Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Around Philippines: My Checklist

I'm counting down the 81 provinces of the Philippines. I'm not expecting it to finish all of them but I hope I can still go check the list as much as I can.

1. Ilocos Norte

May 2010 when I visited Ilocos Norte in a quick weekend getaway with friends. We've covered Ilocos Norte and Sur in just 2 days coming back and forth from Manila. The good thing about it is we have our own transpo so going around is very easy. We've seen most of the tourist spots in here namely (1) Pagudpud Beach (2) Bagui Windmill (3) Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (4) Blue Lagoon (5) Malacanang of the North (6) Patapat Viaduct (7) Paoay Church (8) Marcos museum and mausoleum (9) Bantay Abot cave (10) Kabigan Falls. We've failed to see the Kapurpurawan rock formations because we missed the turn by a few kms and we decided not go back. Since this is a quickie getaway we didn't surf in La Paz sand dunes.
Warning in Pagudpud beach the waves are very strong. I'm not sure if that is a normal scenario. Just be careful in the water.
Don't forget to try the Pinagbet Pizza in a resto in front of Paoay Church.
We stayed at Polaris Resort which is in Pagudpud Beach.
Our expenses for Ilocos Norte and Sur trip: ~ php2k each

2.  Ilocos Sur

As part of our Ilocos quickie weekend getaway this is the thing we don't want to miss. Vigan is one of the world heritage site. You'll get to feel like going back in time. Calle Crisologo is a long stretch of old buildings. Some had turned into establishments. But of course we got to taste the Vigan Empanada.
Take home the yummy Vigan longganisa, Bagnet, Chichacorn and Ilocos vinegar.

3. La Union

The surfing capital of the north. I've been here 2010 and 2015. Both was a fast decision that lead us all the way up. Beach and Surfing for a quick dose of relaxation from stress are found in here. Though there are more places to see in La Union. Surfing for an hour with instructor cost P400 but if you want to do it on your own rent the surfing board for P200 all day.

4. Pangasinan

One of the places that I've visited a lot of times. The reason is the shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. Most prayer request were answered as testified by devotees. Outside the shrine you can buy Pangasinan products like bangus and tupik. Other than the shrine there are a lot to see in Pangasinan like (1) Hundred Islands (2) Marine Sanctuary (3) Bolinao beach, Lighthouse and caves a...nd more. Once I've imagine that I wanted to get married in here. Why? Sunrise in Bolinao beach is awesome! Anyway, I've cited more things to do here and so definitely I'll go back for more.

5. Batanes

One of the best places I've seen in the Philippines. Actually, it tops my list. The easiest way to go here is by plane from Manila but regular fare cost more than P15k Roundtrip. Luckily, we got ticket for only P1450 RT.
There are 4 places to go namely North Batan, South Batan, Sabtang and Itvayat. I wasn't able to see Itvayat because our trip can only cover the first 3. Still, it'...s not enough to truly enjoy the scenery.
We stayed at Marfle Lodge which is walking distance from the airport. It's cheap and homey place. You can cook your own food. Market is near the place. Though there are small carenderias around.
To go around you can rent a bike, trike or a van.
Try the Turmeric rice and Coconut Crab. There are handicrafts to bring home specially in Chavayan.
Warning if you will tour with a bike be sure that you know how to deal with up and downhill. My friend got mild injury at downhill in Valugan Beach. Apply sunblock lotion at all times. Weather in Batanes is unpredictable. Prepare to get stranded just in case. For me, I don't mind. I can stay here forever.
People here are known for their honesty. So even if your going solo, your safe.
Definitely, ill go back for more. 

6. Cagayan

Cagayan is a 12 hours butt ride from Manila. Of course, we took the easiest way which is flying to Tuguegarao. Our point of interest in our trip is Palaui Island which is another 3 hours ride from Tuguegarao and boat ride to Island. A sidetrip to Callao Cave is one of the places to see in Tuguegarao. It is a seven chambered cave and good to visit when the sun is up giving you perfe...ct lighting for your photo ops. There is a chapel inside the cave. Wait patiently in Panacanauan River for the flights of bats which is creepy but awesome. Taste the Tuguegarao's Pancit Batil Patong.
In Palaui Island it is best to pitch a tent and enjoy the scenery. Relax and get crazy with your travel friends as we did. Hike up Cape Engano lighthouse and sing out loud. This place has a batanes -like landscape and so a perfect alternative place to go when you cant get a promo tix to Batanes

7. Isabela
8. Nueva Vizcaya
9. Quirino

10. Baler

Baler is the capital of Aurora and it is one of the surfing spots in the Philippines. It's not just surfing, Baler has a lot of interesting places to see. Tour around by hiring a tricycle. Ermita hill park offers best view of Baler's shoreline. Aside from Sabang beach there are other beaches to see in here. Century old tree is one of the largest Tree in Asia. It is an amazing adv...enture to challenge ourselves to climb the tree. Know more about the rich history of Baler in Museo de Baler which is in Quezon Memorial Park. Visit Dona Aurora's house and Baler Church. It was after my visit here that I've finally watched the movie "Baler". Probably I'll be more emotional if I did it before. Near Baler is Ditumabo Falls which is in the town of San Luis. The long trek is worth it. Dive in the very cold water which is so refreshing.
Joybus is a direct bus that goes to Baler from Manila. Be well taken cared by a bus steward and when you awake you've arrived at Baler.
We tried the buffet at Gerry Shan. The cheapest buffet that I've tried and the food is good.

11. Bataan 

I've made a trip to Bataan for quite a number of times since this place is where the roots of my family came. Bataan marked its name in the world history during world war 2. Filipino and American soldiers were forcibly march to death hence called Bataan Death March. Zero kilometer death markers are both found in Bagac and Mariveles. Dambana ng Kagitingan is situated at the top of Mt.... Samat. Going up the cross is easy. It has an elevator
Other times I went with friends to Climb Mount Tarak and refreshed in Papaya river after the climb.
Bataan has good coastal area too. Either an open sea or a cove, its really a nice place to swim.

12. Bulacan

Bulacan is a resort getaway for my family and friends. It is very close to Manila. Aside from the resorts, Bulacan has a lot of historical places to see which I've never done and maybe someday I will. Try rock scrambling in Lioness Rock which is in San Miguel. The climb is very easy but dangerous. Then there is Biak na bato National Park which has a lot of activities to do. We clim...bed Mt. Manalmon, crossed the river with bamboo ride, went to Bayukbok Cave, swim in Madlum River and the highlight of our tour is crossing the river by monkey bridge. It took me time to cross the bridge.

13. Pampanga

What I admired most of the Kapampangans is how good they cook. That is why Pampanga is the culinary capital of the Philippines. A foodtrip is a must. Dare to try exotic dishes like Crispy Camaru (fried crickets) or Betute (stuffed frog) but im not brave enough to eat those. Other than the food, people go to Pampanga because of events held in here. (1) Hot Air Balloon Festival (2)... Giant Lanterns Festival and (3) San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites.
During holy friday, I go to my friends house to help and join the friday procession. The last time I visited Pampanga is when me and my friends went for visita iglesia in seven churches from Lubao to San Fernando.

To follow...
14. Tarlac

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Minalungao National Park

I have never heard this place until I got an invitation for a quick escape from Manila. I googled it and found out that this is a hidden gem in Nueva Ecija. No wonder why the slots for this trip is full. We left Manila around 430 am. Then after more than 2 hours, we arrived at this place. 

Before we hit this place we were lost and found our way to the long and rocky road. We decided to make a U turn and take the smooth road. There is a gate before you enter the vicinity. You will see children wearing violet top and red pants and they will ask you to pay the entrance fee of 20 pesos per person and another entrance for the vehicle which is 50 pesos.

Good thing we arrived very early as we had the chance to choose the cottage and the raft. We got a deal of 600 pesos for both unlimited use till we leave the place.

Our guide Kristoffer and Adam, does the rowing. We went to the other side of the lake to see the 1000 steps leading to the cross. The stairs makes it easier for us to climb but the heat of the sun is killing us but still we made it to the top.

The ashes of a Korean Missionary was laid to rest here as his request.

We went down easily. Half of the group went ahead of us going to the cave. We waited for our raft to bring us to the cave. While waiting we did our photo ops.

The entrance to the cave. With no headlamp or flash light we still decided to go inside the cave. There is nothing special in this cave. The guide didn't even know that they should hands off the stalactites and stalagmites. A lot of vandalism is happening in here. Sad :(

Then we joined the group as they refresh in the cool water of the river.

This is a perfect point to cliff jump. I did twice. Others do their stunts too.

Our lunch...

After the food was gone. I felt sleepy. I think I had a quick nap for about 15 minutes. Others chat, change cloths and tried to think of other place to go. The place becomes a picnic ground. There are more groups coming. We decided to leave.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bayukbok Cave

After Mount Manalmon and lunch, it is time for caving at Bayukbok Cave. We have to cross the river and the bamboo raft trip is free. Yey!

Going up to the entrance of the cave. This is a bit tiring.

Before we proceeded inside the cave, our guide Kuya Lean, gave us some reminders and precautions for the spelunking activity. The cave has 8 chambers and we have to pass some obstacles. First one is this. We have to rapel down.

Enjoy the beautiful rock formations. It is not as great as the caves in Samar but the adventure here is awesome.

Next obstacle is this rope/bamboo stairway. We thought it was easy but when you are passing this stair it is not. Hold on to the rope not on the bamboo.

Mmmm.. what is this?

This is what they called Body Language. Another obstacle. Its like you putting yourself inside 2 loaves of bread. I can fit in. lol!

My niece patiently waits for us.

Finally going out of the cave.

Unfortunately, the rain pours when we went out of the cave. The way down becomes difficult because it is too slippery. When we went back we tried the Monkey Bridge. I was so afraid.

But then my friend, Jen, successfully crossed the bridge...

and so... I have to!

We cool down at Madlum River

I'm amazed how people here put themselves in so risky position. Unlimited cliff jumping anywhere. I hope nobody died in here.

Anyway, they are already building a hanging bridge this will make everyone comfortable crossing the river.

And so this is it. Time to go home

Mount Manalmon

This is a quick escape from Manila since we've realized that it was a holiday and perfect timing to go out of the sun. Hello summer! We boarded the 5 am five star bus from Pasay (P128). After less than 2 hours we've reached San Miguel Bulacan. We had our breakfast of porridge at a local eatery for only 20 pesos. Actually, its unlimited but the bowl is enough for each of us.

From there, we hired a tricycle going to Brgy. Madlum (P240). It is a long rocky road. Then we paid for tricycles entrance (P15).

To go to the other side of the river one has to take the bamboo raft (P5) or the monkey bridge(free but risky). And we found out another way to save our 5 pesos, we go to one side of the river that has no water on it.

Mount Manalmon is an easy climb with only 160 MASL but for safety they require you to be assisted by Madlum guides.


Madlum Cave

Easy trek.


Almost there

as we thought this is the summit. It is not.

We passed by the camping site and then the summit. Mt. Gola is here.

Risky photo ops


We saw a snake. Good thing its dead. And I'm amazed with the guide how he warned us to back off when he saw this.

Fighting the heat of summer. Lucky for them they have a free pool.

Another heat buster is the Halo-halo (p25). We had our lunch here. Mine is grilled pork with rice (P65)

Our Madlum adventure continues with Bayukbok Cave...