All posts by imiebendal

Garin Farm Iloilo: The closest you can get to paradise

Garin Farm is a 14-hectare inland resort in the town of San Joaquin Iloilo. (See directions here. )

Garin Farm vegetable tunnel
Garin Farm Green House Tunnel

Along the way you can see signs of an abundant farm life with ducks, chickens, goats, rabbits and water buffalos as you walk through the pavement of their hanging gardens.

This is a lively farm with lots of inhabitants so beware of the smell too 🙂

An uphill walk inside Garin Farm leads to a pavilion at the heart of the premise.

Aside from the breathtaking view, Garin Farm has other attractions to enjoy. There is a wide swimming pool for adults and children. A large artificial lagoon for kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, all terrain bikes, ziplines and a lot more.

Since Garin Farm is a Catholic themed attraction, it is specially relevant that there will be a depiciton of the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Ten Commandments and the nine (9) major Events in the life of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the most noteworthy among the many attractions of Garin farm is the Divine Mercy Cross.  There is a huge stone facade that leads to the 456 steps towards the Divine Mercy Cross.

Station of the cross along the way to the top

A display of what appears to be a glimpse of heaven on earth awaits on top.  Going up is difficult and tiring. It was hot and humid. I almost gave up. But nope, perseverance is the name of the game. As we all know, entering the gate of heaven will not be that easy, right? 🙂

Dark (really dark) tunnel leading to the bright centerpiece that depicts heaven

And there it is! I am not sure if I have seen anything as white as this in my entire life. It was so bright that I want to close my eyes for a moment. The experience is something solemn yet joyful. Nothing but pure awe!


Blinded by too much brightness 🙂

The ‘bait-baitan’ pose :p

At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that it’s not yet our time so we can head off back to the world. What a relief!

Food’s pretty decent too at the restaurant across the pilgrimage entrance. with an overview of the animal farm below. A perfect time to replenish the fatigue out of that 456 steps!

How to get here:

From Iloilo International Airport:

  • Take the Shuttle Bus going to SM City, Iloilo
  • From SM City, Iloilo, take the SM Manduriao jeepney and take a stop at the nearby intersection under the overpass and ride the Oton bound jeep going to the jeepney terminal located in Mohon, Oton.

  • In Mohon Oton Terminal, there will be several San Joaquin jeepneys ready to take you to Garin Farm for PHP60.00.

From Iloilo City Proper:

  • Take the San Joaquin bound jeepney from Super terminal, Iloilo City.
  • You  can also take buses going to Anini-y or Dao Antique in Molo Terminal then tell the bus driver conductor to drop you off in San Joaquin. From the San Joaquin drop-off, take a tricycle to Garin Farm entrance

From San Joaquin Town Proper:

  • Take a tricycle ride and tell the driver to take you to Garin Farm, Brgy. Huna. Brgy. Huna is a 2-minute ride from San Joaquin town proper.

For Private Transportation:

  • San Joaquin is the last town in the southern part of Iloilo, driving  along Iloilo-Antique National Road would get you in San Joaquin in about an hour. In addition, signage and billboards directions along the highway going to Garin Farm are available to guide you.


  • 150 per person excluding children 1-year-old

For those who doesn’t enjoy long walks, you can take a ride in the Golf Cart (3 -4 pax/ride): Entrance to Pavilion is PHP60.00; Pavilion to Cross: PHP90.00.


  • Executive Conference Room (15-20 pax): PHP2,500.00
  • Hilltop Swimming Pool – PHP80.00
  • Hilltop Horseback Riding – PHP60.00
  • Biplane (300 meters -2 rounds): Sitting -PHP250.00 and Superman PHP350.00
  • Hilltop Boating:        (Single Kayak -PHP40.00; Double Kayak – PHP90.00; Pedal Boat-PHP90.00; Rubber Boat – PHP120.00)
  • Hilltop Fishing: PHP30.00/kilo
  • Billiard: PHP60.00/hour
  • Restaurant
  • Canteen
  • WiFi Access
  • Laundry Service
  • 24-Hour Security
  • 24-Hour Electricity


  • Family Room: PHP3,500.00
  • Hilltop Twin Room: PHP2,500.00
  • Hilltop Single Room: PHP 1,500.00


Other Contact infos:

Brgy. Huna, San Joaquin
Iloilo, Philippines 5024
Telephone Number: +63 033 314 75 55
Mobile Number: +63 916 667 6851
Email: /

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Lakawon Island: Boracay of Negros Occidental (Itinerary)

Lakawon Island in Negros Occidental is a 13-hectare private island resort being dubbed as the “Boracay of Negros Occidental”. It’s easy to see why once you witness its powdery fine sand beach.

Itinerary and expenses:

6:00am – Form Bacolod north terminal, ride bus going Cadiz (60php – ordinary, 100php – airconditioned)
7:00am – arrival, Cadiz, ride trike (120php/trip good for 6persons)
7:20am – arrival at Lakawon port, pay 300php/head (inclusive of resort entrance, RT pumpboat and terminal fee) Wait until there are enough passengers.
8:00am – Lakawon Resort, registration, pay 250/head for Tawhai floating bar. (optional but highly recommended) Beach Bum.
10am – floating bar opens (highlight of the trip) get a hearty brunch

Stay until you want for the day or get an accommodation 🙂

Tawhai Floating Bar experience

How to Get There:

Manila to Bacolod via direct flights or ferry.

Once you are in Bacolod, hop on a bus to Cadiz City. 60php for ordinary and 100php for airconditioned bus.

From there, take a tricycle (PHP 120.00) good for 6 pax to Lakawon port where you’ll find boats that will take you to Lakawon Island.

Pay 300php each (inclusive of resort entrance, RT pumpboat and terminal fee)

What to Do:
Lakawon Island offers a variety of things you can do.

Beach Bum:

For a chill beach getaway, you can swim in its inviting blue waters and explore the beach line. The long beach will always be picture perfect and ready for Instagram worthy posts.

Tawhai Floating Bar:

Probably the best attraction in Lakawon is the Tawhai Floating Bar. The first of its kind in Negros and the largest floating bar in Asia. Get a 360-degrees view of the island while pampering yourself with a drink (or two). Let the subtle waves rock you gently as you fall asleep, lying on a bed at the edge of the raft with feet dangling a meter above the sea.

Water Adventure:

If you’re in for an adventure, there are several activities available in the resort. Rent out a jet ski and tour the surrounding waters. There are kayaks and small boats for paddling around. There are also snorkeling activities that will let you witness the abundant underwater life on this part of Visayas.

Seafood Feast:

Fresh seafood is abundant in the island. You can haggle (but don’t haggle much please) with the fishermen in the morning with their freshly caught fish(es). You can have the resort staff prepare them for you.

Pamper Day:

After a hearty meal or a satisfying swim, further relax by getting a massage offered in the premise.

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HK-Macau 4D/4N itinerary in less than 10kphp :)

International travel and all its expenses discouraged even the most enthusiastic wanderlust. But with some research and preparation ahead of time, expenses could easily be cut down without depriving yourself too much. Here’s my 4D/4N itinerary in HK-Macau (yes, including Disneyland) within a meager 10,000php budget J

On summary, this is the inclusion of this itinerary/budget article.

✔️ Accomodation
✔️ Food
✔️ Attractions/Tour:

  • DisneyLand
  •  NgongPing Village (via crystal cabin cable car, Big Buddha, Tai-o village, Po Lin Monastery, Wisdom Path)
  •  The Peak – sky terrace
  •  Nathan Golden Mile (walking tour)
  •  Night markets 🙂
  •  Macau (Hotels/casino, Taipa village, Senado Square, Macau cathedral, St Paul ruins)

Detailed itinerary and expenses below:

✜ Day 1: (More of night 1 since we arrived in the evening :p ) 
‌• Arrive at Hongkong.
‌• Take city bus #21 to Mongkok (23 HKD)
‌• Check in at Sincere house, Mongkok
‌• beauty rest/sleep :p

***Note: I prefer this kind of setup because it will give you fresh energy in the morning to start on your itinerary. Although it will cost you one more night of accommodation expense 🙁 (You can tweak it anyway and book for the next day)***

Busy HK street at night

✜ Day 2 

Off to explore Ngong Ping village via hanging cable cars. Marvel the beauty of the giant Buddha and what the village in the mountain has to offer. At night, witness the symphony of lights and bargain through the night market.

• From mongkok station to Tung Chung station
• City gate outlet at Tung Chung (because we have purchased tickets in afternoon, we opt to visit this outlet first. Its the biggest outlet mall in HK and if you’re fan of certain quality brands, you’ll love it here <3 <3 <3 )
• Ride cable car (we purchased crystal cabin – which is a grand experience in itself!!!!) to Ngong Ping
• Ngong Ping Village attractions:
✔️ Tai o village (fisherman village) – take bus #21 (25 mins)
✔️Go back to Ngong Ping via same bus
✔️Big Buddha
✔️ Po Lin Monastery
✔️ Wisdom Path (follow signs around Po Lin monastery and about 15 mins walk away
***NOTE: Nong Ping hours is only until 6:30pm. Cable car ride is 25 minute scenic ride***
• Ride cable car back to Tung Chung
• MTR from tung chung to tsim sha tsui
• Symphony of lights at 8pm (near tsim sha tsui station)
• MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mongkok
• ladies market
• Night market at temple street
• Bought souvenirs 🙂
• sleep 🙂

Temple Street Night market – good bargain everywhere!
one of the many street-eats in Hongkong 🙂

✜ Day 3
• Disney!!! <3 <3 <3
***NOTE: Will be posting a separate itinerary on how to maximize your 1 day ticket and experience all of their rides/attractions! We were here from rope drop (9:30am) to closing at about 10pm after the fireworks display. Make sure you have strong pair of legs though as we tallied 17k+ steps on roaming around Disney for a day 🙂

The cutest Meet and greet
Happiest place 🙂
Disneyland Entrance at rope drop around 9:30am

✜Day 4

On the fourth day, walk with the locals and experience HK city life with a walk through the Nathan Road (golden mile), then watch the city lights up at night at one of the best viewing deck – The Peak.

The Peak sky terrace – just before sun sets

• Nathan Road Golden Mile
We stayed in Mongkok so I’m starting from south to North. Here are some key points along the road:

✔️ Yau Ma Tei Station – (nothing much to see here – recommend to start your walk from Jordan station going north. or if you’re from Tsim Sha Tsui area, end your walk on Jordan station)

✔️ Jordan Station
✔️ St. Andrew’s Church
✔️ Miramar Shopping Centre
✔️ The Mira Hong Kong
✔️ The ONE
✔️ Park Lane Shopper’s Boulevard
✔️ Kowloon Park(aviary and bird pond)
✔️ Tsim Sha Tsui
✔️ Chungking Mansions
✔️ The Peninsula Hotel
✔️ Clock tower
✔️ The Museum of Art – (free on wed, 10hkd )
✔️ the Space Museum – 24hkd, 10hkd(at the head of Nathan Road)
Other attractions walking distance arund Tsim sha tsui:
✔️ Honkong museum of history 20hkd
✔️ Hongkong scince museum 20hkd, free on wed
❌Avenue of stars.. still close for renovation 🙁 🙁 🙁

Clock Tower

***NOTE: Life in HK began at around 10-11am. Start your walking tour around or later that time or else you’ll see nothing more than closed stores/shops which are attractions in itself in HK.***

Hk Lights up at night

✔️The PEAK.
Go to any tsim sha tsui station entrance scattered around Tsim sha tsui area. Get in the train bound to Central. Alight at central.
From here, you have few options,

  1. follow underground signs to Hongkong station and exit via exit F to IFC mall. Look for the green mini bus #1 (yes, they’re literally colored green) – 10.2HKD
  2. We happen to miss our planned exit(option 1), and end up in Statue Square. From there, we luckily heard Filipinos talking who help us walked (yes, they accompany us on the 10 min walk) to the double decker bus #15. If you ended up in the same place, just google where this bus station is as I can’t remember the direction well :p(fare is 9.8HKD)
  3. Peak Tram (fastest way at 45HKD roundtrip)
    Most advertisement will say that peak tram is a must because its an experience in itself.. well, ride the double decker bus, sit on the upper deck.. and that’s another experience as well. :oNot recommended for those with frail heart though.. (Bus drivers in HK drive really fast – no exceptions even if its uphill :p)
  • The peak – sky terrace admission fee = 50USD
    ***NOTE: Stay here until 8:00 so you can see HK lights up at night***
  • Ride green minibus #1 – (this time we found it!) back to Central station.
    • MTR to Mongkok
    • Dinner on one dimsum – you have to wait in line for about 30 mins on a weekday. ganun karaming tao… But it’s quite good and the price are all reasonable. 75HKD for 2
    • Rest

✜ Day 5 Macau

Indulge in a little history tour on the Taipa village of Macau as well as enjoy the luxuries the hotel/casinos has to offer.

Comfy ferry ride to Macau

• Ferry from HK to Macau
• Free shuttle from ferry station to Venetian
• Free luggage service at the Venetian hotel (10MOP if not booked)
• Free shuttle to Wynn hotel (12-15 mins walk to Senado Square)
✔️Senado Square
✔️macau cathedral
✔️st paul ruins

  • Form Senado square walk to Wynn Palace (12-15 mins)
    • Free shuttle from Wynn Palace to Taipa city
    • Taipa Village
    ✔️carmo hall
    ✔️carmo church
    ✔️taipa museum
    ✔️Kun Iam temple
    ✔️Pak Kai temple
  • Free shuttle from Taipa to Wynn Palace
    • Roam around Wynn Hotel/Casino (play if you like :p)
    • Free shuttle from Wynn to Galaxy
    • Before heading to venetian, you can walk around first (or shuttle) to its nearby hotels/casino
    ✔️City of dreams
    ✔️Hard Rock Hotel
    • Back to Venetian
    • Venetian Grand Canal
    • Venetian has inddor connecting tunnels to Four Seasons and The Parisian
    • Get luggage and take free shuttle from Venetian or Parisian to Macau airport
    • Macau airport >> back home :):):)

***Macau is an expensive place, but can also be free  :p

General expenses
• Accomodation – 338HKD (via airbnb – Mongkok area (tatlong tumbling lang from Mongkok MTR station 🙂 ))
• Transportation – approx 150HKD (all land transportation – MTR, bus etc)
• Food – 200HKD (Note: Can be very subjective, We’re light eaters and prefer brunch and dinner only with tons of snacks in between 😂. Decent meals in HK ranges from 30-40HKD per pax. We also bring cup noodles and snacks which are very helpful especially on nights we’re too exhausted to hunt for food stall/resto outside 😂)

Day1 (arrival)
-cable car to Ngong Ping (1 crystal cabin + 1 standard cabin) – 150HKD (promo from, link included below)
-souvenirs (not included)

-Disney – 510HKD (approx 3300php) – purchased at Klook with promo code

Day 4
Golden mile walking tour – free
souvenirs – not included (case to case basis)
The peak -Sky terrace admission fee – 50HKD

Day 5
Macau ferry – 110HKD (Cotai jet) – purchased promo ticket. See link below

Total: 1508HKD using *BPI conversion at 6.3php
= 9500.4 in php

❤Tip: Call 2-4 weeks before on your bank (I think BPI si the best choice so far) to arrange currency exchange. Bank excahnge rates are lower than money changers. Average money changer sells HKD st 6.6 – 7php
so your 1508HKD could easily be 10556php at 7php exchange rate. Don’t exchange in airports! That’s even a bigger rip off!

Go on weekdays, prices increase on weekends.

Helpful Links:

Another option for budget travelers would be the iventure card. Which is a good card (if you’re really interested on the included attractions)

Good vibes and happy travel 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Six Ngong Ping attractions worthy of the life-suspending cable car ride

Ngong Ping village boasts of the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha. Both of which were significant tourist attractions already, but what made the trip extraordinary is how to transport to the scene: via the hanging gondolas.

Ngong Ping cable cars has two varieties, standard and crystal. The crystal cabin is more appealing (or maybe not for those with fear of heights) since you can enjoy the view beneath your feet through the transparent flooring.


Prepare to hang for dear life for about 6 kilometers of aerial lift passing eight cable towers at 585 meters above sea level (highest point). While trembling, try to keep looking around (and down :)) to appreciate the massive gift selflessly presented by nature.

After the 25-minute thrilling ride, witness the culturally themed village which reflects the cultural and spiritual integrity of Ngong Ping area.

What exactly awaits you in this village on top of the mountain? A Buddhist monastery, a giant sitting Buddha and a nearby quaint fishing town to name a few.

  1. Traditional backdrop

Traditional Chinese houses serving as stores and restaurants were scattered around the area.

  1. Ngong Ping Piazza

Spanning on about 1.5 hectares, the piazza serves as the main point linking all the other attractions such as Po Lin monastery, Big Buddha and Wisdom path.

New Pai Lau

The impressive ornamental archway that serves as the piazza’s entrance.

Bodhi Path

Twelve statues (called the Twelve Divine Generals) line up on both sides guiding the visitors from the main entrance arc to the Po Lin monastery.

Di Tan

Also referred to as the Earth Temple is an open space midway between Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. 

  1. Po Lin Monastery

Po Lin Monastery translates to “Precious Lotus”. Lotus flower being a special symbol of purity.

There are three Buddha statues inside the temple representing its past, present and future lives.

There is a vegetarian restaurant beside the main temple which unfortunately we’re not able to try.

  1. Tian Tan Buddha

Constructed from 202 bronze pieces, the 34-meter-tall Buddha is placed on top of a three-platform altar reachable via a 268-steps concrete stair.

(It took me 268 steps, bottles of water and an ice cream – from the little store on top, to reach the Big Buddha)

On top is the giant Buddha surrounded by six other smaller statues that seems to be holding an offering. I learned later, after a little research that those are referred to as “The Offering of the Six Devas”. These symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom. All of which are essential for enlightenment.

  1. Wisdom Path

Fifteen-minute walk from the Po Lin monastery is the Wisdom Path. The trail traces a series of more than 30 wooden bars that contains verses from the heart Sutra – one of the best-known Mahayana Buddhist sutra. The verses were inscribed in Chinese calligraphy while the wooden columns were arranged in an infinity pattern (∞).

  1. Tai O Fishing village

One bus ride (and few minutes) away from Ngong Ping village is another attraction, the Tai O fishing village. (Take Bus#21 or taxi)

Tai O fishing village is a picturesque community in the western coast of Lantau. The traditional stilt houses that sit along the waterfront were among the very few remaining stilt houses around Hongkong.

Another attraction of this village aside from the stilt houses are the Tai-o market, occasional Chinese pink dolphin viewing, boat ride or kayaking and the seasonal Tai O Dragon Boat festival held in May or June.

The modest atmosphere of the whole Ngong Ping experience is a breath of fresh air from the much modernized Hongkong. The journey leads to both cultural and spiritual discoveries that governs Buddhism. Truly worth a visit and must not be missed when in Hongkong.  🙂

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Marian Orchard – A Sanctuary of Prayer (half-day DIY tour)

Right before the pilgrimage city of Lipa, is a Catholic theme park called The Marian orchard.  The prayer sanctuary located in the municipality of Balete is truly a sight to behold. It features a chapel, an observation tower, fountains, a prayer garden and shrines of several saints.

Sacred Heart Tower
The entrance ticket is no less fancy 🙂
Sacred Heart Chapel
Pathway to the Garden of Saints

The over-all experience was fun. Battling the humidity as you roam around under the scorching heat of the sun is all worth it. (If you don’t mind getting a little bit tanned :))

Shrines of the Saints

The place induce a very calm and serene atmosphere very suitable for prayer and meditation.

The picturesque well, guarded by sitting angels

My favorite part of the garden is this fountain highlighted at the center of the premise in between the Sacred heart Parish and the Mary Mediatrix of All Graces prayer hall.

Saint Joseph Shrine

This shrine is under renovation but still look picturesque.

The Ruins – which is actually the visitor center.
In charge of this secret garden is this charming querubin 🙂
Prayer garden steps
Mary Mediatrix of All Graces prayer hall

Our eyes feast with the colorful surrounding thanks to the blooming flowers of different shades.

This part of the vicinity is still under renovation/construction.

The Catholic Sanctuary is open from 7am-5pm and has an entrance fee of 50php (as of writing- April, 2017).


Starting point : Cubao, Metro Manila

7am – Jam terminal(Cubao). Choose Batangas/lemery bound bus. Alight at SM Lipa (right before grand terminal, along the road where you can ride jeepneys to levitown) – fare: 132php

9am – Ride jeepney (or tricycle) to levitown (caltex gas station) – fare: 8php – jeep, 30php – tric

9:10am – Ride jeepney (right across caltex) and alight at marian orchard entrance – fare: 15php

9:30am – Marian Orchard – 1-2 hours is enough to explore the vicinity.  Entrance fee: 50php

11:00am – tric back to jeep station going to levitown – 30php

11:15am – jeep to levitown (caltex) – fare: 13php

11:30am – jeep to SM city Lipa (grand terminal)

Take bus heading back to Manila (Cubao) – 123php

Would like to know your experience too 🙂 Comment below.

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How Travel Changed my Life

Stepping on an unfamiliar land with equally unfamiliar faces is probably the greatest fear of an introvert and too-sheltered person like me. It means meeting new people and asking strangers for direction. The need to start a conversation is crippling and anxiety-inducing for someone who is too shy and reserve.

About five years ago, I would never imagine myself going out to places, exposing myself far from the shield of my comfort zone. Then fate took its usual twist and I can’t remember now what exactly instilled my passion for travel. I just kept on wanting for more.

I know I had just started on this journey, but on that short period of time, I already acquired a lot. Truly, travel is a kind of education you can invest in. How it changed my life? Let me count the ways:

Take control of my life

Travel is empowering. It’s a kind of beautiful independence.

I spent a birthday on a solo travel to the canyons of Arizona. No companion to tell me go this way or share the dilemma of deciding where and what to eat. The journey is mine in its entirety.

I looked at the vast Grand Canyon. I cried in awe as it filled my soul, not only because of its immense beauty but also because of the fact, that I had gone all the way here on my own. Embracing this moment and digesting every bit of my new found freedom. I was alone. But for the first time, it was fine.

Grand Canyon


Expands perspective

Mayan pyramid – Chichen Itza

Travel broadens one’s perspective in life, culture and most importantly, in people. Surely, there were unfortunate encounters on my travels, but I’m still amazed how kind and helpful strangers could be.

Cancun, Mexico

It was in Las Vegas at nine in the evening. An unknown backpacker, who noticed me staring blankly at the ticket machine in shock that it would not accept cash or international credit card, swiped his card to provide me a ticket. I could not pay him back as I do not have the exact change. He just smiled.

Those men and women helping me drag my luggage form the airport conveyor and the free walking tour guides of Oakland. Those hikers, who were strangers turned friends, offering help and support during difficult ascent. The list continues. But one thing for sure: Faith in humanity restored.

Fellow hikers on an open event, San Francisco.


Nothing else has taught me to be grateful than travelling.

Dingalan, Aurora

While traversing the granite stairs of San Lorenzo Ruiz steps (in Batangas) leading to the miraculous well of Sta. Lucia, a boy selling candles approached us. We bought one. Then, a bunch of other children flock around us selling the same item. One almost begging for us to buy, citing this is for her school stuffs. They accompanied us to the wishing well acting as tour guides in exchange of tips.

I realize how growing up, I never needed to work for my own school stuffs, clothes or food. How in this day, I was able to live alternately between my corporate job and my many travels.

I remember the begging children in the market of Cebu. I thought of the young teenagers building sand castles in Boracay, under the scorching heat of the sun, for a fee. I felt for the child guides I encountered on a few hikes and that smiling homeless old man I once talked to on a street in San Francisco. I looked at the burning candles. I forgot my wish list. I bowed, and whispered the only appropriate prayer. ‘Thank You’.

The art of communication

I am on a fruit stall in Chinatown, San Francisco when a Chinese vendor began talking (probably in Mandarin) to me. I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about and why he’s so happy in that busy afternoon. He motioned at the price sign and drew an ‘X’ in the air. He laughed. Somehow, it crossed through me, and I laughed too. He continued talking and I exchanged ‘Oh’ and ‘yeah’. As it turned out from my change, he gave me a good discount.

I have met a lot of locals from all over the Philippines who doesn’t have very good understanding of the Filipino language, but still managed to provide what I need usually going out of their way to assist me.

Meeting people of different origins proved that not only verbal communication brought understanding among people. A smile, a nod and those small acts of kind gestures do the trick. I don’t need to know your language to communicate with you.

I have come to know there are other means more universal. The kind, that knows no race, penetrates boundaries and recognizes human soul. As long as I have this, I know I can go anywhere.

Follow the Flow: Patience and Composure

I used to prepare a travel itinerary complete with hourly schedule of activities. I hate out-of-nowhere and unexpected stuffs.

As it turned out, not all travels are easy walk in the park. I have learned that it’s fine to be simultaneous and unplanned events could be as fun.

I had once missed my target bus and decided to walk to another stop. Passed by a park that turned out to be one of my favorite spots in San Francisco.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Even delayed flights could mean more time for rest. Reroute trips could mean opportunity for new discoveries.

I have found the peace in just following the flow. Know by faith that if it happens, it happens for a reason.

Travel can change us in subtle and drastic ways. I read once that experience can either paralyze or propel a person. So far, my travel experiences have propelled me into heights my heart truly desire.

Mt Binacayan, Rizal


#TravelokaPH, #WhyITravel  #TravelokaStories

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The Elusive Sound of San Francisco Wave Organ

“The best day to walk along the bay is when it’s raining.”

This is the mantra I am trying to send the universe that gloomy weekend morning. Weather forecast: Rain for most part of morning, cloudy in the afternoon.
It has been raining for about three days now.

I checked my small planner book and rethink if San Francisco Wave Organ (sitting at the edge of the bay) is still a reasonable destination for today.

An hour later, I finally reasoned out that if I want to consider myself a traveler, then I should bring the weather with me and not the other way around. I packed up my usual ‘to-go’ stuffs as well as some ‘sunshine’ on my explorer’s bag.

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

I alight at the gate of Presidio from the weekend free shuttle bus. Took sometime admiring the magnificent Palace of Fine Arts along Baker street. The picture-perfect spot is just soothing in so many ways.

I head straight towards the St Francis yacht club passing Marina Blvd. Lots of small boats and yachts were docked at the moment because of the unruly weather making the place a little crowded.

Along the strip was a striking small lighthouse – sort of. I continued walking until I saw the end of the strip. There, at the jetty, lies the San Francisco Wave Organ.

The Wave Organ is an acoustic sculpture built on San Francisco Bay’s shore in 1986.

Through a series of pipes, the Organ interacts with the waves of the bay, conveying amplified sound to the listeners at several different stations.

The stone used for the construction is salvaged from the demolished Laurel Hill Cemetery. Intriguing and at the same time creepy.

My heart sank as I walk slowly closer to the edge because (as it often does) what I read, and therefore expect, is not really what I’m seeing, or more accurately this time: hearing.

I thought that about ten meters away, provided it was high tide due to a couple of days’ rain, the place would be a raging orchestra.

I expected loud nature symphonies. But here I am standing at its very center, hearing nothing. Was it on mute? Is there a power button that would turn it on?

The sky is surprisingly brilliant blue despite the forecast that it’s going to be cloudy. Looking past the jetty, I saw the Alcatraz island at a distance in all its grand solitude.

Looking around will give you the sights of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay hills further across the waters, Sausalito, Mt. Tamalpais, the Presidio, and part of the Marin Headlands.

Its like a detached solemn part of the city where you can observe all those beauties from a distance. The picturesque view makes up for the lack of music, I justified.

Golden Gate bridge stood in its usual elegance.

I breathe in a few more minutes of solace. Then just when I’m about to leave, I notice this child in his bright blue jacket bending over one of the protruded pipes with one ear pressed forcefully on the hole.

He has been there for quite a while now. Then he suddenly moved as if something had caught him surprisingly. That’s when he looked back (probably looking for his parents) where I met his eyes. Realizing his parents were not anywhere close, he runs up one of the stairs and went out of my sight. What was it? Was he perhaps able to hear something?

Then I thought maybe, I’ll give it a shot one more time. I pressed my ear again cautiously on one of the pipe’s holes,
a little scared that sand or water comes out of it.

I still hear nothing except the murmurs of other people around and the gust of wind that’s blowing swiftly on my head.

But this time, I was eager and more patient. About thirty seconds later, I think I just hear some low rumbling sounds. I kept my focus on listening. Wasn’t sure anymore how long my ear had been in there, but somehow, I’m hearing louder sounds.

There were soft gurgling sounds that ebb and flow with the movement of the ocean as it follows the changing of the tides. It’s like a giant conch with endless sound varieties from muffled drums and cymbals to hints of sea lions’ barks.

I can hear resonations, rumblings and wheezing as the wave laps at the lower ends of the pipes. It feels like a symphony of land and sea when the waves slap on the little rocks beneath.

Complex yet easy. Imposing and hypnotic. It demands to be heard.

Reaching the climax of the musical, I can sense the mysterious hands of waves begin to ebb, as if momentarily receding to gain that momentum for the final ending note.

Then slowly I can hear a very subtle sound different from all others before it. Very unique I’m in awe that such waves have the ability to create this sound.

Slowly, the tempo rises and its getting louder until it turns to a very distinguishable sound. Something I have heard before. The volume rises a little more and very clearly, it now resembles a… bark. And yes, as I look over my shoulder, there’s a big dog (unleashed) running towards the jetty. And oh that explains it…

I tried to press my ear some more, but could not hear anything anymore. Just faint, low unidentifiable sounds.

The dog in a distance enjoys this solemn haven as well.

I sat for some more minutes pondering on what I have just gained on my explorer’s bag. That few minutes felt like when an extremely reserve person opens up to you and share his secret worlds.

I remember my morning mantra earlier. The disappointment I felt when barely a meter away from the musical structure, I hear nothing. Then I remember vividly how I watched the child’s reaction. That moment that leads me to this. The switch of the mute button to volume.

Heading back to Presidio facing the golden gate bridge

Sometimes, we’re simply just not impressed. We’re too disappointed to give it a try.

But as I made my way to countless trips to different places, I came to believe that each place (with literal musical instrument or not) emits their own sound. That unique song that will make the memory of the place linger on you. But in order to hear it, you must first be willing to listen.

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Grand Canyon – Not your ordinary ‘hole in the ground’

Fifteen minutes before call time, I am standing (and freezing) at the intersection where the tour bus would pick me up. My mind is too occupied to be bothered by the cold in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning in mid-December Las Vegas. In fact, I haven’t even slept enough the night before.

I am contemplating with this solo trip I am taking and how in few hours, I will finally set foot on one of my dream destinations. (The kind that you put on your bucket list.)

One by one, tourists from different countries fill the bus as the energetic driver, who also serves as the tour guide, gives enthusiastic remarks and historical facts to his half-asleep audience.

Picturesque view on the way to the Grand canyon

After about five hours of travel and a lunch buffet, we finally arrived at the Grand Canyon Mather point.

This lookout point along the south rim generously gives a view of almost a quarter of the entire Grand Canyon.

Then we head to Bright Angel Lodge and Lookout studio.

What looks like an old ruins of a building is actually a souvenir shop that provides a dramatic stage for the grand canyon backdrop.

After snapping photos at almost all angles I could possibly make from where I stood, I took about thirty more minutes there.

With my phone and go pro with monopods all sealed in my bag, I just stood there in silence. Absorbing every minute of wonder the mighty Grand Canyon had graciously showed me.

I almost felt meditating just by looking at its vastness. I am almost falling into a trance when a ranting teenage girl snaps me back.

Clearly, the girl’s grumpy look screamed that she had been forcefully dragged into the family trip. She was telling her mom ‘Look mom, my friends were right. There’s nothing in here. It’s just a hole in the ground!’

I tried to ignore the remark, but it echoed in my head. Are we looking at the same thing? She’s almost standing right next to me and yet we’re completely seeing two different views.

Had I gone all the way here to just see a hole in the ground? Am I seeing it this way because I have pre-programmed my mind to do so?

All those facts I have researched such as it being part of the seven natural wonders and that around 5 million people visit the grand canyon each year, then it must be ‘something’ kind of thinking?

Well, I tried to look at it from her perspective.

So, I close my eyes for about a minute clearing my mind in the process and try to look at ‘it’ as it is.

Now, I am looking at a vast multi-colored layers of rocks extending up to where my sight could reach and beyond.

Then, take away the fact that this natural landscape was a few million year process of erosion, plateau uplift and God-knows-what-else natural phenomenon.

Put aside the dramatic flow of the Colorado river which about 20 million years ago, decided to carve the canyon and cut deeper as the plateau uplifts.

Who cares about the nearly 40 major rock layers representing different strata with the oldest rock dating to up to 2 billion years. All pushed up and exposed to the public’s view in colors that are maybe yet to be discovered in canvas.

Lastly, take away my bias to nature’s beauty and damn it! She’s actually right. It’s just a usual gorge. A massive hole in the ground! But why am I crying in awe?

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Enchanted river + Tinuy-an Falls

Day 2 – Enchanted RiverTinuy-an Falls

Enchanted River


From the unique hues of unusual colors to its unexplored depths, this river is living up to its name: Enchanting. Shades of aquamarine to dark blue were reflected on its crystal clear waters as if guiding the visitors of its shallow to deepest parts. Distinctively colored and outlined fishes that inhabits the body of water also adds to the mystique.

This deep spring river can be found in Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur, between the boundaries of Barangay Talisay and Cambatong. The water coming from an unknown source flows into Philippine sea and the Pacific ocean.

We avail one cottage for 150php. While lunch had been pre-ordered from the stalls on the entrance. Foods were delivered exactly noontime at our cottage.


At exactly 12 noon, the caretaker rings a bell signalling that the ‘feeding’ of fishes is about to start. Everyone must stay out of the water during this period. Schools of fish from out of nowhere appears in the surface (competing for food) much to the delight of the onlookers.


Tinuy-an Falls

A humble raft awaits the visitors for a chance of getting into the fall’s cascades.

We head next to Barangay Borboanan in Bislig City to marvel at Tinuy-an’s beauty.

Tinuy-an is a three layered falls stunning enough to be considered as Philippines’ little Niagara falls. The area is surrounded with tall trees coupled with lush vegetation that makes it a sight to behold.

The second tier is the tallest and the most viewed and photographed among the three falls. We ride a makeshift raft towards the cascades. We stayed there for a while and get, well, wet.


Uppermost layer of the three-tiered falls

We had a little trek to the uppermost tier. The height is short, not even half of the one below it, but the cascades’ pressure is intense enough for a hard back massage.


Locals said that everyday around 9am to 11am, a rainbow is formed on the lower falls which gives a majestic view. We arrived in the afternoon, so unfortunately we were not able to witness the phenomenon (and probably the chance to dig our pot of gold?)

Before resting our pressure-from-falls battled body, we decided to pass by the international doll house. On the way is the Bislig City Baywalk where we spent a couple of worthy minutes for I-LOVE-BISLIG poses.

Sidetrips: Bislig City Baywalk and International Doll house/Ocean View Park


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Sidetrips: Bislig City Baywalk and International Doll House/Ocean View Park

After witnessing the elegant cascades of Tinuy-an falls and be mystified by the enchanted river, we can say that Surigao is undoubtedly on the upper-hand when it comes to nature’s blessings.

Yet, aside from the surreal beauty of its water forms, an unlikely attraction has found its home on this humble province; the International Doll house.

I was quite skeptical at first on including this on the itinerary, but since the entrance fee is very cheap (20php per head), I just put it in like a filler – ah, not bad. But it turns out, this is not your ordinary “doll house” and in fact, this is one of my most enjoyed destination in Surigao!

The International Doll House and the adjacent Ocean View Park Restaurant both sit atop a hill in Barangay Cumawas, Bislig City.

Getting there is quite a workout! You have to survive 257 steps to reach the top where a small and fancy pink house awaits.



And we’re here. Exhausted but smiling 🙂

Both the dollhouse and the restaurant were owned by the Switzerland-based couple Werner and Ruelaine Williman. Mrs Willman began collecting her treasures in 1980.

The brother of Ruelaine greeted us as we enter and guided us inside the premise. One must enter in barefoot (so as to maintain cleanliness) in the air-conditioned room that housed the dolls.

On the receiving area, before the gallery, there’s a 3D wallpaper previously owned by Universal Studios and was bought by the couple through an auction.

Dolls of different sizes, characters and fashion style surrounds the small gallery behind glasses. The dolls were of finest quality (and the prices were crazy!).

The golden babushka doll set is said to be of hundreds of thousands to a million peso worth. Sounds grand!

The owner bought majority of the display overseas from all corners of the world. Hairs of some dolls were taken from well known personalities like Princess Diana of Wales (woah!),  Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson (if that’s not impressive, I don’t know what else is)

Real jewels adorned some of the dolls and the clothings were made of fine fabrics.

They also sell souvenir dolls from Switzerland for 150php. All the profit, including the entrance goes to charity.

The inner kid in me is indeed happy 🙂

Few feet away from the doll house is the Ocean Park View restaurant. It offers good view and great food!


We also had fun wandering around the Bislig Bay Walk where a huge sign I-<3-BISLIG stood with an overview of the Pacific.



Go back to Day 2 – Enchanted River and Tinuy-an Falls

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