2015 proved to be an interesting year for me when it came to my passion for discovering places and experiencing new adventures. I started the year with two projects in mind – 15 on 2015 and Explore Manila!
15 on 2015 was all about discovering 15 destinations this year. I had a couple of destinations on my 2015 bucket list and I am glad that, with the exception of two, I have managed to get my feet on these grounds. The idea really was to find the opportunities to travel at any given time. A lot of people think that traveling is all about going across distances and discovering some exotic place. On the contrary, the art of traveling is getting yourself on the road to discover a place and find out what is interesting about it.
Having said that, I have also found myself on the road walking the streets of Metro Manila and discovering the unique and interesting sites of the metro. Interestingly, the sites that we sometimes look for in the provinces can also be explored here in Metro Manila. We search for century old churches, century old cemeteries, big open space parks, and heritage houses in different provinces and yet we have it right here in the middle of the metropolis. “Explore Manila!” is all about walking and discovering the streets of Metro Manila.
15 on 2015
I only managed to get to 14 new destinations this year but it is not something to fret about. The 14 destinations were all exciting and uniquely different. I have already written my blog entries for most of these trips but I still have a couple that I would still need to post. Looking back, let me share with you my top 5 destinations for 2015.
Bantayan Island definitely tops my list this year. It is a destination where my love for the beach, food, and history was molded in one destination. Admittedly, getting to Bantayan was quite a challenge especially that our itinerary back then was quite stiff. Yet Bantayan was NOT a disappointment. I enjoyed loitering around the laid back island with the occasional dip into its clear waters.
The drumbeats and the street dancing puts my Dinagyang trip on the second spot. Dinagyang was my first “real” taste of a street festival. It really showed the creativity of Filipinos. I was amazed to watch street dancing as a full flawless production work. It also happened to be the first Visayan festival that I experienced and I loved it. I am to believe that Visayan festivals are a notch higher compared to other festivals that I have watched. It was just plain awesome.
Taking the third spot is another off-beat destination – Calaguas. The island still haunts me to this day and I am sorely wishing to spend a full weekend in Calaguas. I had the chance to experience its beauty together with our fellow viajeros and I have to admit that the destination and the company made the whole trip just plain perfect.
A sudden decision to cross out Mount Samat on my bucket list lands it on the fourth spot together with the stunning sunrise over Taal Lake. Incidentally, both trips were shared with my family. Nothing really beats traveling with the family with the bonding and the moments shared. The morning sun over Taal Lake was just amazing. It was peaceful and serene. It was just perfect! Whilst our recent Mount Samat trip stood out because I saw how my daughter enjoyed the no fuss trip. She was all out smiling and never felt tired until we were onboard the bus heading back to Manila. Watch out as I will be sharing the Mount Samat trip soon on this blog.
I am a sucker for history so my trip to Taal in Batangas really made a mark for me. It has been on my list for a long time and I am glad that I have finally crossed it out. The rural feel was a perfect match to the old ancestral houses of the town. What made it more amazing was sharing the experience with fellow viajeros, both local and international, and was topped by the accommodating owners of these old houses who shared the history of the house. Again, I would still need to share the experience soon on this blog. It was just a great opportunity to explore Taal and share it with a tourist friend.
“Explore Manila!” is still an ongoing project and will run until the first quarter of 2016 as we still have a couple of cities to cover.
The project was born after the idea was shared by a fellow Instagrammer friend and traveler. The idea was to explore the sights and sounds of Metro Manila and discover the gems that lie within the metro. The objective of the program was to give Manila a different look – one that answers the question “If I were to tour a friend in Manila, what other interesting spots should I show him or her?”
Interestingly, the project has shown that tourist spots in Manila go beyond the walls of Intramuros, the sunset of Manila Bay, or the big malls in the city. The real stand outs were Pasig City with its thrust to promote their tourist destinations and culture and Quezon City with its development of the QC Memorial Circle and the UP Campus. I guess a lot of focus needs to be done to really work on developing the unique sights and sounds of Manila and hopefully with this project, I can raise the same awareness to the each local government.
Looking back at my 2015, it made me realize that traveling is not about the unique and interesting destinations that you go to BUT it is all about going to a destination and finding out what makes it unique and interesting. It is easy to call yourself a traveler and talk about I have been here or there. But the real travelers know that the true meaning of travel is immersing with the locals and the culture with the goal of understanding what makes the destination unique and it can start by checking out “your own backyard”.
With that, I would like to send out my warm greetings for a prosperous 2016 to all of you. My wish is that you get to discover a lot more places in 2016 and that you also get to discover how beautiful the Philippines is!
Happy New Year!
Metro Manila is shimmering with the season with all the Christmas lights in the different streets of the metro. Venues are all booked with the left and right parties happening. Flea Markets are abuzz with activity with everyone trying to complete their Christmas shopping list.
But through all this jolly activities, traffic gets really nasty and you will see people complaining about how horrendous Metro Manila traffic during the holidays. A usual 45-minute trip can turn to a three-hour trip that will have you cursing and blasting your head off.
This is all part of the frenzy of Metro Manila and don’t we all hate it. But behind all the complaints, we love the metro. We love the life and the color that it brings to everyone and that is what I wanted to discover when I thought about the “Explore Manila!” project.
Located along the western shores of Laguna de Bay, Taguig City surprised us during the time of our exploration. We have always associated Taguig with the posh BGC but Taguig has a rural face that we discovered – one that I enjoyed. It has the upbeat vibe of malls and nightlife running parallel with the bucolic vibe of its communities along the shores of Laguna de Bay.
Let me surprise you as we explore Taguig!
Taguig’s Urban Community: Bonifacio Global City
Known as the city of passionate minds, anyone can definitely fall in love with BGC. It is more than just a bustling business district as it has managed to incorporate learnings and arts in its city design. It has also been a venue of art festivals and has strongly supported artists by making their open spaces serve as a huge canvass for the artists.
The mall redefines shopping with its huge open spaces alongside its high-end brand stores. It is like walking in a park while doing your shopping. The mall exudes the element of relaxation and fun in shopping and dining venue. It is definitely one of a kind.
Interestingly, High Street is also an artists’ venue for expression. The mid-section of the mall is a huge space where they feature sculptures of different Filipino artists. The most notable of which is “Specific Gravity” – a sculpture that has a huge rock that seems suspended in air. The fountain, created by Reg Yuson, is an attraction in itself and gives the viewer an impression of defying gravity.
Another interesting spot to check out at High Street are the street art by different artists. Street art is one form of arts that you get to enjoy all throughout Bonifacio Global City. The mall is not an exception and it is a great activity for peers and family to hunt for these street artworks along High Street’s Walls.
Bonifacio Global City Sculptures and Street Art
If you have a day to spare at Global City, you can try walking along its streets and appreciate its various sculptures and street arts by great and upcoming artists. Every block seems to have something artsy to show off which makes BGC a haven for those who want to see contemporary art fused with the cityscape.
Located along the 32nd street is a sculpture that honors the man behind the name of BGC – Andres Bonifacio. The three-piece sculpture honors the man behind the Katipunan, his wife, and the Katipuneros who fought for Philippine Independence.
Just two blocks away is another sculpture that was aptly called “The Trees”. It sits at the center of a rotunda near Burgos Circle. The artist used trees as his element to show how humans and its environment intertwine. It shows the beneficial relationship of man and his environment.
Further down the road is the “Pasasalamat” – an artwork by Ferdinand Cacnio. The sculpture puts value on the thanksgiving of fishermen on their bountiful harvest.
Interestingly, BGC was also the proud venue of street art exhibits and allowed the use of its walls for self-expression for upcoming artists. I was amazed by the “Spaceman” that was wall painted in one of its buildings
On the other side of Global City is another hotspot known to many as Burgos Circle. It is a place known as a dining and entertainment spot in Taguig. But the place is more than just a party spot. It also boasts of creative expressions of architecture and designs. You can check out its circular staircase where you can get to see symmetry in its creative form or the plant lollies in one of the driveways of its posh condominium in the area.
Manila American Cemetery
Located in Fort Bonifacio, this 62-hectare lot is the final resting place of 17, 206 World War 2 heroes. The rows of neatly arranged marble crosses are a sight to behold amidst the sea of green that is refreshing to the eye. At the center of the cemetery is a memorial chapel and a complex where the names of those interred are carved on marble walls. It also holds a mosaic map which illustrates the action lead by the Americans in the Pacific and the Orient.
The place exudes peace and tranquillity. It is a nice place where you can spend time with yourself and to just enjoy the peace and quiet it offers. I like the silence that it offers in contrast to the city buzzing around it. It is a place where you can find silence in the midst of nature and spirits.
Archdiocesan of Sta. Ana
Founded in 1587, the St. Anne Parish Church in Taguig is one of the old churches in Metro Manila. The current structure was built in 1883 and has seen history unfold on its doorsteps. The most brutal of which was the incarceration of hundreds of Taguig male residents by Japanese forces during World War 2.
The church’s simple exterior of the church has the image of St. Anne guarding the church. The belfry stands out majestically along Taguig’s skyline. The three-story belfry is one of the main highlights of the church. The images of Filipino saints can also be seen around the church’s courtyard on its sides.
The interior’s highlight is the gold-colored retablo of the church. The simple interiors highlights the church’s altar as its grand design stands out.
Just right beside the church is the convent and the museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed during our visit as it was undergoing renovation. We got to explore some parts of the convent and we saw old paintings of Taguig’s interesting spots. One can also enjoy images of saints and Jesus Christ on the cross that adorn the walls of the convent.
Just right across St. Anne Parish Church is Plaza Quezon – a small open park dedicated to President Manuel L. Quezon. The park has the image of the former president as its main highlight at the center of the park. Interestingly, it is the only park that was erected while President Quezon was still in office that honors him.
The park serves as the venue for events during the “Buwan ng Wika” every August.
At the center of the Sta. Ana Public Cemetery is a small chapel that has also withstood the test of time – the Simborio. It was erected in the 1700s through forced labor by the Spanish friars and has been the centrepiece of the cemetery. Much have changed in its surroundings but the Simborio was preserved by the local government. The edifice has its own unique charm and it reminded me of Paco Park.
Unfortunately, a lot still needs to be done to preserve the Simborio. Graffiti on its walls have desecrated the value of the Simborio. I guess residents in the area have not grasped fully the importance of the Simborio as a heritage site.
Taguig City Hall and Bantayog ng Bayani
A 15-minute walk through the maze of houses and sidestreets in Sta. Ana will bring you to the seat of governance of Taguig. The Taguig City Hall sits at the heart of this city. The modern structure houses most of the government offices that render the basic services to its locals.
At the front of is a huge park where a simple monument was erected for Taguig’s World War 2 heroes.
Dambanang Kawayan is one church that really caught my attention because of its simplicity and its unique design. It is one of those churches who looked plain on the outside but was magnificent inside. Located in Ligid-Tipas, Dambanang Kawayan is a century-old church that was established in 1573 and was also a mute witness to the brutality of World War 2.
The simple façade of the church is a contrast to the beauty of the church’s interiors. The church is very Filipino because it imbibed the homey feel of the bahay-kubo as it used bamboo as its main element for its interiors. From its flooring to its altar, the use of bamboo was very evident. The altar has the crucifix as its centrepiece.
I would have to say that Dambanang Kawayan is a must visit when you are in Taguig.
Bantayog ng mga Bayani ng Tipas / Plaza Bonifacio
Just right across Dambanang Kawayan is an open space to which I think was initially intended to be a plaza but was later turned into a parking lot. On this lot stand two monuments of sort – one that honors Andres Bonifacio and one that honors the heroes of Tipas.
Bordering the park is an arch where an image of Gat Andres Bonifacio was installed. Too bad though was that the arch was not maintained and the missing letters and “bolo” of Andres Bonifacio shows the years of neglect.
On one side is another side is a small monument that honors the brave men of Tipas who fought against the Japanese forces. Again, one could hardly notice since the space was already converted to a parking space and the view of monument is blocked by cars.
We have been on the road for about 45 minutes and yet we still have not seen the Napindan Parola. We hired a jeepney from Tipas to find the parola at the mouth of Pasig River. We were not ready to quit and asking around was futile as none of the locals really know where it is.
What makes the Napindan Parola special?
The Napindan Lighthouse witnessed the birth of the 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards. The lighthouse stands along the Napindan Channel where Pasig River meets Laguna de Bay. It was used by the revolutionaries as a command center because of its strategic location that it was crucial for American forces to destroy it. The Napindan Parola was built in the 17th century
We never got close to the Napindan Parola as it was too far that we had to satisfy our lighthouse search by viewing it along the coast of Laguna de Bay from the C6 road construction. From our location, it looks like a small slab jutting out from the waters. We tried to capture it on our phones but it was hard to get a decent picture.
One thing that really stood out was the rural atmosphere in the area. It was amazing to actually find a peaceful and bucolic spot in Metro Manila and Taguig definitely gave a surprise. The greeneries and the breeze from the bay made us want to linger in the area while enjoying the city skyline from afar. I reckon that the place is a great place to watch the sunrise and the sunset.
Post Explore Notes
Taguig was a complete surprise for me. It has a unique combination of the city and rural atmosphere. I enjoyed the fact that I was in the metro with that barrio community feel. Interestingly, I wish that the passion that BGC has in the promotion of arts and culture is also embraced by the local government to preserve and promote its historical treasures.
On a lighter note, I would like to greet everyone a Merry Christmas. Thank you for your support and I would like to send my warm wish for a joyous and peaceful yuletide celebration!
The Hulugan Falls #Road7rip to Discover and Re-discover (The Instaviaje 7 Mud Experience / The 10th of my 15 on 2015)
I have never seen so much mud in my life until we ventured to discover Laguna’s latest natural attraction – Hulugan Falls. We heard about Hulugan Falls a week after we came back from our Instaviaje 6 and its beauty just captivated us that we started planning the trip. What started out as a personal road trip evolved into a full-blown instaviaje for our Instagram travel group, @viajerongpinoy.
In no time, we were already setting the date, coordinating the transportation, and inviting viajeros to join us.
The Road to Discovery
It was already 30 minutes past 6am as we started the downhill drive from Antipolo City towards Tanay. The scenic view of Rizal was enough to get me excited with our group’s #Road7rip. Our road trip would bring us along the scenic route of Rizal and Laguna. It was a welcome breather for me from work seeing all the greens along the way.
This was one trip that I was looking forward to after weeks of planning. It was my break from work and it was good that I was sharing the experience with my fellow viajeros.
Pililia Windmills: Directing the Wind
As you drive along the diversion road along Tanay, one would notice large fans along the hillside of Rizal. These are the famed windmills of Pililia. The windmill farm, totaling to 27 windmills, is under the renewable energy program handled by the Alternergy Wind One Corporation. The wind that crosses along the hills of Pililia is good enough to generate a total of 54 megawatts of energy.
We made a brief stopover to the wind farm to admire the windmills up close.
I was amazed at the sight of these large machines as its turbines turned with the wind. It was a good material for photography as the turbines stood out amidst the greens of Pililia Hills. A viewing station was created where one can find out more about the wind farm. The station also has a good view of Laguna de Bay and the Rizal area. It took us about an hour to enjoy the view and the cool breeze before deciding to proceed to our next stop.
I have not been to Bangui Windmills so I am in no position to compare. Hopefully next year, I will be able to make a comparison. Nevertheless, a quick escape to Pililia can definitely give you that thrill of seeing windmills in action.
Luisiana: A Trek to Remember
After a brief breakfast stopover at Milagrosa Restaurant in Famy, known for their Lomi, our group decided to head directly to Luisiana. Our group was up early in the morning so we decided to conserve our energy for our main goal for the trip – discover Hulugan Falls. It was going to be another hour on the road so a lot of them decided to go for a quick snooze.
Luisiana in the province of Laguna was recently brought into the limelight because of the “discovery” of its natural attraction – the majestic Hulugan Falls. The unassuming town of Luisiana boasts of a lot of natural attractions like falls and caves. It is often referred to as “Little Baguio” because of the zigzag road that leads to the town from the nearby Pagsanjan.
The Muddy Trek to Hulugan Falls
Hulugan Falls is the main attraction that placed Luisiana in the tourism map of the Philippines. The waterfalls attraction first hugged the limelight when a visitor posted a picture of Hulugan on social media. The post went viral and soon after the natural attraction has caught the interest of travellers who continuously flock to the area. As per our guide, Hulugan Falls was given the name because the falls was discovered because a carabao fell from the ridge of the waterfalls. Whether the story is true or not, Hulugan Falls continues to take traction as a weekend escape for those looking a quick adventure.
The first step to start the trek is getting a guide. Locals have already seen the potential of the falls that most of them would be willing guides. The ratio of guide to visitors is 1:6 to ensure safety. Every visitor would have to register at the house of the Barangay Hall and pay a fee. At this time, the local government unit has not established an effective system to manage the influx of tourists. My suggestion is just be generous in giving tips to your guides.
The trek to Hulugan Falls is challenging. One needs to traverse a steep descent to the base of the falls. What made our experience memorable was the muddy trail because of the rains from the previous day. The trail was harder to traverse because it was muddy and slippery so we had to be extra cautious going down. Good thing that our guides knew how to lead us through the trail. Yes, we had some minor slips but that did help in giving us the smiles and giggles along the way.
That was how I will describe Hulugan Falls. The sight of the falls from its base was just magnificent and it had me staring at it in awe. I think that the rains from the previous day added to the water cascading down and it gave us a full view of Hulugan Falls in all its grandeur and beauty. The water falls from a height similar to a 20-story building and, with water falling from that height, you should expect to get wet. The basin at the foot of Hulugan is deep and is good for a quick swim. The view of the Hulugan Falls and a quick dip into its cold waters is enough to convince you that the muddy trek is definitely worth it.
Notably, Hulugan Falls had a lot of visitors on that day and it was hard to find a spot to capture the beauty of the falls without people joining in the photo. Our guide said that, after its “discovery”, there place have to deal with the large crowd that flock to their place to see the falls. I must say that Hulugan Falls is an internet sensation and the crowd that was there on our visit was enough proof that it has gained popularity among travelers.
But one thing is for sure, coming face to face with Hulugan Falls was an awesome experience and no words or picture can capture its true beauty. You just got to see it.
Talay Falls: #PushPaMore
After spending an hour admiring the magnificent view of Hulugan Falls, our group decided that it was time to move on. The great thing about trekking at Hulugan Falls is that you can take a trail that will lead you, not only to Hulugan Falls, but to a smaller falls upstream – Talay Falls. Interestingly, Luisiana is actually the home of a number of waterfalls that is also worth visiting.
The challenge for this one though was the ascent from the basin of Hulugan Falls. We had to traverse the steep trails that would lead us to the top of the ridge. The ascent can be pretty exhausting especially for those who are not prepared for it physically. It is manageable but is physically a challenge. In our case, the muddy trails and the people descending made our trek more challenging.
After walking through mud and through lush greeneries, we finally made it to Talay Falls.
Talay Falls is a multi-level falls located upstream of Hulugan Falls. Water gushes onto three levels of rock faces with the second wall as its main attraction. I was only able to get through the easier trails to the second level and I was already exhausted to check out further upstream. It was not as grand as that of Hulugan Falls but Talay has its own unique view to be proud of.
Unlike Hulugan Falls that had throngs of people milling around and admiring its beauty, Talay Falls is a more quiet and serene. I noticed that locals have already installed small benches and tables for guest use and bamboo railiongs for easier access upstream. We managed to catch our breath and just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Talay Falls before doing the usual photo ops.
Talay Falls has its own charm. The few people who manage to make a quick stop in Talay Falls would agree that although it hides under the shadow of Hulugan Falls, Talay Falls is a better place to commune and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Brief Stop: Pagsanjan Church
We did not expect that the trek to Hulugan Falls and Talay Falls would take us about four hours to complete that we had to forego part of our itinerary as we had to head back to Manila as it was getting dark. But before we headed to the final stretch of our trip, we made a quick stop at the Pagsanjan Church.
Pagsanjan Church was founded in 1687. The original church structure was built using nipa and bamboo to be replaced three years later with a stone church made from adobe. The church honors the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” as its patron saint where two images of their patroness can be found inside the church. The church was heavily damaged by the American bombings during World War 2 and it was only in 1965 when the church was reconstructed.
The white-washed Renaissance façade stands out at the center of town. The simple design of the church matches the interiors of the church and reflects the simple and noble life in Pagsanjan. The church is highlighted by a gold-colored retablo with the Marian image as its centrepiece.
Pagsanjan is a small and old town and the atmosphere that it exudes really got me interested to visit and exploring the town. I am looking forward to spending a night in Pagsanjan and get to feel and enjoy its old-town vibe.
Looking back at the experience, discovering a “new” tourism find is exciting and it is the road less travelled by many. Nothing really beats the thrill to being one of the first to get to see and explore an upcoming tourism destination.
The #Road7trip to Hulugan Falls is no different. The buzz that it created after its “discovery” was enough to create that interest among travellers and enthusiasts. It has created a new opportunity for the local community in terms of income generation. Now, it is really a matter of how fast the local government, together with the community, can draft and implement a sustainable tourism development plan for Luisiana. It is very important that they are able to streamline the activities so as not to endanger the future of Hulugan Falls as a tourism spot and they really need to act fast.
Organize it: Our group can help bring your group or barkada to explore Hulugan Falls. If you are interested, you can email us at email@example.com or you can leave a comment below and I will get in touch with you.
It is funny how attending a wedding ceremony would suddenly turn into a weekend adventure where I had to do an impromptu research to check on the interesting sites of Talisay and Tanauan.
A leisure drive along the highway, as we headed to Talisay, had me interested with the town of Tanuan when we passed by this huge estate which turned out to be the birthplace of Apolinario Mabini. As much as I wanted to stop and check out the place, I figured that we might be late for the wedding ceremony so I had to forego of the thought. Nevertheless, it did excite me enough to start googling on the interesting sites along the way.
After the wedding reception in Talisay, we made a quick decision to just find a place and spend the night in Talisay. It was a decision that brought out the explorer in me.
Talisay: The Gateway to Taal Volcano
The sleepy town of Talisay may be overshadowed by its neighbour, Tagaytay City as it offers a magnificent view of Taal Volcano, but Talisay serves as the gateway to those intending to see the volcano up close. The town sits conveniently along the shores of Taal Lake which also makes it an ideal location for water sports.
Taal Volcano and Taal Lake
Taal Volcano is touted as the smallest volcano in the world and it is one of the active volcanoes in the country. Although Tagaytay Ridge offers a majestic view of the volcano from above, the town of Talisay offers a more upclose view of the volcano. In fact, the town serves as the jump off point to those intending to trek Taal Volcano. Hiking the trails of Taal Volcano is quite a physical activity but the view of the main crater lake, Yellow Lake, from the volcano’s ridge is rewarding. Hmm… I think I should try hiking Taal Volcano next year.
Taal Lake is the third largest freshwater lake in the country and it was declared a national park in 1967. I admired the stillness of the water in the morning. It also offers a great view of the sunrise. The peace and quiet atmosphere that the lake offers while the rays of the morning sun touches your skin was just bliss.
Talisay Public Market
I have always loved public markets. I seriously think that it is the microcosm of the community and visiting the market gives me the thrill. Talisay is a small community that is void of malls and that gives it the rural charm. If you need anything, the public market is the way to go.
Located along Taal Lake’s shoreline, the Talisay Public Market is one worth visiting. It houses stores that sells most, if not everything, that you need from housewares to the fresh catch from the lake. The market, roughly about 1000 square meters, also sits adjacent to the lake’s walkway that has an amazing view of Taal Lake. One can take a leisurely walk along the platform and enjoy watching people doing their daily chores.
The church was founded in 1892 and serves as one of the tourism centrepieces of the town. However, the church was damaged in 1898 and the current structure was built in 1966 through the efforts of its faithful patrons. The church honors St. William the Hermit as its patron saint.
At present, the church stands beautifully on a small hill at the center of town. Its cream-colored simple façade compliments the wide space that surround the church giving visitors a relaxing feel. At the time of our visit, a wedding was about to start so the whole church was buzzing with activity. An image of St. William the Hermit was placed at the front as the church’s exterior highlight.
Despite the activity, I managed to take a peek inside the church and I was amazed at the grand design of the church’s interiors with its high ceilings and stained-glass windows. The gold-colored retablo at the church’s altar is the highlight of the church with St. William as its centrepiece.
Tanauan: Cradle of Noble Heroes
It was hard to miss Tanauan on our way to Talisay. The huge estate dedicated the Apolinario Mabini was enough for me to keep a mental note of the place, knowing my interest in Philippine history. So as we headed back to Manila, we decided to make a quick stop in Tanauan.
Tanauan was once a community situated along the shores of Taal Lake but a massive eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754 destroyed the town which resulted to the relocation of the town to its present location. It has earned the monicker of “Cradle of Noble Heroes” because it is the hometown of two great Filipinos – Apolinario Mabini and Jose Laurel.
Apolinario Mabini Shrine
Tucked along the Talisay-Tanauan Road is a huge estate dedicated in honor of the Apolinario Mabini, the country’s first Prime Minister. The estate in Talaga, Tanauan was the birthplace of Mabini and now also serves as the final resting place of his remains. He was a revolutionary leader, a lawyer, an educator, and a statesman who was fundamental in the drafting of the Malolos Constitution.
One thing that will catch your attention is the whitewashed building as the center of the compound. This serves as a museum where it showcases the story of Mabini and the revolution. It also displays some of the personal belongings of Mabini, including the coffin that was used to transfer his remains from Manila to Talaga. The tomb is found just right in front of the museum. The museum is also used for temporary exhibits of artworks of Filipino artists.
On one side of the compound is a replica of the house where Mabini was born. The house is a typical nipa hut made from palm leaves.
Jose Laurel’s House
Just within the main street in the Tanauan is a house where another great Filipino was born – Jose P. Laurel. He served as the country’s President of the Second Philippine Republic under the Japanese leadership. Although, some may argue his loyalty at the time of war, Former President Laurel had always been pro-Filipino by heart. I think he had to do what he had to do during the Japanese occupation to alleviate the plight of Filipinos. He is known to be the only Philippine President who served in the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of the government.
I only had the opportunity to see his birthplace in Tanauan from outside the gates as permission is needed to enter the compound and the house.
Simbahan ng Tanauan
Established in 1584, the first church of Tanauan was built near the lakeshore of Taal but the destruction of the town during the volcano’s prompted the relocation of the whole town, including the church. A new church was built on its present site in 1881 but was severely damaged in 1944 during World War 2. The church was again re-built in 1948.
The grand exterior of the church is something that will definitely catch your attention. The twin belfry stands out in Tanauan’s skyline. The church has a total of 8 stained-glass windows on its façade which makes it really look grand when viewed from the outside.
The church is remarkably huge with its high ceilings. Unlike the conventional churches that we see in the Philippines, the altar does not have any retablo but it is highlighted by huge stained-glass window give it a more modern look. The minimalist approached worked very well for the church.
One of the unique features of the church is the life-size Stations of the Cross in its garden surrounding the structure. The touch of spirituality and nature is a good way to meditate. It was nice to just feel the peace and tranquillity of the church in the midst of the trees.
Old Municipal Hall of Tanauan
Just right across the Tanauan Church is the Old Municipal Hall of Tanauan. This pre-war structure was once the seat of the local government of Tanauan. It was destroyed during World War 2 and was later rebuilt. At present, it now houses the city’s library and museum where memorabilias of prominent Tanauenos.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed during the time of our visit.
President Jose Laurel’s Final Resting Place
It was amusing that we were heading off to the public cemetery to cap off our visit in Tanauan. I was interested to visit the final resting place of former President Jose Laurel. Interestingly, the crypt was void of any fancy and it is located in the public cemetery of Tanauan.
If you ask around the cemetery, locals are aware of the place and they are willing to direct you to the actual burial place.
Post Travel Notes:
Our quick trip to Talisay and Tanauan was a trip that gave me the quick thrill of history. It was a nice experience to be spontaneous during quick trips as it gives you a couple of surprises and learnings along the way. Make sure that you always take the opportunity to explore and who knows you might just find something interesting in the process.
I fell in love with Cebu City the first time that I laid my eyes on it. This was way back in high school when I had the chance to visit and go around Cebu. Fast forward to the present day, I still cannot get enough fill of Cebu and if I am going to be asked where I would like to retire or where my second home would be? It will still be Cebu City.
Cebu City is the Queen City of the South. The city and its other provinces are worth exploring as it offers a wide range of activities and interesting sites for nature buffs, adrenalin junkies, and history enthusiasts. Cebu is one of the oldest communities in the country with its history dating back to pre-Hispanic times. Cebu City alone is a treasure box of tourist destinations waiting to be explored.
Our IG travel group, @viajerongpinoy, had the opportunity to visit Cebu last October as part of our second year anniversary celebration. Our group first headed off to Bantayan Island (check out my previous post) and ended our trip by checking out the sights and sounds of the city. Now, Cebu City is a very large city and a day is not enough to cover the whole area. As our group was pressed for time, we opted to check out downtown Cebu and what it has to offer.
So in the same spirit of #ExploreManila, I would like to invite you to walk with me and #ExploreCebu!
City Sidetrip: Temple of Leah
Situated along Busay and overlooking the city, the Temple of Leah is a symbol of everlasting love. The construction of Cebu city’s newest attraction started in 2012 when Teodorico Adarna commissioned its construction to honor his wife, Leah Villa Albino-Adarna. The Roman-inspired architecture is just one of the few that you can find in the city. It is still a work in progress but they are already accepting visitors to admire its beauty.
The temple stands majestically on this side of Cebu. The grand structure is highlighted by a fountain in the middle of its wide courtyard, roman columns, statues of roman gods and goddesses, and a staircase guarded by two lions. Benches were set up along the sides where one can sit down and admire the beauty of the structure. On the other side, one can enjoy an overlooking view of Cebu City.
The main lobby of the temple is a grand declaration of love with a gold-colored statue of Mrs. Albino-Adarna as its center of attraction. Two staircases branch out on both sides that leads to the second floor of the building. From the top, one can view the elegant tiled flooring of the lobby area.
Unfortunately, the viewing rooms of the temple were closed off. Taking a peek from its windows, I saw the collection of books and other personal collections of “Leah”.
Getting there: The fastest way to get to the Temple of Leah was taking a cab from downtown Cebu. It is the most expensive way, though. One can also opt to take a jeep to Lahug and get down at JY Mall where you can take a habal-habal to the temple.
Explore Hits Downtown Cebu
Cebu City is an old community in the Philippines and a lot of these influences can be seen in downtown Cebu. For first time travelers to Cebu, I strongly suggest that you kick-off your tour with a Walking tour of downtown Cebu. This will give you a brief on how history unfolded in Cebu City.
As part of our plan to discover, rediscover in my case, the city together with our fellow viajeros, we decided to bring our #purowalk experience in the city. The good thing about it is that all the attractions in downtown Cebu is just a few steps away from each other.
Basilica Minore del Santo Nino
We started our walk with one of Cebu’s tourist attraction – the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. The church is visited by hundreds of devotees and tourist everyday as it holds the oldest image of the young Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the church is also the center of festivities during the annual Sinulog Festival every third weekend of January. It is probably the most festive “fiesta” in the country, attracting thousands of visitors from different parts of the globe.
This is not my first time to visit the church but its antiquity has never failed to keep me amazed. I will never get tired seeing the external and internal beauty of this church. The church belfry is still undergoing rehabilitation after it was collapsed during the Bohol earthquake in 2012.
Just right outside the church’s compound is the Magellan’s Cross. I guess this is the most iconic image of Cebu’s thriving tourism industry.
The small chapel is the home of the original cross believed to have been planted by Magellan when he landed in the country. It is the symbol for the advent of Christianity in the country. It is through religion where the Spaniards conquered the Filipinos. To this day, we still see the immense influence of religion in our lives.
The original cross is said to be encased in the Tindalo Wooden Cross to protect it from being chipped off by tourists. Do not miss out on admiring the paintings on the ceiling of the chapel which illustrates the story of how the cross ended up to where it is now.
Malacanang sa Sugbo
Just two blocks away from Magellan’s Cross is the official residence of the Philippine President in Cebu. The Malacanang of the South was built in 1910 and was originally intended to serve as the “Aduana” or the Bureau of Customs. It did served its purpose until 2014 when it was ordered to be converted to serve as the official residence of the country’s highest official.
The structure suffered damages during an earthquake in 2012 and the Bureau of Customs tried to re-acquire the building. The local government officials decided otherwise and went on to preserve the structure as Malacanang sa Sugbo, a historical building in the city.
Just right across the Malacanang of the South is a huge park known as the Plaza Independencia. The park is a popular hangout for locals because of the huge space where one can enjoy the cool breeze from the sea. More than just a hangout, the plaza is historically significant having been a mute witness to the city’s past.
The plaza has gone through a lot of name changes, starting from the Spanish period, until it settled on Plaza Independencia. The huge park is highlighted by an obelisk dedicated to the first governor-general of the country, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Subsequent road improvements in parts of the park has also yielded human remains and artifacts dating back to pre-Hispanic period.
Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro is a small fort adjacent to Plaza Independencia. The small triangular fort was built to ward off Muslim raiders during the Spanish Period. The fort is a mute witness to hundreds of years of history from pre-Hispanic occupation until the present. It has served as a fort, a garden, a zoo, and now a museum. It was also considered to be demolished but thanks to the efforts of Cebuanos, the plan was shelved and the plan to restore Fort San Pedro began.
At present, Fort San Pedro is already fully restored and is one of the must-see attractions in Cebu City. The fortress now houses a museum that gives you a glimpse of old Cebu through photos and the tourism office of the city. The garden and its triangular fort is a great place to just seat down and relax as you enjoy the cool breeze blowing from the sea.
Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Just a block away from the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral – the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Metropolitan Cebu. Established in 1595, the construction of the cathedral had issues primarily on its funding. The cathedral was designed to withstand typhoons however it was damaged during the World War 2 leaving only the belfry, its façade, and part of its walls intact. It was immediately restored after the country was liberated from Japanese hands.
At present, the Spanish colonial design of the church stands out in the busy streets of downtown Cebu. Its façade are highlighted by intricate carvings. Interestingly, emblazoned on its façade is the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms that represents the contribution of Spanish monarchs in the construction of the church.
Walking along the streets of Colon is comparable to walking along Recto Avenue in Manila. The feel and the look is almost the same. The only difference is that walking along Colon Street is walking along the oldest street in the Philippines.
A marker at one end of Colon Street is the only reminder that the street is the oldest in the country. It was once the center of business and commerce in the city however as the Cebu city started expanding inland, Colon Street started to wane. At present, the street is a bit rundown and gives you the feel that you are walking along an old community.
Cebu Heritage Monument
Cebu has a heart that values its history and its heritage. Cebuanos are so emboldened by this belief that they have managed to put up a monument that outlines its rich heritage to its community and to the Philippines. The monument stands out at the heart of one of Cebu’s oldest community and was also once the prime settlement of Cebu’s affluent families. It is just a couple of steps away from Colon Street.
The monument is a tableau of both historical sites in Cebu City and historical personalities. It is Cebu’s history in one location.
Post Explore Cebu City Notes:
I strongly recommend that for first timers in Cebu City or for those who want to see the “older” side of Cebu to try walking around downtown and explore its streets. You will get to understand its heritage and how it has molded the modern Cebuano’s minds and values. It is also good to note that the city government has managed to preserve its colorful and rich history through its heritage sites and churches. Anyway, writing this entry made me think of doing a three or four day Explore Cebu project someday.
The sea breeze touching my face was enough to lull me to sleep. We were finally on the last leg of our trip to Bantayan Island in Cebu and it was such a relief to see the island come into full view after a tiring 10-hour air, land, and sea travel. Our trip that started at 10pm the night before at NAIA Terminal 3 was a planned trip by our Instagram group, @viajerongpinoy, to celebrate our two years as a hub on the social media app. It was also our first trip, as a group, that had us heading off to the Visayas.
Despite only a couple of hours of sleep, I cannot contain my excitement as Bantayan came into view. It has been on my list for a long time and I was glad that I will be able to finally take it off my list.
Laid back with an amazing view of the sea… yes, I fell in love with Budyong Resort. It was our first stop when we reached Santa Fe in Bantayan Island as this would be our home for the next two days. The view of the white sand beach took away all the weariness in me that I dropped everything I was carrying, changed into my beach attire, and just enjoyed the scene. The others got so excited that they started exploring the beach and taking pictures.
I captured a couple of shots and then retired to just sit back to enjoy the view. It was priceless and it was then that I knew that I was in paradise.
Budyong Resort was a nice recommendation from a friend and I would also strongly recommend it for those intending to visit Bantayan Island. The only thing that the resort needs to work on is to have a fully functional restaurant for their guests.
A Bantayan Tricycle Affair
Located North of Cebu, Bantayan Island is a favored destination of beach lovers because of its pristine white sand beaches. The island is composed of three barangays – Santa Fe, Madridejos, and Bantayan. Santa Fe is known for its beaches and its coves. It is best explored on a bike. Bantayan Town Proper is known for its century-old church and its old houses while you get to enjoy the sunset at Madridejos. All this we planned to do on our first day in Bantayan Island. Now, hopping on a bike is not the best way to explore the WHOLE island so we did the best thing – we hopped on a tricycle and went around the island.
Santa Fe Beach Club / Ogtong Cave (Santa Fe)
Tucked within the premises of the Santa Fe Beach Club is a cave with a natural spring pool – the Ogtong Cave. The small cave and the natural freshwater pool is one of the attractions in Bantayan and it sits right within the heart of the resort. The small cave and its cool waters was a refreshing break from the afternoon heat. It was nice to just relax and close your eyes as you enjoy its cool waters on your skin and the sound of water dripping as it echoes within the cave.
The entrance fee of Php100 also gives you access to the pool and the beachfront. We headed off to the beach where we enjoyed taking pictures against the sandbar backdrop.
Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Bantayan Town)
Seated at the center of the town of Bantayan is a church that is believed to be the oldest in the Visayas and Mindanao, It has seen history unfold in the area for the past 500 years. The Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul was built in 1863 and materials used for its construction were corals and stones found on the island.
The locals were able to preserve the church and its antiquity is evident from its external design. It does stand out from the town center’s landscape. The simplicity is evident even as you enter the church. The church’s interiors are simple with a simple altar with four images of the town’s patron saints.
One thing that stands out, though, is the church flooring with its intricate tile design.
Bantayan Town Proper (Bantayan)
Bantayan town is an old town. At the center of the town is the town plaza with its open space parks and activity centers. During our visit, the plaza was buzzing with activities with locals enjoying the afternoon sun while the others were playing basketball in the area.
You can also try walking around the plaza and its surrounding areas and you will find old houses in the area. Unfortunately, some of these structures were destroyed by Yolanda and the town is still in the process of recovery.
Kota Fort Ruins (Madridejos)
The Kota Fort Ruins in Madridejos was built in 1790 from corals, limestone, egg white, sand, and stone. It served as a refuge for locals against Moro pirates who abduct locals and later on sold to slavery. It also served as the local cemetery for a period. It was also the site of the gruesome killing of Japanese fighters during World War 2.
At present, the fort lie in ruins. It is open to the public through an entrance along the side of the beach. Too bad though that the local government has not done much to improve the current state of the Kota Fort.
Madridejos Beach Walkway and the Madridejos Sunset (Madridejos)
They say that Madridejos has the best view of the sunset in Bantayan Island. This was one of the reasons why we hurriedly set off to barangay. To give visitors a better view of the island, a walkway was built along the beach of Kota Point. The walkway starts along the beach and leads towards a view deck where you get to see a 360 degree view of Kota Point’s beachfront and sea.
Too bad though that we were not able to catch the sunset because clouds covered the horizon. But I was amazed at the play of colors on the sky during the sunset.
Waking up to a brand new day is best appreciated when you watch the sun rise from the horizon. This was one of my highlights during our Bantayan trip. I had no regrets waking up at 5.30am and rushing out to the beach just to catch the morning skies burst into a glow of orange and yellow colors. It was just simply magnificent and makes you appreciate life.
As we started our second day in Bantayan, we prepared for another exciting day of exploration. This time we were exploring via boat and bike rides.
Virgin Island and Martha’s Trail
For those searching for a quiet place, one can opt to check out Virgin Island. The island is just a 30-minute ride from Bantayan and it is also known for its white sand beachfront. The island is privately owned and an entrance fee is collected when you visit the island so it is best that you spend at least a couple of hours to get your money’s worth.
Virgin Island has a more sublime atmosphere and the drumbeats in the background is the only thing that gives that upbeat feel. The drumbeats, by the way, is a signal that guests are arriving onto the island. There are a couple of activities that you can do – fish feeding, read a book while on a hammock, have coffee by the beachfront, or just simply swim.
One can also try to check out Martha’s Trail where visitors are warned “to expect the unexpected”. The trail leads you along a ridge by the beach into a mangrove area. The thick foliage and the sounds of crickets give you the impression that you are in the middle of the forest. After a 3-minute walk into the “woods”, visitors are rewarded with a secluded white sand beach. It was a surreal experience to have the whole beach for ourselves.
So do not miss out on Martha’s Trail when you happen to find yourself in Virgin Island in Bantayan.
Biking It Up
They say that the best way to explore the town of Santa Fe was aboard a bike and having a couple of hours to spare that is what we actually did. It was good to be like little kids on a bike as we went around town.
Sugar Beach was one of my favorite spots in Santa Fee. The boats that lined the beach against the bikes lined up on the shore was like two armies gearing up for battle against each other. I felt like I was kid on a big playground. On the sides, we also had a group of kids playing around.
The scene was just bucolic and perfect. If I had more time, I would have had stayed around for a couple more hours just to sit still and enjoy the view.
We headed towards the direction of Ogtong Cave and if you bike about a kilometer more, you will find a spot where you can swim and cliff jump. Your marker is an unfinished house by the cliff. It is not hard to miss out as locals also enjoy jumping off the cliff.
It was worth trying but I had apprehensions because I felt that the depth of the waters below was not deep enough. Again, if you are planning to do cliff jumping, just make sure to put your safety first.
The unfinished house has a story on its own. It is funny that in the midst of all the houses in the area, the unfinished house stands out. It is also the only house along the cliff in that area. Locals say that the place was a sight of a gruesome crime and that the house was left for nature to take over. Whether the story is true or not, the house adds beauty and mystery to the place.
Post Bantayan Notes:
Bantayan Island is a must see destination for every traveler. The blogs that I have read and even this blog cannot fully describe the beauty and the experience that one can enjoy when you are in Bantayan. I had a couple of wishes when we were traveling back to Cebu. I wished that we spent the whole instaviaje in Bantayan. Although, we had more than our fill of adventures in the island, another day would have given me another experience worth sharing to others. Yes, I miss Bantayan and I sincerely wish to head back there soon.
Getting there: Going to Bantayan Island is really easy. You can take flights from Manila, or any major Philippine destination, to Cebu City. Once in Cebu, you can take a cab to North Bus Terminal and take a bus going directly to Bantayan or Hagnaya Port. You can take the RORO which brings you directly to Santa Fe town.
Accommodation: You can check out Budyong Resort. It is a great place to stay with its own peaceful beachfront. It is also close to the town center.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.