arj muñoz photography: Blog en-us All Content Copyright (C) Arj Muñoz. All Rights Reserved. (arj muñoz photography) Sat, 21 May 2016 13:46:00 GMT Sat, 21 May 2016 13:46:00 GMT arj muñoz photography: Blog 120 120 Travel Photography Philippines: Pahiyas Festival 2016 in Lucban, Quezon Quezon is a province of the Philippines in the Calabarzon region of Luzon island. The province was named after Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines, and its capital is Lucena City. It located in southeast of Metro Manila and is bordered by the provinces of Rizal to the north, Laguna and Batangas to the west and the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur to the east. Part of Quezon lies on an isthmus connecting the Bicol Peninsula to the main part of Luzon. 

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church

This old and huge church in Lucban is famous among pilgrims. The Church of St. Louis Bishop of Toulouse underwent a couple of reconstruction over the years.

The church was built in 1593 then was rebuilt in 1629 after its first fall off. A fire caused its second deconstruction and was rebuilt from 1738 to 1743 to what it look like at present. The World War II partially damaged the church and was restored in 1966 by the Historical Commission.

In July 2014 Typhoon Glenda destroyed the roof over the altar, causing flooding inside the church.

Pahiyas "Decor" Festival

Some police visibility in the vicinity of Lucban 

One of the country’s biggest, and most colourful harvest festival every May 15th, along with the harvest festivals of the towns of Tayabas, Sariaya, Gumaca and Tiaong. These are the Philippines best known harvest festivals to honor San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Known as the Pahiyas, the festival is deeply rooted in the traditional celebration of the townsfolk in thanksgiving for bounty harvest.

Colourful house decors mostly using "kiping"

Trade Fair known as "Tiangge sa Lucban"

Higantes Parade

Old and native decors made of rice grains.

Pahiyas means decor and the May 15th festival showcases a street of houses adorned with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts and kiping, a decoration made from rice flour, which afterwards can be grilled or fried for eating. The houses compete to be declared the best decorated. Tourists visit Lucban every year in May to see the decoration of the houses. There is also a procession for the saint that concludes at the town’s beautiful church.

The visual and culinary feast has gained national and international recognition. 

Some neighbors preparing Lechon Lucban for sale during Pahiyas Festival

Local restaurant serving famous Longanisa Lucban and Pansit Habhab

Pancit Lucban better known as Pancit Habhab is the most popular streetfood in Lucban. As the name implies, it is a kind of pancit or noodle dish made with rice flour, stir fried and mixed with vegetables, shrimp and pork and sometimes lechon.

Habhab refers to the manner it is eaten. The noodles is served on a rectangular cut banana leaf which acts as a makeshift plate, then you must eat it using only your mouth {without the use of any utensils}. But before you do that, you must add a sprinkling of cane vinegar.

Public Transportation
  1. There are several buses serving Lucena City route. A lot of them have terminal stations in Cubao, particularly JAC Liner and Lucena Lines. Make sure that the sign-board says "LUCENA - GRAND TERMINAL". Bus fare is around 200 PHP. Estimated travel time is 3-4 hours.
  2. Upon arriving Lucena Grand Terminal, you need to ride the jeepney to Lucban, Quezon. Fare: 20-30 PHP. Travel Time: 20-30 minutes.
Private Vehicle
There are several routes that you can use from Manila:
Manila - Tayabas - Lucban (Via Sto. Tomas, Batangas)
  1. Use South Luzon Expressway (SLEX)
  2. Take Sto. Tomas Exit
  3. You will be passing the towns of Alaminos (Laguna), San Pablo (Laguna), Tiaong (Quezon), Candelaria (Quezon), Sariaya (Quezon).
  4. Upon reaching the junction road, go straight to Tayabas, Quezon using the Tayabas-Sariaya Road.
  5. After getting to Tayabas, follow the Tayabas - Lucban Road.
Manila - Tayabas - Lucban (Via Calamba - San Pablo City)
  1. Use South Luzon Expressway (SLEX)
  2. Take Calamba Exit.
  3. You will be passing Los Baños (Laguna).
  4. Use Bay - Calauan Highway then Calauan -San Pablo Highway
  5. You will be passing the towns of Tiaong (Quezon), Candelaria (Quezon), Sariaya (Quezon).
  6. Upon reaching the junction road, go straight to Tayabas, Quezon using the Tayabas-Sariaya Road.
  7. After getting to Tayabas, follow the Tayabas - Lucban Road.
Manila - Lucban (Via Manila East Road - Also known as The Backdoor)
  1. Take Ortigas Ave.
  2. Upon reaching Cainta (Rizal), take East Bank Road of Manggahan Floodway to Angono (Rizal)
  3. Take Manila East Road upon reaching Angono.
  4. You will be passing Rizal towns of Binangonan, Cardona, Morong, Baras, Tanay, Pililla, then Laguna towns of Siniloan, Pakil, Pagsanjan, Luisiana then Lucban.
  5. Or from Pagsanjan, you can follow the route thru Magdalena - Liliw -  Majayjay then Lucban.
Once you have reached a town before Lucban, you will see a lot road signs leading to Pahiyas festival. A word of advice though, if you are planning to bring your own vehicle, plan your trip ahead and be there early. Due to the festival activities, vehicles will have trouble getting inside the town. Parking usually stretch 1-2 kilometers from the town proper, so prepare to walk your way inside Lucban proper.
]]> (arj muñoz photography) 15 2016 church decors feast festival habhab higantes houses isidro kiping labrador lechon longganisa lucban may pahiyas pansit parade philippines photoescapade photography province quezon san tiangge tour travel Mon, 16 May 2016 14:38:23 GMT
Travel Photography Philippines: Trailing History of Bataan The province of Bataan is most often associated with its rich history. The Battle of Bataan is famous for being one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces during World War II. The Bataan Death March was also named after the province, where the infamous march started.



Bataan rings a chord in the heart of every Filipino. It is a symbol of democracy and freedom – a memorial to the gallant Filipino-American defenders of Bataan who fought decisive battles that delayed the timetable of the well-equipped and better trained Japanese Imperial forces, and changed the course of history in the Pacific.

Obscure and relatively unknown before World War II, Bataan was founded in 1754 by Governor General Pedro Manuel Arandia. The region was divided into two parts – The Corregimiento of Mariveles and the province of Pampanga. The towns of Mariveles, Bagac, Morong, and Maragondong, Cavite comprised the Corregimiento of Mariveles which was under the jurisdiction of the Recollect Order of the Roman Catholic Church. The province of Pampanga included the towns of Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Abucay, Samal, Orani, Llana Hermosa, and San Juan de Dinalupihan. The group was under the charge of the Dominican Order.

The Dominicans founded Abucay on June 10, 1588, Samal on April 30, 1641, Orion April 30, 1667, Orani and Balanga on April 21, 1714, Llana Hermosa May 8, 1756 and Pilar March 10, 1901. The three towns on the western side-Mariveles, Bagac and Morong  were founded by the Franciscans in about 1578.

Bataan has more than its share of significant historical events: in 1574, the dreaded Chinese Limahong used Lusong point at the western side of Bataan as a landing place; in 1647, the Dutch Naval Forces perpetrated the Abucay Massacre; and the Bataan Death March to Capas, Tarlac started in the municipalities of Mariveles and Bagac. Today, touching commemorative shrines are dedicated to the memory of those who resisted the Japanese occupation – a bayonet thrust into the ground with a helmet  symbolically slung over the riffle butt to mark the start of the Death March; and the imposing “Dambana ng Kagitingan” on top of Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan.

Bataan is a province faced with a challenge. It is on the verge of becoming both an extensive industrialization hub and a tourist haven which may well be the equivalent of the dynamic force it exuded in its historic past.

Text credit:

Early morning at Morong Beach


The Flaming Sword in Pilar

The Flaming Sword, located at Panilao, Pilar, is an eye-catching landmark that depicts a hand holding a flaming sword up in the air. This landmark became the symbol of the Filipino patriots' courage and gallantry as they face the adversary and threats to their democracy and freedom. The ESPADA was inaugurated on April 8, 1967.


Walking vendor selling plastic basin in Pilar


Inside Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church

In 1801, Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church (Nuestra Señora del Pilar Parish Church, belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Balanga (Dioecesis Balangensis) Suffragan of San Fernando, Pampanga Created: March 17, 1975. Canonically Erected: November 7, 1975. Comprises the whole civil province of Bataan).

Pilar is one of the twelve towns of Bataan, also known as the Civil Province and Peninsula of Bataan. It was organized in 1754 as a province by Don Pedro Manuel Arandia, the governor-general in the Philippines. The moniker, “Last Bastion of Filipino and American Courage and Bravery”, is owned by Pilar until this day. Its Feast day is 9 April, the Araw ng Kagitingan.

The 7th town and parish founded by the Dominican Fathers after Abucay (1588), Samal (1596), Orion (1667), Orani (1714), Balanga (1739) and Hermosa (1757), Pilar was made an independent vicariate on March 10, 1801. The Secular clergy replaced all regular Spanish religious missionaries including Bataan.


Banga Festival Street Dance, Balanga

The Banga Festival is a week long event celebrated in the city of Balanga City, Bataan. It is said that the name Balanga, which is the capital of Bataan, came from the word “banga,” the tagalog term for pot used in cooking. The Banga Festival is celebrated to remind the Balangueños of their humble beginnings. The festival is celebrated alongside the feast of St. Joseph in April 28. 

Street Dancer, Banga Festival

Banga Festival


Balanga Catholic Church Belfry at Night in Galeria Victoria


Balanga Wetland and Nature Park in Tortugas

Balanga Wetland and Nature Park lies on approximately 11 hectares coastal and estuarine area in one of the seaside village of Balanga City, called Barangay Tortugas. Before the park was originally conceived as a “Baypark” with plans for concreted boardwalks and reclaimed areas. But later on development started gradually. To preserve its ecological veracity the place was boosted with facilities such as Information Center & Exhibit area, 2 Viewing deck and Picnic Huts.

The Department of Tourism recognized the place as one of the newest developed birdwatching sites in the Philippines. Officially launched on December 10, 2010 and strengthened by the initial celebration of the City’s very own local bird festival called “ IBONG DAYO FESTIVAL”. 

Besides birdwatching a lot of activities can also be done in this park like mangrove planting, coastal clean-up, stargazing, boat riding, kite flying, jogging, walking, sightseeing, biking and also a place for family bonding.

Fisherman at COB Wetland

Balanga Wetland


Visiting Mt. Samat and some mural sculptures

Winding Road to Mount Samat National Shrine

Mount Samat National Shrine or Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valour) is a historical shrine located near the summit of Mount Samat in the town of Pilár, Bataan. The memorial shrine complex was built to honor and remember the gallantry of Filipino and American soldiers who fought during World War II. I 

Consisting of a Colonnade and the large Memorial Cross, the park was commissioned in 1966 by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, himself a War Veteran, for the 25th Anniversary of WW2. The white Memorial Cross stands as a remembrance to the soldiers who fought and lost their lives in the Battle of Bataan. The shrine complex also includes a war museum with a wide array of collections from paintings of the Philippine heroes, to armaments used by the Filipino, American and Japanese forces during the battle.

From the colonnade and the cross, there is a panoramic view of Bataan, Corregidor Island and on a clear day, the city of Manila situated about 50 km (31 mi) across Manila Bay.

Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valour)


Beautiful Sunset at Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar

Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar is a stunning heritage property located in Bagac, Bataan just a few hours drive from Manila, Las Casas will prove to be an incredible experience filled with culture, relaxation and old world charm. Romantic cobblestone streets where old-fashioned caruajes roam freely, stunning colonial houses at every corner reconstructed plank by plank, beautiful metal sculptures and bridges will take you back to a different time. It’s a great way to learn about the Philippines' colorful culture - a history lesson without the textbook.

Twilight at Las Casas Filipinas

Las Casas along Umagol River

Las Casas Filipinas at Night

Dunsulan Waterfalls

Dunsulan Falls is located at the foot of Mount Samat, northeast of the National Shrine in Brgy Liyang, also in Pilar town. Dunsulan falls and river is the main drainage on the crater side of Mount Samat.



By private transportation/car:

  • If you’re driving from Manila, you can take the North Luzon Expressway and take either the San Fernando toll exit or the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
  • Upon exiting San Fernando, proceed to Jose Abad Santos Ave, (formerly Olangapo-Gapan Road) all the way to Lubao Pampanga and Dinalupihan Bataan.
  • At the Layac junction, take the road leading to Roman Super Highway on the left (right turn leads to Olangapo City) all the way to the City Center of Balanga, Bataan.
  • Via SCTEX, take the Dinalupihan exit and turn right at Roman Super Highway.
  • Travel time is 2-3 hours by car depending on the traffic. It’s best to leave Manila early morning or after lunch to avoid the rush hour.

By public transportation/bus:

  • From Manila, the easiest way to get to Bataan is by bus.
  • Bus lines include Genesis, Bataan Transit, Sinulog and Victory Liner (the last two pass only Dinalupihan and go to Olongapo rather than Balanga.)
  • Genesis has terminals in Pasay (beside the MRT Terminal) and Avenida (at the back of Philippine Rabbit terminal).
  • Bataan Transit has terminals in Avenida (beside Genesis) and in Cubao (same terminal as 5 Star buses).
  • Travel time by bus is about 3 hours. The bus fare is about P200 per person.



]]> (arj muñoz photography) bagac balanga banga bataan casas church dambana dunsulan festival filipinas flaming galeria kagitingan las mariveles morong mt. orion philippines photo pilar samat shrine sword tortugas tour travel valor victoria waterfalls wetlands Tue, 03 May 2016 09:26:30 GMT
Travel Photography Philippines: Experience Taal Volcano Up-close Taal Volcano is part of a chain of volcanoes along the island of Luzon, which were formed by two tectonic plates colliding over 500,000 years ago. Since the formation of this large caldera (Taal Lake), subsequent eruptions created another volcanic island, within Taal Lake, known as Volcano Island.

Over thirty eruptions have been recorded at Taal since the 16th century, mostly small eruptions restricted to Volcano Island. However, occasional violent activity has affected the entire region with the death toll estimated at over 5000 people. Because of its proximity to populated areas and its eruptive history, Taal Volcano was designated a Decade Volcano.

Taal Volcano Crater

The lake's water is a diluted form of sulphuric acid with high concentration of boron, magnesium, aluminium and sodium in salt form. Its average depth measures 20m. Swimming is allowed in the lake.

Volcano Island (In The Lake)

Taal Volcano is the smallest active volcano in the world. Its unexplained shape and location on an island within a lake within an island, makes it a unique geologic wonder, enthralling thousands of tourists and geologists yearly. This island covers an area of about 23 km², and consists of forty-seven different overlapping cones and craters. It is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines and part of the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’.

Permanent settlement in the island is prohibited by the government. Despite the warnings, poor families have settled on the island, risking their lives, earning a living through tourism, fishing and farming crops from the rich volcanic soil.

Vulcan Point (an island in the Crater Lake on Volcano Island in Lake Taal)

In 1911 a devastating eruption claimed over a thousand lives. The deposits of the eruption drastically changed the floor of the main Crater Lake creating Vulcan Point. Vulcan Point is the world's largest island within a lake on an island within a lake on an island. (An island in the Crater Lake on Volcano Island in Lake Taal on the island of Luzon)

Reflection of Boatman

Horse and guide at Kalawit trail

There are two ways to enjoy your visit in Taal Volcano Main Crater. You can take the regular tourist trail and enjoy a panoramic, bird’s eye view of the crater or hike your way up (then down) via the Secret or Kalawit (Calauit) Trail and witness not just the beautiful panorama of the lake but also experience the warmth of the sulfurated water.

Freshwater Sardinella (Tagalog: Tawilis)

Taal Lake is home to the world's only freshwater sardine locally known as Tawilis. Found exclusively in Lake Taal it is the only member of the sardine family that is known to exist exclusively in freshwater. In the 18th century large eruptions sealed Taal Lake from the sea forcing the trapped Tawilis into evolving into a purely freshwater species.

Local Fisherman at the Freshwater lake

Tawilis stocks in Lake Taal have been commercially fished for several decades. The fish is a popular food fish in the Philippines, and tons are shipped to most of the major cities in the country. In addition to raw consumption, tawilis are also eaten dried and salted. The species is threatened by overfishing with many experts believing that they will eventually become extinct.

Pansipit River (sole drainage outlet of Taal Lake)

The Pansipit River is the sole drainage outlet of Taal Lake. The river has a very narrow entrance at Lake Taal and stretches nine kilometres before emptying into Balayan Bay. The lake's freshwater population of giant trevally conduct its annual migration run through the river. At one time, more than 80 different species of fish were found to inhabit the river's waters, either as a migratory channel or as a permanent residence. This once included Taal Lake's now-extinct population of bull sharks.

The construction of fish cages has long been a problem for the river's natural ecology. Fish cages, oftentimes spanning the width of the entire river; physically block the natural migratory paths of fish species that move between the lake and the sea. Over the years, numerous measures have been attempted to curb the growing number of illegal fish cages in the river.

Lake Taal (freshwater lake)

Lake Taal is a large freshwater lake with a high sulphuric content. In the 18th century large eruptions sealed Taal Lake from the sea, eventually leading its waters to become non-saline. The lake is only 2.5 metres above sea level and its surface area measures over 230 square kilometres. The lake is fed by over 30 rivers but has only one outlet, the Pansipit River which drains into Balayan Bay in the South China Sea. 

For decades Taal Lake has been used and abused by local communities, to its detriment. Most of the abuse has been in the
form of overfishing and exploitation, with the deployment of fish cages for aquaculture-profit. With the ever increasing scarring of the mountainsides and valleys for housing projects, the removal of the forests and the pollution of the rivers and streams that feed the Taal Lake, are now Taal Lake’s greatest enemies.

How to get there:

Taal volcano is about 60 km from Manila. A day trip from Manila to see the volcano from Tagaytay Ridge involves a 90- minute bus journey . There are three main roads that link Tagaytay City to the lake and the Taal Volcano. One is the Diokno Highway near the border to Nasugbu, Batangas other one is just behind the Tagaytay Rotunda (but this is a very steep road); and the most preferred way is the Ligaya Drive near the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa road, which leads to the town of Talisay, Batangas. Talisay is the major jump-off point where boats are available to reach the volcano island.

  • Boat riding – be ready to get wet for a bumpy boat ride to cross to the crater as it is the only means of transportation. Takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on which trail you going through.
  • Horseback riding – going up the crater thru this mode will consume about 20 minutes (Regular Tourist Trail) or 45 minutes (Kalawit Trail).
  • Trekking – if you want a more difficult and challenging way to get up, go by foot, hiking up will take an hour
  • Sightseeing – the surrounding scenes can definitely wear out your tiredness from the rough trek trails. Enjoy the nature tracks that offers tranquil ambiance.



]]> (arj muñoz photography) arjmunoz batangas freshwater fujifilm hill horse island kalawit lake mountain pansipit philippines photo photoescapade ridge river sardinella taal tagaytay talisay tawilis tour trail volcano xt1 Thu, 21 Apr 2016 02:13:17 GMT
Aerial Photography: Philippine Sceneries from Bird's Eye View Have you ever flown on a commercial flight or private plane by the window and wondered how to capture an image of something interesting that you are flying over? I never get bored sitting inside the plane when I see such amazing sceneries outside the window.  Well, just wanted to share some of my aerial photo collection taken in the Philippines using Fujifilm X-T1 / XF18-55mm. Also, some tips on how to capture interesting photos by the window. 

Get a window seat near the front of the plane. Go online and book your seat in advance. Most airline online booking will show you were the seats are located. Try to get a window seat in front of the wing. This works well on larger planes, most smaller commercial planes reserve first-class and business class near the front. This area creates a smoother ride and you don't have the airplane wing to block your view. Another reason to have a seat before the wing section, is that the heat shimmer from the engines will affect the quality of the photo.

Get your camera ready. Take your camera on the plane. Don't put it in the overhead area, this makes it difficult to get the camera since you are at a window seat and will have to ask two people to move. Tell the person next to you take you will be taking some photos as the plane is taking off. This will let the person know that you may be blocking his view for a few seconds. Set the speed of the camera at a high shutter speed, around 500 hundreds of a second. This will stop blurring of the photo. Set the ASA to around 250 to 400.

Don't take your photos at an angle to the window. This will increase optical distortion from the windows. Stop reflection coming back into your pictures as noted below. It helps if you have a digital camera, so you can see your results and make adjustments during the beginning or landing part of the trip.

Keep your lens close but not touching the window; vibration from the airplane will blur your shots. Take your photos quickly, the plane is moving quickly, if you see something that you find interesting, it may be out of view the time you raise and point your camera.

Don't use flash photography. This will just reflect your flash back into your photo and it may scare your fellow passengers who may be first-time passengers on a plane flight.

Use a standard lens or a zoom lens, like a 35mm to 105mm. This will allow you to get photos of planes on the tarmac and other photos as the plane takes off.

Don't use a polarization filter. Plastic airplane windows will show odd patterns. When plastic is under strain it causes polarization of the material which will interfere with your polarizing filter. Without causing alarm, try shielding cabin lights and other window lights with a dark coat or cloth.


  • Hold the camera lens close to the window. This will reduce the false readings of an auto-focus camera and will prevent the camera focusing on the window instead of the image outside the window. Better yet set if for mountain setting or focus at infinity.
  • Shoot early in the flight. Windows tend to ice up after a while.
  • Shoot both vertical photos and horizontal photos. Consider the composition of your image, look at patterns and shapes and how they affect the borders of your frame. Consider the rule of thirds when composing.
  • You have more time to take photos during the landing. The plane is moving more slowly as it reduces speed and follows a holding pattern when coming in.
  • Depending on the direction of your flight, one side of the plane may be in twilight and the other side glaringly bright. Having the light to the side or behind you if you can plan it. Book seats accordingly.
  • You should have some type of software program like LR at home to enhance your photo and remove unwanted marks that may be in your photo.


  • Don't try taking photos during a turbulent flight. This may cause the camera to hit you in the face.
  • The restriction on using "portable electronic devices" during takeoff and landing applies to digital cameras on many airlines.
  • Follow all instructions by the captain or team member of that commercial flight.

]]> (arj muñoz photography) aerial airplane birds commercial eyeview philippines photography plane private tips travel window Wed, 06 Apr 2016 19:50:53 GMT
Photo Tour: Escape to Batanes... The Paradise of the North! Batanes is truly a dream escape not only to travel enthusiasts but to many serious photographers alike. It's always on my bucket list and so to many others but due to distance and isolation this so called "The Paradise of the North" isn't an easy to conquer. The high cost of airfare and the unpredictability of weather make Batanes an elusive dream for some and a big turnoff for most travellers. For now, allow me to take you there with some of my selected photos from my gallery taken during our previous photo tour.

The tour normally depends on the weather condition, but since most of the tourists stays at Basco and seems the weather is cooperating, so I decided to cover Batan Island first. Batan Island is the second largest island of Batanes next to Itbayat and where the capital Basco and the domestic airport is located. 

On our first day, we have had a good weather and clear blue sky so we didn't waste our time and drive up quickly to North Batan until sun went down.

Vayang Rolling Hills
Resting Cow at Rolling Hills

Rolling Hills is one of the most popular tourists attraction of North Batan, I would rather say that you'd never been in Batanes if you missed to visit this stunning spots of Basco. The place is called Vayang. The slopes of the rolling hills rise and dive gently, forming a crumpled terrain that is covered by grass, a food and rest sanctuary for cows, goats, and water buffalos. Embracing the splashes from the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Vayang Rolling Hills overlooks Chadpidan Beach, the boulder-filled western coast of Batan Island.

Valugan Boulder Beach

It’s a masterpiece created by the elements. In 400 AD, Mt. Iraya erupted and scattered andesite rocks around the northern half of Batan, which is now Basco, from the fiery guts of the earth. The mighty wind from the Pacific pushed the waves to lap the rough rocks, polishing it in the process. The result: a boulder beach that we now call Valugan.

Valugan means “east” in the Ivatan language. Boulders fill the jagged eastern edge of Batan Island like marbles recklessly dumped in a corner. The elements here are at war. The wind is whistling, the sea slapping the shore, and sharp cliffs breaking the tides. Yet, there is something so trance-inducing about the whole action. Like the ironically named ocean it faces, Valugan Beach is absolutely pacifying.

Naidi Hills (Old Ivatan Settlement)

Reflection of Basco Lighthouse at Bunker's Cafe

Basco Lighthouse

Naidi, which came from the two Ivatan words, “Na” meaning past and “Idi” meaning settlement, Naidi actually served as an old Ivatan settlement. Composed of six levels, we climbed the lighthouse through its narrow staircase. Located at the fifth floor is a viewing deck where we got a panoramic view of Basco town.

During the American period, telegraph facilities were built at the hill which was destroyed by the Japanese during World War II. Today, you can see the ruins and one of the buildings that survived which was transformed into a famous eating place in Batanes, the Bunker’s Café.

One of the best times to climb Naidi Hill is during sunset for a more serene and dramatic atmosphere.

Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel

Dipnaysupuan Japanese tunnel is an interconnected network of tunnels in Tukon Hills, Basco, Batanes. It served as a shelter for the Japanese imperial forces during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines until the end of World War II.

Because of its strategic location, the Japanese imperial forces forced the Ivatans to dug tunnels in Tukon Hills for their shelter. The Japanese soldiers spent years hiding in these tunnels until the end of Word War II.

Mt. Carmel Chapel

Otherwise known as Tukon Chapel, Mt. Carmel Chapel was built in early 2000. Tukon is an Ivatan term for mountain. Like the traditional Ivatan houses, the small chapel is made of stone where mass is held every second week of the month. Small as it is, the chapel is actually a favorite venue for intimate weddings. Also inspired by the Spaniards, the ceiling resembles a boat and is painted by images of saints made by young Ivatan artists.

From the chapel, you can get a really breathtaking view of both the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. Mt Iraya, a dormant volcano, can also be sighted.

Fundacion Pacita

Sunset View at Basco

The following day, our group headed to Sabtang Island. An early morning trip to Ivana Port is necessary to get the first boat trip to Sabtang. It's about 30 minutes drive from Basco or where we stayed (D' Island Lodge) and another 30-minute ride aboard the faluwa, the bigger traditional Ivatan boat. Like the tataya, the Ivatan dory, they do not have outriggers (katig), either. They say every ride is quite an experience. The waters between Batan and Sabtang Islands have a reputation of being rough, turbulent, frightening. This is where the currents of the vast West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the even bigger Pacific Ocean clash.

Sabtang Lighthouse

Sabtang is the southernmost island municipality of the Batanes island group which is composed primarily of Sabtang Island, as well as two nearby smaller and uninhabited islands: Ivuhos and Dequey. The municipality is known for its lighthouse and the old stone houses of the Ivatan villages of Chavayan and Savidug. Like Batan Island to the north, Sabtang also has a few Mission-style churches and white sand beaches.
Tourists are encouraged to spend overnight on the island to explore the area well especially to photographers like I do who always wanted to see the island from dusk till dawn, but day tours are a good option for those who don’t have much time on their pocket. However, given that the last trip back to Batanes is at 1pm, day trippers will find themselves staying shorter at each stop and haunted by the threat of missing the last boat trip. 

An Old Ivatan Woman

The Ivatans are a Filipino ethnolinguistic group predominant in the Batanes Islands of the Philippines. The origins of the Ivatans remained untraced among scholars. Ivatans were free before they were colonized by the Spaniards. The culture of the Ivatans is partly influenced by the environmental condition of Batanes. Unlike the old-type nipa huts common in the Philippines, Ivatans have adopted their now-famous stone houses made of limestone, designed to protect against the hostile climate.

An Old Ivatan making Vakul at Savidug 

Ivatan have many unique culture aside living in a stone house which are made of limestone and corals with roof made of cogon grass, they also make their own "vakul", a traditional headgear designed to shield wearer from the sun and rain, it is another cultural feature unique to the Ivatans.

Ivatan woman wearing a Vakul

Vakul is an ivatan headdress made out of Philippine date palm or voyavoy leaves used to protect them from rain, wind and sunlight when going to their farm. Vakuls are used by women while its counterpart Kanayi are worn by Ivatan men.

Nakabuang Arch of Morong Beach

Of all the beaches fringing the coast of Sabtang Island, Morong Beach is probably the most well-known. Thanks to the large rocky arch that has become an icon not just of the island but Batanes as a whole. The natural formation is called Nakabuang Arch. (The beach is also commonly referred to as Nakabuang Beach.)

Morong Beach is a favorite among Batanes tourists for many reasons. The sand here is much fairer than other beaches in the province. The waves are also less ferocious; they are friendly enough for a swim. Bookmarked by grass-carpeted small hills, it is actually a pretty short stretch, you can walk from one end to the other in a matter of minutes.

Chamantad Tiñan Viewpoint

If Mahatao has its Racuh-a-Payaman, Sabtang has its Chamantad-Tiñan View Point. This is the place where you can actually see some Ivatans lend their Kanayi and Vakul for picture taking purposes with the great landscape in your background. A short walk from the dusty road led us to the peak of the viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of the coast.

After our long day at Sabtang Island we make sure we never miss the last boat trip back to Basco. In the afternoon of the same day, we took a tricycle for a short trip up to Basco Lighthouse to experience sunset. 

Sunset at Basco Lighthouse

On our last day, another early morning trip down to South Batan. The south Batan tour is a day-tour covering the towns of Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan, south of the island of Batan in Batanes. It includes both natural and man-made attractions of cultural, historical and commercial importance.

Simple living at Uyugan Town

Overlooking Tayid Lighthouse at Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Marlboro Country might be one of the most photographed places that an avid photographer would be looking for. The blue skies, green fields, and the hilly terrain and mountains – all of these blend the perfect color of nature that picturesque a perfect creation from a perfect Creator.

Mt. Iraya view at Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Racuh A Payaman is a protected location in the island of Batan in Batanes where everyone is dreaming for to visit. A trail to its hills will give you pleasure that only nature can afford to give.

Diura Beach view from Racuh-a-payaman (Marlboro Country)

Of 7,107 magnificent islands in the Philippines, who would have thought that only one island is enough to represent the beauty of the whole archipelago – Racuh A Payaman – indeed one of the God’s most awesome creations that one should visit.  Vahay ni Dakay (Vernacular Houses)

Few blocks away from the old Spanish houses is the Vahay ni Dakay (House of Dakay). The House of Dakay is the oldest surviving house in the town of San Jose de Ivana in South Batan Island. It is a traditional structure with thick walls made of stone and lime and with a roof thatched with cogon grass. Named after the family that owned it, it is known as Vahay ni Dakay in Ivatan. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Building.

Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse

Tayid Lighthouse is a lighthouse built in 2000 on the coast of Mahatao, Batanes, the Philippines facing the Philippine Sea. It is used to guide ships approaching or passing Batan Island.

Chawa View Deck

Mahatao Boat Shelter Port

Inaugurated in 2007, the Mahatao Boat Shelter Port was built to protect fishing and passenger vessels from damage caused by unfavourable weather conditions. The shelter port features calm and clear turquoise water which beauty equals or even surpasses the canals of Europe.

Inside Mahatao Church

Dried Flying Fish or Dibang in Ivatan

Coconut Crab - (apparently this 10 year old crab is one of the most expensive food you can ever had in the island)

So, that's my 4 day photo tour in Batanes, thank you for viewing and I hope to see you on my next #photoescapade. If interested to experience Batanes, you may join me on my next #BatanesPhotoTour on October (tentative date), more details and information will be available soon. =)


]]> (arj muñoz photography) basco batan batanes chavayan chawa dakay hills honesty iraya ivana ivatan lighthouse mahatao marlboro mt. naidi ni north paradise philippines photo photography racuh-a-payaman rolling sabtang savidug south store tinan tour vahay valugan workshop Sun, 13 Mar 2016 08:09:15 GMT
Travel Photography: Exploring the Majestic View of Mount Pinatubo Mount Pinatubo is situated in the southern part of Luzon. It is one of the biggest volcanoes in the Philippines. In 1991, the Pinatubo became in a few months one of the most known volcanoes in the world. In that year the Pinatubo erupted violently. More than 700 people were killed. Huge masses of volcanic material** flew out of the crater and covered in a few days an area of more than 400 km². At the beginning of the eruption enormous ash clouds***  were blasted out into the air.

The eruption in 1991
At first there were earthquakes, small explosions and emissions of steam and minor ash. The earthquakes and emissions continued and  increased. After more than 2 months of increasing activity, strong explosions culminated in one of the largest eruptions of this century. During more than 15 hours, volcanic ash plumes went straight up  to 30 km altitude into the sky. The ash plumes spread out in the air in the days after the first explosions. Within ten days, the cloud formed a nearly continuous band that stretched 11.000 kilometres from Southeast Asia to Central Africa!

The word pinatubo could mean "fertile place where one can make crops grow", or could mean "made to grow", in Tagalog and Sambal, which may suggest a knowledge of its previous eruption in about 1500 AD. There is a local oral tradition suggestive of a folk memory of earlier large eruptions. An ancient legend tells of Bacobaco, a terrible spirit of the sea, who could metamorphose into a huge turtle and throw fire from his mouth. In the legend, when being chased by the spirit hunters, Bacobaco flees to the mountain and digs a great hole in its summit showering the surrounding land with rock, mud, dust and fire for three days; howling so loudly that the earth shakes.

The caldera formed and Lake Pinatubo has since become a tourist attraction with the preferred route through Barangay Santa Juliana in Capas, Tarlac.

Pinatubo belongs to the Cabusilan Mountains, the central range of the Zambales Mountains, which consists of Mt. Cuadrado, Mt. Negron, Mt. Mataba and Mt. Pinatubo. They are subduction volcanoes, formed by the Eurasian Plate sliding under the Philippine Mobile Belt along the Manila Trench to the west. Mount Pinatubo and the other volcanoes on this volcanic belt arise due to magma occlusion from this subduction plate boundary.

The Aeta people were the hardest hit by the eruption. After the areas surrounding the volcano were declared safe, many Aetas returned to their old villages only to find them destroyed by pyroclastic and lahar deposits. Some were able to return to their former way of life, but most moved instead to government-organized resettlement areas. Conditions on these were poor, with each family receiving only small plots of land not ideal for growing crops. Many Aeta found casual labor working for lowland farmers, and overall Aeta society became much more fragmented, and reliant on and integrated with lowland culture.

The summit of the volcano collapsed!

The violent explosion on the 15th  of June in 1991 broke away a big part of the top of the Pinatubo*. The summit of the volcano collapsed into the under laying magma chamber. The result was an enormous depression, the caldera, with a 2.5 kilometre diameter!  The new summit of the volcano was 145 meters lower than before the explosion.

On June 15, millions of tons of sulfur dioxide were discharged into the atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the temperature worldwide over the next few years.

Many of the Aeta who lived on the slopes of the volcano left their villages of their own volition when the first explosions began in April, gathering in a village about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the summit. They moved to increasingly distant villages as the eruptions escalated, some Aeta moving up to nine times in the two months before the colossal eruption.

On January 14, 2010, some 7,000 Aeta families from Zambales were officially granted the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) covering the Zambales side of Pinatubo which includes the summit and Lake Pinatubo, officially becoming their lutan tua (ancestral land). The ancestral domain title covers 15,984 ha (39,500 acres) and includes the villages of Burgos, Villar, Moraza and Belbel in Botolan and portions of the towns of CabanganSan Felipe and San Marcelino.


All photos are taken with #Fujifilm X-T1 and 18-55mm kitlens. Hope to see you on my next #photoescapade.
If you want to travel and experience Mt. Pinatubo Trek, please check our website @ Thank you!


]]> (arj muñoz photography) aetas capas fujifilm mountain mt. philippines pinatubo tarlac travel volcano xt1 Mon, 22 Feb 2016 17:54:25 GMT
Travel Photography: Discovering the Secrets of Callao Cave - Peñablanca, Cagayan Callao Cave is one of the limestone caves located in the Municipality of Peñablanca, Cagayan province, in the Philippines. The seven-chamber show cave is one of 300 caves that dot the area and the best known natural tourist attractions of the province. The town is named as Peñablanca (Spanish for white rocks) for the presence of white limestone rocks in the area. Callao Cave is located in the Barangays of Magdalo and Quibal in Peñablanca about 24 km (15 mi) northeast of Tuguegarao City, the capital of the Province of Cagayan.

Callao and the other caves are situated in the western foothills of the Northern Sierra Madre Mountains of the Philippines. They are situated within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, which stretches from the caves to the eastern shores of Peñablanca town in the Pacific Ocean.

First Chamber and the Chapel inside Callao Cave

Callao Cave was visited by American Governor-General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1932 who under his term created the National Park system of the country with the passing of Act no. 3195 in 1932. Callao Cave was one of the earliest national parks of the country when it was established on July 16, 1935 by Proclamation no. 827. The Callao Cave National Park encompassed an area of 192 hectares (470 acres) of land. With the passing of the NIPAS Act of 1992 that revamped the protected areas of the country, the Callao National Park was reclassified but enlarged by Proclamation no. 416 on June 29, 1994. The protected area was reestablished as the Peñablanca Protected Landscape

Some stalagmites and stalactites, going to the next chamber.

"The Altar"

Callao Cave at a Glance.

More than 300 caves dot the protected area, 75 of which have been documented by the National Museum since 1977. Callao Cave and the nearby, but more challenging, Sierra Cave are easily accessible by car.

Callao Cave is the premier attraction in the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. It is the most accessible of all the caves, its entrance is reached by climbing 184 concrete steps. The Callao cave system is composed of seven chambers, each with natural crevices above that let streams of light to get into the cave, serving as illumination for the otherwise dark areas of the place. Previously, there were reported nine caves in the system, but an earthquake in the 1980s cutoff the last two chambers.

The first chamber of the show cave is the largest room with a width of about 50 m (160 ft) and a height of 36 m (118 ft). The cathedral-like room has been turned into a chapel by the local people. A rock formation serves as the altar of the chapel lit by a stream of light coming from a rooftop opening. The conditions inside the caves have caused the formation of stalactites and stalagmites, more so in the deeper chambers. Several spectacular speleothems or formations are found inside the cave like flowstones, glittering dripstones, cave curtains, crystal helictites, columns, etc.

In 2007, a team of archaeologist led by Armand Salvador Mijares excavated a metatarsal (bones on the feet) on the first chamber,  and discovered that, after being dated in France, the remain was 67,000 years old – 20,000 years older than what I taught was the first humans in the country. It was called the "Callao Man".

If definitively proven to be remains of Homo sapiens, it would antedate the 47,000-year-old remains of Tabon Man to become the earliest human remains known in the Philippines, and one of the oldest human remains in the Asia Pacific. It has been noted by researchers that Callao Man was probably under four feet tall. Researchers also believe that Aetas, mountain dwellers today on Luzon Island, could be descendants of the Callao Man.

All photos are taken with my #Fujifilm X-T1 and 18-55mm kitlens. Hope to see you on my next #photoescapade. =)


]]> (arj muñoz photography) cagayan callao cave caving chapel church heritage peñablanca philippines photography photos tour tuguegarao Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:00:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Masskara Festival 2015 in a Great City of Smiles, Bacolod Bacolod City is known as the City of Smile, also the capital of the sugar bowl of Philippines, Negros Occidental. It symbolizes progress and business opportunities. Its fast pace towards progress enable them to become one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines. Bacolod, a home of Masskara Festival is a living proof of ups and downs way back then. The Masskara Festival which symbolizes hope is a tool of escapism during dark and dire times.

When immigrants from the neighboring island like Iloilo came here for business ventures, the province of Negros propelled its economic growth. Prominent families started to cultivate sugar and became the province main source of income. The sudden growth of income means more business opportunities and jobs. More and more immigrants most especially “sakada” came here to plant and harvest sugar cane. Haciendas and villages sprout like mushroom that makes landlords and sugar barons. Sugar industry by that time is at its peak. Sugar is exported from different countries which make the province and its people rich and wealthy.

A Brief History of Masskara Festival

It was in 1979 when the luxury liner of Negros Navigation MS Don Juan crashed with a tanker. It carries hundreds of passengers including some prominent people. Seven hundred lives estimated were lost in the tragedy. Five years after a big drop in sugar production happened. Caribbean sugar crisis and the introduction of sugar substitute like High Fructose Corn Syrup in the United States added additional factor for sugar crisis in Negros. Negrense suffered from obscure situation. Everybody is in grief as if the world crumbles and turn back to them. Later on a Negrense, Ely Santiago, a cartoonist, painter and artist together with some government official, civic groups and prominent people molded the first Masskara Festival. The word Masskara came from “mass” means crowd and Spanish word “cara” for faces meaning “many faces.” It was on 1980 when the firs Masskara Festival took place. The original plan of Santiago was to hold an annual parade using mask to capture the crisis in Negros. It was change by the local elite into a street dancing and merry making. Twenty days of merry making, street party, street dancing, beer drinking, fluvial parade and garden shows were being practice hitherto. 

A smiling masks which symbolizes hope and to conceive grief of every Negrense is a way to show the happy spirit of Negrense despite experiencing hard times in the sugar industry. The festival is held every third week of October. Several activities were lined up during these festivities. Thousands of tourists including the locals from neighboring cities were drawn by this occasion. Grand parade and street dance were only few of the most awaited activities during Masskara. Dancers clad in an elaborate costumes and colorful painted mask vying for the prizes. This year during the highlights of the event is also the opening of the biggest convention center not only in Bacolod but also in Southeast Asia.


"The Ruins" in Talisay City 


"Looking outside from the Ruins main door way"

The Ruins in Talisay City, Negros Occidental is what remained of the grand mansion that Don Mariano Lacson built, following the death of his first wife, Maria Braga.

Built in memory of Maria Braga, the mansion became the residence of Don Mariano and his unmarried children.

Today, it is a tourist attraction for its romantic, yet strong structures. Many interesting tales and facts lie within the walls and posts that remained of the Ruins.


"Balay Negrense" in SIlay City

The Balay Negrense also known as the Victor Gaston Ancestral Home (1898). This hardwood home has the most photogenic exterior of any house in Silay City, Negros Occidental, it is now a museum showcasing the lifestyle of a late 19th-century Negrense sugar baron.


Old tree at Balay Negrense in Silay City, Negros Occidental

Inside architecture of San Diego Pro-Cathedral

The San Diego Pro-cathedral, formerly known as the San Diego Parish Church or the St. Didacus Parish Church before its declaration as a pro-cathedral in 1994, is an early 20th-century church in Silay City, Negros Occidental in the Philippines.


Balay ni Tana Dicang

Balay ni Tana Dicang stands majestically in the heart of Talisay, Negros Occidental.  Otherwise known as the  bahay na bato  it was built in ca. 1883 in a 6,000 square meter property. Owing to the diligence of the descendants of Don Efigenio Lizares and Doña Enrica Alunan, its original structure and authentic and antique furniture, ornaments and accessories, including the China porcelain and indigenous items in the kitchen are well-preserved to this day.

Some antique furniture inside Balay ni Tana Dicang

San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City

The present structure was constructed and inaugurated on January 20, 1882. It became a cathedral in 1933 and is one of the century-old churches found in Negros Occidental. During the 100th year anniversary of the cathedral, the centennial bells of San Sebastian Cathedral were brought down from the belfry and mounted on the right side of the church ground. You will also find the Palacio Episcopal, the bishop's palace and the seat of the diocese of the province, inside the grounds.

Colorful Masskara Souvinir


Some of my street dance photos taken during Masskara Festival 2015:

To view more of my latest Masskara Festival photos and some ancestral houses in Negros including Bacolod, Silay and Talisay City, please  visit my galleries.

Hope to see you on my next #photoescapade. =)



]]> (arj muñoz photography) ancestral bacolod balay cathedral festival fujifilm masskara museum negrense negros occidental philippines silay talisay xt1 Tue, 03 Nov 2015 10:30:00 GMT
Travel Photography : A Whole Day Photowalk in Don Galo, Parañaque Fishport I just wanted to share some of my selected and latest photos in Parañaque Fish port, just a whole day photowalk.

The fish port is located at the southbound lane of Parañaque's coastal road, just before you hit the toll gate there's a right turn slot that is barely see if you don't know the area going to service road and you pass through the fishing village up to the fish port area of Don Galo, Parañaque. It would be easier if you bring your own car to visit the place as public vehicles or cabs are not even available to drop you off or pick you up in these areas.

Low-tide at Parañaque Fishport

Whiskered tern catching fish

Drying fish

Old man cleaning mussels

Wood Charcoal making

Busy making fish basin

Fishing young boy

A Bridge to comfort

Family cleaning mussels 

Early Morning Fishing

Preparing dried fish

Happy kids

Kids having fun

Sunset at Fishport


To view more of my latest Parañaque photos, please click this link or go to my Galleries.


]]> (arj muñoz photography) bridge city don dongalo fish fishing fishport galo manila metro paranaque people philippines photography photowalk port sunset tour travel village Mon, 27 Jul 2015 06:15:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Exploring One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in Puerto Princesa Another check off my bucket list and my photo escapade continues... with my new body, Fujifilm X-T1 and only 18-55mm kit lens, this time I flew to Palawan and explore Puerto Princesa.

Puerto Princesa City is a tropical paradise with a bustling urban center perfect for business with leisure trips. Lush rainforests and white sand beaches are simply hours away from the city proper, where a banking and commercial boom has made life easier for workaholics who can never run away from the office.

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) is a must-see for first time visitors and tourists in Palawan and it is one of the most important protected areas of the Philippines. The longest navigable underground river and reputedly the most beautiful subterranean river in the world features a spectacular limestone or karst landscape with one of the most complex cave systems. It contains an 8.2 km long underground river that flow directly to the sea. The lower half of the river is brackish and is affected by the ocean’s tide. An underground river directly flowing into the sea, and the associated tidal influence, makes it a significant natural phenomenon. The discovery of at least 11 minerals, crystal and egg shape rock formations, and a 20 million year old Miocene age serenia fossil in the cave further add to its scientific value. The Puerto Princesa Underground River is declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park


Stunning Rock Formation


Boatman in Sabang Beach


Tourist exploring Underground River


Puerto Princesa... nature at its best!


Breathtaking view at Honda Bay


Just a few minutes north of the city proper, hop onto a boat and go island hopping at Honda Bay located in the mid-eastern coast of the city. Take your pick from dozens of white sand beaches. Each island at Honda Bay offers different thrills. Pandan Island or Isla Pandan is a great sailing destination. The water is so calm, and perfect for swimming and sun bathing. Snake Island has a sandbar that slithers on the surface of the sea, much like the critter that bears its name. It is best for  snorkeling, swimming or simply basking in the sand. It can be reached in an hour by pumpboat. Luli Island is a short term for Filipino word lulubog - lilitaw,  a small island visible at ebb tide and disappears under water during high tide. Star Fish Island - this island is popular for its fine white sand and clear water teems with star fish.

Crew cleaning Luli Island


Starfish Island


Sabang Rock Formation


Spelunking Sabang Cave


Green fields of Sabang


View from Inside the Cave

Nipa Hut outside the Cave


Historical Plaza Cuartel


Plaza Cuartel is a good spot to take a rest and just enjoy the beauty of nature by looking out to the clear blue sea of Palawan. Aside from getting close to nature, the place also has a lot of tales to tell. Plaza Cuartel has a colorful history because of the events that happened here during the World War II.

The plaza has a bronze marker that contains the name of eleven prisoners of war (POW) who managed to survive the horrible massacre that happened in this place. The bronze marker is placed above the area where main underground bunkers existed. These bunkers became the cage for the unfortunate prisoners. 

"In this place which was a military fort of World War II, the burning of more or less 150 American POW was done by Japanese soldiers on December 14, 1944. Some managed to survive by swimming their way out from the sea to Iwahig. The remains of those who died were brought and buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri, United States, 1952."

This tragic event happened when the World War II was about to end. The Plaza Cuartel was a garrison of Spaniards, overtook by Americans and then by Japanese. When the Japanese soldiers realized that they were losing the war, put all its prisoners in the dungeon, poured out drums of petroleum over them and lit them up alive. The eleven survivors who escaped narrated the story.


Colorful Peacock at Baker's Hill


"I can see you" - Monkey at the Starfish Island 


To view more of my latest Palawan photos, please click this link or go to my Galleries.




]]> (arj muñoz photography) 7 adventure bay diving explore feeding fish honda hopping isla island luli national nature new of palawan pandan park philippines princesa puerto river sabang snake starfish subterranean underground woners Wed, 20 May 2015 15:49:22 GMT
Travel Photography: "I Came, I Saw, I Conquer the Adventures in Sagada" My "photo escapades" continues… and I decided to spent my vacation last holy week in Sagada with Olympus OM-D E-M5 body (MFT Mirrorless camera) and 12-50mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens. No heavy DSLR gear nor a back up camera this time, as I travel alone and no extra hand to carry my extra loads, so I really have to squeeze it all in medium size backpack and mini ThinkTank photo bag just perfect for my Oly kit.

Sagada is famous for its natural beauty, its culture and the warmth of its people - the Igorots in the Philippines. It also offers a different variety of tours and adventure trips compared to other places -- from breathtaking view of terraces, mountain hiking, waterfalls trekking, to exploring caves plus the fresh foods are some of the great experiences you don't want to miss when you step in to this humble town. If you love to travel and game with adventure to shoot landscape, then this place is truly a must-see. 

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Banaue Rice Terraces

It's an unassuming town nestled in the Cordillera Mountains in Northwestern Philippines. Sagada is located 275 km north of Manila. Visitors coming from Manila by transport have the choice of traveling either via Banaue (Ifugao Province) or Baguio City (Benguet Province) as there are no public vehicles going direct to Sagada, so better if you have your own private transfer or with organized group tours, its hassle-free and more convenient like what I did. There are air conditioned buses traveling from Manila direct to Banaue. A bus that leaves Manila at 10:00 p.m. will make it to Banaue at 7:00 a.m. the following day. From Banaue, a jeepney ride will take the guest to Bontoc in about three (3) hours. Non-air conditioned buses and jeepneys ply the route Bontoc-Sagada in about an hour. Sagada is approximately 6 hours of descending travel to Baguio over the narrow mountain tracks traversing the Cordilleras against a background of terraces planted to rice and vegetables.

Igorot at Banaue Rice Terraces

Skulls of animals are display outside Ifugao houses as a sign of the family's wealth.

After some 12 hours of long long road trip considering traffic and stopovers, we finally arrived at Banaue. I am dead tired but I can't refused to grab my camera when I saw some scenic view of rice terraces, then, we took another hour and a half to reached the charming town of Sagada. After our registration at the tourist center, we just checked-in to our guesthouse, ordered a quick lunch, bathroom break and get some rest. The adventure begins on the same day in the afternoon, we went out for Lumiang Cave and Sumaguing Cave. Spelunking or Caving is one of the best things to do in Sagada or they call it cave connecting, you got to challenge yourself to survive 4 caves. Oh, by the way, I almost forgot to mention that most of Sagada tourist spots needs a legit tour guide and to mind you, the guides we have in the caves that day are absolutely amazing that they can even guide you even if they’re blind folded. Obviously, we finished that day totally worn out.

Survival guide preparing our kerosine lamp

Sumaguing Cave is a 40 minute walk from Sagada on the Suyo Road. Unusual limestone formations are found in the cave.

Spelunking Sumaguing Cave

Our guide, resting after we reached the bottom of Sumagauing Cave. 

Inside Sumaguing Cave

The following day, I set my alarm and sneak out to get some early morning shots in one of the areas I spotted along the way to Sumaguing Cave about 40 minutes walk from the guesthouse. Oh, I have to skip my coffee and almost missed our next trip to Bomod-ok Falls. It's a 3-4 hours back and forth hike with the walking distance of about 2 km. or approx. 6,500 normal steps depending on the ability to walk through rice paddies and natural trails from Bangaan down to the famous Bomod-ok Waterfalls also called the Big Falls. It is located at Fidelisan with a height of approximately 200ft starting from the topmost portion down to its natural swimming pool which has a depth of more or less 10ft. 

Morning sunshine somewhere in the bush

Earlt Morning scene in Sagada

Another rice terraces view from the top 

Nature at its best, going down to Bomod-ok Falls.

Bomod-ok Waterfalls or Big Falls 

Some villages on top of the mountain. 

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Refreshing pool of Bomod-ok falls

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One of many hanging coffins view from the top.

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The Hanging Coffins

I'm a total wrecked and my stomach was half empty, after 5 hours hiking under the sun we decided to sit down and have our lunch at Salt and Pepper Restaurant. Then in the afternoon, we visited Ganduyan Museum, this small museum is packed with an anthropologist’s dream of sculptures, jewellery and other Kankanay artefacts. Then shortly, after Ganduyan we drop by at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, it is a monumental stone church built by American Missionaries during the early 1900's  located just near Sagada Cemetery and along the route going to the Echo Valley and we finished our long day at the Hanging Coffins. Members of the Igorot tribe of Mountain Province have long practiced the tradition of burying their dead in hanging coffins, nailed to the sides of cliff faces high above the ground. Comfortably predating the arrival of the Spanish, the procedure can probably be traced back more than two millennia. One of the most common beliefs behind this practice is that moving the bodies of the dead higher up brings them closer to their ancestral spirits, but our guide also told me that one reason behind hanging the coffins is to avoid the dogs eating the corpse, sounds funny but that really make sense to me.  

We've had our dinner after at Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant and I would say, that night really made my day in Sagada, i'm excited but its nothing to do with hiking through mountains or crawling through caves but rather with the amazing art -- the black & white photography of Eduardo Masferré that hangs on the wall like his mini gallery.


Eduardo Masferré

The local artist, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 86, has left quite an anthropological legacy. In 1934, Masferre started documenting life in the Cordilleras, the mountainous areas of Northern Luzon, beautifully capturing the spirit of the region in his photos. He covered everything from village life to landscapes to architectural styles, but his ultimate collection was that of the native Igorot people many of whom were proud headhunters. Today, 60 years later, almost all of the tribal groups have modernized and are increasingly integrated into mainstream Filipino society.

After working as a photographer for 22 years, Masferre returned to farming in 1956 to support his growing family while his son took over the photo studio in Bontoc. Part of Masferre’s photo collection can be seen at the fantastic Bontoc Museum, an ethnological treasure trove, as well as in several of Sagada’s restaurants and hotels. His wife Nena still lives in Sagada and it is said that whenever the door to her house is open, she is open to receiving visitors. Unfortunately, while we were there, her front door remained closed.

Read more about Eduardo Masferre’s life and his vision at the National Gallery of Australia.

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Sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint

Before we headed back to Manila, an early morning wake up call around 4am to get to Kiltepan Viewpoint and watch the beautiful sunrise over mountain range, then, its time to hit the road back home via Halsema Highway, one of the most scenic routes in the country, the roads are great yet the trip still takes roughly 6-7 hours to Baguio due to sharp bends through the Cordillera Mountains. It also passes through the Highest Point of the Philippine Highway System about 2,255 metres (7,400 ft) above sea level and down to Tomay & Atok to La Trinidad and all the way to Manila.

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View along Halsema Highway

So, now I would say that "I came, I saw and I conquer the Adventure in Sagada", its another big check off my long bucket list. Till then, see you on my next #photoescapades. =) 


]]> (arj muñoz photography) adventure banaue bomod-ok cave cemetery church coffins falls ganduyan hanging hiking ifugao igorot images landscape mary mountain museum people philippines photography photos province rice sagada st. sumaguing sunrise sunset terraces travel trekking Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:07:25 GMT
Travel Photography: Bird Sanctuary Wetlands - Candaba, Pampanga Looking for a nice bird watching experience? Then Candaba is worth a visit.

If this is your first time birding (that’s the official term for bird watching), you must remember this: birds don’t fly all day. They hang around. If you want to see flocks of flying birds, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

The wetlands of Candaba in Pampanga is (2nd) home to a variety of migratory birds during the months of November to February (late autumn - winter in the northern hemisphere). Candaba swamp is a vast complex of freshwater ponds, swamps and marshes with surrounding areas of seasonally flooded grassland, arable land and palm savanna on a vast alluvial flood plain. The entire area is usually flooded in the wet season, but most of it dries out during the dry season and is converted into rice fields and plantations of water melons.


Flock of flying Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybridus)


Beautiful Candaba Sunset 


Pacific Swallow / Hill Swallow


Wild Ducks


Whiskered Tern catching fish


Morning Flights


Sunrise at Candaba


Lonely Bird


Man cleaning up the irrigation.


Sunrise at Candaba

]]> (arj muñoz photography) animals bird candaba ducks egrets farmers field filipino hemisphere herons locals migratory pacific paddies pampanga philippines photography photos ricefield sanctuary sunset swallow swamp tern travel watching wetlands whiskered wild Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Pope Francis' Visit to the Philippines - "Mercy and Compassion" Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines from January 15–19, 2015 with the theme "Mercy and Compassion". It is the first state and pastoral visit to the Philippines in the 21st century and the third pontiff to visit our country after Pope Paul VI (November, 1970) and Pope John Paul II in "World Youth Day" last January 1995

The pope visited Manila then to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte as part of his main agenda, to pay a visit to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Pope Francis celebrated an outdoor Mass during his last full day visit in Manila Grandstand. An estimated of six million people attended the ceremony or lined the Papal route to Rizal Park. That would be a record for a papal event. About five million welcomed Pope John Paul II in Manila in 1995.


Pope Francis inside Popemobile on his way to Mall of Asia Arena


"Mercy and Compassion"


 Waiting for Pope Francis


Along Quirino Avenue, on his arrival.


The Spectator, using his binocular toy.


Looking at Pope Souvenir Calendar


Shooting the Pope


Philippines, welcomes Pope Francis


Pope visits the "TEXT" capital of the world.


Hundreds if not thousands of people everyday waiting outside Apostolic Nunciature in Manila during papal visit.


Last day, on his way to Manila International Airport back to Rome


* All photos are captured with the Olympus OM-D EM-5 M4/3 camera with 14-50mm lens.

]]> (arj muñoz photography) 2014 apostolic asia bergoglio catholic church city compassion em-5 filipino francis francisco grandstand january john jorge leyte luneta malacañang mall manila mario mass mercy mirrorless nunciature of olympus om-d palace papa papal paul philippines pontiff pope religion santo state tacloban tomas university vatican visit yolanda youth Mon, 19 Jan 2015 07:45:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Visiting The "World Heritage Site" of Vigan City Vigan City is located on the northwestern coast of Luzon in the Philippines. It is the capital of Ilocos Sur province and the only UNESCO World Heritage City in the country. Recently, it won as one of the New Seven Wonders Cities of the World.

The Meztizo District in Vigan is the main tourist hangout particularly the street of Crisologo where you can see and buy all local souvenir items, it is well-preserved Bahay na Bato structures and its historical core. Currently, there are 187 listed ancestral houses in town. Besides this, it also boasts of beautiful colonial churches, a plaza that comes alive with a fountain show at night, a free-roaming zoo and numerous historical museums. 

Kalesa ride at night


"Pagburnayan" Pottery Maker


"Ang Mangangalakal"


Traditional "Kalesa" transportation


Hotel Felicidad Hallway


Singson Residence


St. Elizabeth stained glass at St. Paul's Cathedral


Inside Ancestral House of Singson


White Statue


Kalesa along Crisologo Street


St. Paul's Cathedral in Vigan


* All photos are captured with the Leica V-Lux camera with 25-400mm lens.


]]> (arj muñoz photography) ancestral baluarte camera cathedral church city crisologo heritage historical horse ilocos images jars kalesa kiln leica luzon pagburnayan paul philippines photography photos pottery province singson st. sur unesco v-lux vigan world Sat, 03 Jan 2015 12:45:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Baguio - The Summer Capital of the Philippines Baguio, is known as the Summer Capital of the country because of its cool climate and is also one of the most famous cities in the Philippines. It is highly urbanized city located in the province of Benguet in northern Luzon. For most travellers, Baguio serves as the primary gateway to backpacker bliss up north in Sagada, Banaue and Kalinga.

Burnham Park, Botanical Garden, Camp John Hay and Mines View Park are the most common places the tourists normally hangout. But you can also visit Tam-Awan Village where you can see replicas of native cogon-thatched homes and get a chance to meet a local artists. 

If you are an adventurer and you want to climb mountain on top of the mountains, then you can try Mount Santo Tomas located in Tuba, Benguet some 2,260m (7,410ft) above sea level, good for sight-seeing but don't forget to bring your warm suits and even sun protection. This place is now becoming popular to locals because it is the shooting location of the ABS-CBN teleserye "Forevermore", where Sitio Pungayan or the famous La Presa (fictional name in the series) is located.

Light of Dawn at Burnham Park, Baguio


The Last Light, Baguio


High-rise Community, Baguio


Igorots at Botanical Garden


View at Sitio Pungayan (La Presa) in Mount Sto. Tomas


Baguio View at Night


Night Market along Harrison Road


Inside Tam-Awan Village


Sunrise at Burnham Park


]]> (arj muñoz photography) baguio benguet botanical burnham camp capital garden hay igorot john lapresa mines mount mountains native park people philippines santo summer sunrise tam-awan tomas view village Sun, 28 Dec 2014 06:45:00 GMT
Macro Photography: A Closer Look To The Wonderful World of Bugs and Insects Photographing bugs and insects in your garden is one thing, but challenging yourself shooting them in life-size is another thing. That's where macro photography or also known as photomacrography comes using special lenses. Macro photographs are taken from extreme close-up range. This allows the image on the sensor plane to be equal to life size or greater.  However, there are a range of other ways to achieve the same end such as Close-up Lenses (close-up rings), Reversed Lens mounted on the camera using a "reverse ring mount adapter", Extension Tubes and Bellows - to extend the lens' focal length enabling it to enlarge.

Despite their reputation as pests, the trillions of insects, bugs, and spiders that inhabit the Earth can make some of the most fascinating and dramatic close-up photography subjects.  Insects and their tiny environments offer the macro photographer an unlimited amount of color, texture, and physical architecture to explore. They are as unique as we are, and they are obviously much more plentiful. 

]]> (arj muñoz photography) adapters ants bugs close-up extension insects lens lenses life-size macro macrography nature photomacrography reversed spiders tubes Sun, 21 Sep 2014 07:51:26 GMT
Travel Photography: Discovering Rizal Towns Rizal is bordered by Metro Manila to the west, the province of Bulacan to the north, Quezon to the east and Laguna province to the south. The province also lies on the northern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country. It is a mountainous province perched on the western slopes of the southern portion of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Antipolo boasts of a wonderful view of Metro Manila and it is where Hinulugang Taktak, a waterfall popular with tourists, can be found.



Rizal began as a territory when the provinces of Tondo and Laguna were created by the Spanish government with the towns of Pasig and Parañaque (now part of Metro Manila), Taytay and Cainta- bustling towns during the Spanish colonial era with a decidedly cosmopolitan mix already, intermarriages between the Tagalogs, the Chinese and Arabs were prevalent long before Spain came to colonize these shores. Encomiendas were established with Moron (Morong), Passi (Pasig), Taitay (Taytay) and Tagui (Taguig-now part of Metro Manila) under their respective jurisdictions under the provinces of Tondo and La Laguna. In the succeeding years, further political subdivisions were dissolved and created with the town of Morong eventually becaming the capital of La Laguna and then later changed into a Distrito Politico-Militar de Morong. During the tenure of the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo, who also served as the Philippines’ first Philippine President, Mariquina (Marikina) became the capital of the Province of Manila.

After all these confusing fusions and dissections of Manila, on 11 June 1901 the province of Rizal (named after the Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal as suggested by Dr. Trinidad Hermenegildo Pardo de Tavera- a creole and derided as one of the first American “buttkissers”, who’s Parisian house at one time received Jose Rizal and other prominent Filipino intellectuals and revolutionists in Europe) was finally created by virtue of Act No. 137 by the first Philippine Commission (was acting as the unicameral legislative body for Luzon at that time) headed by United States of America President William Howard Taft and composed of Commissioners Luke E. Wright, Henry C. Ide, Bernard Moses and Dean C, Worcester during a meeting at the Pasig Catholic Church and with 221 delegates in attendance through a heated debate.

Originally composed of 26 towns (most of which are now part of Metro Manila), the former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 824 took away the 12 towns of Rizal namely the towns of Las Piñas, Makati, Taguig, Pateros, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Malabon, Navotas, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasig and Marikina to merge them with the newly-created Metro Manila leaving Rizal with the remaining 14 towns.

Text courtesy:

Inside Kalinawan Cave - Tanay, Rizal

The historical cave was discovered in 1896 and it was used by the Filipino resistance fighters as a hideout against Spanish, American and Japanese invaders. It was also used by the Japanese as a hospital during World War II. Kalinawan or Calinawan cave is where opposing parties during the wars settle disputes, thus the name Calinawan from the Filipino word “linaw” or to make “clear.

"Green Fields" - Morong, Rizal

Fisherman - Fish Port, Cardona, Rizal

Early morning scene at Morong, Rizal

View at the fish port in Cardona, Rizal

"The Farmer" - Morong, Rizal

Morning Field Pesticide - Morong, Rizal

Local farmer - Morong, Rizal

Daranak Falls - Tanay, Rizal

Beautiful Daranak Falls - Tanay, Rizal

"Outing" - Daranak Falls, Tanay, Rizal

Scene at Daranak Falls, Tanay, Rizal

Kalinawan Cave - Tanay, Rizal

Devotee - San Ildefonso Church, Tanay, Rizal

San Ildefonso Parish Church - Tanay, Rizal

Saint Ildefonsus of Toledo Parish Church, commonly known as the Tanay Church, is a Roman Catholic church located in the town of TanayRizal Province in the Philippines. The construction of the present church was begun in 1773 and was completed after ten years in 1783. In 2001, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure Church by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It is also among the five Jubilee churches of the Diocese of Antipolo.


To view more of my latest Rizal photos, please click this link or go to my Galleries.


]]> (arj muñoz photography) antipolo cardona cave daranak falls field fishport kalinawan local morong people rizal tanay taytay Sat, 20 Sep 2014 09:12:12 GMT
Travel Photography: Manila Photowalk

"Kalakal" - Reflection of Buildings at Pasig River.


"Grass Trimmer" - Manila Golf Course, Intramuros, Manila


"Jose Rizal - The Last Walk" - Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila  


Binondo Church, Manila


"Homeless" outside Binondo Church, Manila 


Less-fortunate in Manila


Fortress Wall - Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila


Makati Skyline

]]> (arj muñoz photography) binondo boatman church course fort golf grass images intramuros jose makati manila pasig photo photography reflection river rizal santiago travel water Sat, 19 Jul 2014 09:00:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Aliwan Fiesta 2014 - The Grand Festival of Champions Aliwan Fiesta harnesses the power of Philippine festivals to showcase how religion, culture, and tradition are woven into the fiber of our existence. Traditional fiestas, which are held annually to commemorate the foundation of a town or province, or honoring its patron saint, are brought together en masse to highlight the Pinoy’s indomitable and ebullient spirit, together with his mien for creativity and innovation. With most major fiestas rooted in the pre-colonial period, there is understandably a festival sector that celebrates Nature’s bounty. Our Filipino forebears worshipped pagan gods who, to them, were responsible for bountiful harvests on land and sea.

Aliwan Fiesta is being held every year in Manila. The event is dubbed as the "Festival of Champions" wherein different festivals from all over the country gathered and compete in three major events - festival float competition, Reyna ng Aliwan and Aliwan Fiesta Street dance competition.

Panagbenga Festival of Baguio


Baguio City Float 


Utanon Festival Float


Caragan Festival of Pampanga


Sinulog Festival of Cebu


Pamulinawen of Laoag



Panagbenga Festival of Baguio


Isabela Smile


T'nalak Festival of South Cotabato


Bato Arts Festival of Luna Isabela


Panagbenga Festival of Baguio


"The spectators"


Caragan Festival of Pampanga

]]> (arj muñoz photography) adivay aliwan art bato caragan dance dawa dinagyang festival fiesta float gawgawayan gitab halamanan kalilangan kalivungan meguyaya palawod pamulinawen panagbenga pandang philippines photography photos reyna sagayan singkaban sinulog street tinalak Mon, 28 Apr 2014 08:54:31 GMT
Travel Photography: Semana Santa - Moriones Festival 2014 The Moriones is an annual festival held on Holy Week on the island of Marinduque and in southern part of Oriental Mindoro specifically in Pinamalayan and also in Naujan. The "Moriones" are men and women in costumes and masks replicating the garb of biblical Roman soldiers as interpreted by local folks. The Moriones or Moryonan tradition has inspired the creation of other festivals in the Philippines where cultural practices or folk history is turned into street festivals.

The festival is characterized by colorful Roman costumes, painted masks and helmets, and brightly colored tunics. Traditionally, the morion's real identity is kept secret, even to his immediate family. The mask and his costume is prepared painstakingly and discreetly months or even years before he actually wears it.

]]> (arj muñoz photography) colors costumes festival festivals helmet holyweek marinduque masks mindoro morion moriones naujan oriental people pinamalayan roman santa semana street Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:22:22 GMT