Planning to Retire Soon!

If you are planning to retire in the Philippines soon, I suggest you visit several excellent websites on pro's and cons of retiring in the Philippines. However if you want to retire in the provinces, where life is simple, standard of living cheaper, less traffic congestion and pollution, availability of fresh seafood and vegetables compared to the big cities, my island province is the place for you! If this is your first time in my site, welcome. Please do not forget to read the latest national and international news in the right side bar of this blog. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on the infringement of your copyrights. The photo above is the front yard of Chateau Du Mer-Our Retirement Home in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines

Monday, June 29, 2009

Marinduque Videos

Recently, I was surfing on the Web and You Tube. I found about sixty short videos on Marinduque. The following five videos are my favorites. The first one was made by Eli Obligacion to honor Governor Carrion and his administration. The second was a vacation video by a typical tourist. I do not even know the video maker and the people in the vidoes, but the video was well made and shows several beauty spots of Marinduque. The third and fourth videos are from NBN,Channel 4, with Mayo Suzuki featuring the town of Gasan and Torrijos. The video contains a tour inside the beautiful mansion of Mayor Vicky Lim in Bacong Bacong, Gasan, a butterfly farm, a facility for making virgin coconut oil and a fishing village in Torrijos.
The fifth video is by Mykvan, taken in 2007, Views of Marinduque.

Video by Eli Obligacion. This video made me homesick. It is an excellent video of the sites, scenery, a little bit of history, culture and traditions of our island paradise with the background music by Yanni(one of my favorite musician.

Vacation Video from a typical tourist to Marinduque. One of the best vacation videos, featuring the beauty of our islands. There are more than sixty videos made by tourists about Marinduque in the Web, but the quality of most of the videos is not worth your time. But the above short video, I hope you will enjoy.

Part 1 of Mayo's Video of Channel 4- Lakbayin ang Magandang Pilipinas

Part 2 of Mayo's Video of Channel 4- Lakbayin ang Magandang Pilipinas
Video by mykvan, 2007, Views of Marinduque
I hope you have enjoyed the above five videos. Comments will be appreciated!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marinduque-A Photogenic Province

Marinduque is a photoblogger dream. The province is endowed with unspoiled white sand beaches, pristine blue waters, fringing reefs, virgin coral reefs, coves, limestone caves, meandering rivers, mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls and streams, fabled sulfur and hot mineral springs,old churches and of course beautiful sunsets. The Internet is filled with photographs of the scenic beauty of this island not only from the local professional photographers but also from amateur photographers all over the world. The province has more than six big islands popular to beach lovers, scuba divers and snorkeling enthusiasts. It has Mt Malindig known to mountain climbers and hikers. It has Bathala and Tarug Caves popular to spelunkers and just curious seekers. In one of the eight caves of Bathala, there is a resident python, believed to be enchanted. If he shows himself when you visit the caves, it is suppose to bring you good luck.
Sunset over Tres Reyes Islands- Photo from
The nearest and most accessible islands from the capital town of Boac are the Tres Reyes Islands ( Islands of the Three Kings), Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar in the town of Gasan. The local names are Laki, Pangkog and Man-nga ( see map above). These islands are located southwest of the mainland. The other three group of islands bigger in area and more populated are Polo, Maniwaya and Mongpong Islands. These are located in the Northeast part of the mainland in the town of Santa Cruz. Maniwaya's Polo Maria White Beach is being develop as an alternative to Boracay. There is a bigger island, Salamongue Island which is not as well known to the tourists and residents.. I really do not know the reason, but I believe it is not as accessible from the mainland . Moreover, it is not as developed( no electricity or running water) compared to the other islands.

One of the most popular white beach located in the mainland in the town of Torrijos is Poctoy White Beach. It is about a 70 minutes drive from downtown Boac. Poctoy White beach with Mt, Malindig as the background is the most photogenic and the most photographed scenery in the island.

Just late last year, the former Elephant Island in Lipata, Buenavista, owned privately, was renamed Bellarocca Resort Island and Spa. It has been converted to look like Santorini Island, Greece with buildings all painted in white sticking in the cliffs. From what I heard, this resort is one of the most expensive and luxurious resort in Southeast Asia. The cheapest room charges $300 per night excluding meals and other amenities. When I was in Marinduque last year, I met a few rich and famous Filipinos( businessmen, actors and actresses, TV personalities)) from Manila as well as Korean and Japanese tourists at Masiga Airport in Gasan on their way to the resort. From the resort advertisement, I know that the most expensive accommodation is a 3-bedroom villa with its own pool and jacussi charging about $ 800 per night without meals.

Dong Ho, Oggie Ramos, Ferdz Decena, Allan Barredo, Sydney Snoeck and Dennis Villegas are some of the photographers that I know who have photo blogs about Marinduque. Their pictures are beautiful, unique and mesmerizing. It is worth your time to visit their photo blogs sites. Looking at their photographs of Marinduque, its Tradition and Culture will surely make you proud of the beauty of our island paradise.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reasons for Retiring in the Philippines

View of Mt Malindig from Torrijos,Marinduque
I recently discovered this article from the San Francisco Chronicle by Jose G. Caedo It was written in 2006, so the dollar figures quoted maybe 10% less, but the reasons why the Philippines is a retirement heaven for Americans and Europeans remain the same. Here is the article with my personal comments in bold. I found it timely in spite of the fact it was written three years ago. I hope you found the article informative.

Considering retirement? For many Americans, retirement time is just around the corner. The prospect of trying to live on a pension, in old age is a daunting one. For some, moving to retire in another country such as Mexico (for North Americans) or Portugal and Spain (for Northern Europeans) is an option which has been successful. But why not consider retiring in the Philippines?

Over the last decade, the Philippines has become a retirement haven for thousands of foreigners, particularly the Japanese, Korean, and Northern Europeans. Along with Thailand and Malaysia, the Philippines developed communications, infrastructure, and service delivery systems specifically geared to meet the needs of foreign retirees.
The principal appeal for retirement in the Philippines is the lower cost of living. At present, the Philippine Peso ( PhP) exchange rate is approximately PhP 53/40 to $1.00 (As of today the rate exchange is about 49 to 1) Housing, food, and labor costs are quite reasonable. A two bedroom condominium in one of the posh " villages" in Makati City costs about $400 per month ( my guess today is $550).
One can dine out on average at a three star restaurant for less than $10.00, including tax and tip. If you plan to hire domestic help, a private driver's salary is approximately $200.- per month, while a trained housekeeper will earn approximately $100. These salaries are lower if you live in the provinces.( Today,in my province of Marinduque a couple could live like a King and Queen for about $1500 a month).This includes services of maids, a gardener and a personal driver and all the fresh fruits and seafood you can eat every day, if you desire.

Watching a film in a first-run movie theater there costs only 25 cents, with a good light meal called " merienda") afterwards for about $2.00. One can hire an air-conditioned taxicab for eight hours for less than $25.00. Or take the MRT monorail from end to end for less than $1.00.-And a pair of locally made blue jeans costs less than $ 10.- IN a country where a provincial Governor's salary is PHP 28,000 per month, and a Presidential Cabinet Under-Secretary earns PhP35,000, your pension can go a long way. So, if you have an individual retirement income
of approximately $1,500 to $2,000 per month ( Ph 80,000 to 100,000.-)you can live quite well there.( I agree especially in the provinces). Incidentally, Peso-denominated Time Deposit interest rate now is 4.5% for forty-five days.

AS for health care, most U.S. Health Management Organizations pay for medical expenses incurred in the Philippines. Check with your HMO. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs presently has a task force headed by former Secretary Roberto Romulo working to have the U.S. government accredit a number of first class Philippine hospitals for Medicare reimbursement. The Makati Medical Center, one of the nation's best already has such accreditation. Unbeknown st to many is that for years, citizens of nearby countries such As Thailand, Nauru, Tonga, Indonesia, and Malaysia have flocked to the Philippines for medical care, particularly sensitive surgical procedures. The quality of medical care at the better Manila hospitals such as the Asian, St. Luke's, Medical City, Cardinal Santos, Philippine Heart Center
for Asia, National Kidney Institute, and Makati Medical Center meets international standards. I have been treated by American Surgeons in San Francisco who have been to the Philippines where they performed surgical procedures. These surgeons have a high opinion of the Philippine doctors, nurses, and facilities they worked with.

Heart, Liver, Kidney, Pancreatic, and Cornea transplants are done routinely in the better Manila hospitals.

A Japanese company will be building a medical facility in Tagaytay City exclusively for Japanese nationals within the year. There are now close to 10,000 Japanese retirees in the country, and the number is growing annually. The British government recently acquired a large tract of land in Fort Bonifacio to build a large Embassy. The British ambassador explained that larger facility is meant to help serve the growing number of British nationals retiring there as well. There are also Japanese and Korean investment groups buying homes and condominiums in Manila, and tracts of provincial land for retirees. This has caused a mini-Real Estate boom in the country. A retirement village exclusively for Japanese nationals already exists in Tagaytay, and more are planned.

These are strong indicators of what is on the horizon.

English is the Philippines' official business language. Most of the people you will meet, from hotel workers, taxi drivers, sales or service people, government employees, speak English, or have a working understanding of it. The middle class speak English, without exception.

All the major newspapers, and major broadcast companies use English. An English speaking visitor will never get lost in the Philippines. It is the universal use of that language that has been a strong incentive to foreigners. As well, communications links within the country and to other countries via the various commercial gateways is up to international standards. For example, the use of cell phones and text messaging is so common that housemaids, street vendors and sidewalk food hawkers can be seen using their cell phones incessantly. And for just Php1.00 per message, why not? Are you thinking of bringing household goods over? Your electrical appliances will work using the local electrical outlets, which provide either 220V, or 110V sources. Just ask.

One will never want for adventure and sights to experience in the Philippines. There is always a colorful Fiesta, pageants, street festivals, and open public events going on.(for information on Fiestas see Lush with bountiful natural resources, one can enjoy the numerous beaches, resorts, golf courses, and play just about any sport, except skiing. There is an ice skating rink in Manila, though. Scuba diving and fishing are among the sports which draw the most number of foreigners to the rich aquatic offerings. Shopping is the Filipinos' second most popular activity, the first is eating. Manila is Asia's undiscovered shopping Mecca. You will love the golden purple sunsets, the fragrance of the flowers at dusk, and the wonderful array of fruit and food. I used to enjoy watching the sunset from the bar at the Philippine Cultural Center.There,you can listen to the Symphony,check out a play,or enjoy Grand Opera. There is just so much to explore and discover, specially in terms of nature, culture, and history.

If you're a betting man, there's horse racing, the Jai Alai, numerous first class casinos, and of course, cock-fighting. Manila is well known for its exciting night life.

Strategically located, the Philippines is an airline hub. Hong Kong, HoChi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, and Taipei are just an hour and a half flight away. With Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Jakarta approximately five hours. There are regular flights to those destinations from Manila's three international terminals.

Philippine Real Estate, medical/ social service, and Employment agencies are now working together under the aegis of the government's Philippine Retirement Authority ( PRA) to set up standards and make the retirement industry truly world class.

The PRA website is main..Under the direction of Gen. Edgar B.Aglipay, chairman of the Philippine Retirement Authority, plans have been operationalized to ensure that the growing demand for housing and ancillary services for the retirees are met.

The objective is to turn the country into the retirement haven in Asia. This will also help employ more local Filipinos at higher wages so that they need not leave the country to seek work.

Visit the land of fun, flowers, food, fruit, and friendly people.
You might not want to leave it anymore. Mabuhay!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Philippines-Nation of Festivals

Black Nazarene Procession in Quiapo Church, Manila
The Philippines is the only nation in the world, that I know that has festivals for every month of the year. In January, there are four festivals known world wide. First, there is the Fiesta of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila held on January 9th. Thousands of devotees flock around the life-size statue of the Black Nazarene (Jesus Christ) during a procession around the church and in the Quiapo area. Devotees are hoping for a miracle or cure of their illnesses.
photo from
Second, there is the Sinulog Festival celebrated every 3rd week of January in Cebu City, in honor of their patron saint, Santo Nino(Child Christ). It is a week long event marked with religious procession, street dancing and parades.
photo from
The 3rd is Ati-Atihan of Kalibo, Aklan at around the same time as the Sinulog Festival. This is also in honor of the Santo Nino. Revelers masquerading as Negritoes (the aborigines of Panay Island)in colorful costumes dance to the beat of the drums while chanting " Hala Bira".

The fourth festival during the 4th Sunday of January is the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City. This is one of my favorite festival. It is held both in honor also of the Santo Nino as well as to celebrate the arrival in Panay of the Malay settlers and subsequent selling of the island to them by the aborigines called the Atis. The Atis are also called Negritoes. They are short and black and lived in the interior part of Panay. I saw the first Atis in my life when I was growing up in my home town in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo in the late 1940's. Attached is a video of the dancing competition during the Dinagyang Festival in 2008 in Iloilo City.
Dinagyang was voted the best tourism event in the Philippines in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In February, there are two fiestas in the Western Visayas and one in Baguio City. First,is the Feast of the Lady of Candles (Candelaria) held every February 2nd in Jaro, Iloilo. This is the festival that I grew up with since I was born in Jaro, Iloilo. According to fiesta enthusiasts, this is most opulent religious fiesta in the Western Visayas region. The blessing of the candles and procession of the Nuestra Senora de Candelaria, the patron saint of Jaro, is followed by the Fiesta Queen and the Grand Ball. The image of the Lady of Candles has also miraculous powers according to hundreds of devotees.
photo from
The other Fiesta in February, is the Babaylan Festival in Bago City, Negros Occidental held every February 19. The festival attendants will see the simulated rituals of the mystics, ancient healers and priests in various ceremonies such as marriage, healing and harvest.

The Baguio City Flower Festival also called Panagbenga is held on the last week of Febraury. Panagbenga means " a season of blooming". The festival has a floral parade, marching bands and street dancing. Below is a photo from

In March, there are two Fiestas, that I have heard of. One is the Eid El Fitir, a Filipino- Muslim festival in Mindanao which marked the end of their 30-day fasting as the crescent moon emerges after the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is the only fiesta that is not based on catholic religion as listed in this article.
photo from

The second one is the Moriones Festival of Marinduque. This coincides with Easter week celebration every year from late March to early April. This is the Festival, that I have attended almost every year for the last eight years. It is a whole week of celebration marked with religious processions, Moriones Mask Contest and Parades, Fairs and Trade shows,and an outdoor religious play based on the story of Longinus, the Roman centurion whose blind eye is cured by a drop of Jesus Christ blood during his Crucifixion. This festival is culminated by Gasan-Gasan, a street dancing celebration in Gasan ( reminds me New Orleans, Mardi Gras) and an Easter Parade on Easter Sunday in Boac. Mogpog is another town in Marinduque that celebrates the Moriones Festival for one week of festivities similar to Boac and Gasan. During Holy week, the sleepy province of Marinduque becomes a province filled with tourists from Manila and around the world, complete with traffic congestion and religious mayhem. The religious revelry and the colorful masks and costumes of the Moriones (Roman soldiers) rewards the visitor of a unique experience during the Holy week in the Philippines. Attached is a short video of the Procession of the Moriones and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The month of April besides the Moriones Festival,there is the Pilgrimage in Manaoag, Pangasinan. It is held every second week of April. Pilgrims and devotees flock to the shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag for the feast of the sick, the needy and the helpless. Her image is believed to be also miraculous.
photo from
In May, the whole Nation celebrates the Flores de Mayo(Flowers of May).Every day for the whole month, children and devotees offer flowers to the Statue of Virgin Mary were they also pray the rosary. The whole month celebration is culminated by a procession and Grand Ball at the end of the month. The fiesta commemorates the search for the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, the Emperor Constantine. In Marinduque, a Grand Ball at the town plaza is held at the end of the month. During this Ball, the Rigodon De Honor, a dance that originated from Spain(a royal square dance) opens the evening festivities. Participants of the Rigodon are chosen because of their standing in the community, that is participation is by invitation only. The women participants wore their most expensive ternos( evening gowns) and the men their embroidered Barong Tagalog. In 2003, Macrine and I were invited to participate in this Dance of Honor and Prestige.

Typical Rigodon Dance- The Cadena(Forming a Chain)
There are other festivals during the month of May. There is the Pulilan, Bulacan Carabao Festival held every 14th of May. There is the Pahiyas festival on May 15. Farm families give thanks to San Isidro Labrador for the good harvest by decorating their houses with brightly colored rice wafers called kiping. Then there's the Obando fertility rites festival during the 3rd week of May. Hundreds of men and women dance toward the town church praying for a wife, husband or a child.

In June, there are two fiestas that I have heard of. The Parada ng Lechon ( The Parade of the Roasted Pig) in Balayan, Batangas on June 24th that also coincides with the Feast of St John the Baptist.
photo from
The other one is the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival held on June 29 in Tacloban, Leyte. The town folks parade through the town with colorful body paints to recall their ancient warrior tradition that tattoos represented bravery and prestige.

In July, there are two festivals that are getting popular nationwide. The Bocaue River Festival is held every first Sunday of July in Bocaue, Bulacan. The highlight of the fiesta is a fluvial procession in honor of the miraculous Cross of Bocaue. Devotees douse each other with water as they scramble to ride the pagoda boat.
photo from
The second festival is the Sandugo ( means one blood) held in Tagbilaran, Bohol in the 3rd week of July. The festival celebrates the blood compact between Datu Sikatuna and Miquel Lopez de Legaspi. There is street dancing, shows, trade fairs and beauty contests.

In August, I heard of only one festival. It is held in Davao City every 3rd week of August. They named the festival " Kadayawan Sa Dabaw". The festival give thanks to the bounty of fruits and flowers,such as the waling-waling orchid blooms. Colorful floats are decorated with beautiful orchids and other flowers in the grand parade. This reminds me of the Pasadena Rose Parade on New Years Day here in California.

Photo from
In September there is the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia held every 3rd Saturday of September in Naga City, Camarines Sur. I have attended this festival during my college days at the University of the Philippines in the early 1950's. My dorm mate was from Naga City and he invited me to stay with his family for a couple of days to observe the festivities. There was a fluvial parade where the image of the Lady of Penafrancia was carried through the river aglow with floating candles.
photo from
In October, there is the Maskara Festival held every 3rd week of October in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Mask making is the main activity during this festival. It commemorates Bacolod City Charter Day. There are brass bands, parades, beauty contest and street dancing where the local folks show off their beautiful masks.
photo from
In November, there is the Higantes (Giant) Festival held in Angono, Rizal around the 3rd week of the month. This is in honor of St Clements, the town's patron saint. Its image is carried in a procession that features pahadores, clad in colorful garb and wooden shoes. They carry boat paddles and Higantes(10 ft tall) made of paper mache puppets.

Lastly, in December there are two festivals, worthy of mention. One is the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. It is celebrated the whole month, but culminates in a judging contest for the best, biggest and most beautiful Christmas lantern made by local craftsmen.

Photo from
The second festival is the Binirayan Festival in San Jose, Antique held at the last week of December. Ethnic pageantry reaches a new high in the beaches of Maybato, San Jose, where the drama of the first Malay settlement is played out.

There are other unknown little festivals in the whole country. Each town in the Christian Roman Catholic Philippines has a patron saint. So, every town has a fiesta and when fiesta time Filipinos celebrate, and forget the worries and problems of daily living at least just for one day. I love fiestas and if you have not attended one, you are missing a part of what the Philippines is all about. If you know of any other fiesta, I have not mention please feel free to share.

Things To Do in Marinduque

There are numerous things to do in Marinduque during your vacation. But the following ten items are my recommendations:
1.Beach combing, snorkeling, bathing , scuba diving and sunset watching
This photo was taken at the balcony of the Beach House. Note that low tide is starting and the corals are starting to stick out also.

2.Caves Exploration-Spelunking. There are two caves worthy of exploration-Bathala in Santa Cruz and Tarug in Mogpog. The Bathala Cave consist of eight other caves. One of the caves has a resident python. Photo by

3.Island Hopping- The Tres Reyes Islands Marine Sanctuary, Polo and Maniwaya Islands.
This is Maniwaya island being develop as an alternative to Boracay, photo by

4.Shopping for Morion masks and native handicrafts- nito products,wood carvings and potteries. This is a nito handbag, a popular gift item. Photo by

5.Trip Around the Island-Sulfur and Hot Springs, Poctoy White Beach and Mt Malindig
This is Poctoy White Beach with Mt Malindig in the background in Torrijos, the most popular beach in the province.

6.Partaking and Enjoying the island delicacies- Ginatan na Manok sa Gata, bibingka, kare-kare and ulang-ulang soup. Photo of bibingka by, yum, yum, it is delicious.

7.Join or just watch the Moriones Festival during Holy Week. Women Moriones Participants-photo by

8.Visit 400 year-old churches, ( Boac, Gasan and Santa Cruz )and antique homes in downtown Boac. This is one of the many antique houses in downtown Boac. This one is owned by my sister-in-law, Mrs Siony Jambalos. It is located just across the Boac Hotel.
The Green Mansion photo by Dong Ho
9.Watch colorful butterflies (in the butterfly farms) or native birds ( bird watching) in the foothills of Mt. Malindig. This is a monarch butterfly. Photo by

10.Treat yourself to the most expensive and luxurious resort in Southern Luzon- The Bellarocca Resort and Spa in Buenavista or pamper yourself to an affordable private beach resort at Chateau Du Mer in Boac. The Beach House and Bridge at twilight.

For details visit the following websites: or
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