Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pampanga’s Bests: Clark, Christmas and Foods

The newly-launched Davao-Clark flights of Air Asia and Philippine Airlines gave Davaoeños fresher opportunities of exploring the province of Pampanga and other nearby areas in Northern Luzon. This might be a jerk of decongesting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila and somehow intensified connectivity of the Mindanao-Luzon market. As a gateway to Northern Luzon, Pampanga has been considered lately as the next hub for industrialization, commercialization and tourism.

In a span of one month I was able to participate two major tourism events in Pampanga. The first one was the NorthPhil Expo held in SM Clark on November 18-20 and the other one was the Training Course on Tourism Marketing and Regional Branding as spearheaded by the Tourism Promotions Board and University of the Philippines-Asian Institute of Tourism in Quest Hotel, Clark. As a perk of the events I availed of free tours in key Luzon destinations such as Mt. Pinatubo and Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue. Other than these two main attractions I also explored Pampanga in my latest trip two weeks ago.

Staying in Pampanga for a week or more can be an earnest option for travellers who love culture and culinary. Angeles City, the capital of Pampanga, caters to a wider ranges of audience being the commercial centre that serves as gateway to other destinations.

There are three interesting things in Pampanga that impresses me much namely: Clark, Christmas and Foods. The Clark Freeport Zone is for me an excellent example of an independent commercial zone that provides Clark with economic opportunities. The entire Freeport zone is employing more or less 10,000 people with all the present investment areas locating in the place like commercial establishments, BPOs, tourism-related businesses, among others. The actual physical perspective of Clark is patterned after an American setting because the place was an airbase of the United States Military during the American regime. Clark is an epitome of better urban planning and the rest of those developing provinces in the country should look at Clark as a benchmark to follow and emulate.

Meanwhile, Pampanga has other definition of Christmas. On December 19 we travelled to the town of Magalang located more or less 40 kilometers from Clark to witness the famous Lubenas de Pasko. This is an occasion celebrated every December by the Cabalens as a strong manifestation of their belief of the birth of Christ. They have maintained this tradition which was started in the 18th century. A parade of star lanterns of different colors and sizes is being showcased in the event which is also associated with musical performances. The Cabalens value very much the crucial role of star guidance to their existence just like how the three wise men were guided by a star on their way to the birthplace of Christ. The entire perimeters of Magalang were surrounded with stars every Christmas which makes the town vivid and attractive. I was told by my colleagues that the City of Angeles also has the same celebration.

Lastly, the foods of Pampanga represents very well with the character of excellent Filipino culinary creativity. Being confined to Quest Hotel’s ration for three days I have lesser appreciation of the foods they served, not until I was able to go out and tasted the best Pampanga delicacies. First were the local kakanins served to us in Magalang, the appetizing Puto Bumbong and Hot Tsokolate. I guess there was a secret ingredient to the concoction which the Cabalens only know, making it very distinct and palatable. I also visited one of the best restaurants in Clark that offered authentic Kapampangan Cuisine, the Matam-ih Restaurant.

Our gastronomic experience in Pampanga was rounded off with a sumptuous dinner in Mila’s Restaurant, considered to be the most popular restaurant in Angeles City. In Mila’s we were treated with specialty food items such as tokwa’t baboy, fern salad mixed with salted egg, tocino barbecue and the mouth-watering pork sisig. We were also warmly accommodated by the owner Aling Mila herself who is very much hands on with the daily chores in the restaurant.

I will definitely go back to Pampanga sooner than later and with the current flights from Davao to Clark there can be no stopping me to explore other destinations in Luzon and have all my bucket list checked.

7-Eleven Run 2018 Davao Leg slated

By Julius R. Paner

All preparations are well underway for the Davao leg of 7-Eleven Run 2018 slated on February 4, 2018. Organizers expect to generate 8,000 runners in Davao City in seven categories namely: 3K, 5K, 10K Individual, 10K Buddy Run, 16K, 21K and 42K.

In a media launch conducted on December 27 at Sumho Asia Hotel, Neville Manaois of 7-Eleven said the Run 2018 promises to be bigger and more exciting race since it will be a simultaneous run with Cebu and Manila. The total expected participants nationwide is 32,000 runners.

Registration fee is pegged at 500 for 3K, 600 for 5K, 600 for 10K each for Buddy Run, 700 for 10K Individual, 800 for 16K, 1,000 for 21K and 1,500 for 42K. All registered participants will receive race bibs, event jerseys, finisher tshirts, finisher medals, freebies and other giveaways.

Top 3 finishers for each category will receive cash prizes for male and female and the top 3 overall Filipino male and female finishers will join an all-expense paid international marathon in Asia to be scheduled soon.

The race course will start out and back at SM City Ecoland Grounds. The 42K and 21K courses will feature major streets in Davao City using the loop of Quimpo Boulevard, Quirino Avenue, JP Laurel, Lanang, Sasa, Panacan, Diversion Road, Maa and Matina Pange.

A cut-off time will be strictly enforced re; 7 hours for 42K, 4 hours for 21K, 3 hours for 16K, 2 hours for 10K and 1 hour for 5Kand 3K categories. The race will be technically handled by Mr. Tomas Tan of SunRun Davao.

Online registration can be done through the official event website 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Ifugaos in Cordillera and the world renowned Rice Terraces

An exciting finale of my training in Clark, Pampanga on Tourism Marketing and Regional Branding was provided by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) with a trip to Northern Luzon featuring the world class rice terraces in Batad, municipality of Banaue. I was with my fellow tourism officers in that long 8-hour travel that started in the evening of December 13 and we arrived in our transient hotel in Banaue at around 7:00 in the morning on December 14.

Our itinerary was focused of an immersion tour in Batad, which is considered as an excellent introduction to the colourful culture and tradition of the Ifugaos in this part of the Philippine archipelago. A warm Ifugaonon welcome awaits, and the scenery of Batad Rice Terraces communicated us to an ultimately different setting made up of heritage, adrenalin and cultural diversity.

From Banaue Hotel we travelled to Batad for 1 hour. The TPB has made all the arrangement for us onward to making the tour very favourable to us. After a short hike we arrived in Batad and from there we were oriented on the significant lifestyles of the Ifugaos. The briefing area happens to be a vantage point to the rice terraces which struck us all with its grandeur. Although our visit was not the best of time because the multi-layered terraces were all empty and no rice as of yet as they just ended the harvesting season last November. I was informed by a resident in Batad that the palays harvested from the terraces are purely for home consumption only and not for selling purposes. They hardly earned enough from it especially since the farm partitions are owned individually by the locals which they acquired from their descendants.  

To some interesting context I was able to realize the hardships of the Ifugaos when they built the rice terraces some 2,000 years ago. By just merely looking at the structures you will learn that the ifugaos have exhibited the highest degree of initiatives and hard work given with barely nothing in terms of logistics and other resources.

After communing with the locals we trekked down to another fascinating Tapia Waterfalls located more or less 3 kilometers west of Batad. The waterfalls formed part of the adrenalin loop tour of Banaue. The vertical drop of the waterfalls is tall, with a fertile and green backdrop which reminded me of our very own Tudaya Falls. The waters coming from Tapia river is very cool, complimenting the already-cold weather of Batad all year round.

Batad is arguably one of the best destinations in the country. With the romantic cultural features of the Ifugao, the richness of its architectural heritage and the warmth of its community, it is easy to end up spending more than a day in Batad. The place might have adopted modern amenities due to the needs of the times but somehow it has not lost its charisma. The rice terraces, which is the central feature of Batad, serves as a living link to the adverse past of the Ifugaos to the contemporary period of hashtags and millennialism.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Running the scenic Halong Bay in Vietnam

I have not been able to appreciate running in open pavement for quite a while since I was introduced to trail running five years ago. The road running experience I had lately in Vietnam, however, gave me a different perception of racing through the pavement when I participated the Halong Bay Heritage Marathon on November 25, 2017. I took the 42K category and you might not deem it factual but believe me, it was only the second time I ran a full marathon in the road after the 2011 version of Phoenix Marathon in Davao City.

The Halong Bay Heritage Marathon (HBHM) is one of Vietnam’s most prized foot races where the beautiful scenery of Halong Bay was showcased. The whole course was relatively flat and all runners were treated with some dose of panoramic backdrop. The last week of November signals the start of winter in Vietnam and was perhaps one of the reasons why I succumbed to physical glitch especially in the last 15 kilometers of the race. Somehow, the beautiful view of Halong Bay gave me a bit of relief.

Meanwhile, Halong Bay is worth a destination everybody should visit. Located in the north-east region of Vietnam, it is an attractive open sea scape consistently speckled with mixes of small, medium and big rock formations. The bigger ones have formed into majestic islets while the smaller structures are like milky ways embedded opposite the clear waters of Halong. The UNESCO has not left Halong Bay unnoticed as it was declared one of its World Heritage Sites.

With the very tight schedule I had in Vietnam, I was able to visit few but interesting sites in Halong with my running buddy Oliver Enot. Just beside the starting line we dropped by Bao Tang Quang Ninh Museum, a modern structure in Halong Bay where numerous combat weaponries are exhibited. Of course, who could forget the costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its Southern allies including the United States of America in the 1970s.

The cityscape of Halong is also very colourful especially in the evening as highlighted by the dancing lights of Bai Chay Bridge. From Wyndham Hotel where we stayed for two nights Bai Chay bridge is very visible. And then we visited Halong’s wet and dry market where we bought some souvenir items.

After a few walk through the city streets and hard 42K running I considered Vietnam as another worthy overseas destination. Once again I am gratified by the help of a very good friend Pin for giving me this chance to do the things I love doing – travelling, running and taking pictures. The success of this trip is being offered to you in compliment to your kindness throughout the decade of knowing you as a very generous person.