Lunes, Setyembre 23, 2013

Tips Advices on Palawan Philippines Visit

The astonishing island on the right is Palawan Philippines. Famous around the world for its rich natural resource. Got plans on visiting the Philippines? What are the good places to visit on the country? Is it worth the travel time and budget?
Some may know it, some may not, but the Philippines is one of the best places to spend a relaxing vacation. There are a number of activities to do when visiting the Philippines. People who enjoy mountain climbing, biking, bird watching, a camp on the woods, etc…may do it on the mountain regions. A person may also experience the joys of island hopping, surfing, swimming, kayaking, etc… on the wonderful beaches of the Philippines. For city people who prefer malling, watching good movies on inexpensive high quality theaters, eating superb food, may do it on the numerous super malls of the country.
However, to truly enjoy and be left in awe at the beauty and exoticness (if ever there was a term), it would be highly advisable to visit El Nido Palawan.
For those who are not aware, El Nido is one of the popular Palawan island resorts – actually, some claims that it is the most popular. Contained herewith highlights Palawan island activities that we have done during our 3D2N (3-days and 2-night) stay and is beneficial to the following readers:
  • Anyone who is wondering what when going to Palawan El Nido and how to go about doing it.
  • First time visitors of the said island resort
  • Readers who thinks that a 3 day and 2 night stay is quite short

5:28 am – Arrival at ITI (Island Transvoyager Incorporated) hangar

Arrived at ITI or A. Soriano airport area / hangar. This is located between Manila domestic airport and NAIA terminal 3. For those who are not that familiar with the place, it is a right turn near the only stop light in the vicinity. The actual address is located at the corner of Lima Road and Andrews Avenue, Domestic Airport, Pasay City. ITI is actually a private airport operator to Palawan El Nido.

7:00 am – Scheduled Departure from Manila to Palawan El Nido

The scheduled departure was done on time. Breakfast was served though this may depend on the type of package that you get. We took the so-called “complete package” which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Almost all the popular Palawan resort activities are included on the package except for the massage, scuba diving, and drinks.
We were served with different varieties of muffin and cupcake while at the ITI departure airport (an exclusive area for people who will be going to Palawan El Nido). As for the drinks, you may choose between iced tea, hot tea, and coffee.
A short bus ride will take you to the 56-seat airplane.

7:55 am – Plane landed at LIO airport on Palawan Island

Guests are welcomed with a song and one can really feel the ambiance of hospitality. FYI please that this island is not yet the actual resort that we are booked to. Palawan El NIdo is made up of 45 smaller islands and the landing area of the LIO airport terminal is just one of them.
Actually, El Nido has four popular islands which are listed below:
  • Lagen
  • Minilog
  • Dibululan
  • Entalulan
There are two huts – one for arrival and the other for departure. Snacks are also served here – Kuchinta (a local delicacy) and drinks (similar with the ones listed above).

9:20 am – Arrival at Lagen island resort

As mentioned, the island to which the plane landed is not yet the actual resort. We have to board a Jeepney to the shore to which a speed boat is waiting. The speed boat will then bring us to a medium size banca (local term for boat) that will bring us to to theLagen Island Palawan Resort. The boat ride is approximately 45 minutes. Once in Lagen, we have to transfer again to a speed boat since the medium size banca is not small enough to reach the shore.
Again, the staff welcomed us with a joyful song, pandan juice, and peanuts. While enjoying the free drinks, the resort manager explained to us the rules of the resort, activities, etc…
Since the package that we got already includes many of the popular activities, we simply asked the front desk to draft us the time of the activities.
While waiting for lunch time, we snorkeled and kayak at the Lagen Palawan Resort.

12 noon – Lunch time

Our package includes a buffet lunch. Foods include grilled shrimp, grilled pork, grilled squids, salads with different varieties of dressing, bread, soup, etc…
Oh hi Marlin! Still looking for Nemo? Your way off u know (Pun obviously intended) :)
Oh hi Marlin! Still looking for Nemo? Your way off u know (Pun obviously intended) :)

2 pm – visit to the small and big lagoon at Miniloc Islands

Lagen to Miniloc is more or less 45 minutes boat ride. At the big lagoon, we transferred to a speed boat for the tour wherein the guide pointed different natural wonders. Snorkeling can be done on the big lagoon. We spend 30 minutes appreciating the beauty of big lagoon before going to the small lagoon.
The small lagoon of Miniloc islands is another place of beauty. Here, we toured using a kayak instead of the speed boat. Snorkeling can also be done on the small lagoon.

5 pm – Went back to Lagen island for the sunset cruise.

The sunset cruise is basically going to the middle of the sea to enjoy a clear and magnificent view of the sunset. Here, one can take pictures at the boat as the water is very calm.

7 pm – Dinner time

Just like lunch, the dinner included on the package is buffet style. The grilled selections are still available but this time, pizza and pansit are included.

630 am – Boat ride to Miniloc

At 630 am, we are scheduled to go to Miniloc resort for breakfast. The selection included on the breakfast buffet is really delicious (fresh juice drinks are included on the buffet). Be warned though not to eat too much as it may be difficult to swim / snorkel.
Three suggested things to do in Miniloc are the following:
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkeling
  • Feeding and swimming with the “Jack” fish
Be sure to only feed the Jack fish (Talakitok) from a safe distance as they are really big. They are essentially harmless unless you have their food on your hand when you go snorkeling – so be sure to empty your hands.
Also, be sure to wear foot fins or booties as there are some sea urchins at Miniloc. There are various fish species found in Miniloc and some of which can be seen on the pictures below.

130 pm – Island Hopping

We went to three islands whose name I forgot since it is quite hard to remember – all are in native dialect and quite long. We explored two caves at two separate islands.

5 pm – Back to Lagen Resort

At this time, we no longer attended the sunset cruise activity as basically it is the same thing done yesterday.
While waiting for dinner, we shoot some pool, played darts, and table tennis.

7 pm – Dinner buffet

Not much to say about here except delicious food. The food was actually made much more delicious as our energy was totally spent due to various daytime activities.

630 am – Forest hiking

On this activity, we trekked the forest and ended up on the beach house on the other side of the island. One can Kayak back to Lagen but for those who are too tired, a speed boat for pick-up may be requested.

7 am – Breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet at Lagen also has fresh fruit juice drinks included. By the way, fresh fruits are included on each meal.

9 am – Boat ride to Dibululan Island

This island is one of the four popular islands in Palawan. As usual, snorkeling and kayaking are the usual activities on the island. We also ate lunch here at noon and went back to Lagen at 1 PM.

1 pm – Back to Lagen for check out preparations

Usually, the checkout time must be noon but the Palawan resort is accommodating enough to let us stay up to 2:30 PM.

3 pm – Departure from Lagen Island resort

At 3 pm, we have departed to Lagen and going back to the island where the plane strip is located (LIO airport). As usual, we need to make some speed boat transfer and a jeepney ride.

3:55 pm – Arrival at the plane strip

We are served afternoon snacks while the plane is prepping up. Our estimated time of departure flight is 5 pm so we took this opportunity to take some pictures and marvel at the beautiful island of Palawan El Nido.

610 pm – Arrival at NAIA Terminal 3

The plane landed on NAIA Terminal 3. We took a bus ride to the ITI hangar where our luggage is already waiting for us.

The Perfect Cone and the Big Spots (DIY Donsol & Legazpi Bicol)

Bicol, Philippines

The trip to Bicol was what inspired me to make itineraries for groups. It was a labor day holiday and I wanted to see the whale sharks in Donsol. I asked my officemates if they wanted to come and boom... I was making an itinerary for 9 people!
Bicol can be reached from Manila either via an 11 hours bus ride or about an hour flight.
Other than the whale sharks in Donsol, other things one can do in Bicol are wake boarding in Camarines Sur, island hopping in the beautiful Caramoan, and visiting the perfect cone shape Mayon Volcano.
We just had enough time to do the Legazpi City Tour (which included visiting Mayon Volcano) and to swim with the whale sharks at Donsol.
At the Boulevard
At the Boulevard
Source: munchwaffle
Madame Cross
Madame Cross
Source: munchwaffle
Inside Lignon Hill Tunnel
Inside Lignon Hill Tunnel
Source: munchwaffle
Under the Cagsawa Ruins
Under the Cagsawa Ruins
Source: munchwaffle
The painted white Daraga Church
The painted white Daraga Church
Source: munchwaffle
DJC Halo-halo
DJC Halo-halo
Source: munchwaffle

Legazpi, Albay Bicol

Upon arriving via the long bus trip from Manila, we immediately rented a van at the bus terminal for a City Tour of Legazpi.
We started the City Tour at the Boulevard and Embarcadero. We just took a quick picture with the view of the sea and Mayon Volcano at the Boulevard. There were locals exercising there and having a morning stroll. After the picture we headed back to the rented van and just passed by Embarcadero. It was early morning and everything was closed. Embarcadero is actually a mall and according to their website they also already opened a zipline and kart racing.
Next stop was at Madame Cross. While we were taking pictures there our van driver/tour guide was telling us about the history of the place. He said it was built in memory of a lot of people who died in that area during a flash flood in 2006 (typhoon Reming). After knowing that fact it started to get dark then rain suddenly poured on us - creepy.
By the time we reached Lignon Hill which was our next destination, the rain had stopped. We had to walk up the hill for 20 minutes to get a wonderful view of the perfect cone of the Mayon Volcano. There was also a zipline located at the top and they would take a picture of the person zipping with the view of the volcano for 250P. We were already satisfied with just looking at the volcano and taking pictures while drinking a bottle of soda from the cafeteria by the view deck.

On our way down the hill we also tried going inside the Japanese Tunnel. Inside were Japanese soldier mannequins and antique objects. Not much to do in the tunnel except scare each other.
Then we saw the Cagsawa Ruins. It is what remains of a Baroque Church that was built in the 18th century but was buried during the 1814 Mayon Volcano eruption. It is one of the most popular destinations in Legazpi.
Another popular destination we went to is the Daraga Church which is also an 18th century church. When we went there a mass was on-going. The church's facade is painted white which was a disappointment since it interferes with the classic baroque look. Although it says in the official Legazpi website that the color will be back after a year's time and it is just for protection.
Our last destination was - lunch! Bicol is well known for their wonderful dishes. We were supposed to eat at the recommended Small Talk Café but it was still closed. As per our driver's recommendation we ate instead at Boklan Food Center which had a Chinese restaurant setting. Afterwards was dessert at DJC Halo-halo ('halo' is a FIlipino term for mix - hence, mixture of several ingredients). We loved the DJC Halo-halo. It had lots of purple yam and leche flan (Filipino milk custard) and topped with shredded cheese.
Trip Tip: We payed 1700P, we are 9 in the group. The standard rate for a half day tour is 1500P, but one should go directly to the vans for hire, else like us the tricycle driver who offered to find a van got an additional 200P.

Mayon Volcano

Random tourist zipping with the view of Mayon Volcano - Unfortunately there was fog at the tip when we visited, but still a great view
Random tourist zipping with the view of Mayon Volcano - Unfortunately there was fog at the tip when we visited, but still a great view
Source: munchwaffle
Banca(s) or trigger boats ready to be boarded for the firefly tour
Banca(s) or trigger boats ready to be boarded for the firefly tour
Source: munchwaffle
looking for the twinkling firefly trees
looking for the twinkling firefly trees
Source: munchwaffle
post card bought after the Whale Shark Interaction tour
post card bought after the Whale Shark Interaction tour
Source: munchwaffle

Donsol, Sorsogon

Donsol was just 1.5 hours away from Legazpi. We hired our own van going to our rented place since anyway we were 9 people in the group. There is also an option to take a commuter van or a jeep in Daraga if traveling in a less numbered group.
Our hotel of choice was Amor Beach Resort since it was the number one bed and breakfast in Trip Advisor. Their food there was to rave about - everything was yummy! While we were there we had Bicolano dishes such as Adobadong Chicken, Sweet Potato Leaves in Coconut Milk (locally called as Laing), and Ray fish or Pagi with Coconut Milk (locally called as Kinunot).
We signed-up for the firefly tour as soon as we checked-in. After which we walked for about less than 10 minutes to sign up for the next day's Whale Shark Interaction at the tourist center. After payment we were asked to watch a video with the Do's and Dont's of Whale Shark Interaction.
Before dusk we were off to the firefly tour which was a very romantic activity. We rode a small trigger boat locally called as bangka while cruising the Ogod river. Then we saw the fireflies twinkling like Christmas lights around a big tree at the pitch darkness. Once in a while we also see stray fireflies pass us by. Our boatman told us that there was once a couple that actually proposed during the firefly tour - sweet!
Early the next day we went back to the tourist center where we signed up the previous day for the Whale Shark Interaction. We had to wait for almost an hour even if we signed up earlier then the others, as to why I didn't know. Even those who just signed up just early the same day got on a boat before us. I was already about to go back inside the center to complain when we were called to our boat.

We had two staff with us along with the boatmen - a BIO or Butanding Interaction Officer and a Whale Shark Spotter. The Whale Shark Spotter as named spots a whale shark and tells the boatman to go in that direction. Once there the BIO jumps in the water and checks the exact location of the whale shark then shouts for us to jump in the blue grey water. He then pulls us (only if one wants to) as close as possible near the whale shark. But not too near for the whale shark to be hurt by our fins or for us to bump on the whale shark.
For someone who was not comfortable with water it was quite nerve wrecking at first even if I had a life jacket and the required mask, snorkel and fins. However, when I saw the magnificent creature so near me I was awe struck. Immediately during the first jump, a whale shark as big as a bus passed just a feet below me. After ten jumps in the water, 2 of which were unsuccessful, I was able to see six whale sharks - enough to have me dazed for a long time :)

Donsol Whale Shark Interaction

Whale sharks are locally called as 'Butanding'. They are the biggest fish in the world and NO, they do not eat humans. Instead they are filter feeders and eat only species such as krill and plankton.
See all 12 photos
Whale sharks are locally called as 'Butanding'. They are the biggest fish in the world and NO, they do not eat humans. Instead they are filter feeders and eat only species such as krill and plankton.

Most Treasured Cultural World Heritage Sites of Thailand

Sukhothai, Thailand
Sukhothai, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand

UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in Thailand

One of the exotic countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts of a culture that is both indigenous to the Thais as well as influenced by the people of India, China, and Southeast Asian countries.
Thai culture is heavily influenced by world religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
It is no wonder that one can find highly treasured cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Thailand.
These cultural world heritage sites are results of the rich Thai history.
The modern-day Thais trace their ancestral roots to southern China from where they moved to current-day Thailand in about 10th century A.D.
The early Thais established the ancient kingdoms in Sukhothai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Mai, Lanna, and Ayutthaya.
Despite the skirmishes among these kingdoms and notwithstanding the looming threats from neighboring Southeast Asian countries and Europe, Thailand has managed to remain a united country and to avoid foreign colonial rules.
Indeed, its rich history has influenced the cultural wealth of Thailand, which in turn spawned the most treasured cultural world heritage sites in the country.

1. Ancient Town of Sukhothai and its Related Old Towns

The first Thai capital, Sukhothai was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 because it serves as a glorious testament to the beginnings of Thai architecture and culture.
As the capital of Thailand from the 13th to the 14th centuries, Sukhothai was a melting pot of local and foreign traditions.
The early Thais used these traditions to forge the unique Sukhothai style of architecture.
In the old Sukhothai, one can see the ancient monastery of Mahathat together with its temple and cemetery; the Sra Si Wat and its two stupas; and a prang or a reliquary tower.
Nearby is the ancient town of Sukhothai Si Stacham, which is famous for its old ceramics and buildings, the most famous of which is Chedi Chet Thao or the temple with seven points or stupas that point to the skies.
Also nearby is the ancient town of Kamohena Pet or the wall of diamonds that played a significant role in shielding Sukhothai until the kingdom’s downfall.

2. Ancient City of Ayutthaya

Spread across 2,500 square kilometers of land, the ancient city of Ayutthaya or the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya was honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its impressive ancient ruins and art works.
It was Thailand’s capital for about 400 years and is the second Thai capital after the fall of Sukhothai.
As an old capital, Ayutthaya today offers its visitors magnificent architectural ruins that can take one back in time.
It has remarkable reliquary towers or prang and huge monasteries that give visitors a view of the past glory of the second capital before it was sacked by the Burmese in the 18th century.
Ayutthaya became Thailand’s capital in 1350 when then King U-Thong and his people rushed south of the country in hopes to fend off the threats from their northern neighbors.
Since then, Ayutthaya was ruled by at least 33 kings from various dynasties, with each contributing to the architectural wonders for which Ayutthaya has become known.
These wonders can be found in numerous places across Ayutthaya’s 16 districts or Amphoe.
These districts are Bang Ban, Bang Pa-In, Bang Pahan, Ban Phraek Bang Sai, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang, Maha Rat Nakhon Luang, Phachi, Phak Hai, Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya, Sena, Tha Ruea, Uthai, and Wang Noi.
Some of the ancient ruins found in Ayutthaya are the Phra Chedi Suriyothai, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Lokayasutha, Wat Mahathat, Wat Phanan Choeng, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit, Wat Phu Khao Thong, Royal Elephant Kraal, and the ancient Japanese settlement.
Ayutthaya was declared a cultural world heritage site by the UNESCO in December 1991 because it bears outstanding architectural testimonies of the traditions and civilizations of ancient Thailand.

3. Historical Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

Located in Udon Thani, Thailand, the 64-hectare Ban Chiang archeological site is arguably the most important pre-historic settlement ever discovered in Southeast Asia according to UNESCO, the creators of the World Heritage List.
The Ban Chiang site yields priceless pieces of evidence of the earliest Asian agriculture and metallurgy, thereby marking a significant phase in Asian social and technological progress.
This progress is said to have happened independently of the agricultural and metallurgical evolution in China, India and the rest of Southeast Asia.
The pieces of evidence from Ban Chiang, which are dated as early as the 5th millennium B.C., make Ban Chiang a genuine cultural world heritage site.
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista
All Rights Reserved

Scenic Sojourn at South Korea’s UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites

Hwaseong Fortress
Hwaseong Fortress
Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace

UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in South Korea

With its handful of UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites and avid appetite for technology and development, South Korea offers its visitors a fine contrast of ancient and modern cultures arguably found nowhere else in the world.
In this country, one can find at least nine cultural world heritage sites:
  • Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto
  • Changdeokgung Palace Complex
  • Dolmen Sites at Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa
  • Gyeongju Historic Areas
  • Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon
  • Hahoe and Yangdong Historic Villages
  • Hwaseong Fortress
  • Jongmyo Shrine
  • Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs
These UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites from South Korea are ancient vestiges of the country’s glorious days of yore.
Fast-forward to the modern times and visitors can see South Korea as a country of people with can-do attitudes, undying persistence, and hard-wearing desires to carve its premium place in the global marketplace.
People have constructed modern buildings, transportation systems, technological wonders, and other modern fascinations that the mind could have never thought through.
This beautiful contrast between South Korea’s past and present is what makes visiting its UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites an experience that can forever be etched in the minds.
The cultural world heritage sites may explain South Korea’s historical and well-established motivations to achieve great things as a country.

1. Changdeokgung Palace Complex - a South Korean Cultural World Heritage Site Favored by the Royalty

Perhaps the most favored palace of the mighty princes of the Korean Joseon Dynasty, the Changdeokgung Palace Complex in Seoul, South Korea was inscribed the honor of being called a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage in 1997 for at three reasons:
  • Changdeokgung Palace Complex exhibits first-rate architecture, arts, and design in a cultural area of the world that is South Korea.
  • Changdeokgung Palace Complex is a testimony to a cultural tradition or a civilization that flourished but has now disappeared.
  • Changdeokgung Palace Complex represents an awe-inspiring type of a building or architectural structure that is important in human history.
The 15th-century construction of this UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in South Korea was started on the orders of King Taejong, who wanted government and royal buildings be put up in a 58-hectare garden that blends well with the natural features of Mt. Bugaksan.
Some of the most impressive structures found in this world heritage site include:
  • Donhwamun Gate = main gate of the palace complex
  • Geumcheongyo Bridge = oldest surviving bridge in the whole of Seoul
  • Injeongjeon Hall = throne hall
  • Seonjeongjeon Hall = King’s meeting hall
  • Huijeongdang Hall = King’s bedchamber then workplace
  • Daejojeon Hall = Queen’s official residence
  • Juhamnu Pavilion = royal library
  • Yeon-gyeongdang Residence = audience hall

2. Gyeongju Historic Areas - Cultural World Heritage Site in South Korea that is the World's Largest of its Kind

Touted as the largest outdoor museum in the world, the Gyeongju Historic Areas comprises the ancient ruins of outdoor sculptures, pagodas, reliefs, temples, and palaces built during the Korean Silla Kingdom between 7th and 10th centuries.
The Gyeongju Historic Areas was declared a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 2000 for it exhibits human values through monumental arts, architecture or designs and because it is a testimony to a by-gone civilization.
This world heritage site has at least four historic sub-sites:
  • Mount Namsan= a mountain considered as a sacred site by the Buddhists of the Silla Kingdom
  • Wolseong = houses architectural ruins of palaces, temples and pagodas
  • Tumuli Park = a park where royal tombs shaped like mounds of earth are found
  • Hwangnyongsa = houses the ruins of the Hwangnyongsa Temple and Bunhwangsa Temple

3. Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites - UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Most Number of Dolmens in the World

In Gochang, Hwasin, and Ganghwa, South Korea, one can find hundreds of dolmens or tombs made up of stone slabs from the 1st millennium B.C.
While dolmens are found elsewhere in the world, the staggering number of Neolithic and bronze-culture dolmens in the three sites in South Korea is considered to be the greatest ever discovered.
Indeed, it is said that about 40% of dolmens in the world are found in Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites.
These sites were collectively declared a World Heritages Site by UNESCO in 2000 for it is a unique testimony to a cultural tradition or civilization that has long disappeared.

4. Haeinsa Temple’s Janggyeong Panjeon

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Haeinsa Temple’s Janggyeong Panjeon houses the largest collection of ancient Buddhist text engraved on roughly 81,350 woodblocks carved between 1237 and 1248.
These woodblocks are collectively known as the Tripitaka Koreana or Palman Daejanggyeong , which literally means eighty-thousand tripitaka.
The tripitaka are said to be the oldest dated copies of Buddhist discourse, laws, and scriptures in Hanja script.
Moreover, these tripitaka are said to have zero scribal errors in its over 52,380,000 characters, 1,490 titles, and 6,500 volumes, signaling its high-quality workmanship.
The tripitaka are uniform in width – 70 centimeters – and length – 24 centimeters – but varies in thickness – between 2.4 and 4 centimeters.
Although the tripitaka were made in the 13th century, the actual Janggyeong Panjeon was renovated in the 15th century by King Sejo to house the woodblocks.
Located in the Goya Mountains of the South Gyeongsang province in South Korea, the Haeinsa Temple was inscribed the honor of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for two reasons:
  • The Haeinsa Temple’s Janggyeong Panjeon is an exceptional type of a building or architectural ensemble that has great importance in human history.
  • The ancient Haeinsa Temple’s Janggyeong Panjeon is tangibly related to modern-day traditions and beliefs that are of universal value.
The Haeinsa Temple or the Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea is actually part of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea or the three major Buddhist temples in South Korea.
These Three Jewel Temples are composed of Tongdosa Temple, which represents Buddha; Haeinsa Temple, which represents Buddha’s teachings; and Songgwangsa Temple, which represents the community of Buddhist worshippers.
Each of the Three Jewel Temples maintains architectures that highlight the temple’s purpose.
In Tongdosa Temple, the main hall houses a stupa that is said to contain the vestiges of Buddha himself.
In Songgwangsa Temple, the main halls have prominent places for the prayerful Buddhist community.
In the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Haeinsa Temple, the Janggyeong Panjeon houses the Tripitaka Koreana.

5. Hwaseong Fortress

Between 1794 and 1796, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hwaseong Fortress was built by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty when he moved to Suwon, South Korea the remains of his father Prince Sado, who was tragically murdered by his own father King Yeongjo.
King Jeongjo made sure that the tomb of his father was well-protected with massive fortresses, which extended about six kilometers, incorporated the military construction genius from the east and the west, and contained essential military fortifications.
The walls of this world heritage site measures between 13 and 20 feet in thickness and enclosed a land that originally measured 1.3 square kilometers.
The massive and extensive walls were punctured with only four equally massive gates called Janganmun in the north direction, Paldalmun in the southern direction, Hwaseomun in the western direction, and Changnyongmun in the eastern direction.
Other structures found in the heritage site are watch towers, archers’ platforms, bastions, beacons, pavilions, chimneys that can produce either fire or smoke signals, and lookout posts.
Some of the structures have ruined due to either war or time.
The UNESCO inscribed the title of World Heritage Site on the Hwaseong Fortress in 1997 for the ancient fortress represents an admirable ancient military architecture that brought together the breakthrough in military defense from the east and the west.

6. Hahoe and Yangdong Historic Villages

Representative of the aristocratic Confucian culture and historic clan villages, the scenic Hahoe and Yangdong villages were inscribed the honor of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010 for two reasons:
  • The Hahoe and Yangdong represent the Confucian ideals upheld by the rulers of the Joseon dynasty for over five hundred years. These ideals were reflected in the villages’ location, town planning, and building designs.
  • The Hahoe and Yangdong also reflect the Joseon dynasty’s traditions, philosophies, cultural precepts, and social structures.
Established between the 14th and 15th centuries, this world heritage site is nestled deep in forested mountains and faces the river and the farmlands.
This location is said to be ideal for the residents’ spiritual growth and social development.
In the village, one can find study halls, pavilions, and thatched-roofed houses, which can help oneimagine the old village lives in South Korea.

7. Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple

The spiritual monuments of Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple were inscribed the honor of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for they are masterpieces of Buddhist art in the Far East.
Overlooking the Sea of Japan at a height of 750 meters above sea level, the Seokguram Grotto is actually a secluded place inside the Bulguksa Temple.
It was constructed between 742 and 774 and has been the home to ancient sculptures of Buddha.
The Bulguksa Temple, on the other hand, has been considered as the masterpiece of Buddhist artistry of the Silla Dynasty and is considered as the premiere national treasure of Korea.
As a national treasure, this UNESCO World Heritage Site exhibits priceless Korean riches like pagodas, bridges, statues, and stone lanterns.

8. Jongmyo Shrine

The oldest and arguably the most genuine surviving Confucian shrine reserved for the Korean royalty of the olden times is the Jongmyo Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site honored in 1995 for its outstanding representation of a building or architectural ensemble that highlights select significant stages of Korean history.
Built in the 14th century by the orders of King Taejo, this cultural world heritage site was dedicated to the rulers of the Korean Joseon Dynasty and in fact houses the tablets on which the teachings of the rulers as well as the members of their royal clan are contained.
Since the Joseon Dynasty had several kings and queens during its reign from 1392 to 1910, the Jongmyo Shrine had to be expanded to accommodate the royalty’s teachings on tablets.
King Sejong started the expansion program when he created the Yeongnyeongjeon or the Hall of Eternal Comfort and since then other constructions began until 19 rooms had been constructed.
Much of the original complex, however, was burned down by invading Japanese in May 1592 during the Seven-Year War.
This cultural world heritage site, however, was restored by the Koreans in 1608. More renovations were done in 1667, 1778 and 1836, bringing the total number of rooms to 35 at the Jongmyo Shrine.
To date, these rooms lodge 19 tablets from kings and 30 tablets from queens that survived the war.
The Jongmyo Shrine has unassuming features:
  • Changyeopmun or the main gate
  • Mangmyoru or the waiting area of a king during traditional rituals
  • Gongmingdang or the shrine dedicated to the Goryeo King
  • Hyangdaecheong or the building where ritual paraphernalia are stored
  • Jaesil or the waiting area for the participants of traditional rituals
At the Jongmyo Shrine, traditional rituals of dance and musical performances are held, the same practices that go back as early as the 14th century when the shrine was built.
These rituals are regarded as an intangible heritage for their antiquity and significance to the Korean history.

9. Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty

The final resting place of some of the distinguished rulers of Korea, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty was honored as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 2009 for three reasons:
  • The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty is a sacred place for traditional funeral rituals. It fuses Confucian culture, the natural beauty of a landscape, and the principles of pungsu, to create a memorable place of outstanding beauty and historical significance.
  • The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty represents a development in the use of earth mounds as burial places in East Asia. It also reinforces the age-old practice of ancestral worship in Korea.
  • The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty is directly associated with the Korean people’s annual practice of revering the dead. These prescribed rites of honoring the departed have continued up to the present time.
Found in Gyeonggi-do and Seoul, this UNESCO World Heritage Site actually refers to 40 tombs spread across 18 locations in South Korea.
The tombs are found in Donggureung, Gwangneung, Heolleung and Illeung, Hongneung andYureung, Jangneung (Gimpo, Paju, and Yeongwol), Jeongneung, Olleung, Paju Samneung, Sareung, Seolleung and Jeongneung, Seo-oreung, Seosamneung, Taereung andGangneung, Uireung, Yeongneung and Yeongneung, and Yungneung and Geolleung.
Some of their distinct features include:
  • Bigak or a stone monument that contains the names of the king or the queen as well as their earthly accomplishments as leaders of Korea
  • Bongbun or the place where the remains of the king or queen lies
  • Honnyuseok or the rectangular stone in front of the earth mound that is believed to entice the soul to get out of the mound
  • Jeongjagak or the area reserved for the memorial services for the dead
  • Muinseok or a statue of a soldier that is believed to guard the king
  • Seokho or the tiger deity that is believed to guard the Bongbun or the place where the remains of the king or queen lie
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista
All Rights Reserved

Priceless Cultural World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

the Philippines

Banaue Rice Terraces by the Ifugao People of the Philippines
Banaue Rice Terraces by the Ifugao People of the Philippines
An Old Chair in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
An Old Chair in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Cultural World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

A cultural melting pot in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is a country that practices traditions and customs from the Malays, Spaniards, Americans, Chinese, Japanese, and countless other ethnic groups from its about 7,107 islands.
These traditions and customs are also reflected in valuable cultural world heritage sites found in the country.
In ancient times, Arabs, Japanese, and Chinese people settled in the Philippines and brought with them Asian foods, religions, games, and festivities.
The Philippines was also visited by the Malay people from the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia who introduced early Filipinos to concepts of world religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
Many years afterwards, the colonization of Spain for 300 years created an indelible mark on Philippine culture, particularly its language, festivities, religion, architecture, cuisine, and pastimes.
Later on, the rule of the United States in the country acculturated Filipinos to American culture.
Because of its complex historical background, the Philippines now has several impressive cultural world heritage sites.

1. Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, Philippines

For over 2,000 years, the Filipinos in the Ifugao province in the Cordillera region of northern Luzon, Philippines, used their hands to harness the mountains and transform them into towering terraces of rice plantations that would eventually be recognized as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site.
They passed on their knowledge of carving and building according to the contours of the mountains from one generation to another, allowing them to build the world-renowned Ifugao Rice Terraces after two millennia.
Today, the Ifugao Rice Terraces is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines.
It earned this title for it is a testament to the Ifugao people's historical labor practices, value of sustainable and ecological harmony, and exemplary land use and sense of beauty.
While the Ifugao Rice Terraces is expansive, UNESCO specifically recognizes the value of five clusters of rice terraces in Nagadacan, Hungduan, Mayoyao, Bangaan, and Batad areas as cultural world heritage sites.

2. Historic Town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Established in the 1500s during the early years of the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, Vigan has stood the test of time and has remained gloriously intact until it was declared a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 1999.
In fact, a trip to Vigan would bring one back in time with its cobblestone streets, large colonial houses, and colonial urban landscape.
Vigan was considered a cultural world heritage site because nowhere else in East and Southeast Asia but in Vigan is there a place that manifests Asian fusion in building designs and European colonial architecture and planning.
Vigan was an important trading center in the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines. It traded directly with China and Mexico. The ships that docked at Vigan went on to trade in Europe, resulting in cultural exchanges among Filipinos, Chinese, Mexicans, Spanish, and North Americans.

3. Baroque-Style Catholic Churches in the Philippines

There are four churches in the Philippines that are inscribed the honor of being called a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
These Catholic churches are the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila; and Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
The four churches were honored as world heritage centers for they are the finest examples of how Filipinos craftsmen interpreted the Baroque style in order to suit the physical conditions of the tropical Philippines.
All the four churches were constructed using locally sourced materials and their decorative motifs were mostly inspired by the locals.
Thus, they can be said to be fusions of the European and Philippine church designs.
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista
All Rights Reserved

5 Most Stunning Scuba Diving Sites in the Philippines


Beach of Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
Beach of Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
Turtle in Tubbataha Reef, Philippines
Turtle in Tubbataha Reef, Philippines
Boasting of 7,107 islands and one of the most enviable marine ecosystems in the world, the Philippines has exceptional scuba diving sites spread across its archipelago.
The waters surrounding this tropical Southeast Asian country are enriched by the currents coming from the South China Sea in the west, Indian Ocean in the southwest, Celebes Sea in the south, the Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean in the east, and East China Sea in the north.
It is no wonder why the Philippines has astonishing amount of marine life – fishes, shells, corals, and invertebrates – that makes it one of the most preferred diving destinations in the Indo-Pacific region.
In fact, there are several diving destinations in each of the major Philippine island group:
1. Luzon
  • Batangas
  • Busuanga
  • Coron
  • Donsol
  • El Nido
  • La Union
  • Puerto Galera
  • Subic Bay
  • Tubbataha
2. Visayas
  • Bohol
  • Boracay
  • Camiguin
  • Dumaguete
  • Leyte
  • Mactan
  • Malapascua
  • Moalboal
  • Pandan
3. Mindanao
  • Dakak
  • Davao
  • Misamis Oriental
  • Sarangani Bay
If it is possible to name the five most stunning scuba diving sites in the Philippines, then the following sites would have to be included.

1. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan

About 98 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa, Palawan lies the pristine and protected 130,000-hectare Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a diver’s paradise inscribed as a natural wonder in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As a natural wonder, Tubbataha Reefs possesses superlative features: extremely steep and perpendicular walls that have very deep bottoms, impressive sandy lagoons, and reef platforms that occupy large swaths of space.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is also a diver’s paradise because it is a refuge to about 350 species of coral, 500 species of fishes, and marine animals that grow to humongous proportions: sharks, mantas, whales, wrasse, dolphins, groupers and turtles.
Gigantic sponges and sea fans also line the seabed of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

2. Coron Bay, Palawan

Somewhere between the Busuanga and Culion islands in northern Palawan, Philippines is the Coron Bay, arguably one of the finest wreck diving destinations in Asia, if not the whole world.
In Coron Bay, divers can dive 10 to 43 meters in clear water and set eyes on 12 historic sunken ships that are still structurally intact, as long as 160 meters, with large blast holes on their hulls, and home to soft and hard corals as well as other mysterious marine animals.
These sunken ships were actually Japanese supply ships sunk during a blitzkrieg launched by the US Navy during World War II.
Other than the sunken ships, Coron Bay also features reefs, which are gaining popularity because of the local’s efforts to create fish sanctuaries.

3. Donsol, Sorsogon

The ideal diving site for divers and snorkelers wanting to witness the beauty of manta rays, whales, hammerhead sharks and other exotic marine life is Donsol in Sorsogon, Philippines.
In Donsol, manta rays visit between the months of December and May while whale sharks come between the months of January and May.
Whale sharks come to Donsol to mate and feed on planktons and krill that flow through the nearby San Bernardino Strait.
Because of the generous amounts of planktons and krill, whale sharks in Donsol can grow up to 18 meters.
Oftentimes, about 15 to 20 of them swim and eat together, creating a sight to behold for divers who are actually free to interact gently with these sea animals.
Other points of diving interest in Donsol are the Manta Bowl, where divers can see very large manta rays; San Miguel Island, where corals are said to be overwhelmingly beautiful; and St. Jerome’s Rock, where a rock teems with varied kinds of fish.

4. Negros Island

The fourth largest island in the Philippines with dazzling white-sand beaches, Negros boasts of diving sites perfect for underwater photography.
Perhaps the most popular diving site is the Apo Island, which is a small volcanic island that is a rich sanctuary for a large amount of sea creatures.
Among the creatures found here are clownfish, pipefish, lionfish, waspfish, sea horses, eels, and bobtail squids.
Another popular diving site is Sipalay, which has canyons, coral reefs, white-sand beaches, and breathtaking underwater scenery.

5. Islands of Cebu

Nestled in the middle of the Philippines is Cebu, a place known for its warm water where divers can dive almost any time of the year.
In Cebu, expert and novice divers can see fishes, corals, sponges, hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks in clear water.
Some of the most famous dive sites in Cebu include the following:
  • Capitancillo = an uninhabited island with three excellent snorkeling sites, with up to 100 meters of underwater visibility
  • Moalboal = ideal for diving and snorkeling, as beautiful shallow reefs and abundant marine creatures can best be seen in the months of January to May
  • Sunken Island= an underwater pinnacle where groupers, sea snakes, anemones, corals, ferns, sharks and turtles are found
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

10 Best Island Destinations in the Philippines

Batanes, Philippines
Batanes, Philippines
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines
Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines
Picking out the best island destinations in the Philippines isn’t an easy task.
The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, give or take a few islands during high tide or low tide.
Yes, that’s enough islands for any foreign tourist or local Filipino to visit in his or her lifetime.
Still, there are many islands that effortlessly stand out from the crowd.
These island destinations have matchless, striking scenery found nowhere else in the Philippines and perhaps the rest of the whole world.
Their beauty is enough to leave one in awe, wondering what natural treasures the other Philippine islands might hold.
Tough as it seems, I’ve picked out the ten best island destinations in the Philippines that are a must-visit for any foreigner or local.
A note though, there are so many more beautiful Philippines islands that are beyond the scope of this short list.

1. Apo Island

About 20 kilometers from the province of Negros Oriental in the Philippines is the 72-hectareApo Island, a pristine, protected, and pastoral island that is famous for its snorkeling, scuba diving, and deep sea diving sites.
Apo Island is surrounded by calm waters and striking coral formations, making it a breeding ground for marine life and therefore a first-rate destination for marine activities.
Around the island, divers and snorkelers can encounter as many as 650 fish species and marvel at as many as 400 types of corals.
The scenery in the island itself is simply bucolic.
White sand beaches line the edges of Apo Island and people, mostly fishermen and their families, lead unhurried lives.

2. Batanes Islands

The smallest province in the Philippines – Batanes Islands – also has one of the most enchanting landscapes in the country.
Windswept and separated from the whole of the Philippines by wide, rough waters, Batanes Islands features gently sloping hills, sudden cliffs, seemingly bottomless canyons, and rugged shores dotted with boulders.
Its houses are bare yet robust, with thick walls and thatched roofs that are ready to withstand to the strong, destructive typhoons that frequently pass through the province.
In this timeless place, visitors can hop from one island to another, swim in the cool waters, admire the scenic villages, go fishing, and simply be one with nature.

3. Bohol Island

Bohol Island is most famous for its Chocolate Hills – over 1,500 limestone hills from coral reefs that formed during the ice age – but is way more than this amazing gem of nature.
Bohol Island is home to endangered flora and fauna and is most known as the home of the Philippine tarsier.
It has over one hundred caves that people can explore one after the other for spelunking activities.
Also the major draws to the island are the endless white-sand beaches, clear waters, and hidden waterfalls.

4. Boracay Island

Reaping prestigious awards left and right as one of the best beaches in the world is theBoracay Island, a seven-kilometer long, dog bone-shaped island with white, powdery sand beaches as well as very clear waters.
Lying about 315 kilometers from the Philippine capital Manila, Boracay Island is a haven for marine and land-based activities during day time.
Visitors can go scuba diving, cliff diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding, golfing, swimming, and windsurfing.
At night time, the island energizes and becomes one big party place with hundreds of revelers.
Boracay Island is popular among people from all walks of life, from the backpackers, to family-oriented visitors, and to the high-class people who value privacy and relaxation.

5. Camiguin

A picturesque volcanic island shaped like a pear is the tiny, quaint island of Camiguin in northern part of Mindanao.
As a volcanic island, Camiguin has seven volcanoes, plenty of hot springs, white-sand beaches, cascading waterfalls, mountains that appear blue-green in colors, and lush forests.
Travelers in the island can bask in the historical past of Camiguin by visiting Catarman Church Ruins, Sunken Cemetery, Sto. Rosario Church that was built in 1882, and several ancestral houses of the old rich.

6. Coron Island

Part of the famed Palawan province in the Philippines is the Coron Island, an island famous for its wreck diving destinations, bizarre marine animals, steep cliffs, and emerald waters.
In Coron Island, people can snorkel or dive to see the 12 huge intact ships that sank in the area during the height of World War II.
These were Japanese ships that docked in the Philippines to channel supplies to the occupying Japanese troops.
They were, however, sunk in a blitzkrieg staged by the US forces.
Coron Island is also famous for its reefs, with hundreds kinds of fish finding sanctuaries in this place.

7. Hundred Islands

Found in Alaminos City in the province of Pangasinan is the Hundred Islands, a group of two million-year old islands scattered across the Lingayen Gulf.
There are about 124 islands in Hundred Islands during low tide.
At high tide, one island submerges and so the count becomes 123.
These islands were once corals in an ancient sea bed that has become exposed over time.
Each island offers an opportunity for exploration, with its exotic flora and fauna.

8. Pamalican Island

Also part of the Palawan province is the ultra-secluded Pamalican Island, a 2.5-kilometer island surrounded by seven-kilometer coral reefs.
Pamalican Island is the location of the high-end Amanpulo Resort, which is owned by the global resort group Aman Resort that caters to people with high net-worth values.
This island is serviced by one airport and one ferry and is therefore very much private.
Visitors can do snorkeling, windsurfing, scuba diving, or simply chill out at the white-sand beach.

9. Siargao Island

About 800 kilometers southeast of Manila is a surfing haven called Siargao Island, a 400-square kilometer island with white-sand beaches, reefs, and rough winds from the Pacific Ocean that whips up waves ideal for international surfing competitions.
Siargao Island is where local and foreign surfers meet, daring each other to take on the next huge wave.
It, however, has more to offer beyond surfing.
Siargao Island has large mangrove forests and stretches of wetlands.
The place also has well-preserved coral reefs.

10. Tubbataha Reefs

Tubbataha Reefs is a remote island over 90 nautical miles from Palawan province in the Philippines.
It is world-famous as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tubbataha Reefs has one of the most amazing underwater scenery in the world with its reef platforms, sandy lagoons, steep walls, and staggering amount of marine life.