Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monfort Bat Colony (Samal Island)

One of the most spectacular sight in Samal Island in Mindanao is the circadian flight of around 1.8 million Geoffroy’s Rousette Fruit Bats – considered as the largest colony of such bats in the world. Monfort Bat Colony is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The colony is a privately owned property and there are minimal entrance fees (Php 100.00 per person during our last visit). But for the experience, I think the fees are definitely worth it provided that it is used for the place’s improvement and conservation.

When we arrived in Samal Island, we were very excited to see this colony. We were met by its staff and explained to us some of the rudiments and exceptional characteristics of bats. The lecture, though brief, was able to cover substantial topics about bats and the various conservation efforts that are being made to preserve these creatures whose numbers are dwindling due to several factors including habitat loss. It is said that there were at least seventy (70) caves in the whole of Samal Island but at this time there are only five (5) left which all can be found at the Monfort Bat Colony.

Since we arrived at around noon, we were advised to return before sunset if we like to see the Geoffroy’s Rousette Fruit Bats getting out of their caves and flying in millions. Despite our hectic schedule on the island, we took time to return and see this circadian flight. As the sun begins to set, we knew we are about to witness an spectacle of nature replicated daily if preserved and protected but can never be experienced again once destroyed.

The experience of seeing a million bats getting out of their caves or holes at dusk is an eerie sight. It is like Halloween unfolding at your very eyes. The bats would fly in circles as if following a flight protocol before leaving to find food, to mate or do whatever they please. The bats appear to know where they are headed and fly without any form of hesitation nor bumping with one another – a demonstration of what is called as “echolocation” according to the caretaker.

We observed the phenomenon and it is one that everyone should at least see in a lifetime. This spectacle may no longer be around in the future given the rapid development of islands in the Philippines. Samal Island is of no exception.  During our visit, we can see that the plague of urbanization is slowly afflicting the island- new roads are being constructed reaching areas as far as Pearl Farm Resort. While there is nothing wrong in development essentially, efforts have to be made to ensure that natural resources are protected and preserved which is not in most cases.

When we travel, it seems that the whole exercise is a race against time. It is a race to see places before they succumb to the perils of development. I often ask how long can these bats survive in such great numbers in Samal Island? These creatures cannot be kept in a cage or in a zoo. Their habitat is far reaching and perhaps covers the whole island of Samal.  To preserve these bats the whole island of Samal and its natural habitat has to be protected which is definitely a Herculean if not an impossible task.

These fruit bats play a vital role in Samal’s ecosystem and perhaps in the whole ecosystem of the world if we think how everything is naturally  interconnected.  The bats are known to feed on fruits where they help to propagate seeds by dispersing them in various locations. In this manner, it can be said that the famous Durian of Davao are dependent on these bats for their survival and reproduction.

The holes or caves in the Monfort Bat Colony are subject to some sort of a strict “caste system”.  In these caves, younger males, females, mothers caring for their young, older and dominant bats segregate themselves occupying a particular  cave. This “caste system” is being followed religiously apparently as we saw an organized system of living in each cave in the chaotic world of the bats.

The smell of “guano” or bat droppings is very difficult to bear and is something one has to survive when visiting the Monfort Bat Colony. Awful smell is all over the place and it varies in different degrees depending on the cave. Covering your nose when visiting the colony is of little help. 

But despite the smell, Monfort Bat Colony is a very interesting and fascinating place to visit in Samal Island. Aside from beach resorts, the island has just earned bragging rights in having the largest colony of such bats in the world. Again, seeing these bats in great numbers seem to be a battle against time. There is absolutely no assurance that this spectacle would still be there in the coming years. You got to see it while its there...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paras Beach Resort (Camiguin)

What is ideal about Paras Beach Resort is its nearness to White Island. In fact, we can see the island or sandbar from the resort. It has its own boats that can ferry guests to White Island before that amazing sunset.

When we arrived in Paras, we felt relieved seeing a resort that is simple and clean. Its hammock was an immediate resting place. After a less than an hour of air travel and seeing Camiguin with all its simplicity, this resort complements that feeling of arriving to a place away from the chaos that is Metro Manila.

Paras Beach Resort is just a few minutes away from the only airport in Camiguin which at this time is exclusive only to Cebu Pacific. Getting here from the airport in Mambadjao is without the horrendous traffic common in Metro Manila. We thus arrived without much hassle.

The hammock is not only the place where it is good to relax in Paras. The whole resort facing the sea gives a very relaxing ambience where guests can just sit down and look at the horizon and rest. There is a swimming pool, a view deck and a restaurant.  However, the resort lacks a beachfront ideal for swimming.

We were booked only overnight and time seems to move fast. Everything feels like to be moving at a fast pace. We wanted more time to enjoy this resort. But we don't have the luxury of time. We are on a schedule to tour Camiguin Countryside and be back to this resort to visit White Island. 

The strategic location of Paras Beach Resort is perfect for travelers without the luxury of time. Its proximity to White Island is enough for a quick trip after visiting Camiguin's Countryside and its places of interest such as the Sto. Nino Cold Springs, Ardent Hot Springs, Sunken Cemetery, Old Church Ruins, Katibawasan Falls and a lot more. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

City of Dreams Manila (Paranaque)

The name is intriguing itself "City of Dreams Manila" is somehow synonymous with the fulfillment of everyone’s heart and desires.

This “City of Dreams” is actually a newly built shining building with a golden facade within the vicinity of Paranaque in Asean Avenue Corner Roxas Boulevard near the Department of Foreign Affairs, Solaire and SNR Shopping Center. It rests on the reclaimed portion of Manila Bay together with other hotels, condominiums and one of the biggest malls in the Philippines.

The golden color of the building immediately evokes grandeur, richness and of being world class. From the road, the golden façade of the building cannot be missed. At night, most of the building glows showing varied color of illumination.  As I look outside the City of Dreams, I thought of Macau. I imagined what it would be like if the whole reclaimed area is transformed to a “Macau like” place. Just like Solaire and Resorts World, City of Dreams ushers in a new level of entertainment not only in Paranaque but also in the entire Philippines.

Several posh restaurants, high-end stores and entertainment venues are set to open or are already in operation in the City of Dreams such as Ruby Jack's Steakhouse and Bar, Roberto Cavalli, Chaos Bar, Rolex, Piaget Hermes Montblanc, Rimowa Luggage, and a lot more.   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

King's Indian Defense (Four Pawns Attack)

Larry Christiansen vs. Garry Kasparov
King's Indian Defense (Four Pawns Attack)
Moscow, 1982

It is very intimidating to face the Four Pawns Attack of the King's Indian Defense. Once White is able to set up four pawns to occupy the center of the board,  he undoubtedly gains space and often the advantage. Control of the center squares is very important in the game of chess. It is the center squares (e4, e5, d4, d5, c4, c5, f4 and f5) which are often the center of contention. It is said the "centralization" is the key in winning a chess game.

During the early stages of the game, white was able to gain control of the center squares. But, Kasparov was able to ingeniously create favorable situations for his pieces and suddenly something strange appeared on the board where three black pawns occupying a single file.  In high level games such as this, it is extraordinary to see such a formation.  At first, white gains full control of the center but as the game progresses, Kasparov was able to conquer the "d file" with his pawns move by move.

After 28.__Rfe8.  After Black's 28th move,  an unusual position appeared on the chessboard. 
The game is a very good example on how to play against the four pawns attack of the Kings Indian Defense. It is worth the time to re-play this game. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Azumi Boutique Hotel (Alabang, Muntinlupa)

Azumi Boutique Hotel is walking distance from the Alabang Town Center - around five to ten minutes walk depending on the pace. It is very near a Shell Gasoline Station at the Madrigal Business Park - a quaint and dark painted building almost behind the gasoline station.

The hotel is just right for its size.  It is small compared to other hotels but it has demonstrated an intelligent use of space both in design and use of colors. Its walls are painted white mostly accentuated by dark colors creating an apparently much bigger space.

The lobby manned by friendly staff desperately attends to the need of the guests at Christmas Eve.  We were asked for a P1,000.00 deposit refundable upon check-out and we were required to sign a “waiver” releasing the hotel  from responsibility in the event of any untoward incident at their infinity pool located at its roof deck.

We booked a “Queen Room” overnight priced at P3,117.80 [USD 69.87]. Mirrors on the wall have made the room looked bigger than its actual size.  The wood design of the floors and the orange color of the pieces of the furniture complement the entire room giving assurance of a relaxing stay.  The floor to ceiling glass window gives a view of the outside world making the room ideal for a little sightseeing. Blinds can be pulled down for more privacy.

The  Queen room is air conditioned, complete with a Queen Sized Bed, a couch convertible to a single bed, a led TV, safety deposit box, microwave oven, refrigerator and a coffee or tea making equipment. The bathroom is clean, with basic amenities, with a glass wall where blinds can be pulled down for privacy.

Breakfast is not included in the price. Guests however can purchase a “voucher or ticket” for a buffet breakfast at P 350 per person. Breakfast is at their “Romulo Café” with a historical feel as the white painted walls are decorated by old photos of the great man.

During breakfast, I think their service may need some improvement.  With the number of guests at that time the hotel seemed to be undermanned. The food is of good quality but not that awesome compared to what is served at Taal Vista Hotel. Of course, it may not be right to compare the two hotels given the difference in their price range.

There were a handful of guests who opted to spend Christmas at this hotel located exactly at 2205 Market Street, Madrigal Business Park Phase III, Alabang, Muntinlupa (Tel Nos. +6328699888; +6323829864). The hotel’s location is ideal for a short walk to various establishments including the St. Jerome Church were we attended mass that evening of December 24.

We never had any problem in the parking. The number of vehicles at that time was well enough to be accommodated at its parking located at the lower floors of the hotel. The elevators however were quite small and we need to wait several times for our turn to ride.

Azumi provides a good vantage view of Alabang and the whole Madrigal Business Park. At the infinity pool, we can see Laguna Lake and far-away areas. The infinity pool is just right for its size and is lighted at night. Guests specially those with children should take extra precaution when using the swimming pool precisely due to its location. It is a shallow pool and we have not seen any lifeguards during our stay.

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