Monday, March 18, 2013

The Splendor of the Shrine of Valor

The following morning, I woke up to find my friends heading out to the beach and I was left by myself in the hut. They came back excitedly describing a beautiful place they saw adjacent to the resort from the sea shore. I didn't give it much thought since the days schedule had me thinking. We had to be in Mt. Samat, Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower, Bataan Death March's Zero Kilometer marker, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, and by the end of the day, in Mariveles, Bataan so we can catch the earliest sailing schedule of the motor boats going to Corregidor Island the day after. Depending primarily on research made prior the trip, we started the day at around 9AM.

After checking out from Fajardo's, we hired a cab to take us to Camacho St. to take our breakfast at Ate Marivic's eatery. At around 9:30AM, we were ready to start our way to Mt. Samat. We found out that Kuya Willie is still asleep because he went home late last night since his motorcycle was hired to do transportation services for the teens who were going home from the JS Prom. We decided to just take another cab to take us to their jeepney terminal where we will ride to Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor). After arriving at the terminal, we had to wait for the next bus schedule which was about 30 mins from our arrival time. Conspicuously towering in front of us was the Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower, a structure said to be put in commemoration of the time the Japanese made peace with the Filipinos after the World War II. After knowing from some of the passengers in the terminal that Zero Kilometer or the Death March Marker was not far away as well, we decided instantaneously to hit the road for it and be back in time for the bus' departure schedule. Five short minutes brought us to the Zero Kilometer Bataan Death March Marker through a motorcycle. We took a picture of it and although a little hurried, patriotic imagination filled me thinking about how the American POWs and Filipino soldiers must have felt that very day to stand at the area where their march was to begin onto what seemed like walk to death while guarded by Japanese armies. After that stop, we hired another cab to take us back to the terminal where the tower was and took hurried picture of it under the heat of the sun. Then we left for Mt. Samat.

The drive took us a over half an hour. It was thrilling and I had to be on the watch so we can take sight of markers indicating where we will stop. Thanks to very accommodating locals who were very willing to give us directions. We stopped at a junction where the road bears an arc with the name Dambana ng Kagitingan. We had no idea how much we will need to spend for the ride to the peak but I guess we were given a fair offer of P100 per person. Tip 1: The trikes in Bataan are built with very small body that it can seat only 2 persons inside and 1 at the back of the driver. Even the seat inside the cab is too small to contain two average-sized males. Therefore, if you plan on taking the cab be ready for a squeezed-up ride to your chosen destination. On the way to the peak, we noticed that the motorcycle is overheating and that oil was dripping from the engine, so the driver decided to transfer one of us as soon as he chanced on a passing counterpart. The way to the peak was quite damp and cold. One must consider wearing a jacket on the way up (Tip 2).

As soon as we arrived at the site, we were greeted by a huge metal gate. Right at the center is where the P20 entrance fee is collected. As if we knew there weren't going to be plenty of restrooms around, we took our restroom break near the gate. Walking up the hill to the shrine, you will need to climb up stairs until you reach a platform then more stairs upwards. On the platform, an open building stands where World War II Bataan history is etched on marble walls. At the side, an opening should lead you to an underground space where the museum is kept. Use of camera is strictly restricted inside since old and original guns of all kinds were kept inside for tourists' viewing. There were very old pictures preserved with inscriptions of what transpired then during the war. They were very detailed and visually informative that each time you read along every photograph description, one after the other, you can't help but feel sad and angry for our Filipinos who had to suffer the way they did in Bataan history. The rifles looked very impressive and you can't help but be awed at the sight of the set of weaponry which were most modern in that era. However, behind that amazement, is the macabre feelings of fear and sadness knowing that the same weapon may have annihilated ten and hundreds of soldiers who fought in defense and/or offensively. It was so quiet inside that one couldn't explain in simple words the emotions contained in that underground museum. It was melancholic, dark, and constricted. It was a chamber of memories contained carefully and discreetly below the platform.

I went out and as soon as the cold breeze and bright light greeted us, the emotions shifted back to hype and excitement. This time, we had to climb the zigzag stairs, close to 500 (probably), up to the Shrine of Valor, the huge cross which was inaugurated in 1970, 4 years after President Marcos had the cornerstone laid in Mt. Samat. Just around the foot of the cross, there were souvenir stalls but not a lot of food stalls. Tip 3: It is still recommended that food be part of the planning should you decide to eat on the mountain. We went around the cross to find the doorway leading to the horizontal arms of the cross which was about 72 meters (approximately 10 floors) from the base. True as told, we just had to pay P10 to get us an elevator ride up to the arms. The elevator looked quite rusty and claustrophobics may find it unlikeable, however, it should be tolerable because the ride up takes only a few seconds to a minute. As soon as we stepped out of the elevator there before us is the spacious arms that can probably hold function activities for 25 persons on each wing. There were seats and the tip of the wing is the viewing area which is just covered with a round glass. There were also glass windows open on both sides to keep ventilation healthy. The round glass instantly became a popular spot for photography. I tried to explore the upper deck to reach the top of the vertical tip of the cross, unfortunately the door upstairs was locked and restricted from tourists. After 20 minutes we headed back down to the base.

At the foot of the cross, anyone can gaze in appreciation of the well sculptured figures of heroes like Rizal and figures of Filipino men and women. I wasted no time and ignored shame, sat down, then lay down to get the best view from base to the tip of the cross. I'd say the result was splendid glory after shameless guts.

Next, as if being conscious of time, I went to a deck where we are able to view the mountain from the hilltop. We noticed that it was also an access road from the entrance where vehicles can reach the plaza near the cross more conveniently. There were already cars parked near the area. I was taking close pictures of trees and flowers when suddenly noise loudened from a place not too distant from where I stood. I looked to find out what the commotion was about and discovered that a large number of mountain monkeys started invading the area. They were becoming plentiful every minute and they seem closer as they advanced towards us. They weren't rude. They were just expectant of maybe getting something from the crowd - tossed food items or anything interesting. They were all around the tree branches and I have never experienced being among wild monkeys in my entire life, let alone select friends who look like monkeys (no pun intended, just jesting :)).

My Mt. Samat experience, despite our running against time, was very physically, mentally, and spiritually refreshing. It was a place suited for personal retreat and introspective activity. It stokes a sense of patriotism and love for the country God has chosen for Filipinos to be born from. It engages you to discover the reasons behind who you are and how history has contributed to self-awareness. Similarly, it encourages people to give more appreciation to the freedom and liberty we get to enjoy at this era and time.

Next destination: Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
See also the first of this Bataan blogathon prior to this - Befriending Bataan and The Past Today.

 See Yahoo pictures of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar here.

Map that travel:

View Larger Map

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Befriending Bataan

It would be utterly disappointing if I have foregone writing about Bataan. It was a destination I almost gave up especially because I had to decide between La Union or Baler for a side trip from our Mt. Pinatubo itinerary. When a friend suggested about ending our trip at Corregidor, it got me so caught up to the idea that I insisted I squeeze that into our schedule. Mariveles, Bataan was the closest jump-off point to the historic Corregidor, geographically although the latter belongs to the province of Cavite. Little did I know, this trip brought a lot of fun that it would be sorely wrong to miss.

From Olongapo, we were dropped by the taxi driver somewhere along the hi-way as soon as we chanced on a passing bus that was headed for Morong. It took us almost an hour and at around 6:15PM to finally arrive there. With starving stomachs we waited for another 30 mins for the next bus schedule to continue traveling to Bagac which was also another 45 mins. We were all tired slightly dismissing fears despite the fact that we were traveling in very unfamiliar territory late in the evening. We were doing more than once what most people would advise, "If in doubt, ask." Finally at past 8PM we were already at the gate of what they popularly call "Housing". An old lady sensed we were tourists, so she walked us to the tricycle station and asked the driver herself to take us to Fajardo's Beach Resort. In less than 10 minutes we already entered Brgy. Pag-asa where the resort was located. Thanks to Mrs. Edna Fajardo, owner of the beach resort, who has unceasingly messaged me instructions to the site and who has assured that her caretakers were properly informed about our arrival. If it was not for her, my anxieties would have certainly doubled. We were escorted to a hut outside the pavilion room after we aired our decision to take Maam Edna's recommended hut instead. The hut, at P1000 a night, was spacious enough for three persons and also has a restroom inside. I added 100 for an additional mat. After settling down, we walked to the hi-way to find a place where we could eat for dinner. Although it was obvious that most shops have closed since it was already 10PM in the barrio, let alone a Burger Machine stall, we refused to give up and asked a tricycle driver if there were other open restaurants near the area. It was then that he brought us to Marivic's eatery. Ate Marivic was already summing her sale for the day when we arrived at the gate. Feeling a little intrusive, I mustered what courage I had to ask if her store was still open to serve hungry customers. She said she has already closed and looked at us for what seemed like the longest minute that evening, before she gave the options. From the options of frozen goods, we asked her to cook for us chorizo and ordered a serve of her home cooked laing.

(Far Left): Kuya Willie and Ate Marivic at the gate of Marivic's Luncheonette.

We were having fun eating and at the same time engaging the owners in a friendly conversation since they were quite inquisitive about our whereabouts. I gladly shared to them our itinerary for the next day which Ate Marivic interjected with recommendations. This, I find very important when traveling and consider this a tip: Always be friendly to the locals and engage them in as much talk as you can. Although you could run in the risk of becoming deceived, but most of the time, if you have extended some friendliness and kindness, they actually are your most updated information source. In this case, I was talking to the owners about going to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. Immediately, Ate Marivic gave a valuable recommendation that proved to be very cost efficient for us (message me here for the details as I am uncertain it is for public knowledge). Also, Kuya Willie jumped in, offering his motorcycle services. It felt like we were really brought there for a very good reason and that God has been kind to extend favor. We reciprocated by giving them our commitment to eat at their eatery for every meal we will take while in Bagac.

Read Part 2 of this Bataan Adventure - The Splendor of the Shrine of Valor

Money matters:

Contacts List:

Mrs. Edna Fajardo
Fajardo Beach Resort
Brgy. Pag-Asa , 2107 Bagac, Bataan

Mobile Nos: +639202198742 / +09175548655 / +09183263333 / +09102033547

View Larger Map

Marivic's Luncheonette
Mobile No.: 09214548500

Kuya Willie's Motorcycle Services
Mobile No.: 09395749222

Monday, March 4, 2013

Social Media Influencer Summit 2013

 The hunger for information remains solid through time and society plus technology have made a lot of progress in the area of addressing issues of its availability. The world wide web has become a very important tool for people to find speedy answers to lingering questions, somehow became a more convenient option over printed sheets of information, and has brought libraries into our own homes. Thanks to online writers who patiently detail their experiences, collection of data, and findings through articles and blogs.

Cebu Bloggers Society, Inc. recognizes the importance of a healthy community of writers online who can write about the city, life, and everything else in between. On March 16, they have organized a summit that brings in bloggers and writers from different places in the Philippines together to participate in a forum that aims to bring awareness of how bloggers can increase their followers and understand the use of media and other tools to influence their target audience.

Become part of this event by visiting the official Social Media site. The Social Media Influencer Summit 2013 is being made possible by the sponsorship of the following organizations: Megaworld Corporation, Smart, J Center, Bluewater Resorts, Pinoy Great, and the partnership of the followings groups Cebu Bloggers Society, Iloilo Bloggers Incorporated, and the Google Business Group in Cebu.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cubana: More Than Just a Lounge

Pubs lately began sprouting all around Metro Cebu. It seems like there is no stopping businessmen from venturing into this type of establishment nowadays. Somehow entrepreneurs just really know how to study society and the people consisting it. They know that the emergence of BPOs and the opening of jobs in Cebu has lifted the economy up enough to bloat the number of middle earning families even higher to be capable of buying more. This big chunk in the social class is the target market of the newly opened pub in Mango Avenue, Cubana.

"Cubana" according to its Turkish owner, Cem Tasci, sprung from his love for Latin lifestyle, energy and enthusiasm. He envisions to bring in a similar energy in Cebu. At present, Cubana has recently been through its soft opening but is planning to go full blast sometime March this year. Cem (pronounced "Jem") promised to bring in entertainment like never before seen in Cebu bars and pubs. He shared future plans of staging nightly shows in his club like belly dancing, Latin dance, and others he thinks the audience might be interested in watching. Aside from that, he may hire regular bands to play in his club for at least 2 hours. He doesn't have any as of yet, since he is still deciding as to what music genre he'd like played. He is an artist and would like to take his time conceptualizing, how he'd want the activities to go as the days come. Other improvements he would like to do as well would be providing a greater variety of dishes and meal offerings in his menu. He admits the lack of desserts and other entrees as of the moment but positively assures the putting up of whatever comes appealing to his target patrons.

(Left) Cubana's lit signage near the highway (Right) View of Cubana from outside.

Here are some information you may need to know upon your visit to Cubana. It is located at the busy street in Mango Avenue. It is a little pushed from the highway but not really difficult to find. If you are okay walking along Mango's red lights district, you will come across the junction where Yellow Cab and Kalidades Flower shop stand. In front of the flower shop, the lit Cubana signage should be able to point you the way to the site.

The Entrance to the bar where you pay P100.
The Cubana stamp after paying for the entrance fee.

The laser lights inside the bar.

The first welcome sighting is something my friend calls more of a mediterranean setup of chairs and tables adjacent to an open bar at the sidewalk. The area is dim but accented with little light coming from lamp posts. A healthy and well trimmed plant covers the rooftop giving a dining experience that feels like eating outside in the garden at nighttime. Just as we thought that was all there is to Cubana, we were surprised even further when we learned that they have a bar inside the building. Their Entrance is designed with bright lights walled around the arc hall into the main door. The 100 peso fee will ensure you a bottle of beer as soon as you are seated inside.

Crab Rangoon
There are huge cushioned sofas that look very convenient enough to suck awkwardness out of your body. Loud funky music fills the room and the only bright spots were the Bar area where drink concoctions are mixed, the stage with all the bright dancing neon lights, the DJ cube, and the window access to the bar kitchen. As soon as we were seated, we ordered their recommended beer match, Crab Rangoon with cream cheese and Chicken Croquette. Both dishes tasted perfect in terms of saltiness and texture although quite similar in the manner by which they were prepared. They too tasted a little the same except that the other one was fried in wonton wrappers and the latter in flour breading. Lettuce added beauty in the presentation, fresh, and edible.
Chicken Croquette


Kamikazee Shots

As courtesy from the owner, we were treated for another round of Crab Rangoon and this time paired with a plate of Gambas and toasted bread. Gambas, a Spanish delicacy was quite an offering. The shrimp, skinned and sauted in minced garlic and olive oil was very spicy that its flavor shoot up through my nostrils. I suspect that the garlic must be responsible for that palate kick. And for some reason, I liked it a lot.

Some corners in the bar were meant for groups who prefer privacy. Those spaces can accomodate 15-20 people exclusively for team events at the price of a consumable 3000 pesos. There is also an area where you can play table soccer. For most of us, simply staring at the lights display were sufficiently mesmerizing. Their equipment look very expensive which could explain how it is capable of presenting the laser light rays in seemingly 3D visuals.

Visit Cubana in this location.

See more photos by visiting their Facebook page.

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