Welcome and Mabuhay

If you love Marinduque and want to contribute articles to this site, please do so. My contact information is in my profile. The above photo was taken from the balcony of The Chateau Du Mer Beach House, Boac, Marindque, Philippines. I love sunsets. How about you? Please do not forget to read the latest national and international news in the right side bar of this blog. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on infringing your copyrights. Thank you and Cheers!

Tres Reyes Island view of the Marinduque Mainland

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City


The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival in Iloilo City, Philippines held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog In Cebu and the Ati-Atihan in Aklan. It is held both to honor the Santo Niño and to celebrate the arrival on Panay of Malay settlers and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the Atis. Dinagyang began after Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez of a local Roman Catholic parish introduced the devotion to Santo Niño in November 1967. In 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez as a gift to the Parish of San Jose. The faithful, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, worked to give the image a fitting reception starting at the Iloilo Airport and parading down the streets of Iloilo. In the beginning, the observance of the feast was confined to the parish. The Confradia patterned the celebration on the Ati-atihan of Ibajay, Aklan, where natives dance in the streets, their bodies covered with soot and ashes, to simulate the Atis dancing to celebrate the sale of Panay. It was these tribal groups who were the prototype of the present festival.

In 1977, the Marcos government ordered the various regions of the Philippines to come up with festivals or celebrations that could boost tourism and development. The City of Iloilo readily identified the Iloilo Ati-atihan as its project. At the same time the local parish could no longer handle the growing challenges of the festival.

The Dinagyang is divided into three Major events: Ati-Ati Street Dancing, Kasadyahan Street Dancing and Miss Dinagyang.

Today, the main part of the festival consists of a number of "tribes", called "tribus", who are supposed to be Ati tribe members dancing in celebration. There are a number of requirements, including that the performers must paint their skin brown and that only indigenous materials can be used for the costumes. All dances are performed to drum music. Many tribes are organized by the local high schools. Some tribes receive a subsidiary from the organizers and recruit private sponsors, with the best tribes receiving the most. The current Ati population of Iloilo is not involved with any of the tribes nor are they involved in the festival in any other way.

Dinagyang was voted as the best Tourism Event for 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines. It is the first festival in the world to get the support of the United Nations for the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals, and cited by the Asian Development Bank as Best Practice on government, private sector & NGO cooperations.

Note: This is no.4 on the series of articles on Philippines Festivals and Fiestas

Monday, November 29, 2010

Carlsbad Cavern National Park, New Mexico



Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a United States National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park for most visitors is the show cave, Carlsbad Caverns. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance, or take the elevator (the exit for everyone) directly to the Underground Lunchroom some 750 feet (230 m) below.

The park has two entries on the National Register of Historic Places: The Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District. Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.

Peak visitation typically occurs on the weekends following Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The park entrance is located on US Highway 62/180 approximately 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The park participates in the Junior Ranger Program.

Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet (about 1,219 m) long, 625 feet (190.5 m) wide, and 350 feet (about 107 m) high at the highest point. It is the third largest chamber in North America and the seventh largest in the world. The largest in the world is the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia.



Note: This is no.7 of the series of articles on most popular national parks in US.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah


Bryce Canyon National Park (pronounced /ˈbraɪs/) is a national park located in southwestern Utah in the United States. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon which, despite its name, is not actually a canyon but a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by wind, water and ice erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce is at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m).
The Amphiteatre

The Bryce area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a U.S. National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a national park in 1928. The park covers 56 square miles (145 km2) and receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location. The town of Kanab, Utah, is situated at a central point between these three parks.

Macrine at Bryce Point, 2009

This is No.6 of a series of articles on popular national parks in US. Macrien and I spent one day at the park in the summer of 2009

Friday, November 26, 2010

Badlands National Park, South Dakota



Badlands National Park, in southwest South Dakota, United States preserves 244,000 acres (98,740 ha)of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States.

The Badlands Wilderness protects 64,144 acres (25,958 ha) of the park as a designated wilderness area and is the site of the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, the most endangered land mammal in North America.

The Stronghold Unit is co-managed with the Oglala Lakota tribe and includes sites of 1890s Ghost Dances, a former United States Air Force bomb and gunnery range, and Red Shirt Table, the park's highest point at 3,340 feet (1,020 m). Authorized as Badlands National Monument on March 4, 1929, it was not established until January 25 1939. Under the Mission 66 plan, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center was constructed for the monument in 1958. It was redesignated a national park on November 10,1978. The park also administers the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.



Note: This is No.5 of a series of articles on national parks in US.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arches National Park, Utah



Arches National Park is a U.S. National Park in eastern Utah. It is known for preserving over 2000 natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, in addition to a variety of unique geological resources and formations.
The park is located just outside of Moab, Utah, and is 119 square miles (310 km2) in size. Its highest elevation is 5,653 feet (1,723 m) at Elephant Butte, and its lowest elevation is 4,085 feet (1,245 m) at the visitor center. Since 1970, forty-three arches have toppled because of erosion. The park receives 10 inches (250 mm) of rain a year on average.

Administered by the National Park Service, the area was originally designated as a National Monument on April 12, 1929. It was redesignated as a National Park on November 12, 1971.

The Organ is an impressive "sandstone fin."The national park lies atop an underground evaporite layer or salt bed, which is the main cause of the formation of the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths in the area. This salt bed is thousands of feet thick in places, and was deposited in the Paradox Basin of the Colorado Plateau some 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, the salt bed was covered with debris eroded from the Uncompahgre Uplift to the northeast. During the Early Jurassic (about 210 Ma) desert conditions prevailed in the region and the vast Navajo Sandstone was deposited. An additional sequence of stream laid and windblown sediments, the Entrada Sandstone (about 140 Ma), was deposited on top of the Navajo. Over 5000 feet (1500 m) of younger sediments were deposited and have been mostly eroded away. Remnants of the cover exist in the area including exposures of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale. The arches of the area are developed mostly within the Entrada formation.

The weight of this cover caused the salt bed below it to liquefy and thrust up layers of rock into salt domes. The evaporites of the area formed more unusual salt anticlines or linear regions of uplift.] Faulting occurred and whole sections of rock subsided into the areas between the domes. In some places, they turned almost on edge. The result of one such 2,500-foot (760 m) displacement, the Moab Fault, is seen from the visitor center.

As this subsurface movement of salt shaped the landscape, erosion removed the younger rock layers from the surface. Except for isolated remnants, the major formations visible in the park today are the salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone, in which most of the arches form, and the buff-colored Navajo Sandstone. These are visible in layer cake fashion throughout most of the park. Over time, water seeped into the surface cracks, joints, and folds of these layers. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and putting pressure on surrounding rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Winds later cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained. Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many damaged fins collapsed. Others, with the right degree of hardness and balance, survived despite their missing sections. These became the famous arches.


Note: This is No.4 of a series of articles on national parks in US

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Acadia National Park, Maine



Acadia National Park (ANP) is a National Park located in the U.S. state of Maine. It reserves much of Mount Desert Island, and associated smaller islands, off the Atlantic coast. The area first was inhabited by the Wabanaki people. In the fall of 1604, Samuel de Champlain observed a high-notched island composed of seven or eight mountains rising to bare-rock summits from slopes of birch, fir, and pine. In spite of many changes over nearly 400 years, the area remains essentially the same.

The landscape architect Charles Elliot is credited with the idea for the park. It first attained federal status when President Woodrow Wilson, established it as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, administered by the National Park Service. On February 26, 1919, it became a national park, with the name Lafayette National Park in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, an influential French supporter of the American Revolution. The park's name was changed to Acadia National Park on January 19, 1929.

Expansion From 1915 to 1933, the wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed, designed, and directed the construction of a network of carriage trails throughout the park. He sponsored the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, with the nearby family summer home Reef Point Estate, to design the planting plans for the subtle carriage roads at the Park (c.1930). The network encompassed over 50 miles (80 km) of gravel carriage trails, 17 granite bridges, and two gate lodges, almost all of which are still maintained and in use today. Cut granite stones placed along the edges of the carriage roads act as guard rails of sort and are locally known as "coping stones" to help visitors cope with the steep edges. They are also fondly called "Rockefeller's teeth".

Recent events On August 23, 2009, several park visitors were swept out to sea at Thunder Hole by high surf attributed to the remnants of Hurricane Bill. All were rescued but one of the tourists, a 7-year-old girl, who later died.

Centennial Initiative Project The National Park Service, as part of their Centennial Initiative celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, created a project to promote voluntary, multimodal park access for present and future generations. Going “car free” offers visitors the opportunity to explore Acadia by foot, bicycle, shuttle bus, commercial tour bus, private automobile, or private and commercial vessels. The project includes an inter-modal transportation center on state-owned land four miles (6 km) north of the park, multiple-use trails to connect gateway communities with the park, and rehabilitation of historic carriage roads surrounding Eagle Lake.

Terrain and features The park includes mountains, an ocean shoreline, woodlands, and lakes. In addition to Mount Desert Island, the park comprises much of the Isle au Haut, parts of Baker Island, and a portion of the Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland.

Cadillac Mountain, named after the French Explorer of the same name, is on the eastern side of the island. Its green, lichen-covered, pink granite summit is one of the first places in the United States to see the sunrise. Miles of carriage roads were originally built by Rockefeller, Jr. The mountains of Acadia National Park offer hikers and bicycle riders views of the ocean, island lakes, and pine forests.
The inlet Somes Sound, often described as the "only fjord on the East Coast", is now called a fjard by officials.



Note: This is No.3 of the series of articles on national parks in US

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC


Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a United States National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park. It is the most visited national park in the United States. On its route from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail also passes through the center of the park. The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934 and officially dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. It encompasses 814 square miles (2,108 km²), making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. It was the first national park whose land and other costs were paid for in part with federal funds; previous parks were funded wholly with state money or private funds.


Note: This is No.2 on a series of articles on national parks in the US!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona


Grand Canyon National Park is one of the United States' oldest national parks and is located in Arizona. Within the park lies the Grand Canyon, a gorge of the Colorado River, considered to be one of Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The park covers 1,902 mi2 (4927 km2) of unincorporated area in Coconino County and Mohave County.
Most visitors to the park come to the South Rim, arriving on Arizona State Route 64. The Highway enters the park through the South Entrance, near Tusayan, Arizona, and heads eastward, leaving the park through the East Entrance. All park accommodations are operated by the Xanterra corporation. Park headquarters are at Grand Canyon Village, a short distance from the South Entrance, being also the center of the most popular viewpoints. Some thirty miles of the South Rim are accessible by road. A much smaller venue for tourists is found on the North Rim, accessed by Arizona State Route 67. There is no road connection between the two within Arizona except via the Navajo Bridge, near Page, Arizona, entailing a five-hour drive. Otherwise, the two rims of the Canyon are connected via Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Hoover Dam. The rest of the Grand Canyon is extremely rugged and remote, although many places are accessible by pack trail and backcountry roads.

Grand Canyon National Park became a national park in 1919. So famous is this landmark to modern Americans that it seems surprising that it took more than thirty years for it to become a national park. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the rim in 1903 and exclaimed: "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison--beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world .... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see".
Despite Roosevelt's enthusiasm and his strong interest in preserving land for public use, the Grand Canyon was not immediately designated as a national park. The first bill to create Grand Canyon National Park had been introduced in 1882 and again in 1883 and 1886 by Senator Benjamin Harrison. As President, Harrison established the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893. Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation in 1906 and Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. Senate bills to establish a national park were introduced and defeated in 1910 and 1911; the Grand Canyon National Park Act was finally signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. The National Park Service, which had been established in 1916, assumed administration of the park. In 1979, UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site.
The Grand Canyon itself, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for the combination of large size, depth, and the exposed layering of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. It was created through the incision of the Colorado River and its tributaries after the Colorado Plateau was uplifted and the Colorado River system developed along its present path.
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The United States has 58 protected areas known as national parks, which are operated by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior. National parks must be established by an act of the United States Congress. The first national park, Yellowstone, was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872,followed by Sequoia and Yosemite in 1890. The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." National parks usually have a variety of natural resources over large areas. Many of them had been previously protected as National Monuments by the President under the Antiquities Act before being upgraded by Congress. Seven national parks are paired with a National Preserve, six of which are in Alaska. While administered together, they are considered as separate units and their areas are not included in the figures below. The newest national park is Great Sand Dunes, established in 2004.

Twenty-seven states have national parks, as do insular areas American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands. Alaska and California have the most, each with eight, followed by Utah with five and Colorado with four. The largest national park is Wrangell – St. Elias, at over 8,000,000 acres (32,000 km2), followed by three more in Alaska; the smallest is Hot Springs, at less than 6,000 acres (24 km2). The total area protected by national parks is approximately 51,900,000 acres (210,000 km2), for an average of 895,000 acres (3,620 km2) but a median of only 317,000 acres (1,280 km2). The most-visited national park is Great Smoky Mountains, with over nine million visitors in 2008, followed by the Grand Canyon, with over four million. Fourteen national parks are designated World Heritage Sites.

Note: This is No.1 of a series of articles about National Parks in US. In this series, I will be posting highlights on the 29 out of 58 national parks. Macrine and I had visited this park, North Rim in 2008.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cuernavaca and Acapulco, Mexico


Macrine resided in Cuernavaca for 30 days in the summer of 1982. As part of her post graduate training in Spanish,she signed up for a 30-day-live-in language immersion program in one of the language schools of the city. From San Francisco she flew to Mexico City and a representative of the school drove her to the residence of her host family in Cuernavaca. For 30 days she was not allowed to speak English, but only Spanish, unless it is an emergency. This was one of her best experiences in learning the Spanish language. At the end of 30 days, she spoke Spanish like a native Mexican or Castillan. She needed this experience to be certified as a trilengual( Spanish, English and Filipino) Public Health Nurse for the Contra Costa County Visiting Nurses Association, her employer at that time.

Two days before graduation the class of 20 spent one day and one night experiencing the sights and sounds of Acapulco, Mexico, which is not too far from Cuernavaca. From Acapulco, they flew back to San Francisco via Mexico City, where I picked her up. It was the best 30 days she spent without me all hovering over her. Macrine told me this is one experience she will cherish in her memory forever.

Cuernavaca was nicknamed "city of eternal spring" by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. The city is located in a tropical region but its temperature is kept fairly constant in the 70's F. It is located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains. In the morning, warm air flows from the valley below and in the late afternoon, cooler air flows down from the higher elevations. This climate has attracted royalty and nobles from Aztec times. Most of the Aztec emperors called Cuernavaca their summer residence. Foreign princes, archdukes and other nobles have been attracted to this place because of its flowers, sun, fruits, fresh-water springs and waterfalls. The Shah of Iran had a house here as well as the sculptor, the late John Spencer, relative of Princess Diana.

Cuernavaca (Spanish pronunciation: [kweɾnaˈβaka]; Classical Nahuatl: Cuauhnāhuac [kʷawˈnaːwak]) is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos in Mexico. Established at the archeological site of Gualupita I by the Olmecs, "the mother culture" of Mesoamerica, approximately 3200 years ago. It is also a municipality located about 85 km (53 mi) south of Mexico City on the D-95 freeway.

The city has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of this warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and even today many famous people as well as Mexico City residents maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.

The name "Cuernavaca" is derived from the Nahuatl phrase Cuauhnahuac, and means "surrounded by or close to trees." The name was eventually Hispanicized to Cuernavaca because the Spanish could not pronounce the Nahuatl name. The coat-of-arms of the municipality consists of a tree trunk with three branches with foliage, and four roots colored red. There is a cut in the trunk in the form of a mouth, from which emerges a grey swirl.


Macrine and her 20 classmates along with their teachers(as Chaperons)spent one day and one night partying and celebrating their graduation from language school. They visited most of the tourist spots in Acapulco including the Cliffs where the divers show their diving skills and fearless activity for the tourists.


Acapulco (officially known as Acapulco de Juárez) is a city, municipality and major sea port in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, 300 kilometres (190mi) southwest from Mexico City. Acapulco is located on a deep, semi-circular bay and has been a port since the early colonial period of Mexico’s history. It is a port of call for shipping and cruising lines running between Panama and San Francisco, California, United States. The city of Acapulco is the largest in the state, far larger than the state capital Chilpancingo and as well, Mexico's largest beach resorted city.

The city is best known as one of Mexico’s oldest and most well-known beach resorts, which came into prominence by the 1950s as a getaway for Hollywood stars and millionaires. Acapulco is still famous for its nightlife and still attracts many vacationers, although most are now from Mexico itself. The resort area is divided into two: The north end of the bay is the “traditional” area, where the famous in the mid 20th century vacationed and the south end is dominated by newer luxury high rise hotels.

Note: This is No. 15 (Part 2) and last of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I (not this time) had visited outside the US since 1960.

Conclusion: This concludes the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had either resided or visited within and outside the US since 1960. As a summary, we had resided in four States, California, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland. We enjoyed our stay in the three cities in California,(Modesto, Pinole and Fair Oaks). We will always remember our five years in Chicago, Illinois as well as our five years in Kansas City, Missouri. Most of all, the happiest place that we had lived was our 12 years in Colesville, Maryland- a suburb of Washington, D.C. The coldest winter of our lives was of course in Chicago. But the warmest winter of our lives besides, the Philippines was in Pinole, California.

We had also visited twenty nine(29)* other places in the US( including the Hawaiian Islands) and fifteen (15) other places outside the US ( Aruba, Canada, The Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Morocco and Puerto Rico). Macrine and I will never forget these experiences as long as we live.

* These do not include ten other places in the US that I had visited in connection with my work activities (business travel) as a Research Chemist for Chevron and Stauffer Chemical Companies and as a Chemistry Team Leader for FDA, Center of New Drugs in Silver Spring, MD.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada


On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. On our way to Toronto from Bufallo, New York we passed by Niagara Falls both on the US side as well as the Canadian side. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the waterfalls and spent more than two hours taking pictures and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the Falls. In our entourage were 10 members of MI, Inc from the Washington, D.C. area.
Niagara Falls at Night
This was our second time to enjoy Niagara Falls and its surrondings. Macrine and I first visited Niagara Falls in the summer of 1985. We stayed for three days and had plenty of time enjoying the scenic and very rural Canadian country side up North of the Falls. We specially enjoyed the Falls at Night. Here's a short video of the Falls as viewed from both sides. Do not forget to view the related video of the Falls at Night.


Niagara Falls is a Canadian city of 83,184 (as of 2008) residents on the Niagara River in the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario. Across the river is Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara Falls Ontario was incorporated on June 12, 1903.

The city is dominated by Niagara Falls, a world famous set of two large waterfalls on the Niagara River and benefits from the fact that both falls, the American and Horseshoe, can be best seen from the Canadian side of the river, thus presenting the city one of the major tourist attractions of the world. The natural spectacle brings in millions of tourists yearly. The city permitted the development of a tourist area along the falls and the gorge. This area which stretches along the Niagara River parkway and tourist promenade is particularly concentrated at the brink of the falls and, apart from the natural attractions along the river, includes huge parking lots, souvenir shops, observation towers, high-rise-hotels, casinos and theatres, mostly with colourful neon billboards and advertisements. Further to the north or south there are golf courses alongside historic sites from the War of 1812.

Note: This No. 14( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico- from San Diego, CA


In 1994 during the weekend before the ACS Meeting in San Diego, Macrine and I took a sightseeing excursion to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico from San Diego. There are two ways to visit Ensenada from San Diego. One is by bus and the other by sea. We took the sea route ( about 70 minutes). There was plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing. The tour took only about 11 hours total. We purchased a few Mexican souvenirs( Indian blankets) and enjoyed a typical Mexican lunch. I did not show any symptoms of sea sickness in the incoming sea trip, but at the return trip, the sea was choppy and I throw up. I swear, I will never take another cruise because of that experience, inspite of Macrine's urging to take another cruise ( perhaps to Alaska during summer).

Ensenada (full name: Ensenada De Todos Santos, which means "Cove of all Saints" in English), or Port of Ensenada for its port, is the third-largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California. It is located 116 km (about 70 miles) south of Tijuana. The city had a 2005 census population of 260,075, with the municipality having 413,481.

Ensenada is also the municipal seat of Ensenada Municipality, one of the five into which the state is divided. Ensenada is locally referred as La Cenicienta del Pacífico (The Cinderella of the Pacific).
Located in the Bahía de Todos Santos — an inlet of the Pacific Ocean — Ensenada is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship port of call. There is also a navy base, an army base and a military airfield, which functions as an airport of entry into Mexico.



The city is backed by small mountain ranges. Due to its location on the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean latitude, the weather tends to be mild year-round. Although the winter rain season is short and the area is prone to prolonged droughts, Ensenada sits in the heart of a wine country that is widely regarded as the best in Mexico and the Americas with the Napa Valley in California. It is said that the first vitis vinifera made it to the peninsula (specifically to the San Ignacio Mission) in 1703, when Jesuit Padre Juan de Ugarte planted the first vineyards there.



Note: This is No.13 (Part 2) of a series of article on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toronto and Vicinity, Ontario, Canada



On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. We spent half a day, touring the downtown area of Toronto and had lunch in a friends house in Mississauga, Ontario. I wish we had more time to see Toronto. The three days was not enough since during the day, we attended all the sessions discussing preparation for our next Medical Mission to Marinduque. Here are two videos on 10 things to do and interesting places in the city of Toronto, Capital of Ontario, Canada.


Toronto (pronounced /təˈrɒntoʊ/, colloquially /ˈtrɒnoʊ/ or /təˈrɒnoʊ/) is the provincial capital of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and is part of a densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, which is home to over 8.1 million residents—approximately 25% of Canada's population. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,113,149, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 5,555,912 in the 2006 Census.

As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group and is one of the top financial centres in the world. Toronto's leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism and sports industries. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's eighth largest in terms of market value, is headquartered in the city, along with the most Canadian corporate headquarters of a major Canadian city.

Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, as about 49% of the population were born outside of Canada. Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. In addition, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive Canadian city in which to live in 2006. Residents of Toronto are called Torontonians.

I have a sister, a nephew and several relatives residing in the Toronto area.

Note: This is No 12 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Week of Fun, Sun and Casino Gambling in Aruba



On November 17 to 24, 2001, Macrine and I spent one week of fun, sun and casino gambling in the tropical island of Aruba. Again, this was through our International Interval Vacation Exchange Program. We stayed at the La Cabana Beach and Racquet Club in Oranjestad, Aruba. A casino is just about two blocks from our resort. Complimentary bus service to the Casino is available 24 hours at 30 minutes interval. Macrine and I had fun in the Casino playing the slot machines.

Oranjestad is the capital city of the island. Our son David III went with us, since we had a 2-bedroom suite. We drove around the island stopping at all the tourist attractions, seeing cactus and desert vegetations, windmills, lighthouses, rugged coastlines, natural rock bridges and an old chapel(Alta Vista). Another interesting
facts about Aruba are the presence of several modern Desalination Water Plants which convert salt water from the ocean to fresh water for drinking and household use.
Oranjestad, Capital City of Aruba

Aruba (pronounced /əˈruːbə/ ə-ROO-bə) is a 33km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27km north of the coast of Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

Aruba, which has no administrative subdivisions, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten. Aruban citizens hold Dutch passports. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) and is densely populated with its estimated 103,000 people. It lies outside the hurricane belt.



The last couple of years tourism has declined in Aruba due to the publicity of the murder /disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager visiting the island in 2005. The suspect, Joran Van Der Sloot, is presently in jail in Peru for the murder of a young Peruvian woman. The body of Natalie had never been recovered. In a recent news (11/1/10),the mother of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway spoke out for the first time about an alleged extortion attempt by Joran Van Der Sloot, the lead suspect in her daughter's disappearance, in which he offered to "bring Natalee" in exchange for $250,000.

"He was ready to tell the truth and lead me to the truth and lead me to Natalee's remains," Beth Twitty told Dutch reporter Peter De Vries in a new Dutch documentary.

Today, I have no desire to revisit Aruba for the above reason(safety of tourists).

Note: This is No. 11 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

San Juan, Puerto Rico and Vicinity


In January 19 to 26, 1996, Macrine and I spent one glorious week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We stayed at the El San Juan Towers, a four star resort in Carolina, PR not too far from Old San Juan. This is in conjunction with our International Interval Exchange Vacation Program. Our travel was arranged by Ober United Travel Agency in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During this seven days, we were able to drive up to Luquillo with a stop over at the El Yunque Carribean National Forest. However most of 7 days we spent around Old San Juan and the beach and swimming pool of our resort. A couple of nights we went to the casino in the nearby San Juan Hotel for dinner and a little gambling.


San Juan is a major port and tourist resort of the West Indies and is the oldest city under the U.S flag. The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort area, and other outlying communities, the most important: Río Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce. Río Piedras was founded in 1714 but became incorporated into San Juan in 1951.
During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to charter or settle unknown parts of the New World. Its fortifications repulsed the English navigator Sir Francis Drake in 1595, as well as later attacks.
In the 20th century the city expanded beyond its walled confines, known as Old San Juan, to incorporate suburban Miramar, Santurce, Condado, Hato Rey and Río Piedras.

San Juan is the largest processing center of the island, the metropolitan area has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling and produces cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products clothing, and tobacco. The port is one of the busiest in the Caribbean. San Juan is the country's financial capital, and many U.S. banks and corporations maintain offices or distributing centers there. San Juan is center of Caribbean shipping and is the 2nd largest sea port in the area (after New York City).


Old San Juan is located on a small and narrow island which lies in the north coast, about 35 miles (56 km) from the east end of Puerto Rico, and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by the three bridges. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by San Juan Bay or "Bahia of San Juan" which lies between the city and the mainland. On a bluff about 100 feet (30 m) high at the west end of the island and commanding the entrance to the harbor rise the battlements of Fort San Felipe del Morro, in which there is a lighthouse.

The "Caño de San Antonio" lies also in South Coast and extends to the Southeast where the island of Old San Juan connects to the mainland through Santurce by three bridges, "Puente Dos Hermanos" (Ave. Ashford), "Puente G. Esteves" (Ave. Ponce de León) and "Puente San Antonio" (Ave. Fernández Juncos).
Old San Juan

The city is characterized by its narrow, blue cobblestone streets and flat-roofed brick and stone buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century when Puerto Rico was a Spanish possession. Near Fort San Felipe del Morro is the Casa Blanca, a palace on land which belonged to the family of Ponce de Leon.

Note: This is No.10 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cancun,Tulum and the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

The Mayan Ruins of Tulum
On September 10 to 17, 1994, Macrine and I along with Ditas spent one week in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed at the Royal Mayan Resort. The Royal Mayan and the adjoining Royal Carribean are 5 stars resorts in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Hotel zone is a 14 mile strip with more than 100 hotels ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars. Travel arrangement was made by Worlddex Travel via our International Interval Exchange Vacation membership. Our 7 days of relaxation and sight seeing was INDEED VERY MEMORABLE. We were almost tempted to purchase another week of vacation time-share since the cost was much cheaper than our home resort in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. However, reasons prevail since at this time we were starting to save for the construction of our retirement home in Marinduque, Philippines. The Royal Mayan Hotel has a swimming pool with a bar in the middle. In addition, there is another bar at the ocean side where the water was warmed and crystal clear and the sand powdery white just like sugar. One day we took a one hour cruise aboard the galleon ship "Columbus" in the beautiful lagoon across our hotel. Ditas participated in the canoe race at the Yatch Club just across the hotel. We eat lunch at the Captain's Cove and dinner at the Gypsy Restaurant. This was Ditas treat to us, since she was occupying the second bedroom of our suite for free. A Flamingo Guitarist and Spanish Dancers were the entertainers for the night. We also went shopping both at the open flea markets in downtown Cancun as well as in several air-conditioned malls of the city. One day we visited the Mayan Ruins Of Tulum and another day at the ruins of Chichen Itza. These two places is a must see if you love history and archaelogy. We inquired on two island tours-Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, but were running out of time and decided not to take it. The following video show the highlights of Chichen Itza and Tulum.

There are several Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. But we visited only two.
1.Chichen Itza - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Chichen Itza archaeological site is the most visited Mayan site on the peninsula. Eighteen structures have been restored over the years. Pyramid Kukulcan is the tallest of them and allows a view from the top of all Chichen Itza. During the Spring and Fall equinoxes, (March 21 & Sept 21) the setting sun creates shadows down the steps of the pyramid that resemble a snake descending. This is a popular event to see and usually draws big crowds.

2. Tulum - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoTulum archaeological zone is located 131 kilometers south of Cancun, just 20 minutes south of Akumal on coastal highway 307. Facing the sea, Tulum is impressive and powerful. Known as the "Walled City", Tulum was thought to be one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan during its time. Fresco remnants are still visible inside some of the structures. There is also a popular beach accessed by a stairway next to the El Castillo pyramid, but we forgot to bring our bathing suit!
On our way to Tulum we stopped by the underground river at X'Caret for one hour.
The other popular Mayan ruins are:
1.Becan - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoJust beyond the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil, are the Mayan ruins of Becan. Visitors can walk to 20 major constructions distributed over three hectares with a number of temple pyramids and plenty of tall jungle. The site is usually deserted. Becán was the political, economical and religious capital of the province known today as Rio Bec. Becan is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.
2.Bonampak - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThis archaeological site, deep in jungle of Chiapas, is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Bonampak is particularly famous for its murals which dipict in great detail the rituals of the royal court, including human sacrifice, costumes, musical instruments, and the weapons of war. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.
3.Calakmul - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoDue to Calakmul's location in the geographic center of the Maya region (the "Petén") it received cultural influences from both north and south. Calakmul along with the Maya sites of El Mirador, Nakbé, and Uaxactún, formed a coalition during the Formative period, constantly engaging in conflicts with its southern neighbors, especially Tikal. Calakmul remained a rival to Tikal from that time on.
4.Chacchoben - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoRoughly 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of Tulum Mexico are the seldom seen Mayan ruins of Chacchoben, an excellent but distant day-trip to see a broad-leaf jungle ruin site. These majestic, mostly restored temple pyramids take on a mystical quality surrounded by towering mahogany trees, enormous cohune palms, strangler figs and the hanging tentacles of banyan trees. Chaccoben means "the Place of Red Corn", in Spanish "Lugar de Maiz Colorado".
5.Chac Mool - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoWithin the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, about 1.5 hours south by boat from Punta Allen, on the Santa Rosa peninsula, is the seldom seen archaeological site of Chac Mool. This is a small site requiring permission from the land owner, Casablanca Fishing Lodge, for entry. Of primary interest is Chac Mool's similarity to Chichen Itza and Tulum because of the presence of a Chac Mool shrine room and a location directly on the Caribbean sea. Also nearby are the Tupac ruins.
6.Chicanna - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoNear the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil and 3 kilometers from Becan ruins, are the Mayan ruins of Chicanná. Due to its dimensions and the rich decoration of the buildings, Chicanná has been considered a small elitiest center of nearby Becán. The site is usually deserted. Chicanna is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.
7.Coba - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Coba archaeological zone is located 42 km. west of Tulum. With many buildings still covered by jungle, Coba is over 80 sq. miles with 5 lakes. Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. It is 12 stories tall and has 120 steps to the top! But from the top you can view a magnificent span of jungle with the tops of other ruins reaching above the jungle canopy.
8.Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoDzibilchaltun archaeological zone is located only 9 mile from the Yucatan state capital of Merida, Dzibilchaltun ruins are a must see for visitors interested in a significant Maya ruins site and excellent cultural museum full of Maya and Spanish artifacts including 16th century Spanish swords and weapons, Maya textiles, monolithic stela, temples and deep cenote freshwater well, excellent for a cool swim. Located on the road to Progreso. Taxi transport from central Merida and combis from San Juan Park.
9.Ek Balam - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoEk Balam was built in the Maya Classic Period and has a grand central pyramid, two large palaces, and numerous other temples and buildings. While the archaeological zone is not as completely restored, or as large a site as Chichen Itza or Uxmal, Ek Balam is under active restoration and gives the visitor a great overview of the entire archaeological process. The effect is almost mystical with restored buildings pushing out of the huge mounds of rubble and jungle undergrowth.
10. Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoKohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah make up one of the largest concentrations of archaeological sites located in the southern part of Quintana Roo. Just a few hours south on Hwy 307 will bring you to the Lake Bacalar area. Most of the ruins in southern Quintana Roo are located south of there. Bring a new guidebook with you for specific directions. The jungle is lush and alive with exotic birds and wildlife.
11. Mayapan - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoMayapan ("Banner of the Mayas") is considered the last great Maya capital, dating back to the beginning of the common Era and reaching its golden age in the Postclassic period. Mayapan's ancient grandeur is still evident in its great buildings. There is a strong influence played by Chichen Itza, as seen in its main building, a smaller replica of the Castillo of Kukulcan.
12. Muyil - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Muyil ruins are located 25 kilometers south of the Pueblo of Tulum, passed Ejido Pino Suarez. This site is rarely visited but quite spectacular. The ruins are partially excavated and the jungle surrounds them. A combination path-boardwalk leads from the ruins through a lush jungle-marsh area to wide Laguna Muyil. The Mirador observation platform gives a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Tours of the lagoons are available by the dock.
13. Palenque - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoPalenque archaeological zone is located in the southern state of Chiapas near Guatemala. Palenque is one of the premiere Mayan ruins of Mesoamerica featuring the Temple of Inscriptions containing Pakal's tomb, the Palace and many other buildings, all in a mountainous jungle setting. Other nearby sites to see include Agua Azul cascades, Misol Ha falls, Usumacinta river tour to Yaxchitlan & Bonampak Maya ruins.
14. Uxmal - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Uxmal Mayan ruins are some of the best on the peninsula. The name Uxmal means 'thrice-built' in Mayan, referring to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician. The Maya would often build a new temple over an existing one, and in this case five stages of construction have actually been found. Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatán peninsula, and at its height was home to about 25,000 Maya.
15. Xel-Ha - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Xel-Ha ruins are part of the Xel-Ha Lagoon eco-park, located between Akumal and Tulum. These are a small collection of stone buildings right on the highway opposite the entrance to Xel-Ha Lagoon. The Maya had a coastal port at Xel-Ha for maritime trade via canoes between the principal towns up and down the coast, and to Cozumel. There are a couple of interesting cenotes nearby the ruins group. Some of the structures still have painted hands and other drawings of the Maya.
16. Yaxchilan - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThe Yaxchilan archaeological site is deep in jungle of Chiapas. It is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Yaxchilan is right on the Usumacinta and visitors almost exclusively come via the long boats that navigate the river. There are more than 120 structures in the central area in three complexes. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.

Note: This is No.9(Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Vatican, Rome, and Assisi, Italy and Vicinity

St Peter Square, The Vatican
On December 10 to 16, 1990, Macrine and I joined the Dioscese of Oakland Choir during their pilgrimage tour to Rome, the Vatican and surrounding area( Assisi), Italy. We were not members of the Choir, but our parish priest, Fr. Paddy Bishop of St Joseph Church of Pinole was the Chaperon of the Choir and he invited us to join the group. Lidia Carlos Reynes was the choir director. The choir gave one concert( liturgical music) and sang during a mass with the Pope (John Paul II) as celebrant in St Peter's Basilica. For 5 days we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Rome, the Vatican and Assisi, Italy.

One day we went to St Francis de Assisi Church in Assisi, Italy about one hour bus drive from Rome. Assisi is one of the most beautiful town in Italy. Around Rome, we saw the Coliseum, several the historic basilicas and fountains, the Catacombs and a whole day tour the Vatican( Sistine Chapel etc..)City and the Museum.
Assisi, Italy
This is one vacation/tour that Macrine and I will never forget. The package tour was arranged by Courtial International, Vatican Travel Office and Choir Pilgrimage Services in Rome, Italy.
St Peter Square, the Vatican

The following paragraph in the concert program summarized the reason for this concert tour. ( there was a translation in Latin, German and French)

"Concerts of Liturgical Music in a Holy Place are not only authentic manifestations of Art and Faith, but they also represent a wonderful opportunity for the spirit to join the Source of every beauty".

I like the Spanish version better as follows:

"Los Conciertos de Musica Sagrada en Lugar Sagrado, ademas de ser autenticas manifestaciones de Arte y de Fe, constituyen una ocasion inmejorable para elevar al espiritu hacia la Fuente de la misma belleza."



Note: This is No.7( Rome and Assisi, Italy) and No.8 ( The Vatican City and Museum), Part 2 of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three Days Cruise from Miami to Nassau, The Bahamas

The Parliament House
On March 25 to 28, 1977, Macrine and I took our first cruise to Nassau after the American Chemical Society Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. This is aboard the S/S Emerald Seas owned by the Eastern Steamship Lines, Inc. The S/S Emerald Seas was registered in Panama with gross tonnage of 24,178 tons, has 9 decks, 622 feet long and 76 feet wide. There were 411 staterooms and a capacity of 1,084 passengers. There was a movie theatre on the lowest deck, two night clubs, an Olympic size swimming pool, 5 lounges with bars, a slot machines room, card room, gift shop, beauty parlor and a huge dining area for 500 diners on each seating. This ship is just like a small city with all its amenities.

Macrine and I and a couple we meet during the ACS neeting and their teenage son were assigned on the second seating for all meals. For entertainment, there were 2 bands for dancing, night club shows, horse racing, bingo, and card tournaments. The Casino and Slot Machines are only open on High Seas. We ate six times a day as follows: Breakfast(6 to 8AM), morning snack(10-11AM),lunch(12Noon-2:00PM),afternoon snack(4:00PM),dinner,6:00 to 9:00PM and another midnight buffet(11:00PM) if you are still hungry. The food was delicious and lavish. The highlights of this cruise was the Captain's Farewell Dinner- Lobster with eight other courses and a flaming baked Alaskan cake as the dessert served by marching waiters. Since I am to prone to sea sickness, I took my Dramamine tablets prior to our departure from the Port of Miami. On the return back, I was feeling good and cocky, I did not take my pill. Lo and Behold at the end of the Captain's dinner, I was feeling nauseous, thus was not able to enjoy the dessert.
Here's a video of a similar cruise aboard the Monarch of the Seas, operated by the Royal Carribean Lines.


When we arrived at Nassau(capital of the Bahamas), we took a tour of the Island of New Providence, including the beach in Paradise Island. Paradise Island has soft pink white sand and multi-hued blue and greenish water.

Within walking distance from where the ship docked is Bay Street lined with shops offering items from all over the world at duty free prices. The famed straw market is adjacent to the ship, where you can buy all kinds of straw products from dolls, hats or handbags. Macrine and I purchased several straw products for souvenirs.

Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The city has a population of 260,000 (2008 census), nearly 80 percent of the entire population of The Bahamas (330,000). Lynden Pindling International Airport, the major airport for The Bahamas, is located about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) west of Nassau city centre, and has daily flights to major cities in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The city is located on the island of New Providence, which functions much like a federal district. While there is no local government, it is governed directly as an administrative division of the national government. Nassau is considered a historical stronghold of pirates.

Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Nassau's modern growth began just over 200 years ago with the influx of thousands of American Loyalists and enslaved Africans to The Bahamas following the American War of Independence. Many of them settled in Nassau (the then and still commerce capital of The Bahamas) and eventually came to outnumber the original inhabitants.
As the population of Nassau grew, so did the built-up areas. Today the city dominates the entire island and its satellite, Paradise Island. The Atlantis Resort was not built when we visited the island in 1977. However, until the post-Second World War era, the outer suburbs scarcely existed. Most of New Providence was uncultivated bush until the loyalists came in the 1780s and established several plantations such as Clifton and Tusculum. When the British abolished the international slave Trade in 1807, thousands of liberated Africans freed from slave ships by the Royal Navy were settled on New Providence (at Adelaide, Gambier, Carmichael and Sandiland) and other islands. The largest concentration of blacks lived in the "Over-the-Hill" suburbs of Grants Town and Bain Town behind the city of Nassau, while most of the whites lived on the island's northern coastal ridges.

Note: This is No.6 ( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, November 12, 2010

London, Bath and Vicinity, England

London Tower Bridge
Macrine and I went to London on a whim, that is no previous planning. I saw an ad in the Washington Times dated July 21, 1992 to see a football game between the Redskins and the SF 49'ers in Wembly Stadium, London for August 16, 1992. I immediately called Macrine at work and ask her if she could take a week of from work.
The package consists of 5 days and 4 nights at the Scandic Crown Hotel in the London Docklands, two tickets to the football game, continental breakfast daily, full day tour of London and a mini cruise of the Thames River, welcome dinner hosted by Ricky Erwins (no.32) of the Redskins, and a round trip non-stop airfare from Dulles to Heathrow including ground transfer and tour guide via a luxury motor coach for only $1,099 per person. The package was offered by Trafalgar Tours, Bethesda, Maryland.
Other tours around London are available for an additional fee. Macrine and I took the one day tour to Bath, England with a reasonable additional fee of less than $50 per person whuch included lunch and a round trip train fare from London to Bath.
We had a grand time in Bath, seeing the Roman Baths museum and enjoying a lunch of Fish and Chips.

On this vacation, we saw the outskirts of the Buckingham Palace, Westmister Abbey, the Big Ben, rode the London underground railway system called The TUBE, shopped at Harrod's and saw Miss Saigon at the Drury Lane Royal Theatre.

The highlight of our tour was not the Redskins and 49er's game, inspite of the fact that the Niners beat the Redskin 17-15, three seconds before the end of the game with a field goal, but the show, Miss Saigon. Our group of 40 tourists were all Redskin fans except for Macrine and I, so we were outnumbered and received a lot of tauntings and boos when we cheered for the Niners.

We paid scalped prices for the two tickets to Miss Saigon, but it was worth it. Tears rolling from our eyes moved by the story and music of the modern Madame Butterfly musical will never be erased in our memory. The leading lady was not Lea Salonga, but another Filipina singer. The leading man, Junix Inocian, who inherited Jonathan Pyrce role, is also a Filipino and did a good job singing the "American Dream" song.
The Royal Crescent in Bath
We took a one day tour to Bath, Avon about 75 minutes train ride from Paddington Station in London. Paddington Station reminds me of Union Station in Washington, DC. However, you have to pay to use the WC(rest rooms) or CR (Comfort Rooms in the Philippines)
One of Bath's principal industries is tourism, with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city on an annual basis. The visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage tourism and cultural tourism. This is aided by the city's selection in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance. All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city, from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, to Thermae Bath Spa in the 2000s.
The Roman Bath
The size of the tourist industry in Bath is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation – including over 80 hotels, and over 180 bed and breakfasts – many of which are located in Georgian buildings. The history of the city is displayed at the Building of Bath Collection which is housed in a building which was built in 1765 as the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was also known as the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, as she lived in the attached house from 1707 to 1791. Two of the hotels have 'five-star' ratings. There are also two campsites located on the western edge of the city. The city also contains about 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city, as well as tours on foot and on the river. Since 2006, with the opening of Thermae Bath Spa, the city has attempted to recapture its historical position as the only town in the United Kingdom offering visitors the opportunity to bathe in naturally heated spring waters.

Note: This is No.5 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Day in Tangier, Morocco, North Africa

Camel Rides in Morocco

From Marbella,Spain, Macrine and I joined a one day tour to Tangier, Morocco, North Africa as part of our vacation in Costa del Sol in October, 2000. With this visit we could claim that we have been to the Continent of Africa. It was a beautifully organized tour and is described below by a writer from the Spanish tourism department:

"From the most southern point of Spain (Tarifa), Morocco is only 14 kilometers away. On most days you can see the mountains at the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar very clearly, and at night you see the lights of the houses. Being so close to Spain, Morocco Tourism is very tempting. Especially because it’s not only another country, but even another continent.

There are several options to a Morocco Tourism visit, one of them is booking a daytrip from Tarifa to Tangier( this is the one we took). There are two excursions to Tangier every day, starting at 9am and 11.00am, and cost 56 euro (ferry, guide, bus and lunch included). Tickets are sold at the office of FRS or at Marruecotur, both near the Paseo de la Alameda in the centre of Tarifa. The excursion starts in the port of Tarifa. Here you cross the Spanish border and get on the boat, a fast ferry that brings you in 35 minutes to Tangier. As there is a time difference between Morocco and Spain of 2 hours (in summer), you arrive in Morocco either around 7.45am or 9.45am.

Morocco Tourism for the first time is quite impressive. Not so much because of the beauty of the landscape (the skyline of Tangier is not very special), but more for the complete different culture and language. There are two different ideas about the origins of Tangier, the Berber and the Greek. According to the Berber legend, Tangier was founded following the return of a dove from the Arch of Noah with soil in its claws, indicating that there was a new world – Tanja in Berber language. The Greek version states that Tangier derives from the name “Tingi”, daughter of the giant Anthee. For the ancient Greek authors Tangier was “the most beautiful city of the known world, a region of gods where the men are the tallest and most beautiful that one can find.” If this is (still) true, you have to decide for yourself. Because of its geographical situation Tangier has always been the door to Africa. For a long time it used to be an important international meeting point, until it became stronger attached to Morocco".



"Once you have arrived in Morocco, a bus drives you from the port to the old town. The old town is surprisingly similar to a lot of old towns in Andalucian cities. At the entrance there is an old arc, after which you find a labyrinth of small streets, small houses, ancient buildings, a castle and small typical shops. Most of the shops appear to be there for tourists only, during the tour you’ll visit some of them. The shop owners are not too shy to sell you all their merchandise on the streets, of course for “a very special price” (which drops rapidly if you don’t show any interest). Also included in the tour is a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. They serve traditional food and at the end you’ll get a traditional Moroccan tea. It´s questionable if it´s really a traditional restaurant, as it seems to run on tourists only, but at least the food is good".

"After a stroll through the old town, you get a chance to have a look at the new town. This part of Tangier appears to be quite modern, with big buildings, broad streets and larger, more modern shops. A visit to the outskirts of Tangier is included as well. Big houses with big fences dominate the scene, so probably the rich are living here. You also get the opportunity to ride a camel, on payment of a few euros. The whole tour takes about 7 hours".

My Personal Note: Walking on the narrow cobblestone streets of the Medina (Old Town) in Tangier was not easy. Street peddlers hustle you all day. They sell all kinds of trinkets that will challenge even an experienced bargain hunter like me. However, I had my good buy of the day on this tour. I saw a mineral stone ( similar to the one you see in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC) that aroused my attention. The asking price was 3000 pesetas. I bargained 500 pesetas. As expected I received a groaning response from the peddler( a man in his late 20's) that I am too cheap and should be ashamed for bargaining too low. I just smile and ignored him. The peddler keep up on following me until lunch time when the price went down to 2000 pesetas. I said no and stuck to my original bargain. I totally forgot about this haggling episode, when out of no where the peddler accosted me again and lowered the price to 1000 pesetas. I said no deal until the price went down to 700 pesetas. Three hours later as I was stepping on the bus on our way home, the peddler gave up. He gave the mineral stone to me as I handed him the 500 pesetas from the window of the bus. I certainly had a grand time in this haggling process.
We did visit a carpet shop, but I was not in the mode of bargaining. In addition if we buy a carpet, it will be bulky to carry around, although they can shipped your purchase to the US with a ridiculously high fees.

Macrine on the other hand is not a bargain hunter or haggler. Her best purchase was what they called the "Moroccan Gold". It is the most expensive spice in the world.
It is SAFFRON. The powder looks light reddish brown, but when you add water it turns yellow, just like the color of TUMERIC, another spice. You need only a very small amount for cooking paella and other Spanish or Filipino dishes like the ginat-an na manok sa gata (chicken in coconut milk) of Marinduque-one of my favorite Filipino dish. Saffron is very expensive, so most cooks used a cheaper substitute, the TUMERIC or "dilaw" in Marinduque.


A snake Charmer in Action

Note: This is No.4 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Day Tour of the Rock of Gibraltar



Our tour started from our vacation resort( Four Seasons Country Club)in Marbella.
The minibus started along the Costa del Sol and ends at La Linea de la Conception, the border of Gibraltar. The tour included a winding minibus drive to the top of the Rock along the Europa Point and the Galleries. The view of the city and the strait from the top was fantastic. Since I had a fear of heights, I did not look down to see the view. Our visit to the St. Michael Caves and Underground Church and the Barbary Apes Reserve were the highlights of this tour. According to our guide they have concerts inside the cave and the sound is stereophonic. At the end of the tour there was plenty of time to do some duty-free shopping in the many duty-free shops.
We had a typical English lunch of Fish and Chips. The lunch for two cost us $19 ( US) dollars. Gibraltar merchants will accept either US dollars ,British pounds, or Spanish pesetas. Good buys are spirits, tobacco, perfumes, gold jewelries and Lladro sculptures.

Gibraltar is a huge rock found to the south of Spain. The region belongs to the United Kingdom. On one side there is the Bay of Algeciras, and on the other the Mediterranean Sea. Gibraltar borders the town of La Linea de la Concepción, part of the county of Cádiz. The Rock of Gibraltar is the most famous rock in the world.
Gibraltar is situated at the southern end of Europe with a land frontier to Spain on its northern front. It sits at the joining of the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea.


The stretch of water that separates Gibraltar from north Africa is called the Strait of Gibraltar and throughout history has played a strategic part in battles fought and won to control the western Mediterranean seaways. In ancient times Gibraltar was one of the Pillars of Hercules. It was known to the Greeks as Mons Calpe, the other pillar being Mons Abyla on the Moroccan side of the Strait. Gibraltar marked the limit to the known world.


Intrinsically linked with the sea, Gibraltar is one of the busiest ports of call in the Mediterranean. It is also a stepping stone for immigrants all over the world through Africa and finally going to Europe.

Note: This is No.3 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places outside the US that Macrine and I had visited since 1960. This vacation was part of our International Interval Exchange Package in the Fall of 2000.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Malaga, Marbella and Costa del Sol and Vicinity, Spain

Marbella Sea Side

Macrine and I visited the Costa del Sol area of Southern Spain, Marbella, Malaga and vicinity in 2000. We spent one week( October 5 to 13) in this coastal area of Spain. This was again through our International Interval Exchange Vacation Package. This is a time sharing experience that beats them all! Not even Cancun, Mexico or San Juan, Puerto Rico could equal the sights, sounds, the history and grandeur of the Costa del Sol area of Southern Spain. Our one week stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Country Club, in Marbella was not enough. We were joined midweek by our daughter Ditas and niece, Ella Lazarte from US. The highlights of our one week stay were the three one day tours that we took as follows:


1. Granada City Tour with Lunch with a visit to the Alhambra Castles and Gardens
This tour included a short driving tour of Malaga and passed by the bull ring staduim. On the way to Granada, we enjoyed the sights of almond and citrus trees and olive plantation. It also included a lunch for two. At that time it cost us 8500 pesetas ( exchange rate at that time was 170 pesetas equals $1). To me this is a bargain, since I do not have to drive or rent a car ($70 per day for car rental). In addition, the tour guide knowledge of the area help you appreciate the tour more. We met another American couple during this tour. Most of the tourists are English or Germans with a few Americans.


2. One Day Tour of Gibraltar, including a winding ride to the Top of the Rock with the Barbary Apes and St. Michael Cave and some free duty shopping (For details see Article No.3)

3. One Day Tour of Tangiers, Morocco, highlighted by shopping and a Moroccan lunch and a ride on a German Hydrofoil yatch across the Gibraltar Strait. (For details see Article No. 4).

The Spaniards were very friendly, and very willing to help and answer questions of tourists. With my knowledge of Spanish, I felt home right away. My maternal ancestry and roots in Spain made me want to return and perhaps stay a little while longer. One week is indeed not enough to really savour the delights of Southern Spain.

The food specially seafoods( paella), wines and pastries were delicious and served promptly with gusto. The resort personnel were very helpful in arranging taxi service, tour planning, tickets confirmation, wake-up calls and other services. Someday, I like to go back to Spain and perhaps visit Seville, Cordoba and Barcelona. Here's a short video about Malaga.



Málaga (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmalaɣa]) is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,305 in 2009, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in the country. This is the southernmost large city in Europe. It lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean Sea, about 100 km (62.14 mi) east of the Strait of Gibraltar and about 130 km (80.78 mi) north of Africa.
Málaga enjoys a subtropical climate. Here are the warmest winters in Europe, with average temperatures above 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) during the day in the period December to February. The summer's season lasts about 8 months, from April to November, although also in December and March sometimes there are temperature above 20 °C (68.0 °F). Málaga, together with adjacent towns and municipalities such as Rincon de la Victoria, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Alhaurin de la Torre, Mijas and Marbella, forms the Málaga metropolitan area, with a population of 1,046,279 according to 2009 data.

Marbella

Marbella is a city in Andalusia, Spain, by the Mediterranean, situated in the province of Málaga, beneath La Concha mountain. In 2000 the city had 98,823 inhabitants, in 2004, 116,234, in 2010 circa 135,000.

Marbella and the nearby Puerto Banús are important beach resorts of the Costa del Sol. Marbella is a popular destination for tourists from Northern Europe, including the UK, Ireland and Germany as well as the US.

The area around Marbella is particularly popular with those who like golf. Marbella also hosts a WTA tennis tournament on red clay, the Andalucia Tennis Experience

Would you believe that Marbella and the whole Costa del Sol area is littered with Chinese restaurants? Across the bridge from the Four Seasons are two Chinese restaurants. Ditas and Ella were dying to have chinese food after their two weeks sojourn in the interior of Morocco (Fez). One day, while we were in downtown Marbella, I talked to a Chinese lady. She said there is a labor organization in Spain that imports Chinese waitresses and cooks to serve in 6-months rotation at restaurants in several cities of Spain and Italy. It sounds like the Philippines OFW ( Overseas Filipino Workers) program.

Note: This is No.2 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.
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