Barkada Trip Series: 4×4 Ride and Sand Surfing at Paoay Sand Dunes

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Among all the activities we had during our Ilocandia Trip with my lifelong buddies, this must be my son’s most favorite part.

After a tiring day of museum hopping and sweltering under the hot summer sun, we’re all weary and eager to rest our tired bodies. Just a few moments of shut eye, I heard my companions stirring. A message from our new found buddies and a couple of nods and grunts, we all agreed that we need to experience Sand Surfing in Ilocos.

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Our driver, though a bit disgruntled, agreed to take us back to Paoay. It was almost sunset and we reveled in the last rays of sun as we rode the 4×4 jeep over sand dunes. Teloy would scream in excitement and enjoyment while we adults try hard to swallow our nervousness every time our ride seems ready to topple.

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We reached the highest dune where we’re supposed to surf just as the first stars started to appear. Our instructor hurriedly but carefully gave tips and how to’s of sand surfing. It would have been an unlimited surfing spree but soon darkness set in. We didn’t bring our cameras and most of our pictures are just taken with out phones.

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We could hardly see anything around us anymore when we started to climb up to our 4×4 jeep on our way back. Everyone is on high spirits, even when our preferred restaurant couldn’t accommodate us anymore, we gladly settled for the second one on our list.

On Travelling with A Kid: Raising A Considerate Traveler

Teloy: Mommy where did you keep my Piattos?

Mommy: It’s inside your bag.

Teloy: Okay. Then he started to open his bag while I lean back, close my eyes and tried to sleep inside the moving commuter van  from Tiwi to Legazpi.

Moments later, peered at Teloy and asked  him, “why are not you eating your Piattos?”

Teloy:
“I’ll just eat it later, were near already.There are people sleeping and they might get disturbed by the sound of the plastic.”

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I smiled inwardly and allowed him to lean on my side as we tried to sleep out the remaining minutes of the trip. My son is turning nine this year and I feel really proud that he’s becoming a well-mannered travelling kid.

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Most moms or parents dread travelling with their children because it is difficult, it’s complicated, it’s chaotic, nightmarish, yes, but travel with kids could also be the coolest, most enjoyable and the happiest moments of your lives.

teloy8Three years ago, Baba and I finally decided to cut the crap on long-distance parenting.

Daddy has been working outside the country, Mommy has been working in capital and Teloyskie has lived with my parents since he was three months old.  While both of us are busy making a living we only get spend 2 days or 2 weeks maximum with Teloy. We are hardly ever there to see how’s he’s growing up, how he’s developing  physically, mentally and emotionally.

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When I settled in Bicol in 2012, it was my first time to become a full time mom to Teloy. He was really skinny then, with a weird skin allergy on his face and neck because he won’t eat anything that’s not fried egg or hotdog. He’s bratty, he complains a lot about things that are not comfortable or familiar to him. The first time I took him on a trip is for a beach camp in Calaguas.

Teloyskie was just five years old then and he was really excited about going to the beach, but then he complained a lot about sleeping in a tent! “It’s hot inside Mommy, it’s hard on the back and I only have one pillow!”

After a long day of traveling to get to the island, sweltering under the intense heat of the sun, swimming, and keeping your eyes on the tot, any parent’s patience can tire out with this bed time scene. Well at least he isn’t crying and there are no more tantrums.

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I’ve always read about travel with kid tips and experiences so that each trip will become more and more enjoyable for all of us. Every time Baba comes home now, we try to explore together and talk to Teloy about travelling and the places we visit. We also learned some simple ways to make traveling with kid a little less stressful and  even more memorable.

  1. Food for picky eaters. When traveling, Teloyskie has learned to pack snacks, biscuits and drinks. We always tell him that snacks or chips are expensive on the road, so whether it’s just a day out or week-long trip,  he’d fill up his Nalgene with water, get  some Chuckie out of the fridge and pack some Pillows, Bread Pan, Dewberry or Oreos before we leave home.

teloy72. Kiddie Entertainment.

Although many people are against it, iPad, Tablets, mobile phones are very helpful in keeping the kid/kids entertained while waiting for the plane/boat/bus or jeep. But of course you have to moderate their time in using them. A booklet of crossword puzzle or headset plus his playlist on his mobile are also great tools for passing time.

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3. Listen to the Kid.  Although adults have a different appreciation of their destination, kids do too and they want to share their thoughts with you too. So aside from talking to them about the historical importance of a place or the eccentricities of Calle Crisolo, listen to them too. Teloyskie’s imagination can sometimes turn super silly and while some places bore him to bits, we draw him back quick when we ask him what he thinks about carved “Anitos.”

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4. Empathize with their worries and fears. Kids can be quite fearless with their exploration, but they worry and get scared too and they only got you to reassure them. Our first Zip Line experience was in Danao Adventure Park in Bohol, and it was scary! On our first run, I was so scared I couldn’t scream and so does Teloy. When I screamed my lungs out, he did the same. And as we walk toward the line going back, I asked him if he was scared, when he said yes, I hugged him and told him how scared mommy is too. Then I asked him if he still want to do it or not. He smiled widely and gamely said yes!

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5. Be a role model. Kids are sponges and they would readily copy what you do and say. If you freak out and panic, they will freak out and panic. If you keep your cool, they will too. If you leave your trash everywhere, they will too!

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Baba and I are keen on being good examples to our Teloy. I think having him around while we are traveling makes us even better persons because we would follow rules, laws and norms which most of us tend to bend or ignore.

So let us just take it easy. Stop and smell the flowers. As adults we tend to haste and hurry, we walk fast, eat fast, and do most of our stuff in a hurried fashion especially if we are on the road. We should never forget that when we are traveling with kids, no matter how responsible and how hard they try to cope up with us, they are still KIDS. They eat slower, walk slower, shower slowly and dress up like they’re dragging the luggage on their frail little shoulders. Sometimes they have short attention span easily gets curious by something or an event they notice along the way.

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Sometimes they just want to sit and watch cartoons than chase the ostriches in the zoo! Considering their needs every now and then, may create chaos with our itinerary, but what the heck?! We take them travelling because we want them to learn about the world outside the familiar. We are slowly but surely indoctrinating our little travelers worthwhile values that they can put into good use soon as they’re ready to take on their own adventures.

 

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.

Malacanang of the North and the Paoay Lake

Malacanang of the North served as then President Marco’s residence in Ilocos. The Marcoses has built several homes around the country during his regime but this is only the second one I’ve visited. The first was the Sto. Nino Shrine located in Tacloban City.

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This residence was later turned into a museum which showcase the late president’s collections and memorabilia. And like the Sto. Nino Shrine, Malacanang of the North gives us a glimpse of the opulent life the Marcoses had and still has.

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The property has a magnificent view of Paoay Lake. I could just imagine the late president taking his time to admire the calm waters and fresh air through those large sliding capiz windows.

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And because this museum is included in almost all itineraries for Ilocandia tour packages, the place is packed and overflowing with tourist and vacationers when we where there. Personally though, I can skip this out if we were doing a DIY trip. Would rather spend time sand surfing in Paoay.

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Currently, Malacanang of the North is open from Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is Php 20 for adults and Php 10 for kids.

Brankolei Pizza Italian Vero

It was the day we’re about to leave Daet and go back home to Albay but since my colleague still has a meeting to attend, I decided to meet up with my friend from college first.

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The guys from my office were raving about the pizza place that is owned presumably by an Italian so according to them, the food there is something I should try. I eagerly contacted her and set up a short meet-up for brunch. After getting lost in downtown Daet trying to look for the elusive “Allaga” which was in fact found at every nook and alley. She finally decided to meet me at Jolibee along Bagasbas Road and we started walking towards David St. The corner has a furniture shop and Brankolei is housed in an orange building (or was it red?) at the back of this furniture shop.

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At 10:00Am the pizza house is just opening up for the business day. We requested seating at the second floor for more comfort and privacy, plus it has air conditioning. We had the place to ourselves so we started taking pictures. According to my friend Myra, her agency uses this place for meetings that is why the waitress knows her already.

I first ordered the “Daet on the Go” pizza which was highlighted one of the tarps in the room but the waitress said they no longer serve this because it has seasonal ingredients that they do not have in storage.

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So I went for their “Daet Overload” instead. Myra also recommended their Bolognese and the Tiramisu Ice Cream for dessert. Their menu is filled with mouth-watering varieties so I couldn’t help but order two more pasta dishes for take out.

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Our pizza must be one of the best ones I’ve tried in my entire life (n0 exaggerations here!). It was just the way I liked it, thin crust, crunchy without going flaky or oily. For toppings, it has ham, beef bits, olives, bell pepper, pineapple and corn kernels! Every bite is heaven!

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My friend’s reco on the other hand was just okay. But the real deal here is their super affordable price! Teloy and I also enjoyed my take out from Brankolei – another Bolognese and some 3-Cheeze Pasta!.

 

Barkada Trip Series: Laoag Legacies and the Heritage of Paoay Church

We stirred and woke up inside our van which was parked in a church courtyard. We didn’t where we are so we asked the driver/instant-guide to take us to Laoag as it is shown in the itinerary. We later realized that the courtyard was in Bacarra, and the old bell tower there would have looked amazing as the sun rise.

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The Sinking Bell Tower, call out to every passerby as it boldly stood in the middle of the city center.

Well, next thing we knew we are already in the center of Laoag. A city with a mesmerizing mix of Spanish and Ilocano heritage. While the city slowly woke, we walked around to admire red brick structures alongside more modern buildings and business establishment.



Our group soon headed to the still closed Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. The place is soon filled with tourist and vacationers as it was also the holy week.

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While the rest were still caught up in the museum, me and my boys sneak out and headed to the nearby Burgos Church.

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And then decided to snack on some Empanada while we wait for our group. Ilocos empanada are best eaten fresh off the pan. Inside that crisp orange pastry are vigan longganisa, egg and veggies. I’m not very fond of vinegar but this empanada is best paired with it.

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Apparently, Ilocos does not only have the Marcoses to boost, Juan Luna, renowned Filipino Artist during the Philippine Revolution and the man behind the masterpiece “Spoliarium, 1884” is also a son of Ilocos. He got here some cool cafes called “Johnny Moon.”

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Paoay Church (St Augustine Church)

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We soon left Laoag and traveled to Paoay to see St. Augustine Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A massive structure that sure stood the test of time and elements, Paoay Church is a famous icon of the Paoay town and Ilocos province.

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According to websites, this church is made of coral stones and bricks and is made so grand to adapt it’s unique Baroque design to the country’s conditions. St Agustine Church or familiarly, Paoay Church also has a garden that is open to church goers and visitors.

While we swelter outside under the midday sun, the church cool interiors were undoubtedly inviting. Like anywhere else in Ilocos though, the church courtyard and inside was brimming with tourists. We can’t even get a good shot of the church’s facade!

It’s Who You Travel With (Barkada Trip Series:Ilocandia)

We must be getting old. Fifteen years of friendship made our bonds stronger and while we seek more adventures together, we also yearn for the easiest, most comfortable means there is. Among our group, only me, the tot and the baba are for the backpacking, commuting, DIY sort of travels. The rest of the group wanted a “group tour” fixed by some agency. The majority won of course and us three are not complaining, we are all eager to travel with everyone.

It’s All About Who You Travel With

For 15 years, our group of friends have experience a lot and out of it all, we grew to strong, mature and dignified individuals — well most of us. Our work and personal lives has kept us busy that is why, every opportunity for a get together is always a welcome respite. For 2014, we decided to explore places up north – Ilocos.

We arrived in Vigan, at around 3 in the morning. We were sleepy and asking our van driver what we are doing there, he replied with “Dito daw tayo magpa umaga sabi ng kaibigan kong driver dun sa kabilang van.” He clearly doesn’t know anything about tour guiding in Ilocandia. Our group along with 5 other people suggested that we just stick with the itinerary provided by the agency since he also don’t know where or why we should go.

Places of Interest

There were a whole lot of destinations listed on the itinerary that the agency provided us. It could have been one cool road trip if only he was more accommodating with our suggestions. Being a little wayward, my boys and I took some time exploring nearby areas while the rest are still checking out one spot.

On Day One we were able to tick off these sights and spot in Laoag.

The Marcos Museum
Sinking Bell Tower
Johnny Moon Cafe
Burgos Church
Empanada
Malacanang of the North
Paoay Church
Paoay Sand Dunes

Day Two was all about Pagudpud, and though it was only a short stint, we were able to soak our weary bodies at Saud Beach and later on, joined the beach party where Glock 9 played! We were able to visit:

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Bangui Windmills
Patapat Bridge Viaduct
Kabigan Falls
Saud Beach

Day Three was all set for Vigan’s Calle Crisologo and Baluarte.

Our travel dates were set on the super peak season – Holy Week of 2014. This is the first time for us to set a trip for this occasion and woooh! I will never travel to such kind of destinations during Holy Week!!

DIY vs Group Tour

Because of our desire for comfort, our group opted for the group tour though I always preferred going on DIY trips. Well based on our experience, we’d never ever recommend – MTF Educational Tours and Services. Their Manager, Ms Marie Fallorina was a pain in the *** to talk with especially after the tour and we were fixing our refund. And yep you guessed it – no refund were ever given. She promised and promised and promised until we eventually gave up on them. Ms. Marie Fallorina stopped replying to our text messages and email. They also ceased answering our calls. Sad story of expenses charged to experience.

If it wasn’t for our longing to spend time with one another, our 2014 Barkada Trip Series would have been a great fail. Ilocos was brimming with tourist at that time and we can’t fully appreciate the view or places we visited. But like any great journey – it is always the people you travel with, that makes every journey an unforgettable and enjoyable adventure.

Travel Essentials on Our Christmas Wishlist!

Me and Teloy are not hard to please. We love surprises and we love gifts, but of course there are yearnings for days on the road and the feeling of excitement of being in a new place. This is probably why most of the gifts we wish for this year are travel related.

A Smaller Backpack
Most of our trips these days are limited to weekends and a few days during school breaks. My trusty ol’ TNF Borealis has been with me for eight years, for more or less 30 Philippine provinces, around six mountains including Mt. Kinabalu, the highest in Southeast Asia. I feel that it’s a little too big for our small trips recently since Teloyskie have also started packing and carrying his own things. A smaller backpack like the 22-liter Spider for mommy and a bit bigger pack for Teloyskie are travel necessities that makes it on top of our wish list this year.
A Lightweight (Fleece) Jacket
I’ve been thinking about taking Teloyskie up north to experience the cold weather in Baguio City this holiday break, well if the budget permits. When I checked my closet, I realize that I don’t have a jacket for such kind of weather. I have two waterproof jackets, a light hoodie jacket and a cardigan, all of which may leave me freezing me ass off at a sudden drop of the temperature.
Packable Pants for Boys
Here in our province, you will rarely find travel gears or apparels. I have to look online to find durable hiking and travel apparel for kids. We are always on the lookout for affordable packable trek pants for Teloyskie so this item gets a spot on our wish list.

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A (Backpacking) Tent
I took Teloy on a beach camping for his first backpacking trip and he never forgot the experience. These days, he would talk about camping and sleeping on a tent and he would frequently reminisce about his experience. So as early as now, I’m planning to rough it out next summer and maybe take him for some more camping trips if get a tent of our own!

 

Luggage/Backpack Tags
I have a Bag Tag that looks like it has seen better days. Teloyskie’s tags on the other hand doesn’t have that durable strap and most of them tags got lost because those strap snapped and got broken. It’s just about time to get something more reliable and updated. 

 

PowerBank
I recently gifted Teloyskie with his very own cellular phone so Daddy can contact him anytime they’re missing each other. His phone also became his game console especially during long trips. So a powerbank is an essential need for our travels. We got our Xiaomi Powerbank which packs a whooping 10400 mAh from his godfather yey!

Where to Eat in Daet, Camarines Norte

Daet has recently been awarded as one of the most promising municipalities in the country. When in town, you can’t help but notice all the bustling activity going on around you. The market, the stores, businesses… yes this place does  seem to be making it’s mark in the economic zone. But really, Daet has slowly emerged from it’s sleep mode when a growing number of tourists and travelers flocked town on their way to Calaguas Island.

Bagasbas beach which is also a part of Daet also made itself known by drawing in surf enthusiasts not only from around the Philippines but from around the world too! It’s no wonder, several food joints have popped out to satisfy cravings of different tastes.

Catherine’s +Bagasbas Lighthouse Hotel Resort

Teloyskie and I first visited Camarines Norte for a group tour of Calaguas Island. The fee covered for everything we needed on the island. Upon returning to Daet, we were encouraged to try surfing in Bagasbas and sample the treats at Catherine’s, a restaurant inside the Bagasbas Lighthouse Resort. There we tried their smoothies which are soo yummy and got that double thumbs up mark from the tot.

Earl’s Burger (Bagasbas Beach and Brgy 1)

Recently, I was able to visit Daet once again but this time it was for some seminar that I had to attend. My co-workers based in the area suggested I try out the best burger in town – Earl’s. They had two branches – one in Brgy 1 and the other in Bagasbas Beach. They took us to the one in Bagasbas Beach and I was warned about the ambiance of the food joint. Yep, it looks like a drinking den of some sort. It was dark and everything was rickety or improvised. Tables and chairs are from beer and soda cases, lights were those yellow/orange incandescent. But the food… the food.. are just awesome. (Well the two we’ve ordered anyway!) If I get another invite from this side of the region, I’m sure I’ll be dropping by the other Earl’s branch in town and sample more of their mouthwatering delights.

Brankolei Pizza Italian Vero (David St., Daet)

Here’s another delicious discovery I had during my recent visit in Daet. One of my high school friends is assigned here in Camarines Norte and I decided to contact her while I am still in town. I asked her to take me to the pizza house my co-workers are talking about. So after getting lost finding Allaga and the “furniture” shop, my friend finally decided to meet me near Jollibee Sentro. Brankolei Pizza Italian Vero is actually located in David St. Daet. I think this food joint deserves it’s own blog post!

Other talked about food places in Daet include KSarap and Mario’s (I’m not sure but I know the place’s name starts with the letter M!)

The Pink Villa Juliana Inn and Other Budget Accommodations in Caramoan Town

Before surprising my boys with our super summer trip to Caramoan, I’ve been reading and searching for affordable accommodation options around town. There were several to choose from but we settled for the cheapest decent one as reviewed by travel bloggers.

Villa Juliana Inn

Among the different blogs posts I’ve read about Caramoan, Villa Juliana Inn seemed like the best choice for us. It was swatted in pink and has a unique homey feel. The reception lobby is filled with tables and chairs so you’d think you’re in a restaurant. However, they don’t serve meals here. The rooms are located at the back. We were given a room with three beds with colorful beddings and curtains.

It looks clean but if you will really check, the room is dusty and moldy. The bathroom is so-so and we have to call in someone to fix the faucet on our first night. This inn is really not for the choosy but it sufficed. The beds are comfortable enough to nurse our weary backs after a day of exploring.

Villa Juliana Inn is smacked in the middle of Tawog so you won’t have any issues finding places to eat or things to buy.

Other Accommodation Options

La Casa Roa

This hotel is along the same street as Villa Jualiana. It looks a lot nicer and as we pass by it, we noticed that they have a lot of guests. They even have a party on the roof deck one night with a karaoke blasting out.

Istaraan Hotel

This is one of those new buildings located on the same street as La Casa Roa and Villa Juliana. This is also where we had our meals. We ordered our take out lunch and snacks for our island hopping around Caramoan’s paraside-like islands! The staff are accommodating so guests can easily feel welcome like they are part of the family.

Golden Hub Tourist Inn

Just down the bend, another budget accommodation in Tawog, Caramoan. It sure doens’t look very welcoming especially with those group of men loitering just outside the inn.

Caramoan Bed and Dine

This is located along the main road, on the far end of the market. They have a restaurant were we dined on our first day.

I’ve heard of other accommodations options in Caramoan, There’s the Riverside Inn, Wow na Wow Tourist Inn,  Rex Tourist Inn, West Peninsula Villas and a lot more. Travelers and tourist can choose to stay in town or in Paniman Beach where there are also a number of beach front accommodations.