Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Grand Cañao of Benguet

If you’re looking for an alternative destination just after the rainy days in the northern Philippines, there's Adivay in Benguet Province, one of the major festivals in the Region. Adivay festival coincides with Benguet Province’s Foundation Day which is November 23. The province was created in 1900.

This 2014, the main event was scheduled on the 24th, Monday. The street parade and street performances will happen in the morning to be followed by the Grand Cañao.

The Street parade showcases cultural presentations as well as drums and lyre performances of participating schools and government units and departments.

The Grand Cañao is a traditional feast that starts with catching of boars by the different municipalities of the provinces followed by simultaneous butchering of the animals that will be prepared for the meals of participating audience.

You will need a strong stomach if you want to witness the traditional synchronized butchering which is a thanksgiving celebration and also a ritual to invoke the good spirits for productive economic growth in the coming years.

Visit this link for the complete schedule of the Festival,





Friday, June 20, 2014

The Imbayah charm

It happens every three years, an event that is so elusive to me, I wasn't able to attend the last two celebrations that took place since I joined the throng of journalists in Baguio. Finally got my chance this year.

The event is not extraordinary. There are other festivals that are better compared to it. But there are activities that are unique only in Banaue. And of course, the event is happening in the famous Rice Terraces, one of the considered 8th wonder of the World.

While the greatest attraction of the place is still the landscapes and the terraces - photos of these had been circulating for centuries, the cultural activities are a great addition that visitors can enjoy especially to foreign tourists. The unique scooter race has recently become one of the most viral images of Banaue.

Prices are cheaper than the Capital Cities. Accommodations  are affordable, although most of the Inns have common bathrooms and toilets usually designed for 'homestay'. For an actual hotel accommodation, we have the Banaue Hotel, of course, rates are more expensive.

I was billeted in Las Vegas Hotel. It has a Restaurant that's probably one of the best to dine in while in Banaue (please check my last blog). There are two Las Vegas Hotels in Banaue owned by the Bustamante family.

Going back to the Imbayah Festival, here are some of the shots I was able to steal during this unique, once-in-every-three-years Festival.

Book your next Ifugao adventure with us:

Short Detours and Portrait Asia Production

Monday, May 12, 2014

Vegas in Banaue

There are no fine dining in Banaue, probably Banaue Hotel has a good dining area, but foods there are not the best you can find. But we do have one Restaurant that can cater to big groups and serve probably the best foods in the area. It was owned by a family of cooks.  I was thankful that I was billeted there during my last visit.

Las Vegas Lodge and Restaurant is owned by the Bustamante Family. The owner Leo Bustamante told us about his special adobo and it is indeed special. Even the foreign visitors like it. Guess the Filipino food is not only for the Filipino taste.

Depending on the availability of ingredients, all recipes in the menu are not always available. Beef was out of stock when we ordered for it, perhaps because we were there during the Imbayah Festival and food supplies quickly run out. But we were treated with something else, a special rabbit recipe.

Mr. Bustamante also likes to sing and sometimes renders song to his patrons. The guitar was passed around to customers who are willing to share a song. The gathered patrons, some foreigners, some local, appreciate music and even a trying hard singer like me received an applause.

Las Vegas indeed is a good place to dine and I just recently found out that it was listed on Lonely Planet as a 'Must Try'. Next time you visit Banaue, you know where to dine. One thing that is not in Las Vegas, however, is gambling so don't expect to find it there. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Azalea Family Staycation



If you go on a working holiday/vacation with your family in Baguio City, you will need a place where your kids can be preoccupied while you work. There aren't that many hotels in Baguio who offer a play place for kids. In fact I have not seen one except Country Club that offers a day care service. But at Azalea, the play place is free. It is a thoughtful addition to vacationing families. :-)


You can do your work at the Tradisyon Restaurant sipping coffee while keeping watch of them play. For a family vacation, I think that is one of the strongest selling point of the hotel. 

While most of the deluxe rooms have veranda's, you may be given one without. You should request for it when booking. If you want to maximize your experience, book a room located at the front side of the hotel. It has better views than the back and at the same time you can also watch out for your kids play at the play place should you choose to work in the veranda. Unfortunately my room during my last stay was at the back so I wasn't able to let my 6-year old buddy go out alone. So instead, he took control of the television remote control and managed to find all the cartoon channels.


As for the foods, it's like eating at home with Filipino comfort foods just like what it said in the slogan. If your kid is as picky as mine, there are lots to choose from. 




The rooms are also equipped with electric stove, microwave oven and cooking utensils should you chose to cook your own food. The hotel is very near the City market, about 5 to 15 minutes drive depending on the traffic. Just a short trip to buy your needed ingredients. The family rooms also have enough spaces for small parties and gatherings.



For more places to play, Burnham park - Baguio's prime park, is just about 10 minutes away.  



Azalea is not a five star hotel and it has a road entrance that is a bit steep. But don't be fooled by the first impression. It's a jewel hidden in the heart of the City. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Panagbenga Continue to Bloom In spite of its flaws

It's Panagbenga once again and blooming flowers dancing with the soft breeze are imitated by the street dancers as they follow the rhythm of the Panagbenga hymn created by Dean Macario Fronda.

Graduating from its teens, Baguio's flower festival continue to attract visitors in spite of the issues faced by the organizers and the public officials.

When the festival was conceptualize, it was to help Baguio rise up from the devastation of the earthquake. It was to help the tourism, which was one of Baguio's main industry, to rise again. It's likened to a flower that blooms again after slumbering during the winter, or in Baguio's case, the rainy season.

It was also aimed to help agriculture most especially the cut flower industry that was the major product of nearby municipalities like La Trinidad. That was one of the reasons also why Adivay was originally scheduled on February so that the province of Benguet will also benefit from the spill over of the Flower Festival.

While the rest of the country's festivals are hard and fast, Baguio's Panagbenga is light and slow. If we compare it to Martial Arts, the other festivals are like Karate, Jet Kune Do or Kick boxing. Panagbenga is to Tai Chi or Aikido.

But that doesn't mean one is inferior to the other, it's just different. Back in 2011, we tried to speed up the beat of the music to be at par with other festivals. But that decision reaped criticisms coz it lost its established gracefulness.

As for the clamors that culture is disappearing from the presentations, although culture was part of the showcase, it was not intended to be its main feature. It's a festival about flowers so it should primarily feature flowers.

Perhaps what is missing are the flower themed activities like the barangay beautification competition or the flower themed foods served during the first Panagbengas. Are the substituted events for the scrapped activities better in advancing the purpose of the festivity?

As for the culture, I do believe the festival is doing great in showcasing the culture in some presentations. What it lacks is its opportunity to promote other festivals like the Lang-ay in Mt. Province or the Imbayah in Ifugao where cultures are the main showcase. It's a lost opportunity for other festivals in the Cordilleras to make use of the popularity of Panagbenga to attract tourists to their own provinces just like what Kabayan and Kalinga did when they participated in the Street Dancing competition. If they do it more often, their performances would surely lure the curiosity of many tourists and would include those places in their coming itineraries.

Too much commercialization too was being criticized. But isn't this the main purpose of the event? A festival that can help Baguio and its environs increase its revenue during the lean months of February?

But are we targeting the right beneficiaries of our trade fairs? We have more and more stalls from business people coming outside of Cordillera like the Marikina shoes stalls who had been coming here for years. There are more stalls allowed for the Barangays for their livelihoods.  There are stalls selling divisoria-like products. There are many that are not at all Cordillera products. But of course their rentals could be useful to run the festival.

But wouldn't it look better if majority of the products are from the locality? However, many local businesses reacted to the rental of the spaces and many opted to forego renting at the market encounter leaving it to the moneyed people who have non Cordillera products. The trade fairs do attract a lot of locals and tourists alike and it would be a good site to showcase more of Cordillera.

The biggest part of the festivity is the 2-day parade. The latest street dance competition garnered a lot of negative comments from spectators. I do believe this has been a problem for many years. We can't blame the people from complaining since some of them are coming from as far away as Mindanao and some from overseas. The promotion for our Panagbenga shows the beautiful photos and videos of the parades, yet when they come, they see people marching, not dancing in the streets. Shouldn't we allow our dancers to have longer time to dance in the streets and give our audience quality show that they can share? That would surely give the festival a positive impact and positive reviews from the audience. We invite people to come, it's but fair to show them what they came here to see.

Several sectors are commenting that the quality of the shows are declining. And we can't blame them because some of the best street dancers and sponsors of best floats have already earned the hall of famer awards and stopped participating. The idea to give chance to others is a noble one but it took away the reason for some to join. I guess allowing these hall of famers to compete again would somehow give back the parades' quality presentations. With more participants, there will be more performances, more shows, more happy tourists. But the question also is, would quantity equate to quality? As we already mentioned, the ones we don't see anymore are the winning groups or companies who graduated from the competitions. I believe bringing them back will add more quality to our showcase.

But wouldn't it make the parades longer and tire the performers and even the spectators? Sinulog in Cebu starts in the morning and ends at night. It's one of the festivals that attracts many tourists and sponsors and people would go home proud of being there. If Cebu can do it, why can't we? Being hungry watching or participating is part of the festivity and the crowd would be prepared or they can leave when hungry. For the participants, with proper preparation, the performers can have their snacks along the way.  

One of my favorite part of the festivity is the "let a thousand flowers bloom" painting activity. I am looking forward for the next event and hoping for more activities that can add more color to it.

Panagbenga has garnered huge crowd in spite of its flaws. The hospitality business is thriving that it's hard to book for a room during the weekends. Many unemployed had the chance to get part time jobs. The flower industry thrives and that includes the vegetables and fruits like strawberries.

Baguio's industries do bloom during this one month festivity but there are a lot of improvements that could be done. Maybe looking back to its origins will help us analyze the things we should take back and the things we should give up.