Pilipinas

This poem is dedicated to those who are exerting effort to maintain peace, unity, and understanding among the Filipino people, as well as, the sanctity of their heritage as one nation, despite diversities in religion and culture and in the face of the current adversities.

 

Pilipinas

By Apolinario B Villalobos

 

 

Mga luntiang islang magkakahiwalay

Mga katutubong iba-ibang pananalita

Iyan ang Pilipinas, watak-watak sa paningin

Subali’t iisa ang adhikain, iisa ang damdamin.

 

Halos gutayin ng pabago-bagong panahon

Kasama na diyan ang mga pag-uga ng lindol

Nguni’t buong tapang na iniinda ng mga Pilipino

Animo’y kawayan, sumasaliw sa hagupit ng bagyo.

 

Mula sa Batanes, hanggang Tawi-tawi

Mga katutubo’y nagbubuklod- iisang lipi

May isang kulay, matingkad, hinog sa panahon

Nagkaisa-  magkaiba man ang damit, salita at relihiyon.

 

Mayabong na sining at mayamang kultura

Taas-noong maipamamalaki, saan mang bansa

Hindi nagpapahuli, lumalaban, hindi nagpapaiwan

Sa ano mang uri ng patas na paligsahan o tunggalian.

 

Inang Pilipinas, mahal nating bayan

Huwag nating hayaang siya’y tapak-tapakan

Huwag hayaang mayurakan, iniingatang dangal –

Nang kung sino – Pilipino man o banyagang hangal!

 

Mga Pilipino tayo, kailangang magbuklod

Nang sa unos ng buhay matatag, ating pagsugod

Walang kinikiling na pag-imbot sa puso ng bawa’t isa

Nag-uunawaan, nagkakaisa – sa buong mundo, ating ipakita.

 

Mapalad tayo sa pagkakaroon nitong bansa

Na kung wariin, mahirap pag-ugnayin at mapag-isa

Subali’t ito ang itinadhana sa atin ng Poong Maykapal

Kaya’t buong puso nating arugain ng masidhing pagmamahal.

 

 

The PAL TOPIC Magazine, PALakbayan Tours and PAL’s Total Effort in Promoting Philippine Tourism

The PAL TOPIC Magazine, PALakbayan Tours

And PAL’s Total Effort in Promoting Philippine Tourism

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

TOPIC which stood for “Tours and Promotions Information Office” was the publication conceived by the Marketing and Sales- Philippines during the time of Mr. Ricardo Paloma as a tool for the promotion and “selling” of the tourist destinations; festivals; tourist facilities such as restaurants, hotels, pensions, transport services; festivals; outdoor sports such as mountaineering, spelunking (cave exploration), bird watching, trekking, scuba diving; festivals; dive spots and mountains. It was administered by Mr. Vic Bernardino, the Manager of the Tours and Promotions Division. The early issues were edited by Alex Enrile, which was later on taken over by this writer. The magazine is the epitome of the typical Filipino “bayanihan” or cooperation spirit, as the whole staff of the Division contributed their skills to make every issue interesting.

 

As if by coincidence, the staff of the Division had various expertise in the fields of scuba diving, mountain climbing, cave exploration and birdwatching, not to mention outdoor photography. Thelma Villaseἧor was for instance, a scuba diver and mountain climber, and so were Ed Buensuceso, John Fortes, Reggie Constantino, Bong Velasco, and Julio Luz, Jr.  Aside from diving and climbing, John Fortes and Ed Buensuceso were also spelunkers (cave explorers), who pioneered the exploration and mapping of the Palawan Underground River (formerly, St. Paul Subterranean Park), with the help of a caving team from Europe.

 

Ed Buensuceso, together with the Kennedy National Geographic Team recorded the first-ever in-flight mating and breeding of the Philippine Eagle (formerly, Monkey-eating Eagle), for which close coordination was made with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Baracatan Breeding Station in Sta. Cruz, Davao City. For such effort, the Department of Tourism-Davao was also involved. On the other hand, John Fortes was exerting his own effort in promoting mountaineering in the country, the penultimate of which was the organization of all mountaineering clubs into the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP).

 

Mayie Santos an intrepid writer who was among the original staff of the Division contributed her share of effort by attending festivals and making reviews on resorts, pension homes, hotels and restaurants. Even Vic Bernardino, the Manager, would lend a hand in gathering information as needed, by attending important touristic activities. Furthermore, the staff was also trained to speak in seminars on Philippine tourism aided with slides presentation and handouts. Information given to participants were first-hand, hence, even the Department of Tourism, the UP Asian Institute of Tourism, embassies, consulates, tour and travel organizations, and educational institutions would request for the group’s assistance.

 

Later, in line with the tourism-centered effort of the airline, Mr. Paloma also conceived the PALakbayan Tour Program which consolidated all the efforts, this time, with the cooperation of the domestic stations. The program was divided into several “modules” such as Excursion, Education and Culture, Conventions and Seminars, and Sports. During this time, the exhaustive endeavor in exploring tourist spots was doubled, bringing to light non-traditional destinations such Sorsogon, Romblon, Mamburao, Palawan, Fuga Island, etc. Development of outdoor activities which were new among local tourists involving study of butterflies, migratory habits of birds, and culture of tribal communities were also developed to stir their interest. Schools were encouraged to consult the office for their planned educational tour program and other out-of-town activities, for which PAL stations were tapped for assistance.

 

The PALakbayan Tour Program virtually catered to all the needs of air-travelers within the country…the airline’s proud legacy to the industry, and considered as “Asia’s First Airline”, which initially operated using rehabilitated post-war DC-3’s.

Surigao del Norte: Where Mindanao Begins

Surigao del Norte: Where Mindanao Begins

By Apolinario Villalobos

Despite the division of Surigao into two political units, namely, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, many Filipinos still mention just “Surigao” when they mean the northern half. This also happens when they refer to its capital, Surigao City. Whereas, for the southern half, “Butuan City” is always specified if they refer to the capital, just as when the province, Surigao del Sur is mentioned. Understandably, the Filipinos just cannot easily wean themselves from this habit because, the Surigao del Norte today, is what the whole Surigao was, even before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Before the splinter of Surigao into two provinces, it was a vast region that encompassed two-thirds of the whole Mindanao, covering a land area of 13,000 square miles. Within its original territory were both Agusan del Norte and Sur, some areas of Davao Oriental, Baganga, Mati, Caraga, and both the current northern and southern Surigao. Surigao del Norte is the link of Mindanao to the Bicol peninsula where Luzon begins.

Located at the edge of the Philippine Deep, the province is also teetering along the rim of the Asian continental shelf. These particular waters have been known as very treacherous even during the calm season characterized by the absence of typhoons. Magellan used this Pacific corridor as his entrepoint, particularly, Homonhon, when he explored the islands in 1521. After entering Surigao Strait, he proceeded to Leyte and Cebu where he met his fate in the hands of Lapu-lapu during the significant Battle of Mactan.

The chronicles of Pigafetta contained “Calagan” as his reference to Surigao which eventually did not refer only to the nape of the archipelago but also the islands dotting the Pacific coastline of Mindanao. The “territory” has been described by Fr. Francisco Colin in 1663, as one “beginning at Cape San Agustine, extending fifty leagues to the point of Surigao, and continuing along the west coast for fifteen leagues down the river Butuan which is its border area.” The fleet of

Local historians aver that the name Surigao may have been derived from the word “surgir” which means “swift current”. Another version of the story is its having been named after “Solibao”, a village chieftain who helped Visayan fishermen who were caught by storm and drifted to the said village at the mouth of Surigao River. Chief Solibao accommodated the fishermen in his abode. When the fishermen had recovered from their misfortune, they went home but later some of them returned to the village of Solibao to settle down with their families.

When the Spaniards came, and dropped anchor not far from the village during the 15th century, they asked the first native they met for the name of the place, instead they were told the name of their chieftain, Solibao. The Spanish chronicler mistook it as the name of the place and even misspelled what he heard and eventually wrote “surigao” in his log. From then on, the recorded name was made as reference to the northeasternmost tip of Mindanao. Today, the Surigaonons or Surigueῆos love to refer to their province as one “where Mindanao begins”.

The name was changed to Caraga which was derived from the word “calagan” or land of the braves or land of the fierce people. In a book published by Italian adventurer Giovanni Franceso Gemelli Careri, another adventurer, Francesco Combes was given the credit for the name. Combes supposedly derived the word “caraga” from a Visayan term, “kalag” which means soul or spirit, while “an” refers to the people, hence, “kalagan” or place of strong-spirited people.

Currently, Caraga as a region, carries the numerical reference as Region XIII by virtue of Republic Act. No. 7901 dated February 25, 1995, making it the youngest region of the country.

For travel writers, Surigao is a province or city of island adventures, fittingly attributed due to the interesting spots that practically dot the entire of 245.34 square kilometers area. Historically, its port is the oldest in Mindanao, having been built by the Spaniards in 1655.

What I will never forget was when I took a pumbpoat from Surigao city to Nonoc, Siargao, Bucas Grande, and Dinagat islands during the early 80’s. I saw the “line” created by opposing currents and when I was told that we were on top of the Philippine Deep, I was thrilled. I also saw the tops of “bakhawan” trees swaying to the currents miles away from shore, which showed the extent of the mangrove.

Nonoc Island was known for its gold, iron, manganese, silica, cobalt, copper, chromite and nickel. Long before the Marinduque was cited for its copper, Nonoc Island has already been practically stripped for its own copper and nickel deposits, that from a distance, its bare rust-hued soil can be perceived.

Other than Nonoc which is the largest island of the province, the other islands that number to more than two dozen compose two-fifths of the city’s land area. Hinatuan Passage serves as the demarcation line between these islands and the mainland. Prominent among these islands are Hanigad, Sibale, Bayaganan and Awasan which are fringed with mangroves dominated by nipa palm.

Hilly, best describes Surigao. Emanating from the valleys, Surigao River, also known among locals as Kinabutan River, meanders through the city and pours out into the fertile delta comprised of mangrove swamps which lately, a significant portion of which has been overtaken by the massive urban development. The outflow is the confluence of the three major bodies of water: Pacific Ocean, Surigao Strait, and Mindanao Sea.

The history of Surigao is splashed with rich commercial intercourse of the natives with foreign traders dominated by Chinese, Indians, aside from those that come from the southernmost part of Mindanao. The natives of the province who are securely-entrenched in the hinterlands are called “Mamanwa”.

The current location of Surigao is what was known then, as Bilang-Bilang which was also the site of the original port used by fishermen and traders, later renamed to Banahao which eventually became an integral part of the expanded Caraga. Siargao which was known then, as Caolo, served as a the provincial capital until it was razed to the ground, causing the transfer of the political and trade center to its present location, to be named later as Surigao.

Interestingly, there are two villages in the province named after William Howard Taft and George Washington when the Americans took over from the Spanish. During the period, Surigao experienced rapid transformation to become a premier province of Mindanao. New roads were constructed, connecting the towns, with the construction of the port capping the Americans’ magnificent effort.

During the WWII, the commercial landmarks were practically demolished, the Surigao Strait having been used as the arena for showdowns between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Imperial Navy. More than fifty Japanese warships were sank by American bomber planes and as the war ended, not a single ship flying the Japanes was seen along the coast of the province.

Surigao is people by various migrants from the different parts of the country, among them, being the Bisaya from Cebu and Panay Island, the Waray from the nearby Leyte and Samar, as well as, the Tagalog from Luzon. It became a city in August 31, 1970, by virtue of Republic Act No. 6134, with Pedro Espina as the first city mayor. Surigaonon is the dialect spoken by the locals. Although, there are sprinklings of Visayan words, Surigaonon is distinct, in itself.

Strolling around the city, a visitor of Surigao will already be occupied with what it can offer such as the Surigaonon Heritage Center cum Rock and Mineral Museum that houses ancient burial jars, Chinese porcelain and other archaeological finds from Pahantungan at Placer. Being a mineral-rich province, a significant collection can also be viewed at the museum. At the city’s heart is the Luneta Park initially built during the Spanish regime, fronting the equally historic cathedral. It is suggested that the city market be visited, too, for the province’s marine products and local delicacies that can be partaken at unassuming food stalls.

Located at Hikdop Island, Buenavista Cave, with its three entrances can be found. A knee-deep pool leads to the main chamber with its “King’s throne”. The cave also features interesting formations of stalagmites and stalactites, other caves worth visiting are Mapawa and Silob.

To complete an exhilarating exploration of the province, suggested for inclusion in the itinerary are the Zaragoza Rock formations in an area known as an ancient burial ground, with the rocks resembling giant vases with pockets of trees on their crests; the whirlpools of Bitaugan, the formation of which are heralded by explosions as the ebb tide is occurring. The whirlpools are called “pahibongan”, which eventually vanish after the seemingly inaudible explosions; Raza Island with its quick interplay of high and low tides; the Day-asan floating village dominated by a dense mangrove forest; the Manjagao mangrove forest, a marine and bird sanctuary; the San Pedro Cantiasay footbridge connecting Nonoc and Sibale islands; the Sukailang waterfalls with a height of fifty feet; and to cap the explorations is of course, a respite at any of the province’s beaches, foremost of which are the Mabua, Ipil, Basul, Berok, Panomboyon, and Sagisi.

Just like the rest of Philippine provinces, cities and towns, Surigao also has its own festivals, such as Charter Day celebration from August 25 to 31, highlighted by a grand parade and beauty pageant. The Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao Festival celebrated every 9th of September, features the culture of the Mamanwa tribe, and the city’s patron saint, San Nicolas.

Aside from being linked to Luzon via the Pan-Philippine highway that starts from Laoag City in the north down to the central cities of Mindanao, Surigao is also accessed through its airport that serves direct flights from Manila and Cebu. For the adventurous, however, buses can be taken from Manila, affording an opportunity of glimpses of Bicol and Leyte.

Rediscover the Philippines Through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.

Rediscover the Philippines Through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.

Moalboal: Cebu’s Hidden Gem

Moalboal: Cebu’s Hidden Gem

By Apolinario Villalobos

For a strange sounding place like Moalboal which most Filipinos do not even know where such can be found, a shrug is the usual reaction. But if Europeans and Japanese divers have liked it so much that they come back year after year, then, it must be something extraordinary for a place. It is far from Cebu and the road is semi-rugged but still this exotic-sounding southwestern town of Cebu draws the interest of most foreign sea lovers.

According to a folktale, the name Moalboal came from the word “bukal-bukal”, mispronounced by a woman with a cleft palate, when she thought that a Spaniard for the name of the place, but thinking that she was being asked here where she fetched her water. Because of her impairment in speech, she told the Spaniard that that the water came from “moal-moal”.

The folk hero of the Moalboalnons was Laguno Sabanal, a warrior from Bohol who came to settle in the village with his family. It was alleged that he was protected by a prayer which in the dialect is called “yamyam”, that could deter enemies from harming him. It was tested when the village was invaded by Moros from Mindanao. He told the men of the village to throw coconut husks into the sea and with a prayer, he made the invaders perceive them as warriors swimming towards them. In haste, the Moros left and did not bother the village anymore. When he died, it was said that he was buried beside a spring near the beach. They used a tree trunk as a marker that bleeds every time someone tried to cut it.

To be exact, Moalboal is 89 kilometers southwest of Cebu City and travel time is about two and a half to three hours over semi-rugged road that winds through quaint uptowns and fishing villages. It is between the towns of Alcantara and Badian. One actually traverses the width of the island, with a chance to see coralline cliffs several hundred feet above sea level and undulating coco plantations. Along the way, there’s also the chance to mingle with villagers during a “tiyangge” or “tabo” (village market day) which is held on Thursdays and Sundays during which makeshift stalls mushroom along the road. At Barili, which is also along the way, one can have a glimpse of Mantayupan Falls.

There are seven towns that precede Moalboal. They vary from sleepy to bustling and antiquated to highly-developed. Moalboal, is itself a quiet town with an unassuming market where most of the activities of its inhabitants are centered. The concrete municipal building faces the big Catholic Church which is flanked by high school buildings fronting the Tanon Strait. Wooden houses line the roads that comprise the town’s crisscrossing streets which may be unimpressive to discriminating intruders. But the scene does not picture Moalboal in totality.

Today, the main road fronting the municipal building is named Laguno, after the folk hero.

One has to take a road westward to Basdiot where Panagsama Beach is located, to see more or rather, the “real” Moalboal. Panagsama is just a small community of fishermen who live in clusters of cottages along the white beach which is also pockmarked with resorts, most of which also offer dive packages. It Divers and snorkelers need not go far from the beach to enjoy colorful coral gardens. But the more adventurous has the option to rent a pumpboat that could bring him farther out. North of the town is White Beach (Bas Dako) at Barangay Saavedra, which is also frequented by sea lovers.

A mere forty five minutes away on a pumpboat is Pescador Island ringed by cavernous drop-offs, replete with marine life and corals. A veritable dive area, this speck of rock with a thin layer of soil is also the locals’ fishing ground.

The ‘70s which was considered as the golden years of the tourism industry in the country, also saw the rise to popularity of Moalboal whose pioneering habitués were backpackers from Europe. Simple native huts comprised the early “resorts” without electrical fixtures. Some of backpackers preferred to pitch their tents along the beach which the locals tolerated.

Today, resorts with modern facilities such as bar and restaurant, some even with swimming pool, dot the beaches of Panagsama and Bas Dako (White Beach). Arrangement can be made with their management regarding the renting of boats and dive or snorkeling facilities.

A Philippine town or village comes to zesty life during fiestas. For Moalboal, it’s the Kagasangan Festival that revolves around the corals, celebrated during the 15th and 16th of May.

Unlike Boracay, Moalboal is serenely laid back, where peace and quiet moments can be enjoyed – a deserved destination at the end of the 89-kilometer travel over semi-rugged roads. This veritable hidden getaway can be reached on buses with regular daily schedule from Cebu City. Commuters should take note that the bus they take for Moalboal is via Barili. These buses can be taken at the Cebu South bus station. Those who are in a hurry may take a taxi at the airport, for which assistance from tourism personnel is necessary. Within the locality and in going to nearby towns, tri-sikad (tricycles), pedicabs and multi-cabs are available for the commute.

Rediscover the Philippines through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

 

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

 

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

 

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

 

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

 

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

 

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

 

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

 

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

 

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

 

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

 

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

 

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

 

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.