Laguna | Paete Woodcarving Capital and its Masters

Paloy Cagayat at his workshop in Paete

There’s a distinctive smell of wood amidst the mixture of paint and thinner lingering in the air. I could hear the constant pounding of multiple mallets on chisels carving away pieces of wood to make form to an otherwise large piece of wood. Occasional sawdust fills the air when sudden gust of wind blows through this open air wood carving workshop. Paete Woodcarving has been a thriving industry since the Spanish era until now. A walk at the town’s market road, it is hard not to notice the rows of shops, selling variety of wood work and paper mache. This crafty town of Paete, north-east of Laguna have earned its declaration as the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines back in 2005. Thanks to proud Paetenians whose generations of wood carvers passed their skills and dedication for elevating the art. Here we meet some of the master woodcarvers that have etched their legacy in the town’s history.

California | At the Oceanside Pier: First Taste of America

Sunset at the Oceanside Pier

The American Dream, as the Filipinos fondly call it. There was a time when a lot of Filipinos dream of a better life by migrating to the USA. I remember teens getting into college were coerced to enter nursing or get a course on caregiving just to have a better chance of getting into America. Our family was supposed to migrate to USA when I was still in grade school but the plan fell through due to an obstacle. I never bothered to think about it growing up, thinking it will still be a dream. The closest I got to USA was Guam. By a twist of fortunate events, August 2015, I found myself standing on of the longest wooden bridge in America, the Oceanside Pier. Finally, I could feel the cool crisp air, see the surfing culture with my own eyes, walk the steps of the pier where some Hollywood movie actors walked (cue in Top Gun, Iwo Jima and American Sniper) and have a taste of the local eats. Yes, I’m in California and its just the beginning of my journey in the land of dollars. Fulfilling my own American Dream.

San Andres | Allure of Alibijaban Island: Sandbars, Mangroves and Clear Waters

Approaching Alibijaban Island

We could see the long strip of the white sandy shores of Alibijaban Island from the port. We arrived just in time for the sunrise after a long six-hour drive from Manila. I was in the company of my fellow officemates from the university I currently work with and we’re on an outing trip. But it seems, we won’t be alone on the island as we were expecting. The newly built port already had a few vehicles parked, probably heading to the same island. Alibijaban Island has garnered quite a popularity in the past couple of years, and I had to blame my friends, Dong Ho and Allan of Lantaw for that somehow. I had some laughs when I recount Dong Ho’s story of being mistaken as an NPA when he first set foot on the island. He had to seek comfort and security under the baranggay captain since no tourist comes to their island. Now visitors here picked up especially on weekends. What drives people on this southern region of Quezon province?

Tarlac | Mt Pinatubo Aerial Tour

Approaching Mt Pinatubo crater from the air

The beautiful blemish of the Earth, Mt Pinatubo, has constantly been an impressive sight to behold. It’s hard to imagine that the destructive power of this stratovolcano has transformed its surrounding area into a magnificent alien landscape that’s constantly changing and molding. I have been to Mt Pinatubo many times already on land and have appreciated its sandy trails and oscillating cliff walls. Recently I had the fortunate chance to take a helicopter tour of this famed volcano. The Mt Pinatubo Aerial Tour was offered by ArchipelagoPH as I accompany their photo contest three winners and document their winning flight. It was also my first time to ride a helicopter so it was an opportunity that’s too hard to pass.

San Andres | Follow the Flow to Tigbi Falls

The many cascades on the lower levels of Tigbi Falls

destination which is Tigbi Falls, but I guess we were not ready for the tough and rough road (which is an understatement) ahead. Suddenly, I was harkened back to those butt-beating rides to waterfalls like in Asik-asik Falls in Cotabato and Tulgao Palan-ah Falls in Kalinga. While it’s certainly not of the same level of difficulty, it is that close to a tough ride in at least half an hour for me to recall them. But all that was a rewarding transit. Aside from the scenic landscape of Banaba village on the way, Tigbi Falls is where stuff of enchantments and lore are born.