beach

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚

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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 islandΒ (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 πŸ˜‰

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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) Β  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 bananaΒ 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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ image10

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.Β 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. πŸ™‚ 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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BALER 2014 [Day 2 – Part 3]

We left Gerry Shan’s happy and capped it off with chocolate ice cream from Alfonso’s which is just on the other side of the road. At last, a decent meal with a not-so-bad service for a cheap price. We drove to Ermita Hill to see the province from atop. The extensive shore line and the unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. Photos would’ve been better with fluffy clouds. But during the course of our trip, the sun has been shying away which in a way, is a good thing.

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From the viewing deck, we went down to look for the Tromba Marina statue. This commemorates the family of survivors of the tsunami which hit Aurora in the early 19th century. It was on the way to Diguisit Rock Formations so a quick stop has been good. We didn’t stay long as we’re kind of in a rush. We need to finish off our itinerary and wash up before 7PM for our dinner reservation.

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Another ten minutes drive to Diguisit Rock Formation. It’s a long stretch. We initially stopped somewhere near a first aid tent. Three from our group have climbed up to the near falls. Actually, I’ve seen at least three falls in Diguisit. One is all dried up. The water flows under the paved road and to the rock formations on the other side. We drove a few meters to see the large stones which has been the highlight for me. We paid P20 for the entrance fee. These rock formations are indeed wonders of nature. I cannot describe enough how much I was in awe of them.

DSC_0353DSC_0356DSC_0371DSC_0368DSC_0372DSC_0383DSC_0397DSC_0375At around 5:45 PM, we retreated to our base to shower and prepare for our dinner. We arrived at the Pavilion Bar and Grill at 7:15PM. Given our short history with Baler’s service, I was quite nervous that we won’t get our reservation. I was glad to be escorted to our table as soon as we arrived. It hasn’t been a minute of joy when we saw a table for four. There’s five of us. I’ve been specific the past day about it. So we asked the waiter to add another table to fit us all. But he said that there’s no available one. I thought I know where this dinner is going.

When we asked him again as to what he can do to ensure we’re all accommodated in our dinner table, he just shrugged. Pavilion Bar and Grill is not a typical eatery in Quezon Street. It’s not like Bay’s Inn with buffet. It’s one of the, if not the only, fine dining restaurants we’ve seen in Baler. It actually reminded me of our hotel in Maafushi, Maldives. The outside dining experience with the sound of the waves and live reggae/indie band in the background. Add a bonfire to make the beach experience complete. So we never expected that kind of attitude from them. It’s a good place but has the worst service ever. I thought nothing could beat the previous day’s experience. This definitely bagged the prize! In the end, we squeezed ourselves in to a square table. Thank God for the live band which at least eased our disappointment and rage.

DSC_0406DSC_0411They have very few food choices. Waiting is not two hours πŸ˜‰ . Our food arrived after thirty minutes, as promised. We spent around P1,300 for food that’s good for five. We didn’t stay long after finishing our food. We called it a night early as our bodies are too tired for a long day’s adventure.

It has been a great day, in general. I’m just not sure what’s with Baler and their food service. It seems like everywhere we go, there’s an issue when it comes to them providing their tourists a hearty meal after a day’s full of activities.

BALER 2014 [Day 2 – Part 1]

“This is gonna be a great day!” – That’s our motto for our Day 2 in Baler. Felt like we started off on the wrong foot with Baler so we tried so hard to keep our spirits up and attract good vibes as we move along with our adventure.

We started our day quite early and left our room around 6:30 AM. Finally, in-house restaurant is open for breakfast. We had the usual Filipino breakfast – fried rice, egg and a choice of tapa or longganisa. We have made it a habit of always asking, “How many minutes ’til we get our food?” because it seems like if you won’t push them, they’ll take their time to prepare it. Slack is very much mainstream in this town. After around 20-30 minutes, we have our food. It was not served. We got it from the counter. Another mainstream going on in this town is their literal take on self-service. No waiters roaming around the dining hall.

We left as soon as we finished eating. The food was fine. Just enough to fill your tummy for a very long day ahead. We drove to Sabang Beach for my work friends’ surfing lessons. While planning our itinerary, I had two options for their lessons, Aliya and Mahdox. The latter is easily seen in the beach front while the former has its own place near Costa Pacifica. For P350, they got an instructor who would teach them how to manuever their body in the surfboard. After ten minutes or so, they headed to the water to play with the waves.

DSC_0072DSC_0084DSC_0097Though I chose not to surf, I’ve enjoyed taking snapshots of my work friends doing awesome moves with the waves. Also, I got to play with my extra camera lens so it was fun for me! I’m quite new at this (as seen in some photos πŸ˜‰ )

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I also took photos of random people surfing. If you’re one of them, or know one of them, feel free to grab πŸ˜‰

DSC_0168DSC_0191 DSC_0184DSC_0124Majestic waves keep coming. Now I understand why this place is being visited by lots of surfing enthusiasts. The shore is a mix of fine black sand and round stones of different sizes and the water is neither cold nor warm. It was an early morning and the sun didn’t take a peak behind the clouds. I didn’t have much problem with staying by the shore.

Next stop — Ditumabo Falls

MALDIVES 2014 [DAY 2]

I felt like I’ve slept for more than 12 hours when I woke up past seven in the morning the next day. We were served American breakfast – toast, eggs and hotdogs – with a side Indian twist – chapati, peas and beans in curry sauce. It was okay, enough to fill your tummy on a busy morning ahead. So we did.

photoThe sound of the waves in the nearby sea filling our ears added the flare that’s lacking in the food served. In no time, our feet we scrambling on the powdered sand towards the beautiful beach of Maafushi.

DSC_0457DSC_0454DSC_0452A few steps away from the shore, there’s a sand bank where our group took a lot of photos (profile, panorama and jump shots). There were a number of early swimmers and sunbathers. Some of us snorkel our way to greet the underwater good morning! Being a non-swimmer, I enjoyed basking in the heat of the Maldivian sun at the sand bank.DSC_0453DSC_0469DSC_0481DSC_0462DSC_0490DSC_0499DSC_0505DSC_0503

We went back to our room an hour before lunch to prepare for our little trip to a bigger sand bank farther away from Maafushi called Sexy Beach. We had a good time resting up and drying up our clothes. After lunch was served, we geared on to the nearby Maafushi Diving site to get our flippers (which I didn’t use) and life vests.

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It took us 15-20 minutes to get to the Sexy Beach. Only one word popped into my head — magical! Imagine sailing through the deep blue Indian Ocean with an unobstructed view and seeing from afar a glowing turquoise enticing every boat rider to go its direction. It is only a few meters long with waves from both sides calmly wetting the finest sand I’ve ever seen!

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I was afraid to jump off the boat to get to the Sexy Beach’s shore even though I have my life vest on. I don’t have a great control of my own body. Thank God for one local who helped me until my feet felt the sand. We stayed there for more than an hour and met up with another group of Filipinos who are also exploring the islands of Maldives. After the 45-minute dive our co-travelers did, we headed back to Maafushi just in time for the sunset.

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Another day in Maldives well spent! I love how this vacation is a great mix of adventure and relaxation. We again had our candlelight dinner. Nightlife is not much of a thing in Maldives – alcoholic drinks are not allowed in local islands while those in the resorts are pretty much expensive.

After dinner, we headed back to our room and rested to prepare for another adventure waiting the next day!

PS

Congrats to these four who went diving and saw the richness of Maldives underwater!

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