Holy Week – It’s more fun in the Philippines

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a BIG DEAL in the Philippines, which only means it is a great time to visit.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson | Additional Photos by Tourism Philippines

Crucifixion in Pampanga, Philippines, during the Holy Week

Crucifixion in Pampanga, Philippines, during the Holy Week (Photo courtesy of http://www.tourism-philippines.com)

Lent has several names in the PhilippinesSemana Santa, Mahal na Araw, Holy Week – however you call it, one thing is certain: it is a BIG DEAL in the Philippines (but self-flagellation & crucifixion are not!)

For meat lovers, however, a word of warning: it is probably the only time when the Philippines turns vegetarian, or fishetarian for the not-too-religious.

Being a predominantly Catholic country, Lent is a significant religious festival in most parts of the nation’s 7,107 islands. It is elaborately celebrated with gruesome re-enactments of the final hours of Jesus’ life, where real penitents wear makeshift crowns of thorns, whipping themselves in silent processions and ending with crucifixion, for real!

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All Rice!

How can something so simple be this good? Fried, boiled, steamed – brown, white or wild – how much do you know about this most important staple food for a large part of the human population? Here’s what I know about my favorite food – fun trivia I’ve picked up from eating buckets of rice all over the world.

Text and Photo by Jennifer Ellson

In China, one asks “have you had your rice?” (“ni chi fan le ma?”) in lieu of “how are you?”

Meanwhile, rice is so well-loved in Japan that two car brands were named after rice. Toyota means ‘fertile rice paddies’, while Honda means ‘the base rice field’.

Back in China, there is an old wives tale that a girl who doesn’t finish her rice will have a future husband with many pockmarks on his face – as many as the girl’s uneaten grains! Oh how cruel! But there’s also a Chinese belief that leftover rice is a cure for migraines, so I guess there’s the silver lining for her: ugly husband, but migraine-free.

Here are other facts and trivia:

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Dessert Trips: Goin’ bananas in Asia

When it comes to desserts, Southeast Asia has gone bananas!

Text and Photo by Jennifer Ellson

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Gallivanting around Southeast Asia has taught me that despite their different languages, religions and cultures, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and most Asian countries near the equator share this common trait: they love their dolce banana!

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Where in the world is this market?

Where in the world is this?

Where can you find the freshest produce & seafood, with a great sunset view to boot? Clue: it is the birthplace of the largest coffee chain in the world!

Answer is below, after the jump.

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The other side of Cebu Island, Philippines

You probably know the glitzy side with its swanky beaches and immaculate golf courses. Now, meet the other side of this Philippine island with its stunning views of coconut groves, corn plantations and private beach coves.

Text by Jennifer Ellson I Photos by Amorvida Muyrong
(Originally published in the Maple Leaf Times)  

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I caught the travel bug early on – the strain that makes one go to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Whether it be Poipet, Cambodia, or Samut Prakarn in Thailand, I’ll surely find a way to go there and discover the unexplored.

So why the Island of Cebu in the Philippines, you ask, when it probably ties with Boracay Island as the most popular destination in the archipelago? The answer lies on the other side of the island. A good hour and a half away from the hustles of Cebu City is the charming town of Sogod,  on the north-eastern coast of the province. Locals say only the ‘travel pros’ stay at this clandestine destination, while the amateurs stay at the integrated resorts in Cebu City.

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