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Siquijor: Island of fire and magic

John Ryan Mendoza discovers the simple joys that can be had in magical Siquijor.



Discovering Siquijor

The island of Siquijor in Central Visayas has always mystified me as a kid because of a memory of one Halloween special of a weekend TV show that showed a man who was able to make paper dolls dance on their own. Numerous local films and stories have always portrayed this country’s third smallest province to be one of the top destinations for mananambals (folk healers) and other mystical arts. Desperate to escape the sweltering summer heat of Metro Manila and to answer long unanswered curiosities, an invitation to the island from a gay couple from Cebu City was finally my chance.

Reaching this Island of Fire or Isla de Fuego, as it was called during early Spanish times, could be done through flying or sailing to its bigger island neighbors, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, or Mindanao.

Discovering SiquijorI flew to Cebu City and rode for three hours with my friends to Liloan (South Cebu). To commute, one has to take a bus bound to Liloan at the South Bus Terminal and the fare for non-aircon buses is about P 162 and P 200 for air-con buses.

At the Liloan port, P62 is paid for the terminal fee and the 30 minute ferry ride to Sibulan (Negros Oriental). From Sibulan pot, an P11 jeep ride can be taken to Dumaguete city.  At the Dumaguete Port, one can choose between the Delta Fast Craft and GL Shipping Lines Ferry to Siquijor. The ride costs P160 and would take roughly an hour.

Upon arriving at the Siquijor port, the sight of the clear turquoise waters of a white sand beach was one awesome welcome. We then headed to U.Story Guest house in the village of Tag-ibo, San Juan. For P1, 900 per night, we stayed at a charming bungalow made of indigenous materials that exuded a very relaxing tropical ambiance. I just coiled and dozed off at the porch cushion the whole afternoon while enjoying the calming sea breeze and serene atmosphere of the surrounding flower gardens.

Their bar-restaurant boasts an array of French-Filipino cuisine that would cater to both foreign and local palates. Having the same indigenous construction, wide openings for the sea breeze and view, and adornment of artworks from India, Africa, and all other parts of the world, this place is one unique hang-out.

The U.Story guesthouse is perched upon a rock cliff and a concrete stairway that conveniently leads down to the clear waters and corals below. It is a different feel from a white sandy beach but on high tide, it still is one refreshing dip and a sight for snorkelers.

When it comes to sunsets, this part of Siquijor would just take one’s breath away. Starting late afternoon, the sky’s colors then start to shift. Hues of blue, yellow, orange, and gold transform into unique canvases that change every few minutes until the night sets in. These dreamlike and picturesque sights are indeed a must see for all.

Apart from seas and sunsets, the island offers much more sights to visit. We rented motorbikes for P300 per day and sped off to our first stop: Lola Conching.

Discovering SiquijorLola Consolacion Achay is one of the island’s remaining bolo-bolo healers. Bolo-bolo, in the old Visayan language, means “bubbles.” We found her living in a bahay kubo with a videoke “waiting area” in the village of Tag-ibo. She was already busy with a middle-aged local who complained of her sore eye. A tourist from Croatia then arrived after us.

Lola Conching had three basic tools: a black stone, a drinking glass, and a six-inch bamboo tube called bagacay. She blew bubbles into the glass and hovered it around the patient’s body, most frequently to the area of complaint. When it was my turn, I had an up-close observation of the clear water turning mysteriously murky and then the sudden appearance of onion-like skins as she blew bubbles in the glass. The session lasted for about six minutes and ended when the recent water refill did not turn cloudy anymore. The closing ritual was a whispered Latin prayer while oil was rubbed to my forehead and chest. There wasn’t any rate of payment, any amount of donation will do.

Our motorbike journey then covered just some of the few spots worth visiting such as the century-old balete tree, Cambughay falls, Bandilaan Natural Park (highest point in the island), and the century old churches. Given much more days, beach hopping at the various white sand options, cliff jumping at Salagdoong beach, swimming at the natural spring parks, visiting other home-based folk healers, and spelunking in the Cantabon, Eugenia, Dacanay, Tagmanocan, and Baljo caves would have been additions. Most of these adventure options have no entrance costs at all. Just find your way there though a map and enjoy.

Driving a motorbike around the island was a breeze as there was virtually no traffic at most times and routes. We have been able to find other white sand beachfront accommodations in San Juan such as the End of the World that charges P400 per room and The Bruce that offers cottages with kitchen amenities and have short and long stay rates (P1,200 for two per day/P1,500 for four per day).

This idyllic island had me spellbound of its natural charm. A short stay proved to be inadequate to immerse oneself in the mysteries that abound. Siquijor indeed has its wide array of magic (natural or otherwise) to trance all explorers and seekers to return.

A registered nurse he may be, but Cagayan de Oro City-based John Ryan Nual Mendoza is an ardent believer of holistic living - as such, he advocates, for instance and among others, the use not only of Western approaches to healing, but also of the more traditional methodologies that may be learned from the hilot, babaylan, et cetera. As he said, in life, "why be limited, when you can have a more full/complete life by embracing just about everything?"


Araneta City announces offerings for the holidays

This year, Araneta City celebrates the holiday with the theme “The City of Firsts: Your Home for Christmas” to encapsulate the warm essence of the season – the familiar comfort of celebrating with your loved ones, the delightful spirit of sharing and giving, and the tender feeling of being at home.



The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, and Araneta City is all set to make the much-awaited season truly special and extra memorable! 

This year, Araneta City celebrates the holiday with the theme “The City of Firsts: Your Home for Christmas” to encapsulate the warm essence of the season – the familiar comfort of celebrating with your loved ones, the delightful spirit of sharing and giving, and the tender feeling of being at home.

Create new Christmas memories at Araneta City by spending time with loved ones at the New Gateway Mall 2. Explore the mall’s wide array of dining options for meetups and gatherings. Make gift giving extra special by checking out the latest and trendiest items at the selection of new stores.

Spend time with your love ones at the spacious Quantum Skyview, and snap some groufies by the towering Christmas tree or by the dynamic LED ceiling display. Or bring them to the Sagrada Familia Church on the uppermost floor for moments of spiritual renewal and reflection.

For a more nostalgic holiday touch, check out these beloved classic attractions at the City of Firsts:

1. Fiesta Carnival: A reunion with nostalgia

One of the most cherished facets of Araneta City’s Yuletide celebration this year is the return of the Fiesta Carnival — the famous indoor theme park of the yesteryears. The OG go-to carnival from the 70s to the 90s will be revived at its original location to rekindle cherished childhood memories and create new ones. 

Friends and families are invited to enjoy thrilling rides and games that will evoke the same old happy feelings of innocence and youthfulness in a modern setting. Watch out for its opening across the Smart Araneta Coliseum Green Gate.

2. Giant Christmas Tree: The centerpiece of the holidays

The Giant Christmas Tree at the City of Firsts is a quintessential part of Christmas celebrations in the metro. The towering holiday symbol, which has been Araneta City’s tradition since 1981, glistens in gold, silver, and red to suit the bright colorful season. 

Complementing the overall design of the giant Christmas trees this year is a golden carousel that was placed underneath the tree, an ode to the returning Fiesta Carnival for an enchanting atmosphere of nostalgia and togetherness. Visit the bright tree at the Times Square Park.

3. Parolan: Your one-stop for everything Christmas

Parolan is another annual tradition that embodies the Christmas spirit in Aranera City. Running until December 31, this festive marketplace is a must-visit place for all holiday decorating needs. 

Here, visitors can find a wide assortment of Christmas decorations, including twinkling lights, baubles, and the iconic Pinoy parol (Filipino

lantern). This treasure trove of holiday decor makes it easy for people to transform their homes into a winter wonderland. So drop by at Parolan at the Farmers Garden Parking.

4. More Christmas delights at the City of Firsts

Araneta City is brimming with more festive cheers and dazzling displays for a familiar home-y holiday feels:

  • A breathtaking fireworks display, every Friday to Sunday until December 30;
  • colorful Santa meet-and-greet sessions every weekend until December 25, and Christmas Mascot Parade every Sunday until Christmas. 
  • Santa’s Workshop at the Quantum Skyview, New Gateway Mall 2; and 
  • enchanting evening busking at Manhattan Row from December 5 to 28.

With all these Christmas offers, Araneta City is warmly welcoming everyone to celebrate, create cherished memories, and rediscover the joys of being home for the holidays. 

Experience the magic of the holiday season in a place that truly feels like home only at the City of Firsts.  

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Filipino travelers value flexibility and accommodation choices – Visa

Filipinos value flexibility and accommodation choices, where 75% of travelers prioritized cleanliness when choosing their accommodation for the trip as a possible effect of the pandemic, and 35% of travelers chose to travel independently instead of packaged tours.



As post-pandemic travel resumes, research shows that flexibility, convenience, and safety continue to be sought after by travelers around the globe. The latest Visa Global Travel Intentions Study (GTI) 2023[1] shows the evolving travel habits of travelers, presenting a roadmap for businesses to cater to their needs.

In the Philippines, some key findings of the GTI study revealed that Filipinos value flexibility and accommodation choices, where 75% of travelers prioritized cleanliness when choosing their accommodation for the trip as a possible effect of the pandemic, and 35% of travelers chose to travel independently instead of packaged tours.

Jeff Navarro, Visa’s Country Manager for the Philippines and Guam said, “We continue to see outbound travel bouncing back in the country to pre-pandemic levels, where Filipinos have taken on average two leisure trips in the last 12 months. We are optimistic that tourism will remain a vital backbone of the economy as we move toward the year-end holiday season, as Visa continues to facilitate safe and secure cross-border shopping activity, both for inbound tourists shopping at our many wonderful local landmarks, and for Filipinos traveling locally or abroad”.

The GTI Study revealed that the key motivations for Filipinos travelling locally and abroad are mostly for relaxation (69%), exploring something new (52%), and for adventure (48%).

The top three destinations abroad for 89% of Filipino travelers are to Asia Pacific countries such as Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, with travel peaking between December 2022 and March 2023.

“While we are also optimistic of the digitalization of travel that extends across buying airline tickets and tours, accommodation, travel insurance, and shopping, the study also showed 66% of Filipino travelers had payment concerns prior to leaving for their trip. This can be stressful for those who are not yet well-versed in digital payments, and who feel the need to carry cash and find money changers and ATMs. Contactless payments have emerged as the mode of choice in many places around the world, and we are supportive of all stakeholders in the ecosystem working together to enable cashless and contactless payments in the Philippines,” Jeff added.

The path to progress in tourism is a shared journey, and Visa will continue playing a role in shaping the industry’s future through widespread acceptance of digital payments for everyone, everywhere.

[1] The Global Intentions Study 2023 surveys more than 40,000 consumers globally across 37 markets including around 1,000 respondents in the Philippines, on travelers’ recent trips in the past 12 months and intention to travel in the next 12 months. The study’s fieldwork was conducted from April 2023 to June 2023.

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The Ascott Limited unveils Citadines Roces Quezon City

Once completed, Citadines Roces Quezon City holds the potential to establish the Ascott Limited within Quezon City, leading to growth opportunities and further brand awareness to the northern parts of the metro.



The Ascott Limited (Ascott) is thrilled to announce the upcoming opening of its latest serviced residence, Citadines Roces Quezon City, located in the vibrant Quezon City.

With its prime location in Don A. Roces Avenue Diliman, Citadines Roces promises to be a premier destination for both business and leisure travelers seeking a comfortable and convenient getaway experience in the heart of Metro Manila. Once completed, Citadines Roces Quezon City holds the potential to establish the Ascott Limited within Quezon City, leading to growth opportunities and further brand awareness to the northern parts of the metro.

Quezon City, the largest city in Metro Manila and the capital of the Philippines has been experiencing rapid growth in terms of development. As a recognized emerging district with established townships and mixed-use communities, the city has become a hub for multinational companies and government offices. Citadines Roces Quezon City is strategically situated near these businesses, as well as shopping malls and renowned companies, providing the utmost convenience to its potential residents.

Set to open its doors in November 2023, the serviced residence offers 200 well-appointed suites, including studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. Each residence is thoughtfully designed to provide a combination of style and comfort while also showcasing its modern look designed for functionality. Future guests of the property can expect a seamless blend of contemporary amenities and top-of-the-line personalized services to cater to their needs and preferences.

The serviced residence boasts a range of exceptional amenities, ensuring that every guest is in for a well-rounded living experience. From a retail podium offering convenient shopping options to performance spaces that inspire creativity, Citadines Roces Quezon City is designed to cater to the most diverse type of travelers. The property also features an all-day dining restaurant, function spaces for meetings and events, a swimming pool, a fully equipped fitness center, and a resident’s lounge for both relaxation and socializing.

“As we introduce Citadines Roces Quezon City, we are excited to offer a dynamic and modern living concept that meets the evolving needs of today’s travelers,” said Philip Barnes, Ascott’s Country General Manager. “With its strategic location and an array of amenities, Citadines  Roces is poised to be a preferred choice for those seeking a comfortable and convenient serviced residence experience in Quezon City.”

As The Ascott Limited expands its presence in the Philippines, Citadines Roces Quezon City represents the brand’s commitment to offering an unparalleled level of comfort, convenience, and contemporary living in prime locations nationwide. 

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