Mighty Aphrodite (Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

NOTE: This is a late post, and I apologize to my editors for not promoting the November 2013 issue of T+L Southeast Asia early enough. But between dealing with the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) plus all the traveling we did in November, there hasn’t been much time to catch our breath!

"Mighty Aphrodite" in Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, November 2013 issueMighty Aphrodite

A young woman in the Philippines has made it her personal mission to save the seas. By Niña Terol-Zialcita

(Published in the November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia)

Many little girls dream of becoming mermaids. Not too many, though, take the mission to heart.

Philippines-based Anna Oposa is different. Her business card reads “Founder and Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas,” and at the tender age of 25, she has already helped expose a smuggling ring that poached the country’s waters for corals, sea turtles and other precious marine species; started an independent movement to protect aquatic resources across the archipelago; and taken her mission to the international stage as a Young Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum. This woman’s love of the ocean is so deep, all she’s missing are flippers. Here, we dive into her underwater and on-the-ground pursuits.

Which came first—your love of diving or your passion for conserving the environment?

When I was 19, I volunteered in a cleanup dive to be exempted from an exam, and I saw diapers underwater. That’s when I told myself I needed to do more.

The interests complement each other perfectly. I am reminded of what needs to be conserved every time I dive.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, grab a copy of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia’s November 2013 issue.

The November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia | Click on the image to visit their Facebook page to see more great content and cool promos
The November 2013 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia | Click on the image to visit their Facebook page to see more great content and cool promos

Amanpulo, Visayas Islands among the best of Conde Nast (Rappler.com)

(First published on November 4, 2013) in Rappler.com)

AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/
AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/

[See the original image here]

MANILA, Philippines – Amanpulo, the ultra-exclusive resort located in Pamalican Island in the Sulu Sea, has once again made it to Condé Nast Traveller’s list of Top 100 resorts, hotels and spas in the Readers’ Travel Awards 2013.

The resort was cited among the Top 20 in the Asia & India category, with a numeric rating of 77.88 over 100.

Amanpulo is the only Philippine resort to make it to this year’s Top 100.

According to Condé Nast Traveller, “[Readers] were asked to rate [their] choices according to various criteria, such as service, culture and value for money. From [the] responses, we calculated the average mark on each criterion, and used this to provide the overall satisfaction percentage figure…”

Condé Nast Traveller is one of the world’s leading travel publications, known for its independence and integrity in reviewing travel and hospitality establishments. The poll for the 2013 Readers’ Travel Awards was participated in by 80,000 jetsetters, who cumulatively cast over 1.3 million votes.

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post on Rappler.com.

Diniwid beach: The quiet side of Boracay (Rappler.com)

(First published on November 3, 2013 in Rappler.com)

DINIWID PARADISE. Heaven's painting. All photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita
DINIWID PARADISE. Heaven’s painting. All photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita

I kicked off my flip-flops and dug my feet into the cool, soft sand. It was the first sunny morning in a week of stormy skies and sudden rainshowers, and I wanted to make the most of it. I sipped the warm, sweet taho that I bought from a roving vendor, then I settled my glass snugly into the sand before finding my own sweet spot.

SWEET SPOT. Breakfast by the beach
SWEET SPOT. Breakfast by the beach

In front of me, the high tide was carrying strong waves in a sea of teal and blue. From a distance, I could spy a woman running toward the sea with her dog; in another direction, there were two little boys hopping and crawling on the sand. There seemed to be only a handful of people around me—I was in Boracay Island, yes, yet there were no beach-going throngs, no ugly windbreakers blocking the view, no jarring sounds.

SECRET GETAWAY. A handful of people, no jarring noises
SECRET GETAWAY. A handful of people, no jarring noises

This is how it is in Diniwid Beach, White Beach’s quiet, unassuming “little cousin.”

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post in Rappler.com.

#ThrowbackThursday: Paris in a Hurry (asianTraveler Magazine)

(First published in asianTraveler Magazine in October 2010)

Note: A colleague of mine is traveling to Paris in a couple of weeks, which made me fish out my old Paris booklets and re-open this old published piece. I share it here in case anyone needs tips for getting to know Paris in just 24 short but sweet hours.

PARIS COLLAGE by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram
PARIS COLLAGE by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram

I have to admit: it was a rather foolish decision to make Paris only a short pit stop between my trip to Prague, Czech Republic, where I had spent a week on a scholarship program, and the French seaside town of La Rochelle, where I was set to make a long-awaited visit to friends. Divided into 20 arrondisements (administrative districts), Paris is certainly a city that takes days—even weeks—to fully explore and enjoy. Even with enough time and cash on your hands, you will never run out of new experiences to savor in the City of Lights.

Still, my itinerary specified that I had less than a full day to enjoy Paris, so with my (broken) luggage in tow and with my spirit resolute to make the most of my Parisian experience, I set off to explore the city like a soldier on a mission.

The must-sees: The Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, the Paris Opera House, and the Musée Louvre

The Paris must-sees | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram
The Paris must-sees | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram

I planned my trip around courtesy calls to the royalty of Parisian monuments. From my hotel in rue Cambronne (on the light-green Nation-Charles de Gaulle Étoile metro line) I took a long, leisurely walk to the École Militaire, the military school whose walls still bear deep, visible scars from the Second World War. The école sits right across Champ de Mars, a large, expansive park from where you can get an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. Although named after the Roman god of war, the park is tourist- and family- friendly and also boasts a large Wall of Peace.

After ogling at the Eiffel Tower and snapping away with my camera for about an hour or so, I found my way to the Invalides metro station to take the train to Avenue des Champs-Élysées (where I was lucky enough to catch the tail- end of the Tour de France). The strip is also the city’s shopping district, home to many of the world’s most famous brands such as Louis Vuitton, Maison Guerlain, Zara, Adidas, Benetton, Sephora, and even the Disney Store, among many others. during the summer months, almost all on sale-up to 70% off, during the summer months. Right at its end sits the tall and proud Arc de Triomphe, which Napoleon had commissioned in 1806 to celebrate the victories of his army. Completed in 1836, it had once been called by the French literary great Victor Hugo as “a heap of glory.”

Another must-see in Paris is the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart), commissioned by the National Assembly in 1873, supposedly in commemoration of the 58,000 lives that were lost during the uprising of the Paris Commune from 1870 to 1871. Sitting grandly at the top of the butte (hill) of Montmartre, the highest point in Paris, the Sacré-Coeur is a majestic testament to the beauty of Romano- Byzantine architecture and looks even more stunning and awe-inspiring at night. From the top of the hill, and aided by the light of the full moon, we also saw a beautiful view of the lit-up Eiffel Tower, which sparkles every hour at night until 2AM in the summer (1PM in the winter).

Getting to Montmartre usually involves taking the metro all the way to the Abbesses (green line) or the Anvers (blue line) metro station, by the northernmost part of the city, and then taking the funiculaire (an uphill tram) or walking up Montmartre’s famed steps. I was lucky enough, to have some friends fetch me from Champs-Élysées and drive me up the hill, saving me a lot of time and foot stress.

It was already on the next day when I had the opportunity to walk around by myself and take a look at the Paris Opera House and the Louvre. The Opera House (which is a main stop of the Roissybus from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and can also be reached via the Opera stop on the pink or lavender metro lines) was inaugurated under France’s Third Republic. Its main auditorium features a ceiling painted by Chagall, and its deep underground lake, discovered much to the chagrin of its architect, Charles Garnier, was one of the inspirations for Gaston Leroux’s immortal masterpiece, Phantom of the Opera.

From there, I took the pink metro line to meet the jewel of my Parisian trip, the Musée Louvre. Although friends had warned me about how you can lose yourself in there for days (and still not finish viewing all of its exhibitions!) and I had only a few hours left before my trip to La Rochelle, I could not resist at least taking a sneak peak. The Louvre was built as a fortress in the late 12th century, converted into a museum in 1793, and is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the ancient Greek sculpture Venus de Milo, among countless other masterpieces. It also houses collections of Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, as well as collections of ancient Oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Islamic art pieces.

A tip from the locals: to fully enjoy the Louvre, you must have enough time on your hands to spend an entire day there, maybe even two or three. The Museum offers free entrance every first Sunday of the month. Just be ready to spend hours just falling in line at the entrance!

Parisian slices of life | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram
Parisian slices of life | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram

What to eat and buy on a budget: art prints and chocolates, breads and cheese

TRAVELING ON A STUDENT'S BUDGET? Here are some inexpensive treats you'll find in Paris | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram
TRAVELING ON A STUDENT’S BUDGET? Here are some inexpensive treats you’ll find in Paris | Photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram

Since I was in Paris on a student’s budget, my only real shopping agenda was to buy enough art prints for my modest art collection and enough souvenirs and chocolates to keep the folks at home happy. The night market at Montmartre revealed lots of great finds, with art and souvenir shops lined up side by side. Prints of masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Klimt, Van Gogh, and other great artists can be bought for as little as €3 each; replicas of the Eiffel Tower can be bought for as little as €1. You can also have your portrait done in just 20 minutes by the street artists that line the square.

Ironically, it was while at the Avenue de L’Opera, one of the most expensive strips in the city, where I was able to buy my prize catches of the trip. Within the Opera metro station, somewhere between the ticket offices and the magazine stands, stands a small shop that sells beautiful bags and other genuine leather goods for the fraction of the price at the branded boutiques. There I bought a large, 20-kilo piece of luggage (to replace my broken luggage with) and a beautiful leather bag for well under €100. I also stumbled upon La Cure Gourmand, a specialty candy and chocolate shop that won the Grand Prix Salon International Paris in 1997. (Want a sweet surprise? Try their “chocolate-flavored olives”!) Another great shop was Bretano’s, home of more art prints and specialty paper products, where I found a beautiful replica of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss for only €99. (Sadly, I had to forego the purchase because of my already- overloaded suitcase.)

One other thing I love about Paris is the fact that you can find a chocolaterie, boulangerie, or patisserie practically at every street corner and, sometimes, just within striking distance of each other. My favorite European boulangerie, Paul, is found throughout the city and offers a wide variety of savory and sweet breads to satisfy any palate. (A must-try: the sesame baguette with camembert!) The breads are also filling enough to satisfy hungry tourists on a tight budget.

Even with limited time and budget, I made the most of my day in Paris by soaking up the sights and taking with me as much as my senses (and my wallet!) could allow. That experience proved that anything is possible in just 24 hours–if you open yourself up and allow the world to come in.

PHOTO ESSAY: TRAVEL - Where are you headed next? | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram
PHOTO ESSAY: TRAVEL – Where are you headed next? | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita | View more travel photos at @ninaterol on Instagram

10 Ways to Enjoy Russia (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

(Published on October 19, 2013 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

10 Ways to Enjoy Russia by Niña Terol-Zialcita, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Photo of the Moscow Kremlin courtesy of the Russian Embassy
10 Ways to Enjoy Russia by Niña Terol-Zialcita, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Photo of the Moscow Kremlin courtesy of the Russian Embassy

To the intrepid traveler in search of exotic sites and adventures, Russia is the perfect starting point for the trip of a lifetime.

Aside from being the largest country in the world, spanning two continents and covering 1/7 of the earth’s total land area, Russia is also home to some of the most awe-inspiring natural and manmade wonders on the planet. (Some of the most widely televised events in the world will be held there, such as the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in November and the July 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.)

If the mere thought of navigating your way through this vast territory overwhelms you, fear not. Here are some must-sees and dos to get you started.

Winter Palace | Photo courtesy of the Russian Embassy
Winter Palace | Photo courtesy of the Russian Embassy
St. Basil's Cathedral (courtesy of the Russian Embassy)
St. Basil’s Cathedral | Photo courtesy of the Russian Embassy

This is an excerpt only. READ THE FULL PIECE through the Inquirer website, HERE.

In remembrance: 10 Ways Bohol Feeds Your Heart and Soul (Click the City)

The beautiful Philippine province of Bohol was struck this morning, 15 October 2013, by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that left scores dead and badly damaged a number of government, historical, and tourism structures. One of the most badly hit was Baclayon Church, completed in 1727 and considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.

Another popular landmark that was destroyed is the viewing deck of the world-famous Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the epicenter of the Bohol quake. It was heartbreaking to see the state of the viewing deck, and to know that the people of the Philippines–not just the people of Bohol–have lost a number of cultural and historical treasures around the Philippines because of the quake.

As my way of mourning for Bohol’s loss, and to commemorate the enchanting beauty that Bohol so selflessly shared with everyone who entered her doors, I’m sharing here excerpts of my retro travel post on Bohol.

10 Ways Bohol Feeds Your Body and Soul

(Published on January 6, 2012 in ClicktheCity.com)

Cafe Lawis' charming facade, behind the Dauis Church (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Cafe Lawis’ charming facade, behind the Dauis Church (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

4. Café Lawis: Perfect for soulful coffee. conversations and romantic sunset strolls. As we wandered into the picturesque, tree-lined street right behind Dauis Church in Panglao, we chanced upon a 19th-century-inspired structure and realized that Café Lawis is one of those not-yet-popular pit stops that reflect the true, quiet charm of Bohol. Serving a curiosity-inducing fusion of European and Filipino flavors (Pork humba Panini or freshly baked Tsokolate eh soufflé cake, anyone?), its interiors show Old World-Filipiniana details as well as a showcase of Dauis life and Boholano handicrafts. The real treat of this destination, though, is its expansive garden that opens up to a breathtaking view of the sea. The garden’s focal point is a large acacia tree whose leaves form a laced canopy, and—since we went there in December—was adorned with rectangular capiz lamps that gave the effect of large fireflies in an enchanted forest. It is best viewed at around sunset, with your loved ones (or at least the memory of them) by your side.

A romantic twilight view at the garden behind Cafe Lawis (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
A romantic twilight view at the garden behind Cafe Lawis (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Dauis Church Complex {Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Dauis Church Complex {Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

5. The churches of Bohol: Culturally, historically divine. Bohol’s many churches are not only testaments of the island province’s deep connection with the Christian faith, they are also, in themselves, cultural gems that give us a glimpse of the Philippines’ architectural past. The Baclayon Church, for instance, is considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and was completed in 1727. Its main structure was built with coral stones that had been crushed and made into building blocks, while its cuadro paintings were made in 1859 by a famous Filipino painter, Liberato Gatchalian. The Dauis Church, meanwhile, has evolved from light materials such as nipa into its current Gothic-inspired structure, and features a ceiling that has been painted to give the illusion of having three-dimensional coffer designs. The Dauis Church is also home to “Mama Mary’s Well”, a deep well located right below the church’s altar, from which Holy Water may be obtained and bought for a small donation.

A portion of the Baclayon Church which, according to locals, shows a miraculous image of Padre Pio... Do you see it? (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
A portion of the Baclayon Church which, according to locals, shows a miraculous image of Padre Pio… Do you see it? (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post HERE.

For updates and details on how to help the earthquake victims, follow the hashtag #earthquakePH on Twitter.

VIDEO: Diniwid Beach, the quiet side of Boracay

I’m writing about my recent trip to Boracay for the conference called Geeks on a Beach, which I maximized by spending some post-anniversary quality time with my husband, Paul.

While the articles themselves are awaiting release, I’m sharing with you here a home video featuring my mostly-Instagrammed photos of Diniwid Beach, the quiet side of Boracay Island.

To see more of my photos from that trip, let’s connect at @ninaterol on Instagram! 🙂

Niña Terol-Zialcita (@ninaterol) on Instagram

Technology, travel and ‘tweet tourism’ (Rappler.com)

(Published on October 7, 2013 in Rappler.com)

"Technology, travel and 'tweet tourism' by Niña Terol-Zialcita, published in Rappler.com

MANILA, Philippines – Technology has drastically changed the way people travel. The ubiquity of smartphones and 24/7 connectivity, for instance, has allowed frequent fliers to use websites and mobile apps to book flights and accommodations, keep track of mileage points and other perks, share recommendations and reviews, and post photos in real time.

A new conference, the Asia Pacific Tourism, Hospitality and Technology [APTHAT] Conference, aims to shed light on the impact of technology on tourism and hospitality, the trends that are disrupting the industry and the issues that will define the way forward. The two-day meet is slated for November 21 to 22 at Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia — itself is a tourism draw because of the dense Borneo jungle and its mix of indigenous and contemporary cultures.

Conference sessions will include plenaries on travel and innovation, emerging trends in tourism development and marketing, “tweet tourism,” “Blue Ocean” strategies for tourism, as well as breakout sessions on eco-tourism and sustainable development, social media marketing and many others.

This is an excerpt only. Read the full article in the Rappler website.

For more information on the Asia Pacific Tourism, Hospitality, and Technology Conference, visit the APTHAT website.

Have you been to any of the World’s 10 Greenest Cities? Tell me more!

Do you live in (or have you recently been to) any of these cities?

Reykjavik, Iceland - The top greenest city in the world, according to Mother Nature Network
Reykjavik, Iceland – The top greenest city in the world, according to Mother Nature Network | Photo courtesy of Mother Nature Network
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • San Francisco, California
  • Malmö, Sweden
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Curitiba, Brazil
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Bogotá, Colombia
In March 2012, a group called the Mother Nature Network named these cities the 10 greenest cities in the world.

The cities were chosen for “encompassing all of the positive qualities that make urban living more healthy, pleasant and sensitive to nearby ecosystems.” They were also chosen “based on their use of renewable energy, high concentrations of clean-tech companies, promotion of green lifestyles, laws that protect the environment and innovative strategies for new green communities.”

I’m writing a piece on the greenest cities, and what I’d like to know are the following:
  • What makes these cities great for tourists, too?
  • Are there any outstanding places of natural beauty in each of these cities? Or really cool “green spots” that have also attracted tourists? How about “green activities” that are also great for travelers?
  • If you could pick just one über-cool and must-do activity or must-see spot in these cities, what would that be?

Post your comment here, or drop me a line at iwrite@ninasnotebook.com, using the subject [10 Greenest Cities], with the following information:

  • Your name, which city you’re referring to
  • Your profession
  • Answers to the above questions
  • Any other helpful information
  • Your primary email address

I hope to finish the article within a week, so please send me your answers and photos by Saturday, August 24, 2013. Thank you very much! 🙂

In the News: Top 5 Take-Home Tidbits from the Lonely Planet No More Seminar (Fully Booked)

Almost a month ago (and fresh after the grueling campaign!), I and my “writing sisters” from Writer’s Block Philippines joined Lonely Planet guidebook author Greg Bloom in giving a travel writing seminar to guests of Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street . It was great fun sharing our insights from two of the things we love most–writing and traveling–and to be joined by no less than an authority in the field.

Here, I’ll share an excerpt of what Fully Booked published in its blog, but for more meaty stuff, read the original post in the Fully Booked website.

Now that summer’s officially over, wouldn’t it be great to relive your travel adventures by writing about them? 😉

~ N

P.S. For an interesting look at what Greg Bloom thinks of Manila, read this post in ClicktheCity.com. 🙂

Top 5 Take-Home Tidbits from the Lonely Planet No More Seminar

Originally published in the official blog of Fully Booked

Fully Booked - Lonely Planet No More travel writing seminar - Niña Terol-Zialcita, Nikka Sarthou-Lainez, and Ana Santos of Writer's Block Philippines; Lonely Planet author Greg Bloom; Regina Cruz and Aimee Diego of Fully Booked
Fully Booked – Lonely Planet No More travel writing seminar – Niña Terol-Zialcita, Nikka Sarthou-Lainez, and Ana Santos of Writer’s Block Philippines; Lonely Planet author Greg Bloom; Regina Cruz and Aimee Diego of Fully Booked

Last weekend, Lonely Planet visiting author Greg Bloom was joined by Writers Block Philippines’ Nina Terol-Zialcita, Nikka Sarthou and Ana P. Santos to give nice, long, comprehensive seminar about travel writing.

Each speaker tackled a specific topic in travel writing—getting published, guidebook writing, feature articles, ethics. They also entertained questions from the audience of almost a hundred people, gathered at our Fort branch atrium space. While the seminar gave a great picture of the travel writing industry, how to do it as a job, and how to get started, here are five important take-aways from the workshop that are essential to anyone who would like to get into it!

1. Tell a story

“Each place has a story and your job is to find out what that story is,” Nina Terol-Zialcita mentioned. A travel article is more than a narration of what you did from the start to the end of your trip. Learn to focus on a certain part of the experience: the cuisine, the sights, the people, a realization and the events that led you to it, or anything else that struck you.

2. “Always try to get people into your articles.” — Greg Bloom

“That’s where the stories are,” Greg said.

“Imagine your destination as a person you want to get to know,” shared Ana P. Santos of Writers Block. How would you describe the person to others? Get talking to the people from that place and find out about the spirit behind it. Include dialogue in your article as well, as it shows the interaction and specific experiences that helped you build your story.

3. “Don’t underestimate the seductive power of a decent vocabulary.” — Ana P. Santos

The basics should never be taken for granted: well-written prose, grammar, a good introduction and a tight conclusion. What is heat vs. what is humidity? Know the nuances and words in order to provide a clear picture to your readers.

4. Know the market.

Research about the travel writing scene. What publications are you pitching to? What is the specific tone of that publication and how can your story fit into it? What are the trends in travel, and what would people want to read about? Where is the demand in travel writing? Is it in feature articles? Guidebook writing? This can also be a source of income when done well and done properly. The topics you write about should also be marketable to a publication and its audience.

5. Your primary responsibility is to the reader.

A part of the seminar was also dedicated to the ethics that govern one’s travel writing piece. While we want our readers to understand why we fell in love with a place, we also don’t want to be accused of ‘gushing’ over a city. Try to keep a certain sense of objectivity as well. While the article is written in the first person, the essence of it should still be about the place, and not about you.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full post, click HERE.