Monday, October 26, 2009


Amazing Coron

Coron, a town in the Busuanga Island in Northern Palawan, can charm even the most insensitive among men. Its natural beauty can only be described as seductive, giving first-time visitors and repeaters alike a sense of wonder that is hard to shake off. In the summer of 2004, we went to Coron expecting to conquer nature. Instead, we felt like being coddled as children in the lagoons of Coron Bay.

Few places on the planet can amaze you like Coron. Its seven captivating lagoons, with beautiful reefs on the floor and outstanding limestone cliffs as the walls, will give you a vivid idea of what a paradise is like.

Among the names of the lagoons I can remember are Cayangan, Barracuda, Tanigue, Twin Lagoon and Abuyok. The water of Cayangan lake, for one, reflects the green color of the rich flora around the area.

Siete Pecados, or seven rocky islands, teem with colorful tropical fishes and corals.

White-sand beaches, partly covered by mangroves, can also be found in some of the 219 islets, serving as a perfect base for kayaking around the limestone formations where exotic bird species patrol regularly. One of these is the Sangat Island.

Coron Bay is also a treasure for diving enthusiasts, because it keeps in its bosom 26 Japanese shipwrecks that are now inhabited by various marine life.

Divers who brave the narrow passages of Sangat, Gutob, and Black Islands will be treated to spectacular view of some of these sunken Japanese vessels.

Other attractions in Coron include the Makinit Hot Spring Resort, where tourists can frolic in the pools of smoking hot salt water, believed to be therapeutic. I could hardly resist its heat at first, but something lured me back into the spring for a unique body pampering.

There is also the cross at Mount Tapyas, which can be reached by taking 719 concrete steps on the way to the top. Once on the top, climbers are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Island and surrounding islets.

The Tagbanuas, or the natives of Coron, make the trip to Busuanga even more memorable. They shine for their hospitality.

On our way by boat to our island resort from island hopping at night, I saw the clearest face of the sky, sprinkled with stars at their brightest colors. Truly, there was something in Coron that is hard to explain.

Coron can be reached by small Sea Air planes with daily 55-minute Manila-Busuanga flights. From Busuanga airstrip, jeepney service can take visitors on a 45-minute ride to Coron town, which is a jump off point to the islands.



Guimaras tourism to revive its economy

raymen beach in guimaras

Nueva Valencia, Guimaras - An Italian couple on a two-month holiday in the Philippines chose to include this paradise in their itinerary and stayed at the Raymen Beach Resort in December 2006, unperturbed by news about the oil spill that brought the island province to world attention in August of the same year.

"We are just here to see good beaches," said the Boldo couple, who are just among the hundreds of foreign guests who kept coming to Guimaras even in the aftermath of the infamous oil spill. Guimaras has 238.3-kilometer coastline, with long stretches of white, powdery sand considered among the finest in the world.

nagarao island resort in guimaras
Lucia Cachuela, managing director of the El Retiro Beach Park, noted that international visitor arrivals to Guimaras began to pick up in November. "Tourists are coming back," Cachuela told journalists who visited the province as a part of the Guimaras Tourism Recovery Program spearheaded by the Department of Tourism.

Despite the accident and the negative publicity it generated for the province since August, data show that the number of foreign tourists, or those who spent at least a night in Guimaras, went up to 293 in November from 98 in October, 75 in September, and 237 in August - the month of the accident. In November 2005, there were only 143 foreign tourists in Guimaras.

guimaras attractions
Foreign excursionists, or day-in visitors, also went up to 525 in November from 453 a year ago. It was also up from 257 in October, and 297 in September. In August, the number of foreign excursionists reached 566.

Guimaras targets to attract more foreign tourists, because they spend the highest amount while in the island. The DOT Guests Assistance Centers in the port towns of Buenavista and Jordan estimated the average daily expenditure of foreign tourist at P2,000; foreign excursionist, P1,500; local tourist, P1,500; and local excursionist, P500.

guimaras beaches
"Guimaras is very alive and kicking," said Helen Camarista, the officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas. "Business has never been stronger."

"Out of 24 accredited resorts, only seven have been hardest hit. So 17 resorts are okay," Camarista, herself a resident of Guimaras, said.

Nueva Valencia Vice Mayor Juan Gaitan agreed, saying many beach resorts remain unspoiled. "We are telling people that not all areas have been affected. We encourage them to come to Guimaras," Gaitan said.

guimaras beach
For example, Jose Garomita, president of the Guisi Community-based Heritage Tourism, said that they were able to protect the white-sand beach in Guisi, a sitio in Barangay Dolores, Nueva Valencia town from the oil slick.

Guimaras, a 60,465-hectare island the size of Singapore with five towns and 98 barangays and home to more than 140,000 residents, hogged the headlines when oil tanker MT Solar I carrying 2 million liters of bunker fuel owned by Petron Corp. sank in rough waters 10 miles off the coast of Nueva Valencia town on August 11 this year.

Scientists said about 300,000 liters of the cargo polluted 24,000 square kilometers of waters near the island paradise. The spill was later contained, and clean up operations began.

Ironically, foreign and domestic visitor arrivals to Guimaras went up by 13 percent to 13,566 in August from 11,986 a year ago. Arrivals reached 14,501 in September; 14,163 in October and 12,221 in November.

guimaras beaches
"More attention has been given to Guimaras since August. Now, there are scientists, researchers, and donors who are coming to Guimaras," Camarista said.

Camarista noted that before the oil spill took place, there were only 4 to 5 departures of pump boats each day. Now, this has gone up to 7 to 10 departures per day, she said.

But a few resorts are still feeling the impact of the tragedy. "When news of the oil spill spread, seven resorts received booking cancellations through email," Camarista conceded.

Peter Harper-bill, an 80-year-old British retiree who manages the Baras Resort, said bookings were less than half of what they used to be. "Normally, we were fully booked around Christmas, but now we are not," Harper-bill said.

guimaras beach
Tourism is a major industry in Guimaras. In 2005, tourist arrivals totaled 181,915 and injected P204.3 million into its local economy. Since 2003, tourist arrivals to the province have been rising 30 percent per annum.

Ruben Corpuz, the provincial economic officer, said much of Guimaras, including its spectacular coastline and rich marine biodiversity remain unexplored.

Its main attractions include Roca Encantadia, Guisi Lighthouse, Tiniguiban Islet, Isla Naburot, Lombija Wildlife Resort, Taklong-Tandog Island, Igang Marine Station, Toyo Reef, and La Paz and Pamankulan Fish Sanctuaries. Corpuz said the province is also fast rising as a destination for mountain bike races, kayaking and tours to mango plantations. Guimaras exports sweet mangoes to the United States.

Corpuz said he is optimistic about the tourism prospects in Guimaras for several reasons. These include the expansion of the ports in Jordan and Buenavista towns, the completion of the international airport by March 2007 in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo which is the gateway to Guimaras, and new investments in tourist facilities, such as the multi-million-peso investment in the Lombija Wildlife Resort and Hotel and a new convention center.

Julius Camacho, a cousin of businessman Henry Babiera of the Ortigas Group who develops the Lombija zoo, said that at more than 20 hectares, the zoo will be the largest in the country once it opens sometime in 2008. The zoo has been under development since 1998. Corpuz said about P300 million has already been invested for the development of the project, which is seen to add a new attraction to Guimaras.

"We also envision Guimaras to be a logistics hub. Guimaras Strait has the deepest berth for international vessels," Corpuz said. "For Guimaras, there is no other way but up." Roderick T. dela Cruz.

☻Manila Ocean Park☻

Manila Ocean Park

"The park is set to be the city's major tourist destination. It is expected to draw millions of visitors on its first year, offering a unique tourist experience beyond the usual shopping activities," said park developer, China Oceanis Philippines, Inc., a joint venture between Singaporean and Malaysian investors.

Tourism executives and local officials of Manila hailed the country's newest tourist destination as something that will reinvent Rizal Park and reinvigorate tourism in the capital.

manila ocean park entrance the new tourist destination of manila

Manila Ocean Park president Lim Chee Yong said several developments are already happening around Luneta with the completion of the first phase of Manila Ocean Park .

Lim said Manila Ocean Park will showcase the rich marine resources of the Philippines , which along with Malaysia , Indonesia and the Pacific Islands form the Coral Triangle, considered as the world's center of marine biodiversity.

The Coral Triangle is home to 75 percent of all known coral species and more than 3,000 species of reef and pelagic fish.

staff diver inside the aquarium holding

The marine park's oceanarium features 20,000 exotic and colorful fishes, most of which are endemic to the Philippines.

The opening of the marin park has been deferred from December 2007 to February 2008, because of a minor fire last year, which caused the construction delays.

Completed was the first phase of the project, which include the main facility and oceanarium, a magnificent glass and steel structure featuring a 25-meter long, 220-degree curved acrylic walkway tunnel, where guests can view the country's different marine species.

Set for completion later in the year are the open water marine habitats, a shopping mall, restaurant row, hotel, and multi-purpose function facilities.

manila ocean park in the philippines

When completed, the whole project will be the first of its kind in Asia Pacific, according to the marine park's management.

The management of the Manila Ocean Park has partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to spread awareness for Philippine marine environment.

WWF-Philippine vice chairman Lory Tan said the conservation group partnered with Manila Ocean Park after the company committed not to display endangered species, except for captive-bred, and to strive for best practice in collection of marine animals.

Dave Valdes, president of WWF-Philippines, said his organization will use its partnership with Manila Ocean Park to educate students and train the staff of the company in the area of conservation.

beautiful fishes in manila ocean park

The Manila Ocean Park will help clean the water of Manila Bay , because it will draw water directly from the bay, which will undergo an advance filtration system.

Some 12,000 cubic meters of water from the Manila Bay will be pumped into the oceanarium, five other display tanks, and open water marine habitats daily.

Aside from the aquatic display, park visitors can enjoy a glass-bottomed boat ride, the 20-foot acrylic underwater tunnel, and the activity center.

☻Puerto Princesa Subterranean River☻

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in Palawan has successfully landed on the top 77 nominees on the New 7 Wonders of Nature (N7WN) international poll. Organizers of the N7WN reported that the top 77 were chosen out of the 261 contenders, after the second phase of the worldwide voting ended in July 7, 2009.

“The success of this campaign wouldn’t have been possible without the Filipinos’ worldwide support. We are grateful to the people who voted and heeded our call to promote one of our national treasures,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.

According to the N7WN report, from the top 77 nominees, only 28 Official Finalists will be chosen by the N7WN’s Panel of Experts. The announcement of the 28 selected finalists will be made in Zurich at the New7Wonders Foundation headquarters on July 21, 2009 at 12.07 GMT. “The Palawan Subterranean River has a very good chance of making it to the top 28, considering the criteria of the panel which include unique beauty, diversity, ecological importance, historical legacy, and geographical location,” said Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Planning and Promotions. Historical legacy refers to the people's relations or deep bond with the site, while geographical location means the even distribution of the contenders between continents and countries.

The top 28 finalists will compete against candidates within their category, which have been classified into 7 groups: Landscapes/Ice Formations, Islands, Mountains/Volcanoes, Caves/Rock Formations/Valleys, Forests/National Parks/Nature Reserves, Lakes/Rivers/Waterfalls, and Seascapes.

After the top 28 selection, voting resumes, while the New7Wonders World Tour visits the finalists to give each a chance to be seen by the whole world. The final proclamation of the 7 Wonders of Nature will be held in 2011.

Founder and President of New7Wonders, Bernard Weber, said, “The success of lesser-known locations shows that an important New7Wonders goal in this campaign is being achieved—broadening the horizons of the voting public around the world, thus helping us all better appreciate the diversity of our planet.”

Renowned as the world’s longest underground river, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park also features a stunning limestone karst mountain landscape. Inside its large chambers are stalactites and stalagmites formations, while at the mouth of its cave thrives a bustling ecosystem which includes monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels.

The New 7 Wonders of Nature is an ongoing campaign sponsored by the New 7 Wonders Foundation based in Switzerland. The same group initiated the New 7 Wonders of the World project in 2007.

☻CCP Complex☻

CCP Complex

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex is the arts center of the country. Located along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, this is the premier venue for ballet presentations, concerts, stage plays, performances, exhibits and trade fairs. Inaugurated in 1969, the CCP comprises a fine concert hall seating 2,000 plus an intimate 400-seat theater as well as a library, museum, art gallery, and an upscale restaurant. The lobby is opulent, with marble floors, curving staircases, and glass and kapis-shell chandeliers.

Also within the complex is the Coconut Palace, an architectural wonder made from the coconut tree mixed with other indigenous material. The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the Product Design and Development Center, the Folk Arts Theater, Philippine Center for International Trade and Exhibitions (PHILCITE), Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel and Manila Film Center are also found here.

Beside the CCP Complex is the World Trade Center, while fronting it is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) building. The BSP houses two museums: the Money Museum, which showcases excavated antique gold jewelry and the Metropolitan Museum, a repository of classic Filipino paintings and a host of rotating international art exhibitions.

Roxas Boulevard is also lined up by de-luxe and standard hotels, lively nightclubs, and the Cuneta Sport Center, home of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).



From Escolta, one can proceed to the San Miguel district, known for its Spanish-style houses and the Malacañang Palace, seat of the Philippine government. This ornate Spanish colonial palace, with its arches and balconies, was built as a private country house in the late 18th century and purchased by the government in 1825. At first the governor-general's summer residence, it became his permanent residence in 1863, after the Palacio Real in Intramuros was destroyed by an earthquake. In 1986, the palace museum was opened for the public. Visitors are advised to call first. The telephone number is 521-2307.

☻Binondo Area☻

Binondo Area

Across the Pasig River from Intramuros is the Binondo area, home of Chinatown. The district is filled with all things Chinese from Peking duck and Buddhist temples to gold watches, snake soup, and wonder herbs. The high chords of Chinese songs and the permeating smell of incense complete the uniquely Chinese ambiance. It is said that this quaint district was already a hub of Chinese commerce even before the Spaniards came in 1571.

In particular, Ongpin offers a lot of variety: restaurants, pet shops, bakeries, grocery stores, jewelers, traditional medicine shops, acupuncture clinics, kung-fu schools, and mahjong parlors. Ongpin leads to Plaza Santa Cruz, which is where Rizal Avenue curves to meet the MacArthur Bridge. Escolta, now a shadow of its former self, leads off from here. The plaza is dominated by Santa Cruz Church.