Monday, March 18, 2013

Yellow fever vaccination for seamen & travelers

Several years ago, I wrote a post on vaccines for travelers. I missed out on yellow fever vaccination which is needed by seamen and travelers going to Africa and South America in particular. The place to get the vaccination is the Bureau of Quarantine, 25th Street, Port Area, Manila. It's right behind Manila Hotel, beside the gate leading to the Super Ferry Terminal. Here is a location map.

Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease which can be passed on via contact with other people or mosquitoes. There is no cure for yellow fever but it can be prevented with vaccination. I had my first yellow fever vaccination in 2002 before I left for the Ship for Southeast Asian Program (SSEAYP) and it was valid for ten years. So I needed another shot.

I was surprised getting the vaccine was really quick and convenient. Here are five easy steps to follow:
1. Bring a ballpen. Fill out the two information forms that are available at the door.
2. Line up inside and wait for the nurse to call you for your shots. The nurse will check if your signed forms are in order, ask a few questions, and then administer your vaccination. This was very quick.
3. Pay Php1,500 at the cashier.
4. Bring the smaller information form to the typing station. Sit down as they prepare your International Certificate of Vaccination. This should also be quick since they only need to type in your name, date of birth and sex.
5. You will be called once the certificate is done. Sign the certificate in their presence and you're done.

Yellow fever vaccination is available Mondays to Fridays from 8 to 11 a.m and 1 to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m. More details in the DOH website.

Yellow fever endemic countries include: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome e Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa or Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Zambia in Africa; Panama in Central America; and Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela in South America.

Bakuna laban sa yellow fever para sa mga mandaragat o marino
Ang bakuna para sa yellow fever ay kailangan ng mga mandaragat o marino at mga turista na papunta lalo na sa Aprika at Timog Amerika. Madali lang kumuha nito mula sa Bureau of Quarantine na matatagpuan sa likod ng Manila Hotel, katabi lamang ng gate papuntang Super Ferry Terminal. Ito ang mga kailangang gawin:
1. Magdala ng ballpen. Punan ang dalawang information form na matatagpuan sa harap ng pinto.
2. Pumila sa loob at hintaying tawagin ng nars para sa iyong bakuna. Titignan ng nars kung ang pinirmahang form ay tama bago ka bigyan ng bakuna. Mabilis lang ito matapos.
3. Magbayad ng Php1,500 sa kahera.
4. Dalhin ang maliit na form sa mga encoder. Umupo habang ginagawa ang International Certificate of Vaccination o Pandaigdig na Katibayan ng Pagbabakuna. Mabilis lang rin ito dahil pangalan mo lang, kaarawan at kasarian ang kailangan nilang ilagay.
5. Tatawagin ka pag tapos na ang katibayan o certificate. Pirmahan ang katibayan sa harap nila at tapos na.

Ang bakuna para yellow fever ay maaring makuha mula Lunes hanggang Biyernes, ika-8 hanggang ika-11 ng umaga at ika-1 hanggang ika-3 ng hapon at Sabado mula ika-8 hanggang ika-11 ng umaga. Bisitahin ang DOH website para sa iba pang detalye.

Palawan: Coron accommodation and attractions

Since the summer vacation is fast approaching, I did some updates to a post on Coron accommodation. Here are some suggestions for hotels in Coron, Palawan.

I also came up with a list of things to do in Coron, Busuanga and Culion. These include visits to Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Barracuda Lake or snorkeling at Siete Pecados and the Japanese shipwrecks.

Coron also has really good beaches and many secluded ones to choose from. The list actually has many suggestions.

In a recent visit, we rented a large boat from Busuanga Seadive Resort good for fifty, explored Coron Island, had lunch off Dicantuman Beach, and went snorkeling at Twin Peaks and Siete Pecados. Here's a video I made of that visit:

Also got to try out a new hotel in the town center called Coron Ecolodge Hotel. Had a good experience there.

Coron Ecolodge Hotel
(0906) 4556090 / (0919) 2048824

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bohol: Visita iglesia, heritage churches & watchtowers

Loboc Church (San Pedro Apostol) was built in 1734. If was founded as a Jesuit mission in 1596.
Bohol is a province of rich heritage. It has the largest number of well-preserved heritage churches in the country if I may say. Yes, the history of the churches in Bohol has been respected by most of the local clergy, especially in the Diocese of Tagbilaran (the other Bohol diocese is the Diocese of Tubigon). And visits to these exquisite churches are enriching experiences, as they give us a glimpse of our colorful folk art, Philippine Baroque as many call it.

Here are three routes with interesting churches. The first two, 1a and 1b can be combined into one grand route. It can be accomplished in a day if you rent a car or van (but you have to start early). You may also opt to enjoy the beaches in Anda and stay overnight or start from Anda and make your way back:

Route 1a: Tagbilaran, Dauis, Panglao, Baclayon, Alburquerque, Loay, Loboc (enjoy the Loboc River Cruise or proceed to Chocolate Hills from here)
Route 1b: (from Loay) Lila, Dimiao, Valencia, Garcia Hernandez, Jagna, Duero, Anda
Route 2: Tagbilaran, Cortes, Maribijoc, Loon, Calape, Tubigon (proceed to Talibon if you have time)

Tagbilaran Cathedral (St. Joseph the Worker)
Dauis Church (Assumption of Our Lady) is a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark. The present church dates back to 1863.
The interior of the Dauis Church features the illusion of a Renaissance artesonado or coffered ceiling. The paintings inside the church are attributed to Ray Francia and Canuto Avila (and his children). Notice the small well on the floor in front of the main altar
The Dauis Watchtower is a National Cultural Treasure. It was built in 1774 as a lookout for Moro pirates
Panglao Church (San Agustin) is a National Cultural Treasure. The present church was built between 1894 to 1897. Notice the ruins of the old church nearby
Ceiling murals inside the Panglao Church
The Panglao Watchtower built close to the sea in 1851 is also a National Cultural Treasure
Baclayon Church (La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria) is a National Cultural Treasure. The present church dates back to 1727. The interior of the church, particularly the retablo mayor, is one of the best examples of Philippine Baroque.
Alburquerque Church (Santa Monica) dates back to 1885
Loay Church (La Santisima Trinidad) is a National Historical Landmark. The church, built on top of a hill,  dates back to 1822. Other historic structures in the church complex include the belltower, convento and two schoolhouses. Across the plaza is the old tribunal or municipal hall.
The ceiling murals of Loay Church are attributed to Ray Francia. The sanctuary is unique in the country for its lace-like design.
The ceiling murals of the Loboc Church are attributed to Canuto Avila, Ricardo Avila and Rey Francia.

Dimiao Church (San Nicolas de Tolentino) is a National Cultural Treasure. The present church was built from 1800 to 1815. Beside the church is an old walled cemetery which the locals call ermita
The interior of Dimiao Church
While there is nothing remarkable about the facade of the Valencia Church (Sto. Nino), the interior features ornate wooden floor patterns
The facade of the Jagna Church (San Miguel Arcangel) is heavily renovated. But the interior is fortunately intact.  The ceiling features paintings of Rey Francia
Duero Church (Immaculate Conception) is considered one of the gems of Philippine architecture in wood. Yes, the church is made of wood and dates back to 1874
Anda Church (Sto. Nino) may look unimpressive outside, but is richly decorated inside. Splendid ceiling murals by Rey Francia adorn the ceiling
The Anda Church ceiling murals were painted on tin sheets

Cortes Church (Santisimo Nombre de Jesus) dates back to 1892. The painted ceilings inside are by Rey Francia.
Maribojoc Church (La Santa Cruz) is a National Cultural Treasure. The present church was built in 1852
Inside Maribojoc Church are five magnificently carved Gothic retablos decorated with Mudejar stars. The ceiling murals were painted by Rey Francia.
Punta Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc is a National Cultural Treasure. The fort, known as Castillo de San Vicente, was completed in 1796.
Loon Church (Nuestra Senora de la Luz), among the grandest churches in the Visayas, is a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark. The current church was constructed from 1855 to 1864.

Now for visita iglesia near Metro Manila, you could visit churches in Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, RizalQuezon, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan and Pangasinan. Click on the links for detailed itineraries.

For detailed information on Bohol churches, I highly recommend that you get a copy of Visita Iglesia Bohol: A Guide to Historic Churches by Regalado Trota Jose.

Into the Green Zone: Palawan Islands

Palawan is one of the jewels of the Philippines. And if there's one book about Palawan that will inspire you even more to visit or one that you should have at home to show visitors, Into the Green Zone: Palawan Islands is it!

As expected, the photos are spectacular. We expect nothing less from George Tapan. The coffee table book features landscapes, wildlife, archaeology, built heritage, the people and culture, environment and industry of Palawan among many other very interesting aspects of this beautiful province.

Palawan is such a vast province, I have yet to explore many of its highlights. George Tapan traveled extensively around Palawan to complete this book which gives a glimpse of many places we only read about in books.

The book costs Php3,500 and is very well worth the price. There are discounts for bulk orders. Details are in the book's website. Photos in this post are from the book.

When news of the book's release was announced online, it got me salivating. Little did I know I'd get a complimentary copy from the publisher. Thank you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Canada: Niagara Falls & winery visits at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara Falls, at the border of Ontario, Canada and New York, USA, is on the bucket list of many travelers. It's actually a popular day-trip from Toronto, Canada. In fact, we visited Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town known for its wineries, during the Philippine Airlines (PAL) inaugural flight to Toronto.

The day actually started quite nice since the sun was out. We visited Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin in the morning to try out their famed ice wine. So what is ice wine? It's a type of dessert wine, really sweet. What makes it sweet is the manner in which the grapes are harvested and processed.

The grapes are allowed to freeze and are usually harvested early in the morning, before the sun comes out, to maintain the cold temperature since the grapes start to thaw by sunrise. Because the grapes are frozen, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugars do not. So when the grapes are pressed, it produces a smaller amount but more concentrated must (juice) which ferments into a much sweeter wine.

Lunch was at Inniskillin, where we were served salad, salmon and prairie rice, which is not actually rice, but an oat known as Cavena Nuda. It cooks and tastes like rice. But the flavor also reminds me of white corn. I regret not taking a few kilos of Cavena Nuda with me to the Philippines.

On the way to Inniskillin, We also made a brief stop in Fort George, the scene of several battles during the War of 1812, a war between the British and the Americans. Opposite the Niagara River is Fort Niagara in New York.

We also passed by the Living Water Wayside Chapel, the smallest chapel in the world as per the Guinness Book of World Records with only six seats. Yes, some people actually hold their intimate wedding ceremonies there.

We also drove through the town center of Niagara-on-the-Lake before proceeding to the falls. Too bad the afternoon weather didn't cooperate when we visited the Niagara Falls.

By the time we arrived, it had started to rain. So it covered the view of most of the falls. There are actually three falls, two on the American side and one on the Canadian side. They say the view is best in the Canadian side. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall in North America. No doubt, because we definitely felt its thunder as we went behind and stayed very close to the falls.

The Journey Behind the Falls offers you an observation platform and tunnels near the bottom of Horseshoe Falls. This attraction is accessible via elevators from the street level entrance. Fees vary depending on the season. From April to December, it's $15.95 (13+ years) and $10.95 (6 to 12 years). It's cheaper from December to April at $11.25 and $6.95 respectively.

If you want an overhead  view of the falls, you can visit Skylon Tower or the Minolta Tower. During the summer months, you can try the Maid of the Mist, a popular boat tour of Niagara Falls.

After exploring the area, we motored back to Toronto.

How to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto
Toronto is about two hours away from Niagara Falls, approximately 133 kilometers. There are various ways to get there. But the most popular would be renting a car, taking the Niagara Airbus or Megabus, or joining a guided tour. The guided tours are convenient options since they usually include visits a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies direct from Manila to Toronto. Thank you for inviting me to join the inaugural flight last November!
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