Pampanga | Ligligan Parul 2016: Winners, Schedule of Exhibits, Etc.

giant lantern of barangay San Nicolas - Ligligan Parul 2016 participant

Pampanga's Giant Lantern Festival, also known as Ligligan Parul, is an annual event held in December in the City of San Fernando. Dubbed as the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines", the festival traced it's roots in Bacolor (former capital of Pampanga) and as far back as 1908 when the first festival began. This festival is an offshoot of a religious activity called "lubenas", a parade of lights wherein the people of the community bring lanterns before going to church for misa de gallo. The first lantern competition, however, was held in the 1930's in honor of the first lady of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, First Lady Aurora Aragon. 

This year, the competition was held two Saturdays ago, December 17. I was lucky to have witnessed it this year; thanks to my dearest BFF for joining me and accompanying me to this event. I wasn't able to take much photos because I didn't bring a tripod but I'm still thankful, at least I was able to actually watch it and not concentrate on taking photos. I hope to be back next time to take more photos and to finally buy a Fernandino-made parol. Hopefully... :)

Giant Lantern Festival 2016 Winners

winning lantern (champion) - Ligligan Parul 2016

1st runner-up: barangay Calulut - no photo, unfortunately but watch the video of the grand showdown below, barangay Calulut is the rightmost lantern in the video. :)

winning lantern (2nd runner-up) - Ligligan Parul 2016

Schedule of Exhibits

For those who weren't able to witness the competition proper last December 17, you may witness the display of the giant lanterns in the following dates and venues:

December 18 - 21, 7:00PM - Robinson's Starmills
December 22, 7:00PM - Essel Park, Brgy. Telebastagan
December 23, 7:00PM - Greenfields, Brgy. Sindalan
December 24, 11:00PM - Brgy. Poblacion
December 25 - 30, 7:00PM - Robinson's Starmills
December 29 - 30, 6:00PM - Marquee Mall
January 1, 7:00PM - Robinson's Starmills

barangay Del Pilar lantern - Ligligan Parul 2016 participant

Giant Lantern Festival 2016 Showdown

Watch the showdown between barangay Sta. Lucia, the acknowledged pioneer in lantern making and where the inventor of the rotors (the steel barrels that manipulates the play of lights and patterns on the lantern) came from and this year's winner, barangay Dolores in the video below. Pretend for a while you didn't know yet the winner, which would you choose between these two?

Ligligan Parul 2016: group showdown!

Watch the video below for the grand showdown among all the participating barangays in this year's giant lantern festival competition. The showdown was accompanied by a live music by Betty's (not sure of the name) Band 48, the tune of which is unknown to the participants until the showdown starts.

Ligligan Parul 2016: The Grand Showdown!

~ oo00oo ~

Pampanga's Giant Lantern Festival is indeed "the biggest, brightest and most colorful Christmas event in our country". It showcases the artistry and craftsmanship of Filipinos, Fernandinos particularly, through painstakingly building and creating intricate designs and patterns that become the giant (20 feet in diameter) lanterns. Truly, it's a delight to watch and get mesmerized by the myriad (around 14 thousand bulbs) of colorful lights and kaleidoscopic patterns as they dance to the tune of lively Christmas songs (and other pop music).

Note: Participating giant lanterns in this year's Ligligan Parul are still on display at the exhibit. If you want to witness the spectacular display of giant lanterns, please check above-posted schedule and venue.

Have a happy and blessed holidays everyone, Merry Christmas! ^_^

~ oo00oo ~

Ligligan Parul 2016
San Fernando City, Pampanga
Date of Visit: December 17, 2016

Tagaytay | Puzzle Mansion: A Showcase of Amazing Passion and Dedication

Puzzle Mansion - Tagaytay

I've seen the owner of Puzzle Mansion being interviewed on TV a few years back but it's only this year that I was able to visit the Puzzle Mansion. Puzzle Mansion is owned by the late Georgina Gil-Lacuna (she died of heart attack in 2014), holder of Guinness World Record's largest collection of jigsaw puzzles. To date, Puzzle Mansion has more than 1,500 collections of jigsaw puzzles of various sizes and shapes and themes from religion, classic arts, landscapes, architecture, places and many others.

Gina Gil-Lacuna's Guinness World Records certificate

In the photo above is the certificate from Guinness World Records certifying that Georgina Gil-Lacuna has the largest collections of jigsaw puzzles consisting of 1,028 different puzzle sets. It was awarded in 29 November 2012 and this record has not been broken up to this time. Though not certified, Puzzle Mansion also holds the biggest puzzle in the world consisting of 33,600 puzzle pieces though it's not clear to me who worked on/finished the puzzle.  But according to one of the staff manning the mansion, Lacuna intends to break her own record in Guinness. Unfortunately, her demise prevented her from doing so.

Wildlife: world's biggest puzzle consisting of 33,600 puzzle pieces

How to Get to Puzzle Mansion

Google maps is our usual company during our road trips. I will search the place at the start of our trip, start traveling and follow the route provided. That's how we were able to reach the Puzzle Mansion, though we almost missed the road leading to it because it's kinda narrow. Anyway, if you're traveling by car from Manila, here's how it goes:
  • Drive through the South Luzon Expressway
  • Turn right and exit at Sta. Rosa exit
  • Continue driving straight ahead passing through Silang-Tagaytay road until you reach Tagaytay Rotonda.
  • At Tagaytay Rotonda, exit/follow the Tagaytay-Nasugbo road; after around 6-7 kilometers (you'll pass by Sky Ranch halfway through) and after Bag of Beans, drive slow and look out for a narrow road with Puzzle Mansion signage; turn right on that street and drive through until you reach the Puzzle Mansion.

For those commuting from Manila, here's how you'll get to Puzzle Mansion:
  • Take Nasugbu-bound (via Tagaytay) buses from Cubao, Buendia Taft or Pasay. Tell the conductor or driver that you're going to the Puzzle Mansion and to drop you off at Maglabe Drive. The road is on your right, after passing through Sky Ranch and Bag  of Beans.
  • From that corner, take a tricycle and tell the driver to bring you to the Puzzle Mansion.

Entrance/Parking Fee:

Puzzle Mansion charged 100 Php per visitor, young and old. Parking fee is free, however. Puzzle Mansion's parking area can accommodate a number of vehicles but if your car is kinda loaded, you might as well leave it on the road before you turn right at the Puzzle Mansion as the slope of the road leading to it is kinda steep. 

Puzzle Mansion Bed and Breakfast

Reception Area, at the back is the Mansion's Cafeteria
the bed and breakfast facility

Puzzle Mansion is also a bed and breakfast place. It has 11 rooms that can accommodate up to 4 persons comfortably, this according to the mansion's staff. The Mansion's accommodation rate ranges from 4,000 Php to 6,000 Php per room. It has its own pool (not in photo, forgot to take one) where guests can take a swim. For more info on their bed and breakfast offering, please check their FB page.

Puzzle Mansion's garden - flowering plants are sold here, too.
Puzzle Mansion Museum, view from the garden
a wishing well, also in the garden

Puzzle Mansion Museum in Photos

I admire people who are into puzzles. I find them gifted and visually talented (which I'm not); super duper patient, too (solving several thousands-piece puzzle needs tons of patience, I'm sure). Seeing more than 1,500 finished jigsaw puzzles is really amazing but kind of puzzling, for me. Thinking of solving and finishing a thousand-piece puzzle is in itself a puzzle for me, much more if several thousand pieces. I wonder how they were able to acquire so much patience to solve complex jigsaw puzzles. (I'm no patient person; I easily get bored, sometimes even with my work hehe.)

By the way, according to the staffs, before her demise and whenever she's in the Mansion, Gina Gil-Lacuna herself welcomes and tours her guests around, some of which are dignitaries from other countries. It's sad to know that the owner of these great collections already passed away. She could have toured us around and she could have given me some tips on how to be patient, a virtue I guess, each and everyone of us should have.

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took while exploring the Puzzle Mansion. Enjoy the (virtual) tour. :)

hundreds and hundreds of framed jigsaw puzzles, majority of which done by Gina Gil-Lacuna herself.
more framed puzzles of different sizes...
and many more ones, amazing!
The Pope and some religious stuff, in jigsaw puzzle format
The White House - 1,000-piece puzzle completed in 12 hours, whoa!
if I'm the one to do this, I'm not sure if I can finish this at all hehe 

beautiful piece, looks like a painting...
another one that looks like a painting from afar
3D puzzle collections
up-close: Florence Cathedral in 3D puzzle
up-close: St. Basil's Cathedral in 3D puzzle
real vases? nah, they're puzzle sets too

The second floor of the museum houses the three largest puzzle sets in the world. Gina Gil-Lacuna herself finished the second largest called DOUBLE RETROSPECT, a jigsaw puzzle based on a work by 80's American pop artist Keith Haring. The largest one (third photo from above) is called WILDLIFE and was designed by digital artist Adrian Chesterman for Educa.

The second floor also houses its souvenir shop where guests can buy puzzle sets of different sizes, some of which are the same puzzle sets on display at the museum. It's also where you can have your souvenir digital photo be converted into a puzzle for a minimum price of 500 Php.

world's third biggest puzzle
didn't get the name of this one :(
Double Retrospect: world's second biggest puzzle
souvenir shop: puzzles to take home to and get addicted, too :P
more puzzles for sale at the souvenir shop
coconut cream pie, variation of buco pie common in Tagaytay; a must-try!
rich and creamy but with no 'umay' factor; not too sweet, too.

~ oo00oo ~

The Puzzle Mansion
Barangay Asisan, Tagaytay City
Visiting Hours: 8:00AM - 7:00PM
Entrance Fee: 100/person, young and old
Parking Fee: Free
Date of Visit: November 30, 2016

Pangasinan | Bolinao DIY Tour: The Enchanted Cave

Bolinao Enchanted Cave

Just like Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, Enchanted Cave isn't the only cave Bolinao is proud of. There actually are three caves in this town - Cindy's, Wonderful and Enchanted Caves. Of the three, Enchanted is the most famous one. It is located in barangay Patar and is usually the first destination of the Bolinao tour.

Bolinao Enchanted Cave
Bolinao Enchanted Cave entrance, for photo-ops ^_^

Enchanted Cave is a privately-owned resort/nature park immortalized in the GMA television series Dyesebel (starring Marian Rivera). It features an underground cave with a natural spring lagoon of refreshingly cold crystal clear water enticing guests to take a dip and swim.

coral stones everywhere,
the path to the enchanted cave...
inside the cave..., notice the water?
it's crystal clear; visible still, despite the poor quality of this photo. ;)

The park and the cave itself sits on/is surrounded with coral stones giving credence to the story that this area was once submerged under the sea. Another testament to this claim are the fossilized giant clams displayed near the park's entrance that they say are millions of years old, though no carbon dating has been performed on those clams, yet.

fossilized giant clams (taklobo)

According to the resort's tour guide assigned to us, Enchanted Cave accepts tourists for overnight accommodation. They have several cottages with a room setup like the one in the photo below for 2,500 Php/night, good for two (2) persons. I don't know if they still offer the said rooms for the same rate; couldn't find a site/review to verify it, either. Please contact them directly for any inquiries, if ever. 

inside one of the cottages in Enchanted Cave,
thanks to the tour guide for allowing me to take a photo of the room
Entrance Fee Notice

It's been more than a year since this escapade but I checked the WWW and found out this is still the prevailing entrance fee to the resort; that is, 150 Php per person, young (6 y/o and above) and old, swimming or non-swimming guests. Quite pricey for an entrance fee, especially if you only want to see and explore the place for a little while. Also, since the the cave is quite small, it gets crowded pretty fast especially during peak season.  During our visit, we only get to stay inside the cave for a few minutes; the cave is crowded, it's hot inside and there's nothing else to do and see anyway, unless you'll go swimming.

Overall, the resort is a nice place to see and visit (and do photo-ops ^_^) though, I find it too commercialized, too, given the limited things to do inside and considering the current entrance fee rate. I hope the management could make it more economical and bring back the old rate structure; that is, lower rates for non-swimming guests. :)

How to get to Bolinao

* From Pasay or Cubao, take a Bolinao-bound bus and get off at Bolinao bus terminal; fare is around 500 Php for aircon buses, one way; travel time is around 7-8 hours.

* In Bolinao, head off to Church of Saint James. On the side street, in front of Adora's Restaurant, are tricycles offering Bolinao tour; cost is 600 Php, round trip; tour takes around 4 hours.

~ oo00oo ~

Enchanted Cave is part of a DIY tour my nephews and I made last 2015, while on vacation at my mother's hometown Bani. Just like my Ilocos Norte adventure, it was also a tour via a tricycle. Bolinao DIY tricycle tour costs 600 Php covering 4 of Bolinao's tourist destinations - Bolinao Lighthouse, Bolinao Rock Formation, Patar Beach and this cave.

~ oo00oo ~

Enchanted Cave
Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan
Entrance Fee: 150 Php/person (fixed)
young/old, swimming/non-swimming guests
Date of Visit: May 3, 2015

Pangasinan | Bolinao DIY Tour: Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
Note: tourists are no longer allowed to climb the tower

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse in Patar is the famous of the two (2) lighthouses (the other one is the Port Bolinao Lighthouse in Guigui-wanen, Luciente I) in Bolinao, Pangasinan. It is the second tallest (Burgos Lighthouse in Ilocos Norte being the tallest) lighthouse in the Philippines at a height of about 351 feet above sea level, including the elevation of the hill were it was built. It is one of the top tourist drawers of Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse was built atop Punta Piedra by Filipino, American, and British engineers in the 1905. As with all other lighthouses, it was built to avoid sea disasters and guide seafarers sailing along that part of West Philippine Sea. Based on several online accounts I've read, this lighthouse used to guide seafarers as far as 44 kilometers away as its beacon light is still visible that far. The lighthouse served its purpose for hundred years or so until it ceased its operation as a lighthouse in 2004. Since then, Cape Bolinao Lighthouse just serves as one of the tourist attractions of the town.

The Ruins of Cape Bolinao
this ruin used to be the lighthouse's Admin building
solar panels at the lighthouse
Cape Bolinao Lighthouse was used to be powered by kerosene for around 80 years,
then by electricity when Pangasinan Electric Cooperative extended its operation to Patar
and for a time, by solar energy when it was renovated through a loan package extended by Japan.
Cape Bolinao Lighthouse ceased it's operation when the beacon lights shut off and the batteries bogged down in 8 November of 2004. 

How to get to Bolinao

* From Pasay or Cubao, take a Bolinao-bound bus and get off at Bolinao bus terminal; fare is around 500 Php for aircon buses, one way; travel time is around 7-8 hours.

* In Bolinao, head off to Church of Saint James. On the side street, in front of Adora's Restaurant, are tricycles offering Bolinao tour; cost is 600 Php, round trip; tour takes around 4 hours.

~ oo00oo ~

Cape Bolinao is part of a DIY tour my nephews and I made last 2015, while on vacation at my mother's hometown Bani. Just like my Ilocos Norte adventure, it was also a tour via a tricycle. Bolinao DIY tricycle tour costs 600 Php covering 4 of Bolinao's tourist destinations - Bolinao Enchanted Cave, Bolinao Rock Formation, Patar Beach and this Lighthouse.

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan
Entrance Fee: None
Date of Visit: May 3, 2015

Photo Wanders | Marcos Highway: Of Golds, Greens and Blues

Marcos Highway along Tanay(??) in Rizal

Road trip and photography, two activities I wouldn't get tired of doing. And not just because I wasn't the one who's driving, if I own a car, I'd probably be on a road trip every weekend. I think?! Haha! Anyway, there isn't a single road trip my friend and I made that I didn't take photos while cruising the highway or any road along the way to where we're going. I simply love taking photos that even if we went through the same route several times before, I still can't help but take some photographs.

So for this week, I'd be posting some of the photos I took while cruising along Marcos Highway, during our road trip to Regina RICA in Tanay, Rizal. Fasten your seatbelt folks and come ride along with us, let us all see and appreciate the beauty of nature that God has blessed us with. Enjoy the (virtual) ride... ^_^

In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle

Follow the trail of your dreams, not the highway of others expectations. ~Anonymous

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. ~Vincent Van Gogh

A sunset here is a sunrise on the other end of the world.
Never give up because what appears to be the end may actually be a new beginning. ~Brahma Kumaris

Sunsets, like childhood are viewed with wonder
not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting. ~Richard Paul Evans

~ oo00oo ~

All photos were taken along the stretch of Marcos Highway in the province of Rizal last February 8, 2016. Photos were taken by yours truly using either Canon EOS 550D or iPhone 5. Except for the sunset photos, all else were taken while cruising and all are handheld shots.

~ oo00oo ~

Happy and blessed Sunday every one. Enjoy the rest of the day and welcome the coming week with a happy heart. God bless! ^_^

Rizal | Road Trip to Regina RICA: A Place of Prayer, Pilgrimage and Peace

Regina RICA, Tanay, Rizal

Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation  in Asia, or simply Regina RICA, is a shrine and pilgrimage site situated in a 13.5 hectare of land at the foothills of Sierra Madre in Tanay, Rizal. Founded in 2005, Regina RICA is under the auspices of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii. Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii's mission is to teach people about contemplative prayer and contemplative way of life.

Our Lady and the sun's rays

Last February, we visited Regina RICA for our weekend road trip. There was a moderate traffic around Marikina/Marcos highway due to some road repair/construction but all in all, it was a hassle-free travel. We arrived at Regina RICA around 3PM, paid the parking fee (50 Php) and registered ourselves at the reception area. Afterwards, we then started walking up the sacred trail, a 300+ steps trail made of bricks, some of which with footprints of those who gave their love offering. The trail is pretty easy to walk through (ascent is gradual) and is lined up with flowers and citrus trees, making the climb a walk in the park.

Dominican Sisters driving around golf carts, could also be used to transport pilgrims who can't walk

At the top of the hill is the 71-meter high statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary with its mantle extended at the back and serves as the roof of the area where pilgrims have to wait, listen and participate in the contemplative prayer led by one of the Dominican sisters. After the prayer, pilgrims will then be allowed to line up and climb the statue to pay respect.

inside Our Lady's mantle, pilgrims waiting in line to climb and pay respect to the statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

After the climb, we made a small donation and in return we were given a souvenir card with a small cloth attached to it. The cloth is said to have touched the lips of Our Lady of Regina Rosarii and in the card was printed this prayer:

...Heal my body, heal my mind, heal my spirit, heal my pocket...

Regina Rosarii, Virgin most powerful, intercede for us,
Mama Mary, Mother most merciful intercede for us to Jesus your son.
After our visit to Our Lady,  we then roam around and took some photos of the place. We also had our snack from their cafeteria, before we bid our goodbye to Our Lady of Regina Rosarii. Here are the photos I took while roaming around Regina RICA:

rainbows and rolling hills,
view from the top of Regina RICA hill
Labyrinth Prayer Walk where pilgrims slowly walk and meditate,
 though I saw some children who take it as a playground running around and laughing
pilgrims walking around the labyrinth path of prayer
Regina RICA men preparing the bricks for footprint-taking
If I remembered it right, I heard the donation is about 500 Php, per brick
though I read from a blog it's 1,000 Php so am not really sure how much  
A woman about to imprint her footprints on the brick
lighted candles, each color represents an aspect of your life you want to pray for
 of course, we prayed for everything - thanksgiving, peace, family, good health, etc.;
we bought a candle set actually, all 12 of them, and lighted them all
Regina RICA chapel
the Chapel's altar
Our Lady and the wishing well
view from the Chapel
notice the lady's skirt? it's what you'll have to borrow when you get there wearing shorts
NOTE: shorts, sandos (men, women and children), sleeveless blouses and blouses with spaghetti straps are NOT ALLOWED

How to get to Regina RICA

Private Vehicle:

* From QC Circle, take Kalayaan Road and head towards Marcos Highway via Aurora Boulevard
* Continue driving along Marcos Highway, past Cogeo and other towns/barangays of Rizal including Camp Capinpin
* At approximately KM66.5, turn right at Aguho Street (with Regina RICA signage at the corner).
* Regina Rica is around 200 meters away after you turned right in Aguho.

NOTE: If you have a smart phone, turn on your GPS and cellular network (you can turn off cellular network after searching) and launch Google Maps. Search for Regina RICA and follow the route provided by the app. Except for some ongoing road repair/construction where you have to do some detours, the route provided by Google Maps is pretty accurate, you won't get lost!

Public Transport - From Aurora Boulevard, Cubao:

* From Mercury-Cubao, take a Cogeo-bound jeepney and tell the driver to drop you off at Cogeo market
* From Cogeo market, take a jeepney bound for Sampaloc and get off at Sampaloc market
* From Sampaloc market, take a tricycle going to Regina RICA in Sitio Aguho

Public Transport - From Star Mall, Shaw Boulevard/Crossing:
* Take a van or jeepney bound for Tanay and tell the driver to drop you off at Sampaloc-bound Jeepney Terminal
* Take the Sampaloc-bound jeepney and get off at Sampaloc market
* From Sampaloc market, take a tricycle going to Regina RICA in Sitio Aguho

Visiting Hours/Mass Schedule

* Regina RICA is open from 8:00AM to 5:30PM everyday except Tuesdays
* Mass:
   Sunday - 11:00AM; 3:30PM
   Monday - Saturday (except Tuesday) - 11:00AM
   every 4th Saturday of the month - 6:00AM

~ oo00oo ~

Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia
Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal
Note: more infos on their site (link above)
Date of Visit: February 8, 2016