Local Philippines Travel Stories

The Holy Week Moriones Festival 2011 - The Experience-It-All Guide

Moriones Festival is the coup of all festivals in the Philippines. The famous Moriones, meaning "mask" is the masked parade festival that remains as a must-see in the Philippines during the holy week- colorful, vivacious, meaningful and awe-inspiring. Travelers must have this week-long schedule guide so you do not miss it all!

Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 5:00 am Holy Mass. All churches in the island of Marinduque holds the first mass of the holy week. 6:30 am "Hosanahan". The first procession or parade of the festival, where everyone shows their decorated and elegantly cut palm fronds. 9:00 am Opening of Gasan Agro-Industrial Trade Fair '11, Guingona Park, Gasan. An agri-trade fair for all. A must if you are fond of nature and its bountiful products. See what the island can offer and perhaps you can score some goodies! If you are still in Guingona Park at night, you may catch a night of gospel songs specially prepared by the organizers. Holy Monday, April 18, 2011 7:45 am Registration of Morions. Tradition states that the morions, the masked and costumed participants to the festival should register in full costume, so head onto the nearest designated town center registration point to get early snapshots. The morion actors are very gracious and would enjoy posing for you! 8:00 am Depending on where you are: Community Parade of Costumes in Boac and Torrijos. Public officials gather in the town center clad in morion or biblical costumes. This isn't even the main event! Pabasa in Santa Cruz. The municipal lobby holds a lyrical sing-song reading of the passion verses. A curious Filipino way no tourist should miss. Lenten Parade in Buenavista. Government officals and morions from 15 towns gather for a marvelous parade. 10:00 am Marinduque Moriones Festival Trade Expo '11, Moriones Park, Boac Riverbank. The. Expo. To. Be. Products not only from Marinduque but also from all over the Philippines are shown, sold, highlighted and prized. Get your gift shopping done okay? Parada ng Morion in Boac Poblacion. Morions roam around in groups, just to get that feel of the Roman setting going. Get your cameras on ready! Pasyon Reading Contest, Buenavista Poblacion. If you have the guts and tone, then by all means, join. But watching is just as great. 7:00 pm Acoustic Bands, Morion Park. Jam and chill with acoustic bands specially set for those who love to stay up. Holy Tuesday, April 19, 2011 An all day parade for different groups. Catch one nearest you or follow them in a meaning full Visita Iglesia or station of the cross visit. 9:00 am Parade of Kapatirang Morion Group, Boac Poblacion. Morion by Morions from 15 barangays. Buenavista Poblacion Parade/Visita Iglesia of Legion Morion Group, St.Joseph Parish, Gasan Poblacion 10:00 am Parade/Visita Iglesia of MISTAH Morion Group, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Parish, Balanacan, Mogpog 1:30 pm Parade/Visita Iglesia of Legion Morion Group, St. Isidore Labradot Parish, Mogpog 2:00 pm Parade/Visita Iglesia of MISTAH Morion Group, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Malabon, Sta. Cruz 3:00 pm Parade/Visita Iglesia of MISTAH Morion Group, Holy Cross Parish, Sta. Cruz Poblacion 3:00 pm Parade of Kapatirang Morion Group, Boac Poblacion, and Legion Morion Group Holy Wednesday, April 20, 2011 1:00 pm "Maskara Mo, Kulayan Mo" (Mask painting), Boac Covered Court. Do not miss the mask painting event which showcases the new breed of creativity in the festival. You may even get one as a souvenir. 7:00 pm "Sinakulo". Moriones Arena, Boac Riverbank. A stage presentation of the Genesis to the Birth of Jesus by the concerted effort of the government and traditional cenakulistas. they hav been doing this for countless of years. Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011 7:00 am Visita Iglesia via Motor Bike. A chain of church visits by bike taking Boac-Gasan-Buenavista-Torrijos-Sta. Cruz-Mogpog Boac route. It is said that once you have completed a Visita Iglesia, a sole wish would be granted. 9:00 am Battle of the Morions, Moriones Arena, a judging of the best new inspired Morion costumes. Want to take pictures of Morions nobody has? This is it. At 2 pm, Morions are judged by their choreographed movements. Good Friday, April 22, 2011 9:00 am "Via Crucis" . The way of the cross re-enacted along the streets. This is one of the highlights of the festival so don't you dare miss it by oversleeping! 12:00 pm Tawak Drinking in Guingona Park. The ritual drinking of herbal potion that is said to be against poisonous bites. Take a shot! 2:00 pm Flagellantes Boac and Gasan cemeteries Parade. The world-famous self-flagellation parade. Witness this form of devotion and repentance. The re-enactment of the Christ's passion. Black Saturday, April 23, 2011 9:00 am Kite Flying Contest, Bangbang Rice Fields, Gasan. Fly a kite and perhaps battle with one or two. After this, many parades will be all aorund the island. 7:00 pm "Pugutan" in Guingona Park, Gasan or the Torrijos Covered Court. A stage presentation of the story of Longinus, the Roman soldier 9:00 pm "Sinakulo" Moriones Arena, Boac Riverbank. A stage presentation on the Resurrection. Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011 4:00 am "Salubong at Bati"/"Aleluyahan" in all town centers. A ritual dance celebrating the appearance of the Risen Christ. Bask in the merymaking. This is Easter after all. 7:30 am "Gasang-Gasang Easter Sunday Street-Dancing Festival" The street dancing festival to celebrate the risen Christ. And this is a competition no less, so expect some vigorous shaking down the street. 10:00 am "Traditional Pugutan" in Mogpog Covered Court and Coastal Park, Buenavista ,The time-honored show 10:00 am Boac Poblacion "EASTER EGG HUNTING AT THE PARK". Organized specifically for tourists but is welcome to all, this easter egg hunt will be giving away great prizes. After this you can go about snorkeling or swimming in the great Balanacan Harbor. Certainly there are a lot of events and sights here, so trust your local contact or even just a friendly neighbor about the local happenings, what to eat and what is not to be missed. Moriones Festival will rock your world, colorfully.

How To Get to Candelaria Zambales

(Prequel to the Amazing Potipot Island Adventure)

by Kti Alibanban

A week passed but I don't want to forget the memories, so here I am at an attempt of capturing what made my summer getaway this year so special.

I can't explain why I was so excited about this trip to Zambales, when the truth is, I've been there back in 2006. I remember few days before the actual date, I was counting the days religiously. I'm so looking forward to going to the beach. Maybe it's because it's been ages since I last went to the beach. And that I'm going to be in the company of really great people (in case my officemates will be reading). And the best thing about it is that it's free! (Duh, company outing.)


I'm a self-confessed beach person. I love it there. There's something about it that mesmerizes me, not that I was a mermaid or something in my past life but I have always been at awe with vast/endless waters and spectacular sunsets. I have always enjoyed the sand playing under my feet and the waves entertaining my eyes with its every movement. And Zambales, in all fairness, is a good place for my guilty pleasure.

So anyway, the day finally came! Of Re-routes and Stopovers

It was on a Friday. Right after work, the long wait of everyone, (okay, yes, let's keep it real - MY long wait) came to an end. Off to Zambales. From Makati, it's going to be a solid five hours of travel time to Candelaria. Candelaria is like a few towns before you reach another province -that is Pangasinan. Simply put, it's located at the far end stretch of Zambales!

Stop over number 1

We left Makati before 7PM and reached Quezon Ave at around 8:30 (don't be surprised, it was a Friday, traffic jam - at its finest) to fetch Miss Mylein and go get some snacks to eat along the way and other IMPORTANT beverages for the trip. After dinner, which was around 9:30 PM we hit the long road ahead.

Stop over number 2 At around 10 PM, we stopped at a gas station to pick up some more officemates. Stop over number 3/Re-route number 1

To cut the long travel story short, we were in Olongapo around 12AM. Oh did I mention, our van driver DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO GET TO CANDELARIA, ZAMBALES (good lord). So we were traveling along the high way with this instruction in mind: Once you're in Gapo Plaza, look for the Blue Jeepney and follow its route. That should lead you to the exact way to Candelaria.


For some weird reasons (like it's late in the night and this is a province, for crying out loud), we didn't see blue jeepneys anymore. We saw yellow and brown, but not blue. We just followed our instincts, an officemate's memory of being in Zambales for a couple of times already, and (we just found out) the ever-reliable GPS. We didn't rely on GPS initially. We went for human instincts but it brought us to a way leading back to Manila! Yup, after a long zig-zaggy road, we decided to ask for directions to Candelaria, only to find out we were cruising through the road heading back to Manila. Not good, I thought to myself, "There goes an hour of travel time."

We drove back to Olongapo, still weren't lucky to see any Blue Jeepneys, but now smarter to see the turn that we missed awhile back. And that the GPS was telling the truth after all, that we should have made our turn there. The thing is, we know that once you get that road, you'll just drive straight from there to go to Candelaria. No more turns, no more following blue jeepneys.


When we made that turn, we knew we were SAFE and that it only be a couple of hours more of turn-less drive and we'll GET to our destination. At least, we didn't have to go for Option B - that is, to just go back to Manila and wait till the morning for the other van that was suppose to bring batch 2 of our office mates (the one with the driver who knows the way) to Candelaria.

Stop over number 4/Re-route number 2

Moving on, we went through smooth driving, this time, the goal is to reach Iba, Zambales. Apparently, Iba would mean that we are 45 minutes - 1 hour away from the beach house that we rented in Isla Vista.

After a couple of signs saying "This way to Iba" (as far as I can remember, none of it said how far exactly is Iba, so our driver just kept on steering the wheel), we got to a town and learned from a random townsfolk that we are actually entering Iba. But instead of going straight, we have to take a different route because coincidentally, the highway's closed for the night. So we took that road thinking we're ALMOST there. But then, not!


Okay, if you've seen the movie "Wrong Turn", the dirt road we took looks a lot like that road in the movie. I don't recall any street lamps (no offense, city government). So it was all darkness and dirt. The only difference is that we didn't end up getting slaughtered or anything by some mutated humans. Instead, at the end of that dirt road is the other side of the highway. We drove for another 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, most people in the van were quite exhausted by the long journey, re-routes, and stopovers because by that time, we should have been in our resort already. When I say "most people were exhausted", it also included our driver. (Time check, around 2AM and we're still on the road trying to get to Candelaria.) When we noticed this, we decided to stop at a local 24-hours convenient store for coffee and some cigarettes.

Stop over number 5 (The Final One)

Yeah, you read it right! The last stopover and that is the end point of the long roads (and dirt road). It's true when our resort contact person said that it's going to be 45 minutes to 1 hour from Iba. After stopover number 4, our very young driver got rejuvenated and drove as if he was in the movie "Fast and the Furious" - super fast! We made it to La Vista in like 25-30 minutes.


I can't explain how ecstatic I was to see that signage pointing to turn left to Isla Vista Beach Resort. Another short dirt road and boom! It's there, dimly lit lobby-like place. Since the people from the resort were expecting us to arrive at around 11 or 12, they were already sleeping when we got there at 2:40 AM.

The beach house we rented is amazingly big. Its six air-conditioned bedrooms housed 11 of us that night (I mean, morning.)

Around 250 kilometers, 7 hours and 30 minutes, surprise closed road, suspense-thriller movie location, and most importantly, darkness. Don't you think we deserve a good night sleep?

----------------------------------- Kti loves the beach so much that she really takes time to travel and explore as many of them as she can in this lifetime. She hopes that one day, she'll have her own house by the beach.

The Amazing Potipot Island Adventure

by Kti Alibanban

Did you seriously think my story about our Zambales trip was just about our adventure trying to figure out how to get there? No, definitely not. Like I said, that was just a prequel to this article.

So this is the real thing, an article about the things that you can do in Zambales all in one day. This article is a practical guide for people who decided to go to a far-flung area for the weekend and can't seem to figure out how to squeeze in every activity given the limited time. I know from experience that travel time eats up quite a large fraction of your schedule. So in total, you only have one whole day of going about your itineraries. If you think that's too short of a vacation, after reading this article, think again.

Saturday - One Long Day

06:00AM-08:00AM - Wake up sleepy heads!


Yup, although we agreed on waking up at six in the morning so we can go to one of the best beaches in the Philippines - Potipot Island, that didn't materialize. Some of us woke up really early just because they are innately early birds. But most of us woke up at 7:30-8:00 AM, hoping to get as much rest as we can from the exhausting trip last night and recharging so we can make the most out of the one day that we have.

Of course before leaving the beach house, we generously applied sunscreen lotion in our body and put on our swim suits.

08:00AM-08:30AM - Spam and Continental Breakfast

We had the most important meal of the day at the resort's restaurant. They're offering a wide-array of food to choose from. We had meals like Tapsilog (combination of fried rice, fried egg and marinated pork strips), Spamsilog (combination of fried rice, fried egg and Spam), continental breakfast meal (toast, fried eggs and coffee), and mushroom soup for our Vegan colleague.

08:30AM-08:40AM - Boat Ride to Potipot Island


Potipot Island is very near Uacon. You can already see the small island from our beach resort. It will only take minutes to get to the beautiful island. The boat ride only costs 400 pesos good for 6-8 people. In Potipot, the island caretakers charge 100 pesos for a day's stay and 300 if you wish to settle in overnight. There weren't any hotels in the island, only small huts and cottages, and yes, tents. I noticed that the only water source there is a small deep-well.

08:40AM-11:45AM - The very reason we came to Zambales -Experience Potipot

About the island… Well, it's not like the beaches in Palawan or Boracay but it sure does have its unique and mystical beauty to it. Potipot is a small island resting in its mother's arms -the South China Sea. From afar and in photos, Potipot appears to have white sand, but closer, it's actually light brown. The clear water's inviting enough to really make you dip even if the sun's scorching hot. Potipot is also a haven for people who's hobby is having their photos taken. With its pristine water, gorgeous shoreline and slightly forested surrounding, each picture you take will surely have the perfect backdrop.

There are no modern water activities/sports (banana boat ride, jetski, helmet diving etc.) that you can try out in Potipot. All that's there is to enjoy the most basic activities like swimming, sunbathing, sand castle building, snorkeling (using your own goggles), camping, and of course, picture-taking!

While some people were busy preparing lunch and others were drinking with their family and friends, our group was indulged in taking our very own, perfect jump shot. It wasn't easy, I'm telling you.

After about 30 minutes of taking pleasure in swimming (and underwater shots and energy-draining jump shots), we decided to call our Manong Bankero (boatman) to take us back to Isla Vista. Anyway, it's lunch time, we're dehydrated, and tired of swimming, posing and jumping. By the way, just a tip, don't forget to bring food and water to Potipot, there are no stores or restaurants there.

11:45AM-12:00PM - Back to Base


You guessed it right, boat ride.

12:00PM-01:00PM - Lunch in Isla Vista


For lunch, we mostly ordered for the restaurant's grilled specialties. You can choose from chicken, pork, and seafood like squid. To make the whole gastronomic experience complete, we had refreshing fruit shakes. Ripe mango shake in Isla Vista Beach Resort is love! It's the perfect drink for hydrating and invigorating.

01:00PM-02:00PM - Shower time


Okay, I can't elaborate further on this part. But while waiting for your turn in the shower, you can talk to your office mates, eat chips, and watch a local noontime variety show. Oh, and welcome Batch 2 of your office mates who came fresh from Manila. You'll find out that it only took them five hours to get to Candelaria, Zambales!

02:00PM-05:30PM - Sleepy heads part 2


I am not proud of this part. Who takes a nap in the afternoon in the middle of a short weekend getaway? But you also have to give it to us. Whole day's work the day before, long hours on the road, lack of sleep and jump shots? Come on.

05:30PM-07:00PM - Good morning in the afternoon


The best word is RECHARGED. Nothing beats a power nap! When we woke up, it felt like we can travel back to Manila and go right back to Zambales and get on a boat to Potipot and be photographed in the air via jump shots all over again! No, I was just kidding. We sang couple of songs in the Karaoke Hut instead.

The afternoons in the beach are my favorite part of all. I go crazy over breathtaking sunsets. And it's the best time to bathe in the sea just because you won't have to suffer from sun burn.

The sun preparing to rest in the arms of the sea is one of the most sought-after photography subject. It could also be the perfect time to walk along the shore and bump into an old friend and meet new ones.

07:00PM-08:30PM - Best Fried Chicken in the world

Aside from Spam, one of the specialties in the resort is fried chicken. What makes their fried chicken the best? Nothing, it's the same chicken deep-fried in lots of oil, only, it'll take more than an hour before it could be served at your table, just like what happened to one of our office mate who ordered for it. We didn't want a negative memory of this whole day so we just let it pass. After dinner, some of us went to my favorite part of the resort -the Bar! We talked and cheered over some drinks before proceeding to our own drinking session in our beach house.

09:00PM - I didn't notice what time it ended. -Team Building, Eversun style!


A time of fun-filled activities, so fun you'll wish you were there.

After a very long day and a memorable team building session, it was time for us to set and rest in arms of our beds.

Tomorrow's another day of more Potipot Island, swimming, sunbathing, picture-taking, Spam, Grilled Pork, and oh no, not fried chicken. And a long travel back to Manila.

In this write-up, you were able to see that enjoyment shouldn't be sacrificed just because of time-constraint. There are many activities that you can do in a day just don't let yourself be limited by time. Although preparing your itineraries ahead is a sound plan, it's more exciting to just get to the place and find out what the place has to offer and enjoy it. Sometimes, the simplest ways to have fun turns out to be the ones that are more memorable just because they are real and genuine.

-------------------------------- Kti loves the beach so much that she really takes time to travel and explore as many of them as she can in this lifetime. She hopes that one day, she'll have her own house by the beach.

Mount Pinatubo's Miracle

Who would have thought that Mount Pinatubo, which disrupted the lives and destroyed the livelihood of so many people, would be the same volcano that would help rebuild dreams from the rubble?


The 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption - touted as the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century - devastated Central Luzon. Twenty years later, the majestic volcano served as an awe-inspiring experience to travelers and a source of income to locals.


The sun had not yet risen when the Lakbay Norte group headed to Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, where the 4 x4 jeeps were waiting. The adventure began with the 4 x4 ride on the lahar passageway. It felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie, searching for treasure.


Crazy ride


When we were on our way to their so-called "skyway", we were literally all shook up as we passed the rough and rocky sloping road. But when we reached the top, we were welcomed by the cool breeze and the breathtaking view of the Zambales ranges. The 4x4 jeeps then parked at the drop-off point. The group began trekking.


Along the way, I saw red boulders on top of the sulfuric soil, which were remnants of the volcanic eruption. The walk seemed to take an eternity. Thank God for the streams that cooled our tired feet.


We then saw a sign that told us that we were approaching our destination. It was the old drop-off point. The latter leg of the trek began there. According to the signage, young people can reach the destination in 15 minutes while the middle aged and senior citizens can finish the trek in 18 and 20 minutes, respectively.



After an hour and half, I saw the miracle of the deadly eruption - the turquoise lake waters surrounded by the majestic crater of Mt. Pinatubo.


The other world


To fully appreciate the grandeur of Mt. Pinatubo, we rented one of the six boats, which took eight of us to the other side of the crater. I thought we were in the Lord of the Rings' Middle Earth as we approached the other side. It seemed otherworldly.


As the boat docked at the rocky shore, I saw smoke rising from the water. It signified that the water was hot. Naturally, I didn’t even try dipping in it. Since the depth of the water was unknown, swimming was discouraged. But some of my companions took a chance.



Our boatman willingly shared how grateful they were to the influx of travelers in the area. It was their source of income. Most of the foreign visitors were Koreans.


After twenty minutes, we headed back to the other side. We were hungry. Chocolate cup cake and water re-energized us.



We bade Pinatubo goodbye with a wacky jump shot at the view deck. The Pinatubo experience did not end with seeing its beauty. We even felt its volcanic ash.


Pampered by nature


The Pinatubo Spa Town in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas gave us the chance to be "buried alive" through the volcanic ash spa.


At first, I was hesitant to be buried. But I lay down anyway and was quickly covered with hot ash from the neck down. I felt the heat emitted by the pugon, my back perspired and felt relaxed. It was a natural sauna. After a twenty-minute nap in the ash, I rose from the pit and was ushered to the mud pool.



At the mud pool, we were treated to a natural facial, composed of sulfur mud. The sulfur mudpack was cool on the face. After 15 minutes, the mud hardened. We then washed it off and gave a tightened and smooth skin. It was rejuvenating.


We capped off our experience with an hour of Thai and Shiatsu massage that relaxed our exhausted muscles. The therapists then gave each of us a glass of green tea after the session.



Climbing Mount Pinatubo was definitely worth the sweat. It's proof that even catastrophes can be blessings in disguise.

-------- Article by: Izah Morales, for Yahoo Philippines Travel.