Benjamin Layug

84 posts

Driving to, dining at and discovering Cavite

For the second time this year, AAP Lakbay, the travel and tourism arm of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), the country’s biggest and oldest national auto club, hosted another curated, modified, and enhanced “Drive, Dine and Discover” caravan. This time the caravan went to the historical, cultural, culinary, and countryside spots of Maragondon and Silang in Cavite to help reboot domestic tourism and local enterprises.

Heritage appreciation in Binondo 

The second time we joined another free tour of Renacimiento Manila we went around Chinatown for the Binondo Heritage Tour. Leading the tour this time is Stephen John Pamorada, a cultural entrepreneur and Heritage Collective owner.

Portrait of a Bicolano as an artist

I first met Bicolano artist Pancho M. Piano in 2014 when I covered his “Colors of Hope” exhibit (November 27-December 3) held in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, the first Filipino artist to do an exhibit in this country as well as the whole Caucasus Region. Though some of the paintings he exhibited featured Georgian themes such as his rendition of the statue of Kartlis Deda (“Mother of Georgia”), many of the paintings shown reflected his penchant for realism and abstractionism, often portraying the beauty of humanity, with a signature stroke where softness and loudness are both in harmony.

Museum Peek: Showcasing the best in Philippine art

I have been to the National Museum of Fine Arts twice before (back then it was known as the National Art Gallery), the first time for research for my architecture thesis (which was the National Museum itself) way back in 1982, the second for an article. Now, older and wiser, I was back for more art appreciation, bringing along my son Jandy, after making the necessary online reservation. 

Turning thread and fabric into an art form

Meet Queens, New York-based Gerardo “Ged” U. Merino, a Fil-American painter, printmaker, and mixed media artist who works with repurposed textiles, who never thought of becoming an artist, does not join art competitions, and yet has become a celebrated cross-cultural artist.

Natural history in a man-made structure

An easing of Covid-19 alert levels in Manila allowed me, my wife, Grace, and my son Jandy to take a break from the confines of our home and make our long-awaited visit to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNT), one of the National Museum of the Philippines’ (NMP) three-component museums (the other two are the National Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Anthropology).  Following protocol, we reserved and booked slots online a few days before our visit. 

Time travel on foot: A Closer Look at Pasig River’s Heritage

For our first city tour after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, my son Jandy and I joined the free Pasig River Heritage Appreciation Walk hosted by Renacimiento Manila, a private organization whose main goal is to usher in a cultural rebirth in Manila.  They, as well as other groups, oppose the proposed 19.37-kilometer long Pasig River Expressway (PAREX), an elevated expressway which would be built on top of and straddle the length of the river.  Renacimiento stresses that the P95-billion project poses a threat to Manila’s environment and cityscape. 

The Museum of the Filipino People reopens its doors

This month, the National Museum of the Philippines is accepting fully vaccinated adults and visitors ages 18 and below, provided they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. All visitors are also required to reserve online and book slots at least a day before their visit. Walk-in visitors without prior reservation will not be granted entry. Admission is free.

Philippines wins even bigger at New York Film Festival

Since 2014, Filipino stars have been winning the Best Actress trophy (except in 2017 where Brazil’s Leticia Braga bagged the award) in the prestigious International Film Festival in Manhattan (IFFM), New York City. Liza Diño won for “In Nomine Matris” (In the Name of the Mother) in 2014; Aiko Melendez for “Asintado” in 2015; Nathalie Hart for “Siphayo” in 2016; Andi Eigenmann, for the “The Maid in London” in 2018; Gloria Romero for “Rainbow Sunset” in 2019; and Lovi Poe won for “Latay (Battered Husband)” in 2020.

Safe travels in a post-Covid Malaysia

On October 10, 2021, three association giants in the industry and a national airline company united in ramping up destination readiness and facilitating Malaysia’s reopening to leisure and business travelers by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The event  launched the Travel Safe Alliance Malaysia (TSAM) to position Malaysia as a safe destination for leisure and business travelers.

Landco aims for LEED certification of its LTEs

Landco Pacific Corp., a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (a Philippine-based, publicly listed investment and management company focused on infrastructure), forges ahead to pursue its vision of attaining the highly coveted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and sustainability initiatives of the sprawling 15-hectare Calatagan South Beach (CaSoBē) and 24-hectare Club Laiya (San Juan), its two eco-friendly, master-planned Leisure Tourism Estates (LTE) beach properties inspired by Batangas’s coastal surroundings.

Fly in style to Paradise called Banwa

The 6.5-hectare (15-acre) Banwa Private Island, nestled in Sulu Sea on Puerco Island off Roxas on Northeastern Palawan, is Palawan’s most talked about new all-villa holiday destination for discerning guests seeking the ultimate in contemporary luxury, privacy and bespoke service.

The Philippines: A rising tourism destination in a post-Covid world

In the article “Rising Stars in Travel” by travel writer Jared Ranahan of, the well-respected American business and financial news publication, the Philippines was named among seven countries (the others are Ethiopia, Iran, Myanmar, Georgia, Slovenia and Tunisia) that “have potential to become major tourist destinations in a post-Covid world.”

Tales from a small but terrible volcano

On January 12, 2020, just two months before the Covid-19 lockdown on March 16, 2020, Taal Volcano awoke from 43 years of quiet and began to spew gases, ash, and lava into the air. The ash affected, to varying degrees, a number of cities and municipalities of Batangas within the 14 and 17 km. danger zones, reaching as far as Metro Manila as well as the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan.

What you need to know about our Independence Day and more

On June 12, we celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence and the focus of this celebration will be at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit (originally Cavite el Viejo), Cavite where the Philippine declaration of independence from Spain was declared and the Philippine flag officially unfurled by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

The unknown side of Corregidor

When one mentions Corregidor, what comes to mind is the heroic defense of the 11,000 Fil-American troops on the island against the Japanese invaders after the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942. After a month, on May 6, the island itself capitulated. Now, on the 79th anniversary of the fall of the island, let’s find out about some relatively unknown facts about the island fortress of Corregidor and its adjoining islands.

Seriously Saving San Sebastian

The word “photobomber” is the term used for the heavily criticized 49-storey Torre de Manila in Ermita. Today, it is now the backdrop of the Rizal Monument in Luneta Park as, in 2017, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary restraining order on the construction as there was no law or local ordinance that prohibits the construction of the condominium “due to its effect on the background ‘view, vista, sightline, or setting’ of the Rizal Monument.” Recently, the word has again been resurrected and, in the crosshairs this time, is the 31-storey University Homes Recto condominium being built just 75 meters away from the historic Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo, Manila.

Bangon Cebu: The I Love Cebu Travel Fair

After a yearlong hiatus, now is the time to make Cebu your first getaway destination. You can experience the many more firsts in the beautiful island of Cebu through the “I Love Cebu Travel Fair” that’s ongoing until April 21.

A religious and historical pilgrimage to Bataan

Flaming Sword Monument in Pilar

The Lenten tradition of Visita Iglesia, a religious pilgrimage to pray and reflect on the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, remains an observed tradition in the province of Bataan. And since this year’s Holy Week is also just a few days before Araw ng Kagitingan (April 9), also known as Bataan Day, a visit to this province at this time is like hitting two birds with one stone—a religious as well as an historical pilgrimage.

There’s nature’s beauty beyond Melbourne

Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is a great city but a big part of Melbourne’s appeal lies in the fact that so much natural beauty lies a mere day-trip away. That being said, we took time to explore some of Victoria State’s jaw-dropping, mind-blowingly beautiful nature spots, diverse natural landscapes and iconic wildlife.

Make it Melbourne

THE last quarter of the year brought me and my family to the Australian city of Melbourne, regularly listed among the world’s greatest cities in which to live. Our home for our weeklong visit was Empire Apartments, right in the middle of the city’s shopping district and, from our 48th floor suite, we had a bird’s eye preview of what this beautiful city had to offer. A short walk from the Empire are cafés, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the retail meccas Melbourne Central, QV, Bourke Street, Emporium and the Queen Victoria Market. The weather throughout our stay was a cool 12 degrees centigrade.

Discover Bella Isabela

ONE of the highlights of our media coverage of the 2020 Bambanti Festival was our Discover Isabela Tour, which took us to some of the province’s heritage churches (the province has five), as well as an upcoming tourism leisure site. Our tour first brought us to the town of Benito Soliven, just a 33-kilometer or one-hour drive away via the Pan-Philippine Highway.

A night that made Bacchus proud

THE Philippine Wine Merchants (PWM) have done it again with their very successful 19th edition of the Grand Wine Experience (GWE), the country’s most prestigious annual wine event (ranked as one of Asia’s most important wine spectacles), held on November 15, at the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel (its ninth consecutive year as host), Resorts World Manila. 

NorthMin spells food and fun

THE last time I visited Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, was way back in 2002 when I used the city as my stepping stone going to Camiguin. Seventeen years later, I am back, this time to cover with a group of bloggers the Northern Mindanao leg of the Department of Tourism’s “Kain Na!” Food and Travel Festival, part of a nationwide series designed to create awareness and interest in Filipino cuisine and tourism destinations.

Balmy Balesin

I’d already heard about Balesin Island, off the eastern coast of Luzon, since way back in high school from my classmate Anthony Tordesillas whose father, the late Board of Investment Head Edgardo Tordesillas, acquired the island from Felipe “Baby” Ysmael in 1967, and set about building tourism facilities on the island. A chance encounter with Anthony after high school elicited an invitation to visit the island with him but for reasons I can’t recall, I wasn’t able to join him. After Anthony’s passing in 2012, I thought the opportunity to visit this now members-only, private leisure getaway, now called Balesin Island Club, has finally passed me by.

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Retracing Rizal’s footsteps in Dapitan

I HAVE retraced Rizal’s footsteps in many places associated with him in Manila and Laguna, and, to complete it, I joined my son Jandy, wife Grace, her boss Engr. Eulalio “Loy” Ganzon and her officemates in a three-day trip to Sindangan (where Loy studied) in Zamboanga del Norte. Upon landing in Dipolog City, we had lunch at Ariana Hotel, visited Onay Museum (housing the memorabilia of Gen. Alexander Yano, the first Mindanaoan to become AFP Chief of Staff) and proceeded to Dapitan City. It is the site of Rizal’s exile from July 17, 1892 to July 31, 1896.

The Mardi Gras of the Philippines

THE Pasayahan sa Lucena, a mammoth gathering of colors, outlandish costumes and symbolic floats held during the merry month of May, is a sea of frolicking humanity reminiscent of Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro (minus the women’s skimpy outfits) of Brazil and New Orleans (Louisiana, USA), but imbued with the Lucenahin’s local culture.

Oriental splendor

THE last time I was in Oriental Mindoro was back in 2014 and I only covered the northern part of the province from Calapan City to Puerto Galera (the province’s main tourist draw).  This time around, joining another media familiarization tour, we were to cover the province’s rarely visited eastern and southern seaboard, from Calapan City all the way down to Bulalacao. A nearly two-hour drive, via van, brought us to Batangas City International Port where we took a one-hour SuperCat ferry to Calapan City Port. 

A Bataan icon rises again

Forty-five years ago, luxury hotel living came into Bataan in the form of the Bataan Hilltop Hotel. Located within the Bataan Export Processing Zone (established in 1969, it is the first export processing zone in the country), now the Freeport Area in Bataan (FAB), it was designed by the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin and was inaugurated on September 28, 1974, by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos.  It operated for over a decade until it was abandoned around the time of the Edsa Revolution. 

Charmed in Subic

SUBIC Bay, once the site of the largest US naval base in the world, is now, due to its accessibility (it is just a three-hour drive from Manila) and attractions, a favorite vacation spot among Manila local and foreign tourists, offering world-class and unparalleled safaris and ocean parks, amusement spots, beaches, water sports, discount shops and activities.

A new jewel in Coron’s crown

CORON town, the gateway to Coron Island’s numerous wreck diving sites, clean and clear lakes and beautiful islands with white-sand beaches, has a new addition in its gallery of premier boutique resorts: Bacau Bay Resort. Managed by Anya Hospitality Corp. (the same company which manages Anya Resort Tagaytay, Club Punta Fuego, and Amara Residences), this four-star, 1.5-hectare resort had its soft opening on March 23. Located along Governor’s Drive in Sitio Jolo, Poblacion 5, it is located just 2 kilometers from the National Highway and a 30- to 45-minute drive from Francisco B. Reyes Airport.  The resort was so named after the bakawan, the local name for mangroves. 

A tour of Cebu’s Parian district

THE genteel Parian of Cebu City, one of the several parians in the country, started as a small ghetto of Chinese traders in the 16th century.  Located across an estuary on the north side of the Spanish quarters, by the turn of the 20th century it became a district where Cebu’s wealthiest founding families lived. Clustered within this district were a large concentration of the tiled-roof bahay na bato (stone ancestral houses) where lavish cenas and tertulias were once held by the buena sociedad cebuana.

Baguio beyond the usual

THE last time I was in Baguio, that northern destination known as the City of Pines, was a little over three years ago and it was nice to again be feeling the cool (12 degree Celsius), crisp Baguio air as my son Jandy and I joined my wife Grace’s E. Ganzon Inc. company outing. As in the past, we all stayed in the company-owned, 137-room Albergo Hotel where we were all welcomed by General Manager Gerry Beltran. The hotel is just a stone’s throw away from three of Baguio’s usual attractions: the horse riding mecca of Wright Park, the Mansion House (the summer residence of the Philippine president) and Mine’s View Park (just another tourist trap). These we could easily visit in our free time.

Autumn in Japan

LATE spring, which would be from March to May, is generally the best time to visit Japan (especially for the April cherry blossoms) but I decided to visit the Japanese capital with my family in late autumn, the next best time to visit, when there is little rainfall, the skies are clear and temperatures are mild. Our early-morning Cebu Pacific flight brought us to Narita International Airport just before lunchtime and, from there, an airport limousine bus brought us to Akasaka Centurion Hotel by late afternoon.

Legend, history and adventure converge in Wawa

SITIO Wawa in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) in Rizal, lies in between the 426-meter high Mount Pamitinan and 424-meter high Mount Binacayan. Its abandoned reservoir is visited mostly by hikers and mountaineers as the jump-off point for the trek to either beginner-friendly mountain, two of three mountains in a well-loved trilogy hike (the other is 517-meter high Mount Hapunang Banoi). The two mountains form a scenic view that appears like a portal to the sky, hence the name wawa, the  Dumagat term for “entrance.” Wawa Gorge is also the place to be for the relatively new, adrenaline-pumping and extreme sport of rock climbing.  The gorge’s 400-meter high cliffs provide different levels of difficulty for rock climbers.

There’s more to Baltimore

BALTIMORE, a major city and popular tourist destination in Maryland, has a long history as an important seaport. It’s historic Inner Harbor District, one of Baltimore’s newest and most upscale neighborhoods, has made the city into a major center for tourism and travel. As such, the city was worth more than just a stopover on our way from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., staying there two nights at the Hyatt Place Baltimore Inner Harbor, which was walking distance from its namesake.

Feeling Philadelphia

THE recent trip to the United States brought us to Philadelphia, just a one-and-half-hour Amtrak train ride from New York City to the 30th Street Station. The city’s oldest buildings here are so well-preserved and the train station itself, opened in 1933, is a work of art. Its cavernous, ornate Art Deco main passenger concourse is faced with travertine, and its soaring  coffered ceiling, painted gold, red and cream, has beautiful chandeliers. Just a short walk away is our hotel, the historic, 18-storey full-service Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, designed by renowned American architect Philip H. Johnson, built in 1926, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

An animal and food safari with Sophia

For three days last month, I, as well as some members of the blogging community, were treated to a gustatory and visual overload courtesy of Sophia’s Garden Resort in Coron, Palawan. We were brought directly to Coron via a 40-minute flight from Manila to Busuanga Airport via SkyJet Airlines, riding in style and roomy comfort on SkyJet’s 80-seater, four-engine British Aerospace 146-100 jet.  From the airport, it is a 17-kilometer/45-minute drive to the resort.

Behold Bohol

It’s been four years since the October 15, 2013, 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol, and I, together with other members of print an online media, were back to check on the current state of this island-province. Our home for our three-day sojourn was to be the Class “AAA” Panglao Bluewater Resort, staying at some of their 54 elegantly appointed, spacious, very Zen and modern air-conditioned guest rooms.

A fill of Cebu’s culture, cuisine and churches

MEMBERS of print media were again invited back at Bluewater Maribago Resort on Mactan Island, this time staying at some of the resort’s 16 brand-new Premier Deluxe Rooms which bear architect and wood artist Benji Reyes’s signature mark on modern contemporary Filipino architecture—thatch roofs, the use of a lot of recycled wood and wooden sculpted furniture (including cantilevered beds).

Newbies in New York

OUR two-week visit to the United States, via Korean Airlines, brought my wife Grace and I, and our children Jandy and Cheska, plus grandson Kyle, first to exciting New York City, making landfall at JFK International Airport. Called “The City That Never Sleeps”, New York City is home to big-name attractions, as well as charming neighborhoods and hidden green spaces, trendy boutiques and classic bars. When one thinks of New York City, the first place visitors’ picture is often the borough of Manhattan and this was to be our base. For the first three nights, we stayed at the vibrant Hampton Inn Manhattan Grand Central. Near the hotel is the Grand Central Terminal, one of the most majestic buildings of the 20th century. It has both monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, especially on its façade.

Siargao is more than just the surf

Nowadays, when one mentions Siargao, one thinks of the world-famous thick hollow tubes of Cloud 9, the Philippines’s best surfing spot. That’s all true, but Siargao offers more, much more, and this we found out during a media familiarization tour. A direct, 80-minute flight from Manila, via a Skyjet Airlines 80-seater, 4-engine British Aerospace 146-100 jet, brought us to Sayak Airport where we were welcomed by our host, the youthful and dynamic Del Camen town Mayor Alfredo M. Coro II.  We were all billeted at the nearby Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast and, after a late breakfast and news conference with Coro, we boarded two vans for a tour, with Roxan Gesto as our guide, of what Siargao has to offer.

From blue waters to highlands

FOR over a quarter of a century, Maribago Bluewaters Resort & Spa in Mactan Island, Cebu, has been, just like Cebu City’s tourism industry, constantly reinventing itself. As the tourism trend nowadays is getting away from the urban lifestyle, Cebu travel agencies and resorts have now deviated from the usual cultural and heritage tours and beach package. Maribago Bluewater Resort has also followed suit, now offering tours to the highlands of Busay, Cebu City, for their guests. Now gaining popularity among domestic and international tourists, these tours to old favorites, as well as relatively new spots, all with their panoramic views of the city and its surrounding mountains, are the most appealing tour package nowadays, and members of print and online media were invited by the resort to savor this.

There’s more to shoot for in Pagsanjan

When one mentions Pagsanjan, the tourist capital of Laguna, the two things that come into mind are the iconic Pagsanjan Falls (a memorable travel image of the Philippines, dating back to the 1970s) and “Shooting the Rapids”, the boat trip to the falls. Those attractions remain, but the town also has much more to offer, especially for history buffs. To help me find out, I enlisted the help of Ramon “Mon” Cabela, the town’s retired municipal tourism officer. Joining me on my trip was my son Jandy and lady friends Joy Tenedero, Desiree Benitez, Jessica Bez and Julie Ann Zafe.

Tantalized by Tanay

The town of Tanay is a favorite weekend getaway for Manileños, due to its proximity to the metropolis (a two-hour drive away). Visitors are attracted by its cool weather, clean air and majestic view of the Laguna Lake and the Sierra Mountain Range. The magnificence of Tanay is reflected in its natural scenery and exceptional adventure landscapes that include majestic waterfalls, awe-inspiring rock formations, clean rivers and breathtaking mountains.

A gastronomic extravaganza in Quezon

APRIL is Philippine Food Month, and this is a perfect time to head south and check out Quezon province’s famous delicacies. To showcase its cuisine, members of print and online media were invited to the Makulay na Pamana ng Quezon Kulinarya, an event organized by the Tourism Organization of Quezon Province Philippines Inc. (TOQPPI), as part of the Flavors of the Philippines 2017, a monthlong (March to April) gastronomic celebration hosted by the Department of Tourism as the local component of Madrid Fusión Manila. This event will showcase the ingenuity and abilities of Quezonians in the hospitality and food service industry, as well as provide a learning experience from the experts in the field.

An all-in-one adventure called Noah

THE Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub (Noah), an outdoor sports complex in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, was opened in October 2012 by the local government, headed by Mayor Zuriel Zaragoza, offering various extreme activities that will surely showcase one’s adventurous side. It hosts the Philippines’s first full-scale Via Ferrata (literally meaning “Iron Road”), a vertical 280-meter climb on a steep rock wall of the majestic 1,050-foot-high Bantay Abot Hill, designed with the regular tourist in mind—no climbing experience required.

Floored by Florence

ROME may be the birthplace of the Roman Empire but Florence holds the distinction of being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. For around 250 years, before 1300 until the early 1500s, it was politically, economically and culturally the most important city in Europe. The Florentines dominated the visual arts like nobody before or since, from Arnolfo and Cimabue to Giotto, Nanni di Banco and Uccello; through Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello and Massaccio, and the various della Robbias; through Fra Angelico and Botticelli and Piero della Francesca; and on to Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

My Roman holiday

Journey to Italy always starts in Rome, the Eternal City, and one of the best ways to explore it is by foot (with an occasional bus ride thrown in). My wife Grace, children Jandy and Cheska, my grandson Kyle and yours truly did just that. As soon as we arrived at the Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport and checked in at the refined, very Roman and charming Anahi Hotel, we began our exploration of this Old World city. But first, we tempted fate, audaciously sticking our hand inside the lie detector called La Bocca della Verita (“Mouth of  Truth”), made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a memorable scene in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday.

Luxury meets adventure at Albay

OUR four-day media familiarization tour to Albay ushered us into a world of luxury mixed with adventure. We also got there in style via a one-hour Philippine Airlines flight, foregoing the tiring and backbreaking 11-hour land trip. Our first and only night in the city was to be spent at the four-star, six-story The Oriental Legazpi on the top of Taysan Hill.

Sun, sand and surf plus some in San Juan

WITH summer well under way, it was going to be another long, hot weekend in the city. Wanting to escape the heat of the city, I decided to pack my beach gear and head off to the beaches of Laiya in the coastal town of San Juan in Batangas. For company, I brought along my son Jandy, and my good friend Melissa Tinonas, along with her daughter Almira. The 120-kilometer, early-morning drive, via North Luzon Expressway and Star Tollway (where I took the Ibaan Exit), still took over three hours, despite bypassing the traffic-laden cities of Lipa and Tanauan. We arrived in Laiya by lunchtime. Laiya’s beautiful, creamy white-sand beaches, though not as fine (it’s actually coarse) or as white as the beaches of the more popular Boracay, is still given the moniker by many people as the “Boracay of Luzon.” The 7 kilometer-long stretch of sandy beach, with its warm, azure and clear waters along Sibayan Bay, is backdropped by a majestic view of the conspicuous, 677 meter-high Mount Daguldol, San Juan’s highest peak.

The sights…and sounds of Salzburg

ONE of the highlights of our family trip to Europe was our three-day visit to the Austrian city of Salzburg, the birthplace of world renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the setting for the classic 1964 Oscar winner The Sound of Music. From the Paris Garde du Nord Train Station, we boarded an early-morning, 3.5-hour high-speed TGV train (a first for me, my wife Grace, children Jandy and Cheska and my grandson Kyle) to Stuttgart in Germany, where we transferred to another train for the remaining four-hour (380-kilometer) trip to Salzburg.

East meets West and old meets new in TbIlisi

I happened to be in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, upon the invitation of Thelmo O. Cunanan Jr., honorary consul of Georgia in the Philippines, to cover the Colors of Hope exhibit of Pancho Piano, the first Filipino artist to officially present his work in Georgia and the entire Caucasus region. With our group were Riva M. Galveztan (health food advocate) and Prof. Melissa Dizon-Dulalia.

The delights of Coron…above water and below

CORON in Palawan has always been a dream destination of mine, and it was without hesitation that I joined a media familiarization tour to this much-hyped destination. Our media team flew there with the utmost convenience, comfort and style on board SkyJet Airlines’ 80-seater, four-engine British Aerospace 146-100 jet, which is similar to the VIP jet used by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William and the rest of the British royal family.

Going from extreme to serene in Sabang

DURING our three-day media tour at the 95-room, eco-friendly Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa, the only luxury resort in the Sabang area on the west coast of Palawan, we engaged in a number of resort-sponsored activities that are offered to guests. Being located just a stone’s throw away from Sabang Port, the gateway to world-renowned Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), it was only fitting that, on our first day, this New Seven Wonder of the World and longest navigable subterranean river in the world be the first in our itinerary.

Going green and glamorous in Palawan

Eco-friendly travel, which has a positive impact on the planet, may bring to mind images of roughing it in the wilderness but, throughout the world, you can enjoy luxury with a conscience as there are many resorts that are both green and glamorous.

Touring the Philippines the caravan way

IN line with the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) “Visit the Philippines 2015” campaign that was launched last September, the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), one of the DOT’s most active partners in strengthening the country’s tourism sector, is bringing in the “Islands Philippines Fun Caravans.”

Thrills and spills at Mt. Pulag

A very big item in my travel bucket list is to climb the three highest mountains in the Philippines—the 2,956-meter-high Mount Apo and the 2,938-meter-high Mount Dulang-Dulang, both in Mindanao, and the 2,922-meter-high Mount Pulag, the highest mountain in Luzon.  Of course, it made sense to first climb the latter, the nearest to home of the three.

Passage to Phnom Penh

When one thinks of Cambodia, what usually comes into mind is Angkor Wat and its host city, Siem Reap, but Phnom Penh, the capital city, is also worth a visit.

The lure of Sumilon

I again got an invitation from Pete Dacuycuy to join a three-day media familiarization tour of another Bluewater resort (the first one we visited was the Panglao Bluewater Resort in Bohol), this time to the 27-room Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort ( in Cebu. Joining me were two bloggers and five writers from the print media. We all arrived at Sibulan Airport by 3:30 pm via a PAL Express flight and, upon exiting the terminal, we were whisked via two air-conditioned vans to Sibulan Port. Here, a big 50-pax outrigger boat was waiting to bring us to the island, foregoing the tedious land-sea transfer and, instead, directly getting to the island via a one-hour boat trip. We arrived at the island by 4:50 pm. Dinner was prepared, al fresco, along the island’s signature shifting sandbar.

A countryside tour of Georgia

ONE of the highlights of our 10-day, Qatar Airways-sponsored working visit to the Republic of Georgia was our three-day tour of the Georgian countryside sponsored by the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA). For this purpose, the GNTA provided us with a coach, a driver and a guide—the affable Sopho Makashvili. Our party consisted of Thelmo O. Cunanan Jr. (honorary consul of Georgia in the Philippines), Pancho Piano (the first Filipino artist to officially present his work in Georgia and the entire Caucasus Region), Riva M. Galveztan (health food advocate), Prof. Melissa Dizon-Dulalia and yours truly.

Gone to Saigon

FOR five whole days, my son Jandy and I, together with companions Violet Imperial (executive director of Nature Awareness and Conservation Club Inc.) and Rosanna “Osang” Kho (CEO of Kho Travel and Tours), went on a three-city tour of Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) and Cambodia (Phnom Penh and Siem Reap). Taking the late-evening Cebu Pacific Air flight to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon), we arrived there at 1:30 am. From the airport, we took a taxi to the 81-room, three-star Elios Hotel, awarded with a Certificate of Excellence, based on ratings by hotel guests, by Tripadvisor in 2013. Staying there for two nights, it was to be our base for exploring, on foot, the prominent landmarks at the nearby French Quarter.

Bohol reinvents itself

IT’S been a little over a year since the devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol on October 15, 2013, destroying or damaging many of its iconic Spanish-era churches, as well as other infrastructure. However, slowly the province and its people are picking up the pieces and getting on with their lives. Joining a media familiarization tour with seven newsmen and bloggers, we explored Bohol’s now revived tourism potential, which includes alternative destinations such as the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park and the Bee Farm. Boholanos have also turned the tragic aftermath of the earthquake into tourist attractions (such as the tectonic uplift along the coasts).