Friday, May 27, 2011

Cooling off at the Park

LOOKING for a place to cool off and escape from the humid confines of the house drove me and my roommate to this lagoon a few meters beyond the Bell Tower at American Memorial Park on Saturday afternoon.
There’s nothing really spectacular about this place. I’ve been there countless times and taken hundreds of photos in the past three years, except that when we arrived there, I looked at the place with new eyes. The tide was out, and the lagoon was almost dried out.
My roommate immediately headed for a cement bench under the trees while I headed toward the dried out portion of the lagoon and ventured as near to the water as I can, enjoying the tranquility and peace. Watching small crabs scurrying to their holes and trying in vain to capture them on lens was an impossible feat which kept me occupied for the next half hour.
A solitary fisherman was throwing his line in the water a few meters from where I was kneeling in the sand, casting surreptitious glances at me each time I took a stolen shot at him while waiting for fish to eat his bait.
The tide was slowly coming in, and the sun was getting low in the horizon. Reflected in the calm waters was a spectacular profusion of colors—the skies turning into a reddish-orange haze, the blossoming flame trees, and the gently swaying yachts moored at the dock was a photographer’s dream.
Forgetting the fisherman, my fingers got busy with the shutter as I tried to capture the spectacular view before me. Some minutes and a splash later, I turned and caught the fisherman haul in a squirming, medium-size fish from his pole, in time to capture it all in the lens.
Soon, it was getting dark and water had trickled back filling almost half of the lagoon. Loud music and laughter started to pour out from one of the yachts signaling the start of a party at the Smiling Cove, shattering the tranquility I was enjoying earlier.
I packed my gear and found my roommate on his knees absorbed in a school of small fish trapped in a pool of water under the bridge.
If you have stayed here for several decades or most of your life, you may have taken what nature offers for granted and say that “it has always been and will always be there” but try to get out sometime and you will get some pleasant surprises.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A refreshing stop at a famous swimming hole

ROTA — Come on in, the water’s cool. This unspoken and unwritten invitation is too hard to resist if you are at the Swimming Hole, one of the most popular and must-not miss destinations on this island.
Standing on a huge rock with my camera, I would have given anything for a dip instead of just a short stop at this place which I had already seen in hundreds of spectacular photographs and glowing remarks from different blogs and websites of visitors who had been there.
Surrounded by natural rock formations that fenced off the area from the huge wild waves rolling noisily to the shore a few yards away, the Swimming Hole is a pocket of crystal-clear body of blue water that promises worlds of refreshing satisfaction when you step into the warm waters.
The Swimming Hole was deserted when we arrived there. Under the sweltering heat of the 12 o’clock sun, the temptation to take a dip was too irresistible, even for a non-swimmer like me. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the heat of the sun is not so harsh, you can float lazily around, let stress flow out of your body and enjoy a relaxing time.
Unfortunately, when you step on Rota for the first time and want to see as many places and attractions as you can in one day, you can’t stay long in one area. I had to content myself with dipping my toes to test the water, take photos and off we went to explore more of this island’s tranquility.
The Swimming Hole is just one of the numerous unspoiled beaches of Rota. It serves as a perfect getaway, and with fewer tourists, you can have the pool to yourself like one giant Jacuzzi.
My hosts Ali and Doc Manny from Guam whisked me off for a quick visit to the Rota Latte Stone Quarry before proceeding to the Bird Sanctuary, a fast drive around Sinapalo and a faster drive toward Songsong. With so many beautiful places to visit and so little time, I longed to get behind the wheel and explore the island at my own pace, something which I did the next day.
The island of Rota has lots to offer, and the Swimming Hole is just one attraction. This article was originally published here:
A refreshing stop at a famous swimming hole | around-the-island.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Brief stopover at Rota’s latte stone quarry

ROTA — The noonday sun beatPhotos by Raquel C. Bagnol mercilessly on my unprotected arms and back was nothing compared to the excitement I was feeling as I picked my way among the tall grasses toward one of the famous latte stones that had claimed a fair share of space on various websites for the past years.
I was standing at the site of Taga latte stone quarry — known to be Micronesia’s best preserved and largest stone quarry, and one of the most unique cultural attractions of Rota. Anyone who visits the place cannot help but take photos and post it online for the world to see.
I had just landed on island for the first time, and friend Ali drove me straight from the airport toward the northern end of the island which had been in my wish list for the past three years.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rota’s latte stone quarry, also known as the As Nieves quarry, was a sight to behold, and capture through the lens.
The huge latte stone columns and capstones cut from solid coral limestone separated from each other by trenches was a real wonder. It was hard to imagine how the ancient Chamorros carved the gigantic latte stones but here was one real proof of their engineering skills.
The huge latte stones were believed to have been used as foundation pillars for ancient Chamorro houses. I could not stop going around the area and clicking on the shutter to capture these huge stone wonders from different angles.
Standing tall and proud on a pedestal surrounded with flowers and shrubs a few feet away from the latte stones was a huge statue of Chief Taga, who, according to legend, quarried the stones on Rota before abandoning it and building the House of Taga on Tinian.
Here is a must-visit cultural site on Rota that you should not miss. I would have wanted to stay  longer, but we didn’t have the luxury of time. We still had to visit more attractions that the island had to offer.
Brief stopover at Rota’s latte stone quarry | around-the-island.

Friday, May 6, 2011

i Sagua Spa: Your ideal destination this weekend

KARISU. The bright letters outside the room blinked a cheery welcome as Esmeralda, one of the therapists, opened the door of the room. I was at i Sagua Spa at the Hyatt Regency, stressed and eager to unwind for some precious minutes of relaxing massage.
The room was a dream for someone as stressed as I was. Two massage beds with fresh linens faced clear glass windows with a spectacular garden and lagoon view outside, issuing an irresistible welcome to lie down and relax. Karisu, which I learned later is the Chamorro word for tall bushes or reeds, was the only room with a lagoon view at i Sagua Spa, Esmeralda told me. She directed me to the lockers at the rest room which boasted of a deep round tub, rolls of freshly-laundered cream-colored towels, and told me I could take a shower if I wanted, an offer which I grabbed without hesitation.
I donned on a robe after my quick shower and lay face down on one of the beds, allowing the pleasant scent of plumeria to invade my senses. When Esmeralda started to press my shoulders and back, I gave in to her ministrations and allowed myself to be lulled into total bliss.
This massage blends long gliding stokes with the i Saguá signature scent, Kalachucha, the essence of the fragrant Plumeria flower.
With the long gliding strokes of my therapist’s gifted hands, the soothing music that filled the room, and the fragrant scent of plumeria flower, I was transported into a half-asleep, half-awake stance where I felt all the stress ebbing away from my body and the feeling of total relaxation of the mind and body seeped in.
All too soon, the 40-minute Mariana Island Signature massage treatment was over and I was transported back to reality, refreshed and renewed. Esmeralda served me a hot cup of tea after, and I felt like floating on air as I went out of the room.
Marketing communications and assistant manager Luis Villagomez said that clients can take a refreshing dip at the Jacuzzi right after their massage.
To celebrate this special day, i Saguá Spa is offering three grand treatments, ideal packages that Moms would truly appreciate—the 50-minute Deluxe Caviar Facial, an exquisite anti-aging facial that nourishes the skin with protein rich Caviar, Rose Oil, Green Tea, and Soy Protein to improve elasticity, tone and firmness for – $150; the 40-minute Mariana Island Signature Massage; the 90-minute Mother’s Day Escape Package that allows Moms to feel appreciated and given a chance to escape from the everyday stress for $180, and the foot ritual.
On Mother’s Day, give your mother the best gift she can’t forget at i Sagua Spa under team leader and therapiot Andy Roda, Esmeralda Cruz, Moonyeen Gementiza and the other therapists.
i Sagua Spa is open from 10a.m. to 10 p.m.  every day. All major credit cards accepted. For appointments please call 323-5888 or 234-1234 ext. 35 or visit for more information.