Travel

Cagbalete Island 2015

I’ve been wanting to visit this island since late last year after reading Bren’s blog. I kept on searching various blogs and saw lots of great photos. It made me more anxious to come and experience Cagbalete.

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During one of our usual coffee sessions, I mentioned about my interest in traveling to this place and one of my friends, Jam told me she has been here twice already and won’t mind going for the third time. And that’s when the journey started.

We originally planned in on the weekend of Apr 18-19 but due to some schedule conflicts, we moved it ahead to Apr 11-12. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that there will be 16 of us going. These are mainly my office friends, college friends (including Jam) and Jam’s friends, and friends of friends 🙂

We hopped in a Jac Liner bus bound to Lucena a few minutes past three in the morning. Travel time from Manila to Lucena’s Grand Terminal took about 4 hours. After our quick stopover for breakfast, we traveled to Mauban for approximately 45 minutes where the jump-off point to Cagbalete Island is located.

We’re two hours ahead of the itinerary Jam has prepared. But we were surprised at the number of people in the port. Even the municipality was caught off guard, if you ask me. There’s a shortage of boats to and from Cagbalete so we had no other choice but to wait.

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And the waiting ended after 2 hours! Took us another 45 minutes boat ride to Cagbalete. We had to walk our way to Donya Choleng Resort which would provide us our tents for the night. There are a few mishaps here and there and I remember mentioning to one of my friends that I have very high expectations of the beach once we’re settled.

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Alas, Cagbalete did not disappoint. The wide shore line, the calm waves and ripples of sand visible underneath and the long queue of pine trees mixed with coconut trees washed all the previous misadventures worth it! I instantly wanted to soak my feet in the water and bathe under the sun.

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Time seemed to slow down as we bask in the simplicity of Cagbalete. It’s one of the many things I love when you’re in the beach. After our tent was set up, we walked to the sand bar where we took lots of photos.

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The sunset is on the other side of the island but it gave a peculiar purple skyline in our end. Dinner was prepared shortly which are all home-cooked! It was my first time camping and I am happy that I decided to finally do it.

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The only downside to this trip is the bathroom. Most of the cottages and private rooms do not have their own bathroom so almost everyone is using the common bath. There are four common rooms but only three can be used. Then by night fall, it went down to two as the other one was clogged.

As the night fell deeper, the group had more fun. Bacardi shots went around our circle as boisterous laughter and funny arguments continued because of our silly games. I gave up after three shots and got ready to call it a night. I slept outside our tent which felt really good. Of course, I dabbed lots of insect repellant all over.

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When I woke up, the waves are calm and the sky is slowly showing its fluffy clouds. I immediately got up and snatched my camera. It’s sunrise time! The sun was hiding behind the clouds which gave drama to that day’s sunrise. #breakfree 🙂

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Sunday morning was dedicated to swimming and enjoying the high tide. We were in the water for hours! At around 10AM, I lounged under a pine tree with my Clash of Kings book. Winter is definitely not coming in Cagbalete.

We packed our things and left the island a little under 4PM after another misadventure with the boatmen we spoke to. We had to trek our way back to the port for 20 minutes. But it’s fine! All’s charged to experience. 🙂

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I had to say Cagbalete is a revelation to me, even after seeing lots of great photos. It looks like it’s on its way to becoming the next main attraction as many people start noticing its beauty. We only spend P1,400 each for an overnight stay in the island (including accommodation, bus fares, food and environmental fee). Highly suggest you go camping when you visit the island.

Wouldn’t mind going back for another quick getaway. But I’d choose a different resort 😉

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BAGUIO 2015 (Panagbenga)

Panagbenga is the annual flower festival held in the City of Pines. People flock the province to see the grandiose floats and dance parades. Participants came from different municipalities in the north.

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It was a month-long celebration but I was only there, with my friends, during the weekend when the grand dance and float parade will take place (Feb 28 Sat and Mar 1 Sun, respectively).

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After the morning parade, we did a side trip to BenCab Museum. It’s one of the famous attractions in Baguio and it certainly did not disappoint! After going around the three-storey exhibit, you should relax and eat at Cafe Sabel. Great food with a stunning view!

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We saw the whole grand dance parade but missed on the float festival the next day. We woke up a little late from the previous night’s craft beer tasting. Instead, we went to Camp John Hay for breakfast.

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After an underwhelming meal at Tsokolate de Batirol, we went to Session Road and spent a few hours in Patch Cafe of Bloomfields Hotel. Their Caramel Macchiato and New York Cheesecake are divine!

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Before heading home, we stopped by the local market to buy pasalubong. I didn’t plan on buying too many but ended up carrying almost 10 kilos of vegetables, fruits and jams.

I wrote on my planner that I need to go back next year to finish what I started this year. I need to witness the grand float parade! Hopefully I’d be able to get better accommodation next year.

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TIP: Make sure everything is ready at least 1-2 months in advance to avoid hassle. Victory Liner in Manila doesn’t sell roundtrip bus tickets though. As soon as you arrive in Baguio, buy your tickets immediately for your trip back to Manila.

Malapascua Island 2015

2015 travels kicked off with a bang! After the long holiday season and a few resolutions for the new year, I flew again to Cebu (third time in 6 months) with my college buddies. And it was fun!

Day 1 – Harbour City & Larsian

Our flight was delayed for an hour. We arrived at MCIA at almost five in the afternoon and instantly got out and find the queue for the white cabs. Took us good 30-40 mins to arrive at our accommodation. Adelfa Hotel is situated along J. Llorente Street, close to Fuente and a stone’s throw away from Chong Hua hospital and Larsian. It was a relatively new hotel. We booked the quadruple room (good for 4 pax) for P1,760 via Agoda. Extra person (without bed) costs P150. I was surprised at how neat the room is. The bathroom is spacious. And most importantly, wifi connection inside the room was quite fast! For dinner, we went to Rama Street to try CnT Lechon only to find out that it’s already sold out. From there, we took a jeepney going to Ayala Center-Cebu to try our luck again. Guess what? Sold out. We headed to my favorite place instead – Harbour City!! I intended to visit on our last day (not complaining though). A very sumptuous dinner consisting of rice toppings, noodles and lots and lots of dimsum was served to us in around 15 minutes. My friends repeatedly told me it was similar to Tim Ho Wan only it’s cheaper and way tastier. After a few walks in the vicinity and a cup of coffee, we headed back to our hotel. It was already past 11pm – perfect time to visit the grill center of Cebu, Larsian.

image1 (2)   I have been to Cebu twice last year before this trip but I always fail to visit Larsian. Since it’s just a block away from Adelfa, I finally set foot on this smoky haven of sinful yet delectable food on thin sticks. We went around the small space, rounding up the grill at the middle of the commotion, of the vendors trying to attract customers. We ordered too many a stick (isaw, chicken skin, chicken breast, chorizo and pork BBQ) and a basket of puso. These are rice grains cooked inside a woven banana coconut leaf. A budget of P500 will lead you to a place which you might never wanna leave! We really did save the best for last! A few days after our Larsian experience, we still miss it and wish to be back soon.

Day 2-3 – Trip to Malapascua

We checked out of Adelfa before 6AM. It’s a very early morning for us as we ride a cab going to the North Bus Terminal. We planned on taking a bus going to Maya which will take 4-5 hours. Luckily, there’s a van available with five vacant seats! We paid the same price (P180) with 2 hours less travel time. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset It was not a very comfortable ride. From Maya Wharf, we paid P100 for the main boat which will take us to Malapascua Island. This is P20 more than the usual P80 boat ride to compensate for the minimal number of guests (boat capacity is 26 and there’s only around 15-17 people in there). We’re the only Filipino group and we got a chance to chat with a very kind and high-spirited Spanish couple who’s been traveling around the Philippines for a few months. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Since it’s low tide, we had to ride a smaller pump boat for P20 each to take us to the main boat. Same happened when we arrived in the island. Total boat costs per person: P140. But it’s nothing compared to what welcomed us. The sand in our feet perfectly rippled by the waves, the different colors of starfishes in the clear water, the little sand bar made the very bumpy boat ride worth it! Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset There’s no mode of transportation in the island other than motorbike. We opted to walk to our accommodation which is quite far. I think we walked for about 15-20 minutes. We stayed at Aabana Resort or most popularly known as Mike and Diose’s Beach House. We have reserved the biggest accommodation (P2,150 for 2 pax, P250 per extra person with breakfast) they have, Casablanca. image4 It’s the one closest to the beach which has one queen-sized bed, a little sala set, kitchen with refrigerator, spacious bathroom and a mezzanine/attic with two single beds. Please take note, though, that the accommodation only gives you 1kw of electricity. If you use more than that, there’s an additional P30 per kw. After taking a long walk along the shore, I can say that Aabana has the cleanest beach front. Strong winds are very usual at any time of the day which makes dipping in the water cooler. The fine sand and the waves show how well-kept this part of the little island. Kudos to Mike and his team for maintaining the beach’s natural beauty. I personally love the idea that the guests bring their own trash back to the mainland. With this, visitors get to be responsible for their own waste. It’s a little deed for the island 🙂 DSC_0272 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset We didn’t do much other than bum in the beach. We wanted to visit Kalanggaman Island but the weather is so unpredictable. I don’t want to risk it. 🙂 Plus, Aabana made it hard for us to leave Malapascua. It felt wonderful to finally experience the testimonials I have read in TripAdvisor about Mike and his personal connection with his guests. I definitely recommend booking Casablanca way ahead of time as they are always fully booked. Quick tip: Lie in the beach at night and look at the stars. 🙂 There are boats which will offer you trips to Dakit Island, Japanese shipwreck and the lighthouse for P350 if you’re local and around P700 if you’re a foreigner. image8 The only thing I wish the island (ahem, Cebu government) can improve on is the standardization of their rates. Malapascua has so much more to offer than what it has today and foreign tourists flock the place. I mean, there are more foreign guests than local ones. I don’t think it’s right to charge them more than what they charge the local guests. Having a standard rate from land trips, boat rides to island hopping costs would increase the island’s potential to attract more people. Malapascua Island has been hit by the past typhoons very badly and its damage is still seen. I hope more people will discover Malapascua’s enchanting beauty to help its people rise from the devastation the typhoons brought along. 🙂

Day 4 – Cebu City

After checking in our baggage to SM’s Travellers’ Lounge, we walked to the nearest CnT Lechon branch. Your Cebu trip won’t be complete if you haven’t tried Larsian and CnT Lechon! After which, we took a jeepney going to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Sto. Nino Church and Magellan’s Cross. We bought pasalubong at the nearby Island Souvenir shop. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetimage1 We went to the airport way earlier than our scheduled flight as we were too exhausted from the boat transfers, land trip and a quick city tour. — All in all, this trip has set the bar high for my 2015 travels. I am very much looking forward to go back to Malapascua Island! Another reason why Cebu is my happy place. 🙂 image10

Bohol 2014

I decided to celebrate my mother’s birthday for a week. First two days were spent at home with simple meals and the next five days were dedicated to visiting Bohol and Cebu. This trip marks the second year of our annual family vacation.

Panglao Island

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Checked in at Isis Bungalows. They have very spacious, hexagon-shaped rooms. Our stay was fine but the great view and the extensive shore are a few minutes walk. Food is tasty (they serve Thai food) but a bit pricey. Stroll along the beach and you’ll find cheaper restaurants.

DSC_0059DSC_0106DSC_0056Mama’s first jumpshot! She enjoyed it so much we did it for a couple more times (with no successful shots!) We were all out of breath afterwards. 🙂

 

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Sunset was behind the part of the island we were in. But we’re still lucky to see it bled through the clouds. We had seafood for dinner which costed us around PhP1,000, good for 4. I have noticed that aside from fresh seafood, it’s common to see Thai and Italian restaurants along the beach.

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Many boats are flailing near the shore in the next morning. It made the whole stretch very picturesque, almost like a portrait. We waited for the sunrise but it’s hidden in thick clouds.

It was a short but sweet stay in Panglao Island. I’d go back again but probably look for a better accommodation and would stay a little longer to try more stuff around.

Bohol Island

We had a tour via Samantha Tours the next day. They fetched us from Panglao Island and went straight for a half-day tour back in Bohol Island to visit a few places before checking in to our hotel.

We drove around 1.5 hours to Carmen to see the Chocolate Hills. But unfortunately, the viewing deck is still not repaired from the devastating earthquake which hit the province. We saw a few hills on the road which is fine though it would have been awesome to really see them from atop. There are a few activities you can do there – ATV (PhP500/30 mins), ziplining, etc.)

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We passed by the Loboc man-made forest. This is Forks! And yes, I made a reference to Twilight! The trees are so high and so close to each other that the sun rays couldn’t penetrate. It has a gloomy feel but still magnificent. I don’t mind walking in the long stretch. 😀

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Before lunch, we went to a park to see the tarsiers. I’m glad to see that they’re in the natural habitat and not caged. The place is fenced widely so the tarsiers can feel as familiar as possible. Too bad, I haven’t got a good shot of them with eyes wide open. But they look so delicate in real life. Please ensure your camera flash is off when taking a picture of them. 🙂

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Finally, we had lunch at the floating restaurant sailing along the Loboc River. It was very festive! Food was okay, nothing fancy. But the culture is so rich. We had two stops – one for a folk dance show and the other for the Aetas.

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Luckily, rain poured after we were done with lunch. We were supposed to visit Baclayon Church and the largest python. But the church is closed for renovation and I’m not really a fan of pythons. So we went straight to our hotel, Ocean Suites.

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This boutique hotel is situated right beside the Blood Compact monument. I fell in love with the place instantly. They’re still relatively new so there are things here and there which I found a bit off. But generally, it was a pleasant stay.

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I have no words for the view in our room. The pool is just lovely and stayed there until sunset.

They are constructing another infinity pool which, hopefully, is done by the time I return. They also serve good food. Service was also great. They have one-way free airport/seaport shuttle service.

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Our Bohol experience was good. Though the damage of the recent calamity is still apparent, the province is slowly getting back to its feet. And in our own way, we have helped by adding up to the tourists still visiting the wonders of Bohol. I’m very much looking forward to coming back when everything is fully restored.

**All accommodations are booked via Agoda.

Guimaras 2014 [B.I.G. Adventure Part 3]

I’m the last person who wants to travel at night. On an island! Where I don’t know anyone. Where I don’t know where exactly I’m going. But my trip to Guimaras is an exemption. Though it’s still something I won’t do again, though ( I mean, traveling to the unknown at night).

Following an underwhelming Bacolod experience (and going back to Iloilo later than planned), we reached Ortiz Wharf (jump-off point from Iloilo to Guimaras) a few minutes after 5PM. Boat ride took 15-20 minutes. From the Jordan port, we rode a jeepney going to our accommodation at Raymen Beach Resort. From the blogs I’ve read before this trip, most of them said that the trip would last for 45 minutes. But since we went the rougher option, took us more than an hour to reach our destination. Halfway through the bumpy ride, the sun has finally succumbed to the darkness and mango trees which are the pride of this island looked like lurking nature monsters from either side of the road. See, this is why I don’t like to travel at night.

Arriving at Raymen, my first thought is that this resort looks like the ones you usually see in Cavite and Laguna. Only difference would be Raymen has a beach at its end. There was no hassle in checking in as I booked a room through Agoda. The room given to us was rather small. It has no television. The airconditioning unit qA working well but it’s quite noisy. Bathroom is clean with basic amenities. But all in all, room needs an upgrade to attract more tourists (both local and foreign).

We didn’t spend much time outside after checking-in as we were so tired. We had a quick dinner. And of course, mango shake! It would be a great mistake to miss out on mangoes when you’re in Guimaras.

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The next morning, we were served a very simple breakfast – ham, egg and rice. But food is not what I came here for. We then hopped on a boat for an island hopping experience. We went around 5-6 islands.

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What stood out for us is the Turtle Island (where we got to carry a heavy turtle and watch a little guy get scared of it that sand covered his body after rolling a few times away) and Baras Cove which left us in awe of the stalagmites and stalactites.

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Of course, SEAFDEC. I was at first hesitating going to this last portion of our island hopping as it’s too far from the other islands. But it all was worth it. We were briefed about what SEAFDEC is about and how they aim to help on the food shortage in our country.

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Island hopping took all our morning. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂 We paid PhP800 for a three-hour trip. We planned on doing land trip in the afternoon to visit a few places like Mango Plantation, World’s Smallest Plaza, etc. but we found it too expensive so we just chilled and slept all afternoon.

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I love an extensive shoreline and Guimaras doesn’t have it so it’s quite a disappointment. But other than that, I definitely enjoyed my stay and looking forward on going back soon.

Bacolod 2014 [B.I.G. Adventure 2]

After a very sumptuous breakfast at La Paz, we went back to our hotel to check-out and rode a cab to the port. We bought a Libre Balik ticket to Bacolod for P410 at Ocean Jet. Travel time is 1 hour.

Scorching heat welcomed us as we arrived at lunch time. We quickly hailed a tricycle going to the nearby SM City Bacolod for our luggage check-in. Spending only a few hours here so we didn’t want any unnecessary weight. And since we’re kind of tight with time, we decided to hop in a cab to go to the famous local site, The Ruins. We agreed on a P400 rate which I think is a bit of a rip-off but, yeah with the heat and all that, I’d rather pay for some comfort.

Entrance fee for The Ruins costs PhP80. We thought it’s a bit too small to be a mansion but it’s beautiful almost unreal, to be honest! The photos I’ve taken did not look real. Few groups were in there and it’s almost quiet. No tours going around. Not minding the heat, we went around the place while the dry grass tickled our feet.

DSC_0105DSC_0104DSC_0089We asked the cab driver to drop us off the capitol. From there, we just went around looking at different places. There’s a wide lagoon at the park before the capitol. Beside it is the Negros Museum and Cafe (entrance fee is PhP100-150).

DSC_0132DSC_0135The highlight of our Bacolod trip is Calea! We rode a pedicab from the capitol to Calea. There are lots of cake choices and I can’t choose one! We’re not that hungry but we decided on ordering a few bites since our trip back to Iloilo would be too long since we’ll go straight to Guimaras.

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Calea made up for the rather expensive and quick trip we had in Bacolod. Literally, the White Chocolate Cheesecake which we deemed as the Redeemer did it! I can say, hands down, that it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. And what’s more awesome about it is that it only costs PhP85/slice!

DSC_0147We might have enjoyed Calea a little too much. We ended up missing our ferry back to Iloilo. we had to pay another PhP100 to Ocean Jet for the rebooking.

All in all, Bacolod has still a lot to offer which I haven’t seen yet. Maybe it’s just because we didn’t have much time to roam around and commute, that’s why I felt this quick trip is a bit too expensive. Maybe next time I need to dedicate a day to explore and not ride cabs! 😉

If you’re planning to do the B.I.G. adventure, I’d suggest you start with Bacolod than Iloilo. Fly to Bacolod from Manila then depart from Iloilo back to the Manila. Would cost you less with the ferry fare.

Next and last stop — Guimaras!

Iloilo 2014 [B.I.G. Adventure 1]

B – Bacolod            I – Iloilo             G – Guimaras

Iloilo is very tourist-friendly. From the airport’s exit, there is a station for vans bound to SM City Iloilo for PhP50. From the famous mall, jeepneys going around the friendly town roam around. We rode one going to Mandurriao to get to Go Hotels. It is located at the Robinson’s Mall. Have booked a room early this year for almost PhP800. Regular room rate won’t cost you much (probably less than PhP1,500).

After leaving our luggage to them, off we went to our first stop – Molo. There are jeepneys directed to the nearby town. Molo Church would easily get your attention. Don’t hesitate to ask the drivers as most of them are happy to help and guide you. Regular fare is PhP7.50.

DSC_0017DSC_0007DSC_0001From Molo, we then rode another jeepney bound to San Joaquin (thanks to the kind policemen who waited for a ride with us!) I was originally planning on visiting Miag-Ao which is 45 minutes away from the city. San Joaquin is even farther but since it’s only 15 minutes awa from Miag-Ao, we gave it a shot. Fare is PhP60 each.

The surroundings of the towns we visited are identical. Near the church is the plaza and the town hall. There’s usually a gazeebo and a statue of Jose Rizal. San Joaquin Church’s facade was under construction. After a few moments of silence and roaming around the town, we traveled going to Miag-Ao. Fare is PhP15.

DSC_0019Miag-Ao is one of the UNESCO World Heritage site. To be honest, I expected it to be bigger but it’s still beautiful! The architectural details and the historical vibe of the place really made all the effort worth it. The sun is not shying behind the clouds but it was very cool even inside the church.

DSC_0046DSC_0030From Miag-Ao, we traveled back to the city. We arrived an hour past lunch (and an hour away from hotel check-in!). We didn’t go far and had lunch inside Robinson’s Mall. We tried Hungry Ninja. Cheapest food (a portion of a chicken and rice) costs PhP46. As our feet grew tired for half a day’s adventure, we retreated to our room for a quick nap.

I was surprised at how pleasant the room is (given the amount I paid for it). There’s one queen-sized bed, a flat TV, basic toiletries, shower and a foldable table (?). AC worked pretty well. Only complain I have would be the noise from the hallway and the other rooms which are audible inside our room. But other than that, I felt like I got more of what I paid for.

DSC_0057At half past four, we roamed around the city. Starting with Plaza Libertad. Found nothing special about this place but it’s close to a branch of Coffee Break and Biscocho Haus. It’s a stone’s throw away, too, from the downtown where we walked in search of Calle Real. We asked a lot of people where it was and we got different answers. Little did we know that we are walking along the place we are looking for! It was a five-block (rough estimate) stretch. We walked from Plaza Libertad to the Iloilo Capitol and back.

DSC_0059Just as the sun is setting, we visited one of my Iloilo favorites – Coffee Break! We just chilled there until we decided to go to Smallville – Iloilo’s district for night life.

DSC_0068We had dinner at Mojave. For less than PhP900, we had a rack of ribs and shrimps! With little sleep and tired body, what’s a greater way to end a long day than having a hefty dinner? 🙂

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First half of our second day was spent in Bacolod. But before we rode a ferry going to the nearby city in the Negros province, we stopped by La Paz for breakfast. We searched for Netong’s which we found inside the public market. I’m not a big fan of noodles and innards, but Netong’s batchoy is a must-try for all those who wants to visit Iloilo.

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Jumping to our fourth day… We had a few hours left before our flight back to Manila, so we decided to visit Museo Iloilo and Jaro. Entrance fee for the museum is PhP50. There are a few interesting things in there. But what captured me the most is the gallery where they showcase paintings of local artists. They are for sale. Unfortunately, it’s out of my budget. I wanted to buy one piece (maybe when I come back soon).

i00322 (1)i00343 (1)i00346 (1)Jaro is 10 minutes away from the museum which is just beside the capitol. We visited Jaro Cathedral and its belfry. Too bad the church was closed for maintenance but it was one of the most photogenic places I’ve seen. The belfry at the plaza across the church is so intimidating. It’s almost similar to the bell tower we visited in Ilocos earlier this year. But this one is bigger.

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In general, Iloilo is one of the friendliest places I’ve visited. Though we had an itinerary at hand, going from one place to another is a task. We rode jeepneys without any guarantees that they’ll take us to where we want to go. But thanks to the kind locals who are always very willing to help out a lost traveler.

I can’t wait to be back and explore more towns! 🙂