The Sleeping Beauty Mountain


Kalinga province is a dazzling bounty of things to do and see. It boasts its pristine waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, national park, subterranean river, hot springs, mountain lakes, rainforests, and rice terraces. It has legendary mountain ranges, too. One of which is the so called ‘Sleeping Beauty Mountain’ in Tinglayan, a grandeur that one may not opt to miss.
This mountain was named as such for something.
Tale goes that in the early days, there was a man in Tinglayan named Banna and a woman from Dacalan in Tanudan who fell in love with each other. Due to a war which ensued between the tribes of Banna and Edonsan, their love ended to a tragedy. Banna was killed and Edonsan left weeping in a mountain where she fell asleep. From where she lied formed a mountain shaped into a woman which they now call “Sleeping Beauty Mountain”.
This mountain is also known as Mt. Mating-oy. For the Lubo tribes in Tanudan, the ‘forehead’, which is its highest point, is the Mt. Patukan.
As folkloric as it is, beneath this mountain is yet another wonder that also deserves to be told. The legend of the mighty Chico River. This river is fed by waterfalls flowing from the Sleeping Beauty Mountain.
Legend has it that the Chico River was the sister of the Abra River.
These rivers, as the tale goes, were once two siblings who were very obedient, kind, and industrious. However, they had very cruel parents. Because of that cruelty, these siblings decided to run away until they reached the top of a mountain, to which these days, is called the Mount Data.
Knowing that they had nowhere else to go, they prayed to Lumawig, the God of the Skyworld, to turn them into streams of water. The brother became the Abra River while his sister became the Chico River.
Today, the Kalinga people regard the Chico River as the ‘River of Life’.
True to its name, the river is tapped for providing abundant sources of power generation, irrigation, and fishing.


Kneeling Carabaos

kneeling carabaos

Every May 14, residents of Pulilan in Bulacan, San Isidro in Nueva Ecija, and Angono in Rizal, commemorate the feast day of San Isidro de Labrador, patron saint of farmers, with the carabaos sharing celebrity status.

But while the three towns have similar cause for marking the day of the farmers’ patron saint, it is Pulilan town that always come on top as a sea of curious spectators gather to witness the carabaos’ special talents.

The select carabaos of Pulilan, on this special day, do not only display their enhanced “beauty” but they also showcase their unusual but remarkably surprising talent—that of genuflecting or kneeling or gyrating or doing the jig while kneeling. Because of this display of talent, the observance of the feast day in Pulilan is also called “The Kneeling Carabao Festival”.

The carabaos are brought by their owners in front of the church on this special day and are made to display their

famous trait. This peculiar show, no doubt, is a reason enough for the influx of local and foreign tourists in Pulilan town.

Known as the farmers’ best friend and indispensable ally in different kinds of farm works, the carabaos are given royal treatment on this day. In preparation for the festival, according to their owners, the carabaos are “retouched” starting early in the morning in order to be ready for the parade that takes off early in the afternoon on the same day.

Part of the preparation includes making the carabaos “kings and queens” wherein their “crowns” (horns) are

rubbed with oil for a shining sheen; their backs are adorned with special clothes serving as their capes; their bodies are scrubbed, cleaned, and painted; their legs are designed with knee caps; and their hooves, too, are either made shiny or painted with apt colors.

As in past celebrations, long before the clock ticked at 2:00 pm last May 14, which was the time set for the start of the event, the main streets of Pulilan town were already crowded with thousands of people, residents, and tourists alike.

They were eagerly awaiting for the passing of hooves, too, are either made shiny or painted with apt colors.

As in past celebrations, long before the clock ticked at 2:00 pm last May 14, which was the time set for the start of the event, the main streets of Pulilan town were already crowded with thousands of people, residents, and tourists alike.

They were eagerly awaiting for the passing of incessant popular request from the throng of onlookers, the carabao owners could not do anything but oblige to the delight of the spectators.

The San Isidro Labrador church, of course, was the ultimate destination of the animals’ show of “religiosity”.

The carabaos knelt at the signal of their master as they passed one by one in front of the church. The kneeling was

for a few minutes with the carabaos not minding people and their reactions. What appears to be more interesting and greatly appreciated by the onlookers was not only the carabaos’ demonstration of their ability to kneel but also to “walk” on their knees like penitents in front of the church. This scenario left onlookers in a blaze of awe and surprise.

May 15, according to the Catholic Church’s account, is the day for the patron saint of farmers—San Isidro de Labrador (laborer) also known as Isidore the Farmer. The account said that Isidore was a

laborer who was always late in tending to his farm chores yet always finishes his job at the end of the day.

One day, his co-laborers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Prompted with curiosity, the master went to the field and investigated the claim by himself. The master was astounded by what he saw. He found Isidore at prayer while two angels were helping him with his field works thus making his work equal to that of three laborers. Struck with awe, the master knelt and prayed before the

angels. San Isidro de Labrador was also known for his goodness toward the poor and animals. He was then called the patron saint of farmers.

Among the residents of Pulilan town, nobody can really tell how this practice of making the carabaos kneel in

front of the church started. However, the residents have been doing this practice for many, many years already.

Accounts said that the farmers took it upon themselves to make it a vow to participate in the parade, thus, they make big preparations for this occasion. In fact, many other residents from different towns in Bulacan come over to Pulilan town just to participate. This tradition continues to be passed on among generations

Café by the Ruins


If you’re up for a refreshing experience sans the heavy traffic and pollution, then look no further than Baguio City. Aside from the pine-scented breeze wafting through the surrounding rocky mountains, the city is also rich with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that can surely make your jaunts rewarding and healthy.

There’s more. If you’re looking for savory treat and healthy dining, then Café by the Ruins has got it covered.


Located opposite the city hall, this establishment is quasi-closed allowing patrons to catch whiffs of pine-scented breeze which at once becomes palpable as you enter its arc-shaped door.

Inside, a cursory look reveals several artworks collaged in every nook and corner of the café. In one corner, too, a bonfire invites customers to request to have it fired up when the temperature turns unbearably cold.

Without having second thought, one can conclude that the café is run by artists.

Indeed it is true. Ryan Chua, the restaurant manager, says it all.

“The establishment started as an art gallery, a hang-out place for artists alone. As the city started to blossom as a haven for business ventures, it later  evolved into a café that accepts people from all walks of life as customers.”

Today, Ryan added, it is being run by artists, writers, and businessmen who are already the second generation members of the corporation.

The walls of the café, Ryan said, are the remains of the headquarters of the first Benguet government during the American-Japanese war, hence the name.

The artistic displays and historic accounts of the café are just 50 percent of the experience. The other half is right on its menu.

Café by the Ruins offers an array of fresh and organic sumptuous and sometimes bizarre menu for a luscious gastronomic journey. There are no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or enhancers used for the food. The menu is not constricting as it is changed every quarter based on the availability of the season’s goods. This is to ensure that only fresh and naturally-produced commodity is served.


While there are other food establishments in Baguio City offering fresh and organic menu, Café by the Ruins stands out not only because of its artistic ambiance but also because of its carabao’s milk-based concoctions. Because of this, the café is an A-list among thousands of patrons, a testimony attested to by netizens and by the international award it recently bagged for being “one of the best restaurants in the country”.

Evidently, one can lose his or herself in the luxury of indulging in the delight of partaking organic and fresh dishes, pastries, and drinks. These are just some of the products made richer and better by carabao’s milk offered by Café by the Ruins.

Alas! A bite of Saniculas!


The Capampangans, who are inhabitants of Pampanga, are very much well-known for their discriminating taste for food and high regard for cooking.
This prevailing fact traces its roots to the olden times. Accounts say that every female born to a Capampangan family is exposed to the kitchen at an early age. To master her culinary skills, she is obliged to prepare her family’s dishes. This devoir continue until she passes it on to her daughters.
Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo, who is fondly called as “Atching Lillian”, is a living proof to this tradition. She came from a wealthy Capampangan root where her grandparents were “don” and “doña”, a status that is equivalent to business tycoons or magnates in the modern times. Thus, she grew up with the practice of meticulous food preparation.
Atching Lillian, along the way, learned that one of the secrets of the unique, incomparable taste of Capampangan cuisine is the use of carabao’s milk and dayap (lime). She recalled that her grandparents had a herd of carabaos. With the abundance of carabao’s milk, her grandfather used to drink fresh carabao’s milk while taking a sip of duhat (jambul) every morning. Her grandmother, on the other hand, uses the milk with dayap juice in most of her recipes.
“The carabao’s milk with dayap juice, when used in cooking, adds a very distinct flavor,” Atching Lillian said.
As the only female among the brood of four, she inherited a family heirloom that included 17th century cooking and baking utensils and some secret family recipes. Among these century-old recipes is the making of “Panacillos de San Nicolas” or San Nicholas cookies. For the Capampangans, they call it “Saniculas”.
According to Atching Lillian, this recipe is the most noteworthy of all because this was passed on to her by her grandmother Impung Andang (Doña Alejandra Andres David Hizon) who learned the recipe from the Dominican sisters. Atching Lillian, hailed as the “Guardian and Steward of Capampangan Cuisine”, unselfishly shared her family’s priceless recipes especially that of the Saniculas.
Saniculas, a melt-in-the-mouth goodness, is the oldest cookie introduced in the Philippines by the Spaniards, circa 1600. Its inception was born out of oversupply of egg yolks. During those times, the whole of egg except its yolk (i.e. albumen), was mixed with lime powder and sand to build churches, schools, and other government buildings. Hence, the Spanish nuns thought of using the yolks in several pastries and other delicacies.
Every family, too, was encouraged to come up with a product out of the yolks. Saniculas was one of them.
Atching Lillian, with her passion of sharing the secrets of Capampangan cuisine, gladly demonstrated how Saniculas is made.
It starts by gently mixing the ingredients that is composed of arrowroot flour, egg yolks, carabao’s milk, duhat, and enough amount of water to make the dough. The dough is kneaded and flattened using a cookie mold and a rolling pin with gradual precision. After which, the dough is ready for baking.
Atching Lillian, during her demonstration, insisted on using carabao’s milk, instead of any other milk. This, she said, gives the cookies its exact aroma, taste, and texture.

The making of San Nicholas cookies back then, she said, was a lot more interesting. The nuns or the women making it, had to pray three Our Father, three Hail Mary, and three Glory be to the Father. After which, one has to put her hand inside the oven to check if the cookies were already cooked. In some instances, if the cookies were still not properly cooked after the three prayers, they would pray the Salve Regina also known as the Hail Holy Queen.
The baked cookies back then, she quoted others as saying, were perfect in its taste and texture as the prayers served as their timer. Interestingly, too, the Saniculas is imprinted with the image of San Nicholas, the great miracle healer.
But the cookie’s interesting facts don’t end there. Every 10th of September, the feast day of St. Nicholas de Tolentin, the Saniculas cookies are blessed and distributed to devotees for it is believed to have a curative effect. This practice was said to have been passed on by the Spanish friars to the Filipinos. Other than this, the cookie can also be crumbled and scattered on rice fields to ask for a bountiful harvest.
Needless to say, every bite of Saniculas does not only satisfy one’s cravings. It also represents a tradition of love, devotion, peace, and miracle.

Leather goods that triumph quality over quantity

While the Philippine leather industry is facing manifold shifts, one product store using leather as raw material has withstand these challenges for more than 35 years now.

Leather products are known for their durability, elegance and appearances not easily affected by time. In fact, as time goes by, the look is enhanced.

In addition, these products are quite popular in the market due to its style and trendy look.

Our Tribe store, owned by Mario Tayag, Sr., is one of the best sources of leather goods in the Philippines that are handcrafted from carabao’s and cow’s hides. Other than handbags, Our Tribe also manufactures shoes, sandals, slippers, belts, wallets and other accessories for men, women, and kids.

The store, located at 167 Maginhawa St., Sikatuna Village, UP Diliman, Quezon City, started its operation on October 9, 1972. It later opened its branches in different supermalls in Metro Manila that include the SM Southmall, SM Dasmariñas, Market Market, SM Fairview, SM Megamall, and SM North.

Dorothy Cajulao, Our Tribe administrative supervisor, said, the leather industry is experiencing a slowdown due mainly to lack of carabao hide supply and fast-phasing fashion trends.

Leather products, however, continue to thrive because it never runs out of customers here and abroad, she said.

“Our buyers are mostly balikbayan. They love to bring it to other countries and give to their friends and relatives as a present,” she said.

She also said that they go on sale during their anniversaries and during sale seasons in the supermalls. On those occasions, she added, more customers come in to buy products of their choice.

“There are also customers who ask for reservations for particular leather product and buys it when the store anniversary comes,” she added.

Cajulao proudly said that their products are known for elegance and delicate craftwork that make them irresistible for customers. Our Tribe products are designed by Maria Angela “Lala” Tayag-Fajardo, the owner’s daughter.

Among the leather goods that the Our Tribe store offer are:

  • Leather bags, totes, and purses. Meticulously designed, these bags come in different sizes, colors, and shape that suit anyone’s preferences.
  • Footwear. The footwear for children, men and women, suits the taste of today’s fashion trend. It has several designs and colors to satisfy one’s tang for fashion.
  • Accessories. These include wallets, key chains, belts, mobile phone case, and bracelets. They come in different varieties for men and women with wonderfully designed shapes and styles.

Cajulao said their products are giving preferences to quality more than quantity.

Sweets haven in Bulacan

Looking for sweets treat this Christmas season? Then go buy assorted pastillas de leche in San Miguel, Bulacan and savor them alone or with your love ones.

Pastillas de leche is basically a candy made out of milk and sugar. It is rolled into thumb-size pieces, wrapped in white paper and then packed in different colorful papers.

The best thing about the pastillas de leche is that once popped inside the mouth, the partaker finds the grits of sugar and the slow, gentle melting of it in the mouth and offers a heavenly goodness of pure carabao’s milk. It gives not just sweetness but also creaminess and softness of a candy that one would crave for more.

Coming in different varieties, this delicacy in San Miguel town has become an addiction to travelers and most especially to its locals.

A gateway to Nueva Ecija and Cagayan Valley region, San Miguel town is a favorite stopover for travelers who crave for mouth-watering pastillas de lecheout of carabao’s milk.

According to Rafael Payawal, popularly called as “Ka Ape”, who is one of the oldest living residents in San Miguel, the pastillas industry in the town traces its history to the Spanish period.

“San Miguel as an agricultural area has many carabaos. Because of this, people thought of capitalizing it for other uses aside from farming activities. And so they came up with collecting its milk and developing it into pastillas,” Payawal said.

Due to growing demand, pastillas has become at par with farming as the main livelihoods in San Miguel.

Now, the number of commercial pastillas makers is growing in number. Among these are Ocampo Sweets, Sevilla Sweets, Andrea Sweets, Garcia’s and Ricmar’s. Their common secret? It’s the freshness of the carabao’s milk, which is pasteurized immediately upon delivery and uses it for pastillas making.

The Sevilla and Ocampo sweets products include the following:

  • Pastillas de leche. Soft and creamy milk candies made of pure carabao’s milk and sugar. Available in boxes containing 25 jumbo pieces and plastic bags with 24 smaller pieces.
  • Flavored pastillas. Pastillas de leche with langka (jackfruit), cheese and ube (purple yam) flavors. These are packed in plastic bags with 24 pieces each.
  • Assorted pastillas. An assortment of flavors in plastic container, namely; pastillas de leche, pastillas de yema, pastillas de ube, pastillas de langka, and pastillas de keso.
  • Ube pastillas. Thumb-size morsel rolled in sugar and wrapped in clear cellophane with ube as its main ingredient made tastier with carabao’s milk.
  • Pastillas de yema. A sweet, sticky delicacy made of condensed milk, egg yolk, cheese, sugar and lemon. Available in plastic bags containing 24 pieces.
  • Pastillas stick. It is composed of 12 sticks of yummy pastillas bound by festive yellow ribbon.
  • Cheese candy. Consisting of 12 sticks of cheese-flavored tied with yellow ribbon.

Other products include special polvoron, polvoron de pinipig, assorted polvoron, assorted macapuno balls, dried fruits, cashew tart, pili tart, lengua de gato, turon de casuy, pacencia white, uraro, and minarka.

Aside from being used as a favorite dessert on the locals’ and travelers’ tables, the pastillas products are also used as a present (pasalubong) or a gift during special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and Christmas because of its delicate, colorfully wrapped goodies.

“These milk products continue to live because of the strong patronage of the locals in San Miguel,” says Mayor Roderick DG. Tiongson.

In fact, Bulacan celebrated the first Pastillas festival on May 5-7, 2005 which highlighted the importance of pastillas in the lives of its locals. According to Mayor Tiongson, the province of Bulacan will set another pastillas festival in May 2011.

In 2008, San Miguel tried its best to be included in the Guiness Book of World Records for producing the “longest pastillas in the world”. The efforts involved the use of 12,800 liters of carabao’s milk and 1,600 kilos of sugar that produced a 200-meter long, five-inch diameter pastillas. The finished product, when cut into pieces, resulted in 500,000 thumb-size pieces morsels.

The effort, though, was not officially recognized due to some reasons.

Nobody can really claim where pastillas has originated.

But according to Caridad Sevilla, her mother-in-law Olympia Sevilla, more popularly known as “Lola Impiyang”, was said to be the very first resident of San Miguel who started the pastillas business.

Caridad relates that Lola Impiyang was then a vendor of coffee with fresh carabao’s milk. At the end of the day, she still has overflowing liters of milk. With this in hand, she applied what she has learned from her ancestors, and that is cooking the carabo’s milk into pastillas. At first, she would just give it to her neighbors but eventually turned it into a family business when more and more locals became patrons of her pastillas.

Today, more than 200 households in San Miguel town are engaged in pastillas making. They sell their products in the town and other places.

The production of pastillas de leche in San Miguel, as a business enterprise, is expected to grow, not wane, as the years go on.

Another fun Friday and wistful weekend get-away

April 15-16, 2011

Everything started from a spark of excitement brought by bonds developed on our way back home inside Alexis’ ever-accommodating car one Tuesday night.

Being the free-spirited and adventurous young bloods that we are, we came up of doing something unusual but exciting activity to keep the flame of friendship among us flicker more. And to give ourselves a break from the daily routines in the workplace.

Charged with an impulse to do so, we came up of having a Friday night out and weekend escapade in Alexis’ hacienda.

Right after office hours, I and my friends-officemates went in this seemingly welcoming place—Digdig, Carranglan.

While all the others are searching for fire woods and setting-up the camp tents, I, together with these lovely men and women, busied ourselves preparing the vegetable fillings for the fish set to be grilled off.

Having talented guitarists and singers with us, we opted to sit down while waiting for the foods to be cooked and letting the sounds of music provide us the appetizers.

Though our ears were full with entertainment, we just can’t wait to be filled with the sumptuous, palatable, and lavish eatables on the table ready to be partaken by hungry stomachs.

And when I tell you it’s lavish and palatable, I mean it’s really a table of over-flowing foods and deliciously cooked by our ever-dedicated cooks headed by Venus.  And the most exciting part of this food partakes? Boodle fight! Who says we can’t hand-eat? Toothsome, isn’t it?

And because we just can’t contain ourselves with this dazzling place, we took some poses for mementos to bring home and immortalized them in photos.

Since we are conking on the riverside, the air is just as cold, but smooth-touching, as the waters in it. The bonfire was just not a warm and light provider but it also fired up our excitement for a night camp. Coupled with acoustic trips, bon fires are really enthralling!

To heighten up the fun, games likepinoy henyo,‘di ka makararating sa paroroonan kung di lilingon sa pinanggalingan’, and other exciting, mind-boggling puzzles were funneled. And the anticipated beguiling and hilarious night was indeed granted.

And guess what? The games lasted until 2am! Yes, we just can’t get enough of it. Forgive us but big laugh among us is just inevitable!

As the atomic blast of laughter and side-hurting burst of fun sink among us, we savored and enjoyed the infinite display of dazzling, awe-inspiring tiny bright lights in the sky. The stars seem to twinkle more indefinitely as they conspire to join us in our engrossing and exciting night. Star gazing is just captivating!

The morning comes so wake up sleepy-heads! Time for our water escapade! 😀

Who can say we were not excited and ready for our swimming excursion? These dahlins are simply fresh-looking and super lovely! Aren’t we?

Our nerves were so much filled with tingling excitement as we rode off in this inflatable tyre-turned-floater. And we called it…water rafting! Haha!

We were not only captivated by the river’s crystal-clear water and coldness but its giant rocks too that are as beautiful and breath-taking as these two women are. Agree!

Finally, taking with us another memento—a pose in this tree-turned-bridge. The view here is simply magical! And it’s not every day that we get to cross a river through this big, sturdy tree, yeah?

What seemed to be an unplanned get-away turned a very memorable, full of fun (and I mentioned the word ‘fun’ very often), and undeniably jaw-drop beauty only nature can offer. To encapsulate everything about the excursion (though I already used a lot of adjectives here), is that it was another FUN FRIDAY NIGHT AND A WISTFUL WEEK-END get-away!