Late 2017, I received a wonderful news that I successfully won a job that I applied for and got interviewed in Singapore. This great opportunity is not in Singapore but this opportunity has allowed me and my family to relocate from Manila to the land down under. And so in May of 2018, we have embarked on a journey to face new challenges in the beautiful city of Sydney.
Australia would be the 4th continent that I been blessed to set foot on and we have specifically chosen Sydney to be where we want to settle into. The charm of its harbour and the Opera House made us decide to choose this city. Well, we have found a good house in a suburb north of Sydney.
We arrived at the latter end of the Aussie autumn period and we have faced our first challenge which is getting adjusted to the cold weather, specially as we move through winter. But luckily I’ve got good friends who helped us through the first few months.
As part of our visita iglesia trip to Ilocos in 2017, we made a short stop to the beautiful city of Vigan. Vigan is the capital city of the province of Ilocos Sur. It is host to the most preserved Hispanic-era historic town in the country and this is best experienced in Calle Crisologo.
Just a little bit of history. The Philippines was conquered by Spain. In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi returned to the islands to colonize it after Ferdinand Magellan’s discovered it in 1521. He then named the islands after Spain’s King Philip II. And for 333 years, Spain ruled most of its islands until 1898 when it was ceded to the US along with Guam and Puerto Rico.
For these 3 cruel centuries, Spain has left beautiful structures that are of European architecture. Walled cities like Intramuros of Manila and fortresses like that Fort San Pedro of Cebu were built to protect key cities. Huge stone churches were built in every center of towns. Many houses in town centers were built on adobe rock foundation with wood, straw, and coral stones.
During the long weekend of Holy Week 2017, we’ve set our plans for a 4-day trip to visit the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. We have planned to do a visita iglesia to its beautiful churches. And while we are at it, we have included in our itinerary trips to the city of Vigan, the famous sites around Paoay, Laoag City, and to the town of Pagudpud.
It has been almost two decades, I think, since I last visited this proud region. Ilocos is famous for being the hometown of Philippines‘ former strongman Ferdinand Marcos and tobacco, its main produce. And so I was very excited to make this trip. In the 90’s, my family frequented Ilocos to visit family friends and this time I’m able to chart our own paths to see more of the province.
For this trip, I’ve booked ourselves a 15-seater van from my cousin’s friend. We started our trip in the early morning of Maundy Thursday. Our ride first picked up my wife’s family from Canlubang in Calamba, Laguna at 12 midnight before picking us up in Bonifacio Global City within Metro Manila around 1AM in the morning.
For the past few years, our family have been doing the visita iglesia as our annual family tradition every Holy Week. We have visited churches in the provinces around Metro Manila, like in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon. We also started the tradition while we were still living in Singapore. And this 2017 we have decided to go up to the northwestern part of Luzon. We drove north for around 12 hours to proud provinces of Ilocandia to visit its century old churches.
Ilocandia basically is group of provinces at the northern part of Luzon where the Ilocanos abound. For this visita iglesia, we are visiting the twin provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. On a side trip we have also visited some famous spot in these provinces like in the cities of Vigan, Laoag, Paoay, and Pagudpud.
Like in our past visita iglesias, we it during Good Fridays. We started around 8am from the city of Candon in Ilocos Sur. In every church that we visit, we read a set of prayers for the visita and for the way of the cross. Again, this Catholic tradition commemorates the passion and Christ’s way to Mount Calvary to be crucified.
The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines. This the full name of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). UST is among the oldest universities in the Philippines. It is also the oldest Catholic university in Asia. Established in April 1611, it was founded and managed by the Dominican priests. And today, it is one of the top universities and most respected educational institution in the country.
Well, I’m a proud to say that I one of its alumni who graduated from its College of Commerce in early 2000.
UST is currently located in a squarish 21.5 hectare lot in locality of Sampaloc in Manila. It is bounded by España Boulevard, named after the Philippines’ former colonizer, Spain. In exchange, Madrid named its own as Avenida de Filipinas where the replica of the Rizal monument stands. But originally, the university was located within the walls of the Intramuros. It was only in the 1927 when the Dominican priests decided to move to a bigger location outside the wall. The Intramuros campus remained operational until it was destroyed by the World War II.
For a lot of my friends who are skilled in driving, most would not really like long distance driving. My guess is that most of you don’t as well. Well, I maybe one of the few who loves to drive. I find freedom when I drive. That is, when I know that I can reach any destination as long as I have fuel and a map.
I occasionally take the steering wheel while in Manila. I’ve also gotten the chance to drive in Europe when we ventured to Amsterdam from Brussels. But I specially liked driving in the USA just as I did when I drove from California to Arizona. Also there one from within Texas. Here you drive on very smooth pavement and at high speeds on automatic driving.
In those previous trips to the US, some of the longest trips I’ve made was our 7-hour drive from the Grand Canyon to Los Angeles. But in 2014, I’ve pushed myself further by driving for around 10 hours straight.
Back in my 10-week stay in Atlanta back in 2014, I was able to go around the Atlanta’s major and key tourist destinations. But in one of the memorable moments I had during my visit there was an opportunity to experience one activity not common in the Philippines.
My colleague, Niko and his wife Kim invited me to join them in checking out this group of food truckers that having a stop in one of the parks in suburban Atlanta.
Food trucks are basically moving food kiosks and is a common sight in US cities especially in their downtown areas. These trucks offer different varieties of quick to eat dishes for people on-the-go. They serve from sandwiches to rice meals and from local to international cuisines.
In the month of May, my employer RCG Philippines sent me on a business trip to our client, Elavon, in Atlanta, Georgia for 10 weeks. Elavon is a major credit card device provider in the US and I was sent there to support my QA director in planning our projects.
Elavon’s office is located in Sandy Springs at the northern part of metropolitan Atlanta, about 15 miles from downtown Atlanta. And during my stay, I’ve stayed in two nearby Extended Stay America hotels, one in Peachtree-Dunwoody for two weeks and longest at the Homestead Suites branch along Hammond Drive, just across the office building compound of Elavon’s.
I arrived during a cooler time of the year just as spring ends and stayed until middle of summer in July. It was nice to experience the cooler weeks before experiencing the scorching heat of summer.