The little munchkin just turned six months last Sunday and everybody at the small house was excited to welcome him join the dining table.
Thank God for the Baby Company Grand Baby Fair last week, we were able to bring home a swag bag with a box of Nestle Cerelac inside. And because this mama was not able to do their February grocery last Sunday, she opted to try the Nestle Cerelac Infant Rice and Soya for her little munchkin.
Husband already set up the new highchair and positioned it beside mama’s. We got our Graco highchair at 20% off from the grand baby fair last January 30 at the SM Megamall.
Our little guy was all thrilled when he sat on his newest chair. And he became all the more “adrenalized” when he saw his small dining set. Before his first meal, I familiarized him with his cup and spoon for about three days. Ihihi.
So sharing with you some of our little munchkin’s first cereal meal. Too bad I was not able to buy any waterproof food catcher silicon bib on the grand baby fair. We changed the little man’s cloth bib about three times that morning.
The little munchkin is obviously looking forward to his every meal time and same goes for this mama.
Would like to hear your baby’s first solid meal experience. Share it with us here.
Is Camiguin worth all the long travel? A question raised to me by a friend, raised to her as well by her friend.
Also known as the land of fire, Camiguin has seven volcanoes within its island and the volcanic eruptions and movements in the past indeed caused great change in its landscape.
That fact alone encouraged me to really push for Camiguin, after Smash mentioned that most tour sites in Cagayan de Oro are still closed because of typhoon Sendong.
Also, I always dreamt of spending nights at Camiguin with my husband. I have read a number of interesting stories about Camiguin, and a dozen pictures and images of its Sunken Cemetery and White Island are undeniably awe-inspiring.
I was wrong. The Camiguin I saw wasn’t the Camiguin I have pictured. I have imagined the place to be perfect for honeymooners, and just as ideal for a weary soul to relax and think nothing but the water…the sand… and the view.
Going to the island was an adventure all by itself. From Manila, my friend and I took an Airphil Express 7:30 am flight to Cagayan de Oro. From the airport, we hired a cab to bring us at the market city (Agora) and from there traveled more than two hours (via private van at P200 each if not mistaken) to reach the port of Balingoan. A hired van can accommodate around 10 to 12 people.
Ferry fare was P170.00 and port fee was P2.25. We wanted to reach Camiguin with the sun still up, so we hopped in the 2:30pm schedule and took the chance. We were told that the ferry crossing is approximately 45 minutes. However, depending on the sea condition, the ferry might take longer to cross the channel. Our ride took us two hours to finally reach Camiguin. I slept for awhile during the trip. I easily got sick and dizzy with the violent waves. I thought my vertigo might have caused this nausea but a few passengers threw up once ferry docked in. It was the unsteady waves then.
At around 4pm, we finally stepped into Camiguin’s soil. The ever smiling Teddy, our tour guide, brought us at Pabualan Cottage in Mambajao, the island’s capital. At P1,500.00 per person, Teddy’s twin sharing room was comfortable enough for an overnight stay. Our room had hot and cold shower. Free WiFi and cable TV were added perks.
Despite the fact that Camiguin is such a small island, it however claims to boast a number of tourist attractions:
Ardent Hot Springs
Teddy relayed to us that Camiguin has several springs with Mt. Hibok-Hibok as one of its sources. We went to Ardent Hot Spring and I personally enjoyed its hot water. We stayed there for more than an hour for a warm bath.
Ardent Hot Springs also offers lunch and dinner or one may always rent a room for a short stay. We didn’t get to look around the resort. It was so dark already when we left the pool.
From the entrance, one could hear the gushing fall of its water. Cascading from about 76 meters from the mountain top to the pool below, Katibawasan Falls is so long that i have to re-angle my camera in order to capture its full length.
Giant rocks and wild ferns, super tall trees, and dropping vines provide as impressive backdrop. The water is cold and clear.
Visitors did not stay much, most went down for a quick picture-taking only. My friend Smash tried the waters and from her smile, I could say she indeed enjoyed her swim.
Soda Water Swimming Pool
30 minutes from mambajao is the town of Catarman where the Soda Swimming Pool is situated. It got its name Soda Water because according to residents, its water taste like soda.
Teddy encouraged us to taste the water. And funny we obliged. I didn’t like its taste. It tasted like water from the mountains.
The pool is closed every Wednesday for its regular cleaning. Surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful blooms, the Soda Water swimming pool has cottages around for a short yet comfortable stay. The gigantic mount Hibok-Hibok dominates the skyline, but the fresh, clear soda water come from the volcanic springs of Bura.
Sto. Niño Cold Spring
Also in Catarman is the Sto. Niño Cold Spring. I was not excited to go inside the resort and preferred to look for more pasalubong outside. After a few minutes, my friend came back with news that cold spring water sprouts from the pool’s sandy bottom. I did not ask her to elaborate more. I must have been too exhausted traveling from one destination after another and these supposedly tourist destinations are not really too appealing for me.
The Catarman Church Ruins
Located in barangay Bonbon in Catarman, the Catarman Church Ruins amazed me of its structure – made of some coral stones and adobe walls. It was damaged last 1871 due to Mt. Bulkan’s eruption.
A small chapel was built for locals living nearby. As one walks inside, he will see the walls of the church, an old convent and a super tall tree. Bermuda grass and tall trees are everywhere.
An uninhabited white sandbar based off shore in the island of Camiguin, the White Island usually changes its shape depending on the ocean tide.
Port going to the White Island is near the Paras Beach Resort. We just walked to the port from Pabualan Cottage. We rented a pump boat to bring us at the White Island; travel time is about 15 minutes. Thank God we sailed smoothly.
The place is indeed uninhabited with no trees or any shelter occupying its sands. Completely covered with not so fine sand, I swam with my slippers on because the damaged shells hurt my feet like sharp pins. From the time we arrived till we left the place, White Island was at its absolutely not most crowded time.
Said to be the best tourist destination of Camiguin Island, the Sunken Cemetery plays a significant role in the history of the island.
History says that from Catarman, a huge cross was built in 1982 which lies 20 feet underwater to take into account a community cemetery that sunk when Mt. Bulkan erupted in 1871. Mt. Bulkan, known as the old volcano of Camiguin, did not only destroy the cemetery but the entire capital of the island.
They say Sunken Cemetery is one of the most unique diving sites in the world. Too bad, we did not try snorkeling there. I have seen a number of corals populated with schools of fish, but I have not seen one with tombstones.
I do not want to go back to Camiguin Island anymore. That I said to myself. But learning that Camguin’s Sunken Cemetery is one good site for snorkeling, it seems I would like to go back again. I will definitely go back not for the Soda Water, nor for the Katibawasan Falls or White Island. I will visit Camiguin Island for the second time because I would want to experience snorkeling and discover those tombstones.
As my friend Smash once said, kanya-kanyang trip lang yan.
* This Camiguin trip was last 2012. Until today, I haven’t been back to Camiguin. Probably will not anytime soon. I have a baby to look after anyway. Ten years from now, I guess, when the boys will ask that we do some snorkeling at the Sunken Cemetery, I may probably consider.
Against the blaze of indigo sweeping across the sky, patchwork of greeneries erratically cut by rock formations and the promise of white sand beach, we were already blown away by the sights of Capones Island. But as we started to set out to sea, it was the waves that sent shivers down our spines. Mesmerizing in its simplicity – only the natural sound of water and wind, yet inviting, the ripple pulled us in, like a mother blissfully greeting a child home. Such was the siren call of Zambales waves and for one day, we felt honored to be in her embrace.
The adventure began right as we stepped into the Victory Liner bus. With comfortable seats and free WI-FI connection, we immediately relaxed. In between dozing off and surfing the Internet, the 4-hour ride went like a breeze. We even managed to capture a few pictures of ourselves giddily waiting to be enraptured by the islands of Zambales. A tricycle and boat ride later and we were face-to-face with an idyll of a lifetime.
The ride to paradisaical island. Boats such as these can be rented to explore Capones Island and its neighboring Anawangin Cove. It is a 30-minute boat ride from Pundaquit Bay to the islands. Parents and individuals who are not good swimmers need not worry- all passengers are required to wear life vests during boat ride. During our trip, the waves were not particularly strong, just calm and welcoming.
The beauty of Capones Island beckons. Uninhabited and primordial in appearance, the island paints a picture of simplicity. And indeed it is. With the sun out and blazing, the white shores and the brooding rocks are deafening testimonies to nature’s power.
In its natural splendor. As our boat drew near the shore, we were greeted by a powerful pounding- of our own hearts as we couldn’t believe something like this existed in Zambales. It truly is more fun to discover the beauties of the Philippines.
Touchdown to paradise. Our first steps were timid, fearful that we were in fantasy and that any more step would snap us out of our reverie. But it wasn’t a dream and pockets of paradise truly exist.
Heaps of boulders await visitors of Capones. The island’s natural rock formations serve as a perfect backdrop for photo ops. With the view of the mountains and crystal turquoise water, we definitely had front row seats to one of nature’s finest works.
The view from the top is more picturesque! While the ground provided an opportunity to whisk out our cameras and take pictures one after the other, we hiked to the top and were dazzled by the blindingly white sand side by side with clear blue waters and green foliage. Perfect was the only word to describe the scene unfolding before our eyes.
Just a speck. Strolling along Capones Island reminded us how small we are God’s grand’s scheme of things. The experience did not only leave lasting impressions of the beauty of Zambales but we were also humbled with God’s artistry.
Signs of life. Just when we thought Capones was deserted, we glimpsed upon this lighthouse. Though we were unable to set foot in the lighthouse, our bankero informed us that the lighthouse was built in 1886. We’ll definitely visit it when we go back to Capones.
Pine tree galore. Like the wonders that left was astonished, Capones island’s neighboring Anawangin Cove offered its own surprise- lines of pine trees. We had to pinch ourselves to remind us that, no we are not in Baguio.
Picture perfect. Anawangin Cove is a wonderful stretch of pine trees, very find sands, and the cool blowing our faces. The ideal place to relax, meditate and be awed in the presence of nature.
Family bonding made more memorable. Unlike in Capones island where camping is not permitted, Anawangin Cove is a wonderful place to bond with nature and loved ones. Tents can be rented, too. Spending the night is common in Anawangin Cove (which we did). All you need to do is prepare your food and basic amenities (there is no electricity here so be prepared to do some cooking the old fashioned way or you could simply bring your own baon). Kids will love roasting marshmallows at night while singing camp songs! Just be sure to look after your trash. We wouldn’t want to spoil this unspoiled beauty, do we?
Take a quick splash! Anawangin is also perfect for taking a dip in its cool waters.
The end of a perfect day. What better way to end our extraordinary experience than to watch the sun set.
The breathtaking vista was entrancing and it helped that the people of Zambales were without a doubt, one of the nicest folks we encountered during our stay. As our boat was whisked away toward Pundaquit Bay, it was time to say good bye. We couldn’t help but take in the breezy wave that greeted us the day before. This time, it gave a different surge, one that beckoned us to return to Zambales to experience it all over again.
Yes, Capones island and Anawangin Cove, we will. How does spending your Valentine’s Day in this paradise sounds?
This coming Valentine’s Day, experience a different travel experience. Let the beauty of Capones Island and Anawangin Cove enrapture you and your loved ones. Going to Zambales has been made easy. Victory Liner, the country’s most trusted ground transportation partner, has routes to Zambales daily. Ride a Victory Liner bus going to Zambales, alight at San Antonio. Ride a tricycle going to Pundaquit Bay. From here, hire a boat going to Capones Island and Anawangin Cove.
* My travel to Anawangin Cove and Capones Island three years ago. Again, a good reference for my boys should they want to be extra romantic and bring their future wife and family here. Anawangin Cove is nice for overnight; one can even rent a tent.
My friend Smash and I traveled more than two hours from Cagayan de Oro to Bukidnon just to experience the zipline. We also got to taste the most expensive steak of all, priced at P1,300 for a large order (of course, we got the smaller version).
The zipline experience at the Dahilayan Adventure Park-
And the steak at the Del Monte Golf Club-
Aside from having Asia’s longest zipline at the Dahilayan Adventure Park, Bukidnon boasts of the largest pineapple plantation in the country as well.
We stayed at Traveler’s Pod in Cagayan de Oro for the night and left as early as 6:30am for Bukidnon.
we rented a private van for P3500 to bring us to Bukidnon’s beautiful tourist spots. We arrived at the Dahilayan Adventure Park at 8:30am and spent our time taking photos of us and anything we could see around. The park opened at 9am.
Thousands of pine trees adorned Dahilayan. Mountains around are perfect backdrop for any picture-taking. Cool breeze was indeed cool. I have learned from our rent-a-van guy that the Bukidnon wind can darken your skin. Was worried for a few seconds but after some time, I found myself enjoying even the cool breeze.
My friend and I registered for all the zipline rides – 150m and 320m and the longest 840m. – at P 600.00 only. The trek going to the 840m launch pad was indeed fun with all the sudden ups and downs, immediate turns, then climb, and drop of our military humvee. It was like riding a roller coaster.
The flight crew was kind enough to dress me up and even adjust my gear. Then it started to rain. We stayed for a while in the launch pad while kidding around with strangers who will be trying the zipline for the first time also. I got real scared when I found myself in a lying position already. I had flashbacks of my three lovely boys. I inhaled deeply then told myself that this position was safer than the sitting post. My whole body was in harness and I got a better view of Bukidnon’s lush greens and rugged landscape. I can also stretch my arms like Darna or Superman or imitate a bird flying.
Alas, the flight crew opened the gates and pushed me to the open sky. I screamed so hard to unburden myself of any fear, then spread my arms while filming myself from start to finish. I got to film the breathtaking view and even touched the tip of a pine tree. It was indeed a wonderful experience. And if given the chance to visit zip zones again, I will try it again and again. I will even encourage my boys to experience it.
That was me. And I had fun. It was fun because travelling itself is fun — you get to discover new places and also discover your inner self. But best because you get to have some good time with an old good friend.
* This Bukidnon trip was last 2012. Got our CDO ticket on sale and booked even before the typhoon Sendong which hit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. We were suppose to try white water rafting but to no avail because the river was closed. Should my boys decide to visit the place, I hope they will find this useful — somehow.
The city of San Fernando in Pampanga has enthralled the curious for centuries. Blessed with a rich soil, excellent location, and the creativity and perseverance of its citizenry, San Fernando continues to attract traders and travelers for more than 200 years. Despite thriving in a fast-paced modernization, it remains an old soul with its well-preserved communities- American Colonial-inspired mansions with winding staircases, high ceilings, and secret hiding places. These mansions, with their Amorsolo paintings, grandiose chandeliers, antique furniture and unique collections are a vestige of the colonial rule- Spanish, American and even Japanese.
San Fernando’s heritage district is a joy to discover. Here are three mansions worth visiting.
The Baron Cuyugan house was the residence of Vivencio Baron Cuyugan, the first Socialist Mayor of the Philippines. The two-storey mansion was initially built in 1870s but had undergone renovation in 1935. The overhaul included a front porch, which Cuyugan saw when he spent time in the United States. Cuyugan drew inspiration from the American Colonial design with four pillars standing as sentinel on either side of the front door. But Cuyugan could not part with the 1870s wood panels, insisting on using it as scaffold for the renovated house.
According to Vince Cuyugan, Cuyugan’s son who still lives in the property, his father inherited the house from his aunt.
The house’s Capiz windows harks back to 1870 as well as the hand-carved “S” wall molding which stood for Silvestre Baron, the late Cuyugan’s aunt. As with most old houses, the Baron Cuyugan mansion has high ceilings. Vince explains that most pre-war houses had high ceilings simply because there was no air-conditioned systems back then. When the weather was hot, all they had to do was open the windows so the heat would rise. Another prominent feature of the Baron Cuyugan house is its non-welded wrought windows, a style known in the olden times.
Outside the house rests a statue bearing the bust of the late Cuyugan. It is also here where Cuyugan remains, as well as his wife, are interred.
But what makes the Baron Cuyugan house stand out is its participation during the Japanese invasion. The late Cuyugan was one of the founders of Hukbalahap, an anti-Japanese guerilla movement. To escape the arrest and torture of Japanese soldiers, the elder Cuyugan made a dungeon in his house. Family members and Hukbalahap associates would crawl into the dungeons of news of Japanese arrival would occur. Alas, the Baron Cuyugan house was seized the Japanese, turning it into a Municipal Hall of San Fernando.
Augusto Hizon House (Santos-Hizon house)
A few streets away from the Baron Cuyugan house is the Santos-Hizon House, now known as the Augusto Hizon House. Built at the turn of the century by Teodoro and Africa Ventura, the Victorian-style mansion was bought by Maria Salome Hizon, a Red Cross volunteer during the Philippine Revolution. It was then inherited by her brother Augusto Hizon.
Like the Baron Cuyugan residence, the Augusto Hizon house exemplifies the American Colonial architecture. Visitors are immediately impressed at the winding staircase leading to the house’s portico, made more elegant with Machuca tiles. The multi-colored tiles, whose history traces back to 1900s, feature Mediterranean motif tiles. San Sebastian College and San Beda Church are among the popular structures that feature Machuca tiles.
Inside, the Augusto Hizon house showcases antique furniture, portraits of its ancestors as well as an exquisite collection of hand bells, brass and crystal alike.
A 14-seater dining table is the highlight of the mansion, perfect for formal gatherings of the privileged and rich.
The Augusto Hizon house currently serves as the residence of a Hizon heir.
Another house appropriated by the Japanse government to serve as residence of its 14th Army Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, the Lazatin House is imposing even from the façade. Built in 1925 by sugar farmer and former president of SFELAPCO(San Fernando Electric Light and Company), the Lazatin house is another San Fernando mansion with an American Colonial motif.
A staircase leads to a centered front door, flanked by windows on either side. According to Marco Lazatin, an heir, the house was the last one to be built in the town’s border. On the town’s border stood Pasudeco, the first Filipino financed sugar center in Pampanga. The late Lazatin was one of its founders and everyday he used to walk from his house to the center until he decided to construct a house near Pasudeco.
The Lazatin house is perhaps one of the most well-preserved mansions in San Fernando’s Heritage District. The Lazatin family even started a foundation for the mansion’s upkeep. A tour inside the Lazatin house verifies this. Inside, the house boasts of a formal dining room filled with various knick knacks accumulated by Marco’s aunts from their trips around the world- chinaware, porcelain and ceramic figurines, and plates are arranged side-by-side with an antique piano, modern furniture, traditional Grandfather clock and family portraits. Marco points out that his grandparents’ portraits were done by the great Filipino maestro Fernando Amorsolo himself. Going up the winding stairs fuels more drama. The Lazatin house’s second level features the same ornate decors downstairs as well as a few unique finds.
In one room there is an old barometer that is said to be a small version of the one found in the old Ateneo de Manila campus in Padre Faura, Manila. The barometer, with markings in Spanish, is still working so anyone will figure out if a bagyo (destructive typhoon) is coming. In another room lies a traditional parturition chair, a chair designed to help give birth. The chair, similar to a rocking chair, has a low height and longer arm rest for the mother’s legs to place.
Other interesting finds at the Lazatin house are the family’s doll and matchbook collection. The six-framed matchbook collection features interesting ones like the 1964 US presidential campaign material of Sen. Barry Goldwater and incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson. There are even matchbooks cum campaign materials of past Filipino presidents Elpidio Quirino and Carlos P. Garcia.
Travel back in time and experience the glorious past of San Fernando, Pampanga. Before summer ends, explore San Fernando’s Heritage District. Getting to Pampanga is easy with Victory Liner, the Filipino’s most trusted and preferred bus companion. Comfortable seats and free Wi-Fi on board services, visitors can easily pay homage to San Fernando’s splendid heritage houses.
To make the most of your tour, it is best to coordinate with the City Tourism and investments Office-City Tourism Division of San Fernando, Pampanga.
* The travel posts from last week until this week are from my past travels. I am putting everything into writing for my boys to use as reference should they want to consider exploring the country anytime in the very near future.
Nothing beats going back to Davao not for business this time but for pure leisure and total enjoyment. This time around, I got to appreciate the place and experience what one must do once in Davao.
Our very generous boss treated her staff to a five-day Davao outing. Initially, it was a very long vacation for me, letting me miss my boys for five long days. It turned out to be a blessing instead– giving me the opportunity to mingle with office mates and bosses, leave behind the rat race of city life and feel the sea, stars and sand in the next five days, and allow my husband to look after the boys for quite a long period (I mean, do the laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, etc).
Though delayed by half an hour, we’ve managed to reach Davao in full smiles and hopes that the next four days would be all fun.
And fun started upon seeing and finally tasting the crisp, golden-brown skin of the lechon. Its taste was so satisfying — the same gratification I felt every time I bend to pieces the pork skin and would hear that crisp sound.
We had our sumptuous lunch at our boss’s farm. She allowed us to even tour around her farm and oriented us of the various plants, trees, and shrubs found within. Her farm was a perfect place for any bird habitation and from our seats we could enjoy a front-row view of nature’s wonders and blessings.
After the lavish all-you-can-eat buffet, we headed to Microtel Davao to check-in our bags. At Microtel Davao, we’ve experienced each staff’s personalized hospitality where truly we felt the home-away-from-home treat. Though not luxuriously dressed like other five-star hotels, Microtel Davao offered us a homey retreat and fast connection to other places of interest as it is conveniently located within the city’s commercial hub.
Our almost perfect night needed a serving of a perfect dinner — one that would engage our senses and create a perfect mood– thus we opted for an Italian restaurant.
We were all so full yet still fully recharged. We looked for a coffee shop within Abrezza Mall to have a cup of tea but our feet drew us at the far far away BluGrey’s.
Was in bed by 11pm, too excited to get plenty of rest for the night because for sure, tomorrow’s activities would need us to walk more, eat more, and swim some more.
Supposedly, we’ll be having our breakfast at the Microtel but our boss would want us to experience her morning routine every time she’s in Davao. She told us that she would have her breakfast at Samal Island — bringing her to the island for a 15-peso boat ride — then would go straight to her farm.
And so, we had our boat ride going to Samal Island that morning and had our breakfast at the Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort.
After our heavy breakfast, we headed back to the city to visit Pag-asa at the Philippine Eagle Center. A research and breeding facility of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the Philippine Eagle Center is also home to many other species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Over 30 Philippine eagles, the biggest collection in the world, are found inside the center.
Located at the edge of the Malagos Watershed, the eight-hectare property offered us a glimpse of the Philippines’ forest ecosystem. Mainly surrounded with huge trees and lots of greeneries and blooms, the center is vast and cool.
Then we met Pag-asa, the famous Philippine eagle to have been bred in captivity. It was announced in the news as well that Pag-asa has now become a father with an eagle chick hatched last February 2013.
The center aims to educate people about conservation and to save the critically endangered Philippine eagle. And though my boys haven’t seen the center yet or Pag-asa, I may do my share of educating them about the diverse wildlife creatures and the importance of taking care of their habitat. It might be just proper to help the center raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.
Just a few minutes from the Philippine Eagle Center is the Malagos Garden Resort, a nature retreat located in the cool highlands of Malagos Calinan. Home to many exotic flowers and fruit trees, the vast 12-hectare garden resort also houses a large collection of birds and of other wildlife species.
At Malagos Garden Resort, we were able to feed exotic birds right from our own hands. The birds are just as cute that i even joked around that they could fit inside my big bag.
Our tour around Malagos Garden Resort and the Philippine Eagle Center left us all wanting to eat. Good thing our lunch was booked at Chippens.
Though they say our eyes are not literally bigger than our stomach, my eyes went bigger than my stomach as I looked at the buffet table. It was too tempting to to take a heaping portion of all the yummy food lined up in front of me. I have managed though to take a few in moderation, always reminding myself that I am on diet since I gained 20 lbs after a miscarriage.
For dinner, we went to Jack’s Ridge, one of the most popular dining destinations in Davao. It sits on top of a high and very steep mountain slope, overlooking the scenic expanse of the city.
The diner was once the headquarters for the Japanese army during World War II; and a number of preserved keepsakes of its historic past are aplenty and displayed within the area. One interesting preserved momento that caught our fancy was the prehistoric and gigantic clam shell, confirming claims that the area was once underwater millions of years ago.
After dinner, we went to the market to buy some pasalubongs for our families and friends in Manila. Daring as she sometimes can be, our jolly boss dared us to eat durian fruit, more popularly known in Davao for its distinctive odor and uniquely thorn-covered husk. It emits a rather strong and penetrating odor — sometimes described as too overpowering — but most would say that it tastes great.
I had my first Durian taste and I find it creamy, much like a custard than any other fruit. We consumed the whole fruit and most of my office buddies enjoyed the fresh fruit with an ice-cold coke. For me, I would still prefer the Durian candies, polvoron, and yema tower.
While some of my office mates preferred to cap the night with some huge servings of ice giants, I however, opted to take a good night shower and call it a night. The soothing feeling of the air conditioning system inside our room had brought a cold night, allowing me to sleep well that evening. Our tomorrow will be another fun-filled day so I need that rest.
After our buffet breakfast, we all gathered at the Microtel lobby to discuss a few do’s and dont’s for our next itinerary. We are going to The Pearl Farm!
Nestled in the islands of Samal and Malipano, the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is one of the high-end resorts in Davao owned and operated by the Floirendos. Once a cultivation farm for luxurious south sea pearls, the Pearl Farm is still today’s most regal beach resort in the city.
From Sasa wharf, we took the roro to reach what they describe as the best attraction in Davao city.
Pearl Farm with its beautiful, deep and calm sea… Pearl Farm and its stunning views perfect for pictorials…. Pearl Farm is definitely less crowded with a terrific line up of buffet lunch. — some of the how I’ve imagined Pearl Farm from the stories I’ve read and relayed to me by my friends.
The Pearl Farm that I’ve seen, felt and experienced-
The lunch buffet at Pearl Farm had mostly average-tasting dishes, but the options were so wide. They even had beef or chicken shawarma which I found not too common in most buffet set ups.
It was already dark when we went back to the city. We headed to Waterfront Insular Hotel for our dinner.
During the day as well, we visited the Monfort Bat Colony, known for being home to the largest colony of fruit bats in the world and having been recognized and awarded by the Guinness book of world records.
Estimated to have some 1.8 million bat residents, the Monfort Bat Colony has such a highly suitable habitation for these nocturnal birds. And I could readily feel the unnaturally huge presence of these bats within the area because of the high-pitched shrills echoing within.
There are five entrances within the secluded compound. And as we get closer to the entrance, I was overwhelmed with the uncountable black masses covering the cave entrances.
We had our usual breakfast at Microtel Davao. After which, we had our boat ride again, but this time going to a secluded place called Hof Gorei Beach Resort.
Indeed very quite, Hof Gorei is a perfect place to relax and leave all worries behind. We had the entire resort all by ourselves that I decided right away to try its pool and enjoy lounging in the sun.
We arrived from Hof Gorei to the city by 5 pm, still have an hour to do our shopping for pasalubongs at Aldevinco. I bought my mother butterfly dusters. And for my boys – all kinds of durian and mangosteen candies.
For dinner, we had something light yet filling- Japanese food. I am not a fan of sushi rolls so I had a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner. After a few push from companions, I tried a few rolls and much to my delight, I enjoyed them. Those sushi rolls sans rice, fish and living nutrients were in fact very beautiful to look at, very refreshing, and light yet filling.
After our filling breakfast at Microtel Davao, we were chartered to the Davao airport in time for our 11:00 am flight back to Manila. Since we still had plenty of time, we did a few last-minute shopping. I bought a few kilos of mangosteen and pomelo which were cheaper than buying it at the malls and were slightly more expensive if bought in the city proper.
Our five-day Davao stay was indeed a healthy vacation for me. I have managed to make the most of my time off, more ready to return to Manila refreshed and recharged. Also, it was a needed vacation after having that unfortunate missed abortion.
US. Travels and vacations wouldn’t be complete without taking jump shots. A jump shot becomes a signature thing to almost all travelers as it would always catch the action at its peak.
And yes, I do love Davao.
* This visit was last May 2013, a few months after my missed abortion. I hope to return to Davao, again with my boys.
Baguio City is a sanctuary for those seeking an idyllic break from the demands of metropolitan living. Specially this coming Valentine’s Day, the City of Pines is a great place for a food expedition. Here is a quick list of “only in Baguio” food specialties and restaurants that one can visit one after the other in a Baguio food trip vacation:
Strawberry taho. Sold almost everywhere in the city, good old-fashioned taho made from soya is drizzled with strawberry syrup and, if one is lucky, fresh strawberries. The slight tanginess of the syrup and fresh fruit bits blend nicely with the soft and creamy soya, making this taho a hit among adults and children.
Café by the Ruins
One of the most satisfying places in the city to have breakfast in, Café by the Ruins serves aromatic, full bodied and flavourful coffee to perk up one’s morning. They also have unique tea infusions for the non-coffee drinker. Also available are a variety of Philippine style hot chocolate drinks, fresh fruit shakes and juices, pure carabao’s milk, special breads and spreads, and comfort food in the form of breakfast meals and sandwiches.
Their bestsellers include the delicious, signature Ruins coffee; simple but surprisingly delicious kamote bread; the unassuming Filipino longganisa-sinangag-itlog (uniquely dubbed as “lon-si-log”); classic bacon and eggs; rich blueberry muffins packed with fresh blueberry fruits; and the comfort food kesong puti with basil as a twist.
Café by the Ruins serves breakfast from 7:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily.
Café Sabel of BenCab Museum
After strolling around session road and Burnham park, head to the BenCab Museum for lunch and cultural sightseeing. Located at the lower third level of the BenCab Museum, Café Sabel offers healthy and interesting food choices such as farm fresh green salad with strawberry vinaigrette, carrot and pumpkin soup, carrot and ginger soup, tomato basil pasta, basil pesto pasta, chicken paprika, tuna with pineapple panini, strawberry shake, cucumber cooler, and a selection of herbed teas. Coffee lovers should also try BenCab’s Brew, which is freshly brewed from native Arabica coffee beans.
After lunch, and with a full tummy, it’s time to explore the various levels of the BenCab Museum and see intricate Ifugao sculptures and learn about how life was in the Cordillera’s centuries ago. The museum also has an extensive collection of Mr. Ben Cabrera’s paintings.
Choco-late de Batirol
Merienda time is best spent at a quaint little café tucked in a garden near Camp John Hay. If it’s drizzling at noon time in Baguio, sipping hot chocolate from a mug can feel quite heavenly, while chit chatting with friends or reading a book. One can do this at Choco-late de Batirol.
They serve sumptuous comfort food to customers seeking refuge from the city’s cool weather. The old and young alike will love their traditional hot tsokolate for its distinct tablea flavor that is not cloyingly rich and sweet. Other hot chocolate drink selections in the menu include Baguio blend (made with strawberries), cinnamon, almond, Cointreau or orange-flavored liquer, Kahlua, and choco mallows. Lovers of cold chocolate drinks will love the café’s flavored variations of ice-cold tsokolate. Snacks such as suman sa latik, bibingka and turon de langka are great accompaniments to their hot chocolate during particularly cold and rainy days.
Choco-late de Batirol also serves unique breakfast fare such as longganisa Vigan and tocino kalabaw. It likewise serves a variety of local dishes such as dinuguan, paksiw na lechon, beef caldereta and boneless daing na bangus.
Te Quiero Tapas Bar and Restaurant
An evening in Baguio can be magical at the inhouse restaurant of Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham. Te Quiero as the restaurant is called, is Spanish-inspired and serves a wide variety of Western and Asian dishes. Te Quiero’s menu explains that a tapa is originally a small plate or bowl containing a few nuts, olives, cheese or ham, served with wine, beer, sherry or wine, either as a snack or as an appetizer.
Nowadays, the range of tapas has become more varied as reflected in Te Quiero’s menu. The restaurant serves cold tapas specialties such as jamon serrano, salami mixto, and picante salchica y queso de cabra. Their hot tapas bestsellers include salpicao de carne de vacuno, caldereta de cabra, and callos a la madrilèna.
Te Quiero offers a tapas buffet during their Tapas nights every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. An acoustic band plays on these nights and why not order a bottle of very cold beer or a glass of Spanish wine while relaxing and enjoying the music.
The great selection of flavorful finds in Baguio City would surely satisfy the craving of any foodie who visits the city. And for the seasoned road traveller, the best way to reach the City of Pines is through Victory Liner, which has been consistently providing safe and reliable bus transportation to Baguio City and other places in Northern Luzon for 70 years now.
So this weekend, visit Baguio City and enjoy not only its unusually cool weather but the “only in Baguio” food specialties and restaurants.
* A Baguio experience with bed pal Smash who wrote most of the content here. This again, is for my boys as reference should they consider spending a few days in Baguio City.
Sitting for too long can make your body feel so sore. After a 12-hour butt-numbing journey on a provincial bus to Tuguegarao, I was more than thankful to see Kuya Nato. He was our shuttle driver who brought us to Hotel Josefina, a quaint inn that sits at the heart of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. Geographically, Cagayan is situated in the northeastern part of Luzon, thus explains the long drive.
For our almost three days stay at Cagayan, we opted for Hotel Josefina. Significantly impressive, the hotel has a homey feel. Its decorative accessories are stylishly romantic as well. At once, I felt at home.
Finding our way to our room, we passed by a narrow hallway. Narrow hallways can be dull, but with decors hanging on its walls and the brightness of direct sunlight passing through the other side, I have a rather reassuring walk toward our temporary abode.
We got a twin deluxe room, just spacious enough for two people who do not have much luggage but have a lot of chips to munch. An overnight stay was P1,100.00.
Aside from its 24-hour front desk service, Hotel Josefina had free WIFI, electronic key card door, and an individual smoking area.
We had our quick hot shower and without much delay, headed to Jomar’s Panciteria for our late breakfast. Jomar’s Panciteria, a famous eatery in Tuguegarao, was full that day, mostly of tricycle drivers having their pancit matched with ice-cold beer. Outside the main kitchen area, rows of nipa huts were erected where anyone could smoke and chit-chat comfortably. A serving of Jomar’s super special was at P70.00.
Going around Tuguegarao, it would be ideal to have a local guide with you. Good thing Kuya Nato had some friends he could ask to drive us around the city. For a whole day tour, most van owners would ask for P2,500 as rental fee plus P1,000 for the gasoline. We opted for a tricycle service and hired a driver for P1,000 for four destinations that day.
With our tummies filled with Tuguegarao’s most famous pansit batil patung, we were ready for our first destination — Callao Cave.
Manong driver recommended that we visit Callao Cave first as it may take us about an hour to reach Penablanca. We readily agreed since my friend was so eager to visit the place before dark to take some real nice photos inside the cavern.
We paid P40 for the entrance. Though no defined fee for the tour guide, the registrar encouraged us to give any amount to Jaylord, the kid who acted as our guide within the place. The tour guiding job is the primary source of income of most youngsters in Penablanca and is very much supported by the local government.
Very knowledgeable and bubbly, Jaylord talked with excessive pride about Callao Cave. He also narrated how he had met Korina Sanchez and her Balitang K crew. He mentioned as well that he was given a scholarship as Korina’s token of gratitude for touring them around.
Every tourist wanting to take a glimpse of the famous Callao Cave need to painstakingly climb 187 steps. And from there, he will be welcomed by the cave’s main archway.
Halfway up the stairs, one could enjoy a spectacular panorama of the Pinacanauan River. It has clear waters and beautiful natural setting which all the more makes it fit as one of the tourist attractions of Cagayan Province.
Flawlessly sculpted by time, Callao Cave — according to Jaylord — was named after a kalaw bird which richly inhabits the place. That was before, though, as these kalaw birds are swiftly diminishing because of the rude hunting activities of others who apparently do not appreciate nature’s wonder.
The cave was naturally accentuated with stalactites believed to be present for centuries now. The cave was a sight to behold, especially the stylish drapers and other cave formations. By the entrance, there was a path leading to a chapel where pews and makeshift altar were arranged. Jaylord confirmed that masses are heard there every first Sunday of the month.
Though I have been to a number of caves in the Philippines, Callao is definitely important to me. It has such impressive features which, I guess, I will never dare forget for the rest of my life. It is where I find peace, a moment I could pray and commune with God and feel His presence. It is cold inside but does not give negative chills.
After Callao Cave, we headed to Iguig to see the famous Calvary Hills. Very popular with devotees especially during the holy week, Calvary Hills is located within the grounds of San Antonio de Galicia Church in Iguig, Cagayan. And within the 11 hectares of rolling hills are life-size concrete statues of the stations of the cross. Its elevation provides stunning views of the Cagayan River and the valley.
Aside from being called the “smiling land of beauty,” often, Tuguegarao is also known as the land that sizzles as it has recorded the hottest temperature in the country. Likewise, the city’s average temperature during summer months is 38 degree Celsius, one of the highest in the Philippines. This scorching weather of the city is but an ordinary occurrence thus, after our Calvary tour, we all the more felt the need to refresh and quench our thirst. In all honestly, Tuguegarao City is the melting pot of the Philippines– both figuratively and literally.
We went back to the city and looked for a decent restaurant to 1) put something inside our growling stomach, 2) drink and replenish our body’s water and electrolyte levels after dehydration caused by the extreme heat, and 3) visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao. Also known as Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, this biggest Spanish-built church is included in our must visit places in Tuguegarao.
My travel buddy used her internet connection to research; and relayed that one of Tuguegarao’s must-see diners is Lorie’s restaurant. Though somehow difficult to find, Lorie’s never failed our high hopes for a decent and filling lunch. We had a genuinely good eating experience there!
Together with their highly recommended chicken barbecue and pork liempo, we had frozen chocolate beverages and cakes for dessert. These were some of my friend’s great shots of our food.
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
Also called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is the seat of the archdiocese of the city and considered the biggest Spanish-built church in the entire region. Named after two of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the cathedral has a beautiful five-level bell tower.
Before we retired for the day, we went to Buntun Bridge, the longest river-spanning bridge in the country which connects Tuguegarao and Solana. Also known as the second longest bridge in the Philippines — after the San Juanico Bridge– Buntun bridge is constructed for travelers to cross the Cagayan River. Yes, under it is the Cagayan River, the largest river basin the country.
If sunsets over Manila Bay are among the most beautiful and colorful views that almost all condominiums along Roxas Boulevard in Manila advertise, the sunset along Buntun Bridge is also worth experiencing.
As we waited for the sky to turn into some red and orange, we were startled by the radiating glows of the sun as it set. The steady and reliable steel bars against the dimming light all the more made the scene very dramatic.
The view from below was just as impressive. We couldn’t even hear any rushing sound of the water nor the vast carpets of green left no eerie feeling. Everything seemed quiet and steady. So gold and … steady.
The sunset scenes made our evening calm and relaxed. After our dinner of bulalo and papaitan at Felicita’s, we went straight to bed to have a good night sleep. Because the following day, we have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the bus plying to Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
Palaui Island and Anguib Beach
We arrived at the bus station at five in the morning that following day. The lone bus bound for Sta. Ana, Cagayan left already, giving us with no other option than to catch by chance a UV express van that would bring us to the port and eventually reach Palaui Island and Anguib Beach. Luck must have been on our side as we were able to get our seats. Fare was P180.00 each.
Excited to see the location shoot of the US reality TV series Survivor season 27, we endured the butt-numbing ride. We were very optimistic that seeing the pristine Palaui Island and the enchanting Anguib Beach would help us forget all the discomfort of traveling for three hours in a passenger van.
We arrived at the port at around 8:30 in the morning. Signages that say “27th and 28th seasons of ‘Survivor’ USA were filmed on Palaui Island” were around the area. The boatman relayed to us that the Survivor shoot further put the town, which has been a once-obscure fishing village, in the world’s tourism map.
Going to Palaui Island took us about 45 minutes. The ride was not a bore as we were constantly entertained by the clear waters– bright enough to see the seabed in the deepest sections. Everything was a perfect harmony of green, brown and blue with the mountains on the side and the clear blue skies above us.
This impressively beautiful view greeted us as we step our feet at the Palaui Islands —
The view was simply like a canvass with the strong sun rays splayed at the horizon as background to the lush green hills and the serene blue waters. The calmness of the sky, mountains, and sea invited me to take my late morning stroll and simply enjoy the damp sand and the tiny sea shells that somehow pricked my feet.
As we explored the island, our feet brought us to a vast grassland leading us to the famous Cape Engano Lighthouse. There was a trail up; one needs to go through over 200 steps and a shorter hike inclined at about 45 degrees. From time to time, I stopped not to rest and catch my breath but more on to savor and capture everything.
All our efforts to reach the summit was rewarded with a stunning view of the bluest of blue skies… of the lush green hills and grasslands… of the sparkling blue waters and its waves pounding at the nearest gigantic rocks… and of the serene cove with the deepest blues.
Aside from the picturesque landscape of the island, the lighthouse came in second as my favorite Palaui attraction. Our kind tour guide said that this Spanish-designed structure is still functioning using solar-powered light. The lighthouse also has open windows to let one see the natural landscape and welcome in natural air.
We must have enjoyed the view from above that it almost took us an hour before we decide to go down. It was easier to go down the hill, perhaps we were somehow familiar with the trail already. But as we went down, I kept on rewinding the view I had at the top. I would want to bring my boys there. I would want them to experience what I have experienced. Perhaps it is the lack of disturbance that drove me to want to visit the lighthouse again. Even the wind was somehow cooperative that day. Though I felt its blow, i did not feel its hard slap on my face.
After the Cape Engano Lighthouse, manong tour guide invited us to visit one of many waterfalls in Palaui — a place that can be reached after a 10-minute walk through a forested area. There, fresh water from the mountains falls to a natural pool where one could douse off that summer heat.
Our Cagayan travel was truly a tiring one. But all the energy we put into this adventure was rewarded with:
- the new learnings and awareness about the place, its culture, and its people’s beliefs;
- first time experiences which I could now strike off my bucket list;
- conquering my fears of the unknown and knowing that I could do it;
- helping me slow down and giving myself a break from the hustle and bustle of the big loud city; and
- the realization to appreciate my work, my family, and myself.
After another 16-hour butt-numbing experience inside the Victory Liner bus which brought us home, I realized that indeed, life is worth living. You just need to appreciate everything surrounding you, may it be the scorching sun or the long trails or even the dried falling leaves.
* I was able to see the beauty of Cagayan Valley about two years ago, and would want to once again experience its natural beauty – the fiery sun included – with my boys.
I’ve been to a place called Minalungao National Park. It came from the local terms “mina” and “lungao” which mean “mine of gold in caves.” Tatay Tasyo, our amiable tour guide, relayed to us that there are alleged Yamashita treasures hidden in the caves and underground of the national park.
Sprawling over more than 2,000 hectares of land in the quaint town of Papaya in Nueva Ecija, Minalungao National Park has great potential for recreation and ecotourism. Very distinct are its 16-meter high limestone walls bordering the narrow Penaranda River. Its pristine calm emerald water along the Sierra Madre mountain range is another sight to behold.
From Gapan, Nueva Ecija, we hired a tricycle to bring us to Papaya (formerly General Tinio). Travel time was about an hour and 45 minutes. As we alighted from the tricycle, a serene riverbank greeted us, inviting us to take a short stroll and appreciate the calm water and green surroundings. Such a charming sanctuary that for once, I felt I was in another world away from all the hustle and bustle of city life.
To get to the end part of the national park, one may opt to glide along the side of the sharply uneven limestone walls. Though one may have a great view of the surroundings and the water from above, the trek was a challenge.
As we went back to the national park’s main entrance, we requested Tatay Tasyo for a much easy and relaxing way — rent a bamboo raft. We traversed the Penaranda River and had a more overwhelming view of the towering limestone formation bordering the river.
Minalungao was declared a national park in 1967. More than its tranquil charm, Minalungao National Park is a treasure trove in itself offering exciting possibilities from trekking, spelunking, swimming, cliff diving, and bamboo rafting.
Now, whenever I pass by Nueva Ecija, more than its vast green rice fields, I picture the province as my top-of-mind weekend escape from the busy and noisy metro. Not any more a simple transit stop from those long trips headed North as Nueva Ecija is home to a natural wonder that made me say “It’s indeed more fun in the Philippines!”
So here’s to more travel and adventure! See you when I see you on my next trip.
* This Minalungao trip was, I guess, two years ago. I was by then too eager to explore the beauty of the Philippines and yes, no baby to look after. I am writing this for my boys to see how beautiful our country is and should they want to go on a quick adventure, they may perhaps consider Nueva Ecija’s Minalungao National Park.