Sunday, September 13, 2015

It's More Fun in Cavinti!

(This blog was in Kyla's voice, used as a school project. Pictures were deliberately blurred to apply photo-editing techniques.)

My father was born and grew up in his hometown isn Cavinti, Laguna. 

 Cavinti is located at the eastern part of Laguna province at the fourth district. Nearby towns are Pansanjan, Luisiana, Lumban and Kalayaan and Quezon province. The rural town of Cavinti lies on top of a mountain, part of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. There are 19 baranggays in Cavinti, Laguna. Farming is their main source of livelihood. The name of Cavinti province came from the expression “kabit sa binti.” The Aetas, the early dwellers of the land, performed a wedding ritual in which the groom chases his bride to the riverbank. The groom will try to capture his bride by her legs ("binti"), with the witnesses shouting, "Kabit sa binti, kabit sa binti!" This phrase later became "Kabinti.”

View of Caliraya Lake

View of Caliraya Lake from Japanese Garden
My father is from the Poblacion. Poblacion is the center of commercial and business activities in Cavinti. Almost all of the basic municipal facilities are located in Poblacion including the Municipal Hall, Town Plaza, ABC Multi-Purpose Hall, the Public Market. The Catholic Church (Transfiguration Parish) is located in Poblacion too.

 Here are other interesting facts about Cavinti:

Caliraya lake is one of the top attraction of Cavinti. This is actually a man-made lake located at the top of a mountain and is a venue for water sports. There are also several resorts around Caliraya lake like Caliraya Springs and Lagos del Sol.

The Caliraya lake spillway powers the hydroelectric power plant in Kalayaan-Lumban towns and is responsible to power up the southern part of Laguna.

Cavinti Trails
Pansanjan Falls is located in Cavinti, Laguna and is originally called Magdapio Falls but was renamed based on the name of the town where access to this falls can be made.

The Parish of Transfiguration in Cavinti is one of the oldest Church in the Philippines. The patron of Cavinti is San Salvador and his feast day is celebrated on August 6.

Cavinti is known for woven pandan hats and Lanzones.

The Sambalilo Festival is one of the most colorful and prosperous festival in the province of Laguna. It is celebrated that commemorates the handmade sombrero(hat) made from pandan. The Sambalilo festival is celebrated as part of the Cavinti town fiesta.

Sambalilo Festival and the Parish of Transfiguration Church

Cavinti’s new local official has been actively promoting this town as venue for water sports like wind surfing and dragonboat racing at the Caliraya lake. The Cavinti-Quezon trails is also becoming a venue for multi-sport such as marathon and mountain biking.

Harvesting Lanzones
Just like many provinces in the Philippines, Flores de Mayo festival is also one of the most awaited event of the year.  During the so-called Flores, the Tilapyaan which is a fund-raising dance by the elders and hermano mayors is also a popular local event.

Flores de Mayo
The Japanese Garden is a vast park overlooking the Caliraya lake, the creation of this park was subsidized by the Japanese government.

Entrance to the Park

One can explore and adventurous gateway to the world-famous Falls through Cavinti's very own Pueblo El Salvador Cavinti Nature's Park and Picnic Groove in barangay Tibatib-Anglas. One can enjoy the exciting nature's trail and feel the cold and oozing waterfalls through an exciting bamboo raft-ride and massage on the fall's basin. Shooting the Cavinti Rapids is and equally wonderful experience.

Guest can also enjoy the breathtaking views of nearby Mount Banahaw along the man-made lakes of Caliraya and Lumot. Sailing, wind surfing and kayaking are just some of the many activities you can indulge along the lake areas. There are sites that still remain untapped and unexplored in Cavinti, like the Bumbungan Twin Falls, The Cavinti Underground River and Caves Complex, the Bayakan Falls and Bat Cave.

Cavinti is going to be one of the fastest rising town of Laguna at the forefront of eco-sports tourism!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


This post resurrects my lost love for poetry.  Poems bring to life that hidden voice in our psyche on thoughts, both real and abstract.

Last week, I received a special gift from Lau, a friend and colleague. It was a book of poems Things Happen, written (and signed) by his father Cirilo F. Bautista, the National Artist for Literature.  I thank Lau not only for the book, but also for reawakening the lost poet within.

And while I can only dream of having my own anthology published, I meanwhile bask in this little world for a few seconds of fleeting attention.

Starting with this poem I wrote in the late 90s. 


I smelled fear.
Veiled contempt
cloaked in blank stares
and aggression.
But then,
I see what is real.
And I saw your fear.

I smelled fear.
Floating adrift
with the stale air.
to cut through me.
But instead it cut you.

I smelled fear.
Crouching in your darkness.
But then,
you cannot hide from me.

I will find you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Aling Taleng's Halo Halo

If you happen to go for a road trip further south of Laguna- to the Pagsanjan-Cavinti road, don't miss a chance to drop by Aling Taleng's Halo-halo. It has been in business since 1933.

Halo Halo goodness!

My husband hails from Cavinti and we have actually passed by Aling Taleng's more than a hundred times over many years.  When we returned to the Philippines in 2013, we noticed that Aling Taleng's usual hole-in-the-corner look is sporting splashes of sunny colors, making it stand out from an otherwise busy small town road. The place is also air-conditioned which is a welcome treat especially during hot and humid seasons in the Philippines.

It is actually more than just a halo halo kiosk, it is a restaurant that serves a full menu of local favorites ranging from all-day breakfast, seafood, chicken cooked different ways, sinful crispy pata, pata tim, lechon kawali and vegetable dishes. They also have the diner-variety faves like fried chicken and burger.

My favorite is the Tortang Patola.  Saw this in the menu and really got curious... I was not disappointed. Minced patola with a perfect coat of golden batter, crisp on the outside but surprisingly tasty for a quite-bland veggie. Whenever we dine at Aling Taleng's, Kyla and I look forward to ordering the Tortang Patola. We also love the Crispy Tilapia and the Butter & Garlic Chicken.

Loved the Tortang Patola

Garlic Fried Chicken

Not to forget the star of the menu -- the halo halo, but of course! The serving is generous with finely shaved ice and topped with a sweetened kundol. I am not a fan of halo halo but I would make an exception for Aling Taleng's. I particularly like finely shaved ice bits, halo halo is not overly sweet and ingredients have generous portions. The sweet kundol topping also worked for me instead of the usual ice cream. Definitely worth a trip!

And oh, you will be delighted to know that they have Wifi too!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Financial Fitness Plan

Do you find yourself in dire need of mega-savings in preparation for that once-in-a-lifetime-splurge-like-crazy trip or, do you simply desire to see your savings grow for the rainy days?

I do not claim to be an expert of finance. Growing up in a household that continually make both ends meet made us (me and my husband, Alvin) more conscious of spending money wisely and have enough savings for those events that matter (like investments and travel) and help get us through when the unexpected happens.

Here are tried and tested tips to stay financially healthy... These are tips that my husband and I embraced through our 14-year of married bliss, and a few more that we have discovered along the way.

1.  Keep a fix amount of savings and stick to spend based on what is left.

After hubby and I got married, our primary goal then was to save enough to afford a lot for our future home. We have been working for 3 years then and we didn't boast of a big chunk of savings (or income).

But one had to start somewhere. So, we decided that my salary will become our savings while every payday, hubby would turn over to me his earnings.  We created a strict budget for necessities, some money left for us to enjoy our time together and everything that was left also went to savings.  It meant renting a small, non-airconditioned studio space vs. a trendy-condo unit. We may have been able to still afford the later but that meant less savings. Fortunately we are both low-maintenance and live a simple lifestyle so forgoing luxuries is not a difficult sacrifice. 

We also bought a decent 2nd hand car rather than splurge on a brand new one which is over that the car loan limit. It was only in 2013 (after 14 years of marriage) when we finally bought a brand new car.

Even when our expenses grew as our family and the children’s needs grew, this principle of putting the savings intact first and spend only based on what we can afford, became embedded in our financial habit through the years. 

2.   Live within your means.

Corollary to #1, it is was crucial that we learned to live within our means.   I believe that it doesn't really matter how much one makes, to be able to save well.  It is often the case that when your income and spending capacity grow, your lifestyle also changes accordingly and you tend to spend more.  There are way too many lifestyle temptations today.  Be careful of what lifestyle you cultivate especially if you are treading that dangerous ground of spending above your means. This can get you neck deep in debts.

3.  Plan big spending and vacations in advance.

You are of course entitled to enjoy the fruits of your labor and treat yourself and your family to some R&R every now and then.  Our family loved travelling too.  Key here is to plan your trips ahead and stick to the annual plan.  I start the year planning with my husband our travel for the entire year and NOT give in to last minute travel temptations that tend to blow the budget off-tangent.  The same goes for major spending like home renovation, school tuition fees, major purchases.

4.   Keep credit cards to a minimum (ideally, just one).

If you watched the movie “Shopaholic,” you’ll know why this is a must-do if you want to live a debt-free life.  The temptation of credit cards all the more became too good to pass when you are lured with zero-interest installments, deferred payments and waived annual fees. Some credit card companies even allow you to accumulate points that can be redeemed in exchange for goods and gift certificates. This system encourages further credit card spending.

Credit cards are useful when paying without the need to carry around large amount of cash, and if you intend to pay for it soon after the purchase was made;  or when purchasing products on an installment basis provided that you can keep up with the monthly payment without  further adding on to your initial installment purchase.

The downside is that it is just so easy to keep on swiping that card to luxurious oblivion and before you know it, you are entangled with debt and accumulated interests.  The more credit card you keep, you have more susceptibility to credit card debts, unless you are good tracking, controlling and payin on time your credit card spending.

When I started working, there were soooo many credit cards offering waived annual fees. I turned all of them down except the one credit card that I have been using since day one of my employment. Kept my credit life simple.

5.  Save (or invest) your bonuses.

We all look forward to bonuses—that time of the year when we feel a little bit richer, a little bit extravagant, a little bit more cash in our pockets (or ATM card). For parents like me, the bonuses are probably earmarked already to pay for school tuition fees, or for family vacation and travel.  

But have you also experienced that feeling of wondering where did your bonus money go ? As if the bonuses were leaves blown into oblivion by a hurricane? I blame it on my O.C.-side, but I always would like to keep tabs of where my bonus went.

If you can manage it, the best way to safe guard your finance is also actually put bonuses to savings or investments that can actually grow in time. Or, carve out debts like housing loan, car loan, etc.

I also learned from my financial mentor that while one is still young and able, invest on something (eg, properties, stocks) that will also help safeguard your children’s future. Don't leave this out until you are only few years away from retirement.

6.  Stay away from malls and sale.

Our family used to spend at least once every weekend going to the mall.  Last year, we decided to revamp our weekend schedule so that we complete most errands during Saturdays and stay at home during Sundays. We only go to malls if we need to pick up something that we couldn’t find in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where we live.  This forced us (well yes, me…) to instead have home-cooked Sunday lunch instead of eating out, and simply enjoy the weekend together.

If we are in the mood to dine out, there are plenty of good places in Sta. Rosa and Nuvali for family dining, sans the exposure for mall finds, extra snacking and extra purchases that we probably don’t need in the first place.

I also stay away as possible from sale. Although when we lived in Singapore, I only buy stuff on sale because otherwise it is really expensive to be buying them on regular price. But that is SG.

Conversely, I am also not a fan of sale here in the PH especially if the discounts are not worth the effort and if we don’t have specific things that we need to get.  I don’t relish the thought of having to squeeze through the jumble and tumble of items that I most likely do not need, wait on long lines for fitting and payment. I also found that most items on sale are outdated, off-season or sub par quality, while the really good items will only provide 5-10% discount at most. If you need to purchase through sale, do it wisely! (and that, is another side story...)

Enjoy life!  Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

But make sure that you build enough nest-egg – for the people and interests that matters most to you, for the unexpected moments in life and so that you can stay strong and have a peace of mind even when rainy days are up ahead!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Pahiyas Festival Experience

This post is actually too late for the actual event and too early for the next one....

We wanted to do experience the Pahiyas festival for quite some time and finally, last May 2014 we made it happen!

Pahiyas is a yearly festival set in Lucban, Quezon in honor of San Isidro, the patron saint of good and abundant harvest.  Pahiyas literally means “to decorate”. This is one of the most colorful festivals in the Philippines held every 15th of May.  Houses and streets are decorated mostly from colorful kiping as well as assorted harvest and food fare.

Lucban is a 2 to 2.5 hour drive from where we live in Laguna, accessed via SLEX and passing by the towns of Los Banos, Bay, Santa Cruz and turning right to the Pagsanjan-Cavinti road. 

Here are few tips to enjoy the Pahiyas Festival:

·         We preferred to come earlier in the day while it is still relatively cooler. Alternatively, you can also go on a late afternoon to early evening. Most homes were designed to have colorful lighting in the evening.
·         It is better to bring your own transportation but be prepared to park it just off the highway junction.
·         Be prepared to walk at least a kilometer or more, from the Lucban junction just off the end of the highway going to the streets where the festivities are held. All modes of transportation are not allowed anymore inside the town’s main streets. You really have to walk!
·         Consequently, wear light, summer-friendly clothing, hat/cap, sun protection and comfortable shoes or slippers.
·         If you forgot to bring a summer-y hat, you can always buy one along the streets of Lucban for a price that is almost a steal! 
·         Don’t expect all the streets of Lucban to be garbed with colorful decorations. Usually, only a select section will be decked every year and each street take their turn year on year. If you have no idea which is the right street to visit, just follow the crowd and you’ll never go wrong.
·         Take time to appreciate the ‘Pahiyas’ of every participating household. I interviewed one home maker and I was told it took them at least one week to decorate. And lots of harvest, patience and creativity.
·         Some houses have a 2nd floor balcony that overlooks the street. Ask permission from the home owner to allow you to have your picture taken from the balcony itself for a better backdrop. Most home owners will actually oblige. We tried this in at least two houses.
·         I have not tried partaking lunch from a random house, although I heard this is pretty standard expectation during festivals in provinces. The nosy me couldn’t help but notice that most home owners do not necessarily have feast that is open for public. Some houses had videoke but no food.  Net, plan to stop-by somewehere else for lunch.
·         Don’t forget to try street fare especially the Pancit Habhab. Stir-fried egg noodles are served on a banana leaf with a dash of vinegar and you have to eat the pancit straight from the banana leaf without using any fork. Hence the name, habhab. Yep, you get the picture! Habhab-an na!
·         If you are the squeamish kind and need table, chair, airconditioning, the works, drop by at Buddy’s Restaurant for an equally authentic pancit habhab. Parking can be a challenge though. And on the day of the festival itself, be prepared to wait in line.
·         For your pasalubong fare, try the Lucban Longganisa or Broas (Lady Fingers) by the bucket. 
·         Follow the path leading to the Parish church and town plaza where more festivities abound. They also replicated their version of the Higantes (Giants) which was made famous by our very own Angono, Rizal.

Our children are not exposed to town festivals so we took this opportunity for them to experience the fiestang Pilipino.

It is truly more fun (and more colorful) in the Philippines!