Tag Archive: Philippine Travels



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.Ā 

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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.

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The Retablo

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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.

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The Flying Buttresses

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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.

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The Baptistery


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.

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

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The FAKE Tabernacle. Siquijor Heritage Museum. Lazi Convent.

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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!

 

 

 

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Lazi Convent. Rest, recreation and research!

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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.

 

 

 

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

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Lazi Convent. Midday. Siquijor.


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.

 

 

 

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The Road to Malatapay

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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.

 

 

 

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An assortment of goods for sale. Malatapay Flea Market.

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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. šŸ˜¦

 

 

 

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

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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!

 

 

 

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

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

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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) Ā 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!

 

 

 

 

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The goats go to market.

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

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Fine dining? Music from the saxophone for the win!


We hired a boat for whale and dolphin-watching and sailed out of Bais’ CapiƱahan 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.

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

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

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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 TaƱon 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.

 

 

 

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

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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 TaƱon 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!

 

 

 

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Spotted a fisherman with his freshly-caught giant squid.

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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!

 

 

 

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

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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 / TaƱon 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.

 

 

 

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

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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 TaƱon 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!

 

 

 

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Playful, Intelligent Mammals in their very playground!

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Dolphins, blue waters and blue-polished toenails šŸ˜‰


 

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 TaƱon Strait. Surely, this is their playground!

 

 

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What a show off!

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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!

 

 

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Glistening in the blue waters of TaƱon Strait.

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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!

 

 

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Dolphins in the wilds. Far from shy.