Francis the Explorer (Intramuros episode)

Explore and relive once again the historic walled city of Manila, Intramuros. Witness some of its best historical attractions, from churches up to the old museums and buildings.


Not your ordinary vegan restaurant

Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant, stands out

Different dishes, meat, vegetables, sauces, rice, condiments and a drink station.

Everything seems so ordinary with this buffet-styled restaurant that we usually see in most food courts of the famous mall chain in the country.

Bodhi restaurant might be something new to the ears of many of us but this seems-ordinary food house has been satisfying the cravings of many vegan eaters in the country for more than eight years now.

It started with an idea to revolutionize the vegetarian eating experience. Dan Sy, Bodhi Philippines CEO began thinking of something new to the taste of the Filipino people. He saw and tasted a lot of restaurants in the Philippines but there is a recurring fact in every eating experience he had – unhealthiness.

A study led by the Harvard School of Public Health provides the strongest evidence yet that meat is bad for the health. A study of more than 100-thousand health professionals found that regular consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, was associated with increased mortality risk.

Variety of options

One daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13-percent increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 20-percent increased risk.

This became his inspiration to fully operationalize a restaurant that will support healthy diet for longer life. This serves not only those vegans but also those ordinary customers who would still like to taste the tender meat without sacrificing the health aspect of the diet.

Tender Meat for a vegetarian dish

Many are not convince that meat could still be part of every vegetarian meal. If other vegetarian restaurant can’t, surprisingly, Bodhi restaurant can.

Texturized meat with curry sauce

A lot of people enjoy Bodhi’s great tasting dishes. The meat that they use as part of every meal is not the traditional meat from the poultry houses of Manila.

They called this texturized- meat which basically made out of soy protein. Texturized vegetable protein (TVP), textured soy protein (TSP), soy meat, soya meat, it has a lot of names but it means generally the same.

–This serves not only those vegans but also those ordinary customers who would still like to taste the tender meat without sacrificing the health aspect of the diet.–

It is a defatted soy flour product which is a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It is often used as a meat analogue or meat extender. It is quick to cook, with a protein content equal to that of meat.

“This texturized-meat became Bodhi’s trademark. This main ingredient of Bodhi food products became the reason why people always visit our food station,” said Mary Ann Pinente, one of Bodhi’s branch managers.

The food choices

Food choices from Bodhi restaurant

 Contrary to what others think that food selections from Bodhi might be unsatisfying and not that enticing, Bodhi takes pride to the taste and appearance of their foods and their food station as a whole.

“Not because we’re not using real meat means we’re producing less-tasting food selections. In fact we have mouth- watering and wide variety food selections that we offer fresh every day,” said Pinente.

They offer many Filipino and Asian favorites like sweet barbecue kebabs, curried gluten, pancit canton and bihon (stir fried noodles), fresh lumpia (spring roll), chop suey (stir fried mixed vegetables), sweet and sour gluten, and various vegetarian desserts.

Sweetened meat balls for lunch?

For a very affordable price, you can get a bite of these food choices. Not only you will experience a deliciously cooked meal but also you will feel good health in every bite.

“I like eating Bodhi foods. I always eat here. It’s healthy and delicious at the same time and it’s also affordable,” said Alex Santillan, Bodhi restaurant customer.

Bodhi’s budget meals start at P79 with two viands or dishes (choices of entree), one scoop of white rice, and one bowl of soup when available.

Meat with broccoli and mushroom for dinner

For a healthier option, order one vegetable plate consisting of mostly vegetables like chop seuy and pinakbet. Avoid having white rice, noodles and other sweet dishes.

Bodhi is a good choice and a much-embraced healthy alternative to all those other stalls at the food court.  As its name suggests, the food selections are enlightening. It awakened the sleeping vegan side of every Bodhi customers.

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A closer encounter with the fifth region

The serene and exciting beauty of the fifth region

Bicol region is known for its spicy foods such as Bicol express and the original Laing, the best-tasting pili nuts and the smallest and the biggest fish in the world.

The peninsula and the other islands comprising the region are also home to a chain of mountains and volcanoes.  These give it a unique geographical appeal because of the great contrast between massive land masses and the surrounding seas.

The presence of the divine nature hovers in the air as if they are suddenly limited by another and yet they create a certain harmony that both gives the feeling of watched and taken care of by a mystical force.

The famous pili nuts

Bicol’s hot spots

The country’s fifth region. It has a total land area of 17,632.5 km2 or 5.9% of the total land area of the Philippines. It is said to be volcanic in origin because of the number of volcanoes, hot springs and crater lakes that surround the whole region.

Aside from these, the famous perfect conical shape of Mayon volcano and being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire best describe the region, but what else should people know about this rich, mountainous region of the south?

The Virgin of Peñafrancia Church, Naga City

Landing in Naga is a good place to start.  Naga is a first-class independent city.  It is the cultural and economic center of the region.

Here you can find different specialty stores that sell decorative pieces, souvenir items and lots of Bicol goodies. It was like the usual metropolis because of the public transportations and different establishments, but the locals make the place more different by being so accommodating despite the use of different vernacular.

A few hours of drive will bring you to one of Bicol’s pride-  Camarines Sur or simply CamSur.

Camarines Sur is where the wakeboarding is.  A water sports complex was built at the heart of CamSur that makes it more ideal for a summer getaway.  There is a man-made lagoon wherein a person rides on a board as he is being pulled by a rope that is powered by a system of pulleys and conveyors.

The thrilling wakeboarding experience

Star Alcorcon, a wakeboarding first timer from Manila shared her extreme experience on this emerging water sport in the Philippines. “It was fun and exciting!” she said.

“It is difficult in the beginning because it requires strong arms.  Being able to maintain being on the board is also another challenge,” Alcorcon said  in Filipino, when asked to share her difficulties as a first time wake boarder.

Native cottages of CamSur Water Sports Complex

The CamSur water sports complex is a place not only for interested Filipinos but also for those tourists around the world. Hundreds of foreigners do visit CamSur everyday to experience the Boracay-inspired beach and of course, to do wake boarding.

“There is an increase in the number of foreigners that visit this newly developed CamSur water sports complex. Most of the time they (foreigners) will stay here for weeks and even month because they like being in the beach and the water sports that we are offering,” Mr. Raul Ocampo, one of the sports complex supervisor said.

High with Bicol’s Mayon and other mountains

Mayon leaves you in awe when it chooses to show itself.  It is always hidden by clouds and there are only brief moments when its peak is left visible.  Its majestic and almost perfect cone shape is a testimony of how the power that created nature really is.

The majestic Mayon volcano, perfect cone-shaped isn’t it?

Mayon gives a sense of security for it makes its presence felt and leaves the people watched and protected all.  An excellent way of exploring Mayon from afar is going around it.

–The presence of the divine nature hovers in the air as if they are suddenly limited by another and yet they create a certain harmony that both gives the feeling of watched and taken care of by a mystical force.–

Mayon is an isolated mountain so it is possible to go around it.  Every face of the mountains gives a different feel to it.  At the end of the day, one can only say that he has seen Mayon if he has seen all of its faces.

An attraction to see: The church tower of Cagsawa church

Aside from Mayon, Mt. Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon , Mt. Asog/Iriga, Mt. Isarog/Panicuason Trail, Mt. Isarog/Patag-Patag Trail, Mt. Labo, Mt. Malinao,  Mt. Masaraga, and Mt. Pulog, are also ideal places for mountaineers. These trails are not as beautiful as Mayon’s but it’s interesting to find out the hidden mystery of each mountain trail.

The famous Butandings

Donsol is where you can find the biggest fish in the world – the Rhincodon typus.  Hearing that it is a shark will

automatically make people think more than twice to meet this giant.  However it is the most gentle giant that the seas can offer.  It filters the waters and feed on algae, plankton, krill,  crab larvae, and small squid or vertebrates.

Butanding from afar

After reaching the place, an orientation will be done to be every curious Butanding watchers. In the orientation, visitors will be informed about the basic things to remember when coming into close distance with the Butandings.

You can never be too close so as not to disturb the big sea creature.  Three meters is the recommended distance.

Butanding gets closer

“They can really be sensitive. We don’t want to disturb their marine habitat. For those tourists who will not follow our instructions, they are immediately transported to the shore,” said one of the managers of Butanding watching attraction.

He also added that they are protecting the Butandings from being harmed. This will only be achieved if there are strict rules to follow.

“This attraction is made not for mere enjoyment. We are encouraging the people to take good care of these creatures so that it will reach the next generation,” he added.

Boatmen always come in four – the captain, the spotter and two other crews.  They try their best to ensure that their passengers get the satisfaction of watching the whale shark.

The huge whale shark of the fifth region

“It is not always easy to spot a whale shark.  Moving away from the shore takes around 30 minutes. For those who choose to swim and have contact with the whale shark, it is easier,” Mang Felix, one of the boatmen, said in Filipino.

The boatmen have to look for a whale shark and drop you off into the water and leave you so as to not disturb the whale shark (because of the boat’s engine).  For those who choose to just watch the whale sharks, things are a little bit more challenging.

The boatmen do not always follow the rules in terms of contact.  When they see a boat heading towards a whale shark, others follow.  This greatly disturbs the whale sharks and makes them swim away.

“The boat ride lasts for two hours can be extended depending on the visibility of whale shark.  We are more than happy when we see passengers become excited when they see the whale shark,” Mang Felix ended.

Bicol in not just another place to visit, it has a lot of exciting surprises that will surely make everyone satisfied and happy. The thrilling and jaw dropping nature encounter in Bicol can never be replaced by the themed-parks and huge malls of the metro.

Binondo: A glimpse to Manila’s premier China Town

Huge red dragon emerged, courtesy of PhilAm Life

Binondo is a place known for its huge low-cost depot of various products, Divisoria. Most of the people visit the area because of the bargain spree it offers.

Wholesale shirt, kitchen wares, toys, candies and sweets and commodities of different kinds, can surely be found in Divisoria. Prices are far cheaper than those in the malls and other shops in the metro which is a great deal for many.

People come and go to experience and re-experience this one-of-a-kind shopping convenience. However, more than this huge and people-filled shopping complex is a great and old town adjacent to the bargain capital of the metro.

China Town: The heart of Binondo

Visiting the country’s China Town was an experience to remember.  Many have been in the busy place of Manila for a long time already, but not most of them have explored the town’s little alleys that have lots of treats and surprises.

Considered as the biggest China town in the country, Binondo remains a sanctuary to the Chinese community. This paved the way in bridging the gap between Chinese and Filipinos.

The harmonious relationship between two nationalities started long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. Our contacts with the Chinese began as early as the 9thcentury through trade of goods and immigrations. This led to an easy assimilation of the Chinese in the country.

Dragon Dance as part of the Chinese New Year

It was in 1594 when Spanish Governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas founded Binondo. It became a permanent settlement for Chinese immigrants who then converted to Catholicism.  Since then Binondo became a place where Filipinos and Chinese can freely exchange goods, ideas and culture.

Aling Mely, a Filipino-Chinese who lived in Binondo for more than 50 years now narrated that her parents also lived in Philippines since they were children.

When asked about how long Chinese have been here in the Philippines, “It was such a long time already. I can’t remember when. I was born here and even had my children and grandchildren here,” Aling Mely said.

Presently, Binondo is like a little province of China where you can find native Chinese treats, food houses and even temples.

According to the 2011 Philippine census of population, Binondo has ten barangays with a total population of approximately 11,552.

Binondo: Fusion of culture and tradition

“You will even see Chinese temple that has Catholic images, like the Sto. Nino. It’s different here in Binondo, it’s already a mixture of Chinese and Filipino culture and tradition,” said Mr. Laurence Chan, a tour guide from FSCC Postal Heritage and Metropolitan Theatre Tour.

Binondo is where Buddhism is blended with Catholicism. Since the conversion of Chinese to Catholicism began, these two religions harmoniously co-exist.

The presence of the Catholic Church did not hinder the Chinese temples be built.  People are free to decide on what faith to choose. For some, being a Buddhist and a Catholic at the same time is not anymore a problem.

“I remember my mother telling about her experiences as a child. My grandmother will always require them to practice the Chinese tradition like this one, burning of incense and praying to Buddha,” Aling Mely said after burning a stick of pink incense in front of a Chinese temple.

–Binondo is where Buddhism is blended with Catholicism. Since the conversion of Chinese to Catholicism began, these two religions harmoniously co-exist.–

Burning of stick incense is an everyday practice in traditional Chinese religion. Chinese called this the joss sticks which they use for everyday worship and prayers. There are also other kinds of joss sticks that Chinese burn for a specific occasion such as funerals and the Chinese New Year.

Busy Binodo during the Chinese New Year

“Usually scented pink joss sticks are used for this kind of occasion (Chinese New Year),” Aling Mely added.

The grand celebration of the Chinese New Year in Binondo is another thing both Filipinos and Chinese enjoyed. In this occasion, people go to Binondo to experience the native Chinese celebration.

Dragon and lion dances, day-time firecrackers, street dancers and popular Chinese street treats are among those that people look forward to in celebrating the new Lunar year.

“It’s different when you attend this festivity, it’s fun, it’s a different experience. I like the dragon dances most. We are lucky to celebrate two New Years!” a Filipino spectator said when asked about what she likes most in the Chinese celebration.

Mr. Chan also explained that Chinese New Year is localized already. He used the word Filipinized when he mentioned the street dancers who ate and blew fire, people under the dragon costume who are already Filipino and the crowd itself.

“That’s what happens if two cultures are too intact. They borrow traditions and other things from one another,” Mr. Chan added.

Aside from these, the foods and shops that you can find in Binondo are other things that Filipinos really enjoy. Even if it’s not the Chinese New Year celebration, some people really come to Binondo to taste the treats from different restaurants and bakeshops.

Here you will find different kinds of mooncakes (hopia), sticky rice cake (tikoy), cookies and other pastry treats. Eng Bee Tin, Holland, Salazar Bakeshop and Diao Eng Chay are some of the famous bakeshops where you can find different Chinese specialties.

Chinese altar during the Chinese New Year

Restaurants like Café Mezzanine, President’s Tea House, Chuan Kee and Ambos Mundos are few of the best that you can find in Binondo. You will find a lot in different streets of Binondo from Ongpin St. to Carvajal St. until Tomas Pinpin St., food shops are in every corner.

The acceptance of both tradition and custom could have been the reason why these cultures seem to be in-sync. We also owe this to time wherein it really created a fluid relationship between Filipinos and Chinese.

For a lot of people, Divisoria is the face of Binondo because of the benefits that it brings to them – affordable products and variety of choices. However for some, Binondo’s China Town will not be complete without the native Chinese restaurants, food shops, the fusion of culture and tradition and its long and fascinating history.

Under the rush: Discovering the great Majayjay falls

Experience the rush!

Planning to have a summer getaway? Why not consider going to places where you can enjoy the beauty of nature and its wonders? Something different to experience for this summer season.

Being one with nature is a relaxation treat that we fail to appreciate. There are lots of nature hot spots here in our country, some are hidden, but sometimes these hidden places are considered the best.

When was the last time you experienced breathing fresh air from the woods? How about soaking yourself in a clean, pure, cold lake or river?

Majayjay falls River

Experience Majayjay Falls

In the heart of Laguna lies a waterfall that connects the river going to Quezon province and other towns of Laguna. It is popularly known as Majayjay falls since it is situated in the town with the same name.

Locals called it Taytay falls. Aling Elena, a kakanin vendor, explained how tourists renamed it Majayjay falls after the town, forgetting its real name which is Taytay falls.

“It’s always like that, you will hear them called it Majayjay instead of Taytay. There are only few of them who really know the real name of the falls,” Aling Elena said in native Tagalog.

Going to the place is ideal for a summer getaway, especially if you and your barkada are planning to have some sort of adventure. The place is secluded from the busy noise of the metro. The remote scenery will give you the feeling of tranquility and peace that your soul has been longing for.

The two-storey falls lands at the foot of Mt. Banahaw where plants and trees of different species co-exist. The water that flows from it is amazingly clean and clear. It is very inviting.

From the top you will see how the water continuously runs down to the river.  Upon reaching it, you have to hike downhill using small steps. You have to be very careful in using the path because it’s really narrow. In addition, each step is covered with moss that made it really slippery.

The enchanting Majayjay Falls

What is waiting for you below is scattered rocks and running water all over it. This scene could be really enticing. If you are to swim under this pool of rushing water, you have to be ready. Imagine yourself in a bath tub full of ice cubes, that’s how it is in Majayjay falls. You can probably swim out of excitement but surely, you will get rid of the water after few minutes in the deep.

They said that even during summers, Majayjay water remains very cold. That’s why many tourists prefer Majayjay falls as their summer destination. They are not only intact with the nature but they are also ridding themselves of the irritating summer heat.

Aling Elena even narrated how some tourists come back to re-experience the cold and refreshing Majayjay falls. “There are some who really go back to freshen themselves up, they say the place is ideal. They are not going to pay much for a very relaxing experience,” Aling Elena continued.

When was the last time you experienced breathing fresh air from the woods? How about soaking yourself in a clean, pure,cold lake or river?–

Aside from the falls, the tropical rainforest that covers the whole river view is another thing that people like about in Majayjay. The untouched environment and the abundance of forest has become one of the attractions of this groomed eco-tourism site. It embodies the appearance of nature in its ideal state and not abused.

With the help of the local government and residents in the area, the tourism site continues to be preserved.

Nature like you've never seen it before- The great Majayjay/Taytay falls

Tourists and even those locals who want to swim are required to pay an entrance fee of P40.00. This affordable fee goes to the preservation and development of the site. The common restroom, washing area, trash bins and the like are some of the little innovations that the Majayjay falls managerial team has established.

Mang Lito, one of the coordinators in preserving the falls said that if they did not put the little things in the area, people might litter elsewhere, waste elsewhere and wash their things elsewhere. “It is better to have these installed for them to use it. Things are still monitored regularly and there are always assigned personnel for clean ups,” Mang Lito added.

Most people who want to stay for a night are those who are ready to camp using their tents and camping paraphernalia. As seen from above, campers are all over the place. This is the main reason why the management is implementing stricter rules like waste segregation. This will help preserve the beauty of the falls while we are enjoying it at its best.

Some Tip to Remember

Majayjay falls do not have enough rooms to accommodate everyone who visits. You have to make sure that you have the camping tools and equipment in case you are not lucky enough to get a room.

In terms of food to bring, it is a suggestion to pack light and bring easy to consume foods like can goods and hotdogs. This will ease the burden that you and your group might experience along the way. In short, in going to Majayjay for a night stay, imagine yourself as a real camper, it really helps.

Perfect for summer getaway

Perfect for summer getaway

When it comes to the transportation, it is advisable to have your own wheels. Public transportation can be very rare at times in going in and out of Majayjay falls. If you don’t want to get stuck waiting for long hours, you better prioritize having a private transportation.

With these simple tips, people are assured that they will enjoy their stay in Majayjay. Imbibe the beauty of nature and be enchanted with Majayjay falls.

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