Category Archives: Philippines

Independence Day at Rizal (Philippines)

Ironically, the 12th of June marks the anniversary with my girlfriend. This year, we decided to head on a road trip around the greater Metro Manila particularly around Rizal province. We started by heading to Antipolo to try out 14 Four Cafe.

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The place is very artsy and has a laid-back atmosphere to it.  This weekend cafe doubles as a furniture store during weekdays. Luckily, it was a Friday during our visit which they were also open for dining. I highly recommend that you order their salad called The Local as well as their 14 Four Tapa and Cinnamon Bun Pancakes. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food but their pancakes are to die for!

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After our late lunch, our schedule was pretty much open as we did not plan any itinerary. This was definitely a first for us! Initially, we wanted to visit Daranak Falls but was hesitant because we did not bring the right attire.  Instead, we decided to head to Angono and visit the Petroglyphs. I tried to research online if the Petroglyphs was still under renovation but did not get much information. We still gave it a try and our luck somewhat panned out.

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Once you enter the gated entry point to the Petroglyphs, you feel like you have entered a different world. The roads heading up suddenly opened and you feel like you have escaped the chaotic hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. There were no structures for the most part and fire trees were abundant during this time of the year. For those of you who are familiar, this is also the entry towards Thunderbird Resorts Rizal.

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After a few minutes, you will shortly see a sign pointing to the famous site. We weren’t sure if it was open as we did not see anyone around. We did, however, see several people enter the tunnel which eventually led to the site. Since we were here already, we decided to head in as well.

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Though we were able to reach the site, we cannot go further in front of the rock carvings. I can barely see anything from afar. I guess this was still a good thing since the renovation would help preserve this endangered archaeological site. The Angono Petroglyphs is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list.

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Heading back, we stopped by several occasions for some photo ops. This is as good as it gets when you want a view overlooking Metro Manila.

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From Rizal, we had one last stop to visit a certain coffee shop in Marikina. To no avail, we could not locate the place even after circling around the vicinity several times. Locals were not familiar with the place as well. We ended up having dinner at a Japanese restaurant we found along one of the main streets in Marikina.

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Finally, we wrapped up our road trip at Craft Coffee Katipunan. A wonderful cafe located along Abada Street. Very chill and definitely the perfect spot to end our long day. I had some cold milk though…

– The Tourist Pao

Climbing Mt. Maculot and the Rockies (Philippines)

After climbing both Mt. Pulag and Mt. Pinatubo over the last month, I decided to head to Mt. Maculot with the same group. I had zero information about this mountain up until our actual trip.

Our group met up in a gas station along SLEX (South Luzon Expressway). From there, we headed towards the Alabang exit to pick-up our guide. We then exited back to SLEX towards Batangas. Travel time took around 2 hours to reach our last stop at Cuenca, Batangas.

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We started our hike at around 9:00 AM. The trail is relatively straightforward. The main challenge here is that you will hike uphill around 90% of the time. This was something I underestimated about hiking Mt. Maculot. That’s apart from the scorching heat we encountered since it was the peak of summer when we visited.

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Along the way, you will pass by several drinking stops where you can buy some fresh buko (cocounut) juice. (I only started buying from the stores we passed by when we hiked back to town since I ran out of water)

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When you reach the higher points, you will catch a glimpse of Taal Lake and other provinces surrounding it. Something you might be familiar with if you’ve been to Tagaytay. The view gave us a different perspective of this famous tourist destination.

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After 2 hours of hiking (which included several breaks and photo ops), we finally reached our last stop before heading to the famous Rockies at Mt. Maculot. My first impression about getting to the Rockies was it was quite intimidating. A view from afar made it more steep than it actually was. Climbing should still be approached with great caution though.

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Once we reached the top of the Rockies, I was completely re-energized! But wait, there’s still another challenge ahead. You must head to the tip of the Rockies.

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My brother at the Rockies…

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Hikers are warned to get to this spot only one at a time. I honestly did not want to climb that point at first but then I said, what the heck. This is the reason why we went to Mt. Maculot!

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We spent almost two hours at the Rockies just enjoying the view and taking in as much as we can. Around noon time, we headed back and ate our packed lunch at the camping site. Yes, you can also do overnight camping at Mt. Maculot.

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Heading down was a bit more of a challenge since it took a toll on my knees. That’s apart from the dusty trail from the dry soil. There were certain parts where you have to be more careful or you can easily slid down. I tried to cling onto the branches as much as I can which  was surprisingly effective! Cling like a monkey!

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Once we reached town, we cleaned up and headed back to Metro Manila. We made a detour and passed by Paranaque for some coffee and early dinner.

That’s it for my 3rd hike this year! So far, so good!

– The Tourist Pao

Trekking Mt. Pinatubo (Philippines)

A week after I went to Mount Pulag, I decided to join the same group and head to Mount Pinatubo. After our gruesome 26 km total hike in Pulag, I thought to myself: “Pinatubo should be smooth sailing. No sweat…” . Well, it’s true for the most part of this trip.

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Our trip starts at our meeting point in Metro Manila around 3 am. From there, we hit the road and headed to CapasTarlac. After our orientation with the travel organizer, we headed towards the entry point to Mount Pinatubo. It was already sunrise when we reached our final stop. From here, we would be riding 4x4s to reach the foot of the mountain.

(Mount Pinatubo is actually an active volcano. The indigenous people who live around the mountain were unaware that this was a volcano up until it erupted in 1991.)

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The most tiresome part of the trip was the 4×4 ride. While some rode an open top 4×4 jeep, we were assigned to an enclosed one. Both have pros and cons. Riding the open top gives you more leeway in terms of space. You can also hold on to the roll cage or even stand up if you get too tired of sitting down (and of course the photo ops). On the downside, you are more prone to be exposed from the lahar. As for our enclosed ride, there wasn’t really any option to hold on to anything. There were no handlebars to cling on so the bumpy ride can really get messy. Did I also mention that the ride takes around 2-3 hours. Part of the experience for me!

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As we were getting deeper, you can see the sudden shift in the landscape. Can you imagine something beautiful resulted from a vicious volcanic eruption? For some reason, it made me feel like I was in the Land Before Time minus the dinosaurs of course.

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Along the way, you will see several local Aetas. The children are very friendly and enjoy being taken photos.

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Once we reach the foot, it was now time to hike up the trail. Contrary to the old set-up, the most convenient trail to reach the crater only takes 15-30 minutes depending on your pace. There are longer trails which just meant that you get dropped off earlier and start walking from that point. I was initially expecting to hike between 1-2 hours per way so I was surprised that the trail was way shorter than I expected.

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The trail is very easy and anyone should be able to manage it. As a tip, I suggest that you wear quick dry shoes as you will be passing by certain areas that has shallow running water. Also, refrain from wearing open shoes if you are prone to sunburn. Temperatures can get really hot in Pinatubo during the summer time.

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Behold… The Mount Pinatubo crater…

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You can also camp within the crater as I’ve seen some photos online. However, swimming has been prohibited already. For me, a day trip is already enough to enjoy what this place has to offer.

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Before heading back, we decided to take a side trip to a nearby waterfall. I decided to take a plunge to refresh my body from the hot summer heat. The water is so cool and clear! You can ask your guide to bring you there as they’re probably familiar with the spot. It’s just a few minutes from the 4×4 drop off point before the short trek.

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By the time our trip has officially ended, it was almost sundown. Our group then headed straight to Pampanga to grab some dinner before parting ways.

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I would recommend everyone to head to Pinatubo if they want to be more adventurous with their travels. This is definitely a good starting point! It’s also just a stone’s throw away from the country’s capital.

– The Tourist Pao

Baguio Revisited (2013)

Last 2013, we went to Baguio for the second straight year. I am writing this post since we were not able to pass by Baguio last 2014. Hopefully, we get to return again and keep visiting on a yearly basis. New traditions so to speak for our family.

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After spending time in Manaoag for prayer and devotion, we reached Baguio just in time for dinner. We first checked-in at The Manor located in Camp John Hay. The rooms were very cozy and has a family vibe to it.

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For dinner, we wanted to try Forest House Bistro & Cafe.

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Our table was located at the veranda. The cool weather was just right during the time we visited Baguio. Food was just okay.

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After dinner, we were lucky enough to get a tour of their bed & breakfast rooms. Another place to consider when we return to Baguio.

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We then headed back to Camp John Hay. Before going to bed, we had some hot chocolate and played a bit of board games. Family bonding time!

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During the next morning, I cannot wait to load up on the breakfast buffet at The Manor. I’ve been hearing good reviews about their breakfast. It certainly did not disappoint!

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After breakfast, we did an early check-out since we stayed here for just one night.

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We then headed to Mines View Park to enjoy the view and some fresh air. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit nearby Good Shepherd Convent. This is where you get most (if not all) your Baguio goodies to bring home.

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Also try the strawberry taho that’s only available here in Baguio. You should easily find someone who sells them around Mines View Park.

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For lunch, we went to Hill Station at Casa Vallejo – an establishment that’s been here for so long.

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Don’t forget to check the Mt. Cloud bookshop as well.

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Well, that’s it for my Baguio trip! We had to return to Manila already. A quick but memorable family bonding trip.

– The Tourist Pao

Cebu (Part II: Cebu City, Henry Hotel)

Our trip to Bantayan Island is one for the keeps! However, it was time to return to Cebu City. The travel time coming back took longer for some reason. On top of the that, it suddenly rained when we just arrived at the North Bus Terminal.

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We headed straight for check-in at Henry Hotel. This establishment is fairly new and I have seen a lot of good reviews about this hip establishment. The place is managed by a hospitality group which is evident with the staffs who look very young and eager.

(By the time I’m writing this post, I recently discovered that they opened another Henry Hotel in Pasay, Manila)

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We booked a Large Room which was very spacious already. The only comment I have is the dining area (or table) located at the back of the bed. There were no lighting fixtures of any sort which we found very dark when eating.

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Tired from our island excursion, we took a quick siesta before heading out again. Since we just visited Cebu a few years back, we only visited a few places where we haven’t been to this time. Our first stop was the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod. There was already an ongoing mass so we headed to the prayer room.

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It was already nighttime when we left so we decided to go straight to the newly-renovated Mövenpick Cebu (previously Hilton Cebu). We were just supposed to check out Ibiza Beach Club but we actually ended up having dinner and grabbing drinks after. Before midnight, we decided to return to our hotel.

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Our last day in Cebu was something I was looking forward to. Our first stop was to check the 1730 Jesuit House. The place is full of culture and history apart hidden inside the still operating hardware warehouse. Apart from the guide, we were fortunate enough to talk to the owner, Mr. Sy, who shared stories about his antique collection. He even played his rare old-school vinyl jukebox. This place is a must-visit if you’re into historical and nostalgic things.

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To cap off our trip, we had early dinner at Abaca Boutique Resort. Though we didn’t have any reservations, we were able to get a couch table with the nearest view of the sea. I always wanted to stay at this resort but I have never been able to due to the hefty prices of their rooms. I guess, trying their restaurant is the closing thing for the meantime.

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It was raining so strong just when our dinner ended. Thank god the resort was nice enough to call us a cab. While on our way to the airport, we were actually contemplating to check-in at Abaca if our flight got cancelled. Luckily, the rain suddenly stopped and our flight departed on time. That was a good-bad scenario for us! Maybe, I can get to stay there when I return to Cebu (for the 3rd time).

Next time… Camotes Island and Oslob

– The Tourist Pao

Cebu (Part I: Bantayan Island, Virgin Island)

Bantayan Island has been dubbed one of the best beach places you will see in the Philippines. It is also said that it can rival that of Boracay with the perks of having a non-existent commercial vibe to the island. I’ve been planning for years to visit this place but there was always something that hindered me from getting here. Case in point was the tragic typhoon that struck our country last 2013 which largely affected the Visayas region. As a result, we took it off our list and went elsewhere.

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Come by 2014, we again re-considered coming back. I already had an itinerary (for years) but the trip just never materialized. After a few inquiries here and there, we were assured that the island has recovered. Finally, we were set to visit one of the must-sees in my bucket-list!

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Getting there: Take a flight via Cebu Pacific from Manila to Cebu. (Like 70% of the time, our flight was again delayed which added much to our frustration). Once you reach Mactan Airport, take a cab and head straight to the North Bus Terminal near SM. Get the bus headed to Hagnaya Port. It will take between 4-5 hours before you reach the port. Once you’re at the docks, take a ferry headed to Santa Fe (in Bantayan Island). This will take another 45 minutes to an hour before you reach the island.

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Once we reached the island, the staff from Anika Island Resort picked us up from the pier. They have been in contact with us even before we boarded our plane. Those simple gestures really made a big difference. Since we were here for the beach, we booked their Ocean View Room. Best view in the house!

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Our first day was more of a relaxed day. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived so all we did was check the beach and chilled by the veranda at night. We hanged out by the veranda until it was time to rest.

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We didn’t catch the sunrise during our second day because the weather was quite gloomy. From morning until afternoon, the rain was pouring really hard. Since we were already at Bantayan Island, we tried our best to make the most of this trip. When the rain subsided a bit, we pushed through with our trip to Virgin Island. We brought our rain gear and a few bottles of beer to keep ourselves dry and warm.

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Contrary to its name, Virgin Island is privately owned. The island has an entrance fee and you have to pay if you want to use any of their amenities. Though we would’ve preferred the island to be more bare, it is quite well-maintained.

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It rained throughout the whole day (but the rain did stop for a few minutes) when we were at Virgin Island. Due to the mostly bad weather, we had the whole island to ourselves. After our island excursion, we were so tired that we didn’t even make it to dinner time.

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During our last day, the weather was better and we were lucky enough to catch the sunrise. I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos since I took a video of the sunrise. The sunrise is absolutely more stunning in person.

Our island trip ended with an early checkout after breakfast as we still had one more night in Cebu City. The ride going back seemed to take longer and it was not as comfortable as getting to the island. And yes, it rained again when we reached Cebu City. I guess this was part of the whole experience. Hate it or love it!

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Bantayan Island is what I exactly expected. I wish we could have stayed longer as we did not really wander around due to the bad weather. Maybe next time!

Head to Cebu (Part II: Cebu City, Henry Hotel)

– The Tourist Pao

Chasing Mt. Pulag (Philippines)

Last weekend, I decided to join a group of friends to embark on a journey that would take us to Mount Pulag. Mt. Pulag is situated near the Benguet province. It is Luzon‘s highest peak listed at 2,920+ meters above sea level and the 3rd highest in all of the Philippines. Since it was our first time to hike and camp out, we decided to take the easier Ambangeg Trail.

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The trip starts at our meeting point in Metro Manila on Friday at around 10:30 PM. From there, we traveled to Baguio where we would meet up with our travel organizers. It was still dark when we reached Baguio. From there, we unloaded all of our baggage and transferred to ride a jeepney to head to the DENR office. It probably took us an more than an hour to reach the DENR station where everyone was required to sign-up and attend an orientation. By the time we got here, it was already sunrise. We were part of the 2nd/3rd batch to attend the orientation which took around 45 minutes.

From the DENR office, we then headed straight to the Ranger Station. This is one of the starting points at the Mt. Pulag National Park. Due to the waiting time it took for the orientation, it was exactly noon time when we arrived at our starting point. Contrary to our prior setup, we were to camp here instead of Base Camp 2. This just meant a longer hike for us instead of hiking midway and then ascending further for the sunrise the next morning.

(A week before our trip, we were informed that hikers can no longer stay at Base Camp 2. The move was done to avoid the mountain’s degradation. When we were in the orientation however, we’ve been hearing that it has again been opened. Only a certain amount of people can stay at the new Base Camp 2. Unaware, there was also Base Camp 1.)

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Staying at the Ranger Station can be a win-lose situation. I was actually surprised to see a convenience store which had everything you needed. They even sell beer and you can buy some spam and have them cook it for you. Moreover, there was a small lodge to stay in if you did not want to tent out. For those who opt not stay, you can still use their toilet and shower for a small fee. Talk about convenience…

On the downside, hiking towards the peak took longer. The hike should have only been 4.7 km to Base Camp 2. After that, only 3 km left the next day to reach the peak. Since we were not fortunate to stay at any base camp, it meant an 8 km hike towards the peak plus another 8 km back.

Once our tents were properly setup, we immediately had lunch. Despite having not much sleep, curiosity got the better of us. Our group decided to start hiking around 2 pm that Saturday.

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From the moment we started to hike, you can already see the stunning view of the mountains and it’s surroundings. Our timing was just perfect to hike Mt. Pulag. It never rained during our stay here. The weather was cool and the sun was bright.

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Before reaching our destination, we passed by Base Camp 1 and two water stations. The source is from fresh spring water so no need to bring too much liquids while hiking up. You can just re-fill when you pass by these stops. It was already 4:30 pm when we reached Base Camp 2. We felt tired during some parts of the hike due to our body adjusting to the altitude and all. We were able to cut time going back as the descend is always faster. It was already sundown when we reached Ranger Station.

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For dinner, our organizers cooked us some sinigang na baboy (pork tamarind soup). I had two cans of beer afterwards before I headed to rest. It was already 9+ in evening at this point. Our call time was around 12+ am Sunday morning. Midway through my sleep, I woke up twice due to the cold climate. Even though we had some thermal mats and sleeping bags, the ground was just too cold. I was only wearing a thermal shirt when I slept so the rest of my arms were chilling. Brrrr… I just decided to wake up at around 11+ pm and wait for the ascend. At this point, I only had around 1-2 hours of total sleep ever since we left Metro Manila.

It was already wake-up call at this time. We had all of our gear ready for the real hike towards the peak! Bringing trail food is a must. Most notably powers bars, nuts and some sweets to keep your energy up. Likewise, hiking with the appropriate gear (hiking shoes, thermals and a head lamp) will really help.

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We left at around 1 am and reached one of the peaks at around 5 am. I guess, our initial hike really helped as we were able to significantly cut our time to get to the peak. We even had the time to lie down and star gaze for a few minutes before the final ascend.

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As soon as it hit sunrise, the beauty of Mt. Pulag (and the sea of clouds beneath) is revealed. It was sheer beauty and splendor! After taking quite a few photos during sunrise, I just looked as far as I could from where we hiked. Looking back, I can’t imagine how we managed to traverse across this beautiful landscape. The reach to the summit was such a rewarding experience!

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Before 7:30 am, we decided to head back down. It was almost noon time when we arrived back at the Ranger Station. After our late breakfast, we backtracked for Baguio. We returned before 6 pm and decided to grab some early dinner at Cafe by The Ruins before heading back to Manila.

This was definitely one of my more memorable trips so far. It made me realize that I don’t have to be too far from home to experience the beauty that our world has to offer.  Mt. Pulag has widened my traveling perspective for sure!

– The Tourist Pao