Saturday, November 08, 2008

Zamboanga: Another Zamboanga City adventure

I was in Zamboanga City again to attend the 3rd Philippine Towns & Cities Conference organized by the Heritage Conservation Society. I had actually arrived two days before but decided to make a side trip to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi since SEAIR conveniently flies there (the fast craft would take several hours). The conference was at the Garden Orchid Hotel which was quite close to the airport. Tired from the trip, I decided to rest the whole afternoon.

The program began in the evening with a Welcome Reception hosted by the City Government of Zamboanga. Indeed, it was a fitting welcome to Asia's Latin City. A choir serenaded us with songs in Spanish and the local Chavacano reminding us that Zamboanga City is a living manifestation of Spanish cultural influences in the Philippines.

After the reception, our gracious host, Mayor Celso Lobregat, took us the the Fort Pilar Shrine since he said it was nice there in the evening. The Fort Pilar Shrine is an open-air church on one side of the fort. There were still a good number of devotees there lighting candles by one of the walls of the fort.

Mayor Lobregat was very generous and he bought us several candles from the vendors. After going around the shrine, we chanced upon a vendor selling the local crispy wafers and he bought everything and gave one to anyone and everyone he saw there, our group included.

We made one last stop in Climaco corner Lim Avenue since Mayor Lobregat wanted to show us an unusual phenomenon that happens in the area in the evening. Perched on the electric wires covering several blocks were thousands of birds nearly equidistant from each other. He said it happens every night. They arrive at a certain time when the sun sets and leave at the same time during the sunrise.

I was the first to wake up the next morning since I wanted to get myself a serving of Zamboanga City's morning dish, satti! Similar to the traditional Malay satay, satti is native to the Moro people of Mindanao. In Zamboanga, these are small pieces of beef roasted in a skewer. The sticks of satti are served submerged in a bowl of sweet and spicy sauce with puso or ta'mu also in a bowl of the same sauce. Puso is basically the Malay ketupat, rice that is cooked inside a palm leaf pouch.

Anyway, after that hearty breakfast, I had to rush back to the hotel to get ready for the conference since I was the master of ceremonies today.

Part 2: Seafood in Zamboanga City at Alavar's Restaurant
Part 3: Zamboanga City's colorful heritage

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Tawi-Tawi: Overnight in Bongao

Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines. Although the impression is that it is unsafe, that is far from the truth since Tawi-Tawi is a relatively peaceful place. I was told that it has wonderful white sand beaches and rich cultural communities. So I decided to check it out even just for two days.

I was in Zamboanga City to attend a conference so I decided to fly over and found myself on a SEAIR flight to Bongao. The flight took a little over an hour and I was in Bongao in no time. As soon as I arrived, I went to my brod's place to get some rest first. I hadn't had any sleep the night before so I decided to start exploring after lunch.

There are a lot of places to stay in Bongao but one of the better lodges is Beachside Inn where I decided to have lunch. Accomodations start at PHP900 for air-conditioned rooms. There's nothing much to see in Bongao and you could easily cover it in a day.

A friend took me around to the different areas of interest including some beaches, the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol which is on top of a hill, offering a great panoramic view of Bongao and beyond, and the market area where you'll see a lot of seaweed being dried up (seaweed is a major product of Tawi-Tawi).

I wish I had an extra day so that I could have taken a ferry boat to Simunul, the neighboring island, which hosts the oldest mosque in the country, the Sheik Karimal Makdum Mosque, and some of the best beaches of Tawi-Tawi. You'll have to stay overnight at least though so you'll need some friends there if you want to visit the place. But you haven't been to Tawi-Tawi if you haven't visited Simunul!

Sitangkai, called the Venice of the Orient, is another option but that would take a longer ferry ride. And I heard the waves are rough. So be ready for a real adventure!

The next day, I had to catch my SEAIR flight back to Zamboanga City. On the way to Bongao Airport in Sanga-Sanga are great views of Bud Bongao. If you're into climbing mountains, trekking up Bud Bongao is a great option. Just don't forget to bring bananas for the monkeys.

At the airport, I had some local food at the nearby carinderia which included pastil, a fried empanada filled with bihon noodles, and sindol, which is the local ginataan (warm coconut milk dessert). It was really cheap! Anyway, the stay was too short to experience Tawi-Tawi. So I'm definitely going back to explore some more!

Beachside Inn & Restaurant
(068) 2681446

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Imang Salud ensaimadas are perfect Christmas presents!

Imang Salud ensaimadas and plantanillas (sweet egg crepes with latik filling) were recently featured in the November 2008 issue of Food Magazine as gift ideas for Christmas. The six-inch traditional Kapampangan ensaimadas are P165/box of 1, P320/box of 2, P480/box of 3 and P640/box of 4. While the plantanillas are P180/box of 12. They are available every Sunday at the Legazpi Sunday Market. Just look for the Imang Salud stall. Text (0920) 9478819 for orders or more information.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Laguna: Enchanted Kingdom celebrates Halloween too!

It's been years since I last visited Enchanted Kingdom. I remember our high school batch went there shortly after it opened on a science field trip to do physics experiments. It was funny seeing us with all those measuring instruments while on the rides. What I could not forget is the Jungle Log Jam since everyone splashed water at each other while on the logs (there was a joke circulating that everyone had to bring extra clothes) and we'd exit the ride literally drenched with water. During my freshman year in college, we brought our entire dorm there in UP's first official dorm field trip. Those were the days!

So when I found out about the extended Halloween activities, I made sure to bring my niece over to join in the fun. There was a costume parade late in the afternoon which she participated in. But before that, we went for the rides.

The first ride you see when you enter is the Grand Carousel. I could not remember the last time I rode a carousel. But it sure was fun. Haha! The place brought back a lot of memories since the rides we used to frequent were still there! It's a really great place to bring kids and kids at heart since who wouldn't enjoy the rides? I'm highly-recommending it for a family day trip every once in a while, perfect bonding with kids. Looks like we'll be in Enchanted Kingdom more often. It's closer to home than Hong Kong Disneyland. Here's their website for more information.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Boracay: Halloween in Boracay

I didn't realize Boracay was a really cool place to celebrate Halloween. The entire island was so into the celebration with hotels, restaurants and bars churning up the spookiest and coolest of decor and great Halloween events to boot. Many partygoers also came in the craziest costumes. There were really funny groups too like the "101 Dalmatians" hoping around the sands of Boracay.

I was with my cousins and I took them party-hopping tonight. SEAIR sponsored really cool parties including a concert at Pearl of the Pacific, a party at Hey Jude, and an event with Cinema One at Summer Place.
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