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Stunning Armenia, a fascinating glimpse into Noah’s land

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#121 Yervant1


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Posted 29 October 2018 - 09:38 AM

Al-Jazeera, Qatar
Oct 28 2018
Why have Gulf-based Filipinos fallen in love with Armenia?

Since 2014, the number of tourists rose from 674 to 22,000, and some even stayed behind to make home in Yerevan.

Renato Marilag owns Little Manila, a hostel in Yerevan popular with Filipinos. He and his wife, Marie, recently welcomed their baby Mia, who he hopes will grow up speaking Armenian [Renato Marilag]

Edward Rigor, a 29-year-old Filipino, was travelling in a minibus with several other tourists in Armenia. They had spent the morning visiting ancient monasteries.

It was spring, the weather was cool and everyone was eager to reach the mountains.

As they drew closer, Rigor rolled down the window and stuck his head out in the biting wind.

Others got their smartphones ready and craned their necks, hoping to catch their very first glimpse of snow.

Finally, in the distance, they saw it: the slopes just above Tsaghkadzor town were glimmering white. 

"When we got there, we were screaming inside. Everyone was taking pictures, videos, and recording for Facebook Live and Instagram," says Edward. "It was like being children again, taking our shirts off and playing in the snow.

"We all thought that we just have to be happy and treasure these moments, because who knows when we will see snow again?"

Edward is one of thousands who visit Armenia every year.

Since 2014, the number of Filipino tourists has shot up from 674 to over 22,000 in 2017, the Tourism Committee of Armenia told Al Jazeera.

And over the last few years, a growing number of Filipinos has settled in Yerevan, Armenia's capital - at least 300, according to the Philippines Embassy in Moscow. 

The Facebook group "Filipino Community in Yerevan City" boasts 1,300 members.

In December, we have more than 300 guests because Filipinos want to experience snow and a white Christmas. Throughout the year, the most popular tours are the ones to Mount Aragats, where there is always snow. It's the biggest attraction.

Renato Marilag, Little Manila hostel owner

Like Rigor, who lives Dubai and does admin work for a local supermarket, most Filipinos who visit are Oversees Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Because of visa rules in several Gulf countries, expatriate workers are forced to leave often to renew their visas. 

The "visa run" used to be merely a wearing formality - hopping on a bus or short flight across a border and coming back the same day. But many now are transforming this bureaucratic hindrance into an opportunity.

"Before we used to go to Kish Island in Iran, or Muscat [Oman]," says Edward, "but then we heard that in Armenia you can go on a tour while changing your visa. For Filipinos who have never experienced snow, it's amazing." 

66621e4a4bd84082a5c8027032338bad_18.jpg Edward Rigor and a friend enjoy a glass of wine in Yerevan, Armenia. He is one of more than 22,000 Filipinos to visit Armenia each year [Megan Iacobini de Fazio/Al Jazeera]

With flights starting from around $300 return, Armenia is one of the cheapest Christian countries for Filipinos to get to from the Gulf, and for the religious Filipino community, much of its allure lies in the possibility of visiting its ancient monasteries and churches. 

"To the extent that Christianity is important, having the opportunity for worship is vitally important," says professor James Tyner, who teaches geography at Kent State University in Ohio and has researched mobility and migration in the Filipino context. 

"Religion may form an important part of one's identity, and provides also a comforting structure to one's life. It provides stability in an unstable, precarious existence," he told Al Jazeera.

The bureaucratic aspect of working abroad means that the lives of many migrants often revolve around their legal status. They sometimes have to leave at a moment's notice, and spend months or years away from families. For this reasons, explains professor Tyner, community assumes tremendous importance.

Little Manila

Along one of the wide, tree-lined streets of Yerevan is Little Manila, a hostel and tour company that caters especially to Filipino visitors. A plastic menu hangs on the wall in the common room, colourful photos depicting the delicacies on offer: pork sinigang, lechon kawali, tapsilog and chicken tinola. 

"There are Little Manilas in Dubai and Hong Kong, so why not Yerevan too?" says Renato Marilag, one of the hostel's owners. He and his wife, Marie, recently welcomed their baby Mia.

"She's the first Armenian-Filipino baby," he claims. "I want her to grow up here and speak Armenian. I know she'll like it here." 

The graphic designer was living in the UAE when he first heard of the country. 

"I didn't know of anyone who had been," he says, "but one guy visited some years ago and the word spread. Now all Filipinos in the Gulf know about it." 

Beckoned by an entrepreneurial brother-in-law, Marilag travelled to Armenia for the first time in 2015 to scope out business opportunities.

He enjoyed the cool climate and found locals to be friendly and helpful, despite not always being able to speak English.

"Compared to Dubai, the quality of life here is very good. Salaries are much lower, but it's worth it. The climate is good, and people are nice," he says. 

Only a few months after his first visit, he and his partners opened the doors to Little Manila. Now, they welcome an average of 120 tourists every month and run tours to Garni Temple, Lake Sevan and Khor Virap Monastery.

"Being a Christian is very important for us, that's why Filipinos don't want to miss the historical churches when they come here. That is almost the first thing on people's minds," says Marilag. 

But not the very first thing. Little Manila's bookings skyrocket in winter when the ground is covered in a thick layer of snow. 

"In December, we have more than 300 guests because Filipinos want to experience snow and a white Christmas," says Marilag. "Throughout the year, the most popular tours are the ones to Mount Aragats, where there is always snow. It's the biggest attraction, for sure."

Rigor, for one, is planning a return trip in December. "Honestly, I just want to keep coming back to Armenia. Again and again."

700f55e6e937468e92e7454ccb509854_7.jpg Litttle Manila organises tours to churches and monasteries like this one, Khor Virap [Courtesy: Edward Rigor]

#122 Yervant1


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Posted 12 January 2019 - 10:30 AM

Panorama, Armenia
Jan 11 2019

‘Don't go to Armenia as you might get back with too many stories’: Unique travel film by Tolt

French travel blogger Benjamin Martinie, aka Tolt, has unveiled a unique video about Armenia he has made during his recent trip to the country.

In the video titled “Don't go to Armenia” that was posted on YouTube on Thursday, the blogger sarcastically tells the viewers to not visit the country as “you might get back with too many stories.”

The video depicts Armenia's colourful landscapes, wonderful nature, historical sites, ancient churches, traditional dishes and entertainment places. 

View the video at https://www.panorama.am/en/news/2019/01/11/travel-film-Armenia-Tolt/2057370?fbclid=IwAR0LB13dRY412AsIyTCoQkNmaKjfYe3N45Ulb8YlphNU-w3ntZei0YYH8eA



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#123 MosJan


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Posted 12 January 2019 - 12:26 PM


#124 Yervant1


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Posted 17 January 2019 - 10:33 AM

PanArmenian, Armenia
Jan 16 2019
"Armenia: Land of Legend" book unveiled in Indonesia
January 16, 2019 - 12:37 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - A photo book titled "Armenia: Land of Legend" at was unveiled in Jakarta, Indonesia on Tuesday, January 15, Antara News Agency reports.

"Geographically, Armenia`s population is indeed small when compared to Indonesia. It also has almost no historical connections. But the real challenge is to explain the wealth of natural beauty and Armenian culture to the Indonesian community extensively," Director of Antara News Agency Meidyatama Suryodiningrat said here on Tuesday.

Suryodiningrat expressed hope that the photo book could be a source of enlightenment describing the wonders of Armenia, which would trigger the interest of the Indonesian people to better understand the potential of the two countries.

However, the real challenge for introducing the country, which is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran to the south, lies on how the information on the richness of Armenia's natural beauty and culture can be introduced to the people at large in Indonesia.

With a total population of around three million and a size of Indonesia`s Central Java Province, Armenia, which is a landlocked country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, is still absent on the radar of average Indonesians who possess information on the world`s economic super powers.

The Ambassador of Armenia to Indonesia, Dziunik Aghajanian, also hoped that the photo book could become an entry for Indonesian people who did not know Armenia comprehensively.

"Despite the historic presence of Armenian community in Indonesia throughout several centuries, nowadays, for many Indonesians, Armenia is an unknown terrain. I hope this book will be an introduction for those whose inquisitive mind will draw them to this hidden jewel called Armenia, one of the ancient countries, and its people rich in history, culture, and traditions," the ambassador stated.

The book, the ambassador noted, would attract them to visit this small nation with a warm heart and open mind, renowned for its hospitality, very tasty gastronomic culture, and exceptional creative mind that is depicted in the innumerous monuments dotting the scenic beauty of the land.

70 percent of the book content showcases selected photos, while the remaining presents articles about the richness of the Armenian history, culture, and scenic beauty.



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