Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Northern Samar: Capul Island's lighthouse and old fortress church

Capul Island in Northern Samar is most known for its lighthouse and old church. There are daily pump boat services from Allen. There is usually one trip early in the morning and another early in the afternoon. The boat ride is a little over an hour.

Unless you’re hiring your own boat, you definitely have to stay overnight in Capul Island. A trip to Capul is definitely not for those who are not adventurous. There aren’t that many places to stay in Capul. In fact, we went on homestay while we were there. You can easily ask the habal-habal driver to take you to one.

Before proceeding to the lighthouse, we checked out the town’s fortress church. The walls that comprise the fort are still intact, a stark reminder of how pirate attacks were a major consideration and problem during the Spanish colonial period.

The Capul Church is dedicated to San Ignacio de Loyola. It was built by the Jesuits by the 18th century and renovated by the Franciscans in the late 19th century. The fortified church is in good condition but the interior and convent were renovated after damage by typhoons.

The Capul Lighthouse is several kilometers on the northern tip of the island. Again, we had to hire a habal-habal to get us there.

Sadly, the Faro de Isla Capul is very rundown and badly in need of attention. But the view from the cliff where it stands is so picturesque, with strong waves crashing on large coral rocks down below. It’s actually perfect for a picnic.

There aren't that many places to eat dinner, just one or two carinderias. And make sure you eat early since the food supply does not last long. Remember also that by 12 midnight, electricity is shut down. So make you charge your phones before midnight.

Part 1: Busay, Veriato, Pinipisakan and more waterfalls from Northern Samar

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Northern Samar: Busay, Veriato, Pinipisakan and more waterfalls from Northern Samar

Northern Samar is one of those rarely explored provinces which have so much to offer. For those on a bus ride all the way to Davao, the town of Allen, Northern Samar is, more often than not, merely a gateway to Southern Philippines. But given the chance, there's a lot to see and do there.

For one, there are a lot of waterfalls, attractions which are also plentiful in neighboring Samar, particularly Calbayog City, the City of Waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls are accessible by road. Others require treks. While others require boat rides upstream to get to.

Busay and Veriato Falls in San Isidro are among the falls accessible by road which I got to visit during my recent trip. I had visited Veriato Falls as well during a previous trip to Calbayog City. Another waterfall in San Isidro which requires trekking would be Kangpongkol Falls. Looking at photos, it reminds me of Bangon-Bugtong Falls.

On the opposite end of the province, in Las Navas, is Pinipisakan Falls. If you arrive early, you could consider a trek to it. But you can hire a banca and go on a 45-minute boat ride to the falls. It's not really that impressive. I guess it's the canopy of green around it which makes it feel quite refreshing when you're there. If you have more time to trek, you could go even higher up the river to Ginagatusan Falls.

There are more waterfalls in Northern Samar which includes Lulugayan Falls in Bobon, Matikawol and Bag-ot Falls in Gamay, Bangon and Malarag Falls in San Roque, and Victoria, Budoy and San Abner Falls in Victoria. You can contact the provincial tourism office to find out how to get to the different falls.

Northern Samar Tourism Office
+63 55 2518292
+63 55 5009124

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Aurora: Old Baler and the Quezon legacy

Baler and the Quezons - Pres. Manuel Quezon and Dona Aurora Aragon-Quezon - will always be synonymous with each other. The fact that they were both from Baler is very much evident. Aurora Province, for one, is named after the former first lady. Its mother province, the former Tayabas Province, was renamed in honor of President Quezon.

Aside from gearing itself to be an adventure tourism destination, Baler is poised to restore its historical heritage. As a sign of local pride, the Quezon and Aragon homes have been reconstructed and restored as well. A replica of the nipa hut where President Quezon was born now stands beside the Museo de Baler where a statue of the former president can also be found.

Only a few months ago, the reconstructed home of Dona Aurora Aragon-Quezon was completed. Beside it, the National Historical Institute has placed on display Quezon's presidential car.

I was told that there are plans to restore the Baler Church, a National Historical Landmark, bringing it back to its 1899 look, a reminder that it had been the site of the last stand of Spanish forces in the country. As the Siege of the Church of Baler marker mentions, a Spanish garrison of four officers and fifty men was besieged in the church by Filipino forces from June 27, 1898 to June 2, 1899. Check out a previous post on Baler heritage for more details.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2010

Here is the schedule of Philippine holidays and long-weekends for 2010 based on RA 9492 and Proclamation 1841:

  • January 1 (Fri) - New Year's Day (five-day long weekend from December 30 to January 3)
  • February 22 (Mon) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (holiday for schools only, three-day long weekend from February 20 to 22)
  • April 1 (Thu) - Holy Thursday
  • April 2 (Fri) - Good Friday (four-day long weekend from April 1 to 4)
  • April 9 (Fri) - Araw ng Kagitingan (three-day long weekend from April 9 to 11)
  • May 3 (Mon) - Labor Day (three-day long weekend from May 1 to 3)
  • May 10 (Mon) - National Elections (three-day long weekend from May 8 to 10, make sure you vote and vote wisely)
  • June 14 (Mon) - Independence Day (three-day long weekend from June 12 to 14)
  • August 23 (Mon) - Ninoy Aquino Day (three-day long weekend from August 21 to 23)
  • August 30 (Mon) - National Heroes Day (three-day long weekend from August 28 to 30)
  • September - Eid'l Fitr (to be announced, calculated September 10, possible three-day long weekend from September 10 to 12)
  • November 1 (Mon) - All Saints Day (three-day long weekend from October 30 to November 1)
  • November - Eid 'l Adha (to be announced, calculated November 16)
  • November 29 (Mon) - Bonifacio Day (three-day long weekend from November 27 to 29)
  • December 24 (Fri) - Non-Working Holiday
  • December 25 (Sat) - Christmas
  • December 27 (Mon) - Rizal Day (four-day long weekend from December 24 to 27)
  • December 31 (Fri) - Non-Working Holiday
  • January 1 - (Sat) New Year's Day (three-day long weekend from December 31 to January 2)
Time to plan your travel calendars! Check out the destination search box at the top of the sidebar for particular travel destinations and more travel ideas.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aurora: Surfing, kayaking, rappelling, mountain biking and more Aurora adventure activities

Rappelling down Digisit FallsAurora is poised to become a major adventure destination in the coming months. More than just the surfing in Baler, which is already very popular, the province of Aurora has even more activities to offer.

During our first day, we went rappelling at Ermita Hill courtesy of the Aurora Tourism Office. What's good about the rappelling activity is that you can contact them for whole-day or half-day rappelling set-ups anywhere in Baler and its environs. In fact, the Ermita Hill rope down turned out to be a preview of an even more exciting descent.

Before going back to Manila, we rappelled down Digisit Falls which is also in Baler. That was quite an adventure. In fact, it was more of a challenge climbing up than rappelling down. Again, I regret not bringing my trekking sandals since my shoes ended up dripping wet! But it was fun!

Kayaking in BalerAnother activity you might want to try in Aurora is kayaking. The river system is clean and the views picturesque which makes the ride all the more pleasant. The Aurora Adventure Center not only has kayaks for rent. You can opt for an adrenaline rush by jetskiing.

Take note that their core offering is scuba diving. Maybe it's the first time you've heard of diving in Aurora. But the Philippines' Pacific side, particularly Aurora, is fast becoming a popular dive destination, especially during the southwest monsoon.

Trekking to Ditumabo FallsAnd since it's located in the heart of the magnificent yet fragile Sierra Madre Mountains, the hiking and trekking possibilities are endless. We got to visit Ditumabo Falls which is an easy trek from the National Highway. But for those who want to take it to the next level, the lush forests of the Sierra Madre provide a refreshing backdrop to more challenging mountain trails.

In fact, the forest cover of Aurora is still at 78 percent (and I hope it remains that way) with a high concentration of plants and wildlife, and a lot of endemic species. So aside from hiking, nature lovers could go birdwatching or deer or wild boar tracking.

Surfing lessons in BalerOf course, when in Baler, make sure to take surfing lessons. Said to be the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, Baler is a great place to learn surfing. You can easily arrange surfing lessons with your hotel or with the help of the tourism office.

But for the pros, Baler can offer more than just beginner waves. Which is why it's a popular destination even for foreign surfers.

Off-road driving is also becoming very popular. Traverse Aurora's rugged terrain and it's many off road trails which include Dibut, Dibutunan, Dicadi, Dikildit and Diteki. There's also mountain biking, caving and spelunking, rock climbing and orienteering. You can also go whale shark watching (it's closer to Metro Manila than Donsol, Sorsogon) or interacting with the sea cows. Also in the pipeline are white water tubing and a zip line. Indeed, Aurora is the next province to keep an eye on! One destination... endless adventure!

Aurora Tourism Office

Aurora Adventure Center

Part 1: Road trip to Baler and Ditumabo Falls in San Luis, Aurora

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