Tourism is one of the industries that was severely affected by the COVID19 pandemic. The strict travel restrictions and the added costs that go with travel has limited the movement among those who explore. This affected thousands of lives from airline and bus company employees down to local guides and small entrepreneurs in these communities.
However, there are still opportunities to explore destinations although it is very limited. It is usually confined in provinces and regions that share the same quarantine status with minimal travel requirements. For travelers like me, this is a welcome relief from months of staying at home. This week’s travel destination gave more than just that. It was a surprise that such a place exists in the province of Bulacan! This is Dona Remedios Trinidad!
Dona Remedios Trinidad is the largest and the youngest municipality in Bulacan. Established in 1977, it covers one-third of the province’s land area that was originally from the municipalities of Angat, Norzagaray, and San Miguel. DRT’s pristine natural attractions are the least travelled destinations in province, earning it the monicker “Bulacan’s Last Frontier”.
Dona Remedios Trinidad Welcome Arch
The first to greet you once you arrive at Dona Remedios Trinidad is its welcome arch. It is one of the brief stops that is usually included in organized tours. It is a popular stop so expect crowds flocking and having their pictures taken in the area.
From this vantage point, it already gives you an idea of the municipality’s rustic and rugged vibe. The arch is located along the main road that is carved along the hillside of the municipality and runs parallel to a river. The view deck gives you a sneak peek to the rugged and still to be explored beauty of Dona Remedios Trinidad.
Tila Pilon Hills, Brgy. Kalawakan
Dubbed as Bulacan’s version of the Chocolate Hills, Tila Pilon offers a 360-degree view of DRT’s rolling terrain. The municipality sits on the southern side of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges giving it a majestic and rugged terrain to explore and enjoy. If I remember it right, the name was derived from the Spanish word “pilon” that means basin or trough. The hillside looks like an inverted pilon hence the name “Tila Pilon” or like a trough.
One needs to take a 30-minute trek to the view deck of Tila Pilon to appreciate its beauty. The trek weaves through the farmlands of DRT giving you that relaxing provincial vibe. We did our hike early in the morning and we enjoyed the cool and crisp morning whiff of the farmlands. Be aware of your surroundings during the trek and you might be able to catch a glimpse of an eagle that frequents the place.
The last stretch of the hike is a steep ascent to the view deck of the hills. On its base, you get to see the trail heading up and the famous “Tila Pilon” sign. This is one of the perfect spots to have your picture taken as you climb up the hill.
Tila Pilon offers a panoramic view of DRT’s rugged terrains. From this vantage point, you get to see the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. The view will keep you in awe as you get to enjoy the greens, breathe the crisp morning breeze, and feel the warmth of the early morning sun. It was a perfect view to admire after months of quarantine. From here, you get to hike back along an easier trail where locals have installed “photo stops” that guests can enjoy.
I highly recommend that you do the hike in the early morning or late afternoon as the view deck does not have much vegetation for cover. I think it is a good place to catch the sunrise.
Candle Monument / Mount Lumot, Brgy. Camachin
The Candle Monument stands to honor those who gave their lives during the battle against the guerrillas in 1938. The monument was designed as an obelisk with a candle flame on its top as a symbol of freedom. It was installed on the summit of Mount Lumot, the highest peak in the province.
The summit of Mount Lumot offers a panoramic view of the flat plains of Bulacan and Pampanga. You can see the clear contrast of the rugged Sierra Madre mountain ranges and the flat terrains of Central Luzon from
this vantage point. If you are lucky to have a clear day, you will be treated with a good view of Metro Manila and Mount Arayat from Bulacan’s roof.
13 Waterfalls, Brgy. Camachin
A popular day trip destination in DRT, the 13 Falls in Camachin is a waterfalls system that runs through Sapang Adarna. The “waterfalls” is actually a series of cascades that you get to enjoy as you trek up to its headwaters. The trek can be quite a challenge as it will entail river crossing, clambering up slippery rocks and muddy trails, and, at one part, bouldering so you need to make sure that you wear the right footwear.
As much as you would want to see the 13 falls, let me align the reality that there is a high chance that most of these waterfalls will go unnoticed. Why? The cascades are small that you would not even think it is a waterfall. You would actually be surprised that you missed a few along the trail. Don’t worry because it won’t dampen the experience.
Waterfalls 7 to the 13th have more noticeable cascades, compared to the first 6, and its basins are deeper making it more ideal for swimming and cliff diving. Waterfalls 7 or Adarna Falls is a favorite because of its stronger and higher drop. You can enjoy a cold dip and a water massage from the base of Adarna Falls.
Waterfalls 10 became a personal favorite because this is where I found my jacuzzi spot. I really enjoyed my “spa moment” where I laid down on a small puddle of cold water while spring water washed over me giving me a gentle massage. Waterfalls 11 and 12 was a beauty to watch. The twin cascade was majestic when viewed from the base of 11th waterfall.
Finally, Waterfall 13 boasts of a wider and deeper basin where you can enjoy a cool dip or get that adrenaline rush by jumping off its cliff. This is where most of the trekkers congregate before heading back down to the jump-off point.
Avalon Eco-farm and Resort, Brgy. Camachin
Instead of heading back down the 13 Falls trail, our group went on to visit the Avalon Eco-farm and Resort. This farm resort sits atop one of the hills in Camachin and offers a peaceful sanctuary that is close to nature. It is a campsite with basic facilities. It does not have a pool so if you are up for a swim... the 13th waterfall is just a 5-minute hike away.
But what makes this resort popular is Mang Larry’s Binalakawan. This delectable chicken broth dish is a local dish in DRT that is similar to Sinampalukang Manok. It uses the leaves of a local plant to give a sour taste for its rich broth. I really enjoyed the unique flavor of the Binalakawan and that alone made the side trip worth taking.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Mention Bulacan and the first thing that would come into mind is its historical significance and sites. It never crossed my mind that a rugged side of the province exists. Dona Remedios Trinidad gives Bulacan a different face - one that will excite a lot of local and international travelers. What makes it more exciting is that it is only a few hours from the metro. DRT is rugged, untouched, and ready to be explored and discovered.
We still have a lot of destinations to discover in the Philippines. It is amazing to explore an off-beat spot and see it get traction among travelers. Dona Remedios Trinidad is a testament that we do not need to travel very far to appreciate the rustic beauty of our country. All we need is to have an appreciative eye and a keen sense of adventure. Kaya #PinasMuna tayo! Nakabyahe ka na, nakatulong ka pa!
Getting there: Dona Remedios Trinidad is a huge area and one day is not enough to cover all of its major tourist attractions. There are a number of FB travel groups that organizes daytrip and overnight trips to DRT. I recommend World Landing Travel and Buhay Kalye Gala who organized the trips that I joined in to explore Dona Remedios Trinidad.
The past months has been a challenge for all of us. We have been confined inside our homes because of the COVID19 pandemic. The government action abruptly stopped the usual runs that we have been doing for years and this has probably caused stress, physically and mentally, to most of us. My usual routine of work and travel, pre-pandemic times, halted in a snap. I was lucky that I was even able squeeze in a major trip before the community quarantines that was also cut short because of COVID19.
Even with the gradual opening of the country’s economy, going around and exploring local spots are a challenge with additional travel requirements. This has been daunting for weekend wanderers, like me. I had to check out destinations that is accessible and with minimal travel requirements. That is when it hit me to check out a serene spot in Antipolo that offers a relaxing vibe - the Luljhetta Hanging Gardens.
The Luljhetta Hanging Gardens is a perfect spot for a quick and relaxing escape from the city. Located along the slopes of Antipolo facing Metro Manila, it is a serene garden with swimming pools and lounging areas that was designed to give its guests a relaxing experience. It is the “it” spot in Antipolo, pre-pandemic times, that getting a day-trip access was a challenge. So when I tried my luck to book for a day trip access and got through, it was a chance that I was not to miss out.
The hanging gardens is located inside the Loreland Farm Resort, a popular resort and event place in Antipolo. It has its own themed swimming pools, team building facilities, and religious trails that can be explored and enjoyed by its guests. The resort have instagrammable spots that you can enjoy while waiting for your turn to be logged in with Luljetta’s. For those intending to enjoy a full weekend break, the farm resort has overnight facilities with access to its pools.
Once checked in for a day visit at Luljhetta’s Hanging Gardens, you will be provided towels and robes and ushered inside the premises of the garden. Lockers are provided and proper swimwear is needed if you are taking a dip in their pools. It is also important to know that all scheduled access to the garden and facilities are limited to only 5 hours.
The garden was designed in terraces style carved out of the mountain side so expect to walk up and down stairs as you explore the place. The lush greens give it that relaxing garden feel and there are swings and open cottages that you can use where you can sit down, relax, and breathe in the moment. There are bamboo cottages that they use for their spa services and its design complete the rustic ambiance. The garden is sprawling, with a lot of photogenic spots, so manage your time allotment wisely.
They have two pools that guests can access. The spa pool on the second level have hydro massage beds where you can get a quick massage and a wading/jacuzzi pool where you can relax and enjoy the relaxing garden ambiance. An infinity pool is located on the third level of Luljhetta where you can enjoy a quick cold dip while enjoying the mountain side views of Antipolo. The also have a small jacuzzi on the third level where you can enjoy a gentle massage surrounded by gentle rustling of the leaves.
The garden also has lounging areas where you can enjoy a movie or a game of billiards. You can also choose to enjoy reading a book or play sungka at their living room area or enjoy a relaxing fish foot spa at Dr. Fish. You can also opt to complete the spa experience by including a massage in your day trip package. The Luljhetta’s Hanging Gardens experience is capped off by a fried Antipolo Suman snack with lemongrass tea.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
A few hours in the serene and relaxing vibe of Luljhetta’s Hanging Gardens was enough break from the usual COVID19 humdrum. Being locked in the city for the months now, the experience was a welcome respite especially with a limited option for metro residents. Like what I have shared previously, this is a great time to explore what is in and around the city and Luljhetta’s Hanging Gardens is a great place where you can relax, unwind, and de-stress from what is happening, that is easily accessible to Metro Manila.
Traveling is not just about taking a plane or a bus ride to popular tourist hubs. This COVID19 pandemic is an eye opener in a lot of ways, even with how we see local travels. There are a lot of cool and hip destinations in and around Metro Manila. All we need is a keen eye to discover and re-discover the usual spots in our “backyards” and look at it from a different angle. Let’s re-discover #PinasMuna to get a different appreciation of the usual destinations.
Getting there: You can take a van from Robinson Galleria for Antipolo. From Antipolo, you can take a trike and tell the driver to bring you to Loreland Farm Resort.
I am always on a look out for a new spot to discover and explore. Whether it be a new beach destination or a new art space in the city, you will always find me planning my next travel adventure. Social media has always been a good source of off-beat destinations and the latest trending spot in and around the metro.
The town of Binangonan is making headlines with the opening of another hip art space near the metro. Located along its hillside of Rizal, Art Space is another project realized by the man behind the success of the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. The gallery/cafe is a trending destination among travelers and social media users because of it panoramic view of the metro and its instagrammable spots.
Art Space is conveniently tucked on a side of hill that offers an amazing view of Laguna de Bay and the southern part of Metro Manila. The second floor of the cafe offers a commanding view of the western side while the roof deck gives guest a 360-degree view of Manila, Laguna, and Rizal. The views make a perfect backdrop for your pictures.
The art gallery/cafe offers a perfect and unadulterated view of the Manila sunset. You get to see shift in hues as the sun goes down the horizon until it hides itself behind the silhouette of Mount Makiling. It was amazing to watch one of God’s nature shows where you see the sun turn into a ball of red-orange and the skies burst into colors of orange, pink, and blue.
The different facets of the setting sun.
Word of advice, be there early so you get to reserve the best seat in the house. Art Sector gets a lot of visitors so it pays to be early. Be prepared to enjoy the afternoon sun though and it gets a bit hot on its view decks.
Art Sector is a place where creativity flows. From its structure to its interior design, it lives and breathes the arts. The building was designed and constructed to work around the natural rock formations in the area so don’t be surprised to find a solid rock formation incorporated in its building designs.
The art space also has its own collection of art works from local artists. Artworks that adorn its walls, including its nooks and crannies, are worth appreciating. Take your time to take in the creativity of the artists, then channel that creativity into your own.
As I have previously shared, the difference between Pinto Museum and Art Sector is that the former is more of an art gallery and the latter is more of a cafe. The interiors of the art space have more space designated for guests to enjoy a meal or two. It is a perfect place for an intimate office or social gathering.
They have a good selection of pizza and pasta to choose from. Again be warned though that food service may take a little longer because the queue is a challenge for its staff. You can kill time by exploring the place and letting your creativity flow with your pictures. Trust me, by the time your meals are served and you’ve finished, it will be time to enjoy the metro’s amazing sunset.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
With more than 7000 islands in the Philippines, there is always something new to explore and discover. It can be an off-beat destination or it can be a new “hot spot” in or around the metro. Art Space is one destination that gave a unique flare by giving us art from the creativity of man and nature in one venue. It is one art space where you get a good mix of food, artistry, and nature. A definite must-place to visit for art lovers and sunset chasers.
The past weeks have been stressful for most of us and we all have our own way of finding our inner balance. In my case, travel had been my escape, be it a day trip or a weekender. I take the time to explore the beauty of the Philippines and I strongly encourage you to do same. #PinasMuna tayo and help our country get back on its feet.
Getting there: You can take a van from Robinson Galleria for Angono or Binangonan. Ask the driver to drop you off at Scrapyard Café. You can take a habal-habal at the 711 store across Scrapyard Café to Art Sector.
I always looked forward to this time of the year during my growing up years in Baguio because of two things - the Halloween Special of “Magandang Gabi Bayan” and trick-or-treating around PMA. These two activities made the celebration spooky and fun. We shared stories that scared us sh*t, collected goodies while in costume, and even held Halloween parties. These festivities formed part of my childhood memories.
As I grew older and started traveling around the Philippines, my fascination for Philippine history also had me researching on historical cemeteries. Spanish-period cemeteries, with their own brand of beauty, was interesting to explore. My travel itineraries included dark tourism spots as these destinations have their own narratives to share that is both historically and culturally relevant.
As we celebrate this spooky season differently this year, let me share with you seven Philippine cemeteries that made a mark during my travels around the Philippines. These spots had their own history, sometimes creepy experiences, to share and enjoy with you.
San Joaquin Spanish Cemetery, San Joaquin, Iloilo
The San Joaquin Spanish Cemetery jumpstarted my interest in dark tourism. While researching for interesting destinations near Miag-ao, I stumbled upon a blog that featured the Spanish-period cemetery. The elegant beauty of its simborio and the thought of it being intact for centuries caught my attention that I had to visit the place.
The San Joaquin Spanish Cemetery was built in 1892 and is one of the well-preserved Spanish-period cemeteries in the country. Its octagonal camposanto, with its classical, is its centerpiece. The staircase leading to the camposanto was constructed by the female residents of San Joaquin as an obligation to the Spanish monarchs.
Here is a creepy and funny anecdote during my first visit. As I was exploring the camposanto, I got creeped out by an eerie sound that came behind it. It gave me goosebumps that I prepared to leave. I was surprised when a caretaker came out from the side. Apparently, he also heard my movements that creeped him out, as well. We both got scared sh*t by the movements that we were both making.
Read about my Iloilo trip here: Of Souls and Saints
Hanging Coffins of Sagada, Mountain Province
The Hanging Coffins of Sagada is one of its tourism draws that seeing it up close is not creepy. These coffins resting on the walls of limestone formations speak of the rich century-old culture of the country’s northern highlands. It gives its guests a glimpse of their valued traditions that goes beyond just being an attraction.
The small coffins hanging on limestone walls are believed to be the vessels of the departed to the afterlife. The coffins are relatively small in size because the remains are mounted in a fetal position. The hanging caskets that we often see in pictures are the ones that are easily accessible via a short hike down echo valley. Our local guide shares with us that there are other hanging coffins on the other limestone formations of the town.
There are other burial sites in Sagada. The Lumiang Burial Cave is another local sacred spot where you get to see wooden coffins stacked on top of each other. Some were even desecrated by irresponsible tourists. The local cemetery of Sagada is also an attraction every November 1st as the hillside lights up in flames as bonfires are lit up instead on candles to remember their departed love ones.
Read about my Sagada trip here: #GOT81MountainProvince: Sagada In Its True Form
The American Cemetery, Taguig City
The American Cemetery is a sprawling memorial to World War 2 heroes. The 62-hectare cemetery is the final resting place of 17, 206 Filipino and American freedom fighters and is the largest memorial, in terms of numbers, for US personnels killed during WW2. It is maintained by the American Battle Monument Commission.
At the center of the cemetery is a memorial where one can get a brief on the actions taken to liberate the Philippines through its mosaic maps. The names of those who are buried in the cemetery are also engraved on the marble walls of the memorial. A small chapel is at the center where one can offer a short prayer for those interred here.
The cemetery was designed where the marble headstones are arranged in a circle. Trees and shrubs are part of the design giving it a tranquil vibe. It is a good place to head off to to get your mind cleared because it doesn’t feel like you are in a cemetery, at all.
Read about our Taguig exploration here: Explore Manila! (Taguig)
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila
Most of the old churches in the Philippines also served as the final resting place of the community’s prominent personalities and San Agustin Church is one of them. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest stone church in the Philippines and was the only one, among the 7 churches in Intramuros, that survived the liberation of Manila.
The San Agustin Church has a columbarium in one of its chambers. One may think that these are the final resting place of the Augustinian priests but it is not. Prominent people are interred here that includes the remains of Juan Luna and Juan de Salcedo.
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Nagcarlan, Laguna
Another interesting cemetery to visit is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. Built in 1845, the cemetery is a historical landmark for its historical and cultural significance. It is also the only known Spanish-period underground cemetery in the Philippines.
A small kapilya is the main centerpiece of the cemetery. This is where the final rights are given by the priests before the remains are laid to rest. It has a small altar with the image of the dead Christ as its main figure. From here, a flight of stairs will lead you to the “basement” of the kapilya.
Being in the middle of the underground cemetery felt odd. The tombstones and the enclosed space was a bit uncomfortable. The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery also served as a secret meeting place of revolutionaries. Local narratives also claim that one of the burial vault is a secret tunnel that leads to the Nagcarlan Church.
Read about our Nagcarlan adventure here: Going Underground in Nagcarlan
Janiu-ay Cemetery, Janiu-ay, Iloilo
Janiu-ay is an old Iloilo town established in 1769. It is home to 2 Spanish-period heritage structures and one of which is its Spanish-period cemetery dubbed as the country’s “most artistic cemetery”.
The Janiu-ay Cemetery is a public cemetery that boasts of 3 grand staircases that lead up to its arched entrances. It took 9 years for the locals to complete its construction. The main staircase has 23 steps while the other 2 have 22 and 21 steps that lead up to its entrance.
At the heart of the Janiu-ay Cemetery is the octagonal camposanto where the last rites for the dead are given. Its small altar is highlighted by the image of Mother Mary and Jesus.
Read about our Iloilo trip here: #JournalsOfTheTravelingDaDa: Beyond the City of Iloilo
Hamtic Cemetery, Hamtic, Antique
From Iloilo, we hop on a bus to head off to the oldest town of Antique to visit the Hamtic Cemetery Church. The cemetery sits along the highway, in the middle of rice fields, so getting there can be quite tricky. My visit there gave me curious stares from locals because who would be interested to visit their local cemetery.
The Hamtic Cemetery Church was designed in baroque-style similar to the San Joaquin Church and Miag-ao Church, minus the intricate-sculptured facade. Tombstones adorn the lower part of the walls of the church. Its interior is plain with an image of the crucified Christ as its centerpiece.
Here’s another personal travel anecdote on Hamtic Church Cemetery. I have read paranormal stories associated to the cemetery during the trip and one of that stories included relatives putting garlic and salt around the tomb of newly buried family members. This was a practice to keep “aswangs” away from the fresh corpse. The story got into me that I slept the same night with powdered tawas beside me. I woke up feeling stupid and funny the next day.
Read about my Antique travel here: #GOT81Antique: Beyond Antique's Kawa and Rolling Hills
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Philippine history and culture transcend life and death. Our narratives include our beliefs about the afterlife. Our ancestors had practices that helped the dead crossover while the beauty and elegance of cemeteries outlines the celebration of life by our colonizers even after death. These dark tourism destinations have its own narrative to share that speak of our colorful history, culture, and traditions.
As we celebrate All Saint’s Day differently this year, I hope we all take the time to celebrate the happy memories of our departed loved ones. I hope that we also celebrate life and learn to live it to the fullest. Let us share creepy stories inside the comforts of our homes and make plans to explore dark tourism destinations in the Philippines to get that unique hair-raising experience.
A casual conversation about “pako” salad and Lucban longganisa led to my first gala after 6-months of community quarantine. A friend of mine reacted to an FB post where I shared a picture of my fave salad. Both of us have been jeering on heading off to Tagaytay that we both saw the cravings as an opportunity to explore a town that was familiar to both of us - Liliw, Laguna.
Located along the foot of Mount Banahaw, the municipal town of Liliw was founded in 1571 by Gat Tayaw. It is an old Spanish town that has become popular for its cold streams and its “tsinelas”. It is a mute witness to the country’s colorful history to become a charming destination that will give you that unique old provincial town feel.
Simbahan ng Liliw
Founded in 1605, the St. John the Baptist Parish Church stands at the heart of the town of Liliw. The first stone church was completed in 1646 and majestically stood for centuries until it was damaged during the 1880 Luzon Earthquake. The church was re-constructed in 1885 and was partially burned in 1898.
The “Simbahan ng Liliw” beauty stands out for its baroque-style adorned by its brick and adobe facade. Its red bricks and the image of its patron saint are the prominent features of its facade. Its belfry stands adjacent to the church dominating the town’s skyline.
Unfortunately, I was not able to check out the interior of the church as it was closed to the public because of the health crisis. But we were able to check out the adjacent chapel, the Capilla de San Buenaventura. The chapel houses the revered image of San Buenaventura and his relic.
The church exudes calmness as soon as you step in its courtyard. It is recognized as a national treasure having been a mute witness to the country’s colorful past. Its serene atmosphere gives you a taste of Liliw’s rustic feel.
Liliw Municipal Hall and Town Plaza
The Municipal Hall of Liliw stands along the Gat Tayaw Street. The two-story government center follows the Spanish-period architectural style of a Presidencia, similar to a “bahay-na-bato”. On its facade, one will find the year 1571 that indicates the founding year of Liliw. Once inside, its main hallway showcases art works and old photographs that relive the town’s rich history and culture.
The Town Plaza sits adjacent to the municipal hall. Its centerpiece is a monument honoring Gat Tayaw, the man who established the town in 1571. Local stories claim that the town got its name when Gat Tayaw erected a bamboo pole where a bird alighted and sang “liw, liw, liw”. That was how the town got its name.
The main road was named after Gat Tayaw to honor his contributions. The street is a mute witness to the development of the town since it was founded and its grand and colorful past.
Liliw’s Footwear Industry
Liliw’s claim to tourism fame is its “tsinelas” industry. Most of these footwear shops are also lined along Gat Tayaw street. These shops offer different designs and colors of footwear that are reasonably priced and fits your budget. As most of these slippers are handmade, it is more durable.
The industry was pioneered by Casiano Pisuena in 1931. His first slippers were made from coconut and rubber interiors. His interest in the industry was caught on by other entrepreneurs that Liliw’s footwear industry rivaled that of Marikina’s before World War 2 broke out.
The industry has grown from its humble beginnings and Gat Tayaw Street has been the center of its commerce. This is where you will also find Badong’s footwear - the oldest surviving shoe store in Liliw.
The architecture of the houses are similar to that of “bahay-na-bato” but with a Liliw touch. Experts say that its has its own style and design that the local government is working on preserving its own signature architecture. The LGU is also working on being accredited as a heritage town in Laguna.
Kilangin Falls / Bukal Falls
Kilangin Falls, more popularly known as Bukal Falls, is a waterfall attraction located along the foot hills of Mount Banahaw that is within the territorial jurisdiction of Liliw. There are two trails to the falls - the trail via Liliw is more difficult to traverse compared to that of Majayjay’s.
The waterfall is popular for its cool and clear blue waters that is often compared to Hinatuan’s Enchanted River. The foliage surrounding it complete the enchanting atmosphere of the place. My fitness team had the chance to enjoy its beauty but we were not spared with the physical challenge that goes with the opportunity to experience its beauty. But it was all worth it.
Kilangin Falls or Bukal Falls is a great daytrip destination for a quick break. If you intend to include this in your itinerary, I recommend that you start of with a visit at this natural attraction before wandering around the town of Liliw.
You can read about our Bukal Falls Adventure here: A Travel #Fitspiration: Challenging Bukal Falls
Food is always part of all my travels and I didn’t miss out on this part in Liliw. Arabela’s is is one foodstop worth checking out in town. Located at the town’s business district, it is a restaurant that offers a good ambiance and great food.
Arabela’s menu includes pasta, pizza, salad, and steak. They also have a selection of cheesecakes and pastries for your sweet tooth. It is a great way to end a day of exploring Liliw. You will leave town with a full heart and tummy.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Liliw was a perfect way to break the monotony of my urban quarantine. Its serene and laidback atmosphere was a welcome breather after months of being stuck in the city. However, the town was not as vibrant as my previous trips as most of the businesses were closed and there was a significant drop of tourists visiting the place. You could really feel the impact of the health crisis to Liliw’s cottage industry.
As our tourism industry slowly opens, I strongly encourage you to explore local destinations. #PinasMuna tayo! The business generated from efforts to visit local destinations cascade to the revival of the town’s cottage industries. The renewed interest will help locals recover from the economic effects of the COVID19 health crisis. Let’s start locally and help our dear Philippines recover.
Getting there: One can take a bus to Lucena from Metro Manila and then go down at San Pablo City. You can then take a tricycle from the bus station to the San Pablo Church where you can take a jeep to Liliw.
The “Manila Bay Sands” have been a hot topic since efforts to beautify the area with crushed dolomite first hit the news. The sneak peek over the weekend brought in hordes of people who wanted to be the first to experience the new look of the area. I guess it is safe to say that it did not disappoint and more people, including me, are quite curious of how it will look after the rehabilitation project is completed.
In the spirit of the coastal clean-up celebration and while everyone is drooling and flaunting their white sand experiences, let me share with you seven white sand beach spots that captured my heart. These destinations are a work-in-progress selection as there are still others that I still have to explore. But these beach spots have made me look back and miss the sun, sand, and sea of summer.
Punta Sebaring, Balabac, Palawan
Hands down to Punta Sebaring as my top white sand beach spot here in the Philippines! Located on the southernmost municipality of Palawan, it boasts of one of the finest sands, if not the finest, in the country. It is so fine that your feet sink into its wet sand.
The sandbar that stretches out into the blue waters of Palawan is a perfect backdrop for pictures. It is rustic and largely remains untouched which makes it a perfect destination to chill out and relax. We got to enjoy the whole sandbar all for ourselves where we got our fill of the summer sun, sand, and sea. Punta Sebaring re-defines what a beach paradise is.
Balabac, through the years, have been getting traction on the tourism front and we have seen some developments in the area. This is a good opportunity for its locals to work on a sustainable program to keep its natural beauty despite the attention that it is getting now. I will always cherish the memories where I saw Balabac in its raw form and I hope more Filipinos will get to enjoy its pristine beauty.
You can read on my Balabac adventures here: A Balabac Summer Buffet (Part 2)
White Beach, Boracay
Boracay is the ultimate beach party island. It has blossomed from an off-beat destination during the 80’s to being one of the top beach destinations in the world. I was lucky enough to have seen Boracay during its early years when boats from the mainland dock on the beachfront.
At the center of all the island buzz is White Beach. The 4-kilometer white sand beach spot is popular for its powdery white sand. This is where most of the hotels, food establishments, and activities happen. The stretch is also where you get the best view of the sunset on the island. You can choose to watch it while enjoying a nice cold drink by the beach or aboard a paraw where you get a 360-degree panoramic view of the sunset and the island.
Boracay went into a 6-month rehabilitation under the Duterte Administration. Some of my friends who have been there have shared that the island is a lot better and more subdued after the rehabilitation. It has successfully regained its title even after months of closure. This is an amazing feat to make Boracay a more sustainable destination to enjoy.
Read up on my Boracay adventures here: Random Travel: Boracay in a Day
Mahabang Buhangin, Calaguas
During the time of our visit, Mahabang Buhangin in Calaguas was said to be how Boracay looked in the 80’s. It was rustic, pristine, and off-beat. We braved the long drive to Camarines Norte and the choppy waters of Vinzons just to catch the view and experience what it has to offer. It didn’t fail to impress us.
Mahabang Buhangin is Calaguas’ prime attraction. The stretch of white sand shoreline and its turquoise waters is a perfect beach combination. We were lucky that we were able to pitch our tent at the beachfront as the island was pretty crowded during the visit. One can choose to either chill out by the beach or go for a hike atop a nearby hill that offers a 360-degree view of the island. The hill is also a good vantage point to watch both the sunset and the sunrise.
Interestingly, Calaguas quickly rose to fame as a popular weekend destination, especially among the metro residents. Its natural beauty and chill beach vibe quickly captured the hearts of many. Calaguas is great weekend getaway where you can simply relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and the sea.
Want to visit Calaguas? Check this out for tips: Feeling the Vibe of Calaguas
Bantayan Island, Cebu
This rustic and laidback island, on the northern side of Cebu, is one of my favorite Cebu beach spots. You will get to create good memories from its rustic ambiance and the natural beauty of the place. Bantayan is definitely a must-visit destination in the province.
The beach spots in Bantayan Island are simply perfect. From its white sand shores to rocky beach spots, it gives you a total beach experience that matches the island’s rustic charm. You have a lot of white sand beach spots to explore and uncover on this island. The best way to discover these beach spots is by hopping on a bike and leisurely bike around town.
Bantayan Island is a total tourism package where you get a touch of history and natural beauty surrounded by the old-town feel. It does not rush you with your itinerary. It gives you that sense to simply stop and enjoy the moment. It wants its tourists and guests to stay a little longer and breathe in its unique vibe.
You can read about my Bantayan travelogue here: Unguarded Moments in Bantayan Island
Cresta de Gallo, Romblon
Cresta de Gallo is an island that offers a rare privilege of watching the sunset and sunrise on the same spot. This kidney-shaped island in Sibuyan Sea remains untouched by commercialization and offers its guest a rugged survivor-style kind of experience. On this island, you get marooned on it in style.
It is very easy to fall in love with Cresta de Gallo. There is nothing much to do but explore its pristine beauty. Our group had the privilege of having the whole island for ourselves so we really took the time to walk its sandy shores and explore while waiting for the sunset. I enjoyed having to watch the sunset while listening to the gentle sound of the waves lapping up on its white sand shoreline. It was a very calming experience.
Romblon is a tourism gem that is waiting for its turn in the limelight. With Cresta de Gallo at its helm, I would not be surprised if a heightened interest to the province will drive development in its tourism front. Cresta de Gallo cannot hide under the shadows very long because its beauty is for the whole world to see.
Cresta de Gallo was an adventure. Read more about it here: #LaBoRomblon
Long Beach, San Vicente, Palawan
The long white sand shore of San Vicente is the main tourism icon of this municipality. The 14.7-kilometer stretch of powdery white sand is the longest in the country. And with the growing interest in its natural beauty, we are now seeing the development of tourism facilities in the area. I wouldn’t be surprised that, in a few years, we will be seeing a more commercialized Long Beach in Palawan.
Long Beach is a beauty to admire. The white sand stretch faces the western side of Palawan giving guests a perfect view of the sunset. Walking along its shoreline as the sun goes down is a perfect way to a day after exploring San Vicente and Port Barton. It has managed to maintain its rustic vibe despite the attention that it has been getting. Oh... and its long stretch of powdery white sand is also a nesting ground of sea turtles.
Like many destinations in the country, San Vicente is now creating its own buzz. The opening of its airport to commercial flights have opened new opportunities for its locals. It is great to see that its Local Government is following a sustainable development plan for San Vicente. We just hope that it will be followed to the tee.
Read about my San Vicente adventure here: SanVic sa Pagbabago (Unang Bugso)
Gumasa Beach, Glan, Saranggani
Gumasa Beach in Saranggani is often referred to as the “Boracay of the South”. With its powdery white sand and turquoise blue waters, it is not surprising to see the similarities with that of the party island in Aklan. But Gumasa Beach has its own brand of beach vibe as it hosts the annual Sarbay Festival.
The 6-kilometer white sand stretch of Gumasa Beach is just one of the many beach spots in Glan. It is popular among locals and guests for its charm and beauty. Most part of the beach front are already privately-owned that access to its shoreline may either require you to pay a little amount or the use of one’s charm. I guess the latter was our advantage so we got to see and explore the cove’s beauty. This beach spot is a charmer and photogenic that it can quickly capture your heart. It is a perfect summer beach spot in Mindanao.
Gumasa Beach is one beach destination that I would like to return to in the future. I would like to get a full experience of having to spend a day by its shores and watch the day go by. It is a beauty that is worth a second look.
Read about my Saranggani trip here: #Mindanao1: What's the G in Saranggani
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The Philippines is blessed with a long coastline with different characters. From the boulder shorelines of Batanes to the pink sands of Zamboanga, we have a wide selection to choose from depending on what appeals to our senses. I guess it is safe to say that most of us love the feel and vibe of white sand beaches because of how it contrasts with the darker shade of sea waters. This makes the spot look more appealing.
The restoration of Manila Bay with white sand is something that can create tourism opportunities for the city of Manila. I am excited to see how the restoration will look once completed. Although it is true that nothing beats the real thing, it is nice that more Filipinos can experience the feel and the vibe of a white sand shoreline against the beauty of the Manila sunset especially for those who cannot afford to experience the “real thing”.
If you are one of those people who can afford to, no one’s stopping you to check out the 7 white sand beach spots that I just shared with you.
The Philippines is a country that has a rich and colorful mix of culture and traditions. From the Ivatan up north down to the Muslims in the south, we are treated to a variety of interesting beliefs and practices that give us the different facets of being a Filipino. We get to see our common practices and understand the uniqueness of the place and its people.
Every corner of the Philippines showcases its rich culture, tradition, and heritage.
Sa virtual byahe natin this week, let me share with you 7 Philippine destinations that I have visited and experienced their unique culture. These places stand out, not only for the beauty of the place, but for the amazing community vibe and tradition that complete the travel experience. These are destinations where the community and their interaction leave a lasting impression to their visitors.
Humility is one community trait that will leave a huge impression on you when you leave Batanes. The simple living and the sense of community of the Ivatan people complements the sheer natural beauty of the place. The province is a complete package for its natural beauty and the strong cultural connection among its locals.
Batanes is the northernmost province of the country and is always in the Philippine bucket list of both local and foreign travelers. It’s beautiful rolling hills, lighthouses, and rugged coastlines are like scenes from movies. The rustic views of the province complement the laidback vibe of the community. Time stops here in Batanes. Guests find themselves experiencing how mutual respect and understanding make a better community. The value of honesty is valued here that this is where you will find the famous Honesty Store that has already become an attraction in itself. Imagine that we have become totally amazed with the value of honestly that it has become an attraction!
The meek Ivatan culture is very much alive in the province. It was like I was transported back in time with their stone houses and the simple lives of the locals. Batanes was able to keep its culture and traditions safe from outside influence that it remains alive and vibrant in the communities.
Read about my Batanes travel here: #GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 1)
#GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 2)
#GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 3)
#GOT81Batanes Pahabol: Pitong Must Do sa Basco
Just right across Batanes via the Luzon Strait is another island that has captured my heart because of its close-knit community - Babuyan Claro. A trip to the island is not for the faint hearted as it entails a grueling 8-hour boat ride through rough waters from Sta. Ana in Cagayan. The island has managed to keep its distance from outside influences but has retained the strong community spirit among its locals.
Babuyan Claro is not as spectacular as its neighboring islands in terms of its attractions. Its main attraction is the Smith Volcano that towers over the whole island. The bolcano also serves as the boatman’s guide when traveling to the island. It does not have the usual sandy beaches that most travelers enjoy. It is rugged, untouched, and works on its own charm.
One thing that stood out for me during our trip to Babuyan Claro was their humility, sense of community, and their warm hospitality. We were treated like a family from the time that we arrived until we left the island. They had an amazing practice that the whole village walks with their guests to the beachfront to bade them a safe journey back to the mainland. If I were to be marooned on an island, I’d prefer to be marooned with the locals of Babuyan Claro.
Read about my Babuyan Claro travel experience here: #JournalsOfTheTravelingDaDa: Roughing Out Loud, Babuyan
Long before the hit movie made Sagada a popular destination among mainstream travelers, this mountain destination has been making its rounds among off-beat travelers. It was a place where you can find solace and comfort in the arms of nature and its community. It was THE place to go to for those who want to do some soul searching.
It is very easy to fall in love with Sagada. The breathtaking views of nature, the rich culture and traditions that one gets immersed in, and the local community vibe make Sagada a worthy travel spot. It does not conform with its guests but it is the other way around. Each attraction has a story to tell and demands utter respect, from its visitors, to these stories and traditions. One needs to be respectful of their way of life to get the full Sagada experience.
One thing that I love with Sagada is that it did not bend its knees to its renewed popularity. The locals maintained their daily churn without having to adjust too much to the influx of tourists. It was able to preserve its old charm
that Sagada was known for - a small town where you can enjoy a day or two of finding your inner peace.
Read about my Sagada travel experience here: #GOT81MountainProvince: Sagada In Its True Form
The old houses of Taal speak of its colorful history and rich traditions. It is a town where you walk through its streets and be transported back to the time when the rich and the landed Batanguenos lived in their beautiful “bahay-na-bato”. The whole town is a beauty as the past is perfectly merged with its present.
Exploring the town of Taal is like being transported back in time. It gives you a glimpse of the lavish lifestyle of the rich and their interesting, sometimes peculiar, daily routine. The Spanish influence is very much alive with how these houses were designed inside and out. Yes, you can explore the interior of some of these old houses, even spend a night, that they have kept pretty much close to its original design. Interestingly, some of these houses were the homes of prominent Filipino revolutionaries who raged war against Spain.
Unlike Vigan, Taal’s heritage houses are not confined in one area. Almost every corner of the town has a house that has a history to share. You walk around and you get that old town vibe. The town has successfully managed to bring together the old and the new while retaining the glory of its colorful past.
Read about my Taal town travel experience here: Walking The Streets of Taal (The 11th of My 15 in 2015)
You might be wondering why a city like Cebu is included on this list. Well, I have said it before that I love this city for having that unique mix of urban and rural vibe. It has never changed through the years despite the development that the city has gone through. Cebu City has managed to keep its rich history and tradition in small pockets within its urban maze.
If there was one thing that makes this city stand out, it is their unwavering faith to the Santo Nino. It goes beyond their annual January celebration of the Sinulog. I have always looked forward to visiting the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu just to feel the tremendous faith of the Cebuanos. The way they profess their faith is simply admirable.
While in Cebu, take the time to explore the city’s historical sites to understand how faith and Christianity molded the city to what it is now. Breathe in the mix of city and rural vibe. It is very different and charming that it would make you fall in love with Cebu. It is the only city in the country that has this unique feel. It is hard to explain because Cebu City makes you feel it.
Read about my Cebu City travel experience here: Explore Cebu City (The 2nd Part of Our Cebu Instaviaje)
Mystic and enchanting are two words that I would use to describe the island province of Siquijor. It is an unassuming destination that blends its natural beauty and “interesting” anecdotes. For those who are not familiar, this island is known for its mysterious stories and practices often associated with witchcraft and black magic.
Siquijor is a charmer and there’s no magic involved in the process. Its natural beauty and historical sites will make you fall in love with the island. You get treated to a relaxing fish spa under a century-old Balete tree and you get a natural high by jumping off a swing into the base of one of the cascades of Cambugahay Falls. You get to be amazed by its century-old churches and a bit creeped out by the image of Mother Mary holding a skull. And then, there is the story about the island’s “mambabarang”, people who practice black magic. They are believed to be non-traditional healers and they can mix up a potion that can have one fall madly in love with you. They say that you usually find them living in the mountains.
Siquijor is the other side of Cebu. This is where you can have a close encounter with a person whose faith go beyond the usual religious practices. Most of us would find it weird but it is another facet to our being Filipino as these practices go beyond the Spanish-period. You visit Siquijor with an open-mind because that is the only way that you will get to enjoy the ride.
Read about my Siquijor travel experience here: De-mystifying Siquijor
Lake S’bu, South Cotabato
The serene atmosphere of Lake S’bu make it an ideal destination where you could disconnect from one’s busy city life to reconnect with nature and oneself. The laidback vibe gives you that sense of time stopping to allow you to breathe in and enjoy the moment. It allows you see the beauty in the small things - from the blooming of its pink lotus to feeling the cold waters of their amazing waterfalls running over your feet.
But beyond the beauty of nature is their amazing and colorful culture and tradition. In the T’boli’s ancestral domain, everything revolves around the strong connection between man and nature. Everything done is seen with respect to maintaining the harmony among locals and the world that they live in. There is a story behind everything that they do and the things they create.
The T’boli dream weavers are fascinating to watch as they create their masterpieces. These indigenous art forms are not just clothes but are fabrics that tell their story. Each design is “given” to the visionary through a dream. Materials are delicately prepared that could take weeks or months of preparation before the weavers could start working on translating the dream into these unique fabrics. Again, these dreams speak of the strong connection of man and nature that Lake S’bu allows you to indulge in.
Read about my Lake S’bu travel experience here: #Mindanao1: Lake Bloomers of S'bu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The Philippines is a country with diverse cultures and traditions. It is not surprising because of the different geographical groups that has its own brand, identity, and way of life. These practices are often influenced by their location, community, beliefs, and outside influences. There are similarities, differences, and, at some point, a fusing of these practices. These 7 destinations stand out to me not only for their amazing attractions but more for their colorful and rich culture. It makes you see beyond the sights. It gives you the opportunity to focus on what’s within and the stories passed on for centuries.
Traveling around the country will give you a glimpse of our amazing diversity. Our traditions, culture, and dialect may vary from region to region but it is in our similarities and difference that we find the beauty of being a Filipino. Every province provides us with a different facet that make us understand how our being Filipino make us a unique race. Explore Pinas and stand proud!
Art spaces are interesting destinations that you can explore to appreciate creativity and allow your own to flow. These spaces give you the opportunity to peek into the minds of Filipino artists - how they see their time in their own unique style. Like they say, art imitates life.
Filipinos are known for our artistry so it is not a surprise to find art spaces in most parts of our country. This can come in different forms, from art galleries to local art stores, that showcase the artworks of local talents. We are still going in and around the metro this week to discover interesting art spaces that will spark your own creativity.
Art In Island, Cubao, Quezon City
Tucked in the glitz and glamour of Araneta Center is an interactive art space that puts everyone into a creative vibe. Art In Island has about 200 pieces of 3D art masterpieces that you get to enjoy posing in. Yes, the gallery encourages you to be part of the art as you click your cameras into action.
This art space stands out from my selection because of its interactive nature. The effectiveness of the artworks come from a combination of the pieces and how the guests play around with it. This is a place where creativity in both art and drama are combined to get the best effect. In this art space, your cameras are your weapons for your creative output.
Art In Island is not a place where you come in and appreciate Filipino artworks. The museum is a space that celebrates Filipino creativity as a viewer and how you interact with the pieces. It was meant to tap into our love for mobile photography and social media. It is one spot where adults and kids can be both kids at the same time.
You can check out my travel blog on Art Island here: Journals of the Traveling DaDa: Playing Around With Art
Getting there: You can take the MRT or LRT and go down at the Cubao/Gateway Station. You can walk going to Cubao Expo. Art InIsland is behind Cubao Expo and there is a side street that connects the two.
Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo City
From Quezon City, let us head off to the slightly cooler weather of Antipolo to explore one of the first art spaces that made it big among travelers and socmed users - the Pinto Art Museum. This quaint art space remains to be a popular destination for its wide collection of contemporary art pieces, its serene and peaceful vibe, and its “photogenic” spaces that is perfect for your instagram posts. This art space is a perfect spot to explore and enjoy on a lazy afternoon weekend.
The Pinto Art Museum is a repository of art collections by a doctor who is passionate with the artworks. What started out as a hobby in the late 60’s, he was able to amass a collection that was able to, literally, fill out a house to the brim. The arthouse explodes with creativity as soon as you walk in with its manicured lawns and well-curated galleries, matched by its serene atmosphere. Every corner is photogenic that you would get your creativity flowing for that IG-perfect shot.
Interestingly, social media has contributed much to the popularity of Pinto Art Museum eapecially among the younger generation. The aesthetics and its collections have caught the creative eye of socmed users. The art space allows them to be creative in their own way.
You can check out my travel blog on Antipolo here: #ByahengFX: The Suburban Haven of Antipolo
Getting there: You can take a van from Cubao, Galleria, or Starmall for Antipolo. You can go down at the Ynares Center where you can take a trike to Pinto Art Museum.
Art Sector, Binangonan, Rizal
Art Sector is the latest art space that is making its rounds among local travelers and social media users. The gallery and cafe, conveniently located along the hillside of Binagonan in Rizal, is one of the best places to catch the sunset. It has a great panoramic view of Manila and its surrounding areas and this is one of the reasons why people flock to the place.
Art Sector is the another art space by the man behind the success of the Pinto Art Museum. It is not surprising to find aesthetic similarities between the two galleries. The only difference is that Pinto Art Museum is more of an art gallery while Art Sector is more of a cafe/event space. Nevertheless, this art space can give you quite a fill of artistry.
The multi-level art space is an attraction in itself. The structure was built to adapt to the rocky features of the Binangonan’s hillside. Most of the contemporary artworks on display at Art Sector adorn its walls since its open spaces serve as lounging and dining areas of its guests. One is treated with the different creative outputs of local artists from astronaut renditions as soon as you enter the place to a medusa-like art piece in one of its nooks.
The gallery/cafe has a lot of viewing decks. It’s rooftop offers a 360-degree view of Manila and Rizal. It has its own cafe that offers refreshments and snacks when you finally decide to slow down as you prepare to watch the beauty of the Manila sunset. With its artistry-on-display, the amazing views, and its “instagrammability”, it is not surprising that Art Sector is creating a buzz.
Getting there: One can take a van to Binagonan/Angono from Cubao, Galleria, or Starmall Edsa Crossing. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Scrapyard Cafe along Manila East Road. You can hire a habal-habal at the 711 store across the Scrapyard Cafe to bring you to Art Sector.
Museo Orlina, Tagaytay City
There seems to be a connection with cooler weather and creativity. From the hills of Rizal, we now proceed to Tagaytay City to enjoy its cool weather and the art pieces at Museo Orlina.
The museum features glass art pieces of Ramon Orlina.
Museo Orlina is an art space that features the pieces made by Ramon Orlina, the artist that pioneered glass sculptures in the country. The works on display showcase the artist’s play and command on glass and how he molds it into elegant art pieces combined with other element like light and metal. His works put glass in a creative light as a means of expression beyond the usual way that we use glass.
Museo Orlina has a few installations that will catch your attention. The old cars as a canvass for self-expression stand out among these art pieces. The gallery also offers an amazing view of Taal Volcano giving you a different Tagaytay experience.
Getting there: You can take a bus from PITX to Tagaytay and asked to be dropped off the Tagaytay Rotonda where you can take a jeep headed to the Tagaytay Picnic Grove. Ask to be dropped of the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Junction. Alternatively, you can take a Nasugbu-bound near the MRT Taft Station. The driver can drop you off at the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Junction. From the junction, the art space is a few minutes walk through the access road beside Lapid’s Chicharon.
Puzzle Mansion, Tagaytay City
Another unique attraction that you can visit in Tagaytay City is the Puzzle Mansion. It is not the usual art spot where you get to see original pieces by local artists but it is a space where creativity and a great deal of patience merge. The mansion is home of around 1500 puzzles carefully assembled by Georgina Gil-Lacuna, a feat that has earned her the Guinness World Book of Records for having the most number of jigsaw puzzle collection.
The family rest house was converted in 2011 to become the repository of the puzzle collections. It is a art space where you can browse through hundreds of puzzles in 2D, 3D, and 4D in different forms and sizes. You will be impressed with puzzle replicas of artworks of Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet, and Picasso that was carefully assembled by the collector.
Again, the Puzzle Mansion is not your typical art space. The re-creation of these art pieces in a meticulous way is an art in itself. It is a great place to explore that brings creativity to a different level.
Getting there: You can take a bus or van headed for Nasugbu. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Tagaytay-Mendez junction where you can take a trike to Puzzle Mansion.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Art is a vibrant element of Filipino society. It allows us to express our thoughts and ideas in different forms - through our own artworks or our interaction with art. It is interesting how much character we can churn out given our weapon of choice for our creative outputs. It can be the drama that we put in on the photos with these artworks or the patience to re-create another. Creativity, no doubt, has a strong hold in the Filipino psyche.
As most of our movement remain limited, there are a lot of “travel opportunities” that we can do at this time. Take the time to walk or bike around and explore your hometown. Share your unique and interesting finds that kind of surprised you that you have in your place. Who knows... you might be able to discover the next art space that will soon be making its rounds on social media.
Filipinos are a creative bunch. We have made a mark in the world with our innate creativity whether in visual arts, theater, movement, movies, and music. Our artistry naturally flows through and flood all of our five senses. So, it is not surprising that we can appreciate art and we can imitate life through arts.
For this week’s travel log, we will be going in and around Metro Manila to explore some of its visual art spaces. This covers popular spots frequently visited by social media users to humble artist’s homes turned into art galleries. This is the time where we get to relax, appreciate Filipino creativity, and learn to let loose our own creativity.
National Art Gallery, Ermita, Manila
The National Art Gallery is one of the four museums in the National Museum corridor in Manila. The building, where the gallery is located, is a historical landmark that witnessed the inauguration of President Quezon and the destruction of Manila during the country’s liberation from the Japanese forces. Originally designed as a public library, the re-constructed building housed the legislative branch of the government until 1996 but it was only in 2003 that the building was transformed to the country’s National Art Gallery.
The National Gallery is a repository of visual art works from renowned Filipino artists from the 17th to the 21st century. The collections include religious wooden sculptures from the 17the century, famous art pieces of Luna, Hidalgo, Tampinco, Francisco, Amorsolo, Tolentino, and other Filipino greats, and a gallery honoring Dr. Jose Rizal. It is the home of Juan Luna’s “Spolarium”, the largest painting in the country, that earned a gold medal in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884.
The art space gives it visitors a 360-degree view of how Filipino artistry evolved through the centuries. It gave us a preview of how life was back then and the artist’s perspective at the time that it was commissioned. These artworks brought to life our colorful history and Filipino creativity.
Getting there: The National Art Gallery is along Padre Burgos Drive in Ermita, Manila. You can take the LRT Line 1 and go down at UN Avenue Station. The museum is a 10-minute walk from the station.
Angel Cacnio Gallery, Don Bautista Boulevard, Malabon
“Explore Manila” was a project that I started 5 years ago that aimed to explore the cities and lone municipality of Metro Manila. Little did I know that it paved the way for me to meet and be personally toured in his humble home/gallery by a great Filipino artist from Malabon, Angel Cacnio. The “surprise visit” turned out to be an hour of warm hospitality and shared stories by the artists as he gladly showed us the artworks made by him and his family.
A graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, Angel Cacnio is the multi-awarded artists whose Php20 and Php100 bill designs were once in circulation. The artworks on display is a collection of his paintings, the artworks of his children, and the personal art collection of his wife, Amelia Cacnio, from other Malabon artists. His works have been widely recognized that he proudly showed us the recognitions and citations given to him by different organizations including the Gintong Parangal ng Malabon (1981) and the Gintong Ama for Arts and Culture (1996).
A visit to the Angel Cacnio Gallery needs to be coordinated with the Malabon City Tourism Office. We were lucky that he gladly entertained us when we visited his gallery unannounced. Again, his warm hospitality and humility made the visit to his gallery a memorable one for us.
You can also read my Malabon travel blog here: Explore Malabon!
Getting there: You can coordinate with the tourism office of Malabon City as visits are by appointment. The city has tricycle city tours that include the Angel Cacnio Gallery in the itinerary.
Gateway Gallery, Cubao, Quezon City
Located at the 5th level of the Gateway Mall in Araneta Center, the Gateway Gallery is an art museum that proudly outlines the rich history of the Philippines. It was a project that was launched in 2015 that fuses creativity and history.
The “Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art” is a joint project of Araneta Center and the University of the Philippines. The exhibit has 30 artworks on display that depicts the different periods of Philippine history, from its pre-historic beginnings to the present-day Philippines. The artworks provide a visual representation of our colorful past that could easily connect with the younger generation of Filipinos. It provides visual marks of important milestones as a country and features past Philippine Presidents and their important contributions to nation-building.
The gallery is a good break from the usual humdrum of mall visits. It is a good opportunity to introduce kids and teens to visual arts while learning a thing or two about our country’s history. It is hitting two-birds with one stone - exploring one’s creativity and learning to be proud of our Filipino heritage.
You can read on my Quezon City travel blog here: Explore Quezon City!
Getting there: You can take the MRT or LRT and go down at Cubao/Araneta Station where you walk to the Gateway Mall. The Gateway Gallery is at the 5th Level of the mall.
Vargas Museum, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Located inside the serene campus of UP Diliman, the Vargas Museum is an unassuming art space in Quezon City. I guess it is safe to say that the whole UP Diliman Campus is an unassuming art space to start with. The museum stands in honor of the esteemed Jorge B. Vargas who entrusted the university his personal collections and memorabilia that are now on display at the museum.
The Vargas Museum is the repository of the Vargas’ collection of stamps, coins, artworks, and personal effects. Apart from these personal collections, the museum is also popular for its own collection of art pieces from Filpino greats like Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo. The art space also features the works of Filipino artists with their own kind of creativity.
The charm of Vargas Museum goes beyond its walls. The serene vibe of UP Diliman make the experience conducive to learning and creativity. It is a great place to visit if you are looking for a relaxed afternoon where you just want some peace and quiet.
Getting there: You can take a bus for Fairview and ask to be dropped off at Philcoa where you can take a UP-Philcoa jeep. Please ask the driver to drop you off at the Vargas Museum.
Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, Makati City
The Yuchengco Museum is one art space that you should not miss out when you find yourself in Makati. The museum is a repository, an art gallery, and a dedicated space that honors Jose Rizal. It is the repository of the family’s heirloom and the personal effects of the esteemed Ambassador Yuchengco from his years of government service. The museum also has an extensive collection of memorabilia that gives us a glimpse of Jose Rizal’s life. A gallery is solely dedicated to the great Filipino hero.
Not to be missed out are the visual artworks on display that includes paintings, sculptures, and architectural photographs. The museum has a wide collection of Amorsolo paintings, depicting rural life, in its main gallery. The second level gallery features artworks from prominent artists with a more modern approach in visual artists. A separate gallery was set for photographs of prominent architectural structures in the country designed by prominent architects of the country. One of its main attractions is its floating zen piece that had me appreciating it in awe.
The Yuchengco Museum is an interesting art space to explore. It does not overwhelm you but allows you to enjoy the space at your own pace. It gives you a good 60-minute walkthrough where you get to indulge yourself with a balance of history and creativity.
Read about my Makati City travel blog here: Explore Makati!
Getting there: You can take a bus headed for Gil Puyat via Ayala and ask the driver to drop you off near the RCBC Plaza. You can also take the MRT and go down at Ayala Station where you can take a jeep with the signboard “Washington”. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the RCBC Plaza.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Filipinos have a cool knack towards creative outputs. It is not surprising to find Filipino artistry on display in almost every corner of the country - from jeepney designs to wall murals or graffiti to our neighborhood karaoke joints. We are not afraid to express our creativity in whatever way that we can.
It does not come as a surprise, as well, that Filipino talent will always find its way to different art spaces. These galleries, whether home grown or institutionalized, provide us with a glimpse of an artist’s mind and how he sees society and the world. It fuses artistry and history to create a heritage that is uniquely Filipino. Again, take the time to explore these art spaces and appreciate these artworks that will make you a proud Pinoy!
Travelers and riders would all agree that this municipality, east of Manila, is a spot-on destination for people who love the outdoors. Whether you are out in search for a quick day trip spot or you are out looking for a weekend escape, one can never go wrong with its wide selection of choices to explore and enjoy. This week we are traveling east for my #ByahengFX series to rough it out in Tanay, Rizal.
Founded in 1606, Monte de Tan-ay is now a first class municipality that has fast become an eco-tourism destination. Its proximity to Manila and its amazing natural attractions make it an easy and accessible choice for a quick breather away from the stress of the metro. The rugged terrains of the Sierra Madre give travelers different adventure options that allow one to commune with nature while the provincial vibe of the town slows down the pace to a relaxing rhythm.
Daraitan and Tinipak River
If you want to rough it out with nature in Tanay, Daraitan is the first spot to check out. Nestled along the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, this rustic destination gives you that relaxing provincial vibe and an amazing nature escape. The great thing about it is that it is only an hour or two away from the metro.
I remember my first time in Daraitan was a day trip to discover and explore the famous limestone formations of Tinipak River. It is about an hour of easy hike from the town along the banks of the river. The white rock formations were an amazing sight to see and the quick dip in the cold waters of Tinipak River was our reward for our hike. Of course, one should not miss out on exploring Tinipak Cave and enjoy the fresh mountain water making its way to the surface. You can read about the experience by clicking on this link: Tinipak River.
Tucked comfortably along the side of Mount Daraitan, Kuta Bungliw is a camping resort that offers an amazing overlooking view of Daraitan. The resort gives you an honest-to-goodness camping experience that allows you to commune with nature, relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance, and disconnect with the metro’s buzz. This is a great weekend spot where you can enjoy hours and hours of uninterrupted serenity while reading a book and sipping coffee. Click on this link to read on my full adventure: Kuta Bungliw.
This rugged part of Tanay is a great place to disconnect with our busy city life and connect with nature. It offers a lot of physically challenging activities that leaves you a bit tired but totally re-charged in mind, body, and spirit. Daraitan gives you that breathing space in the midst of its amazing natural beauty.
Getting there: You can take a jeep bound for Sampaloc, Tanay at Cogeo Market. The scenic trip takes around an hour. You can take a tricycle from Sampaloc to Daraitan.
The Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia is a sprawling pilgrimage site in Sampaloc, Tanay. It is popular for its 71-foot image of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary that sits atop a hill that overlooks its 13-hectare compound. It is a popular pilgrimage site of faithful Catholics during the Holy Week celebration in the Philippines.
We managed to make a quick stop at Regina RICA and one could really feel its air of solemnity when you go walk around the place. We climbed up the 308 steps to the shrine where a small chapel is located where you can offer prayers and candles. The shrine also offers an amazing view of the Sierra Madre and the areas surrounding the shrine. The faithful can also walk thru its Way of the Cross culminating with a short prayer inside it chapel.
Getting there: From Daraitan, you can take a tricycle to Regina RICA.
Daranak Falls is another popular destination in Tanay. Nestled at the foot of the mountains of the municipality, one will be charmed by the beauty and breadth of its 14-meter high cascade. The cold waters drop into a deep jade-colored basin where one can take a dip and enjoy the fresh spring waters. The surrounding lush green vegetation completes the rustic vibe of the waterfalls.
Daranak Falls is a popular summer escape among local residents in Rizal. The cold waters of the falls provide a quick relief from the heat especially during the summer. But despite the crowd, one can easily find his or ber own spot where you can enjoy the unadulterated sights and sounds of Daranak Falls.
A short trail hike from Daranak Falls will bring you to the smaller and equally beautiful Batlag Falls. Unlike the first waterfall, Batlag has two cascades that stand adjacent to each other. The waterfall is located in a forest clearing surrounded by a more dense vegetation giving it a more mystical vibe.
Batlag Falls exude a different personality. Exploring its grounds is like walking around the set of a fairytale movie where you are in a middle of thick forest. The waters of the falls run down in smaller cascades creating small puddles along its path. The sun’s rays break into the forest cover giving it an eerily beautiful ambiance. Batlag Falls get a fewer number of visitors, probably because it charges a separate and higher entrance fee compared to Daranak Falls, but the lesser crowd allows its guests to fully enjoy communing with nature.
Local folklore shares that Calinawan Cave got its name because it is the place where the Americans and Japanese settled their differences or in local Filipino phrase “nagkaroon ng linaw”. The story outlines the significant role played by the cave in local and Philippine history. The cave, including the adjacent Rawang Pass, was the stronghold of Filipino revolutionaries in the fight for our freedom. It also served as a sanctuary for local residents and guerilla fighters during the Japanese occupation.
Beyond its historical value, Calinawan Cave is nature’s handiwork. The rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites found inside its chambers are nature’s gifts to admire. Its beauty has attracted local tourists that even local tv and production units have used the cave as location sets for their shows. Unfortunately, some of these productions have left some permanent damage on some parts of its chambers.
The cave system of Calinawan remains unexplored. Locals claim that the cave complex reaches up to Pililia and Baras but this still remains to be verified. One thing is true though, Calinawan Cave is a melting pot of nature’s beauty and Philippines’ colorful history.
Getting there: From Regina RICA, you can take a tricycle to the jeepney stop for Tanay Bayan. You take the jeep bound for Tanay and ask the driver to drop you off at the junction of Daranak Falls Road. You can hire a tricycle from here to bring you to Daranak Falls and Calinawan Cave.
Simbahan ng Tanay
Declared as a National Cultural Treasure in 2001, the Saint Ildefonsus of Toledo Parish Church, or Tanay Church, is the 2nd oldest church in the province of Rizal. The present structure was completed in 1783 after the first stone church was destroyed by natural calamities. The church now stands as a testament of Tanay’s faith and colorful history.
The church’s three-tiered retablo is the main highlight of its interior. An image of St. Ildefonso stands as the main centerpiece of the main retablo. Two smaller retablos flank the altar. The walls of the church are adorned by 14 carvings that depict scenes from the Stations of the Cross. These carvings ate unique as local artists of Tanay infused local and native cultures in making these artworks. The Station of the Cross is considered to be one the beautiful pieces in Asia.
The Tanay Church is also the home of a bone relic of St. Ildefonso. The relic was given to the church when it celebrated its 400 years as a church in 2006. The piece of St. Ildefonso’s spine is considered to be huge blessing for Tanay’s Catholic community.
Getting there: From the junction of Daranak Falls Road, you can take a jeep bound for Tanay Bayan. At the jeepney stop, you can take a tricycle to the church.
Built in the 1960s, the Tanay Lighthouse serves as a guiding beacon to local fisherman who sail along Laguna de Bay. The lighthouse, that sits along the banks of the lake, provide a panoramic view of the lake and its surrounding areas. It is a favorite afternoon spot by locals to unwind after a full day of work.
The best time to visit the Tanay Parola is during the late afternoon as it provides an awesome view of the setting sun. You would enjoy watching the sky turn into different color hues as the sun slowly disappears behind the mountain ranges on the other side of the lake. You also get to see locals wrap up their daily grind as some of them would be heading back home, aboard their boats, in some other part of Laguna de Bay. This is a perfect spot to wrap up a weekend adventure in Tanay, Rizal.
Getting there: You can hail a tricycle and you can ask the driver to bring you to the Tanay Parola.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I have witnessed how Tanay, through the years, have emerged as a prime eco-tourism destination from a sleepy old town in Rizal. It was once an off-beat spot that attracted only mountaineers and the adventurous. It slowly evolved into a tourism buzz word that always had something new and different to offer to any kind of traveler. Be it a day hike, an overnight camping experience, a biking destination, or even cloud spotting; the municipality opened its doors to those wanting an easy escape from the humdrum of the city life. Just an hour or two away from the city, Tanay gave us a sanctuary to run to when we need to get refreshed and re-energized.
As an advocate of local travel in an age of social media, I believe that it only takes one photograph to put one destination in the spotlight. I have witnessed these countless times where off-beat travelers share an off-beat experience and then, in a span of a year or two, the destination becomes the “thing” among local travel enthusiasts. The Philippines still has a lot of destinations for us to unravel and to share to the world. I hope that after the COVID19 crisis, another destination will be “unraveled” to become the beacon of hope for our country’s tourism front.
Getting there: You can take an FX van to Tanay at Starmalls Crossings in Mandaluyong. The trip is about an hour to three hours depending on the traffic. From the Tanay Town Proper, you can hire a tricycle to tour you around.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.