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Let’s Go to Pampanga!

With only a few weeks left before students go back to school and rain to start pouring down heavily (hello, rainy season), let’s go and explore Pampanga. Pampanga is a province in the Central Luzon and bordered by Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, and Zambales. Its capital is San Fernando, and Angeles City is considered to be its highly urbanized first-class city.

So before everything goes back to “normal” and storms come to our country, here are a few places you may visit in Pampanga:

Sandbox at Alviera

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Sandbox at Alviera, Porac, Pampanga maximizes the place’s sand-richness by being an outdoor adventure go-to. Experience Giant Swing, Philippines’ tallest swing, Aerial Walk Challenge, Avatar One, country’s first-ever roller coaster zip line, Outdoor Archery, and much more in Sandbox. This adventure place is a joint venture development of AyalaLand and LenioLand.

Sky Ranch Pampanga

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If you want some adrenaline rush, go and visit Sky Ranch, which is just around SM Pampanga, and try their 22 rides. Some of the must-try attractions are Bungee Jump, Drop Tower, Loop Roller Coaster,  Space Shuttle, and Super Vikings. There are also child-friendly attractions for the kids who may be too afraid to try those breath-taking rides or maybe they are not yet allowed to ride those. You can also see a giant Ferris wheel known as the Pampanga Eye, only for PHP 150 per ticket!

San Guillermo Church and Betis Church

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San Guillermo Church is a well-known tourist destination way before the catastrophic Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 as this Church is one of the oldest in the country. Also dubbed as “half sunken church,” this Baroque-styled Church at Bacolor Pampanga was built by Augustinian friars in 1546. Because of its beauty, this has been the primary location set of “May Bukas Pa,” an ABS-CBN primetime teleserye.

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On the other hand, Betis Church or St. James the Apostle Parish Church is another Baroque-styled Church but in Guagua, Pampanga. This astonishing “Sistine Chapel of the Philippines” is one of the National Cultural Treasures in the Philippines. Betis Church was constructed in 1607 as a dedication to St. James. It was built with concrete materials only 1770 after a few fire broke out within the Church.

Pamintuan Mansion

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The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and Angeles City local government led the inauguration of Pamintuan Mansion as the Museum of Philippine Social History last August 25. 2015. This 125-year-old mansion in Miranda Street, Barangay Sto. Rosario hosts different exhibits, collections, and artworks that showcase the daily lives of Filipinos. There is also a music room where you can listen to various songs as old as the one recorded in 1896. Pamintuan Mansion also became Gen.Emilio Aguinaldo’s headquarters when the seat of the government was moved from Cavite to Pampanga during the battle against the United States.

Pinatubo Museum

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This educational museum was pioneered by the Center for Kapampangan Studies of Holy Angel University to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. You can see a mural timeline dating the history of Mt. Pinatubo years and years ago until its disastrous eruption on June 15, 2991. Pinatubo Museum is open to the public Mondays to Fridays.

Nayong Pilipino Clark

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One of the classic destinations for tours and field trips, visiting Nayong Pilipino will give you a quick cultural and historical tour of our country. This 45-acre amusement theme park homes miniature versions of different iconic Philippine wonders. So if you don’t have the luxury of time and an enormous amount of money to visit all the marvels of our country, you can still see them in Nayong Pilipino Clark. You can also see an exhibit of Malakas and Maganda, an old Philippine legend on how the human race started, mini versions of different Filipino tribes’ villages, and replicas of some of Filipino heroes’ houses.

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Four Interesting Facts About the Philippines

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“For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” -Leonardo Da Vinci

The Philippines has been long hailed as one of the most exotic Southeast Asian destinations of the world. This country whose pride resides upon their crystal clear blue waters, powdery white sand beaches, and majestic landscapes is not only a place with a myriad of picturesque vacation spots, but it is also known as a melting pot for a variety of cultures. The tropical climate of the country makes it a premier spot for diverse activities. In fact, outdoor activities in the Philippines could rival those of their western counterparts.

Philippine history would be easy, to sum up. You have the initial settlers in the archipelago with many various countries vying to subdue them and claim the country as a colony. And though the country has been embroiled in several colonizations in the past, its people have battled for independence, and as a result, they have learned to develop a sense of culture and tradition they can proudly and distinctly call their own. Indeed, there are a lot if interesting things that truly make this country beautifully unique. So if you are visiting the Philippines anytime soon, here are some facts you might want to know:

1.) The national flag can be used to symbolize war or peace.

The Philippine flag is a combination of four colors, namely: white, blue, red and yellow. Sewn by three ladies (Lorenza Agoncillo, Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, and Marcela de Agoncillo) in Hong Kong, it made its debut during the battle on May 28, 1898. What makes the flag unique is the fact that it can be meant to symbolize war or peace. In times of war, the flag is inverted to show the red stripe on top, and during times of peace, the blue stripe takes the upper part.

2.) Three of the largest malls are in the Philippines

Filipinos love to shop no doubt, and mall developers are only happy to cater to the local’s penchant. In fact, the country’s capital has a mall in almost every nook and cranny which Filipinos would love to spend time in during their downtime. For this reason, it would be no surprise that the Philippines hosts three of the world’s largest malls namely SM Megamall (third largest mall in the world), SM City North EDSA and SM Mall of Asia (fourth and tenth largest mall respectively)

3.) Super Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest wind ever recorded at landfall

In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the central part of the Philippines which killed at least six thousand people and injured a lot more. The deadly typhoon left the country devastated, but what occurred months after was a true testament to the Filipinos resilience. Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm recorded at landfall, so much so that PAGASA decided to erase the name from the typhoon naming lists. In the same vein, the ESCAP/WMO Typhoon Committee likewise announced that the name would be replaced with Bailu instead.

4.) Three of the largest pearls were found in the Philippines

Considering that the Philippines is rich in marine life, it would be no wonder that three of the world’s biggest pearls would be found here. The largest pearl in the world called The Pearl of Lao Tzu was discovered in Brookes Point, Palawan by a Filipino diver in the year 1934. The Palawan Princess who is considered the second largest pearl in the world was also found on Palawan island. Lastly, the Pearl of the King (which is said to be bigger than the Pearl of Lao Tzu) was discovered in the Philippine waters.

 

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Summer 2017: Top Getaway Destinations Near Manila

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“Looking at the beauty in the world, the first step of purifying the mind” -Amit Ray (Meditation: Insights and Inspirations)

As March enters 2017, so does the promise of a scorching summer to come. Gone are the cold and breezy days replaced by humid morning temperatures with equally hot nights. On the months ahead, we will be bidding our sweaters and long-sleeved tops goodbye and saying hello to cropped tops, bikinis, the distinct smell of the beach and our favorite pair of aviators. Indeed, as for March ushers in a new season, everyone will be welcoming in the happiest and sunniest season of the year, summer. This is the season most individuals would love to get away from the perpetual hustle and bustle of the city and experience the calm and quiet of the countryside or the vibrant life at the beach. Unfortunately, if you are operating on a tight schedule, it can be hard to negotiate a vacation in between your work commitments.

Not to fret, however, as there are a lot of destinations near Manila that would not even require an overnight trip. So, if you are planning for a summer excursion, there is no need to look far, here are the weekend getaways near Manila you can visit for a short and brief holiday:

1.) Minalungao National Park (Nueva Ecija)

Take a break from the usual crystal blue waters and enjoy something a little bit different such as the emerald green waters of Penaranda River in Minalungao National Park. As the summertime draws in, it is the perfect time to visit this place. Owing to the less rainfall of the season, the river is calmer and clearer making it safer for rafting, cliff jumping and even swimming. If trekking is more of your thing, the 16-meter limestone walls flanking the river are as equally inviting as the river is. If a quick trip is on your weekend itinerary, Minalungao is easily accessible with only a 3-hour ride from Manila, and it is friendly to your pockets as well.

2.) Taal Heritage Town

If you are looking for the feel and ambiance of Vigan without having to book a plane ticket or driving for seven hours, then all you would need to do is head to Batangas. The beautiful ancestral homes and gorgeous architecture of Tall Heritage Town in Batangas are reminiscent of Vigan and would take you back to a place you can only see in history books and black and white albums. It is easy to get charmed by the place’s hundred-year-old knickknacks and vintage pieces that you would not only get a well-deserved break but a trip back in time as well.

3.) Corregidor

History buff and enthusiasts would enjoy Corregidor as it is the perfect place for a slice of culture and history. This province in Cavite has diverse activities to offer, but its main attraction is definitely the rich and colorful history from World War II. But apart from that, Corregidor has pristine nature trails, its own beach, and wildlife. Lastly, it is not that far from Manila (only an hour away by boat). If you are looking for a bit of history with a little culture in solitude thrown into the mix, this place is perfect for you.

4.) Baler

Though it is not exactly what you would call near (driving to Baler would take you a few extra hours), it would all be a matter of perspective once you arrive and set foot and Baler where a myriad of activities awaits you. To surfers and trekking enthusiasts, this place is paradise, and for someone looking for the perfect synergy of nature, culture, history and adventure, this place is the ultimate escapade. If you are looking for an unlimited array of activities to do in such a short time, Baler should be your top pick.

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Four Reasons Why You Should Travel Alone

 

“We travel initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel next, to find ourselves. We travel to open up our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world…and we travel, in essence, to become young fools again–to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” -Pico Iyer

Solivagant (adj.) wandering alone

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Travelling alone has always been something that has enthralled us. The idea of exploring a foreign place all by ourselves paints a very enchanting picture on our heads, yet very few of us would actually have the guts to push through with a solitary venture. Not all of us would attempt a solo travel for the reason that we are accustomed to having at least one person with us. The company would offset our fears of wandering about in a new place and would also provide us with the necessary companionship we so crave when we are traveling in foreign places.

However, travelling alone is an experience by itself than everyone should try at least once of their lives. The feeling of having only yourself as company and relying on no one else but you for decisions can truly be liberating and completely rewarding in a way few other experiences in life can match. So, if you are contemplating about having a solo expedition, these reasons below might convince you to push through with it.

 

1.) It makes planning easier

Travelling with a group means you have to take into account everyone’s preferences and decisions. You can all universally agree to doing the same things or some people would adjust their itineraries to suit another individuals preferences. When you travel alone, you have the freedom to choose whatever it is that you want to do. You may have bucket lists of places that you want to see and when you travel alone, you are at liberty to see them. Whether it is gourmet dining at a fancy restaurant, cliff diving in a foreign place ,scuba diving in foreign waters or any outdoor activities in the Philippines, nothing would hold you back from doing as you wish.

2.) You will meet new people more easily

Travelling alone makes it easier for you to interact with strangers and befriend them. Likewise, it is much easier for them to initiate a conversation with you too seeing as you do not have a horde of people crowding you. Travelling alone gives you the opportunity to make contact with the locals and discover more about their lives and the way they live. It also paves the way to lasting friendships for some.

3.) You become more accommodating in life

When you travel alone, you would realize that itineraries are nothing more than broad pictures or general plans of what you can do on a trip, but they should not dictate what you should and should not do. The important thing is, you get the most out of your trip. Remember, not everything will go into plan and at times you would wake up late or miss the tour group. In any case, you should not be disappointed, see this as a welcome opportunity to explore instead.

4.) It would boost your confidence

Travelling alone would enable individuals to be more in touch with themselves. It is an opportunity for self-contemplation and introspection and as a result can be a catalyst for boosting your self-confidence. When you are on a solo travel, you are mostly left to your own devices and would have no one else to rely on but yourself–for information, situation assessment and decisions. Each time you make the right decision, your sense of confidence and autonomy would soar.

 

Travelling alone might come off as a daunting experience to anyone who is accustomed to travelling in groups or at least with a companion. But, undertaking this refreshing experience of self-discovery can be a one-of-a-kind sabbatical in a way that you return home a new and better person than you were before. Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and enjoy your solitude at least once in your life. After all, it might sound clichéd, but the best company in the world is no one else but yourself.

 

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Top Tips for Women Traveling Alone

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“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” –Miriam Beard

No matter how romanticized the idea of traveling solo is, the sad reality is that there are certain risks involved when you are traveling alone—most especially if you are a woman. Women who travel alone are often more subjected to certain risks associated with foreign travel. This is because people have formed this ill-conceived notion that women are the weaker sex (No matter how erroneous that may be). Nevertheless, the potential perils that might happen to a woman traveling alone remain very real. This does not mean however that a woman would always be vulnerable to these risks. As long as a woman stays vigilant, alert and prepared, she can avoid most of it. Here are some of the top tips a woman should keep in mind when she is traveling alone.

1.) Thoroughly research about the place you are visiting

Whether you are planning to do an adventure trip with an ATV ride in the Philippines or do nature-tripping in India, your initial task should be to research as much as you can about the place. This should go without saying, but apparently, most travelers still overlook this fact. Your research should include the best neighborhoods to stay in, places you should avoid at all costs, particular taxis you can take, etc. among others. Know how you are going to get around, what the community is like in where you are billeted and if there are any medical centers in proximity to you. These are all the vital stuff that you should know before you even start packing your bags.

2.) Keep your valuables with you while in transit

While you should have your valuables with you at all times, the thing is, you should not even be bringing anything that you would be devastated to lose. Things such as expensive jewelry, your birth certificate, family heirlooms should be left at home where you would not risk losing them. With the kind of technology people have today, most people would travel with their laptops, DSLR cameras with expensive lenses, tablets and a whole lot more. These are definitely valuables, so it is best to just bring at least a smartphone. However, if you absolutely want to travel with these items, at least find a bag where you can fit these all in—preferably a separate one from your general luggage which you can be confident that you would not lose.

3.) Do not trust people too quickly

Although it is great to make friends with locals, it is not advisable to be so trusting—especially when you are traveling on your own. Remember that although some individuals may come with good intentions, unsavory charlatans and con artists are incredibly adept at befriending travelers and getting them to leave their valuables unattended and burgling them before leaving. It is never rude to be cautious, but take some time to mull things over before you start depending on them too much.

4.) Watch your drinking

Although it would be great to enjoy some downtime at a local bar drinking a few bottles of beer, you should be careful about overindulging yourself and drinking too much. Intoxication is one of the things you should prevent while you are on a trip alone as it can make you even more susceptible to others. Remember to watch your drink at all times, keep vigilant about your valuables and always take think twice before accepting drinks from strangers—you will never know if it is laced or not.

5.) Check in regularly

To keep people from home worrying needlessly about you, routinely check in with them. It may be a family member, a friend or a significant other. Furnish them a copy of your itinerary and from time to time, leave them a message telling them about your trip or where you are and what you are currently doing. Keeping in touch with people from home will ease their qualms about you traveling alone. And in the unfortunate event that something untoward may happen to you, they would be able to locate you a lot easier.

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Five Fun Facts about Hot Air Balloons

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Between the months January and February, a convergence of different aviators from all over the world would happen in the Philippines to witness the hot air balloon festival in Pampanga. In fact, it has been regarded as one of the Philippines’ biggest and most popular tourist events. As the biggest aviation sports event in the Philippines, this affair would usually last around three to four days at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark Freeport Zone of Angeles City, Pampanga. Apart from the hot air balloon fiesta, the festival features events such as micro light and rocketry demonstrations, skydiving, as well as small plane fly-bys and fly-ins, so every individual has something to enjoy. Undoubtedly, though, the hot air balloon remains to be the heart of this entire affair.

So, when you are planning to visit this once-in-a-year occasion or are just curious about hot air balloons, it would bode you well to know some little-known yet fun facts about this up and coming favorite aviation sports event.

1.) The first hot air balloon passengers were farm animals

The maiden flight of the very first hot air balloon in 1783 was set to fly over the French court in Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In a similar fashion to having monkeys in space, a selection of animals was chosen to test the effects of the flight. As a result, a sheep, duck, and rooster were hosted in its very first flight. It was thought that the sheep would show the effects of altitude on a land dweller, while ducks and roosters which are already capable of flight would act as controls in the experiment. The balloon rose to 1500 feet in the air and lasted eight minutes.

2.) The first pilots were almost condemned criminals

Louis XVI disliked the idea of being responsible for any potential fatalities when it came to choosing a pilot for the hot air balloon’s first flight. As a result, he wanted an expendable, so he selected a condemned criminal to fly the balloon. However, he was eventually convinced that the idea was not exactly very feasible. Instead, Jean-Francois Pilatre De Rozier and an aristocrat were chosen to fly the balloon for twenty minutes.

3.) There used to be a balloon duel

In the 1800s, the French believed in settling their differences in a rather peculiar way. When two Frenchmen were entangled in a love triangle with a celebrated opera dancer, they took their dispute to the skies above Paris for a duel. Both men aimed at each other’s balloons and after a while, shots were fired. One balloon was punctured resulting in its crash to the buildings below and the death of its occupants. The other balloon and its occupants were unharmed.

4.) An offering of champagne after flights was used to appease farmers

Though hot air balloons were becoming increasingly popular with the French aristocracy, the local farmers were not so receptive and were rather resentful when the balloons landed on their farmlands. The French aristocrats propagated the belief that farmers were scared of the balloons as they have a resemblance to dragons considering that smoke was used to power them. However, it was a lot more seemly that the farmers disliked having the hot air balloons destroying their crops. To appease them, champagne was used as a peace offering and a tradition was born.

5.) There is a glass-bottomed balloon

Christian Brown wanted to add a different edge to hot air balloon flights; he wanted people to be able to experience the skies above as well as survey the world below and so, the glass-bottomed hot air balloon was born in 2010. Imagine flying over land and seeing everything right beneath you. For some, it would be an exhilarating and thrilling experience, but some individuals might prefer to stay rooted in the ground as it is not for the faint of heart and people with acrophobia.

 

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Gym Etiquette 101: How to Conduct Yourself in the Gym

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This summer season with people hitting the swimming pools and beaches at an all-time record high, the people going to the gym to double time on their time and efforts into sculpting their perfect physique are also in droves. However, amidst their unbreakable concentration in committing to having a healthier and better figure, some of them have disregarded even the simplest gym etiquette. It may have missed their noticed or they may think it is fairly non-existent but gym etiquette is very much an essential aspect in showing courtesy to your fellow gym goers as well as make it an overall better experience for you.

So the next time you go to your favorite country club to try out your new exercise regimen, do not forget these few gym etiquette pointers at home.

1.) Wipe your sweat

Working out on different gym equipment and sports facilities while listening to music is the best way to break out a sweat and get our bodies pumping, but unless you are solitarily working out or are in the privacy of your own homes, chances are someone is going to be next to you working out as well. And considering how close some gym equipment are positioned next to each other, you may be unintentionally flinging your body fluids to the person next to you—unintentionally making the experience extremely gross for them. The same goes for leaving your sweat on benches and machines for the next person to wipe. Show some courtesy by wiping up when the sweat is coming down and make sure the gym machines are well and dry for the next person to use.

2.) If you are not working out, do not sit on the equipment

Essentially, you would need breaks in between routines and sets in order for your heart rate and breathing to recover. However, while you are recuperating for a minute or two, be considerate enough to leave the equipment for someone else to use—especially if you would already notice a queue. Resting on the equipment while people are waiting and lining up to use it is just plain rude.

3.) Put the weights back where you got them

This is supposed to be something your mother taught you as a child and something that should be ingrained in you by now. But unfortunately, many gym goers are still guilty of leaving weights wherever for the gym attendant (or worse, the next person using them) to return. You are not only effectively making your gym look like a mini obstacle course but you are making it a very precarious place for other gym goers. The cardinal rule is: If you can lift it out of its rack, then you can definitely lift it back to the rack.

4.) Do not intimidate anyone

Gym goers develop routines all the time which they follow religiously every single time they go to the gym, but that does not mean that other people are aware of this. You may be a regular at your gym (or hey, you may be the brawniest among the people in there) but does not mean you can give someone the stink-eye while they are doing their routine on your preferred machine just because they did not get your memo that they are occupying the equipment for your next set. This is just plain rude and an obvious show of power-tripping. Instead of being all passive aggressive, politely let the person know that you are waiting to use the machine or even better, ask to work in with them when they are resting.

5.) Do not spray perfume

The gym is no place for your cloying scent so spraying your preferred Ralph Lauren perfume or Chanel 5 is definitely a no-no. You will only succeed in making the place an unbearable space for a workout. Imagine mixing in a combination of people’s sweat and your favorite perfume and you may just come with a new and innovative scent called “Eau de yuck”