Northern Samar

Sometimes, deviating from the mainstream leads you to better places. That’s exactly what happened with our trip in Samar!

We booked a flight to Legazpi, and from there, traveled to Matnog, Sorsogon. Matnog welcomed us with a sign that “You are now leaving Luzon”, and we felt more excited in riding a ferry than usual.

We are headed to Biri. For early birds, there are trips which are straight to Biri at 7AM and 1PM, which costs P200. But since we came in late, we had to take the longer route by riding a ferry to Allen and a trike to Lavezares, and another small boat to Biri. The long journey did not seem to matter, upon seeing this unique and unspoiled beauty.

Yes – we had to walk under the excruciatingly hot sun, but it was okay! We even had to trek. Not being the hiker that I am, I wanted to complain. 😛 But it seems we are being transported to another world. The desert perhaps? Biri just became interesting and more than bearable.

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Island tours via habal-habal only costs P195 per day, plus P195 per tour guide. These rates are fixed and to be paid upfront in their tourism office. A habal-habal can accommodate up to 3 pax.

For our tour, we made friends with Kuya Ben (09186316993). He has been an official tour guide for more than a decade. He has stories like the alamat we were all amazed. According to him, Biri is enchanted and blessed with a goddess. The goddess protects the island, and dislikes rowdy visitors. Only fate knows what happens to them.

Anyway, after all the climbing, we decided to rest at Northern Samar’s natural pool. It’s a little secluded, and it’s only a few steps away from the strong waves of the Pacific Ocean. A little part of this pool may also be used for cliff diving. No additional fees, everything’s already included in the tour.

 

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For lodging, Kuya Ben brought us to a homestay. It costs P250 per pax for a non-AC house with 2 rooms and a private CR. I think guests are also allowed to cook, but we preferred not to, and instead, ate at Lawud.

Crabs and shellfish are served at P190. One serving is good for 2-3 persons. For those in need of anti-histamine like me, salmon is cooked for the same price, while roasted chicken stuffed with seafood is at P500. According to the owner, he encourages visitors to enjoy seafood in the island, so the prices are a little higher for meat. 😀

Surprisingly, Biri is beautiful. And it’s not at all expensive. It is perfect for the budget traveler. Biri is a must in one’s bucket list! 🙂

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(Photos from Badeth, Edwin and John.)
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Court Visit

When our Legal Counseling professor, Atty. Edna Herrera-Batacan announced court visit as one of the subject requirements, I was very much excited to comply. This the real deal. Here we are, all dreaming to become lawyers. And then suddenly, we were given a chance to fast forward that dream and experience it firsthand.

As a resident, I chose the Manila City Hall as my first stop. At 08:00 AM, I was there looking sharp. Each branch displayed their agenda for the day. And I chose one with the most schedule: Branch 41.

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Branch 41 is headed by the Honorable Rosalyn D. Mislos-Loja. The Presiding Judge is to try ten cases for the day. And like all renowned offices in the Philippines, the Court started with a prayer. Standing there with the lawyers, the witnesses and the accused made me feel exhilarated. More so, when the roll call started.

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The Court Interpreter set the proceedings in motion. This is to inform the audience of today’s public trial. This measure also checked the presence of the individuals concerned. The roll call was also a way to aid justice to the accused who have none. A lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office was on stand-by for these situations. I was impressed with this, as it upheld our Constitution’s due process:

The right to counsel means that the accused is amply accorded legal assistance extended by a counsel who commits himself to the cause for the defense and acts accordingly. The right assumes an active involvement by the lawyer in the proceedings, particularly at the trial of the case, his bearing constantly in mind of the basic rights of the accused, his being well-versed on the case, and his knowing the fundamental procedures, essential laws and existing jurisprudence. The right of an accused to counsel finds substance in the performance by the lawyer of his sworn duty of fidelity to his client. Tersely put, it means an efficient and truly decisive legal assistance and not a simple perfunctory representation.[1]

The poor must be represented. A person must be heard, before condemned.

One by one, the cases were called. Seating in front of me were women detainees from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). When one is the subject of the case, all of them stand up – because they were handcuffed to each other! The locks were only open when Judge Mislos-Loja needed their presence. This is one of the preventive measures to keep them tight.

So the trial begins. For a criminal court, Branch 41 had a sundry of cases. I heard one for the distribution and possession of methamphetamine, clearly in violation of Republic Act 9165.[2] Others are for qualified theft, estafa and even homicide.

On the same day, I witnessed different procedures. Arraignment was fast and easy! The charges were read to let the defendant know his charges. He was also given a chance to consult his lawyer. From there, the defendant will be asked his plea – guilty or not guilty. The Judge will ensure the accused knows its consequences and sets a pre-trial.

Thankfully, I was also able to observe a pre-trial. It consists of marking evidence, number of witnesses and witnesses’ names for both parties, presentation of forensic chemist, investigator, arresting officers and setting trial and hearing dates. After all these, pretrial was terminated; very much like the procedures in Dean Riano’s book.

Then again, another case showed me the trial proper. It involves qualified theft of alsa gulaman, sugar, flour and starch of a hotel. The purchasing officer has been manipulating and ballooning figures: from the 196 kilos of sugar, the officer ordered 1,850 which was impossible to consume in a month. The plaintiff’s witness was now interviewed.

As the lawyer and witness continued their talk, Judge Mislos-Loja intervened from time to time. She clarified questions which were unclear and restated the questions when the witness doesn’t seem to understand. The Judge was very attentive and provided all the help necessary to discover the truth. After the witness’ examination, the judge instructed the defendant’s lawyer to cross-examine, followed by redirect. After the witness’ day in court, the continuation of trial was set and the subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum were issued upon plaintiff’s motion.

These events may seem a good picture of what justice really is. However, it could also be a dismay. For the last case of homicide, the witness was there as subpoenaed. Despite his presence, he was very uncooperative. He did not give enough details for the Court to know what really transpired. He remained meek and silent, so the court issued a continuance. This is a reminder for court officers and aspiring ones like us to be patient. Justice is in our hands, so we must never give up.

Being in Court could be complicated and trying at times. It is quite different from those shown in television. During my visit, I was surprised at how small the courts are. The files are also placed in the same room, and an extension was used as a staff office.

Only five rows were allotted, and I would be standing if the Court Officer didn’t mistake me to be a lawyer. (What a nice day to be sharply dressed! J) Aside from one air conditioning unit, fans were also put up. No wonder some lawyers don’t come in suits and coats; but still they were dressed properly in accordance with Canon 12, Rule 11.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[3] “A lawyer shall appear in court properly attired.” It exhibits  professionalism and a standard of excellence.[4] And as a future lawyer, I also did.

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All in all, my court visit in RTC Manila Branch 41 was an eye-opener. As it took me closer to my goal, I was likewise made aware of the court procedures I will be handling on my own. It served as a motivation to study harder and await my next court appearance as a full-fledged lawyer.

[1]  People v. Ferrer, G.R. No. 148821, 18 July 2003, 406 SCRA 658.

[2] Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002

[3] A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the Courts and to Judicial Officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

[4] N. Kokemuller, The Importance of a Dress Code for Professionalism, 2015.

Tagbilaran

Like me, you probably studied the Chocolate Hills back in grade school. But there’s more to Tagbilaran than that! Aside from the famous landmark, we planned a Panglao Island tour and a countryside tour as well.

Our first destination is the Alona Beach – a busy hangout place. From the Tagbilaran Airport, public transportation is not a problem. Trikes to Alona Beach costs around P250-300, while cabs will cost you P500.
As we checked into our hotel, we immediately spent time on the beach. (Tips for luxe travelers: stay at Henann, Bellevue or Astoria.) Day 1 was mostly composed of free time, since the island hopping tour starts at 5:30AM.

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Since we had our beauty rest, we woke up at 5AM and looked for our boatman 30 minutes later. I know waking up early, especially after a flight is not quite easy. But trust me, it’s worth it. We were able to catch a glimpse of dancing dolphins! 🙂

My photos did not give it justice. The dolphins played around carelessly. They jumped and twirled and everything you could ask for! As I was sitting on the edge of the boat, I was able to capture these, but failed to take videos:

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As the dolphins went away, we went to the next island: Balicasag. This one’s famous for snorkeling. You have to prepare P250 to rent snorkeling gear and another P200 for tour guide/environmental fee. The scene is just like Finding Nemo slash Finding Dory.  🙂


Our boatman asked us to be extra careful at Balicasag. The waves are quite huge, so I advise the non-swimmers to stay near your boat. 😉

Now, if you’re feeling all tired and hungry from all the swimming, do not worry. The next stop is Virgin Island. The waters here are shallow and calm, perfect for your Instagram pictorials! At Virgin Island, small food kiosks can also be found. We ate banana cues and drank fresh buko juice – all in the shore! 😀

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For those who are unstoppable like me, you can also try the fresh sea urchin (P20). I courageously ate one and loved it! It has this real seafood flavor, comparable to crab juice. 😛 Do not forget to eat it with vinegar for more ooze!

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In no time, we were again docked at the beach, so we decided to do our Panglao Tour. We chartered a trike for P500 half-day. Kuya Jun (09325590429) was our tour guide, and he brought us to these different places:

Bohol Coco Farm – There’s nothing much to see here. There were no farm tours when we arrived. There’s a small café, but our next destination is a more famous one.

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Bohol Bee Farm – This is one of my favorites. The Bohol Bee Farm offers a short educational tour on the process of nurturing bees. J They also have a souvenir shop, and I bought a lot of wild honey and tablea from it! A restaurant can also be found on its lower deck, which offers organic and yummy food.

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The Bohol Bee Farm now offers accommodation, starting at P3000. It’s a nice play to stay at, since they have a cute jaccuzi, too.

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From there, we went to the Hinagdanan Cave. I wasn’t prepared to do some spelunking, but I survived. The cave does not have bats, but swallow birds, and it has charming stalactite formations.
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As a bonus, the tour guide is great at taking pictures, and also quite funny – calling me Georgina Wilson all the time. LOL.

Panglao also has churches to visit such as Dauis Church and Panglao Church, with the watch tower. One of these churches has this miracle water, said to heal all sickness. J But do not expect much, since these churches are still on rehabilitation; recovering from the earthquake.

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Even though we were already tired from the long day, our last stop was at the Shell Museum. You can skip this part. It’s a walking tour on small rooms, exhibiting the most expensive shells. The only part I liked was the giant Taclobo shells, and this ends our second day.

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For Day 3, we joined “Travel Information Tours” beside Sun Apartelle. For P400/pax, we rode a comfortable van to visit these places:

Blood Compact Site – It’s a statute depicting the matter. It’s free of charge, so we took some snaps and said goodbye.

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Loboc River Cruise – For P450, we enjoyed a 1.5 hour cruise with a buffet. We took pleasure looking at waterfalls, springs, rivers and mountains. There were also shows in between, where our boats stopped by.

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The Hanging Bridge was our next stop. Be a little wary here. Some parts of the bamboo bridge are quite crumbly. But well…. we survived. It can carry my weight. 😛

For more adventure, you can visit the Loboc Ecopark. It has ziplines and cable cars for P350-500.

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The Tarsier Sanctuary is next. Better bring your glasses here. I compared the tarsier to true love – hard to find! I’m lucky I brought my DSLR with me.


The Man-Made Forest is one of the highways I adore. It’s mostly for buwis-buhay pictures! The thrill was reasonably fun. 😛

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And to save the best for last, I give you…. the Chocolate Hills! Yes, it’s very much akin to our Hekasi books. Although we had to climb long stairs for the viewing deck, it all goes away once you see this beauty:

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The Baclayon Church, Butterfly Sanctuary and the Python Sanctuary were also included in the tour. But we skipped it.
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On the fourth day, you can spend more time at Alona Beach sunbathing and swimming. But since it was a bit rainy during our last day, we bought pasalubong in the market like peanut kisses (P150/pack) and calamay! They’re the best! 😛

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The Bohol trip is jam-packed! There’s really a lot to do and explore. ❤ I’m definitely coming back! 🙂

Click here to download my Tagbilaran Itinerary! 🙂

Davao

This is not my first time in Davao.
Three years ago, I went to the same for the Kadayawan Festival. The color, the energy and the booze were all free-flowing then. I was also able to get a quick city tour, but not my usual island girl hobbies.

So today, I planned a weekender in Samal Island.

Samal is a pretty neat beach. It is nice, but definitely not the best. Samal has a beach front with little rocks and waist-deep waters during the low tide. What you can do instead is go island hopping, by renting a boat to be arranged by the hotel.

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For our tour, the first stop was Taclobo Island. You would shell out a P100 entrance fee and a P200 gear rental. After paying these, off you may go to snorkeling! Taclobo has these giant clams on the seabed. Trivia: they are black. This is contrary to the popular misconception that they should be white, which we know now are just dead ones. If you love fishes and starfishes, Taclobo is good for you. 🙂

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We then proceeded to Coral Garden. It’s another portion of Samal for snorkeling. Underneath are a lot of coral reefs, untouched and preserved by locals. This site also allows fish feeding! A piece of advice: bring bread or rice. With these magic kit, you can swim with them side by side.

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Our third island is Babu Santa. This one’s known as a picnic site. Huts and tables are for free. Our hotel already prepared the food for us; thus, we had a feast!

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This island is also full of friendly heart-warming dogs. No, they’re not the cute little ones, but big large dogs. No need to worry though, it seems that these dogs are very much used to people. We fed the dogs and even made friends with them! 🙂

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For our last stop, we visited Angel’s Cove and stayed there only for a few minutes.

The next day we dedicated to shopping. If you’re familiar with Divisoria, Davao has this one large retail store named Aldevinco. It is located in the city proper, right in front of Marco Polo and Ateneo de Davao. This is the place to buy their native crafts and souvenir items. I bought the malong for P200, but surely, you can haggle more. Aldevinco is composed of two portions. The one with the AC, and another in open air. Tip: it’s cheaper outside, and fresh air is good for your health. :p
For frozen food like yellow fin tuna, blue marlin, lapu-lapu and the like, visit Marina or Citra Mina. Price varies depending on your choice of fish. But for P2000, we already had 7 kilos of quality seafood products. Marina packed it conveniently for our flight. You may also dine in at Marina, for they have a P300 promo for shrimp-all-you-can.

Finally, for fruits, head on to the Magsaysay Fruit Vendors Association. Pomelo (suha) is at P650/5 kilos, Durian is at P300/kilo, while Marang – my favorite in Davao – is at P200/kilo. Durian is Davao’s specialty. I would have loved it, but it stinks. Haha. For those who don’t like its scent, you can still savor its goodness by trying the durian candy (P100/3packs), durian chips (P50) or durian icecream (P40). Promise, the durian icecream does not smell at all! It tastes like cheesecake. 😋 A friendly reminder though, eating durian may cause high blood. Please do not durian and drink! 😛

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On our last day, we went to a church on Buhangin Road. We also visited our new boss’ house, the incoming President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. His house, together with Baste’s, is all too cute. Located in Maria Luisa Subdivision – Phase 1, the Mayor seems to have really lived a simple life. The house was all green, and there’s this life-size image of the President for photo ops. 🙂

There’s still a lot to do in Davao which our tour guide recommended: the Eden Nature Resort Park and the Crocodile Farm for nature tripping, Lachi and Zab’s for food lovers and Mati for surfer boys and girls. Mati is the surfing capital of Davao, and it’s only four hours from the airport. So if you have the luxury of time, don’t skip this! 🙂


All in all, Davao was good. It gets a three out of five star. But maybe, if we explored more, it would get more appreciation as well! But yeah, Madayaw sa Davao! 😊

Bacolod – Sipalay – Manjuyod – Guimaras – Iloilo

 

One summer ago, I aimed to conquer different scenes. If you have enough money and all the time in the world, I suggest you take the “Great Visayas Trip“.

By doing my homework and pulling some ties, I was able to hop to five different towns in one week.

First, my posse took a flight to Bacolod. This was our entry point as flights to BCD are cheaper than that of Iloilo and Dumaguete. Plus, families and friends who are willing to adopt us for a few days were there. 🙂

As we were picked up at the airport, our first stop was Bob’s Cafe. (WARNING: Ditch your diets.) Located downtown, Bob’s Cafe is a famous restaurant known for its Ilonggo food and coffee. Bob’s serves good coffee, for half the price of Starbucks. Another popular favorite is their sate, while I, on the other hand, ordered lechon macau; and both did not disappoint.


To burn the calories our hosts took us to the Silay Heritage Site. It was not only a street, but an entire village filled of old houses. We also stepped into the Balay Negrense House for a P60 fee. The said house was Victor Fernandez Gaston’s Ancestral House, filled of memorabilia from the Spanish era. We saw an old bike model, artworks, antique furniture and even porcelain dolls. We even learned the difference of tsokolate-eh and tsokolate-ah. You’re not welcome! 😛

Right now, the Balay Negrense’s façade is under renovation, but tourists can still learn from it, especially with the very knowledgeable tour guide.

  


After a touch of history, we decided to continue the quest by going to The Ruins (P95). Known as the Taj Mahal of Negros, Don Mariano Lacson built this mansion for Maria Braga who passed away carrying their 11th child. The Ruins is a reminder of Don Mariano’s great love for her. Until now, the love (and structure) remains strong.

The best time to visit this is 4-6 PM. It now carries kiosks to serve hungry guests, and the sugar cane juice (P50) is a must-try. Before we left The Ruins, we made sure to capture a mirror shot from one of the tables in the garden to this effect:


To live by my “no diet” warning before, we took a trip to Diotay and Felicia’s for a sumptuous dinner and dessert combo. Diotay (small) is not your typical dampa. It has a wide variety of seafood and the price is right! Because of this, Diotay has long queues, so prepare to wait in line for minutes. My personal favorite is the Blue Marlin Belly, and I could say we could forget about lechon! Why eat pork when the belly is so much toothsome? Honestly, I couldn’t get enough and even had two full slices. 😀

 Meanwhile, Felicia’s is a place the titas of Manila would enjoy. It’s a cute pastry shop downtown, perfect for chill nights. Felicia’s has the best chocolate sans rival and ensaymada in Negros, but you should never count the calories. 🙂 For tweens, I would recommend Calea for their sweet escape. The latter is known for its signature chocolate cake, and we’ll add the black samba to the list. Most cakes in Calea are priced at P85.

  
After carbo loading, we slept to recharge for tomorrow’s adventure!

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Day 2 consists of partying at the beach! By car, we had a 4-hour ride to Sipalay. If you’re planning to commute via Ceres bus, add at least an hour of travel time. It will cost P120 to find that good diving spot.

Sipalay is full of resorts, who’s warm with accommodating divers and newbies. We stayed at Inyam Haven, hosted by Tita Pilar very generous to give us a room beside the pool.

  

Sipalay also has little rocks for trekking, leading you to a cute beach front. There were some rocks on the shore, sea urchins and starfishes too. So take extra care.


In the afternoon, we stayed at Easy Diving Resort for drinks and knew of snorkeling and kayaking adventures. The water activities range from P250-P500 per head. What’s good about Sipalay is its serenity. The beach is never too crowded, perfect for introverts or peace-loving persons.

Inyam Haven is even well-lit at night and we loved the food: steak, fries, broccoli and pizza! No room for bikini then! But our cottage was close to perfection.

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From Sipalay, we now proceed to Dumaguete. Our target was the Manjuyod Sandbar, recently featured in the viral Facebook video (HYPERLINK). If you plan to go to Manjuyod, the Ceres Bus to Bais is the best way by land. From Sipalay, it will be a 3-hour trip, while from Bacolod, it’s a long 6-hour drive. (Take note that blogs would say Bacolod-Manjuyod trip will be four hours. This is not true. The Ceres bus stops at all its terminals, at least 6-8 bus stops for the whole trip.)

Anyway, from Bais, take another bus to Manjuyod (P10) and a trike (P10) to Aroma Beach Resort. The hotel would offer a P3500 rate for an island tour to the sandbar itself. But with our good social skills and a little Ilonggo, we were able to find our boatmen who offered a P1800 island tour to the sandbar, coupled with a dolphin watching venture. You may contact our boatman, Kuya Ian, at 0935-843-7189.

This is very important: the Manjuyod Sandbar can only be seen at 6AM and/or 6PM. Unlike other sandbars which usually show up at 2PM or low tide, Manjuyod now seldom appears because of the ever-changing waters. Our boatmen, as well as other blogs, say that one time, the sandbar would disappear. Visit it before it’s too late! Trust me, it’s worth it!


The waters are pristine. In fact, it’s one of the clearest waters I have ever seen. As we arrived in the sandbar late afternoon, we weren’t able to walk on it or take IG-worthy posts. All we did was swim in the open seas, without any life vest or so – that’s the price we get for paying half the price. (BUWIS BUHAY! LOL.) The waters on the shallow part was around 6-8 ft. deep. The waves were too big and it’s not for the faint-hearted. But for those who are not swimmers per se, cottages at the sandbar are also available (P3000-P4000/night).


We stayed overnight in Manjuyod and went home to Bacolod the next day.

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Our next stop is Guimaras Island. This beach moves up to the top spot of my favorite islands. (TOP 2 is still Tikling, Sorsogon). From Bacolod, a car drove us to Pulupandan Wharf. The first trip is at 9:00AM, and costs P100 for 45-minutes. As we arrived at the Guimaras port, we cramped in a L300/van to take us to the town of Jordan. (Do some stretching before riding the van! It kinda hurts, for it’s akin to car stuffing. Haha.) From the town proper, we rode a trike to Raymen Beach Resort for P300.

The moment we arrived in Guimaras, we were greeted by this view.


Ravishing beauty. What a wonder!

And it’s not just the view! The prices are also easy on the pocket! The island tour per boat costs P450 for the first hour, and P150 for the succeeding hours. Ideally, it takes 3-4 hours to explore the whole island. We visited the Ave Maria island and experienced snorkeling and fish feeding. How those little fishes came to my side. 🙂

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I also found a blue starfish for the very first time in my life. This starfish is on a diet, its longer than  usual! Hahaha. 🙂


I am full of awe! ❤

The other islands are for swimming, some are for view-decks and some are for caves. Our boatman also mentioned an island for FREE cliff diving, but we weren’t able to do it because of the peril brought by the high tide. What a fortuitous event! 😦

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In all parts, I fell in love with Guimaras’ tidy waters! There’s also this Guimaras  City Tour via trike: Mango Research Institute, the Capitol, Trappist Monastery of the Benedictine Monks and the Smallest Plaza. We hired Kuya Nonoy (09075734900) for half a day, and paid only P500, contrary to the P1200 price said in blog posts. Do not forget to buy Mango bars or try the mango pizza – if you love bizarre food. Hehehe.


  

  

With all these, maybe 3D 2N in Guimaras won’t be enough. It’s a place we all agreed to go back. ❤

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Then again, we move on to Iloilo. We took a boat for P14 for 15 minutes. The cabs in Iloilo are cheap. We only shelled out P60 per ride, and since we are tres marias, only P20 per person. The Iloilo escapade was a whopping food trip!

Of course, we tried the batchoy at Netong’s – Atria. You may order the super special batchoy with pork, beef and egg. It’s like the usual Filipino mami, but no regrets as it is only around P100. Then, we tried Madge Café on the same walk. For P55-P100, you get to taste the oh-so-delicious hot chocolate and even their awesome brewed coffee.  🙂

For pasalubong, we went to Calle Real and we were amazed with its old buildings. It may be compared to Manila’s Carriedo area, only safer! The architecture from the 1920s was preserved, and it’s wonderful how we can buy my favorite biscocho (P65).


From Iloilo to Bacolod, the boat fare is P150, with a P30 terminal fee.

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And as we’re home in sweet Bacolod, we decided to devote our last day to a city tour and more pasalubong shopping! But before that, we ate at Manokan Country, specifically Aida’s, for Inasal. The inasal is best paired with a large serving of garlic rice. The locals also suggested to sprinkle it with salt, and P130 goes a long way. During my entire Visayas stay, I ate 3 servings of this chicken inasal. It’s that good!


On walking distance, we went to the Capitol Park (Kilometer Zero) and the Bacolod Cathedral right in front of it. Bongbong’s pasalubong is also nearby. Buy piayas (P38) and reheat them at home. Or buy those big coconut shells aka kalamayhati, ala big kulangot ng intsik, for P50. Napoleones is also a must try at P130/box.

 Then, we took a P7 – Bata jeep to the Lagoon. We fed the tilapia there with cheap bread from the bakery and visited the Capitol. A few blocks away is the Negros Museum, ending our trip with an artsy vibe. 🙂

  


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By land, air and sea, the Great Visayas Trip was a strong summer highlight! 🙂

Click this link to download my Great Visayas Itinerary! 🙂

 

 

Quezon – Pahiyas Festival

 Every May 15th, the town of Lucban, Quezon celebrates the Pahiyas Festival. It is an honor attributed to San Isidro Labrador, which is both a thanksgiving and a little prayer for bountiful harvest. The Pahiyas Festival is one of the most colorful festivals in the Philippines, wherein simple houses are turned into dainty displays of hiyas or gems in the form of kipings, fruits, vegetables and handicrafts. This year, we decided to join the fun and witness the spectacle.

We left Manila at 2:00 AM and arrived around 5:00 AM. We were pretty scared of the traffic, so we opted to become early birds. I could say that it was also a good time to be there, as we earned a good parking spot and witnessed the people of Lucban actually decorating their homes. They are filled with excitement and joy, as they showcase their talents and creativity.

Having walked on some of the streets and having been awake since midnight, we decided to eat on of the tiangge’s restaurants. We ate pancit habhab – the pansit that must be eaten without using any utensils, the pilipit – made of squash, malagkit and a bit of cocojam, and of course, the very famous Lucban Longganisa.


With this little buffet, we only spent P80! Pancit habhab was at P10, the pilipit for three pieces is at P20, and the longganisa with rice meal is at P50. Sulit na sulit. 🙂

And to burn the fats, we went to Kamay ni Hesus. This is a famous healing place in Lucban. Commuters may take a P15 ride per pax to the site and start climbing the 310 steps. On our part, we were not able to hike the place for it is very much crowded during this peak season. Here’s a few photos of the Kamay ni Hesus, which was built in 2004:

 

 


We now return to the city proper and again walked the streets of Lucban. Our goal? To look at ALL of the houses. Intense! By this time, the houses were ready for public viewing. It consisted of different designs: bananas, hats, kipings, coconuts, rice grains and other materials proving their resourcefulness. Here are some of the beautiful designs:

  

  

  
How we loved them! It’s a feast for the eyes and it is kind of interactive. The homeowners created mini-photobooths where visitors can sit and pretend to be artists. There were scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns, not meant to be scary, but only to show how it belonged to the farm. There were also cute masks and benches to rest thy feet.

 We also must not forget that the Pahiyas Festival’s grand procession at 2PM.

 After the said event, some of the friendly Lucban homes share their food to visitors like us. 🙂

As we go home, we made it sure not to forget to buy the Lucban Longganisa! It’s P75/dozen for the small ones, and P150 for the big pieces. There’s no use haggling, as the price is regulated all throughout. Breakfasts will be much better now, but be prepared for a slightly smelly car! Lol.


In just one day, the Pahiyas Festival gave us bigger smiles and brighter colors in our lives. 🙂

Batangas

WARNING: This is a post from a girl in love. At first, I didn’t want to share the details, since I want to keep the memories to ourselves. But a month after my birthday, I am now a little relaxed to share a little of our trip to all the hopeless romantics out there.

So here’s the big reveal. For my 25th birthday, we didn’t go abroad to celebrate. Instead, we spent my summer birthday in Balete Road, Lipa, Batangas. 🙂

We booked Cintai Corito’s Garden, a quite pristine and exclusive resort in the South. According to their website, “Cintai (pronounced “Chin-tai”) is Indonesian for the word LOVE.” I wouldn’t disagree. Although its Terrace room rates were a bit luxurious at P12,000 per night, it was perfect for love. ❤

  
Cintai Corito has a fashionable elitist feel, and we really felt how private it was. During our stay, there were only a few guests, occupying only three of the villas. We were able to wander and stroll the gardens alone, swim in peace, and spend lovely nights and mornings together, without the hassle of bumping into crowds. (We’re a bit introvert. Hehe.)

The whole resort was themed as Bali, Indonesia. We enjoyed the different designs and the spacious gardens meant to heal forlorn love or to strengthen those hearts already full of it. 🙂

   
    
   
Aside from its dazzling villas, Cintai Corito has a place dedicated for celebrations. It’s a place to get married, he said. ❤

  
There were also pools and cute little farm animals you can look at, while in awe.

   

  
 For our meals, we had free breakfasts in the villa. It was a set meal and pretty much pleasing to the tummy. For lunch and dinner, we opted to drive a little bit and spend it somewhere more special. Our typical choice as a couple is Japanese food, so we headed to Irori. Unfortunately, it was closed that day, so we chose the very much Italian, Casa Marikit. It was an extra special date night for my birthday. We had a toast for another great year.

  
If you want cintai (love), the place is very much recommended. The only problem we had is, there was no TV inside the rooms; only a common TV lounge. However, this condition only brought us closer together. He was forced to talk and bear with my sweetness. Hehehehe. 😀

It was only a 2-hour drive from Manila. And since he’s comfortable with long drives and we enjoy racing through the expressway, our Cintai Corito getaway for my birthday was the best I ever had. With him by my side, I didn’t need anything else. 🙂

Rizal

Where do you go if you want to getaway, but do not wish for a long ass ride? I’d suggest Antipolo, Rizal. 

With only 26 kilometers from Manila (one hour via car), you can feel Antipolo’s breezy hill top. For commuters, a P50 FX ride is handy at the LRT Cubao station. In a few scoots, ola, there’s your Rizal!

   

For this trip, what I really had in mind is to visit Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens. There has been a buzz on this property, which is inside the Loreland Resort. The place keeps you calm and gets rid of your stressors. 

   

At the entrance, you’ll be provided with towels and locker rooms. Luljetta asks guests to be in proper swimming attire and to be in proper (modest) conduct. After completing these requirements, you are now free to explore. 🙂 

My first stop was with the Fish Spa. There’s an outdoor one (Dr. Fish), but I love the rowdy ones on the indoor part (Zen Lounge). You may spend a lot of time here to remove the dead cells on your feet or just enjoy the ticklish giddy sensation!

  

After all these funny feelings, you can keep cool at the Hyrdomassage Station. From the word itself, it’s a massage from the waters. The pressure is good for the back, coupled with ice cold water. I only spent a few minutes here because of that! 😛 Of course a real therapeutic massage with masseuse is available at P600 and up.

  

Thereafter, I lingered at the infinity pool. It’s the biggest place so far, with the most amazing view. It’s where you see the hills, the bay and the sunset. 

   

When all the slopey walking gets you exhausted,  there are lounges and restaurants to hang out for a while. Fruit shakes, cakes and other snacks are served at an average of P100. 
     


    

 

And as they say, you have to save the best for last! This is the Heated Jacuzzi. It’s a small private place to relax. The sauna is also right behind it. This is where I spent most of my time broiling myself. Hahaha. 😀

  

My Luljetta experience really achieved these words: 

 

And when it is beautiful in the morning, it is just as gorgeous at night. Good night, dear Rizal. Shine brighter tomorrow! 

  

Manila

Travel Manila with just a hundred fourteen pesos!

The statement is quite unbelievable, but it is just as true. Pardon us for being cheapskates, but we are students who would like to be cultured and save money at the same time! So on one fine Saturday, while classes are suspended half day, we took a jeep to Central, walked a bit and visited the National Museum of the Philippines.

   
 This enormous building has the greatest paintings in history! Since it’s Women’s Month, all female guests are admitted for free, while our gentlemen paid the P50 student rate. A street away from it, we walked to the Planetarium and experienced an out of this world tour. The Planetarium is a science museum with drawings and sketches of different planets, complemented by a star projector. As the lights were turned off, the big hall we are in transformed into outer space. We talked about the life cycle of stars, sun rise and sun set and other geeky theories. The Planetarium’s show was very informative, and we are delighted to experience it at no cost. 😉

    
   
And as if we are not yet tired of museums, we went to the Museum of the Filipino People just across the main building. It contained different exhibits per floor: Ifugao landscapes, Treasures of the San Diego, War Relics, Alibata, and other precious objects from the Philippines’ different regions. Again, we availed of the P50 student rate on this part.

   
    
 Quite ecstatic with the freebies and discounts, we decided to tread a 7-minute walk to Intramuros. We again crossed the pedestrian and headed to General Luna Street and Padre Burgos Avenue. Intramuros is more commonly known as the walled city, famous since the Spanish era. We climbed the walls and took a breather, with the breeze of the afternoon. Inside Intramuros, you may also find the San Agustin Church, the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts Museum and other historical schools – free of charge. 😀

   
  
 For our next stop, we took a jeepney to Quiapo and walked to Carriedo Street. From there, we looked for Rizal Avenue and Ronquillo Street, and bam, we are in Ongpin Street featuring the great Manila China Town. (We did not include our food in the budget computation, as it was only an incidental expense.) However, I strongly advice to eat in Binondo, since they have the best Chinese food such as Oyster Cake, Frog Legs and Chicken Feet. Oh!!! Do not forget the Yang Chow. 😛 If you like a cozy restaurant, try Wai Ying. But if you are up for more adventure, try the Estero Restaurant which is literally beside the creek. 🙂

  
And to thank the Heavens for this cheap quality time, we prayed at Sta. Cruz Church to guide us on our way home.

   
 
In sum, with two jeepney rides at P7, two entrance fees at P50 and a very great deal of walking (and exercise), we were able to explore the good parts of Manila half a day – for only P114. 

So if you have friends who are not against walking, drag them and let them see Manila in a different light. It is not all about pollution, crowded areas and traffic. With  P114 at hand, you will surely appreciate and love the country’s capital.
 

 

 

Marinduque

Marinduque is one of those islands in the Philippines unexplored by foreigners. We decided to stay here for Holy Week, in time for Moriones Festival. But as we wait for Good Friday’s highlight, we took advantage of the free time to feed our hunger for a beautiful place – all for P3000.

From a P200 ride from JAC Buendia to Dalahican Port, Lucena, Quezon, and a P240 roro fee to Balanacan Port, we unleashed our inner cowboys and took it to the next level. We rode a jeepney to the city proper – topload! It was worth P50 and also worth our lives. 😀

As we arrived in Sta. Cruz, we headed to Buyabod Port and took our first trip to Maniwaya. The beach here is serene and peaceful. There are different resorts who would cater to your accommodation needs and even fresh seafood cooking.


With a sail away, we saw Palad sand bar. It’s a strip of land which magically appears only on low tide. The best time to be here is 2PM onwards. The after lunch low tide itinerary must also be followed by a quick visit to the Ungab Rock Formation.

For these places and for the whole day’s rent, we paid out boatman P2500 for a big boat for 8 pax. 🙂

On our next day, we took a jeep to Torrijos to swim on Poctoy White Beach. This beach is a crowded one, since it is accessible by land and only collects a P30 entrance fee. The cottages are also affordable at P200, while tents may be set up for free. Disclaimer: the sand ain’t white despite its name. 😛

Aside from beaches, there are also other spots worth trying. You may take a jeep to San Isidro and go spelunking at Bagumbungan Cave. A 3-hour trail costs P300, while a portion of it is at P150. It includes an orientation on what to do and what nots, plus a friendly tour guide to let you see stalactite formations, bats and other wonders. The Bagumbungan Cave is not for the fainthearted as it includes a lot of crawling, walking in waist-deep waters, darkness and the need for upper body strength.

(Photos to follow.)

From these, you may infer that I ditched the Bagumbungan Cave and opted for the next closest destination, the Kawa-Kawa Falls.
The falls is said to heal all kinds of sickness, as locals would say. And even though we have not proven it, it’s a good place to beat the heat with its very cold water! The Kawa-Kawa Falls comes in three petite levels.

After all these relaxing activities, we made it a point to visit Boac to feel the Moriones Festival. This Marinduque Tradition is a gathering of town people to dress up as Romans in the Bible. They wear masks (morion) to interpret and re-enact the old times, and bring senakulo to the streets tagged as Via Crucis at 9AM and a procession at 5PM, on Good Fridays.

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While in Marinduque, be sure to drop by the fortress-like Boac Cathedral and the cute cafeteria beside it: Cafe Mamita. The photo below shows the intricate interior design of the Cathedral.


Cafe Mamita is proudly owned by the Reyes family and serves sumptous dishes. We loved their fish fillet in butter sauce and the sinigang. Their price is also gracious to the cheap traveler. Cafe Mamita bears the famous pasalubong in Marinduque: arrowroot (uraro) cookies. It is the perfect bribe for those you left at home or in the office. 😀

  

   

   

Truly, Marinduque strikes the proper balance for the Holy Week holiday. It gives travelers a chance to take a break from the Manila traffic, while also being able to reflect on our faith.

I thank the people who have been with me through this journey, who generously shared their photos for this blog. Credits to Ms. San Diego, Mr. Lomongo, Mr. Icalia and the crazy adventurous friends that I have! 🙂

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