Welcome to Marinduque-My Island Paradise

If this is your first time in my site, welcome! If you have been a follower, my heartfelt thanks to you, also. Help me achieve my dream, that someday, Marinduque will become a world tourist destination not only on Easter Week, but also whole year round. You can do this by telling your friends and relatives about this site. The photo above is Mt Malindig in Torrijos.
Please do not forget to read the latest national and international news in this blog . Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on the infringement of your copyrights. Cheers!

Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands

Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands
View of Mainland Marinduque from Tres Reyes Islands-Click on Photo to link to Marinduque Awaits You

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ati-atihan Festival of Aklan


The Ati-Atihan Festival is a feast held annually in January in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus), concluding on the third Sunday, in the island and town of Kalibo, Aklan in the Philippines. The festival consists of tribal dance, music, accompanied by indigenous costumes and weapons, and parade along the street. Christians, and non-Christians observe this day with religious processions.
History

A 13th century (c.1200 A.D.) event explains the origins of the festival. A group of 10 Malay chieftains called Datus, fleeing from the island of Borneo settled in the Philippines, and were granted settlement by the Ati people, the tribes of Panay Island. The Ati-Atihan was originally a pagan festival from this tribe practicing Animism, and their worshiping their anito god. Spanish missionaries gradually added a Christian meaning. Today, the Ati-Atihan is celebrated as a religious festival..

The people attend masses for the Santo Niño, and benefit dances sponsored by government organizations. The formal opening mass emphasizes the festival’s religious event. The procession begins with a rhythmic drumbeats, and dances parading along the street. The second day begins at dawn with a rosary procession, which ends with a community mass, and procession. The highlight of the festival occurs on the last day, when groups representing different tribes compete. The festival ends with a procession of priest carrying torches, and different images of the Santo Niño. The contest winners are announced at a masquerade ball which officially ends the festival.

Other festivals held in the region include.

Dinagyang of Iloilo, Halaran of Capiz, Binirayan of Antique ,MassKara of Bacolod and
Biniray Festival of Romblon, Romblon.

Note: This is No.3 on a series of articles on Philippines Festivals and Fiestas

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sinulog Festival of Cebu


The Sinulog is an annual festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, Philippines. The festival honors the vision of the child Jesus, known as the Santo Niño (Holy Child),who used to be the patron Saint of the City of Cebu (since in the Catholic faith Jesus is not a saint, but God). It is a dance ritual that commemorates the Cebuano people's Islamic and pagan origin, and their acceptance of Roman Catholicism.
The festival features a street parade with participants in bright colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs. Smaller versions of the festival are held in various parts of the province, also to celebrate and honor the Santo Niño. There is also a "Sinulog sa Kabataan" performed by the youths of Cebu a week before the parade. Recently, the festival has been promoted as a tourist attraction, with a contest featuring contingents from various parts of the country. The Sinulog Contest is usually held in the Cebu City Sports Complex.

The Sinulog celebration lasts for nine days, culminating on the final day with the Sinulog Grand Parade. The day before the parade, the Fluvial Procession is held at dawn with a statue of the Santo Niño carried on a pump boat from Mandaue City to Cebu City, decked with hundreds of flowers and candles. The procession ends at the Basilica where a re-enactment of the Christianizing (that is, the acceptance of Roman Catholicism) of Cebu is performed. In the afternoon, a more solemn procession takes place along the major streets of the city, which last for hours due to large crowd participating in the event. It is noted that excessive alcohol consumption is commonly observed at this event. On the feast day at the Basilica del Santo Niño church, a Pontifical Mass is celebrated by the Cardinal with the assistance of several bishops of Cebu. Most devotees go to the Basilica to attend the mass before heading out to the streets to watch the parade.

The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which is "like water current movement," which describes the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance. The dance consists of two steps forward and one step backward, done to the sound of drums. The dance is categorized into Sinulog-base, Free-Interpretation. Candle vendors at the Basilica continue to perform the traditional version of the dance when lighting a candle for the customer, usually accompanied by songs in the native language.

The Sinulog dance steps were believed to originate from Rajah Humabon's adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon's grief when Baladhay was driven sick. He then ordered his native tribe to bring Baladhay into a chapel where the Santo Niño was enthroned. Moments later, surprisingly, Baldhay was heard shouting and was found dancing with outmost alertness. Baladhay was questioned as to whether why was he awake and was shouting. Baladhay explained that he found a small child, pointing to the image of the Santo Niño, on top of him and trying to wake him up. He, at great astonishment, scared the child away by shouting but couldn't explain why he was dancing the movements of the river. Up to this day, the two-steps forward, and the one-step backward movement dance is still used by the Santo Niño devotees believing that it was the Santo Niño's choice to have Baladhay dance.

Note: This is No.2 on a series of articles on Philippine Festivals and Fiestas

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pintados and Kasadya-an Festival, Leyte



The Pintados Festival is a cultural-religious celebration in Tacloban, Leyte based on the body-painting traditions of the ancient tattooed "pintados" warriors. In 1986,the Pintados Foundation, Inc. was formed by the people of Tacloban to organize this festival in honor of Sr. Santo Niño. It was merged with the Kasadyaan Festival, a brainchild of former Leyte Governor Remedios "Matin" Petilla, years later. It is always held on JUNE 30. This fiesta is similar to the Ati-atihan of Aklan, the Sinulog of Cebu and the Dinagyang of Iloilo. Have you attended any one out of the four festivals in this post?
Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan, Sinulog of Cebu and Dinagyang of Iloilo




Note: This is No 1 on a series of articles on Festivals and Fiestas in the Philippines.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Latest Videos of Bellarocca Resort and Spa, Marinduque



Located between the southeastern portion of Luzon and Mindoro islands, Marinduque province is flanked from four sides: North, South, Northeast and Southwest by the Tayabas Bay, Sibuyan Sea, Mompoy Bay and Tayabas Strait, respectively.
Bellarocca Island is situated off the south west coast of the Marinduque, characterized by seaside cliffs, valleys, hills, plains and, upcountry, hot springs, waterfalls and underwater flora and fauna. Aimed at integrating leisure resort operations with a holistic wellness facility, Bellarocca features a total of 69 accommodations designed with relaxation and luxury in mind. Bellarocca offers fresh and modern accommodation spaces beautifully appointed in classic Mediterranean architecture fused with local cultural flavors and influences.

Bellarocca from Pretentious on Vimeo.





Discerning travellers in search of their next unexplored destination need to look no further than the Philippine Islands. With its white Santorini-inspired architecture on rolling terrain contrasted with the azure blue of the sky above and the clear water below, Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa offers a fantastic experience unlike any other place in the Philippines and across South-East Asia.

An integrated resort, spa and lifestyle island destination, Bellarocca opened its doors to the public last February 2009 and is now full operations since the last quarter of 2010.

Note: This is No.5 of the series of articles on beach resorts in the Philippines.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Boracay, Aklan-Regency Hotel and Convention Center


This series of articles about Philippines beaches will not be complete if I do not write about a beach resort in Boracay. There must be more than 100 beach resorts, hotels, boarding rooms and other accommodations (condos, private homes, apartments)in this most popular beach resort in Southeast Asia ranging from 1 star to 5 stars.

I have visited Boracay only once in the mid 1990's, but Macrine has been to Boracay two times. Her first time was with me and the second time was with our 4 adult children and three grand children from California in 2007. They stayed at the Regency Beach Resort and Convention Center, a 4-star hotel. They had a grand time and were very please with their accommodation and experience at the Regency.

In my case, I swear I will never visit Boracay again because of the crowds and circus atmosphere of the island. To me, a beach vacation must be quite, peaceful and a lot of solitude, not night clubs, crowds and mayhem. The following video shows both the commercial and non-commercial side of the island.


Boracay is an island of the Philippines located approximately 315 km (200 miles) south of Manila and 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. In 1990, it was voted by the BMW Tropical Beach Handbook as one of the best beaches in the world and again in 1996 by British publication TV Quick as the world's number one tropical beach.

The island comprises the barangays of Manoc-Manoc, Balabag, and Yapak (3 of the 17 barangays which make up the municipality of Malay), and is under the administrative control of the Philippine Tourism Authority in coordination with the Provincial Government of Aklan. The island was originally home to the Ati tribe. Boracay is part of Aklan Province, which became an independent province on April 25, 1956.

Years ago, Boracay Island was an almost possessively guarded secret so that only a few knew of its existence. Tourism only began to develop in the 1970s, when, it is said, a foreign movie crew accidentally "discovered" this island paradise. Others maintain that it was the German traveler, 'Jens Peters' book, which included rave reviews of Boracay that changed the island’s pace from that of being a quiet secret to eventually being voted as having the best beach in the world. Whichever story is true, it was around this time that Boracay Island slowly ceased to be a private hangout for travelers. In the 1980s, the island became popular with backpackers. Since then, Boracay has gradually become more and more a cosmopolitan tourism destination and, in the 21st century has become, one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.


Note: This is No.4 of the series of articles on beaches in the Philippines that have attracted my attention.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lagen Island Resort, El Nido, Palawan



The Philippines has a lot of great tourist places to offer foreigners. From it’s great flora and fauna to the great marine life. However the best things that Philippines have to offer are the beautiful beaches. The beaches in the Philippines offer great white sands. If you want to go to a beach where there are lots of people where you can interact with, Boracay is the place to go. If you want to go to a very secluded place just away from it all the beaches in Palawan are best suited for you.
El Nido is a place in Palawan (south western province in the Philippines) that offers a great way to relax without too many people. El Nido is a municipality that is found on the north western tip of Palawan. It is 240 kilometers north-west of Puerto Princesa City, (Palawan's capital) and 430 kilometers south-west of Manila.

They have the same quality of beaches that can be found in the famous Boracay. El Nido has been declared a protected area because of its geology and diverse wildlife.

The fastest and best way to go to El Nido is from Manila. You can catch a plane flight from the Island Transvoyager Inc. They have daily flights using a Dornier 228 aircraft that is capable to seat 19 people. The travel time from Manila is only an hour and thirty minutes. You will land directly at El Nido’s airport.

The trip will be made much effortless because the plane reservations can be made by the resort you choose. After arriving at the airport, you will be met by the resort’s staff. They will then transfer you to a motorized outrigger boat that will take you for a scenic ride going to the resort. It will then take you another 30 to 40 minutes riding the boats to arrive to the resorts itself.


The two resorts that the tourist can go to El Nido are Lagen Island and Miniloc Resorts. Lagen Island is a set in a cove that is fringed by a lush forest that gives you an experience of being in a tropical hideaway. It is the most luxurious resort in the area. While Miniloc Island Set in a cove surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs. Miniloc resort provides the guest with beach lined with coconut trees that has fine white sand, Thatched-roof cottages made from local materials, and clear waters full of marine life.

One of the things that concerns tourist to go Palawan is the security. Because of past events that some people have been taken away by terrorist groups, people have become afraid to visit the island. In truth, the place is a very safe place and has very well security measures now. El Nido resorts have very strict security because their securities are working hand in hand with the military and national police forces of the Philippine government. As a disclaimer, I can not guarentee your safety to Palawan as of this writing date ( see travel warning to the Philippines)


Note: This is No.3 of a series of articles on Beach Resorts in the Philippines that attracted my attention. .

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Samal Island, Davao

Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Davao Philippines

One of the beach resorts in the Philippines that has been in my dream list is the Pearl Farm Beach Resort in Samal Island, Davao. I first learned about this resort several years ago in the National Geographic Magazine or was that in the Architectural Digest? I am having attacked of senior moments syndrome, right now. so forgive me, Anyway,
"-Here's information from the brochure of this luxurious beach resort in Samal Island, Davao, Philippines, so judge it for yourself. As a disclaimer, I have no way of checking this out, since I have not been to this resort. But I have friends who had stayed in this resort and informed me that the place is fantastic if not a little bit expensive. For current rates,visit their website:www.pearlfarmresort.com

Nestled In the idyllic islands of Samal & Malipano,The Pearl Farm Beach Resort is a former cultivation farm for luxurious south sea pearls. Now, it continues its essence of prime luxury as a premier destination resort of Fuego Hotels and as a perfect hideaway for those in search of blissful retreat. Here's a short video for your viewing pleasure.


The Pearl farm beach resort offer deluxe accommodations with 73 guestrooms, suites, cottages on stilts perched above the sea, and exclusive villas designed from Maranao & Samal ethnic influences in both materials and form. The interiors’ decorative details and multi hued patterns Reflect the islands vibrant culture as inspired by
the regions rich tribal ancestry. Malipano Island, a secluded isle located a few hundred meters of Samal island, is where 7 exclusive villas of the resort are nestled, facing a pristine white-sand beach and bordered with lush gardens".

Hilltop Rooms or Balay House (16 Standard Rooms)The Hilltop Rooms or Balay Houses (two buildings) are located on the hillside. All rooms are furnished with native materials and decor. The rooms are air-conditioned, equipped with mini-bar facilities, hot & cold shower, cable television and telephone. All rooms have a garden view and most rooms have a panoramic view of the sea from the verandas. The Game Room is located at the Balay 1, equipped with different board games, Chess table, Billiard and Mahjong sets.

• Samal House (19 Superior Rooms)
The Samal Houses are built on stilts on the water. They are patterned after the houses of the Samal tribe of Mindanao, who are seafarers. All rooms are air-conditioned, with separate toilet & bath, coffee & tea facilities, safety deposit boxes, hairdryer and cabled televisions.All rooms have balconies where you can see schools of tropical fishes. The rooms are beautifully appointed with the bright colors of pink, yellow and blue of the Samal tribe.

• Sunset Suite (1 Suite Room)

The Sunset Suite is built on stilts on the water. Tagged as suite room. Patterned after the houses of the Samal tribe of Mindanao, who are seafarers. Room is air-conditioned, with separate toilet & bath, coffee & tea facilities, safety deposit boxes, hairdryer and cabled televisions. With separate living room and a spacious veranda where you can see schools of tropical fishes. The rooms are beautifully appointed with the bright colors of pink, yellow and blue of the Samal tribe.

Mandaya Houses (20 Deluxe Rooms)
The Mandaya Houses are located near the aqua sports area of the resort. The Mandaya Houses surround the Mandaya swimming pool (one of the 2 pools in the resort).

All rooms are air-conditioned with mini-bar, coffee & tea facilities, hairdryer, safety deposit boxes and cable television. The rooms are spacious enough that it can accommodate a third person. It also has a spacious dressing area. A small pocket garden is located at the back of each room. All rooms are adjoining or two rooms are joined to form one house.
• Samal Suite (6 Executive Suites)
The Samal Suite rooms are two-storey Muslim inspired cottages. The suites are named and decorated according to the different Mindanao tribes such as the Tausug, Yakan, T’boli, Bagobo, B’laan and Maguindanao. The upper room of the Samal Suite is the masters’ bedrrom, with a King-sized bed. A master’s bedroom with a bathtub is also well appointed. The lower room is the living room, which is convertible into a bedroom and is very ideal for families with up to 3 children. A sofa bed with a trundle bed can be arranged. A second toilet and bath facility can also be found on the lower level.
The rooms are also air-conditioned, equipped with a well-stocked mini-bar, coffee & tea facilities, hair dryer, safety deposit box and cable television. The Samal Suites have private stairs that lead to the water.
• Malipano Villa (7 Villas)
The Malipano Villas or big houses located at Malipano Island, a secluded island across the resort. There are two types of Villas: five villas have3 bedrooms and two villas have 4 bedrooms. All villas are air-conditioned, equipped with mini-bar, coffee & tea facilities, safety box (located at the master’s bedroom), cable television, spacious living room and hair dryers. All rooms have individual toilet and bath, with the master bathroom having a bathtub. Butler service is available for food orders and other guests assistance. A standby speedboat is available to transport the guests to the restaurant and other facilities at Pearl Farm. The villas have a wide veranda where a small barbecue party can be organized for its guests complete with cooks and waiters.

Pearl Farm Facilities & Services
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A wide array of facilities & services are available for both vigorous guests and those who prefer to simply take it easy.

• Aqua Sports Center- Rents out speed boats & outrigger boats for cruising, jet-skis, banana boat rides, kayaks, Hobie cats, snorkeling gear and has certified instructors for wind-surfing, water-skiing and scuba diving (Two (2) sunken World War II Japanese vessels await discovery from scuba divers, just 60 meters away from the resort.
• Two (2) Swimming Pools
•Ylang Ylang Spa- Offers a wide range of beauty and health treatments such as wraps, facials, body massage and foot spas - available as individual treatments or in indulgent packages.
• Tennis/Basketball /Badminton Court- Tennis lessons are available with prior arrangements.
• Game Room- Offers a lot of fun games giant board games, billiards, fooze ball, air hockey and other games for family and friends to enjoy. Located at the Balay 1 building.
• Conference Room-Designed to allow total concentration necessary for power meetings and conferences. Accommodates up to 70 persons.
• Parola Bar-Enjoy the different beverage concoctions while taking pleasure of the stunning view of the sea, beautiful sunset and a view of Mt. Apo. Parola bar also has videoke for guests who love to sing and stand out.
• Maranao Restaurant-The Maranao Restaurant features delicious Filipino and International cuisine with fresh seafood specialties. Enjoy cocktails at the Parola Bar with inspiring view of the sea and the nearby islands.
• Malipano Gazebo-Located at the Malipano Island, the Malipano Gazebo is perfect venue for special parties and functions. With a view that entices the natural beauty of the sea and the mountain ranges of Samal.
• Butik- A souvenir shop which offers a variety of local handicrafts, native outfits and even the latest in trendy beachwear. Limited basic toiletries and necessities are also available.
• Mandaya Weaving Center- Enjoy the scene of Mandaya tribeswomen as they skillfully weave their traditionally exotic and colorful handbags, mats, clothing and other ornamentation at the Weaving Center located near the Maranao Restaurant. The cloth used is locally used as “Dagmay” distinguished by the intricate figures and patterns depicting the tribal folklore and religion.
• Other Services- Babysitting, Business Office (internet access, facsimile services)

Note: This is No.2 of a series of articles on Beach Resorts in the Philippines that attracted my attention. Just want to let all of you my readers that I am not paid to write this article.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cuernavaca and Acapulco, Mexico


Macrine resided in Cuernavaca for 30 days in the summer of 1982. As part of her post graduate training in Spanish,she signed up for a 30-day-live-in language immersion program in one of the language schools of the city. From San Francisco she flew to Mexico City and a representative of the school drove her to the residence of her host family in Cuernavaca. For 30 days she was not allowed to speak English, but only Spanish, unless it is an emergency. This was one of her best experiences in learning the Spanish language. At the end of 30 days, she spoke Spanish like a native Mexican or Castillan. She needed this experience to be certified as a trilengual( Spanish, English and Filipino) Public Health Nurse for the Contra Costa County Visiting Nurses Association, her employer at that time.

Two days before graduation the class of 20 spent one day and one night experiencing the sights and sounds of Acapulco, Mexico, which is not too far from Cuernavaca. From Acapulco, they flew back to San Francisco via Mexico City, where I picked her up. It was the best 30 days she spent without me all hovering over her. Macrine told me this is one experience she will cherish in her memory forever.

Cuernavaca was nicknamed "city of eternal spring" by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. The city is located in a tropical region but its temperature is kept fairly constant in the 70's F. It is located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains. In the morning, warm air flows from the valley below and in the late afternoon, cooler air flows down from the higher elevations. This climate has attracted royalty and nobles from Aztec times. Most of the Aztec emperors called Cuernavaca their summer residence. Foreign princes, archdukes and other nobles have been attracted to this place because of its flowers, sun, fruits, fresh-water springs and waterfalls. The Shah of Iran had a house here as well as the sculptor, the late John Spencer, relative of Princess Diana.

Cuernavaca (Spanish pronunciation: [kweɾnaˈβaka]; Classical Nahuatl: Cuauhnāhuac [kʷawˈnaːwak]) is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos in Mexico. Established at the archeological site of Gualupita I by the Olmecs, "the mother culture" of Mesoamerica, approximately 3200 years ago. It is also a municipality located about 85 km (53 mi) south of Mexico City on the D-95 freeway.

The city has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of this warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and even today many famous people as well as Mexico City residents maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.

The name "Cuernavaca" is derived from the Nahuatl phrase Cuauhnahuac, and means "surrounded by or close to trees." The name was eventually Hispanicized to Cuernavaca because the Spanish could not pronounce the Nahuatl name. The coat-of-arms of the municipality consists of a tree trunk with three branches with foliage, and four roots colored red. There is a cut in the trunk in the form of a mouth, from which emerges a grey swirl.


Macrine and her 20 classmates along with their teachers(as Chaperons)spent one day and one night partying and celebrating their graduation from language school. They visited most of the tourist spots in Acapulco including the Cliffs where the divers show their diving skills and fearless activity for the tourists.


Acapulco (officially known as Acapulco de Juárez) is a city, municipality and major sea port in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, 300 kilometres (190mi) southwest from Mexico City. Acapulco is located on a deep, semi-circular bay and has been a port since the early colonial period of Mexico’s history. It is a port of call for shipping and cruising lines running between Panama and San Francisco, California, United States. The city of Acapulco is the largest in the state, far larger than the state capital Chilpancingo and as well, Mexico's largest beach resorted city.

The city is best known as one of Mexico’s oldest and most well-known beach resorts, which came into prominence by the 1950s as a getaway for Hollywood stars and millionaires. Acapulco is still famous for its nightlife and still attracts many vacationers, although most are now from Mexico itself. The resort area is divided into two: The north end of the bay is the “traditional” area, where the famous in the mid 20th century vacationed and the south end is dominated by newer luxury high rise hotels.

Note: This is No. 15 (Part 2) and last of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I (not this time) had visited outside the US since 1960.

Conclusion: This concludes the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had either resided or visited within and outside the US since 1960. As a summary, we had resided in four States, California, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland. We enjoyed our stay in the three cities in California,(Modesto, Pinole and Fair Oaks). We will always remember our five years in Chicago, Illinois as well as our five years in Kansas City, Missouri. Most of all, the happiest place that we had lived was our 12 years in Colesville, Maryland- a suburb of Washington, D.C. The coldest winter of our lives was of course in Chicago. But the warmest winter of our lives besides, the Philippines was in Pinole, California.

We had also visited twenty nine(29)* other places in the US( including the Hawaiian Islands) and fifteen (15) other places outside the US ( Aruba, Canada, The Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Morocco and Puerto Rico). Macrine and I will never forget these experiences as long as we live.

* These do not include ten other places in the US that I had visited in connection with my work activities (business travel) as a Research Chemist for Chevron and Stauffer Chemical Companies and as a Chemistry Team Leader for FDA, Center of New Drugs in Silver Spring, MD.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada


On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. On our way to Toronto from Bufallo, New York we passed by Niagara Falls both on the US side as well as the Canadian side. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the waterfalls and spent more than two hours taking pictures and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the Falls. In our entourage were 10 members of MI, Inc from the Washington, D.C. area.
Niagara Falls at Night
This was our second time to enjoy Niagara Falls and its surrondings. Macrine and I first visited Niagara Falls in the summer of 1985. We stayed for three days and had plenty of time enjoying the scenic and very rural Canadian country side up North of the Falls. We specially enjoyed the Falls at Night. Here's a short video of the Falls as viewed from both sides. Do not forget to view the related video of the Falls at Night.


Niagara Falls is a Canadian city of 83,184 (as of 2008) residents on the Niagara River in the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario. Across the river is Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara Falls Ontario was incorporated on June 12, 1903.

The city is dominated by Niagara Falls, a world famous set of two large waterfalls on the Niagara River and benefits from the fact that both falls, the American and Horseshoe, can be best seen from the Canadian side of the river, thus presenting the city one of the major tourist attractions of the world. The natural spectacle brings in millions of tourists yearly. The city permitted the development of a tourist area along the falls and the gorge. This area which stretches along the Niagara River parkway and tourist promenade is particularly concentrated at the brink of the falls and, apart from the natural attractions along the river, includes huge parking lots, souvenir shops, observation towers, high-rise-hotels, casinos and theatres, mostly with colourful neon billboards and advertisements. Further to the north or south there are golf courses alongside historic sites from the War of 1812.

Note: This No. 14( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico- from San Diego, CA


In 1994 during the weekend before the ACS Meeting in San Diego, Macrine and I took a sightseeing excursion to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico from San Diego. There are two ways to visit Ensenada from San Diego. One is by bus and the other by sea. We took the sea route ( about 70 minutes). There was plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing. The tour took only about 11 hours total. We purchased a few Mexican souvenirs( Indian blankets) and enjoyed a typical Mexican lunch. I did not show any symptoms of sea sickness in the incoming sea trip, but at the return trip, the sea was choppy and I throw up. I swear, I will never take another cruise because of that experience, inspite of Macrine's urging to take another cruise ( perhaps to Alaska during summer).

Ensenada (full name: Ensenada De Todos Santos, which means "Cove of all Saints" in English), or Port of Ensenada for its port, is the third-largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California. It is located 116 km (about 70 miles) south of Tijuana. The city had a 2005 census population of 260,075, with the municipality having 413,481.

Ensenada is also the municipal seat of Ensenada Municipality, one of the five into which the state is divided. Ensenada is locally referred as La Cenicienta del Pacífico (The Cinderella of the Pacific).
Located in the Bahía de Todos Santos — an inlet of the Pacific Ocean — Ensenada is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship port of call. There is also a navy base, an army base and a military airfield, which functions as an airport of entry into Mexico.



The city is backed by small mountain ranges. Due to its location on the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean latitude, the weather tends to be mild year-round. Although the winter rain season is short and the area is prone to prolonged droughts, Ensenada sits in the heart of a wine country that is widely regarded as the best in Mexico and the Americas with the Napa Valley in California. It is said that the first vitis vinifera made it to the peninsula (specifically to the San Ignacio Mission) in 1703, when Jesuit Padre Juan de Ugarte planted the first vineyards there.



Note: This is No.13 (Part 2) of a series of article on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toronto and Vicinity, Ontario, Canada



On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. We spent half a day, touring the downtown area of Toronto and had lunch in a friends house in Mississauga, Ontario. I wish we had more time to see Toronto. The three days was not enough since during the day, we attended all the sessions discussing preparation for our next Medical Mission to Marinduque. Here are two videos on 10 things to do and interesting places in the city of Toronto, Capital of Ontario, Canada.


Toronto (pronounced /təˈrɒntoʊ/, colloquially /ˈtrɒnoʊ/ or /təˈrɒnoʊ/) is the provincial capital of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and is part of a densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, which is home to over 8.1 million residents—approximately 25% of Canada's population. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,113,149, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 5,555,912 in the 2006 Census.

As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group and is one of the top financial centres in the world. Toronto's leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism and sports industries. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's eighth largest in terms of market value, is headquartered in the city, along with the most Canadian corporate headquarters of a major Canadian city.

Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, as about 49% of the population were born outside of Canada. Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. In addition, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive Canadian city in which to live in 2006. Residents of Toronto are called Torontonians.

I have a sister, a nephew and several relatives residing in the Toronto area.

Note: This is No 12 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One week of Fun, Sun and Casino Gambling in Aruba



On November 17 to 24, 2001, Macrine and I spent one week of fun, sun and casino gambling in the tropical island of Aruba. Again, this was through our International Interval Vacation Exchange Program. We stayed at the La Cabana Beach and Racquet Club in Oranjestad, Aruba. A casino is just about two blocks from our resort. Complimentary bus service to the Casino is available 24 hours at 30 minutes interval. Macrine and I had fun in the Casino playing the slot machines.

Oranjestad is the capital city of the island. Our son David III went with us, since we had a 2-bedroom suite. We drove around the island stopping at all the tourist attractions, seeing cactus and desert vegetations, windmills, lighthouses, rugged coastlines, natural rock bridges and an old chapel(Alta Vista). Another interesting
facts about Aruba are the presence of several modern Desalination Water Plants which convert salt water from the ocean to fresh water for drinking and household use.
Oranjestad, Capital City of Aruba

Aruba (pronounced /əˈruːbə/ ə-ROO-bə) is a 33km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27km north of the coast of Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

Aruba, which has no administrative subdivisions, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten. Aruban citizens hold Dutch passports. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) and is densely populated with its estimated 103,000 people. It lies outside the hurricane belt.



The last couple of years tourism has declined in Aruba due to the publicity of the murder /disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager visiting the island in 2005. The suspect, Joran Van Der Sloot, is presently in jail in Peru for the murder of a young Peruvian woman. The body of Natalie had never been recovered. In a recent news (11/1/10),the mother of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway spoke out for the first time about an alleged extortion attempt by Joran Van Der Sloot, the lead suspect in her daughter's disappearance, in which he offered to "bring Natalee" in exchange for $250,000.

"He was ready to tell the truth and lead me to the truth and lead me to Natalee's remains," Beth Twitty told Dutch reporter Peter De Vries in a new Dutch documentary.

Today, I have no desire to revisit Aruba for the above reason(safety of tourists).

Note: This is No. 11 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

San Juan, Puerto Rico and Vicinity


In January 19 to 26, 1996, Macrine and I spent one glorious week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We stayed at the El San Juan Towers, a four star resort in Carolina, PR not too far from Old San Juan. This is in conjunction with our International Interval Exchange Vacation Program. Our travel was arranged by Ober United Travel Agency in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During this seven days, we were able to drive up to Luquillo with a stop over at the El Yunque Carribean National Forest. However most of 7 days we spent around Old San Juan and the beach and swimming pool of our resort. A couple of nights we went to the casino in the nearby San Juan Hotel for dinner and a little gambling.


San Juan is a major port and tourist resort of the West Indies and is the oldest city under the U.S flag. The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort area, and other outlying communities, the most important: Río Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce. Río Piedras was founded in 1714 but became incorporated into San Juan in 1951.
During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to charter or settle unknown parts of the New World. Its fortifications repulsed the English navigator Sir Francis Drake in 1595, as well as later attacks.
In the 20th century the city expanded beyond its walled confines, known as Old San Juan, to incorporate suburban Miramar, Santurce, Condado, Hato Rey and Río Piedras.

San Juan is the largest processing center of the island, the metropolitan area has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling and produces cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products clothing, and tobacco. The port is one of the busiest in the Caribbean. San Juan is the country's financial capital, and many U.S. banks and corporations maintain offices or distributing centers there. San Juan is center of Caribbean shipping and is the 2nd largest sea port in the area (after New York City).


Old San Juan is located on a small and narrow island which lies in the north coast, about 35 miles (56 km) from the east end of Puerto Rico, and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by the three bridges. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by San Juan Bay or "Bahia of San Juan" which lies between the city and the mainland. On a bluff about 100 feet (30 m) high at the west end of the island and commanding the entrance to the harbor rise the battlements of Fort San Felipe del Morro, in which there is a lighthouse.

The "Caño de San Antonio" lies also in South Coast and extends to the Southeast where the island of Old San Juan connects to the mainland through Santurce by three bridges, "Puente Dos Hermanos" (Ave. Ashford), "Puente G. Esteves" (Ave. Ponce de León) and "Puente San Antonio" (Ave. Fernández Juncos).
Old San Juan

The city is characterized by its narrow, blue cobblestone streets and flat-roofed brick and stone buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century when Puerto Rico was a Spanish possession. Near Fort San Felipe del Morro is the Casa Blanca, a palace on land which belonged to the family of Ponce de Leon.

Note: This is No.10 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cancun,Tulum and the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

The Mayan Ruins of Tulum
On September 10 to 17, 1994, Macrine and I along with Ditas spent one week in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed at the Royal Mayan Resort. The Royal Mayan and the adjoining Royal Carribean are 5 stars resorts in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Hotel zone is a 14 mile strip with more than 100 hotels ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars. Travel arrangement was made by Worlddex Travel via our International Interval Exchange Vacation membership. Our 7 days of relaxation and sight seeing was INDEED VERY MEMORABLE. We were almost tempted to purchase another week of vacation time-share since the cost was much cheaper than our home resort in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. However, reasons prevail since at this time we were starting to save for the construction of our retirement home in Marinduque, Philippines. The Royal Mayan Hotel has a swimming pool with a bar in the middle. In addition, there is another bar at the ocean side where the water was warmed and crystal clear and the sand powdery white just like sugar. One day we took a one hour cruise aboard the galleon ship "Columbus" in the beautiful lagoon across our hotel. Ditas participated in the canoe race at the Yatch Club just across the hotel. We eat lunch at the Captain's Cove and dinner at the Gypsy Restaurant. This was Ditas treat to us, since she was occupying the second bedroom of our suite for free. A Flamingo Guitarist and Spanish Dancers were the entertainers for the night. We also went shopping both at the open flea markets in downtown Cancun as well as in several air-conditioned malls of the city. One day we visited the Mayan Ruins Of Tulum and another day at the ruins of Chichen Itza. These two places is a must see if you love history and archaelogy. We inquired on two island tours-Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, but were running out of time and decided not to take it. The following video show the highlights of Chichen Itza and Tulum.

There are several Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. But we visited only two.
1.Chichen Itza - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Chichen Itza archaeological site is the most visited Mayan site on the peninsula. Eighteen structures have been restored over the years. Pyramid Kukulcan is the tallest of them and allows a view from the top of all Chichen Itza. During the Spring and Fall equinoxes, (March 21 & Sept 21) the setting sun creates shadows down the steps of the pyramid that resemble a snake descending. This is a popular event to see and usually draws big crowds.

2. Tulum - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoTulum archaeological zone is located 131 kilometers south of Cancun, just 20 minutes south of Akumal on coastal highway 307. Facing the sea, Tulum is impressive and powerful. Known as the "Walled City", Tulum was thought to be one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan during its time. Fresco remnants are still visible inside some of the structures. There is also a popular beach accessed by a stairway next to the El Castillo pyramid, but we forgot to bring our bathing suit!
On our way to Tulum we stopped by the underground river at X'Caret for one hour.
The other popular Mayan ruins are:
1.Becan - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoJust beyond the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil, are the Mayan ruins of Becan. Visitors can walk to 20 major constructions distributed over three hectares with a number of temple pyramids and plenty of tall jungle. The site is usually deserted. Becán was the political, economical and religious capital of the province known today as Rio Bec. Becan is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.
2.Bonampak - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThis archaeological site, deep in jungle of Chiapas, is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Bonampak is particularly famous for its murals which dipict in great detail the rituals of the royal court, including human sacrifice, costumes, musical instruments, and the weapons of war. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.
3.Calakmul - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoDue to Calakmul's location in the geographic center of the Maya region (the "Petén") it received cultural influences from both north and south. Calakmul along with the Maya sites of El Mirador, Nakbé, and Uaxactún, formed a coalition during the Formative period, constantly engaging in conflicts with its southern neighbors, especially Tikal. Calakmul remained a rival to Tikal from that time on.
4.Chacchoben - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoRoughly 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of Tulum Mexico are the seldom seen Mayan ruins of Chacchoben, an excellent but distant day-trip to see a broad-leaf jungle ruin site. These majestic, mostly restored temple pyramids take on a mystical quality surrounded by towering mahogany trees, enormous cohune palms, strangler figs and the hanging tentacles of banyan trees. Chaccoben means "the Place of Red Corn", in Spanish "Lugar de Maiz Colorado".
5.Chac Mool - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoWithin the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, about 1.5 hours south by boat from Punta Allen, on the Santa Rosa peninsula, is the seldom seen archaeological site of Chac Mool. This is a small site requiring permission from the land owner, Casablanca Fishing Lodge, for entry. Of primary interest is Chac Mool's similarity to Chichen Itza and Tulum because of the presence of a Chac Mool shrine room and a location directly on the Caribbean sea. Also nearby are the Tupac ruins.
6.Chicanna - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoNear the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil and 3 kilometers from Becan ruins, are the Mayan ruins of Chicanná. Due to its dimensions and the rich decoration of the buildings, Chicanná has been considered a small elitiest center of nearby Becán. The site is usually deserted. Chicanna is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.
7.Coba - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Coba archaeological zone is located 42 km. west of Tulum. With many buildings still covered by jungle, Coba is over 80 sq. miles with 5 lakes. Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. It is 12 stories tall and has 120 steps to the top! But from the top you can view a magnificent span of jungle with the tops of other ruins reaching above the jungle canopy.
Map of Mayan Ruins in the Cancun Peninsula
8.Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoDzibilchaltun archaeological zone is located only 9 mile from the Yucatan state capital of Merida, Dzibilchaltun ruins are a must see for visitors interested in a significant Maya ruins site and excellent cultural museum full of Maya and Spanish artifacts including 16th century Spanish swords and weapons, Maya textiles, monolithic stela, temples and deep cenote freshwater well, excellent for a cool swim. Located on the road to Progreso. Taxi transport from central Merida and combis from San Juan Park.
9.Ek Balam - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoEk Balam was built in the Maya Classic Period and has a grand central pyramid, two large palaces, and numerous other temples and buildings. While the archaeological zone is not as completely restored, or as large a site as Chichen Itza or Uxmal, Ek Balam is under active restoration and gives the visitor a great overview of the entire archaeological process. The effect is almost mystical with restored buildings pushing out of the huge mounds of rubble and jungle undergrowth.
10. Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoKohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah make up one of the largest concentrations of archaeological sites located in the southern part of Quintana Roo. Just a few hours south on Hwy 307 will bring you to the Lake Bacalar area. Most of the ruins in southern Quintana Roo are located south of there. Bring a new guidebook with you for specific directions. The jungle is lush and alive with exotic birds and wildlife.
11. Mayapan - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoMayapan ("Banner of the Mayas") is considered the last great Maya capital, dating back to the beginning of the common Era and reaching its golden age in the Postclassic period. Mayapan's ancient grandeur is still evident in its great buildings. There is a strong influence played by Chichen Itza, as seen in its main building, a smaller replica of the Castillo of Kukulcan.
12. Muyil - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Muyil ruins are located 25 kilometers south of the Pueblo of Tulum, passed Ejido Pino Suarez. This site is rarely visited but quite spectacular. The ruins are partially excavated and the jungle surrounds them. A combination path-boardwalk leads from the ruins through a lush jungle-marsh area to wide Laguna Muyil. The Mirador observation platform gives a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Tours of the lagoons are available by the dock.
13. Palenque - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoPalenque archaeological zone is located in the southern state of Chiapas near Guatemala. Palenque is one of the premiere Mayan ruins of Mesoamerica featuring the Temple of Inscriptions containing Pakal's tomb, the Palace and many other buildings, all in a mountainous jungle setting. Other nearby sites to see include Agua Azul cascades, Misol Ha falls, Usumacinta river tour to Yaxchitlan & Bonampak Maya ruins.
14. Uxmal - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Uxmal Mayan ruins are some of the best on the peninsula. The name Uxmal means 'thrice-built' in Mayan, referring to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician. The Maya would often build a new temple over an existing one, and in this case five stages of construction have actually been found. Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatán peninsula, and at its height was home to about 25,000 Maya.
15. Xel-Ha - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Xel-Ha ruins are part of the Xel-Ha Lagoon eco-park, located between Akumal and Tulum. These are a small collection of stone buildings right on the highway opposite the entrance to Xel-Ha Lagoon. The Maya had a coastal port at Xel-Ha for maritime trade via canoes between the principal towns up and down the coast, and to Cozumel. There are a couple of interesting cenotes nearby the ruins group. Some of the structures still have painted hands and other drawings of the Maya.
16. Yaxchilan - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThe Yaxchilan archaeological site is deep in jungle of Chiapas. It is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Yaxchilan is right on the Usumacinta and visitors almost exclusively come via the long boats that navigate the river. There are more than 120 structures in the central area in three complexes. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.

Note: This is No.9(Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Vatican, Rome, and Assisi, Italy and Vicinity

St Peter Square, The Vatican
On December 10 to 16, 1990, Macrine and I joined the Dioscese of Oakland Choir during their pilgrimage tour to Rome, the Vatican and surrounding area( Assisi), Italy. We were not members of the Choir, but our parish priest, Fr. Paddy Bishop of St Joseph Church of Pinole was the Chaperon of the Choir and he invited us to join the group. Lidia Carlos Reynes was the choir director. The choir gave one concert( liturgical music) and sang during a mass with the Pope (John Paul II) as celebrant in St Peter's Basilica. For 5 days we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Rome, the Vatican and Assisi, Italy.

One day we went to St Francis de Assisi Church in Assisi, Italy about one hour bus drive from Rome. Assisi is one of the most beautiful town in Italy. Around Rome, we saw the Coliseum, several the historic basilicas and fountains, the Catacombs and a whole day tour the Vatican( Sistine Chapel etc..)City and the Museum.
Assisi, Italy
This is one vacation/tour that Macrine and I will never forget. The package tour was arranged by Courtial International, Vatican Travel Office and Choir Pilgrimage Services in Rome, Italy.
St Peter Square, the Vatican

The following paragraph in the concert program summarized the reason for this concert tour. ( there was a translation in Latin, German and French)

"Concerts of Liturgical Music in a Holy Place are not only authentic manifestations of Art and Faith, but they also represent a wonderful opportunity for the spirit to join the Source of every beauty".

I like the Spanish version better as follows:

"Los Conciertos de Musica Sagrada en Lugar Sagrado, ademas de ser autenticas manifestaciones de Arte y de Fe, constituyen una ocasion inmejorable para elevar al espiritu hacia la Fuente de la misma belleza."



Note: This is No.7( Rome and Assisi, Italy) and No.8 ( The Vatican City and Museum), Part 2 of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three Days Cruise from Miami to Nassau, The Bahamas

The Parliament House
On March 25 to 28, 1977, Macrine and I took our first cruise to Nassau after the American Chemical Society Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. This is aboard the S/S Emerald Seas owned by the Eastern Steamship Lines, Inc. The S/S Emerald Seas was registered in Panama with gross tonnage of 24,178 tons, has 9 decks, 622 feet long and 76 feet wide. There were 411 staterooms and a capacity of 1,084 passengers. There was a movie theatre on the lowest deck, two night clubs, an Olympic size swimming pool, 5 lounges with bars, a slot machines room, card room, gift shop, beauty parlor and a huge dining area for 500 diners on each seating. This ship is just like a small city with all its amenities.

Macrine and I and a couple we meet during the ACS neeting and their teenage son were assigned on the second seating for all meals. For entertainment, there were 2 bands for dancing, night club shows, horse racing, bingo, and card tournaments. The Casino and Slot Machines are only open on High Seas. We ate six times a day as follows: Breakfast(6 to 8AM), morning snack(10-11AM),lunch(12Noon-2:00PM),afternoon snack(4:00PM),dinner,6:00 to 9:00PM and another midnight buffet(11:00PM) if you are still hungry. The food was delicious and lavish. The highlights of this cruise was the Captain's Farewell Dinner- Lobster with eight other courses and a flaming baked Alaskan cake as the dessert served by marching waiters. Since I am to prone to sea sickness, I took my Dramamine tablets prior to our departure from the Port of Miami. On the return back, I was feeling good and cocky, I did not take my pill. Lo and Behold at the end of the Captain's dinner, I was feeling nauseous, thus was not able to enjoy the dessert.
Here's a video of a similar cruise aboard the Monarch of the Seas, operated by the Royal Carribean Lines.


When we arrived at Nassau(capital of the Bahamas), we took a tour of the Island of New Providence, including the beach in Paradise Island. Paradise Island has soft pink white sand and multi-hued blue and greenish water.

Within walking distance from where the ship docked is Bay Street lined with shops offering items from all over the world at duty free prices. The famed straw market is adjacent to the ship, where you can buy all kinds of straw products from dolls, hats or handbags. Macrine and I purchased several straw products for souvenirs.

Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The city has a population of 260,000 (2008 census), nearly 80 percent of the entire population of The Bahamas (330,000). Lynden Pindling International Airport, the major airport for The Bahamas, is located about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) west of Nassau city centre, and has daily flights to major cities in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The city is located on the island of New Providence, which functions much like a federal district. While there is no local government, it is governed directly as an administrative division of the national government. Nassau is considered a historical stronghold of pirates.

Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Nassau's modern growth began just over 200 years ago with the influx of thousands of American Loyalists and enslaved Africans to The Bahamas following the American War of Independence. Many of them settled in Nassau (the then and still commerce capital of The Bahamas) and eventually came to outnumber the original inhabitants.
As the population of Nassau grew, so did the built-up areas. Today the city dominates the entire island and its satellite, Paradise Island. The Atlantis Resort was not built when we visited the island in 1977. However, until the post-Second World War era, the outer suburbs scarcely existed. Most of New Providence was uncultivated bush until the loyalists came in the 1780s and established several plantations such as Clifton and Tusculum. When the British abolished the international slave Trade in 1807, thousands of liberated Africans freed from slave ships by the Royal Navy were settled on New Providence (at Adelaide, Gambier, Carmichael and Sandiland) and other islands. The largest concentration of blacks lived in the "Over-the-Hill" suburbs of Grants Town and Bain Town behind the city of Nassau, while most of the whites lived on the island's northern coastal ridges.

Note: This is No.6 ( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, November 12, 2010

London, Bath and Vicinity, England

London Tower Bridge
Macrine and I went to London on a whim, that is no previous planning. I saw an ad in the Washington Times dated July 21, 1992 to see a football game between the Redskins and the SF 49'ers in Wembly Stadium, London for August 16, 1992. I immediately called Macrine at work and ask her if she could take a week of from work.
The package consists of 5 days and 4 nights at the Scandic Crown Hotel in the London Docklands, two tickets to the football game, continental breakfast daily, full day tour of London and a mini cruise of the Thames River, welcome dinner hosted by Ricky Erwins (no.32) of the Redskins, and a round trip non-stop airfare from Dulles to Heathrow including ground transfer and tour guide via a luxury motor coach for only $1,099 per person. The package was offered by Trafalgar Tours, Bethesda, Maryland.
Other tours around London are available for an additional fee. Macrine and I took the one day tour to Bath, England with a reasonable additional fee of less than $50 per person whuch included lunch and a round trip train fare from London to Bath.
We had a grand time in Bath, seeing the Roman Baths museum and enjoying a lunch of Fish and Chips.

On this vacation, we saw the outskirts of the Buckingham Palace, Westmister Abbey, the Big Ben, rode the London underground railway system called The TUBE, shopped at Harrod's and saw Miss Saigon at the Drury Lane Royal Theatre.

The highlight of our tour was not the Redskins and 49er's game, inspite of the fact that the Niners beat the Redskin 17-15, three seconds before the end of the game with a field goal, but the show, Miss Saigon. Our group of 40 tourists were all Redskin fans except for Macrine and I, so we were outnumbered and received a lot of tauntings and boos when we cheered for the Niners.

We paid scalped prices for the two tickets to Miss Saigon, but it was worth it. Tears rolling from our eyes moved by the story and music of the modern Madame Butterfly musical will never be erased in our memory. The leading lady was not Lea Salonga, but another Filipina singer. The leading man, Junix Inocian, who inherited Jonathan Pyrce role, is also a Filipino and did a good job singing the "American Dream" song.
The Royal Crescent in Bath
We took a one day tour to Bath, Avon about 75 minutes train ride from Paddington Station in London. Paddington Station reminds me of Union Station in Washington, DC. However, you have to pay to use the WC(rest rooms) or CR (Comfort Rooms in the Philippines)
One of Bath's principal industries is tourism, with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city on an annual basis. The visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage tourism and cultural tourism. This is aided by the city's selection in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance. All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city, from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, to Thermae Bath Spa in the 2000s.
The Roman Bath
The size of the tourist industry in Bath is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation – including over 80 hotels, and over 180 bed and breakfasts – many of which are located in Georgian buildings. The history of the city is displayed at the Building of Bath Collection which is housed in a building which was built in 1765 as the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was also known as the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, as she lived in the attached house from 1707 to 1791. Two of the hotels have 'five-star' ratings. There are also two campsites located on the western edge of the city. The city also contains about 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city, as well as tours on foot and on the river. Since 2006, with the opening of Thermae Bath Spa, the city has attempted to recapture its historical position as the only town in the United Kingdom offering visitors the opportunity to bathe in naturally heated spring waters.

Note: This is No.5 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Day in Tangier, Morocco, North Africa

Camel Rides in Morocco

From Marbella,Spain, Macrine and I joined a one day tour to Tangier, Morocco, North Africa as part of our vacation in Costa del Sol in October, 2000. With this visit we could claim that we have been to the Continent of Africa. It was a beautifully organized tour and is described below by a writer from the Spanish tourism department:

"From the most southern point of Spain (Tarifa), Morocco is only 14 kilometers away. On most days you can see the mountains at the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar very clearly, and at night you see the lights of the houses. Being so close to Spain, Morocco Tourism is very tempting. Especially because it’s not only another country, but even another continent.

There are several options to a Morocco Tourism visit, one of them is booking a daytrip from Tarifa to Tangier( this is the one we took). There are two excursions to Tangier every day, starting at 9am and 11.00am, and cost 56 euro (ferry, guide, bus and lunch included). Tickets are sold at the office of FRS or at Marruecotur, both near the Paseo de la Alameda in the centre of Tarifa. The excursion starts in the port of Tarifa. Here you cross the Spanish border and get on the boat, a fast ferry that brings you in 35 minutes to Tangier. As there is a time difference between Morocco and Spain of 2 hours (in summer), you arrive in Morocco either around 7.45am or 9.45am.

Morocco Tourism for the first time is quite impressive. Not so much because of the beauty of the landscape (the skyline of Tangier is not very special), but more for the complete different culture and language. There are two different ideas about the origins of Tangier, the Berber and the Greek. According to the Berber legend, Tangier was founded following the return of a dove from the Arch of Noah with soil in its claws, indicating that there was a new world – Tanja in Berber language. The Greek version states that Tangier derives from the name “Tingi”, daughter of the giant Anthee. For the ancient Greek authors Tangier was “the most beautiful city of the known world, a region of gods where the men are the tallest and most beautiful that one can find.” If this is (still) true, you have to decide for yourself. Because of its geographical situation Tangier has always been the door to Africa. For a long time it used to be an important international meeting point, until it became stronger attached to Morocco".



"Once you have arrived in Morocco, a bus drives you from the port to the old town. The old town is surprisingly similar to a lot of old towns in Andalucian cities. At the entrance there is an old arc, after which you find a labyrinth of small streets, small houses, ancient buildings, a castle and small typical shops. Most of the shops appear to be there for tourists only, during the tour you’ll visit some of them. The shop owners are not too shy to sell you all their merchandise on the streets, of course for “a very special price” (which drops rapidly if you don’t show any interest). Also included in the tour is a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. They serve traditional food and at the end you’ll get a traditional Moroccan tea. It´s questionable if it´s really a traditional restaurant, as it seems to run on tourists only, but at least the food is good".

"After a stroll through the old town, you get a chance to have a look at the new town. This part of Tangier appears to be quite modern, with big buildings, broad streets and larger, more modern shops. A visit to the outskirts of Tangier is included as well. Big houses with big fences dominate the scene, so probably the rich are living here. You also get the opportunity to ride a camel, on payment of a few euros. The whole tour takes about 7 hours".

My Personal Note: Walking on the narrow cobblestone streets of the Medina (Old Town) in Tangier was not easy. Street peddlers hustle you all day. They sell all kinds of trinkets that will challenge even an experienced bargain hunter like me. However, I had my good buy of the day on this tour. I saw a mineral stone ( similar to the one you see in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC) that aroused my attention. The asking price was 3000 pesetas. I bargained 500 pesetas. As expected I received a groaning response from the peddler( a man in his late 20's) that I am too cheap and should be ashamed for bargaining too low. I just smile and ignored him. The peddler keep up on following me until lunch time when the price went down to 2000 pesetas. I said no and stuck to my original bargain. I totally forgot about this haggling episode, when out of no where the peddler accosted me again and lowered the price to 1000 pesetas. I said no deal until the price went down to 700 pesetas. Three hours later as I was stepping on the bus on our way home, the peddler gave up. He gave the mineral stone to me as I handed him the 500 pesetas from the window of the bus. I certainly had a grand time in this haggling process.
We did visit a carpet shop, but I was not in the mode of bargaining. In addition if we buy a carpet, it will be bulky to carry around, although they can shipped your purchase to the US with a ridiculously high fees.

Macrine on the other hand is not a bargain hunter or haggler. Her best purchase was what they called the "Moroccan Gold". It is the most expensive spice in the world.
It is SAFFRON. The powder looks light reddish brown, but when you add water it turns yellow, just like the color of TUMERIC, another spice. You need only a very small amount for cooking paella and other Spanish or Filipino dishes like the ginat-an na manok sa gata (chicken in coconut milk) of Marinduque-one of my favorite Filipino dish. Saffron is very expensive, so most cooks used a cheaper substitute, the TUMERIC or "dilaw" in Marinduque.


A snake Charmer in Action

Note: This is No.4 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Day Tour of the Rock of Gibraltar



Our tour started from our vacation resort( Four Seasons Country Club)in Marbella.
The minibus started along the Costa del Sol and ends at La Linea de la Conception, the border of Gibraltar. The tour included a winding minibus drive to the top of the Rock along the Europa Point and the Galleries. The view of the city and the strait from the top was fantastic. Since I had a fear of heights, I did not look down to see the view. Our visit to the St. Michael Caves and Underground Church and the Barbary Apes Reserve were the highlights of this tour. According to our guide they have concerts inside the cave and the sound is stereophonic. At the end of the tour there was plenty of time to do some duty-free shopping in the many duty-free shops.
We had a typical English lunch of Fish and Chips. The lunch for two cost us $19 ( US) dollars. Gibraltar merchants will accept either US dollars ,British pounds, or Spanish pesetas. Good buys are spirits, tobacco, perfumes, gold jewelries and Lladro sculptures.

Gibraltar is a huge rock found to the south of Spain. The region belongs to the United Kingdom. On one side there is the Bay of Algeciras, and on the other the Mediterranean Sea. Gibraltar borders the town of La Linea de la Concepción, part of the county of Cádiz. The Rock of Gibraltar is the most famous rock in the world.
Gibraltar is situated at the southern end of Europe with a land frontier to Spain on its northern front. It sits at the joining of the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea.


The stretch of water that separates Gibraltar from north Africa is called the Strait of Gibraltar and throughout history has played a strategic part in battles fought and won to control the western Mediterranean seaways. In ancient times Gibraltar was one of the Pillars of Hercules. It was known to the Greeks as Mons Calpe, the other pillar being Mons Abyla on the Moroccan side of the Strait. Gibraltar marked the limit to the known world.


Intrinsically linked with the sea, Gibraltar is one of the busiest ports of call in the Mediterranean. It is also a stepping stone for immigrants all over the world through Africa and finally going to Europe.

Note: This is No.3 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places outside the US that Macrine and I had visited since 1960. This vacation was part of our International Interval Exchange Package in the Fall of 2000.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Malaga, Marbella and Costa del Sol and Vicinity, Spain

Marbella Sea Side

Macrine and I visited the Costa del Sol area of Southern Spain, Marbella, Malaga and vicinity in 2000. We spent one week( October 5 to 13) in this coastal area of Spain. This was again through our International Interval Exchange Vacation Package. This is a time sharing experience that beats them all! Not even Cancun, Mexico or San Juan, Puerto Rico could equal the sights, sounds, the history and grandeur of the Costa del Sol area of Southern Spain. Our one week stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Country Club, in Marbella was not enough. We were joined midweek by our daughter Ditas and niece, Ella Lazarte from US. The highlights of our one week stay were the three one day tours that we took as follows:


1. Granada City Tour with Lunch with a visit to the Alhambra Castles and Gardens
This tour included a short driving tour of Malaga and passed by the bull ring staduim. On the way to Granada, we enjoyed the sights of almond and citrus trees and olive plantation. It also included a lunch for two. At that time it cost us 8500 pesetas ( exchange rate at that time was 170 pesetas equals $1). To me this is a bargain, since I do not have to drive or rent a car ($70 per day for car rental). In addition, the tour guide knowledge of the area help you appreciate the tour more. We met another American couple during this tour. Most of the tourists are English or Germans with a few Americans.


2. One Day Tour of Gibraltar, including a winding ride to the Top of the Rock with the Barbary Apes and St. Michael Cave and some free duty shopping (For details see Article No.3)

3. One Day Tour of Tangiers, Morocco, highlighted by shopping and a Moroccan lunch and a ride on a German Hydrofoil yatch across the Gibraltar Strait. (For details see Article No. 4).

The Spaniards were very friendly, and very willing to help and answer questions of tourists. With my knowledge of Spanish, I felt home right away. My maternal ancestry and roots in Spain made me want to return and perhaps stay a little while longer. One week is indeed not enough to really savour the delights of Southern Spain.

The food specially seafoods( paella), wines and pastries were delicious and served promptly with gusto. The resort personnel were very helpful in arranging taxi service, tour planning, tickets confirmation, wake-up calls and other services. Someday, I like to go back to Spain and perhaps visit Seville, Cordoba and Barcelona. Here's a short video about Malaga.



Málaga (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmalaɣa]) is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,305 in 2009, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in the country. This is the southernmost large city in Europe. It lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean Sea, about 100 km (62.14 mi) east of the Strait of Gibraltar and about 130 km (80.78 mi) north of Africa.
Málaga enjoys a subtropical climate. Here are the warmest winters in Europe, with average temperatures above 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) during the day in the period December to February. The summer's season lasts about 8 months, from April to November, although also in December and March sometimes there are temperature above 20 °C (68.0 °F). Málaga, together with adjacent towns and municipalities such as Rincon de la Victoria, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Alhaurin de la Torre, Mijas and Marbella, forms the Málaga metropolitan area, with a population of 1,046,279 according to 2009 data.

Marbella

Marbella is a city in Andalusia, Spain, by the Mediterranean, situated in the province of Málaga, beneath La Concha mountain. In 2000 the city had 98,823 inhabitants, in 2004, 116,234, in 2010 circa 135,000.

Marbella and the nearby Puerto Banús are important beach resorts of the Costa del Sol. Marbella is a popular destination for tourists from Northern Europe, including the UK, Ireland and Germany as well as the US.

The area around Marbella is particularly popular with those who like golf. Marbella also hosts a WTA tennis tournament on red clay, the Andalucia Tennis Experience

Would you believe that Marbella and the whole Costa del Sol area is littered with Chinese restaurants? Across the bridge from the Four Seasons are two Chinese restaurants. Ditas and Ella were dying to have chinese food after their two weeks sojourn in the interior of Morocco (Fez). One day, while we were in downtown Marbella, I talked to a Chinese lady. She said there is a labor organization in Spain that imports Chinese waitresses and cooks to serve in 6-months rotation at restaurants in several cities of Spain and Italy. It sounds like the Philippines OFW ( Overseas Filipino Workers) program.

Note: This is No.2 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...