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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Great Sta Cruz Island: Zamboanga City's Famed Pink Sand Beach

3/31/2015 03:24:00 PM 2 Comments
We only had a one full day in Zamboanga City and we didn't let this chance pass without visiting the Great Sta Cruz Island. I was actually hoping to visit Little Sta Cruz Island as well but we learned that it is off-limits to visitors. You have to secure a permit (usually for research purposes) before being granted access to it. Okay, madali naman kaming kausap. And I don't like complicated things haha! ;)

Isla Santa Cruz Grande: Hermosa!

The Tourism Office pointed us to Paseo del Mar to inquire about this trip. We just walked-in and asked. The boat rental costs Php 1,000 and its capacity is up to 10 pax. That already includes 2 police escorts which is required to ensure the safety of the visitors. Exciting, isn't it? ;)

quite a nice day to sail, eh?

It is quite steep for the 3 of us, it will cost us Php 335 each. But then it was a weekday, so the chance of us getting additional companions was really slim. The heck, we just went ahead and crossed the sea. We also paid Php 20 each for Entrance Fee and Php 5 each for Terminal Fee. After sailing 4 kilometers from downtown, here we are!

touchdown Great Sta Cruz Island

It did not disappoint. It is a beauty. It has crystal clear waters and a long stretch of pinkish-white sand. The beach is decorated with colorful vintas and it has trees which provide natural canopy shade from the sun.

just chilling after sailing under the sun
They have cottages for rent starting from Php 100 to 500 depending on the size. The caretakers also offers fresh crabs and other seafood catch, in case you didn't bring your own food or if you simply love seafood.

small cottages
We brought our own packed lunch for this trip. We already spent too much for the boat rental so might as well spend less on food haha. Frugal friends that travel together, stays together. Pauso ko lang yun. ;)

You can also play beach volley here if you're looking for something else to do. We were actually the only guests in the island for that day, so you won't see any other people in the pictures. It was all so quiet and serene.

volleyball, anyone?

As soon as lunch was over, we explored the island. Look at what we found! A bunch of dried leaves exquisitely scattered in the sand under the trees. We all looked at each other, thinking of the same thing: autumn parody photo shoot! Haha!

there goes our autumn in Zamboanga ;)
The following never occurred to us: What if there is a snake under those leaves? Or big ants or a scorpion? Or what if those leaves were just covering a big hole or something? I know it was crazy. We all just willingly took turns lying over those pile of leaves without checking it. Boy, that was fun! ;)

trust your instincts, be safe

We continued our exploration to the east side of the island until we saw this signage. Can I tell you a secret? We went beyond it, shhhh... Just the three of us, without a guide/police escort. But we didn't went past through the curve to circumnavigate the island. The other side of the island is well... facing Basilan. And we don't want us to suddenly "disappear" on that side where nobody can see us. You can be adventurous, but you can't be reckless.

sea urchin... not!

This island used to be a very popular destination. But after series of kidnappings that happened in the 70s and 80s, tourist numbers went downhill. At present, bombings in Zamboanga City also scare off travelers to visit this island. Let me tell you this: take away all your fears, it was worth it! If we'll be allowed to camp here overnight, I will! Imagine waking up to this every morning.

such a gorgeous beach

We reached this somehow creepy place when we passed the warning signage. We figured that it is a traditional Muslim cemetery.

Blairwitch-like setting
The island used to be uninhabited and was a sacred traditional burial ground for the ethnic groups in the area -the Samas and the Badjaos.

a Badjao tomb

They are nomadic sea dwellers or sea gypsies. In their culture, they should bury their dead near the sea since they live in the sea or in the coasts. Notice the boat-shaped wooden carvings? It's easy to tell they are people of the sea.

do i see things you don't see?
I don't know but that particular tomb in the picture above looks like Pieta to me. You know that Michaelangelo artwork depicting Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus? That one. Am I weird?

hello beach!
It feels more eerie the longer we stay there, so we headed back to the pristine beach after taking some photos. We walked back to where our escorts can see us and enjoyed the super clean and clear water. Wee!!!

we have the beach to ourselves! :)

The water is so clear you don't even need goggles or a snorkel to see what's under the water! The next 2 photos were just taken while we were simply standing there.

I was so happy seeing the fishes just swim with us. They didn't swim away and was not bothered by our presence at all. They even get near us as if they wanted to play with humans.

friendly fishes!

Oh and did you see the crushed pink corals in the sand? That's what makes this beach's sand pink. Actually, it wasn't that pink anymore because according to the caretaker the remaining red organ pipe corals were destroyed by recent illegal coral reef mining activities in the area. Quite sad.

loved this beach!

What made me think that the sea water here is so clean is that, after swimming, we still went around downtown sightseeing without taking a shower or changing our clothes haha! We never felt a single itch in our body. In other beaches, even staying a few minutes in the water will make your skin feel itchy. That's really something for me hehe.

obligatory group shot before leaving the island
Overall, we had so much fun! I highly recommend you visit this beach when you're in Zambo City. Though I've been to countless beautiful beaches in the Philippines, it still delighted me. It has its own charm.

you won't regret it! ;)
I couldn't say that it's 100% safe to travel in Zamboanga City but I can tell you that the city government is doing their best to secure the place. We never felt any threat while we were there.

Special thanks to our police escorts that day. Thank you, Sirs!

Most importantly, I think it's also about how you see things. Don't go if you will just be paranoid that something might happen. But when you go, go with all your heart.  Bring with you a happy disposition and an open mind.

"Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them." ~Rabindranath Tagore

This is Part 2 of my Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi travel series.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Zamboanga City in a Day: Things To See and Do

3/29/2015 07:43:00 PM 0 Comments
After reaching Batanes in the north, we've been itching to reach the southernmost province in the Philippines which is Tawi-Tawi. There is no direct flight from Manila so it is imperative that we transit through Zamboanga City. It's superb because we haven't been there as well. Zamboanga as a perfect stop over destination? We might be the only people who thought about it that way. Oh yes, we booked it without any hesitation.

I tried to convince some more friends to join me on this trip. They got excited with the idea but later on decided not to push through. I understand them. It's a part of Mindanao that some people are afraid to visit. It ended up with just me, Beau and our good friend Richard. We took the 5:35 AM flight so that when we get there, we still have time to sight see or to go on a day tour.

Zamboanga International Airport
Zamboanga City is just like any other city in the Philippines. We didn't feel fear while walking the streets day and night. Yup, we normally just walk around because for me that's how you get to know a city. The only difference that you will notice is the obvious presence of police and armed forces everywhere. And I'm telling you upfront, no - it isn't scary out there.

Jimmy's Satti Haus

The first thing we did after checking in at Jardin de La Vina was eat! We looked for this highly recommended local restaurant, Jimmy's Satti Haus. We're curious as to why it is so popular in this city. We found out that it was actually a satay or sate, a dish that originated in Indonesia which is also popular in Malaysia. I don't have an idea how it evolved into "satti".

chicken satti @Jimmy's
They serve it with tamuh (sticky rice in woven coconut leaves) almost floating in sweet and spicy sauce. I find the beef sati really expensive for it's size so we opted for the chicken one. Well, to tell you frankly - I wasn't that impressed. But for Php 60.00 per head for a meal, it was all good.

Lantaka Hotel by the Sea

We decided to just walk around the city afterwards. While looking for the City Tourism Office, we found ourselves in Lantaka Hotel. The view at the back of the hotel is nice. We just entered their premises and took some pictures there hehe.

sea view at the back
The city tourism office is just next door to it. We learned from them that there were no more vintas catering to the tourists. The vintas are now only available during their annual Hermosa Festival which happens every October. Sad.

Fort Pilar

Fort Pilar is a major landmark in Zamboanga City. It was built by the Spanish colonial government back in 1635. They used it as their military defense fortress against pirates. Its original name was Real Fuerza de San Jose and was later on changed into Real Fuerza de Nuestra SeƱora del Pilar de Zaragoza. It was tiring to read, I know haha. ;)

historical marker
It now houses a regional museum of the National Museum of the Philippines.

fort entrance

The fort was attacked by the Dutch in 1646 and was then abandoned by the Spanish forces. In 1718, it was once again built by the Spaniards and that was when it was given its longer name in honor of Our Lady of Pillar, the patron virgin of Spain.

shot from the courtyard
The fort has so much historical significance. After it was rebuilt, it was bombed by the British troops, witnessed the Spanish-American War, conquered by the Japanese forces during the WWII until it was reclaimed by the Americans and finally turned over to the Filipinos.

The National Museum took part of its restoration after it was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1973.

The museum is located at the second floor of Building II.

The exhibit is all about the rich culture and history of Southern Philippines (Mindanao).

You will also see some of the things that were being traded with our neighboring countries in the South such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Barter trading is still being practiced in this part of the Philippines.

I'm glad that the museum looks very well maintained. Good job, Zamboanga City government and residents! :)

make a wish!
There is a big well in the courtyard. I don't know if it has significance to the place but it's also something that will catch your attention.

On the eastern side of the fort, there is a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar.

Our Lady of Pillar
There is an altar in front of it where masses are being celebrated. On the left, there is a section where you can light candles and offer your prayers.

Richard, magdasal ka! ;)
It's a little different on how we do it here in Manila (for example in Baclaran). You have to buy a bunch of colorful candles from the friendly vendors outside, light them all together and then put it on what seemed to be a "griller". There are no candle holders or something like that.

our colorful lighted candles
Fort Pilar is really a must visit in Zamboanga City. There are a lot of things you will learn about the city just by visiting here. After our visit, we happened to talk to a local street sweeper outside - initially to ask for directions. He was so kind and helpful that we later on found ourselves listening to his stories about the Zamboanga Siege that happened the previous year. He even showed us the bullet holes in the walls all around the area and told us how it all happened. It was a very sobering story. I wish I can remember his name. He made our first day in Zambo City more meaningful just like that. Thank you, Kuya!

Paseo del Mar

At night, the go-to place in the city is Paseo del Mar. There is a long walkway along the breakwater, with benches at the side if you feel like just hanging out or catching the sea breeze. Local couples are also dating here haha.

This is also one of the best places to go for dinner and some drinks. There are several restaurants opening here at night. Some even have live entertainment, like bands or solo singers to serenade you while eating.

our barkada platter
Food prices are really affordable. We ate a lot that night, I swear! We also enjoyed the band performances. They also perform Spanish songs, astig! We were after all in Asia's Latin City! ;)

Canelar Barter Trade Center

One of my favorite activities when on a trip is shopping! We had so much fun shopping for souvenirs and pasalubong on our last day here.

colorful sarongs
There are so many things to choose from! From scarves, to sarongs, to imported cigarettes and other goods from Malaysia and Indonesia. Prices differs depending on the quality of the product. You can always haggle for the price. We ended up buying additional baggage allowance after shopping haha!


I wouldn't lie telling you that nothing happened while we were there. On the third day of our trip (we were already in Tawi-Tawi), 2 bombs exploded in Zamboanga City which injured 2 policemen. We didn't let that news affect us. The locals seemed unaffected, so we just did the same. We all came back in one piece and happier than ever!

I also implore you that if you haven't traveled to this part of Mindanao, please don't judge places and people from this region. Not all of them are Muslims and not all Muslims have something to do with the rebel groups. We must open up our minds to see the good in everything and everyone. Travel not only to see but to also to understand. :)

Up next is our main destination in Zamboanga City, the beautiful Great Sta Cruz Island!

"Being brave means to know something is scary, difficult and dangerous, and doing it anyway, because the possibility of winning the fight is worth the chance of losing it." ~Emilie Autumn

This is Part 1 of my Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi travel series.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Korean Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos (Old Process)

3/24/2015 11:07:00 PM 353 Comments

I guess it's been long overdue. I've memorized a number of Korean songs my sister listens to (she's a Kpop fangirl). I've watched countless Korean dramas, movies and reality shows. Can you tell that I've been hooked? Haha! Of course, all of them made me curious about the Korean culture. Though it isn't really in my travel priority list, I know time will come that I'm going to set foot in this country. I just never thought it'll be on Spring this year!

yay! spring! photo by KTO
Effective 1 March 2015, Korean Embassy has announced some major modifications on their Tourist Visa Requirements. At first, I thought it'll be a drag but after going through the actual process, I realized that it wasn't so bad.

Last updated - 01 July 2018

I guess by now you have already heard about the latest news on the new visa application procedure. Effective July 1, 2018, visa application will now be processed through designated travel agencies only. Yup, we can no longer go direct to the Embassy to apply. But the good news is, there are no changes in the requirements! You may still submit the documents enumerated below.


  1. Fully-accomplished Visa Application Form. Just follow all the instructions on page 2 of the Application Form. Put N/A for those that are not applicable.
  2. 1 piece Passport size colored picture. It should be taken within the last 6 months.
  3. Original Passport (should be valid for more than 6 months)
  4. Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (page 2)
  5. Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (If applicable, and Korean Visas will not be counted). You may check the list of OECD member countries here.
  6. Original Certificate of Employment (must include applicant's position, date hired, compensation, office address, HR land line number (cell-phone number is not allowed), HR e-mail address). In our company, it takes at least a week to get a COE. Check on yours, so you will know how much time you'll allot before your desired date of application.
  7. Original Personal Bank Certificate (must include account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB) I had no problems getting all these accomplished with BPI. They charge Php 100 for bank cert. It will be debited from your account.
  8. Bank Statement (original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months). I requested a certified true copy from BPI too. It costs Php 100 as well.
  9. Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316. Companies usually release this final week of January through first week of February annually.
  10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (only if applicable) 

Latest Update:

Starting today, July 1st 2018, Company Alphalist (Form 1604 CF with BIR received stamp) is no longer required. It may only be requested as an additional requirement for some applicants.


  • If personally invited by a Korean: Invitation Letter & Photocopy of Invitor’s Passport*
  • If invited by Company in Korea: Invitation Letter & Photocopy of Korean Company Business Permit*
*No authentication required

Starting July 1, 2015, all visa applicants who have travelled as tourist  to Korea at  least once within 5 years will be exempt  from submitting  ITR copy. Processing time will also be reduced  to 3 working days. They are still  required to apply at Window 1 or 2.

Note: These are the requirements for Filipino employees. If you fall into a different category, please check this link.

New Application Process (applicable starting July 1, 2018):

After completing the requirements, you may now proceed to your chosen accredited travel agency. I have compiled the list of the Korean Embassy's officially designated travel agencies on this post:

Accredited Travel Agencies for Korean Tourist Visa Application in the Philippines

I have visited a few of these agencies websites to check their visa processing fees. So far, it ranges from Php 800 to 1,000.

Old Application Process (applicable until end of June 2018):

After compiling all the requirements, I'm sure you are excited to go to the embassy and submit all these documents. Now what's next?

  1. You already made it to the Embassy. The first thing you have to do is to get a Guest Pass from the guard at the Entrance. You have to leave an ID in exchange of one and sign in their log book.
  2. Once you get inside, get a queue number. On the right side, there is a queue towards a desk with officers inspecting documents. That's it! Fall in line to get your number. They will determine which Window you'll be assigned to.
  3. You just have to wait for your turn on your designated window. Window 2 are for applicants without previous OECD visas and Window 3 for those who had them. I was assigned in Window 2.
  4. When it's your turn, just give them the documents along with your queue number. They will inspect it and if they're satisfied with it, no questions will be asked. They will immediately give you a claim stub with the date when you can get your passport back.
the claim stub
I was like, that's it?! It was easy breezy! I can't believe I'm done in 20 minutes! I entered at 10:05 and was out by 10:25. Daebak!

Application Time: 8:30 AM to 11:00 AM only

Processing Time
  • 3 working days for frequent travelers
  • 5 working days for first time travelers
*Extension may apply depending on the Consul's decision.

Visa Fee: 
  • 59 days (or less) stay in Korea -- GRATIS (FREE!!!)
  •  60 to 90 days stay in Korea -- PHP1,800.00


It'll be the exact same steps as the Application process, #s 1-3. Except for #4, when you get to the window - it's time for you to get your passport back. This time with your visa!

here's mine! ;)
They were so consistent. I finished everything in 15 minutes! I went in at 3:15 PM, I was out at exactly 3:30 PM. Awesomeness. Before you leave, check if everything is correct in your visa. 

Releasing Time: 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM only

Embassy Address:

Embassy of the Republic of Korea
122 Upper McKinley Road
McKinley Town Center
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634

How to Go to the Korean Embassy the Easiest Way:

  • From EDSA, you can reach the embassy in two ways.
    •  From Guadalupe MRT Station, look for the jeepney queue going to C5 or FTI. Just tell the driver to drop you at the Korean Embassy or McKinley. You will alight right in front of the embassy.
    • From Ayala MRT Station, take BGC Bus to Market Market (terminal just a few steps from the MRT station) or look for the jeepney terminal with Market-Market route. It is located at the same street as the Ayala-Washington jeepneys at the back of Shell Gas Station. Alight in Market Market and ride another jeep with C5 or FTI signboards, then follow the rest of the instruction above after riding the C5 bound jeep.
  • Going back is now easier than before! Taguig City has finally built a stoplight in C5 fronting McKinley Hill/Shell Gas Station and now has pedestrian crossing. No need to walk all the way to the distant overpass just to safely cross the highway, yay! :)
    • From the Embassy, just use the pedestrian crossing to go to the other side. Then you can already ride a jeep bound to Market Market (where you can ride the BGC Bus or jeep to Ayala) or a jeep bound to Guadalupe/EDSA.
Other Notes:

  • Application Form should be printed in  A4 size paper.
  • Validity starts on the date your visa is released and it's valid for 3 months only. Do not apply more than 3 months prior to your date of arrival in Korea.
  • You can do the application and the claiming of passports for someone else. No authorization letter or anything of that sort is needed. I was the one who submitted and claimed for my brother as well.
  • Make sure you have ALL the required information in the documents you will submit. I don't see any reason why they will deny you if you strictly followed their list of requirements.
  •  My brother has no previous international travel history. It'll be his first time to travel outside the country, but he was approved.
  • His bank account hasn't been opened for a long time too. It hasn't been 6 months old even. And yes, he was approved. Don't be put off by the 6 months ADB requirement in the bank cert.
  • I've been getting questions if it's okay to use your Payroll Account for the bank cert. My answer is yes! That was what I presented.
  • I think, as long as you can prove that you can finance your trip and that you have a stable job  here - you will be approved.
  • Family applications should be filed together at the same window, at the same time. Representative may file the visa applications of all family members. Documents for proof of relationship is a must. (eg. Marriage Contact, Birth Certificate)
  • Applicants, especially the First Time travelers, are advised to personally claim their visas. An interview with the Consul may be required before the result of the application is given.
  • Hwaiting!!! ;)


Now excuse me, my Oppa has been waiting for me for quite sometime now... Hahaha! ;)

Operation: Finding Mr. Destiny ;)

Seoul and Ji Chul oppa, here I come!!! ♥♥♥

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Where to Stay in Zamboanga City: Jardin de La Vina Hotel

3/11/2015 08:39:00 PM 0 Comments
This wasn't our first choice. We were looking to stay in a cheaper place and planned to book with them. But after reading some articles, we learned that it has been a target of terrorist groups before and was actually bombed twice already. Nyay. It was a group decision to just book another one. There were two other hotels that was being recommended by friends. One is already fully booked and the other one is not on the affordable category. We opted to search for another one and this is how we found this hotel in Agoda.

Jardin de La Vina isn't that cheap either. But based on its location and good enough reviews, we chose it among the others. The hotel is located in the heart of the city so it is very accessible. We just took a passenger jeep outside the airport with a "Canelar" sign board and we were dropped at Gov. Alvarez Ave where the hotel is located. It is so easy to reach.

We booked a Superior Matrimonial Room. The room is very spacious but dated. Even the furniture and the electronics seemed to be very old already. Anyway, the bed is big enough for 2 people which is good. It also has fresh and clean sheets and pillows. We slept well through the night. A/C is also working well.

There's also a little dining table for two. I think the hotel also offers room service so you can eat in your room. We never tried it as we were always out. The TV set is so old we never had interest to operate it. Another thing I didn't like about the room is its poor lighting and ventilation. No big deal since we just come here to rest and sleep.

The toilet and bathroom was very clean which is fantastic. Hot and cold shower are both available. Towels were provided upon check-in.

It is basically a no-frills hotel. You'll get very basic amenities, just enough for you to have a comfortable stay in the city. The staff are nice and hospitable. The place felt very safe and secured. Most of all, you can easily get whatever or go wherever you want since it is located in the city center. If these are the things you're looking for in a hotel, then this could be the right one for you.

Accommodation Information:

Jardin de La Vina Hotel
Address: 149 Governor Alvarez Avenue, City Proper, Zamboanga City, Philippines 7000
Contact No: N/A
Website: none but they can be booked through Agoda
Rates per Night: Php 750 for Superior Twin Room; Php 900 for Superior Matrimonial Room

Accommodation Rating: ♥♥♥

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Birthdaying in Bataan: Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

3/10/2015 04:53:00 PM 0 Comments
Last-minute trips. I used to hate it when friends suddenly turn up and say "let's go!" like I can drop everything right at that very second. But guess what? I learned to love those spontaneous moments. Back then I would say "what the hell?" now I would say "what time are we leaving?". ;) We didn't plan this trip. I just received an invitation 2 days before, finalized the meeting place and time and that was it. It happened to be on my birthday!

Paseo de Escolta

I met with my travel buddies in Cubao where we took the bus to Bataan. We didn't make it to the 7:00 am bus so we took the next one which departed Manila at 8:00 am. We transferred to another bus during our stopover in Pampanga because the one we took won't take us directly to the city proper of Balanga where Bataan Transport Terminal is. From Balanga, it was another 1 hour of sleepy commute to the town of Bagac.

Casa Jaen II

We woke ourselves up by having lunch before heading to our destination. Our tricycle brought us to gate of Las Casas where security guards are dressed-up as guardia civils. Well actually, all of the resort staff were dressed as if we're still in the Spanish era. Our friend Richard, took care of the registration (since it was his treat hehe). We were given a map and a brochure each and then we were free roam!

for rare antique finds, visit Antiquedades

Before we start to walk around, we claimed our welcome drink at the back of Casa Mexico (if I remembered it right). It was a plactic glass of Sago't Gulaman, which was better than nothing hehe. We were just there for a day so our plan was just to join the free heritage tour then explore the entire resort by ourselves afterwards so we can take as many photos as we want.

Casa Luna

I was not expecting too much from this resort since I knew beforehand that these old houses were just uprooted from different parts of the country and were transferred here collectively. I mean there was no feeling of nostalgia or whatsoever since it wasn't really here that these houses witnessed their glorious past.

Casa Bizantina

Though it did not made me reminisce the bygone era, I've had a few favorite houses in this resort. One of them is Casa Bizantina. I simply liked the architectural charm of this house. This house was originally built in Binondo back in 1890. During the free tour, we were able to see one of it's rooms.

Binondo Room
Binondo Room is the smallest one (42 sqm) in the house. The rate per night in this room is Php 16,000 inclusive of breakfast for two. Okay the room was grand and the bathroom has a tub  and equipped with Hermes toiletries, but still - I won't pay that much for this poorly lit, small room. But if you have too much money you don't mind getting it's real value, go try it for the experience. Oh by the way, if you want to rent the whole casa, it'll cost you Php 150,000. ;)

Casa Mexico
Another favorite of mine was Casa Mexico. Though it wasn't the original, it was beautifully rebuilt. Would you believe it was just reconstructed based on the original house's old photograph? And the materials used for it's construction were salvaged and bought from a junk shop. Amazing, isn't it?

the staircase to the terrace of Casa Mexico

Aside from old houses, there are also some sculptures and art installations around the resort premises. Each of them depicts Filipino culture and customs. Like the one below which shows palosebo, a traditional Filipino game wherein contestants will compete by climbing the greased pole and whoever gets the prize tied on top of the pole wins.

Go beat them, Chard! Haha! ;)
One historic house here was Casa Hidalgo which was built in Hidalgo St. in Quiapo back in 1867. It was once the most elegant house in the country during the Spanish regime. This mansion was used as the first campus of UP  School of Fine Arts between 1909 and 1926. Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo were the first notable artists who trained in this house. Other famous artists who later on became a product of this school as well were Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino.

Casa Hidalgo
The resort also have huge open spaces that serves as plazas like in the Hispanic period. The one below is my favorite. Back in the day, Plaza Mayor is strategically built in the center of three major institutions such as the church, the governor's palace and the law court.

Plaza Mayor de Tobias

Technically, there is no church in the vicinity yet. But there is one currently being constructed. They say it is a replica of Balanga Church.

location for picturesque weddings soon

Here's one more favorite house of mine, Casa Hagonoy. It didn't have an interesting back story like the others, but I found it really charming. I can live in this house anytime. It is gorgeous.

Casa Hagonoy

The resort is located near the shores of the West Philippine Sea and is surrounded by Umagol River. They developed some areas to make it seem like the canals of Venice (but a narrower version of it).

vumi-Venice lang haha ;)

In all fairness, it looks promising. Some casas even have direct access to these canals. I won't wonder if one day they will start offering gondola rides here.

My Verdict

As I've mentioned earlier in the post, I wasn't expecting too much from this place. I think it was a good thing that I didn't. No expectations means no disappointments. You don't go here for history. You go here for picture taking. Yes, if you like photography, most likely you will love the place. We did! I was actually impressed by quality of photos we took here.

lovely backdrop, isn't it?

It is also good for a staycation, if you can afford it. The way I see it, a night or two is enough for this resort. This place is perfect for those who seek relaxation, wants a change of scenery and likes to relive the Spanish colonial era. 

How to reach Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar via Public Transportation:
  1. From Cubao, take Genesis bus bound to Balanga. Ticket costs Php 200.00. Get off in Balanga.
  2. In Balanga, take a short walk from the bus terminal to Bataan Transport Terminal (BTT) and look for the jeepney going to the town of Bagac. Tell the driver to drop you off to Las Casas. Jeepney fare is Php 47.00.
  3. The jeepney driver will drop you to the street where you can take a tricycle going to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. It'll just be a 5-minute ride from there. It will cost you Php 10.00 each. You can just walk but I recommend taking the tric especially if it's too hot.
  4. It's the same going back. Just track back the same route. You may also ask the locals about the time of the last trip and the alternate option in case you got left by the last jeep for the day. They are very friendly and helpful! :)
*For Step 1, you may also take Bataan Transit as an alternate to Genesis. Their bus terminal is also located in Cubao. You may also take a Mariveles bound bus but it'll just drop you along the highway. You will have to take another ride to Balanga City proper to reach BTT.

Happy Birthday to Me! :)

Tipid Tip:

There is an eatery in that street before you get to the tricycle queue in the corner. We had our lunch there before heading to Las Casas. We were already expecting the food there to be really expensive, so we decided to eat out. The eatery serves good and affordable food. It doesn't have a name but it's the only one we saw there. They even let us charge our gadgets! There's a sari-sari store in front of it and a gotohan at the opposite street.

I hope you too will have a fun day in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar!

"It was a mistake to think of houses, old houses, as being empty. They were filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears, drops of blood, the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that had ebbed and flowed between the walls, into the walls, over the years. Wasn't it, after all, a kind of life?" ~Nora Roberts, Key of Knowledge

To our good friend and favorite travel bud Richard, thank you again for this day trip. We love you! Haha! :)