An old fortress church

Still on our island-hopping day, our next stop was Capul.  It’s an island that sits in the middle of the San Bernardino Straits, originally named Abak from a chieftain that migrated from the South.  These migrants brought with them one of the rare dialects in the country – they’re the only ones that speaks “Abaknon”.  Abak was changed to Capul (short for Acapulco) in the late 16th century because galleons from Acapulco, Mexico frequently stopover the San Bernardino Straits to barter.

The island is known for its lighthouse and old fortress church and from the port where our boat docked, the old reliable habal-habals (motorbikes) took us to both sites.

The fortress was first.  On a side street with a basketball court in front lays a 16th century church, 85% of its original form still preserved, its surrounding walls still intact.

It is one of the oldest Catholic Church that withstood pirate attacks and natural disasters and calamities and until the coming of the Americans, the church and a watchtower constructed on top of a large rock overlooking the town harbor, served as a warning system and as a refuge for the people of the island during the Moro raids.

At the time of our visit, we heard that a foreigner was rescued from their waters the night before – a miracle he survived the harsh waters drifting all the way from Biri losing his fins and mask along the way.  Glad he’s ok.

Pink Sand and a Charming Village

Brgy. Sila, we were told, boasts of a nice pink sand beach.  Pink.  Yes pink.

And there we proceeded to have lunch and do some snorkeling.  I, on the other hand, had enough of underwater events the past few months, had opted to explore the other side of the island.

There I discovered a beautiful fishing village with a rich mangrove.

The village is 2 islands connected by walkways.  Charming.

Trust me, the photos can’t capture it but the beach is indeed pink.  It could be from crushed red corals perhaps?  Anyway, here are some captures of this little charming village.

Children horsing around our “banca”

Entangled.

Shanties along the shore.

The village inside.

A nice shady place.

Barangay Sila is one of the 7 islets that makes up the Naranjo group of islands.  It is situated west of mainland Northern Samar.  These islands face each other almost in a circle, which aside from Sila are, Tarnate, Sanguputan, Panganoron, Maragat and Mahaba. Considered the game fishermen’s paradise, bountiful supplies of swordfish and marlins are to be found.  It is likewise said to be an ideal scuba diving spot with beautiful corals.  There are however currently very limited facilities for scuba diving.

A Simple Life

Credits:  Daniella Austen’s Fancy Quickpage 3.

The largest island, Dalipuri is the only one with resorts established among a cluster of islands known as the Balicuatro Islands.  The rest of the islands are mostly home to farmers and fishermen.  San Vicente has 7 islets called the Naranjo group.  On our way there, someone in our motley group decided that we wanted to explore the town of San Vicente and we spontaneously found ourselves in this island town that lies isolated from the other 6 Naranjo Islands.  The kind of exploring that I like.

Not used to having visitors, the townsfolk started gathering around us as if we were famous people.  Really, we felt like superstars.   😛  Curious, they started following us everywhere until one lady – a teacher – decided to proudly walk us around her town.

A small fishing town, they sell a lot of dried dilis (anchovies) to the entire province of Samar and probably to other areas in the Visayas Region.

School on top of the hill and equations painted on boulders.

There was a grade school and a high school.  The former quite interesting, albeit dilapidated.  Interesting because it sits on top of a hill

with a view so breathtaking – what a treat to be in school – I wish I had just a little of that view when I was in school.  On my way to the top, I noticed mathematical equations painted on large rocks beside the steps.  Makes me wonder what stimulates this kind of creativity.  Simple and practical, yet artistic and tasteful.  I think it’s the view!   😀

Excited and thankful (they seem) that soon, running water will come to every household.  I’m not kidding!

Meanwhile, they are happy with the posos (dug out wells) strategically located around town,

even if they have to wash their cloths in areas such as the above and carry water to their homes.  I cannot imagine how much worse their situation was before.

And yet, they seemed happy.

As Henry Ward Beecher says, “The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things”.

Live simply.  But not without a sabongan (arena for cockfighting), simple as this town may be.  Gambling, as it turns out, is their past time.

Every year on Maundy Thursday, boys (in their teens) parade around town donned in masks (similar to a ski mask) and dressed in dried banana leaves, supposedly to scare the evils away.  Each of them dressed differently.  Such serendipity that we were witness to a traditional ritual they call Judeo or Hudyo that only occurs one day a year.

Thanks E for your suggested detour.  It was the highlight of our visit as we were perhaps the highlight of their day.

Scenic Sunday

Unexplored Paradise

Naturally blessed with outstanding rock formations, captivating sceneries, pristine white sand beaches, alluring waterfalls, and historic old churches, Northern Samar is often described as a little piece of unexplored paradise.

Located some 630 kilometers south of Manila in the Eastern Visayas Region, this remote, desolate and definitely off the beaten path territory occupies the entire northern portion of the Samar Islands.

Compared to other parts of the country, Northern Samar remains an economic backwater.

Although left undeveloped, the province – its environment with many amazing wonders, its charming people, innocent and accommodating – waits to be explored.

This summer past, we wandered through one of Philippines’ hidden gems.  Our first stop and our home for the next 2 days was San Antonio, Dalupiri Island.

You’ll need to take a banca in Victoria to get there.

Haven of Fun Beach Resort is a great place to unwind, recharge for a few days and could very well be the best resort this island has to offer.

Pathway leading to our rooms

Albeit simple (read: basic), air-conditioned rooms are available and if on a budget,

this cabana has an attic, which serves as a room.  Clever, if you ask me.

The long-stretched white sand beach and alluring blue waters makes up for what it lacks in amenities.

One can spend hours in the water or lounging around, chatting, reading, sleeping.  I call this a well-deserved respite.

We spent many a meals in this cabana, people watching, enjoying the early morning breeze and admiring the beautiful blue water over breakfast.

A great start to a great summer vacation, yeah?

So sit back, relax, have a hot cup of coffee or some iced tea (if you like) and discover the beautiful islands of Northern Samar with me.

Getting there:

By air:  Cebu Pacific and Pal Express flies daily to Catarman.

By land:  Philtranco, Eagle Star and other bus companies have daily trips (14-16hours).

* Pumpboats  make regular runs between Victoria to San Antonio.

Negros Goodies: New Discoveries

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Namit-GidCredits:  Papers:  JCrowley’s beautiful evidence – solid 4, JSprague’s HAFH – Awning Stripe;  Frame:  KPertiet Storyboard Negs 1A

Namit to translate means delicious, yummy, scrumptious and all the other adjectives that you can find in your dictionary that best describes good food!  Food has always and will always be a big part of my trips (and life in general) and what better way to cap the series than to acquaint you with some of the wonderful (recently discovered) delicacies this region has to offer.  Negros is renowned for celebrating in style, their cuisine developed for this eagerness for festivities though much of their cuisine is guarded in family kitchens.  Particularly popular are their sugar based food items and delicacies but not to neglect are some of the best savory treats I’ve ever encountered.

Besides Chicken Inasal, Guapple Pie and the sinfully delicious sweets of Calea featured in my earlier posts, Negros’ pastries and confectionary are particularly popular and Piaya, Barquillos, Pinasugbo, Pastillas de Manga, and Dulce Gatas are ranked among the favorites.  Here are some of my favorites!

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Dulce Gatas:  a chewy caramel like paste made of carabao’s milk.  A different take on pastillas, a milk based pastry and can be made with just milk and sugar.

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Casa Caramel Gourmet Piayitos:  unlike the traditional flatbread stuffed with muscovado filling called Piaya.  This baby brother is a new take – smaller, crispier, slim discs that is absolutely addicting.  And it’s organic too!  I can finish the whole box and more in one sitting.

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Pastillas de Manga:  empanaditas (baby empanadas) with yummy, sweet, chewy mango filling.  Equally addicting.

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Pitaw:  veering away from the sweets that is often the trademark of the Negrenses, Pitaw is wild rice-field birds, a local delicacy cooked adobo style.  Now found in a jar to take home with you.  Best eaten re-fried to crispiness.

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The lechon… waiting to be cut open

chicken-in-lechonthe chicken…

A different kind of Lechon (roast pig):  have you ever heard of a chicken cooked inside a pig?  Seems absurd but I promise… it’s really mouthwatering.  This lechon is a specialty of Enting’s and is our last meal in Bacolod before heading to Sipalay.  Came highly recommended by no other than Chef Bruce Lim, the first thing we did when we arrived was made reservations and ordered their specialty.  Did not disappoint.  Both lechon and chicken superbly flavored although the skin could be crispier but I’m not complaining.

covered-binakolour individual bowl of soup

binakol

Chicken Binakol: Chicken soup cooked in sweet coconut juice.  Although not exactly original to Negros, this Binakol deserves a mention particularly since it was especially prepared by (Arnold, the cook of Nataasan Resort) on our last night there.  Absolutely heavenly and the best I’ve ever had.

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from the aquarium

grilled-diwal-bto the grill… yum!

Diwal:  saving the best for last.  Also called angel wing clams, a sweet and succulent shellfish and a specialty of Negros   So much a favorite that fisher folks harvested volumes of diwal up to the ‘90s, destructing its habitat and is considered somewhat endangered.  Up until a few years ago, harvesting of these clams was totally banned to allow the remaining stocks to replenish its population.  Thank God this conservation measures gave positive effect and we are able to once more enjoy a meal or two of this fabulous shellfish.

Go have a glimpse of other worlds, visit My World here.

Enting’s
Contact No.:  +63918-221-0026

Sipalay: Jewel of the Sugar Island

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If you relish the sand and the sea without the noise and the socials of Boracay, Sipalay is for you.  Touted as the Jewel of the Sugar Island, Sipalay is actually Negros’ best-kept summer destination.

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The people from Western Visayas almost always speak highly of the white sand beaches of this seaside town but when a friend (not from there and a foreigner to boot) raved about it, it was time to go.  To satisfy our curiosity, what better time to explore this much talked about but (except for people from Bacolod and perhaps Dumaguete) hardly explored island?  It was a long holiday, it was at the height of summer and we were all in need of a break from the urban jungle.

After sweating it out at the foothills of Kanlaon (some even got to the top) and after stuffing ourselves with not only the goodies but also of the cultural schtuff, it was time to chill.  The drive to Sipalay took between 3-4 hours, and it builds up to a more scenic drive as the town nears.

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I had no expectations really but Nataasan Resort was pretty charming.  It was the only one perched up on a cliff without any beach to boast.  To get to the beach, one must climb down these stairs

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but the view, the view makes going up and down a non issue.

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My brother’s family, on the other hand, stayed at Artistic Diving so we can use their dive facilities and where there’s a pool for the kids.

artistic

With a lot of dive resorts scattered around the island, we figured that diving must be a big thing here and it was… in a macro kind a way.  There were no pelagics but with a good dive master (to spot), there were some never seen before stuff and without a camera, you’ll just have to take my word for it.  There was one really huge cuttlefish, some seahorses, and some really strange but fascinating stuff down there.  And the corals were just amazing, sadly though we saw huge amounts of Crown Of Thorns (COTS).   😦

divers

Snorkeling, I heard was a bit disappointing for the discriminating.  Some enjoyed it though, especially the kids.  There are 2 stretches of beach, Sugar (or Langub in their native tougue) Beach, known for its sugary fine beach and Punta Ballo (where we stayed) has at least a kilometer of stretched white sandy (also fine) beach, both supposedly boasts of good snorkeling.

The 3 days that we were there got us to explore some attractions such as Tinagong Dagat, a hidden sea sprinkled with a dozen islets covered with lush vegetation.

tinagong-dagat

They said it was near Sugar Beach but the banca (boat) we took was not big enough (or so we thought and felt) to fight the swells of the ocean.  It was one scary ride and coming from some of us who had experienced a lot of scary stuff, it was scary!  I guess, it was scarier because we had 2 kids, ages 4 and 8 with us.  And so it was the longest short ride we ever had!   😯

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Quite disappointing was Campomanes Bay especially after a nice memory of it some 7 years ago when we visited from Danjugan Island.  It was noted to be an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving but again from the discriminating bunch, it was middle of the road.

The best of this piece of heaven, in my opinion, are the incredible sunsets (and the sunrise caught one early morning before our dive).

early-morning

The sunset for me made the whole Sipalay trip worthwhile.

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float

boardwalk
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Many including this set of foreigners took pleasure in just enjoying the sunset.

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And during this time in Punta Ballo, the beach was brimming with activities… mostly of children playing.

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Sunsets and children playing make for beautiful shots.

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children-sunset

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As I said, if you are looking for a place to party, Sipalay is not for you.  It’s a remote seaside town surrounded by spectacular white sand beaches, secluded coves, scattered islets, dive reefs and waters teeming with unique marine life.  A perfect place to unwind and recharge.

For a glimpse of other spectacular worlds, click here.


Nataasan Beach Resort
Brgy. 4 Sitio Punta Ballo
Sipalay City
email:  divetludie@aol.com
http://www.nataasan.com
Artistic Diving
Punta Ballo White Beach
6113 Sipalay City
email:  info@artisticdiving.com
Cell:  0063919-409-5594
http://www.artisticdiving.com

Negros Heritage (Part 3)

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Last of 3 parts, part 1 is here and part 2 here.

 

Hofileña Ancestral House

hofilenaCredits:  Template – KL365 template 02-000001;  Papers – Khakisack Scraps Think Pink blackgraph and pink solid papers;  Elements – LivE S4S- Spring String, LivE S4S Tag Sky, Oscraps Moonrise – R1CRAC2 – dyoung

By the 1930’s, the age of dazzling plantation houses began to come to an end.  Houses became more compact and practical, built in more central locations.  The house that Manuel Hofileña (one of the original Sialy sugar baron) built in 1934 on Cinco de Noviembre Street is the first inhabited heritage house to be declared a National Historical landmark in Silay, as declared proudly by his son Ramon.

hofilena-plaque

The Hofileña house has a big art collection, mostly paintings from Filipino masters.  Precious family heirlooms such as the 200-year old Rachall piano that belonged to his great grandmother sits comfortably in the cozy living room.

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Ramon Hofileña who now owns the house is one man who knows a lot about Silay, in fact, the city owes a lot to this man.  In 1977, there was a plan to widen Rizal St. as part of the many road projects under a World Bank program.  The highway would have encroached on treasured properties. Hofileña submitted a petition to the National government to have the decision reversed.  With the help of the city tourism, he organized the homeowners to rally behind the cause, which caught the attention of the Governor who then mediated over the matter.  Suffice to say that Silay has become one city with a great deal of well-maintained ancestral houses opened to the public either as a museum or a gallery of sorts.

hofilena-in-action

Today, the Hofileña house is still functional and inhabited (by Ramon) and was the first house to be opened to the public.  By appointment, Ramon conduct tours of the house complete with tales of Silay, his lineage and the artist he so cares about.  All told with so much passion and gusto.  His enthusiasm so infectious, you leave the house with a sense of pride for the Filipino people, especially the artists that had found a place in his wall.  These are collections by Juan Luna, sketches by Dr. Jose Rizal to name a few.

To schedule a visit to the Manuel Hofileña Ancestral House, call Mon at (034) 495-4561.

To get more glimpses of our awesome world, click here.