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!