Monday, June 29, 2015

“You are nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat!” No other line in the history of Philippine cinema is more iconic than those words that Cherie Gil uttered to Sharon Cuneta in the movie Bituing Walang Ningning. The movie itself is iconic, and has become a benchmark to which other rags to riches movies, series, and stories have been measured. It has had many incarnations in T.V. and print, so it’s about time that it has its stage version.

This time, Resorts World Manila is presenting to movie and stage fans Bituing Walang Ningning the Musical at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. It features newcomer Monica Cuenco in the lead as Dorina Pineda, and other familiar names such as Chris Villonco as Lavinia Arguelles, and Mark Bautista as Nico Escobar. Completing the cast are Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as journalist Edith, Jon Santos as loving Auntie, Jay Roa as Zosimo Blanco, Michael Williams as producer Larry Calma, and John Nite as Kuya Germs. The stage production is directed by Freddie Santos.

The show runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at eight in the evening, and every Sunday at three in the afternoon until July 18.

The end of the show. Photo by Rhonson Ng

Tickets are available at the Resorts World Manila Box Office at the Newport Mall and in all TicketNet and TicketWorld outlets.

Members of Davao Media at the Gala Night of Bituing Walang Ningning the Musical

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flying has never been easier and frequent for Filipinos as it has been of late. Wouldn’t it be nice if frequent fliers can reap benefits from all the plane rides they take? Cebu Pacific Air takes care of that with GetGo, their new lifestyle reward card. “With this exciting lifestyle rewards scheme, all you need to do is fly, shop, dine and get ready to go places,” says Allan Florendo, CEB's Loyalty Division director for marketing and partnerships. GetGo was launched as a part of Cebu Pacific’s 19th anniversary in the business as one of the leading airline providers of the country. 

Allan Florendo, CEB's Loyalty Division director for marketing and partnerships. Photo by Rhonson Ng

Every time customers fly Cebu Pacific, they can earn reward points which they can then exchange for goods and services from Cebu Pacific and other companies within its network. Points can also be earned when frequent flyers help themselves to any add-on service such as seat reservation, booking for additional baggage, in-flight meals, and more. With enough points accumulated, GetGo card holders can even book local or international flights for free. Points can also be converted to rewards from GetGo’s promo partners like Enchanted Kingdom and EastWest Bank. 

Members of Davao, Bacolod and Iloilo media. Photo by Rhonson Ng

GetGo offers different ways to accumulate points. First, members can get points when they fly international and domestic flights of Cebu Pacific Air. Aside from single user points, GetGo also allows customers to create a pool of points with friends and family members, to increase their points faster. Moreover, BDO, Citibank, RCBC Bankard, Security Bank, and Metrobank credit card holders can convert their credit card points to GetGo points, making point accumulation more convenient. If members find that they do not have enough points, they can always top up their existing points with cash using GetGo’s points plus cash payment feature. GetGo points do not expire, so members wouldn’t have to worry or feel cheated out of freebies and other perks. 

Davao Bloggers Vanessa and yours truly. Photo by Rhonson Ng

Getting a membership to GetGo is easy. Simply go to and fill up the application form, then pay a 150 peso one time membership fee. There are also plans to make it possible for customers to acquire GetGo membership packs in convenience stores very soon, bringing everyone’s dreams of earning free flights closer.

A photo posted by Travel & Food | Glen Santillan (@escapemanila) on

Sunday, June 14, 2015

It has been my desire to set foot to the Philippines southernmost part after my exhilarating journey to the north islands of Batanes. So I shifted my compass and went on to this remarkable journey to see and discover the beauty of this south island called Saluag.

Saluag as it is politically known is a small inhabited island in the town of Sibutu, province of Tawi- tawi. It is predominanly inhabited by two Muslim tribes- Tausug and Sama Dilaut. My trip with friend Claire begun with a night stay in the provinces' capital of Bongao.

The next morning, we went to the Chinese port of Bongao to take the boat going to the town of Sibutu. The real challenge was to get a seat in a cargo loaded boat. But we managed to hit two seats for a 3-hour long sail. But it’s all worthwhile just as the sea breeze started to stroke lightly our faces fixed on the horizon.

The laid-back town of Sibutu
It was almost dark when we arrived in Tandu Banak. We met Sir Frank, the town’s administrator in the boat so he dropped us at the mayor’s house right after we docked at the port. He introduced us to the mayor’s  staff, Kuya Ttong and Kuya Hussein and his eldest son, Hadji Nonong. We were advised to stay in the mayor’s house for the night. There are no inns or hostels in the town so if you want to pay a visit, you must know someone from there or at least coordinate with the tourism office before going there. We already touched base with the tourism office before going to Sibutu so they are somehow aware of our arrival.

The island of Sibutu is a quiet and peaceful place. It has electricity but it’s limited so it only operates on a certain period of time. Most of the locals though, have solar panels for back-ups.

The mayor was not in the island when we went there but he was kind enough to advise his son and staff to show us around and experience the beauty of Sibutu. We visited several pristine white sand beaches around the coast of the island as well as the town’s capital which is about 30 minutes away from Tandu Banak. We were mesmerized by the charming scenery of the town.  It was such an amazing journey to experience the hospitality of the people of Sibutu.

Hello Saluag!
We went back to Tandu Banak for lunch and we took another trip to Tandu Owak, the jump off point to Saluag – the southernmost island of the Philippines. Hadji Nonong referred us to a boat owner in Tandu Owak which happened to be one of Mayor Kuyoh Pajiji’s friends. He let us borrow his outrigger and we only had to pay for the gasoline which is outrageously expensive in the island by the way.

From Tandu Owak, we could see two islands in the south. The locals collectively call them Sikulan but officially only the smaller island should be called Sikulan and the bigger one, the southernmost island where an old, rusty lighthouse is situated – is politically labeled as Saluag.

As we get closer to the island, it gets more exciting. We can’t believe we will be setting foot in the southernmost island of the Philippines. I almost fell into tears as we approached the shallow waters of Saluag.

The boat has finally docked! We made it! I felt so blessed that I was able to visit the island. It is magnificent! There are two lighthouses in the island, an old quaint and a modern functional one.  We explored almost the entire island but we lacked time to stay longer.  We had to leave the island as we had to go back to Bongao on the same night.

Side Trip to the Picturesque Municipality of Sitangkai
Since there is no boat from Sibutu to Bongao on Wednesdays, we decided to do a side trip in Sitangkai and take a boat from there.

We left our bags in Sibutu so we had to pick it up before embarking our journey to Sitangkai. After almost an hour, we reached the port which is about 30 minutes away from the main island. Since we wanted to see what’s in the island known as the “Venice of the South”, we took a passenger boat from the port. We were greeted by a colorful scene.

It was very interesting to see the daily scene in the island. Instead of seeing roads and cars, you will be greeted by a wide canal which serves as the gateway to the island municipality, a set of smaller channels that leads to the inner communities and footbridges connecting the communities from both sides of the canal. Boat serves as the major mode of transportation in the island.

After we entered the canal, we told the boatman to drop us somewhere. We started exploring the island. It was a very short side trip since we had to go back to the port before 6PM as there will be no more boat to bring us there after 6PM. I’d say it was one of the most picture-perfect places I’ve been to in the province. The view was awesome especially when the sun was about to set. It was crazy beautiful.  We really wanted to see more of the island but we had to leave by midnight to Bongao. The province of Tawi-Tawi is truly an amazing place to explore and experience.

***This article is first published in M Magazine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Once in a while there comes a breakout star in the Philippine beach scene that promises to be the next best beach destination. Calaguas was once that. It seemingly appeared from out of the blue, promising to be as beautiful as Boracay yet as peaceful and unspoilt. Calaguas remains to be both of those; still beautiful and undisturbed despite being a popular tourist attraction for the past few years.

Calaguas islands are part of Vinzons in Camarines Norte. From Manila, you can get there by land through Daet. There are several bus lines that travel from Cubao to Daet, and the bus fares range from P450 to P750, and the travel ranges from seven to eight hours. Domestic flights to Naga are also available, and from Naga, there are vans that go to Daet. From Daet, there’s another van that would take tourists to Paracale, the port town that is the gateway to Calaguas. From Paracale, it’s only a matter of looking for a motorboat for rent to take you to Calaguas.

The island itself does not have hotels or resorts to accommodate tourists. Many visitors bring tents which they can pitch on the beach for a fee. For those looking for a more solid place to stay in, there are some rooms and restaurants available in Paracale. There are also no restaurants and eating establishments in the island, so tourists are advised to bring their own food. There is, however, a store in the island, but only provides the basic necessities.

The light sand and jewel toned waters pretty much maps out the things that you can do in Calaguas. The scene is perfect for lounging in the beach, going for a swim, and just getting lost in the moment. The clear waters are also perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving; just remember to take the proper equipment with you.

Aside from enjoying the waters of Calaguas, exploring the shores is also a fun activity to do. From the Mahabang Buhangin, which is where most tourists camp, one can walk from north to south of the island in under half a day. The beaches differ from each other, from the rocky beaches in the north, to the white sandy beaches in Mahabang Buhangin, and the pebbly but clear beach in the south. There are also high points within Calaguas, where the rest of the island and the Pacific are visible.

Boats can also be rented for an island hopping tour around Calaguas. Tinaga Island, Cumalasag, Pinagtakpan, Pinagcastillohan, Balagbag Maliit, Balagbag Malaki, Bendita, and Mantigbi Beach are a few of the islands that you can explore around the area.

Back in Paracale, there are old churches such as the church of St. Peter the Apostle Parish and the St. John the Baptist Parish for those looking for some religious and cultural experience. Pulang Daga beach also gives tourists a place to swim.

From Calaguas, Labo in Camarines Norte also provides attractions with its falls. You can choose among Saltahan, Burok-Busok, Malatap, and Palanas falls, or just simply visit them all. A cave tour in Cadig Cave in Labo is also an option for cave explorers.

All in all, Calaguas is between being mainstream and being off the beaten track when it comes to tourist attractions in the Philippines and is perfect for those who want to experience the best of both worlds.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Remember the days when airline food has such a bad reputation that it has almost become the standard for terrible cuisine? Thank goodness times are a changing, and airline food has upped their ante. Case in point: Air Asia’s new array of in flight food. Air Asia offers an assortment of meals to suit any picky eater’s taste. Plus, the meals are Asian inspired, so diners will always feel at home even at above 35,000 feet in the sky.

For domestic flights, Air Asia offers sandwiches, perfect for satisfying cravings during short trips. Passengers can choose between Chicken Caesar and Kani sandwiches (P130 each), which they can pair with noodles or chips. 

For longer flights from the Philippines, Air Asia offers rice meals in three varieties: 

Uncle Chin’s Chicken Rice, a roasted chicken meal seasoned with Uncle Chin’s special secret chilli, ginger, and garlic sauce. This is one of my favorites. I always order this whenever I get the chance. 

Beef Caldereta, a beef stew from the Philippines made with tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, bell peppers, onions, and peppercorns 

Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak, made with coconut rice, Pak Nasser’s special chilli sambal and juicy chicken rendang, with fried anchovies, crunchy peanuts, and half a hard-boiled egg on the side. The crunchy peanuts and fried anchovies added texture to the dish and the sambal sauce perfectly complements with the chicken. Highly recommended for travelers who loves Asian food.

The meals above are worth P200, but passengers can get a 20% discount if they pre-order the meals 24 hours before the flight. 

For flights to China and Korea, Air Asia offers passengers with the following delicacies, worth P230 each: 

Korean Beef Steak, tender beef cooked in perfectly complementing sweet sauce 

Honey Glazed Soy Chicken, made with chicken breast doused with sweet-and sourness of the honey lemon sauce. 

What meal is complete without dessert? Air Asia has got that covered as well with its unapologetic roster of sweet treats: Choco Banana Pound Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and the best-selling Sinful Chocolate Cake. The cookies are really good. You'll feeel the chocolate chips mels in your mouth as you start chewing the cookies. The chocolate cake on the other hand is definitely sinfully delicious. I loved it a lot.

Now aren’t you happy that you won’t be stuck with “yucky” airline food the next time that you fly? Just fly Air Asia, and you’ll never regret ordering that in flight meal!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baguio City has been THE Summer Capital of the Philippines ever since the Americans built their colony there. Today, it’s still a favorite among locals and foreigners alike. It’s easily accessible with a six to eight-hour bus ride from Metro Manila. When there, we recommend you visit the following places:

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Philippines is one of those underrated travel destinations in South East Asia, but it is actually a gold mine of breathtaking beaches. With 7,107 islands, you’ll never run out of beaches. Here are our top ten choices:

1. Boracay
Aah, Boracay. That not-so-hidden gem of an island with powdery white beaches and clear azure waters. Boracay offers the best of both worlds, whether you prefer a serene stay lounging on the beach or a feisty bar hopping night in its bar district. Don’t forget to try out the waters; swim and dive to your heart’s content.

2. Pagudpud
Enjoy your share of nature and culture while enjoying the beaches of Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte. Aside from the clear waters, there are other attractions along the shore such as the Bangui Windmills, the Cape Bojeador lighthouse, and the Kapurpurawan rock formations. Cap your day off chilling in a hammock by the beach.
Pagudpud Beach
3. Talicud Island, Samal
Talicud island is part of the Island Garden city of Samal, a few minutes away by boat from Davao City. Talicud is perfect if you prefer a bit of peace and quiet, since it is a relatively secluded beach. It offers top notch diving and snorkelling sites, so be ready with your underwater cameras.

Babu Santa Beach Resort\
4. Tiamban Beach
Tiamban is very accessible from the town of Romblon, but still manages to be very private and secluded. Enjoy peace and quiet along the gentle shores. There are available rooms to spend the night in, but we suggest you try camping under the clear night skies of Romblon.

Tiamban Beach
5. Panglao Bohol
Panglao beach in Bohol offers the full vacation experience. You can choose from the different beach resorts around, each one offering access to the picturesque beach. You can do a variety of water activities like swimming or diving, but the crowning jewel of activities here is the dolphin watching. 

Panglao Beach
6.  Dakak
A plane ride away from Manila, Dakak is one of those unexpected finds, nestled between mountain and ocean. Dakak used to be a beach only resort, but it has now expanded to include a golf course and an adventure zip line to cater to your adrenaline needs.

Dakak Beach Resort
7. Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island in Cebu is a great addition to your beach inventory. Rent a boat and hop around in the surrounding islands, then stop for lunch and a swim around Virgin Island. You might also want to try swimming in the caverns of Ogtong cave.

Sta Fe Beach Resort
8. Twin Beach, El Nido
Twin Beach delivers what its name promises: beaches on either side of a strip of land. Nacpan is where all the beach life is, where you can lounge around and read a good book. Calitang is more dedicated to fishing, but that’s good because you avail of the day’s fresh catch.

Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach | Photo by Alan Ascaño
9. Calaguas
The long boat ride to Calaguas might be off-putting, but once you step on the powdery sand, you’ll think that the effort was worth it. It’s an isolated in the northern part of Bicol, which means there are no hotels around yet. Pack your camping bags if you want to stay the night. 

10. Anguib
Anguib in Cagayan is touted as the “Boracay of the North” with its white sand beaches and shallow waters that is perfect for wading around. Aside from the usual beach activities, you can also try kayaking around. It’s still relatively undeveloped, so bring a tent if you want to stay the night.

Anguib Beach | Photo by Chad M

So there’s our top ten beaches in the Philippines. So pack your sunscreen, because you’ll never run out of beach fun in the Philippines.