Monday, December 10, 2012

Canada: Toronto, Kingston & Niagara Falls in Ontario

Finally, Manila now has a direct flight to Toronto thanks to Philippine Airlines! We boarded PAL's inaugural flight and got to explore Toronto and its environs for five days. Among the places of interest we visited in Toronto were the old and new Toronto City Hall, St. Lawrence Market, CN Tower (but it was unfortunately cloudy when we were up there), the Ontario Legislative Building, University of Toronto, Casa Loma and the Toronto Islands for the best view of the Toronto skyline.

We also rented a car and drove three hours east to Kingston to visit the Kingston Fortifications which are part of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate and we only got to visit the Royal Military College of Canada and Fort Frederick. Kingston's historic skyline looked quite interesting thought but we'll save that for another visit.

The group also visited the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, namely Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin to try out their famed ice wine before proceeding to the iconic Niagara Falls in the US-Canada border.

Here are photos from that visit to Toronto:
November 30-December 1 - Toronto, Canada
December 3 - Toronto, Canada

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Philippine Airlines (PAL) now flies direct to Toronto, Canada!

Philippine Airlines (PAL) inaugurated its maiden flight to Toronto, Canada last November 30, 2012. It was a rare opportunity to be part of that inaugural flight. And here I am in Toronto, exploring this nice Canadian city, which is home to close to 200,000 Filipinos. In fact, Filipinos are the third largest ethnic group here in Toronto.

Ceremonies began at NAIA Terminal 2 lead by PAL President Ramon Ang and Canadian Ambassador H.E. Christopher Thornley. Passengers of the flight posed for a commemorative group photo with Ang who saw all of us off as we boarded the maiden flight.

The plane was a brand new Boeing 777-300ER which provided some of the latest amenities including an in-flight entertainment system that will keep you busy for the duration of the 15-hour direct flight from Manila to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Since it was the inaugural flight, we were treated to business class service and meals even in Fiesta Class. Yes, they brought out the metal dining utensils and ceramic plates for all of us, with four choices of dishes to choose from! Plus before we landed, passengers were feted with champagne and a toast to celebrate this milestone.

At Toronto Pearson, more ceremonies went underway led by local airport authorities and business leaders. The local Filipino-Canadian community performed dances from the Philippines.

We ended the night with check-in and dinner at the Hilton Toronto which would be our home for the next five days. Congratulations to Philippine Airlines for yet another milestone! This definitely is something to celebrate as we push harder to get our cities connected directly to other destinations around the world, opening our doors even more for tourism.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

BGC Passion Fest this weekend!

Bonifacio Global City (BGC) has got to be one of my favorite mall developments in the country, especially because of Bonifacio High Street, their open-air mall. I've always liked the way they've shown the Philippines that malls need not be air-conditioned with their perfect mix of architecture, intelligently-landscaped open spaces and great establishments.

This weekend, BGC will host BGC Passion Fest, Bonifacio Global City's 3-day weekend celebration on November 23-25, 2012. There something for everyone! And I'm posting the schedule here for your information. You all better go!

November 23
Catch Music Moves. Art Grooves Mobile Concert (6:30 p.m. to 12 midnight) featuring:
(1) fused performances by Wolfgang with a seven-piece wind and string ensemble, Pinoy and foreign movie themes with visual performance by Joseph the Sand Artist at 9th Street High Street;
(2) the Brass Munkeys with Jun Lupito, big band rock with a graphic artist at the Mind Museum;
(3) Razorback, Pinoy 70s to 90s rock, caricaturist visual artist at Turf BGC;
(4) Silverfilter with Skarlet, club jazz, graffiti artist at the Fort Entertainment; and
(5) Mobile concert, performances to be held on an open-wing 12-wheeler truck

November 24
Enjoy the Great BGC Outdoors at High Street and High Street Central (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)! High Street will be transformed into a big fair ground with giant game installations, picnic areas, pet shows, fair games, inflatables for kids, magic shows, and free cotton candy, popcorn and ice cream. Kiddie shows will happen at High Street Central Ampitheater from 4 to 6 p.m. Plus a movie marathon after from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight will feature The Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo and Avenger movies.

November 25
More fun and exciting events will happen on Sunday including:
(1) Run BGC Ready Set Explore from 5 to 9 a.m. where you can explore BGC's interactive parks, outdoor art, science museum, and retail playground in one exciting run.
(2) The Great BGC Outdoors from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(3) Opening of BGC Christmas, 6 p.m. at High Street Central

Note that there will be a special route of the BGC Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour during the said weekend. Those who live, work and study in BGC get discounts in registration fees for Run BGC, and special discounts and freebies in selected retail shop and restaurants in BGC.

So start planning your weekend at BGC!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Celebrating 40 years of UNESCO World Heritage!

Batad Rice Terraces
On November 16, 1972, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Today, we celebrate the 40th year of World Heritage! For the next few days, I will be featuring UNESCO World Heritage Sites that I have visited. To date, I've been to over a hundred UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 32 countries. Experiencing them first hand were always memorable trips for me.

The Philippines has five inscriptions. These are the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Bangaan, Batad, Hungduan, Mayoyao and Nagacadan), Historic Town of Vigan, Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Paoay, Santa Maria, San Agustin and Miag-ao), the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Bangaan Rice Terraces
Hungduan Rice Terraces (Hapao and Baang)
Mayoyao Rice Terraces
Nagacadan Rice Terraces
It is the responsibility of each state party to safeguard UNESCO World Heritage Sites in its jurisdiction. While the Philippines has had its share of bad experiences such as the influx of tourists to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and the violations currently being committed by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte in the core and buffer zones of Paoay Church, this year has been a proud year for the Philippines as it was recognized by UNESCO for its management of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras which was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger, and the Historic Town of Vigan which was recognized as a model of best practices in World Heritage site management.

Historic Town of Vigan
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Paoay Church
Santa Maria Church
Miag-ao Church
To learn more about the criteria for innscription to the UNESCO World Heritage List, read Nominating properties to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Conference & 2012 ICTC Annual Meeting

The ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Conference and 2012 ICTC Annual Meeting came to a close last night as we returned from the post-conference tour to the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. We've been very busy the past two weeks since our first delegates arrived on November 2.

Conference Chair Ivan Henares, National Museum Director Jeremy Barns, Ambassador Jose Maria Carino, ICOMOS Philippines President Augusto Villalon, ICOMOS ICTC President Susan Millar, DOT Director Cynthia Lazo, Conference Co-Chair Ivan Man Dy. Photo by Anson Yu
Conference Chair Ivan Henares, ICOMOS Philippines President Augusto Villalon & Conference Co-Chair Ivan Man Dy. Photo by Anson Yu
Official activities started on November 5 with the Welcome Reception at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Museum. Before that, foreign delegates were transported from Intramuros to the National Art Gallery on an air-conditioned jeepney courtesy of Jeepney Tours, followed by a tour of the newly-opened galleries of the National Museum. I was astounded with how much of our national treasures were in storage all these years before they finally seeing light in these new exhibits.

Food was catered by Cibo, and cultural performances rendered by the Ramon Magsaysay High School and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

The next day, delegates flew to Laoag City. We got to visit Paoay Church which was the only major embarrassment during the conference as ICOMOS experts pointed out violations that were being committed by the local government as we were visiting. Structures were being constructed in the core and buffer zones which raised a major concern among our guests.

In the Historic Town of Vigan, we got a grand and festive welcome at the City Hall of Vigan as each foreign delegate was assigned an assistant for the duration of the conference. Dinner was at the Burgos House (National Museum) hosted by the Department of Tourism Region I.

For the next two days, the conference was held at the recently-restored Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol. A temporary exhibit on archival material of the town plaza of Vigan was also opened by the National Archives. In the evening, the City Government of Vigan invited everyone to watch a sarsuela which was followed by a festive dinner in front of city hall.

The next day, the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee held its annual meeting followed by a workshop with local stakeholders. The day ended with a Closing Reception hosted by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur at the Vigan Plaza Hotel.

We returned to Manila the next day. In the evening, we got a glimpse of the reconstructed Ayuntamiento de Manila, as well as an evening tour of Fort Santiago, the Rizal Shrine and Casa Manila. A Farewell Reception was hosted by the Intramuros Administration at Barbara's. Check out photos of the conference in the Ivan About Town FB page and with Estan Cabigas.

As most of the delegates went back home, the other half braved the long drive and truck traffic to visit the Rice Terrace of the Philippine Cordilleras in Ifugao. It was a very meaningful visit to Banaue, Lagawe, Kiangan and Hungduan as we got to interact with local officials and stakeholders. The group had a very comfortable stay at the Banaue Hotel. Here are some photos of our post-conference tour to Ifugao.

Thank you very much to everyone who contributed, particularly the Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur, the City Government of Vigan, Department of Tourism, Department of Foreign Affairs-TCCP, UNESCO National Commission, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Metrobank Foundation, City Government of Manila, Intramuros Administration, TIEZA, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), National Museum and the Provincial Government of Ifugao among many others!
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