“Magbaon ka lang ng pamasahe mo, may surprise ako sa’yo.”
 
“San mo ba’ko dadalhin?” Lolobants asked.
 
“Basta. Ipapakain kita sa aswang.”
 
Yes, I know. I’m the sweetest girlfriend in the world. Hehehe.

French chickens French kissing

I whisked away Lolobants to a romantic getaway in the French countryside… in Abra.  Yes, you heard that right. French countryside in Abra. Nope, we didn’t use Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the beat-up VW beetle from the Family Tree movie (80’s Pinoy flick, which I’m a sucker for, just Google it) nor did we use Shaider’s TIME-SPACE-WARP-NGAYON-DIN device.  We just boarded a bus, an ordinary bus (na aircon ha?) without wings or magical gizmos, to Pidigan, Abra where a Filipino-French family who raises French chickens lives in their French cottage-inspired home.

Breakfast at the patio with Sosiso

We arrived at the break of dawn and were welcomed by Ate Tina, her husband, Gerard and their dog, Sosiso (‘di ako sure sa spelling).  Ate Tina, together with Gerard and her side of the family, runs a farm called Pamora whose primary produce is organic free-range French and Czechoslovakian chicken.  And we got to see, even taste, some. SARAP! 😀

 

HAPPITUTU JOKE TIME CORNER

Pa’no tumilaok ang French na manok?

Eh, di TIK-TILA-COIS!

Eh, pa’no naman tumilaok ang Czechoslovakian na manok?

Eh, di CZECH-CZE-LAOK! 

Czech-cze-laok! Crowed the Czechoslovakian chickens. 😀

WEH… Hehehehehe. Parang si Brownie lang. Tu. Tu. Tu.

And because we were living in a farm, everything we ate was deliciousTanginang sarap! Please excuse my French. Hehehehe.  Dinner was the most memorable.  We had fresh greens and vegetables that were picked from the vegetable patch just across the kitchen; and of course, scrumptious roasted French chicken cooked perfectly and served with homemade gravy.  Walang panama ang Chickenjoy at ang GMO-chicken ni Col. Sanders.

 

Gael, Gerard, and Sosiso under the dinner table, probably looking for scraps.

 

After dinner, Gael, Ate Tina and Gerard’s 10-year-old son, invited us to watch his favorite movie.  Guess what it is? KIMMY DORA! Hahahahaha! 😀 We even had to borrow an extension cord from another house a few blocks away just so we could watch the movie.  It was Lolobants’ and my first time to watch Kimmy Dora at halos umutot kami sa kakatawa. (Si Lolobants ayaw pa manood nung una, baduy daw, eh mas malakas pa ang halakhak sa’kin.) 😀

HAPITUTU!

It was one of the most memorable weekend getaways we had.  We, total strangers, were welcomed by Ate Tina and her family into their homes like long lost relaties. And no, I didn’t feed Lolobants to the aswangs. 😀

THINGS TO DO WHEN IN PAMORA

Ate Tina, Gerard, Gael, Sosiso and the Happitutu couple dip in the raging waters of the Abra river

1.  Swimming. Besides a tour of the farm, Ate Tina, Gerard and Gael with Sosiso in tow, took us to a huge river with vast sandy banks for an afternoon dip.  We walked back to the house sunsets in our backs.

Scratching my itchy feet in Abra river. 😀

2.  Trekking.  There are lots of hills around the farm where you could trek and enjoy a 360-degree view of the farm and the surrounding countryside.  Lolobants and I weren’t able to do so because we were too busy petix-ing (hehehehe, verb na pala yun.)

The hills are alive... Awooooo! Horror pala eh no. 😀

3.  Pet the animals.  The farm is practically a zoo with 2 dogs: 1 Labrador and 1 Siberian Husky, a pair of monkeys, a herd of horses, cows and countless chickens.

say CHEESE!

4.  Visit Bangued.  Ride a jeep from Pidigan to Bangued, the capital of Abra. Visit the cathedral, roam around the plaza while holding hands (yihee…) and eat Ilocos Empanada while you’re at it (kung kaya n’yo, bonggang multi-tasking).

My first time to eat Ilocos Empanada. Eh ilocana ko. Hehehe. Olats. 😀

 

BUDGET

Php2,500 to Php 3,500 per person

 

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

12:00AM    – Board bus bound for Abra at Partas Cubao Terminal.

07:00AM   – ETA Pamora Farms, Pidigan, Abra.  Text Ate Tina of your estimated time of arrival so she can send someone to pick you up from the highway.  It’s a short walk from the highway to the farm.  By the way, you need to reserve for accommodations at the farm since Ate Tina and her family are based in Makati.  Only her brothers and sisters are on the farm on weekdays.

07:30AM   – Breakfast.  They’ll probably prepare breakfast for you.  😀 That’s just how nice they are.

09:00AM   – After freshening up and resting for a bit, go for a walk around the farm.  If Ate Tina’s not busy tending the farm animals, she might be able to tour you around.

12:00PM   – Lunch.

01:00PM   – Siesta.

03:00PM   – Go for a dip in the river nearby.  Gael might accompany you.  It’s a 10-minute walk from the farm and you’ll be passing through the scenic Abra countryside.

07:00PM   – Dinner.

09:00PM   – Leisure time. Have fun and games with Gael; or watch his favorite movie.

12:00AM   – Lights out.

07:30AM   – Breakfast.

08:30AM   – Head out to the river for a morning dip or trek to one of the hills surrounding the farm to get a view of the whole countryside.

12:00PM   – Lunch.

01:00PM   – Pack-up.

02:00PM  – Catch a jeep to Bangued. Travel time is around an hour or more.  Explore Bangued.

04:00PM  –  Catch a bus to Manila.

 

TIPS

  • Bring your swimsuit.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera.
  • Bring a book or art materials for leisure, they rarely watch TV.
  • Try to help with household chores.

The road less traveled kasi ang hirap ng daan. Hehehe.

There’s a lot of talk about homogenization of culture.  I can certainly see why.  So-called “development”, indicated by the presence of SM Malls, Jollibee and Mang Inasal outlets, have started to creep into once rural towns turning them into cities that all look alike.  If this is our definition of development, then it’s real easy to achieve “development”.  Tayuan mo lang ng mall at Jollibee yung lugar, asensado na. But real development, at least for me, should be sustainable and holistic, not only addressing the economic aspect but also the social and cultural aspects of the community.

Dag YO! Men 😀

Abra is one of the underdeveloped provinces in the country in terms of infrastructure and industry. But what it lacks in economic development, it compensates for in the richness of its culture.

 

Oh Kerol! En route to Daguioman for the medical mission. Circa 2004. Di pa uso ang digicam nun eh, scanned print pa 'to. 😀

I first had the opportunity of going to a town called Daguioman in Abra on October of 2005 when I was invited by Carol Bello of Pinikpikan, now Kalayo, while I was asking for an autograph.  Hahahaha! Cheap eh no? But we became real good friends after.  I had to choose over taking an oral exam for a Paul Ricouer class (dreadful… it was dreadful I tell ya!) to complete my minor in Philosophy or go to a medical mission in Daguioman; both were scheduled on the same date.  Guess what I chose?  Of course, I chose to go to Daguioman, which was tiring but more fun and exciting than discussing the philosophy of mimesis and language in front of my professor.  The experience was phenomenal.  Sabi nga ni Barney ng How I Met Your Mother, IT WAS LEGENDARY!  We trekked to hidden falls (at yung trek ay sa gilid ng bangin, nakakanginig ng tuhod), we danced and sang the night away with the Tinggians (the indigenous people of Daguioman) donned in their indigenous costumes and armed with their gangsa, and most importantly, we mingled with the locals and immersed ourselves in their culture.  At dahil marunong ako mag-ilocano at ganun din sila, nagkaintindihan kami. Hehehe.  I have frequented the place since.

 

Yugyugan sa kabundukan. 😀 Jamming, Tinggian-stylee!

Traveling to Daguioman is no walk in the park.  You have to endure a 9-hr bus ride to Bangued, a 6-hr jeep transfer to Daguioman, at kung may balat ka sa pwet, kakailanganin mo maglakad ng 1-hr para makarating sa Daguioman.  And this, I think, is what separates a real traveler from a tourist: the convenience factor.  A real traveler would enjoy these inconveniences instead of loathing them.  But all the troubles and hassles are all worth it once you get to your destination, which is Daguioman in my case.

 

2-generations of Tinggian Women

I wanted to share this experience with Bants.  Gusto ko kasi naririnig ang favorite line n’ya, SHE’S TRYING TO KILL ME!  Hahahaha!  Sadista eh. 😀 The opportunity came last year.  We went to Daguioman with our friend Miko under unfortunate circumstances I’d rather not divulge.  We still were able to enjoy the landscape and mingle with the locals despite of the sadness. At dahil hardcore travelers kami, overnight lang kami nag-stay dun.  Mas mahaba pa ang oras ng biyahe kaysa inilagi namin dun eh.


ALL HAPPY MEMORIES

 

The road less traveled leads you to places you’ve never been and to people you’re destined to meet and be with for a long time.  The road less traveled is not without hardships and pain, strife and suffering.  It is an arduous path but in end the gains are in multitude.  May we always try to choose the road less traveled.

I write this for my friends, one who has left us and gone to a better place and one who is coping with his passing.  Without the two of you, I would never have been the person I am now.  You know who you are.  Thank you.  I love you both. 😀

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

11:00PM – ETD, Partas Cubao Station.  Board a bus bound for Bangued, Abra.  Ask driver or conductor to drop you off at jeepney terminal going to Daguioman.

08:00AM – ETA Bangued.  Board jeep going to Daguioman.  You can buy snacks or a light breakfast from the vendors.

03:30PM – ETA Daguioman.  Mingle with the locals; they’re friendly. You can ask them for a place to stay at or where you can pitch a tent at.

05:00PM – Roam around town.  Familiarize yourself with the place.

Day2

06:00AM – Breakfast.

07:00AM – Ask the locals or their kids to accompany you to the falls.  They know all the nice sites to visit. 😀

12:00PM – Lunch.

01:00PM – Siesta.

03:00PM – Explore the town and mingle with the locals; share stories about life experiences. 😀

06:00PM – Dinner. Socials. If you’re nice enough, they would bring out their gangsa for you for a cultural night.  Sing and dance the night away. 😀

Day3

05:00AM – Pack-up. Shower.

06:00AM – Breakfast.

07:00AM – ETD for Bangued. Daily schedule of jeep to Bangued is 7AM and there is only one trip a day so make sure you catch it.

01:00PM – ETA Bangued.  You can opt to go straight home, board a tryk and ask driver to take you to Partas Bus Station. You can also make a side-trip to La Union, Vigan, or Baguio.

BUDGET

Php1,500 to Php2,500

TIPS

  • Bring your own food (canned goods and such) and water.  There are no karinderias or places to eat at in Daguioman.
  • Bring camping gear such as tents, outdoor stove, cook set, headlamp, etc.  Especially if you have no place to stay in Daguioman.
  • Bring comfortable clothes and footwear. You’ll be trekking and walking a lot.
  • Bring jacket, it gets cold at night.
  • Apply sunblock.

Funny story.

Bants and I signed-up for a guided tour of the famous caves of Sagada thinking it was a walk in the park, or a ride on a boat as in the case of the underground river of Puerto Princesa.  Boy were we wrong!  The cave tours required our fit and svelte bodies (no, I’m not being sarcastic, hehehe) to slide down slim holes, climb rocks, and rappel upwards.  Pramis. Walang panama si Spiderman.  Partida, wala pa kaming sapot nun ah.  Hehehe.  Our guide, being the gracious host that he was, offered to assist us in rappelling upwards, which is called rope-climbing in proper English.  I went first then Bants was next.  So this is how it went (paganahin n’yo na lang ang imagination n’yo, di ko nakuhanan ng video eh):

On the left corner, wearing khaki shorts and a black jacket, weighing 226lbs… it’s Bants “Super Lolo” Abantao!

On the right corner, wearing denim pants and a navy blue windbreaker, weighing 145lbs… it’s Kuya “Kaya Ko ‘To” Melchor!

 

Rappelling up... Taob Cliffhanger!

KUYA MELCHOR (Guide): Tulungan ko na kayo, sir.  Tapak po kayo sa hita ko tapos sa balikat ko habang hawak ang lubid.

BANTS: Sigurado ka Kuya? Mabigat ako.

KUYA MELCHOR: Sige, sir.  Kaya ko po kayo.

BANTS:  Sigurado ka ah?

KUYA MELCHOR:  Opo.

Tumapak si Bants sa hita ni Kuya, tapos sa balikat n’ya…

KUYA MELCHOR:  <grunting> Itapak mo yung paa mo sa kaliwa… Sa kaliwa… <voice trailing off, clearly the last bit of energy he has just left his body>

Hahahahaha! 😀

 

Kuya "Kaya Ko 'To" Melchor and Me

Kuya Melchor must have been traumatized in that ordeal for he didn’t accompany us back to the tourism office, saying, “Mauna na kayo, Sir. May rerelyebuhan lang ako.” Hehehe. Si Kuya, nagdadahilan pa… Well, at least he didn’t lose his ability to walk.  Thank God, he had balls of steel! Hahaha! 😀

Sagada is a town in Mountain Province, north of the Philippines.  It’s well known for its caves, falls, yogurt and hanging tombs.  It’s landlocked so all you can see are never-ending views of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.  The people are friendly and beautiful with features particular to people from the highlands; the food is good and affordable.  Their tourism office is efficient and tour guides are not pesky since they’re regulated and have their own associations.

Shy Kimchi dwarfed by the 200ft high Bomod-ok Falls

 

Besides spelunking, Bants and I trekked to the Big Falls or Bomod-ok Falls where we met a flirty Englishman and a shy Korean.  We were surprised at the number of people, mostly locals, bathing in the pool beneath the falls since the water was ice cold.  Being the water baby that I am, I just had to dip in.  Tumayo ang utong ko sa lamig! Brrr…

Of course, the trek down to the falls was easy.  Going back up was the hard part.  Especially since Bants encountered a minor accident making him utter his proverbial phrase, “She’s trying to kill me.” As if it was my fault… Hahahaha! 😀

When in Sagada, there’s nothing else to do but walk, eat, walk, eat, walk and eat.  A few places we visited were the church, the local cemetery, Echo Valley, Sagada Weaving and the Masferre Museum.  It’s a nice place to get lost into.  There are lots of places to wine and dine as well.  Check out:

  • Yogurt House – One of the more famous restaurants in Sagada.  We recommend yogurt with granola and their chicken curry with yogurt.

 

Lounging at Yogurt house, excuse my feet... 😀

  • Lemon Pie House – You will encounter this quaint cafe en route to the caves.  It is known for its lemon pie, hence, the name.  Besides lemon pie, we recommend you try their egg pie and their mountain tea.  The place also offers free wi-fi connection.

 

Hmmm... Sarap ng mountain tea. 😀

  • Masferre Inn and Cafe – Owned by the relatives of Eduardo Masferre, famous photographer of the rice terraces.  It offers Pinoy comfort food and other local fare.  Bants and I love having our breakfast here.  They serve good portions of entrees and side dishes.

 

Brekky at Masferre

  • Strawberry Cafe-  We chanced upon this humble eatery on our way to Ganduyan Inn where we were staying.  The place serves a mean bowl of chicken mami.  Super sarap! I’m also particularly fond of their bacon sandwich.  Hindi tinipid sa palaman. Yummy!

YUMMY MAMI!

 

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

12:00AM – ETD, Victory Liner Cubao Station.  Board a bus bound for Baguio.

06:30AM – ETA Baguio.  Eat breakfast.  Some restaurants and fast-food chains along Session Road offer breakfast.

08:30AM – Board cab to Dangwa.  Tell driver to drop you off at bus terminal bound for Sagada.

 

Rest stop! 😀

09:00AM – ETD from Baguio.

03:30PM – ETA Sagada.  Register at tourism office.  Sign-up for tours of your choice.  For those on a tight-budget but would still love to experience Sagada’s rugged terrain, try the cave connection tour and the trek to Bomod-ok falls.

04:00PM – Check-in at Ganduyan Inn.  Unpack, rest, freshen-up.

I was sound asleep at Ganduyan Inn. Pagod sa kakatrek.

04:30PM – Roam around the community.  Sip coffee at Masferre Inn and Cafe.

06:00PM – Dinner at Yogurt House

Day2

06:00AM – Breakfast.  Sample mami and bacon sandwich at the strawberry cafe.

07:00AM – Meet guide for the cave connection tour.

12:00PM – Lunch.  Siesta.  Rest.

03:00PM – Explore the place on your own.  Roam around the church.  Visit the community cemetery behind it.  Trek to echo valley.

06:00PM – Dinner.

Day3

06:00AM – Breakfast.

07:00AM – Meet guide for the Bomod-ok Falls trek.  You can opt to rent a van, which we did, since it’s a long way to the jump-off point.  If you’re traveling as a couple, like us, you can share with other couples or those who are traveling alone to help shoulder transport costs.

07:30AM – ETA Brgy. Aguid, Sagada.  Start trek.

09:00AM – Falls! 😀 Swim if you dare!

10:30AM – Start trek back to Brgy. Aguid.

12:00PM – Board van back to Sagada proper.

12.30PM – Lunch.  Siesta.  Rest.

03:00PM – Walk to Masferre Museum and Sagada Weaving.

06:00PM- Dinner.  Pack-up.

Day4

05:00AM – Wake-up call.

06:00AM – Breakfast.

07:00AM – Board bus bound for Baguio.

01:30PM – ETA Baguio. You can opt to stay in Baguio or go straight home.

BUDGET

Php3,500 to Php5,000

TIPS

  • Apply sunblock
  • Bring jacket, sweater, or poncho
  • Bring your camera
  • Have coins or change ready if you’ll be commuting or buying stuff from the market
  • Never leave your valuables in your hotel room unless you’re certain it’s safe

 

Bants and I are spontaneous people, and so we travel spontaneously. 😀

Last year, we decided to go to Anawangin cove in Zambales on a whim. With our trusty tent, Sunshine, and my trusty backpack, Joner the Deuter, we boarded a bus going to Iba, Zambales. We left Victory Monumento Station at 7am and arrived at San Antonio, Zambales at 12nn. We had to ask Manong Conductor, “Manong, san ba dito yung papuntang Anawangin? Pundaquit daw bababa eh.” He told us to alight at San Antonio town plaza near the wet market. Mabuti na lang hindi prankster si manong o adik na mahilig mang-trip. Hehehe.

When we alighted, it was high noon and the weather was dry and hot. Kulang na lang tumbleweeds. Again, we didn’t know what to do or where to go next until we saw a group of bagets carrying tents and coolers. Tipong, di naman kayo mukhang mag-eexcursion no? Kulang na lang beach ball. Hehehe. We followed them deep into the wet market on an inkling that they too might be going to Anawangin. They must’ve thought we were such a weird couple. Hahaha! They were met by a tricycle driver who would give them a ride to Pundaquit. Pagkakataon na namin ‘to! We asked Manong Tricycle Driver where we could get a ride to Pundaquit too, we told him we were going to Anawangin. He not only referred us to a tricycle we can ride but he also gave us the number of his brother, a boatman, who will take us to Anawangin. Whoopee! 😀

Kuya Romy's Wonder Boat

It was a 15-minute tricycle ride to Pundaquit. We were met by Kuya Romy, Manong Tricycle Driver’s brother and surfer extraordinnaire, who led us to his bangka. 😀

 

Magical Anawangin: Keneydee-an (Canadian) Landscape

We arrived at Anawangin cove 20 minutes after. All I can say is WOW! Ang ganda pramis. The cove was embraced by majestic mountains and its white-sand beach was lined with pine-tree-like trees.

 

We're not pine trees! We're AGOHO trees!

HAPPITUTU TRIVIA CORNER – The trees in Anawangin are not pine trees but AGOHO trees.  A type of tree similar to the pine tree but is endemic in the Philippines and are normally found in the beaches of Zambales and Camarines.

There are two campsites owned by two different families. Kuya Romy took us to one owned by his friend, of course. We paid an entrance fee of Php100. The place was packed with people. There were around 10-15 groups camping at the grounds. Parang Barangay Anawangin lang. Although it was crowded, we still were able to enjoy the place. I wouldn’t say we enjoyed their company but it was comforting to have other people around as the place was quite isolated.

 

Sunshine the tent. 😀 Parang Blair-witch project lang.

We spent the afternoon pitching our tent and cooking food for our late lunch. We have packed our outdoor stove and some food – gulay na panggisa and chicken, since there are no restaurants or carinderias in the place to buy food from. There’s a sari-sari store, though, but the prices are quite steep. Presyong PX. Hehehe.

After our late lunch, we went to the beach to bum. Hahahaha! 😀 Ang predictable eh no. We watched people with skimboards do their thing, which is eat sand. Hahahahaha! 😀

 

Fishermen

We hung-out at the beach until the sun came down and we were able to see fishermen dock at the beach with their day’s catch. One of our ka-barangays got to buy some fish for them to grill on their bonfire.

 

Alien fish from outer space! (Hindi si Kuya ah, yung hawak niyang isda) Hehehe.

At dahil inggitero kami, we tried to build our own bonfire too. After 52 years, 24 days, 10 hours and 3 minutes, we were able to create fire for the bonfire – this with the help of some kerosene, dried twigs, a lighter and a box of matches. Unfortunately, the fire lasted for only 10 minutes. Hahahaha! 😀

 

Our bonfire: mukha lang s'yang bongga kaso hindi talaga.

We tried sleeping in our tent but to no avail. The wind was howling. May nagyayabang ‘ata. Plus, I don’t know if what I saw was real or not – I saw, or I thought I saw a man half-hidden behind, at least his silhouette, watching us in our tent. That gave me the creeps.

 

Parang ganto yung istura ng mamang mumu oh... Kaso ako yung asa piktyur eh no. Hasel sa masel.

Bants and I just decided to bivouac on the beach.  We talked about cheezy stuff that you wouldn’t want to hear.  Hahaha!  We counted around a million stars!  We counted shooting stars until we fell asleep.

The beach is conducive for bivouacs and late night walks

The next day, we were woken up by the rays of the sun.  We walked along the beach to the other campsite.  We followed the river upstream.  Ang ganda talaga! I wanted to stay there forever and play the part of Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon.  Hehehe.

 

Capones from afar

We were picked-up by Kuya Romy at around 9am.  He told us that our Anawangin trip wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t visit Capones island, and so we obliged.  We arrived at the island 10 minutes later.  Kuya Romy led us to a hundred-year-old light house.  S’yempre photo-ops! Hehehe.  We hung-out for a bit at the beach area until high noon.

 

Parola

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

06:00 AM – ETD Victory Liner Monumento.  Take bus going to Iba or Sta. Cruz.  Ask dispatcher to give you ticket going to Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales.  Don’t forget to eat at DOUBLE HAPPINESS during the bus stop. 😀 Super sarap!

11:00AM – ETA San Antonio town plaza, Pundaquit.  Arrange your tryk and boat transportation beforehand. Contact Kuya Romy – 09094989480.  Tryk fare is Php100, one-way good for two.  Boat fare is Php1,000 good for going to Anawangin and back.  Add Php200 if you want to side-trip to Capones island.

12:00AM – Anawangin!  You can bring a packed lunch or you can cook your food if you have an outdoor stove.  Outdoor stoves can be purchased at any hardware like Ace Hardware or outdoor stores like Habagat in Megamall, Kamikaze in Robinson’s Metro East, Sandugo in Trinoma, or Bombproof Gear in Robinson’s Galleria.  Remember to bring your own food and water.

01:00PM – Set-up camp.  Rest.

02:00PM – Beach bum and tan maintenance operations.

05:00PM – Cook dinner.  Try to cook dinner early, you would like to take advantage of the sunlight. 😀

06:00PM – Dinner.  Try to build your bonfire after. Good luck! Hehehe.

08:00PM -Bivouac.  Try sleeping under the stars.  Bring your malong.

Day2

06:00AM – Cook breakfast.

07:00AM – Breakfast time!

08:00AM – Walk along the beach and around the cove. Discover hidden treasures!

09:00AM – Shower. Pack-up.

09:30AM – ETD for Capones island.  Go gallivanting at the light house.

10:30AM – Ask Kuya Romy or your personal boatman to take you the the beach at Capones Island.  Bum and maintain your tan.  Take pictures.  Roam around the island.

12:00NN – ETD for Pundaquit.  Kuya Romy will lead you to his house where you can take a shower for free.  If you’re nice to him, he’ll even show you his surfboard!

01:00PM – ETA San Antonio Plaza.  Check out what the town’s market has to offer.  There are a lot of good buys and unique items to be found in provincial markets.

01:30PM – Have a late lunch at their “food court” – a chain of carinderias in the wet market.  This is where we ate the most delicious halo-halo ever! Pramis. Taob ang Razon’s. 😀

03:00PM – Catch a bus along the National Highway. 😀  Bus fares are around Php320-340.  You can go straight home to Manila or you can go for a side-trip at Olongapo City to shop for some Ukay goods and to eat at Wimpy’s! 😀

BUDGET

Tipid Trip – Php1,400.00

Sakto Trip – Php1,500.00

Ma-andalucia Trip – Php2,500.00

TIPS

  • Bring your own food and water.  There are no commercial establishments in Anawangin.  The sari-sari store sells goods triple the price – a liter of soda costs Php80!
  • Apply sunblock
  • Don’t forget to bring your mess kit and eating utensils
  • Bring your own stove, pots, and pans
  • Bring a tent and sleeping back
  • Bring your own malong for when you want to bivouac
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera
  • Bring a beach bag for storing your personal belongings when hitting the beach

Apt welcome. 😀

I’ve been to lots of places; Samar in the south, Babuyan Islands in the north, but I have never been to Puerto Galera until last year.  Our friend, Carol, has been inviting us to visit her place of work and leisure in Galera incessantly.  The first time we attempted to do so, we were struck with a severe case of tamaditis and we wound up in Baguio instead.  Hahahaha!  Ang lakas kasi ng ulan tas parang mas madaling pumunta ng Baguio… Sorry Ate Carol!  Our second attempt was more successful. 😀

Di naman masyadong overloaded ang bangka namin. 😀 hahaha!

We boarded a bus bound for Batangas Pier at 6am.  We arrived at the port around 9am, just in the nick of time!  We were lucky enough to catch the boat to White Beach in Puerto Galera scheduled to leave the port at 9am.  Whew… 😀  Nakakainip maghintay minsan eh. We arrived at White Beach at around 10am.  Ang ikli lang pala ng biyahe!

Ayan na ang mga bwitre! Hehehe.

As in other popular tourist destinations in the Philippines, we were immediately hounded by hotel and tour peddlers.  They will try to convince you to take the s0-called good deal they’re trying to offer but, based on our experience, it’s best to ask and roam around the place first to get a better deal yourself.  Haggle your way into getting discounts for accommodations, there’s no harm in trying.  It works sometimes. 😀

We were able to find a place to stay, finally, at Dreamwave Hotel.  The room costs Php1,200.00.  It was air-conditioned, has its own toilet and bath with hot shower, cable TV with good reception and remote control (minsan kasi nawawala eh, inuuwi ng ibang guests, hehehe) , 2 comfortable beds (may pagpipilian kami ni Bants) and fluffy pilllows! We also had a balcony with the view of the beach and the sea.

IT'S SO FLUFFY!!!

Because Bants and I are a friendly bunch (I consider ourselves a bunch, pag magkasama kasi kaming dalawa parang andami namin eh, hahaha! :D), we were able to make friends with the local kids.  We met Dimples and Dondie. 😀 We hung-out at the beach and swam together until late afternoon.  Kids are the funnest people to be with!

Dimples and Dondie, our new found friends. 😀

Hunger? What hunger? We were eating all the time we were in Galera!  Carinderias and turo-turos where ubiquitous. 😀 For lunch, Bants ate a lot of sinaing na tulingan while I feasted on bopis and rices (yes, rices with an S, plural kung plural).  We had our first dinner at Dreamwave Hotel where they served sinigang na baboy sa palayok, grilled liempo, and kare-kareng gulayNadedemonyo ako! Hahaha! Our second dinner (yes, we had two dinners in one night, di kasi kami masyadong gutom, di naman halata sa katawan naming gutom kami, hehehe) was at an Italian restaurant at the end of the beach located on a cliff, I forget the name. We had gnochi and carbonara.  It wasn’t extraordinary.  Actually, nakakaumay tas ang mahal pa. Not sulit at all. For brunch the next day, we had ga-platong banana pancakes and vanilla milkshakes at Coco Beach.  Sarap!

Hmm... Ano kayang masarap kainin?

We sampled White Beach’s night life and went to Coco Beach resort where they have live bands at night.  We sipped beers while listening to reggae music care of Jun Lopito.  😀  Lupit eh no. Akalain mo, naggi-gig dun si Jun Lopito?

The author with Jun Lopito

There are several destinations in Puerto Galera:

1.  White Beach – Where we stayed.  True to its name, it has a mile long beach with white sand.  It’s more popularly known as the poor man’s Boracay. Bars and restaurants line the bay area.  Kung mahilig ka sa udz-udz, this is the place to be.

 

Bants at the beach... with white sand. Hahaha! 😀 May long meaningful pause eh no.

2.  Tamaraw Beach – It’s 5 minutes away from White Beach, located in Brgy. Aninuan.  Unlike White Beach, this place is serene and has lesser tourists.  Best for couples who want to be alone. 😀  Accommodations are more pricey as compared to White Beach. There aren’t many restaurants around, you might have to go to White Beach for more affordable food if you’re traveling on a budget.

Tamaraw Beach, Brgy. Aninuan, Puerto Galera

3.  Sabang Beach – This place is a popular place for divers.  You don’t go here if you want to frolic in the sand because the beach isn’t that nice.  Hehehe.

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

06:00AM – ETD Cubao.  Board bus going to Batangas pier.  Bus station is located in front of Ali Mall and the old Rustan’s department store in Cubao.

09:00AM – ETA Batangas Pier.  Ask around for boats bound for White Beach.  Magkakatabi sila ng booths.  Don’t scrimp on boat fares.  Usually, the ones who offer good deals are the ones who overload.  Make sure boats have personal flotation devices.

10:00AM – White Beach! 😀 Explore the place first.  Accommodations line the entire beach.  Get yourself a great deal.

10:30AM – Rest.  Freshen-up.

11:00AM – Change into your swimsuits and hit the beach! Don’t forget to apply sunblock.

12:00AM – Lunch. Try grilled pusit and liempo at the carinderias that line the beach.

01:00AM – Siesta at the hotel or you can head back to the beach for some hardcore tanning!

I just love beach manicures!

04:00AM – Shower. Freshen up.  Walk around the beach and bay area.  Have a massage or a manicure.  Shop for pasalubong.

o6:00PM – Dinner.

08:00PM – Beer, music, and some dancing at Coco Beach resort.

I love the night life! I want to boogie... 😀

Day2

08:00AM – Early morning swim and tan maintenance operations. 😀

10:00AM – Brunch.  Pancakes at Coco Beach.

11:00AM – Walk along the beach, magpababa ng kinain.  Go swimming or continue tan maintenance operations.

 

Hardcore tanners!

02:00PM – Shower. Freshen up. Pack-up.

03:00PM – ETD Puerto Galera.

04:00PM – ETA Batangas Pier.  Lots of buses are waiting to pick up passengers so you don’t have to worry about catching a ride back to Manila.

07:00PM – Manila!

BUDGET

Php2,000 to Php3,500 per person

TIPS

  • Bring water
  • Bring camera
  • Apply sunblock
  • Never leave your valuables in your hotel room unless you’re certain it’s safe
  • Bring a beach bag for storing your personal belongings when hitting the beach
  • Don’t forget your shades, cap, or umbrella! Some parts of the beach don’t have shade; better safe than sorry

Bants and I have never gone surfing as a couple.

 

Bagasbas Beach!

 

When we first met, our conversations revolved around talks of surfing.  I have surfed several times, and I just LOVE LOVE LOVE it!  Talk about being bitten by the surf bug.  I’m not good at it,though, but I can stand on the board and ride a wave decently.  I told him stories of my trips to La Union and Samar.  He told me he wanted to try and learn too.  However, we haven’t gone surfing together.  I hope that one day we do.

 

Me and Joy, a.k.a. baby. Hehehe. Ang hirap makakuha ng picture na kumpleto kami at maayos, wala kasing taga-kuha. Ah... So yun pala ang silbi ng boyfriend. Hahaha! Just kidding Bants!

 

Last June, my friends, Con, Joy, Bem, and I went to Bagasbas beach in Daet, Camarines Norte for an all-girls bikini beach party.  I usually organize all-girls bikini beach parties for my girlfriends and I so we can all wear our bikinis without being conscious of what others, especially our boy friends and boyfriends, will think.  It would have been more fun if Bants were with us to go to Bagasbas, however, the trip was in conflict with his work schedule. 😀  Di bale, dadalhin kita dun, bebi. Pramis.

My friends and I chose to go to Bagasbas because:

1.  Yey, our friend who helped organize the trip, wanted to return to Bagasbas where she was bitten by the surf bug.

2.  Bem wanted to go to the beach before she goes to Indonesia for a teaching stint.  This was also her despedida.

 

WE'RE GONNA MISS YOU BEM!

 

3.  I wanted to surf and maintain my tan.

4.  Con and Joy didn’t have anything better to do.  Hahaha! 😀

But Yey, being the worrywart that she is, suddenly changed her mind and refused to go with us fearing that torrential rains will refrain her from getting back to Manila on-time for a school duty.  So she wasn’t able to go. Belat!  Andami mo tuloy namiss. Joy, on the otherhand, almost didn’t make it.  She was almost left by the bus after arriving 30 minutes late.  Hahahaha! Good thing our charms were enough to persuade the driver and bus conductor to wait for her. Minsan ok din maging babae, isang kindat lang. Hehehehe. 😀

It was an 8-hour bus ride to Daet.  We arrived early in the morning.  We were picked-up by a tricycle hired by Surfer’s Dine Inn, the place where we’re staying, which by the way was rumored to be a motel or short time-an.  Hahaha!  Magnet ako sa mga ganun eh no.  Mot-mot… It didn’t bother us, though.  We were not staying there for a short time anyway, wink. 😉  The room was basic and we found it quite expensive.  It had air-conditioning, its own decent bathroom, a bed with so-so pillow; but for Php1000 a night was quite steep, if you ask me since it didn’t have TV – a basic necessity.  Hehehe. 😀 Well, at least the sheets smelled nice.  Downy banlaw!

Other places to stay at Bagasbas:

1.  Catherine’s – They have an in-house restaurant, spacious lawn, and a swimming pool.  Perfect for water babies.  The place is gated.  The rooms cost Php1,600 for an overnight stay.  Rooms are excellent, each with its own bath and LCD TV with good cable reception.  We highly recommend this place.

2.  Canimog Hotel – Unlike Catherine’s and Surfer’s Dine Inn located in front of Bagasbas beach, Canimog Hotel is situated at Daet town proper.  This place is ideal for you if you would like to explore what the town of Daet has to offer.

 

 

Hmmm... Sinigang... 😀 The gang at Leo's.

 

We never went hungry in Bagasbas.  The bay area was lined with lots of food choices and restaurants to choose from.  But we were a fan of Jogger’s Restaurant.  They serve tapsilog, tocilog, hotsilog, all kinds of silog for just Php45-55!  Perfect if you’re on a budget.  😀  We also loved Leo’s calamares and sinigang na baboySuper sarap! We had breakfast at Catherine’s, a hotel and restaurant located at the end of the baywalk.  They serve delicious food at reasonable prices.  We especially liked the pancakes, sisig and java rice.  Hmm… Nagutom tuloy ako. 😀

 

The author trying to catch a wave. 😀

 

It wasn’t surf season when we went to Bagasbas so the sea was kind of flat but there were still pretty decent waves to ride.  They said good things come to those who wait, and those who are patient enough got the chance to ride good waves.  Bem and I had a contest to see who had the most wipe-outs.  Nobody would want to admit winning this contest. Hahaha! 😀 Even though Bem and I could hardly stand upright on the surfboard and there weren’t enough good waves to ride, we were still super stoked! And super burnt. Hahaha! Di ba, Bem?

 

 

Poseur Surfer. Ayaw mag-surf ni Con kaya nagpa-picture na lang kasama ang surfboard. 😀

 

Surfshops line the baywalk.  You can rent a surfboard for Php200 an hour.  We rented ours for Php800 for one whole day. 😀  Surf lessons are available upon request.  The locals are super nice and they even helped us with our pop-ups even without us asking them.  Siguro naawa na lang sila sa itsura namin.  Hehe. 😀

My friends and I enjoyed our first ever out-of-town and surf trip.  I just hope that Bants could join us next time. 😀

 

 

Wish you were here...

 

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

08:30PM – ETD Superlines Cubao.  Superlines bus station is located along EDSA; it’s near the Victory Liner bus station.  Bus fare is at Php480.  Ask driver about bus schedules to and from Daet since they are erratic, just so you know how to schedule your trip back to Manila.

06:00AM – ETA Daet.  Take tricycle to Bagasbas beach.  Tryk fare is Php50.

06:15AM – Arrive at Catherine’s.  Rest.  Freshen up. Eat breakfast.  Pancakes at Catherine’s are the best!

07:30AM – Time to catch those waves! Early morning swells are the best for surfing since the waves are glassy and easier to ride on.  Hire an instructor for surf lessons or rent a surfboard, if you’re already a pro.  Don’t forget to apply sunblock before hitting the beach.

12:00NN – Lunch time! If you’re craving for tapsilog or you want to eat on a budget, sample the food choices at Jogger’s. 😀

01:00PM – Siesta. Rest. Watch TV. Read a book.

04:00PM – Surf! Surf! Surf!  ‘Cause you just can never get enough of surfing. 😀 If you’re body’s already aching all over, you can opt to stay indoors, swim in Catherine’s pool, tan on the beach, eat barbecue and isaw, or you can walk along the beach with your friends or boyfriend, whoever it is you’re with.

 

 

Bem and Joy enjoying themselves at Catherine's pool

 

06:00PM – Rest. Freshen up.

07:00PM – Dinner.  Try Leo’s calamares.  Sip a beer.

08:30PM – Walk along the beach, which is buzzing with activity even during night time.

Day2

07:00AM – Surf! Surf! Surf!  Take advantage of those glassy waves. 😀  But if you’re like my friends, who are total sleepyyheads, you can sleep in. 😀

10:00AM – Brunch.  Last chance to take a dip at Catherine’s swimming pool!

11:30AM – Shower. Pack-up.

12:00NN – Get tryk to take you to Superlines bus station.

01:00PM – ETD Daet.

09:30PM – ETD Manila.

BUDGET

Php2,500 to Php4,000 per person

TIPS

  • Bring water
  • Bring a book
  • Bring your camera
  • Apply sunblock
  • Never leave valuables in your hotel room unless you’re certain it’s safe
  • Bring a beach bag for storing your personal items when going to the beach
  • Don’t forget your shades and cap or umbrella! There’s no shade in Bagasabas beach, your skin might get too burnt
  • Bring a rashguard and an extra pair of swimsuit when surfing

Barangay Villa Sulit

Bants and I adore the sun.  We have gone to the beach almost every month for the past couple of years.  The first beach trip we did was to Laiya in Batangas.  I’ve been to Laiya several times before since it was the jump-off point to Daguldol, a mountain that my school organization, Loyola Mountaineers, and I used to climb.  It was my first time to see ‘white sand’ in the otherwise typical ‘black sand’ shores of Batangas, and I wanted to share this experience with Bants.

It was a long commute from Manila to Laiya, and we endured a lot of transfers.  First, we boarded a bus going to Lipa from Cubao, ’cause Cubao is the Center of the Universe! Hehehe. 😀  Second, we were dropped off at Big Ben where we rode a tricycle to the San Juan jeepney terminal.  Third, we rode a jeep from Lipa to San Juan. Fourth, at San Juan town proper, we boarded a jeep bound for Laiya/Hugom. Whew… 4 transfers!  If we only knew how to drive… (Eraserheads singing in the background: gusto kong matutong magdrive, kahit na wala akong kotse) 😀

Villa Sulit... NOT!

Being the cheapskates that we are, we decided to stay at Villa Sulit.  It’s not a proper resort but a compound of small huts rented out as accommodations.  Villa Sulit was not sulit at all.  The room we got was a bit overpriced, if you ask me.  It was for Php1,200 a night and was highly unsatisfactory.  The room was sitting on top of  a tree.  The stairs were rickety and had nails poking out on every corner.  Hello Tetano! There was a small electric fan that didn’t have it’s face on so that the fan propellers are exposed.  Parang elesi lang ng helicopter.  Hahaha! 😀 Kakatakot.  And the pillows!  God, the pillows were like sacks of coal.  Antigas!  Para kong umunan sa aspalto.  What we liked about our room though are the birds that constantly perch on the branches outside our window.  IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE! 😀

Woke up this morning, smile with the rising sun, three little birds are by my doorstep...

The bathroom was communal, which we shared with a big spider and a couple of cockroaches (mga travel bloggers din daw sila, hehehe).  There was no electricity and no running water in the bathroom.  We bathed in the dark and we had to fetch water at a faucet outside.  Kamusta naman di ba?

Good morning sunshine! A glimpse of our Villa Sulit bed

The place was quite popular with families and friends who wanted to enjoy themselves.  And enjoy they did.  To our expense.  We had to endure their Tanghalan ng Kampeon bouts at night on the videoke machines that the huts had. When you can’t beat them, join them, they said.  And so we sang along with them in our room until we fell asleep. 😀

Walking all the way to the unexplored side of Laiya

What’s good about Villa Sulit, though, is it’s near karinderias and small eateries.  They serve the usual lutong-bahay fare.  Prices are affordable at Php30 for meat entrees and Ph25 for vegetable dishes.  If you want to sip a bottle of beer on the beach at night, you can buy beer and peanuts for pulutan at nearby sari-sari stores.

Beach night lights blinding us from seeing the stars

Bants and I walked all the way to the other side of Laiya.  Resorts dot the coastline and we visited almost all of them on one of our walks.  We particularly enjoyed La Luz’s beach front.  The best site to snorkel in Laiya.  You can spot lots of Dory, Nemo’s dad’s friend or blue damsels as scientists call them, and small fish I’m not familiar with.  There’s also a big rock you can climb on and take pictures of.

Lumu-lonely Planet...

Other resorts you can stay at are:

1.  Balai sa Laiya – We highly recommend this place.  My friends and I have stayed there once. The rooms are great, each with its own toilet and bath, air-condition unit, and fluffy pillows! 😀 An overnight package costs Php2,350 and comes with 4 buffet meals.  Yes, 4 buffet meals!  But wait there’s more!  Just kidding.  😀  Reservations are required.

2.  La Luz – We haven’t been to this place but it looks pretty neat.

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

06:00AM – ETD Cubao.  Catch a bus at Cubao bus station in front of Ali Mall or in front of the old Rustan’s departmet store.  Ask driver/conductor to drop you off at Big Ben

08:00AM – ETA Lipa.  Ride tricycle.  Ask driver to take you to San Juan jeepney terminal

08:10AM – Board jeep to San Juan town proper.  Ask driver to drop you at Laiya/Hugom jeepney termnial

09:15AM – Ride jeep to Laiya/Hugom.  They try to fill the jeep up, which takes about an hour.  You can leave your things to save your seats and roam around San Juan town proper to buy essentials like water or cigarettes, a necessity for Bants. 😀

10:30AM – ETA Laiya.  Rest for a bit or head right away to the beach

12:00NN – Lunch

01:30PM – Read a book at the beach.  Siesta.  Relax.

03:00PM – Eat snacks while walking at the beach

05:00PM – Go for a late afternoon swim

07:00PM – Wash-up.  Dinner

08:00PM – Sip a bottle of beer at the beach while stargazing

Day2

08:00AM – Breakfast

09:00AM – Snorkeling at La Luz

11:00AM – Wash up and pack

12:00NN – Lunch

01:00PM – Catch a jeep back to San Juan

02:00PM – Ride jeep to Lipa

03:15PM – From Lipa, ride tryk to bus terminal to catch a bus going to Cubao or you can roam around Lipa for a bit and go Ukay shopping

Batangas Goto at San Juan eatery

BUDGET

Php1,200 to Php3,000 per person

TIPS

  • Apply sunblock
  • Bring water
  • Bring coins or change for commuting
  • Never leave your valuables in your hotel room unless you’re certain it’s safe
  • Bring a beach bag to store your personal items when going to the beach
  • Bring a book

Sonya's Secret Garden, which is not-so-secret anymore

Yes, we’re back at Tagaytay again.  But this post is dedicated to the wonderful place that is Sonya’s Garden.  After going to Taal and Tagaytay, we felt like we were robbed and were thinking twice about going back to the place.  However, I have been hearing of this place called Sonya’s Garden.  My good friend, Sassy, has mentioned the place to me before.  She told of flowers being served as food, which made me curious.

I searched for the place on Google, ’cause you can find everything under the sun in this search engine.  Lo and behold!  Sonya’s was not just your run-of-the-mill vegetarian resto, it also was a bed and breakfast.  Lenten season was fast approaching then, so I suggested to my loving, generous, and punong tagapagpatupad ng pangarap boyfriend, Bants, that we should spend the holy week at Sonya’s.  Of course he can’t do anything but agree.  Hehehe. 😀

We left for Tagaytay at Holy Wednesday.  We were required to go to work for half a day so we went to the bus station right after.  We boarded the bus to Tagaytay at the Cubao bus station, right in front of the old Rustan’s department store.  Upon arriving at Olivarez Plaza, we caught a jeep going to Nasugbu.  We asked the driver to drop us off at Sonya’s.  They were nice enough to give us instructions on how to get there.  We were supposed to alight at Buck Estate, which we did, and ride a tricycle to Sonya’s, which we also did. 😀

Happitutu at Sonya's dining hall. Tagal ng food! Hahaha!

We arrived at Sonya’s at around 4pm.  We were led to a gated portion of the garden and was welcomed by a young lady whose name we have forgotten.  She led us to our room. Wala akong masabi…  Our room was surrounded by rich foliage.  As in!  You’ll hear nothing but the sound of birds and crickets chirping.  It must be the best hotel/inn/B&B room I’ve stayed in my whole life.  Ang ganda, pramis! The bed looked like a cloud that fell from the heavens: fluffy pillows, thick duvet, over-sized bed.  Para ka lang mina-magnet ng kama.  I just wanted to lie down the whole day, which I did.  Hehehe. 😀

Happitutu in Sonya's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious room

Rooms don’t have television sets or radios.  At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive.  What?! No TV? This can’t be!- was my first reaction.  But then I remembered, the place was designed specifically for relaxation and Sonya decided to remove all the distractions, that is technology.  Sonya personally picked out books and magazines from her collection and shared these with guests for them to read.

The author sleeping like a baby on a cloud-like bed

Because the bathroom is splendid, it deserves a whole paragraph to itself.  Hehehe! 😀  We were surprised to see that the bathroom had big capiz windows, which is not typical of Philippine architecture.  We were bothered at first.  Kasi baka may manilip, kahit wala namang sisilipin.  Hehehe.  But we reminded ourselves that there were a few people around and our only neighbors were the crickets and the birds.  They used pebbles instead of ceramic tiles for the bathroom floor, quite ingenious.  We had a ladder for our towel rack and fresh flowers atop the toilet tank.  Towels are replaced daily and guests are given organic toiletries- I’m fond of the lavender oatmeal soap and the honey shampoo, which are also sold at the gift shop.

We met Sonya over dinner.  She approached our table and asked how our food was and how we found the room.  What a gracious host! 😀  She also introduced us to Loida Nicolas-Lewis, wife of the late Reginald L. Lewis, who was spending the holy week at the place too.  What a memorable night!

Bants and I sampled the spa.  We made our reservation and we headed to the spa right after dinner.  Nakakakiliti pala magpamasahe.  Hehehe. 😀  It was a great way to end the night.

Happitutu lounging around Sonya's gazebos

An overnight package at Sonya’s costs Php3,400, because we went on a holiday.  Regular package rate is Php3,000, which already includes breakfast and a choice between dinner or lunch the next day.  At first glance, it might seem expensive but it actually is reasonable.  The rooms are magnificent and the food superb and overflowing food: pasta and fresh greens with flowers, yes flowers!

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

10:00AM – ETD Cubao.  Board a bus going to Tagaytay at Cubao bus station in front of the old Rustan’s department store and beside Cubao X.

01:00PM – ETA Olivarez Plaza, Tagaytay.  Lunch at Tagaytay.  You can opt for Mang Inasal or Mushroom Burger if you’re on a budget.

01:30PM – Ride jeep to Nasugbu or Alfonso, ask driver to drop you off at  Sonya’s.  Alight at Buck Estate and ride tricycle to Sonya’s.

02:00PM – Check-in at Sonya’s.  Rest.  Relax.  Roam around the nooks and crannies of the garden.

04:00PM – Try Sonya’s spa services.

06:00PM – Dinner

Day2

08:00AM – Breakfast

09:00AM – Read a book. Sketch. Take a nap. Cuddle.

12:00NN – Lunch

02:00PM – Check out. Visit the souvenir shop.

03:30PM – Back at Tagaytay.  You can opt to roam around Tagaytay or go straight home.

BUDGET

Php3,800 to Php5,500 per person

TIPS

  • Bring your own book, if you want to finish reading that darned book that has been sitting in your bedside tables for months
  • Don’t bring your laptop, PDA, iPad, etc so you can fully enjoy the experience
  • Bring extra money because there are lots of goodies in the souvenir shop
  • Bring your camera

Hmmm... Pine tree... 😀

Baguio is one of our favorite destinations as a couple. We have frequented the city for the past couple of years, and each time is a different experience altogether.

Stranger than fiction. Pikachu conversing with Bants at Burnham Park.

We first went to Baguio as a couple during Christmas 2008.  It was extra cold – more reasons for cuddling. 😀 (Yihee… Sobrang cheezy…)  The plan was to stay at his aunt’s house in Quezon hill but we never really stick to ANY plan.  That’s just how we roll…  I persuaded him to stay at Corfu Village Inn, along Leonard Wood Road, instead because the place was 10-15 minutes away from Session Road and some of the parks on foot.

The author lounging around at Corfu

Rooms at Corfu are decent at Php800 per night.  Hot shower, comfy bed (with surot from the 70’s), and cable TV sometimes without a remote control (inuuwi ‘ata ng ibang bisita, hehehe).  What we like about the place is sits right below 50’s Diner! 😀  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is just a flight of stairs away.  Buhay baboy lang. 😀

Hmmmm..... Microtel pillllooooooowwwwsss... Kagigil! Sarap i-hug!

We also have tried Microtel Inn & Suites right beside Victory Liner bus station on one of our visits.  Off-peak, which is from June to August, the rooms cost Php2,100 per night but regular rates are Php3,500 to Php4,200 per night.  It’s quite expensive but people who love big fluffy pillows and an oversized bed, like me, would definitely enjoy the place.  And did I mention that the package includes a breakfast buffet?  We stuffed ourselves silly with tocino, longganisa, danggit, scrambled eggs, sunny side-up eggs, and rices (yes, with an S).

Bants passing gas... Di kinaya nung statwa, pinilit n'yang galawin ang kanyang sementong kamay para magtakip ng ilong. Hahahaha! 😀

If we had the money, we also would like to try and stay at:

1.   PNKY Bed and Breakfast – It’s along Leonard Wood Road, 5-minutes away from Corfu Village Inn and 50’s Diner.  It’s a cozy place ideal for couples.  They also have a cafe for those who just want to lounge around and sip a cup of coffee.  Package rates range from Php3,400 to Php 5,200 per day.

2.   The Manor at Camp John Hay – If you want to experience the high life, this place is for you.  Package rates range from Php5,200 to Php12,300 per night.

We don’t recommend staying at transient houses if you’re like us who would like to go in and out of our room at our own accord without ringing any doorbells or knocking on doors.  We also want the freedom to stay outdoors till midnight without having to worry about waking anybody up at an unholy hour just to get to our room.  Plus, most transient rooms don’t have cable TV or hot showers, and the going rate is Php500, which is quite steep if you ask me.  Mag-Corfu ka na lang.  Hehe. 😀

Football or volleyball. While away the time by watching football matches at Burnham Park.

Every time Bants and I visit Baguio, we gain at least a pound or two.  There are lots of food to sample and restaurants to eat at.  Here are a few that we recommend:

1.  Jack’s Kitchenette and Restaurant – One of our favorite eateries, especially when we don’t have enough money in our pockets.  Their specialty is Jack’s rice: a combination of quarter fried chicken, two slices of pork liempo, chopsuey (na magawgaw), and sunny side-up egg on a cup of rice.  All this for only Php75.  Di ba sulit? You can find its branches at Session Road and Baguio Market.  Price range: Php50-100 per person

Our good friend Carol roaming around the eclectic interiors of Vocas.

2.  Vocas Cafe and Oh My Gulay Restaurant – This otherworldly cafe is owned by renowned filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik.  The interiors are an eclectic match of materials and found objects.  It serves both as an art gallery and a restaurant.  After hours, Kidlat, his kids, and other Baguio-based artists congregate in this space to jam and to exchange ideas.  The food served is strictly vegetarian.  We especially love their pasta Puttanesca.  You can find Vocas at the top floor of La Azotea along Session Road.  Price range:  Php75-200 per person

The author with Kidlat Tahimik. 😀

3.  Bliss Cafe – Serves vegetarian and vegan food.  Owned by our Buddhist friends, Jim and Shanti.  The place boasts of good vegetarian food that doesn’t taste like rabbit food. 😀  Interiors display authentic Buddhist antiques from Tibet.  You can find Bliss at the ground floor of Hotel Elizabeth in Gibraltar Road.  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php100-350 per person

4.  Forest House – Cited by Philippine Tatler as one of the best restaurants in the Philippines, it serves good comfort food at reasonable prices.  Bants and I are particularly fond of Jackero, which is grilled porkchop slathered with chili and beans served with a side of potato wedges and buttered vegetables.  Hmmm… Thinking about it makes me hungry.  You can find Forest House at Loakan Road.  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php150-650 per person

Nakanganga. Waiting for order to arrive at Forest House. 😀

5.  Slaughterhouse – Slaughterhouse is actually a group of small eateries beside the, er, slaughterhouse.  Hehehe.  Most of the meat products sold at the Baguio Market are from this place.  Their specialty is pinapaitan, igado, bulalo, and menudo. If you’re a meat lover, this place is for you. 😀  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php40-70 per person

7.  Good Kitchen – Good Chinese food.  Their buttered chicken is a must-try.  You can visit Good Kitchen at Dangwa, near the bus station going to Sagada.  Price range: Php70-200 per person

8.  Pizza Volante – Frequented by bagets or young people.  Try their Pizza Margherita and fresh green salad with blue cheese dressing.  Price range: Php100-350 per person

9.  Carinderia sa Gov. Pack Bus StationLutong bahay at its best.  Besides Jack’s Kitchenette and Restaurant, we frequent this place when we have little money left in our pockets.  They serve good food that’s super cheap.  Their specialty is dinakdakan, an Ilocano variety of sisig.  It’s a minute away from Session Road on foot.  Price range: Php35-60 per person

10.  Street Food sa Night Market – Fish balls, squid balls, chicken balls, kikiam, chicken skin, fried isaw, balut, toknene, kwek-kwek, proben.  Need I say more?  😀  Find these favorite street fare at the Night Market along Harrison Road.  Price range: Php0.50-10 per person

11.  Burgers with leafy greens at the Wet Market – Who could resist fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on their burger? 😀  And this is only for Php18.00! 😀  You can find burger stalls along the road at the side of the Baguio wet market.  Note: bawal ang maarte kasi madumi ang lugar.  Hehehe. 😀 Price range: Php18-180 per person (depending on how many burgers you can eat, Jughead eh no)

12.  Rito’s Bulalo – Probably the best bulalo I’ve ever eaten.  Taob ang bulalo ni Rose and Grace dito.  Magse-sebo ang ngala-ngala mo sa sarap! Pramis! 😀  The restaurant used to be behind LTO but they’ve moved to a place along Marcos Highway.  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php70-200 per person

Collosal burger! Only 50's Diner does it like that. 😀

13.  50’s Diner – A visit to Baguio is never complete without going to 50’s Diner!  Sip milkshakes on their counter and munch on larger than life clubhouse sandwiches.  Super delicious and super affordable! 😀  You can find 50’s Diner along Leonard Wood Road right beside Red Lion Pub. 😀  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php70-150 per person

Milkshakes at 50's Diner are the best, especially when taken on the counter!

14.  Cafe by the Ruins – An institution in Baguio, this is where the Pinikpikan band, later Kalayo,  was founded.  They serve good food but is quite expensive, for us, cheapskates, at least.  Our good friend Carol, treated us to lunch here on my birthday this year.  Thanks Ate Carol! 😀  Accessible by jeep.  Price range: Php150-400 per person

Kampai! Drinking tapuey, rice wine, with Carol at Cafe by the Ruins. One of my best birthday celebrations ever. 😀

If you want to drink a bottle of beer and have a barrel of laughs, there’s a bar a floor below Vocas Cafe in La Azotea Building along Session Road.  We chanced upon this place during our visit on July 2009.  A couple of big gay men, baklang maton as I usually call them, lured us into this bar as we were heading up Vocas.  We weren’t disappointed.  😀  They serve sizzling sisig and local beers at Php35.

Our friendly baklang maton maitre 'd. She's so FLUFFFYYYY!!!

Besides pine trees, Good Shepherd ube jam, and the 1990 earthquake, Baguio is also famous for its Ukay-Ukay stores.  Bants and I frequent Bayanihan at the back of Burnham Park, the one along Session Road, and Hilltop near the wet market.  Ukay goods at Hilltop are sold at dirt cheap prices.  Halos mga basahan na kasi tsaka mga paborito ng may-ari. Hehehe.  But if you’re lucky like my friend, Sassy, you’ll find good buys like the vintage Adidas jacket she bought for Php10.

Sa Gap, Php4000 yan. Sa ukay, Php150 lang. Hehehe. Fumi-fierce eh no.

We recommend that you do your shopping at the Night Market, which runs along Session Road and Harrison Road.  Unlike other items at regular Ukay stores that are a bit overpriced, goods sold at the Night Market are cheap.  I was able to buy a denim jacket for Php150, which normally sells at Php250 in regular Ukay shops.

Nagga-gago sa Ukay. 😀

If you’re tired of the usual Baguio tourist spots you can visit the Asin hot springs of Tuba, Benguet.  You can catch a jeep going to Tuba at Baguio Market.  Ask the driver to drop you off at the Asin hot springs.

Not-so-white elephant

It’s a 20-30minute drive from Baguio to the hot springs.  There is an entrance fee of Php100, swim-all-you-can.  Jeepneys that’ll take you back to Baguio are available only until 4pm.  Make sure that you have boarded a jeep before that time.

Yes, you can go swimming in Baguio. 😀

You can also try walking from Leonard Wood Road to Mines View Park. 😀 It’s a long walk but a very enjoyable one.  Have a rest stop at the Baguio Mansion or Malacanang of the North and sample some Strawberry Taho.  Pramis, ang sarap!!!

Baguio at night. View of Harrison Road, Mt. Sto. Tomas, and the Baguio skyline from Vocas.

Other places worth visiting in Baguio:

1.  Tam-awan Village – A small village of authentic Ifugao huts that house art made by Baguio-based artists.  Help revive the place by paying a visit.  Located at Quezon Hill, accessible by jeep.

2.  Cafe Sta. Isabel – Art gallery and cafe owned by renowned artist, BenCab.  Located along the highway going to Asin Hot Springs, accessible by jeep.

3.  Ayuyang – If you want to sip beer while listening to reggae music, this place is for you.  Located at Governor Pack Road, accessible by jeep.

4.  Nevada SquareKung udz-udz ang trip mo, eto’ng bagay sa’yo! Located at Loakan Road, near Forest House, accessible by jeep.

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

Day1

05:00PM – ETD Victory Liner Bus Station, Cubao

11:00PM – ETA Victory Liner Bus Station, Baguio

11:15PM – Check-in at Corfu Village Inn

09:00AM – Breakfast at 50’s Diner or Carinderia sa bus station.  Buy lunch for picnic at Asin hot springs.

10:00AM – ETD Baguio Market.  Catch a jeep going to Tuba, ask around the market area where you can get a jeep going to Asin hot springs, Tuba, Benguet.  Ask driver to drop you off at hot springs.

10:45AM – ETA Asin hot springs.  Spend the rest of the day swimming.

12:00NN – Lunch.  You can either eat the food you brought or buy food at the resort resto. 😀

01:00PM – More swimming! 😀

02:00PM – Wash up.  Prepare to head back to Baguio.

03:00PM – ETD at Asin hot springs

03:45PM – ETA Baguio.  Back to Corfu Inn to freshen-up

04:00PM – Rest or walkabout Session Road

06:00PM – Dinner at Oh My Gulay, Pizza Volante or Forest House

08:00PM – Night market shopping!

12:00AM – Dessert at Vizco’s.  They serve the best cakes in Baguio, besides Forest House of course

Day2

09:00AM – Breakfast at 50’s Diner or Jack’s Kitchenette

10:00AM – Walkathon from Leonard Wood or Session Road to Mine’s View Park.  Pass by Teacher’s Camp, Botanical Gardens, Wright Park, and Baguio Mansion.  After photo-ops at Mine’s View, visit Good Shepherd convent for some angel cookies, chocolate crinkles, and pandan iced tea.

12:00NN – Lunch at Rito’s or Slaughterhouse

01:00PM – Pasalubong shopping at Baguio Market or Maharlika

03:00PM – Back at Corfu to pack-up and freshen-up

04:00PM – ETD Baguio.  You can either board a bus at Victory or other buses at Governor Pack Road, which are much cheaper

10:30PM – ETA Manila

BUDGET

Php2,000 to Php3,500 per person

TIPS

  • Apply sunblock
  • Bring jacket, sweater, or poncho
  • Bring your camera
  • Have coins or change ready if you’ll be commuting or buying stuff from the market
  • Beware of pickpockets! Especially along Session Road

Aquamarine waters of Taal, sarap sana magswimming sa asido!

I’ve always wanted to ride a horse. It was one of my childhood dreams; although I wasn’t one who wanted ponies for my birthday. Hahaha! 😀

And Bants, being the ‘punong tagapagpatupad ng mga pangarap,’ made my dreams come true. We went horseback riding to the Taal crater.  And let me tell you, it wasn’t cheap.  At all.  It was TAGA-tay all over again.

Our original plan was to have the run-of-the-mill Tagaytay experience. Picnic at the park, annoy the animals at Paradizoo, walk around Tagaytay ’til our tongues are hanging. But it was one of our weak moments. We succumbed to the call of the infamous ‘tour peddlers’ with their constant chants of, “Boss, Taal? Boss, Taal? Mura lang, package na.”

We decided to go with Inday; Inday Tagaytay as I called her. She wasn’t like the other ‘tour peddlers’ who looked like escaped convicts.  She was in her teens.  She looked young and sweet.  She offered/lured/tricked us to a tour of Taal lake, to which we obliged.  Seconds later, Bants and I were on our way to Talisay, Batangas, squeezed inside a tricycle.  It was a long way down, literally.  And we fear the long way back up.  Hahaha!  We weren’t so sure the tricycle would make it given our combined body weight of 5lbs.  Hahahaha!  Kidding. 😀

Inday told us that she already has arranged for our accommodations with a resort, which had a pool with no water in it.  Hahaha!  Talk about a dry spell.  😀  The room was basic but above average.  We had access to the spacious terrace and our room had the view of the lake and the volcano.  The room was air-conditioned.  It had cable TV with good reception, a comfortable bed, and lots of not-so-soft pillows.  HOWEVER, the bathroom was communal. Good thing we were the only people checked-in at the time.  I’m usually not frilly with these kinds of things.  Heck, I camp at places without bathrooms.  What irks me is that the price of the room was unreasonable given the circumstances.

Taal Lake at night from our resort

The caretakers of the resort compensated, though, by cooking delicious food – fresh fish caught from the lake.  Then again, we weren’t told that food was not included in the package.  Thank God for Bants’ patience and overflowing pocket. Hahaha! 😀

We decided to go to the volcano early the next morning.   It was a 10-minute boat ride from the resort to the volcano island.   The boatman led us to a kubo, which apparently was the tourism office.   We were bombarded by the horseback riding operators until, at last, they managed to lure us into riding the frail looking horses (I confess, it was half my fault since I have been pestering Bants for me to ride on one to fulfill my childhood dream).  To make the long story short, we managed to spend around Php2,500.00 just to get to the mouth of the volcano.   I just don’t know if they charge by the pound judging from our weight.  Por kilo eh no.  Hehehe. 😀 But next time, we’re going on foot.

Dreams do come true... for a price. Hehehe. 😀

Anyway, we didn’t let those greedy people spoil our day and the beauty of the lake. It was magnificent! I wanted to trek down the crater to swim in the aquamarine waters of the crater, being the water-baby that I am, but I was warned that it was almost pure sulfuric acid since the volcano is still active.  The majestic view was enough to compensate for the bad experiences we had. 😀

RECOMMENDED ITINERARY

07:00AM – ETD Cubao. Take bus going to Tagaytay. Bus station is in front of the old Rustan’s Department Store and beside Cubao X.  You can also catch a bus in front of Baclaran Church along Roxas Blvd.

09:00AM – ETA Olivarez Plaza. Rent a tricycle to go to the lake. The tricycle drivers usually know boatmen who will take you to the volcano island.  There are also jeepneys who travel to Talisay, the town nearest the lake. I just don’t know where you can catch one from Tagaytay. If you’re taking the tryk, ask the driver to pick you up later at your preferred time.

10:00AM – Taal Volcano. Don’t be swayed by the evil horsemen. Hahaha! Insist that you will trek up the crater, unless you really want to ride a horse. It takes an hour or two to reach the crater, depending on your pace.

12:00NN – Lunch at the crater. You can buy snacks at the crater or you can bring your own food. There are huts available for dining.  Sari-sari stores sell water, soda, and chips.  I’m not so sure if they sell kanin and ulam.

01:30PM – ETD Taal Volcano port

01:40PM – ETA Talisay Town. You can roam around the town a bit, although there’s not much to see.

03:00PM – Tagaytay. You can visit the usual Tagaytay sites or you can go home right after. 😀

NOTE: An overnight trip is not recommended since you can visit all tourist spots in one day.

BUDGET
Php1000 to Php3500 per person

TIPS

  • Apply sunblock!
  • Bring a hat or an umbrella
  • Bring your own water and food for lunch
  • Bring your camera
  • Bring extra clothes because the trail is dusty
  • If you’re going to trek up the crater, use boots or closed shoes to protect your feet from dust, unless it’s ok with you
  • Don’t be swayed by the evil horsemen! 😀 Take a hike, it’s good for your heart and your pocket

Happitutu!

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