Monday, April 30, 2012
Picking a favorite beach in the Philippines is like trying to pick a favorite child. Challenging, but not impossible.
With more than 7,000 islands edged by white sand buffering turquoise waters filled with some of the world's most diverse marine life, not everyone will agree on which one is best.
Disagree with our picks? Share your favorite Filipino island or beach in the comments box below.
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1. El Nido, Palawan
If Palawan is indeed "the last frontier" of the Philippines, as it's been dubbed, the coastal town of El Nido is the gateway to wild adventure.
Sure, it's got powder-fine beaches and gin-clear waters. But the views are what really sell the place.
Off the coast of El Nido are majestic karst limestone formations, empty lagoons, marble cliffs, prehistoric caves and waterfalls. All are easily explored.
Wet your fins: El Nido is a popular base for divers. Surrounding waters contain more than 50 species of coral, and attract whales, whale sharks, sea cows, manta rays, dolphins and endangered turtles.
2. Boracay, Aklan
White Beach is the place most frequently associated with Boracay, the most popular holiday destination in the Philippines.
Its four-kilometer stretch welcomes everyone from beach bums to adventurers. At night, the beach comes alive with candle-lit sand castles, cozy restaurants and bars that stay open til dawn.
Away from White Beach are calmer resorts. There is a less boisterous side of Boracay and it still offers secluded strips of sand, coves, caves and cliffs.
Come with the wind: During the early months of the year, Boracay attracts hundreds of kite-boarders and windsurfers who compete in the International Funboard Cup. The rough waves and strong winds make Boracay an ideal destination for water sports fanatics.
3. Palaui Island, Cagayan Valley
This isolated island is a natural secret -- only the brave and persevering bother to visit.
Glorious white sands surrounded by volcanic rocks on one side kiss blue-green waters on the other. Snorkeling and diving brings you face to face with coral gardens and a rich marine reserve.
Palaui is all about raw beauty. But it takes some work to get there.
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Treks should be blessed with clear blue skies, patient companions and trusted local guides.
Getting to the island's most prized stretch of beach requires battling thorny grass, muddy ground and a mangrove forest.
Uncharted Philippines offers a three-day Palaui Island Photography Tour for US$240 that includes transportation, accomodation, food and guides. Visit Unchartedphilippines.com.
Sleep with stars: With no resorts or hotels, Palaui has only one real option -- camping under the stars. Otherwise, visitors are left to explore homestay options.
4. Panglao, Bohol
Once a sleepy island, Panglao is being roused by travelers in search of gorgeous beaches.
It’s a refuge for those who appreciate a diverse menu of aquatic attractions.
Options include dolphin watching, whale spotting, diving with barracudas, jackfish, sea snakes and brilliant coral formations.
Natural charms: In addition to its beaches, the island of Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills, an unusual rolling terrain of more than 1,000 dome-shaped hills. The hills are named for their brown color during dry season, when grass dries up.
The “world’s smallest primate” -- the endangered Philippine tarsier -- also inhabits the island.
Multi-language edge: Years ago, a number of foreigners came to Panglao on holiday and never bothered to leave. Locals picked up their languages to better converse with the tourists. In addition to English, in Panglao you have a good chance of meeting a local with a handy grasp of German, Swiss or Japanese.
5. Bantayan Island, Cebu
Bantayan has remained relatively untouched by modern life, save for a smattering of foreigners who have taken up residence, sucked in by the island's white sands, aqua-colored waters and red-gold sunsets.
Beers are cold and cheap, townsfolk are hospitable and the dreary troubles of the outside world are easily forgotten.
Holy crowds: If you're after peace and quiet, don't plan a stay during the Holy Week before Easter. The island is crowded with Filipino travelers during this period, with rooms and services booked months in advance.
Simplicity is key: Action-packed it ain't. There are no five-star hotels, no malls, no fashion-forward shopping centers.
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6. Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Named after the local sea turtle, Caramoan is as scenic as it is secluded.
Stretches of white sand run between huge boulders and rock formations. Scuba divers, island hoppers and beach bums all converge here.
Complementing the beaches are caves, waterfalls, freshwater pools, underground streams and lagoons.
Adventure site: The "Survivor" reality show series and similar international programs have used Caramoan as a shooting location.
Despite the locale's popularity with TV production companies, there are enough beaches to go around for everyone.
Top view: Mountain climbers can trek to Mount Caglago’s summit and take in a terrific view of the Caramoan islands and islets. The mountain is a pilgrimage site for some, thanks to its gigantic statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
7. Samal, Davao
A burgeoning tourist destination, Samal is on a mission to get the word out on its 118-kilometer coastline of white sandy beaches.
You know the highlights: pristine waters, lush greens, rock formations, mangrove and coconut palms. Numerous resorts provide a range of choices for visitors, from luxurious resorts to backpacker options.
The vanishing island: This curious moniker is the nickname of Shanipaan Shoal, a tiny island that literally disappears from sight during high tide. The only thing visible at high water is a single, elevated cottage poking out of the sea.
Underwater garden: The vast Coral Garden Marine Park, a fish sanctuary filled with diverse marine life, makes Sambal a favorite among divers and snorkelers.
8. Siargao Islands, Surigao del Norte
Known as the top surfing island in the Philippines, Siargao is often overlooked as a beachcomber’s paradise.
There are breaks for beginner surfers, moderate ones and even pros looking for three-meter-high waves. For those with zero surf skills -- and no desire to acquire any -- there are also pristine beaches with milder waves, perfect for sunning and swimming.
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Surf’s up: Ideal days for surfing are between mid-August and mid-December, when the swell is most consistent. Beginners should visit when waves are smaller, around April or May.
9. Great Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga
On Great Santa Cruz Island, pulverized red coral washed up from the sea floor mixes with white sand to produce a pink-hued beach.
It’s a different version of perfection: the powdery beach competes with the blue and green shades of the sea. Some parts of the beach are lovely in their undeveloped state. There are signs of civilization -- souvenirs, nipa huts and restrooms.
Beach visits are limited to day trips, so you have to squeeze everything into a few hours: swim, sunbathe, snorkel, dive, even fish for your lunch. Just don’t mistake serenity for safety -- there’s a deep drop in the sea just meters from shore.
Armed guards: The island is just a boat ride away from the city proper, but getting there requires extra precautions, due to local threats.
Only those with a tourist permit from the Department of Tourism in Zamboanga City can visit. The permit fee includes armed security escorts.
Why the need for security? According to the Department of Tourism’s regional office, it's a preventative measure: “On the security situation in Zamboanga City, there are no militant or terroristic activities recently. Although there were reported shooting incidents, these were intended to specific victims due to personal grudges. The city is very vibrant and relatively peaceful.”
As a precaution, check with your embassy for security threats before traveling.
10. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Along the northern tip of the island of Luzon sits the coastal town of Pagudpud. It’s a quiet, sleepy and rural community, with little overt commercialism.
Perhaps because it takes time and effort to reach Pagudpud, the wide and inviting beaches are usually empty, making them ideal for those who enjoy mixing solitude with sun, sand and surf.
A row of windmills down the coast from Pagudpud makes for a picturesque if not unusual backdrop for a Filipino beach.
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Wind and waves: Parts of Pagudpud are exposed to winds that blow in from both the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, making the waves ideal for surfers, especially from July to October. Windsurfers and kiteboarders are starting to take notice of this northern getaway.
For info on how to get to these beaches click ahead to page two.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
There are days that I read the news and i feel horrible. this is one of those...
MANILA, Philippines - The ordeal of two sisters, who were allegedly repeatedly drugged and raped for months by their own father, ended when one of their classmates was also victimized and had him arrested by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD).
The suspect, a 33-year-old businessman, had allegedly been “forcing” his two daughters – aged 16 and 14 – to take shabu for months, said Superintendent Crisostomo Mendoza, commander of the QCPD Station 4.
“Some of the instances (of rape) happened as early as last year,” Mendoza said in an interview.
The suspect’s partner, Myra Sison, 35, reportedly helped him take advantage of the sisters, the businessman’s children from a previous relationship. “She would be the one to grip the hands of the two when the crime happened,” Mendoza said.
The sisters’ ordeal ended when one of their classmates stayed over at their house in North Wind Subdivision in Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon. At around 1 a.m. Thursday, all three girls were allegedly drugged and raped.
The classmate managed to escape from the house and told a relative about the rape. This led police to arrest the businessman. Sison remains at large.
According to Mendoza, the businessman had undergone inquest proceedings for rape charges. No bail was recommended.
The same complaint against Sison will undergo further investigation by the fiscal, Mendoza said.
The sisters are in the custody of local social workers. - By Reinir Padua (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)
Saturday, April 28, 2012
by Andre Lehmann | AFP News
The tiny principality of Liechtenstein has been rattled by a war of words between activists who want to revoke the royal veto and thehereditary prince, who has threatened to quit if they do.
Liechtenstein owes its very existence as a principality to its royal family and their princes, who have ruled it as an autonomous monarchy since the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.
But the current ruler, Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein, has threatened that his 900-year-old family will drop its royal duties if Liechtenstein passes a referendum eliminating the prince's veto, a power enshrined in the constitution.
"The royal family is not willing to undertake its political responsibilities unless the prince... has the necessary tools at his disposal," Alois said in a speech to parliament on March 1.
"But if the people are no longer open to that, then the royal family will not want to undertake its political responsibilities and... will completely withdraw from political life."
With some 36,000 inhabitants and a surface area of 160.5 square kilometres (62 square miles), the bucolic monarchy sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland enjoys one of the highest living standards in the world thanks to its industrial and financial sectors.
Long considered a tax haven, Liechtenstein has an average annual income of $137,070 (104,062 euros), according to the World Bank -- the second-highest per capita in the world after Monaco.
Alois' father Hans-Adam II, who transferred sovereignty to his eldest son in 2004 but officially remains head of state, is worth nearly $4.0 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
But the family, which still lives in its ancestral castle towering over the capital Vaduz has run into an attack on its power in the form of a petition drive dubbed "Yes, for your voice to count".
The slogan refers to plans by a citizens' committee to launch a referendum that would repeal the prince's veto power.
The movement first gained steam last year, when Alois, a 43-year-old father of four, threatened to veto a referendum legalising abortion if citizens passed it.
After an acrimonious campaign, the referendum failed. Proponents blamed the prince's veto threat.
"The referendum was doomed to fail," Sigvard Wohlwend, a spokesman for the movement, told AFP. He said the veto threat had "torpedoed" its chances in a monarchy where the royal family is still treated with reverence.
Wohlwend, who said the current campaign grew out of the abortion referendum, insisted the activists' goal is not to do away with the monarchy but to give more power to Liechtenstein's people.
But it is an uphill battle.
The campaign must gather 1,500 signatures by May 10 to call a referendum -- not so easy in the fourth-smallest country in Europe, after the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino.
"It's like a village here, and everyone knows everyone else. People don't want anyone to know they're voting for the referendum," Wohlwend said.
Campaigners are trying to assuage residents' fears.
"The prince would retain all his rights and the monarchy would remain in place," Paul Vogt, a committee member, explained in the local press.
Wilfried Marxer, a political scientist and director of the Liechtenstein Institute, said other small states such as San Marino manage to survive without monarchies.
But in Liechtenstein, he said, the monarchy is a "deeply anchored tradition".
"People are afraid they would lose their identity and their quality of life if the monarchy disappeared," he said.
On top of that, "The prince has not shown any willingness to compromise," he added.
A final obstacle: even if the referendum passed, the prince would have the power to veto it -- though analysts say it's more likely he would resign his duties and retire from politics.
I remember goin to this tiny principality of Liechtenstein and all the souvenir shops had the royal family's photos in mugs, stamps, shot glasses, magnets. everything. that is how they love their royal family. Here he is against legalizing abortion and is now the subject of heated debates. What is your stand?
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
fr AFP News
Hollywood's hottest couple has made it official, with Brad Pittproposing to Angelina Jolie after six children and years of unwedded bliss, a spokeswoman said.
"Yes, it's confirmed," Pitt's manager Cynthia Pett-Dante told People magazine. "It is a promise for the future and their kids are very happy."
She said no date had been set at this time, and there was no word of the wedding's location.
The news put an end to months of speculation about the couple and their plans to marry.
Jeweler Robert Procop designed Jolie's engagement ring in collaboration with Pitt, and confirmed the news.
The famous Beverly Hills jeweler, who has designed an entire collection inspired by Jolie, worked on the ring for a year.
Pitt "wanted every aspect of it to be perfect, so Robert was able to locate a diamond of the finest quality and cut it to an exact custom size and shape to suite Angelina's hand," the jeweler said in a statement.
"Brad was always heavily involved, overseeing every aspect of the creative design evolution... The side diamonds are specially cut to encircle her finger. Each diamond is of the highest gem quality."
Pitt, 48, and Jolie, 36, became close on the set of 2005 film "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." They have three biological children together and adopted three others, and Pitt apparently caved after pressure from the kids.
"We'd actually like to," Pitt said of making Jolie his wife, "and it seems to mean more and more to our kids."
"We made this declaration some time ago that we weren't going to do it till everyone can," he added in a January interview with The Hollywood Reporter, in a reference to the legalization of gay marriage.
"But I don't think we'll be able to hold out. It means so much to my kids, and they ask a lot. And it means something to me, too, to make that kind of commitment."
Jolie had also stoked the media firestorm when she told ABC News in December that "the kids asked me the other day, and I asked them if it was just because they wanted to have a big cake."
"I explained to them that our commitment, when we decided to start a family, is the greatest commitment you can possible have. Once you have six children, you're committed," she added.
Last year was very busy for Jolie, with the release of "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a Bosnian War tell that marked her directorial debut.
And Pitt has taken a pause from the frenetic pace of his film career to spend a bit more time with Jolie and their children.
"It's family first. This year, I needed to spend more time with my family so I spent more quiet time developing stuff," he told AFP in February.
Earlier this year, Jolie raised eyebrows, and probably temperatures, by exposing a thigh in a gown with a full-length slit while presenting one of the Oscars show in Hollywood.
Within less than an hour someone had created @AngiesRightLeg -- subhead: "I am Angelina Jolie's right leg" -- and by morning the Twitter feed had more than 15,500 followers.
Jolie's directorial debut was a love story set in the Bosnian war. It tells the story of a Muslim woman and a Serbian man who have a fling before the war and meet again when she has been taken prisoner by a Bosnian Serb army unit commanded by her former lover.
This week it was announced that Jolie will play Maleficent, the villain from Sleeping Beauty, in a film due out in 2014.
Pitt was nominated for Oscars for last year's Moneyball, a story about baseball and money. He is to star in 2013 in "Twelve Years a Slave," about a man kidnapped in New York in the 19th century and sold into slavery in the Deep South.
By Barnaby Chesterman | AFP News
All weekend football in Italy was called off on Saturday following the death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini, a player whose own private life had been plagued by a series of tragedies.
All weekend football in Italy was called off on Saturday following the death of Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini, a player whose own private life had been plagued by a series of tragedies.
The 25-year-old, on loan from Serie A side Udinese, collapsed on the pitch during a second division game at Pescara and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
It continued a tragic family history that saw Morosini's parents die while he was a teenager, after which his disabled brother also committed suicide.
He is survived by an older sister, who is handicapped.
Morosini's death comes just under a month after Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during his side's FA Cup quarter-final match with Tottenham, prompting calls for more stringent medical checks on footballers.
The Italian Football Federation general manager Antonello Valentini responded to Saturday's tragedy by suspending all remaining weekend football, starting with the Serie A match between AC Milan and Genoa.
The match had been due to kick-off at 6:00 pm local time (1600 GMT). Fans already at the San Siro stadium responded to that announcement largely with applause, although some jeered.
Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci later invited all Italian sports federations to observe a minute's silence in memory of Morosini.
Morosini suffered a heart attack during the first half of the match. He collapsed suddenly and was treated on the pitch before being taken away by ambulance to the Civile Santo Spirito hospital in Pescara.
But the former Italy under-21 international was later pronounced dead.
Pescara's masseur Claudio D'Arcangelo said he knew immediately something was wrong.
"I darted onto the pitch because I understood straight away that it was a serious situation," he said.
"I didn't even wait for the referee's permission. I gave him heart-massage straight away and for a moment I felt he was coming back but there was nothing we could do."
There was a delay as the ambulance was initially prevented from entering the stadium due to a police car blocking an exit.
Pescara goalkeeper Luca Anania explained: "There were moments of great confusion and I tried to understand what was happening, also with regard to the delay of the emergency services.
"They said the ambulance couldn't come onto the pitch because the entrance was blocked by another car. Some of my team-mates carried the stretcher to the ambulance."
Local authorities opened an investigation into the incident but a heart specialist said the delay made no difference.
"A minute more or less in the ambulance would not have done anything," cardiologist Dr Paloscia told ANSA.
"His heart had stopped and never started beating again. We tried to reanimate him for an hour and a half but it was all to no avail."
Italian media were alerted to Morosini's death initially by an "explosion of shouts and tears" from his team-mates who had come to the hospital, ANSA said.
Police started to usher the press away but the official confirmation followed shortly afterwards.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was amongst those to pay tribute to Morosini.
"The tragedy that has affected everyone that loved him has brought great pain to everyone who loves football," he said on his Twitter page.
Muamba's collapse on March 17 raised fears that he would become another entry in the grim list of professional footballers who have died playing the game, the most high-profile being Marc-Vivien Foe.
The 28-year-old Cameroon midfielder, who played for West Ham United, Manchester City and Lyon, died after collapsing during a Confederations Cup semi-final against Colombia in Lyon in June 2003.
But Muamba -- whose heart stopped for 78 minutes as medics battled to keep him alive both at the stadium and then in hospital -- defied the odds and has since made incredible progress, boosting hopes that he will make a full recovery.