Welcome to My Site

If this is your first visit, welcome! This site is devoted to my life experiences as a Filipino-American who immigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1960. I came to the US as a graduate student when I was 26 years old. I am now in my early-80's and thanks God for his blessings, I have four successful and professional children and six grandchildren here in the US. My wife and I had been enjoying the snow bird lifestyle between US and Philippines after my retirement from USFDA in 2002. Please do not forget to read the latest national and International News in this site . I have also posted some of my favorite Filipino and American dishes and recipes in this site. Some of the photos and videos in this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on infringing on your copyrights. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1. Places in the US that Macrine and I had Visited-New York City and Vicinity

Place #1: New York City and Vicinity



Macrine and I have been to New York City a number of times. My first visit was in 1960. I remember visiting the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, and China Town. Since then, We have been to the city, to see a Broadway Play, attend a conference( American Chemical Society), visit relatives, a little shopping and sight seeing ( Statue of Liberty). Our impressions of New City is that it is a nice place to visit, but even if you gave me a million dollars, we will never live there! Here's a short video of the sights of the City via Frank Sinatra.


New York is the most populous city in the United States, and the center of the New York metropolitan area, which is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. A leading global city, New York exerts a powerful influence over global commerce, finance, media, culture, art, fashion, research, education, and entertainment. As host of the United Nations Headquarters, it is also an important center for international affairs. The city is often referred to as New York City or the City of New York to distinguish it from the state of New York, of which it is a part.

Located on a large natural harbor on the Atlantic coast of the Northeastern United States, the city consists of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The city's 2009 estimated population approached 8.4 million, and with a land area of 305 square miles (790 km2). New York City is the most densely populated major city in the United States. The New York metropolitan area's population is also the nation's largest, estimated at 19.1 million people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2). Furthermore, the Combined Statistical Area containing the greater New York metropolitan area contained 22.2 million people as of 2009 Census estimates, also the largest in the United States.

New York was founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624. The settlement was called New Amsterdam until 1664 when the colony came under English control. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. It has been the country's largest city since 1790. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York City, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

Many districts and landmarks in the city have become well known to outsiders. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Times Square, iconified as "The Crossroads of the World", is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway theater district, one of the world's busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major center of the world's entertainment industry. Anchored by Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, New York City vies with London as the financial capital of the world is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies.

The original Manhattan Chinatown attracts throngs of tourists to its bustling sidewalks and retail establishments. World-class schools and universities such as Columbia University and New York University also reside in New York City.

Additional Personal Note: Before September 11, 2001, Our daughter gave us a tour of her office in the World Trade Center. I was really impressed with the Twin Towers, thus the bombing of the Twin Tower on 9/11/01, I consider a personal loss.

Twin Tower Of WTC (March, 2001)

Macrine and I have also been to several cities in New Jersey and Long Island visiting friends and relatives since 1960. It will be boring to list all these places in this blog.

This article is Number 1(Part 1) of a series that I have written on places that Macrine and I had either resided or visited in US. (Part 2) have been posted just recently listing the places that we have visited outside the US such as Canada, London, Rome, Marbella, Spain, Morrocco, Cancun, Mexico, San Juan, Puerto Rico and excluding all the Hawaiian Islands which will be included in this series. Let me know if you enjoy this series or found it informative

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chapter 7: Prominent Descendants of Epifania Morente of the Nieva Clan of Marinduque

Lucresia Kasilag-National Artist for Music, 1989

This is a continuation of a series of articles written by Rene Nieva on the ancestral roots of the Nieva clan of Marinduque.

EPIFANIA MORENTE : GREAT MORENTE HERITAGE AND PROMINENT DESCENDANTS: The Morentes were able to trace back their roots to a prominent family in Spain that may have some French connection since Spain was just below France in the map of Europe. Maybe the Morentes, and thus we Nievas who are the Morente's co-descendants, may even have some royal blood (we wish) flowing in our veins because the Morentes have their own family crest.

Epifania or Maning was the oldest of the four Morente children. Following her were Catalina, or Ninay; Juan; and Juancho, who both settled in Mindoro. The Morentes themselves became political leaders in Mindoro, with Juancho becoming governor at one point. Juan married a woman (name unknown) and among their more outstanding descendants were bankers Jesus Pineda and businessman Chit Pineda.

Catalina married a Roces (first name unknown) from the prominent Roces family of Manila who were in the movie houses and publishing business as well in politics. They had only one child, a daughter named Asuncion, a versatile musician who studied and later taught both piano and violin. She married a civil engineer named Marcial Kasilag who was then a district engineer covering the Marinduque and Mindoro provinces.

Asuncion and Marcial in turn had six children. First was Octavio Kasilag, who married Caridad Versoza. Second was Lucrecia or King who never married but dedicated her life to music. She later became Dean of the Philippine Women's University and President of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and in 1989 was named National Artist for Music.

Third was Natividad or Naty, who married Macario Peralta, a feared guerilla leader in World War ll who later became Secretary of National Defense. Fourth was Wilhelmina who married a Dr. Ochoa (first name unknown). Fifth was Marcial Kasilag, Jr.. And sixth was Pedro Kasilag who was a well-known pianist.

Juan Morente had married (name unknown). He had two children, Asuncion and Purificacion. Asuncion was wed to Esteban Abada who became a Senator. Another daughter, Purificacion, married stock brokerage pioneer Anselmo Trinidad. Among their children was Josefina or Josie, who was known for her beauty and brains. She went to UP for her undergraduate studies and then took up post-graduate studies in Sorbonne in Paris, France. She joined the Department of Transportation and Communication where she rose to Deputy Secretary and at one time Acting Secretary.

Interestingly, she married one of the descendants of Calixto Nieva, Eduardo Lichauco, through one of Calixto's children. Dionisio. Dionisio married Salud de Santa, and among their children was Alicia. Alicia married a prominent Chinese-Filipino businessman named Luis Lichauco, and among their children was Eduardo. Thus, Josie Trinidad-Lichauco was the only one among the descendants of Calixto Nieva and Epifania Morente where the two founding father and mother of the Nieva clan re-connected with each other.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

14. Places Outside the US that Macrine and I had Visited- Cuernavaca, Mexico

Place #14: Cuernavaca and Acapulco and Vicinity, Mexico


Macrine resided/visited in Cuernavaca for 30 days in the summer of 1982. As part of her post graduate training in Spanish,she signed up for a 30-day-live-in language immersion program in one of the language schools of the city. She flew from San Francisco to Mexico City and a representative of the school drove her to the residence of her host family in Cuernavaca.

For 30 days she was not allowed to speak English, but only Spanish, unless it is an emergency. This was one of her best experiences in learning the Spanish language. At the end of the 30 days, she spoke Spanish like a native Mexican or Castillan. She needed this experience to be certified as a trilengual( Spanish, English and Filipino) Public Health Nurse for the Contra Costa County Visiting Nurses Association, her employer at that time.

Two days before graduation the class of 20 spent one day and one night experiencing the sights and sounds of Acapulco, Mexico, which is not too far from Cuernavaca. From Acapulco, they flew back to San Francisco via Mexico City, where I picked her up. It was the best 30 days she spent without me all hovering over her. Macrine told me this is one experience she will cherish in her memory forever.

Cuernavaca was nicknamed "city of eternal spring" by Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century. The city is located in a tropical region but its temperature is kept fairly constant in the 70's F. It is located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains. In the morning, warm air flows from the valley below and in the late afternoon, cooler air flows down from the higher elevations. This climate has attracted royalty and nobles from Aztec times. Most of the Aztec emperors called Cuernavaca their summer residence. Foreign princes, archdukes and other nobles have been attracted to this place because of its flowers, sun, fruits, fresh-water springs and waterfalls. The Shah of Iran had a house here as well as the sculptor, the late John Spencer, relative of Princess Diana.

Cuernavaca (Spanish pronunciation: [kweɾnaˈβaka]; Classical Nahuatl: Cuauhnāhuac is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos in Mexico. Established at the archeological site of Gualupita I by the Olmecs, "the mother culture" of Mesoamerica, approximately 3200 years ago. It is also a municipality located about 85 km (53 mi) south of Mexico City on the D-95 freeway.

The city has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of this warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and even today many famous people as well as Mexico City residents maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.

The name "Cuernavaca" is derived from the Nahuatl phrase Cuauhnahuac, and means "surrounded by or close to trees." The name was eventually Hispanicized to Cuernavaca because the Spanish could not pronounce the Nahuatl name. The coat-of-arms of the municipality consists of a tree trunk with three branches with foliage, and four roots colored red. There is a cut in the trunk in the form of a mouth, from which emerges a grey swirl.


Macrine and her 20 classmates along with their teachers(as Chaperons)spent one day and one night partying and celebrating their graduation from language school. They visited most of the tourist spots in Acapulco including the Cliffs where the divers show their diving skills and fearless activity for the tourists.


Acapulco (officially known as Acapulco de Juárez) is a city, municipality and major sea port in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, 300 kilometres (190mi) southwest from Mexico City. Acapulco is located on a deep, semi-circular bay and has been a port since the early colonial period of Mexico’s history. It is a port of call for shipping and cruising lines running between Panama and San Francisco, California, United States. The city of Acapulco is the largest in the state, far larger than the state capital Chilpancingo and as well, Mexico's largest beach resorted city.

The city is best known as one of Mexico’s oldest and most well-known beach resorts, which came into prominence by the 1950s as a getaway for Hollywood stars and millionaires. Acapulco is still famous for its nightlife and still attracts many vacationers, although most are now from Mexico itself. The resort area is divided into two: The north end of the bay is the “traditional” area, where the famous in the mid 20th century vacationed and the south end is dominated by newer luxury high rise hotels.

Note: This is No. 14 (Part 2) and last of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960., This is the only place where Macrine was on her own and she had a grand time without me hovering on her back.

We had also resided in four States, California, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland. We enjoyed our stay in the three cities in California,(Modesto, Pinole and Fair Oaks ( eastern suburb of Sacramento). We will always remember our five years in Chicago, Illinois as well as our five years in Kansas City, Missouri. Most of all, the happiest place that we had lived was our 12 years in Colesville, Maryland- a suburb of Washington, D.C. The coldest winter of our lives was of course in Chicago. But the warmest winter of our lives besides, the Philippines was in Pinole, California.

We had also visited thirty(30)* other places in the US( including the Hawaiian Islands)

I have not included in this series ten other places in the US that I had visited in connection with my work activities (business travel) as a Research Chemist for Chevron and Stauffer Chemical Companies and as a Chemistry Team Leader for FDA, Center of New Drugs in Silver Spring, MD.

Part 1 of this series will begin in the next couple of days, Places in the US that Macrine and I visited or resided

Thursday, September 24, 2015

13. Places Outside the US that Macrine and I had Visited-Niagara Falls, Canada

Place #13: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada


On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. On our way to Toronto from Bufallo, New York we passed by Niagara Falls both on the US side as well as the Canadian side. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the waterfalls and spent more than two hours taking pictures and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the Falls.

In our entourage were 10 members of MI, Inc from the Washington, D.C. area.
Niagara Falls at Night

This was our second time to enjoy Niagara Falls and its surrondings. Macrine and I first visited Niagara Falls in the summer of 1985. We stayed for three days and had plenty of time enjoying the scenic and very rural Canadian country side up North of the Falls. We specially enjoyed the Falls at Night. Here's a short video of the Falls as viewed from both sides. Do not forget to view the related video of the Falls at Night.


Niagara Falls is a Canadian city of 83,184 (as of 2008) residents on the Niagara River in the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario. Across the river is Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara Falls Ontario was incorporated on June 12, 1903.

The city is dominated by Niagara Falls, a world famous set of two large waterfalls on the Niagara River and benefits from the fact that both falls, the American and Horseshoe, can be best seen from the Canadian side of the river, thus presenting the city one of the major tourist attractions of the world. The natural spectacle brings in millions of tourists yearly. The city permitted the development of a tourist area along the falls and the gorge. This area which stretches along the Niagara River parkway and tourist promenade is particularly concentrated at the brink of the falls and, apart from the natural attractions along the river, includes huge parking lots, souvenir shops, observation towers, high-rise-hotels, casinos and theatres, mostly with colourful neon billboards and advertisements. Further to the north or south there are golf courses alongside historic sites from the War of 1812.

Note: This No. 13( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Monday, September 21, 2015

12. Places Outside the US that Macrine and I had Visited-Baja California, Mexico

Place #12: Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico


In 1994 during the weekend before the American Chemical Society (ACS) Meeting in San Diego, Macrine and I took a sightseeing excursion to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico from San Diego. There are two ways to visit Ensenada from San Diego. One is by bus and the other by sea. We took the sea route ( about 70 minutes). There was plenty of time for shopping and sightseeing. The tour took only about 11 hours total. We purchased a few Mexican souvenirs( Indian blankets) and enjoyed a typical Mexican lunch. I did not show any symptoms of sea sickness in the incoming sea trip, but at the return trip, the sea was choppy and I throw up. I swear, I will never take another cruise because of that experience, inspite of Macrine's urging to take another cruise ( perhaps to Alaska during summer).

Ensenada (full name: Ensenada De Todos Santos, which means "Cove of all Saints" in English), or Port of Ensenada for its port, is the third-largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California. It is located 116 km (about 70 miles) south of Tijuana. The city had a 2005 census population of 260,075, with the municipality having 413,481.

Ensenada is also the municipal seat of Ensenada Municipality, one of the five into which the state is divided. Ensenada is locally referred as La Cenicienta del Pacífico (The Cinderella of the Pacific).
Located in the Bahía de Todos Santos — an inlet of the Pacific Ocean — Ensenada is an important commercial and fishing port as well as a cruise ship port of call. There is also a navy base, an army base and a military airfield, which functions as an airport of entry into Mexico.



The city is backed by small mountain ranges. Due to its location on the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean latitude, the weather tends to be mild year-round. Although the winter rain season is short and the area is prone to prolonged droughts, Ensenada sits in the heart of a wine country that is widely regarded as the best in Mexico and the Americas with the Napa Valley in California. It is said that the first vitis vinifera made it to the Peninsula (specifically to the San Ignacio Mission) in 1703, when Jesuit Padre Juan de Ugarte planted the first vineyards there.



Note: This is No.12 (Part 2) of a series of article on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, September 18, 2015

11. Places Outside the US that Macrine and I had Visited-Ontario, Canada

Place #11: Toronto and Vicinity, Ontario, Canada



On August 9 to 11, 2001, Macrine and I attended the 5th International Reunion of Marinduque International, Inc. hosted by the Marinduque Cultural Society of Canada. The meeting was held at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Hotel in Ontario, Canada. We spent half a day, touring the downtown area of Toronto and had lunch in a friends house in Mississauga, Ontario. I wish we had more time to see Toronto. The three days was not enough since during the day, we attended all the sessions discussing preparation for our next Medical Mission to Marinduque. Here are two videos on 10 things to do and interesting places in the city of Toronto, Capital of Ontario, Canada.



Toronto (pronounced /təˈrɒntoʊ/, colloquially /ˈtrɒnoʊ/ or /təˈrɒnoʊ/) is the provincial capital of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and is part of a densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, which is home to over 8.1 million residents—approximately 25% of Canada's population. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,113,149, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 5,555,912 in the 2006 Census.

As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group and is one of the top financial centres in the world. Toronto's leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism and sports industries. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's eighth largest in terms of market value, is headquartered in the city, along with the most Canadian corporate headquarters of a major Canadian city.

Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, as about 49% of the population were born outside of Canada. Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. In addition, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive Canadian city in which to live in 2006. Residents of Toronto are called Torontonians.

I have a sister, a nephew and several relatives residing in the Toronto area.

Note: This is No 11 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

10. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited- Aruba

Place #10: One Week of Fun, Relaxation and Casino Gambling, Aruba



On November 17 to 24, 2001, Macrine and I spent one week of fun, sun and casino gambling in the tropical island of Aruba. Again, this was through our International Interval Vacation Exchange Program. We stayed at the La Cabana Beach and Racquet Club in Oranjestad, Aruba. A casino is just about two blocks from our resort. Complimentary bus service to the Casino is available 24 hours at 30 minutes interval. Macrine and I had fun in the Casino playing the slot machines.

Oranjestad is the capital city of the island. Our son David III went with us, since we had a 2-bedroom suite. We drove around the island stopping at all the tourist attractions, seeing cactus and desert vegetations, windmills, lighthouses, rugged coastlines, natural rock bridges and an old chapel(Alta Vista).

Another interesting facts about Aruba are the presence of several modern Desalination Water Plants which convert salt water from the ocean to fresh water for drinking and household use.
Oranjestad, Capital City of Aruba

Aruba (pronounced /əˈruːbə/ ə-ROO-bə) is a 33km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27km north of the coast of Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

Aruba, which has no administrative subdivisions, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten. Aruban citizens hold Dutch passports. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) and is densely populated with its estimated 103,000 people. It lies outside the hurricane belt.



The last couple of years tourism has declined in Aruba due to the publicity of the murder /disappearance of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager visiting the island in 2005. The suspect, Joran Van Der Sloot, is presently in jail in Peru for the murder of a young Peruvian woman. The body of Natalie had never been recovered. In a recent news (11/1/10),the mother of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway spoke out for the first time about an alleged extortion attempt by Joran Van Der Sloot, the lead suspect in her daughter's disappearance, in which he offered to "bring Natalee" in exchange for $250,000.

"He was ready to tell the truth and lead me to the truth and lead me to Natalee's remains," Beth Twitty told Dutch reporter Peter De Vries in a new Dutch documentary.

Today, I have no desire to revisit Aruba for the above reason(safety of tourists).

Note: This is No. 10 (Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Monday, September 14, 2015

9. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-Puerto Rico

Place #9: San Juan and Vicinity, Puerto Rico


In January 19 to 26, 1996, Macrine and I spent one glorious week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We stayed at the El San Juan Towers, a four star resort in Carolina, PR not too far from Old San Juan. This is in conjunction with our International Interval Exchange Vacation Program. Our travel was arranged by Ober United Travel Agency in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During this seven days, we were able to drive up to Luquillo with a stop over at the El Yunque Carribean National Forest. However most of 7 days we spent around Old San Juan and the beach and swimming pool of our resort. A couple of nights we went to the casino in the nearby San Juan Hotel for dinner and a little gambling.


San Juan is a major port and tourist resort of the West Indies and is the oldest city under the U.S flag. The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort area, and other outlying communities, the most important: Río Piedras, Hato Rey, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce. Río Piedras was founded in 1714 but became incorporated into San Juan in 1951.

During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to charter or settle unknown parts of the New World. Its fortifications repulsed the English navigator Sir Francis Drake in 1595, as well as later attacks.
In the 20th century the city expanded beyond its walled confines, known as Old San Juan, to incorporate suburban Miramar, Santurce, Condado, Hato Rey and Río Piedras.

San Juan is the largest processing center of the island, the metropolitan area has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling and produces cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products clothing, and tobacco. The port is one of the busiest in the Caribbean. San Juan is the country's financial capital, and many U.S. banks and corporations maintain offices or distributing centers there. San Juan is center of Caribbean shipping and is the 2nd largest sea port in the area (after New York City).


Old San Juan is located on a small and narrow island which lies in the north coast, about 35 miles (56 km) from the east end of Puerto Rico, and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by the three bridges. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by San Juan Bay or "Bahia of San Juan" which lies between the city and the mainland. On a bluff about 100 feet (30 m) high at the west end of the island and commanding the entrance to the harbor rise the battlements of Fort San Felipe del Morro, in which there is a lighthouse.

The "Caño de San Antonio" lies also in South Coast and extends to the Southeast where the island of Old San Juan connects to the mainland through Santurce by three bridges, "Puente Dos Hermanos" (Ave. Ashford), "Puente G. Esteves" (Ave. Ponce de León) and "Puente San Antonio" (Ave. Fernández Juncos).
Old San Juan

The city is characterized by its narrow, blue cobblestone streets and flat-roofed brick and stone buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century when Puerto Rico was a Spanish possession. Near Fort San Felipe del Morro is the Casa Blanca, a palace on land which belonged to the family of Ponce de Leon.

Note: This is No.9 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, September 11, 2015

8. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-Cancun, Mexico

Place #8: Cancun, and the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, and Vicinity, Mexico

The Mayan Ruins of Tulum

On September 10 to 17, 1994, Macrine and I along with Ditas spent one week in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed at the Royal Mayan Resort. The Royal Mayan and the adjoining Royal Carribean are 5 stars resorts in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The Hotel zone is a 14 mile strip with more than 100 hotels ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars. Travel arrangement was made by Worlddex Travel via our International Interval Exchange Vacation membership.

Our 7 days of relaxation and sight seeing was INDEED VERY MEMORABLE. We were almost tempted to purchase another week of vacation time-share since the cost was much cheaper than our home resort in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. However, reasons prevail since at this time we were starting to save for the construction of our retirement home in Marinduque, Philippines. The Royal Mayan Hotel has a swimming pool with a bar in the middle. In addition, there is another bar at the ocean side where the water was warmed and crystal clear and the sand powdery white just like sugar.

One day we took a one hour cruise aboard the galleon ship "Columbus" in the beautiful lagoon across our hotel. Ditas participated in the canoe race at the Yatch Club just across the hotel. We eat lunch at the Captain's Cove and dinner at the Gypsy Restaurant. This was Ditas treat to us, since she was occupying the second bedroom of our suite for free. A Flamingo Guitarist and Spanish Dancers were the entertainers for the night. We also went shopping both at the open flea markets in downtown Cancun as well as in several air-conditioned malls of the city. One day we visited the Mayan Ruins Of Tulum and another day at the ruins of Chichen Itza. These two places is a must see if you love history and archaelogy. We inquired on two island tours-Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, but were running out of time and decided not to take it. The following video show the highlights of Chichen Itza and Tulum.

There are several Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. But we visited only two.
1.Chichen Itza - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Chichen Itza archaeological site is the most visited Mayan site on the peninsula. Eighteen structures have been restored over the years. Pyramid Kukulcan is the tallest of them and allows a view from the top of all Chichen Itza. During the Spring and Fall equinoxes, (March 21 & Sept 21) the setting sun creates shadows down the steps of the pyramid that resemble a snake descending. This is a popular event to see and usually draws big crowds.


2. Tulum - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoTulum archaeological zone is located 131 kilometers south of Cancun, just 20 minutes south of Akumal on coastal highway 307. Facing the sea, Tulum is impressive and powerful. Known as the "Walled City", Tulum was thought to be one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan during its time. Fresco remnants are still visible inside some of the structures. There is also a popular beach accessed by a stairway next to the El Castillo pyramid, but we forgot to bring our bathing suit!
On our way to Tulum we stopped by the underground river at X'Caret for one hour.

The other popular Mayan ruins are:
1.Becan - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoJust beyond the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil, are the Mayan ruins of Becan. Visitors can walk to 20 major constructions distributed over three hectares with a number of temple pyramids and plenty of tall jungle. The site is usually deserted. Becán was the political, economical and religious capital of the province known today as Rio Bec. Becan is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.

2.Bonampak - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThis archaeological site, deep in jungle of Chiapas, is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Bonampak is particularly famous for its murals which dipict in great detail the rituals of the royal court, including human sacrifice, costumes, musical instruments, and the weapons of war. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.

3.Calakmul - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoDue to Calakmul's location in the geographic center of the Maya region (the "Petén") it received cultural influences from both north and south. Calakmul along with the Maya sites of El Mirador, Nakbé, and Uaxactún, formed a coalition during the Formative period, constantly engaging in conflicts with its southern neighbors, especially Tikal. Calakmul remained a rival to Tikal from that time on.

4.Chacchoben - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoRoughly 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of Tulum Mexico are the seldom seen Mayan ruins of Chacchoben, an excellent but distant day-trip to see a broad-leaf jungle ruin site. These majestic, mostly restored temple pyramids take on a mystical quality surrounded by towering mahogany trees, enormous cohune palms, strangler figs and the hanging tentacles of banyan trees. Chaccoben means "the Place of Red Corn", in Spanish "Lugar de Maiz Colorado".

5.Chac Mool - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoWithin the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, about 1.5 hours south by boat from Punta Allen, on the Santa Rosa peninsula, is the seldom seen archaeological site of Chac Mool. This is a small site requiring permission from the land owner, Casablanca Fishing Lodge, for entry. Of primary interest is Chac Mool's similarity to Chichen Itza and Tulum because of the presence of a Chac Mool shrine room and a location directly on the Caribbean sea. Also nearby are the Tupac ruins.

6.Chicanna - Mayan ruins in Campeche MexicoNear the Quintana Roo-Campeche state line, 6 kilometers west of the town of Xphil and 3 kilometers from Becan ruins, are the Mayan ruins of Chicanná. Due to its dimensions and the rich decoration of the buildings, Chicanná has been considered a small elitiest center of nearby Becán. The site is usually deserted. Chicanna is roughly 3.5 hours from Tulum, driving south on highway 307 then west on 186.

7.Coba - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Coba archaeological zone is located 42 km. west of Tulum. With many buildings still covered by jungle, Coba is over 80 sq. miles with 5 lakes. Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. It is 12 stories tall and has 120 steps to the top! But from the top you can view a magnificent span of jungle with the tops of other ruins reaching above the jungle canopy.
Map of Mayan Ruins in the Cancun Peninsula

8.Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoDzibilchaltun archaeological zone is located only 9 mile from the Yucatan state capital of Merida, Dzibilchaltun ruins are a must see for visitors interested in a significant Maya ruins site and excellent cultural museum full of Maya and Spanish artifacts including 16th century Spanish swords and weapons, Maya textiles, monolithic stela, temples and deep cenote freshwater well, excellent for a cool swim. Located on the road to Progreso. Taxi transport from central Merida and combis from San Juan Park.

9.Ek Balam - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoEk Balam was built in the Maya Classic Period and has a grand central pyramid, two large palaces, and numerous other temples and buildings. While the archaeological zone is not as completely restored, or as large a site as Chichen Itza or Uxmal, Ek Balam is under active restoration and gives the visitor a great overview of the entire archaeological process. The effect is almost mystical with restored buildings pushing out of the huge mounds of rubble and jungle undergrowth.

10. Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoKohunlich, Dzibanche and Oxtankah make up one of the largest concentrations of archaeological sites located in the southern part of Quintana Roo. Just a few hours south on Hwy 307 will bring you to the Lake Bacalar area. Most of the ruins in southern Quintana Roo are located south of there. Bring a new guidebook with you for specific directions. The jungle is lush and alive with exotic birds and wildlife.

11. Mayapan - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoMayapan ("Banner of the Mayas") is considered the last great Maya capital, dating back to the beginning of the common Era and reaching its golden age in the Postclassic period. Mayapan's ancient grandeur is still evident in its great buildings. There is a strong influence played by Chichen Itza, as seen in its main building, a smaller replica of the Castillo of Kukulcan.

12. Muyil - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Muyil ruins are located 25 kilometers south of the Pueblo of Tulum, passed Ejido Pino Suarez. This site is rarely visited but quite spectacular. The ruins are partially excavated and the jungle surrounds them. A combination path-boardwalk leads from the ruins through a lush jungle-marsh area to wide Laguna Muyil. The Mirador observation platform gives a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Tours of the lagoons are available by the dock.

13. Palenque - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoPalenque archaeological zone is located in the southern state of Chiapas near Guatemala. Palenque is one of the premiere Mayan ruins of Mesoamerica featuring the Temple of Inscriptions containing Pakal's tomb, the Palace and many other buildings, all in a mountainous jungle setting. Other nearby sites to see include Agua Azul cascades, Misol Ha falls, Usumacinta river tour to Yaxchitlan & Bonampak Maya ruins.

14. Uxmal - Mayan ruins in Yucatan MexicoThe Uxmal Mayan ruins are some of the best on the peninsula. The name Uxmal means 'thrice-built' in Mayan, referring to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician. The Maya would often build a new temple over an existing one, and in this case five stages of construction have actually been found. Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatán peninsula, and at its height was home to about 25,000 Maya.

15. Xel-Ha - Mayan ruins in Quintana Roo MexicoThe Xel-Ha ruins are part of the Xel-Ha Lagoon eco-park, located between Akumal and Tulum. These are a small collection of stone buildings right on the highway opposite the entrance to Xel-Ha Lagoon. The Maya had a coastal port at Xel-Ha for maritime trade via canoes between the principal towns up and down the coast, and to Cozumel. There are a couple of interesting cenotes nearby the ruins group. Some of the structures still have painted hands and other drawings of the Maya.

16. Yaxchilan - Mayan ruins in Chiapas MexicoThe Yaxchilan archaeological site is deep in jungle of Chiapas. It is one of the so called Usumacinta Province group which includes several Mayan ruins sites on or close by the Usumacinta river. Yaxchilan is right on the Usumacinta and visitors almost exclusively come via the long boats that navigate the river. There are more than 120 structures in the central area in three complexes. Tours to the ruins can be arranged from hotels in Palenque.

Note: This is No.8(Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

7. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-Italy

Place #7: Rome, the Vatican and Assisi and Vicinity, Italy

St Peter Square, The Vatican
On December 10 to 16, 1990, Macrine and I joined the Dioscese of Oakland Choir during their pilgrimage tour to Rome, the Vatican and surrounding area( Assisi), Italy. We were not members of the Choir, but our parish priest, Fr. Paddy Bishop of St Joseph Church of Pinole was the Chaperon of the Choir and he invited us to join the group. Lidia Carlos Reynes was the choir director. The choir gave one concert( liturgical music) and sang during a mass with the Pope (John Paul II) as celebrant in St Peter's Basilica. For 5 days we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Rome, the Vatican and Assisi, Italy.



One day we went to St Francis de Assisi Church in Assisi, Italy about one hour bus drive from Rome. Assisi is one of the most beautiful town in Italy. Around Rome, we saw the Coliseum, several the historic basilicas and fountains, the Catacombs and a whole day tour the Vatican( Sistine Chapel etc..)City and the Museum.
Assisi, Italy
This is one vacation/tour that Macrine and I will never forget. The package tour was arranged by Courtial International, Vatican Travel Office and Choir Pilgrimage Services in Rome, Italy.
St Peter Square, the Vatican

The following paragraph in the concert program summarized the reason for this concert tour. ( there was a translation in Latin, German and French)

"Concerts of Liturgical Music in a Holy Place are not only authentic manifestations of Art and Faith, but they also represent a wonderful opportunity for the spirit to join the Source of every beauty".

I like the Spanish version better as follows:

"Los Conciertos de Musica Sagrada en Lugar Sagrado, ademas de ser autenticas manifestaciones de Arte y de Fe, constituyen una ocasion inmejorable para elevar al espiritu hacia la Fuente de la misma belleza."



Note: This is No.7 ( Rome and Assisi, Italy). of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Monday, September 7, 2015

6. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-the Bahamas

Place # 6: Three Day Cruise to Nassau, The Bahamas

The Parliament House

On March 25 to 28, 1977, Macrine and I took our first cruise to Nassau after the American Chemical Society Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. This is aboard the S/S Emerald Seas owned by the Eastern Steamship Lines, Inc. The S/S Emerald Seas was registered in Panama with gross tonnage of 24,178 tons, has 9 decks, 622 feet long and 76 feet wide. There were 411 staterooms and a capacity of 1,084 passengers. There was a movie theatre on the lowest deck, two night clubs, an Olympic size swimming pool, 5 lounges with bars, a slot machines room, card room, gift shop, beauty parlor and a huge dining area for 500 diners on each seating. This ship is just like a small city with all its amenities.

Macrine and I and a couple we meet during the ACS neeting and their teenage son were assigned on the second seating for all meals. For entertainment, there were 2 bands for dancing, night club shows, horse racing, bingo, and card tournaments. The Casino and Slot Machines are only open on High Seas. We ate six times a day as follows: Breakfast(6 to 8AM), morning snack(10-11AM),lunch(12Noon-2:00PM),afternoon snack(4:00PM),dinner,6:00 to 9:00PM and another midnight buffet(11:00PM) if you are still hungry. The food was delicious and lavish.

The highlights of this cruise was the Captain's Farewell Dinner- Lobster with eight other courses and a flaming baked Alaskan cake as the dessert served by marching waiters. Since I am to prone to sea sickness, I took my Dramamine tablets prior to our departure from the Port of Miami. On the return back, I was feeling good and cocky, I did not take my pill. Lo and Behold at the end of the Captain's dinner, I was feeling nauseous, thus was not able to enjoy the dessert.
Here's a video of a similar cruise aboard the Monarch of the Seas, operated by the Royal Carribean Lines.


When we arrived at Nassau(capital of the Bahamas), we took a tour of the Island of New Providence, including the beach in Paradise Island. Paradise Island has soft pink white sand and multi-hued blue and greenish water.

Within walking distance from where the ship docked is Bay Street lined with shops offering items from all over the world at duty free prices. The famed straw market is adjacent to the ship, where you can buy all kinds of straw products from dolls, hats or handbags. Macrine and I purchased several straw products for souvenirs.

Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The city has a population of 260,000 (2008 census), nearly 80 percent of the entire population of The Bahamas (330,000). Lynden Pindling International Airport, the major airport for The Bahamas, is located about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) west of Nassau city centre, and has daily flights to major cities in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The city is located on the island of New Providence, which functions much like a federal district. While there is no local government, it is governed directly as an administrative division of the national government. Nassau is considered a historical stronghold of pirates.

Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Nassau's modern growth began just over 200 years ago with the influx of thousands of American Loyalists and enslaved Africans to The Bahamas following the American War of Independence. Many of them settled in Nassau (the then and still commerce capital of The Bahamas) and eventually came to outnumber the original inhabitants.
As the population of Nassau grew, so did the built-up areas.

Today the city dominates the entire island and its satellite, Paradise Island. The Atlantis Resort was not built when we visited the island in 1977. However, until the post-Second World War era, the outer suburbs scarcely existed. Most of New Providence was uncultivated bush until the loyalists came in the 1780s and established several plantations such as Clifton and Tusculum. When the British abolished the international slave Trade in 1807, thousands of liberated Africans freed from slave ships by the Royal Navy were settled on New Providence (at Adelaide, Gambier, Carmichael and Sandiland) and other islands. The largest concentration of blacks lived in the "Over-the-Hill" suburbs of Grants Town and Bain Town behind the city of Nassau, while most of the whites lived on the island's northern coastal ridges.

Note: This is No.6 ( Part 2) of the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Friday, September 4, 2015

5. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-England

Place #5: London, Bath and Vicinity, England

London Tower Bridge
Macrine and I went to London on a whim, that is no previous planning. I saw an ad in the Washington Times dated July 21, 1992 to see a football game between the Redskins and the SF 49'ers in Wembly Stadium, London for August 16, 1992. I immediately called Macrine at work and ask her if she could take a week of from work.

The package consists of 5 days and 4 nights at the Scandic Crown Hotel in the London Docklands, two tickets to the football game, continental breakfast daily, full day tour of London and a mini cruise of the Thames River, welcome dinner hosted by Ricky Erwins (no.32) of the Redskins, and a round trip non-stop airfare from Dulles to Heathrow including ground transfer and tour guide via a luxury motor coach for only $1,099 per person. The package was offered by Trafalgar Tours, Bethesda, Maryland.

Other tours around London are available for an additional fee. Macrine and I took the one day tour to Bath, England with a reasonable additional fee of less than $50 per person whuch included lunch and a round trip train fare from London to Bath.
We had a grand time in Bath, seeing the Roman Baths museum and enjoying a lunch of Fish and Chips.
On this vacation, we saw the outskirts of the Buckingham Palace, Westmister Abbey, the Big Ben, rode the London underground railway system called The TUBE, shopped at Harrod's and saw Miss Saigon at the Drury Lane Royal Theatre. The highlight of our tour was not the Redskins and 49er's game, inspite of the fact that the Niners beat the Redskin 17-15, three seconds before the end of the game with a field goal, but the show, Miss Saigon. Our group of 40 tourists were all Redskin fans except for Macrine and I, so we were outnumbered and received a lot of boos when we cheered for the Niners. We paid scalped prices for the two tickets to Miss Saigon, but it was worth it. Tears rolling from our eyes moved by the story and music of the modern Madame Butterfly musical will never be erased in our memory. The leading lady was not Lea Salonga, but another Filipina singer. The leading man, Junix Inocian, who inherited Jonathan Pyrce role, is also a Filipino and did a good job singing the "American Dream" song. The Royal Crescent in Bath We took a one day tour to Bath, Avon about 75 minutes train ride from Paddington Station in London. Paddington Station reminds me of Union Station in Washington, DC. However, you have to pay to use the WC(rest rooms) or CR (Comfort Rooms in the Philippines) One of Bath's principal industries is tourism, with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city on an annual basis. The visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage tourism and cultural tourism. This is aided by the city's selection in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising its international cultural significance. All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city, from the Roman Baths (including their significant Celtic presence), to Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent, to Thermae Bath Spa in the 2000s. The Roman Bath The size of the tourist industry in Bath is reflected in the almost 300 places of accommodation – including over 80 hotels, and over 180 bed and breakfasts – many of which are located in Georgian buildings. The history of the city is displayed at the Building of Bath Collection which is housed in a building which was built in 1765 as the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It was also known as the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, as she lived in the attached house from 1707 to 1791. Two of the hotels have 'five-star' ratings. There are also two campsites located on the western edge of the city. The city also contains about 100 restaurants, and a similar number of public houses and bars. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city, as well as tours on foot and on the river. Since 2006, with the opening of Thermae Bath Spa, the city has attempted to recapture its historical position as the only town in the United Kingdom offering visitors the opportunity to bathe in naturally heated spring waters. Note: This is No.5 (Part 2) on the series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

4. Places Outside the United States that Macrine and I had Visited-Morocco

Place #4: A Day in Tangiers and Morocco, North Africa

Camel Rides in Morocco

From Marbella,Spain, Macrine and I joined a one day tour to Tangier, Morocco, North Africa as part of our vacation in Costa del Sol in October, 2000. With this visit we could claim that we have been to the Continent of Africa. It was a beautifully organized tour and is described below by a writer from the Spanish tourism department:

"From the most southern point of Spain (Tarifa), Morocco is only 14 kilometers away. On most days you can see the mountains at the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar very clearly, and at night you see the lights of the houses. Being so close to Spain, Morocco Tourism is very tempting. Especially because it’s not only another country, but even another continent.

There are several options to a Morocco Tourism visit, one of them is booking a daytrip from Tarifa to Tangier( this is the one we took). There are two excursions to Tangier every day, starting at 9am and 11.00am, and cost 56 euro (ferry, guide, bus and lunch included). Tickets are sold at the office of FRS or at Marruecotur, both near the Paseo de la Alameda in the centre of Tarifa. The excursion starts in the port of Tarifa. Here you cross the Spanish border and get on the boat, a fast ferry that brings you in 35 minutes to Tangier. As there is a time difference between Morocco and Spain of 2 hours (in summer), you arrive in Morocco either around 7.45am or 9.45am.

Morocco Tourism for the first time is quite impressive. Not so much because of the beauty of the landscape (the skyline of Tangier is not very special), but more for the complete different culture and language. There are two different ideas about the origins of Tangier, the Berber and the Greek. According to the Berber legend, Tangier was founded following the return of a dove from the Arch of Noah with soil in its claws, indicating that there was a new world – Tanja in Berber language. The Greek version states that Tangier derives from the name “Tingi”, daughter of the giant Anthee. For the ancient Greek authors Tangier was “the most beautiful city of the known world, a region of gods where the men are the tallest and most beautiful that one can find.” If this is (still) true, you have to decide for yourself. Because of its geographical situation Tangier has always been the door to Africa. For a long time it used to be an important international meeting point, until it became stronger attached to Morocco".



"Once you have arrived in Morocco, a bus drives you from the port to the old town. The old town is surprisingly similar to a lot of old towns in Andalucian cities. At the entrance there is an old arc, after which you find a labyrinth of small streets, small houses, ancient buildings, a castle and small typical shops. Most of the shops appear to be there for tourists only, during the tour you’ll visit some of them. The shop owners are not too shy to sell you all their merchandise on the streets, of course for “a very special price” (which drops rapidly if you don’t show any interest). Also included in the tour is a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. They serve traditional food and at the end you’ll get a traditional Moroccan tea. It´s questionable if it´s really a traditional restaurant, as it seems to run on tourists only, but at least the food is good".

"After a stroll through the old town, you get a chance to have a look at the new town. This part of Tangier appears to be quite modern, with big buildings, broad streets and larger, more modern shops. A visit to the outskirts of Tangier is included as well. Big houses with big fences dominate the scene, so probably the rich are living here. You also get the opportunity to ride a camel, on payment of a few euros. The whole tour takes about 7 hours".

Personal Note: Walking on the narrow cobblestone streets of the Medina (Old Town) in Tangier was not easy. Street peddlers hustle you all day. They sell all kinds of trinkets that will challenge even an experienced bargain hunter like me. However, I had my good buy of the day on this tour. I saw a mineral stone ( similar to the one you see in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC) that aroused my attention. The asking price was 3000 pesetas. I bargained 500 pesetas. As expected I received a groaning response from the peddler( a man in his late 20's) that I am too cheap and should be ashamed for bargaining too low. I just smile and ignored him. The peddler keep up on following me until lunch time when the price went down to 2000 pesetas. I said no and stuck to my original bargain. I totally forgot about this haggling episode, when out of no where the peddler accosted me again and lowered the price to 1000 pesetas. I said no deal until the price went down to 700 pesetas. Three hours later as I was stepping on the bus on our way home, the peddler gave up. He gave the mineral stone to me as I handed him the 500 pesetas from the window of the bus. I certainly had a grand time in this haggling process.
We did visit a carpet shop, but I was not in the mode of bargaining. In addition if we buy a carpet, it will be bulky to carry around, although they can shipped your purchase to the US with a ridiculously high fees.

Macrine on the other hand is not a bargain hunter or haggler. Her best purchase was what they called the "Moroccan Gold". It is the most expensive spice in the world.
It is SAFFRON. The powder looks light reddish brown, but when you add water it turns yellow, just like the color of TUMERIC, another spice. You need only a very small amount for cooking paella and other Spanish or Filipino dishes like the ginat-an na manok sa gata (chicken in coconut milk) of Marinduque-one of my favorite Filipino dish. Saffron is very expensive, so most cooks used a cheaper substitute, the TUMERIC or "dilaw" in Marinduque.


A snake Charmer in Action

Note: This is No.4 ( Part 2) of a series of articles on places that Macrine and I had visited outside the US since 1960.
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