Category Archives: travel

Taiwan: Asia’s small but charming giant

Our bus was running on the freeway, half past six in the evening but the sky was still clear with yellow clouds floating aimlessly just above the forested peaks bordering the highways. I’ve lost count of the numbers of tunnels we’ve passed through. Taiwanese government had obviously invested heavily on road networks and transportation infrastructure even in rural areas. Continue reading

Falling in love with Puerto Princesa

I was sipping cucumber lemonade at a restaurant near the airport when a colleague received a call from our companion who was already aboard the airplane. Stunned, we fidgeted from the couch like military men hearing the command “attention,” grabbed our backpacks and rushed to the airport.

Continue reading

Quit your job, then travel

The wind was warm I could feel it gently blowing against my face. From a short distance, I could hear some chuckles. It was almost music to my ear – those snickers mixed with the splashing sound of gentle waves. But that was just my friends playing with a giant star fish and a minuscule jellyfish. Continue reading


What does it look like living in your own piece of seaside paradise? How does it feel like being face-to-face with nature while enjoying the comforts a luxury development provides?

The Kembali Sales Lounge, which was launched recently, offers an exclusive sneak peek into the life of owning a home on a paradise island. The interactive gallery showcases Filinvest Premiere’s Kembali property, a Balinese-inspired residential-leisure development on Samal Island in Davao.

Kembali’s unspoiled terrain makes it a conducive habitat for green see turtles and other marine life

Guests to the showcase platform can see the progress inside Kembali, whose Phase 2 development commenced in March. The upscale property’s mid-rise condominium development is also set to open its doors to privileged homeowners as marked by the groundbreaking of its first building and amenity area.

A residential masterpiece, Kembali is more than just a taste of Bali. It’s that and then some.

Paradise awaits homeowners of luxury development Kembali located on Samal island

A private playground. Kembali provides its residents with a private escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Taking inspiration from the Bahasa Indonesia word that means “welcome” or “to go back to,” Kembali offers a taste of exclusive island living that is truly worth returning to. A 20-minute boat ride from the Davao Boat and Leisure Club and a 40-minute boat transfer from the mainland will bring you to Kembali’s 1.8-km of beach frontage, a white sand coastline facing the Talikud Strait.

A beachfront home and a grand escape in one. Staycation at its finest is made possible by Kembali’s generous lot cuts and highly secured community features. Homeowners can design their second home especially for their private getaways with family and friends and experience the ease and comfort of living within a master-planned community.

Filinvest vice president for Real Estate Marketing Bernadette Ramos, project consultant for SouthMin and Kembali PDO Toshi Onozawa, first vice president and VisMin cluster head Tristan Las Marias and area general manager Geraldine de Gorostiza officially open the Kembali Sales Lounge in Davao City

Kissed-by-nature encounters. Kembali’s unspoiled terrain makes it the most conducive habitat for green sea turtles. The development was designed around the preservation of its natural diversity. The island’s mangroves, on the other hand, serve as nesting grounds for birds, as well as the breeding ground for rich marine life. Kembali features a bird hill and fish feeding activities for enjoyable, nature-intimate encounters.

Kembali is a joint venture project of Filinvest Land, Inc., under its upscale Filinvest Premiere brand, and Fernandez-Hermanos, Inc. Filinvest Premiere offers masterfully crafted luxury residential spaces and leisure masterpieces.

Have an immersive, first-hand experience of exclusive island living at the Kembali Sales Lounge, Ground Floor, McPod Bldg., McArthur Highway, Matina, Davao City. For more information, call 0917-5957788 or log on to

Siargao: Paradise down South

When our boat reached the islet called Naked Island I thought I was in paradise. The clear turquoise waters were so calm and inviting. A full 360-degree view gave nothing but a scene of the waters kissing the blue sky while clouds of every imaginable form floated aimlessly.

I jumped off the boat we were riding for 20 minutes and marveled at Mother Nature’s spectacular canvass. No photograph can give justice to this wonder, I silently told myself.

And because of its seclusion anyone can actually go skinny-dipping without being bothered by ogling onlookers. I wanted to swim without my clothes on but I was with people whom I have only met for the first time so totally dismissed the whole idea. Nonetheless, I took a dip in the waters as if my body was thirsty for it.

The author chose not to be naked on the naked island

True to its name, Naked Island is an isolated 200 meter-long sand bar accessible by boat from General Luna, a municipality that boasts 27 km coastline of powdery white sand. It’s a piece of heaven and anyone would not mind staying there to swim and frolic in the sand with all the privacy he can get. But actually, Naked Island is just one of the stunning and mesmerizing gems in Siargao. Move around the island and see how this charming place can literally tame your psyche.

Small island with big waves

In ocean topography, it says that an abrupt rise on the seafloor produces extremely large waves. This explains why the waves in Cloud 9, a surfing Shangri-La in the quaint municipality of General Luna in Siargao, are hailed among the toughest breaks in the world.

Surfing in Siargao

The east side of Siargao, where Cloud 9 lies, is precisely positioned 40 miles away from the Philippine Deep, the second deepest trench on earth. The waves break out of oceanic trench and focus the wave energy straight to the long and relatively straight coastline of the surfing ground. This unique location of Cloud 9 allows surfers to have long and perfect rides.

It was in the 1980s when the waves of Tuason Point (Cloud 9’s former name) were visited by surfers who were bound to a competition in Hawaii. According to Jaime Rusillon, the mayor of the fifth class municipality, these surfers visited the isolated and rugged part of the island. They asked permission if they could swim on the beach.

“They were carrying strange looking boards that according to them, will hone their muscles,” narrated the municipality official, “When they saw the waves they went directly to the beach and played with them. I thought these guys were crazy. They played with the waves that most people here were afraid of.”


The surfers were named Steve Jones and Tony Arroza, but Mayor Rusillion said that they were not the ones who really discovered the excellent waves in Siargao. There was this mysterious tourist by the name of Max Walker who settled in a solitary hut on the palm-fringed shores of Tuason Point in 1994. He didn’t do anything but to surf and rest in his small abode. He starved himself until he died on the 41st day of his fast.

When Max Walker died, the mayor discovered that the real name of the strange tourist was John Michael Boyum, who happened to be a trailblazer from California. Using the documents left in the small hut of Max Walker, the mayor tried his luck and used relevant information to locate the relatives of the surfer. He wrote a letter to them and received a response after four months.

“His younger brother came here the same way he did – he jumped off the jeepney barefooted and asked me if he could swim,” the mayor remembered, “ His brother was one of those who trailed his trek, and those who did reach Tuason Point spread the word about Siargao and its magnificent waves.”

Since then, Cloud 9 became a popular surfing hideaway among experienced surfers. Local and international competitions are held here from August to November every year when the winds are stronger and the waves are bigger.

Off to Siargao

Getting to Siargao is an adventure in itself. The trip is not for the fainthearted because one will experience a literal bumpy ride. Although the Department of Tourism is already eyeing a direct flight from Manila to Del Carmen (the lone airport on the island), for now, tourists would have to take an hour and a half plane ride from Manila to Surigao del Norte, then by a two-hour ferry ride from Surigao City Pier to Siargao’s main entry point, Dapa Municipality Pier.

From the jetty port, the traveler will experience another challenging one-hour rough ride going to Pilar and General Luna, where most accommodations can be found. But as most tourists and surfers who have been to the island say, all the hours travelling are worth it once you see the majestic scenery that the tear-shaped island can offer. Seeing a rainbow every now and then is just a bonus—passing and distant rains are notorious in the area.

Siargao is a tropical island in the Philippine Sea. It sits on the eastern tip of Surigao del Norte, making it one of two places in the Philippines to experience sunrise ahead of the other parts of the country (the other one is the Caraga Town in Davao.)

Due to the island’s location, the winds and currents coming from the Pacific Ocean continuously influence the rock formations on its coastline and on the surrounding coconut islets. Majority of the magnificent rock formations are located in Magpupungko, which is also a swimming den during low tide when the waters are washed out and several lagoons are revealed.

How to go to Siargao

Half a billion peso has been invested for road networks, port enhancement and the other tourism infrastructure for Siargao since it became a popular surfing destination. According to Tourism Department former Secretary Alberto Lim, Siargao is one of DoT’s top priorities along with the other tourist destinations in Central Philippines. The island remains unspoiled by commercialism thus it attracts weekend backpackers who want to escape the busy life in the city. Lim said the province attracts around 39,000 visitors a year.

General Luna Mayor Jaime Rusillon told the author that the municipality is planning to have a biodiversity park. Currently being lobbied to the national government, the park aims to highlight the island’s exuberant flora and fauna. Del Carmen itself is home to a dense mangrove forest reserve, which is the second largest in the country.

The big fish

Locals in Siargao are well aware of the importance of the mangrove trees that abound the whole island. They know for a fact that mangrove forests serve as breeding ground for fish and other marine life. Local government is keen on educating its people about the significance of these reserves to their livelihood.

Apart from farming, fishing is the main livelihood in Siargao thus big fish like Wahoo and Billfish are no stranger to its people.

Rediscovering Boracay through Fairways and Bluewater

fairways and bluewater resort boracay

What else could we enjoy in Boracay?

Touted as one of the 10 best beaches in the world by Yahoo Travel for its pristine blue water and blindingly white sand, Boracay has more than relaxation, clubbing, and beach activities to offer. Continue reading

Survivor returns to the Philippines

Season 27 of the Emmy award-winning reality competition Survivor sees the show return to the Philippines for its third straight season. Set this time on the northeastern island of Palaui in Cagayan, the 20 castaways feature former Survivor players who have returned to compete with – and ultimately against – their loved ones, in order to outwit, outplay, and outlast, for the title of Sole Survivor.  Continue reading

Siargao: Nature’s ongoing canvas

by Nickie Wang

When our boat reached the islet called Naked Island I though I was in paradise. The clear turquoise waters were so calm and inviting. A full 360-degree view gave nothing but a scene of the waters kissing the blue sky while clouds of every imaginable form floated aimlessly. Continue reading

HISTORY features Manila as a hidden city

by Nickie Wang

An hour-long special on the Philippines will be featured on History’s flagship original production, Hidden Cities. In this episode, the team spearheaded by American-Burmese Anthony Morse, visited the Philippines and discovered stories and places that according to the host “may not even be familiar to locals.” Continue reading

A Cross continental quest for mysteries and adventures

by Nickie Wang

Many people believe that Atlantis is not just a mythical city and civilization since it has lived on as a perceived fact of history. But what really happened to this so-called missing continent?

Through dogged reporting, British explorer and journalist Oliver “Olly” Steeds reveals new evidences that could explain the mystery surrounding the legendary island, which is said  to have existed in the Atlantic Ocean in ancient times. The 35-year-old inquisitive history-buff sets out to find the truth behind the disappearance of the city that has tantalized romantics and exasperated explorers ever since. Continue reading

Cesar Montano charms thousands of Zamboangueños

By Nickie Wang

Cesar MontanoIf the elections were held on Oct. 11 in Zamboanga, and Cesar Montano was running for a political post in the province, he would have possibility won the majority of people’s vote.

But the big day was an annual festival and not a political event. It only so happen that thousands of Zamboangueños were celebrating the culmination of Hermosa Festival, and Buboy (as he is fondly called in showbiz) was fortunate enough to be the man of the day. In fact, Defense secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro was also there, but resounding cheers by a ten thousand crowd for Buboy was simply a tough act for him to follow. Continue reading

Magical months at Enchanted Kingdom

By Nickie Wang

Enchanted Kingdom is known for being the country’s only world-class theme park. It boasts seven themed zones, and over 23 rides and attraction.

Enchanted KingdomThe Sta. Rosa-based entertainment park is capping 2009 with a lineup of events dedicated to its loyal guests. The festivities mark the theme park’s 14th anniversary. Continue reading

Ricky Reyes’ paradise with a Golden Sunset

By Nickie Wang/ Manila Standard Today

Poets get inspired whenever they see the famous sunset of Manila Bay, tourists feel awestricken as the sun and sand of Boracay complement each other, and many people feel delighted by the soft sunlight that envelopes the streets of Puerto Princesa. But little do they know, there is another spectacular sunset that can even make people fall in love and perhaps write a poem. The good news, it’s just a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Metro Manila.

golden-sunset-1The Golden Sunset Village Resort and Spa is a small paradise located in Calatagan, Batangas. Someone needs to see it for himself to know why the resort owner Ricky Reyes, a businessman and beauty expert, christened the resort with such name.

“Fifteen to 30 minutes before six o’clock, you’ve got to see how the sun kisses the horizon. I’ve seen, people have seen different kinds of sunsets but the one we have here is just spectacular that the color of the sky and the water really justifies the name of the resort,” Ricky, who is mother to all his friends, told us over a late afternoon snack after personally giving us a tour in his verdant and lively paradise.

Staring at the breathtaking sunset off the South China Sea, Mother Ricky told us a little story that inspired him to convert the eight-hectare land into a leisure place, where everyone, most especially family members, can enjoy and have a great experience.

The resort is a complete package. After swimming, visitors can enjoy singing to their hearts’ delight in the floating videoke room, they can stroll around and buy some Golden Sunset signature merchandise in a souvenir shop, or flex some muscles and play volleyball on a beach setting. In the middle of the resort, there are two fishponds where one could fish at a fee or simply just go boating and enjoy the breeze.

“We started with only three cottages, and we decided that this place would serve as a bakasyunan for the family,” the beauty guru started. “But when someone approached me and asked to lease the place for a few days for a company retreat, I started to realize how resort business could be so profitable.”

Mother Ricky was also convinced by the local government of Calatagan to develop the place into a resort complex. Hesitant Mother Ricky, who didn’t have any experience in managing and running a resort, considered the idea.

“Who would have thought that this place that used to be an almost barren piece of land is now a tourist destination,” Mother Ricky enthused.

Aside from being a major tourist drawer to Calatagan, Golden Sunset employs local folks in the municipality. From 10 rooms, when it was initially opened for the public in 2006, the resort now has 80 rooms with different amenities. It can also accommodate 1,000 people on a day tour basis and can house more 300 people to stay overnight.

“You will not feel the presence of 500 people, but if 1,000 people checked in, that’s the only time you will see people walking around the complex,” the beauty expert said pointing out the privacy each guest can get in the seaside resort.

Not a beach

golden_sunset_resort_“Maybe a thousand trucks of soil were used to level this place, I didn’t know where did they get the soil and what mountain did they destroy to get the soil we needed to build this place,” Mother Ricky quipped.

Golden Sunset is a seafront resort but the water or the beach itself is not conducive for swimming. However, four Olympic-sized swimming pools and an extraordinarily long kiddie pool have enough water for frolic and pleasure, and these wading pools are just waiting to be enjoyed by anyone who wants to plunge into them. There’s a slide that kids can enjoy while their parents are having a great time under man-made waterfalls connected to the kiddie pool. A spa pool also welcomes those who want to have a relaxing massage from the water that squirts from overhead tubes. Two jacuzzis, which are exclusive for Garden Cove and Junior Suite guests, can be tried out by those who seek for a more private space.

Every Saturday, most especially during peak season, visitors are entertained by a live band. They can also watch a grand parade that features different sea creatures or watch performers dancing to Polynesian tunes. Adding to the spectacle, the baywalk has a giant screen on which movies are projected when there are no bands performing or other groups for cultural presentations.

“I want my guests to hear sound and experience action almost every minute. I don’t want them to feel any dull moment while inside the resort,” Mother Ricky stated while continuously checking on the music being played around the complex.

Aside from those activities, visitors can also visit the Butterfly sanctuary that houses different species of the colorful insect. For relic lovers, an outdoor museum, probably the only museum of its kind in the Philippines, can visit the unearthed artifacts that tell something more about the rich history of Calatagan.

One of the most awaited and important events in the Golden Sunset Resort is the opening of an archeological site right beside the resort anytime between now and end of the year.

golden-sunset-2“We bought an addition six hectares of land beside the resort and we were surprised upon knowing the amount of treasure that can be excavated from the area. When we were still just bulldozing this place, there was only one Sampaloc tree that we could see; we found some broken plates, and jars. We threw them because we didn’t know their importance,” Mother narrated, “Malay ba namin, kaya when I told that to the officials of the National Museum, para silang iiyak.”

Calatagan was an extremely important port back 10,000 years ago. The previously excavated objects were significant proofs that the area used to be a maritime trade port where neighboring countries exchanged their goods and merchandise.

Summer sorties

Golden Sunset has four different restaurants that offer a variety of Filipino, Asian and Continental cuisine and tasty tropical treats flavored with local ingredients.

Take for instance Oriental Latô salad, which is made from simple ingredients such as locally-grown latô (seaweed), salted eggs and ripe mango drizzled with honey mustard dressing; or Thai Beef salad, juicy grilled beef laid on a bed of greens, garnished with cherry tomatoes.

Light main courses are great for filling up without getting weighed down for swimming, waters sports, and other summer activities. Oriental delights hit the spot: Hainanese Chicken—tender chicken boiled in coconut milk topped with chopped ginger and dipped in oyster sauce or chili sauce; Bulgogi—thin slices of prime cut beef marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil; and Hoisin-glazed pork belly, salted slices of pork topped with sweet Hoisin sauce.

For sweet endings, Mother Ricky’s paradise offers golden fried banana balls paired with rich mango syrup; tropical panna cotta topped with mangoes and maraschino cherries; and crisp mango fritters rolled in cinnamon sugar.

Hassle free

Going to Mother Ricky’s paradise is such a relief for people who just want to break away from the busy life in the metro. After more than two hours of driving from SLEX, visitors can indulge in relaxing spa service and beauty treatments offered by Serendipity Spa. The spa has different facilities that can truly relax all the senses. The spa has floating cottages if the guest wants to have a massage while communing with the environment.

That is not just the only thing that makes someone’s stay at the resort a hassle-free one. The resort utilizes a cashless payment scheme called “Passport.” It is a debit card that guests can use to avail of the products and services of the resort. It is available in P100 and P500 denominations. For added convenience, guests can have their bills prepaid in any booking offices in Manila.

For inquiries and reservations, call the Manila booking office at 636-1687 or 634-3109.

Aljur Abrenica: A star in his own right

By Nickie Wang/ Manila Standard Today

In the serialized version of the 1984 hit movie Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin, beneath the high ratings and rave reviews lies a young man who is touted as the next matinee idol of GMA-7.

aljur-abrenica1Aljur Abrenica is an emerging star. After becoming victorious in a reality-based talent search Startstruck in 2007, movie offers and television projects began to pour in. He started appearing in SOP and eventually became a mainstay in the musical program. But it’s not yet the big break; the drastic change in his career officially came in when he greeted primetime viewers as a metal clad hero in Zaido: Pulis Pangkalawakan alongside Dennis Trillo and the late Marky Cielo.

While doing the series, he was also part of the now-defunct teen-oriented comedy show Boys Next Door. In less than three years in show business, the “Ultimate Hunk” who grew up in Angeles City has been in two movies and other top-rating television series like Dyesebel and Luna Mystika.

“I’m really blessed, so I thank all the people who are helping me and also the fans for continuously believing in me. Sila ‘yung nagmo-motivate sa akin to do all the things that keep me busy right now. There are times that I work for more than 24 hours and get only little sleep, but because of these people, I begin to love what I’m doing,” the 19-year-old actor told us.

Topping all his accomplishments as a novice actor is his first starring role via Sine Novela: Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin, a remake of the Gabby Concepcion and Sharon Cuneta movie in the ’80s. Aside from it adding spice to Aljur’s already rosy career, the series also features his promising tandem with fellow Starstruck alumna Kris Bernal.

“It is such a pleasure to work with Kris because we already developed a certain kind of chemistry and closeness,” Aljur said. “I can’t brand the relationship that we have but I consider her as the closest person in my life right now.”

While detailing how his friendship and closeness with Kris started, Aljur admitted that they share a lot of things. They talk about problems of their families and at work, and try to solve them with the help of each other. “That’s how close we are, magkasama kami sa hirap at ginhawa,” he said adding that he’s willing to take the relationship to a higher level.

Simple dreams

The tremendous effort the young actor is showing right now is simply the statement of where he wants to be in the future. “I want to be a respected actor, it’s always been my dream,” he said.

With the current status of his career, he still finds himself a neophyte in a very competitive world, but his commitment to his work is similar to the people who have been around the business.

“Marami pa akong kelangan gawin. I want to do challenging roles, even [a] gay role if ever offered to me, I’ll take it, why not,” he quipped. “But if they would ask me to choose, I like action-drama. Ten years from now siguro I’m already a big star, isa ’yun talaga sa mga dreams ko. Kaya I try to work hard.”

Because of his willingness to pursue a showbiz career, after graduating high school he temporarily set aside the idea of going to college. He said that he used to dream of becoming a pilot but because he is beginning to lose his 20/20 vision, he is now considering Mass Communication, which is much related to his work right now.

“I will go to college, that’s for sure pero hindi ngayon, maybe after five years,” confident Aljur affirmed.

Going to college is not the only sacrifice Aljur had to make when he entered the world of showbiz. The young actor also had to stop playing sports because his work occupies even his spare time.

“I used to play basketball. Member ako ng basketball team since grade school kaya lang nang nag-showbiz ako tinigil ko na,” he revealed and shared his secret to stay fit, “Wala akong special diet and I don’t have any physical activity but I do a lot of push-ups and seat-ups before taking shower. That keeps me energetic the whole day.”

Travelpros endorser

“I’m very happy and at the same time flattered because may mga nagtitiwala  sa akin. It just proves na meron akong ginagawang tama, and people notice it,” he explained.

Travelpros Inc., which will celebrate its 16th anniversary on May 28, kicks-off this summer featuring Aljur as its official endorser. Also part of the anniversary is the launching of Beauty Holiday Plus, an incentive-based program where clients may accumulate points for every transaction and redeem these points for products and services or discounts offered by Travelpros partners such as Ricky Reyes salons and Golden Sunset Resort in Calatagan, Batangas.

“Beauty Holiday Plus is not only our way of thanking our loyal patrons, but also an incentive for travelers to extend their purchasing power,” Cris Aquino, president and CEO of Travelpros, said.

For more information, visit Travelpros offices at SM malls (Fairview, Megamall, and Mall of Asia), or call 672-2159 to 62.

Another milestone for Philippine Everest team

By NICKIE WANG/ Manila Standard Today

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”—Vincent Van Gogh

phileverestThey succeeded in a great attempt to scale the world’s highest mountain and showed the entire world that Filipinos can achieve such difficult feat. Now, they want to sail across the Pacific onward to the Atlantic, all the way around the world using a replica of a pre-colonial boat.

Art Valdez, who led the first Philippine team in reaching the summit of Mt. Everest in 2006 and another all-female team in 2007, has announced another groundbreaking venture of sailing through silk routes starting next year.

The team composed of Everest climbers Leo Oracion, Erwin Emata, Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon, and Janet Belarmino-Sardena will embark on a five-year voyage that will initially travel on every port in the Philippines starting 2009.Ted Esguerra, Fred Jamili, and Voltaire Velasco complete the voyage’s core crew.

On its second year, the crew plans to traverse the silk routes of Southeast Asia, and then to Madagascar before heading to Polynesia onward to the Atlantic. The crew aims to be back home to the Philippines in 2013.

The crew will ride a balangay, the boat used by ancient Filipinos for trading and traveling, which will be crafted by master boat builders from the Island of Sibutu and Sitangkay in Tawi-Tawi starting this December. Materials to be used will come from established traditional sources in southern Philippines. The construction of the boat will take place at the back of SSS Building in Manila Bay. A viewing deck will also be constructed for the public to see the progress of the construction before its launching in April.

Balangay or the Butuan boat is the first wooden watercraft ever excavated in Southeast Asia and the first excavated relic of the boat was dated AD 320.

“This is meant to generate national awareness. We estimate the construction of the first boat to be around 90 days,” Art Valdez said during the launch of his book Live the Dream at the Captain’s Bar of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City.

Live the Dream is a coffee table book that chronicles the first Philippine successful attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in texts and photographs.

“We asked ourselves: What’s next? As a team, we are still keen in pioneering outdoor adventure, specifically adventure with a national significance. While the Philippines is a mountainous country, it is also an archipelago. Thus, it was natural for us to look to our seas,” Valdez furthered.

The Voyage of Balangay, will travel along the shorelines and to the open sea without the use of any modern equipment like GPS (Global Positioning System). It will sail using the celestial navigation method used by earliest mariners—steering by the sun, the stars, the wind, cloud formations, wave patterns and bird migrations.

“Aside from outdoor adventure, we will use the balangay trips to assist in community-building, particularly for coastal communities. We will travel along shorelines and stop at communities and key human settlements to hold seminars. We intend to heighten awareness of global warming,” the expedition leader enthused.

While ascending Mt. Everest, the team led by Valdez witnessed the ill effects of global warming. From their first visit, the Mt. Everest base camp was covered with snow. On the second year, they noticed some patches of snow around the area, and on the last year, they were saddened by the deleterious effects of global warming because snow was no where to be traced on the area that was used to be blanketed it.

“In our travels, we will share our self-image and self-assertion that the Filipinos can do the impossible. If the team can succeed on Mt. Everest without ever having seen snow or high mountain, then more so in the Voyage of the Balangay,” Valdez concluded.

Isang Lahi: A docu-drama that defines happiness

By NICKIE WANG/ Manila Standard Today

palawan-hopping-01As if the popularity and influence of the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is not enough to draw positive vive, a group of young documentarians made an effort to create a moving documentary-drama that would bring hope to the country and to its people who feel desperate to find the meaning of true happiness.

“What makes you happy?” was the last question directed to the cast and makers of the film Isang Lahi: Pearls from the Orient, during its recent press conference held at MyCinema, Greenbelt 3.

What the press got were generic answers like: love makes me happy; the balance of the four elements (love, success, health, and wealth) makes me happy; beautiful things make me happy; family makes me happy; and the oh-so-usual answer: “Knowing that people around me are happy and contended. That makes me happy.”

Isang Lahi: Pearls from the Orient is a digital feature that espouses the principle of “law of attraction” or the theory that posits “like attracts like,” or just like what Byrne’s book says: “The law uses people, circumstances and events to magnetize what you want to you, and magnetize you to it.”

The docu-drama cum travelogue is about a group of five documentarists (Ruel Ruiz, JP Tanchanco, Ayee Domingo, Zoilo Barrel and Naethan Lucero) backpacking all over the Philippines seeking the answer to happiness. Their journey is recapitulated   into four different real stories they found from different regions. The four mini-movies are highlighted by the infectious acting flair of veteran actors Joel Torre, Mark Gil, Juan Rodrigo, and Aiza Seguerra.

The feature is divided into three parts. The first part is an upbeat MTV-style take on tourism showcasing Filipinos and the authentically beautiful places they live. The second part unravels inspiring stories Tanchanco, the video’s director and producer, and the team gathered through their six-moth journey throughout the country. Finally, the last part of the documentary features renowned Filipino experts who have empowered by their research, advocacy, embodiment, and endorsement in the fields of love, health, wealth, and success. These Filipino “icons” share their wisdom and insights attesting the power of the principles the film supports. The icons are as follows:

Olympic medalist Bea Lucero, chef and restaurateur Gene Gonzalez, sociologist Josephine Aguilar-Placido, motivational speakers Jhet Torcelino Van Ruyven, Lourdes Elardo-Gant, Severino Reyes and Alex Lacson, television personalities Cory Quirino and Boy Abunda, psychologist Margarita Holmes, parapsychologist Jaime Licauco,  environmentalist and empowerment coach Josef Franklin Regis, homeopathic physician Corazon Ibarra, entrepreneurs Claire Villanueva, Edelwina Lema Beech and Elias delos Santos,   prosperity guru George Sison, spiritual caregiver Mary Fidelis Estrada, and psychic and fortune teller Madam Rosa.

Budding video director JP Tanchanco

Budding video director JP Tanchanco

“We are students of empowerment principles; we decided to do the [sic] film as a way of practicing the principles and to know paano siya naisasabuhay ng mga Pilipino all around the Philippines,” budding video director Tanchanco explained.

The six-month jaunt of the team challenged their patience and passion as they travel in the most rural places in the Philippines just to find real stories from real people. Whether rich or impoverished, the team inquired and examined their conditions, concepts and mental attitudes on the four elements the movie promotes.

“The challenge there is that we only had two to three days to find at least four stories in each region. Apparently, that’s the only time we would ask tricycle drivers and other people from different walks of life. For the drama, we are talking four different places in the Philippines, from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” Tanchanco furthered.

As to the originality of the feature, the promising director asserted that it’s completely different from the The Secret that became an overnight phenomenon in the US. Though undeniably that Isang Lahi is delivered just like the Hollywood produced film (most particularly the third part of the film where the team interviewed local ‘icon’ experts), Tanchanco assured that it (the movie) is original on its part.

“Are we ready to face criticism that it is not original? Yes,” raved Tanchanco. “It is original on its part but the law of attraction, the principle is as old as time. What we are doing here is seeing how it applies on the lives of the Filipinos. It is a different way of presenting it [the principle] and applying it most especially that we have really good icon experts. It is very different from the way it’s explained in The Secret; very simple and maiintindihan ng masang Pilipino. Ginawa namin ito para sa mga Pinoy.”

The video features contemporized ethnical Filipino ditties like Naglalakbay by Bayang Barrios. Also part of the soundtrack is Dodjie Simon classic Isang Dugo, Isang Lahi, Isang Musika, covered by balladeer Bimbo Cerudo.

Isang Lahi is supported by the National Commission for Culture and Arts and will be screened for various organizations and institutions in different parts of the country. It is set to go on international showing on Jan. 15, being an official submission to the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Art school opens door to new scholars

By NICKIE WANG/ Manila Standard Today

folk-dance-students-1Art’s influence is encompassing; it opens the mind to infinite perspectives and possibilities. To be given a chance to study art under brilliant instructors is a rare opportunity because talent can further be developed through an approach where a more solid inclination and passion to art and to its different forms are expanded and given more attention.

The Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), located on the slope of mystical Mt. Makiling in Laguna, is a unique residential secondary school run by the government. It was established in 1977 to specifically create a perfect environment to artistically gifted and talented children.

PHSA is currently accepting applicants to the Annual Nationwide Search for Young Arts Scholars (ANSYAS). Children with exceptional talents from Metro Manila are welcomed to apply until Jan.15, while the deadline for provincial applicants is on Jan. 31.

“There’s nothing like this school. PHSA is a special school with special students,” veteran character actor and PHSA executive director Nanding Josef told the Standard Today. “We need a new batch of scholars, about 30 to 40 students.”

The state allots an annual P300,000 budget per PHSA scholar.  The amount includes tuition, board and lodging, classes with master teachers, and a monthly stipend.

Specialized curriculum at the arts school includes various disciplines in Music (instrument and voice), Dance (ballet and folk), Theater Arts, Visual Arts, and Creative Writing.  In addition to arts-oriented curriculum, it also offers Basic Education subjects prescribed by the Education Department.

Art school complex

tanghalang-maria-makilingWe were given a chance to visit the picturesque campus of PHSA on Dec. 8. After a two-hour drive from Manila, our sight was welcomed by nipa hut-inspired cottages that serve as classrooms, science laboratories, library, instructional media center, computer room, and practice rooms.

“We have another 30 cottages here that serve as residence for more than 130 students, and 40 teachers and support staff,” Josef said.

Other instructional facilities in the 13.5-hectare complex include the state-of-the-art Tanghalan Maria Makiling, rehearsal studios for Folk Dance and Ballet, Visual Arts and Photography Studio, and Journalism Room. The administration office, faculty room, meeting room, medical clinic, counseling office and the Executive Guesthouse, which once served as Imelda Marcos’ rural villa, complete the facilities at the state-run art school.

“During the term of former President [Fidel] Ramos, the complex underwent rehabilitation through a P90-million budget approved during a Cabinet meeting held here,” Josef disclosed.

The school operation depends solely on the budget given by the government and from the monetary donations coming from generous individuals and institutions that recognize the importance of culture and art development.

Artistically gifted students

“The officials are always hard to convince. They say P200,000 [the former budget per scholar] is too big to support one student. So sa tuwing may budget deliberation kailangang ipakita sa mga officials ang mga students para mag-perform, and they are instantly convinced,” Josef related.

We didn’t have to take the word of the veteran actor to believe and consider the artistic talents of the PHSA scholars. During a half-day visit, we had the chance to see how classes are conducted in the special school. Students majoring in Music and Folk Dance showed us sample performances.

After a lunch prepared by the PHSA at the well-maintained Executive Guesthouse, Josef whispered: “I get inspired by seeing really young artists with exceptional artistry in different fields,” pertaining to  the students from Music who performed an ethereal version of “You Raise Me Up” by the group called Secret Garden.

The Folk-Dance majoring students performed a number entitled “Cordillera,” which we were told they themselves did the choreography. The dance is their definition of love and courtship inspired by the natives of the Mountain Province. With the use of gongs, native bamboo instruments, and tribal drums, the students rendered a jaw-dropping performance just like professionals do at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that it was just a sample of what these students do everyday.

The scholars, whose ages range from 12 to 16, need to maintain a 90 percent grade average, which is the passing mark, in all art subjects to maintain their scholarship.

Tinututukan ang bawat estudyante pag bumababa ang grade kahit sa General Education. They are given special or extra sessions. The objective of the school is to make them stay and finish their courses. The faculty and staff members do official and unofficial tasks like acting as surrogate parents to these students with completely different characters,” Josef explained.

PHSA scholars are being trained to be the best artists of this particular time by pushing the limit of their artistic potentials and, at the same time, making them better people. “We praise and criticize them. That’s how I matured as an artist and as a person,” the veteran actor concluded.


Applicants for the scholarship must be graduating Grade VI or VII pupils for the school year 2008-2009; of above-average intelligence, proficient in oral and written Filipino and English; without any debilitating illness; and willing to study in a residential high school.

They must also be willing to pursue a college degree in Dance, Creative Writing, Architecture, Fine Arts, Music, Theater Arts, Journalism and other related courses.

Application forms and the list of requirements per art discipline may be downloaded from the PHSA Web site  All documents and requirements must be sent directly to ANSYAS 2009, PHSA, National Arts Center, Mt. Makiling, Los Baños 4030 Laguna.  For inquiries, e-mail or call telefax (+6349)536-5971 to 73 and 536-2862.

Rediscovering Boracay through Fairways and Bluewater

By Nickie Wang/ Manila Standard Today

What else could we enjoy in Boracay?

Touted as one of the 10 best beaches in the world by Yahoo Travel for its pristine blue water and blindingly white sand, Boracay has more than relaxation, clubbing, and beach activities to offer.

During the first Fairways and Bluewater Resort Golf and Country Club Amateur Golf Media Invitational, local press discovered something normal Bora goers have hardly experienced before. We visited the resort to learn how to play golf yet the experience turned to be serendipitous. As first-time golfers we had our own funny wind shots, yet we met new friends, stuffed ourselves with good food and had an adventure while basking in the tranquil panorama of the island paradise.

From the domestic airport in Manila we boarded in a 20-seater propeller type plane. The plane was quite noisy and it hurts our ears while landing at the island’s port of entry in Caticlan. But the auditory torture was alleviated because Fairways and Bluewater has its own lounge at the airport. Visitors of the resort can wait there before they are shuttled to the resort’s posh welcome center, which is just less than a five-minute ride.

Friendly and attentive staff greeted the press with a welcome drink—our initial taste of the resort’s superb hospitality— and gave our designated room numbers.

“You can feel the difference from the time you arrive at the airport. We would like to enhance the arrival experience of our guests and members,” resort general manager Gregg Pearson said during his sit-down with the press.

The exclusive welcome center of Fairways and Bluewater, a facility that other resorts also use for a fee, transports the visitors directly to the resort complex via private ferry boats in a blissful 15-minute ride.

Spacious and finely furnished rooms and condotels will welcome the guests after their trip. The resort complex has an array of accommodation options. The vast expanses of greenery surrounding the villas are simply mesmerizing. The units are self-sufficient and feature panoramic views of the manicured surroundings and the sandy white beach. The apartment-style guestrooms are equipped with sophisticated facilities just like at the Balaihara Villatel where we stayed for two nights and three days. The opulent accommodation includes air-conditioning, a balcony overlooking the golf course, satellite TV, direct dial telephone, fully equipped kitchen, coffee/tea maker, and a luxurious bathroom.

Aside from the golf course, guests also have access to private beach coves and the white beach of Boracay, the nine Balaihara Villatels are spread along the fairways of holes 1, 2 and 8. Each building has 30 rooms with an area of either 50 square meters or 70 sq m each (the biggest space you can find in the island).

Pearson said there are condotels that have the most scenic view of the resort; they are named Villa Maria, Villa Margarita, Villa Sofia, and Villa Ysabel. They are first-class condotels that offer buyers with ownership of their Fairways and Bluewater units in Boracay. These buildings also have a view of the Sibuyan Sea. Designed to accommodate the discriminating taste of holiday visitors, suites have all the amenities of home. The spacious two-bedroom, one-bedroom and studio units accommodate families or groups without sacrificing privacy.

… the golf

A day before the Amateur Golf Media Invitational, we had an ocular tour of the entire golf course with Steve Polastri, who also patiently instructed us during the golf clinic.

Designed by Australian master golfer Graham Marsh, it is a spectacular 18-hole par 72 world-class golf course blanketed by lush greens and fairways that compliment the tropical surrounding of the island. The cemented golf cart pathways that snake through the entire complex ease the way of traveling around.

It is surprising that in the little island of Boracay, there is a resort that offers this kind of amenity. The golf course alone constitutes 70 percent of the entire area of the resort complex. The resort itself is 120 hectares or 10 percent of Boracay’s total land area. It spans the entire width of Boracay, creating not just one but three stunning stretches of splendid white beaches.
The golf course was designed to test one’s skills. The developer, Fil-Estate Properties Inc., did not alter the natural landscape of the island when they constructed the resort to create rolling and undulating terrains. It is a tough test for golfers but an exhilarating experience of teeing off feeling the sea breeze and the magnificent warmth of the Boracay sun.

… the gulp

It was an exciting night at the resort’s clubhouse when we had our dinner at the Andaluz Restaurant, which specializes in Spanish-Moroccan cuisine. After our sumptuous meal, we headed to the poolside where the resort holds “The Thirsty Thursday.” This is a drink-all-you-can event at the clubhouse where golfers and gulpers alike can have some nice chats.
The clubhouse is located conveniently inside the complex; it serves meals and scrumptious snacks. It is also home to a freshwater infinity swimming pool, a children’s pool, a game room, an open-air deck patio, a grill restaurant, and a conference/events room.

Just beneath the clubhouse is the Paradise Cove that provides beachfront cabanas and lounge chairs where golfers can soak up the sun. This was the venue of the luau party organized by the resort to the participants of the golf invitational. It is just a perfect place to see the stars and walk along the secluded beach while having a private time with someone special.
Just above the clubhouse is the Pirate’s Den where La Terreza is situated. La Terreza, as the name suggests, offers buffet meal where guests can dine and enjoy the spectacular view of the Bulabog Beach.

… and the adventure

We had the chance to ride ATVs (all terrain vehicles) and drove at the westside of the resort complex. We experienced seeing the real beauty of the island while raising our way to reach both ends of the resort. The vehicles provided an exciting new adventure for the press people. These machines are easy and dependable to ride and can reach even inaccessible areas.
The more vigorous guests of the resort can try horseback riding and a variety of water sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, para-sailing, mini-cruising, island cruising, wind surfing, among others.

In 1993, Noel “Toti” Cariño and other founding members of Fil-Estate Properties Inc. envisioned to build a world-class golfers resort complex in Boracay. Now, their vision is to make Fairways and Bluewater Resort Golf and Country Club one of the best resorts not just in the Philippines but also in the entire region.

“They [other resorts in the island] don’t have what we have, here our guests have the option to get away from the hustle and bustle here in Boracay,” Pearson affirmed.

Whether you are a professional or an amateur golfer or even if you’re not a fan of the sport, Fairways and Bluewater is a perfect access to the islands most precious offering. It’s not just the golf, the gulp or the adventure that people will remember when they leave the island, it’s the experience and the moment they shared with people they love in a small piece of heaven where everything is just splendid and beautiful.