Strolling in the Philippines’ City of Love – Iloilo

As soon as the plane touched down in Iloilo Airport, it felt as if my heart was going to burst anytime. I’ve been so excited about visiting the so-called Philippines’ City of Love, Iloilo, with a very sweet memory of love imprinted in my heart by my grandmother when I was a kid.

Leonora De Jesus (Lola Nora), my grandmother, met the love of her life and my grandfather, Caesar Vinluan (Lolo Caesar), when they were still teenagers. Both of them were serving the church as choir and altar boy respectively. Grandma was really lovely when she was young and with her voice, Lolo Caesar was totally captivated. The Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish, better known as the Miag-ao Church, in the town of Miag-ao was Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar’s witness to the blossoming of their endless love for each other. Lola Nora used to tell me that she never doubted the moment Lolo Caesar confessed his love for her in front of the altar. She thought that the angels whispered on her to say Yes to Lolo Caesar – it was indeed a love match made in heaven.

Bearing that beautiful love story in my heart made my journey in Iloilo a romantically nostalgic one. I never wasted time and made sure that I visited the beautiful and UNESCO World Heritage site Miag-ao Church.  It was love at first sight that it was no wonder an endless love just like my Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar had taken place. I prayed and talked to Lola Nora and Lolo Caesar asking for their guidance to all couples who are having a blossoming love story just like theirs in the lovely church of Miag-ao.

Masadya diri sa Iloilo! (It is fun here in Iloilo!)

Iloilo City for me is a very promising place in the Philippines. From the old nostalgic churches in Jaro, Guimbal, San Joaquin and Miag-ao; and establishments rich in cultural heritage in Calle Real and Plaza Libertad to modern hotspots in Iloilo Esplanade and Iloilo Business Park, Iloilo is truly the center of the old and new.

Iloilo is also famous with its religious and cultural festival called the Dinagyang Festival. It is a feast of faith to honor the Sto Niño or the child Jesus celebrated every fourth Sunday of January. From simple foot and fluvial processions, Dinagyang Festival has gone big with street parties, beauty contests, medical missions, and food festivals. Too bad I missed the chance to witness it for the first time but I’ll try my luck next year to attend the Dinagyang Festival.

Aside from the sceneries to go to in Iloilo, I have also enjoyed the company of the Ilonggos I’ve met along the way. They have been so malambing that there have been times I almost fell like being cradled every time they were talking to me. These Ilonggos were so sweet, hospitable and kind-hearted to everyone, especially to someone who tours around like me. To all the Ilonggos, especially to Tessie, Danica, and the Tiangao family, you all are special to me. Salamat gid!

Here are some of the highlights during my stroll in the Philippines’ City of Love:

Richmonde Hotel Iloilo

From the Iloilo Airport, Tessie, my dear Filipina friend in the US who also happened to be in Iloilo during my trip, took me straight to the Richmonde Hotel. Tessie mentioned that the Richmonde Hotel opened last July 2015 under the development of Megaworld Corporation. Upon arrival, the hotel staff pleasantly greeted me and assisted me to my room. It was really a relaxing stay I had in Richmonde Hotel as well as very convenient since I had easy access on local transportation to the rest of my itinerary.

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My lovely hotel room. It was a lovely stay. Thank you, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo!

La Paz Batchoy

Since it was rainy season in the Philippines, I did not miss the chance to have one of the Iloilo’s famous noodle soup dish, the La Paz Batchoy. It has vegetables, miki noodles, pork meat and pork innards – yes, pork innards. I think I had La Paz Batchoy almost every meal during my stay in Iloilo. It did not only warm my stomach with the chilly weather in Iloilo because of the rains; it definitely also warmed my heart. Hindi lang pala talaga City of Love ang Iloilo dahil sa mga mapupuntahang lugar dito kundi dahil na rin sa mga pagkaing makakapagpasaya sa’yo tulad ng La Paz Batchoy. 🙂 ❤ Namit Ah talaga!

 

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A bowl of hearty delicious meal. Namit ah!  as they say “it tastes great” in Ilonggo.

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A Pinay Wanderer’s Quick Escape from Manila

Good morning, Philippines! Ang sarap talaga ng feeling ‘pag alam mong isa na namang magandang araw ang we-welcome sa’yo. Hello, Philippines and Hello, World!

Anyway, today was such a good day to go out. Sun was not too hot, and the clouds were just enough to cover a bit of the sky. My friends picked me up for our road trip to Tagaytay. Yes, Tagaytay! It’s one of my favorite destinations here in the Philippines because of its cool climate, beautiful spots, and its proximity to Manila. Just a two-hour drive, with traffic and stopovers, pa yan ha! By the way, did you know that Forbes cited Tagaytay among the top two retirement destinations in the Philippines (the other one is Subic)? Cool, right? The Batangueños must be very proud. Hey, it’s Forbes! They know the best of the best.

Back when I was a child, we visited Tagaytay during the coldest time of the year, that’s between December to February, so we can literally chill in the morning air and watch the fog cover everything from our window. We used to stay at the Taal Vista Lodge where my eldest brother Kuya Paquito used to work as a hotel manager. Kaya naman puro kami discounts sa accommodation. Haha! If I got it right, its name has been changed to Taal Vista Hotel. Back then, our stay in Tagaytay was always memorable and surreal, like you were on top of a mountain or riding a cloud in the sky. We would imagine ourselves picking a bunch of clouds like cotton candy in the early morning and hug it because it’s so fluffy. Oh, how funny we were back then.

Here’s how Taal Vista Lodge looked like in the ‘60s, and how it looks like now.

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Taal Vista Lodge back in the ’60s (Google Images)
Taal Vista Hotel (new)2
Now known as Taal Vista Hotel. Ibang iba na! (Google Images)

During the ‘60s, Tagaytay was lush and green with trees and vines lining up the ridge. You would have to ride a pony to experience and see the lake up close. And it was not very dangerous. The air was crisp and cool, you’d feel like you are in a different country. Everything was just so fresh. Truly, Tagaytay has lived up to its notion as the “Second Summer Capital of the Philippines”, and it still is, up to now.

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Titas of Manila Take Over Fort Bonifacio

It has been raining in the city these past few weeks and waking up in the morning with raindrops falling on my window for two weeks at Eight Forbestown Rd makes me feel really home. I told you in the previous blog that Newport City has everything accessible the moment I step foot outside Belmont Hotel and again like déjà vu, being in Forbes Town Center (the guard said this is what the area is called, I am only familiar with the Burgos Circle haha) makes everything so easy and accessible for me. Newport City and Forbes Town Center are both Megaworld  projects. I had a small talk with the caretaker of the unit, she said that these properties are called “Township” development, a city within a city and everything you need is just right outside your door. (Super true! and I love this concept!!)

Minus the heavy downpour of the rain, I enjoy walking around the area – it’s very modern, chic but peaceful and quiet.I did my own grocery at the shops in the ground floor of the building for my breakfast and light snacks for my visitors aside from the usual “states side” chocolates and chips. I have been meeting with my friends non-stop for the past two weeks. It is good to be just reunited with everyone, sometimes we stay inside the unit or my nephew and nieces use the pool in the building but most of the time, I go out with my friends, who are now staying in nearby cities in Manila. I also get to enjoy my quiet alone time in cafés catching up with my family in the US.

We’ve had lunch at the Max’s Restaurant almost right across the building. I can remember how we only eat here during “special occasions” like weddings and reunions, because we had to travel to the nearby city from Pangasinan to be able to eat in Max’s. Iba pa din talaga ang Pinoy food.  Crispy Pata, Kare-Kare and Sinigang. Yum! Surely, you wouldn’t miss our group. We’re the tita table na pinaka-maingay.

So you see, I’ve placed myself right in the center of the bustle and hustle city life which means I am in the center of food, leisure and entertainment. From Burgos Circle until at the McDonald’s at the end of Forbes Town Center, it is filled with restaurants, cafés, retail specialty stores and fitness which makes it easier for me to just go down and explore. Actually, the whole Fort Bonifacio area for me is “walkable”. In the morning when it doesn’t rain, I exercise and jog from my area to High Street, then have morning snacks or breakfast at the Starbucks Reserve on the ground floor of the condo building or Wildflour Café + Bakery.

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Mabuhay! Jennifer has Landed!

Sa wakas, nakarating din sa lupang sinilangan! Thank you flag carrier for the safe trip back home.  I made sure to have a window seat and I was blessed with my early morning view of Manila.  They say Manila sunsets are beautiful but the sunrise is equally gorgeous. Oh it feels so good to be back home! So sorry to my seatmate in the airplane whose sleep I disturbed because I couldn’t keep myself quiet as my adventure finally begins!

I felt like a wide-eyed, giddy little girl when I stepped out of the terminal. It is such a relief that there’s a free shuttle ride to The Belmont Hotel courtesy of Resorts World Manila. Travel Tipid Tip 101 (thrift tip): Utilize the free shuttle services c/o the hotels, airports. It will save you a fortune. LOL.

So during the shuttle ride to The Belmont Hotel, I couldn’t help myself but smile from ear to ear. The first thing that struck me during the ride was how many buildings there were! There were several buses each fighting for passengers and this caused a traffic jam (hello, Manila traffic!).  And yes, the jeepneys! I have to ride one soon and be able to say “para po”.

Finally, we reached the hotel.  After checking-in, I made sure to call some family and friends to tell them I arrived safely. And then the excitement and the jet lag got the better of me and I fell asleep.  A few hours later, I was ready and back to my fighting, adventurer form!

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Where is Jennifer going?

I have been researching for my trip in the Philippines and just recently there was a viral video of DOT’s campaign “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” in London Waterloo station.  Were your able to watch it? If not, you can watch it here.

I got teary eyed watching this and I realized that I have been missing A LOT. The only thing I can remember from my younger years in Philippines was our little province of Pangasinan. Other than that, Palawan, Boracay, Davao and Cebu were just places I read on textbooks. I am happy how people of different races and culture appreciate the Philippines, well of course, who wouldn’t want to spend time in a paradise, right? I have been to almost every state of the United States and a couple of places in Canada and I am quite ashamed that it took me some time to go back to my homeland, but at least that won’t stop me from doing it whatever the circumstances are.

So after days and weeks of reading travel blogs, I finally mapped out my trip to the Philippines following the 15 Ways to have More Fun in the Philippines from DOT (I must say, DOT has been doing really good job in promoting our country! Their videos and events are really enticing. Kudos DOT!)

Keeping true to my blog name (he he) I decided to do a “backpacking” style of trip which has been pretty popular to young (and young at heart) travelers. I also decided to explore not just Luzon, but also Visayas and Mindanao.

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Hello Philippines!

It’s so good to wake up on a sunny, clear day. Makes me want to go out and explore, to make new things, and to meet new friends. Good thing I will get to see my new-found friends in the community group that we have here in our town. There are a lot of Filipino community groups here in the US, and I am part of them, too. It’s a good way to meet new friends and to reminisce about our country. This way, we can also hear about what’s new and what’s popular back there, because we exchange stories and pictures from our family in the Philippines. Ang saya lagi ng atmosphere namin when we’re together, it helps to ease the sadness of being away from families. I also teach them new things and share my hobbies with them, like flea market hunting, gardening, and knitting. At my age, it helps to move a lot and never stop learning, so I share it with them as well.

Speaking of friends, I have friends here who send money to their families in the Philippines thru remittances. And I just want to share that according to World Bank, Philippines was the third country, after India and China, which has the highest remittances received in 2014. I read this from Time magazine. This means that we really do have a lot of kababayans working abroad who send their hard earned money to the families they left behind. It’s the spirit of hard work and love working hand in hand. As for me, all of my relatives are here in the US already, so I don’t have that experience yet.

Now that the Philippine election is over, everyone including us here in the US, are excited on what the incoming President Duterte has to offer. I saw in CNN that our economy has grown 6.9% GDP in the first quarter of 2016. That is the fastest among major Asian countries, ha. And we are ahead of China and Vietnam! What a good start of the year! That’s why we are very, very optimistic about what Duterte can bring onto the plate and how he can steer our administration to continue its active growth.

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A Golden Traveler’s Dream

 

Hi! I am Jennifer Nakpil, age 50, and been living here in the United States for 35 years. I was originally born and raised in one of the most beautiful countries in Southeast Asia, the Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines.

Just like any other Filipino story here in the United States, our family migrated immediately as the opportunity for greener pasture arise for both of my parents. I was 15 years old then. Although we have lived a simple life in the Philippines, I remember having rich childhood memories back home. We lived in a small town we call “barrio” in the province of Pangasinan located at the northern part of the Philippines. I experienced the fun, playing under the sun, having siesta after a sumptuous lunch, and back to playing again with my friends until we were being yelled at to come home for dinner time. Almost every summer, I also had the chance to go to other places in our country to enjoy the beaches and good food around with my family. It was all fun and games for me until we left for the United States.

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