Monday, September 21, 2015

Angkor Memories (Two)

In Angkor Wat, you will really be awed by magnificent architecture and advanced engineering work used thousands years ago.

Apsara Dancer

Too many of them
View from inside
When you are inside this complex, you'll get to feel wind and relieved from tiredness of going up. The white GI sheets are restoration work funded by other countries.

Ramayana and Indarapatra
You can read Ramayana and Indarapatra from the whole stretch of wall. Just look at the stone sculpture on the wall but don't ever touch them. 

Inside base
This is what's inside the huge complex; this is the highest tower. In order to enter here, you have to exert real effort. 

Just my comment, some tourists do not read the conditions of entrance here written in their IDs. Once ID cards are given, the staff should at the same time instruct the tourists to read the conditions written. One very important condition is not being noisy. Because there is still Buddha inside where Buddhists can pay homage to and the place is considered holy; tourists should minimize their noise. The word "wat" means temple. So, do not wear shorts or sleeveless or see-through clothes. Be decent enough.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Angkor Memories (One)

It has been a while since I missed to post new things. In this series, I will be presenting some memories of my recent sojourn in Cambodia, a place where every step is memorable.
"The journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step." 
My feet in Angkor Wat reminds me of the famous Lao Tzu's quote: "The journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step." This base is made of stone from nearby mountains thousand years ago. 

Walk as far as you can while you can.

While others are not given the chance to walk because of physical reasons, be thankful when you are in Angkor because not everyone can enter the entire complex. Literally, you will have to perspire from walking because the entire complex is thousands square meters in area. Aside from that, entering the structure entails literal and careful steps to the staircases.

There is beauty in every tourist.
The lady in colorful dress makes the olden structure alive as the rest of the other tourists do. Take a look at the stairs; those are made of wood placed on top of the real staircase. This boardwalk provides protection for the real stairs underneath. The real stairs are half the length of my feet in diameter making it difficult to a modern man's feet to step. Thus, the boardwalk makes it easier for the tourist to go up and descend from the top.

Well, for now, Cambodia is a country with vast potentials for development considering that it only has about 15 million people. Compared to the Philippines, we already have more than 101 million people. In Cambodia, the government have to rethink its national policies in ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, capitalizing on tourism as its competitive advantage and strengthening infrastructure that links the country from the main roads to the drainage systems.

Currency have to be studied well also because there are two confusing currencies - dollar and riel. It was so surprising that in Siem Reap where the border to Thailand is near, baht and even peso are accepted. Until then, Siem Reap....

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Enjoy Carcar City, Cebu

Jose Rizal Monument built in 1929
For seven days, I stayed in Carcar City, Cebu. It is one of the several cities in Cebu and one of the newest cities in the Philippines. How I enjoyed the place was not only basically defined by foods to eat in Carcar but by the things that made it historical. I usually love to visit historical sites because I like history. In Carcar, I enjoyed history and development.

There are few hotels to stay in Carcar, however, the price is reasonable enough for budget travelers like me. I stayed in RL Apartments whose owner, Richard, is friendly and accommodating. At 700 pesos per  day, the room is already spacious and can accommodate even an additional or extra bed for a third occupant. RL Apartments is located along Gen. Luna St., Poblacion 2, with mobile number 0908-505-7030. The hotel is family owned and not so many workers are there to attend to your needs but basically family members. Travelers always look for wifi, don't worry RL has wifi connection.

Leon Kilat Monument built in 1959
St. Catherine de Alexandria Church built in 1859
Several landmarks are seen within the City Hall compound of Carcar. First, the Jose Rizal monument that dates back to 1929. There is also the monument of Leon Kilat, a famous Filipino fighter and revolutionary leader of Cebu during the Spanish regime. He died in Carcar in 1898, hence, a statue is in honor of him right at the entrance of the city hall.

The Hispanic church of St. Catherine de Alexandria is just facing the city hall. It was built in 1859. Other religious sites are the Theotokos Shrine, house of Our Lady of Family. We visited this shrine located on top of a hill with the sight of remaining parts of Carcar. I was not able to visit the Bishop Camomot Shrine. The said bishop's (Camomot) beatification is now on process in Vatican.

Giant Statue of Our Lady of the Family 
Theotokos Shrine in Barangay Perrelos
Don't forget to visit Carcar City Museum. It was built under the American period and started by Don Mariano Mercado in 1929 as dispensary building. I sat with the table that was used by Leon Kilat during the Spanish revolt for purposes of meeting, it is still in tact and inside the museum.

At the back of the museum is a facility that tells many stories. Its back has the remains of a former huge swimming pool because Carcar was once the summer capital of Cebu. The doors around the swimming pool remains are former bath houses but became torture rooms during the war. 

A former Dispensary in 1929, now Carcar City Museum
The Green Mansion, a heritage house, is open for business.
The Green Mansion
Carcar is famous home to heritage houses. These houses date back to 1800s. The Balay na Tisa, just walking distance from my hotel, was built in 1859. I was not able to enter because generally, these houses are privately owned. I also saw Mancao Ancestral House and I likewise observed some cracks in Ang Dakong Balay, which according to my interviews, was attributed to the great Bohol quake that reached up to Cebu. The Green Mansion, on the other hand, is still being used for trade and commerce up to now since it was built in 1910. There are shops on the ground floor area of the mansion.

The Carcar Rotunda is a place where one will observe concentration of traffic congestion during rush hours. Chicharon and delicacies stores are located in the Rotunda and tourists usually drop by every now and then to buy pasalubong. It needs repair like landscaping to improve it aesthetic view. I cannot even cross the Rotonda and reach the statue in the middle because of so many cars passing around. The Carcar Rotunda was constructed in 1937.

Balay na Tisa (Sarmiento-Osmena House)
Ang Dakong Balay (Don Florencio Noel House)
Not so many people can enter the NIA Hard filled dam located in Barangay Can-asujan. I was lucky enough that a city hall official brought my group to visit the dam. The dam was funded by Asian Development Bank. During our visit, water in the dam is already in critical level. The dam irrigates farms for agriculture of neighboring barangays within the city of Carcar.

I visited the Mainit-Mabugnay Hot Spring. The upper portion of the water system is the source of potable water for Carcar Water District. It is frequented by people who swim during summer. The challenge here is on how to maintain the place neat and clean and free from plastics and other refuse. I did not see, by the way, hot springs.

The Can-asujan Small Reservoir Irrigation Project, services 369 hectares of rice land
and 403 hectares of vegetable lands.
Bamboo bridge in Poblacion 2
While Marikina is the shoe capital of Metro Manila, Carcar is the shoe capital of Cebu. Its shoes are being supplied to various parts of Visayas and Mindanao. I have talked with the President of the shoe makers in Carcar, Gerry Sanoy, when we visited his factory and store in Tangasan. One of the things that pull the shoe industry in Carcar, according to him, are the cheap shoes from  China and Korea. I do not know what the government, local or national, is doing to help this industry of shoes in Carcar to survive. I have seen a shoe store, which accordingly, is owned by the mayor of Carcar. They too are members of the shoe makers association, who are suffering from the influx of cheaper imported shoes.

Marikina of the south, one can buy Carcar-made shoes.
 Stores are concentrated in Acacia Grill compound, Brgy Valladolid
Quality-wise, I bought several shoes in Carcar. At reasonable and factory price, I bought two pairs of shoes at 270 each, which can be sold at more than 500 pesos in Metro Manila. I also bought a third pair, which becomes my favorite footwear when going out during summer.

How to get to Carcar:
Ride a bus at South Terminal Station in Cebu City. Fare is 40 pesos for ordinary bus while 60 pesos for aircon bus. Travel time is more than an hour. Or you may hire a taxi or van in Cebu City.

To know more about Carcar, I texted the mobile number given in the city museum, 0998-5581-081 (landline number is (032) 266-5050). When I asked about the horseback riding and zipline in one of the barangays in Carcar, I received a reply to go to the city hall tourism office to ask. It seems that the one who holds the mobile number of the tourism office is not updated of what is happening on the tourism sites that the city is promoting. It is not even proper to let me go to the city museum office when I am on my way far from the area instead of giving me answers right away. It was from a friend whom I learned about that horseback riding and zipline adventure has already been closed by the owner, not from the tourism office anymore.

With information from "Ways to enjoy Carcay" provided by the City Tourism Office

Wonderful Sights and Castle Church in Sibonga, Cebu

Thanks to Jigme Dorji who took this picture inside the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist
located in Marian Hills, Lindogon, Barangay Simala, Sibonga, Cebu.
Simala Church ceiling
Cebu is known for historical places and old structures. However, not all structures are old. I visited the famous castle church in barangay Simala, town of Sibonga. Since I stayed in Carcar City, where my hotel was located, I hitched aback of a single motor cycle called habal habal by the locals.

Heritage church (Our Lady of the Pillar) and building opposite of  the municipal hall
Risky and amazing. Risky because the driver and I were not even wearing helmet. I do not know why they are not used to wearing helmet when the roads belong to national highways. Amazing - because I enjoyed joy riding. It was too hot then, under scourging heat of the sun and yet riding was fun. When on our way back to Carcar City, the four habal habals which we rented were stopped at police checkpoint in Sibonga. I was surprised to know that the motor registration of all the four habal habals were expired or were pending to be released after filing renewal with the Land Transportation Office. I could say that in that part of this country, maybe in other parts too, habal habals are not being regulated. They are just being allowed to travel without making sure that all necessary requirements are met. Had we met an accident then I will not be able to claim insurances - I have plenty of life insurances.

Jose Rizal Monument
Anyway, Sibonga is a small town after Carcar City. The view of the sea at the back of the municipal hall is so amazing. The town hall as well as its park is neat and clean while the opposite church is historical dating back to Hispanic period. 

Sibonga Municipal Hall
When we reached Simala, I saw a lot of cars going down from the upland. These cars, mostly private and tourists, visited the Catholic church in the barangay. When we reached the area, it is like fiesta. Amid the sunlight, people do not cease to come and line up for the visit up. Souvenir items, plentiful of them. Shorts and sleeveless shirts and so sexy attire are not allowed inside the church. The security guard strictly implements the dress code among visitors.

Well of Nazareth
The church is a huge complex and some of its parts are still undergoing continuous construction. The design on the front is so beautiful that it resembles that of the European castles I saw in magazines and postcards before. 

Religious items are for sale outside including rosaries, books and novenas. One can enter the church and pray as well and visit the altar while observing queuing properly.

Sibonga Pier
How to reach Sibonga: Ride a bus going to Sibonga at South Bus Terminal in Cebu City or rent a taxi from Cebu City.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baguio City, Philippines' Summer Capital

The modern time is faced with environmental risks and realities. These challenges are being faced now by the Philippines' summer capital, Baguio City. Located in the north, Baguio is the coldest city in the country. 

It is an irony that I reached Baguio only last January. I liked the city so much. These are the things that I loved in Baguio:

One afternoon in PMA
1. Cold weather. Bring your jackets, really thick jackets. I brought several jackets but I loved the thickest one, the one I brought in Sapporo a few years back.

I remembered Sapporo, the same flowers here
2. Flowers and neatness. I like seeing flowers everywhere because my mother usually grows plants at home. Flowers give more life to a place. In Baguio, tiny flowers are everywhere. These are so colorful and decorate corners and sides of thoroughfares. Then, generally, Baguio is a clean city. My challenge to the city government: how to maintain proper solid waste management despite rapid urbanization and the great number of tourists who visit the city all year round.

3. Strawberries. See those ambulant strawberry sellers along the road. Try to buy one and taste it. Strawberries are grown locally and organically. 

4. Philippine Military Academy. Of course, Baguio is known as the home where the finest men and women in the Philippine Armed Forces are molded into the finest managers and leaders of the modern time. So when you visit Baguio, don't forget to drop by the PMA. The PMAers are very hospitable hosts, they are used to visitors. 

5. The Mansion. You may have never been to White House, where Obama lives, or to Malacanan Palace in Manila where the President of the Philippines stays. Don 't worry because there is another mansion in the country that serves as official home for the President. I am referring to The Mansion in Baguio City. It is accessible to tourists as well. You can enter the palace grounds but of course, you cannot enter inside the palace.

In Burnham Park
6. Burnham Park. If you have been to the Washington DC Park, well, Burnham Park is familiar. The design is the same. Why? The architect of Burnham Park and of the Washington DC park is the same. For me, I enjoyed biking there. We were like kids with my foreign classmates, we biked in the evening while the rest of us paddled the waters. It was already too cold then.

In front of Igorot Lodge, where we stayed at Camp John Hay
For the things I dislike in Baguio, these are the traffic congestion and the structures along road shoulders. In a small place like Baguio and tourists are plenty, traffic congestion is a headache for everybody - locals and tourists as well. I am thinking of how this could be addressed by the city. What about banning too much cars up there or limiting the time of passage for cars through color or numbers coding scheme? Being stuck uphill is indeed a waste of fuel.

Second, much as I saw a lot of pine trees and many trees in the city, I am worried about the numerous concrete structures along the shoulders of the roads. These structures are business establishments and houses. How do we address the almost non-stop building of structures along road shoulders? Structures provide shoulders empty of trees because concrete has been on foot already. Then what about the integrity of the soil in the road shoulders if we keep on building structures? 

By the way, Baguio City is accessible by land and by air travel.