December 30, 2010

Ongpin Street

Since childhood, we often go to Manila almost every week since the Malls in Cavite are not yet even planned. One of our usual spots is at Binondo where the Chinatown is located. My grandfather is Chinese so he always insists on taking the family to the streets of Chinatown where tons of Chinese Foods, Chinese Medicines, Chinese Groceries, Chinese Gold and lots and lots more of Chinese stuffs!

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Ongpin Street, the most famous street at Chinatown

Since Childhood, we got used to calling Chinatown, Ongpin, which is the busiest and most famous street which is named after Don Roman Ongpin, a chinese mestizo that owned an Art-Supply Shop that catered to famous Filipino painters such as Juan Luna, Felix Hidalgo and even our National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.

A number of food items are very popular along the streets of Binondo. Some of these are the Hopia or small cakes with Mongo Fillings of different flavors from the traditional Ube, Pandan, Cheese up to Eng Bee Tin's new Concoctions Chocolate, Moccaccino, Pastillas and many more. Another famous item that you can buy on the streets of Ongpin is the Tikoy. Tikoy is a glutinous rice cake made of rice flour, sugar and other special ingredients which can be eaten raw, grilled or the most popular to the Pinoys wherein the Tikoy is cut into strips and dipped into eggs then deep fried until golden brown.

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Chinese and Filipinos offering incense to the Crusifix at the corner of Ongpin Street on Chinese New Year

As few people know, a large quantity of Chinese-Filipinos are Catholic Christians but even so, they preserve their rich cultures and traditions as to worship. They light these incense sticks to give respect, pray and offer thanksgiving to our Lord, the same incense sticks used to venerate their Buddhist gods. We also use these incense sticks in paying our respect to the deceased loved ones. Also, the hanging of the Sampaguitas is never withdrawn, which is a Filipino tradition to any festive activities.

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The Altar at Binondo filled with Sampaguita, Incense and Happy People

During the Chinese New Year, the Streets of Binondo are filled up with people wearing their brightest red to welcome the New Year with Joy, Happiness and Good Luck. It was truly a Joyful moment for me when I got there durnig the Chinese New Year with my friends for the very first time. Surely an experience I would not doubt on recreating this coming Chinese New Years.

With it, I will be leaving you all with my wishes for a Prosperous New Year to everyone around the World and never ending Blessings from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

December 28, 2010

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

For my very first post about the Philippine's last frontier, Palawan, may I present you the beautiful and famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River or as some may call it, the Palawan Underground River. A UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, it has also been nominated as one of the 28 Finalists on the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Located 50 kilometers north of the heart of Palawan's Capital Puerto Princesa, this magical Wonder has always drawn tourists and travelers from all over the world and from all over the Philippines, in the likes of me!

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Me at the shores that starts the path to the Underground River

To get there from Puerto Princesa City, since we don't have a car in the islands, we joined a tour that took us to the place including Van transfers, boat transfers to and from the Subterranean River, a buffet lunch at the nearby beach and friends that you meet that cost us Php2000 per head. It was quite cheap to sum it all up because you only have two options to get there, by your own private car and renting a boat, or by a tour package, just like what we got with the help of our Hotel Affiliates.

After about an hour of bumpy Mountain van Ride (which according to our tour guide had drastically changed a lot better due to the road concreting that was done a few months before our time at the Island) as we reached the end of the road, it was time for us to get in the boat that would take us directly to the Entrance of the National Park. The boat ride took us about 20 minutes of Beautiful and Magical views of Sapphire Blue seas, Gigantic Limestone Karsts and the smell of the freshest sea breeze.

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Me and my Dad seating in front of the other tourists about to enter the cave.

When we got inside the mini forest that led us to the river banks, hundreds of tourists and travelers from around the world gather round as we log our names in the log book. There I saw names of Local and International tourists, some from Mexico, Korea, USA, Germany, France, and China as I could remember. We were grouped into Eight and we are 10 groups beyond from the ones entering the cave so we had plenty of time to talk to other travelers and take some shots of the National park from the Outside of the Subterranean River. When it was our turn, the tour guide asked us whoever wants to hold the light for the whole trip inside, and the other tourists pointed me and I accepted the offer happily.

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The mouth of the caves that led us to the Magical land under the Limestone Karsts

As we went in the darkness of the cave a monitor lizard greeted us swimming along the river. I took it as a good sign that I would really enjoy the whole boat ride inside and I was not wrong. Beautiful Limestone Stalactites and Stalagmites form Magically throughout the whole cave making up shapes of different fruits and vegetables such as Mushrooms, Corns, Carrots, Sayotes and other foods like Bacons and Steaks. But my most favorite part is the Cathedral where the Ceiling was so high and images of Saints like Joseph, Mary and even our Lord Jesus was formed naturally by time.

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The Mushroom (with the light) and the Sayote (right) rock formations

Thousands of bats circle above us and the balinsasayaw birds, whose nests are sold for a very high price to produce the Chinese bird's nest soup, resides also on the whole cave. as we reached the farthest end that the tour could get in on the 8.2 kilometer navigable river, we turned back and went where we started. But it did not bore us at all since there a lot more formations that were emphasized during our trip back.

The whole time that I was inside the cave was truly magical! It was unforgettable since it was my first time on an underground cave and barely just my second time inside any cave. Sharing the whole Palawan trip with my father was a very great experience and someday soon, I really hope I could take my dad on another of my adventures around the globe.

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Me and my Dad in front of a Limestone Cliff just at the entrance to the Underground River

As I end my post, I would like to invite you all to vote for the Puerto Princesa Underground River as it made it to the Final 28 list buying the spot for the New 7 wonders of Nature. Click on the link to kindly vote for this Magnificent World Wonder. A quick registration that would take you less than a minute will make a difference as you support the Philippine Candidate as it marks itself to the list of World Wonders.

December 23, 2010

Baguio City Public Market

Located at the Heart of the Summer Capital of the Philippines, the Baguio City Public Market is merely just a local market, I can surely tell it is one spot that every Baguio visitor should not miss! With it's fresh fruits and vegetables, to the reddest freshly butchered meat and to it's native Baguio Souvenirs, it is truly a must! With it's burst of colors and bustling sounds, this Market is surely the busiest market throughout the Cordillera Region.

From the Greenest Lettuces and Cabbages up until the juiciest Cucumbers, this market caters from the simplest retail buyers, up to the provincial suppliers that brings the freshest produce from the Mountains up as far as Metro Manila and the Southern Luzon Region. Knowing that these are truly fresh and cultivated high above the mountains of Benguet down to the La Trinidad Valley, you surely will have a great tasting Veggie Dish.

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Strawberries line up the sides of the Market

As every Filipino know, when you say "Baguio City" at least on of the five things that would first come into your mind are Strawberries. Baguio City and its nearby Mountain Towns are the only place you can find fresh Strawberries being sold. It is only here in the Baguio City - La Trinidad region where these cute little sweethearts grow and propagate due to it's cool climate all year round, which is very rare to a Tropical Country like the Philippines. Addition to that is the rich soil that wanders around the mountains of the Cordillera.

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Sagada Oranges

Another emerging Product of the Cordillera are the Sagada Oranges. Oranges, just like Strawberries, are not endemic to Tropical countries like the Philippines. But growing them in such cool climate all year round in the Mountainous Region of the Cordillera, growing these fruits are never impossible. Grown from the nearby province of Mountain Province just north of Benguet, these Sagada Oranges are just as good as Florida Oranges, that I tell you!

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Mountain Cooking Oil

One thing that really really shocked my the most during my latest visit at Baguio City as a Child is seeing these Blocks of White Butterish things. I suddenly stopped when I saw this for the very first time and stared at this for about 10 Seconds. The Salesperson at the store was smiling at me as she was known of my shock and amusement of this food item. She then told me "Oh Sir! Ngayon ka lang nakakita nyan noh! Mantika yan!" And I was like Whoaaaa! In Filipino, she said "Sir! This is your first time to see such eh? That is our cooking oil!" Then we, including other locals around us, suddenly burst into laughs and I suddenly grabbed my camera to take a shot. Ok whoever knows what this thing is even before reading, please forgive my ignorance, I have always known that Cooking oil is on it's Clear, liquid form :)

Baguio City really boasts of it's freshest Produce which is absolutely the reason why dining at the Summer Capital is truly a delight since all their ingredients are from the freshest produce that are grown locally and less traveled from the soil plots into their stoves. So for a great dining (and shopping) experience, Baguio is just around waiting for you :)