Tag Archives: travel

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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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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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.

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.

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


© 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.

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.


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.



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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.)


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



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.

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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.

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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

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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



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.

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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.


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.

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 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.




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!)

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


Atok, Benguet
Atok, Benguet

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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


Package Cost: 2850

Sumaguing-Lumiang Caves: 435


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.

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The Mountain’s Call

There are all kinds of Mountains in the world but never the same mountain twice.

From the famous qoute of Sir Fitzgerald(tweak up a bit), this, I know by heart to be true.

Dati pare-parehas lang tingin ko sa mga bundok. Lahat mataas, lahat malayo, masukal, maraming hayop, delikado, in short, “hinde masaya”.

(Before, I thought mountains were all the same. All were high, remote, home of wild animals, dangerous, in short, “not fun” at all.)

But not unless you make that first step up the mountain slope and not until you take your first life-risking shot up on the summit will you understand, the unspeakable joy mountain hiking has to offer.

The more I hike, the more I prove that each mountain is unique. Like different teacher on different classes giving different lessons. In two months this year, I had climb four mountains and each has generously imparted to me unique learnings. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all - Helen Keller

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

Mt Maranat – Bulacan. – Stamina is sometimes more important than strength. That he who can endure is better than he who is strong.

The mountain is characterized by an 8-hr hike breath-taking(literally) unpredictable trail. This is my first ever hiking experience and that’s what makes it more special. Up to date, no other mountain has caused me so much fatigue than this one.

Mt Maculot, Batangas -Take Chances. Nothing is 100% definite until it’s done.

Here I miss my suppose to be first summit and traverse. After the rockies, we should be heading to the summit (where the view is actually by far average than the view from the Rockies). The tourguide notify us that the traverse path will be closed for that day. So i opted to just wait on the campsite while they continue on the summit. And once there, woah! change of restrictions, traverse is now open. While going down the same path, I was full of what ifs and could have been. And the regret I carried down is heavier than the force of gravity I had to endure going up.

Mt Daraitan, Rizal -Travel light. Excess baggage can drag you down.

My longest hike yet. My first overnight at the jungle. Truly,  how heavy an object is, depends on how long long you would carry it. Even a bottle of water becomes unbearable if carried all day. Are you dragging extra baggage with you? Let it go.

Mt Arayat, Pampanga -The universe is wider than your views of it.

My highest peak so far. Standing at an elevation of 1030 MASL with unobstructed view of central Luzon plains, I saw how vast the world in front of me is. And how small I am. A humbling experience indeed.

(Will post on each hike experience separately.)

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