#ExploreManila was a personal project that I started a few years back that was aimed at exploring the cities and the lone municipality of Metro Manila. The goal was discover each city/municipality's history, food stops, and culture amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. The city adventure had me enjoying a free kalesa ride in Pasig City, being personally accomodated by visual artist Cacnio (the artist behind the Php20-peso bill design) inside his Malabon home, looking for a historical monument in Mandaluyong, and searching for a historical lighthouse along the banks of Taguig. Through these adventures and misadventures, I have come to realize that Metro Manila is more than just a bustling metropolis.
It was unfortunate, though, that this adventure had to take the backseat for a time... until two Sundays ago. A long overdue visit to my sibling's final resting place down south spawned into a spontaneous city adventure that had me enjoying a hot afternoon exploring Paranaque.
Paranaque, located south of Metro Manila, is a city by the bay that is popular for its its posh hotels along the reclaimed area of Manila Bay. The city was officially founded in 1580 and was originally known as Palanyag. Its strategic location played an important role in the country's history from the Spanish period up to World War 2.
Paranaque has evolved from being a metro suburb to a bustling city. It managed to keep its traditions and history intact amidst the buzz of the city. Let us discover the city's history as we #ExploreParanaque!
Elorde Sports Center (Paranaque-Sucat Road)
Established in 1974, the Elorde Sports Center was the brainchild of Gabriel "Flash" Elorde - one of the country's best Filipino boxers of all time. This 3-hectare property is a sports haven and has become a brand associated to sport of boxing. It houses a stadium, boxing rings, tennis courts, and swimming pools. It is also a populat host for regular cockfighting derbies.
The brand has expanded widely in the metro but its original branch remains, not only as a venue for discovering and developing talents, but as an attraction, as well.
Getting there: From the Sucat bus stop along SLEX, cross to the other side of the Paranaque-Sucat Road. Take a jeep to Kabihasnan and ask the driver to drop you off at "Elorde". Fare is at Php10.
San Dionisio Chapel and Heritage Tree (Quirino Avenue)
This old Spanish Chapel is the home of the headless image of St. Denis or Tata Dune - a French Bishop who was persecuted by his persecutors.
The church stands out with its simple facade made from adobe, bricks, and cement. Its big open courtyard has a stage where their annual senaculo tradition is held. Installed on its walls is a "Lupong Tagapangasiwa ng Bisita" marker. Within its courtyard stands a huge Acacia Tree that provide a refreshing shade from the afternoon sun. The tree was declared a heritage tree by the city government in 2007.
Its simple interior is highlighted by a two-tierred retablo with the reverred image of Tata Dune, cradling his head on his arms, as its centerpiece.
The serene and peaceful ambiance of the place give you that relaxing provincial feel. I enjoyed taking a spot by the courtyard, enjoying the cool shade of its heritage tree, and enjoying the rustic beauty of the old chapel.
Getting there: From Elorde Sport Center, you can take a jeep to Kabihasnan and ask the driver to drop you off at San Dionisio Chapel.
The Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew (Quirino Avenue)
At the heart of the old Paranaque stands a huge church that really had me in awe when I first caught sight of it. The Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew is a church that has a touch of history, a sanctuary for the faithful, and a majestic beauty.
Established in 1580, the congregation were mainly from the barrios of La Huerta, Don Galo, and San Dionisio and was dedicated to St. Andrew. The church and the convent was completed in 1650 but convent was later on demolished upon orders of the Governor-General because of threats of an attack by Chinese pirate, Koxinga. The Paranaque Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in the country.
The four-century old church was built baroque style with buttresses on the side. Its facade is highlighted by an image of Saint Andrew with a four-storey belfry standing adjacent to the church. Its interior os majestic with its high ceiling and huge windows on the side. Its altar garbed in gold and white is highlighted by an image of Christ on the cross. Two adjacent altars flank the main altar. One bearing images of different saints and the other bearing the reverred image of the Nuestra Senora Del Buen Suceso.
The Nuestra Senora Del Buen Suceso was canonically crowned as the patroness of the city in September of 2000.
Getting there: From San Dionisio Chapel, you can take a jeep bound for Baclaran and you can ask the driver to drop you off at St. Andrew.
I noticed a couple of mansions just right outside the Paranaque Cathedral so I took my time to take a stroll around La Huerta. During earlier times, this old town had an orchard that was admired by many that it was said that people who travelled through La Huerta would stop to admire it. Unfortunately, the orchard slowly deteriorated as no one was able to really take care of it.
But beyond its famed orchard, La Huerta also played a role in Philippine history. It is the birthplace of Padre Masangkay, a Filipino priest who was involved in the Cavite Mutiny and later joined the revolution against the Spaniards, and Manuel Bernabe, a renowned Filipino author. Both have their own contributions recognized by the community.
La Huerta has its own collections of mansions that give you a glimpse of the past in La Huerta. These houses are privately owned so I only view them from a distance. These houses have maintained their grandeur despite the developments around it.
Simbahang Metodista Episkopal (Qurino Avenue)
This small Methodist Church along Quirino Avenue brings the honor of being the first Methodist church established south of Manila. The church was first established in 1901 in Mabong but was transferred to its location in 1917. Unfortunately, it was accidentally bombed during the liberation of Manila that took the lives of 77 Filipinos.
The church was rebuilt in 1950 with the aid of the Philippine War Damaged Commission and the Trinity Church in the US and was named Martyrs' Memorial United Methodist Church.
Getting there: From La Huerta, take a jeep going to Baclaran. Ask the driver to drop you off at Tambo.
Baclaran (Roxas Boulevard)
If Manila has Divisoria and San Juan has Greenhills, Baclaran is Paranaque's hawker center. This is where you can get goods that are really cheap from clothes, shoes, religious items, food, bags, and household items. For those who love to shop for cheap items, Baclaran is a place worth checking out.
Walking around the place can be confusing with a lot of stalls lined up on the streets that offer goods with really cheap prices. The keyword here is to haggle. Go around and check out the stalls before making the final purchase. Expect the crowd here on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Getting there: From the Simbahang Metodista Episkopal, take a jeep going to Baclaran
Baclaran Church (Roxas Boulevard)
In the midst of the hustle of commerce in Baclaran is the Redemptorist Church - one of the popular churchs in the metro. The church is a national shrine dedicated to the "Our Mother of Perpetual Help" and is one of the largest Marian congregation in the country. Wednesdays are often referred to as "Baclaran Days" as it is during these days that the novena is prayed.
The current church is the third structure to be built on its location. The church, with its Modern Romanesque design, took 6 years to be built since most of its funding came from personal contributions from devotees. It was officially dedicated in 1958 and has been open for 24 hours ever since. Pope John Paul II offered mass on this shrine during his 1981 visit in the country.
Its grand interiors stand out for its high ceiling and simple design. Its main feature is the image of "The Mother of Perpetual Help" installed at the altar of the church. The church has a seating capacity of 2000 but can accommodate as much as 11, 000 in a single mass.
The sprawling church compound has a small park and open spaces where visitors can relax before or after mass. Its recent addition is its belfry that features mosaic of its patroness on its four sides.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I never expected to walk through history in Paranaque. I have always associated it as a food haven but it did not occur to me how this city grew out from our history. It is a city that was able to preserve its history and culture despite the rapid development happening within its territory. Unlike the other cities in the metro where urban development grew around or drowned around historical sites, Paranaque historical core has remained intact. Exploring the old barrios of La Huerta, San Dionisio, and Don Galo is like visiting a provincial town where you get to appreciate its stories and laidback vibe.
Local travelers are quick to jump on a trip to explore interesting and famous Philippine destination but seldom take the time to explore the city where they reside. We are all quick to share itineraries of the places that we have visited but we are stumped when asked about interesting places in our neighborhood. Metro Manila is more than just a bustling metropolis. It is a place where history was written, where old customs are still being practiced, and where you get to understand the different Pinoy cultures and traditions. You get to see the raw beauty of Manila by exploring it one city at a time.
Getting there: You can take a bus to Sucat from any point along EDSA. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Baclaran where you can take a jeep to Kabihasnan.
Exploring Antique's past gave us a glimpse of the rich history of the province. It gives us the narrative on how its natural beauty caught the eyes of the Datus of Borneo, the Moros, and the Spaniards. Its colorful past can play a huge part in developing a sustainable tourism plan for Antique, especially now that it is slowly coming out of its shell.
The spotlight on Antique as a tourism spot is attributed to two interesting propositions - its golden hills that roll towards a white sandbar and reinventing the use of a cooking utensil into a unique and relaxing activity. These two things placed the province in the peripherals of offbeat travelers and, through time, caught the interests of mainstream and socmed travelers. On this entry, we will be exploring the towns of Tibiao and Culasi and how these two sleepy communities drove Antique out of the shadows.
Mararison Island: A Beauty Uncovered After A Tragedy
Located on the northern part of Antique, Culasi is a town that is rich in natural resources from its mountains to its islands. The town was established by the Spaniards and was originally known as Bacong. Its name was later changed to Culasi, a name derived from the mangrove species that grow abundantly along its rivers.
Its main tourism pride is Mararison - a small island off the coast of Culasi that is popular for its rolling hills and it white sand bar. Its beauty have long captured the interest of off-beat travelers but it was only after Typhoon Yolanda destructively cut through the Visayas that its beauty was unraveled to a larger traveling community. In no time, Mararison Island was thrust into the limelight.
Despite the attention on Mararison Island, the island remains rustic with a vibrant community. The best way to discover it is by engaging with the locals. Homestay is still the best way to spend a night on the island although there are a number of resorts for those who want a more comfortable stay.
Going around the island by foot is the only way to discover Mararison. The trek will give guests a 360-degree view of the island, literally and figuratively, along an established trail. It takes around 3 hours to complete the route and I recommend doing the trail in the late afternoon just right in time for the sunset.
Lantawan is the local name of Mararison's highest peak. From this vantage point, you will be amazed by the 360-degree view of its rolling hills, its white sand shores, Nablag Islet, and the coastline of Culasi.
I was lucky that I was able to have the vantage point all for myself. It gave me the opportunity to breath in its beauty and try to capture the views without usual crowd. And yes, don't miss out on getting a closer look at pitcher plants while on the trail. Don't worry, the guides will show you these pitcher plants that come in different sizes and colors.
From Lantawan, we continued on with the trail that traverses through Mararison's rolling hills and steep cliffs. Guests are treated to a more dramatic and contrasting views of Mararison - one side are the soft and rolling green hills while the other side are the rugged and steep cliffs. Tekkers are advised to take extra caution because loose rocks and soil and the dizzying heights make the trail extra challenging.
Part of the trail is going down a rocky beach cove where you can find a small opening known as Gui-ob Cave. The cave has a narrow opening that leads to a big cavity just a few meters from the opening.
Luyo Beach/Nablag Islet
Luyo Beach is small beach cove on the western side of Mararison. Although it is not as stunning as that of its eastern counterpart, its shoreline provides a more peaceful ambiance.
The cove also serves as a closer vantage point to Nablag Islet. One can actually walk across the sandbar that connects Luyo to Nablag during low tide.
I told my guide, Ate Rocil, that I was really looking forward to watching the sunset and she told me that our last stop was a good vantage point to watch the setting of the sun. As we continued through the trail, I noticed how the green hills of Malalison was turning into golden yellow which really got me excited.
Finally after about another 10 minutes of uphill trekking, we reached the vantage point that Ate Rocil was talking about. The spot had a very good and unadulterated view of the sun setting on the horizon with Nablag Islet on the foreground.
I have to say that Mararison sunset is one of the best that I have witness. The calmness that it evokes as it paints the island's rolling hills from green to gold was surreal. The best way to enjoy it is sit down and enjoy the show.
Another prominent spot in Mararison is the Kawit Sandbar. The sandbar changes its shape depending on the prevailing season. The habagat season deposits the white sand into a mound at the end of the eastern side of the island. The waves during the amihan slowly push back the sand to form the shape of a fish hook. Locals are quick to say that the white sandbar is best viewed during summer where you can even set camp on the sandbar.
The amihan season was just starting at the time of my visit so the sandbar was not at its best shape. But I enjoyed waking up early to watch the sun breaking out of the mountainous terrain while enjoying the peaceful ambiance of the sandbar.
Tibiao: Nothing Beats The Original
If there was one thing that really drove Antique out of its shell, it is the re-invention of the kawa into something unique and interesting. Who would have thought that a makeshift heated tub created a buzz that it is now being replicated as a come on for travelers and tourists in other Philippine destination. It was definitely the Kawa Hot Bath that directed attention to Antique.
But beyond the warm attention, Tibiao has a lot more to offer. It is a place endowed with amazing natural attractions to explore and a calming ambiance that would soothe the mind. It is a place where you get to really understand the true meaning of "time for self".
Bugtong Bato Falls
Within the jurisdiction of Tibiao is a seven-tierred waterfall - the Bugtong Bato Falls. The first level of the falls can be reached after a 30 to 40 minute hike through the beautiful rustic landscape of Tibiao. My guide, Jocelyn, shared with me that only the first three levels of the falls are accessible to tourists. The other levels don't have an established trail yet. The seventh tier is the biggest and can be reached through a different and steeper trail.
Water cascades from a height of 145 feet on the first level. I was amazed by the sheer height of water falling on its rock wall. It was grand and beautiful. Jocelyn shared with me that the cascade on the seventh tier is thrice the height of the first so you can just imagine how huge the topmost waterfall is.
From the first level, you then climb up a steep trail to get to the second and third level. Make sure that you hold on to the railing because going up can be a challenge for those who are afraid of heights. But you will be rewarded with a beautiful view from the top of the first level. A short walk inland will bring you to the spot where you can view the second and the third levels.
The cascade on the second level is the shortest in height among the three. Its cold waters fall into a shallow basin. If you still have the energy, you can still head up to the third level by climbing up on rock wall adjacent to the second level's cascade. Ropeworks are provided for the guest’s safety.
The rest area on the third level is very small. It did help that I was the only guest at that time that I had the spot for myself and enjoyed taking "clean" pictures of the three levels of Bugtong Bato. You can take a dip into the cold waters on the third level where the basin is around 15-18 feet deep or enjoy the water rush between your toes while enjoying the views and the sounds of the forest that surrounds the place.
Tibiao River Tubing
After the hike, I cooled off by hopping on a tire tube and let the rushing waters of Tibiao River push me downstream. Of course, I had a guide with me to help me navigate through the rapids of the river.
River tubing is another great activity to try out when you find yourself in Tibiao. The 45-minute downstream run will let you experience the thrill of bouncing around the rocks and rapids of Tibiao River. All you got to do is just sit back, share stories, and enjoy the view as you bob in and out of its rushing waters.
Kawa Bath at Kayak Inn
After the hike and the rush, it was time to relax and chill and there is no better way to do it than get a warm dip on Kayak Inn's Kawa Bath.
Kayak Inn is a rustic riverside resort in Tibiao. It prides itself to be one of the first, if not the first, to offer the kawa bath and river tubing in the area. The place is an "A++" for those who wish to disconnect, relax, and unwind. Its simple and basic nipa hut accomodations, with its own patio, give you that laidback provincial feel. It feels like you are just relaxing at home. I really loved the calm and peaceful vibe of the place. It was as if time stood still during my stay.
The Kawa Bath was something that I was looking forward to. A large caulderon that could fit a person is filled with water, herbs, leaves, and flowers which is then heated over fire. Once ready, the guest gets to enjoy a warm dip while enjoying the sweet aroma of the herbs and the relaxing atmosphere of the place.
The makeshift tub experience was very relaxing. The warm dip was complemented by the rustic view, the mix sound of riverwater rushing down the stream, the rustling of leaves, sunlight breaking through the canopies created by trees, and the sounds of crickets and critters. The calm ambiance of Kayak Inn completed the whole experience. It was a perfect way to cap off a physically exhausting morning.
The re-invention of the kawa made its mark that a number of tourist destinations, like Rizal, have adopted it for added attraction. But let me tell you, nothing really beats the original.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Antique's successful re-invention took the province out of the shadows of Boracay and Iloilo to showcase a tourism branding that marked it as its own. The province which started out as an off-beat destination and an "alternative" from the party island has aligned itself as a tourism hotspot in the country.
One thing that I liked about Mararison Island and Tibiao was how their respective local government units were able to align the tourism opportunity to benefit their respective communities. Locals get to feel the benefits of the thriving industry whether it be for their guides, homestays, and even on commerce for local fishermen and small businesses.
My interaction with locals are conversations about how they benefit from these travel activities. They have shared with me the efforts being undertaken to making sure that they are able to preserve what they have now. They understand what happened to Boracay's 6-month closure. Although it affected them because the number of foreign guests dropped, it was augmented by local travelers and it did make Antique a household name. But they are quick to draw from the experience that sustainability is crucial in the tourism industry.
With the re-opening of Boracay, they are excited with the prospect of having more tourists visiting Antique. I am hoping that it would be a bigger opportunity for more people to realize that the adjacent province of Antique has a lot to offer. You can enjoy its rustic and peaceful ambiance as you discover the stories behind its golden sunset and its hot "kawa". to edit.
Getting there: You can take a flight from Manila or any major Philippine airport to Iloilo or Caticlan. I took the Iloilo route. From Iloilo Intenational Airport, you can take a van to Molo Terminal where you can take a Ceres Bus bound for San Jose de Buenavista or Culasi. I suggest that you take the bus as the schedule is more dependable than the van. From Hamtic, you can take either a tricycle or a jeep to San Jose de Buenavista and Patnongon. From Patnongon, you can take a bus bound for Culasi. Ask the conductor to drop you off at Crossing Importante where you can get a habal-habal to Kayak Inn.
I highly recommend that you make prior arrangements for your accommodation with Kayak Inn. For a solo traveler, I paid for Php650 for an overnight stay. The package includes breakfast and the kawa bath. They can also assist you with making the arrangements for the trek to Bugtong Bato Falls and the Tibiao River Tubing. Guide fee for Bugtong Bato is at Php200 and River Tubing is at Php400 per head. You may reach Kayak Inn, through Ems, at (0930) 6060631.
From Tibiao, you can arrange for the habal-habal to bring you directly to Culasi Port. Solo travelers pay only Php100 per trip as a rider or you can have the option of renting out a whole boat for Php750 for a roundtrip. You can contact Kea’s Homestay, through Maricris, at (0920) 6524088.
Sample 2-Day Trip Itinerary:
Day 1. Arrival/Hamtic/San Jose de Buenavista/Patnongon
7.00a - ETA in Iloilo
8.00a - ETD for Hamtic
10.00a - Explore Hamtic (Hamtic Cemetery Church and Malandog Marker)
11.30a - Proceed to San Jose de Buenavista
12.00n - Lunch
1.00p - Explore San Jose (Old Capitol/New Capitol/EBJ Freedom Park/ Ruins of San Pedro Roman)
2.00p - Proceed to Patnongon
2.30p - Explore Patnongon (Ruins of Patnongon Church and Convent/Ruins of Casa Municipal)
3.30p -ETD to Tibiao
5.00p - ETA at Tibiao/Proceed to Kayak Inn
5.30p - Afternoon Chill
Day 2. Tibiao/Malalison
7.00a - Breakfast
8.00a - Hike to Bugtong Bato Falls
10.00a - Water Tubing at Tibiao River
11.00a - Kawa Bath
12.30p - Proceed to Culasi
1.30p - ETA at Culasi/Lunch
2.30p - ETD for Malalison
3.00p - ETA at Malalison/Find Homestay
3.30p - Hike around Malalison
5.30p - Catch the sunset
6.30p - Chill
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.