Wake Up, Philippines!

GSIS’ bitter pill

Posted in GSIS by Erineus on March 12, 2009

By Alfredo G. Rosario

For 10 months, I have worked for the release by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) of the death benefits accruing to my son’s sudden demise from a massive stroke on May 14, 2008. What I received last week was a paltry sum grossly incommensurate to his long years in the government service.

My son, Virgilio, had served for over 32 years in the government and died in office. But he was not given even the basic burial benefit. The check I received last week was for the initial survivorship benefit of his widow, Roselyn, and two minor daughters.

It was a bitter pill to swallow. My son’s family had opted for expediency without justice because it had no other choice. It should have deserved justice with expediency.

Why was my son deprived of the burial benefit? Because the GSIS claims that at the time of his death, he was no longer a member on the ground that he was receiving not a “salary” as required by the GSIS retirement law but a “service fee” as the media consultant of the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Secretary Domingo Panganiban.

The GSIS rules, under Republic Act 8291, state that a government employee, “whether temporary, casual, permanent or contractual,” should receive a “basic pay or salary but not per diems honoraria or allowance” in order to qualify for GSIS membership.

In the Social Security System (SSS), there is no distinction whether an employee is paid an allowance or salary. An employee, regardless of how many years have passed since his death, is entitled to a burial benefit as long as he has 36 months of paid premiums.

That is the big difference between the GSIS and the SSS—the latter appears to have a bigger heart in dealing with the critical concerns of its members and their families.

My son had worked for over 32 years in the government service—18 years (1974 to 1992) in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration; 12 years (1992 to 2004) in the Senate; one year (January 16, 2006 to December 31, 2006) in the Department of Agriculture; and one year and four months (January 2007 to May 14, 2008) in the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Two certifications of his latest service record with the Agriculture department were given by Ramon Valmayor, president of the Philippine Agriculture and Resource Research Foundation Inc. (Parrfi), which is under the Office of the President. The first showed that for the period January 16, 2006 to August 2006, my son was given an “incentive allowance” of P22,000 a month.

The second stated that during the extension of his consultancy from September to December 2006, he was given a “corresponding salary increase from P22,000 to P25,000 per month.” (My son actually worked during this period not at Parrfi but as head of the public relations office of the Agriculture department then headed by Secretary Panganiban)

I wrote the GSIS in October last year, pointing out that the compensation received by my son for the period in question should have been interpreted as “salary” and not allowance, based on the second and final certification by Mr. Valmayor that he (my son) received a “corresponding salary increase from P22,000 to P25,000 per month.” I received no reply.

The matter of my son’s government stint as media consultant at the National Anti-Poverty Commission was referred to the GSIS’ External Reconciliation Department by Ms. Lani Calida, assistant manager of the Claims department, but the official concerned, Ms. Celeste Ferreras, claimed that the agency had not confirmed the services of my son “to comprise government services in the context of coverage under R.A. 8291.”

Ms. Ferreras said Secretary Panganiban’s certification that my son was paid a “service fee” cannot be construed as “salary nor compensation in the absence of pertinent supporting documents submitted before this office.”

The GSIS is too bookish in its interpretation of the GSIS Act of 1997 and its implementing rules.

My son had served as National Anti-Poverty Commission media consultant, issuing press releases regularly for the agency. His employer had the “power to control” the means and the result of the work he had to do. There had existed an employer-employee relationship between him and his superiors, as required by the rules.

This quibbling over terms and the GSIS’ hard line that the payment “cannot be construed as salary nor compensation” have cost my son’s burial benefit and the full payment of his insurance’s face value.

The GSIS retirement law says that a government employee, whether temporary, casual, permanent or contractual, is considered a GSIS member provided that he is receiving a basic pay or salary “but not per diems, honoraria or allowances.” Secretary Panganiban’s use of the term “service fee,” which is outside the scope of the three modes of payments circumscribed by the GSIS retirement law, should be interpreted liberally as “salary” in the interest of justice and fairness.

This case deserves a review by Mr. Winston Garcia, GSIS president and general manager, with a view to correcting an obvious injustice caused by officials’ unreasoning adherence to the letter rather than the spirit of the law. The moral authority upon which all laws are founded dictates a humane interpretation of the term “service fee” in its broadest sense to mean “salary.”

This will do away with a technicality that has blocked the fuller entitlement of my son’s family to his death benefits prescribed under the GSIS retirement act.



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Wine and dine, it’s the last Friday!

Posted in Food/Drinks, Hotel, Hotels/Restaurants/Bars by Erineus on March 12, 2009

PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez Updated March 12, 2009 12:00 AM

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The table is set: On March 27, the Tivoli at the Mandarin Oriental holds The Nights of Wines and Fine Dining, which features Australian cuisine and wine.

If the morning begins with Andrea Bocelli singing Somos Novios (We Are Lovers), it guarantees me a clear, good-hair day that stretches until the sun goes down. Recently, I had another reason to celebrate. I explored the wonders of Spain in its scores of food and wine as only a seasoned hotel can present it.

Charisse Chuidian, director of communications, told me that Tivoli, the premier dining restaurant of Mandarin Oriental, was featuring Spanish food and wine in their Night of Wine and Fine Dining. In short, it’s a “TGI-L-F” happening, my acronym for “Thank Goodness it’s (the) Last Friday (of the month)!” something that the hotel has been known to endorse for many years now. Charisse said, “We like to feature cuisines from different countries and pair them with wines that these respective countries have been known for.”

I like that. This new trend of food and wine pairing removes the guesswork and gives one the indulgence of enjoying the dining experience.

I sat back and was ready to be dazzled but first, Mirko de Giorgi, restaurant manager, brought in a basket of freshly baked (and still warm) bread from the hotel’s panadería. I broke a piece of brown pretzel and dipped it in the following order: fresh butter, olive oil and a dry herb mixture of salt, paprika, and pepper. The three condiments made my eyes roll apart from awakening my taste buds. After a dainty sampling of salmon mousse to kick off the seven-course dinner, we partook of the following:

Mariscos: A trio of fresh catch from the sea — mussels in tomato sauce, chunks of lobster meat in olive oil and clams with green sauce — served in a platter. It was appetizing. Vallformosa “Claudia,” vintage 2007, Parellada, Muscat, went well with the trio.

Gazpacho: A tomato-based soup served cold, dribbled with sherry vinegar, fresh herbs and cubes of blue cheese. The blue cheese gave this soup a biting sensation, yet it was pleasing to the palate. Altozano Verdejo Blanco complemented the dish.

Legumbres: Reminded me of the Spanish fabada (white beans with cured ham/pork) except this dish used clams. The beans were served warm making it a fine substitute for hot soup.

Citricos: Fresh chilled yoghurt flavored with orange; this was so refreshing and delicious that it could very well be served as the postre or dessert. It’s a welcome change from the usual fruit sherbet served in the middle of the meal and I give it a three-star rating.

Carnes, verdures y mas: A medley of rack of lamb flavored with honey allioli, steamed spinach with toasted pine nuts and sweetened apples and scrambled eggs with shallots and leeks. The rack of lamb was still too red for my taste so they brought it back to the kitchen to grill it for another minute; it came back just right and it was good paired with a 2001 Vallformosa Reserva, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Postre: Dessert was crème brulee plus chocolate con churros. This was a sugar fix, big-time, and one that I will need to burn for a few more minutes at the gym. The sweet wine paired with the pastries was Cava, Vallformosa, semi-sweet, Eric de Vallfomosa.

I know that the Spanish love to drink wine with their meals. They rarely drink to excess because they don’t need to drink alcohol to unwind and have fun, which comes naturally. Well, we couldn’t be far behind. This night sharpened our wine-pairing skills, aside from being treated to soothing music by Teresa Avila on the keyboard under the attentive but unobtrusive eye of the F&B executive assistant, Oliver Kreuzer.

Charisse noticed that I was nursing my glass of Verdejo Blanco. “It was a nice wine for the first long, warm night of the year to herald the arrival of another long, hot summer,” I sighed.

Charisse chuckled, “But Letty, you are entitled to a bottomless refill of any of the featured wines. It’s what oenophiles expect so we make sure it is part of our wine-dinner promotion.”

Unlimited “pourings” of your favorite wine? As in “bottomless” wine instead of bottomless iced tea?

Here’s to another “TGI-L-F” at the Tivoli — or as they say in Spanish, “Salud, pesetas, amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo” (health, wealth, love and time to enjoy them all). Their sumptuous feast delivers the message just as well, if not more.

* * *

On March 27, The Nights of Wines and Fine Dining at The Tivoli will feature Australian cuisine and wine; New Zealand on April 24, and Asparagus and German Wines on May 29. For inquiries and reservations, call 750-8888 local 2431 or 2432.

View previous articles of this column.


The seven principles of Leave No Trace

Posted in Uncategorized by Erineus on March 12, 2009
April 26, 2008, 7:22am

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

* Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
* Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
* Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
* Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
* Repackage food to minimize waste.
* Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

* Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
* Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
* Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.

o In popular areas: Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
o Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
o Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
o In pristine areas:
o Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
o Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

3. Dispose Waste Properly

* Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
* Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
* Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
* To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
4. Leave What You Find

* Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
* Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
* Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
* Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

* Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
* Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
* Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
* Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

6. Respect Wildlife

* Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
* Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
* Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
* Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
* Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

* Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
* Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
* Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
* Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
* Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.


Celebrating Bamboos with a Blast

Posted in Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 12, 2009
Bacoor launches its first Bakood Festival
By Ayra Mae P. de Ocampo
September 24, 2008, 4:30pm
Mayor strike Revilla, together with the finalists of Mutya ng Bacoor 2008, feasts on Bacoorian's favorite Baked Tahong and Chili Beef-tahong.
Mayor strike Revilla, together with the finalists of Mutya ng Bacoor 2008, feasts on Bacoorian’s favorite Baked Tahong and Chili Beef-tahong.

People often build fences around their houses to mark property boundaries, increase one’s privacy, and serve as barriers against unwanted entries. But for the people of Bacoor, Cavite, an even deeper meaning lies underneath this seemingly ordinary mindset.

The town of Bacoor, considered as Cavite’s Gateway to the Metropolis, derived its name from the Tagalog term “Bakood,” which refers to a bamboo species dotting the town with which old folks used to surround their homes during the early days. However, beyond its literal implication, it also signifies the tough barricade constructed by the people of Bacoor during the Spanish colonial period to serve as protection against foreign intruders; hence, the significance of the word.

And because Filipinos, with our innate penchant for merrymaking, are known all over the world for putting up grandiose celebrations and festivities, what better way to pay homage to a valuable contribution than to come up with one that would remind the people of the town’s glorious past and unite them towards a common goal – an even brighter future.

For that reason, Cavite’s first-class urban municipality mounts its very first Bakood Festival. The celebration aims to bring the Bacoorians together and boost their awareness of the town’s rich cultural heritage being the site of many historical events that molded the country to what it is at present. The week-long event, which began on the 22nd of September and will last until the 29th, includes several activities not just for locals to enjoy but for visiting tourists as well.

As a preview of what lies ahead for the celebration, marching bands, folk dancers, and a feast of Bacoor delicacies welcomed the media during the press launching of the eight-day festival. The entire festivity is packed with a truly enjoyable lineup of activities beginning with an event similar to the religious rite held every Easter Sunday of the same name – Salubong. Adhering to the theme “Bacoor: Tungo sa Pagkakaisa,” it signals the commencement of the festival with the participation of local officials, sector leaders, and representatives marching along the Zapote–Kalinisan Intersection Road, coming from opposite directions and meeting right in the middle to officially launch the highly anticipated festival.

Among the major events is the Bacoor Food Festival, which will highlight one of the local products that the town is best known for – mussels or tahong. Local cooks and food aficionados reveal over a hundred ways to cook this famed seafood that has been among the main sources of employment to many of the town’s residents. A trade fair exhibit showcasing some of the town’s most well-known food products such as tahong chips and the original Digman halo-halo will also take place.

To add more life and color to the lackluster walls situated along Aguinaldo Highway, some of the town’s budding artists lent their creativity and transformed these from mere walls into endearing sights filled with vibrant murals that reflect the theme “Bacoor: Noon, Ngayon at Bukas.”

At the same time, to coincide with the Bacoorians’ pursuit to uphold cleanliness, there will be an art exhibit featuring tahong shells and trash cans turned into art pieces which aim not only to demonstrate the people’s ingenuity but their utmost concern for the environment’s preservation as well.

The splendor of Bacoor goes beyond its rich history, customs, and traditions spanning several decades, as it also takes pride in its women who possess wit, grace, and charm; thus, the staging of Mutya ng Bacoor 2008. Festivals never run out of reigning beauties, and Bakood is no different. Many young women vie for the title not only because of the prestige that goes with the crown, but more importantly, it gives them an opportunity to actively partake in various programs of the local government to further encourage goodwill, development, and empowerment among the people of Bacoor.

For many years, Bacoorians have proven themselves worthy of people’s admiration for their abilities, and surely, these gifts did not go unnoticed, as many of them managed to carve a niche for themselves in various fields. And to honor these outstanding residents of the town, the Dangal ng Bacoor Award will be launched. Bacoorians who have become paragons of excellence in many areas of expertise including visual arts, designs and crafts, contemporary cinema and music, and judiciary will be given this award for their remarkable contributions.

But aside from these highlights, participants will also be treated to other activities such as cultural extravaganzas involving the youth and the senior citizens of Bacoor, interschool street dancing competitions, sports fest, mobile services for a more hassle-free distribution of basic government services, medical and dental missions, round-table discussions with the local officials, job fairs, thanksgiving mass, and many more.

Undeniably, these festivities mirror the local government’s vision of a better, more progressive town of Bacoor. Furthermore, it is also a perfect venue for Bacoorians to enjoy themselves and have a good time while gaining a better appreciation of their homeland.

(photo by Rudy Liwanag)

Climbing High

Posted in Mountain Climbing, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 12, 2009
By Vyxz Vasquez
April 25, 2008, 2:17am

All you need are some sun block, a pair of sturdy legs, reliable climbing equipment, and trekking buddies you can trust and you’re good to go. Here are some places you can visit if you are interested in hiking and the great outdoors:

Apo – The highest mountain in the country at 2,954 meters is one of the most popular hiking destinations. The breathtaking view is not the only thing that draws climbers all over the Philippines to attempt touching its peak, the lush rainforest that surrounds you as you trek up the mountain makes it worth the visit. The diverse terrain, from mossy forest floor to jagged rocks, gives its visitors a chance to experience various ways of hiking. Mt. Apo is also one of the few remaining places where you can spot the famous Philippine Eagle.

Situated between Davao Del Sur and North Cotabato, one can reach Apo’s summit through different routes. You may go up via the Kidapawan trail which most climbers agree is the easiest route or challenge yourself using the Kapatagan trail which will take two to three days to trek.

Pulag – Mt. Pulag or Pulog is the highest point in Luzon. Situated at 2922 metres, this mountain is considered by many as the most photogenic of all the mountains. As you climb up the mossy forest and walk the winding trails along the grassland area, virtually every sight is postcard ready. Once you reach the camp, prepare for the early wake-up call as the sunrise in Pulag cannot be missed.

Pulag is located between the borders of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Ecija and boasts one of the coldest climates in the country. You definitely need to bring warm clothing as temperature can drop in the single digits. There are three ways up the mountain – the Akiki trail, Vizcaya route and the easiest one, Ambangig trail. Since its declaration as a National Park in 1987, strict enforcement of Leave No Trace principle (see below) has been effected. Most locals also consider Pulag as a sacred mountain.

Kanlaon – Its being one of the most active volcanoes in the country that does not only stop mountaineers from visiting Kanlaon. The highest peak in the Visayas region, this mountain takes its name from an ancient god and means “He Who is Ruler of Time”. Rich in biodiversity, the volcano is home to endemic fauna such as the Philippine spotted deer and flora such as Rafflesia speciosa, a member of the world’s largest flower.

Situated in Negros Island, Kanlaon can be ascended using different trails that have different levels of difficulty. Using the Wasay-Guintubdan trail is recommended as it passes the attractions of the mountain such as lagoons and huge dipterocarps. It makes for a challenging climb as it is full of natural obstacles such as tree trunks and massive roots. For an easier route, you may try the Mapot-Masulog trail which will take you to the summit in less than two days.

Climbing Kanlaon requires DENR approval as it is active and considered dangerous.
Tarak – A relatively easy trek with a fantastic view at the campsite, Tarak Ridge in Mariveles, Bataan is a favorite of Manila climbers. About five hours by bus from Manila, this mountain offers a clean river known as Papaya, where one can swim and get drinking water for the climb.

There is an option to assault Tarak’s summit which is about thirty minutes from the campsite. However, the real beauty of the mountain is camping on its ridge, where you have a 270 degree view of the surrounding areas such as Corregidor, Manila Bay and Cavite. Make sure tents are securely pegged as it can get really windy at night.
You may get in touch with one of the local mountaineering groups in Bataan, the Dong-in Outdoor Society, to know more about Tarak.

Pinatubo – One of a few ways you can swim in a volcano’s crater (Taal being another popular Mount Pinatubo (photo by Dennis Lopez) one) is to go to Mt. Pinatubo. Famous for its high-impact eruption in 1991, this volcano has become a must-visit destination for mountaineers as it is the only mountain where you can see a seemingly endless expanse of volcanic ash. Steep fees may be a deterrent to some but the photogenic site when you reach the crater more than makes up for the price.

Located in the intersection of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga, the only way to reach the crater is by a 4X4 vehicle and two hour trek. Once you reach the crater lake, you may opt to swim along the banks or just revel in the beauty of the place.

Guiting-guiting – Even at only  2,058 meters, Guiting-guiting is still considered as one of the most difficult and technical mountains to climb in the Philippines due to a jagged ridge that will take one whole day to climb and descend. Situated in Sibuyan Island, Romblon, this mountain has seen four climbers from the UP Mountaineers die in 1985. Due to the dangerous assault to its summit especially during bad weather, many mountaineers have been forced to turn back and abandon the attempt.

Even with the danger posed to climbers, Guiting is still a popular destination especially during summer months as it is quite gifted with diverse flora and fauna. Here you can see a wide variety of orchids, birds, and one of the smallest bats in the world, the endemic Sibuyan Pygmy Fruitbat. Recently however, this majestic mountain has become threatened by mining companies wanting to excavate as it is said to be rich in nickel and gold.

Please be reminded that this mountain is for experienced climbers only.
Daguldol – Daguldol is only one of several mountains in the Batangas area. At merely 672 meters, it is a Level 1 or easy climb. The main attraction of this climb is the panoramic view on one of its peaks where one can see the neighboring mountains such as Malipunyo and Banahaw and on a clear day, even the island of Marinduque. Another plus is the jump-off point which is located on the beaches of Laiya, which is famous for its white sand.

Located in Brgy. Hugom, San Juan, you can reach Daguldol by either taking the bus or renting a jeep.

Mount Tapulao (Photo by Sally Cabral)Tapulao – Often called “Poorman’s Pulag”, Mt. Tapulao or High Peak is part of the Zambales mountain range. At 2, 037 meters, it is often compared to Mt. Pulag since part of the trek showcases pine trees and cool weather. Going up the mountain can be extremely daunting especially for beginners as there is a long stretch of exposed trail and you are unprotected against different elements. However after a few hours up the trail and you will reach the rainforest and then after some more trekking, the pine forest. When you assault the summit, the terrain will turn into a mossy forest.

The roads are wide enough for a 4×4 vehicle to pass through as Tapulao is open for mining activities. However, due to unstable road conditions during bad weather, vehicles are rarely used to climb up the mountain. It is also highly advisable that you wear sunscreen during the summer as the trek under the hot sun will last for hours. Bring a thick jacket as it can get really cold at night.

Makiling – Makiling is popular due in part to the Philippine folklore of Maria Makiling, who is said to be the guardian of the mountain. Located in Laguna, it is an inactive volcano famous for its mud springs and pristine forests.

There are two ways up this mountain; one is through the Los Bańos side and the other using the Sto. Tomas route. The Los Bańos side is the easier path but as of the moment, this route is closed due to efforts to “rehabilitate” the trails. The Sto. Tomas side is open but is a bit trickier as there are parts that require you to hold on to ropes as you climb a wall. Also, the trails can be confusing as they are not as established as the Los Bańos side. It is thus advisable that you climb this route with someone who has been to the area or you can try to arrange for a guide in Brgy. San Miguel.

Sierra Madre mountain range – The Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the country. The range starts from Cagayan (North) and ends in Quezon (South). The mountains that form the Sierra Madre are considered to be one of the densest and richest in terms of biodiversity in the Philippines. Five mountains, all located in the province of Aurora are open for you to explore with different difficulty levels for novice and hardcore climbers alike. These are:

a. Pamaza-pazam – Pamaza-pazam means “alluring” for the Ilongot tribe in Aurora. That said, the mountain is indeed enchanting as different forms of pitcher plants and other flora greet you on the trail. This is a major climb and must be hiked by experienced mountaineers only.

b. Udok – This is one of the easier climbs in Aurora as the jump-off point is the Aurora State College of Technology and the trek is over rolling slopes from there. The presence of different birds such as hawk eagles, hornbills, owls and sparrows makes this fun trek memorable.

c. Danayag – Another major climb with reported endemic monkeys greeting you along the trail. A 140 feet high-waterfall called Ditumabo is a highlight of the trek.
d. Pinondohan – The trek prior descending towards the campsite is of average difficulty but what makes this climb challenging is holding on to a rope made of ‘baging’ and deciding where to step as you manager your way down to Camp Vanessa. The campsite is beside the river and is a few meters away from several falls.

e. Maaling-aling – One of the highest peaks in the Sierra Madre at 1,885 meters and the most difficult of the five. Main attraction is the picturesque Magdalena Falls.


Traveling to Tablas Island

Posted in Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 12, 2009
By Vince G. Lopez
April 26, 2008, 7:19am

One of the three major islands of Romblon, Tablas features the raw beauty of nature for travelers and adventurers wanting to discover a new getaway. Within 30 minutes of the Tablas airport lie the most charming discoveries in the country. The island’s unexploited beauty offers exclusivity and affordability without compromising the luxurious feeling of a grand beach vacation.

The private island

Found on the tip of Tablas Island, Calatrava is home to one of the most exclusive yet cheapest private islands in the country. With white sands and refreshing clear blue waters, the private Dao Resort brings the dream island getaway to life.

A 20 minute boat ride from Calatrava pier will take you to the island. Enjoy a view of lush greenery atop large rock formations as you journey to Dao Resort. The beach is hidden from view by a rock formation. After passing through the rocks, be awed by the marvelous sight of the small cove of your own tiny paradise.

The private island is enclosed within two rock formations that serves as a divider from other islands. The Dao Resort can accommodate up to 40 persons. With two separate rooms and a native living area, it also has its own kitchen and water source. The exclusivity of the beach assures the perfect time and the best place to have fun and relax in the shores and admire nature’s beauty.

Not a commercial resort, as part of its exclusivity, there are no servants on the island–just one caretaker. Therefore it’s ideal for you to bring in food and beverages as you come to the island. Guests can cook their own food as the Dao resort has a complete kitchen. Dining and drinking will never feel as natural as it does amid the exclusivity and beauty of the private island.

The surreal hidden sea

Another 20 minutes from the Dao resort is an experience of a lifetime. Hidden by medium-sized rock formations, discover the enchanting place called “Tinagong Dagat”.

Not easily accessible, guests need to climb the rocks to get a full view of the hidden part of the sea. Once on top of the rocks, the intense feeling of discovering such an obviously untapped oasis is instantaneous.

The wearing of Aqua shoes is
advised since Tinagong Dagat has not been totally explored; this is also a precaution for protecting your feet from rocks. Discovering and experiencing the hidden sea is truly something that is exclusively offered in Calatrava in Tablas island

Reservations, accommodations, and assistance can be obtained through Calatrava’s municipal office and the mayor’s office by email through rafab@pworld.net.ph.

Your exclusive resort

On the other tip of Tablas Island is the first class Resort Villa M in Buenavista bay, Looc. An exclusive resort with regal treatment and amenities, Villa M usually caters to foreigners looking for a private place to cool down with extravagant amenities within the beach.

Swim, have a massage, walk through the sea shore, hike, or simply enjoy the incomparable view of the sunset: do all these and more in the lavishly designed Villa M resort. Owned by Gunther and Joanne Matschuck since 1989, the exclusive resort continues to expand their already luxurious amenities and interiors. “Guests have always enjoyed the exclusivity and ambience of the resort; that’s why they keep coming back,” notes Joanne.

“Guests usually do their own thing in their own private area without being disturbed by anyone; they enjoy the beach, the cabana, and the meditation area on top of the hill,” says Joanne. Not entirely open to the public, the resort only accepts pre-bookings and is not open the whole year round. Villa M does not accept walk in guests, the reason being that the couple wants to keep the exclusive ambience of the resort.

More than just the ambience and amenities, Villa M also serves sumptuous dishes for guests. Joanne personally takes care of the menu and food for guests, carefully planning dishes guests will probably enjoy since most of them are foreigners.

A fifteen-minute walk to reach the top of the hill gives one a panoramic view of Romblon. The view from the top gives one a 360 view of the island’s grandeur. With the calming and luxurious ambience, great ocean view, and its luxurious design, having a great time in Villa M is a certainty.


Discovering Cuyo, Palawan

Posted in Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 12, 2009
April 25, 2008, 2:13am

Cuyo is divided into two island groups. Up north is the Quiniluban group to which Pamalican island is part and where the 89-hectare, ultra-exclusive Amanpulo Resort belongs. To the south are the Cuyo islands, where the village of Cuyo is located.

An hour and 30 minutes by air and 24 hours by sea from Manila, Cuyo is a fourth-class municipality composed of 17 barangays. With a population of 18,257 people (2000 census), it is one of the unexploited islands in the country. Home to a fort—which shelters a church and a convent in its high stone walls—constructed during the Spanish period to protect its population from Moro pirates, Cuyo has one of the most ancient forts in the Philippines. Incidentally, Cuyo was the second capital of Palawan from 1873 to 1903.

An island where flowers do not grow due to the coastal climate and strong seasonal winds, Cuyo is nonetheless a place blessed with nature’s beauty. Secluded and quiet, it is covered with cashew and coconut trees that gracefully sway to the wind. Thick clumps of bamboo abound. And of course, the vast blue seas—home to a myriad of corals and sea creatures—that seem extend to eternity.
The island would appeal to hardy, outdoor types of people who enjoy taking walks, swimming, and discovering a unique local culture, rather than indulging in material pleasures. And forget five-star hotels: There is only one on the island—Cuyo Place. Cuyonons live on the basics and hardly complain. They are very resourceful and have found ways to make the best of what they have, like making tuba from coconut, and cashew brittle their specialties. Life is slow, timeless, and the epitome of “rural living” in its simplicity, the kind that grows on people who visit the island.
During the filming of Judy Ann Santos’ highly anticipated film “Ploning,” the staff and crew had a blast making bonfires and feasting on banana-cue (skewered bananas cooked in oil), kamote-cue (skewered sweet potatoes cooked in oil and coated with a little sugar) and small crabs called peye laid on banana leaves. The film’s actors instantly fell in love with the place. Judy Ann, Mylene Dizon, Meryll Soriano, and Ces Quesada even called themselves adopted daughters of Cuyo.
“Ploning,” shot entirely on the island, uses some of the lovely town’s areas as sets—the unfinished pier served as the waiting place of Ploning (played by Judy Ann), the basketball court of Igabas served as the place where Rodrigo (played by first-time actor Cedric Amit) and Celeste (played by Mylene) meet for the first time, and the Intigban beach where Ploning and Rodrigo walk while holding hands, among others.
Furthermore, unique practices of Cuyo like making cashew nut brittle and harvesting salt will also be shown in the movie. Panoramanila Pictures Co., the film’s producer, took great pains to ensure the authenticity of the film and in fact, 40 percent of the movie will be in the Cuyonon dialect. Screenplay writer and director Dante Nico Garcia, a native of Cuyo, made sure to bring out the islands’ socially and culturally unique elements.

There is nothing to be lost in Cuyo except perhaps one’s heart. Its untouched beaches, gracious townsfolk, and simple life are its gems. Rare are places where the concept of excessive materialism does not exist yet people are thankful and welcoming, where happiness is equated with putting value on love and life, and living means working with nature and not trying to change it. Cuyo is also ideal for kite flying and windsurfing for those tired of the overcrowded Boracay. If only for these things, Cuyo is a traveler’s dream.


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