a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bataan : Araw ng Kagitingan 2017

Four months into 2017 and I've already made three visits to Bataan. With a lot of nice trails, good food and its proximity to Manila, it has become an irresistible weekend destination for me.  

On my most recent trip however, I wasn't going for a hike like I usually do, but for an unconventional adventure - a journey back to the past, remembering those who courageously fought for our freedom during World War II. 

Every 9th of April, the Philippines' celebrates Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), formerly Bataan day, honoring those who sacrificed their lives to defend the country's freedom against the Japanese invaders. 

This day of remembrance commemorates three significant events in the country during the war - the Fall of Bataan (April 9, 1942) where thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered and participated in the grueling Bataan Death March;  Fall of Corregidor  (May 6, 1942), the last stronghold  to surrender  against the Japanese invaders and the Battle of Besang Pass (June 14, 1945), a vicious battle won by Filipino warriors that contributed to the surrender of General Yamashita, the leader of the Imperial forces in the Philippines. 

*For more information, please click the link on each event.
The arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte drew excitement from members of Veterans
 Federation of the Philippines
A related celebration recognizing World War II veterans, April 5-11 of every year was declared as Philippine Veterans Week. During this period, activities are held  "to promote, preserve and memorialize the principles, ideals and deeds of the Filipino veterans as a means  to enhance patriotism and love of country, especially among the youth."

In the province of Bataan,  a variety of programs and activities are held celebrating people, honoring those who sacrificed their lives for the country and the people living in the present  - young and old, who are driving progress in the country. 

Read : Filipiknow | 10 Biggest Misconceptions about World War II in the Philippines

In this years commemoration, I witnessed several activities  starting with the Foot Parade,  an event where members of various civil society organizations march the streets, a way of recognizing  their contribution in nation building. It was a humid day but after a wonderful lunch at Angelito's, walking around was exactly what we needed! (more info on where to eat in Bataan here)
members of Knights of Columbus, a global fraternal organization dedicated to "providing charitable services, promoting Catholic education & Catholic public policy positions and actively defending Catholicism"
In the afternoon, we listened to lively and impressive performances by the bands from the Armed Forces of The Philippines Band and the Philippine Airforce. 

The program which was open to everyone was attended by Bataan's key politicians,  Governor Albert Garcia, Congresswoman Geraldine Roman, Mariveles Mayor Ace Concepcion to name a few.  

It was surreal seeing Gilbert Teodoro back on the stage to deliver an inspirational message.The former secretary of national defense, with his eloquence and wit was a popular presidential candidate during the 2010 National elections. Ever charming, he began his speech by apologizing for being a little out of practice as it was his first public appearance after the elections.  In his message, he stressed the importance of protecting our territory and remembering veterans from  World War II and the present day, the soldiers who are fighting the war against terrorism. 
Former National Defense secretary, Gilbert Teodoro
The parade of floats  was another highlight of the program.  A contest participated by the municipalities in Bataan, each float executed a theme related to important events during the war,  with a narrator delivering heartbreaking stories behind each float - the start of the war, how the hospitals were attacked, the violation of women, the horrific details of the death march and the war.   The parade ended on a positive note, an account of the province's achievements, a testament  of how Bataan has risen from the war.
A float by the municipality of Samal portraying the first line of defense in Layac. 
The next day, we headed to Mt. Samat to cover a program attended by veterans groups and their families, political leaders and other civic organizations. During the war,  soldiers retreated to this mountain along with civilians.  Bombed heavily by the Japanese,  the mountain looked like a  giant ball of fire. Today, the foliage around this mountain has grown back and is now a major tourist destination. On its summit stands  an iconic structure, Dambana ng Kagitingan, a 92 meter cross with a viewing gallery built in honor of WWII Filipino and American soldiers. Other attractions include a war museum, colonnade and  scenic views West Philippine sea. 
Colonnade at Mt. Samat
It was a hot morning and though we waited for a few hours before the program started,font-family: "trebuchet ms" , sans-serif;">the energy of the crowd buzzed with excitement s President Duterte announced that he has ordered the release of 6 billion Pesos for the veteran's pension.

His exact words : 
"I’d like to repeat it. I am directing the Department of Budget and Management, DBM, and the Department of National Defense to expedite the early release of the AFP’s retirees pension credentials for fiscal years 2008 to 2013 in the amount of 6,421,000,000."  Read full speech here.

It was indeed cheery news but taking into account that the war was in 1942, the compensation  is long overdue. Nevertheless, the announcement was well received by the audience.    

The Japanese, who have long made amends to what has transpired in the war, also participated in the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan.  This year during the program at Mt. Samat, Japanese ambassador Kazuhide Ishikaw stood on stage, in front of American and Filipino audiences and began his speech with a sincere apology, a gesture I found  noble. Having lived in the Philippines all my life, apologies  from public officials convicted  of crimes are rarely heard (or maybe - it's just not publicized?).

Related Read : Rappler : 9 important facts you should know about the 'Day of Valor'

Kenji Mori, a private citizen from Japan also does his share. This year, he sponsored
the Grandest Pyrotechnics, a  25-minute fireworks display, enjoyed by guests of honor, the people of Bataan and their visitors. He has also donated sound systems to schools and cash prizes to some of the local contests showcasing the talents of Bataan's youth. 

Here's a clip from the performance of Koro Bangkal, a youth choir composed of children from the Aeta community, an indigenous group.

Below's a photo from the performance of Orani, the winning municipality of the drum and lyre competition. 

Read : 7 Reasons Why Bataan Should be your next destination

Here's a video of the highlights. 

This year's Araw ng Kagitingan had been very memorable. For one, it's my first time  to witness the activities up close.  Even more valuable as being able to travel here, I developed a deeper appreciation of our country's past and remain optimistic about the future. Despite the pressing issues in our country, I cannot just throw in the towel. This is the same country where I met kind and sunny people, the land of great singers & talented people, eye-popping landscapes and good food. How can I believe we're hopeless?

Bataan is a good destination at any time. Aside from historical sites,  the province has beaches, biking and hiking trails and the best part, good food.  For travel information, check out my posts  below:
 Where to go | Where to eat | Where to stay

Bataan Tourism 
Office Address : Bataan Provincial Highway, Balanga city

To the Provincial tourism of Bataan, thank you for inviting us! 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Travel Advisory : Cebu Pacific Passengers with flights to Mindanao

Hi all, I'm passing along a travel advisory sent by Cebu Pacific's PR. If you've booked a flight to and from any Cebu Pacific or CebGo destination in Mindanao from May 25-31, 2017 and have concerns traveling on these dates, please read on. For additional questions, please get in touch with Cebu Pacific directly. Contact details are listed below.
Operations of Cebu Pacific in Mindanao remain normal, with no restrictions or limitations imposed on air travel by the authorities.

However, in light of recent situation in Marawi City and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Cebu Pacific and Cebgo strongly advise all its passengers to allot sufficient travel time to get to the airports due to the heightened security measures being implemented. Heavy traffic is also anticipated around the areas as numerous check points are expected to be put up.

Guests flying to and from any Cebu Pacific or Cebgo destination in Mindanao from May 25 to 31, 2017 who are concerned about travelling at this time may opt to rebook their tickets for free within 30 days; or place the cost of the ticket in a travel fund for future use.

For flight rebooking or other concerns, guests are advised to contact the Cebu Pacific hotline at +632 7020-888. They may also message the official Cebu Pacific Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cebupacificair) or Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) accounts.

CEB also reminds its passengers of the following:
·         Remember to bring a valid ID* to be presented during check-in and boarding.
·         Liquids, aerosols, and gels inside a hand-carry bag should be in a container (100 ml or less) and they should be placed in a clear, rese­alable plastic bag.
·         Be conscious in bringing objects with sharp edges (i.e. nail files, nippers, nail cutters, scissors, etc.) as these may not be allowed in your hand-carry baggage
·         If you are bringing gadgets like your laptop, be prepared to take it out for inspection

Mindanao covers region Region IX-XIII and ARMM. Visit Philippine Statistics'Authority site for more info on Philippine provinces. 

The same advisory is posted on Cebu Pacific's site.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Marawi city.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Melbourne

Getting ready for your vacation to another city or country is exciting yet stressful. Since there are plenty of destinations you can choose to spend your time off, you will somewhat have a hard time deciding where to go. However, all you have to do is to pick one where you can truly enjoy and make the most out of your much-awaited break.

In fact, one of the perfect destinations you can loosen up with your family or friends is Melbourne. This lively city is the capital of Victoria. It offers tons of amazing things to all visitors from across the globe. You will be able to witness its breathtaking scenery, taste its outstanding food, visit its awe-inspiring tourist spots, and experience various exhilarating outdoor activities. Absolutely, your trip here will be one for the books.

If you want to explore the entire city, there are available low-priced car rentals in Melbourne airport. You can simply rent a car and roam around this diverse city with your loved ones. You will be more comfortable traveling by hiring a vehicle, so make sure to consider this when in the city.

Listed below are a few reasons why you need to travel to Melbourne:

One of the things that Melbourne takes pride in is arts. It is a place for striking galleries, festivals, museums, exhibitions, and live performances. Art lovers around the world will truly appreciate this city, for there are so many art pieces you can check out. A visit to a museum, gallery, or theatre will get you in awe. Additionally, world-class acts and marvellous displays will make you love the stunning city even more. 

Melbourne is definitely a food paradise. Those who love food so much can visit this vibrant city and witness its gastronomic scene. It boasts an extensive range of restaurants that serve heavenly food that you should not miss while here. With this, include food tripping around the city on your itinerary and create memorable food adventures with your loved ones. Definitely, you won't regret anything by trying out this one.

Shopping Centres
In case you love shopping, Melbourne is a shopping haven. There are a lot of top-of-the-line shopping centres and factory outlets around the city where all shopaholics can enjoy. Everyone visiting here will be tempted to shop and spend, for there are plenty of malls to choose from. You have to get ready your budget or bring extra money when you travel here.

Melbourne is a dazzling city that you should visit at least once in your life. See its natural beauty with your own two eyes and enjoy a wonderful trip with the people you love the most. Your vacation here will truly be worth it and you will have the time of your life as you unwind and witness new things. It will be an adventure of a lifetime and an unforgettable Melbourne experience, so plan your trip here ahead of time and create happy memories. 

NOTE : This is a collaboration post. Melbourne, with its art scene, food (friends say coffee is good too!) and wildlife sanctuaries remains on my bucket list.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Part 2 : Bataan Adventures | Where to Eat in Bataan (Updated 2017)

Being an avid hiker and foodie, I've grown very fond of visiting  Bataan.  This province offers several hiking trails (check my post here) passing verdant forests and nicely decorated cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a proper cup of coffee and affordable comfort food. It is also highly accessible from Manila via land travel, making it a good option for a short but rewarding out of town adventure. 

Here's a list of restaurants in Bataan where you can enjoy satisfying meals. 

The restaurant's name which means little angels (male) was inspired by the owner's 3 young boys, Miguel (after St. Michael), Rafael and Gabriel.This 2 year old family owned restaurant has a homey ambiance and serves any type of food that the family enjoys. 

Dishes are flavorful and priced affordably -100 Pesos above for the main dishes and 20 Pesos above for the desserts. Specialty includes, pork binagoongan and creamy tofu (my fave!). The restroom which has a mini garden is also nice! 
M plus C Building, Tenejero
Orani, Bataan
Contact Number : +63 (047) 237 0743
Facebook Page here
Location map
Related Post : Bataan Tourism | Angelitos 
Notes : Located along a national road, easily reached via tricycle at the town proper

SAVERDE (Abucay)
Located in a side road close to the highway, this home turned restaurant and badminton center offers a memorable plate of beef tapa rice,  marinated beef with rice, nicely enveloped in omelette.  If you like it sweet and savory, you'll enjoy their version of this Pinoy favorite. Another must try is the buttermilk bread. Similar to French toast, the aptly sweet chunky slice of bread is great to be paired with brewed coffee. Price range : 20-75 Pesos. 
Gabon St., Abucay, Bataan
Location Map here
Facebook Page here
Business Hours : MONDAY TO SATURDAY, 3:00pm - 12:00mn
Contact Numbers : +63 (047) 633 5270 | (0906) 458 0230

This restaurant located within the complex of a gas station serves Filipino dishes and its specialty, hot chocolate prepared with batirol, a wooden object used to whisk the hot pot of a melted cacao beans. It also has a souvenir shop where you can buy snacks to bring back to family and friends.  Dishes start at 200 pesos above and local delicacies such as bibingka, suman at 80 Pesos above. Hot chocolate starts at 100 Pesos.  

Choco-Late de Batirol 
Total Gas Station, Roman Super Highway, Alauli, Pilar, Bataan
Location map here
Business Hours : Monday-Sunday 06:00 AM - 11:30 PM
Contact Numbers : +639228882873 / +63 (47) 6331445
Facebook Page here

The restaurant's layout reminds me of a very hip food park with its black walls and wooden tables (perfect for flatlays :P), ideal for young people who want to dine with their friends. Equally pleasing is its food - a fusion of Western and Filipino favorites. Rice meals are at 79 Pesos above. I enjoyed their Sisig rice, nachos and the ribs, their bestseller. I normally don't eat ribs but my seatmate ordered one and it looked so nice, I had  to try it.  

The Food Project
Balagtas, Orion, Bataan
How to get here : (Directions taken from their FB page)

From Central Terminal in Balanga ride a jeepney bound to Orion, when you reach Orion, Shell Gas Station, walk at about 15 to 20 meters going to Orion National Highschool. 
Location map here
Facebook Page here
Business Hours : Tuesday-Sunday, 3:00 PM - 10:00 PM 
Contact Number +63 (04761) 21647
Notes : it's an open-air restaurant and a bit far from the main road. If you're driving, check the location map above for directions

Popular for serving Kapampangan and Filipino dishes. Their buffet is a must try for first timers. The spread features numerous dishes that are characteristically Kapampangan,  satisfyingly full of flavor. From the outside, it looks like your typical eatery by the road and I was surprised to discover that beyond its small doors is a wide dining area that can accommodate big groups with its long wooden tables. Its's also air conditioned and the ventilation is actually nice. Buffet is at 200 Pesos. Ala carte dishes are also available. As this place can get really packed during peak hours, contact them for reservation on the number below. 
Ima's Pamangan
Gov. J.J. Linao AlaUli
Pilar, Bataan
Location map here
Business Hours : Daily at 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Contact Number +63 998 564 0275/+0917-572-4703
Facebook Page here
Note : This is located on the same road going to  Mt. Samat, before the long and winding road up the mountain.

ESPADA GRILL- serves grilled tilapia, pork liempo, chicken bbq/inasal and other Filipino dishes. Try their  Monday buffet, a bang for the buck at 195 PHP/head inclusive of meat, vegetables and seafood, dessert and drinks. 
Price Range : 195 PHP for buffet, every Mondays from 11AM-2PMand 5PM-9PM  
Regular Meals start at 100 PHP. Bundles for those dining with a group are also available. 
Address : National Rd. cor Batungbakal Subdivision, Sta. Rosa, Pilar
Facebook Page : Espada Grill

AMANDA'S - offers Filipino cuisine. Every dish we tried here was delicious! I recommend the pinakbet and practically any meal they have that has tilapia. :P 
Address : Villa Carolina Subd., Puerto Rivas,  Balanga
Facebook Page : Amanda's

MT. TARAK GUESTHOUSE & RESTAURANT - offers a wide selection of fusion meals and solo meals named after different types of adventurers like Hunter's 109 Meals, Backpacker Pork Schnitzel, Excurtionist Pollo Al Jerez, Hiker's Chicken Al Ajillo and more.  Try their specialty, Pollo Iberico Antojo, slow-cooked roasted whole chicken that takes an hour to prepare. 
Price Range : Solo meals start at 109. They also serve dishes for sharing. 
Address : MAAP Road, Brgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan.
Contact Numbers : +63 917 534 28 87 (mobile) or +63 (047) 6121093 (landline)
Facebook Page : Mt. Tarak Guesthouse and Restaurant

This eatery offers Filipino and Vietnamese food. It is named after its owner, Aling Loleng and hutieu, a noodle soup dish. Aling Loleng  is a Filipina who used to work in the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Morong. During her stint at the center, she gained Vietnamese friends who taught her their cuisine. *PRPC operated from 1980-1994 and  hosted refugees coming from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam war. The PRPC served as their homes while the refugees waited for the processing of their papers to resettlement  countries like the United States, Canada and Norway.(Source : Inquirer
Price Range : starts at 50 PHP
Address : Mayor St. Brgy. Binaritan, Morong, Bataan
Business Hours : 7:00 am to 9:00 pm (Monday to Sunday)

This pretty cafe  prides itself in serving gelato that has  "less fat, less sugar, but has more intense flavor than ordinary ice cream". Aside from gelato, they also serve rice meals, sandwiches and pastas. 

Price Range : 200 PHP below for the food and 150 PHP below for the blended drinks
Stregato Gelateria
Stregato Gelateria
Galeria Victoria Mall, Balanga
Facebook Page : Stregato Gelateria
Business Hours : Daily, 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Notes : It is just outside the entrance of Galeria Victoria Mall, near Dunkin Donuts

THE BEANERY (Balanga, Dinalupihan)
A local chain of  cafes that serves tea, coffee and beautifully plated meals. It's Bataan's version of Starbucks but with cozier interiors! This is one of my favorite cafes in the country and I make it a point to visit a branch when I'm in Bataan. 
Price Range : 120 PHP above for the pastas and around 120 PHP above for the coffee
The Beanery
The Beanery Main Branch, Capitol Drive, San Jose, Balanga City
Facebook Page : The Beanery
*There are two branches in Balanga. One is a few blocks across Crown Royale Hotel.

PLAZA BREW (Balanga)
Located right next to  one of the nicest hotels in Bataan, The Plaza, this cafe serves moist cakes and designer donuts. It is cozy yet formal enough to be a venue  for small business meetings. It is a few steps away from Stregato Gelateria and just in front of Plaza Mayor de Balanga. 

The Plaza Brew
J.P. Rizal Street, Balanga
Location map here
Facebook Page here

Note : Business hours and location may change. Please double check with the restaurant before visiting.

Check out this posts by fellow bloggers on other places to eat in Bataan. 
Love Mindanao Deliciously Yours, Bataan
Blissful Bataan by Turista Trails

Related Posts : 
Part 1 : Outdoor Adventures & Other Places to Visit in Bataan  | Part 3 : Where to Stay in Bataan

How to Get to Bataan?
From Manila, take a bus to Balanga, the provincial capital or to Mariveles, the last municipality. From Balanga, there is a central terminal with trips to other municipalities in the province.

The bus company, Bataan Transit has terminals in Avenida (Manila) and Cubao (Quezon City). For contact information and schedules, visit Bataan Transit’s website or their Facebook Page. Tickets can also be booked online through their partner website, Pinoy Travel.

Another reputable bus company plying routes to Balanga and Mariveles is Genesis Transport which has terminals in Cubao and Pasay (closer to both international and domestic airports). For schedules, contact +63 2 709 0803 or visit their Genesis Transport Inc.’s Facebook Page. Travel time to Balanga takes 3 hours depending on traffic while Mariveles is roughly 90 minutes away from Balanga. 

I've also written about Bataan on Looloo, check article here.

Should you need assistance in arranging your trip or getting additional information  to any of the destinations mentioned above, get in touch with the provincial tourism of Bataan.
Bataan Tourism Center (Balanga) - located along the Roman Highway, Bataan's major highway where public bus and vehicles pass by.  It more than just an office,  it's a destination itself, featuring a gallery, landscaped garden and a souvenir shop selling affordable products from Bataan such as bottled fish, shrimp paste, arrowroot cookies, mussel chips, cashew nuts and more!
Email : bataan_tourism@yahoo.com
Contact Number : +63 (047) 237 4785
Facebook Page : Bataan Tourism
Website : 1Bataan

NOTE : This post was made in collaboration with the provincial tourism of Bataan. I've also been visiting the province a lot lately for personal trips and it has become one of my favorite places because of its accessibility from Manila and good food. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Team Building venue : Haranah Eco Park (Tanay, Rizal)

Summer's here, a season where a lot of companies and organizations plan getaways for its employees or members. If you're looking for a venue to hold your team building, conference or seminar near Manila that's close to nature, consider Haranah Eco Park
A wide open space for your activities
Located in Tanay, Rizal, this 16.2 hectare family-owned eco park offers its visitors a expansive venue to unwind while enjoying generous views of the Sierra Madre mountain range. 

With its proximity to the mountains, the weather is cool year-round and gets even colder  at night, a nice contrast from the heat in the lowlands. 
Scenic mountain views from the Bahay Kubo
Getting here takes around 1.5 hours from Quezon City and 2 hours from Manila with moderate traffic.  It passes MARILAQUE (short for Marikina, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon) highway,  a well-paved road offering scenic mountain views and rocky peaks, a reason why it's  frequented by bikers. 
Established friendly hiking trails
Haranah Eco Park offers the perfect venue for its visitors to interact with each other without the modern day distractions. In place of television and radio are nature's sounds. Cellular network connectivity is limited to Smart and Sun users.  It's a good place to disconnect and do some reflection. 

In line with its mission to promote environmental awareness, some of the flowers and trees along the hiking trail have tags containing its common & scientific name, description and region of origin. Being a plant lover, it was nice to just walk around and look at plants and know its name. (Related post : Tree trekking with Haribon)

Other activities you can do here include hiking, mini obstacle course,  bonfire in designated spots, rock balancing, a form of art where rocks are stacked without the use of adhesives or other materials.  You can also bathe in a small natural pool which can be hiked down a  very steep hill. 

For more information on Rock Balancing, visit their Facebook page here.
Trying out rock balancing with my  fellow bloggers Joshua Berida  and Julia who's on assignment for Langyaw.com
Tent accommodation with foam mattresses are offered. You can also bring your own tents but pitching is allowed in designated areas to preserve the beauty of the place. The camping grounds is on a well-tended grassy area close to trees and surrounded with flowering plants. The restrooms and shower area  is also a couple of feet away so no need to worry about going to the toilet in the middle of the night. 

They also have a kitchen you can use but availing of their food service is also a good idea because they serve good food! The multi-purpose hall which also serves as the dining area is an excellent spot to watch the sunset or just stare at the Sierra Madre mountain range. There's also another area in the property where you can witness a beautiful sunrise. 
Breakfast with a view at Haranah Eco Park's multi-purpose hall and dining area
Facilities : 
Solar-powered multi-purpose hall (seating capacity : 200)
Bahay kubo
View deck and lounge (seating capacity : 15)
Conference Hall (seating capacity : 40)
Amphitheater which can be a venue for outdoor lectures
Designated bonfire areas
Geodesic domes for planting herbs and spices
Hiking trail with stone steps 
Admin building & Clinic
Shower hall and restrooms
Basketball court

Currently, Haranah Eco Park is by reservation only and for big groups, a minimum of 40. In April however, they will be accepting  solo  or small groups. You just need to book in advance. Details provided below. 

Day Tour
April 13,14,15,16, 2017
Fee : P1,000
Inclusions :  a day tour with set lunch
For reservations, contact +63(02)376-6645 or +63 (02)411-6567 or send them an email at postmaster@haranahecopark.com.ph. 

Camping with a small group 
Haranah Eco Park now accepts smaller groups with a minimum of 10 persons. 
The rate is 3,200 Pesos inclusive of tent accommodation, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner and bonfire on the first day, then breakfast and morning snack the next day. To book, get in touch with them directly. Contact details are listed below. 

Other places to visit in Tanay?
Calinawan Cave which can be combined with a side trip to Daranak Falls (blog to follow)
Regina RICAa pilgrimage site and a place for contemplation (blog to follow)
Hiking destinations in Tanay by Pinoy Mountaineer
Tanay Travel Guide by Travel Up

Haranah Eco Park
Sitio Mayagay 2, Barangay Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal
Contact Number : +632-376-6645
Email : postmaster@haranahecopark.com.ph
Facebook Page : http://facebook.com/haranahecopark

Note : This trip was in collaboration with the Tourism Promotions Board and Haranah Eco Park, the marketing arm of DOT (Department of Tourism, Philippines). 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Booking a Nice & Budget-Friendly Hotel via the Traveloka App

Most of my travels are short and involve a mountain hike so I’m often dirty and tired (but still all smiles!) at the end of the day.  After an adventure, all I want is to be able to change my clothes and rest somewhere nice, so if I’m spending a night or two away from home, I always, always make it a point to book my accommodation in advance so I could get comfortable rooms at better deals and spend what I saved up on food or perhaps for another trip (but it will be most likely on food. :P).
Traveloka is a fairly new booking site where you can snag cheap flights and hotel bookings. Making it even more easier and convenient for travelers is its app which I recently downloaded. Its clean, highly-responsive and user-friendly interface is delightful. At its homepage, you can easily navigate your away around whether you’re looking for a flight, hotel or just checking out ongoing promos. 

I've recently used the Traveloka App to book a hotel for my next hiking trip in Pangasinan. To find a good deal, I clicked on “ongoing promos.” Fortunately, there was one that was ending on the same day so I took advantage! The deal was for a hotel discount of up to 50% off if I completed a booking within the promo period.

I entered “Pangasinan” at the Destinations and my check-in dates. I blurred out my travel dates in below screenshot but on the app itself, you’ll be able to select and see the dates. 
After clicking the “Search” button, the app immediately led me to all the available properties on my travel dates. The variety of options by which you can sort out the accommodation is really useful. If budget is a concern, you can sort by “Price” (the icon to sort is at the bottom of the page).  Just make sure it’s not too far from where you’re going so you don’t overspend on transportation costs. 
When choosing an accommodation, I always check out the reviews within the app and on other sites  (other blogs, review sites, Facebook pages). On the app, Traveloka shows feedback from the popular travel review site, TripAdvisor.

There are several options located all over Pangasinan, which is an enormous province so I opened up Google maps on my laptop as well to check the proximity of the hotel from my destination. In the end,  I chose Hotel Monde in Dagupan for its excellent location, reviews online and its reasonable price. 

When booking through apps or websites, I only do the actual booking once I’ve made up my mind. This way, I avoid making errors or encountering a website timeout which is an additional hassle since you need to verify if your booking went through. 
After pressing “Select Room”, I was led to another page that showed the price, room details and the cancellation policy. 

 For a stylish private room with shower located near the city center, plus the promo discount, I thought this was a fair deal.

After finalizing my room choice, I provided my contact details. On this page, you can specify whether you’re booking for yourself or for another person. You can also enter your special requests such as a room away from the main road, late check-in, late check-out, etc. You will also see the price at the bottom of the page. After pressing “Continue”I was led to another page where I saw my booking details  again and this makes it easier for you to review and make revisions on your booking before you pay. (Note : Actual travel dates were blurred on below screenshot)
I clicked “Continue” and this led me to the payment page. 

Traveloka App provides you with a variety of payment methods. For convenience, you can pay through credit or debit card. You can also pay at 7 Eleven stores, M Lhuillier, Cebuana Lhuillier and through banks BDO, BPI, Metrobank. BDO, Landbank, UCPB, RCBC and Chinabank. Note that Traveloka gives you a specific timeframe to make a payment and while there are several payment options, some may not be available at the time of your booking. When paying through banks, it is best to do it during their business hours. 

Credit card has always been my preferred payment mode as I can get instant confirmation and it’s more hassle-free for me.  (If you want to check out how payment goes through via bank payment, check out Lakas ng Trip’s Post here)

In below screenshot, you’ll notice a time frame beside each payment method. That is the number of hours/minutes you have to make a payment to secure your booking.
On the next page, I entered my card details. Before paying, I applied the coupon code which I copied from the “Ongoing Promos” section and  gleefully saw the room rate reduced to 50% off. Yay!
I clicked “Pay Now” to finalize my payment. Since I used a credit card enabled with a verification code for online payments, I had to enter the code sent to me which took less than a minute.  After I received confirmation that payment was successful, I received a text right away confirming my booking then after another minute, I received my Traveloka voucher containing my booking details along with a receipt. 

In a matter of minutes, I was able to book a room through Traveloka’s user-friendly app. My stay will be in May and I will update this post to tell you how it went.:) 

Check out my posts on hiking here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review : Supremo 4K Action Camera for the Everyday Adventurer

I'm always out on a hike and for convenience sake, I use my phone to take photos and videos. However, I’m not comfortable bring it out all the time especially when there’s water involved such as river trekking, canyoneering or kayaking. 
Supremo 4K action camera
Thankfully, Supremo Philippines sent me their latest action camera to try, the Supremo 4K which can take 4K videos and quality photos up to 16MP. When put inside its waterproof casing, you can bring it underwater up to 30 meters, so that's around 98 feet. That's deep enough to enable you to take shots while snorkeling as most spots are close to the reef. 

It came in a nice box and packed with an overwhelming number of accessories which you can use to attach or mount the camera depending on your adventure. 

Here’s a list of what you’ll get along with the Supremo 4K camera :
Supremo wrist remote, Waterproof case + replacement backdoor, Frame, Quick Release buckle, J-hook buckle, 360-degrees rotating swivel arm, 3-way pivot arm + thumb screws, Lock bolt, Flat mount, Curved mount, Clip mount, Handlebar mount, Safety tether, Straps, 3M Adhesives, Rechargeable batteries (you get 2 for each unit!). Wall charger, USB Cable and User manual

Technical Specs : (Skip  this part if you're like me who's not quite keen on the technical specs. To be honest, the only thing I was interested in was knowing how deep I could use it underwater, hehe!) 
Lens angle - 170 degrees, 7G A+ FIsheye Super Wide Angle Lends
Screen - 2.0" LCD screen (960*240)
Video - 4K at 24fps, 2.7K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps video quality
Photo - 16MP (20MPx interpolated/14MP/12MP/10MP/8MP/5MP JPEG
Battery - 1000mAh, 3.7V lithium battery
Waterproof - maximum at 30 meters
Ports - HDMI Mini (Type D) and USB 2.0 ports 
Memory Card - 4GB to 32GB Micro SD Card (sold separately)
Diving Mode - Red light compensation function in diving mode 

Supremo has its own app which can turn your mobile phone or tablet into a remote. It also allows you to  easily view and share videos and photos on Social Media!  Download Supremo in Android or iOS 

Note that you'll need a Micro SD card to be able to use it. As mentioned above, it's not included in the unit but other retail stores may offer it. Supremo recommends using a Class 10 MicrosSD card with at least 48mb/s writing speed to enjoy seamless HD and 4K video recording. The memory card can be expanded up to 32GB. I'm currently using a 32GB Samsung Evo microSD  which I bought from Lazada. I haven't had any issues with it so far. Transferring files from my camera to the laptop is quite fast. I just plug the cable in, select Mass storage from the camera and I can easily view the files and videos. 

Supremo 4K retails between 3,680-6500 Pesos depending on where you buy it. It's 3,680 Pesos at Kimstore as of this writing.  I posted a list where you can buy Supremo 4K below. 

I’m also sharing with you this informative unboxing video which I found online by Life is Kulayful and Manila Shaker. Click here.

So, how do I find Supremo 4K?  
Like I've said, I’m not a very techy person. In fact, when I opened my Supremo 4K, I felt a bit intimidated but following the manual and user guide  was quite easy and in about 30 minutes, I felt comfortable using it. Don’t lose it!  

As an ordinary user who just wants to take nice photos and videos as keepsakes, I’m quite satisfied and would happily recommend Supremo 4K to everyone who is looking for a budget-friendly action camera that takes quality photos and videos. I also swim in a pool about 1-3 times a week and I love how I can record my swim sessions so I can see how I'm doing since I normally swim alone.  It‘s also worth noting that you would may need to change or experiment with the settings to fit to your liking. I can’t deal with poor image quality and I don’t like editing too much so I searched online for suggestions on the proper settings. 

Supremo 4K sample photo#1
I only cropped it a bit as my hand popped in the screen :P. 
Settings : 
Photo size - 8MP
Picture quality - fine

The sky was really dark and cloudy when I took the shot and there's a bit of fog at the peak. 
Taken on a hike at Manabu peak in Batangas
Supremo 4K sample photo #2  
I didn't edit this in any way. This was taken deep in the forest so it's also a bit dark when I took it. 
Papaya river at Mt. Tarak, Bataan
Supremo 4K sample raw video 
Settings : 1080P 30fps

*When watching a video on YouTube, remember to update the viewing quality (click the settings button near the bottom right of the video on YouTube) as default view might be a low resolution. 480p is clear enough and easier to load if your internet access is slow. 

More sample clips here :

Tip : Should you need more sample videos taken with Supremo 4K, just type "Supremo 4K" on the search box  on YouTube. 

As for durability, I’ve only been using it for about two months so I can’t give a fair verdict yet. I’m the type who absentmindedly drops stuff (which is why my phone is in a reliable Otterbox case :P). You can ask me again on Instagram after a few months if you’re curious to know if my Supremo 4K is still functioning. My IG user ID is @Jovialwanderer.

To help you make a decision, you can also check out what other users have to say about Supremo 4K in this Facebook GroupI'm not sure if it’s affiliated in any way with Supremo Philippines but it’s helpful.  It's a closed group so you need to join to view the content.  

Where to buy Supremo4K in the Philippines?
Abenson, Ambassador, Automatic, AV Surfer, D'24K, Electroworld, F8 Photo, 
Globe Telecom Stores, IGIG, J&R Appliances, Kimstore.com, Lazada.com, M20 Enterprise, 

Macys Camera Shop, Photoline, PRG Photo Shop, The Landmark Corp and SupremoWorld.com

Supremo World 
Facebook Page :  facebook.com/supremoworld 
Website : http://supremoworld.com/

Here are other reviews on Supremo 4K which you may want to check out :
Pinoy Adventurista
Justin Vawter

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I'm always out on a hike and for convenience sake, I use my phone to take photos and videos. However,  I’m not comfortable bring it out ...

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