a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Travel Essentials : Kikay Kit for Outdoorsy Backpackers

Hi Ladies! Packing for an adventurous escape for the first time? Let me try to help! Although I’m one heck of a lazy packer, over years of backpacking and hiking everywhere, I've learned to ease the stress of preparing for an outdoor trip by having a separate toiletry kit specifically for traveling. It's perpetually packed inside a durable black mesh bag which I've had for centuries (:P) and when it's time to get outside, I just grab it and shove it inside my backpack. 

Since most of  my travels involve either staying in hostels, hard benches or inside a tent, the mesh bag is perfect because I can hang it where ever. It dries easily and I can see the contents perfectly so I can tell in an instant when I'm missing something. 

Here's a list of what's inside my reliable mesh kit apart from the standard soap, deodorant and shampoo: 


1. Insect Repellant - when hiking in areas that are moist, you're going to need protection from mosquitoes and other insects. I normally buy Off Lotion, the variant that provides 24-hour protection. 

2. Lip Gloss with SPF or Petroleum Jelly - for extreme temperatures, you're going to need to protect your lips from windburn or the sun. Avoid chapping your precious lips and apply these when you go out. 

3. Alcohol that comes in an atomizer - I love Hygienix ethyl alchohol. It's a disinfectant that smells great on your skin. When I camp, I can go for days without a bath and spraying this all over addresses the icky sticky feeling. Having your alchol in an atomizer is also helpful when hiking in places where limatiks/blood leeches are abundant. When an unforgiving sucker springs on you, just relax, grab your atomizer and spray it on them. They wriggle away instantly. 

4. Facial Sunblock and Moisturizer - protect your skin and avoid sun spots by putting one on. A good brand which isn't too sticky is Nivea Sun Daily Face Fluid with SPF 50. It also offers UVA & UVB Protection. According to about.com, "UVA rays are responsible for the aging effect of the sun...overexposure to UVA rays can cause skin cancer. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer."  

5. Toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash - I especially love the Dentiste combo - a small travel toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothpaste works wonders in making my teeth feel amazingly clean, like I just had a dentist cleaned my teeth. I am not kidding and this is not a shameless plug. :P On the other hand, I use a mouthwash when I don't have the luxury of ample water supply and I want to clean my teeth a bit. 


6. Wet Tissue - I use these to clean myself when there are no facilities for a decent bath.

7. Baby Powder &  Mirror - applying loose powder instantly makes me feel refreshed after a strenuous day hike. The mirror , apart from allowing you to check if you still look human is  also a valuable inclusion in a survival kit. It can be used as a signal device for others to track your location . 

Kikay Kit Must Haves of Fellow Bloggers :
If you like paying attention to details like I do (actually, that’s just my excuse to be nosy :P), you’re also probably curious on what other ladies bring so I’ve also asked several blogger friends to share their toiletry kit must haves while on the road :

  
Eyelash curler, Chapstick lip balm, Obagi facial sunscreen, Johnson's Baby Oil with Aloe Vera and Vitamin E, Vitress hair polish sun protect – Gay Emami, Pinay Travel Junkie  

SPF 50 Face and Body lotion, Toothbrush/Tooth paste/Mouthwash, Fff lotion spray, sachets of soap/shampoo/conditioner, baby powder – Jules Picato, Trail Running Mistress 

Body wash to avoid drying the skin and cologne - Gael Hilotin, The Pinay Solobackpacker 

 And there you have it, tips on what to include in your toiletry kit. Happy trip ladies!


This is a post I prepared in collaboration with another good friend of mine,  Josiah Sicad of Lakas.com.ph.  Check his post here on what's inside a male traveler's so called, pogi-pack. :P

Portobello Road, England

As you may have already noticed, I am more into the outdoors, but once in a while, I explore the urban jungle - especially when it's a holiday and most people are out of town.  :P In fact, one of the places I enjoy wandering around is Makati's red light district  in the morning when most people have already gone home. I find the signages attractive, though most would not be lit by the time I get there. In every small alley, I sense the walls have a lot of story to tell. Oh if only they could talk! :P   

And speaking of urban jungle, I am sharing a video I chanced upon while blog hopping. It's a video of Portobello Road located in the district of Notting Hill (yes, after that famous movie!) in England. 

Watching this instantly picked up my mood and I hope it does the same to you. I especially loved the music embedded in this video. :)  It's Ben Browning's, I Can't Stay - which echoes exactly what I feel about something. :P Enjoy! 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking a Leap of Faith : My Stint as a Travel Specialist

Before my current job, I was with another company for five years - bored out of my mind, bound at a desk for 8 hours, doing recurring tasks. I was into backpacking then and like most people who got the travel bug, I wished for a job that paid me to travel. 

The whim turned into an obsession. In my head, I conjured thoughts of getting out of my desk, being asked to go places and getting paid out of it. 

I did not think about the impossible. I knew I wanted it. Nothing else mattered. 

After several months, the universe conspired. While perusing the web, I found a job opening at a local company that specialized in retailing goods for travel and adventure. The position resonated with what I've been envisioning - Travel Specialist. My dream was about to come true and I just needed to meet it halfway! I applied, despite my apprehensions of leaving my comfort zone and possibly lower compensation. 


Everything went by quickly!

Weeks after my application, I was hired. On my first week, I was sent to Nuvali, Laguna to go trail biking. Their sister company organized a duathlon and the route had to be tested before the actual event. After that, I was sent to different parts of the country to test various adventures. 

Just like any regular employee, I had report to the office but half of the time, I was outside - accompanying our marketing officer in press cons, launches, meetings, traversing through waterfalls, ziplining, Facebook marketing, reading travel magazines, whitewater rafting, meet inspiring people who make a living out of their hobby, etc.. etc. It was amazing! 

But it was only half of what I had to do. I had to organize the contacts, create travel itineraries and talk to people most of the time. Much as I was friendly by nature, being an introvert, it exhausted me to be around people all the time. 

Since work involved travel, on weekends, all I craved was to stay home and not talk to anyone. After 6 months into the job, I wanted to quit. Friends I met there were great and our boss is really cool but the job took the fun out of traveling. I realized, I cannot do justice to the role and I had to leave. 

I am now back at a desk job and I found one that was flexible - where I can work from home once a week or when required and with a new boss who's also kind and understood my need to exhaust vacation leaves. On weekends or during VL's, I  hike or do whatever. I am still in touch with my former colleagues who I consider as lifelong friends. 

Although I still have many things I want out of life, for now, I can honestly say that I am settled and it will only take a matter of time for the rest of my dreams to unfold. All I need is to focus hard and work on it. It's not going to be easy but it's the only way to go. 

Everyone should take a leap of faith at least once in their life. You may encounter hardships, go through fire but in the end, it's worth it. You will learn and grow more by getting answers, instead of wondering what could have been.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roomorama : Baguio Accommodation Partner

Over the weekend, I traveled to Baguio to support and spurt cheerful vibes to friends who joined an ultra marathon. The cut-off for the torturous 100KM division was 30 hours which meant I had several hours of "me time."

Since I needed a place to stay for the night while my friends ran their hearts out around the grueling uphill terrains of Baguio, I checked out Roomorama. It's a website with a straight-forward interface that allows travelers and people on business trips to painlessly search and book for different accommodations types in more than a hundred locations around the world. Short and long term leases are available and the prices cater to people with various budget preferences. 
Roomorama website launched in 2009 and with offices in New York & Singapore
Fortunately, I found a cottage loft in a quiet location with mountain views near Kennon Road. It has two bathrooms, a bar, kitchen, 2 living rooms, a porch with wooden benches and a backyard sprawling with trees. 

For 80 USD a night + an 11-USD booking fee, I had an entire squeaky clean house all to myself. It can actually fit 4 people which is not bad for its price. Though I had partnered with Roomorama and they took care of my stay, I was still able to try its interface. I created my own account, inquired on the house and as soon as booking was confirmed, the owner coordinated with me quickly regarding my arrival. I was relieved that I no longer had to sweat on foot in search of a place to stay which I normally do when traveling off the tourist season.
One of the things I love about this home is the backyard.
Front Porch

The second living roomis a great area to write or conduct a brainstorming session

My stay, though very brief was quite  relaxing and I got the solitude I craved  since I was around people a lot the past few weeks.  I was quite happy that the caretakers and the owner's aunt  left me alone after touring me around the house and pointing out the switches. :) The introvert in me was recharged and much as I was supportive to my runner friends, this quiet hideaway made me wish I didn't have to rush out and wait for them to cross the finish line. :P

Want to try Roomorama? Easy Booking Steps :  
1. Go to roomorama.com. Create your account. 
2. Search for accommodations. Destinations here. 
3. Inquire on availability of the property by sending a message to the contact person. You will also be notified through email so you don’t have to log in at Roomorama just to check on the status. 
4. Payments can be made through Paypal or Wire Transfer (payments coming from the Philippines). 
5. You will receive a booking code after your payment has been confirmed which you need to hand out when you check in. Do not give this prior to your arrival. 

Tips on Booking : 
1. Check the location to ensure it's convenient for you. Ask for nearby landmarks and don't just rely on the map if you are not familiar with the place and will take a cab to get there. 
 2. Read the "About" portion normally found below the photos of the accommodation to check the amenities and services available. Beside the "About" tab is the Rates/Availability where you can check for the daily and monthly rates. 
 3. Leave a comment about your stay to help others in choosing the right accommodation for them. :) After your stay, a link will be sent to your email/Roomorama profile where you can share a feedback about your experience. 

Still unconvinced? Check out what other fellow bloggers have to say about their service : 
Eazy Traveler - Drama-Free Rentals 
Lakad Pilipinas - Roomorama : Cocos Garden

Matador Network has also featured them on this article - Why Peer to Peer Housing Rentals are Cool.

More questions? Check out the Roomorama Desk.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tree Hugging Adventures

I'm not a hugger by nature. I stiffen when someone hugs me, (even if I'm an unbelievably cheerful character, powered by a daily dose of caffeine), it's highly unlikely that I'd be the type to give you a warm hug on a bad day. So I normally just say, "Awwww, virtual hug!" when someone's in dire need of one. :P

In some rare occasions, where I have given hugs, it had to be a close friend who forced me for a warm, tight squeeze to which I squirm afterwards. 

So, I was quite astonished when I discovered during a travel to Butuan, that I have this eccentric desire to hug big trees. I feel giddy and happy when I get to hug trees with enormous trunks that I can barely wrap my arms around and you bet I demand friends to take my photos for a souvenir shot. :P
Declared in June 1998 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the Philippine Centennial Tree. This Bitaog Tree  in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte is one of the Oldest trees in the Philippines, at least 500 years old and  290 centimeters wide.
Mt. Makiling - near the College of Forestry  
Rizal Street in Zamboanga City is lined with decades-old Acacia trees

How about you? Hugged a tree today? :P 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Get your Birth Certificate + Philippine Passport Appointment System with Teleserv

A few hours ago, I was at Harvest in BGC for a Bloggers Event organized by Teleserv for a briefing of their citizen services.

Teleserv is a local company that has partnered with several agencies of the Philippine government to make it easier for people to secure important documents such as the NSO Authenticated Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Death Certificate and CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage.). They also have an existing tie-up with the Department of Foreign Affairs in providing passport appointment services.

Prior to responding to their invite, my mom had already tried one of their services when she requested for her birth certificate via phone. I was actually there when she coordinated with their call center and knowing my mom who loves asking questions, I knew the person on the other line had to be extremely professional and patient.

My mom got her birth certificate with no issues. Otherwise, she would have ranted about it. I have also renewed my passport a few months ago and encountered no problems with booking the appointment for my personal appearance and having my passport delivered. I even got mine about a day or two earlier than scheduled! :) Thus, I am sharing this post because I am satisfied with their services and not because I was fed with a humongous breakfast. :P 

How to get your Birth Certificate:

Apart from birth certificate, Teleserv also offers door-to-door delivery services for marriage, death CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage)


Request your certificate by calling the NSO Birth Certificate Delivery Helpline +63 (02) 737-1111 or Chat with their CSR's at - http://nso.citizenservices.com.ph/

FAQs:
Business Hours : 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including holidays.

Where they deliver : Nationwide coverage, from Batanes to Jolo for the same price!
After confirmation, you can get your certificate within 2-4 days.

How much do I pay for the document(s)?
Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and Death Certificates costs Php 330.00 per copy and CENOMARs or Certificate of No Marriage costs Php 430.00 per copy. Both rates are inclusive of processing and delivery.

Where can I pay for the document(s)?
You may pay at any Metrobank branches, Bancnet ATM, or Bayad Center outlets nationwide.

When can I receive the documents I requested?
Delivery is usually within 2-3 working days upon receipt of your payment.

Receiving the Certificate via Delivery :
If the requestor is the owner of the Birth Certificate, he’ll just need to present a valid ID with picture. If the requestor is not the owner, he’ll have to present a valid ID with picture of him and the owner and an Authorization Letter. For Marriage Certificate, Death Certificate and CENOMAR or Certificate of No Marriage, just present a valid ID with picture of the requestor.


Philippine Passport Application/Renewal


How to Apply for a New Passport/Renewal : Visiting their website will tell you all you need to know. Tip : Pay special attention on what you need to wear on the day of the appointment. When I went to DFA for my passport appointment, I was heartbroken for those who had appointments but were denied entrance to the DFA because they wore slippers or sleeveless shirts. Safe Outfit : Plain collared shirt, maong pants, shoes.

To those who wear contact lens : Avoid wearing colored lenses because you will be asked to remove them for your passport photo.

Here's the website you need to visit to book the appointment : http://www.passport.com.ph/
or you can also call : +63 (02) 737-1000.
Walk-ins are not allowed.

Other Services:

Balik Manggagawa OEC Delivery
The Balik-Manggagawa OEC Delivery service - OFWs can process their OEC applications without breaking a sweat by logging on to www.oecdelivery.com.ph. 

Balik-Manggagawa OEC Delivery is available nationwide. Inquiry hotline +63 (02)737-7777.An OEC Express Delivery booth is also situated inside the POEA Balik Manggagawa area to cater to OFWs who find themselves at the POEA.

There you go, hassle-free documents from the same company that provides contact center delivery services to  businesses such as Mc Donald's, Mang Inasal, Max's and more.(and I just had to add that because I love food!). 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sagada Food : My Guest Post on Little Girl Travels is Up!

Unisse of Little Girl Travels has graciously allowed me to rave about Sagada's edible delights on her travel blog. 

Hope you can find time to visit her site. You can click here to read the entire post. :) Thanks and I wish you a relaxing weekend! 




Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Top 5 Philippine Beach Hideaways

The summer heat is getting to me and the humidity that causes the icky sticky feeling made me dream of wallowing in a gorgeous beach isolated from civilization with a cooler overflowing with ice and drinks a few feet away.

While my wishful thinking will remain a whim for the next two weeks, I shall reminisce on my most memorable beach escapes. Here's my list, feel free to share yours! :)

1. Zambales - Nagsasa Cove
Offers a unique beach experience with pine trees a few feet from the water and isolation from cell phone towers. The water flowing to the cove is part of the South China sea so the 45-minute boat ride from the shores of Barangay Pundaquit can be a bit wet and wild. The imposing view of mountains engulfed with overgrown weeds as you lazily float on the water makes up for the rough ride and as you lie on a hammock or inside your tent, strong, cold winds will rock you to a blissful slumber.

Tip : Bring all your provisions specially tons of ice and a cooler.


2. Palawan - Coron and Puerto Princessa - the organized tourism industry around Palawan makes it easy for travelers to experience its overly photographed powdery sand beaches surrounded by gigantic jagged limestone formations. You don't even have to rent your own boat to go island hopping as tour operators are willing to find you a group to join so you can save on costs.

Tip : If you want some island hopping, restaurant adventures and a side trip to the new 7 Wonders of Nature winner, Puerto Princessa Underground River, book a flight to Puerto Princessa. If you are headed to quaint Coron, you need to go to Busuanga. 


3. Cebu - Boljoon
Located 20 minutes away from the town of Oslob, where you can swim with the whale sharks, Boljoon generously offers its visitors the chance to enjoy its clear waters with no entrance fee, two cement platforms where the brave can jump to the sea, a side trip to Heritage Houses, centuries-old Patrocinio de Maria church, its museum and satisfying meals at a nearby eatery.

Tip : For a full-packed one day adventure, you may consider this itinerary I pieced together after last year's visit to my self-proclaimed hometown :P. Click here.

Photo Credit : Edcel Suyo of Soloflighted.com
4. Batanes - its rugged landscapes is renowned as a photographer or backpacker's haven, but does not get much credit as a beach bum's destination. When the weather is unafavorable, vicious waves crashing against the shore makes it nearly impossible for anyone but the suicidal to enjoy its waters. Thus, I suggest to go here during Batanes summer which is June-August and swim at Nakabuang Beach in Sabtang Island, Diura fishing village in Mahatao or Di-atay Beach, 10 KM from Basco.

Tip :
The three major inhabited islands of Batanes are Batan, Sabtang & Itbayat. From Manila, South East Asian Alirline (SEAIR) offers flights to Basco (Batan island). Check the current season in Batanes when you're visiting. Temperatures can go as low as 7C during Batanes winter is from November -February.


5. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
This is the most touristy among my favorite beach destinations but its deep, clear blue waters hypnotized me on my first visit in 2008. Its long stretch of sand is lined with beach resorts that caters to travelers with various spending preferences.

Tip : If you're traveling on a budget, opt for homestays where you can get a room as low as 500/night during off season. Just ask the tricycle drivers. You can also considering coming here past the peak season of March-September and December to avoid the crowds.


Packing your sexy swim wear now? See you at the beach!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tribute Thursday - Dong Ho, EscapeIslands.com

May 2010 - Sharon, a marketing officer from my previous company, being innately charming and sociable, was invited to the launch of Lonely Planet Philippines Magazine (plus our company was one of their sponsors so we had to be invited, hihi :P) .

Though we were attending on official business, which meant extra "working hours", I didn't mind. It's Lonely Planet!



On our way to Ayala Museum, Sharon informed me that we were also meeting Dominic Hormigos, the blogger behind Eskapo 3.0  and popularly known around the blogging community as Dong Ho.

I had been actively surfing travel blogs since 2006 so I was familiar with the tenured bloggers. I exclaimed excitedly, as though I've been harboring an intense obsession despite not knowing what he looked like. I mean, don't you sometimes feel that way about other bloggers? You regularly visit their website, read about their adventures and along the course of your "healthy stalking", you develop a form admiration and a sense of imaginary friendship (chos!), so when you finally get the chance to meet them, you feel as though you're meeting a celebrity.

Dong Ho, is one of the most respected travel bloggers around. He is admired for his passion for travel, journeys to off the beaten paths, great photos and ability to influence others to explore.

We were already a couple of minutes late when we arrived at the registration area. Sharon received a text from Dong Ho and we met with him near the museum entrance. He gave out the vibe of a kind soul, a gentleman, though he seemed like a very private person. In less than a minute, his physical attributes registered in my head - he's cute, with a complexion that reminds me of dark chocolates minus the bitterness, sort of a cross between a Marlboro guy and Prince charming.

L-R : my colleagues Eric & Sharon, Dong Ho
It was all small talk at first, then the conversation predictably shifted to traveling. His eyes ignited and like an Energizer bunny, his mouth spitted stories of amazing places he had visited. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me and it turned into a very animated conversation. I was thrilled to be able to talk to someone who seems to be just as obsessive as I was. But I was getting ahead of myself since I didn't really know much about him except from what I've read from his blog.

Dominic and I worked with several projects after that and what started as heavenly attraction turned into brotherly affection over the succeeding months that followed. Haha! Some people come into our lives like a brother from another mother and I feel blessed to have an such an optimistic and inspiring person like him for a friend.

For more of his travel stories and striking landscape photos, please visit his blog - Eskapo 3.0  or his Facebook Page

Tribute Thursdays is a series of posts I started this 2012 where I feature fellow blogger friends. I write it on "whenever I feel like it" intervals :P

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Salomon X-Trail 2012 Run Results, Photos and Tales

I'm currently channeling the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer look with my shiny nose, burnt by the sun and legs that feel like it has pranced from North Pole to Manila and back. :P And just like Rudolph, I come bearing happiness with some updates from the Salomon X-Trail 2012 which concluded last March 31.

I participated at the 24K Mountain Run, a decision that made me want to kick myself as I struggled to get to the finish line with aching limbs and filthy legs.

According to the adorable sadist race organizer, Neville Manaois, the Salomon X-Trail 2012 is the toughest race course that they have ever designed in and around Tagaytay Highlands. Sticking to their torturous promise, the route agonized our knees and calves and made us bathe in a mixture of sweat and dirt. 

The second half of the route was through a mountain where we had to cling to branches, boulders and hang on to trees for dear-life to avoid cliffs. After we got down from the mountain, we had to survive an "uphell"road and finally a kilometer of downhill to get to the finish line.  There was just no way to escape body pain! 

I got to the finish line after 5.5 hours  of running 50% and  walking the latter half. :P   I'm also happy to share with you that I made it within cut-off time. :p  And since every grueling feat must be celebrated with a happy feast,  I carbo-partied when I got home and my body was just elated to welcome back the calories I've lost. :)

Refreshing views like these remind me of why I chose the longer route

L-R: Sweet Life Runner, Running Atom, Jazz Runner and Mariel, my friend and Brand Associate for Nathan  Sports (Photo Credit : CJ Lampad, Run Adobo King)
Runningatom.blogspot.com (Photo Credit : CJ Lampad of  runadoboking.wordpress.com)
Fellow bloggers (Photo Credit : CJ Lampad of  runadoboking.wordpress.com)
Post Race Meal  and primary reason for running. :P (This is actually the ONLY photo I took on the race day.)
Race Results are out! Check yours at Runningmate.ph. Will update again for the list of the race winners. :) 

Some Race Photos:
Run Adobo King on Facebook  

Video Highlights : AeroEye Asia

I'd like to thank Laira Legaspi of the PR Department of Primer Group of Companies, Janice Tanada - Brand Manager for Salomon, Mariel Flores (Nathan Sports), R.O.X. Philippines, Tagaytay Highlands (and to the friendly people who reside around it) for allowing us and several of my fellow bloggers to experience the wonders of the trails once again. :) 

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