MRJJGUERRERO

Living without Borders

The provincial capitol is located in Dumaguete city.


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Pinas Muna: Dumaguete, the City of Gentle People

Wondering where to head next this year where you can both enjoy the serene and the urban, immerse in both the countryside and the rocking metro, or perhaps have a vacation and study at the same time?  Dumaguete City might be that place for you!

entrance to the Dumaguete airport

entrance to the Dumaguete airport

Read it over in social media and I did see it myself, Dumaguete City is one of the most sustainable cities in the country. Cost of living is low, but provides an equally gratifying metro feel. Known as the university town, this capital city of Negros Oriental is the largest in the province and is home to four huge universities and many other colleges, making the place a converging point for young people to seek higher learning. Siliman University, a protestant school and the first American school in Asia, is one of the four, along with St. Paul University, established by sisters of Saint Paul of Chartes in France, regarded as the first Saint Paul school in the Philippines. Foundation University, a private non-sectarian school which offers a complete educational system from kindergarten to college, and the Negros Oriental State University, a government institution, are the other two.

The sisters of Saint Paul de Chartes of France established the very first St. Paul school in the country. This edifice is in Rizal boulevard to remind us of that epic day of their arrival.

The sisters of Saint Paul de Chartes of France established the very first St. Paul school in the country. This edifice is in Rizal boulevard to remind us of that epic day of their arrival.

A simple Christmas décor within the Siliman University compound.

A simple Christmas décor within the Siliman University compound.

The gates of Siliman University is open for everyone. In fact, this road is a major road in the city.

The gates of Siliman University is open for everyone. In fact, this road is a major road in the city.

Located at the southern portion of the province of Negros Oriental, Dumaguete City is strategic both to trade and, well, pirates. No wonder the city’s name was derived from the words “daggit” and “dumaguet” which mean “to snatch and to swoop”, respectively. The famous Dumaguete Belfry was built to address the concern of marauding pirates. Built in 1760s, it was rebuilt in 1870s to discourage people from pillaging the town.

This belfry is one of the four original built to prevent people from pillaging the town.

This belfry is one of the four original built to prevent people from pillaging the town.

Just like Roxas Boulevard of Manila, Rizal Boulevard of Dumaguete offers a tranquil walk of about 800 meters facing the sea on one side, and the many establishments on the other. Travelers can choose from a plethora of treats, or simply sit on one of the benches and observe how the townsfolks while their time, as you while yours.

Rizal Boulevard. Serene in the morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever time it is, that time is the best to walk this stretch. =)

Rizal Boulevard. Serene in the morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever time it is, that time is the best to walk this stretch. =)

When you finally decide to visit, don’t overlook the adjacent town of Valencia. Getting there is best by renting a motorcycle  (we got ours at 250 pesos for the whole day, the gas is on us), just as going around the city is. Dumaguete, unlike Cebu or Davao, is a relatively small one. People, locals and tourists alike, will opt to walk or ride bikes. It is important, however, that your driving license is ready.

The town of Valencia is where you can find the Red Rock Falls. Because of the rich iron deposit and what other sorts of minerals are there, the rocks are literally bloody red. It is an amazing view, indeed! The other one is the Filipino – American – Japanese Amity Shrine. This is a reminder of the losses of World War II. Enshrined on top of a hill, the place will give you a great view of Dumaguete City. The hard part, though, is getting there. We almost got ourselves killed because the road was uncemented and we lost our balance. We just hope the road will be better when you visit, or when we come back.

The Red Rock Falls. Rocks are rich with iron.

The Red Rock Falls. Rocks are rich with iron.

The Filipino - American - Japanese Amity Shrine was the hardest to find and reach!

The Filipino – American – Japanese Amity Shrine was the hardest to find and reach!

Because we were so tired that day, we decided to dip in a local hotspring. Afterwhich, we went back to the city to catch some other sites. We ended the day with a sumptuous dinner at Moon Café and a mouth-watering coffee and sans rival at the famous Sans Rival House along Rizal Boulevard. Do not leave Dumaguete without tasting these delights.

Sulfur is coming out from the side of this mountain. We just had a dip in the local hotspring so that explains why I'm half naked. hehe

Sulfur is coming out from the side of this mountain. We just had a dip in the local hotspring so that explains why I’m half naked. hehe

Do not miss these delights at Sans Rival House. =)

Do not miss these delights at Sans Rival House. =)

Finally,  find comfort in Harold’s Mansion as your choice of accommodation. Unlike many hotels and inns where everything is made for you, this unique place allows you to enjoy the DIYs of things. Check in to find out. =)

So there you go, Dumaguete City is such an amazing place to visit. I find no words to describe the beauty of the place. Only stepping on the very ground will describe how great the place is. Dumaguete City, known to many as the City of Gentle People, is challenging us to know why it’s regarded as such. It’s more fun in the Philippines, and thank God there is Dumaguete to boost our claim. =)

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Pinas Muna: Tuguegarao City, Entrance to the Cagayan Valley

That short trip to the city of Tuguegarao last October 2014 was unplanned, perhaps never been in the mind up until hours before leaving for the capital city of Cagayan Valley. Coming from Cauayan City of the adjacent province of Isabela, getting to Tuguegarao was either aboard a bus or a van, some two or so hours on the road. We took the van, mainly because it was available at that time and partly because we didn’t like dealing with a lot of people along the way (or was it? lol). My friend and I were up until the wee hours of the morning, drinking and what else, I really cannot fully remember. The point is, the headache and the hangover were pressing us down. He had to meet up with someone, whereas I, not wanting to let go of an adventure and an opportunity to see the city for the first time, tagged along. =)

The only thing I know about Tuguegarao City is that it has the highest recorded temperature in Philippine history, a whopping 46 degrees Celsius! Aside from that, however, I learned that it is the tricycle capital of the country. When we arrived at 4pm, tricycles greeted us with compromised fares, blowing of horns and a circus of invitations to ride their humble vehicle. It was fun to watch because I was new to the area. haha

Because the trip was short, I prioritized the old churches in the city. Churches are witnesses to the place’s history. How they speak is through their architecture and their silent screams of religion, politics and the struggles of Filipinos of old. True enough, the city started as a barangay established by the Dominicans in 1604 as part of a mission. How they got into the place was a challenge, given that the area is bordered by the Sierra Madre, Cordilleras and Caraballo mountain ranges. Following this establishment was the construction of the stone chapel of Saint Hyacinth. Erected outside of present-day Saint Paul University is the latest part of the rebuilding process started in 1724.

This chapel was erected by the Dominicans as a symbol of control over the place. Today, mass is celebrated every afternoon. This is my favorite spot.

This chapel was erected by the Dominicans as a symbol of control over the place. Today, mass is celebrated every afternoon. This is my favorite spot.

The Saints Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral is a different design, erected in 1910. It is a mix of old and modern architecture that puts it in the list of the beautiful places to visit in the city. The interior, on a personal note, is akin to Turkish designs, embellished with the colors of earth and gold.

This cathedral has an image in the Vatican city because of its beautiful architecture.

This cathedral has an image in the Vatican city because of its beautiful architecture.

St. Paul University has its own church, a much modern feel. I had to befriend the guard on duty to have my photo taken in front of the church. The light was dimming so I really didn’t have the best shot of the place. Hehe

Finally, we visited my friend’s alma mater, the main campus of Cagayan State University. Coming from a state university myself, I know how schools such as this produce the best leaders of this country. The architecture of the façade was of Greco-Roman design inspiring young men and women to pursue higher education, as did our forefathers.

The façade of the Cagayan State University, a premier school in region 2.

The façade of the Cagayan State University, a premier school in region 2.

We went home, this time aboard a bus, tired but fulfilled for the day. Tuguegarao City will now be a new travel destination, as I look forward to exploring its sights and sounds, its taste and texture and everything else in between. Maybe, just maybe, not planning trips bring you to the road less taken. And though it is short, it feels like days because every minute has to count. There is no pressure in making moments last, because, I am sure it is in the right momentum. It is more fun in the Philippines, and Tuguegarao City makes it more attractive.

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Pinas Muna: Cauayan, the Ideal City of the North

A relatively young city, Cauayan is on its way to become a prime destination of the north as it interestingly marry industry and agriculture, history and modernity, all founded on the traditional Filipino way of life. As part of the province of Isabela, Cauayan stands as a bastion of progress, rightfully regarded as the Ideal City of the North.

I have to admit, I haven’t heard of the place until last month. When I book flights, I often see Cauayan as one of the destinations, yet I do not remember myself asking where that is. Last month’s “Pinas Muna” Project brought me to this place, unplanned but amazingly satisfying.

I traveled by bus, a long 8-hour road trip that passes through the provinces of Central Luzon. I arrived early morning and checked-in at Hotel Andrea, the newest hotel in the place. I waited for the sun to kiss the sky before going around.

Unlike the huge cities, the rural feel still lingers in the streets. Though there are traffic lights, the streets are not crowded with vehicles. Going around is best by a motorcycle or by rickshaw. There is a newly opened SM Mall whose architecture and design are not the usual. You have to visit it for you to understand. hehe

The city center is easy to navigate. A few steps from my hotel is the Our Lady of Pillars Church that is old in the exterior but modern and grand inside. The paintings are well done to depict biblical events. The Dominicans were the first to manage the parish when it was founded in 1739. When you visit, take the few hundred steps to the bell tower which offer you a view of the city’s landscape. I am not sure, however, if this is allowed because we just sneaked in. hehe It was a worthwhile sneak. haha

Our Lady of the Pillar Church has an old exterior that dates back to the mid 1700 when Dominican friars tried to establish Christianity among the locals of the place.

Our Lady of the Pillar Church has an old exterior that dates back to the mid 1700 when Dominican friars tried to establish Christianity among the locals of the place.

The modern interior of the Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church

The modern interior of the Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church

The paintings in the ceiling of the church was done by a local painter.

The paintings in the ceiling of the church was done by a local painter.

This is the view from the top of the bell tower of the Church. I really am not sure whetehr it is allowed, but we had a good sneak. hehe

This is the view from the top of the bell tower of the Church. I really am not sure whetehr it is allowed, but we had a good sneak. hehe

Given the limited time of my visit, and that I did not really plan it out, there was nothing much that I visited. The hospitality, though, was warm and I am sure that when I get back, there will be more than meets the eye. =)

Cauayan, literally translated to “bamboo”, is an interesting place to visit. Just as bamboo bends and transforms into anything our imagination can conjure, so will Cauayan City transform into a prime destination, an ideal city of the north. It is more fun in the Philippines because there are places like Cauayan City that allows us to challenge the human mind.

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Pinas Muna: When in Angeles City, Pampanga

Many places in the Philippines are deeply drenched in Spanish influence. Churches, forts and the way of life depict Spanish colonialism in interestingly modified ways. Angeles City of the province of Pampanga, however, is inclined more to the American mentality than, perhaps, any town or city in central Luzon. Once the biggest military facility outside of continental US, it was an important hub for military strikes during the second World War. Years following Philippine independence, it remained a stronghold of the Americans, partly leading to the economic boost of the city.

This is my first visit to the city of Angeles and the municipality of Porac some fifty – minute drive from the city proper. Angeles City is derived from the Spanish phrase meaning “the town of Angels” .The first anniversary of Philippine Independence was celebrated here by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo a year after its declaration in Kawit, Cavite.

Angeles City is a bustling metropolis in central Luzon and is home to many Americans who chose to live in the Philippines

Angeles City is a bustling metropolis in central Luzon and is home to many Americans who chose to live in the Philippines

The Holy Rosary Church, a prominent parochial structure, was built through the Polo y Servicio system, or forced labor imposed by the Spaniards. The church backyard was an execution ground for Filipinos who went against the Spanish authorities. The same church served as the hospital of the Americans years after the declaration of Philippine independence.

Santo Rosario Church is an old parochial possession completed in 1909 through forced labor system. It is recognized as a national historical site by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. Locals call it "Pisambang Maragul" or the big church.

Santo Rosario Church is an old parochial possession completed in 1909 through forced labor system. It is recognized as a national historical site by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. Locals call it “Pisambang Maragul” or the big church.

An alternative to Angeles City’s bustling city feel is the adventure park of Sandbox at Porac, Pampanga. For the adventure seekers, this place provides a great escape from work but pumping up the adrenaline at the same time. Sandbox entertains visitors with over-the-top rides that aim to push people to their limits, conquer their fears and enjoy the sudden surge of thrill. Guests can try a modified zip line that goes wacky along the way, a freefall jump, the traditional wall climbing and rapelling, an aerial walk and a giant swing. Choose from packages or try doing the rides one at a time.

The best way to ejoy the Sandbox rides is with friends and loved ones. No alternatives, baby!

The best way to ejoy the Sandbox rides is with friends and loved ones. No alternatives, baby!

The freefall is personally my favorite because it literally translates the phrase "leap of faith".

The freefall is personally my favorite because it literally translates the phrase “leap of faith”.

It appeared simple, but man! I felt all types of aches in my body after this!

It appeared simple, but man! I felt all types of aches in my body after this!

And yes, it was fun! So much fun! Make sure to wear comfortable clothes when you head to Sandbox. And bring extra shirts as well!

And yes, it was fun! So much fun! Make sure to wear comfortable clothes when you head to Sandbox. And bring extra shirts as well!

Angeles City, cited in 2008 as one of the best places to live in the Philippines, is a lasting testament of the Filipino-American friendship. More than that, however, it is a city that challenges visitors to look beyond the obvious. Angeles has its own share of this country’s beauty and pride, and crossing out this from your travel list is akin to deleting that important piece of identity. It is more fun in the Philippines, and Angeles City is one good place to keep the momentum of fun and adventure!

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Pinas Muna: Beyond Bacolod’s Sugar Lore

Sugar is bountiful in the City of Smiles, and for many years much of the historical events in Bacolod City and the province of Negros Occidental is directly and indirectly linked to this sweetener. Today, business is driven by both the sweetness of the sugar and the enchanting smiles of the Bacolodnons. Its cultural and culinary heritage, being the birthplace of the famous inasal (roasted chicken in skewers) and a variety of sweet pastries, add to the excitement of any traveler who wants to immerse in the Land of the Sweet People.

Head to Bacolod Cupcakes Café and try the different flavors of their cupcakes. This one is part of a social enterprise!

Head to Bacolod Cupcakes Café and try the different flavors of their cupcakes. This one is part of a social enterprise!

Instead of taking a flight from Manila to Bacolod City, I crossed the Guimaras strait from Iloilo City aboard a fast craft. It took me an hour to reach the city’s port and saved me a lot of money.

Taking the boat ride to Bacolod is a cheaper alternative compared to the pricey airplane trip. This, of course, is when you are from Iloilo..

Taking the boat ride to Bacolod is a cheaper alternative compared to the pricey airplane trip. This, of course, is when you are from Iloilo..

Hidden in plain sight, there is a certain finesse to the place, a unique feature I only felt within the city and among the people. During my first trip to Bacolod City in 2013 (first blog here), I probably did not notice because I was too pre-occupied by the sites we visited. This time, though, I had time to immerse into the local arena, walked its park and enjoyed the moments as they happen.

Bacolod City has a wide plaza where locals and tourists converge for a lazy afternoon stroll. It has a lot of fountains, statues and where many events of the annual Masskara Festival take place. The colorful plaza bandstand is a meeting place to friends and colleagues such as debaters, arnis martial artists and the likes.

This newly-painted bandstand is an eye-catcher. You wouldn't miss it when you take an afternoon stroll at the plaza.

This newly-painted bandstand is an eye-catcher. You wouldn’t miss it when you take an afternoon stroll at the plaza.

Walking around will expose you to the city’s heat, as in any other metropolitan in the country, so a good cone of ice cream can dispense the heat away.

Take an ice cream around when you want to go around the plaza. It's best to combat the heat!

Take an ice cream around when you want to go around the plaza. It’s best to combat the heat!

Across the public park is the San Sebastian Cathedral. Completed in 1894, it is a coral-made church but now overlaid with cement for durability. The city of Bacolod was not named a town until 1755 and was only proclaimed a parish in 1788. Under Fr. Gonzaga as acting parish priest in 1817, people were encouraged to migrate to Bacolod and the land was opened for business and agriculture. The intertwine of government and church is further seen when the Spanish governor-general ordered the restructuring of the area politically and religiously in 1848, with the Augustinians given spiritual authority of the place. San Sebastian Cathedral is a silent witness to these events up until it was honored by Pope John Paul II in 1981 when he visited the church as part of his official trip to the country.

A coral-made church that dates back to the founding of the Bacolod parish.

A coral-made church that dates back to the founding of the Bacolod parish.

The provincial capitol and lagoon is  good place to visit as well. The provincial capitol building was the former headquarters of the Japanese during World War II. Joggers and fitness enthusiasts frequent the park and lagoon during the night time for a quick run.

Taking a stroll at the provincial capitol park and lagoon is a good way to end your Bacolod trip.

Taking a stroll at the provincial capitol park and lagoon is a good way to end your Bacolod trip.

A trip to Bacolod City isn’t only exciting during the Masskara Festival every October. The sweetness of the place is consistent all year round making Bacolod a prime destination in the country. And unlike table sugar, there is no limit to how much sweetness we can take in. It is more fun in the Philippines, and Bacolod City is just the place to open up your appetite for travel and adventure!

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Pinas Muna: Roxas City’s Mix of Now and Then

A two-hour drive from Iloilo City up north Panay Island will bring you to the developing city of Roxas. More than being named as the Seafood Capital of the Philippines, the city has a rich history of political and religious successions and much of what remains of the colonial influence are found in a few structures. The rapid development into a future metropolis is led by the Pueblo de Panay, locally known as the city within a city where infrastructures are to be erected within the next few years.

My first visit to the city was last August 2014, a birthday treat for myself (here’s the blog). This second visit was short but equally informative. The history of Roxas City, and perhaps the province of Capiz which the city is part of, is tied to Iloilo and provinces like Cebu. The diocese of Capiz was under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Jaro in Iloilo in 1876. The cathedral of Capiz was completed in 1877. Prior to this religious arrangement, Capiz was under the bishop of Cebu since 1746.

The Roxas City Metropolitan Cathedral or the Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral is at the heart of the city, fronted by the city fountain.

The Roxas City Metropolitan Cathedral or the Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral is at the heart of the city, fronted by the city fountain.

Items of political, religious and cultural importance are housed at the local museum. The Panubli-on or the Roxas City Museum built in 1910 used to serve as a water tank. Inside one of the glass cabinets, I found the famous Kapiz shell from which, according to sources, the province derived its name.

A small museum houses important items of religious, political and cultural significance.

A small museum houses important items of religious, political and cultural significance.

Kapiz shells, or the shell of the windowpane oyster, is famous for its translucent feature, a perfect material for decors, chandeliers, windows and other home furnishings.

Kapiz shells, or the shell of the windowpane oyster, is famous for its translucent feature, a perfect material for decors, chandeliers, windows and other home furnishings.

A few steps from the museum is the Roxas City Bandstand. This is very close to both the cathedral and the capitol, seats of religious and politcal powers. This overlooks the Panay river, traversing the heart of the city. The silence and the allure of the river brought the city to be regarded as the “Venice of the Visayas”.

This simple bandstand is a venue for political and religious gatherings, and even small friendly rendezvous.

This simple bandstand is a venue for political and religious gatherings, and even small friendly rendezvous.

Going around the city is tiring. A good way to rest is to try the variety of seafoods at Baybay Beach. The choices will surprise you, both because there are too many and they come in affordable prices. Head to Ce Brew, finally, to relax, have coffee and blueberry cheesecake before calling it a day.

Some shellfish cooked to suit your taste. Find out the many exciting seafoods at Baybay Beach!

Some shellfish cooked to suit your taste. Find out the many exciting seafoods at Baybay Beach!

ORder a blueberry cheesecake and couple it with any of the many flavored- coffees at Ce Brew, Grandville.

ORder a blueberry cheesecake and couple it with any of the many flavored- coffees at Ce Brew, Grandville.

Roxas City has its own mix of history and contemporary. It is not overshadowed nor overshadows other cities. As taste and beauty are subject to individualities, so is Roxas’s flavor and feature. It is more fun in the Philippines, and Roxas City can make it even better.

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Pinas Muna: Iloilo’s Historic Churches

For a time, Iloilo City enjoyed the title of Queen City of the South before Cebu City claimed it as its own. It was the last Spanish capital when Manila surrendered to the forces of the United States of America. Today, much of this rich history is inscribed in the many churches across the city, and much more in the sophistication woven into the simplicity of local color.

As a traveler, I always make sure to find the old churches in the place I’m visiting. History resounds in the arches and belfries, and one gets a glimpse of both the grandeur and the old colonial life way back. Embellished with only the finest, many of the country’s churches are among the best evidences of how religion played a remarkable and indispensable role in shaping our republic.

Jaro Cathedral, or the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, is the first and only cathedral in Western Visayas built in 1864. Dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the church houses the image of the virgin Mary, canonically crowned by the pope in 1981 during his visit to the country. According to local lore, the image is continuously and miraculously growing, and many devotees flock to the church during the feast on the 2nd day of February. The belfry of the cathedral stands apart from the church, erected in front of the ecclesial structure.

I arrived in the evening, so my only photo of the Jaro Cathedral is this. haha The darkness, however, does not diminish the architectural beauty of this church.

I arrived in the evening, so my only photo of the Jaro Cathedral is this. haha The darkness, however, does not diminish the architectural beauty of this church.

Molo Church, or St. Anne’s Cathedral, is the only Gothic church outside of Manila. Jose Rizal was said to visit the church on his way to Dapitan during his exile. The grounds fronting the church is magnificently decorated with bandstands and statues.

Molo Church is also known as the church for women because of the statues of women spread across the front part of the structure.

Molo Church is also known as the church for women because of the statues of women spread across the front part of the structure.

Statues of Greek deities guarding a bandstand outside the Molo Church.

Statues of Greek deities guarding a bandstand outside the Molo Church.

Finally, a forty-five to an hour drive from Iloilo City is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Miag-ao, one of the four baroque churches in the country. The architecture reflects that of the Spanish and Latin American design, and the covert fusion of religious and political powers during the Spanish era.

Miag-ao Church is one of the four baroque churches in the country. I had to rent a taxi to ferry me to this site. hehe

Miag-ao Church is one of the four baroque churches in the country. I had to rent a taxi to ferry me to this site. hehe

Because I was tired hopping from one church to another, how best to cap the day but with a hot serving of authentic Lapaz Batchoy. =)

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While enjoying my food, it came to me that perhaps, Iloilo City may no longer be the Queen City of the South, but it might be a Cupid to travelers. It hits you straight to the heart, makes you fall in love with the place so that you always long to come back. It is really more fun in the Philippines, and Iloilo is one of the reasons why.

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