As a travel destination, the Philippines are best known for beachside retreats and natural attractions. This is a visually stunning country full of fascinating things to see and places to relax. As is somewhat inevitable with popular tourist destinations, however, a resort culture has sprung up as well – primarily in Manila. Visiting the world-famous resorts of Manila is a little bit different than your average trip to the Philippines, so we wanted to provide a few general tips for exploring and enjoying this area.

Know The Top Resorts

Manila is right up there with other Southeast Asian destinations like Singapore and Macau when it comes to major resorts. But it still pays to know the specifics before you’re traveling there (rather than just having a vague understanding that there are some huge hotels there). Generally speaking, there are some excellent luxury hotels in the area, including places like The Peninsula, Amanpulo, and the Pangulasian Island Resort, all of which offer terrific comforts and scenery. However, the main draws are the casino resorts: City Of Dreams, Resorts World, and Okada. These are some of the names that should be in your searches as you set out to plan a trip.

Plan Your Casino Visits

You certainly don’t have to visit the casinos at these resorts, as there are plenty of other things to do. However, the casinos are arguably the main attractions, and if you decide you want to check them out, a little bit of preparation is in order. You’ll want to research which games are offered at which venues, and then make sure you understand those games. You may also want to look into how people present themselves so you can dress accordingly, though as casino gaming has become more casual over the years, people now have the freedom to wear almost anything they like in these types of venues. Overall, you just want to have a solid idea of what you’re walking into.

Plan A Few Meals

In more remote Philippines destinations, you’ll be treated to flavorful local cuisine and generally unique dining experiences. In a resort area, it’s more about fine dining – but that’s not a bad thing at all. Some of the restaurants can definitely be pricey, but often the menus are worth it. A few names to keep in mind are Passion (a Chinese restaurant at Resorts World), La Piazza (a surprisingly lovely Italian place at Okada), and Goryeo (an elegant Korean establishment, also at Okada). At City Of Dreams there’s also a Nobu – part of the empire of restaurants Japanese celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa built with Robet De Niro. This will be a lot of travelers’ first choice.

Look Beyond The Hotels

This is definitely a resort destination, and as mentioned there are other places all over the Philippines for natural beauty and cultural experience. However, even if you’re looking for a luxury hotel to stay at, you should keep in mind that Manila is far more than its cluster of casinos and resorts. Rizal Park, for instance, is a beautiful outdoor attractions and one of the biggest urban parks in all of Asia. Taal Volcano attracts a lot of sightseers as well. And those are just two of many places to see as you wander the area during the day.

Once you’ve chosen a resort and arrived in Manila, most of your hour-to-hour enjoyment will come easily. You’ll find things to do in and around the hotel, and you’ll be able to relax however you see fit. However, it’s still a good idea to have some of these experiences picked out and considered in advance.

CATEEL’S KUTOO FESTIVAL: A True Heritage Worthy To Be Proud Of

It was in 2011 that I was given the chance to sit as the Chairman of the Board of Judges for the Kutoo Festival, one of the highlights of the Araw ng Cateel celebration. It was a great opportunity for me not only to witness this colorful event and choose the best performing group but also to learn more about my hometown’s rich culture and tradition through this much-awaited event. Kutoo is one of the many old traditions in my hometown widely practiced even today.

Kutoo is a form of ritual or prayer done during a pre-harvesting process of agricultural crops, particularly palay (rice plants) which is considered the main agriculture produce of the town. Cateel is considered as the rice granary of the Eastcoast of Davao Oriental and this practice of Kutoo traces back even the olden times.

The celebration of KUTOO FESTIVAL has become our town’s tribute to the honor this tradition and has become a festival of thanksgiving for the abundance of agricultural products of our hometown. When Typhoon Pablo hit Cateel in 2012, the celebration was put on halt. But this year the Local Government Unit of Cateel initiated the “comeback” of this festival with the participation of the private sectors, public and private schools of all levels. This year, I was again given the opportunity to sit as the Chairman of the Board of Judges.

In the olden days, Kutoo is said to be typically performed by an old woman by way of harvesting a few stalks of palay while saying a prayer during the ritual. The pre-harvesting process involves showing respect and submission to the gods or anitos, specifically Tagamaling and Dagaw, the stewards of crops. This is intended so that the landowner/farmer will be blessed with a bountiful harvest. In the recent days, Kutoo is still practiced by some farmers but the offerings and prayers for the anitos and gods of the crops are no longer performed.

Today, the celebration of Kutoo Festival features a Street Dancing Competition participated by different schools in Cateel. Participating groups are dressed up wearing Mandaya attire and accessories mostly made of cloth known as dagmay dancing along the major streets to the beat of our Mandaya culture. Cateel is home to Mandaya and Mandaya culture and traditions are still practiced to this day – that includes Kutoo. The choreographed performances of the street-dancing and street showdown are patterned after the rituals of Kutoo. Adding to the colors of the festival, palay takes centerstage as the main props.

Kutoo Festival showcases not only our customary harvest ritual but it displays Cateel’s artistic, cultural and historical heritage. Being a festival fanatic who’s been around the country covering different festivals, witnessing our own festival is heartwarming. It is heartwarming because it is my own heritage and it speaks our own culture – the culture and tradition of my people. As I say it before and I say it again, Kutoo Festival is an eye opener for me to know that there is more to discover and more to be proud of of our town – something that the new generation can learn from.

Together with my fellow Cateeleños, I pray that this festival will flourish and this culture will be preserved. For it is a true heritage worthy to be proud of!



For millions of times, I always say I take pride to have been born and raised in the town where the highest waterfalls of the country is found, the majestic Aliwagwag Falls. I would say my hometown of Cateel is blessed with so many natural wonders but topping on the list is this multi-tiered Aliwagwag Falls which is considered as the one of the most beautiful falls in the Philippines.

As a photographer who hails from Cateel, I have loads of stunning photos of Aliwagwag Falls even before it was developed as an EcoTourism destination. Recently, I went home to take drone shots of our hometown’s ultimate pride and these are what I’ve got.

Aliwagwag Falls is considered by hydraulic engineers as the highest waterfalls in the Philippines with over 130 cascading tiers that appears like a white stairway amidst a forest of emerald green. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful falls in the Philippines.

From a true Cateeleño, I am sharing the PRIDE of my hometown to you and to the World. Visit CATEEL and discover the magnificence of Aliwagwag Falls, the highest waterfalls in the country.

CHARMING CATEEL: Davao Oriental’s Water Wonder

The charming town of CATEEL in Davao Oriental is considered as the WATER WONDER of the Province because of its majestic cascading waterfalls, long unspoiled coastlines, pristine beaches and clean rivers. More than a water wonder, CATEEL is blessed with other natural wonders that truly made it a perfect destination to discover and explore.


#CharmingCateel #DavaoOriental #ExperienceCateel #MindaNOW

Top Five Places to Experience the ‘Real’ Mexico

When overseas travel first became something that was accessible to ordinary working people, the unusual weather and the simple fact that you weren’t at home was enough to impress most people. Whilst many of us still enjoy spending time at holiday resorts and relaxing in warm weather, the desire for a deeper and more authentic travel experience has become quite commonplace.

If you’re planning a luxury Mexico vacation and you’re keen to experience a taste of the ‘real’ Mexico, it’s worth doing a little research before you book your trip. If you want to absorb the local way of life, eat the local food and learn about the local culture, language and history, it’s important you choose a destination where life is largely undisturbed by mass tourism – or at least somewhere within an accessible distance of such a place.

The good news is that plenty of these kinds of places do still exist in Mexico. Whilst tourism to the country has soured in recent years, the hundreds of years of history – both modern and ancient –that Mexico has experienced have combined to create a nation enviably rich in culture and character, and all of its charms remain entirely discoverable to the savvy traveller.

Below you will find the top five places to consider for your Mexican vacation that will offer you a truly authentic taste of the country, its food and its culture.


The third largest city in the state of Yucatán is named after Valladolid, Spain – which was at the time the capital of that country. It is a place where there’s plenty to do, but which still retains a distinctly small-town feel.

If you’re interested in visiting Mexico’s world-famous landmarks and cultural sites, Valladolid is the perfect base. From here, you’re not too far from the natural wonder of Rio Lagartos, with its colourful landscape and abundant exotic birdlife, or the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá which really need no introduction.

And once you’re done exploring the incredible region, Valladolid itself offers a fully immersive cultural experience: the quiet, sun-drenched streets and pastel-coloured buildings simply couldn’t be more Mexican if they tried.

Puerto Morelos

Halfway between Cancún and Playa del Carmen lies the fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Whilst the town has seen the arrival of the tourist trade in recent years, and does now offer excellent tourist facilities, it has nonetheless succeeded in retaining much of its traditional village charm – and its unmistakably Mexican mañana lifestyle.

Unlike its rowdy neighbours, Puerto Morelos is a place that is visited by those looking for quiet beaches and shallow waters during the day, and real Mexican food and atmosphere in the evenings. A great example of how small scale tourism can peacefully coexist with traditional lifestyles, Puerto Morelos is an idyllic location for people who want to experience the ‘real’ Mexico without having to stray too far off the tourist trail.

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Located in a small valley in the mountains of Chiapas, this cultural town is absolutely brimming with authentic Mexican charm. Its location in the mountains means it enjoys a much milder climate than many towns in Mexico, making it perfect for exploring and sightseeing.

With red tile roofs, cobbled streets and wrought iron balconies, this colonial town retains much of the old-world European charm that was brought to it by its Spanish settlers many hundreds of years ago. Today, it has a chic and bohemian vibe, and the atmosphere is charming and romantic.

The descendants of local Mayan people sell their crafts on the town’s streets, and if you venture into the surrounding villages you’ll discover a world where traditional native customs and beliefs still exist, and otherwise forgotten ways of life still thrive.


Whilst big cities aren’t often the first places that come to mind when it comes to finding the most authentic cultural experiences, they shouldn’t be forgotten altogether. In the case of a city like Oaxaca, it is of course true that the atmosphere is an unmistakably contemporary one – but it is an unmistakably contemporary Mexican one nonetheless.

With a creative vibe pulsing through the streets, Oaxaca is a haven for artists. In fact, it’s hard not to feel artistically inspired when confronted with a place of such captivating colonial charm. An exciting culinary and cultural scene unfolds beneath the shade of the trees that line the wide streets.

With a strong indigenous culture and some of the best museums in the country, colonial Oaxaca feels intimately connected with its history. The laid-back pace of life is frequently erupting into explosive fiestas that fill the streets with energy and excitement – in many ways capturing the fundamental juxtaposition between sleepy siesta and fiery fiesta that defines the Hispanic spirit.


The provincial capital of the state of the same name is arguably the most perfectly preserved colonial town in Mexico. After sustained pirate attacks in the 17th Century, the city was left in a state of disrepair until being declared a UNESCO site. After that declaration, significant restoration work took place and today the walled city centre contains narrow, cobbled streets, pastel-coloured buildings and impressive mansions that evoke so strongly the feel of the colonial era that it almost feels like an open-air museum rather than a working town. If Oaxaca is a taste of modern, cosmopolitan Mexico, then Campeche is a glimpse into Mexico’s colourful and fascinating past.