Travel Bites: Luca Cucina Italiana

After leaving our bags with the staff at Amami Beach Resort, Ate Karen, Teloy and I decided to explore more of the quieter side of Puerto Galera – Talipanan Beach. Passing through several beach resorts such as the Infinity Resort and others along the way, we ended up at the far most corner where Luca Cucina Italiana was located.

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Ate Karen and I settled on some seats in the restaurant veranda while Teloy take a dip and socialize with the other kids. The view from the restaurant is quite gorgeous as it faces the sea and the rock formation on the far side of Talipanan. We ordered a chocolate shake for me and Teloy and Ate Karen got herself some beer. We decided to eat there next day for lunch.

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I have read about Luca when I was  still planning for this trip and we were anticipating a delicious treat when we dine. We were in for a big, really big surprise. It is true that Luca Cucina Italiana serves mouthwatering Italian meals, but we were overwhelmed with the serving size! We ordered a pizza and carbonara. It was the first time that we ate carbonara made with egg and we won’t forget how good it tasted.

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Luca Cucina Italiana is great for groups because of the huge serving size of their food. Ate Karen, me and Teloy could not finish the two meals we’ve ordered as we easily became full so we just asked the staff to pack them for us. We have a refrigerator in our room in Amami so we were able to keep it for dinner.

 

Journey to Savannah: A Birth Story

It’s been a while since I posted here in our blog. I slacked for a few months, enjoying yet experiencing pain and the difficulties of having a babe on the way. Last year, when we discovered that we are expecting, we are ecstatic. Baba and Kuya Teloy has been waiting forever for another little one in the family. Kuya wanted to have a little brother but if we get a little girl its okay with him.

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A week after discovering my pregnancy, we have a scheduled trip to Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Singapore. Back then, I was only five weeks, our doctor gave us a go signal so I was confident to backpack for eight days with Kuya Teloy. We were extra careful but during our trip home, I had some spotting which signaled a bad sign for my pregnancy. Soon as we got back, we consulted with the doctor and I was ordered to bed rest for two weeks.

The next couple of months went by in daze. I was constantly sick and throwing up even at two in the morning. My weight dropped and I look haggard all the time. Baba had to leave for another country and start working in the midst of all the horrible pregnancy symptoms that I was going through. But finally, I started feeling better on the fifth month.

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We discovered we are having a girl on the sixth month and our excitement grew even more. It was quite challenging now to have a kid and be pregnant but Kuya Teloy was very sweet and has become very responsible for mommy and the baby. As weeks passed and we neared the D-day, we all became restless and impatient with waiting.

It was a Friday on my 38th week when something weird happened. I woke up at 5AM with wet pajamas and underwear but I shrugged it off thinking I just peed on myself. After changing I went back to sleep and I woke up again at 7AM with the same dilemma. I shrugged it off again, prolly just some discharge. But I called the office to inform that I cannot go to work and I will have the ultrasound which my OB requires for my check up the following day.

It was already 10AM when I arrived at the Ultrasound center and the receptionist informed me that the Sonologist would no longer accept another patient that morning and I should just come back at 3PM. I decided to go to another hospital with UTZ facility and was again advised to return at 1:30PM. So I went home, had my lunch and commuted back to the hospital for my ultrasound. The sonologist confirmed the baby’s gender and assured me that she is just the right size for her age. My bump looked quite large for my petite frame because I have a lot of water which is kind of good news too.

After the ultrasound, I decided to go to my OB to ask about the “wet pajamas” earlier that day. It was already three in the afternoon when I arrived at her clinic, and she was instantly worried after hearing my story. She said it must already be my water bag that’s leaking and if it had been continuously leaking all day, I might already by drying out. I showed her the ultrasound result and she checked my cervix. I was already three cm dilated and Doc said I should be admitted.

There was no pain nor contractions felt since that first leak at five in the morning so I never thought I was already in labor. I told Doc I have to go home first to get my things and make arrangements with my mom, sis and house help with regards to Kuya Teloy and my companion to the hospital. I was back in the hospital at five in the afternoon.

Soon as I was admitted, Doc immediately give orders to the nurses and ensured that I was attended to. She wanted to have me inside the delivery room ASAP because she is worried that my water might change color already and distress the baby. She asked again if I was feeling any pain or contractions, which I answered none. She said she will induce me to hasten my labor and dilation, so I should brace myself for the pain.

At 5:30PM I was already in the delivery room, they gave me some test shots of the medications that they will use. At 5:45PM, I was given something that will induce labor and the pain and contractions started. Doc seemed to have a calming effect on us because every time she comes near and touches my belly, the contractions and pain would subside. She decided to take her dinner at around 6:45PM and asked one of the nurses to attend to me. While Doc was out, the contractions kept coming in and the pain was becoming unbearable. I was already writhing in pain when she came back at 7:15 PM.

Doc asked if I feel like pooping already, she said I can start pushing if I do. She became excited when she checked and I was already 9 cm dilated and coaxed me to push. The room suddenly become noisy with Doc giving orders to the nurses and then to me on how to push properly. She seemed very excited with the baby that is about to be born. And with one long push and a yell, the baby came out like a slippery fish. Savannah Therese was born at 7:30 PM of July 8, 2016.

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I saw her back and butt as they placed her in my tummy. Everything was blurry now and I was willing myself to drift off to oblivion after the pushing ordeal but I couldn’t. I felt everything then, the stitches and the cleaning up which I think was worst than the labor itself! How I wish that I was unconscious when it was all happening like when I had Kuya Teloy years ago.

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I was awake until I was wheeled to my room, til the nurses check on me and until baby was brought to my side. I was awake until Baba called to ask if it was painful. If I had the energy I could have had a row with him to tell him exactly what “painful” is!

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I looked at how perfectly beautiful she is. Us three decided on calling her Savannah, like the rich land of the Safaris, the treeless plain where a river flows and life flourishes. She’d sure remind us of soft sunrise and fiery sunsets, of wildflowers, of being young and carefree.

Every birth story is different, but yes it is always exciting, infectious and encouraging. I could not help but compare my birthing experience with Kuya Teloy’s to Savannah’s but each one is special. The pain was momentary but the joy of receiving life’s miracle is endless.

 

Travel Bites: Sweet Treats at Tampuhan Cafe, Taal, Batangas

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After our exploration of the St Martin of Tours Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in the Orient and Our Lady of Casaysay Church, we walked down the cobbled Calle Marcela Agoncilio and admired the Old Hispanic houses we passed by. The sumptuous lunch we had earlier at Feliza Cafe seemed to have vanished and now our throats are feeling parched from the heat.

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While walking, we passed by a lovely street art depicting how life was lived in 19th century. We took pictures but we were mostly enticed by the seemingly cool interiors of the adjacent cafe called, Tampuhan.

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The word “Tampuhan” basically means lover’s quarrel and as unique as it’s name, the cafe has a lot of quirky stuff going on inside. They seem to encourage free-form art and you can find many interesting pieces on display. A freedom board also invites guest to share and leave something significant in this quaint cafe.

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We ordered three cold drinks and a small pizza and took our time scrutinizing the place. They only had four tables though the place is very cozy and inviting. Teloy gamely drew something on a paper so that he can post something on the freedom board. We decided we had enough exploring for that day and that we should leave anytime soon to get back to Sto. Tomas.

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Before leaving the cafe, we noticed the stairs going up and asked if we can check it out. There were more memorabilia and antique pieces upstairs on display, but the kid is getting quiet restless so we decided to move on.

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Taal, Batangas: A Haven for History Buffs

It was scorching hot with the summer sun beating down on us, we look back at Cafe Feliza and longed for it’s cool and comforting interiors. But it is already afternoon and we still haven’t explored the famed heritage town of Taal, Batangas. So we walked on and headed towards the massive St Martin of Tours Basilica.

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St. Martin of Tours Basilica is awe inspiring in real life. It is huge and can accommodate thousand churchgoers in one sitting. We decided to explore more of the church by going up to it’s bell tower which then gave us a bird’s eye view of the town.

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Right outside the church is the Escula Pia which is currently being used for a community meeting. Walked on and the side of the Municipal Building and wondered where we can find Our Lady of Casaysay Shrine. Tricycle drivers seemed hesitant to direct so we just asked them to take us there. I have no idea what we will find there but learning about the story of Our Lady of Casaysay gave us goosebumps!

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After praying at the shrine, we headed at the back of the church and found the St. Lorenzo Ruiz Steps. We decided to ascend, now knowing where we are headed but we were quite surprised that at the top of it was the same spot where we hailed a tricycle and asked for directions to Our Lady of Casaysay. Instead of pointing us to these steps, he told us to ride his tricycle because he can take us there and took a long and winding route to reach our destination.

Miffed but still enthused about roaming around Taal Town, we headed down the street without much knowledge of what we might find. We passed by Galeria de Taal and Villa Tortuga which are just some of the lovely heritage houses that draw tourists to this charming town. We also passed by the Leon Apacible ancestral house and was quite taken by the story written on it’s marker. But we were not able to see inside because it was closed for some renovations.

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A few more steps brought us to a quaint street art beside a cafe. It did not take a second thought for us to enter and try out Tampuhan Cafe’s cool refreshments. The cafe has a number of artwork on display. It also allowed visitors to leave a bit of something on their freedom board.

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After our meryenda at Tampuhan, we decided it was time for us to head back to Sto Tomas. I find myself and my son very lucky to have visited this Heritage Town and we hope one day we’ll be able to explore and learn more of it’s historical nooks and spots.

Glimpses of Ivory Coast from the Expat Dad, and the Uncle

When Baba announced that he had accepted an offer to work in Ivory Coast in West Africa, in the midst of the the Ebola Outbreak, I was truly horrified. I kept on checking online about the development and improvement on the diseases and kept praying that he will be moved to another project. When we explained to Teloy about his impending departure, he seriously said no.

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Slowly we began to accept it. I began reading more about the country which will be his home for a year and tried to understand more about. Of course I am interested in exploring that side of the world but, at the moment, I relish the spontaneity and misadventures of being a mom to the school kid plus it’s tooooo expensive to go there!

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When asked where Baba is, our friends and family were also horrified that he is going to Africa. I have to convince them that he is going to a safe place and so on, it was tiring but soon their worries faded.

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I have read about Ivory Coast on history books before and most of it were just about the illegal Ivory Trade. Baba would tell me stories about the locals, the places and the things he saw around the Abidjan – the country’s capital. Their building is located near Coco Beach and beside the office of the United Nations. Ivory Coast is still recovering from civil unrest so it is another factor that takes my worries into overdrive.

Baba said that he had always wondered why the UN is always set on having humanitarian missions to Africa and how that he can see the situation he understood. He always thought that the Philippines is so poor and that we also deserve aid from the UN, but nothing has prepared him on the things he saw.

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Slowly, he also become accustomed to the things around him. He and his companions were eager to feed the children whenever they can. They also asked some locals to do their laundry and cleaning, but most of them are hesitant about letting them prepare their food. The locals were more than willing to take on these simple jobs and will sometimes take their children with them while they work so Baba and his flatmates provides food for them.

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Eventually Baba also requested to have his brother hired through his agency, so Jason joined him there last February. Having a familiar face nearby lessens the homesickness that they felt. It was Jason who seemed to have explored much of the neighborhood than Baba.

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On several occasions, Baba was also able to visit the city which he said looked like Makati or Ortigas. His contract is almost over but he has yet to visit the Basilica he said because it’s too far from their place. Ivory Coast is a French Speaking country and he is worried that he might get lost and not communicate effectively on his own.

Food and commodities in Ivory Coast are also very expensive even for expats like him. He would compare prices of the same items here in the Ph and there and find them 2x or 3x more expensive, so no wonder many locals can hardly afford basic food and clothing.

Lately I’ve been urging him to explore Abidjan and maybe Yamoussoukro, but he declined. Talk about fellow working being robbed and mobbed by locals gangs made him weary. According to some of his Ivorian friends, hold-ups and even a scenario like the Pinoy “Hulidap” is common in the country.

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Africa brings up diverse images from safaris and wild jungle adventures, to scary diseases and malnutrition, to civil unrest and continuous need for humanitarian intervention. But Africa is a continent and it has many different countries -each with their own government, culture, climate and terrain. Like many other countries around the world, they have their own struggles and issues. My dream of exploring the continent does not diminish with the discoveries of Baba or the things I’ve read about it.

Quitinday Greenhills in Camalig, Albay

The lush, verdant green hills of Quitinday, Camalig, Albay alongside the majestic beauty of Mt Mayon has recently conquered my Facebook newsfeeds. Tagged as the “chocolate hills of Bicol,” these green hills is easily accessible by travelers and tourist visiting the province of Albay.

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Camalig is our neighboring municipality and its local government has been very active in promoting and developing tourism hotspot around the area. Back then, Camalig is known for their “Pinangat” (Bicol Delicacy) and Hoyop Hoyopan Cave. These days, local and foreign tourists alike are having a grand time exploring more of Camalig town. Aside from Hoyop Hoyopan, nature trippers will surely love Sumlang Lake and Quitinday Green Hills.

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My chance to visit the much raved about trekking spot in Camalig came as a sidetrip. After a hot (literally) discussion of our advocacy to more or less 800 NSTP students of BU Polangui Campus, our little group decided to look for Quitinday. Kuya Bob, suggested we take the back roads and pass through Guinobatan. We drove around asking for directions, until finally we discovered that we cannot pass through because the roads are still under construction at this end.

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We decided to explore another way and luckily we found the marker that showed us where to go. The jump off is a small clearing with huts, a wide parking space and a clean, well-maintained toilet. A lady let us log on the record book and we paid P20 each for registration. She advised us to avoid the cave on one side and to come down when there are lighting because of the thunderstorm.

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The trek was relatively easy but the weather was so humid so we were profusely sweating when we reached the first hut on top of the hill. A thunderstorm is happening and we can see fingers of lightning strike on the far end of the rolling hills. The view was truly refreshing from the top and you can see vibrant green hills all around you. Too bad Mt Mayon was not visible because of the dark clouds, otherwise, every picture would have been perfect.

We ascended to the connecting hill to get a higher vantage point. And after several more minutes we decided to descend seeing and feeling the rains and lightning coming at us. And like her playful self, Mayon showed her full glory when we are already on the road home.

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It was already four when we reached the main road and we were all eager to go home. Exploring Quitinday was indeed a refreshing break from our usual hectic schedule and we were thankful for the opportunity that we took to find it.

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At the moment, the best way to reach Quitinday is via the Ilawod-Cotmon Road. Then take the Baligang-Caguiba Road until you reach Quitinday, which is the very last Barangay of Camalig.

Where to Eat in Albay: La Terraza Cafe, Ligao City

“Champion” was all that my companion can say when he took the final bite of his Pulled Pork Empanada during our recent meryenda session at La Terraza Cafe in Ligao City.

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The first time we dined here was during a tour of Albay couchsurfing friends. We have “Kawa-kawa Nature Park” in our itinerary and one suggested that we can just have our lunch at this restaurant. Back then we placed our orders first before we started our steep climb to reach “Kawa-kawa”  and appreciate the view. After a photos and selfies, we descended to our lunch.

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It was consist of Sisig Pancit, Tinutungan na Manok, Lumpiang Shanghai, Pinangat and Rice. The Sisig Pancit caught my fancy back then, it was a bit sweet and salty and it has crunchy sisig bits as toppings.

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So when an opportunity gave me a chance to dine there once again, I easily gave in. After a morning session of lectures in Naga City, my two body guards if they would like to try Sisig Pancit for meryenda and they readily agreed. We were the only customers that afternoon and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an order of the coveted noodle is only P100 and it is already good for 3! I also ordered their Pulled Pork Empanda because it has a “bestseller” seal on the menu. And it was indeed a bestseller!

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The pastry was hot and crisp. While the pulled pork taste like asado or adobo, I really don’t know but it taste divine! I ordered two more to take home to my tot and ate lo.

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For a price of P200, we were able to feast on a hearty meryenda that was truly worth the detour. La Terraza Cafe and Restaurant is located near “Kawa-kawa Nature Park” in Ligao City.

Mom’s Moonlighting Marvels: Scraping Up Funds to Feed Our Wanderlist

My world of constant jetsetting, took on a slow turn when Baba, my home-buddy life partner arrived and the little tot was not so little anymore.

That day when we decided to settle down and took parenting on a serious note, I realized that trips would no longer be on the extreme cheapskates,boisterous, rowdy side. My travels will now be on the more subtle, a little fancier than the rucksack strapping style and will prolly be centered on comfort and safety especially with my boys. Travel now also means that my usual travel expenses will be tripled, and if I want to travel I have to perfect budgeting and do moonlighting marvels to scrape funds to fuel our wanderlust.

Aside from using the Envelop System of Budgeting, which I still have to master, I have here a list of moonlighting marvels which has given us enough budget to make weekend misadventures possible for us three.

Garage Sale/Closet Clean Up

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I didn’t fully realized how much stuff we already own until I moved back here in Bicol. When we were about to transfer to our new pad, Baba was amazed that we have lots of clothes and knick knacks packed away in boxes and drawers. Our relaxed and sedentary lifestyle along with delish foods here in the province have caused us to grow out of many of our clothes. On the other hand, Teloyskie is growing like a weed so most of his stuff no longer fit him. I have been posting and selling used stuff through Ebay even before we settled here and now, I’ve opened a page called “KISS Garage” maybe gain back a little something from items we once treasured. Everything we earn from our garage sale goes straight to our travel fund envelop.

Facilitating/Lectures/Public Speaking

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I never imagined that I can earn a little something from these stints. As an information officer, conducting lectures, facilitate workshop/seminars is a part of my job. But during weekends when some school or office requests for your services beyond work days or office hours, they would offer a small allowance for the time and effort. Speaking in public is one of my weaknesses but being pushed to do it as part of the job made me swallow down the tightness every time I stand in front of an audience. Seeing kids, students and having an audience that genuinely listens and are thoroughly wrapped up in what I’m discussing is enough encouragement that I am doing a fine job of something that I’ve always been scared of.

Online Writing

Started writing in 2006 just to try it out and I haven’t stopped since. I write because it was an outlet of the things I feel. I write not because I was any good at it, but I know that if I continue to write I will get better at it. I write because I love to. I may lack confidence with my work sometimes and getting recognition for “best research paper,” or “wonderfully written articles” still come as a shock but I know that this is my craft and I will continue to muster it.

Most of our travel fund come from the savings spare and the income generated from my freelance online writing. I have to thank my clients for continuously believing in me and for understanding my limitations. Baba used to tell me to lessen the assignments I take from the clients so that I can have more time for rest and relaxation with them, but soon my boys realize that writing is my way of relaxing thus they would give me leeway to quietly work on articles for our blog and for our clients.

Hotel Review: Amami Beach Resort, Talipanan Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera is a famous destination for people craving a dose of “Vitamin Sea” yet have limited time to travel away from the metro. Galera’s proximity to Metro Manila makes it a favorite weekend vacay thus, one can easily find accommodation options for every budget and taste.

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Amami Beach Resort in Talipanan was a welcome respite from the chaos we’ve experienced when we landed in White Beach. Yes it was far from the action and happening, but it was pure restfulness and peace that we’ve experienced during our stay here.

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We arrived at 9:00 which was clearly too early for check in, so when the owner Favio told us that we might want to check the “playa” first, we did. We left our bags at the resort restaurant and made our way towards the farthest end of Talipanan were there were rocks and the famed Cucina Luca was located. After spending several hours sipping shake while Teloy play in the water, we decided to spend the remaining two hours at the resort.

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Fabio seems to be having a fit when we arrived back at the resort. He saw us and exclaimed, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you all day! Your room is ready since 10:00 AM!” Oopps sorry we really wasn’t expecting that. But it was really a nice gesture for them to prepare the rooms so that we can check in early. He carried our bags, gave us the wifi password and gave us some tips and pointers for our vacation.

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Amami Beach Resort is a well-acclaimed family resort in area. Agoda users will find nothing but praises for this native-themed resort in the quieter side of  Puerto Galera. Baba’s sister was quite impressed to see that we were the only local guest in the area. Most of the other guests were foreigner families looking for some amazing R&R.

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The staff were friendly and truly accommodating. I asked for something that’s not in the menu and they said they’ll see what they can do about it, and they made it for me! So whatever you need or want, you just have to ask them and they will work wonders for you. I have originally booked for a night in the resort and we decided to extend our stay.

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The resort has limited number of rooms so they get fully-booked and overbooked sometimes. We stayed in a De Luxed Room which has a double bed and a single bed. The rooms have comfortable beds with canopy, wooden floors, nipa roof and abaca mats. These rooms face the garden and the sea beyond it so Ate Karen and I have spent a lot of time on our own veranda too.

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They have dogs, puppies, cats and kittens which young guest can pet and play with making them feel like they’re just at home in the resort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne thing that I did not enjoy much though is the pricey meals. Although we got free breakfasts and unlimited coffee and tea, we had most of our meals in nearby restaurants because we didn’t think we can afford the food in our resort! Other than that, our stay at Amami was pure bliss!

Barkada Trip Series: Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Ilocos Norte

After exploring Laoag, our team of weary explorers pushed forward to Pagudpud. Baba, though a major complainer of long trips seem to be enjoying the opportunity of being somewhere really far from where we came from.

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Pagudpud is located in Ilocos Norte and it is very very far from Legazpi. It faces the South China Sea and is known for its wonderful beaches. Well, our tour operator booked us in a beach front property with a very forgettable beach with really overpriced room rates.

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Anyway, we snoozed off most of the trip and woke up somewhere near the lighthouse. The sun was glaring hot and there was already a surge of tourists in the area. We hesitated knowing that there will be another fiesta like atmosphere and thongs of people trying to take the perfect picture of the light house.

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Lighthouses always seem haunting yet they are very intriguing. I’ve seen several lighthouses and each one of them has it’s own mystique and charm. Like many lighthouses, Cape Bojeador was built atop a hill overlooking the West Philippine Sea. It was built in the Spanish Era thus it has that signature red brick material for the most of the structure. The lighthouse is still considered as an active lighthouse that guides and keep our marine trade safe to this date.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is situated in the municipality of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It has become a landmark that one shouldn’t miss when visiting Ilocos Norte.