A Travellerspoint blog

See(k)ing Miracles is More Fun in the Philippines

Celebrating EDSA People Power Revolution in Lipa City

sunny 33 °C

Philippines is predominantly Catholic. This is forever written in the history of the nation where Filipinos' devotion to Mother Mary resulted in a miracle, which happened during the well-known EDSA People Power revolution. The statue of Our Lady of EDSA Revolution is erected and towering over the Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA in memory of that miracle.


I myself is born and raised one Catholic. I grew up with this unparalleled reverence to Mother Mary, the mother of Lord Jesus. I joined the Association of Children of Mary Immaculate, which members call ourselves CoMers, at age 11. "To Jesus through Mary" is and always will be our motto. In fact, I became the Parish President of the association for a couple of years. I was able to travel to other places within and outside Surigao del Norte because of the various activities of the organization, which has a nationwide coverage.

During my years as a member and officer of the local association of CoM, I acted as Catechist to children during May Cathechism. I also joined theater presentations during big feast of Mama Mary, like February 11, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, March 25, the Annunciation, September 8, the Immaculate Conception, November 27, the feast day of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, to name a few. These and more other religious activities I participated in has honed in me the leadership skills, the training management skills, the public speaking skills, and the congeniality character. These skills and characteristic has prepared me for the real world, particularly in the industry of professional consulting services.

Then I aged and was replaced by young ones in the organization, but I am still a CoMer by heart because "once a CoMer always a CoMer" so we proclaimed. My love and devotion to Mother Mary is unremitting. Though I disappeared from the scene where being a perpetual member of the association should remain alive and active, I still marvel at the memories and experiences through reminiscing.


And then the devotion to Our Lady of the Mediatrix of All Graces finds its way to me. It was brought about by a mentor and colleague in consulting service, Madam/Mader Stella Maris Salas. This started in Baguio City when we met during a training (training usually connects the two of us) that she invited me to attend a morning prayer at Baguio Country Club, with another friend and colleague, Ms. Doreen Erfe. There I witnessed the shower of rose petals, all in dark bloody red petals, some imprinted with religious images. There I smelled the most adorable and sweetest smelling white rose buds. There I personally witnessed a blessing, a miracle. There I faced a statue of Mama Mary quietly placed at the center of a glass dining table. It was only then that I realized that Mama Mary in this form of apparition has drawn thousands, corrections millions, of pilgrims. It was only then that I knew of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces to be so famous for the miraculous shower of and the miracles brought by the rose petals. It was only then that I was informed of its shrine in Lipa City in Batangas.


I was told that the shower of petals represents Mother Mary's divine presence, the appearance of rose buds declares Her unconditional love. There are even spread of gold and silver dusts, which means answered prayers.


So, on February 25, 2014, me and my officemates decided to better celebrate the EDSA Revolution anniversary at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine in Lipa City. Since our project team leader was at that time attending a meeting outside, who also approved our excuse when I messaged him through texts, my colleagues Madam Nanette Durante tugging along her husband and Ms. Marisa Dahan bringing along her whole family (husband and children) and I, with Ms. Nanette driving, we departed from the office around lunch to pick up Ms. Stella at a hotel somewhere in Kapitolyo, Pasig. It had been the bestfriends, Ms. Nanette and Ms. Stella's plan to visit the shrine. It was therefore the perfect timing for us all to join at the same time co-celebrate one of Mother Mary's remarkable miracles - the EDSA People Power Revolution.


We took the South Luzon Expressway, then the STAR tollway, and reached the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, where the Mediatrix shrine is located, after barely an hour. I noticed that even during work days there were still plenty of pilgrims. The church has a huge ground, apt for a million of devotees. Parking spaces are available. The church is reasonably big in size, complete with adoration chapels in both sides, one bigger than the other. A number of comfort rooms are available and clean.


The apparition site was my ultimate direction. The ground level direct to the life-size statue of Mama Mary is closed to public. The viewing can be made through climbing the second floor of the building in the right most side of the church. There in the preserved garden stand Mama Mary beside the original vine where She appeared to the visionary Sister Teresita Castillo. Full account can be read at http://www.marianmessenger.ph/index.php/maian-feature.


We stayed there until late afternoon.

On our way back, we dropped by the wet market to buy vegetables, rice cakes, and of course the "sinaing na tulingan" (charcoal cooking of a mackerel fish through boiling it with salt and wrapping it with banana leaves).

Posted by crisbernal 27.03.2014 19:07 Archived in Philippines Tagged churches road_trip shrine pilgrimage miracle batangas Comments (0)

Feeling at Home is More Fun in the Philippines

Strolling ("Suroy-suroy" in local dialect) around Surigao City and beyond

all seasons in one day 29 °C

Not because this is my Home, but because my Homeland gets a lot of simple things to offer.


Beach view at Brgy Banbanon, Anao-aon, Surigao del Norte

I am born Surigaonon (that's how we call ourselves), hailed from the small town, Anao-aon, the nearest one which is a 5- to 15-minute ride to Surigao City in the province of Surigao del Norte. By the way, the term Surigaonon covers all residents from provinces of Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands also. Hopefully, Siargao will stay as part of Surigao del Norte province forever.


Look, it's the island of Leyte: a view from Surigao

In case you cannot find Surigao from the map, after all the publicity made by typhoons frequenting the area, it is located in the northeastern peak of mainland Mindanao. Just about the islands of Leyte and Samar. Now, Surigaonons are sweet and friendly people. We entertain guests, both local and international, basically because we can speak Cebuano, which most people from Visayas and Mindanao islands speak, Tagalog, which is the common language for people from Luzon and southern Mindanao, and English.

Surigao City is accessible by sea, land and air travel. Landtrips from Luzon via the Maharlika Highway though may take days will all pass by Lipata Ferry Terminal. Seatrips that also take days will dock at Surigao Port Terminal. And flying guests may take daily flights from either Cebu Pacific Air or PAL Express and will land at the Surigao City Airport. From whatever point you arrive, you may take either the tricycle (a motorcycle with a sidecar) or multicab (a hybrid but shrunk jeepney). If you already knew your destination, you may take the multicab which has definite route. But if you don't and that your destination is unreachable by multicab, you better take the tricycle.


The San Nicolas de Tolentino Cathedral


The Surigao City Hall


The Luneta Park is joyfully lit every Christmas time

Surigao has simple destinations for you. A city tour can be strolled by yourself, starting at the Luneta Park, you can sight from there the City Tourism Office, the City's Cathedral for Catholic's church visit and the City Hall. Take a tricycle ride and reach the Provincial Capitol and/or the Sto. Nino Shrine on top of the Cinesa Heights. If you love dipping in the seawater, you can either take another tricycle ride to Sabang Black Beach, or a multicab ride with route to Ipil to reach Mabua Pebbled Beach. Shorelines from Mabua are stony towards the west coast; it has tiny stones though. Mabua is the next locale from Ipil, so you still have to take another tricycle ride from the dropoff point. Or you can simply take the stroll along the shoreline. The view of the sunset from there is great!


Resorts and Pebble Beach in Mabua, Surigao City

Should you have plenty of time, you rather spare extra day for this, hire a boat (check and arrange with the City Tourism Office) for an island hopping experience. The tour must reach the Sagisi White Beach with so crystal waters around, then Basul Island, the Buenavista Cave in Hikdop island, and then the Day-asan Floating Village.


Floating Cottages in Day-asan, Surigao City

You really have to spend one night in the city to check out and enjoy other destinations, such as dinner with grilled chicken, which taste is distinct and one of a kind in Surigao Port area, nightout at any bar (like Kody's) along the so-called Boulevard fronting the docks in Pantalan Dos. Here cramps the bars and restos that cater cheap foods and drinks. Nighttime here is festive as the bars' tables and chairs are scattered tidily in the 4-lane road.


Pantalan Dos dock points along the Boulevard


The Kody's Music Bar at nighttime... gimmick time!

There's nothing to worry about the night accommodations, we have 3 major hotels of your choosing. The Parkway Hotel lies along the highway near the airport. The Gateway Hotel is adjacent to it that occupies the rotunda towards the city proper, the highway towards Lipata Port, Ipil-Mabua beaches, the way up the Cinesa Heights' Sto. Nino Shrine, and the way towards the airport. The Tavern Hotel located at the heart of the downtown with its back at the Boulevard facing the Surigao Strait. There are plenty of cheap accommodations, check this website for more information, http://www.surigaocity.gov.ph/Where-to-Stay/where-to-stay.html

Before leaving the city, try or bring with you our native delicacies, such as the infamous Sayongsong, a cake of ground rice that comes in cone shapes molded out of banana leaves.


Daytime business at Pantalan Dos docks, in front of Kody's Bar

Make this your entry point for Siargao adventures. Spend a day or two before heading to Dinagat and/or Siargao islands. Surfing in GL and spelunking in Sohoton Cave in Socorro (Bucas Grande) are just less than 2 hours away from Surigao City.

Posted by crisbernal 24.03.2014 08:00 Archived in Philippines Tagged home beach caving spelunking white_sand philippine_tours budget_travels island_hopping city_tours landtrip homeland daytour Comments (0)

Picture-Run is More Fun in the Philippines

Funrunning around Corregidor Island

overcast 23 °C
View My Birthday Run on crisbernal's travel map.

The name of the noted place is Corregidor. What more can it be more wonderful than even the name itself? It alone suggests many things: adventures, heritage, and getaway, to name a few.


I have been inquiring about the day-tour package in the island since, but then of course, find it pricey. Having waited for quite too long, I finally find the right timing to reach the island and see with my naked eyes the marks of its history. Fortunately, the Corregidor International Half-Marathon was scheduling its annual running event in December 2013. Being an avid fun-runner, I decided to join this fourth half-marathon in the island. This was really it for me! The marathon was postponed to January 12, 2014, when l was already free and available, the final date in fact fell at my birthday week (rightly closing my birthday week) , and that I was planning to celebrate my unconventional 38th birthday this year somewhere new.

As l calculated it, the 3,000-peso registration fee is reasonably priced because the day-tour package which usually includes buffet lunch and round-trip boat ride currently cost 2,300 pesos. The downside though is that you won't get the guided tour for free; the upside was that you will get to roam around the island by foot, reaching all the spots unreachable by car, and marvel at the interesting sites all your while.


The lack of sleep did not deter my energy to complete the 21km course in and around the Corregidor Island. Having dinner date with collegemates and friends at Namnam, Greenbelt 2, that eve, my body slapped the bed at 10pm already. Good thing, I woke instantly at the sound of my alarm at 1 o'clock dawn-break. I made sure that I had full stomach before the day began.

After devouring a non-fat recipe at nearby Chowking 24-hour foodchain, I was at the CCP Folk Arts Theater Star Cruise ferry terminal by 3 am waiting for the boarding call. We climbed the ship at 5am and reached the island 2 hours later. The windy morning made our boat ride shaky and bumpy, with occasional flashing of seawater at the cabin windows. When we disembarked at the island's north dock, the wild wind got colder. To rid of freezing feeling, I immediately proceeded to warming up; not too hard though to avoid injury before the run even start, so much so that I have not prepared much for this event.


Whistled the gunstart at 8am, the course kicked off with a slight climbed towards the Malinta Tunnel. A welcoming treat; a tunnel complex built by US Army used initially as a military bunker and later became the underground hospital. The race course continued beyond the tunnel; a composite of concrete, smooth and rough routes, some even were walk trails, simple but challenging tracks.

I did this so-called "picture-run" which colloquial Tagalog translation would mean "piktyuran" meaning taking many pictures. Shoulder-slinging my SLR camera, I paused running at some picturesque spots, took the point, clicked and then ran again.


Next stop was at the Philippine-Japanese Garden of Peace on my way down to the Beach Resort areas.


Then the Filipino Heroes Memorial...


There was this idle Airstrip...


Beside it was the Mindanao Garden of Peace


Then the route went on to the War Zone, where the Mile-long barracks laid in ruins...


Even those various batteries...


Youth for Peace campsite...


What was interesting and a must-see for me are the disappearing guns...


I reached the Pacific War Memorial,


then the Eternal Flame of Freedom


I surprised myself to have completed the 21km race course within 2 hours and 53 minutes. Most people I encountered or ran along with commented that they were impressed of what I did, managing to run the right pace while stopping from time to time to take shots of every tourist spots we passed by.


2:53! I considered this an impressive performance after enduring the challenging, run-walk trails, where uphill routes are more than downhills', there were even steep routes, some with obstructing structures, amidst windy yet hot weather condition. All factors considered, my time deserved a high five, one, I did not have enough prep runs, two, I did photoshoots in every tour points, and three, my first time to experience steep downhills, uphills, and trail running, which basically involved walking.


Tagging along my SLR camera while running was the right decision. And making tour around Corregidor Island on foot was a lot more fun than taking the tramvia.

Posted by crisbernal 31.01.2014 07:16 Archived in Philippines Tagged ruins island marathon funrun daytour Comments (0)

Even Half-Day Tour is More Fun in the Philippines

Guimaras Island: An Afternoon Delight

semi-overcast 31 °C

I have been to Iloilo City for so many times starting in the year 2003 when I had an opportunity to do some tours. While it always been my wish to pay even a short visit to Guimaras Island since, I had been failing to do so. Maybe because I was alone then, that I planned it alone myself, so I lacked guts to venture it on my own.


It was only this November of 2013 that when I visited Iloilo City with a colleague and friend, Marisa Dahan, whose interest in travel is at par with mine, that the idea of reaching Guimaras Island was revived and revitalized. We arrived early one afternoon at the city for an official business the following days. We were ushered at a beach resort located at the outskirts of the city. So the way to reach at the dock to board an outriggered boat, the sole means of transport to and from the island, entailed much effort. We immediately deposited our baggage at the reception counter and left for Guimaras. Fortunately, the driver of the vehicle that fetched us at the airport offered to ferry us to the port area.


I later learned that there are two docking points for passenger boats to and from Guimaras. I cannot point however where they were situated, but I remembered passing through a street with crowding shanties on our way out while the return trip docked at a wharf close to the lighthouse. Both trips cost us 14 pesos each.

The 50+ seater passenger boats leave Iloilo docks every 15 to 30 minutes every day. The ride across the sea dividing the Panay from Guimaras usually takes only around 15 minutes. On our way in, Marisa and I arrived at Jordan wharf and greeted by tour fixers. We approached the tourism information kiosk instead and inquired on the route, transport, and cost of a half-day tour.


It was told that motorela (motorcycle with sidecar) is available any time of the day as transport for less than 4 person-groups. There are other means of transport but motorela is good for the two of us. The lady asked our itinerary and informed us that our route will cost 1,200 pesos. Given only around 3 hours to make the island tour, because we reached Guimaras at 2pm and have to leave before the last boat trip back to Iloilo at 6pm, the thousand bucks-half-day tour is expensive and no cost-wise.

We left the kiosk and decided to find the transport on our own. One tricycle driver followed us and agreed to our bargain at 700 pesos. That price is reasonable to reach just 3 tourist destinations in the island, the Trappist Monastery, then Kapelya na Bato, and the Lopez's Mansion.


Trappist Monastery was our agreed first stop considering that the spot is in Jordan. Then we dropped by the smallest park in the whole country as it is along the way to the monastery. The monks' monastery was undergoing improvements, so we concentrated our time in checking the souvenir items in their tourist shop, took some souvenir photos and then headed towards the other destinations in the itinerary.


Buenavista is the location for the 2 important tourist destinations. It was a long ride from Jordan. We reached the Kapelya na Bato (English translation: Stone Chapel) at sundown, known as Navalas Church. It has this welcoming fortress made of concrete, which the entrance hole looked like a cave's entrance. It appeared to have undergone curation and/or several renovation. The chapel resembles a usual chapel, it only has unique facade and ambiance that epitomized its heritage.








The sunset has amplified the beauty of the Lopez's Mansion, known to be the Roca Encantada. Since it is painted in white, the orange-red afternoon hue has exemplified the grandoisity of the 3-story heritage house. Situated on top of the hill in one corner of the Guimaras Island, the stunning view consisted the pebbled beach on one side and the tiny little isles on the other.



Being on top of the hill, living that kind of lush life even just for a day is beyond my imagination. I am fond of house in posh designs but such simple but elegant, located in a one of a kind spot, is something that left me awed and dreamy.




Just the right timing, we arrived at Buenavista wharf at around 6pm, then boarded right away in the leaving boat. After a couple of hours in Guimaras, my day (I am sure, Marisa's too) was filled with fun and adventures. Defraying a total of a thousand all in all, the half-day tour around (though not covering the whole island, which offers more tourist spots) was definitely an afternoon delight.


Posted by crisbernal 26.01.2014 23:21 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises churches ruins island guimaras heritage_houses philippine_tours budget_travels baroque_churches island_adventures day_tours daytour Comments (0)

Wild Riding is More Fun in the Philippines

Enjoying Paoay and Laoag Tour Destinations and Adventures

sunny 30 °C

There were plenty of attempts to reach Ilocos Norte province. This is the only point in the country that is not covered in the previous projects I've worked with. So I cannot make a tour in this particular tourist destination for free. Sept 30 was supposedly my chance to make a personal tour there. That was when I find a new job with another project, which necessitated me to cancel the trip ticket.


My new project has put that plan into reality though. It in fact gave me two opportunities to reach llocos Norte and the chance to explore its tourist destinations. This was my second time. The first visit on November 9 featured in another blog, Journeying the Northest. This maybe the second time, with same company, but the experience is new, the route is new, and the itinerary is new.

I arrived here via Tuguegarao City. Thus to circumnavigate Cagayan Valley to Ilocos Norte by a bus was once in a lifetime experience and a fun already.


I was invited to grace a training in Laoag City sponsored by the DepEd DO of Ilocos Norte. It was held in Java Hotel, which is known to be owned by the Farinas family. It does have the Indonesian feel in it, in as far as physical structure and aesthetic design are concerned.


It was after the two-day official activity that the fun part began. Led by Sandra and Mayo again, Marisa and I were treated to a wonderful tour. This time though, we were accompanied by Ms. Che, the Accountant, and our car driver in this quest.

Paoay Church was the first stop. I may have been here during my first visit, but I still consider this my first, because it was only this time that I got to really marvel its baroqueness, scan its intricacy, and behold its beauty. I finally got the third in my 4 collections of Baroque Churches in the Philppines, after San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila and Miag-ao Church in Iloilo. The fourth, which will be covered in the future tours, is in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur.




Batac, Ilocos Norte was the next destination. This is the hometown of the then President, Ferdinand Marcos. Fortunately, the former president's tomb was opened for our viewing, along with other local and foreign tourists. So I got to see with my naked eye his preserved body inside a coffin made of clear glass.


From Marcos' tomb, we entered the Marcos Museum. It was known to be the residential house of the Marcoses which was now transformed into a museum. The interior design and the organization of memorabilia are creative and at par with other museums I saw in other countries. The life of the former president is depicted in them.


The first two sights were all indoors because the afternoon sun was yet hot when we started our tour. After Batac experience, the heat of sun mellowed and signaled our journey to the next destination, which was Laoag; not the downtown but in barangay La Paz, where the large stretch of San Dunes can be found.


Reasonably distant from the prior point, it was really sundown when we arrived at the sand dunes site. Having previously arranged by the hosts, we immediately proceeded to the fun and wild rides in the area. Divided into 2 batches, and while waiting for the 4x4 ride up, down and around the somewhat desert field, I tried the sand boarding, and then the sand skiing.


Both the sand boarding and skiing, coupled with the steep routes, were heart-pumping, adrenaline-rushing fun. The fact that we are all inexperienced, the sliding was enjoyed more by screaming and shouting. So much so, when one fell off the wooden board, then blinded by the scattered and flying sands.


The wild ride with 4x4 wheels was definitely the closing activity. After enduring the leaps and bounds, plus the fear of having the car break down mid-field, we were all exhausted and hungry. Had it been in the midday, the other trips will no longer be worthy.


What was fitting to reward ourselves after having survived the wild rides was to feast with the Ilokano cuisine at Saramsam restaurant. The recipes we gorged that night were the following:


a taste of puque-puque

a lick of utong

one of a kind binagoongang pasta DSC_4332.jpg

malunggay ice cream as dessertDSC_4339.jpg


No matter my body ached that night, while waiting for the boarding call, much more while relaxing the whole duration of the flight, the wild ride was funnier, much more enjoyable, and memorable.

Posted by crisbernal 26.01.2014 05:34 Archived in Philippines Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises churches driving museum laoag heritage_houses philippine_tours baroque_churches day_tours imelda_marcos city_tours bisita_iglesia daytour batac Comments (0)

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