Ilocos Norte: An Affair with Miracles

“Walang himala!” (There are no miracles!) That was, at least, according to Elsa of the classic 1982 film Himala by National Artist Ishmael Bernal which, during its time, was foreseen as a low-yield production. Twenty-six years after, however, the film carved for itself a niche in film history, especially after winning as the region’s Best Film of all Time in...

The Scent of Christmas in Baguio

When the rainy days are over and the sun is always out, it is in December when one can best experience Baguio City. It is known as the City of Pines because of its thick pine forests and cool climate. On cool days, the breeze smells like Christmas. It was for me, as a child, a city filled with...

Singapore: Hawkers Food

Food is one of life’s great groupie-makers. If you can share a meal with someone, you’re on the way towards some tolerance and respect. This is partly what Singapore’s hawker culture is all about. Living with people from very different cultural backgrounds can be challenging especially when you have to stay so close to each other. The majority of people...

Penang, Malaysia: Miracles do Happen

“Do you believe in miracles?”our local guide Ronnie asked us in the van. We gave him curious looks, unsure of how to respond. He gave us all a smile before continuing with his story: During the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Penang was the Malaysian state that was hit the worst with 68 casualties. During this time, a story of the...

Ilocos: Beyond Vegetables and Fried Pork

When Ilocano cuisine figures in any conversation, two distinct dishes come to mind- the exciting mélange of flavors in the vegetables of pinakbet and the heart-stopping browned crunch of the fat-brimmed bagnet. These two representative tastes offered up north somewhat illustrate the local virtues of resourcefulness using what the harsh ilocandia terrain can offer and the capacity to elevate...

Japan: The Japanese Food for Thought

By the time I finished cramming a piece of takoyaki into my mouth, I’ve come to believe that Osaka, albeit its diligence and restlessness, has yet to relinquish its zest for life. It is a mouthful of a theory to say the least. But the city’s famed octopus dumpling can dish out quite a compelling testament. “There are many places...

Iloilo City: God, Namit!

Skip the soup and eat big at these seven heavenly food-trip spots in Iloilo City. Friends and colleagues of mine who hail from Iloilo City, or who have visited this premier city of the Western Visayas region, are unanimous in their declarations: you go to Iloilo to eat. And since most of them insist that I should not miss a...

Congressman Weslie T. Gatchalian: Owner’s Representative of Waterfront Hotels and Casinos

It is easy to understand why Congressman Weslie T. Gatchalian has much confidence in local tourism. The figures, after all, are on his side. The waves of tourists rolling toward Philippine shores have become greater than ever. The numbers hit around 3.5 million in 2010 and since then, they have been growing at a nearly consistent pace. Just this year,...

Have Pet, Will Travel

Travel is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The opportunity to escape from the daily grind and immerse in a new destination is nothing short of enthralling. But like most experiences, what makes traveling even more pleasurable is the company you keep. As a pet parent, one of my favored travel companions is none other than my furry, four-legged baby!...

Ayumi Takahashi: Director of Japan National Tourism Organization’s Bangkok Office

“Visit Japan”—a slogan used by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)—is as direct and as simple as the very order that spurred it; increase tourism, improve the economy. It should be of note, however, that simple doesn’t always mean easy. When the Japanese government recently sought to increase the number of annual travelers visiting the country, it sought to increase...