Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes

Finally! We have been waiting for this book for 7 years. We are thankful to the Center for Kapampangan Studies for publishing this book not just for Atching Lillian and the Kapampangans but also for the Filipino People trying to find the identity of Philippine Cuisine. This book is a must buy and her dishes are a must-try.

TravelTales is very grateful for Atching Lillian’s love for cooking and dedcation to promote and uplift Philippine Cuisine through her cooking and family heirloom recipes. We are so proud of having you as part of the Viajeng Cusinang Matua for the past 4 and a half years. We are looking forward to more years of good food and interesting stories from you!

Have you tried these Kapampangan folk dishes? “lagat tucud-banua,” “sabo bulung bonifacio,” “bangus sasmuan,” “zarzuela ning malat,” “bulanglang itu,” “sabo banging nasi,” “bobotung asan,” “talunan manuc,” “paksing demonyu,” “sabo tacsyapu na,” “tinolang tugak,” “kapeng gugulisak,” etc.? Their recipes are all in the latest publication of the Center for Kapampangan Studies: “Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes: Romancing the Past through Traditional Calutung Capampangan” to be launched Dec. 7 at Cafe Juan, Holy Angel University. The book is authored by noted Kapampangan culinary expert Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo and edited by CKS researcher Joel Mallari.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua goes to the Duman Festival!

For Reservations, please call TravelTales, Inc. at 2390950 or text us at 09175455615 / 09209235615. You may also email us at traveltales@ymail.com so we can send you the Resgisration Form and payment details.

Hacienda Weekend at Prado Farm

Rain or Shine, its Hacienda Time!!!

Be it rain or shine, the long weekend of August is an opportunity to rest and relax ourselves from the stress of work and the bustling city.

Prado is again opening its doors on AUGUST 27 and 28 to invite you to join us in our Bed Weather Activities, accompanied with our local cuisine.

Time: 10am-5pm

What exactly are Bed Weather Activities?

We welcome you into our farm with our locally-grown Lemongrass Iced Tea. We lead you to our spa house, where masseuses are awaiting to relax your tired muscles. Accompanying your harmonious zzz’s would be our Siesta serenata.
You can also just sit in around and have sips of our herb tea, while cleaning your lungs with the fresh air of our farm.
During these dates, we are accepting overnight bookings with breakfast in bed option. Rates available upon request.

Guests are free to take a nap or just lounge in any of the many lounging areas with beds at Prado Farm.

The KERA-KERA Hotel for guests who'd like to stay for the whole weekend.

Local Cuisine
For those staying overnight, we serve you with our breakfast; Champorado (Homemade from our mom’s hand-roasted cacao), and crispy fried Tawilis. This is definitely a perfect way to start your day in the farm.
Our Standard Hacienda day starts at 10am. At the veranda, we will serve you a leisurely morning *minindal sampler of Pistou, our home made, kesoputi, Guagua pan de sal and longganisa.

The morning minindal (merienda) of Pistou, Guagua Pandesal, Longganisa, and homemade Kesong Puti.

Harvest Lunch Menu:
The Prado Salad is a generous mix of fresh picked greens, from common to unusual, all healthy! Picked before sunrise, and served by noon. Served with our Sagada orange vinaigrette. (Buffet)
Cream of vegetable soup topped with chives.
Mixed Fritters of Samosa, alugbati leaf tempura and Spring roll, accompanied with sweet chili sauce
Unlimited Iced Lemongrass Tea
Dessert

Freshly harvested greens are served for lunch.

Rows of assorted lettuce, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and other greens line up Prado Farm's vegetable garden.

Add-Ons:
As the Lunch is vegetarian friendly, may we entice you to order our DUCK STUFFED Arugula-fed LECHON? We guarantee you it’s without guilt!! Or you may try our Family’s Version of the famous dish, HUMBA (Braised Pork).

The Humba is the Ocampo's family heirloom recipe and is best served with freshly steamed cuapao bread . The tenderized meat melts gloriously and gives you just the right taste of sweetness to last in your mouth.

The organically grown pigs are marinated overnight and stuffed with ducks inside before they are roasted to perfection.

Read more about Prado Farms’ Lechon and Humba on this link:

http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/food/food/view/20110407-329777/A-duck-cooked-inside-a-lechon–smelling-of-lemon-grass

To end the day, we serve piping hot “Sa-Le” a local “tinola” of Duck soup simmered in Lemon grass. The Prado version is accompanied by fresh picked garden fresh herbs, sotanghon, topped with a sprinkling of crushed chicharon and a dollop of taba ng talangka.

Rates
Hacienda Day Package for adults Php 950/head (inclusive of entrance to Prado Farms, farm tour, carabao ride, morning and afternoon minindal, and Harvest Lunch)
With Lechon Php1,500/head
With Humba Php 1, 200/head
With Lechon and Humba Php 1,700/head
Hacienda Day Package for kids Php 750/head (kids below 4ft in height)

Prado Farms
Prado Farms is located in Prado Siongco, Lubao Pampanga along Olongapo-Gapan Road.
For bookings, contact TravelTales, Inc. at 09175455615 / 09209235615 or email us at traveltales@ymail.com

The Theater

“TARA NA SA NORTE!” Tourism Fair goes to Manila!

Thinking of another great way to spend that next vacation? The 4th Tara Na Sa Norte, an outdoor travel fair traditionally held along the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX), will be brought to Manila on July 8-10, 2011 at Robinsons Place Manila.

All Roads Lead to North Philippines
With the opening of world-class expressways such as the NLEX and the SCTEX, traveling to top tourist destinations in North and Central Luzon has become more convenient and accessible to travelers coming from the different cities and provinces. The 4th Tara Na Sa Norte Travel Fair showcases the tourism potentials of North Philippines as the emerging tourist destination for nature and sports adventure, cultural heritage, culinary, and the arts.

LOW Season! LOW Prices on Special Tour Packages!
The 3-day tourism fair is expected to gather over 50 of the top sellers and exhibitors from the North Philippines. LOW season tour packages and airfares plus other special deals await those who will be visiting their booths during the event weekend.

Participating sellers and exhibitors include Hotel Elizabeth, The Manor, Wellness Zone, Skynet Travel, Royal Northwoods, Camaya Coast, Pampanga’s Best, Sky Pasada, Puerto del Sol, Afro Asian Travel, Holiday Inn Clark, Fontana Leisure Park, Clark Devt. Corp, La Union Tourism, Wintrex Travel, Hotel Vida, DMIA, Meteor Tours, Travel Factor, SEAIR, Cebu Pacific, Candaba Tourism, Vigan Tourism, SA Tours, SBMA, Pampanga Tourism, DOT, TIEZA.

Fair for ALL!
Aside from great deals and low prices, visitors will have a chance to win special gift items through raffle draws, and be entertained by the cultural presentations of different destination groups. A wellness experience on “Hilot” will also be offered FREE to the public by Phil. Wellness Association of Spa Guru, Jomar Fleras.
Tara sa Norte Travel Fair 2011 is organized by the Manila North Tollways Corporation in cooperation with North Philippines Visitors Bureau and Robinsons Malls. It is supported by the Department of Tourism, TIEZA, Clark Development Corporation, SBMA, Dizitab, Smart, McDonalds, Victory Liner, Team Philippines and SKAL International.

TRAVEL FOR CHANGE: 8 Philippine destinations that allow you to make a difference

Many of us probably have our bucket list of places we want to visit before we pass away. I’m pretty sure most of you have habits of booking your tickets as early as 6 months before your trip when seat sales are usually offered online by airline companies. But how do we really choose the destinations we intend to visit? By word of mouth? or through the thousands of sites and travel blogs that we read everyday? And when we’ve already made our list, how many of us put in mind the kind of footprint that we want to leave in these destinations? This consciousness is what we call Responsible Travel.

Responsible Travel is about more authentic experiences that enable you to get a little bit more out of your travels, and give a little bit more back to destinations and local people. It maximizes the benefits for the communities and travelers, and minimizes the negative economic, environmental, and social impacts.

In the Philippines, there are a lot of destinations that will allow you, not just to enjoy traveling because of its amazing sights and wonders but also experience a different kind of travel lifestyle simply by making a difference in the communities.

1. Culion Island, Northern Palawan

Culion Island, home of the country’s indigenous people called Tagbanwa, is located in the Northern part of Palawan as part of the Calamianes group of Islands. The island served as the world’s largest leper colony for almost a century. But since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Culion to be leprosy-free and is now being considered as a tourist destination because of its pristine waters and rich flora and fauna.

The Loyola College of Culion and the Ateneo-Loyola Hostel Project have established Isla Culion Hotel Maya in 2009, an eco-tourism social enterprise that supports the education of a lot of children in the island. Here in Culion, you can enjoy the same sun and sea of the more popular tourist destination Coron, and know in your heart that your stay will support LCC bring children to school.

To contact Isla Culion Hotel Maya, http://www.islaculionhotelmaya.com

2. Ifugao Province

The Ifugao Province is world renowned as the 8th wonder of the world because of its rice terraces built through hard labor by our ancestors centuries ago. It is the same province which now faces a risk of losing not just the prestige of its title but more importantly the livelihood of its locals and source of rice for the country.

The best rice terraces are found in the towns of Batad, Hungduan, Mayaoyao, and Hapao. All of which are popular among tourists but very few stop from their usual hike and sightseeing to find out the value of nature and culture in these places.

The Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO) is a non-government organization which organizes eco-tours as part of their advocacy to reinforce Ifugao traditions among locals. These tours welcome anyone who is willing to be part of planting and harvesting activities in the villages, which also includes being part of Ifugao rites and rituals.

As Arch. Augusto Villalon wrote in one of his articles on the Ifugao Terraces conservation, “Without new awareness, local culture will erode. And when the culture goes, so do the terraces”.

To join SITMO’s eco-tours, you may contact: Jonathan Albert M. Martin at 0906-1065933.

3. Sta. Rita, Pampanga

Sta. Rita is one of the few towns in Pampanga which boasts of old vernacular houses. This style of Philippine architecture was the transition from the bahay kubo to the bahay na bato. As old as these houses are also traditionally cooked recipes of its Kapampangan dwellers. Old families from Sta. Rita have passed on to the next generations the rich taste palette of the old Kapampangan cooks. It is easy to find old San Nicolas cookie molds and traditional kitchen utensils in homes with their well kept but still functional “banggerahan”.

It is best to visit Sta. Rita during the Duman Festival every December. Visitors can choose a variety of Kapampangan dishes such as the well-known pork asado, bringhe, sisig, humba, and all sorts of delicacies or kakanin like tamales, halayang ube, suman, and bibingka. The tables at the church patio provide a good place to eat while their home-grown theater and musical artists from Arti Sta. Rita, entertain the whole community all the way to the wee hours.

Joining food tours that promote local cuisines are the best ways to provide awareness in preserving these traditions so that it can still be kept by the next generations of Filipinos.

For tours of the Viajeng Cusinang Matua or Old Kitchen Tours, you may contact: TravelTales, Inc. at http://www.traveltalesinc.com or +632 2390950.

4. Kalibo, Aklan

Kalibo has always been known to many as the place of origin of the famous “Ati-atihan Festival”. Flocks of tourists come and celebrate the ati-atihan with the locals every 3rd week of January. On ordinary days and months, the town becomes a pass-thru destination of tourists going to and coming from Boracay island.

Unfamiliar to some tourists, Kalibo also produces the fine piňa fabric used for the Barong Tagalog. This finely woven fabric has been passed on by generations and has become the main source of livelihood of most local weavers. However, due to the influx of cheap fabric from China and other countries, the Piňa industry suffered economically and it has been a struggle for some of the weavers to continue because of high daily living expenses and low market demand.

Travelers can support by simply patronizing local products and recognizing excellence of local craftsmanship. This way, we are empowering local producers to create better living conditions for their families and the community.

As an alternative route, you can take the Kalibo flight on your way back to Manila from Boracay and take an afternoon trip shopping for Piňa fabric and other local food products. Always remember to BUY LOCAL.

For a Piňa tour of Aklan, it is best to visit during the month of April when the Piňa Festival is happening. You will be able to buy a lot of local products that support the weaving industry of Aklan.

You may call Aklan’s association of weavers and food producers: Hugod Aklanon Producers Association, D’Mall, Station 2, Boracay, Aklan +6336 288 5629, hugodaklanon@yahoo.com.ph

5. Baclayon, Bohol

I have been fortunate to experience Bohol during the mid-90s when the influx of tourists weren’t as heavy as two months ago when I last visited. I was part of the team of heritage conservators, documenting the artifacts in the Baclayon church museum. We stayed at the old Villamor ancestral house and walked everyday, passing through the many ancestral houses that lined up the main road leading to the church. We stayed in Baclayon for a week, worked with the locals, ate what they cooked in their homes, tried to learn a few Visayan words and expressions. In other words, we lived like a local. I knew Bohol not through its beautiful white sand beaches but through its culture.

Today, there is a homestay program in Baclayon initiated by “Bahandi” or Baclayon Ancestral Homes Association, a neighborhood organization composed of homeowners of the ancestral houses in Baclayon who joined together to spare their homes from demolition in a road widening project in 2002.

In Visayan, the word “Bahandi” means “treasure”. There are over 67 ancestral houses in Baclayon and some have offered their homes to the public as “homestays” where guests can avail of bed and breakfast for a day or longer.

Ancestral houses, some constructed as early as 1853, are within walking distance of each other and the Baclayon Church. The “homestay” program adopted by the owners help them to earn their keep which is generally geared towards the preservation of these heritage homes.

The homestay program seeks to provide visitors with accommodations and food; a place where one can work and live with a Boholano family and get to know firsthand the Boholano lifestyle and culture.

To book accommodations with BAHANDI, please call Ms. Telly Ocampo at (038)5409030.

6. Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon
A year and a half ago, I traveled to Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon to write about Fair Trade in Northern Mindanao. I went around and visited some of the fair trade producers in the region and found globally competitive Philippine products that are supporting sustainable livelihoods for families in their communities.

Salay is a small town east of Cagayan de Oro City. One of its major industries is handmade paper making, which was started by Loreta Rafisura in 1987. It started as a small civic activity but it has grown bigger to be an enterprise employing housewives and other members of the community. SHAPII or Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc. has successfully achieved to be one of the major suppliers for various international companies such as Hallmark, Marks and Spencer, and Barnes and Noble.

In Maramag town in Bukidnon, I tasted the sweetest organically grown pineapple in the country. NOFPI or Nature’s Organic Fresh Pineapples, Inc. had a vision of planting 60 hectares of organically grown pineapples in 2006. Now, they have planted more than 12 hectares towards making their dream into reality. Most of their produce are being exported to Korea and soon Japan.

These enterprises have become successful in proving that the Philippines can produce world class products using Fair Trade principles. This means that whenever you buy Fair Trade products, you are not just supporting the local economy but you are also helping producers observe socially and environmentally just practices, such as promoting gender equity, payment of fair wages, non-employment of children, and protecting the environment.

For more information about Fair Trade in the Philippines, you may contact APFTI or Advocates for Philippine Fair Trade, Inc. at fairtrade@apfti.org.ph or call them at (02)4544744.

7. Maitum, Sarangani
The last frontier of Sarangani province, Maitum is the place to see rainforests, sea turtles and several cultural communities. If you want adventure, you can try your hand at river tubing. There are no levels here, you either face your fear and conquer the rapids, or you can just stand and take pictures on one of the many hanging bridges. Visit the sea turtle sanctuary for a chance to play with the Olive Ridley’s and Hawksbills. If the water isn’t your adventure, try the hike to Zion Cave where Tboli guides will show you the medicinal plants along the way.

CulturEightTravel is one of the country’s tour operators whose aim is to promote sustainable local tourism and responsible travel. They organize 5-10 day expeditions in Mindanao and bring in a small group of Filipino locals and foreigners to experience the local communities and learn about their heritage, their handicrafts, their homes and their community projects, guests gain a better understanding of the world around them while locals are able to earn a living while preserving their culture and environment. By bringing small groups to these areas and only utilizing local transportation and family-run venues, our impact and carbon emissions are kept at a very low level. With a small group of travelers, communities aren’t bombarded and there is even an exchange of cultural ideas. In the end, everyone is empowered.

To contact CulturEightTravel, you may reach them at (02)2163319/(02) 8078329 / 09178613011 or visit their website at http://www.cultureight.com.

8. Tagum City, Davao del Norte

I have always enjoyed going to local festivals around the country. The experience allows me to taste delectable cuisines, marvel at the beauty of their crafts, and experience the different cultures of people and places. A lot of these festivals in the country revolve around rituals in honor of the child Jesus or other patron sainst. But in some regions, where agriculture is its main industry, planting and harvesting festivals are the most highlighted events every year.

Tagum City is located 55 kilometers north of Davao City and is home to Mindanao’s most abundant growers of the Durian fruit. This city celebrates the Durian Festival every August and is celebrated month long to support farmers in selling their harvests directly to the consumers. While some towns or cities celebrate their festivals only through music, street dancing signifying rituals of thanksgiving to the gods who have blessed them with a good harvest, the Durian Festival’s celebration honors the farmers by providing them of farm to market business opportunities and giving fruit lovers the best harvests at a good price!

Watch out too for the Kadagayaan Festival of Davao del Norte being held every June and celebrated in Tagum City. Aside from durian, there are also pomelo, lanzones, marang, mangosteen, and other farm products which are priced reasonably by the farmers from all over the province.

To know more about Tagum City’s festivals, you may contact their City Tourism Officer, Jun Jamero at (084)2181957.

*This article was first posted in the Travel Blog section of Balikbayan Magazine’s website.

Traversing the Ilocandia Trail


A lot of people refer to Ilocos as one province. If you review your Philippine geography, Ilocos is actually composed of 2 provinces, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. It is the home of the G.I.s or the ‘Genuine Ilocanos’ as how my good friend calls himself, old architecture, beautifully crafted textiles, longganisa, bagnet, and the special empanada!

So how do you traverse this northern part of the Philippines in just one weekend? To start your trip, it is best to leave Manila for Ilocos at around 11pm, passing though the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union on the western side of north Philippines. The night trip is the best time to travel if you want to cut your travel time by at least an hour. Traffic flow is faster without the jeepneys and tricycles along the road.

ILOCOS SUR

Sabangan Cove in Santiago. This cove is a fishing and weaving community, known for its ‘abel iloko’ or the Ilocano textile. The textile tradition from this community came from the Itnegs of Abra located in the highland areas of Ilocos. You can find these textiles inside houses where you will see a number of women weaving them using the old traditional foot looms.

Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Sta. Maria. This is one of the four world heritage churches in the Philippines declared by UNESCO. Built in 1765 under the Augustinian order, it is seated on top of a hill or at the highest point of the town. At the left side of the hill, facing the church is another plight of steps; this leads you to the ruins of the old cemetery chapel.

Salcedo Hotel de Vigan in Vigan. Go straight to Hotel Salcedo de Vigan for your first Ilokano meal. Try their dinoydoy, sinigang na bagnet, and poqui-poqui. It used to be an old mansion which was renovated and made it to a hotel with modern facilities but maintained the charms of the old Filipino Bahay na Bato. Quite a little pricey but they have an air-conditioned dormitory that comfortably accommodates 10 people for Php7K with breakfast. If you’re a group of 40-50 people, they could even set-up your dinner al-fresco at Calle Crisologo.

Calesa Tour of Vigan. For Php150, you can take a calesa tour of Vigan for an hour. Best places you can visit in Vigan are: the old Quema Mansion and Syquia Mansion, try to find Esteban Villanueva’s Basi Revolt painting at the Burgos Museum, watch how jars are made at the ‘burnayan’ or pottery place, find your way to the local market and shop for your take home ‘bagnet’ and ‘longganisa’, walk along the cobbled stone Calle Crisologo and take your postcard photos to let your friends know you’ve been to Vigan, visit the Vigan Cathedral, and lastly, take a bite of the famous Vigan empanada and ukoy by the plaza.

ILOCOS NORTE

San Agustin Church in Paoay was built in 1710, another UNESCO world heritage church in the Philippines. This church is more commonly seen in postcards and books that represent Ilocos Norte. Most prominent part of this earthquake baroque architecture are its buttresses with huge volutes with strong influences from other Asian countries. These buttresses support the walls of the church in case of earthquakes. Best time to visit the church is during sunset and watch how the facade turns into color gold.

Museo Iloko in Laoag City was awarded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for its well-researched cultural data on Ilocos Norte and as the best example for its adaptive re-use of an old structure. The Museo is the old Tabacalera place in Laoag City. ‘Sarusar’, the gift shop insidethe Museo is a one-stop shopping place of the best products of Ilocos Norte, from the blankets and cornicks of Paoay to rolled tobacco and ‘basi’(local wine).

St. Monica Church in Sarrat is ten minutes from Laoag City, the birthplace of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Experience the magnificence of this church through its long nave and huge wooden trusses which has been exposed for many years. Beside the church are the ruins of the old convent.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos. This lighthouse is majestically standing on top of a hill facing the China Sea. It was said that if you try opening a radio on top of the lighthouse, you will already be receiving frequency from neighboring country Taiwan. Climb up to the topmost viewpoint of the lighthouse and enjoy the view of the sea. It is the highest lighthouse in the country.

Windmills of Bangui. The windmills were built to support the power supply of the whole Ilocos Norte. Travelers going to and from the town of Pagudpud or the nearby province of Cagayan often stop by to take photos from afar or sometimes even closer when they find the any of the 2 roads that lead to the beach where the windmills are lined up standing.

Try these Ilokano Bestsellers:

Ilocos Sur:
1. Traditional blankets and table runners – Sabangan Cove, Santiago
2. Vigan Longganisa and Bagnet – Public Market, Vigan
3. Bibingka – Vigan
4. Pizza (bagnet, longganisa, or pinakbet) – Café Leona in Vigan
5. Empanada – Aling Tina’s stall at the Vigan plaza
6. Calamay and tinubong (calamay inside a bamboo) – in front of the church of Candon
7. Garlic and small onions – Sinait

Ilocos Norte:
1. Blankets and Table runners – Paoay Public Market
2. Mama Rosa’s Chichacorn – Paoay
3. Garlic Longganisa and Chicharon (bagnet) – San Nicolas Public Market
4. Pottery and bolos/knives – San Nicolas Public Market
5. Super Double Double Special Empanada (double serving in one empanada – a must try!) – Batac Plaza
6. Local tobacco – Laoag Public Market during market day
7. Biscocho – Pasuquin Bakery in Pasuquin
8. Garlic – Badoc

Take a ride at any of these buses to get to Ilocos:

Partas Bus, Farinas Bus Liner, Maria De Leon – Vigan and Laoag
Florida Bus – Pagudpud

You can stay at the following accommodations:

Ilocos Sur:

Budget: Archbioshop’s Dormitory in Vigan
Mid-end: Villa Angela, Grandpa’s Inn, and Cordillera Inn in Vigan
High-end: Hotel Salcedo de Vigan, Vigan Hotel

Ilocos Norte:

Budget: National Tobacco Administration Dormitory in Batac
Mid-end: Isabel Suites in Laoag City, Balay da Blas Pensionne House in Laoag City, Villa del Mar in Pagudpud
High-end: Fort Ilocandia Resort & Hotel in Laoag City, Sitio Remedios in Currimao, Saud Beach Resort in Pagudpud

*For a complete guide & listing on Ilocos Norte, try to get hold of the Ilocos Norte Travel Guidebook published by the Gameng Foundation.

Photos by Karlo De Leon

Captivating Natural Beauty of Eastern Samar


My first trip to Samar was in 2005, when I took part in several art workshops, as a facilitator, along with artists from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. We traveled from the northern part passing through the western side and set on the east. It was a long road trip that all I could remember were my dreams, as I was forcing myself to sleep through the endless rocky roads.

Four years have passed and I found myself taking a road trip back to Eastern Samar. The rocky roads have improved somehow but what was new to me in this trip was the sight of so many beautiful rivers, clear blue waters, and sunsets that awakened my senses to the natural wonders. I knew I was bound to discover more than the best of what is known about this quiet and seemingly rustic region.

My Secret Hideaway in the East
Playa de Catalina is a newly opened resort located in the town of Can-avid, bound in a peninsula covering 29 hectares of land with a shore line of 3.6 kilometers (just a little short of Boracay’s Stations 1-3). The front side of the resort gives you the view of the sea that’s perfect for an early morning walk on a beautiful sunrise or a good surf on a windy day. The other side of the peninsula is a huge river where you can cruise while watching the sun set and migratory birds fly back to the mangroves. This resort is fast becoming one of the region’s practicing Responsible Travel destinations.

For inquiries and reservations, you may call:
Playa de Catalina, (632)425-3872 / 0908-5686816 / http://www.playadecatalina.com

The Fruitiest Halo-halo
I have never tasted a halo-halo with an almost all-natural fruit ingredients. We had a sweet stop at Sulangan in Guiuan to taste the locals’ favorite snack of halo-halo. It consisted of bananas, avocado, melon, mango, papaya, and crushed Graham Crackers. It was the most refreshing halo-halo I’ve ever tasted because of its fresh fruits factor.

How do you find it? Look for the Banago Beach Resort in Sulangan in Calicoan Island and you’ll see a small sari-sari store just beside it, THAT’S IT!

My Search for Pearls and Clear Blue Waters
We took a 45-minuite banca ride going to Pearl Island in Guiuan to see the pearls being cultured by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. We coursed through clear blue waters and watched fishes swim along with our banca. We were lucky to chance upon a man diving for seaweeds and gave us a bagful for our dinner.

As soon as we reached Pearl Island, we were guided to ride a glass-bottom boat to see the cultured pearls and amazing living giant clams underwater. We were told that these pearls will be ready for harvest by 2010 and will be brought to the regional office of BFAR in Tacloban.

If you intend to go to Pearl Island, make sure you get your permit from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Guiuan.

My Cruise to a Thousand Rivers
Long before roads became the main transportation route, our rivers were used as nautical highways for trading products and transporting people from one town to the next. In Can-avid, we hopped on a boat that brought us from the mangroves and cruised the ‘Ulot’ river (‘ulot’ meaning hiking from the upstream and down). The river was wide and calm, sprawling with lush vegetation. It felt like I was traveling through time when people lived simply in the abundance of its natural environment. And here in Eastern Visayas, a lot of locals actually still do.

If you want to do this river cruise, I suggest you bring a good book. You can either rent your own boat or ride with the locals while they do their everyday travel. Playa de Catalina Resort in Can-avid can help you with this cruise.

Changing the Way We Travel
It has become a habit for a lot of tourists to research on the more popular ‘what-to-see’ and ‘what –to-do’ itineraries. It’s a quick fix I must say in planning our vacations. What if you try traveling the way the locals live their everyday life? It’s amazing how our travels can change the way we could look at our country. How the simplest ways of living can make you understand the value of preserving our environment and understanding living conditions different from our own. Not just crossing boundaries but building bridges to see what natural real beauty means.

Photos by Karlo De Leon