Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Manila Bay Cruise (Pasay City, Metro Manila)

MV Spirit of Manila

The airconditioned lower deck
The one-of-a-kind Manila Bay Cruise, on board Sun Cruises' newly refurbished M/V Spirit of Manila, was launched in 2010.  

This double-decker cruise yacht, docked beside the Jumbo Palace, just after the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas (Folk Arts Theater), offers world-class dinner cruise service along Manila Bay.  

Available for Filipinos and international tourists alike, it has 3 sailing times - 4:30PM to 5:45PM; 6:15PM to 7:30PM; and 8 PM to 9:15PM.  The most popular is the second schedule where one can catch the famous Manila Bay sunset, which spectacularly painting the sky with a reddish or orange hue, as well as the 7 PM fireworks spectacle of the nearby SM Mall of Asia.  
Sunset over Manila Bay

Dusk at the Manila Film Palace
The M/V Spirit of Manila, which can accommodate between 90 to 120 passengers, has two decks with the dining room just about taking up all the decks. 

The lower deck is enclosed and airconditioned while the open-air, upper deck is for al fresco dining. Its crew appears to be professionally trained, as Sun Cruises’ parent company, the Magsaysay Group, is known for its training center for seamen.  

The extraordinary cruise of this clean and seaworthy boat, at a leisurely 13 knots, takes at least an hour and fifteen minutes.  Its  route across Manila Bay takes it southwards, toward the vicinity of SM Mall of Asia, Asia’s third largest mall, before heading toward Roxas Boulevard then turning around and heading back to the dock. 
The garish and magnificent lights along Roxas Boulevard
The dinner buffet table
After the sun set, guests will be awed with the towering skyline of the Ermita and the Makati Business District, visible for a time, as well as Manila’s fine buildings such as GSIS and the Manila Film Center.  

Not many get to see Manila’s skyline by the bay, one of the best natural harbors in the world.  Then, as dusk falls, it starts to fade as the garish and magnificent lights along Roxas Boulevard, seemingly more attractive when seen from a distance, come to life against the black velvet night sky, its reflection also seen on Manila Bay as you feel the sea breeze.  
Come 7 PM, guests are sometimes treated to a fireworks display set amidst the spectacular changing lights of SM Mall of Asia’s The Eye Ferris Wheel, truly a sight to behold.

Fireworks display at SM MOA
The acoustic duo
An important and much anticipated part of this cruise is the sumptuous, full course (appetizer, soup, main course, dessert) gourmet buffet dinner of Filipino and international (Continental, Oriental and Spanish) cuisine that will surely satisfy anyone’s palate. Catered by Manila Catering Services, the official caterer of the cruise, Sun Cruises’ meals are cooked elsewhere then re-plated on board. 
The dinner cruise also included live entertainment in the form of the acoustic duo which adds to the already relaxing, soothing and romantic atmosphere.  After singing a number of tunes, they would gladly ask for the audience's requests as well as serenade birthday and wedding anniversary celebrants. 
This enchanting, exhilarating and romantic experience is ideal for those who want to have a quick but unforgettable getaway from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. 
Sun Cruises: Fernando Ma. Guerrero cor. Paseo Palisoc St., CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 834-6857 to 58, (632) 966-9391 to 92 or (632) 527-5555.  Website: www.corregidorphilippines.com. Cost: Php550 per person (includes roundtrip fee, dinner and live entertainment, drinks not included). Ticketing booth is located at the entrance of the dock. They don’t operate during bad weather and typhoons.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Concert Review: The Cascades and the Classics IV Live in Manila

John Claude Gummoe of The Cascades

(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)
I have attended many concerts before but never have I seen so many musical talents, both foreign and local, in one show until now.  The Cascades and the Classics IV Live in Manila concert, a special one-night only concert presented by Steve O’Neal Productions and concert venue Solaire Resort & Casino and held last May 14, proved to be just that.  

The front act featured the talented local quartet of Mark Mabasa (a finalist of the X-Factor Philippines Season 1), Lilibeth “Beth” Garcia (3rd in the Women's series in the 2012 Karaoke World Championships), Lucky Robles (Unang Hirit Morning Star) and John Vincent “JV” Decena (2012 KWC Philippines representative in the 2012 Karaoke World Championships) performing “After The Love Has Gone” (A 1979 Earth, Wind & Fire hit single) and “Nobody’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (A Starship hit). Mark also did a solo rendition of “A Song For You,” a 1972 Carpenters’ hit. 
JV Decena, Beth Garcia, Mark Mabasa and Lucky Robles
The Classics IV, next on the ballroom stage, is an American band formed in 1965 that is given credit for beginning the "soft southern rock" sound.  This was their first visit to the country and they regaled the Filipino audience with their hits (released from 1967 to 1969) “Stormy,” “Traces” (their highest charting hit, reaching No. 2 in 1969) and “Spooky,” which have become cover standards, as well as “Every Day With You Girl,” “Change of Heart” (1970) and “Unchained My Heart,” a 1987 Joe Cocker hit. 
The Classics IV

Another special guest performer and 3-time Philippines visitor was Hollywood singing sensation Kyle Vincent. Kyle, who used to front act for Barry Manilow (and was managed by Manilow’s people), was also the front act of another concert I saw, that of Rex Smith held at Widus Resort & Casino in Clark in 2013.  

A Filipino crowd favorite, he first sang Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” then mingled with the audience while singing “I Like Dreamin” (a 1977 Kenny Nolan hit) before performing, on keyboard, his own composition “Let Me Let Go.”  Amazingly, he also sang a Tagalog song, “Hanggan,” a Wency Cornejo original.
Kyle Vincent 
Kyle Vincent mingling with the audience
The final hour of this 2-hour concert was reserved for the main act - John Claude Gummoe, the founding member, lead vocalist and songwriter of the hit 1960s group The Cascades. 

Interestingly, the Cascades, whom I have thought to have met their untimely demise in a plane crash in the late 1960s, is actually alive and well, first performing in the country in 2005. 

During the concert, John was accompanied on stage by second generation members Gabe Lapano and Tony Grasso, as well as musical director Chuck Crews and a fantastic group of Filipino musicians  (including keyboardist and official member Carlo Gaa) and 3 Filipino back-up singers who have been working with John for about three to four years. 
John Gummoe and The Classics IV signing autographs
During the show, the now 76 year old John, who loves performing to Pinoys (whom he describes as “innately musical”), sang the Cascades’ 13 hits - “Let Me Be,” “There’s A Reason,” “My First Day Alone,” “Dreamin’,” “First Love Never Dies,” “Punch and Judy,” 2 versions of “Rhythm of the Rain (certified by ASCAP as the 9th most performed song in the USA),” “All The Way to Yesterday,” “Shy Girl,” “Lucky Guy,” “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Angel On My Shoulder” and “The Last Leaf.” 
John, who calls Jose Mari Chan “a genius,” also sang Chan’s (who was among the audience that evening) signature OPM hit “Beautiful Girl.”  John, also a big fan of the Everly Brothers, also did a tribute to this iconic singing duo (whose other half, Phil Everly, died last January 3) where every backup singer sang a duet with John, harmonizing the Everly Brothers’  hits “All I Have To Do is Dream,” “Devoted to You” and “I’ll Do My Crying in the Rain.”  He also sang a duet with Kyle, rendering “I Bless the Day I Found You.” Two of the Filipino backup singers also enthralled the audience when they belted out “The Prayer,” a popular David Foster song. 
Also during the show, John also did a sing-a-long with the audience, one of his favorite parts of any of his shows, belting out the Peter, Paul and Mary hit “Puff the Magic Dragon” and the Sound of Music staple “Do Re Mi,” among others, which the audience all loved.  After, the show, John, as well as Kyle Vincent and members of the Classics IV, autographed CDs of their respective song albums (John for his latest released CD called “50th Anniversary Rhythm of The Rain,” which includes 3 versions of “Rhythm of the Rain” among other new stuff). 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Norwegian Gastronomic Delights with Chef Markus Peter Dybwad

Norwegian Gastronomic Delights with Chef Markus Peter Dybwad

I'm Angus Steakhouse
From May 20 to 29, an epicurean seafood journey, featuring the stellar creations of Norwegian Chef Markus Peter Dybwad, highlighting the freshness of premium Norwegian cooking, will be held at the I'm Angus Steakhouse.  

This Norwegian food promo  will feature two lunch and two dinner set menus.  Salmon Carpaccio, Pan-fried Red Fish or Salmon, Neck of Lamb Braised in Wheat Beer. Pan-Roasted Fillet of Brill, Grilled Fillet of Monkfish, CAB Beef Sirloin on Sauteed Cabbage  and Cloudberry Mousse are only a few of the dishes offered in the menus. 


Royale of Norwegian blue mussels 





















Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2012
This foodfest is held in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the signing of the constitution of the Kingdom of Norway. The celebration of Norway's Constitution Day will take place on Friday, May 16, 2014, at The Peninsula - Manila. 

The 29 year old Chef Markus was trained at L'Atelier Berger (Paris, France) in 2005 and The Palace Grill (Oslo, Norway) in 2006.

He became Chef de Partie at Restaurant Bagatelle (Oslo, Norway, from 2006 to 2007) and Iggy's (Singapore, 2008); Head Chef at Grefsenkolien Restaurant (Oslo, Norway, from 2008 to 2010); and Sous Chef at Equinox, Swissotel The Stamford (Singapore, from 2010 to 2011), and at The Fat Duck (Bray, Berkshire, England, from 2011 to 2014).

Fennel gazpacho with cerviche of sterling halibut

Markus was also a private chef at Orklagaard (Trondheim, Norway) in 2007 (and again in 2008) and a guest chef at Food and Fun 2010 in Reykjavik (Iceland).  

At the Bocuse d'Or, the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world, he was an assistant for Swedish qualification in Stockholm (Sweden) in 2008, and a private chef assisting the Swedish competitors in Stavanger (Norway) in 2008 and Lyon (France) in 2009.


King crab with pomelo, mayonnaise and basil

Roasted langostine with leeks 
and gruyere cheese 
At a press lunch held just two weeks before the start of the big event, members of media and invited guests got a taste of what Norwegian cuisine is all about. 

A 6-course lunch was prepared by Chef Markus.  For starters, we had the Royale of Norwegian blue mussels with a salad of raw fennel, cucumber, roe and seaweed, served with a glass of Charles de Fere Chardonnay Brut, a fruity, medium-bodied dry. sparkling white wine from France.  

This was followed by the refreshing fennel gazpacho with cerviche of sterling halibut, a soup complemented with a glass of Boschendal 1685 Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a dry, light-bodied white wine from South Africa.

Brill with anchovy cream, sauce vierge and cress



















The 3 main courses, 2 of them fish-based, consisted of king crab (from the Barents Sea off Varanger, Norway) with pomelo, mayonnaise and basil; roasted langostine with leeks and gruyere cheese (served with a glass of Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2012, a dry, medium-bodied white wine from Entre-Deux-Mers in France) and, lastly, brill with anchovy cream, sauce vierge and cress.

Our dessert was cloudberries, from high-altitude marshes of Norway, with spiced cream and white chocolate.

Mr. Knut-Are Sprauten Okstad


Capt. Ivar Tomasli

Other invited guests include Mr. Knut-Are Sprauten Okstad (charge d'affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy); Mr. Werner Berger (CEO) and Mr. Othmar Frei (Gen. Manager) of Werdenberg International Corp.;  Ms. Jannicke Steen (Business Development Manager of Grieg Star); and Capt. Ivar Tomasli (President) and Mr. Jan Andre' Heggem (Public Relations Officer) of the Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC).

Mr. Werner Berger

Aside from I'm Angus Steakhouse, other sponsors include the Royal Norwegian EmbassyNorge Norwegian SeafoodWerdenberg International Corp., the Philippines Norway Business Council and Snorre Food. For registration, email at dining_at_yakal@werdenberg.com.

I'm Angus Steakhouse: WIC Bldg., 7431 Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 892-6206.
Werdenberg International Corp.: WIC Bldg., 7431 Yakal St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.  P.O. Box 3211.  Tel: (632) 840-3771 to 82.  Fax: (632) 817-1217 and (632) 892-0129.  E-mail: ofrei@werdenberg.com.  Website: www.werdenberg.com.
Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC): 21/F, Petron Mega Plaza Bldg., 358 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. 1209, Makati City.  Tel/Fax: (632) 982-2700. E-mail: info@pnbc.ph. Website: www.pnbc.ph.
Royal Norwegian Embassy: Petron Mega Plaza Bldg., 358 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. 1209, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 982-2724. Fax: (632) 982-2799.  
Snorre Food Pte Ltd: 29 Fishery Port Rd., Jurong, 619739 Singapore.  Tel: +65 6538 3303.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Resort Review: Marco Vincent Dive Resort (Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental)

Date of Stay: May 2-3, 2014

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: *********
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: ******

Marco Vincent Dive Resort

The Mediterranean-inspired Marco Vincent Dive Resort, located along a side road 100 m. from  White Beach, has 38 tastefully decorated, spacious airconditioned rooms with queen or twin beds; private bath with hot and cold shower; LED cable TV; mini fridge; sitting area and wi-fi internet connection (premier queen - PhP6,385, premier king - PhP6,885, queen - PhP5,385, de luxe - PhP5,885, super de luxe - PhP8,385, family - PhP7,885, and super family - PhP8,885).


It also has three restaurants.  Marivelles Restaurant, on the top floor, offers dinner, drinks and karaoke.  The poolside El Patio Restaurant serves Western, Filipino and Oriental breakfast while the Aqua Bar & Restaurant, along the White Beach front, offers a fully stocked bar and daily specials. All the rooms open up to a courtyard the center, of which, is an amazing 75 sq. m. indoor swimming pool (adult and kiddie) with adjacent massage bubbles.

The 75 sq. m. swimming pool

The resort also has a 120-pax conference/function room (Elizabeth Hall) at the fourth floor, billiards, fitness center, spa and a dive center with dedicated dive pool (divided into 2, 5 and 10 ft.).
It offers laundry, pressing, safety deposit boxes, land tours, watersports (banana boats, jetskis, etc.), island hopping. fishing, sunset cruises, shuttle service (Makati City to Batangas International Port or vice-versa), massage and room service.  The resort is near enough to the beach to be accessible to the beachfront bars and restaurants but far enough from the noise of the crowds. 
Marco Vincent Dive Resort: White Beach, 5203 Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental. Tel: (043) 287-3590.  Website: www.marcovincent.com.  Calapan City booking office: Marco Vincent Residence Inn, Boniifacio St.  Tel: (043) 441-0235.   Fax: (043) 441-0239-40.  Batangas City booking office: Batangas Pier.   Tel: (043) 723-0983.  Manila booking office: Unit 503, Cityland 10, Tower II, 156 H.V. De la Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 813-6329.  Fax: (632) 892-0309. E-mail: reservation@marcovincent.com and sales@marcovincent.com.   

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hotel and Inn Review: Filipiniana Resort Hotel Calapan (Mindoro Oriental)

Date of Stay: May 1-2, 2016
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: *******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

Filipiniana Resort Hotel Calapan

Hotel lobby
Located at the 100-hectare New City Development site, the 4-storey, 4-star Filipiniana Resort Hotel Calapan, perfectly located for business and leisure, is a popular choice for travelers going to and from Puerto Galera.  

It has 50 stylishly appointed and well-kept airconditioned rooms with chiropractic beds, ensuite bathroom with bath tub, cable TV, coffee/tea making facility and a minibar (30 de luxe and 20 suites, PhP2,700-3,800).  

Hotel suite

It also has a coffee shop serving Filipino and international cuisine (Halcon Bar and Resto, open 6:30am-12 midnight), a magnificent, 25-m. long swimming pool with jacuzzi, an elevator, a 500-pax conference hall, meeting rooms, business center, concierge, car park, fitness center with spa, sauna, basketball court and souvenir shop.  

Swimming pool

Halcon Bar and Resto
The hotel also offers safety deposit boxes, free wi-fi in public areas, pre-arranged tours to Puerto Galera, currency exchange, laundry, dry cleaning, massage, shuttle service and room service.  

Within the hotel grounds is a 3-storey commercial building.  The New Robinson Mall is a short drive away.



Filipiniana Resort Hotel Calapan: M. Roxas St.,Brgy. Sto. Niño, 5200 Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental. Tel: (043) 286-2624 to 25 and (043) 288-2460.  Fax: (043) 286-2622. Mobile numbers: (0932) 977-8900 (Sun), (0918) 975-1558 (Smart) and (0916) 677-0184 (Globe). Manila booking office: 7/F, RGV Bldg., 5470 Osmena Highway, 1233 Makati City. Tel: (632) 887-0063, (632) 887-1501, (632) 887-1502, (632) 664-6510 and (632) 843-1279. Mobile number: (0923) 800-6379 (Sun). E-mail: filipinianahotel@yahoo.comWebsite: www.filipinianacalapan.com.  

Resort Feature: Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant (Naujan, Mindoro Oriental)

Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant 

The Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant, built from 2005-2007, was named after Ms. Benilda F. Genabe, mother of owner Celeste Genabe-Frias. 

It has a huge swimming pool (adult and kiddie) with water slide, jacuzzi, a restaurant, bar, open cottages (PhP500), banquet hall, open-air function room, basketball court, billiards, butterfly sanctuary and videoke.  They also offer horseback and kalesa riding.  Nearby is the Bancuro Church Ruins (Simbahan Bato).
Lobby and reception area

Restaurant
For those who want to stay overnight, they have 2-pax suite rooms (PhP3,200), 4-pax de luxe rooms (PhP4,200), 10-pax family rooms (PhP6,500), 2-pax matrimony suites (PhP3,500), 4-pax view deck rooms (PhP3,500) and 2-pax guest rooms (PhP3,500). 

All rooms are fully airconditioned with cable TV and mini-fridge.  Rates include complimentary breakfast.
The resort's swimming pool

At the garden area are huge statues of the Three Wise Monkeys ("see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil").

There's also a wishing well; man-made lake with bridge; and numerous trees and flowering and ornamental plants. 
Structures on site use a combination of concrete, hardwood, stone, bamboo and nipa (for roofing) as well as recycled capiz windows.  

Huge tree trunks were sometimes used as columns.
Statues of Three Wise Monkeys and a wishing well

Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant: Brgy. Bancuro, Naujan, Mindoro Oriental.  Tel: (043) 208-3628 and (043) 208-3218.  Mobile number: (0999) 177-8762.  E-mail: benilda_resort@yahoo.com.

The Oriental Mindoro Cruise Drive Caravan

Welcome to Oriental Mindoro

SuperCat's St. Laurel
The Automobile Association Philippines (AAP), through its wholly owned subsidiary, AAP Travel, in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT), has been undertaking caravans in various provinces to boost domestic tourism and provide income opportunities in the countryside. 

Last February 6 to 9, the 7th Drive Tourism caravan, with 40 participants in 13 cars, was held at the Cordillera Autonomous Region province of Ifugao and was dubbed as "A Journey From Land to the Sky." 


A warm welcome at Calapan Port

Our police escort
Upon the recommendation of Ifugao caravan participant Mr. Ramon "Mon" Rocamora, the next Drive Tourism caravan was held from May 1 to 3 at Oriental Mindoro, Mon's home province. 

Dubbed the "Oriental Mindoro Cruise Drive Caravan: Escaping the Urban, Sailing the Southwest, Enjoying a Roadtrip Adventure to Paradise," it was sponsored by the Oriental Mindoro provincial government and Petron and 23 participants joined the caravan, some of them veterans of the previous Ifugao caravan.

Lunch at Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant

An array of Oriental Mindoro products
Joining this caravan were AAP president Mr. Augusto "Gus" C. Lagman with wife Ms. Tess Lagman; Ms. Clotilde "Clocel" Marquez; couple Mr. Edgar Tam and Ms. Bethzaida "Beth" Tam with grandchildren Edritz "Aja" Abon and Eyveth "Vea" Abon; sisters Ms. Ming Ming Dy and Ms. Lai Chun Uy; Ms. Frisca Tan with daughter Ms. Sharon Tan; couples Mr. Roosevelt "Ross" Segundo and Ms. Edita Segundo, Mr. Rogelio "Roger" So and Ms. Helen So and Mr. Lorenzo So and Ms. Leandra So. 

Also with the group were AAP Travel Vice-President Ms. Eva Carmona; AAP Travel staff Ms. Maricel "Cel" C. Quiestas (Project Officer) and Mr. Michael "Mike" Quiterio (Project Assistant); AAP travel writer and photographer Ms. Sheena Ferrer; DOT representative Mr. Gabby Gonzales; and yours truly. At the last minute, AAP Director Ms. Mina Gabor had to back out from the trip due to illness.

Participants at Simbahan Bato

Mr. Orlando Tizon of Provincial Tourism Office
The participants all met up at the ferry terminal of Batangas City International Port. May 1 being close to the weekend, the port was teeming with foreign and local tourists leaving for either Puerto Galera or Calapan City.  We were all destined for the latter, leaving on the 11 AM SuperCat fast ferry St. Laurel.  

After a trip of a little over an hour, we safely arrived at Calapan Port and were all welcomed by a marching band, welcome leis and Provincial Tourism officials led by Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Mr. Orlando "Oti" Tizon.  Our 6-van caravan was accompanied by a police escort and the route facilitated by members of the Motorcycle Riders Club of Oriental Mindoro. They were to accompany us throughout our 3-day caravan.

Participants at Bonifacio Monument in Naujan Plaza

Naujan Mayor Mark Marcos (left) with participants
at Naujan Plaza
It being noontime, our first stop, after a 34-km. (30-min.) drive, was Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant in Naujan where we had lunch.  

After a filling repast, we toured its facilities - restaurant, swimming pool, overnight accommodations and a beautiful garden with numerous trees and ornamental plants, a wishing well and huge statues of the Three Wise Monkeys. 


The caravan's arrival at Filipiniana Calapan Hotel 

Suite at Filipiniana Calapan Hotel 
From the resort, we next proceeded to the nearby Bancuro Church Ruins, the old, roofless ruin of what remains of an Augustinian Recollect church and priory that was built in the 1690s but was burned to the ground by Moro pirates in 1824. 

A small, native-style  chapel (literally “a church within a church”) was built within its massive walls. 


Donnyland Resort

Provincial board member Paul Luna
From the church ruins, we made a 30-min. drive to the Naujan town proper where we paid a courtesy call on Mayor Mark N. Marcos at the town plaza.  The plaza has a huge monument dedicated to Andres Bonifacio done by noted sculptor Nemesio R. Miranda, Jr. (Nemiranda). Free film showings and zumba sessions are also held here. Before leaving, we were treated to a merienda of delicious bibingka

From Naujan, we made our way back to Calapan City, this time to check in at some of the 50 stylishly-appointed rooms of the 4-storey, 4-star Filipianiana Calapan Hotel, the best in the city.  After settling in and freshening up, we left the hotel at 7 PM for dinner at Donnyland Resort.  Here, we met up with Mr. Mon Rocamora and Ist District Provincial Board member Mr.
Paul Luna

With the Pandang Gitab Dance Troupe

Clocel hitting the notes with the videoke
During dinner, Oriental Mindoro singing idol Mr. Rjay S. Arellano serenaded us and we were also treated to the Pandang-Gitab dance.  Coined from pandanggo (fandango) and dagitab, which is synonymous to “light,” it adapts the basic steps of Pandanggo sa Ilaw (Dance of Lights) which was said to have originated in Lubang, Mindoro Island. 

The caravan participants were enjoined to try it, following the graceful, shallow gyrating of the dancers' hips and torso and the gentle, side-to-side swinging of their hands, careful not to drop their candle-on-glass on both palms and on their heads. 

Halcon Bar & Resto

Merl's Native Delicacies
After the show, some participants returned to the hotel while yours truly, Gus, Closel and Eva sang the rest of the night away via the videoke before calling it a day.  

Breakfast, the next day, was served at at the hotel's Halcon Bar & Resto, facing the free-form swimming pool. From the hotel, we made a stopover at Merl's Native Delicacies where we all did some pasalubong shopping (okoy, suman sa lihiya, native coffee, pastillas, yema, banana chips, etc.).

The next two days were to be  Puerto Galera, the province’s No. 1 tourist destination but, prior to going there, we were treated to a cool and refreshing swim and a delicious lunch along a developed portion of the  Lantuyang River in Baco.  

A long picnic table, filled with grilled specialties (pork chops and chicken), vegetable salad, labong (bamboo shoot) salad and salted duck eggs, plus pineapples for dessert, was prepared for us on banana leaves.
  
Dining al fresco on boulder tables and chairs

Crossing the Lantuyang Hanging Bridge
A number dined on picnic tables and chairs, in the middle of the river, all made with boulders, enjoying the feel of the cool river water flowing past their feet.  Most of the participants also crossed a hanging bridge (built in 1999), many for the first time in their lives. 

After lunch, we all continued on our way to Puerto Galera. Halfway along the road, we made a short stopover at Tamaraw Waterfalls, the largest waterfall in the province, for some photo ops.  


Tamaraw Falls
Located 131 m. above sea level, 15 kms. from Calapan City, it has a man-made swimming pool just below the aptly named Waterfall Bridge, picnic tables, changing facilities, toilets and a number of souvenir shops.

We all arrived at the Puerto Galera municipal hall by 2:45 PM and we were supposed to pay a courtesy call on Mayor Hubbert Dolor.  However, an unexpected emergency prevented him from meeting up with us.  

With Ms. Aileen N. Bareng (Senior Tourism Operations Officer of Puerto Galera), we next visited the Talipanan Iraya-Mangyan Village where we welcomed by caretaker Fabian "Pabling" de Jesus
Puerto Galera Municipal Hall

Iraya Mangyan nito weavers
Here, got to observe the weaving of strands of nito into beautiful but functional baskets, plates with intricate designs, beer bottle holders, place mats, laundry baskets and trinkets.  

We also toured the numerous projects covering education, livelihood development, housing management and health that the Ayala Foundation, with the help of Ms. Beatriz “Bea” Zobel (wife of businessman and philanthropist Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala), have been implementing for these Iraya-Mangyans.

Caravan participants exploring the village

Suite at Marco Vincent Resort
After a hectic day, we finally arrived at the Mediterranean-inspired, Marco Vincent Dive Resort, one of the best along White Beach, where we checked in at some of its 38 rooms. Gabby, Cel, Eva, Aja, Vea and I spent the rest of the afternoon lolling about in its 75 sq. m. swimming pool while Gus, Tess, Edgar, Beth, Sheena and  Mr. Mon Rocamora visited the upscale Infinity Resort. 

Come evening, we all met up for dinner at the beachfront Aqua Bar & Restaurant where, while dining, we were treated to a fire dance performance. 
Marco Vincent Resort's 75 sq. m. swimming pool

Fire dancer
Of course, any visit to to Puerto Galera is never complete without trying out some of the town’s 13 superb beaches and a number of its offshore islands.  

Come morning of the last caravan day, after breakfast at Marivelles Restaurant at the top floor of Marco Vincent Dive Resort, we were driven to the town’s seaside tourism information office.  


Dinner at the beachfront Aqua Bar & Restaurant

Infinity Resort
Here, big outrigger boats were docked to take us to Boquete Island.  Ms. Susan E. Cruz (Tourism Operations Assistant) and Ms. Sienna May R. Manongsong, both of the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Tourism Office joined us.

The boat trip took a little over 30 mins. and we made landfall at the white sand beach fronting the unfinished Friday Boquete Resort.  Here, we were to have lunch at one of its picnic sheds.
  
Boarding boat for Boquete Island


Fridays Boquete Beach Resort
As lunch was still hours away, we still had time to do banana boating (PhP350/pax) or avail of a package tour to San Antonio Island consisting  of a visit to an underwater cave and snorkeling the spots around the Coral Garden, looking for a meter long giant clam underneath —all for PhP300.  

Of those who availed of the banana boating, half opted for its milder form (no overturning) while  Eva, Cel, Mike, Sheena, Gabby and yours truly went extreme and were rewarded with three dunkings, the last one when we were returning to shore. 

Participants riding the banana boat
The underwater cave
Of those who availed of the latter package, only Sheena and I were able to visit the underwater cave because of the long queue to get in.  We were also the last boat to return. After a quick lunch, Sheena, Sienna, Gabby and I boarded our boat back to the mainland.

After showering and freshening up at Marco Vincent Resort, we had merienda of lomi and turon at El Patio Restaurant before all boarding our respective vans for the 1-hr. trip back to Calapan City Port where we took the 5:30 PM SuperCat fast ferry back to Batangas City, arriving there by 7 PM.
Sheena posing by the cave's skylight

Automobile Association Philippines (AAP): 28 EDSA, Greenhills, San Juan City.  Tel: (632) 655-5889.  Fax: (632) 655-1878.  E-mail: info@aap.org.ph. Website: www.aap.org.ph.

AAP Travel: G/F, Sea Tower Bldg., 2332 Roxas Blvd. cor. Arnaiz Ave., Pasay City. Tel: (632) 551-0025.  Fax: (632) 551-0014. E-mail: info@aaptravel.com.  Website:www.aaptravel.com.ph.

Provincial Tourism Office: Provincial Capitol, Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental.  Tel: (043) 286-7046 and (043) 441-0306.

Benilda ng Bancuro Resort & Restaurant: Brgy. Bancuro, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.  Tel: (043) 208-3628 and (043) 208-3218.  Mobile number: (0999) 177-8762.  E-mail: benilda_resort@yahoo.com. 
Filipiniana Resort Hotel Calapan: M. Roxas St.,Brgy. Sto. Niño, 5200 Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. Tel: (043) 286-2624 to 25 and (043) 288-2460.  Fax: (043) 286-2622. Mobile numbers: (0932) 977-8900 (Sun), (0918) 975-1558 (Smart) and (0916) 677-0184 (Globe). Manila booking office: 7/F, RGV Bldg., 5470 Osmena Highway, 1233 Makati City. Tel: (632) 887-0063, (632) 887-1501, (632) 887-1502, (632) 664-6510 and (632) 843-1279. Mobile number: (0923) 800-6379 (Sun). E-mail: filipinianahotel@yahoo.com. Website: www.filipinianacalapan.com.
Merl's Native Delicacies: 146 Ubas St., Brgy. Lalud 5200, Calapan City,  Oriental Mindoro.  Tel: (043) 927-4350 and (043) 286-7684. Fax: (043) 426-4784 and (043) 920-2018.  Mobile numbers: (0917) 707-4803 and (0922) 847-3458. Open daily, 7:30 AM - 8 PM.  
Marco Vincent Dive Resort: White Beach: 5203 Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental. Tel: (043) 287-3590.  Website: www.marcovincent.com.  Calapan City booking office: Marco Vincent Residence Inn, Boniifacio St.  Tel: (043) 441-0235.   Fax: (043) 441-0239-40.  Batangas City booking office: Batangas Pier.   Tel: (043) 723-0983.  Manila booking office: Unit 503, Cityland 10, Tower II, 156 H.V. De la Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 813-6329.  Fax: (632) 892-0309. E-mail: reservation@marcovincent.com and sales@marcovincent.com