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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! 🙂

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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!

ATENEO-UST TRADE-OFF 2011

Yesterday, I went to the Ateneo de Manila University with fellow Thomasians to participate in the ADMU-UST Trade-Off 2011. We were basically exchange students for a day as we explore the campus and get a feel of how student life is in the Blue Eagle headquarters.

The day started out way early for me. I felt like a freshman traveling to UST then to Ateneo in the morning since as a senior, most of my classes are in the afternoon. We, the seniors, arrived in the Ateneo earlier than the lower years. The facilitators warmly welcomed us and ushered us to the room they have reserved for this activity. Shortly, the program started even with the absence of other Thomasian students. We went out after a brief introduction and took a tour around the big campus. It was very tiring since most of the places we went to are far from each other. And there are some we’ve visited twice since we were regrouped. Half past twelve in the afternoon, we attended the Macroecon class of Mr. Luis Dumlao. We were so sleepy (sorry :D). But I managed to keep my eyes open and kinda listen to the lecture. I already took the course last year but I’ve learned something new with Mr. Dumlao’s lecture. After the one-hour class, we continued with the last leg of the tour.

My favorite part of the day was, of course, the class we attended. It was a brief lecture but I enjoyed it. Also, I loved the church part of the tour. I am Catholic, but not religious. The Church of Gesu has got itself some unique set-up with its pyramid facade. The solemnity inside was just overwhelming. And who could ignore the big stone just beside the entrance where the holy water overflows?

Though exhausting, I enjoyed the whole day as the Atenean facilitators were so accommodating. They are very humble people. I am unsurprised by this coz I have a friend who’s an Atenean. I am very glad I was a part of this endeavor. It’s a unique experience. I’m all praises to the Ateneo community, specifically the Ateneo Economics Association. The Blue Eagle spirit is very much felt wherever you go in the campus.

But, of course, I am still a Thomasian. And I am proud of it.

Mr. Dumlao’s endnote in his lecture: Dominicans put all the money in a hole. All money inside the hole are for God while the excess are for the Dominicans. However, the Jesuits throw all money to the heavens above. And they pray, ‘Lord, take all the money you want.’. Everything that falls down are for the Jesuits. 😀