Surprised by the Museum of Natural History in Manila

Lowering expectation is one simple secret to achieving amazement and happiness.  Setting high expectations tends to result to frustration especially when measuring reality against imagined reality.  High expectations often wrings the joy out of experiencing something for what it is.

This were my exact thoughts when I and a bunch of colleagues decided to have a detour and headed to the Museum of Natural History in Manila before driving back to our office after some brief business meeting in Intramuros.  Knowing Manila being a run down, sullied, traffic-infested and over-populated city, finding something amazing seem next to impossible. 

this hall houses some of the most important artifacts

world-class!

my county’s “under the sea” features is one of the best

biggest croc on record is in the philippines it’s name is “lolong”

But our visit to the Museum of Natural History in Manila was indeed a big surprise!  It is one destination on the City of Manila that definitely deserves a visit! 

What I love most about this museum is that all exhibits – flora, fauna, earth formations, etc. – were of Filipino representations.  Also, segmentations of exhibits were really well thought of.  It’s like being so at home yet you would discover new and amazing natural wonders of the country. 

some fauna with two lucky folks

open up! admission is free!

the old-fashioned “botica”

i love this!

hall full of rocks!

Me and my colleagues were a bunch of pre-millennial species that is why we could really relay and seem so familiar with some of the indigenous exhibits.  Some of us could actually recall childhood encounters with some of the now rare flora and fauna displayed in the museum – dragonflies, beetles, birds, fruit crops, seashells, clams, freshwater crabs, etc.  Too bad, these floras and faunas we played with during childhood has started to become so rare it can now only be found in a museum.

I also like the fact that some of the exhibits are interactive.  I and my colleagues were so surprised, we could not keep ourselves from saying “Wow!” every time we enter a gallery full of amazing collections. Museum of Natural History in Manila was one surprising experience!  I have been to some of the top museums of the world and I can say that Manila’s National Museum of Natural History is world class.  .  It’s truly a fantastic feast for the senses! 

museum of natural history, manila, philippines

…was so impressed!

The National Museum of Natural History in Manila is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Entrance is free.

Ang ganda. Inferness!

Getting Lost In The Right Direction

Your unexpected detour could lead to unexpected moments of beauty that otherwise you would have missed” 

This is how I would summarize my thought after I and my friend-colleagues has gone to Laiya, San Juan in the province of Batangas to scout for a venue for our upcoming company’s post-summer outing.

We basically checked-out, visited and inquired almost all of the major sea-side vacation lands in the area but in each of the resorts we visited there seem to be something lacking.  We have gone to seven leading resorts yet we still were not one in deciding which to choose.  This until, we decided to get lost and do a little detour before heading back to Manila.

And here is what we found!      

It really feels good to be lost in the right direction…

Ameysing!

Pinoy Elements in Villa Escudero

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. 

team langit in front of the museum

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! 

pinoy breakfast!

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.

nengkoy having buffet lunch by the water falls

i love it here…

Ay Lab Bilya Eskudero…

Batad Folks Humbles Me

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!

a perfect proof of my complaining! hahaha!

no modern machinery. these terraces were created only by bare hands hundreds and hundred of years ago. amazing!

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.

so much respect for these people…

these folks keeps these world heritage site alive!

humbled!

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…

Fresh Cool Waters of Tappiya Falls

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!

Sulit ang pagod!

Batad Rice Terraces: No Words to Describe

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.

i was close to crawling! hahaha!

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!

the batad team!

someone’s posing at the back!

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:

  1. Bring lots of cash. No ATM around and no credit card payments accepted
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Prawd! Ay Surbayb Batad!

Minalungao: A Kept Secret of Nueva Ecija

Prior to leaving for a fifteen-day Turkey adventure, there is one Philippine travel destination that I and some colleagues have been to which I failed to feature and write about.  Three reasons for my failure of writing about this Nueva Ecija place is because (a) I was too pre-occupied about my upcoming Turkey journey; (b) I was too lazy; and, (c) I’ve gone selfish and don’t want to share the beauty and splendor of Minalungao National Park.

I had the least expectations about my going to Minalungao.  It is because I’ve never heard about this place in the first place.  And since it is not a popular Philippine destination, the site must be some mediocre place located in Nueva Ecija.  I was also not expecting much because the scale of planning compared to the amount of planning I have to do with my out-of-the-country planning was way way different.  Lastly, I had the least anticipations because I know quite a number of friends and colleagues who hailed from Nueva Ecija yet none of them seem to recommend visiting Minalungao. 

But as soon as we reached this national park and I alighted from our rented van, my jaw dropped!  I was so surprised to find out that Minalungao was such a Philippine hidden gem.  Also, what is so distinct about the place is that only locals of Nueva Ecija province seem to be around.  There seem to be very few tourists from Manila or even from abroad.

Minalungao is a protected national park considered to be one of the very few remaining natural environments that is close to Manila.  This ecotourist destination offers breath-taking scenery, easy hiking trails, green pristine river, inimitable rock formations and explorable natural caves.

Let my photos speak for Minalungao… 

After exploring what Minalungao and while we were heading to a cheap hotel in Nueva Ecija city center to stay overnight, it was the time I realized why people of Nueva Ecija seem to not recommend it.  Maybe it is because it is so beautiful, Nueva Ecija-ns want Minalungao to be a secret and be a well-kept natural environment.  People of Nueva Ecija wants to keep it for themselves because they don’t want this beautiful nature and physical world phenomena to be spoiled, be blemished and be destroyed by unmindful, insensible and ill-mannered tourists.

That is why after reading this, keep it to yourself. You can visit Minalungao (of course) but never tell anyone about it. Keep it at its status, that is, a secret natural environmental gem.

Kaya kapag nabasa mo ‘to, hwag mo ipag-sabi.