Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cherry Ripe, Berry Good

A brief history on how this package of chocolately goodness came into my life.

I belong to a Travel message board composed of similarly itchy-footed human beings from all over the world. Over the years, I've gotten fairly close to quite a number of them. Some I've met in person, others I only correspond with through email and instant messenger. We've traded books, postcards, and the odd gift or two. One good friend even sent me a berimbau all the way from Brasil (muito obrigada Apollo!).

The most recent project we launched was a food exchange. Someone picked someone from another country the two then sent each other a package of food 'native' to their area. In my packet I sent over sinigang mix, dried mangoes, pili nuts, ampalaya tea and chocnut to someone in Oz.

In the packet sent to me was an assortment of Ozzie goodies. Among them, a small bar of Cherry Ripe by Cadbury. I immediately fell in love with its mix of chocolate, cherries and dried coconut. So enamored was I that when my mom went to Australia all I asked her to bring home for me was more cherry ripe chocolates. And she did. Two bags. Two. Whole. Bags. That's 40 pieces of lovely lovely cherry ripe chocolate bars. Woot! Woot!

I might even share them with my friends.

And that is all I have to say.


Friday, May 19, 2006


I wrote an article on the art of poi, more popularly known in the country as "zipping" after the indefatigable Planet Zips team. The piece recently came out in Mabuhay Magazine, the in-flight publication of our very own Philippine Airlines.

And, as you would have to be on a PAL flight to get your hands on Mabuhay, I figured I would post a copy of it here as well in all its unedited glory.

Has this happened to you yet? You are at your favorite beach, or maybe taking in a weekend afternoon at the park. And then a stream of bright color catches your eye. It undulates against the clear blue sky. It is joined by another. Spinning and twirling these ribbons in neon hues dance in the air. They seem almost alive, moving with the grace of a corps de ballet. Then you notice that these ribbons are being manipulated by able hands. It is also likely that the people weaving this intricate sky tango are held rapt by the movements they are creating. Chances are they’ll even be plugged into an mp3 player, totally unaware that you are watching. Or they’ll have a group of friends with them, all yelling encouraging words from the sidelines.

Congratulations, you have just seen your first set of poi, known more popularly in the Philippines as zips, after the local brand Planet Zips. The essential elements of poi are a weighted center and a piece of string. Sometimes they end with long flowing ribbons, other times with fuzzy balls or flashy LED lights. The more trained and courageous aficionados use flammable Kevlar at the end of their chains to spin fire.

These toys have sprung up all over the world. Websites devoted to the art of poi have sprung up all over cyberspace. Communities of spinners trade techniques and videos.

But this seemingly new trend has actually been around for a very long time. The Maoris of New Zealand are credited with the art of poi to help keep their arms and hands limber and their bodies coordinated. They would spin and weave as a means of expression as well as to prepare for war.

In the modern world, the art of poi is practiced as an outlet for individual creativity. Moves are strung together to create seemingly complicated combinations. The more tricks a spinner can master, the wider and richer his routine becomes. To watch a skilled spinner at work is captivating. No “show” is ever the same and no two spinners are alike. Each individual imbues their personal stamp on their style.

But why would a bit of string, a weighted center and a flowing ribbon catch the attention of so many people? Well, first of all, it is fun. It truly is as simple as that. They sometimes have a calming effect on people. Some enthusiasts are known to carry their poi with them anywhere they go, in case, as one friend once said “I need to release some stress or bad vibes.”

And if you think ribbon poi are impressive, wait until you see your first sight of fire poi in use! There is a whoosh of sound as fire poi begin to make circles in the air. To a poi fan, it is literally, the sound of energy. This harnessed power finds a conduit in the hands of the spinner as the energy flows from spinner to poi. The display, when done by someone with skill and finesse, is captivating. Coupled with the appropriate music, a fire dancing show can be mind-blowing.

Even if you don’t think spinning fire is quite up your alley, you can always pick up a pair of ribbon or LED poi and spin away. How quickly a newbie picks up the various moves depends largely on each individual. There are some who learn faster than others. Lessons help of course. You can find free tutorials on-line or buy instructional DVDs. Live classes are the most beneficial of course and there are a growing number of reputable teachers worldwide (see sidebar for lessons in the Philippines).

But when it all comes down to it, the choice is all yours. It is your choice if you would like to have structured classes or be self-teaching. It is up to you to find out what your personal style is; if you like to spin fast to house music or lose yourself in tribal beats. There are no rules or expectations. All that is expected is that you enjoy yourself.

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Zipping at the Pyramid of the Moon, Mexico


In the Philippines, it is the team from Planet Zips that leads the way. Created by friends who shared a passion of spinning, they re-branded the generic term poi and called their product Zips. Having picked up the art in various countries such as Japan, Mexico, Britain and South Africa, these friends are now spreading their love for zips to fellow Filipinos.

There are currently 12 core members of the Planet Zips team. They are all part of the performing group with several giving instructional classes on a weekly basis. But there are over 200 members that are involved with the art of zipping in one way or another.

For information on lessons, purchasing zips and booking Planet Zips for performances please go to:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Beachin' in Bahasa

I recently wrote an article on Philippine beaches and Philippine beach culture for a women's magazine that publishes out of Indonesia. The issue came out this month, a copy of which will be mailed to me by the editor. The only problem is that, since its readership base is independent Indonesian women, my article was translated from English to Bahasa. Hence this post... in English...


In a country with over 7,000 islands, it is only natural that beaches are amongst the Philippines’ tourist spots. Whether it is a long vacation packed with activities or weekend getaway with nothing on the agenda, there is a beach out there waiting for every sort of tourist and traveler. Solo travelers need not fret about fitting in. Filipinos tend to be very open to tourists. A simple smile and “kamusta” (how are you?) should suffice. Pretty soon, you could find yourself sharing a cold beer and travel stories with your new friends.

Below is a rough guide to some of the country’s best spots for some sun and fun the Filipino way.


Boracay is the most popular beach in the Philippines for a good reason. The pristine white sand of its beaches never gets hot, even under the high-noon sun. The calm blue waters offer parasailing, jet-skiing, kiteboarding, and skimboarding to water-sports enthusiasts. There is even some snorkeling to be enjoyed just off the main island.

Filipinos also love to eat, especially while on vacation. The variety of food to be found on the island answers to nearly every kind of craving. From traditional Filipino fare to Mexican to German, it’s all there. If you’re on a budget, up and down the beach are pushcarts selling everything from grilled hotdogs to dried squid on a stick. Rest assured, you will never go hungry in Boracay!

Filipinos love a good party. How else do you explain the sheer number of festivals and fiestas that are held each year? So it goes without saying that one of the most popular beaches in the country also offers some of the best parties. Yes, it is when the sun goes down that Boracay truly comes to life.

Handmade sand castles built by the Boracay locals are lit up at night with candles and decorated with delicate designs. These intricately designed marvels are created on a daily basis and only add to the beauty of the island at night.

Happy hour can begin as early as 4 in the afternoon. Buy-one-take-one deals on mango daquiris and mocha rum shakes are a common sight along the numerous bars that line the shore. And there is always some kind of party going on at one of the many bars. Get ready to dance the night away or jam with local musicians who sometimes play impromptu sessions along the beach.


Philippine beach life is not just about dancing til dawn or drinking margaritas. The islands of the Philippines offer every kind of water sport and activity imaginable.

The town of Donsol in the province of Sorsogon has one attraction that brings visitors in from all over. Every year, between the months of March and May, whale sharks can be spotted in the local waters. The largest of the shark family, these gentle giants spend their summers in Donsol. Guided tours and boat trips allow you to swim right beside them for an experience you are likely not to forget.

Equally exciting are the dolphin-watching tours offered in Bais city, Dumaguete. While you are not allowed to swim with these friendly creatures, you can watch them cavort in the water from the safety of your hired boat. A short stop at a natural sandbar for some swimming rounds off the day nicely.

Scuba-divers and snorkelers have their pick of destinations. The outer edges of Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef have become famous worldwide for the diversity of marine life. In Malapascua, Cebu, early divers gear up at the break of dawn to catch the elusive thresher sharks in their natural environment. The Visayan islands are chockfull of resorts and dive spots that cater to all levels of diving and snorkeling.

Those with little time to spare can head straight from Manila to Batangas where the coral reefs of Anilao, are most known for its variety of invertebrates. Not to worry, tropical reef fish are also abundant in the area. Further down south is Puerto Galera, another ideal beach for both activities.

But if it is something more exciting that you are after, why not try your hand at surfing? The sport of surfing is gaining popularity in the Philippines and several surf destinations have become more accessible to tourists.

There are the breaks of San Juan, La Union and San Narcisso, Zambales, favorite haunts of surfers based in the capital city of Manila. Weekends are the most crowded as the city-dwelling wave riders load up their cars and head to these inviting breaks.

Further away is the town of Baler, Aurora where Francis Ford Copolla shot portions of his movie Apocalypse Now, thereby introducing the sport of surfing to the local community. Surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountain range, surfing in Baler is not only exciting, it is also quite picturesque.

Down south is the most famous surf spot in the Philippines, the island of Siargao. Home to a break called Cloud 9, Siargao has seen surfers from all over the world cross its scenic paths. There are other breaks on the island ideal for surfers from beginner to professional levels.

Also found in this island chain is the breath-taking Suhoton Cove where a lagoon is home to the country’s only known species of stingless jellyfish. Much like their relatives in Borneo, these jellyfish have lost their ability to sting. Swimming amongst them is an experience that must be seen to be believed.


Of course, sometimes you just want to be away from it all. Who doesn’t? What better way to escape the crowds, the noise and the real world than by packing your bags for a quiet beach retreat?

For those with a taste for the rich life, the island of Pamalican, Palawan is the answer to all your worries. The private island is where the country’s only Aman resort, Amanpulo, is located. Much like its Indonesian counterparts (Amandari, Amankila, Amanusa, Amanwana and Amanjiwo), this Aman resort offers only the highest form of resort luxury. Chartered flights, a private golf cart and your own casita (bungalow) are only part of the package. But of course, this kind of privacy comes with a large price tag.

If you would rather escape on a smaller budget, consider Pandan Island in Mindoro as a possible haven. Hours away from the nearest city, Pandan is quiet and serene. No phones, no traffic and, best of all, no crowds.

A more rugged option is the largely unexplored shores of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Long stretches of white sand and clear blue waters are complimented by the raw terrain of the region.


For those seeking relaxation at the hands of the very best, check out the Mandala Spa in Boracay where pavilions set away from the white sands become secluded havens for the tired soul. Treatments range from full-body scrubs to yoga sessions, all of which are designed to rejuvenate your body and rest your mind.

Mogambo Springs is the house spa of Cebu island’s famed Plantation Bay resort. Their ultimate treatment includes a pool massage, body scrub, foot therapy, a facial treatment of your choice, an aromatherapy Oil Massage, hot oil, and nail care in one of their private treatment rooms.

Also in Cebu is the Badian Island Resort & Spa. When you are done snorkeling at their ‘house reef’ or partaking in their watersports, head for their unique Thalasso waterfalls and pools. Built straight into the Cliffside, the healing effects of filtered seawater embraces you. The spa also offers more traditional treatments such a massages and herbal baths.

If you can’t make up your mind, never fear. Getting a massage comes hand-in-hand with vacationing at a Philippine beach. They range from independent masseuses that walk the shores offering their services to sunbathing tourists to highly-trained staff members of established resort spas.

There simply isn’t enough space to list down all the beaches and resorts that await you. But this rough guide should give you an idea of what kind of vacation is waiting for you over on Philippine shores. So pack your bikinis, some sunscreen and call a good friend. There’s a beach there that is waiting for you.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Random Quiz: Donuts

Because I have yet to blog about 1. Caliraya for Cat's birthday, 2. Holy Week in Siargao and 3. Labor Day Weekend/the 2nd International Girls' Surf Fest in Siargao but I haven't uploaded anything new since the Bora Food Shots, I bring you the "What Donut Are You?" blogthing quiz in a lame attempt to keep the title of 'bad blogger' at bay.

You Are a Caramel Crunch Donut

You're a complex creature, and you're guilty of complicating things for fun.
You've been known to sit around pondering the meaning of life...
Or at times, pondering the meaning of your doughnut.
To frost or not to frost? To fill or not to fill? These are your eternal questions.