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Hundred Islands: Pieces of Atlantis

The Hundred Islands off fishing town Pangasinan are constant sources of wonder – home to swimming monkey, playground of largely unseen sirena, and haven of some of the Philippines’ best faith healers. M.D. dela Cruz Tan discovers that these islands are actually believed to be parts of Atlantis.

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“Welcome to Atlantis,” Manang Auring, a local manggagamot, said as her oily hands enveloped my proffered hand. Like many in her field, she believes that the numerous islands off the bay of Pangasinan, more popularly known as the Hundred Islands, are “pieces of the beauteous island, which drifted until they found their way here,” she said, all purplish gum when she smiled. “This is where we source our powers.”

PHOTO BY GEORGE TAPAN, COURTESY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

And then she started massaging the side of the tummy of an old man lying on a mat, slowly pushing deeper until blood started trickling from an invisible wound. There was a deafening silence, ironically emphasized by the strong blowing of the wind that rocked the wooden windows, and was finally broken by a sigh from Manang Auring as she produced what looked like pebbles, which were supposedly stones from the kidney of her patient. Not a moment too soon, the old man sat straight, expressed his gratitude for the help, and then left.

While the experience was new to me, it was common in the area – we were in Pangasinan, after all, where many of the Filipino faith healers (no matter where they may be in the Philippines or overseas) are said to have originated. No wonder the flocking of those in search of the miraculous in the area – for healing of incurable illnesses, for the creation of love where there is none, or for the simple finding of peace of mind. Local legend has it that this is where the pieces of the famed Atlantis drifted when the mysterious island sunk eons ago, supposedly bringing with it its magic. The claim sounds implausible somehow, until one visits the islands.

NATURAL WONDER

Only a few minutes by motorized bangka are the first few of the islands that, in truth, total over 100 (though so-called Hundred Islands only because it has a poetic rhyme to it). Many of these have high rocky cliffs thickly covered by vegetation and are thus often seemingly inaccessible – though many are attracted to the islands exactly because of this. Over the years, more and more visit to bravely climb the cliffs that seem to endlessly continue under the blue waters, or to make new treks from one side to another of one of the largely undiscovered islands, or to spelunk for the first time its enigmatic caves. Closely passing by the islands, however, never fails to bring about strange, even spine tingling, feelings, as if someone you cannot see is staring at you intently, waiting for your next step before they decide to act.

“Those are the spirits,” Mang Ambo, our guide, said in a hushed voice (so as not to disturb them). As if on cue, we passed through what seemed like a tunnel, though really a meeting of two cliffs overhead, forming what looked like a darkened cathedral – a rare formation since the islands are often separated. And yet, many snorkel around the islands, which are seemingly attached underwater by coral formations supporting a rich marine life (like the rare giant clam shells). When the seas are calm, the few who have dived around some of the islands mentioned the peculiar rock formations underwater that hide peculiar sea creatures, seemingly reflecting the eerie atmosphere evoked by the islands. Because when there, it doesn’t seem implausible seeing merpeople peeking through rock formations before diving in the deep seas when spotted. The place just has that feel, hardly explainable.

EVERY ISLAND, A WORLD

Amazingly, the seeming awe inspired by the group of islands as a whole is the one things that is similar in all the islands, which differ from each other – both by nature’s designs, and by man’s manipulations.

At one, you can follow paths leading to the peak to get a 360˚ view of the whole place – not that there’s much to see, but the blue waters broken by islands that seemed to have been dropped from the sky like big rocks. In another, the white sanded shore stretches then curves to stretch and then curve once more to form a semi-circle, the middle only sparsely vegetated so that it looks more like an underwater rock exposed during low tide than an actual island – just perfect for swimming. Still in another are small communities that have fishnets surrounding islands to breed fish – perfect for meals in yet another island that now has nipa huts for such activities.

While snorkeling, trying to make out what the deep gulfs between islands hide by clinging on to a rope attached from one island to another , the silence is occasionally broken by gunshots, immediately followed by the flocking of wild ducks trying to escape hunters that venture the islands where they nest. For a while, the sky darkened as the fathered creatures sought refuge in the other islands, feathers fluttering on the waters that, suddenly (and even more interestingly), gave way to monkeys that started to swim. It was weird, looking at creatures deemed afraid of water as their heads protruded while trying to stay afloat. Then, when on dry land, they shook themselves before disappearing in the woods, like miniature Bigfoots.

Truly, here, wonders never cease.

MYSTICISM (UN)EXPLAINED

After a luscious meal of freshly-caught tilapia, coupled by salted egg sharing a bowl full of freshly sliced ripe tomatoes, with grilled pusit and shrimps thrown, a quick dive in the water stirs the consciousness, though also adding to the mystery, as one swims with jellyfish that seasonally abound in the area, floating like torn fabrics.

These are playthings of mermaids who hide in the islands, Mang Ambo said. And I almost believed him, trying not to swim too far from the islands in case the mysterious stories were true.

In the end, though, whether one believes or not does not matter. Back on the mainland, Manang Auring said, “Maniwala ka o hindi, andiyan ‘yan.” And maybe, just maybe, she’s telling the truth, since you won’t escape the mystical when in the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan.

HOW TO GET THERE:
Along EDSA, catch a bus going to Alaminos via Kamiling. From there, catch a pedicab to Lucap, where the motorized bangkas to take you to the islands are docked.

*First published in Outrage Magazine in December 2007; 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).

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Destinations

Greenfield District in Mandaluyong kicks off its holiday celebration

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,. followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

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Greenfield District, the smart and connected urban center of Greenfield Development Corporation (GDC) in Mandaluyong City, transformed into a holiday wonderland with the launch of GDC’s annual Christmas festivities called “A Christmas for Generations”. 

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,.  followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

“After two years of not having face-to-face yuletide celebrations, Filipinos are surely excited to once again gather with their loved ones to celebrate the country’s festive Christmas season,” said GDC President and Chairman Jeffrey D.Y. Campos.  “Greenfield District is a venue where different generations, from senior citizen grandparents to Gen Z kids, can bond with each other by taking part in the fun holiday activities of the District,” he added.

Ongoing  until December 25, Filipinos of all ages are in for a lot of holiday fun at the District. On December 17, families, especially kids are invited to come and meet  Santa Claus at Greenfield District’s “A Night with Santa” , which will feature merry activities and gift giving.

Meanwhile, adults can start their holiday shopping early as the Greenfield District Central Park will showcase weekend bazaars starting this month until December. Shoppers can look forward to discovering value for money gift ideas, trendy fashion pieces, delicious treats and more. While shopping, visitors can also enjoy a quick food trip and engage in Arts and Crafts activities while immersing at the bazaars dressed in colorful Christmas decorations. 

With a mission to build future-ready and sustainable communities for generations of Filipinos, GDC upholds its tradition of organizing events that promote the value of togetherness and spending quality time with the family.

“At GDC, we are committed to not only building properties for generations but also creating verdant, spacious neighborhoods where Filipino families can create beautiful memories together throughout the years. Christmas is a special occasion for many Filipinos, and we want Greenfield District to be part of their memorable Christmas experience every year,” said GDC Executive Vice President and General Manager Atty. Duane A.X. Santos. 

Located at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard, Greenfield District is accessible to the public through various routes and roadways from the main business districts of Metro Manila, making it an ideal destination for recreational activities, get-togethers, and shopping this yuletide season.

Visit the Greenfield District with friends and family this holiday season.  To know more about the activities at Greenfield District, visit https://www.facebook.com/greenfielddistrict.

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All Nippon Airways launches ‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ campaign

On 11 October of this year, border restrictions were eased, allowing foreign new arrivals including business travelers, students, and technical trainees to finally enter Japan.

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Prior to the pandemic, the Japan Tourism Agency reported the number of foreign visitors traveling to Japan in 2019 hit an all-time high of 31.9 million, 600k of whom were travelers from the Philippines. In 2020, the number dropped drastically to around 4.12 million due to the stringent travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, making Japan one of the world’s most difficult countries to enter.

On 11 October of this year, border restrictions were eased, allowing foreign new arrivals including business travelers, students, and technical trainees to finally enter Japan. With news of Japan’s plans to reopen the country to international travelers, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest 5-star airline are launching “Beyond #MissingJapan” together.

The campaign was inspired by both social media posts of people yearning to travel to Japan and a strong sense of eagerness amongst ANA’s flight crew to welcome visitors back. And Filipinos are eager to visit the Land of the Rising Sun. According to a 2022 Statista survey, Filipinos chose Japan as their top holiday destination. Countries in the EU and US got the 2nd and 3rd choice, respectively.

‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ aims to excite  travelers for their next trip, give them head start on planning, and an insider’s perspective on the island country. The campaign features Paolo from Tokyo, a famous Filipino YouTuber based in Japan, who shares the best that Japan has to offer to both first-time visitors and seasoned travelers alike.

Paolo’s travels take us to Greater Tokyo and the hidden gems in the areas around the country’s capital. He rediscovers popular landmarks like Asakusa, shopping mecca Don Quijote, and the iconic Tokyo Station to name a few. Paolo also ventures into “New Tokyo” where lesser-known attractions such as Tokorozawa Sakura Town, Sanagi Shinjuku, and GOTEMBA PREMIUM OUTLETS® are located, must-visit spots that opened after 2020 and are within a few hours from Tokyo.

Get a real-life glimpse of Paolo’s experience in this 360 video that takes you inside the awe-inspiring pop culture haven Tokorozawa Sakura Town and walks you through the temples of Asakusa and Miyashita Park, a rooftop oasis in the heart of bustling Shibuya. The 360 video also gives you a feel of the festive vibe at Sanagi Shinjuku and the shopping that awaits at the endless aisles in Japan’s biggest discount store, Don Quijote, and the more upscale complex, Coredo Muromachi. Always growing and evolving, Tokyo still has so much more to offer

Mr. Isao Ono, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, Asia & Oceania from ANA said: “I believe our ‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ campaign will give those who have missed Japan an opportunity to rediscover the country through a series of videos featuring Asia’s most well-loved personalities as well as a 360° first-person perspective of landing in Japan. At ANA, we are committed to providing passengers with the best service in a safe and clean environment. We look forward to welcoming more travelers to Japan soon.”

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Destinations

Travel with your furry friends with Airbnb this festive season

Around the world, Airbnb Hosts have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests and their beloved pets. As the pandemic pet boom continues and travel resumes, guests are increasingly looking for domestic stays that allow them to bring their furry friends along, with ample outdoor space for all to roam around.

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This week marks World Animal Day, an international day celebrating all animals and promoting a better future for animals all over the world. As the festive season rapidly approaches, there’s no better time to start planning a getaway for your loved ones – with fur kids in tow.

Around the world, Airbnb Hosts have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests and their beloved pets. As the pandemic pet boom continues and travel resumes, guests are increasingly looking for domestic stays that allow them to bring their furry friends along, with ample outdoor space for all to roam around.

More than 3 million pets have checked into Airbnb since last November. As of June 2022, pet-friendly stays make up almost one-fifth of all Philippines listings on Airbnb, a 44% increase compared to June 20192. The top ten destinations for pet-friendly travel in the Philippines in Q2 2022 are:

  • Manila, Metro Manila
  • Baguio, Cordillera
  • Patuto, Calabarzon
  • Quezon City, Metro Manila
  • Taguig, Calabarzon
  • Cebu City, Central Visayas
  • Olongapo, Central Luzon
  • Nasugbu, Calabarzon
  • San Fernando, Ilocos
  • Calamba, Calabarzon

Amanpreet Singh Bajaj, Airbnb’s General Manager for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan said that when it comes to pet-friendly Airbnb stays, owners are seeking stays with additional space for their furry friends, often in locations outside capital cities.

“If you’re an avid pet lover, you’ll know that no holiday is quite complete without taking your family pet along. We have something for even the fussiest four-legged family members, and certainly, homes with spacious yards and deck areas are always among the most popular for guests with pets,” Bajaj added.

In the Philippines, over 15,000 guests have traveled with their pets on Airbnb3. To inspire more fur moms and dads planning to bring their pet friends on their next getaways, here are some amazing pet-friendly listings in the Philippines —  from spacious homes with huge backyards for your pets to roam to stays co-hosted by equally hospitable pooches!

Spacious farms for the zoomies

If you’re itching for a quick weekend away from the 9-to-5 routine, these farm stays that are drivable from Manila can certainly give you and your fur baby that relaxing getaway you both deserved.

  • The Alperi Farm is a newly built private farmhouse in Amadeo sitting on an expansive 2,000 sqm — perfect for non-stop fetch and the occasional zoomies. Offering guests plenty of opportunities to unplug and bond with loved ones (pets included!), the farmhouse comes with entertainment and activity options including a playhouse, bird sanctuary, a gym, and even a theater and arcade room.
  • Another farmstay south of the metro is Campo Canueza, which provides the best of both mountain views and beach access. It has a two-storey air-conditioned bahay kubo, a private pool, and an expansive space where you can freely walk your pets. At night, you can pitch a tent outside and enjoy uninterrupted views of the night sky.

Beachfront homes for the water-loving breeds

While some will just dip a toe, other dogs are born for the water — and will be truly delighted to hit the beach. Head on to these beachfront stays if you and your canine companion are dreaming of sands in your toes and paws.

  • Saya Nest is one of the seven nests hosted by proud fur-mom and Airbnb Host, Tamara. Located in the rainforest of Subic Bay, it lies just a few minutes from the beaches and falls. There is a fenced-in patio so your pets can run off-leash, a bathtub overlooking the forest, an outdoor table and grill, and a hammock by the porch. If you’re lucky, you might even be welcomed by Tamara’s own fur babies!
  • If you and your pet are up for a little island adventure — check out this Beachfront Loft in Palawan. It is located in a 2-hectare beachfront community in Aborlan just south of Puerto Princesa, and sits right by the sandy beach. Go boating with your pet by day and warm up around the bonfire at night while listening to the calming waves.

Breathtaking views for your best bud

Looking for vacation rentals with picturesque views where you can bring your fur babies? Search no further! These homes are not only pet-friendly — they make you want to bask in the scenery and stay for longer.

  • Anto House is a secluded farm nestled in the highlands of Antipolo, offering a 360-degree view overlooking the distant Metro Manila skyline, Angono hills and ridges, and the Laguna de Bay. Featuring two beautiful bamboo casitas that can accommodate up to 14 guests, it’s perfect for family gatherings and even reunions. There are also animals on the property like goats and sheep that both kids and fur kids can interact with.
  • How about calling an entire island your home for the weekend? This rustic, tiny island is right in the middle of Lumot Lake, with astounding views of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. If your fur bud’s love language is quality time, you can set up a mini obstacle course, go swimming at the lake, or simply just watch the world go by.

1 Based on Airbnb internal data from June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022

2 Based on Airbnb internal data from June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022

3 Based on Airbnb internal data from November 11, 2019 to June 30, 2022

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