A Long Week’s Journey Into Paradise In The Philippines

A Long Week’s Journey Into Paradise In The Philippines

The Philippines, the world’s second-largest archipelago next to Indonesia, is speckled with hundreds of islands boasting pristine beaches, cross-cultured cuisine, and friendly people wearing content smiles. The wide variety of islands encompass an illustrious array of different languages and topographies that make the Philippines a destination that travelers find themselves revisiting over and over again.

Beaches with driftwood that ornament the sugar-like sand lightly sparkle from the sun. The water is a sapphire blue that melts into the afternoon sky making the horizon vanish. There is only one set of footprints in the sand that lead directly to a village just beyond the barrier-bitten black volcanic rocks. No, this is not bustling Boracay, the destination most well renowned in the Philippines, but Negros, an island located in the central Visayas.

A ferry from Cebu city, the major travel hub in the Visayas, can connect you with the port city of Dumaguete, the self-proclaimed “most friendly city in The Philippines.” Dumaguete is home to the first Protestant university in the country, Silliman University, and incorporates the exemplary fiesta vibe that seems to resonate throughout the rest of the Visayas. The pace in Dumaguete is leisurely, even for a city in the Philippines, and a great port of entry to the rest of Negros Oriental.

A five-hour bus ride northwest from Dumaguete along coastline and through rice paddies will bring you to Sipalay, the home of secluded Sugar Beach. However, your journey has only made it to the start of the last leg at this point. From Sipalay you must rent a “trike” — a motorcycle with a side car — to ride over a rickety wooden bridge. From there, small motor boats must be hired to take you and your belongings around the peninsula of Sugar Beach. If you are lucky enough to catch the night sky, the boat ride will be illuminated by globs of fireflies clenched to mangroves and the occasional shooting star plummeting through the stainless sky. The hum of crackled karaoke and chatter breaks through the silent night as the boat passes a small village. The beach looks like a black void completely barren of lights. None of the hotels on Sugar Beach break the forest line.

Sugar Beach is a castaway’s haven, offering a small selection of palm-roofed bungalows, driftwood villas, and sand-carpeted bars a stone’s throw from the Sulu Sea. Beach-washed European proprietors claim the four main accommodations on Sugar Beach. Jogi, a willing castaway from Germany, remembers the days when travelers would wash up on the shores and set up tents under the thatched roof that has now become his restaurant and bar. “I started the construction on Sulu Sunset in January of 2000,” Jogi remembers. “When the restaurant was finished, I, my family, and the staff slept in tents.”

All of his employees are locals from the neighboring villages around Sugar Beach. “That was the time we cooked and ate where the bar is now. Of course, we had to run generators at the time,” Jogi continues. “Germans need cold beer.”
The bungalows, chairs, and tables are all built from the surrounding coconut trees and bamboo stalks. If it rains, you’ll find that coconut-based items from the restaurant will be limited because the trees will be too wet to climb.

By the end of 2000, Jogi had built four bungalows with the help of his family, staff, and fellow German cohort, Oliver, a backpacker who discovered Jogi through a pension house in Sipalay. He ended up staying two weeks to help Jogi with odds and ends. “Oliver continued his trip to Palawan and told every backpacker in the whole of Palawan Island about my place.” After the word got out, Jogi’s four bungalows periodically began filling up. But, if travelers can’t find a place to sleep during the high seasons of January and February, they’re always welcome to pitch a tent.

Beached fishing boats sway in the sand as the gentle tide glides them with the pace of the evening current. The sand turns a shade of red as villager’s gaze on to the sunset. Day trips picnicking on the beach are very much a part of Philippine culture. The English literacy rate in the country is over 90%, making it very easy to communicate here compared to many other parts of Asia.

Fifteen minutes by foot from the northern point of Sugar Beach lays a beach facing east towards the sunset, barricaded by jagged volcanic rock on both sides. As I sit, a shadowy figure emerges from the damp jungle behind me, spilling onto the sunlit sand. Doubts grow in my mind as to whether I have arrived on his private property or insulted him by taking pictures of what appears to be a village beyond the brush.

“Hello friend,” the young man says, greeting me with a smile wide enough to knock the blue baseball cap off his head. “Do you need a room?” He offers. “You can stay here in my village . . . we can also cook some fish for you.” Read the whole story here http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2009/10/04/philippines/

Natural disaster preparedness for the overseas adventure traveler

An earthquake in Indonesia. A tsunami in Samoa and Tonga. Deadly storms in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The latest string of natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands might have you wondering what you would do if you were traveling overseas and Mother Nature reared her ugly side. While not as devastating or widely televised as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, these recent and powerful natural disasters have taken numerous lives, injured many, destroyed communities, and serve as a bold reminder that these things do happen. And it could just be while you’re on your next exotic adventure across the globe. What would you do?

The situation turns dramatically different when we suddenly find ourselves in a remote village on the island of Sumatra, with no cell phone access, no TV or radio updates, and - perhaps most daunting - no ability to speak the local language in order to communicate with anyone. The scenario sounds downright scary, not to mention it could prove to be life-threatening.

When traveling abroad, we’re often accompanied by a sense of invincibility. Adventure travel - particularly in the exotic third world - has a way of doing that to us. Making us feel indestructible. Daring us to go beyond our comfort zones. Urging us to try crazy new things. While those are the hallmarks of this type of exploration, they might not serve us well when faced with a natural disaster. On the other hand, adrenaline could be your best friend in a drastic situation.

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself before and during your overseas travels:
Be informed

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a wealth of information, including detailed reports and statistics for the latest natural disasters affecting the Asia Pacific area.

Read and watch the international news for the areas in which you’re traveling. You can find BBC World and CNN International broadcasts in English in most Western-catering hotels and even smaller guesthouses. You can even set up a CNN profile and be alerted via email or your mobile device when breaking news occurs.

Visit an online community forum, where folks in-country regularly report the latest real-time accounts of what’s happening around them, first-hand and uncensored.

Register with the U.S. embassies and/or consulates

In the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or even a health emergency, you’ll have an easier time getting assistance abroad. This is particularly important for those traveling longer than one month in any one country, and/or in areas where there are known problems, natural or political. The U.S. State Department website has detailed information on how to register.

Purchase a good travel insurance policy

I always recommend some level of travel insurance in my Tips for Extended World Travel seminars. What specific coverage you buy is up to you, but it’s a good idea to consider a plan that includes natural disaster coverage. Check the U.S. State Department’s comprehensive list of insurance providers, or consult my list at the bottom right of this article.

Leave contact details with a friend or family member

Even if you’re a last-minute traveler who shows up unannounced in a place, you can usually get yourself to a cheap Internet cafe - or use your laptop if you have one - to check in with folks back home. Drop them a quick note and let them know your whereabouts. Give them the name of your guesthouse, hostel, or hotel; provide a website for your accommodations if available. Bottom line: It’s a good idea to let someone close to you know your whereabouts at points along your journey.

For more info: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) devotes a section of their website to natural disasters and severe weather. While geared toward the U.S., these tips could prove helpful - although not always practical - anywhere in the world. Some international information is provided. Read the original posting here

The Top Five Island Tourist Destinations in the Philippines


Number one on the list, of course, a world class resort, the most popular island destination and the number one tourist spot in the Philippines – Boracay. It is regarded as “the finest beach of all Asia”. Likewise, popularly known as, “the number one tropical beach in the world”. Everyone will surely enjoy swimming and sunbathing on its 4 kilometer “white sand beach”. You will definitely like this island paradise. It is situated in Panay Island, Philippines, about 300 km south of Manila.


Next on the list is Palawan known as “the last Philippine frontier “. It is blessed with beautiful tourist attractions like Club Paradise Resort, El Nido Resort, and many others. The famous underground river is also here, and the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park which is the best place for snorkeling in Asia is also located on this island.


Third on the list is another world class beach resort, Dakak. It is famous not only for its “powdery white sand” but also famous for its coral reefs and diving that is why it was named the “Diving Mecca in Mindanao”.


In the fourth spot, we have Siargao, the haven of surfers from all over the world. Popularly known as, “the surfing capital of the Philippines”. International Surfing Cup is held here annually.


And the last, but certainly not the least, we have Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines. It is the smallest province in terms of land area and population. You will surely love this place. It is the best place for nature lover and people who love tranquility and serenity. This is where the Pacific Ocean merges with the South China Sea. Batanes is great for summer vacation, fishing, diving and hiking.
Read the complete orginal posting here and also the beautiful photos the writer has http://trifter.com/asia-pacific/philippines/the-top-five-island-tourist-destinations-in-the-philippines/

Philippine Wonders of Nature

The wonders of nature found in the Philippines. Some of the featured places are included in the on-going search for the seven wonders of the world

If you are a nature lover, you will like it here in the Philippines. It is here where some of the most beautiful wonders of nature are found. These world-renowned wonders of nature are sights to behold and to enjoy by citizens of the world. Listed here are some of the great wonders of nature found in the Philippines. I have chosen 10 places that in my opinion are the best places to see in the country.

Banaue Rice Terraces

This beautiful place is located in the northern part of the country. This wonder of nature is known to Filipinos as the 8th wonder of the world. This rice terraces has been carved into the mountains by the indigenous people of Mountain Province and Ifugao more than 2000 years ago. The Banaue Rice Terraces is included in the Unesco World Heritage List in 1995.

Tubbataha Reef Marine Park

This Unesco World Heritage-listed marine park is located in the Municipality of Cagancillio, Province of Palawan. Tubbataha is made of about 10,000 coral reefs lying in the middle of Sulo Sea. Tubbataha is a nesting place for green sea turtles. It has almost 500 species of fish, about 45 species of birds, 9 species of dolphins and whales and it has about 400 species of corals.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

This great wonder of nature is another sight to enjoy. It is located in Palawan, Puerto Princesa, about 50 kilometers north of the Capital City. It has about 8 kilometers of navigable Underground River considered to be the longest in the world and features a limestone karsts mountain landscape. The river winds through a cave before it flows directly to the sea. This underground river has several chambers and also contains major formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Like the Tubbataha Reef, this nature park is included in the Unesco Heritage List.

Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills is located in Bohol, Philippines. It is made up of around 268 small cone-shaped hills that are almost of the same size and spread over an area of about 50 square kilometers. These coned-shaped hills are covered with grass and turns brown like a dark colored chocolate during summertime

Mayon Volcano

Mount Mayon is located is located in the province of Albay and about 15 kilometers northwest of the capital city of Legaspi.
Mount Mayon is an active volcano and has erupted about 47 times in the last 400 years. The volcano is known the world over as the most perfect cone shape volcano.

The most destructive eruption of Mount Mayon occurred in 1814 when lava flows emanating from the volcano buried the nearby town of Cagsawa, leaving only the bell tower of the church visible from the ground.. In this worst eruption, more than 2,000 people died.

Boracay Beach

Boracay Island is located in the province of Aklan with a land area of about 10 square kilometers. The island is famous for its powdery white sand and now considered as one of the best beaches in the world. From an unknown travel destination years ago, Boracay is now teeming with upscale tourists from all over the world.

Siargao Island

Siargao Island is located in the province of Surigao del Norte. It has a land area of over 400 square kilometers. Siargao is known the world over as one of the best Surfing destinations. It is home to Siargao Cup, a Philippine and International Surfing competition sponsored by the local government of Surigao.

Hundred Islands of Pangasinan

Hundred Islands is located in Pangasinan. These islands are scattered in deep blue waters of Ligayen Gulf. Some of the bigger islands have white sand beaches and dining facilities for visitors to enjoy.

Pagsanjan Falls

Pagsanjan Falls is located south of Metro Manila in the province of Laguna. The place is very popular among domestic and international travelers. Shooting the rapids is its major attraction. Boatmen will take you in their banca (wooden boat) to the river upstream, go swimming and shoot the rapids on your way downstream.

Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano is located in the island of Luzon in the province of Batangas, about 50 kilometers south of Manila. It is an active volcano with a large lake in its crater. The lake is popular fishing ground for residents living in the vicinity of the volcano.

from the blog http://www.bukisa.com/articles/29226_philippine-wonders-of-nature

The Best Beach In The Philippines

I will be a cliche and say that Boracay is still, by far the best beach in the Philippines. No other Philippine beach comes close to it. Palawan, also called the last frontier, may have its beautiful little beaches but when individually putting these beaches side by side with Boracay, Palawan’s beaches pale in comparison.

So why do I love Boracay so much? Let me count the ways.
boracay beach philippines
Boracay has a 3 kilometer shoreline of fine dazzling white sand. Even if you walk barefoot on a scorching sunny day, the sand seems to absorb the sun’s heat and never gets hot as to require you to wear slippers.
beach resort philippines
Blessed with warm waters from the __ sea, you can dip in Boracay’s waters any time of the day and not shiver in the cold. And the color of the water, it makes you want to drown yourself underneath and never come back up. Even the seabed has fine sand which makes it all the more enjoyable.
philippine beach
With the advent of commercialization, some folks say that Boracay is no longer the paradise that it used to be. True there are now establishments along the beach but I do believe that it only opened up the island to all walks of life. Now it’s not just for people who prefer to rough it out with nature. The filthy rich can have the luxury that they are accustomed to while the not so rich still have their choices of very affordable accommodations.
beach in philippines
The food on the island has also become very varied which can only mean that people have more places and restaurants to choose from. Those who complain that the place has become quite expensive don’t know where to look, or lack the stomach for adventure. You only have to dig deeper to see that not everything is priced for foreigners.
beach resorts philippines
The nightlife is thumping as well. There are a lot more bars and establishments now so after a full day of swimming and frolicking under the sun, you can drown your sorrows in beer or dance the night away in the many bars and restaurants by the beach.
boracay beach philippines
Boracay has also become more accessible. Before, people have to spend long hours at sea just to be able to save on fares, but now with plummeting plane fares, everyone can just hop on a plane and be on the island in just a couple of hours minus the financial distress. Having said that, what’s not to love about Boracay, the best beach in the Philippines. click this link to go to the original complete posting

Why Travel To The Philippines

Traveling to the Philippines can be one of the most rewarding adventures you can have in your life.
Reason #1 – The Weather
This goes without saying. The Philippines is a tropical island which means that we have sunshine all year long. True there are the occasional typhoons here and there but these are usually concentrated in certain parts of the country. With all the information available on the weather, it should be relatively easy to target areas in the country where there’s no typhoon. If you’re cooped up in a European country where it’s always cold, the abundance of sun here will be a very welcome change.

Reason #2 – The People
I don’t think you’ll find any other country in Asia where people are more welcoming towards foreigners. We’ve had lots of experience with foreigners staying (some even overstayed) in the islands since the 1800’s. Seriously though, people here always have that ready smile and a pathological desire to please visitors. You only have to attend one of our barrio fiestas to experience this.

Reason #3 – The Language
No, not our Filipino language, although it’s pretty lyrical in its own right, I’m talking about our second language which is English. Unless you go to the hinterlands, people you meet will always know how to speak English, not fluently perhaps but nothing that a few artful gesticulations and sign language can’t augment.

Reason #4 – The Cost of Living
Beer = $0.40/bottle
Cigarettes = $0.80/pack
McDonalds set meal = $2.50
Movies = $3.00
DVD = $0.60 .lol but true

Reason #5 – Domestic Travel
There are still islands in the country that are not accessible via plane, but there are always alternative sometimes exotic ways of going to these places that they become attractions/adventures unto themselves. Have you heard of the habal-habal? No? Well, that’s another reason to visit our country.

These days plane fares for domestic destinations in the Philippines have been hitting all time lows courtesy of Cebu Pacific Airlines. You can check them out at Cebupacificair.com.

There are 7,107 more reasons to visit the Philippines. I could probably go on and on about why this country should be at the top of your must-travel destinations but that would be spoiling the fun. Some things you have to discover for yourself. read the original item here http://agiledeals.com/2009/09/why-travel-to-the-philippines/

Philippine Motorcycle Adventure Tours

Motorcycle Adventure Tours

Motorcycle Adventure Tours Philippines Inc. will take you on a trip of a lifetime. We travel through some of the most beautiful places in the Philippines, with tropical forests, crystal clear diving reefs, caves to explore, rivers, magnificent mountains, volcanoes and exotic beaches. You will experience the local culture and hospitality. This will be like no other adventure tour you will experience.

Accommodation on the tour ranges from some of the best beachside bungalows in the Philippines, to exotic hotel stays. The tour routes go through very low risk areas for tourists with enjoyable terrain and roads. The tour includes a support vehicle ready for any mechanical failure and other support needs.

You will be on tour with an experienced guide of the Philippines and an experienced rider through these regions.


Volunteer Vacation in the Philippines.

Volunteer in the Philippines. Environmental volunteering. Convert your holidays into a mix of a volunteering, travel and tour programme.
This fantastic induction to Filipino culture gives you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and activities that the exotic Philippines can offer you. At the same time you can give something back and take part in a volunteering programme.
You are able to choose between five voluntary work experiences:
  • Environmental Action Awareness
  • Children's Outreach
  • Medical, Health and Education
  • School Teacher
  • Child Care and Rehabilitation Centre
This is the perfect programme for those who would like to volunteer but also want access to a thrilling variety of travel and tours, challenges and lots of experiences around the Philippines.
Combine comfort and leisure, travel adventure holidays, great accommodation, and sightseeing while doing something worthwhile and helpful to the Filipino community.
The goal of this project is to offer travel adventures and volunteer programmes to people who are attracted to learning about Filipino culture, whilst contributing their time and skills to worthwhile community services in the Philippines.
Why international volunteers? Foreign volunteers can have a big impact on indigenous communities, creating important cultural connections highly valued by developing communities.
The benefits of sustainable tourism and voluntary projects are of fundamental importance in issues like poverty, environmental awareness and sustainable develop programmes in the Philippines.
Visit the site to learn more

3 Week Volunteer and Escape Adventure Philippines

Company : Twin | Work & Volunteer Abroad
Activities : Care Work / Humanitarian / Medical, Health, Medicine / Orphanage / Community Projects / Charity
Countries : Philippines
Location : This placement is based in the city of Metro Manila and also the close cities: provinces of Laguna and Batangas.


Volunteer in Philippines and Adventure Holidays. Volunteer with Orphans, Children, in Medical Health and Environmental Awareness.
Volunteer in the Philippines. Environmental volunteering. Convert your holidays into a mix of a volunteering, travel and tour programme.

This fantastic induction to Filipino culture gives you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and activities that the exotic Philippines can offer you. At the same time you can give something back and take part in a volunteering programme.

Read all about it here

Philippine Adventure Sites

Adventure Racing
Airplane Flying (4)
Gamefishing (9)
Kiteboarding (9)
Mountain Hiking (15)
Offtrail Driving (2)
Sailing (7)
Scuba Diving-> (53)
Skydiving (2)
Surfing-> (8)
Ultimate Adventure (8)
Ultralight Flying (4)
Wakeboarding (5)
Whitewater Rafting (8)
Windsurfing (4)

from website http://www.e-philippines.com.ph/

The Exotic Adventure of Philippine Travel

When it comes to Philippine travel, you will notice the second you arrive to the country that things are done a lot different then anywhere else in the world. In order to explain the concept of Philippine travel, you have to turn back the clock to the days of World War II. It is back in this time period that many of what can be seen today as Philippine travel came from.
For starters, one of the most apparent forms of Philippine travel that one would notice immediately is that of what has become known as the Jeepney. The jeepney is the major form of mass transportation in the Philippines operating much like that of a privately owned bus service which follows specific route, but no specific times. These jeepney are just that, they are based on the World War II U.S. Wiley’s Jeep. The front hood, cowl and the better part of the jeepney mimics that of a stretched out limousine style jeep that is open to the elements.
Unfortunately these jeepneys can not fit down every street because some of the streets are narrow. As a result another World War II concept is utilized in Philippine Travel. For the more narrow streets and places that are off the beaten path, the vehicle you turn to is the tricycle. These are motorcycles with large side cars and the ability to seat a lot of people. There are many different variations of the tricycle and much like the jeepneys, the styles used are largely dependant on the area you are in.
But also like the Jeepneys, the tricyclescan not go everywhere and when it comes to getting around a neighborhood you have to turn to the small two-seater tricykads. These are pedal powered bicycles with a side car and depending on where you go, you can see some pretty artistically designed ones.
For large distance, the preferred means of Philippine travel across land is the bus. These buses are usually tightly packed and come with an amazing sound system built in to keep everyone entertained. A ride in a bus in the Philippines is like a going to a mobilized discothèque.
However, the Philippines is a bunch of islands so to go from one island to another, the form of Philippine travel is the boat. You have large passenger ferries which are based on the World War II landing crafts while at the same time you also have the pump boat. The pump boat is a broad term used to describe any small boat powered by and engine, but the most common of these is known as the banka boat. For great travels from Manila to Cebu, a number of liner services are available which use humongous boats complete with cabins and other sleeping arrangements.
Needless to say, getting around the Philippines can be a fun and exciting. With so many interesting Philippine travel types and styles, you will never get enough. Philippine travel is purely Filipino. Read the original posting at http://kakosa.com/philippine-travel.php

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Christmas has finally rolled into town. Without a doubt, the season is the best reason to eat, drink, and be merry. And seriously—what would Filipino Christmases be without the boxes of sapin-sapin mysteriously appearing in the refrigerator? Or the pillow-soft bibingka and fragrant puto bumbong welcoming you as you stumble out of Simbang Gabi? Hungry yet? Then get on as we go all around the metro for the best kakanin in town.

My Top Five Kakanin


First off let’s start with the ubiquitous bibingka. The Christmas staple is now available all year round, but the certainly the best time to have it (meaning eat as many as one can handle) is during the holidays. Something about the chill in the air and the twinkling lights that make the fluffy rice cake taste infinitely better.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

The dish is traditionally made from rice flour, clarified butter, sugar, and egg yolks. This is cooked in a clay oven with the hot coals above. Before it is served, more butter or margarine is spread generously on top, followed by desiccated coconut meat and sugar. If you adore bibingka, one brand to try is the mini-bibingkas of Bibingkabon. The cakes are absolutely heavenly! Owner Pinky Hilado has them prepared with real rice flour and mixes the grated coconut in the batter—making it easier to stuff in your mouth in one go.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Bibingkabon stalls are found in the following places: Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall, Starmall, and Shopwise Libis. Each bibingka is freshly made -- you’ll rarely find one sitting out because they are snapped up as soon as they come out of the oven!

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Plain ones go for P15 while Specials—with salty red egg and creamy cheese-- go for P18. If you’re feeling generous in time for the company Christmas party, you can order by bulk two to three days ahead for a minimum of P3,500.

Puto Bumbong

If you find yourself in front of a bibingka stand, chances are, a stall selling puto bumbong is nearby. This curious dessert is made of sticky purple rice, steamed through bamboo tubes, wrapped in banana leaves, and served with a swipe of margarine or butter, grated coconut and sugar.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

If you should ever get stuck in traffic (and you will be, as Filipino Christmas tradition dictates) along the South Super Highway, pass by the Shell Station right after the Magallanes Town Center. Squeezed in a teeny, tiny corner beside a donut shop, is the aptly named… Shell Magallanes Bibingka Corner. While their bibingka is definitely one of the best in town, try out the freshly made puto bumbong. Their cooks have been there for the longest time and they are quite deft when it comes to preparing these sticky delights.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

The puto bumbong is gloriously sticky sweet and infused with the scent of the banana leaf wrapper. For P25 a pop, it is cheap means to tide your hunger, or calm things down when the traffic gets awry. Which brings us to our third kakanin: palitaw.


Yes, those palm-sized, milky-white treats are another good reason for stopover.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

The Bibingka Corner sells them for P20. Request for extra coconut or sugar and they will easily acquiesce.


Whether they are homesick balikbayans or your Am-boy/-girl cousin spending the holidays with you, nothing spells festive Pinoy dessert more than sapin-sapin.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

The multi-colored, round-shaped kakanin made with rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and ube, is a perennial dessert favorite. Dolor’s Kakanin makes one of the best. The main branch is located in Malabon City, and smaller ones in Banawe Ave., Quezon City and Along McArthur Highway in Monumento. The dessert originated from the northern part of the Philippines but has since travelled down to other provinces and is now widely available.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Dolor’s version is absolutely delicious even if, at first glance it seems common looking; one bite of the glutinous dish reveals the densely packed flavor of the sapin-sapin of yore. Each layer is meticulously fleshed out and the ube never overpowers the delicate rice and coconut milk flavors. The large size costs P160 and the smaller one P120.

Suman Latik

For our fifth kakanin, we have the suman latik. Filipinos, used to the heat and humidity of the tropics, will always feel cold enough to wear a jacket during the so-called “brrr” months. The moment a slight bite hits the air, we run and look for the nearest thing to warm our stomachs. The sputtering, gurgling mess that is suman latik is definitely the best thing to warm us up.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Tsoko.Nut Batirol serves a fine version that will giddy up a good chunk of endorphins in your brain. The dish arrives at your table steaming hot with the thick latik bubbling up. As you dip your spoon into the kakanin, you realize it’s in that fantastic half liquid, half solid state. Eating the dish requires some dexterity, but your efforts are justly rewarded when the mixture hits your tongue and your taste buds go into overdrive. Tsoko.Nut’s version doesn’t scrimp on the latik—even going as far as putting both sugar and rice in equal portions.

The dish is quite rich, and small as it may seem it is best shared with another person. You will have to because you cannot eat suman latik—or any of the abovementioned kakanins for that matter—without a hot cup of traditional tsokolate. Why go anywhere else when Tsoko.Nut serves a fantastic cup of tsokolate ah? Some might recoil at the idea of drinking hot chocolate with sweets (usually bathed in butter at that) but Filipinos usually wave those kinds of worries away. You can never have too much of a good thing, especially during the holidays.

Pinoy Christmas Treats

Those with a serious sweet tooth can push the envelope and order Tsokonut Ah with Gulaman, which takes a regular cup of tsokolate ah a step up the indulgence scale by adding buttery whipped cream, gulaman cubes made from tsokolate eh—which is the thick, syrupy hot version of the tsokoloate. To top it off, even more tsokolate eh is drizzled on top of the cream.

Well there you go—Top Five Kakanins to check out during the holiday break. Go on—eat, drink, and be merry. There is no better way to bust your gut during the holidays. Hey, it only comes once a year!

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila

In the course of my “worldly” tours, nothing has caught my attention more than visits to our very own series of cemeteries in Metro Manila – the Paco Park, a small but romantic cemetery which has gone a full lifecycle; the columbary of San Agustin in Intramuros; The American Cemetery at tony Forbes Park in Makati and the Chinese Cemetery that crosses through the North and La Loma Cemetery in the northeastern part of Manila. Paco park was popularly known as the burial grounds of the wealthy neighborhood of old Manila, has now become a popular venue for garden weddings and receptions.

Then there is the columbary of the San Agustin Church where remains of famous Spanish governor generals including Juan Miguel de Legazpi plus a host of others and several other well known Spanish families – Zobels, Ayalas and Sorianos are all neatly buried in one side wall of this church.

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
San Agustin Church

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Inside San Agustin Church

But having seen many crypts and mausoleums all over the world, our own burial grounds have hundreds of interesting stories inside them. Majority of these vast manicured properties are so steeped in lore that some of these cemeteries have their own “unofficial historians.”

For instance, the Chinese Cemetery. (Take the LRT Train from Baclaran and get off at the Doroteo Jose station. Take a tricycle and ask to be dropped off at the north gate) It’s a cemetery with star power. Among those buried here are rich Chinese patriarchs and matriarchs. Founded in the 1850s by Lim Ong and Tan Quien Sien, also known by their Christian name, Carlos Palanca, the 54 hectare Chinese cemetery contains graves that tell of wealth and social status of several generations of deceased. Here, one can see mausoleums as high as two stories, resembling temples, pagodas and budhas – everything you can imagine that’s typical Chinese. However, as you examine the area closer, especially the bigger crypts from prominent families, there are living persons maintaining these places complete with electricity, air condition, bathroom facilities even showers to cool off the heat.

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Chinese Cemetery

The state of the Chinese cemetery reflects how the Chinese are in the Philippines. The streets are well paved, and well lit. It seems airier and more spacious somehow commented Teddy, my traveling companion and photographer. If you’re Chinese, you can light your joy sticks at the Chong Hok Tong Temple, where you will find a big golden statue of Budha.

Unfortunately, as one visit this place lately; one notices that the tombs are fast losing their architectural flavor as the cemetery space is getting more and more occupied. Some tombs are in disrepair because of lack of funding or family owners have just left the country.

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Ramon Magsaysay's Tomb at North Cemetery

Near the Chinese cemetery are the North and La Loma Cemeteries. The North Cemetery is a host to a lot of “who’s who in Philippine history. Three Presidents – Sergio Osmena, Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay are entombed here. Other politicians buried here include Claro M. Recto, Quintin Paredes, Manila Mayors Arsenio Lacson, Antonio Villegas, Felix Huertas and Manuel de la Fuente. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s mother in law, Lourdes Tuason – Arroyo is buried in the North Cemetery. Two years ago, the remains of First Lady Aurora Aragon-Quezon was exhumed and brought next to her husband’s resting place at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City. Going around the cemetery, where the raised graves are literally side by side, with very little space from each other, one gets to notice the different busts, figures, and Virgin Mary statues that try to gain this visitor’s attention. I was wise enough to have hired a caretaker guide to bring me around this maze of graves and marbles or I would have been soon overwhelmed by the kaleidoscope before me. No standardize headstones for most of these worthies; instead, equestrian statues, shrouded mausoleums, busts, plaques, overwrought epitaphs, and genuflecting angels are sure enough to win a nod from Saint Peter in heaven.

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Paco Park

Over at Paco Park, I have always manage to return to this place in between drives from Manila to Makati or Paranaque. I don’t blame some lovers who just want to have their weddings officiated in this “graveyard” turned park. Though quintessentially a Spanish campo santo, Paco Park welcomes tourists and visitors alike. Others bring their children to play tag, or hide and seek. Old ladies and gentlemen arrive here early mornings equipped to feed the hungry colonies of pigeons and maya birds that warble in the cemetery’s grave ruins and acacia trees. Couples too come to hug and kiss; not all are young though, nor is it clear whether all are legally free to hug, but even those whose amours are not necessarily clandestine, find that love blooms along the paths of Paco park. This place is best enjoyed during late afternoons, before closing time (8:30am – 5:00pm) .Paco Park draws one back as I did, having returned often.

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Paco Park

Cemetery Tours of Metro Manila
Unmarked and Empty Graves

When I was a child, I was always wondering why there was an American Cemetery in the Philippines when the US, had a far bigger space to bury their dead. As I grew older I realized the American part in our country’s history. The American Cemetery here in the Philippines memorializes the many thousands of Filipinos and Americans who died fighting during the last World War. Apparently, this cemetery is the largest facility outside the United States and consists of hectares of white marble crosses and Stars of David aligned in neat contoured rows up the hillside to the memorial. If you’re on a visit, check out the columns along the walls. You might just have a name posted of your long lost relative who fought in the last world war. As you walk the circular column enjoy one of the best views of the surrounding polo club landscape.