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

Monday, August 4

Freedom is Being In Love With the World

In travel I often ponder.  I am the silent-type of girl.  Those who don’t know me too well would assume I’m the snobby type.  I pity them for they judge me so quickly.   But deep inside, I am just a shy, sensitive girl who cries sometimes when the night wakes up and when the sun falls asleep. 

I am the sweetest.  When I am happy, I share my innocent musings to everyone.  I especially like the ones I write during and right after my wanderings.  Sometimes, something just hits me in the head and I would be writing like crazy for I knew if I didn’t all the radiant emotions within me will soon lose its luster.  I need to get it out, to write it down.  To read the words in my head for real.  Sometimes, I’d grab a pen and anything I could write on.  Somehow, when I run my fingers over the things I wrote, that surreal feeling of being there comes back again.  Alive.  Breathing.  And that would be the time I would believe that a dream has already become a reality.

A grazing carabao in Sagada

When you fall in love with life, everything negative seems to be a blur.  A faded memory.  Hazy around the edges.  For some reason, when you're in love with the world, you wake up smiling without any particular reason at all.  You grin when you look at the mirror.  You smile silly when you notice passersby look at you as if you've grown an extra head.  You would literally shine.  And I guess a smile from me would be more than enough to help lighten up this already crazy world.  

I travel solo now.  Why?  I wanted to come out of my comfort zone.  I wanted to grow up and be the woman I have always wanted myself to be. Independent. Smart but still sweet and loving at the same time.  Pondering Paodaolei will not be Pondering Paodaolei if she isn't loving at all.  I always see the need to be there, to be felt, to love and to be loved. 

Freedom is my mantra now. Freedom to choose to stay happy. Freedom to wander, to wonder, to ponder. And finally, believing in the freedom to love and be loved in return.


I am here.  Just waiting for the right moment.  I  know that there will always be the perfect timing for everything.  But loving is completely another world.  In my ponderings, it's best to just love. And always stay in love. With the world.



Tuesday, July 29

Sagada: Love At First Sight

For miles and miles I could only see sloping mountain peaks and lush, rolling valleys.  Though it would have been better if I have visited Sagada during summer, when the greens are in full bloom, I did not regret taking in her fresh air in the cold, rainy days of a rather uneventful July.  But my four-day stay in Sagada changed that notion, and my perspective on life in general.




It was an unplanned trip.  But a very much needed trip nonetheless.  I was anxious a few days before my departure for I was unsure if my filed leaves will be approved.  But lo and behold, the stars and moon agreed with me and I found myself pondering how the hours seemed to pass by quickly.

With my red backpack in tow, I hurriedly went straight to the Victory Liner Cubao terminal and was able to board the 10 PM bus for Baguio.  Front seat (no.1).  It was surreal.  I was on my way to Sagada and nothing will hinder me.  Even the rains did not stop me from chasing her.


Waiting for dawn

I guess the bus I rode in had wings like that of an angel's since we promptly arrived in the City of Pines at around past three in the morning.  I paid a still-sleepy Journeying Pinay a visit at the Manor Hotel in Camp John Hay before heading on to Dangwa terminal to catch the first bus bound for Sagada.  For 60 pesos, I had my simple, filling breakfast in a nearby restaurant causing me to be energized.  I was ready to face the long zig-zagging roads ahead.

220 pesos and at seat no. 10 later, I was sad for I have not been assigned a window seat.  But it did not really matter as it was raining during the first half of my journey.  I truly admired the driver as his expertise was showing.  I was actually tempted to ask him if he could drive on those sleek roads with his eyes closed.  




After three bus stopovers and six hours on my watch, we arrived at half past noon but it could have passed as 8 in the morning.  The gentle cool wind from the Sagadian mountains was the first to greet me hello.  I answered back with a soft smile as I wound my way to Residential Lodge down South Street. 




Tita Mary Daoas, owner of Residential Lodge, welcomed me as if I have been already been a come-backing visitor.  She showed me to my room and voluntarily advised me what I can do in Sagada. I rest a bit after arranging my things.   Ten minutes later, she came back knocking and introduced me to another solo traveler. RJ's arrival was in good timing as I had someone to split the bills in my guided trips. 




I stole a quick shower and met my new friend at the common area.  We ate lunch at the famous Yoghurt House and ordered what our tummies wanted.  I ordered Java Chicken with Rice (P 190) and Mango Lassie (P 99).  The latter I got so addicted to that I ordered one everyday I was there.  :-)


Java Chicken with Rice @ Yoghurt House

RJ and I exchanged the normal things new friends share to each other.  What we do in life, what we were doing in Sagada alone and the like.  After feeling completely filled, he and I decided to be adventurers that afternoon as we trekked to the mission compound and admired the charming church.


Church of St. Mary the Virgin

After exploring the deserted church, my new friend needed to go back to do some personal business.  I was left alone for a while but it gave me the much needed me time as I took in the raw beauty of Sagada.  I took the liberty of doing selfies and savor the beauty of nature around me.  


Sagada Cemetery

RJ came back a little later.  We continued on our own adventure as we tried to figure out how to go down Echo Valley.  We did not want to hire a guide as we felt we were adventurers lost in the woods.  However, dusk was beginning to eat up our time so we asked a local passing by how we can go down there.  The kid was very nice to repeat the instructions and soon we were able to find the path leading down to the hanging coffins.




We were happy to have accomplished quite a bit in our first day in Sagada.  Time seemed to stop as I breathed in the fresh air. This little town up in the mountains is a truly remarkable place. The people are nice.  The ambience is so light.  The weather is cool - perfect for those seeking times of reflection. The food is just great.  I think I would grow fat if I stay a month up in my beloved Sagada.  

There are a few places that I can truly say I am in love with.  And Sagada is one of those places.  I fell in love at first sight and I would not mind falling in love with her all over again.  

Ah!  If I could just do this forever. :-)

I love you,  Oh My Sagada!




Other Parts in this series
_______

Part 1  You Are On It!
Part 2  SagadaOf Dark Caves and Waterfalls 
Part 3  Sagada: A Lazy Day All By Myself




Tuesday, July 22

Wander Photo: At a Glance

Yearning to live in the past at present?  Then head on to Sulyap Bed & Breakfast located at San Pablo City, Laguna.  One of the charming bed & breakfast's lodges is an old house from Obando, Bulacan converted to a hotel.  It also houses a restaurant, an antiques museum and is near other attractions of San Pablo.  





Tuesday, July 15

The Heritage Towns I Have Visited

In lieu to the National Heritage Month we celebrated last May, I have made this list which will make all old house-lovers like me jump for joy.

For some unknown reason, old houses have that nostalgic, old world charm which contemporary houses don't seem to have.  It isn't so obvious that I truly admire places with remarkably preserved ancestral homes. Look back with me as I walk through time by visiting these amazing heritage towns.


VIGAN


Ilocos Sur
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Vigan tops my list as the ancestral homes of Vigan are gargantuan, supreme, magnificent and everything else in between.  I still remember the first moment when I stepped foot on the famous Calle Crisologo - wide-eyed and all.