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.

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Zoom, Zambales!

It was my first time to visit the Province of Zambales other than Olongapo City and Subic. I was invited to sit as a judge in the talent and indigenous costume competitions of Bb. Zambales 2015. Invitation was sent by renowned fashion designer Renee Salud, Bb. Zambales producer Richard Murillo and event chair Provincial Administrator Omar Ebdane. Of course, this was under the auspices of Provincial Governor Hermogenes “Jun” Ebdane, Jr.

Bb. Zambales coincided with the annual Dinamulag Festival of the province or simply known as the Mango Festival. The dinamulag mango is a product of Zambales which is larger than the usual mango hence, the name dinamulag.

Reeling from years of devastation from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales is fast gaining ground from the lahar flows that came down from the volcano. In fact, Mt. Pinatubo has become a tourist attraction which benefits the province, Pampanga and Tarlac.

Zambales boasts of the sea and the mountains which remain to be serene and undisturbed. Thank God for the good governance by its local officials. Driving through the highway, it was as if I was in another dimension…another country. My appreciation of nature has deepened with what I saw in my short visit to the province. My excitement to go beyond Olongapo City exceeded my expectations.

Anawangin Cove and Potipot Island are must-sees when you go to Zambales. Places in the province seem to be untouched by time and modernity. Breath-taking is a term too simple to describe the these sites.

Of course, Zambales has its own development in terms of infrastructure. With establishments that have been built, its provincial leaders have made sure that basic services are given to its people.

Olongapo City is the gateway and the most popular place in Zambales but there is more to see farther north. There are trips to Iba, the capital town, and to other towns in the province via Victory Liner.

With friendly people, beautiful scenery and support from its leaders, the province will definitely zoom to greater heights.

Sulong, Zambales!

The Catbalogan in My Mind

Catbalogan,,,my birthplace.  The capital of Samar, Catbalogan is one of two cities of the province.  It is part of the second district which has the bigger population.

Though small in land measurement, Catbalogan is teeming with daily activities making a sort of “melting pot” in the area.  The economy is booming and establishments have mushroomed especially when it became a city in 2007.

Since then, resorts such as M Grand Royale, Juvie’s Resort and Seaside Resort were constructed to cater to the leisure needs of the people. As for hotels, there are already a lot to choose from. Worth mentioning are First Choice Hotel, Casa Kristina, San Francisco Hotel. GV Hotel, Novo Hotel and Rolet Hotel. Social/entertainment venues, commercial entities and such have sprouted. Also, privately-owned residential enclaves have been and are being developed.

Schools with tertiary level such as St. Mary’s College of Catbalogan, Samar College and Samar State University provide education not only among the students of Catbalogan but caters to the other neighboring municipalities.

Catbalogan is lucky to be in the midst of the country’s spawning ground of seafood – the Maqueda Bay.  Fresh sea products are bountiful in this God-blessed city.  Seafood businesses abound. Families have prospered thanks to the gifts given by the sea.

San Bartolome is the patron saint of the city. Its parish church bears the name of the saint. Catbaloganons are religious by nature. Feasts and catholic practices are strictly adhered to by its people. The annual fiesta is celebrated every August.

The local government is trying its best to deliver not only the basic necessities to its people. It has proven that it is capable of elevating this once-sleepy town into a bustling city this side of the country. Despite the limitations in space, the local government officials have instilled the importance of discipline, unity, sustainability and working for progress. Catbalogan is a city of its own uniqueness.

Its people, especially the youth, give radiance and energy not only to the city but to the whole province as well.

Despite the natural calamities that have struck the city, its people have proven to be strong and resilient.

What is the Catbalogan in my mind? For me, being a true-blooded Catbaloganon, it is a city that has a full potential of becoming a contributor to our country’s growth. It is a city waiting to be harnessed by the national government in order to bring out it full potentials. It is a city waiting to be discovered as a beautiful haven. It is a city that I love because I was born there and it is where we reside.

From Manila, one can go to Catbalogan City by air either via Tacloban City or Calbayog City. Both cities are serviced by PAL Express and Cebu Pacific Air. Additional flights via Air Asia and Tiger Air can be availed via Tacloban City. By land, one can traverse through the Maharlika Highway either from Luzon or Mindanao by the many buses that ply their respective routes. Accommodations are already in place for all kinds of tourists who may want to visit the city.

I entice the readers to visit our small but wonderful city…a city like no other.

Zumarraga…not in Spain but in Samar

Let me start with my own hometown in Samar…Zumarraga.  It is one of the 25 cities and municipalities of my province.  Quaint it may be but it’s home to a friendly population.  Around an hour motor boat ride from Catbalogan City, Zumarraga boasts of a circumferential coastline which makes the island-town a seabed of food coming the deep.  A side of the island is facing the Maqueda Bay which is the spawning ground of the country’s fish and other bounties from the sea.

Zumarraga is a mixture of people from Samar and Leyte.  They have become residents of a proud Zumarraganhon race which is distinctly that of the island.  Though its population is minimal as compared to the other municipalities of Samar, it has given, in its own ways, to the heritage of the Samarnons.  Not only in politics, the town has contributed to the arts, culture, history, etc. of our country.  No need to name the people concerned but its townsfolk are truly proud of them.

Its patron saint is St. Anthony of Padua.  The parish church is named after the said saint and has a high school with the same name in the municipality.

Places of interest are the Buho Beach, Poro Island, Arteche Park and the Ruins of Sta. Barbara.

From Metro Manila, one can take a plane to either Tacloban City or Calbayog City.  From the airports of the said cities, you may hire vans going to Catbalogan City.  Tacloban to Catbalogan may take you 1 1/2 to 2 hours of land travel while Calbayog to Catbalogan is a shorter route of 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Upon reaching Catbalogan, you just have to go to Pier 1 and take the boats plying the Catbalogan to Zumarraga route at mid-morning.  There are no trips in the afternoon but you may hire a boat all to yourself at a special fee.  A lodging facility named Balay ni Luis has been built for tourism purposes. Ther are also some families who are willing to accommodate tourists at a fee to be agreed by both parties.  A special visit trip can be arranged in Catbalogan so that one does not need to stay overnight in the island-town.

Feel free to google Zumarraga, Samar to know more about it.

MATAM-IH…Authentically Kapampangan

When in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, a must stop place is Matam-ih authentic Kapampangan restaurant. It is located along Manuel A. Roxas Highway almost opposite Oxford Hotel & Casino.

The restaurant is really “authentic” in the sense that its waiters, entertainers and other employees are aetas from the Mount Pinatubo area.

Its different eating venues are named after specific places in Mount Pinatubo. Aside from the main dining hall, it has a second floor for those who come after office hours and simply drink the night away. It also has airconditioned dining areas at the wings of the main dining hall.

The interiors are very much native much like what one might see in the hinterlands. Native furnitures adorn almost the whole restaurant.

Menu is varied from the usual to the exotic Kapampangan dishes. Price is reasonable. Despite the native interiors, it was a delight to see colored plates which await the diners. A must-have is their tamarind shake. I was amused to note that the waitress used an iPad to take our orders.

Customer recreation and environmental awareness seem to be the concern of the owners of Matam-ih as evidenced by some indigenous game facilities and a composting bin both located at the side entrance of the restaurant.

I thought that Matam-ih is another restaurant which would exploit the indigenous people in the community. It was not just a gastronomic delight eating there. It was also an educational one. The mere thought that the owners gave the cultural minorities a chance to have jobs and be part of the mainstream is reason enough to give it a try.

When in Clark, drop by MATAM-IH Authentic Kapampangan Cuisine!

Discovering Cebu More…

Holy Week 2015 is an unexpected visit to Cebu. Not my first time though but it was a respite from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday. A trip to Cebu is always exciting. I get to go to the Queen City of the South. The Visayan in me makes me thrilled to visit the province with much fervor.

Nowadays, travelling from Metro Manila to Cebu is just like travelling from your house to school or office. With all the flights available from NAIA 2, 3 or 4, booking a flight even during Holy Week is as easy as ABC. Air Asia Zest brought us to our destination an hour delayed but ours was a situation better than those who experienced longer delays with other airlines.

It was just deplorable though that the staff of Vin-Vin’s Cafe were busy talking about other people and their co-workers despite the many people buying food while waiting for their flights. I just hope that proper training be done to the staff of the said eatery inside the pre-departure area of NAIA 4. They were, at times, rude to customers.

Home in Cebu for 3 days was Raddison Blu just beside SM Cebu. This hotel is what I consider a classic first class hotel. High ceiling, grandiose lobby, sumptuous breakfast buffet, nice rooms, good interiors are but a few of the best features of this hotel. My second time, Raddison Blu has always come up to my expectations of five star service and amenities.

Our “guide”, Malou, cousin of designer Pat Santos, brought us to Lantaw Floating Native Restaurant in Cordova town. Since it is located in Mactan Island, we had a good view of the Cebu nightline during our dinner.

Food and drinks in the said restaurant were fresh and really appetizing. My companions raved about the fresh shellfish, kinilaw (raw fish cooked in vinegar with spices) and the fresh fruit juice. For a Maundy Thursday, it was filled to the rafters. When we were done with dinner, we saw some more people still coming. In fact, there was already a queue of would-be diners at the entrance waiting for their turn to have their own tables.

Since it was Maundy Thursday, we visited churches like Nuestra Senora de Regla, Basilica Minore de Sto. Nino and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. I was awed by the devotion of Cebuanos. The young and the old walked to different churches in the city for the visita iglesia. Despite the modernity of the times, the people of Cebu have maintained that certain religiosity that cannot be seen anymore in other modern cities in the country.

Near the Basilica Minore de Sto. Nino were the Megallan’s Cross, which is under renovation as of this writing, and the Cebu City Hall.

The next day, we decided to go on a roadtrip to the south of Cebu province. The South Road is development in the making. What with the different malls such as Gaisano and SM Seaside City already in place. We also dropped by Carcar City which is known as a pasalubong area and the home of pork chicharon. Other delicacies are also available for tourists.

The south of Cebu is a delightful sight. Some of the towns we’ve passed are unknown by me. It was the first that I heard of such places. But I was impressed with the good roads and clean places of the province. While on the road, it was an affirmation that the Philippines is indeed a beautiful country.

Our last day brought us to Mactan Island again. Since our flight back to Metro Manila was still in the evening, we decided to have lunch at Maribago Bluewater. Since the resorts in the island are really 5-star, food was expensive but were really worth it. We also visited other resorts which surprised me because the last time I went to the area, there were not much resorts then. All of a sudden, they have mushroomed. Thanks to foreign investors.

On our way to Cebu Mactan International Airport, I can’t help but be amazed with the development in Cebu. Despite progress, it has maintained its mystical charm which stands on solid throne accorded to this royal city.

Nature and modernity can go hand in hand. It is very evident not only in Cebu City but in the whole province as well. Despite the size of the island-province, what I saw was a place of greenery and tradition. It may be the most progressive province in the center of our country but Cebu has retained its charm and mysticism.

Hail, the Queen City of the South!