Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tourist for a day in Luneta

Jose Rizal 150th Anniversary LunetaMy travel buddy Diana and I were inspired by the old tagline of the Department of Tourism, “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan” (don’t be a foreigner in your own country), implicating that foreigners have actually been to more places than locals; So Diana and I decided yesterday, that we’d become foreigners in Manila! (although it is not impossible for locals to think we’re tourists because we both look Korean haha)

I have heard about the plans of renovation in the Luneta Park for the 150th birthday of our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal next year, but I did not realize that the implementation started this year. I was browsing thru my facebook the other day and came across photos taken by my web designer Phil who is apparently a great photographer as well! Photographs of the lights and sound show in Luneta Park which looked magnificent! Curious, I suggested to Diana that we check it out.

Jose Rizal 150th Anniversary Luneta

We arrived at Luneta 6:45PM, we thought that maybe we’d go around the park and look at the fountain; little did we know HOW MUCH people already knew about it! When we came down from the jeepney, every passenger that were on the jeep were going down at Luneta as well; and as we crossed the road we saw a MASSIVE crowd hanging around the park, like I’ve never seen before!

People were sitting on the grass having picnic and on the background the song of the internationally famous, Charice Pempengco, Pyramid was playing while the fountain danced around for people to see; and every time the chorus comes in “pyramiiiiiiid..” the tall fountain springs up in unison and everyone looks up all at the same time. Jolly Christmas carols were also playing among other famous songs for the Filipinos, like Celine Dion’s undying Titanic sound track, My Heart Will Go On. Lol.

I was so happy looking at the families eating together! Not that they wouldn’t be doing the same thing at home but now, the government has provided a place for them to watch musical fountains that I would consider of world-class standard, something I’ve seen in Japan or Singapore. Kids were playing and running around, while parents and grandparents watch them happily that finally they stripped the kids away from their computers and TVs; and enjoying the fresh air for a change!

Another thing that made me smile last night was how much business tourism is bringing in! So many enterprising Filipinos selling light balls, flashing eye glasses, lighting headbands, picnic mats! Street food dotting the street, complete from hopia (Chinese biscuit), mani (nuts), pop corn (well, popcorn); Isaw (bbq intestines), sorbertes (dirty ice crem) to kakanin (traditional Filipino rice delicacies). A line of tiangge selling clothes and what-not’s and even magic tricks (so cool that the vendor convinced me to buy 2 sets of magic tricks for my nephew!)

Jose Rizal 150th Anniversary Luneta

Indeed I believe what the former secretary of Tourism Ace Durano used to say, “May trabaho sa turismo!” (there are jobs in tourism!) Kudos also to the incumbent secretary Alberto Lim for improving Intramuros and Luneta! I hope this goes on for a long time!

*Musical Fountains are found just behind the monument of Jose Rizal
*It starts from 6PM until 12MN intervals of 30 minutes until December 30, 2010;
*repeat performance of the musical fountain will be announced in the future. Visit now!

Some photos taken by Petiks Photography / Phil Diaz that made all my photos lame! haha

Jose Rizal 150th Anniversary Luneta

Jose Rizal 150th Anniversary Luneta

Have you been a tourist in your own town? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Pilipinas Kay Ganda" Launch

The event started at 7:30PM and upon entering, we were given a press kit containing the CD presentation, transcript of the speech that Sec. Lim was going to give, their press release, and also a pair of 3D glasses. I went to the event with an open mind, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what the new logo would look like (because I am also a graphic designer). I scanned the room and saw numerous important people like Vice President Jejomar Binay, Madam Imelda Marcos, Carlos Celdran, ambassadors and of course Secretary Alberto Lim.

Sec. Lim’s speech was heartfelt. He spoke with belief in their research and the campaign that they have come up with. I think he knew that a lot of people were against the changing of WOW PHILIPPINES or of the new campaign and so I felt that his speech had a lot of explaining and defending in it; he explained why we NEEDED the change, and I quote, “We need to be more daring in expressing our brand, if we are to rise above the clutter.” and defended why not build on the old brand, in which he answered,

“The answer is quite simple. At a time when every nation, big or small, is either creating a new brand or repackaging their current ones, would you rather rehash an 8-year old brand? Besides, a new brand always generates a buzz that translates to more media mileage for the same promotional budget. Even more importantly, this is a good opportunity for us to express in a fresh manner the hope and optimism that the Aquino Administration represents.”

After Sec. Lim spoke, DOT Undersecretary Enteng Romano came up to speak. I thought he was a VERY effective speaker. He was able to relate to the audience and caught our attention. He presented a guessing game of different destination photos with the aim of making us realize that all places are beautiful. He also pointed out the research they made on the hospitality of the Filipinos and how almost ALL of the nations think we are VERY FRIENDLY except for the Koreans! (Haha! So I thought: do we really treat Koreans worse than other nationalities? but also, which came first, the chicken or the egg? This was of course not the highlight of his speech.) Then, for the unveiling of the logo, we were then asked to go out to the alfresco area and wear our 3D glasses to view the video.

The video sung the song of the campaign “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (Philippines, how beautiful) to the tune of “Kay ganda ng ating musika” (How beautiful , our music) by Ryan Cayabyab. Then they opened up again the divider leading us towards the stage, where the choir was singing live the theme song again while fire works were continuously popping; a big teaser billboard on stage says: “May bagong branding na ang Pilipinas, gusto mo bang malaman?” (there is a new branding for the Philippines, do you want to find out?) then leading up to the chorus even more fireworks lit up letting down the teaser billboard, and revealing the new logo, "PILIPINAS Kay Ganda!"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Travelling and Meeting New People

Today was the first meeting of all the volunteers. Today is definitely a better day than yesterday. I met 9 other volunteers who were all intelligent and smart; they came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany, Canada, Australia and another Filipino, Kareen. We were asked to introduce ourselves, and mostly the people involved in this conference are of course either into the environment or tourism.

Before I left for Malaysia, I went to buy some Philippine souvenirs to give to the other volunteers. I went to Quiapo and bought 9 fibreglass carved jeepneys, and a Philippine flag pin for Kareen. I was so happy that I did this; it was such a good idea to give them something to remember me by. A jeepney that costs PHP 45 is not only just a remembrance but they would probably think of travelling to the Philippines! Not so bad for an investment for Philippine Tourism, eh? Everyone was surprised, happy, and were very appreciative of the gesture.

Since I’ve become a Mabuhay Guide, I've become even more intrigued with other people’s culture and also sort of obsessed talking about the history of the Philippines! “...300 years in convent and 50 years in Hollywood...and the Spanish just handed us over to the Americans, as if it were theirs to give...” relearning our Philippine history is one of the best things I have ever gotten for free.

I found myself asking my new friends about their country’s history: “who were your country’s invaders?” haha. Shehani from Sri Lanka told me their history in a nutshell, they were also conquered by the British and she said, that on the northern part of Sri Lanka there is a group of African tribe in which their culture are still very intact because when the British came into Sri Lanka they shipped the Africans to become slaves and when then Brits left, and they just stayed there (or were just left there). It’s amazing. I’ve never ever thought of travelling to Sri Lanka before but now, it’s a totally different story. This is one of the things why I love travelling or meeting new people...conversations like this is what I look forward to having.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Malaysia Truly Asia

I arrived Kuala Lumpur LCCT 3 o’clock this morning, when i arrived the airport, the vibe of the whole place felt like it was only 3 in the afternoon! There were so many people, and everyone seems to be awake. I was bombarded by hawkers!

I went out of the terminal and too the Sky bus that i booked online. I wasn’t sure from whom I could ask information from because Malaysia is so diverse. You cannot really tell who is a local. In one corner you’ll see a bunch of Malaysians, then some Indians, and Chinese; they could be tourists, who knows?! so I just went and approached a group whom I overheard was speaking in... Filipino.

This is my first time ever, officially, to be travelling alone. I am not here to meet anyone, I do not know anyone here, I am just here and figuring things out on my own. So... it’s pretty lonely. Haha. I found myself choking up, almost crying, ok, crying when I called up my sister Girlie this afternoon.

This afternoon I went to the Kuala Gandas Elephant Sanctuary. In here you can ride the elephants’ back, swim with them, feed them and take photos with them. Here is how to go to Kuala Gandas Elephant Sanctuary: Take the Monorail to Titiwangsa Station, go down the station to the other side to the Pekeliling Bus Station, look for KL Temeloh in ticket booth 8, the ticket costs RM 10.40 one way, tell the driver that you are going down at Lanchang. This trip will be around 1.5 hours. When you get down, you will see a store selling cellphones called HOTLINK. Owners are Chinese and were very helpful. It is very important that you tell them that you want to buy a ticket back to Kuala Lumpur because maybe by the time you get back; there will be no more tickets available. It is also at the shop that I got the owner to arrange me a taxi to go to Kuala Ganda, it costs RM 30, 2 way.

So when they did, they called on an old Malay driver with an old minivan. His name is Mr. Wam Ismael. He drove me to the sanctuary and became sort of my personal tour guide; although half of the time he couldn’t express himself and speaks to me in Malay, and I just tell him: I don’t know. HAHA. He is so friendly and really helpful (details below).

In the sanctuary, I took an elephant ride for about 30 seconds, this was mainly my goal today. I’ve always wanted to see elephants up close and personal. They are just so cute, they really do look like Dumbo (or should I say Dumbo looks like them), with the long lashes, big ears and everything. So Mr. Wam offered to hold my bag and I asked him if he could take my photos while I was on the elephant!

Here is the best photos he took of me on the elephant:

Here is a photo of the elephant swimming:

Here is the photo of me and the other elephants:

I did not expect to have finished so early, I arrived the sanctuary at 3PM and rode the elephant and everything (thank God I was there on time, because the elephant ride ends supposedly at 2:30pm) and I’ve done everything except swim with the elephants (which i didn’t want to because i had to go change, it’s a hassle). So I was done by 4:15PM. I was hoping to go back to Lanchang station so that I can catch the 4:30 bus instead of the 6:30 i booked. But when we arrived, it was already 4:45PM and then the 5:30 bus was already full and i have to wait for 2 whole hours before i can come back to KL. I was standing with Mr. Wam and told him, “oh! We didn’t catch thew 430 bus and now i have to wait for 2 more hours!” and just as I was saying this, the KL Temeloh bus just pulled up in across the street. He then went to the other side, talked to the driver and asked him to accommodate me right away even if my ticket was for 630!! He’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me so far in this trip! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam here I come!

I am Malaysia-bound in a few days. I volunteered in the World Ecotourism Conference 2010 that is happening in Kuala Lumpur. This event was actually brought to my attention by my friend Vangie; since she knew that I was in the tourism industry, being a Mabuhay Guide and everything. This is a very good extra knowledge to have. I guess you can never have enough extra knowledge, right?

I mindlessly filled up the application, not really thinking that I’d get in to become a volunteer; and I found out that there are only 10 of us representing 8 nations that were chosen among the hundreds that applied! I am very honoured to have been chosen. Among the 10 volunteers, 2 of us are from the Philippines. I have never met her but with the age of the internet, anyone can be a stalker haha; and so I searched her name in facebook and sent her a message, she apparently is also a Couchsurfer!
Judging from the 3 common friends we have. The rest of the volunteers are students from other Southeast Asian countries, Canada and Australia.

After Kuala Lumpur, I will be going to Singapore to meet my friend Sandra, who lives and works there now; I am actually fulfilling a promise of going over to see her. I’ve been to Singapore before but it was as a tourist, now, well I guess I’m still a tourist but I am going to hang out with a local  Another person I’m going to meet up with is my friend Zach! I hosted him here in Manila about a year ago and then we travelled together in Zamboanga, so now it’s his turn to show me around!

To top it all off, my friend Diana and I are going to meet at Vietnam!!! Diana and I both decided that we will become not just great friends but travel buddies! I think a travel buddy is hard to find. It does not necessarily mean that if you’re good friends, that you automatically become good travel buddies. Diana and I made a “pact” that we’d travel once a year. So this year, Vietnam it is.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Abbondanza Bonanza!

We were incredibly stuffed the other night when we were invited to go and have a taste test at the Abbondanza Pizzeria Ristorante. It is located in the Entertainmant Mall of the Mall of Asia, across the San Miguel by the Bay.

I actually know the family that owns Abbondanza Pizzeria, they are not Italians but they sure serve food like one! Tito Donn and Tita Ginn were so gracious, taking care of us as if we were in their home. It’s a good feel inside the restaurant, because you don’t feel like eating in a fast food or somewhere that just serves food because it’s a business. They serve food because they want to serve you good food and genuinely wants you to have a good time. It is a good mesh of Filipino hospitality and great Italian food!

Now to talk about the food:

We were served 2 kinds of soup, Minestrone (P120) and Zuppa Rustica (P120). Minestrone you would probably be more familiar, stewed tomato vegetable soup which had very comforting taste; and Zuppa Rustica,a mushroom broth with spinach and more mushrooms, yum! Both soup were very flavourful, a tad bit salty for my taste, but they make everything from scratch so you can make them adjust according to your palette.

THEN! we were served to try the Abbondanza Pizza. This gigantic oblong pizza (around 27” in length!!!) with 4 different flavours for you to choose from. Thin, baked to perfection crispy crust and generous amount of cheese and flavour! The size of pizza is really true to their tag line: "for the Big Italian Appetite!" This is a great way for you to try different flavours to find out which one is your favourite or you come and eat as a group and couldn't decide which pizza to get!

Speaking of favourite, my favourite pizza of all time is the QUATTRO FORMAGGI! 4 kinds of cheese on top of each other, melting on the crispy thin crust and it was heaven in a pie! What made this pizza even greater than it already is is the fact that I made it! This summer, on weekends between the hours of 2-5PM, they open their kitchen to kids who wants to try making their own pizza! Last night, the owners were gracious enough not only to adjust the time that the kitchen is open but also the age bracket! Haha

We thought that was it, after 2 pizzas, we’re off to dessert, but nooooo! Next up was the Pollo Arrosto (P280) chicken roasted was so tender then simmered with tomato sauce.

Then came Salsicce al Vino Biance with Creamed Baked Potatoes (P280). I think the sausage may not be something I’d look for, because I’m more of the sweet Chinese-style sausage, but I think this is great with wine. The baked potato on the other hand, is another story. Soft sliced baked potato topped with melted cheese… how can you go wrong? I’ve actually sworn off potato for years now, but I eat it once in a while when it’s worth it, and this was EVIL.

By the time Calamari Ripieni (P280) came out, I was just full, I tried a piece of it and it had a very interesting texture. The middle of the squid was this yam-like (like the Taro Puff) consistency that I had a hard time deciphering what it was, but it was actually ground squid and its caviar stuffed back into the squid then stewed in tomato. YUM for squid lovers!

We thought, oh what a great night, great food, then BAM! Risottos came along!

First, the classic Risotto al Funghi Porcini (P260) the rice was al dente (is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite) and they did not binge on the mushrooms! I <3 mushrooms. Even though I was already full, I could not resist “tasting” it one spoonful after the other. It’s the last dish anyway… no!

Then Risotto con Osso Buco (P300), this was probably one of my favourite dishes next to my Quattro Formaggi. In Filipino, we call it UTAK or brain, and it was cholesterol fest! beef bulalo (bone marrow!) in tomato sauce and cheesy risotto… *sniff* (‘nuff said!)

Then, Quattro Formaggi Risotto….rice…cheese…cheese…cheese…cheese… by this time, I’ve already stuffed myself to death but I just HAD to eat this. I wasn’t wearing spandex pants so I had to unbutton my jeans just to fit a few more spoonfuls of this cheese heaven. Evil.

To top it all off, of course, there was dessert. All three of them! The tiramisu (P125) was good, it’s good to balance your palette after eating so many flavourful dishes, it was very moist and soft. Tiramisu is a tricky dessert to execute to get the perfect flavour, this one was okay but not the best I’ve ever tasted. The panna cotta (P95) was delish! Especially the fresh berries that looked like caviar, I love the contrast of the creamy panna cotta with the textured berries. As for the Crema Catalana(P95) is just like your regular leche flan but it was presented like a crème brulee with the sugar crust, it wasn’t sweet enough for my taste by the texture was very creamy.

All in all, it was great experience! It is a great place to spend time with your family and friends because it has great food while catching up.

“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”

Check out their eat-all-you-can pizza promo OR eat-all-you-can pasta @ 250/head includes bottomless drinks!


Ground Floor of The Crescent Condominium, Amethyst Drive, Ortigas
Store hours: 11am-9pm, Sundays-Thursdays and
11am-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
DELIVERY: 6336336 (nearby areas only)

2/F Entertainment Mall, Mall of Asia, Pasay
Store hours: 10am-10pm

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Election 2010

This election was the first time the Philippines used the automated system.
This election was the first time that the counting wont last for a month.
This election was the first time I voted for someone I believe in.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I feel very liberated because I chose a candidate in which I truly saw a more hopeful future, not the lesser of two evils. This was with Gilberto Teodoro.

Even though he did not win, I think it's good that we got him reserved for the future. At least he is not someone 90 years old or something who would not be able to run for the next election.

Keep believing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pagsanjan is it!

One of the perks of being a Mabuhay Guide is, of course, travelling domestically. Recently I was assigned to do a tour of the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna; the first time that I have ever heard of that place was when I was living in South Korea, people I meet always say that they LOVE Pagsanjan Falls, and I’d just say: Yeah! It’s beautiful there, no? :)

I was 18, young and ignorant. Less than a decade after, I am a Mabuhay Guide –more aware than before but not as much as I would be in the future.

Laguna is such an ordinary place to go, “it’s just another city”, it’s famous for espasol and buko (coconut) pies, and OULET SHOPPING! The Laguna I know was Laguna Technopark, but other than that, I was just plain ignorant.

So when we got to Pagsanjan falls, I had no idea what to expect. For those who’ve been there, you’d find this entry to be stupid and outdated, but for those who are just like me, still a (semi)tourist in your own country, you’d be amazed.

We started out with a 3-hour drive from Manila to Laguna, it was a Saturday and traffic was to be expected. When we got to the River View Resort, it was nice. They had a bathroom with free lockers inside. You coordinate with the manager if you’re going to take the boat to the falls, then they’ll call the bangkeros to come fetch you at their port.

Each boat can carry maximum of 3 passengers (plus 2 bangkeros); from the resort to the falls take about an hour one way with a stretch of 8 kilometers. The first few minutes of the ride is quiet and serene, the boatman is going to paddle their way up stream then all the boats will be tied together like elephants and pulled by one single motored bangka (small boat) and then that’s where the magic begins!
The boatman will tackle 16 rapids, it is very difficult to explain what they do and how much energy they need to bring you from point A to point B, and so I will show you the video.

It was like a dance, jumping from one side to the other. It was an enjoyable ride except for the fact that you see the boatmen exhausted because they’re pulling you up stream through gorges! They’d be shouting HOOS and HAAHS, and you’ll feel kind of guilty sitting pretty making sure your camera doesn’t get wet haha. I’m not sure though if it was a tactic that they use to get more tips from you, but it sure worked for me! LOL.

The tour of Pagsanjan Falls is very organized, they’re a federation of all boat mean, I was told there were 900++ of them, each is assigned a number and their turns are rotated. The boat ride is P1000 per person. You might think that the price might be expensive, but I really think it’s worth it! The entry written on the latest edition of Lonely Planet isn’t updated, it still complains about the disorganization of the boat ride, noisy hawkers and overpricing but it is not at all like that anymore.

After all the 16 gorges, we were instructed by the boatman cum tour leader to head to the other side of the shore and there we saw the amazing falls. In the middle of it all, was a bamboo raft, the whole ambiance was a chaos, mix of different races trying to figure out what the boatmen are trying to instruct them, “sit down!”, “go there!” I was almost literally pushed to the bamboo raft with the rest of the tourists and we asked to sit down. A macho topless man is in front of the raft pulling a raft of around 25 people to the middle of it all, Pagsanjan Falls. When you get closer, you get more nervous what it’s going to feel like when you’re directly under the 300ft tall fall... alas, ahh… hydromassage!

It could be a bit scary feeling as though the raft was going to give in because there were so many of us, but it was part of the thrill, the excitement that lasted for about 5 minutes in comparison to the 1 hour journey through the gorges.

The saying goes that it is the journey and not the destination but in this case, the thrill was both in the journey and the destination! WOW PHILIPPINES.