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El Nido, Palawan: Postcard Perfect

The appeal of the province of Palawan may be mainly its being a largely untouched place. But as M.D. dela Cruz Tan discovers, there’s more to this place than meets the eye.




The first time Australian D.J.M. Winters stepped on the shores of Miniloc Island, in El Nido, north of Palawan, to visit the country’s “Last Environmental Frontier,” as well as “check out what business ventures may be there,” he noted that “it was like stepping on a photograph come to life,” he says. “Everything seemed too good to be true. Palawan is almost surreal for its beauty.”

Winters’ amazement is understandable, what with Palawan long considered a land of clichés, at least as far as the image of a stereotypical tropical paradise is concerned. Sandy white beaches stretching for miles, incessantly kissed by the crystal clear waters that mirror the blue sky, or reflect rolling clouds as they pass, seemingly lovingly blown by the whistling wind, just as they make the tall palm trees by the beaches bend, dancing to a tune only they can hear – all of them are in Palawan. And so much more, actually.

“It most certainly is full of surprises,” Winters says.


Not largely known is the province’s rich history, best exemplified by the antiquities that abound there. Underwater or on the ground, however, Palawan has something to offer everyone.

Named after the nests of swiftlets (the main ingredient in the world-famous Nido Soup), El Nido (Spanish for the nest) is a 50,000 hectare-town of 18 barangays populated by some 27,000 people “very overprotective about their settlement,” notes Winters. “Rightly so, though, what with the place’s ecological treasures – all deserving of superlatives, but all fragile, and seemingly always in threat.”

Among Winters’ “favorite occurrences that are bound to be reminisced time and again” include kayaking from island to island, “my concentration broken only by the flapping wings of sea hawks, sighting unseen preys as they circle limestone cliffs formed millions of years ago;” bird watching, especially since El Nido’s forests are home to over 100 species of birds, many of them endemic to Palawan; stargazing, “realizing how small we are in the scheme of things;” island hopping to “see that here, seeing beauty never stops;” and simply admiring nature, such as “observing the peculiar looking pitcher plants that, to better their chances of survival, evolved to hang ever so low, almost touching the waters as they dangle from the rocky cliffs, waiting for whatever it is that will get trapped in their cavernous carafes to sustain them,” Winters says. “Nature 101.”

Amazement is, indeed, everywhere in Palawan.

In Miniloc Island, right off the pier is a rich marine world teeming with life, so that those snorkeling are literally inundated by swimming groupers, fusiliers, parrot fish, and other fish species that are normally only seen in, say, Animal Planet. In Lagen Island, mangrove tours, especially before at the break of dawn, right before the sun starts bathing with golden color everything under it, wild birds, many of them migratory, fly from their nests, their graceful motions mirrored by the waters under them.

In Matinloc Island, there’s the not-so-secret Secret Beach, worth visiting for a “glimpse of the sense of total seclusion,” Winters says, even if it is only accessible by snorkeling through a small crack in the limestone walls that envelope it.

And then there are the Big and Small Lagoons, both welcome retreats, with their pristine waters seemingly contradicting the roughness of their source, the “unruly sea” right outside their confines. There, it’s a different world altogether, filled with rock formations that resemble elephant tusks, a praying Virgin Mary, the caped crusader Batman hiding behind some rocks, phallic idols – “whatever,” Winters says. “It’s more like a cloud, actually, wherein you see them as what you want them to be. Like a fantasy, you can tailor-fit it to suit what you want. El Nido’s cliffs are like that, too. A hark back to the times when nature was magical.”


No wonder, thus, that “I’m looking at staying here for good,” Winters says with a laugh. The same appeal has actually already made ”regular inhabitants out of many who visited Palawan,” says Mickey Castaño of Belcas Realty Corp., which “recognizes the place’s great potential.”

Enterprise Magazine earlier reported (Paradise Found, March 2006) that there are opportunities to buy beachfront properties, or even entire islands, in the various towns of Palawan – and all at very affordable prices. In El Nido, for example, lots sell for about P1,500 per square meter, while small islands can be bought for as low as P200 to P300 per square meter. Adds the online publication Offshore and Real Estate Quarterly (, beachfront properties with a frontage of approximately 300 feet (90 meters), and a total area of under two hectares cost less than P175 per square foot – roughly equal to 20 US cents, or less than $2.25 per square meter.

“This makes it an ideal time to invest,” says Castaño, who stressed that there is, however, “an urgency in investing since local officials (recognize) that in order to preserve Palawan’s beauty, over-development should be avoided, (and so) only a limited number of developments are allowed.”

Again in El Nido, only 32 resort developments are allowed, “making it good for those who invest in the place, what with less competition, but, more importantly, preserving the place’s appeal, which is its largely untouched beauty,” Castaño says.

On the bangka (dinghy) that carried him from Miniloc Island to the pier right by the local airport, where some brightly-clad locals were singing farewell songs in the local Cuyunin language, Winters was already “in a nostalgic mood,” he says. “You just want the experience to last.”

As if catching himself from turning mawkish, he laughs. Palawan, Winters says with a hearty laugh, is cliché personified. “It’s almost poetic, I tell you. And even that (claim) is admittedly cliché, too. Just as I tell you you’ll keep coming back here once you’ve already been here.”

*First published in Outrage Magazine in January 2009; reprinted with permission.

M.D. dela Cruz Tan is the founder of Zest Magazine. And no, the initials (i.e. M.D.) do not make him a "medical doctor" (as many have erroneously thought in the past); he is actually a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales Australia (just don't ask when, he says). He can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (of course), shoot flicks, community-organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).


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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