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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo


I went to Iloilo for the Dinagyang festival a week after I experienced my first Sinulog festival in Cebu, for a memorable back-to-back festival incursion. Both festivals offers a myriad of similarities aside from expressing devotion to the Sto. Nino and featuring elegant and colorful street parades. It also attracts a huge crowd that eventually stays up and parties all night long in the streets like jubilant citizens celebrating the end of a war.

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However, as almost similar to each other, these twin festivals presented me a unique joy in witnessing each festivity in two different places. Cebu and the Sinulog Festival provided me its own vibrant mood climaxed by the wild street parties at night, while the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo gifted me with its set of intensity. This observation have made me so glad that I was able to experience both in a span of one week. Figuring from the highs of the festivities in Cebu, the downshift of going back to Manila for a couple of days work and back again to a raucous but fun setting in Iloilo the next weekend.

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Life is so much fun when you get a balance of things. Work brings a trait of responsibility and working on a particular goal while traveling in between cures the sheepish occurrences of a normal life passing through a straight line with experiences like these, of new places, of festivals, of massive celebration reverberating through drum beats and merry making, new friends and most of all, new experiences to treasure down the road.  

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Which was all I gathered during the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo. I arrived there first thing Friday morning and will only meet my lovely couchsurfing host Joanne after lunch, so with nothing to do I embarked on a Visita Iglesia tour of Iloilo. I visited churches in Molo, Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miag-ao (my 2nd time) and San Joaquin.

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By lunch time I was already in Iloilo City and met up with Joanne, we then proceeded to hang out at her friends place where we had our lunch over a bottle of beer and some weed. Yeah I do smoke that thing once in a while - not to get super high and crazy though - just to clear my mind and It did wiped my mind of worry, as I went to sleep for 12 hours after that. After figuring sleepless the whole of Thursday and most of Friday -it was what the doctor ordered. 

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I awoke Saturday morning filled with energy - courtesy of my very long slumber and the mighty atmosphere being felt around in the city. Hearing drumming beats everywhere, shouts of joy and the uniformed breathe of anticipation from people lining up the streets waiting for the street parade. I joined my fellow couchsurfing guests Alana and Yan (an American and German couple traveling the world for the last 1 and a half years and into their 3rd month in the Philippines)  out into the streets as early as 7am.

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We managed to insert ourselves into the thick crowd and watched a half dozen tribes performed on one of the 5 or 6 staging grounds. That was before I was pushed back by the eager crowd. I left them there while I met up with Marinelle (another travel blogger) and her cool mom. They too, were pushed back from the crowd and so we decided to explore other places around Iloilo.

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So, for the second time in two days I went on a trip from the city to San Joaquin - showing Marinele and her mom the churches I visited the previous day. By afternoon we were back again in the Dinagyang fest city of Iloilo.

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I spent the remaining daylight taking a brief rest before going out again that night with Joanne, Alana and Yan while we waited for Ada to arrive. We had a sumptuous dinner for five at "Talabahan" place near SmallVille. We were supposed to attend a Couchsurfing meeting at SmallVille but Alana was adamant in attending by saying "A CS meeting in an expensive restaurant" - agreeing with her observation, we opted to feast on cheap plate-full of oysters at only 70 pesos per plate and went home happy.

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The next day - Sunday was the highlight part of the Dinagyang Festival. We partook in the parade by watching the tribes and contingents passed by and stole some moments peeking through the crowd and watch some of them performed.

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The tribes came out in full force with decorative and colorful costumes and like a bunch of character actors played their role to pieces by sporting along a fierce look that add up to the impact of the whole spectacle from a first timer's point of view (Me).

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While waiting for the start of the performance I got a bit impatient with the redundant introductions of VIP's (politicians) in attendance. The Congressman took the microphone and introduced Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino, Senator Drilon, the Governor a bunch of other local officials. Drilon then takes the stand and does the same, the Governor followed him and introduces again the VIP's and Ballsy doing the same thing again.

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It was funny how politicians always crave for attention that's why when the show finally started it was met with a burstful yell of "Hurrahs". It was then the young men and women from Iloilo and neighboring places did what they have prepared well for so long, they kicked butt and entertained the crowd who were hopping into their feet simultaneously with the deafening chants and drum beats.

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last night of Dinagyang we went to this Karaoke make shift bar at the side of a street and gorge on peanuts, beers and Scorpion songs - Ada though sang a perfect 4 Non-Blondes song and Alana belted Madonna's "Isla Bonita"
It was another wonderful experience for me, my first Dinagyang festival and coupled with my first Sinulog experience - I didn't get burned out by what some will call as 'festival overload' - I was in fact presented with an idea that somehow I should start making plans to attend each festivals held all over the Philippines and see if somewhere down the road, whether an 'overload' of sorts really exists. I doubt that it does though.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Sinulog Festival



The Sinulog Festival is held every third Sunday of January each year in Cebu City. I haven’t been to any of the previous Sinulog except this year wherein it was my first time to experience such a colorful spectacle, rain or shine it didn’t diminished the zest of the Cebuanos to partake in such a grandeur event as witnessed also by countless visitors from the Philippines and other countries.

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Sunday - the day after my birthday was the highlight of the festival and as early as 9:00 AM, together with my friend Toni (she prefers the spelling Tony though) who is based in Cebu and her friend MecMec, we lined up along the thick crowd around Fuente circle hoping to catch the parade which started at around 8:30 AM.

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I wanted to take clear photographs of the parade, but doing so, standing in line at the side of the road is almost impossible as there's a lot of people who were issued photographer's pass taking images of the parade participants. So me and Toni went inside the rope barrier and to our delight nobody bothered to check our credentials. Haha.

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So there, we walked from Fuente circle up to the Mango area amid a flood of people, each faces gazing across the street marveling at the colorful costumes of the participants which was primarily composed of public schools students.

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Each contingent has their own unique choreography in dancing to the Sinulog beat and wore different costume themes while being led by their own 'princess' holding a statue of the Sto Niño. It was raining a bit during the parade which made it more admirable for the kids to go on with the festivities for good and get ill later. Drumming beats, gongs echoing and trumpets fading in and out of your eardrums, coupled with the alluring sounds of laughter and other expression of joys from the spectators. Everything all add up to the wondrous festive mood. It makes you forget about the somber weather which is currently raining down the parade.

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The word "Sinulog" was coined from the Cebuano word "Sulog" which describes a "water current-like movement". This in turn is applied in the forward-backward movement of a typical Sinulog dance, which is done as an accompaniment to the beating drums by making one step backward and two steps forward. The Sinulog dance step is said to have been originated by Baladhay, Rajah Humabon's adviser after a still unexplained event when Rajah Humabon fell sick and and after sending out for his adviser Baladhay to be taken into the church where a Sto Nino was enthroned, who, after a few moments, Baladhay was found to be spiritually possessed and doing the jiggy that morphed into the present day Sinulog dance.

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The Sinulog also highlights the Cebuanos devotion to the Santo Niño as evidenced by the throngs of people who participates in the annual procession and the festival which honors the image of the young Jesus Christ. A mass was held the previous day (Saturday) administered by the newly installed Archbishop of Cebu, Jose Palma at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño and was also attended by his eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal.

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From color yellows, to violet to green to gold. Each colors presented a unique look of the parade making it a feast for the eyes even to those who's experiencing only for the first time just like myself.

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During the middle of the parade, Tony invited me to come along her friend's house who were hosting a party over lechon and other foods. It was a great gesture and coupled by the fact that I was already starving from the long walks among a thick crowd. After lunch, I went back to the side of the road and watched the remaining contingents passed by. The parade which started somewhere Fuente circle came to its final destination at the Abellana Cebu Sports Complex which was near Yangee's place (Tony's friend).

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I saw Bong Revilla (who unfortunately showed up without his Panday character) and wife Lani Mercado and earlier the day President Noynoy Aquino was also in attendance at the Cebu Sports Complex to watch the early arrivals of the first set of contingents. As a helicopter hovers around dropping confettis and the shouts and shrieks of curious and enthralled spectators mixed with the jubilant drum beats and sound of joy, I felt really glad that I was finally able to witness the Sinulog festival for the first time and I'm pretty sure I'd come back for more Sinulogs in the future.

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Then came along a bevy of beautiful girls on one of the floats, I focused on my telepoto lens and found out they were the current crop of Mutya ng Pilipinas winners. How I wished they also did some dance moves but it was a bit strange that all of them looked half Caucasians, I guess we've come a long way from the Mutya Crisostomos and the Michelle Aldana's of the beauty pageant world who epitomizes the morena look of Filipinas. But hey, who's complaining? Definitely not me.

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Come nigh time that's where the street party turn its notches higher with free flowing delight among a raucous-like but in a positive definition kind of crowd, nothing mayhem nor rowdy happened to anybody at all. It was all rockabilly, psychobilly and festive atmosphere that gets inside you and awash you with good feelings and a celebratory mood. It was also great that aside from the Sinulog experience itself, I get to meet a new set of friends through Tony who introduced me to her friends and had me joined them throughout the Sinulog festival.

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with Tony, and her friends
Witnessing my first ever Sinulog Festival has afforded me a glimpse of a one of a kind component of our culture and at the same time indulging deeper into a long live tradition that is uniquely Cebuano.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guimbal Church in Iloilo


I arrived at the town of Guimbal in Iloilo and as I got off the jeepney and walked to the plaza I saw a tiny structure ahead and upon walking closely I recognized it as being the Parish of Santo Nicholas de Tolentino or Guimbal Church. It was one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, built in 1774 by Father Campos, a Spanish Priest. The church was constructed using yellow sand stones called "igang" and is smaller compared to other Spanish Colonial Churches that I've visited in the past.

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St. Anne Parish Church in Molo, Iloilo


I landed in Iloilo at about 5:45 AM, straight from working 1 and a half shift to cover for my being out and away on a Friday, sleep hasn't bothered me yet for more than 24 hours. Still, I was feeling non-lethargic as if I've chugged down a liter of Red Bull energy drink. I took a shuttle ride from the airport which took me down to SM City in Iloilo.

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Cebu Foodtrip: Larsian, Siomai sa Tisa at Lechon sa Carcar


I rarely blog about the foods I gorge on during my travels, but this time I made an effort in writing these fine places in Cebu where one can enjoy a laid back environment and one finds additional joy in eating not only these sumptuous but otherwise can cause high blood-so please eat in moderation, foods but also find a suitable place to mix both hanging out with friends and pleasing one's appetite to the fullest.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

24 Hour Road-Party People

When I go on trips to far away places I make sure to make the most of it. You won't find me sleeping 8 hours and beyond nor wasting away precious time in a shopping mall. I love to explore and cover as much ground as I could. During my trips, I've met other gregarious people who shares the same traveling passion as myself and they too, have this sense of treating time on the road as precious. Any second or minute should not be wasted doing and seeing nothing. Hence, I call them the "24 Hour Road-Party People".

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I show up at work with my backpack ready to head out on the road
An example of a trip I did recently wherein I almost spent an entire 24 hours wide awake and seeing new things was the Iloilo trip I did last January. It was my first "Dinagyang" Festival experience and as I was caught between a day job and my yearnings for getting on the road - most of the times I have to take a trip straight from my job and the result was often a sleep deprived person showing up at the airport.

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Before the flight to Iloilo - I spent the night awake with my workmates drinking to half death
But, I'm not complaining. So, from work where I spent the previous 8 hours sitting in front of the computer and mopping floors to amuse myself - I went with my co-workers to a place in Makati called "Central" - its where "yuppies" and feeling "yuppies" and "anti-yuppies" drink themselves to almost death. It was a colleague's birthday so we drank some hard alcohol like "bad trip" over a spirited conversation about our job, of what else and other things.

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Molo Church
After that about past midnight I went home to pack some stuff for my trip which includes of course a couple of underwear, three shirts, two short pants plus my camera and stuffing it all inside my small backpack.

I went home to get pack additional underwear, this one a "Playboy" brand brief lol
I didn't slept and just waited for 2:00 AM then I went straight to the airport for my 4:00 AM flight to Iloilo. I arrived at Iloilo at around 5:00 AM since I will meet my couchsurfing host Joanne after lunch I decided to make the most of my trip by exploring parts of Iloilo which consisted of doing a "Visita Iglesia" on some iconic Spanish Colonial Churches.

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outside the Sto Nino Church
From sunrise to past lunchtime I was able to visit St. Anne Parish Church in Molo, Sto Nino Church, Tigbauan Church, Guimbal Church, Miag-ao Church, San Joaquin Cemetery and Church. I had my lunch near the beach at the scenic sleepy town of San Joaquin before going back to the city proper.

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Tigbauan Church
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Guimbal Church
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Miag-ao Church
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Near the entrance of San Joaquin Cemetery
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San Joaquin Church 
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I had my lunch here under that tree
After lunch I met with my couchsurfing host Joanne and proceeded to her friend's place to hang out where we feasted on liempo, pinakbet and a few sticks of marijuana. It was so good as my sleep deprived self got a bit high and felt energized in preparation for the next day's grand Dinagyang festivities. I also met other couchsurfing guests of Joanne like Alana and Yan who were an American and a German couple traveling the world and are making a pit stop here in the Philippines.

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There's the culmination of a normal whirlwind 24 hour on the road. I still wished I'd stuffed more into that, well from now on I still want to pursue doing more and exploring further every 24 hours I spend on the road. Sitting back at the office in a cubicle, you'd realize what an opportunity it is to just go out there free as a bird and just gather miles off the road. I'm looking forward again to that wonderful opportunity.

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This is my fourth entry to the "Pinoy Travel Blogger's Blog Carnival" with the theme "Best One Day Itineraries" posted on Travel Photographer Karlo De Leon's 4AM Chronicles Blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Go with the Flow of Kawasan Falls


We visited Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu as a sidetrip to Moalboal, after settling in our room we took a tricycle and traveled for 30-45 minutes and took a leisurely walk for another 15 minutes to reach this majestic-looking waterfalls. 

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Dive into Me Yeah - Moalboal


 Dave Matthews Band's "Crash into Me" played out perfectly in my head when I was staring at the sea when we arrived in Moalboal. I have never tried scuba diving after making plans half a dozen times in the past. Maybe it's the cost - or my little fear of deep sea water but I've reckoned myself to eliminate that fear by hoping one day to try scuba diving. When that day comes - I'll make sure to visit Panagsama beach in Moalboal again.

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Moalboal - aside from being a tongue twister (not 'Mole Bowl') is a known divers paradise where divers ends up spending hours and hours underwater, then go back into the land and have drinks at the fine rows of bars and restaurants located within the beach - then hit up the deep sea again for another dive. I noticed some divers get off their boats just before sunset and the look of ecstasy visible on their faces and though they were speaking Japanese, I'm sure they were telling each other "Wahhh Awesome - lets do this again tomorrow".

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Which got me thinking about what I was missing by prolonging my opportunity to experience diving. Anyway its something I would have to seriously consider in the coming months. If budget allows me to, then why not. We stayed at a place across "Backpackers Lodge" - we wanted to stay at the Backpackers Lodge but it was already full and it would have been great if we were able to since rooms go as low as 250 per room.

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There are a lot of dive shops where you can rent out diving gears and hire a boat for diving and a lot of cheap places to eat. During the night we feasted on some bbq and other seafoods. 

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 It can be a bit boring if you go there sans the diving trip, but if you wanted to explore more then take a tricycle and visit nearby Kawasan Falls, which unfortunately was converted into a resort and the man made structures erected there brings an eyesore to the what could be a wonderful view of the waterfalls.

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 If you wanted to swim in the beach, White Beach would be the place to be, its a very short tricycle ride away from Panagsama Beach and features a longer shore of white sands and clear waters suitable for an afternoon or early morning swim.

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 With the cloud turning dark and rains starting to pelt, we took a short walk across a short beach head in Panagsama and saw a group of fishermen circling around a barge and checking up the days fresh catch. I took a peek and saw a respectably large size of fish. It was indeed a great fishing day.

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 Me and my friend Toni and her friends Heidi and Paul never bothered to take a swim as it has gotten cold that afternoon. Even though I did nothing at Moalboal, I was elated by the fact that my extra two days of stay in Cebu right after the Sinulog Festival wasn't wasted and I was able to scout a location for a possible diving trip in the future.

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 As the sun set and turned the place of Moalboal into darkness, the crashing sounds of the waves becomes less oblivious we drank the night away with the help of a few bottles of beer and listening to Toni and her friend Heidi converses in sweet Visayan language from which I tried hard to pick up a few words to learn from.

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Too bad, I lost the picture we had that night. It was fun meeting new friends in Cebu all the way to Moalboal, learning a bit of a different language. It was great to be introduced to a place that someday will able to please me at a time when I'll finally conquer my fear of the deep and sport on my diving gear, not only to explore but to get lost temporarily with the creatures underneath the waters of Moalboal.

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St. Catherine's Church in Carcar, Cebu


The day after the Sinulog Festival, my friend Toni and I headed out to Moalboal and along the way we stopped by the municipality of Carcar not only to feast on lechon but to visit the St. Catherine of Alexandria Church as well.

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San Juan Nepomuceno Church Ruins in Moalboal


I dig ruins of old buildings built from many years ago ever since I saw photographs of ancient civilization ruins in Jordan, Egypt, Peru and Israel to name a few, until I visit those place I made it a point to go out and see some old ruins here in the Philippines.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Basilica de San Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas


The Basilica de San Martin de Tours or simply known as Taal Basilica is considered to be the biggest Catholic church in Asia. I was doubting that fact outside even though the facade of the basilica was imposing with its solid structure and high arching pillars but when I stepped inside the church, that's where the hugeness of the place made its presence felt.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sihanoukville, Cambodia Best Beaches


Fellow traveler Milda contributes an article to Nomadic Experiences and shares her favorite beaches in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Some of Cambodia’s best beaches are located in Sihanoukville, which is located on the coast of Cambodia. The town is surrounded by beautiful beaches and more than 12 islands you can hop across to. You can travel to the islands by water taxi where you can go snorkelling, fishing and diving. There are some rocky beaches and others filled with soft white sand. Sihanoukville, located in the South of Cambodia is perhaps best known for its excellent beaches and relaxed atmosphere.

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Serendipity Beach

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taal Heritage Town, Batangas


I never knew beforehand that there is another heritage village located within my backyard. When I say backyard, this refers to an area within a '3 hour bus ride' radius of where I live - which is in Meycauyan, Bulacan. Alright it's give or take 3-4 hours from my place to Taal, Batangas. Well, I'm also unaware of the fact that aside from Taal Volcano, there's this town called 'Taal' that is located in Batangas. Last Sunday, I finally visited the place - not the currently sleeping volcano but the town itself.

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Along with other travel bloggers I tagged along for a daytrip to the town of Taal, where we spent the great deal of morning and the whole of afternoon walking around the heritage village which consists of numerous Spanish colonial houses located along separate rows of streets. In contrast with Vigan's Heritage Village, in Taal you can actually step inside some of the old houses which has since been turned into a museum and were declared as historical landmarks and are now being looked after by caretakers.

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This rustic town takes you back in time by giving you a peek inside some of the century old houses in the area. There's quite a few open for visitors like the Don Leon Apacible house, Doña Gliceria Marella Villavicencio Residence, the Agoncillo Mansion, Doña Marcela Marino Agoncillo historical landmark house, Casa Punzalan,  Shrine of the Virgin Caysasay and of course the Taal Basilica or otherwise known as Basilica de San Martin.

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The interiors of these old houses were already redecorated, repainted and reworked to improve its conditions which has taken a beating in its more than a hundred years of existence. However, amidst all these improvements done in its restoration - one can still appreciate the unique appeal of its colonial architecture, the brick walls and floors, colorful tiles and antique furniture such as chandeliers, lamps, bedpost, accessories and many more.

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I never got tired of pointing my eyes at each corner of the houses we visited as images of my grandparents house where transported back inside my mind as if it just happened yesterday. That house I had in my memory bank that dates back to my childhood in the 1980's, was constructed in late 1950's and it stood along a great part of our family tree's evolution until one by one it saw my mother and her siblings have their own respective families. Soon, everybody moved out then my grandfather died - a few years later my grandmother passed away and that house was torn down in the late 1990's and it was bittersweet for us to have gone through that. To think, that was just a mere 40 plus year old house. What more of these houses in the town of Taal and other heritage towns all over the Philippines.

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Which has colonial houses still standing - through the efforts of heritage conservation advocates, that are more than a hundred years old. I felt the more inclined, we ought to be in fighting off commercialization of these heritage districts so as to not to rob future generations of an opportunity to peek into our glorious past.

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Not all in Taal are made up of old colonial houses, there are now a number of modern houses built along these historical landmarks and I could imagine how it would be much better if we have a law, just like what countries in Europe have that prohibits anyone from constructing buildings, houses and other establishments that does not match architecturally with existing houses, especially those that dates many years back.

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A uniformity of sorts when it comes to letting the past absorb the present even if its only through this infrastructures being put into place left and right by economic development. I'm pretty sure there's a lot of ways to balance development with nurturing and caring for our heritage sites all over the country.

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The houses we visited were once owned by famous patriots who were known in social circle back in the day and were ardent supporters of the Philippine Revolution. Doña Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio of whom one of the houses turned historical landmark was named after - was referred to as the "Godmother of the Philippine Revolutionary Forces" by General Emilio Aguinaldo in June 12, 1898. Another Spanish colonial homeowner Felipe Agoncillo, was another popular hero of the revolution and was among the representatives of the Philippines at the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

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When you think about historic towns, none can get more historic than Taal along with similar heritage villages found around the Philippines. I was glad that, after a long time of having only the Taal Volcano stands out as a purple thumb on my mind when one mentions the place "Taal" - today, I'll be willing to point out to anyone that one must not only visit the scenic Taal volcano and its surrounding lake, but thread their feet at the historic Taal town as well.

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I'm glad I came on board on this day trip around my backyard and discovered for myself another place I should highlight on my map for future travels. Hopefully when I go back to this town, I'd be tagging along other friends of mine so they too, will get a bit of heritage conservation edge for added awareness of its utmost importance in our existence as a country.

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From its wooden, stone structures, colorful ceilings and hand painted walls that represents its old and colorful past, walking around the town of Taal gives a different kind of fervor and delight - It must be that cold breeze of air that comes from the open space of the lake or the infectious harmless laughter of the towns' folk that makes you feel at home even though one is hours away from their accustomed place.

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Traveling really gives that sense of homecoming even when you're just about to visit a new place. The town of Taal gives that kind of feeling. There I was, a part of generations that came after the older generations who once upon a time frolicked around the town plaza, attended mass at the Taal Basilica, fought alongside Philippine revolutionaries in search for independence from the Spanish.

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Time might have created a long gap between then and now, but through this remnants of the old, from its old Spanish colonial churches, its antiquities on display like an old cooking utensil, a hot water pot, an aging piano, the grand staircase, old picture frames, 100 year old photographs and paintings all of it conspires to remind us, living in the present day that history is ongoing and rapidly changing as minute buries the previous minutes to oblivion, but it wont become 'history' if one forgets about it.

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And only the stupid brushes aside history as if it never happened. Shout-out to new friends who I went with to the town of Taal last Sunday, Joel, Berniemack, AJ and Spencer. It was nice spending a day outside coming off from a long holiday break wherein all I did was eat, sleep and surf the internet at home. I got the chance to test my new telepoto lens as well. However, I regret not bringing my kit lens which has a wider angle starting from 18mm, because shooting from 18mm and below would have gotten me a better view of the interior of the old houses and the Basilica of Taal.

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Well, there's always the next time to go back to Taal heritage town.

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But, I did got some close shots of people living in the town, like the middle aged couple peeking out of their window, the hairy shitzu dog that barks softly on passing people like us, the young girl also by another window stealing a glimpse of the world outside and looking excited at her whole life ahead and the cute lady at the municipal hall near the statue of Rizal wondering why a mustachioed Rasheed Wallace look-alike is taking photographs at her direction.

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