Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pinay Heroes on Everest

Philippine Flag has been raised again at the top of Mt. Everest for the second time. The first is when three Filipino mountainers (Leo Oracion, Pastour Emata and Romi Garduce) successfully reached the summit last year during the 1st Philippine Mt. Everest Expediton and now, three Filipinas made their historic feat as the first ASEAN women to reach the highest mountain on Earth.

NoelleWenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino composes the Kaya ng Pinay Team and had successfully reach the summit last May 17, 2007. They were supported by their expedition leader Art Valdez and ABS-CBN correspondent Abner Mercado.

Last February 25, Pinoy Explorer was on a book launch at the Market! Market in Fort Bonifacio to honor the Filipino feat to Everest. The book is entitled "Sa Bubungan ng Mundo", a personal account of the multi-awarded journalist and The Correspondent host Abner Mercado during the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition last year.

It was a successful event that I covered where TV personalities, mountainers and special guests flock the launching venue to support the launching of the book.

Only Erwin Emata and Usec. Art Valdez had made it to the launch but the three Filipinas are present to formalized their plans of conquest to Everest which they have made in flying colors recently.

Truly, Pinays can demonstrate an outstanding skills and strength even in the face of adversities as long they continue their passion to reach their goals. It's Pinay Empowerment, Mabuhay at talagang Kaya ng Pinay!

Related Links:

* Kaya ng Pinay Blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pahiyas: Feast of San Isidro Labrador

May is a month of fiesta in the Philippines and mostly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Countless Flores de Mayo are being held in various barrios throughout the country where flowers are being offered by children and Santacruzan are for young ladies who vie for the Reyna Elena status.

But the month of May is also about celebrating the feast of their patron saints. To all of us, May 15 is just an ordinary summer fiesta but to many religious believers, its more than a celebration for it comemmorates the feast of San Isidro Labrador, the saint of the farmers.

Today, He is considered as the number one choice as Patron Saint of Churches in the Philippines not because of any religious congregation established in his honor but he was chosen based on the number of terms the churches honoring him as patron saint.

As a matter of fact, there are around 151 parishes recorded with San Isidro Labrador as their patron saints thoughout the archdioceses in the country and there are plans to make the San Isidro Parish Church in Pasay to be the center of San Isidro devotion in the Philippines.

One of the successful fiestas that became popular in the country to his honor is the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon. Every 15th day of May, local residents transformed their humble homes into a virtual farm house fully-decorated with colored farm products such as "kipping" that was became so popular that tourist flock to this small town of Quezon.

It transformed the town of Lucban to be the center of fiesta in the southern Tagalog region.
Grand Santacruzan and colorful parade of fresh-harvest decorated floats traverse the main street and end to the church to pay its homage to its patron saint.

San Isidro's life is very relevant today. He is a married layman, saint of the common "tao" or farmers, laborers and the poor, representing the large majority of people in our country. Rice is our staple food and farming are the commonly souce of living in the remote provinces, So, it is not impossible that most parish that was build around the Philippines are choosing him as their patron saint.

San Isidro was born in Madrid, Spain in 1070 who worked as a farmer to a rich landlord to help support his family. He was raised with great religious belief and fear to God. At present, he is also the patron saint of Madrid.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Its my Wife's Day!

I was at home reading a Sunday paper and I throw a glance at my wife with my 2 year old kid watching the photos during our last year's vacation in baguio. My son was so happy enumerating names of those what he sees on the photo slides on the computer monitor. He giggles and he was very smart calling his mother's attention to turn the photos in portrait mode. He already able to identify what is correct in his vision.

As i watch them, there's a spot in my heart that says, "You must be fortunate to have a family like that." I can also tell that that my son was contented, enjoying his life as a kid and was raised with the loving hands of his parents.

Two years had passed and I can't really imagine that my son is growing fast and smart. He can already recite his ABCs and other nursery rhymes that his mom had taught every night. He can already mimic some TV commercials and dance some of its tunes.

I seldom recognized my wife's effort for all these years and I want to commend her for being so patient with me and being understanding. Aside from that, I want to be thankful for her nurturing love to our beloved son, for her caring and affection, guidance and for teaching him to be smart.

I turned the pages and I see a half-page ad. Its Mother's Day and I almost forgot. The election fever is making its headlines and I almost missed the importance of this day. I have kissed my wife and wispher ...."That's a kiss for being the best mom for Chad" Let us all greet all mother's with a KISS!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Photos Led to Boracay's Discovery

We are surprised by its awesome beauty. We enjoyed the powder-like white sands and breathtaking sunset. But do you have any idea how this beautiful island called Boracay was discovered?

It was my second time in Boracay and I was not here for any ordinary outing experience. I was here in search of Boracay's history, art and culture. But the truth of the matter is, this island does not have much of a history and it's quite challenging to find out its past.

I began my work early morning strolling down the 4- kilometer stretch of the beach shore, even if I was a bit tired from the party the night before with my officemates. I went to the southern part and found myself in the unexplored haven of Brgy. Manoc-manoc. Though the place has a few sprouts of establishments already, it is not overcrowded. The sand is also refined but not as first-class white that you can found in Stations I and II. The harbor is quite a scenery and
fresh air can be felt for it has a bountiful of forest reserves which are still unspoiled.

I had the privilege to talk with a certain Manong Ruben while he was busy unrooting wild grasses around his mango tree. He told me that there's a lot of stories about Boracay but he only gave me a few. He said that there were early settlers who inhabited the island and fishing was their primary source of income.


According to him, based on the old folk stories, the discovery of Boracay was brought by a simple photo taken as a souvenir that was given to a local fisherman and it was shown to a German backpackers who are on their quest for the elusive puka shells. From there, they have discovered this wide and endless stretch of beach that is now popularly known as the white beach. After that, its first visitors were mostly Europeans, particularly Swiss and Germans and they usually campfire on the beach.

I asked him why frequent brownouts happened in "Bora". He smiled and said " You must be thankful that at least you have the electricity to enjoy while on your stay." The early forms of accommodation here were rudimentary. A mattress on the bamboo floor of a native-style hut was considered a "luxury," he continues. "There were no such niceties as hot and cold showers, televisions, telephones or even restaurants." Two decades ago, this place is nothing more than just a scattering of fishing villages.

Electricity did not come to this island until the early 1990s. During those years, candles and kerosene lamps provided the only manmade light under the glittering stars or the brilliant tropical moon. But this did not stop from the curiosity of foreigners, they flocked in numbers and decided to settle here. Early settlers were mostly Europeans then after few years, came the Americans.

Manong Ruben vigorously added that even Hollywood filmmakers were driven by curiosity to visit the place. They were amazed with its beauty and decided to shoot on this island the film "Too Late the Hero”, in 1969 that starred the popular British actor Michael Caine. From this movie alone and the still photos that was brough back to the studio, Boracay became a byword.

Then words spread like fire and pretty soon, Lonely Planet's Jens Peters found his way here along with his photographer. And when the Island got listed in the backpacking bible, Boracay was transformed into a major destination in the international travel circuit.

His niece became one of the pioneers to be employed in Cocomangas' Shooter Bar, a very popular drinking and party place that was established ten years ago. This place is owned by an American. After that, other foreign-owned establishments started to flourish on the island and even luxury hotels started to grow.


I continue documenting the place, shoot its landscape, people and the hotels and start to wonder this God's made haven that attracted more than 100,000 tourists a year. What is its secret? What compel them to go to this place?

To give you some facts, Boracay island is seven kilometers long and three kilometers wide. It is divided into three barangays. Yapak lies in the north, Balabag in the center and Manoc-Manoc in the south. Now, I'm going north and see what stories I can find there.

I started at Station I and went straight to the famous landmark of Boracay - The Willy's Rock which is a floating grotto isle during high tides. I took some pictures to get a wider view of the beach.

As I look around, I recall what Manong Ruben had said, "I remember that one of the earliest to rise on this area was the Red Coconut Resort. Then later on, hotels in concrete construction, such as Willy's Beach Resort and Pearl of the Pacific. Now, these hotels have become a tourist destination and bookings now became expensive.

The northern end of the white beach, you can find the famous Fridays Hotel and Resort. The accommodation here is really high than in any part of the island. Mostly, personalities and members of the elite class are booked here. This area has the powdery sand on which Boracay
has become famous for. Aside from that, the sceneries of the long stretch island plus those glorious view of both local and foreign tourists in scantily clad bikinis could not escaped my paparazzi shot.

The scourging heat of the sun never stopped me from having conversation with some local tourists and got some more info about the place. Most of the tourists who come here like parties and ultimate enjoyment or "gimmick" such as rave party and tecquilla body shots and more. I even tried asking some girls to pose for me for a pictorial that they were all agreed.

Then I went to the northern tip and crossed the island path and saw the overlooking paradise of Nami resort, the Spider and Monkey houses that are truly unique in the island. Couples love this place because the cliffs hide villas, nipa huts and cottages from prying
eyes. The sea is just a few steps away and a panoramic view of Bora is such a grandeur thing to look at. This part of the island can't be seen when you are at the central area. You have to walk through meandering footpath in order to reach this place.

Now that I have conquered the north to south of Boracay, the pictures on my camera were the only evidence and witness of how I discover the island's miraculous beauty. These pictures if publish and be seen by many, would be another rediscovery of this famous island. Hidden paradise like this is just here for you to discover. By just sitting around in one beach resort can't be a worthwhile stay. Party, sports, spa and other amenities can be found in any place but these places that I have been through are such a beauty worth coming back.

Behind its pristine beauty and abundance in natural resources, today, the island of Boracay can become a photographers' haven for practicing their craft and at the same time to capture its internal beauty which could lead to become a cover in one or two travel magazines and might also enjoy by tourists in the wonder of Philippine postcards. Even with the advent of technology and modernization, Boracay still remains a place of surpassing beauty of nature...a Paradise. It can certainly continue to claim the title of "The world's most beautiful tropical island" and can be found in my native land.... The Philippines.

Related Article:
• Only in Boracay

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Rediscover the Beauty of Miag-ao

I really don't know much about Miag-ao but I often heard it from my colleagues about its historical importance. So, when the opportunity came, I took the time to make the most out of the place.

I have been to Iloilo City when I was in college but I had never been to Miag-ao. I just came here now to visit our branch office. I added as part of my itinerary the Spanish-old church of Miag-ao. Though some of my officemates decided to cancel our Miag-ao trip because of the intense heat this summer, I pushed with my plan and went along with my 6 other officemates.

We travelled about 40 kms south-west of Iloilo City by a hired jeepney and we reached this famous religious gem of the south about 45 minutes. The Santo Tomas de Villanueva church which was listed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest baroque churches in the country built more than 200 years ago.

According to the Philippine history, Miag-ao church helped the town defend itself from the frequent raids of the Moro pirates in the 16th to 19th century that plagued most of the neighboring towns and caused the whole town to relocate to another town called Iloilo.

To honor and commemorates the bravery of its ancestors, last February, the town celebrates its fiesta thru "Salakayan Festival" which also showcases Miag-ao's brilliant culture and history.

I noticed that it had a big resemblance of the great Paoay Church in Vigan. Its structure is also made of adobe but it has a unique silt and clay that according to some locals can only be found in this part of Iloilo. It gives the building a unique warm-yellowish glow that was so perfect when lighted by the sun.

I love the artistry, the refinement in skills and talents of local artists who were engaged in the architecture of the church. This can be considered truly as "Pinoy Church" because of the native touch in the sculpture of St. Christopher carrying baby Jesus amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs in the facade that was carefully crafted. There was also a large stone image of St. Thomas of Villanova, which is the parish patron saint, dominated the center. It has also a carved life-size statues of the Pope and St. Henry with their coat-of-arms above them that flanked the main entrance. Architecturally, this church is really a masterpiece.

As I finished taking photos of the facade and its interiors, I joined my officemates in a solemn prayer and thanked him for giving me the chance to visit the place. I looked around again and convinced that the church is truly worth a treasure for our cultural heritage. There were stories behind its walls that are worth telling for today's generation. I only hope that someday, I can go back here and share stories of its past.

At present, the church is under renovation. I hope the church still remain as it is, intact and preserve. This eclectic architectural design with the predominance of baroque and artistry must have the proper conservation method to prolong its life and be enjoyed by the next generation.

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