. The red marks that will appear after the cupping will disappear after 1-2 days. Dry cupping uses a glass/plastic cup on the skin using a pump so the air is removed by suction.

13Dagdagay is a traditional Filipino acupressure treatment for the legs and feet, originally from the Mountain Province of the Philippines, a way of accessing the body’s entire immune system through the soles of the feet. It begins with a soothing foot soak on healing herbs in a huge clay vessel and capped with a relaxing herbal foot wrap and massage. The therapist uses 2 bamboo or rattan sticks, in pack of finger pressure, to stimulate the soles and cleanse/purify the feet.

14Hilot is the ancient Filipino art of healing in rural areas where, originally, a “manghihilot” uses chiropractic manipulation and massage techniques to treat musculoskeletal ailments, to reset dislocated and sprained joints (ankle, fingers, knee and metacarpal bones). Modern spas use this technique to relieve stress and promote rejuvenation and balance the harmony of the body, emotion and mind, using warm strips of (naturally ionized) banana leaves laved with virgin coconut oil applied on the body before and after a session. The therapist identifies areas of energy imbalance in the body through touch diagnosis. A full body massage involves a combination of slow moving fingers and hand pressure over various pressure points throughout the back and legs, and relaxing the tension in the head and neck.

15A batis is the Tagalog term for a small stream, river or brook.

16Wakeboarding is a surface water sport which involves riding a wakeboard21 over the surface of a body of water. It is a combination of snowboarding, surfing and water skiing. The wakeboard is usually towed behind a motorboat or personal water craft at a speed of 30-40 km/hr, depending on the board size, weight, and type of tricks.

17ATV, or All-Terrain Vehicle, is a vehicle that is designed to handle a wide variety of terrain and travels on 3-4 low-pressure tires with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. The rider sits and operates it like a motorcycle and is stable at slower speeds. It is used in some destinations for a thrilling ride.

18Ilocano is a term which refers to the ethnolinguistic people who live, or come from, the Ilocos Region in the northwestern part of the island of Luzon7, in the Philippines.

19Neo-Byzantine is an architectural revival movement in the 1840s in Western Europe, prevalent among public and religious buildings, especially in Germany and Russia. It combines the Byzantine style with Eastern and Orthodox Christian architecture from the 5th till 11th centuries.

20Neo-Mudéjar is a type of Moorish Revival architecture which started in Madrid, Spain, in the late 19th century, and spread to the rest of that country. It is characterized by abstract-shaped brick ornaments for facades, arabesque tiles and horseshoe arches.

21A wakeboard is a small, mostly rectangular, buoyant and thin board with the core usually made of foam, honeycomb or wood, mixed with resin and coated with fiberglass. It has very little displacement and shoe-like bindings are mounted to it. Metal screws are inserted to attach bindings and fins.

 

 

 

Featured

EL NIDO: Heaven on Earth – Part 1

Location: Province of Palawan, MIMAROPA1 Region, Philippines

My husband and I visited Puerto Princesa2, Palawan3 years ago. The former is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. Palawan is a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier.

We were invited by my high school buddies and their families to El Nido (a first-class municipality in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan), from February 19 to 22, 2017. It was our first time to visit this wonderful destination known for its awesome coral reefs, white-sand beaches, unique lagoons and limestone cliffs.

We were likewise curious how tourism can thrive amidst the so-called El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)4, the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, covering 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor.

We heard so much about El Nido’s beauty so we did not hesitate to join the group to discover this new destination which was part of our bucket list.

21-El-Nido

Everything was pre-arranged by my very dependable and travel-savvy friend from the US so my husband and I just paid for our share. Here is the first part of our unforgettable adventure!

Our group arrived at the Puerto Princesa Airport and two vans were waiting for us provided by Daytripper Palawan. The mini-packs of banana chips, bottled water and, of course, the professional driving skills of our drivers were very much appreciated. It was about a 6-hour trip from the airport to El Nido, and we stopped a couple of times for the “call of nature”, to stretch a bit, as well as have our lunch. Some of us appreciated the view while some slept along the way.

We finally arrived at Sea Cocoon, our hotel, and we all checked-in. We used the remaining time to explore the town, its market and retail stalls, the beach, and savored its local and fresh seafood for dinner along a seaside restaurant. We slept early the previous night because this will be the first of our 3 day-tour that will take us around this awesome destination.

We had a good night’s rest after a hot shower and slept soundly on a comfortable bed in our air-conditioned room. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was so good!

I am also lucky to have a well-organized friend who even provided durable hard-plastic beach bags where I could place all my (and my husband’s) needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water for hydration, comb, towels, sunglasses, well-protected cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. Photos were taken after breakfast, all met at the lobby, trooped to the beach (which was just about 3 minute-walk from our hotel) and before we knew it, we were all aboard our big banca (boat) for the day.

My friend contracted Hello El Nido for the 3 packaged tours and may I say that my husband and I were very satisfied with the services of the management and all the boatmen/crew. Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

It also seemed that the local government has standardized the packaged tours of El Nido which is beneficial for us, first-time tourists. Our tour that day is marketed as TOUR C – SECRET ISLANDS AND BEACHES, costing 1,400 pesos each person.

We wore our safety vests and enjoyed the natural beauty – 360 degrees! Worried that you cannot swim? Don’t be! You can stay in the banca but I do not recommend that and I am so sure you will not because of the beauty of all the stops. All destinations are safe for all ages and all stops are worth the trip! So, listen up, it’s our first packaged tour of El Nido and I know you will be excited with me as I recall our tour.

The first stop was SECRET BEACH which can only be accessed by swimming and going through a small crevice in a rock wall. No worries, dearest seniors, I gained weight and still fitted LOL! Besides, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist you: seniors, kids, and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will be awed by this pristine beach and its beauty and thus, a secret no more!

Next was HIDDEN BEACH, surrounded by fantastic limestone rock formations. You can just float with your life vest or swim, just be careful not to be near sharp corals.

The STAR OF TALISAY BEACH was the next stop. It is a snorkeling site and was also our lunch stop. Now, I am sure you are curious to know about the buffet lunch. Let me tell you that all such meals for our 3 package tours were soooo good, thanks to Hello El Nido! The freshly cooked “inihaw” (grilled) pork and seafood (shrimps/fish/squids), along with fresh vegetables/seaweed salad, hot steamed rice, and fresh fruits were always a welcome feast for our group! Burp! Drinking water was also provided. Happy tummies always! My best advice is for you to bring cash for fresh buko (young coconut) or cold softdrinks sold in island stops.

1-El-Nido- lunch buffet

The MATINLOC SHRINE or the SHRINE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, is located in an island maintained by the descendants of the original owner. Be prepared for a 100 peso-entrance fee. The shrine is serene and satisfies the religious among us seniors. The big old house seemed abandoned but you can imagine its splendor when it was new and operational. Our group went up a cemented area with steps leading to the peak where we had an unforgettable view for miles and miles!

Last was HELICOPTER ISLAND, a helicopter-shaped island when viewed from afar, ideal for snorkeling and diving.

This first packaged tour was indeed wonderful! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of http://www.helloelnido.com! Your kind boatmen returned us to our shores early so we can enjoy the majestic sunset in this picturesque island! We felt so lucky to have another dinner along the shore for us to breathe in all the good vibes while we savored the fresh seafood treats we ordered!

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Just scroll to the bottom of this post and type your comment in the designated box. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you.

Watch out for my next post and discover the other beautiful islands of El Nido!

Do visit my El Nido posts:

EL NIDO: Blue Lagoons – Part 2

and

EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

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1MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

2“Puerto Princesa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto Princesa.

3“Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

 4“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El Nido,_Palawan.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

TAO YUAN RESTAURANT: YUMMY CHINESE-SINGAPOREAN TREATS

Location: 2/F Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, Philippines

A niece of ours brought us to Resorts World Manila (an integrated resort*) in Pasay City and since it was almost lunch time and we were already hungry, she suggested we try this Chinese-Singaporean seafood restaurant at the second floor of Newport Mall. We said we were willing to try it and here is our dining experience for four.

The dining area was spacious, the air conditioning gave a comfortable ambiance and the head receptionist was very accommodating who led us to a table and graciously took our orders. I appreciated coming early for lunch because I heard that this place is popular and crowded during lunch and dinner.

1-Tao Yuan
Singaporean Fried Fish Skin

Our appetizer was Singaporean Fried Fish Skin and this is to die for!  The salted egg taste along with the crispy fish skin was so yummy so I told myself, this is definitely a Cheat Day for me due its generous portion and this was just for starters! It was worth 328 peso. We were not able to finish it so we asked this to be wrapped and we continued to enjoy it at home after being heated in the microwave, and was still so yummy!

2-Tao Yuan
Scallops with Minced Vegetable Soup

We just had a small order of Scallops with Minced Vegetable Soup and it was served at the right temperature, subtle yet delicious. The texture and delicate taste made this dish a delectable treat at 498 pesos.

3-Tao Yuan
Hainanese Chicken

We had half an order of their Singaporean Boneless Hainanese Chicken, a favorite among its customers. Now I know why! It is so tender and its delicate taste, along with the accompanying dips, makes you want to dig in for more. The 750 price was worth it.

4-Tao Yuan
Salted Fish and Diced Chicken

The Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Diced Chicken was tasty yet complemented the dishes we ordered so I enjoyed them all together or even just the fried rice alone! A small order costs 398 pesos.

5-Tao Yuan
Roasted Crispy Pork Belly

The Roasted Crispy Pork Belly was a winner! The crispy skin yet tender meat with its dip was just right for meat lovers. It costs 428 pesos.

6-Tao Yuan
Scallops with Broccoli Flowers

Scallops with Broccoli Flowers was ordered for someone craving for vegetables. Even the kid with us enjoyed this dish. The contrasting texture of the broccoli along with the smooth and the pleasantly-flavored scallops was a great combination. A small order costs 980 pesos.

We were given a complimentary dessert of almond lychee and it was refreshing with just the right sweetness, after all the dishes we enjoyed!

I just want to say that I paid for our meal and these are my personal comments based on the orders we made. It is a bit pricey but we had value for money and we were very satisfied! Happy tummies!

We will definitely come back to this restaurant and try their other dishes. I was told that dimsum is served in their other branch and would like to try it too.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced dining in this restaurant or in any of its other branches? Do you know other Chinese restaurants you want me to feature? I would like to hear from you. Do scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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*An integrated resort is a type of resort which features lodging, gaming, convention failities, entertainment shows, fine dining outlets, high-end retail outlets, and theme parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now You Know: THE MANILA ZOO IS CLOSED IMMEDIATELY AND INDEFINITELY

Dearest Filipino readers, when was the last time you went to the Manila Zoo? Personally, I have not visited that place for decades. Why? I got feedback from those who went there about the miserable state of the animals, how dirty and smelly the surroundings are, the condition of the facilities, even the toilets – all these and more, which break my heart because I only have fond memories of this zoo when I was in elementary. My father even taught me how to fish and distinctly remember catching a lot of tilapia in the lagoon which we brought home, cleaned, cooked and enjoyed as a family.

Well, it seems that the Manila Zoo will be indefinitely closed starting today, January 23, 2019. 1, 2, 3,4,5  This was ordered by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, weeks after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tagged it as one of Manila Bay’s major pollutants1, 2, 3 as it has supposedly been draining untreated sewage into one of the estuaries leading to that body of water.2, 3

In a one-page memorandum issued on January 21, Mayor Estrada ordered that “full support and cooperation be extended to the national government for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.”1,4

Mayor Estrada said the temporary closure would allow the city government to conduct a proper assessment and study of the zoo in preparation for its rehabilitation, upon the recommendation of the Office of the City Administrator and Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW).1,3,4

The management of Manila Zoo explained that way back during its opening, in 1959, the zoo was not required to have a sewage treatment plant.2,3

Two weeks earlier, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), one of the agencies tasked to rehabilitate Manila Bay, said that the zoo and 16 other establishments around the bay had not complied with the 1997 concession agreement signed by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and two concessionaires, Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., requiring all enterprises in Western and Eastern Metro Manila to put a wastewater treatment facility. Jas Garcia, the officer-in-charge of the public operations bureau of Manila Zoo, said the zoo only had septic tanks which remove contaminants in wastewater.5

Manila Zoo is connected to the Estero de San Antonio Abad which DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said had coliform level of 1.3 billion per 1,000 ml per most probable number (mpn), higher than the bay’s 330 million. These fecal coliform levels are way above the standard of 100 ml per mpn.5

The city government of Manila vowed to fully support the government’s move to rehabilitate the nearly 2,000-square-kilometer Manila Bay. Mayor Estrada directed the city and zoo officials to address the problem.3

The mayor also ordered the DEPW and the Department of Public Service to submit a program of work for the construction or installation of water treatment facilities or sewage plants in the zoo and other city facilities,1, 2, 3,4,5 which according to the DENR, will take a couple of months.2

City Administrator Jojo Alcovendaz earlier said that two water treatment plants might be installed in Manila Zoo within three to four months, after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu accused zoo officials of dumping untreated water into Manila Bay. The DENR gave the city government four months to construct a wastewater treatment facility.5

The zoo’s employees will not lose their jobs because the zoo will only be closed to the public but will remain in operation for them to take care of the animals.3  

Personally, I agree with the closure of Manila Zoo, not only to comply with the required water treatment plants to save Manila Bay, but the next three or four months would be an opportune time to improve the state of the zoo in terms of animal care, facilities, cleanliness and sanitation of the premises, among others. I am still hopeful that the zoo will reopen, with the proper water treatment plants and cleaner, well-maintained, and improved facilities.

Did you find this post informative? Have you been to the Manila Zoo before it was closed? Can you share what me your experience there? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1076213/manila-zoo-closed-indefinitely

2https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/682356/manila-zoo-to-be-temporarily-closed-starting-january-23/story/

3https://www.philstar.com/nation/2019/01/23/1887315/manila-zoo-shut-down-indefinitely-due-untreated-sewage

4https://news.mb.com.ph/2019/01/22/manila-zoo-closed-in-view-of-manila-bay-rehab/

5https://www.manilatimes.net/manila-zoo-shuts-down/500599/

Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT IS THE BLACK NAZARENE OF QUIAPO?

Every January 9, we witness the biggest religious procession in the Philippines, the one held in honor of the Black Nazarene. Some foreign senior friends of mine asked me about this religious image, so here are facts which I researched.

THE BLACK NAZARENE: AN INTRODUCTION

The Black Nazarene is a popular life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the cross. It is enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene(simply called Quiapo Church), in the Quiapodistrict of the City of Manila3, Philippines.

This iconic image is called Poong Itim na Nazareno or Hesus Nazareno in Filipino, and El Nazareno Negro or Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno in Spanish.

The image derived its name from “Nazarene”, a title of Christ identifying Him as a native of Nazareth in Galilee.

450px-black_nazarene

Source of Picture:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Black_Nazarene.jpg, by Constantine Agustin, https://www.flickr.com/photos/biagkensiak/857870853/

The miraculous Black Nazarene is venerated every Friday. Many devotees relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ4, as represented by this image. Devotees also believe that merely touching this renowned image could cure diseases, so it continues to attract more and more devotees from across the nation and even from overseas. A composite replica, however, was made in recent years for its processions.

Cagayan de Oro City, in Northern Mindanao, has an official replica of the Black Nazarene given by the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene1 in 2009. A replica of the Black Nazarene was also canonically enshrined at Saint Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Parish in Reseda, California, USA. Another replica can be found at the Old Chapel of St. Rock the Healer Mission Center, Bishop’s Compound, Barangay Cawayan, Catarman, Northern Samar, where devotees venerate the image, especially on Fridays.

DESCRIPTION OF THE IMAGE

The Black Nazarene’s head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with a golden crown of thorns. Attached to the crown are the traditional “Tres Potencias” (“three powers”), or three rayos (“rays” symbolizing the three powers of the Holy Trinity), exclusively used for images of Jesus Christ in traditional Filipino and Hispanic iconography to signify His divinity.

The original image has lost several fingers over the centuries.

The barefoot image is shown in a genuflecting posture, symbolizing the agony and the weight of the Cross, along with the overall pain Christ endured during His Passion4.

The Cross itself is of black wood tipped with flat, pyramidal gilt brass caps.

The image is dressed in a heavy velvet tunic of maroon, embroidered with floral and plant emblems on gold thread, and trimmed with matching lace collar and cuffs. Around the waist is a gold-plated metal belt embossed with the word “NAZARENO”, while a golden chain ending in spheres is looped around the neck and held in the left hand, representing His Scourging5.

The many devotees of the Black Nazarene relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ4 as represented by the image of the Black Nazarene. His eyes and His mouth manifest the writhing pain He suffered and portrays a calling for someone to help Him carry the heavy cross. Anyone who focuses his eyes for some time on this image will be irresistibly moved with pity.6

HISTORY

The image was originally owned by the Recollects and was carved by an unknown Mexican sculptor using mesquite, a dark wood that was a popular medium in the 16th century in Mexico. The image was then transported to the Philippines in 1606 aboard a galleon from Acapulco. It arrived in Manila on May 31, 1606. It depicts Jesus en route to His crucifixion. A similar image called Cristo Negro7 is venerated in Portobelo, Panama.

It is said, however, that it was either charred by a fire on the galleon or its dark complexion was due to votive candles8 burning before the image. These still have to be proven.

Pope Innocent X approved veneration of the image in 1650 as a sacramental, and authorized the establishment of the lay Confraternity9 of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene (Confradia de Nuestro Santo Jesus Nazareno in Spanish).

Pope Pius VII gave the image his Apostolic Blessing10 in 1880, which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before it.

The Black Nazarene was originally enshrined in the high altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino11 (popularly known as the Recoletos Church), located some distance away from modern-day Rizal Park12, inside Intramuros13. Both the church and the image perished during the bombardment and the flames of the Liberation of Manila14 in 1945.

On January 9, 1787, the Recollects donated a copy of the image to the Church of the Camisa (one of Quiapo Church’s original names) and it has been housed there ever since. This “solemn transfer” of the image’s copy from Intramuros to Quiapo was later on celebrated by the faithful every January 9 by means of a procession (henceforth called the Traslacion). This image has withstood four centuries of fires, earthquakes, and even World War II.

The image presently enshrined above the main altar of Quiapo Church is a composite of the surviving copy’s head and a body-replica sculpted by renowned Filipino santero (saint-maker) Gener Maglaqui, who was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila15.

The other composite comprises the surviving copy’s body and the head of the Maglaqui replica. Enshrined in a direct part of the Minor Basilica16, it is the second composite which is used in the three major processions (see below). This arrangement began in the 1990s because of security concerns, and to better protect the icon. Until then, the image donated in the 18th century was used in whole during processions.

DEVOTIONS IN HONOR OF THE BLACK NAZARENE

Here are the devotions in honor of the Black Nazarene:

  1. Every Friday, except Good Friday, is called “Quiapo Day” in Metro Manila, where masses are held in the image’s honor. At the end of each Mass in this Minor Basilica16, devotees pay homage to the image by clapping their hands. Heads up on every Friday in that vicinity because of the heavy traffic due to the high influx of devotees.
  2. Paglalakad nang Paluhod – The reverential custom of “walking” on one’s bended knees (kneeling down posture) along the main aisle, from the entrance of the church, towards the image at the altar.6
  3. A nine-day annual novena17 in honor of the Black Nazarene starts midnight, December 31, with a procession in Quiapo2, Manila3, and continues until January 8.18 For the complete novena, days 1 to 9, visit: http://www.god-answers-prayers.com/jesus_christ_prayers/novena_prayer_black_nazarene/day1/index.html

A novena is also held every Friday, attended by thousands of devotees. A note is sounded before the novena begins as the devotees to the Black Nazarene troop in, reciting their strings of petitions.

  1. Traslacion19 – I will make a post soon.
  2. Pahalik – This “kissing” ritual of the statue is held during the eve of the Traslacion19, following the folk belief that a cloth can absorb the powers of a holy object, usually and specifically its curative abilities and blessings, originating from the ancient custom of ex brandea (cloth wiped on the bodies or tombs of the Twelve Apostles), itself part of the wider category of Third-class relics20.
  3. Pabihis–This “dressing” ritual refers to the changing of the vestments of the Black Nazarene which is done by a priest vested in a cope21 and stole22, and devotees either inside the Minor Basilica16, or outside, in Plaza Miranda23. It is performed five times a year during preparations for major religious occasions, and is open to the public.
  4. Pahawak– This refers to touching the statue or the garments of the Black Nazarene.6
  5. Pasindi (“lighting”) or lighting of multi-colored votive candles8 outside the Minor Basilica16.

Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio, rector and parish priest of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, said that over the years the devotion has increased. He identified three elements for such popularity: miracles and healing; the identification of the Filipinos with the sufferings of Jesus Christ; and, the Panata24 commitment.6

Karl Marx, a German philosopher, socialist revolutionary, sociologist, political theorist, historian, journalist and economist, said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people,” according to the Wikipedia pages “Karl Marx”25 and “Opium of the people”.26 Other people also say that all these devotions, especially the wiping of the image, represent idolatry or fanaticism.

They may call it as such but how can you explain the conversion of devotees who previously led not-so-good lives? Genuine faith to the Black Nazarene has led to the miraculous healing of devotees. I, myself, witnessed the complete healing of my husband’s aunt who had a terminal sickness. Personally, I believe that we must respect one’s freedom of religion and his/her relationship with God for a meaningful, happy and contented life.

Pope Benedict explained popular piety in the devotion of the Black Nazarene. “I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures.” Pope Francis is also asking us to support and strengthen, understand and find meaning in popular piety.6

THE THREE PROCESSIONS OF THE BLACK NAZARENE

The image is brought out of the church three times a year:

  1. January 9, for the largest procession in the country, drawing millions of devotees for the anniversary of its translation19 or “solemn transfer” in 1787 from its original shrine inside Intramuros13 to the Minor Basilica16 where it is currently housed.
  2. Good Friday27, the Nazarene’s liturgical feast, commemorating the culmination of the Passion4; and,
  3. December 31, New Year’s Eve, the first day of its annual novena17. See Devotions above.

The information was obtained from the following Wikipedia pages: “Black Nazarene”28, “Quiapo Church”29 and “Translation (relic)”30.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Have you seen the Black Nazarene? Have you ever experienced the Traslacion? Do share your comments. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

Viva, Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno!

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These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who would like to know more about the terms below:

1The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, commonly called Quiapo Church, is a prominent Mexican Baroque31 minor basilica16 in the district of Quiapo2, in the City of Manila3, Philippines. This minor basilica, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist32, is the home of the revered Black Nazarene. It was founded in 1586 by Fray Antonio de Nombela, OFM, and is under the Archdiocese of Manila15. You can visit its website: www.quiapochurch.com. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Quiapo Church”.33

2Quiapo is a district in the city of Manila3, in the Philippines, with 16 barangays34. It is the home of the Quiapo Church and known as a place for marketplace bargain hunting. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Quiapo, Manila”.35

3The City of Manila is the capital of the Philippines and the most densely populated city proper in the world. It was founded on June 24, 1571 and became the first Philippine chartered city, on July 31, 1901. It is the city where the Rizal Monument, Fort Santiago, Malacañang Palace, and University of Santo Tomas are located, among others. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Manila”.36

4The Passion of Christ, in Christianity, refers to the short final period in the life of Jesus, covering: the portent grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary; His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper; His bleeding and Agony in the Garden; and, His crucifixion on Mount Calvary, defining the climatic event central to Christian doctrine of salvation history. In the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, the Passion is commemorated during the Holy Week, beginning on Friday of Sorrows, followed by Palm Sunday, and culminating on His death on Good Friday. NOTE: Passion comes from the Latin word passionem, meaning “suffering, enduring”. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Passion of Jesus”.37

5Scourging is the act of inflicting severe corporal punishment or self-mortification using a whip or lash, usually made of leather, according to the Wikipedia page “Scourge”.38

6https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/51722

7Cristo Negro is a wooden statue of Jesus Christ carrying a cross, located in Iglesia de San Felipe, a Roman Catholic parish church in Portobelo, Panama. The life-size statue is carved of heavy cocobolo wood which is dark brown in color. It was found on the shores of the town’s harbor. It is adorned with a robe that is changed twice a year, wine or red in color during the Festival of the Black Christ on October 21, and purple during Holy Week. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cristo Negro (Portobelo)”.39

8A votive candle, or prayer candle, is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering40 in an act of Christian prayer, especially within the Anglican and Roman Catholic Christian denominations, among others. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Votive candle”.41

9A confraternity is generally a Christian voluntary association of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy. It is most common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Western Orthodox. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Confraternity”.42

10The Apostolic Blessing or Papal Blessing, is a blessing imparted by the Pope, either directly, or by delegation through others. Bishops are empowered to grant it three times a year, and any priest can do so for the dying. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Apostolic Blessing”.43

 11Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (c. 1246 – 1305) was an Italian saint and mystic, known as the Patron of Holy Souls, and was canonized on June 5, 1446 in Vatican by Pope Eugene IV, the first Augustinian to be canonized. At his canonization, Nicholas was credited with 300 miracles, including 3 resurrections. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Nicholas of Tolentino”.44

12Rizal Park, or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila3, in the Philippines. It is a major tourist attraction in Manila and a favorite leisure spot, especially on Sundays and national holidays. The execution of the national hero, Jose Rizal, on December 30, 1896, happened in this park, thus, the park was named after him. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Rizal Park”.45

13Intramuros, or Walled City, is the historic walled area within the modern city of Manila3, administered by the Intramuros Administration. It was the seat of government and political power when the Philippines was a component realm of the Spanish Empire.The Spaniards constructed the defensive walls in the late 16th century to protect the city from foreign invasions. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Intramuros”.46

14The Liberation of Manila was the result of the Battle of Manila from February 3 – March 3, 1945, during World War II. It was fought by American and Filipino forces against Japanese troops in Manila and resulted in the death of 100,000 to 240,000 civilians, 1,010 Americans, and 16,665 Japanese, as well as in the complete devastation of the city, destroying architectural and cultural heritage sites. The city’s capture was marked as General Douglas MacArthur’s key to victory in the campaign of reconquest. It is the last of the many battles fought within Manila’s history. With Intramuros13 secured on March 4, Manila was officially liberated, albeit completely destroyed with large areas leveled by American bombing. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Battle of Manila (1945)”.47

15The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila is the archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in Metro Manila, Philippines, covering Manila3, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and Pasay City (except for Villamor Air Base and Newport City which is under the jurisdiction of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines), with headquarters in 121 Arzobispo Street, Intramuros13, Manila. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila”.48

16A minor basilica is a title given to some Roman Catholic Church buildings by apostolic grant or immemorial custom. Presently, the authorizing decree is granted by the Pope though the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments49. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Minor basilica”.50

17A novena is an ancient tradition of devotional praying in Christianity, consisting of private and public prayers repeated for nine successive days or weeks. During a novena, the devotees make petitions, implore favors, or obtain graces by worshipping Jesus Christ, and ask for intercessions of the Virgin Mary, or the saints of the faith. Persons may express love and honor by kneeling, burning candles, or placing flowers before a revered statue. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Novena”.51

18https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/01/01/novena-masses-honoring-black-nazarene-begin-2/

19Traslacion is the Spanish term referring to “passage” or “movement”. In Christianity, the transfer (or translation) of relics is the removal of holy objects from one locality for placement in another. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia pages “Black Nazarene”52 and “Translation (relic)”53. For the devotees of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo2, this term means the procession held every January 9 to honor the said statue.

20Third-Class Relic refers to any object that is touched to a First- or Second-Class relic54. Most are small pieces of cloth that touched the bones of saints or touched the body or tombs of the apostles. NOTE: A First-Class relic is an item directly associated with the events of Christ’s life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, hair, skull, limb, etc.). A Second-Class Relic is an item that a saint owned (e.g., a shirt, glove, etc.) or frequently used (e.g., a rosary, crucifix, book, etc.). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Relic”.55

21cope is a liturgical vestment, i.e., a long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp, in any liturgical color. It may be worn by any rank of the clergy, and also by lay ministers in certain circumstances. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cope”.56

22A stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations, consisting of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. It is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is also often decorated with contrasting galloons (ornamental trim), and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15: 38-39.The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Stole (vestment)”.57

 23Plaza Miranda is a public square bounded by Quezon Boulevard, Hidalgo Street and Evangelista Street, in Quiapo2, Manila3. It is the plaza which fronts the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene1 (Quiapo Church), and is considered as the center of Quiapo as a whole. It was inaugurated by Mayor Arsenio Lacson in 1961, named after Jose Sandino y Miranda, who served as the Philippines’ Secretary of the Treasury from 1833 and 1854. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Plaza Miranda”.58

24Panata is a Filipino term for a solemn promise or vow.

25“Karl Marx,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx.

26“Opium of the people,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people.

27Good Fridayis a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and His death at Calvary, observed during Holy Week.

 28″Black Nazarene,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene.

29“Quiapo Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo_Church.

30“Translation (relic),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(relic).

31Mexican Baroque is a variation of Baroque architecture, a European style which is highly ornate and extravagant in style. It was introduced through Spain, then adapted to reflect the taste of Mexican indigenous works and criollo, i.e., Mexican-born Spaniards. It has the following characteristics: ornamentation (of most architectural facades and interior walls); hybridity (the combination of European and Spanish-Mexican/Armerindian aesthetic traditions/tastes); the use of azulejos, or ceramic tiles, in decorative patterns in the facade; the use of a wider array of materials (a technique called yeseria where plaster is carved into complex geometric patterns); the use of polished and gilded wood; the use of retablos, paintings of saints set in wood frames; and, the use of life-sized wooden statues of saints.59

32John the Baptist (late 1st century BC – 28-36 AD) was a prophet, even considered a saint, who baptized Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, according to the Wikipedia page “John the Baptist”.60

33 “Quiapo Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo_Church.

34A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Barangay.”61

35 “Quiapo, Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo,_Manila.

36“Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila.

37“Passion of Jesus,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_of-Jesus.

38“Scourge,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scourge.

39“Cristo Negro (Portobelo),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristo_Negro_(Portobelo).

40A votive offering, or votive deposit, is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. Some offerings are made in anticipation of the achievement of a particular wish. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Votive offering”.62

41“Votive candle,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Votive_candle.

42“Confraternity,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confraternity.

43“Apostolic blessing,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_blessing.

44“Nicholas of Tolentino,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_of_Tolentino.

45“Rizal Park,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rizal_Park.

46“Intramuros,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intramuros.

47“Battle of Manila (1945),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manila_(1945).

48“Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Archdiocese_of_Manila.

49The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is the congregation of the Roman Curia63 that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Church64 as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the Sacraments. Its functions were originally exercised by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, set up in January 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments”.65

50“Minor basilica,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_basilica.

51“Novena,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novena.

52“Black Nazarene,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene.

53“Translation (relic),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(relic).

54A relic, in religion, usually consists of the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint, or venerated person, preserved for purposes of veneration as a tangible memorial. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Relic”.55

55“Relic,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relic.

56“Cope,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cope.

57“Stole (vestment),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stole_(vestment).

58″Plaza Miranda,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_Miranda.

59https://study.com/academy/lesson/mexican-baroque-architecture-characteristics-examples.html

60“John the Baptist,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist.

61“Barangay,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

62“Votive offering,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Votive_offering.

63Roman Curia is the group of administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the Roman Pontiff conducts the affairs of the universal Catholic Church. It acts in his name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the necessary central organization for the correct functioning of the Church and the achievement of its goals. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Roman Curia”.66

64The Latin Church is a particular church of the Catholic Church. It is headed by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, with headquarters in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, according to the Wikipedia page “Latin Church”.67

65“Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_for_Divine_Worship_and_the_Discipline_of_the_Sacraments

66“Roman Curia,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Curia.

67“Latin Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Church.

Say, Say, Say! – The 2019 RENEWAL OF PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ISSUE

UPDATE: Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. signed Department Order No. 03-2019 (Documentary Requirements for the Renewal of Regular Passports) on January 15, 2019, removing the requirement of presenting a birth certificate when renewing a Filipino passport.1 The order states that “the Department recognizes the need to enhance the convenience of, and unburden the public and passport applicants from unnecessary requirements for the renewal of their passports. Therefore, the presentation of birth certificate in the application for the renewal of passport shall not be required.”2

“I know there are many obstacles to getting fast passports. I know all over the world, passports are swiftly given, renewals are automatic. No other requirements are imposed. But give us time to get things done,” Secretary Locsin said while signing said order in the presence of the media.3 He also stated that the “old passport is more than sufficient.”3, 4

The order covers only regular renewals of passports, and shall not cover the following cases where birth certificates are still required1, 2, 3, 5:

  1. First-time passport applications;
  2. Renewal applications for lost and mutilated passports;
  3. Renewal applications requiring changes in the passport entries;
  4. Renewal applications of old brown and green passports bearing no complete middle name; and,
  5. Applicants included in the Department’s watchlist.

Let me stop at this point, dear readers. For some of you who might not have heard the news starting the weekend of January 12-13, 2019, for whatever reason, you might be thinking: What happened in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)? Why, all of a sudden, was it announced, thereafter, that birth certificates were required for passport renewal, but on the 15th, about 3 days after the announcement, a DFA order was made no longer requiring birth certificates for passport renewal? What really happened? Well, Tita S immediately posted: Say, Say, Say! – 2019 ADDITIONAL RENEWAL REQUIREMENT FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 2010

So, for those who missed that post, here is a recap of what happened.

This issue started when an overseas Filipino worker complained about not being able to renew his passport because the name on his birth certificate does not match the one on his old passport, sometime end of the week, around January 12, 2019.5

To this, Secretary Locsin said, “Isn’t the expired passport sufficient ID? How many times do you have to prove you are what the State declared you are in the expired passports? Why even need to show birth certificate when he is holding a government-issued passport that’s expired and he wants it renewed.”5

But when asked why the DFA could not just get the data from when the OFW initially applied for a passport, Secretary Locsin announced that the DFA needed to rebuild their “files from scratch because [their] previous outsourced passport maker “made off with the data” when its contract was terminated.5, 6 He added: “Because [the] previous contractor got pissed [and] when terminated it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again.7 Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept by private entities. Data belongs to the state.”6

Netizens then raised complaints.2 Secretary Locsin responded to a netizen’s query on data protection. He said he did not know whether information taken by the supposed passport contractor was safe. “How can we be sure? I don’t know. Why you guys who understand data acquisition and protection should keep up the attacks,” he said.8

Meanwhile, DFA Assistant Secretary Cato said that “applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied”.9 Recall that before the country transitioned to the e-passport, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of birth certificates and marriage contracts, he said.6

According to Cato, the DFA stopped issuing the machine readable-ready and machine readable passports (MRP) around 2010 to 2011. He said electronic passports or “e-passports” are passports which contain a microchip. Furthermore, Cato said that there are still Filipinos who are in possession of expired MRP or older passports which have not been renewed yet.7

On January 12, Saturday, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) launched an investigation into the alleged data security breach.4 NPC announced: “Any form of non-availability of personal date, infringement of the rights of data subjects, and harms from processing that include inconveniencing the public, must be adequately explained to the satisfaction of the law.”8, 10 The NPC said that it would summon DFA officials and the alleged passport contractor.8

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, demanded an explanation how a privately contracted firm can take an entire physical database of all Filipino passport holders and why the firm is not being sued. She said it “indicates a serious national security risk” and that the data should “be retrieved completely and with the highest sense of urgency and priority. Apart from that, the people responsible for such a gross display of incompetence should be held fully responsible.”9

On January 14, Monday, DFA Secretary Locsin said that there is “no leak so far” of the passport data that a former private contractor allegedly ran off.4

That same day, Malacañang rejected the move of the DFA to require birth certificates for passport holders seeking to renew their travel document. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the public should not be burdened by being required to submit original copies of their birth certificate, since obtaining such requires another application process before the Philippine Statistics Authority. He added that “the submission of the old or current passport which the applicant seeks to renew should suffice for the purpose. The ongoing practice is not only cumbersome to everyone affected but is a form of red tape which this administration frowns upon and will not tolerate.” He even said that the current arrangement for the printing of passports should be examined “to determine if there are violations of pertinent laws which may be detrimental to the public.”10

In this regard, Senator Nancy Binay called for a review by the Office of the Solicitor General of all government contracts with third party providers, in response to the issue of passport data disclosed by Secretary Locsin over the weekend. She said that there is a need to step up standards when it comes to data protection and security especially if data management is handled by third-party contractors. There is also a need to know which agencies are prone to data “hostaging” so that this issue will not happen again, and like what happened in the Land Transportation Office and the National Bureau of Investigation, where there was a stoppage of operations and vital public services were affected.11

In a related statement, the Commission on Human Rights urged the government to identify accountabilities in the supposed data breach, saying it is important to uphold “the right to privacy in preserving human dignity as stated in various human rights documents, including the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Data Privacy Act of 2012”. It added that the passport data mess “poses grave national security issues, especially since the said data contain sensitive, personal information of Filipino passport holders.”11

The following day, January 15, Secretary Locsin took back his word and said that the former passport contractor did not run away with the data, but only made them inaccessible.2, 5 He said that “the DFA is taking the word of passport contractor APO Production Unit, a company under the Presidential Communications Operations Office11, that there is no breach in Filipino’s data” and there is “sufficient justification in removing the birth certificate requirement in the renewal of passports.”4

Secretary Locsin said that former contractor, French firm Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare would not compromise another country’s security despite making the data inaccessible and that “they do not want to occupy us”.11

He also clarified that it was not possible for a contractor to have run away with personal data of those affected by the data breach at the DFA.11

Even former DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr., said Oberthur could not have run away with personal data of passport holders. He said that Secretary Locsin may have been misinformed about the supposed data breach. He added that the French firm withdrew from the agency when its contract expired. According to him, saying that Oberthur ran away with data would be “completely false and malicious”. He also told ANC’s “Headstart” on January 15, Monday, that “the only reason, compelling reason, I can see is because they wanted to deflect the real issue of the passport mess, which is awarding the production of the passport from an end-to-end basis”.11

Secretary Locsin posted on Twitter that the “data is not run-away-able but made inaccessible. Access denied. But APO assured me that they were able to access but not much use and parts corrupted”. 11

He revealed that APO agreed with him that old passports would be the best evidence of identity.11

He added, however, that “only a Senate investigation will assure the public that there was no breach or loss of data. Until then, the Department can give no assurances on the safety and security of some data.”4

In an interview, Secretary Locsin appealed for the public’s understanding as the agency tries to swiftly resolve issues in the processing of Philippine passports. 3

Here are my comments:

  1. Finally, a sigh of relief for the latest development of no longer requiring a birth certificate to renew a regular Philippine passport!
  2. I also commend Malacañang for its wisdom as well as its concern for all Filipinos by rejecting DFA’s original decision to require such a document for regular passport renewal. I totally agree, no red tape please, in any government agency!
  3. I likewise concur with DFA’s 4 premises, cited as bases for the said order1:

a. Every Filipino has the constitutional right to travel which cannot be impaired, except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.

Definitely, an internal problem, or change of passport maker contractors, should never create an additional requirement for renewing one’s regular passport!

b. Republic Act No. 8239, or the “Philippine Passport Act of 1996”, imposes only minimum documentary requirements for the application and issuance of regular passports and other travel documents.

So, why did DFA Assistant Secretary (ASec) Cato immediately announce the birth certificate requirement for regular passport renewal, only for Secretary Locsin to take it back days after, thereby causing unnecessary stress among concerned Filipinos?

c. Section 7 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Passport Act does not require the presentation or submission of birth certificates in the renewal of passports, and instead requires only the submission of a duly accomplished application form and the old passport, unless there is a change in the status of the applicant or change in the passport entries.

Again, with this provision in the IRR for passport issuance, why did an ASec immediately announce an additional passport requirement, when it will only be overturned by the DFA Secretary himself, days after?

d. The DFA recognizes the need to enhance the convenience of, and unburden the public and passport applicants from unnecessary requirements for the renewal of passports.

So, dear DFA officials, always bear this in mind when a decision has to be made re this matter.

We, Filipino Senior Citizens, hope that we will not be stressed again re the renewal of our passports since we just want to enjoy our remaining/limited traveling years. Thank you very much!

4. The National Privacy Commission (NPC) must immediately release the results of its investigation re this issue and make a formal announcement for all concerned Filipinos to understand what really happened.

5. Yes, as a Filipino, I am looking forward to a Senate inquiry to get the whole picture of what happened, determine who is/are at fault, ascertain if there is any breach in Filipino privacy, and come up with measures so that this will not happen again, not only in the DFA, but other government agencies as well.

6. The DFA should explain why they had to change the passport maker and why the former system was not made accessible/compatible with the system of the new contractor? Is there really a need for a new contractor to begin with? Can’t the former contractor upgrade its technology/system to meet the new requirements of DFA? I am not techie but should there have been a turnover of data for the smooth operation of passport making?

DFA should be transparent with the terms and conditions of the contract with the new passport maker, with appropriate safety nets as to the privacy of Filipino passport holders, and technical protocol so that this issue will not happen again.

7. In this fast-paced world of technology, other Philippine government agencies must learn from this issue, and ensure that they will not experience this kind of technological problem when it comes to third-party contractors.

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) ID, for instance, will soon be implemented. The lead agencies must be careful in choosing a reputable contractor and come up with a contract which will ensure that the system is safe so all Filipinos will be assured that their personal information is safe and there will be no red tape ever!

Did you find this post informative? What are your comments re this issue? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box.

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1https://dfa.gov.ph/dfa-news/dfa-releasesupdate/19085-dfa-department-order-on-the-documentary-requirements-for-the-renewal-of-regular-passports

2https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/681538/birth-certificate-no-longer-needed-in-renewing-passport-locsin/story/

3http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/10590177

4https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/15/1885356/locsin-signs-order-ending-birth-certificate-requirement-passport-renewal#0txzR2KWprkWuhf2.99

5 https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/15/19/no-need-for-birth-certificate-to-renew-passport-locsin

6https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/12/1884444/dfa-passport-maker-runs-all-data

7https://globalnation.inquirer.net/172423/bring-birth-certificates-when-renewing-passports-dfa

8https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/national-privacy-commission-to-probe-dfa-passport-data-mess

9https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/locsin-says-pissed-contractor-took-all-passport-data

10https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/14/19/cumbersome-palace-rejects-birth-certificate-requirement-for-passport-renewal

11https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/15/1885309/passport-data-not-run-away-able-says-locsin#4jPMO6mszgErkHGD.99

Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT IS SIMBANG GABI?

The celebration of Christmas in the Philippines is known to be one of the biggest holidays in the country and the longest Christmas season in the world. Christmas carols are played as early as September 1,and the season ends either onEpiphany1, on the Feast of the Black Nazarene(January 9), or on the Feast of the Santo Niño(the third Sunday of January).

A Christmas tradition among Filipinos is Simbang Gabi. Well, Tita S is here to tell foreigners what it is all about.

Simbang Gabi (Filipino for “Night Mass”) is a devotional nine-day series of masses practiced by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans4 in the Philippines in anticipation of Christmas. A well-known folk belief among Filipinos is that if a devotee completes all nine days, a request made may be granted. It is the Filipinos’ spiritual preparation for Christmas.

It is similar to the nine-day series of dawn masses leading to Christmas Eve, practiced in Puerto Rico called Misa de Aguinaldo.

Seniors, if you are physically fit, sleep early so you can attend Simbang Gabi, and not doze off during the sermon portion of the mass. Joke only!

Filipinos attend Simbang Gabi at dawn and sacrifice to wake up early as a gesture of their gift to God, and as a form of gratitude to Him for giving His only Son, Jesus Christ, the ultimate gift that all can receive.5

0-pagsajan-church-textOur Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church, Pagsanjan, Laguna, Philippines, alit for Simbang Gabi 2018

These masses in the Philippines are held daily from December 15-24, and occur at different times, ranging from as early as 3:00 am to 5:00 am. Some churches celebrate this mass between 8:00 and 10:00 pm, from December 15 to 23, to accommodate the needs of the parishioners who have different schedules.

befunky-collageChristmas decoration inside St. John the Baptist Church, Longos, Kalayaan, Laguna, Philippines (photo by Maybelle Rabisanto)

On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, which is Christmas Eve, the service is instead called Misa de Gallo (Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass”).

Just how did Simbang Gabi start?

Simbang Gabi originated in the early days of Spanish rule over the Philippines as a practical compromise for farmers, who began work before sunrise to avoid the noonday heat out in the fields. It began in 1669, when priests started to say mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas6 so the farmers could attend.

Pope Sixtus V7 ordered that the masses be held before sunrise since it was harvesting season and the farmers needed to be in the fields right after the celebration.

The mass, nowadays, may begin at 4:00 am. Churches are decorated with colorful lights and parollanterns.befunky-collageA Christmas tree and a Nativity Scene outside the Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church, Magdalena, Laguna, Philippines (day and night photos by Venus Buenaceda-Calo)

The Belen, or Nativity Scene, is displayed in preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ.49661535_308423833116652_9175900746879598592_nNativity Scene inside the San Sebastian Parish Church, Lumban, Laguna, Philippines (photo by Rodalyn de Guzman)

Traditionally, after mass, Filipinos bought native delicacies and drinks sold in the church courtyard for breakfast like bibingka9, hot pandesal10, puto bumbong11, tsokolate12 and salabat13.

Rice-based foods were traditionally served to fill the stomachs of the farmers, since rice is a cheap and primary staple. The kakanins14 were full of carbohydrates needed by colonial Filipinos for the work they undertook in the rice paddies and sugar mills.

Nowadays, other food and beverage items are offered, e.g., puto15, suman,16 arroz caldo17, and kapeng barako18.

So, dearest foreign Seniors, now you know more about Filipino culture. Why not plan a Christmas vacation in our country next year, especially those of you residing in temperate countries, so you can not only witness our Christmas traditions but also enjoy sunny beaches in any of our wonderful islands. See you around!

The information mostly came from Wikipedia page “Simbang Gabi”.19

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you re your comments on Simbang Gabi. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy to Google such terms:

1Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. In the Philippines, it commemorates the visit of the Magi (named Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior) to the Christ Child, and is celebrated in different ways, e.g.,  children leave their shoes out so that the “Kings” will leave behind gifts like candy or money inside; or three men/boys who are dressed as kings, ride around on horseback, distributing trinkets and candy to the children of the area. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Epiphany (holiday)”.20

2TheBlack Nazarene is a life-sized, dark-skinned, image of Jesus Christ kneeling while carrying the Cross, enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in the Quiapo district of the City of Manila, Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page “Black Nazarene”.21

3Santo Niño is the Spanish title for the Child Jesus.

 4Aglipayans are the members of the Philippine Independent Church, an independent Christian denomination, with Gregorio Aglipay as its first Supreme Bishop, according to the Wikipedia page “Philippine Independent Church”.22

5www.businessmirror.com.ph

6A novena is an ancient tradition of devotional praying in Christianity, consisting of private or public prayers repeated for nine successive days or weeks, where a devotee makes a petition, implores a favor, or obtains graces by worshipping Jesus Christ, and asking for the intercessions of the Virgin Mary or the saints of the faith, according to the Wikipedia page “Novena”.23

7Pope Sixtus V, or Xystus V, (1521-1590) was the Pope of the Catholic Church from April 24, 1585 to his death on August 27, 1590, according to Wikipedia page “Pope Sixtus V”.24

8parol is an ornamental, star-shaped Christmas lantern in the Philippines, traditionally made out of bamboo sticks and covered by colored pieces of either Japanese paper or crepe paper. Its design evokes the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Kings to the manger. It also symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and the Filipinos’ hope and goodwill during the Christmas season. It is the iconic symbol of the Filipino Christmas, and is as important to Filipinos as the Christmas tree is to Western cultures. It comes in various sizes and shapes, but generally the basic star pattern remains dominant, from the small, tinsel and foil lanterns to the gigantic ones that are electrically lit at night, and may have one, three, or more tails aside from the ubiquitous two. More complex shapes are bromeliad, rose, sea urchin, and snowflake, among others. Pampanga lanterns now have electronic lights that can be programmed to produce a dancing effect, as is the use of LED rope lights, known as “flexilight” lanterns. The parol is displayed as a Christmas decoration until Epiphany.The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Parol”.25

9Bibingka is a traditional rice cake in the Philippines made of rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, milk and water, traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves with preheated coals top and bottom, usually enjoyed during the Christmas season, served hot or warm for breakfast or as a dessert. Toppings include butter/margarine, sugar, cheese, grated coconut and salted duck eggs26.

10Pandesal is a common yeast-raised bread roll in the Philippines made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt. It is commonly served hot during breakfast, and originally consumed by dipping in coffee or hot chocolate drink. It can also be enjoyed with butter/margarine, cheese, jam or peanut butter. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Pandesal”.27

11Puto bumbong is a traditional cylindrical, purple/violet, Filipino, steamed, sticky rice cake made from pirurutong (glutinous rice flour, soaked in salted water and dried overnight) with violet coloring, placed into bumbong (bamboo tubes) attached to a lansungan (steamer) then steamed until done (i.e., when steam rises out of the bamboo tubes). The cooked sticky mixture is tapped out of the bamboo tubes, traditionally onto a banana leaf, with a dollop of margarine/butter, then topped with a mixture of freshly grated coconut and (muscovado28 or white) sugar. It is then wrapped and kept warm in a (thermal) container.

12Tsokolate is a native Filipino thick hot chocolate drink made from tabliya, tablets of pure ground roasted cacao beans, dissolved in water and milk. It is traditionally made using a tsokolatera29 and briskly mixed with a wooden baton called the molinillo30 (also called batidor or batirol), causing the drink to be frothy. It is typically sweetened with a bit of muscovado28, and has a distinctive grainy texture. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Tsokolate”.31

13Salabat is the Filipino term for hot ginger tea, enjoyed as is, or with a sweetener.

14Kakanin is the Filipino term for a common native snack in the Philippines, consisting of various kinds of rice cakes. NOTE: Kakanin comes from the word “kanin”, meaning “prepared rice”.

15Puto is a traditional, round (like a cupcake), soft, moist, Filipino, steamed rice cake, served for breakfast or merienda32, usually as an accompaniment for dinuguan33 or pancit34 (Filipino stir-fried egg noodles with sliced meat, shrimps and chopped vegetables). A small amount of wood ash lye can be added, especially in the Tagalog region of the Philippines. There are many kinds of puto and modern variations are available in various colors and sizes. Puto can be eaten as is, or with butter and/or freshly grated coconut.

16Suman is a Filipino rice cake made from glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, often wrapped in banana leaves or buli/buri (Corypha) leaves for steaming, usually eaten sprinkled with sugar, or laden with latik35. There are many varieties of suman. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Suman (food)”.36

17Arroz caldo is a Filipino rice and chicken porridge or gruel, heavily infused with ginger, and garnished with toasted garlic, scallions, and black pepper, usually served with calamansi37, soy sauce, or patis (fish sauce) as condiments, as well as hard-boiled egg. Most versions also add kasubha (safflower) which turns this dish to turn almost yellowish. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Arroz caldo”.38

18Kapeng barako is a very strong coffee with a fragrance reminiscent of aniseed, grown in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. It is also called Batangas coffee or Barako coffee. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Kapeng barako”.39

19“Simbang Gabi,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simbang_Gabi.

20“Epiphany,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphany.

21“Black Nazareme,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene.

22“Philippine Independent Church,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Independent_Church.

23“Novena,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novena.

24“Pope Sixtus V,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Sixtus_V.

25“Parol,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parol.

26A salted duck egg is a preserved food product made by soaking duck eggs in brine or packing the eggs in damp, salted charcoal. In the Philippines, the eggs are traditionally dyed red to differentiate it with fresh duck eggs. It is used as a topping for bibingka9, or mixed with chopped, fresh tomatoes and scallions, onions and fish sauce, as a side salad for fried fish.

27“Pandesal,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandesal.

28Muscovado is a partially refined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor. It is considered a healthy alternative to refined sugar due to higher levels of minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium). It is used in various food and confectionery, like puto bumbong11 in the Philippines.

29A tsokolatera is the Filipino term for chocolatera, a Spanish/Latin-American type of high-necked metal pot shaped like a pitcher used for the traditional preparation of tsokolate12, used in combination with a molinillo30 baton to froth the chocolate. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Chocolatera”.40

30A molinillo is a traditional turned wood whisk used in Latin America, as well as the Philippines, where it is called batidol or batirol. It is used primarily for the preparation of hot beverages like tsokolate12, held between the palms and rotated by rubbing the palms together, creating a frothy drink. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Molinillo (whisk)”.41

31“Tsokolate,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsokolate.

32Merienda is a light and simple meal in the Philippines, southern Europe and Hispanic America. In the Philippines, it is taken for brunch or mid-afternoon (called merienda cena), often consisting of a beverage (coffee, hot chocolate, juices, spirits) and a sweet/savory bread/pastry, desserts/sweets or kakanin, street food, noodle dishes, or other Filipino snacks. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Merienda”.42

33Dinuguan is a Filipino savory stew usually made of pork offal (typically ears, heart, intestines, kidneys, lungs and snout) and/or meat simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar, according to the Wikipedia page “Dinuguan”.43

34Pancit is the Filipino term for noodles, introduced by the Chinese, and adopted into the local cuisine, with many regional variations. The noodles are stir-fried, often with sliced meat, shrimps and assorted/chopped vegetables.

35Latik, in the Visayan region, is a syrupy caramelized coconut cream used as a dessert sauce, derived by reducing coconut milk and sugar, used to sweeten kakanins14 like suman16, according to the Wikipedia page “Latik”.44

36“Suman (food),”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suman.

37Calamansi is a small (about 30-mm in diameter), tangy-sour citrus fruit with a thin, green skin (which turns yellow-orange when ripe), with a yellow/orange pulp. The juice is used in various food and beverages as a major/minor ingredient, seasoning or dipping ingredient.

38“Arroz caldo,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arroz_caldo.

39“Kapeng barako,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapeng_barako.

40“Chocolatera,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolatera.

41“Molinillo (whisk),” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molinillo.

42“Merienda,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merienda.

43“Dinuguan,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinuguan.

44“Latik,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latik.

Say, Say, Say! – 2019 ADDITIONAL RENEWAL REQUIREMENT FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 2010

NOTE: See the update re this issue in a related post: Say, Say, Say! – The 2019 RENEWAL OF PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ISSUE

Have you heard the latest news re the DFA and renewal of Philippine passports for 2019? If not, read on!

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs needs to rebuild their “files from scratch because [their] previous outsourced passport maker took all the data” when its contract was terminated. 1

He added: “Because [the] previous contractor got pissed when terminated it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again.2 Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept by private entities. Data belongs to the state.”1

So, what are you waiting for, dearest Filipino readers? Recall the year when you got your passport or go to your drawer and check the year when your passport was issued.

If your passport was issued 2010 or later, breathe deeply, and consider yourself lucky because you are not affected at all! Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said that “passports issued after 2009 need not submit their birth certificates as the digital copy of said document has already been captured and stored in our database”.3 And more importantly, your personal information is still intact in the DFA’s database, thank God!

However, if your passport was issued on 2009 or earlier, you are definitely affected! You have to present your birth certificate when you renew your passport. So, better locate your NSO birth certificate. What? You do not have one? Well, you need to apply for one and you can get it within three working days. However, I think your more urgent concerns are: that the birth certificate you submitted to the DFA office when you applied for your passport was taken away by a private firm whose services were terminated by the former, and that your privacy could have been breached!

DFA Assistant Secretary Cato said that “applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied”.3 Recall that before the country transitioned to the e-passport, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of birth certificates and marriage contracts, he said.1

According to Cato, the DFA stopped issuing the machine readable-ready and machine readable passports (MRP) around 2010 to 2011. He said electronic passports or “e-passports” are passports which contain a microchip.2

Furthermore, Cato said that there are still Filipinos who are in possession of expired MRP or older passports which have not been renewed yet.2

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, demanded an explanation how a privately contracted firm can take an entire physical database of all Filipino passport holders and why the firm is not being sued. She said it “indicates a serious national security risk” and that the data should “be retrieved completely and with the highest sense of urgency and priority. Apart from that, the people responsible for such a gross display of incompetence should be held fully responsible.”3

Personally, I think that the victims of this unexpected data acquisition and additional passport renewal requirement are the Filipino people!

  1. Each responsible entity, especially a government agency like DFA, must have a disaster recovery system stipulated in any electronic-related contract, for a very confidential and important document, like a passport. If ever DFA would change contractors, the compatibility of the old system with the new one should be stipulated in the contract as well. So, pray tell us, DFA authorities, why can you mot recover the needed information so we need not submit a birth certificate to renew our passports?
  2. Our private information was obtained without our knowledge and consent! Is it really true that the passport maker could “run away” with such confidential data? Was this event not forseen by DFA authorities and stipulated in the contract? How assured are Filipino passport holders that their privacy is protected? How can we, Filipinos, be sure that such information will be kept private,  not only by DFA, but other government agencies as well, and will not be used for whatever purpose?
  3. This is compounded by an additional requirement for renewing our passports! Why do we have to suffer as a result of this DFA issue? Can our old passports suffice to prove our identity for passport renewal?

In fact, why can’t passports of adult Filipinos be renewed online at this day and age of technology, i.e., without personal appearance?

Recall that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Philippine Identification System Act (R.A. 11055) on August 6, 2018. Senator Panfilo Lacson, the author of the Senate bill on the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) ID, pointed out that the information gathered for this ID is already present in other government issued IDs such as voters’ IDs, passports and driver’s licenses. The PhilSys ID will store 13 sets of information, like full name, sex, birth date, birthplace, and photograph of the bearer, among others. I got this information from Wikipedia page “Philippine identity card”.4

Therefore, I am requesting the full implementation and funding of this ID system this year, 2019, so that ALL government agencies can get their act together and require less documents to be submitted for renewal thereafter, like DFA for the renewal of our passports! I also strongly plead for this ID system to be awarded to a reputable company who will handle the database with the best possible security features so that all Filipinos will be confident that their privacy will not be breached.

Did you find this post informative? What are your comments re this issue? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box.

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1https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/12/1884444/dfa-passport-maker-runs-all-data

2https://globalnation.inquirer.net/172423/bring-birth-certificates-when-renewing-passports-dfa

3https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/locsin-says-pissed-contractor-took-all-passport-data

4“Philippine identity card,” accessed January 12, 2019, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_identity_card.

Now You Know: EL NIDO TOUR PACKAGES THEN AND NOW

To all those who plan to have a vacation in El Nido, did you know that there are changes in their standard tours? Well, Tita S wrote this post to compare the tour packages before and after November 27, 2018.

First of all, what I like about El Nido1 is that the tour operators agreed to standardize the types of tours, destinations therein, and cost per person. Thus, the tourist need not haggle nor feel shortchanged wondering if s/he paid more than other tourists did. Our resort even gave us a 20% discount for booking two tours with them.

You can either join a group tour (and find new friends) or charter a private boat (and enjoy the tours with family/friends on your terms, as to what spots to visit and the length of stay therein, as well as what food to eat).

The Eco-Tourism Fee2 is PHP200 and is good for 10 days. No worries, when you book your first day tour, this will be included already. This is a one-time payment for most tourists (who only stay for 10 days or less in El Nido). See a related post. Short and Simple: EL NIDO’S ECO-TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FEE

I wish Coron Island, a beautiful destination located in northern Palawan, would be able to follow suit. We had to haggle during our trip there last month to get the best deal for our tours (a difference of PHP100-200 per person among competitive tour operators there). I was told that there are still Coron tour operators who do not want to cooperate on a standardized rate. Let’s hope someday soon they will.

Back to El Nido1: most boat trips last about 7 hours, usually starting at 9:00 am and ending between 4:00-5:00 pm.

A beach towel and mask/snorkel are included in the package tour, so you need not bring either, unless you are very particular about using your own towel/swimming gear.

Lunch is also included in every tour, usually consisting of grilled fish/seafood, pork/chicken, rice, vegetables and fruits (banana, pineapple, or watermelon). A designated boatman grills the meat/seafood/vegetables at the rear of the boat, so you will get these freshly cooked and artistically presented/decorated just in time for lunch. For sure, you will want to eat a lot after swimming and snorkeling all morning!

Single-use plastic water bottles are banned from all tours nowadays and the MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority)is strict in ensuring that boats do not carry them. Tour operators have insulated containers with ice to chill reusable plastic water bottles/jugs with potable water. Tumblers are provided for each member of the tour. In one of the day tours we took, the operator also offered chilled small (glass) bottles of Coke but we declined. Definitely, no single-use plastics during island hopping in El Nido!

I personally brought my own eco-friendly reusable water container and filled it up with mineral/distilled water for every day tour during my December 2018 El Nido vacation. Why don’t you too? This way, you will be sure about the quality and safety of the water you drink while island hopping.

Anyway, there were only 4 standardized tour packages in El Nido1 before November 27, 2018:

  1. Tour A – PHP1,200/person – This was the most popular tour package of El Nido, and it showcased some of the area’s beautiful lagoons. Destinations included: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island or Payong-payong Beach (for lunch), Entalula Island and 7 Commandos Beach. Snorkel/Swim all you want, subject to the schedule set by the tour guide and the conditions of the waters.

Take note, I used the past tense since this tour package was changed, effective November 2018. I will discuss that below.

This group tour was priced at PHP1,200 pesos; a private boat tour was PHP4,000-6,000, depending on the size of the group/boat. A kayak could be rented for PHP200 in the Big or Small Lagoon. If you notified your boatman when you arrived there, they would have arranged the kayak rental for you.

2. Tour B – PHP1,300/person – This nature-tripping package tour consists of the following stops: Cathedral Cave, Codugnon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island (a very good snorkeling spot), Snake Island (the long narrow sandbar connecting mainland Palawan to Vigan Island is the main attraction), and sometimes, Entalula Island or Pangalusian Island.

3. Tour C – PHP1,400/person – This is another popular tour package as it features some of the best beaches of El Nido, perfect for swimmers and snorkelers. This is a long tour since Matinloc Island is one of the farthest limestone islands from the town proper.

Please take note that Matinloc Island faces the West Philippine Sea (which is prone to big waves), so ask your tour operator if the weather will be ideal for your selected date.

Other destinations include: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine (you need to pay PHP100 entrance fee), Star Beach, Secret Beach, and Talisay Beach.

4. Tour D – PHP1,000-1,200/person – This package tour includes four beaches and a lagoon, mostly in mainland El Nido: Bukal Beach, Natnat Beach, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, and Cadlao Lagoon.

An inland tour is also offered in El Nido and is good for tourists who do not want to go island hopping. You can rent a motorcycle (PHP500 per day), tricycle (PHP1,500 for four persons), or a van (PHP3,000 for up to 12 persons). The main attractions are Calitang Twin Beach, Nacpan, and Nagkalit-kalit Falls. You can also go to Las Cabanas (for a memorable sunset) and/or Marimegmeg Beach. Do not forget to bring your own food/drinks.

Other tours could be arranged, like Overnight Camping, Combo Tour, Private Tour, or even an El Nido-Coron Adventure. It would be best to book ahead of time any of these tours, especially during peak season (December till March/April).

Take note that the tour guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are. The MARINA personnel need to approve all boat trips prior to sailing.

Bottomline, if you only had 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, taking Tours A and C is suggested. But that was prior to November 27, 2018.

What happened on November 2018?

El Nido1 was rehabilitated but was not closed off, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). There were many establishments that abided by government requirements and the local government took initiatives to address the town’s problems, so total closure was not necessary. Hurray to those who booked a vacation to El Nido starting November!

El Nido Municipal Administrator Dela Calzada said authorities would limit the number of tourists visiting key island destinations to preserve the area. The local government has set the tourist limit at the island’s Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour; and, for the Small Lagoon, at only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips per hour.Oh no! Tour A, one of my favorite day tours, was affected!

The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido as a whole, but funds for the study are already on standby, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.4

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the government will make sure that thousands of tourist boats will not spill wastewater nor oil into the bay.

Tour packages will also be redesigned to regulate the number of tourists. El Nido used to offer 4 standard tour packages, with 5 to 6 attractions per package; soon, there will be 7 tour packages with fewer destinations per package.4

In early 2018, single-use plastics, particularly water bottles, were banned from tour packages. Coast guard personnel shall inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.4

Personally, I noticed that some (hard-headed?) tourists still bring single-use plastic water bottles. I think the tour guide should announce/remind beforehand that this is banned and reassure everyone that the operator’s chilled water is safe. To the tour operators, just be sure that your containers/tumblers are clean/sanitized and your source of water is safe. We don’t want any upset stomachs, do we?

So, what are the November 2018 package tours in El Nido?

There is a slight change in the tours but the stated price still includes lunch, mask/snorkel, and beach towel. We got the information below from our resort staff during our December 7-11, 2018 stay:

The Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon were separated in Tour A since a cap was made on the number of persons and kayaks that can enter per hour. Thus, there are now two Tour As:

TOUR A – Big– PHP1400/person – Big Lagoon, Simizu Island (lunch), Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Island, and Papaya Island. (inclusive of the P200/person entrance)befunky-collage-tour-a-enido-text

TOUR A – Small– PHP1400/person – Small Lagoon, Payong-Payong, Entalula Island, Papaya Island, 7 Commandos Island – inclusive of the P200/person entrance in the Small Lagoon and the PHP200 eco fee good for 10 days – see a related link: (I will place the link here)z-tour a - small - text

Tours B, C and D remain the same:

TOUR B – P1300/person – Snake Island, Codugnon Cave (lunch), Cathedral Cave, Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Beachz-tour b - el nido - text

Tour C – P1400/person – Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach (lunch), Hidden Beach, Helicopter Islandbefunky-collage-tour-c-enido-text

Tour D – P1200/person – Pasandigan Beach, Bucal Beach, Natnat Beach (lunch), Cadlao Lagoonz-tour d - el nido - text

Again, please take note that the guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are.

During my December revisit I availed of only 3 tours, since I had first-time El Nido tourists with me. I will write a separate post about this visit.

Bottomline, if you only have 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, take Tour A-Big and Tour C. If you arrive in the early afternoon and still have some energy left after the 6-hour ride from Puerto Princesa, take the inland tour, to at least enjoy Nacpan, and savor the sunset (and even zipline) at Las Cabanas.

To the authorities who will finalize the tours, please make sure that the destinations are different for each package.

I will write another post should there be an official announcement regarding the 2019 tours of El Nido.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Have you experienced El Nido package tours before and/or after November 2018? Do you have immediate plans to revisit El Nido? Do share your comments about the tours you took. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who want more information about the terms below:

1El Nido is a first class municipality5 in the province6 of Palawan7, in the Mimaropa Region8, in the Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and awesome landscapes.9 It is considered the country’s last frontier, with the nickname “Heaven on Earth”. It was founded in 1916, has 45 islands10 and 18 barangays11, according to the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.12

2El Nido’s Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF), or simply eco fee/tax, is PHP200 and is required to be paid when you go on an island hopping tour, valid for 10 days. It was established in 2008 and is used to finance the Eco-Tourism Development Fund geared towards environmental and tourism-related projects.13

3The Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Transportation. It was created on June 1, 1974, and is responsible for integrating the development, promotion and regulation of the maritime industry in the Philippines. See www.marina.gov.ph

4www.news.abs-cbn.com

5A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines that has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province6, subdivided into barangays11, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.

There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income; second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income; third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income; fourth class municipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income; fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income; and, sixth class municipality (at most 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.14

6A province in the Philippines is divided into cities and municipalities5 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays11, formerly called barrios, according to the Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines”.15

7Palawan is a provincelocated in the Mimaropa Region8 of the Philippines, founded in 1818. It is called the Philippines’ Last Frontier and its capital is Puerto Princesa, according to the Wikipedia page “Palawan”.16. It was chosen as the “World’s Best Island of 2017”17and of 201618 as well as of 2013 by Travel + Leisure travel magazine19. As early as 2007, National Geographic Traveler’s magazine chose Palawan as one of the best travel destinations in the world.20

8The Mimaropa Region is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces6: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan7. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mimaropa”.21

9www.gmanetwork.com

10www.philstar.com

11A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.22

12“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

13www.elnidoparadise.com

14“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.

15“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines.

16 “Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

17https://philnews.ph/2017/07/12/travel-leisure-magazine-ranked-palawan-worlds-best-island-2017/

18https://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#palawan-island-philippines

19https://issuu.com/filjapmag/docs/filjap_issue__10

20https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/content/71504/palawan-listed-among-world-s-best-tourist-sites/story/

21“Mimaropa,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

22“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

Short and Simple: EL NIDO’S ECO-TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FEE

Island-hopping is the highlight of your El Nido1 adventure, and there are four standardized tour packages to choose from, with slight changes that started on the 27th of November 2018. Read a related post: Now You Know: EL NIDO TOUR PACKAGES THEN AND NOW

Did you know that part of the price you paid for your stay is the Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF), or simply eco fee/tax?

It started in 2008 to finance the Eco-Tourism Development Fund geared towards environmental and tourism-related projects.

A non-Palawan resident is charged PHP200 and is then issued a receipt in their name, valid for 10 days, or PHP500 for more than 10 days.

A Palawan2 resident must pay PHP100, valid for 10 days, but a Palawan resident-student is only required to pay on PHP50, valid for 10 days.

Do not be surprised if you will be charged this amount as part of the tour fee even before you board your tour boat for your first island hopping tour. Actually, all visitors are required to pay this fee before going to any tourist destination within El Nido.

The municipality3 claims that it would cost PHP10 million a year to effectively protect El Nido’s environment – all 92,000 hectares, 45 islands, 2,645 hectares of mangrove forest, 447 species of coral, 888 species of fish, 5 species of marine turtles, and  114 species of birds.4

The breakdown of the ETDF is as follows: 50% goes to environment and tourism-related projects, 10% to barangay5 eco-tourism projects, 10% to the Protected Area Management Board, 10% to the general fund of the municipal government, and 20% to implementing costs.4

The ETDF Task Force manages the collection and disbursement of this fee, composed of representatives of government office, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations.4

So, to all El Nido visitors, just be glad that you are enjoying the beauty of El Nido and that part of what you paid for your tour will be used to preserve the environment, for the future generations to enjoy as well.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who want to know more about the terms below:

1El Nido is a first class municipality3 in the province6 of Palawan2, in the Mimaropa Region7, in the Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and awesome landscapes.8 It is considered the country’s last frontier, with the nickname “Heaven on Earth”. It was founded in 1916, has 45 islands9 and 18 barangays5. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.10

2Palawan is a provincelocated in theMimaropa Region7 of the Philippines and was founded in 1818. It is called the Philippines’ Last Frontier and its capital is Puerto Princesa, according to the Wikipedia page “Palawan”.11. It was chosen as the “World’s Best Island of 2017”12 and of 201613, as well as of 2013, by Travel + Leisure travel magazine.14 As early as 2007, National Geographic Traveler’s magazine chose Palawan as one of the Best Travel Destinations in the World.15

3A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines which has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province6, subdivided into barangays5, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.

There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income; second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income); third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income); fourth classmunicipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income); fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income); and, sixth class municipality (at almost 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.16

4www.elnidoparadise.com

5A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner-city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.17

6A province in thePhilippines is divided into cities and municipalities3 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays5, formerly called barrios, according to the Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines”.18

7The Mimaropa Region is an administrative region of the Philippines. Mimaropa is an acronym for its constituent provinces6: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan2. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mimaropa”.19

8www.gmanetwork.com

9www.philstar.com

10“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

11 “Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

12https://philnews.ph/2017/07/12/travel-leisure-magazine-ranked-palawan-worlds-best-island-2017/

13https://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#palawan-island-philippines

14https://issuu.com/filjapmag/docs/filjap_issue__10

15https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/content/71504/palawan-listed-among-world-s-best-tourist-sites/story/

16“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.

17“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

18“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines.

19“Mimaropa,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

THE BALANGIGA BELLS–A TIMELY HOMECOMING AFTER 117 YEARS!

The last time you might have heard of the Balangiga Bells was when President Rodrigo Duterte, in his 2017 State of Nation Address, requested that they be returned. Well, the American government finally listened and returned them in time for Simbang Gabi1, which started December 16. Hurray!

But tell me, dearest foreign Senior Citizens, are you aware of these bells and why the Americans got them? Well, no need to stress your senior minds, think no more! Tita S will tell you all the details, blow by blow, taken from various sources.

The Balangiga bells are three church bellstaken by the United States Army from the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir, the town church of Balangiga3, diocese of Borongan4, province of Eastern Samar5, in the Philippines, as war trophiesafter reprisals following the Balangiga massacre in 1901 during the Philippine-American War7.

THE BALANGIGA BELLS

It took the town folks of Balangiga four years to raise funds to acquire the first campana colgante(hanging bell), with a mouth diameter of 31 ¼ inches, a height of 30 inches, and the inscription: “R. San Francisco Ano El 1853 (R. San Francisco The Year 1853), either named after the parish priest at that time or as a reference to the Franciscan order. It was cast around 1863 and bears what was believed to be the Franciscan coat of arms.

1853 bellThe 1853 Balangiga Bell – photo by Rhk111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75014059

The town acquired the second bell, cast around 1889, having a mouth diameter of 27 ¾ inches, a height of 27 ½ inches, through the initiative of Fr. Agustin Delgado, with the inscription: “Se RefundioSiendo Cura Parroco El M. R. P. F. Augustin Delgado Ano 1889.

1889 bellThe 1889 Balangiga bell – photo by Rhk111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75014058

The third and smallest bell was acquired in 1895, through the initiative of Fr. Bernardo Aparecio, with a height of 23-24 inches and a mouth diameter of about 20 inches and bears the Franciscan emblem. It has this inscription: “Se RefundioSiendo Parroco P. Bernardo Aparicio Ano 1895”.

1895 bellThe 1895 Balangiga bell – photo by Rhk111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75014060

This bell can be considered an esquila (small bell) or campana de vuelo (“flight bell”), a bell used to sound warning for locals to escape or evade in times of peril. This was the bell used to signal the start of the attack by the Filipinos against the American troops (see below).

SO, WHAT EXACTLY WAS THE BALANGIGA MASSACRE?

The smallest Balangiga bell which ended in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment10 at Camp Red Cloud11 in South Korea, was said to have been rung to signal the surprise attack by the Filipinos, the townspeople who were allegedly augmented by guerillas12, against the American troops of the Charlie Company of the said infantry regiment, while they were eating breakfast on September 28, 1901, during the Philippine American War7, after the US took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War13.

Valeriano Abanador, the town’s local chief of police, was believed to have been the mastermind behind the attack.14

Waray15 men, dressed as pious women carrying little coffins, purportedly of children who died of cholera, and armed with bolos, staged the attack which was a reaction to the oppressive treatment they got from the American colonizers.

Various historical accounts recounted that the US soldiers, in order to flush out the rebels, cut off the food supplies to the town, and they also assaulted young women. The attack was, therefore, an act to protect the dignity and freedom of the Filipinos, and their bravery against an oppressive power, an act of defiance, courage and heroism.16

The villagers killed 48 and wounded 22 of the 78 men of the unit, with only four escaping unhurt and four missing in action. They were able to capture about 100 rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. An estimated 20 to 25 of the villagers died in the fighting, and a similar number were wounded. It was a massacre of Americans, from the American point of view, but represented a victory for the Filipinos during the Philippine American War, from the Philippine point of view!

It was the US Army’s worst defeat since the Battle of the Little Bighorn17 in 1876. The attack, and the subsequent retaliation, remains to be one of the longest-running and most controversial issues between the Philippines and the US, with conflicting records from both sides of the Pacific confusing the issue. According to historian Teodoro Agoncillo, the “true Balangiga Massacre” was the subsequent retaliation against the Samar population and guerillas when American soldiers, turned arsonists, burned whole towns during the March across Samar18.

An outraged American General Jacob H. Smith deployed 180 soldiers a day after the attack and ordered them to turn the town into a “howling wilderness” where every Filipino male, at least 11 years old and capable of carrying firearms, was killed while communities were burned down.19

The town was recaptured on September 29, 1901 by 55 men of Company G, 9th Infantry. That unit departed the town the same dayand was replaced by 132 men from Companies K and L of the 11th Infantry Regiment20 which garrisoned the town until relieved on October 18, 1901.

The Americans claimed 2,000 Filipinos died but a Filipino historian who was interviewed by ANC said that the figure could have reached 10,000. This US response was so brutal, and they even burned down the town, so should we not consider it a massacre as well, and call it the real Balangiga massacre, from our point of view?

WHAT HAPPENED TO U. S. GENERAL JACOB H. SMITH?

US General Smith and his primary subordinate, Major Littleton Waller of the US Marine Corps, were both court-martialed for illegal vengeance against the civilian population of Samar. Waller was acquitted of the charges, but Smith was found guilty, admonished, and retired from service, but charges were dropped shortly thereafter. He was later hailed as a war hero.

REMOVAL OF THE THREE BALANGIGA BELLS& CANNON TO THE USA AND KOREA

The 11th Infantry regiment took the bells removed from the burnt-out Catholic town church, along with a cannon from the plaza in front of the church. All three bells remained under the charge of the 11th Infantry quartermaster, Captain Robert Alexander, at their Tacloban headquarters.

The 9th US Infantry Regiment10, however, maintained that the single bell in their possession was presented to the regiment by villagers when the unit left Balangiga on April 9, 1902. That bell was given to them by the 11th Infantry Regiment20 which took the three bells when they left Balangiga for Tacloban on October 18, 1901.

But tell me, if the bells were freely given by the villagers, why have the Filipinos been asking for their return for decades?

The smallest church bell was in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment10 at Camp Red Cloud11 in South Korea. It is said to be the bell which was rung to signal the attack against the American troops. The bell arrived in San Francisco on June 27, 1902. It was returned to its old Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, New York where a brick pedestal was built to display the bell. In 1928, it was moved to Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington. The bell was later kept at the 2nd Infantry Division Museum in Camp Red Cloud11, Uijeongbu, South Korea. It had previously been displayed at the unit’s Camp Hovey headquarters.

The 11th Infantry left the Philippines in 1904, taking their trophies with them and redeployed to Fort D. A. Russell (renamed Fort Francis E. Warren in 1927, then Francis E. Warren Air Force Base21 in 1949) in Wyoming, and arrived on March 23, 1904. On May 16, 1905, the Cheyenne Daily Leader newspaper reported that the cannon had been mounted on the parade ground near the flagpole, along with other relics from the Philippines, including the two three-feet tall church bells.

A sign was installed over one of the bells which said: “This bell hung in the church at Balangiga, Samar, PI, and rung the signal for the attack on Company C, 9th US Infantry, Sep 29 [28], 1901. Taken by Company K, 11th Infantry and detachment of Company K, 11th Infantry, the first units to reach the scene after the massacre.” This sign was erroneous, so the text was changed in 1911, giving proper credit to Company G 9th Infantry, for recapturing Balangiga. It eventually became artifacts in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

In 1967, Colonel Robert J. Hill, then commander f the 90th Missile Wing, had a curved red brick wall constructed in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base21 trophy park for the bells, with a bronze plaque on the wall between the bells telling the story of the massacre at Balangiga: “Used by Philippinos [sic] to sound signal for massacre of Company C 9th Infantry at Balangiga PI 28th September 1901”.

In 1979, it was discovered that the bronze cannon taken from Balangiga, along with the bells, was in fact British in origin, cast in London in 1557, and bore the monogram of Mary I of England. As of 2001, a glass case housed the bells along with the 400-year old Falcon cannon.

WHAT WERE THE RECOVERY ATTEMPTS?

 The recovery of the three Balangiga church bells had been sought by various individuals representing the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the Philippine government, the Veterans of Foreign Wars22, the American Legion23, and the residents of the municipality of Balangiga3 since the late 1950s.24

The earliest record of Filipino interest in the return of the Balangiga bells was on November 1957, when Fr. Horacio de la Costa of the Department of History at the Ateneo de Manila University wrote a letter to the 13th Air Force’s command historian Chip Wards at Clark Air Base, stating that the bells belonged to the Franciscans and that they should be returned to the Philippines.

The following year, a group of American Franciscans based in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, again wrote Wards stating that the two bells were Franciscan.

In the mid-1990s, during the term of President Fidel Ramos, attempts were initiated by his administration to recover one or more of the bells from US President Bill Clinton. The US government was adamant that the bells were US government property, and that it would take an Act of Congress25 to return them and that the Catholic Church had no say in the matter. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines held the position that the bells were inappropriate as war trophies.

In 1998, President Ramos proposed casting two new bells, then having each country keep an original and a duplicate. Philippine Ambassador to the US Raul Rabe visited Cheyenne, Wyoming, twice, trying to win support for this proposal. He was not successful.

In 2002, The Philippine Senate approved Senate Resolution No. 393, authored by Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., urging the Arroyo administration to undertake formal negotiations with the US for the return of the bells.

In 2005, the Bishop of Borongan4, Samar26, Bishop Leonardo Medroso and Balangiga parish priest Saturnino Obzumar wrote an open letter addressed to President George W. Bush, the US Congress and the Helsinki Commission, requesting them to facilitate the return of the bells. That same year, the Wyoming Veterans’ Commission favored the return of the relics, however, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal stated that he disagreed and opposed the return of the bells.

On January 13, 2005, US Congressman Bob Filner introduced H. Res. 313, urging the President to authorize the transfer of ownership of one of the bells to the Filipinos. The resolution died on January 3, 2007, with the sine die adjournment27 of the 109th US Congress.

On September 26, 2006, US Congressman Bob Filner, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Congressman Ed Case, co-sponsored House Concurrent Resolution No. 481, urging the president to authorize the return of the church bells. The resolution died on January 3, 2009, with the sine die adjournment27 of the 110th US Congress.

In 2003, Napoleon Abueva, the Philippines’ National Artist for sculpture, made a monument of the Balangiga3 encounter to serve as a reminder of how Filipinos stood up for independence.14 He then wrote the American Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, in 2007, asking for her help in the bells’ recovery. On October 25 of the same year, during the 14th Congress of the Philippines, Senator Manny Villar filed Senate Resolution No. 177, “expressing the sense of the Senate for the return to the Philippines of the Balangiga bells”.  He also said: “… the bells were a part of the lives of the Filipinos because despite their poverty, the people and the church raised enough money to have the bells cast …”.16

The townspeople of Balangiga asked the US to return their church bells after receiving relief from the US military, subsequent to Typhoon Haiyan which hit the town in 2013.

In his second State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the bells’ return, citing ownership of the Philippines. He said: “They are part of our national heritage. Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit iyon sa amin” (Please return them. It is painful for us.). Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella emphasized that the return of the bells was “important for our national pride … it was a reminder of the gallantry and heroism of our forebearers.”24

In February 2018, two US lawmakers, Randy Hultgren and Jim McGovern, objected to the bells being returned to the Philippines due to the current human rights record established by Duterte’s Philippine Drug War.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation said the church bells should not go back to the Philippines as they serve as memorials to American war dead.28

REPATRIATION OF THE BALANGIGA BELLS

During the 2017 ASEAN Summits, Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana met with his counterpart, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. At this meeting, Lorenzana raised the issue of the bells. In a later meeting with Philippine President Duterte, Mattis made a personal commitment to secure the bells’ return. Mattis then sought legislation to enable the legal repatriation of the bells. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, however, disclosed in an interview with CNN Philippines that President Duterte personally told Mattis to return the bells during the ASEAN Summit meeting in Clark, Pampanga, in October 2017.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said the US was committed to return the bells but there was still ongoing discussion.24 In August 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis notified the US Congress of their intention to return the bells. The US Congress then made a resolution for their return.28

However, prominent Eastern Visayas33 historian Dr. Rolando Borrinaga of the Philippines’ National Commission for Culture and the Arts said that US congressional approval was no longer needed as the return was also provided for in the US’s National Defense Authorization Act of 2018. “The final clincher is the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense to the President for the bells to be returned,” he said.28

On November 2018, Dr. Borrinaga stated that the two bells at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base21 will be turned over to Philippine representatives on November 15, 2018. The third bell in South Korea was also ready for repatriation.

A military ceremony attended by Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez and US Defense Secretary James Mattis was held on November 15, 2018 at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, prior to the two bells’ return to the Philippines.28

Secretary Mattis said: “In returning the bells of Balangiga3 to our ally and our friend, the Philippines, we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our people.” Ambassador Romualdez added, “The significance of this event is the fact that we honor all of those and the kind of relationship that we have with the US … the return of the Balangiga bells signify closure of the Filipino-American War.”28

The two bells in Wyoming were then shipped to Philadelphia for restoration work before being sent to Japan, where they joined the third bell. All three bells were then on their way back to the Philippines.

On December 10, 2018, all three church bells were in Kadena Air Base in Japan, awaiting repatriation to the Philippines. The morning after, the US Embassy in the Philippines stated that the bells were on board a US Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules on the way to Manila. The plane arrived in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, at 9:00 am.28

Touchdown, after 117 years – December 11, 2018! A simple welcome ceremony was held upon its arrival.19

The bells were put in display at the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum until December 14, 2018. They were then airlifted by a Philippine Air Force C130 plane to nearby town of Guiuan, arriving on December 14. These were then delivered to Balangiga3 in a two-hour journey via road.

Considered “sacramental or sacred objects that call the faithful to prayer and worship”, all three bells arrived in the Balangiga Church on December 15, 2018. President Duterte attended the turnover ceremony and said that the credit of the return “goes to the American people and the Filipino people”. A transfer certificate was then given to Mayor Randy Graza.

The Balangiga bells were finally home and were rung, for the first time in 117 years, for the first mass of Simbang Gabi 2018 on December 16, 2018! Great timing! It also symbolizes the closure of a painful episode lasting longer than a century between two countries. The bells will be rung for nine days this Christmas season, not for an attack, but for worship and prayer in observance of Simbang Gabi1.

SEPTEMBER 28: BALANGIGA ENCOUNTER DAY

September 28 was declared a special non-working holiday in the province of Eastern Samar to commemorate the Balangiga encounter, in accordance with Republic Act No. 6692, enacted on February 10, 1989. On this day, the town’s people also re-enact the encounter between the American soldiers and Filipinos so as not to forget history.14

The aforementioned information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Balangiga bells”29 unless there is a footnote.

So, dearest Seniors, would you like to include a visit to these historical bells as part of your travel bucket list for 2019? I heard the town is asking the help of the Department of Tourism for their town to be declared a tourist attraction, to highlight the Balangiga bells, and to rekindle our love for our country. Let’s all support domestic tourism, ok? See you there some time …

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy to Google such terms:

1Simbang Gabi (“Night Mass”) is a devotional nine-day series of masses practiced by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in the Philippines, in anticipation of Christmas, and to the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Masses are held daily from December 16-24 and occur at different times ranging from as early as 3:00 to 5:00 am. On the last day, which is Christmas Eve, the service is called Misa de Gallo (“Rooster’s Mass”). It is similar to the Misa de Aguinaldo practiced in Puerto Rico. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Simbang gabi”.30

2A church bell, in the Christian tradition, is a bell rung in a church for a variety of reasons and can be heard outside the building. Examples are: to call worshippers to the church for a communal service, to announce the time of daily prayer, to signify special occasions like wedding or funeral service, and some believe to drive out demons. This cup-shaped metal resonator, hung within a steeple or belltower of a church or religious building, has a pivoted clapper hanging inside which strikes the sides when the bell is swung. All information is from the Wikipedia page “Church bell”.31

3Balangiga is a fourth class municipality32 in the southern coast of the island of Samar facing Leyte Gulf, in the province of Eastern Samar, in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)33, in the Philippines. It sits at the mouth of the Balangiga River. The information is obtained from the Wikipedia page “Balangiga”.34

4Borongan is a component city35 and the capital of the province of Eastern Samar5, in the Eastern Visayas Region33, Philippines. It was founded on September 8, 1619 and became a city on June 21, 2007, according to the Wikipedia page “Borongan”.36

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Borongan is a diocese of the Catholic Church in Borongan4, Philippines, created on October 22, 1960 by Pope John XXIII, with Bishop Vicente Reyes as its first diocesan bishop, according to the Wikipedia page “Roman Catholic Diocese of Borongan”.37

5Eastern Samar is a province in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)33, in the Philippines, which occupies the eastern portion of the island of Samar, according to the Wikipedia page “Eastern Samar”.38

6A war trophy is an object or souvenir taken from a battlefield after a victory, and displayed as a cultural object, and becomes the property of the state to which the soldiers responsible for the capture belonged. The information is obtained from the Wikipedia page “War trophy”.39

7The Philippine-American War was an armed conflict between the First Philippine Republic40 (FPR) and the US that lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902. Filipino nationalists viewed the conflict as a continuation of the struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution41, while the US government regarded it as an insurrection. The conflict arose when the FPR objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris42 under which the US took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the short Spanish-American War (April 21, 1898 – August 13, 1898). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Philippine-American War”.43

8A campana colgante is the Spanish term for a hanging church bell, usually hung from a beam, and rung using a rope attached to the clapper, according to the Wikipedia page “Balangiga bells”.44

9Refundio is the Spanish word which means that the bell was recast from scrap bronze, according to the Wikipedia page “Balangiga bells”.44

10The 9th Infantry Regiment is a parent infantry regiment of the Army, active from 1855 till the present, which got involved in the Balangiga Massacre during the Philippine-American War7 on September 28, 1901. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “9th Infantry Regiment (United States)”.45

11Camp Red Cloud (CRC) is a US Army camp located in the city of Uijeongbu, between Seoul and the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)46, renamed after Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient, on Armed Forces Day, May 18, 1957, from its earlier name of Camp Jackson. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Camp Red Cloud”.47

12A guerilla is a member of a small group of combatants, like armed civilians, who fights a larger and traditional military, using military tactics like ambushes, hit-and-run tactics, petty warfare, raids, sabotage, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military, according to the Wikipedia page “Guerrilla warfare”.48

13The Spanish-American War was fought between the US and Spain in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to US intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. US acquisition of Spain’s Pacific possessions led to its involvement in the Philippine Revolution41 and ultimately in the Philippine-American War7. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Spanish-American War”.49

14www.interaksyon.com

15The Waray people are a subgroup of the Visayan people who inhabit the whole island of Samar where they are called Samareños/Samarnons. Their primary language is the Waray language, also called Lineyte-Samarnon, an Austronesian language native to the islands of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran, which together comprise the Eastern Visayas Region33 of the Philippines. The information was obtained from theWikipedia page “Waray people”.50

16www.news.mb.com.ph

17The Battle of the Little Bighorn, Battle of the Greasy Grass, or Custer’s Last Stand, was an armed engagement between the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army on June 25-26,1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of US forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Battle of the Little Bighorn”.51

18The March across Samar, or Waller’s March across the island of Samar, was an attempt made in 1901 by a US Marine unit commanded by Major Littleton W. T. Waller to traverse the Philippine island of Samar26 from Lanang (now Llorente, Eastern Samar) to Basey, Samar, a distance of about 35 miles (56 km). Waller proposed the expedition in October 1901 to US Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, commander of the military district as a prelude to the establishment of outposts stretching across the island and thereby stop the flow of supplies to rebels in the north and to isolate rebels in the south. The expedition proved disastrous due to the unexpected harsh conditions as well as a mutiny of many of the Filipino porters. Ten Marines died during the attempt and eleven Filipinos were subsequently executed for their role in the mutiny. The information was obtained from theWikipedia page “March across Samar”.52

19www.newsinfo.inquirer.net

20The 11th Infantry Regiment is a regiment in the US Army which came into existence in January 1799 which was sent to the Philippines during the Philippine-American War7 from 1901-1903, to help put down the Moro Rebellion53, where it was in engagements against the Moros of Mindanao and the Visayans. It was disbanded on June 15, 1800. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “11th Infantry Regiment”.54

21The F. E. Warren Air Force Baseis one of the three strategic missile bases in the USA, named in honor of Francis E. Warren55 in 1930, home of the 90th Missile Wing, assigned to the Twentieth Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, and also the home of Twentieth Air Force, which commands all US Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “F. E. Warren Air Force Base”.56

22The US Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is an American war veterans organization headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, established by James C. Putnam on September 29, 1899. It includes veterans who were soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen who served the US in wars, campaigns, and expeditions on foreign soil or in hostile waters. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Veterans of Foreign Wars”.57

23The American Legion is a US war veteran organization headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, made of state, US territory, and overseas departments, and these are in turn made up of local posts. Veterans who served at least one day of active duty during wartime, or are serving now, are potentially eligible for membership. Members must be honorably discharged or are still serving honorably. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “American Legion”.58

24www.panaynews.net

25An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the US Congress. It can either be a Public Law, relating to the general public, or a Private Law, relating to specific institutions or individuals. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Act of Congress”.59

26Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines, located in Eastern Visayas33, within central Philippines. It is divided into 3 provinces: Samar26 (the western two-fifths of the island), Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar. These three provinces, along with the provinces of the nearby islands of Leyte and Biliran are part of the Eastern Visayas region. This information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Samar”.60

27Adjournment sine die (from the Latin “without day”) means “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing”. To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Adjournment sine die”.61

28www.philstar.com

29“Balangiga bells,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangiga_bells.

30“Simbang Gabi,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simbang_Gabi.

31“Church bells,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_bells.

32A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines which has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province62, subdivided into barangays63, a town, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.

There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income); second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income); third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income); fourth class municipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income); fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income); and, sixth class municipality (at most 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.64

33Eastern Visayas, or Region VIII, is an administrative region in the Philippines which consists of 3 main islands: Samar26, Leyte and Biliran. It lies on the east central section of the Philippines and faces the Philippine Sea to the east. The region has 6 provinces (Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar and Southern Leyte), one independent component city65 (Ormoc), and one highly urbanized city66 (Tacloban). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Eastern Visayas”.67

34“Balangiga,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangiga.

35A component city in the Philippines, according to the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160), is a city that does not meet the requirements of a highly urbanized city or an independent component city, and deemed part of the province in which it is geographically located. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.68

36“Borongan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borongan.

37“Roman Catholic Diocese of Borongan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman _Catholic_Diocese_of_Borongan.

38“Eastern Samar,”accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Samar.

39“War trophy,”accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_trophy.

40The First Philippine Republic, or Malolos Republic, was a nascent revolutionary government in the Philippines, formally established with the proclamation of the Malolos Constitution on January 21, 1899, in the city of Malolos, province of Bulacan. It ended during the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo by the American forces on March 23, 1901, in Palanan, Isabela. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “First Philippine Republic”.69

41The Philippine Revolution was a revolution that began in August 23, 1896 when the Spanish authorities discovered the Katipunan, an anti-colonial secret organization, and ended on August 13, 1898, after Emilio Aguinaldo issued the Philippine Declaration of Independence on June 12. This information was taken from the Wikipedia page “Philippine Revolution”.70

42The Treaty of Paris was an agreement, signed on December 10, 1898, that involved Spain relinquishing nearly all the remaining Spanish Empire, especially Cuba, and ceding Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the US, thus ending the Spanish-American War13. It came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the documents of ratification were exchanged. The cessation of the Philippines involved a payment of US$20 million from the US to Spain. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Treaty of Paris (1898)”.71

43“Philippine-Amercian War,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine-American_War.

44“Balangiga bells,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balangiga_bells.

45“9th Infantry Regiment (United States),” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/9th_Infantry_Regiment_(United_States).

46The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula, about 250 km (160 miles) long and 4 km (2.5 miles) wide, established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea, created by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Korean Demilitarized Zone”.72

47“Camp Red Cloud,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Red_Cloud.

48“Guerilla warfare,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerilla_warfare.

49“Spanish-American War,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_American_War.

50“Waray people,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waray_people.

51“Battle of the Little Bighorn,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn.

52“March across Samar,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_across_Samar.

53The Moro Rebellion (1899-1913) was an armed conflict between the Moro people (the Muslim population in Southern Philippines) and the US military during the Philippine-American War, according to the Wikipedia page “Moro Rebellion”.73

54“11th Infantry Regiment,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Infantry_Regiment.

55Francis E. Warren (June 20, 1844 – November 24, 1929) was an American politician of the Republic Party, best known for his years in the US Senate representing Wyoming and being the first Governor of Wyoming. He was the last veteran of the American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865) to serve in the US Senate. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Francis E. Warren”.74

56“F. E. Warren Air Force Base,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._E._Warren_Air_Force_Base.

57“Veterans of Foreign Wars,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_of_Foreign_Wars.

58“American Legion,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legion.

59“Act of Congress,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Congress.

60“Samar,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samar.

61Adjournment sine die,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjourment_sine_die.

62A province in the Philippines is divided into cities and municipalities32 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays63, formerly called barrios.

63A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for village or ward. It was formerly called a barrio. It is informally subdivided into smaller areas called purok (“zone”), barangay zones consisting of a cluster of houses, and sitios, which are (usually rural) territorial enclaves far from the barangay center. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.75

64“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philipippines.

65An independent component city (ICC) is a city in the Philippines which is independent from the province in which it is geographically located. It has a charter that explicitly prohibits its residents to vote for provincial officials. In Eastern Visayas33, it is Ormoc. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.76

66A highly urbanized city (HUC) is a city in the Philippines with a minimum population of 200,000 people and with at least 50 million pesos latest annual income. There are 33 such cities in the country, 16 of which are located inMetro Manila. In Eastern Visayas33, it is Tacloban. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cities of the Philippines”.76

67“Eastern Visayas,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Visayas.

68“Cities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Philippines.

69“First Philippine Republic,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Philippine_Republic.

70“Philippine Revolution,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Revolution.

71“Treaty of Paris,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of-Paris.

72“Korean Demilitarized Zone,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone.

73“Moro Rebellion,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_Rebellion.

74“Francis E. Warren,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_E._Warren.

75“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

76“Cities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_The_Philippines.

 

Short and Simple: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOCHE BUENA AND MEDIA NOCHE?

Some foreign friends asked me the difference between Noche Buena and Media Noche in the Philippines. Well, here it is:

NOCHE BUENA

First, let us describe what Noche Buena is all about. It is a Spanish phrase that literally means “the Good Night”, and often refers to the biggest feast for the Christmas season. It is celebrated annually on the night of Christmas Eve (December 24). In Spain, Latin America, and the Philippines, it consists of a traditional family dinner, often with a roasted pig (called lechon in Filipino) as the center of the feast. This practice is believed to date back to the 15th century when Caribbean colonists hunted down pigs and roasted them with a powerful flame.

In the Philippines, the traditional dinner may start as early 10:00 pm, but is usually held at midnight of December 24, after the whole family hears the late evening mass, locally known as Misa de Gallo.

Some of the common dishes served, depending on one’s social status, are: jamon1, queso de bola2, lechon, pancit3, spaghetti, fried chicken, arroz caldo4, lumpia5, adobo6, relyenong bangus7 (stuffed milk dish), noodles/pasta, rice or breads (like pan de sal8), desserts (e.g., fruit salad, ube halaya9, bibingka10, kakanins11, ice cream, pastries, fruits, and beverages (tsokolate12, coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine, and juices).

The above information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Noche Buena”.13

MEDIA NOCHE

Media Noche is the Spanish term for “midnight” but the Filipino practice during this time of year was influenced by the Chinese. The Filipino Media Noche is accompanied by fireworks (also from the Chinese) at the stroke of midnight to drive away bad spirits. Different kinds of food are served (again, influenced by the Chinese).14

In the Philippines, Media Noche refers to the lavish midnight feast on December 31 (called Bisperas ng Bagong Taon in Filipino) that may last until the following morning (January 1). It symbolizes each Filipino’s hopes for prosperity in the coming year, according to the Wikipedia page “Christmas in the Philippines”.15

Actually, anything can be served for Media Noche as long as the table is full of food and drinks. The assortment may include, among others: lechon, barbecue, Beef Caldereta16, Beef Mechado17, Buko Pandan18, cakes, Chicken Sopas19, Chicken Sotanghon20 Soup, Crema de Fruta21, Embotido22, Fruit Salad, Hamonado23, Ilokano bagnet24, Inihaw25na Bangus26, Inihawna Manok27, Inihawna Tilapia28, kakanins11 (Bibingka10, Biko29, Maja Blanca30, Palitaw31, and Puto Bumbong32), Kalderetang Manok33, Leche Flan34, Lengua Estofado35, Lumpiang Shanghai36, Macaroni Salad, Morcon37, Lumpiang Sariwa38, Paella, Pancit Malabon39, Patatim40, Pininyahang Manok sa Gata41, Relyenong Bangus7, Siomai42, Spaghetti, Ube Halaya9 and round fruits (like apples, grapes and oranges).

However, for those Filipinos who have a strong Chinese influence, this feast consists of the following:14

  • Twelve (12) “round” fruits to symbolize prosperity for all the 12 months of the coming year. A round shape is the closest thing to a circle, a shape that does not have an end, which implies never-ending wealth. Thus, round fruits are as close as you can come to a circle. Examples are: grapes (eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight will give good luck for 12 months to come), or, pomegranates (since the seeds have always been associated with fertility and abundance in life).43
  • Pineapple is the centerpiece since this fruit’s scales resemble gold coins, which imply wealth for the next year.
  • Noodles for long life without illness, so do not cut or break them in the middle. Rice can also be served since it stands for fertility and wealth.43
  • Sticky desserts are served so family members will “stick together” for years to come.

Chicken and fish are not served since these symbolize scarcity of food.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you re your comments on Noche Buena and Media Noche. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy to Google such terms:

1Jamon is the Spanish term for “ham”. The Filipinos serve honey-glazed cured ham during Noche Buena and Media Noche.

2Quezo de bola is a popular cheese served during the Christmas season in the Philippines (perhaps due to its red rind) and is a traditional treat for Noche Buena (the traditional midnight feast with one’s family at home during Christmas Eve). Queso de bola is usually served with cured ham and hot pan de sal8. NOTE: It is called Edam, originating from the Netherlands, named after the town of Edam in the province of North Holland. This cheese has a pale yellow interior and a red rind/coating made of red paraffin wax. Edam only hardens with age.

3Pancit is the Filipino term for noodles, introduced by the Chinese, and adopted into the local cuisine, with many regional variations. Some versions of this noodle dish are stir-fried, often with sliced meat, shrimps and assorted/chopped vegetables.

4Arroz caldo is a Filipino rice and chicken porridge or gruel, heavily infused with ginger, and garnished with toasted garlic, scallions, and black pepper, usually served with calamansi44, soy sauce, or patis (fish sauce) as condiments, as well as hard-boiled egg. Most versions also add kasubha (safflower) which turns this dish to turn almost yellowish. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Arroz caldo”.45

5 Lumpia is the Filipino term for “spring roll”. It is a savory dish made with a thin crepe pastry skin called “lumpia wrapper” enveloping a mixture of savory fillings, consisting of chopped vegetables (e.g., bamboo shoots, cabbage, carrot, green beans, leeks), or sometimes also minced meat (beef, chicken, pork and shrimp). It is often served as an appetizer or snack, and could be served deep fried or fresh (unfried). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Lumpia”.46

6 Adobo is a Filipino version of the Spanish adobo/adobar, according to Wikipedia page “Adobo”.47 It was originally made by stewing meat (chicken and/or pork) in vinegar and soy sauce, with garlic, salt and bay leaves, sometimes with sliced potatoes. It is sometimes fried after stewing.

7 Relyenong Bangus is a Filipino dish literally “Stuffed Milkfish” where the fish is stuffed with a sautéed mixture of its own meat, along with precooked/chopped/cubed ingredients (like garlic, onions, tomatoes, ground pork, carrots, potatoes, sweet pickle relish, raisins, red bell pepper and beaten eggs), seasoned with salt and pepper, wrapped in banana leaves, then usually fried in a skillet.  It can also be baked, brushed with oil, but without the banana leaf wrapping. What is great about this dish is that diners need not worry about fish bones!

8Pandesal is a common yeast-raised bread roll in the Philippines, traditionally made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt, rolled in fine bread crumbs. It is commonly served hot during breakfast, and originally consumed by dipping in coffee or tsokolate12. It can also be enjoyed with butter/margarine, cheese, jam or peanut butter. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Pandesal”.48

9 Ube halaya is a Filipino dessert made from boiled and mashed purple yam (locally called ube). It is combined and thickened with condensed milk or coconut milk, along with melted butter/margarine, cooled, then typically placed on containers in various shapes, refrigerated, and served cold. It is can be eaten as is or as an ingredient in pastries and other desserts like ice cream and halo-halo. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Ube halaya”.49

 10Bibingka is a traditional rice cake in the Philippines made of rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, milk and water, traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves with preheated coals top and bottom, usually enjoyed during the Christmas season, served hot or warm for breakfast or as a dessert. Toppings include butter/margarine, sugar, cheese, grated coconut and salted duck eggs50.

11Kakanin is the Filipino term for a common native snack in the Philippines, consisting of various kinds of rice cakes. NOTE: Kakanin comes from the word “kanin”, meaning “prepared rice”.

12Tsokolate is a native Filipino thick hot chocolate drink made from tabliya, tablets of pure ground roasted cacao beans, dissolved in water and milk. It is traditionally made using a tsokolatera51and briskly mixed with a wooden baton called the molinillo52 (also called batidoror batirol), causing the drink to be frothy. It is typically sweetened with a bit of muscovado53, and has a distinctive grainy texture. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Tsokolate”.54

13“Noche Buena,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noche_Buena.

14www.primer.com.ph

15 “Christmas in the Philippines,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_in_the_Philippines.

16Beef Caldereta is a Filipino dish similar to a spicy Spanish Beef Stew, made of beef, tomato sauce, vegetables (i.e., bell and hot peppers, carrots, green peas, olives, potatoes), and liver paste/spread, served during special occasions. Some areas in the country use goat meat, chicken or pork.

17Beef Mechado is the Filipino version of Beef Stew where beef is stewed in tomato sauce, along with spices, bell peppers, potatoes, carrots and green peas.

18Buko Pandan is a popular Filipino cold dessert made by using cubed green gelatin, flavored with the extract of pandan55 leaves or buko pandan flavoring and sugar, along with a mixture of condensed milk, cream, young coconut meat and tapioca.

19Sopas is the Filipino term for “milky macaroni soup” using elbow macaroni, meat (usually flaked chicken meat) and vegetables (carrots and celery), made creamy with evaporated milk. So, Chicken Sopas means “Creamy Chicken-Macaroni Soup”, served during breakfast, cold weather, or to sick people. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Sopas”.56

20Sotanghon is the Filipino term for “cellophane/glass noodles”, transparent noodles made from starch and water, according to the Wikipedia page “Cellophane noodles”.57 So, Chicken Sotanghon Soup is “Chicken-Glass Noodle Soup”, made of a thin but hearty soup made from chicken stock, flaked chicken meat, cellophane noodles, sautéed onions, garlic and kinchay (Chinese celery), vegetables (chopped carrots and napa cabbage), seasoned with salt, pepper and patis (fish sauce), colored with achuete (annatto), and topped with fried garlic bits, chopped green onions and sliced/halved hard-boiled egg.

21Crema de Fruta is a special Filipino cake made with layers of sponge cake, sweet custard or whipped cream, gelatin/agar, and different (canned or fresh) fruits (e.g., cherries, mangoes, peaches, pineapples, strawberries), usually served during the Christmas season, according to the Wikipedia page “Crema de fruta”.58

22Embotido is a Filipino steamed meatloaf, shaped like a thin log, made of a mixture of ground pork, chopped onions, carrots and red bell peppers, raisins, grated cheddar cheese, sweet pickle relish, bread crumbs or flaked bread, salt and pepper, and bonded by raw eggs. Hard-boiled eggs, Vienna sausage or hotdogs could be placed at the center of the roll so when it is sliced crosswise and arranged artistically in a serving platter, it would look attractive. It can be enjoy cold, but Filipinos sometimes fry this dish before slicing, and could be served warm, with (often banana) catsup as a dip.

23Hamonado is a popular and savory Filipino dish consisting of meat marinated and cooked in a sweet pineapple sauce, often served during the Christmas season. Typically, meat (usually fatty cuts of pork, beef or chicken) is marinated overnight in a sweet sauce made with pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and various spices. It is then pan-fried until the meat is browned. The meat is then simmered in stock and the marinade with added pineapple chunks until the meat is very tender. It is best enjoyed on white rice. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Hamonado”.59

24Bagnet is a Filipino dish which is simply crispy fried pork rind, originating from the Ilocos Region, in northwestern Luzon, Philippines.

25Inihaw is the Filipino term for “grill” or “roast”.

26Bangus is the Filipino term for “milkfish”, with the binomial name Chanoschanos, according to the Wikipedia page “Milkfish”.60 So, Inihaw na Bangus is “Grilled/Roasted Milkfish”. NOTE: Bangus is not the official fish of the Philippines. In fact, there is no official national fish of the country.

27Manok is the Filipino term for “chicken” so Inihaw na Manok is “Grilled/Roasted Chicken”.

28Tilapia is a freshwater fish which inhabits shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes in temperate countries. In the Philippines, it is commonly called pla-pla and several species of tilapia are commercially grown in major lakes and rivers like Laguna de Bay, Taal Lake and Lake Buhi. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Tilapia”.61 So, Inihaw na Tilapia is “Grilled/Roasted Tilapia”.

29Biko is a kakanin11 or sweet rice cake from the Philippines which is made of coconut milk, glutinous rice, brown sugar, and usually topped with latik (either or both the coconut curds or the syrupy caramel-like variant). It is called sinukmani or sinukmaneng in southern Luzon. In Mindanao, it is called wagit in Maguindanao, wadit in Maranao, and wadjit in Tausug. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Biko (food)”.62

 30Maja Blanca (coconut pudding) is a Filipino creamy white, delicately flavored rice cake made primarily from coconut milk/cream and cornstarch/agar mixture, along with corn kernels, milk, and sugar. It is then poured in greased (with coconut oil) serving dishes, topped with latik (browned coconut cream curds), and allowed to cool, refrigerated and served cold. It is usually served during fiestas or holidays, like Christmas. It has the consistency of a thick gelatin. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Maja blanca”.63

31Palitaw is a traditional, small, flat, usually circular or rectangular, sweet, sticky Filipino rice cake made from “malagkit” (sticky rice, which has been washed, soaked and ground), rolled and flattened, shaped like a thin tongue, then cooked by dropping into boiling water. When it floats/rises to the surface, it is finally done and prepared for service by dipping it in freshly grated coconut, white sugar and toasted linga64. NOTE: Palitaw comes from the Tagalog65 word “litaw”, meaning “float” or “rise”.

32Puto bumbong is a traditional cylindrical, purple/violet, Filipino, steamed, sticky rice cake made from pirurutong (glutinous rice flour, soaked in salted water and dried overnight) with violet coloring, placed into bumbong (bamboo tubes) attached to a lansungan (steamer) then steamed until done (i.e., when steam rises out of the bamboo tubes). The cooked sticky mixture is tapped out of the bamboo tubes, traditionally onto a banana leaf, with a dollop of margarine/butter, then topped with a mixture of freshly grated coconut and (muscovado53 or white) sugar. It is then wrapped and kept warm in a (thermal) container.

33Kalderetang Manok is a rich and flavorful Filipino chicken tomato-based stew, made of chicken, tomato sauce, vegetables (potatoes, carrots, green bell pepper, chili peppers), olives, cheese, and liver spread.

34Leche Flan, or“milk flan”, is a popular dessert for special occasions in the Philippines. It is usually a steamed (but can also be a baked) flan made of egg yolks and condensed milk, poured in oval-shaped (or desired shaped) metal pans with caramelized sugar at the bottom. Prior to serving, a knife is used to loosen the sides and then inverted on a serving platter so that the caramelized sugar will serve as topping and will flow on to its sides.

35Lengua Estofado is the Filipino version of Braised Beef Tongue in tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, along with white wine, olives and bay leaves. Ox tongue is usually used and this dish is served during special occasions.

36Lumpiang Shanghai is the Filipino term for “Fried Bite-Sized Spring Rolls”, usually filled with ground pork/chicken, minced shrimp, water chestnuts, carrots, singkamas (jicama), and chopped green onions. It is then served with sweet and sour sauce or catsup.

37Morcon is a Filipino dish like a stuffed meat roulade, commonly served during special occasions like Christmas. It is made of thin sheets of beef (or pork), wrapped around hard-boiled eggs, ham, bacon, sausages (hotdog or chorizos), carrots, sweet pickles, cheese, pan-seared on high heat to brown its surface, then simmered in low heat in a braising liquid made of stock and tomato sauce, then finished off with other flavorings to serve as gravy/sauce. It is then sliced when cool.66

38Lumpiang Sariwa, literally “Fresh Spring Rolls”, is a Filipino vegetable dish, typically made from a sautéed mixture of julienned ubod (heart of palm), pork/tofu strips and/or chopped shrimps, garlic, onions, and cilantro, wrapped in a soft (unfried) crepe-like wrapper with fresh lettuce leaves, garnished with a sweet sauce (made of brown sugar, water, pork cube, crushed peanuts, thickened with cornstarch), and topped with freshly minced garlic.67

39Pancit Malabon is a type of pancit3 which originated in Malabon City, located in Metro Manila68, in the Philippines. It has a yellow-orange sauce due to the use of achuete (annatto seeds), combined with shrimp broth, patis (fish sauce) and crab fat. Local fresh seafood toppings may include cooked shrimps, squids, tinapa69, mussels and/or oysters. Other toppings are boiled strips of pork, hard-boiled duck/chicken eggs, crushed chicharon (pork rinds), sliced napa cabbage, chopped green onions, and lightly browned/sautéed minced garlic. It is similar to palabok (another kind of pancit3) but has thicker noodles. It is best enjoyed with patis (fish sauce) and calamansi44 (calamondin or Philippine lime) juice. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Pancit Malabon”.70

40Patatim is a Filipino Chinese-style dish where a whole pork leg is first seared to seal in the flavor, then slowly braised in a sweet-savory soy sauce mixture made of Shaoxing wine (a traditional Chinese wine made from fermented rice), star anise, bok choy (a type of Chinese cabbage) and mushrooms until the skin is very tender and the meat has an almost melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. NOTE: “Pata” is Spanish for “leg” and “tim” is the Chinese term for a cooking style of this dish.

41Pininyahang Manok sa Gata is a tasty Filipino dish which literally means “Pineapple Chicken in Coconut Milk”. The cut-up chicken is marinated in pineapple juice then cooked together with coconut milk, pineapple tidbits/chunks, sliced carrots, green and red bell peppers, chopped onions, minced garlic, and flavored with patis (fish sauce) and ground black pepper.

42Siomai is a traditional Chinese dumpling, usually served hot as a popular snack item in the Philippines. It is usually made of seasoned ground pork with bits of shrimp, mushrooms, and other preferred ingredients/seasonings. It is accompanied by a dip made of soy sauce and calamansi44.

43www.dish.allrecipes.com

44Calamansi is a small (about 30-mm in diameter), tangy-sour citrus fruit with a thin, green skin (which turns yellow-orange when ripe), with a yellow/orange pulp. The juice is used in various food and beverages as a major/minor ingredient, seasoning or dipping ingredient.

45“Arroz caldo,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arroz_caldo.

46“Lumpia,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumpia.

47“Adobo,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobo.

48“Pandesal,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandesal.

49“Ube halaya,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ube_halaya.

50A salted duck egg is a preserved food product made by soaking duck eggs in brine or packing the eggs in damp, salted charcoal. In the Philippines, the eggs are traditionally dyed red to differentiate it with fresh duck eggs. It is used as a topping for bibingka10, or mixed with chopped, fresh tomatoes and scallions, onions and fish sauce, as a side salad for fried fish.

51A tsokolatera is the Filipino term for chocolatera, a Spanish/Latin-American type of high-necked metal pot shaped like a pitcher used for the traditional preparation of tsokolate12, used in combination with a molinillo52 baton to froth the chocolate. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Chocolatera”.71

52A molinillo is a traditional turned wood whisk used in Latin America, as well as the Philippines, where it is called batidol or batirol. It is used primarily for the preparation of hot beverages like tsokolate12, held between the palms and rotated by rubbing the palms together, creating a frothy drink. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Molinillo (whisk)”.72

53Muscovado is a partially refined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor. It is considered a healthy alternative to refined sugar due to higher levels of minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium). It is used in various food and confectionery, like puto bumbong32 in the Philippines.

54“Tsokolate,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsokolate.

55Pandan is a leaf used to flavor desserts and drinks like Buko Pandan, Maja Blanca and Gulaman. It comes from the genus Pandanus, according to the Wikipedia page “Pandanus”.73

56“Sopas,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopas.

57“Cellophane noodles,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellophane_noodles .

58“Cream de fruta,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crema_de_fruta.

59“Hamonado,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamanado.

60“Milkfish,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milkfish.

61“Tilapia,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilapia.

62“Biko (food),” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biko_(food).

63“Maja blanca,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maja_blanca.

 64Linga is the Tagalog65 term for sesame seeds. In the Philippines, it is toasted and used as a topping of palitaw31.

65Tagalog is a language spoken in Metro Manila68 and the provinces of Central Luzon(Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Zambales) and Southern Luzon (the CALABARZON Region, Marinduque and Mindoro) of the Philippines. Its standardized form is officially called Filipino, the national language of the country. It may also refer to the people who live in the aforementioned places.

66https://www.kawalingpinoy.com/morcon/

67https://panlasangpinoy.com

68Metro Manila is the official and administrative urban area in the southwestern portion of Luzon surrounding Manila, established in 1975 through Presidential Decree No. 824. It is the capital region of the Philippines, the seat of government, and is officially called the National Capital Region (NCR), composed of 16 cities (Caloocan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Novotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela) and the municipality of Pateros. It is the center of culture, economy, education and government of the Philippines. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Metro Manila”.74

69Tinapa is the Filipino term for “smoked fish”, often made from black fin scad (Alepesmelanoptera, locally called galunggong), or from bangus26 (milkfish), according to the Wikipedia page “Tinapa”.75

70“Pancit Malabon,” accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancit_Malabon.

71“Chocolatera,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolatera.

72“Molinillo (whisk),”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molinillo.

73“Pandanus,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandanus.

74“Metro Manila,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Manila.

75“Tinapa,”accessed December 12, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinapa.

Taal, Batangas, Philippines: THE MIRACULOUS WELL OF STA. LUCIA

The Miraculous Well of Sta. Lucia is a spring-fed well where two women saw the reflection of the Virgin of Caysasay. The well is located in Barrio Caysasay, in the heritage town of Taal, in the province of Batangas, in the Philippines.

It can be accessed from the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. A narrow walkway from the steps leads visitors to the well.

I joined a heritage tour of the town of Taal and this well was part of the itinerary. My group consisted of my college buddies and their partners. It was late morning when we walked up the many steps of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps from the shrine to the well. The walk up was tiring due to the temperature and humidity.

It is best to bring bottled water, a hat or folding umbrella, or even a battery-operated hand fan, especially for those who sweat easily. Bringing an extra t-shirt or blouse is also advisable since the heritage tour entails a lot of walking as well as going in and out of air-conditioned museum-houses. All of these items could be stashed in a small backpack.

A-Shrine-6-postAt some point along the steps, we were instructed to turn left where we had to go over a knee-high concrete boundary (see cemented elevation, right part of photo). Members of our group supported each other by helping those who found it difficult to step up then down the said boundary.

BeFunky-collageThis led to a shaded pathway going along private houses. Signs showed the way and indicated that we were nearing our coveted destination.

Z-well-4Along the way to the well, you will see a statue of Our Lady, with rosaries left by devotees

Z-well-5                       The Prayer to Our Lady of Caysasay, on the wall near the well

Z-well-6-okLots of flowers offerings … You can also buy candles from the peddlers in the Shrine, light it, and leave it nearby, on your way to the miraculous well

I was sweating but was keen on reaching the miraculous well with my buddies. I estimate that it took us about 15 minutes to reach the well from the shrine.

Anyway, we finally reached the site. We went up through a narrow passage, then downward towards the well. There were many people around the well.

BeFunky-collage (2)On a shallow, cemented, and exposed portion of the well, two men were scooping water using buckets attached to long wooden-poles and then pouring the “miraculous” water into a container for religious visitors to dip their handkerchiefs or hands.

Devotees then dabbed the precious water on any part of their bodies that needed healing. I must confess that I dabbed water on almost all over my body to make sure I did not miss any spot. I figured it will not hurt me to do so since I traveled all the way to get there, so what the heck!

A small container was available for voluntary contributions to the men who continuously scooped water from the well.

Some people bring a small container and fill it up with the water to give to anyone far away who cannot go to the well themselves, so they may, in turn, also avail of this “miraculous water”. Thus, for the more elder senior citizens in the Taal Heritage Tour who feel that they cannot physically undergo this experience, I suggest they just wait at the shrine and ask someone to fill a small water container from the well for them.

Here are 3 facts about theMiraculous Well of Sta. Lucia:

  1. Since its discovery, many have attested that the spring water has miraculous healing and therapeutic powers.
  2. The spot in the well that reflected the image of Our Lady, is marked by a coral stone arch with a bas relief image of the Virgin on its face. The arch was built in early 1600.
  3. The site of the well is known as “Banal naPook” (Sacred Site) and vestiges of the spring running close to the well is known as “Banal na Tubig” (Sacred Water).

I paid for my tour so this is not a sponsored post.

The information was obtained from my hardworking and knoweledgable tour guide, Mr. Art Mojica (09165378973 and atmojica660@yahoo.com) and the Wikipedia page “Our Lady of Caysasay”.* Contact Art for an enlightening heritage tour of Taal.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Have you ever been to this well? Did any miracle happen to you? Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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*” Our Lady of Caysasay,” accessed July 3, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Caysasay.