Category Archives: Travel

My Top 20 for 2015!

My Top 20 for 2015!

Another wonderful year has passed! When my memory starts to fade, this collective recap of 2015 highlights of my life will help me to immortalize these treasured memories.

Thank You, Father, for a memorable 2015. I continue to trust in Your constantly bountiful grace and claim yet another fruitful and blessed year ahead this 2016, filled with awe and wonder!

*Click on the photos to enlarge view.

# 1
Balloons Birthday Surprise

Thoughtful birthday surprise by colleagues. Helium balloons not allowed in our office so they individually stuck on the ceiling (karir, na-touch ako!) balloons inflated with ordinary air and tied “life strings” with photos documenting happy memories from my past ** years. 🙂

# 2
Papal Visit

Being one of the multitude along Roxas Boulevard blessed by the Pope as he passed by in his Pope Mobile. Viva il Papa! 79 years old but he still made the effort of standing in a moving vehicle, waving left and right and smiling at all those who waited and came out to see him. #PapalVisitPH #PopeFrancisPH

# 3
Powering Progress Together (Year 2)

Successfully leading the “Shell Powering Progress Together Asia” 2015 conference with a great lineup of speakers. Received Quill and Anvil public relations awards for advocacy and special event entry categories. Furthered the advocacy on multi-sector collaboration and action towards greater societal resilience towards challenges on urbanisation, energy-water-food resource-efficiency, and climate change.

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# 4
Boracay Adventures

  • Yoga posing in the air with Bestie Elaine while parasailing in Boracay
  • Usisera with Mich sa beach wedding in Discovery Shores. Kunyari we were just chilling by the sunbathers’ beach chairs but we were actually enjoying watching the entourage and listening to the sweet vows made by the bride and groom. I think we even waved our arms in the air as they were taking drone shots for the wedding video (wedding video bombers!)
  • Trying out the Reiki session at Mandala Spa. Unusual spa session as the Reiki therapist doesn’t really massage you but just extends her hands on your energy points (chakras) from head to toe. Surprisingly, I felt very relaxed that I even dozed off (then I very much felt the “cleansing” effect of the Reiki session with several trips to the bathroom while waiting for our return flight to Manila at Caticlan airport! TMI, haha!).

# 5
First Summer Holiday with All Four Fur Babies

It was a major production going on our first summer beach outing with all my four dogs (Bubbles, Blu, Yodie and Red). We had a 7-hour road trip (lots of pee stopovers for my fur babies, you see) to Anda, Pangasinan, also known as the Boracay of the North. I have happy memories of Red frolicking wild and free (leash-less, I must say! I’m a proud dog mum!) in the crystal clear beach waters; Holding hands in the bangka with Bubbles and Blu who were as scared as I was by the big waves met by our small boat during the long boat ride from Anda to Alaminos (Hundred Islands), Pangasinan. The manong bangkeros kept saying, “Malapit lang, ma’am!” but it took us 1.5 hours to cross the big, blue, wild ocean; Letting fur kids Bubbles and Blu roam one of the secluded islets (Blu swimming towards me and making a u-turn back to shore whenever he feels the water is too deep already); My niece Faith and I back floating by day and videokeing by night; The yummy home-cooked meals and cool breeze at the two-storey beach house we rented; Trying to light up the paper lantern with mommy; stop over at Bolinao hot springs and offering up prayers at Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine on our way home (last time I made a pilgrimage there was when Lola Sol was still alive and we brought her to the church in a wheelchair).

# 6
Resilience Projects

Automated Weather Stations (AWS). Successful installation and launch of the AWS network in Iloilo and Davao cities, with well-attended, multi-sector Climate Resilience seminars. This Powering Progress Together initiative is led by Shell, in partnership with Manila Observatory and Smart Communications. The AWS network aims to help local governments boost their disaster preparedness efforts by making real-time and localized weather data available.

Future Cities Exhibit launch. Part of our Shell Powering Progress Together advocacy to promote urban and environmental resilience by educating the public, especially the youth, on the essential components of smart, green and sustainable cities. This is a partnership project with the Mind Museum in Taguig.

# 7

I am an absolute lover of slides! Felt like a kid again experiencing Nivea Slidefest, a slide party for both kids and adults. Absolutely loved the foam slide! (Video to follow)

# 8
Iloilo Adventures

  • Visit to the breathtaking Miagao Church, UNESCO World Heritage site (opened in 1797; Baroque architecture). Very solemn atmosphere and couldn’t help get teary-eyed as I knelt down and prayed. Even saw a poster of St. Pedro Poveda, founder of our school, inside the church 🙂
  • Tour of the Lopez Mansion (also known as Nelly’s Gardens) in Jaro – it is the Queen of Heritage Houses in Iloilo, with aristocratic Beaux-Arts architecture. It gives a glimpse of the extravagant lifestyle of one of Iloilo’s most affluent families during the American Period.
  • A trip to Guimaras island, famous for producing the sweetest mangoes in the world (the mango pizza at “The Pitstop” resto was heavenly!). Went to the mango orchard, bought a mango seedling and cartons of mangoes as pasalubong for family and colleagues.
  • Of course, we did not leave Iloilo City without tasting its famous La Paz Batchoy at the town market.

# 9
Skycycle Challenge

It doesn’t look scary from below but once you’re up there about to launch yourself high up in the air with just a tight rope to pedal your way through, way above the pine trees, you suddenly get butterflies in your stomach! When you start to get the hang of it, though, skycycling becomes a breeze and exhilarates your spirit as you allow yourself to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the cool wind that surrounds you. Eden Nature Park in Davao is definitely a haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts. To know more:

Eden Nature Park

# 10
Re-Experiencing Malaysia

We used to travel to Malaysia yearly for work (which explains my accumulation of their local brand of Vincci shoes) but it’s been quite some time since I’ve been there. We usually stay in Kuala Lumpur but this time we stayed in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Beside the Royale Chulan Damansara Hotel, where the ASEAN Responsibility Forum we attended was held, were a chain of restos and large malls/outlet stores (The Curve, Paradigm mall, Tesco). The vibe in this area is more relaxed than Kuala Lumpur and this city is also much cleaner. At night we enjoyed trying out the restos (the Japanese resto Minori served the best salmon sashimi!) and of course I enjoyed the usual hunting for locally branded shoes and clothes. The 1.5 hour massage at Thai Odyssey was also one of the best I’ve had. 🙂 I also trooped to Sephora for make-up and anti-ageing products.

# 11
Mommy’s 70th Birthday at Sonya’s Garden

My mom has a green thumb and even in our space-constrained condominium in the middle of smog-ridden Metro Manila, you’ll be amazed to see that she is able to grow pots and pots of plants! So what better way to treat her to her 70th birthday than to bring her to Sonia’s Garden Bed & Breakfast in Tagaytay — a haven of nature’s beauty and serenity. Our family enjoyed the cozy Thyme Cottage, tried Sonya’s signature massage at their Garden Spa, and at dinner surprised mom with a birthday song serenade from their lolo guitarist – kundiman singer, together with Sonya’s kitchen staff who brought in their famous moist chocolate cake with a candle and happy birthday inscription. The next day we did the garden tour, went shopping (my fave activity!) at their country store (with great-smelling lavender and mint shampoos, and lots of trinkets), and brought home free potted plants (mint, taragon and an additional free passion flower plant for birthday mom courtesy of Sonya herself). It was a relaxing weekend of just chilling and enjoying the surrounding beauty.

# 12
“Healing Power of Happiness” Talk
& Brahma Kumaris “Inner Peace, Inner Power” Retreat

I attended the very enlightening talk of international speaker Denise Lawrence on the “Healing Power of Happiness”. I promise to share about the nuggets of wisdom she shared in a separate blog entry as it definitely merits one. I brought my younger bro with me (hope he picked up something from the talk!) and we each got a pastry. As with all Brahma Kumaris events, they end it by giving everyone sweets to remind us to speak kind words always. Mine had the words: “Empty yourself of past resentment, anger and sadness to fill it with love and pure happiness. Happy Christmas!” 

The  story of the “Inner Peace, Inner Power” Retreat I attended can be read here.

# 13
Successful Access to Energy Pilot Project

One of my key accomplishments in 2015 is the successful launch of our pilot Access to Energy (rural electrification) project for an indigenous community (the Batak tribe) in Puerto Princesa. Together with the dedicated programme workers of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), the social arm of Shell Philippines, we were able to install a hybrid energy system, operating on runoff river hyrdro, with solar and diesel as backup energy support. It was a feat delivering this project to the off-grid community, having to traverse 11 river crossings and protect ourselves from malaria exposure. Today, the community has lighting 24-7, with energy access supporting the tribal people’s education, livelihood and healthcare. The project is a recipient of the 2015 Shell CEO HSSE and Social Performance Special Merit Award for “Excellence in Social Performance”.

Below is a heartwarming 6-minute video documentary produced by Storytellers on the Shell Philippines Access to Energy pilot project.

# 14
Historic Malampaya Phase 3 Platform
Towout and Installation

I am so glad that I started working in Shell Philippines Exploration, operator of the Malampaya Deep Water Gas to Power Project (government project that provides up to 30% of the country’s electricity requirements through cleaner-burning natural gas), at a historical period, when the project was embarking on its next phases of development (Malampaya Phases 2 and 3 or MP2 and MP3). We supported the project team that successfully designed, constructed, towed out and installed the first offshore platform that is made for Filipinos by Filipinos. The MP3 Platform is a product of Filipino ingenuity and collaboration of about 14 different nationalities, all contributing their expertise to keep the lights on in our homes, cities and industries. I was able to help host then Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla to his first visit to the Malampaya platforms (with the MP3 Depletion-Compression Platform just newly-installed and connected to the existing Shallow Water Platform). It truly is a proud time to be Filipino!

# 15
Mindoro Community Visit

  • First time to try Veggie Lechon (tastes like the real thing! they say it is made of casava). Photo below holding a tray of Veggie Chicharon (yes, with my lioness hair straight from swimming in the beach) available at “Dad and Me Cafe” in Calapan, Mindoro.
  • Visited the fishing communities supported by our Malampaya Foundation, together with our JV partners – tasted fish polvoron (a product innovation), saw how an improvised Fish Aggregating Device looks like (used in one of Mindoro Oriental’s most well-managed marine protected areas), saw Tamaraw Falls and the mangrove boardwalk at Puerto Galera.

# 16
Puerto Princesa – Taytay – El Nido Road Trip

From Puerto Princesa, we took a 5-hour road trip to Taytay (complete with long stretches of bumpy dirt road), and took a short boat ride to Liminangcong, an island community. We visited our community beneficiaries of livelihood and training programmes (mariculture, goat-raising, dress-making, solar technician training) implemented by Malampaya Foundation. It was my first time to sleep under a kulambo (mosquito net)! After Taytay, we hit the road again to proceed to El Nido. Stayed in a cool hostel, Spin Designer Hostel, that had creative and cozy interiors. We got to meet our kayak gear rental beneficiaries.

16 El Nido 9

# 17
Plays and Musicals
(Rak of Aegis, Hamlet, Leading Lady and Bridges of Madison Country)

# 18
Losing Weight! (20 lbs.)

Last August 2015, I met up with my old friend from college, Dawn Shangkuan-Ong, who is still looking as svelte as ever with two kids! She shared with me the LCHF (Low Carb, High Fat) Diet, which she encouraged me to try. I’ve been on so many diets before but was never ever to sustain the weight-loss since it involved ordering prepared diet meals (Southbeach and Cohen-friendly), which I would eventually get tired of (could not bear the same taste anymore; it was my younger bro or my doggies who ended up eating the diet meals). Of course, it was also expensive. With LCHF, I do not need to order prepared diet meals anymore but simply choose what I eat. This means avoiding carbs and sweets! Not easy at first but with self-discipline and determination, I was able to sustain it. This is the most pounds I have ever lost with all diets — 20 pounds in a span of three months. I still need to lose about 10 – 15 pounds to meet my ideal weight (now a little more since I went on a sugar and carb binge during the Christmas break). But I am confident that with perseverance, I will achieve my goal. 🙂

18 Weight-Loss Before and After

# 19

This year I tried to spend as much quality time with my family. My parents are seniors already so love to take them to places where they can relax and enjoy nature. I pray that they may be blessed with good health, peace and joy.

The other family I am blessed with is my Office Family. We have had such a blast this year. One of the funnest things we did was shoot our office Christmas video, which was half of our presentation for our Department (External Relations) Christmas Party. The other half was a live dance! Yes, we’re competitive that way. We may not have won 1st place three years in a row (we were hoping it would be a 3-peat this year) but we sure created winning memories. 🙂

19 Family 2

# 20
Receiving and Giving Kindness

All the people who showed kindness to me in different ways. You know who you are. Thank you for the love. I pray you may be richly blessed by God with His grace.

25 Thank You

*Bonus: I do need to say a Big Thank You for being so lucky again this year and winning major prizes in two raffles. Yehey! Next I claim the big pot money in the lottery! 🙂



Rediscovering Malaysia

Rediscovering Malaysia

I’ve been to Malaysia many times but always just in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Grateful for the chance to see more of Malaysia this year. Was able to see Miri, Kota Belud and Kota Kinabalu just before 2013 ends. Here’s my workcation video blog below. Hope you enjoy!

Travel highlights:
1. Visit to Mantanani Island community – 2 hours boat ride from Kota Belud!
2. Trekking at Kinabalu Park, UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The canopy walk through the rainforest was so cool and refreshing!
3. Tour of the Upside Down House of Borneo
4. Sighting of the “Rafflesia”, the world’s largest flower! It takes about 1 to 4 years to grow the flower in special climate conditions, and it lives for only 5 to 7 days before it turns into charcoal black. Lucky we at least saw one that was about 3 to 4 days old, near wilting already but still amazing.
5. Bargain shopping for Sabah snack delicacies, fashionable Malaysian shoes, and seawater pearls!

*Music credits: “Good Life”, performed by OneRepublic

Special thanks to our tour guide Sharif (Amazing Borneo tours) for the very professional and informative tour of Kinabalu Park, and especially to Mr and Mrs Helmi for being such wonderful travel and shopping companions! Mr Helmi is with the Malaysian tourism department and he says that next year, Malaysia will embark on its tourism campaign, “Visit Malaysia 2014”, where they have lined up many tourist activities. This video blog is just a sneak peek of the many interesting places to see and things to do in Malaysia.

Rediscovering Malaysia, photo collage

Mas Masaya sa Pilipinas! It’s more fun in the Philippines. Let’s spread the word.

Mas Masaya sa Pilipinas! It’s more fun in the Philippines. Let’s spread the word.

“In spite of all our troubles, (the Philippines) is probably not only the most beautiful place in the world, it’s also one of the happiest … (At the end of the day,) tourism is not just about marketing, but also about love of country.”

— Quote from Philippine Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez in response to the question ‘Why should anyone come to the Philippines?’, during a one-on-one interview with Boy Abunda for the ABS-CBN public affairs program, “The Bottomline”

Official logo for the tourism campaign

The Philippine Department of Tourism just announced the country’s latest and most-awaited international marketing campaign slogan, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”.

“Our strategy is simple: while other countries invite you to observe, Filipinos can promise a more heartfelt and interesting experience. Wherever you go, whatever you do in the country, it’s the Filipinos that will complete your vacation and will make your holiday unforgettable,” explains Sec. Jimenez, a top advertising executive before he was asked by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino (PNoy) to serve as Secretary of Tourism. Jimenez is regarded as a rockstar in Philippine advertising, known for being behind many successful advertising campaigns, including the widely popular ‘Chickenjoy’ sales pitch for Jollibee, the Philippines’ leading fast food chain.

As Sec. Jimenez told, Filipinos have a “special gift for transforming what is already a beautiful place into an unforgettable special place. You take two identical islands, put Filipinos in one, it’s going to be more fun there.”

We’re #1 for fun!

The campaign is set to be rolled out in international markets starting April this year, but as soon as it was publicly unveiled on Friday (January 6, 2011), #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines already trended worldwide, at first place. Its related brand hashtag, #1forfun, also trended locally. The Tourism Secretary recognizes the Filipino savvy when it comes to social media — the Philippines being the only Asian country that can cause a trend on Twitter — and counts on the Filipinos to be their campaign ambassadors in the internet, especially since the country has a relatively limited budget for tourism promotions compared with other countries.

The campaign's official brand hashtag for social media.

Even English author Neil Gaiman, who has visited the Philippines thrice to promote his graphic novels, gave his own testimonial in support of the Philippine tourism slogan.

Official Campaign Photographs

The new tourism campaign was conceived with the help of top advertising agency BBDO Guerrero | Proximity Philippines.

Celebrated veteran travel photographer, and one of my personal favorites, George Tapan, has perfectly captured the essence of the campaign through his magic eye and expert camera lense.

Tapan’s photographs were used for the initial campaign launch of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” (Photograph source: official campaign website: Just last year, the multi-awarded Filipino photographer’s “Into the Green Zone” photo of Palawan was named first place winner in the Places category of the National Geographic photo contest, besting about 20,000 entries from 130 countries.

Through the years, Tapan has won numerous local and international awards for travel photography. His works have been published in various prestigious industry publications, both in the Philippines and abroad. The veteran travel photographer is the 1990 Gold Grand Award winner of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). He is also the Department of Tourism, 1999 Kalakbay Award – Travel Photographer of the Year.

We “want the world not to watch but to participate” in the new campaign”. — Philippine Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez

A word and image play on "commuting", shown here as traveling by boat. Photo by George Tapan.

Photo shows "going upstairs" in the world renowned Banaue Rice Terraces of Ifugao, Philippines. Photo by George Tapan.

Posting status updates while diving? The Philippines has one of the world's most beautiful dive spots, as it is among the world's centers of marine biodiversity. Definitely just one of the gazillion things to post about on Twitter and Facebook. Photo by George Tapan.

In his blog, respected Filipino lawyer, prominent legal academician and Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines awardee for Human Rights/Legal Aid Atty. Theodore Te invites those of us who know and love the country, and who have the privilegedly firsthand experienced of the unique joy of the Philippines to ‘Complete the Sentence’:

“It is an open-ended invitation to complete the sentence and to take part in a conversation on something that I, and Filipinos everywhere else, know — that it IS more fun in the Philippines.

The understanding that one could complete this particular sentence starting or ending with ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ is an amazing exercise in citizenship, in identity, in optimism, in truth. It is also, consistent with tourism campaigns everywhere else, a great opportunity for a people to come together and agree on something.

That is why I choose to own and complete the sentence. It’s more fun in the Philippines. Indeed.”

Filipino netizens are completing the sentence, even punctuated by photographs that tell a thousand words, and posting these on Facebook. It’s their own take on the tourism campaign:

Photos below show Filipino photographer Mon Corpuz’s photo renditions of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, also widely shared on Facebook.

Photo taken in Banaue, Ifugao during the Imbayah Festival 2011. Photo by Mon Corpuz.

Photo taken during the National Geographic Channel Philippines Launch - Boracay Islands, Aklan, Philippines. Photo by Mon Corpuz.

Photo taken at El Nido, Palawan. Photo by Mon Corpuz.

The happiest people in the world

People define a place. Our smiles, our hospitality, our faith, our kindness, our creativity and even our craziness! Filipinos have time and again been counted as among the happiest people on the planet, based on the Happy Planet Index and other global happiness surveys. We have the intrinsic ability not only to stay sane amid seemingly insurmountable challenges but to even laugh at our misfortunes and remain ever hopeful. We are resilient!

Most of all, we love to celebrate — whether it is with family, friends or as a nation. “Christmas and New Year are more fun in the Philippines,” shares one Filipino on Twitter. I agree! I’m still having LSS from the ABS-CBN 2011 Christmas station ID, “Da Best Ang Pasko ng Pilipino”, sung by Filipino Youtube sensation Maria Aragon. Don’t we have the longest and most festive Christmas seasons in the world? Christmas songs and decors abound as soon as September kicks in and lasts up until February the following year. Below is one netizen’s tribute to the Parol or Filipino Christmas lantern.

There's no greater symbol of the Filipino Christmas spirit than the Parol, the bright and colorful Filipino Christmas lantern.

Here is my own take on the tourism slogan. It’s not exactly faithful to the visual identity of the campaign (I am no Photoshop expert), but this is the best I came up with. Tip: Use the Harabara font, which you can download for free! :). Click here for further tips on how you can create your own “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” meme.

My take on "It's More Fun in the Philippines".

No matter how much I love to travel abroad or aspire to experience working and living (temporarily) overseas, I know that my heart still belongs here. Life is definitely much happier in the Philippines. There is no place like home! – Sankie S.

We make the difference

Focusing on the country’s core strength, the new Philippine tourism campaign singles out what no other destination can offer – and that is the Filipino people. The Lonely Planet guidebook calls Filipinos ‘among the most easygoing and ebullient people anywhere.’

The Philippine Department of Tourism hopes to bring in 12 million visitors to the country by 2016, when President Aquino steps down from office. It’s about time people discover the shining beauty of the Philippines and its people. But it’s only more fun if we make it so. The slogan is only as true as we allow it to be. The campaign’s potency is reliant upon us Filipinos. Yes, our economy is still struggling to keep pace with other more progressive countries and we are still cleaning up our government of corrupt public officials, but the truth is, beauty and troubles are inextricably mixed not only in the Philippines but everywhere else in the world. Ultimately, it’s still the people who make the difference.

“The national line is a goal, a constant reminder to ourselves why we can tell travellers it’s more fun here than anywhere else.

It needs everyone’s support for it to stay true—we need to make sure people’s experiences in our country are positive, enjoyable, and most of all, fun.” — Philippine Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez

Exploring the Island of Bohol

Exploring the Island of Bohol

There are just so many beautiful places to see in the Philippines, with lots that have yet to be discovered in the archipelago’s 7,107 islands.

The island province of Bohol in the Central Visayas region is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country. Both foreign and local tourists are fascinated by Bohol’s many wonders, which include its beaches and resorts, heritage sites, the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River cruise, Philippine tarsier and peanut kisses!

I’ve always wanted to explore Bohol and this year I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do just that.

We stayed at the Amorita resort along Alona Beach in Panglao Island, Bohol. Amorita is a very cozy place to stay, with amenities such as an infinity pool, multi-purpose hall, leisure area with in-door games, restaurant and bar.

Images of Amorita Resort. Special thanks to my colleague Linette Reodica for these beautiful photographs! Most of the Bohol images in this blog are taken by Linette, who is not only a corporate professional but is also a gifted chef, entrepreneur and hobbyist photographer.

Rich heritage

Our island exploration began with a tribute to the historical site of the “Sandugo (one blood)or Blood Compact Monument in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, where the Spanish explorer and great colonizer Miguel López de Legazpi and the chieftain of Bohol Datu Sikatuna sealed their friendship as part of the tribal tradition, through a blood compact, on March 16, 1565. The Sandugo is depicted in both the provincial flag and the official seal of the local government in Bohol.

The Legazpi-Sikatuna Blood Compact Monument commemorates the friendship between the Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Bohol Chieftain Rajah Sikatuna in March 1565. The figures are lifelike and with the ocean in the background. This is an important place to visit for followers of Philippine history.

Another heritage site in Bohol is the Baclayon Church, the second oldest stone church in the Philippines (the oldest is San Agustin Church, in Real Street, Intramuros, Manila, built in 1571). Constructed in 1595 by the Jesuit priests, Baclayon Church is still very much intact and houses important relics and images reminiscent of the historic Roman Catholic religion in the Philippines. Among those displayed in the church museum are: crystal chandelier, silver tabernacle, altar with carvings inlaid with gold, life-size statues and more.

Built in 1595, the Baclayon Church in Bohol is the second oldest church in the Philippines. Left photo: The Church interior with its majestic, antique gold-plated altar with partial view of the traditional frescoed ceilings. Right Photo: Church exterior shows weathered coral stones that were said to be hauled from the nearby sea, cemented together by millions of egg whites and lime.

What is also interesting about the Baclayon Church is the imprint on its stained coral edifice resembling the face of Padre Pio, considered as one of the pillars of the Catholic Church. St. Pio was a humble Capuchin priest from Italy, who was blessed by God with many gifts, such as miraculous healing, conversion, reading of souls, bilocation and the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), which he bore for fifty years.

A unique marvel of nature

The famed Chocolate Hills of Bohol consist of 1,776 cone-shaped hills (they actually counted each one!) mostly between 30 and 50 meters high and spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometers. When people first see pictures of this landscape, they can hardly believe that these hills are not a man-made artifact but are pure wonders of nature!

These one-of-a-kind geological formations located in the town of Carmen have baffled geologists. It is said that the hills are weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay. A bronze plaque at the top of the 214-step observation hill of this world-famous tourist spot bears this explanation.

The name Chocolate Hills was derived from its chocolaty color during the dry season, when the grass withers and turns into brown, resembling giant peanut kisses that look good enough to eat! Peanut kisses are, of course, Bohol’s famous delicacy made of high-quality peanuts and egg whites. Inspired by the famous American chocolate, Hershey’s Kisses, these tasty miniature replicas of the famed Chocolate Hills are perfect pasalubongs (presents from a trip) for both young and old alike.

How This Natural Marvel Came To Be: The Chocolate Hills

Fun Shots! Enterprising locals have set up a photo wall of the Chocolate Hills, where tourists can do a variety of jump shots using props such as broomsticks, bow and arrows, and butterfly wings. The photos are printed on site and can be purchased at the tourist shop where one can buy all sorts of Bohol souvenir items.

Can’t get enough of Bohol’s Peanut Kisses! These tasty little replicas of the famous Chocolate Hills make for a perfect pasalubong.

Wonder creature

Our next stop was at the Tarsier Conservation Area. The Philippine Tarsier is a famous attraction of Bohol. While this nocturnal creature is one of the world’s smallest primates, in the mammal kingdom it owns the biggest eyes in proportion to its body.

Like the koalas of Australia or Pandas of China, the Philippine tarsier is a national icon, endemic to the Philippine archipelago. An endangered species, there is an ongoing effort to preserve this unique animal in provinces where they live.

We visited these wonder creatures in the town of Loboc, at the Upper Bonbon area. The wooded sanctuary allowed viewing the tarsiers in what resembled their natural habitat, with pebbled pathways for visiting tourists. It was amazing to see up close these tiny, wide-eyed tarsiers cling to the tree branch with their four legs.

The Tarsier Conservation Area also had virtually all kinds of tarsier souvenirs, including shirts, ref magnets, key chains, wallets, bags, wrist straps, pen holders and even headbands!

The endangered Philippine Tarsier is considered among the Philippine’s tourism icons. This unique creature is endemic to the Philippines and is reflective of the country’s rich biodiversity.

Just some of the creative Bohol souvenir items you can buy – a penholder featuring a life-size Philippine Tarsier and miniature Chocolate Hills

Not your typical river cruise

The entire Bohol island expedition won’t be complete without experiencing the Loboc River Cruise. After spending the day touring around the island, it’s time to relax and fill your stomach with good food. Since the Loboc River Cruise’s vessels are floating restaurants, tourists get to enjoy a sumptuous buffet lunch of local Philippine cuisine while being serenaded by guitarists, singers and sometimes even a choir; all this while taking in the scenic view of the surrounding’s lush tropical vegetation, with the river banks lined with nipa palms, coconut trees and banana groves.

The scenic Loboc River Cruise with its famous floating restaurants where tourists can enjoy local Filipino cuisine and local entertainment.

While cruising along the river, the floating restaurant stops by a little pier along the river banks, where a group of about 30 young and old folk singers, dancers and guitar players entertain tourists for a minimal donation. The group’s floating stage comes to life with their lively cultural presentation, topped by the popular Filipino folk dance “tinikling”, where the dancers skillfully dance around rapidly opening and closing bamboo poles. Tourists are often invited to join the dance or to buy the locals’ products such as small guitars and rattan baskets.

Loving your own

Based on tourism surveys, for every 100 tourists going around the country, 80 percent are domestic tourists. Both foreign and local tourists are main ingredients in helping to push the Philippine tourism industry which, in turn, propels the entire country’s economy.

In a sense, patronizing our country’s tourist spots signifies our nationalism, since every time we travel around the Philippines, we help generate local jobs, especially in remote areas where these natural tourism wonders are located. As the popular saying goes, “huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan (don’t be a stranger to your own country)”.

During his one-on-one interview with talk show host Boy Abunda at ABS-CBN’s public affairs television program “The Bottomline”, current Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez had this to say when asked why anyone should come to the Philippines: “My answer is very simple. In spite of all our troubles, (the Philippines) is probably not only the most beautiful place in the world, it’s also one of the happiest places in the world.” At the end of the day, he adds, tourism is not just about marketing, but also about love of country. With this, I totally agree.


The Filipinos’ Gift to the World


Filipinos are a great people. Throughout the globe, they are admired for their world-class professionalism, brilliant talent and ardent care, earning pride for the motherland. More than just being global Pinoys, Filipinos are modern-day heroes. Their gift of self for the betterment of their families, their country and the world is indeed truly worth celebrating.

With our Rotary Group Study Exchange Program Team at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva

Distance gives perspective. When you travel outside of your country, it is often then that you begin to understand and appreciate it more.

I had the good fortune of being selected by Rotary International to be a representative of the Philippines for their cultural and vocational program — the Group Study Exchange (GSE) program in 2010. The GSE gives young professionals the opportunity to study their vocation in another country, experience other cultures and build a strong, ongoing international network of friends and business contacts.

The Swiss GSE Coordinators welcome our team at the Zuich Airport

Ambassadors of goodwill

Our Rotary GSE Team from the Philippines was composed of five members from different fields — an NGO director for an educational foundation, an account executive for a pharmaceutical company, a television producer for one of the Philippines’ leading television networks, an educator/textbook author, and myself — a corporate communications manager for a global energy company. We were all tasked to represent our country well as ambassadors of goodwill and understanding to our host countries, which were Switzerland and Liechtenstein. For a month, we were given the opportunity to study our host country’s institutions and way of life, observe our own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.

We were introduced in Rotary club meetings as the GSE team from the Philippines, traveling halfway around the world to tell them about our country and extend our message of friendship and peace. We even sang a popular Filipino song that captured our message so perfectly, “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo (The Filipinos’ Gift to the World)”, which brought tears to the eyes of our newfound European friends, after learning about how we Filipinos have inspired a peaceful call for change through People Power and lighted the world through our gifts in the arts, sciences, sports, etc.

Dressed in the traditional Filipiniana terno, we proudly sang in our native tongue as we held the Philippine flag, accompanied by a video with a Swiss-German translation of the song showing images of Filipino personalities, places and historical events that evoke Philippine pride.

Our GSE all-female team, garbed in the traditional Filipiniana terno, together with our Swiss hosts led by Rotary International District 2000 Governor Hans Butikofer

A diverse life experience 

Both Switzerland and its neighboring micro state Liechtenstein (the smallest but richest German-speaking country in the world) are ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) 2010 Report as belonging to the roster of “Very High Development Countries” in terms of providing high Life Expectancy (a long and healthy life), Education (access to knowledge; expected years of schooling), and Per Capita GDP (a decent standard of living). Switzerland is known for its financial services (Swiss banks were reportedly running out of storage space for gold bullions held by international investors and institutions in their vaults) and manufacturing industries specialized in high technology and knowledge-based production. Inflation is low and unemployment is negligible in Switzerland. For Liechtenstein, there are even more registered companies than citizens!

Visit to the Liechtenstein National Police Headquarters and Prison

Apart from the vocational tours and interactions with various Rotary clubs, the GSE allowed us to visit local businesses, government offices, international organizations, and cultural and historical sites in our host country. Our GSE area coordinators told us we were fortunate to have seen more of Switzerland than the average Swiss!

At the foot of Mt. Zermatt, with the view of the famous Matterhorn, one of the highest peaks of the Swiss alps and inspiration for the triangular shaped Swiss chocolate "Toblerone"

View of the Swiss alps from the Santis mountain

Throughout our stay, we lived with host families who were very much interested to know more about the Philippines and its people. After-dinner conversations with our host families were filled with interesting exchanges about the differences and commonalities between our countries. They were delighted to hear about our beautiful tourist spots, our respect for the elderly, our patriotism and the more than 101 ways that make us a uniquely endearing people.

With one of my host families, the Senn family, who owns and manages the countryside Hotel Wolfensberg

We also learned much from them and their journey towards financial independence. Our host mom and dad told us that because the Swiss did not have as much natural resources as other nations (mineral resources are scarce, for example), they did not live with a sense of entitlement but learned to work hard and smart to develop their industries (machinery, chemicals, watches, jewelry, textiles, precision instruments and diverse high-tech products) with an economy based mainly on the transformation of imported raw materials into high-added-value finished products mainly destined for exports. What they do have in abundance is water, which flows from the Swiss alps, and this they learned to harness for electricity through hydroelectric power, and even supply excess capacity to their neighboring states. They are an extremely disciplined people and are well regarded for their punctuality and industriousness.

Hotel Wolfensberg is located at the municipality of Degersheim, depicting the beauty of the Swiss countryside, with dreamlike meadows and rolling hills. Host mom Maria Senn, at 85, still actively manages the family-owned Hotel Wolfensberg together with her sons.

The people of Switzerland and Liechtenstein also have a high level of environmental consciousness. Understandably, as they live in such beautiful surroundings anyone would want to keep its pristine state. They are far advanced in recycling waste material. They also follow the pay-as-you-throw principle and non-recyclable rubbish are collected at a price, so that families pay for each bag of rubbish they leave out on the road for collection. Recyclable materials such as paper, carton, glass, plastic, cans, textile, chemicals and oil are all collected separately for free.

Switzerland is known for its clean, rich pastures; a country overflowing with milk, cheese (and chocolates! 🙂 ).

Despite their wealth and advancement, however, prosperous countries do have their share of problems. In some affluent societies, for example, the benefits of economic growth begin to dull an individual’s sense of purpose. One of our host moms, who is a practicing psychotherapist, shared that economic prosperity can be a boon for some, as the absence of life’s challenges can lead to feelings of complacency and depression. Contrast this to our country, which seems to never be lacking in struggles and challenges, yet remains to be one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index.

A shared humanity

“Exchange visits made possible through The Rotary Foundation’s Group Study Exchange program last for only a month, but the impact of these visits on the promotion of goodwill, understanding and peace will be felt for many generations as paired districts plant the seeds of peace and develop the friendships that are built during their teams’ tour in each other’s country,” said our GSE Team Leader Ester Florendo, Past President of the Rotary Club of Tomas Morato and Rotary International District 3780 Chief of Staff.

Here I am with our Swiss GSE 2010 Chairman Ernst Walser, wearing a Rotary Pilipinas shirt

I learned from the Rotary GSE that while we may live in different countries, we still share the same issues and ideals, such as caring for the environment, maintaining peace and living a purposeful life.

“The GSE experience inspired me to dream big for our nation. The beauty and progress of our host countries gave me hope that someday, though diligence, goodwill, and unity, the Philippines will also be as developed and progressive as they are now,” said my GSE teammate Riz Figueroa.

Our presentations, discussions and conversations with the people we met in Switzerland and Liechtenstein allowed us to see ourselves and our situation as a people from a deeper perspective. We saw a Philippines filled with promise, with its vast wealth of natural resources and human talent, a country destined not just for happiness but also for prosperity and abundance.###

Rotary is an international association of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service, promote high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. With over 1.2 million members in over 32,000 clubs in nearly 170 countries, Rotary initiates community projects that focus on the most serious issues confronting people around the world: poverty, conflict resolution, health, hunger, illiteracy, and the eradication of polio.

About the Rotary Group Study Exchange Program

The Rotary Group Study Exchange program is one of the professional educational programs of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. It provides a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 who are non-Rotarians. The program provides travel grants for teams of participants to exchange visits in different countries. For interested applicants, visit:

Dare to Fly!



The Philippines is a beautiful country teeming with tourist spots in every corner of the archipelago. If you are looking for your next holiday destination, I highly recommend this wonderful Philippine eco-tourism site in Bukidnon (from the Visayan vernacular ‘Bukid’ or mountain), the highland province at the heart of Mindanao island blessed with nature’s rolling grassland plateaus, deep canyons and valleys, alternating with low plains, that makes it a picturesque vista for tourists who are lucky enough to behold its pristine glory. Bukidnon’s high terrain, with an elevation averaging 3,000 feet above sea level, brings with it a nice, cool climate perfect for producing food crops such as rice, corn, sugar, coffee, rubber, pineapples, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables, making it one of the Philippines’ important food baskets.

Now, as for the eco-tourism destination in Bukidnon that I was talking about, it is no other than the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park, two of the latest attractions of Bukidnon province that local and foreign tourists alike have come to discover and are raving about.

Getting there

Dahilayan is located in the Bukidnon municipality of Manolo Fortich, about 40 kilometers from Cagayan de Oro City passing by Del Monte Camp Phillips. It is in the foot of the Mount Kitanglad Range National Park, home of the majestic Philippine Eagle, one of the rarest, largest and most powerful birds in the world. It is a scenic ride going to the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Forest Park. On both sides of the road you will see pineapple fields as far as your eyes can see, and on the horizon you’ll find the breathtaking Kitanglad mountain range.

Scenic view of pineapple fields and breathtaking mountains from our car window on our way to Dahilayan Adventure Park and Forest Park

I was joined by my work colleagues Suiee and Faye, who were also raring to experience the adventures that Dahilayan has to offer. I must say, the place is truly world-class, with its own cozy wooden cottages for those who want to stay overnight or more, complete with restaurant café, spaces for picnics and bonfires, as well as souvenir shops. This Bukidnon tourist attraction has also paved the way for generating local employment marked by our distinct brand of Filipino hospitality. I really felt at home with the very professional, friendly, cheerful and ever-accommodating staff of Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park.

With the very hospitable staff of Dahilayan Adventure Park. Here I am with Zipzone’s Flight Crew Reymar Cachapero and Pinegrove Lodge’s Mariel Sahonlay (left photo); and with Dahilayan Forest Park’s Marky Plaza (right photo).

Ready to take flight

Dahilayan Adventure Park is home to Zipzone, perfect for zipline fanatics, with its 150-meter, 320-meter, and longest 840-meter ziplines. Aside from the ziplines, the Adventure Park also has a challenging Ropes Course and Wall Climbing zone.

Here’s Suiee, Faye and I with a photo of the Ropes Course area at Dahilayan Adventure Park.

We first tried the shorter ziplines, which were really rather relaxing and a happy thrill, as we skimmed through the top of the pine trees.

Here I am getting strapped into the zipline safety harness for the shorter zipline -- no sweat as this zipline is in a relaxing sitting position.

After we built confidence and experienced the thrill of the shorter ziplines, we were now all prepped to try out the zipline of all ziplines! First off, we boarded the huge truck that would take us to higher ground for Asia’s longest dual-cable zipline, an 840-meter stretch that promises to take us soaring through tall pine trees and lush vegetation.

The Super Troopers! I was joined by my fellow adventure buddies Suiee and Faye, who incidentally had a fear of heights. After convincing Faye to try the shorter ziplines, she was ready to challenge herself to try the longest zipline. Here we are inside the truck that will take us to the summit of Asia’s longest dual-cable zipline.

For the 840-meter zipline, we were asked to be in a face down position, with arms spread like an eagle simulating a bird in flight. So this is what it feels like to fly! The elevation drop was 100 meters with an estimated zipping speed ranging from 60 – 100 kilometers per hour. With arms clipped on the side of the body, you can go faster. With arms opened wide, you have a little more air resistance. After the initial jitters, I decided to just let go and live the moment. It was fantastic! Even Faye had to say after conquering the longest zipline, “I feel like I can do just about anything now!”

Soaring like an eagle over Bukidnon’s lush pine trees.

Forest Park adventures

Next up for us adventure-seekers are the equally exciting activities at the Dahilayan Forest Park that is just beside Dahilayan Adventure Park. Like the Zipzone, the Forest Park is another ideal place for bonding with family and friends, with thrilling activities amidst the beauty of nature.

Suiee and I tried the Forest Park’s Tree Top Adventure, which whisked me back to my childhood days. The Tree Top Adventure is a 21-platform course atop pine trees where you walk through ropes, swinging planks of wood, a tight rope and even a moving skateboard! Challenging but loads of fun and will definitely give anyone who accomplishes it a sense of achievement!

Crossing from plank to plank towards platform 17 of the 21-platform Tree Top Adventure of Dahilayan Forest Park.

Next on our agenda was to try the Buggy Trail Adventure through an off-road course around the park. The buggy is easy to drive but navigating around the rough, dirt roads really made me feel like an adventure sports driver!

My first time to drive a buggy. What a thrill!

While I am not a big fan of bungee, I couldn’t help but try the Forest Park’s Bungee Bounce, which does not involve plunging through scary depths but bouncing on a trampoline! Suiee and I felt like we were defying gravity and threw our cares away as we made funny poses while jumping high up in the air.

The Bungee Bounce. Bounce your cares away, whee!

As a final activity, Suiee, Faye and I tried zorbing or rolling downhill in an orb or sphere made of plastic. Suiee tried the dry zorb, where he was harnessed to the zorb and literally followed the plastic ball’s motion as it rolled downhill. Faye and I wanted to try the wet zorb, which meant that we would get ourselves soaking wet! Inside the ball, there is no harness but only water that acts as a lubricant to keep Faye and I at the bottom of the ball as it rolled downhill. We truly felt like wet hamsters inside the zorb! We screamed our hearts out as the ball gained speed and we got tossed around the wet zorb.

Suiee with his best pretending-to-be-scared pose as he gets strapped into the dry zorb. There he is rolling downhill!

The Zorbeteras. Here's Faye and I inside the zorb being filled with water. Here we go rolling like wet hamsters and all washed up after rolling down the hill inside the wet zorb.

Adventures to our heart’s content

At the end of a full day of fun and excitement, we found ourselves grinning from ear to ear and felt a flow of endorphins — the happy hormones – through our body. We then enjoyed a sumptuous meal at the park’s restaurant and got ourselves a souvenir photo, shirt and mug. There are still more attractions being developed at the Dahilayan Adventure Park and Dahilayan Forest Park. I can’t wait until our next visit!

Now it’s your turn to try this adventure! For more information:

Dahilayan Adventure Park: Visit or email

Dahilayan Forest Park: Visit or email


The Climb of My Life!


It’s not difficult to fall in love with a city like Sydney. Also called the Emerald City, Sydney is best known for its enchanting harbour, a glittering expanse of emerald green that draws a multitude of activity to the city year in and year out. It’s no wonder Sydney is the largest and most populous city of Australia and is the center of commerce, arts, fashion, culture, entertainment, music, education and, of course, tourism.

Aside from the famous Sydney Opera House, another iconic landmark that adds to the endearing charm of Sydney Harbour is no other than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest steel arch bridge, which has become a renowned international symbol of Australia. Tell me, who hasn’t seen a television broadcast of the Sydney Harbour Bridge bursting ablaze with colorful fireworks in CNN’s annual New Year’s Eve around the globe coverage?

The spectacular Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks display (photo by Mark Baker, Reuters)

If you think seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in real life is already fascinating, then wait until you get the chance to actually climb it! Experiencing the magnificence of this man-made wonder is an exhilarating adventure. In fact, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been rated by Lonely Planet (the world’s leading travel authority) as one of the World’s Top Ten Experiences, along with running with the bulls in Spain and rock climbing in Yosemite Valley in the USA. Count me as among the over 2.6 million people who have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney (, including a 100-year old lady who is the oldest climber to date. Even celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Robert De Niro, Pierce Brosnan, Cate Blanchett, Teri Hatcher and even UK’s Prince Harry have all scaled the summit of the colossal bridge, majestically standing 440 feet above the beautiful Sydney Harbour.

Now a free-spirited tourist and adventure seeker like me surely could not miss a chance to climb this international landmark so I can share my experience and inspire all lovers of life out there to try and witness this unique, breathtaking spectacle for themselves.

Preparing for the climb

The BridgeClimb office at Cumberland Street in The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest suburb, is where the climb begins. We were oriented in groups of about 12 people and after a round of brief introductions, I learned that we came from different countries (America, Australia, Germany, South Africa and the Philippines!) and while we were of varying ages, we all had the same aspiration, to experience something extraordinary.

With Bridge climbers from South Africa

After the introductions, we were breath tested to make sure we are fit to climb and were later asked to get into our climb gear, which consists of the specially made BridgeSuit (a jumpsuit made of lightweight, weatherproof material); cap for sunny conditions or beanie for cold or windy conditions; non-slip, rubber soled, closed shoes for extra climbing comfort; BridgeFleece for cold or windy conditions; BridgeClimb latch to safely attach each climber to the static line while scaling the Bridge; scrunchie for tying long hair and keeping it off the face; headset so we can hear our Climb Leader’s commentary and even a handkerchief for those emotional moments (or in case we catch a cold, with the strong, high altitude winds blowing our way).

Another great thing about BridgeClimb Sydney is that they simulate the actual climbing of the Bridge from the ground, with actual steel stairs and ladders to properly instruct us in climbing safely as a team. This helps a great deal in dispensing whatever initial fears one has of climbing since it gives you a preview of what to expect once you are actually up there.

The climb

Armed in full battle gear and all psyched up from our climb simulation, we were ready to conquer the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The BridgeClimb office connects to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and after walking a few steps in single file always connected to the static line through our safety latch, we soon found ourselves inside the steel workings of the Bridge. After going up a couple of ladders and stairs, carefully watching our step along the way, we later emerged over the arch of the Bridge and were greeted by a magnificent view of the Sydney Harbour. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was definitely the highlight of my trip to Australia, I thought to myself. As we ascended towards the summit, our very engaging and professional BridgeClimb Leader Tim paused for while to allow us to take in the spectacular view all around us, before going on to proudly say, “Welcome to my office!” Now, how many of the world’s CEOs have an office view like this?

With a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House

Atop the Bridge, we experienced a sense of calm as the cool wind kissed our faces, the blue sky and sparkling emerald green waters mesmerized our gaze, and the warm sunshine illuminated the harbour’s wide expanse. Tim also made sure we each got a photograph to record this moment for posterity.

Conquering the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 440 feet above sea level

As we continued on our Bridge expedition, our Climb Leader told us the story of how the bridge came to be. Built by over a thousand workers during the Great Depression, the Sydney Harbour Bridge became a symbol of hope for Australians because it attested that a return to prosperity was possible. The Bridge did not only bear national significance but was seen as a great engineering feat, having undergone various construction phases. It took over eight years to build the Bridge, between 1923 until its official opening in 1932, but planning for the construction of the Bridge began as early as 1912. The completion of the Bridge was widely covered by media, songs were composed as a tribute to it, souvenir booklets were produced and three postage stamps were issued to mark its grand opening.

Over a thousand workers built the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Great Depression

We appreciated the workmanship that went into this Australian legacy. Designed by Dr JJC Bradfield, the massive Bridge has an arch span of 503 meters and a total length of 1149 meters. It is held by around 6 million rivets, 52,800 tonnes of steel and 17,000 cubic meters of granite. It is undeniably a vision turned into reality.

The bridge that rivets built. Some 6 million rivets hold the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world's largest steel arch bridge (photo courtest of BridgeClimb Sydney).

The 3 ½ hour Sydney Harbour bridge climb rewards every climber with an amazing sense of achievement and a deep sense of appreciation for the great things men can do even in times of great adversity. Climbing the Bridge is definitely an experience I will never forget!  ###


Our climb group’s souvenir photo (that ‘s me at the front row, 2nd from the right! :))

[Acknowledgment: With information courtesy of BridgeClimb Sydney (]