Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

5 Things To Know About Angkor Wat

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Cambodia, it’s likely that Angkor Wat will be high on your list of things to see. Though the country is also known for beautiful beaches and local culture, Angkor Wat is in a league with some of the most famous wonders of the world, and deserves every traveler’s attention. That said, it’s also a very misunderstood historical attraction, and it pays to know a little bit about a place like this before you visit. Thus, we wanted to write up a brief guide of things you should know about Angkor Wat.

1. Angkor Wat Is About 900 Years Old
Sometimes we lose a little bit of perspective when it comes to dating ancient wonders. For instance, we get used to the idea that things like the pyramids of Giza or Stonehenge are literally thousands of years old. Meanwhile, some other wonders like the Taj Mahal are far younger – in that specific case, only about 360 or 370 years old. But Angkor Wat falls somewhere in between ancient and modern wonders. It was built between roughly A.D. 1113 and 1150, making it roughly 900 years old.

That sounds nice, but when you really think about what was going on in the world around that time it’s rather incredible. In the 12th century, the Renaissance was emerging from the High Middle Ages, gothic architecture was first taking hold in France, and the Song dynasty ruled in France. It was during this time that the Khmer Empire in Cambodia was at the height of its power, which makes the structure of Angkor Wat seem all the more impressive.

2. It Was The Center Of The World’s Largest City
Unless you’re fairly sharp on your Cambodian history, you might not realize that the name Angkor Wat comes from the name Angkor, which was at the time of construction the capital of the aforementioned Khmer Empire. With a population that likely exceeded one million even in the 12th century – when there were still fewer than 500 million people on the entire planet. That made Angkor the biggest city on Earth for quite some time until the Industrial Revolution gave way to faster construction and bigger cities in the West. Imagining ancient Angkor Wat within this context gives it new significance.

3. It’s Not Indian
Clearly Angkor Wat is not in India, but there still seems to be a widespread misconception that it is of Indian origin. We do know that it was built originally as a Hindu temple, and thus in a way there was Indian influence. Some claim it was actually Indians living abroad who constructed the temple, such that the monument is often credited to Indian lore, right alongside the Taj Mahal. One modern gaming series even appears to use an Angkor Wat-inspired temple as background material. The games, hosted by Slotsource, follow an Indiana Jones-like adventurer to various ancient civilizations, and the “Pearls of India” game, while not exclusively using the temple, sure appears to glorify Angkor Wat.

The truth is simple. Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century (as mentioned) by ancient Cambodians who may have spent time in India learning about culture and architecture. Thus, while there is Indian influence, the building wasn’t actually conceived of or built by Indians.

4. It’s Still An Area Of Active Worship
This is a quick point, but one that may be of particular interest to prospective travelers. Angkor Wat is an ancient temple that is now primarily a tourist attraction and a monument to history. However, there are still active temples in its immediate vicinity – reminiscent of the city’s history, during which there were at times hundreds of temples serving the population. Thus, while it does receive a lot of attention from tourists, Angkor Wat is still a place for reverence.

5. There’s An Ancient City Beneath Angkor Wat
If it’s not already impressive enough to think of Angkor Wat as an enduring symbol of a 900-year-old city, recent research has indicated that the surrounding area was actually populated before Angkor became prominent. According to Baby Elephant, brand new laser technologies recently combed over the area, resulting in the discovery of the city of Mahendraparvata – a Khmer city that is dated to 300 years before the construction of Angkor Wat. That discovery came in 2012, and in 2016 evidence of even older cities in the immediate area emerged – some of them perhaps as old as 1,400 years. All of this only deepens the palpable sense of history you get visiting this incredible area.

Note : The above article was contributed by one of the site's guest writers. If you have any concerns about this post, please send an email to tine.fernandez@gmail.com. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Birthday Hike at Mt. Matutum (Tupi, South Cotabato)

I woke up at 2:30 AM, ahead of the alarm, excited to meet another mountain. I had just turned a year older. Thankfully, my youthful enthusiasm for nature remains unchangedThough I've been feeling the effects of aging with the slowing metabolism and white hair popping everywhere,  I'm happy I could still hike, though my pace is much slower than a few years back. :) This time,  I'm heading to Mt. Matutum, an active volcano in the municipality of Tupi, South Cotabato province.

Read : Celineism  | I Spend My Birthday in the Mountain

My hotel in General Santos city was next door to a 24-hour branch of Taps & Mix, a restaurant serving Filipino comfort food that has become a new favourite. The menu looks like something people enjoy eating when they have a hang-over.  Some of the items in their menu includes gambas, sisig, TAPSILOG, chicken wings & chopseuy . Though I did not get enough sleep the night before, I made time for brewed coffee and an early morning breakfast. #priorities :P 

At a little past 4:00 AM, the bus left Bulaong terminal in Gen San for Tupi. (Tip : Be at the bus terminal by 4:00 AM and ride the bus with a signage "MARBEL - 2 Stops". This is bound for Koronadal, Marbel's new name). After an hour or less, I arrived at Kablon crossing in Tupi where I met with my guide, sir Toto Mateo. (If you're not familiar with the area, just ask conductor or driver to let you off at Kablon Crossing. While there are no obvious markers, the crossing has a waiting shed and a habal-habal or motorbike terminal nearby.

The jump-off is 30 minutes away on rough road, passing Dole's vast pineapple plantation.  The view is beautiful and calming with Mt. Matutum as a backdrop.

start of our hike via Glandang trail
We had a short stop at the home of a barangay leader to show my permit. By 6:00 AM, we were making our way up the mountain via Glandang trail, passing Glandang Elementary school. At the time, only one other group was in the mountain and they had camped the night before.

The first part was not as easy as I expected. The trail is clear but narrow and gradually inclined. Add the lack of sleep and I was out of breathe early on. I adjusted my pace - slower with a max 10 second rest - just enough for my heart not to jump out of my chest. My guide, sir Toto could have effortlessly made his way up but he patiently waited for me. We were about 10-20 feet apart most of the time.  

The slower pace was enjoyable. Numerous times I paused to admire the fog, the fungi, moss-covered tree branches and the orange flowers along the trail. We even spotted a  bird perched on a tree. Thankfully, no snakes. Hehe! 

In 1 hr 47 minutes, we reached an area called Phase 1. It's a wide area that serves as a resting spot. By the time we get there, I was dizzy from hunger. All the food I ate that morning had left my system in the first 30 minutes of the hike! Sir Toto and I ate a quick breakfast, his first, my second. :P  I would have preferred to stay longer as we were ahead of schedule but it got so cold, we had to move again.

Mt. Matutum's mossy forest
After phase 1, the trail transitioned from steep to incredibly steep, making the hike up even more challenging, but seeing its beautiful forest, it was hard not to smile! The light rain and fog made the shade of trees and plants more vibrant. There's plenty of roots and branches to hold on to, I didn't slip.  The soil was wet but because not many people went up here, the ground is stable. We did see limatik but they were not aggressive. 

Our slow and steady pace worked. We barely stopped for a rest. After another 2 hours from phase 1,  we finally reached the summit! If not for the markers, you'd think it's just another resting area. Fog was everywhere and there was nothing to see. Still, I was elated to have reached the summit. Some 30 minutes away, there's another area called Peak 3 where view is supposedly awesome but with the bad weather and cold, we decided to head down after about 10 minutes. 

At Mt. Matutum's cold and foggy summit
Before 2:00 PM, we were already making our way back to downtown Tupi where we had late lunch. Farmers bread has delicious panic  lomi and bread. It's just across Tupi Public market and bus terminal where I rode back to Gen San. (Tip : If you love coffee, check out the public market for native coffee. There's a stall near the entrance selling it.)
post hike lunch at Farmers Bread with my new found friends from Tupi.
My guide, sir Toto is the guy in grey, while the rest of the guys are also hikers, his friends we ran into on our way
down the mountain.
This hike is part of my week long birthday trip. Hope you can also take the time to read my other posts on this. :) 
Leg 1 : El Nido Experience with Northern Hope Tours | Walking Around El Nido Town (to follow)
Leg 2 : Birthday Hike at Mt. Matutum (You're here!)
Leg 3 : Overnight in Maguindanao (Part 1) | Overnight in Maguindanao (Part 2)

Here's my itinerary and travel info:
Matutum Day Hike Itinerary via Glandang Trail (from Gen San)
Note : Contact guide ahead of your hike to schedule. In my case, I coordinated with my guide, one week prior. You will also need a permit to climb. If coming from out of town, he can process it for you. More details below.

November 2017 (Sunday)

4:00 AM - ETD Bulaong Terminal in Gen San
5:00 AM - ETA Kablon Crossing to meet with guide and take habal-habal to Sitio Glandang
5:15 AM - ETD Kablon Crossing 
5:45 AM - ETA, Sitio Glandang, show permit to barangay official, final preps, restroom break. 
6:00 AM - Start Trek
6:30 AM - Arrival at the only water source
6:45 AM - Start Trekking again
8:15 AM - arrival at Phase 1
8:30 AM - resume trek to summit
11:00 AM - arrival at summit
11:30 AM - start descent
1:30 PM - arrival at Sitio Glandang, dress up at barangay leader's place and take habal-habal back to downtown
2:30 PM - back in downtown, late lunch at Farmers Bread
3:00 PM - wait for bus back to Gen San
4:30 PM - back in Gen San

Expenses : 
Permit fee - 500 PHP
Guide fee - 1,000 PHP
Guide - Toto (Jefferson) Mateo - +63 (0920) 743 7135

Note : He can assist with your permit. You will need to send the permit fee via Palawan Express (Guide fee to be paid after the hike). Contact him ahead of time before sending the payment. As he will be processing the permit, please consider adding an extra amount on top of the permit fee to cover for his expenses. 
Habal-habal fare from Tupi to Sitio Glandang-100/person, one way. You will pay for the guide's fare.(to and fro, total is 400 Pesos if you're going solo)
Fare from GenSan to Kablon crossing - 40 PHP+/-* (aircon bus, first trip at 4:00 AM) - 
*I forgot the exact cost but it's around that amount.

Where to stay in GenSan? 

- I'm not able to recommend the hotel I stayed in because of noise issues. I do however, encourage you search for a hotel via Traveloka  app (super useful for last minute bookings on domestic travels!) or Agoda. Do check the reviews on the site, via Trip Advisor or run a search on Google. :) You can find rooms for as low as 500 Pesos/night but take note of the inclusions (aircon, private t&b, breakfast, etc) as well as location from establishments and distance from Bulaong Terminal where you will be taking a bus to Tupi. It's easy to get around GenSan via tricycle though some drivers may overcharge you. There's a minimum fare (I forgot if it was 8 or 10 Pesos) and tricycles are for sharing. The driver will pick up passengers that are along their route, unless you request for a special trip.

Side Trips 

You can combine this with a hike to Sanchez peak near Gen San or a trip to Gumasa beach in Sarangani (see Pinoy Adventurista's post here for travel info). 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Nature Lover's Bucket List to Thailand

Visiting a country that has so much to offer in terms of food, scenery and culture, it’s a challenge (but a very fun one), to squeeze everything on a single trip. While the country offers a variety of attractions, this post focuses on places (as you can already tell from the title :P) that will interest travellers with a penchant for nature at a relax pace.  

Here’s a list of places to get you and I started in exploring this beautiful Southeast Asian neighbour of ours, Thailand. 

If you have tips to share, please leave a comment or connect with me on my social media channels listed below. :)

Where to stay? Fortunately, travellers visiting to Thailand have a wide variety of options  on where to stay. From backpacker types to luxury Thai Homes, it's easy to find one that fits your budget.

Hike to Thailand’s Roof 
view from Kew Mae Pan trail (Photo from Douglas Perkins)
At a height of 2,565 meters, Doi Inthanon is the country’s highest mountain located within Doi Inthanon National Park, in the province of Chiang Mai. Though the only way up to the summit is by a hired vehicle or motorbike passing a concrete road, followed by a short walk to a signage that says “The Highest Spot in Thailand”, those who crave for a closer interaction with nature can explore the waterfalls and hiking trails in the area.  For a  rewarding hike passing a beautiful mossy forest and scenic cliff views, Kew Mae Pan trail is recommended. The trail is nearly 3 KM long and requires a local guide that can be hired onsite. Another hike is the Ang Ka Luang, a shorter boardwalk trail popular to birdwatchers. 

Apart from hiking trails, other must see attractions in the park are the temples, Twin Royal stupas and its surrounding gardens . It can also be combined with a side trip to The Royal Agricultural Station, a research centre supporting the livelihood of tribes men. 

Check out my other hikes here.

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
A visual treat to plant lovers is Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in the Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai. Sprawling 1,000 hectares at the foothills of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park,  it is Thailand’s first international standard botanic garden. Here, visitors are introduced to curated gardens showcasing the country’s flora as well as plants from overseas, arboretum trails and ornamental gardens.
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden (Photo by Amada 44)
An exciting attraction onsite is  Canopy Walkway. Suspended over a lush forest, it allows visitors to stroll over tree tops. There’s also a 30-45 minute trail passing Mae Sa Noi waterfalls to ornamental flowers and the Thai Wild Orchid Nursery. The waterfalls has 10 levels and can be visited on a separate trip.

Visit an elephant sanctuary in Chang Mai
Thailand’s national animal is a hit among travellers, with elephant riding as one of the top activities, but have you heard about how these pachyderms are tortured to do tricks and give rides? This post from PETA explains in detail, Why You Should Turn Down Elephant Rides.
Elephant Nature Park (Photo by Elemanxx)
Elephant Nature Park is one of the reputable animal sanctuaries in Thailand, allowing its visitors to meet its rescued elephants and volunteer. Aside from these pachyderms, dogs, cats and other animals are also in the centre.Guests must book through their website before visiting.  

Travellers however must be wary of places masking itself as a sanctuary. Do your research - ask around, read reviews online before booking a tour.  

Wat Khao Hua Jook 
This temple with a big Buddha is on the northern side of Chaweng lake in Koh Samui island. Sitting on a 90 meter hill, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Chaweng lake,  nearby islands and watch airplanes take off from Koh Samui airport. In the afternoon, it is a good spot to catch the sunset.

Not commonly part of tours, visitors can take a motorbike to get here or take an arduous walk on a steep hill. From Chaweng beach, the wat is about 1.9 KM away, on the road leading to Q Bar Samui.
Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui (Photo : Jacques.samui)
A more popular temple, thus attracting crowds, in the northeast side of Koh Samui is Wat Phra Yai or commonly referred to as Big Buddha. It  also has a view deck, albeit less scenic, offering views of the water and the structures around it. 

Hin Ta & Hin Yai Rocks
A section of Hin Ta & Hin Yai (Photo by Dirk Enthoven)
Also in Koh Samui, in a rocky coastline about 1.8 KM from Lamai beach,  this popular attraction features wildly interesting rock formations, in the shape of male and female genitals. Its name translates to Ta for grandpa and Yai for grandma, the subjects of a tragic Koh Samui folklore. According to the story, a couple, Ta Kreng and Yai Riem had a son who had just entered the right age to marry. To formally ask the daughter of Ta Monglai in marriage, the couple traveled by sea. Unfortunately, they encountered a storm, capsizing their boat. The couple did not survive and turned into rock formation, the shape of which serves as proof of their intention. 

Nai Harn Beach
Phuket's Nai Harn Beach (Photo : ADwarf)
Developed but not congested with tourists, this beach near the southern tip of Phuket is charming.  While there is no shortage of places to stay or eat, with restaurants offering a wide variety of International and Thai dishes,  visitors are able to enjoy the beach in peace.  It is however, not isolated. Ao Sane is only about 5 minutes away , a small beach with a good snorkelling spot. Patong, the most famous beach in Phuket and where you can find the crowd is only about 18.3 KM away. Other worthwhile places to visit include Promthep Cape for sunset viewing and Kata View point, a hilltop with a view of Kata Not, Kata, Karon and Koh Pu islands. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tawi-Tawi Series : Hiking Bud Bongao

After covering the activities of the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi in Languyan(see post here), we traveled back to Bongao for some sightseeing. I was especially excited to hike Bud Bongao, a mountain which has long been on my bucket list. :)

Bud (mountain) Bongao is a small peak in the provincial capital with the same name, just 342 meter high with a stairs trail from jump-off to its summit. Sacred to locals, it is frequented by people practicing Islam who pray in tampats (burial shrines) along the trail.
At the top of Bud Bongao with my fellow bloggers, Marky/Nomadic Experiences, Ferdz/Ironwulf, Potpot/Travel Trilogy, Olan/The Travel Teller/ & Celine/Celineism (Photo from Ferdz Decena)
When we got to the jump-off at past 8:00 AM, the sun was high up and the humidity was uncomfortable. I don't mind. I was just excited to finally set foot here. :) (Tip : Since you'll be passing some open trails, it's  ideal to hike early in the morning to avoid the heat. Trail opens at 6:00 AM.) 

The tasking concrete stairs trail is built in the middle of a forest, making it doable for those without hiking experience and even more manageable for those who come just to pray. I prefer natural trails but if it will benefit more people and get them closer to nature, then I'm all for it. 

Halfway through, we encountered lots of monkeys that gladly took the bananas visitors threw at them. I was initially freaked out at the sight of monkeys everywhere but when I saw a mother monkey carrying its baby, I was smitten, it's so cute! :) 

The hike up normally takes 1-2 hours depending on your pace.  As this is my first time here, I took my sweet time, taking in the scenery of a forest filled with tall trees, the sound of birds and monkeys. 

There are two viewing decks before the summit and on the peak itself. Both offer breathtaking views of Celebes sea. You'll also spot the airport runway in Sanga-Sanga and the islands of Simunul and Sibutu. 

I had a sunburn from island hopping the day before. Thankfully, the summit has a nice, covered sitting area, very ideal for those who want to take a long break and enjoy the view and fresh air. (Tip : There are no stores here so better bring your own water and snacks.  Before reaching the summit, we saw a vendor selling cold drinks but I'm not sure if he's here everyday)
our group at the summit of Bud Bongao (Photo from Al Dam of Tausug Traveler)
After our hike, still sweaty and all, we rushed back to town  for lunch at the affable mayor Jimuel Que's residence. Incidentally, it's his dad's death anniversary and their home is open for everyone needing a good meal. Hehe! I stuffed myself with fried chicken and despite the heat, I still drank native coffee after. Their coffee's really good! don't miss it when in Tawi-Tawi.  Aside from lunch, we also joined a quick media interview with him, DOT ARMM Secretary Ayesha Dilangalen, Bongao Tourism Officer Kinlene Sabaani, our last activity in the province.  You can read about it in this article by Ace Perez of Sun Star Davao | Bongao Lures Tourists.

How to get to Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi 
From Manila, take a plane to Zamboanga City. From Zamboanga city, you can either *fly to Bongao or ride a boat  via Aleson Shipping Lines
Aleson Shipping Lines schedule (Note : Schedules may change. Please contact them directly on the numbers provided below to confirm the schedule.)  
Zamboanga to Bongao - 6:00 PM, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays
Bongao to Zamboanga - 6:00 PM every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Zamboanga Ticketing Office +63(62) 992-5507, 992-6410, 992-4585 

*Cebu Pacific flies from Zamboanga to Bongao every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

From Bongao town proper, take a tricycle to the jump-off. It'll take about 30-40 minutes up. Not sure about the fare since we took a private van going here. To give you an idea, the tricycle fare from the town proper to sunset boulevard in Sanga-Sanga, which is near Bud Bongao is 150 Pesos/tricycle.  You may have to pay a bit more.

Other info :
- The park is open from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
- Smoking is not allowed
Entrance fees :
10 Pesos for locals
5 Pesos for 7 yrs old to 18 yrs old
20 Pesos for visitors from outside of Bongao
- the trail is straightforward and there is no need to hire a guide
- there's an ambulant vendor selling cold bottled drinks near the peak but I recommend bringing your own water to reduce plastic waste :)

Where to Stay in Bongao
We stayed at Rachel's place near the town proper. 
Rachel's Place Hotel & Restaurant
Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Contact Number : +63 (068)268-1248

Facebook Page : Rachel's Place Tawi-Tawi
Room Rates : 1, 200 Pesos for a matrimonial room to 3000 Pesos for a family room (as of September 2017)

To travel  to Tawi-Tawi safely, please get in touch with the following :
Provincial Tourism Office of Tawi-Tawi
Mr. Mobin Gampal (PTO Officer)
Contact number: +63 977 230 9061
Email Address: pto_tawitawi@yahoo.com
Facebook Page : PTO Tawi-Tawi (first contact)
Facebook Page : Department of Tourism - ARMM 

Travel Guides : 
Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide by Travel Up | Cebu Pacific Air City Guide, Tawi-Tawi

NOTE : This trip was made possible by Department of Tourism - ARMM. Last September, I traveled with fellow bloggers and members of the media from Mindanao to cover the 44th Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi, the province's founding anniversary. A DIY (Do It Yourself) trip to Tawi-Tawi is possible, just get in touch with the provincial tourism office of Tawi-Tawi on the contact details provided above. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Adventure Farm at Timberland Heights

Living in Metro Manila, one can easily travel to Rizal for a quick outdoor adventure. About an hour from Quezon City (depending on traffic), the nearby province offers biking, running and hiking trails that can be enjoyed by people of varying fitness levels. 

Read : Travel Up | 5 Places to Mountain Bike near Manila 

An addition to its outdoor playgrounds is Adventure Farm, an education farm concept that provides visitors a preview of farm life while learning about plants and raising animals. Though the layout is designed for kids, adults looking for a fun and easy time are welcome too!

Check out our hike at  Mt. Lubog, Rizal here.

Adventure Farm opened in 2014 and is a project of Filinvest Land Inc., one of the leading real estate developers in the country and the same group behind Timberland Heights subdivision, where the farm is.  

On an overnight camp with my fellow bloggers, we tried its latest attraction, the Adventure Playground, a 1.25 KM natural trail lined with obstacles. I've been hustling weeks before so on the day of the camp, all I wanted to do was pick some vegetables at the farm and sip cold lemongrass (the welcome drink) all day, but I've already committed to joining the challenge against Team Timberland. Years of playing in the football varsity has trained me to go on auto pilot and show up where I need to be. So there I stood at the starting line with my friends, dressed in all black, psyching myself to embrace the thrill of running outdoors and getting myself dirty. 
One of the obstacles along the trail. Photo from Dennis Murillo 
Fortunately, the obstacle course was much more fun than I expected. I've been watching too much American Ninja Warrior (check out an exciting clip here if you're not familiar with the show) that I somehow convinced myself that the challenge would be just as hard. Silly thoughts

While it was not as easy as a walk in the park, it gave us a good sweat. The kind of sweat that makes you happy and hungry after. :P (Tip : If trying this out, wear closed shoes with a good traction as the trail can get really muddy and slippery). 

My favorite part of course was crawling in the mud. Being short, challenges where I have to kneel to the ground  are easy for me. Parang normal na lakad lang, haha! Add my predilection to mud and there I was, having the time of my life. Background : The movie, Ghost has permanently romanticized touching mud for me. (Here's the clip I'm talking about. :P It's got a steamy scene so you'll probably have to log in on your YouTube account to verify you're above 18 so you can watch it ;))
A section of the Adventure Playground. Photo by Dennis Murillo.
Team Timberland got to the finish line first but we really enjoyed the obstacle course that we also felt like we won, ending our quest with loud cheers and some weird dancing. 

If you fancy a quick workout with your friends, Adventure Playground also accepts walk-ins with a minimum of 5 PAX from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but  I still recommend getting in touch in advance as there might be bigger groups coming in (contact details below). 

After cleaning up, we set our camp at a hilltop overlooking La Mesa Dam and the rest of the city. When darkness set in and the light from the infrastructures came on, everything in the distance sparkled, giving us a different perspective of the city. 

There's a decent bathroom and shower room facilities just a few feet from our campsite, making it more comfortable, especially for those who don't want to rough it out too much.   While I'm used to doing my thing outdoors, having clean facilities nearby is nicer and eases my paranoia from being attacked by an animal while sitting on the grass. :P

Aside from the Adventure Playground, there's plenty of other things to do out here. The farm is marketed for kids but adults who are interested in plants and animals can also enjoy. I advise you to get a a guided farm tour (150 Pesos/head) so you can get more information on how they're running the place.

Those looking for a venue to hold pictorials and prenups are also encouraged to visit. For rates, see contact details provided below.

Here's an infographic of what you can see at Adventure Farm. 
Infographic provided by Adventure Farm
Other activities : 
- chicken feeding
- fish feeding
- city viewing at Tree Troop
- relax at Hilltop Haven
- vegetable picking (pay for what you get later)
- birdwatching (binocular rental at 100 Pesos/piece, can be shared)
- fishing (rod rental at 100 Pesos/hour, can also be shared within the group)
- waterfalls trekking (150 Pesos/head, minimum of 5 in a group. 50% downpayment must be paid in advance 7 days prior to desired schedule, the remaining half to be paid at the farm)
- camping (advance reservation is required. Rate : 600 Pesos/head. Tent rental with a capacity of 2 persons is at 500 Pesos)
- biking (bike rental is at 100 Pesos/head per hour inclusive of safety gear, with an additional 50 Pesos for the succeeding hour)

Potted Herbs are sold at the shop for 50 Pesos/pot. Herbs like lavander, stevia, peppermint, aloe vera and more are available. They also have native tree seedlings at 150 Pesos/regular seedling. 

With its proximity from Manila, activities available and reasonable rates, Adventure Farm is a good option for those who are looking for a light outdoor adventure. 

Adventure Farm

Timberland Heights, San Mateo Rizal
Facebook Page : @AdventureFarmPH
Rates (in Philippine Pesos) :
Entrance Fee - 50 Pesos 
Guided Tour - 150 Pesos/head

For booking inquiries, please get in touch with Adventure Farm directly. 
Call + 63(02)571-9116
Email : adventurefarmtimberlandheights@gmail.com
Location Map

NOTE :  This trip was a collaboration with Adventure Farm. Thanks to Jon Tablante and to the rest of team Timberland! :)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tawi-Tawi Series : Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi & Agal-Agal Festival

Every September, Tawi-Tawi celebrates Kamahardikaan, its anniversary as a province. Held on the same week is Agal-Agal Festival, which highlights the province's top product, agal-agal, the local word for seaweed. On its 44th year,  the municipality of Languyan played host, about an hour away by speedboat from Bongao, the provincial capital. This being my first visit to Tawi-Tawi, I was very excited and didn't mind the arduous travel to get here, about 15 hours of air, land and sea travel from Manila! 
Contingent from Bongao wins 3rd place
Together with fellow bloggers and traditional media from Mindanao, we covered various activities during the five day celebration,  showcasing the culture & history of the  Sama, Badjao, Jama Mapun and Tausug, the four major indigenous groups in Tawi-Tawi. 

Related Post : Zamboanga-Basilan birthday trip (this post was written 2011, I was more hyperactive back then :P)

One of the festival's highlights was the parade and the street dancing competition. This year, it was participated by 9 of the 11 municipalities of the province with each contender presenting a glimpse of their traditions through dance, music and their costumes. Having limited knowledge on traditional dances, my level of appreciation was at a basic level - how I felt while watching the performances. Most of the performances were engaging and I was in awe after witnessing the pangalay for the first time. Pangalay is a traditional dance by the Tausug in the Sulu Archipelago and Sabah (Malaysia). Characterized by graceful movements of the fingers, elbows, shoulders and wrists, it resembles a form of martial arts in the Malay archipelago (Source : EDC Dance Company)

One of my companions who studied pangalay,Travel Trilogy,  did a better job of explaining their performances. Check out his post here.

Here's a snippet of Sapa-Sapa's performance at the 44th Agal-Agal Festival.  

The top three winners were Sapa-sapa (1st pace), Simunul (2nd place) and Bongao (3rd place). Each won 1 Million Pesos in cash and 5 Million Pesos worth of project for their respective municipality. Whoa! 
Participants from Languyan 
More info about the festival here :  Ironwulf.Net |  Tawi-tawi Agal-Agal Festival 2017 at Languyan     

Next year's Kamahardikaan & Agal-Agal Festival will be in Sitangkai. About 6 hours from Bongao by boat, it is famous for its stilt houses and a community surrounding a canal, somehow reminiscent to the popular waterway  in Venice, Italy. 

More festival photos here.

Related Post : Hiking Bud Bongao

Tawi-Tawi boasts of  beautiful mosques,  white sand beaches, peace-loving, kind people and good coffee.  Unfortunately, its reputation is marred by reports of kidnapping and the stigma of  being part of ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), a section of southern the Philippines with a long history of conflict. It is also included in a Travel advisory for US Citizens (read here).  The local government wishes to change that. To travel  to Tawi-Tawi safely, please get in touch with the following :
Provincial Tourism Office of Tawi-Tawi
Mr. Mobin Gampal (PTO Officer)
Contact number: +63 977 230 9061
Email Address: pto_tawitawi@yahoo.com
Facebook Page : PTO Tawi-Tawi
Facebook Page : Department of Tourism - ARMM 

Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide by The Lakwatsero here.
Related blog : Celineism | Tawi-Tawi's Colorful Agal-Agal Festival

NOTE : This trip was made possible by the Department of Tourism - ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) headed by Secretary Ayesha Dilangalen. Thanks again for bringing us here, it's a dream come true!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Travel News : Starting the Christmas Vibe withTaiwan Excellence

Last September 29 - October 1, a showcase of Taiwan's best brands was held at the SM Mall of Asia Main Atrium. Taiwan Excellence Experience Zone 2 featured products which has earned the Taiwan Excellence seal.  

Sponsored by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT), Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) organizes the Taiwan Excellence campaign to promote innovative and superior-quality products, and encourage Taiwan innovators to continue transforming current technologies.
Travel info on Taiwan? Read : Poor Traveler | Taiwan on a budget  

In this 3-day event, Taiwan Excellence brought its sports and leisure products to the spotlight. Visitors got a first-hand experience of products that maximize active lifestyles, such as the Johnson S3+ Spinner Bike, which parallels the rigors of a spinning workout, while at home. Meanwhile, a Revolution Tri-Max Fabric can be the perfect gift for your athletic and sporty friends (See related post, Gift Ideas for Outdoor Lovers). This suit is made from special super-stretch fiber to support muscle, boost performance and reduce body soreness after exercise.

There’s also a plethora of options for the ride you and your loved ones have been looking for — the Verge X10, with its ultra-light wheels getting you places in style, the Strida LT making riding, carrying and storing your bike superbly convenient, as it folds in 5 seconds tops, or a Kymco Xciting 400 motorcycle,which makes riders feel completely safe, while enjoying the pleasures of driving. 

Beyond the booths and presentations, the 3-day event gathered the thrill-seeking crowds for activities, performances, fashion shows, games, and raffle draws.

The first 50 registrants qualified for a draw to win a signed basketball from the one and only, Philippine Basketball Association player Doug Kramer. The Gosiengfiao Sisters (October 1) also made an appearance, while other performers included Angeline Quinto (September 29), 4th Impact (September 30), Inigo Pascual (October 1), and the Judy’s Harmonica Ensemble.

About Taiwan Excellence
The symbol of Taiwan Excellence honors Taiwan’s most innovative products that provide tremendous value to users worldwide. All products carrying this symbol have been selected for specific Taiwan Excellence Awards based on their excellence in design, quality, marketing, Taiwanese R&D, and manufacturing. Started by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), R.O.C. in 1992, the symbol of Taiwan Excellence is recognized by 101 countries.

NOTE : Post is from a press release.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beginner Friendly Hike : Mt. Kalisungan

Mt. Kalisungan in Calauan, Laguna is another good option if you're looking for a short & moderately challenging hike near Manila. The trail starts easy at a farm, then onto a moderately steep trail all the way to the summit. Though forested, you'll hardly feel any wind, making it a very uncomfortably humid hike. Making up for all that sweat is the view at the summit! Here, you can enjoy a scenery of nearby mountains and the lakes of San Pablo. 
approaching Mt. Kalisungan
If you're planning to stay at the summit for a while, bring a cap or umbrella as the peak is a grassland with no trees. 

Read : 12 Useful Things to Bring on your First Mountain Hike

This was my third visit to Mt. Kalisungan and though the trail and the views are the same, the experience is unique. I'm  happy with the new friends I met (hello Cess, PJ, Red, Rod, Razel and Ana!) and the food we enjoyed after :P.

Our group at the summit of Mt. Kalisungan (Photo fr PJ Sapoco)
Mt. Kalisungan can be tackled as a short day hike, combined with a second hike to nearby Mt. Mabilog (post here) or as an extended day hike to its neighboring peak, Mt. Atimla (post here). 

More Tips!
- Wear a dri fit shirt as you'll be sweating buckets due to the humidity. Bringing a foldable fan or  umbrella is also a good idea.
- After your hike, you can change at the bathrooms at the jump-off and eat at Itlog ni Kuya, a roadside eatery along the main highway in Victoria, just near the junction where you can see a giant duck statue. You can also make your way to UP Los Banos where there are a lot of good food! (Read ELBI : The real "food trip"  | Food Trip Under 500 UP Los Banos).  
refreshing ourselves with fresh fruit shakes at Vega Center in Los Banos, Laguna.
This stall near the mall entrance serves really good and affordable shakes! (Photo from Cess)
On this hike, I brought 1.5 liters of water (I froze 500 ML the night before so I have something cold to drink while hiking). Bring more if you get thirsty often. For snacks, I bring food that sustain energy on the trail such as almonds, cashew, sliced apples, orange, healthy snack bars and for long hikes, energy gels. 

How to get here 
My friend arranged for this hike so I didn't keep track of the fees. However, I found a helpful itinerary from The Novice Trekker, check out his post here.

Thanks Gid (and Wang for the ride!) for letting me tag along this hike. :) 

"If this inspires you to climb a mountain, just remember to preserve what Mother Nature has to offer. Reduce your impact leave no trace." 

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