Lake Sebu: A Cool Sleepy Town

          “Where are you going to this time?”, my friends asked me a day before we left for Lake Sebu.  “Lake Sebu? Is there a lake in Cebu City worth going to?”

          Lake Sebu is NOT in Cebu, not even in the Visayas region but it is in Mindanao.  It is a 2nd class municipality in the province of South Cotabato and has only a population of 76,000 people (they probably have more cattles there!).  It came into my wishlist early last year when I saw a local sports TV show feature the place and the amazing zipline that traverses seven waterfalls!   Since then, I knew we have to visit the place one day.

          Getting there from here would taken us two plane rides (Roxas-Manila, Manila-General Santos City), a tricycle ride (General Santos City Airport to Bus Station), two bus rides (General Santos City to Koronadal; Koronadal to Surralah), a jeepney ride (Suraalah to Lake Sebu town proper) and finally a habal-habal ride (a motorcycle for hire, from Lake Sebu town proper to our lake-side resort/hotel). Or a total of 2 1/2 hours flying time and 3 to 3 1/2 land trip.  Fortunately for us, a good friend based in General Santos City offered to pick us up at the airport and drive us directly to Lake Sebu – in just 1 1/2 hours! GREAT.

          Lake Sebu (the town), is home to three natural lakes, the largest of which is named Lake Sebu as well.  This is where the fresh-water tilapia is grown and for which the town is well-known in the region.  This area is also the ancestral home of the T’bolis, the ethnic filipino tribe of Mindanao – known for thier artistry, especially the tinalak woven cloth.  Weather here is like in Tagaytay – cool and clean.  This is our base for the next three days.  I can sleep here the whole day!  But the zipline awaits us … we can’t wait.

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Candi Arjuna: Oldest Stone Structure in Java

 

          After being “crowded” out in Borobudur, we left the temple complex at around 8:00 AM  and headed eastward to Wonosobo to get to the Dieng Plateau to discover for ourselves the OLDEST Hindu temple in Java which is still standing to this day.  Dieng’s name is derived from the Sanskrit language, “di” means “the place” and “hyang” means “Gods”. It can be defined as a place of the Gods.  Some would say that Dieng was derived from the word “edi” which means beautiful in the Java language, and “aeng” meaning strange. In other words Dieng is a beautiful place with a lot of oddities.  Well, indeed it was a beautiful (and cold!) place – without the hordes of tourists.

          The leisurely three-hour drive from Yogyakarta to Wosonobo and then to Dieng Plateau was pleasant – verdant fields on the left and on the right side, planted mainly with potato and rice. We also saw Mount Sikunir – not as popular as Merapi, but equally magnificent.

          Located at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level, the people of Dieng is blessed with abundance of wealth from the land they till – Dieng is the main source of vegetables and potato in the island of Java.  It is a beautiful and exotic land made famous by the Candi Arjuna (Arjuna Temple) Complex which is the oldest existing Hindu temple in Java today.  Although some parts of the temple began to wear out with age, the worship of Shiva temple, built in 809 AD, still goes on - exuding the calm feeling in the midst of the natural silence of the surrounding green-covered mountains.

 

         We were not warned by our guide, Wishnu, how cold the climate is in Dieng. Temperatures during the day ranged between 15-20 degrees Celsius while at night, between 5-10 degrees Celsius. But were arrived there at around 11:00 am and the sun afforded some warmth for us. Soon we were hungry! The Gods must be smiling on us that day - we found this man selling some native coconut-tapioca delicacy – we ordered some and finished it off. What a yummy treat. I forgot what it’s called. But it was enough to keep our stomachs at bay …

          Visually satisfied, and now with a BIG appetite for a really good lunch … we leave this sacred ancient place to find a good local restaurant to sample the delicious food of Wonosobo.

 

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Early Morning at Borobudur Temple

          We left our hotel in Yogyakarta City at 5:00am hoping to catch the sunrise in Borobudur Temple.  But sunrise came too early that day and we saw the faint rays of the rising sun while still on the road!  We still made it, though, along with thousands of other tourists and locals!  It was like everyone thought of visiting Borobudur on the same day that we were there.  We literally  elbowed our way inside the huge UNESCO heritage site.

          At the strike of 6:00am, everyone rushed to ascend the ancient temple.  It was like a race to the top!  You can just stand there and the mad rush of people will carry you to the top of the temple. No kidding.

          Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa.

          Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple’s design in Gupta architecture reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

 

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Sunset at Prambanan Temple

          I do not remember now where our fixation with ancient temples came from, or when it all began. But after seeing the intricate Angkor Wat in Seam Reap, and the hundreds of littered ancient temples in the plains of Bagan in Myanmar, and the carved stone temples of Ellora Caves in India  - we knew we had to go to Yogyakarta and see another (actually three) UNESCO World Heritage Site.

          Candi Prambanan or Candi Rara Jonggrang (candi is the Indonesian term for temple), is the first of the ancient temples we visited in Yogyakarta in Central Java.  We only had three full days in Yogja (that’s what the locals call their city) – and so from the airport, we went right ahead and toured the city (even before checking in our hotel!).  Prambanan Temple was our last stop on our first day – and we were lucky.  There were only a few people in the temple grounds when we got there at around 4:30 pm – so we had the luxury of enjoying the beauty (and the spectacle) of the place.

          Beautiful.  Just one word to decribe this 9th century Hindu temple in Central Java, the largest in Indonesia.   It is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple architecture with a towering 47-metre-high central structure inside a large complex of individual temples.

          We were doubly lucky because we were there in time for the magnificent sunset – the silhouette of the temples framed by the glorious rays of the setting sun.  We were expecting some ancient ritual to start anytime soon … But it was just us and the beautiful temple.

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Dr. Sateesh Karnik

A very young and dashing Dr. Sateesh Karnik with his German Shepherd dog.

 

.          Our return trip to India this month (we went to Northern India last June 2011) was made more memorable because of our gracious hosts, Dr. Sateesh Karnik and his wonderful wife, Madhuri.  We felt right at home with them – pampered would be a mild term to describe how they treated us during our entire stay in Maharashtra (Pune, Aurangabad and Mumbai).

Dr. Sateesh Karnik with his ever-loyal mixed-breed 12 year old dog, Baloo.

 

.          Sateesh is a friend way back in 1995 when we shared the same room during our postgraduate training program in Tel Aviv, Israel (I was in Trauma Surgery, while he was in Laparosopic Surgery).  We maintained contact through the years via email (thank god for emails!) – and shared photos as well.

Taken in front of their home in Pune, India.

 

Sateesh, Urszula, Ricky and Avinash: 16 years after

 

.         This month, we had the opportunity to reunite with other friends and colleagues from the same training program in Israel – Dr. Urszula Stawinska (Pediatric with Family Medicine Practice) of Lodz, Poland and Dr. Avinash Deshmukh (ENT specialist) also from Pune in India.  Let these photos show you how we bonded …

Baloo poses with us after a great dinner prepared by Sateesh' wife Madhuri.

While waiting at the lobby of our Aurangabad hotel.

At the Ellora Caves - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

That's my favorite gulab gamun in Madhuri's hand!

 

.          We hope to meet up again in a couple of years in Turkey.  And we hope that more from our batch would be there to celebrate the great and memorable time we had in Tel Aviv. To Sateesh, Toda Raba!

Some serious talks with his Pune colleagues.

Until we meet again, Baloo!

 

 

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Ayagao Beach in Roxas City

.          When you say “beach” in Roxas City, you inadvertently mean Baybay – the strip of fine grey sand beach in the heart of the city dotted with resorts and seafood restaurants.  It is the favorite week-end get-away destination of Roxas City residents.

.          Just recently, we discovered another strip of coarse off-white sand beach very near the city – Ayagao Beach located in Barangay Talon.  It is a mere 20 minute leisurely ride from the city proper over well-paved roads (until the last 200 meters which is rough road already).  The beach also faces the Sibuyan Sea, like Baybay beach and offers a spectacular view of the sunset.  Unfortunately, it also shares the same seasonal problem of pesky jelly fish.  But the beach and the water is so inviting especially during this summer heat.  And it isn’t as crowded as the more accessible Baybay beach.  Not yet anyway.

.          Getting there is fairly easy and straight forward.  Just travel out of Roxas City going to Ivisan using the Roxas City-Ivisan Road, making sure you do not get out of the Roxas City boundary!  When you reach Baranggay Balijuagan, look out for the large sign on the right side near the local wet market.  Turn right and just follow the road.  There are enough signs to lead you to Ayagao Beach.  Have fun!

 

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beach, Philippine Travel , , ,

Dried Fish of Banica

 

          Roxas City is not only known for the fresh sea foods, but also for the dried variety – tuyo, pinakas, dried pusit, boneless dilis, hibi, etc.  On our way to Olutayan Island, we took the boat at the Banica Wharf, a small pier about five minutes drive from the Roxas City Plaza.  I was there early so I had time to look around.

The "freshest" tuyo ... not too salty too.

My family's pasalubong favorite: Boneless dilis

          There are stalls and stalls of dried sea foods (primarily dried fish) lining both sides of the street leading up to the wharf.  Most of the goods sold here come from either Capiz or nearby Masbate.  They take pride in their dried fish which are always “fresh” – not the “bilasa” fish unsold in the wet market and re-cycled as dried fish.  These are fish freshly caught from Sibuyan Sea and immediately sun-dried to perfection. 

Hibi (dried shrimps) - perfect flavoring for any vegetable dish

Not really dried sea foods ... bottled oysters in vinegar

      So when you are in Roxas City, drop by Banica and buy some dried fish for pasalubong.  They are great for breakfast, paired with garlic fried rice! Yum.

These are the (slow) boats that go to Masbate everyday.

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Food, Philippine Travel , , , , , ,

Spanggo Cafe’s Apple & Buko Pie: Double Yummy

.         Every morning on my way to work, I noticed the on-going construction work in one of the commercial stalls along Rizal Street here in Roxas City, Capiz since last month.  A signage was put up a few weeks ago – “Spanggo” and during the good friday religious procession, I met Mrs. Jas Dadivas who informed me that the Spanggo Cafe will be opening soon.  She was the one who told me that Spanggo was for “Spanish-Ilonggo” – and I suspected that they will be offering some spanish dish with an Ilonggo twist. Great. Another possible good eat in Roxas City.

.          And then a few days ago, someone posted a picture of Spanggo’s Buko Pie in the Capiznon’s FaceBook page.  Everyone was saying how good the pie was.  That got me interested.  I thought that Spanggo’s Cafe was finally open.  So one day, I passed by the same street and saw that it was not yet operational.  So in the meantime, they just accept phone in orders. Great.

.          But the problem was, I could not make up my mind which pie to order – the buko pie or the apple pie, both goodies getting raves from the blogsphere. So I settled with BOTH.

.          And I was glad I got both.

.         The buko pie lived up to it’s reputation.  It was gooey goodness without being too sweet.  The crust was just perfect.  We ate the buko pie fresh from the oven so it was still warm and the buko filling literally fell off our plate.  It would probably taste much better when left in the refrigerator for the filling to gel a little bit.  That I would find out later.

.          And the apple pie?  It was a winner!  This one, unlike the buko pie, is best eaten fresh from the oven, the warm goodness coyly melting in your mouth.  It actually reminded me of Sugarhouse’s apple pie – minus the cream.  Now, I know where to get an apple pie when I crave for one.

.          So watch out for the opening of Spanggo’s Cafe and order both the buko and apple pie.  If you can’t wait, you can always call and order.  It would be ready for pick-up after two hours. Yummy!

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Fresh Catch of the Day in Roxas City

          How more fresh than freshest can these fish be?

          We were lazily lounging in Olutayan beach when a small motorized fishing boat approached the shore and brought out their fresh catch of the day.  Two big native wooven basket of assorted deep-sea fish – still unsorted as to type and variety.  We offered to buy the fish and the fiseherman was just too glad to sell it to us – for a REAL good bargain!

          We rummaged though the fish and got the really big lapu-lapu, maya-maya and kikilo.  We paid something like P100/kilo.  We had it grilled right in the beach for our lunch. 

          Some fish were just too pretty to eat! Hahahahahaha …

          This is life in Roxas City.  Fresh grilled fish for lunch right in the beach with a magnificent view of  Sibuyan Sea.  I love it!

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Capiz Emmanuel Hospital: Old Photographs

         With the opening of The Health Centrum (THC) next month, we look back at the FIRST hospital established in Capiz – the Capiz Emmanuel Hospital (CEH) which was built by the American Baptist Missionaries in 1908 – one hundred three years ago!  The early years were marked with hardship – and sacrifices by so many dedicated people.

The first hospital building, 1908

Dr. Frederick Meyer, Yale Class 1915

          Dr. Frederick Meyer, a fresh Yale medical graduate in 1915 was recruited by the Baptist missionaries to manage the young hospital that serves the whole of Capiz (which included Aklan during that time).  He married Ruth, a nurse who would later on dedicate her life as well to CEH. 

The hospital veranda

 

Dr. Frederick and Ruth Meyer

The remodeled hospital, 1914

          World War II was a very dark period in the history of Capiz Emmanuel Hospital.  Dr. & Mrs. Meyer, with some other americans were beheaded by the Japanese near the end of the Japanese occupation.  A sad footnote to the history of this hospital.

Jan. 29, 1941: The CEH Annex building

The last photo of the Meyer couple before their death

Photo credits: Photos from “Capiz History Series Number 1: Capiz Emmanuel Hospital 1908-1943″ by Prof. Milton Walter Meyer, published by the Paige Press (2005)

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