Things to do at Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao City

Things to do at Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao City

          Ever heard of a hill without a top? How about a hill with a crater? Some of you who have not must be curious now? Alright then, I’ll tell you more interesting things about this place. This hill is located at Barangay Tuburan, Ligao City of Albay province in the Philippines. The locals call the hill “Kawa-kawa”. “Kawa” means cauldron. It is also known as a hill without a top because from a distance it looks like as if the top is flat. Imagine a bowl turned upside down. But then again, it is a hill with a crater because if you manage to go up to the top you will see that the hill hides a beautiful six-hectare crater covered with a luscious green grass and landscape.

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            Before Kawa-Kawa Hill was developed into what it is now, the hill was previously used by local farmers growing and harvesting corns and coconut. The hill has been frequently visited by locals for jogging, trekking and picnics although there was no proper road or path yet until the development on 2008 started.
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              From the year 2008 up to the present year 2017 a lot has been developed on the hill. One has not to feel any boredom when going up to Kawa-kawa because there are a lot of things for you to spend your time with when you are there. Kawa-kawa Hill is good for any individual be it spiritual, mental and physical. I have listed few things about Kawa-kawa Hill to give you some ideas before you tour around. Number thirteen is my favorite.  It even became an inspiration for the birth of now popular festival in the city of Ligao. Read on.

  1. Free Admission. That’s right! No matter if you are a local or from other towns, Filipino or not, it is absolutely no entrance fee. Too good to be true? But it really is. It is open for the public so people can learn to embrace the environment and nature.

Lazada Philippines

  1. Nurture Your Soul. This is not just an ordinary hill. When you arrive at the road leading to the path up the hill, you will see a religious building being built halfway the hill. That will be the “Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery”. It is being built gradually through donations and ran by nuns from the Carmelite of the Holy Trinity, Diocese of Legazpi. “Footprints in the Shrine” would let you leave your footprints as your legacy so you can help build the shrine and statue of the Divine Mercy. You can also light colored candles.
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“Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery”
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Inside “Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery”
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Footprints in the Shrine!
  1. Closer to Nature. The hill is covered with plants and trees. Mostly Pili trees. Starting from the foot of Kawa-kawa you would see Pili trees lined-up at the sidewalks all the way to the top. Not only this introduces pili background to locals and tourist but also provides shades when you go up to the Hill any time of the day. You will see flowers like kalachuchi (Plumeria acuminata), gumamela (hibiscus) and sunflowers blooming everywhere. The crater or lowest section of the hill is an open space though. It is covered with grass and some plants. This is where various events and activities are held like Jamboree, training and zumba.
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Pili trees lined-up at the sidewalks
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Blooming flowers at Kawa-kawa Hill
  1. Great Excercise. Since it is a hill, you should expect that it is steep. Therefore, before you go up it would be advisable to wear comfortable footwear, clothes and do some warm-up. Everyday Kawa-kawa is visited by people from Ligao City and nearby towns to have a jog or merely a morning walk.
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Pathwalk and stairs at Kawa-kawa Hill
  1. Life-size Statues of Stations of the Cross. Starting from the “Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery” you’ll pass life-size statues of the Station of the Cross. They’ve used the New Way of the Cross, which is the third version. The first station is the “Last Supper” and the fourteenth station is that “Jesus Rises from Death.” During Lenten Season, Christmas and Three Kings locals and especially devotees from other places come to Kawa-kawa Hill to perform some religious rites.
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First Station “The Last Supper”
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Tenth Station “The Repentant Thief”
  1. Picnics. Although there are restaurants, café, and convenient store near Kawa-kawa you can definitely bring your own food for a picnic up. Cottages are free or you can also bring a picnic blanket and find a perfect place to set-up. Along the way going up, you’d pass some vendors that sells chips and drinks. Once you settled yourselves in a cottage, on a picnic blanket or you just felt sitting on the grass, indulge and reward yourselves with the foods you have brought. You can also buy some foods like lumpia(spring roll), chicharron (Crispy Pork Rind), ice drops and many more from local vendors that come around to sell their products. Practice CLAY GO (Clean as you go). You got in for free so it just right to not leave any litters around as respect to people who worked hard to maintain its cleanliness.
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A pleasingly rich covered green-grass crater
  1. Restaurant. If you did not bother to bring your snacks or picnic foods or choose not to buy any, you can also opt to drop by a popular restaurant on the way back. The restaurants’ names are La Terraza Restaurant and Kainan Sa Gulod, they are open every day. They serve different local cuisines. It has become so popular for occasion like wedding, birthdays and simple events. But they accept walk-in customers without prior booking.

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  1. ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle). You’ll find them in the crater of the Hill. You can pay for a ride for a few minutes experience.
  1. The Breeze. When you reach the top after you took a 10-15 minutes hike from the foot of the Hill, you would love the breeze that blows from all direction. Depending on the weather, the breeze may be cold or a little warmer. However, it will always give you a fresh feeling after you got all sweaty of the hike.
  1. Wild animals. Check out the captive or rescued animals like deers at the crater of the hill and eagles at the top of the hill. Although these animals live inside a cage, the cages are tall and wide and the animals are well- looked after.
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Deers at Kawa-kawa Hill
  1. The View. Enjoy the panoramic view of Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Buhi from the top. From morning until afternoon you’ll see the view of the towns if you will stand at the top western part of the hill. In the evening, you can just sit at the same spot and gaze at the city lights until 8 pm.

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  1. Souvenirs. For visitors who want to take home to family and friends some souvenirs or memento, the The Carmelite Monastery has its own souvenir shop and few vendors are also selling souvenirs along the way. You can buy different items for a reasonable price.

  1. Sunflowers. Every summer, Ligao City grows sunflower all over the town. You will see sunflowers widely-spread on Kawa-kawa Hill. For this, Ligao City has been celebrating Sunflower Festival, too. At this writing, the flowers have just started to bloom. Just a few more days and they will blossom into these big yellow glorious flowers whose sight would give you a sheer feeling excitement and joy.
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Sunflowers at Kawa-kawa Hill

It is Lenten Season. Perfect time to visit Kawa-Kawa Hill.

A Family Dinner at Balay Cena Una in Daraga, Albay

A Family Dinner at Balay Cena Una in Daraga, Albay

Last January 2017, we had our first immediate family reunion (on my father’s side).  We had planned several indoor and outdoor activities for the week beginning from the 1st of January which happened to be day of arrival of our relatives from Australia. And one of the most awaited events was the special dinner as we knew this would only be the time when most of us would be able to attend as others had prior commitments.

The family reunion dinner has been decided to be held at the now well-known local restaurant called Balay Cena Una located in Daraga, Albay which was just 30 minutes away from Ligao City where we reside. There were other restaurants available around the local area particularly in Legazpi City but we have chosen Balay Cena Una because of the good reviews we read about its ambiance, service and the variety of local cuisines they offer.
Great vacation places to stay at www.HomeAway.AsiaBecause the 1st of January was a very busy season being a New Year’s Day and a public holiday, we made sure that we had a table booking for 16 persons in order to avoid inconvenience. We made a reservation for dinner with the restaurant one month in advance. The restaurant staffs I spoke with were very welcoming and helpful. Communication with Balay Cena Una restaurant was never a problem. They could easily be reached anytime by email or mobile phone. They responded promptly to any queries within the day. That was a demonstration of great customer service which must be one of the reasons why the restaurants has such good reviews.

Although we had been provided with the Set of Meals sent through text so we could order ahead of time, we opted to just order the meals onsite upon arrival so each of us could get what food we would prefer for dinner.  Again, that was alright to Balay Cena Una even though they had already notified us that they did not have enough staffs working that night. We very much appreciated their effort to serve us.

It was raining when we headed to the Balay Cena Una on board an old but reliable jeepney.  From a distance, we could very well see that it was indeed an “old house” which is what the name of the restaurant actually means.  It is a Spanish ancestral house which was restored and transformed into a fine-dining restaurant. Almost all of us had not been to the restaurant before so it was truly delightful to be able to experience it and so exciting because it was with the family.
Great vacation places to stay at www.HomeAway.AsiaWhen we arrived at the Balay Cena Una, the huge double door main door has a sign of “Abierto! Dagos tabi” that means “Open! Please come in.” So, we did!

As we entered, we instantly felt the beautiful ambience of the place. The yellow lights added more historical atmosphere and the music playing in background was so gentle and calm. We could still feel Christmas inside Balay Cena Una.

The dinner was set at 6.00 o’clock in the evening, we all gathered cheerfully at the restaurant. As previously agreed, most of the family members were wearing something red to make the dinner reunion more festive and just so we have the so called theme which is so popular nowadays.  We were all happy that after almost five years the family was again gathered together.

So many old pictures and collector’s items are on display which makes the restaurant more than just a place to dine. The interior design from ceiling to floor was definitely old style including the windows and furniture. I took some photos the display and one of them which I found so amusing was the miniature carousel.

Miniature Carousel at Balay Cena Una

The table we booked was waiting for us upstairs. We all went and climbed up the steps of the wooden olden staircases. Still admiring every part of the house, we all slowly settled ourselves and sat at our reserved table. Even though there was just one group of diners beside us, we thought we had to make the order as soon as possible as the meals were still to be cooked and we did not want the Chef to get stressed and compromised the taste of our foods.

It did not take a long time for us to order for 16 persons as we all pretty much knew what we wanted to eat and try in the restaurant. Their main dish recipes were mostly Bicolano’s – foods that were cooked in “gata” or “coconut milk” like the famous Bicol Express, Kinunot and many more. They also serve international cuisines as well as bake their own cakes. From what I gathered, they supply cakes to some café in Legazpi City.  The cakes could be pre-ordered to any size you require or they can come as bite size pastries dessert like how we had for our desserts. It’s a perfect chance to experience the cakes’ unique sweetness and flavorings.

Our long table was bursting with different dishes including their specials that it actually looked over-crowded but in a positive and festive way. With all the sumptuous meals in front of us and we did not know which one to eat first! They were all delicious!

I wasn’t able to take pictures of the foods we ordered as we were very much engaged in conversation among one another while we ate to our hearts content. We probably stayed for 3 hours chatting and eating.  It was such a great time.    After we have stuffed our tummies of the delicious foods by Balay Cena Una and took family pictures, we headed home carrying a family experience to remember. It was indeed a very joyful moment for the entire family.

We are very grateful to Balay Cena Una for the evening of sumptuous and delicious meals!

They say Balay Cena Una is one of Albay’s best secrets.  Not secret anymore! As we are letting others know about this place!

Balay Cena Una

F. Lotivio St. Bgy. Bagumbayan, Daraga, AlbayPhilippines 4501

Restaurant Hours:

Monday to Saturday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm

Sunday: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm

Sunday Buffet: 11:30 am to 2:30 pm

Tel. number:  +63.52.435.4338

Mobile no. :   +63.917.827.9520

Like their FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/cenauna

Great vacation places to stay at www.HomeAway.Asia
Great vacation places to stay at www.HomeAway.Asia

Exploring Sydney, Australia

Exploring Sydney, Australia

         I finally got the chance to write about my experiences whilst I was in Australia. Had a good three months of escapade in Down Under.  Allow me to start by telling you about the first two days since I arrived at the Sydney International Airport and rode the Double-Decker train to our next destination.

First Day in Sydney, Australia

Tourists

circular-quay           From the Circular Quay train station, I together with my aunt walked just few more meters to the Manly Fast Ferry to have a good view of the Sydney Opera House passing the wave of passengers and tourists from the massive cruise ship docked at that time. It was a beautiful sunny day in Australia. Just perfect for a summer stroll.
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Sydney Opera House View at Circular Quay

sydney-opera-house-view-at-circular-quay          I suppose mostly if not everyone had already watched “Finding Nemo”. Do you remember the moment when Marlin (Nemo’s father) and Dory surfaced the water in front the Sydney Opera House? I think I felt the same thing. I was so overjoyed same with Marlin because he feels like Nemo is within his reach but anxious at the same time for the scenery was so huge, unfamiliar and too beautiful to be true.

Seagulls at First Fleet Park, Circular Quay

seagulls-at-first-fleet-park-circular-quay         Pardon me but I have to mention “Finding Nemo” for the second time because these cute little charming birds in the photos I took reminded me of the movie which was by the way set where else but in Australia particularly The Great Barrier Reefs and Sydney! Do you remember them? Yes! That’s correct; they were the birds shouting the word “mine” over and over. If you can feed doves in Milan, then you have seagulls at Circular Quay.

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          The picture above shows the Cruise ship with passengers walking by with the Sydney Opera House in the background. This was our view from the First Fleet Park where we sat to watch the people.
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Stray Bird at First Fleet Park

stray-bird-at-first-fleet-park          We took a little rest under the shades of trees to avoid getting darker skin. It was summer in Australia when I came. We were enjoying the lovely place and people when I was startled by a bird bigger that a chicken from the Philippines. Probably, it was the same size of a goose. Size was not a problem, what surprised me was it was walking in a city along with the people. This bird is not even scared with our presence. It even stopped in front of us to scratched its’ neck not afraid to be weak while it’s near us. It was just strolling peacefully in its’ land. There, I started falling in love with the country. Wondering how safe to live here that even wildlife is free to move without being threatened.

George Street

george-street          Did you know that George Street was known as Sydney’s original high street or possibly the first street in Australia? You’ve read it right. That is why I was dumbfounded by George Street when I first saw it that I sat on a bench nearby and indulge in the beauty of the historical street.  You can certainly say the buildings and the street have so many stories to tell. It was just very lovely experience.

          The rest of the afternoon was almost up and it was time to check-in to the hotel. We rode a cab going to the hotel at Kings Cross where we will be staying for two nights. That was the first time I spent my night in unfamiliar land and experiencing daylight saving time for the first time felt real weird. It was already 8 pm but then sun was still up. Looks like 5 pm in the Philippines.
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Second Day in Sydney, Australia

       On the second day in Sydney, we started the day with a nice breakfast at a nearby café. Then afterwards, we started to walk from Kings Cross trying to find the way to the St. Mary’s Cathedral. After the long walk and wrong turn we finally arrived at our first destination for the day. There we stayed for an hour or so.  Then when we had enough, we headed to the Hyde Park, a museum, all the way to the Sydney Opera House. We may not have seen all of Sydney’s streets when we walked for nine hours but everything I’ve seen that day was all worth it.

       sydney-australia          We passed by some old churches, old huge trees and agapanthus flowers and quickly took photographs while walking. Guess, you can call that a photo-walk.

St. Mary’s Cathedral


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         The only church we were able to get into was St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was certainly beautiful and as being the fourth tallest church in Australia I can say that it is seriously huge. You can even see it from afar. What made me like it even more was, it has a Gothic-styled architecture.

st-marys-cathedral-from-hyde-park         This is another shot of St. Mary’s Cathedral from Hyde Park.

inside-of-st-marys-cathedral         We took the entrance facing Hyde Park. I was a little amazed to see tinted glass wall from ceiling to floor. I wondered if the church was open for the public. Luckily, a woman passed us hurriedly and pushed a part of the glass and she got in. We followed her inside and what we saw inside was indescribably divine. Inside we found towering candles, the statue of St. Mary and paintings. We stepped in a little more and saw the huge yellow lit church. It was so beautiful and peaceful the inside and was just extremely sanctified.
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Hyde Park


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         Hyde Park is the oldest public parkland in Australia. We didn’t have enough time to explore all parts of the park but still being able to walk through it was a very pleasant feeling. I took few pictures of the activities inside the Hyde Park. There were locals and tourist enjoying the scenery. There was a giant chess board on the ground and I think anyone can play with it. I also witnessed a street performance near the fountain.

Barracks Museum

barracks-museum             We did not get inside the museum but we took our time to look around its grounds. There were rooms at the side of the museum some were closed and some were open. We were curious enough to investigate and took some photo as a proof.

old-style-trial-court         We saw an old style trial court in one of the rooms.

Sydney Opera House

sydney-opera-house-and-sydney-harbour-bridge       This time we got a closer look of the Sydney Opera House. So close that I got to touch it. I was so excited like a child that got her ice cream when I had my photos taken while touching this most famous place in Australia. Some people around must be feeling the same.  We didn’t get the chance to look inside the Sydney Opera House. We just spent time walking around it.  We also had a better view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sailboats in the harbour. They were amazing. To see these places in person is a dream come true and a moment of my life to remember.
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Double-Decker Train

Double-Decker Train

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Double-Decker Train

I was so fortunate to have been given the chance to visit Australia for three months from December 2015 to March 2016. It was a wonderful experience that deserves to be shared to people who love places, nature and travelling. It was my first international flight and I was travelling by myself. The plane landed at Sydney International Airport. I was so overwhelmed because I have finally set my feet in a foreign land – The Land Down Under.

The feeling was completely indescribable from the moment the plane took off until I took the queue to collect my luggage. My aunt was at the airport there waiting for me. My adventure has officially started in the “Land of the Giants”. It is great to share my best and epic experience from the moment we left the airport – on board the double-decker train. Most of us are familiar with the double decker bus such as one of those in “Harry Potter” movie saga. However, not everyone is aware that there is a double-decker train. Well, perhaps someone like me who is from a third world country haven’t heard about it.

First time I’ve seen a double-decker train and I was in total awe. It was the first awesome experience I’ve had from the famous Sydney or should I say second because the first was when I saw Labradors sniffing on luggage of selected arriving passengers and I was one of the lucky persons to experience that. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing though.

Anyway, going back to my main topic, when I saw the first double-decker train I almost shrieked with excitement, fortunately I was still able to take a photograph some of its part as you can see on the picture. We waited for the next train to ride which only took more or less ten minutes. On to our next destination which was the Circular Quay.

First Photography Class

First Photography Class

Beyond-the-Auto-Dial, P,S,A,M, DSLR-Camera
Beyond the Auto-Dial

I dreamed of having my own DSLR camera. It took me years to finally have one. Some people would think it’s not practical to buy an expensive camera when there are cheap ones available and you can already use smart phones to take beautiful pictures in this century. However, whoever dreaming of taking a creative shot beyond what the naked eyes can see will surely understand me.

I learned basic photography from my friend who is more than willing to share her knowledge to me on how to operate a DSLR camera. Then, when I got my own DSLR camera I was able to explore and understand more about its buttons and functions of each.
CyberLink

Every day I keep on learning, eager to feed myself more knowledge and techniques. I’ve been lucky to be enrolled on a short course in iTeachPhotographers. On the first day of the course, in a matter of few hours I learned new information and had a brighter understanding about P, S, A and M modes, that I had trouble before for quite some time.

We always love to share this kind of experience to people with hungry minds like ours. Stay connected, we will keep you posted for more stories.

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