Bali or not, the plan to visit Indonesia will push through

“Let’s go to Bali, and be a millionaire.”

Nu, a freelance reporter from Vietnam, told us. “When you go to Bali and have your money exchanged with Indonesian rupiah, you get seven-digit cash.”

“Yes, that’s true,” agreed Jen, an Indonesian journalist in her early twenties.

“Oh, that’s cool!” I responded.

After almost a year, I still think of that conversation. We had this plan to go to Bali and have fun. We met in a climate change reporting training in Cambodia.

Days and months had passed. Still, there was no trip to Bali. Life gets in the way, as they say. My interest in Bali had started to fade, too.

Until recently we got reconnected through LinkedIn. So I asked her: If I go to Indonesia, where would you take me?

“Jakarta.” (That’s where she’s based.)

Then she named foods and places we could try and visit, from this famous street food goat fried rice to the old town of Kota Tua where we can go to museums and old buildings by Sepeda Ontel, an old bike in Indonesia.

How about the banana chips?

That’s in another province (Lampung), but we can find resellers in Jakarta. Jen gave me and another Filipina in the training chocolate-flavored banana chips before we went back to the Philippines.

Thanks to my lack of company during our first night in Cambodia. Jen, together with Sugi and Him who are also reporters from Indonesia and Cambodia respectively, welcomed me to their group.

My first dinner with them was an introduction to Khmer noodle dishes, as Him volunteered to be our local guide. Our second dinner: we ate ipil-ipil (a stomach cleanser) as an accompaniment for oyster.

In the Philippines, though, it has other uses. “We use this in cleaning concrete floors!” I couldn’t help but say it. Him acted like he was offended, and we all laughed out loud.

Those moments reminded me not only of the good times we had in our free time in Cambodia but also that we could be friends. She, Sugi and me.

In the meantime, I’ll have glimpses of Jakarta through Jen’s travel piece, Traveling in your own backyard, published on Jakarta for Global Indonesian Voices as I scout for cheap flights.




Legazpi Commuters Guide

It’s easy to go around Legazpi City. There are road landmarks and malls that serve as drop-off and pick-up points. There are alternative routes, too, to skip the main roads which can have heavy traffic.

Let’s start with the battle pylon of Legazpi on the city rotonda.  You can get to any point in Albay from there.


Jeepneys pass around that landmark, from Quezon Av., or the road between LCC Mall and 7-Eleven, to Graceland (a Bicol food chain), St. Raphael Church, Albay Doctors Hospital and all the way to Ayala Mall.

Quezon Avenue is the road between LCC Mall and 7-Eleven.


Quezon Ave. is also where all jeepneys converge for the rotonda road, including Embarcadero-bound. So you can wait for jeepneys there, too.

Embarcadero-bound jeepneys go straight ahead, past DBP Bank and National Food Authority and turn right for the Seawall Park road. Jeepneys with the following routes also take the same road: Camalig, Ligao, Guinobatan, Polangui, Rawis and Arimbay.



While jeepneys with these routes: terminal/Tahao Road/Gaisano/Pacific Mall, Daraga and Loop 1 and Loop 2, turn left across DBP Bank. It will stop at LCC Mall’s parking area to pick passengers.

Across is the parking area, where the photo below is a few steps away.


alley from bpi too lcc parking
Acess that alley from BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands).



From Ayala Mall going terminal, look for L. Los Banos Ave. The mall’s south entrance/exit point is facing this road. Walk across and wait for terminal-bound jeepneys.




For Daraga-bound jeepneys, wait outside the mall’s main entry and exit point.




Pacific/Gaisano Mall is accessible via Ayala Mall. Walk past that main entrance and turn right, or this side of the mall, for Imperial St.


Walk past Hong and 101 shopping mall. Cross the road from that Jollibee icon.


Continue walking ahead until you reach Pacific Mall, where terminal and Daraga-bound jeepneys pass in front of the mall.




Walk straight past the mall. Enter the Landco extension road from this corner to walk to the terminal.


Walk straight ahead until you see the board pointing to the terminal.Turn right and follow the covered walkway.

landco road


Continue to walk straight ahead. You’ll reach first the jeepney terminal for inter-city routes (e.g. Tabaco, Bacacay), then Save More (a convenience store), bus terminal and, lastly, the UV terminal.




DIY Albay Day Tour: Adventure and sightseeing in Legazpi, Daraga and Camalig

A day tour in Albay can be as relaxed or adventure-filled or both as you want it to be. That said, your day visit can be spent on sightseeing, riding an ATV for lava trail, hiking or boat hopping for an islet with a view of Albay trio: Mt. Mayon, Mt. Malinao and Mt. Masaraga.

For this set, it covers the main tourist attractions in Legazpi, Daraga and Camalig. They’re all in the same District that makes a day tour possible.

Let’s start at the city proper.




Embarcadero De Legazpi still counts as a sightseeing destination for the unobstructed view of Mayon towering over Albay Gulf.


Check these viewpoints: Cisyd Restaurant, topmost part of the mall, deck and (inside) the parking area.


Best time to visit: sunrise and sunset and on bright, sunny days.



How to get there: From Legazpi City, look for LCC mall and 7-Eleven. The road between leads to Embarcadero. Landmarks thereafter: DBP Bank and National Food Authority.

From Albay going to Legazpi, ride jeepney with any of these routes: Embarcadero, Camalig, Ligao and Polangui.

From Central Terminal, ride Legazpi-bound jeep and alight at Ayala Mall. Walk to Quezon Ave., the road between LCC Mall and 7-Elelven.



Legazpi Boulevard– a coastal road with pedestrian which locals use for a morning and evening walk and jog. 

Best time to visit: sunrise and sunset



To get there: Go to the parking area of Embarcadero and walk outside. Turn left, then right and walk straight ahead until you see the life-size landmark that is L-E-G-A-Z-P-I.



Ligñon Hill


With its hiker-friendly trail, there’s no reason for locals and tourists to skip it. Its Mayon view comes with the Albay greenery. On the other side is panoramic city view. 

Consider a night hike, especially on a starry night or with a full moon. Other activities: Zip Line, side trip to Albay Wildlife.



To get there from Embarcadero De Legazpi


Ride a Rawis-bound Jeepney. Alight at the intersection, where the main road and diversion road meets. (Just tell the driver diversion and he knows where to drop you off.)

Cross the road and enter the diversion road. Walk until you see a Loop 1 jeepney waiting for passengers.

From Legazpi City, look for Loop 1 jeepney. These pass along Quezon Av., the road between LCC Mall and 7-Eleven, to LCC Mall, St. Raphael Church and onwards.

Daraga Church

daraga church mag (6)


To get there from Ligñon Hill, wait for Loop 1 jeepney at the diversion road. It will take you to Daraga City. Alight at Bigg’s Daraga.

biggs municipal hall


Cross the road and take the alley at the side of Bigg’s. Walk straight ahead until you see the stairway that leads to the church. It is between the municipal hall and JM Olsen store.

From Legazpi City: Ride Daraga-bound jeepney from Quezon Avenue or Pacific Mall or Embarcadero or Central Terminal.


Cagsawa Ruins



cagsawa + mayon
The only remnant of this Franciscan church is a belfry, and the rest were buried by a devastating volcanic eruption in 1814.


Other activities: ATV Tours and souvenir shopping.

To get there from Daraga: Go to the public market and wait there for jeepneys with any of these routes: Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao and Polangui.

From Legazpi, ride jeepney with routes the same above.



Drop-off point



Camalig Tour: Sumlang Lake, Quitinday Hills and Quituinan Hills

First off, you’ll need to rent a tricycle or habal-habal for this tour. Find them at the town proper. P300 for Quitinday, P500 for Quitinday and Sumlang Lake. Add P120 for Quituinan.

Some drivers may insist a P500 rent for Quitinday Hills, especially if you’ll stay long (e.g. half-day).

You can save the P200-rent for Sumlang Lake by going first there. The jeep from Cagsawa Ruins/Legazpi will pass along the drop-off area, which is in front of Albay Agri Ethno Eco Village (Agri-Village). Cross the street and enter the paved narrow alley that leads to the lake.

Quitinday Hills is a span of hilly landscape, where the four peaks also serve as Mayon viewpoints.

Quitinday Hills and Nature Park collage


Quituinan Hill is a roadside hill that is exactly facing Mt. Mayon.

Save Sumlang Lake for sunset. Take the balsa ride. It is a simple yet relaxing treat.



Other places to visit in Camalig

Napa Carpet Industries showroom – NCI is the maker of all the artsy outdoor furniture sets and fixtures at Sumlang Lake. From the basketball court (which you’ll get past going to the lake), turn left and walk straight ahead. Just ask where the brgy. captain’s house is.

Hoyop-hoyopan cave – The cave with a dance floor and the most visited tourist site in Camalig before the discoveries of the new ecotourism sites in the area.

Jovellar is a whole destination package in Camalig with its underground river, canyons and falls. It is the farthest among them all.

Into the Central Cave of Samar

The Central Cave is a massive dome underneath a karst mountain in Samar. Inside this vast, silent realm are sparkling formations of immense beauty.

The towering columns, massive flowstone curtains, walls of speleothem formations and still-growing stalagmites are embedded with gypsum crystals.

Those are also translucent, the reason they glow when you shine a light from behind. Such is a true sign of their state: raw, pure and immaculate.


Hence, you’ll see some in actual geological process. Like the stalactite and stalagmite growing into a column with a few more drops or the drapery developing lines of hard rock within its length.

Thanks significantly to its inaccessibility, this domain is preserved. You have to tread carefully, both for safety and its preservation. Even the lightest touch can destroy those precious rock formations.


To get there, you must have Joni “the cave master” Bonifacio as the guide. He knows best this cave for he has discovered and explored it with Elezar Labtic of Huplag Speleologists.

Caving with the master means learning techniques, like the single rope technique (SRT). You’ll need this since it requires vertical caving.

Yes, the entrance to and exit from this cave is a sinkhole.

For further details,  check these caving narratives from  Adrenaline Romance and TravelUp.

2 New Sorsogon Ecotourism Sites in Bloom: Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm and Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp

Sorsogon is home to successful ecotourism sites, such as the community-based, NGO-funded wildlife interactions in Donsol and the DENR-managed Bulusan Volcano Natural Park. Recently, new additions followed suit through individual and group efforts.


These include the agri-tourism site Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm in Bulusan and the non-profit organization Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp in Gubat.

Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm

Coconut shells turned into technologies for beekeeping.

It is a techno-demo farm for backyard beekeeping using kiwot (stingless bees). The technology aids in trasferring these Philippine native bees from the wild to community areas for pollination and production of honey, pollen and propolis.

Colonies of Trigona biroi or stingless bees.

There’s no need to go to the forest and burn trees for honey. It prompts conservation of endemic trees too especially those attract native bees. At the farm, two scarce local trees it is propagating now are palali and petroleum nut tree.

Why Stingless Bees

Ant-like size kiwot bees

The stingless kiwot bees are abundant in the wild. It’s eight species add to the mix of pollinators in the environment, preventing us from experiencing the global bee crisis called colony collapse disorder.

These bees are now considered the key remaining pollinators in certain regions, writes author, researcher and member of a beekeeping society Julian Wright on his website, which deals on pollination in the country. They are “appreciated as a valuable pollinator for a range of crops.”

The UPLB Bee Program, headed by Dr. Cleofas Cervancia, has been using the kiwot bees for large-scale pollination of high-value crops like mango, lanzones and rambutan in certain communities in Luzon.


Kiwot bees have all the features of a honeybee, except the sting. Because pollen serves as their food, they also pollinate the flowers they visit. For these and the abovementioned reasons, it makes production affordable than with imported bees. It is safer too, given the lack of sting and farmers can sell hives as well.

Main Benefits

Stingless bees are number one pollinators of mango, said Cervancia in an interview for a government TV network. In Bicol, it increases yields of pili nut and other crops. Luz Gamba, the farm’s owner, said in the same TV interview how not only their crops get pollinated but also the crops of neighbor farms.


Gamba is one of the collaborators in this program, which addresses certain needs of a community. Where she had a hard time starting, it helped fill the gap when technologies and training for their proper use (including of honey harvesting) were made available. Now, the farm is earning and getting known including to researchers.


Bees produce products like honey, pollen, wax and propolis. Propolis is a high-value clinical ingredient; and in the Philippines, it is a component of soap, toothpaste and shampoo. The farm now has honey products and another demo farm in Guinobatan produces pollen. The program’s participatory approach creates livelihood in the community.

13256158_623489191142405_1597793980993582675_n (1)

Incidentally, it attracts tourists and researchers too that the farm has huts and other types of accommodations for visitors that want to stay overnight. It also used honey in cooking meals for guests.

National Economic Benefits

Stingless bees produce a high amount of propolis, which is rich in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Inquiries from China and Japan are a chance to penetrate global market through propolis and stingless bee exportation.

In the meantime, this increase in local production narrows the gap between imported products and locally made. Thanks to the increasing awareness of bee products and in backyard beekeeping as a sustainable livelihood for farmers and the community.

As a Tourist Attraction


It offers a farm living experience in a serene and nature-calming environment. The Mount Bulusan is visible at the farm and the thick rainforest that surrounds it. There is a natural spring pool where water comes from Bulusan Lake and a fishing pond too.


If the need for adrenaline rush beckons, there are outdoor activities to try nearby. These include kayaking at Bulusan Lake, hiking at Mt. Bulusan, dipping in hot springs and surfing in Gubat – the next featured destination in this article.

Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp


The Rizal Beach in Gubat attracts tourists for surfing. A group of grateful surfers turned a part of this beach, which was a deadly area, into a thriving tourist destination.

Its mantra: pure fun, healthy eats and clean, simple living. There, visitors have the beach for the playground; the two-floor modest huts for accommodation; the beachfront detox area for idling sans drinking and smoking.

hammock area

As an ecotourism site, it promotes environmental protection in a number of ways. One is through the use of natural and sustainable materials. From the huts to the restaurant and the function area, everything is built with bamboo.


Trees surround the bamboo tables in the outdoor dining area. The huts’ first level doubles as a day bed, which is open-air and comes with a pitched hammock. It is only at night time will you use electricity and during occasional trips to the bathroom.

smoked fish (1)

Expect locally sourced ingredients – often from the market, sometimes from their backyard – for their homecooked meals. The cook’s unique take on its menu brings about these flavorful meals: tuna seasig (seafood sisig), smoked fish cooked ala bicol express and the grilled tuna jaw. Pair them with fresh fruits and vegetable shakes.

tuna seasig

These simple, signature dishes reintroduced Bicol and Filipino food, the Granny’s Hearty Grub way. For that, it was one of the featured destinations in the region for the Flavors of the Philippines last April.

surfing (2)

Its founders give their passion for surfing a greater purpose by forming a non-profit organization that is Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp. It helps send local boys and girls to school; welcomes youths to their club, and hold environmental and health-related seminars for the community.

Both promote a simple lifestyle where comfort is found in nature and developed in sustainable ways. So that communities will benefit too, while attracting tourists in the process, without harming the environment.

Photos courtesy of Balay Uma sa Bee Farm Facebook page and Laurie Gucilatar.

PPUR, Sumlang Lake and Canigao Island: 3 Rare Case Examples of LGU-Managed Ecotourism Sites in PH


sumlang lake 1
FLOATING SALA. Now these bamboo rafts have all-rattan furniture sets. Photo courtesy of Ely Cuela.


“Maliit lang pala ang Sumlang Lake.”  (I didn’t know it is a small lake.)

Was that a disappointment? I’d like to ask my companion. Without the Mayon Volcano on sight, it looked like an irrigation source for the nearby rice plants. It sits in the middle of a residential area, too.

But still, there was striking about it.


SUNSET AT SUMLANG LAKE. Photo courtesy of Laurie Gucilatar.


Rattan furniture adorned bamboo rafts. They were tastefully done, inviting you to indulge in bamboo rafting in style.


Then and Now


ARTSY. New installations at the vicinity of the lake. Photo courtesy of Laurie Gucilatar.



Before there were paved walkways, iron fence, knitted rattan swings and canopies, there were bamboo seats and handrails first. Then came the barrels recycled to chairs for cottages, and now the artsy outdoor sets and installations replaced them.

There is now an entrance fee, too. With the LGU on the helm of this initiative, it is easy to see its management similarities with the Puerto Princesa Underground River.


INTO THE UNDERGROUND RIVER. Photo courtesy by Salve Canale.


Whereas most “funding for biodiversity conservation was routed through NGOs,” the Puerto Princesa Underground River Management had been creative and innovative in this aspect. This is according to a report by contributing writers Ma. Dulce M. Cacha and Julian Caldecott to this book: Decentralization and Biodiversity Conservation (A World Bank Symposium) edited by Ernst Lutz and Julian Oliver Caldecott.

Moreover, said authors report that “under the DFNS program, which provided 9.7 million,” activities beyond simple site protection became possible. These include the following:

  • resource protection
  • law enforcement
  • community organizing
  • visitor management
  • infrastructure development and maintenance and
  • research and restoration.


MAGAYON. Simple leisures made more fun with this view of Mayon Volcano.


In Barangay Sumlang in Camalig, Albay, village chief Felipe Napa, Jr. brought in his rattan furniture business to make bamboo rafting a leisurely affair. The landowner allowed it for use, and private investors provided new developments for a profit share, one of the bamboo raft operators told us. In Puerto Princesa, collected fund went to a trust fund. Its management board comprised of the city mayor, DENR representatives, NGOs and tribal groups.

Both owes its “operational flexibility and increased capability to invest” to a decentralized management, where the LGU has the central role.

Biodiversity Conservation

Interest alone in the park’s management is not enough. There’s a need for interest in conservation, too, through monitoring. One LGU-managed tourism site that seems to be on this track is Canigao Island.


Canigao Island. Photo courtesy of Josie and Bodjie Dayawon.
SWIMMING AREA IN CANIGAO. Photo courtesy of Bodjie and Josie Dayawon.


Found in Matalom, Leyte, this pristine paradise is home to a marine sanctuary.  The colorful tropical fish and lush coral gardens speak of its rich marine biodiversity.

During offseason, the sanctuary’s management temporarily closed it for rehabilitation. For instance, last year the Matalom LGU and Canigao management made it unavailable for the first two weeks in July. During that time they prohibited these activities: docking, swimming, fishing and other marine-related activities within 10 meters from its shoreline.

This 2017, the management will hold it on July 1-15.

Sold at Canigao Island. Photo courtesy of Josie and Bodjie Dayawon.

As to the extent of monitoring, we have yet to know. In PPUR, monitoring includes the habitat in the forest areas and underwater, economic activities at the site, visitorship and other activities and phenomenon that can affect the property’s universal value.


Research is also integral to a successful conservation of biodiversity.

In the 2015 report on the state of conservation of PPUR, there are a monthly bat counting and monitoring of roosting sites in the PPUR cave. Sea turtle conservation was initiated too.


ANCIENT TREES. Photo courtesy of Salve Canale.


Overall, ”it has been noted that the park biological baseline data were outdated,” a finding mentioned as a conservation issue, along with climate change and public/household waste water.

PPUR, Sumlang Lake and Canigao Islet are successful examples of tourism developments under the LGU management. However, Cacha and Caldecott wrote that lack of conservation interest can be counterproductive in the management of a protected area.

The aforementioned editors also noted that decentralization may or not work. Rather, the answer is to “find an appropriate degree of decentralization of certain management functions” for the promotion of conservation, community and enterprise development.


HEART SHAPE. Photo courtesy of Salve Canale.


Simply put, a successful decentralization management is a case to case basis. And as the two contributors put it: The PPUR is a rare example of decentralized management where LGU has a leading role. Now there are a few that are following its footsteps.






State of Conservation Report (2015) Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Prepared by: Park Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park Management
With the support of: Philippines National Commission for UNESCO

Decentralization and Biodiversity Conservation ( A World Bank Symposium) Edited by Ernst Lutz and Julian Oliver Caldecott. Quoted section by writing contributors Ma. Dulce M. Cacha and Julian Caldecott


Kampong Cham: The Future of Farming in the Times of Climate Change, Hydroelectric Dams and Commune Election

KAMPONG CHAM, CAMBODIA – Two young ladies happily trailed behind our ox cart with a bike. They were all smiles which were a contrast to our awkward, worried and sometimes pained facial expressions.

OX CART. Our mode of transportation from the jump-off site to the farming village.

As our carts stopped to take a turn, they did the same. Then, they left the bike along the road to join us.

The two continued to tag along with us until only the three of us were on the field. Rice plants and other crops dominate the landscape. Stacked on one side are reaped mature rice crops. They named the cucumber plants (which were in bloom) for me.

Oh, to be young and carefree.  Aren’t these among the best things in life?

The farming village

ALL IS WELL? Farmers knew better.

For us, ASEAN journalists who were visiting the province as part of a training from UNESCO, together with Climate Tracker, Cambodia Institute for Media Studies and Malaysia government, everything looked normal. Farmers and the commune chief knew better, however.

Sath Ath, 44-year-old, told us they were able to plant only in one season in the past two years. He said it was because of drought. During those seasons when he couldn’t farm, he turned to fishing to provide food for his family.

Currently, his average produce is 3 tons for $200 – an amount he wished he could raise to $300 to make it profitable. Or produce 5 tons from his one-hectare land instead of the usual 3 tons.

READY FOR PLANTING. Will this soil get organic fertilizer?

Both were possible according to Kang Meas commune chief Layseng Hong. He said the government can help by finding markets for these crops and sell them at a higher price.

If farmers wanted to earn more via the current method, they would have to use more fertilizers. However, he discouraged this option for it can affect the soil’s nutrients in the long run. It also keeps the farmers in debt.

For him, the ideal option is organic farming.

Climate Change and Hydroelectric Dams

Lands and fish breeding areas had become warmer with hotter temperatures.  In 2011, the same year that fish had started to diminish, the province experienced a drought that wells and reservoirs didn’t have enough water supplies.

There were unpredictable droughts, too, in the middle of a farming season in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, the Mekong River did not flow enough water to farms.

Add to this the construction of hydroelectric dams, which a study confirmed has drastic effects on the livelihoods of people living along the river banks.

In an in-depth report of Austin Meyer and Gus Greenstein, these facilities can block critical breeding areas and sediments, which serve as effective natural fertilizer for crops. This blocking of sediments results in “saltwater intrusion, spoiling rice paddies.”

Photo courtesy of

Now that the Lower Sesan 2 Dam is about to be operational in August, the entire village of Kbal Romeas, 5-6 hours from Kampong Cham, will be submerged in water, according to the same report.

But for residents that refuse to budge, there can be hope.  The project which mapped the community resources in Kbal Romeas was a good start. They may also find inspirations from  Cordillera mass movement, which stopped the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Philippines.  

RESOURCES MAP. Kbal Romeas map of community resources. Photo courtesy of

2017 Commune Election

As the commune election result draws near, it would be a good time to ask how elected leaders plan to address the following:

How will they find markets for farmers to sell produce at a reasonable price?

Are they willing to train farmers in organic farming?

How will the LS2 Dam affect Kampong Cham?

How will they cope with the environment-altering effects of hydroelectric dams?

Lastly, how can the government make farming attractive to millennials?

FEMALE STUDENTS. Interestingly, we didn’t see any male students with bikes.

Young generations don’t have the interest in farming. Yet farmers in the area are growing old with ages ranging from 30-60. Farmers make up seventy percent of its population.

For instance, the two ladies said they didn’t want to work on the farm where females usually helped to harvest rice crops. The two could name the crops, but they had fleeting interests. They stayed with us during the field interviews but left when they got bored in the middle of the forum.


SREY NICH AND SREY NAT. The Cambodian ladies we met.


Before they climbed inside the truck for their seats, they turned around and waved at me. I waved back and smiled, hoping for these youths to have something productive to spend with their free time while having fun.