No flights to book, no bus reservations to make. One of the cheapest way to explore a place [if this option is available to you], is to hop on a bike and pedal your way through [already very popular in destinations like Batanes]
So one weekend, armed with a map and a general idea of where we are going, I joined a friend in exploring part of the nearby province, on a bike. Our destination was Sangley Point Naval Base at the tip of Cavite city [total round trip distance was 100+km]. It was not really the naval base that excited me, as there is a slim chance they would let us in the base anyway, but the historical sites along the way.
While on a 'usual' photo safari I won't leave home without my tripod, filters, and a set of lenses, this time I went really minimal - a Blackberry, an Android phone, and a "powerpack". I wanted to see how far my smartphone will take me.
First stop was the St Joseph Parish Church, also called Las Piñas Church, found in the Las Piñas' "historical corridor". Its an old Spanish-era church built in the 1790s. But that's not what made this church special - its the unique and famous musical instrument found inside the church: an organ made almost entirely of bamboo. The organ was constructed by Father Diego Cera dela Virgen del Carmen and was completed by 1824. Its only the organ's trumpets which are made of metal.
St. Joseph Church facade
A statue created by National Artist Napolean Abueva stands in front of the church as a tribute to Padre Diego Cera. This was inaugurated on the 200th anniversary of the parish .
I went inside to catch a glimpse of the organ, I hope next time I would be able to hear its music.
Las Piñas Bamboo Organ
[Technical note: By this time I was already wishing I brought a tripod and a better camera. Smartphones are expectedly terrible at low light]
After a few shots here and there around the church, we pushed on to Kawit. By this time the heat was starting to be unbearable, and we got stuck in traffic along Bacoor a few times [imagine how someone on a bike can get stuck in traffic: never ending road repairs, street vendors who occupy half of the road, jeepneys and "baby buses" waiting for passengers]
But we did manage to arrive in Aguinaldo Shrine in one piece.
If you are a Filipino and you don't know what this shrine signifies, you probably slept your way through ALL your history classes. This is the ancestral home of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the First Republic of the Philippines. It was here where the Philippine flag was waved when our forefathers declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. Viva la Independencia Filipina!
balcony where the Philippine flag is unfurled during independence celebrations
Entrance to the shrine is free, and the whole house is now a museum.
hallway leading to the main hall
The shrine grounds is surprisingly well maintained, and the staff are courteous. An armed guard offered to watch over our bikes. Normally we would chain them like crazy to some post or fence, but this time we figured the M-16 would be an enough deterrent :). An elderly gentleman greets and ushers guests to the second floor of the house.
back of the house
lotus flowers around the house
[Technical note: The facade of the house is back-lit in the morning, but would look marvelous in the late afternoon as it directly faces the west. By this time I am also already terribly missing my circular polarizer]
After a hearty lunch and under a searing sun, we decided to look for the "asinan" (salt beds) in Santa Isabela, one of Kawit's inner barangays.
how to properly park your boat
We learned from one of the locals we met that they have stopped making salt. "Iba na ang panahon ngayon, wala na ang mga irasan" [Weather has changed nowadays, the salt beds are gone], he said. Mostly they farm shrimps and milk fish now.
milkfish and blue crabs
We asked around for directions a couple more times before giving up and headed out to the main highway. At this point we have logged close to 40km already. Between bouts of leg cramps and dehydration [did I already mention it was hot that day? :)], I still managed to pull out my phone and take a few snaps:
Baby buses - a bus the still needs to grow up :); a cross between a bus and a jeepney. These seem to be more common than jeepneys in these parts and reminded me of some of the provinces I visited in Visayas and Mindanao.
Dried fish. Common sight along the highway leading to Cavite City. Reminded of Estancia (dried fish capital of Visayas] and Concepcion in Iloilo. In other provinces its usually palay (rice) which are being dried on the road side [or should I say in the middle of the road in some places]
A few more stops to escape the hot sun and re-hydrate and we found ourselves in front of the naval station, was denied entry and asked not to take photos. So we took a quick tour of the small city [quick tour actually means looking for a place to eat, particularly one that serves "lechon" :D]
There are a couple of historical landmarks in the city, which for some reason I have no photos of! There is the monument for the Trece Martires (13 Martyrs), and the belfry of the Ermita de Porta Vaga church [the only remaining part of that church] which can be found, sadly, among makeshift houses. Someone actually built a house around it. There is also the San Roque Church where miraculous image of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga is currently enshrined.
Total traveled distance that day is 101 km. Despite the heat and the traffic and some despicable jeepney drivers who are always trying to push you off the road, its a fun way to explore Metro Manila's nearby provinces. I'll probably do this again soon, this time to visit the historic landmarks of Laguna province.