Strolling around DC

•April 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As I browse through my pictures folder, I stumbled upon my DC folder. Relaxing on a Saturday afternoon while others get crazy busy going to their respective provinces, I decided to stay at the most peaceful, traffic-free place during the Holy Week – Metro Manila. Yes, it is true that it is best to stay in the Metro during the Holy Week if you are truly looking for a peaceful place to reflect.

However, Manila is not about this specific post. A place I call my second home. Washington, DC.

Washington, DC is the nation’s capital of the United States. 70% of the land area here is controlled by the National Park Service which means that it is a major tourist destination. What I love about DC are the numerous museums and memorial parks. As a laid back person, I would always prefer relaxing under a tree and count the number of people passing by rather stroll in a mall.

Here are some photos I took during my last visit in August 2010.



Smithsonian Institute

Lincoln Memorial

Museum of Natural History

View of Pencil from Lincoln Memorial

There are a lot of museums here in DC and most of them require a small amount of entrance fee ranging from 10-25 dollars. You can also take the DC tour via Segway which is quite pricey but I guess its worth it for those who have problems in walking.

My favorite museums here in DC are the Museum of Natural History where you will find dinosaurs and other extinct animals that lived millions of years ago. Here you will be amazed by the wisdom and beauty of how God formed the earth. You will also find one of the rarest diamond which is called the “Hope Diamond”. You will also find here the Spy Museum where you will see cool gadgets and stories of real life spies. Another museum worth visiting is the Newseum. It is a museum and a memorial for journalists, broadcast and media practitioners. In here you will find that the Philippines is tagged as one of the most dangerous place for journalists.

When in DC, do not be contented in just taking pictures from the outside of Capitol and the White House. You can take the tour inside these powerful landmarks. I was able to get a tour inside the White House in 2004 hoping to see the real Oval Office. Much to my desire, it was not allowed. Here are some pictures inside the Capitol:

Inside the Capitol

Inside the Capitols dome

Statue of Freedom

One of the more interesting spots in DC is not a museum nor a park but a library. This is not just the usual neighborhood library. Instead, it offers so much more – The Library of Congress. The best part is entrance is free.

Library of Congress

Inside the Library of Congress

Some quotes inside the Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Once you find yourself hungry, there is this famous restaurant with their famous chili burger. Only Bill Crosby and Barack Obama get their burgers for free. They have the best burgers in town.

Bens Chili Bowl

Inside Bens Chili Bowl

Inside Bens Chili Bowl

Another monument worth visiting is the Iwo Jima. This monument reminds us of the courage and valor of war heroes from the Battle of Iwo Jima in Japan.

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima

So the next time you’re planning on a US trip, plan a whole day of nothings in Washington DC.

Tracing Corregidor

•September 18, 2010 • 3 Comments

An early morning drive from Quezon City to Manila on a Saturday is like finding a coin in a sandbox. Rare and unusual. Saturdays were meant to be bypassed due to oversleeping. But this Saturday was not like any other because I was all set to go on a short cruise to Corregidor Island.

Exploring a tourist destination within Luzon by ferry is something new if you live in Metro Manila. Most tourist destinations in Luzon require only four-wheeled cars. A company called SUN CRUISES provides this service of bringing tourists to and fro Corregidor Island. All you need is to be at the CCP Terminal at 6:45am because the ferry leaves at 7am. The ferry trip lasted for about an hour and while we were in the ferry, an audio visual presentation of the Corregidor Island and its offerings were played. Do not worry of getting your hair sticky from the sea wind because the ferry is equipped with air conditioning. Yeah, that was such a great relief.

We have arrived. Fresh air, a calm sea and a bright sunny day welcomed us as we jumped off the ferry and proceeded to a small gazebo where we will have a sumptuous lunch buffet provided by Sun Cruises. The food was ok since they served Filipino dishes. I just don’t know how the foreigners would rate the food. But it looked like they liked the food since they kept on coming back to the buffet table.

Our guides told us to hop on any of the tram-like buses except the buses with Japanese-speaking tour guides. Yes they have special guides where you can ask for special services like language translations. Our guide was an old filipino male (about the age of 65 above). I was not impressed at the start since he talked slowly and with a funny English accent. But then when I started to listen to him because of an interesting question that was raised about World War II, I was amazed by his knowledge of not just World War II events in the Philippines but also how it was connected with World War I including the events in the history of European countries. All of these were somehow connected to the buildings, names and significant characters that appear in our tour in the island. He threw jokes here and there to give us a good laugh but at the end, still gives a real score of the history. He was a walking History Almanac with a good sense of humor. Too bad I forgot his name.

Throughout the tour in our tram-like buses, we hopped on and off the ruins of this once great fortress. There are two theories of the etymology of the name Corregidor. One was from the word “Corregir” which means to correct. During the Spanish times, all ships were required to have their documents corrected before entering Manila since Corregidor is strategically located at the entrance of Manila Bay. Another theory claims that the rocky island was once a penitentiary institution that the Spaniards call “El Corregidor”. Just like the rocky island off the shore of San Francisco called Alcatraz. They were both referred to as “The Rock”.

Due to lack of time, we only booked for a day tour. However, Corregidor Island offers overnight hotel accommodations and activities such as ghost hunting at the hospital ruins, tunnel spelunking, bonfires and star gazing.

We went to different batteries in the island that showed off the artillery power of the United States. Here are some of the gun emplacements we visited in our tram tour.

For an additional 150 pesos, you will be able to watch a Lights and Sound show at the Malinta Tunnel. Very educational, very entertaining and the nationalistic passion in you will ignite again as you will find yourself singing the national anthem at the end of the show.

We also visited the oldest lighthouse in the island which was used by the Spaniards to guide arriving ships from 36 miles away. But this lighthouse was destroyed during the war only to be rebuilt in 1950. It now stands as a memorial to those thousands who died defending it.

Corregidor also has a memorial for all those men and women who died defending it similar to the Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

If you are not fond of reading books like me, visit this place and your curiosity for history will surely be tickled. I just hope that the Philippine Government and some concerned private sectors can consider funding the island further for its tourism development to cast out disappointments and frustrations when you see things like these.

I tried to research a speech delivered by Douglas Mac Arthur when he returned to the Philippines after his famous “I shall return” line. It was during a part of the Lights and Sound show where the speech was played and that ignited my nationalistic flame. The following is an excerpt of that speech that I just need to put here so that all Pinoys will know that we are still in a continuing fight against anything that threatens our freedom:

“The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.”

I salute and honor those who died to defend the freedom of this country that I love


The Villanueva Photo Shoot

•September 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

I am more than privileged and honored to have been given the rare opportunity of capturing this family. I am more than grateful to this family because through them, I have come to know the God that I now serve. I am also grateful for Bro. Eddie and Sis. Dory for the unconditional love that they have shown me. Indeed, I see Jesus in them.

Doreen memoirs

•September 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have only one sentence for this baby.

Doreen never fails to make me smile.

The Valencia Family Photo shoot

•September 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This family has been a major inspiration in my life. A life that is contented, happy and satisfied. They have taught me the basic principle that life is not about what you have rather it is who you have in your life that makes it worthwhile. They have taught me the very meaning of LOVE.

Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS. – I Corinthians 13:4-8

My Bohol Surprise

•February 9, 2010 • 10 Comments

I was on the earliest plane bound for Tagbilaran on a Monday morning. The sun is yet to rise as I yawned away from the bustling sound of the morning rush of the metro. I was not expecting much from what I was about to see in Bohol so I just shrugged my shoulders and told myself I will just lie on the sand all day and enjoy the sun just like what I always do when I am on the beach. This trip was my third sea getaway in just a month so I was not expecting anything spectacular. The mere beach bumming already excites me. Nothing more. Apparently, I was in for a surprise.

We checked in at a luxurious resort called AMORITA RESORT. On our way to Panglao Island with my headphones stuck to my ears, all I see was the usual Pinoy rural scene. I then asked the resort driver why the name AMORITA. He simply said “a little love”.

My first surprise was that AMORITA is indeed a very nice resort. Seated on top of a rocky hill, it boasts a lush landscape of greens tucking away the villas. Its infinity pool projects a mirage so one would think that the pool is connected to the sea. Such a beautiful sight. I was more than contented with place. There was nothing else I could ask for.

Since official check in time is at 2pm, I found myself sitting on a chair just staring at the magnificence of the sea. So I decided to check out what the place could offer. I found a dive shop just beside the restaurant and a dive master greets me with this huge smile. I immediately asked how much for a good scuba dive. He said intro dives go for 3000 pesos. I stopped and thought “hmmm, not a bad idea to start my day.” So I said yes. I dragged my two other friends to join me for our very first scuba dive. This was my 2nd surprise.

We went through the basics of learning to breath underwater using breathing apparatus as well as other equipment used for underwater diving. The dive master also taught us some hand signals so we can communicate underwater. It was a breeze.

At about 9 am, I just found myself I was on a boat headed for the open waters to try out my very first scuba dive. I was quite scared of the idea. Movie scenes from Jaws, Open Water, Deep Blue Sea, Into the Wild of Nat Geo came rushing in giving me goose bumps. I asked my dive master how deep are we going. He just said “as deep as you can stand” and gave out again that huge Boholano smile.

My 3rd surprise was the beauty and peace I found and felt underwater. I was a natural diver. My overconfidence even led me to think I was a fish in my past life. I went 60 feet deep and can’t get enough of wonders of a different world under. After the dive, I felt that my vacation was all worth it already.

As soon as we got back to the resort, the front desk people said our rooms were ready. I was now excited to see if my room will make it to the top of my charts. It did. Every villa has its own Jacuzzi. The 4th surprise. The room was spectacular with an ocean view to greet your morning and to send you to dreamland with the sound of the waves.

On our 2nd day, I woke up early to prepare for our countryside Bohol tour.  My group hopped on a bus and our tour guide shared to us some interesting facts about Bohol. Here are some of the trivia I remembered that were shared to us:

–       Bohol has a land mass of 4117.3 square kilometers.

–       The town of Danao was an NPA-infested area but now boasts a destination for the extreme sports and is one of the major attractions of Bohol

–       Bohol has historic churches dating way back in the 1500s. Its church structures are from coral stones since the place is rich in marine resources.

–       Most of these churches are in the outer portions of Bohol because the Spaniards cannot penetrate the inlands because of resistance of the native people

Our first stop was the Blood Compact Site. This is a shrine of Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. They cut their arms and dropped blood in a glass with wine and both drank it to seal their friendship.  But rumor has it that Legazpi did this because his ship was running out of food supply and had no intentions of whatsoever to establish friendship. Talk about having BFF with benefits.

I was excited to reach our next destination. It was my first time to see a tarsier. Such a small cute, nocturnal creature that resembles a probable mixed breed of a monkey and a rodent. Our tour guide said that it was prohibited to touch the tarsiers because they have very high suicidal tendencies. If they wanted to kill themselves, they just stop breathing and choke themselves to death. Freaky.

Next stop – Chocolate Hills. Formerly known as Carmen Hills but when a foreigner saw the brownish hills (because of too much heat, the hills dry up), he said they were like Hershey’s Kisses thus the term Chocolate Hills. The perfect view for the hills required 214 steps to reach the top and get a breathtaking view of the hills.

After our trip from the Chocolate Hills, we were quite hungry and went on our way for our Loboc River Cruise with buffet lunch.  Along the way, we passed by the famous man-made forest spearheaded by the late President Carlos P. Garcia. Mahogany trees were planted 2 meters apart from each tree. Now it has become a forest and a water shed which became the main reason why Bohol is spared from floods and from the devastating effects of typhoons.

During the cruise, we ate our hearts away from the sumptuous Filipino served to us by the Loboc River Cruise. It is a hour-long cruise along the Loboc River .  The Loboc River got its name from the word “Lobog”.  Boholanos have a high incidence of kidney diseases because their water supply has very high salinity.

After the Loboc River Cruise, we went to this old church called Baclayon Church. The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is one of the best preserved Jesuit build churches in the region, although in the 19th century, the Augustinian Recollects added a modern facade and a number of stone buildings that now surround the church.

We stopped at a local souvenir shop to get loads of items and Peanut Kisses – one of their well-known delicacies.

Indeed, as we headed back to our resort, I said to myself that Bohol really surprised me with its rich culture and history and I was amazed at how they make the best efforts to preserve their homeland through a sustainable way without having to resort to commercialization and industrialization. It was my surprise no. 5.

We had free time to enjoy the pristine sapphire blue waters of Alona beach while we wait for a sumptuous buffet dinner at Amorita.  I called the front desk if I could schedule a relaxing massage in my room to cap off my night. Apparently, we have a free complimentary massage from the hotel as part of our package. My surprise number 6 – a relaxing FREE massage as I dozed off to dreamland.

I woke up early the next day to catch a boat on the way to the open waters and catch a glimpse of dolphins.  I found this a little uninteresting since I have seen trained dolphins at Ocean Park in Hong Kong and Sea World in California. So there was really nothing spectacular for me to see. WRONG. We were literally waiting for dolphins to come out from the ocean and it was quite impossible to spot dolphins. But after a while, there they were, jumping and swimming together with our boat giving us free show.  It was a surprise. Surprise no.7.

We got back to the shores happy to have seen wild dolphins happily playing in the open waters.

As we prepared to end our vacation, I realized that I am so blessed to be a Filipino and experience all of these.  So, what are you waiting for? Let Bohol surprise you.

Fire Dance

•January 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have always been afraid of fire. The mere scent of smoke haunts me. Makes me so nervous when I imagine  waking up in the middle of the night only to find out that my house is on fire.  I have been burned so many times and each burn makes me more careful. Fire symbolizes many things. In Hawaii, Polynesian ancestors worship the fire god. It also symbolizes passion. On the other hand, it can also mean hell (being thrown in the lake of fire). It can be a source of life as well as destruction.

Our journey in this life is like passing through fire. It is inevitable. Some are like paper easily burnt. Others take a while to burn like wood. When gold passes through fire, it does not burn. Rather it shines.

Our character is a work in progress. Come forth as gold.

The following photos were taken during my recent trip to Boracay. I regret the fact that I did not bring my bulky SLR and just decided to take with me my ever dependable and handy Sony Cybershot.

Warning : Flammable. Keep out of reach of children.