Hello First-time Travelers!

Are you going on a trip to a particular place for the first-time? Will you be setting foot in a foreign and unfamiliar soil? Rest assured that you have fellow travelers on the road who are embarking on new journeys.

I have been to many places, and the first time I stepped into unfamiliar territory I had to feel my way and rely on what I have on-hand especially when all I had were travel books, maps and print-outs from the web. My friends and I make our own itinerary. It is truly advisable to check out anything about the place before going on a trip.

Yet, you need not necessarily hire a travel agent or tour guide to get you around every time you visit a place for the first time. A little help from locals can add spice to your first-time travels. It can give you the freedom to explore the place and enjoy the feeling of not spending much, based on my own travel experiences.

You can take my word on some tips and information on the places I visited but feel free to be creative and be adventurous. I may offer some advice here and there but, as they say, “experience is the best teacher”. So, read on and find out more about my first-time travel adventures.

I want to make things easy for you. If you want to view the articles I wrote in this site, click the Table of Contents tab.

Photos used in this site are taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

And since I’m from the Philippines, I invite you to travel to my country as well.

Video taken from the Best Destination Travel TV site.

My First Christmas Party with the Negros Bloggers

The microphone has been passed and it was my turn to belt it out in the videoke. Good thing I was surrounded by enjoyable and exciting individuals who share the same passion as I am – singing and blogging!

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It was my first-time to join the Christmas party of the Negros Bloggers, a small group of people who actively write about food, happenings, travels, and anything about Negros. After six months of being back in my home province, Negros Occidental, I must admit that I still see things from an outsider’s point of view, as if I am another traveller who happens to be caught in the web of the Negros charm. In fact, I try different restaurants each week, delighting on the various offerings metropolitan Bacolod (that includes Bacolod City, Talisay City, Silay City and Bago City) can offer.

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So there I was enjoying my night with this fun-loving people, who have become my new friends during my move back to our nest. We started the night having delectable steak food at Balboa’s Restaurant, located at Mayfair along Lacson St., which was also one of our sponsors for this special gathering.

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After great talk about life in the 80’s and 90’s, we walked a block away to Gourmandz Burger and Pasta where the KTV event would be happening. By the way, I gulped a portion of their huge burger, which I thought I would only see on TV shows.

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The items laid out before us made our party extra exciting – wines, food items, canned goods, Christmas decors, foldable fans, gift certificates – the table was just overflowing with gifts and prizes.

Thanks to our major sponsrs: E. GATANELA REALTY CO.; Merzci; Experience Negros; QUAN Delicacies; Victorias Foods Corporation; Munsterific Grab N Go; The Cocoon – L’Fisher Hotel; Bacolod Cupcake Cafe Inc.; Fresh Start Organic; and Viaje Negrense.

We are also thankful to other partners who contributed: SM City Bacolod; 21 Restaurant; Balboa Restaurant; Grand Royal Spa Bacolod; Innové Grafx by Wilmar Enterprises; BongBong’s Piaya and Barquillos; Spa Natura; O’Fisher Spa; 27th Bascon; and Jojo Vito Designs Gallery.

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More than the gift packs, it was the camaraderie that I truly enjoyed as the Negros Bloggers have become like a second family. They have helped me settle back home, ushering me to places and things I have never known that existed before right at the doorstep of my own hometown. And when you plan to travel to the Negros Island, you’ll find that these bloggers’ posts will be your guide. Just check out our site to know more about our group.

So there I was belting the song “Alone”, ironic that I was surrounded by a company of great people. With a score of 100, I got a wine courtesy of Munsterific Grab N Go.

 

Other photos courtesy of Sigrid Lo and Dhadha Garcia.

Who’s flashing the Hot Now sign in Bacolod

The neon light has finally come into life and the “Hot Now” sign is now turned on. Yes, the most awaited moment has arrived! Krispy Kreme has finally landed in the City of Smiles, Bacolod City — the Sugarlandia!

The "Hot Now" sign is on.

The “Hot Now” sign is on.

Though the long wait is over, people lined up the day before it opened to grab the most coveted prize of a year supply of fresh donuts!

Newly opened store in Bacolod.

Newly opened store in Bacolod.

I wasn’t fortunate to be in SM Bacolod on the 6th of December due to a family emergency. My special brother was confined in the hospital but at 7:00am that day, the nurse who checked on my brother noticed the Krispy Kreme bag and box of donuts that we brought with us. He asked if the store has finally opened and we told him that at 10:00am, Krispy Kreme will open its doors in Bacolod. He was confused.

I explained that I had the opportunity to be one of those who were given the first glimpse of the Krispy Kreme store with commissary. It was a fun experience watching the donuts being backed fresh!

1. Fresh doughs on their way to be baked.

1. Fresh dough on their way to be baked.

2. Baked donuts, unglazed.

2. Baked donuts, unglazed.

3. The white curtain like thing is the glaze. :)

3. The white curtain like thing is the glaze. :)

4. Still on the glazing process.

4. Still on the glazing process.

There goes the Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts.

There goes the Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts.

Me surrounded by these delectable donuts.

Me surrounded by these delectable donuts.

Customize and decorate your donut!

Customize and decorate your donut!

Take your pick.

Take your pick.

Won't you like to give this as a sweet gift this Christmas?

Won’t you like to give this as a sweet gift this Christmas?

 

Beach-ready with artistic flip-flops

In a tropical country like the Philippines, flip-flops are part of the common staple among Filipino households. Whether one lives near the sea or in the mountains, he or she will always wear this kind of slippers around the house or when visiting neighbors or the market nearby.

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But with the advent of Havaianas, flip-flops have become more of a fashion statement, where people don them around malls or in the grocery store. I remember bringing pairs of flip flops on a Hong Kong trip one sunny April morning. I bring a pair wherever I go, and this time, knowing there will be lots of walking around, I brought some extra pairs. Lo and behold, it was not sunny at all in Hong Kong; not in the next four days that we were there.

Still, I always have my pair of Havaianas in my luggage, whether I go for a business trip or to backpack with friends.

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When I was told that Havaianas would be unveiling its new designs in its Bacolod store in SM’s newly opened North Wing, I excitedly headed to the by-invitation-only event.

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The beautiful designs were made by no less than Internationally-Acclaimed Designer Francis Libiran, whom I had the privilege to know personally when I worked in Manila Hotel. I was not yet employed in Manila Hotel when it celebrated its 100th year which was highlighted by a wonderful fashion show in its lobby showcasing the 100 creations of Francis Libiran. But even after the event, and when I came on board, I still had meetings with the humble and unassuming Francis along with his team.

Libiran (2nd from right) with his friends and this blogger's (3rd from left) former colleagues at the Manila Hotel.

Libiran (2nd from right) with his friends and this blogger’s (3rd from left) former colleagues at the Manila Hotel.

An architect by profession, Francis developed his love for fashion at the tender age of eight. He has a meticulous eye for detail, which is evident in his intricate, ethereal designs that have graced countless red carpets, pageant stages, and fashion editorials.

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This year, Libiran’s considerable talent has been tapped by global brand Havaianas for a new collection that puts the Philippine artist firmly in the pantheon of international designers, brands and personalities, who have collaborated with the iconic footwear company for its sought-after limited edition releases. He now joins the ranks of Missoni, Bassike, Valentino, and Michael Bastian, iconic names that Havaianas has worked with.

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His three designs, each evocative of the different facets of Filipino culture are: the City pair showcases hints of popular culture in the Philippines as expressed through one of the country’s most iconic symbols; the Festival pair (the one I have!) embodies the vibrance of Philippines’ various festivals, celebrations, and color (seems like Masskara festival to me); and the Island pair which is inspired by the fusion of various design elements pulled from the country’s multicultural background.

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Francis, who is very ecstatic about this project, says, “Flip-flops are ingrained in the Philippine culture, so I could only imagine the statement my designs would make on them. Because people use them everyday, I thought some people would question why they would be so designed, because they’re just flip-flops, but for me, it’s about creating wearable pieces of art.”

Hear, hear, Francis. I would be proud to wear it next time I go on a trip, especially if it’s a trip abroad. I’d gladly have this badge of beautiful Filipino art bearing a global name in my travel wear checklist.

This photo is courtesy of Dhadha Garcia of http://www.dhagarcia.com/.

This photo is courtesy of Dhadha Garcia of http://www.dhagarcia.com/.

D Vitamin from Travelling

What do you get out of travelling?

1. Additional learnings
2. New friends
3. Fun experiences
4. and vitamin D!

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When you hit the beach or the pool, don’t you soak yourself under the sun? When you climb hills, when you trek on mountains, don’t you kiss the sun that is so close to where you stand? When you traverse around streets and alleys, don’t you absorb some of the sun’s rays as well?

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Yes, traveling gets you out of your cubicles and homes and let you out in the open!

But, I must confess, that though I love the outdoors and travel to new shores, I am not a big fan of the sun. I always keep myself under the shade to prevent the prickly heat of the sun’s rays. And when I don’t travel, I am always cooped inside my office space or in the comforts of my house.

So, yes, I am one of those who may probably be vitamin D-deficient, which may pose serious health risks. Good thing that Unilab recently commissioned a study on the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, and found that 53% of its 118 test participants were found to be lacking with enough vitamin D.

It was Hi-Precision Diagnostics, a licensed medical facility under the Department of Health and backed by Unilab, which carried out the collection, assessment, and interpretation of the blood samples derived from the participants. Following international laboratory standards, a 30 ng/ml level of vitamin D was considered the baseline for all tests. Those who registered below said level were deemed vitamin D deficient.

Dr. Alejandro Diaz.

Dr. Alejandro Diaz.

“Staying indoors for most parts of the day, habitually wearing long-sleeved clothing and slacks or pants, using too much sunscreen, and eating barely enough vitamin D-rich foods are just some of the factors that lead to vitamin D deficiency,” said Dr. Alejandro Diaz of the Philippine Neurological Association.

“Melanin, while serving as a protective barrier for the skin against ultraviolet (UV) light, also works to block the sun’s rays, which is needed to activate vitamin D in the body. Studies have proven that there is a direct correlation between melanin levels and vitamin D production, with melanin affecting the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D. Thus the darker the skin, the less vitamin D is produced,” added Dr. Diaz.

Uh-oh. So, that means I need to go out more and expose myself under the sun? That means more travels!

The good thing is that even when you head to the Arctic region or cold and dark places where the sun never shines all year round (unlike in the Philippines), Unilab has come up with Forti-D, the latest vitamin D supplement, a single-dose supplement that contains 800 IU of vitamin D3. Also known as colecalciferol, vitamin D3 impacts one’s over-all health.

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“Taking one capsule of Forti-D every day helps reduce the risk of getting chronic diseases by unlocking the proper function of organs typically affected by such illnesses,” emphasized Alex Panlilio, Unilab VP for consumer health.

In the meantime, while I’m mostly indoors, I have to rely on Forti-D for my vitamin D, and plan when I can head to the beach.

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The best of Negros at the SMX launch

SMX Convention Center finally had its formal opening to set the stage for a more vibrant MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition) sector in the province of Negros Occidental, particularly in the city of Bacolod. It was a launch like no other as locals and visitors from other cities and abroad had an experience showcasing the best of Negros.

The train represented Negros Occidental of long ago.

The train represented Negros Occidental of long ago.

As we entered its Function Hall 3, we were treated to an exhibition of Negros in the past, present and future. Right near the entrance was a huge train replica. At the middle part were religious displays, ternos or native Filipino gowns, and furniture made by talented Negrenses. At the far end was a painting exhibit of young and upcoming artists in the province.

The exhibit included religious icons, furniture, paintings and Filipino gowns.

The exhibit included religious icons, furniture, paintings and Filipino gowns.

I wandered around the hall, familiarizing myself to the essence of my home province, which I have missed for so long after living in the capital for more than half of my life.

Bacolod Mayor Monico Fuentebella (2nd from left) with (L-R) SMX Convention Center senior assistant vice president Dexter Deyto, SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. president Elizabeth Sy and senior vice president for operations Peggy Angeles, and SMX Bacolod manager JB Ongsingco.

Bacolod Mayor Monico Fuentebella (2nd from left) with (L-R) SMX Convention Center senior assistant vice president Dexter Deyto, SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. president Elizabeth Sy and senior vice president for operations Peggy Angeles, and SMX Bacolod manager JB Ongsingco.

A short program took place at a small platform at one corner of the hall, with Bacolod City Mayor Monico Fuentebella and SM executives giving a toast to the opening of this new convention center in the city. Oh, by the way, Mayor Fuentebella mentioned that Bacolod will be the host in 2016 of the National MICE Convention in the country. That’s good. I have something to write about in micenet Asia, the trade publication and website where I contribute regularly.

A beautiful set up at Function Hall 2 surprised us.

A beautiful set up at Function Hall 2 surprised us.

And as we thought everything was done, the divider opened and we were ushered to the Function Hall 2 were a water fountain was installed in the center and a group of musicians were playing with The Ruins in Talisay as the backdrop. We were lucky to get seats right at the front row. Anticipation was apparent among the audience as we had no clue as to what was in store for us.

Design by John C. Rondain.

Design by John C. Rondain.

John John Ditching with his muses.

John John Ditching with his muses.

Models in beautiful Filipino dresses glided in our midst. The works of local designers John C. Rondain, Steve Genzola, and John John Ditching took the spotlight. But the bigger wow factor was when the voice over announced that the ext set of designs were that of acclaimed fashion designer Renee Salud and Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago entered on a purple handwoven silk dress with a flowing train and shawl.

Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago in a Renee Salud creation.

Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago in a Renee Salud creation.

Wedding dress with Filipino architectural elements.

Wedding dress with Filipino architectural elements.

The train of the wedding gown.

The train of the wedding gown.

More dresses followed and the show capped with a series of long gowns, where Santiago wore a beautiful wedding gown that seemed to be inspired by a capiz shell window, that were common in most Filipino homes in the olden days. Renee Salud took a bow and everyone applauded.

Fashion designer Renee Salud.

Fashion designer Renee Salud.

As the show ended, we were again ushered towards Function Hall 1. Cocktail tables were set and a modern looking stage took the middle end of the room, where a DJ could be seen on the elevated portion. Sounds boomed as drummers beat on their respective instruments, incorporating the elements of “Stomp” with a huge drum as part of their ensemble.

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Masked dancers took the stage area, house lights were dimmed, and flashing lights flickered on their costumes and masks — electric Masskara! What a way to truly end the night.

First-time in Fresh Start Organic Farm

In some malls in Bacolod City you will find this store or area with neatly packed greens bearing the name Fresh Start filling a portion of the shelves. They even have organic soaps and personal care products, too! So, who would have thought that I’d be stepping on the very land where their fresh produce and raw materials are grown?

The landscape to the Fresh Start Organic Farm.

The landscape en route to the Fresh Start Organic Farm.

There were six of us bloggers and forum administrators — online partners of the 9th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival – who joined one of the organizers in this farm tour. We drove through the landscape of sugarcane plantations, a common sight in the Negros island of the Philippines. Suddenly, we made a quick turn towards a tiny street that was filled with trainloads of sugar cane. Then the Fresh Start signage greeted us at the gate, followed by the colorful rows of vegetables.

All organic and natural at the Fresh Start farm.

All organic and natural at the Fresh Start farm.

Colorful rows of leafy veggies.

Colorful rows of leafy veggies.

Our guide brought us to their facility where they do their vermi composting area. Fresh Start boasts that they do not use chemicals in their products but, instead, uses the natural process of growing their produce. They do careful research and testing as to which is good for the environment and the human body.

The area where they do vermi composting.

The area where they do vermi composting.

These worms are used for the vermi composting process.

These worms are used for the vermi composting process.

Then we proceeded to their nursery, where cute baby lettuces are cultivated. A mud house (yes, a house that is literally built with mud) is used as a facility where they wash the lettuces. It was interesting that as soon as we entered its door the temperature inside the mud house felt cooler.

The mud house.

The mud house.

Outside, beds of aloe vera plants, basil, stevia, kale, cilantro, and other vegetables were carefully laid out. Olive trees and cinnamon trees provide shade to other plants. We picked an asparagus shoot and took a bite at the crunchy, delicious, freshly-picked veggie.

The farm is free of any chemicals or pesticide.

The farm is free of any chemicals or pesticide.

The nursery where the plants are cultivated.

The nursery where the plants are cultivated.

Ramon Uy, Jr. met us at the festival grounds.

Ramon Uy, Jr. met us at the festival grounds.

Too bad we had to leave and return to the festival grounds, but we were happy to be afforded this opportunity to see the very source — the “fresh start” — of all these healthy, organic products. Fresh Start owner Ramon Uy, Jr.met us at the Capitol Road and treated us to a sumptuous lunch and a rich serving of stories and insights on organic farming.

For more information, visit:

http://freshstartorganic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/freshstartorganic

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