Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beautiful Batanes

Visiting Batanes, the country's northernmost and smallest island-province, has been on my bucket list. Before coming to this place, I read travel blogs and Googled images of its spots that tourists are raving about--rolling hills, iconic stonehouses and lighthouses, boulder beach, coral sands, cliffs, and the blue waters of both the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea. I prayed for the opportunity and the resources to travel to Batanes because doing so is expensive; in fact it's often more expensive than traveling to a nearby Asian country. And because God is good, He gave me the opportunity.

After receiving a  tip from my sister of a promo fare by Skyjet Airlines, I immediately booked a flight to Basco, the capital and center of commerce of the province. Being hosted by my sister and her husband, who's an Ivatan (native of Batanes), was a big blessing. My brother-in-law took us to a tour of North and South Batan as well as Sabtang Island where many of the old stonehouses can still be found.

For a brief description of the geography of Batanes, read this article by the Department of Tourism.

Without exaggeration, my four-day stay in Batanes gave me many jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moments. Batanes reveals the beauty and might of God its Creator. Take a look at some of the pictures I took with my camera phone.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down 
in green pastures... he refreshes my soul.
Psalm 23:1-2

You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you.
Isaiah 55:12

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation
Psalm 95:1

Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Psalm 43:3

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
Psalm 127:1

The entire province of Batanes has been declared by the Philippine government as  a Protected Landscape and Seascape. This means that Batanes is "an area of national significance which is characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and land while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activity of the area." (Source: Philippine Statistics Authority). Batanes is a beautiful, quiet place where people are courteous and friendly. Let us respect the Ivatans and care for their land whenever we have the opportunity to visit them.

Let's heed the plea of advocate for sustainable tourism development Nico Visser, "I count on you as ambassadors for sustainable tourism and as responsible individual tourists to give tourism and the destinations the future they deserve.” From a spiritual point of view, we human beings are appointed by God to be good stewards of this Earth which He created. Doing so will not only be for our good but more importantly for His glory.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Passing through Padre Garcia

Padre Garcia is a municipality in the province of Batangas bounded on the north by Lipa City, on the east by San Antonio, Quezon, on the south by Rosario, and by both Lipa and Rosario on the west. Padre Garcia is a landlocked area and the town's main source of income is agriculture. In fact, the town hosts the biggest livestock auction market in Southern Tagalog, and for this it has earned the title "The Cattle Trading Capital of the Philippines".

The town market

Last week, my husband and I passed through Padre Garcia on our way to Tiaong, Quezon from Batangas City. There is not much to see in this town but the rows of verdant trees along the road is truly a refreshing sight. You can also visit the retreat facility The Faith Farm in Brgy. San Miguel and learn about farming and enjoy organic food.

Along the stretch of Batangas-Quezon Road (Tiaong-Lipa Road) are many eateries that offer lomi, mami, and goto. Before we entered the province of Quezon, we spotted a goto-mami-lomi house in Brgy. Castillo and decided to try their Batangas goto.

Signage like this is common in the area

Batangas goto is unlike regular goto or rice porridge. Batangas goto is soup made up of, of course, beef tripe, skin, liver, heart and other innards. The ingredients are boiled together for about two hours, resulting in a tasty, protein-rich gelatinous stew. The woman tending the eatery served us our Batangas goto with fish sauce, toasted garlic, chopped white onion, calamansi and red siling labuyo. I ordered sweet pan de coco to complement the savoury beef soup.

Batangas goto served with condiments

If you have the chance to pass through Padre Garcia on your way to other towns of Batangas or Quezon, try Batangas goto.

Read more about Padre Garcia from this DILG site.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Charmed by Strasbourg, France

Miss France Iris Mittenaere is crowned as the new Miss Universe before an awesomely enthusiastic crowd in the Philippines. Of course, her victory reminded me of a side trip to Strasbourg, France some years ago while I was visiting Germany.

Strasbourg is near the France-Germany border and is about 400 km away from Paris. It is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France. Several European institutions can also be found in this city. What impressed me the most during our one-day trip to this French city with German influence, is the towering Strasbourg Cathedral, also known as Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg or Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg.

A portion of the facade of the Strasbourg Cathedral

Outside the Strasbourg Cathedral with my gracious host and aunt Tita Glenda

But aside from its Gothic and Romanesque architectural structures, Strasbourg charmed me with musicians on the street, books and flowers on the square, plus the pastry beignet and chestnuts sold on a fancy train outside the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Slowing Down in Laiya

Summer is the time to troop to the beach, unwind in the sands, and swim in the sea. It's the perfect time to cool down. But going to the beach during the off-peak travel season has its advantages too. You can practically have the beach all by yourself in the off-peak travel season. During the off-peak season of June to October, resorts often offer discounted rates. I enjoyed both of these benefits when I went to Laiya, Batangas one day in August for a much needed rest and reflection. 

Laiya is a barangay in San Juan, Batangas known for its white beaches. Its proximity to Manila makes it a favorite getaway by many urban dwellers and neighboring towns. Whether you are a company looking for a venue for your team building, a family on vacation, or a solo traveler, you can find a suitable accommodation among the many resorts in the area. I found a rustic nipa hut for an overnight stay in Les Caraibes.

The long stretch of white sands
The water was very clear in the afternoon

                   The sunrise was a breathtaking sight  

                     Fishermen gather around their big fish net

For me, the sand, sea, and sunrise in Laiya was a soothing backdrop for reflection. A quiet beach in August is a convenient place to connect with God. 

For directions on how to get to Laiya and a list of some of the resorts in the area, visit Laiya Online

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bring Me Back to Brazil!

The Rio Olympics brought back to me memories of my brief visit to Brazil, though not in Rio but in another major city that is Sao Paulo. By divine favor coursed through the support of family, friends, and an organization, I was able to attend an international publishing conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2006. Actually, that was my first time to travel overseas. I was a bit nervous but definitely excited to learn new things.  Here are the things I discovered about this biggest country in South America.

Brazil does not require a visa from Philippine passport holders. Yes, if you're a Filipino you can tour any part of Brazil without a visa for a maximum of 90 days. When I handed my passport to the immigration officer, I remembered being asked only one question and then was allowed to pass through.

Brazilians who can afford the cost beat traffic with the helicopter. Because Sao Paulo is such a huge city (in fact, it is the biggest city in Brazil) and traffic is always a problem, helicopters are alternative means of transportation. I recently found out (through Google, of course) that Sao Paulo is the first city in the world where commuters can avail the services of Uber helicopters.

Brazilians love coffee. In fact, it is the largest coffee producer in the world. When we went to a supermarket near Atibaia in Sao Paulo,  coffee was served for free.

Free coffee at the supermarket
A sumptuous Brazilian meal of rice, churrasco sausage
and lots of vegetables

When in Brazil, you say "Oi" and "Obrigada". That's "Hi" and "Thank you" respectively in Portuguese. Yes, the official language of this year's Olympic host is Portuguese although most of her neighbors in the continent speak Spanish. Brazilians would spell their country as Brasil because that's the way it's spelled in Portuguese. Want to learn Portuguese? Check this site.

At Guarulhos International Airport, Sao Paulo
I didn't have much time to explore Sao Paulo when I was in Brazil and my one-week stay was limited to the conference venue and surrounding areas to buy souvenirs. I bought coffee to give to family and friends, but for myself, I brought home two ref magnets. I still have the ref magnets and they remind me constantly of how God made a way for me to to travel across the globe to learn more about writing and publishing in the company of colleagues from all over the world. If favored once again, yes, I would love to say, "Bring me back to Brazil!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center of Marikina City

Other than the Shoe Museum, Marikina City is also host to another impressive museum--the Book Museum cum Ethnology Center, said to be the first in Asia. The museum houses the personal collection of reading materials from around the world and Philippine artifacts accumulated by Atty. Dominador D. Buhain. Atty. Buhain's love for books is no surprise as he is Chairman and President of Rex Book of Companies. He has also held various posts in different publishers association and is one of the most traveled person in the world.

The entrance to the museum with baybayin,
the pre-Spanish Philippine script engraved on the door

Currently, only a quarter of the owner's collection of books are in the two floors of the museum. More are expected to be added later.

Books from around the world
There are enough books to captivate you, most likely ones you've never seen in your life as they are rare.

The smallest book in the world
contains The Lord's Prayer in several languages

The smallest tablet visible only through
a magnifying glass

Visit the museum to see one of the oldest copies of classical books including Uncle Tom's Cabin and the second printed book in the Philippines, the Doctrina Cristiana Explicado. 

Filipino comics during and post-Spanish era 

But wait, I shrieked in glee when I saw these! I used to read these pocketbooks in high school.

There are other contemporary books in the museum classified under various topics including family, marriage, business, management, finances, religion, politics, and many others. Visitors who frequent the place are allowed to stay and read the books on display.

Outside the Book Museum building are two separate buildings where artifacts from Northern and Southern Philippines are on display.

Traditional wear of tribes from the north

Drums from Southern Philippines

It is so apt that the museum's symbol is that of a foot, signifying readiness, mobility, and progress. A readiness to learn through reading and traveling leads to an individual's growth and development, and a citizen that's continually improving can contribute to national and global progress. As an author of books and someone who loves to travel, I was inspirited by that tour at the Book Museum. I'm itching to write some more and to travel farther. Like other museums, the Book Museum cum Ethnology Center reminds us to preserve the past for posterity, yet it also challenges us to keep going and to keep learning.

The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is located at 127 Dao St. Marikina Heights, Marikina City. Visit their Facebook page for schedules and other inquiries. Thank you to Ms. Sherleen Bautista for the warm welcome and tour. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Shoe Museum of Marikina City

Shoe Museum

Marikina City earned the title the Shoe Capital of the Philippines because it has the most number of shoe manufacturers in the country. Recently, in a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and other government officials, President Rodrigo Duterte showed off his pair of leather boots made especially for him by a shoemaker from Marikina. But it was not the first time a national figure wore and publicly acknowledged using a pair of quality footwear from the shoe capital. During her time as First Lady, Imelda Marcos was provided with an average of 10 pairs of shoes every week by the local shoemakers and she actively promoted the Marikina shoe industry.

Some of Imelda Marcos' 800 pairs of shoes at the Museum

Today, 800 of her 3,000 pairs of shoe collection are on display at the Shoe Museum of Marikina City. The museum, initially called the Footwear Museum of Marikina opened in 2001 to highlight the city's shoe industry.  And here's a trivia. The building occupied by the museum has served various purposes in the past: an arsenal during the Spanish period, detention cell of hero Macario Sakay during the Filipino-American War, and rice mill of the Tuason family after the Second World War. Today the city government of Marikina owns and operates the museum.

The museum prominently features life-size diorama of shoemakers crafting footwear. Also on display are the tools and materials of the industry. Hundreds of shoe last (the master mold of a shoe) form a tall tower in the middle of the museum's ground floor. Other shoes on display are the ones donated by the country's past presidents, vice-presidents, senators, and movie and sports personalities. There's also an exhibit of shoes made in Marikina as well as unique footwear and traditional shoes from other countries.

Shoes of past Philippine Presidents

Brazilian clogs

Do you know when and where the oldest leather shoe was found? What's the oldest sandals made of? Want to see a replica of a Roman strap sandals? If you want to find the answers to these questions and look at the other shoes on display, go to the Shoe Museum of Marikina along J.P. Rizal St. in San Roque, Marikina City. An entrance fee of P50.00 is collected and you may request a tourism officer to give you a guided tour. Although the two-floor museum area is not that big and the shoe collections are properly labeled, the historical notes provided by the tour guide is really interesting.

Marikina City's version of "Walk of Fame": tiles with shoes bearing
the names of people who donated shoes to the museum