Planning to Visit the Philippines Soon?

There are hundreds of tourists attractions in the Philippines. But as a lover of the Island of Marinduque (Home of the Morions and Heart of the Philippines), I am indeed partial to its beauty, charm and its friendly and hospitable residents. Therefore, help me achieve my dream of seeing this island becomes a world tourist destination, by telling all your friends and relatives about this site. Welcome, to you all, new readers and faithful followers of this site! The photo above is Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos, Marinduque with beautiful and majestic Mt Malindig in the background. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on infringing your copyrights. Please do not forget to read the latest National and International news in the right side bar of this blog!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Eruption of Mount Malindig, Philippines


Can you imagine a scenario if Mt Malinding in my beloved province of Marinduque, Philippines erupted today?
I am not hoping it would happen in my lifetime, but the chance that this eruption will not occur is zero. Assuming that the eruption is as intense in magnitude as Mt Pinatubo, destruction of the island particularly the town of Buenavista and Torrijos will be tremendous . The five star, Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa- the tourist jewel of Marinduque will be covered with volcanic ashes and will not be available for the enjoyment of our rich kababayans from Manila as well as tourists from Japan and Korea for quite a long time. The whole western coast of Marinduque, from Boac to Buenavista sites of beautiful homes and mansions owed by the Expatriate Marinduquenos and the rich businessmen from Manila and the location of several beautiful beach resorts ( including my own, Chateau Du Mer)will be a big mess. It will probably take several months or longer to bring it up to the pre-eruption conditions that we natives thoroughly cherish and enjoy. I hope this scenario will never happen, but we should be prepared and not surprise just in case this happens. Let me explain why this scenario could happen in the future.

Mt Malindig is considered a potentially active volcano, in part because of the sulfur and hot springs in Malbog, Buenavista. It has never erupted, but because it is an active volcano, the chance it will not erupt is nil. Its unique location, at the heart of Southern Tagalog Region, creates a panorama that encompasses Mindoro, Verde Island and Southern Luzon. It is the largest mountain in the island popular for mountain climbers and hikers. It is the home of different species of wild orchids and other endemic wild life in the island. Due to the elevation of more than 1000 meters above sea level, it is by Philippine environmental law a protected area. Mt Malindig is a stratovolcano with coordinates 13.2694 degrees North and 121.9922 degrees East.

The photo above is Poctoy White Beach with Mt Malindig in the background- the most photographed scenery in the islands. Let's hope that this eruption scenario will not occur for a long, long time. In the meantime, let us enjoy this beautiful mountain this summer, by hiking to the top, bird watching or just enjoying the panoramic view at the top. In a clear day, you can see Mindoro and the surrounding islands of the Southern Tagalog region.
Note: Today, Mt Malindig is dormant. There is a legend in Marinduque, why it has been dormant for quite some time. Evidently, at one time in the past, the volcano was showing sign of eruptions by the steam and boiling water oozing from top of the mountain. The local devotees of the Statue of the Virgin of Biglang Awa ( Perpetual Succor) prayed and prayed until the oozing of boiling water and steam stopped. When the faithful devotees of the Biglang Awa came to say thank you, by kissing the feet and gown of the statue, they observed that it was wet. The Lady of Biglang Awa is the patron saint of the town of Boac, capital of Marinduque. Today, there is a shrine built by the side of the Boac Cathedral in honor of Biglang Awa. Image from diosceseofboac.org

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Choral Singing in the Philippines and in California

When I was a student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City from 1952-1955, I joined the University of the Philippines Student Catholic Action Choir (UPSCA). This is an activity that both Macrine and I enjoyed. So every time I heard choral music it reminds me of my student days. This video is one of the best choral music that I have heard so far from You Tube. Enjoy "the Prayer" as sang by the world renown Philippine Madrigal Singers.The background are sceneries of nature,animals and birds with most of the photographs highlighting the four seasons in the US. A couple of photos show children from the Philippines and India.

Macrine and I loved singing in the choir. In our younger days, we sang in our church choir on Sunday masses in Pinole, California. Three years ago, we sang in the Church Choir here in Fair Oaks. We even sang a duet of Silent Night in Tagalog at the concert before the Christmas midnight mass. Macrine used to be a soloist. She sang soprano coloratura in her younger days. Today her voice is ruined by her cigarette smoking. I sing baritone, also comfortable with tenor. I could read notes, and took piano lessons, when I was a kid. I have taken only about six months of voice lesson, but did well on my first concert singing "O Solo Mio", an Italian song and Buhat, a Tagalog song. This shows that I am not only a frustrated writer but also a frustrated singer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Memories of My Parents


David Jamili Katague Family taken in front of their Residence in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo in 1956.
Front Row(Left to Right): Papa David, Efren, Amor, Ruben and Mama Pacing
Back Row( Left to Right); Me, Myrla, Agnes and Erico

My Father, Dr. David Jamili Katague, D.D.S. was born in Guimaras, Iloilo on December 29,1905. He was the middle son of three brothers, Julio ( the youngest) and an older brother (I forgot his name). His parents were poor, but have a small property in Guimaras and Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. My father was very smart. Since his own parents can not afford to sent him to college, a rich aunt from Leganes, Iloilo adopted him. He was sent to Iloilo High School in La Paz, where he graduated salutatorian of his class. His childhood friend, Atty. Paciano Villavieja was the valedictorian. He was a freshman in high school when the three brothers of Guimaras,Iloilo change the first letter of their last name from a "C" to a "K".

He did not tell me much of his college days, but finished dentistry(Doctor of Dental Surgery) at the University of the Philippines,Manila in 1929. That same year he passed the dental board examination(#2 nationwide) and married my mother, Paz Barrido Balleza of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo. They resided in Jaro and built a two-story house in Arguelles Street. My father had a dental office in the first floor of their residence. After five years of marriage, they were still childless, so they adopted a son, named him Rodolfo. A year later (1934), I was born on December 20. I grew up in Arguelles street until 1941, when the Japanese-American War started in the Philippines, then we moved to Barotac Viejo where I finished high school in 1951.

My father's childhood years was very normal for that time. When he was in high school his father died and his mother remarried the younger brother of his Dad, so his mother's name was still Mrs. Catague. This second marriage produced nine children, three girls and six boys. The family resided in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. I had two occasions in my childhood years to visit relatives in Binalbagan. My father also mentioned we have relatives in Hinigaran and Himamaylan.

My father was a people person. I remember during our monthly shopping trip for supplies in Iloilo City, that he would greet and smile to every person we met along Iznart and JM Basa Streets. On one occasion, he greeted a person with enthusiasm as if they were long time friends. Afterward, I asked him who the person was and he said he does not even know his name. He treated men, women, young and old alike. I told him he would be a good politician. He could also draw freehand. His sketches and freehand drawing were beautiful. I know now that my children and grandchildren talents of drawing, sketching and painting is from his genes, since I have no ability at all to draw, paint or sketch. My mother on the other hand was very reserved. However, although she had not finished high school, she was good in mathematics. She could add and multiply in her head. One day, a vendor came to the house and was selling some farm products. She ask for the price and the vendor said 3 for 1 peso. Without blinking and hesitation, she said here is 8 pesos give me two dozens. I was amazed in how fast she could compute in her head ratio and proportion problems.

The marriage of my parents resulted in seven children. I am the oldest, followed by Erico(lawyer), Myrla (education), Agnes(dentist), Efren (engineer), Ruben ( accountant) and Amor(chemist). Agnes is now in Maryland. Myrla resides in Toronto. Efren resides in Sydney, Australia. Ruben is in Bacolod and Amor and Erico are still in Iloilo. All of them are married and have several children and grandchildren.

My mother, Paz Barrido Balleza family are big landowners in Barotac Viejo and the neighboring towns of Banate and Ajuy. The Balleza family were considered rich at that time. She was born on January 14,1909 and is the youngest of three children, the only girl with two older brothers, Modesto, Jr ( lawyer) and Jose who are much, much older than her. My mother's parents both died, when she was only in high school. So, she was under the care of her oldest brother, Modesto. At that time, Modesto Balleza family has a big house in Iloilo City, just across the street from St. Paul Hospital and one block from Assumption College-an exclusive school for girls. My mother went to high school at Assumption College until she was a junior. In her senior year, she met my father, falls in love with him, stopped school and got married. My mother with tears in her eyes told me, that the reason she married without finishing high school, was to get away from the control of his oldest brother. When their parents died, there was no Will. Thus, the properties ( rice lands, coconut lands, fish ponds ) were all under the control of her two brothers. The division of property according to my mother was very unfair. The brothers claimed the best rice lands to themselves. What was left for her to inherit were the properties in the distant barrios, rice land with no irrigation, except for one parcel of rice land( 20 hectares) near the town. Of course, she did not received one-third share of their parents properties. When she married, control of her properties was given to her. My Dad then help her manage the rice lands and other properties. I remember, we have more than 20 tenants come to the house in Barotac Viejo, almost every week during the planting and harvest season, besides the encarcado ( the overseer) of my mother's properties. At the side of our house, we built another house to store the rice harvests, so that we can sell the rice when prices are high because it is off season. The proceeds from the rice harvests were the one that send all seven of us to college. The income of my father as a dentist was just enough for our daily expenses. His dental patients oftentimes had no cash. In exchange for his dental services, they would bring chickens, eggs and vegetables and other farm products. Later, my father decided to quit his dental practice and spend full time in managing my Mom's rice land, fish ponds and other properties. My mother was very frugal. She would not leave a morsel of rice in her plate. I remember her say, "If you do not finish your food, God will punish you". So even today, I always have a clean plate after lunch or dinner. My mother had a strict budget and allocates 10% of the farm income into her savings. By the time, I was in college, they have enough savings to purchase a commercial property in Iloilo City. With the back pay, that my father received having served as a Dental Officer in the Philippine-American Army from 1941-1945, they were able to build a commercial building at Iznart street, just across the YMCA building and very close to the provincial capitol. The building we called “KATAGUE BUILDING”. When my father died in the early 1970's, the building was not properly maintained. In the late 1980's, my mother died. The seven of us decided to sell the building and land. The land was valued more than the building, because of its location. The new owner demolish the “Katague” building, built a bigger building and is now a school and a bank office in the first floor. When my parents died, they have a Will allocating the lands to the seven of us. As the oldest child, I inherited the best of the rice land, the 20 hectares of rice land near the town with irrigation. At about this time, the Agrarian Reform Program was in full implementation. My inherited rice land was the first one reformed. Since,I was residing in the US at that time, I was not able to do anything. Today, the 20 hectares are now owned by my parents former tenants. I have not received a single peso from the Philippine Government. The only land left for me was a 7-hectare upland parcel planted with corn and beans. My sister in Iloilo is now managing it for me. The rental income is barely enough to pay for the annual taxes. Ten years ago, I visited the rice land that was land reformed. I cried when I remember the history of this particular piece of land. Of the ten tenants that benefited from this program, only one approached me and acknowledged his gratitude. He told me, he was able to send all his children to college from the proceeds of my inheritance. As a matter of fact his oldest daughter after graduation from college married a US navy man and now resides in Northern California, only about 40 miles from us. So, this is a segment of my parents life experiences, as I recall it today. To my children, grandchildren and relatives, I hope you find my parents' life-story informative.
Amor (Knitz), Macrine and I visiting the tomb of our parents in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo on December 18, 2008. The tomb has been renovated and improved with contributions from Agnes, Efren, Amor and myself about five years ago.
Note: My mother was also generous. She donated a parcel of her inheritance of more than 14,700 square meters to the local high school (Barotac Viejo National High School). Her brother, Jose also donated the biggest portion of land for the school. Attached below is the sign in front of the high school acknowledging the donation. Knitz and I took this photo opportunity that documented the donation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kindness from a Stranger!



Side and Front Yard of our Retirement House in Amoingon, Boac, Marinduque, Philippines

Several years ago, prior to the building our beach house in Amoingon, Boac, Macrine and I usually have Sunday drives after church from Amoingon to Buenavista. This drive along the national road parallels the western seacoast of Marinduque where there are beautiful homes of expatriates and balikbayans retirees from all over the world as well as rich businessmen from Manila. We drive just to get an idea of the architectural styles that we may be able to incorporate into our beach house design. One Sunday we saw a beautiful modern design beach house painted blue, between Gasan and Buenavista. It is appropriately named, CASA DE AZUL. We were struck by the simplicity of its design and architecture, we decided to park outside the gate of the house. We got out of the car, linger a while at the closed gate to see if the owners are in. It appears that someone was in the house and I started ringing the door bell. No sooner than after I pressed the buzzer, a middle aged lady got out of the house and asked us what we want. I said we admired the style of the house and asked permission to take a photograph. Then we introduced ourselves and stated our purpose why we stopped.
To our surprise the lady invited us to come in and introduce herself as the owner. Her husband was outside the yard and asked if we are interested to see the whole house as well as the backyard which faces the ocean. The house was beautiful inside, modestly furnished. We found out that the couple resides in Manila. The house is their weekend retreat. The lady is a filipina and the husband was originally from Austria. The wife works in Manila and the husband is in the import-export business. This incident will never happened in the US. The owners will call the police and accused us probably of trespassing.
Bob Martin, owner of "Live in the Philippines" web magazine commented " Wonderful story, David. I fully agree this will not happen-in the USA. They would suspect that you might be a terrorist, or planning to pull a robbery at the house".
To reciprocate this act of kindness from a stranger, we allowed visitors to take photographs of our front yard. We have several visitors the last couple of years who stopped at our front gate and ask permission to take pictures of the front yard. The front yard is landscaped with blooming bougainvilleas in a rainbow of colors, orchids, and several blooming tropical shrubs. Yes,indeed we allowed them to take photographs of "my landscaping" and even offer them a glass of juice or bottled water. It is our way of reciprocating the kindness of the couple who resided in the Blue House by the Sea. Unfortunately, we have forgotten their names and they probably do not remember our names also. But, I feel this story is possible only in the beautiful island of Marinduque-home of the most hospitable people in the Philippines, if not in the whole world.

Senior Citizen Jokes of the Day

Image from swapmeetdave.com
The following jokes were sent to me recently by a friend from the Philippines. I am sharing it with you. I hope that after reading these jokes, you smile, but also appreciate what the senior citizens of today ( including myself) are experiencing. Some of these sufferings are incontinence, hard of hearing, aches and pains, lapse of memory ( senior moment) and loss of libido. If you are a senior citizen and do not have any of the above symptoms, congratulations are in order. Here are the four of my favorite jokes, illustrating the above sufferings that are part of growing old.

1. Two elderly gentlemen from a retirement center were sitting on a bench and just bullshitting to pass the time. One turn to the other and says " John, I am 83 years old and I am just full of aches and pains. I know you are about my age. How do you feel?.
John answers, I feel like a new born baby.
Really! ? Like a new born baby?
Yep. No hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants.

2. The boss walked into the office one morning not knowing his zipper was down and his fly wide open. His secretary walked up to him and said, This morning when you left your house, did you close your garage door? The boss said yes but was puzzled by the question. Later on, he noticed his fly was open and zipped it up and understood his secretary's question
Later, he headed out for coffee and paused by his secretary desk and ask, When my garage door was open did you see my Hummer parked in there?
She smiled and said No, I did not. All I saw was an old minivan with two flat tires.

3. Three old guys were walking.
First one says, Windy, isn't It?
Second one says, No, its Thursday!
Third one says, So am I, Let go get some beer.


4. A little old man shuffled into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully up into a stool. After catching his breath, he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, " Crushed nuts?
No, he replied, " Arthritis ".

I hope the above jokes made you laugh a little, and add a little spice in your daily routine. Comments anyone?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tips on Minimizing Gambling Losses

Image from Asiaplate.com
Last week, my wife and I spent one week at the Las Vegas Strip for our summer vacation. My wife loves to play the slot machines and I love to play Pai Gow (PG) poker We visited several casinos in the Strip but decided to play at Planet Hollywood (PH) for the following reasons.

1.The Casino is walking distance at our Condo-Hotel, the Polo Towers.
2.The Casino has good promos for new players, free slot play up to $20, free buffet after earning 100 points, coupon discounts on food and shops in the Casino and dinner shows. Daily free one slot play for a chance to win gifts, dinner shows and cash prizes.
3.The Casino has several newer slots machines with better videos and music.
4.The Casino is adjacent to the Miracle Mile Shopping Center.
5.Lastly, I was hoping to play Mini Pai Gow. To my disappointment, PH do not offer the Mini PG, just the regular 7 card PG poker.

To minimize your losses, you must adhere to a reasonable daily budget. In our case, we decided that $200 per day per person is a good budget. We played from 12:00 noon up to 7:00PM for six days with a 30 minute "merienda" break at 3:00PM. Note that this "$200 a day budget" we set aside, is the same weekly budget we allocate when we play at Thunder Valley Casino or Red Hawk Casino near our residence here in Sacramento. I also observed that the newer slot machines are programmed to give you slightly better odds on winning. This may not be true in other Casinos, but I believe my observation is correct in the Indian Casinos here in Northern California.
Let me know if I am correct or wrong on this observation. Another point is by 7:00 PM or an appointed time, win or loss you must stopped gambling. Once your budget has been consumed, then it time to quit for that day. However, if you are a gamboholic, no strategy will work for you. Gambling addiction is a disease just like alcohol, or sex addiction. You must consult a professional to cure your addiction.
photo from cbc.ca/news
Now let me talk about Pai Gow. I like it because it is a slow game. About 41.5% of the hands result in a tie. According to the odds specialists, the chance of the player to win is 28.6% and the dealer (banker) is 29.9%. I played for two hours at Planet Hollywood last week with only $100 capital. At the end of two hours, I lost only $25 . The game required a minimum bet of $15 and an optional side bet of $1 for the bonus. In one of the hands, I had “ four of a kind “, which gave me $25 for my $1 bet. The last time, I had four of a kind was three years ago at the Sahara Casino also in Las Vegas. PG is played with a 53-card deck, including a joker. The players and the dealer receives seven cards. Each player has to arrange his seven cards into a five-card hand and a two-card hand. The five card hand is ranked as in regular poker. The two-card hand is scored by pairs beating two singletons, then by individual ranks. The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces, and the lowest is a 3-2. The five card hand is ranked just like regular poker. The highest 5-card hand would be 4 Aces and a joker, followed by Royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs and a pair. The joker can only be used as an ace in a pair or any card for a straight or flush. The 2-card hand must be lower in rank than the 5-card hand. You have to beat the dealer in both hands to win the bet and you must lost in both hands to the dealer to loss your bet.
In mini pai gow, you are only dealt with six cards, So the low hand consist of only one card. In mini PG, you do not pay the standard 5% commission to the banker, every time you win. That is also one reason, I love mini PG compared to the regular 7-card PG. Anyway, if you want to learn how to play PG, go to Googles or Wikipedia for details and strategy. Good Luck and Have Fun!

WARNING; DO NOT GO TO THE CASINO, IF YOU THINK YOU WILL BECOME RICH OR A MILLIONAIRE!If you know of someone with gambling problems, call 1-877-718-5543.

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah


Zion National Park-View from Angels Landing

Bryce Canyon National Park
Macrine and I just experienced one of the best vacation we had since my retirement. For one week we stayed in Las Vegas, NV at the Polo Towers -under our time exchange program with International Interval, Inc. One day, we took a mini bus tour which lasted for 14 hours. The bus picked us up at Polo Towers about 6:30AM. Our first rest stop was at an Indian Reservation along I-15 N, where Macrine purchased two cartoons of cigarettes tax free and we had a chance to have coffee. We also had a packed breakfast, orange juice, muffins and energy bars provided by the tour company, Sweet Tours.

Macrine at the Visitor Center, Zion National Park
By the time we reached Zion National Park it was about 10:30AM. Along the way, our guide and driver relates to us ( eleven passengers), the history of Las Vegas, the fauna and flora of the area, the desert and rock formations that made this area so majestic and stunning. After our arrival, our tour driver parked at the Visitor Center. We took the park's bus( private cars not allowed) inside the canyon, stopping at several scenic point stops to take pictures. We did not have time to walk, since we still have to go to Bryce Canyon. The bus tour took about 60 minutes. Zion is indeed spectacular. We saw colorful canyons, forested mesas, and sandstone cliffs so high and indeed stunning and spectacular views. After the tour, we went back to the Visitor Center where our packed lunch of roast beef sandwiches was waiting for us. During lunch we exited the Park via the East Entrance- the Zion Mt Carmel Highway. We passed one of the longest tunnel in the US. By the time we reached the vicinity of Bryce Canyon ( with a photo stop at Red Canyon) it was about 2:00PM. We stopped at Ruby' Gift Shop, just outside the entrance of the Park for souvenirs and mandatory bath room break.

Then we started our two hours tour of the Park. First we stopped at Bryce Point, took some pictures, walked near the rim of the canyon and stayed there for about 15 minutes. If you have vertigo, this is not the place for you.
Macrine at Bryce Point
Our driver took us to Inspiration Point( second stop) and more picture taking and views to feast your eyes with the stunning scenery. We have an option to walk for 45 minutes from Inspiration to Sunset Point(last stop) or ride in the bus with our driver. If you hiked you will have a closer look at the Hoodoo's. Macrine and I decided not to hike as both of us have already aching feet from our walk at the Fashion Mall in Las Vegas and along the Strip Casinos the day before. We waited for the hikers until 4:00PM at Sunset Point. There, Macrine and I took more pictures and again the view was fantastic, and spectacular.
The Hoodoos
We were able to take pictures of the Hoodoos. Hoodoos are just pillar of rocks shaped like human beings. The fantastic shape is a result of erosion, millions of years ago. Legends say that the Hoodoo's cast a spell on all visitors to the park. After two hours at Bryce, we were on our way back to Las Vegas. On the way home, we stopped for picture taking along Navajo Lake. We were also passing the outskirts of Cedar Brake National Monument. We stopped at Cedar City for a quick fast food dinner. By the time we arrived in Las Vegas at our condo-hotel,it was 8:30PM. We were tired but happy to visit the two most beautiful national parks in the US.
The above is our route encompassing three states, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. I am glad I did not drive!
Getting There from Las Vegas: I-15N then route 9E to 89N then 12E
Going Back to Las Vegas: Route 12W then 89S, then 14W then I-15S
Total round trip mileage is about 490 miles.
Here's a short video by David Attenborough for your enjoyment from BBC

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Philippine Geography and History- Two Videos

I found two short videos on You Tube on Philippine Geography and History. The videos are funny and also informative. Composed and sang by Yoyoy Villame. Hope you enjoy the two videos, as I did.

This next video is about Magellan's discovery of the Philippines- Funny and Fun

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let us Travel to the Philippines- Music Video

A music video that was made about two years ago, called Biyahe Tayo( Let us Travel)immediately become a worldwide sensation as soon as it was released. The tagalog lyrics was by Rene Nieva originally from Marinduque. He now resides in the Manila suburb. Rene is Macrine ( my wife) first cousin on her maternal side of the family. The following video has an English translation for the sake of thousands of second or third generation Filipino-Americans who do not understand Tagalog as well as to all English speaking tourists and future visitors to the Philippines. Incidentally, I have four children who grew up here in the US in the 1960 and 1970's. Only one of them understand Tagalog. The other three took tagalog courses at the local colleges and universities here in Northern California, but still can not speak the language of their heritage. Enjoy the video and hopefully all you second and third generations Filipino-American as well as tourists all over the world will someday be enticed to visit the Philippines.

Link within

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