“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

According to the official website of CNN, Christmas celebration in the Philippines is known as the longest in the world and Sarah Brown, author of the article entitled “The Philippines shows the world how to celebrate Christmas” could not agree more, describing our country as a place where one can find “the most Christmas spirit in the world.”  It’s not the case of “wake me up before September ends,” a line taken from Green Day’s single of the same title but rather “wake me up when September starts,” as the month signals the “official” Yuletide season. Airwaves filled with both classic and modern renditions of Christmas carols of Jose Marie Chan, Christina Aguilera, and the all-time favourite, Gunter Kallman Choir. For the millennial generation like me, (wink) I might as well add Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande in the mix. How about you?  What is your favorite Christmas carol?

Released in 1970, this choir’s rendition of our favorite Christmas carols is a classic masterpiece.

With all the coming Christmas cheer and busyness of our everyday lives, the last four months of the year also happened to be the busiest for Tourism Amlan (TA).  The preparations for major events were indeed exhausting yet we continued to strive for perfection to make Amlan known not only within the province of Negros but to the world.  It is such an impossible goal but nothing is impossible, so they say.

Buglasan 2018:

One of the major events was the province-wide festival of festivals, the “Buglasan Festival” of which our Municipality joined in the celebration showcasing our heritage through different forms. This year’s theme called for more inter-sectoral cooperation to promote, conserve, and preserve the natural attractions found in Negros Oriental. 

LGU-Amlan celebrated the Festival with entries on several competitions, and some struck gold. To all our participants, thank you for sharing your talents to Negros Oriental.  I am proud of you.  Let me take this opportunity to name our winners for this year’s Buglasan activities:

LGU-Amlan is very proud of you guys!

Buglasan Festival gave me and the rest of my team the opportunity to make new friends and share different stories on culture and the arts.  It was truly an inspiring and memorable event.  It ended with lessons learned and memories earned. 

Amlan Fiesta Celebration:

Another major event was our Town Fiesta, a thanksgiving celebration to our municipality’s patron saint, St. Andrew the Apostle.  This is special to me and to all Amlanganons.

Our November fiesta is always on the heels of the Buglasan celebration.  I could have taken a pause, a trip, or a quick getaway somewhere far, away from the grid, to experience serenity and silence, but not with the activity preparations lined up.  Even though planning and preparation were done much ahead, everything kicked into high gear right after the Buglasan.  Opening salvo was done on the first week of November, and on every Saturday and Sunday, thereafter, were activities put together to celebrate the town’s fiesta.  TA was the Publicity and Promotion Committee of the Amlan Fiesta 2018 Directorate.  The highlight of the fiesta celebration was the Miss Amlan Beauty Pageant where Miss Cris Ann Bilangdal of Mag-abo, Amlan was crowned as the winner.  Part of her role as the municipality’s ambassador of goodwill is to execute her chosen advocacy during her reign. 

Newly-crowned Miss Amlan 2018, Miss Cris-Ann Bilangdal.

Miss Amlan Beauty Pageant has produced a number of ladies who have gone on to compete internationally.  Rogelie Catacutan, Miss Amlan 2006, became Binibining Pilipinas Supranational 2015 and represented the Philippines in the Miss Supranational Beauty Pageant in Poland.  Trixia Marie Marana, a former Miss Amlan candidate, was crowned Miss Asia 2016 in India.  Amlan Festival Queen, Rosario Gonzales became Mutya ng Pilipinas 2nd runner-up and went on to join the Miss Intercontinental in Germany in 1997.  All these ladies brought pride, honor and hometown glory to Amlan.  I wish that the list will continue to grow in numbers…a not so impossible wish for Amlan.

Binibining Pilipinas Supranational 2015, Miss Rogelie Ardosa Catacutan.

Pasko Sa Kapitolyo (PSK) – This year saw LGU-Amlan’s Buglasan booth converted into traditional Belen, or the nativity scene.  Belen, is a Spanish word derived from the biblical place, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ.  The Department of Education (DepEd) Amlan District, with Dr. Nida Bersabal at the helm, crafted one of the most beautiful Belens, including an indigenous Christmas tree and parol, now displayed at the Freedom Park.  The PSK Belen display runs from December 14 until January 6, 2019. 

Utilizing used foils and plastic wrappers, A DepEd teacher adds the finishing touches to LGU-Amlan’s parol entry to the Pasko Sa Kapitolyo 2018 Competition.

All sort of Christmas parties – This is the Philippines, so everyone is Christmas party-crazy.  Everyone wants to mark the birth of Jesus Christ with party games galore, food and drinks frenzy and everything thrown in.  And no LGU Christmas party is ever complete without each office doing a presentation, or outdoing each other for the top prize.  TA, together with the Office of the Mayor will be joining the choral contest. A lot of us were not born with a good singing voice but just the same, we’ll bring it on!

With all sorts of parties we’ll all be attending, don’t even think of dieting during this season or you will miss a lot of great foods and sweets.  Eat, drink and be merry but most importantly, be grateful for everything and for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! 

“Frosty the Snowman, Was a jolly happy soul
With a corncob pipe and a button nose, And his eyes made out of coal .”

And as our tradition, which wholly became part of our Filipino culture are our children from all walks of life singing its Christmas cheers.  I personally enjoy listening to them who often mumble-jumble the lyrics and its rhythm can elicit smile on my face, on our faces, for this is that time of the year when perfect pitch isn’t a perfect guarantee for fun and enjoyment. 

(from left to right) John, Junalyn and Christian. insert Ritchel Renzal.

From all of us at Tourism Amlan – John, Junalyn, Christian and Ritchel, we wish everyone happiness and peace this Christmas season, and beyond.



I have never seen anything like it before and so my eager anticipation in checking it out myself became publicly palpable. The crystal-clear, aquamarine waters minus the offensive sulfuric smell, I was told, makes swimming in this lagoon a must for everybody. The travel bug has got the better of me again.  This is a something exciting to discover, explore and document for others to know.

When an invite came along to inspect the place, I signed up for it without any hesitation…at all! I needed to go and be part of the travel team.  As the Tourism Officer of Amlan, Negros Oriental, it is of course a shame to not even know that such place existed.  It is one of my responsibilities to identify development initiatives for the town’s tourism industry and promote it within our locals and foreigners alike. The documenting team was composed of two assistants, one photographer and one freelance videographer.  Others in the group would eventually become unwilling models along this trip.


We left the town center at dawn to give us enough time for any major setbacks that might delay this trip.  The trusty and massive Cobra truck rumbled along Sitio Canete and its dirt tracks challenged and tested everyone’s patience and persistence.  Since we are up on the highlands of Amlan and Tanjay City, these bumpy and dusty roads usually turn muddy and slippery during the rainy season.  But on this day, the sun rose magnificently behind the beautiful mountain ranges of Cebu island.   The Mangoto River was as its usual self, slow and steady this time. In one piece, we arrived safely in San Miguel, a hinterland barangay in Tanjay City.

First stop:  Benguet Mining Tunnel

“Have you ever been inside?” we asked Dionaldo Sienes, a town councilor who is from Jantianon, Amlan.

“Of course, on several occasions,” he replied immediately.


We got off from the Cobra and made our way into the tunnel’s entrance.  The eerie silence was deafening. We noticed rusty iron rings and red markings that have survived the test of time.  The arched tunnel is 340 meters long, from end to end. A small ray of light marked the other end once you are inside. The tunnel is straight as a line.  Trickles of water came from the surface and the side walls, making the walk-through damp, and cold. Walking through the tunnel reminded us what it was like during the heydays of its operations in the 50s, more than half a century ago when sulfur and other precious minerals were mined heavily.  For a little adventure, one can bike its whole length with bike lights required.  When we came out, it was drizzling and so we quickly hopped back on the truck for the main attraction of the trip, the “Asupri,” or the sulfur lagoon as the locals say it.


On top of a small plateau, we finally reached the OPAPP-built (Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process) satellite market in San Miguel by mid-morning. Welcoming smiles from the members of Kapatiran greeted our warm hellos.  Kapatiran, a resettled community together with the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources manages this area. Vegetables of different varieties are very much vivid in this small community.

We got a quick briefing and we were also able to ask questions and signed the guestbook.  These people know the sights and sounds in this part of the world; it makes them compelling tour guides along this exciting journey.

AmlanSulfurLagoon (1 of 1)

Second stop:  Asupri sa Maiti

After a trek of less than 500 meters, we crossed the municipal boundary and were back in Jantianon, Amlan.  Up further for another kilometer walk is the main attraction of the day, the “Asupri.”  Even before we arrived, the gurgling sound of a delightfully clear and bright swift stream already told us were close.  Dubbed the “Asupri sa Maiti (Maiti’s sulfur),” the sulfur lagoon’s crystal-clear, aquamarine water is a sight to behold.  You can even see all the way to the bottom without any haze obstructing the impressive view. The water flows out of the sulfur cliffs fringing the lagoon, in languid yet steady rhythm.

AmlanSulfurLagoon (1 of 1)-2

The water was cold and it did not have that distinct sulfur smell.  The presence of oxygen in sulfur actually dissipates that trademark rotten egg smell, so I learned.  The lagoon was calm and serene, the breeze not picking up so to cause a stir on its surface. The sulfur cliffs had uneven contours but are very fragile. We took extra precaution not to crumble anything under our feet.  Pictures here and there were taken taking advantage of such a magnificent creation of God. At this time nobody was still in the water and the assistant, still holding his camera, impatiently asked us if we were ready to try what the Kapatiran people do…to jump in this crystal waters.


“No so fast, but yes I am,” a reply filled with fear.  Back then, when I did my cliff jump a few months back in Cantalina, Silab, my body felt the soreness of it.  My arms were thrashed when I landed in the water and it was painfully hurting the whole of me.  This time though would be different.  Arms tucked, center of gravity at the hips, counted to three, took two quick steps forward and I took off.  I always hate the feeling of a free fall but I always ended doing it. The landing was just right and a huge splash was just what I wanted.  Others immediately followed suit, each one trying to outdo the last person’s splash, the bigger splash, the better.  As we continued to enjoy this God’s given gift, we realized that the waters can get murky when the bottom gets disturbed but that didn’t in any way disheartened anyone’s enjoyment.


The ladies who were with us were more laid-back in their choices, rafting and picnicking right on the edge of the lagoon.  The supplies were brought in – lunch, drinks and all.  Asupri sa Maiti does not have any food outlet to speak of for now. Soon, additional support services will be in place. These services will also serve as livelihood projects/programs of the Kapatiran community. We hope to accomplish this and seek the assistance of the LGU concerned.

Third stop: Twin Falls

West of Asupri sa Maiti is another attraction. Its proximity is an added bonus since the road was not too difficult to maneuver.  The Twin Falls can be deceiving in its own right. Why? The sulfur falls is hidden from plain view.  To get a good perspective of it, it takes some nerve to get inside a dank and mossy rock shelter, wade into its dark placid pool and voila, the sulfur falls.  Its size is intimate, but one has to be cautious during rainy days.  Its water can swell into dangerous levels and can trap anyone inside. The rocks you see around the place holds a beauty within.  Enchantingly carved over time by the swift mountain streams, the rock formations were reminiscent of an earthly lunar landscape.



The other falls is in plain sight, again small in size, but nevertheless charming, its misty drop relaxing, complementing the already tranquil environment.  I guessed during heavy rains, these falls would have massive water volume dropping off its cliff.  Near these falls are cottages for rent, built by our Kapatiran brothers and sisters.



The surrounding view is simply relaxing.

On our way back from the Twin Falls, we almost step on a wild plant whose flower color was that of a bright lipstick red.

“Careful,” a stern reminder came from our guide.

Miniature in size, it thrives on the damp, wet forest floor. It looked delicately beautiful, its flower of almost velvety quality.  It reminded us we need to be extra careful when treading into these terrains.  Anything we unknowingly step on can be a misery to an already stressed natural environment.  Respect the environment; I kept repeating the line in my head.  Until now, I never had the chance to know the plant’s name.   Maybe this will become another assignment to accomplish soon.


Our task for the day is almost over before one of our companions pointed in the direction towards a mountain top.

“Over there, marks the boundary of Sibulan, Amlan Tanjay City and Pamplona,” Eric Barrera, who worked with the MPDC quipped.

“Seriously?”  I asked.  “Yes” he affirmed with no hesitation.

I wanted to go there, see it myself, and probably get a photo taken where the “mojon,” or the boundary marker of the four towns, repeat, four towns are located.  I would probably spread on all four, with one limb out into each town’s territory, shouting “I’ve been here in four towns all at the same time!”  Next time, we will be back with more reasons to explore.


Amlan’s beauty remains as captivating as it has ever been before.   And what more reasons to begin exploring the world, by starting right here, in Amlan.

Happy 68th Birthday Amlan!

Newly-elected barangay and SK officials taking their oath during Amlan’s Charter Day Celebration.

Give me a break.  A lot of you readers would share the same impression that history is one boring subject to take.  And besides, who really is interested to learn about Philippine history, taught since elementary school with teachers forcing you to memorize facts, dates and all, with little historical significance and repercussion thrown into the discussion? History at the college level was a different matter though; however much of what was taught focused on what happened in Luzon, with tidbits coming from Visayas and Mindanao. I could not recall being taught our local history, which understandably would make me another resident without much concrete grasp of Amlan’s evolution as a town.

As Tourism Amlan became the de facto Culture and the Arts Office, we had to scour around for the information that we needed to build Amlan’s historical foundation.  We found scant information, here and there.  Luckily, a copy of our town’s historical data kept in the archives of the National Museum of the Philippines and provided to us by The Dumaguete Tourism Office served as the backbone of our research.  It piqued our interest to get ahold of the copy, which contains very significant events and timelines.  This material further includes a good narrative of the cultural practices of Amlan’s forefathers.



Before the Spaniards came, Amlan used to be called Ayuquitan Viejo.  A total of 19 barrios and 67 sitios comprised the town. Out of the 19 barrios, seven were coastal, namely: Calo, Lalaan, Viejo Ayuquitan, Tampe, Tandayag, Poblacion and Bio-os.  The hinterland barrios were:  Tambojangin, Siapo, Silab, Jantianon, Ayuquitan, Basak, Cansipit, Basiao, Jilocon, Tampe, Tapon Norte, Lala-an, Calo, Naiba, Cambaloctot, and Bandera.

The ruins of the old “municipio,” or the municipal hall.

In 1840, Padre Bracamonte arrived in Amlan and saw a couple eating a fruit and asked them the name of the place.  The couple mistook the question and replied “Alman,” referring to the fruit they were eating. Padre Bracamonte  took Alman as the name of the place and spoke of Amblang.

Satisfy your sweet tooth  with natural sugar – fructose – from this wild and small Alman guavas.

In 1848, the new town site was laid out. Father Patreceño had the trees and bushes cleared in the spot where the Amlan Central Square is now; a small brick church was built, and the people were encouraged to live around the new site. This marked Amlan as a pueblo.  This new municipality was under the jurisdiction of Tanjay for eight years for there was no local government organized at that time.

Amlan Church
The St. Andrew the Apostle Parish Church is built using brick and coral limestones.

During the early part of the American colonization, this part of town was officially called Ayuquitan Nuevo.  It was made the new seat of the municipal government because more people lived here than in Ayuquitan Viejo (Poblacion, San Jose today).  At one time, piracy was common and a temporary town or lungsod was created up in the hills of barrio Siapo.  The place is now presently called Guilungsoran.

A group of pirates who would regularly ransack coastal towns at the turn of the 20th century.

On November 21, 1898, revolutionary activities were felt in the locality.  This soon died away when the American soldiers came to Dumaguete on board the warship, “Baltimore.” Among the soldiers who came to Amblan were Mr. Henry Fleischer and Mr Wanestine.   A local government was organized, and Mr. Antero Bandoquillo was appointed the first town president by the Junta Provincial in 1902.

USS Baltimore
The warship “Baltimore” as it sailed in the Pacific during World War II.

The Gabaldon-type school buildings were constructed in 1913, and the first principal was Mr. Lazaro Bandoquillo.  These structures were designed by American architect William Parsons and were funded through Act Number 1801 authored by Isauro Gabaldon, ex-governor of Nueva Ecija province and former member of the Philippine Assembly from 1907 to 1911.

Kang-Atid Silab Highlands-06538
The main Gabaldon building, at Amlan Central Elementary School.

Japanese forces occupied Amlan on June 22, 1942, forcing some residents to seek haven in the hills and other hinterland barrios.  The Japanese converted the vacant house of Mr. Vicente Salatandre to serve as their military garrison.  Soon a civilian government was established with Mr. Nesterio Erum, a ex-USAFFE Captain, appointed mayor of the town.  Nippongo classes were organized.

Japanese soldiers as they occupied the Philippines back in the 1940s.

The Japanese soldiers were ambushed by Filipino guerillas for the first time in Tandayag near the rice fields owned by Luis Se-it. Two soldiers were killed and four were wounded.  After that, Japanese soldiers passing between Dumaguete and Bais were regularly harassed by guerillas, with Capt. Fernan de Asis leading the Amlan campaign.  Kandahunog, a deep ravine above barrio Siapo, was the birthplace of the resistance movement in Negros Oriental.  Because of the ambushes, Japanese soldiers took to the water to travel between Dumaguete and Bais.

The Japanese entrenched themselves in the Roman Catholic Church.  They started bombarding the NACOCO (National Coconut Corporation) plant, school buildings, and some of the town’s prominent family residences, including that of Don Jesus Montenegro and Don Joaquin Bocanegra.  In September 1944, the Japanese began to vacate their garrisons in Bais and Tanjay, and eventually in Amlan.

Kang-Atid Silab Highlands-06560
The original location of the National Coconut Corporation (NACOCO) plant in Tandayag, Amlan.

On April 26,1945, remnants of the 164th Infantry went ashore at Sibulan, met with Reconnaissance Troop of the 40th Division, and attacked the Japanese forces in hill positions around Dumaguete.  Finally, the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945.

By virtue of Act No.  435, the Philippine Congress approved on June 7, 1950 the charter of AMLAN. Less than five years from its charterhood, Republic Act No. 1212 approved in May 9, 1955, saw 13 barrios separated from Amlan to constitute a new municipality, now known as San Jose.

philippine assembly
The Philippine Congress back in the day.


Amlan continues to evolve, facing even bigger challenges as it forges ahead.  This year’s theme is “Amlan: Kaniadto ug Karon, Ipadayung Palambuon,” is a call to all residents to take part and be part in the development of Amlan as one of the best places to live in the region.

municipal hall
The seat of the local government in Amlan.

DANCE XCHANGE: An Afternoon of Cultural Expression Through the Art of Dance

Melengas Dance Ensemble, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts – National Committee on Dance under the leadership of Ms. Shirley Halili-Cruz organized Dance Xchange: The Philippine International Dance Workshop and Festival with the theme “Cultural Connectivity through Dance” on April 27, 2018 in  Amlan, Negros Oriental, Philippines.

Sinukwan Kapampangan Performing Arts, Angeles City Pampanga

Lokrang International Folk Arts Club, India (Bhangra)

This event is the Philippine celebration of the International Dance Day and in accordance with Presidential Proclamation No. 154, declaring the last week of April as the “National Dance Week”.  Dance Xchange is also one of the banner projects of the Philippines which is done in partnership with local government units, including our town, Amlan.

Lokrang International Folk Arts Club, India (Bharata Natiyam)

Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe, Tangub City


The Dance Xchange aims to:  1) enhance knowledge and skills of the dancers, dance teachers and choreographers on dances of the different countries as creative expression of their culture, 2) strengthen network among dance groups from the different countries, 3) showcase the unique dances of each country to enhance cultural understanding, 4) provide venue for exchange of ideas and inspiration which will stimulate the creation of new works; 5) provide platform for discussion on the global trends in dance education and of dance as tool for global connectedness and 6) provide skills enhancement for events and festival management.


Sinukwan Kapampangan Performing Arts, Angeles City Pampanga

Full text is taken from http://ncca.gov.ph/dance-xchange-philippine-international-dance-workshop-festival/

All photos are courtesy of Randy Millares, Dance Xchange’s Official Photographer.


Keeping Calm Amidst April’s Activities and Surprises

Summer has not yet officially been declared by PAG-ASA, but the sweltering heat during the day is a naked truth that the dog days are here.  School is officially closed, the Holy Week observance is over and the month of April is welcoming us for some new and exciting developments in Tourism Amlan. So we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty for some exciting tasks we participated in and several more to undertake this summer and beyond.

  1. Tourism Amlan joined the program launching of the Drug-Free Workplace, spearheaded by the Municipal Health Office and the Local Government Unit of Amlan.  Drug abuse and addiction are a sad reality and menace to our society.  Instituting this program, which includes unannounced drug testing and counselling among employees, seeks to address this problem.  For one, drugs do not have a place in any workplace, and Amlan leads in making this a permanent, viable municipal program.

Now is the time to make this a sustainable program for the whole municipality

Our guest of honor, P/SSupt Edwin Portento  with our Vice-Mayor Bentham P. dela Cruz

2.   An ocular inspection of a possible launch pad for paragliding, an adventure sport that is gaining ground in the country, brought us back to the highlands of Silab. Kim Vertulfo, the paragliding enthusiast, pointed out some possible take off points on which he will soon do some test runs to check their feasibility before starting to open the regular paragliding activity to tourists. I asked myself the question, “When was the last time I did something for the first time?”  Way too long ago, and I can’t wait to see my hometown from a new perspective.  Soon, I will be getting my own “wings” and fly away into the sky.  On the other hand, Silab plays host to several natural attractions, which have their own inherent adventure qualities that can entice adrenaline junkies and wannabes, and adding this proposed paragliding activity complements Silab as the next destination in Amlan in the forefront of the adventure sports market.

Soar into the sky and see Amlan like you’ve never seen before

Scouting the most ideal location as launching pad for paragliding activity

On foot as we scour around Silab Highlands for a launch pad

3.   All tourism and planning officers together with various stakeholders are headed to Dumaguete City for the 2-day Negros Oriental Strategic Tourism Road Map Workshop. The aim of the workshop is to “engage all LGU and tourism stakeholders in a workshop planning exercise designed to help the participants better understand tourism needs and create a buy-in for a provincial tourism approach.” (S. Tamano’e endorsement).

Regional Director Shahlimar Hofer Tamano with Governor Roel Degamo and some of the province’s bigwigs

4.   Up next is our Municipal Ecotourism Stakeholders Workshop. Amlan would like to lead in developing an ecotourism plan that focuses on responsible travel and community involvement in the whole tourism sector.  Tarche Collins, our US Peace Corps Response Volunteer (US PCRV) will facilitate the workshop by mid-month, which will bring together all key players in the local tourism industry.

Tarche Collins (seated middle),  the USPCRV Ecotourism Development Specialist will faciliate a series of ecotourism workshops

5.   Our office is proud to be associated with the Pump Cakes Club, the hypertensive and diabetic club of the Municipal Health Office of Amlan. This weekend, April 9, will see hundreds of runners who come from near and far to participate in the Club’s second hosting of the Amlan Adventure Run.  This run is in behalf of the members of the Club, and all proceeds will go to the purchase of their maintenance medicines.  So we’re encouraging all to participate in this worthwhile cause.

adventure run photo for website.png
You get fit and support a good cause.  It can get any better than this.

Who doesn’t get excited and apprehensive at the same time with all of these developments?  So, April please be kind to us.






Ungon Cascades Makes A Splash



Amlan’s beautiful and diverse landscape is an overwhelmingly powerful call to explore.  This week we visited the upper reaches of Silab Highlands, a scenic area in which very few has ever set foot–this exquisite place is known only to locals as their “hidden gem.”  Near the famous Lantawan Amlan, our highest peak, this secret area is just a few hundred meters below.  Still nursing our bodies from the physically demanding climb to Lantawan a week ago, the bruising and scratched marks on our skins are daily reminders that nature has its own way of defending itself from human invasion. With much excitement, we expect more of the same on this journey we are about to embark.

UngonCascades50Our task is to document this special destination:  The Ungon Cascades and the surrounding Tubigon Scenic Area in the highlands of Silab, one of Amlan’s hinterland barangays.

UngonCascades11The reddish-brown of the clay-like earth, wet from the rains just days before, swished under our feet as we trekked through a thick cover of green vegetation;  it all painted a picturesque view. A large swath of land halfway through is mostly covered in ferns, so ubiquitous and delicate, except for the much-dreaded thorny variety of Tree ferns, which can fool an uninitiated person to be a reliable support to grab onto in the event of slips and tumbles.  The painstaking process of removing tiny thorns sliding underneath our skin has become too mundane, so much that they have become part and parcel of our highland treks.

UngonCascades22Seasons change and as the months roll midway into the year, the calming power of these verdant hills will soon be transformed into browns of withered leaves and decaying growth of the forest, only to provide the nourishing nutrients for new growth come the rainy season in June.

UngonCascades31We broke the trek into several legs, with frequent required stops to catch our breath and take in the vast expanse of uninterrupted view of the area and the nearby chain of mountains and cliffs on nearby town of San Jose–fun fact:  before politics partitioned it into two separate municipalities, San Jose  and Amlan together used to be part of the much bigger old town of Ayuquitan.

UngonCascades10On the steep ravine, locals have driven stakes into the ground as makeshift handholds to prevent any accidental slips down into the unknown deep gullies below.  Carved out by rushing mountain streams and tributaries that drained the parched lands in the plains of Bio-os, these gullies and the surrounding areas remained uncharted territory.

DSC05825Inching our way up the mountainside, we agreed on distancing ourselves meters apart from each other, just to make sure we got everyone within shouting distance should any untoward incident happen and for emergency response to be immediately put into action.

UngonCascades30Local guide Alfabeto Ruales, “Nong Beto”–as the group fondly called him, is a master of the difficult terrain.  He knew the place like the back of his hand.  At an age where most are retiring and has physically slowed down, he was showing the physical strength and mental sharpness of a 30-year old.  As a small-scale farmer, he has had a long affinity with the land, and has toiled the land for the better part of his life.  On that day he became our eco-guide, he was determined to bring us to the cascades that have eluded the cowardly few.  I was blown away as I can not even keep pace with him and he is 25 years my senior!

UngonCascades18We reached the cascades around two in the afternoon and immediately grabbed our packed lunches and wolfed down an already delayed meal. Towering fern plants provided a cool shade as we settled in, relaxed, and let the atmosphere of the area replenished our drained energies.

UngonCascades33The enticingly cool waters had some in the group take long soaks; they were pensive and unperturbed by the sounds of the cascades a few meters down. The cawing of crows and the blow of a light breeze that fluttered the leafy vegetation around punctuated the stillness of the afternoon.

20180129_161740The business of the day is halfway done and we continued the documentation.  As we were on the top of the cascade drop, we wanted to canyon down the first cascade but against the wishes of the rescue team, we backtracked a few meters up the cliff, and descended on the first cascade by way of a static rope anchored soundly on a sturdy trunk.

UngonCascades34Everyone happily made it to the first plunge pool and we spent a considerable time taking in the view and the sound.  The cascades were a sight to behold, churning up fine mist and spraying them in all direction. The second cascade, higher in drop and bigger in its plunge, was too good to miss, but the afternoon sun was pulling away. We decided to make it as another jaunt, on a planned alternative route on the next visit.

UngonCascades38On the way back, the group helped themselves to locally grown pineapples situated on the undulating hills just a few hundred meters from the dirt road where we started our ascent. This variety is smaller than their foreign counterparts; however, they pack a punch!  Their sweetness is unrivaled, and so in this case size isn’t really everything after all.  Some had their picks on the way back and were not disappointed.

UngonCascades06We will definitely be back to explore more of the Ungon Cascades and Tubigon Scenic Area, no matter how difficult it is to get there.  As T.S Eliot opines, “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”


The Next It Destination for Adventure – Jantianon Highlands in Amlan

Final stop at Rockstead before the final descent back to civilization.

What to do when a government agency gives you only couple of days, not a week even, to comply with documentary requirements for a road construction/upgrade project request?  Bring it on!!!

Overcast skies greeted us last Tuesday morning, as we prepared for our planned visit to some hidden attractions located in the hinterlands of Jantianon.  Armed with bare necessities needed to survive the trek, minus the tent, we planned for a day visit. We made our way into Canete, a sitio in Jantianon, to start our initial ascent.

lantawan initial ascent
Beautiful naturescape as we start our initial ascent to Lantawan Amlan.

Our goal is to document the sundry of natural attractions found in the area to further bolster our request for funding of a road upgrade leading to these natural assets.  The Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP), a convergence program under the auspices of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Tourism (DOT), paved the way–no pun intended– to provide improved access to these touristic sites.

Days before our ascent, heavy rain made the ground soggy and slippery. We decided to plod straight ahead– making quick stops to get some fresh air.

Trekking just right after days of rain…Oh my!

divine falls
First pit stop:  Divine Falls.

paphaan falls small
The static rope makes the climb at Paphaan Falls a little easier.

During our trip, we visited  Divine and Paphaan Falls, which are documented with the Tourism Amlan Office; however, our target is a hidden gem, the tallest  of them all—Paphaon Falls, which trekkers bypass due to its difficult terrain. Once you’re on the cliff side of this hidden gem, you have to travel down the mountain face by using a static rope to drag yourself slowly down into the bank of Tabuyanan River. If you are an adventurous spirit, not afraid of heights, and loves rope-climbing mountainsides then I suggest you put this majestic waterfall on your list.  We gave it a shot!  After all, we were there for that very reason–to document it.  We all told ourselves that fear will never hold us back from seeing the falls with our own eyes.  We endured the risk of falls and slips–we survived them all.

Videocam is always ready to capture every moment.

The steep slopes are covered in soft and slimy brown mud.

It was mid-day when we reached Paphaon Falls, namesake after the process by which locals would scrape off shrimps from the surface of the falls’ plunge pool.  Majestic in its own right, this place is a haven for those who would want to get away from it all, to get off the grid, and simply enjoy the beauty of being away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.  Upon arriving, I just submitted myself completely to nature and just soaked in its splendor.

Paphaan Falls
Picture this: A serene majestic natural feat only God can make–Paphaon Falls.

xxlantawanpics (3)
Dennis Granado’s disaster risk reduction training makes canyoning look like a walk in the park.

wacky shot
We came.  We conquered! TRIP team groufie.

We unpacked our provisions, most of them easy open cans, and lunched our way.  The soft murmurs of the falls provided a soothing background to our already tired bodies as we prepared for the final task of the day, that of conquering Amlan’s highest peak.  Traversing to Paphaon Falls, which is an arduous detour, made our journey to the peak longer than usual.  However, shortcuts were made, albeit, a steep climb that would make any regular Juan faint.  On the way up, I was an attractive target to a giant bee (tambubuan)  and hit me right on my right leg.  The swelling was quick but the sting was overpowered by my determination to make it to the top.  However, I was more than thankful he missed my face or it would have puffed it up more. Others had their unlucky share of tropical fire ant bites.

During parts of the climb, we were on unfamiliar paths and there wasn’t anything to grab to  help guide our way except short stubby grasses, which gave me some scratches.

Up and up we go…

….inching our way closer to the summit.

Foggy Lantawan
We could almost see nothing but fog.

We made several stops, a few of us got cramps, but it never stopped our desire to be on top of the town. The peak loomed over us, it was calling.  The ascent to Lantawan Amlan took us three hours to complete.  Upon reaching the peak, I stood in awe, silent, stilled myself as words failed to come out of my mouth to describe the place. I am finally here.  Wave after wave of fog obstructed what would have been splendid views of Cebu and Panay Islands. But we were afforded a glimpse of the islands when the fog momentarily gave way its cascade of whiteness.  Having spent much energy to make this climb a reality, I sprawled myself on the peak’s grasses and allowed the overwhelming sensation of sheer joy to overcome me.  Now, this climb is finally off on my bucket’s list.  But I will be back soon, next time on an overnight jaunt.

Exhaustion took control of me minutes after reaching Lantawan Amlan’s summit.

A view of Cebu and Sumilon Islands.

The day was short, after an hour, with so much reluctance, we made our way down on a late afternoon.  On our descent, we were greeted with unknown plants and flowers, many of them found only in hinterland areas.  They have thrived as they have remained untouched by human encroachment.  On the other hand, be warned and be wary of holding on to anything; some tree-looking plants, like the Blue Oil Fern, harbor spiky thorns on them.

Be wary of what you hold on to.

Dusk was falling rapidly, so about a third of the way down, our mobile phones’ flashlight feature was turned on to assist in navigating down the cliff, which gave way to hills further down.  We arrived at the Canete Spillway, a little over seven in the evening, and waited for others to rejoin the whole entourage.  The visit to the three falls and Lantawan Amlan has worn us out to the point of exhaustion.  But we made it.

Canete Spillway, the meet-up place before we hopped on the mighty Cobra truck on our way back to town.

Finally, mission completed, documents submitted, and fingers crossed that the road upgrade will be approved soon by DPWH and DOT.

These are my trusted photographer (Randy Millares) and videographer (Rico Dasig).

Groufie at Lantawan Amlan’s summit
Back (L_R) Councilor Dionaldo Sienes, Dionaldo Omole, Lalaine Songcayawon, James Sedillo,                               Kagawad Donato Raaguing, Local EcoGuide Rey Ninio Phillip Loreto, Ronilo Retes, Ricardo Borlinggo Jr.                                                                                                                                     Front (L-R)  Ramil Rabor, Eric Barrera, Danreb Sienes, Oliver Villadarez, Dennis Granado, John-John Alabata





Tourism Amlan Launches New Video Marketing for its Top Tourist Attractions

Before bowing to 2017 and saying hello to a new year, Tourism Amlan (TA) launches two new videos in line with its mission to promote Amlan’s top tourist attractions.

We feature both the Animal Kingdom and the Adventure Park–Dreamland Nature and Adventure Park (DNAP)—in two short 2-minute videos promoting the beautiful landscape and natural offerings of Amlan as a way to showcase all of the great attractions that DNAP has to offer; to invite those who have never visited our great municipality; and to encourage those familiar to visit again.

On a tight budget, we needed a production studio that could handle the whole nine yards of the project.  Without breaking the bank—we found one, JM Photovideo. We are very happy with the result and more to come in 2018 with this great production studio.

Our greatest appreciation to all those who went out their way to make this video production successful:  LGU-Amlan headed by Mayor Gino P. dela Cruz, Dreamland Nature and Adventure Park, Provincial Tourism Office headed by Myla Bromo-Abellana, GB Lutz Aguilar, JM Aguilar, Jane Aguilar, US Peace Corps Response Volunteer Tarche Collins, Tourism Amlan staff, and many more.

Again, thank you for sharing your time, knowledge and experience with Tourism Amlan.

Wowing the Judges During the Talent Competition of Miss Amlan 2017

cropped-rgm-6503.jpgMore than just their pretty faces and lovely figures, candidates in beauty pageants now have to hurdle another pageant segment to showcase their natural ability to wow the judges.  The eight candidates just did that during the Miss Amlan 2017 Beauty Pageant Talent Competition last Saturday, November 18 at the Amlan Central Square.  The talent competition was brought back to the Miss Amlan Beauty Pageant in response to the growing number of requests from fans and critics alike who argued that there is more to these candidates than meets the eye.

Any talent is allowed, and the candidate is given the creative freedom to showcase her ability, be it in dancing, singing, acting, and everything in between.  There are several qualities a judge looks for in a talent presentation.  Candidates’ performances are judged on execution and skill, technical difficulty, choreography, and overall impact.  The Panel of Judges was composed of:

Tarche Collins

Liz Foster

Bobbit Ramirez

April Angel Bersabal

Alfred Campoy

After the competition, the Pageant Committee announced the top three performers in no particular order.  The Best in Talent Award will be announced during the Miss Amlan 2017 Selection and Coronation Night on November 27, 2017.

Here are the candidates’ individual talent presentation:

Candidate #1  Rikah Nina Silorio

Candidate #2  Irish Mae Alparo

Candidate #3  Princess Ann Montecino

Candidate #4  Jennifer Gutib

Candidate #5  Cyra Mendieta

Candidate #6  Khaela Jean Turco

Candidate #7  Daphnie Ann Reso

Candidate #8 Rica Carolyne Sesnorio