Saturday, August 1, 2015

Where to Stay in Cabanatuan : Microtel by Wyndham

After a day of touring Tarlac (post here), our group traveled two hours farther north to the city of Cabanatuan, the Philippines' Tricycle capital with over 30,000 registered 3-wheeled vehicles.  I was joined by Argie from Philippine Star, Paolo from Hospitality News Philippines and Dandi, our host, Microtel's Marketing Communications manager. 

Sweltering heat, the sun’s last hurrah for summer welcomed us when we arrived in Microtel, our base for a half-day travel around the city's tourist spots. There was some wind but with the overbearing heat, I won't be surprise if the temperature was at 40 C.

Our visit was very timely. Microtel Cabanatuan was recently awarded a Certificate of Excellence (2015) by travel site, Trip Advisor.  Other branches that received the same distinction are Tarlac and Baguio; the latter, consistently awarded since 2011. :) 
The lobby,  a cozy place to hang-out outside your room
As soon as we got in, I was immediately drawn to the lobby's design. The paintings on the wall, big couches and potted plants in various nooks gave out a cool, relaxing vibe, a contrast to the hot weather outside. 

Ms. Lita Budomo, the amiable Resident manager handed us card keys for a quick look at the hotel's facilities. I was sent to one of its 50 rooms, suite 106. It's at the ground floor with a good view of the pool at the back. 
Suite room (Photo from Microtel)
All suites have a queen size bed, mini kitchen & sink, microwave oven,  refrigerator, sofa sleeper and a tub. The rest of the room types sans these amenities also has a flat screen cable tv, dryer, telephone, radio clock and a seat by the window, a nice set-up for this scenario in my head -  a quiet morning with a cup of coffee in my hand. :) 

Although we're not spending a night here, I know from experience with their two other branches that their beds are magnetizing, queen sized chiropractor approved mattresses, the type that's so comfortable, it makes you just want to stay indoors. I'm not exaggerating, unless of course you have the same bed at home :P. It makes  you feel so refreshed even with just a few hours of shut-eye. 
The pool at the back of the hotel. Photo from Microtel
There are two complimentary water bottles in every room and if you need more, there is a water dispenser in the lobby where you can get a refill. There is also free flowing coffee and tea in a nook beside the vending machine where you can purchase snacks.

After going around, we stepped out for lunch at Liquid Bar & Restaurant, a partner establishment located just beside the hotel. The dining area is dim and cozy - for me, a nice set-up for business mixed with pleasure type of gatherings.
Liquid Bar & Restaurant (Photo from Microtel)
Caldereta, Crispy Pata & Longganisa 
Their menu is a combination of Filipino and Western dishes catering to the varying palettes of its clientele. Dishes are beautifully plated and taste as good as it looks. If you love coffee, I recommend trying Darker forest, a blended drink that has a shot of espresso, dark chocolate and caramel,  topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a cherry. It's a fitting dessert after a heavy meal. 

Microtel offers value for money without sacrificing comfort, a mid-priced, no frills hotel that offers a bit of luxury.  Carrying the branding of Wyndham, one of world's largest hospitality companies, Microtel promises to deliver consistent service across all its branches nationwide, something that I witnessed on this 3 day media tour. 

Traveling around the Philippines? Check out their website to locate a Microtel branch. 

Microtel by Wyndham 
Website
Sta. Arcadia, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija
Rates : Start at 2,300 PHP for a room with 2 Queen beds
Other room types : 
1 Queen Bed 
1 Queen Bed Suite 
Other facilities : Wifi access, Massage (on-call), 24-hr vending area, photocopy, fax and mailing services, safety deposit box at the Front Desk and ample parking space 

Places of Interest in Nueva Ecija : 
Aquino-Diokno Memorial
Group shot with ms. Cely Ollero (lady in glasses, wearing an ID) , our tour guide and the cook at the time senator Benigno Aquino and Pepe Diokno were incarcerated  in Fort Magsaysay
Located inside Fort Magsaysay, this former headquarters of the  1st Military Security Detachment was converted as a detention center for political prisoners Benigno Aquino and Jose Diokno where they were held from March 12, 1973 to April 11, 1973. During this time, Martial Law was in effect and both were held in solitary confinement with no information as to when they will be released.

Here, they endured mental torture. Between their rooms is an empty room which prevented them from directly talking to each other. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas was played throughout the day and it was summer! Visits by their families were limited and they can only see each other through a screen with a few feet of space that prevented them from touching each other. 

Our tour guide Ms. Cely Ollero was  a former admin staff and cook at the facility during the incarceration of Benigno Aquino and Jose Diokno.  She interacted with them directly! She's such a pleasant woman and enthusiastically answered all our questions. 

Although there was not much to see, I found our visit very enriching. Sans the political aspect, learning about what kept them busy during their capture was amusing. I cannot imagine being confined in a little space with not much to do. How they stayed sane with meditaion and exercising is admirable. (just last year, I had chicken pox and could not go out for nearly a month. I had internet access  but not being able to go out whenever I wanted was  torture for me). 

Aquino-Diokno Shrine
Fort Magsaysay
Palayan City, Nueva Ecija
Visiting Hours :Mon-Fri, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
*Group tours and weekend visits can be done by coordinating in advance

Museo Novo Ecijano
The provincial capitol in Palayan city houses a museum filled with artifacts and an exhibit of tourist spots and festivals around Nueva Ecija. 

Minalungao National Park - a recommended destination for outdoor lovers. More travel information on Kirk Anatomy

Lakewood Golf & Country Club 

Location : Km. 111 Maharlika Highway, Sumacab Este
Cabanatuan City
+63 44 806 1722
Facebook Page

Find out about other tourist spots in Nueva Ecija on  Lakbay Nueva Ecija blog.
If you only have 3 hours in Cabanatuan, here's a helpful post from Pinoy Adventurista - 3 Hour Tour Around Cabanatuan

Acknowledgment :
This trip was made possible by Microtel by Wyndham. Thank you! :) 



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mt. Malipunyo-Manabu Day Hike

Mini falls less than an hour from the jump-off , seen on our way up Mt. Malipunyo
One of my favorite trails is the long route from Mt. Malipunyo to  Manabu Peak. Both mountains are in Batangas and frequented by local hikers on weekends. If hiked on separate days, Mt. Malipunyo takes about 4 hours to reach the summit (IT here) while getting to Manabu's summit (IT here) takes approximately 2 hours. 

The traverse  on the other hand, is done by those who are up for a little challenge. On the average, it takes 10-12 hours to complete. For people like me who enjoys lengthy quiet hikes, it's a half day well spent. :)

The trail features several highlights : reaching the summit of Mt. Malipunyo, stop-over at Biak na Bundok's beautiful view deck, getting to Manabu Peak and lastly, a visit to Tata Tino, an old man living in a hut near the summit who offers free Alamid coffee to hikers.

The trail passes through a labyrinth of tall trees and plants.  It can get very slippery especially after rain and is steep on some parts. Lipa, a plant that cause itching on contact is also present on the way up Mt. Malipunyo until  a portion of the traverse. (A discussion on Lipa plants + first aid treatment is on Pinoy Mountaineer
Trail to Malipunyo's summit
Mt. Malipunyo's summit which I've visited twice  has not allowed me to see any views at all. Supposedly, you can see other mountains in Batangas and Laguna. However, in both times, fog obscured the scenery. It was also very windy and cold so we only stayed for several minutes. 

The second major stop - which for me, has the most remarkable viewpoint in the entire route is Biak na Bundok. "Biak" in Tagalog means a crack or gap. Our guide Kuya Mario told us that there was a plan to create a highway that was supposed to connect Lipa, Batangas to San Pablo, Laguna. However, it was not completed, leaving behind a partially eroded mountain. Tall grasses have grown since and you'll hardly notice traces of the abandoned project.    

Here, you can see towns and mountains in Southern Tagalog. With cool wind swirling around this wide vantage point,  it is a great place to rest! :)
view at Biak na Bundok
From Biak na Bundok, trail continues for 2-3 hours towards the summit of Manabu. You'll pass an open area with grasses almost as tall as you so wearing long sleeves or arm sleeves is advised. It can get very hot on this part when the sun's up. 

The summit of Manabu is marked with a large white cross. It offers views of other mountains and nearby towns but it often gets foggy in the afternoon. 

The last highlight of this route is visiting Tata Tino's hut, located 20 minutes from the summit. He generously offers freshly brewed coffee and chats with passing hikers which is why most consider this a mandatory stop. The coffee he serves is aromatic and strong. I consume around 2-3 cups on each visit so I buy some beans after as a gesture of gratitude for his generosity. The ground beans are worth your money too. 

There's also a humorous reason that makes this an interesting stop. Placed in various areas around the hut are carvings of penises of various shapes, which makes a very good conversation starter. :)
At Tata Tino's hut. That's him in a blue jacket. :)
From Tata Tino's hut back down, the trail is easy and quicker to descend as it's mostly downhill but it can be a bit slippery especially after rain. The jump-off at Sulok has several restrooms where you can enjoy a cold bath after a long hike.  

You'll be passing the city of Lipa on the way back to Manila. Here, you can find various joints where you can eat lomi, a type of noodle soup dish with a thick sauce Batangas is known for. I prefer to eat rice after a hike and often crave for comfort food so my go-to place Bigg's Diner in SM Lipa. It's a leading food chain in Bicol with just two branches in the Southern Tagalog region so I make it a point to eat here whenever I'm in the area. I love their interiors more than anything, an American retro theme.  Menu is mostly American dishes catering to the Filipino palate. I wish their serving sizes are bigger though. :P I often end up ordering a chicken meal with rice and then a burger. Hehe! 

This route may not have the same eye-popping views as the Cordillera trails  or offer a sea of clouds at the summit but if you're someone who enjoys long hikes, dense forests and don't mind some uphill sections, then this is a worthy addition to your adventure list. :) 

Here's a copy of our itinerary. Hike was last December 2014. 
ACTUAL ITINERARY  
Entry point: Brgy. Talisay, Lipa
Exit point: Sulok, Brgy. Sta Cruz, Sto. Tomas
04:30AM - Assembly Fiesta Mall, Lipa, Batangas City
05:00AM - ETD Fiesta Mall (take trike to Jump off) 
05:30AM - Arrival at the Jump Off
06:00AM - Meet kuya Manuel (guide) and final preparations
06:45AM - Start Trek
07:30AM - Arrive at the river, first water source.
08:15AM - Arrive at Peak 1
08:45AM – Arrive at Peak 2
09:15AM – Arrive at Peak 3, Mt. Malipunyo Summit (Rest)
09:30AM - Start descent
10:00AM - Arrived at Balete park
10:20NN - Start descent 
10:50PM - Arrived at River. Water source - Take early lunch
12:15PM - Arrived at Biak na bundok
01:00PM - Start descend
01:50PM - Arrived at Manabu Campsite. Rest
02:00PM - Set foot on Mt Manabu Peak (killed our time)
03:00PM - Start descent
03:30PM - Coffee Break at Manong Pirying (killed our time)
05:00PM - Arrived at Mt Manabu Jump off. Rest. Tidy up
06:00PM - Take tricycle to SM lipa Bus stop, Dinner and post climb
07:45PM - Take bus to Manila
*Thanks to Franz Sandoval for preparing this.

Expenses : This is a backpost from last year, unfortunately, I can no longer recall how much we spent but I found a blog for your reference which detailed the expenses. Click here for the IT and expenses, do factor in the inflation as this is a post from 2013:)  

Related Post : 
I did the same route with other friends in 2012 and blogged about our experience here


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hiking Log : Mt. Lubog, Rizal

Last week, I joined friends for a quick hike in Rodriguez, Rizal. With the exception of Koi Grey, who had explored the mountain a few years earlier, it was everyone's first time to this fairly new outdoor destination, Mt. Lubog. The origin of its name is unconfirmed but there's a similar word in Tagalog which means submerged, an irony for a mountain that's 955+ MASL high.  
At the trailhead of Mt. Lubog, its summit can be seen at the rightmost part of the photo
From Manila, we traveled in a  hired van and picked up some members of the group along the way. It was past 9:00 AM when we finally arrived in Barangay San Rafael in Rodriguez where we  had to transfer to motorbikes. The barangay hall is beside the public market where you can buy some food and water. A few blocks away is a bakery and just across the street is an eatery where some of us grabbed breakfast.

After getting our stuff from the van, 11 of us split into three tricycles with very intriguing frames. Its front seat was made of stripped rubber while the seat at the back was just a wooden plank. There are no roof or walls like the usual tricycles I'm accustomed to seeing around the streets of Manila. 

By 9:40 AM, we were on our way to the jump-off in Barangay Puray. We were told ride would take two hours and so I braised myself for a long uneventful journey.
Wild trike ride. That's me in a purple shirt. (Photo taken by Paolo)
And was I wrong!

30 minutes into the ride, it got very exciting as we traveled on a steep dirt road. It rained the night before so it was wet and slippery on most parts. I could not count the number of times we had to go down as the trike couldn't handle the terrain with us on it. Other friends on board a separate trike had to go down twice as much as we did as their driver has not passed the route in a while so he had a little difficulty navigating on the tougher sections. 

I sat in front beside another friend which gave us a full view of the action. I felt the struggle of the tires on  parts that were quite technical and required precise maneuvering. Our bodies rocked in different directions. My hands, gripped tightly on the rope  in front of me which served as barriers so we won't fall off.  If you saw the way I held  on to this section of the bike,you'd think I was holding on the last piece of bacon on earth. :P Later on, we were advised by the drivers to just go with the thrust of the bike and not to cling too hard. 

The views as we made our way up were stunning and it truly made up all that muscle jolting we had to go through. 
One of the areas where we stopped for a break. 
Barangay Puray where we had to register is located at around 600 MASL so imagine the steep sections we had to tackle! It took nearly two hours to get there including all the time we stopped for a break and hopped in and out of the bike whenever it got stuck. 

After registering, we traveled another 45 minutes. By the time we reached the jump-off, some of us were already tired and we snacked on bignay and grapes before we started our hike. 

The start of the trek was on a small hill where wild grasses grew abundantly. Yellow flowers, which looked like little sunflowers where everywhere, complimenting the color of the sky which was as blue as the ocean. 

The entire hike was relatively easy. The trail was just occasionally steep  and it only got challenging when we had to pass  over slippery sections. I glanced frequently on the ground as there were a lot of rocks and branches. 

What was particularly amusing about this route are the huge rock formations that can be seen almost the entire way. This was the first time I've seen such trail. Foliage is thick, enormous trees that stretch to the sky can also be seen. For a nature-lover like me, seeing all these was gratifying enough. 
one of the enormous rock formations can be seen all the way to the peak.
After 90 minutes hiking on a relaxed pace, we arrived at the summit. I could hear my companions who were in front exclaiming what a beautiful sight it was.  When I emerged from the trail and finally saw the summit,  I too was impressed. 

Limestone rock formation covered the summit. It is clean and fortunately, no vandals on the rocks. I hope it stays the same way. There is no flat ground so we each picked a spot, joking and giving names to the boulders which can only fit one person. 
Vinci at Mt. Vinci :P 
The summit has a great view of the Sierra Madre, the Philippines' longest mountain range stretching from the province of Cagayan Valley to Quezon. With its size, it comprises 40% of the country's forest cover. (Info from conservation.org)

We took a lot of time ingesting the view since the hike was just quick and we badly needed to recharge ourselves for the motorbike ride back to Barangay San Rafael. :P I was not looking forward to it. 

Group shot at the summit.
(Bottom : L-R) Vinci Berris, Cynthia  Sy and Paolo Gedalanga
(Top : L-R) Gideon Lasco, Julian Canero, Me , Jeshua Sales, Brent Tan, Carlo Cunanan, Ivan Cultura and Koi Grey
Photo from Carlo Cunanan
As this is a short hike, other side trips can also be done to maximize the travel. Lubog cave is along the trail. It is located at the first rest area and can be explored in 15 minutes. You can also take a dip at Panintingan Falls which is 20 minutes on foot from the jump-off. Being pressed for time, we decided to skip  both places. 

The ride back to San Rafael was mostly downhill which was quicker. We only got down around  2 or 3 times when our bike got stuck in the mud. 

We washed up at the Barangay hall in San Rafael and traveled to UP Town Center in Quezon City for a hearty early dinner. Even if the hike was short and easy, the bike ride was even more challenging. My back and arms were sore and I felt as though we hiked the entire day. 

The newly-opened branch of Kyochon has an attentive and welcoming staff.  Considering we ordered around 60 pieces of wings and drumsticks (all spicy, gah!) and 3 salads, service time was quick too. Hehe! 
at Kyochon UP Town Center. Group photo courtesy of Carlo Cunanan
Chicken coating was crunch and tasty, its flavor extended to its meat. It's delicious albeit too spicy for my taste. The rice is quite memorable too - it's fluffy and moist - exactly the way I want it. :) After consuming an obscene amount of chicken, I haven't craved for chicken since (it's been a week since that hike and I still don't feel like eating chicken :P).  
Hike Details :
A copy of the itinerary is available in Gideon's blog, Pinoy Mountaineer (click here). Thank you for inviting me to this memorable adventure Gid! :) 

Expenses : 
We paid 1,100 Pesos each for the trip inclusive of van rental, guide and registration fees. Visit Pinoy Mountaineer for details on getting here via public transpo. 

Gears & Supplies :
- You can wear a sandals with good traction for this hike but do watch out for tree roots and sharp rocks on the trail
- My water supply for this trip was around 1.2 ML (750 ML water, 500 ML Gatorade). 
- Trail Food & Lunch : slices of zucchini (half), peanuts 
- bring a cap and/or bandana as protection against the sun and dust during the motorbike ride
- Don't forget to bring a first aid kit and a  headlamp (may be needed for caving)

Acknowledgements : 
Thanks to Brent Tan, a new friend from Trail Adventours for organizing everything and to  blogger Leeisure for the helpful details she posted which helped me decide on what to pack for the hike. Her account on Mt. Lubog is here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Attractions in Tarlac

I've done several hikes in Tarlac in 2012 and 2013 but I never got to explore much because we normally just head straight to the base of the mountain. Three weeks ago, I joined a media familiarization tour hosted by Microtel by Wydham and we got to enjoy some of the destinations around Tarlac that proves that it's more than "just an expanse of flat land". 

Here are places you can visit around Tarlac : 
Aquino Center & Museum - owned and managed by the Ninoy & Cory Aquino foundation, this museum and events venue houses the artifacts and memorabilia of two prominent Filipino politicians, democracy icons, Senator Ninoy and wife, former president Cory Aquino.  
Photo taken at the main entrance of the museum
Aquino Center & Museum
Location : Barangay San Miguel, Tarlac City
Rates : 
Adults - 100 Pesos
*discounted rates offered to Senior citizens and students 
Business Hours :
Open daily, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
Closed on New Year, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Christmas
Contact Information : +63(45)985-09-68/985-09-69
Email : aquinocenter@ncaf.ph
*For inquiries on school trips and events, please contact them directly. 

Monasterio de Tarlac  

Established by the Servants of the Risen Christ, a religious group of men devoted to a life of prayer and work, this Monastery situated on a mountain top offers a beautiful vantage of the nearby peaks in San Jose. Its prominent marker  is a 30-foot statue of the Risen Christ which can be seen from surrounding towns below it.  It is also flocked by religious devotees as it chapel holds a relic of the True Cross, believed to be the cross where Jesus was crucified. 


Monasterio de Tarlac
San Jose, Tarlac 
Website 
Mass Schedule : 

Tarlac Recreational Park (TRP)
Managed by the local tourism of Tarlac, this 78-hectare property offers an impressive range of activities for sports and outdoor lovers at reasonable prices.
Kayaking at the lagoon, one of the many activities that can be done in TRP
Formerly the venue of the 2010 Palarong Pambansa, one of the Philippines' biggest sporting events and a scouting ground  for national athletes, the place has an athletics oval  and Olympic-size pool (with a kiddie pool beside it!) which visitors can use.

For outdoor lovers who want to try a little bit of everything, there's a  lagoon for kayakers, a wall climbing facility, camping grounds with barbeque pits, fishing area, a short zipline that crosses the lagoon, Dune buggy and karting tracks, bike trails, and an area for airsoft. 

With all the activities you can do around here, you can actually allocate an entire day for a visit. They also have pavilions for private events, perfect for team building or clan reunions. :)
Olympic size pool


Tarlac Recreational Park
Operating Hours for Activities : Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 AM-5:00 PM  
*Cut-off for registration at 4:30 PM   (If coming from outside Tarlac, please email/call them to confirm business hours before going) 
For activity rates,  visit their website, Tarlac Ecotourism 
Facebook Page :Tarlac Ecotourism  
Tel No. +63 (045) 493 – 2471 
Email: tarlacecotourism@gmail.com 
Kart City Tarlac (KCT)

Located just across SM Tarlac where buses from Manila pass by, this highly accessible karting facility offers European made karts for rent. Their track configuration changes to cater to regulars.What I particularly like about this place is that it also offers other activities for people who are not into karting. Just outside the track is an area for billiards, videoke and their diner, Chaps Cafe (don't miss the pizza rolls and pata tim! I'd come back here for the food alone :P)


Kart City Tarlac (KCT)

McArthur Highway (in front of SM Tarlac)
Tarlac, Tarlac
Contact Number : +63 (045) 491 4053
Business Hours : Open daily, 3:00 PM - 12:00 MN
10:00 - 02:00 (Sundays)
Website : KCT
Facebook Page : Kart City Tarlac (KCT)
Rates : (inclusive of suit, eye protection)


WHERE TO STAY IN TARLAC :
Image courtesy of Microtel by Wyndham
Microtel by Wydham offers 50 clean, comfortable rooms and suites. Their beds are all queen size and chiropractor-approved (very nice to sleep on!) This branch which garnered a lot of positive reviews at the travel website, Trip Advisor  was recently awarded with the TripAdvisor Certification of Excellence 2015. 

Another thing I liked about this hotel is the stable and fast free wifi. During my stay, I had to catch up on some work in the morning and badly needed a decent internet connection. It was a huge relief that I got things done.  :) I also love that they have a nook where you can get free coffee, tea and water. 


Its location, though a bit of a walk from  Mac Arthur highway, a major road in Tarlac where buses and cars pass by also serves as an advantage because you get some peace and quiet. Nearby attractions include the Aquino Center & Museum (it's actually just beside it, separated by a garden) and Luisita Golf & Country club which has an 18-hole championship course. Trips to other destinations such as Monasterio de Tarlac and TRP, can also be arranged through their reception. 

the cozy, Queen suite where I stayed. Photo taken before I made a mess :P
Microtel Luisita
Luisita, San Miguel, Tarlac
Email : tarlac@microtel.ph
Rates start at 2,560 Pesos for a room with 1 queen size bed but can also be lower depending on when you book. 
Website : Microtel Tarlac
How to get here? From North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), take SCTEX exit 85 and take the rightmost lane going to Tarlac. Exit at Luisita and turn right, then go straight. Microtel is on your right side, before McArthur Highway. They also offer pick-up from Luisita for those who are taking the public transportation. 

Related posts on Tarlac :
This tour around Tarlac was made possible by Microtel by Wyndham. 







Monday, June 8, 2015

Meeting Mt. Sialdang/Halcon

May 18, 2015 holds a  happy event in my outdoor life that I want to share with you. :) After months of planning and training, I finally reached the summit of one of my dream mountains - Mt. Sialdang or popularly known in the local hiking community as Mt. Halcon. 

*Mt. Sialdang is the name given by the locals to the mountain. 
Me at the summit of Mt. Halcon. Photo taken by Gene Gonzales
This beautiful mountain, the highest peak in the province of Oriental Mindoro at a height of 2,582 MASL and 18th among the mountains in the Philippines has been on my hike list for years now. Closed in 2006 by local officials and the DENR, it was only in March 2015 when clear policies were put into place, making hiking activities official from February 1 to May 31 of each year. I was not going to let this year pass without visiting! :) 

It is rated with a difficulty level of 9/9 and  although it's trails are not as technical as what I've seen in other Philippine mountains like Guiting-Guiting or Dulang-Dulang, it's still very steep and arduously loooong! It took us 1.5 days to reach the summit and with the poor traction of my shoe, I found it even more challenging to hike down. It was excruciating to the knees! 
Photo About 30 minutes to the summit
Despite the challenging trail, 
I fell in love with its lush forests and variety of terrain. We hiked through mossy forests, crossed open trails with banana trees everywhere, passed several small falls and crossed a big river.  We were fortunate that limatiks (leeches) were not so active when were there and me and 3 others in our group managed to escape a bite. :)

Its summit is nothing I've seen before, it is scattered with cuts and slabs of marble and surrounded with colorful shrubs and although we were only given 5 minutes of clearing, we still saw a rewarding view of clouds and nearby mountains. 
Summit break. Photo taken by Gene Gonzales
Crossing the breathtaking Dulangan River. This was also where we set camp for two nights. 
I am already excited to go back next year! :) 

To my Halcon buddies - Allen Yatco, Gene Gonzales, Eric Leron and Carlos, thank you and hope to see you again soon! :) 

Below is a copy of our climbing log and expenses for your reference. 
Climbing Log (via Lantuyan trail): 
Day 0 - May 16, 2015 
- Took the 11:00 AM Fastcat ferry to Calapan
- after arriving in Calapan, we rented a tricycle to Baco from the pier (we stopped over at Jollibee Calapan for 
a quick lunch)
- went to Baco Tourism office to process our permit (advance coordination necessary) 
5:30 PM - ETA, Lantuyan, checked in at Tagbungan Mountain Resort for proper rest

Day 1 - May 17, 2015
6:30 AM Start (assault)
9:00 AM Limatik Infested trail
10:30 AM Big water source (we heard voices when we resumed trekking)
11:30 AM Aplaya (Dungawan) (refilled water at a nearby falls)
12:30pm Aplaya camp site 
2:30pm Dulangan Campsite (river crossing)

Day 2 - May 18, 2015
4:00 AM Start
6:00 AM Last water source before intense assault
8:30 AM Knife-edge
9:15 AM Summit
10:30am Descend summit
3:30pm Back at Dulangan campsite

Day 3 - May 19, 2015
7:10 AM Start descent
8:30 AM Aplaya campsite
11:00 AM Border (Boses / Limatik Trail)
11:45 AM Kubo(kaingin)

12:50 PM Back at jumpoff at Lantuyan 
8:00 PM took Montenegro Ferry back to Batangas Pier 
10:00 PM ETA, Batangas Pier
12 MN ETA, EDSA Magallanes 


Other Information :
Hiking season is February 1-May 31 of each year. 

Advance coordination is required to hike Mt. Halcon, please visit Mt. Halcon - Pinoy Mountaineer for more details.

Contact person : 
Jojo (Baco Tourism Office) - +63 9198821442

My Training Plan
I got sick two weeks before the hike but as I started training months ahead, I was able to develop endurance and the adjustment during the actual hike was not as bad as I expected. 

I trained on my own for  2-3 times a week and the exercises comprised of the following : 

Swimming - 2-3 times a week, 1 hour per session
Elliptical machine - at least 15 minutes ( I hated this :P)
Stairs training - at least 1x a week (I practiced in our office building)
Time & budget permitting - 1 hiked at least 1-2x a month

Diet : 

As I was recovering from sickness,  I fueled my body with good food like quinoa, veggies and fish 5 days before our trip. It really worked well and I felt light and agile during the hike. 

Trail Food & Hydration:

Dried cranberries, GU Energy Gel, peanuts, 500 ML of Pocari Sweat and 500 ML of Gatorade, 1 liter of water. There are several water sources so it was enough to get me through 3D and 2N in the mountain. :) 





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Food Trip : Where to Eat in Naga City After an Adventure (Part 1)

Mt. Isarog in the background. Photo taken in an earlier trip to Camarines Sur where we covered an Enduro challenge :)
Naga, an independent city located in the province of Camarines Sur is known as a primary jump-off to several exciting destinations. These include Mt. Isarog, a volcano  frequented by local hikers, Malabsay Falls for those craving for a dip in icy waters and for beach lovers, the pristine islands of Caramoan.  

While some consider it as merely a stopover, I've discovered that its food scene is also worth exploring and  for a foodie like me, it can also be the main destination. Teehee! :) Their restaurants and cafes generally have creative interiors and have a cozy, charming, relaxed vibe – ideal for  solo travelers and intimate groups. Staying for a couple of days is ideal too as the city has a lot of options whatever your budget may be.  

Here’s a list of restaurants in Naga where you can enjoy good meals: 

Bob Marlin -  offers Filipino favorites such as  crispy  pata, Ziggy’s sisig (it's signature dish) and of course Bicolano dishes such as Laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), pinangat (sting ray in coconut milk) and Bicol express (pork cubes in, you guessed it, coconut milk! :P). 

Equally interesting is its reggae-inspired interiors. You can also find plates on its walls signed by celebrity guests - athletes, bands, actors, writers, etc.  The restaurant is like a museum! There's something interesting to see in every corner.  

Tables are huge and can accommodate big groups. It also has al fresco and air conditioned dining areas.  It's also a great place to enjoy cold drinks. Try Rasta Paling (drink shown below), an alcoholic beverage that has lambanog, spiked orange juice  and red syrup. 


Bob Marlin
Website
Facebook Page : Bob Marlin Resto 
Magsaysay Avenue, Naga City
Business Hours : Daily, 10:30 AM - 12 MNFor reservations, call their landline : +63 054 473 13399 
Menu

Bigg's Diner - Bicol's leading food chain takes you back in time with its colorful American retro diner theme. There are burgers, fries, rice meals and good desserts too! Their branch along Magsaysay is open 24/7 and offers free wifi. It's a good place to hang out if you're burning time. For burger lovers, the Tower burger is a must try, a monstrous piece with two patties, hash brown, bacon(!!!), caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes, 2 pieces of cheese, Spam, and egg! It is best paired with Mello Jello, a soda drink with jelly. 
Facade of Bigg's Diner, Magsaysay branch which is open 24 hours
Bigg's Diner
To find a branch, visit their Facebook Page - Bigg's Diner
Phone : +63 (54)472-4240
Email : info@biggsdiner.ph
Website : Biggs Diner

Bora Hut - ideal for those who enjoy liquor with pulutan (beer match) while listening to music. Hefty meals that goes well with rice (plenty of rice!) are also available. Place does not have air-conditioning but the place is very spacious and airy. At night, you can also watch local bands performing. 

Bora Hut 
Penafrancia Avenue, Naga City
Business Hours : 
Mon-Sat: 7:00 AM – 2:00 AM
Sun: 4:00 PM – 2:00 AM

More about Bora Hut on my friends' blogs,  FireNFrost and Langyaw

Cha Ced's Kinalas sa Balatas  - if you want to eat like a local and don't mind some meat, try kinalas. It's a noodle dish with a broth made from boiling a pig or cow's head. You can opt to add egg to make it extra filling. Our friends from Naga tourism shared that it's considered as a comfort food, fitting for rainy days or as an after activity snack or a main meal if you plan to add egg. Hihi! You can also add some sauce for extra flavor. For the sauce, I tried a combination of vinegar, patis (fish sauce), sili (red pepper) and lots of calamansi, the same sauce prepared by my friend Wayne who is from Naga. Yum! The bottomless pit in my stomach has met its match and felt very full after a bowl. 

Cha Ced Kinalas sa Balatas
Near Penafrancia Basilica, Naga City



Green Earth Cafe - Veggie lovers unite! One of my favorite restaurants in the city is this quiet restaurant inside Villa Sorabella Subdivision. They serve vegetarian dishes that are pretty on the plate and happy for the palate. :) 




Green Earth Cafe
Facebook Page
Business Hours :
Sunday-Thursday
10:00 AM-9:00 PM
3rd St. cor Soriano Ave.
Villa Sorabella Subdivision.
Concepcion Grande, Naga City
Orders may take some time. You can place an advance order by calling the numbers below :
Landline : +63(54) 475-50-18

Mobile : 0928-550-5246

Part 2 of where to find awesome food in Naga will be posted soon! :) 

Also worth reading is this comprehensive food guide by Kara Santos of Travel Up. She's also from Naga and is very much familiar with its food scene. Link here. 

Related Posts (just click on the links below) : 

Hungry for adventure? 
Waterfalls Trekking in Pili, Camarines Sur 
Waterfalls Trekking at Engkanto Falls 

Where to Stay in Naga City?

Want to try a unique kind of beach? 
White Pebble Beach in Minalabac, Bagolatao 




Monday, March 23, 2015

Hiking : Munga Peak, Camarines Norte

Mahabang Buhangin Beach
It was still dark when I opened my eyes. Had it not been for the disruptive snoring coming from the tent beside ours, which was loud enough to drown the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, I wouldn't have gotten up so quickly. :P 

I prepped for a short hike up Munga Peak.  We were told it's about an hour from our camp. Unlike the usual hikes I do, getting ready was refreshingly simple. I was on slippers,  a cap and in my pocket were several pieces of Mentos which is also what I bring as emergency food for long hikes because it's light and easily fits in the bag. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade which I bought before we traveled to the island and in a few minutes, I was all set. :)
Area near our camp

Mahabang Buhangin beach where we set camp is in Tinaga island, a popular camping ground for travelers visiting Calaguas,  a group of 17 islands and islets in Camarines Norte in the Bicol region.  

After breakfast, me and several other friends - Kate, Ron, Ian, Ice and Tina went to the shore and joined the rest of the people from our tour group. The start of the hike was a little challenging as we were walking on powder-like sand. It was a great leg work-out though. :)
Trail starts at the beach! (Photo from Ice Clemente)
We headed toward the right side (facing the water) of the island and in about 15 minutes, we arrived at the registration area. As I had been seeing mostly water since the previous day, I felt excited when I saw that the trail head has lots of trees. 
Making our way up the hill. Photo from Ice Clemente
It was moderately steep but very manageable. It wasn't slippery and our rubber slippers held on. 
Group shot before we entered the main trail. Behind us is the registration hut.  (Photo from Ice Clemente)
In just a few minutes, we arrived at a view deck. From here, we could see practically the entire shoreline of Mahabang Buhangin. Although I've already seen some photos online, it still felt awesome to see it in front of me.  

We headed at the left side of the trail where grasses were a little too tall for me and Tina as we're both under 5 feet tall :P. 



This area gave us a different vantage, a view of nearby islands.  There wasn't any cover to protect us from the sun but it was very windy. 
Balagbag Island in front of us
This peak has a flat grassy area and it felt nice to just sit down, feel the wind and stare at the view, despite the sun's rays gleefully radiating down on us. 

After taking souvenir shots, we headed down to clean up and prepare for the trip back to Vinzons Port. 

Here's a travel video of our trip made by my friend Ian. :) Happy viewing. It's a bit long though but it sums up what we did the entire weekend. :P 


Hiking Details :
This was a trip with 9 other colleagues. Since we wanted a hassle-free vacation,  we availed the services of Northlink Tour, a Daet-based tour provider which was recommended by my former manager who hails from Daet, Camarines Norte's capital. I paid 2,200 for the package which included 4 meals and boat ride from Vinzons Port and back. (Transportation from Manila not included). Since the hike was not part of the package, we paid additional 40 Pesos each which included the registration fee and payment to guides. 

A DIY trip to Calaguas Group of islands can also be done. Please check out the links below for some very helpful information : 
KirkAnatomy - How to get to Calaguas
Lakwatsero - Calaguas Islands

Note : I am aware of the concerns raised by fellow travelers regarding the island's commercialization but during our  trip (and I can only speak of what I experienced during our trip), camping ground was clean and I did not see any garbages along the shore and although there were plenty of people, the noise was minimal. I do hope people visiting this place continue to respect the island and the people who live there.  

As for Northlink Tour's services, I am very happy with how they handled the trip. They gave us an orientation on what to expect in the island and even gave us a short lecture about Calaguas to help us appreciate the place more. Everyone had enough food, the staff regularly checked on us and they were all very cordial and professional. :) You can get in touch with them on Facebook - Northlink Tour.




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