"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Friday, October 19, 2012

island hopping in the southern seas, island hopping in tawi-tawi

"There is no life that does not rise
melodic from scales of the marvelous."
-- Robert Duncan 

our island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi
this is part 5 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

day 3. april 23, 2011. black saturday.
adventure 1: island hopping -- bongao, tango, panglima sugala, sangasiapu, laa, pababag, pasiagan
adventure 2: destination: bud bongao
adventure 3: destination: balobok rock shelter in brgy. lakit-lakit
adventure 4: destination: provincial capitol

day 3, adventure 1 | our starts and stops
island hopping adventure in tawi-tawi
image source: google maps
(i provided the blue labels)

our third day in tawi-tawi started in rachel's place hotel and restaurant, where we waited for kuya jan to arrive in bongao from the nearby university town of sanga-sanga.

from rachel's place, we reached ridjiki boulevard, the public market, the old chinese pier, tango island, panglima sugala, sangasiapu island, laa island, pababag island, and pasiagan.

kuya jan
a friend from tawi-tawi

kuya jan is a resident of tawi-tawi and a member of the math and science faculty force of MSU-TCTO (mindanao state university - tawi-tawi college of technology and oceanography) a.k.a. MSU-tawi-tawi. we know each other because, some years ago, we were classmates in some major physics subjects in MSU-iligan.

the welcome gate of MSU-TCTO a.k.a. MSU-tawi-tawi 
as seen from the highway in sanga-sanga

last year, when kuya jan learned from basil -- a common friend of ours who also teaches in MSU-TCTO -- that i was heading to tawi-tawi with a travel buddy, he helped us in finalizing our itinerary and enthusiastically agreed to accompany kat and me in going around the area.

rachel's place hotel and restaurant
ilmon street, brgy. lamion, bongao, tawi-tawi

rachel's place hotel and restaurant

prior reaching tawi-tawi, kat reserved a room for the two of us in rachel's place, an easy-to-spot gated compound along the street not far from the town center. this two-storey hotel with a neat garden and restaurant was a convenient choice for our accommodation.

meeting alvin and kuya ibra
a fine morning in ridjiki boulevard, the bongao public market, and the old chinese pier

rachel's place and the old chinese pier in one map
image source: google maps
(i provided the blue labels)

kuya jan fetched kat and me from rachel's place and the three of us rode on a tricycle that took us to nearby ridjiki boulevard and the bongao public market close to the old chinese pier. a short walk along the busy boulevard and into the bustling public market brought us to one of the food shops there where kuya jan introduced us to two other locals -- his relatives, alvin and kuya ibra. both alvin and kuya ibra were especially requested by kuya jan  to accompany us in our DIY (do-it-yourself) tawi-tawi island hopping adventure.

kuya jan and alvin

kuya ibra | the seafarer

kuya jan really made sure that we had what we needed to cover without glitch the starts and stops which we listed in our itinerary -- our small group had a liaison guy in the person of alvin and we also had an able head seafarer in the person of kuya ibra whose boat, dream lover, was docked at the pier and ready to take us from island to island.

ridjiki boulevard (top), grilled fish & chicken at the public market (bottom left),
and part of the old chinese pier (bottom right)

before we set out to see our island destinations, we secured key supplies from the public market -- food for us and fuel for the boat. we bought puso (rice in coconut leaf pouch a.k.a. hanging rice), grilled fish, and grilled chicken for our planned picnic-style lunch.

dream lover
a literal dreamboat for tawi-tawi's crystal clear waters 

then, it was time to meet our boat at the pier. we walked on wooden planks which extended the bongao public market to the sea. everyone there seemed to be moving about and it's quite a really busy area. we passed by various business stalls and we had to move with caution around makeshift display areas to avoid hitting and/or stepping on assorted items for trade along the wooden walkway.

 docked at the pier | dream lover, the cute boat

amidst the hustle bustle, dream lover with her tranquil vibe, stood out. her combo of ivory white exterior and mint green interior gave her an over-all cool and cute look.

 kat and i with kuya ibra and dream lover

as soon as everyone -- kuya ibra, kat and i, kuya jan and alvin -- got on board and us passengers were comfortably seated, kuya ibra manoeuvred dream lover from her docking space and made her motor roar to life. we pulled out from the pier and set out to the blue, blue sea.

dream lover was at home in tawi-tawi's waters and proved to be up to her task of taking us from one island destination to the next in good time!

dream lover in tawi-tawi | the boat that brought us to our island stops

our first stop after leaving the vicinity of the bongao public market and the old chinese pier was a private tropical paradise known as tango island.

destination: tango island
the private island

tango island | tawi-tawi

tango island is surrounded by turquoise seawater and is blessed with a pretty coastline. the water around the island is so clear and calm that, despite the depth, healthy coral reefs are visible from the surface.

glimpses of tango island's natural treasures |  tawi-tawi

there is no need to snorkel nor to scuba dive to behold the natural underwater garden around this small island.  the place has white sand and is an ideal island paradise for those who love the sea, sun, and sand.

even the birds love to spend time there!

effortless birdwatching :) in tawi-tawi's tango island

to be continued...

breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier | the series

Monday, October 01, 2012

strolling in balisong country

"i'm walking on sunshine..."
-- walking on sunshine, lyrics

15th of november 2009
taal: the balisong and barong tagalog capital of the philippines
enjoying a sunday afternoon in this old town of good repute with claire and marissa

in southwestern luzon lies the heritage town of taal, one of the 31 municipalities of the first class province of batangas. it is a charming 4th class municipality located along the pansipit river, the main outlet of the famous taal lake to balayan bay.

the welcome marker to the heritage town of taal

taal is an ideal walking tour destination. within its territory are well-maintained ancestral houses and heritage structures -- a number of them are national historical landmarks -- which date back to the spanish colonial period. taal --  the idyllic town itself -- is a national historical landmark. it is also the balisong (butterfly fan knife) and barong tagalog capital of the philippines.

where is heritage town of taal in the province of batangas?
location of the municipality of taal with respect to the municipality of sto. tomas, batangas
image source: google maps
(i provided the red and light green labels)

it was one late morning on a sunday when claire, marissa, and i pursued a roadtrip to the town of taal from sto. tomas, batangas.

how we got there
bus ride from sto. tomas to lipa, jeepney ride from lipa to taal

we were supposed to ride a lemery-bound bus from the public market of sto. tomas but the buses that came our way were few and full. we opted instead to take a bus going to lipa and got down at the lipa bus stop in front of the local big ben. from there, we rode a public jeepney bound for lemery, batangas. we made sure not to go beyond our sunday afternoon destination by informing the driver that we're only going to the town of taal and not all the way to lemery.

destination: the heritage town of taal
walking around the national historical landmark

we knew we were in taal because we saw this! ,'-) | taal park 

when we arrived in taal, the streets were deserted. manny pacquiao's firepower fight with miguel cotto was still being aired on TV that time and, as expected with every pacquiao fight, most of the people were off the streets and busy paying attention to the bout. just as well for us girls who only wanted to hear about pacquiao's victory -- we were able to walk and look around taal's public market without being persistently approached to buy this or that and/or be asked if we wanted this or that.

our first stop, after taking a look at the public market and after having our sumptuous lunch of adobong dilawsinigang na maliputo at a local restaurant, was the taal basilica.

st. martin de tours basilica (basilica de san martin de tours)
a national historical landmark and the biggest catholic church structure in the far east

basilica de san martin de tours
"the church measures 88.6-m long, 48-m wide and 95-m high
with a 44.5-m high cupola."

dominating the town center of taal is the basilica de san martin de tours, a massive church built atop a hill overlooking taal lake and balayan bay. the existing adobe-and-coral structure was constructed in 1858 as commissioned by fr. marcos anton and designed by don luciano oliver but its history of being built, relocated, and rebuilt goes back far to the last quarter of the 16th century.

the church's interesting history is complete with volcanic eruption and destructive earthquake backdrop stories!

the basilica from different angles 
taal folk tip: go five steps down the stairs and you'll get a full view of the basilica in your frame

the basilica de san martin de tours, which is also often referred to as the taal basilica, is not just noteworthy in terms of size but also in terms of style. the southwest facing facade of this magnificent church is baroque in style but its main altar is doric. plus, its tabernacle is said to be one of its kind in the philippines as it is made of silver.

the main altar of the st. martin de tours basilica

left to right: the nave of the basilica and the right wing

the chandeliers, the pews, the floor, and the pulpit of the basilica

the right side entrance of the basilica

stairs that lead up to somewhere at the right side of the basilica

escuela pia
a national historical landmark and the taal cultural center

the present-day structure of the escuela pia, now the taal cultural center, was built by fr. aniceto aparicio in 1885. it is part of the taal park and stands close to the taal basilica.

perspective | part of the escuela pia in taal park and part of the taal basilica

according to the historical marker, the escuela pia is considered as one of the oldest educational institutions of the country. it was established as a church-supervised school and was named after the order of the piarists, the congregation established by jose de calazanz in the 17th century. the augustinians established it in 1839 and their convent served as a school for the underprivileged youth of taal. the escuela pia was also the central school during the american period.

the escuela pia | taal, batangas

walking around taal
more sights to see

within the immediate vicinity of the taal basilica in the town center are the rizal college, OLCA (our lady of caysasay academy), and the municipal hall of taal -- the casa real.

the rizal college of caysasay

gregorio agoncillo mansion
the white mansion in the poblacion

along taal's calle j.p. rizal is an attention-grabbing white mansion with manicured lawn. this is the house of don gregorio r. agoncillo, which is also known as the gregorio agoncillo museum, a national historical landmark.

the gregorio agoncillo mansion
the house where felipe agoncillo, the first philippine diplomat, was born

displayed in its front garden is a statue of felipe agoncillo, don gregorio's uncle and the first philippine diplomat (as he was appointed by general emilio aguinaldo to represent the philippine republic to the united states and to the treaty of paris in 1898). felipe agoncillo was born in this house -- this is probably the reason why the site is also sometimes referred to as the felipe agoncillo mansion. the house has a choice collection of period items and edwardian and spanish-inspired antique local furniture -- from the 1800s and early 1900s.

if the name felipe agoncillo does not ring a bell, perhaps the name marcela mariño agoncillo does. she was the woman responsible for making the philippine flag and felipe agoncillo was her husband. both of them were from taal, batangas.

the ylagan-de la rosa house
a heritage house along calle j.p. rizal

standing close to the white agoncillo mansion is the ylagan-de la rosa ancestral house, which is recognized by the national historical institute as a heritage house.

old world meets new world | the ylagan-de la rosa heritage house

walking on the streets of the heritage town of taal is like being transported back in time. if the ilocos region has vigan, southern luzon has taal.

some of the other old houses we saw in taal

calle for street and clinica for clinic | taal, batangas

yes, i think of taal as southern luzon's vigan and vigan as the ilocos region's taal. ,'-)

because "knife cuts like a knife..." :)

on our way back to sto. tomas, we made sure to stop by first in taal's brgy. balisong. why? because taal, batangas is THE balisong country!

taal is known for its national historical landmarks and well-preserved ancestral houses. it is also known for the piña cloth, the barong tagalog, fine needlework and high-quality embroidery by hand (burdang taal). it is also very known for the balisong (butterfly fan knife), which is also known as the batangas knife.

glistening batangas blades |  choose your balisong

top of the line stainless steel blades |  mga balisong sa brgy. balisong

it is in brgy. balisong that these pocket utility knives are traditionally well-crafted in various sizes and handle designs. when we went there, i finally saw for myself a real deal viente y nueve traditional balisong -- a 29-cm long butterfly fan knife.

see the comb? i soooo wanted the balisong comb (a comb is concealed between the handles instead of a glistening blade). i did not buy it because i really couldn't justify to myself a php600-worth stainless steel comb when a 5-peso plastic comb would do for my long hair. still, it's a neat piece of handiwork and very nice to have.

but... i did buy my own batangas knives from brgy. balisong that sunday afternoon. (--,) actually, i bought three -- 2 functional ones (1 with old wood detail & another one with horse bones) and a mini balisong keychain.

marissa, claire, and i | sunday afternoon bliss in taal, batangas

i like it there in heritage town of taal so going back there should be in order soon. for one, i want to see the ruins of st. martin de tours church in brgy. san nicolas. i also want to visit the other sites that are listed here and shown on this map which we missed during our afternoon tour -- the marcela agoncillo house, the leon apacible museum, the villavicencio houses, the san lorenzo arch & steps, among others. plus, i want to taste again sinigang na maliputo and adobong dilaw and to experience the rest of taal's food treats. if possible, i'd also like to take a look at the silent "king of bells" housed in the restored dome of the taal basilica.

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