Last August 16, I had my first event with the YFC-PUP at St. Joseph College in Quezon City. It was fun and I found it a little interesting more than I thought. The activity was named as ALERT!. It was also my first time to be in an event full of YFC members from the participating universities that are in the U-belt. The said event covered a list of activities including a dance competition, battle of the bands, and the Acapella singing (I hope I spelled it right).

Our university participated at the said activities and we proudly say that we've won the Acapella singing. Although we didn't win the other competitions we were still happy that we've participated. Among of the members of the YFC dance group were my classmates. I had so much fun along with the YFC-PUP and also with the other activities that we've done. I'm hoping for another event with them. ^_^

Films have a funny way of touching people, of evoking emotions and of making viewers feel part of their reflective stories. And there are hundreds upon hundreds of films that make us want to be where they're set. Everybody has their own list of memorable destinations in movies. A single list of 10 isn't quite enough to cover a small fraction of it. But I'll give you a taste of the common favorites. Take a peek...

1. Salzburg, Austria (from The Sound of Music) - Captivating audiences worldwide was not only accomplished by Julie Andrews. Rather, the hills that were alive have a lot to do why the film is a family favorite. Salzburg gained international popularity and showed that it was so much more than the magnificent view in the movie.

2. South of France (from A Good Year) - Although it is set in many locations, the most captivating of them is the serene South of France countryside. Vineyards, stone facades and everything old-world France are elementally present at this locale and are masterfully woven as the arresting backdrop of the beautiful tale.

3. Tokyo, Japan (from Lost in Translation) - There was something unreal and fictional about Tokyo in this movie, and yet, there was also something magnetic and familiar. It was full of life, perhaps, more alive than Tokyo really is for first-timer travelers. But you can't but be drawn to the city as the film's plot unravels around it.

4. Tuscany (from Under the Tuscan Sun) - If the gorgeous men in Tuscany isn't enough reason to buy yourself a Tuscan villa, then how about the gorgeous scenery? In this film, it's inviting, warm, and carefree and the sun shines a different way. That's the kind of invitation that's hard to turn down.

5. Phi Phi Ley, Thailand (from The Beach) - If you weren't focused too much on the eye candy that was Leonardo DiCaprio, you'd see that Thailand is nothing like what you thought it is. This specific spot, near Phuket, has a major story arc in the film and its "paradise" status just makes you wanna make your own The Beach moments.

6. Venice, Italy (from The Talented Mr. Ripley) - It was reported that Venice had a massive tourism boom after the release of the film. And why not? The way it was depicted is nothing short of irresistible. Amidst the conflicts of the characters, the city (with its canals) blended right in.

7. Paris, France (from Amelie) - There is nothing more authentic in cinema than seeing Paris through the eyes of Amelie. This off-beat, maybe even unusual, character is strangely relatable. We join her in her daily Parisian life and somehow, we feel like we've been to those places she's been.

8. Highclere Castle, England (from Eyes Wide Shut) - If you could divert your attention for a while from the sexual tension of one of the most popular English destinations. The famous/infamous explicit scene wouldn't be the same if it was shot in a different location.

9. Around the United States (from North by Northwest) - Shot on location at Gran Central Station, Mount Rushmore and various natural scenes across the US, this film made Cary Grant the image of a true American hero. As he navigates through the Midwest like it was all his, audiences were living vicariously through him.

10. New Zealand (from The Lord of the Rings trilogy) - Who knew that New Zealand was so beautiful? The natural backdrop was magical in its own way, and most of it augmented the fantasy that the movie was all about. There couldn't have been more appropriate setting for Middle Earth.

Here it comes the next big thing in Macau - City of Dreams, an integrated urban entertainment resort, set to open on June 1 and expected to become the city's next "must experience" attraction. Located in the Cotal Strip, famed for five-star hotels, clubs, and casinos, the City of Dreams will combine electrifying entertainment, stylish nightclubs, an array of de luxe accommodations, world-class dining, together with top-rate shopping, and a casino, ushering in a new era of gaming and entertainment.

The casino will be at the heart of the "City", and its 420,000 quare feet of 520 gaming tables and 1,350 gaming machines will offer a dynamic gaming experience to guests.

The "City", according to Lawrence Ho of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., is a next-generation resort like no other in the world. It represents a major step forward in Macau's transformation as the region's premier leisure, entertainment, and gaming destination.

Just as diverse are the world-class restaurants and a host of noodle bars, caf├ęs, and lounges, with cuisines to suit every taste, occasion, and budget; but nothing in Macau will surpass the "City's" 175,000 square feet of retail space spread over two levels, promising to be the gateway to everyone's shopping fantasies.

The "City's" development will come in phases, with the main area scheduled for completion on the third quarter of 2009, and a spectacular theater production to open soon thereafter in its purpose-built "Theatre of Dreams." The final phase will have an 800-room apartment hotel.

Ho declares that the tourism goals of Macau will have been achieved once "City of Dreams" opens.

Hmmm.. it seems summer is about to end and school days are coming. I never thought that time will banish that fast. I still want to extend this vacation. It's kind of short because I'm just starting to enjoy it, now that I knew some kind of hobby I think that I will continue throughout my life. It's amazing that you've been struggling to rest a couple of months ago but now you are struggling to extend this long-wait vacation that we always wished for before the class ends.

Here in the Philippines, classes always start at the month of June. I, a student, always commute to go to my school. I have many routes to get to my school in Sta. Mesa, Manila. My preferred route is taking up the EDSA or Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue from Congressional Avenue exit, then turning right at the Aurora Boulevard. Me, an average citizen and also as a member of a middle class family, usually don't have a car. I ride a bus or an FX Taxi until Cubao and then ride a jeepney up to Stop and Shop, then walk to a street heading up to my school. That's the usual way of my morning when I'm going to my school.

When I'm about to go home, I take the same route and transportation. But when I'm in a hurry, I take up the LRT or the Light Railway Transport. It's fast because there are no traffics in the railways, you know.

That's my route but if you're not comfortable with my suggested route, we can take other than that. We can take the long one, in Quezon Ave. heading up to Espana Blvd. then let's take the Nicanor Avenue I think then turn left at the Recto Avenue then straight it up to Aurora Blvd. and just watch out for the Stop and Shop Store Banner there. I'm not particular with it that's why I can't explain it clearly.

So that's the way I travel to my school, it's not so exciting though the jeepneys are a bit horrible and also the buses, they will take you to heaven in their rides. Just be careful and God is always there watching out. Take care!!

Many of the world's great cities were built along rivers, making them easily accessible for trade and exploration. Today, riverboat cruises remain as one of the most alluring and efficient ways to tour them. Like ocean liners, riverboats represents floating hotels but riverboats rarely hold more than 150 passengers, and they sail past fishing villages and vineyards to dock right in the heart of medieval cities.

In Europe, the Rhine and Danube are the hottest waterways for touring. Tauck organizes a 24-day Grand European Cruise through nine countries to the Black Sea.

The new eight-night Epicurean Adventurer Program from Uniworld starts in Mar
seille and goes through seven cities, ending in Lyon with a short trip to a Valrhona chocolate factory.

Sea Cloud - the Ritz Carlton of riverboats, with a Michelin-starred chef on board - traverses some of the same waterways but in a different style.

On the 10-night Classic Rhine Golf cruise, passengers schedule tee times all along the riverboats. The 7-night Johnson Strauss Waltz Music on the Danube cruise allows passengers to travel in the company of the famous composer's great-grandnephew, with stopovers for private concerts in opera houses along the way, as well as wine tastings at private chateaus owned by dukes and princesses.

AMA Waterways sails along the Volga-Baltic from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Pandaw has a new cruise in the works; after years of negotiations with India, the company's boats will in September begin heading down the holy Ganges for 14 nights, just in time for the Festival of Lights that marks the Hindu New Year.

In Portugal, Douro Azul explores the port wine country along the Douro River Valley. Passengers can sit in lounge chairs on the deck of the boat, listening to history lectures as they sail through three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Don't you try to wait for some time before trying these cruises. ^_^

In January, Tourism Queensland put out want ads looking for a "caretaker" for Hamilton Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Nearly 35,000 people applied. More important, the press picked up the story. "The main objective is to generate media coverage to supplement advertising," says Bill Siegel of the market-research firm Longwoods International.

Struggling tourist destinations are devising all sorts of over-the-top advertising campaigns to make themselves stand out. In August, 10 contestants chosen through a Web competition will scramble around the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao on a treasure hunt for half a million dollars—a tiny fraction of the tourist dollars the island hopes the move will generate. Such bold promotions have been known to work;

when Starwood advertised "Procreation Vacations" at its Caribbean properties—complete with couples massages and fertility enhancing foods—it led to 43 bookings and $102,000 in revenue. No word yet on how many babies.

The world's national parks offer fresh air, wildlife, scenic vistas and breathtaking topographic formations. And that is why so many of them—from Yosemite to England's Lake District to Thailand's Khao Yai—are mobbed in peak season. But there are parks that have somehow slid beneath the radar of the photo-snapping masses. For travelers looking to really get away—far, far away—from it all, these are well worth the trip.

Located on the Seward Peninsula and named after the land link between North America and Asia, Alaska's Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is home to more than 100 species of birds. Situated on 1.1 million hectares, the preserve also hosts caribou, arctic fox, moose and, along the coast, humpback whales and seals. Part of what puts Bering Land Bridge off the tourist map is its inaccessibility: no roads lead there. Visitors can arrive only via boat or small plane departing Nome, or by snowmobile or dog sled during the winter months.

The National Park of American Samoa is just as remote. Distributed across three South Pacific islands created by extinct volcanoes, the park features unspoiled beaches and coral reefs perfect for snorkeling and diving, as well as flying foxes, fruit bats and sea turtles.

Panama's Darien National Park is the largest national park in Central America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's filled with swamps, beaches, mountains and dense jungle. It's also home to the only missing stretch of the Pan-American Highway that goes from Chile to Alaska. Brimming with wildlife, this 579,000-hectare rainforest is the natural habitat for jaguar, harpy eagles and parrots. Because of its challenging terrain, most visitors choose to hire a guide or join a tour operated out of the region's main city, La Palma.

Wildlife lovers heading to Africa for game viewing can beat the crowds in Kenya by going to neighboring Ethiopia's Nechisar National Park, located some 500 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. Named after the white grass covering the region's plains, this park features diverse terrain, including thick bushland, the Amaro Mountains, hot springs and acacia trees. Visitors can see bush pigs, zebra, flamingos, crocodiles, monkeys and baboons in their natural habitat.

Even well-traveled Italy is home to a relatively unpopulated park: Pollino National Park, in the country's south. Hikers in the 193-hectare expanse can walk amid Grecian laurel and silver fir trees, along mule tracks and through rolling pastures, to catch glimpses of golden eagles and European otters. The park also features some of the highest mountains in southern Italy, including the 2,000 meter Serra Dolcederme. Straddling the provinces of Calabria and Basilicata, the parkland is peppered with small towns and Albanian-speaking villages, providing visitors with a range of interesting culinary options.

India's Kanha National Park, located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, inspired Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," and is one of the best places in India to spot tigers in their natural habitat—as well as leopards, monkeys, hyenas, porcupines and bison. Kanha was originally designed in 1955 as a wildlife preserve to safely house several endangered species.

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka is a World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve. Though relatively small—it's situated on under 19,000 hectares of rainforest—the park features dense vegetation and an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, including elephants, leopards and tree frogs, as well as native birds like the Sri Lanka blue magpie. Not many people will have a snapshot of that in their photo albums.

Battered and broke, anxious and exhausted, we are desperate for an escape from our day-to-day lives. The travel industry is bracing for possibly the worst season since 9/11. The U. N. estimates that worldwide tourism will fall by up to 2 percent this year, with the Americas and Europe hardest hit. The number of international tourists going to the United States fell 9 percent during the year ending in January, and the amount they spent fell 7 percent. The number going to Britain fell 2.6 percent in 2008, and the number of Brits traveling abroad fell nearly 9 percent in the last three months of the year. Even France - still the world's top tourist destination - saw a 3 percent drop in visitors, most of it coming at the end of the year as the crisis took hold.

But this doesn't mean the holiday has been forsaken. Studies show vacations are one of the last budget items families will cut, and many cling to time off as practically a basic human right. Instead they are traveling faster, cheaper and more creatively.

Someday soon, we hope, this whole economic nightmare will end. Private jets will return to the skies, penthouse suites will be booked solid, three-star restaurant meals will again become standard fare. Until then, it's great to know we can still enjoy a picnic on a makeshift beach.

Starting at Escolta and go where our feet take us!

It's good that people like Carlos Celdran of Walk This Way Tours are even making an effort to educate people on the grandeur that was Old Manila. The truth is that Manila was a transplanted Europe, and WWII destroyed all that. But more on character with our wanderlust, we decide that the best way to explore the city would be able to pick a spot on which we would plant our feet on the ground, and just wing it walking around the city, making turns of it felt right, taking note of street sigris, old buildings, slices of life, and overheard conversations.

The decaying building near Escolta, the El Hogar Filipino, built in 1914, was a financial powerhouse in its day. The stunning architectural details are still intact despite its sad state. You can make like a 1930s number cruncher in a crisp white suit here.

If you were a man of taste, you went to Escolta, parked your Studebaker on the curb, and checked out Heacock's for hats or canes pr any of your gentleman's sartorial needs.

You'd watch a movie at Capitol, your suit cutting a dashing silhouette on the art deco facade.

Loitering at Escolta, amd ending up in the streets of Binondo, two days before the Chinese New Year.

Backpedaling to Chinatown, looking for the estero that served the best cheap chow in town. Turning back and walking on until reaching Quiapo Church. At the Feast of the Black Nazarene, no space would be available here, only waves of people.

Pedaling a real Japanese bicycle in a sideswipe-free zone!

The World Bank had a hand in this. Yes, the same financial institution that drives countries' economies by remote control granted $1.3 million to Marikina through their Global Environment Facility. To their credit, the shoe capital first thought up the idea of including bikes in the mainstream of public transportation in the city and had earmarked their own budget for it, and it so happened the World Bank was willing to invest in bikes. So now Marikina has already constructed 52 kilometers of bike lanes, with real pavement and thermoplastic white lines, lined with trees and well away from death by sideswipe.

Try to bike from the Marikina-Antipolo border down to the Marikina River, where the once trashy banks are now lined with jogging paths, trees and park benches. This is by far the best place to bike in the city.

Now it makes perfect sense to abandon any form of motorized transport and use the humble bike in any part of the city. With bike lanes connecting you to important parts of Marikina, right up to LRT Santolan station (which will then take you all the way to Recto), who needs gas?

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