Saturday, April 23, 2011

Visita Iglesia 2011

In the Philippines, there is a tradition called “visita iglesia” (church visit) which is carried out during Holy Week. The practice probably originated in Rome and was introduced in the Philippines by the Spanish Catholic friars. Traditionally, the faithful visit seven churches on Holy Thursday but now church visits are done throughout  the Lenten period; some have expanded it to fourteen churches, saying one Station of the Cross in each church.

St Therese - UPLB campus

San Antonio - Los Banos Crossing

Immaculate Conception - Los Banos Bayan
For the past several years, it seems that on Good Friday we always end up in Liliw, Laguna, having started out from Los Baños. This year, we altered our route a bit. Still starting close to home, we first went to the church (St. Therese) inside the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus, followed by two churches still in Los Banos (San Antonio in Crossing and the Immaculate Conception in Bayan). Then came the church (St. Augustine) in the next town, Bay. We had started out at around 11 am and it was a hot day! Everytime we would get out of the air-cooled car, we could feel the intense heat pounding on our heads. By the time we were in Bay, we were ready for some cool refreshment – “dirty ice cream”! 

The next church was the one in Pila, then onto Pagsanjan. It was already past lunch time; I could not remember how to get to one restaurant that I had been to before so we drove on. We were supposed to go to Nagcarlan then Liliw (as in previous years) but then when we got to the intersection, we saw that Caliraya was just 7 km away. Well, why not? We had not seen the man-made lake for quite some time and we could have lunch there.

St Augustine - Bay

St Anthony - Pila

Our Lady of Guadalupe - Pagsanjan

Caliraya looked different from what I remembered; there were resorts and other establishments that did not use to be there. Anyway we were starving by this time and we saw this quaint restaurant by the roadside. Waiting for our orders to be cooked took a while; we finally had lunch at around 2 pm.

We still had one more church to go to complete the seven; we decided to go to Paete. Driving into town, we saw the places that did wood carvings but they were closed. The roads seemed to be getting narrower and when we were almost at the town proper, the road was blocked! There was a procession under way and traffic had been re-routed. We had to pass even narrower roads in order to get back to the highway. By this time, the pounding in my head that had started in Pagsanjan was a full-blown headache (I guess it was because of the combined effects of heat and hunger) and I was eager to get back home.

On the way back we decided to make one last effort and turned into the road leading to the town of Victoria. We always pass the town’s sign on the highway but have never really seen the town proper. We had been driving for a while but still had not located the church even when it seemed we had reached the end of the town. Why no one thought of asking for directions, I don’t know. Finally, we decided to turn back and when  we were almost back to where we had started from I spotted the church (or maybe it was their chapel) but then it was close. Oh well, maybe next year we will complete the seven.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Taal Volcano

Whenever we go to Tagaytay we always stop to view the Taal lake and volcano. On our most recent visit tho, we decided that we would go and see the crater up close. We were in Tagaytay for a wedding and scheduled our trek to Taal for the following day. The hotel we stayed at had contacted a guide who would accompany us on the boat ride from Talisay to Taal. We had to drive down to Talisay from our hotel close to the Tagaytay rotunda then boarded the boat for the 20 minute boatride to Taal. Upon reaching Taal, we registered at the visitor center. To get to the crater, you can either walk or go on horseback. I had wanted to go on foot but since we were pressed for time we decided to take the horses instead. It turned out to be a good decision since the trail is sandy/rocky and gets quite dusty at times especially when you are trailing behind the horses. The horse I was on was quite aggressive and always trotted on ahead of the others. Of course each horse had its own guide so I felt quite safe, but my butt did hurt afterwards!

Upon reaching the top (after about 40 minutes), the horses and their guides had the chance to rest while we climbed the remaining steps to the viewpoint. Wow! You can see the crater lake that seemed to be boiling in some places; there was steam rising from the sides of the lake and you could smell the sulfurous fumes (rotten egg smell). There were some stalls selling refreshments at the top and not surprisingly there were also souvenir items (mostly T-shirts).

Friday, April 8, 2011

White Beach and Sabang, Puerto Galera

White Beach 

I have been to Puerto Galera a few times before but the visit I enjoyed the most was the most recent one in February (18th to 20th). The local businesses may not agree, but for me this was a perfect time since there were not too many people, just enough.

We drove to the Batangas Port; getting there was a breeze via the new SLEX extension then the Star Tollway. Parking at the Port seemed secure enough; we took one of the many boats waiting to ferry visitors. Our destination was White Beach and the boat took us right in front of the many economy- accommodations that were only too eager to have you stay with them. Remember this was not peak season yet and prices at these places were also considerably lower.

Leaving Batangas Port
Approaching White Beach
Arriving at White Beach

From our room and balcony, we had a spectacular view of the beach and the water. I was almost content to just sit and watch but the beach was very inviting too. 

The view from our balcony

You will definitely not go hungry at White Beach; there are numerous food stalls and restaurants and very persuasive hawkers. You will also find lots of shops that sell beach wear, footwear, earrings, bracelets and other souvenir items. Want a tattoo? Permanent or henna? You have lots of choices among the many talented local tattoo artists. My daughter and I had henna tattoes done by a guy sporting a huge afro! Massage, anyone? There are masseuses plying the beachwalk offering their services. What better way to get the tension out of sore muscles than a massage under the shade of trees right on the sandy beach! Fancy a lesson in scuba diving? There are places that offer that too!

After the spectacular sunset, White Beach nightlife begins. You can have your dinner right at the beach while enjoying the live shows (mostly gay shows and what talent they have!) at the bars. There are also the daring “fire dancers” at the beach. And don’t forget, your nightlife experience won’t be complete without the “Mindoro Sling” (a concoction of fruit juice and rum).

Mindoro Sling

We had heard so much about Sabang from our foreigner friends and we were curious to see the place. You can reach Sabang by boat but we opted to hire a tricycle. There were four of us and we were able to squeeze into one tricycle (plus the driver). It was quite a bumpy ride and uphill at that. There were times when I held on tightly while also holding my breath. My husband got a few bumps on his head.


If you are after lounging and sunbathing on the beach, or swimmimg/wading in the water, then Sabang is not the place to go. Sabang is more of a snorkeling and diving area; there are no stretches of sandy beach. Accommodations here are nestled into the mountain slopes. Many of the establishments  cater to divers; they also offer diving lessons. They also say that Sabang has its own nightlife and visitors from White Beach and other places around Puerto Galera come to experience it. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011


On her day off from work, our landlady graciously offered to take us to Junee, a town 30 kms north of Wagga. It was a beautiful day and after a short pleasant drive we arrived at the charming and quiet town. Visitors to Junee head to visit the famous Monte Cristo mansion, said to be Australia’s most haunted homestead. There is an entrance fee and then you are free to meander through the main house and its grounds; there is also a gift shop and antique store.

The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is another famous destination. Originally a flour factory known for its specialty organic flours and bread mixes, it has been converted into a licorice and chocolate factory whose products can now be found in specialty shops and stores around the world.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lake Albert, Wagga

Lake Albert is one of Wagga's most popular recreational facilities. One can indulge in various aquatic activities such as boating, water skiing, swimming, and fishing. It is also a great place for a picnic; it has barbecue facilities and a children’s playground. There is a walking (and cycling) track and fitness stations. I followed the 5.5 km walking path that goes around the lake. I tried to walk briskly to get an aerobic workout but I had my camera with me and I often stopped to take photos. It took me about an hour to complete the walk and was rewarded with a beautiful sunset!