Monday, June 25, 2018

Mt. Ikmo and Nagpatong Rock Formation - The Joys of Difficult Climb with Doraymond The Adventure

Mt. Ikmo and Nagpatong Rock Formation in Tanay, Rizal scream of danger: they are not suitable for beginners, especially during rainy season! The sharp-edged rocks covered by mud warn every foot that steps on them while the trees along the trail whisper their well wishes to the hikers as they rise to the peak of the mountain that stands 620 meters above sea level.

Nagpatong Rock Formation
At the iconic Nagpatong Rock Formation

Last June 24, 2018, I, with my friends Herbert and Ryan, were among the hikers who braved the perils of Mt. Ikmo. Organized by Doraymond The Adventure, this climb was one of the most difficult ones I've had (with Mt. Ugo, still, being at the top of the list).

We met at McDo Quezon Avenue at 2am, left the place around 3am, and arrived at the jump off at 5am. We started the hike at 530am. We had to be extra-careful as we traversed  because some of us were just beginners (case in point: Ryan!)

Mt. Ikmo
Start of the trek

Mt. Ikmo
How are you, Ryan?!

Mt. Ikmo
Yes, we had to go through these caves!

After 2 hours of walking, with 5-to-10-minute rests in between, we were able to get to the summit at 730am. And to our surprise, we were greeted by a sea of clouds, perfect for picture-taking! As they say, “the best view comes after the hardest climb”.

Mt. Ikmo
Because we have to be reminded that Mt. Ikmo is 620 meters above sea level

Mt. Ikmo
At the peak of Mt. Ikmo, with the sea of clouds as my background

It's Ryan's first summit...
Mt. Ikmo
...and Herbert's second!

Mt. Ikmo
It's all worth it!

Another 45-minute hike led us to Nagpatong Rock Formation which offered the best location for an Instagram-worthy photo! Some say that it was the location of the JoshLia film “Love You To The Stars And Back” – I have to see the film then!

Nagpatong Rock Formation
This ascent was a challenge!

Nagpatong Rock Formation
The other side of the Nagpatong Rock Formation

Nagpatong Rock Formation
While we rest atop the rock formation

Again, achieving “that” photo would require a high-degree of strength, balance, and flexibility! For someone who’s vertically challenged, I had to “fully” stretch my arms and legs to the farthest they could reach, and to literally “kiss the wall” to safely ascend and descend from the summit.

Nagpatong Rock Formation
The mandatory group shot!

According to Ryan, being a first-timer, this was an experience that he would never forget.  Mt. Ikmo was his “mother mountain”. Quoting William Blake, he said, “great things are done when men and mountains meet”. Truly, mountain climbing teaches us valuable lessons in life, such as selflessness. For example, during the climb, Ryan damaged his sandals along the way, and one of our organizers, Madelo, offered his sandals to him. Madelo walked barefooted just to ensure Ryan’s comfort. How selfless could one be!

I am excited to conquer more mountains and to see the world from the top. Gala pa more!

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Stormy Weekend Trip In Ilocos

One stormy weekend (June 15-17, 2018) my high school friends and I went on a DIY trip to Ilocos. Good thing we had a free accommodation “sponsored” by another friend at Balai Condominium, just beside Robinsons Ilocos, in San Nicolas. Quoting the infamous Pabebe Girls, despite the inclement weather, “walang makapipigil sa amin!” (“nothing can stop us!”), because rain or shine, Ilocos still offers exciting places and adventures for everyone.

Calle Crisologo – A Street For Nostalgic Lovers

Calle Crisologo at night is a sight to behold. The lighting of the Spanish-style buildings along the stretch of the street gives it a romantic feel. The effect of the drizzle made the evening stroll even more dramatic. Play your favorite sentimental song and you can already create an MTV!

Calle Crisologo Ilocos
Calle Crisologo at (one rainy) night

Calle Crisologo Ilocos
Night stroll at Calle Crisologo

Side trip: Have a taste of the authentic double-double empanada (2 eggs, 2 longganisa) in front National Bookstore. It’s the best!

Ilocos Empanada
About to eat our yummy empanadas!

Authentic Ilocos Empanada

Authentic Ilocos Okoy

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and Bangui Windmills – The Sites For Model-Wanabes

If you want IG-worthy photos, then head to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and Bangui Windmills! Bring your costumes with you and strike those killer poses!

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation Ilocos
At Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Bangui Windmills Ilocos
At Bangui Windmills

Pagudpud – A Beach-Lovers’ Haven

Ilocos is famous for Pagudpud Beach, especially during summer. And the place is known not only for its beach, but for the “WORLD’s longest zipline above water!” You read it right – the longest in the world!  Just a tip, based on our experience, it’s still be better to get a cottage at Hanna’s Resort, which cost Php 600, as compared to the other resorts along the beach. Hanna’s Resort comes with better facilities, and relatively clean restrooms.

Who wouldn't love to take a dip?!

Pagudpud Beach Ilocos
We love Pagudpud Beach!

Paoay Church – The Sanctuary of Prayerful Souls

Never leave Ilocos without visiting Paoay Church, a UN Heritage Site. Pray for good health and for safe travels.

Paoay Church Ilocos Norte
At Paoay Church

Side trip: Try the famous “Pinakbet Pizza” at Herencia Restaurant, in front of Paoay Church.

For vegetable lovers, "Pakbet Pizza" for you!

Ilocos Sand Dunes – The Spot For Extreme Adventure Seekers

Scream at the top of your lungs as you ride the 4x4 Rough Riding Vehicle for an hour! The package cost us Php 3,000 (Php 1,500 each because it was not a peak season) but the adrenaline rush was all worth it! You need not go to Dubai to experience the thrill of this adventure!

A friendly reminder!

Ilocos Sand Dunes

Ilocos Sand Dunes

Ilocos Sand Dunes

Indeed, for friends, a storm is not an excuse not to travel! So, gala pa more!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Island Hopping In The Rain: Our Hundred Islands, Pangasinan Adventure

The Philippines is composed of approximately 7,100 islands. Hundreds of these are found in Alaminos City, Pangasinan – the celebrated “Hundred Islands”. We went to this wonderful destination north of Luzon during my semestral break from law school (June 9, 2018) despite the threats of a forthcoming storm.

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
At the dock, ready to start our island hopping despite the gloomy skies!

Alaminos is around five hours drive from our house in Lancaster New City, Cavite. We left at 2am and reached the place at 7am. Upon reaching Alaminos, we registered at the Tourism Office and paid the Environmental Fee, Insurance, and Banca (boat) rental which totaled Php 2,490. There’s a refundable Php 200 for their “Basura Mo, Iuwi Mo” campaign that encourages the tourists to fill in their garbage bags with waste as they head back to the dock after the island hopping.

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
Do not forget to wear your life vests!

Which of the islands are the best ones to visit?

Pilgrimage Island

For Catholics, this is where they can do their Stations of the Cross, especially during Holy Week. Statues depicting the experiences of Jesus Christ prior to his Crucifixion and Resurrection can be found in this island, leading to the gigantic statue of Jesus Christ atop of the hill. At the peak of the hill, one can see a picturesque view of the other islands and the sea!

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
The Crucifixion

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
The gigantic statue of Risen Christ

Quezon Island

This is where tourists converge because most of the activities can be done  here, such as Banana Boat Ride, Jetski, Zipline (shorter line within the island costs Php 100/person, while the longer line from Quezon to Lopez Islands costs Php 250/person).

Tables and cottages can be rented in Quezon Island. Tourists can also cook their own meals or grill using the grillers that are available, as well.

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
Quezon Island Marker

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
The various activities at Quezon Island

Old Scout Island

This is my favorite island because this is the best place for swimming and snorkeling! A set of snorkeling gears, which includes goggles and life vests, costs Php 250. The island has powdery sands reminiscent of Boracay’s. My eyes feasted on the colorful species of fish and corals that I could almost hold!

It’s in Old Scout Island where we had our packed lunch (rice and adobo)! They allow tourists to lay blankets on the sand and set up for lunch. But we chose to eat in the boat!

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
At Old Scout Island

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
Swimming and snorkelling at Old Scout Island

Other Islands

There are other islands worth-visiting there, such as the Lopez Island (connected to Quezon Island by a zipline) and Cuenca Island (where there’s a short tunnel leading to a “floating bamboo restaurant”.
Despite the rains, our adventure is Hunded Islands was fun! The advantage was that we didn’t suffer from sunburns, because there’s no sun after all!

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
Cuenca Island

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
Floating Bamboo Restaurant

The Philippines is truly a beautiful archipelago rich in natural wonders. I hope that the tourism department will be able to maintain the cleanliness of Hundred Islands, as well as the other tourist attractions in the country. The “Basura Mo, Iuwi” is a decent initiative which could be adopted by other local government.

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan
I'm in love with the serenity of this view!

Indeed, having well-maintained tourist destinations will inspire more people to discover the Philippines. Gala pa more!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Day At Bakhawan Eco-Park – Aklan’s Treasured Mangrove Forest

Aklan boasts of several tourist spots other than the powdery white sands and nightlife of Boracay (which as of writing, has been closed for rehabilition for six months). One of these is the Bakhawan Eco-Park, a 220-hectare mangrove forest in New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan.

Bakhawan (“bakawan” in Tagalog) is the local term for “mangrove”, a shrub and tree species that thrive along shores and rivers in the tropics and subtropics. Considered as  a “tough species” of plants, mangroves can live in water up to 100 times saltier than most of the plants can tolerate! Mangroves might look scary because of their wriggling roots that rise from the mud, but mangroves are “a keystone of coastal ecosystem”. They serve as ideal breeding grounds and habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and other shellfish. They ensure a stable coastline by holding the soil in place, thus, preventing erosion. They also protect the lands from wind damage. In fact, the Bakhawan Eco-Park was created in 1990 to prevent floods and storm surges during typhoons in the local community. Years later, the successful mangrove reforestation has addressed not only the local community’s flood problem, but it has provided the locals a means of livelihood, as well. No wonder, the project has been hailed as one of the best managed forests in the whole Asia and the Pacific.

We went to the Bakhawan Eco-Park after our family outing in one of the less expensive resorts in New Washington last May 28. We hired a tricycle from the resort going to the place, but the tricycle did not initially know where the place was. Good thing, we were able to ask other drivers on how to get there.

The entrance fee for non-locals and foreigners was Php 100. But we paid the Aklanons rate of Php 50. My four-year old niece enjoyed the 1.3-kilometer walk deep down the forest because she saw little crabs of various colors climbing out of the tiny holes on the soil! She was also happy to see Christian, a parrot, and John Lloyed, a monkey, inside the eco-park!

 Bakhawan Eco-park in Kalibo, Aklan
Bakhawan Babae

 Bakhawan Eco-park in Kalibo, Aklan
Bakhawan Lalake

 Bakhawan Eco-park in Kalibo, Aklan
The mangrove tree-lined trail

The place is perfect for photoshoots and select events. It has a camping site, too, where family and friends can set up tents and stay overnight.

Bakhawan Eco-Park Kalibo Aklan
Base camp where tents can be set up

Bamboo benches are available at certain stops, where one can rest before completing the whole trail.

Bakhawan Eco-Park Kalibo Aklan
Bamboo benches where one can rest.

At the end of the trail is a view of the sand bar and the sea, where one can also delight in the scene of a romantic sunset. It’s not surprising that most tourists visit the eco-park late in the afternoon.

Bakhawan Eco-Park Kalibo Aklan
The relaxing view at the end of the trail. 

In the next 6 months or so, Boracay will still be closed for visitors. But those who want to visit Aklan can still do so as there are still destinations in the province and the nearby provinces of Panay that are worth-exploring. The local government, however, needs to ensure that these places are well-promoted, especially among the locals. Gala pa more!

Bakhawan Eco-Park Kalibo Aklan
My sister, my brother-in-law, and my niece!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Lovin' La Union: 7 Things To Enjoy in Elyu

I have not posted an entry for a while because I’ve been very busy in law school. But this 2018, I promise to have at least one entry every month. This means that I have to explore one new place a month.

And this is my first post for the year – the 7 things to do in La Union! La Union, or popularly known as “Elyu” (La Union = L.U. = Elyu), is approximately a 6-hour drive from Manila. It offers a number of destination places, especially for those looking for fun and adventure! We went to La Union last December 28-30, 2017 and stayed in Bali Hai Beach Resort in Bauang, La Union.

How did we enjoy La Union? Here are the 7 things to enjoy in Elyu:

1.)    Bathe in Tangadan Falls, San Gabriel, La Union

The cold and refreshing waters of Tangadan Falls would make the perilous drive and tiring trek all worth it. Why perilous? Well, back in the municipal hall where we paid for the environmental fee, we were asked by the tour guide whether we wanted the long route (1 ½ walk) or the short one (drive along the narrow, winding, mountainside road). Clueless about the risk, we chose the second option, only to find out that a minor mistake in driving might cause our death! Thank God, we survived!

Tangadan Falls, La Union Trip Itinerary
Photo-op before swimming, with Tangadan Falls as the backdrop

Tangadan Falls, La Union Trip Itinerary
Tangadan Falls, San Gabriel, La Union

2.)    Pray at Ma-Cho Temple, San Fernando, La Union

Located along Quezon Avenue, San Fernando, La Union, Ma-Cho Temple is the first Taoist Temple in the Philippines. It is a temple to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu, which is open to worshippers and non-worshippers alike.

Ma-Cho Temple, La Union Trip Itinerary
Side view of the Ma-Cho Temple, San Fernando, La Union 
Ma-Cho Temple, La Union Trip Itinerary
Ma-Cho Temple Facade

3.)    Visit Kamay Na Bato Art Gallery in Bahay Na Bato, Luna, La Union

The amazing art pieces made of stones and pebbles by Mr. Kim, a Korean artist who have been residing in the province, are such an attraction in Luna, La Union. Paintings and other stuff were being sold inside the gallery, as well. Entrance is only  Php 20.

Bahay Na Bato, La Union Trip Itinerary
Kamay Na Bato Art Gallery at Bahay Na Bato, Luna, La Union

Bahay Na Bato, La Union Trip Itinerary
Amazing stone and pebble art pieces at Kamay Na Bato Art Gallery

4.)    Feel the sea breeze at Baluarte Watch Tower, Luna, La Union

The 400-year-old Baluarte Watch Tower, which was built during the Spanish period to warn the residents against the pirates back then, was destroyed by Typhoon Lando in 2015. It has been restored and reconstructed, combining old adobe and coral blocks with new light-colored red bricks. With the West Philippine Sea as the background, the place is perfect for “Mediterranean-inspired” photo shoots, so better bring appropriate clothes with you!

Baluarte Watch Tower, La Union Trip Itinerary
Restored Baluarte Watch Tower, Luna, La Union
Baluarte Watch Tower, Luna La Union
Picturesque view of the sea from Baluarte Watch Tower, Luna, La Union

5.)    Eat at Beach Bum Food Park, Urbiztondo Road, San Juan, La Union

You would never run out of dining places in San Juan, La Union. They are located beside each other, along Urbiztondo Road. We tried Beach Bum Food Park, the first-ever food park in La Union, where a wide selection of food are being offered – from the famous Pinoy binalot to mouthwatering Japanese food, to thirst-quenching drinks, name it!

Beach Bum Food Park, La Union Trip Itinerary
Beach Bum Food Park, San Juan, La Union

Beach Bum Food Park, La Union Trip Itinerary
People enjoying their food at Beach Bum Food Park, San Juan, La Union

6.)     Pick grapes at Calica Grapes Farm, Bauang, La Union

Yes, grapes are being grown in the Philippines! For you to have a first-hand experience in grape-picking, you can go to the grapes farms in Brgy. Urayong, Bauang La Union. I suggest that you go to those farms that do not ask for entrance fees, but would just require you to pay for the grapes that you picked. We went to Calica Grapes Farm where the price of a kilo of grapes is at Php 350. Guapples are also being cultivated in the area, but when we visited, it was not yet harvest season. If Benguet has strawberry picking, La Union boasts of its own grapes picking!

Calica Grapes Farm, La Union Trip Itinerary
Photobooth at Calica Grapes Farm

Calica Grapes Farm, La Union Trip Itinerary
The oldies enjoying their time picking grapes

7.)    Surf in San Juan, La Union

La Union trip is never complete without surfing in La Union! It was my second time to surf; the first time was back in 2016 in Baler, during my birthday. I highly recommend surfing in La Union because the waves are taller than that of Baler’s, making the experience more exciting. The cost of surfing is Php 400, inclusive of the rental of surfboard and a trainer.

Surfing at San Juan, La Union Trip Itinerary
Surf lessons or rental? Go to San Juan, La Union

Surfing at San Juan, La Union Trip Itinerary
A successful surfing attempt!

This year-end trip was indeed, one for the books. I might be busy in law school in the coming months, but I am still looking forward to exploring new places with my family and friends, and experience gala pa more!