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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cagbalete Island Travel Guide


3D2N Cagbalete Sample Itinerary




where did the tide go?

 
This is based on my own trip itinerary (IT). From Manila, ride a bus going to Lucena City. There are buses bound to Lucena in both Pasay and Quezon City (Cubao and Kamias) Bus Stations . Some famous Lucena bound buses are JAC Liner and Lucena Lines.


Day 1

300am – ETD Manila

600am – ETA Lucena Grand Terminal

           – Eat Breakfast

700am – ETD Lucena

830am – ETA Mauban

           – Shop for food and other goods in public market

           – Just walk to Pantalan (Port) from the market

930am – Board passenger boat

1000am – ETD Mauban Port

1045am – ETA Cagbalete Island/Sabang Port

             – Start trekking to the resort  (trekking time depends on your chosen resort)

1130am – Check In

             – Set up camp and prepare lunch

1215nn – Lunch time!

100pm – Rest - Siesta - Swim - Photo Ops – Beach Bum

500pm – Sunset

600pm – Prepare Dinner

700pm – Dinner - Stargazing

1000pm – Lights out


Day 2

600am – Prepare Breakfast

700am – Breakfast

800am – Explore - Photo Ops

1100am – Prepare Lunch

1200nn – Lunchtime!

100pm – Rest - Siesta - Swim - Photo Ops – Beach Bum

500pm – Sunset

600pm – Prepare Dinner

700pm – Dinner - Stargazing

900pm – Lights out


Day 3

530am – Break camp and pack up things

630am – Trek back to the port

700am – Board the boat

730am – ETD Cagbalete

845am – ETA Mauban Port

           – Go to Bus Terminal

900am – ETD Mauban

1030am – ETA Lucena Grand Terminal

             – Lunch and Buy Pasalubong

1200nn – Board Bus to Manila

1200nn  – ETD Lucena

300pm – ETA Manila



Other info you need to know for Cagbalete trip planning:

- Buses to Lucena leaves hourly. Aircon bus fare is PHP 215.00.
- Jac Liner Kamias has buses that goes from Manila directly to Mauban. There are just two trips though, 5:00 AM and 1:00 PM respectively.
- Buses from Lucena to Mauban are just ordinary. They also leave every hour. Fare is PHP 60.00.
- Schedules of passenger boat going to Cagbalete daily are 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM ONLY.
- Passenger boat fare is PHP 40.00.
- If you are a large group or if you did not make it to the public boat, renting a private one is an option. But it is pricey. Large boat (good for 20 pax) is ranging from PHP 4500-5000 round trip. I don't have info about smaller ones.
- Mauban market has everything. You may buy your food and goods their for cheap prices.
- Passenger boat from Cagbalete to Mauban schedules are 7:00 AM and 1:00 PM ONLY. Same fare.
- If you don't want to look around Mauban town for pasalubong, you may just do your shopping in Lucena Grand Terminal like we did.
- PHP 1500.00 per pax is enough for a 3D2N getaway here. It already covers everything. :)

Happy planning! ☺




This is Part 3 of my Cagbalete travel series.

Where to Stay in Cagbalete: MVT Sto Niño


This was our first choice ever since we planned the trip with my girlfriends. One, it is less crowded. Two, one of my friends has already stayed at the other resort and she didn't like how their reservation was handled. Three, the other one is more expensive.

Booking a reservation with them is easy. We just texted the contact number in their website and they confirmed it. As if we really need a "reservation" hehe. We just pitched our tent in the ground.



the main resort house


The resort is very spacious. The main house has the fan and aircon rooms. Outside their are nipa huts. In front of the house, is a volleyball court. You can pitch your tent just anywhere within the resort area if you prefer to go camping.



sto nino altar


The main house's interior is very native. The walls and ceiling are made of sawali. The doors and floors are also made up of wood.



nice interior


The rooms are average but spacious. They were also very clean. Pillow cases and sheets will be provided when you check in, for sure it is crisp and clean.



standard rooms



They have common lavatory and bathrooms both in ground and second floors. Even if there are many guests, they make sure your needs will be fulfilled.



common area


The shower rooms and the toilets are well-cleaned and maintained.



shower room



toilet


If they are fully-booked or if you just prefer camping, you may pitch your tent anywhere in their vicinity.


camping grounds


We had fun staying here. It was so peaceful! I don't mind the long trek to get here. The caretakers were very nice and helpful. We were provided everything we needed. The entire place is clean which I liked very much. It is an excellent hideaway from the city. If you don't mind some trekking and you want an unadulterated union with nature, I highly suggest this resort. :)



Accomodation Information:
MVT Sto Niño Resort
Contact Person: Fely Ustare
Contact Nos: 09277774828, 09217275398
Website:  http://mvtstoninoresort.net/
Room Rates: PHP 1500 for Fan Rooms; PHP 2000 for Aircon Rooms; PHP 1000 Nipa Hut; PHP 250 for Tent Pitching (rooms and nipa huts are good for 4 pax)


Accomodation Rating: ♥♥♥♥




This is Part 2 of my Cagbalete travel series.

The Quiet Charm of Cagbalete Island


It was the Chinese New Year long weekend. We wanted to have a quick getaway somewhere not too far from Manila. We decided to go to Cagbalete Island. Our original plan was to go there with my bitches (when I say bitches, it means my closest girl friends haha!). But then, that plan did not push through and was canceled. So it became my first getaway for this year (2012).


Day 1

There are only 2 passenger boat trips going there everyday. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. We chose the former for us to have more time in the island. We rode the 3:00 AM bus going to Lucena that early Saturday morning.We arrived in Lucena Grand Terminal at around 6:00AM. Lucena is the capital city of Quezon province. The grand terminal has buses going to different towns of Quezon. Cagbalete is located at the town of  Mauban.

We still had a lot of time, so we ate breakfast in one of the fast food restaurants before riding the bus bound to Mauban. After an hour and a half of winding roads and super cold and damp air (no aircon bus), we were dropped of near the Pantalan which I think is the last stop. It is near their public market. We were overwhelmed by the fresh produce and catch that we saw in the market. Fruits, vegetables and seafood! They are dirt cheap. We shopped even if it started to pour. We ended up with a big bag full of food supplies.



Gat Uban Port


We went to the port right after we bought everything that we're going to need. All we knew was, we'll never get hungry in the island. Haha. We were an hour early so we still have a lot of time to kill. We were one of the first passengers to arrive. While waiting, we sampled the food that local vendors were selling that morning. We had pancit habhab (Lucban) and some kakanin. They were yummy! :)



trying out the local biko, yum!


Many passengers started to arrive just before 10:00 AM. We noticed that Cagbalete is also famous locally. There were a lot of groups from nearby towns heading to the island for a quick vacation as well. When all passengers were aboard we left to sail in the Pacific. The waves were big! I felt a little bit dizzy. In 45 minutes, we were there already. Since the tide in this island is always unbelievably low, we have to be transferred to a smaller boat to get to the shore.



trekking starts now


I forgot Kuya's name. One of the boatman was nice enough to guide us going to our chosen resort, MVT Sto. Niño. It was the farthest among the three resorts there, so we very much appreciated his efforts to take us there. He even carried my backpack for me even though it's not that heavy.



trees, grass, cow... pure nature


I was able to enjoy my hike more because I'm not carrying anything but my camera. I let them walk ahead of me so I can relish the surroundings and take photos without delaying them hehe. I knew we were getting near the beach resort as the trails were getting watery. It means high tide is coming in.



the wet trail


It was a 30-40 minute hike to the resort. I have to agree, this one is the farthest among the resorts there. Boats cannot dock in this part of the island. It won't make any difference. You'd still have to walk a kilometer in the sand if you do. Kuya endorsed us to the resort's caretakers who were equally nice. We were thankful to him and gave him a "tip" for his kindness. Again, helping the locals are one of those things I feel good about when traveling.


We immediately head to the kitchen to prepare our lunch. We skipped setting up our tent, food must come first haha.


paksiw kang bata ka! :)



We set up our camp after eating. We were their first guests for that weekend so the resort was all ours for a day. The other guests arrived Sunday. When our tent was all set, we laid down and we were slowly swept to dreamworld. Yes, we slept for the rest of the day! Maybe because we were too tired from the transit and we hardly had sleep the other night because we left Manila at 3:00 AM. Also, who could resist the cool sea breeze, the rustling leaves and the crashing waves? It sounded lullaby to me. :)


I woke up with the weird sound an insect was making. I was not even sure if it's an insect. It was the first time I heard something like that. It was a little creepy. I woke my partner up to prepare our dinner. It was really dark because there's no electricity there. The resort owner only have generators.


Day 2

The following day, I woke up very early. I want to take a walk and see the entire resort.



a few steps away from our tent


The mangrove population in this part of the island is bountiful. We placed our tents in the middle of the trees and beside a hut, just so we can evacuate immediately if a heavy rain pours (which they say is frequent here).



our camp


It was a bit gloomy but very peaceful morning. The skies were majorly gray. The sun didn't come out in all it's glory. The sea however, was so calm.



hues of blue and gray


It was cold in the morning. I had chills while walking on the shore. Not so far from our camp site was a creek. It fills up when it's high tide, then it drains down when low tide. It was so serene. I only heard birds chirping. The view was whimsical. 



love the shadow reflections in the water


It reminded me of that creek in Anawangin where I also bathe haha. It's cute that all those coconut trees where lined up in almost straight line.



coconut creek?


This was where the creek meets the ocean. The water was so cold and clear. We had fun floating here and letting the tide current carry us in its direction. There are deep parts in this area. I guess it depends on how strong the water flow was.




it was fun here :)


When I reached the end of the shore, I walked back to the resort with some locals. The kids here has bicycles and they use it in sea water! Aren't those going to tarnish?



local kids with their bikes


Back in camp, I woke my partner up again for us to have breakfast. I told him I want to eat near the creek. Of course he obliged haha. He knows how I love being one with nature.



After lunch, we decided to go for a swim. Another set of guests arrived but they opted to stay in a hut at the other side of the resort so we're still alone in our spot.


tranquility


It was low tide and I don't want to walk a kilometer just to swim in the ocean.



are you seeing a glimpse of the ocean?


I don't! So, we just took photos and settled at the estuary. We had fun by the way. :)


this changed my idea of low tide



Day 3

The next morning, we prepared to leave already. We broke the camp and bid goodbye to the couple caretaker who looked after us for 2 days. They were so kind to us. We hurriedly started trekking back to the port. We must be on the 7:00 AM boat. It was high tide that morning, so we got a little wet on our hike back.




river crossing


Since we no longer have a guide that time, we just have to rely on our own memory. I suck at it, good thing my partner is good at remembering things. If not, we'll probably get lost haha.



pretending i remember the trail haha :)


We were successful on our hike! We found Sabang, but when we got there we don't know where to pass going to the port. We're so thankful to the locals because they were pointing us to the right direction without us asking. We probably looked lost haha.


We saw these cute horses on our way back to the port.



wow layered tail haha :)


I actually noticed that the island locals were all warm and friendly. While passing by their houses, they will greet you and point you to the right direction. They will say hi or hello to you. The kids however, were very timid to visitors. When we had merienda in one of the mini-stores there, we gave some kids biscuits and candies. They shyly accepted it.


Cagbalete is the perfect place if you want a quick escape from the maddening city. It is near, very serene and it has kind people. Even though I haven't been able to swim "swim", it didn't matter. I am just up for a total nature trip and a stress-free environment. If you're into a party beach and all the noise it makes, then don't go here. It's not for you. I highly recommend this to people like me who enjoys peaceful moments with nothing but nature.


Beach Rating: ♥♥

I only gave it a two because you have to walk too far before you can swim in the ocean. Otherwise, it's all good.


This is Part 1 of my Cagbalete travel series.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Puerto Princesa and El Nido Travel Guide


6D5N Puerto Princesa-El Nido Sample Itinerary


El Nido


This is based on my own trip itinerary (IT). From Manila (MNL), I flew to Puerto Princesa City (PPS). This is a very detailed IT as I already included necessary info and instructions.


Part I: Puerto Princesa

Day 1

600am – Check-in @ the airport

800am – ETD MNL

920am – ETA PPS

– Walk outside the airport for a cheaper fare going to your hotel (if your hotel does not offer free pick up)

945am – Check in to your chosen accommodation


City Tour

1000am – Start of Tour

-Palawan Butterfly Garden
-Palawan Crocodile Farm
-Rancho Sta. Monica

1200nn – Lunch

-Baker's Hill
-Puerto Princesa Baywalk
-Plaza Cuartel
-Immaculada Concepcion Cathedral

400pm – Back to Inn

600pm – Dinner

*You may hire a tric for a City Tour for PHP 400-500.
** Hotels/Inns normally offers tours as well. City Tour's fixed rate is PHP 600. This is a joining group tour so you don't have control over your time duration in each attractions.



Day 2


Underground River Tour + Ugong Rock

800am – Tour starts

500pm – End of tour

500pm – Back to City proper

800pm – Dinner

Another option is Honda Bay Island Hopping.


*Like the City Tour, hotels/inns normally offer these tours.
**Underground River Tour's fixed rate is PHP 1500. Honda Bay Tour's fixed rate is PHP 1400.
***If you're a solo or a couple traveler, it's better and more practical to join the group tours. But if you are a large group, it's much cheaper if you will just rent your own transportation for the tours. You may contact Kuya Roy (see his number below) if you need one. :)


Part II: El Nido


Day 3

500am – Wake up!

515am – Check Out

530am – Go to bus terminal in San Jose

6:00am – ETD PPS

100pm – ETA ENI (El Nido)

130pm – Check in to your guest house

200pm – Free time
– Island Hopping Tour Shopping/Reservation

500pm – Sunset at Corong-corong

700pm – Dinner


Day 4

700am – Breakfast

900am – Tour A

– 7 Commando
– Simizu Island
– Big Lagoon
– Small Lagoon
– Secret Lagoon

400pm – End of tour

500pm – Free time

700pm – Dinner


Day 5

700am – Breakfast

900am – Tour C

– Secret Beach
– Star Beach
– Hidden Beach
– Matinloc Island
– Helicopter Island

400pm – End of tour

500pm – Free time

700pm – Dinner


Day 6

500am – Wake up and prepare

600am – ETD ENI

1200nn – ETA PPS

100pm – Lunch

– Pasalubong shopping

300pm – Go to the airport

325pm – Check in @ PPS Airport

525pm – ETD PPS

640pm – ETA MNL


Accommodation Information:

Puerto Princesa:
Dallas Inn
I have a separate entry for this info:
http://itraveltolive.blogspot.com/2012/07/where-to-stay-in-puerto-princesa-dallas.html

El Nido: 
I am not recommending the place we stayed at in El Nido. Simply because their customer service sucks. The name is Og's Pension House.



Tour Van Driver and Services:

Contact: Roy Pamintuan
Contact No.: +63-906-606-4895


Summary of Expenses:

Airport and Transportion:

150.00 - Taxi to NAIA T2
200.00 - T2 terminal fee
500.00 - Tric rental for whole day
485.00 - Roro Bus to El Nido
  10.00 - Tric from Bus Terminal to Town
500.00 - Lexus Van from El Nido to Puerto Princesa
  12.00 - Jeep to City Center
  20.00 - Tric to PPS Airport
  40.00 - PPS Terminal Fee
150.00 - Taxi from T3 to Home
---------
2067.00 - Total Airport and Transpo Fees

Accommodation:

1200.00 - 2N in Puerto Princesa
2700.00 - 3N in El Nido
---------
3900.00 (divided in 2pax)
1950.00 - Total Accommodation Fees

Tour Fees:

   25.00 - Butterfly Garden Entrance
   40.00 - Croc Farm Entrance
1300.00 - Underground River Tour
   10.00 - CR fee
  200.00 - Ugong Rock Entrance
1400.00 - El Nido Tours A&C
    50.00 - Boatman Tip
---------
3025.00 - Total Tour Costs

Food:

1288.00 - Total Food Expenses


Total Computation:

2067.00 - Airport and Transpo
1950.00 - Accommodation
3025.00 - Tour
1288.00 - Food
----------
8330.00  - Total Trip Expenses


I always love bringing pasalubong to my family and friends. I ended up spending PHP 1797.00 for that. Most of it went to fresh seafood that I want my Mom to cook hehe.

8330.00 - Total Trip Expenses
1797.00 - Pasalubong
-----------
10,127.00 - My overall expenses


***Again, buying pasalubong is optional. If you're on a very tight budget, skip shopping! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Enthralled by El Nido


El Nido Tour C

We chose to do the most famous Tours A and C in El Nido. We only have two days for island hopping so we just picked the most recommended ones. On the second day of our tour, we just have one tour mate. A guy from Finland named Veko. It was almost like a private tour because there were only three of us. Great! :)

We had the same boat and crew, except for one guy. It was another fine day for island hopping and I was so thrilled once again. The islands included in this tour are farther away than those that we explored in Tour A.



that lonesome rock - i wanna give it a hug :)


Our first halt for that day was the Secret Beach. The name suits it well. You can never really tell where it is haha!



can you tell where the beach is?


Our guide saw a big sea turtle around the area. So the boys left me on the boat and they all dove in to the water for a glimpse of that elusive sea turtle. It was just me and the boat captain left. The waves were too strong and we may be swayed to the big limestone rocks, we decided not to wait for them and to just dock ahead.


Oh-my-gosh, another patch of paradise! It looks like Alex Garland's description of The Beach, only smaller.



smaller version of  The Beach :)


I immediately stripped off to my swimsuit, wore my aqua shoes and jumped from the boat to join the snorkelers already having a grand time.



perfect snorkeling site



Kids can also enjoy snorkeling here because there are parts which are just waist deep. It's so amazing how there are many sea creatures here when the water is too shallow.



finding Nemo :)


The water visibility was absurd! It was marvelously clear! I snorkeled for almost two hours there. I never noticed how much time had passed.



happy snorkeler


At last, I felt exhausted haha. My arms were sore already when I stopped. I can stay there all day.



see? everyone left and i was still there haha!


It was lunch time already when we left the Secret Beach and we don't have our lunch prepared yet. Our boatmen looked for the perfect spot for our lunch. Minutes after, we got off to Star Beach.



Star Beach from a far


We docked on this part of the island even if it's rockier. The other side was crowded and shadeless. While our food was being cooked, we went snorkeling. We were so right to bring our aqua shoes here. Lime stones and reefs in this area are very sharp but that also mean more marine life. :)



this kind of fish has bitten me!


I don't know what they are called but this fish is so fierce! I was bitten by it, three times. You will barely notice them because they we're similarly colored like the corals and they don't swim as much. They are usually staying in the rocks. When you get to their territory without you noticing it, that's when they attack. I told our guide about it and he said they are really territorial. They gave me three scars in my legs. One of them has a shape of their mouth. Hehe.



another reason to wear aqua shoes


There are many sea urchins too. If you're not careful, you may also get stung by this creature as well. I was so thankful I did not step on one.



that glistening beauty


That was our view while eating lunch. I can't remember how many times I've been astonished by El Nido's charm.


When we're done eating, I decided to trek to the other side of the island. Behind some limestone cliffs, you'll find this flourishing greenery.



lush paradise


Walking further towards the beach, you'll see this stunning wonderland! And I was alone there. It was all mine!



am I in Paradise?


I was so amazed! My heart was literally jumping up and down for joy. No exaggeration. That was how I felt. The three hues of the water was bewildering. From aquamarine, to turquoise, to sapphire. Just wow... If only we can just build a house anywhere we want to. I'll build mine here. Just imagine waking up every single day seeing this.


i can stay here forever


If you want to snorkel, stay at the other side. If you just want to swim and sunbathe, stay at this side. This island have something for everyone. I ran to the water singing my heart out. But I was awaken from my dream so soon when our guide looked for me and called me. He said it was time for us to go to the next island.


Our next halt was the Hidden Beach. Geez, it was really hidden! You won't see the passage in the limestone barriers from afar. When you get closer, you'll see a hole submerged in water. The water level depends on the tide. When we got there, it was high tide. My problem was not just the tide. The part where the entrance is, is very deep. For a non-swimmer like me, it was so scary.



our guide checking out the sea bottom


Since the water was so clear, I can see how deep it was. It freaked me out even more. I was dragged inside by our guide. I was holding on to his hand and we swam together under the water. Wooooh!



yes, under this hole!


I was so relieved that there was a shallow part inside!



i found the Hidden Beach! :)


Yey, I can swim and snorkel hehe. There were fishes in this enclosed basin.



a-ok :)


Oh no, we have to go through this submerged tunnel again. I was so thankful to our guide who'd been with me and ensured my safety.



beyond this is magic :)


After that death-defying experience, were off to our next stop. Sailing in El Nido feels like you're in a dream. Everywhere you look is magical.


i want more of this :)


We got off Matinloc Island next. This one is different among those we first saw. It has unfinished structures that could've been promising if it pushed through. The architecture of the beach house looks great. We asked our guide what happened to this. According to them, the owner has been harassed by a powerful politician giving them no choice but to discontinue their planned resort. Such a sad story.



the awesome view at Matinloc's mini jetty


There is a viewing point at the top of a cliff at the right side of the island. Just be careful climbing up. The lime stones has rough and sharp edges.



overlooking ocean view


Nothing much we can do here and the Tao Expedition group has arrived. It was there turn to navigate the island.


We went to our last stop for the day which is the Helicopter Island. It looks like a helicopter from afar but when you get closer, it more looked like a whale.




helicopter beach


The beach is not as exquisite as the others. The sand was fine but not white. The waves were bigger too. We didn't swim here anymore. We just lazed around and laid down at the sand.



me having fun :)


Our second El Nido island hopping tour was a blast! If we only had more days to spend here, we'll probably do all the tours so we can see all the islands and get mesmerized by all of them. Well, the good thing about it is, we have a reason to be back here.


I know I've been complaining about the drudging trip from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, but every thing I've been through was so worth it! It is a tropical eden indeed. Off the quiet town of El Nido are paradise islands waiting to be explored. I guarantee, you'll be swooning over and over again.



Beach Rating:  ♥♥♥♥




This is Part 2 of my El Nido travel series.