Hidden Gems of Nueva Vizcaya

Enroute to Nueva Vizcaya, I was able to capture this picture of Mt. Arayat (Pampanga) from the vehicle's window. The "banderitas" added more charms to the beauty of the mountain. :) [Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Enroute to Nueva Vizcaya, I was able to capture this picture of Mt. Arayat (Pampanga) from the vehicle’s window. The “banderitas” added more charms to the beauty of the mountain. :) [Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I had been been traveling the past three weeks for a project where I am involved with right now. These travels, while work-related, allowed me some time for quick sight-seeing and perfect opportunities to plan for a longer visit in the future.

Enroute to Ifugao, I had a chance to stay overnight in Nueva Vizcaya, mostly to visit the newly-constructed Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong. I will refrain from discussing work in this post as I am still finishing my reports and have yet to ascertain the extent of information that I can share but let me express my appreciation to the hospital’s personnel for welcoming me and the engaging discussions. I am truly impressed with the turn-out of the new building as well as the seemingly improved services that the hospital team is able to give to trauma patients with its new building and equipment. Just to give you an idea on how the new Trauma Center looks like, here is a picture.

Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Trauma Center of the Veterans Regional Hospital in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

As you will notice, its design is very modern and can easily compare with the more modern hospitals in key cities of the Philippines. Going through the hospital complex and talking with the doctors and personnel there certainly gave me so much hope for the future of hospital and health care in the Philippines.

As the intent of this post is really to share with you the simple gems that I found in Nueva Vizcaya (and nearby provinces) during the quick visit, let me proceed with this image that I took of the countryside while traversing the national highway (I believe this was taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija).

Philippine countryside offers beautiful sceneries. This one is taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Philippine countryside offers beautiful sceneries. This one is taken somewhere in Nueva Ecija. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

My neck hurt a bit at some point because I just cannot stop looking outside the windows. The wide expanse of rice fields and mountains–although some parts are quite denuded (calling the attention of our DENR officials and local governments!)–invite inspiration and inner joy.

One of the first things that  impressed me upon arrival in Nueva Vizcaya was the way the surroundings of the Provincial Capitol easily provided nice leisure grounds for the residents. It was surrounded by simple parks, pathways (perfect for running/jogging), and basketball and tennis courts. In fact, the provincial government even built the Tribu Biscayano Village, a theme park that showcases the unique culture and traditions of our Nueva Vizcaya and Cagayan Valley/Cordillera ancestors mainly through replicas of native huts, which was said to have been built by tribal folks coming from the Isinai, Gaddang, Bugkalot, Kalanguya/Ikalahan, Iwak, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, Ayangan, Tuwali and other IP groups. (Source: nuevavizcaya.gov.ph)

The Tribu Biscayano Village honors the rich culture and heritage of our indigenous people. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Tribu Biscayano Village honors the rich culture and heritage of our indigenous people. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I felt this was a good way to honor and remember our cultural heritage. I salute the local government of the Province and its current and previous leaders as well as those anonymous workers who have obviously built the capitol grounds and the Tribu Biscayano Village out of a desire to give its residents a safe, culture-rich, and enjoyable places where they can spend quiet afternoon walks and engage in sports/games with friends and colleagues. It is very rare that I encounter Capitol grounds with such consideration. The trees everywhere also give the kapitolyo a nice greenery.

The visit to the province gave me a chance also to quickly reconnect with my friend, Maita, a true-blue ‘Novo Vizcayana’, who is seemingly becoming a household name as she lovingly manages and nurtures Ayuyang Bar. Ayuyang, a favorite hang-out place in Solano, was built by her brother and his friends–and I suppose, with much support from Maita herself and their whole clan–out of the love for Pinoy music, arts, and family traditions, and a desire to provide a ‘sanctuary’  for kindred souls who need to unwind and simply enjoy quiet moments and conversations. (“Ayuyang” cannot be directly translated to Tagalog but it connotes “a place for refuge, rest, or relaxation.”) The photo below shows a part of Ayuyang’s interior.

The stage area in Ayuyang Bar. Notice the intricately-crafted sculptures and other art works that adorn the bar. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The stage area in Ayuyang Bar. Notice the intricately-crafted sculptures and other art works that adorn the bar. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

One does not often encounter such places even in culture-rich provinces so Ayuyang has easily captured my heart. Here is another picture that I really liked. The smaller wheel at the background provides a nice contrast to the bigger wheel.

Ayuyang Bar invites you to linger and savor the quiet moments more. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Ayuyang Bar invites you to linger and savor the quiet moments more. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

In Ayuyang, I had experienced the best version of chicharon bulaklak (deep fried pork mesentery). No kidding. I am not really a big fan of chicharon bulaklak but the smell of Ayuyang’s version is enough to cajole me. And my gosh, it is yummy! The sawsawan (dip), a local vinegar (sukang basi) with generous amount of garlic, made the dish even more unforgettable. Ahhhh….a trip to Nueva Vizcaya should be in my bucket list again.

Another nice revelation is Balai Gloria, a hotel and events place that must be gaining popularity, too. It has nice gardens, a swimming pool (although it seems currently not in use) and a restaurant that serves a wide range of menu. Food is probably not the best in this part of the Philippines but the few I have sampled did not give me reasons to complain about. The kinilaw na tangigue is actually good. The photos below show a bit of the place.

Balai Gloria is worth a visit. If you do not mind simple accommodations and the chance that loud music might be playing in the background if an event is still taking place as you prepare to rest for the night, then this is a good option. (I noticed though that the music stopped shortly before midnight so the administration must be enforcing a sort of 'curfew' for the playing of music.) This photo shows a cottage by the pool. I think this is often used for private parties such as wedding receptions. Check Balai Gloria if this cottage can also be rented out for family accommodations. It seems perfect for the whole family as it has its own living room, bar, and what looked liked a small kitchen. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Balai Gloria is worth a visit. If you do not mind simple accommodations and the chance that loud music might be playing in the background if an event is still taking place as you prepare to rest for the night, then this is a good option. (I noticed though that the music stopped shortly before midnight so the administration must be enforcing a sort of ‘curfew’ for the playing of music.) This photo shows a cottage by the pool. I think this is often used for private parties such as wedding receptions. Check Balai Gloria if this cottage can also be rented out for family accommodations. It seems perfect for the whole family as it has its own living room, bar, and what looked liked a small kitchen. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Balai Gloria grounds. The building on the right (partly shown here) is an events venue where I noticed a seminar taking place that week. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The Balai Gloria grounds. The building on the right (partly shown here) is an events venue where I noticed a seminar taking place that week. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

 

The small bridge leading to Cafe Angelo, the restaurant-bar of Balai Gloria. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The small bridge leading to Cafe Angelo, the restaurant-bar of Balai Gloria. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

On the way to Ifugao the next day, hungry and in search of a “local” restaurant, I chanced upon Myra’s Special Pancitan, along the national highway (still in Solano). It looks like a typical ‘hole-in-the-wall’ sort of eatery but I would highly recommend its Pancit Lomi! See the proof below… :)

The pancit lomi in Myra's Special Pancitan is highly recommended. I still prefer the lomi version of a hotel in Calapan (I will mention the place in my next blog) but still, this is the No. 2 in my list. :) (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

The pancit lomi in Myra’s Special Pancitan is highly recommended. I still prefer the lomi version of a hotel in Calapan (I will mention the place in my next blog) but still, this is the No. 2 in my list. :) (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

On my way back to Manila (after staying in Ifugao for a few days), while cruising along the national highway somewhere in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, I checked my email and realized that my superior sent me an urgent email a couple of hours earlier. In the email, she gently requested me to finish a simple document by COB that day. I quickly sent an email promising that I will find a coffee shop where I can stop and work on the file. I thanked the heavens when, suddenly, in a spot that must be located in the highest point of the mountain ridges of Sta. Fe, I saw a simple but cozy restaurant where I can work because Globe Tattoo signal is working! (Thank you, Lord, for nice cafes/restaurants that suddenly appear even up there in the mountains!) The placed, called Cafe Mijares & Restaurant, has striking red paint so you can easily spot it (although the way its location was “angled”  makes it easier for people enroute to Bayombong to see it rather than for those coming back. The signage was also on that side of the road). Here is another picture that shows the facade where the restaurant’s fruit stand is also located. Hope this picture can help you in finding it if you also needed a place for stop-over. :)

If you find yourself needing a place for a stop-over or a quick meal, or even a perfect spot to check emails or work (!), here is a place where internet signal is working. Cafe Mijares sells fruits and vegetables, too! (Photo taken in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

If you find yourself needing a place for a stop-over or a quick meal, or even a perfect spot to check emails or work (!), here is a place where internet signal is working. Cafe Mijares sells fruits and vegetables, too! (Photo taken in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I can easily go on and on and this will most likely become a long list. However, I leave it up to you to discover your own gems, knowing that every moment brings new discoveries.

Follow my footprints and create your own. I wish you a great journey!

Contacts:

Ayuyang Bar | 115 Magsaysay Street, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya

Balai Gloria | Washington Street, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya | Tels. +63 78 326 5417 +63 922  859 6449

Myra’s Special Pancitan | National Highway, Brgy. Quirino, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya (across a small office called Royale Business Club)

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© 2014 meiLBOX /Mary Anne Velas-Suarin. Photos used here are protected by copyright/intellectual property laws. Please seek permission if you need to use or re-post them.

This is not a paid blog.

 

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Unity in diversity (lessons from a couple-tissue dispenser from Ifugao)

Hello dear readers! My blog has finally migrated to its own domain, http://meilbox.net! And I would like to celebrate this new “home” by sharing this cute couple with you. :)

SMILE! SMILE! There is humor to be found even in the most sh--ty moments! (Update: Hubby and I decided on their names: Meet Ginger and Mushroom a.k.a "Kabute"!) ;D

SMILE! SMILE! There is humor to be found even in the most sh–ty moments! (Update: Hubby and I decided on their names: Meet Ginger and Mushroom a.k.a “Kabute”!) ;D

I met this “happy” couple from Banaue, Ifugao. I guess the message is clear, huh? I salute the wood carver who thought about creating these amusing characters. We have named them, Ginger and Mushroom (a.k.a Kabute). ;)

You may be wondering why they are in different colors. Well, I found Kabute, the happy guy, in a shop by the Dayanara Viewpoint in Banaue (thanks to the shop owner-woodcarver who created him!). When I asked the shop owner why is he selling the male version only, he said that his “partner” was already bought earlier. I readily bought the male version, quietly hoping that I would find him a partner so he won’t get lonely as he settles down in his new home.

Luckily, on the way back to Manila, along the national highway (probably somewhere in Kiangan, Ifugao), I chanced upon another shop and found a couple! This time though, the couple is in brown varnish finish. The lady shop owner did not have the almost-black /antique finish that would seem perfect for what I already bought so I decided to get her female version (thinking that I would just had her re-painted with the black /antique finish later on). The lady shop owner gave me a small discount but did not want to go further because, as she eloquently explained, “…you are taking his partner away! He will be lonely!” (I can no longer argue with that, right?!)

When we got home and I placed Ginger and Kabute on top of a table, I realized that there is really no need to re-paint Ginger! They actually look sooooo cute together, right?!  So, yes, I would keep and enjoy them just the way they are: black and brown, unique in his and her own way, happy, funny, and very ‘ethnic’.

Most importantly, they remind us of one very important lesson in life: we may come from different backgrounds and cultures but we are still united by common goals and aspirations.

Of course, let us not forget their simple message: SMILE! Just smile! There is humor to be found even in the most difficult moments. :)

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Speaking of the wood carvers of Ifugao, this brings to mind the issue on total log ban. I have always been a supporter of Pinoy arts and crafts. However, I also believe that when creating art pieces and crafts, due consideration must always be given to how our livelihood activities impact the over-all integrity of our physical environment.

That is why I was glad to hear from the shop owner in Dayanara Viewpoint that the wood carvers of Ifugao are planting a tree for every tree that they cut. I know that there is still an ongoing debate on the total log ban issued by President P-Noy through Executive Order No. 23 and that the Ifugao woodcarvers are still negotiating with the government for an exemption. Nevertheless, hearing from the wood carver this kind of commitment certainly tells me that the right balance can be achieved. We only need to hear the side, too, of those who depend on forestry products, and at the same time, be more conscientious in the way that we utilize our natural resources. (For a related news article, please go to http://www.philstar.com/nation/2012/12/03/879503/ifugaos-seek-exemption-total-log-ban.)

I also hope that our legislators can already craft a law that will require all Filipinos to plant a tree on his/her birthday! I have began a small tree-planting+letter-writing campaign through this blog but I think that much more need to be done.

Calling all Philippine legislators to create this law soon!

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This is not a paid blog.

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Gratitude Wall (inspired by Geminids Meteors)

HAPPY NEW YEAR, friends and readers! (And happy birthday to my niece, Jarmaine Abby Trilles!) May the new year bring you many more reasons to be grateful about.

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty and magic of the universe!

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty and magic of the universe!

I began writing this post last December 14 so please forgive me that this may sound a little stale. :) That early morning, I fell asleep with gratitude in my heart and a smile on my face. Hubby and I just came back from UP Observatory to watch the Geminids meteor shower, the memories of which still linger in my mind.

I do not have a photo to share as proof of our beautiful experience that early morning in the UP Observatory but you may view some photos at http://www.space.com/18906-geminid-meteor-shower-skywatcher-photos.html. That magical morning reminded me and JR once again that the mystery, beauty, and vastness of the universe are strong proofs of God’s existence and his great love for us. Whoever created such indescribable beauty must really love us so much, huh? :) So I fell asleep that early morning with nothing but the deepest gratitude in my heart. I think I was even whispering repeatedly, “Thank you, Lord…thank you, Lord…thank you, Lord…” until I fell asleep (the quality of my sleep that night was probably among the best in my entire life!)

As many sky watchers know, the sight of a meteor is exhilarating, empowering, and enigmatic. You would always feel that sudden surge of joy (may be compared with adrenaline rush?) when you see one. In fact, based on how I felt each time a meteor appears on the horizon, I become so awed and captivated that I’d always forget to ask for my wish! ;D It is funny. In that split-second, you forget everything, even the wishes that you want to ask from God and the universe. “Never mind,” I said to myself. I saw 50 meteors that morning and that was enough. More than enough. I am willing to share those 50 meteors with you, my dear readers, and ask for your wishes. Consider them granted. After all, God and the angels who also stayed up that evening and dawn of December 13 and 14 must have watched intently from above, smiling at us, knowing that all is well on earth. If His children can still watch meteors all night–never minding the mosquitoes and other strange bugs hovering around–then everything is ok and going as planned.

It was wonderful to chat with a mother and son who also went to the Observatory to watch the meteors. We did not know their names and it was so dark to even try to look at their faces but it was enough that we shared the moments with strangers who must have also felt the same wonderful feelings that we felt. The bond between them (after all, how many mothers and sons still watch meteors together, right?) is inspiring. When JR and I have our own children already, we hope and pray that they will grow up equally in the same way that the young son had become–grateful of God and the universe, loving to and respectful of his parents, and always in awe of the stars, meteors, and the sheer togetherness of families.

One amusing ‘side story’ that evening was when a TV network (I won’t say which network!) crew member fell asleep on the make-shift ‘banig’ of old newspapers strewn beside where JR and I were lying down (we brought our own banig!) when there were thick clouds over the horizon and most people must have fallen asleep. Lo and behold, as I continue to wait for the clouds to clear, this crew member began…SNORING! That must have been such a sweet time to “sleep on the job”, right? ;D Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that getting assignments such as waiting for meteors and watching the stars is not that bad. In fact, it is very very good!

I end this post with a simple “Thank you.” Thank you, Lord, for the blessings and wonderful moments of 2012. Please continue to bless my family, friends, and country.

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Here are basic information about Geminids meteors and the 2013 showers. Save the date!

Geminids meteor streams are groups of meteoroids originating from dust grains ejected from Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. These small dust grains (meteoroids) are distributed along the parent asteroid’s orbit concentrated close to the asteroid nucleus with fewer grains farther away from the nucleus. Every time the Earth passes through this stream of dust particles (i.e., meteor stream), we experience what is known as a Geminids meteor shower. These brief streaks of light from meteors, sometimes called “shooting stars”, peak on Friday night the 13th December 2013 when earth moves through the center of the dust trail left behind by the asteroid.

How to view the Geminids

Go outside, find a dark spot and look north north-east near the constelation of Gemini for the Geminids radiant. Meteor showers are strictly for night owls or early risers. The best time to view the Geminids is from around midnight to dawn. They are of average speed but very colourful. You should be able to see 120 streaks an hour or more during the peak. The Geminids meteor shower is active from the 7th Dec to 17th Dec with fewer activity either side of the peak time. (Source: http://www.bashewa.com/wxmeteor-showers.php?shower=Geminids&year=2013)

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This is not a paid blog.

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