a journal on travel and hiking around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

Check out my experience using an Asus ZenFone 2! :)

Hiking 6 peaks over the weekend

Click to read about one of my all-time favorite hiking adventures. :)

Osprey Pack : Nova

My new reliable backpacking buddy

Hiking in Bukidnon

A day hike to Mt. Kitanglad and Dulang-Dulang

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Surviving my first Swim Challenge (Plus Caramoan & Naga Travel Information!)

I've always loved being in the water but it wasn't until 2-3 years ago, in my early 30s, when I started focusing on swimming. Last August 21, I joined an open water swim for the first time! 

Organized by Betsy Medalla (aka Swim Junkie), the Caramoan 10 KM Swim Challenge featured a route around the idyllic Caramoan Peninsula in the province of Camarines Sur. In this event, participants can join a 5KM or 10KM distance. With clusters of islands close to each other, about 1KM-1.5KM apart, it is an ideal venue for an open water event!
My sister on top of a rock formation in Matukad Island, Caramoan
Having limited experience, I opted for the shorter distance, 5KM. In the world of open water swimming, that's actually considered a short swim (I've met some people who regularly swim 4-5 kilometers just for fun!). Those who were up for a tougher challenge joined the 10 KM event, the standard Olympic distance for open water swimming. 

Two days before the swim, I traveled by land to Naga with my brother, sister and cousin, who came along to cheer and explore Caramoan.  We left Manila at around 11:00 PM. With my brother driving, I served as the navigator and that meant being awake the entire evening. By the time we arrived in Naga, after 10 hours on the road, my throat felt scratchy, cold began to set in. 
Welcome banner approaching CWC where we claimed our race kits. Seeing this made me
think, "What was I doing here?!".
After picking up my race kit at CamSur Watersports Complex, my family tried wakeboarding. I decided to conserve my energy and just took their photos on the side.  None of them are experienced and it was fun to watch them try to stand on the board. The instructors were quite supportive and gave them helpful tips so they really enjoyed it. It's truly an ideal facility to try wakeboarding for the first time. 

Caramoan was another 3+ hour drive so we decided spend a night in Naga and eat. We're a family of foodies and with plenty of options for a good meal, it's a must visit. 

The next day, my colds got worse. Decolgen helped and I actually felt better when we arrived in Caramoan around noon. After arranging a boat at the resort, I joined my family for island hopping  and to check out the race course. We just had enough time to go around three islands, Lahos, Matukad and Cagbalinad before we had to get back to Gota Beach for the race briefing. 
Underwater scene near Cagbalinad island. Photo was taken a day before the swim challenge when I went
island hopping with my family
I started feeling really crappy right after the briefing - sore, feverish, nauseated. I could barely walk back to our room at the resort. 

I took Bioflu before bed and said my prayers. I knew my family prayed for me too. 

I woke up nervously at 4:00 AM the next day. The fever's gone, I felt better but not entirely well, but I could get up and somehow, that's all I needed to be able to put on my bathing suit and get to the starting line. 

I forced myself to to consume a banana, a pack of energy gel and a bottle of Pocari Sweat and by 5:30 AM, I had gotten my body marked. I was still feeling shitty but when I finally got into the water for a warm-up swim, I felt so much better! 

We were told that August is normally a calm month but not this particular day. Waves that were closer to shore were big and came in fast intervals, the kind of waves where you see people surf!

The swim started around 6:30 AM, just after the buoys were checked again as it had rained hard the night before.   The shore in front of Gota Village Beach Resort served as the start and finish line.  Scared that I might get hit on the face if I start with the crowd, I was one of the last persons who went into the water. About half of the participants had already made a turn to Hunungan Cove when I started. 

The race course for 5KM swimmers. 10KM swimmers would have to do a second loop on the same course.
With the waves and currents working against us, it was a tough start. 1.5 KM later, I arrived to the first hydration stop, a pontoon in the middle of the sea. The next island stop, Lahos, is 1.1 KM away. 

The water going to Lahos island was still a bit choppy and there were parts were I was swimming against the current. It felt like I was hardly moving at all. I got stung by jellyfish numerous times.  The first sting caught me by surprise, like someone piercing your skin with a pin. The pain went away after a few seconds but then I got stung again - and again. Fuck it. :P I focused on moving forward, one stroke at a time. 

Apart from being physically demanding, the swim proved to be a mental challenge as well. A couple of times, thoughts of being attacked by a shark popped in my head but I had to shove it away. Fear increases your heart rate, makes you lose focus and stressed. When you're out there in the sea, you can't really afford to feel afraid. 
Lahos island. This is a nice place to take photos with enormous rock formation as your background
I couldn't see the bottom of the water, in fact, I couldn't see anything else underneath but water. Ironically, I found that easier than seeing fishes and corals. The underwater scenery was colorful - but very distracting, especially for someone like me who gets excited about marine creatures. 

I swam at a very relax pace. At times, I'd swim like a dog because the current was just too strong and it felt easier that way. 

I stopped at Lahos Island very briefly to get a marker and to rehydrate. 

The next island stop is 1.1 KM away at Matukad island. If you stand at the shoreline, you'd see its beach clearly and it seemed so near but once again, I felt I was swimming against the current and I got off course several times. Sighting is another skill I'm yet to master.
Matukad island
I was excited to reach Matukad island because of two things. According to the race guide, there were  fresh coconuts and Gummy Bears on this island! This was also the point that determined if you can complete the course. Any participant whether from 5K or 10K who is not out of the island after 4.5 hours from the start of the swim, would have to get on the sweeper boat and forfeit the race. I made it just in time. It felt great seeing and talking to  other swimmers, I thought I'd be the last one to finish! 

After stuffing myself with gummy bears and coconut, I joined  fellow swimmers in the water and we pushed each other for the final 1.4 KM swim. 

I was so happy I opted for a 5KM swim. I was feeling very tired and my shoulders were beginning to hurt, like it's about to pop out! 
View when you climb one of the rocky peaks in Matukad.  Just ask your boatman for directions.
From the water, I had a very good view of Gota beach. It seemed so near yet it felt like ages till I got to the finish line. It wasn't until I was a few feet from the shore when I stopped swimming and unlike some of the participants who ran and cheered loudly to the finish line, I felt instantly shy as the attention shifted to me.   I just walked calmly, like I just came from a short, nice dip. Haha! 

Feeling hunger set in, I immediately grabbed a pack of chocolate milk and bottle water from a marshal before actually crossing the finish line. (Priorities! :P) There, along with a dozen other people waiting for their swimmers, was my family, their faces looking equally ecstatic as I was for completing the swim! It's a dream come true!
A fitting finish line photo for a foodie like me! This was the post race meal served boodle fight style.
I  finished a 5KM swim in 3:30:00++ :P. That's slow, but it was enough to get me to the finish line. :) Jessie Lacuna, who finished first in the 10KM distance was able to cross the finish line in 2:30:00++. Awesome! 

My swim, albeit considered a short one felt really good. Months of training, avoiding junk food, getting laughed at for having goggle eyes (the area near my eyes is whiter than the rest of my face making me look like an unusual panda) has paid off!  I wouldn't mind doing it again next year! :) I'm hooked! 

Thank you to everyone who rooted for me! :) 

To God be the Glory!

I'm posting some info below in case you'curious about open water swimming, as well as travel information for those who are planning to visit Caramoan soon. :) 

Naga & Caramoan Travel Information 
Naga City is around 10+ hours from Manila by land travel (70 minutes by plane) and serves as the primary jump-off to Caramoan. It's also a good stop offering a number of worthwhile attractions such as CamSur Watersports Complex, a world-class watersports facility where you can try wakeboarding and other water sports, hike and rappel at Nalalata Falls, trek Engkanto Falls and more. It's also a great place for travelers who love food! (Check out my blog post for tips on where to get good food in Naga here. 

How to Get to/Where to Go around Caramoan? Check out this helpful Caramoan Travel Guide by Travel Up

Where to Stay in Naga & Caramoan?
Below are the places we booked for an overnight stay :
Accommodation in Naga City - Eurotel 
Since there were 4 of us, we availed of a dorm type room  that had two bunk beds  for  a discounted rate of 1,870.68 Pesos/night, booked through Agoda (Click here to book). 

Accommodation in Caramoan  - Island View Lodge and Restaurant
This is a seaside resort and also a starting point for island hopping tours. 
Island View Lodge Rates (as of August 2016)
1,300 Pesos/day -aircon room with private t&b, good for 2 persons
1,800 Pesos/day - aircon room with private t&b, good for 4 persons
Free parking available.
Text to book. Contact Number : +63 919 393 2223 (Mobile Number)
Facebook Page here 

Here are some helpful resources on swimming : 
Swimming Technique 
You Tube : Effortless Swimming 
Blog : Just Add Water

Open Water swimming tips 
Top tips for preparing for open water swimming in the pool
How to Survive Your First Open-Water Swim: 8 Tips for The New Triathlete
Open water swimming tips and training
6 Common Worst Case Scenarios for Open Water Swimmers and How to Avoid Them

Need swim lessons?
If you want to get into swimming, I highly recommend you get a coach. It's so hard to unlearn an incorrect swim stroke! Below are some of the FB page of swim coaches here in the Philippines who can teach swimming for beginners. I haven't taken any classes from them but I often seem them in the pool where I train. Please get in touch with them directly. 
Coach Nur  - http://www.facebook.com/swimnur/ 
Swim Central - http://www.facebook.com/swimcentralph/

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hiking in Cebu : Sirao Peak

From Manila,  I took the second morning flight to Cebu and at past 7AM, I had already made my way out of Mactan International Airport(book flights here).  Normally, my first agenda when arriving at a destination is to eat but after two months of no hiking, I couldn't wait to hit the trails!

There are motorbikes near JY Square in Brgy. Lahug in Metro Cebu and the drivers are pretty familiar with Sirao Peak. As an alternate, you can take a van  to Balamban from the terminal at Ayala Center. I boarded the one flagged by my cab driver who I chatted earlier in  broken Cebuano which I've been trying to learn for the past couple of months (proud moment right there :P).  

Passing the scenic Transcentral highway in Balamban, a steep, winding road that goes around a mountain, the ride to the jump-off turned out to be 30-40 minutes short but very exciting.
Welcome scenery at the trail head.
From the highway, the driver turned to a smaller road and stopped. He started talking again in Cebuano. I only picked up a few words but I understood the directions to the peak. From what I know, it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to get there. The single track trail I followed led to a fork and each trail led to another fork. To avoid getting disoriented, I made it a point to look back every time I passed a fork so I'd remember what it looks like going back. I could still hear the sound of vehicles from the main highway - which in  a way was comforting for a solo hiker. 

After climbing up what appeared to be the highest point, I found the trail that led to the view deck which I totally missed on the way up.  This enormous area considered as the summit campsite offers views of Metro Cebu, Mactan and other mountain peaks.
a view of Metro Cebu and Mactan island  at the summit campsite
After enjoying the fresh air and the view, I went back to the jump-off and walked about 400 meters to Sirao Pictorial Garden & Campsite (Entrance fee : 25 Pesos), the second attraction in the area featuring Celosia flowers. The first one, Celosia Flower Farm is a little farther down the road.
Sirao Pictorial Garden & Campsite
 Manang, the lady at the gate was very friendly and offered me a bouquet of roses for only 50 Pesos! Gah, if only my hotel room had a bathtub, I would have bought it and soaked in rose petals! Hehe!

There was a motorbike just across the garden's entrance which I rode to get back to Lahug. Lunch was at Ding Qua Qua, a Chinese restaurant at the second level of JY Square mall. The waiter recommended that I avail of their buffet so I can save money. I laughed inside. An ala carte meal can cost as little as 150 Pesos which is enough if you're not a hefty eater, while the lunch buffet is at 248 Pesos net. Whatever made him think I won't get satisfied with an ala carte meal? :P Seriously though, I was grateful for the suggestion. Getting an unlimited serving of dimsum  and steamed fried rice pot  (must try!) certainly made up for skipping breakfast!

Travel Info: 
How to get to Cebu 
The quickest way to get to Cebu from Manila is by taking a plane. During airline seat sales, it may even be cheaper than taking a boat. A boat departing from the port in Manila takes 22 hours and costs around 1,400, one way via 2GO. Boat schedule here.

Budget airlines Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and the flag carrier Philippine Airlines flies to Cebu from Manila.  Air Asia departs from T4 in Manila which has been renovated. With its numerous dining establishments, clean restrooms, I find it really nice to fly out of Manila from T4 then take a flight back to Manila via Terminal 3 where there are more cabs (where Cebu Pacific lands).

How to Get to Cebu City from Mactan International Airport the Cheap Way?
If you're not in a hurry and not carrying too much, take a MyBus, a public aircon bus stationed at the arrivals area near the exit gate. Fare is 25 Pesos and drop-off is at SM Cebu. Trip schedules are from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM, with a 30 minute interval in between. Going back to the airport, you can take the same bus from the terminals at SM Cebu or SM Seaside. Waiting time is around 30 minutes. 

How to get to Sirao Peak via Busay
From JY Square Lahug, I rode a motorbike (also called habal-habal) to the jump-off in Busay near Ayala Heights. Fare is 100 Pesos. As of August 2016, there are no registration fees to be paid. Just tell the driver you're going up Sirao Peak. 

There is a longer and more challenging trail via Barangay Budlaan in Talamban, Cebu that passes Kabang Falls that takes 6 hours. Details here.

Related Blogs :
For information on other hiking destinations in Cebu, check out this post from Pinoy Mountaineer. Another helpful site is  Adrenaline Romance, owned by Cebu-based hikers, Sheila and Gian. 

Where to dine after your hike?
Ding Qua Qua
2/F JY Square, Lahug, Cebu 
Lunch Buffet : 11AM-2PM, daily
Dinner Buffet : 6PM-9PM, daily
Price : 248 Pesos net/head. Drinks not included. 

Accommodation in Cebu City 
Cebu R Hotel (Capitol Site, near Robinsons Cybergate)
*I was able to snag a nice room at a cheaper rate (922.05 Pesos/night) which I booked through Agoda, link here

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cebu Pacific Awards Young Travelers in Juan For Fun Backpacker Challenge 2016!

The 5 team finalists for Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge 2016 with their adventure coaches
2009 for me was as memorable and joyful as the smell of warm pancakes and coffee. It was the year I got really hooked to traveling and I was always somewhere else. I haven't made it big, but the primary reason I could afford the frequent travels were due to the numerous seat sales of budget airline, Cebu Pacific.  With all the amazing adventures I experienced and the priceless lessons I learned on the road, I will always be thankful to this airline! :) 

Like any supportive fellow traveler, I was delighted when I learned that Cebu Pacific has been organizing its own travel challenge. Now on its fifth year, the Juan for Fun Backpacker challenge gives  younger people from different universities, a chance to discover what their home country has to offer. 

For seven days, 5 teams explored  and experienced the Philippines following an itinerary they created with a travel allowance of 35,000 Pesos. The challenge alone feels like a prize already!  But you know what's even more amazing? The winning team gets a Travel-All-You-Can pass! Each member of the winning team will be able to book as many free flights as they want to any domestic and international short-haul destinations within one year. They also got to take home gift certificates from Cebu Pacific’s partner brands: Tripologie travel store, Merrel shoes, and Boreas travel bags. 


At the end of the challenge, the student team from La Salle Bacolod, #JFFJUANTeamPH, was declared a winner. The criteria was based on itinerary creation, fun activities, points scored on the challenges and social media posts.Teammates Glenn Layola, Audrey Ramos, and John Ray Blance,  were guided by their adventure coach, TV host and VJ Robi Domingo. The team's  exciting itinerary included Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Surigao, Butuan and Legazpi, Albay. Congratulations everyone! :) 

Placing second was #JFFTeamPura, composed of Marie Tuason, Karlo Carranza, and Samantha Rice. Their itinerary covered Bohol, Cebu, Dumaguete, Siargao, Iloilo, and Davao. Their energetic adventure coach was Bogart the Explorer. 
#JFFTeamPura performing their cheer at the Juan for Fun awarding ceremony
In third place, group of friends #JFFTeamWork,  Serge Calumpong, April Nacion, and Jaysson Presores. Together they explored Laoag, Cebu, Bacolod, and Davao. Their adventure coach was travel writer Jude Bacalso. 
Tied at fourth place was #JFFTeamPablo and #JFFTeamTAG. The former is comprised of Brendan Tangan, Linus Pagulayan, and Cherson Bariuan from St. Paul University Philippines. JFFTeamPablo's  enjoyed  Coron, Camiguin, Iloilo and Cebu. Their adventure coach was Saab Magalona .  

#JFFTeamTAG’s Tricia Quintero, April Baldovino, and Gian Nicdao of University of the Philippines-Manila headed to the country's popular destinations, Boracay, Cebu, Iloilo, and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Their adventure coach was musician Champ Lui Pio, who performed a couple of songs during the awarding. 
#JFFTeamTag in yellow shirts and #JFFTeamTag in pink
Cebu Pacific Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge 2016 has Boreas Gear as the official travel gear, Merrell as the official footwear, and GoPro as the official camera. The challenge is also supported by Wenger and Dan’s, and endorsed by the Department of Tourism and Commission on Higher Education.

Get going and explore more of the Philippines with Cebu Pacific. Revisit the adventures of the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge 2016 teams by visiting www.juanforfun.com. For bookings and information on new and exciting programs, follow Cebu Pacific’s official Facebook and Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) pages. 

(Side story : The cheapest  round trip airfare I've snagged to date was a booking I made in 2009. For a round trip ticket from Manila to Tacloban, my colleagues and I just paid  56.02 Pesos each, all IN!   Since we already had a lot of trips scheduled for that year, we decided to just do a day tour. As though it was just any regular day, we had breakfast in Tacloban and another hearty lunch in Samar. By evening, we were back in Manila to have dinner with our own families. Full story here.) 

Note : All photos used in this post are from Stratworks.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

3 Days of Fun at Amorita, Bohol's Eco-friendly Luxury Resort

Last June, I joined fellow bloggers  for a three day stay at Amorita, a cliffside resort near the stretch of the famed Alona beach of Panglao island. This relaxing trip was exactly what I needed to cap off a physically grueling month -  juggling Saturday games playing in the Corporate Football League  and swim training for the Caramoan Openwater challenge
marine sanctuary at the back of Amorita resort
From Manila, we flew via Air Asia to Tagbilaran, the provincial capital of Bohol. Domestic flights of Air Asia depart from NAIA Terminal 4 and much to the delight of my frequently hungry stomach - has now more options for food and brewed coffee at the departure area (There's Papa John's, Cinnabon, Krispy Kreme, Seattle's Best and more). 
Boarding Air Asia's air bus to Tagbilaran city, Bohol
From Tagbilaran airport, we were picked up by the resort shuttle and we traveled another 30-40 minutes to Panglao island. 

"Honeymoon" suite for one  
Our first day was all about getting oriented with the resort. I stayed in a spacious, 80 sqm one bedroom suite. Its earthy colors - a mix of brown, black white and grey  is relaxing to the eyes while the dim, yellow lighting exuded a romantic and sexy vibe. 
 This photo shows the kitchen, living room and balcony area of my one bedroom suite at Amorita.
To me, it feels like a room fitting for sultry interactions. It was mocking me, a budding spinster. I managed to stand my ground and I truly enjoyed my room. The welcome treats - a basket of fruits and a jar of chocolate cookies (which were heavenly by the way!) helped.  
Here's a collage of the bedroom and the spacious bathroom
It was so quiet inside my room, I could hear my thoughts - which go around in my head like fruits being processed in a blender, it's noisy. :P I decided to put on some music from my phone so I can regain my focus. Thankfully, there's a loudbasstard amplifier in my room. My phone fit perfectly in the slot and music sounded crisp. (My playlist for the entire trip was "Beach Vibes" by Spotify. If you want to listen to it, just search for it on Spotify :)).

During our stay, I managed to try the comfortable king-size bed inside my room and the two day beds outside. What can I say, I love sleep. :)

You really don't need to go out much when you're staying at Amorita. For food, there's Saffron restaurant which serves Boholano and Western dishes and Tomar, a tapas bar. (Tip from one foodie to another : The chocolate milk served at the breakfast buffet is really good, it's like a melted chocolate bar minus the sickeningly sweet taste. Had I discovered it before I consumed three heaping plates of food, I would have skipped the other dishes. :P)
Saffron Restaurant. 
The food at Tomar where we dined on the second night was delightfully memorable. Everything was a harmonious combination of herbs and spices.  Unfortunately, I got overly enthusiastic at eating, I wasn't able to take as much photos as I wanted and I ended with this messy shot  below. While I'm a little embarrassed about that photo, I have no regrets - especially when I think about all the time I spent on actually eating rather than trying to get a good shot. (That said, I have no beef with people who love taking food shots within a reasonable time and I admire those who can take beautiful food shots so effortlessly!)
 One of the many plates of tapas I enjoyed that evening. I am just shameless.
Amorita offers packages inclusive for website and direct bookings: unlimited beverages including standard wines, local beers, and house cocktails from 12 noon to 8PM at Saffron Restaurant, Tomar Bar, and Azotea Lounge, per paid night stay. To book, click here.

If you're into sports and water activities, you can also try volleyball, kayaking, paddleboarding and SCUBA diving. Amorita has its own in-house dive center along Alona beach which is managed by PADI-certified Sea Explorers Philippines.

Amorita has its own access to a protected marine sanctuary that has lots of colorful fishes and corals. It has a narrow shore with a few lounge chairs for sunbathers. I rarely stay put whenever I see water so I decided for a solo swim at 3:00 PM. Seeing that I was swimming alone, one of the supervisors (?) was kind enough to ask the guard watch over me. I was advised to stay close to shore which I obediently followed. What I love about the water here is that you can see the bottom of the sea so it feels less intimidating while the area past the buoys which is off limits anyway,  is where you can find the deeper, bluer section of the water. I swam for a good 40 minutes - shoving thoughts of violent sea creatures attacking me. 
The marine sanctuary at the back of Amorita Resort
Me and my new found friend, Abi from Sting Like Abi tried tandem kayaking on our last day. The use of kayak is free when you're staying at Amorita and it's just a short, 15 minute paddle from Alona beach to the marine sanctuary at the back of the resort. After kayaking, we joined Edgar for some more snorkeling. 

I also love that there's plenty of amenites at Amorita when you're not in the mood to do anything.There's plenty of lounge chairs around - near the rooms and beside the pool area, it's perfect  for someone who prefers to do nothing - which I also enjoy once in a while.  The massage at Sea Tree Spa is also a treat. While you can choose to have it in your room, I opted to enjoy it at the facility itself which is situated just beside the reception area. Its warm decors, friendly staff and most importantly, the massage itself was soothing.  I was totally relieved of  muscle sores. 
Infinity pool beside Saffron Restaurant, offering a  view of the Bohol Sea
Then there's the infinity pool. It looks small when you're staring at it from the pool side but when we did an evening swam, I realized it's not as short as I thought it was, it's probably at least 20 meters long and you should be able to enjoy a good pool work-out. 

Other activities outside the resort include island hopping, snorkeling and dolphin watching. From Alona beach, we rode a boat that took us near Pamilacan island to watch dolphins in their usual playground. I put up a video of the dolphins on my Instagram account. Click here to watch the clip. :) Exuding a carefree character, dolphins feels so amazing to see in the wild. Their movement in the water is contagious, nearly everyone in the group exclaimed when they saw them come out.  
Our boat docking at Balicasag island. 
Balicasag island which can be combined with a trip to Pamilacan is a popular site for diving and snorkeling. The water is azure and you can already find fishes and vibrant corals in the shallow area. Of course, it's also exciting to venture into the deeper section of the ocean which we discovered in the area where we snorkeled. It was a sheer drop, thankfully, the currents weren't  strong.  (More information on diving and snorkeling at Balicasag island at the Sea Explorers website)

Other places of interest near Amorita resort include Alona beach, a 1.5 KM stretch of beach and can be considered as the center of tourist activity in Panglao island. Also a good visit is Bohol Bee Farm. Located just 8.8 KM away from Amorita, it  serves delicious, organic dishes. They also have a store which has souvenirs and farm products (I love their squash muffins and their ice cream!)  For more information on where to go in Bohol, visit their provincial tourism website, here. (Oh BTW, when you pass by Tagbilaran city, please try the food at Garden Cafe, a restaurant that gives employment opportunities to the deaf.:))

Amorita is a Spanish  word which means "My Little Darling". During our stay, the resort, with its amiable staff, classy rooms,  great food and amenities has won me over. What an honor it was to finally meet Bohol's Little Darling! 
Group photo before flying back to Manila with Ms. Kata Agmata of Amorita Resort and fellow bloggers, (L-R) Edgar of  EAZYTraveler, Melo fr Out of Town Blog, Mervin fr Pinoy Adventurista, Me, Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering
and Abi fr Sting Like Abi
(Related Post : In 2010, I went on a kayak trip  in Panglao with Buzzy Budlong. In 2009, he and Singaporean adventurer Khoo Swee Chiow established the first kayak trail in the  Philippines starting from Sarangani to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Post here

Room Rates : PHP 11,607 - one bedroom suite
- Includes daily breakfast, round trip airport or seaport transfers, government tax. Only 50% deposit is taken upon booking. Refundable subject to applicable cancellation policy.
Other room types are available. Visit the Amorita Resort website for more information.

How to get to Amorita Resort?
From Manila, take a flight to Tagbilaran city. From Tagbilaran, travel by van/tricycle/jeep to Panglao island. Ask driver to drop you off at Amorita Resort. 

Amorita guests can be picked up by the resort shuttle from the airport or seaport.

*Air Asia has daily flights to Tagbilaran. For fares and schedules, visit airasia.com.

Amorita Resort
1 Ester A. Lim Drive,Barangay Tawala, Alona Beach
Panglao Island, Bohol
Facebook Page : Amorita Resort
Instagram : @AmoritaResortBohol
Bookings can be done directly through their website, www.amoritaresort.com. You can also get special rates through Agoda. Click here to book.  
Vacation Packages check here.

Trip Advisor reviews here

Manila Office :Landline: +632 856 1443 | 553 9549
Mobile Number:+63 0917 861 9441
Resort's contact numbers : 
Landline: +63 38 502 9002
Mobile: 0917 726 4526

Amorita Resort is not just for vacationers, it is also open to those who need  a venue for a corporate function or a celebration in the family. To inquire, get in touch with the resort directly. 

For discounted rates, check out Agoda.
For details on package rates, email inquiries@one-ofcollection.com 

Amorita Resort is under the One-of Collection, the same company that owns The Funny Lion resort (Coron), Sta. Monica Beach Club (Dumaguete) and  Momo Beach Club (Momo beach, also in Bohol) 

Note : This post is a collaboration with Amorita Resort and Air Asia which just launched its new in-flight merchandise, Sunnies eyewear, find out more  at   11 essentials in my beach bag

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pacsafe Opens Flagship Store in the Philippines!

Pacsafe, a reliable brand providing stylish and secure anti-theft bags and accessories has finally opened its flagship store and it’s right here in the Philippines! Located at the ground floor of Glorietta 5 in Makati city, it carries a wide range of products designed to protect travelers' valuables from theft - from luggage, carry-ons and accessories (camera straps, TSA-approved locks, steel wire mesh, RFID blocking wallets and more!).   
The simple and gorgeous Pacsafe Venturesafe X30,  I WANT THIS!
 Here’s a preview of what they carry in their store.  
Pacsafe's Flagship store in Glorietta 5 (Photo from Nuffnang Philippines)
Picture below shows their Adventure Collection for travelers who are always on the move (ehem!)

Note :Some of the photos were taken with permission from staff when I attended the store launch last July 20, 2016.

My pick : As someone who loves to travel light and go for quick day hikes, I’d choose the Venturesafe X22 or the X30. These are the green and blue backpacks in the photo below.  It has the features which I find fitting for an adventure such as a built-in raincover, slashguards and more. (Full specs are listed on the Pacsafe site. Click here. Venturesafe X22 retails at 6,990 Pesos)

Below is a shot of Pacsafe’s Urban Collection. These are bags designed for everyday use of city dwellers like shoulder bags and sling bags.

For jetsetting travelers who prefer to bring luggages, the Leisure Collection’s for you!

Here are some of the cool safety features of all Pacsafe bags listed on their website:
- lightweight eXomesh slashguards are concealed in the vulnerable areas of the bag. Simply put, some areas of the bag are protected from slashing, offering extra protection from thieves who use the knife as their ammo for stealing.

- RFIDsafe™ blocking pockets and material. The RFID microchip in most passports and credit cards contain personal information that can be stolen and used against you with a device called an RFID reader. Pacsafe bags has pockets that are RFID safe. It blocks all transmissions between 10MHZ-3GHZ which covers the radio frequency used in most e-passports and credit cards.

- Carrysafe slahsguard strap – the bag straps contain a lightweight stainless steel wire 
that prevents snatchers from detaching it from your bag and running off with your belongings

- Puncture resistant ToughZip. Ever seen that video of a luggage that can easily be opened using a ballpoint pen? With Pacsafe, you don’t have to worry about your stuff being pulled out from your bag or have wanted items put in just as easily. 

For a full range of  Pacsafe’s anti theft features, visit their website here

With its stylish and functional design, Pacsafe bags come at a steeper price than regular bags, averaging from 3000-9,000 Pesos for the adventure & urban collection depending on the model – a reasonable amount for the security and priceless peace of mind it provides. You can check out prices by visiting Pacsafe in Glorietta or online at Lazada.

Pacsafe, an advocate of sea turtle conservation
On the brand’s logo, you’ll notice an image of a sea turtle. For Pacsafe, these endangered marine animals represent the bold nature of a global traveler. Sea turtles spent most of their times at sea but travel miles to nest on specific beaches.  According to this post from the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program site, turtles lay their eggs within 5 to 35 miles where they were born or nested in the past.   What an adventure that is! As part of Pacsafe’s commitment to preserving the sea turtles, they launched a Pacsafe Turtle Fund in 2014 which grants funding to sea turtle conservation projects.

As they launched their flagship store, Pacsafe provided a grant to Bataan Peninsula Tourism Council Foundation Inc to rehabilitate the Pawikan Conservation Center in Brgy. Nagbalayong in Morong, Bataan. 
Awarding of Kick-off fund by Pacsafe’s Co-Founder Magnus McGlashan to Bataan Peninsula
Tourism Council Foundation (BPTCFI)  (Photo fr Nuffnang PH)
Travel Tip : A great time to visit the Pawikan Conservation Center  is during the Pawikan Festival, held every last week of November, the highlight of which is the release of the sea turtle hatchlings back into the sea. Curious about what goes on during the Pawikan Festival? Check out my friend’s post here

Where to buy Pacsafe anti-theft bags 
Aside from their flagship store at the ground floor of Glorietta 5, find  authorized retailers by by visiting Pacsafe’s website here

Buying tips : 
- To purchase online or to check the prices of some of their merchandise, visit Lazada
- For sales and promo alerts, like their Facebook Page (PacsafePH),   or follow their Instagram @pacsafeph.

Pacsafe flagship store
Ground Floor, Glorietta 5, Makati City, Philippines

Sunday, July 10, 2016

11 Essentials in my Beach Bag

Even  if summer's long gone, it doesn't mean we forget about the beach - especially when we live in an archipelago like the Philippines surrounded by all these gorgeous beaches! 

Related Read : 30 Best Beaches in the Philippines - According to Travel Bloggers

Just last week - end of June and the start of hot choco season, I traveled to Bohol with fellow bloggers for a relaxing 3 day stay at Amorita Resort.  Built on a limestone cliff, it is one of the first resorts near the stretch of the famed Alona beach of Panglao island and a favored escape for families and honeymooners (the place, with its interiors and layout just screams, "FALL IN LOOOVE NOW!").  That was one of the most relaxing trips I've ever done and it has inspired me to come up with this post. 

*I still ended up going home with a back pain because, well, I can get really restless, tell you about it in another post which I link here once I'm done with it. :P
Cliff view of Alona beach in Panglao, Bohol 
Here's a list of what I normally bring on trips to the beach. If you're not into beaches, you can also use this as  guide on what to give to your  beach loving friends and family. :)

More than just an accessory, it serves as protection for your eyes against the sun's UV rays - too much exposure to which can damage your eyes and cause cataract, so make sure you choose a pair that offers UV protection. (Source : Mayo Clinic).  

Awesome news! Sunnies, a Filipino brand that offers affordable and stylish sunglasses are now available in Philippines Air Asia flight (check out flights for your next beach getaway here). No need to stress out if you forget to pack a pair! There's a catalogue in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Available designs on board were carefully selected to make sure there's a style for everyone. 
My favorite pair of Sunnies.
(I realized I should have worn my sunglasses but I'm not fond of selfies, I love food porn though :P)
If you want to purchase ahead of time, you can check out their list of stores or purchase online through their website, Sunnies Studios.  (I love their kiosk at the Fashion Hall of SM Mega Mall. That's where I bought my first pair of Sunnies. You see, I've always struggled with picking which style would suit the shape of my face which is  a mix of angular and round and the girl at the booth was very accommodating and helped me find a pair which I really love!

P.S. If you're wearing prescription glasses, you can go for transition lenses that darken when exposed to certain types of light so it's like you're wearing sunglasses. Inquire at an optical shop. 

We can all be ambassadors of nature preservation by being  mindful of the products we use.  Sunscreens  that contain ingredients such as paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone can contribute to coral bleaching when it washes off. (Source : National Geographic | Swimmers' Sunscreen Killing Off Coral). Coral bleaching, which is primarily caused by global warming (changes in the water temperature), drives away algae that gives corals its color that may lead to its death. (More info here.) 

*Sunscreen, as opposed to sunblock feels lighter and not visible when applied. 

Looking for a reef-friendly sunscreen? Consider these two brands I've tried. (I'm quite happy with both which is why I'm sharing it to you :)).  First one is Safe Sea. It helps prevent jellyfish stings without being harmful to marine life. I bought one at Watsons, around 500 Pesos for a 125 ML bottle, SPF 50. The bottle's almost empty so I'm now using Human Nature's SafeProtect, another reef-friendly sunscreen which was given to me when I attended a Coastival (post here). It offers both UVA protection & UVB protection and has SPF 30, which blocks 97% of the UVB rays (SPF 50 blocks about 98%).  It's good to my skin too - my skin glows when I'm using it and  it doesn't dry up . (Details where to buy here).   

*More info on Safe Sea here

Tip : Choose products that offers protection from both UVA & UVB radiation. UVA rays causes premature aging while UVB protection causes sunburn and can potentially damage the deeper layer of the skin which can cause cancer. If you're concerned about your skin tone and premature aging, choose the one that offers a maximum PA rating, PA++++ (4 pluses). Human Nature's SafeProtect has PA++++. 

Related reads : 

How to choose the right sunscreen?
Does a higher SPF sunscreen always protect your skin better?

Keep your stuff dry when you go island hopping or engage in water sports like kayaking by putting them inside dry bags or waterproof pouches. These are reusable and if you're using a reliable brand, it lasts for years! Though it can be more expensive than using plastic bags, it's worth the investment. It's more expensive to replace a gadget you know :).  (Price range is 1,000 Pesos above, depending on capacity and the brand) so ask around, utilize social media to get insights from users before buying one. I have a dry bag from Osprey but I have not tried submerging it under the water so I'm unable to vouch for it yet. 

Tip : Reliable dry bag brands (based on friends suggestions) that can be purchased in the Philippines include Sea to Summit (FB page here) & Blood Red

A dry bag saves you from worrying about your stuff  when you go on a water adventure
 (Photo taken at Dumaluan beach in Panglao island, Bohol)
If you don't have a budget for a dry bag yet, you can also put your stuff inside resealable plastic bags (which you can reuse after). Ziploc - I use the one for freezer storage because it looks thicker and is very easy to seal. Some resealable bags are cheap but it's so hard to close it. 

Do you love hanging out by the shore but don't like having sand all over you? Bring a beach blanket! Go for a brand that is sand repellent so you don't contribute to the thinning shoreline. 

If you're looking for a sand repellent  beach blanket, check out Lagu

I have one which I won from a friend's blog giveaway, teehee! I don't just use it for the beach, it has also protected me from cold and light rain (Testimonial : forgot my jacket on a recent rainy trip to Baguio  and I used my beach blanket to shield myself from the rain. No boyfie but Lagu kept me warm.)

Lagu Beach blanket retails at 999 Pesos. It's an awesome gift for yourself and love ones if you ask me! You can buy it in stores or online. Visit Lagu for more details.

Kudos to brands that promote environmental conservation! :) 
P.S. It's also available in Philippines AirAsia flights as part of their inflight merchandise!

As part of my training for an open water swimming event,  I swim thrice a week in a chlorinated pool and about once a month on open water.  While this routine helps me prepare, I noticed my hair is always dry and it has been falling off at an alarming rate. Every time I touch my hair, I end up with several strands between my fingers. Recently, I switched to using a clarifying shampoo from Human Nature that help remove impurities in the hair. It has helped addressed my concern with falling hair (I think using a Strengthening conditioner after greatly helped too). It  also feels lighter and cleaner each time, especially after a two hour swim! 

You can buy it from Robinsons Department store, Robinsons Supermarket and Robinsons Selection. You can also buy it online. Check it out here. (Price : 200 ML - 149.75 Pesos
400 ML - 319.75 Pesos)

I can never ever skip using a conditioner these days now that my hair is extra dry. I'm almost always under the sun and falling hair is a concern, especially since I'm approaching mid 30s.  Reco : Try the strengthening conditioner from Human Nature. I prefer the Cool Peppermint variant - I love the smell of mint and that cooling effect on my scalp. 

I don't like having dry skin because it makes me itch so I make sure I apply one after spending time in the water. Fortunately, I have loads of lotion  given by family and from some blog collaboration, hehe! I'd love to try the all-natural lotion once I finished all these bottles I have. :) (Don't like lotion? Another option is virgin coconut oil from the drugstore.)

Travel Tip : If you're taking a plane and not checking in your luggage, ensure you put all the liquids in 100 ML containers. 

I'm loving my latest pair from Banana Peel's Earth Hour collection. These pretty, nature-inspired design feature glow-in-the-dark straps - I can easily find my slippers in the dark! :). It's made from eco-friendly and non-harmful materials. The print is made from non-toxic paint too. Most importantly, the straps and soles are soft and I can walk far in these. 
Eco-friendly slippers from Banana Peel. 
Banana Peel also offer a line with skid-proof outsoles so you don't easily slip off, perfect if your adventure involves walking on natural trails like waterfalls and rivers. (To buy online or find a branch closest to you, visit  their website here). 

The hiker in me can't seem to go anywhere without bringing a first aid kit. It's a good habit to keep though because you'll never know who might need it. My kit has bandages, medicine for diarrhea, fever, pain reliever and Betadine. (Reminder : Be careful when giving meds as some people are allergic to paracetamol.) Bandages can be used to cover a cut in case you brush up some rocks while swimming. 


Keeping yourself hydrated has a lot of benefits - you think clearly, your skin looks fresh and more! (Tip: Drink before you feel thirsty to avoid getting dehydrated). I usually bring a water bottle with me so I can  drink while traveling and fill it up again at the hotel. If you're also into hiking, best to get one that won't shatter easily. My mind has the tendency to wander and think about random things (Can you relate? Like, you need to brush your teeth and suddenly, you remember a photo of a rainbow cake you saw online and you suddenly decide you have to get one later so you need to rearrange your day just so you can squeeze a quick trip to a cafe!). As a result, I often drop things - including my phone (Samsung S5 is so durable!) which is why a  reliable water bottle is exactly what I need in my life. 

Tip :  Nalgene is a really good brand!  I have not broken any  bottle and I take them everywhere! :P You can buy one from R.O.X., Conquer Outdoor Shop (Robinson's Forum in Mandaluyong). Price depends on the size and model. 

Again, this is another "habit" from hiking. I can't seem to pack my bag without bringing my own trash bag so I can dispose waste properly.  Being an outdoor lover means doing your share in preserving the beauty of nature. For beach trips, I just bring a  small bag where I can put  food wrappers and other rubbish. It was also very useful when I went on trip once and this adorable little girl puked inside the van. :P 

How about you? What's in your beach bag? Please feel free to share! :) 

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