From Baguio to Bicol to Dipolog: 3 Milestone Celebrations of Arts and Music

Arts celebrations are often intimate affairs. Families, friends and ardent supporters gather in one place to witness the unveiling of masterpieces and experience a work of art.

Sometimes these are also celebrations of a milestone like these three regional events: Take 5 on Aquarelle, Wild about Flowers and Afternoon Sonatina.


On February 11, Bencab Museum celebrated its eighth anniversary with an all-watercolor painting show from five generation of painters. These are Alfredo Roces (80), BenCab (70), Elmer Borlongan (50), Kelly Ramos (40) and Abi Dionisio (30).

As such this 5-person, 5-generation exhibit was also a way of sharing the stage with fellow artists. Kelly Ramos, for instance, was from Mindanao and now lives in Baguio. Her paintings are about musings on living in the mountains of Benguet with environmentalist neighbors.

Below are preview photos from three exhibitors, namely: Ballast 2 by Abi Dionisio, Two Cattleyas by Alfredo Roces, and Nesting by Kelly Ramos.

BenCab’s Studies of Dance Movements, a series of 40 drawings based on a Polish Choreographer’s movement, were also displayed at Print Gallery.

The exhibit runs until April.


On February 1, Bernadette “Bidibidi” De Los Santos’ first solo exhibit opened at Ayala Malls in Legazpi City. It featured roses, poppies and “endemic” flowers in lush, tropical colors.

Flowers in the Forest Series. Photo courtesy of Ms. Bidibidi.

The flower paintings carried the mastery of her visual style, which ultimately blossomed in her 2003 exhibit. Her flowers were painted singly or in sparse number as if to emphasize their anatomic glory.


Typhoon Nina had severely damaged her home and farm, too. Yet she proved that a talent in full bloom can outshine all these challenges and finish masterpieces in just a month against her full-year preparation for her first exhibit.

While she needed to get the approval of the City Arts Commission in CA, USA, for her previous exhibit, this time she was invited by Albay art curator Apo Gonzales. She also considered this off her comfort zone, as she would exhibit solo only in her gallery in CamSur; while her first exhibit was with two women.

Her first solo exhibit is thus a celebration of resilience and mastery of style – two qualities necessary to bring forward the art scene in the region including literature.


It is open until February 28.


The Romano’s Afternoon Sonatina is a 25th-year celebration of teaching classical music and fine arts in Dipolog City. Misha Romano, grand winner for junior string category in National Music Competition for Young Artists in 2016, will perform together with her sister Miracle (his accompanist during the competition).

NAMCYA Concert of Winners last November 2016. Photo courtesy of Miracle Romano

According to Miracle, “It is a family affair shared with students as an attempt to expose their youths to fine arts and classical music.” It started with the Romano couple (Didi and Marietta) teaching piano and painting and sketching. A few ears later, Miracle (also a NAMCYA prizewinner at the age of 11) started to teach piano.

For raising musical champions, they bring honor to the region. Misha is the first violin grand winner from Mindanao. By teaching music, including to underserved communities in Cebu, the family helps impart lessons that our traditional schools can’t give. The family, therefore, makes ripples beyond personal.

In March, the family looks forward to two important events. First is the Afternoon Sonatina, a music recital and art exhibits with their students. Second, the result from Misha’s audition to Asian Youth Orchestra.

Hopefully, Dipolog City would showcase classical music performances in its tourism campaigns.


5 New Specialty Cafes in Albay

Take your pick: From Daraga’s neighborhood specialty cafe to Korean-style and Italian to uber sweet and love-themed.


Photo: Ivy Gamit/IG @herescape_


528 Ilawod

Daraga has this little secret: A specialty coffee shop found in the historical street of Lotivio. Its name is also its address.

Yes, you’ve got it dear!

528 Ilawod serves espresso-based drinks and single origin Arabica beans, which you can pair with yummy pastries (matcha especially),  pasta (tried spicy chicken fajita and I’m craving now) and meals (must try: rum chicken). Chili mocha is also on its menu.


Add the quiet neighborhood and the value-for-money menu to the reasons that make the short commute to Ilawod worth it.

Grabbed this from my sister's FB post hehe

Anthosia Cafe

Photo from the web.

Its love-themed food is a catch, and so is the bestseller heart-shaped Pan De Oriang. This, you can pair with hot and cold drinks: tsa’a ng pag-ibig, pagkamoot, kape anthosia, supremo, bolero and more.

The cafe encourages not just the ‘kilig’ part of love, but also the expression of heartaches. If you can share the pizza with your love, you can also slice it in two. (Imagine it’s your ex’s heart. Just kidding). It has three flavors: Dayaday (white sauce), Padaba (red sauce) and Salawahan (combination of two).

At times, it holds art exhibits, open mic sessions for spoken word poetry and acoustic sessions with local indie musicians for free.

Erin’s Cafe

Wonton Cups with Mango-Cucumber-Crabstick Salad
Wonton Cups with Mango-Cucumber-Crabstick Salad

Italian menu cooked by the chef-owner, anyone? She shares her schooled cooking skills through their delicious menu, and her love for art by holding exhibits. Their bestsellers are baby back ribs, grilled cheese sandwich, vanilla bread pudding and pasta selections. Try the garden salad too.

 Vanilla bread pudding served with ice cream and choco-caramel sauce

Vanilla bread pudding served with ice cream and choco-caramel sauce

It’s cozy interiors, with books and peaceful ambiance, add to the quality experience that diners consider as important as the food they go after.

Kaz Korean Dessert Cafe


A coffee shop where Bing Su, Korean-style halo-halo, is the bestseller. The mango cheese and berry cheese flavors are a crowd favorite too.


While the famous DJC halo-halo holds a distinct Bicol taste, these new flavors are refreshing. Would you believe its owner use ingredients from Seoul?

You better try it out.

The Patio by Greenleaf

Cupcake desserts and ice cream and cold coffee and beverages make its menu uber sweet. There are pasta and bread selections too. The interiors are whimsical and girly.

The cafe’s instgrammable food presentation and bigger-than-you expect servings complement its good, yet generic taste.

Is Camotes Island Cebu’s Best-Kept Secret?

A friend asked for an itinerary for their 4-day trip to Cebu. I can’t help but highlight this island.

It is so low profile to be existing under the tourist radar, yet blessed with natural splendors. Couldn’t agree more on this Nurse-issistic Traveller. 😉

Hence, this itinerary suggestion from Travex Travels looks perfect with a trip to Camotes island, besides the city tour and food trip.

A tour to the south for a butanding encounter can also be included, from Camotes Island to Danao Port or Pier 1. However, I don’t know how to get there from either of the two.

Any suggestions, please? 🙂

Secluded and underdeveloped – this group of islands in Cebu can be reached in one and a half hours via a fast craft vessel. Its prime islands are hosts to beachfront resorts whose infinity pools got the overlooking pristine beach for a background. Equally rustic are the other natural attractions in the area and with a vibe as relaxed and unhurried. Camotes Island hopefully would stay that way – that is, as Cebu’s arguably best-kept secret.

The Beach in Santiago, San Francisco

The Beachfront Resort

How to get to Camotes Island 

  1. Book a ticket to Camotes Island via fast craft ferries. At Pier 1, OceanJet plies to these destinations daily with scheduled trips at 6 am, 10 am, and 3 pm. There are also trips from Danao port from 6 am, and 9 am at Pier 2, and 1pm at Oanu Wharf.
  2. At Poro port, there are different public vehicles that can take you…

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3 reasons to visit Cinematheque Centre Manila

Cinematheque Centre Manila

In the rustic street of Kalaw in Manila emerges a new film institution called Cinematheque Centre Manila. Since it’s launching in January, it has been making efforts to bridge the gap amongst moviegoers of all ages through select movie screenings, workshops and symposiums. All these aim to raise awareness and appreciation of our and other countries’ film heritage and culture.


Now it is set for a major event this year: the World Premieres Film Festival 2016. Before we talk further about it, here are three reasons that make CCM worth visiting.

Get (Re)acquainted


Whether you need a primer or refresher on Philippine cinema history, the Museo ng Pelikulang Pilipino can do both. Located next to Cinematheque theatre, the museum features six pioneering Filipino directors whose works have been symbolic in the development of cinema in our country.

Displayed next to larger-than-life resins of each director are personal effects and memorabilia, along with audio-visual historical biographies. Pieces of vintage analog equipment are also on display to further trace our material history of film production.


Enrich Film and Film Culture Awareness

Still from Himala

CCM promotes awareness about local and foreign film and culture through several ways. One of which is through thematic movie screenings. Themes depend on national and international relevance and ongoing projects and partnerships with film institutions here and abroad.

It also houses a library and a classroom for broadening film literacy. The Film ASEAN Knowledge Management Centre welcomes researchers, students, filmmakers and anyone interested in the ASEAN cinema while future film professionals can use the classroom.

Some notable screenings (and their significance) that CCM has held in the past months since its inauguration includes the following:


  • Digitization. The inaugural screenings featured restored classic films like Lino Brocka’s Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. Lamberto Avellana’s A Portrait of the Artist was reshown in February for the National Art month. Set for screening at the World Premieres is Lav Diaz’s restored film Ang Batang West Side and Ishmael Bernal’s Pagdating sa Dulo, among others.
  • Rare screenings. CCM’s Filipino film choices for rare screenings include Henry Francia’s On My Way to India Consciousness, I Reached China and Gerardo de Leon’s digitized thriller 48 Oras.
  • Film festivals. CCM featured works of Filipino master filmmakers from Sineng Pambansa All Master’s Edition, such as Sonata by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Badil by Chito Rono, and Lauriana by Mel Chionglo.
  • Feature length films. Joel Lamangan’s Lihis, Mario J. delos Reyes’s Bamboo Flowers, Elwood Perez’s Otso, and Jose Javier’s Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap? were also screened on February.
  • Documentaries. Levi Pepper Marcelo’s Illustrated By, Teng Mangansakan’s Qiyamah, Martin Masado’s Anac Ti Pating, Lauren Sevilla Faustino’s Ang Babae sa Likod ng Mambabatok, and Ed Lejano’s Qwerty also premiered at Cinematheque theatre.
  • Select foreign screenings. Moviegoers caught glimpses of foreign cultures through screening movies from Film ASEAN members, Instituto de Cervantes and select movies from Argentina, Spain, Israel, France and Italy.
  • Forums. Special screenings allowed moviegoers to talk to directors and actors and actresses through question and answer, such as with actor Bembol Roco for the inaugural screening of Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.
  • Tribute screenings. CCM paid tribute to Lav Diaz’s entry into Berlin International Film Festival through his film Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis by showing his award-winning opus Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon in January.

Be Proud


Did you know that the National Film Archive’s of the Philippines now have technologies for restoring films digitally? The Golden Eye 5 Scanner and Phoenix Refine Software can make a digital copy of films from its analog elements. It makes films accessible even if the original copy has deteriorated film elements.

Newsletters from FDCP and NFAP keeps moviegoers updated by featuring news about CCM previous and upcoming movie screenings and other projects like workshops and symposiums, directors entries to prestigious national and international film festivals and the awards they have bagged. These two film institutions are spearheading the restoration of our heritage films.

World Premiers – Film Festival Philippines


This June 29 to July 10 CCM hosts the third World Premieres Film Festival, a yearly celebration of film and film culture in our country and around the globe. It features entries from three categories: Main Competition, Intercontinental and ASEAN Skies, and Filipino New Cinema.

The festival also brings the cinematic spotlight to Vietnam and China, special movie selections from Russia, ASEAN neighbors and other foreign countries. For restored classic films, the section includes Ishmael Bernal’s Pagdating sa Dulo, Gerardo de Leon’s Noli Me Tangere, Lino Brocka’s White Slavery, Kidlat Tahimik’s Turumba, Quirino “Quin” Baterna’s Ginauhaw Ako, Ginagutom Ako, Lav Diaz’s Batang West Side, and Briccio Santos’s Damortis.

All these and more you can enjoy one film at a time throughout the festival.

festival Guide

Enjoy the scene!



Fluvial Parade for Albay’s Patroness


Every year Albay holds a maritime procession for the patroness of the province, Our Lady of Salvation, in honor of her feast day, August 15.

On the third Saturday of August, devotees and pilgrims from all over Albay take part in the celebration to pay homage to the miraculous image of Our Lady of Salvation. It is highlighted by a concelebrated Mass which is often held at Sugod, a fishing village in Tiwi, before continuing on with the procession.


The procession starts in Brgy. Joroan where the shrine of Our Lady of Salvation is located. The image is carried by a well-decorated trawl boat and followed by an entourage of equally colorful pump boats. It passes through the coastal barangays of Tiwi, including Bariis, Matalibong, Sugod, Bolo and Baybay, and vice versa.


On the last Saturday of August, devotees from all over the Bicol region will visit the shrine for Peregrinacion sa Magagahon. After midnight, they would walk in the procession from the St. Lawrence Church of Tiwi to the Diocesan Shrine in Joroan.

The nine-kilometer distance between the two churches is a sacrifice pilgrims make for that day, which they consider a special day of veneration. This flock of devotees to the shrine extends until September.


Incidentally, these events have become a part of the Coron Festival in Tiwi. Coron is a local word for potteries or clay pot, the very same product made out of pottery, the town’s major source of income. Events for this year include street dancing presentation, Tiwi Product Exhibit and Padyak Race.


In the next month, Naga will hold its annual fluvial procession for Our Lady of Penafrancia, the highlight event of the city’s Penafrancia Festival.

Infographics: Cross-border commuting in Singapore

In Singapore moving from one tourist destination to another is a breeze. Thanks to its very efficient transportation system, not to mention modern infrastructure.

While there are parts of the MRT and LRT lines that tend to get crowded, and a part of its road that suffer from mild traffic, those were tolerable.

Even cross-border commuting in Singapore is easy. Buses plying between Singapore and Johor Bahru in Malaysia have 12-hour trips, with an schedule as early as 6 am.

Tourists that intend to visit its closest neighbor, Malaysia, can take express buses or cross-border buses bound for Malaysia. Express buses have direct trips to major cities in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, whereas trips of cross-border buses terminate at Larkin Terminal in Johor Bahru. The latter is cheaper though, the reason why my friends and I took this option when we visited Malaysia from Singapore.

Here is an infographic about cross-border buses in Singapore. You may find it useful should you consider visiting Malaysia during your trip to Singapore and vice versa. The pros and cons of this option are also included to help you decide if this option is for you or not.

cross border sg-jb

This is the first page of the four-page infographic about cross-border commuting in Singapore. Big thanks to Public Transport SG for helping me update and double check the information presented in this infographic.

Cheers to SG for its 50th year of independence!

Accessible island getaways in the Philippines

accessible islands in ph

Exotic islands are almost perfect getaways, if not for the often excruciating travel they require in order to get there. Thankfully, there are white sandy beaches that are so accessible that you could reach them in less than 20 minutes via boat ride. And if you’re lucky you could find one along a major road, or just in front of your hotel room. Yay!

In the Philippines here are some of the most accessible island getaways I’ve had been to and would like to share with you.

  • Cowrie Island and Luli Island in Puerto Princesa. These islands are part of the Honday Bay Island Tours that the city government offers to tourists. Normally, visitors can choose three islands for a one-day island hopping adventure. Pambato Reef and Starfish Island are two other island destinations that tourists can choose, together with Cowrie or Luli.

Private resorts and islands like Pandan Beach and Dos Palmas are also part of Honda Bay. These require higher fees though for a one-day tour around the island resort.

Cowrie Island

How to get there: Rent a van or a tricycle from the city proper to the Honda Bay wharf. There tourists would be asked to register. DIY tourists would choose a tour for the day and pay the corresponding fee. Travel time from the town proper to the wharf could take 45 minutes.

Luli Island could get a little crowded because it is the nearest island among all the island destinations in Honda Bay.
This island disappears during high-tide and re-appears during low-tide. Thus the name Luli, or Lulubog-Lilitaw.

For entrance fee to these islands, please refer to the table at the end of this blog post.

  • Kurangon Islet in Tiwi, Albay. Albay’s two most beautiful mountains are an ubiquitous sight in this small coral-island in Tiwi. That’s not to mention that it is a marine sanctuary where different marine species can be seen and encountered when one chooses to swim in the area.
Kurangon islet in tiwi albay
Mt. Mayon and Mt. Malinao in the background.

It can be reached in less than 15 minutes via boat ride from Baybay, Tiwi, Albay.

How to get there: Look for PUVs (either van or bus) bound to Tiwi at Legaspi terminal. Travel time is around 45 minutes.

Note: As a marine sanctuary, the local government of Tiwi requires securing a permit before visiting the area. The permit can be obtained from the municipal office of Tiwi, Burueau of Fisheries and Agrarian Resources.

There’s no entrance fee, but a boat ride fee would start from Php 1,00-1,500 ++.

  • Dancalan Beach in Donsol, Sorsogon. This beach is along a main road in Sorsogon, so there’s no need for you to ride a boat to get there. Even if it tends to attract local visitors for its accessibility, your group can still have a “private” space as it has a wide and long stretch of shoreline. Besides, tourists that stay in its cottages would not return until afternoon from their Butanding encounter in Donsol.


It can be an ideal side trip from Bulusan Lake, or a place to stay overnight for those who intend to swim with whale sharks. Either way, it’s a good place to spend the rest of the afternoon for sunset watching, swimming, or chilling out with friends.

Entrance fee is 10 pesos only.

  • Subic Beach in Matnog, Sorsogon. This secluded beach with pinkish sand is the main island destination for tourists seeking a pristine beach to swim and snorkel in Matnog, Sorsogon. Even if it is already getting known to tourists, the chance to have this island all to yourself is still high, especially if you would camp in the area for an overnight visit.


There are other pristine beaches in nearby areas, and those too won’t disappoint. Among them is Tikling beach.

Juag Lagoon Marine Sanctuary is also a must-visit for an encounter with aquatic species that “grow and spawn in a protected habitat”.

Tikling Beach

Entrance fee to Subic beach is 50 pesos, plus 20 pesos for environmental fee.

  • Cloud 9 in Siargao. Yes,  tourists flock to this part of Siargao for its magnificent waves which makes it the ultimate surfing destination in the Philippines. But no one says that you can’t take things slow here by just dipping in the water or basking in the sun. The beach, after all, is just a walking distance from most of the lodging houses in the area.


And did I mention that Cloud 9 has the perfect setting for sunset watching, with two very spacious two-story viewing decks built near the shoreline?


Then, there is also General Luna in Siargao. It is a small island village with two (and probably more) pristine white sandy beaches that locals frequented to swim, play, and practice surfing. Sunset here is also breathtaking.

The pier in General Luna serves as the jump-off sites for island hopping in the surrounding islands, or for visiting Bucas Grande Island in Socorro, Surigao del Norte.

The beach facing the market


  • Naked Island in Siargao. More secluded islands can be found in Siargao through island hopping, and it includes Naked Island. Like Kurangong Islet, it is bare with no vegetation thriving in the area. Rock formations are also nowhere to be seen in this island. Thus, the name naked.

Its endless expanse of clean, turquoise water matches the infinite look and feel of the sky.



Guyam Island and Daku Island are the two other unspoiled islands that tourists can include in their island hopping adventure in Siargao, along with Naked Island.

Entrance fee to Daku Island is 50 pesos and 10 pesos for Guyam Island.

  • Atulayan Island in Camarines, Sur, Bicol. It is a favorite island getaway for locals that want a quiet weekend by the beach. It is secluded, far from the crowd, and not to mention, scenic.



Fee for boat ride starts at Php1,500. It can be reached in 25-30 minutes from Sugod, Tiwi, Albay. It can also be accessed via Nato Port in Sangay, Camarines Sur.

Travel Note: Most of the islands mentioned in this post are considered secondary destinations, not because they are inferior in terms of travel standards, but because they happen to be near to already very famous destinations.

Rates/Islands Cowrie Island Luli Island Pambato Reef Starfish Island Pandan Island
Entrance Fee Php 75.00 Php 50.00 (Cottage fee not included) Php 50.00 Php 50.00(Cottage fee not included) Php 100.00(Cottage fee not included)
Island hopping  for 6 pax (3 cylinder engine) Php 600.00 Php 700.00 Php 700.00 Php 1,200.00 Php 1,200.00
More than 6 pax (additional rate) Php 100.00 Php 116.67 Php 116.67 Php 200.00 Php 200.00
Island hopping  for 6 pax (4 cylinder engine) Php 116.67 Php 133.33 Php 133.33 Php 233.33 Php 233.33
Rates 3 Cylinder Engine (6 pax) Additional person(s) 4 Cylinder Engine (6 pax) Additonal person(s)
Island Hopping- Short Distance (Cowrie, Luli, Pambato) Php 800.00 Php 133.33 Php 900.00 Php 150.00
Any 3 Islands Php 1,300.00 Php 216.67 Php 1,500.00 Php 250.00

Photo credits to my travel buddies Ely, Joann, Gin, Cath, and Avi.