Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It is more fun travelling on expressways

MALOLOS CITY—Travelling on three expressways operated by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) will be more fun this Holy week.

This came as MPTC prepared contingency measures to address expected surge in traffic volume, while encouraging sponsors to let motorists taste and experience their products.

This move is a giant leap from the previous years’ usual motorist assistance services like free towing services, deployment of addition patrol enforces and toll tellers, and medical services through provision of ambulance for medical emergencies.

This year, MPTC along with Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), Cavite Infrastructure Corporation (CIC), and Tollways Management Corporation (TMC) in coordination with Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) has expanded its yearly motorist assistance called “Safe Trip Mo, Sagot ko” (SMSK).

Co-presented by Caltex Philippines, MNTC is beefing up it deployment of field forces along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX),and the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).

Rodrigo Franco, president and chief Operating officer of the MNTC said that additional manpower will be deployed at major interchanges along the NLEX especially in Balintawak, Bocaue, Mindanao Avenue, Dau and mabalacat.

At SCTEX, they will deploy additional personnel at Tarlac and Tipo exits.

Franco said they expect traffic to surge by 30 percent  or about 60,000 from the daily average of 170,000 vehicles .

He said that traffic surge is expected starting Holy Wednesday until  late Maundy Thursday for north bound vehicle along the NLEX.

At SCTEX, he said that the daily average of 24,000 vehicles is also expected to climb by 30 percent.

2014 Hot Air Balloon Festival pushes through

2013 International Hot Air Balloon Festival at Clark Freeport Zone. File photo by Peter Alagos.

MALOLOS CITY—All roads leads to Lubao town in Pampanga for the biggest  annual hot air balloon festival in South East Asia starting April 10.

Organized by the newly formed Pilipinas Hot Air Balloon Festival Inc., (PHABFI) in coordination with the Department of Tourism (DOT), the four day event is expected to draw at least 100,000 international and domestic tourists.

It will start on April 10 and will end on April 13.

Ronaldo Tiotuico, director of DOT Central Luzon Office said that as the annual festival moved from Clark Freeport Zone to Barangay Prado Siongco in Lubao town this year, more participants have registered to join.

In a live interview over Radyo Bulacan, Tiotuico confirmed that 35 to 38 multi-colored and differently shaped balloons from nine participating countries are joining.

Flying the balloon will start as early as 5:30 AM, while at night, glow in the night hot air balloons will also served as an attraction. 

The glow in the night balloon will be showcased on Friday and Saturday nights,buts such will be allowed for lift off as all nigh glow balloons will be tied on an anchor.

Tiotuico said that there will be balloons that tourists can ride, but it will also be tied to an anchor.

“This is the biggest annual hot air balloon festival in South East Asia and we are inviting everybody to come and see,” he said.

The director also said that as early at last week, participating international balloonist have arrived and in the country and tour other parts of the country before the starting their preparation for today’s events.

Some of the participating balloonists came to as far as France, Germany, the United States, Malaysia and South Korea.

Tickets for the annual festival is P200 each, which is lower than the P250 charged in the past when the festival was held in Clark Freeport Zone.  Tickets will be sold at the gates.

With regards to road directions, Tiotuico said that those coming from Manila can exit at San Fernando Toll Plaza along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and head all the way to Lubao, the last town of Pampanga when going to Bataan province.

However, there are road constructions along the Gapan-Olongapo Road on the east side of Lubao.

For this, Tiotuico advised visitors to turn right to Lubao megadike and follow the Luba by-pass road, then right again on Gapan-Olongapo Road.

He said that tourist can also use the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway, then exit at the Dinalupihan interchange and turn left on the Gapan-Olongapo Road towards Hermosa town in Bataan, then Lubao town.

As this developed, Tiotuico said they are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be no rains during the festival

However, Lubao town experienced heavy downpour on Tuesday night.  Dino Balabo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bulacan braces for influx of tourists, pilgrims

Biak-na-Bato National Park, San Miguel, Bulacan. DB

MALOLOS CITY, Bulacan—Police are now coordinating with different civic groups in a bid to step-up “Oplan: Summer Vacation” as the province began to brace for the influx of tourists and pilgrims this summer time and Holy Week.

Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado said Public Assistance Centers are being established  in key areas where people will converge.

“Assist the people politely and make them feel safe and very much welcome in Bulacan,” Alvarado told policemen and public assistance volunteers as the province braces for the expected influx of tourists and visitors this summer and Lenten season.

Alvarado said that Bulacan has virtually become a magnet for tourists, both domestic and foreign, during summer because of its scenic spots, historical sites and crowd drawing cultural practices as well as pilgrimage sites during Holy Week.

“We want to make sure that the public will enjoy their stay in our great province and have a grabnd vacation stay enjoying our hospitality and scenic spots,” Alvarado said.

He said that the Bulacan police headed by Senior Supt. Joel Orduna and various civic organizations are holding meetings in preparation for their Operation Sumvac (summer vacation.
DRT road trip. BMF
Alvarado said Public Assistance Centers will be set up in major convergience points and areas where pilgrims are expected to go this Holy Week and summer vacation.

The provincial chief executive said that Bulacan is home to at least 236 resorts and numerous places were traditional as well as bloody Lenten rituals attract multitude of people.

He said that outdoor activities are also expected to increase since some towns have spruced up their resorts particularly those located along the Angat River.

Local businesses are also expected to make a killing since Bulacan is known for their delicacies and other foodstuff. Alvarado also said that fruits of the season and other farm products like turnips, mangoes and peanuts are also abundant and is now being harvested and sold.

Meanwhile, Bulacan police director Sr. Supt. Orduna  said maneuver platoons from the Provincial Public safety company will augment local policemen along major thouroughfares and in crowd drawing sites in the different parts of the province.

Multitudes are also expected to flock the Catholic Chapel in the farming village of Bgy. Kapitangan in Paombong town where faith healers are being nailed to a wooden cross at a man-made Goltha as well as to witness hundreds of bareback flagellants whipping their bloodied bodies.

This early, pilgrims by the thousands have already began streaking to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Bgy. Sta. Rosa I mainly due to the mysterious image of Jesus Christ which was caught by a CCTV.

Meyto shrine, Calumpit, Bulacan. DB

Parish Priest Fr. Prospero “Pros” Tenorio said that the number of devotees has began to increased a day after the CCTV footage showing the mysterious image of Jesus Christ—similar to the Divine Mercy image—was broadcast in National TV and at You-Tube.

“I still cannot say if it’s a miracle or an apparition of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s for the Bishop to Decide and after an investigation the final say will be the Vatican,” Fr. Tenorio said.

The parish priest said that he was the one who discovered the mysterious image –a radiant white streak of light similar to the image of the Divine Mercy—at around 11:00 pm on March 3. He said that the first image was caught by one of the CCTV camera at around 9:00 where workers were putting a purple curtain at the back of the image of a crucified Jesus Christ—the centerpiece holy icon  at the main altar of  St. Faustina hall at the Divine Mercy Shrine.

What makes the footage mysterious was when the lights were shutted-off at around 10:30pm but the radiant image still remain and recorded up to 6:00 am of the following day (March 4).

Fr. Tenorio also showed the footage to video expert  Clyde Villegas who admitted that he was also amazed on what he saw.
Villegas said he looked for possible sources of light that could have produced the image but it was pitch dark in the area during that time.

He said that he looked at the back of the altar where a mosiac of tainted colored glass featuring the image of St. Faustina, Blessed Pope John Paul II and the Divine mercy Image of Jesus Crist  was located.

“It was already  impossible for  a light to penetrate the tainted glass at night time and it is definitely impossible if it was also covered by a thick purple curtain, the image is really a mystery,” he said.

Orduna said that police teams and Public Assistance Centers will also be put up at the Grotto Shrine in San Jose del Monte City.

Pilgrims are also expected to come in droves at “Banal na Bundok” in San Miguel town where lifesize statues depicting the Way of the Cross are situated. And if the skies is clear, vistors at the “Banal na Bundok” can see a mountain that looks like a “Sleeping Jesus Christ”.—EMIL G. GAMOS, PNA

Monday, March 17, 2014

DOT-3 pushes community-based rural tourism in Bulacan

by Dino Balabo

MALOLOS CITY—A mountain gorge sliced by the Balaong River lined with natural limestone formations, Biak-na-Bato National Park in San Miguel town provides an eco-adventure steeped in history. 

It is also home to dozens of caves, many of which were used as conference rooms, clinics, armories and sleeping quarters of revolutionaries led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo over a century ago. In the nearby mountain town of Donya Remedios Trinidad, magnificent and well preserved caves can be found along with a number of waterfalls.

These are only some of the potential tourist destinations in eastern Bulacan that must further be developed according to Ronnie Tiotuico, director of the Department of Tourism for Central Luzon (DOT-3).

He said that domestic and foreign tourists are now looking for destinations that are natural and can provide more adventure which are usually located in rural areas.

“Rural towns and villages have better tourism potentials than their counterparts in urban areas like cities,” Tiotuico said. This came as DOT- 3 pushed for the development of community- based rural tourism (CBRT) which focuses on potentials of villages in the region. Tiotuico said that CBRT will generate livelihood and additional income to rural families.

“All you need is for a group, look for a place here in Bulacan, talk to the leaders in the community, teach them how to manage tourism and you will improve quality of lives in far flung barangays,” Tiotuico told hundreds of students who participated in a symposium here dubbed as “Bulacan for Every Juan.”

The said symposium was organized by Tourism students of the Bulacan State University (BulSU). Tiotuico explained the tourism potentials include local products, culture, sceneries and even food.

He said that DOTIII did the same in Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac Erwin Valenzuela, president of the Bulacan Tourism Convention and Visitors Bureau (BTCVB) and an active adventure tourism guide, affirmed what Tiotuico said, citing the many visitors he brought to Biak-Na-Bato National park and caves in DRT town.

He said that aside from appreciating natural ecology, many tourists now are into adventure like rock and mountain climbing, trekking and cave exploration. Rosie Bautista, the municipal tourism officer of Baliwag, advised her fellow tourism officers to be always on the lookout for tourism potentials in their localities.

“There are many places that we can offer to domestic and international tourists, we just need to be open-minded and update,” she said, adding that tourism can be as simple as local delicacy, culture and scenery not usually found in other places.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

LAKBAY-COASTAL: Selected pictures

Pugad lighthouse.
BulSU students on board a motor boat.

Journalism students from Bulacan State University joined the first Lakbay Coastal organized by the municipal government of Hagonoy on February 28.

They traveled by boat to the coastal barangay of Pugad on the coast of Manila Bay.
Some tried to inspect damaged fishpond dikes.

But got stuck on the mud, momentarily.

That brief moment was the funniest.

Fishponds were also visited and they had fund taking pictures --- of themselves.

And enjoyed walking on earth dikes.

Until they go home.

Journey to Pugad: A Sunburn-worthy Trip

By Clarisse Inao, BA Journalism student, Bulacan State University
NOTE:  This is Ms. Inao’s  official entry in Wego’s Life Changing Travel Story. You can help her win the contest by liking and sharing their post about this blog through this link

Clarisse Inao with children at the island barangay of Pugad in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Dino Balabo


I was never a fan of travelling; I’d rather stay home and read than experience the hassle of going somewhere. For me, it’s time-consuming and a total waste of energy, but I can’t believe that a mere trip for a journalism class will turn things around. Please, don’t laugh, but the place I’ve been referring to is within my province only.

I went to Hagonoy, Bulacan and I never was the same again after.

You might raise your eyebrows knowing where I went. I know it is not as extravagant or as exciting as going to Boracay, or to Bohol. There was no beach party to anticipate, no grand hotel to stay in, no selfie-worthy background to snap upon to. It was almost boring. I admit I was half-hearted while preparing myself that morning. I can’t imagine how much regret I will feel if I decided to stay home that day.

Brgy. Pugad, Hagonoy Bulacan is not a paradise. The councilor even warned us before the trip that we have to expect the worst; dirty water, garbage, clogged drainage, and every face of poverty. I felt uncertain, not knowing what to expect. When I went into the boat, all I was praying is to be back as soon as possible.

The moment the motor started, I closed my eyes and felt the breeze of the air. I smelled the sea. I smelled the coming adventure, still, I’m uncertain. When we got to the barangay, we were welcomed by old dilapidated houses, and children eyeing us in questioning looks. It was not a good first impression for me. We walked under the scorching heat of the sun, with dried fishes at the sidewalks and children following us. Half-day of not -so-good events and all I want to do is go back home.
BulSU students on board a boat.  DBalabo
Everything started to turn upside down when I got the chance to interview and interact with the people.

There were a lot of stories of loyalty, like how Manang Isabelita told me her childhood days and why she stayed in Pugad despite the promises and opportunities the urbanized parts of Bulacan offered. It is because of the memories that no amount of money can replace.

Stories of survival were also in every corner. How people managed to survive typhoons and floods with gigantic waves from Manila Bay hitting their barangay. How they managed to survive poverty with fishing as one of their main options to live. Accounts of red tide and the impact of climate change to their only source of living.

There was a unique story of camaraderie, how Manang Mercedes is the official burial coordinator of the barangay. Pugad is an island which is the main reason why death is more difficult to bear with no cemetery around. They have to transport the body from Pugad to Hagonoy proper by 1-hour boat ride. Manang Mercedes is well-known by rendering her service to arrange everything from death to burial process, sometimes when the family is really in need, for free.

There was Teacher Josefina who also grew up there. She witnessed how difficult it is to get education in their barangay with only elementary school for the youth; she witnessed how politicians made promise every elections to give progress in the education system, and how those promises were broken everytime. But she is a living proof that anyone can be successful as long as he dream and work enough to achieve it. She graduated and became a professional teacher, and she chose to go back to her roots and teach in Pugad.
Pugad kids and sun dried fish. DBalabo
There was a tale of faith, how the numerous personal struggles and disasters a counselor in Pugad experienced restored his beliefs in God. From a drunkard man then, he’s now a public servant serving his barangay and teaching them how to believe when life is giving you many reasons not to.

And what really struck me, is the children. Those questioning eyes I met when we got there were in reality, eyes of the young ones who were excited to tell stories to new people, eyes of the young ones who yearns for attention from us. I told them stories, but they also told them theirs. Their dreams, like finishing their education and go back in Pugad as successful individuals. Their dreams for their hometown, their wishful thinking that one day, their barangay will be more suitable to live at, one day they will not rely to those politicians anymore as their hope, that they will be the hope their town has been waiting for so long. Their hopes that someday,people will not be afraid to go there and listen to their stories, people will visit their barangay not because of requirement but because they want to witness its beauty amidst poverty.

I was ashamed of how I judge Pugad by how it looks like when I first stepped my foot on it, how I judged the people the first time I saw them. I was humbled, how I constantly complains about the number of school works I have to do when there are youth like me who wanted to learn but didn’t had the opportunity to do so. I was very proud, of how Bulakenyos even in far-flung areas showed heroism in their own ways, like how our hometown heroes did in the history.
BulSU students on damage fishpond dike.  DBalabo

I came home that day with so many thoughts in my head. I came home exactly just like how I left it that morning; with few clothes, a notebook, a camera and some money, but I felt I brought home many more. I came home with lessons, experiences, stories to tell and a renewed perspective in life.

Funny how when I got into the boat that morning, all I want to do is go back home already, but when I got into the boat the second time around to leave, all I want to do that time is to plan when I will go back to Pugad again.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bulacan festivals underway

MALOLOS CITY—It’s all systems go for four separate festivals in Bulacan this month. 

The annual festivals include Minasa Festival in Bustos town that opened Monday, January 13, the Fiesta Republica in Malolos that will open on January 16, the Halamanan Festival in Guiguinto town that will start on January 20, and the Bulak Festival in San Ildefonso town on January 23.

All four festivals will promote local products and culture of the three towns and expected to draw tourists. Mayor Arnel Mendoza of Bustos said Senator Nancy Binay graced the opening of the Minasa Festival yesterday.

He said that the week-long festival is designed to promote “minasa,” a locally manufactured cookie made from egg yolk mixed with old sago plant starch and coco milk. Mendoza said minasa production started in Bustos more than a century ago as some historians claim that its production stemmed partly from the construction of ornate old houses where egg yolk was used as binder.

“Minasa festival is meant to promote minasa, but we also want to showcase the rich history and culture of Bustos and business opportunities here,” he said.

He added that minasa production is connected with the cultural heritage of Bustos town which is known for century old “bahay-na-bato” with ornate stone walls and posts. Mendoza said that some of the old “bahay-na-bato in his town were built in the mid-18th century, about the same time when minasa production took form.

“There is a possibility that minasa production in our town is connected with the construction of old houses because after using egg white for binder, they have no use for the huge amount of egg yolk,” Mendoza said.

In Malolos City, Mayor Christian Natividad said that all is set for the 10-day 4th Fiesta Republica from January 16 to 26. He said that Fiesta Republica will be graced by Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno who will serve as guest speaker for the 115th Republic Day celebrations at the historic Barasoain Church.

“Republic Day is one of the most important days in our history. It marks the day our first republic was born and it is only fitting that celebrate it,” he said. Natividad lamented that while Republic Day should be considered as a national holiday, national leaders hardly pay attention to it.

“We have so many festivals in the Philippines, we even have festivals for vegetables and slippers, we are holding Fiesta Republica to highlight the glory of our distant past,” he said. In Guiguinto, Mayor Ambrosio Cruz said they are also gearing up for the annual Halamanan Festival which they hope to rival other festivals in the country.

The festival was first held in 1990 to promote the garden and landscaping industry in the said town. Dino Balabo