Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Register now for the 2nd Philippine Towns and Cities Seminar

Join us at "Philippine Towns and Cities: Reflections of the Past, Lessons for the Future" on November 9, 2007 at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, 101 General Luna Street, Iloilo City.

The main objective of this seminar series is to enhance civic engagement with local governments units so the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) can inform and guide them on the proper care and utilization of a valuable asset — built heritage resources. The first seminar was held last 8 November 2006, at the Development Academy of the Philippines, Pasig City.

In our towns and cities, wanton real estate speculation and over-construction are often mistaken for modernization when in fact these exert devastating pressure on the historic and cultural core of many of our human settlements. As a result, a valuable economic resource – built heritage — is left to deteriorate or is thoughtlessly demolished in the name of progress. Concerted effort is imperative to protect heritage resources because these are revenue and job-generating assets that can spark economic revitalization, as the case of Vigan clearly shows.

However, there is a general lack of awareness at the local government level, which is precisely where policies should be formulated and ordinances passed to declare heritage districts and protect these as the town's or city's prime assets. Built heritage resources should be the core of any master plan for urban development and inner town/city revitalization. Livelihood opportunities are generated by adaptive re-use, the revival of traditional crafts for restoration work and an increase in tourism receipts.

Significantly, communities begin to feel a "pride of place".

The "Philippine Towns and Cities" seminar series is a communications campaign to influence policy makers at the local government level. Through the "Mayors' Forum", best practices are shared. Other stakeholders in the Executive branch, the private sector and the academe are invited to participate because heritage conservation is a multi-disciplinary concern.

In a second seminar, the Heritage Conservation Society will take this awareness and education campaign to the local governments of the Vizayas, where built heritage resources abound in the cities of Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Tagbilaran, and many others.

For more information, contact Ms. Dorie Soriano (HCS): 521-2239, 522-2497, info@heritage.org.ph; or Ms. Len Diño (UPF): 895-1812, 896-1902, 890-2480, annalynn.upf@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cavite: Salad party in Sonia's Garden

My SSEAYP batch (Me, Dep, Nona and Pam) brought Noby, our Japanese batchmate, to Tagaytay today, part 2 of his birthday celebration. On the way, we passed by Dep's alma mater, the Philippine National Police Academy where we did some rounds at the firing range. It was my first time to shoot and thanks to beginner's luck, I did not miss my targets. Thanks for that Dep!

On the way to Tagaytay, we debated as to where we were going to have lunch. And the salad buffs won so it was Sonia's Garden. It was my first time to have lunch there would you believe. And it was a good decision since I really like the ambiance of the place, eating in a garden atmosphere. Their business model was great since it was a set menu at PHP610 (tax inclusive), a sit down buffet of bread and spreads, salad greens, fruits, pasta, dalandan juice and dessert.

As soon as you sat down, the waiters immediately brought in the bread and salad so there was no waiting time. If you wanted more, you simply asked the waiters to brings in more. It was a really healthy treat and very much worth the visit!

Pia followed us there. And after we were done eating (we were all so full), we drove back to Manila. We had wanted to go around the garden outside but it was raining.

We got some buko (coconut) and other fruit tarts from Amira's which is a small shop along the National Highway; and some burgers at Mushroomburger before proceeding back to Manila. I was asleep the whole time, tired from so many days of traveling. Anyway, more great photos in Multiply.

Sonya's Garden
Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite
Mobile +63 928 5073302
Landline +63 46 4132081

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Around Taal Lake

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pampanga: An afternoon in Abe's Farm

I trooped to Pampanga today to attend a party hosted by Larry Cruz (he's the man behind Cafe Adriatico, Cafe Havana, Bollywood and Abe Restaurant among others) in Abe's Farm, an emerging resort at the foothills of Mount Arayat. I tagged along my SSEAYP batchmate Noby who is celebrating his birthday today.

As expected, the food was fantastic, the best of LJC!!! There was just so much food from the menu of his different restaurants, I wasn't able to taste every dish served on the buffet table.

Nurture Spa is also opening a branch in Abe's Farm and there was a special rate for everyone today, P500 for all treatments, one day only! That included massages, foot spa and facials. Sorry guys but they'll be regular price beginning tomorrow.

I finally got my hilot spa treatment. This spa features massages such as "Seseng-Ima," a Kapampangan-inspired massage, "Aruga," "Payapa," and the "Hilot Kagalingan" which was done as I described in an earlier post, with coconut oil and warm banana leaves.

Of course, we met some VIPs and I told Noby he was lucky to meet Senate President Manny Villar (right) among many others. We were back in Manila after three hours in traffic. Will someone please tell the NLEX to speed up their repair works in Balintawak. It's stressful and draining to drive in that area! Anyway, more photos of this fantastic place in Multiply.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vietnam: Mekong River boat ride

During my second day in Vietnam, I decided to go on a Mekong River tour. The thing I like about mainland Southeast Asian destinations is that it’s so easy to book tours even if you’re just alone.

I spent US$7 for a whole day tour which included lunch. I was picked up at my hotel at 8 a.m. and we were off to My Tho City, one and a half hours away.

We took a small roofed pump boat a few minutes from the city center. The river was very wide and we got to see many fishing boats, ferries and floating houses. Most of the tour was going to be in Ben Tre province across the river. Our first stop was a small coconut candy factory in Turtle Island where we got to see how they made the local delicacies.

From there, we went back to the boat and stopped over a fruit orchard where to my surprise, we were given bicycles for a ride around the area. Nothing fancy actually, it was the typical rural life in Vietnam which one can see here in the Philippines. But I’m sure the other foreigners in my group were excited with the new experience. We have better rural scenes in the Philippines. But there was no grassroots tourism program like this where the locals benefit directly. Our DOT is focusing too much on big resorts and golf courses, local residents don’t get to benefit too much from the tourism boom.

After the bike ride, we were served lunch in the fruit orchard. It was a small serving of spring rolls, pork, soup and rice. You could order more but it was a bit pricey. From there, we boarded our boat again and rode to Unicorn Island where first visited a bee-keeping farm to taste the honey, honey tea and honey wine. But we got more than that since we got to play with their pet python too. But the highlight of this part was that each of us was given a serving of snake wine!

We walked down the path to another area of the island where we enjoyed the local tropical fruits while being serenaded with Vietnamese traditional folk-song music performed by the locals. On the way back to the boat, we had to ride small paddle boats from the restaurant which took us through narrow river creeks shaded by nipa plants. We boarded our boat and headed back to the port.

From the port, we boarded our van and made a brief stopover at the bonsai garden in My Tho. Didn’t see much but I got some jackfruit snacks to munch on. We were back in Ho Chi Minh at 5:30 p.m. More photos in Multiply.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vietnam: More from Ho Chi Minh City

The following day, I decided to take it slow. I wanted to get away from the pulsating beat of orderly disorder that characterized Saigon. So I booked myself on a trip to the Mekong River that would take me one and a half-hours outside Saigon to the city of My Tho and Ben Tre Province. The van passed by for me at my hotel at 8:00 a.m. and we were back in Saigon’s urban chaos exactly at 5:30 p.m. I'll discuss that in a later entry.

Back in Hồ Chí Minh City, as soon as I stepped down the van, I rushed back to my hotel to change and drop off my stuff since I wanted to catch the 6:30 p.m. water puppet performance. I took a cab from my hotel to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre to catch one of Vietnam's cultural symbols. It was a brief 50-minute show which is a must visit for culture vultures like myself.

I realized I had been so stingy like always that I had a lot of funds left. So I decided to check out the Vietnamese restaurant my hotel recommended called Hoang Yen Restaurant. I had minced meat soup, spring rolls and chicken wings. It wasn’t as cheap as what you’d get from hawkers or hole-in-the-wall establishments. In fact, it wasn't even close! But it’s worth a try if you have some extra money to spend.

From the restaurant, I walked to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall to check out this wonderful work of art well lit at night. The intricate detail of this charming French colonial government building never fails to enchant me, even more when it is lit up in the evening.

I didn't stay too long since I had wanted to sleep early. But a college friend, who I met in the plane on the way to HCMC, sent me a message that we meet up. So it was another night at Allez Boo (this time I downed a bottle of Saigon beer and a pizza). But we decided to go around and we moved to Gossip to check out the clubbing scene. It seemed the young, rich and trendiest of HCMC were all there on a Wednesday night. It was one big parteee!

The next day, I woke up early for some last minute shots around HCMC before my flight back to Manila. I got myself a xe om (motorbike for hire) for an hour to take me around District 1.

Of course, I dropped by the Ho Chi Minh City Hall again and the nearby Saigon Opera House. I watched as the city woke up with joggers and old folks doing their morning rituals; and motorbikes started to increase in number. But I didn’t have that much time since I had to be at the airport by 8 a.m.

I wish I had more time to explore. But at least I got back to Manila in one piece since I felt that I was in the middle of a giant traffic accident waiting to happen. If there’s a next time, I definitely will rent my own motorbike and join the fun!

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.
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