Saturday, November 27, 2010

Symphony of Parol: Light and Sound Christmas Display at the Ayala Triangle Gardens

The Ayala Triangle at night time taken during the show's finale.

My friend  Tita Galicinao and I went to an event yesterday. But after the event, both of us didn't want to go home yet. Since the event was held in Makati, we figured we could still roam around and see what's new in the metro. We heard so much about Ayala Triangle Gardens--behind the Ayala Tower One along Ayala Avenue. Tita and I had not been there yet, so we decided to go there. When we got there, only a few people were at the said park. But there were rows of restaurants where you can unwind and relax amidst the beauty of the park. You can choose from Banapple, Omakase, Golden Spoon Yogurt, Cara Mia Gelato, Wee Nam Kee and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. There's definitely a place to satisfy your cravings. Oh, and did I mentioned the garden has a free Wi-Fi from Globe? It is a delight to look at during the day as visual relief from all the district's tall buildings, but it is even more of a delight to visit in the evenings and on weekends.

People were amazed with all the dazzling lights.
  Anyway, there's a light and sound show every night that starts at 6PM. We were amazed by the dazzling lights that was scattered within the area--some were on the trees, some are even on the grounds hidden within the grass. There was a medley of Christmas music playing on speakers and the lights seemed to dance to the beat of the music. It truly was a spectacular show that lasted for about twenty minutes.

Kyle with the Ayala Triangle Garden's Nativity belen.

Even Kyle who didn't liked to go to the Ayala Triangle Gardens at first enjoyed the show when he saw the lights twinkling brightly in different colors. He even danced to the Christmas music. However, if you'll be going there with kids in tow, I suggest you bring him a jacket and perhaps a hat because it does get cold during the night's show. You may even bring his bike so he can bike around while waiting for the show to start, with adult supervision, of course. The Ayala Triangle Gardens was built in the old Manila International airport, so there's a lot of history within its fences. Animals like dogs are allowed within the park area as well, just be responsible for them including their poops.

Kyle enjoyed the show despite the cold weather.

The Ayala Triangle Gardens is open to the public for free. The "Symphony of Parol" light and sound show will run until December 23, with special weekend shows on December 18 and 19. There will be public performances by choirs and a few personalities to serenade the guests.Designed by multi-awarded lighting designer Voltaire de Jesus and complemented by talented sound engineer Jethro Joaquin, the show uses the gardens' main plaza and huge acacia trees as the frame and setting for a multi-sensory, immersive experience.

It is a light spectacle highlighting color with musical score that is fun and contemporary, with a distinctive theatrical feel. The show is truly dramatic, a symphony of parols, kinetic lighting and festive music. I had blast myself photographing the event and the lights.  Don't forget to bring your cameras, as if I had to tell you that. Filipinos are known to be picture-taking addicts. We all love taking photos, capturing each moment everywhere we go, don't we? That's why the term, "kodakan" came into our language. Anyway, you may see this wonderfully made Christmas light and sound show only until December 23, so hurry and see the show soon.

The Symphony of Parol light and sound show will run until December 23. Every 30 minutes in the evening beginning at 6PM. With special weekend shows on Dec. 18 and 19.

Monday, November 22, 2010

COD Christmas Display Lives On

The Greenhills Christmas on Display. This year's theme: Christmas in Wonderland

On my other blog,, I had previously featured the COD Christmas display that was transferred from the old Manila COD Department store building in Cubao to the Greenhills Shopping Center in Greenhills, San Juan. However, much to the disappointment of Filipino families who frequent the display, when the COD department store had closed down, the display also had to be stopped. But only for a while. It was soon revived by the same people behind the show when the Greenhills Shopping Center offered them to mount the shows again, but this time in San Juan. Mr. Alex Rosario, the brains behind the show that started 50 years ago (whose family owned the old Manila COD), who's now 84 years old is still at the helm of things when it comes to the COD Christmas display. His son, Rey, has followed his dad's footsteps to make sure that the tradition won't die.

 For those born in the '70s up to the late 90's, I'm sure you guys are quite familiar with this annual Christmas display with different themes each year. According to Mr. Joey Santos, Greenhills Shopping Center General Manager, as early as the month of February each year, they'd start working on the display and brainstorming on concepts and materials to be used.
Santos said what makes the present animatronic display different from the past COD shows is that aside from being much bigger, the technology being used has become more sophisticated in recent years. “Presently, the show is bigger and we make use of electronics and automation. It’s three-dimensional. Aside from these, Pinoy or homegrown ang paggawa nito,” he said.
“To me, I think the COD show is the biggest Christmas promotion in town. The recall is huge. The people who come to see the show include not only the people of this generation, they also bring their kids, family members. Maganda rin ang feedback ng aming tenants because it helps Greenhills become stronger,” he said.

Santos, at the same time, said their vision is to keep the COD animatronic alive in the next few years because for them, this is their small contribution to the Filipino family and society as a whole.

Greenhills Shopping Center Christmas Display Show starts at 6:30PM everyday from Mondays-Sundays until January 2, 2011. Admission is FREE! What's more, there's lots of tiangge (really bargain items and goodies) and food kiosks to choose from before the show starts. I strongly suggest be there early as parking is quite difficult, and to get yourselves seats.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fascinated with ILOILO

Iloilo—Island of southern mellowness and charm. You can’t rush through Iloilo. Take things as natives do: easy. Which is really the best way to appreciate its wealth of ancestral houses and churches. While you’re there be sure to shop for their pina and jusi, delicate fabrics woven from pineapple and banana fibers, and then hand-embroidered for Filipino costumes like the barong tagalog. Try to visit during Dinagyang Festival or Paraw Regatta.

The Festival's main food crispy roasted pigs or "lechon."

Paraw Regatta in Action

La Fiesta Hotel in downtown Iloilo City.

Amigo Terrace Hotel

My gracious host Hotel Del Rio, where I had met the most hospitable people. 

The President's choice of hotel to stay when in Iloilo, The Sarabia Hotel.

There were a lot of reasons to visit Iloilo, aside from its friendly people, the freshest bounty from the sea can also be found in Iloilo. There were also lots of historical places in the city including the church where it was believed that Dr. Jose Rizal  dropped by on his way to Dapitan. The UNESCO World heritage church in Miagao is also a must see for travelers. Don't forget to eat Diwal, Lato and the popular rice cake called "magkayakap" where two rice cakes were joined together by a banana leaf. 

I've been fascinated with Iloilo. It has the charm of the past and it has its own uniqueness. For one, it's the only place in the Philippines that has a gender-sensitive type of church. I mean, there's a church that only had Saints that were all men and another one that had all women Saints. It also had the Lopez owned Boat House and Nelly's garden. What's more? I've observed that it's only in Iloilo that people would leave their bags when they commune during mass and they'd find out their bags later in the same place, without any doubt. How trustworthy and honest Ilonggos are, weren't they?
More than its rich culture and wonderful scenic spots, its uniqueness among all the other places I've been to, I guess Iloilo fascinated me all the more because of its people. They're "malambing" and very approachable. Find out and see for yourselves.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Charm of Camiguin

Each time I travel, especially to places I’ve never been to, I can’t help but gush that God must have loved Filipinos so much He gave us the best postcard-perfect views on this side of the globe. We have wonderful beaches, hills, plus marine biodiversity being part of the Coral Triangle along with other countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

The Sunken Cemetery with its huge cross.

Paras Beach Resort

I’ve seen this awesome island on the silver screen when I was about eight or nine years old.  But I had no idea I’d actually step on the island one day. And again, like most of my travels, I am at a loss of words to describe it. The jetsetter in me got really excited when I was told I’m heading off to Camiguin. The roads were steep and narrow. It felt like it had taken us forever to reach the island. We had to ride a plane to Cagayan De Oro, and then from CDO airport, we had to ride a van going to Balingoan Port, then a Ferry Boat to take us to the island, then another van again before we could reach Paras Beach Resort where we had stayed

The sand bar that can be seen during low tides.

I have collected sand from all the beaches I’ve visited—and still counting—yeah, I know I can hear the environmentalists protesting. It’s not much really, just a fistful each time, which I place on my Starbucks Mocha Frapuccino Bottle when I get home.

Dramatic photos such as this during the so-called Magic Hour.

The author in black shirt, with some friends happily soaking our feet below the magnificent Katibawasan Falls.

The remains of Mount Volcan

So calming with the water cascading down...

I just become completely different person when I am communing with nature. And it’s a feeling I do not get anywhere else. Camiguin had given me more than I had expected. I loved its quaint scenery. It reminds me of the good old times, it helps my soul become nourish as it offers picturesque spots I never even knew existed. I am charmed with Camiguin that I promise to keep coming back to this wonderful place forgotten by the rest of time. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sweet Sojourn in Coron

Sleeping on a hammock will probably do you good.
Pack your bags, hit the beach, get a tan, go home. You know it perfectly, the routine when you visit a beach. But it truly gets boring before so long, it becomes just another vacation you spend on the same beach. Aren’t vacations are supposed to be fun, right? It’s supposed to be the time you spend doing things you don’t normally do like wearing that snazzy bikini swimsuit or board shorts instead of the corporate attire or school uniforms you’re used to. And you’re supposed to be having fun than sitting in that lonely cubicle or chair of yours.
THAT is vacation.

The long journey to Busuanga

Am I in New Zealand? Oh, no! It's just Coron.

When I say it's an open jeep, it really meant everything's open.
So be ready with nature's own way of giving you a makeup foundation.

The jeepney ride starts from the Busuanga Airport

So forget about going to usual beaches this time because there’s one beach you definitely have to check out—well before it gets too popular and boring. Coron, Palawan may not exactly ring a bell yet for those who have not even heard of the wonders of Coron. Its beaches have clear blue waters, pristine white sand and it’s like having the island to yourself. But going to the island has its price of course. It lacks the amenities you expect from five star resorts like air-conditioned rooms and elevators. Getting there is pain.

Busuanga's airport was loaded with posters of resorts.

When I said that the aircraft was small, I meant around 25-seater with no seatmate.

Traveling to Coron is already an adventure itself. You ride a small plane to Busuanga where you’re most likely to get dizzy from air packets the minute you step off the aircraft. You’ll have to ride an open jeepney from the airport to a port, there’s a boat-ride waiting for you. The waves can be choppy and they aren’t for the faint of heart or the unprepared.

A refreshing ride on a kayak with friends is indeed a fun way to unwind.

Snorkel to your heart's content. Gears are provided by resorts for a minimal fee.
When you get to Coron, you get to pick which island you will settle in. There aren’t a lot of people on the island except of its locals. But keep in mind that some islands are privately owned so you have to check out first before you make camp, ask the boatman about it. Although there are cell sites there are also dead spots on the island. As for Wi-Fi, you can forget about bringing your gadgets save for your camera and music player; after all, you’re here to unwind and relax. And don’t forget to tell the boatman where he’s picking you up. Unless being left here is what you’re aiming for. What’s next after you get settled?

Marine life at its best.

To be sure, settle at an island near Kayangan Lake. You could also ask your boatman to bring you to Twin Lagoons where you could kayak and snorkel (most resorts provide gears) and see the old-century Japanese wreck. Check out other islands nearby like Calauit islands, known for its animal paradise. It’ll make you feel like you’re in Africa or in the reality-show Survivor. While you’re there, explore the island by dropping by the Maquinit Hot spring, Banol Beach, Siete Picados and if you’re more adventurous; try hiking the 700+ steps of Mount Tapyas.

Enjoy the beach because it has the most pristine waters you will ever find. Yes, it’s a whole lot better than Boracay. The white sand is fantastic too. Go there on a sunny day and you’ll surely be trigger happy with your camera because the mixture of the blue skies and waters, golden white sand and the green hills as well as limestone cliffs means everything’s picture perfect. At night, it’s only you, the sea and the stars. If you haven’t experienced stargazing on a clear sky, now’s your chance.

So if you want to hit the beach minus the crowd and the insane accommodation fees, then going to Coron will be your best bet for a getaway.

How well do you know the Philippines?

Imagine if our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal would be your own chaffeur around the country driving in style with his own jeepney and you're one of the lucky ones being his passengers? Then, he asks, How well do you know our country? Where would you ask him to take you? Quite a difficult question to answer, isnt?

The fortitude of the Filipino people, with their innate cheerfulness and optimism in adversity, is quite remarkable. Filipinos are hard people to define: Oriental by virtue of geography and their Malayo-Polynesian roots, nut the temperament, outlook in life, and earthly Catholicism more suited to Central America than to races in Southeast Asia.

Filipinos are regarded as one of the most convivial and spontaneous people of Asia. Beneath the sudden, sometimes volatile swings from fatalistic and pensive moods to high spirits, is an underlying warmth, generosity and grace few visitors failed to notice.

The joie de vivre of the Filipino people, their passion for music and rythm, is most apparent during festivals and fiestas. It is hardly surprising that these attractive people and their impartial hospitality should attract not only the serious travelers but also the dedicated seeker of pleasure.

Sadly, even fellow Pinoys themselves are not really familiar with their own country. Most of us have gone abroad without really having the chance to explore their own beautiful islands. We have 7,107 islands to explore and so much more. As citizens, we often fail to see our own country's rich bounty in terms of scenic spots and picture-perfect islands. We need to know our history, geography and love our own; these will give us enough information where we had actually came from. It will be a shame for us if foreigners would be able to appreciate our country more while fellow Pinoys haven't.

There could hardly be a better time, in fact, to visit and explore the wonders of the Philippines. Most of the archipelago remains remarkably untouched by commercial tourism. With the exception of major cities and a handful of well publicized tourist destinations, untrammeled beaches, coral reefs, ancient rain forests, volcanic peaks, nature reserves, marine faura and little known ethnic beauty and eclectic culture--the country's Epicurean night life offers a heady blend of music club, casinos, discotheques and bars to suit most tastes.

With Soulful travels, I hope that my followers and readers, fellow bloggers in blogsphere, as well as foreigners soon discovers that the physical and ethnic diversity of the atoll, and the permutations on travel in the Philippines where an y number of itineraries for one destination are possible, are virtually inexhaustible.

For travelers whose curiosity is not easily quenched, there's always another island just over the horizon waiting to be explored and discovered. lastly, I'd like to believe that Soulful travel is my humble way of helping prosper the economy by means of promoting tourism and the importance of nationalism, patriotism and our historical heritage.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In a state of AWE

Growing up, my Mom did not always gave me the newest or the most expensive things. What she gave, however, was far more valuable: the opportunity to travel. For me, traveling had always been a time to discover and experience new things. What I considered new was largely defined by age. When I was four-and-a-half, I distinctly remember getting excited over swimming at Matabungkay Beach Resort in Lian, Batangas. When I was fifteen, I was excited to try the scariest rides in theme parks—I did try the Space Shuttle at Enchanted Kingdom alone. At twenty-four, I got the chance to climb Mount Tapyas, snorkel and kayak in Coron, Palawan. Oh, and how can I forget I stared wide-eyed as I mounted a horse in Baguio at age nine for my first horse ride?

Things changed when I adopted a more holistic lifestyle, which taught me to be in constant state of AWE—awareness, wonder, and excitement. Experiencing new things now means discovering not only new places and cultures but, more importantly, facets of my self.

Traveling became both an internal and external journey independent of the destination. Trips, in order to be special, no longer had to be abroad. I soon realized that what makes a journey spiritual is not the sights that we see, but how we see it. We can be in the most enchanting city in the world and feel like we’re looking through a glass museum case or we can be in a museum staring at a barricaded masterpiece and still feel like we’re inside the painted scene.

Ultimately, as I learned through the ages, it is our choice whether to be a detached tourist or a soulful traveler. But if I were you, just as I had learned through time, the best travel is when you come home enriched and transformed, with realization that all roads are roads to self-discovery and that no matter how far we travel, we can delight in the certainty that we will always come home to our Selves.

P.S. My dream job is to host one of those travel food shows where I get to sample everything from roadside stalls to Michelin restaurants.