Sunday, July 26, 2020

Baywatch at Camp Rofelio

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 make it a great getaway to rejuvenate and spend some pure thinking moments.

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

It's a serene ambiance, with several cottages and tents for an overnight stay. At first glance, I knew I would love the place, so I did.

Standing barefooted at the seaside gate of Camp Rofelio is a perfect 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. Camping at the beach. A soulful moment to watch the sunset. Fresh-grilled seafood for dinner and a bonfire night to remember.

Truly a memorable and fun moment at Camp Rofelio.It's a decent 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 bay-watching!

A Baywatch, not only to appreciate the area and the surrounding waters but the place facing the West Philippine Sea, had created controversy from unwanted intruders. The pirates of the sea had been inside our Philippine waters, causing tensions and threats to the fishing livelihood of the locals.

That's supposed to be protected by the Philippine government. To Defend our territorial seas and secure what's best for our people.

There were spotted dredging foreign vessels in the territorial waters of Zambales that threaten our territorial rights and the fishing rights of several Fishermen on our 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 governments must be more powerful to defend the territory.

I love Zambales and would love to return 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 bay watching, but be mindful and have a telescopic eye for the pirates of the sea.

We dream of having great and safe tourist destinations, and we have to be aware of issues affecting the rights of our people. Hence, they will take it away from us, which might happen if we are silent.

San Felipe is a place of kind and peaceful people. Protect it, and 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

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Highlands of Baguio

An American town in the Philippines. That's Baguio city in the Cordilleran region. A hill station in the North.

The "Little America," also known as the City of Pines, attracts tourists from all over the country and foreigners who would want to explore the rich culture and heritage of this highly urbanized City in the Cordillera region -- literally means a mountainous area.

But the tag of American town is not its present-day description. That was what it was called back in the 1900s during the American colonization of the Philippines.

Baguio is one of the most incredible hill stations in the Philippines. It is good that the Americans have developed this place as their mountain resort to escape the lowland heat, especially during the summer. 

And why do Filipinos love Baguio City? Undoubtedly, it's a cool climate almost all year round due to its higher elevation. When summertime comes, more people will pack up for an adventure. It's not just during the summer season. Still, it has become a weekend getaway for people from the nearby provinces and Metro Manila -- the National capital region.

In the present day, Filipinos are in complete control of the former US military base; Camp John Hay; not after they gave back our independence in 1946, but it was just a not-so-distant past in 1991 -- almost 3 decades ago.

That's just a little piece of history. Yes, the Igorots of the Cordilleras have a colorful and vibrant culture, which even Americans could not change or take away their identity.

I lived and worked in Baguio City in the summer of 2015 and have witnessed its natural wonders, but this place is slowly losing its balance due to commercialization. It's a number one enemy for people who are into environmental protection and preservation.

Housing projects, malls, and big infrastructure projects are just on the rise, and it costs thousands of century-old pine trees to be cut down to give way to these projects.

Baguio City is now crowded, and you can see the hillside full of houses and even far away mountains almost full of places. That was not what I witnessed in 2004 when I first visited Baguio.

Development on this mountain resort was so fast in just a decade, and developers are eager to exploit more and make the City miserable.

The development would have made Baguio a highly livable Philippine city, but overdevelopment for business profit will slowly kill its natural charm and beauty.

One thing I admire most about Igorots (the local name for the Cordilleran people) is their hospitality and friendliness. They are also kind and honest people. I hope that they will be able to preserve its rich culture and pass it on to the next generations. And yes, I hope they will fight for their land and not be taken away.

The Burnham Park, Wright Park, Bell House, Kennon Road, and Brent School. These places of interest were named after the Americans who have contributed significantly to what Baguio city has become.

And so Americans showed us how to build a highly master-planned city on a mountaintop. Initially, they made it for less than 30,000 people, but after over a century, the population has become 10 times larger at more than 300,000.

The highlands of Baguio is genuinely captivating to any tourist. Its history and culture are the souls of the place and the local people. 

After the Pandemic, more people will again be stuck in a traffic jam on its zig-zag road and all the way up just to feel its mountain breeze again and the warmth of the Igorot people.

In the Highlands of Benguet Province, Philippines, Baguio City are a cultural gem and a hub of great people deserving of recognition and reverence.

Baguio City; is home to charming people.

© 2020 Del Cusay

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Breathtaking View of Taal Lake

The Philippines, as a tropical country, is hot and humid almost all year round.

And so it's even hotter in summer!

When people need to relax and unwind over the weekend, there's a place we can travel to escape from the lowland heat.

It's Tagaytay! Overlooking Taal lake.

A cool climate. That's one of the reasons why I love Tagaytay. A mountain resort about one-and-a-half hour travel away from the Philippine capital -- Manila.

It's not just the climate but also known for its scenic and breathtaking view of Taal lake and one of the world's smallest active volcanoes.

In June 2018, I had a great weekend in Tagaytay. Just a brief moment to rejuvenate from the noise and stress of the metro. That was my 3rd and last visit, and is memorable ever.

But on this charming tourist destination is a sad story of the recent volcanic eruption in January 2020. Its eruption was one of the most destructive, which caused a struggle for livelihood, health, safety, and loss of lives in Taal, the province of Batangas, and affected nearby areas and reached as far as Metro Manila.

Will I ever come back to this place?

Yes, I will, for sure. This fantastic place bordering the province of Batangas and Cavite will never lose its charm. The people remain resilient and will always strive to return to normal after a natural disaster.

The destruction of the ecosystem is a threat to the livelihood of fishing and farming and a significant loss in the tourism sector.

Now, during this time of the Pandemic, the people in Taal and Tagaytay are again under a significant threat of livelihood due to the disruption of businesses due to the lockdown. They have not fully recovered from the volcanic eruption in January when the lockdown due to the Pandemic was ordered in March 2020.

That's like continuous disaster and suffering. I hope it will end.

Tourism is a big loser during this Pandemic. It could hardly recover, given the strict travel restrictions and protocols on health standards. 

And so when this Pandemic ends, we have to help revive the tourism industry -- the significant economic sector in the country.

Is it safe to visit?

Since it will take years for another volcanic eruption to happen, hopefully.

Tagaytay, overlooking Taal lake, is close to my heart. It has memories to cherish for a lifetime. It will be a breathtaking place to visit for a lifetime.

© 2020 Del Cusay

Friday, July 10, 2020

Press Freedom in The Philippines

This is another attack on Philippine press freedom. The Philippines is crippled and crushed again. The Filipino people are saddened and mourning.

Today is another history of killing press freedom in the Philippines when the country's largest television network won't be given its 25 years of congressional franchise.

This is not right and just. The Philippine Congressmen on the legislative franchise committee didn't hear the network and the Filipino people in general. That's the truth. They killed it. They killed us. During these challenging and rough times, they killed press freedom and people's access to important news and information.

While the country is currently surviving the pandemic, the government is losing its priorities. They turned around and faced the wrong enemy. They have turned the battleground against their own people.

We don't deserve this. We deserve accountability from our government for suppressing press freedom and even the freedom of speech of the Filipinos who are critical of autocratic leadership and abuse of power. 

We don't cry. We mourn! We suffer! We are not being heard and are made to be silent and not dissent. Why Can't We Speak?

To the world. To Filipinos all over the world. This is our country now. This is the country we love that is slowly being killed. The democracy that we've been fighting over the years and for centuries is now at risk of being back to its darkest Philippine history.

Stay strong. This is not over yet, and together we'll regain our voice. We'll regain our true democracy. We'll recover the absolute freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. We deserve to regain what we have lost and are about to lose. We deserve Good Governance Toward a Better Philippines. 

Be heard!

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend Getaway in Boracay

I need a vitamin sea. That's how millennials or young travelers would say whenever they need a break.

The sea is medicine. Prescribed not by physicians but by none other than our very own friends, our colleagues, or people closer and special to us. We feel calm and relaxed when we are in a body of water. And so, our mind becomes clear and our soul uplifted. Our well-being is healed and rejuvenated, and that's the ultimate goal to achieve.

The truth is we want to escape reality once in a while. To live in a fantasy land where there are no pains and stresses. We pause, pack our things and go for a travel and adventure.

Dream on and go on.

In April 2016, I had a great weekend getaway on a small island on the west coast of Panay Island in the Philippines. Boracay Island. One of the world's best.

It's a hotspot for the world's beach and island lovers. A multi-cultural hub where the east meets the west.
That was my 5th time visiting Boracay in about two decades. And each time I saw it, its ecosystem and culture had undergone several transformations. I the old Island culture I missed.
I may have seen Boracay during its pristine days when it was less developed and had its Island vibe. So that brings back vivid memories worth remembering. 

Last year when it underwent temporary closure, it became like a ghost Island. Only a few tourists and businesses closed for about half a year. If we humans deserve a break, a busy Island deserves a much-needed break too.

When there is damage in an ecosystem due to commercialization, it has to clean and heal itself before serving people again. And so other more popular Islands in the country and Southeast Asian region followed suit. They also rehabilitated their Island paradise. That's a great move with great sacrifice and love. 

Take a break from the crowd. The party. The noise. The pollution.

I love Boracay. It has a different vibe among Philippine Islands and beaches. And so, I am pro-rehabilitation if needed, so it can breathe again and rejuvenate -- just like us human beings.

The Nami Resort will bring you over the hills and experience exhilarating fun from an old-style elevator reaching the hilltop. Nami resort got the best view of the Island, and it was just fantastic. The food, the music, and the ambiance are great. The experience was magical.

Boracay once again was closed just recently. This time due to the pandemic. And so, when people can travel again without restrictions, Boracay will open its paradise for responsible business owners and kind travelers.

Boracay is for everyone. One day, I may be able to swim in its water again. Witness its captivating sunset. See the sandcastles and leave footprints in the sand.

© 2020 Del Cusay