Clowns. More Fun In The Philippines.

Back in April, I was asked to participate in a special trip to Davao (Philippines). The trip was sponsored by the Philippines Department of Tourism. Since I had never been to Mindinao, I was excited to get the opportunity to travel there with Jo. But we didn’t travel alone. We had the fortune of traveling with seven other Korean bloggers – some of the nicest people I’ve ever met while traveling. During a day at Davao’s Pearl Farm Resort, we were scheduled to go SCUBA diving. Unfortunately, Jo was having some ear issues so she wasn’t able to go with me (wait until you see her snorkeling video!). Therefore, I teamed up with blogger Jina for an afternoon dive.

scuba-dive-pearl-farm-steve-miller-qirangerRain was starting to fall, so the surface conditions weren’t all that great; however, what was waiting for us under the water was. Using my GoPro Hero2 and QuikPod, I set out to capture the journey. It was something that I almost couldn’t do, because I was starting to have ear issues as well. On the initial descent, I had to stop at 7 meters and wait while our Dive Master and Jina continued ahead. Slowly, I was able to equalize and make the descent, but doing so cost me some significant air usage.


For nearly an hour we made our way around a coral reef, a place that was teeming with fish. In fact, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal to several. Probably the most amazing part of the dive was seeing various kinds of clown fish dart about. During the last segment of the video, you can see Jina holding a sea anemone. It was the first time I’ve seen this done and I was overjoyed that the clown fish stayed with the anemone rather than dart off. This is why I love diving. It affords one the opportunity to experience nature in new and unique ways – and many times that cannot be paralleled on the surface.

Davao’s Philippine Eagle Sanctuary

I love animals and have a special place in my heart for eagles. In fact, my Korean name is 이글, or eagle. So on our recent trip to the Philippines, I was very pleased when the regional director of the Department of Tourism had scheduled time at the Philippine Eagle Center – a facility dedicated to the preservation of these mighty birds.

Philippine-Eagle-Steve-Miller-qiranger-davaoAccording to its website, the Philippine Eagle Center “is home to 36 Philippine Eagles, 18 of which are captive-bred. It also houses 10 other species of birds, 4 species of mammals and 2 species of reptiles. Simulating a tropical rain forest environment, the Center offers the visitor a glimpse into the country’s forest ecosystem. Although the exhibits are used primarily to help educate the Filipino people on conservation, the facility is also considered a major tourist attraction in Davao City.”


The site continues: The Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) is about an hour drive from the city and can be reached either by private or public transport. Buses going to Calinan depart every 15 minutes from the Annil Terminal located at corner Quirino and San Pedro Extension. Bus fare is at P30. From Calinan, take a pedicab going to the PEC. The ride is about 10 minutes and will cost you P6. Before entering the PEC premises, the Davao City Water District will collect an entrance fee of P5 for adults and P3 for kids. PEC entrance costs P50 for adults and P30 for youth, 18 years old and below. Tour guiding and the use of kiosks are free of charge.

The Philippine Eagle

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the endemic bird of prey of the Philippine islands. The majestic bird is also called the Monkey-eating Eagle. The eagle is white and brown, with Its feathers forming ruffles on its breast. Generally, the Philippine Eagle measures 86 to 102 cm (2.82 to 3.35 ft) in length and weighs 4.7 to 8.0 kilograms (10 to 18 lb). It’s considered to be one of, if not the largest eagle species in the world and one of the rarest. The Philippine Eagle can be found on four islands: eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. The largest number of eagles reside on Mindanao, the location of the Center. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and BirdLife International listed this species as critically endangered. The IUCN believes less than 500 Philippine Eagles survive.

The Philippine Eagle is currently considered to be critically endangered due to massive loss of habitat (deforestation). Since the bird is so rare and designated as the national bird of the Philippines, killing one carries a 12 year prison sentence and a hefty fine. The Philippine Eagle Foundation (which operates the Center) is one organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Philippine Eagle and its habitat. The Foundation has successfully have bred Philippine Eagles in captivity for over a decade and conducted the first experimental release of a captive-bred eagle to the wild.

The Video

Since this visit was part of a PDOT excursion to the Philippines, we received the standard tour that most visitors have. This included a quick walk around the grounds and opportunities to meet the two most humanized eagles. It wasn’t designed for journalists, so I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to go inside the hatchery or talk for extended periods with the bird handlers, something I think would have been interesting to explore.

The majority of the video was filmed with my GoPro Hero2, Edutige ETM-001, and QuikPod. This set-up continue to prove useful in capturing most images, especially when I was able to give the camera to the handler of the Philippine Eagle. I love the look he gave to the camera. Perhaps he wanted to eat the Rycote cover on my mic.

Since the GoPro doesn’t have a zoom, I also pulled in camera footage from Jo’s Canon 60D. Unfortunately, we had some problems with her IS lens, which made for some shaky images. In Final Cut, I dropped the footage in the “smooth cam” editor and got it somewhat closer to usable. If you watch the video again, I’m sure you can pick out where I did this.

Overall, I am really happy with our stay there, I just wish we could have made more use of the time and had greater access. There are so many unique stories to tell there and I feel I just scratched the surface. Given the price of admission, it certainly is worth a visit. Being so close to these wondrous animals one can’t help but to imagine the sheer terror their prey face during an attack.

What’s the largest bird you’ve seen?

AMAZING 10-Way Tuna

When Jo and I went to the Philippines as part of a special press trip earlier this month, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was partly because we were traveling to Davao, a place that I hadn’t been to before, and because we were leaving the arrangements completely up to the PDOT. That’s not a bad thing, but I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to try anything new… after all, I’ve been to the Philippines a number of times and have dined on a great number of Filipino dishes. I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised on this trip by our first meal. What did we have? A single tuna fish… prepared ten different ways!

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerAfter we arrived at the airport and were greeted by the local PDOT staff, we immediately jetted for Marina Tuna. This is one of the more famous seafood restaurants in town. It’s possible to get just about any seafood there, but the real specialty of the house is the way they carve up a fresh tuna and prepare it 10 different ways for you.

Just what are these ten tuna dishes?

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qiranger

Tuna Sashimi

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Cucumber Salad (Kinilaw)

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Sinigang Soup

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerSizzling Bagaybay (gonads)

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Caldereta

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Bihod (eggs)

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Jaw Meat

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerDeep Fried Tuna Tail

davao-marina-tuna-philippines-steve-miller-qirangerTuna Belly Meat

The final way of preparing tuna is the cooking the flesh surround the tuna’s eye. To see that, you’ll need to watch the video.


All said, I have to say I was pleased with the meal. It should be noted, this is not some thing you order for just a few people. Our group numbered about 20 and we still had leftovers. You need to bring a big, hungry group to make a dent in this meal.

Marina Tuna Seafoods
+63-82-233-2666

Email: marinatuna@yahoo.com

 

Ziplines. More Fun In The Philippines

On our recent trip to the Philippines, sponsored by the Department of Tourism, Jo and I had the opportunity to swing like a monkey. That’s right, they took us ziplining.

davao - zipline - phippines - steve miller - qirangerFor this, the group visited Eden Nature Park and Resort. We got a chance to experience a great buffet, but after we ate, it was time for a little fun. First up was the kiddie Indiana Jones swing and then onto the Skyrider.



As you can tell, I had a great deal of fun with this video. It was shot with the GoPro Hero2, Edutige ETM-001, Quickpod, and RyCote Windjammer. I am really impressed with the sound quality on the video. The Rycote really did a fantastic job of reducing the wind noise. This was also the first time I had a chance to use the Quikpod while Ziplining. I will admit that it was a little difficult at time to navigate the towers with the Quikpod fully extended, once out on the course it was incredibly easy to use.

The Slyrider Zipline consists of two towers. Both are about 20 meters off the ground and have about 200 meters for ziplining. It’s not the fastest zipline, but certainly a lot of fun. The Indiana Jones swing was also a hoot, since it was just off the ground and allowed people of all ages to participate. I will say this though. If someone took a big swing and generated a log of momentum, the catch at the end really could surprise someone. Riding this one-handed with the Quikpod/GoPro, was a bit more difficult. In fact, I was downright scared at the end.

Overall, I’d give the resort a positive review. We were escorted around the grounds (a 45-minute tour) and found it quite pretty. There was a rainbow garden that was set up as an ideal place for weddings.

eden resort and nature park - steve miller - davao - philippines - qirangerAs you can tell, Little T really liked the area!

Puerto Princesa City Tour

Palawan is amazing. Many who flock to the Philippines opt to travel to Boracay or Cebu when they have only a few days to relax. However, if you’re in the mood for something really fun, getting out to Puerto Princesa is a great alternative. Not only is it home to one of the longest underground rivers in the world, there are several close by locations where you can really take in the scenery. Today, Jo and I explore the city itself on a tricycle, the preferred method of transportation in the Philippines. We hired out the trike for P1400 ($35) and had it all day.


Here’s a run down of where we visited on our day out.

puerto princesa palawanBelieve it or not, the trike we had was quite comfortable. Jo and I found the best sitting arrangement was to have one person sitting on the rear bench and one on the front. These trikes are a bit larger than the one in Manila and can comfortably seat 3-4 people. The rear shelf can also hold your bags.

puerto princesa palawanBaker’s Hill was our first stop. It features a few animals and a great view; however, the reason to go there has to do with food. Come on, with a name like Baker’s Hill, how can you not go for food? There are a few restaurants (including one featuring Korean food). What really caught my eye were the sweets. I picked up some wonderful brownies and ube filled hopia.The total was P85, or just over $2. It was well worth it. If you’re looking for some great food, definitely stop here.

puerto princesa palawanA short distance away is Mitra’s Ranch. In fact, Baker’s Hill is on the same road. Folks come to the ranch to see the view and little else. If you have a young one with you, the can sit and ride a pony/horse. Other than that, there’s not much to do. You can totally skip this location.

puerto princesa palawanOne of the best values for the day was the butterfly Sanctuary/Garden. Entry is P50 per person and well worth it. The owners do a good job of sharing the history of how the garden was created and then allow you inside. Unlike other butterfly gardens I’ve been to, this one had a great selection of butterflies that fly around. They also seem to be quite accustomed to visitors, because when I was filming, they often landed very close to me. This is a must see stop.

puerto princesa palawanThe day trip took us next to the Crocodile Farm. Both Jo and I opted to hold a baby croc for P30 total. Then we did the hatchery tour. The tour itself was about 20 minutes in length. I was thankful I had the QuikPod and GoPro, becuase I could get the camera quite close to the animals. A few times, the baby crocs wanted to eat the camera and I had to pull it back fast. It was a fun outing and one I think most would enjoy. After the hatchery tour, guests are allowed to walk through a “zoo” of sorts with other animals.

puerto princesa palawanThe Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm is a popular tourist stop. I personally don’t recommend it just because it is out of the way. Inside, you can see dancing inmates and pick up a number of souvenirs. The price for them aren’t too bad, but it’s the same sort of stuff you can pick up in town.

puerto princesa palawan The final stop on our day out was the Firefly Eco Tour. I cannot stress this enough – AVOID AT ALL COSTS. The tour is P600 for 1-3 people. That’s because it’s P600 for one boat and it will hold up to 3 individuals. Tours leave after sunset and last about 45 minutes. On the tour, you travel up and down the waterway along groups of mangroves. In the mangroves are the fireflies. No flash photography is allowed, and the only time the fireflies light up is when the tour operator shines a red light at them. Seriously, that’s it. 45 minutes of blackness with short periods of sparkling lights. Not worth it.

Earlier in the week, Jo and I walked through the town and found some great places around the city center. Puerto is a great place – one I think many will enjoy!

Beaches Galore: El Nido Island Hopping (Palawan, Philippines)

The sun never seems to stop shining on a good time. As we kick off the weekend, I have a special treat in store for you today: Island Hopping. Yes, we’ve been island hopping before, but this time we’re island hopping in El Nido. This small town on the northern edge of Palawan is paradise. In fact, when you ask Filipinos where they want to escape to, this is location occupies a spot at the top of the list.

El nido palawan island hoppingIsland hopping in El Nido is awesome! Check out the photo above. If that doesn’t get your blood pumping and juices flowing, I don’t know what will. Tours depart every morning and follow one of four main itineraries (Tour A, B, C, or D). What makes planning your El Nido island hopping adventure easy is that EVERY Tour A is the same. EVERY Tour B is the same and so on. Each tour operator follows the same route, so picking a tour just means finding an operator you get along with. In most cases your hotel or resort has one picked out for you.

El Nido Island Hopping

Tours A and C are the most popular and focus on many of the beaches. Tour B has some of the caves. Tour D includes the mysterious Snake Beach that can only be seen during certain tide conditions. Tour operators are fairly flexible, so if one wants to organize a combination tour (A/B and A/C are the most common variants) it’s possible to do so. In fact, we were given the option of chartering our own boat for a custom A/B tour for Jo and I for only P5000 ($125US). This was a steal, since we would have had the boat the entire day and been on our timetable with the ability to add and subtract things as we saw fit. One note, each passenger will need to pay a P200 environmental impact fee prior to departure. This will be collected by your tour operator and is valid for 7 days.


We opted for a Tour C during our stay since it had the most of what we wanted to see. Our journey took us to Hidden Beach, a spot near the Matinloc Shrine for lunch, the shrine, Secret Beach, and then onto Helicopter Island. By far, the most fun we had while ashore was at Secret Beach. To get to the beach, you had to swim though a volcanic cave. It was epic. Our group also had about 45 minutes on Helicopter Island, which was a great final destination.

El Nido Island HoppingThe entire video was filmed with the GoPro Hero2 in the dive housing, except for the speaking bits. Those were also filmed with the Hero2, but in the Skeleton Housing using the Edutige ETM-001 mic for sound. As you can tell from the picture above, most of the shots were also obtained by using the QuikPod Monopod. Again, using the QuikPod turned out to be a lifesaver, as I could get a wide variety of pictures and video. I particularly love the beach walking scene in this video. The boat in the water scenes were also really easy to get with the QuikPod.

I chose Josh Woodward’s The Spirit World for the track in this video, since I thought it best conveyed the fun we had. I also opted not to write and record a voice over for this video, since when I was filming the adventure, I was just having too much fun, letting all my cares vanish, and I wanted the same experience in the video. I just wanted to video to flow without me talking all over it.

What do you think? Does this make you want to go island hopping?

It’s More Fun Wreck Diving In The Philippines

When Jo was planning our last trip to the Philippines, there was one destination I was really looking forward to: Coron. It rests in the administrative district of Palawan, making it one of the most beautiful places in the island nation.

coron islandBut we weren’t going there for the beauty. We were going there for the diving. Unlike other places in the Philippines I’ve dived before, Coron isn’t known for its corals. While Coron’s Coral Garden is amazing, its the wrecks that people come for.

steve-miller-qiranger-coron-PhilippinesAccording to CoronWrecks.com, over a period of a few days, Task Force 38 sunk 24 Japanese ships in Coron Bay. It was these ships we set out to explore. Since this is such a diving mecca, there were dive shops a-plenty, including a five-star PADI resort. However, Jo and I opted to team up with a smaller, Korean-owned group and set off for a day of adventuring.

steve-miller-qiranger-coron-PhilippinesAs with all my videos in The Philippines, the only camera I had with me was my trusty GoPro Hero2. As usual, I filmed the intro with the camera’s skeleton housing, pairing it up with the Edutige ETM-001 and Rycote Deadcat. The sound was really good, even though there were a number of trikes on the road making things loud.

steve-miller-qiranger-coron-PhilippinesThe dives themselves were filmed with the GoPro and my QuikPod in a number of different settings. This time, the QuikPod really came in handy, as I was really able to get a feel for capturing footage in front of me and of myself. I found myself constantly switching back and forth from self and POV modes.

steve-miller-qiranger-coron-PhilippinesFor this excursion, we set off for two sites the Kogyo Maru and the Lusong Gunboat. From Coron Wrecks here’s a little about the sites:

The Kogyo Maru, located N 11*58. 782′ E 120*02. 413′, was a Japanese freighter carrying construction materials for building a runway for the Japanese war effort in the Pacific.

The Kogyo Maru was built in 1938 by Uraga Dock Co Ltd, Uraga, Japan for Okada Gumi KK. The ship was 6353 tons, 129 mts long, and 18 mts wide. She was powered by two oil fuelled steam turbines (517Nhp) geared to a single shaft. The engines were built by Ishikawajima Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd, Tokyo. Her home port was Osaka.

Lying on her starboard side in 34 meters of water the Kogyo Maru offers swim throughs into all six holds and through the engine room and bridge area. Kogyo Maru’s second hold contains an incline of cement bags which tumbled as the ship sank. A small bulldozer draws your attention as you swim into the hold. Complete but encrusted, you can imagine the operator sitting in the seat and working the control levers to carve a runway out of a tropical island. Engrossed in the bulldozer you might fail to look up the incline of cement sacks and so miss the tractor and air compressor perched above it. Take the time to swim up and look at both pieces and see how many of the engine parts you can identify. It’s complete. Check out the metal wheels on the tractor. Coming out of the hold swim up the front mast, now horizontal, and on your left side. At the top of the mast look at the crow’s nest and imagine what a lookout would experience when perched 30 meters above the water in a Japanese winter storm. Swim back over the deck to the bridge and engine room below it. Enter both from the stern side for easier access. Swim through the cavernous engine room and look at the hardware then out through the bridge. If air is low go up to the port side of the bridge and look at the soft corals growing there and the fish life living on this artificial coral reef at 22 meters. If you have enough air continue below deck level to the stern looking at all of the deck hardware for moving cargo and working the ship. Pass around the stern and then go forward over the port side to return to the mooring line. You pass over hard and soft corals covering the side of the ship. On this dive keep your head and eyes moving like a fighter pilot’s to see the school of barracuda which will swim by. If you only look at the Kogyo Maru you will miss the barracuda.

This dive is best when made while breathing 31% or 32% Nitrox for a 50% increase in allowable bottom time. If you dive the Kogyo Maru with a 100 cubic foot tank of Nitrox 32 you have enough gas mixture and a long enough No Decompression Limit to cover the whole ship on one dive.

Max depth: 34 m, average 24-26m Recommended certification level: Advanced Open Water Diver, Wreck Diver Specialty.


Lusong Gunboat: This wreck was also a gunboat or submarine hunter. The stern breaks the surface at low tide. Location: In front of the east side of Lusong Island. N 11*58. 260′, E 120*01.447′

This wreck is great for snorkeling. It is nicely covered with hard corals and offers a nice variety of fish life. There are good opportunities for wreck dive photographers. The dive is good as a “dive between dives.”

Max depth: 11 meters. Recommended certification level: Skin Diver, Open Water Diver.

I have been wreck diving before, but nothing on such a large scale. The Kogyo Maru was just massive, and I really wish we could have had some extra light there. When we entered the hold, there was a massive backhoe we were able to swim around. However, there just wasn’t any light to capture ANYTHING. I did have the camera on, but all you see is black and the eerie bubbles from my regulator. Maybe I should upload that? :D

In any case, this is an awesome area to dive, and anyone looking to do wreck diving will find Palawan amazing. Most shops charge about P3000 for a full day (3 dives). This includes lunch on the boat. If you want to go wreck diving, Palawan is the place!

Hiking Mount Tapyas

Sometimes when shooting video, things get cut. Today’s vlog video is just that. While in Coron, Jo and I opted to hike up to the top of Mount Tapyas. It’s a large hill not too far away from our hotel with a giant cross affixed on the top.


mount tapyas coron steve miller qiranger gopro quikpod
The hotel told us to take a tricycle to the base for 20 pesos. That was a mistake, since the trail head was only 2 blocks away. Okay, three. In any case, it was within walking distance. They also told us it was a 1000 steps to the top. Granted the 700+ were a lot, but a few hundred short of what they claimed.



The video was supposed to be part of the forthcoming Island Hopping video I shot during our trip to Coron, but with this section coming in at 2 minutes and not really feeling the same vibe, I cut the entire segment. Rather than leave the footage on the hard drive, I pieced together a quick little vlog. The entire video was shot with the GoPro, Edutige ETM-001, and QuikPod.

The guys following us were great. This was their second run of the day. The trail down the back side of Mt. Tapyas took them towards the local hot spring. Then they had another 30-40 minute bike ride back to the trail head and did it all over again. I saw them later in the day making a third run. They were hard core!

It’s More Fun SCUBA Diving In Boracay, The Philippines

When Jo and I decided that we’d be returning to Boracay (Philippines), there was one thing I wanted to do more than anything else – go SCUBA diving. My brother Gary and I have been certified divers since 1997, and I love getting wet any chance I can. Therefore, armed with my GoPro Hero2 and QuikPod Monopod, I teamed up with Dive Gurus once more to explore some of the best diving in the Philippines.

steve-miller-qiranger-boracay-philippines-diving

Accompanying me on my dive was Edwin, one of the Dive Masters at Dive Gurus. He knows the area inside and out, having worked in the area a long, long time. From the dive shop’s beachfront location, we cruised on their boat for about 15 minutes before donning our gear and back-rolling off the deck. From there, we descended to a depth of about 18m, skimming the surface of the surrounding corals before arriving at the Camia. “It is a 30 meter-long cargo boat that was sank as a Fish Attraction Device in January 2001. It has since developed very nicely as an artificial reef. Residents and transients include a couple of huge red bass, some bluefin trevallies, scorpion fish, trumpet fish, ghost pipefish, squid, pygmy seahorses, frogfish, a school of batfish, and nudibranchs, among others.” (DiveGurus website)


We arrived and quickly swam around the exterior of the submerged vessel. Then, much to my delight, Edwin signaled it was time to penetrate the wreck. The Camia has two cargo holds large enough for SCUBA divers to enter. Swimming up to deck level, we proceeded to one of the cargo openings and then entered the sunken ship. Quickly I was enveloped in darkness; however, there was always at least one light source, since the holds are connected and exposed.

Because of the depth (30m), our bottom time (dive time) was limited to about 30 minutes. It sounds like a long time, but underwater, it goes quick. After swimming through the Camia, it was time to return to the ascent line and make our way up to the surface. It was a great experience and a lot of fun.

How it was filmed

This video was show entirely with the GoPro Hero2 and the QuikPod Monopod. Land segments were shot using the Hero2’s Skeleton Housing and an Edutige ETM-001. I’m not sure why the sound was so bad in the opening segment – it’s almost as if the mic wasn’t attached to the camera. In any case, it sounded great in the signoff.

During the dive, the Hero2 was enclosed in the Hero2 Dive Housing. This case is obsolete with the Hero3, but a must for those with older cameras. Since light changes under the water, in post-production, I needed to color correct the tint, otherwise the images would have been even greener than seen in the video. I also turned on spot metering for this video, since light fluctuated significantly.

Probably the most fun part of this video was filming with the QuikPod. The opening boat shot was filmed with the monopod extended fully and swinging into place. Under water, the QuikPod proved to be a great tool, allowing me to not only film myself, but also switch to a POV mode and capture things directly ahead of me. Fully extending the monopod, allowed me to capture images of Edwin and me swimming, and while not included in the final video, the framing was easy. Probably the most difficult shot of the trip was of me swimming through the wreck. Extending the QuikPod out that far made turning in tight quarters a little hard. I would have loved to fully extend the monopod, but it just wasn’t possible.

What did you think of this video? Did you like the use of the monopod? Please share your thoughts below.

 

Boracay Sunset

When I say that I love Boracay, I mean it. Some may say that it’s too touristy and crowded – that’s a fair assessment – but what I love about the island is the White Beach and the ability to catch a great sunset each and every day.



The above video was taken from the bar that Jo and I frequented nearly every night while on Boracay. It’s in front of the dive shop on Station 3 and offers a great view. This video was shot with the GoPro Hero2 and sped up 330%.

Where do you like to catch the sunset?