Baguio’s Local Folks

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” – Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

What does a community mean to you? Your university class, or your theatre family, or maybe your neighborhood? Is it a place you go to whenever you need some breather? Or, a particular individual you seek advice when confusion and problems arise? Or in a nutshell, a community could be any space where thoughts (or opinions), talents, and passions are made communal, acknowledged, and shared in an encouraging and fruitful manner. A community, therefore, evokes a sense of support to people and their creatives.

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I have always taken pride that Baguio, my city, is a creative community where locals (and visitors alike) can freely express their ingenuity in any form that is inspiring. Last June 20, I finally got the chance to attend one of The Local Folke’s monthly gathering. THE LOCAL FOLKE is an inventive outlet for various kinds of creative individuals from travelers to writers to photographers to artists of different kind. As I see it, it hopes to become a peer-led community for connection, inspiration, inclusion and of course, creative expression. Moreover, I sense that The Local Folke can eventually become a space to feel at home, to spend time with others, to be to be one’s self, to be accepted, and to learn and grow.

During this recent gathering, a very timely topic was discussed. It was about financial management and the troubles that go with spending and saving one’s money. I usually say no to any invitation about financial advocacy talks. For one, I feel that such talk usually leads to networking. I am just glad that the sharing made through this get-together was enlightening. It has dawned on me that the problem is not the lack of money, but the lack of financial literacy. I won’t put into details the things we talked about, but I must say that I have learned a thing or two. (Thanks to Sir Galang of Insular Life).

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After this basic discussion about financial management, every attendee got the chance to know each other better by sharing something about themselves. It was such a diverse group wherein there were musicians, photographers, travel enthusiasts, and more. The best part (and the one I enjoyed the most) was when each of us were asked random questions that allow sharing of thoughts/ opinions and be an inspiration to others. It was such a delight to listen and learn from different people’s viewpoints and sentiments. Such simple meeting provided a humbling opportunity to mingle and gain confidence in a situation where we are all appreciated.

It definitely won’t be the last time I am attending such get-together. I am beyond ecstatic that I was able to meet like-minded individuals over good talks and laughs. Special shout-out to Micah and Mikka for organizing this wonderful event. Thanks too, to Lance Oneil for the photographs.

Take it easy everyJuan.

Filipi-Know: Pinoy Words I Love.

Words are exceptionally the most commanding force presented to people. The use of such is something we do every single day whenever we talk to people, and even to ourselves. We either have the freedom to utilize this power beneficially through words of inspiration, or damagingly using words of desolation.

Words have authority. It can either make or break a person. It has the ability to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to harass, to humiliate and to humble a human being.

So I am sharing some Filipino words I love to here, and say. Which one is your favorite? Can you use them in a sentence? Take it away.

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Take it easy everyJuan.

Portugal Kitang Hinintay

Dear Portugal,

Portugal kitang hinintay (can be translated as “I have long waited for you, Portugal)!, Was I happy? Are you kidding me? I wasn’t happy! I was enamored, over-whelmed (insert all superlatives here). Okay, so how did the desire to visit this travel destination start? Read along…

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2013. I was watching Leg 4 of the 23rd season of the Amazing Race. This Leg was filmed in Portugal, and the detour task then was a choice between putting together a life-size puzzle using porcelain tiles or retrieving a giant-sized compass at a monastery called Jeronimos (with which the team will use it to map out the distance traveled by Ferdinand Magellan). Search on Youtube should you be interested to see more of what happened during that episode. Because of this feature on Portugal, I randomly tweeted “makes me wanna see Portugal #AmazingRace”.

Since then, I always have Portugal in my list of “Places I want to Visit”. You see, I often jot down the things I want to accomplish, and that includes enumerating in my journal the places I want to see. (If only you’d get a peep at my personal notes, you’ll see a loooong list, hahaha). Last year, I managed to go to Europe for the first time. It was a 10-week backpacking across the continent. At the end of that one-of-a-kind solo adventure, I realized that I wasn’t able to put into fruition my desire to set foot on Portugal. (Magellan must be really disappointed in me). I, myself, was tad disappointed. I guess it wasn’t the right time, just yet.

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Fast-forward 2018. Another opportunity to visit Europe came about. This time, I made sure that Portugal is on top of my list. I asked my boss at work if I could go for a vacation after my work-related travels, and boy I was glad he would allow me to. Just this 1st week of May, my long-time longing of seeing, experiencing Portugal came into realization. And wow, what an experience!

The moment I set foot outside the Porto airport, and that time I left the Lisbon airport, everything that happened in between during my stay in Portugal was just beyond happy, memorable, and nothing short of amazing! My first post on my social media accounts about Portugal was all praises, and words of admiration. I was all smiles sharing stories about Portugal, and I feel genuinely happy reminiscing every bit of my experience. When someone asks me why I speak so much joy and love for this Iberian nation, I end up being speechless just because.

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You know that feeling when you are in love and you are being asked what made you fell for that person you love? You just can’t put it into words. I try, but, I think I am failing big time. I mean, I have lots of reasons in mind but I just can’t seem to find the proper way to put them into words. It felt like Portugal and I were fated for each other. Hahaha. Okay, I may be a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, I will try one more time in this write-up to share reasons why “a feeling of certainty” came over me when I was in Portugal. I hope that the photographs I took will suffice what you would perceive maybe lacking later on.

I find Portugal’s Porto and Lisbon to be vibrant, and really charming. It felt like these cities have a pinch of something from the various European cities I have visited since last year. I’d be hypocritical if I’d say I didn’t set some expectations prior to my visit. Having been elected as the BEST European destination for 3 years — 2012, 2014 and 2017, Porto, specifically made me really excited. But I had to manage my expectations as well since I was already getting jaded of seeing street murals, cobblestone streets, historical monuments, museums, and the like. BUT, both Lisbon and Porto will prove you and your anticipated boredom, mistaken!

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Porto is amazing BECAUSE:
The view overlooking the Douro River is just impeccable. The colorful houses that dot the riverside, the Dom Luis metal bridge, the sighting of the Rabelo boats, the unsullied cold air wafting at my cheeks while atop Mostero da Serra do Pilar – were just too good to be true. Except that they were real and really lovely.

Walking along the narrow (and sometimes confusing) cobblestone streets seem to have transported me back in time. Every corner of which is “instagrammable”, hence one MUST stop every now and then to capture some moments.

It’s romantic! How do we know that a place is romantic? We just do! Or maybe the old art deco cafes, the street graffiti, and other architectural wonders (from churches to museum to apartments) within the city all contribute to this romantic sense.

Just like Lisbon, the mode of transportation, especially their tram and train, are not just cool ways to travel but are also aesthetically delightful pieces you’ll see in Porto.

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Lisbon is love BECAUSE:

Food is splendid. From the renowned “Pastel de nata” (Portuguese tarts) to their bacalhau, and seafood risotto — every restaurant and cafe I ate left me feeling tremendously gratified, without being guilty of spending much on food.

I am such a big fan of murals and street art. Colorful tiled buildings are everywhere. One thing I have noticed while walking along the streets of Lisbon, graffiti on walls (even houses), and abandoned buildings (with some garbage) are everywhere. BUT, unlike other cities I have seen with this similar depiction, I didn’t feel perilous. Instead, the shabby vibe added to the charm I mentioned earlier. It made Lisbon have a more distinct personality.

I love long walks through meandering and hilly paths. Reaching the top portion of these hills (whether you are on a castle or some random viewpoint within the city), you will be rewarded with an all-encompassing view of the city and its picturesque classic red-roof houses.

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I love the people I have met. As my travels get more frequent, the people I meet in a certain place is now a big factor towards the creation of a long-lasting impression. And the Portuguese surely made a positive impact on me for they are genuinely helpful and approachable (especially in time s I find myself getting lost). Special shout out to the staff/people I met at the hostel I stayed at!

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There are other reasons why I fell in love with Portugal but I am leaving those for you to find out. I left Portugal with admiration and respect. The way it impressed me has been lingering since I got back home here in the Philippines. It made me realize that just like people, only a few places will leave a lasting impression. And now, I have come to recognize why a lot of people speak highly of Portugal. I do, too, now. And as my plane took off from the Humberto Delgado Airport, I said my prayers of gratitude and hoped that soon, I will get to see Portugal again.

Most of my travels started as a dream, which eventually became part of my goals. I did put them into writing, wrote down possible steps how to achieve them. I directly and indirectly claimed they will happen. And guess what? A lot of them already did.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy.

 

Riga, Latvia: An Art Nouveau Mecca

Art Nouveau architecture in Latvia’s capital, Riga, makes up about 1/3rd of all the buildings in the center of the city. This makes Riga the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the entire world.

Also called as Jugendstil, art nouveau ultimately gave this Latvian capital its trademark look. The various buildings with elaborate floral designs, weaving garlands, theatrical  masks, intricate sculptural figures (from flamboyant naked maidens to funky gargoyles), flowing lines, and elaborate geometric forms adorning the facade of buildings, has made Riga famous and a must-see Eastern European city.

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But this Baltic City is not only known for these architectural gems, Riga is also visited for its wooden buildings, and its lovely medieval Old Town. I personally enjoyed walking around the pedestrian-only Riga Old Town that offers alot of  shops and restaurants. The Livu Square, with its lively bars and nightclubs were also a delight.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

In Photos: Hong Kong

ong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, located at the southeastern portion of China. It is one of the most visited travel destination at this side of Asia because of its a vibrant, skyscraper-studded skyline and the many natural and man-made attractions. It also boasts off its highly urbanized centers as it is a well-established global financial hub. Furthermore, Hong Kong is a shopping paradise, and a food destination. Day or night, Hong Kong is simply mesmerizing.

Here are some snapshots during my brief Hong Kong visit. Will add more soon.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. take it easy everyJuan.

Tales from Trakai (Lithuania)

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” ― W.H. Auden

Trakai, a town in Lithuania located south-west of its capital Vilnius and is a former capital city of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is a pretty small town surrounded by lakes, wherein the scenic Trakai Historical National Park can be found. To date, it has become extremely popular from among Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans as a vacation destination making it one of the most visited spots on the cultural tourism map. It has even become a major landmark of Lithuania.

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The town is small enough for everything to be walked on foot, but there are also buses running from the bus station (where the buses from Vilnius also arrive/depart) to the Trakai Island Castle. The Trakai Island Castle, a 14th-century Gothic residence with some Renaissance features of Lithuanian dukes, is the main attraction in the town and has become a symbol of medieval Lithuania. I have learned that during the summer season, a lot of concerts and plays are staged here.

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Locals would say that Trakai is full of myths and secrets. One version is that of the story of Gediminas, a grand duke of Lithuania and one of the strongest medieval rulers of Eastern Europe. One day, he decided to hunt near a place called Kernave, a medieval capital of Lithuania. During his search, Gediminas saw a stunning landscape with lakes and islands to which he decided to build a castle in the middle of one of the lakes. Another version is a more romantic one. It is about a lovely woman named Birute who was a wife of a local duke. She was born in a seaside town who felt lonely because she misses her hometown. To make her happy, her husband gave her a unique gift — a castle surrounded by lakes. So there. Of course, there were also historical accounts but I am not very certain about its details.

Other sites worthy to visit are the Trakai Peninsula Castle, (this is the older of the two castles of Trakai), the Saint Mary Church – an originally gothic church altered during the Baroque period; and Galvė Lake, a relaxing nature spot where sailing can be done.

There are also restaurants worth trying. Most of which are known to serve Karaitian cuisine. If you want to stay overnight, several accommodations are also found.

Trakai is indeed a fairytale-like town. The architectural, natural and cultural wonders all add up to a wonderful experience visiting this seemingly magical place. I have to admit that Trakai is one of my favorites during Europe travel because it was simply fascinating, and yes, romantic!

Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Beyond Phuket’s Beaches (Thailand)

The first thing that comes to mind by the mention of Phuket, Thailand are its beaches. Most tourists come to this tropical paradise because it is lined with many beautiful beaches to choose from without going on an island-hopping. True enough, the sandy beaches and clear waters of Phuket offers a refreshing beach experience. But more than these pristine seashores, Phuket also offers other must-see, must-experience places, and activities. Read more about PHUKET BEACHES here.

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Visit The Phuket Big Buddha
Bangkok maybe the choice of place if one is up to seeing Buddha landmarks in Thailand, but Phuket has its fair share. At 45 meters high, the humongous Buddha of Phuket is one of the major landmarks in all of Phuket. It is perched atop Nakkerd Hills and is visible in certain viewpoints of Phuket. I love the panoramic view it offers. The Buddha reminds me of some Myanmar pagoda because the Burmese white marble it is made of sparkles when the sun is shining vibrantly during the day.

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Go temple hopping
There are many temples in Phuket just like most key places in Thailand. But Phuket’s largest and most revered temple is Wat Chalong. I was surprised that there is actually a lot to see. There is Poh Jao Wat, a temple that houses two statues (Ta Khee-Lek and Nonsi). However, the main landmark is the beautiful Grand Pagoda. It is beautifully adorned with Buddha images and pictures that depict his life story. Chalong Temple is located almost 10 kilometers South of Phuket town and just east of Kata beach in the South Eastern corner of the island.

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Walk Around Phuket Old Town
This is my favorite part of my Phuket visit. Phuket Old Town is the provincial capital of Phuket. I like old towns because they reflect so much of a place’s history. One can visit various Buddhist and Chinese temples, stunning and colorful “shophouses”, some street murals, and of course market that sells some cheap stuff. The best way to explore the old town is on foot. It isn’t big so it would be very much manageable to move around.

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Turn Your World Upside Down
Baan Teelanka, or Upside Down House of Phuket, is one exciting attraction in Phuket. As the name would imply, this beautiful pink house stands upside down in a garden like setting. Once you enter, you’ll be amazed as to how everything is turned “upside-down.” Posing for pictures would bring out the creative juices in you. I appreciate that their guides have some excellent pose suggestions. I am amazed that even the fishes inside the aquarium are swimming upside down. So cool!

Baan Teelanka is open daily 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Price for the House: Adult 250 Baht, Kids 150 Baht (4 to 11 years old) Price for the Maze 150 Baht, Kids 100 Baht (4 to 11 years old) Tel: 076 376 245

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Learn more about Cashews:
I looove cashew nut, so when I was told that Phuket is also known for cashews, I didn’t mind visiting one of its cashew factories. In fact, the Sri Bhurapa Orchid was the first cashew factory in all of Phuket. A stop at this shop will give every visitor an opportunity to be shown around. There are various stations where one can have a taste test of the juice of the cashew nut, an area where cashew nuts are processed, and another one where the nuts are packed. I was so happy to see also various flavored cashew products. True enough, a tour of a cashew nut factory in Phuket is a must for cashew nut lovers like me.

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A night out at Bangla Road
If you are a party-person, then a night out at Bangla Road will surely delight your soul. After sundown, Bangla Road gets closed to traffic, and the street turns into a big party place. Restaurant and bar owners will lure you with beer, girls and other forms of entertainment. It surely is a fun-filled district of Phuket!

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Learn more about Elephants
I am pretty sure, riding an elephant is on your bucket list. But wait, I hope that instead of riding, why not just visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and learn why you should never ride an elephant. I highly support ethical elephant tourism, so I discourage people I meet not to ride on them. A picture with them is more than enough.

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Feed Monkeys at Khao Rang Viewpoint
Khao Rang viewpoint offers a good look out over Phuket, its islands and hills. One can also dine in one the restaurants in the area. Just be mindful because there are monkeys here. I have an unforgettable experience in this place when one money attacked me because of the food I was eating. Good thing nothing bad happened to me although for a moment I thought I’d die. Hahaha. So next time, you should have some extra food for these monkeys.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. take it easy everyJuan.

If you happen to be in Phuket and you want to be assisted with your tour, check out TAKE ME TOUR and their various itineraries. Check on the link! And mind you, they also have other organized tours all over Thailand!

 

 

I AmSterDam: The Netherlands

I’d be lying if I say I didn’t want to go and visit Amsterdam. My yearning to see this city intensified when I was reading the book “The Fault in Our Stars”. Three years after I have read the book and watched the movie, who would’ve thought that I’ll be living yet another dream, and that is to see Amsterdam up-close and personal.

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Amsterdam is regarded as The Netherlands largest city, and perhaps, the most popular as well. Prior to my trip, I had to research more about this city. I am pretty surprised to know that it has a lot of monikers aside from being well-known as the City of Canals.

So here are the titles given to Amsterdam that I myself was able to validate that indeed, the city deserves to be called such:

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Amsterdam as the City of Canals. Some would even call it as the Venice of the North. But since I haven’t been to Venice, that I cannot really verify. But it is so true that it has so many canals – clean ones! It is said that there are more than 100 kilometers of canals, and around 1,500 bridges within the city.

Amsterdam as The City of Bicycles. Well most of the key cities I have visited in Europe are bicycle-friendly but I guess nothing beats Amsterdam. While walking around the city on foot, it felt like there are more bicycles than people! Bicycles are literally everywhere. Well, I like it. Bike paths, bike racks, and bike storage garages are all-over as well. Who wouldn’t love these means of moving around – they’re fast and environmental friendly.

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Amsterdam as The City of Arts and Culture. One thing I have noticed during my stay in Amsterdam is that museums abound the city. They are everywhere – from Anne Frank’s House to the Van Gogh museum to the Rijksmuseum(Dutch art) and those that are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square). I guess the following are also part of the flourishing culture of Netherlands – the Redlight district parties, the Gay Pride, and even the Cannabis Cup.

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Amsterdam as The City of Architecture. My CS host and I were walking around the city when from time to time he would show off and tell stories about some of Amsterdam’s buildings. I can sense that he was really proud of the architectural designs of the buildings. Well, I could just agree as they are really lovely and interesting. I find the designs to be a combination of the 17th century and the contemporary style.


Amsterdam as The City for Shoppers. The city offers an array of shops from flowers (think tulips) to various kinds of souvenir shops, fashionable clothes, chocolate shops, and even sex shops. I was fortunate to have stayed at a place right in the middle of these shops.

Amsterdam: The City of Cannabis Coffee and Cake Shops. I have learned during my stay that coffee-shops cannabis use is tolerated by the local authorities (but of course in small amount). I also got to try a vanilla flavored cannabis cake.

So there… I hope these reasons be enough for you to consider coming to Amsterdam soon. Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

 

Borobudur & Prambanan: Indonesia’s Soul

Yogyakarta (often called “Jogja or Yogya”) is a city on the island of Java known for its beyond visible traditional arts, cultural and intellectual heritage – hence being regarded as Indonesia’s “soul”.

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This special region of Indonesia is sternly independent and protecting of its customs, and still headed by its sultan, whose Kraton (a royal palace) remains the center of traditional life, despite Yogya being a large urban centre – making it one of Indonesia’s most liveable (and lovable) city!

What makes it more lovable? Yogyakarta is home to two of Indonesia’s most important archaeological sites, Borobudur and Prambanan!

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Set amongst dewy, forest-clad hills near the city of Yogyakarta is a structure built in about 800AD. Borobudur is regarded as one of the world’s most extraordinary temples. It is made up of 72 stupas — mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics, typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) each containing a Buddha figure. I have to say that this is the ultimate splendor of this important sacred monument.

A succession of five square bases is thriven by three circular terraces with the 72 stupas around it. It is said that these signifies the transcendent passage from the life of desire, by way of meditation to Enlightenment. If the temple is viewed from atop, it looks like a lotus flower. (Too bad I don’t have a drone camera to capture such).

Today, Borobudur whose landscape is dominated by the Gunung Merapi Volcano is a UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Site.

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Aside from Borobudur, another noteworthy UNESCO World Heritage Site is the 9th and 10th century Hindu complex of Prambanan. Prambanan is a temple devoted to Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma.

The main temple of Prambanan measures over 150 feet tall. Its towers appear to be neck crane-like with very elaborate reliefs. Some tourists say that Prambanan is reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia (which I have yet to see). Being one of the largest Hindu temples in the entire Southeast Asia, this temple is a must-see. And if you will ask me which between Borobudur and Prambanan I like better, I’d say – the later.

Things to take note of:
• Borobudur is open 6am-5pm, admission 75,000 Rp, but you can gain earlier access with a “sunrise ticket”, available through your hotel or a package tour.
• You may or may not have a local guide within the temple (costs around Rp75,000).
• Prambanan is also open 6am-5pm, admission is same with Borobudur.
• Make sure to wear something decent.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. take it easy ebri’juan’…

Stobosa Murals (Benguet, PH)

There are three specific places I would like to see in Brazil one day. One, the gigantic Christ, The Redeemer statue; two, to trek the Amazon, and three, to have a photo shoot at its famed favela — slum in Brazil within the urban areas turned into a giant mural.

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I am a sucker for anything artsy that is why I included the favela. While that dream of going to Brazil seem to be a far-fetch reality as of this moment, I am more than glad to learn that La Trinidad – Benguet’s capital and the closest municipality to Baguio, is slowly turning several communities into one humongous mural.

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Passing by Benguet’s capital would mean enduring the traffic especially along Kilometer 3. I used to grudge about it since you’ll get stuck without any form of entertainment (unless you are preoccupied with your phone). Now, with the multi-hued Stonehill community just above the Balili River turned into a favela-like masterpiece, getting stuck in traffic becomes more pleasing, at least to the eyesight.

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The Stonehill community is comprised of 3 sitios. These are Sitios Stonehill, Botiwtiw and Sadjao (all part of Brgy. Balili). This mural project has been called Stobosa, named after the three sitios. According to an article, I have read, there are about 180 houses in this area. With the supervision of Baguio City’s Tam-awan Art Village artists and the sponsorship from a paint company – the once dull set of houses sitting along the mountains of La Trinidad have become more delightful as they are converted into a humongous painting.
Today, La Trinidad has a new moniker because of this. Besides being known as the vegetable capital and strawberry capital of the Philippines, the town is being promoted as the “Valley of Colors.” It is worthy to mention that the residents of these sitios have actively involved themselves in this project. The project is almost into its completion. Tourists who flock Baguio, have also considered checking out the mountain of houses in various colors.

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I went to see it myself one sunny day. It could be easily spotted when you are on your way to La Trinidad town proper. While I was thrilled to see it, there are also some other things that caught my attention. I like the idea of turning the houses into this big mural – yes I do. What I didn’t like are the many electrical wires hanging. I don’t know if there is a solution to this. More so, I hate that a giant tarpaulin of the paint company that donated the paint used in this project is more distinguishable than the houses themselves. It is such an eyesore! Well, they could promote their product in a way that it wouldn’t take away the beauty of the place. Lastly, I have noticed some garbages along the road fronting Stobosa (actually a turn-off). I hope the locals and tourists alike, would do their fair share of keeping the place clean.

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Nonetheless, the project is a good start and such a good welcome treat when one is making his/her way to the strawberry farm, or would go to Atok and Sagada. Maybe, soon, they would also consider painting the opposite side so that the area will be bursting with so many colors.

Good job to the REV-BLOOM campaign of Department of Tourism (DOT) Cordillera which aims to promote a more sustainable tourism in my beloved CAR!
¬Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”juan”.