Tuesday, November 15, 2011

African Safari at Calauit Island

Just read about this and had to write about it. The Calauit Island lies in the Northwestern coast of Palawan was declared a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary in 1977 as the Philippines responded to an appeal by the IUCN or the International Union of Conservation of Nature to save endangered animals in Africa.

The Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary is a natural area where the entire environment and all the plants and animals are allowed to live in a natural state with the absolute minimum of human interference or disturbance. In order to protect the sanctuary and preserve it for future generations, certain standards of Visitor Conduct are provided for in the National Integrated Protected Areas Act and the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan.

It really is like going to Africa no elephants and lions but Giraffe, Zebras and deers. The scenery is spectacular a bit like Jurassic Park..

Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary Project

Calauit Island

Calauit Island

Calauit Island

Calauit Island Safari

Calauit Island Deer

Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary Project

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Baguio & Ber Months again

Today I saw this picture in the Inquirer of Baquio and just loved it.


Baquio is basically to Manila, what Cameron Highland is to KL or Chiangmai to Bangkok. Its the highland 'summer capital' where, in the olden days, the well-to-do used to go during the hot months. Its now the major source of fruits and vegetables for Manila. So the similarities is pretty obvious.

But Baguio is actually better. Whereas Cameron Highlands and Chiangmai is always all cloudy and rainy during the colder months, Baguio don't necessary will although it will be driest during the dry month of Feb-April. When it clears up like the picture shows it like Fall US East Coast. The scenery is fantastic and its just perfect right amount of chill, putting you in the mood for preparing for the coming Christmas hollidays.

Its the Ber month again in Philippines. I have mentioned this before. It stands for the month that ends with 'Ber' - SeptemBER, OctoberBER, NovemBER, DecemBER. But in reality it actually means the colder months between Oct-Feb. Its the perfect golf and outdoor weather in the Philippines time. When you come here, you will already start hearing Christmas music everywhere even before you get off the plane!!

I tell my friends especially those who are really stressed in Hong Kong and Singapore this time of the year with year-end review, taxes etc, that if they are fighting with their other half, they should just go away for a weekend in a place like Baguio or any resort outside Manila and it will do wonders for them.

But caveat to those who don't like it cold, it does get very cold especially at night in the month of Dec/Jan even possible to single digit degree Celsius although very very rare.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sailing in Philippines

I used to sail back in NY and Boston. I have had few opportunities here. The community is smaller but its growing.

I think there is a lot of potential for sailing as a tourism product here in Philippines. There are some excellent wind conditions for races and plenty of deep water around. I think I mentioned the potential here on my visit to Sangley Point, Cavite. There are a few facilities like marinas available although plenty of places that are suitable to built. The top yatch club here is in Manila but Manila bay water is well, unrecreational.

Roxas Blvd

The other club I have been too is Subic Bay. Its really nice with some beautiful boats.



There are some new places such as is in Hamilo at Nusugbu - its basically a second/beach/country home place that is being built to catered to the well-to-do - two hours from Manila. They hold regular regattas although mostly cats (catamarans). It would be interesting to see bigger boats race out here during good conditions.



In other parts of the country, the Cebu Yatch club is very nice one and so is the one in Bohol.

Friday, July 15, 2011

FHM Philippine 100 Sexiest Women in the World 2011 winner

The Winner - Sam Pinto
Winner FHM 2011

Past Photos

Don't know why I keep not going every year..Stupid I guess..

God, am I stupid..


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Top Education for Less in the Philippines - AFP

This was an article from AFP. For countries with broken school systems and there are still many in this world, some schools here do offer a high quality education for very good price. U of P especially Diliman for example offer an incredible deal even if the infrastructure is not up to date.

The article:

Top education for less in the Philippines

Thousands of foreign university students are flocking to the Philippines, attracted by cheap yet high-quality courses conducted in English and an easy-going lifestyle outside class.

With more than 2,100 private and state-run institutions nationwide offering a wide array of courses, and an immigration policy friendly to foreign students, the former American colony is enjoying an enrolment boom.

Nearly 20,000 foreign students held special visas at the end of the school year in March, according to the immigration bureau, which said the number would rise when classes began in June.

This excludes the tens of thousands enrolled in small institutions that offer short courses in English and are particularly popular among South Korean and Chinese students.

Nigerian medical student Dike Edward Ikechukwu, 22, said he learnt about studying in the Philippines at an education road show conducted by Manila schools in his country.

Then already studying pharmacology in Lagos, Ikechukwu said he was intrigued by the prospect of studying in a foreign country where he could expand his medical knowledge without depleting the family resources.

"It was cost effective for me," said Ikechukwu, who is president of the 605-member foreign students' organisation at Manila's 400-year-old University of Santo Tomas.

"I would have spent so much more in the United States for the same quality of education."

A four-year degree course in the Philippines costs between 1,000 and 2,500 dollars a year, significantly cheaper than in the United States for example where one could spend more than 30,000 dollars annually, educators here say.

Another important factor for Ikechukwu was English. He said his father, a shipping consultant, travelled to the Philippines before he enrolled to inspect the university and liked the fact English was widely spoken.

The Philippines inherited English from the Americans, who colonised the archipelago at the end of a war with Spain in 1898.

American teachers fanned out across the country to open up schools in remote villages, teaching English grammar, diction and generally instilling a love for education in a legacy that lasts to this day.

Even though the Philippines is one of the poorest countries in Asia with one of the biggest wealth divides, the literacy rate remains one of the highest in the region at about 90 percent, according to government data.

The government began enticing foreign students to study in the Philippines in the 1980s, mostly in specialised fields such as medicine and agriculture.

The following decade saw an explosion of schools and institutions offering short-term courses in English language, aviation, hotel and restaurant management and maritime-related classes.

Then, in 2000, the government embarked on a strategy to promote the Philippines as a centre for education in Asia, with one plank making it easier for foreign students to apply for visas.

It also established exchange programmes between Philippine schools and universities in many countries, including Australia, the United States, South Korea, Canada and European nations.

Professor Evelyn Songco, assistant to the rector for student affairs at the University of Santo Tomas, credited the high number of foreigners to the government's strong push to make the Philippines an academic mecca in Asia.

"Many Philippine schools are accredited abroad, and those who graduated from here have created a good impression around the world," she said.

"Our diplomas are competitive abroad, and Philippine universities have always strived to do justice to the tuition fees these foreigners pay. We give them quality education, quality faculty members and facilities."

Beryl France Buendia, an American studying for a physical therapy degree at the University of Santo Tomas, said she believed studying in the Philippines would not disadvantage her in the US job market.

"I believe a Philippine diploma can be just as competitive in the States," the 22-year-old said, although she added cost was a big factor in deciding to study in Manila.

"My dad's quite old and my mom's going to retire soon so they had to budget the plan, so we decided to enrol here," she said.

A younger sister, Bethany, is finishing a degree in communication arts, also at Santo Tomas.

For South Korean psychology student Juhyun Kim, 18, learning English and low costs were important reasons for enrolling at the Ateneo de Manila University.

But she said another factor in choosing to study in the Philippines was the reputation of Filipinos for being so friendly.

"Koreans are very welcome here. Filipinos sincerely care. I like staying here," she said.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Philippine Talent-Ahem

Filipino univerity student wins 2010 World SuperModel
by Thelma Sioson San Juan


MANILA, Philippines - A 17-year-old student of the University of the Philippines, whose body has been described as the "perfect designer's body" - 30 (chest)/ 22 (waist)/ 30 inches (hips) - has been chosen the World SuperModel 2010 in New York over the weekend by the iconic modeling institution, Ford Models.

Danica Flores Magpantay bested young aspiring models from more than 40 countries.

This is the first time a Filipino was named World SuperModel-a much-coveted title that carries not only a $250,000 modeling contract, but also the chance to model for the world's top retail brands and fashion designers and work with leading photographers.

It is ironic that Magpantay, strictly speaking, isn't a model.

Except for a brief stint in Philippine Fashion Week late last year in Manila, she hasn't really modeled, neither on the runway nor for advertising campaigns.

This, even if her mother, Lala Flores, was a top model in the '90s and was a SuperModel winner herself in 1994.

Her mother is now a leading makeup artist for advertising campaigns, whose clients include stars like Sarah Geronimo.

Unusual, striking look

Asked what made Magpantay bag the prestigious and lucrative title, SuperModel Philippines executive producer Joey Espino said: "Mr. Rowland (Paul Rowland, new head of Ford models) and the rest of Ford found so striking the fusion of feminine and masculine features on that face. Hers is a very unusual facial bone structure-squarish on top, but softer toward the chin. And this is the time when Ford, under Mr. Rowland, is going for the unusual, striking look."

Espino added a crucial bit of precedence - "It was Mr. Rowland who discovered Kate Moss."

Global beauty

Indeed Magpantay, who is 5'8 3/4" tall, couldn't have gone to New York at a better time.

In an interview last year with New York Times' T Magazine, Rowland, who had just been named head of Ford Models and tasked with reinventing the "venerable institution," explained where he was coming from"… the idea of beauty [is] not only being classic but being, you know, global. I'm just obsessed with finding these amazing creatures in all these exotic countries." (Rowland, according to T, even opened a scouting center in North Africa.)

In such a short time, Rowland, it is said, was able to move up Ford among the top model agencies in the world, from the fifth to the third (the first being IMG who handles sports celebrities, like Tiger Woods and Roger Federer).

It is interesting to note that the two runners-up in the World SuperModel 2010 are from Lithuania and Poland.


Magpantay's journey from Makati City, where her family lives, to the world's modeling capital, wasn't dramatic, but it was serendipitous. She is second in a brood of five.

One day, her father, Pogs, a businessman, was clearing up some house stuff.

He found the Betamax recording of Lala Flores when she was named 1994 SuperModel of the Philippines.

He had it converted into DVD, and his two eldest daughters Danielle and Danica got to see the DVD.

It was after watching the DVD of their mom that the two approached their parents to say that, yes, they, too, wanted to be models-to be SuperModels.

Until that moment, Espino said Lala never really pushed her daughters into a modeling career. They had to want it first, Espino recalled Lala's stance.


It was then that Lala turned over her two daughters to Espino, who has been the top models' scout in the country for more than two decades now.

He and his brother Audie have put up the industry leader, CalCarrie's, which fields models all over the world.

Espino unerringly saw Magpantay's potential. The older Danielle, 19, and Danica joined the Philippine search for SuperModel 2010, which Danica would win in October last year.

Intense screening

Unlike in previous years, there was no runway show in New York this year to proclaim the SuperModel. Instead, of the SuperModel winners from various countries, five were chosen, Magpantay among them. Only the five were flown to New York.

Magpantay, who graduated high school from Colegio de San Agustin, flew to New York last week. Like the four others, she came upon intense screening, from body measurements to how clothes would fall on her, to how she photographs.

The other four are Kristina Gromovaite of Lithuania, Zuzanna Bronczyck of Poland-the two became runners-up-Rufina Rudenko of Estonia and Natalia Haiden of Brazil.

While this is the first time a Filipino became World SuperModel, the Philippines had runners-up the previous years-Charo Ronquillo in 2006 and Charlene Almarvez in 2009.

Lucrative job

Just how lucrative is a SuperModel contract?

Ronquillo now struts among the world's best in New York, and has worked with top photographers, like Bruce Weber, for the American Living campaign of Ralph Lauren, Vogue photographer Arthur Elgort and Walter Chin.

She has done advertising campaigns of the world's top brands, such as Lacoste, Tory Burch, Armani Exchange, Kenneth Cole, DKNY, and retail giants, such as Macy's.

In short, it's a full-time lucrative job. And if one pursues it with passion, it could be a glamorous life.

Not bad at all for a 17-year-old on a Monday morning.

But one more thing, even as you read this, she'll already be in the salt mines early Monday morning in New York, working the SuperModel job.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top Beaches

For some reason, I am seeing a lot of news article on beaches lately all over the place - Reuters, National Geographic, etc. This morning there is one sensational piece on Boracay that showed up in Aussie, UK and regional papers. I decided I have to at least give my two cents worth about best beaches in Philippines.

I have to start with some caveats. I have actually only been to a few major beaches here - Boracay, Mactan, Cebu. Its just that you have to fly to most great places and then the cost of staying at resort is not cheap either but I have been to a number of small ones - there are literally hundreds if not thousands in Philippines. I go to the beach for nothing more than simple pleasures of nature and smell of sea air. I am not big on luxuries or parties at the beach although I consider bikini-spotting a legitimate visual sport.

Actually one of the thing that confuses me is how people rate beaches. What is considered a great world class beach? I think while there is commonality, its different for different people. I think most people think a great beach is one which is white sands, clear water and the longer the better - in my book they have to be like 2mile long beaches at least. In the Philippines actually there is only a few of these - the most famous being Boracay which is basically overdeveloped already. Other places are
1). Gamusa Beach, Glam, Southern Mindanao
2) Pugudpud, Illocos Norte, (most famous is Saud Beach)
3) Camiguin Northern Mindanao and
4). Panglao Island Bohol (near Cebu).

You will notice that Palawan does not figure in my list. At first I thought there was none very long contigously but was recently introduced to Long Beach at San Vincente - supposedly the longest beach in Philippines - 14km. Its easier to develop areas with long beaches because govt and developers just gets better scale of economies. San Vincente is in North Palawan - famous for the resort of El Nido and Amanpulo is viewed to have the highest potential for building a world famous large beach-resort industry like Cancun because a lot of the beaches are close to each other. Its likely that eventually the area will be like that when infrastructure are put in beginning with an airport. You can't really do much unless you have a decent airport that can land mid-range jets (737/A320).

BUT, there are so many smaller beaches or the larger beach is not all-white The top of the list for such smaller beaches are actually better in my view because usually there is better diving or surfing etc..The top of my list include
1. Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte
2. Dakak, Mindanao
4. Malapascua Island Cebu
5. Honda Bay, Palawan
6. Camaroan Peninsula, Camarines Sur (often just locally called Camsur) - this is where they have the Ironman annually and other major beach events.

The closest one near Manila would be in small islands near Batangas like Tilog Island, Verde Island off Anilao/Mabini or Lubang & Ambil Island off Nusugbu. There is one off the nearby Puerto Galera, Mindoro area called North Pandan is like a small fishing village island where you can get freshly caught lobster lunches arranged for you. There is off course my misadventure to get to Potipot, Zambales. Its just that there is nothing else other than the beach in these places. You really wonder actually why most people go to the beach - is because of the beach or the beach is just a reason to make all the things that make people want to go to the beach?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Diving in the Philippines

A number of my friends when diving over the hollidays and I regretted not doing it myself. Dives can be inexpensive here in places that are easy to reach and popular. An introduction dive which consist of lessons in a pool or shallow waters followed by one or two dive with the instructor will cost you P2,500. If you are already certified, each dive can be as cheap as P500 inclusive equipment. Getting certified will cost you P15,000 for a few of days lessons and diving - well worth it compared to an expensive health spa vacation, golf lesson, ski lessons vacation that cost even more.

Obviously Philippine is highly competitive as far as diving vacation is concern. But the problem is that its not really mainstream vacation plan. Actually most people don't know how to even swim (36% in US, 54% in the world). Although you don't have to know how to swim to dive, in the minds of people, they shy away if they don't swim well - that is most people even in developed countries.

If you look at the cost of diving, the product is not that different than skiing. But whereas skiing is a olympic and professional sports with lots of glamour, diving is recreational or for professional vocation. So the main reason why diving is not a bigger industry is simply because it lacks marketing angle to it. You can put skiing on a sports channel and make a movie about it, they only put diving on discovery channel. There are snow bunnies, no dive bunnies. Although you know, making a reality show out of diving is not out of the question...Hmmm wonder if I can interest Oprah with it?

Palawan voted in top 20 sites to visit in 2011 by National Geographic

The article:
Palawan, Philippines
Photograph by JS Callahan, Tropicalpix/Alamy

Palawan’s limestone karst cliffs, coral atolls, mangrove forests, sugar-white sandy beaches, and extensive fringing reefs create one of the Philippines' most biodiverse terrestrial and marine environments. Designated as a fish and wildlife sanctuary in 1967, the Philippines' largest (in total land area) province encompasses nearly 1,240 miles (1,995 kilometers) of coastline stretching across 1,768 islands.

On the main island (also named Palawan) near Sabang, hike the three-mile (five-kilometer) Monkey Trail to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park's navigable underground river. The five-mile (eight-kilometer) coastal rain forest route is home to long-tailed macaques, blue-naped parrots, and other indigenous wildlife. In the province’s northern Calamianes islands, Coron Island is considered one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations, offering World War II-vintage wreck diving and snorkeling in calm, crystalline waters. Nearby Culion Island, a former leper colony surrounded by sea grass beds and coral reefs, is an emerging ecotourism destination worth a day trip.

The link