Singapore: The Concrete Jungle of Southeast Asia

Singapore, a country synonymous to progress in Southeast Asia. It was founded by Lee Kuan Yew who led the severance of the island-nation from Malaysia. It may be small in terms of land area but it has become big in terms of economy. It is considered as a major hub not only in Southeast Asian region but in the whole of Asia as well.

In just a few years, Singapore has become a model tiger economy. Thanks to the effective leadership of its prime ministers, it has become a leader in Asean and asian economies. It may not have enough land but the skyscrapers speak for Singapore.

Boat Quay and Clarke Quay are places for those who love the night life. In the river’s banks stand restaurants, bars, a stadium, the Singapore Flyer (giant ferris wheel) and other places of interests especially for those want to while the night (or day) away. The government has put the river banks to good use. Cleanliness is evident among the surrounding places.

The Universal Studios at Resorts World Sentosa is one popular place to visit. What with those shows, themes, restaurants, souvenir shops, rides and other amenities that people of different ages can enjoy. One need not go to other Universal Studios since the Singapore branch is at par with them.

The Marina Bay Sands area is one must-go place in Singapore. It has an expansive mall that houses high-end stores and restaurants. It also has a convention center where big events are held. It has a hotel that has an infinity pool on the top floor. It is a tourist area that will leave anyone in awe.

Orchard Road is one iconic Singaporean street. Along its length are malls such as Takashimaya, Central, Ion, Lucky Plaza just to name a few. It is one shopper’s delight. Goodies from the most expensive to the cheapest can be found there. Outside Lucky Plaza is where one can find the famous ice cream sandwich that is a must-taste.

Other places of interest in Singapore are the Fullerton Hotel area where the famous Merlion is located nearby. Also, worth visiting is the ArtScience Museum. The building with horns called the Esplanade is another place to go to. Singapore is a country that is a feast to the eyes despite diminutive size.

It may seem that Singapore is the concrete jungle of Southeast Asia but its government and people are ever conscious of ways to take care of the environment. Well, concrete jungle or not, it has come a long way from its birth as a nation up to the present time. Singapore beacons as a very important hub of commerce and tourism.

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Davao City, the Center of Attraction

Davao City, the country’s largest city in terms of land area, is at the center of attraction of late. Not only because it is the city where President Rodrigo Duterte was once a mayor. It is gaining more popularity among local tourists and foreigners as well.

The city has its own characteristic that makes it charming and endearing. Modernity has caught up with Davao City but it has maintained a certain aura of mystery. Though, once in a while, hounded by activities of the far left and other attention-seeking groups, it is generally peaceful.

From the first time that I set foot in Davao City many years ago until the last time I was there to do the 65th Miss Universe Mindanao Tapestry fashion show of Renee Salud, I have seen a lot of changes to the city. Commercial establishments have spruced up. There is even a big Central Bank of the Philippines branch which has a convention hall that can accommodate a large number of people of big events. Then, there is also the SMX Convention Center in Lanang where our show was held.

Malls owned by SM and Ayala have mushroomed in Davao City through the years. It seems that their branches are not enough to accommodate the number of people who have made malls as their new leisure go-to places.

But, of course, there is still the good old reliable Aldevinco where you can buy Mindanao-made products. Not only that, you can also find items which come from neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Haggling for the best price is still practiced here. Then, there is the city center which has small as well as big named stores to shoppers’ delight.

A sign of a place’s marked development is the construction of big-branded hotels. Of course, there are smaller hotels which cater to tourists who are on a budget. The construction frenzy of hotels in Davao City makes the city more appealing to visit.

Durian can be bought in several areas as well as other delicacies that the city offers. Local restaurants are must-trys. With the abundance of fruits and seafood in the area, it is worth patronizing their products and eating places.

Davao City is at the center of attraction. It is one place which was carved of discipline and friendliness. Everywhere I went in the city, I was genuinely greeted by its people. Taxis gave exact change. Cleanliness is very evident. It is not be a surprise anymore that it is dubbed as the next important gateway to the Philippines.

In New York City, the Dream is Real

New York City is one place that left a good imprint in me. When I went there, I said to myself that I will never get tired of going back and forth. It is one city that makes me feel at ease and comfortable. Roaming in the streets of New York City is like going through a orderly mess. Messy because people are all over. Orderly because the city layout is very well planned.

Times Square is a must-visit area in New York City. Waves and waves of tourists have their pictures taken in its iconic establishments. Shops, restaurants, hotels and theaters are abounty. This place makes truth to the cliche that New York is a city that doesn’t sleep. 24/7, hordes go to Times Square to experience what it is to be like in New York City.

Despite the seeming modernity of the city, some buildings still have the architecture of years gone by. They are sights to behold in this concrete jungle.

Central Park is one place that is a breath of fresh air both literally and figuratively. This is one big block of trees and water that the city has preserved. It is also a place where residents go to during free times. Despite the busy atmosphere of New York City, Central Park provides a semblance of nature in a metropolitan setting.

Going around the city is easy. Aside from the regular trips in the subway, yellow cabs are all around. Then, there are the double-decker buses that bring tourists around. But, of course, walking is still the best way to explore New York City. There are a lot of places to discover.

Traversing the streets of the city, you can find a myriad of many things that might be of your interest. It is a melting pot of matters, trivial or important, that make the city’s personality unique.

New York City is a dream place for artists especially in the fields of theater and fashion. Broadway shows the latest musical plays while New York Fashion Week is said to be the most-awaited fashion event worldwide.

Since I was young, it has been my fervent wish to visit New York City. It came true in 2010. My dream has come to fruition. But, still, I yearn to be back in the city that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and where the jungle is really concrete.

Sitio Remedios in Currimao, Ilocos Norte

Currimao in Ilocos Norte is a quaint and quiet town just a few municipalities from Ilocos Sur and to Laoag City. Little do people know that there is a resort called Sitio Remedios which is a sight to behold with its Ilocano-inspired houses and a beach that has a beautiful sunset. It is owned by the country’s top neurologist, a dedicated art connoisseur and philanthropist Dr. Joven Cuanang. I was there during the 2017 holy week where my group and I did a fashion show on Black Saturday to give tribute to the weavers of the Ilocano fabric called inabel specially woven by national treasure Magdalena Gamayo of Pinili. The works of two Ilocano designers were featured – the children’s wear of Nina Corpuz of Batac City and the creations of Edgar Madamba of San Nicolas.

The old world is ever present in the resort. Cobblestones line up the pathways going to the main area and the houses (or villas). Dr. Cuanang wants to preserve Sitio Remedios this way so that it will be different from nearby resorts and in the province as well.

One can experience nature at its best because the houses are surrounded by trees and plants. The architecture is reminiscent of the old Ilocos era sans wifi and television.

The beach and its fine sand is something worth traveling to the north. The sunset is picture-perfect. The ambience is romantic.

Breakfast is made up of Ilocano fare which are palatable to all types of visitors. If guests are plenty, dinner by the sea is something that Sitio Remedios offers.

Wedding receptions, family reunions, company outings and other special events are held in Sitio Remedios. It has venues where these can be held.

Interiors made from indigenous materials to have a rustic ambience that is typically Filipino and Ilocano are sights to behold. The red tiles that were used during the olden times are everywhere.

A fountain, a bellfry and a chapel are some of the many features the Sitio Remedios offers. It is a town within a town. It is a commune rather than just an ordinary resort.

When one wants to find peace and quiet away from the maddening crowd in the metropolis, Sitio Remedios is a perfect place to go to. Personally, it is one place where I found the quietness that I needed much.

Sitio Remedios can be reached via bus that ply the Laoag route. You may tell the conductor to stop at the Currimao crossing and take a tricycle to the resort which is just nearby. By air, you may take the flights going to Laoag and rent a van that will take you to Sitio Remedios.

Watch Out for Doha!

Doha, Qatar is known as an employment center for many Filipinos in the Middle East. I should say that it is one fast-rising cities that part of the globe. I, together with fashion designer Renee Salud, production staff, models and dancers, were part of the B2B event in Doha sponsored by the Department of Tourism last April 30, 2017.

The city has two sides…the old city and the modern one. The old city consists of buildings that have almost the same color – beige. It is in this side that traditional way of business is being conducted. The new city has numerous modern buildings of different shapes and colors. With those alone, one can tell that Doha is going to become an important city.

As in any other developing city, Doha has its share of shopping areas. The good old souk is where you can buy items which are undoubtedly Arabian. Gold is cheap. Haggling can also be practiced. But in the new city, malls already abound. I was brought by my friend, Naj Raymundo, to the Villaggio Mall where the high end brands are housed. The floor of a certain portion of the mall have gold chunks encrusted on it.

Buildings and roads are being constructed in time for the 2022 World Cup which the city will host. There are edifices that were constructed for the Asian Games held there. The building that was the cauldron during the games now has a revolving restaurant and is home to many offices. The construction of the train system is now in full swing.

Doha, despite the seeming movement towards the future, has maintained its own Arabic charm. The preservation of its architecture and arts makes it a suitable destination for art lovers.

Watch out for Doha! It is beckoning to be the next important destination in the Middle East.

Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo City

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Sunday is usually church day and time to laze around either in your own room or anywhere else where you can just roam around without thinking of work or other matters. But March 5, 2017 was a Sunday that was both educational, art appreciation day and an awakening one for me. I was treated to my eyes’ delight. Thank you to Edgar Madamba for bringing me to Pinto Art Museum located in Antipolo City. The owner, Dr. Joven Cuanang, is a neurologist and an art afficionado/collector who thought of making a museum out of his collections.

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The two-hectare property consists of several Mediterranean-type buildings which house galleries of paintings and artworks of different media. Pinto Art Museum is not only a haven for artists, it is also a tourist attraction of sorts. With the many people who visited the place both local and international tourists, this art sanctuary is definitely a must-see and should be part of a tourism package.

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Artworks of different forms can be seen in the whole complex. From the classic paintings to the digital art forms to installations and even artistic graffitis are displayed for everyone’s appreciation. It cannot be considered an overload of artistic works because everything in the museum is worth seeing. It is a soothing venue of artists’ expressions. It is simply a heaven of artistic proportions.

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Walking from one gallery to another has a feeling of going through a labyrinth which keeps one surprised as what the next area offers. Despite the expansive galleries and the stairs that you would walk through, there was not a feeling of tiredness as the artworks were so interesting and invigorating.

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Since the area is so big, the owner decided to bring in Cafe Rizal for the needs of visitors who get hungry while going around. It has three restaurant in all the levels of Pinto Art Museum.

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The edifices inside the complex are also worth appreciating. Buildings which are inspired from architectural structures the can be seen in the Mediterranean, the Carribean as well as local ones were built to serve as galleries of the artworks. They, themselves, are visual delights.

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Pinto Art Museum is where the respected masters and the new millennium geniuses converge and unite. They share one common cause – to bring art to the people.

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It is surprising to note that people from all ages were in the art venue on a Sunday. It is one place that has crossed the boundaries of ages. Young and old were there so admire art at its best. Locals as well as foreign visitors mingled and appreciated what Pinto Art Museum has to offer. The P200 entrance fee is all worth it.

Pili, the Capital of Camarines Sur

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Pili, Camarines Sur…the town where the seat of government of the province is located. Aside from Naga City, Pili is the next important place in the Metro Naga area.

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The provincial capitol is located in the said town. Literally, the seat of government can be found there aside from various public offices of national importance. The Camarines Sur Convention Center is also there. Conventions, special events and other big activities are being held in the venue. Aside from the edifice, the convention center boasts of wide grounds for other different festivities such as the annual Kaogma festival and the like.

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The world-reknowned Camsur Watersports Center (CWC) is situated in Pili. Log cabins, a man-made lagoon and their other facilities can be utilized by sports-minded people. Tourists from all over the world flock to CWC for their leisure get-away. There is also the Lago del Rey resort with very good amenities to the delight of guests.

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The Naga Airport is also in Pili. Though only small aircrafts can land in the said airport, it is convenient for tourists to go to important areas in the province through this gateway. Besides, Pili can boast of good roads that are breezy for travelers to pass through.

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Education institutions abound the first class municipality – a proof how the people of Pili and the people of Camarines Sur give importance to education. No wonder the town has produced a number of its people who have carved names not only for their town and province but in the national front as well.

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A must-visit in the town is the St. Raphael the Archangel Church which is the main catholic church that binds the people of Pili. Its yearly Cimarrones Festival is another activity worth witnessing.

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Of course, just like any town in the country, Pili is fast becoming an economic hub in the Metro Naga. With the establishment of different businesses, it can contribute to the development of the metropolitan area as well as the province of Camarines Sur. Development is not bad as long as it benefits the people and the community is surely getting its share from income derived from the businesses.

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Despite the beckoning of development, the people of Pili, in particular and Camarines Sur, in general know how to take care of their environment. They have a sense of classy aesthetics that are appreciated by the locals as well as tourists. Thanks to their ever-supportive municipal and provincial officials.

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When deciding which part of Camarines Sur to visit, choose Pili. It’s not only a convenient stop going to Naga City and other municipalities in the province but one will appreciate the provincial setting with rich greeneries that abound. By the way, Pili is where you can see the majestic Mount Isarog.

Special thanks to the owners of some of the photos used in this blog.