Monday, January 30, 2012

Sampaloc Lake

by Gary Orona

San Pablo City is a first class city in the province of Laguna, Philippines. It has the largest land area in the province of Laguna. It is also one of the country's oldest cities. This city is also known as the "City of Seven Lakes" - because it has 7 lakes namely: Sampaloc Lake, Palakpakin Lake, Bunot Lake, Pandin Lake and Yambo Lake, Muhikap Lake, and Calibato Lake.  By land area, it is the largest in the province of Laguna. By population, it ranks fifth in the province of Laguna. Of all the seven lakes, the most famous is the Sampaloc Lake.  This is because of the interesting legend that gave the lake its name.
The Legend

Once upon a time there lived in the northern side of San Pablo a well-to-do but childless couple. They had a large garden of tarmarind trees which bore the sweetest fruits in all the land. Many people from far and wide heard of the tamarind trees. And many of them wanted to taste the sweet tamarind fruits. The couple felt very proud of their rich possession. They built a fence around their yard so that no strangers would pick any of the tamarind fruits. Just to make sure no one could enter their yard, they placed a big watchdog to guard it

One day a fairy, disguised as an old beggar bent and wrinkled by age, approached the couple’s garden begged for some fruits. Then, without any further ado, the old woman came near one of the large trees. She stretched out her wrinkled, skinny hand to pluck a curly thick pod hanging from one of the lower branches.
Upon seeing what the old beggar had done, the couple grew angry. They became so angry that they hurried back to their house, let their big dog loose, and set it on the poor woman.  Alas the poor old woman was badly bitten. Patiently, the old beggar bore her pain. But before turning away from that inhospitable spot, she touched the tamarind tree and, looking at the couple, said, “You shall be punished for your selfishness.” Then she went slowly on her way.

Even before the old woman was out of sight, the sky became overcast. In a short while a terrible storm broke out, and heavy rain fell through the night.

The following morning all was peaceful. The man and his wife were surprise that instead of the tall and green tamarind trees, there stretched before their unbelieving eyes a vast expanse of water shining in the morning sun.
Still unconvinced about what had happened, the couple went forward up to the bank of what now appeared to be a natural lake. And, wonder of wonders, they saw through the transparent water the dark mass of tamarind trees still rooted to the sunken ground. From that day on, the place became known as “Sampaloc Lake” – sampaloc being the Tagalog word for tamarind.

Today, Sampaloc Lake has become a tourist spot that offers a great scene of the lake. There are also a number of restuarants serving Filipino dishes. All these restaurants are situated overlooking the tranquil lake that gives off a cool and refreshing breeze. A sure way to get a relaxing treat! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

St. Paul The First Hermit Cathedral

by Gary Orona

Dedicated to St. Paul The First Hermit, the cathedral at San Pablo City in Laguna was built in 1586  with hatched roof and was later replaced in 1662 by the  Augustinian friars.  Further improvement was supervised by Fray Juan Labo in 1680 and completed in 1721 by Fray Francisco Juan de Elorreaga.  In 1796, the brick-stone wall was added. 

With the erection of the Diocese of san pablo in 1967, it became a cathedral. The design of the building is quite simple and nothing extaordinary. But the weather was quite nice. It was a very fine day and when I saw the cathedral standing majestically against the wonderful blue sky, I thought it would be nice to share it here in my blog.

The following are other shots of the cathedral in other angles as well as it's interior.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ha Long Bay

by Gary Orona

Before my friend and I went to Hanoi, people who have been there mentioned we should go to Ha Long Bay. When we got there, people asked if we want to go to Ha Long Bay. I was having second thoughts.  But the insistent people thought we should go.  The thought of going there [first by bus for three hours] is exhausting enough to think about. 
But what if after this trip, the same people would ask if we went to Ha Long Bay? What is in there anyway? And why is it always a question when in Hanoi?

So we gave in. Bought tickets to Ha Long Bay and went. The bus ride was boring of course. But as soon as we got there and hop on the boat, the next scenes before our eyes were absolutely beautiful. Not even my photos can justify what we have seen. 

The scenes are breathtaking and the tour ended with an equally breathtaking sunset.

It was an entirely different experience. All those people who pushed us to go there were right.  And we're glad we went. And you know what? We wouldn't mind going back there.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Trip In Hanoi

by Gary Orona

I am a person who has issues with food.  So when I go to different places, it was really difficult for me to choose the food to eat.  I am just careful not to spoil my trip with an upset stomach. So I try to ask the people about the food they are serving and what's in it.  As much as I can and my stomach can take, I try to experience eating foods that the place locally serves.

My friend and I tried so many different kinds of food that we saw being sold anywhere in Hanoi -- on the streets, in the stores, in restaurants, in alleys. It was fun food tripping in Hanoi.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not Just Another Bike

by Gary Orona

If Bangkok has tuktuk, Vietnam also has its own.  The only difference is, Bangkok has its drivers in front while Vietnam has the drivers at the back. This is so that the tourist who chose to ride the Vietnam tuktuks would have a good view of the city while sight-seeing. And I think it makes sense. 

For 20,000 VND (less than US$2) per hour, the driver will take you to different tourist attractions [of your choice] within the city. It is convenient, relaxing, comfortable and fast and fun!

I tried it myself so I know.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crazy About Bikes

by Gary Orona

Before I went to Vietnam, my friend who had been there warned me ---- take care when crossing the streets of Hanoi. And take extra care even if you're just on the sidewalks.  The Vietnamese are crazy about bikes. Look out!
The streets of Hanoi are noisy with all the sounds that these bikes make. Never have I seen as many motorbikes as I have seen in Hanoi.  They come from all directions and in large number.  They cut roads like crazy.

Motorbikes here.

And motorbikes there.

Motorbikes over here.

And motorbikes over there.

In Vietnam, people are not just Mad About Hats.
They are also crazy about bikes.  Night and Day. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Pillar Pagoda

by Gary Orona

Built to resemble a lotus flower emerging from a pond, it was inspired by the dream of Vietnam's emperor Lý Thái Tông. The story about the dream goes like this

The temple was built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. According to the court records, Lý Thái Tông was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. Lý Thái Tông then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. The emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049, having been told by a monk named Thiền Tuệ to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream. 

The temple has been the site of the annual royal ceremony on the occassion of Vesak or the birthday of the Gautama Buddha during the Lý Dynasty era. Like in Hongkong, the ritual includes the bathing of the buddha, hence, the pagoda was built in the pond. The rites attracted monks and laymen alike to the ceremony.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

by Gary Orona

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was built in 1973 and was inaugurated on 29 August 1975.  It was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow.  On the portico, the words "Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh" were inscribed across it, meaning "President Ho Chi Minh." The mausoleum is protected by military guards on duty.

In Ho Chi Minh’s will, he stated that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the hills of north, central, and southern Vietnam. It was said that he preferred cremation because it would be "more hygienic than burial and would also save land for agricultural purposes." But the Vietnamese people, out of admiration and love for their leader built the mausoleum in spite of his wishes. His body was preserved and can be viewed in the mausoleum from 8:00 am to 11:30 am.

We didn’t know the viewing time until we got there. It was already 4pm when we reached the location so we didn’t have the chance to see Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body. 

It was a good sight to see such honor given to a great leader.  The mausoleum stands majestically and the white unifromed guards added a sense of respect and high regards to the man who gave Vietnam its pride and a good name to world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

St. Joseph Cathedral

by Gary Orona

The Saint Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi is the  Cathedral of the Archdiocese.  It was built in 1886 in Neo-Gothic style. Today, it has remained intact and preserved to its original style.  It was a big surprise for us to find this old church in our walk around the Old Quarter area. It is beautiful and the architectural details are amazing.  The walls of the cathedral is not painted.  And it is interesting to note that the natural color and texture of the material used in the building made the entire structure beautiful and majestic looking. Unfortunately, it was closed at the time we were there so I was not able to see and take photos of its interior.