Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Beil Family, Miesbach, Germany

I have a very good family friend in Germany, they live in Miesbach in the southern state of Bavaria, Christian Beil and his Filipina wife Astrid, and their two sons Luis and Simon. This family has hosted me twice in their house in Germany, in October 2003 and in November 2008.

Christian briefly worked here in Manila as a consultant for GTZ, then he met Astrid, his officemate, and several Filipino divers. One of such divers, Mark Agaloos, is a good friend of mine, my "best man" actually in my wedding, and he introduced me to Christian and the other divers. I was the only non-diver who used to hang out with the group then, way back in 2000-2001 I think. 

Last week, Christian emailed us and sent these fantastic photos, below, for their Christmas greetings. Simon is probably 11 years old now, Luis is about 6 years old.

The boys are big now, am happy for Christian and Astrid. Miesbach is at the foot of the mountains of Bavaria, so they near the snow area. The boys love the ice.

Upper photo below, I think this is in Salzburg, Austria. Christian brought me there too in 2008.

Look here, a huge lego car, by Hyundai, not BMW or Benz or Audi.

In 2008, after my week long seminar in Gummersbach near Cologne, organized and sponsored by the FNF, I took the train to Miesbach. I arrived there evening. The next day, Christian immediately brought me to a nearby mountain! What could be a one hour hike became nearly two hours as my legs and lungs were in deep rust for such a hike.

And the next day after, Christian brought me to a glacier in Austria, my first and last visit to a glacier! It's 3,029 meters above sea level, much higher than Mt. Apo, the Philippines' highest mountain at around 2,990 meters.

The two boys in November 2008. Lower photo, with Christian's father (leftmost) and mother (between me and Christian) and their friends. I think that was my last day in Germany that time and would fly back to Manila the next day.

Christian, Astrid, thanks again for all the hospitality. See you again here in Manila, or I hope to go back to Germany again in the near future.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

See also:

Salzburg, Austria, February 16, 2009

Miesbach, Germany, February 17, 2009

Bavarian Mountain, Germany, March 07, 2012

Morong Star Beach Resort, Bataan

After checking out of Phi phi resort also in Morong, we checked this place, it’s huge with many water facilities and they have only one pair of guests. The mini zoo – ostrich, wild boar, goats, turkey and chicken, etc. – is also open. Also a hanging bridge. We immediately liked it.

Next question is how much is a deluxe room, air-con for four people plus a toddler, the staff immediately offered us a discount. A beach front deluxe room on the 3rd floor, standard rate at P5,000 a day to be given to us at 25 percent discount, down to P3,750. I haggled for P3,500, they agreed, so we’re in.

I borrowed their trisikad and pedaled the two girls to the ostrich. Elle Marie is covering her nose, some bad smell from the wild pigs’ poopoo, just beside the ostrich cage.

They have a bridge towards the sea but under repair that time. Well they have other facilities that are closed and “under repair” but those that are open are still many. The wild pigs lower left, and the two swimming pools lower right, I took from the rooftop of the 5th floor.


Another view of the bridge to the sea, from the 5th floor. Elle Marie and my wife Ella lower left, Bien Mary and her ate Ann, lower right.

The children's playground. Not real animals, of course. Lower photos, the kiddie pool.

The beach front cabanas. I did not ask their daytime rates, but the staff gave us free access if we wanted them.

Mountains and the sea. That’s what one will see in Bataan, Zambales and many other provinces in the Philippines. If shot on a panorama, the lower photo is just the continuation, right side, of the upper photo. So the mountains and their trees, coconut and other crops at the lowland, then the sea and its fishes and beach resorts. Nice place.


About the food, they cook well. Since we were one of two guests that time, the whole dining area was just for us that night, the other guests ate at their room. Nice music. In front of the dining area is the basketball court. I borrowed their trisikad once again, the two young girls took turns riding in it, I pedaled around the court.

Northern view, towards Subic Bay, covered by the coconut trees.

 It was a relaxing stay at Morong Star. I particularly like the staff, they are very friendly and courteous. I did not ask for a basketball and one staff just gave me the ball, should I want to play with it. Then I rode the kayak, another staff called me from afar, I thought there was any problem, he just wanted to give me a life vest, just for my additional safety. 

Should I recommend this resort to my friends? Yes, definitely. But it depends, if they go there at peak months starting late March to early June, April and May especially, things will be drastically different. There will be hundreds of guests, it can be crowded and noisy. So I recommend that they visit this place in the non-peak season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Phi Phi Beach Resort, Morong, Bataan

Last Saturday night, December 22, I posted this in my facebook wall,

Merry christmas, friends. Here in a modest beach resort in morong, bataan with my family. After many long days of work + some christmas parties, my body really needed a rest. My two young girls enjoyed d clean sea.

Thanks to friends who liked it, 70+ of them. 

We stayed at Phi phi beach resort and hotel. Clean beach, two swimming pools, each with kiddie and adult pools, clean guest rooms. It has wifi, free, but only at the reception area, none at the guest rooms.


Our deluxe room for four persons + toddler is p4,200 per night, air con w/ cable tv, two wide beds, 1 extension bed, hot water, no breakfast.  

There are many beach resorts there, just about 10 mins from Anvaya Cove and not far from Morong town proper: Bonito, Coral view, Sunset view, La Playa, I think not less than 10. Silent and sleepy area, no karaoke, people are friendly.

Just google "beach resorts in morong bataan", the resorts have their own websites, professionally designed. Of course many photos look nice than the real thing, but they give a good idea abt the resorts. 

A short stretch of beach, about 400 meters long, is shared by about 6 neighboring resorts. So they are alll elongated to acommodate many guest rooms, two storeys. No There is one nearby small fishing village but it is clean, the folks do not litter their garbage. I would assume that most resort staff are residents of this village, so they will also be adversely affected if the beach resorts are dirty and do not attract many tourists and visitors.

Below, my two girls and wife frolicking in the water. No stones, just plain sand, it's safe to walk barefoot in the sand. It's not white sand though like Boracay, but no problem.

There are several boats for rent for those who want to have a joyride around the sea. More photos of my girls below. Sea breeze is really relaxing.

My elder daughter Elle Marie's back after one day at the beach and the pools :-)

For foreigners, safety is good, food is ok too, not the fine dining restaurant type though. Beer is expensive, P60 in can, P50 in a bottle.

On our way there, we passed by Anvaya Cove of the Ayala Land. At the gate, I called up my sister if she's a member as I wanted to enter, but no luck. I know no one who is a member there that I can give to the guards, so I left.

Some observations in subic as we passed by. If it is a real freeport w/ minimal govt bureaucracies and taxes, it shd be a huge commercial, industrial, financial and tourism area now,20 yrs after the americans left. Many areas in subic remain sleepy, idle and undeveloped.

How to go there from Manila: Take NLEX, then SCTEX, Tipo/Subic exit, to Subic airport, Zoobic Safari, exit at south/Morong gate. Pass by Anvaya Cove, to Morong town proper, municipal hall,  about two kilometers or less than five minutes from there.

Distance from Subic commercial area (Puregold mall, Petron, etc.) to the resort is about 32 kilometers. Or from Subic/Morong gate is about 14 kilometers.

Toll fees were high, P218 at NLEX, P168 at SCTEX, then P22 in Subic. But at least travel is  smooth and fast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

UP Lantern Parade 2012

The University of the Philippines (UP) lantern parade is among the unique annual festivals held in the country. Participants are all colleges of the UP Diliman campus, the major offices like the Office of the UP President, the UP Concert Chorus, the nearby campuses like UP Manila and UP Pampanga, and some student organizations based in UP Diliman.

All photos below did not come from my camera, I got them from the web, just google "UP lantern parade 2012 photos".

Thousands of participants as the different colleges bring in their faculty members and students, they have modest lanterns or exhibits which are either pushed or carried by people or mounted on a truck or a pick up. And there are several more thousands of spectators and visitors. It is a festive and joyful exercise done every year.


Last Friday night, December 14, I attended the parade, after more than a decade of missing it. I brought my  family and even my two young girls appreciated the various lanterns and the festivities. We sat at the Palma Hall steps where parade participants show off their wares and talents.

The most impressive lanterns for me were the following.

First, the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA). This group is a hands down winner each year in the parade competition. Since last year I think, they have been “disallowed” in the prize category because no one, not a single college can put up a serious competition to them. But they are given a special award or citation for their endless and non-tiring effort at entertaining the public. This year, they have a long parade of various lanterns, ranging from scary characters like a monster cockroach and monster “”aliens”, to children characters like tinker bell and forest fairies, to airplanes and different fishes, large and small. The CFA guys are really cool. Their annual participation is almost always the “highlight” of the UP lantern parade.

Second, the UP College of Human Kinetics (CHK). The participation and exhibition by the world famous UP Pep Squad was really awesome. Beautiful young men and women performing high acrobatics like throwing three girls high up in the air, the girls make 2 or 3 somersaults before landing on their back in the arms of 4 boys catching them. Even my two young girls were speechless at those acrobatic performance. The college also paraded the various UP sports teams – swimmers, divers, rowers, others.


Third, the UP College of Engineering (CE). For one, they have the most number of participants, hundreds of students from the different departments (Chemical, Industrial, Civil, Mining, etc.) participated and have their respective lanterns. One department showed a transformer mounted on a truck: an innocent-looking jeepney that later transformed into a giant robot standing high in a ready to fight stance, fascinating.


Fourth, the UP Babaylan. This is an organization of gays, lesbians, transgenders. Their costume was fantastic, some in two-piece attire. One participant looked like a real woman. They are cool and are very open about their chosen gender.

My college, the UP School of Economics (UPSE) also participated, the Dean and some faculty members were there, plus school administration staff and many students. They brought a replica of a bull mounted on a truck, to represent the bullish picture of the economy.

These two guys, they simply danced on a pick up and having a good time, the crowd cheered them as their dance were really funny. 

Fireworks at the University Avenue, in front of the Oblation and the UP Administration building. I did not see this, we went home past 7pm. I think the fireworks were set off past 9 or past 10pm.

I did not like the prolonged mini-rally of the activists like the League of Filipino Students (LFS). They held up and delayed the parade of the Fine Arts, Babaylan and other more colorful, more entertaining participants. 

Well, the lantern parade attracts not only the most creative but also the most mediocre minds in UP. We see both of them there, and others in between.   

Philippine International Convention Center

The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was the foremost venue for big regional and international conferences in the country in the 70s and 80s. It has huge space inside and outside the building. Manila Hotel and other big hotels in Makati could also host huge conferences but PICC was built mainly for conventions and conferences, no guest rooms.

I have been to PICC before but only for short visit and not for a conference. My first attendance to a conference there was last November 27-29, 2012, during the one-day Philippine Economic Society (PES) then the two-days Federation of ASEAN Economic Associations (FAEA) conference. The elongated lights at the lobby are quite interesting.

I took several shots from different angles at the 3rd floor looking down the lobby and main entrance.

This is definitely among the top attractions of PICC. Other than that, the lobby is mainly lonely, unless in really big conferences and guests are congregating there, before they go up.

Outside PICC, there is a nice view of the garden and surrounding structures. Here, the Coconut Palace partly covered by coconut trees, and Manila Bay. Lower photos, the buildings and hotels fronting Manila Bay.

Lower photo, view outside the 3rd floor. Inside are several meeting rooms, from small to large ballrooms.

Still outside the 3rd floor, a view of the Manila Film Center (right), GSIS building, other structures. Below, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

The front garden of PICC, facing the Folk Arts Theater (FAT)

It's Christmas time, Peace on Earth. Front of PICC at night. Lower photo, part of the garden.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) I think, is the one managing the PICC. I think they should privatize it, get the money and retire some of the public debt of the Philippine government, or use it as a trust fund to significantly reduce if not abolish the travel tax for Filipinos travelling abroad.

Private hotel groups will be able to remodel it and attract lots of visitors, local and foreign. Something that the Philippine government can still earn lots of revenues through VAT, other taxes.