agoda

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.

Bantayan Island, Cebu 2014

After one hour of flight, four hours of bus ride and another hour of travel by sea, we were welcomed by this paradise located in northern Cebu. Thank God for a cloudy day!

DSC_0119We stayed at Kota Beach Resort. I was seriously surprised with how beautiful and peaceful the place was! It was far from the noises of mainstream Boracay (though Boracay still has finer sand). We booked a standard fan room through Agoda for only P1, 200 that’s good for 3 pax without breakfast. Their beachfront cabanas (shown below) cost from P3,400-3,800 per night. I would totally be checking in to one of those when I return.

DSC_0007The resort’s service is really, really good. As soon as we arrived, we ordered lunch before checking in. In less than an hour, we have settled in to our basic room and our food is already prepared. First time to eat kilawin (raw fish marinated in vinegar with chili, tomatoes and onions)!

DSC_0020Wasted no time, right after lunch, we went to the beach and enjoyed the sun. More than the water, I enjoyed the quietness of the place. No noise is heard aside from the waves! The shore is very much stretched so it doesn’t feel crowded.

DSC_0025DSC_0018DSC_0034We rented bicycles for P130 each/ 24 hrs. I already forgot the last time I rode one so it’s quite a feat to get back on this. We biked around the island in the late afternoon and stopped by a bakeshop to have snacks.

DSC_0006Fell asleep when we came back to our room and woke up for dinner. We went to Arjaymay to have lechon manok. It’s located adjacent the church, two blocks away from our resort. The chicken costs P170. It’s delicious and juicy! Two thumbs up for the taste and service!

I almost haven’t slept a wink after that. By 5AM, we were out to wait for the sunrise. I was sitting in the damp sand while clicking on my camera. One of the loveliest sunrises I’ve ever seen, really.

DSC_0077DSC_0085DSC_0095DSC_0104Our stay in Bantayan ended to soon. Since we’re on a 3D/2N trip and we still have the city to visit, we left after breakfast (which was also good, by the way, just a little pricey) and headed back to the city.

Will definitely return to Kota soon! Really worth every penny.

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Ilocos 2014 [Part 1]

Ilocos, a province in the northern Philippines has a lot to offer for tourists. My college friends and I have been planning on going even before we earned our degree. And here we are, two years after our graduation, finally living up to our dream of visiting this wonderful place.

Day 0 – Laoag

Our flight was delayed for 1.5 hrs. We landed at Laoag International Airport around mid-9PM. I did not charter any service van to get us around the place so we went to the tricycle terminal and rode to the city for P50 per head. It was a challenge getting all our baggage inside and I ended up sitting behind the tricycle driver.

Note: Laoag’s tricycles are rather small. It doesn’t have any handles outside so you have to lean and really sit tight. Roads are paved well, thank God for that. 😉

We checked in at Laoag Renzo Hotel. I booked a room for three via Agoda for P2,000 (incl. taxes and fees). This comes with one queen size bed, one single bed, a hot and cold shower, cable TV and breakfast buffet. Not bad eh?

DSC_0008DSC_0004The hotel is situated a few blocks away from the capitol, at the heart of the city. Once you go out, almost everything is out there – a tricycle terminal, Vigan empanada stalls, fast food chains, grocery stores. The genuine hospitality of the local residents captured us most. After my not-so good experience in Baler, Laoag has been a breath of fresh air.

Day 1 – Paoay, Batac and trip to Pagudpud

Our day started early. After a few hours of sleep, we geared up for the long day. With a heavy breakfast, we traveled to a nearby town called Paoay via tricycle. We rented the vehicle for P900 which includes a tour around Paoay, Batac and a service to the bus station going to Pagudpud.

Our first stop was at the Paoay Sand Dunes. This is not initially part of the itinerary we have. I don’t know what happened but I just found myself climbing up the 4×4 and screaming at the top of my lungs every time it plunges to a sand depression. We spent P1,500 for a thirty-minute 4×4 experience.

DSC_0016DSC_0014DSC_0017DSC_0021DSC_0028One good thing about traveling is, aside from it excites you, it helps you define who you can be and surprise you at what you can do 🙂

DSC_0054The 4×4 experience can accommodate up to five people. If 30 minutes is too short for you, you can choose the 60-minute ride for P2,500.  You can also drive an ATV or try sandboarding!

As our adrenaline rush was slowly declining, we reached Malacanang of the North. It opens at 9AM. This is the residence of the Philippines’s first family before Martial Law. There are students who served as tour guides. Trivia overload!

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It is highly recommended that you take a guided tour of the place to appreciate it even more. The house structure is still at its finest. Remnants of the residents’ possessions are still there (some are just replicas). And, of course, the beautiful Paoay lake viewed from the veranda is breathtaking.

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Next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Paoay Church. This has stood the test of time. The church was built in the early 1600s. I remember one of my courses in college, Philippine Economic History, where we discussed the parish-pueblo system. Since the Spaniards who conquered the Philippines for 300 years are Catholic, the political system was highly influenced by the church, hence the need for it and the capitol to be situated near each other. It’s amazing how this has been preserved until today and we have seen this across the towns we passed by and visited.

DSC_0105 (1)DSC_0107DSC_0136After a few moments of silence with God, we keep ourselves glued to our seats as we look around the authenticity and feel the history of the place. Also, there’s a wedding happening so we waited for the bride to walk down the aisle. I haven’t seen a wedding ceremony in a while so I was really happy to witness one of the sacraments at that moment.

DSC_0124DSC_0118DSC_0130It was almost 11AM when we decided to leave Paoay. We need to be back in the hotel before 12NN for our check-out. But we did a side trip to Batac to visit the mausoleum of Marcos. We paid P50 each. Cameras are not allowed inside so I only have pictures of the museum.

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Since Ilocos is Marcos’s “baluarte”, his history is all over the place, both political and personal. I myself admire his stint as our president except for the latter years when it all got complicated. So it’s fun learning more about his life without any prejudice.

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We didn’t stay long in Batac. I was seriously scared of the Gregorian-ish background music when we entered the mausoleum. We arrived at our hotel 15 minutes before twelve noon.

After freshening up, we hit the road again, now going to Pagudpud. We ate a nearby carinderia before hopping into an ordinary bus. There are no buses with air conditioner from Laoag to Pagudpud. It’s part of the adventure!