Category: Philippine Travels

This is the Church of Saint Anne in Molo, Iloilo. Some coral rocks, some sand, some eggwhites. And then, the statues of 16 women saints. Seek their graces and feel empowered, woman!







The church is right across the beautiful district plaza where one finds a domed pavilion with 6 Greek goddesses. Why Greek? I honestly don’t know. Our guide kept harping on the “Athens of the Philippines” bit, but I feel it’s a stretch. The Gothic Church stands on its own, and the plaza….well, let’s just say it’s neat and pretty without any reference to the Athens line.







Molo. Say that, and what immediately comes to mind is a clear broth with pork and shrimp dumplings. In olden times, the districts and towns along the shoreline were constantly raided by Moro pirates. The place being Iloilo’s version of Chinatown had many Chinese settlers, who pronounced “Moro” as “Molo”. This also explains the Chinese influence on its famous local dish “Pancit Molo”, one of my favorites.







The church interiors made great use of columns, many of which along the main aisle is adorned by a female saint. You may address your prayers for intercession to Saints Cecilia, Teresa, Monica, Mary Magdalene, Clara, Martha, Rose de Lima, and many others. The statues, woodwork, stained glass, carvings and paintings are worth a few seconds’ pause, if you will.




The ochre color, the flying buttresses, the ornately-designed bas reliefs, the uneven belltowers, and the gold-plated retablo. All that speak of a history surrounding the St. Thomas of Villanueva Church, more commonly, and simply called Miag-Ao Church. 

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The church facade is unique. St. Christopher is depicted like a local, more so as he is illustrated holding on to a coconut tree. There are also other “local” elements represented here like local fruits and flowers. Interestingly, the typical village life is very much represented in this art form.


The Retablo


Impressive Altar & Sanctuary

Inside, the interiors are simple, but very elegant. The antique gold plated retablo is impressive. So with the altar. A story goes that the altar dates from the late 1700s which was subsequently lost during the 1910 fire and later found and re-installed during repair excavations in 1982.


The Flying Buttresses


One of 2 Bell Towers attached to the church.

You’d wonder why the 2 bell towers at the church front are uneven, or simply different, unmatched. Used as watchtowers against Moro pirates, the 2 towers were built separately. The older and taller belfry is the one on the left side. Apparently, the 2 priests who commissioned the work thought it unimportant to match the design and architecture of the 2 towers. If you ask me, I think the disparity makes it unique.


The Baptistery

Mangoes. Nothing’s sweeter than the Philippine mangoes. We have them good from Cebu, from Zambales, but the sweetest come from Guimaras Island, just a 15-minute boat ride from Iloilo. By the time we visited, it was almost the end of the peak season and prices have more than doubled. Yet the mangoes remained sweet.

Just a 15- minute banca ride to the island of Guimaras!

Just a 15- minute banca ride to the island of Guimaras!

Sweetest Philippine mangoes!

Sweetest Philippine mangoes!

We visited the oldest Church in the island. San Isidro Labrador Parish in Navalas honors the patron saint of farmers here. Small but charming. And terribly in need of restoration work. Since the church forms part of many itineraries for day-trip visitors of this island, perhaps the local authorities and prominent families here can help restore and preserve this part of Guimaras history.

Navalas Church, oldest in Guimaras

Navalas Church, oldest in Guimaras

Roca Encantada, the Guimaras Resthouse of the Lopezes

Roca Encantada, the Guimaras Resthouse of the Lopezes

Unlike the church in disrepair, Roca Entanda looks grand and well-maintained. The power scions — Lopez Family — has this all-white mansion by the edge of the waters, built on a rock looking out to sea. I can imagine all-night parties here with the seawind breezing through the spacious verandah. Or quiet weekend escapades with a coffee mug or a glass of wine, waiting for either sunrise or sunset. The life!

View from the balcony of Roca Encantada

View from the balcony of Roca Encantada

Mango Ketch, anyone?

Mango Ketchup, anyone?

Local residents line up streets with stalls  selling fresh mangoes, ready to be boxed for those who care to bring home these sweet fruits. There are also stores like McNesters selling mango byproducts like mango piaya, mango ketchup, mango bars, mango barquillos, etc. A foodie’s delight! More of the same stuff can be bought from the Trappist Monastery. As for lunch, how about that famous KBL (kadios, baboy and langka) soupy dish, soured by the local batwan, from Jannel Glycel Beach Resort? You can even opt for a quick swim before your lunch, if you like.

Janna Glycel Beach Resort

Janna Glycel Beach Resort

Trappist Monastery

Trappist Monastery

I confess this trip was hatched as a serious “food trip” with friends. My love affair with shellfish has withstood the test of time and coming home, I’ve been dreaming of my favorite hard-shelled loves. But 4 days of marathon dining can get us into serious trouble so we arranged to visit some heritage churches and ancestral homes as well.



Of the churches we visited, I was impressed with this Church. Tigbauan’s architecture has Latin American influence ….. “Churriquesque” it’s called. It doesn’t register at all with me. Admittedly the first time I heard of it. Otherwise, I would have thought it refers to some barbecued specialty dish. (I’m hopeless) . I wonder how it looked back when it was constructed in 1575 before a 1948 earthquake destroyed much of it but for the bell tower, a few pillars and church facade. The mosaics which were actually what caught my attention in the first place, were installed when the church was restored following the 1948 destruction.



Officially named Saint John of Sahagun Church, many simply refer to it as Tigbauan Church after the town where it is located. San Juan de Sahagun was an Augustinian friar who earned many enemies during his time in Salamanca, Spain where he was known for his sermons and scathing words which offended many from the upper echelons of society. It was believed then that the fierce saint died from poisoning by a woman who sought revenge. The woman was a nobleman’s concubine who was “enlightened” by Saint John of Sahagun . Wicked woman!



Old, original, or not, I am impressed with the mosaic interiors. The altar looks lovely in an austere way. The niches with the Last Supper, saints as well as the Stations of the Cross, look just as charming in an old world way. I just hope the local parishioners and authorities work on the full restoration of the belfry and facade, remnants of this centuries-old church.

Lazi Convent proudly stands across the pink-ish late 19th century church built by Augustinian Recollects in Lazi, Siquijor. The stonewalls echo a deep history of this convent used as “rest and recreation” of the Augustinian friars then. A collection of sorts is housed in the 2nd floor which now serves as a museum that impresses as well as breaks one’s heart.






Lazi Convent. R & R. In late 19th century for men of the clergy.


Centuries-old acacia trees line the road separating Lazi Convent from the Saint Isidore Church. Siquijor.



Impressive that the same acacia trees still line the road separating the Saint Isidore Church and the Convent which has since been converted into a school and Museum. That the basic elements of the old structure — pillars, capiz windows and staircase — remain. Heartbreaking that there is no semblance of security and preservation concerns relating to the Museum. In the first place, the use of the ground floor as school premises doesn’t augur well in preserving this historical site.





The corridors on the 2nd floor of Lazi Convent which now houses the Siquijor Heritage Museum.


Capiz-framed window slides on the 2nd floor of Lazi Convent cum Siquijor Heritage Museum.




When we came across a tabernacle on display, it broke our hearts to read that the piece is a reproduction, a fake, a switched copy of the genuine piece which was earlier sent for restoration. Only time will tell how the other treasures within the unguarded museum would fare. God forbid.





The FAKE Tabernacle. Siquijor Heritage Museum. Lazi Convent.


Historical treasures inside Siquijor Heritage Museum. No glass encasing to protect them. Unguarded. Poorly maintained.




The 2nd floor with capiz-framed window slides reminded me of my grandmother’s house, except that these ones offered a view of the Lazi Church across the road. No wonder men from the clergy chose this convent for R & R. The church is beautiful and this convent equally so, as well as huge in size. A friend reminded me that Siquijor was then center of studies on herbal medicine during the Spanish time and that many scientists from Europe visited the island for research then. I may also add that religious men, many of whom are botanists and pseudo-scientists, may have visited for these same reasons. Rest and Recreation AND RESEARCH!





Lazi Convent. Rest, recreation and research!


Saint Isidore Church just across the road from Lazi Convent.


The 2 structures in the sleepy town of Lazi are the iconic landmarks of this 3rd smallest island province in the Philippines. It has more to offer but many visitors shy away from spending more time, if not nights, in this province which gained notoriety as the country’s black magic capital. The beach scene here is quiet, even secluded. And the waterfalls and cave sites offer more for the more adventurous. With more tourist arrivals, perhaps local government here will consider a more serious upkeep of the island’s historical treasures.





The stonewalls on the ground floor. All original. Lazi Convent. Siquijor.


Lazi Convent. Midday. Siquijor.

I have long postponed this visit to Siquijor. Blame them tales about sorcerers and voodoo magic. Poor Siquijor. The urban legend spun by the locals themselves worked to dispel evil forces represented by pirates then, but somehow the “horror stories” stuck through the years. Obviously, the residents of this tiny island were good storytellers. Good enough to scare off the sea pirates who used to pillage the former Isla de Fuego. The island was then called Isla de Fuego or Island of Fire by the Spaniards in the 16th century because of the glow created by the swarms of fireflies found on the island. Who would have thought it would later earn notoriety as a haven for witchcraft and nest for sorcerers?




From Dumaguete Pier at the end of Rizal Boulevard, an Ocean Jet can whisk you in 45 minutes to the tiny island province of Siquijor!




We left the Dumaguete Wharf just before 8am and our Ocean Jet
reached the “voodoo capital of the country” some 45 minutes later. A hired van fetched us from the pier and we were soon on our way to visit the top island attractions after a brief stop at the 18th century Saint Francis Church. The church doors were adorned with rope curtains to keep the birds off. Ingenious.





The Saint Francis Church is the first island attraction to welcome you in this island. Nearby is a centuries-old belfry.






We likewise visited the Capilay Spring Park at the base of another church. Then the ancient balete tree (teeming with more urban legends) where a local vendor has on display various bottles of “herbal medicine”. I bought one not exactly knowing what it was for. Inside the tiny bottles were tree barks soaked in coconut oil which oil can be anointed on any ailing part of the body. Or so I thought. Until my friend read the label : the oil is used to drive away bad elements much like what “evil eyes” in Turkey do for you.





The Balete Tree of Siquijor. More urban legends here. Listen up!


The Lovely Saint Isidore Church. Siquijor.


Soon we reached the Lazi Church (St. Isidore Church) and Convent, allegedly the biggest convent in Asia. Lovely centuries-old structures facing each other across a road lined with  acacia trees. The church interiors and the 2nd floor Museum in the Convent can do with some repairs, but it’s fascinating to find such treasures in this tiny island of just over 80,000 residents. Browsing through the Museum collections, I was reminded of Baclayon Church. Great treasures. Hardly a museum guard. In great need of repair in the name of preservation for future generations to appreciate. 😦





Inside the Lazi (Saint Isidore) Church in Siquijor.


Lazi Convent. R & R of men from clergy then?


I wonder who painted this Last Supper mural inside Lazi Convent.




My eyes were drawn to a mural of the Last Supper. Painter unknown. Then
to this piece of art that told of a sad story. Sent for restoration, replaced with a fake reproduction. Such crime only thrives where there are unconscionable peddlers and willing, just as dishonest if not outright criminal moneyed buyers disguised as art collectors.  A sob tale. But we know it happens everywhere to a point I wonder over the pleasure of buyers keeping such treasures off-display, hidden, for their personal, exclusive viewing. Sucks, right?





The FAKE Tabernacle. Siquijor’s Lazi Convent-Museum.



Cambugahay Falls. 135 Steps. Up and Down. 270 in all.




Cambugahay Falls is just 2 kilometers north of Lazi and is a great prelude to our next stop: Salagdoog Beach Resort where we had lunch. Cambugahay requires a bit of hard work though as one goes down 135 steps, then climbs them back up. As for Salagdoog, some of the areas damaged by Typhoon Sendong were since restored but paved. I’m not a big fan of cemented walkways, but I’m awed by a couple of slides I spotted ending right into the sea!





Care to slide straight on to the sea? Salagdoong Beach Resort.


Salagdoong Beach Resort after Typhoon Sendong. Siquijor.




Finally, our meeting with JennyLou. This young shaman got her “gift” from her late grandfather who passed on his “gift” (and stone) to his grandchild. Still under 30, Jennylou typically has busy days when visitors and “patients” drop in for a session of faith healing. Armed only with a black stone dropped into a clear mason jar and a straw-like cylinder, Jennylou promptly went to work. She put water to submerge the black stone in the jar and then moved the jar all over the patient’s body where there are ailments, aches and pain. All that while blowing into the straw-like cylinder to make bubbles. ( Bula Bula or Bulo Bulo? ) Jennylou replaces the water as it turns murky and continues making bubbles, as many times, till the water stays “clear”. Three of us tried it. The first “patient” didn’t find any improvement in her condition. The 2nd felt her body “warm up” but the back pain remained. The 3rd claimed his knee joint pains are completely gone. One out of 3? Not bad. Good score! We left Jennylou to get back to our wharf to take the ferry back to Dumaguete. We spent our time well in Siquijor. Easy circling the whole province in just a few hours. Do it as a daytrip next time you visit Dumaguete!





Bulo Bulo is a faith healing method where the shaman puts a stone into a jar filled with water and bubbles through the ailing parts of one’s body.


You can take the 5:30pm RORO (roll on, roll off) ferry if you want to spend more time in this mystical island province. Or take the Ocean Jet!

It’s not your regular flea market. This strip of stalls selling almost anything from dried fish to shirts to ropes to kitchen utensils to knives to brooms to fresh fruits to tin and plastic ware comes alive every Wednesday only. If you’re planning to visit Apo Island, you’d find your boat at the end of this strip where you can also take your breakfast al fresco.





The Road to Malatapay


Malatapay Flea Market. Only on Wednesdays.




While I hardly give any real travel tips in my blogs (mainly I offer musings and ramblings, in case you missed that), let me advise you here and now to time your Apo Island visit on a Wednesday. The sights, the colors, the smell and the variety of goods for sale here are to be experienced.





An assortment of goods for sale. Malatapay Flea Market.


Dried Fish from Malatapay Market.



And the sounds? I know they speak Cebuano here but I didn’t miss hearing many conversations in Chavacano. After all, Zamboangita (next to Dauin) is not called that for nothing. That, plus the sound of livestock up for auction. You heard that right. They auction off animals here: cattle, pigs, goats. I found cattle lined up in a fenced area where men whispered their bids much like they do in fish markets. The goats were pulled by their masters, seemingly oblivious of their imminent fate. But the pigs. Oh, the pigs. They made the loudest noise of all. Makes me wonder if they’re the smartest of the lot. These pigs behaved like they knew their destiny as soon as those men offloaded them from carts pulled by tricycles. 😦





Cattle for sale. Live auction every Wednesday here in Malatapay.


These little piggies went to market…….




It wasn’t easy shifting one’s attention from the wailing animals to the fruits and vegetables for sale. Piglets stuffed into sacks? Poor thing. It doesn’t help that there are lechon (roasted pigs) stalls near the breakfast area. I could have sat down for a lechon breakfast near the wharf if not for those scandalous piglets!





I watched this man drag these pigs. My friends saw him put them — not without a fight — into sacks. So pathetic.


Quite honestly, the veggies for sale looked “tired”.


More dried fish. And so cheap!




Now, another piece of advice. Walk straight up to the end and ignore all the stalls. Have your lechon breakfast and savour the Malatapay version. There’s a table right in front of a Police Station where a local resident plays the saxophone while you’re having breakfast. For the win! After this sumptuous meal, go back to the market for the experience. (You’d feel guilty upon watching, hearing the pigs, but you’re done with the lechon by now)  Just don’t forget you have a boat to catch to go to Apo Island. Trust me, you wouldn’t wish to leave the island so late in the day to sail back to Malatapay. more so when it starts to rain and the wind blows stronger. Good luck!






The goats go to market.


Must be a MAMA pig. Malatapay residents are proud of their lechon.


Fine dining? Music from the saxophone for the win!

We hired a boat for whale and dolphin-watching and sailed out of Bais’ Capiñahan Wharf some 45 kilometers north of Dumaguete City. The plan is to have lunch in Manjuyod Sandbar but the boat captain dropped anchor only 15 minutes from the wharf so we can enjoy the sandbar before the tide rises later in the day.





Capiñahan Wharf in Bais, Negros Oriental. About 45 kms north of Dumaguete City.


The Sandbar belongs to Manjuyod town, near Bais.



We found the solar-powered cottages here looking like houses on stilts. The Manjuyod Sandbar stretches for 7 kilometers slicing the blue waters of South Bais Bay. Best during low tide, of course, as this piece of paradise is completely submerged when the tide rises. The first time we dropped anchor the water was knee-deep. Tempting to walk the whole stretch out of sheer curiosity but one never knows how fast the waters rise.





Just 10-15 minutes from Capiñahan Wharf you’d spot these solar-powered cottages on stilts.


Like huts floating on water during high tide. Cottages on stilts during low tide.



Right in the middle of the deep, blue sea. A perfect day to take a dip so long as one observes the “boundaries” left and right of the white sandbar. I can imagine myself setting up a table here with a bottle of wine and some pica-picas. But not today.





Time your visit when tide is low to enjoy this fine white sandbar.


Touchdown! Manjuyod Sandbar.




They say some dolphins can be seen this close to the sandbar. There were none. The boat crew said pods and pods of them can be found further along in Tañon Strait. We can wait. For the moment, we frolicked in the sandbar, spotted a starfish, careful to lift it for a closer look and dropping it right back into the water where it belongs.





Stretching all of 7kms, Manjuyod Sandbar slices right in the middle of the South Bais Bay. Paradise Found!


Sourced from the Net. A photo of the 7km. sandbar during low tide. Completely submerged when tide rises.




Just before sailing on towards the deeper section of Tañon Strait, we luckily spotted a fisherman with his singular heavy catch of the day. A GIANT SQUID! One can fit his whole arm inside it. How can you pass up this chance? We brought lunch but a grilled giant squid would be a great addition we can share with the boat crew. Everybody happy!





Spotted a fisherman with his freshly-caught giant squid.


I wonder how many kilos this giant squid weighed!




We returned to the sandbar for lunch. Happy to have the pleasure of meeting them dolphins in their natural playground. Lunch unpacked. Giant squid on the grill. We enjoyed our lunch even as it started to rain, wind growing stronger, tide rising. All’s well. We’re just 10-15 minutes from the wharf where our van is waiting to drive us back to Dumaguete City. Sandbar. Check. Dolphins. Check. Starfish. A bonus. Giant Squid. An even bigger bonus!





Lunch! A giant squid off Bais Bay. Enjoyed, grilled, in Manjuyod Sandbar.


You can’t do this just anywhere! Manjuyod Sandbar. Off Dumaguete City.



For the rest of our adventure on this day, check out my earlier blog on the Playful Dolphins of Bais / Tañon Strait. Happy travels, everyone.

Life is a celebration.

The gods smiled on us. After some rainshowers the first 2 days in Dumaguete, the bright sun and clear skies looked promising as we sailed from Bais wharf towards that area straddling between Cebu and Negros. Our boat — good for 15 pax — served all 4 of us well. We loved the “space”, allowing us to run up front, to the left or right sides of the boat, even to lie down on the long benches while the boat crew navigate along the Strait searching for pods of playful dolphins.





Our boat sailed out of Bais Wharf, an hour’s drive north of Dumaguete City.


If you’re lucky, you’d see dolphins near Manjuyod Sandbar just 10-15 minutes from the wharf.


The deep blue waters of Bais Bay and Tañon Strait is home to these intelligent mammals. I shrieked in delight as soon as I spotted some spinner dolphins playfully showing off from a distance. And these dolphins looked just as happy seeing us and swimming alongside our boat. Like children showing off their talents. Or like marine escorts leading us to more of their friends!





Playful, Intelligent Mammals in their very playground!


Dolphins, blue waters and blue-polished toenails 😉


None of us were fast enough to take a decent shot of those dolphins jumping up and out of the water. But it was still an awesome (pardon the overused word) animal adventure for us. Mimicking dolphin sounds, we enjoyed schools of them in the calm waters of the bay and further along Tañon Strait. Surely, this is their playground!




What a show off!


Swimming alongside of our boat, like marine escorts!



The strait spans 5 kilometers to as wide as 27 kilometers between Negros Oriental and Cebu provinces. But it was in the deep, wide sections of the Strait where we found more dolphins. No luck with the pygmy sperm whales, but the many show-off dolphins made up for the whales’ absence. What a thrill!




Glistening in the blue waters of Tañon Strait.


Up front, left and right of the boat. They’re everywhere!



Travel Tips: Go early and catch them dolphins during their feeding time. From Dumaguete, we drove less than an hour to Bais and took a boat. If the tide’s low, best to stop by Manjuyod Sandbar just 10-15 minutes boat ride from the wharf. If you’re lucky, you can already spot some dolphins here. Further on, you’d be literally surrounded by these far-from-shy creatures. As happy as can be. Them and you. Surely, Negros is so blessed with nature’s bounty!




Dolphins in the wilds. Far from shy.


Pawikan. Marine Turtle. Sea Turtle.


Turtle unmindful of nosy humans, on a feeding frenzy on a rich marine life.



Sea turtles or marine turtles. “Pawikan” as locals call them. I dreamed of swimming with them, but the idea scares me out of my wits. I thought of just waiting for them to break the surface as they quickly catch air but I was sure I didn’t brave a nearly one-hour boat ride to Apo Island just to see turtle heads. I’ve read enough to get me excited to meet some turtles as old as moí.




From the shore, you walk towards these gentle creatures who thrive on shallow coastal waters.

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Our diving guide said we saw only the green sea turtle. No hawksbill sea turtles, though if I saw one I really couldn’t tell one from the other. But the ones we found — some as big as an umbrella — were busy feeding on seagrass and algae while flipping their hind flippers completely unmindful of us humans. There were so many of them in shallow waters ( up to 8 – 15 feet? ) and some we spotted we found happily swimming around with barnacles on their hard shells.




Sea Turtles in Their ‘Retirement Village’ In Apo Island





Turtles live long lives and I wondered how many of those we spotted are “senior citizens” like us. As the waves and currents tossed us around, we marveled at the peacefulness of this marine sanctuary where these marine turtles live. Crossing my mind is a perfect “retirement village” for God’s sea creatures. No wonder they chose to live submerged even if they can live on land. It’s more peaceful down there. And lovelier too! Clown fish, sea snakes (they scare me), angel fish, and more marine citizens. How I wish I have turtle lungs too, able to suck in all that oxygen in one quick gulp when they surface from time to time. Wow, a what a lazy, blissful turtle’s life!



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The sanctuary is about an hour’s boat ride from the Malatapay Port in Zamboangita area, depending on how calm or rough the sea is. It took us 45 minutes to get there. And longer to get back. Malatapay has a vibrant flea market and livestock auction every Wednesday so you may want to time your Apo Island visit on a Wednesday. Malatapay is just an hour’s drive from Dumaguete City. Go early so you can time your return soon after lunch, which you can arrange in Apo Island Beach Resort.




Apo Island

The Rock

The Rock

Apo Beach Resort

Apo Beach Resort