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A New Place to Treasure

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Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind is on a summer break…will be back in May!

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It’s the Clouds…It’s the Blue Sky…It’s World Sights Park

Last Tuesday, 15 March 2016, I got the chance to revisit Riyadh’s World Sights Park with my housemates, Alvin and Marwin.

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The last time I was here, the cold, dark night was the one immuring the illustrious world landmarks (“How To Make A World Tour In Just One Hour“).

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This time around, the weather was perfect for my shooting plans. Thank God! I always thought the place does have an attractively different face during daytime.

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Armed with just a cameraphone, I shot the views with emphasis on clouds and the blue sky because they seemed unavoidable in the background.

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I never knew Mother Nature has treasure trove of mind-blowing possibilities up, overhead.

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Lucky to have arrived before predusk took over. The photos turned out exquisitely beautiful and polychromatic.

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I kind of like them more than the photographs I took using a micro four thirds camera during the first visit.

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The high, low, and wispy clouds amazingly reflected the sun’s ever changing and vibrant colors as it slowly sets over the horizon on a summer evening. It was a great way to wrap the day up.

Related Articles

See the Wonders of the World at World Sights Park Riyadh (destinationksa.com)

LandMark Park Riyadh – The World Sights Park (rsventure.wordpress.com)

World Sights Park in Riyadh: A worth place to visit. (ofwfamilyconnect.com)

An impressive tourist destination in Riyadh (scta.gov.sa)

Around The World at Landmarks Park (thepinktarha.com)

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Getting More Intimate with Sampinit

Checking my blog’s statistics has been a vital part of my weekend routine. When 2016 started, I noticed that two of my oldest blog posts about the fruit called sampinit have been consistently appearing on my going viral posts. They have been dramatically delivering a lot of hits since the second week of January, which led me to analyzing the hype. The “search terms” helped me a lot.

Based on the terms being searched on Google, I would say people nowadays have a growing interest in exotic fruits that give medical wonders to health. Sampinit seem to be on the top list at least recently. I monitored the search terms for ten weeks now and sampinit related terms such as sampinit flower, sampinit fruit, sampinit taste, where to find sampinit, sampinit jam, sampinit scientific name, and sampinit medicinal usages appear three to five times a week.

As a result, I was compelled to make another blog post after realizing that I did not yet share a crisp photo of a sampinit flower. There was one, which you can see , but not good enough to complement the amazing fruit: The Rarest Wild Raspberry of the Philippines.

It pays to recheck the photos in the archive once in a while. I was surprised that I did save a good photo of sampinit’s flower.

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I also decided to get up close with this wonder, now fortune, fruit of mine to give readers a worthy visit to the blog.

Sampinit is a climbing, straggling, prickly shrub, reaching a height of two to three meters, with branches covered by wooly hairs. Stems, buds, petioles, and lower surfaces of the leaves are velvety. Leaves are thin, flat, usually three-to five-lobed, deeply cordate at the base, broadly ovate, and five to fifteen centimeters wide. Upper surface is hairy and prominently reticulate when dry. Flowers are about two centimeters across, usually in small clusters, and borne in racemes at the axils of leaves and at the ends of branches. Calyx lobes are ovate to lanceolate, entire or pectinate. Petals are obovate, white, and shorter than the calyx segments. Berries are bright red, about omcneentimeter in diameter, succulent, slightly acid, with numerous carpels, and hairy receptacle.

It has seven scientific names: Rubus moluccanus Linn., Rubus commersonii Poir., Rubus jamaicensis Blanco, Rubus comintanus Blanco, Rubus apoensis Elm., Rubus rosifolium Sm., and Rubus minusculus Lev. & Van. This plant is found in the Mindanao, Palawan, and Northern Luzon forests at medium and higher altitudes as well as in wet regions at low altitudes. It is actually more popularly known as sapinit in the Philippine. They are also found in the mountains of India through Malaya to Australia and Fiji.

Studies show that the fruit extracts exhibit, aside from Anthocyanin, Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, moderate COX inhibitory adtivity and the greatest potential to inhibit cancer cell growth (colon, breast, lung, and gastric human tumor cells). The high anthocyanin content of the fruits suggest a health benefit for a functional food. 

Reference, Videos, and Related Articles 

Sapinit (stuartexchange.com)

Sapinit Berry Review (Weird Fruit Explorer in the Philippines, Episode 87)

Sapinit: Philippine Wild Raspberry (Mag-Agri Tayo TV Show)

Sapinit: Philippines’ New Weapon Against CANCER (filipinonurse.org)

Sapinit Against Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease (foodrecap.net)

Bloggy: 7 Philippine Fruits You Probably Don’t Know (bumpeyns.blogspot.com)

Philippine Raspberry Sapinit Picking (guiltlessgetaways.blogspot.com)

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Small and Big Wonders at the King’s Forest

For years, I have been maintaining a special connection with nature since I learned the value of it. I get in touch with life forms outside the house or in the wilderness not on only when I get the chance to but on a regular basis. All of us need to undergo green therapy every once in a while.

I was on my way home the other day when Sai Achanta, one of the best travel buddies I have here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, invited me to join him and his newly found “comrades” called Shutter Arabia in Rawdat Khuraim for a nature travel the following day. He said I was the first person in the office whom he thought was interested in this kind of trip. Sure he was right.

The winter season has just ended so heading into the wilderness for a weekend getaway is perfection. After Sai and I met the cool photogs of Shutter Arabia at Ikea in Exit 16, we cruised over the 100 kilometer distance of Rawdat Khuraim from the capital city. It only took us approximately 35 minutes to get there (that includes two stopovers).

When we arrived, it was still a few minutes past sunrise. The golden hour was once again up for grabs.

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For some reason, I was the only one who made efforts to catch the exquisite color waving like a lady in front of us. I forgot they already had enough of this kind of view as they have been exploring some of Riyadh’s hidden places that are good for photography.

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There is something about the golden hour when the sky produces that rare soft, diffused light.

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I am no professional photographer but believe me when I say the prevailing color during this hour absolutely looks more flattering than the scorching midday sun in pictures.

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We spent a few minutes of chatting until the clear sky appeared. We started walking over the large expanse of what is now considered the King’s Forest after it was formally opened to public on 22 January 2005 by the Crown Prince himself. The locals know about the place very well; in fact, there were already a few of them heading to the campgrounds as soon as we began shooting the small and big wonders of the forest.

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I doubt the case is the same for expats.

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This part of Rawdat Khuraim is divided into two areas: the”wildlife park” which was already closed in order to preserve what is in it and the other is simply a nature park that is accessible to public. The former looks a lot better according to the news and what I heard from the locals.

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The latter is, let me put it this way, just enough for what it is worth.

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However it may be, I found the place a decent diversion from the usual scenery on weekdays.

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There are always beautiful things in the mundane. If you cannot find them, create them.

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Having said that, this nature park is not mundane at all, especially for white-collar workers like us who are confined to office spaces most of the time.

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According to Samirad, the Saudi Arabian Market Information Resource, there is an estimated 132 species of wild plants and 42 species of fauna in the forest.

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A lot of them are in the very open area of the King’s Forest.

One of the very good things about photography is that it makes us realize or notice that every subject possesses a striking beauty, especially if we take a closer look at it.

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If I get a super camera in the future, I will surely come back here to solely shoot the evasive rabbits and other fauna.

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The welcoming fragrant smells of grass and trees around, the clear blue sky, the clean earth, the sight of a “very-wild-making-it-impossible-to-shoot” resting rabbit, the sound of cantillating birds perching on acacia branches, the vibrant, little flowers, and among other wonderful things are something beyond the ordinary.

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These wonders not only make for a good scenery but immersion in their midst is revitalizing. Some of the best things in life are indeed free.

Enjoying and respecting the wildlife and the environment at the King’s Forest make for an awesome weekend getaway.

Shukriya, Sai & Shutter Arabia, for this very refreshing trip earlier today! I am keeping my fingers crossed for another nature travel with you and the fun group in the future.

Related Articles

Verdant Views: A forest in the desert- Rawdat Khuraim (verdantviews.blogspot.com)

Avantika Badgujar, The day I went Rawdat khuraim (avantika.badjugar.net)

Where is Rawdat Khuraim? (desertenlightement.wordpress.com)

RawDhat Khuraim The Kings Forest (nzpounamu.com)

The King’s Forest- Rawdat Khuraim (blueabaya.com)

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Why Bagolatao’s White Pebbles Beach is the Perfect Summer Destination in the Philippines

Last 10 January 2016, I submitted an entry to Sir Melo Villareal of the Out of Town Blog’s collaborative post titled “Perfect Philippine Summer Getaways According to Pinoy Travel Bloggers”. I actually considered five choices.

If you are up for optimum summer adventures such as island hopping, sightseeing, mountain climbing, swimming at the beach, and camping, Anawangin Cove, Caramoan Islands, and Nagsasa Cove have everything conducive for you. Any of these places turns into a squatter’s area most of the time. That speaks of how popular they are to tourists and travelers.

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On the other hand, if you are craving less visited places, Puting Buhangin and Bagolatao’s White Pebbles Beach will greet you with open arms.

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Believe me when I say, if you are exposed to the hurly-burlies of a modern citied life, your stay to either of these places will redefine your appreciation of discovering places off the beaten track. You will surely come back for more of that something less world-beating but quieter.

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Browsing the archive brought back so many fun and romantic memories. It also reinforced the reputation of the country’s tourism slogan: “It’s indeed more fun in the Philippines!” Each time I look at those pictures and the others in the archive, I still feel  stunned. The country, beyond question, radiates an irresistible beauty.

I had to come up with just one though in the end. This post serves as a validation of that decision.

If you are familiar with what I have been posting (last year and the current) on the blog and on its Instagram, Facebook page, Tumbler, Pinterest, and, the latest, Path, you could predict what I had chosen. But if not, any of the four places in the series (i.e., from first to fourth) is probably what you would think as my pick, and that should have been right. However, I was not much of a skilled storyteller, so to say, during that time. I could only write notes or literally short and feeble stories about my travels. The absence of a micro four thirds system camera was also a factor.

The perfect summer destination I picked, with the help of my GF2 (Panasonic Lumix), was the fifth in the series and it is actually the least when it comes to popularity as it belongs to one of those what we usually call underrated, less touristy, or not really known places—to date. Having said that, I would be a lot happier if it stays that way.

I am talking about the three kilometer shoreline of White Pebbles Beach at Brgy. Bagolatao, Minalabac, Camarines Sur. It is just approximately a forty-minute drive from Naga City. The place offers an unscathed scenery that will force you to put your mobile phone down, especially when you get to that hilltop in the East where you can appreciate the encompassing view of the shoreline.

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The white pebbles here are guaranteed more picturesque than that of Schoolhouse Beach’s on Washington Island in the United States.

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You would not hesitate to dip in the cerulean, clean waters as well.

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There are other numerous, interesting, and adventurous activities of course. What makes it all the more inviting though is the absence of fancy real estate developments like hotels or air-conditioned native houses in the area. It literally defines a laid-back yet quaint beach, which makes a summer getaway easy on the pocket.

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Finally, the beach’s relatively obscure name makes the place sparsely populated even during peak season.

Related Articles

8 beautiful white PH beaches perfect for barefoot walking (rappler.com)

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WI Getaway Ideas: Washington Island (travelwisconsin.com)

Washington Island (barbarakolson.com)

45 Stunning Philippine Beaches to Visit in 2016 (pinoytravelfreak.com)

20 Tourist Destinations to Visit in the Philippines in 2016 (faq.ph)

8 Reasons A Trip To The Philippines Should Be In Your Future (huffingtonpost.com)

12

A Visit to the Kingdom’s Aviation Museum

In Riyadh, there are a lot of communities where Filipino expats can join in. My friends and I are fortunate to have found one that is into worthy causes and traveling every now and then.

During the start of the winter season last year, I was privileged to have been included in the community’s list of participants for their travel series’ kickoff. It should be noted that I was also a part of their Dammam/Bahrain travel series (Eid Break in the Kingdom’s Eastern Region and Bahrain’s Threshold) in 2014.

This time around, they chose Royal Saudi Air Force Museum or Saqr Al-Jazira, which is located at Salbokh Road, Ministry of Defense and Aviation – King Abdul Aziz Military College, on the East Ring Road of Riyadh between Exits 10 and 11. It is just a ten-minute drive from Al Izdihar.

There were 16 of us who lined up at the museum’s gate last 04 December 2015. Actually, we were reluctant to proceed with this visit because we thought the place is only for families. Good thing there is a big signboard at the entrance that says singles are allowed on any day of the week. We were all smiling after reading that.

What we saw upon entering was the huge passenger aircraft, which I had been seeing standing behind a wall right next to the East Ring Road.

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The aircraft’s name is Lockheed L-1011 TriStar.

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We merrily roamed around the museum’s ground to have a closer look at the various passenger and combat aircraft until darkness started to fall.

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“For thousands of years, men have looked at the skies and dreamt of flight. Ancient mythologies tell of heroic attempts to emulate the birds of the air. In more recent times, men have succeeded, with motor-driven flying machines in place of flapping wings. Not content with the skies, man has his sights set on the heavens beyond. The stars upon which our forebears gazed at are now within reach of our children’s children” (Dreams of Flight, Royal Saudi Air Force).

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What we feasted on subsequently were exhibits on the history of the Royal Saudi Air Force: uniforms, insignia and decorations, aircraft engines and weaponry—and a special display on Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first Saudi in space who rode as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-51-G.

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Throughout the museum there are interactive video screens that allow visitors to explore this history for themselves.

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There is also an Imax cinema, without 3D glasses, where we got to experience flying a jet fighter. It was a simulation of what it feels like to be amid jet fighters in an aerial warfare. It was awesome.

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For the first time, I got to get a feel of a cinema in the Kingdom even if what we viewed was only a 15-minute show.

The Royal Saudi Air Force Museum here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the perfect place if you want to get a literally happy photo just like the second in the series. And, of course, if you want to experience traveling into space on simulators for only SAR 10. Free admission is awarded to children.

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Riyadh’s Best Museums (destinationksa.com)

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5 Awesome Things to Enjoy in Saudi Arabia (twomonkeystravelgroup.com)

Pixels For Four: Royal Saudi Air Force Museum, Riyadh (pixelsforfour.blogspot.com)

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Where The Four Great Amputees and Mountains Led Me

The windy afternoon was starting to metamorphose into dusk. We were walking along the steep ravines of Rio Grande de Cagayan on the outskirts of Santo Thomas in Isabela when I happened to glance down at the jagged boulders below, approximately 20 feet high. The gushing sound of the waters slapping the rocks, which got me curious, suddenly muted. The sight of such sent an unimaginable shivers up and down my spine. I trembled in fear. Every move I made weakened me more; my knees surrendered to the ground. My easy gait during the first part of our travel, by foot, from Cañogan to Malapagay turned into a nightmare. Then I heard my grandparents approaching as they were asking what happened—not too far from me. I wanted to step back paces but I was already crawling when they overtook me. My grandfather had to hold my left hand. The other was held by my grandmother. Simultaneous to that was they were telling me to just look straight and everything will be fine. I was hobbling until we got past the river area. I never wanted to catch that sight again.

The thing is, that fear spiraled over time. Nineteen years later, I got to face a bigger form of the fear when I partook in this climb for a cause called the “The First Annual Amputee Climb“. I could vividly remember that I had second thoughts about joining as the climb’s actual day was nearing. Life though has its twisted way of letting me reconcile with the things I fear; it dragged my feet to Mount Batulao last 28 November 2009 (““).

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When we started treading the jump-off point, the excitement enveloped me more than my hesitation. I looked directly ahead and focused on the goal: to reach the distant, highest peak. The four amputees who joined us in this journey motivated me a lot truth be told. Conquering my fear actually became easier as I was seeing them become more and more resolute when we were reaching the trekking point even when the climb was already getting steeper. I could not also disregard the full cheerfulness on their faces as they were facing different forms of struggles along the way.

At one time or another, we were kissing a sharp cliff not because of fear but because it was how it was being done. I realized just how firmly attached we were to the rest of the mountain. The feeling of being attached to it overwhelmed that one of hanging in the midair or losing control. Looking at everyone, especially the amputees, displaying will and determination to conquer the mountain had made a big difference all the more in my acrophobia. Sometimes, all we need are people who are more physically challenged than us to know how capable we are in pushing our limits. These people are doing it fine, we might as well be like them. I did not even notice I summited the highest peak after almost four hours of trekking the sinuous, steep, and zigzagging trail—with ease. The anticipation of crabbing down a slanted rock face with fear went into the river of oblivion.

The way up to the summit of a mountain is arduous but once you get there, your entirety will be hugged by pure raptures of joy.

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The fear of looking down from that vantage was gone. I felt like I became part of the mountain and of the whole view around. My eyes went feasting on the breathtaking panoramas rising from the ground instead.

Thank God my feet succumbed to the universe on that fateful day. I could have not experienced this exquisite feeling of amazement—seeing the world atop of the shoulders of the giant.

I owe that to our great amputees who had proven that physical limitations, not to mention fear of heights, can be overcome and we can go beyond what we are already capable of. I know there are people out there who had much harder time subduing acrophobia yet in the end, they were able to. It is a matter of facing the fear not channel it to somewhere or something. I felt like I suddenly achieved balance in the four aspects of myself.

The amputees led the way towards battling my fear and winning it and the mountain was the battleground where I achieved a new form of myself. The amputees were the teachers while the mountain was the instrument used for my rebirth.

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The experience of overcoming my fear of heights and being able to reach the summit is larger than life. I may have verbally described the adventure but I could not fully put across the enormity of what I felt and lived through with those amputees and more than 50 other people who have become part of my rebirth transformation. I was never the same person since I descended from that mountain.

I saw an entirely different world out and up there. A world that opened so many life-changing lessons and possibilities.

I saw so many places and astounding views that very few people get to see; I realized the big difference between seeing them from magazines or on the internet to that of making time and effort to actually see them. The latter is what cuts a lot of people out of the chosen few.

After climbing 16 mountains for almost three years (2009-2012), I was able to forge a bond that lasts a lifetime with cool and  positive people from different walks of life; we are still keeping in touch.

I got to know how far my stamina can go; I became stronger and more inspired to keep a fit and healthy body.

The physical and mental difficulties entangled in every mountain I climbed made me more patient, persistent, prepared, and grateful—most especially for the small things I and my family have.

Seeing a multitude of beautiful places or views atop and along trails made me comprehend how much of a distraction little and big garbage are in the picture; it boosted the high respect I already have for nature. I have been doing ways to recycle more and avoiding pile up of non biodegradable items.

I gained a lot of stories and I shared them to the world; I inspired a lot of my friends, former students, and my brother, Kelvin, to brave the mountains. I became a travel blogger.

For all of these, I pay my respects to our great amputees for showing me that extraordinary will and determination. I also make obeisance to the mountains for always calling me to explore the bigger world out there.

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Why Do I Climb Mountains? (twomonkeystravelgroup.com)

Opinion: Why I Climb Dangerous Mountains (new.nationalgeographic.com)

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Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia: A Home To The Most Celebrated Festival in Bicol Region

Like the province of Isabela where I originally come from, Camarines Sur has its fair share of well-known churches. But when it comes to ecumenical festivals, there is only one church that stands out: Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia. It may be relatively new compared to its aged counterparts but thousands to a million of devotees around the Philippines and the world converge on this church during the Peñafrancia Festival–one of the most attended Marian celebrations in Asia–which happens in September every year. This is the reason why paying a visit to the church is not only a spiritual but worthwhile experience even during the regular months.

I ticked that experience on my bucket list when I had my yearly vacation last April 2015. We usually attend a Sunday mass to any of the nearby churches but Ms. Wonderwall suggested the idea of attending one at Bicol’s most famous church, which is located along Balatas Road, last April 18 to be a treasured experience. The whole family succumbed to her idea in the afternoon of the following day.

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Upon debarking from the jeepney after a twenty-minute drive from the Heart of Bicol, Naga City, the church’s imposing facade, with its grand belfry soaring like a skyscraper and the well-scythed sward, immediately made an impression. What was more impressive was when we got inside. We were greeted by the chromatic colors of the ceiling, walls, and stained glass windows.

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The most astounding of them all were the stained glass windows courtesy of the revered mural painter and stained glass artist, Pancho Piano. The panes that were strewn with a motley of colors portray the fluvial parade of Peñafrancia as the people transfer the Lady from one church to the next.

I stopped from shooting when the mass started. I usually feel sleepy during an afternoon mass but the colors somehow kept my senses alive.

When the mass ended, I rushed outside to check the pavilion, which I already noticed before getting inside the church. This part of the place serves as shelter for the Lady after a big procession.

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I was awestruck  when I stepped inside the mini-dome structure that is capped with a glass roof and stained glass as ceiling. According to what I read, each glass pane showcases a story of devotion to the Lady and how her thaumaturgies changed people’s lives.

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Now that Lent is around the corner, the place will soon be teeming with devotees once again. The busy days will be relived with the hope of another series of historic events in Bicol’s book. One thing is for sure: Every visit to a church, especially with family, is something to be treasured.

Related Articles

Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Naga City, Camarines Sur (libotero.com)

Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (nagayon.com)

Penafrancia Festival 2015 schedule (bicolstandard.com)

Highlights of Peñafrancia Festival 2015 (bicoltoday.com)

It’s more fun in Bicol: Peñafrancia Fiesta 2015 In Pictures (bicolph.com)

UBLA: Kaaldawan of the 41st Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (asianjournal.com)

Adventures in Bicolandia: Aboard the Bicol Express! (darlingakongangga.blogspot.com)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

To my eyes, the most breathtaking nature feat is the sunset. I always take a second look at how the sky gets spattered with vibrant colors as the sun sets. Those colors make for a shimmering gloaming.

This is pure magic in the mundane.

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