Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Halo on Your Mouth

by Sherma E. Benosa

The Halo interior

The Cubao we used to know is that part of Quezon City along EDSA Ave where traffic is most congested. Years back, it was not the place one would dream of being seen, simply because of its reputation as the hub of pick-pockets.

But about two years ago, Cubao was given a face lift, thanks to the developments made at the Araneta Center. Now, Cubao is already a destination even by folks who consider themselves “sosyal,” because now the place looks high-end, especially the Araneta Coliseum and Gateway part. At night, it no longer feels suicidal to walk on the streets of the center. It’s now even romantic, because the area is now well-lit.

One of the main attractions of the area is it’s being a wi-fi free zone. Two nights before my brother Ogie flew for Spain, we (Ryan, Ogie and I) spent a night there, eating and surfing. It was fun. Ryan marveled at how the place transformed. There are now lots of restos and coffee shops where you can spend a relaxing evening.

But there is also a place worth visiting very near the hub. It’s rather un-hyped up, but if you know what’s good for your palate, and your pocket, you’d be driving there very soon. I am talking about the restos at the Cubao Expo area, across the old Rustan’s.

One of the restos there which a friend of mine swears serves the best-tasting pastas in town is the Bellini’s. I haven’t been there yet, but if you could trust my unnamed friend’s judgment, you’d be checking it out soon. This friend of mine also discovered the pasta house near Makati Square for me, and I tell you she knows what she’s talking about.

But enough of second-hand information. Let me talk to you about another resto, also in the area. It’s called Halo. My friend Salve and I went to Cubao just to hunt for it one day. And though it was already late when we arrived, we patiently waited for the chef to arrive and cook for us. It was a good thing that we did. Their food choices were simply sumptuous.

One of the things I enjoyed was our drink, the wheat grass tea. It tasted heaven. I also loved the vegetable burger (banana blossom) and the malunggay pasta. Yes, you heard it right, malunggay pasta. It’s for those with adventurous palates. I don’t consider myself as one, but I enjoyed it. To think that I ate my pasta cold (I took it home because Salve and I were already full).

Malunggay pasta

I am planning to go back there and have a taste of their other offerings. :-) I was planning of bringing Ryan with me, but somehow I forgot about it when he was here. Bummer. :-(

Another thing I like about halo is the fact that if you are a group, and you want to hang out there, say hold a meeting or simply relax, you can call beforehand and the whole second floor can be yours, without extra charge. All you need to pay for are your food and drinks. Good deal, isn’t it? But of course, this is only during off-peaks. :-)

Vegetable burger

//Pictures by Crumbs/Salve were used with permission. Click HERE to read her trip to Halo with her officemates.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Imugan Falls

by Sherma E. Benosa
Imugan Falls upclose

Nueva Vizcaya is a home of falls. I remember swimming in crystal-clear waters in Kasibu, a town next to my hometown of Bambang, when I was a kid. The rivers we went to when I was a kid were no falls, but there were huge rocks through which waters flowed falls-like, from a height of about 2 meters high. I also remember going to a similar river in Salinas, Bambang with my classmates when I was a bit older.

But one of the more-promoted falls in Nueva Vizcaya is the Imugan Falls in Sta. Fe. We visited it last year — me, mom, dad, Kate, Doris and my nephew, Pau. The place is really a hidden sanctuary!

A hanging bridge about 10 meters below the trail

The falls is located about 7 kilometers from the national highway in Sta Fe proper. When you reach Imugan Proper (via vehicle), you will have to leave your car somewhere near the barangay hall, and walk by foot for about a kilometer. It’s not a long walk, if you ask me. When we went there, my then 1.5 year-old nephew was with us and he never complained. Of course, Dad carried him for most of the way, but there were parts of the way where he insisted on walking! Hmmm, good guy. :-)

The only problem we had then was that we couldn't stay because it started to rain almost immediately after we arrived (Talk about wrong timing.) We had to walk back to our car, mainly because we had a young kid with us, and also because I was carrying my laptop. Grrrr!)

Dad and Pau walking along the trail

TIP: Wear comfortable slippers. Or better yet, hiking shoes. Don’t be like Mom who wore a two-inch sandals. :-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Avilon, The Second Time Around

by Salve Canale

The first time I visited Avilon Zoo a couple of years back, I really loved the experience!

Yesterday, together with some friends from work, I spent a whole day at Avilon Zoo for the second time, and boy, I had a wonderful time! As they say, the second time is always sweeter, well in this case, much, much better than the first since a lot of improvement had been done by the administration of the zoological park (and still doing more until now, kudos to them).

Unlike my first visit, our small group didn’t hire a tour guide. Since I’ve been there before, maybe I’ll just be the tour guide (minus the explanation about the animals, of course!). Avilon Zoo is a seven hectare park and it’s fun to get lost at such a big place when you’re with carefree, good-tempered people. Nobody complained about all the walking, the heat or to those who arrived a little late. All of us just had fun! And I’d like to share just how much fun we had.

Look who loves being cuddled!

This baby tiger doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s been making friends with the visitors. Really cute and cuddly.

This summer, going to the beach is not the only thing you can do. Avilon Zoo is an alternative, so put it in your list. It’s less crowded at this time since school term’s over. Besides, it’s very accessible from the metropolis. Avilon Zoo is located in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal—thirty to forty-five minutes drive from Quezon City. Or you can take the PUJs/PUVs from Cubao and Philcoa, tell the driver to let you off at Eastwood (subdivision), then ride a tricycle and ask Manong driver to take you to Avilon Zoo.



Originally posted at Salve Canale's blog. Click here to see full text and more photos.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

A "historical" tour

by Sherma E. Benosa

Luneta and Intramuros are among the must-sees in Metro Manila. Not only are these places a stone’s throw from the dock along Roxas Boulevard where you can view the famous Manila Bay sunset, which, in itself is a must-see, but are also of historical significance.

After attending a book launching at La Salle Taft one Saturday morning in September 2006, my friends and I decided to spend our afternoon in Luneta. And here are snippets of what I remember of that stroll which we all enjoyed, despite the fact that we went home with aching feet and head because we weren’t dressed for walking (Tayns and I were wearing high heeled sandals) and we got rained on.

The National Museum

The National Museum

Our first stop was the national museum along P. Burgos. The museum showcases artifacts recovered from ship wreckages; among them, the San Diego. The finds at the said shipwreck are said to have provided proofs that before the coming of the Spaniards, there had been an active trade between the Philippines and its neighboring countries. The artifacts from the shipwrecks serve as proofs to the theory that the early Filipinos were seafarers. The theory was made long before physical proofs to support or disprove it were unearthed, and basing mainly on the fact that the country is surrounded by significant bodies of water.Also at the museum are artifacts that give us a glimpse of the life of the early Filipinos (suits, accessories, implements, and so on), and works of art, such as paintings and sculptures.

Heroes’ Shrines and Sculptures

The Sentinel of Freedom (Lapu-lapu Shrine)

The main attraction is the national hero’s shrine, but there are a lot of other monuments and sculptures in the park. Of these, the one that caught our attention was the Lapu-lapu monument, (Sentinel of Freedom) not only because it was almost as big as Jose Rizal’s, but also because it was the newest addition when we were there (it was inaugurated on February, 2004).
Speaking of Jose Rizal, would you know why his monument is guarded? My bet was to show honor to the national hero, until Salve pointed out it is really the gold at the top of the monument they are guarding. (Now, please don’t quote me. I am still in doubt. J)

A sculpture of note in the park is the La Madre Filipina, not only because it looked as if it was recently repainted, but also because it has personal significance to me. It was the piece my Dungngo and I tried to interpret when I toured him around the park months before my and my friends’ visit.

Parks within a park

Lagoon at the Japanese Garden

It was not before our magazine (Ces’t La Vie) did a feature on parks in Metro Manila that I learned of the existence of parks inside Luneta. Just a few meters from the National Museum is the Chinese park, and not far from it are the Orchidarium and the Japanese parks. These places are a perfect respite for tired and weary souls, for despite the fact that a busy road is nearby, thick canopy of old trees muffles the sound of the roaring vehicles.

Fort Santiago/Intramuros

Jose Rizal's cell

Not far from Luneta is the walled city (Intramuros) and Fort Santiago, Fort Santiago which served as the military headquarters of our conquerors (Spanish, British, American and Japanese and where Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned from November 3, 1896 until his execution on December 30 of that year. Besides Dr. Jose Rizal, hundred others were jailed and tortured here.

Some Tips

Those who seriously want to see the place to re-visit history, I suggest you start from the walled city, then Fort Santiago. From there, you can re-trace Jose Rizal’s steps when he was brought out and made to march to Bagumbayan (Luneta) towards death on 30 December 1986. There are brass shoeprints that trace the path Rizal took when he walked to his execution site.

Also, to have a better feel of the area, you might want to take the calesa ride on your way to Luneta. You may want to start with the museum, pass through the gardens, admire the sculptures and eat street food while walking from one piece of stone to another, but do try to catch the light show of the execution. (I watched it in 1998 together with my classmates in PI 100 and if I remember it right, it is shown every 6pm, although I suggest you inquire about it first; it’s been a long time since J.)

If you’d rather not watch the execution, you’d better make an appointment with the setting sun. The best place to watch it is at Baywalk, along Roxas Boulevard.

Sherma E. Benosa
//03 February 2008; 1:56am

Monday, January 21, 2008

No Place Like Home

by Sherma E. Benosa

I thought of opening up a travel blog. And I did, so here it is. As I was thinking of a perfect place to be my very first ‘featured spot,’ breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, as well as lovely beaches and azure waters flashed in my mind, trying to outdo one another. But soon a much compelling place dominated them all. The view is of lush greens and mountains through which spring waters flow. As I focused the spot to watch it more closely, I heard music — that of chirping birds and kids laughing. Then I recognized the view; it is of home.

Indeed, there is truth to the saying: “There’s no place like home.” For no matter where our travels might bring us, our hearts will always yearn for home. So allow me, please, to bestow the honor of being the very first featured place in this site to that place where I grew up in.

All photos were taken in Abinganan, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya.

//Sherma E. Benosa; 11 January 2008