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About Me

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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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December 31, 2008

koronadal holiday lights


Narra tree adorned with bright lights

Every year the large narra trees that line one side of Alunan Avenue in my hometown of Koronadal are lavishly decorated with bright colored lights. The light display (and competition) started a few years ago and each year the lights are getting grander.

my bet for this year's competition

Each tree is "sponsored" by a company/corporation/organization. The prize may not be enough to recover the expenses (imagine the electric bill!) but I guess its not the point. The folks of Koronadal look forward to the display as the holiday season approaches, the street has become a popular strolling area for families. I have more photos here.

The New Year is just a few hours away. I hope the coming year will be as bright as these lights. Have a blessed and prosperous New Year everyone!
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December 29, 2008

airport bush fire


A bush fire welcomed us in General Santos City airport. This Christmas season is very dry, literally. Rain has not fallen for more than a month so the land is scorched. I guess stuff like this are bound to happen. I was wondering why our plane took a bit longer to land, circling over the nearby towns several times. We spotted fire fighters battling a bush fire in one end of the runway during one of the passes. Thankfully the fire was quickly under control and we did not have to divert to Davao some 200km away.

With the coming New Year and the fireworks and firecrackers that go along with the celebration, fires can easily happen, especially in urban areas. Have a safe New Year everyone!

My internet connection is sporadic at best, will return to blogsphere next year.
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December 17, 2008

indios experience photo exhibit


One of my photos is included in a photo exhibit (dubbed "The Indios Experience") sponsored by a Flickr group called flickristasindios.


The exhibit runs December 15 through December 19 at the Cinema Lane of the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City. The exhibit show cases different photography styles and genres - from macro photography to cityscapes.


Come and visit the exhibit if you have the chance to. (My friend Dom has more photos of the exhibit area which you can view here.)

My photo entry depicts two small dinghies in Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon (eastern side of Luzon). These boats are used by a resort to ferry guests from the shore to outrigger boats. The low tide area in Cagbalete can stretch to about 800 meters from the shore!

I was elated to hear that someone already bought my photo :)
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December 16, 2008

harvest time in the countryside


Cutting the rice stalks

A typical harvesting activity in the countryside still involves traditional methods. The rice stalks are cut using sickles and are piled in several areas in the rice field. Its mostly the women who are tasked with this, as the men are involved in more laborious tasks (but if you ask me, this is as laborious as it gets).

Thresher machine

A thresher machine is then used to separate the rice grains from the stalk. In some remote areas where there are no thresher machines, they have to do it the hard way: by beating the stalks with a stick. The machine does not always do a thorough job of threshing, so the straw strewn out by the thresher can still be "reprocessed", by hand. Usually the owner of the rice field gives the straw to the villagers who live nearby as a sign of goodwill. If they are lucky they will still be able to get several sacks of grains from a huge pile of straw.

The compensation for all those involved in the harvest activity (i.e. owner of the thresher machine, laborers who will transport the sacks from the field to the mill, etc) is not in monetary form but in sacks of rice. For example: the stalk cutters, as a group, are paid 5 sacks of grains per hectare harvested.

I took these photos quite a while back and have completely forgotten about them until recently when the news about protests for the proper implementation of Philippines' CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) made headlines. The farmers do not own the land they till, more often than not. Until now they are still fighting for the lands that should have been distributed to them under the CARP initiative.
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December 8, 2008

the island life (gaspar islet, marinduque)


First rays of the day

The small fishing village stirred as the dawn breaks in Gaspar Islet, the only one with inhabitants in the Tres Reyes islet group. I stood on one of the huge rocks near the shore and watched the children frolicked on the beach while some of the folks prepare their small bancas (outrigger boats) for another day of fishing.

Morning bancas

Its amazes me how people chose to live on this islet. They have difficult access to most of the necessities a community requires. The only source of electricity is the community's generator. Fresh water is non-existent and they have to get all their supplies from the mainland. Yet the village is flourishing. They have a small school perched on the side of a hill and I was told that additional classrooms will be built soon.

Fresh catch

There is not much of a livelihood here except for fishing and seasonal tourism. Gaspar's sand (or coral?) bar, made of crushed corals and shells, is a popular destination as the surrounding waters are pristine and crystal clear. The locals build nipa huts on the sand bar during the summer especially during the Holy Week when the vacation crowd flocks to Marinduque for its Moriones Festival. There are also several areas in the waters around the island that are protected marines reserves - great for snorkeling and diving.

Coral bar, empty during the off-peak

Its interesting to note that the area on
the sides of the sand bar is devoid of any sand, the waves on both directions have cleanly swept all sand materials neatly into this panhandle. The panhandle changes size and form throughout the year as the sea and the wind sculpt it.

As we prepared to head back to the main island, I noticed two outrigger boats packed from bow to stern. Our guide jokingly remarked that these folks are going to the a "river festival". Seeing my perplexed look, he explained that today is "laundry day".

Off to a "river festival"

I guess it does not really matter where you choose to live. Once you call a place home, it instantly becomes beautiful.

foraging for small shells during the low tide

But in the case of the people of Gaspar Islet (and the Marinduquenos as a whole), their home really is beautiful, any way you look at it.

Reality check
There was a time when the rivers and surrounding waters of Marinduque (especially the northern part of the island) were heavily polluted by tailings (mining wastes). Dynamite fishing was also rampant before and it laid waste to corals in the surrounding waters. But things have started to improve, thanks to the efforts of the

This is an entry to
"That's my World" meme. See other entries here.
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December 5, 2008

all's well that ends well


I had to hurry home last weekend for some urgent family matter. Bought my ticket just hours before the flight, grab my backpack and went straight to the airport. First time I took a plane ride like it was a bus ride to the mall. I did not have time to print my e-ticket so all I had was a locator number. The Cebu Pacific staff at the new NAIA Terminal 3 were helpful and checking in was not a problem even with the long queue (partly because I had no luggage to check in and folks in the line were kind enough to let me go first).

But all's well now.

The flight back, several days later, was bumpy due to the cloudy weather. The plane was also late. But the delay made us arrive in Manila just time for the sunset, and the cloudy weather added some mood.

Like what they say, all's well that ends well.
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December 3, 2008

marinduque's kawa-kawa falls


Kawa-kawa's downstream

We were looking for Paadjao Falls that day, our last stop before heading back to Gasan for the sunset. It was a very long day (we covered almost every town, save for Mogpog) but I was looking forward to shooting some refreshing silky waterfalls. Ironwulf, one of my travel companions, had been there once several years ago and described it as a nice cascading falls

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November 21, 2008

visiting old churches in marinduque


Boac church spire

When the Spaniards colonized the Philippine islands in the early 15th century, they did so with the sword and the cross. Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism, spread quickly across the Luzon and Visayas regions (Mindanao remained a Muslim stronghold even up to the time of the American invasion in the late 1800s). The Spaniards ruled the archipelago for the next 400 years. It is therefore not uncommon to see old colonial churches in most of Philippines 7100+ islands.

It was overcast that day when we went around Marinduque to see the sights including the old churches in several towns. From Gasan in the western side, we rode a rented jeep down south to Buenavista. Buenavista's parish church is relatively new (town was founded in 1954) so we decided to skip it.

From Buenavista, we traversed Mt. Malindig going to Torrijos in the south eastern side. I was already getting drowsy and the cool mountain breeze and the overcast weather were not helping at all. Soon we found ourselves in the sleepy town of Torrijos and went straight to the parish church. The town of Torrijos was founded in 1880s but I cannot find any reference as to when the church was built. However, from the church's architecture one could surmissed that its relatively new.

St Ignatius of Loyola Parish Church in Torrijos

After taking a couple of shots of the church's facade, we made a detour to Poctoy White Beach and had a quick look around. The long stretch of fine coral sand was a totally different view from what we saw in Gasan. From beach one has a great view of Mt. Malindig (cloud covered that day).

Poctoy White Beach

After the quick tour, we drove further up north to Sta. Cruz. We had a hearty lunch at the public market before going to Sta. Cruz church. It started to drizzle when we got there.

The town of Sta. Cruz was founded in 1609 but it was not until 1714 when the Sta. Cruz church ( titular: Holy Cross) was erected. Much of the tower and the facade remained intact but the church had undergone numerous renovations over the years.

Sta Cruz church facade

The church's altar is typical of colonial churches: adorned with statues of the saints and intricately designed. Renovations/repairs were being done of the altar area when we were there. It was difficult to take photos of the church interior due to successive funeral masses.

alley at the side of the church

We had better luck with the weather when we visited Boac the next day. The sky was blue and the cloud cover minimal. Boac, founded in 1580, is the oldest town in Marinduque.

The Boac church, built in 1756 in honor of the Blessed Virgin of Biglang Awa (Immediate Succor), is situated on top of a small hill. The church has retained much of its Fil-Hispanic gothic architecture. The interiors of the church: the floor designs and the elaborate altar were beautifully preserved. The stained glass windows were a newer renovation aimed at enhancing the granduer of the church.

Boac church (Immaculate Conception Cathedral)

The church was much bigger and the aisle much longer than that of the Sta. Cruz church. I was about to take some shots of the interior when a funeral procession started pouring in. I had to gather my gears and quickly head out as the crowd began to swell.

restored Boac church facade

There are other old churches in Marinduque like the ones in Gasan and Mogpog. But our limited time there dictated we will have to visit those in another time.

This is my first entry to That's My World Meme - a site where we can show the world around us.
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November 20, 2008

accommodations in pinggan, marinduque


Club Marinduque main house and pool

If you want the shortest bee line to the Tres Reyes Islets then I guess staying in a resort in Brgy Pinggan would be best for you. We haven't really checked out all possible accommodations in Pinggan, but I think there are just a couple of resorts in the area . We arrived in Pinggan at around 7am and were too tired from the bus and ferry ride. Folks pointed us to the direction of two nearby resorts : Club Marinduque and Casa de Azul (the two are less than 200 meters from each other). We went to check out the rooms at Club Marinduque first then proceeded to Casa de Azul. The owner of the latter informed us that they were making renovations at the moment (they will be reopening after a week) so our obvious choice would be Club Marinduque.

I'm not much of a resort person (I would not complain sleeping in a tent with an earth pad) so any of the two would have made a great choice. But what was really nice was that we got the whole resort to ourselves - the perks of traveling off-season.

Club Marinduque has cabins near the beach. You have a choice of single or double rooms. The single room costs Php 1,080.00/night and Php 200.00 pesos per additional bed.

Cabins

The double room (Php 1,800.00/night) was quite spacious and could comfortably fit 6-8 persons (ideal for a large group).

Double room with TV, aircon, ref, and bathroom

Some of the cabins have a view of the beach. Now if you are expecting a nice beach get ready to be disappointed. The sand is just your ordinary construction quality sand and the water not too great either, at times it was a bit muddy in color. Its better to head out to Tres Reyes for swimming and snorkeling.

Garden view

The staff at the resort were all friendly and service was great. They were very helpful in arranging transportation for us (jeepney and boat) and even waited for the bus at the highway for our return trip.

The food: this is another story. The breakfast meals (and other items in the menu) were pricey (I'm skipping the "a bit" part). I'm not really very picky with food but I know good food when I taste one, and good food does not have to be gourmet. I also know good food can be expensive. What we had for two days there was expensive but not good.

Dining area

You have the option to buy from the market in Gasan and have it cooked there (for Php 100.00). The problem with this is that after a long trip exploring the sights in the island I doubt if you still have the energy to go to the market.

Overall I would say our stay there was memorable. I enjoyed the pool a lot.

Contact details
Casa de Azul - (+63)919-206-3358 or (+63)928-488-6679
Club Marinduque - visit www.clubmarinduque.com
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November 18, 2008

catching the sunrise in gaspar islet


Sunrise colors in Gaspar

I'll fast forward to our trip to Gaspar islet, the only inhabited islet of Tres Reyes Islets. I was dead tired from our non-stop trip: the bus ride from Manila, the ferry ride, then a jeepney ride around the island to visit the old churches and the falls (will post photos of these soon). Though pretty much exhausted, I was still looking forward to our 4AM jump off to Gaspar the next morning to shoot the sunrise. I live for the sunrise and sunsets.

After a hearty dinner, we took a quick dip in the resort's pool and decided to hit the sack early. I was planning to take some night shots but Oggie declared he is going to take a rain check on it. Guess who was the first to take his tripod and camera out when the moon shone brightly amidst interesting cloud formations :). We all ended up going to the beach and taking long exposure shots of the moon and the sky.

We woke up at 3:30AM that morning. Still sleepy-eyed, we went straight to the beach after packing our gears. The boat was late (Filipino time?) so I decided to setup my tripod and took a shot of the moonlit beach.

moonlit shores of Pinggan

The boat ride to Gaspar was uneventful, the sea was calm and there was no wind. After about 30 minutes we reached the sand bar on the eastern side. It was a good thing we stayed at a resort directly fronting the Tres Reyes Islets (thanks Ferdz!).

Gaspar islet

We wasted no time scouting for a nice spot to catch the first rays of the day from. The folks there were still asleep so we practically had that part of the islet to ourselves.

silent night at Gaspar

The first sunset colors were subdued and pastel like. It was a good thing there was not much of a wind. I remembered the time I was in Capones Island in Zambales at 5AM shooting the sunrise, I could hear the wind whistling.

rocks and sunrise, with Mt. Malindig in the background

The colors got real intense a few seconds before the sun finally went up the horizon. The cloud patterns got interesting too.

with Mt. Malindig and Elephant Island in the distant

Time fly fast when you are shooting sunrises or sunsets. The shooting window is just a couple of minutes.

sun's finally up the horizon

When we finished shooting, the village was already up and about. A group of curious kids began to gather around. I went to join Oggie and Ferdz who found their spot several meters from my position. Oggie was already full steam ahead with his jokes (never a dull moment) and was obviously pleased with his "[OG] shot of the day".

Notes
  • Its best to stay in Gasan, particulary in Brgy Pinggan, if you want an early tour of the Tres Reyes Islets
  • You can stay in Club Marinduque (photos soon) or Casa de Azul if you are in Pinggan.
  • Look for Kiko in Club Marinduque for boat arrangements. He knows the folks in Gaspar as he is their village electrician
  • Boat fare is Php 1,500 for a tour of the 3 islets
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November 17, 2008

traveling to marinduque


Marinduque is a small heart shaped island found south of Luzon. Before I went there last weekend I only know it as an exotic island popular for its Moriones Festival during the Holy Week.

Coco Trees in Pingan
along the coastal road in Brgy Pinggan in Gasan

I was lucky to tag along with two travel photographers (Oggie Ramos and Ferdz Decena) and got to experience the island firsthand.

Marinduque is not as fancy as destinations like Palawan, or Boracay maybe, but it has its own rustic charms. Most would consider it an off-the-beaten path destination. There are centuries old churches (we got to visit some), scenic falls (this too), and beautiful uncrowded beaches. A winding highway with a great view of the coast connects the towns around the island, just driving on it is an experience.

Getting to Marinduque
There are several bus lines that ply the Manila to Lucena route (JAM, JAC, Lucena Lines) and they have their terminals in Cubao and in Buendia-Taft. From Lucena there are fastcraft and RORO (Roll On, Roll off) vessels (see Montenegro Lines) that goes to Balanacan port in Mogpog or to the Cawit port in Gasan. The RORO vessels mean that you can bring your own car or van if you have a large group.

We took the JAC bus that goes straight to Boac via RORO (fare: Php 717.00 including the terminal fee at the port). The bus leaves the JAC terminal in Kamias at around 6PM and goes to their terminal in Buendia-Taft, arrives there usually at 8PM. You have to be real early if you plan to catch the bus in Buendia-Taft since there are only a handful of seats available once the bus gets there (a JAC employee told us there are only about 10 slots available). During the off-peak season there are only 2 schedules for the bus straight to Boac, one in the morning and one in the evening.

I got to the Buendia terminal at around 5PM and found out I still have 3 hours of waiting time. Good thing I had Oggie and Ferdz for company, never a dull moment.

It was already around 9PM when the bus finally got on its way to SLEX (South Luzon Expressway). We got to the Lucena port several minutes past 1AM, waited a couple of minutes before the bus went into the RORO vessel (scheduled departure time for Cawit port is 2AM).

JAC Liner to Boac
JAC bus rolling in

There were just a few vehicles that morning but during the Holy Week this vessel is packed.

Tricycle into the ferry
Tricycle with market goods

Once inside the ferry we went up and looked for a place to idle the time away and maybe get some sleep. Its still a good 3 hours before the ferry reaches Marinduque. We saw an aircon lounge (additional fare of Php 42.00) and went in. We later found out that the air conditioning is not working. Although tired, the group's mood was still jolly, exchanging jokes and making comments about the lousy local game show being played on TV. We tried to sleep on the cramped couches but it was too hot. Oggie and Ferdz settled for the the plastic mono-bloc benches outside the lounge. I followed suit on Oggie's suggestion that its much cooler on the benches.

I'm not sure how long I was able to sleep (half-sleep maybe the correct word) before the PA system announced our arrival in Cawit port. From Cawit the bus proceeded north to Boac before heading down south to the municipalites Gasan and Buenavista. We were supposed to alight in Boac but missed the stop (somebody overslept! hehe) and ended up in Gasan, which is good since Ferdz actually planned to head to Brgy Pingan in Gasan anyway. What's better is that the bus conductor did not asked us for additional fare. Folks in Pingan are real helpful, pointed us to the nearest resorts when they saw us walking down the coastal road.

Getting around in Marinduque
You can catch the public jeepneys that go around the island but if you are concerned about your schedule its best to hire a tricycle (if the destination is not very far) or a jeepney if you want to go around faster and visit more places. We decided to rent a jeepney for the whole day (Php 2000.00)

More stories soon...
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November 7, 2008

puray falls: revisited


I returned to Puray last weekend, still on a mountain bike. This time I had the guts to bring most of my photo equipment sans the tripod. The falls was a bit bigger than it was the last time I was there and definitely more majestic looking. I managed to get to a closer vantage point, past some thorny bamboos and slippery rocks.

I've always been enthralled and drawn to the water. I love the beach but I'm addicted to falls. And I seek them out, the more remote the better. You might be asking: whats so interesting about a stream of water falling down a ledge? I really don't know for sure - maybe its seeing something so dynamic and so beautiful. Maybe its the privilege of seeing something only a few (except for the locals of course) have laid their eyes upon on.

I could stare at a waterfalls for hours. I love to listen to the thundering yet lulling sound it makes as the waters hit the rocks and the catch basin below. When you are staring at such a beauty, you don't dare ask the whys.
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November 4, 2008

outdoor photographer #6


This is Bitbit in Norzagaray, Bulacan - all worth the 80km of mountain biking (I wrote about my trip to Bitbit here). We still have a lot of unexplored and unexploited places here, and I hope I get to (most of) them before they are pristine no more.
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October 30, 2008

puray falls, montalban


Puray is one of the most isolated barangay of Rodriquez (formerly Montalban) in the province of Rizal. When "Montalban" is mentioned, one familiar with the town would most certainly associated it with Wawa, the scenic river (in barangay San Rafael) dotted with huge white stones . Wawa is very accessible, there are jeepneys plying the major routes from Quezon City to Wawa while Puray, to most, exist only in the tales of mountain bikers who frequent the place because of its trails and its falls.

Puray is already in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, several mountains away from the town center. Its hard to believe there is even a flourishing community there - basically a small farming community, no electricity, no running water. But what Puray lacks in modern amnesties it makes up with the pristine beauty of its surroundings. The streams and rivers there are absolutely gorgeous, with crystal clear cool waters.

One of the attactions there is the Puray Falls (known as Tungtong to the locals). Its a short hike, about 2 kilometers, from the barangay center.

Puray Falls in Sitio Mabolo

From the point where the road crosses the river in Mabolo, we had to hike upstream some 500 meters to the falls. A quick dip in the catch basin would be enough to cool you down after the hike. Even on a sunny day, the water in the catch basin is freezing.

another view of Puray Falls

Getting thereThere are two routes going to Puray - both of which will require that your vehicle can handle a bit of punishment (we were on mountain bikes when we went there).

From barangay Mascap there is the river trail where have to cross the river 11 times. Difficult during the rainy season when the river swells and the road disappears. There are jeepneys from Montalban that goes to Puray via this route but the schedule is not consistent. Sometimes there is only 1 trip a day, the return trip is always a challenge.

The other road (still from Mascap) takes you via the mountains. To say that the road is terrible is an understatement, you'll need a 4x4 or a motorcycle to go via this route. There are special tricycles (those with roofless sidecars) that go via this route (Php 60 pesos one way fare from Montalban, limited number of trips a day).

If you missed the jeep or the tricycle for the return trip, you can also do what the locals always do: walk to Mascap, just about 3 hours away.
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October 24, 2008

lake sebu: a simple and balanced life


It was late afternoon when I spotted this fisherman on a dugout canoe in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato (in southern Mindanao). With his paddle on his left hand, he was getting ready to leave for home after pulling his nets. I noticed he was able to catch a good number of medium sized tilapia, probably enough for his family's meals the next day.

He made balancing on one end of the canoe looked so easy. I tried it before, as a young lad. I always end up in the water.

I hope you all have a nice weekend. Keep it simple.
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October 21, 2008

workplace sunset


UP Diliman, Quezon City

Don't you just love it when a stressful day is rewarded with one of nature's best spectacles?

I went out yesterday to "field test" an officemate's new digital (point and shoot) camera. The sky was ablaze! When nature flaunts its colors, you won't need an expensive photo gear to capture it. You won't even need to Photoshop it :)
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October 20, 2008

bakas, norzagaray, bulacan


One of the attractions in the town of Norzagaray in Bulacan is the huge formations of large limestone rocks found in Brgy Matictic. It is called Bakas, which literally translates to "marks", "traces" or "footprints".

The top of the large boulders offers a great vantage point to spot those interesting marks, supposedly left by the legendary giant known as Bernardio Carpio, and his pets. The other set of marks can be found in Wawa in Montalban, Rizal.

I biked there last weekend (an 81km loop, see related story here) but arrived when the river started to swell and its impossible to cross to the boulders without a raft. Bakas is downriver from two major dams: the Ipo and Angat dams and they release water from these dams usually at around 11 AM. By noon time the current's too strong that they would not even recommend swimming near the rocks.

If you fancy roughing it out here, the shores in front of the Bakas rocks are flat and wide enough to accommodate quite a good number of tents. There are also makeshift cottages (good enough shelter from the sweltering heat in the summer) that the caretaker is renting out for 200 pesos (overnight stay). Amenities: absolutely none!

There are a couple of nice swimming spots further upriver. But current's still a bit strong so its best to stay close to the shore.

Getting there:
The best way is to catch a bus or jeep going to Tungko from Philcoa in Quezon City. From Tungko there are many small buses and jeeps to Norzagaray town proper. Go to the town market and get a tricycle to Sitio Kanyakan where Bakas is. I have not noticed any jeeps going there so you may have to rent the tricycle also for the return trip.
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October 15, 2008

what is it?


Yay! I got lucky again :)

i-mag Photography magazine
Vol 2 Number 5 Issue 18

Here's the original image:

f/4.8, 1/500s, 190 mm

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October 13, 2008

bitbit, norzagaray, bulacan


I haven't been out on a photo safari lately. Most of my weekends are spent mountain biking around the provinces of Rizal and Bulacan. And with the small point and shop cameras we carry around, photos are a hit and miss thing.

But sometimes you do hit something.

My ride last weekend took me to the eastern part of Norzagaray in Bulacan. My MTB buddies and I were hoping to catch a glimpse of Ipo and Angat dams, part of the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa Dam Raw Water System that provides drinking water to Metro Manila.

We were denied entry at Ipo but we decided to head to Angat dam in the Sierra Madre mountain range. A storekeeper told us of a quaint spot called "Bitbit" (Sitio Bitbit) just below the bridge leading to Angat dam.

True enough, the spot was amazing. The water was very cool and clear. The weather cooperated, lighting was good enough for me to take some decent snaps.

Bitbit camping area

There's a flat area near the big rocks that's perfect for camping. I also saw some interesting rock formations up and down river.

Cool down

We took a quick dip to cool down and rest. I did not have enough time to explore the area but I will on my next visit. We have a long way to pedal home.
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