Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Gaddi Tribe of Naddi Village


When I stepped foot in Dharamshala, I feel that I'll be having a great vacation with its pleasant vibe. That was a long 12 hours of bus ride from New Delhi, India, and I made it sure that my stay would be worth it; like a vacation of a lifetime.

The emotion is still alive whenever it flashes back the soulful journey I had in the lower Himalayan foothill of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Seven years have passed, but the memories still lives on.

At the bus station in McLeod Ganj, a little rain greeted me as I look for a taxi heading to the hotel in Naddi Village -- the home of the Gaddi Tribe.

That was a cold and shivering early morning check-in at around 7 a.m. and so I unpacked my things, had a little rest, enjoyed a freezing cold shower, had my first breakfast, and get ready for for my first day of tour and adventure in the land of the Tibetans-in-exile in McLeod Ganj.

I spent 4 days of exploring McLeod Ganj and had the opportunity to see and hear from The Dalai Lama when he had a talk in his place in Tsuglagkhang temple.

McLeog Ganj was the the town center, but it was in Naddi Village where I enjoyed the serenity. That was truly a blissful experience.

Just few steps away from the hotel where I stayed is the home of the sweet and gentle Naddi tribe. I've met several Gaddi people including children and adults, learned about their culture, their livelihood and living condition. A little interaction, but a meaningful observation.

A very simple, yet joyful and soulful living in the mountains. The Gaddi people mostly shepherds are taking care of their flocks and doing their morning activities when I met them on a downhill.

Little kids are courteous with their rosy cheeks and smiling faces. For sure they are now grown up to be a refined young lady and gentleman. 

In Naddi View Point which is just nearby the hotel is where I finally had a closer view of the Dhauladhar range. I had never seen such a beautiful and breathtaking mountain. A solemn moment; so peaceful and the snow-capped mountain is just wonderful.

I can't get over of that experience even when I'm back on the hotel. I've been to some of the mountains in the Philippines, but seeing the Dhauladhar range is purely captivating

I was finally at the Middle Homalaya... A dream turned into a reality.

A heaven on earth experience that I'll cherish and reminisce for a lifetime. From then, I made a promise that I'll be back in the future, and that I just hope it will come true.

In the hotel's roof deck restaurant is where I get to have the most beautiful view of the Dhauladhar as I have a breakfast. It's a picturesque view as if heaven is for real. India is truly Home of the Gods and I felt the Divinity of the place. A soulful solitude in a paradise closer to heaven.

I will never forget Dharamshala... A wondrous place in the Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. I will never forget the beautiful and natural scenery, and I will never forget the Naddi people of Naddi Village.

India has a big place in my heart. I have learned a lot about the places and have met soulful and endearing people like the Gaddi of the Naddi Village. When the Kingdom of heaven is on earth, it would have been there in the Dhauladhar, and I've met God in there and live forever here in my heart.

©️ 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sweet Smiles of the Negrense

The Negros Island in the Philippines. Home of the sweet smiling people; or we call them Negrense or Negrosanon.

Back in December 2014, after my Journey in the city of Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, I took almost 7 hours of land travel going to the city of Bacolod; the capital city of Negros Occidental. 

From the Eastern to Western Negros, I had a journey after a fulfilled short visit in the "City of Gentle People" in Dumaguete.

No doubt, I was in the land of the 'sweet and charming' people since I was at the sugar center of the Philippines... The Negros Island. 

From Dumaguete to Bacolod, you'll see massive plantation of sugarcane on both sides of the road passing by several cities.

Yes, Negros Occidental is the province of the Philippines with the most number of city, primarily due to its rich sugar industry

The sugar industry is so huge that they supply the entire Philippines and even export it to other countries.

Arriving in Bacolod after a long journey on a bus, I was greeted with a Negrense brand of hospitality; the sweet smile and a pleasant melodious voice.

I'm in Bacolod! The City of Smile and the home of the famous "Maskara Festival."

That was my 5th time to visit Bacolod and I love to keep coming back to one of the highly urbanized city and one of the most livable city in the Philippines.

In Bacolod and the entire Negros, people are living a good life that no matter what challenges they may be going through, still they keep on surviving and never forget to give a smile.

My highlight of visit in Negros Island was a-day tour in "The Ruins" which is an Italian-inspired architectural mansion built in early 1900s and was burned during the world war 2.

Garden by the ruins

A mansion built with love of a wealthy Sugar baron to his Portugese wife. The love story is just as romantic as the heritage of "the ruins." 

Sweet as the Negrense, they really produce sweet products, and most of it is my favorite. The muscovado sugar is the healthiest of its kind and an ingredient in making sweet delicacy like "Piaya and Pinasugbo" which is two of the most popular and a-must try delicacy if you visit Bacolod and Negros Island. 

After the pandemic, I hope to come back and capture the sweet smiles again. When the world is losing its smiles, I believe the Negrense will always give their sweetest smiles to just anyone. During this time, that's all we need -- a sweet smile.

The people of Negros Island is one of the most refined and kind people I've met. Beyond their sweet smiles, they deserve a sweet life. A life full of hope, meaning and inspiration.

©️ 2020 Del Cusay

You May Read:

👉Campus Tour at the Silliman University

👉The Ruins and the Love Story

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Campus Tour at the Silliman University

In the Eastern Negros Island is where you can find the "City of gentle people" and it's the city of Dumaguete in the province of Negros Oriental, Philippines.

Back in December 2014, I've fulfilled my desire to visit Dumaguete and was able to see the first American learning Institution in the Philippines and in Asia -- the Silliman University.

Upon the invitation of the student government organization, I delivered a talk about "Balancing Life Strategies" and "Stress Management" to their officers and select staff.

That was a memorable talk with full attention and the desire to learn by the student leaders. If I had more time, I could have given another talk to some members of the faculty and staff. 

But a day visit at the Silliman University wouldn't be complete without a campus tour. From the entrance to the exit gates, the different departments, historical and iconic buildings, chapel, open grounds and the library. The campus is truly ideal and conducive place for higher learning.

At the Silliman University Library

At the Silliman Hall

I was impressed with the clean the green campus. The tree lined Acacia provides cool shade plus the windy breeze coming from the sea , truly they  have the best campus in town and one of the best in the country.

Siliman University is facing the sea. With just few minute walks, you can stroll at the baywalk along Rizal boulevard. That windy breeze makes a good place for walking along the boulevard. That's the place where I reminisced the time when I was a student in college. Those times when I had full of hope and dreams just like any student would do.

I hope one day to visit Dumaguete again and be able to step foot inside the famous Silliman University. To be able to experience politeness and friendliness of the students and their genuine hospitality.

As I remember, it's on a higher learning when we aspire for growth and have the burning desire to achieve our most cherished hopes and dreams. Those times when we have enough energy and passion for learning.

Those student leaders that I've met may now be achieving excellence in their chosen field. They may now be living their dreams and unleashing their untapped potentials. They may now be 'living their greatest life' and following their ultimate heart's desire.

Learning doesn't end after stepping out of the College or University. It's a continuous process and a lifelong journey. We continue to learn along the way as we embark challenges and achieve new milestones in our career and in life.

©️ 2020 Del Cusay

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Serenity at the Nan Lian Garden

I find serenity wherever I go. In a hustle and bustle of a city life, there's still a piece of pure calmness and soulful paradise. 

A pond... A rock formation... A waterfall... All that can be found in an oasis of pure joy; a magnificent city garden.

A bustling megacity like Hong Kong isn't just about magnificent and stunning skyline. It also boasts some of the most beautiful and refined traditional Chinese landscaped gardens.

The entrance of Nan Lian Garden

In the busy area of Diamond hill in Kowloon, Hong Kong, is where I've found a peaceful ambiance of an ancient Tang dynasty style complex; the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden.

That's a refined piece of ancient Chinese architecture brought back to life in a Modern-day Hong Kong, with towering residential skyscrapers and a mountain range in a backdrop. 

Nan Lian Gardens' Wooden Gate

An entrance to the complex makes you feel welcomed with the garden's natural elements of lush greenery, ornamental rocks and wooden gate. That's a blissful and truly a welcoming sight to behold.

Passing through the wooden gate leads you to one of the wonderful attractions which is the golden pagoda with an attached red-wooden bridge. Colors that bring good luck and prosperity according to Chinese beliefs.

The golden Pavilion/Pagoda

Few steps aways from the Golden pagoda is the Chi Lin Nunnery which is a Buddhist temple, converted into a school, a library and a home for the elderly.

The Chi Lin Nunnery is an impressive Chinese architecture with a surrounding koi-filled pond. The wooden structure is truly a work of art back during old civilization times (618 AD to 907 AD), revived in the modern times.

The Chi Lin Nunnery

To have a better understanding of ancient Chinese architecture, I had a solemn moment inside the Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery. It's a place to discover the different Chinese architecture in different cities of China, in a different period of time.

The Nan Lian Garden is a Tang Dynasty-inspired garden built in the modern times. It's a reminiscent of old but refined Chinese architecture with a balance elements of the nature.

The Chi Lin Nunnery

The garden's tranquil ambiance offers a great sense of peace and rejuvenation to any visitor. It's not just a typical Chinese garden, bit it's filled with learning about the Chinese way of living back in the old days -- the earliest civilization.

Heritage and culture must really be preserved for the world to see and experience. The Nan Lian Garden is not a typical attraction, it has an old soul Chinese ambiance in modern setting -- teleported back in time.

©️ 2020 Del Cusay

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.

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