arj muñoz | travel photography: Blog http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog en-us All Content Copyright (C) Arj Muñoz. All Rights Reserved. info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:50:00 GMT Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:50:00 GMT http://www.arjmunoz.com/img/s/v-5/u882712657-o644861137-50.jpg arj muñoz | travel photography: Blog http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog 120 120 Travel Photography: 8D/7N Thailand Photo Tour Part 2 - Karen Long Neck Hilltribe in Chiang Rai http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/11/travel-photography-8d7n-thailand-photo-tour-part2-karen-long-neck-hilltribe-chiang-rai After our long days in Bangkok, we flew to Chiang Rai to continue our journey and visit Karen Long Neck Hilltribe, who are known for boasting spiral brass coils around their necks. There are different schools of thought on this particular tribe; some believe it is equivalent to a sort of circus show where children are made to “perform” for the crowd and some think that purchasing the handmade goods at the village may actually help the people here to survive. 

The Karen are a tribal group who have historically lived in the hills on the Myanmar (formerly Burma) side of the Thai border. Best recognized for their elongated necks, the Karen women wear heavy brass rings around their necks, forearms, and shins. While the Karen men are mainly field workers and farmers, the women have a rich history of crafting from wood carving to weaving. Overall the Long Neck Tribes live a rugged, tedious, and simple lifestyle, but the fruits of their labor are colorful and very lively.

We arrived in the morning and walked past a few bamboo homes on our way to the heart of the tribe.

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There are still around 40,000 Karen members today, but thousands have had to flee Burma over the decades due to political unrest. Fleeing to Thailand was a very safe choice for many, but the ones that came are largely illegal immigrants and do not have options for gaining Thai citizenship. While things are much better for the Karen that have fled from Burma, the lack of opportunity for the Long Necks has confined the groups to small pockets separate from most of modern Thailand. On one hand it is beautiful they have been able to keep their traditions alive and on the other it is a struggle to balance the new world with the old.

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While it may seem that the Karen women have unusually long necks, their traditional brass rings actually smash their shoulders and rib cages down just making their necks seem longer.  The brass rings, which are also around their shins and arms, are made out of one solid pieces of metal making them quite heavy.  Each time a woman adds a ring to her neck she is fitted with a new neck piece that coils around and around.  

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The mother and daughter wearing spiral brass coils at Karen Hilltribe

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The biggest reason why the Karen women put themselves though the neck lengthening routine is simply tradition.  While there are some of the women that need to stick with the tradition to make money since they are refugees, there are some of the woman that do it just to hold onto their heritage.  In the early days of the Long Necks, the practice of the brass rings was started not just for beauty, but also to protect against tigers and in some cases even just because the village leader said he preferred it. Based on our guide version aside tradition, Karen women who have rings on their neck are those who born on Wednesday and must be full moon, they consider it as a good luck for the family and the whole tribe.  

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Today many of the young Karen women are breaking with tradition and it is estimated that the neck lengthening practice only has a few generations of life left.  When we visited the Karen many of the young women still had rings, some real ones (I can tell) and maybe some are just for the sake of livelihood.

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Children at Karen Hilltribe

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Old Karen woman 

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Wearing brass rings covering forearms and shins

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Karen women are known for their tremendous weaving skills which is done on a backstrap loom. And, even now, you can witness them practicing their impressive craft.

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Not all the women had coils around their necks, some where from the ‘Big Ear’ tribe and had large silver gauges in their ears instead. Just like this 9 year old girl whose very busy when we saw her doing her own craft.

After our long day visit to Karen Hilltribe, we went straight to Mae Sai border the northernmost part of Chiang Rai to cross Myanmar some 2-3 hours drive from Mae Rim where the Karen Village is located. 

Most people get there by public bus from the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Buses are safe, inexpensive and quite frequent with various 'classes' costing between 160 - 350 baht for the five hour trip from Chiang Mai's Arcade Bus Station (via Chiang Rai) or the approximately two hour trip from Chiang Rai's two public bus stations. Book in advance if possible as the buses fill up quite quickly.

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The town of Tachileik (or Tachilek) is in an area of Eastern Burma known as the Shan State and the border to North Thailand. The first thing to grab your attention are the hordes of friendly, but high pressure, tour guides and sellers offering extremely cheap counterfeit goods ranging from Marlboro to Viagra, of varying quality and safety. They have a good understanding of English apart from the word NO. If you do buy anything, be mindful of Thailand's Customs regulations when returning. Checks are rare but they can confiscate any counterfeit goods if they have a mind to, and certain drugs (e.g., diazepam) are illegal in Thailand without a prescription (even though it's available 'under the counter' at certain Thai pharmacies).

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There are some interesting temples you can visit while you're there. Shwe Dagon Pagoda is on a hillside, within walking distance (although it's quite a steep hill to climb), and affords good views across Tachileik and the Burmese hills on one side and Mae Sai on the other. Otherwise just walk around the town and soak up the uniquely Burmese atmosphere. The sellers all congregate at the entry point so, having left them behind, you'll be left in relative peace to explore the town at your leisure on foot.

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Colorful and beautifully crafted scented soap outside Opeum Museum, very famous in Thailand.

Wat Rong Khun perhaps better known to foreigners as the White Temple, is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. This bizarre-looking white temple located about five km south of Chiang Rai City is the brainchild of Chiang Rai-born visual artist and painter Chalermchai Kositpipat. He brings an unconventional approach to temple architecture, fusing elements from his own imagination (white, not gold, as a pure colour to embody the sacredness of temples) with orthodox Buddhist teachings about heaven, hell, karma and earthly sins.

The temple is filled with Buddhist symbolisms, from its layout, architecture, all the way to the ornate reliefs and mirror decorations. You can only enter the ubosot (main chapel) from the front, via the narrow bridge that passes over a pool of upturned, beseeching hands representing suffering souls in hell. From here, there’s no turning back, as the only way is to ascend ‘heavenwards’ to through the pathway guarded over by demons to the ubosot.

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Wat Rong Khun also know as the White Temple

Inside, two Buddha images seem to be floating on a lotus pedestal, set against elaborately painted murals in various hues of gold and other colours. Rather than traditional characters, Chalermchai uses icons from modern culture, such as spaceships, superman, and even Neo from the Matrix movie to tell the stories of the Buddha’s life and his teachings on these murals, creating a rather striking – and lasting – impression upon visitors.

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In a way, Wat Rong Khun is similar to Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcolona. When Chalermchai first conceived the idea of building the wat, he laid out a great grand plan for its design and construction but, like Gaudi’s work, it will never be completed. Constructed in 1998, the temple’s main chapel won’t be completely finished (with all decorations and murals) before 2020, let alone the other structures surrounding it. When completed, Wat Rong Khun will have a total of nine structures fully decorated with the swirly reliefs and mirrors that the wat has become famous for.

My personal take as a photographer, it's good to see this place once but will never go back here with my camera again, to me this is like a Disney of the North Thailand but if you're with families or friends this place is a paradise for selfies and FB profile pics. =)

Check out on my next photo blog post, part 3 of our 8D/7N Thailand Photo Tour covering the most anticipated lantern festival (Yi Peng Festival & Loi Kratong) in Chiang Mai, Thailand and more.

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) big border chalermchai chiang ear hilltribe karen khun long mae myanmar neck north opeum pagoda rai rim rong saen sai shwedagon tachileik temple thailand wat white http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/11/travel-photography-8d7n-thailand-photo-tour-part2-karen-long-neck-hilltribe-chiang-rai Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:49:43 GMT
Travel Photography: 8D/7N Thailand Photo Tour Part 1 - Exploring City of Bangkok for the First Time http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/11/travel-photography-8d/7n-thailand-photo-tour-part1-exploring-city-of-bangkok Yes, I've been to Thailand specifically in Bangkok many times and when some people tell me they hate the city for some reason, uhmm well, I understand. My first visit to Bangkok more than a decade ago, is not as exciting as expected when you're first timer as I only get there for some R&R  and sometimes to experience the chaotic streets at night (red light district), that's how I know Bangkok. Unlike the ordinary tourist who wants to wake up early morning to see how the streets looks like and find the best place to eat Pad Thai or Tom Yum for lunch, is the hotel near MTR, BTS or walking distance where you can reach tuk tuk so you can easily goes anywhere for shopping. (Tuk tuk or 'sam lor' (three-wheeled) used to be everyone's favorite way of getting around Bangkok before the BTS, MRT and colorful taxis took over). 

This time, I make sure that Bangkok is on my main itinerary to explore before we head to north for another exciting photo tour including visit to Myanmar border and experience amazing lantern festival (Yi Peng & Loi Kratong Festival) in Chiang Mai. 

Bangkok is not a city that opens itself up easily, and most people spend just a day or two before leaving to go to the islands or the jungle or to neighbor countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam. If you're a tourist you may not need tons of time to “see” the city, Bangkok has more than a few days’ worth of temples and activities, what more if you're a photographer and a travel enthusiast... like us. =)

This city may not have lot of “tourist attractions” it is actually quite boring if you ask me – this is a place to wander, eat, shop and imbibe. It doesn’t have to be a love-it-or-hate-it city but it is worth seeing.

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Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep. The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, and has a population of over 8 million, or 12.6 percent of the country's population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) live within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, significantly dwarfing Thailand's other urban centres in terms of importance.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand, during the late 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was at the centre of Thailand's political struggles throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact on Thailand's politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

Credit Text: Wikipedia

ARJ-BANGKOK-1ARJ-BANGKOK-1 Interesting hand tattoo of street vendor near Grand Palace

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One of many statues inside Grand Palace

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Burmese monk taking selfie.

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Offering gold leaf

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Grand Palace Architecture

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Some intricate wall paintings inside Wat Pho

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Your Bangkok trip isn't complete without the spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.

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Even monk uses iPhone... why not?

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Sculpture design inside Wat Arun

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Chao Phraya RiverThai Mae Nam Chao Phraya, also called Maenam, principal river of Thailand. It flows south through the nation’s fertile central plain for more than 225 miles (365 km) to the Gulf of Thailand. Thailand’s capitals, past and present (Bangkok), have all been situated on its banks or those of its tributaries and distributaries, as are many other cities.

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Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad) is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. The market has all kinds of popular flowers and flora-related items, including roses, forget me nots, orchids, lilies and more. Most of them sold in packs of 50 or 100 flowers in each, and prices are amazingly cheap. Part of the Old City, Bangkok Flower market is located on Chak Phet Road near Saphan Phut or the Memorial Bridge. Shops and vendors are housed inside two to three-storey shop-houses on both sides of the main road. The market lies just south of Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and has access to a river pier, so it makes for a great one-day trip when combined with other historical attractions in the Old City.

On our last day in Bangkok, after our long and exciting journey up north, not some good food and relaxing Thai massage we went to visit the House of Jim Thompson near National Stadium, BTS Station. If you happen to drop by here one day, never miss to take the tour inside the museum, you'll never regret it.

Jim Thompson House - The lovely garden-enclosed compound sitting on the bank of the Saen Saeb Canal would have gone completely unnoticed, had it not been for a legacy left behind by a middle-aged American man named Jim Thompson. His elegant residential enclave, comprising six traditional Thai teakwood houses transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Ban Krua community, echoes Jim Thompson’s 30-year love affair with Southeast Asian art and cultural heritage. 

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In the shadow of surrounding trees, the house’s inconspicuous façade belies a tastefully decked entry foyer, itself an unconventional architectural feature in traditional Thai houses and a preamble to Jim Thompson’s signature East-meets-West style permeating throughout the house.


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Colorful silk display outside for demo

An architect by training and an avid collector of Asian objets d’art, Jim Thompson’s keen eyes and flair for design breathed life into everything he touched. After his discharge from military service in 1946, Jim Thompson decided to settle down in Thailand, where he dedicated over 30 years to reviving Thai silk – then a dying cottage industry – and introduced it to the world’s most respectable fashion houses and catwalks in Paris, New York, London and Milan. 

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Collection of Antiques inside museum of one of Jim Thompson Houses

The same goes for his Thai house, which was no ordinary teakwood villa complex filled with incongruous collections of antiques, but a breathing museum – even then – that embodies Jim Thompson’s life-long passion and whimsical design choices. One day in 1967, while at the height of his success, he mysteriously disappeared into the Malaysian jungle, and thus began the legacy of Jim Thompson…

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The Silk maker at Jim Thompson House

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As you wander from one room to the next, you can’t help but admire Jim Thompson’s thoughtful eclecticism and meticulous attention to details. His sophisticated taste and in-depth knowledge of Southeast Asian art shine through the rare antique and art collections placed tastefully in each room that enrich the overall ambience, rather than just show off his wealth.

While respecting local traditions and customs, he was no slave to them either. The staircase and bathrooms are found indoors, rather than outdoors as you would normally find in traditional Thai homes. Satellite houses, which normally would be linked through an open courtyard area, are all grouped under one roof with a covered walkway. And the decorative window panels, which traditionally face outwards, face in. Jim Thompson’s skillful adaptation of the local style to suit his western upbringing was years ahead of its time, rendering a timeless twist to what would otherwise be labeled as ‘classic’ or simply ‘colonial’.

Text Credit: Bangkok.com

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Cultural dance performs inside Jim Thompson House

Finally, now I would say that i've been there and done that. Truly there’s more to Bangkok than just food, shopping, night life and of course... traffic! Bangkok is a city whose charm emerges slowly, so the next time you step in here make sure you spend few more days to explore and see it for yourself. =)

Check back soon for my next post of our 8D/7N Thailand Photo Tour crossing Myanmar border and visiting the Karen Long Neck Hill tribe in Chiang Rai and more.

© www.arjmunoz.com

 

 

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) arum bangkok buddha chao chiang festival flower grand hilltribe karen kratong lantern loi long mae mai market neck palace peng pho phrasing phraya rai reclining river sai siam tachileik temples thailand wat yee yi http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/11/travel-photography-8d/7n-thailand-photo-tour-part1-exploring-city-of-bangkok Sat, 18 Nov 2017 17:56:17 GMT
Travel Photography: 15D/14N Best of Vietnam Photo Tour http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/6/travel-photography-15d14n-best-of-vietnam-photo-tour From the bustling and dynamic city of Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon), we mesmerized with the poetic beauty of Can Tho and Chau Doc down in Mekong Delta, to the ancient and charming town of Hoi An in Da Nang, from the historical old town of Hanoi then we went up to the mountainous highlands of Lao Cai where culture is so rich and preserve, we then cruised the famous Ha Long Bay before we went down to the breathtaking landscape of Ninh Binh. Yes, that's how we explored and captured Vietnam in 15 days... i love every place we've been, enjoyed every single day from south to north, stress-free just pure fun and photography.

“…a world where the colors are more vivid, where the landscapes are bolder, the coastline more dramatic, where the history is more compelling, where the tastes are more divine, where life is lived in the fast lane.”, said Lonely Planet, one of the most famous tourism digital news in the world, about Vietnam. Truly so, having thousands of attractions including culture, nature and adventure, nightlife, national parks, villages, heritages along the S-shaped land, Vietnam is an extremely charming destination for tourists worldwide.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh

HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon)

If you have visited a number of cities in Vietnam but forgot Ho Chi Minh City, you have not known much about Vietnam for real. It is considered the capital of the Southern area of Vietnam. It is located near the Mekong delta, about 1,760 kilometers south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.  Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam with the population of more than 7.3 million in the area of 2095.5 square kilometers (908 square miles). Ho Chi Minh City is the second heart and soul of Vietnam, to Hanoi. It's a bustling, dynamic and industrious center, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.

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HISTORY: Ho Chi Minh City (abbreviation HCMC), commonly known as Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam. The city used to be a small fishing village, inhabited by Khmer people, Cambodia before becoming a land under Nguyen dynasty rule in 1698, being conquered by France from 1950 to 1975. Throughout its long history, HCMC appears to be not only a modern and dynamic city but a cultural and historical one as well.
Following the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Nevertheless, the old Saigon moniker is still used by both Vietnamese and foreigners. Text Credit: www.vietnamtourism.org.vn

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Fruit vendor - Cai Rang Floating Market

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Vietnam’s ‘rice basket’, the Mekong Delta is a watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages, everywhere crisscrossed by the brown canals and rivulets fed by the mighty Mekong River. Its inhabitants – stereotyped as friendly and easygoing – have long toiled on the life-sustaining river, with their labours marked by the same cycles governing the waterways.

The delta, which yields enough rice to feed the country with a sizable surplus, was formed by sediment deposited by the Mekong. The process continues today, with silt deposits extending the shoreline by as much as 80m per year. The river is so large that it has two daily tides. Lush with rice paddies and fish farms, this delta plain also nourishes the cultivation of sugarcane, fruit, coconut and shrimp. Although the area is primarily rural, it is one of the most densely populated regions in Vietnam and nearly every hectare is intensively farmed.

The uniquely southern charm with its welcoming introduction to life along the river is the real draw, and visitors can explore quaint riverside towns, sample fruits bartered in the colourful floating markets or dine on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest. 

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Can Tho has simple, poetic beauty with well-off villages under shade of coconut trees. It is wonderful to take a boat trip along the riverbanks on fine weather days. In the heart of the Mekong Delta, and often referred to as Vietnam’s rice basket, Can Tho is home to many orchards and farms, and it’s the goods from here tourists flock to see in the floating markets dotted around the city.

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Can Tho is over its 200 years as the main town, once known as Tay Do and now one city of Vietnam. All of economic, culture activities closely relate to river and canals which like the 'street'. Can Tho has simple, poetic beauty with well-off villages under shade of coconut trees. It is wonderful to take a boat trip along the riverbanks on fine weather days. On the east bank of Hau River is Ninh Kieu Wharf, which is well known for its beautiful location. Other interesting places are Bang Lang Stock Sanctuary, Can Tho and My Khanh Tourist gardens and Can Tho Market.

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DA NANG CITY

The city is in the site of the East Sea and Han River with special different charms. Nature has offered the city a great position among three World heritages generously: ancient royal capital Hue, ancient city Hoi An and Holy land My Son. Thanks to this, Da Nang plays an important role in hosting, serving and transferring visitors. Not only being in the middle point of three world heritages, but also does it have numerous unforgettable beautiful scenes.

Da Nang City is located in middle of Central Vietnam, between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, separated from Laos by the western Truong Son Mountains. It is surrounded by Thua Thien-Hue along the northern border and Quang Nam on the southern border. It is embraced by the East Sea with 150km of seacoast.

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Ngu Hanh Son (Marble Mountains), Hoa Hai

Landing at a very modern Danang airport, we straight to Marble Mountain -- named as 5 elements of universe and stone carving village of Hoa Hai and then another forty-five minute drive into Hoi An along a respectable highway, which navigated through construction sites and development on both sides. Many of these sites were advertised as forthcoming holiday resorts, that’s a lot of tourists. I envisage that one day Danang and Hoi An will be joined by these developments.

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Local Fisherman at Thu Bon River

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Old Vietnamese wearing Non La

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Different Shape and Colorful Lanterns

In Hoi An, our first destination was to view the Japanese Bridge built in the early 17th century by Japanese craftsmen. Then we continued our way along the river, the dark murky water hiding its secrets and looking very uninviting. Wooden fishing boats with a single sail had finished their morning’s work and were roped to a bridge which was adorned with silk lanterns evocative of the strong Chinese cultural influence which dates back to the 16th century. Then Chinese and Japanese traders built the commercial centre and Hoi An was a busy port. On the 14th of every month Hoi An celebrates this delightful aspect of its heritage by turning off all the electricity and the Old Quarter is lit only by the beautifully coloured and shaped lanterns.

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Facing the river are small two-storey houses, most of them now shops with enticing modern paraphernalia and clothing hidden behind the intricately carved wooden facades. The old buildings have withstood 300 years of frequent flooding and battering.

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The Basket Boat is known locally as “Thung Chai” and is very popular among the local fishermen in the central regions of Viet Nam. The local fishermen really like to use it because it is very mobile and convenient, as it can easily transport people from their big boats to the land. Furthermore, the fishermen use it to catch fish with the fishing net and to carry oil, wood, food and other things they might need while fishing. The shape of the Basket Boat is to be re-tarred every 6 months, depending on how one much care one puts in using it. The safe capacity is normally 5 people per Boat (4 guests + 1 rider).  In order to learn how to have a go at it, you must have a practice round first, and then go for the real thing the second time. It will certainly be a lot of fun, with loads of spinning around as the boat will madly go round and round and round.  In fact, the Basket Boat is also called “The Round Boat”, for obvious reasons. Another name for it is “The Coracle Boat”, from Wales in The Great Britain.

The Basket Boat is a unique and very interesting eco-tour STRONGLY recommended to groups of travelers and to companies looking at organizing Team Buildings or other activities on the river or sea, with the purpose of having fun and special experiences.

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Charming Town of Hoi An at Night

LAO CAI

Lao Cai is one of several provinces situated on the Sino-Vietnamese border. Topography of Lao Cai is diversified with rivers, high mountain peaks, steep and high mountain passes, deep streams and wide valleys.

Preserves with lots of special cultural and historical sites. Outstanding vestiges is ancient stone engrave area with picture of map, handwriting, people thousand years ago in Muong Hoa Valley (Sapa), Pho Rang vestige. 

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Sapa is a lovely hill station town in Northern Vietnam near the Chinese border. The region as also known as “the Tonkinese Alps” and it’s culturally rich with different hill tribe minorities, lush mountain ranges, rice fields and an overall, breathtaking views! Once there, you’ll easily understand what the hype is all about. Shops selling tobacco, trekking clothes and souvenir crafts from the hill tribes will help you burn your dong. The town is completely walkable but if you want to explore outside of town, it’s best to do it by van or motorbike if you can.

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There are two ways to get to Sapa by overnight train or bus. The train from Hanoi to Lao Cai station takes around 8 hours, leaving around 10pm and arrive at 6am the following day, that's what we took and I bet you its worth experiencing to sleep overnight in the train. After arriving into Lao Cai station, our private van drive up to the winding road to Sapa town for another hour.

For those who are not comfortable sleeping in the train, there are sleeper buses that you can book through your hotel from Hanoi to Sapa station.

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Beautiful Pattern of Rice Terraces View at Lao Chai

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Catcat Village is about three kilometers from the town of Sapa and it is navigable by foot. One will be impressed by the peacefully picturesque sceneries. People can easily catch sight of women sitting in front of the loom with colorful pieces of brocade, while children playing around with pets or even livestock. From the plain brocade, then women can carefully dye them with special leaves and embroider beautiful patterns of flower and animal on them. Moreover, many residents of Cat Cat Village are also skillful at manipulating sophisticated gold and silver jewelry.

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Located about 17km in the west of Sapa, Ta Phin is a village of Red Dao’s people possessing a rich culture that has not been damaged by the modern life. From Sapa, it will take about 30-45 minutes to reach Taphin by car.

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Coming to Ta Phin, you will immediately catch sight of groups of Red Dao’s women gathering together, keeping inside their hands colorful reels of thread and clothes. They sew continuously, even when offering the goods to the customers. Amazingly, most of them can speak quite well, some use Vietnamese less than English. ARJ-SAPA-032517-228ARJ-SAPA-032517-228

Since 1998, Ta Phin has officially become the “brocade village”, where tourists can find the distinctively hand-made brocades made by ethnic people. All of the products are eye-catching with numerous bright colors and patterns, ranging from bag, scarf, purse, to skirt, and even backpack and coat. Ta Phin is also the main supply of brocades for shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and the products are exported to foreign countries as well.

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H'mong Woman of Red Dao Group in Ta Phin

HANOI 

Literally the “city between the rivers”, is the capital and second biggest city of Viet Nam. The historical Old Town, the colonial French Quarter, ancient temples of more than thousand years of age and various scenic lakes and landmarks make up one of the most fascinating cities of Southeast Asia, with a mix of Chinese and French influences enriching the vibrant Vietnamese culture.

The compact city centre is bordered by the Red River (Song Hong) to the east as well as to the north and a railway line to the west with the Hoan Kiem Lake nowadays being its focal point of public life and an excellent point of orientation. North of the lake lies Hanoi’s historic heart, the Old Quarter (Phố Cổ Hà Nội). Most of the street names still originate from the 13th century when every guild had its own street, usually called “Hàng” meaning “merchandise” followed by the name of the product, which is produced or sold there. Since at that time the tax depended on the width of the house frontage, the area is famous for its so-called tube houses, buildings with narrow frontages of two to three metres with a length of 20 to 60 metres.

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Fruit Vendors using Bicycle, Hanoi

Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, Halong Bay's spectacular scatter of islands, dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty and, unsurprisingly, northern Vietnam's number one tourism hub.

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Sprawling Halong City is the bay's main gateway but its dowdy high-rises are a disappointing doorstep to this site. Most visitors sensibly opt for cruise-tours that include sleeping on board within the bay, while a growing number are deciding to eschew the main bay completely, heading straight for Cat Ba Island from where trips to less-visited but equally alluring Lan Ha Bay are easily set up.

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The bay consists of a dense cluster of some 1,600 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hang Đầu Gỗ (Wooden stakes cave) is the largest grotto in the Hạ Long area. In 1994, the core zone of Hạ Long Bay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.

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Inside Sung Sot Cave, Ha Long Bay

NINH BINH

Situated on the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh separates the North and the Central Vietnam by Tam Diep Mountain Range. It is surrounded by Hoa Binh, Ha Nam provinces on the north, Nam Dinh Province on the east and Thanh Hoa on the west and the south.

Ninh Binh is one of the famous and popular destination in the Northern Vietnam. There are many picturesque and majestic landscapes to visit in Ninh Binh province. Coming here, tourists will immerse themselves into the natural and magical beauty of landscape in the province.

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Ninh Binh province is famous for the eco tourism complex of Trang An including Bai Dinh pagoda - one of the greatest pagodas in Vietnam and it is also a Buddhist center in the Northern Vietnam. Besides the famous attraction of Trang An and Bai Dinh pagoda, Tam Coc is another well known attraction in Ninh Binh that we can miss to visit when coming to Ninh Binh. Tam Coc is located in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh province. It is really a natural complex with immense space and view.

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Tam Coc means "three grottos" and it is also known as "Halong Bay on land and on rice field". Tam Coc is considered the central relics of Vietnam with a lot of limestones and historical sites. Tam Coc has the area of 350,3 hectare. It is divided into the first cave, second cave and the third cave. Three caves are created by Ngo Dong River throughout the mountain. To enjoy the beauty of Tam Coc, tourists can take a boat and travel along to the Ngo Dong River. Tourists will enjoy the immense and stunning beauty of nature. Especially, the color of rice paddies in green and yellow at two sides of rice field along the river will bring visitors different feelings. 

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To enjoy the beauty of Tam Coc, tourists can take different tour routes to travel to beautiful landscapes in this place. The idea route may be Tam Coc - Thai Vi Temple - Thien Huong Grotto. During the route, tourists will take the chance to visit Tam Coc, Thai Vi Temple and Thien Huong Grotto. First of all, traveling on boat to admire the majestic and immense beauty of Tam Coc in various colors of rice paddies. The natural landscape with the combination of rice field and romantic river, the river in the shape of Dragon meandering to give tourists  wonderful and interesting experience. 

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Climbing the Lying Dragon Mountain

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Sunset at Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

Trang An located about 3 km away from the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, is a wonderful landscape. Road from Trang An to Ninh Binh is very long and smooth and both sides of the road are the newly planted trees with premature green leaves.

We visited Trang An early morning on our last day in Ninh Binh, the atmosphere here is very cool with charming scenery of the majestic mountains reflecting the calm and clean water surface. On waterfront, there are many blue boats making the scenery more charming as a nice picture.

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Trang An has nearly 50 large and small caves, but a tour around this area just has to go through 10 large caves.  In these caves, rocks were eroded by water many years ago and it created these lively and colorful stalactites.

Each cave has a private name such as  Ba Giot, Nau Ruou, Toi Cave. That is an amazing experience when you sit on a boat to explore these caves. Because you not only sit still but also not tilt from side to side and bow your head very low to avoid stalactites hanging down from the top of the cave.

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Exploring one of the caves in Trang An
 

After we explore Trang An, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up and hit the road back to Hanoi for another 3 hours to catch our flight at night back to Manila.

That's the end of our 15D/14N Vietnam Photo Tours.... our thanks to my tour operator in Vietnam to Mr. Cao of LV, to our excellent guides Mui, Sue and Tuan, and to the group specially to my Uncle and my Bro (you know who you are) for the trust, support and true friendships, til' our next photo escapades. I'll keep you posted! =)

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) an bai basket bay binh black boat bon bridge cai can cat cathedral cave chai chau chi coc dame danang dao delta dinh doc dragon fishing floating grotto halong hanh hanoi hcmc ho hoa hoi hoian huong japanese lantern lao lu lying marble mekong mhong minh mountain my ngu ninh notre phin rang red river saigon sapa son sot sung ta tam taphin temple thai thien tho thu thung trang van vi vietnam vietnamese village http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/6/travel-photography-15d14n-best-of-vietnam-photo-tour Fri, 09 Jun 2017 03:54:57 GMT
Travel Photography: Cavinti Falls At A Glance, Formerly Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/2/travel-photography-cavinti-falls-at-a-glance-formerly-pagsanjan-falls-in-laguna Cavinti Falls, formerly Pagsaŋjan Falls or Magdapio Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the Philippines. Located in the province of Laguna, the falls is one of the major tourist attractions of the region. The three-drop waterfall is reached by a river trip on dugout canoe, known locally as Shooting the rapids, originating from the municipality of Pagsanjan. The falls can also be reached from the top by a short hike from Cavinti. 

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The boat ride has been an attraction since the Spanish Colonial Era with the oldest written account in 1894. The town of Pagsanjan lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Balanac River and the Bumbungan River (also known as the Pagsanjan River).

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The main falls are actually located within the territorial jurisdiction of Cavinti, Laguna, approximately 3.2 Kilometers away from the boundaries of Cavinti and Pagsanjan, but the more popular access by canoes originates from the town of Pagsanjan. An ordinance was passed by the ruling body of the town of Cavinti was submitted to the Sangguniang Bayan (legislature of municipalities in the Philippines) on February 10, 2009 proposing the renaming of the falls to Cavinti Falls.

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According to history, the Pagsanjan Falls is rich in legendary lore. Long, long ago, recounts one legend, there were no falls. There were only the foliaged highlands, the twin rivers called Bumbungan and Balanac, and the alluvial delta where the town of Pagsanjan now nestles. On the eastern bank of the Bumbungan River lived two old brothers named Balubad and Magdapio. For many years, the two brothers enjoyed a rustic life of peace and happiness. But one day calamity struck. A terrible drought brought ruin and death; no rains came for successive months. The soil became dry as tinder. The blooming flowers and food plants withered and died. The birds, deer, wild hogs, monkeys, and other animals disappeared. The rivers, creeks, and mineral springs dried up. Not a single drop of life-giving rain fell from heaven.


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Balubad and Magdapio suffered immensely. Day and night, they prayed for rain, but the gods did not heed their prayers. The older and weaker of the two brothers, Balubad, died of thirst. Magdapio, with a sorrowing heart, buried him on the slope of the mountain overlooking the river delta. This mountain is now called Balubad.

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Left alone in a waterless world, Magdapio agonizingly trekked to the upper region of the arid riverbed. He reached the high rocky cliffs, after an arduous journey. But to his utter disappointment, he found no water.

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"Ye gods!" he sobbed bitterly, "Where is the water?" In despair, he angrily hurled down his big cane among the rocks.

Suddenly, a spring bubbled on the spot where the cane fell. Rapidly it grew bigger. The fresh waters roared down the canyon walls, soon becoming a booming waterfall. Amazed at the miracle, Magdapio fell on his knees and thanked the gods. He drank the cool water until he felt new energy surging in his blood. Thus emerged the falls of Pagsanjan.

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HOW TO GET THERE:

The most popular way of reaching the falls is through the Shooting the rapids boat ride, which originates from any of the resorts along Bumbungan and Balanac Rivers. Two skilled and licensed boatmen takes one to three passengers on wooden or fiberglass, long, narrow canoes to the falls, which could take more than an hour of paddling upstream depending on traffic and water level. The journey takes passengers through the narrow and verdant Pagsanjan Gorge lined with huge boulders, rocks and small waterfalls. The ride upstream ends in a natural pool below the falls where an optional raft ride takes visitors through a curtain of cascading water to the Devil's cave behind the falls. The return trip called Shooting the rapids is a thrill ride through fourteen rapids as the skilled boatmen maneuvers the boat through the narrow rocks as it head downstream.

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It is also possible to hike the falls from the town of Cavinti, Laguna. The municipal government of Cavinti established the Pueblo El Salvador Nature's Park and Picnic Grove, in Brgy. Tibatib on February 24, 2007 to capitalize in the popularity of Pagsanjan Falls, which is within the boundaries of the town. A few small falls are located upriver by hiking from the park.

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The topmost stage of Pagsanjan falls, known as Nakulo Falls, can only be viewed from the view decks of the park. Only the top of the middle falls is visible from the park, the hidden second drop can only be viewed from the raft ride from below. To reach the main falls, one has to go down a steep steel ladder, which in one section goes vertically straight down. The raft to the falls and the 'shooting the rapid' boat ride are also available from the park management.

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) balanac balubad bumbungan cavinti falls images laguna magdapio pagsanjan philippines photography photos rafting river tour travel water http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/2/travel-photography-cavinti-falls-at-a-glance-formerly-pagsanjan-falls-in-laguna Tue, 21 Feb 2017 08:34:51 GMT
Travel Photography: The Colors of Thaipusam 2017 in Singapore http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/2/travel-photography-the-colors-of-thaipusam-2017-in-singapore Thaipusam is celebrated on the full moon day in the Tamil month of “Thai”.  The word Thaipusam is a combination of the name of the month, Thai, and the name of a star, Pusam. This particular star is at its highest point during the festival.

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Anchored by a large, colourful annual procession, Thaipusam sees Hindu devotees in Singapore seeking blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks.

The festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan), who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil.

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The festival generally lasts for 2 days. On the eve, the chariot procession (with the Lord Murugan statue) begins from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Siak Road.

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The Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning. The first batch of devotees carry milk pots and wooden kavadis. Some pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a wooden kavadi decorated with flowers and peacock feathers balanced on their shoulders. Other devotees carry spiked kavadis that require elaborate preparation.

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'Kavadi' literally means ‘sacrifice at every step’ in Tamil, and indeed, this proves to be the case if you take a closer look. A semi-circular steel or wooden frame, a 'kavadi' is meant to be hoisted by a devotee for the length of the procession. It has bars for support on the shoulders, is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers, and some have spikes that pierce into the body. It can top out at 40 kilogrammes and reach a height of four metres.

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In Singapore, this religious festival attracts thousands of Hindu devotees who fulfil their vows through a 4km walk from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (SSPT) to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (STT), along with relatives and friends who chant hymns and prayers to support and encourage them.

Indeed, for devotees, Thaipusam is often the climax of an entire month spent in spiritual preparation with a strict vegetarian diet.

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It is believed that only when the mind is free of material worth and the body free from physical pleasures can a devotee undertake the sacred task without feeling any pain.

Of course, not all who join the Thaipusam procession commit to such extremes – many 'kavadi' have no spikes and women often simply carry a pot of milk, an offering which symbolises abundance and fertility to the Hindus.

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You can witness the spectacle anywhere between Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, as some lanes are closed to traffic for the occasion.

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More information on the kavadi, its origins and some of the various forms it takes from the Thaipusam.sg site:

There are many types of offerings, which the devotee makes to his beloved deity Sri Murugan. A special offering is the carrying of kavadi and there is a Puranic legend behind this practice.

There was once a great saint called Agasthya who rested at Mount Pothikai. Agasthya dispatched one of his students, Idumban, to Mount Kailai Range instructing him to bring back two hills called Sivagiri and Shakthigiri belonging to Lord Murugan.

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As instructed, Idumban having arrived at Mount Kailai, picked up both the hills, tied them and swung them across his shoulders.

Lord Murugan had other plans. He wanted the two hills to be placed at Thiruvavinankudi (Palani) and at the same time test the devotion and tenacity of purpose of Idumban.

Idumban who was on his way back with the hills suddenly found himself lost. Lord Murugan appeared as a king, riding a horse led Idumban to Thiruvavinankudi (Palani) and requested Idumban to rest there so that he could continue his journey later.

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Having rested, Idumban tried to carry the two hills but strangely found that he could not do so. A perplexed Idumban looked up and saw a child in loincloth standing atop one of the hills. Idumban requested the child to get down, however, the child refused claiming that the hills belonged to him. An angered Idumban attempted to attack the child but found himself falling like an uprooted tree. A scuffle ensued and Idumban was defeated. Only then did Idumban realize that the child was none other than Muruga or Subrahmanya Himself – the ruling deity of the region. Idumban craved the pardon of the divine child and also sought the boon that anyone who comes to the hills to worship Sri Muruga with an object similar to the two hillocks suspended by a load bearing pole, may be granted his heart’s desire. Idumban’s wish was granted. Murugan also said that he would bless those who bring sandal, milk, flowers, etc. in a kavadi to His shrine. Hence, the practice of carrying a kavadi.

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At the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, one can see a small sanctum dedicated to Idumban. Devotees who usually fast for Thaipusam break their fast one day later after offering their prayers to Idumban.

The simplest kavadi consists of a short wooden pole surmounted by a wooden arch. Pictures or statues of Lord Murugan or other deities are fixed onto the arch. The kavadi is decorated with peacock feathers and a small pot of milk is attached to each end of the pole.

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There are more elaborate kavadis that devotees carry. The alagu and ratha kavadi are common forms of kavadi carried by devotees during Thaipusam. Kavadis are affixed on a bearer’s body by long sharpened rods or by chains and small hooks. A kavadi bearer not only carries a gift for God but the whole kavadi is seen as a shrine for God Himself.

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Devotees who intend to carry kavadis are customarily required to observe strict physical and mental discipline. Purification of the body is a necessity. This includes taking just simple vegetarian meals and observing celibacy. According to orthodox doctrine, rigid fasting and abstinence have to be observed over a 48-day period prior to the offering of the kavadi on Thaipusam Day.

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Piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common. This prevents the devotees from speaking and gives them great powers of endurance.

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Yes, they allow visitors and tourists to photograph Thaipusam specially during procession, but it’s important to restrict yourself and be respectful of this kind religious event. Carrying a metal cage by your skin with pierce on their tongue and walking barefoot is not an easy task, so it’s important that you do not get in the participants’ way, even if you think it’ll result in the perfect shot. 

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) colors devotees festival images india kavadi layan murugan perumal photography procession pusam road serangoon singapore sithi sri srinivasa subramaniam tamil temple thai thaipusam thendayuthapani vinayagar http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2017/2/travel-photography-the-colors-of-thaipusam-2017-in-singapore Tue, 14 Feb 2017 02:32:27 GMT
Sleeklens Review: Landscape Workflow Presets for Lightroom http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/12/sleeklens-review-landscape-workflow-presets-for-lightroom Recently, I received an email from marketing department of SleekLens.com to review their product Workflow Presets and in return, they'll send me Lightroom preset package of my choice, free of charge. I replied and told them that i’m interested to try landscape presets, and so they send me a copy of landscape module “Through the Woods” (TtW) and that’s what I’m going to show you here. Again, I wasn’t paid to do this product review and there were no conditions or whatsoever, all they wanted me to do is to post an honest review on this workflow app.

To start with, I'm not a professional product reviewer nor Lightroom expert, to be honest, this is my first time to post a product review. I am a Lightroom user since Aperture for Mac discontinued software updates for almost a couple of years now, and that’s how long I know Lightroom as well. I switched to LR because I know I can easily transfer my old libraries (RAW) even without my previous edits (versions), besides, I don’t know of any other post-processing tools and at the same time an image organiser software available as good as LR that has also ability to use third party apps like “Photo Upload” for my "Zenfolio" and now this workflow presets of SleekLens.

Through the Woods for LR Workflow is packed with 50+ landscape presets and 30 landscape brushes. These Presets and Brushes are compatible with Lightroom (4, 5, 6, & CC) and also available in Adobe Photoshop work with both JPEG and RAW images and on top of that it is compatible in Mac and PC. Aside from that, the package also includes a guide on how to install the Presets and Brushes, instructions on how to layer/stack the presets and an exclusive access to their private Lightroom Help and Tutorial Facebook group. You can also visit their website to view and learn different online tutorials and what this workflow can do in optimising your images.

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Actual image before and after presets was applied using Lightroom.

SAMPLE COMPARISON:

1. Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal - shot in slow shutter speed about 1/8sec and ISO100 using my X-T1, the result, is a bit under exposed but it gives me a nice soft water effect that I wanted to achieve.

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Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 100, f18 - original file

After applying the following Sleeklens presets and brushes: 
Base - Exdenting DR
Polish - Add Clarity
Brighten Shadows Brush
and I used some exposure and highlights (+/-)

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Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 100, f18 - processed using Sleeklens

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2. Sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint - I shot this using my old 4/3 camera, Olympus E-M5 plus kitlens, ISO 200 in 1/60sec, hand-held. This is one of the series of shots taken while waiting for sunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint in Sagada, Mt. Province. 

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f5.4 - original file

After applying the following Sleeklens presets and brushes: 
All-In-One - Shine Into The Sunset
Exposure - Darken Shadows
Color Correct - Reduce Blue
Tone/Tint - Warm It Up
Tone/Tint - Color Pop
Polish - Add Clarity
Polish - Add Sharpen
Haze - Golden Brush
Effects -  Cloudy Sky Definition Brush

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f5.4 - processed using Sleeklens

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3. Through the Woods - An early morning shot I took somewhere also in Sagada using my old Olympus E-M5 and kitlens, ISO 200 in 1/80sec. I find a little bit under exposed as I wanted to see more beam of lights sneaking through the woods from the sunrise.

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f3.5 - original file

After applying the following Sleeklens presets and brushes, this time I want to experiment the color temperature:
All-in-one - Calm Sunset
Exposure - Less Highlights
Polish - Add Clarity
Tone/Tint - Warm It Up
Haze - Golden Brush
Color - Mustard Brush
Color - Green Brush

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f3.5 - processed using Sleeklens

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4. The Cathedral, Callao Cave - One of my favorite cave system i've been in the Philippines, I shot this on one of my assignment and one of many series of shots taken during that day, expecting for the beam of light passes through the roof hitting the altar, unfortunately, I was there in a wrong time of the year. I shot this in ISO 3200 1/10sec. using my X-T1, details are not so clear, colors didn't pop-up.

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Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 3200, f3.9 - original file

After applying the following Sleeklens presets and brushes: 
All-in-one - Pastel Caress
Base - Punchy
Color Correct - Reduce Blue
Tone/Tint - Warm It Up
Polish - Add Clarity
Light - Brighten Shadows Brush
Color - Warmer Brush

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Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 3200, f3.9 - processed using Sleeklens

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5. Rice Terraces - Another shot in Sagada using again my old Olympus E-M5 mirrorless camera, ISO 200 in 1/125sec. It's actually a very nice scenery located near Sumaguing Cave, but obviously i'm not satisfied with my colors plus it's foggy sitting on the top of the mountain.

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f4.5 - original file

After applying the following Sleeklens presets and brushes:
All-in-one - Dawn Rising
Base - Auto Tone (Color)
Tone/Tint - Color Pop
Color Correct - Reduce Yellow
Polish - Add Clarity
Color - Cyan Brush
Color - Green Brush

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Olympus E-M5, ISO 200, f4.5 - processed using Sleeklens

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Since I started to use Lightroom and learn how to process my photos, organizing my libraries and even creating presets for my own workflow, I never think of anything better than editing your photos on your own way. When I found out about Sleeklens Workflow, I was very curious to see how a landscape specific preset package, would handle and optimize my digital photos.

I can only talk about the "Through the Woods" workflow, but this alone will give you 50 different presets and every preset of your choice will change nearly all Lightroom tools including Basic Tone and Presence, Color, HSL and even Split Toning. I also tested all brushes included in the package and to be honest, they were easy to use just like the given brushes from LR package except SleekLens gives you more options for selective corrections. 

However, upon testing the workflow, I noticed on some presets are very heavy in color saturation, sharpening and clarity adjustments especially when dealing with JPG files, so you should be aware tweaking using Base, otherwise, your photos will end up "overcooked" or oversaturated. Stacking of presets is actually fairly new method to me and i'm still on the stage of experimenting different combinations, a questions of which preset goes on top and what's next.. and the last for you to achieve your desired end-result. 

The included brushes as I mentioned is pretty easy to use, but again, you should be aware of the areas you wish to correct as it drastically turn your image into something new, whether its good or bad it all depends on your preferences. I like the brush sets, specially the "Effect" and "Haze" but somehow you need to adjust slightly (+/-) on contrast and saturation, and avoid overdoing it so you won't loss too much details or vice versa. I'm not a big fan of heavy color manipulation like turning green grass into yellow (Autumn Color preset) but rather enhance it using Base-Punchy but less Vibrance. 

What I like about the presets of SleekLens in my opinion, aside it is stackable, it also gives you almost endless combination with almost unlimited end-result. I would recommend this workflow apps to anyone who's interested in using presets instead of manual adjustments that requires a fast result. 

If you are interested and want to order the same “Through the Woods” presets, click HERE.  
If you would like to checkout what Sleeklens has to offer, you can find their full line of presets HERE..

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) brushes fujifilm jpg landscape lightroom lr olympus photography post-process presets raw sleeklens the through woods workflow x-t1 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/12/sleeklens-review-landscape-workflow-presets-for-lightroom Tue, 06 Dec 2016 05:17:10 GMT
Travel Photography: A Road to Mount Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/10/travel-photography-a-road-to-mount-daraitan-in-tanay-rizal About weeks ago, I had a good chance to packed my gears up to visit the Province of Rizal (well it's my xth time there to mind you), but this time we challenge ourselves and take the long road to Mt. Daraitan with Team Road Trip and of course, my Fujifilm XT1 body / 10-24mm lens. This is actually a late post and the reason behind... you will find out later.

Our adventure starts from my place in Manila, we leave at around 5:00am going to StarMall in Shaw Boulevard (meet up place) where the UV Express Van terminal is located. We just had a quick chit chat while having a breakfast or a sip of hot choco (i mean) before we jump in the van going to Tanay, Rizal. 

The province of Rizal is just a stone throw away from the Metropolis and yet it seems to be always overlooked by tourists. Many don't know even local tourists, that the province boasts of numerous attractions that will surely delight outdoor persons, most specially nature lovers and adventurous ones.

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Fresh water from Daranak Falls

For a place that is only few hours away from Metro Manila, particularly from Mandaluyong, Pasig, Quezon City or Marikina, Tanay offers a new and different dimension away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Situated at the southern tip of Sierra Madre Mountain Range, the town is dotted with numerous waterfalls, caves, river system and mountains, making it a favorite day trip go-to place of those residing in the Metro.

You can also take a jeepney or bus ride aside van from Shaw Boulevard going to Tanay Public Market, travel time takes at least one-and-a-half hour (without traffic) and fare is around P70 for van and P50 for jeepney. 

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Daranak Falls

At around 8:30am, we arrived at our destination in Tanay Public Market, right there and then just like any other market places in the Philippines you'll find numerous tricycles around that you can hire for the right price. We arrived too early as expected, good thing so we have more time to consume to visit other places. I talked to one of the tricycle driver and negotiate the price, he charged me a 1,000 peso (divided into 4 person isn't bad at all) to travel around Tanay and is good for the whole day trip, so instead of going straight to Brgy. Daraitan to register our name, we explore Calinawan Cave first and then to Daranak Falls... again, it's not my first time here but bringing along friends and someone to these fascinating places is something you'll never say no. 

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Kids playing at the creek under the bridge.

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Inside Calinawan Cave

From Tanay Town Proper to Calinawan Cave will take you about 30-40mins trike drive including some rough roads nearby. We're lucky there's only few tourists around when we get there, but before you sink inside the cave you have to register your name first, they charge P100 for the guide fee including the use of individual flashlight another P20.00 entrance fee plus P10.00 for helmet (this is quite new but very reasonable for your own safety).

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 or Kalinawan from the Filipino word “linaw” or to make “clear.

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Local tourists at Daranak Falls

After 45mins caving adventure we then hit the road going to Daranak Falls.

Daranak Falls is one of the flagship destinations of Tanay and is a popular summer getaway for locals and tourists from in and out of the country. A favorite location shooting area of most local and international movies and advertising outfits in the country, Daranak Falls nestles calmly at the foot of the Tanay mountains, preserved with the natural vegetation, complemented with enchanting waterfalls, ponds, and rivers cascading through elaborate tropical trees and plants. This 14-meter high falls is truly a refreshing location.

FYI. Daranak Falls is open from Monday to Sunday 8:00am to 5:00pm, they charge P50.00 / head entrance fee and for the groups who have foods for lunch they offer picnic shed for only P300.00 or picnic table for P200.00 only.

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Locals carrying goods to town proper.

Then, we headed to our main target destination to Mt. Daraitan but before that we went back to town proper to grab something to eat for lunch, of course Bulalo soup is a must-try when you're in the place like this. 

ARJ-RIZAL-091116-20ARJ-RIZAL-091116-20 A first glance to Tinipak RIver

After our heavy meal at Rambulls Bakahan, we then start our rough journey to Daraitan with our trike ride. To mind you, it wasn't a pleasant ride as the road to Brgy. Daraitan wasn't fully paved yet, about an hour and a half roller coaster and bumpy ride, but honestly, after a while we just enjoyed our ride and entertained by our very good trike driver who can stir the wheel while balancing outside like he's surfing on a bumpy road. Yes, it's a nerve-wracking and butt-numbing ride plus the heat, we just glad that we survived and still alive. =)

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Buko boat vendor at the river 

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Crossing the river

After our trike adventure, we then transfer to balsa boat (bamboo raft) to cross the river, this time it's just a 3-4 minute ride to get to the other side so you won't wait for so long to get your turn. By the way, not to mention, if you bring your own vehicle, parking is available before the river crossing. The boat ride will charge you a minimum of 5peso per passenger, quite cheap indeed. Upon reaching the other side, we then transfer to another tricycle to bring us to the Barangay Hall, from there, you have to register your name again and secure a local guide who'll provide you some briefings and will take you to the jump off up to the peak. From there, you can rent a good flashlight and a tent if you don't have one and if you go for overnight and plan to hike early morning the following day, just like what we did.

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Early morning view at Tinipak River

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Friendly talk under the bridge

Mt. Daraitan, standing 739+ MASL is a gem at the heart of the great Sierra Madre mountain range, close enough to Manila to do a dayhike, which sits near the border of Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar, Quezon. A former logging area, the village that bears the mountain’s name is now an ecotourism site that offers outdoor attractions such as caves, springs, natural pools, and limestone formations. A model for ecotourism, the barangay has an organised system for handling visitors, including trained local guides.The hike up is a (mostly) straightforward 600-meter ascent that might feel steep to those not used to hiking. There are, however, plenty of holds and the trail is well-maintained.

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At the summit, one can see the Sierra Madre mountains (E, NE), the meandering Daraitan River, and a glimpse of Laguna de Bay with its outlying mountains (i.e. Makiling and Sembrano) and the mountain within it: Mt. Tagapo. From the summit, instead of returning all the way to the barangay, a recommended route to take is the trail to Tinipak River. Though the trail itself is very similar to the ascending trail, Tinipak River, with its beautiful limestone boulders, is a great highlight and must not be missed! This is also a popular camping ground which gives the option of exploring the springs, natural pools, and caves in the area.

Mt. Daraitan is a great sampler for hiking up the relatively unexplored Sierra Madre mountains, and along with the other attractions in Daraitan, particularly the scenic, lunaresque Tinipak River, is a highly recommended dayhike or overnight destination from Manila.

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A glimpse of Tinipak River

About half an hour trek, we finally reached the jump off point at around 4pm, we were greeted with a beautiful and relaxing view of Tinipak River surrounded by lush green mountains. We quickly secure our place where we install our tent then plunged into the river to freshen up. Then, we prepare our food for dinner so we can sleep early after our long day trip. 

So, here's what happen while snoring, all of the sudden it starts to rain... heavy rain. Our tent easily get soaked but actually that's the least of my concern, as it rains the trail becomes muddy and slippery. And so, we woke up early around 3am as planned, trying to accomplish what my main objective is, to capture the beautiful bed of clouds during sunrise at the peak of Mt. Daraitan (just a wishful thinking, anyway). So, we prepare our things out, had a quick sip of a coffee then we went out around 4:30am. Obviously, the trail was so muddy because of the rain so we started to hesitate if we still continue to ascend, along the way going up, we saw the other group coming back and we asked their guide and told us that it's quite impossible to push through because its so slippery yet still too dark, meaning to say its too dangerous so don't pursue. Fair enough, so we crawl back to our tent. Hahaha!

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Cleaning the horse at Tinipak River

Wondering what the area looks like in the morning, we didn't aim to go back to sleep. I took my camera instead and start shooting at the Tinipak River. Some shots covered my short dismay, until our guide Ryan bring us to Tinipak Cave. On our way to this majestic cave while crossing the river and through this temporary sloppy wood bridge, we witnessed a fascinating view to Mt. Daraitan during sunrise. About half an hour trek from our campsite, with some bone breaking trail, slippery and pointed rocks, we finally reach the cave entrance... a fresh cool water inside the cave is our main consideration for not able to climb up the mountain, so we took our time to swim and relax for an hour, we were too early so there's no other people around except us... the losers

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After that, we went back to our camp, packed our things up, slowly follow our trail back to Barangay Hall then straight back to Manila. Yes, its unfinished business indeed but no regrets. Just another reason for us to come back again and visit Mt. Daraitan. Who knows... maybe soon! 

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) adventure calinawan camping cave climbing daraitan daranak falls fujifim hiking images kalinawan madre mount philippines photography river rizal sierra tanay tinipak trekking xt1 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/10/travel-photography-a-road-to-mount-daraitan-in-tanay-rizal Fri, 30 Sep 2016 17:00:00 GMT
Photo Tour: Seven Falls Adventure in Lake Sebu and Kadayawan Festival 2016 in Davao http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/8/photo-tour-seven-falls-adventure-in-lake-sebu-and-kadayawan-festival-2016-in-davao And my photo escapade continues... this time we explore Southern Mindanao particularly Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. 

South Cotabato is endowed with numerous natural sceneries that have a great potential as tourist attractions, it is becoming one of the fastest growing provinces in the Philippines and is home to the ethnic group, T’boli.

Our adventure in south starts in GenSan International Airport, after "meet and greet" with a friend and our guide Raymond, we dropped by to Tupi Fruit Park for a quick bite and to taste the fruits of the South where pineapple plantation is located just along the way to Punta Isla Lake Resort in Lake Sebu. 

The town of Lake Sebu is perched in the highlands of South Cotabato, it is home to the indigenous T’boli and Ubo tribes and an emerging eco-tourism and adventure destination in Southern Mindanao

Upon arrival to the lake resort, we are on perfect timing to experience a lake tour lunch at their floating restaurant. Lake Sebu is known for fresh Tilapia, it is obviously abundant on their lakes and grown in large fish cages floating in the lake and is considered as one of the main delicacies. On that restaurant alone, apparently, they have to harvest at least an average of 100 kilos of fresh Tilapia a day to cooked variety of dishes.

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Fishermen feeding tilapia

Tilapia culture in Lake Sebu started in the early 1970's and is now considered the backbone of the economy and major driving force of the development of the Municipality of Lake Sebu. About 19% of Lake Sebu's 354 ha water area is used for aquaculture. The present tilapia production system is not as intensive as in other lakes in the country. The daily 3-ton tilapia harvest is marketed in the different towns within the province and in neighboring provinces. 

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An old folk having a break while sitting on his canoe

The following day, an early morning wake up call for our lake tour using traditional canoe to shoot lotus garden until the sunrise, I would say it is the best time of the day to explore the lake in the morning to see the beautiful scenic view of Lake Sebu and to catch up with some other locals doing their daily lake routines.

The placid lake of Lake Sebu can be found in Allah Valley near the municipality of Surallah, South Cotabato. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains covered with thick rain forest, the lake has an area of 354 hectares (870 acres), with an elevation of approximately 1,000 metres (3,300 ft)

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Local fisherman collecting his first catch of the day

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Fisherman with his first catch tilapia

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Beautiful scenic view at the lake 

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T'boli lady collecting lotus

On that same day after breakfast, we prepare our camera gears to conquer the famous Seven Falls in Barangay Silotin. From the name itself, it consists of seven majestic waterfalls with the water coming from the outflows of the Lake Sebu and Siloton. The first two waterfalls are easily accessible to tourists while the others require some trekking. But the best way to see these waterfalls is by riding a zipline that passes above five of them! Mind you, the zipline in Lake Sebu is one of the highest (600 ft above the ground) and longest (700 meters) zipline in South East Asia.

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1. Hikong Alo, meaning Passage is 35 feet high. This is the widest and the most accessible among the 7 falls. 

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2. The first zipline ride will take you to a breathtaking view of Hikong Bente meaning Immeasurable, the second of the seven waterfalls.
ARJ-LAKESEBU-081816-100.jpgARJ-LAKESEBU-081816-100.jpg Standing majestically at 70 ft high, Falls 2 or Hikong Bente (others call it Dongon Falls) is located 40 meters from Falls 1 and can be reached by either hiking the 774 steps, driving down the road or simply fly up in the air by means of a zipline ride!

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On your second ride you will see Hikong B'lebel, Hikong Lowig and Hikong K'fo-i forming a giant liquid staircase.

3. Hikong B'lebel means Zigzag or Coil. It is hardly accessible since it is situated between two cliffs and directly streams to Hikong Lowig. Its 2 tiers total to around 20 feet high. 

4. Hikong Lowig means Booth. It is approximately 40 feet high. It is hardly accessible since there is no trail leading to it. The slippery rocks within its vicinity add risks. It directly streams to a no-joke high, powerful Hikong K'fo-i.

5. Approximately 10 feet high, Hikong K'fo-i which means Short creates an enormous howling sound because of its compact, powerful drop. Its pool is really wide but really dangerous due to its swirling wild deep water. The smallest and shortest falls is accessible by moving out of a concrete trail and doing river trekking.

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6. Hikong Ukol, meaning Wildflower is estimated to be around 50 feet high. Its powerful drop creates a misty effect like Hikong Bente. It can be accessed through concrete trail. Getting close to its base requires backward creeping along a slippery, little stream. 

7. Hikong Tonok, meaning Soil is as high as Kikong Alo. This 3 tiered waterfalls rapidly drops on a sloping rock. This can be accessed through concrete trail. Going to its base is mildly difficult.

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After our challenging zipline experience with majestic Seven Falls, we took another kilometer trek to T'daankini Falls to freshen up and have our "budol fight" lunch.  T'daankini Falls is a cold mountain spring/river with natural pools nestled at the foot of the Dagoma mountain range.

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The Dreamweaver at Lang Dulay

Then, we moved to Lang Dulay Weaving Center where you meet women who weave their dreams into a glorious black and red cloth called T'nalak

Lang Dulay was 12 years old when she became a dreamweaver – a special brand of T’boli weaver who receives the t’nalak patterns from dreams granted by Fu Dalu, the god of abaca. As dreamweaver, she sustained the T’boli traditions in this modern era and stood as one of the wisdom keepers of her generation. On 1998, she received the “National Treasures-Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan” award given by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

April 30 of last year, the ninety-one year-old and national treasure Lang Dulay, 'Mother of T'nalak' laid to rest.

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The T'nalak, is a traditional cloth woven by the Tboli women of Lake Sebu and to them this unique fabric represents birth, life, union in marriage and death. It is often used as blankets and clothing and on rare occasions it is used in the royal wedding ceremonies. The t'nalak is sacred and is represents the T'boli's uniqueness and identity as indigenous group of people.

Making the t’nalak is a skill that young T’boli women learn through their mothers, grandmothers or even sisters. Most of the existing weavers today come from a generation of t’nalak weavers that go back to their great ancestors. In their early years, the young T’boli women are introduced to the process by first assisting in the initial stages. As they progress, they move on to the dyeing, weaving and tying of the knots. It can take around one to five years of constant practice for a T’boli woman to fully learn the full production method of the t’nalak. To assist in the manual stripping of the abaca fibers as well as the burnishing of the fabric, the men of the household take charge of these stages from the husbands down to the sons. The production of the t’nalak requires multiple roles that contribute to its final output.

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Sunset view and the calm lake.

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And on our last day, before we hit the road going to our next pit stop, I can't help but take a couple of bird shots (using my 55-200mm fujinon lens) outside my room, just enough to remember that with all the attractions the town offers, it is no doubt that Lake Sebu is one of the best places in the Philippines that I've ever been to experience unique culture, appreciate the beauty of nature and enjoy thrilling adventure. Lake Sebu... is surely a nature haven.

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Moving on to our next destination which is Davao to experience the 31st Kadayawan Festival 2016, we had a few side trips along the way that made our photo tour so special, fun and fulfilling. From South Cotabato we stopped at Tacurong to visit Baras Bird Sanctuary in Sultan Kudarat.

The Farmer - Tacurong, Sultan KudaratThe Farmer - Tacurong, Sultan KudaratThe Farmer - Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat  Off the beaten path to bird sanctuary, a farmer in the middle of the rice field

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Baras Bird Sanctuary is a haven for 20,000+ endemic & migratory birds, as well as a learning center for kids and kids at heart.

Located by the Banga River in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, this sanctuary isn't your usual avian park where the birds are enclosed in a cage. Here, the birds just come and go, some stay to nest, while others fly back to where they came from.

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The herons and egrets are the most conspicuous ones because they lord it over the treetops and skies.

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The best times to visit are early morning and toward sunset. Why? Early morning, the nocturnal birds come to roost and the day birds fly out. Sunset, because the night birds go out of the sanctuary and the day birds fly home.

In short, you're going to see birds 24/7.

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"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings." 

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Upon reaching our destination after long 5-6 hours drive including stopovers, we dropped by first to Philippine Eagle Center in Davao del Sur.

The Center is home to 36 Philippine Eagles, 18 of which are captive-bred. It also houses 10 other species of birds, 4 species of mammals and 2 species of reptiles. Simulating a tropical rain forest environment, the Center offers the visitor a glimpse into the country’s forest ecosystem. Although the exhibits are used primarily to help educate the Filipino people on conservation, the facility is also considered a major tourist attraction in Davao City.

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The Philippine Eagle Foundation is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to saving the endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and its rainforest habitat.  Organized in 1987, it had before that time been operating as a project undertaking research, rehabilitation, and captive breeding.  Staffed by highly trained and dedicated personnel, it has today evolved into the country’s premiere organization for the conservation of raptors.

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Finally, we arrived at Davao City around 6pm on the same day. We check-in to our hotel (The Pinnacle), freshen up then we meet our friend Shem who's very kind enough to help us to get our special sticker access to cover Kadayawan Festival.

The Kadayawan Festival is an annual festival in the city of Davao in the Philippines. Its name derives from the friendly greeting "Madayaw", from the Dabawenyo word "dayaw", meaning good, valuable, superior or beautiful. The festival is a celebration of life, a thanksgiving for the gifts of nature, the wealth of culture, the bounties of harvest and serenity of living. It is held every third week of August.

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This ritual serves as their thanksgiving to the gods particularly to the "Manama" (the Supreme Being) and Bulan (a moon deity) that the first gathering was on a night of a full moon, It was said that, long time ago, Ancient Visayans and Davao's ethnic tribes residing at the foot of Mount Apo would converge during a bountiful harvest and had to celebrate the full moon because they believed "the diwata came to earth at that time" so did the other islanders and tribesmen. The full moon was greeted with a variety of names- 'paghipono', 'takdul', 'ugsar'- but most significantly as "dayaw" [at present it is kadayaw in some Bisayan Islands], perfect or praiseworthy, fit recognition of its spectacular shape and sunset-to-sunrise brilliance. It was so beautiful that the pre-colonial people praised and believed it was the reason for their bountiful harvest

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Various farming implements, fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice and corn grains were displayed on mats as villagers give their respect and thanks for the year's abundance. Singing, dancing and offerings to their divine protectors are the highlights of this ritual.

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To a great extent, present-day celebrations of Kadayawan Festival have not changed much. The only difference is that this festival gave rise to several independent festivals, and the theme, while remaining largely about thanksgiving, has also incorporated cultural and historic influences.

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An old lumad folk wearing colorful tribal cloth

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A group of lumad waiting for the fluvial parade

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Davao River Festival (Fluvial Parade)

This year bears witness to the revival of the Davao River Festival. The tribes will have their own floats and will be introduced in the fluvial parade along Dawow (Davao) River on August 19. The parade of these colorful floats is not to be missed because the last time there was such an event was in 2008. I’m quite sure that the ethnic tribes have given their best to create these stunning floats.

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Matigsalog Tribe Float 

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Obu-Manuvu Tribe Float

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Maguindanaon Tribe Float 

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Tribal girl taking mobile video during fluvial parade. 

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Hiyas sa Kadayawan

The tribes pick their most talented and beautiful women to compete for the Hiyas sa Kadayawan, a pageant search for that distinctive indigenous young lady who is knowledgeable of her native culture and wisdom through a pageantry of Mindanaoan myths and legends. These gorgeous women will also join the parade and shower smiles.

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His name is Jaime Epi (if I'm not misspell), showing his Duterte trademark support - he's known as one of the oldest man in Obu-Manuvu tribe.

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Tribal ceremony showing unity of 11 tribe leaders 
Clata-Giangan, Sama, Tagabawa, Kagan, Iranun, Tausug, Maguindanaon, Ata, Obu-Manuvo, Matigsalug and Maranao Tribes

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Then, that's the end of our 5 days and 4 nights Lake Sebu - Davao (Southern Mindanao) Photo Tours. Thanks to a very very good friends of mine who always believes in me, to share our passion in photography and never say "no" to join my esapade, you know who you are. =)

I would like to thank also the dynamic duo (Raymond and Nonoy) my special guide and cool driver and also to Ada who's very helpful and patient during our stay at Lake Sebu. Thanks to my friend Shem, who made our life easier in covering Kadayawan Festival. This remarkable trip will never be the same without you guys. Hope to see you again... soon.

Please standby for my next photo escapade and will announce very soon. 

 

These Philippine Photo Escapades is part of my ongoing self project. 
© www.arjmunoz.com

 

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) Ata Clata-Giangan Iranun Kagan Maguindanaon Maranao Matigsalug Obu-Manuvo Sama Tagabawa Tausug Tribes bird cotabato culture davao dulay eagle falls festival fluvial indigenous kadayawan kudarat lake lang lumad mindanao parade people philippines sanctuary sebu seven south southern sultan t'boli t'nalak tacurong tlapia http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/8/photo-tour-seven-falls-adventure-in-lake-sebu-and-kadayawan-festival-2016-in-davao Tue, 30 Aug 2016 00:53:52 GMT
Travel Photography: Discovering the Bustling Streets of Hong Kong http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/6/travel-photography-discovering-the-bustling-streets-of-hongkong I've been to several countries in Asia like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. And believe me... it didn't cross my mind nor having a second thoughts to spend time to photograph Hong Kong. Its name inspires a visions of chaotic, jam-packed city with soaring skyscrapers, thick smog, endless noodle stands, non-stop shopping all-day and night long which doesn't even attracts me by words. Until last week.. together with friends and family, I finally meet Mickey and friends of Disney in person, (haha.. can't help but somehow I enjoyed the rest of the night especially the parade and fireworks display).

Hong Kong is a busy city of about eight million inhabitants with one of the biggest hub airports in the world. It can be overwhelming for many visitors, especially those not used to crowded places and a first timer like me. Before I hit the road, I always do a quick research about what to expect, the place, the people, the food, currency and everything that i can do during my stay. And, with so much to do here, one can scratch one's head about where to start in order to get the most out of the trip.

Allow me to show you some of my selected photos from last trip in Hong Kong. 

Tak Wah Park, Hong KongTak Wah Park, Hong Kong
Jockey Club Tak Wah Park

Jockey Club Tak Wah Park was designed along the classical Chinese garden theme. The park, with an area of about 1.63 hectares, is located in Tsuen Wan town centre. Being a Chinese-style garden that is rarely found in Tsuen Wan, Tak Wah Park provides a fine place for relaxation in the bustling town area. Sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, construction works of the park were carried out in 2 phases. Phase I was completed in 1989, while Phase II was completed in 1995.

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Modelled on the setup of a classical Chinese garden, the park has rock mountains made from Taihu rock, thick foliage, ornamental lakes, ancient village houses, a "pai lau", stone bridge, a stone boat, a pavilion and a verandah. A "Chess Garden" was built in the park, where giant stone-carved pieces of Chinese chess are used to display the endgame for the deliberation of chess lovers. In addition, there are 2 theme gardens in the park, namely, "Camellia Garden" and "Herb Garden", where different species of Camellia and herb are grown.

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One of many beautiful turtles in Wah Tak Park

 

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Tsuen Wan view from hotel window

Tsuen Wan is a new town built on a bay in the New Territories area of Hong Kong, opposite to Tsing Yi Island across Rambler Channel. The market town of Tsuen Wan emerged for the surrounding villages and fleets of fishing boats in the area.

ARJ-HONGKONG-061916-3.jpgARJ-HONGKONG-061916-3.jpg Colourful Building

Hong Kong is a city, and former British colony in southeastern China. Vibrant and densely populated, it’s a major port and global financial center famed for its tower-studded skyline. It’s also known for its lively food scene – from Cantonese dim sum to extravagant high tea – and its shopping, with options spanning chaotic Temple Street Night Market to the city’s innumerable bespoke tailors.

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Tsing Ma Bridge

Massively imposing by day and a twinkling span of lights by night, the Tsing Ma Bridge is an engineering marvel that links Lantau Island to the rest of Hong Kong. The 2.16km bridge was opened to traffic in 1997 as part of key infrastructure serving the new airport on Lantau Island, and has since become a local sightseeing favourite.

As the longest suspension bridge with both rail and road traffic in the world, the Tsing Ma Bridge got its name from the areas at both of its ends: Tsing Yi and Ma Wan. In the case of a particularly severe typhoon hitting Hong Kong and shutting down the bridge’s six lanes, the two railway lines and two road lanes enclosed below it can still operate and transfer passengers and their luggage to and from the airport.

Visitors should head to the Lantau Link View Point and Visitors Centre located on the small island of Tsing Yi for the best views.

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Street Market of Mong Kok

This area of Hong Kong has the largest and busiest markets in which to soak up the frenetic atmosphere, sights, and sounds of Hong Kong. The crowds and sellers really exemplify Hong Kong’s on-the-move essence. The two best markets for inexpensive souvenirs are the Ladies Market (bargain clothing, accessories, and souvenirs) and the Temple Street Night Market (flea market).

If you're also into photography and need to buy some gear, Sim City Camera House (for film and digital) is worth visiting. Three stories of independent camera stores stocking both brand new and second hand digital and film equipment and accessories. Also located in Mong KokSim City has about a dozen stores selling mostly second hand DSLR's and lenses, but also a decent range of mirror less cameras and some hard to find film SLR's and Leica rangefinders. The other 20 odd stores sell brand new gear and tripods, DSLR movie gear, and lomography gear. Sim City is also a good place to come for cheap accessories like lens caps, straps and filters. It is also the only place I have found that stocks lesser known brands of lenses such as Samyang and SLR Magic.

You can even trade in your old camera's and lenses here for cash or against the cost of another purchase. 

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Street Photography in Hong Kong

If you are keen in photography but stack inside your room in HK for some reason, then I suggest you on your next day to wake up early, skip your daily same breakfast buffet at the hotel, grab your gear then go out, start walking and look for some interesting subject along the street. 

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Now And Then (TSL The Artisan of Love)
 

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Local vendor in the street

 

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"S. Culture?"

 

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Stunning Billboard

 

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Disneyland in the Stars Fireworks

I'm not a fan of Disneyland nor Ocean Park Adventure, I'd rather go outside my hotel at night and shoot beautiful skyline of Hong Kong at Victoria Harbour. But for the first timer, I think its not bad at all to experience the highlights with a common group tours.

Hong Kong Disneyland is a theme park located on reclaimed land in Penny's Bay, Lantau Island. It is the first theme park located inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and is owned and managed by the Hong Kong International Theme Parks. 

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Disney in the Stars is a nightly fireworks show based on Fantasy in the Sky at other Disney parks. Fireworks and pyrotechnics are coordinated to orchestrated classic Disney musics such as "A Whole New World". The show premiered on 12 September 2005 at the park's inaugural ceremony. On 12 September 2015, in honour to celebrate 10th anniversary, the park has launched an enhanced Disney in the Stars Fireworks as they add a street-to-sky projection to the castle during the show. The enhanced version of Disney in the Stars officially launched on 16 November 2015 with the opening of the 10th anniversary "Happily Ever After" Celebration.

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Going back to our hotel after our long day at the Temple Street, I saw this cool fellow travel photographer playing some cool music outside Mong Kok MTR Terminal and I guess selling some stuff to get some support to continue her journey. 

______________________

 

Planning for Hong Kong trips? Here are some helpful TIPS:

1. When booking your hotel (check out Visit 7107 Islands Travel, to get the best deal), consider the proximity to the places you want to visit and shop. The Causeway Bay area (where the famous Soho Department Store and the Times Square Mall are located), Tsim Sha Tsui (where the Harbour City malls can be found), Tsuen Wan (for budget tours) are, for me, the best.

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2. For shopping aficionados, bring several pieces of empty luggage for all your bargain purchases and extra baggage allowance on your flight.

3. If you are going to stay for three days or more, it is best to buy the unlimited Octopus pass which can bring you anywhere via the MTR or maybe experience their double decker bus. This will spare you the hassle of purchasing MTR passes every time you have to get far.

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4. HK is best for electronic gadgets, designer items, jewelry and antiques. But always remember that you should buy only from the reputable stores. For super expensive items like luxury watches, never hurry. Compare the prices of the different reputable shops. You will be surprised at the disparities and how much you can save.

5. For the non-branded items, try the night markets, the most famous of which is the one in Mong Kok. 

6. Go to Disneyland in the morning. Bags are inspected for food items so go on a full stomach to save on a meal. Get a map and the brochure on schedules, and plan the rides you will take and shows you will watch. Stay until the Night Parade which is spectacular.

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7. Get the best Hong Kong harbor and skyline views by

  • being at the Avenue of the Stars at 8 p.m. so you can also enjoy the Symphony of Lights; 2.) riding the Star Ferry at night and staying on the upper deck or hopping on a harbor cruise; 3.) going up by tram to the Victoria Peak (where there are restaurants, a mall and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum) and seeing the different views at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. (on a clear day, so know the weather forecast); and 4.) having dinner by candlelight at the Aqua Restaurant which gives one of the most stunning views at night.
  • Immerse yourself in traditional Hong Kong culture. Visit temples. Go to the Giant Bronze Buddha. Have some peace and quiet at the Chi Lin Nunnery and the nearby Nan Lian Gardens. 
  • Experience authentic Chinese food. For those on a budget, there are a lot of food stalls and small restos to choose from. (Tip: Go to where there are a lot of local customers.) For the best dim sum, go to Maxim’s Palace City Hall Dim Sum at 10 a.m. (because it will be filled up by 11 a.m.) Don’t miss out on the egg roll and the yummiest chicken feet. If you are in a big group, you will never go wrong with Peking Garden (for its Peking Duck), Jade Garden (for its lobsters), and Crystal Jade (for the best shao long bau dumpling) at the Ocean City. Yung Kee has the best Roasted Goose. If tired of Chinese food, taste unique Japanese tonkatsu dishes with eat-all-you-can shredded seasoned cabbage at the Ton Ki Chi. For the best ramen, dine at the Hakata Ippudo at the Times Square where the long queue will be worth it. At the City Super, look for the Kasho Chaya stall and order soft-served ice cream with the combined flavors of Hokkaido milk and matcha. For the best Italian buffet and after-dinner drinks, go to Spasso.

 

#photoescapade #visit7107islandstravel #hongkongtours

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) aberdeen avenue city disney disneyland foods garden harbour hong jewelry kok kong kowloon market mong mtr night noodles park sha sim stars street tak temple tsim tsing tsuen tsui victoria wah wan http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/6/travel-photography-discovering-the-bustling-streets-of-hongkong Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:17:32 GMT
Travel Photography Philippines: Pahiyas Festival 2016 in Lucban, Quezon http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/5/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. 

The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church - Lucban, QuezonThe San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church - Lucban, QuezonThe San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church, commonly known as the Lucban Church, is a Roman Catholic parish church located in Lucban, Quezon, Philippines under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lucena. Its titular is Saint Louis of Toulouse.
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.

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Pahiyas "Decor" Festival

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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.

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Colourful house decors mostly using "kiping"

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Higantes Parade

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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. 

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Some neighbors preparing Lechon Lucban for sale during Pahiyas Festival

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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.

 
==================
 
HOW TO GET TO LUCBAN FROM MANILA
 
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.
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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.
 
© www.arjmunoz.com
 
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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/5/travel-photography-philippines-pahiyas-festival-2016-in-lucban-quezon Mon, 16 May 2016 14:38:23 GMT
Travel Photography Philippines: Trailing History of Bataan http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/5/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.

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HISTORY OF BATAAN

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: http://www.bataan.gov.ph/

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Early morning at Morong Beach

 

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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.

 

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Walking vendor selling plastic basin in Pilar

 

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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.

 

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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. 

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Street Dancer, Banga Festival

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Banga Festival

 

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Balanga Catholic Church Belfry at Night in Galeria Victoria

 

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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.

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Fisherman at COB Wetland

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Balanga Wetland

 

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Visiting Mt. Samat and some mural sculptures

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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.

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Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valour)

 

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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.

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Twilight at Las Casas Filipinas

ARJ-BATAAN-042216-88.jpgARJ-BATAAN-042216-88.jpg Las Casas along Umagol River

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Las Casas Filipinas at Night

ARJ-BATAAN-042216-79.jpgARJ-BATAAN-042216-79.jpg 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.

============

HOW TO GET THERE:

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.

 

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/5/travel-photography-philippines-trailing-history-of-bataan Tue, 03 May 2016 09:26:30 GMT
Travel Photography Philippines: Experience Taal Volcano Up-close http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/4/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.

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Taal Volcano Crater
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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.

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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.

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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)

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Reflection of Boatman

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/4/travel-photography-philippines-experience-taal-volcano-up-close Thu, 21 Apr 2016 02:13:17 GMT
Aerial Photography: Philippine Sceneries from Bird's Eye View http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/4/aerial-photography-philippine-sceneries-from-birds-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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TIPS:

  • 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.

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WARNINGS:

  • 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.

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) aerial airplane birds commercial eyeview philippines photography plane private tips travel window http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/4/aerial-photography-philippine-sceneries-from-birds-eye-view Wed, 06 Apr 2016 19:50:53 GMT
Photo Tour: Escape to Batanes... The Paradise of the North! http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/3/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.

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Vayang Rolling Hills
ARJ-BATANES-030616-9.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-9.jpg 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.

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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.

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Naidi Hills (Old Ivatan Settlement)
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Reflection of Basco Lighthouse at Bunker's Cafe

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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.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-28.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-28.jpg 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.

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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.

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Fundacion Pacita

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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.

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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. Sabtang Island, BatanesSabtang Island, Batanes
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.  ARJ-BATANES-030616-83.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-83.jpg

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.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-86.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-86.jpg 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. ARJ-BATANES-030616-156.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-156.jpg

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. ARJ-BATANES-030616-162.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-162.jpg

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Simple living at Uyugan Town

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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.

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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.

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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.  ARJ-BATANES-030616-169.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-169.jpg 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.

ARJ-BATANES-030616-135.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-135.jpg 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.

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Chawa View Deck

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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.

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Inside Mahatao Church

ARJ-BATANES-030616-153.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-153.jpg Dried Flying Fish or Dibang in Ivatan

ARJ-BATANES-030616-49.jpgARJ-BATANES-030616-49.jpg 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. =)

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/3/photo-tour-escape-to-batanes-the-paradise-of-the-north Sun, 13 Mar 2016 08:09:15 GMT
Travel Photography: Exploring the Majestic View of Mount Pinatubo http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/2/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!

Mt. Pinatubo Crater - Capas, TarlacMt. Pinatubo Crater - Capas, Tarlac

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 @ www.visit7107islands.com. Thank you!

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) aetas capas fujifilm mountain mt. philippines pinatubo tarlac travel volcano xt1 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/2/travel-photography-exploring-the-majestic-view-of-mount-pinatubo Mon, 22 Feb 2016 17:54:25 GMT
Travel Photography: Discovering the Secrets of Callao Cave - Peñablanca, Cagayan http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/1/travel-photography-discovering-the-secrets-of-callao-cave-penablanca-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.

Callao Cave - Tuguegarao, CagayanCallao Cave - Tuguegarao, Cagayan
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

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Some stalagmites and stalactites, going to the next chamber.

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"The Altar"

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Callao Cave at a Glance.

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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.

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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.

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

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) cagayan callao cave caving chapel church heritage peñablanca philippines photography photos tour tuguegarao http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2016/1/travel-photography-discovering-the-secrets-of-callao-cave-penablanca-cagayan Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:00:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Masskara Festival 2015 in a Great City of Smiles, Bacolod http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/11/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 - Talisay, Negros OccidentalThe Ruins - Talisay, Negros Occidentaltalisay, ruins, negros, philippines, old, houses, mansion, negrense, bacolod
"The Ruins" in Talisay City 

 

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"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.

 

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"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.

 

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Old tree at Balay Negrense in Silay City, Negros Occidental

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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.

 

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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.

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Some antique furniture inside Balay ni Tana Dicang

San Sebastian Cathedral - Bacolod CitySan Sebastian Cathedral - Bacolod CityThe San Sebastian Cathedral is a late 19th-century church in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental in the Philippines. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod.
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.

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Colorful Masskara Souvinir

 

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

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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. =)

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) ancestral bacolod balay cathedral festival fujifilm masskara museum negrense negros occidental philippines silay talisay xt1 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/11/travel-photography-masskara-festival-2015-in-a-great-city-of-smiles-bacolod Tue, 03 Nov 2015 10:30:00 GMT
Travel Photography : A Whole Day Photowalk in Don Galo, Parañaque Fishport http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/7/travel-photography-a-one-whole-day-photowalk-in-don-galo-paranaque-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.

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Low-tide at Parañaque Fishport

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Whiskered tern catching fish

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Drying fish

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Old man cleaning mussels

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Wood Charcoal making

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Busy making fish basin

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Fishing young boy

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A Bridge to comfort

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Family cleaning mussels 

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Early Morning Fishing

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Preparing dried fish

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Happy kids

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Kids having fun

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Sunset at Fishport

 

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

© www.arjmunoz.com

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel photography) bridge city don dongalo fish fishing fishport galo manila metro paranaque people philippines photography photowalk port sunset tour travel village http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/7/travel-photography-a-one-whole-day-photowalk-in-don-galo-paranaque-fishport Mon, 27 Jul 2015 06:15:00 GMT
Travel Photography: Exploring One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in Puerto Princesa http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/5/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.

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Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

 

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Stunning Rock Formation

 

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Boatman in Sabang Beach

 

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Tourist exploring Underground River

 

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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.

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Crew cleaning Luli Island

 

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Spelunking Sabang Cave

 

ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0057ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0057Puerto Princesa, Palawan Green fields of Sabang

 

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View from Inside the Cave

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Nipa Hut outside the Cave

 

ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0019ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0019Puerto Princesa, Palawan 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.

 

ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0024ARJ-PALAWAN-050915 0024Puerto Princesa, Palawan Colorful Peacock at Baker's Hill

 

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"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.

 

© www.arjmunoz.com

 

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/5/exploring-one-of-the-new-7-wonders-of-nature-in-puerto-princesa Wed, 20 May 2015 15:49:22 GMT
Travel Photography: "I Came, I Saw, I Conquer the Adventures in Sagada" http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/4/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. 

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0012ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0012Rice Terraces
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.

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Igorot at Banaue Rice Terraces

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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.

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Survival guide preparing our kerosine lamp

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

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Spelunking Sumaguing Cave

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

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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. 

Sagada, Mountain ProvinceSagada, Mountain Province
Morning sunshine somewhere in the bush

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Earlt Morning scene in Sagada

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Another rice terraces view from the top 

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

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Bomod-ok Waterfalls or Big Falls 

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Some villages on top of the mountain. 

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0053Bomod-ok FallsRefreshing pool of Bomod-ok falls
Refreshing pool of Bomod-ok falls

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0018Hanging CoffinsOne of many hanging coffins view from the top.
One of many hanging coffins view from the top.

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0061Hanging CoffinsHanging Coffins, Sagada
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.

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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.

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0063Kiltepan ViewpointSunrise at Kiltepan Viewpoint
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.

ARJ-SAGADA-040115 0065Halsema HighwayMesmerizing view along Halsema Highway
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. =) 

 

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info@arjmunoz.com (arj muñoz | travel 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 http://www.arjmunoz.com/blog/2015/4/travel-photography-i-came-i-saw-i-conquer-the-adventures-in-sagada Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:07:25 GMT