Even before the official announcement of the place being open to the public, we managed to visit for the first time recently the new official residence and office of the Vice President of the Philippines.

The new home of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is the luxurious Coconut Palace, a government-owned guesthouse which stands on a 2.7 hectare property located at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex right by the Manila Bay in Pasay City.

Renovation work was still ongoing when we visited the Palace last November 09, 2011. Still, one can feel the elegance of the place.

Estimated to be worth PhP1.2-billion, not counting the artwork and antique fixtures and furniture, the Coconut Palace has plush guestrooms where the Marcoses, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and showbiz stars like Brooke Shields and George Hamilton once slept.

The Coconut Palace was designed and built by architect Francisco Mañoza in 1978 upon being commissioned by then first lady Imelda Marcos for the Manila visit of the late Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Pope, however, declined the offer to stay in it which he found too ostentatious. Among others, it has a swimming pool with a panoramic view of the spectacular Manila Bay sunset.

Shaped like an octagon, the Palace prides itself in showcasing the creative use of coconut and its various by-products, as well as artwork that includes works by noted Filipino artists Araceli Dans and Napoleon Abueva, among others. Its bedrooms emulate traditional art and aesthetics of Filipino regions, with antique decor on the walls, tables and cabinets.

It was President Aquino himself who offered the Coconut Palace to Vice President Jejomar Binay to make it as the official and permanent residence and office of the Vice President of the Philippines. The OVP used to hold office at the PNB Financial Center building in Pasay City.

Today, this where the VP holds office, meets guests, conducts meetings and media conferences.

Just last week, VP Binay announced that the Coconut Palace is now open to local and foreign tourists, with pre-arranged daily tours like the one being held in the US White House.

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I’ve always wanted to do a long, slow shutter speed, aerial, evening shot of the Roxas Boulevard stretch of Metro-Manila.

Our band, The Assembly, played for months in the late 70′s at El Camarote at  Holiday Inn, now Traders’ Hotel, right across the Cultural Center of the Philippines. And even if I was not into photography then, the early evening lights of the whole stretch of the boulevard viewed from the top floors of Holiday Inn had always fascinated me.

The opportunity came recently while I was doing a shoot for Pasay City and among the sought-after shots I wanted done was one to be taken early evening, atop Traders Hotel.

Alas, the weather wasn’t too kind! It had rained for a couple of days until that fateful day when we finally got the hotel clearance to climb right up to the roof deck of the hotel. I was barely starting to warm up after getting a proper orientation and a general feel of the stronger-than-usual winds when you’re on top of a tall building (we climbed a couple more levels from the 18th floor) when suddenly it started to drizzle!

Gosh! There wasn’t much time to go around the hotel’s roof deck to get all the possible angles!

So here’s what I just managed to shoot…

Better luck next time. :(

Photos taken 14 November 2011.

 

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It’s been some time since I last passed through the famous Bitukang Manok segment – a very steep zigzag road section at the Quezon Natural Forest Park. A new, longer, safer diversion road has been constructed where all types of heavy vehicles now pass.

It was great news then when I learned that the old Bitukang Manok segment has been rehabilitated and is now passable albeit only for light vehicles. It was with much anticipation therefore that I looked forward to driving the southroad again – from Manila all the way to Tacloban City via the Maharlika Highway (also known as the Pan-Philippine Highway ) – a distance of like 1,000 kilometers. :)

We drove last week, my wife, Ludette and son, Marti and I and, yes, we passed through the steep Bitukang Manok.

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Traveling by car two and a half hours south of Tacloban City via Baybay, one reaches the town of Hindang – a 5th class municipality of the province of Leyte.

The quaint and almost sleepy town of Hindang is better known (together with the town of Inopacan) as the jump-off point in going to the beautiful island beaches found at Quatro Islas (Cuatro Islas).

What is lesser known are the awesome caves inhabited with wild monkeys located at Mt Bontok (also spelled Buntok and Bontoc) at Brgy Buntok, Hindang.

Hindang Caves is relatively more accessible compared to other caves I have visited. There is an access road which is a mere 300 meters from the national highway to the park entrance. Before reaching the poblacion (coming from the town of Inopacan) a road sign on the left side of the highway shows you the way to the access road. This leads you up to the mountains right up to the park entrance where one begins to climb some 100-odd concrete steps up the winding stairway into the forested area where the caves are hidden by the thick foliage.

The climb up is also not as strenuous compared to others. It’s like going up, say, a 5-6-storey building. Manageable.

Upon reaching the area where the pathway branches off to lead to the several caves, one is met with “representatives” of a monkey tribe now a bit spoiled and expecting to be fed with bananas by visitors. The tribe, we were informed by the caretaker, numbers about a hundred!

There are several caves in the area but the more prominent ones are the Cathedral Cave and the Pandayan Cave. These caves served as refuge for the guerillas during WWII and survived heavy bombardment by the Japanese invaders.

Unlike other caves I’ve seen, the caves of Hindang have a more “colorful” look with greenish to orangey hues.

A must-see for those visiting Hindang, the park has picnic areas where one can relax, enjoy the scenic views and savor nature up close.

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© 2013 gerryruiz photoblog mark II Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha