Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunset Viewing at the Manila Bay

A reddish-gold hue. That's the best sunset I've ever seen. Stunningly beautiful, romantic and simply amazing.

There's something mysterious in a silhouette; with a backdrop of a seemingly painted work of art. But it's real! 

What you see in the picture is what you get when you're there witnessing it...

That's the Manila Bay sunset. Truly one of the world's best as attested by many people including foreign tourists. It's a famous attraction when one has to visit the Philippine capital city of Manila.

At Harbour Square baywalk, CCP Complex

What makes the Manila Bay sunset wonderful is its stunning glow until dusk just before it totally disappear. And so you get a picture perfect 'silhouette,' a mysterious shadow against the background that glows.

On June 6, 2019, I had a great time strolling at the Harbour Square baywalk, at the Philippine Cultural Center complex. After having an afternoon cup of coffee at the café, I waited for the chance to have a glimpse of the sunset. That was my last sunset viewing at the Manila Bay before I travel back in my hometown in Panay Island.

Some thoughts while strolling as I can't help but to appreciate this natural wonder before my eyes and also with the hundreds of other people who share smiles and happiness.

The Harbour Square baywalk

Families, group of friends and even solo traveler both local and foreign may have forgotten about their worries and relieved their stresses. It does healing wonder to the soul. It captures' emotions and it captivates the mind.

Manila Bay may not be perfect. It has its flaws. It needs some healing too... And only people who have been there could understand what's the problem and what needs to be done.

Fast forward... a year after... Manila Bay is on a center of controversies despite the pandemic.

The Harbour Square baywalk

With the beach nourishment project that aims to beautify a portion of the Manila Bay with an artificial white sand, the question is 'Is it timely?' or 'is it necessary and appropriate?'

It's not a real white sand like in Boracay or Palawan, but it's made from a crushed Dolomite rock transported all the way from the Island-province of Cebu.

Just recently, in just a few days time, a portion of Manila Bay turned into a white sand beach and was partially opened to the public on September 19, 2020.

Manila Yacht Club

Thousands have flocked just to witness how the area was transformed from a natural black sand to a coveted white sand.

People may be divided on the issue about the filling in of white sand; with no Environmental Impact Assessment conducted, but certainly there's one thing that we could all agree...

The main attraction is the natural and the charming sunset view of the Manila Bay. It's not the color of the sand after all. 

The Manila Bay skyline

Yes, we have several years to go before we could truly revive the ecosystem and beauty of the Manila Bay, but we see the eagerness of the people who would want a transformational development and a wonderful personal experience when they stroll on the the Manila's famous baywalk.

When I go back to Manila, I would be glad to witness the alluring sunset once again. I would be enjoying a soulful moment. And just like the last time, seeing people's happy and smiling faces. 

Manila Bay is a precious jewel of the Philippines. We care for it... We show our concern... And we love it...

The Manila Bay sunset

As we slowly regain Manila Bay, we take pride as a Filipino to show to the world a better Philippines; the "Pearl of the Orient Seas," today and beyond.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Island Hopping in Guimaras

We need to regain ourself. At times we get stressed and it's due to various stressors of daily living. From multitasking work, daily commute, never-ending problems, and now the pandemic.

This global health crisis is making our life at risk. Either we become a victim or a survivor.

Everyday, since the lockdown early this year, we think of ways on how to stay mentally healthy. How to keep our sanity and not to experience loneliness, apathy and worst is depression.

Everyday is a battle of survival. We keep on diverting our consciousness towards happy thoughts . We reminisce the happiest moments in our life. Those times when we live our greatest life.

Boat ride from Iloilo to Guimaras Island

And for me, there's one greatest way to relieve stress and to rejuvenate. That is to travel to beautiful places and spend some weekend getaway to have some pure thinking moment. To distress through meditation and to appreciate the healing wonders of nature.

Every Sunday, I reminisce the times when I had my Soulful travel moments. We can't travel on this pandemic due to restrictions, and so the best way is to have a mental vacation. 

It works! It's as good as visiting the place real time and almost the same feeling. It's just that we process with our mental power -- our beautiful imagination.

I believe that the power of the mind does healing and contributes to our wellbeing. Whenever we feel sad, lonely or depressed, we don't have enough energy to do our daily tasks and become productive. And so, when we feel happy or joyful, we suddenly become more inspired to do great things that we could lift up other people with our positive energy.

Positive energy is contagious and so is negativity... that's what I believe in.

I would rather be with someone or a group that would inspire me or make me happy than suffer from negative emotions brought by someone, a group or worst is a personal creation -- becoming enemy of oneself.

To have a mental vacation is a heavenly experience without leaving the comfort of your own home. We can go to almost any places we're dreaming of; those on our bucketlist.

One of my favorite Islands in the Philippines is Guimaras. It's one of the smallest Island-Province, and I'd like to keep on coming back whenever I am in the region.

Island Cove in Guimaras Island

Guimaras is just a 20-minute boat ride from the coast of Iloilo province in Panay Island. So near the distance that both Island is visible from each other.

One thing I like about Guimaras is the serenity of the nature. It's not a very touristy place, so definitely not crowded and you'll enjoy soulful moments on the waters, on the shore or on a cliff.

Guimaras is not overly developed as compared to Island destinations like Boracay or Siargao. That's one reason why I like it even more when there are Filipino style cottages and not big hotels that can pollute the ecosystem of the place. 

I hope Guimaras will retain its grandeur; it's natural environment, and will not be subject to over commercialization.

Naturally beautiful environment in Guimaras Island

Guimaras is already beautiful as it is on its present state and so many people would appreciate its hidden beauty and natural charm.

Guimaras is not just a small Island, but it has friendly and hospitable people with a good heart. That makes them different from the rest. The heart and soul at its best.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Celebrating Birthday at the Farm

Life is good. No matter what challenges we're going through, still there's a reason to celebrate and to be grateful for. 

Since I'm celebrating my birthday, I have it at the farm for the first time. It's also the first year since we started to develop a portion for tree planting and just recently for organic vegetable farming.

It feels great to celebrate birthday in a completely different setting and together with my family in my hometown. The previous years' celebration were in Manila. That was a joyful and a jolly celebration back then; pre-COVID.

On this year 2020, is a simple yet meaningful celebration as I contemplate on life's meaning and purpose.

What's there waiting for me?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot had changed. Uncertainties and vulnerabilities are on the consciousness. That life really matters above all. That life is too short. And that life is precious.

To make a wish on a birthday is truly important and meaningful since we attract what we ask for, and become even more powerful when people who are dear to us are sending their best wishes.

Like a group prayer, we often materialize our wishes and hearts' desires when more people are there to celebrate with us.

However, through the years, as we reach a certain level of maturity, we tend to direct our wishes not just to ourself, but more on the people who matters most in our life.

Our wishes tend to become more specific,  less on material aspirations, and centering more on our wellbeing and enlightenment.

This pandemic teaches us to go back to the basic; to review and renew our life and making our best effort to present a new 'us' to the world.

Celebrating birthday at the farm is about celebrating the natural world. Not surrounded by many people, but with trees, plants and vegetables.

A serene environment, with fresher air, blue skies, chirping birds and lush greeneries.

My deepest gratitude for another year of surviving through life's challenges. To my family and friends and above all to the Divine; the greatest source of life and the greatest reason of living.

Life surely goes on and I will never forget that life is too short. That we have to live it well, and to live our greatest life; only the best life we deserve.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Palace in the Sky

There's something mysterious about the ruins. The old and well-preserved structure that's perhaps built to last for a lifetime.

That's what the ruins are for. To stand the test of time. 

In the Philippines, just an hour from Manila is the ruins we call as the "Palace in the Sky" or now more popularly known as "People's Park in the Sky," which gives a chilly feel due its geographical location on the summit of Mount Gonzales in the province of Cavite.

At the veranda overlooking the Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love
People's Park in the Sky
The view deck overlooking the Taal Lake

The structures' old and rustic charm attracts local and foreign visitors due to its breathtaking view of the famous Taal Volcano and the Taal lake. 

Truly captivating!

The highest point. That's the description of the place; as it is located on the summit of the highest mountain in Cavite at 709 meters (2,326 ft.) above sea level. And so, it offers a 360 degree view of the Tagaytay Highlands, including nearby recreational parks and villages.

How this "Palace in the Sky" became famous ruins has its different story from the other ruins in the country.

This one has got a unique story.

The view deck overlooking the mountains

Sometime in the late 70s during the  administration of the late President Marcos, when "Palace in the Sky" was commissioned to serve as a guest house for the visit of then US President Ronald Reagan. That's a show of Filipino hospitality at its best. 

A royalty welcome and treatment.

However, the construction was left unfinished when the visit of US President Reagan was cancelled.

We are left with the "Ruins in the Sky" since then.

The rustic and mossy Palace ruins 

That "Palace in the Sky" would have been beautiful if the construction was finished. But sad that it was just abandoned.

That was supposed to be consistent with the Imeldific brand; highest level of extravagance, attributed to former first Lady Imelda Marcos.

Truly, I love the place on the summit. Although, the ruins can be a little creepy at first sight, its beautiful ambiance captures the heart. 

It was surely built with love.

The next time you visit Tagaytay, you should never miss this place. 

A must-visit! 

A great weekend getaway for the family, for partners or even for solo traveler. A romantic destination that captivates the soul of just anyone.

The "Palace in the Sky" is not just an abandoned ruins. It shows timeless elegance and a natural charm. It shows our glorious past and bring wonderful memories to last.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Charming Town of Lucban

There are many old and rustic, but charming town in the Philippines. In the main Philippine Island of Luzon, South of Manila is where you can see and experience a historical and cultural town of Lucban, Province of Quezon.

The place is cool and windy, with its best location at the foothill of mystical Mount Banahaw. Its coolness reminds me of Tagaytay Highlands which is also a weekend getaway mostly of people coming from Metro Manila.

At Kamay Ni Hesus Shrine

Sometime in Summer of 2014, we had an awesome road trip from Manila going to this charming town of Lucban to celebrate the Holy week. A soulful week to remember.

I'm always fascinated with old Spanish towns, and Lucban has a pleasant vibe of rich and preserved colonial past. 

Truly fascinating!

Ancestral houses, centuries-old churches and plazas feels like a time travel with ancient Kalesa or Horse-drawn carriage on a narrow street.

At Kamay Ni Hesus Shrine

Known for their "Pahiyas Festival," the town of Lucban celebrates their bountiful agricultural harvest every 15th of May. That's really a cultural and religious festival and truly incomparable.

What I also appreciate about Lucban is their nature-inspired resort and restaurant which is relaxing and a great place for a family bonding.

A restaurant with a natural background overlooking the golden rice field is really wonderful. The water flowing on the swimming pool is flowing from nature's spring. A cool, clean and greenish-blue water, so refreshing.

At Kamayan Sa Palaisdaan

The old town charm, delicious food, friendly people, natural landscape and amazing ambiance; Lucban is just a small, but charming town that have learned to appreciate and preserve their heritage and culture.

Living in the past meets living in the present. Living in peace with nature and be captivated with the culture.  

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Kalesa Tour in Intramuros

A horse-drawn carriage or 'Kalesa' in Filipino. That's one of the remaining symbol and part of cultural heritage of the Philippines.

The old Manila was once a glorious Spanish fortress and settlement located in the oldest district of Manila, in Intramuros. It is where you can find Kalesa for a nostalgic tour inside the walled city.

And that was 333 years of Spanish colonization that ended in 1898. But then, we couldn't speak fluent Spanish except the Spanish-creole language in the province of Zamboanga in Southern Philippines and in South Luzon, in the province of Cavite. 

The Main Entrance

Anyway, we do speak Spanish but, it's a broken Spanish. We have tens of thousands of Spanish words in our Filipino language. It's just that Americans took over the Philippine Islands that had change our identity again that Spanish had built for more than three centuries.

And so, to have a glimpse of our Spanish colonial past, I should have experience a Kalesa ride; a tour as old as time in Intramuros, Manila.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran

Are we a Latino? an Asian, or a Pacific Islander?

That's hard to explain since we're surely a mixed race in the far east. That could be all of the above or we might be confused with our racial identity.

So, riding a Kalesa inside the walled city of Intramuros was fun and truly educational. As a Filipino we must learn how to look back on our past to have a better understanding of our national identity.

Passing along the streets of Intramuros are the restored walls and Spanish architectural buildings that can bring consciousness back in good old days. Schools, churches, Spanish government buildings and old Spanish houses, they are all restored and brought back to life.

Foreign tourist in Intramuros may now have an idea of our Spanish colonial past and why we say "pero, para, mas, casa" and why some Filipinos may look like Spanish mestizo and not really brown Malay skin as we are known for.

Palacio del Gobernador
Passing through the Old Wall on a narrow street

That ends my cultural trip in downtown Manila. A Kalesa tour is a must try not just for foreigners, but we Filipinos must explore and revisit, but not to revise our history and our identity.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Surfing at the Crystal Beach

Gentle waves at the beach is fun. The sun is shining, the sand is sparkling and the people are surfing.

In the Philippines, the coast of San Narciso in the province of Zambales is one of the finest beach and a surfing destination in the country.

The Crystal Beach; a surfing paradise in the North. 

In May 2019, I traveled about 4 hours from Manila, the Philippine capital to reach this surfing spot. Its proximity from Manila makes it an ideal weekend getaway to escape stress and to regain vitality even for just a brief moment.

This is all we need; a great place for a total rejuvenation of the body, mind and soul.

The Crystal Beach has its own surfing school for the beginners and a surf board rental for any surfers.

have I dared go on surfing? 

I love water adventure and I have long been interested to learn about surfing, but it wasn't the right moment for me yet.

And so I was a bit closer to my dream of surfing. It just take a single step, a show of  interest.

It's good that a country like the Philippines is blessed to have one of the best surfing spots in the world. 

The Cloud Nine waves of Siargao in the South is a world renowned and the surfing spot of La Union is both a favorite destination among local and international surfers and beach lovers.

I was just fine with gentle waves; ideal for beginners, and to watch some people  surfing is already a wonderful water show.
The Crystal Beach is indeed a sparkling Jewel and a rising surfing destination in the Philippines. The waves in the month of September until January would be the best since it's a monsoon season when the wind blows stronger.

That was a great weekend fun at the sea. And so I'm thankful to have enjoyed the beach before the pandemic happened and since it may take some time for the local tourism to recover and rise up again. I hope life will be back to normal soon. We deserve to be closer to nature.

The coast of San Narciso and the sparkling shore of the Crystal Beach is truly a paradise for everyone who appreciates nature.

Great memories always lives on, and the ripple goes on...

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Taste of Eid

Halal certified. That's what I always check on the food label in grocery store and supermarket.

But then, I wanted to dine in a Halal certified restaurant in Manila. The crowded, busy scene in a bustling old downtown Manila -- the Philippine capital.

Halal means 'permissible or allowed' in Islam and it is becoming a global food standard even for non-muslims.

And so last year, in 2019, I celebrated the Eid in the busy district of Quiapo in downtown Manila where the Golden Mosque is located.

The mosque was commissioned by Former First Lady Imelda Marcos and built in 1976 to welcome Libyan President, Gaddafi, but he wasn't able to visit the country.

It was then became a community for our Muslim brothers and sisters, where they settled and established their livelihood.

Businesses like Halal restaurants are thriving within the vicinity of the Golden Mosque.

Halal certified food would mean a 'clean and healthy food' without an alcohol and pork derived products.

For health reasons, animal products sometimes would carry diseases that's transferrable to humans and regular consumption would develop into diseases like the common hypertension, high cholesterol leading to cardiac disorders or heart ailments.

Since the pandemic, we prefer to eat organic vegetables which we grow in our newly developed farm. We just want a healthier body and to boost our immunity to fight off diseases.

Nowadays, it's wise to invest in health and wellness and so we're adapting health standard like the Halal.

The world and the humanity has to be health conscious because now we realize how vulnerable we are to acquiring diseases if we don't practice best health practices and lifestyle.

The taste of Eid is just as tasteful as any cuisine in the world, however they have made it to level up on their practice of the highest health standard.

We always choose to be healthy. We choose to be well.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Baywatch at Camp Rofelio

The west coast of the Philippines. That's one of my favorite summer destinations. And the place to go is the coast of San Felipe, in the province of Zambales. A peaceful town in the North.

The waves, the blue-green waters and the greyish-powdery sand makes it a great getaway to rejuvenate and spend some pure thinking moment.

In May 2018, I've discovered a newly-built camping site on the coast of Liwliwa, town of San Felipe.

A serene ambiance, with several cottages and tents for an overnight stay. At first glance, I knew it that I would love the place and, and so I did.

Standing barefooted at the seaside gate of Camp Rofelio is a wonderful view of the horizon. The water is clear and the waves are relaxing. You can sit on the sand, meditate and capture the best view of the surrounding.

A great weekend retreat. A camping at the beach. A soulful moment to watch the sunset. A fresh grilled seafood for dinner and a bonfire night to remember.

A memorable and fun moment at Camp Rofelio.

It's not a crowded weekend destination. A solemn place where you can be at peace and one with nature. When you hear the waves inside the tent at night, you'll have the most relaxing and deep sleep ever.

But, hey! I'm supposed to be baywatching!

A Baywatch, not only to appreciate the area and the surrounding waters, but this place facing the West Philippine Sea has been a controversy from unwanted intruders.

The pirates of the sea had been inside our Philippine waters and caused tension and threat to the fishing livelihood of the locals.

That's supposed to be protected by the Philippine government. To defend our territorial waters. To protect what is ours, and our own people.

Questionable dredging foreign vessels were spotted in territorial waters of Zambales and truly a threat not only to our territorial rights, but also to the fishing rights of several fishermen  on our own territory.

We are standing as a baywatch. Someone who sees intruders from afar.

But our local fishermen are powerless and even the local and national government seem not powerful enough to defend the territory.

I love Zambales and I would love to come back for the next summer season, but the best Baywatch is to see happy people, and not stories of intrusion -- like thieves of the sea.

Camp Rofelio is a good place for baywatching, but be mindful and have a telescopic eye for the pirates of the sea.

We dream of having a great and safe tourist destinations, and so we have to be aware of issues affecting our rights and our dreams not to be taken away from us, which is likely to happen  if we are silent and doesn't care.

San Felipe; a place of kind and peaceful people. Protect your place, make it a heaven on earth experience. Make it a paradise. And together, we can protect and become a good Baywatch. A good Filipino.

© 2020 Del Cusay