Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Canada | Manila to Taoyuan International Airport Layover

The first leg of my long journey to Ontario began with a layover from Manila to Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. I had such good experience flying with EVA Air (mainly because they served good food) that I was still full and high with energy when I arrived. After doing some research, I realized the 4.40 hr layover wasn't enough for me to get out of the airport and do some decent exploring. Fortunately, Taoyuan International Airport is wonderful. Easy to navigate, it has plenty of facilities to entertain travelers with long layovers. There's free wifi too in the entire airport, making it easier to pass the time. 
landing at Taoyuan International Airport
When I reached Taipei, I didn't have to go through immigration or pick up my luggage. I thought I'd be bored with all the free time I had but I got so engrossed looking around and trying out things that I ended up having to rush to my boarding gate for my next flight! 

The waiting areas are themed and one of famous ones is the Hello Kitty waiting lounge. I am no fan but it was amusing to see all that pink. Being a foodie, I was even more amused with the food themed lounge with seats in the shape of dim sum inside a bamboo steamer. Hehe! :) 
Inside Terminal 2 of Taoyuan airport
Our flight from EVA Air landed at Terminal 2 and thankfully, it was also where I was taking my next flight to Toronto Pearson airport. 

There were free massage chairs near C9 boarding gate but you need to secure a token first from one of the Information desks. Each person gets a token which you put in a slot connected to the chair. The massage lasts around 20-30 minutes and was adequately long enough to provide relief to my sore muscles. :)
Massage Chair lounge
Aside from the free massage, there are also rest areas with comfortable lounge chairs where you can sleep or charge your gadgets. Just be mindful of your belongings. 

What I found really cool were these workstation pods which are located beside the airport library. I sat down and just browsed on my phone.  The seat was so comfortable! 
Workstations beside the airport library. You can stay here for free and try the different types of lighting for  relaxing, studying, etc. The lighting does have an effect on the eyes. It's pretty cool!

The library's near D2 boarding gate but I didn't have enough time to sit and browse through its selections.
Airport library
Aside from these facilities, you can also take a shower, go on a food trip, do some shopping (there are money changers and ATMs at the departure area) and even play video games. 

To locate the airport facilities, click 
here for a passengers guide map of Terminal 2 Taoyuan International airport. 

Travel Tip :
Travelers with a 7-24 hour layover and have valid R.O.C. (Republic of China - Taiwan) visa or are visa-exempt may avail of free half day tours in Taiwan. Complete information here. (Info may change, please always double check with the information center at the airport)

Airport website here. 

I booked my flight to Toronto Pearson Airport via the Traveloka mobile app just because the interface is so much simpler. I can even select my seats with it. I didn't get my voucher until the next day but after contacting customer support, I received it right away so I was happy with it.  After booking via the Traveloka app, I double checked my booking through EVA Air website and it was there. :) Easy! Traveloka's still one of my favorite travel apps. 

Trip was December 2017

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mt. Danayag Day Hike in Aurora

Despite the rain, I felt sleepy and sluggish up until we got to the second hour of our hike.  After being on the road for 5 hours the night before, the lack of a proper sleep had taken its toll, even the fresh mountain air couldn't wake me up. Thankfully, the first part of the trail from Brgy. Ditumabo, was easy. It was flat though very muddy. 

The same barangay serves as the jump-off to visitors going to Mother falls, a major attraction for people visiting the nearby municipality of Baler. Popular as a surf spot with plenty of restaurants around it, I toyed with the idea of staying behind to relax and enjoy the sea. But being a loyal lover, I had chosen the mountains again for the nth time. 
Rest stop at this view deck
The rain that welcomed us at the start of the hike accompanied us on our way up the mountain, making it uncomfortably cold. After the flat terrain, it became steeper and narrower. I was wet, both from the rain and sweat. I brushed countless times on plants along the the trail but I don't mind. The thick forest was enjoyable. Though rainwater had made it slippery, there were lots of branches to hold on to making the hike up quite manageable. There were limatiks (leeches) present too but  since I stayed at the back of the pack, I only had limited encounters with the blood suckers. 
Pitcher plants
Before we know it, we had gotten through 6 hours of the hike. We had a quick lunch at the campsite, about 40 minutes away from the summit. While we were gorging on food, other insects (niknik) feasted on us. These insects have the most annoying bite. Itchy and painful on the skin, its bites can cause scarring. Good thing, it can be driven away with insect repellent. 
While the fog had obscured the views at the summit, we were entertained by the plant life around us. The mountain is  more or less 1,595 MASL tall and we hardly noticed the long hike to its peak. Passing a mossy forest,  we saw orchids, pitcher plants with a wide base and other wild flowers. 
These heart-shaped flowers were right in the middle of the trail and I just had to stop and take a photo. :)
Going back down the same way was actually more challenging and longer. We had to be careful with the muddy and slippery trail. We finished the hike in 13 hours and celebrated with a nice meal at Bayler View Restaurant in Baler. 
Summit shot. Photo from Gideon Lasco.
Notes : 
The mountain's jump-off is in Brgy. Ditumabo, San Luis, Aurora. 
To hike this mountain, go to barangay hall and inquire for guides.
A day hike takes about 13 hours, out and back but it may vary depending on the group's pace. Limatiks are present along the mossy forest section. As mentioned above,  there are also nikniks at the campsite near the summit. There are no water sources in the middle of the trail. You need to bring enough (I brought 2.5 liters) hydration for your hike. 

Baler, a popular surf spot is near San Luis and is a nice place to explore. There's plenty of lodging options, restaurants and welcoming locals. Here's a helpful resource,  Lakwatsero | Baler Travel Guide 2018

Related Blog : 
My friend Gid has also posted his blog about our hike on Pinoy Mountaineer | Hiking matters #585.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Samar, An Exciting Destination for Adventurers & Nature Lovers

On this 3 day trip to Samar, I joined fellow bloggers in trekking, caving and riding boats that passed scenic riversides. Samar offers raw adventures in vibrant forests that are challenging, tiring and at times, nerve wrecking. If you’re that type of traveler who loves nature and don’t mind roughing it up, come and visit Samar!
Fellow blogger Ruth Dela Cruz at Panaghoyan river in Jiabong, Samar
Here are some of the places you can explore in this beautiful province. 

San Juan by the Bay (Sta. Rita, Samar)
On this mild adventure, visitors can take a leisurely cruise along San Juanico strait and dine on a floating restaurant that offers a nice view of the iconic San Juanico bridge and its nearby islands. It also features a 400 meter boardwalk that passes a mangrove. Made of bamboo, the wood makes a rickety sound as you walk on it, adding a little thrill to your short walk. Wearing slippers is okay. Just watch your steps and enjoy the amazing plant life around you. 

Trivia time! Did you know that mangroves and the tree species that grow around it are the coolest? Aside from being a tourist attraction, mangroves also serves as a home to mollusks, shrimps and fishes, that serve as food to coastal communities that it  protects.  Filtering sediments from rivers and land, it helps stabilize the coastline, preventing erosion from waves and sand. (Source : www.org)
view from our boat
San Juan by the Bay 
Address : Brgy. San Juan, Sta. Rita, Samar
Mobile Numbers : +63(936)241-0371 /(997)8397922
For rates and reminders, see photo below:

Sohoton Natural Park (Basey, Samar)
The fun starts with a river cruise or boat ride to the cave jump-off. The cave tour itself is  easy and only gets tricky on some sections where you have to crouch or walk on slippery mud. Another highlight is the kayak ride to the natural bridge. When the current is too strong, there's no need to worry  as guides can take care of the rowing and you can just sit back and relax. 
riding a tandem kayak controlled by our guides to the Sohoton Natural Bridge
Helpful Blog : FAQ.PH | How to get to Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park 

Lulugayan Falls (Calbiga, Samar)
Located in a remote barangay in the mountains, the ride to get here - which is usually by motorbike is just as thrilling as the trek to the waterfalls. The hike is short, taking about 30 minutes on an established trail.During the rainy season however, the current is strong, making it very risky to swim.
Lulugayan Falls during the rainy season
Helpful Blog : Travel Trilogy | Lulugayan Falls

TORPEDO Extreme Boat Ride (Paranas, Samar)
TORPEDO is an acronym for Tour Guides & Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization. Whew! The real thrill however is the ride along Ulot river on a traditional boat.
Hopping on a traditional boat at Ulot River
Having no outriggers, getting on the boat is both challenging and fun, with passengers needing to board one at a time to prevent the boat from tilting over.  It takes 40 minutes to get to the jump site, an area surrounded by huge boulders. Here, visitors take turns jumping about 10-15 feet from a boulder and into the raging river. All visitors are required to wear life vest, making it possible for non-swimmers to participate in this exciting activity.
A traveler does an exhilarating jump at Ulot river
Helpful Blog on Ulot River Torpedo Boat ride : Travel Up | Endless Samar

Lobo Cave (Jiabong, Samar)
This cave provides a nice challenge to visitors who want to level up their experience with caves. It begins with a 40 minute hike down a mountain trail to get to the mouth's cave. 
Swimming inside Lobo cave
Inside the cave, you will be entertained with rock formations of various shapes, glittering stalactites and columns. This eye popping underground scenery however doesn't come easy. Expect to trek, climb on rock formations and swim inside the cave. It'll take about 7-8 hours to fully explore its passable sections. The easy way back is via Panaghoyan river where boats will transport you back to the town proper. The ride is very scenic, passing  by forests, more rock formations and a mangrove, a relaxing way to end an exciting caving adventure. 

See more of Lobo Cave here.

For more information when traveling to Samar, get in touch with the provincial tourism social media accounts below : 
Spark Samar
Landline : +63 (055) 543 8980
Email : sparksamar@gmail.com
Facebook Page : Spark Samar
Instagram : @SparkSamar

Tips on how to enjoy your Samar adventure:

- secure your phones in a trusty waterproof pouch
- pack your extra clothes and valuables in waterproof, resealable bags or dry bags
- bring mosquito repellant as you will be spending a lot of time in or near forests and rivers 

Sample Itinerary
Day 1 
Fly from Manila (Airport info here) to Tacloban Airport 
San Juan by the Bay in Sta. Rita
Sohoton Natural Park in Basey
Stay at Lola Rosa Inn in Calbiga (info here)

Day 2
Travel to Lulugayan falls (Calbiga)
TORPEDO Extreme Boat Ride (Paranas)
Spend a night in Calbayog city. It's a good starting point if you're going to Lobo cave. 
There are several hotels along Mabini Avenue (city center) in Calbayog. We stayed at SC Hotel (room rates start at 1,450 for a nice aircon double room. Book here.)

Day 3
Lobo Cave Adventure (Jiabong)
Visit the tourism office in Calbayog for pasalubong shopping (near Provincial Capitol Complex)

*Budget will be dependent on number of heads, transportation used.

How to get to Samar : 
Though there's an airport in Catarman (Northern Samar) and in Calbayog, a cheaper and convenient way to get here from Manila is to fly to Tacloban, in the nearby province of Leyte. It has more flights coming from Manila and there's regular transportation going to Calbayog, Samar.  From Daniel Romualdez airport in Tacloban, take a jeep to downtown and ask to be dropped off at the van or bus terminal. It takes about two hours by van from Tacloban to Catbalogan. 

Useful Resource : 
Travel Up | Samar Travel Guide
What else to see in Samar? See FAQ.PH | Samar Island, the Caving Capital of the Philippines

This trip was in collaboration with the group behind Spark Samar, the provincial tourism campaign of Samar. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Isabela's Bambanti Festival 2018

Every year, the province of Isabela in Northern Luzon, celebrates Bambanti Festival, a thanksgiving of the province's sustained agricultural dominance. Its strength can be seen in its position as the Philippines' no. 1 corn producer and as a surplus producer of rice, enabling them to supply the staple crop in Metro Manila and other provinces. 

*Bambanti is Ilocano for "scarecrow", considered as a symbol of the diligence, creativity, resilience and vigilance of the Isabelenos. 
Performers from the municipality of Alicia, winner of the Best Street Dance Contingent
(Photo from YMV & Associates)

Celebrated this year from January 22 to 27 with the theme, "Isabela Kong Mahal", various competitions were held showcasing the talents of the Isabelenos and the province's top products. 

In the Bambanti Village in Ilagan, an Agri-Eco Tourism trade fair was set where visitors can marvel at giant Bambanti installations and  shop for each municipality's major products.  Being a foodie, I enthusiastically went around the booths haunting for edible treats. 
The municipality of Naguilian won as the Best Agri-eco tourism booth. (Photo from YMV Associates)
Some of my favorite finds are the carabao's milk of San Agustin and Cabatuan's calamansi drinks  and morieco, a delicacy made of glutinous rice with latik inside (latik is made of boiled coconut milk and sugar). 

We also dropped by Makan Ti Isabela and Mainum Ti Isabela, a showdown of the best food and drinks prepared by each municipality's representatives. While I'm not much of a cook, I enjoyed watching a different kind of competition. Though it's a little quieter than sports, it was still exciting to witness chefs and baristas prepare the best dish or drink within a time limit, while judges went around and asked questions. 

Mainum Ti was won by the municipality of Echague with their drink, Illuru, a health drink made from locally grown fruits and vegetables, that gives energy and boosts the immune system. Echague also won Makan Ti with their dish, Fried Sweet & Sour adobo, fusing the classic Filipino dish with other local ingredients such as sampaloc, kamias and honey. One thing I find unfortunate about these contests is that we didn't get to try it. hehe!
 Members of the San Agustin team preparing their dish at the Makan Ti Isabela
In the Street Dancing competition, we witnessed scarecrows come alive as participating contingents danced their way around the Ilagan Sports Complex oval. Each municipality showcased their top product through the design in their costumes, their respective Festival King & Queen leading the pack. Each contingent performed the same steps using the same music all throughout, with only their energy level and costumes setting them apart from their competitors. The festival music has this lively beat and enjoyable to listen to. After watching for an hour or so, I oddly found myself craving to learn the steps.  
The contingent from Alicia was awarded first place at the Street Dance competition (Photo from YMV Associates)
After the Street Dance Parade competition, the same contingents performed at the Dance Showdown. As a mere spectator, I was amazed at how every participant was able to sustain their energy all throughout. In this competition, each contingent is able to showcase their creativity, performing their own dance steps. It's like watching a musical play. The municipality of Alicia won first place for both the Street Dancing competition and Dance showdown.
The Alicia contingent at the Dance Showdown (Photo from YMV Associates)

Performers from Cauyan City, the Over-all Festival winner based on
number of points from various winning competitions held during the festival week.
(Photo from YMV Associates)

Trivia Time! The province of Isabela was found in 1856 through a Royal Decree by the Spaish government and named after Queen Isabela II of Spain. A sculpture of the queen can be found in the capitol grounds in Ilagan. 
The next day, we headed back to Ilagan Sports Complex for the choral competition finals. Here, participating groups wowed the spectators with their vocal skills, singing two songs, each - one of their choice and a mandatory song, Isabela's provincial hymn. The choral group from Cauyan city bagged first place in this year's competition with their solid performance. Their youthful energy was contagious, drawing enthusiastic reaction from the crowd with their rendition of Piliin Mo Ang Pilipinas. 
Cauyan City choral group
Closing off the festival is a packed and well-received concert with guest artists, Ogie Alcasid, Jona Viray, McCoy de Leon, Elisse Joson and 4th Impact. A remarkable fireworks display ended a long, fun-filled evening. 

The Bambanti Festival is a  three time winner of the Aliw Awards, the country's pioneer award-giving body recognizing excellence in live entertainment. It has consistently won the category of Best Festival Practices & Performance from 2015-2017. 

Where to go in Isabela
Japanese Tunnel (Ilagan) - a tunnel used by the Japanese as a base, prison cell and treasure storage. For more information, visit their Facebook page here.

Aguinaldo Shrine (Palanan) - Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's Last Stand, the site of his arrest by American soldiers. Travel information here.

Philippine Crocodile Farm (Brgy. Minanga, San Mariano) -  travel information here. 

St. Paul Church  (San Pablo) - Isabela’s oldest church

St. Matthias Church (Tumauini) - 17th Century Church with the only cylindrical belfry in the Philippines

Our Lady of the Visitation in Gamu (near Ilagan City) - a National Shrine to honor the miraculous Mother

Sta. Victoria Caves (Ilagan City) - chambers within chambers of awesome stone formations that used to house Filipino Guerillas during the Japanese Occupation in Ph. Travel info here.

Butaka (Ilagan) - Biggest Lounge Chair in the World displayed along the road as you enter Ilagan; The Butaka is a long-arm Siesta Chair. 

Honeymoon Island (Divilacan) -  The undiscovered picture-perfect beach paradise in the Pacific.

How to get to Isabela
From Manila, there are domestic flights to Cauayan city. Alternatively, there are buses to Cauayan, departing from the Victory Liner bus terminal in Kamias, Cubao (10-12 hours travel time; Fare's about 650 PHP).  

Where to Stay in Isabela 
We stayed at JAPI Hotel, a roadside hotel in Cauayan City. Rooms are clean and comfortable. Click here for discounted rates.

Love festivals? Here's another blog post you might be interested in :) :
Tawi-Tawi's Kamahardikaan & Agal-Agal Festival 

NOTE : I was invited to join this trip as part of the media team covering the Bambanti Festival 2018.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Contest Alert! Travel & Win with Bonamine

In my travels, I've encountered fellow passengers who suffered from motion sickness. This  condition can cause nausea, dizziness and even more challenging to handle, vomiting. While I've never had it as rough as the others,  it has taught me to update my medicine kit and add Bonamine, the leading motion sickness brand in the country. To be honest, it's the only brand I'm familiar with that deals with this issue. 

If you have a Facebook account and traveling in the next four months, Bonamine (Meclizine HCL) has something exciting for you!

In the Travel and Win with Bonamine promo, participants get a chance to win hotel accommodations and a trip to Hong Kong for 4. 


If unable to play the video, please find below instructions on how to join : 
1. Take a selfie or groufie with a Bonamine Promo Pack. It costs 112.50 for a pack of 9+1 (25mg). You can easily find one at Mercury Drug or other drug stores.  

2. Share your Bonamine enjoy-ang-biyahe experience. Post on your Facebook timeline (make sure it's a public post) and include a caption on how Bonamine made your trip fun & enjoyable.
IMPORTANT: Like Bonamine Facebook Page and include the hashtags, #Bonamine and #Travelandwin promo hashtags in your entries. See sample below.

3. IMPORTANT : After uploading your photo, fill up the entry form on this link - https://goo.gl/Q4f5bC

March 1 to July 31, 2018.  Winners will be announced on the Bonamine Facebook Page on August 17, 2018. The organizer reserves the right to amend the promo period at any time.

To ensure your entry qualifies, please take the time to read the nitty gritty details of the promo : 
1. Multiple entries are allowed but with different location or destination
2. Winners will be chosen based on the following criteria:
· Appeal   30%
· Message (caption substance & relevance) 20%
· Creativity  20%
· Brand Visibility  20%
· Likes  10%
3. Prizes are non-transferable and not convertible to cash. Winner can only win once during the promo.
4. Winning entries will be posted on the Bonamine PH Facebook page and will be notified through their Facebook account.
5. Winners may claim their prizes at Taisho Pharmaceuticals (Philippines) Inc. office in Taguig. Provincial winners will be notified on the venue to claim their prizes.
6. Winners must present two (2) valid ID’s to claim their prize.
7. If a winner fails to claim his/her prize within 60 days from receipt of notification, the prize will be forfeited.
8. All employees of Taisho Pharmaceuticals and its partner agencies, Pharmalink, Zuellig Pharma Corporation, Obedience Manpower and their relatives up to second degree of affinity or consanguinity are disqualified from joining the promo.

Grand Prize: Trip for four to Hongkong (3D2N)

Consolation Prizes: 
Luzon: Overnight stay at Hotel H2O + 12,000 travel allowance
Visayas:  Overnight stay at Crown Regency Hotel & Towers + 12,000 travel allowance
Mindanao: Overnight stay at Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao + 12,000 travel allowance

- Bonamine should be taken one hour before a trip to address motion sickness. Avoid Bonamine if you're driving as it can cause drowsiness. 
- it  can be taken even with an empty stomach
- people with heart condition should consult their doctors before taking Bonamine 

Click here for tips on how to prevent motion sickness. 

Bonamine is a product of Taisho Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc.

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