As some of you know from a past band review on MilesExperience, I recently visited the Philippines to surprise my grandmother on her 80th birthday. It took a while, but I finally compiled some highlights of the getaway and made a brief video that features a couple of bands: MilesExperience and The Young Veins.
MilesExperience is a great band that also happens to be Filipino. Their use of instruments creates an addicting and transcending sound that also possesses a unique sense of jazz. You can learn more about their amazing work on my artist review for the band. Their song “Down,” is a perfect track for a fun and adventurous day at the beach. It’s both simultaneously compelling and relaxing.
The Young Veins were a band formerly consisting of ex Panic! At the Disco members, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker. The two left Panic! due to creative differences after the completion of Pretty. Odd. The subsequent project, The Young Veins, maintained a folksier feel, reminiscent of what Panic! At the Disco created for their sophomore album. Their debut (and last) album, Take A Vacation!, was also heavily influenced by early rock bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. “Heart of Mine,” just so happened to fit in perfectly with my need for a vacation to the Philippines. It’s the perfect jam for something fun and carefree.
The first half of this video features more of the nature based activities I did in the Philippines. I spent my last weekend there on the most northern point of the islands, Ilocos Norte. The amazing island is not only known for their amazing adventures like off-roading on sand dunes and exploring Kabigan Falls. They also have an incredibly rich history of rebelling against colonization and maintaining their own identities as Filipinos. The family of former Philippine President, Ferdinand E. Marcos, also call this place home. Consequently, they’ve taken it upon themselves to maintain a beautiful and easily accessible city with nature preserves and clean energy from some of the largest and most beautiful wind mills. His old presidential mansion is also available for sight seeing. It’s filled with impressive Filipino history and everything President Marcos contributed to his country. Keep in mind, there are two sides to every story, and President Marcos was also known as a tyrannical dictator who ruled under martial law. For more history, you can also visit Juan Luna’s museum, a Filipino artist and political activist during the Philippine Revolution.
Not far down is the historic city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur. It is one of the oldest cities, maintaining original architecture from the 16th century. It’s also known for their signature Filipino dishes. Among my favorites were their empanadas. Made right there on the street, they are without a doubt the crispiest I’ve ever had. Other stores selling longaniza (traditional Filipino breakfast meat) had lines out the door. Featured in the video are some of the different types of puto (rice cakes), found in another nearby town called Laguna. I didn’t know how great puto was until the Philippines because the ones made here in Texas just can’t compare.
Also featured in the first half is Tagaytay, a small island sitting on the ridge of an active volcano. It’s a great vacation spot, boasting of a cooler climate and beautiful scenery. You can even take a boat ride across Taal Lake to the active volcano (be prepared to get soaking wet) and either hike or horseback ride your way up to the top for a breathtaking view of steamy pools, heated by the Taal Volcano.
The last half of this video mostly features family I hadn’t seen in over a decade. Most of our time was spent in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. As seen in the video, some highlights were a faux Venice gondola ride in the middle of a mall and the Art in Island museum. The museum was a fun family event and much bigger than anticipated. It’s definitely a must see for interactive art. Not featured in the video was our stay at Hotel H2O. The concept was really great, but ultimately underwhelming. You can opt for a room that contains it’s own walled aquarium, but wasn’t anything too special. You also get a complimentary “spa package” which is actually just a sauna. Although it didn’t live up to its expectations, it was a great treat when most of the stay was spent in houses without air conditioning or traditional bathrooms and showers. Across the street from Hotel H20 was the landmark town known as Intramuros. It gets its name from being enclosed within fortifying walls. The town typically served as base camp while under colonial rule. It’s also where José Rizal, a national hero, was executed. Rizal provided the intellectual battle for Philippines’ independence. His most popular work is Noli me Tángere, a fictional yet accurate portrayal of Filipino life under Spain’s rule.
As an American-Filipino, visiting the motherland was incredibly satisfying. I’ve never identified much with the Filipino culture, but being there to learn its history and eat its food definitely helped change that. I can’t wait to go back and find even more adventures there. Until then, let me know what you think I should do the next time I go back. Palawan will definitely be on my list. What’s on yours?