Category: Travelogue

Sunflowers at the Glorious Burnham Park

Sunflower of Burnham Park, photo by PH Morton

Sunflower of Burnham Park, photo by PH Morton

Sunflowers at the Glorious Burnham Park

The sunflowers were in full bloom when we were in Burham Park in Baguio City, Philippines in February 2016.

It seems we were not the only admirers of the flowers; there were busy, buzzy bees hard at work gathering nectars.

The flowers were so beautiful to look at as it built a fragrant fence from one corner of the park into the next.  Though the park was busy, the tall flowers exude a haven of tranquility and serenity, thus promoting well-being.

It made me think that yellow must be the colour of happiness and peace.

Sunflower has the scientific name of helianthus, which comes from a combination of two Greek words, helios, meaning sun and anthos is of course, flower.

Sunflowers are annuals, which means they die down each year and new ones needed to be planted annually.  There are species of perennial ones but they are not too popular with gardeners as they tend to spread rapidly and can overwhelm a garden.

Travails of Travelling

Modern travelling is not travelling at all; it is merely being sent to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.
– John Ruskin

John Ruskin had a point. Just board a tube in London at rush hours and you will find out how sardines are packed in the little tins that sit aloft a supermarket shelf.

Travelling can be stressful whether as an everyday occurrence or going on a holiday.

Going Igorot in Mountain Province


Lady Igorotas, Photo by PH Morton

Lady Igorotas, Photo by PH Morton

Going Igorot in Mountain Province

We went to Baguio City last month.  It was a busy, hectic time.  We tried to put as much activities in just a couple of days.  One such activity was going to Burnham Park.

After sailing the big pond in the park, we went to investigate a corner of the park, where we spied people taking pictures wearing the very becoming traditional Igorot costume.  Igorots are from the tribes living in the Mountain Province of Cordillera.

The Igorot men traditionally wear long strip of handwoven loin cloth which is called wanes. They also sport tattoos as symbol of bravery.

While the women wear a wrap-around skirt called lufid, originally women went topless but during more modern times a poncho like tops are worn.  The women get to wear lots of handmade jewelries made from curved woods, beads and semi-precious stones.

We did have fun posing, though it was quite an expensive experience.  You can take photos but it will cost you.  The management, actually the woman minding the costumes, 🙂 will check your camera for the number of photos taken wearing their costumes and you had to pay for each of the pictures.

This pretty girl was wearing the Igorot costume.  We met her and her father when we went to Mines View Park.  She was so cute that we asked her father if we could take her photo.  The father was quite happy for the picture taking.  So sweet.

Money Changer in Manila

@The Money Changer, Photo by PH Morton

@the Money Changer, photo by PH Morton

@the Money Changer, photo by PH Morton

When we went to the Philippines, Peter and I had P10,000 (10,000 pesos) each.  We read on the internet that one is only allowed to bring in P10,000 each but you can bring in $10,000 (or any other denomination) if you wanted.

Anyway with all the recent laglag bala (planted bullets) anomalies at the Ninoy Aquino International airport, we dare not bring in more than we should in terms of the pesos even though P20,000 will not get us much.  We did not want NAIA to have any reason to give us a hard time, do we?!!!

We used John Lewis in Brent Cross as opposed to the Post office, which was our regular currency converter.  John Lewis did a better rate.

So with our P20,000 and more pounds sterling in our pocket we went to the Philippines and had a real good time.

But it was really expensive.  Marilou, the dollar girl from LA, and I were always changing money.

We tried changing monies at SM (ShoeMart) and BDO (Banco de Oro) but we had to bring in proof of identity, which is a bummer (I refuse to bring my passport everywhere; I had a bad experience in Rome with snatchers) and the queue can be horrendous, plus the fact that their exchange rate was not competitive enough.

Luckily, there were a lot of money changers in Tutuban Centre, near the Philippine famous Divisoria in Manila, which is only a tricycle ride away from our mother’s house.

The one we used all the time is located near the Robinson’s Supermarket.  They don’t ask any question, and the rate is much better than SM and the banks.  And the place looks fairly safe; of course, you have to be aware of your money and belongings at all times, just like anywhere else in the world.

I was so happy the first time we changed money because the rate was so high, even higher than John Lewis’s but with the news that Cameron had finally named the date for EU referendum, the pound sterling plummeted quite a bit.  It was so good that our holiday was coming to an end by then and I had changed most of our monies.

Art in Island Museum – Philippines

Art in Island Museum – Philippines
art building, art

It was the penultimate day of our holiday in the Philippines and we thought we should treat the younger members of our family to a fun activity.  Marilou, my sister, suggested going to Art in Island, a 3D museum located in Cubao, Quezon City.

At first, Peter was not sure about going to an art museum, when we could be doing last minute shopping (yes, he is a shopoholic!) 🙂 .  But with my power of persuasion, lol, I managed to cajole him into joining us.

Because of traffic, it was a long trek going to Cubao.  Thank God for Uber taxis.  They were a life saver during our holiday in the Philippines.

When we got to the Art In Island, everyone was excited except for Peter, who thought the museum was rather nuff.

The entrance fee was P500 per adult and P400 for children, around $8-$11 US dollars.  ID was required for proof of age for the children.

As works of art were painted on the floor as well, visitors were required to remove their shoes or if rather uncomfortable without shoes, a special soft covering for shoes can be bought for P5.00.

Peter was still moaning about removing his shoes when we saw the first 3D painting.  It was all so exciting, vibrant and magical that Peter’s inner child suddenly came to the fore.  Before I knew it, he was giggling and posing and shoving like the other kids.  He wanted to get his photo taken – ALL THE TIME,

He actually enjoyed himself so much and wanted to leave a bit of himself in the museum that he graffitied the wall (legally) with all our names.

The Art In Island museum was fun, a work of art in its truest sense. 😉  It was entertaining and makes one appreciates art even more.

After having lunch at the museum restaurant, we were filled with good food, humour and high spirit.  We wanted to spend and purchase memorabilia for this visit.

Unfortunately there was no gift shop.  We were very disappointed. A bit of anit-climax, I thought.  A museum should have a gift shop to showcase what was seen in the museum.

Therefore, that is my one negative comment about our happy time at the Art in Island museum, its lack of gift shop.  I would have wanted to buy t-shirt with a grinning Mona Lisa, a mug, a pen/pencil, postcards, etc.

I hope you do build a gift shop one day soon.

Bogya Hot Spring – Banaue

Bogyo Salt Spring, photo by JMorton

Bogya Hot Spring, photo by JMorton

Bogya Hot Spring – Banaue

During our trip to the north of the Philippines, we visited many wonderful places and one of these places was the Bogya Hot Spring in Banaue.

This is not for the faint hearted as discovered by my darling husband, who had decided to have an attack of vertigo. 🙁

Peter, dicing with fate, photo by JMorton

It was not really an ideal day to visit the hot spring as it was drizzling a bit and the road was wet and can be very slippery.  But our tour guide, the lovely and kind Arlene, did not give us much information about how we will be going there terrain-wise if there was any hazard or whatever.  All she said was that we would be walking for 45 minutes on a fairly steady pace.

All I can say is OMG!!!

It was death-defying to reach the water source.  To start with it was a fairly steep climb. We were still out of breath when we discovered that we had to navigate some parts of the terraces, which one side is a shallow rice planted paddy, while the other side from a foot-wide only footpath was a deepening ravine/cliff.  It was mind-numbingly scary.

This trip does not have any nod whatsoever to health and safety; no wonder Peter decided he was having one of his vertigo episodes.  He was screaming like a girl!  Actually, that was really not the case as we were a party of 4 women/girl including, our guide, and Peter.  None of us females was screaming. LOL  All we wanted was to get to the end of a very long winding rice terraces footpath.  Peter was crawling on all fours, at some point, with sheer panic written all over his face.  I did tell him to go back but he would not have it.  To distract him I was mentioning names of great English navigators, explorers and travellers.

Of course, now and again we would stop and admire the most glorious view and take photos, (I had my mini camera with me which has been so useful).

After the eventful long trek, we got to the hot spring, which we thought was really just a small hot bog.  It was a tiny pool which did not really look that amazing.

Though we did not plan to go swimming as we did not bring our swimsuit. we thought we do a bit of paddling only.  But the moment we got into the water it was so inviting we threw caution to the wind and we had a soak in our clothes, we thought the weather was so hot it would dry our clothes as we were walking back.  The water was hot; hot bubbles were rising from beneath the rocks.  It was quite wonderful.

It was just the thing to calm our challenged nerves and weary feet.

We stayed for a while and had our ham and cheese sandwiches among crops of rocks by the spring. It can’t get any better than this, I thought.  Until some German tourist ruined my self-satisfied reverie as she joined a growing number of other Europeans enjoying the spring as well.

This particular woman made my blood boil.  Not a care in the world she was.  She went into the pool with a lit cigarette.  Obviously, she knew, being bloody German/European that even when there was no visible sign of No Smoking, one just consciously not smoke in a very public place.

I went mental. I loudly said that she was disrespecting the Philippines.  She should not smoke.  But the stupid woman just did not care and after smoking, she made a point of stubbing her cigarette butt just above the water.  That did it for me.  I think I mentioned Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews during  WWII.

Peter had to tell me to calm down.

I can see that my compatriots agreed with my no smoking policy but they were just too polite to complain especially to foreigners!

At least I had my say as the other foreigners/tourists gave me sympathetic looks.

Anyway, going back was a trek I would not want to try again in a hurry but we did not have a choice.  So we went.  I supposed we were more aware, which somehow lessen the scare factor a little bit.  We were more careful and it felt that the walk was much shorter and not as shockingly frightening compared to before.  We were also going downhill.

Peter was ok, more confident.  However, that did not mean we did not have an almost heinous accident.  Our youngest member of the group, Leah, decided to take a selfie but almost lose a footing.  We were in shock. We felt 50 per cent hilarity and 50 per cent horror from the incongruity of taking a selfie near a cliff.

We made it alive with pegs and digits intact back to our hired people’s carrier.

We agreed that if we only knew beforehand that the Bogya Hot Spring was that small, about 3m² only, we would not have gone but then we immediately had a change of heart; despite the sheer fright we went through, walking through the rice terraces was a gift – a privilege.  We had an adventure of a lifetime!  Something we can cross out from our bucket list.

I am sure the same thought would go through the mind of those elderly Chinese tourists, in their walking sticks, we met in the narrow rice terraces on their way to Bogya Hot Spring.