Monday, April 21, 2014

Bacolod Series : Reasons to Visit the City of Smiles

Bucolid  side of Negros Occidental.Taken while in a tricycle to Bacolod-Silay International Airport
Mt. Kanlaon, one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the Philippines and a dream outdoor destination of mine, can be found in Negros Island.  If coming from Manila, the most common entry point is via Bacolod City in the province of Negros Occidental where Bacolod-Silay International Airport is.

Unfortunately, the past two attempts to get to the summit were spoiled by either bad weather or a personal event. The sunny side of these unsuccessful attempts is that it has given me the time to scour the city and eventually fall in love with it. 
Lacson Street, a bustling part of the city. Getting inns and hotels on this side is
quite convenient when moving around Bacolod. Taken at the overpass in front of Robinson's Place
Below’s a rundown on why you should visit the City of Smiles, nicknamed as such for its friendly populace:

1. Food!!! 

Fellow foodies, this can very well be the sole reason to hop on a plane to Bacolod.  Cafes serving affordable, moist, yummy cakes, strong cups of coffee and good tea such as Felicia’s (their chocolate cake’s a bestseller!) and Calea are a MUST visit.  For satisfying full meals go to Aboy’s, Sharyn’s Cansi House, 21 and Mushu. Chicken lovers should also pay homage to a local dish called chicken inasal - grilled chicken marinated in calamansi, pepper, vinegar and annatto. Best place to try this is Manokan Country, an entire block of eateries located at the back of SM, North Wing – that side along F.M. Ferrero Street. (Google Map here) Aida’s has friendly, efficient service, airy atmosphere and plenty of tables (and I need not mention that food is just delightful!)

2. Great for both solo or group travelers 
Enjoying fresh coconut at Pana-ad stadium after a morning run :)
Whether you’re craving for a time alone or organizing a trip for the entire fambam, Bacolod will not make you sweat blood or leave you penniless and toiling soil for the rest of  your life.
Travel itineraries and budget tips are posted online by :
Pinoy Adventurista - Bacolod | Journeying James - Budget-Friendly Bacolod

3. Structures –this city showcases a mix of old and modern establishments, all accessible via public transportation.  For a glimpse of Bacolod’s past, visit Negros Museum along Gatuslao Street (I heard the museum cafĂ© also serves good food! :P). 

Within the area is the provincial capitol and the lagoon which is an excellent walking or running area. 750 meters away is the San Sebastian Cathedral built in 1876. For street art, coffee or cold beer, hang-out at the Art District located along Lacson Street.  Note that most of the bars open at 5:00 PM onwards.  


If you’re a sports enthusiast, you can take an Alijis-bound jeep from downtown  to Pana-ad Park & Stadium. They also have a track area and pool open to the public from 7am-5pm (entrance fee at 40 Pesos, swim suit and cap required)/ It’s roughly 30 minutes when taking public transpo as the driver takes numerous stops. Outside Masskara Festival, you can allot two full days when visiting the spots mentioned above.  



For updates on new developments and tourist spots around the city, hit the Like button of SkyscraperCityBacolod on Facebook.  

4.  MassKara Festival – Festival enthusiasts flock the city held every October with a bulk of the celebration on the 3rd week closest to the city’s Charter anniversary – October 19. Its main highlight is the street dance competition along Lacson street where you can witness dancers  in flamboyant costumes and masks.
MassKara Festival's trademark are the colorful masks worn by participants. Photo taken at Pana-ad Park & Stadium 
For updates, check out their Facebook page  or visit 2014 Masskara Festival 2014 Schedule + Updates by Byahilo.com 

5.  Cheap Accommodation – there’s a slew of decent places to sleep in, majority of which are along Lacson Street. Among those I found that offers great deals that’s located along/near Lacson street, have decent wifi connection and aircon rooms are a. K’MAS (a few blocks away from Art District) I stayed here for a night. Rates start at 500 Pesos for airconditioned rooms with cable tv and wifi at the front desk.  (It’s a little outdated but bearable).  B. Go Hotels (a fave!) located at the back of Robinson’s Place and Central City Walk. Book early through their website to get standard rooms as low as 700 Pesos a night. 

Also in a convenient location is L’ Fisher  Ecotel  (starts at 989 Pesos). L’ Fisher Hotel which is right beside it is also popular for business travelers but it costs 3,500-above Pesos a night.

TripAdvisor offers excellent reviews which can help you decide where to stay.  

6.  Easy to reach  & get around – public transportation is easy to find from the airport and around the city. There’s plenty of taxi, tricycles and PUV’s. Asking for directions from people isn’t tricky either.  Dialect is Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) but almost everyone, at least the one’s I talked to could understand  basic Tagalog or English. I also tried to pick up a few words and found these ones very useful :
“Lugar lang” - when going down from the jeep; “Manaog sa –insert destination- (used to answer the driver when asked where you’re going); unsa  - what, asa / dis-a / aha - where; gi-unsa – how; pila – how much?


Public Utility Vehicles all over the city
From Bacolod, you can also visit nearby provinces such as Iloilo (via ferry) and Negros Oriental (via bus, this is where Dumaguete is).

More travel information on a separate post. I’ll post a tweet when it’s up :  Follow me @jovialwanderer

To be posted soon :  
Bacolod Travel Information
How to Get in/out of Bacolod-Silay International Airport
Where to Stay in Bacolod
How to Get to Iloilo from Bacolod | How to Get to Cebu from Bacolod 

Friday, March 21, 2014

La Union : The Sun, Surf and a Happy Place

Having enjoyed a visit to the Circle Hostel's branch in Zambales (blog here), I was ecstatic to accept an invite to check out their new place in La Union. Their new branch, which looks pretty much the same as the one in Zambales is only  200 meters away from a popular surfing spot in Urbiztondo. (Know more about La Union's surfing season here.)

My bloated toes says hello!
One of the happy messages that can be found  painted on blocks aroundThe Circle Hostel
I joined fellow bloggers Aldous Ate the World,  fashion & lifestyle bloggers, Greenspired Sam Coronado, Rhea Bue, Kat Valdez, RD Llarena and my good friend Gay who lives up to her blog name, the Pinay Travel JunkieDeparting Manila on a Friday night was a nightmare due to heavy traffic, but then again, not all adventures are comfortable and you just have to suck it up. :P 
Pure good vibes! Here's the facade of Circle Hostel's La Union branch
After five hours, we finally arrived! It was only 3AM and everyone craved for sleep. Like zombies, we dragged ourselves upstairs to get to the bunk beds.The beds assigned to us were not only comfortable but also had an awesome view of the moon. I could see it clearly, like a round shiny coin in the sky. :)
Good morning indeed! 
When I woke up, I got very curious as to what kind of mattress foam I laid on and I'm happy to share that they're using Uratex, a prominent local manufacturer of foam that prides on its comfort and durability. :P Geek mode on. 

Bunk Area. They have privacy curtains and mosquito nets installed and each bed is provided
beddings and one pillow. 
Geek mode off. 
After a quick light breakfast, we walked towards the beach, crossed the highway and passed through the San Juan Surf School. We were warned by the staff and fellow surfers that waves were wild due to the North Swell (surfer's term for a series of waves that moves from North to South). But since we were all newbies, we didn't really know what we were in for. Ignorance is bliss applied in this case. 
fellow students 
Surfing lessons were at 200 Pesos/hour. I was assigned to a stern instructor who made sure my footing were right and made me repeat the proper stance around 10 times before we went to the water. I could not recall the numerous times I clung for dear life on the surf board while miserably trying to stand up. My core muscles which were built for gorge feasts were of no use and I had to rely on my arms and shoulders which were quite sore after. When the lessons were over, I could only think of one thing, a ginormous delicious meal!
Rafael Oca, The Circle Hostel's social media guy preparing his board
I actually felt more joyful seeing the ice cream man than my stint at surfing :P 
Orange ice lollies from Magnolia
After lunch at  Gefseis,  a Greek restaurant where the servers and owners are uber friendly, Gay, Aldous and I dropped by Moonleaf Tea Shop for some cold treat, fitting for a hot day at the beach. 
My fave, Passion Fruit Green Tea, 25% sweet.
The franchise owners did a great job incorporating a surfer vibe to the interiors.
It's a great place to hang out if you're clamoring for a fresh brew of tea.
Gay and I had to go home in the afternoon so we spent the rest of our stay hanging out with our new found friends and testing the beds and whatever place we could lie down for a quick nap. :P
Sam strumming away at the common area
Here you can read a book on a bench or lie in hammocks
The intimate dining area where it's easy to find someone to chat with. You can also order brewed coffee (50 Pesos/cup) or cold bottled water from the reception.


Swing area where you can rekindle your childhood days at the playground. 


More photos of our La Union weekend, here.


Thanks Aldous, our host Rafa of the Circle Hostel, Lemon for loaning us your surfboards and Moonleaf Tea Shop for the afternoon tea. :) 

Not traveling to La Union? Check out Circle Hostel in Zambales! Post here.

The Circle Hostel
Urbiztondo, La Union | San Felipe, Zambales
Mobile Number : +63 917 8326253
Rates : 350/night for the hammocks, 450/night for the bunk beds
Day Trippers accepted for a lower rate.
Visit their  Website to book.
Twitter | Facebook Page 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ateneo Aquathlon 2014 : My First Multisport Experience (Race results now included!)

After falling in love with swimming last year, I decided to take the passion to the next level and join a competition. In all honesty, I am  not yet a strong swimmer but I see athletic events as a great way to learn more, focus on a sport and improve.  :)
Event banner at the College covered court where we had our bodies marked
and awaited for our division to be called
Ateneo Aquathlon is an annual event composed of swimming and running, organized by FAST (Fast Ateneo Swimming Team), Ateneo's elite swimming team. 

It's a great introduction to multi-sport as it offers short and varied distances which caters to kids and adults of varying endurance levels. Other distances are the Relay: 600m Swim & 5km Run, Aquathlon Kids(12& Below): 400m Swim & 3km Run and Lite: 400m Swim & 3km Run.
That's me on the 3rd lane from the top of the photo. :) My super supporter, lil sis took this shot. 
I joined the Classic Category (600 m swim and 5K run) at the age 30-35 division where 12 or more other ladies participated.  

My preparation was several months prior, focusing solely on swimming as it wasn't until December 2013 when I finally learned to swim properly, hihi! Prior to that, I was afraid of getting into 5 feet of water and couldn't even make it to half of a 50 meter length pool.  You see, there's hope my friends, just train consistently! :)
Men's Age 36-44 Division
At the holding area while waiting for our gun start, I glanced at the ladies that surrounded me, all looked quite fit with more than half wearing tri suits. While some looked like seasoned multi-sport participants, the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I was nervous but it was a good kind of nervous. Plus, I ran into friends (Don and Nel), met new friends, Joanna and Kim, who are from a triathlon team from Laguna. It was Kim's first multi-sport event while Joanna was coming back from a 5 year break from triathlon. 

Below's a raw footage of the first 5 minutes of the swim portion taken by my sister.
After the gun start, I sprinted too fast the first few meters as water splashed everywhere, making it challenging to grab for air. I lost my composure too and as a result,  struggled all throughout the swim part and thought about quitting after the first round. :P How I managed the next two rounds was all a blur to me (had to do 3 rounds as Ateneo's pool is only 25m long). My lungs were burning! I finished the swim route in 20:16 minutes. It's an average finish yet I'm glad I was able to complete it, considering I planned on quitting early, haha!Whew!  
Rushing towards the running route. That's me in a purple shirt near the wall. I didn't wear the singlet
provided as this was quicker to put in. :) 
In the running segment,  we went around the Ateneo campus, which was surprisingly manageable despite the heat. The water station wasn't until the first marker which was around 500m away. What I enjoyed most were the tall trees on both sides of the road. I was also glad that I was able to run consistently, stifled the urge to puke midway and finished in 31:39 minutes. Adding the swim + transition time, I was able to  complete the entire thing in 51:55 minutes, making me 6th out of 15th ladies under my division. Yipee, I know it's not that fast but I'm happy about the results, it's my first! Yay! :) 

Official race results are now uploaded at the Ateneo Aquathlon website

(Tips if joining next year): familiarize yourself with the 1st kilometer as it can get confusing on the intersection leading to the back of the gym. Also, put water or an energy drink at the transition area in case you need to get a quick drink, this was helpful for a first-timer like me).

Lastly, sharing with you my key takeaways from joining this event:
1. As a result of training, my cheekbones are now prominent and my neck can now make public appearances. Yipeeeee! :)
2. Being in love with food, I can go for guiltless food trips every now and then which keeps me  motivated to be physically active. :P
3. Swimming is also a mental sport which trains your focus, which is an excellent skill to have if you want to be a better listener and gain new knowledge. (Here's some helpful tips on how to improve mental toughness are available at the USA Swimming website)

If you're thinking of joining the event next year, do subscribe to the Ateneo Aquathlon accounts : Facebook Page | Twitter  | Aquathlon Website

Congratulations and big thanks to FAST and its sponsors for this successful event! :) I had a great time! :) 

Lastly, to my family and friends, thank you for your moral support! :)  Mwah. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baguio : Camp John Hay's Yellow Trail

Two of my closest friends, Jules & Tan has fallen head over heels with running. They're the kind of friends that are easy to be around, friends with the same type of humor, love for adventure and level of appreciation for good food (and lots of it!), which also make them awesome travel buddies. 
Innocent (?), smiley friends, Jules & Tan. (Photo taken at Mt. Sto. Tomas, Benguet)
Unfortunately, that meant getting dragged into their out of town running adventures. As both were training for a skyrunning event dubbed as the Akyathlon,  they needed some quality high altitude training. An accessible training ground which offers exactly that is Baguio, the Philippines' summer capital. 

We took an evening  bus  from Victory Liner Pasay (trip schedules here)  and by 9:00 AM, we had left Tuvera Lodge (FB Page here)for our first day of training. Camp John Hay (CJH) which can be reached by a 15-minute walk on quick strides, was nearest from the lodge. 
Quick gear check before beginning our run
CJH's Yellow Trail was our playground for the day. It is used by horse riding operators and has also gotten popular among hikers, bikers and fellow runners out for a good sweat. Apart from this route, you can also try the Blue and White Trail, also within CJH's vicinity,  which I am yet to visit in the future.  

Entrance is free and it's easy to find your way in and out.  With pine trees and scenic mountain views, it's hard not to feel happy when you're surrounded with this much beauty! :) The length of the route, out and back was 9.6 KM. 


The terrain offers rocky, dusty sections which are easy on the knees but you have to watch out for pine needles on the ground which can be very slippery, as well as the tricky bits - tree roots on the trail which can cause nasty falls. I've been to this route twice and each time, I managed to trip on the same section (where the roots and loose rocks are) and brought home some cuts on my hands as souvenirs. 

Towards the end of the route, we found ourselves surrounded by pine trees
After our run, we headed towards Techno Hub, a portion of Camp John Hay where you can find offices, shops, cafes and restaurants.  We dined at an old favorite, Pizza Volante. Here they have affordable, delicious meals, a fusion of Italian and Filipino dishes for 100 Pesos.  Its first branch is along Session Road and is open 24 hours, good place to burn time if you arrived in Baguio early and waiting for the first bus trip to Sagada which is at 6:00 AM. 

Jules and Tanny, til our next adventure! :) Sana matuloy na yung Ugo natin, once and for all :P. (We miss you Mors!)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Staycation Philippines : The Linden Suites, Ortigas

Party was in full swing by the time I arrived. It was 11:00 PM, night was young but I was already feeling sluggish, body clock nagged me as it was 3 hours past my usual sleeping hours. :P Gah! 


I felt a surge of happy energy when I saw everyone. There were around 19 smiley, pleasant faces in the room, a mix of familiar faces, old friends and complete strangers. 

Our group practically occupied the entire 19th floor at Tower 1, with 8 rooms assigned to us. An executive suite, a 78 sqm. room with its own living area, one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living area witnessed hours of karaoke, food frenzy and electrified chatters.  I loved how the room had enough space to accommodate everyone and with its high ceilings, it didn't feel cramped at all. 
Party midway, before some of us were lured towards the bed. (Photo from Gay of PinayTravelJunkie.com)
The interiors, all in earth tone shades gave out the ambiance of a  home away from home. Their rooms are packed with necessary appliances like a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, television and aircon, very apt for a small party. Its location along San Miguel avenue, which is roughly 10-15 minutes walk from SM Mega Mall makes it accessible to commuters, balikbayans and foreign visitors who don't have their own transportation. Guests bringing a car could use the basement parking or the paid parking lot near the back of the hotel, fronting UA&P along Pearl Drive. 

Someone couldn't resist the urge to selfie :P Another lovable thing about the rooms at Linden are the full
length mirrors. In our suite, there's two full length mirrors, one in the bathroom and another one near the closet. :)
(Photo from pinaytraveljunkie.com)
People brought in their share for the feast and we introduced some Filipino delicacies to our foreign bloggers guests, Sab ofJust One Way Ticket  and  Kate of Adventurous Kate.

There was pudding from Aklan, fried lumpia, Mango float, a heaping platter of Pinoy version of Spaghetti which is sweet, loaded with cheese and slices of hotdogs, pichi-pichi, kutsinta, chopseuy (Chinese dish also popular in the Philippines) and the crowd drawer, Cebu's Original Lechon belly, roasted boneless pig, originating from Cebu. (FB Page here. Thanks Mr. Marlon Gochan and Julius of Lakwatserong Tsinelas!)
Photo from Oman of lawstude.net
Sab brought in fruits and bottles of Boracay Rum. Using the blender loaned by the hotel, she came up with glasses of spiked fruit shake which we enjoyed. 


Then there were the 12 glossy bottles of Frontera wine from Chile provided by Fly Ace Corporation. I particularly liked the sweetness of Moscato, white wine that's popularly enjoyed as part of dessert and ideal for new wine lovers. 


By 2:00 AM, midway the raucous talking and singing, I found myself crawling to our assigned room bidding goodnight to the energetic ones who survived two more hours before surrendering to the comforts of their bedrooms. I slept soundly despite the party noise which was a few feet from our room. The bed was firm which is good for the back but not ideal for jumping up and down like a kid.  I loved the comforter, thick and very soft, I snuggled with it like a lover. :p
Our bedroom which fit me and my 2 roomies, Dom of escapeislands.com and Gay of pinaytraveljunkie.com.
Thanks to Marky for taking this shot. :) (Photo from Gay's cam)
The next morning, I woke up, excited for the breakfast buffet, included with the overnight stay. The spread is adequate and quite tasty (especially the baked fish). It had 3 types or rice, sausages, soup, salad station, fishes, all sorts of breads, egg station, cereals, dessert area, 3 types of juices and overflowing coffee. It was such a great mood lifter, especially since none of us had adequate sleep. 
Breakfast at the Mesclun Bar & Restaurant. Photo from Melo of outoftownblog.com
To book a room at the Linden Suites, visit their website. You can also check out the reviews at Trip Advisor

The Linden Suites 
#37 San Miguel Avenue
Ortigas Centre, Pasig City, Philippines
Contact Number : +(63)02 638 7878
Facebook Page : Linden Suites

Friday, January 24, 2014

Travel News : Going to Asia? Try Withlocals.com

Love travel?  On the look-out for a freelancing travel-related job? Both perhaps?

If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys getting into the root of the culture of the place you’re visiting and in need of a trusted local guide to take you around,  Withlocals  may just be what you need!

Through their website, Netherlands-based start-up Withlocals connects travelers with locals through food and experiences.  
Waterfall hike anyone? Location : Chiang Mai, Thailand
"We would love travelers to experience the real local tradition and not the tourist ones, and give local people the possibility to earn money with things they are good at!" - WithLocals.com

Where is it Available? Thailand, Nepal (oh this place makes me feel giddy with all its hiking destinations!), Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam (known as a foodie haven!) and Sri Lanka (where Adam's Peak is, a place on my bucket list!). 
Ah the foodie in me is elated! On this experience, you get to visit your Vietnamese host's home
where they will prepare dinner and eat with you.  Location : Hanoi, Vietnam
How to Book?
More information here.

Is is Safe to book?
Withlocals offers : 

  • A fully comprehensive, authentic review system.
  • A verified supplier system. We only promote hosts with whom we’ve had personal contact and once we have personally guaranteed the quality of the experience.
  • We rely on the reviews and the sense of community built on the site to help maintain the quality of the experiences.
  • We guarantee your experience and will fully refund your money if you are less than 100% satisfied.

Now, for those who are looking for a travel-related jobs, register as a Host : 
If you're a host in need of a platform to promote and offer your travel services that fall under the category of food, tour or experience, then you just need to create your profile at the website and fill in the necessary details. You will be visited by local ambassadors from the company as part of  their verified supplier system as they only promote hosts with whom they've had personal contact and can guarantee the quality of the experience.
More information here.

Need a little more convincing? Do check out their interview with TechInAsiaan online technology media company based across Asia and the US that shares news on Asia's technology and start-up scene. :) 

I know I'm just a bearer of this interesting piece of news but since I had to do some reading about them, I  managed to convince myself to try them on my next overseas travel! Oh where do I go?! :)  

Btw, I am not connected with the company, please route all your queries through their contact page.





Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank You 2013!

“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Much as I wished that this would be the year that I get to finally shout gleefully to the heavens for striking a romantic connection with a man who gushes at the sound of my name, this year turned out to be a time for slowing down and pursuing other adventures for which I am extremely thankful. 

I focused my energy on pursuing goals that I’ve set aside, tried new things and traveled to places I wondered about. It’s also been a truly wonderful year pursuing writing and working with brands that I respect. 

Here’s a list of my favourite adventures this year. Please click on the title links to read my post about it. :) 




3. First trip in Boracay - Ariel's Point + Top Fave Places to Dine in Boracay (link leads to my food blog)




Photo taken by my friend Arisse



Our group together with one of the owners, Dr. Cuanang












Photo from Berghaus PH
16. Accompanied  friends for their training run weekend in Baguio  (haven't written about this though). On the first day, we ran 9.6 KM at the Yellow Trail at Camp John Hay and on the following day, we had a long Slow Distance  (LSD) run from Panagbenga Park to the top of Mt. Cabuyao, a total of 19. 7 KM of road. Whew! I don't really like running but it's an awesome exercise. Spending a weekend running is not exactly my idea of fun but I was with great company so I had a blast. :) 
Photo taken at Camp John Hay's Yellow Trail
2014, see you in a bit. ;) 

This entry is part of  the Pinoy Travel Bloggers Carnival for December with the theme, Closing the Curtains on 2013 : Love, learn and living hosted by The Philippine Travelogue. View the rest of the entries here (Carnival post will be live in a few hours).


To check out the rest of the previous blog carnival entries, visit Langyaw.











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