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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rizal Adventure: Exploring Angono and Binangonan


Wazzup Pilipinas!

We've been going to very far places to get a taste of Philippine heritage and culture. I've travelled by plane, by cruise ship, by bus, and by car ... and endured the number of hours of travel just for the sake of adventure. It never dawned onto me that there exists several places near the Metro that's already rich with history. With just very little time, we can immediately immerse ourselves with the festivities, the interestingsites and destinations just right here at the Rizal province.

We were invited to attend the Higantes festivities, along with opportunities to visit other tourist destinations like the Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery, the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs, and to stay at the luxurious Thunderbird Resorts hotel.

Thunderbird Resorts generously sponsored our travel to Rizal by providing the transportation, accommodation, meals, and guided tour of those three prime tourist spots I mentioned earlier plus the opportunity to stay overnight at their luxurious hotel, eat meals at their restaurants and try the casino for fun.










We had breakfast first before going to our destinations. There we had a chance to chat with our fellow bloggers and got to know them and their blogs. I ordered the grilled tuna with rice – just enough for the long walk we were about to face as we were joining the Higantes Festival parade to get a good glimpse and photo of the “higantes”.



Every year, tourists and locals travel to Angono, Rizal to witness the Higantes Festival. The festival is celebrated in honor of San Clemente, the patron saint of the fishermen.  We went there to witness the colourful parade of “higantes(paper-mâché giants measuring 10-12 feet in height and 4-5 feet in diameter) and a procession where the image of San Clemente is carried by male devotees that are accompanied by “pahadores” (devotees dressed in colorful local costumes or fishermen’s clothes, wearing wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles, fish nets, traps, etc.).

 
Googling online, I found out that these “higantes” started during the time when Angono was still a Spanish Hacienda. The owners prohibited the townspeople from having celebration because it was too costly and to avoid any kind of pagan rituals and festivities. The only celebration allowed was in honor of their patron saint, San Clemente.


The townspeople decided to create larger-than-life caricatures  of their landlords using paper mache. Paper mache is an art that is known back during the Spanish Era brought from Mexico by Spanish priests.  The head of the giants is fashioned from a mold made of clay, which is dried under the heat of the sun. Now, the people are using plaster of Paris and resin.


We actually followed the parade along the streets of Angono as it reached its final destination which is the town proper where a street dance competition was held. It was a long walk but you really would not mind the time and your thirst because we were all busy taking pictures of the higantes and even of the artistic creations that adorned most of the walls and fronts of the houses in that particular area in Angono. There was even an amazing smaller version of the statue of liberty at the front of one house.


I really hate it when they start ruining a historic festival parade with this kind of product advertising. Its very obvious what they’ve done here, and the worst is that they’ve applied very little creativity by just using a totally white cloth with just the “brand” logos displayed. The Higantes festival parade is never going to be the same again if the likes of these continues….tsk tsk tsk!









Immediately after our short tour of the town proper where the city hall, fire station and police station were located, and a fifteen minute rest drinking ice tea, we proceeded to our next destination, Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery. We had the most interesting lunch. For most of us, it was our first time to try out the fried frog legs, fried crickets and soup number five (soup with ox testicles)!





It was a good thing our hosts mentioned that there’s still a main meal that’s coming, the Paella. It was expected that the first three dishes would not be a favorite because everyone still had the taste for the traditional food. Even with a good drink like the “gayuma” (this you’ve got to try when you visit Balaw-Balaw) accompanying the nasty dishes, everyone still preferred the paella. That’s why there was no more Seafood Paella left afterwards, and still a few crickets, frogs and ox testicles left.



Balaw Balaw was also an Art Gallery where you can see works of art everywhere. Care to join me around a tour of the place?





There was also a place where you can try painting your own miniature paper mache dolls with your own customized design. You have an option to take it home with you or leave it there to be displayed on the tables at Balaw Balaw.

 Paint away with your own personalized design and colors

 Nice shot at the garden area upstairs

 This group were painting miniature paper mache dolls

 A lot of interesting photo opportunities were at the place

Remember to wash your hands first before eating

 Our host from Thunderbird Resorts munching on the fried crickets....yum yum yum!

 The whole group minus me being the photographer...hehehe

 A couple of bloggers that are real-life couples themselves

 It Takes Two 2 Travel ... the bloggers duo that travels two-gether forever

 Three bloggers and a kid enjoyed the meal for the day

 Two more bloggers that are part of our Rizal travel bloggers group

 This is what happens when you've drank the buko juice here at Balaw-Balaw...Lol!

 They loved the flower that goes with the drink so they placed it in their ears as decor for photo ops

Our other hosts from Thunderbird Resorts drinking some mango juice


Next on the agenda was a tour of the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs located very near the Thunderbird Resorts hotel. There you have to walk past through a dark path through a hole in a mountain. Then walk another few more to lead you at the museum were they display several stone artifacts they’ve found within the area. We were told that since the museum is very small, the rest of the artifacts were brought to the National Museum in storage. But if they had the budget, it would probably fill up three floors because of the large quantity.



















We then proceeded upwards to where we can find the petroglyphs which are engravings on the rock wall believed to have been the creations of early people dating back to 3000 BC. The Angono Petroglyphs is the oldest known work of art in the Philippines. There are 127 human and animal figures engraved on the rockwall. These inscriptions clearly show stylized human figures, frogs and lizards along with other designs that may have depicted other interesting figures but erosion may have caused it to become indistinguishable.






 The sad part here is we were informed that these sights can only be seen during the day because the facilities do not have any source of electricity. Visitors or tourists could only appreciate these historic works of art during daytime. The caretaker and tour guide explained to us that they would require a huge budget before they could afford to even put any form of lighting.


After another short walk going back towards the path we previously took, and passing through the hole in the wall of a mountain, we then got back to our service vehicle and proceeded to our accommodation – the Thunderbird Resorts hotel.


 Thunderbird Resorts is an international property developer of dynamic, themed, and integrated venues that are anchored by casinos. The hotel was highlighted by the pools situated in the front with other amenities like the jacuzzi where you can play with the bubbles, the poolbar where you can order food and drinks, a mini playground with slides and swings for kids, an obstacle course ideal for team building activities, a place where you can hold a garden wedding, plus another section where you can play badminton or volleyball. Just a stone’s throw away is a huge golf course where you could play golf with your buddies, clients or business associates. The golf course is not owned by Thunderbird Resorts but guests of the hotel are given special access to it.






Inside they have a spa where you can have a very affordable relaxing massage either at the spa area or in the convenience of your rooms. You can also rent a bike to go around the areas of the hotel grounds, or through the bike trail., or simply jog around and breath the fresh air you can never find at the hotels located in the terribly polluted cities of Metro Manila. They also have the famous Fiesta Casino, the Koi Restaurant, and a grand ballroom where events can be held.

























The room was very spacious and had the best amenities similar to the other world-class hotels.




The bathroom were huge and complete with all the things you would prefer to have in your very own bathrooms like a shower room,  a bathtub, a place to hang your clothes, complimentary shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, cotton buds, and what do you call that something that you put in your hair so it wont get wet? OMG! There was even a hair drier - the ladies will surely love it.




There was a safe where you can put your gadgets, jewelries and important items. A personal fridge containing several choices of drinks, a snack bar containing chocolates and chips, a couple of complimentary bottled water plus coffee and tea sachets, a couple of slippers, a couple of extra pillows, a few hangers for your clothes, plus the typical contents of a hotel room like the phone, TV with remote and cable connection, etc.




 
 

 






 The view from our room at the 2nd floor was the best!



The key cards provided also added convenience as it would automatically turn off every electric appliance and lighting in the room every time we got out….and since there were two sets of key cards, you also have the option to keep them on, let’s say the air-conditioning so you could still come back to an already cool room after going out. No more doing it one at a time with the several remote control units.


We had dinner at the Pool Bar where I ordered some delicious Shrimps and a huge Chicken sandwich serving for dinner plus a fresh mango shake. But because of the mistake by the staff which delivered mango juice instead, I got to have two drinks for dinner: a mango shake and a mango juice. Lol! When we returned to our room, there were a few pieces of chocolates as additional complimentary to guests.
 
 








We also enjoyed the fifteen minute complimentary massage given to us in our rooms which also helped us sleep comfortably during the night. Some went to the pools for a night swim until 10 pm. You are also allowed to go beyond the 10 pm time but you have to sign a waiver from the hotel.

We had an early morning bike ride the following day. There was a bike trail at the upper areas located at the back of the hotel, but we preferred biking first on the roads on the way to the Petroglyphs again. The wind on your face while going downhill was very nice, and the fresh air was totally something different compared to the smog back in Manila. It was really a challenging bike ride back to the hotel as there were many uphill roads that you need to take. You have to try it for yourselves and get to experience how fun and exhilarating it was. When we got back, a newspaper was waiting at the front of our room.


Breakfast was served at the Koi restaurant located just beside the Fiesta Casino. You have plenty of choices bu I would always prefer to drink coffee first, then follow it with cereals and some bread. If I am still not full, I try out some rice with any chicken or fish dish. The “danggit” would always be first on my list if they have it among the breakfast buffet, then omelet with everything on it except the onions.










Breakfast was followed by some Casino 101 were we were taught on how to play in the slot machines and the Baccarat table. We were given some complimentary amount to use in the slot machines and also for the Baccarat table.








Lunch was also served at the Koi restaurant were they served some great meals that tasted as good as they looked. The meals served at the Koi restaurant were definitely better than the sandwiches served at the Pool Bar. This time I ordered a Papaya shake as my drink.













I totally agreed when one blogger friend said, “I enjoyed every second of my stay at Thunderbird Resorts Rizal. I would definitely recommend it to everyone. If you want to go to a place where you can enjoy, relax and have fun..Thunderbird is the place to go where you don’t have to spend long hours of travel time. Good food..relaxing scenery..friendly people and a warm cozy bed. Get a break from the city life…visit Thunderbird Resort Rizal.”

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