San Agustin Church.  (Filipino Reporter photos)


Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

Members of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York, as well as journalists from the tri-state area were given a Filipino-American Media Familiarization Tour on Nov. 22-28, 2017.

The Tourism Promotions Board, the marketing and promotions agency of the Philippine Department of Tourism, and Philippine Airlines hosted the Tour, in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General of New York.

Our group departed on Nov. 20, 2017 after a relaxing ride via Philippine Airlines.

This route had a brief stopover in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).

After checking in at the Marriott Hotel in Metro Manila near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport we were welcomed by Marriott executives led by Alain Inawat, Sales Manager; and Jhei Manzanero, Assistant Marketing Communications Manager.

Maritess Victoria DC of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc. guided us throughout the Manila leg of the Tour which included a visit to Intramuros with stops at Fort Santiago; a Calesa ride within the Wall; San Agustin Church; and Casa Manila.

Also of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc. who accompanied the group were Jobelle V. Co Lim, General Manager; Nikki Mae L. Javelosa, Sales & Reservation Supervisor; and Jarrel Arkidoh Marius Medroso.

Michelle Salvacion-Alcantara of the Tourism Promotions Board and Alberto B. Gadia Jr. (Market Specialist - Domestic Promotions Department) were also with the group throughout the duration of the Manila and Davao Tours.


Interior of San Agustin Church.

Unbeknownst to the group, we received a police escort riding the busy Metro Manila streets courtesy of Salvacion-Alcantara.

What a way to travel.

Intramuros (also known as the Walled City) today captures the old Spanish-era influences of Manila.

Fort Santiago is a fascinating park and, today, serves as a popular tourist destination.

A trip to Manila is not complete without a visit to the National Historical Landmark of the Walled City, particularly Fort Santiago.

San Agustin Church reveals its quaint interior and exterior look.

It was constructed during the Spanish colonial period and is designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

If you’re interested in getting married, San Agustin Church is a perfect venue.

Next visit was Casa Manila — a museum in Intramuros depicting colonial lifestyle during Spanish colonization of the Philippines, according to Wikipedia.


Maritess Victoria DC of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc.

It was constructed by then First Lady Imelda Marcos during the 1980s and modeled on Spanish colonial architecture.

In the evening, we dined at Grind Bistro located at Bonifacio Global City.

Former New Yorker Cristina Imperial Carl, along with her husband Kevin Carl, are the owners of the restaurant.

Our last stop of the Tour the following day was a drive-by view of the Metro Manila area which included Pasay and Parañaque.

We then proceeded to lunch at Dampa at Macapagal.


Calesa ride within the Wall.


Casa Manila.


Michelle Salvacion-Alcantara (far right) of the Tourism Promotions Board with Jobelle V. Co Lim (far left) of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc. and Grace Labaguis of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York.


From left, Nikki Mae L. Javelosa of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc., Jobelle V. Co Lim and Alberto B. Gadia Jr. of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines.


Cristina Imperial Carl and her husband Kevin Carl, owners of Grind Bistro located at Bonifacio Global City.


Dampa at Macapagal.

This place sells some of the best fresh seafood with the price being pretty reasonable.

The Dampa at Macapagal sits right next to the Libertad Channel, a body of water that connects directly to Manila Bay.

Off to Davao City


Later on the matinee we flew to Davao City on-board Philippines Airlines.

Another smooth ride which took less than a couple of hours.

After landing at Davao International Airport, we were picked up by a shuttle bus and, after a swift 20-minute drive, we checked in to the contemporary Seda Breeza Hotel.

Located across the street from the Abreeza Mall, the hotel includes an e-lounge with a bank of Apple computers at the lobby and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the premises.

Leading the way was our Professional Tour Guide Ervin Pacete Bansot who provided insight on the current economic progress of Davao City.

Evening at the hotel featured a Networking Dinner and Cocktails with the Mindanao Business Sector, as well as local government units.

We were entertained by a local group displaying their tribal dancing.


Ervin Pacete Bansot, Professional Tour Guide.

A group of speakers from the aforementioned Mindanao Business Sector delivered speeches emphasizing the priority investment areas of Davao City, including:

• Agribusiness

• Tourism

• Property Development

• Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

• Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Projects


Seda Breeza Hotel.

Davao City’s list of awards are:

• Most livable city in Asia

• Seal of good local governance

• Most competitive metro city in the Philippines’ competitiveness ranking

• Best cost effective city

• Child friendly municipalities and cities

• Most culture friendly city


Tribal dance performance at Seda Breeza Hotel.


Abreeza Mall.

On Nov. 24, we ventured to the Hijos Resort and Banana Plantation in Tagum City.

One of the oldest banana and coconut plantations in the Philippines, Hijo Resorts Davao offers everything a modern and environmentally conscious traveler could want.

We were greeted by the hospitable staff and Lani C. Sta. Maria (Operations Manager for Leisure).


Lani C. Sta. Maria (center) with Fil-Am journalists at Hijos Resort and Banana Plantation in Tagum City.




Tour included a golf cart-like drive through the Banana Plantation where we saw monkeys and wild boars; a River Cruise; and a view of the Forest.

A sumptuous lunch followed at The Sport Halal Restaurant.

For more information on Hijo Resorts Davao, go online at www.hijoresortsdavao.com.

Dinner with DOT Regional Director


Roberto P. Alabado III (right) with L.P. Pelayo of the Filipino Reporter.

After departing Tagum City, we headed back to Davao City and took a trip to Magsaysay Park.

Named after former President Ramon Magsaysay, outside the Park are the Magsaysay Fruit Vendors Association which mainly sells Durian and other fruits abundant in Davao.

We proceeded to dinner at Blue Post Boiling Crabs and Shrimps with Roberto P. Alabado III, Regional Director of the Department of Tourism - XI.

(Editor’s note: Full interview with Mr. Alabado to be posted soon.)


At Magsaysay Park.

After dinner we drove to the jam-packed Roxas Night Market.

Similar to the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy in New York, the Roxas Night Market is a one-stop shopping and dining destination.

You can dine on the local favorites such as barbecue (chicken, pork, tuna panga and chicken innards), chicken skin, butchi and Mang Danny’s ice cream.


Food at the Roxas Night Market.


Shopping at the Roxas Night Market.


It is located in a portion of Roxas Avenue between the Aldevenco Shopping Center.

The ukay-ukay stores is where you can buy secondhand apparel such as clothes, bags, shoes and other accessories being sold at a very cheap and bargained prices.

Island hopping

Samal Island was our next adventure the following day on Nov. 25.

We spent the day and early afternoon snorkeling in the crystal blue waters and checking out the Giant Clams.

Samal is a part of the Metropolitan Davao area and is located two kilometers away from Davao City.

Samal Island has a reputation of being infested with kidnappers for ransom.


Members of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York in Samal Island. From left, Don Tagala, Grace Labaguis, Momar Visaya, Richie Rillera, Cristina DC Pastor and Rolan Gutierrez.

In 2015, four people (one Norwegian, two Canadians and one Filipina) were abducted from a high-end tourist resort.

Apparently, the two Canadians were beheaded after ransoms were not paid.

The Norwegian and Filipina were released in 2016.

Despite the kidnapping situation in Samal Island, I felt safe in the area.

I noticed several police crews patrolling the waters.

The Island is postcard picturesque.

Pearl Farm Beach Resort


As the majestic sun set below the horizon in the evening, we took a quick journey to the Pearl Farm Beach Resort where we stayed for the night.

We were greeted with refreshing summer drinks and clean towels after we docked.

Angielica Nahden V. Mamac (Marketing Department) and Katherine A. Dizon (Sales Manager) gave us a brief history of the Resort — once home to a pearl farm.

It is Samal Island’s jewel where precious pearls were nurtured and cultivated as the ocean’s most beautiful gems.

The Resort offers an array of contemporary rooms fully air-conditioned overlooking the water.


Arrival at Pearl Farm Beach Resort.



Leaving Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

A guest can choose rooms from water houses, suites or hilltop catered to couples on their honeymoon to large families on vacation.

We had a dinner buffet at Maranao Restaurant located at Mandaya Beach and were entertained with a Cultural Presentation by the locals.

I was thrilled to hear that the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is the only 5-star resort in Mindanao.

On Nov. 26, we sailed away from the Pearl Farm Beach Resort and headed to the Philippine Eagle Center in Barangay Malagos, Calinan, Davao City.

We saw Pag-asa, the first eagle that was born in captivity by artificial insemination.


Entering the Philippine Eagle Center.



Ceremonial marker.

Also housed at the Center are endangered Philippine Eagles in their natural habitat.

The Filipino-American Media were honored with a ceremonial marker located at the Philippine Eagle Farm.

Lunch followed at the Malagos Garden Resort.

This place is one of the most popular attractions for tourists because of it being a one-stop destination where you can enjoy and be one with nature.

We then proceeded to the nearby Malagos Chocolate Museum.


Interior of the Malagos Chocolate Museum.

According to its website, the Museum boasts interactive cacao- and chocolate-related installation that is divided into four parts:

1. The Museum Section where you will learn about the wonders of the cacao and chocolate-making through infographics, AVP, audio lectures and interactive displays.

2. The Interactive Zone where you can play games with Beanie, the Malagos Chocolate mascot.

3. The Chocolate Bar where you can enjoy all sorts of Malagos Chocolate food and drinks.

4. The Chocolate Laboratory where you can make your own chocolate.

Back to Manila


Reunited with colleague Wendell Gaa (3rd rom left) in Manila. With him are (from left) L.P. Pelayo, Carol Tanjutco, Mr. Gaa, Cristina DC Pastor, Don Tagala, Momar Visaya, Grace Labaguis and Richie Rillera.

After a thrilling four-day trip to Davao and a touching farewell to our dynamic tour guide Ervin Pacete Bansot, our group flew to Manila via Philippine Airlines.

The less than two-hour ride to the capital was effortless and we were again met by our guide in Manila Maritess Victoria DC of Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc.

We checked backed in to the Marriott Hotel and were surprised to meet our colleague in the media Wendell Gaa, now based in Manila and working at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

On Nov. 27, we went on a Bonifacio Global City Tour.

After a short ride to Makati City we had lunch at Romulo Cafe.

Joining us was Luz Alquisola Navarro (Senior Tourism Operations Officer, Market Development Group) who will now assume a post in New York.


Luz Alquisola Navarro (center) conversing with Carol Tanjutco during lunch at Romulo Cafe in Makati City. At right is Michelle Salvacion-Alcantara.

Also present was Atty. Raymond C. Sanchez, Jr. of the Department of Tourism (Chief of Staff and Head Executive Assistant).

After lunch we went to Glorietta in the Ayala Center.

It is a megamall comprising hundreds of shops and eateries.

It is essentially four connected buildings plus a fifth (Glorietta 5) that’s detached.



Also adjacent to this mall are several others, including SM, Landmark and Green Belt.

Combined, they offer practically everything available with prices.

From there we headed to the gigantic SM Mall of Asia in Bay City, Pasay.

It is the 11th largest shopping mall in the world and the fourth largest in the Philippines.

SM City North EDSA ranks No. 1.

SM MOA features an Olympic-sized ice skating rink, as well as the first-ever IMAX theater in the country.

The highlight of the trip was dinner with the underprivileged children of Metro Manila at Jollibee.

Seeing the happiness in their faces brought a smile to my face sharing the popular dishes of the restaurant like the popular Chickenjoy.


Dinner at Jollibee with the children of Metro Manila.



The children were treated to a dance number by the Jollibee mascot and staff, including their teachers.

Heading home to the States

On Nov. 28, I departed from Manila heading back home to New York.

This capital city is developing economically with the presence of technology, high-rise establishments, advanced and modernized equipment especially in the field of medication, agriculture and labor.

As for Davao, I felt generally safe.

Smoking is banned throughout the city, except in a few designated areas.

According to BusinessWorld, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) last month approved a P10-million fund to come up with a tourism master plan.

There has been a surge in visitors since mid-2016 following the election of its former mayor, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, now the country’s president.


Thank you to the people who made the Filipino-American Media Familiarization Tour possible.

Kudos to the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippine Department of Tourism; Philippine Airlines; the Philippine Consulate General of New York; and Belle Horizon Travel Ventures, Inc.

Special thanks to Consul General Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega and Vice Consul Khrystina P. Corpuz of the Philippine Consulate General in New York; Michelle Salvacion-Alcantara and Alberto B. Gadia Jr. of the Tourism Promotions Board; Joesyl M. Vasquez (Area Manager - New York, International Passenger Sales, Philippine Airlines); Gina Mendoza Arguelles of Philippine Airlines; and our brilliant tour guides — Maritess Victoria DC, Jobelle V. Co Lim, Nikki Mae L. Javelosa, Jarrel Arkidoh Marius Medroso and Ervin Pacete Bansot.


Heading back to New York aboard Philippine Airlines. From left, L.P. Pelayo, Gina Mendoza Arguelles and Cristina DC Pastor.

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