Saturday, December 27, 2014

National Palace - Malaysia

They call this Negara, meaning national. The National Palace is where the head of state of Malaysia lives and where he welcomes foreign visitors.

Tourists drop by via this area while the visitors and the sultan pass through the other gate.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What Visitors Can Do in Nuvali

When you say Nuvali, remember green. It is a green community and they say "evoliving" in Nuvali.

Few years ago, Nuvali was just a sight on my way to PNPA. Now, it is not an ordinary sight. It is already a place to go. If one does not live in Nuvali, one can still go there to have fun - dine, walk and more than that.

There is no readily available means of public transportation except a jeepney bound for Tagaytay from Sta. Rosa. So, the best way to get there is to bring your own car or pool with a group of friends. If you live nearby, biking to Nuvali will do. 

What to see in Nuvali includes shops. Restaurants, fine dining, coffee. Walking is more fun here because there is enough space for you to walk and even stretch your arms. Air is fresh and you can breath more of it compared to the quality of air in Metro Manila.

Take a look at the facade of the spacious Starbucks branch in Nuvali. There you will see the above huge piece of marble. A friend told me it is Mindoro marble. Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, which is abundant in the Philippines. It is used usually as flooring of high-end (and not so high-end) homes and buildings.

Aside from shops, BPO activity is also present in Nuvali. This indicates indeed that from north to south, the Philippines remains as a business process outsourcing destination in the world. The picture above is a building where Convergys do business. Convergys also operates in other parts of the country including Makati City in Metro Manila. 

Spacious playground provide ample place to play for family and friends. Some can even have kite flying or sit on green grass that abound the place. 

Nuvali is a haven for unique architecture and designs. It is a place to express various arts. The sculpture above is an example. It is called "The Last Tree," welded scrap metal and found objects assemblage.

The marker says: 

With a timely message on the care and preservation of nature, sculptor Mario A Mallari Jr gathered metallic scrap materials to evoke a human figure caring for the last tree.
Mario A. Mallari Jr found a niche in the Philippine art scene by re-configuring recycled scrap metal into powerful sculpture forms and imagery. The artist has been earning the respect of fellow visual artists for his works that continue to gain peer recognition as well as for his advocacy to nature conservation.

Walk, refresh, sightseeing; there are other things to do in Nuvali even if you do not live in there. Biking, fish feeding and boat riding can be done at standard rates and regular schedule. For bike rental, rate is 60 pesos per hour from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Cut off time is 4:45 p.m. Just present any valid identification and sign a waiver. Bike rules are as follows:

  1. Wear safety helmets all the time when riding a bike.
  2. Use designated bike lane/paths only.
  3. Only one person is allowed per bike.
  4. No racing, no sandals, no slippers.

School of fish - colorful (and obese?). Nothing to wonder about having healthy fish because visitors come to feed them almost in the whole day. If you don't have your own fish pen or even a small aquarium, you can go to Nuvali to feed those colorful swimming creatures. Feeding time runs from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. while fish feeds is available from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. As less expensive as 15 pesos per pack of fish feeds, children (and adults too) can have already enjoy the fun of feeding fish.

What makes Nuvali so refreshing to me are not only the greens but the water as well. The lagoon is home to the colorful school of fish and a venue to taxi boat rides. For a round trip taxi boat ride, you have to pay 30 pesos per head. Special trip will be arranged for a minimum passenger of six persons while the maximum is 12 persons per trip.

Here are the rules in riding the taxi boat:

  1. Life jacket must be worn at all times.
  2. No standing while boat is in motion.
  3. No spitting/littering.
  4. Children below 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
  5. For any assistance, call the attention of Boat Captain and Lifeguard.
Boat ride is available from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

We went there to stroll in early afternoon. Though it was still too hot because the sun is still up, we enjoyed the little time of stay. If you will make the most of the outdoor activities, I would suggest going there in late afternoon when the sun is setting fast. For dining, however, anytime of the day will do, as soon as the shop or restaurant has already opened.

Nuvali is a clean and green place. So, dispose your  litter properly. Stay clean and green not just when going there but wherever you may go. That is what the Last Tree's ultimate message means.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Building One's Team in a Farm and in a Forest

I grew up in a working environment where a team building activity means a mere outing - eating, swimming, drinking or some parlor games. I was looking for the real meaning of team building for years. I even wondered how to build a strong team when there are no leaders. I observed only few persons attending the event. Similar faces through the years. 

Man-made forest

The concept, which is not supposed to be, changed for a day. After eight long years, I encountered a unique place in the suburb of Metro Manila. The venue is named Phillip's Sanctuary. It is located in Pestano Farm, Sitio Palinglingan, Antipolo City.

Phillip's Sanctuary is a man-made forest. It is planted with lined up trees. There are lots of greens to be enjoyed to see. It is at the same time a farm. Vegetation surrounds the Pestano estate. From marang to durian to vegetables, they have them in the Sanctuary.

Where the mud slide ends
Mud is all about fun. I enjoyed them all. I was not able to bring my phone for my own photographs, because it was just possible for the gadgets to get soaked in the mud or be thrown in the water. Lots of rope activities too and the balsa was enjoying. It was great success when I crossed the swinging log with my trembling feet. Only few participants made it to cross that wet log; the rest were outbalanced and ended up in the water. 

Base of zipline
I had the privilege of being lifted on the top of a rope hole. They thought I was the lightest of them all. I just closed my eyes and my team lifted me with all my trust on them. I felt loved.

While one may be paying separately for the zip line in other outdoor venues, it is already incorporated in the package in Phillip's Sanctuary. When doing it remember three words: check, check, check. Safety first before fun.

A heart-pumping mud slide is the finale. I slid from top to the base with a waist-deep of mud and water. I managed not to open my mouth as I splashed in the base but I felt the impact on my nose and ears. No untoward incident happened. 

I liked the humility that the mud spa brings. We used to crawl during our mandatory training in the fire service. We were oriented on the collapsed structure search and rescue but in Phillip's Sanctuary, it was a different way. There was no fire, no collapsed structure, no victims to be rescued. There was complete mud and everything's wet. All my shorts' pockets got filled with mud even. 

What a rewarding plunge in the pool after a day-long of strenuous team-building activities. It is not a hot spa but a generally cold pool. Complete change of all clothes (including all used undergarment) is required in order to be allowed to use the pool.

An added bonus is a rare Honesty Store which is not generally seen in Metro Manila.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sapporo Sojourn

I shall pass through this world but once...been to Sapporo once, perhaps may not be able to go back anymore. I am sharing my very best of my Sapporo sojourn. Those photographs are great reminder that Sapporo holds one of the must-visit places on the face of the planet. Sapporo is the largest city in the island of Hokkaido, located in northern Japan. 

Flowers. If there is another word aside from "cold" that will make me remember Sapporo right away, it is the abundance of flowers. Sapporo is not only filled with greens. It is also adorned with flowers - plenty of colorful flowers. You will see them everywhere.

Sapporo Fire Bureau. One of the most sophisticated and high-equipped fire bureaus in Japan. Do not forget to drop by a fire station and be able to meet the firefighters responsible for making Sapporo and its people safe. I met them.

Walk around Otaru Canal. Enjoy seeing the real pictures. Find out that ice cream is more fun to eat even if it is cold. Buy some mementos. Take more pictures that will last a lifetime of experience.

Chocolate Factory

Shiroi Koibito Park. If the smoking area is already as lovely as this, how much more the entire Shiroi Koibito complex? See the chocolate factory and witness the making of chocolates and cookies. Watch the show at the park. Be amazed of the picturesque of flowers all around. Bring home some cookies, candies and chocolates. 

Odori Park. Very neat and clean. Do not stop walking because nearby is the TV tower. If one comes from a tropical country, see for yourself the maple trees in the park. Buy some snacks too and have a taste different from our tastes in the ASEAN region.

Mt. Moiwa Observatory. Located at the top of Mt. Moiwa, this is the first of its kind in the world. Not just your ordinary ropeway. Not just an ordinary cable car but a combination of cable car and railway towards the top of the observatory. On top of the observatory is a control tower for disaster preparedness and fire protection. There is also a shrine and from the top you will see the breathtaking Sapporo. This is where I have seen the longest bow. I mean the cable operator executes the longest bow. She does not rise unless the car is in complete halt. Every tourist is accorded respect. 

Mt. Okura Ski Jump Site

Mt. Okura Ski Jump Site and Sapporo Winter Sports Museum. Mt. Okura Ski Jump Site is a kind host for various winter sports. During competitions, delegates from different countries compete in here. I loved the museum, it is a kind of tribute to sports and the people behind it.

Quick turn at the Stellar Place and catch up for the train. See the JR Tower too. Never forget the map. Maps will guide you of the way back to the hotel. Maps come in both Japanese and English. We just walked from the Sapporo Grand Hotel up to here.

Old Hokkaido Government Building. The historical building is popularly known as akarenga, or "Red Bricks", from the red bricks that make up its finishing. It is the former seat of government of Hokkaido.

Sapporo Clock Tower. The historical clock tower still works until now. It is a wooden structure and it is a symbol of Sapporo. The clock tower was built in 1878. 

Sapporo Convention Center. A venue for big events like international expositions and exhibits. It was opened in 2003 as a multipurpose convention center. 

Ask me to be back in Sapporo. Given the chance, I will. I long to be back one day, Sapporo. 

P.S. I am greatly indebted to Superintendent Ric Perdigon and Fr. Benjie Ventajar for the photographs.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Finding What is Hot in Cagayan Valley

Cagayan Valley River as viewed from Calvary Hills
I entered Callao Caves five years ago. I was amazed of the wonders of nature. I was somewhat afraid of enchanted places especially the boating we did in order to see millions of bats coming out from top of the cave. I am again back in Cagayan - to explore more and know more about it.

Cagayan Provincial Capitol
In my short stay in Tugegarao amid the sizzling hot temperature, I cannot simply leave without sneaking to nearby tourist sites. Although, my stay was never enough; I am glad that I can go back again to explore for more.

Cagayan, caving capital of the Philippines
Cagayan Valley is known for the Cagayan Valley River. It is the largest river basin the the Philippines. The river is so visible from the plane, it is very long and stretches from one province to another.

First provincial museum in the Philippines
The province of Cagayan is known as the caving capital of the Philippines. Visitors and locals who drop by the Provincial Capitol is greeted by two mini-caves in front of the tourism office. The tourism office also houses the first provincial museum in the Philippines, Cagayan Museum. Established in August 15, 1973; the museum houses an extensive collection of fossils, artifacts and ethnographic items. Tourists can visit the museum for free or may have group schedules on weekends upon request. Phone: (078) 846-7337. 

What is so significant about the caves and the museum is that Cagayan is the location of the excavation for the Philippines' oldest human bones. Until now, the bones are still in the possession of the archaeologist, as I learned from my recent visit. Hopefully I can see them one day in a government museum.

St. Peter Cathedral
Scientific, historical and religious - that's my description of Cagayan. Whenever I visit a Philippine city, I always look for the old churches. Provinces may not all have caves like that in Cagayan but surely they have old churches. 

The Tugegarao Cathedral forms part of the rich Spanish history of the country. It is the longest church in Cagayan Valley measuring 1,850 sqm in length. Dominican priests arrived in Cagayan Valley in 1600s and started their mission in Tugegarao on May 9, 1604. The church was built from 1761 to 1767 as the largest church in Cagayan. The diocese was founded by Pope Pio X in April 10, 1910. The church got destroyed during the Liberation Period in 1945 but the parishioners helped to rebuild the church. Nowadays, the church, which is St. Peter Cathedral, is under renovation. It is not yet to late to share for its restoration.

Calvary Hills in Iguig
In the nearby town of Iguig is the famed Calvary Hills. It is a site for Lenten season religious activities. With an area of 11 hectares, it makes home to the more-than-life-statues of the Stations of the Cross depicting the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. A signage says about the Jubilee Cross Chapel: "enshrined, authenticated true relic of the cross of Christ." In the hill is the Iguig Church. With the town of Iguig founded on December 28, 1607; the church and the convent were built from 1765 to 1787. Calvary Hills remain as a real landmark in Iguig, Cagayan.

Next time, I will be glad to be back to explore the north more - visit more of its churches and ruins, see more caves and hopefully, the islands. What made my mobility easier is the price of tricycle rental. Special trips range from 20 pesos to 60 pesos within Tugegarao City. Drivers reply with "you're welcome" and are more tourist-friendly than those I have encountered in one city in southern Philippines. It was just fine as I enjoyed the fun of enduring literal heat in the north.

With references from the Provincial Tourism Office of Cagayan and National Historical Institute