DLSG in San Francisco (Day 1)

2 May 2013

Hello, San Francisco!

At San Francisco International Airport

Upon arrival at SFO International Airport

We already had lunch in Beijing on May 2, waited for four hours at the departure lounge and flown for eleven hours, and yet, it was lunch time again on the same date – May 2 – when we arrived.

At the arrival gate of the San Francisco International Airport

We took a cab from the airport to our hotel, Cow Hollow Motor Inn located in Lombard St. corner Steiner St.  We noticed that the cab driver, who was from Eritrea (know this place?), did not turn on his aircon, which almost does not happen in Manila unless you have the bad luck of chancing upon a cab with an aircon that is out of order. It was a lot colder in San Francisco though than it was in the Philippines.

Cow Hollow Motor Inn in Lombard Street, SFO

The location of Cow Hollow Motor Inn is very good.  A number of restaurants are in the vicinity.  Across Lombard is Mel’s Drive-Inn.  If you want Italian and Chinese, there’s Amici and Country Sky across Steiner Street.  There’s also an Apple Store in Chestnut, just a walking distance from the hotel.

5-minute rest in our room after our 11-hour flight

We rested for a short while when we reached the hotel. So as not to go to sleep before night fell, we decided to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf for some sightseeing.

We got some maps from the front desk of the hotel, and also directions on how to go there. (They were so helpful particularly Sabrina.) We walked a block away to Filmore Street then made a left towards Chestnut Street to catch a bus going near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Riding on a bus going to Fisherman’s Wharf, SFO

The bus system was so efficient that we did not have any hard time at all. The buses also run on electricity.

We got off at Bay Street after crossing Polk Street.  (We actually didn’t quite know where we were at the time. Almost like a shot-in-the-dark thing when we got off the bus.)

On our way to Fisherman’s Wharf, 4:45 pm SFO time

We walked on this downhill street (Larkin Street) where we had our first glimpse of “The Rock”.

Our first glimpse of Alcatraz at Larkin Street

Along the way, we passed by the Ghirardelli Square, known for its chocolates.

We did not eat there but just stopped for some pictures as we were looking for a restaurant that serves rice or spaghetti for lunch as per my brother’s requirement.

Down at Larkin corner Beach Streets, we saw for the first time a busker or a  street musician, if you insist.

At Larkin corner Beach Streets

At the beach near the Fisherman’s Wharf, we noticed these big seagulls as well as a bunch of people swimming. I felt that it was a bit too cold to go swimming, but then again I wasn’t used to the cool climate there and those guys were wearing wetsuits, which I was told kept them comfortable.

Anyways, we just walked through the wharf and took some pictures.

At San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

After a considerable walk, we finally hit the famous Fishermans-Wharf-of-San-Francisco sign.

At the Fishermans Wharf of San Francisco

We had a very late lunch-cum-early dinner at a McDonalds nearby (we found out that McDonalds in the US does not serve spaghetti at all), and I didn’t quite like my burger. It was huge, and it was presented badly. Now, I know they have to be fast when making those burgers but couldn’t they at least make them look decent?

(The McDonalds we went to was in front of the Boudin SourdoughBakery, where we bought the clam chowder for Gian. Boudin is famous for the clam chowder served in sourdough bread.)

The Boudin Sourdough Bakery at the Wharf

After eating, we went to the world-famous Pier 39, known for its sea lions.

Me, Pier 39 sea lions, and the San Francisco skyline

There were a lot of them there, and most of them were just lying around on the docks.

Sea lions of Pier 39

We hadn’t seen that many sea lions anywhere before.  We then walked around Pier 39 and took some pictures.

With Mom and Giancarlo

Papa

After that, we went on our way to go to the cable car. Along the way we passed by Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Jefferson Street….

Ripley’s

… walked through Taylor Street.

Street of San Francisco

Then, we found the cable car.

San Francisco Cable Car

San Francisco Municipal Railway

At first we were so happy that there was not a line of passengers at the turntable waiting to ride the cable car because we know the line is usually long.

Lone passenger?

We later found out that it was because that cable car route was not operational that day as the cable underground stopped moving for some reason.

Bye, bye

To help us, the cable car gripman told us to take the free shuttle that would bring us to the other cable car line.

Free shuttle that would take us to Union Square

We got off a block from Union Square, a California Historical Landmark and SFO’s central shopping, hotel and theater district.

Union Square, San Francisco

Corner of Powell and Post Streets

Mama in Union Square

In Union Square, we saw a working cable car up close.

Major tourist attraction in SFO

Just like what you would see in the movies or television shows, the cable car was crowded. People were on the running board and hanging on to the poles.  There’s just no way for us (considering Giancarlo) to ride the cable car.

Hold on there, lady

We found out the following day that most passengers of cable cars are tourists. Most of the locals don’t ride the cable car because it is more expensive than taking a bus (around thrice the fare) and it is very crowded.

It was beginning to get dark and cold so we decided to go back to our hotel.

Where do we go now?

The problem was that we didn’t know exactly where to catch the bus back to Lombard St.

Downtown SFO

We ended waiting up over 30 minutes feeling a little bit lost and cold.

Where’s the bus?

We eventually decided to ride a cab.  Tired, we arrived at the hotel around 10:00 PM and called it a day.

May 2, 2013 was indeed the longest day in my life.

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DLSG: Manila-Beijing-San Francisco

Written by Sean; Edited by Liza; Pictures added by Dennis

May 2, 2013.  D-Day!

We woke up at 3 a.m excited to begin the two-week adventure in store for us. It was going to be our first trip outside of Asia and the longest time the four of us would be together without work or school getting in the way.

We (and by “we” I mean Mom) had planned this trip for quite some time already (like more than a year before the actual trip!). We did not have a host in the US but we were not worried. Mama said she had taken care of all things within her control, and we prayed hard and were confident that God would take care of the rest (as He very well did).

We took a taxi to the airport. We usually just leave the car at the airport when we go on travel but since this was going to be a long trip, Papa did not think that was going to be a good idea this time. We first flew to Beijing where the layover was for our flight to San Francisco. Giancarlo and I slept most of the flight.

Sleeping in the plane



We arrived Beijing at around 11 AM.

Beijing International Airport's control tower

Beijing International Airport

Beijing Capital International Airport was huge. After all, it is the second largest airport in the world. Airport security was tight. They inspected all our stuff and frisked everyone, including my six-year-old brother.

Me upon arrival at Beijing International Airport

Upon arrival at Beijing Capital Int’l Airport

We ate lunch first before going to our gate.

Lunch in Beijing

Lunch was nothing special, really.  Except probably for the cool photo of mine below.

Me after lunch!

Energized after lunch!

Our departure gate was far from where we ate, mostly because the departure lounges were very big. We took pics inside the airport while waiting for our flight.

Inside the Beijing Int'l Airport

Me, my mom and Giancarlo.

Giancarlo posing for the camera!

Giancarlo posing for the camera!

Then on to Gate 32 …

On the way to Gate 32!

On the way to Gate 32.

… where we waited for about 3 more hours for our flight.

My pretty mom while waiting for our flight to San Francisco.

My mom at Gate 32 while waiting for our flight.

Gian enjoyed the wait so much because he had a good view of the busy airport activities. We saw food being delivered to airplanes, cargoes being loaded and unloaded, and numerous flights arriving and taking off. Everything was fully mechanized that all most workers did was to simply press buttons. Amazing!

Air China

The plane that would take us to San Francisco.

Finally, we boarded the plane for our 11-hour flight to San Francisco.

On the plane to San Francisco

On the plane to San Francisco

I and my brother slept through most of the flight again because Papa said it was already nighttime in San Francisco though it was still bright outside.  Besides, the plane was not quite new so there was no onboard entertainment.

Giancarlo having a good night’s (or, is it day?) sleep onboard the plane.

My parents read somewhere that even on the plane, we should already try to observe the time in our destination to minimize jetlag. With the activities we packed in our two-week vacation, we really could not afford any downtime due to jet lag.

We left Beijing on May 2 at around 4PM.

Up next, DLSG in San Francisco.

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DLSG in Bataan

5 January 2013
by Sean

Just a week after visiting Corregidor, my mother surprised me when she came home last 4 January 2013 and told my brother and I to prepare for a trip to Bataan the following day. We woke up early the next morning and headed for Bataan at about 4:30 AM. The trip was long and it took us three hours or more to get to our destination. Papa Jerry and his family and Mommy Tits were with us on this trip.

I was expecting that we would go to the Dambana ng Kagitingan first or maybe some war-related place because Bataan was very much involved during World War II, but we didn’t. On our way though, we saw the Philippine-Japan Friendship Tower and Death March markers along the route the soldiers took during the horrific Death March.

Our first destination was Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, a collection of old houses all gathered from various places in the Philippines.

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Our first activity was the tour. We had a guide with us, who explained the history of the houses we went to.

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Casa Mexico. It serves as the reception area and the meeting point for the tour.

The first house we went to, the Casa Vyzantina, had gold decorations when they got the house. I remember our guide telling us that the paint used was really made of gold. I guess we can literally say they struck gold when they found that house!

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Casa Vyzantina

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Inside Casa Vyzantina

I can’t remember the details of all the houses we went to after that and in what order we visited them, but I’ll tell you what I can remember about some of those houses anyway.

There were 27 completed houses I think and a few more being constructed. Most of the houses or casas are named after the place where they were originally built.

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Shown here are Casas Quiapo, Binondo II and Baliuag I

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Casa Maranaw

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Casa Jaen I

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Casa Lubao

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Casa Binondo I

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Casa Meycauayan

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Casa San Miguel

Casa Baliuag II

Casa Baliuag II

One of the houses, the Casa Binan, was where Teodora Alonzo, Rizal’s mother lived along with her siblings Narcisa, Gregorio, Manuel and Jose Alberto (whom Jose Rizal was named after). The house was also called the Alberto Ancestral House. Our tour guide told us a bit of the history of the place. She told us that Teodora Formoso, the wife of Jose Alberto was imprisoned in a room inside the house because she had an affair with an officer of the civil guards and Jose Alberto found out about it. Teodora Formosa was able to drop a letter from a window in the room saying that she is being detained against her will and poisoned by Jose Alberto and Teodora Alonzo. It resulted in Rizal’s mother being jailed and subjected to injustice. According to the guide, this was one of the young Rizal’s earliest exposures to abuses committed by the Spaniards.

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The door to Casa Binan

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We also went to Casa Hidalgo, the first campus of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. It has very spacious rooms. It has a peephole on the floor. According to the guide, back in the days, whenever the owner would want to drive away an unwanted visitor, they would pour water, or worse, pee, through the peephole so the visitor would get the point. How rude!

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Floating candles? Hogwarts first came to my mind when I saw this picture.

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The peephole on the floor

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Casa Hidalgo

We also went to Casa Candaba, once the residence of the Governor-General when visiting Pampanga. It was originally built in Candaba, Pampanga, hence the name. It was used by National Artist Jerry de Leon as one of the settings for his film adaption of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.

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Casa Candaba

We also went to Casa Luna, which was from Luna, La Union. It once served as a headquarters and a meeting area for Filipino and American forces. It was pretty big, like all of the houses in Las Casas.

We then went on to the other houses, one of which had a collection of antique items, such as old irons. There were the steel ones where one would have to put charcoal in them and just press the clothes normally, and there was one where you had to insert your foot into a handle of a big piece of wood balanced over another piece of wood placed directly on top of the clothes. The heat produced by friction helps press the clothes.

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An old coal iron

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An iron and an exercise equipment in one 🙂

The last place we went to was an Escolta-themed place where there were shops and hotel rooms. We didn’t explore the insides of the buildings, so I don’t really know what was in there.

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After that, Gian had a late breakfast at this Filipino restaurant in Casa Unisan. He was accompanied by my parents while the rest of us stayed outside, but we didn’t do anything really noteworthy.

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Casa Unisan

When it was lunchtime, we rode a kalesa to the restaurant where we would have our lunch. Actually, only Mommy Tits, my brother and my cousins rode the kalesa as the horse could not carry all of us. It was really slow and we could’ve outsped it on foot.

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We went to this Italian restaurant to have lunch. We obviously had pizza there, as well as some spaghetti and chicken. The pizza was amazing, but I bathed by last slice with Tabasco sauce. I didn’t know it would be that hot, but I ate my last slice anyway, with great difficulty. I also tried to prank Ate Claire by dousing her spaghetti with Tabasco sauce. It would’ve worked better if I did it more covertly.

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We left shortly after, and then we went to Mt. Samat to visit the Dambana ng Kagitingan, a memorial to honor the gallant men and women who served on our side during World War II. But before that, we pulled over along the way to take pictures of the Kilometer Zero Death March marker and the Philippine-Japan Friendship Tower.

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When we got to the top of Mt. Samat and at the Dambana ng Kagitingan, we saw a museum and this large structure which had murals depicting scenes, symbols and insignias from World War II. There was also a literal wall of text that retold the story of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Next to the structure was a museum like the one in Corregidor. We couldn’t bring our cameras in the museum, however. Anyways, it had various weapons, pictures and many other things from the Japanese Occupation. There were also stories from that time and there was this map that showed where the forces of the Japanese and the Filipinos and Americans were. We visited this museum first because the elevator inside the cross was being serviced and would only be available around 2:30 PM.

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Eventually, we went out of the museum to the cross. We had to climb what I assumed at first to be several flights of stairs, but they were actually ramps. I was the fastest among us, but I stopped once or twice to look at the view, which was pretty cool. I got to the top easily and I waited for about a minute or less for the others to come up as well. Ate Claire took notice of a few monkeys that apparently lived in the trees nearby.

We still had to wait before we went up the cross because the elevator was still being cleaned up. After waiting idly for a few minutes, we finally got the chance to go up. The elevator could only hold 10 passengers at a time. Luckily our group consisted of exactly ten people.

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While the elevator was going up, we got to see a bit of the view from the top because there were transparent glass panels at the back of the elevator. When we reached the top, we took pictures and looked at the view. It was a bit scary for some of our companions, which was understandable because we were really high up above ground, considering we were well over 80 meters on top of a mountain.

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After that, we went down and most of us ate ice cream. I didn’t eat anything because I was still a bit full from lunch. We took pictures at the Dambana ng Kagitingan one last time, and then we said our goodbyes and went home.

The trip was enjoyable, thanks to the additional company and the fun things that we learned. However, I would say that Corregidor was better, because there were a lot more activities and I learned more during my stay there. Nevertheless, it was still a short but sweet trip and I learned new things in Bataan.

Fastforward to 8 June 2013
by Liza

We never thought that we would go back to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar just six months after our first trip there. This time, we were with my officemates for our annual mid-year outing.

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There was nothing new since the last time we were in Las Casas Filipinas but we got to do more things this time because we stayed overnight.

Sean and Gian were able to swim in the batis-inspired pool. The last time we were there, they were not allowed to do so as only those who stay overnight are allowed to use the pool.

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We also got to see a cultural show in the evening. It was a presentation of the different Philippine folk dances by the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Dance Troupe. I was happy that Sean and Gian got to see the show. These kids know more about Psy’s Gangnam Style moves rather than Tinikling, Singkil or Itik-itik. Kudos to the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Dance Troupe! They were able to capture the attention of my kids for the whole duration of the show with their skillful and graceful rendition of the dances. It was like watching a cheer dance competition too with the dancers dancing on top of benches stacked over several others.

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We stayed in Casa San Miguel, one of the heritage houses, for the night. It had a pool table and the kids put it to good use before calling it a night. While watching Dennis teach Sean and Gian how to play billiards, it dawned upon me that I am outnumbered in this family. If I want not to be left out,  I may have to learn what the three of them like, or better yet influence them to like the things I like, but the latter I think is a long shot.

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Casa San Miguel

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Early the following morning, we strolled along the beach. With his tactile defensiveness, Gian was whiny about having to walk on the sand. Still,  the stroll was a success as he walked with us all the way.

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The first thing he did, however, when we reached the paved road was to shake off the sand in his shoes as if he could not wait to be rid of them the first chance he got.

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Gian getting acquainted with the Touch Me Not plant

I don’t know if it happens every Sunday but we were able to hear mass at 9:00 am the Sunday we were in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. It was held at the ground floor of Casa Binan.

After the mass, there was nothing much for us to do but wait for lunch. We checked out soon after lunch and headed back home.

We still enjoyed our second trip to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar but as my husband aptly put it, sometimes, a place just loses its luster when you go back to it so soon after you’ve last been there. We’ll then give it some time before we’d go back to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar again.

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DLSG in Corregidor

December 29 – 30, 2012

We went to the historic island of Corregidor last December 29 aboard one of Sun Cruises’s ferries and arrived there at around nine o’ clock in the morning.

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Upon arriving, we went on a tramvia, which was a replica of the trolleys which were used during the American occupation of the Philippines as the main method of transportation in Corregidor.  We toured Corregidor Island on the tramvia with a witty tour guide named Rowena.

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The first spot we went to on Corregidor was Lorcha Dock, where General Douglas MacArthur left for Australia on March 1942 aboard the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-41.  Our tour guide told us that MacArthur didn’t say the famous words, “I shall return,” in the Philippines; he said those words when he was already in Australia.  We took a few pictures there before leaving.

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Along the way to our next stop, we saw these caves and tunnels that were made by the Japanese as bomb shelters, hideouts and storage spaces.

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We went to the Filipino Heroes Memorial next, where there were murals depicting battles fought by Filipinos.  There were also statues of heroes and Pres. Manuel Luis Quezon there.

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Next, we went to the Japanese Garden of Peace, a memorial to the Japanese soldiers who died in Corregidor. There was also a Buddha fertility statue there, as well as some anti-aircraft guns.

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We went to Malinta Tunnel next, a very historical spot because that was where Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmena were inaugurated during their second term as President and Vice-President of the Philippine Commonwealth Government, respectively, and where MacArthur stayed prior to his escape to Australia. There was a light and sound show in the tunnel that portrayed many events during World War II.    At times there was absolute darkness and loud, simulated explosions, but to his credit my brother Gian, who is sensitive to noise, didn’t seem to mind those.

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We had lunch after visiting Malinta Tunnel at the Corregidor Inn’s La Playa restaurant.  The food there was good enough, but nothing special.

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The Corregidor Inn, the only hotel in Corregidor

After lunch, we saw some of the destroyed barracks on the way to our next destination, Battery Way.  (The barracks were named after the places where they were built.  The barracks we saw on the way to the battery were called the Middleside Barracks.)  Battery Way was pretty cool, with its four giant 12-inch guns.  We took pictures there with the guns.

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My Mom with the Middleside Barracks at the background

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The 12-inch refers to the diameter of the barrel

The 12-inch refers to the diameter of the barrel

After that, we went to Battery Hearn, where the biggest gun of them all was located.  It wasn’t just big, it was humongous.  However, the gun was rendered almost useless because it was meant to defend against naval enemies, but the Japs attacked from the air and therefore it wasn’t able to do much. When the Japanese finally succeeded in taking Corregidor, they took a propaganda picture with the captured gun at Battery Hearn and spread the picture throughout the country to discourage the Filipinos and Americans soldiers, who were still fighting.

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After visiting Battery Hearn, we stopped at the ruins of the Mile Long Topside Barracks.  It wasn’t really a part of the tour, but our tour guide was nice enough to let us go down there and explore the ruins.  The Mile Long Barracks were said to be the biggest barracks in the world during its time.  It had a pool, a bowling alley, pool tables and much more.  With all those luxuries, it would seem like it was better to be a soldier at the time than now, i.e., it was better if you also didn’t mind being bombed and fired at everyday and staying in caves and tunnels with absolutely no light at times.

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Rowena then told us part of the story of how Corregidor was retaken by Fil-Am forces.  In front of the Mile Long Barracks, there was this helipad surrounded by flat grounds.  The Japs thought that the Americans couldn’t attack from the air because of their defenses and because there were no flat grounds big enough for landing planes.  They didn’t expect the Americans to use parachutes (which the latter did).  The Americans used parachutes to land on that helipad undetected, and they used the element of surprise to help them take back Corregidor, despite being heavily outnumbered.

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Parachute Drop Zone A

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A Memorial to the Rock Force who liberated Corregidor

Next, we went to the Pacific War Memorial.  There was a museum there with various things from World War II, from weapons to letters, dog tags, models of planes and ships used during the war, personal belongings of the soldiers who served at the time and many more.  We didn’t stay there for long, though.

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We went back outside and took pictures with some old guns before going farther into the war memorial.  Twelve major battles were written on its walls.  There was also this dome with a hole on top where sunlight could pass through. There was a marble altar at the center of the dome.  Rowena told us that for three consecutive years, on May 6, the sunlight shone directly on the altar.  It never happened again after those three consecutive years.  This was significant because Corregider fell into the hands of the Japanese for three years beginning May 6, 1942.

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We went to the Eternal Flame of Freedom next, a big metal structure shaped like, well, a flame.  Also, behind the Eternal Flame, there was a nice view of the tail of Corregidor Island and a few other provinces.

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We went to the Spanish Lighthouse next.  It wasn’t the original lighthouse, since the original one had been destroyed in the war.  Mama and Gian didn’t climb to the top, since there were no stairs but steep ladders when we got to the higher parts of the lighthouse.  It was windy at the top.  We had a view of the island and other neighboring islands and provinces like at the Eternal Flame of Freedom.  That was the last destination for the tour.

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We went back to Corregidor Inn and rested there for a while.  We had connecting rooms there.  My parents stayed in one room and I and my brother stayed in another.   We rested for a while, and then went out on foot to explore some of the island.  We first went back to Lorcha Dock to take pictures with the MacArthur statue there.

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We just followed the road after we left Lorcha Dock. We met these two Americans, a mother and her son, near Lorcha Dock.  We chatted for a while, mainly about where we lived.  Our walk was rather uneventful.  We went back to the hotel and almost immediately went back out again for the night tour.

Our new tour guide was named George.  Our first stop for the night trip was at Battery Grubbs.  We had the sunset viewing there.  The place itself was really nice.  It had a great view of the neighboring islands.  It was calm there and there was a nice, cool wind blowing.  The sunset was very nice to watch, too.

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After that, we went to the ruins of the original hospital on Corregidor.  It was pretty big and dark, since it was almost nightfall.  It didn’t have a creepy atmosphere, though.  George showed us where the rooms used to be, such as the emergency room, the operation room, and the bathroom.  It was a three-story building that was bombed by the Japanese even though bombing a hospital was prohibited by the Geneva Convention.

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After visiting the hospital, we went back to Malinta Tunnel for the ghost-hunting activity, the last activity for the night.  Mama and Gian didn’t come with us, because it was too dark and dangerous for my brother.  Actually, there were no ghosts.  It was just a tour of the lateral tunnels of Malinta Tunnel.  At first, the tunnel was really rocky.  There was no concrete at first, only pure rock.  It was actually pretty cool there.  It was definitely something you don’t see everyday.  At times we had to duck in order to be able to pass, but at times the ceiling was several feet high.  In the lateral tunnels, we found air passageways, a makeshift hospital, a lot of hermit crabs, MacArthur’s old office and his escape route, a charred Japanese bone, old typewriters, telephones and many other things.  Twice, we turned off all our flashlights.  When we did, there was absolute darkness.  George told us that the Filipino and American troops in the tunnel once experienced total darkness too when the Japanese knocked out the generators.  Doctors and nurses had to operate on soldiers in the dark.  Definitely not an experience I would like to have.

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A charred bone of a Japanese. The Malinta Tunnel was not destroyed because of bombings from outside but rather from explosions inside the tunnel when 2,000 Japanese soldiers bombed themselves inside the tunnel rather than surrender.

A charred bone of a Japanese. The Malinta Tunnel was not destroyed because of bombings from outside but rather from explosions inside the tunnel when 2,000 Japanese soldiers bombed themselves inside the tunnel rather than surrender.

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After visiting Malinta Tunnel’s lateral tunnels, we went back to the hotel to have dinner.  Dinner was good.  We had sinugbang isda, manok and baboy (grilled fish, chicken and pork).  We slept early that night.

The next day, we went to the Eternal Flame of Freedom again for the sunrise viewing.  It was a bit chilly and windy that morning.  We saw these big birds of prey flying up high.  They got a lot of my attention since I very rarely see those kinds of birds.  The sunrise was hard to see, because it was really bright, but it was nice anyway.

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Next, we hiked through the forest to a Japanese tunnel.  We passed some ruins along the way, where there was a gecko and a lot of gecko eggs.  The tunnel was fine at first.  We just needed to duck at the outer part of the tunnel.  When we got deeper in the tunnel, there was this steep seventy-five degree flight of crude stone steps.  Progress was slow, because to exit the tunnel we had to climb up on a ninety-degree ladder, and that was immediately after the stone steps.  We all took our time on the ladder.  We got out eventually, and we ended up still in the forest.

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We walked and walked on the trail and passed some more ruins along the way.  When we finally got out, we found ourselves at the Spanish Lighthouse.  We rode a bus back to the hotel after that and had breakfast.

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After eating, we had us dropped off at the Mile Long Topside Barracks.  We took some pictures there, and then we walked to the Pacific War Memorial.  We revisited the museum to spend more time reading about the exhibits.  We had to go back to the hotel after that for lunch.

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The trip to the hotel was a long one, and we had to walk all the way back there.  We took a shortcut from the Topside Barracks to the Middleside Barracks through the 300 Steps.  It was a really long staircase on the side of a hill.  It was a long, slightly dangerous and slightly difficult descent to the middleside, where the Corregidor Inn was near.  Even though it was a shortcut, the road to the hotel was very long.  Knowing that, I walked quickly and I had to stop every once in a while to let my parents see that I was still in front of them because I was way ahead of them.  I got to the hotel minutes before them.  It was really tiring, but thankfully we didn’t have anything much to do after that long walk.  We had lunch when we arrived at the Corregidor Inn, then packed up our things and went back home.

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I had a great time in Corregidor.  I also learned a lot of new things there, things I never would have learned if I just read my books.  It was also peaceful and quiet there, and I enjoyed almost every activity.  Even though it was one of our shortest trips, it’s one of my favorites.

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Excellence

By Sean Patrick H. Abiera

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Excellence means doing your best.

With this, you can rise above the rest.

Even if you’re intelligent, clever and sly,

You won’t be excellent, unless you try.

<p

Being excellent is easier said than done.

You can’t just relax and expect to be number one.

You’ll need lots of hardwork and determination,

You’ll need help and motivation.

<p

So Lord, please help me

To strive to be the best I can be.

Please help me work very hard

So that in the end, I can reap my reward.

Categories: Random Musings | Leave a comment

DLSG in Matnog, Sorsogon

April 31, 2012

On this day, we went to Matnog, Sorsogon. Matnog is the southernmost part of Luzon. My cousin, Ate Claire, and her family came with us for the first time.

We went island hopping in Matnog. The first island we went to was Tikling Island if I remember correctly. It had this treehouse. Due to time constraint, we weren’t able to go up on it, unfortunately. I have always wanted to go in a treehouse. I probably wasn’t going to go up this one, however, anyway  because the ladder looked scary.

Us in Tikling Island

Me, my brother and cousins and Lolo Pruding with the Bulusan Volcano at the background

Ate Claire and the treehouse

After that, we went to Little Subic Island. We were supposed to be going to a fish sanctuary but sunblock isn’t allowed there so we had to swim in Little Subic first to remove the sunblock.

Little Subic Beach

On the way to Little Subic, the water was crystal clear, letting us see the corals, fish and sea urchins underneath. The water was fairly deep so we had to stay near the beach. We swam there for a while, played on the beach, and had lunch soon after. We found a hermit crab, which we played with.

My father found out that Little Subic was actually a great snorkeling spot. After lunch, it started to rain but that didn’t stop us from going back to the beach. Ate Claire and I went snorkeling. There were a lot of seaweeds, which made it look like an underwater garden. There were also some fish and some sea urchins. It was definitely better than the snorkeling spot in Donsol.

We left soon after for the fish sanctuary.

On the way to the fish sanctuary, we saw this bat cave.

When we got closer to the fish sanctuary, the water became crystal clear again. We saw corals and sea urchins, lots and lots of sea urchins.

When we arrrived at the fish sanctuary, we saw a lot of marine animals, such as turtles, angelfish, big fish, sharks and starfish. We were given the chance to swim with the fishes there while the fishes were being fed.

That’s me with the fishes

Lolo Pruding and Gian feeding the fish while I swam with them

First time for me to see such a big starfish

After that, we went back to the boat, back to Matnog.

That caps our trip to Sorsogon. The following day, all we did was go back to Legazpi to catch our flight back home.

All in all, it was a nice trip. Although not seeing a whale shark was really disappointing, the island hopping made up for it though.

Categories: Domestic, Luzon, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons I Have Learned From Our Travels

by Sean Patrick H. Abiera

My mom loves to travel so my family has been to many places. On our travels, we meet lots of people, go to places we have never been before, eat new food, take pictures, enjoy each other’s company and most importantly, learn new things and valuable lessons. The classroom is not the only place where one can learn new things and lessons, and  I would like to share some of these with you.

  1. Seeing things in real life is different from seeing them in pictures, watching them on TV or reading about them in books. You will remember them much more clearly if you see them in real life, and not just in a picture. In my experience, they usually look better in real life too. Mayon and the Chocolate Hills were more impressive in real life, and watching Formula One live was much more entertaining than watching it on TV.
  2. Don’t knock something until you have tried it. This usually applies to food and activities. Don’t be afraid to try new things! They might be awesome, and it’s your loss if you miss out on them. I never regretted trying the zipline in Davao and parasailing in Boracay even though I was apprehensive to try them at first. I also got to taste chili crab in Singapore, which was really delicious although it did not sound that good when I first heard about it.
  3. Plan for things you want to do in advance. This gives you some more time to think about them and prepare for them. This way, you will not have much problems when you actually do them. Before our trips, my mom usually has a very detailed itinerary, which always helped.
  4. Have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. No matter how good your plan may be, there is always the possibility that something will go wrong.  When we went to Boracay, we had everything planned for each day of our trip. What we did not plan was the rain ruining our stay. It was a good thing that we thought of bringing some gadgets to amuse us when we have to stay inside our hotel room all day.
  5. Take care not to lose things, especially during travels. If you lose something when you are on a trip, you probably will not have the chance to go back and look  for it. My mother lost her camera in one of our trips. We never got to find it because we were already on our way to the airport then to catch our plane back home.
  6. Don’t entrust your valuables to someone very young. It is somewhat obvious, but it still happened to me once when I let my brother borrow something from me in a water park. He left it somewhere there and someone else took it.
  7. Don’t be too excited for something. You might forget something if you are overexcited. When my brother wanted to go swimming in Ilocos, we forgot to bring my goggles because he was making us hurry. I did not enjoy swimming because of that.
  8. Always be prepared. Pack an umbrella when traveling, especially when the weather forecast says that it is going to rain. When Yahoo! Weather says it is going to rain, it usually does.
  9. Things are not always as they seem. If some food look or sound good but you haven’t tasted them yet, be cautious in ordering them. You might not like them. I once ordered Chicken Wrap at a restaurant called Kasbah in Boracay, and I did not like it because it did not taste much like chicken.
  10. Be practical. When you are traveling abroad, do not buy too much stuff because they are usually very expensive. You can buy some of them in the Philippines at a much lower price.

These are some of the things I have learned from my travels. Indeed,  you can learn a lot of things even when you are not in class. However, that is not an excuse to skip classes!

Categories: Travel | 4 Comments

DLSG in Donsol

April 30, 2012

This was the day we went whaleshark watching in Donsol. We went there with Dingdong, a neighbor of my cousins’ grandparents.

The trip was quite long, about an hour or two. When we arrived there, we had to wait for a little while before we can board a boat. While waiting, we saw guidelines about whaleshark watching everywhere. There were also snorkels, flippers and all kinds of swimwear being sold. There were snacks and lots of whaleshark merchandise as well.

Us while waiting for the boat

When we finally went on the boat, the guide explained that we have to be lucky in order to spot a whaleshark. He said that unlike in previous years, there are not as many whalesharks in Donsol anymore.

While the spotters were looking for one, everyone who was going to go in the water was taught how to use a snorkel by our guide.

This is the usual boat set-up for whaleshark watching. The two persons on top of the roof are the spotters. The guide explained to us that the spotters look for shadows in the water to know where a whaleshark might be.

After a while, we stopped searching to have lunch aboard the boat.

We resumed our search after lunch. After searching for a few more hours,  however, we decided to stop to snorkel for a while.

What they had in Donsol wasn’t as good as the snorkeling spot in Boracay because there were fewer fish and corals in Donsol. We saw a starfish there though.

When our three hours on the water was over, we gave up our search  for a whaleshark and went back to shore. We washed up upon returning to land. Mama then bought Gian a whaleshark stuffed toy to compensate for not seeing the real one.

On our way back to Sorsogon, we passed by Bulusan Lake.

We didn’t get to try all these because we arrived at the park at past 5 pm when it was already about to close.

After that, we went to a nearby church to hear mass.

We went back to my cousins’ grandparents’ house to have dinner before calling it a day. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement that day. But our trip to Matnog the following day would make up for it.

A post on the beautiful beaches of Matnog coming up next!

Categories: Domestic, Luzon, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

DLSG in Sorsogon

April 29, 2012

We went to my cousins’ house again for breakfast on this day. Actually, we always had breakfast there during our whole stay in Sorsogon.

After breakfast, we went to the pier where we took pictures with a statue of a pili nut.

It was a pity the vandals ruined the statue.

Then we went to a really far beach called Paguriran Beach. It was a nice beach like Boracay. We took a boat to a nearby lagoon because we didn’t want to get wet. Allen, my cousin, was worried that the boat would capsize.

That’s the lagoon behind us.

We only took pictures at the lagoon.

At the lagoon

Lolo having fun

DLSG posing for a family pic

When we were ready to go back, we noticed that the boat was not where it dropped us off. We were forced to wait for it to come back and while waiting Papa took some more  pictures.

We left after the boat brought us back to the beach and went back to my cousins’s grandparents’ house for lunch.

We went back to the appartelle after to prepare for the 50th wedding anniversary mass, which was in about an hour or two.

We then attended the mass where my cousins’ grandparents re-enacted their wedding.

After that, we went to the reception. I like receptions mainly because the food there is usually great. I had this Marlin thing and chicken. I preferred the Marlin.

The celebrants at the reception

In the middle of dinner, we lit these lanterns. Some flew far, some fell quickly. Actually for some, the lantern lighting was after dinner but because I had a second/third serving, it was still in the middle of dinner for me. However, when we came back, my food didn’t taste that good anymore.

After I finished dinner, they had the dance part of the reception. Mama told me to join my cousins but I remembered that I don’t know how to dance so I just stayed at the table.

We left soon after that.

Next post is about our non-encounter with the famed whalesharks of Donsol. 😦

Categories: Domestic, Luzon, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

DLSG in Legazpi, Albay

April 28, 2012

It was the 50th anniversary of my cousins’ maternal grandparents and we were invited. Lolo Pruding and Mommy Tits were with us, as well as Papa Jerry, Mama Jen, Papa Cris and my cousin Allen. The flight to Legazpi wasn’t long but we were delayed by some traffic at the airport.

That’s me at the airport with my DSI XL – my “extra appendage” as Mama calls it because I am always holding it when on vacation and on weekends 🙂

My little brother. In addition to trains, he is also a big fan of airplanes.

We got to Legazpi around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. Upon arriving at Legazpi Airport, we saw the majestic Mt. Mayon. Unfortunately, our view of it was obscured by clouds at that time.

Anyways, we met up with our driver, Sonny. He took us to Lignon Hill, where we could view Mt. Mayon better. There were binoculars there, which were nice. This time we got an unobscured view of Mayon. It was even more awesome in real life than in pictures. We took some pictures in Lignon Hill and left.

All 10 of us and Mt. Mayon

Another view from Lignon Hill

If you are a brave soul, you may want to try this at Lignon Hill. Notice the airplanes in the background. It was part I think of Legazpi’s Magayon Festival celebration.

After that, we went to a local mall called Embarcadero to have lunch. We had lunch at Gerry’s Grill, where we had pancit, sisig, chicken and more.

View of the Mayon Volcano outside Gerry’s Grill

Then, we went to see the Sleeping Lion Hill.

You’ve got to use your imagination to see the sleeping lion behind us.

After that, we went to Cagsaua Ruins, and had a lot of trick shots with Mayon in the background. For those who don’t know (though I’m pretty sure all of you know this), there was once a church there that was destroyed by Mayon in the 19th century. The bell tower was all that was left.

That’s me studying some history.

A giant me …

… and a dwarf Allen 🙂

Then we went to the Daraga Church. We prayed, took pictures and left right after.

The Daraga Church was where the parishioners transferred when the church in Cagsaua was ruined.

Our next stop was this restaurant that served chili ice cream. I only ate a little though since I didn’t like it much.

After that, we went to the Albay Park and Wildlife. Then, we started the long trip to Sorsogon.

Me and Allen in Albay Park and Wildlife

Upon reaching Sorsogon, we checked in at an appartelle which would be our home for the next four days. After we dropped our bags , we went to the house of my cousins’ grandparents. We had dinner there. After dinner, the adults talked with each other, Gian played the iPad and Allen and I played a card game. After that, we went back to the apartelle to rest.

Coming up are posts on our trips to Bicol’s beautiful tourist attractions.

Categories: Domestic, Luzon, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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