Sunday, November 03, 2013

Agusan del Sur: Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Visiting the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is a beautiful experience. But it's not for the faint-hearted given the difficulties in reaching this picturesque wetland.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Several years ago, I stayed overnight with the Manobo community at Sitio Panlabuhan, Loreto, Agusan del Sur, and helped the community create a tourism program for their ancestral domain. This time, I returned with my students to let them experience life in the floating community. I had warned them that traveling to the Agusan Marsh was not easy. And amenities at the Sitio Panlabuhan Floating Community were close to none. But it was worth it, especially with the warm reception of the Manobos who live there.

Related post: Overnight with the Manobo community of Agusan Marsh

We took the first flight to Butuan City and visited the various archaeological sites of the city. We also shopped for sleeping mats which we donated to Sitio Panlabuhan. It's best to leave the rest of your luggage at the hotel you will stay at in Butuan and bring waterproof overnight bags for the trip to Agusan Marsh. Dry bags are highly recommended for cameras and mobile phones.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
The plan was to leave for Bunawan, the jump-off point for the Agusan Marsh, after lunch. But we ended up taking the 2:15 p.m. bus to Davao City (Bunawan is along the way). They say the trip from Butuan to Bunawan is between two to three hours, for private vehicles maybe. On a bus however, it takes close to four hours with all the stops. So we arrived in Bunawan after sunset, which you should definitely avoid. If you are coming from Butuan, it is best to leave by 11 a.m.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
It takes another three hours by river boat to get to the Agusan Marsh from Bunawan. I realized what we did was quite dangerous, traveling by boat in the dark. We only had flashlights to help us avoid logs and other debris on the river. To make matters worse, it started to rain really hard. It felt like those jungle expeditions you see on TV, especially since crocodiles could just be around the corner.

We had to park the pump boats and cross a small strip of land, under the rain and in the dark, to get to the lake of Sitio Panlabuhan where paddle boats were waiting to take us to the lodge. Note that you have to wear shorts and slippers or sandals since you may have to wade in the water depending on how high water levels are.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
At 9 p.m., we finally arrived at our lodge, soaking wet from the rain. After changing into dry clothes, the community served us a really delicious dinner, fresh catch from the Agusan Marsh. If you do not eat fish or for variety, you can buy canned goods in Butuan or Bunawan which they can cook for you.

Since it had just rained, we had cool weather the whole evening. Don't forget the mosquito repellent if you want a good night's sleep.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
When you arrive, the head of the community leads a ritual requesting their ancestors to grant you safe entrance into their community. This is very important to them. And they say that if it is not done, something bad will happen to the visitor. Since we arrived really late, the ritual was done as soon as we woke up.

Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
After breakfast, we were brought by paddle boat to other parts of Sitio Panlabuhan where we enjoyed picturesque views of the Agusan Marsh. I noticed though there were not as many birds as my previous visit since it was still October. If you want to see migratory and endemic birds, come during the cold months from late November to early February.

There's an abundance of water hyacinths at the Agusan Marsh. It's actually an invasive species and tends to clog the marsh. The Manobo ladies of Sitio Panlabuhan have been able to weave dried water hyacinths into beautiful bags. If you want to order bags or schedule a trip, contact Maritess Babanto at (0930) 5287194.

The group had an early lunch before leaving for Bunawan. We were back in Butuan by 6 p.m. What an adventure it was, especially for the first-timers!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Heritage Conservation Summit 2013: Heritage & Real Estate Development

The Heritage Conservation Society and the City Government of Quezon City will organize the Heritage Conservation Summit 2013, on 9 November 2013 at Luxent Hotel, Timog Avenue, Quezon City.

The Summit, which is being organized for the second time, has adopted the theme: Heritage and Real Estate Development. It is aimed at bringing together a wide spectrum of participants representing national government, local government units, local historical and heritage societies, academe, heritage conservation practitioners and allied professionals, architects, planners and real estate developers, the tourism industry, and the media. Its primary objective is to discuss and exchange knowledge on the current state of heritage conservation and best practices of adaptive reuse in the Philippines and Asia, its recent developments and the challenges and opportunities faced in the conservation of heritage. The presentations will include successful experiences of real estate developers, local government units and community conservation groups.

We have 200 available slots for the Summit. It will be a one-day affair, with the second day allocated for an optional tour of heritage buildings and sites in Quezon City for interested participants on a first come first served basis. We invite you and your company, organization, agency or school to participate in the summit and learn more about the importance of heritage to real estate development.

On-site registration is Php1,500 inclusive of conference kits and meals.

Pre-register by Wednesday, November 6, 2013, to avail of discounted rates. If pre-registered, participation fees are Php1,000 for professionals, Php800 for HCS members in good standing or masteral students with ID, and Php300 for undergraduate students with ID.

Registration Form
Please copy and paste the text below and e-mail the information to –

□ I will attend Heritage Conservation Summit 2013: Heritage & Real Estate Development on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at Luxent Hotel, Timog Avenue, Quezon City


□ I will join the tour of Quezon City heritage sites on Sunday, November 10, 2013

Please issue check payments to HERITAGE CONSERVATION SOCIETY. Cash or check payments could be deposited to BPI C/A No. 8105-8153-61, BPI MH del Pilar Branch. Remember to e-mail your deposit slip to together with this form and keep the original deposit slip which you have to submit on the day of the summit.

Tentative Program
08:00 - Registration
08:30 - National Anthem
08:35 - Welcome Message – Gemma Cruz Araneta, HCS Chairperson
08:45 - Welcome Message – Hon. Joy G. Belmonte, Vice Mayor, Quezon City
09:00 - Keynote Address – Hon. Herbert M. Bautista, Mayor, Quezon City
09:20 - Adaptive Reuse: Global Trend, Make it Local – Ivan Anthony S. Henares, HCS President
09:30 - Principles of Adaptive Reuse – Archt. Jojo Mata, University of the Philippines
10:00 - Open Forum
10:15 - Coffee Beak
10:30 - Heritage Structures for Rental Housing – Ana Dizon
11:00 - Rise of Vigan Real Estate Values through Heritage – Eric Zerrudo, University of Santo Tomas
11:30 - Open Forum
12:00 - Lunch
13:00 - New Manila: Development Pressure on Heritage Homes – Erik Akpedonu, Ateneo de Manila University
13:30 - Iloilo Business District Revitalization – Archt. Manuel B. Tingzon, Jr.,  ICCHCC Vice Chairperson
14:00 - Adaptive Reuse: Museum of Natural History – Archt. Dom Galicia, HCS Guru
14:30 - Open Forum
14:45 - Coffee Break
15:00 - Adaptive Reuse and Real Estate Development – Eric Manuel, Urban Land Institute Philippines
15:30 - Establishing a Heritage Trust in the Philippines – Atty. Mark Evidente, President, TwoEco, Inc.
16:00 - Rehabilitation of Bohol and Cebu Heritage
16:30 - Open Forum
17:00 - Closing Statement

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rebuilding the heritage churches of Bohol

The Diocese of Tagbilaran has always been exemplary when it comes to heritage conservation. In fact, they are the only diocese in the country actively getting their churches declared, thanks to the efforts of Fr. Ted Torralba. Which explains why they have more than ten properties declared as National Cultural Treasures or National Historical Landmarks within their diocese alone.

Being declared properties, the NCCA and its attached agencies will have a lot to do with the restoration of many of the churches damaged by the October 15, 2013 earthquake in Central Visayas. But the effort will mainly be an undertaking of the Diocese of Tagbilaran which covers the southern half of Bohol Province.

A new bank account was created solely for contributions to the reconstruction and restoration of Bohol's churches. Donations are now accepted:

Account Name: The Roman Catholic Bishop of Tagbilaran
Account No. 123-3-123-51030-6 / Metrobank (Tagbilaran Branch)

To get a receipt for your donation, e-mail your deposit slip to the Diocese of Tagbilaran thru or fax to (038) 4115653. List of donors will be published. When the plan developed by the Heritage Task Force is in place and implemented, expenses will also be published.

Fr. Ted Torralba answers some FAQs about the restoration and donations below:

1. How the restoration will be undertaken and who will be on board?
The Diocese of Tagbilaran has a long-standing commitment with the NCCA, NHCP, and the NM to abide by accepted national and international standards of heritage conservation. It has a functioning Diocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church established in July 1995, predecessor to an earlier diocesan committee for church restoration created in 1993, to monitor intervention on heritage churches, implement the cultural heritage law of the Church and of the Government, and recommend approval of any heritage intervention, subject to the authority of the Bishop of Tagbilaran who has the final decision on the pastoral care of heritage resources. Its activities in the area of the pastoral care of the cultural heritage resources of the Church prompt the creation of the CBCP Permanent Committee of the Cultural Heritage of the Church and advanced the preparation of the Holy See - Philippines international agreement on the cultural heritage of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

In the present circumstances, it awaits the results of the rapid assessment of the NCCA Heritage Task Force (coordinated by the undersigned) which is expected to be released this coming Monday, 21 October. The Diocese will abide by the restoration and/or reconstruction plan developed by the said Task Force. It awaits the rapid creation of the Task Force's field office headquartered at the NM's branch in Tagbilaran opposite the Tagbilaran Cathedral. Aside from technical experts from the National Government cultural agencies, the Diocese fields its Sacred Architecture Committee members as collaborators with the Task Force's field office. This said committee is one of five under the Diocese's Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.  It is constituted of four architects trained in heritage conservation and two structural engineers.

2. What form of cooperative engagement will we have here?
MOAs will be signed on Thursday between the NM (which has jurisdiction over all the declared churches in the Diocese), the Provincial Government of Bohol, and the Diocese of Tagbilaran. The MOAs come under the umbrella of R.A. 10066 and the above-referenced Holy See - Philippines international agreement. Bilateral or multilateral agreements will subsequently be entered into with other National Government cultural agencies as the needs arise.

3. How will the donations be managed and reported?
On the matter of donations to the Diocese of Tagbilaran for restoration and reconstruction, all will be receipted and accounted for. List of donors will be published from time to time as well as expenses incurred during the restoration process.  The Diocese has the time-honored custom of printing in the weekly news bulletins of its parishes all the donations, tithes, offerings given and the expenditures incurred. It will do the same for this massive project.

Built heritage damaged by Central Visayas earthquake
This is a list of built heritage damaged during the October 15, 2013 earthquake that hit Central Visayas. This list is not limited to religious structures. Please update this list by commenting below.

Declared properties: NCT - National Cultural Treasure; NHL - National Historical Landmark; ICP - Important Cultural Property; HH - Heritage House

Alburquerque Church (ICP) - minimal damage
Baclayon Church (NCT & NHL) - facade & belfry collapsed
Balihan Watchtower (NCT) - totally destroyed
Bohol Capitol (ICP)
Carmen Church - nave with ceiling murals collapsed
Clarin Church - church collapsed
Clarin House, Loay (HH)
Cortes Church - facade collapsed
Dauis Church (NCT & NHL) - facade collapsed
Dimiao Church (NHL) -
Inabanga Church - facade left standing
Loay Church (NHL) - facade collapsed
Loboc Church (NCT & NHL) -
Loon Church (NCT & NHL) - totally destroyed
Maribojoc Church (NCT & NHL) - totally destroyed
Maribojoc Presidencia
Panglao Watchtower (NCT) - roof fell in
Punta Cruz Watchtower, Maribojoc (NCT)
Tubigon Church - facade collapsed

Argao Church (NHL) - minor damage, baluster of belfry gave way
Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino - belfry collapsed
Carcar Church - big crack in belfry; may collapse
Cebu Cathedral - aesthetic damage to facade
Dalaguete Church (NHL) - heavy damage to belfry and pediment; may collapse
Fort San Pedro - heavy damage to walls
Sibonga Church - some cracks

Related articles
FAQs on church heritage conservation in the Philippines
Bohol: Visita iglesia, heritage churches and watchtowers

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

India: Applying for an Indian visa in the Philippines

Here are some tips for applying for an Indian visa in the Philippines. Although Tourist Visa on Arrival is available for Philippine tourists (details below), it's best to get a visa here in the Philippines. The application process is very straightforward as long as you are able to submit all of the requirements. If there are missing requirements, that will create problems. It takes 4 to 5 working days for the issue of a tourist visa.

The application form is completed online and once accomplished, is printed out for submission to the application center in Makati. Here is the website for the online application.

BLS India Visa Application Center is located at 902, One Corporate Plaza, Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City. Here is a location map of the application center.

Aside from the printed application form which you have to accomplish online, you will need to submit the following:
1. Two latest color photographs (size: 2x2 inches) showing full frontal view of face against a white background to be pasted on the application form. Photograph should not be stapled. To know more about photo specification:
2. Passport with a minimum validity of six months. Note also that you will not be allowed to leave the Philippines if your passport has less than 6 months validity
3. Photocopy of the passport bio page
4. Copy of the return ticket or itinerary needs to be produced at the time of submission of the application. Don't book your ticket until your visa is approved
5. Proof of financial standing / recent bank statement
6. Travel voucher or itinerary, complete with hotel bookings
7. Visa fee of Php2,210; Php148 BLS service charge; and mandatory passport delivery fee of Php190 (whether you prefer to pick it up or have it delivered, this is not refundable) for total of Php2,548.
8. Invitation letter from family, friend or sponsor in India (if applicable). You may also be asked to produce a certificate of employment and other documents.

Applications are accepted from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and are released between 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. unless you select the courier service which can be delivered anytime within the day. For inquiries, you may contact BLS at (02) 5555060 or 4789152 / Fax No. (02) 4789152 or via e-mail at It's best to apply at least 2 weeks before your flight to India.

Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVOA)
The average waiting time to get a TVOA at the airport is between 3 to 4 hours because of the long lines. So if you're in a tour group or need to get out of the airport quick, you have to get your visa in the Philippines. The TVOA valid for 30 days is available to Philippine passport holders entering India through the airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, whose sole objective for visiting India is tourism, casual visits or short duration medical treatment. You should present your passport with at least six months validity and your return ticket, and prove availability of sufficient funds for your stay. Visa fee is US$60 payable in its equivalent in Indian rupees. Fill out the application form when you arrive at the airport and attach one passport size photograph. Here are the complete details of the TVOA.

Hope that helps! Namaste!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2014 (Proclamation No. 655, s. 2013)

Hunyo 12 by Claude Tayag (1989 Fiestas Serigraph Series)

If things go our way, we have nine long weekends to look forward to in 2014! And several of them would be at least five days! And if you do the math, you can plan for a 12-day vacation next Christmas!

Malacanang issued Proclamation No. 655, s. 2013 declaring the regular holidays, special non-working days, and a special school holiday for 2014. Instead of just giving you the same list of holidays of the Republic of the Philippines for 2014, this will help you read in between the lines with confirmed long-weekends, expected long-weekends and a possible 12-day vacation with one or two leaves:

  • January 1 (Wed) - New Year's Day (five-day long weekend from December 28 to January 1)
  • January 31 (Fri) - Chinese New Year (three-day long weekend from January 31 to February 2)
  • February 25 (Sat) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (holiday for schools only)
  • April 9 (Wed) - Araw ng Kagitingan
  • April 17 (Thu) - Holy Thursday
  • April 18 (Fri) - Good Friday 
  • April 19 (Sat) - Black Saturday (four-day long weekend from April 17 to 20)
  • May 1 (Thu) - Labor Day
  • June 12 (Thu) - Independence Day
  • July 28  (Mon) - Eid'l Fitr (possible three-day long weekend from July 26 to 28)
  • August 21 (Thu) - Ninoy Aquino Day
  • August 25 (Mon) - National Heroes Day (three-day long weekend from August 23 to 25)
  • October 4 (Sat) - Eid'l Adha (possible three-day long weekend if holiday declared on October 3)
  • November 1 (Sat) - All Saints Day
  • November 30 (Sun) - Bonifacio Day (three-day long weekend from November 30 to December 2)
  • December 24 (Wed) - Special Non-Working Day
  • December 25 (Thu) - Christmas Day 
  • December 26 (Fri) - Special Non-Working Day (five-day long weekend from December 26 to 28; and if you take a leave on December 29, you could have a twelve-day vacation from Ddecember 24 to January 4, 2015)
  • December 30 (Tue) - Rizal Day
  • December 31 (Wed) - Last Day of the Year (three-day long weekend from December 30 to January 1, 2015 but it could extend to six days until January 4 if January 2, 2015 is declared a Special Non-Working Holiday next year)

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