Sta. Ana, Cagayan is known as “The Gateway to the Pacific” and is the last province on the tip of Luzon in Region 2. And with a 45-minute boat ride from Sta. Ana lays the wave and wind battered island of Palaui.
Palaui is home to 21 species of fishes, 90 species of migratory birds, 105 species of rattan and timber, and Faro de Cabo Engaño or Cape Engaño, one of 27 major lighthouses in the Philippines. Completed in December 31, 1892 by the Spaniards, it is the first lighthouse you will see when entering Philippine waters and is the last when heading out into the Pacific. Nestled on top of a scenic hill, its octagonal, cylindrical stone tower standing guard, it once played a crucial role in the trade between Spain and the Philippines, guiding ships toward the port of Appari.
Now, with its roof gone, probably torn off by forces of nature, this U-shaped building stands as a decaying reminder of the past. You can’t even go up the rust corroded metal stairs going to the top of the lighthouse. It is now closed, a sign or vandalism on the wall by the Philippine Coast Guard warns you not to go up because the flooring is rotted.
With nowhere to go, I peer out the crumbling windows and see the legendary islands of Dos Hermanas. Folklore has it that these are two sisters waiting for their husbands who went out to fish and never returned.
Peering out on the east side, I see a weather-beaten ridge. Waves relentlessly pound the rocky shores of the island and I am reminded of the car-sized waves we endured going to this beautiful island.
Our trip started on an early morning with a calm sea, we almost didn’t feel the waves. This lulls you into a false sense of serenity, of being one with the sea and all that romantic stuff. Then came a little sea spray here and there. This gets more frequent until we come to across car-sized waves that literally rocked our world. Shaken and stirred like a Martini, we at last get a glimpse of Faro de Cabo Engaño Lighthouse and docked at Palaui’s cove. I swear I could have kissed the shore, profusely thanking God that we arrived safely. This must have been how the Spanish sailors felt back then. The lighthouse must have really looked like a guiding light from heaven to those sailors.
I now look around the lighthouse and I see that vandals like Glenn, Arnel, Bullet, Aurelio, Ceasar and Noel were also once looking out this same window. Besides the forces of nature, this historical landmark has to contend with human nature.
We go down the hill and I count 240 concrete steps from the lighthouse. I could be wrong with my count, as I was hungry as the carabaos grazing on the lower side of the hill. We head back to our boat and have our breakfast.
Going back to Sta. Ana took 30 minutes because the water was calmer. We were again sprayed by seawater but this was because of the strong winds coming from the North East. Our boatman even had to make a second attempt to land on the shore, the strong wind and powerful waves pushed our boat off course.
And speaking of going back, will a 15-hour bus ride or an hour on a plane from Manila to Tugegarao plus a 3-hour van ride to Sta. Ana, Cagayan and almost an hour of being tossed like a salad on a small outrigger boat prevent me from going back and see Palaui? With the spectacular scenery and the Faro de Cabo Engaño Lighthouse to guide me back, I most definitely will.
Marian images rouse faith (and tourism) from Filipino devotees
In 1964, a prolonged drought hit Cagayan region, severely affecting its indigenous people called the Itawes. They suffered from starvation, their farm animals died from heat, crops and foliage withered from lack of rain. Desperate to seek help, the townspeople turned to their parish priest to ask for guidance. The cleric advised them to make peace with the Lord and begin a novena to Our Lady of Piat. In the middle of their prayer, a miracle happened, torrential rain fell ending the town’s lingering famine and reviving the people’s receding faith.
From that day on, overwhelming accounts of Our Lady of Piat’s miraculous intercessions spread like fire all over the country. The Blessed Mother is believed to heal all kinds of illness for devotees who humbly search for help and divine intervention.
Four hundred years later, the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Piat remains to be a significant event in the lives of the people of Cagayan Valley. This year, the unflinching devotion to the Blessed Mother sparked a renewed tourism campaign that is anchored on the Marian Voyage of Peace.
A holy gathering
Nine Marian images from the Northern Philippines, in their different titles, arrived in Cagayan recently to join Our Lady of Piat in the first ever Marian Voyage of Peace: Our Lady of Fatima (Valenzuela) Our Lady of Badoc (Ilocos Norte), Immaculate Conception (Bulacan), Our Lady of Charity (Agoo, La Union), Nuesta Señora del Mar de Cautiva (Sto. Tomas, La Union), Nuestra Señora de Caridad (Ilocos Sur), Our Lady of Guibang (Isabela), Our Lady of Namacpacan (Luna, La Union), and (Our Lady of Manaog (Pangasinan).
Organized by the Cagayan North Convention & Visitors Bureau (CNCVB), Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, and the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Marian Voyage of Peace began with a fluvial procession of
Our Lady of Piat from Aparri to Tuguegarao City. The other Marian images were housed in assigned repository churches within the vicariate of Tuguegarao City, Peñablanca, and Iguig to allow devotees to do their Visita Iglesia.
But the highlight of the event took place at the cathedral patio of Sts. Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral where a mass in the name of the Blessed Mother was officiated and was followed by a Marian procession around Tuguegarao City.
“Three years ago, the CNCVB was asked to come up with a signature event that could really depict Cagayan. And since Cagayanos are known for their religiosity and devotion to Our Lady of Piat, we wanted to do an event that could bring together devotees and pilgrims of the Blessed Mother through her different images and titles from the Northern Philippines,” explained CNCVB Chairman, Joselito Luna.
Also, the Marian Voyage of Peace coincided with the 426th founding anniversary of the province of Cagayan and the Feast Day of Our Lady of Piat last Friday, July 2.
Merging faith with tourism
With over 18 Spanish Architectural churches along the tourism highway, Cagayan Valley has always been known as one of the major pilgrimage tourism destinations in the country. However, what others seem to forget is that Cagayan Valley Region also boasts of adventure tourism spots for caving, river boating, fishing, bird watching, wind surfing and diving.
DoT Regional Director Bless Diwa believes that the influx of devotees and pilgrims can help boost Cagayan Valley’s tourism industry by promoting its unique sights and travel packages.
“The DoT is keen on supporting the Marian Voyage of Peace because with its huge following from devotees not only from the Philippines but in other countries, we get an opportunity to tell our local and foreign tourists about the beauty of Cagayan and hospitality of the Cagayanos,” said Diwa.
Among the tour packages offered by the DOT and CNCVB are: an exploration of Callao Caves, a seven-chambered, white rock cave that houses massive limestone and rock formations and a small chapel for devotees; a river cruise of the breathtaking Pinacanauan River in Peñablanca; a trek to Iguig Calvary Halls where life-size depictions of the Stations of the Cross can be found; and a heritage tour of Spanish Colonial Churches around Cagayan.
According to Diwa, the success of the Marian Voyage of Peace is enough reason for them to sustain such event regardless of the cost and extensive preparations.
“We believe that Cagayan is ready to take more risks in promoting our region. It’s time for us to be vigilant in turning Cagayan into a full-blown pilgrimage and adventure destination,” she added.
Who doesn’t love Tagaytay? Its cool weather, stunning view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano, the long stretch of fruit stalls along the road, and it’s just a short drive from Manila.
Another great thing to look forward to in Tagaytay is staying in its long list of hotel resorts, bed and breakfast establishments and country clubs. The latest addition to the city’s string of hotels is Summit Ridge Hotel, a mountain resort getaway nestled on the highest point of the city that promises the best view of Tagaytay.
Owned and operated by Robinsons Land Corporation, Summit Ridge Tagaytay promises to boost leisure experience to greater heights. The fresh air with the occasional morning mist and mid morning fog compliments the hotel’s first class accommodations and amenities – making it an ideal place for celebrations or to simply have a much-needed respite from the hurly-burly of city life.
“Only in Summit Ridge will guests experience the best view of Taal while enjoying the luxurious feel of a world-class hotel. This is also the only hotel resort property in Tagaytay that offers a whole range of training, seminar, banquet and event facilities complemented with a state of the art audio, video and free Wi-Fi facilities,” said Cora Ang Ley, Summit Ridge Hotel general manager.
Communing with nature
For those who love the outdoors, the hotel allows guests to have an opportunity to bask in the sights, sounds and smell of nature, an experience totally lacking in the city life
“All our rooms — from the ballrooms and function rooms, to standard rooms and apartelles — open up to a balcony because we want our guests to get most out of Tagaytay’s irresistible weather. We want to give that non-claustrophobic feel and a homey ambiance at the same time,” said Ang Ley.
Designed by master architect and planner Felino A. Palafox Jr., the hotel blends harmoniously with its surrounding and makes the most of Tagaytay’s natural attractions and scenery. Even the hotel interiors give out an environmental feel with its “Asia Tropical ” concept. The ground floor and hallways are non-air-conditioned so that the whole hotel is engulfed with Tagaytay’s morning mist and evening fog.
Amenities and facilities
Aside from room accommodations, the hotel also boasts of health and recreational facilities such as an infinity pool overlooking the ridge, gym, and indoor badminton and basketball courts. Summit Ridge also offers multi-purpose convention facilities for any kind of business meetings, conventions and events. From its ballrooms, function and training rooms to the state-of-the-art Summit Learning Center, a separate structure from the hotel with a reception lobby, water feature and direct access to the hotel, Summit Ridge promises to provide multiple venue options that are tailor-made to meet the needs of organizers and attendees.
For dining and entertainment, there’s Truffles Bar & Café, a cozy al fresco restaurant overlooking the lawn and pool. It has a 404 sq.m. area where guests can hold receptions and parties.
However, according to Frederick Go, Robinsons Land president and COO, Summit Ridge Hotel’s main attraction is still the breathtaking view of Tagaytay.
“First of all, we have the best view in all of Tagaytay, I don’t think there’s any hotel here that can say they have a better view than we do. During the day you can see so clearly across the ridge and you can see, down to the boats, is Taal Lake. Secondly, I think we have the best climate because we are in the highest and coldest point of the city that’s why even in the afternoon there’s fog all over,” said Go.
According to Go, they intend to have tie-ups with lake tour operators and golf courses with the hotel so their guests can avail of tour packages aside from their in line facilities.
“It’s part of our goal to make people appreciate Tagaytay as a serious vacation destination. The problem in Tagaytay now is that most people usually come here in the morning and then drive back at night or, at the very least, stay overnight. So what we want is to create enough activities for them to stay two to three nights or even an entire week. So we really need to make all this options for them to play golf, to go boating, go hiking,” Go added.
Summit Ridge Tagaytay is on Km. 58, Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City. For inquiries and reservations visit www.summitridgehotel.com
July 4, 2009, 4:39pm
It used to be that families have to schedule in advance vacations before setting off on a quest for a grand adventure. However, with out-of-town residences and club membership in the uptrend, weekends have come to mean heading straight to those second homes.
Among weekend getaways, a preferred destination has been the accessible South—of which Hamilo Coast, a 5,800-hectare property in Nasugbu, Batangas, is becoming well-known as a premier leisure destination for weekenders and out-of-towners.
Hamilo Coast is a sprawling property master planned to be developed in phases and envisioned by SM Land to provide a variety of leisure lifestyle experiences.
The first seaside community to rise at Hamilo Coast is Pico de Loro Cove–a 37.5 hectare development consisting of splendid mountain and sea views, ten residential condominium clusters overlooking a four hectare man-made saltwater lagoon, a hotel, and the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club.
Pico de Loro’s low impact condominiums and members-only beach and country club perfectly suits the market of more active families seeking more than the usual trip to the beach or resort in the nearby South.
Pico de Loro Cove is not a resort, but a weekend place one can call his own. The beach experience in this development—though arguably one of the best and most enjoyable in the Batangas area—is not its sole attraction.
The inimitable proposition of Pico de Loro Cove is its convenient leisure lifestyle that affords city dwellers with a place of immediate escape.
For city dwellers who also enjoy the casual yet exclusive and refined recreational lifestyle of country clubs, the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club will be an exciting change.
The leisure beach community will provide the creature comforts, service and exclusivity similar to that of a country club, but amidst a breathtaking natural setting to heighten the genuine sense of escape from the metropolis.
The Beach Club started operations last February and sets the tone for recreational living at the cove through its amenities, facilities, and nature-based activities that read like a wish list of a true nature’s child. Its tropical contemporary architecture is a delightful reminder to guests that their hurries and worries are now a world away.
The interiors were done by well-known interior designer Manny Samson; memorable accent pieces by local artists such as Cebu’s pride Kenneth Cobonpue welcome guests. Upon entry to the club, its Lobby Lounge extends to a pool with views extending into the sea below.
Adult and kiddie locker rooms are accessible from the pool area for the convenience of members.
To get there: Via a 90-minute ferry ride from MOA Complex by 2010; via a twenty-minute helicopter flight; via a one-and-a-half hour drive thru Ternate to Cavite; or via less than three hours of travel through the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway.
To know more about Hamilo Coast and Pico de Loro Cove, call 8580333 or 8191673. Visit www.hamilocoast.com.
A treasure trove in the heart of Mindanao
“The misimpression that Lanao is a perilous province to visit is a preposterous calumny.” Thus says Gov. Mamintal “Bombet” Adiong, Jr. of Lanao del Sur as he steers his province and its people towards progress with peace as a necessary ingredient.
The people of Lanao are known for their warmth, vibrancy, creativity, and diligence. This, we experienced during our recent visit. In the thick of preparations for the 50th founding anniversary of the province, we were jolted by the energy and joie de vivre so thick and rich, there was no way you could resist it.
We were whisked to see and enjoy what the locals called the “festival route” and the “scenic route”. The colorful Maranao costumes worn by street revelers simply leapt out before our eyes. No matter which way we looked, the fascinating vista left us mesmerized, awed, and reminded of the rich culture and natural resources that the province has taken great pains to maximize and preserve during the past 49 years.
There were the pulse beat and the rhythm that made visitors like us thank Heavens (and Allah) for the unspoiled beauty of creation. After experiencing the wonderful panorama of sights and sounds, we just had to take our hats off to Gov. Adiong, Jr, and his gracious First Lady Raifa for both of them are gifted with the proclivity of genuine reforms, change and progress.
The scenic route brought us to majestic Lake Lanao which is wreathed in the lush and productive mountain greenery of the province, and the Provincial Capitol. Inside the Capitol, we toured the various offices and saw that each of them had that distinct character of richness and diversity.
The Provincial Capitol tour also gave us the opportunity to sample unique Maranao delicacies. One is the famous kiyoning or yellow rice mixed with rich coconut milk and powdered kalawag (turmeric). Tivateg, on the other hand, is made of rice flour, coconut oil and brown sugar. It is strained for thinness, dropped in hot oil and rolled or folded. It is eaten with the fingers. Tiyateg looks like shredded wheat of the Westerners. Another dessert is doldol, a thick pudding made of coconut milk, rice flour and dark sugar cooked for three hours.
We learned that for the Maranaos, food is generally eaten with bare hands while sitting on the floor. On special occasions, the floor is covered with woven colorful mats and food is served on brass trays called talam or tabak.
The most prominent traditional wear in the province is the malong, a large, colorful woven cloth wrapped around the body. One common way women wear it is around the waist with its folds draped over the left arm. Men wrap it around the waist like a skirt.
The malong has many uses depending on the need of the wearer. It can be used as a cape, coat, blanket or umbrella. Maranao or Maguindanao women wear the malong over a blouse called arbita. Also, they wear a turban called kombong made of muslin fabric. White is used as kombong when the wearer has been to Mecca.
What followed our sumptuous side trip to the Capitol was the cultural presentation wherein performers in their colorful and shiny garbs interpreted the Maranao Festival called kalilang that begins with the parade of dignitaries and their retinue and members of royalty with their colorful and bejeweled parasols (payong-a-diyakatan) who all walked to the beat of drums and gongs.
Children were also busy with Maranao games such as sipa-salama wherein one gets to kick a rattan ball to reach a goal.
To lure local and foreign tourists, Gov. Adiong, Jr. says: “Come world and view the beauty of Lanao. We would be more than happy to show you. It has been 50 years and things are only looking up. Lanao Del Sur is indeed the land where treasures grow.”
July 11, 2009, 3:14pm
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is set to launch new adventure and wellness packages for CALABARZON, the region composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, at the Clamshell at Anda and Sta. Lucia streets, Intramuros: History Town Philippines, on July 13, 2009.
Dubbed as “Excite! Delight! @ the Sights CALABARZON,” the event opens to the public on July 14 – 25, 2009, where top travel stakeholders will offer their latest tourism packages to foreign and local consumers.
“With support from the local government in CALABARZON, and business movers such as travel agencies, hotels, resorts, tour operators, and travel boutiques, we have come up with some of the most unique and exciting packages. This regional showcase will likewise introduce the newly-opened first-class hotels and resorts in the area,” said Ace Durano, Secretary of Tourism.
These packages, according to Durano, include wellness and spa sessions, culinary trips, hot spring baths, beach hopping, dive safaris, golfing, pilgrimages, and heritage exploration.
“Aside from CALABARZON’s highlights which are its beaches, volcanic springs, and historical landmarks, we have also put together other alternative activities that cater to a diverse market of foreign and local tourists,” added Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions.
“We invite everyone not to miss this rare opportunity. It’s a chance for them to check a wide range of value for money packages in one venue,” shared DOT Regional Director Louella Jurilla.
The CALABARZON regional showcase opens to the public on July 14 – 25, 2009, with the following schedule: Mondays, 2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Tuesdays –Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Fridays – Sundays, 10:00 a.m. – 12 m.n.
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 02:33:00 06/17/2009
GENEVA—Because of its exposure to natural hazards, the Philippines is one of the unsafest places on earth.
Based on a new Mortality Risk Index (MRI) released by the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) on Monday, the Philippines ranks No. 12 among 200 countries and territories whose populations are most at risk from earthquakes, floods, tropical cyclones and landslides.
The top five unsafe places based on the MRI are Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, and Indonesia.
These countries are most threatened by four “sudden onset hazards” that have increased in frequency and resulted in more deaths in the last 30 years—the period covered by the study.
The results of the study were released during a press conference at the UN office here in Switzerland presided by Margareta Wahlstrom, UN assistant secretary general and special representative for disaster risk reduction, and Sen. Loren Legarda, the UNISDR regional champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for Asia Pacific.
On the other hand, the top five safest countries and territories are Bahrain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Isle of Man.
These places have registered “zero” hazards—no earthquakes, floods, cyclones and landslides—from 1977 to 2007.
Emmanuel de Guzman, UNISDR advisor for Asia Pacific, explained the country’s poor ranking in the MRI: “The Philippines is not only situated within the Pacific ring of fire, it is also visited by 20 devastating typhoons every year, resulting in the loss of lives and livelihood, destruction of infrastructure, worsening poverty and further setbacks to economic gains.”
Sen. Legarda said the Philippines was one of the 10 “most vulnerable” island-countries in the world, “but at the same time, one of the richest in terms of biodiversity.”
“So this grim scenario around the world compels governments to incorporate disaster risk reduction strategies into development policies, and create contingency and adaptation plans in the national-local levels,” she said.
The new MRI was made public on the eve of the opening of the Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (DRR) here in Geneva, which aims to assess strategies to reduce disaster losses around the planet.
According to Legarda, the MRI is part of the Global Assessment Report on DRR, by far the “most authoritative study on the prevailing threats to nations which show that disaster risks are increasing, driven by poor urban governance, vulnerable rural livelihood and ecosystems decline.”
She explained that natural hazards can’t be stopped.
“But we can mitigate their impact and prevent disasters,” she said, explaining that “vulnerabilities come in any form—like unsafe schools and hospitals because they were built, not based on risk assessment studies but on the type of infrastructure and poverty level.”
“These natural risks are turbo-charged by climate change, which will magnify the disaster impact on the poor and most vulnerable sectors,” Legarda said.
Climate change, also dubbed as global warming, is caused by a host of factors with the massive concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the chief culprit, resulting in rising global temperature and sea levels.
With the planet in peril, Legarda Tuesday called for a new development paradigm that would help save the planet and usher in a safer environment amid the worsening effects of global warming.
Legarda, addressing the opening session of the four-day Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (DRR) here, called attention to the role played by humanity’s “insatiable desire” for wealth that has left the environment irreparably destroyed.
The senator called on world leaders gathered at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève to “decisively seize and reduce disaster risks more effectively.”
She blamed the effects of natural hazards, aggravated by unbridled progress around the world, on the “failing economic model” of the west.
Time to make a change
“The time to make that a difference is now. Humanity’s future depends upon us. Let us be the change we seek,” Legarda said.
She also said that today’s state of socioeconomic affairs championed by the United States and the rest of the developed nations should not be “business-as-usual.”
“It is high time for the world to slow down this contemporary development practices,” said the senator, in remarks which could unsettle Western nations that have championed capitalism as the main driver of economic growth since the 18th century.
Legarda lashed at contemporary development practices, describing it as “irresponsible since they have allowed disaster risks to grow, to spread and to prevail until today.”
Storm clouds gathering
In a prerecorded message at the beginning of the program, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned that “the storm clouds are gathering” as he called for a concerted action globally to mitigate the effects of a warming temperature.
“Risk reduction is an investment,” he said, pointing out that it was humanity’s defense against climate change.
The UN secretary general was supposed to deliver the keynote address to conclude the opening program, but as he was absent, Legarda was the last one to deliver her speech, which was the most applauded.
Heads of state
The heads of state present were Hans-Rudolf Merz, president of the Swiss Confederation; Anote Tong, president of Kiribati; Raila Odinga, prime minister of Kenya; Bruce Golding, prime minister of Jamaica; and Libertina Amathila, prime minister of Namibia.
They all spoke during the opening of the session along with other African and Asian leaders like Issatou Njie Saidy; vice president of Gambia; Rafael Alburquerque, vice president of Dominican Republic; Liew Vui Keong, deputy prime minister of Malaysia; and Mohammed Abdul Razzague, minister of food security and disaster management of Bangladesh.
The four-day global summit brings together a wide cross-section of the global disaster risk reduction experts and advocates, including heads of state, senior ministers, UN agencies, non-government organizations and scientific and technical experts.
This year’s assembly attended by over 1,500 delegates will examine the increasing disaster risks around the world, which are exacerbated by climate change, with the aim of reducing disaster losses and risks to make the planet safer.