POSTCARDS: Fog and rain at the Baguio Cathedral

Two2travel | POSTCARDS | Baguio

I took this photo more than a year ago on a cold and foggy October day in Baguio. Although most areas in Baguio do not get flooded because of the elevation (an exception is City Camp Lagoon), we still have to battle with the chill that comes with heavy rains, making it almost impossible to get out of the house, let alone move around.

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Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs: The Philippines’ oldest work of art is in its art capital

The oldest known work of art in the Philippines is hidden in the mountains of a town that calls itself the country’s art capital.

How fitting—and yes, what a coincidence too that the one who discovered it would turn out to be a National Artist for Visual Arts.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Angono Binangonan Petroglyphs



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Photo Essay: Angono’s Higantes Festival 2012

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Higantes festival



The last time one of us was in a festival street was August, and considering we were in Angono that Sunday for a fiesta we haven’t seen before, we were doubly glad to finally be back on the streets.

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Fried crickets and art at Angono’s Balaw Balaw Restaurant

A plateful of art with a dash of exotic—at Balaw Balaw Restaurant alone in Angono, Rizal, it’s easy to understand why this little town is called the Art Capital of the Philippines.

TWO2TRAVEL | Rizal | Balaw Balaw Restaurant



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Always a sunny day at Paoay’s lovely Baroque church

It’s hard to imagine Paoay Church—or San Agustin Church—in Ilocos Norte under bad weather, when the skies would be gray and gloomy, clouds nonexistent, no schoolchildren sauntering the grounds.

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A walk through some of Iloilo’s churches

We didn’t know we were going on a Visita Iglesia in Iloilo back in January when we went there for the Dinagyang. Having arrived days before Dinagyang weekend, we were toured along the northern and southern outskirts of Iloilo City, passing by endless tracts of farmland on one day and coastal villages on the other.

An even more welcome surprise was Iloilo’s architectural abundance, from the Spanish-era houses along Jaro and the Chinese structures along Molo district, to centuries-old churches not an hour from the city.
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Sinulog sa Sugbu 2012

The carousel parade of the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City was the LONGEST we’ve had to take photos of: 10 grueling hours, more than half of which under the scorching heat of the sun!

Sinulog Festival, Cebu, Philippines

It also didn’t help that, although we had IDs, we were clueless about the best spots to position ourselves!
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A look into Sinulog’s pious side: Cebu’s Sto. Niño procession

This year, crowd estimates of the Sinulog 2012 festivities reached 3.5 million–a consistent high in festival attendance in the entire country. It’s no wonder Cebu draws so many people during the second weekend of January for the Sinulog–if there’s one place in the Philippines that knows how to play host to a big event, it’s gotta be Cebu.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

There are mainly two sides to the celebrations: the merrymaking part which Sinulog has become very known for, and the religious side, through which the festival traces its roots.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We spent three of the six days we were in Cebu walking along the city streets during festival weekend. And once again we were reminded why we love going to local festivals–everyone’s in a merry mood, everyone’s extra generous and kind, and all the best the place has to offer is laid down before you in heavy abundance. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

But Sinulog’s other side amazed us just as much–the devotion of the people to the Sto. Niño, the festival’s central figure. The number of people who joined the procession reminded us of the Black Nazarene crowd in Manila, although not as, uh, aggressive.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

During the procession, which happens on the Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend, people bring along their Sto. Niño statues and hoist them up. 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Elsewhere in the city, particularly around the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, thick crowds gather for the hourly masses (the crowd had been too big we were able to pass through the church gates on our last day after two earlier attempts). We were not even able to enter the church itself because there were just too many people.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

We managed to enter the church gates on our second attempt, two days after our first one.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Second and fourth photos from top left, clockwise show people praying around Magellan’s Cross, believed to be where the Portuguese explorer placed a cross, a Catholic symbol, to mark the Christianization of the locals. The place was boarded up when we went there so people threw coins and unlit candles through the gate voids instead.

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

Balloon vendors add color to the crowds at the basilica. There were more balloon vendors here than anywhere else we ever saw.

If you’re planning to join the next Sinulog Festival and would want to check out its religious part, remember the following: 

Sto. Nino procession, Cebu City, Philippines | Two2Travel

1. The Sto. Nino procession takes place every Saturday afternoon of the Sinulog weekend.

2. Osmena Boulevard is the most recommended place to take photos as it’s the widest area and may be less prone to overcrowding.

3. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino is accessible via the Sto. Nino jeepneys. You can drop off in front of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, a beautiful whitewashed structure, before walking three minutes to the Basilica. Magellan’s Cross is beside the Basilica too.

Sto Nino Procession, Cebu | Two2Travel
Sto. Nino Procession Photo Gallery

UPDATED! Sugarland Rush: Exploring Bacolod City overnight

TWO2TRAVEL | Bacolod

Bacolod is home to many delightful pieces of the Filipino puzzle. A plethora of sights—some souvenirs of its past and others a colorful parade of its present—welcomes every visitor to this Western Visayan city. Though 24 hours is arguably short for any trip, it was many times more so in Bacolod—just as we had experienced during its busiest weekend of the year, during the MassKara Festival.

But an overnight stay should be enough to get a taste of Bacolod’s famed wonders, from history to the arts to food to the beguiling warmth of its people’s smiles. Head to Bacolod any day of the year, and get ready to fall in love—overnight.

SIGHTS TO SEE:

The Ruins, Talisay City | Negros Museum | Manokan Country | Pope John Paul II Tower | Calea or Felicia’s | Negros Showroom | Negros Capitol | San Sebastian Church | Bong-bong’s

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2TravelIn Bacolod, you can dine amidst Spanish-era ruins (left) or in simple carinderias (right)

DAY 1
8 AM | Visit The Ruins in Talisay City and be amazed

The so-called Taj Mahal of the Philippines is an early 20th century Italianate ancestral house owned by a sugar baron, who built it as a profession of undying love for his wife, who had died in an accident.

This is easily the most photogenic building we’ve seen. The colossal gray skeleton, survivor of a fire at the end of World War II, looks cheery against the bright blue sky and the deep green lawn, well kept and beautifully landscaped with a four-tiered fountain at the center. Built around vast sugar plantations, it is said to be even more beautiful at night as it is bathed in different dazzling lights. The sunset can also be viewed from its belvedere on the second level.

During the day, you can try sipping coffee where the original dining room was at the house’s first level. In place of the usual long table are wrought-iron tables and chairs, with piped-in piano music, shafts of sunlight streaming into the windows, and a magnificent view of the century-old fountain farther off.

*The Ruins is around 20 minutes from the Bacolod city proper. Take a jeepney (Bata route) and ask to be dropped off at the Bangga Rose Lawns Memorial Park, then hire a tricycle to The Ruins for P10 per head (22 cents ). A P60-entrance fee (USD 1.36) will also be collected. The Ruins is open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM.

10 AM | Experience storytelling the Negrense way

Right smack in the middle of the main gallery is a life-sized replica of a batil, a cargo boat about four times the size of a regular fishing boat used to transfer goods to and from Negros. The painstaking effort it took to put together this piece—everything else in the museum, in fact—is admirable: on the boat are mock-up baskets of fruits, several crates, as well as barrels of Tanduay (a local rum brand which operates a distilling plant in Bacolod. Sugar cane, it must be noted, is the main ingredient in rum production).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Chinese terra cotta figures

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Negros Museum

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

A steam engine, also called an Iron Dinosaur, is also on display along with the batil. A staple in the Negros landscape before, these trains were used to transport harvested sugar cane from the fields to the milling centers.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

“The Negros Museum is the first in the Philippines curatorially conceived without focus on precious artifacts, but instead on the complex stories and people whose lives make up the stories,” the museum describes itself in its website.

It’s storytelling through art, something that’s very much alive in Bacolod and the whole province, and it’s something that the Negros Museum has lavishly, lovingly put together.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Museum Cafe at Negros Museum

You can walk through larger-than-life murals of myths, rituals, and early life in the island along the first level’s cavernous halls. All these, plus oil-on-canvas paintings, terra cotta sculptures, and bas relief paintings depicting the local life, were created by Bacolod’s homegrown artists—a source of pride for the province and living proof of its vibrant art scene.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Kids and adults will also love the Jose Garcia Montelibano Gallery of International Folk Art and Toys, a 3,000-piece collection from 60 countries gathered for 25 years. From Russian and Japanese dolls to wooden animal figures, some very intricate, others fascinatingly simple, it’s an interesting walk back our very own childhood.

Now, eating al fresco while surrounded by all that history and art is another experience altogether. The Museum Cafe, which flows naturally from the children’s gallery, serves up homemade bread, cheese, and pastries. It’s a refreshing cap to what would certainly be a tiring yet interesting walk through history.

The Museum Cafe serves up freshly baked, homemade pastries and cheeses, among others.

*The Negros Museum is located at the Former Agricultural Building (old Capitol Building) along Gatuslao Street. It’s a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol, otherwise pedicabs (foot-pedaled tricycles) can easily take you there. It opens 10 AM, Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is P50 (USD 1).

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The Negros Occidental Capitol in Bacolod City

12 NN | Taste the other side of Sugarland in Manokan Country

You can’t have been to Bacolod and not have eaten its chicken inasal (roast chicken)—aside from its sweet treats, of course. Head to Manokan Country for affordable meals and satisfactory serving sizes (Aida’s is a favorite, but we dined at Lion’s Park, which was the preference of our Iloilo-based companions).

Taste the authentic Chicken Inasal from Manokan Country, right across SM City Bacolod.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Bacolod’s signature chicken inasal at Manokan Country. Pretty obvious for a name, eh?

A pecho (chicken breast) with a serving of rice costs Php90 (USD 2). Don’t be surprised if they don’t serve you with spoon and fork though—tastes better when dipped in calamansi and soy sauce, chicken inasal is usually eaten sans fork and spoon, but these are still provided upon request. Finish off your meal with ice cold soda and you’re ready to see more of the sights around.

1:30 PM | Get a bird’s eye-view of the city from Pope John Paul II Tower

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
Pope John Paul II Tower. The building sits on the spot where the late pontiff first touched Negros ground, so say the locals.

Eight stories high, this whitewashed building was built in 2010 to commemorate the late Catholic Pope John Paul II’s 1981 visit to Bacolod City (a life-size bronze statue of the late leader was also built in front).

The John Paul II tower features a life-size bronze statue of the late Pontiff, a tribute to his visit to the province.

Seven floors contain the Pope’s memorabilia as well as oil on canvas paintings of the Stations of the Cross done by Bacolod artists. Climb all the way to the viewdeck and see bustling Bacolod on one side and the Guimaras Strait on the other.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel
The glass-walled tower, which we didn’t find impressive, contained memorabilia of the pope, including the clothes he wore during his visit. The view from the top was great though.

*The Pope John Paul II Tower is open daily and entrance fee costs P20 (45 cents) per person. It is located across SM City Bacolod.

2 PM | Taste the sweetest of Sugarland

Bacolod is the country’s sugar granary, so we regret not having been able to squeeze in time for a quick sugar fix in the city’s well-known sugar haunts. Calea and Felicia’s Pastry Cafe are two of the most popular—having been recommended by the locals we had asked for tips and directions.

*Calea is along Lacson St., beside L’Fisher Chalet, while Felicia’s is at 6th St.

3 PM | Buy local crafts at the Negros Showroom

Locally made products—from native handicrafts to sweets to furniture—are for sale at the Negros Showroom, established to give entrepreneurs an avenue to showcase their products.
*The Negros Showroom is a 3-minute walk from the Negros Occidental Capitol or the Negros Museum.

The whitewashed Negros Occidental Capitol near the Negros Museum

4 PM | Spot picture-worthy sights along the street

Stop for quick snaps when you pass by these noteworthy sights. All are easily accessible via pedicab.

San Sebastian Church is Bacolod’s oldest church, and is an architectural wonder for its façade’s coral stones from Guimaras Island.

*San Sebastian Church is at Rizal St., in front of the Bacolod City Public Plaza.

5 PM | Buy pastries from Bong-bong’s

Like Iloilo’s Biscocho Haus, Bacolod’s Bong-Bong’s is where you get your pasalubong—a wide array of affordable pastries, including biscocho, ube piaya (a must-try!), fruit tarts, etc. You can find a store at SM City Bacolod and at Gaisano Mall.

DAY 2
10 AM | See Silay

Silay is a tourist attraction on its own. Comparable to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Luzon, Silay’s bahay-na-bato (stone houses) are picturesque historical remnants that are sure to be worth an afternoon trip, as is a stop at El Ideal, a circa-1920s bakery that’s still up and running. Also drop by nearby Balay Negrense, a stone-house-turned-museum.
*Silay is 30 minutes from Bacolod City, but since it’s en route the airport, you can take this sidetrip right after arriving or just before leaving.

When visiting in October, catch the MassKara

The MassKara Festival is one of the country’s most visited fiestas, and the two-day parades on the weekend nearest October 19, Bacolod’s charter anniversary, are the biggest crowd-drawer. Bacolod literally lights up in a dizzying array of colors as masks—some donned by dancers, others hanging on trees as lanterns or being sold as souvenirs—fill the streets, all smiling back at you. The parades (one on a Saturday and another on a Sunday) start in the afternoon so you can spend your morning going around the city.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

*Access to the festival is free for all, but if you want to take photos up close, you’d need a festival photo contest ID, which the local government provides with the Camera Club of Negros. Details in securing IDs are posted at www.themasskarafestival.com.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

See you in Sugarlandia!

GOING TO & AROUND

Go around via foot-pedaled tricycles, called sikads or pedicabs, at P10 per person.

Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Two2Travel

UPDATE: Alternate routes to Bacolod City (October 11, 2012)

If you have not yet booked your ticket to Bacolod, you can try these alternative routes:

• By air to Iloilo, by sea to Bacolod
◦ From Iloilo airport, take a shuttle (P100-P150 each) to the city center. Drop off at SM Jaro (not SM City Iloilo, which is located farther)
◦ Take a quick cab ride to the port in Jaro where you could board fastcraft ferries to Bacolod (1.5 hours, around P350 round trip). See OceanJet, SuperCat, and Weesam for fares and schedules.
• By air to Dumaguete, by land to Bacolod
◦ From the Dumaguete airport, head to the South Bus Terminal where you can find Bacolod-bound Ceres buses (travel time is 5 hours)

Know more about how it’s like to photograph the Philippines’ festivals. Click here.