Only in the Philippines: Riding on Wooden Scooters at 50 Kilometers Per Hour

The municipality of Banaue, in the Philippines, is widely known for its spectacular rice terraces, but few people know it’s also the setting of a traditional race that has daredevils riding wooden scooters downhill at speeds of up to 50 kph, without any kind of protection.

The wooden scooter has long been the preferred means of transportation for Ifugao (Philippine for “people of the hill) in Banaue, and is still used today, as a cheaper alternative to gas-powered motorcycles and scooters. They were created centuries ago to help people travel downhill faster. The men-folk had to walk up the surrounding hills almost every day to gather firewood and tend to their rice crops, and carrying the load back down was an exhausting task that took them hours to complete. People started making light scooters almost entirely out of wood, and pushed them uphill whenever they had something to transport back to their village. At the top, they would simply strap the load on both sides of the vehicle and let gravity take them back down in a matter of minutes. In time, making wooden scooters became an art form, and masters of the craft began decorating them with all kinds of designs, from local animals and birds to human heads. Today, the Ifugao still celebrate this useful invention by participating in a seven-kilometer wooden scooter race down a steep road along the famous Banaue Rice Terraces.


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The Dancing Inmates of the Philippines

The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, in the Philippines, has become internationally famous for using choreographed dancing to rehabilitate dangerous inmates. Videos of their dance routines have registered tens of millions of views on sites like YouTube, and the prison itself is now a tourist attraction of sorts.

Prison life is tough everywhere – well, maybe except Norway – and the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is no exception. Inmates sleep on hard pallets, share their cells with around a dozen other roommates and have a very strict schedule of work. But at least they get to dance. The truth is they don’t have a choice, because apart from the elderly and the sick, every one of the almost 2,000 prisoners is required to take part in the jail’s now-famous dance routines. Most of them enjoy doing it, because it takes their minds off their problems, keeps them away from drugs and violence, and teaches them discipline. In fact, two former inmates went on to become professional dancers when they got out. Introducing dancing as a rehabilitation technique was the idea of security consultant Byron Garcia. He was brought in to Cebu Prison in 2004, to deal with the constant riots. He moved the prisoners from an ancient stockade to a larger, more modern facility, fired dozens of corrupt guards, broke up gangs, banned the use of cash and introduced dancing. That last measure made the biggest difference. Violence subsided and the inmates health and behavior improved dramatically. Yet no one took notice…


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Lighting Up Christmas – The Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando

The Philippines is home to a variety of Christmas traditions, but particularly famous is the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, the capital of the province of Pampanga, a 1.5 hour ride from Manila. Locally, the festival is known as the Ligligan Parul. It showcases the most popular product of Pampanga – the ‘parol’, or lighted stars. The artisans of Pampanga are renowned for their ability to create the biggest and most elaborate parol in the country. Each year, the best parol makers of the region show off their creations at the Giant Lantern Festival, vying for the title of ‘winning parol’ and lighting up the night sky.

In the early days, parol had simple star shaped designs, but they have evolved a lot over the years. Today, the biggest ones are about 40 feet in diameter and shapes vary from floral patterns to religious symbols. They are generally made from materials like soft drink straws, crepe paper, glass, plastic, bamboo dowels, and some even contain assorted electronic parts. For the artists who make the parol, excelling at their work is a matter of pride and building a reputation. Several hours go into the making just one of these superb works of art, and the cost can rise to several thousand dollars. Of course, once the Holiday Season is over, their creations have little use.

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Jeepney Buses – Art on Wheels in the Philippines

Adorned with colorful accessories and shiny fixtures, the Jeepney buses of the Philippines are probably the most flamboyant means of public transportation in the world, rivaling even the art trucks of Pakistan.

Jeepneys are the most popular means of transportation in the Philippines, and are considered a symbol of the archipelago, despite recent controversy regarding their heavily-polluting emissions. The history of Jeepney buses dates back to the final days of World War II. When American forces withdrew from the Philippines, they either left behind or sold hundreds of surplus jeeps. The country’s public transportation had been destroyed by the war, so people started modifying the jeeps to accommodate more passengers and classified them as passenger-style jeeps. Recognizing the wide-spread use of these new vehicles, the Filipino government soon regulated their use.

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Living with the Dead – Manila’s Cemetery Dwellers

Graveyards in Manila can be a strange sight for first-time visitors. Some of them hold a strong resemblance to mini-townships, with no sign of the eerie quietness that usually shrouds such spaces. Mausoleums house shops that sell canned sardines, noodle packs, candy, candles and other essential items. Even prepaid cards for mobile phones are available. Meals and drinks are sold at informal restaurants set up between graves. The walls are scaled with makeshift ladders, helping inhabitants to get in and out with ease. Wondering why in the world would the dead need such conveniences? Well, they’re not for the dead, but for the living. Several thousand homeless people in Manila have made graveyards their permanent homes. The biggest graveyard of the Filipino capital, North Cemetery, is now like a small village in itself with a population of 10,000.

I’m not sure about for long this has been going on, but it must be a pretty long time considering that some inhabitants have actually inherited mausoleums from their great-grandparents, and ended up living there accidentally. But a majority of the graveyard population consists of those who come from the provinces of Philippines to the big city and are unable to make ends meet. Apart from running shops and eateries, the people here make a living by working with the graves. At funerals, teenagers carry coffins for 50 pesos (about 50 cents), adult men are employed to repair and maintain tombs, while women take care of cleaning mausoleums. Children collect plastic, scrap metal and other garbage, which are eventually sold.

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Filipino Restaurant at the Foot of a Waterfall

Located in the Quezon province of the Philippines, Villa Escudero is a nice hacienda-style resort with cozy rooms and an exotic atmosphere. But what brought its international fame is the waterfall restaurant that allows tourists to enjoy a nice meal right at the foot of a small waterfall.

In most cases, getting too close to a waterfall can prove deadly, but not at this particular restaurant, at Villa Escudero. Here, people are actually encouraged to take off their shoes and get as close to the falls as possible. Set right at the foot of Labasin Falls, this special place invites customers to taste popular Filipino dishes, while fresh spring water from the falls flows under and over their feet, making this an unforgettable experience. As you can imagine, it’s nowhere near as impressive as Niagara, but visitors who don’t mind getting their clothes wet can sit right under the rushing waterfall and get their pictures taken. Words just don’t do this fantastic tourist attraction justice, so I’ll let the photos and video do the talking.

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Superman Fan Undergoes Plastic Surgery to Look Like His Favorite Superhero

Herbert Chavez, a Superman fan from the Philippines, is so obsessed with the Man of Steel that he underwent several plastic surgery procedures just to look like his favorite superhero.

According to a video report by Bandila News’ Marie Lozano, 35-year-old Herbert Chavez has dramatically altered his appearance to look more like Superman. Unfortunately, the report is in Filipino and I’m not very good at that, but the guys at Real Self Blog translated some of it and managed to uncover that Chavez first went under the knife in 1995 and he’s had several other procedures since then. He had a chin augmentation to get Superman’s cleft, rhinoplasty to get Christopher Reeves nose, silicone injections for more plump lips and even thigh implants for a more muscular look. Examining the before and after photos, they speculate he may also have had eye surgery, cheek augmentation and jaw augmentation.

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The Parade of the Lechon, in La Loma

The La Loma district, of Quezon city, in the Philippines, is famous for having a pig roaster on every street corners, but on the third Sunday of May, roasted pigs take to the streets.

Lechon is the word Filipinos use for roasted pigs. It’s derived from the Spanish word “leche” which hints that the pig must be a suckling pig. For this monumental feast, pigs are stuffed with tamarind, pandan leaves and a concoction of spices, their skins bathed in soy sauce and vinegar. They are roasted over a charcoal pit, by an expert roaster, who knows just when to turn them, until they become crispy red.

Although everyone enjoys a nice helping of delicious Lechon, complemented with liver sauce, the highlight of this Asian fiesta is the Parade of the Lechon. Roasted pigs are dressed up in funny costumes and paraded through the city streets, on the shoulders of devotees. After 50 years of celebrating the Parade of the Lechon, Filipinos have turned dressing up roasted pigs into an art. Read More »

The Most Number of Dishes on Display, in a Single Day

That’s the Guinness Record Filipino cooks and cooking students attempted to break yesterday, in Manila.

Chefs from the finest cooking school in Manila gathered at the Araneta Coliseum and attempted to create 5,000 cheese-based dishes, in order to beat the previous record of 4,668, set by India, in 2007.

Alex Tacdera, a representative of Kraft Foods Philippines, said the event was organized to celebrate Filipino originality and love for food, in a time of great challenge for their nation. Guinness Book of Records announced it is waiting for evidence on the result to confirm the new record.

Kraft Eden will also be organizing a “Keso de Gallo”, an event where people will try to use Eden cheese to prepare a feast for families affected by the Ondoy and Pepeng typhhons, who don’t have the means to celebrate Christmas this year.

via Daily Mail


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