Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (Labrador, Pangasinan)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

The town’s first church and convent, built with wood, was started in 1771 by Fr. Domingo de San Joaquin and finished in 1776. By 1865, after renovations, it measured 57.4 m. in length and 16.5 m. in width. In 1952, the church underwent repairs of World War II damage.

The church’s interior

The church’s single level, Baroque facade, topped by a plain triangular pediment, has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by massive square pilasters topped by urn-like finials, and semicircular arched windows.  Above the entrance is a small niche with the statue of St. Isidore the Farmer flanked by semicircular arched windows.  The square bell tower, on the church’s left, is probably a modern addition.

The main altar and retablo

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer: Lingayen-Labrador Road, Poblacion, Labrador 2402. Tel: (075) 549-5055. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How to Get There: Labrador is located 359 kms. from Manila.  Within the province, it is located 12.6 kms. from Lingayen, 10.5 kms. from Bugallon and 7.3 kms. from Sual.

Kampana Museum (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

Kampana Museum, probably the only one of its kind in the country

The Kampana (“Bell”) Museum, probably the only museum of its kind in the country, is housed within the compound of the Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  It displays an array of six old bells (some dating back to the 1800s) of different sizes (four of them still with their wooden yokes) of the parish on a raised concrete platform within a fenced in, shed-type enclosure.

Check out “Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The array of six bells, a number of which are coated with verdigris

During the term of the first Team Ministry (when the “Three Kings” Parish was renamed “Epiphany of Our Lord Parish” in 1965) of the parish (composed of Fr. John R. Palinar, Fr. Jose S. Estrada, Fr. Manuel S. Bravo and Fr. Victor Z. Embuido), these church bells were replaced by new ones (sourced through donations from civic-spirited citizens here and abroad).

 

Bell inscribed with “Isaias Edralin,” probably a parish priest

These old church bells were, in turn, housed in a museum built during the term of the second Team Ministry (composed of Fr. Alberto T. Arenos, Fr. Camilo Natividad and Fr. Jovino Batecan).  The museum was inaugurated on March 31, 2002.

Bell inscribed with “Francisco Treserra,” probably a parish priest

AUTHOR’S NOTES:

Inscriptions on the bells oftentimes indicates the bell’s date of casting, its weight, the name of the saint (San Juan Bautista, Sta. Teresita, Jesus, Maria y Jose, etc.) to which it was dedicated; the name of the town (Lingayen) for which it was commissioned; the name of the parish priest (Francisco Treserra, Isaias Edralin, Felix Sanches, etc.), bishop (Cesar Ma. Guerrero, on February 22, 1929), pope (Pope Pius XI ); when it was cast; and even the name of the bell caster.

A bell inscribed with the names of Lingayen Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero and Pope Pius XI

I noticed one bell was cast in 1874, a second in 1883 and another in 1928. One bell is inscribed with “Fundicion de H. Sunico” possibly referring to metalsmith Hilario S. Sunico who cast 176 bells, dated 1872-98. His last known bell was dated 1937.

A bell inscribed with the year “1883”

Many of the bells are wrapped in a blue-green patina due to chemical reaction with air and sea water, over time, that causes copper, brass and bronze to form verdigris.The verdigris layer, which gives the bell its fragile beauty, actually protects the underlying metal from corrosion and degradation, which is why these bells are so durable.

A bell inscribed with “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord: Poblacion, Lingayen, 2401 Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 542-6235.

How to Get There: Lingayen is located 227 kms. (a 4.5-hour drive) from Manila and 94.9 kms. (a 3-hour drive) from Baguio City (Benguet).

Church of Our Lady of the Purification (Binmaley, Pangasinan)

Church of Our Lady of Purification

This church, once the largest church in the province during the latter part of the 19th century, was first constructed in the 16th century but burned down in 1745. The succeeding brick church, built towards the west of the former, was begun by Fr. Jose Salvador in 1747 finished by Fr. Francisco Barroso, OP, in 1754.

The right side of the church with some of the original brick facing now exposed

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged (only the walls and the partly damaged bell tower were left after shelling by American warships from January 7-9, 1945) and later rebuilt.

The 5-storey bell tower on the church’s right

MY NOTES:

This church’s 3-level, relatively simple Baroque brick (now plastered over) façade has  semicircular arched main entrance, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the first level; and a semicircular arched statued niche, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the second level. On display in front of the church is a huge 1880 bell that bears the logo Fundicion de Metales de Santos Supangco.

The segmental pediment, separated from the second level by 3 rows of cornices, has a recessed octagonal window (above which is a cornice and a centrally located seal in the tympanumflanked by smaller, recessed octagonal windows. The huge scrolls flowing down from the base of the pediment are typical of the Italian Baroque style.

The 1880 church bell on display outside the church

The 5-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s right, has blind semicircular arched recesses (canopied with triangular segments), at the the first 3 storeys, and semicircular arched open windows at the receding upper levels.  It has 3 bells. One bell, weighing 4,130 pounds and cast in 1804, was once of the three biggest bells in the Philippines.

The main altar and retablo

The church measures 94 m. long and 16.8 m. wide. Juan Fuentes y Yepes, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia, is buried here.  The 35 m. long  transept has a high dome with 4 windows and is supported by 8 elegant columns with Composite capitals. The interior also houses 5 exquisite altars.

The church’s dome

Church of Our Lady of the Purification: Urdaneta Junction, Dagupan–Binmaley Road, Poblacion, Binmaley 2417. Tel: (075) 540-0047.  Feast of Our Lady of Purification: February 2.

How to Get There: Binmaley is located 223 kms. from Manila.

Silliman University’s Anthropology Museum (Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental)

Anthropology Museum

Silliman University’s Anthropology Museum,  a must to visit if you are a tourist in Dumaguete City, was established in 1973 to bring the importance of the Filipino’s cultural heritage to the attention of the public. Formerly housed in the iconic Silliman Hall (the oldest American structure in the country), the museum was relocated to the second floor of Hibbard Hall in 2015.

Hibbard Hall

Hibbard Hall, built in 1932 and named after Dr. David Sutherland Hibbard, one of the founders of the institution, also houses the Office of the University Registrar.. It is a good museum to visit to get first-hand viewing of tools used on different historical ages of the Philippines.

The collections were well documented and arranged. The bulk of the artifacts displayed came from field works, excavations by Sillimanian anthropologists in the 1970s, purchases and donations.This airconditioned museum has seven galleries, from archaeological finds to anthropological artifacts. The first three contains exhibits collected from known cultural or ethnic groups all over the country.

Artifacts include simple tools and instruments such as basketry; woodwork; agricultural and aquatic tools; weapons (bows & arrows, etc.); clothing and ornaments; musical instruments impressive samples of Islamic cultural pieces and even objects of Siquijor “witchcraft” or traditional healing practices. The display is based on two general criteria: the type of social organization (incipient, tribal or sultanate) and the type of economic subsistence (hunting, and gathering, marginal agriculture or farming) under which ethnic group is categorized.

The last four galleries exhibit a variety of very wide-reaching and interesting artifacts, dating to the Pre-Colonial Period, collected from different parts of Negros Island and in the mountain areas of CotabatoOn display are excavated burial jars, clay pots believed to be used during burial rites; porcelain which date back to the Sung Period in the twelfth century; native jewelry; and a long wooden boat coffin with actual remains in it.

The Sultan Omar Kiram Collection tells the curious story of a young man, born in 1914, whose Christian name was Vicente Austria.  He was adopted into a wealthy Christian family and enjoyed the benefits of education and culture of that family. Later, as an army officer, he went to a Muslim village where his former nurse (yaya) recognized him and told him of his real heritage that he was, in fact, from a royal Muslim family and he was really Sultan Omar Kiram, the ruler of the Onayan Sultanate of Lanao del Sur, Mindanao.  He died in 1986 and his collection, which  includes his personal effects (clothes, different kinds of ceremonial swords, prayer beads, etc.),  was donated by his wife.

Rocks and Minerals

There’s also a display of precious gemstones and minerals and a short visual history of the Filipino people (Philippine Revolution, Second World War , Declaration of Independence, EDSA Revolution, etc.).

Anthropology Museum: 2/F, Hibbard Hall, Hibbard Ave., Silliman University, Dumaguete City. Open Mondays-Saturdays, 8 AM – 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM;  Sundays and holidays, by appointment. General Admission: PhP50 (Mondays – Saturdays); PhP100 (Sundays and holidays).  Children below 15 years and Filipino students: PhP20 (Mondays – Saturdays); PhP40 (Sundays and holidays).  Senior Citizen: PhP40 (Mondays – Saturdays); PhP80 (Sundays and holidays).

My List of the Ten Allegedly Haunted Places in the Philippines

Here’s a list of ten of the scariest places I have visited in the country. One is located in La Union (Pindangan Church Ruins), two in Baguio City (Hyatt Terraces Hotel and SM City Baguio) in Benguet, one in Pampanga (Clark Air Base), one in Mountain Province (Sagada), one off Cavite (Corregidor Island) and the rest in Metro Manila. Though I haven’t really experienced any paranormal activity in these sites, probably because I don’t have a third eye, many others have.

  • My wife Grace and I stayed in the 12-storey, 303 -room HYATT TERRACES HOTEL for three days in April 1986.   Located on a pine tree-clad hill along South Drive, near Camp John Hay, the Hyatt Terraces Hotel was said to be the grandest hotel outside Metro Manila. At 4:26 PM, on July 16, 1990, a little over 4 years after our stay, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Luzon, killing 1,621 people.  Again, I happened to be in the city, with my family and some relatives, on the day of the devastating 1990 Luzon Earthquake but were lucky enough to have left the city before lunch. In Baguio City, 28 buildings collapsed during the earthquake.  One of the most prominent buildings destroyed was the Hyatt Terraces Hotel when the central wing’s terraced front collapsed, like an accordion, onto the hotel lobby, killing 98 employees and guests. In the aftermath of that tragic earthquake, many of those listed as “missing” were never found and many say that there are still bodies in the debris of the hotel site and the spirits of these victims have never moved on. Its tragic history has surely contributed to its terrifying reputation.

Check out “Hyatt Terraces Hotel

Hyatt Terraces Hotel circa 1986

Today, its old fountain and a gated fence are all that remains of the still undeveloped site of the Hyatt Terraces. Now said to be haunted, strange lights and ghostly apparitions are said to have been seen around the empty lot.  There was once a bus stop in front of the gate and motorists, driving along South Drive, have told stories of strange apparitions of the spirits of dead employees there. Some passersby in the area at night have also heard cries for help and seen figures against the spotlight that illuminates the area. In fact, for those driving along South Drive, the directed procedure is to honk your horn when passing beside the former Hyatt location, lest they run over a spirit crossing the street. Aromatic smells, coming out of nowhere, are also consistently reported.

  • SM CITY BAGUIO (a favorite shopping venue of mine while in the city), opened in 2003, was erected on the site where the former 4-storey, wood-framed, 423-room Pines Hotel used to overlook Session Road. On October 23, 1984, at about 11:30 PM, a 6-hour blaze gutted this government-owned hotel. To escape the thick smoke and flames, most of the dead (17 were killed, including 4 Americans) and 46 injured leaped from windows of this American Colonial-style, hillside hotel while others were seen slipping from rescue ropes.

Check out “SM City Baguio

SM City Baguio

Today, mall visitors have reportedly seen faces in bathroom mirrors that would not be there a second later. One patron, in the ladies’ room, gave a photographic description of a bloodied fireman (The Baguio City Fire Department lost four firefighters in the blaze).

  • The MANILA FILM CENTER had its beginnings in 1981 when then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos started the Manila International Film Festival (MIFF). Slated to start on January 18, 1982, 4,000 laborers working, round the clock, in 3 shifts in the rush to complete the project  in time for the MIFF. Tragedy struck, on November 17, 1981, shortly before 3 AM, when scaffolding and wooden support for part of the second basement collapsed, causing at least 169 graveyard shift workers to fall to the orchestra below and be buried or trapped under wet, quick-drying cement.

Check out “The Urban Legend That is the Manila Film Center

Manila Film Center

Rather than halt construction to rescue survivors and retrieve the bodies of dead workmen, cement ordered to be poured into the orchestra, entombing the fallen workmen, some of them still alive. The MIFF was to last another year but, instead of quality films, pornographic films were shown in an effort to gain a larger audience and, perhaps, to make up for the first festival’s financial losses. Later, in 1984, I would watch the premiere of Tikoy Aguiluz’ startling, controversial but highly-acclaimed first full-length film “Boatman” (Ang Bangkero), in its uncut version, at this very venue. Today, it is the venue of the Amazing Show, a Las Vegas-like song and dance extravaganza  where all the performers are transgenders.

The place, said to be haunted as well as cursed, is incredibly spooky. Various ghostly manifestations were reported within the building on the site, including poltergeist activity, apparitions; mysterious hearing of cries and moans; bleeding walls; and hands sticking out from under doors. The ghosts of those who died are said to roam the area, looking for live bodies to possess and take over as their own.

  • The UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES Diliman Campus , where my wife  and I graduated (with a degree of B.S. Architecture) has had a long history of alleged haunting, with a lot of paranormal hot spots. The Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, at the second floor of Palma Hall, is the residence of a  ghost named “Marisa,”  said to be a famous star of the university’s theater productions back in the 1970s who was eventually overshadowed by younger, more talented newcomers. Overwhelmed by grief and jealousy, she killed herself, in the most dramatic way possible, by hanging herself onstage, in costume. She’s known for making her presence felt by haunting the stage, the rest room and her old dressing room, joining the chorus during performances and, sometimes, showing up onstage.

Benitez Hall

Benitez Hall, home to the College of Education and one of the oldest buildings on campus and, naturally, has gained the reputation as one of the most haunted. A ghost, with blood red eyes, is said to wanders the halls. Kalayaan Hall, a residence hall exclusively for freshmen, has a ghost of a woman who supposedly shows up in the mirror facing the stairs to the second floor of the girls’ wing.  Abelardo Hall, home of the College of Music, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl vocalizing, or playing the piano or the gamelan in the middle of the night.

Melchor Hall

The lights on the top floor of Melchor Hall, the College of Engineering Building, where our college was then housed (the college now has its own building), was, for some reason, never turned off, the reason being that, sometimes, the lights there inexplicably turn to red. Many of my classmates have also seen a “Lady in White” come in and out of the corridor walls

  • The PINDANGAN CHURCH RUINS, the picturesque, roofless remains of a small vine-covered brick and coral church (the first in City of San Fernando, La Union) which I visited way back in 2004, is located 500 m. off the National Highway, near Camp Oscar Florendo. The nuns of the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family are the caretakers of these church ruins.

Check out “Pindangan Church Ruins

Pindangan Church Ruins

It is said to be the home of the sole ghost of a headless stabbed priest who prowls the night, either carrying his severed head or searching for his head. Some have also reported hearing his head calling out for his body to find it. The wind here is known to whisper strange malediction to those that disrespect the location.  My picture of the site was featured in an episode of “Ang Pinaka: Scary Places in the Philippines,” aired during the 6:30 PM GMA News TV last October 22, Sunday.

  • The University of Santo Tomas, where my daughter Cheska graduated (with a degree of B.S. Medical Technology), served as an internment camp during the World War II.  Many prisoners died here of starvation and illness, and is reported by believers to be haunted. An alleged mass grave is located near the UST Museum.  One of the restroom cubicles in the Main Building is also haunted by a female student who hung herself.

Main Building of the University of Sto. Tomas

Other paranormal hot spots are the UST Hospital (haunted by a ghost wearing a red tag, which only corpses in the morgue section wear), St. Raymund’s Building (the comfort rooms on the first floor are haunted by the ghost of a girl was said to have committed suicide because she was bullied for her physical appearance), the Albertus Magnus Building (the Conservatory of Music where the piano is heard playing by itself) and Benavides Park (a.k.a. Lover’s Lane) where, at past midnight, students are greeted by a man wearing a Dominican habit who would later disappear (Sometimes, unfortunate couples hanging out in the park’s benches at night, have also heard a disembodied voice singing mass songs).

  • CLARK AIR BASE, being an American military installation, experienced major bombing from the Japanese during World War II. There are a number of reminders of that bloody past that still exist today and these locations are some of the most haunted in the Philippines.

Clark Museum

The area around the abandoned Clark Air Base Hospital has been rendered off limits to everyone as inhabitants have witnessed apparitions of violent spirits and heard mysterious voices.

Clark Cemetery

Early morning joggers have also reported hearing party music and excited talk coming from inside the obviously empty Home Plate canteen.  At the Clark Museum, the ghost of a serviceman who committed suicide by hanging himself still haunts the place.

Check out “Clark Museum

  • SAGADA, in Mountain Province, has an authentic culture dealing with death, free of Western influence. The caves of the town, in particular, are rumored to be site of ghostly mischief. According to the locals, whispery voices are heard and wayward shadows or apparitions are seen among the Hanging Coffins as well as graves up in the Echo Valley.

Hanging Coffins

The Igorots, however, generally say that if you show some respect and leave the coffins alone, you’ll make it out of the valley unscathed. At Sumaguing Cave, locals believe that the cave is haunted by the spirits of their ancestors.  I have explored this cave twice and, each time, I always felt an otherworldly feeling as I entered.

Check out “Back to Sumaging Cave

  • Historic CORREGIOR ISLAND, an island of history and heroism at the entrance of Manila Bay, has played a major role during World War II. Many Filipino and American soldiers died in its defense. During the liberation, the Japanese defenders here committed suicide via harakiri, jumping into the sea or blowing themselves up instead of capture or surrender. The ghosts of Corregidor’s World War II dead were also joined by Muslim soldiers who, in 1968,  were training in Corregidor for a  planned invasion of Sabah in Malaysia but were exterminated during the infamous March 18, 1968 Jabidah Massacre.

Hospital Ruins

At the Hospital Ruins, tourists who passed by have heard footsteps, rumblings of normal hospital activities, and wails of people.

One of the laterals of Malinta Tunnel. Notice the orbs?

Around the bunker area inside the Malinta Tunnel, shouts of people grimacing in pain can also be heard. Witnesses have also reported hearing eerie sounds and seeing a spirit near by. Manifestations would also appear in photos and videos. 

Check out “Ghost Hunting in Corregidor

  • In INTRAMUROS,  where the historical and the supernatural intersect, the possibility of ghost sightings in the oldest part of Manila is real. It attracts ghosts and ghost hunters in search of kapres, white ladies, demonic spirits, and other entities. In the dying days of World War II, Japanese soldiers reportedly massacred men, women and children in Baluarte de Dilao.

Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte de San Diego, known as the break-up park for being the site where many a relationship met their demise, is where a crying White Lady often makes appearances.

Manila Cathedral

The Aduana (Customs House) Building, which housed several government offices, is the most haunted building in Intramuros. Many people believe its demonic entities takes lives.  At Plaza Mexico, there have been sightings of reapers, or hooded figures who chase after wandering spirits. Many of the retail and commercial spaces along the wall of Puerta de Sta. Isabel have now been abandoned, supposedly because of numerous reports of hauntings. An ordinary-looking tree, along Arzobispo Street, has earned the gruesome nickname the Suicide Tree after a student, supposedly from Mapua Institute of Technology, killed herself by hanging.  Headless priests supposedly make regular appearances at the Manila Cathedral.

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago, where National Hero Jose Rizal was jailed, was used by the Japanese as a prison and torture chamber during World War II.  It is imprinted with the agony and sufferings of its many prisoners and is now also extremely haunted with ghosts of prisoners who drowned in its underground dungeons.

Check out “RevisitingFort Santiago

Calauit Safari Park (Busuanga, Palawan)

Calauit Safari Park

Part of the Sophia’s Garden Resort-sponsored tour

We all woke up 4 AM early in the morning as we were to slated to experience one of Coron’s as well as the country’s popular eco-tourism attractions – the 3,760-hectare Calauit Safari Park. Formerly known as Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, it would be the closest we would get to an African safari.

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Malecachiao Pier

It was still raining when we all boarded our van (4:30 AM) for our 2-hour drive to Macalachao Pier in Salvacion, Busuanga, arriving there by 6:30 AM.  The pier has a souvenir shop selling really beautiful Calauit T-shirts. Here, we all had our packed breakfast before proceeding on our short, 10-minute motorized boat ride to Calauit Island.

Boat ride to Calauit Island

This would be my second visit to this island, the first happening nearly 25 years ago (February 25, 1995 to be exact) with my mother and sister Tellie.  We went there all the way by a motorized outrigger boat from Club Paradise Resort in Dimakya Island.

Calauit Island

Making landfall at Calauit Island

Located just off Busuanga Island’s northwestern coast, this park was established on August 21, 1976 by Presidential Proclamation 1578 issued by the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and opened to tourists since 1985.  To transform it into a savanna, the island residents were relocated and its bamboo forests were cleared to provide a suitable environment for the animals.

Information Center

Park rates

Upon arrival, we were all requested to sign up on the registration area of the Information Center and, from here, we walked a short distance (the tour truck, the park’s safari vehicle, wasn’t available), accompanied by our local guide Orlando “Orlan” Cruz, to where the animals grazed.  It had stopped raining by then.

Briefing with guide Orlando “Orlan” Cruz (right)

At the time of my 1995 visit, the park still had 8 species of herbivores from northern Kenya (Africa) comprising 43 Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), 78 Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) and 6 types of antelopes –  155 Impala (Aepyceros melampus), two Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii), 122 Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), 50 Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx), 14 Topi (Damaliscus lunatus jimela) and 16 Bushbucks (Tragelaphus sylvaticus).

A pair of Gervy’s Zebras

Since my first visit, the original individuals imported from Africa have all died, leaving behind only the offspring of the Reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, waterbucks and common elands (the Thompson gazelles, bushbucks  topis and impalas have all died because of infighting and poaching), which were all born in Calauit.

A small herd of Reticulated Giraffe

Of the remaining four species, we only spotted some the 24 zebras and the 32 giraffes (the 14 waterbucks and elands are shy and prefer to distance themselves from tourists).  The giraffes, captivating us with their magnificent colors, stood tall in full regal and charm while the zebras, with their black and white stripes, looked so classic.

Celine and Gabrielle bonding with a giraffe at the Feeding Station

The highlight of the tour was the Feeding Station.  Here, within an enclosed pen, we got to feed the giraffes with leaves from the bakawang gubat or malwandit (Carallia borneensis) provided by Orlan and got up close to them, something I wasn’t allowed to do during my first visit.

The author up close and personal with a giraffe

This was my first time close encounter with this graceful and beautiful animal, among the iconic and the tallest land animal in the world. The giraffes have names such as Isabel (the biggest giraffe of the lot), Miller, Terrence and Mylene, all named after their sponsors.

Calamian Deer

Though the giraffes and zebras are the crowd favorites, there were other animals in the sanctuary too. We also saw local, critically-endangered Calamian Deer (Hyelaphus calamianensis) grazing with the giraffes and zebras.

Palawan Bearded Pig

Philippine Porcupine

We also observed, in their pens, pools and cages in the mini zoo, the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) , the Philippine porcupine (Hystrix pumila) , freshwater turtles, reticulated python, leopard cats, the Palawan bearded pig (Sus ahoenobarbus) and the Philippine macaque.

The author besides a camouflage tree

There was also a tree they called the camouflage tree because it looks like the camouflage uniform of servicemen.

Philippine Freshwater Crocodile

Leopard Cat

Today, the park now faces a number of challenges. The number of workers in the park has dwindled from 300 to 30 dues to budget cuts. The former inhabitants (mostly from tribes of Tagbanwas) of the peninsula who were relocated decades ago are returning via the Balik-Calauit movement. Currently, The provincial government is still reaching out to settle the disputes between the locals and the authorities in the park.

A pair of freshwater turtles

Philippine Macaque

Reticulated Python

Calauit Safari Park: Brgy. Salvacion, Busuanga.  Mobile number: (0926) 114-4443 (Mr. Froilan Sariego – park manager). Admission: PhP200 (Filipinos) and PhP400 (foreigners).  Use of tour truck: PhP1,000/2 hours (divided by how many you are in the group, maximum capacity is 20 pax). Feeding time of the giraffes is from 7 -9:30 AM. The Calauit Office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and all tours desired to be taken from Saturday to Monday mornings should be reserved by Friday afternoon. All reservations received later than Friday afternoon will be confirmed Monday morning at 10 AM.

Sophia’s Garden Resort: 5 Dinagpan Rd., Sitio Jolo, Brgy. Poblacion 5, Governor’s Dr., Coron, 5316 Palawan. Tel: (048) 723-1871.  Mobile numbers: (0917) 543-5775 and (0939) 915-0274. E-mail: sophiasgardenresort@gmail.com. Website: www.sophiasgardenresort.com. You can also follow them on Facebook: Sophia’s Garden Resort

Virgin Island (Panglao, Bohol)

Virgin Island

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The next day, after a buffet breakfast at the resort’s Aplaya Restaurant, we boarded a motorized outrigger boat just off the beach from the resort for our half-day, two island (Virgin Island and Balicasag Island) hopping tour.

Making landfall

A 15-20 minute boat ride brought us to Virgin Island, a 1-hectare (during low tide) stretch of white sandbar with small patches of mangroves, grass and coconut trees and surrounded by clear, shallow (the water is only up to your shins) waters and sea grass.  Walking to its far end, you will find lots and lots of red and blue starfish.

The author at Virgin Island.  Behind are makeshift stalls

Virgin Island turned out to be a “tourist trap” as a number of makeshift stalls have been set up there, selling pricey sea food such as fresh, edible abalone, soft and crunchy sea cucumber, tuna and sea urchins (swaki) as well as buko (coconut) drinks, banana-Q, fish ball, squid ball and snacks. Jewelry hawkers, who follow you around (they can’t seem to take “no” for an answer), also sell pearls (in its natural state or mounted as earrings, bracelets or necklaces).

The crystal-clear, shallow waters

Our tour boat only allowed us 15-20 minutes of stay before we headed to our next destination. It is best to go here early in the morning, tide permitting, as it can be a little too hot when the sun is already shining so bright.  Bring sunblock lotion.

An isolated patch of mangroves …….

There are no nipa huts or umbrella shades on the island. The island is not really a snorkeling spot of note. The sea grass beds only have a few shoals of very small fish but off the beds are loads of jack fish.

A piece of driftwood

Across the island is Isola di Francesco (“Island of St. Francis”) on Pungtud (or Pontod) Island. Owned by Mr. Ramon Rodriguez, a devotee of Italian Capuchin monk St. Pio (Francesco Forgione) of Pietrelcina, it has a chapel, a visitor’s center, a mini museum (filled with photos of the Francescan friars), a few restrooms, water tanks, guest houses and several religious sculptures of angels, cherubs, and the Holy Family. It is not often included in the island hopping packages.

Isola de Francesco

There’s nothing much you can do here except for a short photo ops and taking selfies. They should change the name of this Island. Not a virgin at all.  Like many beautiful spots on the Earth, this island has been ruined for commercial reasons but, minus the flocks of tourists, parked boats and the makeshift stalls, the island could be a great place to just sit and relax and enjoy the solitude.

A solitary mangrove……..

Island Hopping Rates (boat rental only): PhP2,300 (1-4 pax) and PhP2,750 (5-10 pax).

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Balilihan, Bohol)

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The town’s previous church, built with tabique and nipa after the 1863 typhoon, was renovated in 1889 but burned, together with the convent, the municipio (municipal building), the school building for boys and girls as well as private houses, by the Americans on November 12, 1900 even when all the town’s officials, led by Capitan Antonio Racho, came out to meet the soldiers with a brass band.  Only the separate, hilltop bell tower was spared.

The left side of the church

The present church, built in the early 20th century with poured concrete, has a cruciform plan with a squat octagonal cupola..  It has a nave divided into three aisles, and a portico, with a central bell tower, in front of the façade.

The portico with the bell tower above it

The church’s original three-storey square bell tower, on Mt. Carmel Hill overlooking the plaza, can be reached by climbing 104 concrete steps.

The 104 concrete steps leading up Mt. Carmel Hill

It was started in 1835 by Augustinian Recollect Fr. Antonio Cortes using cut coral stones gathered in Baclayon, and inaugurated in 1846.

The restored coral stone bell tower

Over time, exposure to the elements slowly eroded the surface of the belfry. A not-so-faithful restoration was done on the structure, its surface patched with irregularly cut stones, put in place with cement.

Bas relief at tower wall

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake of October 15, 2013, totally toppled the restored structure.   It has since been faithfully reconstructed with the help of the National Museum.

The tower entrance

Its hip roof, with wide overhangs, is supported by carved corbels. The tower’s arched openings are decorated by scroll work and floral designs. Its bells have been removed and installed in the bell tower in front of the church at the foot of the hill.

The church interior with ceiling paintings by Ray Francia

Inside the church are ceiling murals of representations of Heaven, the Sacraments, saints and holy scenes, some done by Cebuano artist Ray Francia (the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”).

The choir loft area

The altars combine Corinthian columns, Neo-Gothic spires and crockets, Baroque volutes and Art Deco open work.

The main altar area

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Balilihan-Sikatuna Provincial Rd., Balilihan 6342, Bohol.  Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: July 16.

How to Get There: Balilihan is located 21.5 kms. (a 30-min. drive) northeast of Tagbilaran City (through CPG North Ave.) and 19.7 kms. northeast via Corella (through J.A. Clarin St.).

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Ermita Ruins (Dimiao, Bohol)

The Ermita Ruins

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The 1,000 sq. m. ruins of the Spanish-era Ermita (Spanish for “church” or “hermitage”), situated parallel to the nave of the Church of St. Nicholas Tolentine, are the ruins of a coralline limestone structure built between 1800 and 1815 by Fr. Enrique de Santo de Villanueva. During the Spanish period, people were not allowed to hold wakes in their houses so they took their dead to Ermita instead.

It was allegedly used as a military fortress, a chapel and a burial site for members of the Spanish clergy. In 1844, due to its proximity to the church (which was deemed unhealthy), the cemetery was closed by Fr. Manuel Carasusan

In 1995 and 1998, archaeological excavations were done by the National Museum in a quest to uncover its mysterious past. At this burial site, the researchers discovered skeletons buried facing east, not properly arranged but just laid on top of each other (suggesting there was a mass burial), and human teeth remains (showing a tooth-filing tradition), suggesting a functioning cemetery.

However, they were surprised at not finding any remains in the small ossuaries or bone niches because these were considered “secondary” burial sites, which could be a carryover from the ancient Boholano practice of secondary burial. The bones found during excavation were transferred to the municipal cemetery. Every November 1 (All Saints Day), a mass is held inside Ermita Ruins for the souls of those buried there.

Ruins of the small church

On July 30, 2011, the St. Nicolas of Tolentine Church Complex, including Ermita Ruins, was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.

A honeycomb of burial niches

Closely resembling Paco Cemetery, its surrounding semicircular wall has at least 700 empty tombs arranged like a honeycomb, making it the only structure unique to the Philippines. The ruin of a chapel stands at the center of the Ermita. In front of the chapel is a mound where the krus dako (big wooden cross) was displayed.

The mound where the krus dako was displayed

Ermita Ruins: St. Nicolas of Tolentine Church Complex, Dimiao, Bohol.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine (Dimiao, Bohol)

 

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

One of the churches severely damaged during the October 15, 2013 earthquake was the Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in Dimiao.  The ceiling of the church received heavy cracks, the walls of both the left and right wings of the transept cracked open, and large portions of the outer stone finishes in various areas of the church exterior fell down.

As of early 2014, the structure, though still standing, was deemed unsafe to enter. Only priests and church convent authorities were allowed to enter the church. As of this writing, the church is being repaired, with scaffolding installed throughout the exterior and interior. We were allowed to enter the church.

The painted ceiling

 

The town’s present magnificent church, one of the oldest in the province, was built from 1800 to 1815 by Fr. Enrique de Santo Tomas de Villanueva with cut stone blocks. On  July 30, 2011, the church complex, including the Ermita Ruins, were declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum due to its outstanding historical, aesthetic, social and architectural significance.

Check out “Ermita Ruins

The church has a cruciform plan with an atypically short transept. The church is the only other Spanish-era church, aside from Loon,  that was not originally built with a portico

Its powerful Early Renaissance façade, with subtle hints of baroque and Muslim influence, is divided into segments by square pilasters ornamented with a shallow octagonal relief of fine floral carvings arranged as vertical bands.  On the lower level is a semicircular main entrance (above which is the Spanish coat-of-arms) flanked by blind windows.

On the second level is a statued niche of San Nicolas Tolentino topped by a small pediment and flanked by semicircular windows.

The octagonal bell tower

The steep stone stairway leading up to the right bell tower

On the church’s flanks are two minaret-like octagonal bell towers with seven bells, the earliest dating from 1841.  The tower on the right is accessible by a steep stone staircase followed by a wooden one.

The main altar retablo

Inside are three Neo-Classical retablos, a pulpit with wrought iron banister and a spacious sacristy and choir loft.

The pulpit with wrought iron bannister

The convent, now a school behind the church,  was constructed by Fr. Manuel Carasusan (1842 to 1855 and 1858 to 1864).  Part of its ground floor has a small parish museum. It is linked to the church sacristy by a bridge-like corridor.

Left side retablo

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: Poblacion, 6305 Dimiao. Tel: (038) 536-1009. Feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: September 10.

How to Get There: Dimiao is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) east of Tagbilaran City.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail: inquire@boholtourismph.com.

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.