Reflections: The Kind-Hearted Souls that Paved Our Way to St Padre Pio Shrine, Batangas

Traveling during the Holy Week is a skill that every Filipino could master. I’ve promised to stay away from tourist destination during this season but we were set to do a Visita Iglesia at St. Padre Pio Shrine in Sto Tomas, Batangas.

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We were staying in Sto Tomas for four days and the shrine is in the area thus I read blogs and Google-d the best possible way for commuters to go. One directed us to go to Waltermart Tanauan and take a tricycle from there which I we thought was the best option for us. I woke up on Maundy Thursday with a migraine and an upset stomach, prolly due to indigestion and being on constant travel for the last 5 days. My son and sister-in-law hesitated about our trip planned for the day but I insisted we go.

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We took a jeepney bound for Lipa and alighted at Waltermart Tanauan, which thankfully was still open that day. I took a light breakfast still fearful of my upset stomach, bought a couple of medicines and waited a while to feel better.

Then we approached angel number 1 to ask about the right direction to St Padre Pio Shrine, he told us, “Go back to Sto Tomas and take the San Pablo bound jeepney there. Just tell the driver to stop at the shrine. The tricycles here might rip you off especially because of the season. They will ask you for P250 or more.”

So we went back to Sto Tomas, Ate Karen suggested we alight at the crossing to San Pablo and wait for a jeepney there. A vehicle traffic is building en route to San Pablo and all the jeepneys passing us are full.

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A guy in BFP uniform from the group of “Lakbay Alalay” approached us and ask where we are headed, he was actually our angel number 2.  We told him where we are going and he patiently explained to us that all the traffic is caused by the influx of people visiting the shrine. He discouraged us from walking and said that he will find a tricycle or any ride for us instead. He also offered us seats in the shade while he try to flag down buses, jeeps and tricycle for us.

Finally a tricycle agreed to take us to St Padre Pio Shrine for cheaper fare, and he became our angel number 3. Manong driver maneuvered his tricycle to a less crowded route. When we are nearing the shrine, he advised us gently to avoid getting into empty tricycles that are calling for passengers back to Waltermart. According to him, these people may charge us P300 or more. He told to just walk the way out to the highway, or if we really want to ride a tricycle, ride one with other passengers already to lessen the cost.

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As we sit and pray at St Padre Pio Shrine, I couldn’t help but feel that we must have encountered those angels because He wanted us to travel safely and securely to His place. He made everything possible just when everything seemed hopeless. He made a way for us to be near Him, and He wanted us to come to Him and reflect on His great Love for us. All those people we’ve encountered are His reflection.

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With my heart bursting with gratefulness for His love and sacrifice, we started to leave St. Padre Pio Shrine and walk to the highway only to be surprised with angel number 4. A tricycle with a lone lady passenger stopped in front of us and simple said, “Tanauan, P20 lang ang isa.”

We were all quiet on our way home. Just when you thought there is No greater love than His, He gives you even more.

Vera Falls Malinao Albay: Refreshing Summer Destination

A few days before the Holy Week of 2014, our family decided to spend a weekend in Tiwi, Albay. We have a trip coming up so might as well visit the grans while we can. Teloyskie enjoy being in the midst of Lolo Jun’s yard. They have pigs, chickens and dogs running around so even if he’s on his own he never gets bored.

It was early Sunday morning when we thought of exploring Vera Falls in Malinao. We’ve always heard about hiking and trekking to this falls as early as when we were high school. Baba said he’s been here once or twice for a drinking session during his high school or college years but this is going to be the first for me and our little tot.

We gas-up or motorcycle and brought chips right after breakfast and traversed the mountainous road to Brgy Soa, Malinao. The view was astounding as we slowly climb up the sides of Mt. Malinao. The sun is blazing hot but the wind is cool. We passed by travelers or tourist asking for directions to Vera Falls and they were on foot! The road leading to the falls has been improved so we were kinda lucky we don’t need to hike several kilometers to get there.

Vera Falls

It was a long way down but we can hear the loud roar of the water. When we It was a grand sight especially for Teloy. I cannot compare it with the other waterfalls I’ve seen because it has it’s own enchanting beauty. With the sun high up, the pool glisten invitingly. My boys did not require a second invitation to waddle in and enjoy the cold refreshing water.

Teloyskie loved the mini pools and mini water falls that seeped out from the walls and rocks. The two also took their time getting a water massage under one of those low pools. Soon the place is packed with locals and tourist looking for some refreshing treat amid the summer heat.

We decided to go home to Tiwi after a couple of hours. We still haven’t had our lunch and we will still be travelling back to Legazpi. Our little tot seemed to enjoy the place so much that even when he’s already shivering and his lips has turned blue from the cold, he still wants to extend our stay. Our first time (except for Baba) in Vera Falls was quite a refreshing experience. It’s no wonder the place has been talked about since we were in our teens.

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!

Where to Eat in Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Lampong’s at Calle Crisolo

We were starving, but we want to try good Ilocano food this time. Our tour driver, though he was kind and patient, was a first timer in the touring business so he doesn’t know much about entertaining a bunch of tired, hungry and weary tourists. We arrived in Calle Crisologo at around 11 in the morning, it seemed like we are early. Not much tourist yet so we were able to walk around leisurely admiring the cobbled stones, the heritage houses and building despite the growing hunger pangs we feel. At the end of our walk, we found ourselves looking at the outdoor menu of Lampong’s, a hole in the wall restaurant right in the heart of the heritage street.

I was so happy, ecstatic in fact! Finally, after days of fasting not eating meat, I am going to eat Bagnet today, our last day in Ilocos! Pouring over the menu, I immediately called for a plateful of Dinakdakan. A culinary fave in the North. It is made from chopped Bagnet, mixed with savory Ilocano vinegar, chopped onions and other spices.

I took the liberty of ordering for Baba too, I asked him if he’s interested in eating “Poqui-Poqui.” He didn’t like the sound of it, but upon describing that it is a dish of mashed eggplant mixed with tomatoes, onions and other spices, he agreed.

Teloy also choose from the menu and decided to have some pasta, to our frustration he wanted to have Carbonara! Fortunately, it wasn’t available so he settled for something authentic – the Vigan Longganisa Spaghetti.

While waiting for our orders to be served, Gang and Bebe joined our table and ordered the Kare-kareng Bagnet.

The rest of our barkada occupied the recently vacated table. Lampong’s visibly lack space and can only accommodate a limited number of diners at a time. But the ambiance is nice and the wi-fi is strong. And did I mention they got super good food at really affordable prices!

This meal must be the heartiest I had during our recently concluded Ilocandia Tour. Good thing we saw this resto and all our cravings for authentic Ilocano food were sated right before we traveled back to Manila.

5 Local Summer Hot Spots For the Adventure Seekers

Summer vacation is just a few weeks away and while some people have started planning early on, others are still undecided where to go. Here are some of our favorites  that you can consider and why we are suggesting them.

1. Baler

People flock to Baler for the clean surf break in Sabang Beach and the thrill of surfing at Cemento Beach and Charlie’s Point. Considered to be the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, you can find all sorts of accommodation lining up Sabang Beach. Beyond surfing, Baler is rich in culture, history and natural wonders.

2. Bicol

Of course, I love my own region. Bicol is composed of six provinces and each one
offers a different kind of thrill for the adventure seekers. Explore the lovely islands and crystal blue waters of Calaguas in Camarines Norte, Caramoan in Camarines Sur and Tikling in Sorsogon. Adrenaline junkies can try out wake boarding in CamSur Watersports Complex, surf in Bagasbas Beach in Cam Norte or try out the ATV ride to Mayon Lava Front. Bicol is also popular for its culinary expo featuring hot and spicy dishes. Do try out the Chili Ice Cream!

3. Boracay

Many people complain about Boracay being too crowded especially during the summer months, but still you really can’t say no to this beautiful island paradise. I am much awed by its powdery white sands and crystal blue temperate waters. When in Boracay, you’ll find all the adventure you want and need. Head to Bulabog Beach for some hot water sports such as kite boarding and jet skiing. You can also try parasailing and other group activities such as banana boat ride. And for us, nothing beats the sunset view in Boracay.

4. Palawan

Why not Palawan? I’ve visited Palawan twice at the height of summer and love it both times. Coron is located on the northern Calamian group of islands. Island hopping and snorkeling in Coron gives you the best views of tall limestone karsts and the colorful marine life under the waters. On the other hand, flying to Puerto Princesa gives you the option to explore the country’s greenest city or head to other hot destinations such as El Nido or to Sabang beach which is the jump off point to the Underground River.

5. Sagada

Sagada is a town you will surely fall in love with.  The weather is cool and you are provided with scenic landscapes and mountain views around you. Adventure seekers will not be disappointed with this charming town up north. The Cave Connection will deplete all your energy in a pumping 4-hour cave exploration adventure. Your hiking and trekking activities will also be rewarded with magnificent and powerful waterfalls such as the Bomod-ok and Pongas.

5 Unforgettable Days Out For Your Kids

Are you tired of forking out vast sums of money for holidays that your kids barely appreciate? Make your family trip an unforgettable experience by providing the children with activities that they will enjoy. A bored kid is an unhappy kid. Distract them with any of the following exciting excursions, so everyone finishes their trip with a smile on their face:
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Surf School
From Whitesands Beach in St. David’s, to the more exotic shores of Bali, entering your children into surfing school will keep them out of your hair for the whole holiday. Not only will they be having a whale of a time (chuckles…), but once the lessons are over, they’ll be practicing their moves on the waves, leaving you to kick-back, relax, and sample all the flavours of ice cream available at the nearest surf café.
Making Their Own Perfume
So this suggestion is a little leftfield, but you hardly want boring advice, do you? Head to Bali and sign up your children for a perfume master course. At L’atelier Perfums Et Creations they provide child-friendly lessons, where kids can make their own smellies. Using all sorts of exotic, Indonesian fragrances, your kids will be able to take home a bottle of their own perfume, as well as a diploma.
Being a Grown-Up
If your little ones are forever imagining what it would be like to be a grown-up, Minopolis in Vienna offers a kid-sized town that they can take over for the day. Here they can spend hours roleplaying as a firefighter, shop assistant, nurse…whatever they like! Kids can make pizzas at the local pizzeria and handle the town’s money. They will even be paid a currency at the end of the day!
On Safari
Make like the Wild Thornberrys and go on a safari! Whether you head out for the real deal at Kruger National Park or keep it close to home at the zoo, learning about wildlife is great for your children’s development. Not only does it teach kids important lessons about being respectful of other beings and empathy, but they can learn about conservation too!
Heading to Africa for a safari visit will expose your kids to a whole new world, so it’s advisable to take only older children with you.
Learn How to Cook
cooking kids
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home from work and find that your children have made a delicious dinner, so you don’t have to? Okay, okay, so that might be a distant dream, but sending your kids on a cookery course prepares them for being a health-conscious and independent adult. Although there are plenty of options at home, where else should they learn but the capital of cuisine, France?

At the Ecole De Cuisine Alain Ducasse, your kids can learn how to make anything from chocolate mousse to crème brûlée. Who knows, maybe they’ll even be able to out-chef you at the end of the course!

This post has been contributed by Zoe, a lifestyle and travel blogger from the UK. She has written this post for Knowsley Safari Park. If you’re based in England, Cheshire days out come in an abundance and are a great option for fun in the countryside!

5 Things to Do in Boracay Island this Summer!

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Ah summer… Just two weeks ago, I can still feel a chill in the air, but now it’s suddenly scorching hot, a clear manifestation that summer season have started early. Here in the Philippines, Boracay is a popular destination for beach bummer these hot summer months. I’ve been lucky to set foot in this lovely island twice in the past years and it definitely has a lot to offer for different sorts of travelers and tourist. So here’s my top 5 list of to do’s when you’re in the hot island of Boracay!

1. Be Sporty – Try out Water Sports


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The first time I was here, I was with my dragon boat team and I did not do anything but paddle and drink. We trained, rowed and competed during the day and they got drunk at night night with those guys who flew in via Air Canada. But yes, Boracay is the place to learn and play the hottest water or summer sports because they are easily accessible and conveniently available for anybody interested. There’s kite surfing in Bulabog beach, paddle boarding, PARA-SAILING!, dragon boat competitions and a long list of sports and water activities you can try out!

2. Indulge: Eat!!

When in Boracay, do eat at places that you can only find in Boracay. Both times I was there I tried Jammer’s gigantic burger (we’ve cut it into four parts!), Backyard Barbeque and the popular Jonah’s fruit shakes. You’d never go hungry in this island with it’s unending list of food options. 
3. Soak in the Sun: Be Beach Bum

Summer is synonymous with lazy days and hot party nights. People in this island wake up a bit later into the day to lounge around in the beach, people watch (celebrity stalk I say), become human espasol and for pale skinned – to get a tan! A beach blanket, a bottle of water, sun tan or sunblock, nice reggae music and a good book in hand completes the beach bummer’s armada!

4. Party Like there’s No Tomorrow!

Boracay is not called the Party island for nothing! After admiring the sultry sunset view that the island is popularly known for, people head off to change into their party attire and prepare for a vibrating night of music and booze. Boracay is home to some of the best beach parties in the country, there the Summer Place, Juice, Paraw Station and Cocomangas to name a few. You can’t stay here a few days without a taste of the night scene!



Photos: AF, Tripadvisor, Flicker

5. Sigh to the Sunset

This is probably my most favorite activity while in Boracay. I have always been amazed by the beauty of the sunrise especially when I’m up in the mountains, but sunsets can truly take one’s breath away when you’re down at the beach – Boracay to be exact. Watching the sunset is one thing that you should never miss when in Boracay. It’s fiery, sultry and romantic and it’s one of the most beautiful sights you can share with a loved one. 

Issues about Boracay being overcrowded is something that can easily turn travelers off. But despite coming here on the peak season – April and May, Boracay remains to be one of my favorite beach destinations. It’s not for the parties and the night life, I didn’t try it on both times I was here, but for it’s legendary white sand, cool waters that is soo inviting and of course – the sunset.

Gone Back to Ticao Island, Masbate

Ticao Island is located in the middle of Sorsogon and Masbate Proper. It is still part of Luzon, though the Visaya is already the main dialect here. Going to Ticao from Albay takes 5-6 hours. There are buses going to Bulan, Sorsogon port from Daraga starting 3am. Land travel will take about 3 hours and then you can choose from outrigger boats or fast-crafts to reach different towns in Ticao Island.

From Bulan port, you can get to San Jacinto in 45 minutes to 1 hour. My parents hometown, Batuan is farther off and sea travel via outrigger boat takes 2 or more hours depending on the weather.

My love for travel roots back to my college days when my parents used to send off alone to Batuan to spend summer vacations. It gave a sense of freedom and independence riding a bus at dawn and catching those boats that will take me to the different ports in Ticao.

This year’s trip however is a whole new experience. It was the first time I experienced a “subasco,” a sudden sea disturbance that rocked the boat mercilessly. I really thought I was going to die that time, but thank God we made it and the sun was shining happily again when my Dad picked me from San Fernando port and we rode the motorcycle to Batuan.

After more than a decade, I came for a visit to my parent’s hometown. I remember coming here to spend summer vacations with my grand parents. Looking around, I noticed that very little have changed around the town of Batuan. Sleepy and snail-paced best describes the development that’s happening here. 

View from our terrace. More houses now covering the view of the sea.

A remaining signage – Dra. Carolina C Yuson

while sitting on our entryway

This is where my Dad grew up 🙂

My roots are here, both sets of my grandparents settled in this little town after the war. Despite the backwardness of the place, it has certain charms that makes you want to explore and experience more from it.

mangrove trees separates beach properties

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teloy’s beach

I know of secret coves and beaches in this island which me and my cousins explored more than a decade ago. But the heavy rains prevented me and my son from wandering around. So we just made the best of our time together by playing around and visiting our relatives around town.

kids playing in the rain @ San Jacinto Port

Traveling back to Daraga, Albay should have been easier with the availability of RO-RO buses. I thought, there will only be one transfer so it’s no big deal – but I was proven wrong. Traveling from Ticao to Daraga via RO-RO was a BIG BIG mistake! The usual 5-6 hours became 14 hours and I cannot say anything more about it.

100% Girl Power: Join Aqua Fortis DB Women’s Crew

It is such as shame for a [woman] to grow old without seeing the strength and beauty that [her] body is capable of… ~Socrates

In 2009, for lack of anything to do and avoid missing Teloyskie that much, I engaged myself in different activities. One of the best moves I made is to join a dragonboat crew. For more than two years now, I am a proud member of one of the prime movers of Dragon Boat in the Philippines – Aqua Fortis Dragon Boat Crew.

MBC Race, Manila Bay

My decision to join the team is like biting off more than I can chew, Dragonboat is indeed not for everyone – it is not for the faint-hearted. This sport will take almost everything you have, your will power, and your soul.

Sta Cruz Exhibition Race

Rowing for Aqua Fortis has gave me back more than I’ve bargained for… Though I’ve started it off as a hobby, it became my sport. I was challenged and pushed into realizing that I am strong and I can despite my size. Thus, I became more than just a mom, I’m proud to tell my son that his mom, is a woman of true strength and (beauty)!

If interested to join our women’s crew, let me know: 09228225871 (qtcotz)

April 30-May2: Tagaytay/EK Weekend

April 30

After work, me, jane and azi decided to just meet up at Pasat/Taft terminal to catch the bus going to Tagaytay. Our friend Sheng is on vacation here in the Phil. and she wants to bond with the tropa. Sheng comes home for a month’s vacation every year and this year she decided to explore tagaytay and enchanted kingdom with her family and us, her friends.
We arrived late at Olivares and discovered that they are staying at Golden Rooms in Brgy. San Antonio. It was a few minutes drive to the tourist places. I think it very practical to just rent out these types of apartment when you are a big group because it is much cheaper and you are also allowed to cook your meals. The Golden Rooms charge P2500 per night stay on a room with 4 double beds. They also charge 250 for the LPG for the duration of your stay.

May 1 Saturday

Most of us woke up late because we missed each other so much and we had to update each other about the things that happened while Sheng was in Dubai. After lunch, the party decided to visit the people park in the sky (i forgot what the place was called). We started out late so this was the only place we were able to visit on this day. But it was good just spending the time with Sheng and her family.
May 2 Sunday : Enchanted Kingdom

When me and teloy came to this place last year, it was raining badly so were not able to enjoy much. This year, the weather was good, Teloy would have loved to run around the park but this time i don’t have enough budget to take him here. So i just rode all the rides i can.. This is a treat from Sheng and we also got to enjoy ice monster delights and pizza for lunch. The day ended with the party all tired and gas filled from all the screaming and shouting on the rides!
One of the best things in spending time with friends in carnival is the way it brought back the kid in us. It was fun playing around and forgetting all the grown up worries and problems for a while, after this we are all set again to face the challenges of the real world.