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Taiwan Guide: Places, food, experiences in the ‘beautiful island’

Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations. The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic,…

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Dapitan celebrates Kinabayo Festival

Street dancing, a music festival, and a motocross with live band are just among the activities lined up by the Dapitan City Government for the Kinabayo Festival 2017. Held annually…

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Dakak adds posh suites, facilities in exclusive zone

Huge high-ceilinged rooms that open out to a lanai and wide vista of sea and sky from their perch atop a cliff, the luxury suites of Dakak Park and Beach…

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Huge high-ceilinged rooms that open out to a lanai and wide vista of sea and sky from their perch atop a cliff, the luxury suites of Dakak Park and Beach Resort deliver on their promise of opulent accommodations.

Dakak luxury suites

The entrance to the luxury suites of Villa Angelina, a super exclusive zone on the clifftop of Dakak Park and Beach Resort.

The resort adds another exclusive zone to Villa Angelina, this time on the clifftop, for guests who desire a getaway that’s far from the crush of holiday goers but without relinquishing ultimate luxuries.

A typical Villa Angelina cliffside casita is enormous and leaves more than enough breathing space even with the king-size bed in the middle plus the day bed and plush recliners by one side and mini work area on the other.

Dakak sunset

View from the almost finished sunset bar at Dakak’s exclusive clifftop zone.

Cliffside casitas

One whole wall facing the sea is made of glass to allow guests an uninterrupted view of the panorama of deep blue and lush greens that make up the Dapitan City coast.

Villa Angelina private veranda

Each cliffside casita comes with its own private veranda that overlooks Dapitan City’s coastline.

Each luxury suite, also called a cliffside casita, has its own private veranda with a jacuzzi for those times when you just want to take it easy and relax in your very own hot tub while you take in the view.

The well-appointed room is complemented by a spacious and lavish en suite.

Villa Angelina infinity pool

The cliffside zone of Dakak Park and Beach Resort has its own infinity pool that is exclusive for Villa Angelina overnight guests. Soon, the area will have its restaurant and bar that makes the most of the spectacular views from the top.

Dakak infinity pool

Only guests staying at the Villa Angelina luxury suites have access to the infinity pool built atop the cliff.

Dakak’s luxury zone is serviced regularly by resort vans.

A cliffside casita is just a brief ride away from the resort’s stretch of fine white sand and warm sea. It is also only a short walk down to the beach.

Cliffside casita jacuzzi

Each Villa Angelina cliffside casita also comes with its own jacuzzi.

Dakak accommodations

Outside of Villa Angelina, Dakak Park and Beach Resort has affordable deluxe, family, and big group rooms. It also has overnight packages that come bundled with city tours and complimentary entrance to Gloria de Dapitan’s Fantasyland.

Cliffside casita interior

A cliffside casita has more than enough space for a king-size bed, enormous closet, couch and recliners, and mini work area.

Check out the Dakak website for the updated room rates and offers.

Dakak Park and Beach Resort is also currently building a world-class golf course of Greg Norman design that is scheduled to partly open in July.

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Taiwan Guide: Places, food, experiences in the ‘beautiful island’

Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations. The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic,…

Continue Reading

Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL. This octagon-shaped building was built as a memorial to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic, food was plentiful and inexpensive, it was so clean we had no qualms eating along alleyways and in markets, and efficient public transport allowed us to move around with ease.

When it comes to tourist attractions, Taiwan has mountains and woodland trails, parks and gardens, grand structures and temples, old-world places and modern cities.

The sun sets in a sea of clouds at the Alishan National Scenic Area.

The island nation is so close to the Philippines that tribes in Taiwan’s Lanyu Island share similarities in language and culture with the Ivatans of Batanes.

Taiwan attractions

Whether it’s a lengthy stay or brief getaway, any trip to a new place should always include time for the busy capital and Taipei hosts more than enough interesting places of cultural, historical, and natural value to keep one occupied.

If your trip is only for two nights and limited to Taiwan’s metropolis, don’t despair. You can still tally up quite a list of spectacular experiences without having to go far.

Taipei, after all, is home to:

Taipei 101

This engineering feat has a high-speed elevator that takes guests from the fifth floor to the Observatory in the 89th floor at a record breaking time of 37 seconds.

Taipei 101

View of the Taipei skyline from nearby Elephant Mountain.

The change in air pressure for such a swift ascent can be a little bit unpleasant but they distract you by dimming the elevator lights and showing a replica of the night sky complete with constellations and shooting stars on the ceiling. Fortunately, the ride takes less than a minute.

One floor down from the indoor observatory is the engineering marvel that is the wind damper so don’t miss it. The outdoor observatory in the 91st floor may be off limits depending on weather conditions.

National Palace Museum

The local guide in my first trip to Taipei, Jane Fan, shared an interesting fact about the National Palace Museum. Majority of the museum’s treasures are Chinese cultural relics and artifacts passed down by the imperial courts. These were shipped to Taiwan due to fears they would be destroyed following the rise of communism in China.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek, the first president of Taiwan, was largely credited with its economic development.

Archway entrance

Archway entrance of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

In honor of his contributions, the Taiwanese built the two-level Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall within a large complex that also features Liberty Square with its manicured gardens as well as the National Concert Hall and National Theatre.

Presidential Office Building

Taiwan’s current president holds office in a sprawling Baroque structure designed by a Japanese architect and built during the Japanese occupation.

Visitors are allowed in some parts of the Presidential Office Building at specific times. Visits are allowed from 9 a.m.-12 noon on weekdays and up to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Check the facility’s website for the visitor schedules and guidelines.

Longshan Temple of Manka

The Longshan or Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple founded in Taipei in 1738.

Taiwan is generally tolerant when it comes to worship practices, and there are minority religions like Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism as well as native sects aside from the three main ones of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

The Longshan Temple of Manka in Taipei dates back to 1738 and is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Taiwan. This religious structure was built in honor of Guanyin or Goddess of Mercy and is used by Tao and Buddhism followers.

Elephant Mountain

While the Taipei 101 Observatory allows visitors a bird’s eye view of the metropolitan, Elephant Mountain gives them a panorama of the skyline with Taiwan’s tallest building as main feature.

Elephant Mountain

These steps lead all the way to the top of the Elephant Mountain in Xiangshan District.

The best time to climb up through is late in the afternoon leading up to nighttime. The trail is made of stone steps and really goes all the way up to the top of Elephant Mountain. Some measure of fitness is required in the climb. Wear good footwear and bear in mind that the top of the mountain is several degrees colder than the downtown area.

Ximending District

For shopping in Taipei, no place beats the neighborhood of Ximending when it comes to quality and value for money. There might be cheaper clothes, shirts, bags, souvenirs and other goods sold in the night markets but the Ximending retail shops carry the quality local and global brands.

Din Tai Fung

The capital Taipei hosts the first Din Tai Fung, the original xiao long bao house that spawned a chain of restaurants.

There is a long line of locals and tourists eager to dine at Din Tai Fung so make sure you set aside 40 minutes to an hour for the wait to get a table.

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market

If there’s one thing that the Shilin Night Market is known for, it’s authentic and scrumptious Taiwan dishes.

One of the biggest night markets in Taiwan, the Shilin Night Market combines cheap, delicious eats with inexpensive retail goods like shirts, bags, shoes, and souvenirs like ref magnets or key chains. A whole floor (basement area) is devoted to food and features many of Taiwan’s must-try treats.

Other places

If your schedule allows it still, a few more nearby attractions are absolutely worth your time.

Shifen

A walk along the train tracks of Shifen Old Street is like a trip down a bygone world. Shifen evokes memories of olden times with its nostalgic ambiance and people going about their everyday chores along the railway of the Pingxi line.

Tourists fly lanterns in Shifen Old Street, a community by the railroad tracks in Pingxi District of New Taipei City.

These houses sell souvenirs, other knick knacks, and the sky lanterns that tourists release into the sky with their hopes and wishes.

Jiufen

Whenever I think of the former gold mining town of Jiufen in the mountain area of Ruifang District in New Taipei City, I think of food. It’s hard not too since this once prosperous and booming town nicknamed “Little Hongkong” during its heyday is packed full to the edge of narrow lanes and alleyways with restaurants, teahouses, and cafes. During the two times that I’ve been, I never missed having some of the ice cream and peanut roll served to perfection in Jiufen.

Peanut ice cream roll

Peanut ice cream roll is popular fare in Taiwan and they make it exceptionally well in Jiufen.

Yangmingshan

Yangmingshan National Park is a nature spot that’s very accessible from downtown Taipei. It covers a hundred square meters of gardens, woodland, wildlife, hiking trails, and hot springs.

Formosa

While a brief visit is already fulfilling, a longer trip is even better because it gives you more time to check out this place that the Portuguese once called Formosa or “beautiful island.”

Alishan National Scenic Area

Alishan walking trails

The Alishan National Scenic Area has scenic trails that lead to ancient trees, temples, ponds, and spectacular views.

One side trip we highly recommend is to the Alishan National Scenic Area. The most popular attractions in this mountain preserve is the sunrise and sunset. Alishan sunrise and sunset viewing, however, requires staying overnight. Getting to Alishan from Taipei requires spending at least half of your day on the road.

Staying two or more nights is even better as you get to fully enjoy all that Alishan has to offer, which include hectares of woodland, uphill and downhill hiking trails, ponds, waterfalls and temples.

Taroko National Park

Another attraction that’s worth a visit is Taroko National Park. It is so big, it traverses three areas in Taiwan: Taichung Municipality and the counties of Nantou and Hualien.

Taroko features spectacular views: ravines and rivers, foot bridges, tribal settlements, temples, hiking trails through rocky and forested landscapes.

More photos of Taiwan destinations:

strawberry glaze

Strawberry and cherry tomatoes glazed with syrup and served on sticks  are popular treats at Shilin Night Market.

Ximending shopping

The Ximending District is one of the top shopping areas in Taipei.

Jiufen alley

An alley in Jiufen brims on both sides with food and souvenir shops.

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Dapitan celebrates Kinabayo Festival

Street dancing, a music festival, and a motocross with live band are just among the activities lined up by the Dapitan City Government for the Kinabayo Festival 2017. Held annually…

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Street dancing, a music festival, and a motocross with live band are just among the activities lined up by the Dapitan City Government for the Kinabayo Festival 2017.

Held annually in honor of St. James the Greater, the city’s patron saint, the Kinabayo Festival falls on July 25 but the City Government usually holds several events in the run-up to the main day.

Gloria de Dapitan

Gloria de Dapitan’s Fantasyland is a popular attraction in Dapitan City.

St. James the Greater is also the patron saint of all Spain, and Kinabayo reenacts the Spanish-Moorish wars, in particular the Battle of Covadonga. This was where Spanish forces took their last stand against the Saracens and were victorious due to the intervention of St. James.

For this year, festivities start from July 16 and include a duathlon, golf and bowling tournaments, fun run, hip hop competition, and beauty pageant.

Dapitan City Kinabayo Festival 2017

Here’s the full Kinabayo Festival 2017 schedule:

July 11-15

Invitational Bowling Championship

July 16

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 a.m. – Duathlon Invitational Race
3:00 p.m. – Parada sa Patron
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – DCGEMPC Night (Cultural and Sports Complex)

July 17

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – Hip Hop competition

July 18

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – JRMSU Night (Cultural and Sports Center)

July 19

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – Pre-pageant (Barrio Uno Center Stage, Gloria de Dapitan)

July 20

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 a.m. – Zumba
1:00 p.m. – BMX Street Competition (City Hall Drive)
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – DepEd Night (Cultural and Sports Center)

July 21

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – Indak Pinoy (Cultural and Sports Complex)
– DJRMDH (City Plaza)
– 5th Night Motocross with Live Band (DAMPA)

July 22

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
6:00 a.m. – Mountain Bike Race Duathlon
8:00 a.m. – Golf Invitational Tournament (Dakak Golf Club, Inc.)
9:00 a.m. – Songwriting Competition
9:00 a.m. – 1st Mayor Rosalina G. Jalosjos Football Tournament (JRMSU Main Campus Sports Arena)
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – RMIDCI Nights (Cultural and Sports Center)

July 23

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:00 a.m. – TAKBO para kay TIAGO
8:00 a.m. – Golf Invitational Tournament (Dakak Golf Club, Inc.)
9:00 a.m. – Continuation of 1st Mayor Rosalina G. Jalosjos Football Tournament (JRMSU Main Campus Sports Arena)
10:00 a.m. – Open Dart Tournament (Gloria de Dapitan)
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:30 p.m. – Miss Dapitan 2017 (Cultural and Sports Center)

July 24

4:00 a.m. – Diana/Recorida
5:30 a.m. – Mass
8:00 a.m. – Mass

12:00 noon – Patunob
– Sinug
– Loa
1:00 p.m. – Mass baptism, confirmation, wedding
2 p.m. – Indigay sa Patik (City Plaza)
5:00 p.m. – Jornada
5:30 p.m. – Novena
6:00 p.m. – Novena mass
7:00 p.m. – Candlelight Rosary Procession

July 25

4:00 a.m. – Mass
5:30 a.m. – Mass
7:00 a.m. – Mass
8:30 a.m. – Mass
10 a.m. – Pontifical mass
12:00 noon – Mass
2:00 p.m. – Mass
3:00 p.m. – Street dancing competition (JRMSU Main Campus Sports Arena)
– Horses on Parade
– Horse racing contest (Sta. Cruz beach)
4:00 p.m. – Mass
5:30 p.m. – Mass
6:00 p.m. – Lights and Sounds Parada
7:30 p.m. – Car show (Barrio Uno, Gloria de Dapitan)
9:00 p.m. – Music Festival (City Plaza)
– FIREWORKS Display

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Bohol sanctuary protects Philippine tarsiers

A forested area in Corella has significantly increased the number of the endangered Philippine tarsiers in Bohol. Tarsiers flourish when they have a big area to live in as they…

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A forested area in Corella has significantly increased the number of the endangered Philippine tarsiers in Bohol.

Tarsiers flourish when they have a big area to live in as they are loners and extremely territorial animals and the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary has effectively enlarged the size of their habitat, said field manager Carlito Pizzaras.

The Philippine tarsiers are under the genus Carlito, one of only three groupings of primates under the Tarsiidae family, in recognition of the Boholano’s efforts to conserve them.

Guided tours are allowed in some parts of the sanctuary.

Two other genera are the Tarsius, found on Sulawesi and surrounding islands, and Cephalopachus, existing in the southern parts of Sumatra and the island of Borneo, explained Nong Lito, as Pizzaras is fondly called by family and friends.

Philippine tarsiers

There are currently around a hundred tarsiers living in the 8.4-hectare Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Bohol, which is being managed by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.

However, only a hectare is open to guests who want to look at the Philippine tarsiers in their natural habitat. Entrance to the tarsier viewing area, where guests are accompanied by a guide at all times, is only P50 per person.

One of the Philippine tarsiers living in a wildlife sanctuary in Corella, Bohol.

Although Philippine tarsiers each need a hectare to live in, Pizzaras said they were able to have five live together peaceably within this size of land by ensuring there is enough food for all.

Tarsiers eat grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, butterflies, moths, beetles, stick insects, ants, bees, wasps, and even dragonflies. They are nocturnal animals and prowl at night, chasing and fighting off other tarsiers they’d come across on land they consider their territory, Pizzaras cited.

Very early in the morning, local guides would tour the viewing area and find out where the tarsiers have camped out for the day. The guests are then brought directly to the spots where the tarsiers are when they visit.

Wildlife sanctuary

We were only able to look at two of the primates during our guided tour. Pizzaras said they have identified at least five pregnant tarsiers, one or two of which are in the viewing area, and don’t want them disturbed.

Philippine tarsiers are excitable and have been known to kill themselves by holding their breath when under stress. Pizzaras said this has been known to happen when people get too close to the animals or there’s a lot of noise.

This is why a few of the rules of the viewing area include keeping quiet when looking at the sleeping tarsiers and not using flash when taking pictures.

Pizzaras said any other way of breeding and conserving Philippine tarsiers doesn’t work, in a dig at the one in Loboc where the animals are kept together in a cramped space.

According to him, the Provincial Government is setting aside 167 hectares of timberland to increase the size of the sanctuary. The area is contiguous to the existing Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary and will provide a big boost to current conservation efforts in Bohol, he explained.

Carlito Pizzaras manages the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Bohol.

Tarsier man

The diminutive Pizzaras, called tarsier man, said there were still quite a big number of tarsiers in Bohol in 1966. It was at this time that Pizzaras, who was 12, started getting interested in and taking care of the animals.

Many people discouraged him, telling him the animals were difficult to handle. Tarsiers are known locally as “maomag” – a Boholano term for large and bulging eyes,

The destruction of their habitat and the increase in the number of house cats, which hunt tarsiers, cause the primate’s population to go down.

When he started the sanctuary upon the urging and with the backing of Bohol Beach Club owner Anos Fonacier in 1996, there were only around 10 of the tarsiers.

There are currently a little over a hundred in the sanctuary but this will further go up with the collaboration between the Provincial Government and Philippine Tarsier Foundation, he added.

To reach the sanctuary, visitors need to walk from the main highway through a narrow road flanked by trees.

Popular attraction

The tarsiers are very interesting animals and a popular attraction in Bohol. They are one of the smallest primates and a grown tarsier is only about the size of an adult human hand.

Although the town of Corella is only 30 minutes away from Tagbilaran City, transport to the sanctuary in the village of Canapnapan is quite a challenge especially if you go there on your own and not as part of a tour group.

Getting there

Jeepneys bound for Sikatuna pass close by but they wait until their designated departure time, which could take as long as 30 to 45 minutes if like us you were unfortunate enough to go there when one had just left. They wait at the terminal near the Island City Mall in the Dao District of Tagbilaran. Fare per person was P17.

Going back to Tagbilaran City is also a challenge since only a few public utility vehicles ply this route. After waiting for close to 30 minutes, we were able to flag a metered taxi going back and fare was around P200.

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Marco Polo Davao celebrates indigenous cuisine, fashion in Kadayawan

Marco Polo Davao makes the Kadayawan Festival even more festive as it highlights the 11 tribes of Davao through a culinary and fashion exploration into Mindanao’s indigenous peoples. Mindanao’s first…

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Marco Polo Davao makes the Kadayawan Festival even more festive as it highlights the 11 tribes of Davao through a culinary and fashion exploration into Mindanao’s indigenous peoples.

Mindanao’s first and only premier hotel launched its Kadayawan Festival menu at Cafe Marco last Friday, August 12, in time for the major festival events.

Dishes inspired by the local cuisine of the different tribes are available on top of the regular Cafe Marco buffet spread, while at the hotel lobby are nine couture creations that serve to interpret their diverse culinary flavors.

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan Menu

KADAYAWAN FESTIVAL MENU. Marco Polo Davao makes the Kadayawan Festival even more festive as it highlights the 11 tribes of Davao through a culinary and fashion exploration into Mindanao’s indigenous peoples. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan menu

Some of the Kadayawan dishes in the buffet include the agal-agal (seaweed salad) of the Sama Tribe, piarena seda a barilis or spicy tuna of the Maranaw tribe, linuod to baboy (pork cooked in bamboo) of the Matigasug tribe.

Agal-agal is seaweed salad.

Agal-agal or seaweed salad. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

The Tausug tribe is represented by daral, small servings of sweet coconut meat strips wrapped in crepe, and pakikambing, while the Jangan tribe has linotlot na manok or chicken cooked in bamboo. Chef Alex Destriza said they did a lot of research on indigenous cuisine before being able to recreate the dishes at the Cafe Marco kitchen.

The dessert station carries local delicacies as well with the durian panna cotta being the centerpiece attraction.

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan Festival

Puto and daral. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

Fashion creations

With the Cafe Marco Davao tribal dishes serving as inspiration, designers from Davao Fashion and Design Council created fashion interpretations using different fabrics and styles.

Edgar Buyan came up with couture that served to interpret Tribe Matigsalug’s linuod to baboy or pork cooked in bamboo, while Dodjie Batu crafted his output based on the tinadrad na bakbak or frogs cooked in bamboo of Tribu Ubo Manuvu. The dishes that designers based their creations on are the same ones made available in the Cafe Marco buffet.

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan Festival

Spicy tuna. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

As Davao gets more colorful and the atmosphere gets more jubilant in anticipation of the Kadayawan Festival, Marco Polo Davao encapsulates the spirit of the celebration with a highlight on indigenous culture and scrumptious cuisine.

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan Festival

Linotlot na Manok. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

Marco Polo Davao Kadayawan Festival

Durian pannacotta. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

Marco-Polo-Davao-continental-room

Continental room in Marco Polo Davao. (Photo | Marlen Limpag)

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Free tourism app released to guide Bohol visitors

Tourists visiting Bohol, including those travelling for the annual Sandugo festival, now have a handy guide to the province, with the free Bohol Guide app. The release of Bohol Guide…

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Tourists visiting Bohol, including those travelling for the annual Sandugo festival, now have a handy guide to the province, with the free Bohol Guide app.

The release of Bohol Guide is part of a nationwide Digital Tourism campaign by wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and new media startup InnoPub Media that harnesses mobile technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information. In Bohol, the program is implemented in partnership with the Bohol Provincial Government. Continue Reading

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Are you headed to Boracay? Share, tweet, post about your experience

Will you be among the thousands heading to Boracay for the Labor Day weekend? Share, tweet, and post about your summer experience, a tourism official said. Department of Tourism Western…

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Will you be among the thousands heading to Boracay for the Labor Day weekend? Share, tweet, and post about your summer experience, a tourism official said.

Department of Tourism Western Visayas Director Atty. Helen Catalbas and Smart Prepaid Head Joel Lumanlan encouraged the thousands of visitors expected in Boracay to share their experiences online to help promote the island.

An estimated 75,000 visitors are expected in Boracay over the Labor Day weekend from May 1 to 3, triple the number of visitors on regular summer weekends. Continue Reading

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Albay launches digital tourism program with Smart, InnoPub Media

Travel to the many attractions of Albay, from Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to Spanish period churches and other centuries-old structures, has been made easier with the launch…

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Travel to the many attractions of Albay, from Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to Spanish period churches and other centuries-old structures, has been made easier with the launch of a mobile app that serves as a handy guide to the province.

The Albay Guide, made possible through a collaboration among the Albay Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), journalism startup InnoPub Media, and other tourism stakeholders, is a comprehensive travel app that can be downloaded on iOS, Android, and Windows phones and other mobile devices.

Albay Digital Tourism

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda leads the unveiling of the Daraga marker to mark the launch of the Digital Tourism initiative in the province. The project is a  collaboration among the Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc., and Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media.

“Albay is one of the most beautiful provinces in the Philippines. It has been cited by international tour organizations as the best destination in Southeast Asia,” said Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The app lists such Albay destinations as the Cagsawa Ruins, Lidong National Park, Mayon Skyline and Mayon Resthouse, Misibis Bay Resort, Lignon Hill Nature Park, Vera Falls, Kawa-Kawa Hill, Embarcadero de Legazpi, and Danao Lake and provides information useful to visitors, such as detailed instructions on getting to the sites and the many activities they can do when they arrive.

Albay Guide

Intrigued by Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone? The Albay Guide gives you the many ways you can enjoy Mayon.

Whether it is just to know the best spots to view or take a photo of Mayon or get up close and personal through an ATV Ride along the volcano’s lava trail, the Albay Guide is your best bet for information on these activities.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to bring our digital tourism program to Albay in collaboration with our partners. The province has been a long time partner for various initiatives like disaster preparedness. Aside from enriching people’s travel experiences, digital tourism also opens up opportunities for local communities and businesses,” said Ramon R. Isberto, Smart public affairs group head.

Albay’s beauty, according to Salceda, is not limited to its natural assets. He said the province is also rich in arts and cultural heritage, citing its man-made citadels and monuments, a culinarian that showcases the best in food and thrilling innovations in fine dining, and ladies who have been winning beauty pageants around the world.

“With Albay’s 7.1 percent share in foreign tourists and expanding number of domestic visitors, Smart’s Digital Tourism program will further fortify the province’s position in a highly competitive tourism industry,” said the governor.

Digital tourism

The free Albay Guide app and digital markers on top destinations will lead to greater customer satisfaction through easily accessible tourism information and result in more repeat visitors, he added.

Albay Digital Tourism

Blessing of Digital Tourism markers, represented by the one that will be placed on Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church in Daraga, Albay.

“Digital Tourism will boost our product positioning and brand franchising of unique iconic features like Mayon Volcano and Cagsawa Ruins and such unforgettable engagements as the Mayon ATV. It will also fortify our positioning as ecotourism, cultural, and culinary destinations,” Salceda also said.

Also provided in the mobile app are details on travel to Abay’s ancient churches and other heritage monuments, the best places to sample local fares like Bicol Express, pinangat, and sili ice cream, the best pasalubong and where to buy them, hotels and accommodations, as well the top things to do in the province.

The Albay Guide is one component of Smart’s digital tourism program that was launched last Friday, April 10, in the historic and majestic Our Lady of the Gate Church in Daraga, Albay.

“It is a unique launching place: it is on top of Santa Maria Hill, in front of the centuries-old baroque church, overlooking the center of Albay, and under the shadows of the Majestic Mayon Volcano. How nice it would be to unveil a technological wonder so close to the clouds yet firmly grounded on the natural wonders of Albay,” said Salceda.

Mobile travel

“Mobile plays a key role in travel. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT showed phones are used throughout the travel process – from getting travel inspiration to planning, booking, experiencing and even post traveling – with 67% of leisure travelers and 78% of business travelers using smartphones,” said InnoPub co-founder Marlen Limpag, “Our phones do not just keep us connected during our trips, they are our cameras, boarding passes, portable media players and, in our Digital Tourism program, travel guides.”

Interactive markers will also be deployed on special sites like churches, plazas, and monuments to provide visitors more information on Albay’s rich historical heritage.

The markers contain quick response or QR codes and near-field communications or NFC stickers that, when scanned or tapped with a compatible device, trigger the download of more information about a site or structure.

Smart’s digital tourism program is a nationwide initiative that harnesses technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information. Through the collaboration with InnoPub Media, the project has been rolled out in Cebu, Iloilo, and Baguio City. It was given an Anvil Award of Merit in February 2014.

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SMART, InnoPub hold Panagbenga 2015 photo contest

Are you celebrating the Panagbenga Festival 2015 in Baguio City? Join the SMART-Innopub social media photo contest and get the chance to win one of three LTE pocket Wi-Fi devices….

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Are you celebrating the Panagbenga Festival 2015 in Baguio City? Join the SMART-Innopub social media photo contest and get the chance to win one of three LTE pocket Wi-Fi devices.

All you need to do is like the official Facebook pages of Smart Travel PH and Smart Communications, Inc., download the free Baguio Guide app to your Android or Windows phone devices, and tag the Panagbenga 2015-related photos you upload to your social media accounts with #smartpanagbenga.

Baguio Guide mobile app

Baguio Guide mobile app

InnoPub Media, in coordination with wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc., is holding an online photo contest covering Panagbenga 2015-related activities.

The Panagbenga 2015 photo contest will run from February 25 to March 2. To join, all you need to do is post your Panagbenga 2015 photos in your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts and tag them with #smartpanagbenga and notify us of your entry by leaving a link to your photo as a comment in the Smart Travel PH FB page.

The Best Panagbenga 2015 Photo, Best Panagbenga Selfie, and Best Media/Blogger Entry will each win a SMART LTE pocket wifi device. Aside from #smartpanagbenga, photos by media and bloggers must carry either the #baguiomedia or #baguioblogger tags.

Smart and InnoPub will be selecting 10 finalists and posting their photos on the Smart Travel FB page on March 5. Read the full mechanics of the SMART-InnoPub Social Media Photo Contest in the Baguio Guide app.

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App offers tips, guide to Baguio visitors

People travelling to Baguio for the annual Panagbenga festivities now have a mobile app to turn to for quick answers to questions like where to stay, what to eat and…

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People travelling to Baguio for the annual Panagbenga festivities now have a mobile app to turn to for quick answers to questions like where to stay, what to eat and how to get around during the much anticipated flower festival.

Developed by Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the Baguio Guide app is a reliable and handy tool, especially for first timers in Baguio City.

“With the Baguio Guide app, people can plan ahead their itinerary, accommodation and travel plans, and other activities they want to do in Baguio. It’s like a virtual tour guide that can help them maximize their stay in Baguio as they participate in the flower festival,” said Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto.

Baguio Guide

Developed by Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc., the Baguio Guide app is a reliable and handy tool, especially for first timers in Baguio City.

Must-try, must-visit

Apart from the section about the Panagbenga festival, the app also features helpful information about the city. Articles on must-try food and must-visit places in Baguio, as well as the Department of Tourism-accredited tour guides and tour operators are also listed in the guide.

One interesting feature of the app is the “tap to call” feature allowing users to call phone numbers in the app with just a click. It has a directory of important contact numbers of hospitals, emergency units, and police stations.

The app also provides location data. Some places featured in the guide are GPS-tagged with a “check location” link. With a single tap, the app will suggest routes and directions to the desired destinations via the GPS guide system of the users’ devices.

“The Baguio Guide is a useful resource to tourists because it is on a device that people take with them wherever they go: the phone,” said InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag. InnoPub recently released a new version of the guide for Android users.

Panagbenga livestreaming

Smart, in partnership with Sun.Star Baguio, will also make available the live streaming of Panagbenga activities through the Baguio Guide app, from Feb. 28 to March 1.

The Baguio Guide app may be downloaded for free at Google Play Store and Windows Store.

The development of tourism e-guides is part of Smart’s digital inclusion advocacy, which aims to include more Filipinos in the digital conversation by making information available and accessible through the use of mobile and web technologies.

Aside from Baguio Guide, Smart and InnoPub also developed tourism guide apps for Iloilo City, Sta. Barbara (a town in Iloilo), Cebu City and Cebu municipalities namely: Samboan, Boljoon, Carcar, and Argao. Smart and InnoPub also developed the Sinulog Guide last year. Its 2015 version released last month generated around 2,500 downloads, and positive feedback from users.

In addition to the apps, Smart and InnoPub also deploy interactive tourism markers that, when scanned or tapped with a phone, trigger the download of tourism and historical information about that certain place or structure. The interactive markers are currently installed in various heritage and tourist spots in Baguio, Cebu and Iloilo.

DOWNLOAD BAGUIO GUIDE

Baguio GuideGet a guide to Baguio City in your phone or tablet by downloading our free Baguio Guide from the Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store. The app is a comprehensive guide to the Philippines’ summer capital, listing things to do and places to stay or go to. It also contains a portable directory of important contact numbers and DOT-accredited establishments.

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