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, 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 female were 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 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.

Munting Buhangin, Nasugbu Batangas

IMG_2039 IMG_2040 Munting Buhangin, Nasugbu Batangas

As one of the last activities to be enjoyed with the whole family before my sister and Bert go back to LA and Peter and I to London, we went for a whole day swimming.

The venue was Munting Buhangin (Little Sand) in Nasugbu, Batangas.

It was quite a trek getting to this resort from Manila.  It took 4 hours with little instruction.  We had fun deducing when we are going to get their.  We thought its name says it all – little sand – would mean just a bucket of sand over a paddling pool of water.

But we were actually very pleasantly surprised.  The resort is lovely and clean with good facilities, i.e., CR (comfort room/toilet) shower rooms, restaurants, etc.

The beach was very easy to walk on as the sand is very fine and white, not as white as Boracay but more than good enough.  It was a comfortable to frolic and swim on.  However, one must be aware that there are jelly fish around that could sting, though not in great numbers.

At the beach, there are choices, of accommodation that would satisfy various taste and needs.  There are tree houses that could house 8-10 people good for overnight swimming.  There are nipa huts farther down the beach and many gazebos near the water.

The beach also allows for food and drink to be brought in.  Just remember, going to the beach is literally going DOWN the beach.  To get to the site would mean climbing down a very long steep set of steps.  Going up is a real downer.  Be prepared to stop and catch your breath every now and then.  Just send one member of your party to the information centre to ask for help of the manpower kind.  Usually they would just ask for merienda or about P50 (pesos).


Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave, Nature’s Miracle

Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave, Nature’s Miracle

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We were really really pleased to have found this cave as we were rather thwarted from seeing the iconic Underground River of Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

This cave was amazing. And the thing that really stood out for me was how clean it was.

No dank smell despite some stagnant water here and there. Probably it has something to do with the air circulation. The name of the cave says it all. Hoyop-Hoyopan is apparently a gust of wind that occurs naturally throughout the cave.

The cave is slightly different now. An entrance was created for visitors. Apparently during the Second World War, when the Japanese army took control of the Philippines, Filipino guerillas, foot soldiers, hid in the cave. There was a little whole on the top of the cave that they would jump into and which they would then camouflage with greenery.

In the 70s, European (might be Germans or Belgians) archeologists and anthropologists discovered a huge earthenware full of human bones, which were ancient forefathers of Filipinos. Some bones were also found embedded amongst the mineral- rich cave walls.

Our tour guide said that to fully visit every nook and cranny of the cave, it would take 11 to 16 hours. There are three levels to the cave.  We opted for a very short visit.

During the Marcos era, the cave was used as a meeting area, not sure whether to discuss the martial law and politics during that time as a wide platform was built to be used for disco dancing. Our guide said that live band would play inside the cave. The acoustic might have been something!!!  He also said that the cave no longer function as a dancing hall as of today.  It stopped in the 90s.

This cave is really interesting.  It is now a dwelling for fruit bats and birds, whose nests are harvested for making bird nest soup.

As we were leaving the cave our guide said he saw a two-foot long alligator, who feeds on bats.  So thankful, he did not mention the the alligator to us at that time. 🙂

Palawan Underground River

Paul Chin - originally posted to Flickr as Caves entrance/exit

Paul Chin – originally posted to Flickr as Caves entrance/exit

We were supposed to visit this rather phenomenal cave with its own underground river, which is located in Palawan yesterday.  Unfortunately the weather turned for the worst and we can see from the shore the cauldron of waves getting bigger and more excited by the minute, trying to engulf some of the fibreglassed bottom boats, which were full of people still in the midst of the sea (St Peter’s Bay).

Though we were obviously disappointed, we were not mad enough to have insisted to go through or wait out the worsening weather.  One thing, I don’t think our stomachs would be able to stand the tumultuous water; mine certainly couldn’t based from my experience of sailing. 🙂

I am so glad that  Palawan Underground River is now recognised officially by UNESCO, hoping that this alone will prevent some excuse of a politician with a sideline in mining the country of its natural resources to its very inch to think otherwise.

Did you know – I certainly did not – that this subterranean river was first discovered by British explorers.  That is why originally the underground river and the mountainous vicinity and bay were called St Paul Underground River Cave, named after London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, which it apparently resembles in shape. 🙂  To this day, the bay is still known as St Paul’s Bay.

Puerto Princesa Underground River is certainly merit an inclusion in anyone’s bucket list!

Filipinos on a Pilgrimage to Medjugorje

This fictional piece is based on a real trip to Medjugorie. The names had been changed so this makes the story truly a piece of fiction. *;) winking
© 1995 Fred Natividad
They chatted noisily at the international terminal at Chicago’s O’hare airport. To non-Filipinos near them they sounded distinctly talking in a foreign language, some kind of pidgin called Taglish notoriously common in the Philippines.
Actually nobody really paid much attention to the chattering group except a few white, beyond middle age ladies, who did corner-of-the-eye glances. Either they were in transit to, or from, some hick town where they have never seen nor heard chatty Filipino women. Maybe these white women were just nosy characters accumulating some gossip to tell their neighbors over the fence back home.
Chicago, for one thing, is full of immigrants. And since O’hare is an international airport the sound of all kinds of strange tongues is not unusual. To mainstream Americans Taglish is no more unusual than Swahili. The gossip-over-the-fence women can’t understand strange tongues anyway – they are not trained CIA linguists.
“Ay, comari, yo ar heyer, olso?”
“Aba, op kors! Si maring Chuchi ay nag-tor na sa Lordis kaya tayo naman sa Mediogori.”
 “Pero, mari, magsa-sayd trip yata tayo sa Pompi…”
 “Pompi? Sa Itali yon, ah.”
 “O-o. Magsi-siyaping tayo ng pornityior.”
 “Okey, huwag lang nating kalimutang bumile ng stetiyo ni Mama Mary sa Mediogori.”
 “Di ba marami ka na niyan?”
“O-o, bat alam mo namang wala pang Berhing Mediogori si Chuchi.”
“Ay si. Okey, bat witiminit, awt op di wey ang Itali.”
“Hmm, yo ar rayt. Okey, magtotor nalang tayo neks yir sa Roma. Malapit ang Pompi doon.”
“Eniwey, kabibili lang ni Chuchi ng pornityior sa Marshall Field. Med in Spain daw. Ibig sabihin wala pa siyang pornityor na med in Pompi.”
Meanwhile, the weather was terrible and the Yugoslavian plane that was to take the Chicago pilgrims to Zagreb was delayed in New York. Every minute of delay meant an opportunity for another round of drinks at the bar of the international terminal where half of the customers were husbands of the religious women speaking funny Taglish.
 “Pari,” one of the husbands said to another man beside him, “ikaw ba’y bilib sa mirakol sa Mediogori?”
“Noo wiy!”
“Eh, haw kam nandito ka?”
“Hino-hyumor ka lang ang misis ko.”
“Beri relidiyos ba siya?
“E, marami siyang berhin sa bahay, e di relidiyos siya.”
“Witi-minit, asawa mo hindi ka syior?”
“Pari, lasing na rin kitang dalawa, ay tenk okey lang to til yo di trot.
“Anong trot?”
“Gelprin ko lang yan, pari.”
“Oki, sa mga panahanon ngayon dir is nating rong sa dalawang mag swithalt na nag-i-islip togidir…”
“Pari, huwag ka lang maingay. Ang hosban niyan nasa Maynila. Ako naman, ang misis kong nars ay bising nagdo-dobol dyioti gabi-gabi. Si tenks nasa awt-op-tawn bisnis trip naman ako.”
“Tang-na pare, bilib ako sa yo.  Por yor abilidad, sa akin ang neks rawn.”
“Hindi pari. Sa akin pa rin ang rawn na ito. Pera ng gelprin ko lang naman ang nasa walit ko, e. Anader rawn plis, bartindir…”
The bartindir -er, bartender, gave the two semi-drunk men a nasty look, who, he gathered, were on their way to a religious pilgrimage. But, with a frozen smile, he poured another round of Scotch for each. He may not like like these little brown hypocrites but he is not stupid – he liked their generous tips.
Just then the public address system blared that the Yugoslavian plane that will take the pilgrims to Zagreb just landed after a two-hour delay in New York. Flight number so-and-so will board in forty-five minutes.The semi-inebriated, nattily dressed brown men gulped their unfinished drinks, paid for their drinks, left generous tips, and went out of the bar to join their forever-chatting ladies.
The bartender watched them with relief because the other casually dressed blue-eyed customers began to grimace each time a Filipino in a suit and tie said something loudly in some kind of pidgin. But the bartender was ambivalent – the brown men were good tippers. He has to like them. They might be coming back to his bar on their way to another trip out of the country.
The group filed into the plane as noisily as when they were waiting at the terminal. As soon as all were seated a Filipino priest, their spiritual leader whose travel was subsidized by the pilgrims, promptly began to lead the rosary aloud. He ignored the stewardess who was trying to demonstrate, without enthusiasm, for a hundred million times, the intricacies of surviving a crash, gesturing like a French mime with an orange inflatable vest.
Women from sixteen Filipino couples excitedly put out their rosaries and began to respond to the priest. The flight hostess ignored the rosary-clutching women and continued her mime performance with bored disinterest. She didn’t seem bothered at all by the monotonous drone of Hail Mary’s.
“Psst,” one woman whispered to another between the Holy Mary’s, “whir did yo git yor rosary? Ang akin binili ko sa Patima… holi-meri … mudder-op-gad…”
“Pram Roma ang akin. Pero meron akong med op gold na iniwan ko sa bahay. Galing naman sa Nevers iyon… mudder-op-gad … pri-poras…”
The men, meanwhile, promptly went to sleep, dreaming of the hour when the flight hostesses with frozen smiles will begin to serve alcoholic drinks. In less than 8 hours the pilgrims will land at Zagreb and will be whisked by bus to Dubrovnik and thence to Medjugorie.
Our Lady of Medjugorje

Our Lady of Medjugorje

Medjugorean merchants, ready with all kinds of rosaries and pictures of the Lady of Medjugorie, will rub their palms in glee to welcome these new pilgrims. The pilgrims from Chicago will be equally ready. They will giddily unload their precious hard currency into the Medjugorean economy.

And, yes, they will also kneel with reverence at every spot where the tourist guide claimed the Lady of Medjugorie “miraculously” appeared to some village kids. Some of the men will just stay at the hotel to enjoy cold drinks at the hotel’s bar.
Fred Natividad
Livonia, Michigan


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