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Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Secret Island

Yesterday, I ran into a fellow traveler who told me outrageously wonderful stuff about a place here in the Philippines which not a lot of people know about. We got into that discussion because I asked him his favorite photographed place in the entire Philippines. He asked me if it was a trick question and I can understand where he’s coming from. There are tons of amazingly beautiful places all over the country and it’s just difficult to say which one is best if somebody just asked you outright. After a minute, he told me about this place he went to just after graduating from college. It was an exploration trip somewhere in Luzon. It took one week for them to reach this place and another boat ride to get to the island. No public boat goes there and it’s a place that’s not even included in the Philippine map. He told me it was better than Batanes.

I can’t replicate the way he described the place but it sounded so amazing that I can’t get it off my mind - which is why I woke up quite early. My curiosity has been triggered and I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday. That guy!

This island has a snorkeling spot on its one side and a surfing spot on the other. Near it is a waterfalls – with its water running towards the ocean. Beside it are whirlpools where you can see corals. During the evening, you can see the moon shining over the Pacific ocean. In the morning, the sun will wake you up as it shines over your camp. Ahhh! It sounds like paradise.

He swore he’s not making it up. He doesn’t have the photos because back then, he used a film and couldn’t find the copies of the pictures but it left a memory in his heart that he treasures up to this day.

I need Google maps.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Overnight at the Airport

-  July 20, 2009 -

I wanted to cry when the pilot announced that we had arrived 25 minutes ahead of schedule. It was around 10:30PM. I had just flown in from Singapore and was due to fly back to Clark the following day from Kuala Lumpur. I arrived at the LCCT terminal too early and could only check in at 3:30AM for my 7:20 AM flight. I had no money left to take a hostel. I had a total of about 9 hours to wait and I felt really tired.

I finally settled down in a plastic chair in one of the cold lonely wings. LCCT terminal is open for 24 hours and there were lots of people waiting with me. This airport is an hour away by private transportation from the city center and would cost you a lot if you take a cab - around 70MYR or more (from Wikipedia). Most people take the train to KL Sentral which is connected to the airport but it does not operate in time for the first flight. There are also food establishments like Marry Brown and Mc Donald's where you can buy food any time of the day. There are also souveneir shops, coffee shops and a convenience store to keep you busy for a while.

I had plenty of time by myself.

I suddenly wished I wasn't alone, that there was someone I can laugh with of the things I observed.It also got me into thinking that the best way to spend your time waiting at the airport - is to be with a friend..or a lover. I felt envious of the people around me who had comfortable laps to lie on. The plastic chair just isn't suited for peaceful sleeping and I could only rely on my ever dependable Deuter to prop my tired legs. I got to give credit to that bag as I am not an easy companion. I go to dirty places, walk under the sun and get wet by the rain.

See, what I had to put up with, directly in front of me were a couple - contented with each other's company. The girl lying on the guy's lap as if it was the most comfortable pillow. Aw, love! :)

Wished I could join their chat
Ahh..a brave soul. Lying so peacefully on the floor. It's almost too peacefully, it's scary. :P

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Air Asia Seat Sale

Air Asia is a budget airline based in Malaysia and currently has two destinations coming from Clark, Pampanga:

Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu

It's also the same airline where I was able to book round trip tickets to Kota Kinabalu for roughly 1,200 pesos all in! Their website is quite user-friendly and has convenient features such as early check-in, online shops, etc. Their was formed in 1993 and initiated low cost traveling in Asia.

To check out flight schedules, please log on to : http://www.airasia.com

Getting to Clark Airport is pretty easy as there are Philtranco buses coming from Pasay and Mega Mall Building A that takes you to the airport doors. They have aligned their trip schedules with the flights. You may buy your ticket two days in advance.

Bus Ticket Cost:

Coming from Pasay (It's across Cabrera St.) - 350 pesos

Coming from Mega Mall - 300 pesos

It's a bit hard to get through their hotline but buying bus ticket is a breeze.

Address: Edsa corner Apelo Cruz Street

*Earliest trip coming from Pasay is at 6:30AM; next I think is at 11:00am.

Another option is two ride a bus to Dau - more info provided here at my friend's blog:


*Will provide more info when I get back from my trip. :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting Down and Dirty with the Guys

Last Sunday, I had the chance to play football again in the annual office football tournament.
It’s a one day seven-a side mixed gender battle on the field where each sites’ representatives go against the teams from the other sites.

This year, I played for a different team as our account had already been transferred to the farther part of the metro. But unlike the two previous years, I was the only girl in our team. My teammates may have changed but the fun and level of competitiveness had definitely upped its level.

The tournament began with our team playing against the team from Cubao. In the first five minutes of the game, blood had already been shed as one guys from the other team accidentally hit his face against a guy from our lineup. He had to rest for a while and fortunately, everyone kept their cool. After another five minutes, another casualty had to leave the field – me! Some guy accidentally kicked the ball with full force straight at my face – hitting my two eyes and the upper part of the bridge of my nose. I was instantly blinded and I had to sit down for a few seconds. For about 20 minutes, my eyes felt like they were burning and I had to squint to be able to see.

It was indeed an intense game as another foul committed by a teammate of mine caused a slight commotion in the field on the second or third game. Jeff had accidentally kicked the forehead of another guy which gave him two small bumps. It was a dangerous kick and was indeed foul-worthy. The guy yelled at Jeff inside the field. It was a good thing that Jeff didn’t fight back.
We had a good laugh after it because of how it happened. Jeff delivered the kick as if he was doing kung-fu. Wahhahah! I wish I had a picture or video of it.

The good thing was that Jeff and the guy eventually made up and shook hands after the game.
Our team was eliminated after four games but I can tell that everyone had a great time and fought up to the extent of their endurance. Almost everyone were not in a good condition as some of us have not played in months or years. Before the game, some of my foreign teammates began applying some ointment for the joints – I guess they already knew they’d be needing it.
Towards the end of the tournament, we were all muddy and one kid – who was the nephew of my teammates approached me and asked me, “Why are you so yucky?” referring to my muddy shirt, then he said, “You’re all yucky.” Thank God he was so adorable, I didn’t get offended. I just got a little surprised at the question. We were all yucky indeed, but if being yucky means being able to play football under the rain and get splattered with mud, then I prefer to be yucky.
During one of our breaks, I got a little conscious because my fingers had a lot of mud in it but then I glanced at my teammates and saw that they were in worse condition than I was. At that moment, I felt so at home.

It was a fun affair indeed – made more entertaining by the flowing supply of food, mineral water, iced tea and even beer! Another great thing about it is that I met a lot of new acquaintances who share the same passion as I do. I just love football

*Pictures courtesy of my teammate Adrian and his wife(thanks, thanks! )

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Came, I Saw, I was Conquered - Bucolic Batanes

Day 1 – June 25, 2009

It was a blessed day for us. The day before our flight, typhoon Feria was scheduled to hit Manila at 8 in the evening. However, several hours prior to that, when the typhoon reached the Mindoro area, its intensity weakened and its arrival to Manila was delayed. At the morning of our flight, rain began to pour heavily and the sky was instantly filled with clouds. It was with tremendous prayers and positive thoughts that our flight finally pushed through after a two hour delay. My mantra, which I adapted from another adventurous friend, was “Sunshine and blue skies”. My other companion, Connie on the other hand was referring to typhoon Feria as “friend Feria” and she talked to the typhoon as if it was a close friend, in her head asking Feria to let our plane through.

As we began our descent to Basco airport, we were greeted with views of the unbelievably beautiful rolling hills of Batanes that we could not help but shriek in awe despite the fact that the plane was shaking violently.

It was a rough landing as the plane kissed the tarmac. To our amazement, when we got out of the plane – it was all sunshine and blue skies! In fact, it felt like summer even if it was past the summer months of Batanes.

The beautiful Mt. Iraya which loomed at the end of the runway was our welcome party. Instantly, I began clicking away despite the fact that I am not that into photography.

We rode a trike towards the National road (which looks a lot like an ordinary street) where we scouted for inns. We tried at Shanedel’s Inn but the rates were higher than what we were willing to spend. Actually, it’s quite reasonable, but we needed something cheaper – like 250 pesos per head. Shanedel’s Inn’s room were ranging from 900 to 1200 per room . We walked to its neighbor inn – Ivantan Lodge which had the rates we wanted. Unfortunately, they were fully booked. We learned from the lady in the reception that VP Noli De Castro will be in Batanes the following day for the festivities and that his advance party had occupied most of the rooms. We learned that incidentally, we came two days before the weeklong fiesta ended for Batanes Day so the whole province was celebrating. Cool.

We weren’t worried then about where we would be spending the night. Our major concern were our nagging stomachs. From the National Road, we headed towards Abad Street, another major road in Batanes and this is where we found Carl’s eatery. We read from a blog that this is where Creamline ice cream are sold.

After a hearty lunch – meal rates here are higher by the way – around 60-120 pesos per meal but the serving of rice is huge. We then proceeded into loitering aimlessly around town, just taking in the views. We ended at the Basco port near the Coastguard station and took some more pictures.

We headed to the town plaza and saw a trade fair which showcased different products of Batanes per town.
Roaming Ivana

After roaming the fair, we searched for a jeep bound for the municipality of Ivana to check out Honesty Café and the house of Dakay. At this point, we still had no idea where we were going to end up for the night.

We spotted a jeep near the town plaza and got the seats beside the driver. We were told that the fare is only 25 pesos.

The ride took about 45 minutes, with the driver taking his sweet time cruising down the road. It turned out to be a great thing because the landscape in Basco takes your breath away. It was so surreal. Me and Connie probably looked like fools to the people we were riding with because we were oohhing and ahhing at every wonderful sight. The way we were acting made us seemed as though we had just emerged from a dark hole.

From the House of Dakay, we walked for about 10-15 minutes towards the Radiwan Port which has beautiful cement structures by the beach. A few steps from that, was the famous unmanned Honesty Café where one leaves their payment inside a drop box. We were fortunate enough to meet the strong-willed owner – Mrs. Elena Gabilo, as well as her sister who lives near the café.

We learned from them that there are no accommodations in Ivana. The San Vicente port where we were to take a faluwa ride to Sabtang Island was in Ivana and we didn’t want to travel back to Basco. We decided to just roam around until we find some people to stay with. Besides, the last jeepney ride to Basco had already left.

It was nearing 7:00PM. The sun was still up and while walking in the almost deserted street, an old lady comes up to us and asked where we were headed. We informed her that we needed a place to stay and she volunteered her place. f we were back in the city, we would have declined. But this is Batanes, home of honest Ivatans, so we decided to take a chance. We followed her through several streets and ended in a place where we could hear the ocean.

She led us to their family compound – a whole row of houses belonging to their clan. Like the rest of the houses in Ivana, it was made of rocks. Instantly, we felt at ease as we chatted with their family and after taking a much needed bath, we lay on the floor beside her grand children.

That evening, we slept soundly, even snoring oh so muscularly.

We woke up the following morning at 5am to catch the trip to Sabtang which was supposedly at 6am. We gave her something for consuming their water and to thank them for their generosity.

 Day 2 - June 26, 2009 - Sabtang Island
From the municipality of Ivana where we spent the night, we walked for 15 minutes to the port of San Vicente. The boat left at 6:30am and the ride lasted for about 45 minutes. The waters of the Pacific Ocean and South China sea were a little rough but manageable. From the Sabtang port, we met 6 of the members of the Camera Club of the Philippines (CCP) who were there for a photo shoot. They were an adventurous , friendly bunch. Since we came there with no prior arrangments, we agreed to share a jeep with them so we can split the cost. Jeepney rental was at 1,500 pesos and the amiable driver took us to the following destinations:1. Saviduk - a municipality filled with stone houses2. Sitio Tinyan – offers unbelievable views of the Pacific ocean3. Chavayan – another community of stone houses with beautiful mountain ranges serving as its back draft. This was also where the most recent Nescafe commercial was shot4. Nabuang Arch in Malakdang – where a beautiful rock formation is found along an amazing beach front. This was also where I got my sunburn. Me and Connie couldn't resist the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The water felt so light on the skin - it felt like we were taking a deep in a river, only the water was quite salty. We had lunch at this eatery beside the port. I think the name was CBNK. For 250 pesos per person, we had lobsters, pinakbet, banana fritters and a heaping portion of turmeric rice. 

At the port, a passenger jeep was waiting to take us back to Basco.We set off on another boat ride back to Ivana at 2:30PM.

When we reached Basco, we decided to try the Ivatan lodge to see if we could get a room. Unfortunately, the advance party of VP Noli De Castro hasn’t left due to aircraft troubles.

So off we went again around the streets of Basco to search for our 250 peso- room accommodation.

While walking near the market, we ran into the lady we met on the boat back to Ivana. We told her we needed a cheap place to stay and she suggested a relative’s place. She accompanied us to their house, a huge stone house at the corner of Argonza and Amboy street. They were renting out a room with a huge window and a smalll television with cable transmission. We agreed to the arrangement immediately. The huge double-sized bed costs 250 per person.

After 5pm, we set off for the famous Basco lighthouse located on top of the Naidi Hills which is overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the South China sea. From were we stayed, the hike going there took an hour. We just asked around where it was and people were very helpful. We again ran into the friendly gang from the Camera Club of the Philippines who were doing landscape shots.

This place is ideal for meditation, heart to heart talks or just sight-seeing.

After the hike, we ate at Casa Napoli for the second time that day. It serves great-tasting thin-crust pizza and is open daily from 5:00PM-9:00PM.

Day 3 - June 27, 2009

On our third and final day in Batanes, we walked around the area near the airport after checking in. Good thing we went in early as there are no electronic scanners in Basco so the process of scanning your luggage was cumbersome. The airport personnel inspected our bags by hand.

From the airport, we walked to the Pension Ivatan which is three minutes away and within its vicinity is Therese Coffee Shop famous for its bulalo. We also ate brunch at the eatery fronting the airport entrance.
By boarding time, we bid good bye to Mt. Iraya and waved goodbye to beautiful Batanes. Can't wait to go back and explore more. :P

Travel Notes:
Where to buy souveneirs:
In Basco : Souveneir Shops can be found along National Road (near Shanedel’s Inn) and Abad Road ; There's also a souveneir shop within the airport grounds called Da Insulares which has good rates for their products
In Sabtang : Tourist Information Center, Town of Chavayan
The rates for souveneir items in Batanes is standard. It seemed that they sell each item at the same price any where you go. Magnets are sold for 3 for 100 pesos or 35 pesos/piece; Key chains – 3 for 100 or 35 pesos/piece; souveneir shirts are normally sold at 200pesos and above.

Where to stay in Batanes:

Airlines Flying to Batanes:
Chemtrad : Originating from Tuguegarao
Sea Air : Manila to Basco Website : www.flyseair.com
I read about a certain airline called Pacific Air which flies to Basco from Laoag. Just double-check in the net, as I’m not sure if it still exists.

If you take out the airfare, that means I only spent 2,608 pesos as pocket money for this trip.

Cost Per Head (Amount in Philippine Pesos)
Round Trip Airfare - Booked Via Zest Air (Basco-MNL) last December 2008
5178 *Note : As of this writing, there are no more Zest Air flights to Basco. If you are coming from Manila, you need to book via Sea Air.
Trike to Meeting place - 25
Mini Stop Groceries - 50
Shared Cab ride to Airport (140 PHP for 2 persons) - 70
Terminal Fee - 200
Massage (with tip) - 250
Water + Bolognese bread stick from The Coffeee Experience - 58
Bolognese bread stick again - 28
Trike to Shandel's (30 PHP for 2 persons) - 15
Carl's lunch (1 ulam, 1 rice, 1 80z Coke, 1 chocolate sundae and 1 banana) - 103
Shopping -170
Jeep to Ivana - 25
Snack at Honesty Café (chicken noodles and 8 oz Coke) - 25
Lodging in Ivatan (Homestay) - 200
Boat from San Vicente Port to Sabtang Island (30-45 minutes) - 50
Food in Sabtang (Bfast -pancit canton, rice, 8oz Coke) , lunch consisting of lobster, pinakbet, turmeric rice, 8 oz Coke, plus two more bottles of Wilkins - 315
Jeepney for Hire (1500 for 8 people plus tip) - 200
Jeepney from Ivana back to Basco- 25
Lodging for Day 2 - Homestay in Argonza Street - 250
Lunch at Casa Napoli Pizza (145 PHP Garlic and Cheese pizza for two); Fit N Right bought from another store-123
Dinner at Casa Napoli (195 PHP Pepperoni Pizza for two + 2 bottles of Mineral water) - 128
Shopping -70
Terminal Fee - 20
Protected Area Fee -15
Other shopping - 115
Brunch (2 longganisa, 1 half rice, 1 pancit canton, 8oz Coke, Wilkins water) - 103
7,786 Pesos

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