Ifugao Native House in Tagaytay Paradiso

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I have always been a wanderer and one of the best spots I have visited is the province of Ifugao, peopled by Ifugaos. They make sure visitors know that Ifugaos and Igorots are not the same. Ifugao is home of the Banaue.

A native house is a coveted accommodations option when visiting Banaue. What could be more authentic than waking up to cool mountain air, opening your native hut window to the view of the majestic rice terraces?

Banaue is quite a drive. And now it doesn’t feel so, with my own authentic Ifugao native house. Built by Ifugaos who chew on betel nut “nganga” made up of ikmo, bunga, apog and maskada. I was tempted to try the nganga when one of them left his nganga box.

My Ifugao native house is not a local recreation of the real thing. It is real as real gets – – native Ifugaos actually crafting and building it the way they build in Ifugao. The pieces are made like one big LEGO structure where the pieces fit, without nails.

See how it was done.

Delfin, the maestro. He is a jolly Ifugao who spins jokes and spits the nganga around the area where the native house was being built.

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Starting to build

BUILDING THE NATIVE HOUSE

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No nails. Just tongue going into the groove.

The horizontal thing that keeps rates away

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

The house is done, and a canao is planned for blessings. Everyone must come in full Ifugao (or nearby tribes) costume. That only means bahag (g-string) for men, and tapis and blouse for women.

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For the housewarming, a native ritual called canao is scheduled on May 2, with authentic Ifugao people invited. All guests will also be coming in native attire. Non-costumed or partly-costumed friends will not be allowed, just for this party – – because the authenticity of the planned canao ritual must be followed.

Scorecard: House: done. Cool mountain air : done (Tagaytay has cool mountain air). Rice Terraces: major problem. But maybe a can build three short tiers of rice terraces beside it. Hahahaha.

Iloilo : Dinagyang

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Iloilo is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, and is home to the most colorful festival honoring the child Jesus, known as the Sto. Nino.

Tribu Obreros

Tribu Obreros

I went there last weekend to join the festivities and to capture the colors and the soul of the event wherein “tribes” from the different towns and cities in Iloilo participate. If one did not know, he will think that the warriors are real tribesmen, what with their bodies painted either black or very dark brown.

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Each contingent is well funded, and donations from the different businesses in their localities fund the elaborate costumes and props. Each of the participating tribes are  made up of more or less 500 participants, including the warriors and the ladies, the chieftains and the religious leaders, the musicians on their eardrums-assaulting drums, the propsmen, the barangay officials on parade, and the choreographers and costume designers.

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If one has not been to Dinagyang, he will never really appreciate the spectacle, and the scale of the event. The props are huge and mechanized, much like crude versions of props in Broadway productions. And each presentation includes a lot of huge props, one setting for every phase of the 6-minute presentation.

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Each of the tribes perform in front of 5 sets of judges on 5 different stages. Thus, photographers and spectators do not have to crane squeeze into one location and crane their necks. In my years of covering all festivals in the Philippines, Dinagyang stands aout as the most organized. Tribes are given an hour to set up, 6 minutes to perform, and another one minute to exit and proeed to the next stage.

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For photography hobbyists, Dinagyang is a must-go-to event. The performers are in their elements, their mouths are wide open when they shout, and their faces tell the story the tribe wants to impart.

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Dinagyang happens every third weekend of January. I strongly urge everyone to go. Book a seat on any one stage for a good view. More importantly, book your hotel as early as 2 months ahead, or one month ahead at the latest. And make sure you book your flight or your boat trip ahead, too.

A good way of not missing the trip is to book well ahead and visit the ancestral homes and old churches around Iloilo. The three most notable churches one should not miss are Miag-ao, the church in Molo, and the church in Jaro. Visit, too, the Balay nga Bato where your entrance fee includes a biscocho snack with hot thick chocolates.

There are many hotel in Iloilo. My top 3 choices are Amigo Terrace (refurbished) at the city center, the good old Sarabia Manor, and the very clean Grand Dame (if you don’t mind a public market right by your doorsteps).

I shall write about these churches and other destinations and show photos and contact details of these hotels on another day on this same blog page.

Tibiao in Tagaytay

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Just a preview.
I went to Iloilo last October 10 with the intention of going to Tibiao, Antique,  to get ourselves (me and my wife) immersed in a huge hot bath. In Tibiao, they add herbs to the lukewarm water. The hot bath is actually a giant “kawa” used in the making of muscovado in the earlier years. Enterprising resort owners made them into a spa.
Unfortunately, the heavy rains two days before our Iloilo-Antique holiday caused the bridge connecting Iloilo and Antique to become impassable.

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Had to content ourselves taking photographs around the southern part of Iloilo, up to San Joaquin where the bridge was located. Took photos of Iloilo’s beautiful churches instead. But my chief destination was Tibiao.

Now I do not need to go to Tibiao. I brought Tibiao to my PARADISO in Tagaytay.

Paradiso Tagaytay

DAYTOUR : DRIVING SOUTH OF CEBU

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This is a nice tour once you have done the usual Cebu tour of the Magellan’s Cross, Taoist Temple, the Sto Nino Shrine, the Gorordo Mansion, Tops, etc. Time to head south.

Hit the road going to Argao and Cagbalete and head back via Toledo, Balamban, and return to Cebu City via Nivel Hills – – where Marco Polo Hotel is.

You will be passing thru The cities and towns of Talisay, Minglanilla, San Fernando, Naga, Carcar, Sibonga, Argao, and then return via the coastal city of Toledo. You need to rent a car or hire a taxi for this wonderful tour. Hotel cars can be arranged for P5,000 for 8 hours, taxi’s can be negotiated for P3,000.00.

Stop and take photos.

Talisay

Talisay

This Naga is not in Bicol

This Naga is not in Bicol

CARCAR

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Carcar is a major stop. You can buy shoes and slippers, or ampawa and chicharon. These are the major finds in this city. But the visitor will most likely spend a bit more time taking photos of Carcar’s beautiful church, the museum beside it, and its many old homes.

stop by the stalls around the rotunda for chicharon and ampao

stop by the stalls around the rotunda for chicharon and ampao

shop for shoes and bags - - this is Cebu's Marikina

shop for shoes and bags – – this is Cebu’s Marikina

the old church

the old church

and the museum

and the museum

one of the many old houses

one of the many old houses

SIBONGA

Among photo hobbyists, the biggest stop is probably Sibonga with the castle-like Simala Church. The structure is very much unlike any other church in the country. Perhaps unlike any other church in the world.
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To non hobbyists, it is a pilgrimage place, pretty much like the Manaoag church in Pangasinan where devotees queue to get to touch the statue of the virgin

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as if it is not grand enough, construction is ongoing to surround the church with moat-like bridge/passageways

as if it is not grand enough, construction is ongoing to surround the church with moat-like bridge/passageways

ARGAO

The top attracation of Argao is the cathedral. There is a nearby cafe for the weary and the famished, before heading back to the city.

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DRIVING BACK

the church in Toledo

the church in Toledo

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when you get up the hill, look down and see the beauty of the place you just came from

when you get up the hill, look down and see the beauty of the place you just came from

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Heritage Town : Taal, Batangas

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The town of Taal in Batangas is only 2 hours away from Manila, and the escape from the city to this heritage village can be really dramatic. Almost like night and day. Imagine leaving the skyscapers and the humongous malls and then allowing yourself to travel back in time to something like 300 years ago. After a very short land travel.

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Taal was once the wealthiest town in Batangas and the grand mansions are a testament to its glorious and historic past. Many of the homes have been preserved and are open to visitors. A few have been transformed into cafes and restaurants, while some have opened their doors to visitors for bed and breakfast.

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The most noteworthy of the mansions are Casa Villavicencio, built as a wedding gift of a wealthy shipowner to his lady love who was belatedly acknowledged for her role in the Philippine revolution. There is also the Gregorio Agoncillo mansion, from where his uncle Felipe Agoncillo was born. The house is now famously known as the White House. There is Villa Tortuga where visitors can relive the past complete with period costumes. A visit to the Marcela Agoncillo house, probably he oldest of the famous houses, is so informative and is recommended for history buffs. The Apacible mansion allows visitors to see balisong actually being crafted. Across from the road is an old house where antique cameras and photographs are exhibited.

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Casa Villavicencio, the grandest of the Taal heritage homes

the Agoncillo "White House"

the Agoncillo “White House”

dress up and get yourselves photographed in period clothes and setting at Villa Tortuga

dress up and get yourselves photographed in period clothes and setting at Villa Tortuga

the diorama depicting the sewing of the Filipino flag at the 1700s Marcela Agoncillo house

the diorama depicting the sewing of the Filipino flag at the 1700s Marcela Agoncillo house

you may chance upon "balisong" making at the Apacible House

you may chance upon “balisong” making at the Apacible House

old photographs and antique cameras in still another old mansion

old photographs and antique cameras in still another old mansion

There are also the two most famous Taal churches – – Taal Basilica, the largest catholic place of worship in Asia. And the shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, a charming church with an interesting wishing well at the rear section, a few steps up a hill thru the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps.

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Taal Basilica

I did not expect such ornate design in a church of this modest size

I did not expect such ornate design in a church of this modest size  : Our Lady of Caysasay

and finally, go to the wishing well and sprinkle/pour yourself with the water believed to be miraculous

and finally, go to the wishing well and sprinkle/pour yourself with the water believed to be miraculous

There is also the old Escola, now a center of Taal culture, the Casa real (town hall) plus the nearby town of San Nicolas, the site of the first Taal town and its basilica,

the old escola, now a cultural center, right beside the basilica

the old escola, now a cultural center, right beside the basilica

Casa Real: the town hall

Casa Real: the town hall

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby  town of San Nicolas

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby town of San Nicolas

Truly, Taal is a most interesting destination. I have made at least 6 trips in as many months and it seems I will be making some more. Such is the effect that this town spells on visitors who love history.

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I have also written separately about all these destinations within Taal, including a recommended cafe with bed & breakfast facilities (no, I am not paid to plug this place – – – I went on my own and paid the full amount for the lunch I ordered).

the common area for the Tampuhan B&B guests  - -  dine here or laze around

the common area for the Tampuhan B&B guests – – dine here or laze around

Come visit Taal. And maybe find a piece of yourself thru its past.

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Taal Basilica

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The basilica is officially called the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours. It is the largest Catholic place of worship in Asia.

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The basilica as it presently stands is not the original Taal Basilica, no matter that it is very old. The first was actually built in the old town of Taal by the banks of the Taal Lake. A volcanic eruption ruined the basilica and the whole town had to be relocated to the present day Taal, and the basilica was built on this “new” location. The former Taal town is in a barangay called San Nicolas, now a town on its own, independent from Taal. A visit to San Nicols, therefore, is a necessary trip for travelers who want to understand better the history of Taal and its basilica.

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby  town of San Nicolas

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby town of San Nicolas

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San Nicolas is a lakeside town, and was the first Taal town

San Nicolas is  a lakeside town, and was the first location of Taal

local fishermen bring their catch of fresh tilapia, maliputo, and tawilis to the market, or to the restaurants in this small town

local fishermen bring their catch of fresh tilapia, maliputo, and tawilis to the market, or to the restaurants in this small town. On lazy days, the boats become the local boys’ playgrounds

The Taal Basilica is gigantic and so beautiful. A friend of mine from Masbate remarked that 10 of their town’s church could fit into the basilica.

Let me show the photos to better present how grand this church is.

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the huge ceiling has many chambers and makes one wonder how long it took to design and paint them

the huge ceiling has many chambers and makes one wonder how long it took to design and paint them

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the baptistry

the baptistry

I felt like I was a wedding photographer on one visit

I felt like I was a wedding photographer on one visit

also one of the largest church bells in the country

also one of the largest church bells in the country

one of my favorite shots of the basilica, a worm's eye view

one of my favorite shots of the basilica, a worm’s eye view