24 October 2014

Look who is going to Mars

11 October 2014


On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the island province of Bohol and the nearby island of Cebu at 8 in the morning, sending people out of their homes in fear and panic. The epicenter of the quake was in the town of Sagbayan but almost half of the island lay shattered and devastated. The old churches, Bohol’s pride, were hugely damaged, some of them crumpled to the ground, as were the case of Loboc, Loon and Maribojoc.

Tubigon was one of the towns greatly hit by the earthquake
(Photo grabbed from

Bohol has never seen this much destruction. The earthquake that struck in the eastern part of the island sometime in February 1990 did not brought this much calamity. The major road networks all over the island were also severely damaged. Bohol, being considered a major tourist destination in the Philippines, has just completed the concreting of most road networks around the island. Considered new, the quake toss them off. Mountains, bridges, buildings, houses and the lives of all Boholanos were never the same again.

Bohol's icon, the Chocolate Hills, looked like a kid was having tantrums here
(Photo grabbed from ABS-CBN)

But the Boholano spirit could never be put down. 

When the earthquake struck, already the social media was unusually abuzz with lots of activities. Boholanos from all over the world started updating friends, soliciting aid, assisting in the deployment of manpower and equipment to the area most affected, helping relatives find their loved ones. Today, social media is forming another platform among Boholanos as they find ways to boost tourism in the island.

Tourism, a major industry in the province slowed down a bit after the quake. But a few months after, the creative Boholanos took pride in what remained of the devastation. The ruins has become another tourist destination. Piece by piece, the coral stones that became the symbol of Boholano religiosity were gathered and cataloged, in the hope of making these historical stones a future showcase of ingenuity.

Loon's Catholic church crumpled to the ground killing a parishioner or two
(Photo grabbed from Cebu Daily News)

To date, majority of the tourism zones have recovered. Panglao Island, although shaken and stirred, remains a favorite escape for the sun-lovers of the world. Like a good martini. People now flock to its beaches and drink their blues away.

Some new adventure sites have also opened their gates to locals and other tourists visiting the island of Bohol. New restaurants and cafes have opened and the old ones are reinventing their menu for new gustatory adventures. Some even are branching out in nearby Cebu.

Photo grabbed from

And as we commemorate this painful event in our lives, we put aside our politics, our religion, differences, even our work, to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the quake. We give honor to those who dedicate their time, give financial support and extend efforts so we can recover. Boholanos are sending out our grateful hearts, forever indebted in their kindness, to all the generous donors all over the world.

And mostly to the Boholano pride that has kept us all as one big family, we salute you.


Updates on the earthquake, according to the government, can be accessed here.

What you can do

Infographics provided by Sun*Star online

Recovery efforts are still undergoing in Bohol. Some are still living under tents or temporary houses. Many students are still doing their classes in makeshift tents. The Batuan Light Bringers (BLB), a group of young people from Batuan, Bohol are still accepting donations, cash or in-kind, for the reconstruction of the houses of those affected in Batuan. Part of your donations are also given yearly to the poor elementary pupils especially in the villages of that town. BLB gives out school supplies during openings of school year and sponsor feeding programs for the malnourished children of Batuan. You can contact the author, or visit Batuan Light Bringers’ FB page and send them a message if you want to donate.

05 January 2014

Mӧvenpick Resort Cebu Tops Hot New Destinations List in 2013, According to Google, CNN

AMAZING HUH! This resort is literally right in my backyard and I haven't been there until I read the following news. Might as well explore this exceptional hotel or be left behind by other travel bloggers, who I am pretty sure, have been going there in and out.

Well- until I can afford it, of course. LOL

CEBU, Philippines (December 26, 2013) – Filipino-owned Mӧvenpick Resort Cebu is the second most Googled destination in the Philippines, according to Google’s 2013 year-in-review search list. As first reported on CNN, the Zeitgeist is Google’s year-ender report and lists the hottest travel destinations by country.

The annual Google report captures the trends and interests of people all over the world, including new favorites among Filipinos.

Sky Ranch in Tagaytay and Tubbataha Reef in Puerto Princesa were ranked the first and the third respectively. Pico de Loro, Tugawe Cove Resort, Potipot Island, Amana Waterpark, Misibis Bay, Nuvali and Laiya resorts rounded up the ten spots that Filipinos were most interested in learning more about.

Manny H. Osmena, owner of the two-year old Mӧvenpick was thrilled to hear about the results. “When my General Manager told me about the great news, I was so happy. It Is a gift from God to be recognized for the complete transformation of the property, as well as the transformation of the food and beverage service. We welcome visitors who are curious about the resort and aim to give them a great experience with the unique ambience of Mӧvenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu.”

The three most googled destinations in the Philippines
Interesting amenities and offers at the resort include the Ibiza Beach Club reminiscence of the club atmosphere in the Spanish island. Guests could watch gorgeous views of the sunset as they enjoy the Balearic-stye churrasco capped by the world-famous Mӧvenpick Swiss Ice cream. Guests could also order the same premium coffee served in Mӧvenpick Hotels in Paris,Zurich and Berlin. The outdoor performance venue shoes exciting Latin dance numbers, fire exhibition dancers and Las Vegas style performances four to five nights a week produced by our in-house artists under the direction of the entertainment director hailing from Majorca, Spain Paco Beltran. Meanwhile special occasions culminate in a special fireworks display over the beach from the rooms, views of the aqua colored waters and the seamlessly constructed boardwalk made from ironwood look pristine and serene. Guests pamper themselves with the finest bath sets imported from the luxury brand Chopard. To begin and end the journey is a luxury hotel car service: a Porsche Cayenne, which provides visitors a full-circle experience of excellence and elegance they won’t forget. 

The above qualities of Mӧvenpick Resort Cebu make it a place for a great and luxurious stay. The traits of this place have fueled the Filipino traveler’s interest in making Mӧvenpick Resort Cebu his destination of choice in 2013 and beyond.


Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu is ideally located 10 minutes away from Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Blessed with year-round sunshine, this diver’s paradise offers every imaginable water sport.

While the city of Cebu is only 30 minutes away with shopping, entertainment, casinos and spectacular golf courses, guests will find it difficult to leave their private oasis of indulgence and hospitality.


The Mövenpick Resort & Spa Cebu is a mere 10-minute drive away from Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Located on a private beach with access to the beautiful corals of Mactan, this resort is a haven for relaxation. It takes 30 minutes to reach the city of Cebu, offering an international congress centre, many shops, casinos, and a bustling nightlife.

(All text, except the blue ones, were grabbed from a press release and from the official site of  Mövenpick Resort)

13 September 2013

Over a cup of coffee

Coffee and lovers often mix. But each coffee shop I've been to exuded a different atmosphere, a different love affair. I can always feel the ambiance and the pulse of the people there. Different folks, different strokes. People converge here to talk, to see and to be seen and sometimes to be left alone. Or to heal a broken heart. The mocha-colored environment seemed an endless rainbow to me.

I’ve met my lover in a coffee shop.

And many others that followed. Maybe they sensed my love for coffee long before they knew me, a common denominator among us. We drank our coffee; we fell in love with each other. I was sure then that both our cups overflowed with love and joy as we talked about our future.

And it was here, over a cup of course, that I cried myself, over the pain of break-ups later. A close friend shared my dissent for "that person", as we drank our cupful. Desperation, too, seated at my side.

Coffee allowed me to meet different personalities. I've discussed contrasting views, haggle like a businessman, and carried away with the different trips of life. Over a cup, I've traveled to distant shores in different times. I've bid my farewells and goodbyes in coffee shops. Cup after cups of coffee have sent me to bed and awaken me in the middle of the night. My dealings with coffee have been as mysterious as a cappuccino or a latte, even more inexplicable than my shadowy affairs.

I was forced to stop drinking coffee for a short while when my doctor advised me not to, but it has not stopped me from visiting coffee shops. The scent and smell of coffee were as tempting as the fruit of life offered by Eve to Adam, making my medical fasting for coffee to last only for a while. With or without my doctor’s consent I splurged myself cup after cup. As if my very life itself depended on coffee.

And I haven’t stopped since then. When death shall have overcome me, I would still want my cup. And like death, each cup is worth a delightful wait.


I have a bias for Bo's Coffee. They are not just owned by a Filipino but their coffee is much better than other counterparts. Bo's Coffee has branches all over the Philippines.

04 September 2013

Bacolod, Always on My Mind

There are places you want to go back. The people, the culture, their food, are more than enough reasons to return. Bacolod is one of them and has been on my places-to-visit-before-I-die-list for so long and one visit made me long to go back even if the plane has not departed yet. 

Bacolod City is located in the northern part of the Negros island in the Visayas part of the Philippines, and very near Cebu, the hub of central Philippines. I have always known Bacolod as the sugar capital of the Philippines because books from the elementary years taught me that Bacolod has vast plains of sugar plantations, so vast you can see sugarcane to no end.

But when I went there I could hardly see plantations of sugarcane. 

Bacolod means a hilly place, a stonehill or as the Boholanos called it, bakilid. But far from its original meaning, it has become a modern city in a wide and sprawling space. The City of Smiles, as the city is fondly called, is known for its Masskara Festival and would not only offer smiles and a masked hospitality but a real down-to-earth joviality never found elsewhere. 


My first taste of Bacolod was at Aboy’s (Liroville Subd., Singcang, Bacolod City; Phone: +63 34 435 0760; Resto Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9:00 am–11:00 pm), an impressive restaurant with a lot of my favorite decorative pieces- masks. I felt at home right away at Aboy’s. 

From the tales of our guide, Aboy’s used to be a small eatery but with good food and good service, the eatery became a full restaurant equipped with function rooms. A bigger place for bigger groups of hungry patrons means their business is doing well. 

They offer an authentic array of Negrense cuisine combined with the fierce Ilocano recipe giving way to a new and different Aboy’s experience. 

Having a hard time choosing our food at Aboy's
We feasted on squid fat adobo (a must at Aboy’s), ginataang pague (stingray in coconut milk), grilled manumbok (blue marlin), mushrooms, Bicol express and grilled squid. We capped our lunch with a complimentary tarragon tea and a little chitchat with the owner, yes, the guy called Aboy, who used to be a medical representative. 

The man himself, Aboy

After our lunch has settled in a more comfortable position, my host, Lee Santiago, brought us to the old capitol building to visit a non-government organization he has been helping to promote their products, a real NGO that needed assistance, that has likewise been helping SMEs in the province. We actually bought some coffee and other goodies from them. 

We then walked around Bacolod’s mini zoo ending at Bacolod’s Organic Market and the Museum Café nearby. 

Organic halo-halo at Bacolod's Organic Market


Somewhere in B.S. Aquino Drive, if I remembered it right, there is this little restaurant called Carmine Cucina that is owned by an Italian chef, Carmine Pece. 

Chef Carmine Pece
Not minding the tacky décor for an Italian resto, the food at the Cucina was my first taste of an authentic Italian cuisine, as the owner claimed, and they were actually good! My firsts- Gnocchi, Trippa, Salsiccia Padella, Linguini Pescatora, Pizza Caprecciosa, Zuppa Inglese. Godetevi il vostro cibo! Buon appetito!

Pizza Caprecciosa
(Update: Carmine Cucina is now closed and I felt sad.)


You can never really claim you have been to Bacolod if you have not tasted cansi. Cansi is actually a soup made from bony parts of beef slowly cooked with batuan (Garcinia binucao) and other spices. The prized part is the bone where the marrow is invitingly tucked inside making the cansi not just a heart warmer but also a heart stopper, literally. 

Waiting for cansi to be served
We went to Sharyn’s (Capitol Shopping Center, Bacolod City, Phone: +63 34 433 1374), a no-nonsense restaurant that reminded me of downtown Cebu. Only this one was cleaner. The staff might have wondered who we were because we arrived late, rowdy and curiously taking pictures of the bone marrow and nobody dared smile to us. 

I cansi clearly now
Sharyn’s cansi and all other cansi around town is a sour bulalo version, the hours of cooking and heating the beef bones made the meat and tendons soft and easy to chew. The batuan may have made a difference of this stew. They seemed to have an abundant supply of cansi soup. 

Then we made it to the Manokan Country in Rizal Street for our dinner. 

At Manokan was where the famous Aida’s Chicken is located. Aida’s owner may have been a fan of Miss Bacolod since I saw pictures of the candidates in one of the walls. Intricate masks fit for beauty pageants also were displayed at their stall. 

Pass Aida please. Yes, the chicken.
We ordered different parts of the chicken and have them grilled. I did not find them extra-ordinary though. But I admire the enthusiasm and the vivacity of the place. It was like a big market place of grilled-something waiting for guests to bite on. Manokan Country is a must-visit. 


A day tour around Bacolod and the nearby towns made me feel like I have visited the whole of Negros Occidental. Tasting food on our way to Mambukal Springs was an experience I could not have done anywhere else in the country. 

But on our last night, a royal experience in the house of Millie Kilayko set my travel to Bacolod beyond imagination and at par with the show of Anthony Bourdain. 

Millie Kilayko, the lady in red
Millie Kilayko is one of the most gracious hosts in the whole of Bacolod. She welcomed us to her lanai and let us have a tropical fruit punch with Negros rhum while we witness how a good binacol should be cooked. Binacol is one way of cooking soup inside young bamboo tubes that were surrounded by a generous amount of fiery charcoal. She let us opened the bamboo tubes and we were engulfed in the aromatic stew of lemon grass, spices, mushrooms, slices of chicken and smoke. 

In the table upstairs, a different setting awaited for us. The fare included Bangus Spanish Style, Mamaita's Crackling Noodles, Adobong Pitaw, Lola Sayong's Mechado and Brown Rice. Pitaw, which were actually ricefield birds, was my favorite in the menu. That, besides the binacol. 

Getting the binacol out of the bamboo tube
Millie explaining her menu of the night
Beautiful setting at Millie's table
 Good coffee after the meal and some Casa Carmela piayitos smeared with Dulce Gatas sang Silay made me thought I have died and gone to heaven. It was an exhausting, filling and remarkable trip I would surely be coming back. 


As my ride waited for me, I rushed to Calea, perhaps Bacolod's most famous coffee and cake house, to taste their cakes before leaving the city. At the last minute. It was a cool morning and drizzling and the best time to gorge on sugar and coffee. I sinfully ordered their bestsellers, Blueberry Cheesecake and the specialty Chocolate Cake and a mugful of coffee.

It was like saving the best for last!

To die for- Calea's Blueberry Cheesecake


There are a lot of affordable accommodations in Bacolod. For this travel, I stayed at Saltimboca Tourist Inn along 15th-Lacson Sts.; Tel.No. (034) 432-3617, 433-3179. The place is clean and offers free WiFi connections. Your room accommodation has a free breakfast of your choice. Saltimboca is located in the center of Bacolod where a lot of restos and cafes are just a walking distance away. 

We hire an air-conditioned van to get us to places. A van usually costs 2,500 pesos per day. You can have your travel agency contact and reserve one for you. Or if you have friends in Bacolod, ask them to do it for you. 

The Bacolod airport is actually in Silay City, a good 30-min ride by private car. So if you are taking the public bus or jeep, be sure to estimate your travel time. 

A nice combo: Piayitos and Dulce Gatas
Bacolod’s piaya (or piyaya) is actually very good when eaten fresh. There are home-baked versions in Silay as compared to heavily commercialized versions in souvenir stalls in Bacolod and at Silay airport. The Casa Carmela piayitos, small and crispy version of the piaya, is recommended. They are really good, especially the ones with mangoes in them.

Cebu Pacific flies to Bacolod from Cebu three times daily and six times from Manila.