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    TRY KUTSINTA (BROWN RICE CAKE)

    by davidjo Written Dec 6, 2014

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    Not too keen on this myself but it is a favorite of the locals who will make it themselves or buy them at the market, particularly for special occasions. It is made from a mixture of brown sugar, rice flour and lye with food coloring or annatto extract (from the seeds of the achiote tree). They are steamed in small ramekins (plastic or ceramic bowl), then grated coconut is sprinkled on the top, but when you eat it , it has a jelly-like consistency.

    locals love this, and it is made from rice powder

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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    The tarsier- Bohol

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Tarsiers are a protected species as their number has been lowered down as a result of the forest elimination and their hunting. Many ignorant tourists buy them for pets and this is absolutely criminal because tarsiers can not live in captivity away from their natural habitat. It is said that they are very emotional and get depressed if they are not with their mate !!! If they are unhappy they commit suicide by banging their heads on something hard!! So don't even think of buying one. And if you want to visit them go the Tarsier Foundation Center where they are doing their best to protect them from extinction, and not to the private operation on Loboc river. These people just think of their profit.
    They are small enough to fit in your hand thus being the smallest primates on Earth. And more important, the oldest surviving primates as they have been here for more than 45 million years !!
    Their name comes from the latin "tarsius", which in turn comes from the ancient greek word "tarsos" which describes the upper part of the foot. That's because they have elongated tarsus bones. This as well as the two claws and sucking cups in their feet and their tail help them cling and climb on the branches very efficiently and leap more than 5 meters!!
    As it is a nocturnal animal it feeds during the night with insects and small lizards and keeps almost still during the day. Their huge, frightening for some people, eyes are open and fixed but they can rotate their head more than 180 degrees !! Even when a baby is born it has its eyes open. They live alone or in family groups and they groom each other as a form of social communication.
    Nowadays there are only few left in Philippines ( Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao) and Indonesia.
    Personally I find them very cute although I have a suspicion that Spielberg was inspired by them when he created E.T. !!!

    The Philippines Tarsier Foundation is in the middle of the island near Corella and Sikatuna in a region called Canapnapan. A bus covers the 10klms distance from Tagbilaran in half an hour or else take a bus for Sikatuna.

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    Banaue !

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Banaue has the same natural grace as its neighbours. It is the right place to admire the most amazing wonder of man's ingenuity. The 8th wonder of the World as it is widely known. The rice terraces that extend on the slopes of the vast mountain terrain. They have scalped them over 2000 years ago with very basic tools using mostly their own hands and their perseverance. They built elaborate irrigating canals to water them and they managed to create fields and reap their crops thus securing their survival on this steep land.
    There is a grocery-restaurant at one of the view points where you can have a basic meal or rest your body with a beer and your eyes with the spectacular view.!
    There are simple but cute hostels and wonderful views from every corner. I hired a tricycle and had an unforgettable climb up to the terraces, stopped at all view points, visited a nearby village and had lunch in a picturesque restaurant.
    Don't forget to visit the local baker's for home made brownies !!!%

    For more photographs of the rice terraces go to my General tip "rice terraces-the 8th wonder"

    the 8th wonder of the World Banaue area
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Mindoro-part I

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    The name of Mindoro comes from the Spaniards calling the place “Mina de Oro”. The population of over 1 million are peaceful and friendly. Their main occupations are fishing and agriculture. A great variety of fruit is produced on the island. The island is endowed with unspoilt rain forests, rivers, lakes and rich flora and fauna especially to the north.
    One of the best diving destinations is in Occidental Mindoro , reached from Sablayan. Generally all islands of this east part offer great undersea scenery. But Apo Reef in Apo island is considered the second largest in the World and a treasure in the Philippines. Dedicated divers should not miss this. The roads on this part of the island are not good, though.
    The most touristic beaches are the ones on the north where tourists come in great numbers to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and the excellent underwater life. Some of the best diving spot are found near Puerto Galera which itself is a wonderful natural harbour..Its proximity to Manila bring a lot of local vacationers, too. The entrance port to the island is Batangas
    ---->continues in Mindoro part II

    Mindoro The beautiful natural harbour of Puerto Galera Puerto Galera-the town proper sunset -Mindoro Mindoro
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    Mindoro-part II

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Puerto Galera is a touristic destination for all budgets . There are simple huts of 300Ph up as well as luxurious resorts at 150$US.
    Night life is particularly active here with lots of bars, restaurants and some discos.
    White Beach, Sabang and Laguna are the main attraction on the northern part of the island.
    White beach has the most low-budget accommodation. Open bars right on the sand are pleasant for a refreshing outing and restaurants though crowded are cool and serve tasty local and western dishes..
    Ladies are strolling on the beach offering superb massages. They are so cheap I could afford one every day. My body was grateful!
    Staying at the far end of the beach I was not very disturbed by the crowds. After all if you choose White beach you are supposed to look for a little action.
    For more peaceful and relaxed place Sabang or Laguna is more appropiate.

    From Manila there are direct boats to Batangas.Then you can find immediate embarkation on the ferries to Puerto Galera . They cover the distance in one or two hours depending on the type of boat.
    You can also come from Manila by bus. There is a regular flow of buses starting at 6.00am. Ferries go directly to the town of Puerto Galera , to White Beach or Sabang. Ask for the right boat at the tickets.

    Mindoro sunset Mindoro-White Beach View from my hotel window local smiling at my ..camera.. White Beach- beach bars & restaurants
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Boracay

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Boracay is the perfect beach !!! The snow-white sand is magic!! You can walk on it at midday and your feet don't feel hot at all !!! The sea water has the clearest turquoise colour I have ever seen. The shady sand way along the beach make your wandering in the numerous restaurants and cafes a real pleasure. You easily make friends and enjoy the laid -back atmosphere and romantic sunsets dining in the comfortable restaurant terraces. Food is excellent. Local people are friendly and not pushy at all. Massages are offered at a very good price. There are lots of stalls selling myriads of local crafts and cheap clothes. And last but not least the music played by local groups is fantastic as well as the bongo players swaying their bodies rhythmically to the reggae sounds!
    Of course it is the most popular destination in the country and as a result tourists are more than enough..but it was not as disturbing as I had thought. It is quiet and relaxed.
    Accommodation gets cheaper as you move from station 1 to station 4.
    A lot of travel agencies and diving centers take you to the most beautiful diving places for unforgettable dives. And sailing is a great attraction as the sailing boats here are exceptionally beautiful !!!

    sailing in boracay White sand in Boracay ! castles on the sand... sailing in Boracay boracay beach
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Silay-"the Paris of Negros"

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    The name of Silay comes from a regional tree, the Kansilay. There are about 108,000 people living in the city. It is located on the north west tip of Negros island which means it is easy to visit it in a day trip from Bacolod. I think it is worthwhile for its ancestral mansions which the locals are trying to maintain and promote as their heritage. They are quite interesting.
    Some of the ancestral houses are concentrated in the same region so it's easy to visit them on foot. Local ladies I met in one of them had organized some festivities including singing, traditional dancing and speeches that were intended to draw the attention of the local and national authorities. They need their support to help them restore and maintain these beautiful mansions. Some of them are turned into museums and they still contain furniture and belongings of the people living in them. Some of the antique items exhibited are donations from local people.
    A good sample of a restored house is Balay Negrense on 5 de Novembre str.
    Silay has been known as the "Paris of Negros" and its "cultural and intellectual hub", when the sugar industry was flourishing in this region, because Silayans have always loved arts and letters.
    If you decide to visit this charming little city don't forget to taste the local delicacies at El Ideal Bakery on Rizal street near the Public Plaza. It is an ancestral house itself but the most interesting item is the bako pie in the bakery, and there are more kinds of pies which I am sure you won't stop eating before you are completely full...!.

    ancestral bedroom... Balay Negrense old stove in Balay Negrense
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Sipalay-Negros--Sugar Beach !!

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Sugar Beach is not very easy to reach but rewards you for the trouble. It's the perfect relaxing beach. As it is isolated it is very quiet and picturesque. There is only a front row of hotels made of wood in a style that doesn't disturb the unspoilt beach. There are some local families living at one end occupied mostly in fishing, and the whole beach is offered for the happy tourists to enjoy. The hotels are not very luxurious but some of them are ingeniously decorated. They are clean and efficient and offer some more activities as snorkeling and diving, or boat rides to Sipalay across the bay. The food in most of them is surprisingly tasty and well-served and breakfast is generous. We tried dinner in several of them and every time we left smiling!
    Sipalay is a quiet town of about 62,000 people in 12,000 households!!! There you can buy your supplies of fruit and munchies or whatever. People are exceptionally nice !!
    I remember a young girl I met on the bus. After we talked for a while she explained to me that I could get the boat for Sugar Beach at a certain resort on the beach of Sipalay. Then she had to go home. I was moved when I saw her coming by taxi to check if I had found the correct place and then she left satisfied !!
    The bus drops you off on the central junction where you can buy fresh fruit in the fruit markets and a few more shops but don't have many expectations. It's wise to come with enough money in your pocket.
    You can find the resort where you can book a hotel or a boat for Sugar Beach, if you go straight towards the beach from where you got off the bus.
    There is also some more up-market accommodation in the nearby beaches.
    You can take nice walks along Sugar Beach and even get to the main road if you walk for about half an hour, where you can get the bus to other villages. But the best, the most unforgettable are the romantic orange pink sunsets we enjoyed laying leisurely in our deck chairs or on the hammocks slowly sipping our fruit cocktails !!
    Don't forget to try a massage !

    Sipalay is on south west Negros. The bus from Dumaquette will drop you at Kabankalan station where you get another one for Sipalay. If you are coming from North there are buses to Sipalay from Ilo-Ilo.

    Sugar Beach- Sunset!!! Sugar Beach-Taka Tuka lodge Bermuda beach Resort-Sipalay The pathway leading to other hotels
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Bantayan -a peaceful paradise

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Bantayan, 110 klms North of Cebu, is one of the hidden secrets of Philippines and one of my choices for future laid-back vacations. It is still pristine keeping a genuine relaxed atmosphere.
    Tourists have not discovered it yet and I am not sure I am doing it a favour..but anyway..just between you and me..it is a delight.
    The ones who have appreciated this peaceful tropical paradise come repeatedly or have already settled down. One of the most popular beaches is the idyllic, white sand Kota beach with its transparent water..

    If you insist on discovering the treasure go to my Bantayan page.There are a lot of pictures...

    Kota beach - fish is fresh... white sand! Kota beach - fishermen Kota beach Bantayan
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Camiguin-a peaceful island..

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Camiguin is a beautiful island north of Mindanao. Its mountainous morphology with seven volcanoes result in hot and cold springs and many hiking trails among streams, cascades and lush vegetation.
    It has a serene and laid back atmosphere and the inhabitants are peaceful and helpful. Prices are one third of the rest of the other touristic islands and there are great options of diving, snorkeling, and swimming in pristine water and splendid underwater life! The raining season comes between November and February.
    Highlights are White island with the sandbar of powder white sand and sky blue water, the Sunken Cemetery, sunk by the disastrous eruption of the active volcano Hibuk-Hibuk, Katibawasan Waterfalls, of 70 meters high, Santo Nino cold springs, Ardent Springs, with a cheap resort (150P for dorms up to 1000P) where you can spend the night relaxing in the unspoilt natural environment, soaking in the hot spring water. There are more if you decide to stay longer...
    It's famous for its most tasty lanzones, a kind of small fruit sweet and aromatic.
    You can go around in an hour and a half, and it's a good idea to hire a multi-cab (1000p) for 10 people, or a motorcycle (100p ) to see the most beautiful spots. I hired a motorcycle with the driver for 200P but then I gave him 300p as I felt it was not fair for all the trouble he took to show me as much as possible.
    You can reach this absolutely safe island flying from Cebu or through Cagayan de Oro, from where you can take the boat or bus to Balingoan and then a small ferry, and cover this in two and half hours.
    There are several up market resorts and other low budget ones. Para' resort is one of the best beach resorts ( from 1300P and up), Camiguin Seaside Resort (300-800P) in Mambajao is not bad with a nice restaurant area.
    Even if you are traveling alone don't hesitate to go. Although so close to Mindanao, which is better to be avoided, Camiguin is unexpectedly relaxed and safe.

    ib front of Camiguin Seaside Resort Posing for me ...! sunken Cemetery Katibawasan Falls Quiet roads..
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Bataad-scenic and pristine..

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    I came to the magic land on the local bus. It was getting dark and I almost panicked when the lovely locals told me on the way that I would have to go down the ravine for an hour.The village couldn't be seen from the top and a terrible toothache had left me with no energy. However the people's warmth, helpfulness and good energy gave me strength to follow up at an unbelievably fast pace. We escaped the rain and darkness and enjoyed an unbelievable walk through pure nature. Nothing else mattered. Nothing could be more precious. I was tremendous lucky to be there!
    The morning hike from Bataad to the next little village was a true revelation for me! I felt like going astray and getting lost in the warm and inviting embrace of nature for a fairy trip to nowhere. I was so happy! I would like to walk from Kalingka to Bontoc and then to Bataad and on to Campulo, Kinakin, Pula, Bontoc and back to Sagada again and again, breathing in deeply the rejuvenating air of the spectacular landscape. The soothing sound of waters hidden under the lush foliage of the mountain was a sheer happiness. I went on on foot to the next village and thanked smiling to the passing vehicles that waved to me for a lift. No thank you, this walk should last for ever...
    In Bataad I stayed in one of the lovely mountain hotels. Spartan but bravely standing on a tip of the slope having a relaxing simplicity and amazing views.
    It's possible to see picturesque Bataad during a day trip but a longer stay is undoubtedly worthy. Hiking in the pristine nature is a gift from God!

    Bataad !! ..morning hike up..to the clouds! bataad-local boy Philippino dog (looks like mine...)
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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    Sagada-Heaven on Earth-part I

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Sagada is rolling down the scenic slope of the mountain. Tall pine trees are embracing the quiet town. The lack of people grabbing me the moment I got off the bus was a relief. In fact nobody took any notice of my arriving. They smiled to me and went on with what they were doing.
    The first night I slept at a hostel right in the central square with a cute balcony and wonderful views but as it was too noisy in the morning I moved to another place. The open market in the square is the perfect place to make your supplies in fresh and healthy vegetables. That's what I did when they invited me to a local house for a couple of days.
    It was a delight living with local people, getting into their souls and minds and becoming part of their family. They resented appearing on the Internet and I respect that. To my admiration of this exhilarating place they mentioned that Philippines were pronounced Philippaines there because it was full of pines! It was obvious they were very proud of their unique beauty of their native land. I watched them cook their local dishes, make bread and go peacefully on with their everyday life and I communicated with them exchanging endless stories of our so different cultures. They eagerly accompanied me in my my walks in the heavenly forested mountains and joined me in gazing at the miraculous terraces with awe and respect to Mother Nature. In my lonely hikes I sometimes got lost almost on purpose giving myself the opportunity to admire the natural wonder of the region.
    I love nature and I fell in love with Sagada!!!

    Continue to Sagada II

    sagada sagada central market playful children-sagada local bar Sagada view
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    Sagada- part II

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    I didn't see the coffins or the caves or other sightseeing but I didn't care less as I filled my heart with the genuine beauty of the paths my friends guided me to and I felt like a ..pioneer learning the use of a long knife to cut the thorny branches jutting out in our way.
    I did stay out late, though, hitting some beers or local wine at a lovely wooden bar with the typical straw roof talking away to the romantic sound of an amateur guitar player. The bar is on the main road.
    I had some savoury meals at Masferre Country Restaurant (not inn ) and Yogurt house ( delicious!!! ).
    I admired the inspired photographs of the great art photographer Masferre and communicated with the playful small children!
    I bought some local craft at the Weaving Center on the way to Kiltepan. ( They didn't allow me to take any photos inside when I asked..)
    I had a tiny mouse as a roommate at Sagada Igorrot Inn. A mischief maker..
    I left reluctantly with sweet memories!
    Freedom and serenity!!!

    in the classroom... locals taking a rest... cute!!! coming from school... Sagada-houses
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    From Baguio to Sagada-meeting the mountain people

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    My stop in Baguio was tiring. Baguio is a charming city with its hilly green views but it is crowded and confusing at weekends and the ride on the tough, narrow snaking road to Sagada is not an easy one. The views are rewarding but the seats too hard to appreciate them.
    Its central market is impressive. There is a large square in the center where everybody gathers to take part in the city's action!
    The people in the mountain province villages are completely different from the youthful crowd of Baguio. They bear a gallant posture as they have never been conquered by the enemy. They are proud of surviving through all the hardships a tough mountain life involves. But at the same time they are very proud for being free and authentic keeping the old ways of treating land and nature. They live harmoniously with it and care for it. They insist on their old ways of cooking and feeding thus having a perfect and respectable coexistence with Mother Earth. Little unbelievable picturesque villages are climbing the terraced lands . Tranquil people with an open mind and healthy body climb their lives up and down these winding narrow paths tightly hugging with the forest. My first acquaintance with them was enchanting.
    They said I should speak their language and they were right..but I didn't. Next time..
    The moment I stepped down on the freeland of Sagada the fresh, clean air filled my lungs. The tranquility of the mountain town took away all the weariness of the adventurous ride. It was a long way to ...heaven!

    baguio to Sagada baguio to Sagada on the snaking road to Sagada groceries in a mountain village house decoration
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    Manila-Ayala Center and Greenbelt Park in Makati

    by elsadran Updated Oct 15, 2014

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    Ayala center is a pleasant complex of four shopping malls in Makati, an upmarket part of the city. It is neighbouring Greenbelt Park with Greenbelt Malls which is a gathering of shops, cinemas and eateries where you can easily spend more than one of your leisure days. More malls are still being constructed. The complex is nicely situated in the center of this modern part of the town but it is surrounded by wonderful tropical gardens that give a cool and relaxed feeling. There is a museum in the grounds with art pieces and memorabilia of the Ayala family. There is also a catholic church in the premises where people gather to attend masses or religious speeches. There is easy access by skytrain.

    Greenbelt Mall and Park church in Greenbelt zone Makati Makati
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