The Rough Ride to the Paradise called Caramoan

We have all heard about raves about the hidden paradise of Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur. We also heard about the hassle associated with travelling to this place, but of really, some of the loveliest places are indeed hidden well away from bustling metros and are accessible only via the hardest routes to dissuade the curious onlookers.

After several months of laying-low, my boys had become even more restless at the onset of summer. Little did they know, I’ve been secretly planning a trip to these islands for several weeks already. I disclosed my plans to them 2 days before our scheduled trip. Baba was adamant and was very much concerned with our budget. Still we pushed through despite Baba’s worries and unyeilding self.

The six-hour rough ride to Caramoan from our home base in Daraga, Albay did not do much to appease Baba’s attitude. We took the van plying the Daraga – Naga (vv) and alighted at Anayan, Pili. There we waited for the Naga – Sabang jeepney that will take us directly to Sabang port. I noticed Baba’s hesitations start to vanish. We are enjoying the wonderful vista offered by Mt Isarog as our jeepney traversed the road to Partido area onwards to San Jose.

Arriving at the port, we hurriedly got inside a canteen (forgot the name) located just beside the passenger’s waiting area. We ordered some brekkie and took our time with it seeing the long queue of passengers waiting to board the boat. After breakfast, we went down to check the boat schedule and alas – the next boat is already full and we have to wait for the following one which they don’t know what time will arrive. We should have our names listed on the manifesto soon as we arrived, but our tummies directed us to the delicious smell coming from the canteen first!

Luckily two boats arrived instead of one and we were accommodated soon enough. Many “bangkero” will tell you to reserve seats by taking your bags to boat and you have to pay them P20 or P50, but we declined them. Also, since there is no “port,” bangkeros have made a “make-shift” port and asks P10 for each passenger. The boat ride took about two hours, traversing along the coast of Presentacion, Camarines Sur.  We arrived at Guijalo port at around 1pm and took a tricyle to sentro. I asked the driver to take us to Villa Juliana for our accommodations.

After resting a bit, we went out to look for a place to eat and found ourselves at a small native restaurant along the highway for our late lunch. We went back to our inn and slept a bit. It was already four in the afternoon when we decided to check out Paniman Beach.

Paniman Beach is the pick up point for island hopping activities in Caramoan. It is well away from the town proper Tawog so we took a motorcycle to get there. The beach is lined with resorts and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. The water is very calm and the beach itself has fine brown sand. It was very soothing to sit and watch my boys play at this beach. We walked to explore the resorts at the far end and back. I think a lot of foreigners have already settled here and have opened their own resorts too.

I wondered how marvelous the sunrise would be in this beach. I faces some enchanting limestone karsts. Baba though still irritable from the lengthy trip, gave me unsolicited advise and said that if I only discussed this trip with him, we could have prepared a better itinerary. And maybe we could have booked our first night in Paniman and watched the sunrise from there too!

Tagaytay’s Leslie’s Bulalo and Tawilis: A Rewind?

The course is in full swing. I am actually torn between hating it and loving it so many reasons. This is the first time I was sent to such kind of schooling in my 6 or so years in government service. One of the things I am truly thankful for in this opportunity is that it paved the way for a wider network, meeting and gaining new friends and connections.

Our group is probably one of the coolest, having younger members (I feel quite old) and a couple of young at heart’s. To break off from the serious academics, we’re planning a trip to one of the member’s hometown – Tagaytay. While planning about it earlier, I remembered my last trip to this place and my first time to dine at Leslie’s. The place is perched on a cliff overlooking Taal volcano. But apart from this strategic location, many people dine here because of their Bulalo and the Tawilis which is actually an endemic fish in Taal lake.

Aguinaldo Highway Crossing, Silang West Tagaytay City 
Bulalo and Tawilis

I admit being a picky eater (parang bata lang) but this plate looks really good so I picked up one and tried it out. Our tawilis place was actually the first to bow out. 🙂
ensaladang talong. i just went for the diced tomatoes 🙂
here is leslie’s signature bulalo dish
ordered this one. sisig of course!
yummy bulalo!

want some? 😀

Leslie’s provided a wide space as a view deck and photo ops for its diners. Me and my office mates spent a lot of time out there while waiting for our food to arrive. 

The day ended with some sweet night cap before we headed back to our dorm. 

Now’s really praying that me and my classmates pushes through with the plan for a road trip to Tagaytay sometime before our course ends in mid-October. This maybe the only course we’d take up together but the connections has been established and we’d surely have lifetime friends even after we finish it. 

Baguio Budget Escape 2: What Eats and Where To’s?

We surely had a blast on our Baguio Budget Escape Day 1, and the weekend was far from over. We woke up early the next day and prepared for our host – my housemate and Baguio resident Lalai with her son Kabay will take us to The Manor for a buffet breakfast which Baba and I promised in exchange for the free ride up and down the City of Pines.

The Manor, Camp John Hay, Baguio City

Lalai and her family took me to The Manor the last time I was stuck in Baguio so I was pretty excited to have another round of delicious breakfast meals in a beautiful location.

Breakfast Buffet Rates at The Manor are:

Adult : Php 550
Kids : Php 275

please make me an omelette with everything on it!
winner waffle with maple syrup and blueberry jam

Kabai with his fruit plate

Lai’s plate

We took turns at getting some time off and exploring the grounds of the hotel before we had our part 2 of the brekkie. We would love to spend an over night here on Baba’s next vacation.

the Manor

we love it here!

After a hearty breakfast, Lalai took us to Good Shepherd Covent in Mines View Park to buy a couple of Pasalubong favorites – the famous Ube Jam. There was a long line of customers so Baba and I decided to take pictures while we waited for Lalai to complete her purchases.

Good Shepherd Convent, Baguio City

From here, we passed by the Botanical Garden and the Mansion but we did not go down, instead Lalai dropped us off at our Inn to rest while the rain poured over the city. This trip was completely unplanned so Baba and I don’t have anything in mind to go to.

After our siesta, we then decided to take merienda-cum-early dinner and go to the Lourdes Grotto. I was still raining on and off so we just took a cab though we had some idea on how to go there already.

the Veniz Cafe

counted the steps up the Lourdes grotto

Despite our lack of planning, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the City of Pines. We’ve both been here before but have not really explored the city, and now it felt really good getting lost and finding the right way together. We do plan to re-visit Baguio next year and maybe we’d be able take Teloy along with us then.

Baguio Budget Escape: Food Trip in the City of Pines

It was a quiet Friday evening when our housemate, who hails from Baguio City announced that she’s driving alone to Baguio early in the morning. Out of nowhere, Baba and I decided to join her on a road trip. With a couple of clothes and 5K budget, we hit the road at 4am the next day.

The drive was uneventful, we stopped by Sison, Pangasinan to eat something and we’re a little disappointed that Kenon Rd was closed so we had to take the much longer route via Marcos Highway.

We reached Baguio City at around 9am. Baba and I declined Ate Maricar’s invitation to stay in their house and searched for cheap Baguio City accommodations instead. We found La Brea along Session Road and made reservations for 2 nights. We did not prepare any IT and made this trip a completely spontaneous one. We just noted recommendations and jump into what we have in mind next.

After freshening up, we headed to Glenn’s 50s Diner in General Luna Road in front of Brent Road  for our late lunch. The ambiance is great and they have big servings of food. Baba loved his Swimmers while my Schintzel was just okay.

waitresses at 50’s diner wear sailor uniforms!

we love their coffee here

Baba’s Swimmers – 3 seafood delights in sweet-spicy sauce
schnitzel for me (okay lang)
ka-table namin c Marilyn Monroe!
the red car parked outside 50’s diner

After lunch, we decided to walk back and pay visit to the Cathedral and offer prayers of thanks. Then we played corny and headed for Burnham Lake for some rowing action.

can’t believe these oars are so heavy!!
should have tried those paddle boats instead

It was raining on and off and we were tired. We couldn’t think of anything to eat for dinner just yet so we headed for SM Baguio and waited for the rain to stop. We stayed at the veranda and was awed when the fog enveloped the city.

Then we walked to Session Road where there are more choices when it comes to foodtripping. We ended up at one of my friend’s favorite Pizza place – Pizza Volante. The place looks unorganized and seems to be a series of expansions – might be because of the growing number of diners. They have great pizza and pasta choices here – the price is also just right for students on a budget.

love this cheeze burger pizza!

Baba suggested we eat only light dinner tonight because he wants a nightcap at one of the bars we passed by earlier. It’s called the Bohemian and they have angelic acoustic singers here. We had a basket of fresh potato fries and a bucket of beer to end the night…

frothy milk! 😀

a basket of potatoes

lassheeng Baba?

Day 2 of our Baguio Trip was spent at the Manor, Good Shepherd and Lourdes Grotto. Blog soon 🙂

Surfing in Baler, Aurora: A Novice Experience

wave rider
Baler Sunset

A trip to Baler will never be complete without riding the waves. Our first day in Baler was spent exploring other towns and views around Sabang beach. It ended with us four lounging and just people watching at the beach. We were all amazed at how those little girls can surf like a pro, and we all looked forward to trying it out the next day.

Dinner took hundred years to arrive at Bay’s Inn, afterwards we headed to Bay-ler for a night cap. Baler was full packed that time and there were only a couple of establishments that were still open at late night. We finished off early slept in preparation for next day’s activity.

Baler Sunrise and Mahdox Surf School

Sabang Beach, Baler, Aurora

Before our trip to Baler, I asked one of my friends for a recommendation on where to find the best surf instructors in the Baler and he gave us Mahdox Surf School and Surf Shop. According to him, this is the only place to go when you want to learn surfing in Baler. Mahdox is actually the first registered surf school and shop n Baler and it is owned by one of the Philippines’ top ranking surfers – Okoy Rojo. They got a team of friendly, professionals and expert surf instructors to give you personalized and one-on-one coaching.

We scheduled our 1 hour surf class and we started right away. It was a first for all of us and we dreaded doing it on water. Each of us have our own instructors and gave us our needed push and encouragement each time big wave comes.


batang baler1

batang baler2

Mahdox Surf Shop and School – 0910.307.5253

All of us learned and enjoyed surfing in Baler. We all made it and were able stand  on our surf boards before our time was up.

Why Surfing in Baler is a Must?

Baler can be considered as the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines. It’s clean coastline is open to the Pacific, thus beautiful waves is ever present anytime of the year. In 1979, the movie Apocalypse Now has parts filmed in Baler. It offer different surfer levels surfing points to match their levels. Sabang Beach has perfect waves for beginners, while Cemento Beach have stronger waves for the adventurous and experienced  surfers. Charlie’s Point was made famous in the movie’s surf scene.

The production crew of the movie left their boards with the locals thus, surfing started in this province.

How to go to Baler (from Manila) and Back?

Baler, the capital of Aurora maybe reach through direct trips with Genesis Bus via Joy Bus and their regular air-con buses.

Joy Bus schedules are 12MN and 0430 from Cubao Station.
Reservation nos. (02) 709 – 0545 or 709 – 0544
Fare: P650 one-way

We were not able to get a reservation for Joy Bus and made do with their regular air-con buses bound for Baler.

Regular Bus Schedules are – 0100, 0200, 0430 and 0530.
Fare: P450 one-way

Others may also take buses to Casiguran, Aurora via Baler which travel at 0100 and 0300.

Going back to Manila, we were not able to reserve or find a Genesis Bus schedule that will suit our IT, so we decided to take another risk and head for Cabanatuan via vans plying the Baler-Cabanatuan route and just find Buses there going to Manila.

Vans from Baler to Cabanatuan travel frequently. Fares are around P220 and travel time is about 4 hours. From Cabanatuan, there are many buses that you can take such as ES transport, Five Star and Baliwag Transit.

Baler: There’s More Than Just Surfing!

A private message from one of my high school classmates gave way to this trip. We were 3 girls but I wanted to bring along my partner for him to experience what I love doing – travel.

There were a lot of “palpak” and “sablay” while the day of the trip come nearer. Joy Bus was fully booked and most of the accommodations and hotels we contacted were also full. The 4 of us were determined to push this through and on the night of 18 May, we took the regular trip of Genesis Bus (Cubao) to Baler. The trip took 10 hours and the fare – P450 (more or less).
|Day 1

Sabang Beach in the morning
We arrived in Baler at around 8 in the morning and hoped to make a reservation for Joy Bus trip back to Manila. Having no other trips that fits our schedule for our trip back, we decided to just take a risk and travel to Cabanatuan first for more buses going to Manila. We walked to Sabang beach from Genesis terminal and started looking for our accommodations. We ended up at Elaine M&M Lodge and paid P1300 for a room that accommodated the 4 of us.  
After freshening up, we headed to Bayler View for breakfast. After which we scoured for the cheapest tour tricycle tour rate we could find. They all asked for P800 per tricycle to take us to Mother Falls, Centennial Tree and others we could cover for that day.
been years since we last enjoyed soda from these plastic bags
Millennium  Tree 
They first took us to the gigantic Balete Tree in Maria, Aurora. We took the challenge of climbing it up along with kids who seemed to have made a hobby of crawling and climbing up the tree like monkeys. It was a great experience and a first for all of us.

Ditumabo Falls (Mother Falls)

The trek was fun and easy. You can hear the sounds of flowing water and the sounds that small animals and insects make.

There were slippery spots on the trail but overall it was refreshing and you get rewarded with the sight of one of most majestic waterfalls. We all enjoyed the trek and the dip on the freezing pool. 

After that we were really hungry and we wanted to eat along the way. But our guides and drivers said that there are no place or stores near the sites we’re going to visit where we can eat. So we decided to take just 2 more sites and head for the town to eat our late lunch. 
Diguisit Beach
Our guides took us next to a beach but we were really starving to pay much attention to it’s name. We were already in Diguisit and the sights of islets and rock formations are stunningly beautiful from the road. There was a small swimming area but this beach has a very rocky shoreline. 

There are no stores here so people who wanted to swim just bring their own food. Passed by Diguisit Falls and decided not to climb up. Our guides still wanted to bring us up to Ermita Hill but we declined and so we just headed to town to eat and explore other places of interest.

Museo de Baler

After our late lunch, we walked around town with our guides to explore and know more about Baler.

Baler is very rich in history. Before Aurora became a province, it was a part of the province of Quezon. Both President Manuel L. Quezon and his wife Aurora was born in Baler. Baler also was an active participant in the galleon trade during the colonial times.

The Museum was under renovation during that time, but the staff welcomed us warmly and apologized fervently for the inconvenience. Also inside the ground of the museum is the exact replica of Quezon’s Family home.

Aurora’s Home

Our last destination for the tour was Aurora Quezon’s home downtown. They were considered wealthy during those time. Quezon’s presidential car was also parked here.

We also passed by the church and gave short prayer of thanks for this opportunity to travel and enjoy the company of each other.

We headed back to our room and decided to rest. It was a tiring but satisfying day of exploration. We are beginning to fall for the beauty of Baler. 

Sagada’s Cave Connection: Tough Adventures for Tough Love

Highlight of our Sagada Trip – Cave Exploration

Sagada was my no. 1 destination for a solo trip experiment last year. I’ve been planning for it for so long before as a form of escape and sojourn to heal my heartache. But “force majure” in the form of Typhoon Mina stop my ascent to this Shangri-la Town last year, and so I’ve embraced the thought that I may never travel solo to Sagada. 

cable bus tours travels daily and leaves manila at 830pm at it’s QC Terminal
Stopover somewhere in Banaue

The cause of “heartache” back then, now became my partner and soon, the planned trip to Sagada was once again played out and realized. The 12 hours travel via Cable Bus Tours from Manila to Bontoc plus the 45mins. jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada was well rewarded with enchanting mountainous sights and cool air.

our breakfast at Bontoc before proceeding to Sagada

We arrived early and settled ourselves at Residential Lodge (09196728744) and find the office of Saggas ( a few steps away. We made arrangement for the Cave connection right after lunch. Then we proceeded to Salt and Pepper Diner for our first taste of Sagada’s cooking. I ordered for Sinarabasab which is actually half-cooked grilled pork – much like kilawin with a lot of ginger and my partner wanted some fresh veggies and settled for a bowl of delicious ChopSuey. 

Sagada Adventure 1: Cave Connection

30 minutes after lunch, we met with Kevin Luna, our guide for the Cave Connection Tour. We’d be exploring 2 caves – the Lumiyang and Sumaging Cave and they say this takes about 4-6 hours – tough but we survived and enjoyed this the most. 

Our guide gave us suggestions on how we can save and we settled for walking to the first cave opening – Lumiyang cave. We also stopped by burial sites and explained the beliefs and traditions that Sagada have for the dead. Lumiyang Cave had us doing serious stunts and many times, the group ahead us stalled us because of many of them wanted to give up. 

hanging coffins among pine trees in limestone krasts in the background
coffins in the cave – this is what welcomes you at the mouth of Lumiyang cave
Kevin, our guide preparing our light
the descent to one of the Philippines deepest cave system

According to our guide, it is best to limit to taking pictures while exploring Lumiyang cave. This cave is slippery and dangerous to a point. You need to be attentive and careful at all times.  

After the toughest cave adventure in Lumiyang, we were rewarded with wonderful rock formations and easier ascent to Sumiyang Cave exit.

A truly rewarding experience

super duper cold water – to borrow chyng’s words: giniginaw lungs ko!

jumpshot daw 😀
cave art

The Sumaging-Lumiyang Cave connection was truly a challenge that pushed us to do the unthinkable and reach beyond our limits. We were happy to have Kevin as our guide, he was funny and patient with us and took wonderful photos throughout the tour. I think he enjoyed having us around as well. 

 We walked back to town and realize that the clouds have come down. We were really craving for a hot shower and luckily, we had a hot tub and hot water in our room. We were  wet and cold and the aches are starting to make their presence known. I remembered Titit’s advise to bring Omega pain killer or Effecascent Oil for this purpose, but we don’t have any. Luckily, the store in front of Residential are selling these two, I think many travelers has been buying these pain relievers as well.

exiting the caves after 4 hours. nope di po kami pagod.

the sight that met us as we walked back to town
chicken something for me
spicy beef curry for him

We rewarded ourselves with a hearty dinner at the Yogurt House after the hot bath and massage.  Slept thinking what’s in store for us the next day. Hope all the body aches vanish in the morning.


Liliw, Laguna: The 2008 Tsinelas Festival and Hole in the Wall Exquisite Food at Arabela

The second day of our stay in Sta. Cruz, we woke up to a hearty breakfast consist of hotdogs, kang kong and talong prepared by our lovely host. While eating we again discussed what we’re going to do or where we should go. Tita suggested we go to Liliw, a town sitting next to Sta. Cruz. Back then, I don’t have much idea of is neighboring towns (Nagcarlan, Magdalena and Mahayhay) and little did I know that I’ll be coming back to check the other towns in the future.

Liliw was a surprise. The small town streets were decorated with colorful banderitas. The main square was filled with food booths and there were a lot of people going around. We had great luck with timing on this trip because it was actually the last day of Liliw’s Tsinelas Festival. Liliw pala has a thriving shoe industry that rivals that of Marikina’s.

We went around the town square and I found shoe boutiques with unique and impressive creations. 

One of our favorite spot here in Liliw is the St. John the Baptist Church. It has a bright red brick facade and a cool and dark interior. This church was founded in 1605 and was damaged by an earthquake in 1880.

St. John the Baptist Church in Liliw, Laguna

The trip was completed by a visit to Liliw’s famed food haven: Arabella. It was a well known quaint restaurant with great pasta, pastries, coffee and other delectable offerings for affordable prices.

Arabela have cool, soft-dim lighted interior and walls with interesting frames.

The place actually looks packed and busy. That’s where they prepare the pasta.
my yummy mocha frappe  – P65.00 only!
Arabela has low ceilings and walls covered by frames and wall decors.
her potato salad 🙂

I promised to drop by this resto if I get another chance to visit Liliw. But it did not happen, work took me back to this town in 2010, but it was a hurried trip and gave me no chance to check out Arabela once again.

(Photo Credits: Jack Cruzado)

Early Backpacking Days: Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan Laguna 2008

Looking at my older posts, I realized that  I was really lazy in uploading so my posts lack of pictures. So I want to do another take on one of my earliest backpacking (sorta) experience with my tropa.

Four years ago, we are all struggling yuppies and promdis that take excitement from the littlest gimmicks and adventures. That summer of 2008, our Kuya Pamps (who turned 31 last March 15) suggested a quick getaway to Laguna. Kamusta naman ang budget? Where will we stay? So we scrimped up some money and headed to Sta. Cruz, Laguna without concrete plans.

I forgot the exact dates but I think it was a weekend in May. We arrived in Sta. Cruz and was met by Pamp’s Tita. We were at the mercy of her hospitality because we really don’t know where we will stay. After settling down in her home, we discussed what were going to do and where we’re going. One of Pamp’s colleagues also lives in Sta. Cruz and he took us to Pagsanjan. We were excited to see the famed waterfalls, however, di pala namin afford yung P660 per person rate for the boat tour. So we just settled and took pictures by the river. 

Ansabe, this part of the river is the location of the Tabing Ilog shoot.

Photo Credits (Jack Cruzado)

Puerto Princesa Underground River: Its Nature at its Best

When the voting for the new 7 wonders of nature started, i was really proud that the Philippines has a nominee! Yes I voted for it soon as i could and wished that someday when I am able I’d be able to visit the place. Explore and see what the hype is all about.

Last May13-15, my wish of visiting Palawan and exploring the Underground River was realized. What made this trip more exciting is that I am with my well-loved friends! We were big group and a tour was arranged with Sea Adventure. Im not sure how much was spent all in all but we did enjoy the island hopping, underground river tour and the city tour (only paid for my airfare and Php3,000 for 4days/3nights food, accommodations and tours).

The highlight of the trip is of course the Underground River Tour. The trip to Sabang which is 50km north of PPC took about 2 hours, was mostly spent snoozing. The view greatly improved when nearing Sabang. You can see limestone karst mountains where the UR flows underneath. The sight might remind you of Pandora in the movie Avatar 🙂

A short boat ride awaits at Sabang port which will take you to the mouth of UR. You’ll get a good view of Sabang beach and other limestone karst on the way. You can explore some part of the densely vegetated beach which you will pass to get to the mouth of the cave. Then a paddling boatman with take you to navigate inside the UR. The Underground River of Palawan is considered as the largest. It is about 8.2 kilometers long, but only 1 or 2 kilometer is allowed for tourist exploration.

The cave has major stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as huge chambers. It has many channels too but most of them are closed from public. Im thinking of bringing Teloyskie there one day. I bet he’d be intrigued by the bat cave chamber mentioned by the bankero. The cave was definitely huge – something that might just leave you wondering, “how can nature ever create something like this?”