When I launched the gerryruiz photoblog on September 25, 2007, I only had the faintest idea of what “blogging” was really about, nothing much except that it was a web log – some sort of a journal.

And I thought to myself, hey, wouldn’t it be nice to post photos in lieu of a diary-type journal? It would also serve as a repository for my budding digital photo files – photos taken with a point & shoot Sony Cybershot (and a good back-up in case my drive crashes again!)

I had no idea then where it would lead me to, nor did I expect that the passion on photography would eventually consume me in due time…

The photoblog also served as an outlet for me for the creative itchiness I would feel time and again. I was simply posting at will with no regularity at all – only when I felt like it and when something would come up which I thought would be interesting to share with my small circle of internet friends.

Hence, when Eric Dee, aka Byahilo – an established and known blogger based in Manila – urged me last June to join him and attend the Visayas Blogging Summit set for end of November in Iloilo City, my interest was rekindled. It was a chance for me to get to know more what blogging really is about and how the more established and known Filipino bloggers do it.

A planned historical and cultural tour around Iloilo during the summit was the clincher! Great photo ops!

Hence I booked early to avail of cheaper airfares and had my mind set on attending the Visayas Blogging Summit in Iloilo on Nov 27 & 28.

And so the time finally came – I flew to Iloilo last Friday, November 26 for the Visayas Blogging Summit.

The whole day summit was held at Cinema 2 inside Iloilo’s SM City. Had the chance to meet fellow bloggers from Iloilo, Bacolod, Roxas, Cebu and some coming from Manila. Great time comparing notes and having extended exchange of ideas!

(Above) Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog delivers his welcome address

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We were privileged to have been invited to experience first-hand what promises to be the newest and most exciting tourism activity in Eastern Visayas – the Ulot Watershed Ecotourism Loop at Paranas, Samar!

In a pre-launching run of the Ulot Watershed Ecotourism Loop held yesterday, November 24, 2010, officials from the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) and local Dept. of Tourism headed by Director Karen Tiopes together with tour operators and members of the media got to experience the loop’s torpedo boat adventure ride into the rapids of the Ulot River – the longest river in the whole island of Samar.

One rides the rapids downstream using the “torpedo” boats – canoes with no outriggers – over a distance of 10.5 kilometers and back again (upstream) for a total of 21 kilometers.

The whole exhilarating trip took about 2.5 hours.

We had lunch-break at the route’s end point amidst the natural beauty of the cascading cool waters of the river rapids with thick virgin rainforest surrounding us. Naturally, we jumped into the cool waters for a refreshing swim. Whew!

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Written on one of the wall tablets of the St. Joseph (San Jose) Church of Matalom, Leyte is a list of all parish priests who served the Roman Catholic parish.

Number 1 on the list is Rev. Fr. Leonardo Celes Diaz.

The date: 1843 to 1883.

Whew! That means the church is 167 years old!

Matalom is a quaint, quiet town – the last town of the province of Leyte lying on the southwestern boundary dividing Leyte from Southern Leyte. It’s about 3 and a half hours by car over well-paved roads and rustic scenery.

During a visit to nearby Canigao Island – the town’s main tourist destination – we were wandering around the municipal building and its environs when we noticed a big old wooden building dating back to Spanish times right across the town hall. At the back of the building we found the San Jose Parish Church.

Going around to the facade we realized this was one grand old church that must have seen so much history over the years…

As we approached the entrance and entered quietly, I couldn’t help but get a sense of being transported back in time in a very profound and spiritual manner.

After a few minutes of quiet contemplation and just as we turned to leave, our attention was drawn to some activity emanating from the church main entrance.

A group of people was carrying something inside the church…

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Galeón Andalucía- a replica of the Spanish Galleons of old – visits Maasin City, Southern Leyte as part of the 1st Dia de Galeon Festival in the Phillippines.

It is a life-size replica of the Spanish galleons which plied the trade routes between Spanish, Mexican and Philippine ports established in the 17th century.

The body of Galeón Andalucía is a 40-meter fiberglass monohull covered with iroko and pine wood – a great naval engineering challenge in design and technology.

The galleon measures 55 meters long, 10.10 meters wide, with a height reaching 40 meters. She has 4 masts and 7 sails (930 sq. m. total sail area) and has a total crew of 40.

Galeón Andalucía has 6 decks, noble area (4 cabins, bathroom, Admiral’s room and a balcony) and personnel areas (kitchen, holds, crew members quarters) and function areas.

Constructed by the Fundacion Nao Victoria of Seville, Spain, Galeón Andalucía is on a round-the-world trip primarily for science-based research as well as for trade & economic, historical, cultural and tourism promotional objectives.

It left Spain on on March 1, 2010 and has called on the main ports of European countries in the Mediterranean Sea (Spain, Malta, Israel), Red Sea (Egypt), Indian Ocean (Sri Lanka) and China Sea (Shanghai, Hong Kong).

In the Philippines, it first visited Manila, then Cebu, Bohol and Maasin.

It dropped anchor at the Port of Maasin November 2 and departed November 7 for Singapore, after a brief 3-hour stop-over at nearby historic Limasawa Island.

View hi-res photos & slideshow: http://gerryruiz.callezaragosa.com/p346178122

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