Sunday, December 26, 2010

Secluded Cavite inn offers more than just bed and breakfast

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 06:31:00 12/26/2010

Filed Under: Philippines - Regions, Hotels & accommodation,business, Tourism

INDANG, CAVI-TE—A secluded inn here is enticing guests and tourists who want to experience tranquility away from the bustling city. And it makes itself distinct from the usual concept of bed and breakfast that most tourists know.

Aptly named as Balay Indang, guests can expect to feel at home while inside the area.

General manager Marge Tan says guests can feel as they own Balay Indang during their stay.

“We are not your usual bed and breakfast as we operate 24/7, and we offer more,” she adds.

According to Sonia Garcia, staff supervisor, some tourists who want to visit Tagaytay City sometimes opt to stay in Balay Indang for their accommodation.

Balay Indang is located a few minutes away from Tagaytay City where most tourists flock.

Garcia adds that staying in Balay Indang is like owning a rest house for a day. “We let our guests explore the four-hectare land. They will never run out of activities here. It doesn’t end in sleeping inside the room, eating and going home.”

Guests may need to bring mosquito repellant with them as they roam around as the area is full of plants and trees, making them vulnerable to mosquito bites, Garcia advises. “The idea behind this is to let our guests be closer to nature.”

Unlike the usual accommodations trying to invite guests, Balay Indang does not have a prominent sign that tells passers-by what it offers.

Balay Indang can only be distinguished by the house number “88” hugely painted on its gate, making it a seemingly concealed inn.

Tan recalls that Balay Indang started as a vacant lot in year 2000 that was later transformed into a retreat house with only a few rooms.

“The owner was wondering then what to do with that vacant lot. Then, he decided to build a house that soon turned into a retreat house,” he says, adding that this four-hectare property was developed in year 2004, and became open since then to accommodate guests who want to experience the laidback ambiance they offer.

Balay Indang started as a retreat house with a capacity of 35 until the demand increased, prompting them to build more rooms for at least 70 persons.

Some guests are already booked for their stay in April in time for the Holy Week, according to Garcia.

Tan clarifies, however, that Balay Indang does not have plans of expanding further as they just want to share the place. “Balay Indang is not meant to work in a ‘mass production’ mode. We want our guests to be relaxed and feel as if they own the place.”

No fixed menu

Guests staying in Balay Indang are not given a menu during meal time.

Garcia claims that the dishes they prepare are very flexible. “We prepare what we want, but we make sure our guests would like it.”

In some cases, the staff of Balay Indang needs to conduct research on what food to prepare whenever they have foreign visitors.

“We had some Korean guests who stayed here for almost a month. We wanted to make them feel at home by preparing the food they are used to. Marge and I researched on Korean dishes,” says Garcia.

Another reason she cites for not having a fixed menu is for the guests to be not tired of the food Balay Indang offers.

Asked on Balay Indang’s best seller, Garcia says each dish they prepare is considered a best seller. But guests often request for their famous Halo-halo Turon and baby back ribs.

Garcia says they make sure that they prepare balanced meals all the time. Meals are always composed of vegetables, fruits, seafood, chicken and pork. All meals are accompanied with fresh juice.

Guests staying overnight will be served with five meals. On every meal, each dish served is “refillable.” This offer of Balay Indang keeps guests coming back.

“Minsan, guests ang nasuko sa dami ng pagkain,” claims Garcia.

Homey feeling

Guests can feel that they own a rest house for a day as they can use most of the facilities within Balay Indang.

Some of the facilities include a swimming pool, tree house, playground, pavilion, secret garden and billiard hall.

The rooms are named after Biblical characters as it is intended to be a retreat house.

“No double decks are inside the rooms since we want our guests to feel at home and not to be inside a dormitory,” says Garcia.

A room service may not be needed as everything a guest needs is right inside each room—mineral water, toiletries, spare towels and blankets.

The rooms offer a rustic ambiance with the capiz-made windows, wooden sliding doors and high wooden ceilings.

Although the area is already naturally airy, most rooms are air-conditioned for the guests to be fully comfortable.

Balay Indang boasts of its main house that has a spacious living room and dining area where guests can also stay.

The interior is filled with pieces of furniture, projecting a fusion of different cultures—mostly countries from Southeast Asia.

Guests are also allowed to pick the fruits from the fruit-bearing trees scattered within the area, says Garcia.

Balay Indang is a favorite hangout place of popular cyclists, reporters and politicians.

Randy David, Representative Sonny Belmonte and some TV reporters are frequent visitors of Balay Indang, according to Garcia.

The place is ideal for seminars, retreats, team buildings and yoga sessions. Balay Indang has also been a favorite venue for weddings.

“Annually, there are around 8 to 10 weddings held here,” says Tan.

Without having to spend on marketing and advertisement, Balay Indang has gained a positive reputation through word-of-mouth and blogs of their previous guests.

The fee for an overnight stay is pegged at P2,500 which mainly go to the food served. Day tours are also offered.

Balay Indang is located along Mendez Avenue in Indang, Cavite, about 30 kilometers south of Manila. Reservations can be made through the general manager (0917-8665825).

Friday, December 24, 2010

GK residents make money through Christmas ham

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 21:54:00 12/23/2010

Filed Under: Entrepreneurship, business, Christmas

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines—Loreta Perez, 55, enthusiastically rubbed the meat with curing salt as she, along with her neighbors, prepared kilos of ham for the smoking phase.

She manifests excitement as she knows it is an opportunity to earn extra money this Christmas season.

Perez is among the trainees of the Rotary Club Los Baños Makiling Chapter in its livelihood program. The trainees are residents of the Gawad Kalinga village in Barangay (village) Putho-Tuntungin. Most of them are housewives.

Perez, a mother to 10 children, tells the Inquirer that she is really glad that certain groups like the Rotary Club are reaching out to indigent families like them.

“I had no definite source of income before their help came in. My husband and I would just depend on our son who worked as a janitor in a hospital,” Perez says in Filipino.

Now, she also runs a sari-sari store inside the GK village. She borrowed P2,000 from the Rotary Club Los Baños Makiling Chapter, which she uses as capital for her small business.

Rotary Club Los Baños Makiling Chapter president Elisa Ronan says their group is opening opportunities to the needy families like those inside the GK village to start a better life.

“We don’t believe in doleouts so we decided to help them acquire skills they can apply to make a living,” she says.

The training on ham making started in October with about 20 trainees in preparation for the Christmas season.

Even before the hams are made by the trainees, a sorority based in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has already been tapped to purchase the products.

The hams will be included in the Christmas baskets the sorority will give away to the families living in the GK village.

Iluminada Gomez, former product development officer of the UPLB Dairy Training and Research Institute and a Rotary Club member, provided the training on ham making.

Ronan says they are still thinking of other livelihood means to help the residents. From the P50,000 seed money that her group got from Rotary Club Makati, the money has grown to help more families in Los Baños town.

Some victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” have been helped by the group through some livelihood programs.

“We offer a lending program in which the beneficiaries can borrow money at a very minimal interest. They can use the amount to start up a small business,” Ronan says, adding that “while Gawad Kalinga helps the residents acquire a decent shelter, our group wants each family inside the village to have sustainable sources of income.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Newsboys’ kids also came for storytelling

By Inquirer Southern Luzon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:23:00 12/08/2010

Filed Under: Children, Youth, Philippines - Regions, Education,Language

The event was also one way for the newspaper to celebrate its partnership with families of newsboys in their localities. Their sons and daughters attended in all the session areas, except for Marinduque.

Naga City

A perennial guest brought his family to Naga City’s Read-Along, which he believed was the reason his children excelled in school.

One of the many Inquirer newsboys in the Camarines Sur city for the past 20 years, Bert Cayonte and his wife took along their six children at SM City Naga for an encounter with “Mr. Beetle’s Many Rooms,” written by Robert Magnuson, and Christine Bellen’s “Felimon Mamon.”

They joined some 50 pupils of Trianggulo Elementary School in listening to Sonia Roco, widow of the late Bicolano Sen. Raul S. Roco, who imparted the importance of sharing and generosity in the story of Mr. Beetle.

Once reluctant to have as neighbors such insects as fireflies and crickets in a tree where he found a room to stay, Mr. Beetle later learned to value his newfound friends.

Vic Nierva, writer, photographer and educator shared how Filemon Mamon, an obese boy, learned the value of proper diet and exercise.

Partners in the Read-Along were SM City Naga, McDonald’s, Shell, Raul S. Roco Library, Triangulo Elementary School, Vibal Publishing and Ramon Sia.

Legazpi City

The session in Albay’s capital, Legazpi, drew some 150 pupils, including children of newsstand operators. Their enthusiasm for reading was fanned by school owner Aveline Averilla-Jung and beauty titleholder Yvethe Marie Santiago.

Also called “Teacher Bey,” Averilla-Jung of PiaMont Science Oriented School for Kids in Daraga town echoed the benefits of being sensitive to others in the story “Mr. Beetle’s Many Rooms.”

Santiago, 17, who won Best in National Costume in the 22nd World Miss University in Seoul, read Richard Reynante’s “Ang Huling Puno,” which tells of the last huge shady tree in the middle of a fast-developing city and how it is threatened to be cut down to give way to the construction of a huge building.

Sponsors were Junior Chamber International Daraga and Legazpi chapters; Playland at Embarcadero de Legazpi; newspaper dealers Cathy Sendin, Vivian Galvan and Benito Chan; Jebson; Justin Naron; Vibal Publishing; and McDonald’s.

Sta. Rosa City

Children of parents who were mostly overseas Filipino workers listened to stories of sharing and how to conquer fear at SM Sta. Rosa in Laguna.

Around 80 children, mostly those of members of Athika, an organization of OFWs based in Laguna, gathered around Cory Quirino, Inquirer columnist and natural health and beauty advocate, who asked them to sing some songs before starting to narrate the story of Mr. Beetle.

Theater artist and host Tony Yanza got them glued to the story of Aleli Dew Batnag’s “Si Ching na Takot sa Dilim.”

Others participants were pupils from Sta. Rosa and the towns of San Pedro and Biñan, who were tapped by Athika through the local government units.

Session partners were SM City Sta. Rosa, McDonald’s, Shell, Atikha, Vibal Publishing and newspaper dealer Benny Agnazata.

Lucena City

Some 170 children in Lucena and the nearby town of Tayabas in Quezon found two worthy causes to embrace during the Inquirer Read-Along session—the joy and wisdom of reading and protection of Mother Earth.

Lawyer Asis G. Perez, chair of Tanggol Kalikasan (Defense of Nature), a public interest environmental law office, engaged the young audience gathered at SM City-Lucena activity center, with his reading of “Ang Huling Puno.”

Annabelle Malvar, a mountaineer and teacher of Tayabas East Central School 2, and her two daughters, Marianne and Ma. Denise, read a story about a local environmental landmark, Mount Banahaw.

The youngsters were all ears as the mother and daughters alternately read “SSBB (Samut-Saring Buhay sa Banahaw),” a comic book story with mountain animals as characters who faced risks due to man’s continuous destruction of their natural habitat.

The story was written by Carmen Cabling-Alcala, an ardent protector of the mystical mountain.

The session here was supported by SM City Lucena, Team Energy, Tanggol Kalikasan, Tayabas Mountaineers, Lucena Public Information Office, Tayabas East 8 Central School, McDonald’s, Shell, Vibal Publishing and newspaper dealers Frank Anggulo and Nonie Macandile.

Sta. Cruz

The public library of Sta. Cruz town in Marinduque became a beehive of sorts, teeming with 80 pupils and teachers of Santa Cruz South Central Elementary School and members of Marinduque Youth Volunteers Corps.

Panchito Labay, an environmental science professor of Marinduque State College (MSC) and deemed the country’s Professor Butterfly with his researches and studies on the insect, was the celebrity storyteller.

He, however, did not talk about butterflies but the endangered pawikan (sea turtles). He read “Pilandok sa Pulo ng Pawikan” by Victoria Añonuevo.

Interactive storyteller Arianne Kaye Sager, an AB English student of MSC, read “Ang Huling Puno” in front of thrilled students.

The Read-Along was realized with help coming from the municipal government of Santa Cruz, Junior Chamber International-Marinduque Morion chapter, Marinduque Youth Volunteers Corps, Vibal Publishing and Jacquelyn Alandy Guevarra. Rey M. Nasol, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Shiena M. Barrameda, Pau John F. Barrosa, Juan Escandor Jr., Karen Lapitan and Gerald Gene R. Querubin