March 29, 2016

Cabongaoan Beach, Burgos, Pangasinan

"Show me all the parts of you that you 
do not love, so I know where to begin."
- Anonymous

Cabongaoan in the Western coastal side of Pangasinan isn’t a secret-waiting-to-be-discovered anymore. But it still has some hidden, less explored parts with amazing rock formations, crevices, and natural Jacuzzi caves - worth searching, worth loving, worth the nine-hour trip from Manila (after all the crazy Holy Week traffic and after Waze got us all lost in Dasol).

How to get to Cabongaon and tips:
1. From Cubao, take Alaminos/Bolinao-bound bus and get off in Alaminos.
2. From Alaminos, take Sta. Cruz-bound bus and get off in Burgos town proper.
3. Rent a tricyle (good for 3 pax) going to Cabongaon. Fare is P300 one way. Some parts of the road are still unpaved.
4. If on a budget, stay at Roven’s Place (0927-9957606 or 0906-1078860). Entrance fee is P100. They have native cottages and open nipa huts for rent. They also allow pitching of tents. For overlooking beach view, stay at Viva La Vida Cabo Resort (0927-2019907).

March 27, 2016

Dong Juan, Quezon City

Have you ever wondered who the real Lola Basyang is?

Lola Basyang is actually the nom de plume of the late Don Severino Reyes, the father of the Tagalog zarzuela and the founder of the now-defunct Liwayway Magazine, where Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang first regularly appeared. He and his wife Maria Paz were blessed with 17 children – a norm then but still would look like a blatant insult to China’s one-child policy. His family used to live in an ancestral home in Quezon City that is now converted into Dong Juan, a Cebu home-grown restaurant that serves delicious comfort food.

Lemon iced tea

Gambas al ajillo pasta

Dong Juan’s all-meat special

Ice cream burger

Portrait of Don Severino Reyes

This is the home of Lola Basyang and yet I couldn’t even find a copy of Rosamistica.

Dong Juan
#72 Mother Ignacia Ave. cor. Sct. Reyes
Paligsahan, Quezon City
Tel. No.: 374-0265

March 22, 2016

Green Canyon Eco Art Resort

I want to live in a world designed by Niccolo Jose - a world where all furniture is magically transformed to art, where art expresses different emotions, and where chairs are anything but ordinary. I suppose my wish got granted when our teambuilding for this year was held at the family resort of the young and talented woodbender and visual artist.

Located in a 29-hectare property that was once devastated by the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, Green Canyon, which is about two hours’ drive from Manila,  sits prettily in the middle of a lush green canyon near the Clark Freeport Economic Zone. It opened in late 2014, and has earned the accolade for being the first eco-art resort in the country as it combines the elegance of art and beauty of nature to give people a rejuvenating experience. 

The three-storey main hotel is a redesigned farm warehouse, partly made from boulders sourced from the nearby Socobia river, volcanic ash and lahar. As part of its green initiative, it uses solar panels as backup power source and a reverse osmosis water filtration system that makes water clean and potable. The pathway leading to the entrance, made of bricks from sugar mills of Negros, is lined up with bicycles, which guests can freely use to roam around the resort. I also spied wooden Mokujins, one of which is carrying a board with a Proverb quote “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.”

Upon entering the main lobby, I was amazed by the preponderance of wooden artworks and furniture sculpted and painted by Nico and his team. They are all over the place - from floor, counter, walls, stairs to ceiling – and they have elevated an otherwise typical lobby into an art gallery, showcasing the artistry and ingenuity of Nico.

Wooden counter adorned with miniature and cute wood works

Pyrographic portrait of Yoda - a blow torch wood burning art

Rocking kalesa

Giant pocket watch

Think Big chair

Giant sungka

Rocking bicycle

Early berds

Alice in Wonderland's Chesire cat chair

Yoga sculptures

Aenigma - wooden portrait mosaic of Nico’s ex

Wine glass bottle chandelier

J bench and reading nook

Some of Nico’s intrepid and extraordinary creations are mostly made from recycled and salvaged woods. The most notable of which is the 7-foot Think Big Chair made from over 5,000 pieces of century-old mahogany, tamarind, narra, tangili, kamagong, molave, palo de china, ipil, cherry, cedar, and palo ropa woods. His chairs may look quirky and whimsical but most of them are ergonomically sound, as if hugging whoever is sitting on them. Moreover, he wants every piece he makes to have soul so that the person who will be using or seeing it would feel an undeniable connection. A chandelier made of used bottles hanging on iron racks that used to be part of an old train, on the other hand, is the masterpiece of his father, Jojo Jose. The artistry really ran through the family bloodline. 

The hotel has 47 unique rooms and a few stand-alone casitas good for couple, family and barkada. Most of the furniture inside the rooms, including bed frames, were made out of trees that got washed away by Typhoon Ondoy back in 2009. I was assigned, together with Ate Ivy, in the Upgraded Standard Room. Minimalist in design, the room is spacious and the bed soft and fluffy.

The Pavilion houses their all-day dining restaurant Palette, function rooms and a main hall for private events, and the open-air terrace Boulders View Deck. The restaurant serves home-cooked cuisine prepared with produce grown at the resort's organic farm.

Pyrographic portrait of Pacman in the main function hall

Pulled pork sandwich with cassava chips

Kalabasa ice cream

Play room
Koi pond

There are several physical but fun activities to do within the resort – biking, swimming, and mountain trekking. And even if it was exhausting being in action due to summer heat, the open layout of the resort ensures a green and relaxing vista from all directions – still a good trade-off. The golden hour also offers spectacular sunrise and sunset views.

Hanging bridge

Biking trail

Nursery farm

Quarter-circle shaped Symphony pool

Solar ball-powered Wave pool

View from the mountain trail

I’m certain everybody enjoyed the amenities, and various games and activities, particularly the cheering competition, Amazing Race, and Hiram na Mukha talent portion. Likewise, nobody got burned or seriously injured this year. It was almost a perfect teambuilding. Only one thing had gone amiss.

We weren’t wearing green.

Green Canyon Eco Art Resort
San Vicente Rd., Bamban
Tel. No.: (045) 499-4800, 0998-9634332