Walking along the Kapurpurawan coastline
Philippines may be home to 7107 islands. But one island beats them all in size. Luzon is the largest and the most populous island of the Pinas – as Philippines is often called. And unlike what you may think, it was much, much more than just Manila.   And to understand that, I had to go north of Manila. Past Zambales, Baguio, the cordilleras and even La Union. All the way to the Northern tip of Luzon.   To Ilocos Norte.       Ilocos – From the South to the north When the Spanish started consolidating their control over […]

Towards the Northern tip of Luzon: Ilocos Norte, Philippines

lake pinatubo philippines
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” — Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes   As always, Calvin knew best. So did I, apparently. And that was when I decided to finally explore the Pinatubo crater lake after years of putting it off.   I had lived in Manila for nearly 5 years. But not once during those 5 years had I tried to step beyond the comforts of the city, and venture towards Pinatubo. Venture I did – and plenty of times – to the famous beaches of Zambales, the colourful festivals of Masskara and Panagbenga, former […]

To the moon and back: Trekking Pinatubo in Philippines

Yap airport micronesia
Manila It was an uneventful flight to Manila. I was no stranger to the Philippines. I lived here for 4 years. And even after I moved my base from the Philippines to the urbanscape that people called Singapore, I had visited Manila a couple of times. So, nothing exciting awaited me in Manila, save a couple of planned meetups with old friends. If you are looking for something interesting to do in Manila, go offbeat and check out the Ermita region for some amazing street photography opportunities. Owing to some confusion in my seat booking, Jetstar gave me a free upgrade to […]

Island-hopping on an airplane: Singapore to Palau

When people usually think of the Philippines, the first images that come to mind are either the densely populated streets of Manila, or many of the thousands of islands and the white, sandy beaches they hold. Very few people equate Philippines with a grand mountain range. Until they visit the cordilleras! Luzon is the largest island of the Philippines, and located at its north-central section, is the Cordillera Administrative Region – a massive mountain range that occupies a total of 6 provinces. And if you are hearing this for the first time, a cordillera is a Spanish term which implies what I […]

Visiting the Cordilleras: The lesser known Philippines

Philippines wartime flag
Scroll down for the answer. Click here for previous quizzes. Click here for the hall of fame of scores. Qn: Look carefully at the military flag of the Philippines, and tell me why is it unique? Answer: The wartime flag of the Philippines is their national flag, only inverted. This is unique among world flags. Cracked by nobody, this one! Click here for the hall of fame of scores! Click here : to check out my Philippines episodes.

Been there, learnt that! Quiz #18

The roof, is one clearly lacking piece of architecture in this ruined mansion.
There is something about monuments of remembrance, that captures the human imagination. Like Taj Mahal for instance. Built as a monument by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan for his wife Mumtaz, this mausoleum has had many a romantic tourist going all ooohs and aaahs. During my visit to Bacolod, for the Masskara festival, I had chanced upon an opportunity to visit something similar in the Philippines. Perhaps you want to see my picture of the real Taj Mahal? Click here! Talisay is a small city, which is part of Metropolitan Bacolod in the island of Negros Occidental, and has no other respectable […]

The Taj Mahal of the Philippines : Talisay Ruins

Mestizo district vigan 2
Mestizo. A term used in Spain and Latin America to refer to people who were of mixed origin. But the first time that I heard this word, was in Ilocos Sur, at the Northern tip of the island of Luzon in Philippines.   In the capital of Ilocos Sur, Vigan, a Mestizo street came to life in front of me.   And if the name is familiar to you, it is because Vigan is also one of the New7wonder cities in the world. (Source: BusinessInsider) Further Reading: Check out one of Philippine’s most colourful festivals: the Panagbenga Vigan – The beautiful […]

A little bit of Spain in the Philippines: Mestizo district in Vigan

Masskara festival photography
After living in Manila for nearly 3 years, the Masskara festival in Bacolod was the first time that I got a real taste of street life in the Philippines. You see, I lived in Taguig. And worked in Makati. Both are very well-developed commercial centers in the Philippines. There was not much of street life that I could see there, except for the rare times that I visited Ermita for the times that I took Spanish classes at Instituto Cervantes. Bacolod was a revelation, as the people gathered in huge numbers at the festival. There were stalls of all kinds, selling everything […]

Images from the street – Masskara festival, Philippines

manila to paluig 4
With 7107 islands (or 7108 in low tide, as Charlene Gonzales would remind you), Philippines is second only to Indonesia in terms of Islands. So, it was no wonder that one of the easiest weekend activities during my stay in Manila, was finding a new island. There are so many options out there, that it is mind-boggling to see all of them. There is Corregidor, Anilao, Puerto Galera, and even the hundred islands. I wanted to blog about these islands, but don’t know where to start, so I’d rather start with a very obscure, yet amazing, island which is roughly […]

One of the 7107 islands : Magalawa, Philippines

Streets of Ermita
It was Spanish language that guided me to Ermita.   ========================================================================= When an Indian tries to learn Spanish in the Philippines. Click here. =========================================================================   When you are living in a country, listening to a language where almost every single word sounded like Spanish, you develop an inclination to learn Espanol. And so I signed up for a Spanish course at Instituto Cervantes, which was bang in the middle of Ermita, a district in downtown Manila. While the Instituto Cervantes campus itself had seduced me to bring my camera to class many times, it was the streets of Ermita which brought […]

Images from Ermita: Manila, Philippines

It’s February already, and this is the month of the awesome Panagbenga! Now, I’ve mentioned this before that Philippines is the land of festivals, with some amazing events like Masskara, Sinulog and Ati Aklan. All of these require you to take a short flight or ferry out of Manila. But, in Baguio, the summer capital of Philippines, a month-long festival is celebrated every February. And if you happen to be there to witness it, you will know why I rate Panagbenga so high.   ======================================================================== Click here to check out my photos from the Masskara festival of Philippines. ======================================================================== Some […]

In Photos: The Panagbenga flower festival of Baguio, Philippines

In 2010, I visited Bacolod city in the Philippines, for 2 of my most colorful days ever. What follows is an account of the masskara festival that happens in Bacolod city every October. Wait a minute. Where is Bacolod? Many folks will tell you that Bacolod is one of the best cities in the Philippines, even better than Manila and Cebu on some accounts. Known as the city of smiles, Bacolod is the capital of the Negros Occidental province of Philippines, and the home of the annual Masskara festival.   How do I get there? Assuming that you have already […]

Streetdancing at the Masskara : Bacolod, Philippines

Ziggurat manila
Update: I wrote this short post back in 2011 when I had just landed in the Philippines, and was amazed by the menu here. The restaurant has only become more popular since then, even being chosen as one of the best in Philippines by none lesser than lonely planet itself. For the average food critic, Ziggurat is a relatively unknown restaurant hidden somewhere in the middle of Jupiter avenue in Makati, Philippines. But, for the initiated, it can be an ultimate ‘digging grove’, with a menu picked up from across the Islamic region, or what they call the IMAM menu. […]

Eat Dates? : Ziggurat restaurant, Manila

Surfing in San Juan
The year was 2011, and it has already been a couple of years since I had decided to move to Manila. And, I haven’t surfed yet. Well, that had to change soon. Getting there So, with a couple of colleagues from the office, we took a friday night bus from Partas bus terminal in Cubao, all the way to San Juan beach, in the Ilocos province of the Philippines. After 7-8 hours on the bus, we were there by the morning, ready to take my first surf lessons at the 5th longest coastline in the world. Partas bus terminal is located at the below address. […]

My first encounter with Surfing: San Juan, Philippines

Three stars and the sun
Being an avid (OK, you can define ‘avid’ as a past-friendly adjective) quizzer, I’ve had a keen interest in the Philippines flag even before I came to Philippines. I mean, go ahead and ask any quizzer, a good reputable one, which country has the distinction of not having a separate wartime flag, but instead just inverts their flag during a period of war? And pat, or maybe plop, would come the answer – the Philippines.     Anyway, I’ve spent a year here already, so I had to get a memoir of my time here. So, why not make it […]

Three stars and the sun : A tattoo in the Philippines

Instituto cervantes in Manila
Today was my first attempt at learning Spanish in Manila.   Not a proud moment though. Imagine sitting through a class, with a bunch of people who already know basic Spanish (En Serio Amigo. Tagalog and Spanish have a lot in common, if not as much as Chabakano) and some really hot Filipinas, and you show yourself up for the class with 2 black holes under your eyes. At least sleep a little before you come to class, idiot!!   But gotta take the blame. Should have planned my day better. I finished a lengthy work-shift on Friday, and the […]

Soy de la India : Learning Spanish in Manila

There are times that I realize, divinely or damn-matter-of-factly, that I still have a blog. Whooaa.. 6 months has passed since my last post, I think. Been 6 months of heavy work, lotsa learning, and the wildest of weekends. You know what the good ol’ people say, work hard, party harder. So, there I’ve been. Working hard. Partying even harder. And it’s been a rollercoaster 6 months. If there is anyone there, with whom I couldnt keep tabs, or check on from time-to-time, blame it all on me. Was damn busy trying to experience the unknown. And making a mid-year […]

Breaking the hiatus again – Still in Manila