Metro Manila’s Newest and Most Delectable Museum: THE DESSERT MUSEUM

Location: Units 124, 126 and 127a, Coral Way, S. Maison Mall (located below Conrad Hotel Manila, near Starbucks S Maison), Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Hello, dearest Filipino Seniors! Admit it, you miss your grandchildren, right? Are you thinking of a new place to bond with them? A place that they will surely enjoy — complete with unlimited Instagram-able picture-taking opportunities — and, one that will satisfy their sweet tooth too? Well, I have a suggestion for you and it is in the Mall of Asia1 (MoA) Complex: THE DESSERT MUSEUM!

0-map-cite source-pk                 Location Map. The Dessert Museum (from http://www.dessertmuseum.com)

The Dessert Museum is a 12,000 sq. ft. venue of different desserts, consisting of 8 mouthwatering and colorful rooms of sugar-filled happiness (in order of entry): the Raining Donuts Room, the Room of Ten Thousand Marshmallows, the Candy Cane Groves, the Ice Cream Room, the Room of Never-Ending Bubbles (or Bubblegum Room), the Gummy Bear Room, the Cotton Candy Forest, and the Cake Pops Carnival. This is the only museum you’ll ever (literally) slide into!2 I wish I used the slide, but I was the designated photo- and video-grapher!

This museum opened on February 10, 2018.2 The tour takes about two hours, depending on how long the kids want to enjoy each room, sample the goodies, and pose non-stop for pictures to be posted in various social media apps. However, you are advised to stay in each room for a maximum of 15 minutes and to go through the museum once, and only move forward.2

This museum is open from 10 am till 10 pm. Take note, last tickets are sold by 8 pm.2 It is recommended for all ages who enjoy taking selfies and group photos. It is for kids and the kids-at-heart, and is a great family-bonding venue, especially for those with young kids and IG-savvy teenagers! If you have a PWD in your group, good news! The venue is wheelchair-accessible! Sorry, though, no pets are allowed.

For Seniors who are pre-diabetics or diabetics, you can still go as long as you do not partake of the complimentary sweets – just pose with your grandchildren, claim your share of the sweets, and give them to your grandchildren! What the heck! This is a new and exciting venue for solo, group, and whole family picture-taking! Just think of the smiles and laughter of your grandchildren – so precious!

This museum is located within the MoA1 complex so you can easily opt to eat before, or after, your tour.0-facade

There are more than 200 restaurants in the said complex to choose from!2

The (walk-in) entrance fee is PHP799 (for ages 2-yo onwards), which some might consider pricey, so do not forget your Senior Citizen/PWD cards.

For a hassle-free and cheaper option, I recommend you go online, at least one day before your intended visit, to either:

(1) www.thedessertmuseum.com, and pay only PHP699 per person – you can pay via (a) PayPal or credit card (using PayPal, even if you do not have a PayPal account and you do not need to sign up) or, (b) Dragonpay, which allows BPI, BDO (online banking and over the counter), LBC, and Cebuana; or,

(2) Metrodeal or Klook, and avail of a 25% discount (then pay only PHP599).

Kids below 2-yo are free to enter but are not entitled to a wristband (see 6 paragraphs below), ergo, they will not be given complimentary sweets.

If your group consists of 10 or more members, email: events@thedessertmuseum.com

What’s that I hear that you do not know the location of MoA2? No worries, use WAZE/UBER: and look for “Starbucks Reserve, Conrad Hotel Manila”.2

If possible, go on weekdays since weekends and holidays could be crowded. We went early on a Saturday and there were only a few people with us on the second batch of the day. More groups arrived thereafter.

0-entrance-okThe view upon entry (the registration desk is to the left); stools to sit on to wait for your group to enter; a fairy gives a brief welcome; the fairy leaves and your group goes up the same stairs where she stood, all pass through the large pink doughnut; and, a difficult choice comes next: will you slide your way to the Doughnut Room or do you use the yellow steps? Your choice … regardless, your sweet adventure begins! Enjoy!

It is not so cold in the rooms so be sure to wear light cottony, sporty clothes and comfortable footwear. Go to the rest room before the two-hour tour to be sure you will not be inconvenienced therein (remember, you cannot re-enter). Just to be on the safe side, people with allergic rhinitis, should take an antihistamine tablet beforehand.

Do not make kids wear any expensive jewelry or other accessories that might hinder their enjoyment of each room. I suggest non-slippery footwear for kids to avoid accidents, but these should be easily removable to enjoy the ball pit in the Ice Cream Room, for example, and worn again to proceed to the next rooms.

Fully charge your cellphones and power banks for lots of photos and videos! The use of photoshoot equipment like tripods, lighting materials and props are strictly prohibited unless your group will avail of the museum’s photo shoot package (see end of this post).2

Do not forget to bring water since you will definitely need it after tasting each complimentary sweet. Water is for sale but is a bit pricey at PHP50 per regular-sized bottle.

Visitors are asked to sign a waiver form (sorry, I cannot say anything about this since a niece of mine registered for us). Do inform the staff if any person in your group has an allergy to eggs, fruits, milk, peanuts, soy, tree-nuts, wheat, etc.

Assign a person in your group to keep an eye on gadgets and other valuables while the kids are playing in each room.

Bring Wet Ones to clean the hands of the kids before and after they eat the sweets in each room, after touching the different parts of, or decorations in, each room, and to wipe away bits of sweets on their faces. Instruct the older kids to dispose of garbage in designated trash cans.

The museum provides lockers for rent to secure your large bags and keep baby carriages/strollers safe during your 2-hour tour. I paid PHP150 to secure a backpack and a stroller.0-lockers-ok

There are tours every 10 to 15 minutes, starting at 10:15 am. I suggest you come early so your group will have more time to pose for as many photos, and for as long, as you want, and need not wait too long for your turn to pose in front of certain backgrounds – there are just so many to choose from!

For those who booked online, be there about 15 minutes before your reserved time slot. If you arrive late, you could be subjected to a rebooking fee per person (PHP50 per person, 3 days prior to arrival; PHP200, 4 days prior to arrival), or lose your slot for the day. For unused tickets, email tickets@thedessertmuseum.com to change dates, depending on availability, subject to PHP200 rebooking fee. However, slots or tickets that remain unused after 7 days from the booked date will be forfeited. All tickets are non-refundable.2

Each visitor is given a pink rubber wristband which you will need to present for electronic scanning to avail of a complimentary sweet in 5 to 7, out of the 8, rooms.0-wristband

I would like to caution you, dear visitors, be sure to secure the wristbands of the kids since it easily gets loose and might get lost during the tour. The wristbands need to be surrendered to a security guard at the end of the tour and each lost wristband will cost you PHP300.0-exit

In our group, my husband collected the wristbands of all the kids and the yayas3 and presented these to the staff per room for scanning to claim the complimentary sweets. The kids, attended by the yayas3, freely enjoyed the swing, slide, seesaw, giant gumball machine, trampoline, plastic ball pit, etc., without worrying about the wristbands.

The tour starts with a female staff, dressed like a fairy, who orients the visitors about the museum and briefly gives reminders regarding safety.0-fairy

All rooms are appropriately decorated and painted based on the theme, generally clean, attractive to all millennials, and definitely Instagram-able! Do not forget to add: #TheDessertMuseum in your pictures.2

The staff are generally accommodating and polite, and wear colorful costumes.

Read the amazing fun facts about each dessert on the wall with your grandchildren, especially those who have just started reading. This will make the tour more meaningful and unforgettable, and certainly a memorable learning experience for the kids!

An official in-house photographer can take your pictures so everyone in your group will be included in your pictures. I was in a hurry to leave the room so I just took this candid picture of a pair being photographed at the Candy Cane Groves Room.Z-photographer-ok

Then, you can have these pictures printed at the end of the tour while you go over the sweets and souvenir items sold at the dessert shop. Sorry, I did not check the prices of items for sale in the shop.0-store-collage-ok

Here are the photo packages:0-photo-packages

Before you leave each room, proceed to the dessert counter therein, have your pink wristband scanned, and enjoy the complimentary sweet!

Most of the time you have no choice as to the complimentary item but in a couple of rooms, you could be asked to choose: like in the Room of Ten Thousand Marshmallows, you will be given a giant white marshmallow on a stick, and asked to choose the flavor of the coating; and in the Ice Cream Room, my favorite, you will be asked to choose the flavor of your popsicle.

Take more pictures while savoring the sweets! I told you, non-stop picture-taking!

Here is a brief description per room:

The first room is called the Raining Donuts Room. Its walls are painted pale yellow, and decorated with small doughnuts in different colors and designs. The main feature of this room is the part with lots of huge pink doughnuts hanging from the ceiling. However, be aware that these hanging doughnuts are made from a hard material so be sure to protect the heads of the smaller kids. But I assure you, the pictures are very IG-able in this room, along with the 7 other rooms. Sorry, but we did not like the give-away in this room.

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The Room of Ten Thousand Marshmallows is the next room. The walls are painted blue, and the room is filled with white marshmallows strung from the ceiling. Take wonderful photos again in this room! Visitors, upon scanning their wristbands, are given a giant white marshmallow on a stick, in a small white paper cup, and asked if they want Snowy Vanilla or Choco Loco coating with it, straight from the chocolate fondue fountains. Most of the kids chose, and enjoyed, the Choco Loco coating. I gave away my share.

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The room called Candy Cane Groves comes next. It is very colorful and offers a seesaw and swing, along with lots of multi-colored candy cane decorations and IG-spots! Get lots of photos and videos here too! The kids enjoyed the complimentary candy canes, resulting in them getting colored tongues! I gave away my share in this room too.

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The Ice Cream Room is a favorite of mine. Photos and videos are very picturesque, what with the combination of the multi-colored ball pit and the colorful air balloons. Personally, this room offers the best complimentary dessert: a choice of Frozen Avocado Cream or Mango Madness popsicles. I enjoyed the first one, but the latter is also good, according to my other group members.

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The kids, and kids-at-heart, will enjoy the Room of Never-Ending Bubbles, or Bubblegum Room, which features a giant gumball machine with balloons of different colors being blown all over the inflated structure while about 8 people are allowed inside. Do not hesitate to take pictures and videos of the members of your family/group enjoying their two-minute stay inside that “machine”. I cannot recall any giveaway in this room.

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The Gummy Bear Room is also very colorful. It offers a wall with 4 giant blue inflated gummy bears where your family/group can take beautiful and wacky pictures. I also enjoyed posing in one (of the three) colored bathtubs full of gummy bears and balls, surrounded by balloons in different colors. Sorry, I did not like the giveaway in this room because it had nothing to do with gummy bears!

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The next room is the very attractive and picture-perfect Cotton Candy Forest, with predominantly pink cotton candy-like decorations. Everyone will surely enjoy the giveaway cotton candy!

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The Cake Pops Carnival Room is the last room of the museum, leading to the last stop, the Souvenir Shop. Your family/group can stand or sit on the giant cake pops and create beautiful pictures and videos with different poses per member. The room also offers basketball, with 3 hoops, using soft-rag balls. Two sides of the room have arches of various colors for one last time of picture-taking!

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Contact details -Website: http://www.thedessertmuseum.com; Telephone Numbers: (02) 838-7927; Cellphone Numbers: 0917-3005966 and 0999-2245687; Email – events@thedessertmuseum.com

Interested groups should inquire about their birthday promo, party package, teambuilding promo, private event package, and photo shoot package.

0-party packages                                        party packages, The Dessert Museum

 

This is not a sponsored post. All comments are personal and based on my only experience.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you regarding your experience in this museum. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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For the benefit of foreign readers:

1The SM Mall of Asia (MoA) is a shopping mall in Bay City, Pasay, in Metro Manila, Philippines, currently the largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the 12th largest in the world. It opened on May 21, 2006, and is located near the Manila Bay, SM Central Business Park, and the southern end of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). It is owned and developed by SM Prime Holdings, the largest mall owner and developer in the Philippines. The complex covers 42 hectares of land area, a gross floor area of about 406,962 sq.m., with more than 600 shops, including 217 dining establishments which attract about 200,000 people daily, according to the Wikipedia page “SM Mall of Asia”.4

2www.thedessertmuseum.com

3A “yaya” is the Tagalog term for nursemaid, wet nurse, or a female household staff who takes care of a kid, usually one per kid.

4”SM Mall of Asia,” accessed September 3, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SM_Mall_of_Asia.

Short and Simple: WHAT IS A NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE IN THE PHILIPPINES?

A National Cultural Treasure (NCT) of the Philippines is a tangible (movable and immovable) or intangible heritage property declared by the National Commission for Culture and Arts1 and other cultural agencies such as the National Museum of the Philippines2, National Library of the Philippines3, and National Archives of the Philippines4. Such declarations are authorized under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 20095 and recognized within the Cultural Properties of the Philippines6 by the Philippine government.

l-r: Jose Rizal National Monument (Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila), Las Piñas Bamboo Organ (St. Joseph Parish Church, Las Piñas, Metro Manila), Parish Church of San Gregorio Magno (Majayjay, Laguna), Basilica Menor de San Sebastian or San Sebastian Church (Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila)

The title of NCT is the highest designation given to a “unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation.”7?

2 out of the 4 components of the University of Santo Tomas NCT: The Main Building and the Arch of the Century (no pictures available for the Central Seminary and the Open Spaces for the 4 papal visits); location: España, Manila

As of May 2018, 85 NCTs are immovable heritage, classified into 7 categories:

  1. Church complexes and colonial fortifications;
  2. Mosque complexes and temple complexes;
  3. Indigenous place of worship or dambana8 complexes;
  4. Modern and historical residences;
  5. Structures related to industry, transportation and public works;
  6. Archeological sites; and,
  7. Miscellaneous structures and sites.

3 out of the 4 murals, or Sacred Art, of the Parish Church of Saint James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna, by Luciano Dans, a Paeteño, using natural color pigments mixed with volcanic ash and brushes made from cat’s hair (l-r: Saint Christopher wall painting; Heaven, Earth and Hell; another Saint Christopher wall painting being restored due to termite infestation); no picture for the Last Judgment, or Juicio Final (1720), the oldest painted wooden panel-mural located near the church altar)

As of May 2018, there are 18 NCTs classified as movable heritage, although one contains more than 20 heritage objects under “artifacts and ecofacts in the National Museum in Manila”. Movable heritage is further divided into 7 categories:

  1. Ancient documents or artifacts with pre-colonial writings;
  2. Archeological materials;
  3. Ethnic crafts;
  4. Historical materials owned by historical persons, families, or organizations;
  5. Paintings;
  6. Sculptures; and,
  7. Writings and other literary works.

As of May 2018, there are 3 NCTs classified as intangible heritage, inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: the Darangen epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao, Hudhud chants of the Ifugao, and Punnuk tugging rituals and games, according to the Wikipedia page “Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Philippines”.9 Intangible heritage is divided into 5 categories:

  1. Oral traditions and expressions including language;
  2. Performing arts;
  3. Social practices, rituals and festive events;
  4. Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and,
  5. Traditional craftsmanship or the tradition of making crafts, not the craft itself.

There is a total of 106 NCTs, 3 of which are intangible: 75 are housed in Luzon, 6 are in Mimaropa, 19 are in the Visayas, and 6 in Mindanao. The Sulu Archipelago does not have any such treasures.

Different NCTs originally from the Mimaropa Region, Visayas and Mindanao are now housed in the National Museum in Manila (Luzon), such as the Qu’ran of Bayang11.10

Any Filipino institution or person can nominate a cultural property for a National Cultural Treasure declaration, whether the property is private or public. If the property is private, the ownership of the property is retained by the private owner and shall not be transferred to the government.

Are you now curious to see the complete list of the National Cultural Treasures of the Philippines? Simply visit the Wikipedia page “List of National Cultural Treasures in the Philippines”.10

Include these awesome 106 NCTs in your domestic travel bucket list, and tick them off one by one. Be proud of our heritage, Filipinos!

Almost all information were accessed from the Wikipedia page “List of National Cultural Treasures in the Philippines”.10

Did you find this post informative? How many NCTs have you visited? What are your favorites? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”.  Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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1The National Commission for Culture and Arts is the official government agency for culture in the Philippines, formed in 1987, with headquarters in General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila. It is the overall policy making body, coordinating, and grants-giving agency for the preservation, development and promotion of Philippine arts and culture. Its parent department is the Office of the President of the Philippines and its sub-agencies are the: National Archives of the Philippines4, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Library of the Philippines3, National Museum of the Philippines2, Commission on the Filipino Language, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Information is from the Wikipedia page “National Commission for Culture and Arts”.12 Visit its website: www.ncca.gov.ph

2The National Museum of the Philippines is a government institution in the Philippines which serves as the educational, scientific and cultural institution in preserving the various permanent national collections featuring the ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological and visual artistry of the Philippines. It was formed on October 29, 1901, with headquarters in Padre Burgos Avenue, in Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila. Since 1998, it has been the regulatory and enforcement agency of the national government in restoring and safeguarding important cultural properties, sites and reservations throughout the Philippines. It is under the Department of Education and the National Commission for Culture and Arts1. Information is from the Wikipedia page “National Museum of the Philippines”.13 Visit its website: www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph

3The National Library of the Philippinesis the official national library of the Philippines, with over 1.6 million pieces in its collections. It is notably called the home of the original copies of the defining works of Jose Rizal (Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo and Mi Ultimo Adios). It was established in 1901 and located in Rizal Park, at T. M. Kalaw Avenue, Ermita, Manila. Information is from the Wikipedia page “National Library of the Philippines”.14 Visit its website: www.web.nlp.gov.ph

4The National Archives of the Philippinesis an agency of the Philippines which is mandated to collect, store, preserve and make available, archival records of the government and other primary sources pertaining to the history and development of the country, as a result of the passage of Republic Act 9470 on May 21, 2007. It is the primary records management agency, tasked to formulate and implement the records schedule and vital records protection programs for the government. Its headquarters is in the National Library of the Philippines, in Rizal Park, at T. M. Kalaw Avenue, Ermita, Manila. Information is from the Wikipedia page “National Archives of the Philippines”.15 Visit its website: www.nationalarchives.gov.ph

5The National Cultural Heritage Act is a law of the Republic of the Philippines which created the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property and took other steps to preserve historic buildings that are over 50 years old, signed into law on March 25, 2009, according to the Wikipedia page “National Cultural Heritage Act”.16

6The Cultural Properties of the Philippines refers to the cultural properties listed by the National Commission for Culture and Arts, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and the National Museum of the Philippines through the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PRECUP), the official cultural property list of the country. Now, where did they get the names of such properties? Listen up, dearest Seniors! This raised my eyebrows to the max! All local government units (LGUs) are mandated to submit a partial/full list of their cultural properties, however, only 39 out of the 1,934 cities/municipalities in the country have submitted such as list as of November 2017! Information is from Wikipedia page “Cultural properties of the Philippines”.17 Talk about being proud of these properties – only 2% of LGUs complied!

7www.primer.com.ph

8Dambana, in modern times, refers to a shrine of indigenous religions in the Philippines (mainly in the Tagalog areas), altar of Philippine churches, or monuments erected to remember Philippine history, according to the Wikipedia page “Dambana”.18

 9“Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Philippines,”

10”List of National Cultural Treasures in the Philippines,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Cultural_Treasures_in_the_Philippines.

11The Qu’ran of Bayang, according to oral history, is Lanao’s oldest Koran which belonged to the Sultan of Bayang in Lanao del Sur and was copied by Saidna, one of the earliest hajji (one who successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca during Islam’s early days in the Philippines). It is one of the few copies translated into a non-Arabic language, i.e., using a language in the Malay family and handwritten in Arabic calligraphy.19

12“National Commission for Culture and Arts,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Commission_for_Culture_and_Arts.

13“National Museum of the Philippines,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Museum_of_the_Philippines.

14“National Library of the Philippines,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Library_of_the_Philippines.

15“National Archives of the Philippines,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Archives_of_the_Philippines.

16“National Cultural Heritage Act,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Cultural_Heritage_Act.

17“List of Cultural properties of the Philippines,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Cultural_properties_of_the_Philippines.

18“Dambana,” accessed January 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dambana.

19www.gmanetwork.com

AMBON-AMBON FALLS: The Sweet Reward of Trekking

Location: Panguil River Eco-Park, Barangay Natividad, Town of Pangil, Province of Laguna, Region IV-A, Philippines

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Dear Seniors, let me ask you these questions first:

  1. Do you reside in Metro Manila, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, or nearby areas, and just want to spend the whole day with your family far away from work, school, the traffic and pollution of the city?
  2. Do you love nature-tripping but do not want to go too far from your home?

 

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3. Are you fond of picnicking? Do you love to bring your signature adobo, steamed rice, vegetables with sweet/spicy bagoong, marinated chicken/pork to be barbecued on-site, fresh fruits, junk food, and whatever else you fancy? Or, are you the type who does not cook at all and who is willing to try native “lutong bahay”, i.e., home-cooked dishes; not gourmet but decent enough dishes, and pay accordingly? If you belong to the latter, no worries, there is a small kitchen in this destination with a local cook. Just tell them when you arrive so they can do the marketing. Seniors, do not forget to inform them of your dietary restrictions (like low salt, low fat, etc.).13-food-collage      some dishes you can order in-house (Adobong Baboy, Fried Tilapia and Pinakbet)

  1. Are you willing to trek 15 minutes for a River Tubing adventure? Or are you game to trek all the way to Ambon-Ambon Falls, i.e., 30 minutes one way, then 15 minutes going back for the River Tubing? Are you out of shape or not sure if you can make it all the way but would like to see and be near the falls? No worries, you can stop and rest anytime/anywhere along the path; trek/walk at your own pace; the guides are very helpful. Seeing the falls is worth the trek!
  1. Is it okay for you to walk and get wet along the side of the river, climb a couple of rocks (sometimes with flowing water), cross the river about 3 times through a bamboo bridge, and ride 3 bamboo rafts along the way?
  2. Do you want to personally witness an awesome falls and have a “back-massage” from its thundering water? Or do you just want to soak in the sun, swim/wade in shallow waters with your “apos” (grandchildren) and loved ones?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then I have a suggested place for you – the AMBON-AMBON FALLS in the Panguil1 River Eco-Park, in Pangil1, Laguna. It would only take about 2 – 2 1/2 hours once you exit Calamba from the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), depending on the traffic in Calamba and Los Baños.

Interested families or groups can go to the Eco-Park any month of the year but, personally, the best months to enjoy this adventure is from October till February, when the water is right for River Tubing, except when there is a typhoon.

Use the Waze app in your cell phone to tell you where to pass. Less techie? No problem, I always advise my visitors going to this destination to just follow the national road and look for directional and feeder signs. Your destination: Pangil1, Laguna!

I suggest you all wear your swimming/trekking attire before you ride your vehicle so it would be easy to start your adventure once you reach the place. Fully charge your cell phones and power banks but designate just one or two cell phones to be brought to the River Tubing/Ambon Ambon Falls. Make sure to place each cell phone in a water-proof container that you can then bring during your trek and waterfall moment/s. You can ask your guide to take pictures while you/your group are under the falls. Do not worry, they are used to doing this, and know the right places to take the shots, as well as how to take care of your device/s. I also recommend applying sun block 30 minutes beforehand to take effect. A pair of reliable, non-slippery footwear that can get wet and still be good for trekking along the set path, walking along the river, and crossing bamboo bridges is recommended. Eat breakfast and finish your morning “ceremonies/rituals”. You can actually stop along SLEX for breakfast and/or clean public rest rooms. Bring bottled water for trekking, if necessary.

Tell your designated driver to just follow the slotted/solid white lines or solid yellow lines (solid lines for no overtaking; better observe traffic rules to be safe) painted at the middle of the road –that’s an indication that you are cruising along the national highway. You will pass through the following towns from SLEX (Calamba exit coming from Makati/Paranaque): Calamba, Los Baños, Bay, Calauan, Victoria, Pila, Sta. Cruz, Pagsanjan, Lumban, Kalayaan, Paete and Pakil. “Marami ba?” (Do you find it too many?) Do not be turned off; you will only be passing through these towns and not going inside any town proper. And, once you exit Los Baños, it’s the end of traffic.

Along the way, just enjoy the view that includes lots of rice fields (stare at the greenery – that is good for your eyes), coconut trees, and even some stands offering local and seasonal fruits. You can stop, bargain some, and maybe buy the fresh fruits you want to munch on the road. You can also buy native delicacies (puto, kuchinta, buko pie, espasol, etc.) in Los Baños. (Note: remember your doctor’s advice, if any, regarding your restricted dietary intake.) Moderation always; nothing in excess, ok?

The road leading to Panguil River Eco-Park — from where you can access Ambon Ambon Falls — does not have a sign ever since the national highway of the said town was widened. But the General Manager told me that a directional sign will be installed soon. In the meantime, just remember that when you reach the town of Pangil (there are directional signs for this along the way), watch out for a short bridge followed by the barangay hall of Brgy. Natividad to your right. Turn right on that small road and just drive straight till you hit the end of the road – that’s it! You have reached your destination!

1-entrance-1                                Entrance – Panguil River Eco-Park, Pangil, Laguna

If you have a big group, or are the type of traveler who is “sigurista” (a person who wants to be sure that all aspects of his/her trip are well organized) like me, I suggest you reserve a cottage or even an air-conditioned room (contact information at the end of this post) to ensure you have the kind of accommodation you and your family could enjoy for the whole day or even overnight (although I have not tried doing the latter).

For smaller groups, you can rent a native hut for eating/resting for day use only. I suggest you designate one person in your group to watch over your belongings in the hut while the others swim/wade, go to the falls, or experience the River Tubing.

There are separate structures for public shower-cum-rest rooms for males and females. Bring plastic bags for your wet clothes/toiletries for easy packing if you will use the public shower rooms. Unfortunately, dearest Seniors, there is no hot water for showers, neither in the public shower rooms nor in the rented rooms. (For me, these are just minor details that will not spoil your adventure of the refreshing and awesome Ambon-Ambon Falls.)

Are you still interested? Then, read on.

You have now parked your vehicle in the designated paid parking space. It is safe, I assure you, just lock your vehicle/s and keep your valuables safe with a designated person/watcher. Better still, do not bring any jewelry.3-enter-parking-2

One person from your group must go inside the Admin. office to pay the required fees. Beforehand, you need to count how many you are in your group (separate the count for adults and children, 5-10 years old).1-register-1                                       Entrance, Admin Office, Panguil River Eco-Park

2-admin-office-inside-1                                      Interior of Admin Office, Panguil River Eco-Park

2-staff                              The hospitable staff, Amin Office, Panguil River Eco-Park

The breakdown of fees is shown below. Once payments are made, guides will be assigned to you, depending on how many you are in your group and your desired activity/activities.

1-Rates-2

You must now carry your things to your rented cottage/room (for overnight) or native hut (for day use). I am sure the guide/s will help to transport your stuff.

3-enter-walk-1                                       Turn right and proceed to the Hanging Bridge

3-enter-walk-2-stalls                                          Mini-stores for snacks and basic necessities

4-hanging bridgeYou then cross a Hanging Bridge. You can start your selfie/group poses here. For those with vertigo, those who easily get dizzy, or those who are afraid of heights, go slow on this bridge and just look straight ahead; do not look down or sideways.

4-hanging bridge-2

4-hanging bridge-3-huts                                          Left view from the hanging bridge

9-huts                                       Huts, viewed from the hanging bridge

4-hanging bridge-3                                                    The end of the hanging bridge

At the end of the bridge is a round cemented area with the name of the eco-park – another group shot here, for sure! All persons who will go to the falls are required to wear the safety vests. Ask assistance from the guide/s if you have difficulty attaching all clasps, especially the one that goes around the bottom.

5-oval-2-pasalubong center                       The Pasalubong Center to the left of the central round cemented area

5-oval-3-rt side                                 More huts to the right of the round cemented area

4-hanging bridge-3-huts-2                        More huts for rent at the right side of the end of the hanging bridge

5-oval-3-other huts              Another hut overlooking the cool stream from the Ambon-Ambon Falls

For the not-so-adventurous Seniors, you may opt to just wade in the shallow waters near the rented native huts. Enjoy your “blue space”2 with your “apos” (grandchildren) and other companions. Breathe in the clean air. Savor the cooling effect of the running water, coming all the way from the falls.

2-steps                               Trekking? Gear up! This is how the trail surface looks like

For the more adventuresome Seniors, you’re now geared up to start your trek. Just relax, breathe normally, do not hold your breath. The path goes up and down along the side of the river and you can rest whenever you need to, dear Seniors. The guides will adjust to your pace. Do not forget to take pictures along the way. The guides are more than willing to patiently take as many pictures as you want. Just do not forget to give them a tip later, ok?

You may opt to just walk for about 15 minutes and ask for the River Tubing adventure. It is about a 5-minute thrill of riding on connected inflated rubber tubes.

You can ask your guide to take pictures of your group as you glide downstream to the lower part of this park, near the rented native huts for the day.

Or, you may opt to ask a member of your group to stay on the hanging bridge and to click away as you glide towards the end point of the ride. Then, you can just join the wading people of your group, grab a snack, and share your brief ride downstream. Why don’t you convince them to experience River Tubing too?

For the more fit and “game” Seniors, bring water (to quench your thirst) and a towel (to be used after your “falls experience” just in case “ginawin ka” (you easily feel cold). Well then, brave Seniors, trek onwards, for a total of about 30 minutes towards the Ambon-Ambon Falls.

At certain points, you will cross the river three times over a bamboo bridge, climb a couple of rocks (with or without flowing water, depending on the season), and ride a total of three bamboo rafts till you reach the falls. Ask the tour guide to take pictures of each interesting point of your trek.

12-bamboo raft                                        You will ride a bamboo raft three times

What’s this, you tell me you can’t swim? Or are you not confident in your swimming skills for the slightly deep part, right before the falls? No worries! Just float facing the sky and your guide will pull you towards the falls through your safety vest. Do not forget to leave your cell phone with the guide so he can take pictures in strategic locations. This way, your group will have memorable shots near/under the falls.

When your group is now complete near/under the falls, pose in unison and tell the designated guide-photographer to wait for your wacky poses, and then some! Keep smiling! Achieve!

13-falls-1-ok

You have all reached your final destination – the Ambon Ambon Falls!

You are allowed to stay as long as you want near/under the falls. I dare you to try a hard back massage under the falls (depending on the pressure of the water). This “blue space2” experience will surely be a big hit when you talk about it with your “amigos/amigas” (male/female friends) the next time you see each other back home.

Once you signal your guide that you want to return, he will again pull the safety vests of floating persons who do not want to swim the deep water till they reach the first raft going back. You will go back the same way until you reach the River Tubing spot, after about 15 minutes of trekking. Refer to the same guidelines I gave earlier.

The River Tubing is the last time you will see your guides so I am sure you want to thank them. Please do not forget to give a tip to your guides when you land, ok?

After the River Tubing experience, you can then go back and join the rest of your group in your rented private room (for those staying overnight) or native hut (for day use only). Some may decide to snack, have brunch, or opt to shower/take a bath and change clothes.

9-rooms                                                           Cottages for rent

8-restrooms-1                                      Separate male and female shower/rest rooms

8-restrooms-2                                             Interior of female shower/rest room

9-camping site                                           Camping Site – tents are available for rent

12-swimming pool-ok                                                                Swimming Pool

10-pavilion                                                 the Pavilion for large get-togethers

I have been entertaining family members and friends through the years in this destination but have not experienced staying overnight. Who knows, I might do it next time so I can share the experience with you as well.

By the way, I always pay for my visits and all comments are based on my repeated experience in this Eco-Park.

I was also told by General Manager (GM) Raymund Diaz about the following additional offerings of the Eco-Park:

1. Massage-Therapy, i.e., Hilot-Wellness Full Body Massage at PHP300 per hour, starting April. This is good news for interested seniors! They have five massage beds and about 20 trained massage-therapists on call. I need to try this!9-Massage-3

2. A 200-meter trail leading to a point where one can have a panoramic view of the town of Pangil and Laguna de Bay, along with a bambusetum, a garden with a collection of bamboo plants. This, I’ve got to see during my next visit!9-new walk

3. An extension of the River Tubing to double the length of the ride so that means double the fun, fun, fun for all to enjoy going downstream! Watch out for it; it is coming soon!

Special thanks to the following for the information shared: GM Diaz, Assistant GM Richmond Samson and Cashiers: Mafeh, Rose Ann and Dhang!

Bottomline, this is an exciting and reasonably-priced day trip for you and your family/friends. This “blue space2” is just about 3 hours (or less, depending on the traffic) from the Calamba exit of SLEX. The air is fresh, so you can declog your urban-polluted lungs. Only basic facilities are offered, thus, do not expect five-star facilities/services. You will definitely feel a bit tired, but fulfilled, from this experience.

Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced going to the Panguil River Eco-Park, either just for the day or overnight? I would like to hear from you. Do post your comment/s below. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device. Thank you!

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1Panguil is the original spelling of Pangil, the town in Laguna, where the Ambon Ambon Falls is located.

2Blue space is the term for visible water needed to improve the quality of life.1 Examples of blue spaces are beaches, canals, fountains, harbors, islands, islets, lakes, marinas, ponds, ports, rivers, streams, and waterfront parks.  To know more about blue space, see my post: Short and Simple: WHAT IS BLUE SPACE?

Laguna, Philippines: TWO TALLEST RIZAL MONUMENTS IN THE WORLD

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust (French novelist, essayist and critic, 1871-1922)

I am based in the province of Laguna and, since my travels depend on the health status of my soon-to-be 96-year-old mother, I have time to look around this province and marvel at its uniqueness and beauty. Here is one such record/beauty: did you know that the province of Laguna, in the Philippines, has two of the tallest Rizal monuments in the world? Yes, you read it right, not only in the Philippines but in the world! Bet you did not know that! Well then, read on to know more about it and be proud of such man-made attractions in our very own country!

Dr. Jose Rizal is generally regarded as the (unofficial) national hero of the Philippines (this statement will be tackled in another blog), and there are almost 120 monuments to honor him in the Philippines, to name a few: Cagayan de Oro City (Cagayan de Oro), Calamba (Laguna), Catbalogan (Samar), Daet (Camarines Norte), Dapitan City (Zamboanga del Norte), Iloilo City (Iloilo), Jolo (Sulu), Luneta/Rizal Park (Manila), Sta. Cruz (Laguna), Tacloban (Leyte), and Villasis (Pangasinan).1, 2

While there is no law in the Philippines that orders every town to build a monument for Rizal, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) requires that, if at all, such monuments are to be built in front of a prominent building, plaza, or park, and the statue has to be life size.3

There are also various sculptures, statues, monuments of Rizal found worldwide that recognize his intelligence, heroism, and significant scientific and literary contributions in Andorra2, Bern (Switzerland), Brussels and Ghent (Belgium), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Heidelberg (Germany), Hong Kong, Jinjiang, Fujian (China), Lima (Peru), Litomerice (Czech Republic), London (England), Madrid (Spain), Mexico City (Mexico), New South Wales (Australia), Paris (France), Rome (Italy), Singapore, Tokyo (Japan), Toronto, Ontario (Canada), Alaska, California, Chicago, Florida, New Jersey, Seattle, Texas, Washington (USA), Wilhelmsfeld (Germany), and Vienna (Austria), to name a few.4

To-date, the tallest monument of Dr. Jose Rizal in the world is in the Laguna Sports Complex, Barangay Bubukal, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Philippines. Erected during the term of Laguna Governor Jeorge Ejercito Estregan,it is unique because it depicts Rizal as a sportsman, the only one of its kind in the world!4

1-Sta-Cruz-Rizal-statue                                 The tallest Rizal monument in the world  (2014-present)                                             Laguna Sports Complex, Barangay Bubukal, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Philippines

For foreigners, it is worth knowing that Rizal was a polymath, a person who is an expert in different areas/fields.2, 14 He was an agriculturist, architect, cartographer, educator, economist, engineer, ethnologist, farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, musician, mythologist, nationalist/patriot, naturalist, novelist, ophthalmologist, painter, philanthropist, playwright, poet, polyglot6, propagandist, psychologist, scientist, sculptor, sociologist, theologian, writer, woodcarver, but he was also inclined to sports. In fact, he played six sports: arnis7, boxing, fencing, (pistol) firing, judo and jujitsu8.He was so talented for a Filipino even during the Spanish period!

This statue shows Rizal wearing a fencing uniform and holding an épée9 in his right hand. The statue is located atop a flight of stairs that serves as the 1,000-square-meter wide pedestal. This monument was erected within the Laguna Sports Complex to inspire the Filipino youth to excel in sports.

This 7.9-meter high statue was built at a cost of PHP6 million and was unveiled in time for the opening of the Palarong Pambansa (National Games) on May 10-16, 2014, the first time said event was hosted by the province of Laguna.4

Sculptor Toym Imao, son of national Artist for Sculpture Andulmari Asia Imao, designed the monument.10

The hollow space underneath the stairs will be made into a museum and a library about Laguna and Rizal’s history.4

The second tallest monument of Rizal in the world is located in The Plaza of Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines, in front of the city’s City Hall Complex, along Bacnotan Road, in the barangay of Real. Recall that Calamba is the birthplace of our national hero. This monument was the tallest in the world from 2011 till 2014, until the other Laguna monument was erected.11

1-Calamba-Riza-monument                                    The second tallest Rizal monument in the world                                                        The Plaza of Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines (the tallest, 2011-2014)

This one is a 6.7-meter (22 feet) bronze statue atop a 2.8-meter podium, and shows Rizal holding a book in his right hand. It also has a 7.87 feet granite pedestal and a 13.12 feet circular stairway base. Including the podium, the base, and the pedestal, the monument has a total height of 13 meters or 43 feet (about a four-storey building) and weighs 2 tons. It has two markers – one from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and another from the City Government of Calamba. It was unveiled by President Benigno Aquino III on June 19, 2011,4 in celebration of Rizal’s sesquicentennial (150th) birth anniversary, according to Wikipedia page “Rizal Monument (Calamba)”.12

Mayor Joaquin Chipeco came up with the idea of building this monument as a gift to the people of Calamba and as a tribute to Rizal in his own hometown. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), along with the local government unit of Calamba, initially funded the construction of this monument. A 35-year old sculptor from Marikina City, Jose Dionas F. Roces, was commissioned to build the monument. Construction started in December 2010 and was completed on April 2011, according to Wikipedia page “Rizal Monument (Calamba)”.12

Do you know that this monument has two important symbolisms? Here they are: (1) The statue stands 22 feet, symbolizing the 22 languages and dialects Rizal mastered as a polyglot6 (languages – Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, and Swedish; dialects: Cebuano, Chavacano, Ilocano, Subanon, according to Wikipedia page “List of polygots”).13 (2) A 15-step stairway leads to the 2.8 meter podium. Each step represents one decade, from the time Rizal was born in 1861, up till the monument’s unveiling on 2011, for a total of 150 years or 15 steps. All these according to Wikipedia page “Rizal Monument (Calamba)”.12 The number 15 is also significant because it was unveiled by the 15th President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III!5

Filipinos, be proud and love our country! Be inspired by our heroes like Dr. Jose Rizal!

Look around your town or city. What are its unique natural and man-made attractions? Please share and tell me about them.

Did you find this post informative? Do you have pictures of Rizal statues/monuments elsewhere in the Philippines and/or other countries? Please share! I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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1www.joserizal.com

2www.gmanetwork.com

3www.news/abs-cbn.com

4www.lifestyle.inquirer.net

5www.newsinfo.inquirer.net

6A polyglot is a person who has mastered multiple languages.

 7Arnis, kali or eskrima, is the national sport and martial art of the Philippines. It uses weapon-based fighting with bladed weapons, knives, sticks, or other improvised weapons. It also uses “open hand”, or techniques without weapons, such as hand-to-hand combat, joint locks, grappling and weapon disarming techniques.

8Jujitsu is a Japanese martial art and a method of close combat for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses either a short weapon or none at all, according to the Wikipedia page “Jujitsu”.15

9Épée refers to the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in the sport called fencing, according to the Wikipedia page “Epée”. The two other weapons are foil and sabre.16

10www.balita.ph

11www.joserizal.com

12“Rizal Monument (Calamba),” accessed July 9, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rizal_Monument_(Calamba).

13“List of polygots,” accessed July 9, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_polygots.

14www.pop.inquirer.net

15“Jujitsu,” accessed July 9, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujitsu.

16“Épée,” accessed July 9, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Épée.

Pagsanjan’s Pride: PUERTO REAL – THE TOWN’S GATE

The historical, Roman-style town gate or triumphal arch1 of the town of Pagsanjan, in Laguna, Philippines, is called Puerto Real, Arco Real, or simply the Pagsanjan Arch. It was built from 1878 to 1880 by the Pagsanjeños, under the supervision of Fray Cipriano Bac (a Franciscan priest), and Don Manuel de Yriate, as an expression of gratitude to the town’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is believed to have protected the town from bandits in 1877. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Pagsanjan Arch”.2

The National Museum declared this arch as a National Cultural Treasure3 on July 2017 because “it is an outstanding landmark and epitomizes the ideal blend between aesthetics and function.”4

The arch has three Roman arches, or gates, originally made of adobe, lime and carabao milk.

1-arch-topOn top of the arch is the Royal coat-of-arms of Spain (called “escutcheon”) originally in gold and yellow, guarded by two red Castillan lions.2

You will definitely not miss it because it is along the main street, named Rizal Street (formerly called Calle Real), at the western entrance of the town, coming from the town of Sta. Cruz.

1-arch-back                                                   Back view, Pagsanjan Arch

This ornate arch has a very interesting story. It is said that there were many bandits (called “tulisanes”) during the last years of the Spanish colonization. A group of bandits, led by Tangkad, came from the nearby town of Majayjay, and was about to approach the western entrance of Pagsanjan, on December 8, 1877. A beautiful lady dressed in white, holding a shining sword, appeared before the bandits at the exact site of the current arch. She drew a line using her sword and proclaimed that the town was under her protection. The bandits immediately proceeded to the mountains due to their fear of what they saw.2

There was a witness to this miracle, a “sabungero” (cockfighter) called Mang Juan, an insommiac from a house nearby. He told the story of what he saw to the Spanish Cura (priest), who later told it to the government authorities and leading citizens of the town. As expected, all did not believe Mang Juan until they went to the exact site and saw the mark of the Virgin’s sword as well as Her footprints and those of the bandits. They then built a stone gate on the exact site and called it Puerta Real, or Royal Gate, from 1978-1880, and inaugurated in 1894 by Don Pedro A. Paterno5.2

The town arch was bastardized and defaced during the Japanese liberation so Pagsanjeños in Manila, through the efforts of historian Gregorio F. Zaide, a native of the town, obtained permission from the National Historic Institute (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines6) to restore the arch. This renovation was done under the supervision of Engineer Tito Rivera, and was completed in May 25, 1975.2

1-arch-marker                                   Philippine Historical marker, Pagsanjan Arch

So, the next time you visit the town of Pagsanjan to “shoot the rapids” with balikbayan family/friends, you can now tell the story about its arch! Filipinos, be proud of our cultural heritage!

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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1A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road, associated with ancient Rome. The main structure is often decorated with carvings, sculpted reliefs, and dedications. Information is from the Wikipedia page “Triumphal arch.”7

2”Pagsanjan Arch,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagsanjan_Arch.

3A National Cultural Treasure (NCT) of the Philippines is a tangible (movable and immovable) or intangible heritage property declared by the National Commission for Culture and Arts1 and other cultural agencies such as the National Museum of the Philippines, National Library of the Philippines, and National Archives of the Philippines. Such declarations are authorized under the National Heritage Act of 2009 and recognized within the Cultural Properties of the Philippines by the Philippine government, according to Wikipedia page “National cultural treasure”.8 The title of NCT is the highest designation given to a “unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation.”9 See a coming post re this topic. See a related post: (I will place the link here for Short and Simple: WHAT IS A NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE IN THE PHHILIPPINES?)

4www.lifestyle.inquirer.net

5Pedro Paterno (1857-1911) is the second Prime Minister of the Philippines, politician, poet and novelist. He was the President (1898-1899) of the Revolutionary Congress and (1907-1909) member of the Philippine Assembly from Laguna’s First District, according to the Wikipedia page “Pedro Paterno”.10

6 The National Historical Commission of the Philippines is a government agency of the Philippines which is responsible for the promotion of Philippine history and cultural heritage through research, dissemination, conservation, sites management and heraldry works. It aims to inculcate awareness and appreciation of the noble deeds and ideals of our heroes and other illustrious Filipinos, to instill Filipino pride in the Filipino people and to rekindle the Filipino spirit through the lessons of history. Information is from Wikipedia page “National Historical Commission of the Philippines.”10

7”Triumphal arch,” accessed July 10, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumphal_arch.

8”National cultural treasure,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_cultural_treasure.

9www.primer.com.ph

10“Pedro Paterno,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro _Paterno.

11”National Historical Commission of the Philippines,” accessed January 5, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Historical_Commission_of_the_Philippines.

THROWBACK – A THRILL OF A LIFETIME: SWIMMING WITH THE GENTLE GIANT – THE BUTANDING

Location: Barangay Dancalan, Town of Donsol, Province of Sorsogon, Region V – Bicol Region, Philippines

 At this stage in our lives, my husband and I look forward to ticking off our bucket list. I’m sure you do too, dear Seniors! A unique local excitement in our list is to see the butanding in Donsol, and we finally got our chance when a family member invited us to Sorsogon for Holy Week 2017.

Now, you might ask, how do I get to Donsol? Good question!

You can ride a Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines’ plane, just an hour’s flight from Manila to Legazpi City, in the province of Albay. Private vans can be hired from the airport to Donsol, costing PHP2,500-3,000.

You can also use a public tricycle, at PHP50, from the airport to the Legazpi Central Terminal, a centralized public transport terminal for all buses, jeepneys and vans to/from Legazpi and other Bicol areas located in the parking area at the back of Savemore Supermarket in the city proper. Tell the driver to bring you to the Donsol section.

You can then opt to take a PUV (van, 12-16 pax) from the Legazpi Central Terminal to Donsol for PHP98 (per person), but the van has to be filled up before departure.

You can also take a 12-hour airconditioned bus ride from Manila to Legaspi (costing PHP850) or a 13-hour bus ride from Manila to Donsol (PHP650 – non-airconditioned bus; PHP900 – airconditioned bus). For the former, refer to the previous paragraph how to get to Donsol from the Legazpi Central Terminal. Just surf the bus companies that can bring you to these destinations.

Of course, you can use a private vehicle and enjoy the road trip with your companions. You can use the Waze app to guide you all the way to Sorsogon. That is what we did: a relative of ours was kind enough to use his vehicle to drive/join us from Manila to Sorsogon. It was a great time to bond, and, boy, did we have endless conversations and lots of laughs for 11 hours! We also made several stops along the way to refresh ourselves, and to eat.

If you do not have relatives or friends in Sorsogon where you can stay, do not fear. There are resorts, inns, pension houses, and homestays, just surf or inquire from the Donsol Municipal Tourism office (cell phone number 0927-4023814). I suggest that if you will go with a big group, reserve accommodations ahead of time especially during the peak season (April and May). It is also advisable to arrive the day before your butanding adventure, to ensure an early morning boat ride – the best time for this activity.

Now, for foreigners, what is a butanding? It is the local term for whale shark.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, whale shark (Rhincodon typus)BUTANDING: The Gentle Giant (Photo by WWF)

For more than a century, these gentle giants have been visiting Donsol’s waters between November and June, peaking between February and May. The residents initially feared these enormous creatures. It took a group of scuba divers in December 1997 to prove that the fish was docile, and their videos were spread till Donsol became an exciting destination. Thus, on March 1998, whale shark watching became an official attraction of Donsol, regulated both by the local DOT office and the observance of WWFguidelines.(see Wikipedia page, “Donsol”.2)

For the readers who have a biology background, bear with me but I need to describe it somehow. As explained in the Wikipedia page, “Whale shark”.The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is 4 to 12 meters long, grey fish (with unique pale yellow spots and stripes), a white belly, 3 prominent ridges along its sides and 5 large pairs of gills. It can weigh up to 21 tons, has a wide and flat head with two small eyes at the front, has a very large (1.5 m or almost 5 feet wide) mouth (with 300-350 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which it uses to filter feed). Amazingly, this gentle giant only filter-feeds on the nutrient-rich plankton that flow into the sea from the Donsol River, among others, during the months I mentioned above.

The butanding has a lifespan of 70-100 years and only reaches sexual maturity at 30 years2 (oh, my dearest butanding, so sorry you have to wait that long!?). It is the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, the largest known extant fish species, the largest non-cetacean animal in the world, the sole member of the genus Rhincodon, and the only extant member of the family Rhincodontodae. It has a pair of dorsal fins and pectoral fins and its spiracles are just behind its eyes. Juveniles’ tails have a larger upper fin than lower fin while the adult tail becomes semilunate.2 A juvenile butanding can eat more than 20 kg of plankton a day and they migrate to feed. Donsol is so blessed for it is strategically located in waters teeming with natural planktons that seem like a smorgasbord for these creatures. And we, Filipinos, are so lucky to have this phenomenon in Donsol!

Wait, my dear Seniors, at this point I know what is going on in your senior-minds … Are you scared of the water and these huge butandings? Don’t be! They are huge, yes! But they are so gentle and would not even bite nor hurt you! Remember, we are the ones visiting them in their feeding grounds in Donsol, or wherever you go to see them. Just imagine being about 3-4 meters away from a giant creature which is peacefully swimming along and happily eating unlimited plankton!

In addition, you can request your guide to be right beside you when you jump in the water in time to marvel at the sight of this wonderful creature, just like slightly scared but so excited “me”. Your snorkel or diving mask will enable you can stay as long as possible under water, or at least put your head in the water, just to witness the butanding peacefully feeding and swimming quietly before your eyes. Your safety vest will automatically make you float. You will not regret doing this adventure of a lifetime! Promise!

Anyway, if your group is less than six, either pay the whole amount for a “banca” (boat) or be prepared to share the banca with other tourists. If you want to just walk in, come early, around 7:30 am, at the Butanding Visitors Center.

We arrived in Sorsogon on April 11. Let me say that the roads in Sorsogon are so well paved, clean and well-maintained. I enjoyed my early jogging and bonding with my husband and appreciated the well-paved sidewalk, constructed for safety and convenience for all who need to walk around the province.

1-Butanding Visitors Center                                                            The Butanding Visitors Center                                                          (Photo courtesy of Desiree Abitria, Donsol Municipal Tourism Office)

The day for our great Butanding Adventure started with a full breakfast. We, Seniors, did all our morning “rituals”, joined the rest of the group, rode a van, and got to the Butanding Visitors Center early, around 8am, so eager to participate in this magical experience!

Now, Seniors, you might ask, what do we bring, Tita S? For the ladies, bring a sturdy and waterproof beach bag where you can keep the following: towel, cellphone, power bank, waterproof GoPro to video your butanding encounter (or you can rent an underwater camera on site), snacks, bottled water, medicine/s, sunblock, aloe vera gel (just in case you get sunburned), etc. If you have your own diving mask/snorkel set and fins, bring them too! If not, no worries, these can be rented on site as well. For the gentlemen, a waterproof bag (my husband uses a 20-kg Ocean Pack) with more or less the same contents and whatever personal things you need for almost half a day.

We paid the required fees and filled up the appropriate forms. Please check if the following rates still apply: (1) the boat rental package for about 3 hours, including the services of a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO)/spotter/boatmen is 3,500 pesos per boat, strictly for a maximum of 6 persons (adult/child); (2) an environmental/registration fee of 100 pesos per Filipino visitor and 300 pesos per foreign visitor (This is indeed a good indication that the local government is overseeing and regulating this tourist activity so as not to exploit the gentle butanding!); and, (3) the rental for a diving mask/snorkel set and fins, if you did not bring any, is 300 pesos per set. As an option, you can rent an underwater camera to take pictures of this wonderful experience.

We were then ushered to a viewing room for the must-see instructional video presentation-orientation for whale watching. The safety regulations were (as far as my senior memory can recall): a maximum of 6 swimmers per whale shark; to stay 3 meters away from the head/body and 4 meters away from the tail; not to get in direct contact with the shark (touch or ride it) or restrict its movement; a maximum of 10 minute-swim per whale shark; and, flash photography is not allowed.

We were then given our snorkel with diving mask set, flippers, and life vest, after paying the rental fee. We did not forget to apply sunblock at least 15 minutes before we boarded the banca.

CjEkR1525191893Bancas waiting for your Butanding Adventure

Tips, dearest Seniors: 1. Be sure the rented swimming gears fit you so you will be comfortable in the water which is a bit dark and not so clear because of the rich plankton, the yummy food sought by the butanding; and, 2. If you have not used a snorkel for some time, try practicing how to place the diving mask tightly so the water will not enter when you plunge in the water. Place the snorkel in your mouth while in the boat and practice breathing with your mouth so you can stay longer to marvel at the butanding.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) giving a briefing before whale shark interactionThe Butanding Interaction Officer’s briefing (Photo by WWF)

We were assigned to, and briefed by, a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) who was responsible for the safety of the persons in the boat. He also signaled us, with great accuracy/timing, to jump into the water to swim/snorkel alongside the butanding. We were also assigned a banca with a competent whale spotter (the man who stands on the boat beam to locate the majestic butanding) and two boatmen. Once in the banca, we all secured our life vests and were all excited.

9d1lo1525192073Our spotter and two boatmen

Note that the number of sightings depends on the season and since it was April– what can I say – it’s Butanding’s Peak Season. So I said: “Dearest Gentle Giants, don’t be shy, here we come!”

When a butanding is spotted, the boat would sail in its direction. We were excited, as we sat at the side of the banca with our snorkels and fins on. The BIO then signaled us to jump into the water and oh, what an awesome sight to see it peacefully feeding/swimming alongside while you marvel at its size and beauty!

NCegalerba-JSzwemberg_Donsol__91I7264Photo by WWF

For seniors, if you are “sigurista” (prudent) like me, I suggest you jump with the BOI, or with your trusted partner (husband, friend) so you will experience it together! You get to see the butanding for a short while as it swims alongside your spot, but I tell you, it’s like time stood still every time I snorkeled to see it. Then off you go, back to the banca, eagerly awaiting the next jump.

I must confess that I easily get scared and excited but since this is one major activity in my bucket list, I went for it! I tell you, the first time you see the butanding, you would be overwhelmed, thrilled, and amazed at just how big it is, and be awed by its majestic beauty. It’s like being in another planet! I was able to see its monstrous mouth open, with its huge gills moving, and just gently gliding and passing by in front of me! Such a fantastic feeling of exhilaration every time I saw it! I saw two butandings and I will always talk about this experience for years to come.

Philippines, Luzon, Sorsogon Province, Donsol, boats waiting for whale sharkSnorkeling to see the Gentle Giant @ Donsol (Photo by WWF)

I even mentally apologized for disturbing their eating time: “Walang personalan. Ang layo ng pinanggalingan ko. Silip lang ako while you eat, ok?” (“Nothing personal. I came from far away. Allow me to only watch you eat, ok?”) “I will just watch you as near as I am allowed.”

I assure you, dear Seniors, after the first encounter with this creature, you will be more comfortable using the diving mask and snorkel and can stay longer in the water, so you can appreciate it even better. You will keep on asking the BOI/spotter to be more vigilant in locating this fish so you can again and again plunge into the water and enjoy the whole morning!

We sailed for about 3 hours, sighted about 5 butandings, and finally returned to the Center in time for lunch. A kind boatman used a hose to remove the sand from our feet before we entered the cemented area of the Center.

Seniors, better be sure that all swimming gears rented are returned, and acknowledged as complete. I recommend that you give a tip to the boat crew: the BIO, spotters, and boatmen; they all work so hard for a living and this is just a sign of your gratitude for such an incredible and fantastic experience!

Then, we took a bath and off we went to a sumptuous seafood buffet lunch! Life is good, thank you, Lord! One big check off my bucket list!

Dear Seniors, if I can do it, you can do it too! Add this unforgettable, awesome and ultimate underwater experience in your bucket list and go to Donsol this May! To make it more memorable, make it a family experience; we did and so can you! Achieve!

Next time, and God willing, I will try Donsol’s two night tours: the firefly tour and the shrimp-catching tour, as well as other tourist attractions in Donsol, Sorsogon City, and other parts of Sorsogon. These would all be exciting too! Just call beforehand to confirm if such tours are offered when you plan to visit Donsol.

Please note that there is no guarantee of seeing a butanding and no refund is given if this happens. So be sure to go in the morning and during peak season (April and May).

We were told that Oslob, Cebu, also offers butanding watching. Its waters are shallower and clearer so one can get clearer pictures of this beautiful creature. However, the boatmen feed the butanding. The choice is up to you! A lot of tourists go to both Donsol and Oslob.

Special thanks to the Escudero family for their warm hospitality. Thanks to MS. DESIREE AVITRIA of the Donsol Municipal Tourism Office for the WWF pictures and directions how to get to Donsol. Dearest Seniors, if you have any inquiries, you can call the said office: 09274023814.

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced whale shark watching in Donsol, Oslob, other parts of the country, or abroad? I would love to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Thank you. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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 1WWF stands for World Wide Fund for Nature, the world’s largest conservation organization. It is an international non-governmental organization for wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment, according to the Wikipedia page, “World Wildlife Fund for Nature”. It was formerly called the World Wildlife Fund but the term is still used in North America.

2”Donsol,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donsol.

3”Whale shark,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark.

4“World Wide Fund for Nature,” accessed November 14, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Fund_for_Nature.

ANILAG FESTIVAL 2018: Hali na! Tara na! Masaya sa Laguna! (Come on! Let’s go! It is happy in Laguna!)

Location: Laguna Provincial Capitol Compound, J. P. Rizal Street, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Philippines

The Anilag Festival is a week-long celebration held yearly during the second week of March, in the Laguna Capitol grounds located in the town of Sta. Cruz. It started in 2004, changed to La Laguna in 2012, and renamed Anilag in 2016.1

For 2018, this festival is scheduled from March 10-17 and the theme is: “Sama-sama ang Pamilya sa Masayang Laguna” (Together as a Family for a Happy Laguna).2

Z-2

 

 

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This festival is like a smorgasbord of daily activities which caters to all ages, gender and interests.

 

Z-4Carnival Rides, Anilag 2018 (February 24-March 17)

Carnival rides opened early, starting February 24 and will end on March 17 (Saturday, last day of ANILAG) for the kids and kids-at-heart.

Here is the calendar of events for ANILAG 20182:

Days 1-3Anilag 2018 – Schedule of Events: March 10-12

MARCH 10 (Saturday) is the first day of Anilag 2018. It started with a Heritage Fluvial Parade (4-7 am), followed by: a Thanksgiving Mass (7-8 am), Ecumenical Prayer & Formal Opening of ANILAG Festival 2018 (8-9 am), Opening of Trade Fair Exhibit & Competition (9-10 am), Lakbay Lawa Forum (10 am-12 noon), Street Dance Competition & Land Float Parade (3-10 pm), and Fireworks Display (12 am).

MARCH 11 (Sunday) is the second day of Anilag 2018. It started with the First ANILAG Color Run: “A Run for Mayon Evacuees” (5-7 am), “Mardi Gay” & LGBT Parade Queen (2-5 pm), and ANILAG Miss Laguna Gay Queen 2018 (8 pm-12 am).

MARCH 12 (Monday) is the third day of Anilag 2018. The morning show “Unang Hirit” covered the event (5-8 am), followed by: a Flag Raising Ceremony (8-9 am), Landscape Competition (10-11 am), Little Mister and Miss Laguna 2018 (3-5 pm), Enchanted Kingdom Magical Show (5-6 pm), and ended with BandANILAG: OPM Battle of the Bands (8-11 pm).

Days 4-6Anilag 2018 – Schedule of Events: March 13-15

MARCH 13 (Tuesday) is the fourth day of Anilag 2018. This day was full of activities: Drum and Lyre Competition (8-11 am), Ani-Laki and Fishery Contest (1-3 pm), Culinary Arts & Flairtending Competition (1-5 pm), Artisans Demo: Fruits, Vegetables & Ice Carving (2-5 pm), Pinakamagandang Lola ng Laguna 2018 (6-9 pm), and Dance Revolution: Inter-Collegiate Dance Battle (9-11 pm).

TODAY! MARCH 14 (Wednesday) is the fifth day of Anilag 2018. Three events are scheduled: a Job Fair (8 am-12 noon), Bird Show (8 am-5 pm), and Burdang Lumban, the Laguna Fashion Designers Competition and Wedding Cake Competition (8-10 pm).

TOMORROW! MARCH 15 (Thursday) is the fifth day of Anilag 2018. The following activities are scheduled: Palarong Pinoy Traditional Games (9 am-12 noon), 3D Street Art Compeititon and Water Color Competition for PWD (12 noon-2pm), ANILAG Singing Idol (4-6 pm), and Pre-Pageant: Ginoo at Binibining Laguna 2018 – Casual Wear (8-11 pm).

Days 7-8Anilag 2018 – Schedule of Events: March 16-17

DAY AFTER TOMORROW! MARCH 16 (Friday) is the sixth day of Anilag 2018. The following activities are scheduled: Corn Congress (8 am-5 pm), Tricycle/Motorcycle Show (8-11 am), Car Show Competition (8-11 am), and Coronation Night: Ginoo at Binibining Laguna 2018 (7-11 pm).

LAST DAY, GO WITH YOUR FAMILY THIS WEEKEND! MARCH 17 (Saturday) is the seventh and last day of Anilag 2018. The following activities are scheduled: Short Film: AdNILAG and Laguna Photo Contest (9 am-12 noon), Dog Show Compeititon (2-5 pm), Pyromusical Competition (7-8:30 pm), and People’s Night Extreme (8:30 pm).

Each town in Laguna was assigned a trade fair booth to decorate in order to showcase its local pride, products and tourists attractions.

Z-AlaminosALAMINOS BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of ALAMINOS highlights its religious patron saint, Nuestra Señora Del Pilar (or Our Lady of the Pillar, the name given to the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with Her apparition to Apostle James the Greater as he prayed by the banks of the Ebro at Caesaraugusta – Zaragoza, Spain, in AD 40).3

 

Z-BayBAY BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of BAY (pronounced “ba-eh”) replicates the facade of its church, St. Augustine Parish Church.

 

Z-BinanBIÑAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

 

Z-CalambaCALAMBA BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of CALAMBA CITY showcases its famous CALAMBANGA, a giant water clay pot which symbolizes part of the city’s name – “banga” with the names of all the 54 barangays inscripted on it.

 

Z-CaluaunCALAUAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of CALAUAN features a gigantic PINEAPPLE, its main product which is so sweet and juicy!

 

Z-CavintiCAVINTI BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of CAVINTI proudly shows its Guinness World Record for the LARGEST SAMBALILO HAT (13.05 meters, or 42 feet 9.7 inches, in diameter; 2 meters in height; 3 meters width of the central dome) as of August 1, 2016.

 

Z-FamyFAMY BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

 

Z-KalayaanKALAYAAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of KALAYAAN features its BUTTERFLY FARM for nature lovers.

 

Z-Los-BanosLOS BAÑOS BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The facade of the 2018 booth of Los Baños is a giant cake, honoring the town’s famous bake shop, Mernel’s Bakeshop.

Z-Los-Banos-2Various products, displayed and/or sold, inside the Los Baños booth

 

Z-LuisianaLUISIANA BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of LUISIANA features Pandanan, its San Isidro Festival, in honor of the patron saint of farmers, held every April 3.

 

Z-LumbanLUMBAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

Z-Lumban-2The 2018 booth of the town of LUMBAN, the “Embroidery Capital of the Philippines”, showcases various products.

 

Z-MabitacMABITAC BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

 

Z-NagcarlanNAGCARLAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

Z-Nagcarlan-2The 2018 booth of the town of NAGCARLAN offers various sweets and snacks for sale. The representatives of Nagcarlan are all very friendly and courteous. Next time, I will try their Bignay Wine and other delicacies.

 

Z-PaetePAETE BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

Z-Paete-2The 2018 booth of the town of PAETE showcases different wood carvings. Paper maché products are displays outside the booth.

 

Z-PakilPAKIL BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of PAKIL sends a message that one can still have fun with faith through their TURUMBA FESTIVAL, in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows held seven times from April till May of each year (the first held on the Friday before Palm Sunday and the last held on Pentecost Sunday), commemorating the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary, celebrated with the people of the town singing and dancing to praise Her.

 

Z-PangilPANGIL BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

 

Z-RizalRIZAL BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

 

Z-San PabloSAN PABLO BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

Z-San Pablo-2The facade of the 2018 booth of SAN PABLO CITY features the COCONUT and inside, I was so happy to know that it exports COCOPLUS, powdered, organic, centrifuge extracted skimmed coconut milk to Japan.

Z-San Pablo-3Inside, the SEVEN LAKES OF SAN PABLO, the famous seven crater lakes around the city, is promoted. I appreciated the hospitality of the city’s representatives, especially Maria Donnalyn E. Briñas (Assistant City Tourism Officer).

 

19-San PedroSAN PEDRO BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The facade of the 2018 booth of SAN PEDRO CITY is abloom with giant sampaguita flowers, reminding visitors of its SAMPAGUITA FESTIVAL, a week-long festival celebrated during the second week of February.

 

Z-SiniloanSINILOAN BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of SINILOAN features its GUILINGAN FESTIVAL, held annually in August, named after the old rice grindstone used to make their local delicacies (e.g., kalamay, puto).

 

Z-Sta CruzSTA. CRUZ BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The facade of the 2018 booth of the town of STA. CRUZ offers a replica of the PROVINCIAL CAPITOL building since it is the capital of the province of Laguna, as well as a giant KESONG PUTI between two carabaos as it celebrates the Kesong Puti Festival every April 4-11.

 

Z-Sta MariaSTA. MARIA BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The facade of the 2018 booth of STA. MARIA exudes the town’s bountiful agriculture which made me recall the town’s MARILAG FESTIVAL, celebrated as a thanksgiving for their harvest.

 

Z-Sta RosaSTA. ROSA BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of STA. ROSA CITY proudly features its industrial estates (like the car manufacturing plants) and its famous theme park, Enchanted Kingdom.

 

Z-VictoriaVICTORIA BOOTH, ANILAG 2018

The 2018 booth of the town of VICTORIA, the “DUCK RAISING CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES”, has eggs (their salted eggs are so good) and ducks (prepared like Kinulob na Itik) as accent pieces in the exhibit’s facade.

Z-Victoria-2I admire the ceiling treatment in the inner part of Victoria’s booth.

 

Z-VzBambooThe LAGUNA BAMBOO PRODUCERS AND MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (LBPMA) also has a booth to showcase their products.

 

Z-VzFood-Stall-1I briefly went around and walked through the different food stalls selling enticing snacks and meals but I didn’t give in to their temptation LOL

                            Z-VzFood-Stall-2The newly cooked giant stuffed squids caught my eyes                                 but I finally decided to skip them as well.

 

Z-Vz-PasalubongI only stayed for less than three hours and was able to purchase these as “Pasalubong” (souvenir treats for my family): Pianono, 2 kinds of Macapuno Balls, Dalandan Concentrate, Santol-Mango Bites, 3-Layered Brazo de Mercedes-Leche Flan-Ube, and Gatas Tisoy and 3Cows Choco-Milk Drinks

 

So, what are you waiting for? You still have until this Saturday, March 17, 2018, to go to this special Laguna festival, the ANILAG FESTIVAL! Hali na! Tara na! Masaya sa Laguna! (Come on! Let’s go! It is happy in Laguna!)

Did you find this post informative? Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. I would like to hear from you. too Simply scroll to the bottom of this post and click “Leave a reply”. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your gadget.

Visit a related post: THE ANILAG FESTIVAL

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1www.anilagfestival.ph

2Anilag Festival 2018 Facebook account

3“Alaminos,” accessed March 13, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaminos.

 

Short and Simple: THE PHILIPPINE TARSIER

Be proud, dearest Senior Citizen, of the Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta) found in the islands of Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Mindanao.

Definitely, one wonderful memory of any Bohol trip is to see our very own Philippine tarsier. We all know that it is the cute primate with very big eyes of which we love to take videos and pictures. But do we really know what they are and what makes them unique and vulnerable to changes in their habitat? Are those in captivity affected by our presence as tourists?

1-tarsier-1                                  Oh, what a long tail you have, Philippine Tarsier!

Here are 35 important facts about our precious animal, the Philippine tarsier, according to Wikipedia page “Philippine tarsier”1:

  1. It is the only member of the genus Carlito, of the Syrichta species, a tarsier2 endemic to the Philippines. It is a shy primate3 that leads a mostly hidden life. So try not to disturb them when you visit them in captivity, ok?
  2. It shares some characteristics with both the prosimians4 (being nocturnal, with grooming claws and a bicornuate5 uterus) and the anthropoids6 (since it does not have a tapetum – the reflective layer in the eye, and the monthly sexual swellings of a female), while it has some characteristics peculiar to itself.
  3. An average adult is about the size of an adult male’s fist. It measures only about 85 to 160 mm (3.35 – 6.3 inches) in height, making it one of the smallest primates3. It weighs 113-142 grams. Males are larger than females.7 It can live from 12-20 years old7, but up to 24 years in the wild.
  4. It is a member of the approximately 45-million-year-old family Tarsiidae, derived from its elongated “tarsus” or (very long) ankle bone. It is said to date back to the early Eocene Period (54-36 million years ago), and probably one of the oldest land species continuously existing in the Philippines.7
  5. It is locally called by different names: “mawmag” (in Cebu/Visayas), mamag (in Luzon), magatilok-iok, magau, mago, malmag, and maomag.
  6. It is found in the southeastern part of the Philippines, particularly on the islands of Bohol, Leyte, Samar and parts of Mindanao, including Basilan Island, Dinagat Island, Maripipi Island and Siargao Island.
  7. Females typically live longer than their male counterparts due to their less aggressive nature. Adult males usually attack other males for territory and marked females, often biting and clawing each other to establish dominance that might result in death.8
  8. Mating season begins in April to May, but can take place any time of the year. So, when you do visit them during these months, be quiet so they can propagate and their population will grow. By the way, the male deposits a mating plug9 in the female’s vagina after intercourse. The female, after mating, returns to her own territory and gives birth after 6 months.
  9. The female has multiple sets of breasts, but the only functional set is at the pectoralis (breast region). I know what’s on your minds: what the other breasts are for?! Well, they are used as anchor points for the newborn tarsiers. The gestation period lasts 180 days, or 6 months, after which only one young tarsier is born at a time. No nest is built.
  10. Newborns are breastfed until 2 months after birth, a total of 6 months to take care of the infant. The female appears to take care of the infants exclusively; no male parental care has been observed. The female parks her infant while foraging.7
  11. The newborn tarsier is born weighing 25-27 grams7, with much fur, and with eyes open. Its body and head length is about 70 mm (2.8 inches) and its tail is around 115 mm (4.5 inches) long. The mother carries the infant in its mouth or on her belly.4 The newborn can move/climb after only two days. It can already cling to branches, jump in 4 days7, move like an adult in 19 days7, and in less than a month after birth, it can start leaping. During the 6 month care period, the color of the eyes of the newborn changes from green/blue to brown. The coat also changes from grayish brown to reddish brown.8
  12. A juvenile, after the 6 month care period, leaves the mother to find his/her own territory, or fight for one. It tends to be more uniformly colored than adults. A year-old male has visible testicles and gains more masculine features.
  13. After 2-3 years of age, it is able to take a mate. The male starts to become more aggressive at this age while the female starts to have vaginal swellings with bloody discharge, like menstruation.8 The female has an estrus cycle, i.e., a recurring period of heat, for 23.5 days.
  14. The peak age is five years old for both genders as they gain their maximum size, growing to 4-5 inches. They also acquire permanent dentition (the arrangement/condition of the teeth) around this time.8
  15. Its eyes are disproportionately large, having the largest eye-to-body size ratio of all mammals. In volume, the capacity of the bony eye orbits, or eye sockets, is larger than that of the brain case, and also larger than its stomach. Very interesting!
  16. These large eyes enable this nocturnal animal with excellent night vision. In bright light, its eyes can constrict until the pupil appears to be only a thin line. In darkness, the pupil can dilate and fill up almost the entire eye.
  17. Its eyes are fixed in its skull so they cannot move in their sockets, just like other tarsiers. But no worries, since a special adaptation in the neck allows its round head to be rotated 180°, just like an owl.7 Amazing!
  18. Its large membranous ears are mobile, appearing to be almost constantly moving, allowing it to hear any movement.
  19. It has sharp teeth, enabling it to catch its prey easily. It has only two incisors in its lower jaw, a unique feature among primates.3
  20. Adults have thin, gray to dark brown, rough fur.
  21. The narrow, very long tail is bald except for a tuft of hair at the end, and is about twice the body length, about 232 mm (9.1 inches). A very long tail indeed! The underside has dermal ridges like those found on human hands and feet. Anyway, what is the tail for? It is used for balancing like a tripod; they prefer an erect posture AT ALL times.7
  22. It is arboreal, meaning it lives in trees. It habitually clings to trees and is capable of leaping from branch to branch. Its elongated ankle bone, called tarsus, is twice the length of its trunk which allows it to jump at least 3 meters from tree to tree, with movements similar to a frog.7
  23. It prefers dense, low-level vegetation in secondary forests, with perching sites averaging 2 meters above the ground.
  24. Its long digits (its fingers!) are tipped with rounded pads that allow it to cling easily to trees and to grip almost any surface. The thumb is not truly opposable (i.e., it is not capable of moving forward and touching the other digits on the same hand), but the first toe is. All of the digits have flattened nails, except for the second and third toes, which have sharp claws, specialized for grooming. The middle finger is elongated.7
  25. It is nocturnal. During the day, it sleeps in dark hollows, close to the ground, near the trunks of trees and shrubs, ideally deep in the impenetrable bushes and forests. It only becomes active at night, basically to hunt for food, and even then, with its keen sight and amazing ability to maneuver around trees, it is well able to avoid humans.
  26. It can travel up to 1.5 km across its habitat, i.e., tropical rainforests, with dense vegetation and trees, and the optimal area is more than 6 hectares. But wait! It is found to have either a monogamous or polygamous mating system.
  27. Both males and females are solitary animals. The home range is 6.45 hectares for males and 2.45 hectares for females, allowing for a density of 16 male and 41 female tarsiers per 100 hectares. Well, that means the females can choose their male partners, and that is the reason why some are polygamous!
  28. It is primarily insectivorous, i.e., its diet consists of live insects (crickets, cockroaches and grasshoppers), small crustaceans/vertebrates (like small birds and lizards) and spiders. Upon seizing its prey, it carries it to its mouth using both hands.
  29. Yes, it uses varied means of communication even if it is less vocal than other primate species. It uses calls which are often associated with territorial maintenance and male-female spacing. It has a loud, piercing, single note call, and a soft, sweet, bird-like twill sound of contentment. When several of them come together, the combined effect of their chirping is a locust-like sound. But wait, there’s more! Infants can vocalize a distress call when they are separated from their mothers. And there is also a male’s call during mating season! Females have a special sound to indicate that they are fertile.7
  30. It also has a remarkable scent from the circumoral gland located around the mouth which the female uses to mark her mate. The males have epigastric glands which they use for scent making. They mark their territory with their urine.
  31. Females perform tactile communication through social grooming, removing dead skin and parasites from their offsprings and mates.
  32. It hates the rain! It uses thick layers of leaves as a natural “roof” or cover so it does not get directly hit by rain water.8
  33. In the past, i.e., for the past 45 million years, it was protected by the humid rainforests and mist-shrouded hills, but recently, it is struggling to survive as its natural habitat is cleared for crop growing, illegal logging, and growing human population. Thus, their population is a dangerously small size. It is currently categorized as a “lower risk, conservation dependent” species, i.e., although it is not yet categorized as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, it could qualify for one of those categories within five years if the present protection programs are stopped.7
  34. There is a Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Incorporated (PTFI), a non-profit, non-stock corporation based in Tagbilaran City and Corella, Bohol, which was established on April 17, 1996 to conserve, promote research, and establish a sanctuary for this unique animal. It is supported by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). To ensure the continued existence of the Philippine tarsier, the PTFI established and maintains facilities to bring tourism to the province of Bohol in a way that is ecologically friendly to this animal, with emphasis on its protection and conservation. Information obtained from the Wikipedia page “Philippine Tarsier Foundation”.10
  35. Oh, no! It does not do well in captivity. living up to a maximum of 12 years only, compared to even 25 yearsin the wild. Its life expectancy decreases by 2 to 12 years, if taken from the wild. When kept in captivity, individuals may huddle together or intertwine their tails. It needs a varied diet and consume 1/10th of its own body weight in order to be healthy.8 So, a large supply of different kinds of live insects is needed in captivity! Gosh, it is such a delicate, sensitive and even suicidal animal! It can develop sore eyes due to poor diet. The lighting used in captivity can cause long-lasting damage to its eyes. It is shy and nervous so camera flashes, being touched, and being kept in an enclosure can stress the animal and may induce it to commit suicide by hitting its head against objects causing death since it has a thin skull.

I sincerely wish that we can leave these gentle, peaceful, sensitive primates alone in their habitat where they have survived for 45 million years. But reality hurts thinking that we, humans, force them out of their natural habitat for various reasons — one of which we are guilty of: tourism!

1-tarsier-3-as a pair              Oh, what big eyes you have, Tarsier! Sorry to disturb you and your partner!

The Philippine tarsiers I saw during my last visit were in a simulated natural habitat and trained guides helped us to quietly find them sleeping/resting and to take quick videos/pictures without flash. They did not look happy being uncovered since they were hidden in thick leaves. I would not be happy too if someone disturbed my sleep!

Here’s hoping that the PTFI will succeed in its mission and vision of protecting the Philippine tarsier.

As responsible tourists, let us do our share when we visit their captive environment, so they will not be stressed. Stress causes them harm, and eventually shortens their lifespan. We are curious and excited (especially first-time) visitors, so pictures can be taken BUT without flash, please! Remember what bright lights can do to their eyes. Let us not be noisy, even when traveling as a group, because we have to remember that they are nocturnal and our daytime visit disturbs their sleeping period. Let us learn to behave and respect their need for solitude and rest during daytime. Never touch a tarsier even if you have a chance and want desperately to do so! Just be contented in appreciating their unique features when you visit Bohol so our next generations can still be able to see them too!

Contact: The Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc., Km. 14 Canapnapan, Corella, Bohol 6300 Philippines

Contact Person: Joannie Mary Cabillo, Program Manager; Mobile Number: (0908) 9378094

Telephone Number; (0912) 5163375; Mobile Number: (0918) 6021326

Email: philippinetarsierfoundation@gmail.com

Website: http://www.tarsierfoundation.org/

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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1” Philippine tarsier,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_tarsier.

2A tarsier is a small insectivorous, nocturnal primate with very large eyes, a very long tufted tail, long hind limbs, belonging to the family Tarsiidae, and native to the islands of Southeast Asia, according to the Wikipedia page “Tarsier”.11

3A primate is a mammal of the order Primates, with two main groupings: prosimians (e.g., tarsiers2, lemurs and lorisoids) and anthropoids (e.g., apes and monkeys), according to the Wikipedia page “Primate”.12

4Prosimians are a group of primates that include all living and extinct strepsirrhines, i.e., adapiforms, haplorhine tarsiers, lemurs, lorisoids, and the extinct omomyiforms, according to the Wikipedia page “Prosimian”.13

5A bicornuate uterus is a heart-shaped uterus composed of two horns separated by a septum, according to the Wikipedia page “Bicornuate uterus”.14

6Anthropoids are apes and monkeys, according to the Wikipedia page “Simian”.15

7www.bohol.ph

8www.tarsierfoundation.org

9A mating plug is a gelatinous secretion used in the mating of some species, like the tarsier. It is deposited by a male into a female genital tract, such as the vagina, and later hardens into a plug or glues the tract together. While females can expel the plugs afterwards, the male’s sperm still gets a time advantage in getting to the egg, which is often the deciding factor in fertilization. Information is obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mating plug”.16

10”Philippine Tarsier Foundation,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Tarsier_Foundation.

11“Tarsier,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarsier.

12“Primate,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primate.

13“Prosimian,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosimian.

14“Bicornuate uterus,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicornuate_uterus.

15“Simian,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simian.

16“Mating plug,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mating_plug.

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.

Z-11-Binondo

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.

 

 

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).

7PHIy1521270737

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.