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So all this talk about the Sinulog made me nostalgic about the Ati-Atihan Festival.  The last time I joined the festivities was last year.  Sadly, I couldn’t make it this year because I had to shoot a documentary in Cebu (thus, my presence there during the Sinulog). And so, I did the next best thing:  …

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I am an Aklanon. Therefore, I am convinced that the best Sto.Niño fiesta can only be experienced in my hometown of Ibajay in Aklan. I mean I thought it was the only Sto. Niño fiesta that really mattered. But going to Cebu for the Sinulog was a genuine revelation. The Sinulog is Cebu’s biggest and …

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In the  last five years or so, the last living Kalinga tattoo artist of her generation, Apo Whang Od, has received so much attention both in the Philippines and the rest of the world. Her village is now a seeming pilgrimage site with tourists scaling its mountainous terrain in the hopes of receiving her three dots–the only tattoo she can give these days because of her health and failing eyesight. Indeed, Whang Od has become a rockstar of sorts, the poster girl of a thousand-year-old art form that was almost on the brink of extinction. But visit Buscalan and you’ll realize that Whang Od is only one of the many who represent a bygone era. A handful of tattooed men and women of Whang Od’s generation still live in Buscalan. The men were warriors whose bravery was rewarded with the bikking, the traditional chest tattoo reserved only for the most valiant. To this day, tales of their headhunting exploits particularly during World War II are still talked about with a mix of awe and pride. The women, however, earned their body art as a rite of passage. Most of them, like Whang Od,  received their tattoos during puberty. “Most of the women wear full sleeves, their arms wrapped in the traditional batek that took several days to complete. Most of the women wear full sleeves, their arms wrapped in the traditional batek that took several days to complete. One can only imagine the pain these women—young girls then—had to endure. It is said that they even had to work the rice fields immediately after each session. Women of Support Today, the tattoed women are never far from Whang Od’s side. They help her with the cooking and other household chores while she continues her important work of preserving their tribe’s tradition. There’s no denying how instrumental Whang Od was to the revival of her dying art. But credit should also go to her sister Gannao and the community of tattoed women around her. Post Script The night before I received my tattoo from Apo Whang Od, I attempted to offer her a drink. We were staying in her home in Buscalan. It rained that afternoon and by dusk, the temperature dropped so low that it became the perfect excuse to open the bottle of wine my husband had carried in his backpack all the way from Manila. We were seated in front of the fire that Gannao made. The other tattoed women had joined us. I poured myself a drink and passed the bottle to Whang Od. She refused the offer, saying it was bad luck to consume alcohol before tattooing people the next day. So the bottle was passed on to the other women who gladly helped themselves. For the rest of the night, we stared at the fire and listened to the crackling of the burning wood. I eavesdropped on the women as they chatted, savoring words I did not understand. The flames illuminated their smiling faces. In the dark, their tattooed skin glistened, making them look like young girls once again. Read more about Whang Od here: How to Get to Buscalan: a Practical Guide Buscalan:  A Warm Welcome Getting Inked by Whang Od Kalinga Tattoo Gone Wrong

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  From ylang-ylang oil extraction, animal raising and vegetable farming, to modern churches and classic dishes, TARLAC is truly a feast for the senses. It’s an agricultural province that is often overlooked, yet its offerings can be smelled, seen, felt, and tasted in every town.   Follow your nose The hint of floral notes wafting in the air welcomes visitors upon arriving at ANAO – the ylang-ylang capital of Tarlac. The place is buzzing with activity, as locals sort out flowers and prepare them for oil extraction.     The first step is harvesting the flowers, which takes place early morning, around 4 am. After they are weighed, they will be air dried for 2 hours to remove their moisture. Next step is sorting— flowers with red marks are perfect for oil extraction, while the rest are used to make potpourri. Only 10 milliliters (ml) of oil can be extracted from a kilo of ylang-ylang flowers, a total of only 200 ml per month. The extract is exported to countries like Korea which demands 250 ml of oil. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough land in Anao to plant ylang-ylang seedlings. Ylang-ylang oil is the base ingredient of the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.     A few minutes walk from the Ylang-ylang center lies a casual spot with delicious and filling meals at friendly prices. Kape Agape serves food using ingredients sourced from local and neighboring farms. It also offers a variety of dishes that can feed a barangay. Just look at the size of the Barangay Fiesta Nachos, a popular choice among the locals.   Feel the Faith Listen to the touching testimonials of the parishoners at Sta. Faustina of the Divine Mercy Parish in CANAN, PAQUIL. St. Faustina Kowalka (of Poland) or “mamang” as she’s called, has a strong presence that fortifies their faith and binds the community together. The parish-goers’ solidarity is even made more powerful by the existence of the Saint’s relic.     In GERONA, TARLACa , modern presence in the middle of the ricefields puts us to a complete halt.     Built in 2011 and finished in 2014, St. Josemaria Escriva Parish broke the traditional design mold and established the template of modern church interiors. Designed by Fr. Alex Bautista, an architect who worked in Hong Kong and is now part of the diocese of Tarlac, designed this and several other churches in the Philippines. It’s termite-proof as everything is made of concrete, which was pre-cast and fabricated on site. What also makes this church original is the drive-thru area behind the blessed sacrament, where night travelers can pass through.                                                                                            Be Awed by its Artistry The artistry of the city, not only can be seen in its architecture and interior design, but also in the works created by local artists, like the ones exhibited at Museo in TARLAC CITY.     The museum offers a changing display of artworks like paintings and sculptures. It also has regular exhibitions and seasonal events like this showcase of their local products.                                         Taste your way through Tarlac Agriculture is a huge part of Tarlac’s identity, so you can’t leave feeling hungry. At Tatuns, goat meat cooked in different ways is their specialty. They also offer other options like vegetables and seafood.     To appease your sweet tooth, Betty’s is the perfect place to sample local desserts and the best native delicacies.   Know where your food comes from After a whole day of binging, it’s time to know where your food comes from and see how it is grown. Wear your straw hats and hop on a karitela. It’s time to take a tour of the 29-hectare land that is EDL farm.     Here you get to see how salted egg is made. You can also feed the pigs, milk a cow, see the worms at work, and pick vegetables from the nursery.     From the lingering smell of flowers and the flavorful taste of food, to the modern vision of church architecture and the engaging interaction with the locals—Tarlac truly is a feast for the senses.   *** *Disclosure: The Lakbay Norte trip was organized by North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) in partnership with NLEX Corporation, Tarlac Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB), and Victory Liner Inc. Lakbay Norte is an annual media familiarization trip that aims to promote Philippine provinces in the North. **All images were photographed by the author Anao Ylang Ylang Center National Highway, Anao, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac Telephone: +63 919 837 2105 Kape Agape Poblacion Street, Anao, Tarlac Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM Telephone: +63 452 866 5116 Facebook: Kape Agape Santa Faustina of the Divine Mercy Parish Brgy. Canan Paniqui Tarlac Email: santafaustinaparish@gmail.com Facebook: Santa Faustina Parish St. Josemaria Escriva Parish Bgy. Magaspac, Gerona, Tarlac, Tarlac 2302 Telephone: +63 45 491 1878 Tatun’s Kambingan 7051 E Fairlane Rd, Brgy. San Vicente, Tarlac City Operating Hours: 10AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM Telephone: +63 (916) 229 4541 Facebook: Tatun’s Kambingan Betty’s Resto Bar San Roque, Tarlac Operating Hours: 6:00AM-6:30PM Telephone: +63 (045) 982 0465 Facebook: Betty’s Native Cakes Museo de Tarlac Romulo Blvd, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac Facebook: Museo de Tarlac The Farmhouse by EDL EDL Drive, Sitio Nueve, Brgy. Dolores, Capas Tarlac Telephone: +63 (917) 7096908 Email: thefarmhousebyedl@gmail.com     Would you like to contribute a guest post to Pinay Traveller or  collaborate with us? If yes, then e-mail us at pinaytraveller@yahoo.com. Let’s work together!    

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by Jazel Kristin   Take a break from the bleak and dreary landscape that is Manila and take in the mix of colorful history, gastronomic delights and rich cultural heritage of Bulacan.     Take a break from the bleak and dreary landscape that is Manila and take in the mix of colorful history, gastronomic delights and rich cultural heritage of Bulacan. Looking through an artist’s lens, I see things in sepia in Malolos, Bulacan – the ash tones of concrete relics and the brown hues of wooden structures stands out in this desaturated Malolos image – with matching film scratches just like in old movies. Malolos, the capital city of Bulacan, is the perfect backdrop for our story, a crucial setting that played an important role in Philippine history. Locations of interest includes the Barasoain church, old houses in the Kamestisuhan district, a certain Kalayaan tree, and so much more.   Barasoain church, though a place of worship, was also a meeting place of intense red revolutionists who were against the Spanish colonial government in the 1800s.   The church is the site where the First Philippine Congress was convened, the Malolos Constitution was ratified, and the first Philippine Republic was inaugurated. This was Malacanang during the Spanish time.              photo by Martin San Diego via NVPB   Across the church is the statue of Emilio Aguinaldo – the hero or, to some, the villain in our history. Do you notice something off with this scene though? Well, I didn’t at first, but a tour guide pointed out that the statue is not facing the street as what is supposed to. It is positioned with its back away from the people, as a form of protest by the residents of Malolos. For them, Aguinaldo was not the proper president of the revolutionary government but Andres Bonifacio. An interesting twist in our history.     A stroll down the Kamestisuhan district will show you a unique collection of the city’s heritage structures. Kamestisuhan is the district intended for Chinese residents in Malolos in the 1700s. They were the only ones who can afford to own lands and build houses during that time. It’s now considered as the Forbes park of Bulacan.     Along this route you will get a good sense of what Bulacan was like in the early days.                photo by Martin San Diego via NVPB   Drenched in brilliant glow is the art deco house of Uitangcoy-Santos, also known as the Museum of the Women of Malolos. This is home to Paulino Santos and Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos, leader of the women of Malolos, who made a big contribution to Philippine women’s rights. The 21 women of Malolos were a group of young and affluent women from the Kamestisuhan district, who spearheaded a petition demanding for women’s education during the Spanish colonial period. It was Uitangcoy who handed the petition over to the Governor General while the other women warded off the infuriated Spanish friars who wanted to know what was in the letter. Eventually, the women won the battle for approval and their request for a night school was granted. Later on, these women aided the revolutionaries who fought against the Spanish and American colonizers. I guess you can say that this is where “Girl Power” in the Philippines started.   This national heritage house showcases memorabilia and artifacts connected to the women of Malolos and the Uitangcoy-Santos family. I love the fragments of the historical and cultural past that remained like multiple layers in an old master’s painting.     This tree is not just any structure under where school kids play, workers take a rest and lovers swear their undying love or get their hearts broken. The Kalayaan tree still stands proud because it played a role in our history – it is under its green canopy and brown muscled arms where the first cabinet meeting was held. It entered the picture back when our heroes were still young. After all it’s been through, it is now cordoned off and protected, and gets its regular check-up twice a year.                photo by Martin San Diego via NVPB All that walking and soaking in history have built up my appetite. As I take it all in, time to take a break and savor the heroes’ feast at Bistro Maloleno.    Their menu showcases heirloom dishes like Pochero ni Plaridel, Tinolang Manok ni Dr. Jose Rizal, and Arroz ala Cubana ni Gregorio del Pilar. The star for me here is the kalabasa in Rizal’s tinola, as this dish is usually cooked with green papaya. The orange kalabasa is a pop of color in the soup of greens. While eating, here’s a parallel cut of images showing the dying art of “pabalat” (pastillas wrapper) and “puni” (leaf weaving).   Now that you are familiar with Malolos’ sepia past, the scene moves forward and transitions into full color, into a fun detour in San Rafael River Adventure.     Here cozy cottages and an array of activities for friends and families abound. A classic ending to our Bulacan journey is the sunset river boat cruise. Similar to Bohol’s Loboc river cruise but certainly more accessible (than going to Bohol).              photo by Martin San Diego via NVPB   As the sun goes down, Madonna’s “Crazy for You” is being sung in the background (Yes, there’s karaoke on the boat). It’s the perfect soundtrack as we cruise down the Angat dam, towards the fiery sunset.                photo by Martin San Diego via NVPB   Now everything the light touches, turns to gold.   Disclosure: The Lakbay Norte trip was organized by North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) in partnership with NLEX Corporation, Tarlac Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB), and Victory Liner Inc. Lakbay Norte is an annual media familiarization trip that aims to promote Philippine provinces in the North. Useful Information: Barasoain Church and Museum Paseo del Congreso St, Malolos, 3000 Bulacan Telephone: +63 (044) 794 4340 Facebook: Barasoain Church Twitter: @ChurchBarasoain Website: https://www.barasoainchurch.org Bistro Maloleño 1 Valenzuela St, Bulihan Capitol View Park, Malolos, 3000 Bulacan Operating Hours: 10AM-10PM Telephone: +63 (044) 795.5655 Facebook: Bistro Maloleño San Rafael River Adventure Barangay Talacsan, San Rafael, Bulacan, Philippines Telephone: +63 (02) 513 1569 Email: reservation@sanrafaelriveradventure.com Facebook: San Rafael River Adventure Twitter: @SRRAph Instagram: @sanrafaelriveradventure Website: http://www.sanrafaelriveradventure.com/       Would you like to contribute a guest post to Pinay Traveller or  collaborate with us? If yes, then e-mail us at pinaytraveller@yahoo.com. Let’s work together!

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I just came from my home province, Aklan. Just being there energizes me! I don’t understand why people all  troop to Boracay when the mainland is really beautiful.  But then again, I guess I should be thankful. At least the mainland won’t be as crowded and we can enjoy the peace and quiet, at least until the new Caticlan airport opens in a few months. Here’s a video of #Kalibo I discovered just recently (apparently, it’s been doing the internet rounds since last year). It’s quite refreshing to see Kalibo and Aklan through the eyes of visitors. Also, I realized there’s so much of my home province I HAVE to explore.  Any recommendations?  

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In the  last five years or so, the oldest Kalinga tattoo artist of her generation, Apo Whang Od, has received so much attention both in the Philippines and the rest of the world. Her village is now a seeming pilgrimage site with tourists scaling its mountainous terrain in the hopes of receiving her three dots–the only tattoo she can give these days because of her health and failing eyesight. Indeed, Whang Od has become a rockstar of sorts, the poster girl of a thousand-year-old art form that was almost on the brink of extinction. But visit Buscalan and you’ll realize that Whang Od is only one of the many who represent a bygone era.     A handful of tattooed men and women of Whang Od’s generation still live in Buscalan.     The men were warriors whose bravery was rewarded with the bikking, the traditional chest tattoo reserved only for the most valiant. To this day, tales of their headhunting exploits particularly during World War II are still talked about with a mix of awe and pride. The women, however, earned their body art as a rite of passage. Most of them, like Whang Od,  received their tattoos during puberty.   “Most of the women wear full sleeves, their arms wrapped in the traditional batek that took several days to complete.   Most of the women wear full sleeves, their arms wrapped in the traditional batek that took several days to complete. One can only imagine the pain these women—young girls then—had to endure. It is said that they even had to work the rice fields immediately after each session.     Women of Support Today, the tattoed women are never far from Whang Od’s side. They help her with the cooking and other household chores while she continues her important work of preserving their tribe’s tradition.     There’s no denying how instrumental Whang Od was to the revival of her dying art. But credit should also go to her sister Gannao and the community of tattoed women around her.   Post Script The night before I received my tattoo from Apo Whang Od, I attempted to offer her a drink. We were staying in her home in Buscalan. It rained that afternoon and by dusk, the temperature dropped so low that it became the perfect excuse to open the bottle of wine my husband had carried in his backpack all the way from Manila. We were seated in front of the fire that Gannao made. The other tattoed women had joined us. I poured myself a drink and passed the bottle to Whang Od. She refused the offer, saying it was bad luck to consume alcohol before tattooing people the next day. So the bottle was passed on to the other women who gladly helped themselves. For the rest of the night, we stared at the fire and listened to the crackling of the burning wood. I eavesdropped on the women as they chatted, savoring words I did not understand. The flames illuminated their smiling faces. In the dark, their tattooed skin glistened, making them look like young girls once again. Read more about Whang Od here: How to Get to Buscalan: a Practical Guide Buscalan:  A Warm Welcome Getting Inked by Whang Od Kalinga Tattoo Gone Wrong    

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  From ylang-ylang oil extraction, animal raising and vegetable farming, to modern churches and classic dishes, TARLAC is truly a feast for the senses. It’s an agricultural province that is often overlooked, yet its offerings can be smelled, seen, felt, and tasted in every town.   Follow your nose The hint of floral notes wafting in the air welcomes visitors upon arriving at ANAO – the ylang-ylang capital of Tarlac. The place is buzzing with activity, as locals sort out flowers and prepare them for oil extraction.     The first step is harvesting the flowers, which takes place early morning, around 4 am. After they are weighed, they will be air dried for 2 hours to remove their moisture. Next step is sorting— flowers with red marks are perfect for oil extraction, while the rest are used to make potpourri. Only 10 milliliters (ml) of oil can be extracted from a kilo of ylang-ylang flowers, a total of only 200 ml per month. The extract is exported to countries like Korea which demands 250 ml of oil. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough land in Anao to plant ylang-ylang seedlings. Ylang-ylang oil is the base ingredient of the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.     A few minutes walk from the Ylang-ylang center lies a casual spot with delicious and filling meals at friendly prices. Kape Agape serves food using ingredients sourced from local and neighboring farms. It also offers a variety of dishes that can feed a barangay. Just look at the size of the Barangay Fiesta Nachos, a popular choice among the locals.   Feel the Faith Listen to the touching testimonials of the parishoners at Sta. Faustina of the Divine Mercy Parish in CANAN, PAQUIL. St. Faustina Kowalka (of Poland) or “mamang” as she’s called, has a strong presence that fortifies their faith and binds the community together. The parish-goers’ solidarity is even made more powerful by the existence of the Saint’s relic.     In GERONA, TARLACa , modern presence in the middle of the ricefields puts us to a complete halt.     Built in 2011 and finished in 2014, St. Josemaria Escriva Parish broke the traditional design mold and established the template of modern church interiors. Designed by Fr. Alex Bautista, an architect who worked in Hong Kong and is now part of the diocese of Tarlac, designed this and several other churches in the Philippines. It’s termite-proof as everything is made of concrete, which was pre-cast and fabricated on site. What also makes this church original is the drive-thru area behind the blessed sacrament, where night travelers can pass through.                                                                                            Be Awed by its Artistry The artistry of the city, not only can be seen in its architecture and interior design, but also in the works created by local artists, like the ones exhibited at Museo in TARLAC CITY.     The museum offers a changing display of artworks like paintings and sculptures. It also has regular exhibitions and seasonal events like this showcase of their local products.                                         Taste your way through Tarlac Agriculture is a huge part of Tarlac’s identity, so you can’t leave feeling hungry. At Tatuns, goat meat cooked in different ways is their specialty. They also offer other options like vegetables and seafood.     To appease your sweet tooth, Betty’s is the perfect place to sample local desserts and the best native delicacies.   Know where your food comes from After a whole day of binging, it’s time to know where your food comes from and see how it is grown. Wear your straw hats and hop on a karitela. It’s time to take a tour of the 29-hectare land that is EDL farm.     Here you get to see how salted egg is made. You can also feed the pigs, milk a cow, see the worms at work, and pick vegetables from the nursery.     From the lingering smell of flowers and the flavorful taste of food, to the modern vision of church architecture and the engaging interaction with the locals—Tarlac truly is a feast for the senses.   *** *Disclosure: The Lakbay Norte trip was organized by North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) in partnership with NLEX Corporation, Tarlac Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB), and Victory Liner Inc. Lakbay Norte is an annual media familiarization trip that aims to promote Philippine provinces in the North. **All images were photographed by the author Anao Ylang Ylang Center National Highway, Anao, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac Telephone: +63 919 837 2105 Kape Agape Poblacion Street, Anao, Tarlac Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM Telephone: +63 452 866 5116 Facebook: Kape Agape Santa Faustina of the Divine Mercy Parish Brgy. Canan Paniqui Tarlac Email: santafaustinaparish@gmail.com Facebook: Santa Faustina Parish St. Josemaria Escriva Parish Bgy. Magaspac, Gerona, Tarlac, Tarlac 2302 Telephone: +63 45 491 1878 Tatun’s Kambingan 7051 E Fairlane Rd, Brgy. San Vicente, Tarlac City Operating Hours: 10AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM Telephone: +63 (916) 229 4541 Facebook: Tatun’s Kambingan Betty’s Resto Bar San Roque, Tarlac Operating Hours: 6:00AM-6:30PM Telephone: +63 (045) 982 0465 Facebook: Betty’s Native Cakes Museo de Tarlac Romulo Blvd, Tarlac City, 2300 Tarlac Facebook: Museo de Tarlac The Farmhouse by EDL EDL Drive, Sitio Nueve, Brgy. Dolores, Capas Tarlac Telephone: +63 (917) 7096908 Email: thefarmhousebyedl@gmail.com     Would you like to contribute a guest post to Pinay Traveller or  collaborate with us? If yes, then e-mail us at pinaytraveller@yahoo.com. Let’s work together!    

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