Sunday, July 31, 2016


Location: Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

The Statue of Sta. Clara

History of the Congregation (excerpts from Congregation for Women in Spanish Philippines)

This is a Spanish Monastery which is recorded to be the first founded monastery for women in Asia wayback 1621 by a 66-year old Mother Jeronima and seven other volunteers coming from Spain thru the command of the Franciscan provincial congregation from Sevilla, Spain. They left Spain in May 1620 and after a year and three months of voyage on a galleon ship, these religious pioneers arrived in Manila on August 5, 1621.

Colored egg stall vendors outside the monastery

A monastery is a structure where the nuns or monks live in total seclusion from the outside word and they live in simplicity. They cannot be seen by the public and it is simply like they are hiding from the rest of the world. That is what we call monastic life. This is a congregation whom Blessed Mother Jeronima was founded in the Philippines. The deprived bachelors who were left by twenty Spanish maidens due to their entry to the congregation two months after its inauguration in the Philippines had motioned for strong resistance and they filed a motion to authorities to stop it but Mother Jeronima has been favored by the King of Spain to continue her work.

The visible picture of the monastery from the main gate

The congregation also gained criticism when it did not accept Filipinas applying for admission since they were not admitted being labelled as Indios. By that time, this royal foundation was specifically created for highly religious Spanish women and daughters of the conquistadors who cannot marry properly. It was such a silent prohibition imposed by what they call then a sublime Spanish institution like this congregation. However, when the governing Spaniards sold the Philippine colony to the Americans in 1898, Filipina applicants had been admitted already to the congregation and the first Filipina Poor Clare in the twentieth century was Madre Sor Concordia de San Francisco, OSC (1886-1959). She was born as Concordia Lopez y Gonzalez in San Nicolas, Cebu. Receiving investiture in 1906, she professed simple vows in 1907 and solemn vows in 1910.

My Personal Encounter with the Monastery

The interior of the church

Poor Clares monasteries can be found all throughout the Philippines and, in fact, Calbayog City, where I came from, has one. Thus, I am familiar of what monastic life is. The second one which I came across was the Monasterio de Tarlac, a side trip when I had my Mount Bungkol Baka Climb. Relating these experiences, I got interested of visiting Monasterio de Sta. Clara de Manila, considering that it is just accessible within Metro Manila. Thus, I decided to have this visit a reality in the afternoon of July 31, 2016. Being there, sent something different to my senses. I can feel my feet is touching a holy ground and I need to be saintly in my actions while I was there. Taking pictures just became secondary. What I wanted then was a meditative moment.

Believers writing their intentions in a paper

Well, while approaching the monastery, I got amazed because there were a few vendors which were selling eggs. I did not bother to ask how does each pack costs. What struck my attention is the explanation of the color coding. Let me write it again for you these codes, below:

Color Specific Purpose/Intention
Red Goodluck for travel and work
Pink For lovelife and for family
Blue For studies and for board examination
Green For financial abundance
Orange For business
Yellow For thanksgiving, weather, health, all-occasions & general intentions

These eggs are offered when you drop your requests or intention. I did not try this thing actually because by that time, I have nothing really in particular to ask God what I wanted. Though, as I have been watching everybody even kids writing their own intentions with pencils provided, I was able to write mine, too. Something specific and of course, something secret to reveal with. I even read the leaflets about Mother Jeronima.

Dropping the petitions or intentions

After writing your petitions or intentions, you will fall in line to drop them on a hole along the wall. From the wall I learned some announcements or reminders there as follows:

Blessing Time: 7:00 A.M. to 12:00 Noon and 2:00 to 3:30 P.M.
Mass Schedule: Monday to Saturday - 6:00 A.M. and Sunday - 6:30 A.M. and 5:30 P.M.
Sisters' Prayer Time: 11:00 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. and.thus, all requests and offerings are requested just to left with the receptionist

Announcement: That all petitions are dropped in the petition box together with donation, if there is any.

Prayer to the image of Saint Clare

After dropping all petitions and donations, believers can go the other end of the hall to offer some prayers with Saint Clare. In this same hall, there is a full-size picture of Mother Jeromina.

The place where candles are lit

Of course, in a Catholic tradition, the lighting of candles if petitions have been asked always follow. Thus, there is a specific place where candles are lighted. These small red candles are already available.

The wishing fountain

Having had much time since I was waiting for the 5:30 P.M. Mass, I roamed around to observe the believer around. And I went back near the gate to get a vantage point of the wishing fountain. In here, coins are being thrown to it. I can see that before they throw the coins, they utter something. Maybe, they are silently uttering their petitions.

spacious parking space

Visitors bringing with them their vehicles need not to worry because there is enough space for parking space and you will be assisted by the guard to put things in proper order.

The 5:30 P.M. Holy Mass

The best thing I did in the monastery was when I waited for the Sunday mass at 5:30 P.M. when I arrived there at 3:20 P.M. It was such a solemn mass. The choir was just so heavenly. The readings were read by solemn readers. This is an experience which really wanted to do it again. To attend mass in the monastery.


Going to the monastery is so convenient when someone commutes as there is an LRT2 with station in Katipunan. Coming from Recto Avenue where the LRT2 station is the starting point and followed by the station of: Legarda, Pureza, V Mapa, J. Ruiz, Gilmore, Betty Go, Cubao, Anonas and finally to the Katipunan Station for P25 only.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Location: Nasugbu, Batangas, Philippines

The Parthenon-inspired ruins of Fortune Island

It was really annoying then when I always see in the internet the amazing advert pictures of Fortune Island of Nasugbu since I have not personally witnessed yet its beauty. I had such hectic schedules last summer when every weekend, I either have tour or mountain scaling activities. I originally wanted to spend an overnight in the island but my schedules prevented me then to do such. Until such time that I saw the advert of a certain Rommel Biazon in the Facebook’s Climber Page offering an all-in P1,500 day tour. The actual tour was dated April 24, 2016 but booking on it requires a reservation fee of P600 which I paid as early the 1st of April.

The majestic sunrise while on board the boat to the island

The meet-up was 2:00 A.M. of April 24, 2016 at Jollibee Farmer’s Cubao and practically as part of this packaged tour of 13 people jam-packed in a commuter van, everybody was a total stranger and I only knew my companion in the name of Marie Jane Gumba, a close friend of mine.

While approaching the island

As early as 4:00 A.M., we were already at Jollibee of Nasugbu. We ordered breakfast then and waited for a call from the Fortune Island Resort. We did it so early because we all wanted to have the sunrise in the island..

Getting closer to the island

After 20 minutes of waiting, we headed to the said resort located along Apacible Boulevard, Brgy. Wawa, Nasugbu, Batangas. For DIY travelers, one can take a tricycle from Nasugbu Bus Station to the resort for a fare of P10. In our case, the boat was being arranged by the resort since our tour operator had booked our group through the resort. I talked to a certain Maricel and in my query from her, she told me that the roundtrip boat fare for day tour is P300 and for overnight is P400 per person.

Zooming in the island in my camera

As early as 5:00 A.M. we already boarded a boat but it was still dark. The weather was good and the sea was calm though occasionally waves would splash towards our boat and these waves didn’t diminish our excitement.

Capturing the island in a wider angle

After 50 minutes of boat travel, I can see we were closer to the island. There was an unimaginable buildup of excitement which I felt then. After all, it was my first time to set foot in this famous island.

Concrete stairs leading to the ruins

My excitement triggered more when I saw the replica ruins inspired from the Parthenon of Greece where according to the historical records, this is chief temple of the Greek goddess Athena on the hill of the Acropolis at Athens, Greece built in the mid-5th century B.C.

The hilltop opposite to the ruins

Finally, after 66 minutes, we landed in the island. I was so surprised that as early as 6:06 A.M., I can see many people and the mushrooming tents along the white beach front. The Parthenon-inspired ruins were crowded with people. Definitely, these people were there for an overnight stay.

The beach front as captured from the ruins

The beach was just simply irresistible. It was so crystal clear and I can see the sea bed on its translucent white color. Rock formations were just stunning beautiful. People around were so nice. Maybe the beauty of the island made them feel good.

Jing Gumba enjoying her moment in the island

Marie Jane "Jing" V. Gumba, who is a close friend of mine and a travel buddy had a limited moment with me in the island and she most of the time hid away from the heat of the sun when in fact, she did not join our group to the ruins.

While I was engaged with the ruins

But you know what? I was so surprise because our tour operator, Rommel was really an honest-to-goodness-not-after-huge profit tour operator. He made my day, as I see that he really prepared so much food for our breakfast and lunch. Indeed, it was lavish and sumptuous.

A restrictive shot to avoid the crowding people

There were “Puto”, cake, “malagkit”, grilled “liempo”, bangus (milkfish), tilapia, cold drinks and abundance of drinking water. He did all the cooking by himself and others were brought by him already cooked. We really did not consume all the food we had. It was like a fiesta. This is what I loved this tour - food!!!!

A cropped shot to delete photo bummers

After eating and eating, I dipped in the beach. Swam a little and did twice cliff diving. Not that high, just around four meters. Well, there were no antagonists and primadona in our group. In fact, we all blended well.

A cliff diving site which I did not try

Of course, it won’t be complete, I will not go to the Parthenon-inspired ruins. But come on!!! We could hardly get an unobstructed view of it because there was a huge group there holding their prenuptial shots. After a series of group pictures from formal, wacky, “pa-bebe” to jump shots, they would have the same shots in solo.

No room for privacy at the ruins.

Our group stayed long at the ruins till 7:30 A.M. to have our moment for better shots but people are pouring in like a busy a mall. We could hardly get solo pictures. By that time, it was getting hot already but people seemed not to mind it as long as they can get their pictures.

The medium lighthouse of Fortune Island

After almost two hours of waiting to capture the ruins with "nobody-scenery" form, I gave up and went back to our tent down the beach front to eat again. It was so hot down there as there are no shades of trees to cover with. My only recourse is to plunge to the beach on a part where hanging cliff serve as cover. The water was somewhat cooler and refreshing.

While at the lighthouse

While I was on a swim, I recalled that when our boat was approaching the island, I saw that there was a lighthouse. So, I convinced my companions to join me for a trek to the lighthouse but only three of them joined. It was a quite a long hot walk towards its jump-off point and from there we've looked for a guide but the locals were unwilling to do the job. A local kid just told us that we trail a blue nylon roof and near on its end is already the lighthouse. Fortunately, trekking up there was shady where the trail was grown with trees but it was an unfriendly one as sharp rocks might hurt your feet. After almost 30 minutes, I reached the lighthouse but I waited for another 20 minutes for my three companions. Anyway, there was nothing to see up there. There was no clearing at all. Unlike Cape Bojeador of Burgos, Ilocos Norte, this lighthouse can't be climbed.

Tents near the lighthouse jump-off point

Going back to the jump-off point, I noticed that there were some tents pitched in the area and I learned that they stayed there for an overnight. It was near the comfort room but there was no water to be used except for a dirty water coming from an abandoned pool. In fact, it was already giving a foul smell. Of course, there was no bathroom facility and the island has practically no water supply.

A natural cover from a hot-sun-free swim

With no facilities to rent and enjoy in the island, guests should bring everything from cook sets, water, food, light equipments, tent, swimming gears and other necessities most especially to those who opt to spend an overnight.

A captured seabed through a crystal clear water

There is absolutely no electricity in the island but the good thing it has network signal for Globe and Smart. So, to endless enjoy the use of digicam and cellphones, guests should equipped themselves with power bank and battery charger.

The sun-protected guests

Because it was really hot everywhere in the island, the hanging cliff provided the guests an all-day long cool swim. This area can accommodate a sizable number of people.

Hanging cliff serving the flatform for diving

The hanging cliff has its dual purpose as aside from giving a cover, it can also be utilized for cliff diving. Its height of around four meters may not be daring for even the beginners. In fact, it offers a good opportunity for almost everybody to give it a try for cliff diving. I for one had tried for more than ten times. After all, what's down there is a clear water with a visible white sea bed.

Not too deep, not too shallow

After having a literally sumptuous lunch of grilled "liempo" (pork's meat), relyenong bangus (milkfish) and tilapia with unlimited rice, I went back for a swim but around 2:00 P.M., our group headed back to the ruins.

While at the ruins at 2:33 P.M.

Even with the searing heat of the sun, guests are still unstoppable in crowding at the ruins just to get their own vantage point. We tried our cool to wait but to no avail. All day long, this part of the island is like a fiesta. People are on its steady multiplicity.

An alternative for a no-man-vantage point

My companions after a long wait under the scorchingly hot sun, did not bother the crowding photographers. They did their own getting the best shot through close-ups. They even brought with them a number of clothing apparels and accessories just to look gorgeous and fashionable in their pictures.

A group's last shot

We were a total of 13 excluding Rommel Biazon, our tour operator, but only the eight of us went to brave the skin-burning heat of the sun where during the last shot, Rommel was our photographer.

Nasugbu mainland: Wawa's beach coast

We still wanted to stay in the island but we were told by our boatman that during late afternoon, waters becomes turbulent and it may be less safer. Thus, we all agreed that we leave the island at 3:30 P.M. and reached Fortune Island Resort at 4:35 P.M. where we rinsed. It is just advised that the resort can not serve numerous people in bathing as it has no enough water supply. I experienced that the shower was on and off.

But with all these, I still wanted to back to the island for an overnight. I can best enjoy the island during its glorious sunset and I might have my privacy at the ruins during sunrise and sunset.


ROMMEL BIAZON - TOUR OPERATOR Mobile Number: +639174188705

Apacible Boulevard, Wawa, Nasugbu, Batangas, Philippines; Mobile Number: +639063805259
Contact Person: Miss Maricel Bermas - Mobile Number +639155047166
General Manager: Mr. Kwang seok Kim
Internet Phone: 070-4300-7715
Email Address:

Friday, July 8, 2016


Municipality of Camiling, Tarlac, Philippines

Note: This is a part of my June 5 – 6, 2016 Alaminos City-Bolinao-Camiling Tour which includes: Hundred Islands, Saint Joseph Cathedral Parish Church, Alaminos City Hall and Colegio San Jose de Alaminos, Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, Patar Beach, Giant Taklobo Resto Grill and Resort Cottages.

Capturing a scenic ricefield 15 minutes before Camiling town

Camiling is a first-class urban municipality of the province of Tarlac in the Philippines. Camiling is one of the fastest-growing towns of Tarlac when it comes to income and economy. It is also considered as the richest when it comes to cultural heritage in the entire province. The town is also dubbed to be the Old Lady in the Northwestern province of Tarlac because it is one of the oldest municipality created by the Spanish government under the province of Pangasinan where it previously included the former barrio of Mayantoc, San Clemente and Sta. Ignacia. The municipality also features cultural antiquity as seen in its churches and ancestral houses. The town also features magnificent ruins. (Wikipedia)

Another scenic ricefield captured 10 minutes before Camiling town

It has been my habit not to sleep during a trip because I knew that anytime something amazing scenery will unfold to my eyes in a rush. I always keep on holding my camera to capture these moments. Indeed, nothings escapes Benedict Mary.

Camiling Public Market

The reason why we had a stopover in Camiling was because were not able to buy pasabulong like dried fish, fresh bangus (milkfish) and a few delicacies. In cases like this, I am so alert in scouting for the best spot to visit since I have limited time. It was my first time to be in Camiling and I had no idea which spot to visit then.

The Ruins of the old Saint Michael The Archangel Parish Church

Fortunately, there was one sight that struck my attention and it was the ruins of the old Saint Michael The Archangel Parish Church which is just opposite to Camiling Public Market. I was so intrigue as to why this church has been abandoned with the other new church built just at the back of it.

The market extension fronting the church's ruins

I was in a rush to know why this church was already in ruins. So, I had to ask a colleague of mine who is from Camiling in the name of Mrs. Eleanor Baldonado Tejada and this what she said, "The old 18-century built Roman Catholic Church of Saint Michael Archangel was razed by fire in 1997 but prior to that it was already declared by the National Historic Commission as a historic site and was considered then as the oldest religious structure built in the province of Tarlac. St.Michael, is the patron saint of Camiling and is considered to be miraculous wayback during the Philippine-Japanese war."

The facade of the new Saint Michael The Archangel Parish Church

Equipped with an adrenaline rush, I ran towards the rear end of the public market and turned left to a gasoline station just to be in the new Saint Michael The Archangel Parish Church. I was extremely astonished to see its exceptionally designed facade. The architectural design was modern yet it showcases an icon of what a Roman church has to look like.

The right wing of the church

I looked then for a door opening for me to enter the church but that day was Monday and the church was closed. So, I contented myself of just checking what is in store for me and maximized it. At the right side of the main door was low stair cases with an open gate leading inside the church open grounds. With nobody to ask with, I obliged myself to get inside and had an ocular inspection.

Heading towards the ruins of the burned parish church

While inside the church's grounds, I noticed that the other side of the burned ruins of the old church can be viewed much better with no obstruction. I was suppose to walk towards it but a dog ran towards me. I was scared of rabies and so I almost run with fear just to get rid from the dog. But hey!!! I remember that dogs chase people who run away. And so, what I did was to talk to the dog as if I was talking to a man calmly and in such a low voice with these utterances: "Baby, I am here for this holy ground. Well, can you accompany me to the ruins, please." Surprisingly, the dog with big round eyes looked at me and even came close to lick my legs. I was in short pants then. And so, the male dog just took advantage of my exposed skin. But anyway, we walked together heading to the old church.

The ruins of the Spanish style school

It was a long walk for me with the leg-skin-leaking dog where we passed through a brick-made Adoration chapel and before turning left we have to pass through the ruins of a Spanish style school which is created for sanctification like the St. Michael Parish Church Garden and the St. Michael Meditation Sanctuary.

The interior of the old church ruins

Being inside the ruins of the old church is a moment I can't describe. I was creating scenarios of how the church was then before it was razed by fire. It must have been a very solemn place being a venue of high masses during big church celebrations like Pontifical masses.

Other part of the Spanish style school ruins

Roaming around the backyard of the church is a revelation that indeed the place was once a busy school annexed to the church that of the old church ruins.

The meditation garden

There was so much space at the backyard of the church as the ruins of the Spanish style school extends to the left wing of the new parish church. Part of this rehabilitated space was the meditation garden which then a part of the school ruins.

The left wing of the new church

To avoid the company of the dog, I decided to have my exit at the other side which is on the left wing of the church which is an open parking space.

Maria Clara Estate

Thinking I had spent much time, I ran again and looked for the service bus we were boarding. I walked across a municipal park and saw that our bus was parked almost opposite to the ancestral house of Maria Clara, one of the women linked to the famous national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Again, it was closed and I have to climb halfway to the high fence just to capture of what was inside. On the gate was posted with these notice: For reservation, contact Mr. Marvin Catapang at: 0943-700-1081; 0915-758-3471; and 0915-801-2991.

Mount Damas (Photo Credit: Pinoy Mountaineer)

When I went back to our bus, I found out that still few others of my companions were still not around since they were busy buying some pasalubong stuff. So, I decided to stay in the municipal park and happened to talk to local tourism staff and he showed me a brochure which he did not give me a copy. I noted three of them and one was mountaineers' favorite, the 685-meter Mount Damas in San Clemente which is already a part of Zambales Mountain Range. I got interested of this because I am also a mountaineer.

The 160-foot high Ubod Water Falls (Photo Credit: The Unicorn Breeder Blogger)

Secondly, was the Ubod Water Falls which according to my cyber search was a 160-foot waterfalls in Mt. Damas in Papaac. Considered as the highest falls in the entire province of Tarlac. It is located deep in the wilderness of Barangay Papaac.

The Si-El Water Falls (Photo Credit: Lakbay Buhay blog)

Thirdly, the Si-El Falls which I noticed that these three can be enjoyed if one opts to scale Mount Damas. In my search, I discovered that when one is at the summit of Mount Damas, the San Jose Circuit – Mt. Bungkol Baka, Mt. Tangisan and Mt. Kawayan can be viewed from it. Fortunately, I already scaled Mount Bungkol Baka.


Take a Five Star bus liner bound to Bolinao/Alaminos/Anda/Agno/San Carlos via Camiling and drop at the market in Camiling and use this updated Fare Matrix for your guide through its Hotline number at 09277124349.

Regular Airconditioned Fare from Cubao to Camiling Regular Airconditioned Fare from Pasay to Camiling Airconditioned 20% Discounted Fare for Senior Citizens, PWD and Students from Cubao to Camiling Airconditioned 20% Discounted Fare for Senior Citizens, PWD and Students from Pasay to Camiling

Ordinary Bus Fare from Cubao to Camiling Ordinary Bus Fare from Pasay to Camiling Ordinary Bus 20% Discounted Fare for Senior Citizens, PWD and Students from Cubao to Camiling Ordinary Bus 20% Discounted Fare for Senior Citizens, PWD and Students from Pasay to Camiling