Wednesday, October 1

I Stepped Foot in Apayao

I smiled a genuine smile as the scenes from a painting of a Philippine National Artist came to life before my eyes. Mountains as the backdrop, farms on the sides, two carabaos lounging in the river, the blue skies, a gentle river snaking from the mountains to the plains below and a gentle lady dreaming of a love from above.  




Yes, I stepped foot in Apayao.


Thursday, September 25

I Love Claveria

I was wedged in between rowdy teenagers and an elderly woman with lots of baggage.  The jeepney we were riding in was having a hard time maintaining its steady momentum as it wound its way up to the hill towards Sentinela.  The small sliding window behind me gave me a glimpse of a view worthy of a loud wow and solicited from me several omgs.  I think of the poor kid now who might have to deal with a hearing problem after that brief encounter with an excited traveler.



The view was magnificent.  The sea lapping around the gray sands of a long quiet beach.  The intricate rock formations jutting out from end to end.  Nothing but the solemn sea. A few kids litter the beach front, playing in their own private world.


Sentinela Beach, Claveria

Claveria has long been a dream destination for me. Located at the northernmost tip of Luzon Island, it is a quiet town worthy of my love.  Where everyone knows almost everybody.  A curious glance at you would cement their suspicion that you are either probably a first-time visitor or a recurring vacationer.  


My mermaid tail in Taggat Lagoon

The beach babe in me longed to immerse in the clean calm waters of Taggat Lagoon when it was low-tide.  Sentinela Cove's charm brought out the mermaid in me while the main beach fronting Pasaleng Bay caused quite a stir.  Locals were eager to watch as a red-tailed mermaid swam happily on their sleepy shores.


Someday I'll be Part Of Your World

Truly, I love Claveria.

________

How To Get Here
Florida (Sampaloc, Manila) air-con buses plies the Manila-Claveria route at P 800 per person


Monday, September 22

Finally, Ilocos Norte

So my good friend Journeying Pinay convincingly convinced me to tag along with here when she went home over the long weekend last August.  I was headed for Cebu the following week so I was contemplating if I will decide to join her.  Budget was the main concern but the power of finally seeing the unseen won me over.

From Vigan, we hopped on a jeepney going to Magsingal (P 20), then hopped on another bus to Paoay.  The Church of St. Augustine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the Baroque Churches in the Philippines.  

I paused a bit by its side and admired its massive fortress. Breath-taking that church was.  Another old beautiful church off my list.  

The Church of St. Augustine of Paoay.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thursday, September 18

Adams is The Garden of Eden


So somewhere up north I was able to cross a hanging bridge above a free-flowing river from the jungles.  I vividly remember the slightly swaying steel rods as it groaned under me and Hazel's weight.  Rusty and worn-out, the bridge could use a new smudge of re-painting but I think it's better left at its state (given no one would use it again).  It blends perfectly with its rural surroundings: towering trees with over sized leaves.  Yes, I was really in the middle of nowhere.

Tuesday, September 9

Sta. Maria Church and Pinsal Falls

My first venture in Ilocandia was back in April of this year when I visited the UNESCO Heritage Site of Vigan City. Little did I know that I would step foot on its vast lands again just after a few months.

I am glad to share two of Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur's treasures:  Our Lady of the Assumption Church or more known as Sta. Maria Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Pinsal Falls, a lovely waterfall tucked in the hills of Brgy. Baballasioan.


Thursday, September 4

Under The Sea

Aug 16, 2014.  This was the date that I have scratched off another thing off my bucket list.  I was unaware that I would be able to do this very soon!  I convinced my college friend, and now my dive buddy, Chie, to take introductory dive classes with me out of the blue.  At first I thought we were just making conversation but I realized that we were actually going to jump in once we were on our way to Anilao, Batanggas.

We met our instructor, Jeroen at Bagalangit Dive Resort. We started our class as soon as we have settled in since we were his only students.  He showed us the different scuba gears we will be using and the proper way to take care of each. The classroom session lasted no more than 30 minutes. Soon after we were walking towards the sea.  Yes, the sea.



We were expecting a confined dive but we had no choice but to wade in the waters after Jeroen.  Heck, I thought.  I guessed the difference would not be that big as he made sure we got used to our surroundings first before diving into deeper waters.

The seabed where we first dived was not that colorful compared to ones I have seen online.  Nonetheless, the marine life that greeted us were more than enough to make me squeal under! I almost forgot that I had my mask on. 

This is the okay sign for scuba divers

Jeroen signaled that we will be going into the deeper parts. After our dive, he said that we went as deep at 12 meters or roughly 39 feet.  We swam up to the edge of an undersea cliff.  I knew that bottomless seas lay beyond as I could only see dark blue colors around me.  Seeing those fishes up close was the most enthralling experience I have in my traveling years.  Truly, the underworld is a different universe.  Sadly, it is being neglected by many and does not realize its unique role in our ecosystem.

We stopped in one area and watched in complete awe as the school of fishes swam in front of our eyes.  They were wearing vibrant colors like yellow and blue which made me almost chase them!  Of course I know that I can only appreciate their beauty from a distance.  



After 40 minutes it was time to go up. We were running out of air.  It was unbelievable. As I am writing this post, I can still feel the calmness and serenity of being underwater. The silence of the seas came back with me.  I can safely say that I have found a second home, a second world under the seas.  

I know that from now on I will keep yearning for more dives to be reunited with my brothers and sisters.

After all, I a mermaid. :))

Monday, September 1

The Mermaid Learned to Bike

August 2014 was a big month for me.  All weekends were booked.  I smile as I remembered a friend saying I was just like a celebrity, you need to have a scheduled appointment if you want to see me. :-)

It was the second weekend.  Me and friend Chie went to San Pablo, Laguna.  I was seriously having doubts if I would be able to learn to pedal that very same day.  Chie was nothing but all encouragement to me.  I patted myself mentally as I tried not to panic.  I remember saying to myself this is now or never.  I need to master the art of biking asap.  Learning to bike was very crucial in my travel plans for the later part of this year. So I drank in my friend's enthusiasm.  I will learn to bike.  I will be able to bike.

After having lunch at our favorite hideaway, we went to the lake and chose one bike to rent.  Was it normal to feel shy at not knowing how to bike at my age?  We were sharing our private joke as I scolded my friend to not talk so loudly!  

She chose a pink bike of medium height for me.  It was cute.  The decor on the saddle read Eco Pal.  Yes, that pink bike became my pal for the next two hours.




I was glad that my friend was very patient in coaching me. She kept on pushing me to continue as at first I wanted to give up.  It was very tiring and I easily got thirsty!  

My friend will not let up.  She held my bike at the back while I was pedaling.  We did this after a few tries and when she finally released me after the last, I found myself pedaling and biking all by myself! It was not perfect yet.  I was forming the letter S all the way as my heart kept thumping against my rib cage, half conscious of any wandering passersby and cars that might roar by.

I finally got the hang of it after a few more sessions.  My friend was like a proud mother sending her child off to her first day of school.  She was all ears as she videoed my historical accomplishment. 


As soon as I was confident enough that I could bike for longer distances.  She rented her own and together we explored the 3.7 km distance of the lake.  It was a very nice experience for me as we were not only having a great time bonding, I could also feel my body working hard after so many years of no serious physical activity.



After touring the lake for another round, we returned our two-wheeled buddies and had our snack.  I was very happy for what I did. We already have plans of biking in Cambodia while exploring the temples of Siem Reap.

But first, there in the not so distant future is my Batanes. Yay!


Tuesday, August 26

Our Melting Pot: You Can Never Go Wrong With Kindness

Nowadays, it is rare to find a place we can truly call home aside from the one where we grew up in.  For those living in the city, we sometimes find ourselves yearning to commune with nature to attain peace and solemnity even just for a while.  

Melting Pot Hostel in Tagaytay is one such kind of a place. Serene and peaceful - almost like a beach house to me. You might think that this one in Tagaytay is a resort because of its color.  But hey, I guess that pretty sums up what kind of vibe this hostel is trying to get across.  A place where we can truly relax and just be ourselves.


Our Melting Pot hostel facade


Early in June we were give the privilege to attend the housewarming of its Tagaytay branch. The hostel looked just like the homes surrounding.  Entering its doors was like going to a neighbor next door.  You will feel instantly welcome and at home.

Some of these coins are in the US currency!

Mr. Ronald Tepora, one of the founding owners, greeted us with arms open wide and gladly shared with us how they started. While waiting for lunch to be served, we learned the humble beginnings of the hostel.  What really stuck with me is that part of your rent will proceed to their chosen charity.  No explanation needed.

Hostel gazebo
Self-service!
Ground floor double-bedded room with private toilet and bath

Do consider staying at the Melting Pot Hostel if vacationing is more than what you have in mind.  Here you can not only gain new friends, but you can know yourself better once more by doing things with purpose and reason.  


Facebook:  Our Melting Pot Tagaytay
Address:  No.75 Smokey Hill Maharlika Subdivision
                  4210 Tagaytay, Tagaytay, Philippines

Mobile:   63915.105.9459

Introductory Rates:



Tuesday, August 19

Sagada: A Lazy Day All By Myself


Third day in Sagada.  It was a bit quiet as new friends were already leaving that morning.  We woke up early and had our first and last breakfast together. Jaja and James, the uber-sweet couple, were already at Strawberry Cafe while RJ and I followed suit later.  



We ordered tummy-filling pancakes topped with strawberry jam.  I split it with my friend as I was sure I would not be able to eat all of it.  At P 99, that pancake was one of the yummiest I have ever eaten.  


Strawberry Cafe's Pancake with Strawberry Jam, Php 99

Tuesday, August 12

Sagada: Of Dark Caves and Waterfalls

My visit to Sagada was sandwiched by two storms.  But that did not stop me from aiming to scratch this heavenly place off my bucket list.  Armed with little knowledge, I knew perfect adventure awaited me up here.



Second day in heaven was spent exploring the famous attractions namely Bomod-ok Falls and the caves.  My friend and I trekked in between lush green rice paddies.  I was so happy upon seeing nothing but mountains all around me.  I pondered a bit on how the locals lead their daily lives.  I realized then that simple things are often the best things in life.  All we need to worry about is that we have good food to eat, a sturdy house to live in and family and friends to share good memories with.  I felt a little envious of them but felt very proud at the same time.  I am a Filipino and will never exchange that for another citizenship.


Fidelisan Rice Terraces

Trekking Bomod-ok Falls, or Big Falls as referred to it by our guide Kuya Mac,  was a no-brainer as long as you have prepared yourself for it.  He said that this was the hardest to reach among all the falls in Sagada.  With that in mind, I was imagining a buwis-buhay climb.  But our trek to the falls was easy as 1-2-3.  It was a bit tiring but we were reinvigorated at once as soon as the Big Falls came into view!


Emerald everywhere!


Finally! 



On our way back, we met a couple, Jaja and James, who were free in the afternoon.  After a brief introduction, we agreed to go as group in exploring Sumaguing Caves (more savings for me, yay!).

L-R:  James, Jachelle, our guide Dani, Cristina from Spain and me :-)
Taken after our cave exploration!

Before entering Sumaguing Cave, we dropped by at a couple of burial sites.  Our guide, Dani, explained to us so many interesting facts about their culture.  Sadly, the younger generation seems to be no longer interested in continuing the tradition.  He said that present families prefer their deceased to be buried in the cemetery near the church.


Along the way, RJ met another rowdy group of men who were going to the much harder cave connection.  I was not ready to deal with that since I felt something was off the moment I looked into the mouth of the cave.  I followed my instincts for I knew what will happen once I enter the dark caverns.  I felt them everywhere.  



RJ split from us.  However, we met Cristina from Spain who was planning to go in on her own.  We gamely invited her to tag along with us.  She agreed and we had the best time ever.  We missed RJ but I was very happy that I met Cristina. 




Before heading back to town to have our dinner, I was ecstatic as I met a Sagadian cat.  Look at her intelligent eyes!  I quickly named her Saddie. 

with Saddy :-)


Other parts in this series
_______

Part 1  Sagada: Love At First Sight
Part 2  You Are On It! 
Part 3  Sagada: A Lazy Day All By Myself