Vew of Magsaysay St. From Coffee Cat, circa Feb’18

I went for a cup of coffee at Coffee Cat and decided to stay outdoor to enjoy the view of Magsaysay St. So I took pictures just to document the place.

Magsaysay St. facing West towards the former Shopping Center.

Magsaysay St. facing East towards the former town of Bacon. The Petron station is the original stations back in the 80s (there are only 4 of them back then).

Gaisano is sitting on a former Caltex or Shell gas station, one of the few gas stations in the former town.

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History and nature at the tip of Bicol

SORSOGON CITY — Located at the tip of Bicol Peninsula and serving as the region’s gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao, Sorsogon province is known for its rich history, natural scenery and a rich culture of mixed Bicolano and Visayan influences.

It boasts of a diverse heritage that has produced its unique food, historical places and character of its people.

Even the names of its towns evoke interest. For one, Barcelona has added appeal to tourists who know of its world-renowned namesake in Spain, according to Joyce Anne Licup-Gerona, its municipal tourism officer.

Before the Spanish colonizers called it Barcelona in 1886, it was known as Danlog.

Proof of the Spanish mold in the community is the presence of old churches, stone buildings and other magnificent structures, Gerona said.


Barcelona Church

St. Joseph Church, Barcelona, Sorsogon.

At the center is St. Joseph Church, also known as Barcelona Church. Constructed in 1874 during the term of Gobernadorcillo Juan Evasco, it has withstood time and the elements, its walls still in their original form.

The church is made of corals, plastered with the use of lime without cement and steel bars, Gerona said.

A christmas lantern is mounted on bamboo poles. Barcelona, Sorsogon, circa Dec’13.

Another surviving edifice is the Presidencia, which served as the seat of the then municipal government headed by the gobernadorcillo.

Another Spanish ruins just opposite the Barcelona Church. The author is not able to get the details of this structure.

“It was a fortress [to repel] pirates’ attacks, with an underground tunnel leading to the church across the street,” Gerona said. It was also used as garrison during the Japanese occupation and after the war, it was again used as the seat of the municipal government, she added.

Visitors are drawn to a structure known only as “stone building,” which was once a school for children of ilustrados, or wealthy families, during the Spanish era. Its colonial design is a popular backdrop for couples in prenuptial photo shoots.

Wireless connection is available in the church area. This picture is taken just the opposite side of the Barcelona Church. Circa Dec’13.

A modern lighthouse between the ruins is a treat for tourists. Erected in 1994 through a grant by the British government, it is solar-powered to send beams of light at night as navigational guide to ships.


Antique houses

OLD WORLD The ancestral houses of Juban give tourists a glimpse of 19th century Philippines. —MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

If Barcelona has amazing ruins, Juban town is proud of its century-old houses.

“We have 10 ancestral houses in our town and most of them are found south of the poblacion (town center),” said Maria Girlie Figueroa-Gonzalgo, municipal tourism officer.

The houses with Spanish and other European designs were built in the 18th century. Some owners have turned these into business establishments so they can raise funds for their maintenance and preservation.

Juban, whose name was derived from guguban, or a place with thriving Milipi Pili trees (bonsai-type of the pili tree), is also rich in seafood, such as crabs and alimusan (sea catfish), which is usually cooked in coconut milk.


Hot springs

Irosin town offers tourists several hot springs originating from Mt. Bulusan, an active volcano.

“The average temperature of water ranges from 60C to 70C. Many attest that it is a natural cure for sicknesses and ailments, such as arthritis, asthma and gout,” said Ronnie Aguilar, a provincial tourism guide. Tourists can take a dip for 2 to 10 minutes, depending on their tolerance for heat, to enjoy the springs’ therapeutic effects, he said.

Visitors can rent a boat and go around the lake.

Aside from being known as a volcano town, Bulusan is a popular destination for nature lovers, especially trekkers. Different species of trees surround the 16.43-hectare Bulusan Lake, the main attraction inside the 3,672-ha Bulusan Natural Park.

Visitors can take a hike around the Bulusan Lake.

One of the trails around the lake.

“It is considered a protected area. We are thankful because nongovernment organizations are helping preserve the flora and fauna (here),” said Nercis Huab, the lake’s operations manager.

Tourists can try kayaking for P100 for 30 minutes or cross a 340-meter hanging bridge, regarded as the longest of its kind in Bicol.

The famous Bulusan Lake. The volcano is on the background.


Farm of stingless bees

In Bulusan town, visitors get closer to nature at Balay Buhay sa Uma bee farm (top photo) and at Bulusan lake. —PHOTOS BY MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Residents are allowed to fish in the lake, but they must get only the grown tilapia and carp.

A tour of Bulusan would not be complete without interacting with thousands of stingless bees at a farm in San Roque village.

Sorrounded by flowering plants, the 3.5-ha Balay Buhay sa Uma has 825 colonies of bees, said Leony Gabiazo-Dominguez, 35, caretaker of the farm, which started in 2003.

“Tourists find the creatures very attractive. They are amazed because they are not harmful,” Dominguez said.

“The market is good because the honey and granules produced by bees is very in demand. It serves as a cure for allergy, asthma and best regarded as superfood,” she said.


Surfing capital

One of the locales showing off his surfing form along the coast of Gubat, Sorsogon.

The youngest surfing student.

In Gubat town, beginners in surfing from all over the world enjoy the crashing waves at Lola Sayong beach.

“Since we started surfing activity in 2008, thousands of tourists [came here and] learned the surfing basics,” said Rolly Escalaro, 33, a surf instructor.

John Erick Eva, 20, another instructor, said many foreign tourists would come because of the white, powdery sand. Entrance fee to the beach is P25 per person.

The surfing instructors are locales. Here’s one showing to the author’s wife how to getup on the surf board.

After trying water activities, trekking and nature adventures, it’s time for sumptuous meals along the boulevard, also known as Reompolas Baywalk, in Sorsogon City.

Tourists may savor authentic Bicol cuisine, mostly seafood, at affordable prices from stalls while enjoying the cool sea breeze.

It is also a perfect spot to watch the sunset.


The original article is published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 11, 2018. Additional pictures from the Blog collection has been added.

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Hamos, Taraguan?!

This week is a full moon. And while looking at the sky, I reminisced the time that we would go around in the neighborhood gathering friends to join tagu-taguan. When I was in elementary, I could stay until 7pm playing the said game; during high school (yes, I was playing the game during my mid-teens) I would play with friends until 10pm. Sometimes a few would simply go home because he (sometimes me) couldn’t find everyone despite of the full moon.

Kids wait for the full moon to play Taraguan (hide and seek). During those days, console games are non-existent and T.V. will only be available 25 years ago. Brgy. Capuy, circa Mar’18

We would normally take off our shirts to increase our chances of not getting caught quickly (those dark skinned friends would normally have an advantage). Bushes were everywhere so will just squeeze ourselves inbetween, or sometimes climb on the trees (the best part of this was one of my friends fell off on the ditch because the branch broke off), or sometimes one could squeeze himself under the car (dangerous but we were kids to realize how unsafe that was).

I grew up in which kids would play on the street. There was no computers then, neither TV soap. If you want to watch TV, you have to rent from F.E. Lee or Gamil’s. And even with the advent of family computer, our friends were still fond of street games.

Those were the days…

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From Velasco, to Jane’s, to…

Jane’s is one of the oldest establishments in Sorsogon. It started in plasa and moved to the former Velasco place. circa Nov’10

The author is in Sorsogon when he found this – apparently the Jane’s we know has moved a few meters to the North, almy Rizal Street.

The new location of Jane’s is a few meters from its old location. This new one is once occupied by Lagamayo.

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Sojourning in Sorsogon: The seductions of six natural attractions




January 7, 2018

The Bicol region’s allure is more than just its spicy food and the Mayon Volcano.From ridges to reefs, summits to seas, the province of Sorsogon has an array of attractions that best cater the dynamic topography of the region.

To kick-start your wanderlust this 2018, we dare you to visit these six destinations when you’re a nature lover in Sorsogon.

Paguriran Island’s lagoon features crystalclear waters where one can swim with fish

Bulusan Lake

Located in the heart of Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, the crater lake has such a quiet charm to it that you’d think you’ve been transported into another world. The water, placid and a glittering emerald, serves as a mirror for the thick forest that circle it. It lies at the foot of the active Bulusan Volcano and is home to many endemic species of freshwater fish. Jade Vine, a sought-after flower that can only be found in the Philippines, also blooms here. There is an entrance fee of P15 per person so one can get to enjoy kayaking, boating and trekking through the many forest trails in the park.

Malawmawan Island

One of the Scattered islands that dot the Sorsogon Bay is the Malawamawan Island (also spelled Malaumauan). This uninhabited island shaped like a tadpole boasts a stretch of pristine beach with chalky, ochre sands. The whole island can be explored in a single day and there’s a lot to see here. Aside from its pristine waters, migratory birds frequent the area so prepare for a bird show come dusk. Since people have yet to discover this destination, there’s a great chance you wouldn’t have to battle for space. To reach the island, head over to the port in the village of Macalaya in Castilla, Sorsogon. Boats can be chartered for P500 for a two-way trip.

Nasipit River

Nasipit River is one of the newest ecotourism destinations in the province of Sorsogon. Located in the town of Castilla, this tributary is part of the larger Dulangan-Nasipit-Pili estuary. This waterway runs along three villages: Poblacion, Libtong and San Isidro. It features a ribbon of cerulean for its waters, rich and teeming with the local shellfish called kunaw. Swarms of fireflies also frequent the mangroves that flank its banks—a sign of how pristine the place is. The outline of the Bulusan Volcano can also be seen in the distance. Cruising aboard a floating hut can be done here, as well as feasting on fresh sea hauls prepared by the locals.

Mount Pulog

Another one of Bacon’s contributions to Sorsogon’s horde of natural attractions is Mount Pulog (not to be confused with Mount Pulag). This hiking destination is part of Bicol’s Pocdol volcanic mountain range. It looms above all of Bacon (pronounced buh-kuhn), with the Pacific Ocean on one side. Its trail is barely touched, thick and overgrown with vegetation. The trees here are tall and various animal sounds can be heard along the trail. On its summit is a crater called danum by the locals. During the rainy season, danum gets filled with water. The locals believe that if the crater overflows, all of Bacon will be submerged. It takes about six hours to complete the backtrail of Mount Pulog. The trail head is at the upland village of Sta. Cruz.

Paguriran Island

A beautiful beach surrounded by pebbly, cream sands and crystalline waters lays nestled in the charming town of Bacon. Located in the village of Sawangga, the beach-cum-island offers a somewhat raw experience because of its almost bare shores. Cottages with thatched roof line are there, yes, but there are limited options for lodgings. Most opt for bringing a tent and camping under the stars. As for the “island,” it actually is lagoon rimmed with limestone formations set a few meters from the shores. Here, you can swim with colorful fish and do some cliff-diving. On a clear day, you get to stand on a sand bar that connects the lagoon to the beach. You might even get to see the Mayon Volcano in the background.

San Mateo hot and cold springs

Popular among both tourists and locals for its rumored healing waters, the springs of Irosin are fed by the active Bulusan Volcano. Since the waters are sulfuric, the place smells a bit like rotten eggs. But once you get in, you’d immediately forget about the odor and feel your ails flow away. The fact that these springs are nestled within a forest also doesn’t hurt. An entrance fee of P35 per head is collected to gain access to the springs. Cottages, bathrooms and changing rooms, a canteen and grilling stations are also available in the premises.

Original article can be found on this link.

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Need Help – Sorsogon Demonstration Center

I have been looking for information on Sorsogon Demonstration Center, aka Sorsogon Pilot Elementary School or SPES for students (at least during my time). My almamater, just like any other elementary schools founded by the Americans are full or history.

Half-built pedestrian overpass, linking the main area of Pilot School and its annex.

I did find a Facebook page, but it’s blank. Though I found a lead from this article, and might visit Sorsogon Musuem when I drop by in the city next time.

If anyone has related information, please send me an email.

Dios mabalos!

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The Proof is in the Pili

Most micro-entrepreneurs start their businesses with the mere hope of providing for their family’s daily needs. But to succeed at it—and be recognized for it—is often beyond their wildest dreams. At least this much is true for Merle Paete of Sorsogon province, who was named National Winner in the 2017 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.

CMA National Winner Merle Paete poses with the CMA program partner representatives and members of the National Selection Committee during the awarding ceremony held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last December 6. (From left) Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Imelda Nicolas, BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, Merle Paete, Aftab Ahmed, Marixi-Rufino Prieto, Jose Maria Concepcion III, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Citi Philippines Corporate Citizenship Officer Jacqueline Ampil. (MANILA BULLETIN)

Funded by the Citi Foundation, the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) program recognizes outstanding micro-entrepreneurs across the Philippines. The program, first launched in 2002—the same year Citi marked its 100th anniversary celebration in six Asian countries, including the Philippines—is a signature initiative of the Citi Foundation aimed at generating economic opportunities for low-income people including youth, around the globe.

The awards program provides entrepreneurs with resources to strengthen their business, including access to networks, capital, tools and training, and enables individuals to create economic sustainability for themselves, their families and their communities.

The CMA program highlights the combined efforts of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. to strengthen microfinance and enterprise development and financial inclusion in the country.

Nanay Merle, as she is fondly called, is a go-getter by nature. She traveled to Manila at a very young age to try her luck, but things did not go as planned. In 2002, after giving birth to her son, Nanay Merle went back home to Sorsogon and put up a sari-sari store business with only P2,000 capital. Her business was doing fairly well, but Nanay Merle, being the headstrong Bicolana she is, knew she was capable of doing more. This time, she didn’t have to travel far.

Looking around in her native hometown of Bacon, she saw potential in pili cultivation and woven mat making (“bariw”). In 2009, using her profit from the sari-sari store plus an initial loan of P5,000 from SEDP-Simbag sa Pag-Asenso, Inc., she went into the buy and sell business of pili nuts, and contracted members of her community to weave bariw.

In the process of cultivating pili, Nanay Merle discovered that oil could be extracted from the outer covering of the pili nut by boiling it in water. Pili oil or lana (pronounced la’-na’) is gaining steady interest in the local and global market.

Lana has medicinal qualities that help prevent wrinkles, treat skin conditions, regulate cholesterol levels, and aid in digestion.

Nanay Merle says the secret is in the processing of pili so that it maintains its quality. Not only did the addition of lana expand Nanay Merle’s product portfolio, it also ensured that no part of the pili fruit is wasted.

Nanay Merle’s winning product – lana (oil) extracted from pili pulp. (MANILA BULLETIN)

Almost a decade later, Nanay Merle now owns a three-hectare property with pili and coconut trees, and manages approximately 10 parcels of leased agricultural land. Her production numbers are impressive: on a monthly average, Nanay Merle can produce 195 kilos of pili nuts, about 20 bottles of pili oil, and 200 kilos of pili shells. Nanay Merle supplies pili nuts and pili oil to regular buyers, while an export-buyer purchases bariw on a regular basis. Her annual gross sales go as high as P1.4 million.

Nanay Merle credits her partnership with SEDP-Simbag for enabling her to make further improvements to her products, as well as professionalize her pili oil production.

“Ang pinakamalaking pagbabago sa buhay namin ngayon ay yung nakaahon na kami sa hirap (The biggest change in our life is that we are now out of poverty),” says Nanay Merle, who is now able to finance her son’s education and make improvements in their home. More people have come to know of her business and orders are steadily coming in.

But even with a business worth over P1 million today, Nanay Merle remains as dedicated to her business as she is to her community, whom she treats like family. Pili oil processors and weavers in her employ, who are also her neighbors and friends, receive monthly performance bonuses and groceries during the holidays in recognition of their hard work and support for the business.

Nanay Merle's microenterprise is a source of income to neighbors and friends who help her with pili oil processing and mat weaving. (MANILA BULLETIN)

At this point, Nanay Merle is showing no signs of stopping. Her mind is abuzz with plans for the future, including finding a stable market for pili oil and improving the technology for production. The award is the icing on the cake.

“Nung nalaman ko na nanalo ako [sa Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards], sobra akong naiyak. Sulit talaga ang paghihirap sa mga nakaraang taon (When I learned that I won at the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, I cried really hard. All the years of hard work are worth it),” Nanay Merle shares.

As CMA National Winner, Nanay Merle received P200,000 in cash as well as a laptop, basic computer literacy training, life and health insurance coverage for one year, and access to a nine-day entrepreneurship training program at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center. She also had the opportunity to share her success with the members of her community and fellow microentrepreneurs during a recently held town hall celebration.

Nanay Merle and seven other winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were chosen by a National Selection Committee jointly chaired by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla, Jr. and Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed.

The committee members are: Antonino Alindogan Jr., independent director, Philippine Airlines, Inc.; Jose Maria Concepcion III, Presidential Consultant on Entrepreneurship; Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairperson, SM Investments Corporation; Atty. Felipe Gozon, chairman and CEO, GMA Network, Inc.; Secretary Ramon Lopez, Department of Trade and Industry; Mary Ann Montemayor, Mindanao Private Sector Representative, National MSME Development Council; Imelda Nicolas, trustee, SPARK! Philippines; Marixi Rufino-Prieto, chair, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael Tan, chancellor, University of the Philippines; Orlando Vea, president, Voyager Innovations, Inc.; and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president, Ayala Corporation.

Original article can be found on this link.

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