Monday, February 28, 2011

Mactan, Cebu Shrine: Lapu-Lapu’s Glory

Datu Lapu-Lapu, a local chieftain of Mactan Island is heralded in the Philippines as the first Filipino hero.


Lapu-Lapu dismissed Christianity and resisted the Spanish throne—good for him really but did you know that he was set up by the other Datu’s (chieftains) in Cebu? Rajah Humabon and Datu Zula who were recent converts to Christianity were Lapu-Lapu’s archenemies. They were able to convince the zealous Ferdinand Magellan to sail to Mactan Island to kill him. Unfortunately, the events turned against Magellan. This historical and critical decision to sail to Mactan lead to the fall of the Portuguese explorer and the unexpected glory of Lapu-Lapu.

To honour Lapu-Lapu, a shrine is erected in Mactan Island, right on the shores where the ‘Battle of Mactan’ took place almost 600 years ago—27 April, 1521. The Mactan or Lapu-Lapu Shrine is located just before entering Punta Engano peninsula (this is before Shangrila Resort).

Magellan’s death did not stop the Spaniards from further colonizing the country though. For some people, up until now, it’s a love and hate thing (and pointing fingers) with Spain and anything Spanish. As for me, I have moved on a looooong time ago.

I would encourage tourists and visitors to visit Mactan Shrine. This is where it all began! Take with you a bit of history when visiting Mactan and Cebu. It is also a nice and well maintained park, great place to unwind, stroll and let time pass by. It has a lovely waterfront, and for some diversion, there are stalls selling locally made Filipino products as well. You can easily combine this trip with a visit to Sutukil (for lunch or early dinner), which is just beside the park.

Let me quickly give you a tour of the park:


Lapu-Lapu is also a sort of grouper fish named after Datu Lapu-Lapu. The capital of Mactan Island is also named after him, Lapu-Lapu City (previously Opon).

Travel Period: October 2010

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mactan, Cebu Island: Jungle Restaurant and Maribago Grill

While staying in Mactan Island last October 2010, we’ve discovered a few very interesting Filipino restaurants. You know, my goal for this Philippine holiday was to only eat at Filipino (or Asian) restaurants but towards the end of our 2-week holiday, we’ve surrendered, albeit willingly, to European influenced restaurants and American fastfoods. Sigh, we are not perfect OK?

Anyway, let me show you 2 Filipino restaurants in Mactan Island that have caught our attention. To get to these restaurants you would need a private car or you can book a taxi. The best GPS in the Philippines are the locals, so if you are lost, just stop and ask, someone would know.

The ‘JUNGLE RESTAURANT
Bagumbayan, Maribago, Mactan Island (Cebu, Philippines)



What strikes us most with this restaurant is the cultural entertainment. The fire eating act was splendid and the Filipiniana regional dances as well but I think the show took a loooooooooooong time that it kind of lost its flavour. Food here is OK, between 3 and 4 stars out of 5, nothing to rave and complain about except that its pricey compared to other restaurants. Like they say nothing is free in this world, the entertainment for sure has a price tag. Food here is served per set menu only.

My suggestion to this restaurant: Keep the show short—keep the fire act going and do at least 5 dances ONLY. No more. Then lower down the prices of your set menus or perhaps offer ala carte. I am sure you will get more guests, and not just foreign guests but locals as well (ergo more profit).

MARIBAGO GRILL
Punta Rizal Street, Maribago, Mactan Island (Cebu, Philippines)



What can I say? I just love, love, love the ‘bahay kubo’ (nipa hut) concept! It’s so local, so Filipino, so cute and so cozy. The restaurant is set outside, in an open lush garden venue with cobble stones on the ground and little nipa huts dotting all over the place. Dimmed lights and light background music, the ambiance is just perfect for a romantic dinner for two, in a bahay kubo. Lovely!

Food is 4 stars out of 5. Would love to come back here again.

And if I have to choose from both restaurants, which is which? The Jungle Restaurant or Maribago Grill? Well, I’d choose for Maribago Grill.

Tip: For more reviews, google the names of the restaurant adding mactan, cebu to it
Travel Period: October 2010

Travel Gadget: my MAPS and my GPS

Currently I am juggling between 2 mobile phones. Both have different purposes and I am keeping it that way.

The Blackberry is for work calls and work emails. This phone is strictly for work. There are only 2 people who knows this number outside work and that is the Dutchman and my mom.

The Nokia Mini is my personal phone. I call here. I SMS here. I Facebook here. I internet here. Maybe I should try blogging here soon too. But most importantly, I use the OVI Maps and GPS here—this is actually the functionality that made me buy this phone. Being a travel addict, I need my MAPS and my GPS.

The dosage I get:

Free Drive Navigation Worldwide
Free Walk Navigation Worldwide
Free Maps and Maps Update (any city and country in the world)
Free Events guides
Free Lonely Planet guide (very basic)
Free Michelin guide

So in preparation for our upcoming holiday, today Dutchman and I downloaded the California, USA map. Just a few more nights and we are off! We also downloaded the Jordan map for my trip in April with Blondine, as well as the Philippine map for future use. There was also an automatic update for Europe map which is what I badly need seeing that the highways in the Netherlands have been recently upgraded. The A2 highway for example is now unrecognizable!

Nevertheless, what I wanted to say is, I am not a tech geek but I am very happy that I have Nokia OVI Maps in my phone. The software is free to download and GPS is of course free to use worldwide. No additional costs.

Recently, Nokia revamped its go to market strategy by teaming up with Microsoft. Several doomsday analysts thought it’s the worst team up ever, a marriage that is bound to fail? Nokia has been losing market shares to iPhone and Blackberry while Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS barely has a 3% market share. How can 2 losing companies become successful in this highly competitive mobile communications market?

I have no idea, but for now, I am sticking with Nokia because of the OVI Maps and GPS.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Mexico: Cancun El Centro

Last year I was in Mexico for work and had the chance to spend extra days traveling in the region for pleasure and leisure. I went to visit Chichen Itza, the Tulum ruins, spent a day in Playa del Carmen, and stayed in Cancun as well. Since my previous employer sponsored us a luxurious stay at an exclusive resort near Puerto Morelos which means I had enough of the sun and sand and the all-inclusive hotel resort food (this is worrying my eating habits), I decided to stay at a hotel in Cancun El Centro and not in Cancun Hotel Zone for the rest of the days that I was not working.

Except for the food, architectural ruins and the language, Mexico reminds me a lot of the Philippines.

I find the old centre of Cancun a bit raw and less touristy compared to the Hotel Zone where its a chockfull of (north) American holidaymakers and partygoers. I did wander around the old centre and even went to the mercados to look for something to bring home but I did not find anything I like.

My only souvenir in Cancun was a Maya tile calendar given to me by the hotel personnel who were wearing, interestingly, thick winter coats because it’s -+18C outside while I am wearing a short sleeve blouse, thin leggings and slippers. They were very nice people, they helped me book my last minute trip to Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Check out my collage fotos of Cancun El Centro below:

Cancun El Centro scenes. I ordered Nachos at the hotel and look what I got, some rolled tortillas with frijoles refritos - not really a Mexican food fan anyway. Nachos I learned is a Texan thing and not really Mexican. Upper right foto you can see a street food vendor selling tortillas. Below foto with the tall buildings is my hotel room view.

Rotunda monument in Cancun. The Mexican Peso. I did a little walk into this park and saw this colourful row of houses. Bought myself some nachos to munch in my hotel room.

And I sauntered into this concrete park as well with a covered podium. There were a number of stalls selling native Mexican items.

Daily life on the streets of Cancun El Centro. The buses, the traffic (scary to cross the streets there!), the roads, as well as the people there remind me of the Philippines.

All fotos are uploaded to my online Multiply album, and to see them one by one, please go here: Cancun El Centro - Mexico

Travel Period: January 2010
Destination: Cancun (Quintana Roo), Mexico

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Monnickendam in a nutshell

Monnickendam is located north east of Amsterdam and is part of the Waterland municipality, a group of towns and little cities of the glorious Dutch medieval past situated by the water. I came here by car which is probably the easiest way to come here, but there are buses as well that regularly ply the area from Amsterdam.

My list of things to do and see in Monnickendam:

(1) Climb the Speeltoren – This was on my plan to visit, I even checked the tower inside from the ground but didn’t buy the ticket to go up because I wanted to first go around town on foot and then have my beer at a café. I guess I people watched too long with my beer at the café that I lost track of time. Before I knew it, the tower was closed.

(2) Visit the Grote Kerk (Church) – Located by the entrance to the village. There will be a separate post about this.

(3) Tour the town on foot to enjoy the architecture – The town is small so it’s easy to walk around. Do pay attention to the houses, their details, the houses here are famous for their ‘puntgevel’ and ‘trapgevel’ (step-gable roofs) as well as for the ‘gevelstenen’ (sculptures on the facade) on top of the doors. In fact, many houses and buildings here are classified as rijksmonument, meaning they are state preserved. You can find these houses and buildings on the 3-fork street: Noordeinde, Middendam and Kerkstraat.

(4) Enjoy as well the canals and the petite wooden draw bridges.

(5) Check out the haven and then have lunch or drink here – There are choices, from the Waag Huis restaurant to a couple other terrace restaurants dotting the little inner haven and Middendam street.

Let me give you a little walking tour of Monnickendam through my fotos below:

This is one of the main streets, the Kerkstraat, the street that leads to the center.

Dutch architecture on Noordeinde and Kerkstraat.

The most popular gevelsteen in Monnickendam, the Gulden Hand. Gevelstenen are sculptures mostly found on top of the doors.

The Speeltoren on the left, an old house with a beautifully carved door canopy.

More period style details, another beautiful gevelsteen.

This snake balustrade at the entrance to the raadshuis (city hall) reminds me of the pyramid of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico.

Wooden draw bridge in the residential part of the town and this is how the locals live here, very quaint.

Moi by the Speeltoren and the Raadshuis (city hall).

Another wooden bridge - this has to be manually pulled when bigger boats pass by.

The inner haven, looks busy, and the Waag Huis by the haven which is now a restaurant.

Houses by the haven on Gooische Kaai and more cafe terraces.

Love this foto of an old man drinking beer under a colourful parasol.

The 'Langebrug' in the haven, actually a narrow wooden bridge connecting each side of the haven. Paling is a sort of fish the Dutch specialize in, they are usually smoked, and although fishing is not anymore a main industry in Monnickendam as such in the past, the town has, in a way, kept the fishing culture alive.

The haven taken from the Gooische Kaai.

Canals and some Dutch souvenirs, as usual, yellow clogs and wooden tulips.

It is best to come to Monnickendam during late Spring, Summer of course and early Autumn when the weather is bettter (although unpredictably gloomy at times) and when the (cafe) terraces are open.

You can also combine this outing with a trip to Broek in Waterland (another pending entry with loads of fotos) and Marken, both are quite near to Monnickendam. As well as Volendam and Edam, not as near as the earlier choices but they are not too far.

Travel Period: July 2010
Destination: Monnickendam (Waterland), The Netherlands

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