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.

Puerto Galera, Mindoro: A Quick Dose Vitamin Sea

Summer of 2015 came in a rush. As early as February, I’ve been planning for a getaway with Teloyskie soon as school days are out. We wanted a relaxing beach stay and the kid wanted to see the Boracay that was mentioned in his books. But because we kept on stalling, fares soon started to mount so we settled for our second option – somewhere nearer and cheaper. We headed to Puerto Galera.

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Puerto Galera is a popular beach bummer’s option because of it’s proximity to the metro. It is located in Oriental Mindoro and has three major beach options – White Beach, Sabang and Talipanan. Travel time can take, 2-3 hours by bus from Manila to Batangas Port and 1 to 1.5 hours by boat. But for us traveling from Legazpi, it took us more or less 10 hours to arrive in Turbina and another hours to get to Batangas port.

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Just a couple of days before heading to Batangas, I checked out several hotel booking sites and found a long list of accommodations in Puerto Galera. Based on blogs I’ve read, Talipanan is the best beach for people who want to relax and unwind. Among the hotels suggested in Talipanan, Amami Beach Resort got a fantastic rating and this made me decide to book for one night.

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We met Baba’s older sis in Turbina before we headed to Batangas Port. Teloy and I are tired and weary from the overnight bus ride from Legazpi when we arrived in Batangas and the throng of travelers and assist-you-pay-me-dudes in the port made me a bit irritable. We rode the Gallerian en route to Puerto Galera, and we will not ride it again for the very lousy customer service.

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Finally arrived in Amami at 9:00 AM got our welcome cold drinks and met with the “Fabio.” He advised us that check-in time is at 2:00 PM but we are welcome to leave our stuff if we want to explore the beach which is fine with us of course. After finishing our brekkie, we headed towards the beach and explored Talipanan. Teloyskie wanted to play in the water already so we allowed him to enjoy while Ate Karen and I enjoyed the shade, the view and some cold drinks at the famed Luca’s Cucina Italia.

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We’ll talk about the lovely, lovely Amami Beach Resort in the oncoming post. Anyway, Talipanan Beach was indeed a quiet strip of white sand and clear blue waters. Most guest around this area are couples and families who want to relax and unwind. The beach here is not as white as “White Beach” and some portion have rocks and corals. There are bars and restaurants in the resorts in the area but they are not the noisy kind that you can find in White Beach. Our resort  has a very restful and relaxing ambiance, it is also very near the snorkeling area but we hardly explored that and enjoyed beach bumming to the fullest!

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.

Albay in A Day: ‘Coz there’s More than Just Mayon



When one is set to visit the lovely province of Albay in the Bicol Region, it seems that the foremost sight-seeing, must-see or must-do on their list is to to see the world famous Mt. Mayon. Who wouldn’t want to see that perfect cone shape beauty well-known for it’s destructive grace?  But what if she’s too shy to let you have a peek during your visit?

As one who grew up under Magayon’s magnificent nose, I’ve seen how playful she can be at times. But don’t worry, the less you are keen to see her, the less shy she will be. So while you play pretend that you are not “that” interested in her, what other things can you do or see around Albay?

February 1st, we took off with some Couchsurfer friends to explore Albay’s hidden gems. The experience is both a revelation of new spots and also kind of reconnected us with the places we’ve been to years before. We hopped on a rented van (Php 2500) which could have accommodated 15 but we were only 9 (with two kids) and started our tour at 0900H.

Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga

Been here so many times since my childhood but you can never have the same view twice! Cagsawa Ruins is one of the best places to see how destructive Mt Mayon can be. The kids here will gladly tell you about the historic eruption in 1819 that brought Cagsawa in ruins. There are also plenty of shops in Cagsawa that offer souvenirs and ornamental plants at very affordable prices. Alternatively, you may also try out the ATV ride offered here.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

Hoyop Hoyopan Cave, Camalig Albay

According to the guide/storyteller (Php 300/group of 6), Hoyop hoyopan Cave was discovered in 1950’s but it was only in 1970’s during Marcos regime that it was opened. The cave was home to our ancestors, “cavemen” as he claim. The cave actually has three floors or major chambers and only the middle chamber is open to the public. It was cool and breezy like there is wind blowing in at all times and this is also how it got it’s name “Hoyop” means blow.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

 

Kawa – Kawa Nature Park, Ligao City

A hill with a “caldera” of sorts for a crater. “Kawa” is a local term for a wok which is what the hill looks like from afar. It was developed and turned into a destination for pilgrims wanting to do a “Station of the Cross” during Holy Week. It also became famous because of the sunflowers that grow abundantly around it during summer months.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

Tip: Try out Bergs Ice Cream while you climb. It is the best dirty ice cream I’ve tasted in my life and having it as company while you struggle with the steep climb will make it a more enjoyable experience. If you are visiting close to meal time, there is a restaurant where you can place your orders before your trip to the cavalry err hill so that they will be ready once you come down.

Mayon Rest House / Mayon Science Center and Planetarium, Tabaco City

Many years ago, Mayon Rest House is a hotel seated four kilometers beneath Mt Mayon’s summit. A major eruption called for it’s closing for several years until the area was left to deteriorate. During our high school years and sometimes after college, I was able to visit Mayon Rest House and reveled in the wonderful view it offered.

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This year however, sightseeing at this are was moved indoors because of the rain. The Mayon Science Center and Planetarium has been revived and provided lots of additional information for visitors. The kids we have with us enjoyed looking at the huge photos of the heavenly elements. Teloyskie learned a lot from the posters and photos of different types of volcanoes. Additionally, a film showing inside a small amphitheater showed interesting facts and stories about the beautiful volcano called Mayon.

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Vera Falls, Malinao, Albay

We were to set to visit two different falls during this road trip but because it was fast getting dark, we decided to make our last stop at Vera Falls. I’ve written about Vera Falls before and you can read about it here. Upon exiting the road that leads to Mayon Rest House, we traversed Sabluyon Roads towards Malinao, the municipality were Vera Falls is located. When we reached our destination, we all could hear the loud roar of the water. It is more forceful than when we visited last summer- prolly because it just rained hard right before we get there. Teloyskie played around with Choco while our companions took their time taking pictures. And just before the clock strikes 5, we unanimously called it a day and headed back to Legazpi for our dinner.
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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!