Enthralled by El Nido

I found my paradise in the Philippines.

Spellbounding Siquijor

A brave girl's first ever solo trip was to this mystical island.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island

Outdoor serenity at its best.

The Rugged Beauty of Islas de Gigantes

The off-the-beaten rockin beauty of Northern Iloilo.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mt Pinatubo Trekking and Its Wonders


It has been a long time coming. We had always planned of seeing Mt Pinatubo up close. We were just taken aback because it is quite expensive for a day trip. Php 2000+ just for a day can already be a 3D2N getaway somewhere else. So when we saw a deal in one of the discount coupon websites (okay let’s name it - Ensogo) for only Php 999, we immediately grabbed it. But then, it seemed like a worse decision. Their partner Trekpros (who didn't act like they're "pros") was a treacherous con. After you purchased their deal, you'll be informed of all the other charges you have to pay which was not clearly explained in the voucher. At the end, you’ll just end up saving like a hundred bucks. Crap. Define misleading. Tip for other adventurers out there, NEVER be fooled by the offers you see in discount coupon websites!

We were so disappointed but we had to go on with this, since we already paid for it. We initially booked for the month of March but it was canceled due to heavy rains. All tours for that weekend were canceled for safety reasons. We already had other things scheduled for April so we opted to reschedule for May. I was actually getting stressed out on this trip because Trekpros were blatantly trying to rip us off! Good thing we have the presence of mind not to let them trick us anymore of more additional charges.

We almost didn’t sleep the night before the tour. Departure time was 3:00 am and we still have to register at 2:30. The meeting place was in Victory Liner Cubao Station. There we decided to just join them going to the jump-off point, then just commute back to Manila. We won’t let them extort anymore money from us! We just slept in the van on our way to Capas, Tarlac. When I woke up, we’re in Tarlac already.




Sta Juliana trek jump-off




Good Morning Tarlac :)





We arrived in Sta. Juliana at around 5:30 am. The others who availed of their insanely overpriced food package, had their breakfast at the only restaurant there while we just munched on our own baon. We were there until like 7:00 am. We noticed that all the other groups were starting to disappear and we are the only ones who were left. I don’t understand what’s taking those tour coordinators too long to get us a 4x4! How incompetent. After an hour and a half, we were finally designated to our 4x4 and a tour guide.


finally ready to go


It was a very rough ride. But the views are breathtaking. I so wanted to take photos while trailing the rockies but we were assigned to an enclosed 4x4. I can’t get a nice view inside the vehicle. Well, the good thing about that was we were dry and dirt free as the road is too dusty and has water streams along the way.


the real rocky road :)



After thirty minutes or so, we stopped for some picture taking. Everyone stops at this point, basically to take photos of the landscape.


fantastic landscapes brought about by the eruption

a roofless 4x4 - gusto ko lang i-feel :)



I spotted some Aeta (Pinatubo local) children in the area. I wanted to take photos of them. So I asked our guide if that’s okay to do that and he said yes. He accompanied me to them. I gave them our remaining snacks. The sparkle in their eyes and their genuine smiles when they accepted it made me so happy. That moment was just priceless.


my aeta friends :)


We went on to the final trail after that. In another thirty minutes, we reached the trekking jump-off point. Our 4x4 mates were three youngsters belonging to a huge group (barkada). They decided to wait for the rest of their friends before trekking, so we went ahead with our guide. 2 is to 1, great!



getting ready to trek


Our guide was Kuya Rowell. He was a good guide. Even in easy trails, he was always there to guide me and make sure that I’m safe. I did not let him carry my backpack simply because I can. We learned that they’re just getting Php 200 a day for guiding a group (usually 5 pax per 4x4). That’s per tour not per person. He also told me stories about Pinatubo and how their lives were like.


lez gow! :)


The trek was not what I expected. I thought it’s going to be easier than what it turned out to be. Some said it was an easy one. But I guess it depends on how physically fit you are. Yes, the trail is not uphill but it was rocky. The unforgiving sun didn’t help as well. You wouldn’t want to stop hoping that it will soon end.


clear sunny skies on the first half of our trek


The hike is taxing even though it's just literally walking. For three hours, we felt like we’re wandering in the middle of nowhere forever.


are we ever gonna reach the crater? :)


The line that I heard the most during the trek was “are we there yet?” It was a weekend, so I think there were hundreds of us trekking that day.


see? hundreds, i tell you :)



It wasn't a rewarding one for me. The first 2 hours of the trek was sunny but it started to drizzle as we get closer to crater.


the sulfuric waters implied that we were getting nearer

lush vegetation, malapit na talaga!

My dream of seeing the turquoise lake under clear blue skies was shattered when it turned really cloudy when we reached the crater. I was a little disheartened. Anyway, I still appreciated the beauty of Pinatubo but it wasn't as striking as what I expect it to be because of the gloomy skies.


pinatubo at first sight



We were starving when we get to the crater. After taking a few photos, we settled to a nice spot (which I chose) and prepared our lunch at once.



not everyday you got this view on your lunch :)

life as i know it :)



The breaded pork chops and the fried chicken tasted extra yummy because I'm exhausted and famished. Haha!

Right after we finished our meal, it began to rain – big time. Nope, we’re not going to let this dampen our spirits. We won’t keep ourselves under a roof and stay dry.


lake here we come!


Have you heard about the quote, “Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn how to dance in the rain”? That was exactly what we did. We just asked our guide to look after our stuff and off we went down to the crater lake like maniacs.



weee! :)

 Lake swimming under the rain was awesome!


soaking wet ;)


It was getting colder as we stayed longer in the lake. The people were also starting to get lesser and lesser. We probably enjoyed it too much, that we forgot about the time.When we went up only a few groups were left. They already trekked back. Uh oh… we should be trekking back too.


Okay, my final photo before we left.


happy to finally be with you :)

The trek back was much easier. It is no longer sunny. We only had few stops. We were back to the jump-off in an hour. We took a bath and changed clothes at the Barangay Hall nearby. Only for Php 15, unlike the restaurant that charges 100! We thanked Rowell for being such a good guide. We treated him for a snack (hamburger) and gave him our "tip" of gratitude. Again we felt happy that we helped someone and made him happy. We commuted on our way back to Manila.

For me, you should see Mount Pinatubo at least once in your life. Considering the challenges you have to go through, you are not assured of what you're going to see when you get there. There is nothing to regret though ,if you don't see her as beautifully as she should be on clear skies. She is worth it. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Siquijor Travel Guide


4D3N Siquijor-Dumaguete Sample Itinerary



Salagdoong Beach



This is based on my own trip itinerary (IT). From Manila, the best way to go is to fly to Dumaguete City. This is a very detailed IT as I already included necessary info and instructions.

Day 1

500am – Check-in @ the airport

700am – ETD MNL

815am – ETA DGT

-Ride a tricycle to Dumaguete port (inside the airport compound they may charge you PHP 100 or up, outside the airport will be cheaper PHP 50-70. Depends if you're in a hurry or not :)

830am – Go to Delta Fast Ferry booth (PHP 160 ferry ticket + PHP 15 Terminal Fee)

900am – ETD Dumaguete Port

1000am – ETA Siquijor

-If you miss the 9 am ferry like I did, next one will be at 10:15 am. So I adjusted my IT.

1030am – Ride a single motorbike or a trike to the guesthouse (PHP 100) 

-Habal-habal is recommended for a solo traveler. Trike for group travelers. Price for a trike is PHP 150. But you may try to haggle :)

1100am – Check-in to your chosen accommodation

-You may also opt to have lunch in town center 1st and buy food and other supplies if your guest house don't have a full service restaurant

100pm – Siesta ~ Beach Bumming ~ Swim ~ Take Pictures ~ Wait for the sunset :)

700pm – Dinner

900pm – Rest and Sleep

Day 2

530am – Sunrise

700am – Breakfast

800am – Start of tour

-Capilay’s Spring Park (San Juan)
-Century Old Balete Tree (Lazi)
-San Isidro Labrador Church (Lazi)
-Lazi Convent
-Cambughay Falls (Lazi)
-Our Lady of Divine Providence – (Maria)
-Salagdoong Forest and Beach (Maria)
-St Francis de Assisi Church and Bell Tower

Other places we did not go to:
-Cang-Isok House (Enrique Villanueva)
-Tulapos Mangrove Sanctuary (Maria)
-Guiwanon Spring Park Resort

400pm – End of tour 

-Time of tour depends on your preference. We started early at 6 am so we ended past 2 pm.

500pm – Back to guest house
– Wait for sunset

600pm – Freshen-up

– Dinner

800pm – Pack things up to prepare for early departure the next morning and sleep early

Day 3

500am – Prepare to leave

600am – Go to Siquijor Port

-You may ride a passenger trike going to Siquijor Port for only PHP 25 (from San Juan). But if you're leaving on a very early time or non-peak hours you may be charged of PHP 150 from San Juan (for a special trip).

700am – ETD Siquijor Port

800am – ETA Dumaguete
-Tric to your hotel (PHP 9)

830am – Check-in @ your hotel or guest house

900am – Explore Dumaguete

-Quezon Park
-Dumaguete City Tourism Office
-Dumaguete Bell Tower
-Dumaguete Cathedral
-City Hall, Public Market etc.

1200nn – Lunch
-Siliman University
-Siliman University Marine Lab
-Rizal Boulevard (Baywalk)
-Foodtrip

600pm – Early Dinner and Pasalubong shopping

700pm – Pack things up for early flight next day

900pm – Rest and sleep

Day 4

645am – Go to the airport (15-20 mins on a trike PHP 75)

700am – Check in to Sibulan Airport

905am – ETD DGT

1020am – ETA MNL

***I had the earliest flight to Manila because that's what was available in Cebu Pacific Zero Fare Promo the time I booked it. If I had a choice, I would've booked the last flight back so I can explore Casaroro Falls.


Accommodation Information:

Siquijor:
Lorna's End of the Word
Address: Brgy. Lala-o, San Juan Siquijor
Contact: Ate Lorna 
Mobile Number: 0927 381 6377
Room Prices: PHP 400 for the 2nd floor rooms with ocean view
PHP 500 for ground floor rooms with kitchenette

Dumaguete:
Harold's Mansion
Address: 205 Hibbard Ave., Dumaguete City
Website with contact info:   http://www.haroldsmansion.com/contactus.html
Room prices: PHP 250 for Dorm, others you may also check in their website.


Delta Fast Ferry Schedule:

Dumaguete to Siquijor
0600 (Monday only), 0900, 1015 (Saturday only)
1330, 1630 (last trip docks in Larena pier)

Siquijor to Dumaguete
0555, 0700 (Monday only), 1230, 1500


Ate Lorna arranged my Siquijor Tour thus, I don't have the contact number of our trike driver. I also don't quite recommend him because he did not show up the following day when he's suppose to fetch and bring me to the Port ;p


Summary of Expenses:

Airport and Transportation:

 250.00 - taxi to NAIA T2
 200.00 - T2 terminal fee
 100.00 - tricycle to DGT port
 160.00 - Delta Fast Ferry to Siquijor
   15.00 - terminal fee
 100.00 - habal-habal to Siquijor guesthouse
   25.00 - tricycle to Siquijor port
 160.00 - Delta Fast Ferry to DGT
   14.00 - terminal fee
   10.00 - tricycle to DGT guesthouse
     9.00 - tricycle to Quezon Park   75.00 - ticycle to DGT airport
   30.00 - DGT terminal fee
 150.00 - taxi from T3 to home
---------
1298.00 - Total Airport and Transpo Fees

Accommodation:

 800.00 - 2N in Siquijor
 250.00 - 1N in Dumaguete
---------
1050.00 - Total Accommodation Fees

Tour:

 225.00 - Siquijor Tour (900/4)
   20.00 - Salagdoong Beach entrance
   50.00 - tour guide tip
---------
 295.00 - Total Tour Costs

Food:

 500.00 - Total Food Expenses


Total Computation:

1298.00 - Airport and Transpo
1050.00 - Accommodation
  500.00 - Food
---------
3147.00 - Total Trip Expenses

I still had some cash to burn so I decided to buy pasalubong for my family and friends. :)

Pasalubong:

330.00 - t-shirt and ref magnets from Siquijor
 795.00 - pastries from Sans Rival
 140.00 - piaya and pinasugbo
---------
1265.00 - Total Pasalubong Costs


3147.00 - Total Trip Expenses
1265.00 - Total Pasalubong Costs
----------
4412.00 - My Overall Expenses

***More than one-fourth of my expenses went to pasalubong hehe. If you're on a tight budget or has has no need to splurge on this, it will just be PHP 3147. Not bad for a 4D3N trip, right? :)


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dumaguete: The City of Gentle People

Day 3


I have to say goodbye to Siquijor. It was such a short love affair. So I spent my last morning with her again waiting for the sunrise.

my last glimpse of Isla del Fuego sunrise

i'll miss this watercolor landscape

So much for being emo, haha! :) I had to get going and make it to the 7:00 am ferry going to Dumaguete.

so it's goodbye, Siquijor

But OMG, that manong driver who promised to pick me up at 6:00 am was still not showing up at 6:30! So I just waited for a passenger trike to pass by (which is so rare in La-lao). Ate Lorna helped me when she noticed my uneasiness. She asked her neighbor with habal-habal if they can take me to the port. After a few minutes, a trike finally came. She convinced me to take the public transpo instead so it'll be cheaper. I love Ate Lorna for her concern to her guests. Along with 5 students (it was a Monday), I commuted to Siquijor port.

I was so worried once again that I might miss the ferry. Riding in a passenger vehicle meant more stops. I was so relieved that when I arrived they're still selling tickets for 7 am when on my clock it is already 7! So I ran as fast as I could along with the other last passengers. I have a heavy backpack which made running a little difficult. Good grief! A minute after I boarded, the ferry immediately sailed away.

sailing back to Dumaguete

When I arrived in Dumaguete port, I looked for a passenger trike. So, I was just charged the regular fare of 9.00 pesos going to my guest house.

I was dropped off in front of Harold's Mansion (I forgot to take a photo of it outside). I arrived past 8:00 am. There are no single rooms available so I opt for the dorm. Not bad for just an overnight stay. It's only 250 pesos per night.


my space


When I entered the room, most of them were still asleep. I was happy to find one Filipina backpacker there, Claire of iamtravelinglight.com. She said I was the first solo female Pinay traveler she encountered in the dorm (or in her entire backpacking trip) because most of them were foreigners. She was on her 5th week of backpacking the Visayas that time already. (Claire, please correct me when you read this hehe!) Wow! I wish I can do the same. After our tete-a-tete and having my bed made, I went out to explore.


my first stop :)


I first went to the tourism office to ask for a map, so I would know how to get around the city. Dumaguete is just a small city. I figured, I can just go around by foot from my guest house.


Rizal Park este Quezon Park ;)


That is Quezon Park. I actually wondered why, because it more seemed like it was a park dedicated to Jose Rizal. Pakialamera lang ang peg. Haha!


see what I'm talking about? :)


one fine day at the park


Just across the street is the Dumaguete Church and Belfry. I was at the right place at the right time. The 9:00 am mass has just started, so I went inside to hear it. I considered it a blessing while on the road.


Dumaguete Church



the Belfry

I went back to the park and hang out with some locals there to get a feel of their daily lives. People watching is one of my favorite things to do when in I travel.


with shy locals eating lunch at the park





I explored Siliman University next. It's pretty much like UP, which is an open university. I entered the SU campus and took photos of its colonial structures.

Siliman University Church


Like UP, the buildings are also called halls. The university campus is so huge. I only explored two parts of it.


Oriental Hall


Occidental Hall


Just like Negros, it has Oriental and Occidental hehe. :)


i love the architecture of this


too bad the museum is closed :(


the founder of Siliman University

Wandering around, made me hungry. I consulted my map and located where Sans Rival is. That's where I had my late lunch. I opted for a rice meal even if all locals seemed to be ordering pasta. I always wanted rice for lunch.


pinoy bistek


salad nicoise


The food was delish! No wonder the place is always packed. I loved the salad. Their vinaigrette just killed it for me. Yum! Then I reserved some silvanas and other pastries for pasalubong hehe. :)

After my hearty meal, I chilled out and walked in Rizal Boulevard promenade. I noticed that most people were flocking there in the afternoon. I was never really alone.


contemplating by the bay


that parachute-like cloud :)

I had fun people and cloud-formation watching hehe. :) But seriously, you made many realizations when you travel alone.


Dumaguete Port from a far


So there, that's how I spent my day in Dumaguete. I loved the city. It is clean, peaceful and it is really true - they have gentle people. I never felt afraid of anything or anyone. For me, this is the safest city in the Visayas area that I've been to. It was just a short stay I know. For sure, I'll be back to explore more of it in the future.



This is Part 4 of my Siquijor travel series.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spellbounding Siquijor


Day 2

I woke up early to catch the sunrise. I am a sunrise-sunset person. I don’t know, but I really felt connected to the universe when I watch them. I always feel a deeper appreciation of life as I watch them unfold. I’m weird that way. So I took my early morning walk at the beach while waiting for the sun to rise.

a placid morning

i love how the skies reflect on the water

a fisherman with his early catch

Ate Lorna arranged a tour for US the night before. I’m no longer alone weee! :) She asked me if I’m okay to join another group since I’m just one. I told her that would be great because that would mean I have people to split the tour cost with and I have someone to talk and share experiences with. My tour buddies turned out to be three siblings from Bacolod, KKK - Kenneth, Karen and Kristine. They were staying in one of the rooms downstairs. They were all nice and friendly, so we got along well.

We had our driver/tour guide fetch us early, around 6:00 am. My tour mates we’re leaving that afternoon and will try to catch the 2:00 pm ferry bound to Dumaguete that’s why.

the famous old balete tree

Our first stop was the century-old balete tree. I really didn’t see it as creepy. In fact, I find it pretty. :)

fish spa: fail!


There are so many fishes in the pond there that we attempted for a “fish spa”. But they didn’t seem to like it. Haha! They totally ignored our feet. When we feed them some crushed biscuits, they went gaga over it.

fish feeding: success! :)


Then we passed by the Lazi Church and Convent. We decided to just go back after visiting the falls hoping that the mass will end after we’re done swimming. We went straight ahead to Cambugahay Falls. Seeing the dark blue green water from the stairs made us very excited so we hurried up on our way down to the falls.

Cambugahay Falls

It was beautiful. We were so happy to be her first visitors for the day. The falls was all ours! Woohoo! We took so many photos before giving in to the call of the falls. I had no photos in the waterfalls, my waterproof camera is still broken. Sob sob :(

the second layer of the falls


and the third :)

We went back to the Church and Convent. Still, we were not able to enter the church and check it out because we were wearing shorts err and there was an on-going mass.

Lazi Church

Luckily, the elders manning the former convent let us in despite of our soaking wet clothes. It was a lovely structure. It has nice interiors. It could have been nicer if it was very well-maintained like the ones you see in Ilocos.

Lazi Convent

where the choir used to sing... very nostalgic

i just have to take a photo of this

After this, we went to Salagdoong Beach in the town of Maria. The forest reserve on our way to the beach is already quite a scenery. I wanted to take photos but it seems that my tour mates were not interested so we went straight to the beach.


the captivating Salagdoong Beach


We were greeted by the same aquamarine crystal clear waters that I saw at the port. It was splendid. Again we took pictures first before we get into the water. Haha!

what's not to love?

I did not “swim” for long. Gosh, the water is too deep for a non-swimmer like me! Without a life-jacket and with strong waves, it was definitely a risk to take. So I just bummed around and watched a few who were brave enough to cliff dive. One of my tour mates, Karen was the only one in our group who had the courage to do it.

Karen doing the jump of her life :)

I don’t fear heights, what I fear is drowning because I don’t know how to swim. One of so many things I can’t do because I can’t swim. :(

After this, we didn’t go to Cang Isok’s or the oldest house in Siquijor anymore. My companions were pressed for time and that’s fine with me. I saw it in photos and it doesn’t interest me that much anyway. We dropped them off to Larena Pier and wished them well. As for me, I went back to San Juan. We dropped by at San Juan Church for a top-view of the Capilay Spring Park.

San Juan Church

Capilay Spring Park view from San Juan Church Patio

Then we went down to the park itself. I did not take a dip anymore because it looked dirty. I’m not really maarte (sensitive). It was just really dirty (I mean literally, there are floating trashes in the water). According to Kuya Pampi (our driver), there had been a party last night and it seemed like nobody did the cleaning afterwards. I felt really sad about it. Sigh.
wished it was clean enough for me to swim

That was my last stop for the day. After a refreshing hot-shower and an early dinner, I once again lazed around the beach.

this is life :)

I waited for the sunset and for the stars to come out one by one while listening to the sound of crashing waves. That’s what I call a sweet life. Mi dolce vita.


Beach Rating: ♥♥♥


This is Part 3 of my Siquijor travel series.