Saturday, September 22, 2007

South Cotabato: An afternoon in Lake Sebu

From Sultan Kudarat, we entered South Cotabato. Our main stop for the day was Lake Sebu. The municipality has three lakes including the main Lake Sebu. On the way, we got to see Lake Lahit.

Before proceeding to the restaurant, we checked out the viewpoint of Lake Sebu beside the municipal hall. It was a disappointment since the view was not spectacular since it was blocked by trees. What a waste of PTA money! Guess whose name is painted on the structure? This shameless self-promotion in government is really sick. And next time they select and construct a viewpoint, they should make sure there is a view. Anyway, I didn't let that ruin my afternoon in such a great place.

We passed by a small house converted into a T'boli Museum. Not so many items inside but we got some souvenirs there. We then had a really late lunch in a floating restaurant of the Punta Isla Lake Resort where tilapia was the main course on the menu. There were over a dozen tilapia dishes in fact. The view was serene. Nothing beats eating amidst nature at its finest.

After lunch, we took a pump boat around the lake. We spent PHP350 for the 45-minute boat ride. The area is the ancestral domain of the T'boli minority and we got to see their dwellings and way of life from the boat. There are also several islands in the lake where the T'boli have built their homes.

Sadly, more modern structures are crowding the banks of the lake. It uncontrolled, the lake may lose its charm. In fact, there was a gargantuan church built on top of a hill. I feel that it should at least been blended with its surroundings since it sticks out like a sore thumb.

From Lake Sebu, we went to Koronadal to meet up with our brod Gibby and his wife Shay who live in the the Dole Plantation in Kalsangi, Polomolok where we were going to stay for the next two nights. On the way, we bought more fruits in Tupi.

I took some night shots of Gen San from what they call the highest point in Kalsangi.

Cotabato & South Cotabato: Soccsksargen road trip

Today, we traveled from Midsayap, Cotabato to Polomolok, South Cotabato by road. Our stops included the Pikit, Cotabato; Isulan and Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat; and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Don't Pikit and Tacurong sound familiar? Let's just say we kept our fingers crossed.

In Pikit, we stopped over at the municipal hall which was built on top of a hill. A few meters behind the municipal hall are the ruins of the old Fort Pikit built during the Spanish colonial period. We got to meet the mayor who was meeting with his security. They were kind enough to tell us how to get to the old fort which was inside a military camp.

Our next stop was the Sultan Kudarat capitol building in Isulan. Since it was a Saturday, it was empty. In front of the capitol was a statue of Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat after whom the province is named. I really hate it when government officials try to perpetuate their names on the edifices the build. I found it tasteless that under the embossed words "Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat," they had to add "constructed under the administration of governor blah blah blah and congressman blah blah blah" also embossed. The elegance of our government buildings are diminished by the unnecessary self-promotion.

Anyway, we got ourselves a snack in Tacurong City (yes, they have a Jollibee there). But we didn't eat much since we were saving space for our really late lunch in Lake Sebu.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maguindanao: Around Cotabato City

I had been looking forward to this weekend for months. I went to Mindanao with brods Ryan and Allen, and our friend Ching. The tickets were booked way back April (yes, it's the P1 fare promo). We took a flight to Cotabato City (the airport is in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan) where the van of Ching's cousin picked us up.

We visited Small World in the same town. Aside from the zoo, everything else was closed since the park is fully-open only on Sundays. The Lourdes Grotto is also there but since the priests who own the place make it such a hassle to visit (you have to get a permit and leave your driver's license and all), we decided to move to our next stop, the Tamontaka Church, a national historical landmark.

I had expected to see an old church. But it was totally new. The older church was destroyed by a fire several years back. It was declared a national historical landmark just in 2004, long after the new and current church was built which thus came as a surprise to me since I know that the NHI requires a certain percentage of authenticity before declaring structures.

Anyway, we passed by the new Cotabato City Hall before proceeding to Mang Gorio for a late lunch. We ordered barbeque chicken and buko halo-halo. We also dropped by the Kuta Wato Caves but that was a big disappointment. It was so dirty, and you had informal settlers residing above the caves. I could just imagine where all their human waste goes. The city government should take out that tourism sign outside because it is no longer an attraction. It's such a pity since the natural pool inside the cave would have made it such an enchanting place.

From there, we proceeded to the old city hall and town plaza. Our plan was to drop by the tourism office but it turns out, government offices close early on Fridays in this part of the country. Friday, is a day of prayer for Muslims and I was told it had been practice here that after services, employees don't go back to the office anymore. Oh well!

The local government should encourage the rehabilitation of the early post-war commercial buildings in the town proper. These structures give the city a lot of character.

We also took pictures by the Rio Grande de Mindanao and its tributaries before driving to Midsayap, (North) Cotabato where we stayed for the night. I can't remember how long the drive was because I dozed off at times. The view of the Mindanao countryside was a refreshing sight. Anyway, More photos in Multiply.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaking engagement in Tuguegarao City

I'm in Tuguegarao City to speak at the 2nd Regional Youth Leadership Congress in St. Paul University. I took an Air Philippines flight which was two hours delayed! When I got here, we rushed to the Callao Caves to watch the bats fly out but since it was raining, they didn't. Maybe next time.

The congress was today. I slept early last night and also slept the entire morning since I wasn't feeling well. For the sights in Cagayan, just check out my older Cagayan entries. For this trip, I just visited the Ermita of San Jacinto which is in front of the campus.

Now I'm just waiting for my bus ride back to Manila. I could have opted for a plane but there is no flight which would allow me to make it to my flight to Cotabato tomorrow. This Tuguegarao to Cotabato journey would be my personal record for the farthest distance traveled in the Philippines in a 24-hour period.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

HCS 2008 Calendar: Heritage Recycled

The HCS will be featuring fine examples of built heritage structures transformed into commercially-sustainable business projects. You will find elegant family residences that have been recycled into boutique hotels and banks; a century-old train terminal (Tutuban) became a shopping mall and the first international airport of Manila (Nielson Tower) was restored and recycled into a library and bookstore.

All these are compiled into the 2008 Heritage Calendar/Postcard Collection called HERITAGE RECYCLED. These unique calendars are excellent Christmas gifts to your friends and business associates. You can also have your company and/or personal logo printed on the standee.

As you know, the HCS is a non-profit group. One of our main objectives is to show how the restoration of heritage structures can enhance the value of real estate development projects, urban planning, and tourism.

By ordering, you will be contributing to this worthwhile advocacy. (P200/copy; 10% discount for members and bulk orders of 100pcs++)

Thank you for your valued support. E-mail us at

Heritage recycled
Adaptive re-use is a creative mode of conservation that gives heritage structures new and alternative functions other than the original ones that may no longer be required.

Adaptive re-use is applicable to most heritage structures. These need not be as grandiose as the vintage Department of Finance, now the National Museum. HCS did not include it to show that ancestral homes of modest proportions, obscure town halls, colonial watchtowers and bridges, warehouses and train stations can also be recycled into sustainable projects.

Most often than not, built heritage resources are found on premium real estate property so developers are in a hurry to demolish rather than restore and recycle. Today, there is a growing awareness that adaptive re-use can enhance property value.

In many countries, like Australia for example, demolition of heritage structures is considered wasteful. Heritage resources are given adaptive re-use because it is good for the environment. Recycling a valued heritage place makes adaptive re-use of historic buildings an essential component of sustainable development. The United States of America abounds with examples of creative (and remunerative) re-use of heritage. Old warehouses in Manhattan's meat-packing areas have been transformed into fashionable and expensive lofts. Elegant mansions in "Gone with the Wind" country were transformed into boutique hotels.

In London, a power plant along the River Thames became the elegant Tate Gallery of Modern Art. In Mexico City, the Cemento Azteca plant is now an environment-friendly children's museum-- El Papalote. Singapore has salvaged a cluster of decrepit shop houses, turning Boat Quay and Clarke Quay into an eclectic mix of high-end restaurants, al fresco dining, dazzling bars and pubs.

We are not too far behind in the Philippines that is why the HCS has chosen "Heritage Recycled" as its theme for 2008. Until now, you may not have noticed these twelve amazing projects of sustainable, adaptive re-use. Take a good look around you and find more incredible examples of how Filipinos have so creatively recycled heritage.

However, in the Philippine scene, recycling heritage and adaptive re-use are still polemical issues. Should heritage conservation be done strictly "in situ"? Should heritage structures be transferred to different sites and settings, when that is the only way to save them? Is adaptive re-use intrusive? Or, should heritage conservation be a priority at all? Let the debate begin. After which we, conservation advocates, can make policies suitable to our own needs and vision.
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