Catanduanes: Raising its happiness index via abaca farming

The tourism tag ‘Happy Island’ suits the province of Catanduanes to a T. It is blessed with unspoiled beaches, rolling terrain, and many idyllic spots that continue to attract foreign and domestic visitors. Its latest tourism figures showed an increase of 11.31% from 2016 to 2017 driven by visitors seeking new travel experiences.

Catanduanes also takes pride in being the country’s top producer of abaca. The Bicol region contributes about 40% of the roughly $130.3 million annual abaca exports to major global markets. At least 90% of the regional share comes from the rich soils of The Happy Island.

Abaca has been traditionally turned into twine, cordage, textiles, and handicrafts. Its more modern applications now include manufacturing various items such as automotive parts, paper and currency notes, and many fashion and lifestyle products.

The quest for organic and eco-friendly raw materials has further contributed to the preference for abaca over synthetic materials. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) has recently developed a technology that combines abaca and resin to form a composite that is lightweight, cheap, and corrosion-resistant. ITDI used this technology to form the roof and sidecar of a motorized tricycle to demonstrate the unique qualities of the composite.

The global demand and prospects are obviously huge; but the challenges faced by abaca industry players in meeting this demand are equally daunting. There has to be massive expansion and rehabilitation of abaca farms throughout the country. The aging population of abaca farmers needs to be addressed by encouraging the younger generations and convincing them that farming can be profitable. Economic losses have been reported owing to low productivity and deteriorating fiber quality resulting from viral-borne plant diseases. Thus, new methods are needed to improve not only the yield but also the quality of the fiber.

banner.jpgDuring the recently held Abaca Festival in Virac, Catanduanes, local farmers had a chance to convene with Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and Mr. Kennedy Costales, Executive Director of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), for vital updates affecting their trade. In this gathering, 107 farmers from the 11 municipalities of the province were awarded cash incentives to help rebuild abaca farms that were devastated by Typhoon Nina in 2016. The awarding was part of the PhP50-million ‘Cash for Work’ program set by the Department of Agriculture aimed to gov cuabenefit around 15,000 Catandunganon farmers.

For his part, Governor Cua assured the farmers of government support in propping up abaca planting in Catanduanes while reminding them of the need to improve the quality of their produce. Noting the loss of interest in farming among millennials, he said that initiatives are being taken to make farming easier, requiring less brawn activity, but with the potential for workers to rake in decent income.

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Ceremonial awarding of cash incentives

 

Representing PhilFIDA, the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture tasked with developing and sustaining the fiber industry in the country, Executive Director Kennedy Costales cited the latest initiatives to double, even triple, the country’s abaca output in the following years. As stated on its official website, PhilFIDA “pursues a range of programs particularly for the development of disease-resistant and high-yielding planting materials, sustainable disease management program, improved fiber extraction machines and the acquisition of sustainability certification for the production of high-quality abaca fibers.”

Director Costales reiterated PhilFIDA’s vision to mechanize abaca production in Catanduanes and the rest of the country. Additionally, in the next few years, abaca farmers in the province will be organized into cooperatives to be run corporate-style by professional management teams.

This is the core of the Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project (ATBSP), a new trading system meant to eliminate the traditional “all-in” buying scheme where unorganized farmers sell their produce in an individual and fragmented manner. The farmers are at the losing end of this arrangement, as the grades and standards of abaca are applied only at the level of the Grading and Baling Establishments (GBE), who get the premium for high-quality fibers. The farmers are thus constrained from improving the yield and quality of their products.

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Given the same grade of abaca, the machine-stripped fiber tends to be whiter, finer, and more lustrous than the hand-stripped fiber

The ATBSP aims to improve the marketing arrangement by clustering farmers into cooperatives with 50 to 100 members each. The project takes half the burden off the farmers’ back by simplifying abaca processing from the traditional 12 steps down to 6, allowing farmers to focus on the quality of the fiber. They will be trained in all aspects of production, including warehousing and fiber trading, grading and classification of fibers that meet market standards.  “This shifts their mindsets from being mere farmers to being entrepreneurs,” says Dir. Costales. The cooperatives will handle the rest of the steps, including stripping the fibers using spindle-stripping machines, drying, classifying, bundling, and selling the fibers in bulk directly to GBEs and local processors.

The farmers present were then shown how a  spindle stripping machine works. Compared to hand-stripped abaca fibers, which are coarse and priced at PhP55.00 per kilo, fiber produced mechanically are of higher quality and can be bought at PhP110.00 per kilo on average.

 

A ceremonial turnover of heavy equipment (a 6-wheeler and a 10-wheeler), a forklift, weighing scales, among others, to the Pinoy Lingap-Damayan Credit Cooperative (PLDC) capped the day’s event. These were funded by the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Earlier this year, Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento, Representative of the lone district of Catanduanes, filed House Bill No. 7369, declaring the province as the Abaca Capital of the Philippines. The Bill seeks to promote and support the abaca industry in the province, while safeguarding it from destruction caused by plant diseases and calamitous events.

The Bill also stipulates the creation of an Abaca Research and Development Center attached to the Catanduanes State University – College of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Center shall conduct researches and studies on the development, production, management, and marketing of abaca fiber; provide technical assistance and support to abaca farmers; and develop technologies beneficial to the abaca industry.

Favorable events are coming together for the benefit of the soil tillers and the parahagot (abaca strippers) of Catanduanes. It’s about time they got their share of good cheer on The Happy Island.

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Three enchanting islands, one fine day

Sometime in November last year, we took a trip to Busuanga, one of the roughly 1,780 islands that make up the archipelagic province of Palawan. It was meant to give us a taste of paradise in what is known as the “Last Ecological Frontier of the Philippines.”

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Coron Westown Resort. Our mid-range accommodation for this tour.

From the Busuanga airport, we took a 45-minute ride to Coron, a municipality and fishing village that serves as the jump-off point to various other surrounding island destinations. It is not to be mistaken with Coron Island, the third-largest island in the province where tourists go to dive and view Japanese ship wrecks.

Confused already? You might find some helpful clarifications on this page.

I will not even try to describe the lovely islands we visited. Unfortunately, not even the photos we took could do justice to some of the most beautiful places on this side of the world. The feeling of being in, and living, those blissful moments was simply beyond words.

First stop: Bulog Dos.

Bulog means bald head, which is what the island looks like from a distance. Why Bulog Dos? Because there is Bulog Uno 🙂 . Which was not part of our island-hopping tour.

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The sandbar seen from the viewing deck

Next: Banana Island

Nope, no bananas here. But why the name? The island is shaped like a banana fruit from afar. I stand corrected: we had bananas brought in to complete the bountiful lunch served by the tour operator.

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Last stop: Malcapuya Island

The tour guide shared that Malcapuya is of Hispanic origin and roughly means ‘a beautiful woman with bad attitude.’

A woman or an island blessed with such beauty could, perhaps, be forgiven for having a ‘bad’ attitude. Malcapuya has often been reviewed as a smaller, but even better version of Boracay because of its cleaner beaches.

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But maybe not for very long. The property is now owned by the same developer of Boracay Regency Hotel and changes may be seen within the next five years.

Three grades of Malcapuya sand: (1) Fine…

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(2) Finer…

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(3) Finest.

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Please click here for more photos.

The Philippines now has 7,641 islands to explore, with roughly 1,780 located in Palawan alone. So many attractions. So little time.

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A new ‘project’ on the Taft block

 

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It opened barely a week ago but it’s already threatening to steal some business from foreign brands Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, at least in the millennials area of Vito Cruz/Taft Avenue.

The Coffee Project is the latest business meant to complement the other ventures of All Value Holdings Corp. owned by Senator Manny Villar. Earlier Coffee Project shops opened only last year in different parts of Metro Manila and in the Villar-owned Vista Malls in Sta. Rosa, Antipolo, Pampanga, and Bataan. With capitalization of PhP240 million, it hopes to complete at least 20 projects by end of 2017.

Check out why The Coffee Project is billed the most Instagrammable café in the metropolis.

when all else fails

start your day

no one gets hurt

your monday be short

 

There’s a nook to suit your every mood.

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bike corner

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way up

More to see on the upper level but they will have to wait till my next visit.

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Enjoy your coffee with this  ceiling  art above your head.

 

And ‘hugot’ lines aplenty.

love is all you need

hello goodbye

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your ex

View more photos here.

 

 

 

25 Years of Ibalong Festival

(This article written in September 2016 is in the April 2017 issue of Travel Plus magazine)

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National Heroes Day has a special meaning for the people of Legazpi City in Albay.  Around this day they relive the story of the three legendary heroes of Bicol, which was once known as Ibalong.

The Ibalong Festival, as conceptualized in 1992 by then Legazpi City Mayor Imelda Roces, was meant to break away from the usual themes of local festivals. Festivals in the Philippines are generally religious in nature, stemming from the centuries-long Spanish Christianization of the archipelago. Others are agriculture-inspired to celebrate bountiful harvests, while others are historical, as a throwback to important events in a town.

The Ibalong Festival was created to revive Ibalong, a 60-stanza epic poem transcribed by a Franciscan friar from tales sung by a bard named Kadunung.  The original Spanish text could no longer be found, but portions of it were said to have been copied by Fray Jose Castaño and were later compiled by Wenceslao Retana who included them in the book Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino in 1895. The untitled and unfinished manuscript got its title Ibalong from the renowned propagandist and essayist Jose Ma. Panganiban.

The legend has it that a long time ago, a brave man named Baltog came upon a rich land called Ibalong. Back then, monsters lived in the dark forests, but Baltog chose to stay and cultivate the fields. The giant wild boar Tandayag saw the fields and destroyed the crops with its long fangs. In retaliation, Baltog patiently looked for the boar and broke its monstrous jawbones, killing it in combat.

The epic hero Baltog and the boar monster Tandayag in mortal combat

The epic hero Baltog and the boar monster Tandayag in mortal combat

Years later, another fearless warrior named Handyong came to Ibalong. Handyong and his men fought several menacing creatures including a three-headed monster and giant flying sharks. The toughest of them all was a she-serpent named Oriol. Endowed with a beautiful voice and the ability to change her appearance, Oriol was a difficult prey. In the end, she was captivated by Handyong’s bravery and chose to help him conquer the other monsters. Thus, peace came to Ibalong.

Tribesmen go down on their knees in the presence of a winged monster

Tribesmen go down on their knees in the presence of a winged monster

Under the leadership of Handyong, Ibalong saw a golden era where slaves and masters were treated equally. It was also a period of important inventions of tools used in farming, weaving, and writing.

But then a big flood, strong earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions hit Ibalong. A new monster, named Rabot, who had the power to turn his foes into rocks also appeared. Conquering this beast fell on the hands of Bantong, a friend of Handyong. Knowing that Rabot slept during the day and roamed about at night, he waited until the monster was sound asleep. At the right moment, he killed the beast with his sharp bolo.

With Rabot’s death, Ibalong regained peace and became the prosperous land it is now.

The tribesmen celebrate after their hero triumphs over their enemy

The tribesmen celebrate after their hero triumphs over their enemy

Ibalong Festival goes silver

On its 25th staging this year, the month-long festival culminated in a street parade and dance competition that attracted 11 schools from Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Sur. Only six schools, however, competed for the championship in this year’s streetdancing presentations. After regaling the spectators with its interpretation of the epic tale, Tiwi Central School was judged Grand Champion and went home with the cash prize of PhP300,000 plus trophy. Cash prizes were also awarded to the Best Epic Hero, Best in Costume and Props, Best in Dancing, and Best in Music and Sound.

Keeping in step with the Ibalong music

Keeping in step with the Ibalong music

A tribal muse clad in costume made of native materials

A tribal muse clad in costume made of native materials

High energy levels and bursts of colors marked each presentation

High energy levels and bursts of colors marked each presentation

Pretty maidens in whimsical costumes

Pretty maidens in whimsical costumes

A showdown of heroes. Competition for the best epic character

A showdown of heroes: Competition for the best epic character

Bicolandia: The myth versus reality

Reliving a legend that is more mythical than historical may seem incongruous for a bustling capital that brands itself as The City of Fun and Adventure. As the largest city in the Bicol region, Legazpi City blends modernity with old town charm, which is a rarity these days. Swanky malls stand close to each other in the central business district. Several colleges and universities here give the city that exuberant air. One gets that breezy feeling, too, while navigating the long stretch of Legazpi Boulevard with its numerous restos and many other fun places.

Yet, one does not have to go very far from the city to enjoy nature at its best. Those seeking adventure will find its many forms here. Sea, sand, hills, lakes, and caves. Forests and falls, too. And of course, anywhere you are in Albay, the majestic Mount Mayon is an awe-inspiring presence.

In a place and time where technology is both a major pursuit and conveyance, storytelling and folklore may be regarded as dying, if not lost arts. Despite this scenario, the epic story of Ibalong lives on, not only through characters in whimsical costumes and pulse-raising music, but more importantly through the hardy character of a people that have had to face storms, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions in recent times—and still have managed to be their own heroes. Legazpi City is officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the Philippines, where everyone is safe from both natural and man-made calamities.

That is a feat that would have made Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong very proud.

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CIA: “We Care about Catanduanes”

(An edited version of this article is in the March 13th issue of The Philippine Star (Good News section, page B9)

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First off, this is not about intelligence work and covert activities done in the interest of US national security.

CIA, Inc. is the Catanduanes International Association, a non-profit organization composed of former or current residents of an island province in the Bicol region, along with their relatives and friends. This umbrella organization encompasses different chapters all over the USA and Canada, each of which undertakes projects that benefit kababayans back home. CIA has adopted for its main project the conduct of medical missions once every three years to render free health services and relief distribution to underprivileged Catandunganons.

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The CIA banner hanging on storm-battered trees: “like a rainbow after the rain.”

The avowed objective to help medically deprived province mates traces its roots to a moving scene many years back on the island. Dr. Virgilia Guerrero was then practicing her profession in a rural area in Catanduanes and among her first patients were a mother and child. After consultation, the mother sheepishly admitted that she had no money to pay for her services. Instead she handed the doctor some eggs and bananas as token payments.

The encounter left such an impression on Dr. Guerrero and her husband, Engr. Jose Guerrero. The memory refused to go away and even went with them when they migrated to the US.

In Chicago where the Guerrero couple settled, Engr. Guerrero dreamed of having one organization that would bring together fellow Catandunganons on a bigger scale than the ones already existing in the ‘80s, and which have already adopted their own programs. The Catanduanes Association of America Illinois Chapter was launched in 1989, a bold first step towards the consolidation that was his end objective.

After years of networking — appealing to and convincing other groups on the merits of going international, which was no mean feat given the hectic pace in the US – Engr. Guerrero saw his dream scenario. CIA, Inc. was formally launched during the first grand reunion of Catandunganons held at Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Illinois, with Engr. Guerrero himself as its first president.

Lydia T. Mendez, CIA Chairman of the Board, recalls that the first medical mission in Catanduanes in 1993 had only eight members. Compared to the more than 200-strong contingent of medical practitioners and volunteers that came this year, it speaks not only of the dynamic growth of the association but also of its unquestionable impact on both the organizers and the beneficiaries of its programs.

The 9th Medical and Humanitarian Outreach Mission held recently in Catanduanes clearly shows that, indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To raise funds for the project, the charter member organizations put in their share, monetary or otherwise, to purchase the required medical supplies and equipment. An online fundraising campaign started by CIA Treasurer Franklin Enriquez underscored the need for more support in light of the devastation caused by super typhoon Nina on the island.

Much earlier, current CIA President Dr. Oscar Enriquez had been networking with family and friends and traveling all over the US to solicit financial assistance. One important family occasion, the 90th birthday of his mother, doubled as a fundraising event, with guests encouraged to support the mission in lieu of birthday gifts. Dr. Enriquez also parlayed his professional influence into purchasing tons of medicines and necessary supplies at great savings.

Dolly Dalusong, Chair and Overall Coordinator of this year’s medical mission took the same route. She organized and attended numerous social/fundraising events to touch base with fellow Catandunganons and channeled every possible group she is affiliated with – personal, professional, civic, academic, religious – to raise the wherewithal. All for the mission.

In what appears to be a case of good intentions attracting similar interests, CIA learned about the efforts of Global Caring Foundation (GCF), an Arizona-based philanthropic group, to fulfill the needs of underserved populations and healthcare providers from around the world. An earlier plan of the GCF to conduct a mission in another Asian country fell through but opened up an opportunity for a link-up with CIA. After a series of talks between officials from both sides facilitated by Catandunganon nurses Tess Baylon and Wendy Tee, a collaboration was worked out and the foreign delegation grew even bigger with over 30 volunteers from GCF.

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Some of the 200+ CIA volunteers who participated in the mission

Last February 6 to 10, CIA and GCF, along with their local counterparts from the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) led by Hospital Chief Dr. Vietrez Abella, ministered to the needs of hundreds of beneficiaries coming from different municipalities. Volunteers assigned in the triage area went to work even before their appointed time as patients from remote towns had to travel as early as 3:00 am to reach the EBMC grounds. Depending on their health needs, the patients were referred to different sections, including dental, ophthalmology/optometry, lab screening, pediatrics, pharmacy, minor surgery, among others.

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Early birds waiting to be listed on the first day of the mission.

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At the triage area

Just as busy were volunteers assigned to the areas designated for the distribution of clothing, rice, canned goods, toys, school supplies, shoes and slippers, and eyeglasses. Drawing and coloring activities kept the children occupied; that is, if they were not lining up for either ice cream or hot meals. In the Soup Kitchen, they were reminded to practice proper hygiene by washing their hands before eating, and to say thank you after receiving their soup bowls.

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A scene at the soup kitchen

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At the relief goods distribution area

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Someone is happy with his new toy

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Ice cream treat from a volunteer

Each day started with a mass and ended with a critique meeting. Meals and snacks for the medical team and volunteers were sponsored by kind-hearted supporters from the local government and the private sector. Governor Joseph Cua, ARDCI, Virac Mayor Sammy Leynes, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, and Mrs. Concepcion Co hosted dinners for the mission participants.

In recognition of the artistry of the Catandunganons, CIA, with the help of local culture advocates organized “Catanduanes Got Talent” on Day 3. Contestants were pitted against each other in a showdown that demonstrated their singing, dancing, and other innate or honed talents, for attractive prizes, of course. The mission was refreshingly not just for the sick and impaired.

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Volunteer doctors at work…

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… and having fun on the dance floor during the dinner hosted by Gov. Joseph Cua

During the Governor’s Night Dinner, Vice Governor Shirley Abundo likened the 9th Medical Mission to a “rainbow after the rain,” while Governor Joseph Cua considered it a “celebration of kindness and generosity.” In response, CIA President Oscar Enriquez quoted Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta): “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

In the pediatrics section where this writer pitched in as interpreter for the American doctors who could not understand Filipino or the local dialect, and for the patients who could not speak English, I witnessed this spirit of caring and empathy up close. Jamelah Tucker, a pediatrician from Florida tended to her young, sometimes agitated patients with utmost grace and compassion. She also shared this insight: “We spent so much time learning what we need to know about child care, so sharing our knowledge is not a bother at all. We will be there wherever children need help.”

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The pediatrics section had the longest lines each day

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Dr. Jamelah Tucker, a volunteer pediatrician

From what I’ve seen, it wasn’t a one-way street. I stood speechless at the sight of a young girl, about three years old, who came running with outstretched arms in the direction of a teen-aged American volunteer. As they embraced each other tightly, the smiles on their faces told a tacit tale of two sisters from different mothers connected by the spiritual act of giving and receiving – with both of them deeply enriched by the connection made possible by one humanitarian endeavor.

Dr. Oscar Enriquez, (center)  receiving the approved Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution commending the officers, members, and volunteers of CIA, Inc. for conducting its 9th Medical Mission in Catanduanes.jpg

Dr. Oscar Enriquez (center) receiving the approved Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution commending the officers, members, and volunteers of CIA for holding the 9th medical and humanitarian mission in Catanduanes. (Photo by PIA Catanduanes)

Please click here to view more photos of the 9th CIA medical and humanitarian outreach mission.

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Anilag Festival: Celebrating the Bountiful Harvests of Laguna

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I made a quick trip to Laguna on March 8 in line with my determined search for sources of a specific type of woven native bags. When a side trip to Legazpi City and  messages to possible sources from different places didn’t yield positive results, I decided to check out Anilag Festival, a week-long harvest festival in Laguna province. I read that one of the towns in the province takes pride in being the essential source of woven products made of pandan, including bags, hats, mats, and various other crafts.

Some factoids about the festival:

  • Anilag is short for “Ani ng Laguna,” meaning harvests of Laguna. It is a week-long celebration that features the bountiful agricultural produce of the province.
  • It is held in March every year in Sta. Cruz, the capital town of Laguna.
  • It was first held in 2004 and was initially called “La Laguna Festival” in celebration of Laguna’s Foundation Day and to promote its products, delicacies, and cultural/historical/tourist attractions.

The road trip proved to be a wonderful way of discovering that there is more to Laguna than just its famous puto biñan, buco pie, and Pagsanjan Falls.

This year’s trade fair booths unveiled some interesting discoveries.

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Bay (pronounced bah-eh) is a town known for its gardens and ornamental plants. Its name was said to come either from the word baybay, a reference to the shore of the lake, or babaylan, a reference to a priestess. The town is situated along the shores of Laguna de Bay.

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Biñan is the trading and center of commerce of the South. The name of the place originated from the word “binyagan” (christened), which eventually evolved into Biñan.

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Calauan is touted as the Home of the Sweetest Pineapple, which can be tasted and tested during its Pinya Festival. The town got its name from the word kalawang, which means rust.

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The town of Cavinti got its name from the old tradition where the groom tries to catch the bride by her legs and the people shout the phrase “kabit sa binti,” later shortened to “Kabinti.”

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Liliw is the go-to place for locally made shoes and slippers. The town’s origin was said to have come from a bird chirping “liw, liw, liw.”

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Luisiana is a town famous for its tradition of weaving products made of pandan leaves. The town’s name was adopted in honor of the “father of the town,” Don Luis Bernardo and his wife, Doña Ana (Luis y Ana). The high elevation of the town generates a cooler climate than the other neighboring towns, which earned for it the monicker as The Little Baguio of Laguna.

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The Embroidery Capital of the Philippines, Lumban, is a town in Laguna where the finest traditional Filipino wear such as barong and Filipiniana ternos are made. The town’s name is believed to have come from the Lumbang tree.

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Paete is the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines. The town got its name from “paet,” which means chisel and continues to practice its old tradition of carving statues, murals, and furniture.

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The Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines, San Pedro, is the first city you’ll encounter on your trip to Laguna coming from Manila.

Please click here to view an old post on The Sampaguita Festival.

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Victoria is a municipality that offers some of the most exotic yet delicious dishes including goats’ and ducks’ meat, which earned for it the nickname the Duck Raising Capital of the Philippines. The town was named after President Quirino’s daughter, Victoria Quirino. Its Itik Festival is celebrated, along with the town’s founding anniversary, to give honor and to know more about the products that come from itik (duck).

View more photos of the trade fair here.

[Most of the information regarding the different towns of Laguna were taken from the biyaheng laguna page at http://www.biyahenglaguna.com/laguna-towns-and-cities/]

A Tea House Like No Other

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The Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple

Sometimes, when the fam craves “something different,” we usually take a short trike ride from our place to a Buddhist temple.

No, we’re not Buddhists nor vegetarians, but we know of  one place that serves good food minus the usual aromatics. Just simple and homey flavors in a quiet and comfortable dining atmosphere.

The WaterDrop Tea House is inside the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple across from Century Park Hotel in Malate, Manila. The thought of having olive fried rice and wintermelon tea here always makes me feel good. On our last visit, we decided to have those plus pumpkin soup (hotpot style), some tofu dishes and dimsum.

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WaterDrop Tea House

While waiting for our food, we did some table hopping not really to greet friends (there were just us and two complete strangers), but to read the information on laminated place mats on each table.  Some detail the origin of the tea house, while others contain thoughts and lessons on vegetarianism from Venerable Master Hsing Yun. Venerable Master Hsing Yun is a Chinese Buddhist monk and a proponent of humanistic Buddhism as taught by the Fo Guang Shan religious movement, which he founded.

The WaterDrop Teahouse was established based on the spirit of gratitude for the devotees and supporters of the temple. It was set up to promote gratitude in societies, and to improve human relationships through service and Buddha teachings. It is there not for business profit but to provide a convenient dining place for the public.

Here’s Master Hsing Yun’s take on vegetarianism.

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Other thoughts:

Excessive food consumption and supplements will lead to elevation of fat, blood sugar, and cholesterol, which would cause harm and increase burden to the body. Eating a simple meal lets one savor the flavor of the vegetables and enhances one’s temperament and endurance. If one wishes to attain longevity, one can try to be a vegetarian.

***

Western medicine has been strongly advocating the decrease in the consumption of meat. This is because meat consumption leads to fat and cholesterol deposit leads to hardening and clogging of the blood vessels. Eating vegetables can detoxify the body.

Can vegetarians eat eggs?

Eating or not eating egg is not a serious issue. It is the strict upholding of the precepts and the purity of the mind. Tibetan lamas usually include beef and lamb in the main dish. Similarly, the monasteries in Japan do not observe vegetarianism. There is no need to criticize certain groups of people about the issue of violation in eating unfertilized eggs. (Hurray for balut!)

There is also no need to deliberately boost or exaggerate about being a vegetarian.

Why having a bowl of compassionate porridge surpasses taking ginseng soup

Taking a bowl of compassionate porridge is more valuable than taking a bowl of ginseng soup, why? With the mind of compassion, humility, transference of merit, and making connection in taking the bowl of porridge, I vow to be grateful, do good deeds, cultivate, think of others’ interests and serve them. This bowl of porridge broadens the scope of my mind and purifies the inner self. It is more nutritious and meaningful than ginseng.

In the same light, he teaches that a cup of tea surpasses drinking ambrosia.

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A thought with no evil surpasses a sumptuous feast.

If your stomach does not have evil thought to inflict suffering and craft plots to harm others, then it is more beneficial to the body than eating a sumptuous feast. Sometimes, good fortune may turn into misfortune due to deviant views. Other times, misfortune may turn into good fortune due to righteous views. Therefore, if the mind is pure, it would certainly lead one to attain good fortune and distance from misfortune. A real tonic does not necessarily deal with food consumption or refer to food only. In a broader sense, one should take tonic that is beneficial to the inner self and the mind.

Very enriching food for thought. But then it was time for real food.

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The pumpkin soup, olive fried rice, and wintermelon tea were served first.

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Shortly after, the tofu dishes and dimsum

Anthony Bourdain himself said, “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”

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On the way out, one can sound this bell while making a wish at the Temple’s Wishing Pond.