Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I have always wanted to see the magnificent Mayon Volcano. I have been to Naga City several times (for work-related purposes), but I didn't have the opportunity to go further down south in Iriga, Albay to see the world-famous Mayon and the ruins of Cagsawa Church.

Luckily, my friend was invited to visit the University of Northeastern Philippines in Iriga City for a consultancy assignment. He requested to bring me with him, and so... off we went to Bicolandia!

After an hour of plane ride from Manila to Naga City, we needed to travel another 45 mins to 1 hour by land to reach Iriga. We were billeted in our hotel, the Iriga Plaza Hotel, right in the heart of the town... and still, no Mayon Volcano in sight. We were told that it's another hour of travel to Cagsawa / Daraga. But it's alright... we took some rest first and treated ourselves with a nice meal. Unfortunately, i'm not really a fan of spicy and coconut-based foods! Which means, a trip to Bicol is always a gastronomic nightmare for me... Thank heavens, there are already a good number of restaurants down there who realized that there are people like me who just don't eat spicy and coconut-based food...

And finally, after a day of meeting the University officials and going around town, it's time to see Mayon! The Bicolanos have this funny saying that if it's your first time to see Mayon and be lucky enough to see the tip / crater, that means you are still a VIRGIN! According to them, the tip is always covered with thick clouds, even on a sunny day. (Actually, most mountaintop are always covered with clouds like the Makiling, Arayat, etc.)

Well, well, well.... the tip/crater appeared while we were there! And our guides/hosts officially labeled us as VIRGINS in Bicol! But we wittingly retorted that this "virginity" is something that we need to lose while we are there! Hmmm.... did we or didn't we?

I am still amazed at how the force of nature buried such a wonderful structure back then... and how sturdy this church's belfry is! Still standing after hundreds of years... According to the information we gathered, the Cagsaua Church was built in 1700s and was buried by rocks and lava during the eruption of 1814.

And today, this has become a famed symbol of Mayon's destructive force. A sterling and gripping reminder of how something so beautiful as Mayon Volcano can be so ruthless and indiscriminating.


When in Naga City, try to dine at this Cafe...
A quaint place that serves organic food
(from pastries to drinks).

Colorful native products are sold
very cheaply. Must-buys.

The Church of Daraga built in 1773. This sturdy Baroque structure which is made of stone has been a refuge during the 1814 eruption. Situated on a higher ground, the church survived several eruptions that followed.

The church became the headquarters of the Japanese forces during WW2. It also suffered major damages during the heavy bombings of the said war. What a shame that it was the work of man (the war) that damaged the church...

Restoration took place in 1971-73.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wet and Gay at PUERTO GALERA!

Puerto Galera has been reputed as the "IT" destination during the Holy Week among gay men. Just take a bus (from Manila) going to Batangas port at this time of the year, you will immediately notice a good number of gay men (from the straight-acting ones to the effeminates) all going to ONE destination -- Puerto Gaylera!

I don't have any historical reference yet how this trend started. I only caught up with the trend in 2007, when a friend invited me to experience PG during Holy Week. For a change, why not?
And it was total chaos indeed! There were just too many people... mixed crowd, but predominantly gays. It was fun though...

The shores of the White Beach can be busy with boats arriving,
thus making swimming quite risky. The waters are also "cantilado"
which means, it can get instantly deep just a few feet from the shore.

There are more "peaceful" beaches though, at the other side
of the shore. Less people come here and practically no boats at all!
The mountains at the back are always covered with thick
clouds... I always notice that.

There are some surprises PG is offering for the inquisitive travelers...
At the farthest end of the shore (you must take a tricycle to get there...
that's how far it is) can be found the BEST ITALIAN restaurant in the area.
The place gets really crowded especially in the afternoon...
Most who come here are foreigners and families.

LUCA'S offers the best and the most authentic Italian dishes prepared
by no other than ... LUCA! He's an Italian guy who settled in the
island and established this restaurant...

Food servings are really big... and the prices are very affordable!

When we ate here, though, we just finished island hopping
and swimming, and my tired body needed all the carbs it lost
during the strenuous activities... ergo, I was able to finish
this plate of pasta! hahaha...

White Beach can be boring during the day.. So, it's better to
rent a boat like this one and explore the other islands...
Go snorkeling at the Coral Garden... It's a must!

After all the partying, this is White Beach at the break of dawn...
with the inebriated crowd...

Going to Puerto Galera every year could become a trite
experience. But what makes us come back year after year
are the opportunity to meet new friends or simply seeing
and catching up with long lost buddies...

Alright, here are my SUNSET SHOTS... No beach holiday is ever complete without one, noh? hehehe

CORREGIDOR: A Tour Back in Time

This is my third time visiting the historic island of Corregidor. I am always fascinated with its history and mystery.

Every visit is special and memorable. My first one was back in 2004... It was my first assignment for the reality show Extra Challenge on GMA Network. We were asked to do an ocular inspection in the island and see what interesting "challenges" we can actually do there. Together with a senior producer, we went to Bataan and took a small boat going to the island. The boat was really small... not the typical ones you ride going to Puerto Galera from Batangas port. We were only 3 in the boat - me, the other producer and the boatman. We can't move that much, because we might capsize. Anyway, thank God, we reached the island safely... and got back to the mainland dry and safe.

The second one was the shoot itself. We went there during the evening and challenged our celebrity contestants to visit the ruins of a hospital which was said to be haunted with troubled spirits. The whole crew was on standby outside... and the challengers bravely entered the premises of the ruins with only a camera mounted on their head and a small flashlight. Mind you, it was pretty scary... but fun! Yes, one of the guests confessed hearing voices and seeing strange things inside, thus she ran outside very scared.

The dome of the Heroes' Memorial. There's a time of the year
when the lightshines directly on the sacred table inside the dome...

The lighthouse which continues to guide the ships,
fishermen et al entering Manila Bay

The cinema - my favorite spot in the island. Probably the only place
where our heroes were happiest that time -- seeing their favorite
stars on screen or simply being with their dates.

Get inside... and imagine the fear our heroes felt when
the island was bombed incessantly by the Japanese forces...

The last time I went there was last year (2009) for another shoot (Dare Duo, QTV). This turned out to be more fun and relaxed. We just documented the typical day tour in the island, with some spiels and activities for the hosts and guests. I learned more about the island this time. And the travel was more convenient. We took the ferry at the CCP Complex together with the number of tourists (mostly balik-bayans and foreigners - Americans and Japanese). The ferry was very convenient... airconditioned and sailed smoothly. We also spent the night there... and contrary to popular belief, the island isn't scary at all! In fact, it's so peaceful and lovely out there - day or night. The stars are so visible, scattered like gems in the dark skies...

You may take the ferry at the CCP Complex (beside the Harbor Square).
Travel time is approx. 45 mins. You may contact Sun Cruises Inc. (Tel: 02-527 5555) for details

The hospital ruins. Some tourists (the intrepid backpackers) spend the night here.

If you refuse to visit the island for a simple reason that there could ghosts or other elements out there, you are missing a lot!!! You are denying yourself of knowing your history and of visiting a lovely and awesome place...

I must say that every Filipino who loves to travel should consider this in their list of places to go.

(By the way, Corregidor is not part of Bataan... It's still under the jurisdiction of the province of Cavite).