a journal on travel and hiking around the Philippines and overseas

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

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

Hiking 6 peaks over the weekend

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

Osprey Pack : Nova

My new reliable backpacking buddy

Hiking in Bukidnon

A day hike to Mt. Kitanglad and Dulang-Dulang

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Advocacy : Cebu Pacific Partners with UNICEF for Children's Health & Nutrition

While I believe we make our own destiny and that we all have equal chances at succeeding in life, it does help when we're equipped with the physical and mental capacity to be the best that we can be. Sadly, many children are not given the adequate nourishment, which leads to stunting (read here), a condition that  impacts a child's physical and mental health and development. Its adverse impact carries on until adult life, impacting their ability to stay healthy, learn more and earn more. While the effects are irreversible, it is preventable. Here's how you can help. 

Starting July 1, 2016, passengers in all Cebu Pacific flights from Manila hub will be given an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children by donating any amount during their flight through UNICEF's "Change for Good" Program. 
 Cebu Pacific President & CEO Lance Gokongwei and UNICEF Representative Lotta Sylwander.
(Photo from Stratworks)
"Change for Good  is  a global partnership between UNICEF and the international airline industry". Established in 1987,  the program aims to collect donations from passengers to be able to provide materials and services for vulnerable children in more than 150 countries. One of its programs, the First 1,000 Days Health and Nutrition is Cebu Pacific's chosen beneficiary for the Change for Good partnership. This initiative aims to provide proper health and nutrition to children and their mothers on the first 1000 days, a crucial point in a child's well-being and development,  spanning from a mother's pregnancy until the child reaches 2 years old.  (Are you a new mother? Read about the importance of a child's first 1000 days here)

Learn more about chronic malnutrition on Rappler.

Now, imagine if all children are given the adequate nutrition and assistance to help them succeed in life? What a better nation we could build together!

Cebu Pacific is the first airline partner of UNICEF’s  Change for Good program in the entire Southeast Asia. During the flight, after the onboard games, the crew will invite passengers to make a donation. Any amount from any currency is welcome! :) 
UNICEF Ambassador Gary Valenciano and Celebrity Advocate for Children Anne Curtis
with the Cebu Pacific cabin crew  during the launch of Change for Good 
(Photo from Stratworks)
The program will be initially rolled out for Cebu Pacific Manila hub before being implemented for the rest of the airline's hubs around the Philippines. 

If you're not flying soon, you can still donate or get more information on UNICEF's First 1000 Days Health & Nutrition Program through, 1000days.unicef.ph

Cebu Pacific Air, now on its 20th year of operations,  is the largest carrier in the Philippines air transportation industry , offerings its low-cost services to more destinations and routes with higher flight frequency within the Philippines than any other airlines. To book a flight, visit Cebu Pacific. (Side story: This is the airline that made it possible for me to travel extensively around the Philippines when I was in my mid 20s, through  its generous seat sales. Back then, I can get a round trip fare for as low as 56 Pesos!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Human Nature Save Our Seas Coastival 2016

Last April 29, I participated in the 1st S.O.S (Save Our Seas) Coastival in San Juan, La Union. Organized by Human Nature, the country's largest manufacturer of natural personal care, this one day event was dubbed as an eco-friendly version of "Laboracay", the massive summer celebration that happens in Boracay island every Labor Day weekend. 
Arrival in Urbiztondo beach in time to witness a beautiful sunrise
Conservationists, fellow bloggers and other members of the media helped in building a sand art led by muralist and climate justice advocate, AG Sano, aka the Dolphin Guy (Story here).  The 180 meter long sand art was built  along Urbiztondo beach with the "leave no trace principles" in mind, using only sand, water and recycled wood rakes. Its creation was a call to encourage every Filipino to do their share in saving our Philippine seas. 

Responsible Travel Tip #1 : Use products with ingredients that won't harm the ocean. Most synthetic suncreens that contain ingredients like parabens, oxybenzone and benzonphenone can bleach corals within just 96 hours of exposure. Coral bleaching, which is primarily caused by global warming, drives away algae that gives corals its color and may also lead to its death. (More info here.) 
AG Sano (in blue shirt) creating the outline 
After having breakfast at Urbiz Garden, we headed to the beach and assisted in reinforcing the outline of the sand art. While we were building it, I couldn't envision the outcome even as it was described to us. We were on a massive beach, raking sand and pouring water on it while the sun was merrily blasting. We stopped working on it a little before 9:00 AM as the heat became unbearable. We were told that we were resuming around 4:00 PM. 

I was happy for some down time as this gave us time to just enjoy the beach and mingle. We left Manila at 1:30 AM and none of us had a proper sleep. 

(Heading to the beach soon? Check out cool new summer shades from Ray Ban available at ZALORA)
Lazing on the beach :) 
Responsible Travel Tip #2 : Bring your own water bottle/container. Not only will it save you some money, you will be able to help reduce waste. 

Aside from participating in the sand art, we listed to performances by local artists  such as Paola Mauricio and Yellow Submarine.  There were also low environmental impact beach activities such as yoga, capoeira and poi.

Responsible Travel Tip #3 :
 When you spot a sea turtle/pawikan, an endangered specie, leave them alone. Do not come closer to avoid disrupting them from laying their eggs. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and keep their numbers at bay, allowing us humans to wade in the water. 

I  recently discovered that yoga is a good complement to swimming, my new sport, so I decided to join the session by Corey Wills. It's  only my second formal yoga class, since birth :P and  I suffered on the earlier parts. My face contorted like I've just seen a platter of crispy bacon get thrown in the garbage. It was tough, especially since my back muscles seem to be entangled and it's just painful to hold on to some of the poses, but when we finished, I felt refreshed and the tightness on my upper back caused by swimming had disappeared. 
Our yoga session with Corey Wills. Photo from Human Nature
After the activities, we gathered to the beach to work on some finishing touches on the sand art. Due to the heat, we needed to pour some water on the outlines so it can be more visible when the drone pass over it.
The 180 meter sand art. We're standing at the "O" part as the drone flew over us for  this 
monumental shot.  (Photo fr Human Nature)

Even as the sand art was finished, I couldn't picture what it was the we helped create - well, not until we finally saw the drone shot and saw how beautifully it turned out.  In retrospect, our work with the sand art is similar to how we can contribute to saving the environment. If each person did their share, our collective efforts  could lead to bigger and more effective results. :) 

The S.O.S Coastival 2016 was initiated  by Human Nature in partnership with WWF Philippines, CURMA (Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions), Save Philippine Seas and La Union Soul, an eco tourism movement by the local community. 

More tips on how to be a more eco-friendly traveler ->  17 Incredibly Easy Things You can Do to be a More Eco-Friendly Traveler

Sharing with you a video of the highlights at the 1st Human Nature S.O.S. Coastival : 

Where to buy environment-friendly personal care products?

For reef-friendly sunscreen and non toxic personal care products, visit Human Nature's website here.

Where to stay in La Union?
We stayed for a night in Chill'N, a new inn in San Juan, located 10 minutes on foot from Urbiztondo beach. It has its own pool, air conditioned rooms. 

Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union, Philippines 
For rates, get in touch with them through their facebook page, : http://www.facebook.com/chillnhotel/
Contact Numbers : 
+63 917 575 0414 (Mobile)
+63 (072) 252 25 33 (Landline)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Travel Wish List : Tangerang City, a Relaxing Stop after your Outdoor Adventures in Java, Indonesia

I live in the Philippines, an archipelago in Southeast Asia with lots of forests, scenic mountain views and where the sun joyfully blasts its rays almost the entire year. While I have taken the time exploring  my home (and there's still more to visit!),  I do get curious about other countries, especially our Asian neighbors. One country that has caught my interest for its outdoor destinations and the awesome fact that I don't need a visa for a visit is, Indonesia! :) Seeing photos from friends who have traveled here, its tourism tagline, Wonderful Indonesia seems like a very fitting description of what it can offer to nature lovers like me.
Screenshot from @indtravel, the official Instagram account of
 Indonesia Ministry Tourism where you can get ideas on where to go.
Since it'll be my first visit to Indonesia, an archipelago country that has over 17,000 islands (Source : CIA Fact Bookand exploring with limited time, I am carefully considering where to go. While I've come up with my initial hiking list which includes, Mt. Bromo in East Java, I am also checking out possible stops to complete my itinerary. 

Related Post : Check out my hiking adventures here.

One of the cities that came up is Tangerang City in the province of Banten. The nearest airport, also  in the same city is Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (IATA code, CGK), which serves those traveling to Greater Jakarta on the island of Java. To give you a perspective on its location, here's a map

Tangerang is known as an industrial and manufacturing hub. What got me curious about this city, you ask? It's for the simple reason that I don't know much about it nor do I know anyone who has visited the city! :P That means my eyes are not yet overly exposed to all the things I am about to see, which is refreshing. :)

Here is a list of destinations in and around Tangerang. I've only relied on the internet so please drop a comment  below if you have a recommendation. :) 

Opened in 2011, the museum is in a  restored 2-storey 17th century style, Peranakan house, located at Pasar Lama Market, which I also want to check out  (exploring a market and all its stalls is an adventure on its own). It contains artifacts showcasing Chinese culture from 17th-19th century. It is also serves as a venue for Peranakan culinary festivals, wedding & fashion shows and community gatherings. 

Entrance fee  is from Rp. 25,000 to Rp. 125,000 per person, prices vary if you want to include a Peranakan meal.  To read  reviews on Trip advisor, click here.

*Peranakan refers to descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled and married  locals in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia from the 10th Century to present. (Source Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania)

an imposing structure and place of worship located near the City Hall and the Balekota Mall,  about 30 minutes from the international airport. I could not find a lot of information online with an English translation so I'd probably have to inquire when I get there. :P 

Not popular to  travelers, Pari island is an ideal beach escape if you're after some peace and quiet. Its name, Pari means "Ray fish". Early settlers trying to escape forced labor from Dutch colonists  saw many ray fish in its waters when they first came in, thus naming the island after the sea animal. (Source : Wonderful Indonesia)

Activities in the island include swimming, diving, fishing and snorkeling. Also worth visiting is a white sand beach,Pantai Pasir Perawan (Virgin beach). Although there is electricity, there are no hotels or resorts in the area, just homestays. Its description reminds me of a similar place here in the Philippines, Palaui island. (Post here

Getting around is through a bicycle which can be rented Rp. 15,000/hr or Rp 30,000
for the day. The island can be reached via three ports. However, the shortest travel is from Muara Saban Cituis Port in Tangerang, taking 1-1.5 hours

For photos and travel information on Pari Island, visit the official tourism website of Indonesia here

For outdoor dining and live music, Summarecon Mal Serpong at Sentra Gading Serpong is a promising destination. AEON Mall also, a Japanese themed mall at Jl. BSD Raya Utama is recommended for those who crave for Japanese food, if you don't have the budget or time to go to Japan yet. :P

Find best hotel through booking site, Traveloka. Here you can also book, Novotel Tangerang, a 4-star hotel, 45 minutes from Jakarta.  Summarecon Mal Serpong, the shopping mall I mentioned above is only 5.89 Kilometers away.
Screenshot of the pool from Novotel Tangerang from booking site, Traveloka
If you have other suggestions on other places (I'm looking for more outdoor destinations!), just leave a comment below or send me a  tweet, @jovialwanderer. Please also visit my Instagram account, @Jovialwanderer, I share a lot about hiking spots and food there! :P 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Urban Adventure : Where to Go in Quezon City

On  a recent media familiarization tour with Microtel Philippines, I was able to revisit and discover new destinations in Quezon City. I'm sharing with you the places we visited, plus a few more recommendations for you fellow nature lovers and foodies! :) (I know this is not the ultimate list, please do let me know if there are other places worth checking out. ;))

Quezon Memorial Park/Quezon Memorial Circle (Diliman)
Managed by the local government of Quezon city,  it  is dedicated in honor of the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. Filled with tall trees, it is a good spot to run, bike or have a picnic. There is also sufficient parking space if bringing your own vehicle.   There are numerous picnic tables while others prefer to sit on the grassy area near its key feature, a  66 meter monument. At night, it lights up with a different combination of colors, making it even more visible from major roads near  the park. 
one of the numerous walkways inside Quezon Memorial Park
At the monument's base is a museum featuring memorabilia of the former president  and a mausoleum holding his remains and of his wife, Aurora. After going around, you can go shopping at the  souvenir center,get some refreshments from one of the  stalls selling coconuts and have a meal in one of the restaurants in the park. Entrance is free except if going to the amusement park. There is also a minimal parking fee (100 Pesos for buses, 20 Pesos for cars). Check out park fees here.
the 66 meter monument changing into  a combination of red and blue
Other parks in Quezon city include,Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife (you can drop by here when you go to Quezon Memorial Circle) and La Mesa Eco Park, which offers a lot of activities for the family and also has bike & trail running routes. 
Directions how to get here | Additional info on this website.)

Related read :  Makati Park & Garden and a boat ride on Pasig River

Quezon Heritage House (inside Quezon Memorial Circle) 
This is the  reconstructed vacation house of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, transferred from its original location in Gilmore St., New Manila. The project was a result of an agreement between the local government of Quezon city and the Quezon heirs, who donated some of the furniture on display here. 

Quezon City Experience (Diliman) 
Also within the vicinity of Quezon Memorial Park is Quezon City Experience or QCX, an interactive social museum featuring the history and culture of the city and its vision. All visits come with a free guided tour, taking at least an hour to complete its 16 galleries. (My favorite was the gallery featuring the city's urban legends :)) 

Operating Hours : 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM except Mondays
Fees : 
Students with ID – P80
Quezon City resident – P100 (must present valid ID with address)
Non-Quezon City resident – P150
Group of 50 – 20% discount
Group of 50 students – 30% discount
Senior citizens/Persons with disability/Solo parent – 20% discount
Family of 5 members – 20% discount

Free admission for children 6 years and below
See full feature on Rappler (click here)

UP Diliman Campus 
The state university has a lot of open spaces lined with huge trees that are accessible to the public. It is a very good spot to run, do a photowalk,bike or just relish the sight of greenery everywhere.  Sunken Garden is a huge grassy area where you can play team sports such as frisbee, rugby and football (I used to join an open group playing football here on weekends.) Also another beautiful spot in the campus is the Lagoon, an area filled with big trees and a swamp filled with lotus plants, creating a mysterious vibe. While I can imagine it as a good place for some quiet time, friends who studied here informed me that the place is more popularly known as a spot for lovers. 
The Lagoon in UP Diliman campus
Tip : Comfort rooms maybe a little challenging to find so better if you take your bathroom break before coming here. In case you can't hold it in, try the comfort room at Bahay ng Alumni along R. Magsaysay Ave. (You can also find Chocolate Kiss cafe here) or the restroom at the Church of the Holy Sacrifice. 

On Sundays, outsiders can also rent Japanese bikes through UP Bike Share, a student initiative promoting biking and environmental awareness, ran by the club with the same name. There are no fixed fees to rent out the bikes, any amount is accepted. To get more details, get in touch with them on Facebook, UP Bike Share.
Group shot in front of the Oblation with  Mike Laperal (UP Bike Share president)
& Elmo Mojares (Business Development officer)
Mystery Manila (Libis)
Test your problem solving skills  by working with your teammates in this themed escape room game.  If you are able to escape within 30 minutes, a token is given to each member of the team and your team name will be written on their wall of fame, along those who have completed it within significantly fast times. 
Group shot after we successfully got out of the escape room :)  (Photo from Marky of nomadicexperiences.com)
Rates :  starts at 400-550 PHP depending on number of players (Manila branches)
500-650 PHP (Boracay branch)
Number of Players Required : minimum of 2, maximum of 6 players
To book or get more information, check out their website, http://www.mysterymanila.com/
Facebook Page : Mystery Manila

Quezon City Food Trip?
Visit Maginhawa, a street known for its small restaurants and cafe. Over the years, nearby streets have also opened up, giving visitors more options.  Check out this guide from Travel Up.

If you're looking for a place that serves international food prepared the authentic way, I recommend Millie's All Day Dining located inside Microtel UP Ayala Techno Hub. :) 
Grilled pork chop with sauteed potatoes at Millie's All-day Dining 
Where to Stay in Quezon City?  
If you plan on spending the night in Quezon City, consider Microtel by Wyndham, a chain of hotels offering the same great quality in each location.  In the Philippines, it currently has 13 branches with two hotels in Quezon City,  Microtel UP Technohub, along Commonwealth Avenue and Microtel Acropolis, along E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue. Other than the assurance of offering quality service and accommodation at reasonable rates, it's their chiropractor approved mattresses that's so good to sleep in and makes you feel so refreshed after that I'm crazy about!  Also a big plus for me, being always thirsty, are the water dispensers where you can get as much drinking water as you need with no extra charge. 

Microtel UP Technohub - recommended for staycationers or those attending a function in Quezon City. It is also being booked for wedding shoots for its nice garden and pool area. 
Microtel UP Technohub's very spacious pool area, a very good place to hang out early in the morning or later in the evening. The pool is actually square shape and probably about 10 meters long. (Photo from Microtel PH website)
Address : UP-Ayala Land Technohub, Commonwealth Avenue, 
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines  
Rates : Starts at 3,200+ PHP per  night depending on room type and when you book.  Discounted rates offered in Agoda. Click here.
Website : Microtel UP Technohub

Microtel Acropolis - Located just across Eastwood city, it is recommended for business travelers or those from out of town, running errands in the city.  I love their buffet breakfast,  offered by its partner restaurant, Silver Tie Cafe and Bistro, and is included in your overnight stay. 
Double queen room at Microtel Acropolis (Photo from Microtel PH website)
Address : E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Brgy. Bagumbayan, Quezon City
Rates : starts at 3,300+ PHP per  night depending on room type and when you book
Website : Microtel Acropolis
Other Microtel by Wyndham branches  : Baguio, Batangas, Boracay, Cabanatuan, Eagle Ridge Cavite, Davao, General Santos city, Mall of Asia (Manila), Palawan, South Forbes (Laguna) & Tarlac

For  bookings and more information, visit their website, Microtel Philippines.

Related Posts : 
Hassle Free Stays at Microtel by Pinoy Adventurista
Weekend Ideas in Quezon City by Outrigger PH

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where to Stay in Bataan After an Adventure

Looking for a place to stay after hiking and traveling around Bataan? Check out this list! 

See related post : Where to go around Bataan? (includes hiking and biking destinations and suggestions on where to eat after!)

The Oriental is a new hotel located within the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB), recommended for both business travelers and staycationersWith its location away from the noise of the main road, on top of a hill,  it offers views of Mariveles bay and its mountain range. It has 24 rooms and 8 different room types, its own bar, two restaurants - Cocoon restaurant and Forest Grill (to open soon) and an indoor and outdoor spa. We stayed here for a night when we covered the  11th Padyakan sa Bataan, an annual bike race organized by the provincial tourism office of Bataan.  My roomie couldn't make it  so I had two beds for myself. The room is cozy and with the heavy drapes, comfy couch, coffee and tea making facility,  I could stay here the entire day! :P My favorite part of the room though is the  backdoor exit that led to its lounge and circular pool. 
Pool area. Wish I was able to take a dip here!
The hotel is not accessible to public transpo and if bringing your own vehicle, there is a ample parking space. The hotel also offers shuttle services for those who are commuting. 

Rates : 5,000+ PHP/night (They're currently offering introductory rates from 3,000-4,000 PHP!) You can book through their website listed below. 
You can also get discounted room rates via Agoda, visit this link to book a room today. 
Amenities : Wi-Fi access, Cable TV, 24-hour security, In-room safe and Safety deposit box, In-room coffee and tea making facility, Hot and cold shower, Complimentary bottled water
Address : Freeport Area of Bataan Compound Brgy. Malaya, Mariveles Bataan
Contact Numbers : +63 (02) 536 1111 / (02 536 9999 / +63 906 223 4358
Other branches include The Oriental 
Website : http://www.bataan.theorientalhotels.com/
Reviews : You can also check out reviews by other guests on Trip Advisor by going to this link

Here are some more pictures of The Oriental :
The view at Forest Grill, one of the restaurants inside The Oriental Hotel in Mariveles
Two beds for me. I was given a Twin Deluxe that had a backdoor entrance going to the pool.
The rooms are actually more spacious than in the photo.
We had our dinner here and while waiting for our food, we were toured by their staff around the property. Behind the restaurant are two inviting pools, an adult and a kiddie pool and a few steps away is a cluster of small houses with air-conditioned rooms  for those spending a night. Since they were fully booked, we were not able to view any of the rooms but there are pictures on this blog.

About a hundred feet away, there is an enormous  space with two more bigger pools, cabanas and tables under a tree, a good venue for day trippers who want to relax with friends. I think all the space could accommodate about 100 people. 

one of the four pools at Mt. Tarak Guest House and Restaurant
During our visit, we chanced on several groups on a picnic and enjoying the pool but still, the entire place gave out a relaxing, quiet vibe. Perhaps, all the space and trees mitigated the noise. We also enjoyed the food here, a fusion of international cuisine. I love the paella, brocoli and mushroom with drowned in melted cheese and their specialty, a chicken dish called Pollo Iberico Antojo. 

Room Rates : 2,000 PHP for a solo room/ 2,500 PHP for a room with two beds
200 PHP for day trippers who want to use the swimming pool 
Address : Maap Road, Barangay Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines
Contact Numbers : Mobile - +63 0917 534 28 87 | Landline -   +63 (047) 6121093 
Facebook Page : Mt. Tarak Guest House and Restaurant
Click here to book via  Agoda

Its decent accommodation and location, being very accessible to public transpo and other establishments are its main draw. Located along Capitol drive, a major road near the city center, this hotel  is close to  banks, spa, a convenience store, a branch of The Beanery (Bataan's famous cafe), Starbucks and Chowking (Chinese fastfood). It is less than 10 minutes away from the town plaza, Plaza Mayor Ciudad de Balanga and the city hall. 
Picture taken from the lobby, featuring the restaurant at Crown Royale. Photo taken by Kara Santos of traveling-up.com
2 beds for 1. My bedroom at Crown Royale
Rates : 
1,700 PHP for One Double Size Bed (1 double bed)
2,300 for Twin Deluxe (2 single beds)
*These are air conditioned rooms. Please confirm the rates when you inquire as this may change any time. 
Get discounted rates when you book via Agoda. Click here.
Address : Capitol Drive, San Jose, Balanga, Bataan
Website : http://crownroyalehotel.com/

For a mix of business and pleasure, check out The Plaza, a hotel at the city center featuring 34 classy rooms. When we stayed here, my roomie and I, both avid hikers,  were given a  room with  a good mountain view. Checking the location from Google map, my guess is  it's Mt. Natib. (Tip : For a mountain view, ask for a room facing the Balanga cathedral, an 18th Century old church). The Plaza is  within the same complex as Plaza Mayor Ciudad de Balanga, a beautiful complex designed after the Plaza Mayor located in the  old city of Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also within the complex are two restaurants serving good food, Cafe Kyoto (Japanese cuisine) and Stregato Gelateria. 
A view of Balanga cathedral and the rest of the town from our room at The Plaza.
our classy room at The Plaza
Rates :  room rates start at 3,200 PHP (Single/Double occupancy)
3,680 PHP (Plaza View Deluxe/Junior Suite)
4,960 PHP (Maria Clara/Ibarra/Presidential suite)
Address : Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga, Balanga City, Bataan
Contact Numbers : +63(047) 237 1037  - landline
+63 917 310 5083  / 0998 5411741 - mobile numbers
Website : http://www.theplazahotelbalanga.com/
Discounted rates offered here via Agoda.
A review of The Plaza is posted  here.

For a list of resorts in Bataan, check out this list from Out of Town. For more places to visit around Bataan, do check out this post from Love Mindanao. 

Acknowledgement : This post was made in collaboration with Osprey Packs Philippines and the Provincial Tourism office of Bataan. Thank you for showing us the beauty of Bataan! :) 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Outdoor Adventures in Bataan

Up until a few months ago,  I only knew Bataan for its mountain trails.  My "initiation climb" with an outdoor club was actually in Kairukan Falls in Morong, 16 years ago! :) Being an avid hiker, return visits were limited to just hiking and I'd normally just have enough time to go back home and prepare for school or work the next day. Fortunately, after a collaboration with Osprey Philippines and the provincial tourism of Bataan,  I was introduced to other wonderful places in Bataan that made me realize how underrated of a destination it is.  

Check out this list of hiking and bike trails,  plus other destinations and  tips on where to eat in Bataan!  I also want to share that other than the places itself, I am  also promoting responsible outdoor travel, the core of which is in this old quote, "Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but footprints, Kill nothing but time."    I'm sharing information with high hopes that you'll visit these places and  gain more appreciation for nature and respect for people, places and fellow travelers. 

Mountain Trails
Tarak Ridge (Brgy. Alas-Asin, Mariveles) -  this old and frequented hiking destination is part of Mt. Mariveles and takes 5-6 hours to reach. Its main draw are the stops to Papaya river (where you can dip in its icy water) and the ridge's scenic view of Corregidor and other nearby islands.  (Itinerary here.)
my friend Des at Papaya river
Pantingan-Tarak Traverse (Brgy. Saysain, Bagac to Brgy. Alas-Asin, Mariveles) - this one's on my bucketlist!  If you're physically and mentally prepared and looking for a grueling day or an overnight hike, try this route which combines Pantingan Peak, the highest peak of Mt. Mariveles and Tarak Ridge. Local hikers refer to this route as PanTarak. Check out a friend's account of their day hike which took them 20 hours to complete. (Blog here). As an alternate, Pantingan Peak can also be your main destination that can be completed as a very long day hike that would take about 11 hours to finish. You can also spread it out in a 2 day itinerary. Itinerary here.

Mt. Natib (Brgy. Tala, Orani, Bataan)- Classified by PHIVOLCS as a potentially active volcano, you will find lots of big rocks and thick flora along trail, but no fumaroles. It is notorious for its steep trails to the summit that'll take about 3.5-5 hours to reach (depending on the group's pace) and limatik-infested trail (leeches). A side trip to Pasukulan falls (information below) can be combined with a hike to Mt. Natib. Itinerary here.

For a more challenging hike, you can do a traverse from Mt. Natib to Sitio Kanawan, an Aeta community in Morong, that will take about 12 hours to complete (blogged about it here).  If you have acrophobia like me, the hanging bridge before the main road will be another highlight of your adventure. :P
Group shot at the summit of Mt. Natib taken during our hike in 2013. Photo from pinoymountaineer.com.

San Miguel Peak (Brgy. Sisiman, Mariveles) -  located in the coastal town of Sisiman, the hike to its peak, though a bit steep takes only about 10-15 minutes.   At the top, you can catch a  glorious view of the sunset, see Mariveles Bay, Corregidor island, Sisiman lighthouse and the town of Mariveles. (Travel Reminder : Take your trash down with you. No one's going to pick it up after you. ;))
Sunset from San Miguel Peak. Took this photo on a solo hike up this hill on December 2015. 
After your hike, you can also take a sidetrip to Sisiman lighthouse. The area near the shore is also great spot to watch the sunset. The entire barangay appears to glow during the golden hour, a very relaxing sight!  For more information on San Miguel Peak, check out this very helpful post from Filipina Explorer.

Another mountain that can be hiked but with limited information online is the cone-shaped Mt. Malasimbo in Dinalupihan. 

Notes : Hiking time mentioned on this post are the average time. Ultimately, your own hike would depend on your level of fitness and your group's pace. To maximize your hiking adventure, it is recommended to train before a hike. Train harder if it's a major hike for your own safety and the group's.  Some ways to prepare for day hikes are stairs climbing (some do it with a backpack but be careful not to injure your back), running or using an elliptical machine, 3x a week for at least 30 minutes. Swimming is also good but you also need to do some running so you can work on your knees. If you're doing multi-day hikes, training with weights would also be helpful. 

Travel Reminder : If nature inspires you to hike or travel, help preserve what Mother Nature has to offer. Leave no trace. Don’t write on rock formation or tree trunks. This is an eyesore and a selfish way of leaving a mark. 

Ambon Ambon Falls 
Ambon Ambon Falls & Limutan Falls  (Bagac, Bataan) - Limutan is a small falls, approximately 20 meters in height. It is frequented by locals on weekends. If you have a 4WD, you can park close to the jump-off that will cut your hiking time. I saw visitors bringing beer cases to its base. :P The basin is small and can accommodate about 10-15 people. Ambon Ambon Falls on the other hand is taller, about 60 meters yet the basin is small, can comfortably fit less than 10 people and the water goes only up to my waist (I'm only 4'11 feet tall). When we went here, we first went to Ambon Ambon Falls which  was a  2.5 hour hike from where our van dropped us.  Taking a shortcut, it took less than an hour to get to Limutan Falls. 

Check out Love Mindanao's account of our hiking adventure last April 3, 2016. 
Kairukan Falls (Morong) 

Pasukulan Falls (Abucay) - another hiking trail on my list, specifically for its lush trail. For more information, check out this post from Turista Travels . This can be your main destination or a side trip after hiking Mt. Natib. 

Dunsulan Falls (Pilar) - located at the foot of Mt. Samat, this 9-meter falls is  a gentle hike. Aside from bathing, other activities include riding a  540-meter zipline and horseback riding. Check out GMA's video feature below.

Responsible Travel Tip : Bring your own trash bag or dispose your waste properly. 

Trail Running/Biking 

Bataan's infamous bike trail is the  Killer Loop. Art Fuentes of Outside Slacker,  provided this description of the route, "technical climbs, flowy descents, bone-rattling downhills, fantastic views of mountains, rolling hills and seas– the Killer Loop has got it all."Check out the rest of his review on his blog, Outside Slacker.

For information on mountain biking in Bataan, check out think link.
 You may also get in touch with Bataan Trailriders and Adventurers Network on Facebook.

Other Places to Visit in Bataan  
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar  (Brgy. Pag-asa, Bagac)- recommended for architecture and history enthusiasts, this destination provides a glimpse of 18th century Philippines, showcasing intricately reconstructed heritage houses.  Day tours (Starts at 999 net/person) and overnight packages are available. Visit their website for more details. 

Mt. Samat National Shrine  (Brgy. Diwa, Pilar) - completed in 1970, it is dedicated to the American and Filipino soldiers who fought during World War II. The shrine consists of a 92 meter memorial cross with a viewing gallery and a colonnade with a mural, esplanade and war museum.  The memorial cross which is at 555 meters above sea level offers sweeping views of other municipalities, nearby mountains and the West Philippine sea. 
Opening Hours : 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, daily
Entrance Fee : 20 PHP (Parking fee is at 20-30 PHP depending on vehicle type)
For more photos and info on Mt. Samat, check out this post from  Lakad Pilipinas. Click here.

Balanga Wetland and Nature Park (Balanga) - consists of a mangrove trail and also considered a good area for birdwatching (Come early in the morning). My first visit  here in 2015 ignited my fascination with mangrove forests. 

Did you know that mangroves are home to fish, crab, shrimps and mollusk species? It also protects the coast from erosion brought by waves and storm by trapping sediments from rivers and land (Source : WWF)
Address : Barangay Tortugas, Balanga City
Entrance Fee : 5 PHP! 
Commuting directions and additional information on Filipina Explorer.
Balanga Wetland's mangrove trail. Photo taken by Eazytraveler.com

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Napont Point, Morong) - the Philippines' first and only nuclear power plant was completed in 1984 but never operated due to the government's decision to mothball the project when the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine happened.(Source : Interview by Telegraph.co.uk to Mauro Marcelo Jr.) By law, NAPOCOR is mandated to maintain and preserve the facility, which is now open to visitors and for educational tours. Advance coordination needs to be arranged with NAPOCOR. Contact details at the NAPOCOR website. 
Outside Bataan's Nuclear Powerplant facility
Pawikan Conservation Center (Nagbalayong, Morong) - run by volunteers from Bantay Pawikan Inc., whose chairman was a former Pawikan egg hunter turned savior of these endangered species.  There are about two rescued pawikans that are under their care that can be viewed by visitors. More turtles can be seen around November-December, when  the turtles who were born here come back to lay their eggs.  The Pawikan festival is  held annually every last week of November as a means to promote awareness and help raise funds for the organization's conservation efforts. 
Entrance Fee : 20 PHP  (Check out Lakwatsero.me visit here. The blog was posted in 2011 but it's still very similar on how the place looked when we visited December 2015.)

Where to eat in Bataan after your adventure? 
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

The Beanery - a chain of cozy cafes that also serve full meals. I've been hearing good feedback with their food. Unfortunately, I  wasn't able to try the food during my first visit but I'll definitely be back to try their meals! 
Price Range : 120 PHP above for the pastas and around 120 PHP above for the coffee
Address : The Beanery Main Branch, Capitol Drive, San Jose, Balanga City
Facebook Page : The Beanery
*There are two branches in Balanga 

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 Guest House and 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

Loleng's Hutieu-an - 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, BataanBusiness Hours : 7:00 am to 9:00 pm (Monday to Sunday)

Stregato Gelateria - 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
Address : Galeria Victoria Mall, Balanga
Facebook Page : Stregato Gelateria

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

Where to stay in Bataan? Click here to check out my post! 

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 souvenir shop
Email : bataan_tourism@yahoo.com
Contact Number : +63 (047) 237 4785
Facebook Page : Bataan Tourism
Website : 1Bataan

Other helpful blogs on Bataan (click on the links to get to their blogs) :
Travel Up : Bataan Travel Guide
Lakad Pilipinas : Bataan posts
Turista Trails : 5 Reasons Why Bataan Deserves your Visit More than Once (I agree!)
Byahe ni Drew also posted an itinerary here.

Acknowledgments : This post was made in collaboration with the Provincial Tourism of Bataan and Osprey Philippines. Thank you for hosting me! :) 

 If you know other places in Bataan for a good outdoor adventure, just send me a comment below or send me a tweet, @Jovialwanderer. I'm also on Instagram, click here to get to my feed directly.  :)

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