Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Year That Was

The year 2008 was a memorable and wonderful year. It was a year of writing articles and shooting photographs. I covered various events in the local scene. I launched on February this blogsite of mine called Treasures of Ilocandia and the World which features places, traditions, music, festivals, celebrations of life in Ilocos, in the Philippines and the rest of the world. I was able to post almost 100 entries. I had 50 posts for Ilocandia Treasures, 35 posts for World Treasures, 22 posts for Festivals, 15 posts for Philippine Treasures, and 8 posts for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I uploaded several videos on you tube site and embedded these on my blog to support my postings. Empanada Festival video was a big hit. Others on the top ten are the Korean Fashion Show, UNESCO’s World Heritage Santa Maria Church, Daklis in Currimao, Dinagyang Festival, Laji: An Ivatan Folk Song, The Guling-guling Dance Showdown, Panagdapil in Ilocos, The Bangui Windmills, and Palu-palo Festival.

Three articles of mine were published in Manila Bulletin broadsheet and Travel Magazine namely:

1. The Grand European Swingaround: Tales of a Pinoy Backpaker

2. 12 Days of Amazing Indochina

3. A Journey Down Under

I was lucky to have travels this year locally and internationally. On January, I started it with my trip back to the Panay Island and this time was in Iloilo City to witness the Dinagyang Festival and made a side trip to Bacolod City. I have titled this entry as First Time Revelry in Dinagyang.

On the month of May, I had a reunion with my Asian friends in Cebu City and had good time seeing them again. I took a side trip to Bohol where I visited some old friends. It was an amazing trip back to Cebu and Bohol after 14 years. The sights in Chocolate Hills and the rest of the island remained to be astounding. I have titled this blog entry as Islands Cebu and Bohol Revisited.

Then in August, I went for an adventure trip to the captivating island of Batanes for I got the lowest airfare ever. It was a rainy sojourn in the island, nevertheless I enjoyed it since I had great time to experience their culture. I have titled this posting as Enchanting Islands of Batanes.

Overseas, I had taken my mother to a trip to Macau and Hong Kong. It was birthday treat for her. Never expecting to enjoy also in Hong Kong Disneyland where I thought that was only for kids. I have titled my blog entries as Historic Center of Macau: A World Heritage and The Hong Kong Disneyland.

After getting a multiple entry visa to the United States of America, I initially visited its territory Guam Island on the last weekend of November. It was a fantastic island trip since four days was just good enough to see and experience Guam. I have titled this trip as A Taste of America in Asia.

I realized that copying one’s intellectual work was really offensive. I became a victim of plagiarism. It was not only an article being copied but that includes some photos being reproduced without permission. It is my prayer that this will be resolved amicably in due time.

Finally, I was so honored to be awarded the Dr. Martin Posadas Memorial Award as an outstanding alumnus of my Alma Mater Virgen Milagrosa University and later I was invited to be a resource speaker at a leadership training seminar conducted for student leaders of the same university.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Stage Play Called Komedya Ilokana

After the dance parade at the Asin Festival in Pasuquin, a stage play called Komedya Ilokana was held at the amphitheater. This is usually being held during fiestas. I was surprised to see some characters in colorful royal costumes. These people were municipal employees who participated in the revival of this local stage play to which they said had been stopped for 20 years.

The story revolves on the existence of kingdoms of Armenia and Arabia. A prince from a kingdom wants to marry the princess of the other kingdom. There were discussions from among the royal members about the issue. It was also a depiction of the conflict between Christian and Moros.

The characters usually declaim their lines or dialogues in Ilocano dialect. I just observed that the show was dragging since they don’t act spontaneously. I thought some characters would think of their dialogues during a gap but when I got closer to the stage I just heard some dictations happening at the backstage. I think it would be more interesting if they can memorize the lines for spontaneous delivery, place a better sound system and polish the acting abilities of the casts. The dances were just exciting to watch.

Asin Festival

The Asin Festival was held today at the town of Pasuquin Ilocos Norte. This is an event held every year featuring their very own product which is the salt or locally called asin. It is on its third year now.

A dance parade was staged depicting the process of salt making. They danced to a uniform music entitled Pangasinan which was just launched this year. Dancers wore Ilocano costumes and displayed baskets, pails, and rakes used for salt making. A big stove with a vat cooking salt with all the smoking effects was showed around.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Damili Festival

The Damili Festival is being held annually on the last Sunday of December. This is a thanksgiving event for the town of San Nicolas in Ilocos Norte for the blessings she receives. It’s a celebration of 100 years of golden harvest of rice. This also has the objective to promote the pottery industry. The local term for pot is damili. The festival is being sponsored by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. The festival is on its 5th year now.

The dance parade depicts the different stages of making pots or damili. From the stage of shoveling soil down to the burning of the pots to give extra strength. The planting and harvesting of rice was mainly incorporated in the dance steps. All the baranggays of the said town participated in the competition. One contingent produced and displayed a giant damili. All of the dancers wore colorful costumes with designs inspired by the damili. They danced to one uniform music. Handicrafts like hats, baskets, bags, small pots were displayed. Even cows and carts were paraded around. There were some old ladies who placed damili on top of their head while puffing big tobacco on their mouth.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Serenata: An Evening of String Music

I was invited today to watch a Christmas thanksgiving concert entitled Serenata held at the Laoag City Auditorium. This event was organized and presented by the two brother musicians John and Emyl Villanueva. They were conductors and instructors of the group who performed who call themselves The Cuerdas String Ensemble. They were composed of professionals, college, high school and elementary students. They played the violin and interpreted classical music and Christmas carols. This included pieces Ode to Joy, Payapang Daigdig, Canon in D Major, Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin, Ave Maria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Hark the Heral Angels Sing, Silent Night and So this is Christmas.

The Museo Ilocos Norte

I had guests today from Mactan Cebu. Doi, Donna and Louie all siblings. I just met them through my blogsite. I accompanied them for a quick tour of Laoag City. Museo Ilocos Norte was our first stop. It is understood that museums showcase and conserve the tangible and intangible heritage of Ilocanos and it is a must see for every tourist around. There was an entrance fee of 20 pesos per person. They are open everyday.

We have seen the mural depicting the Ilocano culture which was located at the entrance and the different artifacts. There were traditional and old materials found at an Ilocano house. Most are handicrafts of varied forms. There was the calesa stationed for pictorials of guests. A mezannine floor is dedicated to a typical Ilocano house. It has a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, a kitchen with pots, stoves and whatnot. There was also the presence of a floor loom that weaves Ilocos abel textile. Downstairs were the musical instruments with the drums and the flutes. A souvenir shop is also present selling Ilocano wines, food products, display items, abel fabrics, bags and many more.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Visit To Dumalneg

Today, I went to escort a patient from the hospital of Batac to his hometown in Dumalneg. It was my second trip to the place. The first one was in 1998 where I was tasked to be one of the judges in the Clean and Green Program.

From the highway of Bangui, it will take you a short distance ride of 1.5km. It’s a small town with only one baranggay. You will be passing by the villages of Bangui such as Lanao.

This was a rare chance to see the place. Aside from its far distance from Laoag, the fare would cost you Php70 one way trip. But the trip was worth it since the people are nice. Rowena and her daughter Jen-jen showed us around for a quick trip to the museum and the Dumalneg Spaceship Center. The place was lovely and green with all the mountain ranges surrounding the town.

However, the town is so intriguing for me, since there is the presence of a religious group. These are called the lamplighters or they call their group as Spaceship 2000 E.T. with their leader Elueterio Tropa who founded it in Long Beach California in 1948. It is an international, non-sectarian, non-racial, non-politacal, non-violence, non-vices, nonprofit humanitarian mission toward world peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Carol from the Tawid Choir

On the same occasion, we the members of the Tawid Cultural Troupe rendered a Christmas song entitled Have Yourself A Merry Christmas. This song was credited to the composer Hugh Martin and it ranked in 2007 as the third most Christmas song performed in the the past five years.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles
Will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
From now on our troubles
Will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of your
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow hang a shinning star
Upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

An Ilocano Song by the Tawid Choir

The Tawid Cultural Troupe was invited to perform in the book launching of Fr. Josue held at the Kalipi Training Center in Batac City. One of the songs we rendered was the song entitled Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing with the following lyrics:

Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing nasamsam-it ngem Jasmin
Kasla sabong nga apagukrad iti bulan ti Abril
Ti ayat ti maysa a lakay aglalo no agkabaw
Napait, napait, napait a makasugkar

Anan sa ta o lelong sumapol ka’t tay balo
A kapadpada ta uban mo, ken dayta tuppol mo
Ta bay-am a panunuten ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing
Aglalo, aglalo no addan akin ay-wanen.

Launching of the Book Out of the Depths

The book entitled Out of the Depths: Revisiting the Epicenter of Aglipayanism was launched at the Kalipi Training Center in Batac City on December 14, 2008. This is authored by Fr. Ericson M. Josue who is Parochial Vicar of the Immaculate Conception Parish. He had intensive discussion of the history of the Aglipayanism in Ilocos that started in the city of Batac. The book is 147 pages which is a story of evangelization , the Aglipayan outbreak and the revival of the Roman Catholicism in Batac.

The author has presented his book and cited the difficulties he had undergone while writing the book. He has mentioned the importance of a good network on the collection of the needed data and information. He had dealt with archives especially the registries of baptism, marriages and funeral in the early 1900.

The book was officially unveiled by Bishop Segio Utleg of the Roman Catholic Church with Bishop Rosario Acoba of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and gave their respective messages in the program.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Abel Iloco Fashion Show

Abel is a textile produced exclusively in Ilocos region. It has been a trademark of Ilocano ingenuity. It is a product of painstaking hand weaving. Not much attention has been given in the past to this fabric but now its surprising that a lot of fashion designers including the famous ones have used this local product. Local designers in Ilocos have put up this fashion show and the best gown was picked as shown on the photo. Truly a world class fashion.

The Search for Miss Tourism

On the same day of the lantern parade, the pageant for Ms Tourism was held. Young, vibrant and sassy ladies from the different municipalities of the province have joined in the search. After several rounds of catwalks, presentations, and a test of wit, the grand title of Ms Tourism Ilocos Norte went to Ms Bangui. The 1st runner up was Ms Adams and the 2nd runner up was Ms Dingras.

Christmas Season in Ilocos

To start the Christmas celebration in Ilocos Norte, a Lantern Parade was held in Laoag City on December 12, 2008. This was on its second year. All of the municipalities and cities of the province participated in and fielded in entries for the competition.

There was a parade of the lanterns as well as floats of the participants. Muses were on board the floats as they were candidates for Ms Tourism as well. The lanterns were created from indigenous materials such as garlic, corn seeds, rice, mongo seeds, bugayong seeds, twigs, leaves, coconuts, bamboos and others.

Sea shells were used by the Currimao entry where they created male and female seahorses with a star in between placed on a boat. Burgos town has a star lantern with a miniature lighthouse highlighted with a revolving light bulb. The town of Solsona created a shape of a life-size deer with a star on top of his back. Pinili showcased a lantern made of basket of garlic. San Nicolas featured their damili. Adams' lantern was made of broom. The designers of these lanterns as well as the floats were indeed very creative. Carasi’s float caught my attention since it was a huge one and equally nice. Surely, they exerted so much effort for this.

The ethnic tribes of the municipalities of Adams, Carasi and Dumalneg were also featured in the event. They presented a cultural performance. Booths of the participating municipalities were on display in front of the capitol. Other activities being held were Ms Tourism pageant, abel iloko fashion show, singing competition, fireworks and the awarding ceremony.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Giant Lantern Festival

The month of December signals the start of the holiday season and the Giant Lantern Festival. This is an annual event held at the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. This is a competition of giant lanterns from among the entries of all the villages in the city. The people come out to support the making of the giant lantern. I was surprised to see that at the back of the marvelous display of lights and sounds were the people working hard behind to put up the light show. They have installed and illuminated 3,500 to 5,000 light bulbs to the approximately 20-feet diameter size of the lantern.

This all started when locals held the first lantern festival in 1928 with the purpose of honoring President Manuel Quezon when he made Mount Arayat as his rest place. He even donated the prize money to the winners. From then on, they made it as a celebration annually with so much innovations observed from using Japanese paper to colored plastics and from hand-controlled switches to rotor or large steel barrels to manipulate lights.

This is awesome to watch as I have experienced when I visited Pampanga with a Malaysian friend in 2006. It is truly a magnificent showcase of Kapampangan artistry.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Journey Down Under (Published)

This article was published in the national broadsheet Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Travel and Tourism section on November 28, 2008.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Japan’s Autumn Festival Celebration in Guam

The 29th Annual Autumn Festival was celebrated at Ypao Beach Park in Guam on November 29, 2008 under the auspices of the Japan Club of Guam. I was so lucky to witness this celebration that it coincided with my trip to Guam. It’s rare that you see it anywhere else aside from Japan a big celebration as this. There were lots of people in attendance enjoying the Japanese music, dance and of course the food. It’s really oishi. It was definitely a big fun. It was Steve who took us there and treated us since he has some tickets to avail foods at the stalls. There are many Japanese tourists in the island of Guam and set this event as one of the attractions.

Matsuri is the Japanese term for festival. Autumn Festival is related to rice harvest. In this particular celebration there were raffle draws, dance presentations, singing of Okinawan and Japanese songs, and other cultural performances. The very highlight of the festivities was the procession of the mikoshi.

Mikoshi is a portable shrine that is usually carried from its location to the neighborhood. It is their belief that it serves as a vehicle of divine spirits, gods or dieties. It is also called the Shinto Shrine. This is a miniature building that comprised of pillars, walls, a roof, a veranda and a railing. It comes in shapes of rectangles, hexagons and octagons. It is lavishly decorated, with a phoenix carving on the roof and painted gold and platinum colors. This was paraded around. I also helped in carrying the mikoshi while people chant and make dances. What a great way to experience again the Japanese culture in a foreign land.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas at Micronesia Mall

Micronesia Mall is the largest shopping center in Guam with a total retail floor area of 700,000 sq. ft. It’s a mix of indoor and outdoor mall. It has two floors and it houses 124 stores that include Macy’s store, and other designer boutiques such as Levi’s, Guess, Benetton and Coach. It has mall theaters, supermarket, food court and theme park. It was opened on August 8, 1988 having the lucky number 8, a desirable date for grand opening as claimed by its owners. I was being told that Lucio Tan owns this commercial establishment.

At the very center of the mall, a giant Christmas tree is on display. It’s so enjoyable to watch as the exciting music made the lights dance with its beat. Numerous lights can be seen here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Latte: Symbol of Chamorro Culture

Latte stone is a trademark of the Chamorro culture. Latte is used as support for housings and buildings of the Chamorro people. It is composed of two stones. The shaft stone placed on the ground is the pillar (haligi) and the head is cap stone (tasa). The head stone is a hemispherical stone capital. These latte stones are found throughout most of the Marianas Island.

The latte is made of limestone, sandstone or basalt. Pillars range in height of 60cm to 3 meters and narrows towards the top of the shaft. The capstone is a large coral head taken from a reef. The lattes are placed on parallel position with three to seven lattes per row.

The lattes I have seen from the Latte Stone Park in Guam was relocated from the village of Mepo in Fena Valley which was destroyed by a military construction after World War II.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Alluring Talofofo Falls

Talofofo Falls is a waterfall located in the southern part of Guam. It is one of the major tourist attractions that is located in Talofofo Falls Park. One has to go down by riding the cable car and there are two falls that can be seen here. A local would only pay an entrance fee of USD10 while a foreign guest is USD20. I was so lucky that my hosts paid for me.

Other attractions that can be seen here include ghost house, history museum, suspension bridge, child train, and the Yokoi cave which was created by a Japanese soldier as a hide out during the war and made it as his shelter for very long years.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Legendary Two Lovers Point

Two Lovers Point is the highest cliff in the Tumon Bay. It is also called Puntan Dos Amantes. This is a site of a Chamorro legend where a young beautiful lady who was supposed to get married with a wealthy Spanish captain, as arranged by her father fell distraught and ran away. She met and fell in love with a Chamorro warrior. When his father learned this, he got angry and set the wedding on the next day.

But the girl stole away to the same high point along the shore and once met her Chamorro lover. They were pursued by her father, the captain and the soldiers and they were trapped between the highest cliff and the approaching soldiers where the man warned them not to get close. The two lovers tied their long black hair into a single knot and kissed for the final time. They leaped over the long, deep cliff into the roaring waters below.

What a tragic romance story. It is a version of a Romeo and Juliet. But it only signifies a genuine love for each other.

By the way, this is being featured on the background of the seal of Guam where it juts majestically into the endless waters of the sea. It portrays the people's faithful commitment to passing their heritage, culture, and language to the endless sea of future generations.

This is a perfect site for a wedding since it has chapel for the ceremony and a great site for pictorials. Much so that this was a site of lover’s romance story that became a symbol of true love. It’s a love of two souls entwined in life and death.

I was so lucky that Gil took his time to show me this landmark. He even moved the schedule of his work just to show me this pride of Guam.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tumon Beach

This is simply a perfect beach. Nino and I tried its water on night swimming and it was warm and calm. There were not much of tides since there were stone barriers placed. It is shallow even a few meters ahead. With this you can apply any type of strokes. Floating was so easy to do. Swimming was so relaxing that it soothed a tired body.

This was my first dip in international waters. I am used to Philippine beaches. The next day, I tried to swim again and the water was good. Its sand was powdered white. The beach is just so accessible that it is located at the back of my hotel Holiday Resort and the Fiesta Hotel. There are some water activities such as kayaking available to guests.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Celebrating False Birthday in Guam

I wished and planned to go out of the country to celebrate my birthday this year in another place however it did not push through. I was lucky to have experienced the feeling of a birthday celebrator in Guam even though its not my actual birthday.

Steve treated me out for dinner at Tony Roma’s Restaurant where I ate a delectable roasted baby back ribs. There was a certain Filipina by the name of Maria who attended to us and entertained us while having our dinner. She was a wacky personality where she shared her personal life and made us laugh the whole time. We enjoyed her company. Later, after finishing our dinner she told me to pretend as a birthday celebrator for the day since they were giving me a free brownies sundae with a lighted candle and the entire crew sang for me a birthday song. Wow, it was incredibly wonderful to be greeted that way.

On the following night, Nino treated me out for dinner at Jamaican Grill where I had a platter of chicken and rib combo with vegetable salad, Jamaican rice and soda. He told the crew that it was my birthday and they automatically sang the birthday song for me. I was given a sundae ice cream with fruit cocktail as its base.

I had the last dinner in Guam with Nino and Michelle at Capricciosa where we had seafood pasta and bread. They again told the crew that it was my birthday just to have a dessert. Since it was an Italian restaurant, they sang it in the Italian way. I was given ice cream.

I had so much of what I planned before. My wish was granted.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Encounter with Chamorros

Chamorros are the indigenous inhabitants of Guam. They first populated the island approximately 4000 years ago. Typically, the body built of a Chamorro is huge. They love eating beef and other meat. I had the chance to interact with some of them in the island. I met a farmer and a fisherman.

Can you notice the hand gesture of the Chamorro on the photo? Its a sign of hafa adai, which means hello in their native language. They speak the Chamorro language which is an agglutinative language which means that root word can be modified by an unlimited number of affixes. The language has so many Spanish loanwords owing to the fact that they were colonized by the Spaniards. They use buenas dihas, tatdes and noches for greetings, put favot for please and adios for goodbye.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Taste of America in Asia

My journey last weekend started in Laoag City as I booked a connecting flight from Laoag to Manila to Guam. I flew via Philippine Airlines to Guam at 10:10PM at Centennial Terminal. It was a little more than three hours flight and the local time in Guam is two hours advance with that of the Philippines.

Guam is an island in the western Pacific Ocean and a territory of the United States of America with a civilian government. It is where America’s day begins. This island has a long history of European colonialism and then taken over by US from Spain during the Spanish American War in 1898. It has a population of about 173,000 with a total land area of 209 sq mi.

Day 1

I arrived at A.B. Won Pat International Airport at past 4AM. I met on the flight my facebook friend Michelle. After passing by the immigration, I waited for a short while then my former student Nino Matias and his wife Michelle arrived to pick me up. We greeted each other then boarded his brand new car and took me to my hotel. I was surprised to hear a local Filipino FM radio station on his car. We checked in early at Holiday Resort and we started the day with a breakfast at Dennys in Micronesia Mall where I had a plate of Chamorro Slam, a combination of fried rice, egg and sliced sausage. Later Gil Joya, Nino’s friend came to join us. He drove for us and toured us around the island.

Our first stop was the Chinese Park where you can see the statue of Confuscius and the buffalo statues painted in gold. Then we proceeded to the Plaza de Espana where we have seen the old cannons and the chocolate house. Adjacent to it is the cathedral where it has a modern design made of glass with paintings. I observed that all of the churches were airconditioned. We went to Latte Park where I have seen the carved stones. It’s the very symbol of the Chamorro culture. We had a glimpse of the Governor’s house on top of the hill. We went to Asan Beach and Agana. It was basically a nature tripping.

We had lunch at the house of Gil where his mom prepared so much from pancit palabok, fried tilapia, shrimps in garlic and butter, roasted beef, cucumber salad, lumpia, buko salad to chicken kalagwin, a spicy recipe made of minced chicken wrapped with tortilla. She even gave me something to bring home.

We went back to the hotel where I took a power nap. Ilocano Steve Cabading from Badoc, Nino’s friend came over to see us at the hotel and then later brought us to the Japanese Autumn Festival celebration at the Ypao Beach Park. He had some tickets at hand so we used that to get Japanese foods such as chicken karagee, california roll, yakisoba, rice and drinks. We watched the cultural performances by the Japanese people and even joined their dance and their ritual carrying their shrine. This celebration is nostalgic for me since I remember the good days in my participation to Japanese exchange programs. Its another dose or exposure to Japanese culture.

Steve took me to the Christmas Festival but it was dry where there were no more people around. He instead treated me for dinner at Tony Romas Restaurant. We went later to K Mart where I went to see some stuff. This is where Michelle works. I met Mason, the Chamorro friend of Nino. Went back to the hotel and we waited for Gil to come after his duty from the hospital.

Went to Club Vikings where we experienced watching a strip show. The girls were so flexible and very acrobatic since they can rotate around a pole and can split. We had a bottle of Heinekin beer. After the boy’s fun, Gil treated us for a very early breakfast at Fujiichiban Resto where we had noodles, fried rice and dumplings. It was really a long day.

Day 2

On the following day, Steve picked me up at the hotel and went for a breakfast again at the Kings Resto. Later, we attended the mass at the Cathedral. Proceeded to the Asan Bay Overlook and then to the Leo Palace Resort. He again treated me for a buffet lunch. We had a quick tour of the resort. Its chapel was so simply elegant overlooking the sea. It’s a nice wedding venue.

We went to K Mart and Guam Premier Outlets for some shopping. I was able to purchase some chocolates, a slipper and two pair of pants at Ross.

Nino treated me out for dinner at Jamaican Grill where I had partaken a chicken and rib combo with Jamaican rice and soda with vegetable salad. They served me with sundae cake for a false birthday treat again. Had a nocturnal walk along Tumon where we saw city’s lights. We saw the Outrigger hotel where you are free to enter and just sit down at the lobby for internet. ABCs store was sprawling along the Tumon road. I have seen five in a row. I have seen the Hard Rock CafĂ©. Nino and I went for a night swimming at Tumon Bay. The water was perfectly fine to soothe a tired body.

Day 3

I had morning swimming at the same beach. It was so calm and cold. Then went to the hotel’s pool where I swam alone. Gil picked me up at my hotel and went to Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort Hotel where Steve treated us for buffet lunch. There was a Mongolian barbeque, lamb chops, poki (raw fish) and many others. We had a quick tour of the resort.

Gil took me to a Hilton Resort Hotel where I have seen the tree bar, the miniature hilton holiday express trains and the lovely chapels for exclusive and intimate weddings. We passed by Hotel Niko Guam then proceeded to Two Lovers Point where it offers a breathtaking sight of the ocean and the island. Its an amazing legendary scenery. Gil took me for an ice cream then bade each other farewell. He has to get back to work while I was turned over to Nino & Michelle. Went to Ross department store where signature brands can be bought at lower prices. We had dinner of pasta at Capricciosa where I was again offered birthday song in Italian way while they gave me free ice cream dessert.

Went to their house for sleepover before I left for the airport at 4:30AM. All my things were packed and flew by 6AM and reached Manila at its time past 7AM, Then connected my flight back to Laoag then started working again.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Tribute to Sydney Opera House Architect

Almost a week after posting the World Heritage Site Sydney Opera House in this blog, it was reported on the news that its designer and architect Jorn Utzon passed away at age 90 on November 29, 2008 at his home in Copenhagen Denmark.

He unexpectedly won the competition to design the Opera House where he submitted design which is a little more than preliminary drawings and described it as genius by Eero Saarinen, one of the judges as he could not endorse any other choice.

The structure was completed and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. He was neither invited to the ceremony nor his name being mentioned. He was awarded honorary doctorate by the University of Sydney for his notable work in 2003 where it was accepted by his son as he was ill to travel to Australia.

He died and never saw the Opera House on its completed form.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Side Trip to Batam Island

After my travel to Australia in 2006, I went to Batam Island. I took a ferry from the Singapore ferry terminal. It was less than an hour ferry ride to the island. Most people from Singapore and Malaysia spend their weekend to this place since they can avail of cheap commodities and services.

Batam is a city in the Riau Islands Province of Indonesia known for its free trade zone located 20km of Singapore’s south coast. It has various resorts, night clubs and karaoke bars.

Upon reaching its port, I went straight to the malls looking for some stuff and they were really of cheap prices. I ate bakso, a local soup as recommended by Aya Mansuri. I rented a motorcycle with a driver to tour me around the island and it was fun.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sydney Opera House: A World Heritage

The Sydney Opera House is an arts complex building with expressionist modern design style of architecture. This was designed by Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect. It is one of the world’s most distinctive 20th century buildings and one of the world’s most famous venues for performing arts.

This was inscribed into the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on June 28, 2007. This is the landmark of Sydney or Australia in general that captivates everyone just like me. It was awesome. I went around it and simply amazed me. Just imagine the design where the roof was outstanding. It’s a pre-cast concrete ribbed roof. The construction of this building was completed in 1973.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paoay Lake and the Festival

The 1st Return of the Great Cormorant to Paoay Lake Festival was held today at the view deck of Nagbacalan, Paoay in Ilocos Norte through the initiative of Dr. Petrus Calupe, a physician who built his retirement house near the area. From the time he settled here he observed many birds flying over the waters of this legendary lake and was able to monitor these birds for several years and counted and identified them according to their species. Locals have also been witnesses to the migration of these birds in the area. The Philippine ducks are commonly and easily seen here with an average of 600. The cormorants are also commonly seen here with around 10 of them.

This is an event aimed to celebrate the healthy environment of the Paoay Lake because it is being visited by migratory and local birds. This is a sign of a bountiful lake and a thanksgiving is just necessary.

According to its legend, this is a place where a village sank due to flood. It is being told that if someone goes into the deep, one can see the shadows of the houses and buildings. It is also believed that the catch of the fishermen are the fishes adorned with jewels who were the inhabitants of the ill-fated village.

Inspirational messages were delivered by local officials. An educational forum conducted by Dr Calupe, bird watching by the telescope as enjoyed by everyone, drawing contest were some of the activities held. Kayaking is also promoted as one of the prospective activity. Two kayak boats are available to the public for rent. This place is perfect for family picnics or dating place for couples since sheds are also available for rent.

This is surely another interesting tourist attraction since Paoay town will soon be named as one of the important bird’s sites or areas of the Philippines.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Australian Aborigines

This is a class of peoples identified by the Australian law as a race indigenous to the Australian continent. There is a total population of 517,000 of Aborigines or 2.6% of the total population of Australia. Northern Territory has the biggest population with 32.5% where I have seen many of them at Darwin City.

My first encounter with them was at the mall where a group of them performed a cultural presentation wearing G-string and with body paints. They were so warm and love to pose for photo ops. However, I have seen some of them just walk around on barefoot on the streets. There are already Aboriginals who are mixed race. Some of them are prominent personalities who became member of the Senate, rugby and basketball players, artists, actors, singers, musicians and in many different fields.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Journey Down Under

A vast and huge country that make up as world’s smallest continent is Australia. Being referred to as the land down under for it lies in the southern hemisphere of the globe. This commonwealth nation has a total of six states with two major mainland territories. Canberra serves as its capital. I visited two key cities namely Sydney, largest city located in New South Wales and Darwin, a city at the top end of the Northern Territory. I traversed the continent from north to south.

I flew to Singapore via Tiger Airways from Clark airport where I had a stopover. I was fetched by my good friend Raja at the Changi Airport. I stayed at his place with his family for overnight. I met again Ibu Intan and the rest of the family. The next day, I had a half day tour around the city.

20-Hour Sojourn in Darwin

Later in the evening, Raja and wife Linda sent me off to the airport. I was a bit anxious for it was my first trip to Australia. I looked around and saw the queue at the check in counter. Neither an Asian nor a Filipino was there. All of them were Caucasians. Luckily, I’ve seen and met at the passengers’ lounge two Filipinos, Fr. Gilbert of Cavite and Loida of Bulacan who just met each other a few minutes before I approached them. They were both flying to Darwin.

Loida lives in Darwin. She shared to us her Aussie life and identified what to see and expect from the city. The city was named after Charles Darwin, a renowned naturalist and thinker associated with the theory of evolution by natural selection. Fr. Gilbert was going on a personal trip much like of my trip and itinerary. He had a trip a little longer of a day than mine.

We flew out at around 11PM and arrived 5 hours later. Darwin’s time is an hour and a half ahead of Singapore. It was already dawn when we touched down at the Darwin International Airport. The moment we disembarked from the plane, it was an unbelievable feeling to set foot on another strange country, an outback which is one of the wealthiest and developed nations. It is an enormously huge country. I was informed by Loida that the immigration was strict with regards to dairy and poultry products so she advised us to declare if we have any. This made me worried since I had cheese, chocolate powder and other food snacks on my backpack. I was held at the immigration, they checked my bags and its contents. They sequestered the cheese and chocolate powder drink. Besides that, the immigration officer even asked me several questions about my personal details and my purpose in visiting Australia. He was surprised to find out that I’m visiting for only four days which was unusual for Filipinos since most stay either for a month or even longer.

After the interrogation, the officer concluded that I’m consistent and confided to me that he has a Filipino wife. I was the second to the last passenger to go out of the immigration area. The incident pressured me for I thought they would not let me in. Loida’s group became stressed of waiting for me to come out so Doraieh came to see me. Loida introduced me to Doraieh, also a Filipino, who fetched us.

We first stopped at Ofelia’s house. She was one of their close friends. Her house being a military shelter is highly elevated. She is married to military man and got one child. We went up the house, freshened up and rested. After relating our travel stories, we were then taken to Skycity Casino for our buffet breakfast. It was Loida who treated us. We took photos around and went to a nice site on a bayview. We were being told that nobody swims in that area since it was infested by crocs.

After dropping off Loida to her house, Doraieh drove us to her home and cooked lunch for us. We talked about ourselves and discussed about charitable works.

We went around the city and it was very hot, having a temperature of 40C. Darwin City is the capital of the Northern Territory, a huge slice of outback. I saw some aborigines walking and running around in barefoot. I noticed some establishments to have industrial fans which emit a spray of water to cool you down. Afterwards, we went to the mall and we luckily saw an ethnic dance performance by the aborigines. Their bodies and faces were painted with white art designs, wore red g-strings and headbands. While dancing they made some chants. They displayed long arrows. It was so indigenously entertaining.

We went to shop some souvenirs. I bought Darwin T-shirts and boomerangs. I saw didgeridoo or didjeridu, a wind musical instrument of the indigenous Australians. This is sometimes called a wooden trumpet or “drone pipe.” It comes usually in cylindrical or conical shape and has a measurement anywhere from 1 to 3 meters in length with most instruments measuring around 1.2 meters. Then, we went to the port and saw the marine vessels and luxury cruise ships docked in the area.

Later in the day, we went to the popular Fisherman’s warf wherein you can watch school of fish of different variety especially the moon fish rumble as you throw and feed them with fries. All of them rushed against each other to catch. With enjoyment of the sound of water, fresh air and the sunset at the port, coupled with an order of some fish and fries especially popular barramundi fish meat with few bottles of beer capped my day in Darwin.

My group sent me off to the airport at 11pm to wait for my trip at 1:30am bound for Sydney. I thanked the group for their wonderful hospitality and bade them farewell. I boarded the Virgin Blue airlines connecting via Brisbane to Sydney. Some mild turbulence was experienced along. You could just imagine the vastness of the land traversed for a flight of 6-7 hours. It was a trip from North to South of the huge country.

Sydney Explore

We touched down at the Sydney International airport at 9:30am. The time here is half an hour ahead of Darwin or 2 hours ahead that of Singapore. I bought at once a three-day pass ticket at the MRT station which costs AUD100. This was good for unlimited bus rides, MRT, and ferry or cruise valid for 3 days. I took MRT using the ticket then rode the Sydney Explorer bus in the morning.

I made my first stop at the Circular Quay, location of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. These were the popular landmarks of the city. I was awed by the beauty of these structures especially the Opera House which has a unique architecture, an expressionist modern design created by a Danish architect Jorn Utzon. It is one of the most distinctive 20th century buildings of the world and has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

I took a city map and hopped from one point to the next. The sights were just amazing. I even had a photo taken with the person dressed like Captain Cook at the port. I rode the Bondi Explorer for beach tour. I dropped by to the world famous Bondi Beach. There were lots of people coming to this place in their swimsuits and surfboards. Wow it’s indeed an incredible sight.

Later, I went for a romantic harbour night cruise where the sight was just spectacular, so romantic with all the night lights glowing everywhere especially on the bridge and opera house. I met foreign tourists in the ferry particularly an old Danish couple who went to see Australia before they expire in this world.

After a long day tour, I went to Blacktown at 11pm and searched my way to my host’s place at Newton Road. It was indeed an adventure to go around, search for the house at uncertain time. I was blessed that I traced it easily following the house numbers. I knocked the door then, someone opened it and I was welcomed by Jessie, my friend’s friend. He received me cordially and led me to my room.

The next day, after a breakfast with Jessie, I went back to the city. I went for another round of cruise but it was on a daytime. The sight was totally different at night. I saw birds hovered above the water and the ferry. I saw a moveable bridge that automatically lifted up as we passed by underneath.

I went back to the Sydney Opera House for a close scrutiny. You would really be amazed to see it up close. Its incredibly outstanding as the asymmetrical designs of the roof were put up together. Numerous people flock to visit this structure. Later, I went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, to Queen Victoria Bldg and museum, the Market City, Sydney Town Hall, Darling Harbour, Sydney Olympic Park, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and to the Sydney Chinatown. I ate and enjoyed Chinese noodles here. Proceeded later to the Circular Quay and stood by at one of the corner as I enjoyed my ice cream. I listened to an acoustic singer who performs in a corner where passersby drop few coins in appreciation of his music. I went home late at 12 Midnight.

Packed my things and had breakfast. I bade Jessie goodbye then met up with my friend Hilda’s mother, Tita Vicky. She toured me to the Blue Mountains. It is a popular tourist destination approximately 48km west of Sydney with the Three Sisters as its main attraction. I rode skyway, the cable car and the train where I spent AUD 29 for the scenic world rides. I had seen the coal mine exhibition. We had a bus ride down to the Katoomba Scenic Highway where the driver served likewise as our tour guide. It was humid in the area.

We went back to the city to catch my flight to Darwin. We flew out at 7pm. There was scanty passenger on board Virgin Blue so I was able to find empty seats to lie down to. I had to get up every now and then since we experienced frequent turbulences during the flight. We arrived in Darwin at around 1am and had to wait for my flight at 5:35am bound to Singapore.

I arrived past 9am in Singapore and just took the MRT to Raja’s place in Kembangan. I had a side trip to Batam Indonesia on the following day and then next day, Aya Mansuri sent me off to the airport for my flight back to Philippines.