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Guatemala Adventure by Joebert Opulencia

Guatemala City

Our first day was full of activities. We started spending time at the local handicraft market. had a sumptuous lunch at El Adobe, a unique restaurant contrasted by the busy area of mercado central. The food was excellent and the service was top notch.

The National Palace was worth the visit. Also known as Palacio Nacional de la Cultura also known colloquially as “Palacio Verde”, it is identified as Guatemala City’s symbol in its architectural context. It was the most important building in Guatemala and was the headquarters of the President of Guatemala. The building is the origin of all the roads in the Republic and has a spot known as Kilometro Cero. It is presently a museum and is also used for important acts of the government.

Visited the Cathedral of Guatemala City which was founded on July 27, 1524 and is located in Central Park. At that time, the city was called Santiago de los Caballeros and the country’s capital was Antigua Guatemala. But after several earthquakes, the decision was made to move the capital and religious center to the city of Guatemala.

Back to the hotel and had two hours of rest. The night ended with an impressive dinner arrangement by the Guatemala Tourist Board. Need to say nothing more. It was a great way to welcome us.

Guatemala Adventure.docx


From the airport, we headed to our next destination and because of the recent landslide in Antiqua, traffic was very bad. We missed the pottery tour.

LAKE ATITLAN is located in the Sololá Department of southwestern Guatemala, in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range directly west of Guatemala City. When you search for Lake Atitlán on Google you will find tons of references to Panajachel. Panajachel is a town on the northern shore of Lake Atitlán, and is the main hub for tourists and visitors entering the area. It is the center of the tourist trade, and serves as a base for visitors crossing the lake to the other small villages and towns.

SAN ANTONIO PALOPO is a municipality in the Sololá Department of Guatemala. The village is on the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán. The lowest elevation is 1,562 meters (5,125 ft) at the shoreline. The people of the region are Cakchiquel Maya with a distinctive style of clothing. The patron saint of the village is St. Anthony of Padua.

SANTA CATARINA PALOPO is a small and endearing village on the northeastern shores of Lake Atitlán where the indigenous Kaqchikel Maya proudly call home. In recent years, the town has undergone an alluring aesthetic transformation to help eradicate poverty and spur economic growth.

We also visited the pride of Santa Catarina Palopo, the CASA PALOPO, perched above spectacular Lake Atitlan with a view of three volcanoes and located in the Guatemalan Highlands, this luxury boutique hotel offers two distinct brands of romantic relaxation for the sophisticated traveler. Our accommodation for the night is at the POSADA DE DON RODRIGO PANAJACHEL, a POSADA hotel that needs major renovation.


St John the Baptist feast was celebrated on the 23June.

Business to Business meetings with eighteen (18) local tour operators plus one (1) hotel started at 10am. It was great establishing contact with them as they would be our partners in promoting Guatemala to the American Market.

Lunch was sumptuous and enjoyed everything I ordered.

After lunch, we headed to the LA CASA DEL RON for the rum tasting tour. La Casa del Ron or House of Rum, is a new boutique lounge and bar that recently opened its doors in Antigua Guatemala. This is the rum cellar directly underneath the bar and boutique. This is a great place to taste the delicious rums produced in Guatemala; especially the aged rums in oak barrels such as Zacapa Centenario and Botrán Añejo.

Inspected two 5star hotels in Antiqua before heading back to our hotel for some rest. We had dinner at Casa Santo Domingo’s El Refectorio.


We took a 30minute flight from Guatemala City to Flores, an island located in Peten, one hour south of Tikal. It is surrounded by the third biggest lake in Guatemala, Lake Peten Itza. The picturesque town of Flores offers you the chance to enjoy stunning landscapes, cultural activities, plus, it is the gateway to most of the archaeological Mayan parks around the area.

First stop was having breakfast at the luxurious LAS LAGUNAS BOUTIQUE HOTEL, located in the Heart of the Maya World, minutes away from the magnificent Tikal, Uaxactún and Yaxhá ruins. You can experience the richness of the jungle at its best. Inspired by a Guatemalan visionary businessman who explored for 30 years the undomesticated rainforest of Peten, the property combines 300 acres of land, the comfort of a Boutique Hotel with its Private Reserve, two Monkey Islands, a complete Spa and an incredible museum!

Then off to TIKAL NATIONAL PARK… the park encompasses 575 square kilometres of jungle and thousands of ruined structures. The central part of the ancient city alone contains 3,000 buildings and covers about 16 square kilometers. Tikal is also part of the one-million-hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve created in 1990 to protect the dense forests of the Peten, which started to disappear at an alarming rate due to population pressures, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices.

Lunch at the EL MESON.

Next is a visit to the YAXHA NATIONAL PARK, NAKUM, NARANJO, located in the northeast sector of the Department of Petén, in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Flores and Melchor de Mencos. We enjoyed an unparalleled experience visiting four monumental Mayan cities over 1,000 years old that marked the Mayan geopolitical history of the region. Strategically located on the shores of impressive lagoons and rivers, the cities of Yaxha, Nakum, Naranjo, and Topoxte controlled river trade between the eastern lowlands and Belize during the Classic (250-900 AD) and Postclassic (900-1697 AD) periods. . Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo National Park contains 288 other archaeological sites, six of intermediate size and 282 minor sites.

The Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty that allows you to enjoy the exuberant tropical jungle, home to a great diversity of plants and animals, as well as unparalleled landscapes where its lagoons, seasonal rivers, and waterways stand out. and pools.

Here, I did not hesitate to climb to the top of the pyramid where the view was breathtaking. Dinner was at LA DANTA where the various local dishes were explained to us.


A short boat ride took us to visit SAN JUAN LA LAGUNA, located on a rise above a spectacular bay. This neat, mellow village has escaped many of the excesses of its neighbor, and some travelers find it a more tranquil setting in which to study Spanish or experience local life. San Juan is special. The Tz’utujil inhabitants take pride in their craft traditions – particularly painting and weaving – and have developed their own tourism infrastructure to highlight their culture to outsiders. Perhaps part of what makes it all run so well is the communal spirit: coffee growers, fishers, organic farmers, natural dyers and widows are among the like-minded groups who’ve formed cooperatives here. As you wander around the village, you’ll notice various murals depicting aspects of Tz’utujil life and legend.

After a short walk from the docking area, we had tok-tok rides that took the group to the MIRADOR KAQASIIWAAN lookout. I opted not to climb.. too stiff for me

Next was a visit to the CASA FLOR IXCACO WEAVING COOPERATIVE, The backstrap weaving loom, small and mobile, can be used anywhere. It can take one month to weave a two yard scarf from start to finish. Backstrap weaving is integral to Mayan life. The position of the loom gives the illusion that the weave is coming from the abdomen of the weaver – emphasizing the woman as a creator and goddess of fertility. The practice of backstop weaving also has maternal benefits because of the position of the strap on the lower back.

In the 1980’s the civil strife in Guatemala resulted in the loss of over 400 weaving styles. In the 1990s, the women of San Juan decided to form Casa Flor Ixcaco so that woman of all ages could keep the culture and craft alive, as well provide livelihood opportunities for the widowed, poor, and young.

Today, there are 23 women weavers that are working with Casa Flor Ixcaco. The Woven/Casa Flor Ixcaco project is about art, technology, and the global market. Traditional and elegant Mayan art is isolated from the city, however, connecting the work of the cooperative to the international community allows for an unprecedented market bridge – and a hope of sustainability. As consumers, we have the power to choose to wear artisan crafts that support present day livelihood development, environmental sustainability, and a rare and surviving Mayan culture of women in the arts.

Next stop, we will visit a medicinal garden that is run by a local women’s cooperative. We had the opportunity to tour the gardens, learn about the herbs and their uses, as well learn about their belief in caring for the land with love, and without harming it by using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The use of medicinal plants is an important part of wellbeing and health in Guatemala

This is when I asked one of the ladies if they had a medicine for a toe that hurting me. She told me to wait and before I knew it, she asked me to go to a room where an old lady was waiting for me.

In the Philippines, “Hilot” is a Filipino word used to describe a healer . About Hilot Massage as a Healing Therapy Originating in the Philippines, Hilot is a hands-on healing art that involves intuition and massage. A Hilot therapist, called manghihilot or albularyo, is trained in massage and body-mind connections. Again, Hilot uses manipulation and massage to achieve the treatment outcome, although techniques differ from one practitioner to another.

I never thought that in this tour, I would find someone that would heal my broken toe. The process only took around 15minutes and I leave the rest to your imagination … she surely healed me. Whoever included this tour in our itinerary, I THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

After lunch at UXLABIL, we headed to our hotel for the night, the POSADA DE DON RODRIGO ANTIGUA, another POSADA hotel that needs major renovation. Posada Hotels used to be some of the best hotels in Latin America.

Travel & Tourism in Colombia

Colombia Travel Report by: Joebert Opulencia and Alejandro Garrido

Colombia is a transcontinental country spanning South America and an insular region in North America. It is known for having the best coffee, emeralds, bananas and roses in the world.

DAY 04 – Starting with a panoramic tour of the modern area of Bocagrande and Castillogrande.

Then a walk through the streets and squares of the Getsemaní neighborhood, steeped in history, culture, and local traditions that are alle reflected in its architecture, murals and inhabitants.

Toured the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the most amazing fortress of Spanish engineering in America built in 1657 with the purpose of defending the city from constant pirate attacks. Here, one gets to see the beauty of Bogota from above.

Lunch was special @ the famous Restaurante Celele in the hip neighborhood of Getsemaní, a restaurant that is leading the way for contemporary Colombian cuisine. Celele is the result of chefs Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón’s investigative project, Proyecto Caribe Lab, which seeks to highlight the rich gastronomy of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Rodríguez and Pinzón spent years exploring the colorful cuisine of the region and its indigenous communities. The collaboration and research has resulted in a restaurant that provides diners with a well-thought-out, beautifully presented menu using local ingredients in a casual, welcoming ambiance. Tasting lunch with drink pairing was sure an experience.

Visited the Santa Clara Sofitel Hotel, again, the hotel I used for the Sony Incentive Group in 2015. It was great remembering the different functions we had at the hotel

Dinner was at the Vedana Restaurant of the Ananda, a beautiful 5star boutique hotel. Food was yummy.

DAY 05 – Cartagena Cooking Experience at Cafe Lunatico. Here we discovered their coastal culinary identity and the origin of each dish.

Upon your arrival, we were greeted by Chef Maria Delgado and with a refreshing drink of Panela, the Colombian

Redbull. She then introduced us to the local ingredients and the dishes that will be cooked…. its was an experience to eat the food you helped cook.

Last night dinner in Cartagena was at the Amacagua Lounge & Grill of the Hyatt Regency Cartagena.

Hyatt Regency Cartagena is located in Bocagrande district, in 20 minutes’ walk of Bocagrande beaches, features views of the bay. Boasting setting next to Maria Mulata, this modern venue offers a swimming pool onsite as well as a special menu and a children’s club for children. The accommodation is set in the historic part of Cartagena, a few minutes away from Museo Historico de Cartagena de Indias. Guests will be 18 minutes’ walk from the grand 16th-century church “Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver”. Carulla Bocagrande is a few minutes’ walk away.

It was one great fam tour I had with nine (9) other Travel Advisers and Tour Operators. Five (5) nights in Cartagena was a “wow” for me. I did things I never have done and saw other parts of Cartagena that I never visited before.

Thank you GEMA TOUR and its representative, AMIRA RODRIGUEZ, and PROCOLOMBIA and its representative CAMILA CUADROS … they both took care of us and were always there when we needed something. BOTH WERE THE “PERFECT HOST”

Flight tomorrow for Bogota for the COLOMBIA TRAVEL MART 2022

By Joebert Opulencia

Travel & Tourism in Panama

By Joebert Opulencia


Aboard Delta’s 737-800 (uffff) was lucky to be upgraded to First. After a five (5) hour flight, safely arrived in Panama City.

Immigration and Customs were smooth and the ride to the hotel Sheraton Grand was cheap, $12.

One of the most cosmopolitan capitals in Central America, Panama City is both vibrant metropolis and gateway to tropical escapes. Many worlds coexist here. Welcoming all, Panama is a regional hub of trade and immigration. The resulting cultural cocktail mix leads to a diverse melange of lifestyles and customs.

It’s bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Panama City boasts a skyline of skyscrapers, modern office buildings, condo complexes and hotels of shining glass and steel, with world-class views of the Bay of Panama. Its a major international commerce and banking hub, home to nearly 80 of the world’s largest banks, scores of international non-profits, and giant multi-nationals such as Federal Express, Dell, 3M, and many more.

Panama doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being the most exciting destination in Central America. However, after taking some time to explore this Central American city I began to realize the city has a lot to offer. Panama City was our first stop in Panama and we were excited to explore our first destination in Central America.

Follow me as I attend the 2022 Expo Turismo Internacional Panama, and as I travel around the “city that will never leave you”.

DAY 02 – 24MARCH




A night to remember. From flowers, to food, to wine, and to good friends. It was a great way to start and welcome all participants to the 2022 EXPO.

THE VENUE, THE PANAVIER. Located at the 66th floor of the JW Marriott, the highest restaurant in Panama City. Exquisite views of the ocean and the city, it was the perfect venue for this occasion

Let’s start with the flower decor … it was all over the place. Some of the most exotic and prized flowering plants in Panama are the Hotlips, Heliconia and the Poor Man’s Umbrella. Over 10,000 species of native plants and flowers.


Wine, food, good friends, and the beautiful people.

We were privileged to meet the Minister of Tourism and General Administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority, Hon Ivan Eskildsenas, well as the General Manager of JW Marriott Hotel Panama, Demetrio Maduro.

Wine kept on coming and no shortage of food … they even had lechon (roasted pig), sirloin steak, and broiled fish. The cheese table was a hit, and the fish ceviche was to die for (kilawin – have been craving for it).


DAY 03 – 25MARCH

On its 11th version of the event, EXPO TURISMO INTERNACIONAL PANAMA 2022, just concluded. March 25 with a unique opportunity for this central American country to reopen its borders for international tourism.

The Expo also gave me the opportunity to meet the President of SKAL International, Burcin Turkkan, who is originally from Turkey.

The Expo brought together more than 100 sellers and 150 international buyers.

As of today, Monday, March 28, 2022, the requirement for mask-wearing in Panama is lifted, if people can maintain a one-meter distance between each other.

Panama is the home of COPA Airlines, a Star Alliance Airline that has been connecting North America, the Caribbean, Central, South America, and also Europe and the rest of the world. COPA made Panama an aviation hub and made Panama easily accessible to the Amerikas for business and tourism.

The strategic geographical location of this city State, home of the strategic and formerly US-controlled Panama Canal, is the ideal place not only for international meetings, but also position Panama as the central destination for the Americas and beyond. There is not only a lot of history, specifically with the United States, but there is culture, nature, food and of course beaches.

The Panama Tourism Board summarizes this potential perfectly by saying: Where Northern and Southern worlds connect, old and new worlds coexist, and cosmopolitan landscapes live in harmony with wild, untamed rainforests.

A country for those who seek beyond expectations, that dares you to see more. Taste more. Connect more. Feel more. A place for those who long more stimulation, connection, and transformation. Panama is not the destination, but the journey to discover more of what truly matters.

Make more lasting memories through an explosion of inspiration and purpose. And let the spirit of Panama unlock a sense of belonging.

Buyers were treated to a four night stay for them to explore the city.



The Pacific Queen, previously Hansaline, was built in Norway in 1970 and it was completely renovated in 1989. She was trading in Germany doing day cruises from Kollum Denmark to Flensburgh Germany in the Baltic Sea until June of 2003. The Pacific Queen was brought to Panama on July of 2003 and operations began in October 2003 doing Panama Canal transits.

The tour started at Flamenco Marina. We boarded the Pacific Queen and set sail towards the entrance of Panama Canal on the Pacific Ocean. Took a moment to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline before you pass under the Bridge of the Americas.

The Panama Canal partial transit tour began with the Pacific Queen entering the Miraflores Locks where the vessel is raised 18 meters above sea level in two distinct steps. We then entered the Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Miraflores from Pedro Miguel Locks. Next, the Pacific Queen entered the Pedro Miguel Locks, which is the second set of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is raised 9 meters in one step. After exiting the Pedro Miguel Locks, we were able to view the new Centennial Bridge which crosses over the Canal.

We then entered the south end of the Gailard Cut where the Chagres River flows into the Canal. The Gailard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the Canal is full of history and geological value. The Pacific Queen traveled the Cut’s 13.7 kilometers on the way to Gamboa Dredging Division. As we transited the Cut, we were able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides.

We disembarked at the Gamboa Dredging Division where we boarded the bus for a hour and a half ride back to our hotel

DAY 05 – 27MARCH


Two years after the original Panama City settlement, Panama Viejo, burned down and was abandoned. It was resettled at what is now known as Casco Viejo (also called Casco Antiguo or San Felipe).

As of 1997, Casco Viejo is a World Heritage Site which preserves the beautiful buildings of the “Old Quarter” and it is one of the top tourist attractions in Panama City.

Casco Viejo is best explored on a self-guided walking tour … so join me together with my friends, Elizabeth and Warren, as we explore the following sites of Panama’s Old Town – Casco Viejo


On this plaza on November 3, 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia.

Bordering the plaza to the west is Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) or “Cathedral Basilica of Santa María la Antigua” with its grey ashlar-stone facade and white neoclassical bell towers on either side. It is the episcopal see of the Archdiocese of Panama. Construction started in 1688 and it was finally consecrated in 1796. Go inside to take a look at the stained glass windows, the rest of the interior is very plain.

Bordering the plaza to the south is Museo del Canal Interoceánico. This neoclassical building was originally built as the Gran Hotel in 1875. The French converted it into the Canal Headquarters in 1881 and later it was used as offices for the US Canal Commission. In 1997, it was refurbished and reopened as the Canal Museum, which is considered to be one of the best museums in Panama City.

Hotel Central on the east side of the plaza was built in 1874 used to be among the most luxurious hotels in the Americas. The hotel is has historic French architecture and a beautiful lobby. On the main level is a stunning wooden winding staircase with a lovely atrium.


Built in 1673, Palacio de Las Garzas became the “White House” of Panama, where Panama’s president officially resides, in 1885. Unlike the White House in Washington, DC, some Panamanian presidents have chosen to live elsewhere in the city. Back in the 17th century, the building served as a residence of the Spanish governor. The most significant renovation took place in 1922, when a courtyard, a “Moorish” room, and two new towers were added. In 1934 an elevator was added so that US President Franklin D. Roosevelt could get to his bed chambers during his stay.

PLAZA BOLÍVAR – After a devastating fire, this block was converted into Plaza de San Francisco in 1756. In 1883, the plaza was renamed Plaza Bolivar after Simon Bolívar, the hero of independence from Spain

BOLIVAR PALACE (Palacio Bolivar)

Built on the grounds of a former Franciscan monastery that was destroyed by fire, Bolivar Palace is home to Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Relations. Panama’s first constitution was approved here. There is a statue of Simon Bolívar in the center of the plaza.

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís (Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi) is located right next to the Palacio. Even though it is one of the original buildings in Casco Viejo, it was almost completely destroyed by fires in 1737 and 1756. It was rebuilt only to be abandoned in the 19th century. It was completely remodeled in 1918 and underwent some additional renovations over the years. The most recent restoration was in 2016.

Iglesia San Felipe de Neri, which lies south west of the plaza, was built from 1684 to 1688 and that makes it one of the first churches in Casco Viejo. It has sustained fire damage multiple times but was always rebuilt. This church is known for its simplicity and, a little hidden in the back, its large nativity scene. It is said that, when the church was last restored in 2014, it was donated by a local who had built this amazing piece of art.


In 1904, it was ordered that a National Theater of Panama was to be built. Construction started in 1905 on the land of the old Concepción Monastery (which were converted to military barracks in 1862) and finished in 1908. The grand opening was in the same year with a presentation of Verdi’s Aida. The theater was designed by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri.


Built in 1756 by wealthy merchant Capt. Pablo Gongora, this is the best preserved Spanish colonial home in Casco Viejo. The building belongs to Panama City since 1995 and was renovated in 1999 preserving much of the original building and woodwork. The Casa is home to the Casa de la Cultura y del Artista Panameño, which is a cultural center for local artists.


The Plaza de Francia (French Plaza) and the elevated walkway on top of las bóvedas (the vaults, originally a Spanish dungeon and later a jail, storehouse, and offices) are one of the highlights of Casco Viejo. With statues and stone tablets, it celebrates the story of approx. 22,000 French construction workers from France, Martinique and Guadeloupe who passed away during construction of the Panama Canal. On the elevated walkway, you will see street vendors selling local art and you can see the Clinta Costera, the highway that encircles Casco Viejo and, in the distance, the Bridge of the Americas and the ships that are waiting for their turn to enter the canal.


Built in 1678, the church was damaged by several fires. After the 1781 fire, it was abandoned and has survived as a ruin. The unusual supporting brick arch (Arco Chato), which is almost flat and therefore almost not an arch is what attracts tourists these days. Its claim to fame, however, is that when US debated if Panama or Nicaragua would be the better place to build the canal, the gravity-defying arch may have tipped the scale in favor to Panama, as it was seen as proof that very little seismic activity was present in Panama. Arco Chato is 35 ft high and spanning 49 ft. Unfortunately, it fell in 2003, but was rebuilt.


Iglesia de San José with its gorgeous baroque golden altar (Altar de Oro) is probably the most famous church in Casco Viejo. The story that you may hear that a priest painted the altar black to hide from pirate Henry Morgan when he and his gang raided Panama Viejo is not true, because the altar was dated to the 18th century. The altar was carved from mahogany and covered in golden leaf.


This plaza is dedicated to General Tomás Herrera, who was able to achieve independence from Colombia. Originally, this was a residential area which was abandoned after a fire in 1781. It was then used for celebrations and bullfights until bullfighting was outlawed in 1928. Afterwards, this place became Plaza Herrera.

For the walk we did, we treated ourselves with Chinese Food at Panama’s Chinatown (Kwang Chow Restaurant).


Thanks DELTA for the roundtrip upgrade.

To Jamie Rios of BELLA GROUP HOLDINGS, thank you for the sumptuous dinner we had at your restaurant. Looking forward to working with you in the future.

To the Organizers of EXPO TURISMO INTERNACIONAL 2022 PANAMA, muchos gracias.