The Beautiful Island of Camiguin

May 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Tourist Destinations, Travel

Located at the northern part of Mindanao, the island-province of Camiguin is a picturesque of a calm and peaceful place that is abundant with natural resources. This charming province in Mindanao is a perfect getaway for those who want to keep in touch with Mother Earth as well as those who want to spend romantic moments with their loved ones. Camiguin is a pear-shaped island that is also well known as the Volcanic Island of the Philippines because it has seven volcanoes, the famous for which is the Mt. Hibok-hibok.  According to experts, Camiguin Island was formed out by these volcanic eruptions and land mass movements. This also explains why the province is rich in natural springs and has very fertile soil.

Meanwhile, Camiguin has a total land area of 238-sq kilometers and is located at the northwestern part of Mindanao in the Philippines.  It is one of the provinces of Northern Mindanao Region or also known as the Philippines’ Region 10.  It is 90 kilometers away from Cagayan De Oro City to its south while it is surrounded by bodies of waters from its other sides – Butuan Bay to its east, Macajalar Bay to the west and the Bohol Sea to its north.

What to do in Camiguin?

Camiguin has many places to offer that do not only speak of Camiguin’s natural richness in water, land and air – but, it also speaks of Camiguin’s beautiful and hospitable locales.

tusan_falls_camiguin

Tuasan Falls. This waterfall at Barrio Mainit is one of the many waterfalls in Camiguin that tourists always visit whenever in Camiguin. Tuasan has a 25-meter high waterfall which serves as the main attraction of the place. People can take a swim under the falls after a short trek. One can have a glimpse of Camiguin’s luscious greeneries and calm streams while trekking towards Tuasan Falls.

hibuk-hibuk-camiguin

Mt. Hibok-hibok. A Camiguin’s famous fixation, Mt. Hibok-Hibok is the only volcano in Camiguin that has remained active.  It is also one of the preferred destinations of the adventurous wherein the volcano’s 1,250 meters slope is a challenge in mountaineering.  When on top, one can have a splendid view of nearby islands Negros, Bohol and Cebu.

camiguin-white-sands

White Island.   One of Camiguin’s famous attractions, the White Island is best known for its white sand bar. Aside from basking under the sun, one can also swim around and snorkel at the surrounding seas of White Island. From the White Island, one can have a view of the Mt. Hibok-hibok.

Ardent-camiguin

Ardent Hot Spring. This place is good for those who want to dip into a hot spring and relaxes the body as well as the mind. The Ardent Hot Spring in Mambajao is a natural hot pool with 40 degrees centigrade temperature. Surrounding the hot spring are cottages, restaurants and accommodation facilities, which make it ideal for overnight stay. Most of the visitors opt for a night swimming.

hibuk-hibuk-camiguin

Old Volcano.  Another famous attraction in Camiguin is the Old Volcano. In here, one can appreciate Mother Nature’s exemplary work wherein an underwater formation of lava, which rises from more than 80-ft down bottom, can be seen.  Corals are covered with molten rocks as the underwater is also habituated by various kinds of fishes.    

Where to stay in Camiguin?

Because of the increasing number of tourists coming into Camiguin, billeting areas and hotels are cropping in the province. The following are some of Camiguin’s best hotels and beach resorts.

Bahay Bakasyunan. A resort hotel, Bahay Bakasyunan depicts a Filipino-style of accommodation wherein native cottages are surrounding the area. The place has also an outdoor restaurant and bar, heated swimming pool and a conference room for those who are coming into the place for conventions/seminars. Rented motorboats are available in the resort for those who want to explore some of Camiguin’s islets.

Paras Beach Resort. Originally, as a private haven among the Paras family, the Paras Beach Resort takes pride of its native motif that makes the place more relaxing and homey for its urban visitors.  All of its guest rooms have air conditioners with hot-and-cold shower and cable TV.  Cottages and dormitory-type accommodations are also available for guests who come in a larger group.

Camiguin Highland Resort. A luxurious high-end hotel, Camiguin Highland Resort is a three-storey building that houses guest rooms that are complete with air conditioners, cabled TV sets, refrigerators and intercom. The resort’s Mediterranean interior design makes it appealing for guests who do not only prefer comfort but elegance as well. Guests can choose whether they opt for a guest room that has a view of the sea or a room that has a mountain view.

How to go to Camiguin?

Camiguin can be reached through regular sea and air trips from Cebu. Also, for hourly scheduled ferry boats, one has to take Cagayan de Oro City in going to Balingoan, Misamis Oriental. From there, one can ride a ferry boat in going to Camiguin.

Cebu Province: Home to a Myriad of Town Festivals

May 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Tourist Destinations, Travel

Cebu is known for its fun-loving, and sometimes happy-go-lucky, people. However, if you think Cebu only has the Sinulog Festival, then clearly you still know very little about the province. This is because Cebu has more than forty festivals celebrated in its many towns and municipalities at different times of the year. After all, Cebuanos love merry-making, dances, and, of course, food.
However, a lot of these festivals were born just recently. These festivals are in response to incumbent Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia’s call for each town in the province to hold an annual festival as a way of enriching Cebuano culture and promoting tourism.  In that, each town and municipality brainstormed and came up with their festivals that reflect their area’s culture, products or values.

Here are some of Cebu’s most popular town festivals:

1. Kadaugan sa Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City

mactanThe Kadaugan sa Mactan is probably the most famous of Cebu’s “minor” festivals. This is a yearly reenactment of the Battle of Mactan, which is known in world history as the battle that killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the hands of the native chieftain Lapu-lapu. These event honors local chieftain Lapu-Lapu, who stood up against the Spaniards when they landed on the shores of Mactan Island, now called Lapu-Lapu City, in 1521. This festival is a week-long affair, with the reenactment as the highlight. Usually, they get popular actors or celebrities to play the parts of Lapu-Lapu, his wife Bulakna, and Magellan.  One of the recent stars included boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and actor Dennis Trillo.  Other activities during this event include band concerts, a food fair, and a bazaar.

2. Lechon Festival, Talisay City

lechon4Lechon or roast pig is always a part of any special event or major gathering among Filipinos. No Filipino wedding, baptism, fiesta, and even birthday will ever be complete without this delicacy. And Cebu is known throughout the country as having the tastiest and most crispy-skinned lechon. When it is from Cebu, it is bound to be yummy. However, Cebuanos know that when it comes to lechon, the ones from Talisay City are the best, with golden brown and crackling skin and with tender, juicy and delicious meat. This is why on October 15 of each year, the feast of Talisay’s patron saint – Saint Teresa of Avila, the Talisaynons hold the Inasal (Cebuano term for lechon) Festival, where there is a good supply of lechon for everybody.

3. Kabkaban Festival, Carcar City

The Kabkaban Festival is the highlight of Carcar’s annual fiesta in honor of St. Catherine of Alexandria, who is the town’s patron saint. The Kabkaban Festival is celebrated with street dancing and gay and colorful parades. There is also a religious procession with carrozas (carriages) holding life-size statues of characters that make up Saint Catherine’s life and martyrdom.

4. Mantawi Festival, Mandaue City

The Mantawi Festival is celebrated in May of each year in the city of Mandaue. The festival’s name came from a kind of tree that grew abundantly on the shores of Cebu at the time the Spaniards came to visit the area in 1521. The festival is held to celebrate the founding of the historical Spanish settlement in Mandawe. The highlight of the Mantawi festival is a parade of street dancers and dioramas that showcase Mandaue’s history and culture. There are also food fests, floats, a trade fair, and some sporting events.

5. Kinsan Festival, Aloguinsan

The Kinsan Festival is held in the southern Cebu municipality of Aloguinsan every second Sunday of June, during the Kinsan season. Kinsan is the local term for a big, gray-colored fish believed to be abundant only in Aloguinsan waters. The festival features dances by colorfully clad contingents and showcasing original dance steps imitating the movement of the Kinsan fish.

Other noteworthy festivals in Cebu include:

* Bodbod Festival in Catmon

* Bonga Festival in Sibonga

* Caballo Festival in Compostela

* Camotes Cassava Festival in Tudela, Camotes Island

* Dinagat Bakasi Festival in Cordova

* Haladaya Festival in Daan Bantayan

* Kabanhawan Festival in Minglanilla

* Kabayo Festival in Mandaue City

* Kabuhian Festival in Ronda

* Karansa Festival in Danao City

* Kawayan Festival in Alegria

* Kuyayang Festival in Bogo City

* Palawod Festival in Bantayan, Bantayan Island

* Pitlagong Festival in Argao

* Sadsad Festival in Oslob

* Sarok Festival in Consolacion

* Semana Santa sa Bantayan, Bantayan, Bantayan Island

* Silmugi Festival in Borbon

* Siloy Festival in Alcoy

* Sinanggiyaw Festival in Dumanjug

* Soli-Soli Festival in San Francisco, Camotes Island

* Tagbo Festival in Poro, Camotes Island

* Tartanilla Festival in Cebu City

* Tostado Festival in Santander

Indeed, Cebu province is home to colorful festivals celebrated with high spirits and great excitement. Visitors can fill up a year’s calendar visiting various places and at the same time witnessing all these festivals.

Four Things to Remember When Attending the Sinulog

May 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Festivals

sinulog3The Sinulog is a time when Cebuano’s flock the street to venerate that Child Jesus or the Santo Nino.  The mood of the festivities ranged from the solemn to the raucous as Cebuano’s from all over the province and tourists from all over the world partake in the celebration.  From the solemn procession, to beauty pageants, to countless of households partying and cooking, to the Grand Procession, everyone  is all smiles and immersed in the fever of Pit Senyor!

As such, it is very easy to forget that similar to other times, one should take care of one’s self and belongings.

1. Take care of your things.

With all the festivities going on, and all the attractions to see, it is easy to become complacent.  Remember that with the huge crowd also comes the thieves, snatchers and pickpockets.  This is true, especially during the Grand Parade where thousands of people line the parade route and during the Solemn Procession where the devotees hold up their statuettes of the Child Jesus and dance to the beats.  A lot of mobile phones, wallets, jewelry and other valuable stuff have been lost during the Sinulog celebrations.  Some had fallen unnoticed to the ground, while the majority has been taken by swift hands.

Keep everything in your pockets.  If you have shorts that have zippers on its pockets, all the better.  If you do not, then consider wearing a belt bag with a sturdy strap, so that you could still keep your things safe while watching the parade.

Sling bags are quite a no-no.  For some people, they wear a sling bag around their necks and put their money and mobile phones in it.  That is quite dangerous as a sling bag could easily be snatched away from your neck, sometimes leaving rope burns and bruises on it.

For cameras, make sure that you have your ready camera bag that you can put your camera in just in case you become too tired to take pictures.  Do not sling your camera over your neck.

2. Leave the unnecessary stuff at home.

While the Grand Parade is an opportune time to see and be seen, resist the temptation to deck yourself with jewelry.  It is best to, just leave all the gold and silver necklaces, rings and bracelets at home.  Besides, the Sinulog has a tribal feel to it, so wooden and native accessories are all the rage.  If you feel the need to accessorize, you can probably buy a cute wooden trinket on your way to the parade grounds for less than P50.

If you are traveling with companions, consider leaving your mobile phone at home.  If you cannot part with your mobile phone, consider carrying an older model such as a Nokia 5110 or an old Alcatel model rather than your eye catching iPhones or Nokia N-series phone.

Do bring enough money for the festivities, though.  Remember that the Sinulog is one festivity after another, and it is easily seen as one party after another.  Bring money for taxi fare, jeepney fare, food and drinks.

3. Dress comfortably.

For most people, the Sinulog is an all day event.  The Grand Parade itself, starts early in the morning and finishes in the early evening.  Then it goes well into the night as Cebuano’s party all around Cebu into the morning.  So dress comfortably.

Comfy footwear is essential.  Wear something light on your feet, preferably open toed sandals and old shoes.  Expect to do a lot of walking for the Sinulog festivities as most routes are closed to traffic.  You do not want sore feet and cracked heels to dampen the festivities, do you?

Wear light clothing.  You would be under the cruel heat of the sun for most of the day, so wear clothes that breath.  A white tee shirt, colorful shorts or baggy saris are a good choice.  Try to eschew skinny jeans and silk uppers.

Hats and sunglasses are your friends.  They do not only complete the Sinulog look, but they also provide protection from the heat of the sun.

sinulog14. Protect yourself more!

You need to protect yourself from the sun.  To do this, keep these things in mind:

  • Keep hydrated.  Drink lots of water and do bring a bottle of mineral water with you at all times.
  • Wear sunscreen.  You will be under the sun for a good part of the day, it would make perfect sense to keep out its UV rays by wearing sunscreen.
  • Bring your own shade.  An umbrella might put a crimp on your cool factor, but you will thank yourself for it when the sun gets extremely hot.
  • Look for “exit” places.  If the heat becomes unbearable, be sure to have an “exit” strategy in place.  It could be a fast food joint that offers blissful air conditioning,, or an outdoor cafe that serves frozen fraps.  Make sure that your body gets to cool down when you need it.

Six Luzon Festivals You Should Not Miss!

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Festivals

Luzon is the Philippines’ largest island and is composed of a lot of provinces, regions, cities, towns, cultures.  As such, it is home to the country’s best festivals.  Most of Luzon may be reached via land travel, unlike the Visayas, which is comprised of several islands and islets.  If you live in Luzon, make it a point to see these six festivals in your lifetime. You can even do it in a year, as it seems that the best of Luzon festivals are spread out throughout the year and a major one is held almost every month.

The top six Luzon Festivals are:

1. The Pahiyas Festival

pahiyas1Held on May 15 of every year, the Pahiyas Festival is carried out to give thanks to San Isidro Labrador for the good harvest.  It is one of the country’s oldest festivals tracing its origin way back to the 16th century.  Back then, farmers bought food to the foot of Mt. Banahaw as a sign of Thanksgiving, but eventually this tradition — done in the hopes of having a good harvest year — was modified to make the church the central offering place.

The Pahiyas is commonly associated with Lucban, Quezon, but it is also celebrated in two other Quezon towns: Sariaya and Tayabas.

Why you should be there: Pahiyas is one of the most lively, most colorful and the most elaborate festival in Luzon.  The whole place comes alive in color and music.  Not to mention Lucban food that includes Lucban’s world famous longanisa, broas and kiping, the star of the pahiyas.

2. Panagbenga Festival

flower_girlIt used to be that February was Baguio City’s least favorable month, experiencing a doldrum in the number of visitor arrivals that usually peak in December (for the holiday season) and March or April (for the Lenten Season), on top of the summer months.  However, with the introduction of the Panagbenga Festival, February became a time of pageantry, fun and merrymaking in Baguio City as the city becomes covered with the most beautiful flowers in the region.

Together with its blooms, Panagbenga also showcases the different cultures of its 11 tribes such as the Igorots and the Ibalois.  In fact, the street dance of the Panagbenga features dances that are inspired by these cultural tribes.

Why you should be there: Simultaneously get a taste of Baguio’s tribal culture and the Tournament of Roses parade.

3. Fertility Dance at Obando

Fertility_danceCouples who wish to have a child flock to Obando, Bulacan, and every May 17 to 19 to join the street dance in Honor of Santa Clara.  The street dancing is said to be a prayer made by the couple.  The belief stems from early practice and is said to be effective, as some have been miraculously blessed with an offspring soon after they joined the dancing.

Why you should be there:  The benefits are obvious if you are childless, but for other people, the Obando dance is only one of the very few religious Luzon festivals that featured street dancing on a major part of the area.

4. Bangus Festival

bangus_festivalDagupan is known as the Bangus Capital of the Philippines, and the City lays its claim to this by holding the Bangus Festival for 19 days in April, culminating on April 28.

The bangus, or milkfish, festival pays tribute to the City’s biggest industry and features various activities that center on the fish.  From deboning to eating, from the longest to the heaviest and even to the most beautiful, each year attempts to put out a record with its bangus competitions.

Why you should be there:  Aside from being there while the City or its citizens bag a possible Guinness World Record, the festival also features street dancing contests, the search for the Bangus Queen (a beauty pageant), fluvial parades, and a citywide sale for the shopaholics on a budget!

5. Pagoda sa Wawa

bocaue_pagoda3Festivals are a time for celebration, but it is also a time for food.  Bocaue, Bulacan’s Pagoda sa Wawa combines both.

The river festival is held every July, when a barge carrying a huge decorated float is released along the Bocaue River.  This is where dozens and possibly hundreds of people partake on good food and great music.  The floating feast actually commemorates Wawa’s Holy Cross, which was first found floating on the Bocaue River.

Why you should be there:  Experience a one-of-a-kind river feast.  After a tragedy left dozens of people dead a few years ago, the Wawa festival has been closely scrutinized to ensure the safety of future pagoda riders.

6. Bacao Festival

bacao_festivalIf Dagupan has its Bangus Festival, Isabela’s folks hold their Bacao festival in honor of St. Joseph for their good harvest of corn.  Like the Bangus Festival, activities are more provincial featuring street dancing, rodeos, float competitions, and other contests. Held for five days starting on March 15.

Why you should be there: The Bacao Festival parade’s carabao dressed in costumes, and has a contest for the best-dressed beast of burden.

Santacruzan: The Queen of All Filipino Festivals

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Festivals

santacruzanThe Santacruzan is known as the queen of all May-time festivals in the Philippines.   Perhaps this is because the Santacruzan is held every single year all over the country.  Replicated in various towns and cities, it is the highlight and culminating activity of the month-long Flores de Mayo.

Flores de Mayo, as its name implies, is celebrated in May and is done to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is the time of the year when rains begin to fall after a long, dry summer season and flowers start to bloom, their fragrance wafting in the air.

The Flores de Mayo was introduced by the colonizing Spaniards to the country centuries ago, during the colonization period.  Traditional practices for this month include people gathering in church every afternoon to offer prayers and flowers – usually ilang-ilang, sampaguita (local jasmine), and hibiscus – to the Virgin Mother.

The Santacruzan’s Religious Relevance

The Santacruzan may be known for the lavishly decorated floats and characters dressed in elaborate gowns and costumes during the procession, but there’s a deeply religious history behind these.  In fact, each reyna or queen represents some of Christendom’s most prominent figures.

Popular legend says that St. Helena (Reyna Elena), who is the mother of Constantine the Great, traveled to Calvary three centuries after the death of Jesus Christ to look for His cross.  At the crucifixion site, she found three crosses then asked her sick servant to lie down on them one by one.  The servant got cured after touching one of these crosses, and this cross was determined to be the one used by Christ.  In the Santacruzan, she is given the most prominent status and is accompanied by her son, Constantine.

Some characters tell a story.  Reyna Abogada, known as the protector of the oppressed and downtrodden, walks ahead of Reyna Sentenciada, the epitome of convicted innocents.  The aetas, symbolizing the pagan natives, and the Reyna Mora – representing Muslims and other religions before Christianity — march between Reyna Bandera, who represents the advent of Christianity and Reyna Fe, who symbolizes faith.

Other virtues are represented as well:

* Reyna Esperanza – Hope

* Reyna Caridad – Charity

* Reyna Justicia – Justice

While others trace their significance from history and the bible:

* Reyna Judith – Judith from Pethulia who rallied her city against the Assyrians

* Reyna Sheba – The woman visitor of King Solomon

* Reyna Esther – Represents the prophet Esther

* Veronica – The woman of the Shroud of Turin, the one who wiped Jesus’ bloody face.

* Tres Marias – or the Three Mary’s: the mothers of Jesus and James and Mary Magdalene.

* Samaritana – The woman Jesus speaks to at the well.

Some of them are purely symbolic, yet do not need further explanation, like the Ave Maria girls, the Divine Shepherdess, the Rosa Mystica and the Queen of Flowers.

The Prestige

During the Spanish period, priests would select sponsors, locally known as “hermanasantacruzan2s,” from women belonging to wealthy and reputable families.  It was deemed to be a great honor to be chosen as a  hermana.  So much so that many would vie for the chance to be one.  It is the hermana who gets to plan the festival, decorate the church and the “caroza” or the carriage used for the procession, and yes, handle the expenses and the budget.

The town’s young and prettiest ladies are handpicked to represent the various characters – called “sagalas” – and join in the procession.  Each lady or “reyna” is escorted by a young gentleman, and every pair march under a bamboo canopy decorated with flowers and held by two men.  The most awaited character is Reyna Elena, who, as earlier mentioned, represents St. Helena, escorted by a boy representing the young Constantine.

Catholic devotees join the procession and hold lit candles, recite the rosary, and sing songs of praise.  Customarily, after the night mass, the mayor of the town would host a dinner gathering.

The Santacruzan Today

It is but natural that a parade of queens should become the queen of all festivals, and that prestige and pageantry have carried on until today.  The Santacruzan has seen celebrities such as politicians and actors and actresses taking on the various characters in nationwide parades.  Even homosexual men have taken to dress up for the part.  Filipinos living abroad organize Filipino communities in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world to have their own Santacruzan.  And no dominantly Catholic town in the Philippines is complete without a Santacruzan during the month of May, or even outside of it.

No matter who the hermana is, or who the sagalas are, the Santacruzan remains to be a very vital fixture in Philippine culture.  And why not, you basically have a parade of the area’s prettiest glossing over the fact that it is teeming with religious significance and symbolism.

Top Five Must-see Visayan Philippines Festivals

May 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Festivals

Festivals are a fun way to discover the culture of a people. And the islands of the Visayas are hosts to a variety of festivals that deserve any traveler’s attention. The many islands of the Visayas come alive every so often with festivals and fiestas that are marked with merry-making, color, pomp and pageantry, so much so that these events have come into world-wide acclaim.

Festivals are also a time when natives now living abroad come home to relive their pasts and re-experience their roots. Tourists from other areas or countries also visit to get a taste of the best of Philippine culture. The influx of tourism became the very fuel that made organizers think of new activities to spice up and differentiate their festival and attract more tourists.

However, there are five festivals that have stood out in recent years. Here are the Top Five Visayan Festivals that you should not miss in your lifetime!

1.    Sinulog Festival
Location: Cebu City Philippines

sinulog_girlThe Sinulog Festival is held in Cebu and lasts well over a week, culminating in the street parade or Mardi Gras that falls on the third Sunday of every January. The feast venerates the Senyor Santo Nino de Cebu. For many years, Cebu’s Sinulog has featured different activities such as the Miss Cebu beauty pageant, the fluvial procession, the solemn street procession, the film-making contests, the arts contests, among others. But most people, especially non-locals, equate Sinulog with the Grand Parade.

During the Grand Sinulog Parade, dozens of contingents representing the different locales of Cebu City and Cebu province take part in different categories: free interpretation dance, traditional Sinulog dance, best float and best “higantes”. In the recent years, guest contingents have been allowed to participate and join the Cebuanos in the fun dancing, including contingents from Manila, other provinces and even other countries. Major thoroughfares of the city are closed for this parade, as people flock the streets and the Abellana Sports Complex to watch the pomp and pageantry, the burst of color and the lively beat of drums.

It is rare that an entire city joins in the celebration of one festival, but Cebu has always primed its citizenry to celebrate as a whole during Sinulog. No wonder that even as 20 years have gone by, Sinulog is still the most looked-forward event for all Cebuanos.

2. Ati-Atihan Festival
Location: Kalibo, Aklan Philippines

Aklan plays host to the aati-atihannnual Ati-atihan festival, coinciding with the third Sunday of January. Like the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, the Ati-atihan celebrates the many miracles of the Child Jesus or Santo Nino.

The festival is probably more well-known for the black paint that most participants put on their bodies. The black paint that covers the whole body contrasts starkly with the colorful costumes and ornaments.

The Ati-Atihan, though honoring the Santo Nino, has tribal and pagan origins.  But together with the city’s Christianization, the festival has taken a new meaning.

3. Dinagyang Festival
Location: Ilo-ilo City Philippines

dinagyang_boyIf you have the Sinulog or the Ati-atihan on your travel itinerary to catch the colorful Visayan Festivals in January, then surely your next stop would be Ilo-ilo, where the Dinagyang Festival is held on the fourth Sunday of January.

The Dinagyang Festival still venerates the Child Jesus, but also commemorates the conversion of Filipino tribes to Christianity.

Today’s Dinagyang Festival is much anticipated with several events serving as highlights, including the search for Iloilo’s prettiest ladies in the Miss Dinagyang pageant, the Atis street dancing, and the Kasadyahan street dancing. Like the Sinulog and Ati-atihan, prayers, drum beats and colorful costumes litter the streets of Iloilo for the Dinagyang.

4. MassKara Festival
Location: Bacolod City Philippines

masskara2Bacolod City holds its Charter Day on the 19th of October every year. Coinciding with its Charter Day is the MassKara Festival, a week-long activity that is currently dubbed as the Festival of Smile, a take on Bacolod’s own monicker as the City of Smiles.

Unlike other festivals in the Visayas, however, the MassKara is not religious or tribal in nature. Instead, the Festival ironically traces its roots on tragedy. The festival was first held in 1980, at a time when sugar cane and sugar prices plummeted and the livelihood of Bacolenos suffered. It was also during that year that a terrible maritime tragedy left more than 700 Negrenses dead when the Don Juan and the tanker Tacloban City collided with each other and sank.

To eclipse the tragedy and the sorrow, Bacolod held its first MassKara Festival. The term MassKara was coined by Ely Santiago, meaning many faces. It also became the festival’s trademark: smiling masks worn by the participants.

Today’s Masskara features the search for the festival queen, street carnivals, competitions, food fests, sports and music events, garden and agricultural shows and other activities.

5. Pintado-Kasadyahan Festival
Location: Tacloban City Philippines

pintados-body-paintLasting a whole month, Tacloban City holds the Pintados-Kasadyahan Festival culminating on June 29. The current festival also includes the Leyte Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals, the Pagrayhak Grand Parade, and the Pintados Ritual Dance Presentation. The festival commemorates and fleshes out how the Spaniards saw the early Filipinos when they arrived in Leyte: bodies filled with tattoos and holding weapons which were previously heated in open fire. In fact, pintados is how the tattoo-covered natives were called, and that’s how the festival got its name.

Siargao Island: The Surfing Capital of the Philippines

May 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Tourist Destinations, Travel

Big waves coming from the Pacific Ocean and a strip of surfing enthusiasts braving these waves, Siargao Island is a picturesque of a charming sun-bask island at the northeast tip of Mindanao.  Ideal for summer escapades, Siargao is known as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines where annual surfing competitions, both local and international, are preferably held in this tear-drop shaped island. Aside from the high clean waves that the place is best known for, other main attractions in Siargao include its wide array of white sand beaches, rich marine resources, seafood restaurants, mangrove rivers, unspoiled islets, and the warm hospitable locals of Siargao.

Surfing Capital of the Philippines

Facing the vast Pacific Ocean, Siargao’s shores are always a reflection of great waves, which are considered by many as an ideal place for surfing competitions, both for local and international events. Siargao Island is dubbed as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines as the locals and foreigners flock in this small island in Mindanao just to beat the waves and enjoy the sparkling bluewaters of Siargao.  One of the best surfing destinations in Siargao is the Cloud 9 wherein mounted hollow tubes of waves are considered by international surfers as perfect for ultimate surfing. Among surfing competitions annually held in Siargao are the Cloud 9 National Surfing Competition, Billabong Surfing Competition, and Siargao International Surfing Competition. Local surfers and foreign surfers from the different parts of the world are fixations in the island during this kind of events.

Location

Siargao Island is located at the eastern part of the Surigao del Norte, a province situated at the northeastern tip of Mindanao. To its east is the Pacific Ocean, while its western and southern areas are surrounded with mangrove forests. Aside from being the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, Siargao has also the largest mangrove forest in Mindanao.  The total land mass of Siargao was estimated at around 437 kilometers.  It has seven municipalities – Santa Monica, San Isidro, Burgos, Dapa, General Luna, Del Carmen and General Luna.

Meanwhile, Siargao Island can be reached through sea and air travels. Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific Airlines have flights from Manila to Surigao City and Cebu to Surigao City. From Surigao City, one can just simply take the fast craft vessels in going to Siargao Island. For sea travels, shipping lines such as Cokaliong, Super Ferry and Sulpicio Lines have trips from Manila-Surigao City and Cebu-Surigao City.  Philtranco Bus Liners have also land trips in going to Surigao City from Manila.

Where to Stay

Due to the growing number of tourists flocking in the island, various beach resorts have also been cropped-in to meet these needs. The following are some of the many beach resorts in Siargao Island where one can relax during the entire stay:

Jadestar Beach Resort. Located near the Cloud 9, this beach resort offers various package accommodations.  There are accommodation cottages that are equipped with air conditioners, while other cottages have fans.  Cottages also have TV sets with cable channels. Surf board rentals and laundry services are also offered in Jadestar. Island hopping activities and island tours are also available in Jadestar; however, these are mostly not included in the package accommodation fees.

Ocean 101 Resort. Facing the idyllic view of Siargao waters, Ocean 101 is just within walking distance from Siargao’s famous surfing destinations such as the Cloud 9.  Located at Catangnan, General Luna, Ocean 101 has air conditioned and non air conditioned rooms.  Its second floor accommodation rooms have a common bathroom.  Among the amenities in Ocean 101 are DVD player, surf boards for rent, cable TV system, surfing trainer, massage services, and videoke and pool facilities. Ocean 101 has also its in-house bar and restaurants that offer local delicacies as well as international cuisine.

White Sands Paradise Beach Resort. Located at Baybay, Burgos, White Sands Paradise Beach Resort has a view of the beach and just within walking distance to the surfing destinations of Siargao. Bathroom and TV with DVD player are available. Food and drinks are available at the resort’s bar; however, to those who wish to cook their own food, the resort’s kitchen can be used by guests. Van rentals are also available for island tours.

DAKAK: Mindanao’s Famous Diving Spot

May 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Tourist Destinations, Travel

Known as the Diving Mecca of Mindanao, Dakak Beach Resort is one of the most preferred destinations in the Philippines because of its white sand beaches and rich marine resources. Aside from local tourists who prefer more the peaceful ambience in this place than the party nightlife of other beach resorts, foreign tourists from different corners of the world have also considered Dakak Beach Resort as a good haven for retreat and complete relaxation. The different water sports in Dakak also make it as a world-class site for water sports enthusiasts whose adventurous spirits are satisfied by sports such as scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing and the likes.

Location

Dakak Beach Resort is located at Zamboanga del Norte at the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. It is exactly located at Barangay Taguilon, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte. On its west is the rich marine water of Sulu Sea, while on its east is the mountain ranges of Zamboanga del Norte. Although Philippines is frequented by typhoons every year, the strategic location of Dakak, which is in between large islands, make it less prone to these typhoons. Aside from the amenities and activities one can find in Dakak Beach Resort, other shops and restaurants can also be found within the place of Dapitan wherein tourists can further appreciate the local setting of the place.

Going to Dakak Beach Resort

Dakak Beach Resort can be reached either through sea vessel or airplane. The main entry point to Dakak is through nearby Dipolog City. Air Philippines has five times a week flight to Dipolog City from Manila. Flight from Manila to Dipolog City usually takes one hour. Asian Spirit has also a daily flight to Dipolog City from Cebu through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.  Flight to Dipolog City from Cebu usually takes around forty-five minutes.  Shipping vessels have also trips from Manila to Dipolog City, and fast sea vessels such as Super Cat have trips from Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental to Dipolog City.

Amenities, Accommodations and Activities in Dakak

This 15-hectare wooded land resort has room facilities that include air condition, cable TV, in-house movies and hot/cold shower bath.  For those who want to come in groups, Dakak has also facilities that suit for conferences and team buildings. Guests can enjoy the tranquil environment as they relax in the resort’s natural spring water of its pool.  Swimming pools are also available for kids. Outdoor Jacuzzi adds-up to the complete relaxation one can get in the resort as well as its sauna and fitness center.  For outdoor activities, Dakak is equipped with a mini golf course, tennis court, billiard center, horseback riding facilities, and basketball court. Its in-house restaurant offers seafood cuisine and Filipino food. For a nightlife party, its Fusion Disco is packed with entertainment where guests can unwind during the night.

Aqua Sports

Dakak is one of the best diving spots in the world. From its fine white sand beach-line to the deep waters, the place is endowed with natural wonders. The Liuay Rock diving spot in the area is the most frequented area among divers of Dakak.  Liuay Rock is a soft slope where a variety of marine resources can be found.  Various corals also inhabit the area. According to many, the Liuay Rock spot is ideal for amateur divers.  Another famous diving spot is the Cesar’s Reef wherein rich coral formations engulf the area.  Ideal for experienced divers, the Cesar’s Reef is home of many different kinds of fish such as barracuda, snappers, and surgeon fishes.

Aside from scuba diving, guests can also enjoy other water sports such as water skiing, snorkeling, kayaking and parasailing.

Going Around Dapitan

Dakak is located in the historically rich place of Dapitan.  To those who want to explore the areas outside of the resort, Dapitan has many spots worth visiting.  For one, the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan is a must-visit place. The place reflects well on the life and works of Jose Rizal, Philippines’ National Hero, during his 4-year exile in Dapitan. In the museum, one can see the things used by Rizal in his writings as well as the equipment he used when he practiced his being a doctor in the place. The Rizal Shrine is located at Talisay, Dapitan City.  The St. James Church in Dapitan is another historical spot that the city boasts of.  According to many, St. James was the most frequented church by Jose Rizal during the latter’s stay in Dapitan. The pew where Rizal always seated is being highlighted differently nowadays to put emphasis on that historical spot. To those who want to shop and dine, the Gloria de Dapitan is a commercial complex that houses various restaurants, shops, bowling center, resto pubs, video arcades, and other recreational spots.  A 5-star deluxe cockpit is also found inside this commercial complex. Outside Gloria de Dapitan is the Outdoor Mobile Amusement Rides where carnival rides can be found.