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philippines

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Date: 17th April 2011

Technically yesterday was day one in Philippines, but today was when I would officially begin my sightseeing.  After a good hearty sleep, I woke up in time for breakfast at Kabayan (they start serving really early).

Kabayan hotel Pasay reception Manila Philippines
The reception
Kabayan hotel Pasay Pinoy Star cafe Manila
Where they serve breakfast and lunch

The breakfast and lunch isn’t your usual buffet offering. You queue up and get served your choice of dishes. No seconds.

Kabayan hotel Pasay breakfast Manila Philippines
Still, they give you a mouthful

It was enough to kick-start my day.

Filipino animal expert TV show Kabayan hotel
Although, I went back to my room and ended up watching TV for some time. This Filipino Steve Irwin was showcasing the natural wonders of Palawan, a place I was going to. So I considered it 'research' (even though he spoke mostly Tagalog).

As per my trip itinerary, I was going to be leaving Manila tonight for Banaue, but thanks to Aimee who already bought the bus ticket for me, it freed me up today to go see the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial — which wasn’t far from where I was staying.

I had to check out by noon — and I duly did so by noon. I kept my luggage at the reception and told them I would collect it in the evening. Since it was already 12pm, I had lunch from Kabayan before leaving.

Kabayan hotel pasay lunch Manila Philippines
My first taste of Filipino cuisine. First impression: dry. Not a whole lot of varied flavour. Unlike Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I guess curry isn't common here. I only had chicken stock to flavour the hard sticky rice.

Done with lunch, I made my way to a very busy Pasay MRT station. Bought myself a one way ticket to Ayala station (as that’s where Aimee told me I needed to go first).

Pasay MRT terminal Manila Philippines
Ticket cost ₱10
Ayala MRT station Manila
It was a short 5 minute ride to Ayala
SM Glorietta mall Ascott Taguig city Manila
This stop is is a popular shopping hub because of SM and the Glorietta malls here

I also saw a Convergys office here, not that I was surprised to know big Indian BPOs have offices here in the Philippines.

Manila Taguig city road
I took a taxi because the cemetery was to be a short drive from here

But the taxi driver in his broken English started hinting as though he had no idea about the cemetery, its existence or how to get there — which I knew was just an act. The cemetery is quite famous and located in the posh Fort Bonifacio area in Taguig. Plus, its freaking huge!

Manila Taguig city office buildings
I was getting a little irritated by the taxi driver as we were slowly driving around business parks with the cemetery nowhere in sight

Fortunately, there was a traffic policeman up ahead and I forced him to stop so that I could ask the officer as to how to get to the cemetery. The officer gave the taxi driver instructions and I could see a smile on the driver’s face as if he was thinking “yeah, yeah, I know where it is. Fine, I’ll take him there!”

A few minutes later, I arrived at the cemetery. The fare: ₱135 ($3/€2.2). Way too much!

Manila American war cemetery entrance gates
Anyway... phone camera in, time for the DSLR to begin its usage

There isn’t an entry fee for the memorial. The security guard only asked me to sign my name in and advised me not to step on the grass or walk through the first two lanes (don’t know why).

Manila American War Cemetery and memorial view from entrance
Didn't look like there were many people inside

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial lawn

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial left trees
Stuck to the left side
Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial big tree
With over 17,000 graves, this is the largest war cemetery outside the United States

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial left roadManila American War Cemetery tree no leavesManila American War Cemetery Memorial graves panoramaManila American War Cemetery Memorial graves tree panorama

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial tombstones Taguig panorama
I shot a lot of panoramas because there was no other way I could capture the scale of the cemetery

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial global city Manila American War Cemetary War Memorial tree shadowManila American War Cemetery and Memorial BGC

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial plaza
The Memorial Plaza

Manila American War Cemetary War & Memorial thousands of graves

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial fountain caretaker
I didn't seem many workers here
Manila American War Cemetery & Memorial airplane flying over
I could see the cemetery from the sky just as I was about land yesterday
Manila American War Cemetery Memorial Jewish tombstone
You find the occasional Jew among the crosses
Manila American War Cemetery Memorial tombstone hill
This cemetery is a symmetrical haven
Manila American War Cemetery war Memorial tombstones wide panorama
(Panorama comprised of 12 shots)
Manila American War Cemetery war memorial uncut trees
I like how they decided not to cut some trees

Manila American War Cemetery War memorial tree among graves

Manila American War Cemetery War Memorial white tombstones wide panorama
Panorama comprised of 11 shots

Manila American War Cemetery & memorial graves trees

Manila American War Cemetery war memorial white tombstones wide angle panorama
Panorama comprised of 13 shots

Manila American War cemetery memorial graves apartments

Manila American War Cemetery memorial chapel panorama
Back of the Memorial Plaza chapel

Manila American War Cemetery war memorial sparrow

Manila American War cemetery & memorial afternoon
I took a break from the circle and decided to check out the Memorial plaza

Manila American War Cemetery war Memorial chapel plaza panorama

Manila American War cemetery & memorial chapel front
The chapel

Manila American War Cemetery Memorial chapel sculpture Manila American war cemetery memorial chapel tile artManila American War cemetery memorial chapel mural
Manila American War cemetery memorial chapel inside

I wrote a note in the visitor’s book they have inside the chapel and left.

Manila American War cemetery memorial plaza flag mast panoramaManila American War cemetery memorial plaza hallsManila American War cemetery memorial messageManila American War cemetary memorial plaza entrance panorama

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza battles
The battles these soldiers fought are all showcased here
Manila American war cemetery memorial pacific battles
Mostly World War II and the other Pacific battles America fought in
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers names on walls
The names of the 17,000 plus soldiers buried here are engraved on these walls
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Filipino soldiers names
I couldn't help but notice there were a lot of Filipino names on the walls too
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza filipino soldiers
Ah, that explains it. I was under the impression only American soldiers were buried here.

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers medal of honorManila American war cemetary memorial plaza soldiers flagManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Colorado seal

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Idaho seal
The have the respective state seal corresponding to the walls with the soldiers from the same state

Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza Illinois sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza soldiers names wallsManila American war cemetery memorial world war 2 battlesManila American war cemetery memorial pacific strategyManila American war cemetery memorial hall sunlight

Manila American war cemetery memorial gardener
Lone worker

Manila American war cemetery war memorial plaza halls leftManila American war cemetery memorial plaza war historyManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Washington sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Virginia sealManila American war cemetery memorial plaza names on wallsManila American war cemetery memorial plaza benchManila American war cemetery war memorial garden trees panoramaManila American war cemetery memorial plaza Guinea battleManila American war cemetery memorial plaza lawnManila American war cemetery memorial plaza veterans

Manila American war cemetery memorial road
I left the Memorial Plaza

Manila American war cemetery memorial plane flying over

Manila American war cemetery memorial sparrows
Took the 70-200mm lens out for this shot

Manila American war cemetery memorial sparrow tombstone Manila American war cemetery memorial tombstones in line

Manila American war cemetery war memorial crosses
Even though it was scorching hot, I chose to come at this time for the lighting: I wanted shadows
Manila American war cemetery memorial road panorama
Panorama comprised of 10 shots
Manila American War cemetery memorial jeep
You can bring your vehicle inside if all you want is drive through

Manila American war cemetery memorial cross starManila American war cemetery war memorial water

Manila American war cemetery memorial water evaporating
You can't really see it but the water was evaporating as soon as it hot the hot tarmac

Manila American war cemetery memorial lawn sprinkler Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza lawnManila American war cemetery memorial plaza steps flagsManila American war cemetery memorial sprinklersManila American war cemetery memorial soldier name engravedManila American war cemetery memorial crosses side

Manila American war cemetery war memorial section panorama
Larger the panoramas, the smaller the crops when making it fit on my website
Manila American war cemetery war memorial section panorama
This and the above photo was one composition that had to be cut into two. It was fun to pan through the original full size panorama though.

Manila American war cemetery memorial road gravesManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow lawnManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow on tombstoneManila American cemetery memorial sparrow on crossManila American war cemetery memorial sparrow graves

Manila American war cemetery war memorial tombstones black & white
Had to try black & white
Manila American war cemetery memorial graves black & white
Added a bit of grain to this one

Manila American war cemetery memorial jewish soldier

Manila American war cemetery memorial lawn graves
It was time to leave
Manila American war cemetery memorial medal of honor tombstone
A recipient of the Medal of Honor
Manila American war cemetery memorial road panorama
All the new construction around Fort Bonifacio (Panorama comprised of 10 shots)

Manila American war cemetery memorial yellow leaves

Manila American war cemetery war memorial tombstones hill road
Took this on the Canon 450D, which I was also carrying
Manila American war cemetery memorial BGC buildings panorama
Panorama comprised of 14 shots
Manila American war cemetery memorial rainbow sprinklers
Cool huh?
Manila American war cemetery memorial plaza view panorama
I walked back to the Memorial Plaza for one final look

Manila American war cemetery memorial message

View from memorial plaza panorama
From a little higher up

Manila American war cemetery memorial big tree shadow

Manila American war cemetery memorial crosses shadows
After 3 hours of sweating it out in the hot sun, I finally walked towards the gates
Manila American war cemetery memorial white lines
I felt satisfied with the photographs I took today. A good start to this trip.

Manila American war cemetery memorial visitors building

American Battle Monuments Commission Manila cemetery memorial info
The memorial is maintained by a US government agency

I went inside the visitor’s lounge and stayed for a few minutes. Not that they had anything to see inside, but the room had air-conditioning and a water cooler. The retired American army colonel who manages the place smiled at me as he walked into his office and said: “Enjoy it”.

Enjoy it I did 🙂

Feeling a bit cooler, I left the memorial. The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is one among the few attractions in Manila worth seeing. You may not want to spend 3 hours here, that too in this heat, but I found it peaceful and a calm place for a bit of photography. Of course, do keep in mind this is still a cemetery honouring soldiers and not your usual family picnic park. So do show some respect for the dead once inside.

Bonifacio Global City Taguig Manila
I took a taxi back to Ayala station

The taxi ride was through McKinley Road, and I quickly realized how posh this area was. The taxi driver told me very rich people live on McKinley Hill.

McKinley hill road to Ayala Manila Philippines
Passed a few highly fortified houses, which usually implies bureaucrats, individuals with questionable incomes sources and other high profile people live here
Ayala Malls McKinley road Manila
Unlike my rip-off taxi ride to the cemetery, the journey back was through the right path and it only cost ₱56
Glorietta malls Ayala Manila Philippines
Figuring I still had some time (and craving for some more air-conditioning), I checked out Glorietta Mall
Glorietta Ayala mall Marks & Spencer store Manila
This was the only photo I took from inside before the security man came over and told me photography is prohibited. Oh well.
SM Ayala taxi line Manila Philippines
I checked out a few floors and left soon after

I took the MRT back to Pasay, went back to Kabayan, freshened up, collected my bags and called Aimee. She asked me to come to Central station, where she would meet me there.

Once at Central, we took a taxi and went to Sampaloc, cost ₱70.

Cayco Street Espana blvd Sampaloc Philippines
We got down here

From there, it was a short walk to the Autobus office. I collected my ticket, paid Aimee back (₱450 for a one-way ticket to Banaue) and we sat a convenient store to chat for some time.

Aimee in front of Autobus station Manila
This is Aimee, and the Autobus office is in the background

I saw Aimee off and boarded my bus, a small one. I’ll talk about how the ride was in my next post but all in all, today was a good start. I had high hopes for the next few days.

Previous post:

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Final post)

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Planning a trip to the Philippines began with the most unlikeliest of inspirations — an e-mail forward from my father. Not even a good official one, but one of those e-mails that had numerous ‘fwd: FW: Fwd:’ before the actual subject line of ‘can you believe Philippines has such beauty?!’ followed by numerous exclamation marks.

I usually disregard the images I find in such e-mails as they’re usually not from the country they claim to be but upon checking up some of the names of the places they showcased, I was quite surprised about how little I knew of their existence!

It dawned to me I knew very little about Philippines, this despite having grown up in the Middle East where (just like Indians) millions of them come to work. As a kid, all I knew about Filipinos is that a lot of them work in fast food joints or play in a band — and they don’t have the letter ‘F’ in their vocabulary. So I would often hear “500 pils” instead of “500 fils” when asked for change.

I learnt of Banaue and its famous rice terraces, the beautiful beaches of Boracay and Palawan, but the place that made me wish I was there was the remote island of Batanes. It was then, early 2010, I decided to consider making a trip to Philippines.

It was quite challenge really, because trying to study the geography of Philippines wasn’t easy.

Philippines country regions provinces map
(Image source: Wikipedia)

Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. Sure, many of those thousands are really tiny to even identify on a map but still, getting around the country isn’t easy. It requires some learning beforehand. Since it’s not a landlocked country like most of Thailand, you have to commute via road, ferry, and airlines just to get to certain places within the country.

I initially thought of clubbing Philippines & Thailand last year but it was proving to be quite expensive. So I decided to give Philippines it’s own time.

That time was early this year, when things weren’t looking too good at my workplace. We all knew what was coming our way with the fate of the office and so, instead of prepping up my resume and looking for another job, I researched more on Philippines instead 🙂 When things became official in March and we all knew we were going to be laid off, I booked my tickets!

I tried Air Asia first but at around INR19k, it wasn’t as cheap as I thought it would be. Plus the timings were inconvenient. I land late at night and my connecting flight would have been at 7am the next morning. No way I was going to spend that long at KL LCCT! So I checked all the usual Indian travel websites and got the best deal from Travelocity for a Malaysia Airlines flight at Rs. 26,153 ($584/€411) return. Yes, it was more than Air Asia, but it was going to be convenient, so I didn’t mind paying a bit extra for that. Also, I would get proper meals, land at KLIA and not the present warehousebudget terminal. More importantly, the time I had to wait for my connecting flight was lesser.

Philippines Airlines had just launched their direct flight service to New Delhi (only), but it was quite expensive, so flying the Philippines national carrier was not a possibility.

Next came the visa. When I researched on the tourist visa, I was happy to find out Philippines offer a 21-day visa-on-arrival for a 147 nations! Great, I thought… until I scanned down the list and couldn’t find India one among those 147 countries -_-

So I ended up at the website of the Philippines embassy in New Delhi and found out I have to pay Rs. 2320 for a tourist visa (and for just 21 days). Since I couldn’t fly to Delhi just to get a visa, I had to get it done through an agent. Some agents wouldn’t even do it, and one moron even asked for Rs. 10,000 as service charges! But I walked into the nearby Thomas cook office in Koramangala (inside Raheja Arcade) and got my visa processed by paying their Rs. 1000 service charge. At Rs. 3320, this was the most I had spent on a South East Asian visa so far, and that too for a single entry visa. My multiple entry Singapore visa for 2 years cost just Rs. 1800 and my 1 year Malaysia visa cost just Rs. 1500. Thailand was free visa-on-arrival the two times I went.

My travel period was from 16th April to 4th May and I chose the dates keeping in mind the main focus of my trip was to photograph the Easter crucifixions in San Fernando. The rest of my itinerary would see me visit the largest American war cemetery outside of the United States, traverse throughout the Ifugao province for my fix of rice terrace farms, see coffins hung on hill sides, Cebu, see odd-shaped hills in Bohol and finally enjoy the natural beauty of Palawan island. I was looking for ‘interesting’ with this trip, so I ruled out Boracay — the nation’s most popular island destination, and the most touristy. Unfortunately, Batanes was out of this trip plan as well, simply because it was too expensive to even get there. No budget carrier (and Philippines has enough of them) flies to Batanes and even those that do only fly if they get enough passengers. Batanes is that remote an island.

As days passed by, I felt a bit nervous and kept having second thoughts about spending a lot of money during uncertain times. Sure, the Philippines currency value was the same as the Indian rupee, so that really helped! But still, here I was, going on vacation when all my colleagues were busy job hunting. Plus, I was going to be visiting a new country, one that like Thailand (to the eyes of the ignorant) has a sketchy reputation. I knew what I was going to see, and I was looking forward to see if they live up to the hype, but still…

One ray of hope that eased me up a bit came my way two weeks before my departure date when one of my readers left me a comment telling me how much she appreciated my website and that I “should visit the Philippines sometime!”

🙂

That blessing of a reader couldn’t have come at a better time and after we got in touch, she would be of great help to me, even helping me out with some bookings. I felt much better knowing I had a local contact, which always helps!

Leaving Bangalore airport Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur
Now I was ready to fly!
Malaysia Airlines seafood meal Bangalore flight
I had pre-booked a seafood meal for a change and while the tuna and veggies were good, I couldn't help but envy my co-passengers with their 'regular' meals enjoying their creamy desserts and chocolates when all I got was cold fruits. It's as though Malaysia gimped on the rest of the meal given how much fish costs. Sucks
Kuala Lumpur international airport tower Malaysia
Selamat pagi* Malaysia! (*Good morning)
Kuala Lumpur International Airport KLIA gates
I landed on time and took this around 7:45am
Kuala Lumpur International airport duty free liqour Malaysia
This was my first time in Kuala Lumpur International airport as last year I flew Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur airport KLIA Harrods store Malaysia
There's a mini-Harrods (Impressed with how sharp this photo came out)
Kuala Lumpur International Airport Cadbury store Malaysia
They have an exclusive Cadbury store here too
Kuala Lumpur International airport duty free Malaysia
I loitered around the Duty Free for a while

Post loitering, I found my gate and sat in front of it. I tried to catch some sleep but ended up going online to kill time for the next 4 hours.

KLIA grey skies Malaysia morning
It was grey skies even until noon in Sepang

I boarded my second Malaysia Airlines flight for this trip in the afternoon and I was now en route to Philippines.

Sepang city Malaysia flight aerial view takeoff
Selamat tinggal Malaysia!

Sepang city Malaysia flight aerial view from skyMalaysia flight aerial view farm fields

Leaving Malaysian shores aerial view flight
Leaving Malaysian shores...
South China sea spotted clouds blue water
... and flew over the South China Sea for the first time
South China sea cloud over islands
Which was a welcome pleasant change of scene for me

I took a break from staring outside my window to eat some peanuts.

Malaysia Airlines salted peanuts allergy information
Well... duh 🙂
South China sea small hilly island aerial
Back to staring out into the blue
South China sea islands aerial photograph
Beautiful
South China sea huge cloud over islands aerial photography
Awesome
Malaysia Airlines meal packaging Manila flight
Okay, break time. Lunch had arrived!
Malaysia Airlines seafood meal Manila flight
Seafood meal again. Tuna steak and veggies again. 'Regular' meals came with Cadbury chocolates besides pudding for dessert. I got dried raisins. Seriously -_-
South China sea line clouds aerial view island
Meal done, back to blue

South China sea spotted clouds from plane

South China sea oval island aerial photograph
Submerged?

South China sea ring island submerged aerial photograph

South China Sea boomerang island submerged aerial photograph
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this flight

South China sea small island submerged aerial photograph

South China sea moon afternoon aerial photograph
Hello moon...

It got cloudy after this, so I lowered the shades and caught up on some sleep.

South China sea mountains above clouds aerial photograph
Woke up an hour later to the announcement we were approaching Manila
Entering mainland Philippines shores aerial photograph
Hello Philippines

Philippines Central Luzon hills aerial photography Philippines Manila shores aerial photography

Philippines Manila aerial photography
Manila city
Manila port Philippines aerial photography
Manila port
Manila city evening aerial photograph
Metro Manila is the 8th most populous metro in Asia

Manila city from plane aerial photograph

Manila sunset from plane Philippines
It was nearing 5pm in Philippines
Manila Taguig city building construction Philippines
The flight was a bit early... which is never a bad thing (as long as the traffic control clears it)
About to land manila international airport
About to land

Landing Ninoy Aquino International Airport Manila Philippines

Landed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Manila Philippines
Ninoy Aquino International Airport

So after nearly a total of 8 hours of flying, I was finally in Philippines. Phew, long journey!

Arrival Ninoy Aquino International Airport Manila Philippines
How's the airport? Quite old and in much need for an upgrade. Well, at least Terminal I was in.

I got my passport stamped, got my bags rather quickly, converted some dollars and I was out in around 15 minutes. The first thing I wanted to do was get a local SIM and fortunately Globe was handing out free SIMs (though they were mostly for OFWs*).

I hired a pre-paid yellow taxi (which would later turn out to be a mistake) and asked him to take me to Kabayan Hotel in Pasay, which was close to the airport. I chose Kabayan as it was a popular recommendation online. Plus, I didn’t want to spend too much time in traffic just to get to touristy Makati.

But despite how close the hotel looked on the map from the airport, getting there still took nearly 45 minutes in evening traffic. It cost 250 pesos ($5/€4) which is far more than what I thought it would cost. Anyway, I went to the hotel reception, booked a single room for myself and checked in.

Kabayan Hotel single room Manila Philippines
My A/C single room, PHP950 per night ($22/€15)

Kabayan is pretty cool. They have rooms ranging from dorms all the way up to deluxe rooms and from prices starting as low PHP610, they are very popular. And get this, you get complimentary breakfast and lunch! They also have free wi-fi among other great amenities.

Kabayan hotel rooms Manila Philippines
The toilets and shower rooms are down the hall and in between (clean and well kept)

Oh by the way, they don’t use the word toilets much in Philippines, instead it’s ‘Comfort Rooms’ or ‘CR’ 🙂

I stepped out again because I needed to buy some credit for the Globe SIM so that I could inform my family of my safe arrival. Since I was out, I decided to grab dinner early. It soon struck me just how much fast food Filipinos eat. Mc Donalds and homegrown Jollibee was everywhere — and they both had multiple branches within meters of each other — and all of them were doing brisk buisness! As the fast food chains are too chicken to sell beef burgers here in India (due to religious politics), a good ol’ cheeseburger was what I was craving. I picked up a burger from Jollibee, a doughnut from 7-11 and some water.

The area I was in was quite a busy part of town as it was a major hub for transportation, so you get everything you need as far as convenience stores, supermarkets and eateries go. It’s also a very noisy area, mostly because of the jeepneys.

But Kabayan does a good job of cutting out the noise once you’re inside the hotel. I took a nice warm bath and then had my dinner. I called my aforementioned reader (whose name is Aimee) and we spoke for a while. She told me the pre-paid yellow taxi at the airport are priced way more than the usual taxis I could have gotten had I just walked a bit further out. Also, there were frequent airport buses that drop people to Pasay and back. Oh well, rookie mistake.

Kabayan hotel single pad LCD tv Manila Philippines
Unlike many hotels in this price range, Kabayan has a good selection of channels which even included Zee TV (the only Indian channel though)

Given that I hadn’t slept properly in nearly 24 hours, I called it an early night.

I couldn’t wait for tomorrow to begin!

——–

Please note: In this series of posts, I won’t be mentioning conversion rates for Indian rupees as both Philippines Peso (PHP/₱) and the Indian Rupee are more or less on a 1:1 value ratio. So Rs. 100 is like PHP98. Therefore only US dollar and Euro conversion rates will be mentioned.

*OFW = Overseas Filipino Workers; similar to NRI (Non-Resident Indian)

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Final post)

Two & half weeks in Philippines… a teaser

This past April, I embarked on another journey. Given the circumstances at office (which I’ll explain later), I decided to go somewhere ‘interesting’. This time, a country which upon researching last year, I realized offered so much more than I thought. I’ll go into the details as to why I took the plunge to go as far as Philippines when I begin this series 2 months from now, but until then, here a few of the 5000-plus photos I took from this 2 & 1/2 week long trip.

South China sea islands from plane
Flew over the South China sea for the first time -- very pretty (Taken on my cellphone)

 

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial sparrow on grave Philippines
First day of sight-seeing: The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial graves
Where 17,202 soldiers, Filipino and American, are buried
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial rainbow sprinkler
A rainbow caused by the sprinkler and sunlight
Aimee Marie Autobus station Manila
Met my reader (& now friend) Aimee who helped me a LOT in Manila
Banaue view from People's Lodge Philippines
Arrive in Banaue the next day
Banaue hanging house Ifugao Philippines
Go on a tour by trike through a region quite prone to landslides
Batad steps down trekking Banaue Philippines
Embark on what became the toughest trek I ever did
Batad villagers pigs trek Banaue Philippines
Seeing these villagers carry livestock and kilos of grain for nearly a 1km through terrain that I found *incredibly* tiring even with hiking boots on, made me want to never complain about corporate life ever again. Listening to pigs squeal (& the resulting echo in the valley) for more than half-an-hour also made me not want to have pork... (that day)
Batad village rice terraces Banaue Philippines
After nearly 1 1/2 of trekking, the view I get in Batad. A village with no access via road and one that only got electricity recently.
Batad hide and seek village children Banaue Philippines
And since these children don't see new faces often (least of all an Indian), played with them for a bit as well
Batad trek landslide path Banaue Philippines
After a break, trek all the way back through tracks destroyed by landslides... but this time, with a local I hired to carry my bags. My body just couldn't take the load a second time.
Banaue rice terraces panorama Philippines
End the day with a view of the grand daddy of them all, the Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue rice terrace farmers Philippines
The sheer size of the Banaue rice terraces are a bit hard to capture on photograph
North Luzon fugao village rice terraces Philippines
The next day, take two jeepneys to get to the small town of Sagada
Sagada rice terraces Luzon Philippines
A small, but beautiful town!
Sagada limestone cave water Philippines
Sagada is also famed for its limestone caves
Sagada limestone caves Luzon Philippines
Which was an amazing 'first' experience for me
Sagada Hanging coffins Echo Valley Philippines
Sagada is also famous for this, Echo Valley. People laid to rest for years on the side of a cliff.
Ifugao province farm Luzon Philippines
Leave the next day and drive through beautiful terrains to get to Baguio
San Fernando Pampanga Good Friday celebrations crosses
Then, on Good Friday, arrive in the town of San Fernando in Pampanga district for the main reason I chose to fly to Philippines at this time of the year.
San Fernando Pampanga praying
Warning: The next few photos are going to be graphic in nature.
San Fernando Pampanga Good Friday flagellation
I don't have to time explain what the rituals are about and why they celebrate it this way, but you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Pedro_Cutud_Lenten_Rites
San Fernando Pampanga Easter Child
Mind you, it was scorching hot that day
Filipino Roman soldier San Pedro Cutud
"You want photo? One bottle!"
San Pedro Cutud re-enactment Good Friday
The famed annual re-enactment ceremony of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
San Pedro Cutud Pampanga Christ crucifixion
People volunteer to be actually nailed to the cross
Good Friday Pampanga nailed hand
And in case you don't believe me...
San Pedro Cutud crucifixion nail leg
Taken on my cellphone because of number of people jostling to get a close up view
San Pedro Cutud Rites Pampanga Philippines
(Also taken on my cellphone)
San Fernando street children smiling Philippines
Street child: "Hey! One photo mister!" (grabs baby sister) (I start to click) Street child: (Oh, he's *actually* taking my photo?) ~shy~
San Fernando night mass parade Philippines
The night mass with beautiful floats of... erm, Christian characters from the bible(?)
Manila Chinatown purple fire engine
Arrive back in Manila for a guided tour by Aimee. The Manila Chinatown was nothing special, but their fire engines were!
Manila Cathedral panorama
Manila Cathedral in Intramuros
Manila mobile phone chicken
I get everything... except the 'chicken' part. As seen in Robinson's mall in Manila.
Cebu Cathedral ceiling
Arrived in Cebu to kick off the second leg of my journey. This was the ceiling at the oldest church in Cebu.
Chocolate Hills Bohol Philippines
Take a ferry to Bohol, hire a trike and drive one hour to see this: the Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills panorama Bohol Philippines
1,776 hills that make for a phenomenal geographical formation
Tarsier Bohol Philippines
See Bohol's Tarsiers. An animal I think, became the inspiration for Dobby's appearance (from the Harry Potter films)
Sambang underground river Palawan Mithun in Philippines
Arrive in Sambang in Palawan island to visit the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Sambang Underground River boat going in
The underground river is a 8.2 kilometers long but tourists are only allowed 1.6kms in. The place is in contention for the 'New 7 Wonders of the World' contest.
Sambang Underground River caves
Another interesting and never-done-before experience for me! Also, quite a challenge holding the light *AND* clicking photos
Sambang underground river boat inside
Trust me, there's a LOT more photos from inside the cave but no time for me to work on all of them now.
Sambang beach coconut tree panorama
Once out, had lunch on Sambang beach.
Palawan dog stretching
Wake up early the next day, take the local bus to the Northern most town of El Nido
Sandwich bun ice cream Philippines
Have sandwich bun ice cream for breakfast (Rs. 15)
El Nido beach view Palawan Philippines
Arrive at my guesthouse in El Nido beach. Sit out, stare into what's right in front of me...and do little else. (Taken on my cellphone)
El Nido lagoon swimming Philippines
Go on an island-hopping tour the next day. Snorkel in a lagoon wearing a life jacket...
El Nido kayaking lagoon Philippines
..and attempt kayaking for the first time. It was a lot easier than I thought! (Unfortunately no photos of me doing all this because I was afraid to get my valuable camera equipment wet. I've had previous bad experiences with salt water screwing up my equipment)
Palawan island spade-shaped rock
Stop on an island for lunch
BBQ lunch E Nido Philippines
Which was barbecued fish and pork
Coconut kid drinking Palawan
Kids on this island must be sick of drinking coconut water
Las Cabanas beach sunset Philippines
Watch the sunset on Las Cabanas beach
El Nido lobster dinner Philippines
Have a 'home-cooked' dinner of lobster soup, grilled lobsters, fried tuna and rice, all for Rs.250
Leaving El Nido dog on trike
Leave El Nido the next morning
Sunset Palawan flight Philippines
... and leave the island of Palawan at sunset, thereby concluding my sightseeing around Philippines.

Needless to say, I have many more photos to share and plenty of experiences. This was without a doubt, the best trip I ever made in my life (so far)!

Read the entire series here:

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

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