“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

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12 November 2014

IN TRANSIT | San Joaquin Cemetery

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San Joaquin Cemetery

En route to San Jose de Buenavista, Antique, one can never miss the San Joaquin cemetery with an imposing baroque mortuary chapel made of red brick and limestone. With its baroque design it is quite a stand out in th emidst of its rural setting.

I was not able to photograph this the first time I passed by. I was with a group and we were heading to Antique for an official business. The second time was not also possible because I was commuting from and to Iloilo. Then finally, I had the chance to spend 5 minutes or so just to photograph its facade.

San Joaquin Cemetery

San Joaquin Cemetery

Had it not been with a company of work colleagues, spending an hour or so to photograph the details and explore more would have been desired. But then, five minutes was all I had to have a closer view of this famous cemetery in San Joaquin, Iloilo.

The San Joaquin Cemetery is around 53 kilometers from Iloilo city. It was constructed in 1892 during the Spanish colonial period and still very much preserved to this day.

San Joaquin Cemetery





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08 November 2014

Fascinating Mysore Palace

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Fascinating Mysore Palace

Not to be missed when you are in City of Palaces that is Mysore is the elegant Mysore Palace. Mysore has seven palaces but Mysore Palace is the most popular one. In fact, it is one of the many popular tourists attractions in India and takes its place after the famous Taj Mahal. It is said to have around three million visitors every year.

So after a brief sojourn in Namdroling Monastery Bylakuppe we headed to Mysore some 3-4 hours away. We arrived past 5PM in Mysore. According to our host, Mysore palace is usually full on Sundays because of the scheduled light and sound show. We still had enough free time to try the indoor guided tour of the Mysore Palace, before we could witness the lighting of the palace between 7:00 - 7:45 PM. I was very excited as I have seen Mysore Palace in photos. It would be a great time experiencing it myself.

 Fascinating Mysore Palace

I had second thoughts of getting inside the palace because with the limited time, I preferred to explore the sprawling palace gardens and just to photograph people and architecture. However, the guided tour of the interiors of the palace was just inviting and not to be missed despite the fact that photography (and even carrying photography gears) is not allowed inside the palace. This is the reason why what you can see in my photos are just exteriors.

Be that as it may, we deposited our gears for safekeeping and got the services of a diminutive Indian tourist guide who is already in his 60s to walk us through inside the palace. Notably, even with his age, he has still a lucid knowledge of the history of the palace--its every nook and cranny, the details and stories behind every artifact, the information about the rooms, architectural materials and design and art works inside the Palace.

Fascinating Mysore Palace

Our guide was equally delighted upon knowing that we are from the Philippines. He rarely have guests from the Philippines which, according to him, is a very beautiful country based on what he has read and because of the famous People Power and Cory Aquino. Regrettably, I was not able to have my picture taken with him.

The palace interiors is a symbol of opulence of the Wodeyars who have ruled Mysore for 611 years from 1339 to 1950. The exquisite marble and granite floors, the golden chariot, imported ceramic tiles from Europe, the wrought iron that adorned the windows and gates, stained glass dome that was shipped directly from Glasgow, Scotland, golden artifacts and the 3-D murals of the festivals in Mysore, were just awesome to behold.

Fascinating Mysore Palace

The current palace structure is a replacement of the old one which was ravaged by fire. The construction began in 1897 and was completed in 1912 but continued to be beautified by the next generations until 1940. According to our guide, it is the only palace in India that blends Hindu, Muslim, and Gothic architecture.

After the tour of the palace interior, we immediately proceeded to retrieve our cameras in the safekeeping section near the gate. It was already around 6:00 pm and the next destination was St. Philomena Church, which just a few blocks away and is an equally beautiful architecture. However, I begged off and chose to stay behind so I could have more time exploring the palace grounds.

Fascinating Mysore Palace

One hour was not enough to capture the spacious palace grounds. With the limited time and the setting sun, I had to run from one viewpoint to another to take advantage of the available light and wait it out for the drama of the setting sun. When I thought I have photographed almost every possible angle, I patiently waited for the lighting ceremony.

Slowly, the palace was lit. First, its interiors, then the walls and gates and temples, then the fountains, and finally the finale--the lighting of the thousands of bulbs lining up the walls, domes and spires, windows arches and posts. The entire palace grounds was sparkling in the humid twilight.

The people were simply in awe that everyone wanted to get the best spot where they can take their own selfies or "ussies".  A marching band plays on the background in the entire 45-minute display of beauty and perfection.

Fascinating Mysore Palace

I could say that witnessing this spectacular show was definitely one for the books. For a while, I was transported to the times when royalties still ruled the land and wondered how to live like one. It was one for the senses. It lifted every spectator's spirits.

More than a week of traveling around Karnataka was physically exhausting, but watching the palace in its full glory replaced that feeling of fatigue and exhaustion. For a moment, I felt adrenaline and good feeling rushing inside.

Definitely, this brief sojourn was meant to be remembered.

Fascinating Mysore Palace

Visit my Flickr Album for more photos of Mysore Palace.





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04 November 2014

Majestic Mount Mayon

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Majestic Mt. Mayon

During a research work back in 1995, I finally had the chance to see Mount Mayon--the volcano famous for its perfect cone, and the volcano I used to see only in photos and textbooks. It was just unfortunate that I did not have a camera that time. Mayon volcano, stands at 2,462 meters, is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines.

Urban legend has it that Mount Mayon would only show up its full glory when you have the purest of heart. I did not believe it of course. It was a rainy season that time, but by sheer luck, Mount Mayon showed up in full. Whether this urban legend is true or not, it is always a privilege seeing Mount Mayon.

Lately, I have gone to Albay for a work-related travel and had the chance to go to the places around Mount Mayon. Just like the first time, it never failed to leave me in awe. I never wasted the chance to capture it through my lenses from where we have gone, and just admire its imposing presence wherever we are. I am blessed to see it once again and I am just glad to share it with you.


Majestic Mt. Mayon


Majestic Mt. Mayon


Majestic Mt. Mayon


See the rest of the Photos at Majestic Mount Mayon in Flickr



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20 July 2014

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe

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Namdroling Monastery

After Coorg, the long and winding downhill and uphil road led us to a Tibetan settlement called Bailkoppa or Bylakuppe, which is known for its sandal groves. Bylakuppe Tibetan settlement consists of a number of small camps, monasteries, and nunneries and the most famous among them is the Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery.

Tibetans took refuge in this settlement after China took over Tibet. In 1972, the refugees settled at Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar. It was also the time when Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery or otherwise known as Namdroling Monastery and alternately called the Golden Monastery, was re-established in 1972 by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. Later on, His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the spot and bequeathed the name "Namdroling Monastery."

It is known to be the second largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet. Home to over 7,000 monks, nuns and and students Namdroling Monastery is the largest teaching center of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world and is renowned as a center for the pure upholding of the teachings of the Buddha.

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe
Buddha Shakyamuni (Founder of Buddhism)

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe
Buddha Amiyatus (The Buddha of Long Life)

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe
Buddha Padmasambhava (Also known as Guru Rinmpoche)

The monastery not only attracts large number of young Tibetans seeking enlightenment and education, but also draws tourists from all over India and abroad.

Getting inside the huge compound transports one to another world. Its sprawling grounds where silence is revered and preserved are themselves a place for quiet meditation. The temple is considered sacred thus, anyone who would go inside the Golden Temple would have to remove any footwear (socks are allowed), and needs to observe silence.

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe

One cannot only admire the artistry inside but everyone is encouraged to some meditation or prayer or just sit idly and observe moments of silence.

The 40-foot tall golden Buddha statues are the major attractions of the monastery. The statues of Buddha (Center), Padmasambhava, and Amitayus dominate the altar, while the temple walls and columns are decorated with colorful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The altar is adorned with fresh flowers, candles and incense sticks.

Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe


Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe


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04 July 2014

Eat, tour, do activities and have fun with locals

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Traveling with Locals
Dining with locals of Inabanga, Bohol

Just before the sun descended behind the mountains and pine trees and not too long after we have traveled the dirt road that forks to the right from the asphalted Halsema Highway we finally reached Sitio Labey in the town of Tublay, in Benguet province. We settled in one of the modest homes that served as our accommodation for the night. Half an hour later, a gong sounded from afar. It seemed it was a signal that they have been waiting for that everyone in the household, except us, hurriedly dressed up for the seemingly important event.

Our host family summoned us to get ready as well because we were going to a dinner at the house located at the foot of the mountain across the rice paddies. Without saying a word, the man of the house started preparing a torch out of the chopped saleng  (a local pine specie known for its combustible properties, that is also a threat during hot summers as they tend to burn easily and create a forest fire). We would use that torch to light our way to the dinner venue. I was puzzled why we were going to another house for dinner.

As soon as we arrived, people in the community started to arrive in trickles, then in groups. We were told that it was the eve of a wedding day, and a canao was being held in honor of the soon to be wedded couple and was also a thanksgiving and fellowship of sorts.

The next best thing was to partake of the food they have prepared. The bride's family butchered a large pig for the occasion. The pork was sliced into bite-size pieces and sauteed with garlic, onion, pepper, and salt and simmered in its own lard until the meat was cooked and oily enough to be served to the guests. Heaps of steaming rice and scoops of the oily meal were put on the plates. We took our share and ate with our bare hands. The cooked pork tasted okay even sans the fancy ingredients and sauces. I learned that the Igorots cooked their pork that way. At the start, the taste was good, but as you finish your plate, you begin to feel you have had too much of it.  Be that as it may, we were filled up.

The mood was festive and the bride's family was able to feed all the guests that night. Guests were also allowed to bring home bigger chopped half-cooked meat.

I learned that in any family occasion or important community events like this, the whole community is invited. You will know this once you hear the gong that signals the time to come and gather as a community. Tradition has it that even if you live at next mountain or hill, as long as you can hear the sound of the gangza or the gong, you are invited. At the time, no written or verbal invitation was needed for one to partake and have fellowship with relatives and other members of the community.  

This happened in 1991 when I had my first field work outside Baguio City to conduct a training of a community association in the village of Labey. This never happened again, but this experience is still vivid in my mind. I was barely out of college then, and that very first adventure sparked my desire to work with the nonprofit organizations and at the same time travel more and commune with people and learn about their culture.

Traveling with Locals
Our host in Taal Volcano community cooking Tawilis for lunch.

I am blessed to have a job that allows me to travel to different places--communing with the local people I work with, have a taste of their local cuisine, and do some activities together. Years later, I have been into far-flung communities and met innumerable people.

The jolly old and young men and women in Sitio Ilaya in Inabanga, Bohol will always be remembered for their sense of humor, delicious food and of course, their irresistible and unforgettable bahalina. The ever-hospitable people of Taal lake and their deep-fried and crunchy tawilis and many more encounters along the road will always be a delightful experience,

One does not have to have a job like mine that brings me to different places and doing activities. Any one can have the experience eating, going places and doing activities with locals.

One can say that I can do these stuff during my travel because it is part of my work. However, anyone can actually do this if you can choose to go beyond the touristy side of traveling. Foreigners and Filipinos alike would always be delighted to try and experience communing and eating with locals.

However, one of the challenges of traveling is the unfamiliarity of places we go to. We barely know the local local people and trying to experience and live like a local would sometimes be more than challenging than doing the touristy stuff.

This problem may no longer be especially in the Philippines. A travel website, Withlocals, will be launching in the Philippines soon! Withlocals aims to connect travelers travelers around the world through unique travel opportunities and home dining opportunities. This gives the chance for Filipinos to be ambassadors of tourism to both foreign and local travelers. More importantly, this becomes an opportunity to many travel junkies to earn as well. This new way of travelling and earning money at the same time sounds exciting, right?

Withlocals, is encouraging Filipino travelers to be part of this growing community--either as a traveler or a host who can offer dining opportunities both at home or seek out unique dining opportunities in your respective location. One can also be a local guide that will show the guests around or allow the guest traveler to live like a local. How does it work? If you think this is for you, then, what are you waiting for? Sign up now for a free account. Who knows, you might also be traveling soon and you might want to be hosted as well. Withlocals, offers partnerships with travel websites as well.







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24 April 2014

Stopover | A glimpse of downtown Coorg

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around coorg

After the photo walk, we left Solitaire Exotica for yet another interesting place in Bylakuppe, but dropping by downtown Coorg was irresistible. Coorg is known for its spices, coffee and tea. I did not like spices and knowing we have roasted coffee available in the Philippines, I settled for some green tea that I can brew back home.

Coorg or Kodagu looks like a small town but only because the establishments and places of interests are scattered in the vast geographic location. Coorg is known for its touristy places like the Omkareshwara Temple, Madikeri Fort, Madikeri Palace and the Raja's Seat. Going around Coorg, one needs to have a private vehicle or try India's ubiquitous rickshaw, as the places of interest are quite distant from each other.

Interestingly, Coorg is a multi-ethnic and multi-religion town that is home to Roman Catholics, Hindus and Muslims. This explains why I saw some people with palms and coming out of a building that happens to be a church. It was a Palm Sunday, I realized.

Interestingly, too, and unlike other parts of India, Coorg places high importance of women. Women are highly educated and a man who likes to get married does not have to place a dowry. And more importantly, India's caste system is not applicable here. How cool is that!?

It is also the lone town in India where anyone can own a gun without applying for a license. Traditionally, when a son is born, a single gunshot is fired in the air. But when a son dies, they fire two gunshots.  They also have a festival dedicated to firearms. I have not seen a gun store while roaming around, though.

Here are some photos of our quick stop-over in Coorg:

Coorg downtown

Coorg downtown

Coorg downtown

Coorg downtown

Click this LINK for more downtown Coorg Photos. Below is the map of Coorg.



View Larger Map






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20 April 2014

Photowalking Coorg

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Photowalking Coorg

For the past days I was in India, the schedule had always been hectic and waking up in different places every day was a given fact. No matter how much I liked to linger on, just like what I ought to have during the morning walk in Udupi, it was not just possible with the limited time. I still had three days left and this would be my last time to have a morning walk again in India so I had to make the most out of it in Coorg. Gladly, this was on a Sunday and we had our own sweet time to to savor and enjoy.

Photowalking Coorg

Also known as Kodagu District in the state of Karnataka, Coorg is known for its coffee estates that boasts of sophisticated coffee production technology. It is the second biggest coffee producer in India. However, we did not come here for coffee. We were just passing through after a trip from Udupi and a short educational trip and dinner of chicken burger and fries at the KFC in Mangalore--a welcome relief from South Indian spicy entrees from morning till night, and quite a respite from spice-induced tummy growls.

Even the night before, my mind was already set--to do a photowalk and to see the things lurking in the dark when we arrived in the middle of the night. It was also a time to be alone and detach myself from the whining about the food, the food and the food!

The traveler and explorer in me had to shrug these things off because I cannot simply allow myself to take part in this growing discomfort. I had to take a breather and just enjoy everything around me. To me, there were more important things about the "exotic-ness" of the exotic food.

As a frequent traveler, I have learned that to be able to survive in a new place, one has to appreciate culture that go with the "taste". Everything is a learning experience--no more, no less. I guess that explains a lot, too, why I like some South Indian food.

The next day, my motivation was high--simply to to cherish everything around me, no matter how mundane or how familiar things would be.

Photowalking Coorg

Indeed, after seeing some familiar things, there is nothing spectacular about it. Tagaytay is even better than this, I thought. There are also guard dogs that bark and chase you. Same trees. Same grass. Same flowers. Perhaps, better buildings.

But the inquisitive traveler in me pushed me look for something unique in this place. From a single step, I took a hundred more or so--and I was not disappointed. Indeed, there is something different and amiable about this place. It is not the usual resort on the hills. Add to it the fact that this place was something new to me.

Photowalking Coorg

While one can see the usual trees, familiar shrubs and flowers, barking and chasing dogs, and the rest of nature, quiescence pervaded the place. In rural Philippines, one can see a lot of people roaming around the streets by this time. I realized I was almost alone on the road, save for one rickshaw that passed by and the barking dog that almost chased me.

The other discovery is the rooted-ness of Hindu religion in nature. While one can regard a tree an ordinary living thing, some trees in trees and even pebbles are venerated in India. Usually they venerate banyan trees as incarnation of Krishna. A simple and lifeless stone represents a bull that is considered holy--and no one is allowed to step on or touch trees in a sacred place of worship like this.

Photowalking Coorg

Photowalking Coorg

Photowalking Coorg

And of course there were a few things I took fancy while seeing through my lens.

Photowalking Coorg

Photowalking Coorg

Photowalking Coorg

Photowalking Coorg

Overall, the early morning sweat and the chasing dog were all worth it.




This is the 5th leg of my
Please come back for more stories while exploring and learning about the State of Karnataka in India.













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19 January 2014

Bucketlist: A holiday cruise


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It has been my long-time dream to go on a holiday cruise -- be it in the Far East or somewhere more culturally diverse and visually engaging. I would long for that day when you are just on board and enjoying a company of your loved ones and other people who only wanted to savor the art of loafing and traveling.

Virgin Holiday Cruises gives a traveler an idea about a dream holiday cruise. Not only does it provide the details one needs but also gives the options on where you would want to spend on a next holiday, wherever you are in the part of the globe. Not only that, a star-studded cruise is also a come on! Elton John aboard? Whoa!

Cruising in the Far East might augur well for those living in the cold countries experiencing the polar vortex. It is time to escape the cold [read: freezing] weather and bask under the sun.

 Here is an info graphic about Virgin Holiday Cruise package:

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