Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Glimpse of Chinese History in the Philippines and the Celebration of New Year

History tells us that long before the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, Filipinos have already established trade relations with the Chinese as evidenced by a collection of invaluable Chinese artifacts found in the Philippines dating back as early as the 10th century.

Chinese inhabited permanently in the Philippines after the Spanish conquest. In the early development of the Spanish colony, their trade and labor were of great importance, and because of that they became economically successful branching out into leasing land, lending money and later landholding. Spanish authorities encouraged the Chinese male immigrants to convert to Catholicism. They were then converted, baptized and their names were Hispanized, allowing them to marry the locals. They organize themselves as Principalia and were given certain privileges by Spanish authorities.

The term Mestizos de Sangley or Chinese mestizos referred to those children born from the union between a Chinese and a Filipino. Tornatrás referred to those born from the union of Spanish and Chinese. As decades passed, the situation between the Chinese and the Filipinos improved.

The way of living among the Chinese was quite dissimilar from the patterns displayed among the masses of Filipinos and Spanish surrounding them. And one of their most remarkable qualities is their geographic stability that has remained in the same neighborhood with the same rich culture. Binondo and Sta.Cruz in Manila have traditionally been the place where many Chinese Filipinos lived, worked, shopped, and socialized. In 1839 the government issued a decree granting them freedom of occupation and residence.

In the early nineteenth century, the Chinese comprised about 5 percent or 2.5 million of the total population of the Philippines. They concentrated in the more developed provinces of the country, particularly in the areas of Central Luzon and in Manila and its neighboring provinces. Although much less significant number inhabited in places such as Cebu and Iloilo, and on Mindanao

The centers of inter-island trading, besides Manila, were Cebu, and the settlements of Molo and Jaro in Iloilo. These areas have the largest bodies of mestizos. The mestizos of Cebu, Molo, and Jaro carried on an important trade, collecting raw materials in the Visayas and transporting them to Manila where they sold them to Chinese or European merchants for export overseas. The textile industry in Molo and Jaro were dominated by Chinese-Filipino merchants. In the later part of the century, the mestizos de sangley wore embroidered barong tagalog while indios wore multicolored camisa de chino.

In the early 18th century where Molo's population was of 16,000 and 1,000 were mestizos, but it was they who controlled trade and owned the carriages in Molo. European goods were brought from Manila to the port of Iloilo by mestizo and Chinese traders, and subsequently distributed at Molo, Jaro, and other large towns. The goods appear on weekly fair or market of Jaro, and are subsequently offered to be sold in Molo, Mandurriao, Oton, or Arevalo. They are carried to and
from the different towns in cumbrous or solid-wheeled vehicles, drawn by buffaloes and oxen.

The mestizos of Molo and Jaro who traded with Manila owned their own ships and had much invested in the trade. Another enterprise in which the Molo and Jaro mestizos were engaged was the manufacture of pina cloth, a popular export item. Weaving was a home industry, and in houses of the mestizos and rich indios are dozens of looms used to make the prized fabric.

In downtown Iloilo, the streets of Iznart and J.M. Basa or popularly known as Calle Real was once tagged as the “Escolta” of Iloilo. It is lined by businesses owned mostly by Filipino-Chinese traders. The area is the site of most European, Chinese and American retail stores. Presently, it boasts of buildings that date back during the Spanish and American colonial periods.


At present, a Filipino-Chinese is popularly known as Tsinoy--- a Filipino of Chinese ethnicity but born or raised in the Philippines. Tsinoy is derived from two words, Tsino or Chinese and Pinoy, a slang referring to a Filipino.

Tsinoys in the Philippines preferred to retain as much of their culture as possible.
All over the Philippines, particularly in areas with Chinese districts, the celebration of Chinese New Year are also held and has been an annual event for many years. Generally, these include many of the traditional rituals and some local traditions are also included in the festivities.

History of Chinese New Year

The celebration of the Chinese New Year started thousands of years ago. It began as a legend handed down from generation to generation.

Most popular is the legend of Nian---an awful, fierce beast that has a lion-type head and an elephant-type body that lived beneath the sea or deep in the mountains. The beast would come out every New Year’s Eve to find the food in the cold winter time, because many animals hibernated in the mountains, the beast has to go down from the mountain to find the livestock. Later, Nian become a man-eater and eats enough people to carry on itself until the following year. The villagers knew Nian was afraid of loud noises, fire, and the color red. And to keep them from being eaten by the beast, they all dress-up in red, stay up all night clanging their metal objects, lighting torches and firecrackers to keep Nian at bay.

The entire village survived and celebrated. They felt like a restarting point after passing the disaster. Then, they called Guo-Nian or passing Nian as the day before the new starting day.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

The celebration of Chinese New Year is perhaps the most sophisticated, lively, and important of all traditional Chinese festivities. Celebrated on the first day of the First Moon of the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a date in the solar calendar and varies as early as the 21st of January till the 19th of February.

The festivity is a time of congratulating themselves and each other for making it through the year and welcoming the new year. It is also a time for family reunions, and for visiting friends and relatives. It emphasizes the importance of family ties where the celebration is strictly a family affair. All members of the family would gather for the significant family meal on the eve of the new year. At midnight following the feast, the younger members of the family would bow and pay their respects to their parents and elders. Children were given red envelopes known as Lai-See where money is wrapped as a sign of good luck.

On its second day, Chinese go out to visit their friends and relatives and give gifts and be greeted with traditional Chinese New year delicacies like melon seeds, flowers and fruits such as tangerines, oranges and pomelos that are frequently displayed in their homes and stores. They are symbols of good luck and wealth. Most Chinese families also keep a tray full of dried fruits, sweets, and candies to welcome guests and relatives. This tray is called Chuen-hop or Tray of Togetherness, traditionally made up of eight compartments where each is filled with special food items of significance to the New Year season. They also prepare New Year cakes known as Niangao.

Most Chinese stores are closed for the entire first week of the New year is a time for meeting people and enjoyment. Lion dances, acrobats and theatrical shows are performed on the streets along with other pastimes. They also enjoy lighting firecrackers almost every day of the week in their belief that it drives away evil spirits that brings bad luck to the family. On its seventh day of the celebration, everyone is considered a year older. Traditionally, every Chinese add a year to his age at New Year rather than during his birthday.

The celebration ends on the 15th day with a festival of lanterns. On the evening of that day, people carry lanterns into the streets and take part in a great parade. It is highlighted with a dragon dance.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Calinog Celebrates their Cultural Origins through HIRINUGYAW-SUGUIDANONAY Festival

The municipality of Calinog will be celebrating its annual Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival on January 28 to February 6, 2011. Visitors will witness the town’s cultural celebration through literature, dance and arts. The celebration aims at giving today’s generation an overview of their heritage dating back to pre-Hispanic times.

Hirinugyaw is coined from a Hiligaynon word hugyaw or cheer, joy or triumph. The festival was inspired by Iloilo City’s Dinagyang, a festivity showing the people’s devotion to the Sto. Niño or Child Jesus and where they make effort to perform colorful cultural dances and other festive commemorative rites in His honor. A fascinating feature of the celebration is the Suiguidanon.

Suguidanon is an oral tradition of the Suludnon of Panay---an ethnic group that lives in the interiors of Panay, specifically in the mountains of Capiz and some part of Calinog. The name was coined from a local dialect, sulod or interior, and later evolved into the word Suludnon. In the subsequent Spanish conquest and colonization of our land, the Sulodnons were one of those principal pagan or traditionalist groups that refused to submit to Spanish authority.

Just like any other ethnic groups, the Suludnon of Panay have an ancient and rich ethnic cultural background; they have chanting, playing on musical instruments. Music and graceful dancing to intricate rhythms occur in their festivities of social celebrations, and reciting the adventures of the folk hero Humadapnon. They managed to keep their own arts and literature. The most popular is the folk epic poem Hinilawod performed through a chant. It is orally transmitted by a Sulodnon from one generation to another and is still very much a part of their culture. It is performed on considerable gathering or during the festival. The Sulodnons memorize the song which they knew by heart and were learnt in their childhood. They say, it would take about three days to perform the Sulod Hinilawod of Panay epic in its original form, thus, making it as one of the longest epics in the world.

Hinilawod means tales from the mouth of the Halawod River. Known to be the oldest and longest epic of Western Visayas, it has 8,340 verses divided into four episodes, namely: Pangayaw, Tarangban, Bihag, and Pagbawi, and deals with the adventures of our local mythical heroes Labaw Donggon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap. The epic is of profound significance not just as a piece of literature but it furnishes us of history, sociology, psychology, religion, and so forth of the ancient Sulodnon of Panay.

To know the Sulodnons of Panay is to figuratively take a trip centuries back, through the time tunnel of history, and see to how well they have preserved for us, this present generation, a great source of cultural traditions that might otherwise have vanished forever. Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival made possible the preservation of the Sulod culture with practices providentially still untouched.

The Sulod customs and traditions is the highlight of the annual tribe competition of the festivity that showcases dancers moving to the rhythm of chanting vocals from the epic. Marked by mimicry and symbolism this non-religious dance, more freedom is allowed where fascinating movements are achievable.

Hirinugyaw Suguidanonay Festival of Calinog will open on January 28 in the afternoon with a Mass, Torch Procession and Lighted Sto. Niño Contests and the Presentation of Lin-ay Kag Ulitao Kang Hirinugyaw- Suguidanonay 2011; January 29 with a Cultural Presentation from the Liga ng mga Barangay and SK; January 30 with a Cultural Presentation from Mary Immaculate Academy; January 31 with Talent’s Night of Lin-ay kag Ulitao and Linghuron nga Lin-ay kag Ulitao kang Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay 2011; February 1 with a Cultural Presentation from District I and District II; February 2 with a Cultural Presentation from the West Visayas State University Calinog Campus; February 3 is for the Coronation Night of Linghuron nga Lin-ay kag Ulitao kang Hirinugyaw-Suguidanomay Festival 2011; February 4 is set for the Coronation Night of Lin-ay kag Ulitao Kang Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival 2011; February 5 is for the Cultural Presentation of Calinog Stall Owners and Vendors Association in cooperation with OFW Incorporated and February 6 highlights with festival Tribe Competition at 8 in the morning.

Calinog’s culture is very interesting because they have adhered to their traditions and beliefs. Their traditions, rituals, dances are all retained in near- untouched form and offers precious evidence with today’s exploration for the genuine roots of pre-historic Iloilo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Living in Harmony with Nature at LSDC in San Joaquin

The natural beauty of San Joaquin continues to be one of its greatest assets. With an extensive town of almost 23,135 hectares, the town is located wholly along the coastal area south of the province of Iloilo. Its lengthy coastline confers the town's potential of a maritime power. Most of the town's beautiful beach locations are sure targets for investors. The town offers a wide variety of tourist attractions such as extended and roomy beaches ideal for swimming and fishing and other water sports that highlights its unique marine life particularly conducive to holidaying.

A 53-kilometer bus or jeepney ride from the city and you will be transported from one of its most interesting attractions. Set in an area surrounded by coconut trees, visitors will find a friendly relaxed atmosphere. Lhetz Snorkel and Dive Camp (LSDC) in Barangay Cata-an promises a pleasant outing with safe swimming conditions where one gets an awning on the beach for relaxed, casual comfort. The area is ideal for swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling. The cove has a beautiful marine garden which interests dive enthusiasts.

Nowhere else do you have such an ease of access to miles of pristine waters with diverse life and highlights. Other areas in Iloilo, one can collect good dive sites together over large areas however on a long and arduous boat journeys in between and might not even get close to what this resort offers out there.

This resort is within the boundaries of a reserve for terrestrial wildlife. Its coastline has been turned into a sustainable protected marine park. LSDC and its surrounding communities have "bought in" to the conservation plan and as a result, illegal fishing, reef walking and other activities detrimental to the coral reef have been halted.

Officially opened in the year 2000, the resort is set on a 7,000 square metered developed area owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Abdon and Reine Andrea Santocildes. The resort has been an excellent choice for those who prefer to enjoy peace and quiet time with family and friends. It has nine (9) very affordable rooms where guests can enjoy spectacular sea views from your their cottages. It has air-conditioned single and duplex rooms and fan rooms. These comfortable cottages are located amidst beautiful coconut trees. Guests can come for the day for P30.00 as entrance fee and P50.00 for those staying overnight. Guests can also pitch a tent for P150.00.

The receiving area has an ocean view where guests can hear the gentle waves and listen to the birds while seated on the balcony in one of the lounge benches. Its dining hall can accommodate 50 persons, a perfect venue for intimate wedding receptions. It also offers food service to go with your event. Local dishes such as kadios and tambo are popular to guests.

The wealth and diversity of San Joaquin’s tourism resources hope to provide investment opportunities for the province through the development of picnic and camping sites at strategic locations within trail circuits; building of tourist lodges; beach tourism potentials; establishment of boating and sports fishing facilities; educational facilities for water sports; and establishment of holiday resorts along the coasts.

The town has something for everyone. Those who wish to experience Iloilo at a slower pace would do well to visit San Joaquin that offers opportunities to relax and enjoy the sun and scenery, where there is always something new and exciting taking place.

To get there, one can take a tricylcle from the town market to Barangay Cata-an. For those who wish to avail of its scuba instruction and services, please contact Mr. Abdon Santocildes at 09186033946/ 09167656146 or 09164938633 or Mrs. Erlyn Alunan, Municipal Tourism Officer at 09179857804.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Short Summer Escapes in Iloilo

Nature in Iloilo is spectacular with breathtaking sceneries of evergreen vegetation, jungles with impressive waterfalls, rare wildlife, mangrove forests, hot springs and an array of islands and islets with sandy beaches. With adventures that include kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding, inter-island tours, and cave exploration, Iloilo peaks in the summer with a variety of experiences available for a unique and exciting Eco-adventure.

the cabin type rooms of Casa Fiammeta in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo , photo by Pearl Arroyo

If you have always wanted to have a ‘real west’ adventure and maybe even ride a horse then Casa Fiammeta is just for you. This is a guest ranch located in Barangay Tabucan, Barotac Nuevo (a 28-kilometer or 40-minuter drive north of IIoilo). This five-hectare ranch has riding, camping and kayaking activities. It also has horse and bike trails and a 60-meter swimming pool. It has a riding school that offers lessons on English Equitation with modules from basic, intermediate and advance courses. It also has a covered riding rink situated just opposite its campsite. And of course their horses and staff are capable of working with all riding levels. Great care has been give to make the ranch accessible without being obtrusive so everyone will feel welcome. Accommodations include six air-conditioned log cabins with bath suitable for singles and couples and family. Commanding views, excellent food are but a few of the reasons to visit Casa Fiammetta.

photo by Ramon Ramirez

Exploring caves is a timeless outdoor activity that can provide a unique and alternative path to learning about nature. With a number of locations to enjoy across Iloilo, caves, especially in the central part of the province are in no short supply; the adventure of spelunking is a great pursuit. Cave explorations involve crawling through passages, walking and crawling through maze-like tunnels, all while discovering geological formations such as crystals and walls. The 854-hectare protected area of Bulabog Puti-an National Park in Barangay Moroboro in Dingle is gaining popularity especially among the students as one destination for their field study. Known as one of the very few remaining forest in Iloilo, Bulabog Puti-an showcases many attractions like caves, springs, and old growth forest trees. The caves are its main asset. One of its caves, Lungib, was even used during the Spanish occupational period of the Philippines as a hideout for the revolutionary forces in Iloilo. There are 33 known and named caves here lined with limestone edges, and a many of more to explore. To get to there from Iloilo City, a Dingle jeepney in Tagbak Terminal in Jaro is readily available. Upon reaching the town proper, hire a tricycle going to the park. There is a very minimal entrance fee and professional local tour guides are readily available inside the park.

Every island especially in the northern area of Iloilo is different. Each has its own character made up of beaches, mountains and mangrove forests. Some, even uninhabited, others are shelter for small fishing villages and their local inhabitants. With small pockets of mangrove and little beaches which nestle in the many coves, tiny seaside villages, secluded swimming beaches and areas of wilderness are tucked away all over Ajuy. This is a beautiful destination for a weekend drive - especially in the bright sunlight of summer. If you fancy staying longer, there are plenty of things to do. Activities include sailing, fishing and scuba diving and trekking. You can beach-hop your way down the Island of Binongan-an, home of Marbuena Island Resort. It is situated seven kilometers from the poblacion of Ajuy, a two-hour bus ride north from the city of Iloilo. It boasts of white sand surrounding the island; home to birds and fruit bats; and perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling. Marbuena Beach Resort is located at Barangay Pantalan Nabaye. To get there take a pump boat to Marbuena at Barangay Mangorocoro in Ajuy.

photo by Ramon Ramirez
Located at the center of Panay is the municipality of Lambunao, an hour jeepney ride from Iloilo City. It is known for its many waterfalls and cascades. Some of the most popular is the Maasin Falls with an elevation of 30 feet and drops 2,000 gallons of water every minute to its basin with a depth of 20-30 feet. It is considered as the most famous in the province. Another breathtaking waterfall is Mahangin measuring about 140 feet in height and is 3,360 feet above sea level and because of this it has a cold and windy atmosphere. It is located in Sitio Budian, Cabatangan. Found in the lower cascade of the Mahangin Falls is the Dalhayan Falls with a smaller area for swimming, it is a sanctuary of freshwater crabs and shrimps. An ideal hideaway for swimming and picnics is the Inas Falls located inside the premises of the West Visayas State University College of Agriculture and Forestry in Barangay Jayubo. It measures 15 feet in height and with a swimming area of 320 square meters. Nalisong Falls in Sitio Budian has a small area for swimming. It is located in a rainforest where it is quite dark and the water is very cold. The ambiance is very tranquil and is described by some as seemingly enchanted.

The options vary by districts, and guidelines to carry forward your summer adventure are necessary for the best trip. These escapes are made to quickly unwind you and spellbind you.

For more information, please contact the Provincial Tourism Office at (033) 3384910.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life in the Wild at the Mari-it Wildlife Conservation Park

Habagat, the famous Dolongan bird at the sanctuary with University of San Agustin junior tourism students for Tumandok 2010-Lambunao group

Eco and adventure tourism have reached an all-time high in popularity. Attendance rates at some known conservation parks have soared in recent years and people have started moving towards these wildlife conservation parks as a tourist destination.

Wildlife conservation is a process where individuals and organizations are involved in analyzing, protecting and preserving various life forms existing in our ecosystem. Scientists have documented that human influence over the last 10,000 years in our ecosystem had been wide-ranging that they have difficulty estimating the total number of species lost in this era.

Many species are at risk of becoming extinct because it is threatened by changing environment caused by overpopulation of humans--- identified as a major threat and with it comes mass agriculture, deforestation, overgrazing, slash and burn, urban development, pesticide use and global warming. By acknowledging these problems that we can find solutions for them, although most solutions require enormous economic aids which may anchor these coherent problems.

There are many wildlife conservation societies and organizations all over the world that work untiringly to save wildlife through conservation education. And one organization that strives to change attitudes towards the protection of wild populations of, including endangered species is the Mari-it Wildlife Conservation Park in Lambunao, Iloilo. Situated inside the College of Agriculture and Forestry of West Visayas State University in Barangay Jayubo, 16.3 kilometers from the town’s poblacion, is this 2.5 hectare conservation park, a captive breeding center for endemic animals in the Island of Panay.

The park is a safe haven where endangered species such as the Panay tariktik hornbill; Visayan warty pig; Banog (hawk); Malayan palm civet; leopard cat; Visayan writhe hornbill; Raquet-tailed parrot; Visayan spotted deer and the Panay bushy-tailed cloud rat are given the opportunity to live in a protected environment that is as close to their natural habitat as possible. The habitat preserved within the park boundaries affords many of these species an oasis of survival and some of the last bastions of intact ecosystems found today.

entrance at the conservation park with University of San Agustin 

junior tourism students for Tumandok 2010- Lambunao group
But these living, breathing monuments to Iloilo's landscape, culture and history need care and support to overcome the many dangers that threaten to destroy them forever. At the Mari-it Wildlife Conservation Park, advocates work every day to ensure our conservation park get that vital care and support. The park is headed by Project Director, Prof. Lucia Lastimoza who works under the notion that all animals in the area, human and non-human, are of equal importance. Her biggest task is to educate the public and work to help change the way humans think of, and treat these endangered animals. Inside the park, she tries not to allow any activity that would place the animals in an unnecessary stressful situation.

The Conservation Park and natural sites of Lambunao embody the Ilonggo spirit. They are windows to our past, homes to some of our rarest animal and plant species, and places where every Ilonggos can go to find inspiration, peace, and open space. All of us have crucial roles in ensuring that these magnificent lands and landmarks are protected in perpetuity

Want an experience to remember? The area also provides a range of activities for all visitors to the parks and its neighboring reserves.

University of San Agustin junior tourism students for Tumandok 2010-Lambunao group

Lambunao's outstanding reserve system inside WVSU-CAF also offer visitors a wide choice of opportunities to discover spectacular landscapes, from cool, silent and rich wilderness park of temperate rainforest to beautiful cascading sceneries of waterfalls. The park encompass a diversity of unspoiled habitats and ecosystems which offer refuge to unique, and often ancient, trees found nowhere else in Iloilo. It offers versatile trekking opportunities. The trail leading to Montillano and Inas waterfalls inside the reserve offers walking experiences for all - from short strolls to challenging wilderness treks covering a diverse array of environments, from ancient rainforests to inspiring walks through Lambunao's most mountainous landscapes.

This is a park for every season, and a park for every person. Discover the natural and cultural values the Mari-it Wildlife Conservation Park protects and the enjoyment it offers.

An Unforgettable Retreat at Damires Hills in Janiuay

photo by Roni Poblacion

Located in Barangay Damires, Janiuay, is a great getaway from the crowds and overcast of the city, whether for a day or a weekend. Reawaken your zest for life with simple sensory pleasures. Soothe your senses in an Eden of lush greenery. Against the backdrop of mountains, relaxation comes easily in DAMIRES HILLS, Tierra Verde.

Damires Hills is an inland resort nestling in Barangay Damires, Janiuay, a 25-minuter drive from The New Iloilo Airport and an hour from Iloilo City. The place offers the perfect introduction to the municipality with its steep mountain backbone, slopes carpeted with lush plantation of banana, papaya, pomelo, lanzones, rambutan, calamansi and mahogany trees. Since the resort is located only a 5-minuter motorcycle or motorbike-ride from the poblacion, it is not uncommon for its adventurous locals to frequent the resort.

The resort covers an area of approximately 40 hectares with a fabulous farmland frontage and stands as a vision of a typical family-owned rest-house by the heirs of the late Federico Tirador, Sr. Newly-opened in October 10, 2010, it has since been contributing to the tourism attractions, and is one of the must-see inland resorts of Iloilo.

photo by Roni Poblacion

Damires Hills provides a rare taste of paradise with cogon huts that can accommodate 10-15 persons; 2 family rooms for an overnight stay; 2 function rooms good for trainings and seminars for a maximum of 70 persons; and a stunning pool---the social epicenter for the resort for guests of every age and a magnificent sight to behold and hypnotizes you with its rhythmic play of the elements.

rooms in Damires Hills, photo by Roni Poblacion

The design of the structures combine contemporary, 'plantation' décor of bamboo and wood with high sloping ceilings and airy verandas providing a true sense of place that allows its guests to experience Damires Hills’ signature blend of romance, rejuvenation and plenty of space to stretch out and make oneself at home.

If you want lots of rest and leisure, physical activity, lots of privacy, travel with groups, re-bond with your child or mate, bond with nature, take photographs or celebrate an occasion, Damires Hills is the place to be.

photo by Roni Poblacion

One cannot fail to be enchanted by the sights and sounds of the resort---from the powerful swell of the mountain to the refreshing breeze. There is something sensual and romantic about the resorts’ lush fertility and diversity. It rekindles passions. Feel almost like your relationship is part of nature's forces. The serenity and happiness of others at the resort add to your sense of being in a good world.

Tourism in Janiuay is beginning to slowly take off now with a government who is finally beginning to realize how much the sector can help boost its local economy. Although the municipality is not famous for tourism, it has a rich tapestry of attractions and products based on the unique and rich heritage, nature, traditions, people and culture, now extending a warm welcome to its visitors.

Damires Hills, Tierra Verde is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekdays; Saturdays at 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. For more information please call 09096991390/ 09176325901 or email at

PAON: Sights, Sounds and Tastes of Estancia

photo by Jose de Luna

Located in the northern part of the Iloilo Province approximately 135 kilometers from Iloilo City, Estancia is a 4th-class municipality famous for its impressive marine resources. This 25-barangay town is known around the country as a center for commercial fishing, so much so that it carries the name "Alaska of the Philippines" as a testament to its bountiful marine resources. The reason for this is that Estancia lies in the Visayan Sea triangle, an imaginary triangle extending from the provinces of Iloilo, Negros, Cebu, Samar, and Masbate. This triangle is a part of the "Sulu-Sulaweisi Triangle" of the Sulu Sea and neighboring Indonesia where a large concentration of marine organisms coupled with climate conditions support a massive marine ecosystem. Commercial species such as mackerel, barracuda, sardines, shad, pompano, grouper, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, prawns, shells, seaweed and others are harvested along Estancia’s waters. It has a fishing port and a pier known to be one of the most developed in northern Visayas and quality accommodations where one can enjoy at a great vacation value.

photo by Jose de Luna

Known for its breathtaking sunrise and sunset views, PAON Beach Club is an instant popular choice. Located at Barangay Paon, it is a kilometer tricycle ride from the poblacion. It is known as the largest of Estancia's principle tourist beach resorts. The resort is far enough away to give you the peace and quiet you need to refresh your spirit without any distractions. It is a breathtaking beautiful three-hour drive from Iloilo City.

Established in November of 1990, this resort is one of the well-established resorts in Iloilo Province. Sincerely warm and intimately attractive, this laid-back hideaway will arouse you to do it all or nothing at all. Everyone is welcome and PAON Beach Club, Estancia’s first and only unique family resort destination is a welcome change from the ordinary. Couples of all ages will discover a multitude of romantic moments to share together. And families will enjoy the perfect escape.

photo by Jose de Luna

It has years of experience in providing quality service to its guests at very affordable prices. You have the option of choosing amongst 46 guest rooms; 4 family suite air-conditioned rooms, 24 de luxe air-conditioned rooms, 10 fan rooms and 8 traveler’s quarters. Other amenities include a 10-seater bar; thatched-roof beach cottages made from local materials with a fine sand beach lined with coconut trees; a videoke room; and mini zoo and golf.

photo by Jose de Luna

The resort is well-located so that you can have your pick of activities. Recommended is its inter-island tour, abundant with Estancia's and the neighboring islets of Carles’ famed marine life where you can explore pristine hideaways and savor its indescribable turquoise waters or simply dig your feet into the silky sand and find that special spot of your very own in the sun. Its well-trained and friendly staff of activity coordinators will assist those in pursuit of an adventure-filled, active vacation.

photo by Jose de Luna

Great food and a relaxing ambiance can only equal an extraordinary dining experience. Paon’s Malasugi and Kawayan restaurants are located overlooking the great sea with island views of Barangay Luginot, Manipulon and Bayas. Paon has fashioned a menu that re-creates that of a classic rural fish restaurant serving a creative blend of traditional fried seafood platters and time-honored dishes. Their menu offers specialties such as Sizzling Seafood Platters and Bouillabaisse. Signature dishes and chef specialties include Spicy Squid Curry, Steamed blue crabs, Bakareta and Crispy Pata and much more. Come by and relax, have an extraordinary meal.

PAON Beach Club exudes immense natural loveliness where you can relax the day away. The resort is owned and developed by Dominador P. Barba & Sons, Inc. and managed by Mr. Alexander Barba. For more information, please call 033-3970444.

Promoting Tourism in Ajuy through Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project in Barangay Pedada

Worldwide, more than 70 species of mangroves exist. Around 35-40 species are found in the Philippines; and 29 of it are found in Barangay Pedada in Ajuy, Iloilo. Barangay Pedada is a small and rich community of mangrove forest with an estimated 42.5 hectares contributing to Ajuy’s overall health and of Iloilo’s northern coastal zone.

The conservation and rehabilitation effort of Ajuy’s wetlands is a strategic component to their over-all development thrust. Part of a greater move to rehabilitate their coastline is the conduct of information campaigns on the importance of the mangrove forests, as well as the other ecosystems to coastal communities. The on-going Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project in Barangay Pedada has been a success in local management of mangrove forests, as reflected through continued replanting with the community taking care of the natural resources and environment in the area.

The local government of Ajuy through its very dynamic and tourism-oriented municipal mayor, Hon. Juan R. Alvarez in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the DENR, started the Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project (CBMRP) aiming to study and recreate the original mangrove community in the area. Barangay Pedada’s local conservation group, the BPFA or Barangay Pedada Fisherfolks Association headed by Mr. Rodney Barber together with Baragay Captain Alberto Babiera depended on other institutions through networking for exchange and transaction in order to obtain support in rehabilitating their natural resources. The conservation team’s headquarters is located within the local village. The local community appreciated the idea of working together with the conservation team. For this reason, the group continues the mangrove rehabilitation effort and to provide support to the community by building capacity and awareness.

University of San Agustin junior tourism student planting mangrove seedlings

Barangay Pedada is used as a demonstration site on community participatory project for mangrove conservation in order to rehabilitate degraded mangrove areas in order to bring back ecological benefits such as the improvement of the town’s shoreline stabilization, reduce erosion, enhance coastal fisheries; and promote general public awareness on importance of mangroves but specifically for local community of Ajuy;

junior tourism students of the University of San Agustin

Many programs can increase the community’s income in relation to mangroves which includes Ecotourism and Agro-forestry. For ecotourism there is the opportunity to provide guest houses, home stays, and handicrafts for visitors. The mangrove forest in Barangay Pedada, Ajuy is identified as possible boardwalks for educational mangrove tours due to the presence of old-growth mangroves that will provide the people in the community and its visitors with knowledge and information that can be part of an eco tourism program. It will train local guides on mangrove ecology and restoration. It is our hope that this project be used in other parts of Iloilo, to increase the benefits for poor people.

The Community-Based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project is continuing program that develops restoration activities in order to make progress toward the rehabilitation process of the area. It is envisioned that this project can help to establish a good example of community-based mangrove rehabilitation, which can be duplicated in other mangrove areas in Iloilo.

Mangrove forests, along with sea grass beds, estuaries and coral reefs, form the coastal ecosystem is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Mangroves typically grow along the water's edge and appear to be standing or walking on the surface of the water. They flourish in salty environments because they are able to obtain fresh water from saltwater. Some secrete excess salt through its leaves and others block absorption of salt at their roots. Mangrove roots act not only as physical traps but offer attachment surfaces for various marine organisms. Mangroves provide protected nursery areas for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species. Mangrove forests protect uplands from storm winds, waves, and floods. Mangroves can help prevent erosion by stabilizing shorelines with their specialized root systems. Mangroves also filter water and maintain water quality and clarity. Our important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests. People living along the coastal areas benefit many ways from mangroves. It is true that mangroves can be naturally damaged and destroyed, but there is no doubt that human impact has been most severe.

Turismo Agustino President in action

The University of San Agustin through its Turismo Agustino, tourism department of the College of Arts and Sciences will be adopting a 2-hectare area for its on-going mangrove rehabilitation project. The group will endeavor to rehabilitate and restore the mangrove forest through plantation of seeds and seedlings and will conduct and strengthen its partnership with the local village in promoting the conservation of our wetlands.

To get involved with the project, please contact the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism (033) 3384910 to visit us at the 2nd floor, Old Provincial Capitol, Bonifacio Drive, Iloilo City.


junior tourism students from the University of San Agustin for Tumandok 2010-Concepcion group

If your idea of the perfect holiday is lounging around on beautiful beaches, then Iloilo is most definitely the place for you. With its scenic northern and southern coastline to choose from you are, as they say, spoilt for choice.

The northern part of Iloilo has some of the most beautiful beaches. Stretching from Ajuy to Carles, you will come across many long, clean, sandy, unspoilt and underdeveloped beaches to enjoy. But if you're looking for an idyllic, secluded stretch of perfect white sand, head for Concepcion.

Considered as one of the pearls of Iloilo, a string of islands lying north comprised of 25 barangays, 11 of which are distributed in its 16 component islands. The best beaches are sprinkled all around the island-barangays. They are the little gems, a natural paradise of great ecological wealth that we Ilonggos should be very proud of. They are popular and perfect for any water activities by visitors who come here from all over the country to discover the magnificent underwater landscapes and mysteries that lie beneath its crystalline waters. Here you will have soul-warming sun and fragrant sea air to yourself, all-year round. There's enough beach that you will probably find a spot just for yourself. Some of have long sandy stretches, others are clean but almost all are ideal for spending a long undisturbed day of beach worshipping. Although a bit fair away, it is well worth the efforts to reach each destination. These islands are linked to the mainland by motorized banca from the municipal fishing port. Hopping around these islands is a great way to explore Concepcion.

Sandbars and rock islands can be seen while riding the waves along the coastline. Island hopping is enjoyable with food and drink inside the boat, and one has the luxury of swimming wherever and whenever the water is clear and enticing.

A must visit beaches include those of beautiful Agho, Bulubadiangan and Pan de Azucar, serenely set in a sea whose waters range from palest aquamarine and turquoise to deepest sapphire. Their luscious stretch of white sand helped put Concepcion in the tourism map. Tourists who enjoy swimming and snorkeling are drawn to these islands. The best beaches for having a quiet time are sprinkled all around the island-barangays. They are the little gems that Ilonggos are very proud of. They are all clean and peaceful and provide a welcome and relaxing break away from the busy city life.

We start with the most frequented beach in the province and perhaps the most popular on the island is the Sandbar Beach Resort of BULUBADIANGAN. It is a satellite island of barangay Polopina and is a 45-minuter pumpboat ride from the wharf. It is considered the local’s favorite and the much photographed because of its white sandbar. It also has tent sites and picnic facilities and faces offshore Mt. Manaphag.

The uninhabited shores of AGHO is reason enough to go to there. It is a satellite island of barangay Igbon with a strip of oyster-white sands set against a backdrop of palm trees. Its waters provide perfect snorkeling because of its rich coral gardens. It is also a prime site for a beach picnic. The island is astonishing and almost indescribable in its sheer natural beauty.

A somewhat populated, golden sandy beach, TAMBALIZA with its famous landmark, Mt. Manaphag or Pan de Asucar is the gem of the island, reminiscent of the Sugarloaf Mountain known as Pao de Azucar in Rio de Janeiro. There is plenty of lush greenery and the ocean is a beautiful greenish hue that merges into a dark blue out in the open waters of the island.

So when planning a beach vacation Concepcion is the perfect destination. Beaches are among some of the most tempting and the most beautiful in Iloilo. With pristine white sand, clear blue waters and a bevy of activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, swimming, and much more.

To get to these islands, take a bus from Tagbak Terminal in Jaro; this will take you 2.5-3 hours to Concepcion. For more information, please contact the Municipal Tourism Office at telefax (033) 3920309.

Underground Adventure at its Best in the Sweet City of Passi

Aside from beautiful white sand beaches and scenic waterfalls, the Province of Iloilo is also endowed with wonderful caves. There are hundreds of caves all over the province with the most number found in the central portion.

CPU junior tourism students for Tumandok 2008-Passi City group

The adventurous tourists might find the idea of caving very inviting. Although there are plenty of caves in Iloilo, only a handful of them have been explored. This is due to the reluctance of some to venture into the unknown depths of the earth.

The city of Passi has its share of providing its tourists vast caving and cave diving experiences. The city boasts its 16 caves. Spelunkers and non-spelunkers, here is a complete list of the caves in Passi that can give you thrill and excitement. You will surely love and enjoy them: Cueva ni Musyo Cave in Barangay Bayan; Cuadrado Cave in Barangay Agtambo; Suhoton Cave in Barangay Agtambo, Tinay Cave in Barangay Imbang Grande; Bitas Cave in Barangay Imbang Grande; Erimnat Maya Cave in Barangay Agtambo; Irimnan It Maya Spring Cave in Barangay Magdungao; Santos Cave in Barangay Magdungao; Baboy-baboy and Amorotik Cave in Barangay Magdungao; Tubigon Cave in Barangay Magdungao; Ninfa Cave in Barangay Aglalana; Kweba ni Wening in Barangay Aglalana; Ibajay Cave in Barangay Bacuranan; Bita-ogan Cave in Barangay Bita-ogan; and Cabugon Cave in Barangay Imbang Grande.

Most interesting is the Bita-ogan Cave situated 800 meters southeast from Barangay Bita-ogan Proper. The cave can be reached passing through a river on an improvised rail bridge suspended approximately 20 feet high. With the cave’s length measuring more or less a kilometer, spelunkers considered it most challenging since one needs to submerge himself waist high of cool water upon entering its small passage way. Sparkling stalactites and stalagmites are its added attraction.

Another popular cave is the Cabugon located three kilometers from Barangay Imbang Grande Proper. It is 196 meters above sea level and is home to thousands of bats. Its interior is rich of phosphate mineral.

Irimnan It Maya Spring Cave in Barangay Magdungao is a historic place during the Philippine Revolution being the mountain hideout of refugees during the Japanese regime.

For those who are brave enough to endure the intense stench from mounds of bat droppings, you may visit Baboy-baboy and Amoritik Caves in the company of local guides in Barangay Magdungao. Environmentalists, however, do not recommend the disturbance of these bats during their daytime sleep and can only be observed at twilight.

The sport of exploring various caves, known as caving, can also be referred to as spelunking. Every caving experience can vary drastically depending on the type of cave being visited. It can involve highly technical maneuvering, crawling, climbing, and wriggling. But before deciding on a caving trip, you must understand the sport and make sure you understand all of the risks and potential dangers which can range from flash flooding, falling and injury, hypothermia, disorientation and exhaustion. And most importantly, know everything about your caving destination.

But before deciding on a caving trip, you must understand the sport and make sure you understand all of the risks and potential dangers which can range from flash flooding, falling and injury, hypothermia, disorientation and exhaustion.

Visitors hardly experience a dull moment in Passi. The area offers plenty of activities to do, from trekking to zip-lining. But never forget to explore and enjoy their amazing underground wonders of Passi City. Whatever it is, these activities are guaranteed to lift up the spirit and make every visitor's stay delightful and definitely unforgettable.

Passi City is located along the Iloilo-Capiz National Highway. It is an hour ride from Tagbak Bus Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Mae Pojol-Buenaflor, City Tourism Officer at 09213543537.

MIDWAY: A Way Forward in Going Organic for Passi City

The newly-opened MIDWAY Convenient Store in Passi City encourages people to switch to organic food as much as possible because it supports the local small organic farms and also enhances the consumer’s health. The range of organic produce in Passi City is growing year to year with more farms growing to meet the increased demand for organic food in Iloilo.

'Farmpreneur’ Ricardo Palmares Jr. is one of the very few local farms in Passi to raise organic fruits and vegetables. Advertising ‘city friendly’ fare grown without pesticides or fertilizers, they specialize in organic vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, bitter gourd or ampalaya and eggplants. Since its initial opening in May 2010, this ‘veteran’ farmer has seen a shift in the organic scene in Passi City. MIDWAY, currently managed by Miss Pam Palmares opened to fill a ‘niche market’, and initially business was ‘very hard’. But now, more people are more aware about what organic is all about.

MIDWAY is also the first in Passi City to open a public organic farm, combining the educational and recreational purposes. Visitors can explore their farm on their own or avail of their free guided tour with in-house tour guide. Visitors can experience real country life and enjoy fresh harvest. Its scenic area is composed of greenhouse area; banana, papaya and rambutan fruit farm. It is special because they are organically grown, so that visitors can witness our hardworking farmers growing organic crops, without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Their soon-to-open fresh market restaurant will provide some “green” shopping or have a nice meal here after your tour and activities is surely not a bad idea!

Passi city’s consciousness is more in tune with the organic ethos now than it used to be. Business is growing – slowly but steadily. Other popular produce from the Sweet City of Passi include pineapples, bananas, pomelos and rambutans. Thanks to the growing market for naturally cultivated food. The craze for organic food hit the Sweet City of Passi, a fruit-growing component city of 87,000 people in the central portion of Iloilo province, was perfectly suited to benefit through MIDWAY.

The city government of Passi under the leadership of its very dynamic municipal mayor, Hon. Jesry T. Palmares is in full support of this program and started featuring their other local produce at MIDWAY that has become a clearly designated area for the city’s local produce.

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. The use of organic technologies can help the farmers to produce profitable organic fruits and vegetables, putting money in their pockets and reducing risks to their health posed by use of common chemical agents.

When buying organic food, try to buy local organic food because it supports a healthy environment and avoids the use of polluting transport. And when you go organic, the culinary world seems idyllic: local farmers grow fresh produce without the use of pesticides or chemicals, while animals, raised for meat or dairy are not pumped with growth hormones. It is a regulated industry focused on eco-friendly farming and healthy living. Who wouldn’t buy that?

MIDWAY is located just at the main road side of Barangay Bacuranan and offers its spacious car park for cars and buses. For more information, please contact Miss Mae Pojol-Buenaflor, City Tourism Officer at 09213543537.

BUCARI: The Freshness and Vastness of Leon

photo by Ramon Ramirez

Most people have different judgments about the ideal vacation destination because everyone has other yearnings for an agreeable retreat. Even the same person has different fascinations and does not want always the same destination or even similar kind of holiday.

In Iloilo, the popular choice for a vacation destination is in areas with beaches, right? A cool vacation destination has a lot to offer too. After all, if you live in the city year round with a sunny climate, you might be hankering after a cool and relaxed vacation destination yet, are not usually overrun by tourists.

Many travelers love a vacation in the mountains and in Iloilo, the town of Leon is a popular destination for such kind of vacation. The mountains offer fresh and healthy air. It is just if you have extra energy when you breathe and your mind feel relaxed and you get rid of all the stress in your body.

photo by Ramon Ramirez

A 48-minute hop by jeepney from Jaro market terminal is all it takes to get to Leon. The town is 28.2 kilometers southwest of Iloilo City. Comprised of 85 barangays, Leon has a land area of 14,013 hectares and offers some of the best, and often the most extreme, trekking in Iloilo and offers plenty of opportunities to explore pristine wilderness areas.

photo by Ramon Ramirez
And there is no denying the otherworldly beauty of the pine and mist-covered mountains of Bucari, a barangay known to be the most popular area and the highest portion of the town is on a 1,200-metre-above sea level location surrounded with evergreens. The area features a subtropical highland climate. It is because of this that Bucari is nicknamed the "Little Baguio of Iloilo" owing to its high elevation. From the zigzag road, to the pine trees, and not to mention the cool climate, it really resembles Baguio.

Some tourists take up the challenge of going to Bucari with no particular accommodation in mind to go to. Once in there, they roam around and hike to scout for a place to stay. It is a fun place to visit when in Leon. It boasts of other attractions but nature is stunning. It has cool climate---on some days it even gets foggy---the area around is a popular summer retreat from the heat of the nearby city.

From the town’s terminal fronting its market, one can take an hour and a half ride to the pines---the most common and important of tree specie found in Bucari. With its temperate areas, they are the fast-growing softwoods that grow in its relatively dense stands. Pines in the area have long-lived, typically reaching ages of more than a hundred years, some even more. Declared as an Eco-tourist zone, this 10,432.875-hectare land is more eco-friendly than its Banaue counterpart because of the agro-forest character of the farms diversified by fruit trees in between the terraces.

photo by Ramon Ramirez

And because of the area’s mountainous landscape, farmers grow their crops at the hills and mountainside in terraces. Its cool climate is fitting for growing rice and other high-value produce such as fruits and vegetables. Many of which are sold in the city markets such as carrots, cabbage, Baguio beans, chilies, eggplant and chayote or vegetable pear locally known as sayote.

The town’s market day at Fridays are filled with rambunctious group of merchants and middlemen flogging chickens in exchange for clothes or shoes, fresh vegetables by the baskets and the sweetest mangoes in the province.

Who can resist the brilliant culture and attractions of Leon. Visit the area and you will experience some cold temps. It is wonderful experience to discover new cultures or to make a tour in your own area. You can visit the highlights of one destination with a mix of different activities. The freshness and vastness of Leon is certainly alluring, and it is not that far away for most Ilonggos.

For more information, please contact the Office of the Municipal Mayor at (033) 3310033 or the Office of Culture, arts, History and Tourism, Province of Iloilo at (033) 3384910.

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