THE LONG, INTERMINABLE DAYS OF SUMMER

The end-of-school euphoria is often short-lived. For a few days, the kids revel in the freedom to sleep in, stay in their pajamas all day, or veg out in front of the television. Then it all starts to get old. Before long, they start getting antsy, and then they start complaining: “There’s nothing to do! We’re bored!”Of course, some kids don’t mind playing video games all day long, but you’d rather they experience some variety in their summer break. You’d suggest going outside to play, but it’s only a good idea when the sun is no longer so severe, which is why your kids will likely spend a good chunk of the day cooped inside. Naturally, they feel penned up and want to get out of the house, but unlike them, you’re not on vacation. Even if you don’t work outside the home, you still have a long list of things to get done. And, let’s face it, going out means spending money. It’s okay for the occasional treat, but you can’t indulge the itch to go somewhere fun every day; what’s the solution? READ MORE...

ALSO: Magic of Mercedes’ 7-island paradise

NAGA CITY, Philippines—Magical may not be the right word to describe the seven wonders surrounded by white sand scattered just off the coast of Mercedes town in Camarines Norte, but it sure comes close to it. Located at the east of Camarines Norte, the Mercedes Group of Islands is a wonderland of white sand with a surprising abundance of pine trees and protected fish and coral sanctuaries, just a one-hour boat ride away from the mainland. It is now being touted by locals and its municipal government as the next big attraction in Northern Bicol, Coleen Ibasco, Mercedes Tourism Officer, said. The islands of Caringo, Canimog, Apuao Grande, Apuao Pequeña, Canton, Quinapaguian and Malasugui are offered as an adventure package that would include excursions to its white-sand beaches, mountain hiking and trekking, boating and kayaking and snorkeling, she added. Although it has not yet attracted enough publicity, Mercedes’ seven-island paradise is a favorite of backpackers, campers and tourists who seek to experience a different travel adventure apart from beachcombing and indulging in extreme sports like kite-surfing that Camarines Norte has in store in Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Island. Ibasco said the Mercedes Tourism Office is working with other local government units (LGUs) in the Bicol region to promote the potentials of the Mercedes Group of Islands. In Naga City, Alec Francis Santos, head of the Naga Arts Culture and Tourism Office, said united LGUs under Naga Excursions (Naga X) are planning on creating a tour package that would involve a trip to the Mercedes islands.

ALSO: Tourists from Asia-Pacific to become world’s top spenders—report

The Asia-Pacific will overtake Europe as the region whose tourists spend the most money overseas within 10 years, a report said Wednesday, driven by an explosion in the number of Chinese travelers. Spending by tourists from the Asia-Pacific will reach nearly $753 billion by 2023, increasing the region’s share of global spend to 40 percent from 25 percent in 2012, according to a report commissioned by travel technology firm Amadeus. Travelers from Europe will account for 34 percent of global outbound spend by the same year, down from 45 percent in 2012, said the report. “The findings underscore what most of us already intuitively know—that we have now truly arrived in the Asian century,” Amadeus Asia Pacific President Angel Gallego said in a statement. “No matter where we look, Asian travelers have and will continue to change the landscape of travel, and business must adapt to them or risk falling behind.” In January the state-run China Daily said Chinese travelers spent $102 billion overseas in 2012, making them the world’s biggest spenders ahead of German and US tourists. They are almost certain to have surpassed that record last year, added the report.


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The long, interminable days of summer
Every Parent’s Summer Battle Plan With Kids Underfoot, Here’s What Savvy Parents Do



MANILA, APRIL 7, 2014
(MANILA BULLETIN) by Ivy P. Goze - The end-of-school euphoria is often short-lived. For a few days, the kids revel in the freedom to sleep in, stay in their pajamas all day, or veg out in front of the television. Then it all starts to get old. Before long, they start getting antsy, and then they start complaining: “There’s nothing to do! We’re bored!”

Of course, some kids don’t mind playing video games all day long, but you’d rather they experience some variety in their summer break.

You’d suggest going outside to play, but it’s only a good idea when the sun is no longer so severe, which is why your kids will likely spend a good chunk of the day cooped inside. Naturally, they feel penned up and want to get out of the house, but unlike them, you’re not on vacation.

Even if you don’t work outside the home, you still have a long list of things to get done. And, let’s face it, going out means spending money. It’s okay for the occasional treat, but you can’t indulge the itch to go somewhere fun every day; what’s the solution?

SUMMER

The savvy parent knows how to prepare for two months of having energetic children underfoot, who have no idea what to do with all their free time. If you can afford it, you could sign them up for camp, workshops, or special classes. If you can take the time off, you could schedule some time away to go on a trip. But what if budget, work, or some other factor has you pretty much homebound? With some organized and imaginative planning, you can still give your kids a memorable summer even if they have to spend it at home.


summer workshop-ENRICHMENT PROGRAM

There are so many things you can teach yourself to do. You can learn something first and then teach it to your kids, learn it alongside them, or let them learn it on their own. You can score resources online for free, or you can choose to buy them. The following are just some of the skills that can be self-taught.

• Languages. You can even find native speakers online to practice with.

• Art. Techniques in drawing and painting in any medium can be learned without a teacher.

• Musical Instrument. Something simple and more affordable like a ukulele and a recorder is good to start with.

• Craft. Knitting, crocheting, petit-point, sewing… As long as you can follow instructions, you can learn any of them.

• Cooking and Baking. You could make a list of dishes you’re interested in cooking. You could do themes (French, pastas, Amish, among others). It’s mostly a matter of printing recipes and gathering the ingredients.

WATER ACTIVITIES

Water play is always a good idea during the summer. If you don’t have access to a pool and can’t take that trip to the beach, you can do the following activities instead.

• Bubble Baths. Your kids don’t need a real bathtub; you can use a baby tub, a wash basin, or a mini inflatable pool.

• Water Fights. This needs to be done in the yard, of course. If you have no objection to playing with toy guns, then arm yourselves with colored water-filled squirt guns, Super Soakers, and water balloon bombs. Wear white shirts, and then declare war. You can check afterward which player had the most hits.

• Bubbles and Foam Snakes. You can buy the bubble mixture and wand ready-made, but it would be more fun to make your own. Foam snakes are easily done using a tube of some sort, a washcloth, a rubber band, and the same bubble mixture. Again, this is best done in the garden, although the bathroom may also be okay.

• DIY Slip and Slide. Get a plastic tarp, a hose, and shampoo. You’ll need a grassy expanse for this, of course.

IDEAS FOR BIG KIDS

Big kids need minimal supervision, so you can usually just set them up with the materials and they’ll figure the rest out.

• Vintage Games. Have them try those indoor games you grew up with, such as sungka, jacks, and pick-up sticks. Board games and card games are always a great boredom buster as well.

• Treasure Hunt. Make it difficult enough to present an irresistible challenge. You can have a grand time planning this one out. Draw maps, come up with clever clues, and put together a neat treasure chest or prize.

• Reading Group. Pick titles that everybody has yet to read and then have regular sharing sessions on what they think of the story.

IDEAS FOR TODDLERS AND PRE-SCHOOLERS

These little ones will probably don’t care that it’s summer, but they still need entertaining.

• Kiddie Band. Gather their toy musical instruments and jam to the liveliest nursery rhymes you can think of.

• Indoor Obstacle Course. Using common household items and a little imagination, you can form little tunnels and hurdles for your little ones.

• Window Painting. Allow them to finger paint your windows using washable paint. Make sure to line the area with paper or plastic and have the kids wear smocks.

FAMILY BONDING TIME

Wait for those moments when everybody’s at loose ends and then suggest any of the following “impromptu” activities.

• Dance Party. Prepare music for the time when you can do this. You can do some ballroom steps, a simple square dance routine, or those lame wedding moves, among others. Not a dancer? Go to YouTube and learn the steps.

• Talent Show. You can showcase legitimate talent or something silly like twisting your tongue into weird shapes. Adopt a festive atmosphere with twinkly lights and costumes to make the affair more special.

• Indoor Camping or Picnic. Set up tents, build a fake campfire, eat camping food, and listen to a recording of owls and crickets. Put together a picnic hamper, spread a blanket on the floor, and don sunglasses.

These are just some suggestions to give you an idea what the possibilities are for a fun stay-at-home summer. You certainly don’t have to fill every second of their vacation with organized activity. Keep in mind the value of free play and give them a chance to go off and do their own thing.

If you want a vacation that will truly be a hit with your kids, however, get them involved in planning it. Give them guidelines regarding rules and budget, and they’re sure to come up with some really amazing ideas themselves. Don’t be quick to say “no” to mess and noise; after all, these are both elements of a fun childhood.

Magic of Mercedes’ 7-island paradise By Shiena M. Barrameda Inquirer Southern Luzon 5:45 am | Friday, April 4th, 2014


BEACH EXCURSION Children enjoy the fine sand and calm waters on Canimog Island, one of the seven wonders of the Mercedes Group of Islands in Camarines Norte province. The island is adored by backpackers, campers and tourists who are looking for a more daring travel adventure. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

The Inquirer is running a series of articles on the country’s tourism crown jewels—somehow uncut but equally sparkling and surprising as the usual vacation haunts. The stories will appear three times a week during the summer months. Please send us your own hot go-to discoveries to summer by. Text 09178177586 for details.–Ed.

NAGA CITY, Philippines—Magical may not be the right word to describe the seven wonders surrounded by white sand scattered just off the coast of Mercedes town in Camarines Norte, but it sure comes close to it.

Located at the east of Camarines Norte, the Mercedes Group of Islands is a wonderland of white sand with a surprising abundance of pine trees and protected fish and coral sanctuaries, just a one-hour boat ride away from the mainland.

It is now being touted by locals and its municipal government as the next big attraction in Northern Bicol, Coleen Ibasco, Mercedes Tourism Officer, said.

The islands of Caringo, Canimog, Apuao Grande, Apuao Pequeña, Canton, Quinapaguian and Malasugui are offered as an adventure package that would include excursions to its white-sand beaches, mountain hiking and trekking, boating and kayaking and snorkeling, she added.

Although it has not yet attracted enough publicity, Mercedes’ seven-island paradise is a favorite of backpackers, campers and tourists who seek to experience a different travel adventure apart from beachcombing and indulging in extreme sports like kite-surfing that Camarines Norte has in store in Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Island.

Ibasco said the Mercedes Tourism Office is working with other local government units (LGUs) in the Bicol region to promote the potentials of the Mercedes Group of Islands.

In Naga City, Alec Francis Santos, head of the Naga Arts Culture and Tourism Office, said united LGUs under Naga Excursions (Naga X) are planning on creating a tour package that would involve a trip to the Mercedes islands.

Big 4

The main attractions of the Mercedes tour are the four largest islands of Caringo, Canimog, Apuao Grande and Apuao Pequeña, Ibasco said.

Only two of the islands, Caringo and Apuao Grande, are inhabited by residents.

Despite the rising influx of visitors, the LGUs and residents themselves were able to preserve the islands’ diverse ecosystem, lush mini forests and pine tree groves, Ibasco said.

If you take the route from Mercedes Port, your tour will start with Canimog Island. The route via Palms Farm Resort in Cayucyucan starts at Caringo.

Canimog, the largest among the seven islands, is shaped like a crocodile, thus, the nickname “Crocodile Island.” It has a bat sanctuary and a lush green forest of pine trees and fruit-bearing trees that are home to teeming wildlife.

On top of its highest peak is a lighthouse built in 1927 with a 104-step stone staircase leading to it from the white sand and pebble beach below. The lighthouse was operated by locals since June 26, 1927, until the early 90s, to guide fishermen entering the craggy Mercedes coastline.

It used to run on petrol but now operates on solar power.

On the opposite side of the island is a 500-meter white beach. No other manmade structure has been put up there except for the lighthouse.

In Caringo, some 288 households, or about 1,000 residents, maintain the pristine state of the white-sand beaches that surround the island, Caringo village captain Fernando Navales said.


TOURISTS’ CHOICE Canimog Island’s fine white sane and clear waters MARK ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

Fish, coral sanctuary

It is the only other island where visitors can avail of homestay accommodations, apart from Apuao Grande, he said.

A 17.17-hectare fish and coral sanctuary, one of the four fish and coral sanctuaries hugging the Mercedes islands and coastline, is guarded by a group of women who have banded together under the association Samahan ng mga Kababaihan sa Caringo.

One of the women fish sanctuary guardians, Susan Aseron, won for herself and her group the second place in the Outstanding Rural Women of the Philippines competition held in 2012 for their work in keeping the sanctuary safe from illegal fishermen since 2007.

Aseron said she received as prize a fiberglass boat from the Philippine Commission on Women.

The women also make delicious jelly (gulaman) made from seaweeds they culture themselves, Navales said.

Despite being a healthy delicacy, they do not sell it in the market or mass-produce it since it is purely for home consumption.

Ibasco said they plan to incorporate the making of gulaman from wild seaweed a part of the Mercedes islands experience in a culinary tour that they are developing with the women of neighboring island Apuao Grande.

The oldest house in Mercedes, built in 1920, is in Caringo. It is known as “Dakulang Harong,” or “big house,” and is owned by the heirs of Fortunato and Eufemia Ibasco.

Marine ecosystem

The presence of a healthy marine ecosystem gives the seas around the Mercedes islands its turquoise and teal color that remains the same regardless of how deep the water is.

In Apuao Grande, home to more or less 1,000 residents, crabs, fish and livestock are sources of livelihood in the quiet cove that connects the island to Apuao Pequeña.

Pine trees line some 40 hectares of silky white-sand beaches on the part of the island away from the Pacific Ocean perfect for camping and bonfires.

In Apuao Pequeña, a mini-rain forest covers a mountain that is the refuge of fruit bats and wild boar. Pine trees provide cover to the entrance to the forest.

Ibasco said the fruit bats, which can grow to as tall as two feet from tip to tip of its wings, moved in from Canimog after residents began hunting them down.

An hour of hiking to the top of the mountain ends at a stone bench, right in the middle of the island.

The Rock

The Canton Island is called “The Rock” because of its massive rock formations, caves and craggy shores.
Ibasco said it is a favorite of visitors who love spelunking and outdoor rock climbing.

Quinapaguian Island, on the other hand, is a tiny uninhabited island surrounded by white-sand beaches. It is also perfect for camping as well as swimming and hiking.

Malasugui is the smallest among the Mercedes Group of Islands and is situated at the middle of the six others.

Most of the trees that grow on its flat surface are pine trees that end on its white-sand shores. From Malasugui, you can view the entire island cluster and the mainland of Mercedes.

Package

Ibasco said they are planning to launch the complete tour package to the Mercedes islands at the end of April.

She added that they plan to make it a one-of-a-kind experience that would involve a culinary tour, with the tourists learning how to harvest and cook seaweed to make gulaman and other delicacies, along with the usual hiking, trekking, camping and swimming in the islands.

Navales said they are in the process of identifying houses in Caringo which could be used for homestay visits for those who want to stay the night.

The package is estimated to cost around P3,000-P3,500, to include boat rental and a tour guide’s fee for a one-day island hopping trip for a group of 10 .

A 2-day/1-night tour for 10, with the inclusion of meals and homestay, is priced at P1,500 per head.

Getting there

With Naga City as the starting point, one can take a two-hour van ride or an 87-kilometer journey to Camarines Norte’s Daet before embarking on an 8.4-km journey by jeepney or car to Mercedes.

There are two points from where to start island-hopping: One is via the Mercedes Port and the other is from the beach at Palms Farm Resort in Cayucyucan, Mercedes. The journey to the island by boat can span from 45 minutes to an hour on both routes, depending on the roughness of the waves. Basco said the waves are rougher during the route via Mercedes Port because it is directly facing the Pacific Ocean.

Boat rentals can be arranged with the tourism office of Mercedes, travel agencies and tour operators accredited by the Department of Tourism Office in the Bicol region.

The Doña Mercedes motorized boat that is regularly used by the Tourism Office of Mercedes for tours can accommodate a maximum of 15 people.

Tourists from Asia-Pacific to become world’s top spenders—report Agence France-Presse 9:44 am | Thursday, April 3rd, 2014


A group of Chinese tourists pose for pictures in front of the monument of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal at a Manila park. The Asia-Pacific will overtake Europe as the region whose tourists spend the most money overseas within 10 years, a report said Wednesday, driven by an explosion in the number of Chinese travelers. AFP FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE—The Asia-Pacific will overtake Europe as the region whose tourists spend the most money overseas within 10 years, a report said Wednesday, driven by an explosion in the number of Chinese travelers.

Spending by tourists from the Asia-Pacific will reach nearly $753 billion by 2023, increasing the region’s share of global spend to 40 percent from 25 percent in 2012, according to a report commissioned by travel technology firm Amadeus.

Travelers from Europe will account for 34 percent of global outbound spend by the same year, down from 45 percent in 2012, said the report.

“The findings underscore what most of us already intuitively know—that we have now truly arrived in the Asian century,” Amadeus Asia Pacific President Angel Gallego said in a statement.

“No matter where we look, Asian travelers have and will continue to change the landscape of travel, and business must adapt to them or risk falling behind.”

In January the state-run China Daily said Chinese travelers spent $102 billion overseas in 2012, making them the world’s biggest spenders ahead of German and US tourists.

They are almost certain to have surpassed that record last year, added the report.

Visitor flows from Asia over the next decade is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 15 percent — nearly double the preceding 10-year period and faster than any other region, said the report written for Amadeus by forecasting firm Oxford Economics.

Driving this expansion is the explosive growth in the number of travelers from China, the report said.

Set to surpass US

The Asian economic powerhouse is set to surpass the United States this year as the world’s largest source of outbound travelers and is poised to become the biggest domestic travel market globally by 2017, it said.

China’s share of global outbound travel is projected to reach 20 percent by 2023—up from just one percent in 2005.

China’s economy has boomed over the past decade, expanding the ranks of its middle-class who are hungry for foreign travel after the country’s decades of isolation in the last century.

European Union and Asian countries have moved to ease visa application procedures for Chinese tourists in recent years, keen to cash in on their big-spending habits.

The report also predicted that global travel would expand 5.4 percent per year in the next decade, faster than the projected growth of 3.4 percent for world gross domestic product in the same period.

Business travel, which was hit by the global financial crisis that started in late 2008, is also expected to bounce back.

Asia will account for 55 percent of global business travel growth during the forecast period, the report said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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