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.
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.
Singapore is indeed one of Asia’s fine cities and a favored destination of most travelers from across the globe. Though small in terms of land area, this island city state offers a distinct world of boundless possibilities and experiences touted as “Uniquely Singapore.”
More than the shopping experience along the stretch of Orchard Road, the island resort getaway in Sentosa, exploring the wildlife even at dusk with the famous Night Safari, or grooving the night in Clark Quay’s urbane and trendy nightspots, Singapore also brings its visitors closer to the stars. Its year-round colorful line-up of festivals and other events make it a favorite performance venue of big names in the local and international entertainment circuit.
Just recently, this writer and a host of media correspondents from various countries in the Asia Pacific region had the chance to see Lee Min Jung in person, one of the lead stars of the hit Korean telenovela “Boys Over Flowers” which enamored most Filipinos, young and old alike. She was in Singapore to grace Sony Ericsson’s launch event of its Asia Pacific strategy as a Communication Entertainment Brand with its new mobile phones that blend the best in imaging, music, videos, and gaming.
“The Sony Ericsson C903 is perfect where I can take photos of my family, friends, and fans anytime, anywhere,” shares Lee Min Jung. “I also know that there is Facebook application where you can easily upload your photos. I can’t wait for Facebook to come to Korea.”
Another star in the event was Japan’s most worshipped, winsome street magician, Cyril. We were mesmerized by this French-Japanese street illusionist as he flaunted his seamless tricks and marvels of his magic that made him the top winner of the famous Olympics of Magic. He is also known as the world’s first “cyber-magician” as he gained international popularity by becoming the most downloaded illusionist on the Internet. With his upcoming TV Special on AXN this November, he will surely fascinate unsuspecting passers-by around Asia with his incredible illusions and spellbinding, fun character.
“I am delighted to blend my unique brand of story-telling to entertain audiences in Asia Pacific at the event,” discloses Cyril. “I’m delighted to be able to collaborate my magic with Sony Ericsson today to show off the ultimate best-in-class experience for the consumers.”
In the same breadth that these two Asian stars are trying to convey to make their loyal supporters be entertained as they communicate through their extraordinary flair and charming personalities, it is also Sony Ericsson’s strategic approach to delight its consumers with the objective: “Anything that you can imagine can be made real.” With this, three new mobile phones are to be showcased, packed with extensive content for the Asia Pacific market, and will be available in the fourth quarter of this year: Satio, the first phone to offer ninth High Definition (nHD) gaming, 12.1-megapixel phone camera, 3.5-inch screen and 16:9 widescreen format; Aino, where users can transfer videos, play, and all organize their music, photos, videos, and podcasts from the computer to their phone via Wi-Fi; and Yari, which debuts gesture gaming without pushing the buttons to make the moves in front of the screen, nothing to hold or twist, except the body.
“The fusion of Sony Ericsson communication technology and entertainment will deliver the ultimate user experience for consumers in Asia Pacific,” says Hirokazu Ishizuka, Sony Ericsson’s corporate vice president and head of Asia Pacific Region.
Bringing stars together in one venue made for what we all considered a “dazzling” travel experience in uniquely Singapore.
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.”
Ocean Park HK introduces new animal attractions and rides
Where can you go to chill out via a grand polar adventure, shoot the rapids and discover the lushness of the rainforest, shrill to your heart’s delight in a peak that’s called Thrill Mountain, watch a colorful display of jellyfishes and other aquatic resources, and an integrated animal exhibit all in one place? The Ocean Park Hong Kong!
The park recently unveiled part of its redevelopment efforts to the tune of HK$ 5.5 billion (US$750 million) that is expected to double the number of animal attractions and rides upon its completion in 2012.
“As a tourist destination, Ocean Park relies heavily on the massive influx of tourists. It is the reason why we introduce a critical mass of offerings. We believe that we have to give them more things to do to make them stay longer and spend more money,” said Ocean Park Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tom Mehrmann.
Changing with the times
As part of the redevelopment project, the Headland will be transformed into the Summit where guests can have a grand Polar Adventure and feel the chill of the North and South Poles, journey down the river rapids to discover the beautiful Rainforest, or go for a unique voyage in the Thrill Mountain.
Of course, dolphins and sea lions which are the trademarks of Ocean Park will continue to delight guests at the Marine World. Then, there’s also the Sea Jelly Spectacular where over a thousand jellyfishes are sheltered, set against stunning music and multimedia displays.
The Lowland, on the other hand, will be changed into the Waterfront. It will house the exclusive themed resort Aqua City which features the Grand Aquarium with a three-level viewing galleries, four times the size of the Atoll Reef; the Amazing Asian Animals Park which incorporates the Giant Panda Adventure, and the Whiskers Harbour, which is a redeveloped children’s area.
An integrated animal exhibit, the Amazing Asia Animals Parks, is composed of eight attractions such as the flagship attraction Giant Panda Adventure, Gator Marsh, Panda Village, Goldfish Treasures, and Amazing Asian Animals Ed-venture, among others.
The park will have a tasteful blend of traditional Chinese architecture and modern technology, lush greenery and rock walls reminiscent of ancient Chinese structures. Its exterior is made of a “large span tuss system,” coupled with Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) which enables the sun to shine through without the nuisance of heat.
The Giant Panda Adventure is home to four red pandas from Chengdu, China as well as the breeding pair of giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le. The Chinese salamander, alligators, Asian small-clawed otters and other animals will share the habitat.
The Goldfish Treasures features more than 300 varieties of goldfish, making it the world’s largest goldfish collection in a theme park.
Finally, there’s the Sky Fair, a huge helium balloon, almost 22 meters in diameter, that takes guests 100 meters into the clouds amidst a lively carnival setting, and the Whiskers Harbour, an area made especially for children with large kid-oriented rides and live shows at the Whiskers Theater which provides a sneak peek at the day in the life of sea lions.
To connect the Summit and the Waterfront, Ocean Park will build a high-speed funicular express train, dubbed the Ocean Express. It is a useful passageway in exploring the Summit and the Waterfront, especially when the aerial cable cars are not available for use.
The design of the train was inspired by the Jules Verne’s 19th century submarine explorer. Each station combines new technology and old-world futuristic retrospective. Through its glass-paned parts, guests can watch various marine animals, combined with multimedia action, inside their train cabin which gives an amazing underwater experience. The Ocean Express’ maiden voyage will be in the fall of 2009.
Tourism and nature preservation
Going hand in hand with its consistent redevelopment projects, Ocean Park boasts of its numerous achievements and efforts in animal conservation. The park commits itself in protecting and preserving the animal kingdom through its breeding programs which are undertaken for its unique collection of fishes, birds, and marine mammals.
Since its opening in 1977, Ocean Park has entertained and educated over 85 million guests, an average of five million annually, about the habitats of animals and demonstrated ways to conserve the environment where these animals live.
Park officials agreed that tourism continues to play an important role in the overall economic situation of any country. This is not surprising since it perks up domestic consumption and becomes a source of livelihood. A substantial influx of tourists into any country requires considerable services and these translate into more job opportunities.
In Hong Kong, the total expenditure associated with inbound tourism in 2008 has reached HK$ 158.95 billion or an 11.7 percent increase over the previous year’s figure. The average per capita spending of overnight visitors amounted to HK$ 5,439, while the same-day in-town visitors surged to HK$1,498.
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.