I am 1 of the 640,000,000 inhabitants of Southeast Asia. And I am 1 of those who was just gone upset now that Uber is no longer operational in this part of the world. I am an Uber user since the time Uber started in the Philippines. It is my chosen ride-hailing firm as compared to Grab, a Singaporean-based and a more giant in my region.
Uber was my preferred ride every time I would travel back to Manila. It has prevented me from dealing with the swindler cum taxi drivers infesting the Manila airports. And though it’s no longer operational here in the Philippines, I intend to keep the Uber app in the phone.
I am an Uber user because I find it more efficient, a lot cheaper and the drivers seem more polite. I’m an Uber user that I even got to use Uber as a verb in my daily conversations with people. My admiration to Uber got more intense when I travelled solo in Istanbul. It was the ride I took when I need to spend the night in a hotel near the Istanbul airport. And when Nengkoy, my sister and I was in Bangkok, Uber was our preferred mode of transportation.
But the use of Uber would soon be so foreign to me both as an app and as a verb. Using an Uber now would only signify that I am out of my country for some travel, rest and recreation! Here’s one cute Uber Philippines commercial though…
Thanks for the short yet precious time Uber. Hoping to use you soon!
If I am to choose a place where to bring a foreigner-friend so as to fully immerse him to the culture of the Philippines, I would choose Villa Escudero in Tiaong Quezon.
Villa Escudero seem to contain and characterize a wide assortment of a true Filipino culture. Employees from engineering, to servers, to housekeeping and receptionists are all comfortably dressed in the traditional “patadyong” for the ladies and the colorful “camisa de chino” are worn by the guys.
The structures of Villa Escudero room accommodations are all native, characteristic of the traditional Filipino house known as “Bahay Kubo”. Villa Escudero also boasts of a marvelous museum collection, majority of which are about the rich Filipino religion, clothings, history and even fauna.
After a glorious Filipino buffet lunch right in the middle of a river with a man-made waterfalls as a backdrop, guests will get to enjoy and watch a Filipino show inside a humongous pavilion. The show features various uniquely Filipino dances, costumes and customs. I particularly loved the energetic TInikling dance, the funny vignette about Sabong, the robust and brawny Maglalatik and of course the singing of the song Filipinas at the end of the show. The show boasts about its authenticity for it was conceptualized and choreographed by the late Filipino National Artist for Dance, Mr. Ramon Obusan.
Then later in the afternoon, guests would get to enjoy and listen to a “harana” (a serenade). In the old days in the Philippines, a way for a suitor to woo a lady is by having a visit in the lady’s house. But prior to being allowed inside the lady’s abode, the suitor needs to sing by the lady’s window otherwise known as the Harana.
If the young lass showed up through her window, it means that the admirer will be welcomed inside the house after he finish his singing. But if the lady refuse to show up and face the singing dude by her window, it signifies that she is not interested towards the guy singing outside. In Villa Escudero, their male employees get to sing old and traditional Filipino song in front of the houses where guests are billeted as if they are doing a “harana”.
But what I am most impressed about the authentic Filipino element present in Villa Escudero was its excellent food selection during breakfast. Never have I seen a buffet breakfast as Filipino as that of the selection of dishes served in Villa Escudero!
It seem that all remarkable Filipino breakfast dishes are featured in their buffet. Aside from the usual fruits, yogurt, cereals, jams, milk and eggs, there were Filipino breakfast varieties like Champorado, Singangag, Lannganisa, Lugaw, Gatas Ng Calabao, Suman Sa Lihiya, Bibingka, Crispy Danggit, Crispy Dilis, Quesong Puti and of course Kapeng Barako.
Why do I know all these? It is because Villa Escudero was again the chosen venue of Nengkoy for her to celebrate her 81st birthday. Six years ago, this was the same venue for Nengkoy’s 75th birthday. Villa Escudero no matter what year we visit still has the same authentic Filipino elements for everybody to enjoy.
One epicurean highlight of me, my sisters’ and my mother’s adventure in Bangkok was the opportunity to dine at Jamie’s Italian. It is a popular worldwide chain of Italian restaurants conceived and run by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Thanks to cable TV my family knows who Jamie Oliver is.
This chain of restaurants has recently been in the news in which about a dozen of its branches scattered around the world are reportedly beleaguered and will soon be closing. It is so ironic that it has yet to open a branch in Manila, yet branches in other spots on the planet are already closing.
So before Jamie’s Italian would completely dissolve and utterly disappear from the face of earth, me, Nengkoy and my sisters took the chance to savor some of its dishes. My family love watching cable TV cooking shows (including that of Jamie Oliver’s) and now that there is an opportunity, we will no longer forever wonder how a popular celebrity chef’s creation actually taste like.
These are what we ordered…
And after enjoying all these savory dishes, I wonder why a significant number of Jamie’s Italian branches around the planet are in the brink of closure. Maybe it’s because taste buds of people around the world has mutated, regressed and had a relapse that it can no longer fathom, appreciate and recognize what good food is.
Good to know that the Bangkok branch stays strong and dynamic. This is considering the fact that Thai people seem to be one of the most discriminating in terms of flavor, taste and palatal experience. With the luscious taste and flavors we experienced at Jamie’s Italian Bangkok located at Siam Discovery, I hope that this chain remain for a long period of time for others with discerning taste to enjoy.
“I will because Nengkoy still”. This would be my response if I am to be asked if I would still travel abroad and around the country even if I reached eighty. Nengkoy who will be turning 81 years old this week has actually just gone to Bangkok, Thailand. I and my dear sisters accompanied her.
It was Nengkoy’s first time in Bangkok while it was my fifth. Bangkok still never ceases to amaze me. The people and their culture is so beautiful. Nengkoy was at awe when she saw for herself the weird reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, the elegance and style of Wat Phra Keaw and the majesty of the Grand Palace. And I was super glad that Nengkoy was able to stand the super heat and humidity of Bangkok climate. Since Bangkok has yet to install lifts or escalators in every stairs facilities leading up and down the metro train, I was also super glad that Nengkoy at her age could still go up some high flight of stairs.
Travelling with an old lady have some unique challenges. The medicines to bring, the amount and type of food to order in a restaurant, the challenging long walks and difficult climbing, the spots and places to visit and go to, the modes of transportation to take, etc. But all these challenges were handled with ease. Thank goodness Nengkoy does not possess the grumpy, irritable and ill-tempered persona that I often possess during my travels. Hahaha! Anyway, Nengkoy’s Bangkok adventure was simply happy, easy and noteworthy. I am the proudest that Nengkoy got to see and experience the beauty of Bangkok!
Some friends and colleagues still could not believe that I was able to accomplish the rigorous hiking that the mountains of Batad in Ifugao Province entails. Some were actually not surprised when they heard the hardships and learned that I was the crankiest, most ill-tempered and was the number one complainer among our group. As If my complaining was the highlight of our Batad adventure! Hahaha!
But people don’t realize that aside from the breathtaking sites, I was able to appreciate how lucky I am based on how my life has been going on compared to the simple folks living in Batad. That is why seeing locals especially the farmers who keeps the bizarre and phenomenal rice terraces by their bare hands humbles me. I may have been blessed more than these folks yet I have so much respect for these people. Batad folks may not own the possession that a modern human being enjoys now, yet they are the people who chose to live simple, enjoy simple and chose to maintain a beautiful earth wonder by their very own hands.
Kudos to the people of Batad! You definitely are one of a kind! Galing nyo grabe!
*thanks to Aiko and JB’s cameras for these photos…
Batad in Ifugao Province is not just its beautiful and majestic rice terraces, another awesome attraction and must-visit destination found in Batad is its strong, massive and breathtaking waterfalls known as Tappiya Falls.
Hidden in the lush green rainforest, a one-hour hike in the mountains of Batad will take you to the beautiful Tappiya Falls. Without a doubt, the turquoise fresh water and the perfect natural surroundings will fascinate every living soul who can luckily be able to reach it.
It was a tiring hike from our hotel in the secluded town of Batad to Tappiya Falls and back, especially those long flight of stairs at the edge of the mountain. But being able to reach and marvel at the actual Tappiya Falls after a grueling hike was something so rewarding already. All body aches, lung-bursting tiredness and anxiety whether to be able to finish the hike or not simply went away as soon as I dipped into the fresh cool water of Ifugao! Being able to see, smell, feel and conquer Tappiya Falls make me the proudest!
Majestic, magnanimous and magnificent are not enough descriptions for me to illustrate the beauty and splendor of Batad Rice Terraces located in Ifugao Province here in the Philippines. I have been to quite a number of beautiful places and I can confidently say that Batad Rice Terraces ranks very high for being one of the most breathtaking places on earth.
Elementary school lectures about its location, its structure and how the rice terraces were created eons of years ago by my Filipino forefathers were my only personal encounter in the past. And most of what was lectured during my childhood days was about the Banaue Rice Terraces, which is a totally different place.
Let me clarify though that Batad Rice Terraces is different and is not the more famous Banaue Rice Terraces. The latter is near downtown Banaue with more modern buildings and structures. Actually, a couple of tourists from Banaue Rice Terraces who just side tripped to Batad (whom some of us got to talk to) has attested that Batad was indeed more beautiful!
So let me brag that I was actually at a more stunning version! I could not believe that I was no longer just seeing photos and hearing it from lectures. I have upgraded because my physical being stepped on it and my very own eyes got to see the beauty, brilliance and grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Getting to Batad actually is already half the adventure. I have been to quite a lot of places but Batad seem to be the most remote place that I have been to. After a 10-hour bus ride from Manila to Banaue, me and my colleagues then had to travel for another 1 and a half hour via rickety and un-air-conditioned jeepney. And after alighting the jeepney, we then hiked by foot for another forty minutes (some say it was only twenty minutes but since I walk so sluggishly, it took me 40) for us to reach the tiny and secluded village of Batad. But all intense exhaustion, buckets of sweat and excruciating body aches were all be gone once I sawthe massive splendor of the amphitheater-like rice terraces and remarkable landscape of the mountains.
Some world attractions would not allow tourists to enter or step into their renowned site. Others would charge for an entrance fee otherwise you would just have to satisfy yourself by seeing it from afar. But for Batad Rice Terraces, tourists are allowed to step in, can mingle with the farmers and get through the muddy catwalks of the terraces for free! This made Batad Rice Terraces even more admirable compared to other sites in the world.
For those planning to get to gorgeous 2,000-year old Batad Rice Terraces, here are seven tips to ponder before getting there:
Bring lots of cash. No ATM around and no credit card payments accepted
There is no such thing as five star accommodation in Batad. Actually, all accommodations seem to look like half a star or no star at all. But the view and the people more than compensates for it. It’s more than 10 stars!
If you are the type who sweat buckets (like me), bring lots of shirts. Or if you are the type who would not mind smelling like a pig, then just bring 1 shirt per day of stay.
Batad is the best place to get away and take a short rest from the internet world. There literally is no signal in the area. No choice but to get off-line during the duration of your stay.
Bring Alaxan. Ibuprofen pain-relieving medicine was the most important piece of tablet that I popped as soon as I woke up after a dreamy night in Batad.
Do it while you’re young. Batad Rice Terraces is not for physically challenged nor the fainthearted. I actually still could not believe that I survived and was able to accomplish walking through those dizzying slim and slender catwalk portions of the terraces.
Pray! Pray that it won’t rain! Our tour guide told us that we were pretty lucky because the day before we arrived, it was raining all day. The terrain of course would be easier when it’s a bit dry compared to the muddy and slippery slopes of the mountain.