Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Focus: Philippine Lighthouses

With 7,107 islands, the Philippine archipelago is considered the fifth longest coastline in the world.  It is no surprise that we have numerous lighthouses spread across the country to guide international and local ships on their maritime travel. And despite advent of high-tech navigational systems, these lighthouses are still indispensable to mariners for their safe and easy maneuver as they ply their routes within Philippine waters. 

Aside from the important role it plays in the maritime industry, these lighthouses also attract travelers and tourists. Many notable and historical lighthouses made it to the list of must-visit places in the country. 

And I am  one of those fascinated with parolas or lighthouses. It must be because of the nostalgia it brings whenever I see one -- its proud isolation on top of a faraway hill, the view of a beautiful sunset or sunrise or the rusty yet intricately designed stairs that crawl up to its top. I also feel that these parolas are silent witnesses to the rage and calm of the sea that lives below it. For whatever reason, these lighthouses are always a sight to behold. 

"Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining." -Anne Lamott

Here are some of the lighthouses I've visited so far. I made a little research about the history and its current status, and learned that except for the one in Mahatao, Batanes and in Palumbanes Island,  Catanduanes, the others are still active and functioning to this day. I just hope that the government will give due attention to the restoration of these  two dysfunctional lighthouses.

  • Capones Lighthouse. This lighthouse in Capones Island, Zambales was first lit in 1890.  As of today, its original lamp and lantern room were already replaced and the buildings around it have been reduced to ruins.  It can be reached via 20-minute boat ride from Pundaquit to Capones Island and about 15 hike along a pathway leading to the tower.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swimming with Donsol's massive whale sharks

Whale sharks can grow to lengths up to 18m, weigh up to 40 tons and live up to 100 years.
Photo credit to Gutsy Tuazon. Check out Donsol Eco Tour here.

March 11, 2012
Donsol, Sorsogon

This I promised myself: not to patronize dolphin shows, not to attend rodeo or buffalo festivals, and not to promote zoo and ocean parks. It's not that I hate animals, it's just that I feel very strongly for these living creatures that are taken from their natural habitat, locked up in a cage and are being put to major harm and stress.

Whale sharks (Rhincodon Typus), known locally in Bicol as Butanding, is the world's largest fish. These massive and gentle animals appear in Donsol waters in considerable numbers between December and May each year. This is also the same time when tourists can have a chance to swim alongside these animals. 

When I learned about this whale shark interaction in Donsol, I thought of how tourism may affect the welfare of these gentle giants. I tried to weigh the pros and cons and asked myself how my presence as a tourist could affect these animals.  After giving it some thought, I was convinced to give it a try. The interactions happen in the shark's natural habitat, at least they are not thrown in some giant aquariums away from where they really should be. I also read the guidelines being enforced by the tourism officers in Donsol and realized that if followed religiously, these wild animals should be fine. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Amazing Palaui Island

Dos Hermanas islets seen from Cape EngaƱo 

February 27, 2012
Palaui Island, Santa Ana, Cagayan

I woke up to the snoozing sound of my phone. It was only 4 in the morning and the place where I stayed was very still. Aside from the occasional ticking sound of the electric fan, I could hear nothing but silence. Since I missed the van going straight to Santa Ana, I was left with no other option but to spend my night alone in a humble lodging house in Gonzaga, a town one hour away from Santa Ana.  

I texted kuya Ernie, the kind van driver I met the other day and who helped me find a place to stay in, to fetch me at the lodging house. He arrived in a moment's time and joined me for a morning coffee while waiting for the bus. After about 30 minutes, the bus arrived. After thanking kuya Ernie, I boarded the bus and off I was to Santa Ana, the jump-off point going to Palaui Island.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top 10 Summer Hot Spots Near Manila

It's official, summer is here! The metro's heating up so bad and many of us are already mapping out some possible great escapes. If you are one of those who missed to book a flight from the latest seat sale or who can't leave work easily, you really never have to travel too far. We have a lot of great places near the metro!

I've listed here some of the top summer destinations near Manila. By saying "near"  it has to be about two to four hours drive from Manila and has to fit for a day trip or a weekend getaway. 

1. Anawangin Cove. With a white sand beach, a scenic river and a beautiful mountain backdrop, a canopy of agoho "pine" trees and a great sunset view,  it's no surprise that Anawangin soared to become one of the favorite summer destinations in recent years. This beach cove, which used to be mountaineers'  hideaway after climbing Mt Pundaquit, is approximately four hours away from Manila. If you're looking for a cheaper option for your family and barkada getaway, Anawangin is the perfect place! Be prepared for a tent accommodation, to leave your cellphone off (no signal there) or to cook or bring your own baon (no hotel/restaurants around). Before going there, it is also recommended to head first to  its neighboring islands, Camara and Capones.  Click here for more info about Anawangin. 

Location: Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales
Approximate cost per person (group of 5): P1,500

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cagayan's Callao Cave and Pancit Batil Patung

Pinagcanauan River

February 25-27, 2012
Tuguegarao City, Gonzaga, Sta. Ana - Cagayan Province

Summer has not been officially declared yet but the sun was beating down so hard when the plane landed at Tuguegarao Airport in Cagayan. The afternoon sky was clear and the temperature was uncomfortably hot. After putting on my fishermans hat and making sure that I still have the bottle of mineral water tucked in the side pocket of my backpack, I went off ready to brave the  scorching afternoon heat.

This was my plan for day 1 of my solo travel in Cagayan: explore Callao Cave, walk around Tuguegarao City, try the famous pancit batil patung and catch the last trip to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. Since I arrived past noon, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to cover everything on my list. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Footnotes from my first solo travel

3by5, my favorite John Mayer song, prolly sums up my first solo backpacking experiences

My time read 6:08 a.m., and the boat was cruising along the calm waters northbound of Cagayan, towards the island of Palaui. On my right was a burst of orange sky already anticipating the coming of the mighty sun, and on my left was the panoramic view of the mountain ranges of Cagayan awaiting the new day. Aboard that small boat, miles away from the jungles of Manila, was me and the boatman who seemed to just woke up from a bad dream. 

Then it dawned on me: what the hell am I doing here alone?! The answer came in a heart beat -- because I want to.
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