Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Palace in the Sky

There's something mysterious about the ruins. The old and well-preserved structure that's 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 the "Palace in the Sky," now more popularly known as "People's Park in the Sky," which gives a chilly feel due to 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 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 a different story from the other ruins in the country.

This one has got a unique story.

The view deck overlooking the mountains

In the late 70s, during the administration of the late President Marcos, "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 canceled.

We have been 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 had been finished. But sad that it was just abandoned.

That was supposed to be consistent with the Imeldific brand, the highest extravagance attributed to former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

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

It was indeed 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, partners, or even solo travelers. A romantic destination that captivates the soul of just anyone.

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

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Charming Town of Lucban

There are many old and rustic but charming towns in the Philippines. This main Philippine island of Luzon, South of Manila, is where you can see and experience the historical and cultural municipality of Lucban, Province of Quezon.

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

At Kamay Ni Hesus Shrine

Sometime in the Summer of 2014, we had a great road trip from Manila to Lucban to celebrate Holy Week. A soulful week to remember.

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

Truly fascinating!

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

At Kamay Ni Hesus Shrine

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

I also appreciate that Lucban has a nature-inspired resort and restaurant, a relaxing place for family bonding.

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

At Kamayan Sa Palaisdaan

With the old town charm, delicious food, friendly people, natural landscape, and a relaxing ambiance, Lucban is just a little but charming town that has learned to appreciate and preserve its heritage and culture.

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

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Kalesa Tour in Intramuros

A horse-drawn carriage, or we call it Kalesa in Filipino. That's one of the remaining symbols and part of the cultural heritage of the Philippines.

The old Manila was once a glorious Spanish fortress and settlement 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 could only speak fluent Spanish in the Spanish-creole language in the province of Zamboanga in Southern Philippines and South Luzon in the Province of Cavite. 

The Main Entrance

Anyway, we do speak Spanish, but it's 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 to change the identity again that the Spanish had built for more than three centuries.

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

Colegio de San Juan de Letran

Are we a Latino? Asian or a Pacific Islander?

That's hard to explain since we're 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 educational. As Filipinos, we must learn how to look back on our past. And so we can 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 to the good old days. Schools, Churches, Spanish government buildings, and old Spanish Houses are all restored and brought back to life.

Foreign tourists in Intramuros may now know about our Spanish colonial past, why we say "pero, para, mas, menos," and why some Filipinos may look like Spanish mestizos and not brown Malay skin as we are known.

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

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

© 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Surfing at the Crystal Beach

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

In the Philippines, the coast of San Narciso in the province of Zambales is one of the country's finest beaches and a surfing destination. 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 to Manila makes it an ideal weekend getaway to escape stress and regain vitality briefly.

We need a place like this. Great for total rejuvenation of the body, mind, and soul.

Crystal Beach has its surfing school for beginners and a surfboard rental for any surfers.

Have I dared go on surfing? 

I love water adventure and have long been interested in learning about surfing, but I was still looking for a better moment for me.

And so, I was closer to my dream of surfing. It just takes 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 are world-renowned and the surfing spot of La Union. It's a favorite destination among local and international surfers and beach lovers.

I was just fine with gentle waves. It's ideal for beginners, and watching some people surfing is already a fun water show.

Crystal Beach is a sparkling Jewel and a rising surfing destination in the Philippines. The waves from September until January would be the best since it's a monsoon season when the wind blows stronger.

That was a great weekend at the beach. And so I'm thankful to have enjoyed the beach before the pandemic since it may take some time for local tourism to recover and rise 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 Crystal Beach is truly a paradise for everyone who appreciates nature.

Great memories always live 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 stores and supermarkets.

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 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 couldn't visit the country.

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

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

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

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

Since the pandemic, we have preferred to eat organic vegetables, which we grow on our newly developed farm. We just want a healthier body to boost our immunity to fight diseases.

Nowadays, investing in health and wellness is wise, so we're adapting health standards like Halal.

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

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