Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, May 19, 2019

SOCCSKSARGEN Region : A Morning at GenSan's Fish Port Complex

Initially, I wasn't keen on joining my friends for an early morning trip to the fish port, a popular attraction in the country's tuna capital, GenSan. Due to lack of information, I had misjudged the place to  be a big tourist trap, chaotic, wet and smelly. Admittedly, I was wrong and I'm thankful I was swayed to join them. 

General Santos Fish Port in Barangay Tambler covers 32 hectares and is the Philippines' second largest fish port, next to the one in Navotas. (See traveller reviews on Trip Advisor here.)

That morning, we were up before the sun lit up the sky. Fortunately, our hotel, Square Suites, was willing to serve breakfast earlier than usual (Book here). By 5:00 AM, we were out trying to hail a tricycle to the fish port complex (if I remember correctly, we paid around 200 Pesos for 4 people). It's about 25 KM away from the hotel and by  6:00 AM, we were at the gate. We registered and left one  ID for the entire group. Then we hitched a ride to the office to rent boots and jogging pants since I didn't have any clean ones left after our hike up Mt Apo. (Tip: Bring your own socks to wear inside the boots. If you forgot, there are socks on sale for 20 Pesos.). 
With Adela and Zul at the Gen San Fish Port. Photo by Edgar | eazytraveler.net
The port was a short walk from the office. At the sight of water, I was immediately drawn to the seaside. Though it was crowded with fishing boats, its water was attractive and clear, an enlivening view. 

Just across the boats is the area where the main action was - batches of tuna displayed on tables, people walking around carrying fish on their backs, half the size of their bodies.  I noticed some carrying a long, thin metal rod which I later learned is called a sashibo,  a tool used by tuna graders to determine the value of a fish. It's plunged into the  core of the tuna to extract a portion of its flesh. Its color, fat and texture determines its price.

The most exciting thing was witnessing the bidding where people shouted maniacally to get the best ones. The energy was as electrifying as watching the finals of a football game. As quickly as the mania began, the bidding ended. People plastered stickers on the fishes, names of the businesses that won the bid.

We took a few more photos around the port. We were careful and made sure to stay out of the way of the people who were actually working. In less than an hour, we were ready to go and we stopped by the office to return the boots and pants and buy souvenirs (they sell unmarked canned tuna, shirts and magnets at reasonable prices).
With Ed of EAZYTRAVELER.net,  newfound friends from Malaysia - Adela  of Gaya Travel and Zul in
our mandatory ensemble of pants and white boots. :P (Photo fr Ed)
Much as this was a fun and exciting experience, it brings to mind, a conversation I had with a vegan friend who shared with me the issue of depleting tuna population as a result of exploitative fishing practices. If we can't avoid tuna, we can help by being mindful of supporting brands that adopt sustainable fishing methods. For awareness, here are some articles on this issues  : Jamie Oliver.com : Is Eating Tuna Sustainable and *MSC : Buy Sustainable Seafood. *MSC or Marine Stewardhip Council is a non-profit organization that believes that "everyone can play a part in protecting the future of our oceans and fish stocks, while enjoying seafood, not avoiding it."

Travel Notes:
Be respectful and keep out of the workers' way. Be mindful when taking pictures as you might accidentally get hit by workers carrying large fishes.  

Saranggani Highlands is a good stop to have a snack  or breakfast after. You can take a tricycle to the main highway and get off at the junction and hire a motorbike. 

Other places of interest : You can drop by GenSan after your hike at Mt. Matutum, a volcano with a beautiful forest in Tupi, South Cotabato. Blog post here.

Where to Stay in GenSan:
We spent two nights at Square Suites which is right along the highway. Rooms are clean and beds are comfy. The bathroom could be improved as the tiles are getting yellowish. Overall, with its friendly staff, cold aircon and good beds, I'd stay here again. (Rate : Triple Room at 1500++.) More details here.

This post is part of a series about our travel around SOCKSARGEN region, an acronym of the provinces and city that comprises Region XII. It stands for South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos (Gen San) city.  We have collaborated with the local tourism unit to help share the beauty of this region and encourage fellow travellers to visit SOX next. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Visiting the Borobudur Temple Compounds

Considered a must when visiting the region of Yogyakarta is Borobudur temple. Built in the 8-9th century AD, this Buddhist temple in Magelang City is a glorious structure, made up of 3 tiers surrounded by stupas. Its base has 5 square terraces, topped by 3 circular platforms and then 1 huge stupa at the top, a total of 9 floors, covering an area of 2,500 sqm.

Going around, you will find detailed stone carvings  on the walls, a depiction of Javanese culture and Buddhist doctrine (Source: Lonely Planet), but what I found most fascinating is how it was built by hands and kept intact by interlocking stones! To a playful mind, it's like walking inside a giant lego structure. 
Waiting for the sun at Borobudur temple
A volcanic eruption has kept it buried under volcanic ash, until it was rediscovered in 1815. With the efforts of the government together with UNESCO, it was restored to its grandiose state.  Along with two other smaller temples, Mendut and Pawon, it's collectively known as Borobudur Temple Compounds and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

From Plataran Heritage Borobudur, the temple is a short, 15 minute ride (this is a good and very comfortable option when visiting Borobodur temple) and by 4:00 AM, we had reached the temple grounds so we could secure a good spot to watch the sunrise.

Located in Kedu valley, Borobudur temple offers a good vantage of nearby hills and volcanoes, making sunrise or sunset watching a popular activity.  Another good thing when visiting at these times is to avoid the heat. The weather in Yogyakarta is typically humid, like being in a Philippine beach in summer, minus the breeze. There aren't any shades within the temple and it can get really uncomfortable when the sun's out. 

Being a popular site, the temple gets a lot of visitors even on a week day, but it's quite enormous  and one can still find a quiet spot to sit down and enjoy the enigmatic view of misty mountain peaks.   

Helpful post : Out of Town blog | 23 Tourist Attractions and Best Things to do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Though the sun playfully stayed hidden under the clouds,  it was still was wonderful experience walking around the temple with our delightful guide Denny sharing some information. 

Since it was still quite early, wtook a calesa and made our way to Andhong Village to visit the temples of Pawon and Mendut. On a slower pace, we were able to look around and if not for the signages in Bahasa, it looked like a typical scenery in a progressive Philippine province.
Quick stop at Pawon temple
Apart from Pawon and Mendut temple, the Andhong Village tour involves a stop at some local establishments producing local delicacies and The Original Pawon which is a bed and breakfast that produces civet coffee or what is commonly known as kopi luwak. 

By 9:00 AM, we were back at Plataran Borobudur, enjoying the huge buffet spread. :)

Helpful post : Drowning Equilibriums | Yogyakarta, Indonesia 4 Day Travel Guide

How to get to Yogyakarta
There are no direct flights to Yogyakarta from Manila but you can take a plane to Jakarta, then take a train from Gambir station. Travel time via train is 8 hours but there are comfortable options available. Cebu Pacific has flights to Jakarta.

While Boroboudur temple can be a DIY trip, to avail of the sunrise or sunset tours, you'll have to book with Manohara Resort. Below are the details from their website : 
Rates : 
Foreigner Visitor : IDR 475.000 per person
Domestic Visitor / KITAS : IDR 350.000 per person
Children Price :
Foreigner Visitor : IDR 250.000 per person (6 to 10 years old)
Domestic Visitor / KITAS : IDR 185.000 per person (6 to 10 years old)
** Children under 6 years old free of charge
Inclusions : 
Entrance to Borobudur Temple from 4.30am (before public open time).

Notes :
Ticket counter open starting from 4.00am
There is no limitation for the number of Borobudur Sunrise visitor.
Everyone could purchase the ticket directly without a reservation.
Copy of passport is required for Borobudur Sunrise registration, you have to bring it when purchasing the ticket.

Contact details :
Website : Manohara Resort

Where to Stay near Borobudur Temple
a view of the pool from my room at Plataran Heritage Borobudur
Plataran, an Indonesia hospitality group that aims to promote local heritage by incorporating it in their resort interiors and services has three resorts in the area.  We stayed at Plataran Heritage Borobudur - which I find quite solo traveler friendly since its closer to town. If looking for a romantic destination or traveling with a family, I'd recommend Villa Borobudur Resort and Plataran Borobudur Resort & Spa. For more info on rates, please visit their website here.

Tips :  
- Dress code applies when visiting Borobudur temple. No shorts/skirts above the knees. You will be asked to wear a sarong if you forgot to wear appropriate clothing. Slippers/sandals are allowed but note that you will be climbing flights of stairs. 

- Yogyakarta can get really uncomfortably hot and humid, even for someone born and raised in the tropics like me.  If visiting mid day, bring water, cap, umbrella or a fan. 

- Note that you will be doing some walking and climbing stairs made of stone, with some parts uneven so wear adequate footwear. (I wore an open toe sandals from a Filipino brand called Suelas and it was really comfy - was not paid to say that BTW :))

For more information of places to visit around Indonesia, check out the informative 
Ministry Tourism of Indonesia site

Related post : 
Traveling from Jakarta to Yogyakarta on PT KA's Priority Train.

Note : This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific through their PR agency, Stratworks and the Ministry Tourism of Indonesia.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Experiencing PT KA's Priority Train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta

The region of Yogyakarta is the jump-off to popular attractions, Borobudur and Prambanan temples. One of the most convenient though lengthy way to get there is by taking the train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. The  8-hour journey maybe long but once you get to the countryside, you can enjoy an enlivening scenery of vast farmlands and mountains. 

Related Post : Visiting the Borobudur Temple Compounds

The PT Kereta Api Wisata's (KA) Priority train are private carriages attached towards the back of the train. It's open to tour groups who reserve the entire cart and is similar to the one taken by the president and his staff  when traveling to other provinces.

From Hotel Aryaduta, where we spent the night,  we headed to Gambir station, one of the major stations in Central Jakarta. Since the hotel's only 1.1 KM away, we got to the station  quite early for the 8:30 AM trip.  While waiting for the train, we stayed at the VIP lounge where there's free flowing coffee and water.
All smiles before boarding the train, my longest train ride to date!
(Photo from Nuri/Rizky)
Though I normally prefer solo trips, this being my first trip to Indonesia, I'm thankful that someone else organized eveything. On this fam trip to Yogyakarta, I joined fellow bloggers, Gretchen, Melo & Aisa, Michelle from Cebu Pacific, Ailene and Zarah from Stratworks, Gama from the Indonesian embassy in Manila, our wonderful  hosts in Indonesia who have really cool Instagram feeds - Nuri, Rizky and madam.
Inside the Priority Train to Yogyakarta 
Going in, we were warmly welcomed by two well-dressed staff. They look so polished in their navy blue uniforms, it felt like I was taking a private plane. 

After stowing our luggage in another room, we quickly  got acquainted to what was going to be our nest for the long travel to Yogyakarta. The elegant main room, which had two long couches on opposite sides and snacks on the side tables looks like a hotel lobby.
Mini theatre
Aside from having a swanky mini theatre, there's a bigger, 52-inch tv in the main area. Here, you can enjoy some movies or sing your heart out with the videoke.  

Our carriage had no individual seats, making it very tricky to take a nap. What kept me preoccupied throughout the course of the trip, was chatting and laughing away with blogger friends and of course - the complimentary food! There were snacks everywhere on the train, along with endless cups of coffee, tea or juice. A delicious, warm lunch was also served, buffet stye. 

I also sneaked in some social media time through our Flytpack which offered good wifi connection during our trip.
refreshing views on our way to Yogyakarta

(Travel Tip if your traveling solo:  Discover Your Indonesia offers a very helpful blog post on traveling from Jakarta to Indonesia by train.)

At the dining area of our carriage
A spacious bathroom, perhaps, quite bigger than your average train bathroom is also in the car, making the experience more comfortable.

After 8 hours, with all these conveniences onboard, we arrived with our sanities intact at Yogyakarta, where we explored several temples, resorts and ruins. I'll be positing about that next. :) 

Travel Tip : 
- Indonesia has type C sockets.  Bring a travel adaptor to charge your gadgets. If you, forgot, you can try asking the hotel reception or make use of the USB slots on the television and just keep it on standby mode. It takes a bit of effort to locate the slot but at least you can charge. Hehe!

- Indonesia's currency is Rupiah (IDR), where 1 USD is 14,555.16 IDR. The conversion can be dizzying, so downloading an app that you can use offline to check conversion rates is helpful. My friend Gretchen  recommended XE Currency and I found it quite useful when we shopped for souvenirs. 

Accommodation in Jakarta : 
Hotel Aryaduta Jakarta is a 4-star hotel, located 1.1 KM from Gambir station, where we took a train to Yogyakarta.  You can book it here, through Agoda.

Note : This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific through their PR agency, Stratworks and the Ministry Tourism of Indonesia. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hiking at Masungi Georeserve's Legacy Trail

I've been busy adjusting to a new job that I'm unable to hike as frequently as before (I used to hike 1-2 times a month), so I was really happy when my friend Celine invited me, to visit a new trail in Rizal. We were also joined by two other friends, Kara and Ferdz, giving us a chance to catch up! :) 

Our group was led by Ann Dumanglas, an inspiring, young lady (I feel old saying that, haha!) and one of the family members behind Masungi Georeserve. Opened in June, the Legacy Trail offers a moderately challenging approach to enjoying the mountain scenery of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Easy to  reach from Manila, it makes a convenient escape from the city. Commuting from Cubao only took 1.5 hours on an early Saturday morning. 
This was near the start of the trail, a nice warm-up on a steep set of stairs that got me sweating instantly :P
The hike starts at KM 46 of Marcos Highway, just a few minutes from the Masungi Georeserve gate at KM 47. From here, it's a  sweaty stair climb up! 

Though I prefer walking on natural trails as it's less stressful to the knees, having an established concrete path prevents hikers from creating new ones, a more sustainable option for highly visited trails. 
Passing by this nice bamboo tree area near the jump-off. 
The route goes around a reforestation site, a section denuded by logging and kaingin activities. With the enormous efforts by the Masungi Georeserve team, the forest has started to come alive again with new plants and trees.  We were surrounded with fresh life and once again, nature had given me some energy that I didn't have going into this hike. I had finished work so late the night before that I only managed an hour of sleep. My heart was beating pretty fast so I really took it slow. 

The Masungi team built some nice rest areas along the way, incorporating it wonderfully with nature. As we were also  joined by the Ann Dumanglas, one of the 
Celine Reyes of Celineism and hubby, Dennis Murillo, XOXO
After two hours of hiking, we reached the tree planting site and this is where we understood how the trail got its name.  By planting more trees and nurturing it, the Legacy trail is a gift of our current generation to the next. :)  

We were oriented on how to properly plant the seedlings to increase its charge of survival. There's a lot of effort involved - removing the surrounding weeds to ensure the plant receives enough nutrients, digging up the soil and putting it all back. Two seedlings under the sun and I was tired. I admire the people who take care of the entire site. It's a tough but valiant job.

After tree planting, we headed to the best part of the trip - an outdoor lunch and siesta at the floating huts! 
Photo from Ferdz of ironwulf.net

Here's some travel info if you want to hike and help in their reforestation efforts : 
To book a slot, go to the Masungi Georeserve website here.
Trail group is 7-14 people. 
Fee is 1,000 Pesos/head, inclusive of guide, set lunch (Notes: To minimize garbage, bringing of outside food apart from trail snacks is not allowed. Bring your own water and change of clothes.)

Masungi Georeserve
Garden Cottages, Kilometer 47 Marcos Highway, 
Baras, Rizal, Philippines, 1970 
E-mail Address: trail@masungigeoreserve.com 
Contact Numbers: +63 (929) 13 23 531, +63 (995) 186 99 11 

(Available from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Mondays - Saturdays)

Related Blog:
Ironwulf | Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail: Into the Heart of Conservation

Masungi Georeserve also offers a unique experience on night hiking. Check out : 
EAZYTraveler | 7 Amazing Reasons to Experience Masungi Georeserve's Night Trail

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Got 24 Hours in Angeles City? Here’s Your Itinerary for an Amazing Time

Museo Ning Angeles, once the town hall of Angeles City, showcases the city's
cultural heritage. Photo by Judgefloro,  Public Domain
With a population of 400,000 people and rising as of 2015, Angeles City certainly qualifies as a large urban city. Compared with the huge metros of the Philippines like Quezon City and Manila, this jewel of the Central Luzon region looks downright quaint. Amid Angeles City’s diverse history and modern urbanization, you’ll find a blend of hard working, friendly citizens and rich culture. Here, enchanting history, delicious food, beautiful hotels and exciting nightlife await behind every turn.

Let’s pretend you have 24 hours to spend in Angeles City, which is plenty of time to absorb many of the local greatest hits. What exactly do you do? Let’s take a leisurely stroll and see what this city has to offer.

Historic and Cultural Sites and Outdoor Parks
Museo Ning Angeles
If you’re looking for a taste of local history, this small museum with its knowledgeable staff members features dioramas and exhibits showing the rich history of the area and culture of Angeleños. Nestled in the Sto. Rosario Historic District, Museo Ning Angeles was erected in 1922 and is the former town hall of Angeles City.

Clark Parade Park
Searching for that outdoor park that offers everything for everyone in your party? Look no further than Clark Parade Park. This large park offers cycling, running, and soccer to name a few activities. Your family can visit the playground, have a relaxing picnic, and you can even access WiFi. Better yet hide the phone and computer and enjoy the beautiful day minus technology.

Nayong Pilipino Clark
A unique, budget-friendly theme park stretching over 45 acres, Nayong Pilipino Clark offers walking tours, entertaining theatrical productions, and very friendly and accommodating staff. Filipino culture is the undisputable star here with distinct areas representing the country’s various regions. From Cordillera Central to Tagalog to Visayas, visitors will appreciate the opportunity to immerse in the diversity of the Philippines.

The Best in Hospitality and Entertainment
Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy
Sisig, a traditional Filipino pork dish, is a standout star at Mila's Tokwa't Baboy
Looking for the soul of Angeles City on a plate? You may just find it here. Some might consider this small restaurant with minimal parking a turn off. But if you can get past the front door, you will find an irresistibly comfortable eatery great for families with kids, groups, and everyone in between. There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor seating here, so pick your ideal table and get ready to eat! At Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy, you will get a taste of what some consider the best sisig, barbecue tocino, and pako salad around.

High Society Nightclub
After you’ve enjoyed a busy day exploring Angeles City and eating to your heart’s content, you may be seeking some exciting nightlife. High Society Nightclub has a spacious feel and party atmosphere. The drinks are also top quality without being overly expensive, but nothing beats the music, which is always bumping. If you’re the high-adrenaline party type who loves trendy beats, High Society Nightclub has you covered.

Casino Filipino - Angeles
Another nightlife option to consider is visiting one of the casinos in Angeles City or surrounding area. Casino Filipino - Angeles on Mc Arthur Highway is a stunning architectural building on the outside and an inviting, modern Vegas-style casino on the inside. Mingle with locals and tourists alike in a fun, lively atmosphere that stretches to three different floors of interactive games. You may even wish to brush up on your knowledge of blackjack, the rules of the French little wheel that govern roulette, or craps strategies before you travel to Angeles.

Queens Hotel Angeles City
When you are done listening to those amazing tunes and it’s time to call it a night or morning, you will need a great place to rest your tired body. Enter Queens Hotel Angeles City. This casual, reasonably priced hotel offers a rooftop bar with city view and an outdoor pool. It’s also an easy 3-minute walk from popular Fields Avenue and the entertainment district, making this hotel the perfect hub for your exploration of Angeles City.

When visiting Angeles City, day and night entertainment abounds and these suggestions are just a tiny taste of what this unique city has to offer. You might decide you’re not ready to leave after spending 24 hours here and extend your stay. Whenever you decide to leave, you’re guaranteed to do so with lots of memories and a fondness for the culture and beauty of Angeles City - a truly under appreciated gem.

Note : The above article was contributed by one of the site's guest writers. If you have any concerns about this post, please send an email to tine.fernandez@gmail.com. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mt. Mamara (Tanay, Rizal)

With numerous mountain trails offering dramatic views, the province of Rizal is a  convenient option for Manila-based hikers looking for a one day adventure. Hikers can decide on a whim and plan a hike in minutes just by doing a quick Google search, just like we did. 
Marky, Me and Ferdz at Mt. Mamara
Joined by blogger friends, Ferdz (Ironwulf.net) and Marky (Nomadic Experiences), I returned to  Brgy. Daraitan, in the municipality of Tanay to visit a smaller peak, Mt. Mamara. Sharing the same starting point as Mt. Daraitan, the more popular peak, it was opened as an alternate hiking destination when Mt. Daraitan reaches its maximum visitors of 300/day. 

While Mt. Mamara has a shorter trail than Mt. Daraitan and considerably much easier, taking less than two hours to reach its peak, the views are just as rewarding. A free standing mountain in the middle of a beautiful landscape, it serves as an excellent vantage point for Tinipak river and the mountains around it. 
crossing Tinipak river to get to the main trail
It was already late in the morning when we reached the jump-off, around past 9AM but being foodies, we were lured by signages of "lomi", a thick noodle soup usually found in Batangas. Stopping at a sari-sari store, we enjoyed a second breakfast. 

It was already very humid when we began our hike, passing a wide open trail along Tinipak river. Fortunately, it only took about 30 minutes to get to the mountain's entrance where we were shielded by trees. Our chatty guide then dropped an interesting trivia. The mountain's name was derived from the word, "maramara", which means windy.  True enough, we began to feel some breeze, providing comfort to a hot hike.
Some very interesting flowers on the forest floor. Would love to know its name!
While I won't say the trail is a walk in the park, its length is short and on the challenging sections, there are tree trunks & roots to hold on to.On our way up, we stopped several times to marvel at insects and plants. We really just took it slow, enjoying the scenery that we don't often see. In less than 2 hours, we reached its summit.  Our guide shared another cool trivia, the mountain itself is in Siniloan, Laguna with an access via Rizal. We just crossed another province!

At a height of approximately 387 MASL, the scenery is impressive - jagged rock formations with a backdrop of Tinipak river and nearby mountains -  close enough that you can see the outline of a sea of trees. Going down, we traversed to another section of the mountain, exiting the side of Tinipak river, toward its infamous rock formations - smooth, white boulders by the river. 

The river's water is so clear, you can see your feet under. It's a refreshing sidetrip after a hot hike and worthwhile even as a main destination. 

Going back to the jump-off, we stopped for a late lunch in another barangay and we were surprised to find out that we were already in General Nakar, Quezon, our third province for the day.  Even more surprising were the fees we had to pay just to pass this area. Going here, we had paid just to cross the wooden foot bridge (about 5-10 Pesos/head). The fees are minimal but from a traveler's perspective, it would be more convenient if both provinces could align their efforts and just have visitors pay a fee that covers everything. 

From General Nakar, we continued to a trail beside the river where we took a tricycle back to Barangay Daraitain, stopping for a few minutes to shower at Manalo's place. 

Though hiking requires physical effort, it's emotionally refreshing and there's nothing else that gives the same feeling as spending time with nature. It's even better when you're with friends or family! :)

For travel information on Mt. Mamara, visit my friend's blog, Ironwulf | Crossing Boundaries for Mt. Mamara

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mt. Banahaw De Tayabas

By the time I had finished work, I only had an hour left to rest, shower and finish packing. Such is hiking life these days as I returned to corporate world after a 7 month break. Always rushing, often lacking sleep for an early hike the next day. It's tiring but I'm very thankful for the energy and wonderful hiking companions. :)
Inside the mossy forest of Mt. Banahaw de Tayabas (Photo by Pat of The Green Wayfarer, visit her blog!)
The travel from Manila to the jump-off  in Tayabas was quite fast, around 4 hours with a hired van, passing Sariaya. That didn't really give us enough time to catch on sleep but the hearty pre-hike breakfast at Pat's home was energizing, giving us a happy boost before the challenge.

Before starting our hike, we had a briefing at Barangay Lalo where we were introduced to our guides and porters. By 10:14 AM, we started to make our way to the trailhead. The spotless sky, accompanied by the raging summer heat made us sweat instantly. Fortunately, the trail from start to camp 2 (1,400 MASL) was moderately challenging with plenty of flat sections. 

As most of us didn't get enough rest the day before, we took it easy, taking time to appreciate the scenery and each other's company. There was a lot of banter and laughing, making the fatigue bearable.  

On our way to the campsite, we passed what looked like a fern garden and a section filled with giant pandans. Past this area, we were serenaded by cicadas that made beautiful sounds as we walked deeper in the forest.There were snake sightings too but fortunately, off the main trail. :) 

Finally, after 6 hours of hiking, we reached the campsite, a nice flatland surrounded by tall trees and big enough to fit 15 tents. There's nearby water source too, about 30 minutes away.

On the second day, we hiked 3 more hours to get to the summit, a small area surrounded by foliage. Just a few meters away is a view deck where you can see Banahaw de Lucban, another trail offering views of its forested crater. 
(L-R) Summit with  wonderful company Pat, Gid, Cynthia, Vinci, Me, Niel (in Gray) & Coby (Photo by Kevin Manuel)
The trail to the summit (2085 MASL) is steep and we stopped countless times to catch our breaths, giving us more time to look around and appreciate nature. Fluffy moss growing around tree trunks made the forest appear magical and we felt like kids marveling at it. 

It took another two hours to go back down to the campsite and fortunately, it only started raining as we were nearing it. Water drenched the tent exteriors, making it a bit messy to pack. It's the inconvenient side of adventure that I've grown accustomed to.

From camp, going back to the jump-off was much easier, taking us about 4.5 hours including our refreshing buko break at camp 1. There are wash-up areas at Barangay Lalo but we opted to go to a resort, about 30 minutes away, for a shower and dinner. 

Check out my friend's post of our climb here : Pinoy Mountaineer | Hiking matters #592: Mt. Banahaw de Tayabas, the “other side” of Southern Tagalog’s highest peak 

Important Note: Access to the trail is restricted but possible by securing a PAMB permit from the office of the PASU (Park Superintendent) of Mts. Banahaw & San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Pagbilao. Beware of scammers organizing hikes to Mt. Banahaw.
*PAMB - Protect Area Management Bureau

Thanks to Gid for organizing this!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Canada | Rattray Marsh Trail

It was December when I arrived in Ontario. An unfamiliar coldness, one that shot straight to the bones, overwhelmed me as I got out of the plane. I took it as Canada's comical way of welcoming me, a first time visitor from the tropics. 
Rattray Marshland
Related Post : 4 hour layover in Taipei

I knew it was going to be challenging to be outdoors during this season, but the abundance of hiking trails around the city made it irresistible to squeeze in some quick hikes. 

Rattray Marsh, in the city of Mississauga (pronounced as Missy-sah-guh),  is one of the many trails that can still be accessed during winter. Located inside an enormous conservation area (94 hectares huge!) managed by Credit Valley Conservation Foundation, it is home to hundreds of plant and bird species, as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 

We left the car at Jack Darling Memorial Park. From here, we walked towards Waterfront Trail, a concrete pathway with a nice view of Lake Ontario and continued until we got to the trailhead of Rattray Marsh. 
Lake Ontario from Waterfront Trail. That's Downtown Toronto on the horizon. :) 
At the entrance of Rattray Marsh
The route is quite close to a community that you can see some of the houses beyond the trail. Yet, going farther in, you still get that gratifying feeling of being close to nature.

During this season, the trees are nearly bald, its dead leaves carpeted the forest floor.  Brown, white and grey were the dominant colors in the environment. While  all these make the scenery appear gloomy,  I found beauty in nature's slumber. 

Despite not being maintained during the winter, the boardwalk trail is easy to follow. As long as people stay on the trail, I can't imagine anyone getting lost (Trail map here).

My two brothers may not be as addicted to nature as I am but they enjoyed going around  Rattray Marsh, especially since it was an easy, walk in the park. Me? When it comes to nature, I'm easily amused. 

We reached a section of the river and I spent some time staring at it. It was my first time to see a frozen river. :) 

It didn't take us more than an hour to go around. It was a weekday but we encountered other visitors who were popping in for a quick stroll. Some were even in business clothes, a rare site for me as the Philippine trails are often in remote communities, making it difficult for someone to take a quick break from work just to hit the trail. 

As it started getting too cold for us, we skipped the secondary trail which is 1.8 KM long. We could have gone around and exited in another section of the trail but since we had to go back for the car, we decided to just walk back the same way we came in. 

After our short hike, we enjoyed a late lunch at Watan Kabob, a popular Afghan restaurant in Mississauga offering affordable (10 CAD above) and  sizeable rice meals. It's my fave! 

Resources : 
For more information on the places we visited, check out the following sites,
Jack Darling Memorial Park  (close to Port Credit, a nice part of town with restaurants and cafes)
Rattray Marsh Trail

What I wore? 
I didn't give much fuss of what I wore, just went with the basics. 
- tuk (or beanie)
- scarf
- jacket I'm not a fan of bulky winter jackets so I opted to get a ski jacket from a Columbia outlet store in Toronto (60.45 CAD).  It's material is very light and durable. 
- innerwear. Inside my jacket, I wore Uniqlo Heattech Ultra Warm  which I bought in the Philippines. At the time, temperature went down to -32 to 34 feels and this innerwear proved effective.
- winter socks from Uniqlo (500 Pesos for 2 pairs). I just bought two pairs and bought a couple more when I arrived in Canada. (Tip: Shop at outlet stores to get good prices on winter clothes. Toronto Premium Outlet, Vaughan Mills were some of the nice outlet stores we visited.)
- waterproof hiking shoes from Columbia

Canada Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos
I applied for a Canada tourist visa online and the entire process took 3 weeks. This includes the time I successfully submitted my application online 'til I got my passport back from the courier. Note that timeline may vary depending on your situation.  For tips, please check out, Poor Traveler |Canada Visa Requirements & Application Process for Filipinos. This blog was very helpful guide when I applied for my tourist visa. 

Link to the Visit Canada government website is here. This is also where I got information on the visa requirements. 

How to get to Canada from Manila?
The popular entry points from Manila are the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. 
From Manila to Toronto Pearson airport, I booked a flight through the Traveloka mobile app. Airline is EVA Air (love them!) with a connecting flight in Taipei. 

Return flight back to Manila was via Calgary with a connecting flight at Vancouver airport. This, I booked through a ticketing partner of  Philippine Airlines (TravelPros in SM Mega Mall). Airfare would range around 40,000 Pesos and above for a roundtrip ticket from Manila, depending on point of entry and when flight was booked.  Tip : Check skyscanner for airfare rates. 

Philippine Airlines now has direct flights to Toronto and Vancouver departing from Manila. 

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