Howrah 8:00 Night Train to Varanasi

June 30, 2015

"no reservation ticket. No problem" I tell myself as we boarded one of Kolkata's iconic yellow Ambassador cabs. I feel confident that our first experience of India's massive railway system will be a walk in the park. That swagger vanishes when our cab started crawling along the slow traffic over Howrah Bridge, where Aileen and I saw a sea of people dwarfing all other commuter crowds I've ever seen, walking along on both sides of the bridge towards one destination: Howrah Junction Railway Station.

Inside the Walls of Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan

June 18, 2015

During the height of the Mughal Empire, the invasion of kingdoms are so commonplace, that the Maharaja rulers and their followers defended their own domains madly and as hard as the fortified walls of Forts all over Rajasthan. Amer Fort is one of them. Rising over a scenic lake overlooking a town inhabited many centuries ago by the Meenas before it was taken over by the Kachwahas - in an act termed "as most coward and shameful in history of Rajasthan", The Fort now stands as mightily as ever. Magnificent at its best and architecturally mind-blowing. 

© Nomadic Experiences

ATV Riding near Mayon Volcano | Albay

June 14, 2015

They say Mayon Volcano only appear in its full glory only when it likes you. I guess, during my first and second visits here, the mountain wasn’t fond of me. On this trip though, she clearly showed her approval as she appear naked all throughout. With patches of thick clouds quickly passing the tip of her perfect cone-shaped peak, the Mayon blessed us with her presence, as we romped over the lava hardened soil beneath her. Aboard ATV vehicles, we crossed streams of water and careened up and down muddy trails to the echoes of jubilant screams of "Yahoo".

ATV ride in Mayon with Monette Santillan

Postcard Series: She's Dating a Gangster | Albay

June 13, 2015

Every movie with a church scene should be filmed here—the filmmakers of "She's Dating a Gangster" made the right choice—as you have one of the most amazing backdrops you can ask for. This is one of my favorite Spanish Colonial Churches in the country: Daraga Church or Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church (also Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church).

Levy Amosin walking the steps of Daraga Church

Adoring the Ancient Art and History of the Golden Temple of Dambulla

June 04, 2015

Consisting of a five-cave monastery perched atop a hill 160 meters high, the impressive ancient structures and paintings found inside the caves gives you a major reason to make the slow uphill hike and see it for yourself. Under the torrid shine of the sun, I work my way, as dozens of monkeys goofed at each other around me at the wide stair trail. I meet other travelers brimming with smiles on their faces - a sign of delight at what they've seen, I figured. Once atop a smiling local guard signaled me to take off my shoes as I prepare to enter the first cave. 

Ria Jose
Entrance to the Golden Temple

Bantay Church Bell Tower | Ilocos Sur

June 02, 2015

One of the places we visited as part of our Vigan side-trip was the Saint Augustine Parish Church. Commonly known as Bantay Church, it was first constructed on its current site in 1590. The present facade though, was the result of the reconstruction job done in 1950, after it was heavily damaged during World War II. Aside from its Neo-Gothic Architecture that incorporated pseudo-Romanesque elements, the church is also famous for its Belfry situated a short distance from the church.

Bantay Church Bell Tower view of the town

The Saint Augustine Parish Church

Located in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, the Saint Augustine Parish Church is also referred to as the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, and houses the image of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Charity—said to be a miraculous image crowned by the Pope Pius XII as patroness of Ilocandia on January 12, 1956. Originally, the church was built and designed with Baroque architecture and in later years in the late 19th century, was reinforced with thick buttressed walls after it endured numerous destructive earthquakes. This method of strengthening old churches back then earned the Earthquake Baroque architecture label.

with Monette Santillan in front of The Saint Augustine Parish Church

The interior of the church is bare other than the arching steel columns, and a modest altar. The walls are painted white and the big windows allows natural light that keeps the inside appear lighter. Beside the church is a small museum housing old photographs of the church and the town of Bantay. There is also a small courtyard leading to a garden and an outdoor chapel—aptly called Chapel by the Ruins.

The Bantay Belfry of the Bantay Watchtower

Living up to its name Bantay, which translates to ‘guard’ in English, Bantay Belfry sits atop a hill overlooking the quaint town of Bantay. Back in the day, it was constructed on its strategic spot to also serve as a watchtower to defend the town from attacking pirates. During World War II, it was also manned by Filipino Guerilla Fighters and later on by retreating Japanese forces during the peak of the liberation of the Philippines.

Bantay Church Bell Tower in Ilocos Sur

Today, if you look out from one of the Belfry’s windows, you can see the pleasant view of the encircling trees and the piles of white crosses planted on multiple levels of graves laid over at the town's public cemetery.

Film quiz trivia hotshot: The Bantay Watchtower was among the shooting locations of the classic Filipino movie "Ang Panday".

Together with my girlfriend Monette and her two sisters Tuesday and Len, we spent almost an hour just resting and enjoying the view from the Belfry's tower. If it weren't for the arrival of a couple tourists we would have stayed longer as we left a few minutes later to give the two of them some privacy. Plus, we're already famished and craving for Vigan bagnet and pinakbet already.

Full of history and charming architecture, the Bantay Church and Bell Tower is must-see attraction whenever you find yourself in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

How to go to Bantay Church Bell Tower

Take either a slow but calming Kalesa ride or a faster tricycle ride to Bantay Church Bell Tower if you don't fancy taking a 20-minute walk from Vigan City.