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I love to travel just to explore new things in life from breathtaking natural wonders, interesting historical sites, delicious food, friendly people and colorful culture. I treasure every moment in traveling by writing in my journal, taking photos and publish it in my travel blog.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Batangas Journey: From the Highlands to the Heritage Town

One summer day, I had a travel where I passed the highlands in order to make it to the heritage town located in the progressive province of Batangas. From passing the highland roads which provides the view of rolling, verdant hills to the busy streets which lead you to the town where you can feel that you are traveling back in time. As you travel in Batangas, you can see the small houses and buildings dotted in the rolling hills, a tall and colorful castle with green mountains in the background, visiting century-old ancestral houses which gave you an idea of the history and taking a tiring but memorable walk in the scorching heat of the sun to discover the heritage town preserved for many centuries and a place where heroes and historical figures are born.
The rolling verdant hills of Batangas.
Fantasy World, an amusement park in the stunning and verdant hills of Lemery, Batangas.
I traveled for almost two hours from Cavite by riding a bus going to Lian, Batangas where I stopped at the boundary of Alfonso, Cavite and Nasugbu, Batangas. Then, I rode a jeepney going to Taal passing the towns of Laurel and Lemery. As the jeep ascended to the zigzag roads, I saw few buildings (particularly resorts and hotels) dotted in the verdant mountains of Batangas. Therefore, the place that really caught my attention is a huge and colorful castle in Lemery called Fantasy World. It is also a favorite shooting place of some local fantasy series  and reality shows in this amusement park.
Taal Basilica
The church interior of Taal, Batangas.
Then, I made it to the heritage town of Taal. The town has similarities with other heritage places such as Vigan, Intramuros and Pila where there are many ancestral houses from the Spanish era, so I decided to visit the Taal town proper. In the center of the town, you can find the Taal Basilica or the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours. It is known as the Asia's Biggest Catholic Church. It was built in 1575 and it was originally located in the present town of San Nicolas. It was destructed by a volcanic eruption on 1754 and rebuilt in 1755 to its present location. In 1849, the said church claimed its title as the "Biggest Catholic Church in the Far East."
Taal Park
Taal Municipal Hall. The town of Taal was found in 1572.
The Taal Cultural Center. It is known as Escuela Pia during the Spanish era.
Other interesting places in the town center are the Taal Park located in front of the church, Taal Municipal Hall and the Taal Cultural Center which is known before as the Escuela Pia during the Spanish era. The town proper of Taal reminded me of the society in the Spanish era where major infrastructures like church, school, town hall and the market are located here.
Goco Ancestral House
The ancestral houses of Taal Heritage Town mingled along with the progress and urbanization.
Marcela Agoncillo's Ancestral House. She created the Philippine Flag used in
Declaration of Independence in 1898.
Leon Apacible Ancestral House

Galleria Taal
Then I decided to take a walk to the heritage town where the ancestral houses are located. In the town of Taal you can find the Marcela Agoncillo Ancestral House, Leon Apacible Ancestral House and the Goco Ancestral House. I also had a chance to visit the Galleria Taal, an ancestral house owned by 1935 Consitutional Convention delegate Antonino Barrion. In this house, you can see the different vintage cameras as well with the old photographs from 19th century to the 20th century.

Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine
The miraculous well of St. Lucia
The 150 steps to the town proper via San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps.
My travel experience in Taal would not be completed by visiting the Our Lady of Caysasay Church and the miraculous well of Saint Lucia. Then, I took the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps where I took the approximately 150 steps to the town proper.

Therefore, my travel experience in Taal is such a great trip because I feel that I traveled back in time and appreciate our history especially in taking a look at the heritage houses where some of the heroes and politicians came from this town. In addition, I appreciated that Taal is a town where the Christianity served as a legacy by the Spaniards.

Date of Travel: May 15, 2012

This is a June 2012 post on Perspectives in White Scratch Papers, my official blog.

In The Island of Stars

My family and I got back from our trip to Palawan last year where we visit some of the tourist spots in Puerto Princesa City including Honda Bay. It is a perfect place for island hopping because the exotic and peculiar features of the islets and the panoramic view of the bay makes the tour more exciting. In addition, it is an ideal venue for snorkeling because of the abundance of marine creatures from shallow reefs to the deeper parts of the bay.
The shore of Starfish Island.
There is an island in Honda Bay where you can see a lot of stars. If you want to know about it, you can go to Starfish Island. You can travel there through boat, many less than twenty to forty-five minutes from the shore to the island. Boats can be rented in Sta. Lourdes Wharf, Barangay Tagbanua, Puerto Princesa City.

The lucid and clear water of Honda Bay from Starfish Island. You can see numerous starfish in this shallow reef.
A starfish found in the most shallow area of the bay.
The starfish teemed up with rocky reef and clear water of Honda Bay.
Starfish Island is famous for its fine white sand beaches, stony reef and pellucid water of the bay where many starfish are abounded in this area. In addition, this island is covered with mangrove trees. You can have your overnight stay by checking in to Sandbar Resort and some cottages which serve as lodging places in the island.
A lone starfish in the clear saltwater.
A starfish crawling to its next place.
A small hard coral.
A baby crab. This is the smallest crab I've ever seen in my whole life.
We spend in this island for almost twenty to forty minutes. We enjoyed our stay here by taking photographs and walking in the seashore to feel the natural beauty and discover the diverse creatures found in this island. The most memorable experience in this island is to see the numerous starfish scattered in the shallow and rocky reef of the bay. It was visually captivating to see many brown and orange starfish distributed in the clear and tropical water of Honda Bay. There are also few small gray sea stars in the bay. You can also found some creatures such as crabs, hard and soft corals, and some clownfish that dwell on sea anemone.

We also did fish feeding but only few were coming in the shallow part unlike in nearby islands where you can see colorful schools of fish. There are few fish with white, brown and gray colors are coming to eat the bread crumbs. In addition, you need to become cautious because of stonefish. They were able to camouflage which look like a rough stone under the sea that matches the rocky features of the reef. If you attacked by this creature, your whole leg up to your thigh will be in intense pain because of the neurotoxins released from their glands at the base of needle-like dorsal fin spines.

Aside from the abundance of starfish, there are lots of white shells in this island which look like a dollar coins. These creatures are called sand dollars. They are distributed from the seashore to the bay. But when we take a glimpse on these coin-like creatures, they were already empty. However, when sand dollars are alive, they have a substance which makes their brown color and they have their spines to move coordinately. We didn’t see any living sand dollars or else they are living underwater or in muddy areas.

As we walk along the moist and sandy seashore, we found a dead starfish which smells too bad because it was decaying. If a starfish is continuously crawling to the beach where there is no water, they will die. We saw other starfish in the shore. They were pale and dry due to too much exposure in air and sunlight. However, they are still living. In order for these sea stars to live longer, we take them back to their habitat in the bay.

Starfish Island is near in Snake Island where you can enjoy fish feeding and snorkeling where you can see colorful school of fish, coral reefs and clams. In addition, there are lots of small fish in the shallow reef of this island. You need to become careful also because there are triggerfish that will join the school of fish during the fish feeding and they can bite you with its strong-jawed mouth. In addition, tourists gather in this island for their lunch break and it can be joined by the souvenir vendors to sell their items for the tourists. Snake Island is named because of its shape is similar to  a slithering snake.
 The magic circle of stars in Honda Bay. Brown and orange starfish gathered together in a circle.
Starfish Island is such a peculiar tourist spot in Honda Bay. It was a surreal encounter when you see numerous starfish in the clear, tropical waters of the bay and their way of living in this island along with other creatures. Although we stay there for less than an hour, it was an exciting thing to discover more of the small islands in Honda Bay which has peculiar and exotic features and it proves that our country is such a beautiful place to live.

Date of Travel: October 29-31, 2013

You can find this in May 2011 post in my official blog, Perspectives in White Scratch Papers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Honda Bay Island Hopping

Palawan is one of the best tourist destinations in the Philippines because of different natural wonders such as limestone formation of caves, diverse flora and fauna, verdant mountains, lush rainforests, fine beaches and tropical blue waters of the sea. In addition, it is an ideal place for your summer getaway because of the clean environment, beautiful tourist spots, and the abundance of natural resources in the island province.

I got back from a trip to Palawan last year where we visit some of the tourist attractions in the province. One of the places we visited was Honda Bay. It is an ideal venue for island hopping and snorkeling. In addition, this place is known for white sand beaches, the blue and crystal clear water and the richness of marine creatures in the bay. Honda Bay is located 12 kilometers east of Puerto Princesa City and composed of several islands within the area. The bay is used for commercial fisheries and recreation. Boats can be rented in Sta. Lourdes wharf in Brgy. Tagbanua, Puerto Princesa City. These boats can be used for travel to nearby islands, many less than 45 minutes from the shore by boat. 
Sailing across the Honda Bay.
During our island hopping in Honda Bay, we visit two islands and one diving spot. Our first stop is in Pambato Reef where corals are abundant in this area. According to other travel blogs, there is a huge fish density and underwater visibility in this diving area. I wanted to see the coral reefs during that time, but I was afraid to go in the reef because I don’t have enough experience to swim in the deeper part of the bay. Besides, there are tourists who injured because of corals. So you need to be careful in swimming and do not step the corals. 

The colorful school of fish in the shallow reef of Snake Island.
After forty-five minutes, we proceed to Snake Island. This place is known not because there are many snakes in the island, but it is named for the shape of the island which looks like a slithering snake. We spent for almost one hour and enjoyed our stay in the island covered with mangrove trees. First, we saw a lot of tiny fish with white and brown colors in the part of the bay that almost reaches the shore. Besides, I had a lot of fun in snorkeling. But the most unforgettable encounter in this island happened in fish feeding.  It was a surreal experience because there are schools of fish with bright colors of black, white, blue and yellow were surrounding around me. Also, there are two to three medium-sized fish wants to join the group in feeding the bread crumbs. While waiting for our lunch, I saw a small crab with a shell in its back (I think it’s a hermit crab). I try to look at this crab and touch its shell until it runs fast and hides in a small hole in the sand. Then, we had our lunch and picture taking in this island. Also, my sisters and friends helped the pasalubong vendors in making accessories and souvenirs. 
The sandy seashore of Starfish Island.
The lucid and tropical water of the bay from Starfish Island.
The fine white sand, rocky reef, and clear water teemed with starfish.
The circle of starfish.
Our last stop is in Starfish Island. When we landed in the island, it was amazing because of fine white sand and clear water that teemed with the numerous starfish scattered in the shallow reef of the bay. We spend our time there through taking photographs and walking in the seashore to discover other creatures aside from starfish. In addition, there are plenty of empty and white shells which look like a dollar coins. These creatures are called sand dollars. In fact, these sand dollars are color brown when they were living. We also found a dead starfish, decaying in the shore. They died due to continuously crawling to the beach which is a dry place and out of the water. Because of what we saw, we decided to save some starfish in the shore by getting them back to the bay in order to live longer. You need to become cautious also because there are stonefish found in this island. They are able to camouflage which looks like a rock under the sea. But, if you attacked by this creature, your whole leg up to your thigh would be numb and be in intense pain. We also continued our fish feeding but there are few fish with colors of brown and white fed the bread crumbs and stay away;  unlike in other islands where there are colorful schools of fish. 
A place similar to the Exile Island in hit reality series Survivor.
Lu-li Island
Taking a glimpse of the bay before we go back to the wharf.
Therefore, there are other islands in Honda Bay which are interesting to visit due to its peculiar and exotic features. There are islands which are known for the richness of marketable creatures such as Canon or Cowrie Island where you can found many cowrie shells in the shore and SeƱorita Island which serves as a breeding site of lapu-lapu fish. We also have Lu-li Island which coined from the first syllables of two Tagalog words Lulubog meaning sinking and Lilitaw which means showing up, where one part of this island is sinking during high tide. Also there are islands named after a flying mammal and an endemic plant. These islands are Bat Island where it is the home of fruit bats that coming out of holes during sundown for their evening feed and Pandan Island where it is named after a native plant found in the island and an ideal place for snorkeling. Lastly, we have islands known for its resorts like the Arreceffi Island where you can found the Dos Palmas Resort and Meara Marina Island where you can have your overnight stay in this island because of its resort.

This island trekking experience is exciting and relaxing because you will appreciate the abundance of natural resources, the beauty of the islands and the captivating scenery of the bay. If I were given a chance to come back to Palawan, I want to complete my island trekking experience in Honda Bay in order to explore the uniqueness of every island and the panoramic beauty of the bay.

Date of Travel: October 29 - 31, 2010
Photos by: Diesta Family (jondiestaportfolio.blogspot.com)
Text by: Jonathan B. Diesta
Other Sources: http://www.puertoprincesa.ph

This is a May 2011 post from my blog "Perspective in White Scratch Papers" in order to promote the tourism of our country.

A Historical Visit at Little Hollywood

We all know that Hollywood is a place where you can experience the glamorous celebrity life. You can meet your favorite international actors and actresses and you will discover the artistic production of their films and television series. You can see tall skyscrapers, lively entertainment centers and fancy restaurants.

Here in the Philippines, we have our own version too, a place called Little Hollywood. As you enter the town, you can see a lot of coconut plantations, rice fields and verdant meadows in the foothills of Mount Banahaw and it is part of the Laguna Loop.

Located a few kilometers away from Pagsanjan, Magdalena is known as "The Little Hollywood of Laguna" because the town became a favorite shooting location of some classic Philippine movies. In addition, you can experience a typical Pinoy rural ambiance in this town because of the lush vegetation, clear rivers, the simplicity of life among the inhabitants. and a town rich in history because of its landmarks.
The welcome arch of Magdalena and you can see the lush vegetation in the town.
The Little Hollywood of Laguna
I always passed this town when I traveled to Liliw and Nagcarlan. I was curious about the town so I decided to visit and get to know the simplicity of life in this peaceful town. The jeepney driver told me that I should visit the town plaza and he took me there. I appreciated a lot in this town plaza because of the century-old town hall as a familiar venue in one of the classic Fernando Poe Jr. movies. There is also the small but clean  Rizal Park located in front of the municipal hall. You can see the monuments of Dr. Jose Rizal and the other historical markers including the marker dedicated to the war veterans who fought during the Japanese occupation in the country. There is also a place called Walk of Fame which is located opposite the municipal hall. Aside from Fernando Poe Jr., other local celebrities such as Sharon Cuneta, Robin Padilla and Rudy Fernandez made it to this town for shooting location of their movies.
The municipio or town hall of Magdalena.
Rizal Park
Adjacent to the municipal hall, the Saint Mary Magdalene Church was located in the plaza. It was built in 1829 and it is one of the Baroque churches in the Laguna Loop. It is also the place where Emilio Jacinto, sought refuge after he was wounded during the war in Laguna in 1898. Inside the church, you can find the marker where his blood stains are covered by a glass and you can see his bolo and hat.
The facade of St. Mary Magdalene Church
Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Magdalena, Laguna
Emilio Jacinto Marker inside the St. Mary Magdalene Church
Away from the town center, you can find another historical landmarks in the midst of lush vegetation. As you passed the sleepy roads, you can find the area where Emilio Jacinto was shot by the revolutionaries near in Maimpis River before he proceed to the church.
Emilio Jacinto Marker near the Maimpis River and in front of Bahay Laguna
In front of the marker, you can visit a small museum called Bahay Laguna. This museum was operating for almost fourteen years in order to commemorate the administration of Felicisimo San Luis, who became a governor of the province for almost three decades.
The marker of Bahay Laguna
The facade of Bahay Laguna
The products from different towns in Laguna.
The office of Governor San Luis
The statue of Felicisimo San Luis. Below is a poem entitled "Pangarap" (Dreams) which
was written by San Luis. It can be sang in the tune of "The Impossible Dream" by Matt Monro.
Therefore, the travel experience in Magdalena was such a meaningful ones because I learned a lot about the colorful past of Laguna as well with the history of the Philippines. Magdalena is a town preserved by generations through heritage and history as well with its rustic ambiance and the peaceful life of the residents.

How to get there:
  • You can ride a jeepney from Santa Cruz, passing the town of Pagsanjan. If you are from San Pablo, ride a jeepney going to Liliw, then ride another jeepney to Magdalena.
You can read my December 2011 post - Navigating Laguna Loop: Magdalena

Date of Travel: November 6, 2011 and December 18, 2011

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Shopping Galore Challenge in Liliw

I've been to Liliw four times and I always noticed the Pinoy market place scene in the town proper. I always noticed the line up of stalls and stores and even a few fast food chains. That is why, I came back here to challenge myself to have a shopping galore in this town.
The busy town center of Liliw where you can find a lot of stalls, stores and fast food chains.
The challenge here is I have only 800 pesos as my pocket money. Due to transportation fare from Cavite to Liliw, I already used 200 pesos. Now I only have 600 pesos so I decided to use 400 pesos for shopping spree in Liliw's town center.
St. John the Baptist Church in Liliw. This church was built in 1605.

The belfry of the church.
The interior of the church.
Before I started the challenge, I went to St. John the Baptist Church. I really appreciated the Baroque architecture as well with the bricked facade and the solemn ambiance of the church.
One of the markers of Cafe Arabela.
The entrance to Cafe Arabela.
The low ceiling restaurant was patronized by the locals and foreigners because of the delicious food.

Delicious lunch: Beef lasagna with toasted ginger bread plus Mango Juice.
Beef Lasagna with Ginger bread. Looks like small but makes my stomach full.
Two pieces of Brownies. 
1. Foodie Challenge:  I went to Cafe Arabela, one of the famous yet fancy restaurants in Liliw. It offers delicious food ranging from pizzas, pastas, cakes, pastries, tacos, salads, and steaks as well with its thirst-quenching beverages especially fruit juices, sodas and shakes. The restaurant also offers delicacies with a local twist especially the pasta with kesong puti (a local cheese made from carabao's milk), tanigue steak (a fish steak), and green mango shake (although it tastes so sour but I think it is delicious). I ordered Beef Lasagna, Mango Juice and two pieces of Brownies. In addition, the low ceiling restaurant was clean and patronized by the locals and foreigners who want to taste Italian food in Liliw. After I finished eating in Cafe Arabela, I decided to visit again this cozy restaurant and eat their other delicacies when I come back to Liliw
Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
Lanzones (Lansium domesticum)
Durian. This fruit was originally came from Mindanao but now it is planted in the rich soils of Laguna.
2. Shopping for Fruits and Snacks: I also bought local fruits especially rambutan and lanzones because it is the harvest season for these fruits and sold in the markets of Liliw. In addition, I also bought uraro (arrowroot cookies) and the taste was really sumptuous at its affordable price. I also appreciated the fact that Liliw as well with other neighboring towns in the Banahaw region of Laguna Loop was able to plant and harvest durian which was common in Mindanao.
Colorful and sturdy yet cheap slippers and sandals are truly made from Liliw.
You can buy a product by its quality. Truly Pinoy!
3. "Tsinelas o Bayong." We all know that the town is popular for very good quality of slippers and footwear. The amount of slippers and footwear in the stalls of Liliw ranging from 50 to 200 pesos. Before, I bought an alfombra slippers worth 200 pesos. This time I bought a rubber slippers made from Liliw worth 70 pesos. I enjoyed a lot by taking a glance in seeing the line-up of slippers in every stall that I visit. Because I bought a lot of products in the town, I decided to buy a "bayong" (a bag made of indigenous material which can be used in buying products as substitute for basket) in order to carry the products easy. In addition, I am thankful to Ate who sold this bayong for giving me the discount. I really appreciate the best quality of slippers and sandals in Liliw because it is sturdy and creatively designed as well with the fact that it is affordable.

Therefore, the shopping experience completed my travel experience in Liliw. I came home to Cavite with lots of pasalubong from Laguna as well with the fact that we need to patronize our own products. Buy Pinoy!

Other Pictures:
The statue of Gat Tayaw.
Gat Tayaw Park, Liliw
Tsinelas (Sandals) is a truly Pinoy product and it can be found in Liliw.
Overall, here's the summary of all the expenses of the shopping challenge in Liliw:
  • Cafe Arabela
    • Beef Lasagna                    -   P 95.00
    • Mango Juice                     -   P 50.00
    • Brownies (2 pieces)          -   P 30.00
    • TOTAL:                              P 175.00
  • Palengke Shopping
    • Bayong                               - P 75.00
    • Rambutan (1 kilo)               - P 25.00
    • Lanzones (1/2 kilo)             - P 35.00
    • Uraro (arrowroot cookies)  - P 35.00
    • Slippers                              - P 70.00
    • TOTAL:                             P 240.00
  • GRAND TOTAL:                       P 415.00
That's it, next time if I come back to Laguna, I will visit Liliw once again to explore more interesting facts about the town as well with the great Pinoy shopping experience.

Date of Travel:  September 30, 2012
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