July 2011
Photos, videos and stories of town explorations.
"So, it could not be considered as an antique structure since in the Philippines, we have numerous churches dating back as old as the 15th to 16th century but to note, it has charming architecture."

Entering a spacious lot with greenery all around, the massive structure is truly a masterpiece. However, you'll know at first glance that this is not antique. I am referring to the church called PeΓ±afrancia Basilica Minore, named after Our Lady of PeΓ±afrancia in Naga City, Camarines Sur of the Bicol Region in the Philippines. Seeing the structure for the first time will give you a feeling of awe because of the volume of this landmark that is inviting. It won't disappoint you but for people looking for heritage treasures, this Basilica might not be a good candidate since it has been completed in 1981.

Maps Courtesy of Wikipedia
Location in Red Highlight
The concept of the building was created in 1960 by Archbishop Pedro P. Santos.

The construction of the church began in 1976 but delayed due to financial problems. It was completed on 1981. So, it could not be considered as an antique structure since in the Philippines, we have numerous churches dating back as old as the 15th to 16th century but to note, it has charming architecture.

For this relatively modern church, a symbol of a modern religiosity of the NagueΓ±os and Bicolanos as a whole it is noteworthy that there are some innovations with the architecture. The towering bell tower is eye-catchy and it gives a majestic outlook to the church. The big arched windows are also notable.

Barely 10 years after the completion of the church, natural elements and construction defects have contributed to the deterioration of the church building even warranting the need to apply anti-termite chemicals.

The church had leaking roofs, damaged ceilings, windows destroyed and pests keep damaging the church. Total repairs started in 1991 to 1994. The towering church belfry remained untouched.

In front of the church is a wide lobby and a park where one can spend leisure time inside a the premises of religious place. So, the feeling of security and safety can be reassured.

At the other side of the church is also a small park where a sculpture of Our Lady of PeΓ±afrancia is situated. At the other side of the church are stalls that sell religious arts and products such as the Rosary, candles and sculpted images. If you want to have a break, there is also a coffee shop at that side.

Naga being an old Spanish settlement has already gained some old churches, but as the religious community demands, why not establish a modern one? This basilica has done it so.

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"Opening the wrapped food is exciting and full of suspense. As I am opening the leaf wrapper, the smell is going out that makes me feel so hungry."

It is located in an open space along the long and winding National Highway but believe me, you can have a private dining here. Yes, it might be located along the road but what makes it private for people with hungry tummy is that it is isolated. 

Maps Courtesy of Wikipedia
Location Highlighted in Red

Situated amidst an open space with rich vegetation, grasses, and plantations of copra, you can not see any other houses, establishments, or buildings except this "kubo" which houses a restaurant [or could it be a carenderia] called KAINAN SA DAHON.

Located in Brgy. Madlandungan in Calauag, Quezon, the appeal of this restaurant is refreshing.

Dining with a very fresh air, with farm at one side, then copra plantations at every sight, there's nothing to ask for if you're looking a dining experience in a countryside setting.

Unlike in some restaurants in the cities where some mimic a countryside dining package designing their restaurants with countryside stuff, you will still miss some because as you go out with that city restaurant, you'll go back to reality that you've just dined inside the city. But in KAINAN SA KUBO, the countryside ambiance will never cease. Everything is real. The surroundings, the set-up, the place itself and the hospitality of the owners are all real countryside package. 

The photo above is their comfort room. So if the call of nature suddenly invites you, the best place for you is also close to nature, hehe. I just love the setting.
As this restaurant claims in their signboard, they offer Filipino native foods and what is unique here is that the food they cook is literally wrapped with leaves, specifically banana leaves, an authentic traditional way of cooking Filipino native foods.

What to eat in Kainan sa Dahon?

There are several servings they could offer but I will only feature the foods that I have tried.

Since it is Kaninan sa Dahon, the "dahon" thing is appealing to me. The name of the restaurant is intriguing. When I had the time to choose a meal, I saw a dish wrapped with banana leaves. This is a must-try. I asked the lady what's inside it and she answered me "dilis." Dilis is a type of fish popular in the Philippines marketed as a "dried fish" usually.

Opening the wrapped food is exciting and full of suspense. As I am opening the leaf wrapper, the smell is going out that makes me feel so hungry. As I opened it, wow!!!! There you have the dilis. Another dish was also wrapped and it was cooked as how the dilis was cooked. The only difference is that, it is a different type of fish and mixed with other seafood such as shrimps.

Tinola with Rice in Banana Leaf:

I was so surprised when our plate is not that common plate. This seemed to be a tribal dinner since the plate is somewhat "woven" wood. I'm not sure if it was rattan or bamboo. At this woven wood plate is the banana leaf where our rice was placed and of course we used this to eat. Wow! Very different!

What disappointed me is their "tinola." It seemed like the chicken here is malnourished, hehe. The chicken was not so meaty and it was not tender. "Matigas po." But the taste is incredible anyway. The soup is invigorating! It was as refreshing as the setting! The only issue for me is the quality of the meat. However, just work with the meat and it will be best!

After a big meal, of course everyone would love to relax. This is the place to be. After the meal, we relaxed at the very spacious lobby of the restaurant with fresh air and close to nature. Sleeping is a very good choice, but our trip must go on. 

Isn't it a very nice place to dine and relax? You are escaping the stressful city living! It is really a total package! It is everything but refreshment to our soul and satisfaction of our tummy!


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"I can feel the pain, the feeling of inferiority but the motivation for success and outlook for dreams is very high and will remain high."

They don't look so neat. The children wear stained clothes. Their hair is rough with extra large shirt: too large to be worn by them. The children don't look pleasing. Their skin is full of blemishes which obviously doesn't look like being given a proper care. It is very dry and out of enough conditioning. But in spite of these things that can be seen in them, they have their simple but happy family with them and the exceptional talent of "bonsai making."

For the information of the readers, Bonsai is actually a Japanese art which involves the making of miniature trees in small containers.

With them are bonsai plants. They carry those bonsai plants everywhere they go looking after the luck for tourists who might buy them. One bonsai costs P50.00.

Map Courtesy of Wikipedia
Map Courtesy of Wikipedia
These little bonsai kids do their business at the slopes of Mayon Volcano, a very active volcano in the province of Albay.

At the other slope of Mayon Volcano or simply Mt. Mayon is the city of Tabaco in the same province.

Tabaco City is one of the eight (8) towns and municipalities that share the volcano, dividing the peak like slices of a pie of pizza. In this part of Tabaco City is a place almost halfway the crater of the beautiful yet mischievous Mayon Volcano. People call this place as the Mayon Resthouse, which serves as the starting point for mountaineers that climb the peak of Mayon Volcano.

The photo above is the Mayon Resthouse, the only concrete facility built within the circumference wherein  any house or structure is not allowed.

At the Mayon Resthouse is a park where tourists go to view the province of Albay from the "sky." This place is the home of the Bonsai Kids who sell their Bonsai for 50 pesos (about less than a dollar). With them is their family also selling those bonsai. It is not definite if they can sell all those pieces of bonsai in a day. Their income for that single day depends on their sales, worse, if it is raining or if the volcano is angry, they may have no income and possibly, nothing to eat for the day.

"There is no way we can earn, this is the only thing we know since we don't have our own home, we just live at the slopes of Mayon," mother of the bonsai kid said while handling other bonsai plants and with the hope that we might also buy those.

They chase after us begging to buy those plants. Everywhere we go, they are like shadows that keep following us looking after our digital cameras, cellphones, gadgets, our clothes and a serious eye contact that delivers a poignant message from them that all of us [tourists] are rich and fortunate.

That child didn't just know how I also struggled to work hard and earn a hard time just to be able to have a hitch to Bicol but it was inserted to my mind, I am lucky that when I was a child, I never tried this, although I used to sell ice cream at the age of 10 at a minor seminary close to our house. I understand their situation because I was once an "ice cream kid" and they are the "bonsai kids."

I can feel the pain, the feeling of inferiority but the motivation for success and outlook for dreams is very high and will remain high. At a young age, I know how they feel, because I also experienced that situation, the only difference is that, what I sold together with my brother was ice cream.

I can not blame them if that is how their life goes because I can see their perseverance to survive and help their parents at a young age. Their parents should not be blamed also because that is the only thing they can give to their children although you can see how they work hard the whole day waiting for tourists because that is their craft, and they are using their skills to survive through bonsai making.

The Mayon resthouse has left me a very poignant memory of hopes, dreams, family and struggle. If I'll be back, I want to see those children already with smile in their face, well-groomed, neat and blessed. But how? Time will tell. What future waits them? Destiny will speak.

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"They voiced out their emotions and opinions. With this, the 'church' is included in the issue."

NOTE: This article is a personal opinion and insight of the author. The author has no sole intention to defame or in any other means destroy the image and credibility of a group, corporation, person or any entity whatsoever. Opinions published in this article are based on a social media discussions of several forumers and it is a healthy discussion for a virtual society like the social media.

Maps Courtesy of Wikipedia
Location Highlighted in Red
When the McDonald's Store opened in Vigan several months the town's cityhood was ratified, the store became an instant topic for everybody: the residents, tourists, visitors and even strangers.

A branch located at the atrium of the UNESCO World Heritage city, the only one in the Philippines, buildings and structures are regulated to maintain the architectural harmony of the city.

My friends as far as Laoag City, Manila and some other friends I have met talk about MCDonald's Vigan Branch. The main reason is their awe of its grandiose architectural design. Of course, who won't fall in love with the beauty of the preserved old Vigan town bringing you back in the past and McDonald's also having it's slot in the old city.

To complete the entry of McDonald's in this highly-regulated city, it should comply with the building requirements of the city.

Truly, the architectural beauty of McDonald's Vigan Branch is very descent and charming. It is located in a location near the old Plaza Burgos, Plaza Salcedo, the Vigan Metropolitan Cathedral, and other interesting places of history.

While dining, one could just enjoy and be inspired with old transport system of the city which is still surviving amidst the prevalence of motorized vehicles. Calesa,a horse-drawn carriage is almost everywhere at the heart of the city. While dining, you can also view the majesty of the Baroque architecture of St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral. The location of the store is really awesome.

To complete the entry of McDonald's in this heritage city, even the interior should be scrutinized if it complies with the archtectural requirements for the strict Vigan City government. Somehow, it passed because this store is already gaining the benefits of the thriving tourism industry in the city.

I was joining a forum for urban enthusiasts and I have been posting a lot about McDonald's Vigan. Many forum members were commenting that this store is just lovely and awesome. I also went to the Philippine Heritage Conservation thread and while posting it so, I was so embarassed with their comments. In this forum, I learned how the Philippine Heritage Conservationists were so disappointed with Vigan and McDonald's. I thought it is somewhat appreciated. But for these conservationists, it's not.

They voiced out their emotions and opinions regarding this. And with this, the "church" is included with this issue.

Here are some of the screenshots of their comments. The source and the users aren't included to protect their anonymity online. Just click on the image to enlarge.

There you have those insights. I never expected that our Filipino conservationists took this so seriously. It started after posting the McDonald's photo saying that it complied with the requirements of the city but my statement was rebutted.

The location of McDonald's Vigan today including the Jollibee, the Plaza Maestro commercial center, etc. is the site of the old "seminario" as was stated by one forumer. I didn't really know about it until they told me. The old "seminario" was demolished to give way for McDonald's, Jollibee and the Plaza Maestro Shopping Center by which, however, all "complied" with the building requirements. However, the contention of the conservationists is that, why the old "seminario" was totally demolished? That old "seminario", though hit by fire, should be restored like what others done in some old houses here. Is it to give way for business? As stated at the screenshot, the land is for lease and it is owned by the clergy or the Roman Catholic church in Vigan. It is a matter of business.

Being a proud Ilocano blogger, I didn't know what to say. I don't know if I should be proud of the grandiose McDonald's store of Vigan or to just keep the issue behind. Well, everybody is always entitled to their own opinion because it is a freedom inherent to men. For me, the old "seminario" is a witness of Vigan's rich culture and history. It is a heritage and once gone, always gone, so it is more deserving to stay in that location. The new commercial establishments could have still found another place to stay but then, the location is the best place for business. Really, I don't know what to comment. If you have some insights, let me know, post at the comment box below.