Monday, April 14, 2008

Rizal: Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez, Rizal

Avilon Zoo is the best zoo within the vicinity of Metro Manila. At 7.5 hectares, it's also the largest in the country. As Manila Zoo continues to deteriorate (what do you expect from a government zoo that lacks the proper funding for rehabilitation), it is these private endeavors that fill in for the need for quality recreational and educational facilities for Filipinos. Since it was a holiday last April 7, my family planned a visit to Avilon Zoo as soon as I arrived from Tablas.

Getting there was a bit confusing since there was a lack of visible directional signs from San Mateo. You had to proceed to the town proper of Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) and from there, you could ask around how to get to the zoo. The first directional sign I noticed was away from the National Highway where they should have been to help visitors locate the park.

We finally arrived at Avilon Zoo after passing through a dirt road. I expected the municipal government to have cemented this road long before given that Avilon was one of the town’s major attractions. We spent PHP208 each for entrance and it’s a good thing that they accept credit cards.

At the time of our visit, there were some parts of the zoo undergoing renovation in order to improve the facilities but overall, the design and theme was great. Mom said it reminded her of Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

Check out the close encounters with the animals. I had a chance to interact with several birds of prey including an owl and an eagle, while Bettina got to ride on George the pony for a photo opportunity. They usually charge PHP50 for this. But the funny experience was with Camille the orangutan who was really playful. She would reach for your hand and if you would oblige, she would give you a hug, or in my case, climb up so you could carry her like a little kid.

The zoo has most of the animals that can usually be found in zoos, like lions, a tiger and other large cats, monkeys and other primates, and birds among many others. But it did not have a giraffe, zebra or elephant. But overall, the zoo is worth the visit especially if you have kids.

Avilon Zoo
The Avilon Montalban Zoological Park in San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal is usually open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can call them up to check their schedule.
+63 2 9418393
+63 2 9489866
+63 917 8995126

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Win two round-trip SEAIR tickets to Batanes!

Ivan About Town and the SEAIR Adventure Club is giving away two round-trip SEAIR tickets from Manila to Basco, Batanes. All you have to do is leave a comment in SEAIR flies to Batanes telling us why you love Batanes by Sunday, 20 April 2008 at 8:00 p.m.

Make sure you place your full name in the name field since you will need a valid ID to claim the tickets if you win. The winner will be drawn at random and will be notified by e-mail so make sure you double check your e-mail address before submitting your comment. Finally, one entry per IP address so only the first entry from each IP address will be counted. Tickets will be valid from now until 15 October 2008. Good luck!

Update: We have a winner! Make that two winners! Our Batanes ticket raffle got 396 comments posted before the 8 p.m. deadline last Sunday, April 20, 2008. Members of the SEAIR Adventure Club met Tuesday to draw the winning comment. To do this, each comment was numbered 001 to 396. The draw was done lotto style. Three piles of numbers were made, the first pile had the numbers 0 to 3, while the second and third pile had the numbers 0 to 9. And the winning number is 190 which is the comment of William Gilbert Agravante. Congratulations, you just won two round-trip SEAIR tickets to Batanes!

But since we enjoyed reading your comments, we've decided to give one round-trip ticket to the best comment with the word "SEAIR" in it. And that comment belongs to Dorcas Juliette Ramos. Congratulations on your graduation! You win one round-trip ticket to Batanes! To both our winners, please wait for the notification e-mail on how to claim your tickets. And to all those who joined, don't fret since we have another one! So watch out for it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Romblon: SEAIR's Let 410 UVP-E back to Manila

I had an early morning SEAIR flight from Tablas back to Manila. It was my first time to ride in a Let 410 UPV-E plane. This 19-seater plane is quite versatile since it could service both paved and unpaved airstrips.

The plane flew lower than the usual commercial aircrafts so I got to take really nice aerial shots.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Romblon: Aglicay Beach and Trangkalan Falls in Tablas

First order of business for the day was to take the ferry from Romblon back to Tablas. Since the SEAIR flight from Tablas back to Manila is early in the morning, you have to be in Tablas a day before departure. The only morning ferry trip back to Tablas was at 8 a.m. so I made sure to get some quality rest the night before. After munching on the pizza leftover from my dinner at Romblon Deli, I made my way to the pier to catch the ferry.

Back in San Agustin, I went back to the Madrona Residence in Brgy. Bachawan where I was to stay for the night. About three kilometers from the place is Trangkalan Falls which I decided to visit before lunch. On the way to the falls, I passed by three large bronze sculptures by the late Florante Caedo depicting the crucifixion, the pieta and the resurrection. Indeed, who would expect to find these works of arts tucked in the middle of nowhere?

Finally reaching Trangkalan Falls, I immediately noticed its aquamarine catch basin which was most definitely enticing for a swim. My guide explained to me that during the rainy season, the falls raged down the rocks. But in the summer, it was reduced to a near trickle.

The hike back got me really hungry and I was at the Madrona Residence in time for lunch. I took a quick siesta after lunch before proceeding to the Aglicay Beach Resort in Alcantara for a swim. Aglicay Beach is one of the best resorts in Tablas Island. Since I was really hungry, I had some snacks at their restaurant before heading over to the water.

The marine life was alive and kicking since I spotted a lot of fish, starfishes and sea urchins in the water. But a sad note is how you'd find the occasional snack wrapper stuck in the sea grass. Some tourists are so inconsiderate and think that everywhere is a garbage can.

Aglicay also offers tours to the nearby Looc Marine Sactuary, the Battle of Sibuyan Sea Marker and Memorial which we passed by on the way back to San Agustin, and the enchanted Kalatong Hill of Guimbirayan.

Aglicay Beach Resort
Fan rooms start at PHP600 while air-conditioned rooms start at PHP900. You can arrange airport pick-ups with them for PHP400 one-way.
+63 2 9375064
+63 915 4256898
+63 919 6346708
+63 906 4813470

Part 1: Romblon is more than marble
Part 2: Romblon, Romblon is a heritage town
Part 3: Romblon's food surprises

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Romblon's food surprises

Romblon still had more surprises. After climbing down from Fort San Andres, I proceeded to the Romblon Shopping Center to shop for marble souvenirs. But since I was starving, I had some halo-halo in one of the carinderia in front. As soon the shopping was done (since I still had to return to Tablas, I had to shop wisely or face the problem of carrying a heavy load), I returned to the hotel to get some rest before dinner.

I was resigned to the fact that I had no choice but to pick another of the usual turo-turo at the Romblon Shopping Center. But I decided to walk around a bit and remembered passing by a cafe called the Romblon Deli from the pier. And I easily spotted it a few meters away from Freedom Park.

Who could imagine that this laidback town of Romblon would have restaurants serving international cuisine? Indeed, Romblon Deli Coffee Shop & Restaurant was a bold experiment as the owner Dave Kershaw explained to me. There are two such restaurants in fact located beside each other, the other being Republika Bar & Restaurant (formerly Jack’s Restaurant which Dave sold to his friend three years ago).

The items in the menu are chalked up on a black board and change every now and then. Most of the perishable ingredients are imported such as the steaks, lamb and cheeses, brought to Romblon via a complicated supply chain from Manila, Batangas and Puerto Galera. The dry ingredients are sourced locally.

The restaurant was established to cater to up market visitors, hoping to pull in the “right” kind of tourists. Most of the clientele that night were foreigners many of whom were working as volunteers in Romblon. But there were the occasional locals. Though the selection is quite pricey for most locals, imagine getting steak for PHP250. Not bad at all! For the night, I got myself a medium deli pizza topped with salami, olives, onion, tomatoes and bell pepper just for PHP200.

Romblon Deli Coffee Shop & Restaurant
Menu includes deli pizza (depending on size between PHP180 to PHP280), fillet steak (blue cheese, peppered or New York style with fries and salad at PHP250), bangers and mash (PHP160), roast lamb with toast, potatoes and peas (PHP250), and sandwiches (from PHP105 to PHP125).

Republika Bar & Restaurant
Check out their rib-eye steak with French fries (PHP250), beef goulash with mashed potatoes and veggies (PHP170), pork schnitzel with fries and salad (PHP170), and chicken paprika with rice (PHP140).

Part 1: Romblon is more than marble
Part 2: Romblon, Romblon is a heritage town
Part 4: Aglicay Beach and Trangkalan Falls in Tablas
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