Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Grand European Swingaround: Tales of a Pinoy Backpacker

This article was published in the Manila Bulletin TRAVEL Magazine on February 14, 2008.

VMUF's 50th Foundation Anniversary

(February 08, 2008)

The Virgen Milagrosa University Foundation (VMUF) in San Carlos City, Pangasinan was established in the year 1958 and this year celebrates its 50 years anniversary. The Grand Alumni Homecoming is one of the activities to celebrate the golden year of the said school. It was held in Jimmy Fernandez Stadia in Lucao Dagupan City where it was attended by alumni from different batches. Alumni from abroad such as the US, Canada, Germany, Austria and others came to attend the said event.

The highlight of the said program is the awards ceremony. Dr. Edwin V. Antonio receives from Dr. Ma. Lilia P. Juan, President of VMUF, Dr Angelo B. Juan, VP for Administration and Dr Raymundo Bulosan, Jr., VP for Academic Affairs, the Dr. Martin P. Posadas Memorial Award as Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Physical Therapy. Among the awardees include Ambassador Generoso Tulagan, Mayor Rusuello of San Carlos City and many others.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guling-Guling Festival

(February 05, 2008)

This festival of Paoay, Ilocos Norte started in the olden days since the Spanish regime. The friars have introduced this event in the 16th century. It is a celebration held on Tuesdays before Ash Wednesdays to signify that this is the last day for the townsfolk to enjoy all forms of merrymaking before they observe the Lenten season. The Ilocano word “guling” means to mark or smear. Using wet and white rice flour, the town mayor would smear the sign of cross in a person’s forehead. Its white color signifies purity and it is believed that through this procedure a person is cleansed of all of his past sins. I even submitted myself to be smeared with the sign of the cross on my forehead.

They conduct street pageantry where the locals show off their terna (traditional national costume for women), gowns made of the indigenous abel cloth or the kimona and pandiling. There is a dance parade showcasing the Spanish-inspired Ilocano folk dances and they made a giant dudul, a native delicacy made of rice and molasses.

I love this festival since locals cater the public with dudol to taste and the basi placed in a coco shell to drink, just what Ms Nancy Reyes-Lumen of Cook Magazine had experienced, while everyone enjoys the dance parade and the showdown of the different groups. This years celebration was graced by the Former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Dulang Food Festival

05.02. 2008

The Ilocano word dulang means table. This event features table foods. Its the 5th year that is being celebrated in concurrence with the Pamulinawen Festival of Laoag City. There were restos being invited to showcase and sample their food products. Most of the foods featured are traditional. I have seen the dudol, cascaron, kinalti, pakbet, longanissa, and many others. The Ilocanos are fond of eating malunggay or horseradish thus uniquely made products from this are also exhibited. There is malunggay cookies, polvoron, pretzel, chips and others. Its only the malunngay ice cream that I have not seen. This is a food innovation by the Mariano Marcos State University.

A display that caught the attention of the spectators is the giant sunshine sinuman. It is truly innovative that replicated the emblem of the city.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

First Time Revelry in Dinagyang

(January 26-28, 2008)

UP Centennial Kick Off Celebration

My plane Cebu Pacific touched down in Sta. Barbara Airport at around 9:30am. I was surprised to find out that it’s a very new airport of international standards that has opened last year. It is one hour ride away from the city. There are shuttle buses that are available but a little expensive. I took a multicab and transferred to a jeepney going to SM City and just paid the minimum fare of Php7 each ride. I went straight to University of the Philippines (UP) Iloilo campus to see my friend Vicente Tan, a professor of the said school. He treated me with a lunch at a nearby resto. We went back and rode a jeep to downtown plaza to join the parade of UP community as a kick off celebration of UPs 100th year. A program was held later in the campus and guest speakers were Sen. Francisco Pangilinan and UP President Emerlinda Roman. A brand new car was unveiled to the public as a major prize in a future raffle draw. There were dance numbers presented by the dance core group and the Dinagyang’s Tribu Familia Sagrada.

Later at night, Vinnie and I went to join Coco and friends for a dinner at Imay’s resto at Smallville and had a bottle of beer at Bourbon Street.

Dinangyang Festival

I went all by myself to the town center to witness the Dinagyang Festival. Several tribes were there to compete for the grand prize. Seats on the bleachers located on the judging areas are for sale from Php500-600 per seat. What I did was to catch them at Iznart street where they began their dancing bouts.

Dinagyang is a mardigras that is on its 40th year of celebration. This is being held annually to honor the patron saint Senor Santo Nino. Being adjudged as the Best Tourism Event of the Philippines for 2 consecutive years, many tourists come over to witness the colorful event.

A Visit to UNESCO’s Miagao Church

One of the four barouque churches in the Philippines is the Miagao Church or the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva declared as one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. It has an amazing structure that stood the test of time. Built in 1787 and later damaged by fire and earthquake and restored in the 1960s. Prior to this, I had the chance to visit the UP Miagao Campus wherein I went with Vinnie who will be meeting his class.

Side Trip to Bacolod City

I took the ferry Weesam at 11am to Bacolod and I paid 260 pesos including terminal fee for an economy seat for a one hour boat ride to my destination. I went around downtown and saw the church and the plaza. I was surprised again to know that they have a brand new airport here of international standards. It is located in Silay City. Getting a taxi to airport would cost you Php300-400 but a jeep or minibus would only cost around 25pesos. I was lucky that someone from the airport offered me a ride from Silay when they saw me looking for a tricycle.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2007: Year of Great Travel

As I look back in 2007, many great things had transpired. One of which was my travel to different places. Summing it up, I could not just imagine that I have traveled to 20 different countries in Asia and Europe. My huge travels were in Europe and I have entitled it as “The Grand European Swingaround” and followed by an Asian tour wherein I entitled it as “12 Days of Amazing Indochina.”

It was indeed a huge travel year and I would like to quote Atsuko Honda, a friend of mine who works for IYEO, Cabinet Office of Japan, “Edwin, you are a big traveler. You cannot even be found in the Philippines e.” We coincidentally bumped into each other in some of the places I visited this year.

This year’s trips I made were so significant that enabled me to visit two of the new Seven Wonders of the World as officially declared on July 07, 2007 in Portugal. These were the Roman Colosseum of Italy and The Great Wall of China. I have seen also some of the finalists in the Seven Wonders, the Angkor Wat of Cambodia and the Eiffel Tower of France.

This year also gave me the chance to climb the top two Tallest Buildings in the World. These were Taipei 101 in Taiwan and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.

The following were my local and foreign trips:

“Eight Years of Ati-atihan” – I have been regularly attending the Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan since the year 2000. Boracay iwas usually a side trip. This year I was able to take my sister Arlene with me to Panay Island, landing in Roxas City to feasting in Kalibo, to swimming in Boracay and a side trip to Iloilo.

"Singapurring 2007" – I went to Singapore for a weekender with my friend Roel and met up with friends Alfguy and Farih with his fiancĂ©e Janah in a wedding expo wherein they were in a process of their wedding preparations. I met the NL and PY of SSEAYP 2004 where we all watched on TV at one of the food shops the Football Finals between Thailand and Singapore wherein the latter won in the final match.

“12 Days of Amazing Indochina” – This trip was a reunion between old friends and meeting new ones during the SSEAYP International General Assembly in Siem Reap wherein we as batch 2002 celebrated our 5th year Anniversary during the reunion conference. It was remarkable too that I visited my foster families in Vietnam and Malaysia after 5 years. I went to travel to Indochina with Dan, Malaysian friend whom we started in KL wherein we both climbed the Petronas Twin Towers, the second tallest skyscraper in the world, at long last after several trips to KL. We then flew in to Phnom Pehn and met Yuklin, my Cambodian batch mate. Proceeded to Ho Chi Minh City by bus and met again my foster family. I met Pam and Steve in Siem Reap then later in Vientiane Laos wherein we were hosted by Joy, our Lao batchmate. I met my new foster family in Thailand, Mom Noi’s family. Lastly, I lived with my Malaysian family. Aya Kamal took me to a Muslim praying session and joined them and the birthday party of his sister.

“A Family Getaway to Enchanted Kingdom”-I was able to bring my family to Santa Rosa Laguna to celebrate my birthday and my sister Alma’s. My nieces and nephew enjoyed their visit to the theme park.

“Seoul Searching Tour” – I have attended the 4th World Congress on International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine on this trip. I met several physiatrists and other rehab team members from different parts of the world who attended the same. I also stayed with OFWs Orlan, Jimboy and others who work for a manufacturing company of keypads of cellphones and I got the chance to try to do their job. I was able to see and enjoy the exciting city of Jumong.

“The Grand European Swingaround”- This was the grandest trip I ever had wherein I flew solo on a backpack from one city to another by using Ryanair for six weeks. I have visited a total of ten countries. This was the longest time I took a leave of absence from work. I stayed at Rady’s place and met up with Milay in London. I was hosted by my good friend Lotta and met up with Daniel in Sweden. I had a homestay at my cousin Ate Aida’s home in Belgium and Manang Ester’s house in Rome. Hostels were usually my accommodation in most places I have been to. I also experienced staying in a campsite in Amsterdam. I have seen famous landmarks such as Colosseum in Rome, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tower Bridge in London, Duomo Church in Milan, Notre Dame Cathedral in Marseille, Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Real Palazo de Madrid in Spain and many more.

“An Experience of Three Cultures in China” – I was selected to represent the country in the 2nd China-ASEAN Youth Camp and Young Leaders Meeting together with my buddy Pamela and other 14 delegates in this year’s program. We started in Beijing then we were brought to Manzhouli City and it was situated in the borders of Russia and Mongolia. This is where we experienced the Chinese, Mongolian and Russian cultures. We met up with Ivan who was also attending a separate program in Beijing.

“Foremost Visit to Formosa” – I was able to bring with me Nanay to Taiwan as a gift for her on her 64th birthday. My sister in law Myrna hosted us and showed us around. It was so remarkable trip since we altogether climbed the tallest skyscraper in the world that is Taipei 101.

"A Taste of Two Cities" – This was an express trip since I spent four days in two countries. I have attended the wedding of Farih and Janah in Singapore and reunion meeting with Raja, Not, Dep, Joy and some other SPYs and hopped on to a reunion on board the ship Nippon Maru and a homestay with Mom Noi and family in Bangkok. I enjoyed once more what I missed…the Malay, Chinese & Indian foods in Singapore and Thai foods in Bangkok.

Lastly, I was featured in the inflight magazine of Cebupacific airline’s Smile Magazine. Wow, it was indeed a year of travel galore and expects more exciting travels in the wonderful year of 2008.