Category Archives: Domestic Travel

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.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lakawonisland/

Share me 🙂

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).

Itinerary/budget:

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.

Share me 🙂

Enchanted river + Tinuy-an Falls

Day 2 – Enchanted RiverTinuy-an Falls


Enchanted River

img_4948

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.

13901430_10210096431034154_4693224219893206359_n

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.

img_4952

Tinuy-an Falls

tinuy-an1
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.

13901541_10210257864313159_5645969069264398957_n

13895066_10210257864153155_2661836731773512890_n
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.

img_4958

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

 

Share me 🙂

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.

 

 

13912663_1264990866858641_1312404418854307137_n
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.

img_5041
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!).

13882471_10210096395553267_7367076481785600_n
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.

souvenir-doll-from-switxerland
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.

14409153_1283936504971971_120432306_n

 

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

Share me 🙂

Butuan Sidetrips

As part of our Mindanao trip, we visit the Magellan’s anchorage, National Museum and Balangay site, probably because it’s on our way to Britania Island or our tour driver just wants us to experience these must-see Surigao landmarks.

13769356_10210081513061214_3028643320388751160_n
(c) janette padilla. There is no entrance fee to the museum since July 1, 2016.

First stop is the Butuan National Museum which is very suited to kick-off our Surigao adventures. A little background on the beauty that is about to unfold before us.

An introduction of the province that was very well explained by the most dedicated curator I have ever met. (Never got the chance to get the lady’s name or maybe I forgot :p , but one thing I would always remember is her commitment to her chosen profession.)

The scenic view outside the gallery (inside the compound) provides great background for photo souvenir 🙂

We also stopped by a small monument depicting few people on a boat ready to anchor in Barangay Masao/Masawa.

img_4586
Lower the anchor!

This place supposedly served as a short stop for Magellan’s expedition before heading out to Cebu, hence the name Magellan’s anchorage. Though other historians argue that the Masawa is actually the present day Limasawa – and not this tiny portion of Butuan.

We head next to the Balangay Boat Building site located in Luna Compound, Brgy. Bading, Butuan City. The site displays a huge balangay replica held above a pedestal emphasizing its size.

img_4874
With the gang doing a trick shot (or maybe something of that sort…)

It is surrounded by tall acacia trees and the gigantic replica rest alongside the Agusan river.

13754550_1262732443751150_4174697914568838738_n

The mention of Agusan river brings to mind Lolong (yes, the crocodile). That largest saltwater crocodile in the world (ever caught and measured) was captured in Agusan Marsh, a protected area found at the heart of this river.

We spent quite sometime spying on the vastness that is in front of us. Being the third largest river basin on the country, who knows what creature might lurking just around the corner 🙂

Back to Day 1 – Britania Island Hopping

 

Share me 🙂

Day 1 – Britania Island Hopping

Sidetrips Butuan National Museum and Balangay Boat Building Site.:

Britania Island hopping in 1.5 minutes.

All smiles at the Butuan airport as we wait for kuya Bong – we hired a driver (and his van :p) that will tour us around for five days as per our itinerary. This spared us all the hassles and uncertainty of public transportation.

If you’re the kind that would enjoy submerging yourself into the local life, then you might want to do a DIY and experience their local rides like habal-habal. I bet this would work for a small group. In our case, we’re like a dozen peeps and it’s hard to do public transportation in large group – that is if you want to reach the place altogether at the same time.

Our driver also serves as a tour guide, father figure and a friend at the same time, so it was a good bargain after all.

13645079_10209818630052761_8520113756947395743_n
Always on the road…

The road flows in a sweeping meander as we head to La Entrada where we would spend our first two nights. Our driver’s  love for speed adds thrill (and serious threat) to our road trip. (I never took to heart the ‘hold on to your seat’ thing until this ride)  We avail the resort’s Britania island hopping tour for 1,500php. The tour lasts 3 -4 hours.

13754287_1262731987084529_533073473782424988_n
Had lunch on our way to La Entrada on this seafood haven which  boast of some water view of its own.

13880284_1262731850417876_2856656165836883203_n

13631569_1262893283735066_5457287382775451172_n
© Joms Suarez Jose. Our “floating” rooms stood in solitude surrounded with mangroves.

La Entrada Resort is located in San Agustin, Surigao del sur.

Walking the pathway that leads to our boat is in itself a wonderful sight.

 

Conveniently located close to each other, the group of islands collectively known as Britania offers view comparable to that of Calaguas and the feel of fine white sands of Boracay.

We hopped through Naked, Boslon, Hagonoy and Hiyor-hiyoran islands.

13879369_1263305243693870_4584416255824587658_n
Our boat is large enough for our group and is quite festive 🙂

 

Naked Island – Do not overthink too much as to where the name came from. On the boat, more than 100 meters away from the island, you’ll see why. It’s just a narrow line of (almost) white sand. Nothing else. As if an island had been stripped of trees, plants and rocks up to its barest form. Hence, Naked.

13681085_1263305350360526_9116165486802151971_n
N.A.K.E.D

Naked Island (roundabout) video.

Hagonoy and Hiyor-Hiyoran – I can’t even distinguish which is which for both the islands were characterized with lined palm trees, arranged tables and small stalls selling refreshments. Hagonoy’s water was clear blue and the sand’s very fine. While Hiyor-hiyoran’s a little bit dark due to seaweeds underneath (which makes it not really comfortable to swim). That’s the only distinction that comes to mind.

Boslon Island – We spend most of our time here. It has a striking boulder with a statue of Virgin Mary and a white cross. It has a small tunnel where you can cross and circumnavigate the island – which we did.

The water’s clear and the sand’s white and fine. The kind that is very friendly to our feet. Our leisure comes to halt when we are called by the boatmen telling us that we need to go since the weather’s approaching a not so fair state.

Back to our resting place (La Entrada resort), we freshen up and tried their cuisine. Waiting time is too long that is it advisable to order before you go on the tour and tell them when you’re having dinner so they can prepare when you arrive. Anyway, the wait proves to be worth it as we enjoyed every dish we order.

We ended the day playing cards (exploding kittens) until our eyes voluntarily close. A perfect (and unconventional) wrap to our day 1 escapade.

DCIM100GOPRO
DCIM100GOPRO

 

Share me 🙂

Sagada Madness

Months after the much related and talked about top “hugot” movie of the year, we gave in to the craze. The movie is all about a woman taking attempts on finding out the answer to the question “Where do broken hearts go”.

The plot anchors on the seemingly unrealistic strangers turn travel buddies: made up of a girl who doesn’t want to go home yet and be alone with her thoughts plus a guy who is just willing to come along. Of all places she chose Baguio which later on leads them to Sagada. Then came the momentous climax where she blurted out her heartaches throwing yells from the cliff where they stand. Hoping the sea of clouds stretching to the horizon in front of her would absorb the sorrow and take away her pain all together.

Suddenly lots of people want to travel all the way up to Sagada to do the same thing (or maybe at least see the spot where the scene exactly happened). Being just normal people who at one point or another experience a related heartbreaking experience, my friends and I decided to take this “hugot” trip.

So, is Sagada really the place where “broken hearts go”? If yes, why? Does it transform us? Does it take away the pain? Well, just like in the movie, going places does not actually answer those questions. But it somewhat gives a hint that what’s important is you are not staying on the same ground. That wherever it takes you as long as you’re moving on then maybe, just maybe, you will end up just fine.

Doing the tour with friends rather than a prospect partner does not rip away the Sagada essence. Because who says you always have to find a romantic solution for being heartbroken?

Sometimes, like in that movie, you just need someone who will continue the song you are so choke-up-with-tears to finish. It’s that simple, unpretentious yet ecstatic feeling of having somebody to keep the song going. And who else could have hit those notes the way you started it? That is, not hitting any notes at all.  -Your closest friends I guess.

IMG_3100 “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

So here comes the journey: We are able to book a 3 days/2nights package tour (10 pax) scheduled in May. Our trip also consists of side tours to Baguio, Banawe and Benguet. (See itinerary and budget below.)

Day1

We took our first stop on the municipality of Banawe, province of Ifugao. At the entrance point (an ark with imprints “Welcome to Banaue” stood), we just load off the van and took mandatory selfie and groufie shots.

After the 8-hr night travel, Banaue welcomes its weary visitors.
After the 8-hr night travel, Banaue welcomes its weary visitors.
We made it on time! 6am May 8,2015
We made it on time! 6am May 8,2015

IMG_3138

IMG_3137

Next, we head to the famous Banaue Rice terraces. The view is so familiar as it is always depicted on postcards, charts and books since elementary. However, it is still a sight to behold and being just a few meters away from the celebrated stairway of fields is still far amazing and captivating than seeing it on prints.

IMG_3144 IMG_3143 IMG_2934 IMG_2937

IMG_3032

IMG_3148

We checked-in at Sagada Homestay Inn.

Arrived by 11am just right for Lunch Time
Arrived by 11am just right for Lunch Time
View from our inn
View from our inn

First activity commenced early afternoon after we settled our things and consumed our lunch. First stop is in the Burial Cave.

IMG_3020 IMG_3023 IMG_3276 IMG_3293

We take the Sumaguing-Lumiang cave connection that costs us additional 450php. The cave connection took us 5 hours as we treat every turns a photo opportunity.

One of the higher part of the cave which serves as a platform looking down on a vast arena.
One of the higher part of the cave which serves as a platform looking down on a vast arena.
As expected at 2500 feet underground, it is pitch black. The guide is carrying a lamp and each of us had headlights on.
As expected at 2500 feet underground, the place is pitch black. The guide carried lamp and each of us had headlights on.
This rapel is one good photo op
This rapel is one good photo op
Sumaguing cave boast of its big chambers and notable rock formations.
Sumaguing cave boast of its big chambers and notable rock formations.
At some point, you have to fit on very small holes and irregular entrances to get on the caves multiple chambers
At some point, you have to fit on very small holes and irregular entrances to get on the caves multiple chambers

IMG_3175 IMG_3155

Most of the time, the guides serves as human foot holds on this spelunking adventure.
Most of the time, the guides serve as human foot holds on this spelunking adventure.

Before heading back on our inn to rest we stroll around for a food-tripping experience. We tried the lemon pie house as well as the yoghurt house.

Tried Yoghurt House best seller banana, Granola Strawberry preserves. Also tried the famous Sagada Pinikpikan dish
Tried Yoghurt House best seller banana, Granola Strawberry preserves. Also tried the famous Sagada Pinikpikan dish

Day2 Everyone is energized for the next early morning Bomod-Ok trek.

Crossing fields on the way to Bomod-Ok Falls
Crossing fields on the way to Bomod-Ok Falls

IMG_3129

IMG_3321

Bomod-Ok falls
Bomod-Ok falls
Water from the falls gives you a freezing feeling you have to stay close to get warm.
Water from the falls gives you a freezing feeling you have to stay close to get warm.

We took the opportunity to have a ride on top of a jeepney on our way back to the jump-off.

IMG_3313 IMG_3314 IMG_3131 - Copy

Before heading to the Echo Valley we already passed by Sagada weaving (closed on that day) and Orange farm (off-season). So we were not able to enjoy both attractions. Next activity is a little trek to the Echo Valley, where we passed by St. Mary’s church and Santo Campo cemetery. A little side story on this; our tour guide encourages us to shout to experience why it was called the “echo valley”. So my friend belted out “Walang forever!” (Forever doesn’t exist!). We are expecting the exact words to bounce back when a simultaneous yell “Wag kang bitter” answered us from the other side of the hill. Then comes the laughter and the exchange of “hugot” remarks such as “maghihiwalay din kayo” among others.

On our way to echo Valley and hanging Coffins
On our way to echo Valley and hanging Coffins

The tour guide lectures a little history about the ancient customs and the practice behind the hanging coffins. At some point, you can actually see the skeletons inside of the wooden casket.

IMG_3133

We stayed a little more to accept the challenge offered on the way back; the rock climb. The activity costs 400php per person worthy of unlimited climb. My companions participated. I declined. (I was not prepared because it was not part of the itinerary and I wore a loose lacy short.) Because of this, we missed the pottery stop.

IMG_3316 IMG_3319 IMG_3324
 IMG_3208Learned a lot about Sagada and neighbouring province customs from our next stop; the Ganduyan museum. Here we paid a somewhat “mandatory” donation of 25php. The owner explains later on that since the museum was not yet subsidized by the government, their family single-handedly runs the maintenance of the place. So they need some help through donations. The amount we pay anyway is very much worthy of the knowledge the dedicated curator was able to deliver. (Picture taking inside is not allowed.)

By around six o’clock, we’re already back at the inn. After dinner, we stroll around the area and some have already bought Sagada shirts and souvenirs. As we are already leaving the next morning for our side trip to Benguet and Baguio, we decided to orchestrate a little bonfire session. Three questions were to be answered by each one of us. Being with the hype that time, these three questions were all “hugot” queries. Some even got emotional and cried. And finally, by around past 11 pm, we acknowledged the fatigue our body had and reward ourselves with some rest before we leave by 5am the next day.

IMG_3098

IMG_3200

Day3

We are so excited heading to Kiltepan viewpoint as we drove before dawn. We are racing with sunrise. Then, as if being mocked by the valleys, we arrived there with no trace of the sun at all. What we saw were equally disappointed groups of tourists. The weather has been cloudy that it blocks anything from the sky. It breaks our already broken heart. (hugot!)

IMG_3199 IMG_3228 IMG_3230

Then goes the side trips: first on the highest point of Philippines highway system (Atok, Benguet) then to the summer capital Baguio City.

IMG_3235IMG_3236

Atok, Benguet
Atok, Benguet

11244926_1001379179886479_8333353471525426829_n 11061236_972313702803007_9041373907020385389_n 11209373_10206619844841672_4783815465718175533_n 11259694_10207002350725144_3607047523591350937_n

And that ends the trip. Is it worth it? Sure it was. We’ve come a very long way because we measure journey by friends rather than miles 🙂

Itinerary: (3d/2n Sagada tour with side trips on Banaue/Benguet/Baguio)

DAY – 0

09:00pm – Assembly (Mc Donalds North Ave. in front of Tri Noma Mall)

09:30pm – ETD to Sagada

DAY – 1

06:00am – ETA Banaue /Breakfast (on pax own acct.)

Banaue Town Banaue Rice Terraces View Point Sagada Town

12:00nn – Check-in / Lunch (On Pax Account)

Lumiang Cave / Burial Cave & Sumaguing Cave, or Caves Connection

06:00pm – Back to hotel / Dinner (On Pax Account)

DAY – 2

07:00am – Wakeup Call/Breakfast (on pax own acct.)

08:00am – Bomod-Ok Falls Trek Swimming (optional)

11:30am – Lunch (On Pax Account)

Orange Farm, Sagada Weaving, Pottery,

Ganduyan Museum St. Mary’s Church,

Campo Santo(Cemetery), Echo Valley & Hanging Coffins

05:00pm – Back to Hotel 06:00pm – Dinner (On Pax Account)

DAY – 3

05:30am – Optional Kiltepan View Point Sunrise Viewing/ Check Out/Breakfast ( on pax own acct.)

08:00am – ETD to Baguio Highest Point (Philippine Highway System) Atok, Benguet

12:30pm – ETA La Trinidad Benguet Lunch (On Pax Account)

Strawberry Farm Souvenir and Pasalubong Hunting

Burnham Park and Swan Lake (Baguio)

Kennon Road View

Point Lion’s Head

03:30pm – ETD to Manila

07:00pm- Dinner (On Pax Account)

09:00pm- ETA Manila

Package Agency: N.E.C tours

Budget:

Package Cost: 2850

Sumaguing-Lumiang Caves: 435

Souvenirs:

Shirt: 150

others: 100

Pasalubong: 500

Foods: 900(est 150php/meal)*

Total: 4935php/person

*We bring our own grocery consisting of breads, cup noodles etc for our breakfasts so I only consider 6 meals instead of 9.

Share me 🙂