Showing posts with label Baguio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baguio. Show all posts

Friday, February 03, 2012

Lakbay Norte 3: Trekking in La Union & airsoft in Baguio City

Beachfront at the Kahuna Beach Resort
For Day 5, Lakbay Norte 3 visited La Union and Baguio. I almost forgot that San Juan, La Union had a high-end hotel for surfers and those who simply want to relax. We spent the night at the Kahuna Beach Resort. And I really enjoyed the facilities. Plus their surfing trainers come from Luke Landrigan's San Juan Surf Camp. So you get the best of both worlds.

Smoked Salmon Pizza at Thunderbird Poro Point
We actually arrived in La Union the night before, straight from Batac, Ilocos Norte. We first had dinner at the Thunderbird Resort Poro Point in San Fernando hosted by Department of Tourism Regional Director Martin Valera.

Surfers in San Juan, La Union
The group then proceeded to Kahuna Beach Resort to check-in and spend the night. Too bad we had to leave early the next day since the place was really cozy. After breakfast in Kahuna, the group drove to Bacnotan to visit the Holcim Plant to explore its ecotrail and plant trees in the property. Lunch was at the La Union Provincial Capitol before proceeding to Baguio City.

Victory Liner Terminal and Microtel Baguio
Calamares and Chips at Microtel Baguio's Te Quiero Tapas Bar
In Baguio City, we made a brief stop at the Victory Liner Bus Terminal where Microtel Baguio is located to try out Microtel's newest restaurant, the Te Quiero Tapas Bar.

Airsoft at the grounds of the Baguio Country Club
From there, the group went to the Baguio Country Club for an afternoon of airsoft.

The Manor at Camp John Hay
We spent the night at The Manor at Camp John Hay, another of our favorite hotels during Lakbay Norte 3. Dinner and breakfast the next day was superb!

Check out the video of Day 5 edited by Carlo Cruise. Also check out the photos of Lakbay Norte 3 in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo
San Juan, La Union
Tel. No. +63 (72) 6071040 / Fax +63 (72) 6071017

The Manor at Camp John Hay
Loakan Road, Baguio City
Tel. Nos. +63 (74) 4240931 to 43 / +63 (74) 4240945 to 47 / Hotline +63 (2) 5844911 / 5844892 / Fax +63 (74) 4240960

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Benguet: Baguio reinvents itself as an adventure destination!

Are you sure you've seen the best of Baguio? Think again! Baguio is now promoting itself, together with its neighboring towns, as an adventure destination. These Benguet towns are collectively called BLISTT (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay). Add Bokod, Benguet to the list as well, with Ambuklao Dam.

With Baguio as a jump-off point, you can kayak or river surf at the Ambuklao Dam and Tuba, visit the Balatoc Mines in Itogon, go rock climbing, river hiking, bouldering, rappelling, or ride an ATV in Camp 3, hike up Mount Pulag in Bokod and Kabayan, fish by the Agno River, or go spelunking at the Ambongdolan Caves in Tublay. Baguio City itself is also becoming a major airsoft destination. There are simply so many choices!

We went off-road go-karting along one of the rough roads by the Agno River. If we had more time, we could have tried out more stuff.

All this is being organized by the Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB). And what's good about this new service is you can plan an adventure with style, with your own butler and waiters setting up alfresco dining for you! They even had a bar for the group!

Baguio's adventure tours are still in its infancy. And it's exciting to see how this develops. I hope I get to visit again to really try all of these cool activities.

Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau
+63 74 4424088

Baguio: Panagbenga Festival 2010 Calendar of Events

Panagbenga Festival 2010 promises to be even bigger. The Baguio Flower Festival has already begun and continues to attract visitors to Baguio City, the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Here is a list of major events this year:
  • February 14: Fluvial Parade featuring Camelot on the Lake, Burnham Park
  • February 26-28: Abanao Nights, Abanao Square
  • February 27: Grand Street Parade, Session Road to Athletic Bowl
  • February 28: Grand Float Parade, Session Road to Athletic Bowl
  • March 1-7: Session Road in Bloom, Session Road

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baguio: The Manor at Camp John Hay prepares a dinner feast!

The Manor at Camp John Hay served the most memorable dinner during the entire Lakbay Norte trip. You have to give it to the Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB) for preparing a feast for us. And welcoming us to the dinner was none other than Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr.

Also there to welcome us was Atty. Damaso Bangaoet, Jr., the father of the Panagbenga Festival which is being held this month.

And to make sure the food was nothing but perfect, renowned chef Billy King, the man who brought Le Soufflé to Manila and now the secret behind the gastronomic magic of The Manor in Camp John Hay's Le Chef Restaurant, personally supervised his staff of chefs and waiters.

It was indeed a grand selection that included soup, salad, sushi and sashimi, juicy roast beef slices, grilled meats and vegetables on skewers, bowls of Mongolian barbecue, home-made sausages with salsa, and irresistible desserts (it was strawberry overload), more than enough to fill our stomachs. After our third or fourth servings, we all gave up!

For the night, I also stayed at The Manor. The rooms were spacious, cozy, and nicely layed-out. I wish we could have slept longer. But we had to be up early the next day. Breakfast would have also been a feast! But I wasn't able to enjoy it due to our tight schedule.

The Manor, Camp John Hay
+63 74 4240931 to 43 / 50 to 53
+63 2 8450892 / 8450911

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Top vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines

The top 10 vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines were named by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Four of the restaurants in the list are in Metro Manila, two in Baguio, and one each in Batangas, Boracay, and Palawan. Vegetarian food and restaurants will be another series in my blog. So watch out for it. Anyway, here's the list:

Corner Tree Café
150 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati
(02) 8970295 / (0917) 8481004

Greens Café and Restaurant
92 Scout Castor St., Quezon City
(02) 4154796 / 3762781

Daily Veggie N' Café
540 Banawe Street, Quezon City
(02) 7118209 / 7113214

Bodhi (also known as Evegreen)
SM Cubao, SM North EDSA, SM Megamall
SM South Mall, SM City Manila, SM Makati

Outside Metro Manila

Bliss Café
Hotel Elizabeth, Gibraltar Street corner J Felipe, Baguio City
(074) 6190367 / 09178464729

Azotea Greens
Second Floor, La Azotea Building, Session R, Baguio City

Hapilife Healthy Food Corner
8 Corpuz St., West Tapinac, Olongapo City
(0921) 8720258 / (047) 6110249

Ima's Gulay Bar
46 Fernandez Street, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
(0920) 5333210

Mandala Spa
Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan
(036) 2885858

The Farm
119 Barangay Tipakan, San Benito, Batangas
(02) 696-3795

Related entries
Corner Tree Cafe, best vegetarian restaurant in Makati

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Alternate route to Baguio

Alternate routes to Baguio are being sought due to the worsening traffic along MacArthur Highway. I don't know for how many years they've been trying to repair the roads in Urdaneta, Pangasinan. But they never finish it. And it gives me the impression that they don't intend to and that they'll keep constructing until they milk government coffers dry. As a result, traffic there is horrible and it can delay you for as much as an hour especially during the day time.

One option is the Magilas Trail via Rosales, Sta. Maria, Asingan and back to MacArthur Highway at Binalonan. This bypasses the traffic in Villasis and Urdaneta City.

But another option is to take an alternate route from the Tarlac City SCTEx Exit itself. Instead of making a left back to MacArthur Highway, I made a right and took the alternate route to Baguio via La Paz, Victoria, Guimba, Cuyapo connecting to the Magilas Trail in Rosales. This skips traffic along MacArthur Highway from Tarlac City all the way to Binalonan, Pangasinan.

It's a bit longer but faster. Roads are relatively good plus vehicles are scarce. So there's less stress driving since I didn't have to worry about driving in crawling traffic or overtaking slow vehicles except for the occasional tricycles which occur much, much less than along MacArthur Highway. Travel time from the Tarlac City SCTEx Exit to MacArthur Highyway in Binalonan (97.4 kilometers total) via this alternate route is under two hours.

What's good about the route is that it's clearly marked by directional signs both ways. On the way to Baguio, just make sure you pick the route via Guimba as you exit Victoria since the other option via Pura, Ramos and Paniqui will bring you back to MacArthur Highway and Urdaneta City traffic.

Remember though that this alternate route is good only for the day time when traffic is bad along MacArthur Highway. Also make sure you're gas tanks are full and that you've eaten or have supplies on board since there's nothing much along the way. In fact, you don't even pass by town propers except in Victoria, Tarlac and Rosales and Binalonan, Pangasinan.

Going up Baguio, Kennon Road is my choice during the day time and when it's not raining. It's shorter, faster and very scenic. I enjoy the view of its many waterfalls which become all the more evident after it rains.

Sadly, GI sheets started to mushroom all over the place. There are now two houses at the base of Bridal Veil Falls destroying the view. And Camp 6 in Tuba, Benguet is the most horrible! The local government of Tuba should start doing something to protect the wonderful view of this historic road.

Also remember that there is ongoing road rehabilitation in the Camp 8 segment. So Kennon Road is one way in that area. So going back down to Manila, you'll have to pass by Marcos Highway or enter Kennon Road via Loakan.

Related entry
Waterfalls along Kennon Road

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Baguio: Baguio heritage in Camp John Hay going gone!

Unbelievable! Greedy! Stupid! That is all I could say when I saw these photos of the original American housing in Camp John Hay flattened to make way for new developments. I used to be so happy that at least Camp John Hay was still an enclave of Baguio heritage and green. But that was until I saw these photos!

It's really stupid. No, really! The new buildings they construct have no connection whatsoever to the history of Baguio. They should stick to the distinctive green and white architecture of the American colonial period. These developers are giving Camp John Hay a serious identity problem. They continue to destroy its unique character. The simple elegance of these decades-old houses would have been unmatched if they had been restored. Now what? Will they build second-rate copies of houses in the Alps?

Jack Carino writes, "More of old Baguio's distinctive green-and-white architecture gone!!! Photos taken January 30, 2009. So not even a toot from conservation activists. I enter Camp John Hay maybe twice or thrice a month to check on the sale of our magazines and I didn't get a clue that this was going on! Probably the demolition was done stealthily? Or traffic was rerouted when this was done?

"Anyway, I think that the Camp John Hay managers have no sense of history and heritage. They will probably build European-inspired structures just like the Manor and the Suites.

"Those vestiges of Baguio's American colonial past should have been preserved and whatever they are going to construct there should be brought to the Baguio outskirts."

Dion Fernandez tells us more, "I spoke to a representative of the John Hay Management Corporation last month, and the demolition job seen in Mr. [Wilson]'s photos is part of their plan to create an exclusive 'playground of the rich,' which runs contradictory to 'quiet dignity' as promised in the turnover manuscript posted over at the Bell House. A luxury neighborhood is expected to rise where those simple houses have fallen. The only American Heritage area left would be the so-called 'Historical Core,' which unfortunately will also eventually be 'developed' as per the architectural plans found on a balcony also outside Bell House.

"Meanwhile, I have seen the plans of the Ayala Corporation to put up a massive BPO building within Camp John Hay. Yes, it is a concrete/glass structure. Yes, pine trees will be destroyed to make way for this behemoth."

Isn't that just horrible? There are just a few pristine areas left in Baguio City. Let's preserve what's left of the heritage and environment of Baguio, especially those wonderful pine trees!

Many thanks to Ronald Hilton for taking and allowing me to use the photos and to Jack Carino for forwarding them to the HCS. At least we know now the stupidity that is happening in Camp John Hay. It's time for Baguio citizens to be vigilant! Wake up Baguio! Let's put an end to this nonsense!

Related articles
Is Baguio a hopeless case?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Baguio: Is Baguio a hopeless case?

Baguio City is the only hill station in the Philippines. For those not familiar with hill stations, a hill station in Southeast and South Asian countries is a high-altitude town used especially by European colonialists as a place of refuge from the summer heat. It looks like the Spanish were not into hill stations since it was the Americans who established the first and only hill station in the country. And that’s why we have Baguio City which is celebrating its centennial this year.

Many of these Asian hill stations (such as Simla and Darjeeling in India, Cameron Higlands in Malaysia, Bandung and Bogor in Indonesia, Dalat in Vietnam, and May Myo in Myanmar) were able to preserve their character. But Baguio, sad to say, was not as the destruction of what makes it unique continues as we speak, with the uncontrolled development and short-sightedness of many businessmen who continue to erase the character of the city in the name of progress and wealth generation. I'm sure they're bound to realize that despite all their money, they can no longer bring back Baguio’s charm. I hope they realize that sooner than later.

There are still a few enclaves of Baguio’s original character such as Camp John Hay and the Teachers’ Camp area with towering pine trees and Baguio’s green and white architecture. Those are the colors that define Baguio just like white houses are characteristic of some Greek Mediterranean towns, or the bright pastel colors that define several Latin American capitals.

In fact, we’ve long been telling the city that a quick solution to beautify the deteriorating Baguio landscape is by repainting the houses in former mountain vistas using Baguio’s historical colors: white, brown or pink walls with green roofs. Imagine how Quezon or Aurora Hill would look like if all the houses there followed this color pattern? It would be an attraction in itself and worth taking pictures of, the same way we take pictures of mountain villages in Europe. And we are not reinventing anything since those are Baguio’s colors. Shouldn’t it be that when a tourist sees green and white houses and buildings harmoniously mixed with lush pine trees, one should know that he is in Baguio City?

There was actually a petition that went around on Baguio and it says:
“We believe that the City of Baguio is culturally, environmentally and aesthetically unique and different from other cities in the Philippines. We believe that Baguio is the nerve center of four rich and diverse cultures: the Filipino culture in general, the highland Cordilleran culture, the lowland Ilocano culture, and the heritage culture brought about by the Americans during the early 20th Century.

“We believe that in the past two decades, the City of Baguio has experienced a substantial degradation of its unique culture, environment and art. We believe that the approval of certain politicians with no respect for the aesthetics and the environment of Baguio to put up concrete structures such as malls, overpasses and flyovers only worsens Baguio City's lamentable decay as a "City of Pines." We believe that this overdevelopment and resulting pollution have to stop.

“We believe that due to its unique history and blend of cultures, Baguio can be to the Philippines as Barcelona is to Spain, Chiang Mai is to Thailand, and San Francisco is to the United States: a main center of arts, culture, philosophy, education, tourism, sustainable development and environmental awareness. We believe, therefore, that the City of Baguio deserves to be declared a "Special Heritage Zone," so that the degradation brought about by overdevelopment can be minimized and gradually controlled. We believe that Baguio City's heritage as a center of culture and environmental awareness is a valuable asset not just to the Philippines, but also to the world.

“We now respectfully call on the residents of Baguio and the Filipino people to sign this humble petition, and for the local and national governments concerned to implement and declare Special Heritage status on this unique mountain City as soon as possible, preferably before the Baguio Centennial in 2009, so no further destruction on its limited cultural, environmental and aesthetic resources may continue.”

But one thing about petitions is that while written well, are not addressed or sent to people who can make it happen. Plus the constant follow-ups and lobbying are not done too. So despite the wide and laudable circulation of this petition, I doubt if it has been sent to the right policy and decision makers.

It’s already centennial year and still there’s no one moving. Maybe someone out there is listening; someone who can push the national and city governments to make real efforts to preserve what’s left of Baguio’s charm. That being said, let me say that Baguio is not a hopeless case. Something can still be done. But we all have to realize that it’s the responsibility of all Filipinos to save the character that makes Baguio City uniquely Baguio.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Philippine festivals and other cultural celebrations

Philippine festivals or fiestas are among the most colorful in the world! I recently got to read the book "A Year of Festivals: A Guide to Having the Time of Your Life" published by Lonely Planet. It features the most unique festivals in the world. The first thing I did was to check how many Philippine festivals were featured.

There are five in the book, two of them in San Fernando, Pampanga! The five were the Feast of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila), Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Aklan), San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites (San Fernando, Pampanga), MassKara Festival (Bacolod, Negros Occidental) and the Giant Lantern Festival (San Fernando, Pampanga). There should have been more since the Philippines is known to be a country of colorful festivals!

That's what I've been saying about making sure festivals are unique. Festivals that cannot be found elsewhere are those which attract attention. With so many festivals and events flooding the Philippine fiesta calendar, I decided to pick my favorites from the crowd and came up with my own list of unique festivals worth visiting. Most definitely, these festivals have become iconic symbols of the towns and cities where they are held annually.

January 9 | Quiapo, Manila
On this day, the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene is pulled through the streets of Quiapo by male devotees clad in maroon, in an intense mammoth procession. This has been a tradition for over two centuries and some people who have touched the Nazarene during the procession claim that they have been healed of their diseases.


Third weekend of January | Kalibo, Aklan
Held every January to commemorate the feast of the Santo Niño, many consider the Ati-Atihan Festival as the Mother of all Philippine Festivals. Among the wildest, if not the wildest of Philippine fiestas, revelers paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, outlandish costumes as they masquerade and dance in revelry around the streets of Kalibo to the beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours. This is the original street dance fiesta of the country and many of the later street dance festivals in honor of the Santo Niño were inspired by Ati-Atihan.

The origins of the festival are said to date back to the 13th century when a group of Malay datus fleeing Borneo purchased land from the local Ati people. This agreement was commemorated with a celebration, where the datus and their people painted themselves black to honor the Ati people. This was later converted into a religious celebration with the arrival of the Spanish.


Third weekend of January | Cebu City
The Sinulog Festival is one of the grandest, if not the grandest, and most colorful festivals in the Philippines. It is held in honor of the Santo Niño. Just like the other Santo Niño festivals, it features a street parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs. The day before the parade, a fluvial procession is held in the morning with the image of the Santo Niño carried on a boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City. In the afternoon, a more solemn and larger procession makes its way around Cebu City.


Fourth weekend of January | Iloilo City
Another Santo Niño festival, the Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held the weekend after Sinulog and Ati-Atihan. The festival is also characterized by street dancing, frenetic stomping of feet to the beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours.

The festival saw its birth in the late 1960s but was just confined to a parish. It was in the 1977 when President Marcos ordered various regions to come up with festivals that would boost tourism that the Dinagyang as we know it today began to take shape. In fact, as a testament to how it has grown and evolved, Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines.

February | Baguio City
Panagbenga, or the Baguio Flower Festival, is month-long annual flower festival held in Baguio. The first one was organized in 1995. The next year, it was renamed Panagbenga, a Kankanaey term that means "a season of blossoming, a time for flowering." The highlight of this festival is the Floral Float Parade usually held during the last Sunday of February (or first Sunday of March).


April to May | Pakil, Laguna
The Turumba commemorates the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary with seven pistang lupi. The first pistang lupi is held on the Friday before Palm Sunday (the first of two feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the seventh is done on Pentecost Sunday. During these days, the image of the Nuestra Señora de Dolores de Turumba is borne on an anda and brought around the streets of Pakil in a procession amidst dancing. Other processions are also held aside from the seven pistang lupi, the last being on the third Sunday of September, the second feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin May.

The schedule for 2009 is Unang Lupi (Biyernes de Dolores, April 3), Ika-2 Lupi (Pistang Martes, April 14), Ika-3 Lupi (Pistang Biyatiko, April 20, 21 & 22), Ika-4 Lupi (Pistang Biyernes, May 1), Ika-5 Lupi (Pistang Linggo, May 10), Extra Lupi (Pistang Pakileña, May 12), Ika-6 Lupi (Pistang Pag-akyat, May 22), Ika-7 Lupi (Pistang Pagpanaog, May 31), Ahunan sa Ping-as (May 30), and Domingo de Dolores (September 20).

Good Friday | Marinduque
A pageant of wooden masks called morion, the Moriones Festival is celebrated in the towns of towns of Boac, Mogpog and Gasan. Men are colorfuly garbed and masked as Roman centurions. The festival culminates in the reenactment of the beheading of Longinus.

Good Friday | San Pedro Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga
The San Pedro Cutud Crucifixion Rites is arguably the cultural event most visited by foreign tourists. It's mentioned in almost every guide book about the Philippines. It's actually the center of bloody flagellation practices that happen in Pampanga every Holy Week. The very first crucifixion happened in 1962 as part of a passion play of the barangay. Ever since, more and more penitents followed suit and thus began a cultural practice that went beyond ordinary flagellation.


May 14 | Pulilan, Bulacan
An annual festival held the day before the feast of San Isidro Labrador, it features hundreds of decorated carabaos and colorful floats parading along the streets of Pulilan, a celebration for a bountiful harvest.

May 15 | Lucban, Quezon
An annual celebration to celebrate the feast of San Isidro Labrador and to usher in a bountiful harvest, homes in Lucban are decorated with the town's agricultural products. The most distinct of these decorations is the kiping, a brightly colored rice dough rolled into thin wafers and shaped like leaves. Other decorations include fruits, vegetables, grains and straw hats.

Also visit the Agawan sa Sariaya and Mayohan sa Tayabas the same afternoon in the neighboring towns. The highlight of Mayohan is the famous agawan ng suman in honor of San Isidro Labrador.


May 17 to 19 | Obando, Bulacan
A three-day festival where childless couples, praying that they bear children, do the pandango or "fertility dance" on the streets of Obando as a procession carrying the towns patrons Santa Clara, San Pascual Baylon and the Nuestra Senora de Salambao, makes its way around town.


June 24 | Aliaga, Nueva Ecija
To commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the people of Brgy. Bibiclat, Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, transform themselves into mud people or taong-putik. The ritual, called Pagsa-San Juan, begins at dawn when devotees wear dry banana leaves or vines, smear themselves with mud and walk the streets to ask for alms in the form of candles which are lit at the plaza.


June 24 | Balayan, Batangas
Another celebration to commemorate the feast of Saint John the Baptist, the town of Balayan parades dozens of lechon (roasted pigs) in outlandish costumes. Imagine roasted pigs wearing wigs, sunglasses, hats, and clothes! And just like in any fiesta for San Juan Bautista, expect to get wet!

June 28 to 30 | Apalit, Pampanga
A three-day fluvial festival, the Pampanga River comes alive with gaily decorated motorboats and colorful bancas during the feast of Saint Peter. At the center of the fluvial processions is a lavishly-decorated pagoda mounted on a barge that carries a centuries-old ivory image of Saint Peter which the locals call Apung Iru.

Third Saturday of September | Naga City, Camarines Sur
A festival honoring the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Patroness of the Bicol Region, on the last day of the celebrations, the image is returned to the Basilica in a fluvial procession along the Naga River. The procession is lit by thousands of candles from devotees in boats escorting the image.

Weekend nearest October 19 | Bacolod City
The MassKara Festival is held every October to celebrate the Charter Day of Bacolod City. The festival features carnivals, fairs, and a Mardi Gras-like street parade of costumed and masked dancers. It was first held in 1980 during a period of crisis. The local community decided to hold a festival of smiles, because the city is the City of Smiles, in order to pull residents out of the gloomy atmosphere.

Second Sunday of October | Quezon City
The La Naval de Manila is a grand procession held in honor of the Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary) along the streets of Quezon City. Before the destruction of the grand churches of Intramuros during the liberation of Manila, this tradition was held in the walled city. The image is said to be the most lavish and most celebrated Marian image in the country, and is brought around preceded by carrozas of St. Joseph and various Dominican saints.

November 23 | Angono, Rizal
A festival held in honor of San Clemente, it's one big party around the streets of Angono with a loud, rambunctious, and wet & wild Mardi Gras-like parade (it's actually a procession). The procession culminates in a fluvial procession in the Laguna de Bay. Higantes are colorful paper mache giants measuring about ten to twelve feet in height.

Saturday before Christmas Eve | San Fernando, Pampanga
The date of this spectacular festival is a bit confusing but it's usually held the Saturday before Christmas Eve but not too close to it (so that would be sometime between December 15 to 21). The festival features close to a dozen 18-foot lanterns made by competing barangays of San Fernando. Each lantern is fitted with thousands of light bulbs that are controlled manually. The dynamic interplay of lights and color that precisely moves with the rhythm of music is unbelievable! It is because of these giant lanterns and the San Fernando lantern-making industry that the City of San Fernando has been dubbed the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Baguio: Panagbenga 2009, Baguio City in full bloom

Panagbenga, the Baguio Flower Festival, is one of festivals of the country which we can truly consider world-class. I was there two years ago and was excited that I would be able to witness the Flower Float Parade again this year.

We left Manila at 11:45 p.m. last Saturday to make it just in time for the parade Sunday morning. After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, we made our way to Session Road where the crowds were already building up. By 7 a.m., you could no longer move! Good thing I was a special guest this time around so I didn't have to compete with the crowd.

As always, the floats were wonderful and grand! Some of my favorite floats were Baguio Country Club, Greenwich, Abanao Square, Marinduque, PNP and Jollibee. And my favorite drum and bugle corps from the University of Luzon was there as well. Below is a video of the St. Louis University Band playing the Panagbenga march.

The parade lasts about an hour and a half. So if you're in Upper Session Road, it should be done by 10 a.m. while those in the Athletic Bowl don't get to see the tail end until about 11 a.m.

I chanced upon my brod Atty. Dammie Bangaoet, the founder of Panagbenga, during the parade. He must be really proud that fourteen years after they first organized the Panagbenga, the festival is now truly world class!

It was a very quick trip and I left Baguio that same evening. Just some tips, make sure you buy your bus tickets early and ask a friend in Baguio to buy your return ticket in advance so as not to join the throng of people trying to get a ticket. Travel was so convenient for us since we planned ahead. And thanks to Victory Liner's De Luxe buses, trips are so comfortable and really quick.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Longganisa Baguio (Derecado)

Baguio City also has different versions of garlicky (or mabawang) derecado longganisa. One Baguio longganisa derecado has no sugar and less fat.

Another version is also garlicky (or mabawang) but is sweetened with a little sugar.

Then there is the shortganiza version of the derecado. All these varieties are available at the Baguio City Market.

Main article: Longanizas of the Philippines

Longganisa Baguio (Hamonado)

There are several varieties of hamonado or sweet longganisa in Baguio City. There are the lean varieties which are for direct frying such as the one pictured above.

Another lean hamonado is what market vendors refer to as the Baguio Country Club longaniza since it is similar or comes from the same supplier as the one served there.

Then there are hamonado varieties laden with fat which need to be boiled first before frying such as the one pictured above.

Finally, the shortganiza version of the hamonado is also heavy of fat and needs to be boiled first before frying. All these hamonados are available at the Baguio City Market.

Main article: Longanizas of the Philippines

Friday, February 20, 2009

Longganisa at the Baguio City Market

The Baguio City Market has a variety of longganisas from Baguio, Vigan and Laoag. These include the Laoag derecado (salted garlic), Vigan derecado (with and without vinegar) and hamonado, and the Baguio derecado and hamonado which inlcudes versions for boiling (because of the amount of fat), straight frying (lean hamonado) and short links which they call shortganiza. These pork delights are sold in one area of the market together with the ultimate pork dish, lechon!

Main article: Longanizas of the Philippines

Monday, February 02, 2009

Baguio: Panagbenga 2009 Calendar of Events

Panagbenga 2009 will be extra special this year as Baguio City celebrates its centennial year. So there's more than enough reasons to troop up to Baguio for this year's celebration. Here are some of the major events you should mark in your calendars:
  • February 14: - Fluvial Parade featuring Phantom on the Lake and La Divas, Burnham Lake
  • February 19-21: Legarda Rocks, Legarda Road
  • February 26-28: Abanao Nights, Abanao Street
  • February 28 (8a.m.): Grand Street Parade, Session Road to Baguio Athletic Bowl
  • March 1 (8 a.m.): Grand Float Parade, Session Road to Baguio Athletic Bowl
  • March 2-8: Session Road in Bloom, Session Road

Friday, September 05, 2008

Baguio: North Philippines road trip

For day 2 of our North Philippines road trip, we had a meeting with Mayor Bautista of Baguio City and a working lunch meeting with the Baguio Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB) at the Panagbenga office. Of course, we feasted on a packed lunch from the Baguio Country Club (BCC). They may have been in plastic containers, but the food from BCC was delicious!

Outside the Baguio Convention Center, students from UP Baguio were protesting the cutting of trees by a proposed SM project. If you remember, SM City Baguio is a graveyard of trees, since many pine trees were cut to built it. As I always say, wherever SM is built, people will go anyway. So they could have picked a less-congested location (away from Session Road) where heritage structures would have been preserved (Pines Hotel was demolished to build SM) and the least number of trees would have been sacrificed. Well, at least young people in Baguio are speaking up!

Our next meeting was in Bauang, La Union with the La Union Convention and Visitors Bureau (LUCVB) at Villa Estrella. The fog was heavy in Naguilan Road where we passed to get to La Union. The views from this road are also picturesque. It was a pity I did not have my camera the last time we visited BCVB since the views were clearer.

As soon as we arrived in La Union, I dressed down, prepared for a swim in the beach after our meeting. The highlight of the day was watching the wonderful La Union sunset from the resort's restaurant.

For day 3, we drove down to Tarlac City to meet with the Tarlac Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB) at the La Maja Rica Hotel. They used to have an Italian chef so their pizzas are worth trying. If you don't know what to have, their Four Seasons pizza will let you have four flavors of your choice.

To end the day, we had several meetings in Angeles City including one with GCVB again.

Of course, we passed by the SCTEx to get back to Pampanga which was a real time-saver! I'm finally back home. With at least three meetings a day in three different cities everyday for three days, not to mention travel from one city to another, that was indeed a tiring road trip!
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