a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, July 31, 2016

3 Days of Fun at Amorita, Bohol's Eco-friendly Luxury Resort

Last June, I joined fellow bloggers  for a three day stay at Amorita, a cliffside resort near the stretch of the famed Alona beach of Panglao island. This relaxing trip was exactly what I needed to cap off a physically grueling month -  juggling Saturday games playing in the Corporate Football League  and swim training for the Caramoan Openwater challenge
marine sanctuary at the back of Amorita resort
From Manila, we flew via Air Asia to Tagbilaran, the provincial capital of Bohol. Domestic flights of Air Asia depart from NAIA Terminal 4 and much to the delight of my frequently hungry stomach - has now more options for food and brewed coffee at the departure area (There's Papa John's, Cinnabon, Krispy Kreme, Seattle's Best and more). 
Boarding Air Asia's air bus to Tagbilaran city, Bohol
From Tagbilaran airport, we were picked up by the resort shuttle and we traveled another 30-40 minutes to Panglao island. 

"Honeymoon" suite for one  
Our first day was all about getting oriented with the resort. I stayed in a spacious, 80 sqm one bedroom suite. Its earthy colors - a mix of brown, black white and grey  is relaxing to the eyes while the dim, yellow lighting exuded a romantic and sexy vibe. 
 This photo shows the kitchen, living room and balcony area of my one bedroom suite at Amorita.
To me, it feels like a room fitting for sultry interactions. It was mocking me, a budding spinster. I managed to stand my ground and I truly enjoyed my room. The welcome treats - a basket of fruits and a jar of chocolate cookies (which were heavenly by the way!) helped.  
Here's a collage of the bedroom and the spacious bathroom
It was so quiet inside my room, I could hear my thoughts - which go around in my head like fruits being processed in a blender, it's noisy. :P I decided to put on some music from my phone so I can regain my focus. Thankfully, there's a loudbasstard amplifier in my room. My phone fit perfectly in the slot and music sounded crisp. (My playlist for the entire trip was "Beach Vibes" by Spotify. If you want to listen to it, just search for it on Spotify :)).

During our stay, I managed to try the comfortable king-size bed inside my room and the two day beds outside. What can I say, I love sleep. :)

You really don't need to go out much when you're staying at Amorita. For food, there's Saffron restaurant which serves Boholano and Western dishes and Tomar, a tapas bar. (Tip from one foodie to another : The chocolate milk served at the breakfast buffet is really good, it's like a melted chocolate bar minus the sickeningly sweet taste. Had I discovered it before I consumed three heaping plates of food, I would have skipped the other dishes. :P)
Saffron Restaurant. 
The food at Tomar where we dined on the second night was delightfully memorable. Everything was a harmonious combination of herbs and spices.  Unfortunately, I got overly enthusiastic at eating, I wasn't able to take as much photos as I wanted and I ended with this messy shot  below. While I'm a little embarrassed about that photo, I have no regrets - especially when I think about all the time I spent on actually eating rather than trying to get a good shot. (That said, I have no beef with people who love taking food shots within a reasonable time and I admire those who can take beautiful food shots so effortlessly!)
 One of the many plates of tapas I enjoyed that evening. I am just shameless.
Amorita offers packages inclusive for website and direct bookings: unlimited beverages including standard wines, local beers, and house cocktails from 12 noon to 8PM at Saffron Restaurant, Tomar Bar, and Azotea Lounge, per paid night stay. To book, click here.

If you're into sports and water activities, you can also try volleyball, kayaking, paddleboarding and SCUBA diving. Amorita has its own in-house dive center along Alona beach which is managed by PADI-certified Sea Explorers Philippines.

Amorita has its own access to a protected marine sanctuary that has lots of colorful fishes and corals. It has a narrow shore with a few lounge chairs for sunbathers. I rarely stay put whenever I see water so I decided for a solo swim at 3:00 PM. Seeing that I was swimming alone, one of the supervisors (?) was kind enough to ask the guard watch over me. I was advised to stay close to shore which I obediently followed. What I love about the water here is that you can see the bottom of the sea so it feels less intimidating while the area past the buoys which is off limits anyway,  is where you can find the deeper, bluer section of the water. I swam for a good 40 minutes - shoving thoughts of violent sea creatures attacking me. 
The marine sanctuary at the back of Amorita Resort
Me and my new found friend, Abi from Sting Like Abi tried tandem kayaking on our last day. The use of kayak is free when you're staying at Amorita and it's just a short, 15 minute paddle from Alona beach to the marine sanctuary at the back of the resort. After kayaking, we joined Edgar for some more snorkeling. 

I also love that there's plenty of amenites at Amorita when you're not in the mood to do anything.There's plenty of lounge chairs around - near the rooms and beside the pool area, it's perfect  for someone who prefers to do nothing - which I also enjoy once in a while.  The massage at Sea Tree Spa is also a treat. While you can choose to have it in your room, I opted to enjoy it at the facility itself which is situated just beside the reception area. Its warm decors, friendly staff and most importantly, the massage itself was soothing.  I was totally relieved of  muscle sores. 
Infinity pool beside Saffron Restaurant, offering a  view of the Bohol Sea
Then there's the infinity pool. It looks small when you're staring at it from the pool side but when we did an evening swam, I realized it's not as short as I thought it was, it's probably at least 20 meters long and you should be able to enjoy a good pool work-out. 

Other activities outside the resort include island hopping, snorkeling and dolphin watching. From Alona beach, we rode a boat that took us near Pamilacan island to watch dolphins in their usual playground. I put up a video of the dolphins on my Instagram account. Click here to watch the clip. :) Exuding a carefree character, dolphins feels so amazing to see in the wild. Their movement in the water is contagious, nearly everyone in the group exclaimed when they saw them come out.  
Our boat docking at Balicasag island. 
Balicasag island which can be combined with a trip to Pamilacan is a popular site for diving and snorkeling. The water is azure and you can already find fishes and vibrant corals in the shallow area. Of course, it's also exciting to venture into the deeper section of the ocean which we discovered in the area where we snorkeled. It was a sheer drop, thankfully, the currents weren't  strong.  (More information on diving and snorkeling at Balicasag island at the Sea Explorers website)

Other places of interest near Amorita resort include Alona beach, a 1.5 KM stretch of beach and can be considered as the center of tourist activity in Panglao island. Also a good visit is Bohol Bee Farm. Located just 8.8 KM away from Amorita, it  serves delicious, organic dishes. They also have a store which has souvenirs and farm products (I love their squash muffins and their ice cream!)  For more information on where to go in Bohol, visit their provincial tourism website, here. (Oh BTW, when you pass by Tagbilaran city, please try the food at Garden Cafe, a restaurant that gives employment opportunities to the deaf.:))

Amorita is a Spanish  word which means "My Little Darling". During our stay, the resort, with its amiable staff, classy rooms,  great food and amenities has won me over. What an honor it was to finally meet Bohol's Little Darling! 
Group photo before flying back to Manila with Ms. Kata Agmata of Amorita Resort and fellow bloggers, (L-R) Edgar of  EAZYTraveler, Melo fr Out of Town Blog, Mervin fr Pinoy Adventurista, Me, Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering
and Abi fr Sting Like Abi
(Related Post : In 2010, I went on a kayak trip  in Panglao with Buzzy Budlong. In 2009, he and Singaporean adventurer Khoo Swee Chiow established the first kayak trail in the  Philippines starting from Sarangani to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Post here

Room Rates : PHP 11,607 - one bedroom suite
- Includes daily breakfast, round trip airport or seaport transfers, government tax. Only 50% deposit is taken upon booking. Refundable subject to applicable cancellation policy.
Other room types are available. Visit the Amorita Resort website for more information.

How to get to Amorita Resort?
From Manila, take a flight to Tagbilaran city. From Tagbilaran, travel by van/tricycle/jeep to Panglao island. Ask driver to drop you off at Amorita Resort. 

Amorita guests can be picked up by the resort shuttle from the airport or seaport.

*Air Asia has daily flights to Tagbilaran. For fares and schedules, visit airasia.com.


Amorita Resort
1 Ester A. Lim Drive,Barangay Tawala, Alona Beach
Panglao Island, Bohol
Facebook Page : Amorita Resort
Instagram : @AmoritaResortBohol
Bookings can be done directly through their website, www.amoritaresort.com. You can also get special rates through Agoda. Click here to book.  
Vacation Packages check here.

Trip Advisor reviews here

Manila Office :Landline: +632 856 1443 | 553 9549
Mobile Number:+63 0917 861 9441
Resort's contact numbers : 
Landline: +63 38 502 9002
Mobile: 0917 726 4526

Amorita Resort is not just for vacationers, it is also open to those who need  a venue for a corporate function or a celebration in the family. To inquire, get in touch with the resort directly. 

For discounted rates, check out Agoda.
For details on package rates, email inquiries@one-ofcollection.com 

Amorita Resort is under the One-of Collection, the same company that owns The Funny Lion resort (Coron), Sta. Monica Beach Club (Dumaguete) and  Momo Beach Club (Momo beach, also in Bohol) 

Note : This post is a collaboration with Amorita Resort and Air Asia which just launched its new in-flight merchandise, Sunnies eyewear, find out more  at   11 essentials in my beach bag


Monday, July 25, 2016

Pacsafe Opens Flagship Store in the Philippines!

Pacsafe, a reliable brand providing stylish and secure anti-theft bags and accessories has finally opened its flagship store and it’s right here in the Philippines! Located at the ground floor of Glorietta 5 in Makati city, it carries a wide range of products designed to protect travelers' valuables from theft - from luggage, carry-ons and accessories (camera straps, TSA-approved locks, steel wire mesh, RFID blocking wallets and more!).   
The simple and gorgeous Pacsafe Venturesafe X30,  I WANT THIS!
 Here’s a preview of what they carry in their store.  
Pacsafe's Flagship store in Glorietta 5 (Photo from Nuffnang Philippines)
Picture below shows their Adventure Collection for travelers who are always on the move (ehem!)

Note :Some of the photos were taken with permission from staff when I attended the store launch last July 20, 2016.

My pick : As someone who loves to travel light and go for quick day hikes, I’d choose the Venturesafe X22 or the X30. These are the green and blue backpacks in the photo below.  It has the features which I find fitting for an adventure such as a built-in raincover, slashguards and more. (Full specs are listed on the Pacsafe site. Click here. Venturesafe X22 retails at 6,990 Pesos)

Below is a shot of Pacsafe’s Urban Collection. These are bags designed for everyday use of city dwellers like shoulder bags and sling bags.

For jetsetting travelers who prefer to bring luggages, the Leisure Collection’s for you!


Here are some of the cool safety features of all Pacsafe bags listed on their website:
- lightweight eXomesh slashguards are concealed in the vulnerable areas of the bag. Simply put, some areas of the bag are protected from slashing, offering extra protection from thieves who use the knife as their ammo for stealing.

- RFIDsafe™ blocking pockets and material. The RFID microchip in most passports and credit cards contain personal information that can be stolen and used against you with a device called an RFID reader. Pacsafe bags has pockets that are RFID safe. It blocks all transmissions between 10MHZ-3GHZ which covers the radio frequency used in most e-passports and credit cards.

- Carrysafe slahsguard strap – the bag straps contain a lightweight stainless steel wire 
that prevents snatchers from detaching it from your bag and running off with your belongings

- Puncture resistant ToughZip. Ever seen that video of a luggage that can easily be opened using a ballpoint pen? With Pacsafe, you don’t have to worry about your stuff being pulled out from your bag or have wanted items put in just as easily. 

For a full range of  Pacsafe’s anti theft features, visit their website here

With its stylish and functional design, Pacsafe bags come at a steeper price than regular bags, averaging from 3000-9,000 Pesos for the adventure & urban collection depending on the model – a reasonable amount for the security and priceless peace of mind it provides. You can check out prices by visiting Pacsafe in Glorietta or online at Lazada.

Pacsafe, an advocate of sea turtle conservation
On the brand’s logo, you’ll notice an image of a sea turtle. For Pacsafe, these endangered marine animals represent the bold nature of a global traveler. Sea turtles spent most of their times at sea but travel miles to nest on specific beaches.  According to this post from the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program site, turtles lay their eggs within 5 to 35 miles where they were born or nested in the past.   What an adventure that is! As part of Pacsafe’s commitment to preserving the sea turtles, they launched a Pacsafe Turtle Fund in 2014 which grants funding to sea turtle conservation projects.

As they launched their flagship store, Pacsafe provided a grant to Bataan Peninsula Tourism Council Foundation Inc to rehabilitate the Pawikan Conservation Center in Brgy. Nagbalayong in Morong, Bataan. 
Awarding of Kick-off fund by Pacsafe’s Co-Founder Magnus McGlashan to Bataan Peninsula
Tourism Council Foundation (BPTCFI)  (Photo fr Nuffnang PH)
Travel Tip : A great time to visit the Pawikan Conservation Center  is during the Pawikan Festival, held every last week of November, the highlight of which is the release of the sea turtle hatchlings back into the sea. Curious about what goes on during the Pawikan Festival? Check out my friend’s post here

Where to buy Pacsafe anti-theft bags 
Aside from their flagship store at the ground floor of Glorietta 5, find  authorized retailers by by visiting Pacsafe’s website here

Buying tips : 
- To purchase online or to check the prices of some of their merchandise, visit Lazada
- For sales and promo alerts, like their Facebook Page (PacsafePH),   or follow their Instagram @pacsafeph.

Pacsafe flagship store
Ground Floor, Glorietta 5, Makati City, Philippines






Sunday, July 10, 2016

11 Essentials in my Beach Bag

Even  if summer's long gone, it doesn't mean we forget about the beach - especially when we live in an archipelago like the Philippines surrounded by all these gorgeous beaches! 

Related Read : 30 Best Beaches in the Philippines - According to Travel Bloggers

Just last week - end of June and the start of hot choco season, I traveled to Bohol with fellow bloggers for a relaxing 3 day stay at Amorita Resort.  Built on a limestone cliff, it is one of the first resorts near the stretch of the famed Alona beach of Panglao island and a favored escape for families and honeymooners (the place, with its interiors and layout just screams, "FALL IN LOOOVE NOW!").  That was one of the most relaxing trips I've ever done and it has inspired me to come up with this post. 

*I still ended up going home with a back pain because, well, I can get really restless, tell you about it in another post which I link here once I'm done with it. :P
Cliff view of Alona beach in Panglao, Bohol 
Here's a list of what I normally bring on trips to the beach. If you're not into beaches, you can also use this as  guide on what to give to your  beach loving friends and family. :)

1. SUNGLASSES 
More than just an accessory, it serves as protection for your eyes against the sun's UV rays - too much exposure to which can damage your eyes and cause cataract, so make sure you choose a pair that offers UV protection. (Source : Mayo Clinic).  

Awesome news! Sunnies, a Filipino brand that offers affordable and stylish sunglasses are now available in Philippines Air Asia flight (check out flights for your next beach getaway here). No need to stress out if you forget to pack a pair! There's a catalogue in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Available designs on board were carefully selected to make sure there's a style for everyone. 
My favorite pair of Sunnies.
(I realized I should have worn my sunglasses but I'm not fond of selfies, I love food porn though :P)
If you want to purchase ahead of time, you can check out their list of stores or purchase online through their website, Sunnies Studios.  (I love their kiosk at the Fashion Hall of SM Mega Mall. That's where I bought my first pair of Sunnies. You see, I've always struggled with picking which style would suit the shape of my face which is  a mix of angular and round and the girl at the booth was very accommodating and helped me find a pair which I really love!

P.S. If you're wearing prescription glasses, you can go for transition lenses that darken when exposed to certain types of light so it's like you're wearing sunglasses. Inquire at an optical shop. 

2. REEF-FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN
We can all be ambassadors of nature preservation by being  mindful of the products we use.  Sunscreens  that contain ingredients such as paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone can contribute to coral bleaching when it washes off. (Source : National Geographic | Swimmers' Sunscreen Killing Off Coral). Coral bleaching, which is primarily caused by global warming (changes in the water temperature), drives away algae that gives corals its color that may lead to its death. (More info here.) 

*Sunscreen, as opposed to sunblock feels lighter and not visible when applied. 

Looking for a reef-friendly sunscreen? Consider these two brands I've tried. (I'm quite happy with both which is why I'm sharing it to you :)).  First one is Safe Sea. It helps prevent jellyfish stings without being harmful to marine life. I bought one at Watsons, around 500 Pesos for a 125 ML bottle, SPF 50. The bottle's almost empty so I'm now using Human Nature's SafeProtect, another reef-friendly sunscreen which was given to me when I attended a Coastival (post here). It offers both UVA protection & UVB protection and has SPF 30, which blocks 97% of the UVB rays (SPF 50 blocks about 98%).  It's good to my skin too - my skin glows when I'm using it and  it doesn't dry up . (Details where to buy here).   

*More info on Safe Sea here

Tip : Choose products that offers protection from both UVA & UVB radiation. UVA rays causes premature aging while UVB protection causes sunburn and can potentially damage the deeper layer of the skin which can cause cancer. If you're concerned about your skin tone and premature aging, choose the one that offers a maximum PA rating, PA++++ (4 pluses). Human Nature's SafeProtect has PA++++. 

Related reads : 

How to choose the right sunscreen?
Does a higher SPF sunscreen always protect your skin better?

3. DRY BAG or A WATERPROOF POUCH
Keep your stuff dry when you go island hopping or engage in water sports like kayaking by putting them inside dry bags or waterproof pouches. These are reusable and if you're using a reliable brand, it lasts for years! Though it can be more expensive than using plastic bags, it's worth the investment. It's more expensive to replace a gadget you know :).  (Price range is 1,000 Pesos above, depending on capacity and the brand) so ask around, utilize social media to get insights from users before buying one. I have a dry bag from Osprey but I have not tried submerging it under the water so I'm unable to vouch for it yet. 

Tip : Reliable dry bag brands (based on friends suggestions) that can be purchased in the Philippines include Sea to Summit (FB page here) & Blood Red

A dry bag saves you from worrying about your stuff  when you go on a water adventure
 (Photo taken at Dumaluan beach in Panglao island, Bohol)
If you don't have a budget for a dry bag yet, you can also put your stuff inside resealable plastic bags (which you can reuse after). Ziploc - I use the one for freezer storage because it looks thicker and is very easy to seal. Some resealable bags are cheap but it's so hard to close it. 

4. BEACH BLANKET 
Do you love hanging out by the shore but don't like having sand all over you? Bring a beach blanket! Go for a brand that is sand repellent so you don't contribute to the thinning shoreline. 

If you're looking for a sand repellent  beach blanket, check out Lagu

I have one which I won from a friend's blog giveaway, teehee! I don't just use it for the beach, it has also protected me from cold and light rain (Testimonial : forgot my jacket on a recent rainy trip to Baguio  and I used my beach blanket to shield myself from the rain. No boyfie but Lagu kept me warm.)

Lagu Beach blanket retails at 999 Pesos. It's an awesome gift for yourself and love ones if you ask me! You can buy it in stores or online. Visit Lagu for more details.

Kudos to brands that promote environmental conservation! :) 
P.S. It's also available in Philippines AirAsia flights as part of their inflight merchandise!

5. CLARIFYING SHAMPOO
As part of my training for an open water swimming event,  I swim thrice a week in a chlorinated pool and about once a month on open water.  While this routine helps me prepare, I noticed my hair is always dry and it has been falling off at an alarming rate. Every time I touch my hair, I end up with several strands between my fingers. Recently, I switched to using a clarifying shampoo from Human Nature that help remove impurities in the hair. It has helped addressed my concern with falling hair (I think using a Strengthening conditioner after greatly helped too). It  also feels lighter and cleaner each time, especially after a two hour swim! 

You can buy it from Robinsons Department store, Robinsons Supermarket and Robinsons Selection. You can also buy it online. Check it out here. (Price : 200 ML - 149.75 Pesos
400 ML - 319.75 Pesos)

6. STRENGTHENING CONDITIONER 
I can never ever skip using a conditioner these days now that my hair is extra dry. I'm almost always under the sun and falling hair is a concern, especially since I'm approaching mid 30s.  Reco : Try the strengthening conditioner from Human Nature. I prefer the Cool Peppermint variant - I love the smell of mint and that cooling effect on my scalp. 

7. LOTION 
I don't like having dry skin because it makes me itch so I make sure I apply one after spending time in the water. Fortunately, I have loads of lotion  given by family and from some blog collaboration, hehe! I'd love to try the all-natural lotion once I finished all these bottles I have. :) (Don't like lotion? Another option is virgin coconut oil from the drugstore.)


Travel Tip : If you're taking a plane and not checking in your luggage, ensure you put all the liquids in 100 ML containers. 

8. ECO FRIENDLY FLIP FLOPS
I'm loving my latest pair from Banana Peel's Earth Hour collection. These pretty, nature-inspired design feature glow-in-the-dark straps - I can easily find my slippers in the dark! :). It's made from eco-friendly and non-harmful materials. The print is made from non-toxic paint too. Most importantly, the straps and soles are soft and I can walk far in these. 
Eco-friendly slippers from Banana Peel. 
Banana Peel also offer a line with skid-proof outsoles so you don't easily slip off, perfect if your adventure involves walking on natural trails like waterfalls and rivers. (To buy online or find a branch closest to you, visit  their website here). 

9. FIRST AID KIT
The hiker in me can't seem to go anywhere without bringing a first aid kit. It's a good habit to keep though because you'll never know who might need it. My kit has bandages, medicine for diarrhea, fever, pain reliever and Betadine. (Reminder : Be careful when giving meds as some people are allergic to paracetamol.) Bandages can be used to cover a cut in case you brush up some rocks while swimming. 

10. DURABLE WATER BOTTLE 

Keeping yourself hydrated has a lot of benefits - you think clearly, your skin looks fresh and more! (Tip: Drink before you feel thirsty to avoid getting dehydrated). I usually bring a water bottle with me so I can  drink while traveling and fill it up again at the hotel. If you're also into hiking, best to get one that won't shatter easily. My mind has the tendency to wander and think about random things (Can you relate? Like, you need to brush your teeth and suddenly, you remember a photo of a rainbow cake you saw online and you suddenly decide you have to get one later so you need to rearrange your day just so you can squeeze a quick trip to a cafe!). As a result, I often drop things - including my phone (Samsung S5 is so durable!) which is why a  reliable water bottle is exactly what I need in my life. 

Tip :  Nalgene is a really good brand!  I have not broken any  bottle and I take them everywhere! :P You can buy one from R.O.X., Conquer Outdoor Shop (Robinson's Forum in Mandaluyong). Price depends on the size and model. 

11. GARBAGE BAG 
Again, this is another "habit" from hiking. I can't seem to pack my bag without bringing my own trash bag so I can dispose waste properly.  Being an outdoor lover means doing your share in preserving the beauty of nature. For beach trips, I just bring a  small bag where I can put  food wrappers and other rubbish. It was also very useful when I went on trip once and this adorable little girl puked inside the van. :P 

How about you? What's in your beach bag? Please feel free to share! :) 



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