punta cana DR day 1 vacation

grand palladium beach resort

grand palladium beach resort

This vacation was some sort of a gift for our daughter’s 18th birthday as well as high school graduation. We have planned this way ahead of time since she does not like to have some sort of an 18th birthday party like most of young ladies do. At first it was a trip to Rome or something but it proved to be expensive for five people (including their auntie).

My wife found a deal at groupon.com.  It was unfortunate, though, that our son was not able to make it due to summer class and we have to eat the cost even though we purchased travel insurance. The insurance did not include such excuse, contrary to what was explained by the travel agent.

This was my second air trip this year considering I don’t like flying a lot or should I say I don’t like flying at all if all possible. The flight was okay compared to the 14 hours flight from Chicago to South Korea.

Touching down in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic was an experience. After the plane touched down and parked we were ushered down the steps and waited for a bus to bring us to the terminal for customs and luggage. Lucky for us, I was able to convince my wife to travel light and just had one hand carry per person. But I always need to carry my camera bag with me regardless.

As soon as we cleared customs, which by the way we need to pay $10 per person, I realized that I made a mistake. I did not have any travel documentation from the travel agent, I found out that they were supposed to email those to me two weeks prior. We were able to talk our way through getting in on our shuttle as well as getting admittance at the resort.

After we settled in our rooms, well the ladies went to check out the beach before dinner. I went along and took some pictures, click here to see other pictures or the picture above.

3 may 2014

villa escudero

villa escudero

We planned to go to Villa Escudero last time we met at Cainta, Rizal. We were discussing about logistics on how to get there and who were going. On the day of, which was 3rd of May 2014, only the Aussies (7), Jhay and family (3), Theresa, JC, the Santa Rosa (4), and Cavite (3). All in all 19 people and can you imagine we all fit in one van.

The van came from Cavite then picked up the group in Manila (12) then picked up Santa Rosa (4). The drive that morning was not bad because we did make good time. We arrived in Villa Escudero (San Pablo Laguna) just before lunch time.

We parked the van and we went to get our ticket. For a day pass it was P1400 per person, which included the pool use and the raft use, the cultural show and lunch buffet, roughly $32 US. Jhay and I initially thought that it was KKB (kanya kanyang bayad), dutch treat, however, Tita Rosita told us that she will pay for everybody and gave Jhay the money. Thank you again Tita.

Of course even before we went inside the villa grounds we took pictures and I guess it was an experience for the Australians to ride in a cart pulled by a carabao (water buffalo). Don’t know if they noticed that the carabao walked towards the cart and positioned to where it should be to pick up the harness to pull the cart, it was pretty awesome.

It was my first time to go there and it was an experience to eat lunch where your feet are submerged in water. The water flows from a river above that powers a small hydroelectric plant.

After lunch we watched the cultural show and opted out from swimming. Instead some of us took the raft ride, it was a two person raft and you paddle around the body of water. I rode with my cousin Lolita, cousin Jhay was with his wife Bless, and my brother with cousin Charmaine.

The worst part of the trip was heading back home. It took us forever to get home because of traffic. It felt an eternity and when they dropped us home in Santa Rosa it was already almost 9 PM and they still have long ways to go.

Click the picture above to see others or just click here.

26 april 2014


manila bay sunset behind sofitel

It has been 22 long years since I have not seen my Tita Sita as well as my cousins Charmaine and Lolita. With my Tita was his husband, Bruce. With Charmaine were her husband, Peter, and two lovely kids, PJ and Serenity. Lolita was by herself. They all flew yesterday and they were all staying at Sofitel except for Lolita who was staying at another hotel nearby.

I arrived at the Manila International Airport close to midnight of the 25th of April 2014. I left Philadelphia 7:00 in the morning of the 24th of April 2014 then connected to Chicago to Seoul, Korea then Manila. The total flight time was about 20 hours. We have to circle for about half an hour above Manila before we landed. The landing could be better because the plane was trying to level itself until the touchdown. It felt like the plane would have tipped over during landing, either the pilot just got his license or it was windy.

Once you walked through the tarmac, the heat and humidity heats you. Damn! I was still wearing my hoodie from the flight and I had t quickly take it off. Then the dreaded crowd to the immigration, it took almost an hour to clear customs, I don’t know why but I guess there was just no organization or everybody just arrived at the same time. After customs was the baggage claim. Another hour or so was wasted. One of the passengers who was making the connection to Davao was yet to see his bags.

I was walking down the ramp to the exit around 2 AM. I was looking for my parents, who were picking me up that time. There was a mad dash to the parking exit and we were able to clear that ordeal after more than half an hour or so. We had to pay the penalty because my father misplaced the parking ticket and that was an automatic 500 pesos plus the 100 pesos parking fee (about $15 total), it was not bad but in the Philippines that was a lot of money.

It was still about an hour drive away to get home but we have to stop to grab some quick eat. When we finally got home, I unpacked and slept because a few hours later we will going to see my Tita and cousins from Australia at Sofitel.

The picture above was taken by the pool side of Sofitel hotel. The first thing I noticed was the stench of the bay (it was the smell of the bay plus the pollution). No hotel guests swam in the bay, as expected, but I could not say the same thing for others who reside near the bay.

The hotel was built on a reclaimed area where Imelda Marcos built the Manila International Film Theater back in their time (which I believe was no longer used). There were a lot of stories about this theater but that will be for some other time. I think they need to build in reclaimed areas because Manila is already crowded, they need to tear down a lot to build hotels like Sofitel.

Click here  or click the picture to see other pictures I took that day.

lady of czestochowa

our lady of czestochowa church

our lady of czestochowa church

This posting is long over due because I have taken this picture October of last year. Our prayer group suggested to visit the church of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA. Some were able to make it and attended the mass and afterwards ate at their cafeteria to sample the Polish dishes.

It was a huge place. They have a living Rosary, station of the cross in front of the church, a museum and cemetery. After lunch, I did take the obligatory shots with family and friends, then I went on my own to survey most of the church grounds. Click here to see other pictures.


jim thorpe

jim thorpe

jim thorpe

This is my second time to visit Jim Thorpe, actually the original name of this place is Mauch Chunk. The first time I visited this, my wife and I stopped by from Eagle Rock before driving home, we went to a small museum in the town and watched a video about the town’s history and how the name came to be. We just strolled the town for a little while and my wife did a little shopping.

The picture above was taken during a train ride which we were not able to do the last time we were there because it was closed for the season. It was not a perfect weather for the ride since it was cloudy and rainy but we we have to make due with what we had. I will probably go back there because there was so much picture opportunity, specially when you are on foot.

The picture was a composite of a single shot processed two ways. One was converted to black and white and the other was colored enhanced. Then used onOne software to process in Perfect Layers, I just did a simple mask to show the colored layer underneath. Click here or the picture to see the rest of the pictures I took.


bryn athyn

bryn athyn

bryn athyn

For this month, our photography club (Gloucester County Photography Club) opted to go to Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, Pennyslvania to shoot instead of our usual club meetings. It was a nice day to be outside and take pictures. However, we were a few weeks late because most of the leaves are gone and the fall colors were not as colorful as it was. But we still did manage to make the best of it because the Cathedral and the surroundings were wonderful.

 I brought my tripod and my wired trigger which proved to be helpful shooting landscapes. I also thought that setting up my camera on manual focus was great specially with the peaking feature in my Sony Alpha 99. What the peaking feature does is to display a color on the image you are trying to focus on (the color shows on the edges depicting the image in focus). It was really easier using manual focus with this feature. In addition, when using a macro lens stick with a tripod. Most of my handheld shots on shallow DOF are blurry and were not deemed to be shown.

The above picture was a combination of 5 exposures and merged in CS5. Though, I did not process them as HDR. After merging in CS5, I saved it and opened in Lightroom 5 and finished up the post processing using onOne software. Click here to see the other pictures (or should I say the ones that made the cut).

That day was my second time being there. My first time was by accident, when my family moved from Bensalem to Warminster (both town are in Pennsylvania) we were looking for a Catholic church one Sunday morning and we happened to go to Bryn Athyn Cathedral. We went inside the church in the middle of the service and we were surprised (i guess as well as the people inside). We immediately went out because I immediately recognized that it was not a Catholic church.





One Sunday morning, my wife asked me to drive her to work in Magee Rehabilitation in Center City, Philadelphia. Since it was early in the morning and the sun was just about to rise (the good thing about fall), I decided to stop by Arts Museum. I was not able to get parking in front of the museum because it was closed due to some preparation for an event, I parked at the Water Works behind the museum.

I took my bag, Clik Elite Pro Body, and my tripod. It was chilly that morning and already cars are piling up in the parking lot. The picture above was taken on a tripod using the following settings in the camera: F/32, 10 second exposure at ISO 100. I was able to take this long exposure because I used two ND filters. Oh by the way, I almost loved this bag, however, i returned it back because the opening for the camera compartment was too small for my taste. I later replaced it with Sony LCSBP3 which I adored (now I have a matching bag with my gears).

I continued to walk towards the front of the museum while looking for a better vantage point to take pictures. I had my ND filters mounted on the lens and the camera was mounted on the tripod. I did not know that walking from my car and back put a toll on my quads, I found out the next day.

Please click here to check the other pictures I took (as well as the other earlier pictures).

linvilla orchard

linvilla orchards

linvilla orchards

Linvilla Orchards is located in Media, PA. The place caters for birthday parties, public picnic areas, store for their produce, plants for your garden and you can also pick your own fruits and vegetables. I believe this Halloween there is a haunted hay ride or just plain hay ride.

We went there last month for a picnic and we picked our own fruits and vegetables. We got to ride on a trailer pulled by a tractor. We picked up peaches, pears, corns, egg plants and peppers. To our surprise, it costs more to pick your own than to buy them from the market or grocery store. It should be cheaper if you picked your own produce because you did the labor, I guess not in this case.

Above is the collage of pictures I took from the orchard, if you like to see other pictures you can click here or click on the picture. I did post processing using Lightroom 5 and used photobacks for the collage.

nuclear reactor

nuclear reactor

limerick nuclear reactor

Last month after our visit to Padre Pio Shrine in Barto, PA, few of us decided to stop by Philadelphia Premium Outlets at Limerick, PA. Personally, I don’t like going to the outlets not unless it’s electronics or anything camera related.

The drive to Barto along Route 422 West, I noticed these two huge structures spouting white smoke or should I say steam. The structures look intimidating from a distance and thinking that they are nuclear reactors it makes it even scarier. Then when we drove to the outlet, those huge structures are a lot bigger because they are a few miles away from the outlet. The photo above was taken from the parking lot facing the reactors.

I know that the white smoke coming out of those two huge stacks are steam generated from water used to cool the reactors, but I decided to process them darker because of what they represent. Though they give 0 carbon footprint compared to other energy resources, they pose a potential threat like the one in Chernobyl or the Three Mile Island. Click here to get more information about Limerick Generating Station.


padre pio

shrine of padre pio

shrine of padre pio

One Saturday last August, we planned to visit the shrine of Padre Pio located at Barto, Pennsylvania. We planned to be there at a certain time to have a picnic as well. Unfortunately, we were stuck in traffic in Interstate 676 west bound. The estimated hour and a half drive became more than a three hour drive. Each of us in different cars and stuck at a different point in the route. We all abandoned the highway and found our way along the secondary routes.

We just thought to ourselves that we were lucky because if one of us were earlier, one of us might be in that unfortunate accident.

Along the way I noticed from a distance a reactor and I soon found out that it was the Three Mile Island reactor. The same one that had an accident years ago. From a distance it looked enormous and I can just imagine how huge it is up close.

The Shrine of Padre Pio is a homage of the Calandra family for the miraculous cure of their daughter that was attributed to Padre Pio. This priest was well known for his stigmata as well as the gift of healing. Back in the sixties, their daughter was not given any chance to live long after doctors removed her bladder after a surgery due to an illness. After their visit to Padre PIo in Italy, doctors saw her bladder growing back and the doctors were amazed and has no explanation. You may not believe in miracles but you have to visit and watch the short video of the story. They also have a museum in the shrine.

The picture above was a five shot HDR but chose to do a post process of making it a pseudo painting. Other pictures I took in the shrine can be seen by clicking here.