Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ivan About Town gives away SEAIR tickets to Batanes & Boracay

1. Ivan About Town and South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) will be giving away two round-trip tickets to Boracay, and two round-trip tickets to Batanes. Two winners will be selected, one winner for the two Boracay tickets and one winner for the two Batanes tickets.

2. To join, simply share any post from as a link on your Facebook wall. Make sure you tag both the SEAIR and Ivan About Town Facebook pages when you share the link. And make sure you invite your friends to visit the link and support Ivan About Town.

3. Each post you share on your Facebook wall will be counted as one entry. Only links appearing in the Ivan About Town page, with complete tags, will be counted. So make sure the security settings (note the little padlock beside the 'share' button) of your link share will allow 'everyone' to see it.

4. You can share an unlimited number of posts from Ivan Henares' Thailand Medical Blog. But you can only have one valid post per day. So watch out for new posts and share them to increase your chances of winning.

5. Posts can be shared on your wall from 12 noon of December 9, 2010 to 11:59 p.m. of January 31, 2011 (Philippine time, +8 GMT).

6. We will pick two lucky winners from all qualified entries on February 3, 2011 (Thursday) in a public draw.

7. Winners will be informed and given instructions on how to claim their prizes via Facebook. Decision of the organizers is final.

8. Join now and have a fun summer in Boracay or Batanes courtesy of South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) and Ivan About Town!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quirino: Spelunking at the Aglipay Caves

Among the provinces of Cagayan Valley, Quirino must score the least when it comes to awareness among tourists and travelers. One main reason is it's bypassed by Maharlika Highway. But it has a lot of potential for ecotourism with its many caves, waterfalls and whitewater rapids. Add to the fact that roads to and around the province are in relatively good condition.

During my road trip, I got to enter the Aglipay Caves. Before proceeding to the caves, I stopped by the Quirino Capitol in Cabarroguis to ask for some information from the tourism office. I just wanted to make sure that road condition to Aglipay Caves was good. And it sure was good because they've paved the roads from the National Highway all the way to the cave entrances.

The Aglipay Caves are a few minutes past the town proper of Aglipay. There is a sign on the right that will point you towards the caves. At the park entrance, you'll have to pay Php20 per head as entrance fee. That also includes the guided tour inside. But it's up to you if you want to give the guides a tip. I suggest you do.

Unfortunately, they don't lend you any safety equipment such as helmets or head lamps. Although the guide has a lamp, you might want to bring your own. Note also that you'll be crawling through some narrow passage ways. So prepare to get wet and muddied.

There are eight caves with different difficulty levels. The usual tour passes through four of these caves, namely Caves 1, 8, 2 and 3. Cave 1 is quite straightforward. You exit through the back and walk about 15 minutes to get to the entrance of Cave 8.

Cave 8, 2 and 3 are connected to each other. But the entrance to Cave 2 from Cave 8 is so narrow, you'll have to crawl in to get to the other side. The Aglipay Caves don't have as much live formations as the caves in Cagayan. But it's still worth a visit. Going through the four caves takes about an hour.

Visiting the other caves will entail a steep climb from the entrances and exits. So it's reserved for those who are physically fit and have the composure to navigate the caves.

On the way back to Isabela, you'll pass by Nagbukel Cave. It's difficult to miss since it's a large limestone hill in the middle of a rice field. Unfortunately, I had to rush back to Manila for my early morning flight to Masbate. So I'll reserve entering that cave for another visit.

Meralco lights up Christmas with Toy Town in the Meralco Compound

Meralco turned on its Christmas lights last December 2, 2010 at the Meralco Compound in Ortigas. More than the usual Christmas lights and belen, Meralco created a candy-colored Toy Town complete with a life-sized electric toy train, opened its gates to the public and invited orphans and less-privileged children to be their special guests.

I was present at the lighting ceremony which was attended by Meralco's top brass led by Manny Pangilinan himself, members of the Meralco Bolts PBA team and TV5 celebrities, government officials and guests, including those from their partner charitable institutions this year, namely Caritas Manila, Laura Vicuna Foundation and Childhope Asia.

After enjoying a very Filipino cocktail spread served in the main lobby of the Meralco Building, we were ushered to a stage built right in front of the building for the brief program which culminated in the ceremonial lighting of the Meralco compound.

The program ended with a grand fireworks display. And guests were invited to visit Toy Town as well as Meralco's Paskuhan Village which includes its traditional nativity scene or belen. The village and the belen were fashioned-out of recycled copper wire.

For Meralco, lighting up the Meralco Compound symbolizes the light of Jesus Christ whose coming to the world brings joy and hope to Filipinos, young and old. Getting inspiration in the symbolism of the Christmas lantern or parol, Meralco brings light and warmth to its customers through its different Christmas initiatives, which includes Maliwanag ang Pasko, an annual campaign which recognizes nine of the brightest and best-decorated homes in the Meralco franchise.

So if you happen to pass by the area, note that Meralco opens its head office compound to children and the child-at-heart with its Christmas village! See the Christmas tree and belen made up of copper wires and powered by electricity of course! And ride the train around Toy Town.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Isabela: Visita iglesia to Isabela's heritage churches (Tumauini, San Pablo, Gamu, Cauayan & Alicia)

Isabela has its own share of Spanish colonial churches. Before the province was created in 1856, the northern part from Tumauini was part of Cagayan, while the south was part of Nueva Vizcaya. And I personally noticed that the churches south of Tumauini have designs similar to those of Nueva Vizcaya.

Unfortunately, the interiors of most of these churches have been renovated and modernized. So only the facades are worth the visit. But at least the five churches still have their facades intact, reminding us of southern Cagayan Valley church architecture, since it looks like priests in Isabela were not really after preservation of the province's old churches, Ilagan included (only the belfry of the church remains).

In the northern part of Isabela, only the San Pablo Church ruins and Tumauini Church, a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark, are left. The Tumauini Church or San Matias Church is most known for its round wedding cake belfry. It's arguably the most exquisite example of brick architecture in the Philippines.

The San Pablo Church, constructed in 1709, is the only one of the extant Isabela churches that is not made of bricks. It has a very massive belfry reminiscent of those in Ilocos Norte (Paoay and Laoag). San Pablo used to be Cabagan Viejo, with Cabagan Nuevo retaining the name Cabagan. So the church is sometime referred to as the San Pablo de Cabagan Church.

I was supposed to pass by San Pablo and Tumauini during my road trip. But a flooded bridge forced me to take the Roxas route. Unfortunately, Isabela was still recovering from the typhoon several weeks back. So I proceeded directly to Gamu. It was my first time to visit the churches of southern Isabela. And the Gamu Church was my first stop. The Gamu Church or Sta. Rosa de Lima Church was completed in 1734.

Although not a heritage church, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation in Brgy. Guibang, Gamu is a popular pilgrimage site because of the image of Our Lady of Guibang. It's actually along the National Highway. So if you have time to stopover, you might as well do.

I spent the night in Cauayan City. But I made sure first to pass by the Cauayan Church or Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church before it got really dark. The facade of the Cauayan Church, built in 1825, is still intact. But the rest of the church, including the belfry, had been destroyed by war and earthquake and replaced by modern structures.

The next morning, I visited the Alicia Church or the Nuestra Senora de Atocha Church. Just like San Pablo, this used to be old town center of Angadanan or Angadanan Viejo. But with the change of name, it was Angadanan Nuevo which retained the name Angadanan. The present church was built in 1849.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Giant Lantern Festival 2010: Mangan Tamu! The Ultimate Pampanga Food and Heritage Tour (Christmas Edition)

It's Christmas once again and it's time for another Giant Lantern Festival. Join Ultimate Philippines Tours as we journey to the central heartland and immerse ourselves in things Kapampangan on December 18, 2010!

From buro to Baroque, it will be a fun-filled day as we poke around and get intimate with the very best of Pampanga's cultural offerings. Gawk at the jewel-box of a church in Betis while wading through the lahar-buried town of Bacolor.

We'll stuff ourselves silly with a pre-Christmas Kapampangan noche buena fare by one of the country's best known Kapampangan chefs! And to it cap it off, get a front row view of the most dazzling display of Kapmpangan artistry the Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) of San Fernando! It's a tour with nothing but Kapampangan cool!

9:00 a.m. ETD Metro Manila
10:30 a.m. Bacolor Church - We stop by this historic town which was almost wiped out by volcanic mud flows. We visit the half-buried San Guilliermo Church
11:30 a.m. Betis Church - Admire the beautiful interior of the province's most treasured Barouqe structure, the 17th century Santiago Apostol Church, a National Cultural Treasure.
1:00 p.m. Bale Dutung in Angeles City - Indulge in a Kapampangan feast as we learn cooking secrets with chef, artist and writer, Claude Tayag.
4:00 p.m. Depart for Giant Lantern Festival
5:00 p.m. Pasalubong Shopping
6:00 p.m. Robinsons Starmills Pampanga - You are free to check out and shop for bargains at Pampanga's biggest outlet mall while waiting for the festival to start.
7:00 p.m. Giant Lantern Festival - Be dazzled by the giant Christmas lanterns of San Fernando as they dance in an interplay of music and lighting artistry!
9:00 p.m. ETD San Fernando
10:30 p.m. ETA Metro Manila

The tour fee is Php4,500 per person inclusive of all meals and transportation. For bookings and inquiries, e-mail us at or call (0917) 3291622. For more details, check out the Ultimate Pampanga Christmas Edition event page on Facebook.
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