Custom Search

From the Author

Let us pause for a while and take a peek at the fascinating wonders of nature, the majesty and the glory of God's creation and the spectacle of human engineering. Unfortunately, I cannot go to these places in as much as I want to so, I’m just taking this virtual expedition. I hope you can join me in this online adventure.

-Arnel S. Oroceo, the Author

Friday, May 29, 2009

Batanes: The New Frontier

Photo by Melo Villareal
Payaman - known as "Marlboro Country", a pasture overlooking farm fields & the Pacific Ocean

One of the most amazing places in the Philippines is the Batanes Group of Islands, which lies at the northern most tip of the archipelago. This is where two great bodies of water- the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea- come together. According to WOW Philippines, a series of volcanic activities and other geologic forces have formed the island-province of Batanes millions of years ago.

While I am surfing the internet, I have come across this photo by Melo Villareal that has captured the scenic “Payaman” in Batanes. Those were grassy hills along the boulder-lined coastline of the province, which serve as graze land for cattle. At the background is a view of its pristine coastal waters.

Two things amaze me about this province:

One is that in spite of its almost isolated location, I do not remember any news report wherein the “Ivatans” (people of Batanes) ask for relief after a storm considering that almost every typhoon that enters the Philippine area of responsibility slams through the Batanes Group of Islands. In storm-affected areas, we usually see houses destroyed by strong winds or submerged in floodwaters and people need to stay in heavily crowded evacuation centers for days. However, it seems like the people of the province have been immune from disasters that tropical cyclones might cause. They build typhoon resistant homes made up of thick stonewalls that are unique to the Ivatans.

The Ivatans have preserved their culture down from centuries past in spite of the modern technology that slowly invade the consciousness of peoples even in rural areas. Although, reports say there are not so much vehicles going around the province. Good for them, the air that they breathe has remained least contaminated by toxic fumes.

Another amazing thing about Batanes is its “Honesty Store”. I do not recall the name of the owner of the store nevertheless; I believe it has become a legacy for the Ivatans. It is a small and ordinary store except that there is no storekeeper; everything is self-service. You can pick up what you want; a cup of noodles perhaps or a cup of coffee or whatever then jot it down on a record book on top of a table and leave your payment in a box. If you have a change, you can pick it up the following day. It is amazing because it involves an unblemished honesty. It has been a feature in many television documentaries here in the Philippines. It is something we are proud of as Filipinos.

Photos and info courtesy of the following:

Melo Villareal.Com
WOW Philippines

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tubbataha Reef

A candidate for the New Seven Wonders of the World is the protected marine sanctuary Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in the province of Sulu. Known as one of the most famous diving sites in the world, it truly captivates divers with its beautiful and rich marine life and its virgin marine ecosystem.

When I first saw and heard about Tubbataha Reef as a featured site at the Probe Team TV documentary several years ago, I did not think that it was in the Philippines. Ironically for a Filipino like me.

Now, I feel that I should be proud to blog such a scenic spot here in the Philippines. It is an amazing place...

An article from says, “The name 'Tubbataha' is a Samal word for "long reef exposed at low tide". Samals are seafaring people of the Sulu Sea. Cagayanen people who are more geographically associated with Tubbataha Reefs referred the Park as 'gusong'… The park is an underwater sanctuary where nature can thrive. Tubbataha is the Philippines' only marine natural Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place of global importance, being preserved for generations to come.”

Rising from the volcanic depths of the Sulu Sea in the western Philippines, these magnificent Tubbataha Reefs serve as a habitat for an amazing diversity of marine life. The article further says, “…From majestic whale sharks to elusive seahorses -Tubbataha supports an unparalleled variety of marine creatures. Colorful reef fish crowd corals growing in the shallows while sharks and manta rays haunt the steep drop offs to the open sea”.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than:

573 species of fish
379 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world)
11 species of sharks (including endangered ones)
12 species of dolphins & whales

Nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles
Over 100 species of birds find refuge in Tubbataha Reef National Park's Bird Island. Near to it is a ship wreck, which gives clues to its long historic past.

Sadly, diving is not for me. I can swim with floaters especially using big rubber interior of truck wheels but diving with floaters is ridiculously impossible.

Photos by:

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt


Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Subterranean River

Leading the race for the New Seven Wonders of the World is another place here in the Philippines that I would like to see for myself. I have heard people talk about their experience in visiting that wonder of nature. I must admit that heir stories arouse my curiosity. Unfortunately, my physical condition constrains me from going there. However, for those who are physically and financially capable, the place is surely worthy of visit.

I am referring to The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which is located about 50 km north of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan in western Philippines. It boasts of a limestone karsts mountain landscape with an 8.2 km navigable underground river that winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. Inside that cave are major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers although the lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. At the mouth of the cave, ancient trees growing right to the water's edge frame a clear lagoon. Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave. Experts believe that this is the longest subterranean river in the world.

In fact, the Puerto Prinsesa Subterranean River has been nominated in the new Seven Wonders of the World and its doing well in the voting. Well, I hope that those who are thinking of a place to visit one of these days would consider visiting this subterranean river in Puerto Prinsesa Palawan.

Info and Photo:

To cast your vote for the New Seven Wonders of the World, click the link below:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chocolate Hills

Another amazing tourist site in the Philippines is the Chocolate Hills in Bohol province.

At a glance, they look like endless giant scoops of chocolate ice cream that are all over the plain. That is how they got their name, from their chocolate-brown color during the summer season. During the rainy season, green plants cover the hills thus; they look like endless giant scoops of avocado green flavored ice cream. How I wish we could eat them!

According to, “Legend has it that the hills came into existence when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days. When they were finally exhausted, they made friends and left the island, but left behind the mess they made. For the more romantically inclined, there is the tale of Arogo, a young and very strong giant who fell in love with an ordinary mortal girl called Aloya. After she died, the giant Arogo cried bitterly. His tears then turned into hills, as a lasting proof of his grief.”

Sadly, most of us do not believe in such legends. According to an article in the Manila Bulletin- “Tourism Buzz” (November 2, 2008 issue), scientists explain that these 1, 268 near identical hills, with sizes ranging from 40-120 meters, are the result of the uplifting of ancient coral reef deposits, followed by erosion and weathering. However, up to this day, geologists have not reached consensus on how the hills have come to form. The official theory is that they are the weathered formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of an impermeable layer of clay. You can read this information etched on a bronze plaque at the top of the 214-step observation hill near the complex.

I hope I can still get a chance to visit such a natural wonder…

Photos and copyright by Jeroen Hellingman c/o

For information on how to get there, please click the link below…

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake

Definitely, a journey to the outer regions of the earth would be a very exciting adventure but not for everyone. Admittedly, only a few could manage to spend US$30M for the rocket trip. Perhaps, there are other unexplored places on the earth’s surface that are worthy of visit.

I may be biased but I must say that there are beautiful places in the Philippines that are worthy of visit. Apart from the famous tourist destinations like Mayon Volcano in Legaspi Albay, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna, Taal Volcano in Batangas, I think the crater lake in Mount Pinatubo is a good tourist attraction.

Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 from USGS

Mount Pinatubo is unfamiliar even to Filipinos until its eruption in June of 1991, which has placed the volcano in the annals of world history as one of the greatest volcanic eruption on record. Readers’ Digest 1001 Science Questions Answered book says that the volcanic eruption ejected 17 million tons of ash and aerosols- suspended particles- into the atmosphere. The ash has measurably obscured the sun for several days afterwards and the sulfurous aerosols have lingered even longer in the atmosphere. About 5% of the sunlight has bounced back into outer space and has resulted in a 0.5°C average reduction in global temperatures that year. Climatologists have also observed an increase in the reduction of ozone in the stratosphere, and the holes in the ozone layer above the South Pole have reached record size. The ash cloud in the stratosphere that resulted from that massive eruption has lasted for three years.

The eruption has caused a formation of a lake on the crater of the volcano, a symbol of a natural disaster that has killed innocent lives. Seventeen years after that historic eruption, the crater lake has become a picture of calm and serenity. In fact, GMA-7 has used it as a setting for its fantasy tele-novella, “Majica” a couple of years ago.

The crater lake after seventeen years

The crater lake on Mount Pinatubo surely is worthy of visit. We can see how the earth seems to reform itself after a nature’s destructive deformation, a mystery of God’s creation that will bring all who witness it to awe.


1001 Science Questions Answered

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hotel in Space

One of Obama’s action plans for America is investing in science. Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of the US federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology. They believe that this will foster homegrown innovation, help ensure the competitiveness of US technology-based businesses, and ensure that 21st century jobs can and will grow in America. Although, this seems a threat to the flourishing out sourcing companies in the Philippines particularly, call center companies, which serve American businesses in the United States through internet communication.

For Americans at large, that is a commendable plan. However, he has not mentioned support for NASA projects. Recently, NASA has announced the completion of its space probe project Phoenix, which aims to send a space probe vehicle to Mars. Further development in NASA projects, though, may depend on the priorities that President Obama will put in line.

Bigelow Sundancer

Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace is making a name in the history of space tourism. The company aims to establish the first Hotel in space by 2010. The company has launched two prototypes in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2010, they will launch Sundancer- a 180-m3 structure, which is complete with all the necessary life support systems. The only problem that remains is a suitable spacecraft that will bring clients to and from the space hotel. Space tourism enthusiasts hope that the company will get rid of this slight deterrent as soon as possible.

This is something I would like to see…


Readers' Digest 1001 Science Questions Answered

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dissenting Opinions about Space Tourism

Soyuz TMA-7 Spacecraft

Interestingly, there seems to be some objections to the "Space Tourist" terminology. For example, Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen and Anousheh Ansari prefer a different “label” other than "space tourist". They have explained their preferences by pointing out that they have carried out scientific experiments as part of the journey. According to wikipedia, Tito prefers to call himself an "independent researcher". Shuttleworth wants to call himself a "pioneer of commercial space travel". Olsen prefers a title "private researcher." Ansari prefers the term "private space explorer". Only Charles Simonyi shows no qualms about calling it "space tourism", even in reference to his own experience. A reporter has asked him in an interview, "Do you foresee a day when space tourism is not just the province of billionaires - when it will be as affordable as plane travel?” His answer has been, "Yes, the only question is when."

Many space enthusiasts believe that space tourism is slowly becoming a growing tourism industry although some of them disagree with labeling it as “space tourism”. Rick Tumlinson of the Space Frontier Foundation, for instance, has said, "I hate the word tourist, and I always will. ’Tourist' is somebody in a flowered shirt with three cameras around his neck”.

Alex Tabarrok has categorized it as a kind of "adventure travel". He is saying that the mere fact that people pay for a travel experience does not make the activity "tourism". As far as he can see, space travel will remain similar to climbing Mount Everest- dangerous and uncommon. He believes that even if we see 100 flights a year, it is still not space tourism. Tourism, he defines, is fat people with cameras.

Comedian Paul F. Thompkins claims that rocket scientists and space programs in general are a waste of time and resources. He also claims that space tourism only promotes classism during a time when Americans need to stick together.

Indeed, I agree that this is a time for Americans to stick together as a nation. The economic crisis that is gripping America today also affects the world economy. Sometimes, if you would think about it, space programs may not be the top investment option. However, we should not undermine the long unforeseen returns of present space programs not only to America but also to the world particularly in the field of science and technology.

Info and photo:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is a company within Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public. Further in the future Virgin Galactic plans to offer orbital spaceflights as well.

Here is the company’s short profile in case anyone there wants to inquire.

Type: Private

Founded: 2004

Headquarters: New Mexico, USA

Key people: Richard Branson(UK), Will Whitehorn

Industry: Space tourism

Owner: Virgin Group

Employees: 30


According the book,
1001 Science Questions Answered, this British Company Virgin Galactic offers a cheaper alternative for space tourists. Their rocket flights to the edge of space are due to launch by 2009. The package price amounts to $212,000 US dollars or P10, 176, 000 pesos. Bookings are now open according to the book but you need to pay a deposit fee of $22, 000 US dollars.

Info & Picture:
1001 Science Questions Answered

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Space Tourists

The International Space Station

As of 2008, there have been six space tourists to the ISS. The tourists, or Spaceflight participants, have launched and have returned via Russian crew rotation missions on Soyuz spacecraft. In addition, the ISS has been the location for the first 'space wedding', during which, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, flying Expedition 7, marries Ekaterina Dmitrieva, who is in Texas at the time.

U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott, crew member of the 18th mission to the International Space Station (ISS), gestures prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The most recent space spectator is Richard Garriott- an American computer game designer. He has fulfilled a childhood dream that has begun with the flight of his astronaut father, former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, a member of the Skylab 3 crew in 1973. The world’s latest high-flying and big-spending space tourist has left the earth on October 12, 2008 and has returned safely to Earth after spending 10 days aboard the orbiting International Space Station (ISS). Garriott is also a board member and investor in Space Adventures, the same company that has provided ISS access to a number of other affluent space tourists. He has spent some $30M to secure his seat on the Soyuz rocket before enjoying the resulting 10-day ISS excursion.

That is quite a fortune! Garriott, a 47-year-old multimillionaire from Austin, Texas, is the sixth paying space traveler and the first American to follow a parent into orbit.

All the six space tourists flew to and from the International Space Station on Soyuz spacecraft through the space tourism company, Space Adventures:

  1. Dennis Tito (American): April 28 - May 6, 2001
  2. Mark Shuttleworth (South African / British): April 25 - May 5, 2002
  3. Gregory Olsen (American): October 1 - October 11, 2005
  4. Anousheh Ansari (Iranian / American): September 18 - September 29, 2006
  5. Charles Simonyi (Hungarian): April 7 - April 21, 2007
  6. Richard Garriott (American): October 12 - October 23, 2008

Future space tourists

The following people are the possible future commercial passengers on Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS:

  • Vladimir Gruzdev (Russia) expects to fly in 2009. Gruzdev is a United Russia pro-presidential party member. The United Russia party may pay the estimated $25 million for the flight from the party funds. Gruzdev has had a medical examination and been given approval to begin the cosmonaut training program. Gruzdev previously participated in the Arktika 2007 mission, which placed a Russian flag on the seabed near the North Pole.
  • Sergey Brin (United States) expects to fly in 2011. Brin, co-founder of Google, is a firm supporter of space tourism and future space travel.

As of November 2007 Virgin Galactic had pre-sold nearly 200 seats for their suborbital space tourism flights, according to the company's president.


1001 Science Questions Answered

Info & Picture:

Friday, May 1, 2009

A First-Rate Tourist Destination

The International Space Station

If ever I would be going to leave this planet for another, it would only be for touring. Do you know that according to the book, “1001 Science Questions Answered, each year the Russian Space Agency conveys one or two paying tourists for a week long stay in the International Space Station?

What is the International Space Station anyway? The International Space Station (ISS) is a research facility that the different space agencies in the world are currently putting together in outer space, the on-orbit construction of which has began in 1998. The space station is in a Low Earth Orbit and can be seen from Earth with the naked eye; it orbits at an altitude of approximately 400 km (250 mi) above the surface of the Earth, and travels at an average speed of 27,700 km (17,210 statute miles) per hour, completing 15.7 orbits per day.

The space station is a joint project among the space agencies of the United States (NASA), Russia (RKA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and eleven European countries (ESA). The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB, Brazil) participates through a separate contract with NASA. The Italian Space Agency similarly has separate contracts for various activities not done in the framework of ESA's ISS works (where Italy also fully participates). China has reportedly expressed interest in the project, especially if it is able to work with the RKA, though it is not currently involved. To mark the level of cooperation that the project is fostering between nations, in 2001, the station received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

Anyways, an interested tourist must be physically fit and has no cardiac ailment. He would need to undergo at least six months training program to cope with life in outer space. The entire tourist package amounts to $22M or around P1.034B pesos. However, according to wikipedia, the previous space tourists have paid around $25M each or P1.175B pesos.

It seems crazy to spend that much fortune for a week long tour but if you can afford it, why not.

1001 Science Questions Answered


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...