Happy Christmas!!

Malipayong Pasko kaninyong tanan!

It's December once again. I've always loved this season of the year. And despite the tragedy that is typhoon Sendong that ravaged Northern Mindanao (Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities especially) just a few days before the 25th, leaving hundreds and hundreds of families wet, cold, hungry, and homeless.. Despite the sadness, grief and despair.. Let us find reasons to celebrate for there are many. In fact, the birth of our Savior Jesus is more than enough. What has happened was unwanted and was a consequence of our actions. Somehow. But let's look on the bright side. In this season of love, giving and sharing.. we have become more generous not just to our love ones and friends but also to our fellow brothers and sisters struck by tragedy and in need. And GOD gave us that love. Indeed, how huge GOD's love is for His people. Unfathomable.

A very blessed and merry Christmas to everyone!


Last days in Negros.

Despite the grey sky and the drizzle, I was able to see a bit more of Dumaguete all thanks to the kindness and hospitality of new found friends who I met through another friend.

We went resort-hopping in Dauin. Just a few minutes drive from the city. There were plenty in the area and we checked a few.

Atmosphere Resort.

Located in Maayong Tubig, National Road in Dauin. The resort, although not a very huge property, exudes luxurious tranquility that will surely give you the detoxifying pampering you need from work and life in the big city. The beach is not of Boracay quality with it's pebbly grey sand but the atmosphere itself more than makes up for that.

Check more of the resort's beauty at their official website here. (photos courtesy of resort's official website)

Bahura Resort and Spa.

Next stop was the Bahura Resort and Spa with its 2 outdoor swimming pools. The resort can accommodate far more guests and at lesser rates than the Atmosphere.

For more details, you can visit their website here.

Premium de Luxe king bed

We next visited The Treehouse.. with a local home decor/furniture shop just across it where you can buy stuff at such cheaper prices compared with the ones you can purchase at souvenir shops.

We were then driven high up in the mountains... to see the Twin Lakes.

It was a long drive up the mountains but it was well worth it. Before proceeding to the main lake, you have to stop by some tourism office where you will have to pay very minimal environmental fees and such. There was a smaller lake behind the building with leafless trees scattered in the middle. It was a bit eerie and picturesque at the same time. Too bad I lost the photos I took.

A few more minutes drive and you will see the main pavilion overlooking the lake where you can have lunch or just simply relax with a cold drink in hand.

The walk down to the lake with my new pals.

It wasn't exactly drizzling when we got to the lake itself. But still, the weather's pretty cold and bad enough that we din't dare venture out and drowned ourselves in pictures instead.

On the way up.

The view from the restaurant.

And of course, during my stay in Dumaguete, I tried some of the restaurants... and I had a grand time. Ambiance, company, and the food!


Homey Dumaguete!

Part III - Visayas series (8.11)

Dumaguete is the capital and largest city in the province of Negros Oriental and is just a few hours away from Negros Occidental's capital Bacolod. Travel time usually takes 5 to 6 hours depending on the route, coastal or inland. I traveled with my friend's family  in their SUV and honestly, I din't know which route we took. But we got there in just 3 or 4 hours. So maybe we took the inland route since it's said to be shorter.


A Walk Around Bacolod City!

Part II - Visayas series (8.11)

It's still raining. After  a rather long night of staring at the big screen playing some scary playstation game about a Japanese photographer fighting ghosts with a camera, I woke up from a dreamless sleep (which is a big relief on my part since I'm not really into any ghost -stuff because I kinda scare quite easily, no matter how tough I pretend to be).  We had a hearty breakfast of typical Chinese-Filipino dishes and more getting-to-know banter between me and my hosts in which a number of things to do and places to visit where passed around.  A quick see-around of Iloilo was seriously considered since I've never set foot on that island, and a friend was there at that time. Would've been a nice detour if the weather cooperated… but then it didn't. So with the morning plans dissolved, we were resigned to entertaining ourselves in front of the big screen. Again.

The morning rushed by fast, which was really okay with me if it didn't since I honestly wasn't very encouraged to go out as it was a bit cold and wet outside. Nevertheless, we headed out to explore the city right after lunch.

The San Sebastian Cathedral.

Our first stop (second actually since we first passed by the City Plaza which is right in front of it. But whichever.)  It   was the work of Fr. Mauricio Ferrero, then parish priest of Bacolod. It's quite old but certainly not the oldest in the country. The original church was built in 1825 while the cathedral was constructed in 1876. It is an imposing structure made of coral stones and lime from Guimaras and wood from Palawan.

Golden... This ain't that bad, really.

It was all dark inside the huge structure when we visited so I didn't get a good picture. Or so I thought.


A Run to the Ruins of Talisay.

Part I - Visayas series (8.11)

I've never been to anywhere in the western Visayas region. I was supposed to be a beach bum in Boracay for a weekend with friends a few months ago but it didn't push through. My sister and I didn't fly out to Palawan (I know..I know.. Palawan is part of Luzon) last July although the tickets were already booked and paid for. I've missed a lot of trips for this year (and wasted a lot of money too.. missed a trip to Davao last June - now that I remember).

I've never been to Bacolod or anywhere in Negros. And I have a long-standing invitation from a good friend's family to come visit . So the very moment I decided to quit work and put a period on my resignation letter, I booked my flight south and made a detour.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

Part V - Bohol series (2.11)

Everything comes to an end. It seems like we've just arrived in Bohol a few days back but now we're hopping back on a plane back to the big city this afternoon. [Hope you don't get tired too soon back.] Just when I'm getting the hang of it and loving the place... Well, it's always like that. Sigh. But before goodbye, we gotta say hello first!

Hello Mag-aso falls!

Mag-aso Falls is found in Antequera, 19 to 20 kilometers or approximately a 30 minute ride from the city of Tagbilaran. We got into a tricycle that took us to the small terminal where the jeepneys are found. We waited for sometime once again for it to be filled up to the brim. Every inch of space occupied by a worn out duffel bag, a weary and still sleepy child, a huge basket of vegetables, etc. And not just inside the jeep, but also on top! After a much longer time, we finally got moving. But since we made a stop every once in a while to pick up and drop things and people off, we arrived a bit later than 30 minutes. 

It was a Sunday, so the market where the Antequera terminal was located  was all abuzz with activity. Antequera market, by the way, is famous for local handicrafts especially if you want to buy by bulk. We found a tryke and a kind driver who agreed to take us to the falls and back for just a 150 bucks. 

We were the only ones in the park. Maybe because it was still too early for people to start coming. We paid the entrance fee of 20 bucks each and was guided down the 197 slippery steps to the waterfall. It is so named because of the smoke or mist it produces especially during rainy or cold mornings. Aso in the local dialect translates to smoke. Hence the name Mag-aso.

We were heading home after this pit stop so we din't get to enjoy the water and frolic in the pool as I would have wanted. I'd definitely take a dip next time!


More SeaStars!

Part IX - Bohol series (2.11)

The dolphin thingie wasn't much of a success. So we broke off from the pack and went our way. Good thing there were two more stops to look forward to. So first one.

Balicasag island is a marine sanctuary known for snorkeling and diving activities. Manong A took us here and 'parked' the boat several meters away from the already-congested shore. Way before anchoring, Manong A already briefed us about what to expect upon arriving on the island. Guides in their much smaller bangkas will swarm all over us offering snorkel gear for rent and similar services. Snorkels, shoes, life vests usually costs around 50 bucks each/pair while guide services are around 150. He told us we have the option of taking a guide or we could just swim around our bangka. The two girls opted for the former. We would've opted for the latter but we sat this out since we'll be heading straight back to the city once we got off the boat. So we were left on the boat hurting our butts and baking in the sun while Manong A and Totoy had their lunch. We got so bored and the sun's rays were becoming scorching hot that we urged Manong A to take us ashore. And since the other girls were told that the bangka will be waiting for them at that exact location, we ended up being taken ashore by one of Manong A's guide pals. 

The island itself is more pebbly than sandy unlike Panglao. You've gotta wear some footwear or you're sure to hurt your feet. There are several fishing boats all around but most are busy ferrying tourists to and fro rather than really fishing.


Watchers to Hunters

Part VIII - Bohol series (2.11)

After a light and dreamless sleep, for me anyway, we woke up to a slightly less dark sky still dotted with a billion stars. Such a pretty picture and I couldn't capture it quite nicely with my camera. Kainis. Anyway, we hurriedly changed into our swimsuits, lathered some sunscreen, and dashed off to the meeting area where we're supposed to meet up with kuya Renz - the kind tryke driver yesterday who helped us find a cheaper boat to rent, and the Korean girls, of course. After loading our stuff and fitting ourselves, all four of us, into the three-wheeled taxi, we sped off along the deserted road to Alona beach where our bangka is waiting for us.

Alona beach is a small community with an abundance of inns, hostels, B&Bs to choose from depending on your preference and budget of course. We opted to stay at the Dumaluan resort since we wanted some peace and quiet and a cottage right by the beach. Anyway, the place is already swarming with people and the shore dotted with bangkas waiting to take tourists out to sea and to the smaller islands. We were introduced to our boat captain - I totally forgot his name, an old man of about 50 or 60. A fisherman, I'll just call him Manong A, he knows the sea and the area quite well. I settled the package price with him while the girls kept themselves busy with pictures. I didn't haggle much for I know we already got a good enough bargain at 1600 bucks for the boat. And I know for a fact that tourist season comes once a year and it'll be lean times for the rest of the months for them. So... we headed to our  tiny bangka and boarded it with the help of this lad of 14, who I'm gonna call Totoy (I forgot his name too..I'm bad at this..remembering names), Manong A's first mate. 

The water looks very shallow as the rocks and corals at the bottom can be clearly seen from the boat. We slowly navigated our way through the many scattered boats. I wanna help out and get things moving just so we can get ahead of everybody else..as if I knew how! I know nothing about sailing, boating, etc. But at least I know how to swim. Haha.. Finally we got away from all the congestion and the water was deep enough to start the motor. Off we went!

We've been riding over waves some small, some smaller, for some time already. The sun continued it's slow climb up illuminating the world. We were already partially wet from the spray. We on our side are enjoying the sun's rays and the warming weather. The sky is such a clear powder blue. And cloudless. I uttered a short prayer of thanks for the great weather. Yesterday was raining. The other girls on the other side however, have covered themselves more..with sarongs and towels and wide-brimmed hats in protection from the sun. I find this funny because here I am among three other girls who are all Korean by race. Two are Koreans by heart and the one beside me doesn't know a single Korean word! :D Anyway, we've been navigating the sea for over a period of  20 or so minutes and we haven't caught a single glimpse of what we came out early for. Not even a single sign of frolicking when they were said to love playing at dawn. Though we've been ahead of everyone else at the start of this sorta race, we're lagging behind the bigger boats with the more powerful engines. Boats were lured by other boats just as people are by huge crowds. So after much effort on Manong A's part, we finally caught a glimpse of the suddenly-illusive creatures. I bet they felt like Michael Jackson  hiding and shying away from the paparazzi. As it turned out, we went dolphin-hunting. Not dolphin-watching. But none of them were physically harmed by anyone. :)


Church and Chinese food..– Singapore

I totally enjoyed my stay at my hostel but some things just don’t last forever.

My short adventure in Singapore is becoming shorter. I've had my second breakfast for the day after a second trek to the ECP, and that’s after I’ve packed my backpack and all my stuff. I’ve also cleaned up my mess, removed my sheets and dumped them in the laundry bin. And I was then lounging in the common area, making small talk once again, waiting for my sundo, that’s Tammy, a friend who’s gonna pick me up.

Tammy is a good friend of my sister’s. They were together for the Ship for Southeast Asian (and Japan) Youth Program or SSEAYP ‘09. And since this trip was my sister’s Christmas gift, she was kind enough to volunteer to show me around. And let me couchsurf for two nights too.



Betel nut.. err, BetelBox! - My Singapore Hostel.

200 Joo Chat Road.

Walked way past it. It was so conspicuously situated I totally missed it. Really missed it. Or maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough. But duh! I was. In fact, I was walking turtle-paced along the entire length of that road. Careful to note building numbers, trying to beat the darkness that was slowly settling in. And that’s also despite the backpack that got heavier by the minute.

Finally, I found the right door

But not after going into one of the other hotels to ask where 200 was. So I had to retrace my steps and look for that green door. And now that I was standing right outside of it, I couldn’t get in because it was locked. It’s unlike the usual setting wherein you just walk in and find the front desk. Fortunately, a girl guest was coming in from 711. I didn’t have to use the intercom nor the security box, of which code I din’t have anyway.  




I meant, blogstipated. 

A word I got from a post by FearfulAdventurer about blogging troubles. Well, everyone encounters glitches of some sort along whichever path we choose to follow. And for an aspiring blogger like me, this is a major roadblock. Omeegaaad. 

Well, maybe yes. Maybe not. Words usually flow when I get started. That's when I'm past a paragraph. Even just a short one. But how do I get started. That's the real glitch. 

Or I'm simply too tardy to get on with it. I used to be so into writing so much when I was younger. Before I was overwhelmed with too much reports and deadlines to meet back in Uni. I used to always fill my journal to the brim. Before an ex-roomie read it cover to cover. I used to submit weekly write-ups. Before I stopped being a part of the school paper. I used to post posts more regularly. Before I redid my blog...wanting it to be more like a travel blog and less of a touchy-feely journal-y thing. I used to always scribble something on most pieces of paper but most often my favorite notebook. Before I got too technically-dependent. That is, needing a keyboard and not making do with plain paper and pen. 

This will be my dead-end of the road to a thriving blog! To think I've mapped out a timeline. Hah! Unless I do something about it. Really do something about it. 

Maybe I'm just overwhelmed by the volume of posts to write. Gotta deal with this catching-ups! 

Or is it catchings-up?



Mao na Ni.. Singapore!

Part I - Singapore series (2.11)

This is it!

After a month of on&off research and some fundraising, I packed my orange backpack, hailed a cab to the airport and headed for Singapore for a 4-day I'm-all-by-myself-this-time trip. While waiting in a mixture of a quarter of trepidation and 3/4 almost-uncontainable-I've-gotta-stop-myself kind of excitement, I finally boarded the plane that'll take me for a 3-hour ride to meet and get to know the Merlion.

Since I took off straight from work, I slept through most of the flight and woke up just in time to see an interesting group of cirrus clouds and tidbits of Malaysia and surrounding islands. My excitement climbs higher. Hihi.. we're prepping to land.

Welcome to sunny Singapore! ~said the heavy rain. Wow. And to think that I arrived at the Budget terminal where you'd have to get off the plane and walk - and grab an umbrella since it was raining, to the main building. Sunny Singapore? You're not being true to your words. This ain't kicking off right. But I won't let that get me! ☺


Back and forth

Part VII - Bohol series (2.11)

Last night was a bit crazy. Sky and I had dinner at one of the resort's al fresco dining areas..the cheaper one of course. We had rice, soda and lots of bbq! During the entire course of the meal, I kept going back and forth to the tour kiosk hoping to catch anyone wanting to do the dolphin-watching tour in the morning. You see, an entire bangka costs around 2800 bucks and there's just the two of us. So I gotta look for boatmates! The manang (we're pretty sure) was getting pissed off and tired of seeing my face, I bet on it!

Long after we've finished dinner, we've already walked along the shore. Such a pretty star-filled sky! We wandered into the other restaurant with the live band eyeing for probable targets. We went out empty-handed. 

We ended up lounging at the reception area. We each chose our seats and grabbed stuff to read. And like an answered prayer, two Korean girls got out of a black van. And as I'm the project head, I beat their very own driver at the boat tour contest! My sister and I have a couple of Korean friends but these girls are two of those who speak and understand English least. But I don't really care, they said yes already! 

After agreeing to meet up at the reception area after an hour, we went our separate ways. Them - to shower, us - nothing really. Over their dinner and some fruit shakes, we discussed our boat trip the following day. 


Hoppin' - Bohol

Part VI - Bohol series

A visit to Bohol isn't complete without going to Panglao.  So even if we've made friends with the tarsiers, hiked Baclayon church, climbed Chocolate hills, cruised Loboc river.. we made Panglao our last major pit stop.

Right after the river tour, we hopped on a jeep that'll take us back to Dao terminal, from where we're supposed to take another bus to the island. After a few inquiries, we finally found our ride. Pretty much the same bus but smaller this time. And as usual, we're the first ones. Then came a manang (old lady), followed by two kuyas (older brother). For the meantime, we took separate seats -because they're pretty cute, and waited. And waited. And waited... It took so long for people to come and fill up every single seat available. After a much longer wait, we finally took off and headed for Panglao. Or so we thought. 

As it turned out, manong driver was actually headed to a makeshift terminal intending to load more passengers. But the bus is already full! Where are they gonna stuff these people?!

After a much much longer wait, we finally started moving for the short trip. I don't exactly remember how long it took. All I know is that after a few winks.. a short nap as we were gently swayed right and left, we arrived in Panglao. The thing is that we haven't actually decided where to spend the night. Haha.. and haven't really booked anywhere. We hopped out of the bus at the Alona White Beach area and retraced our steps to head back to the Bohol Beach Club, which as it turned out, was pretty far. Fortunately, a trike was stalking us! lol We hopped in.. it really was far back! As it turned out, Bohol Beach Club is too pricey for us beachbums on a budget. But we're just so lucky that our driver knew of Dimaluan Beach, which is just right next to BBC.

This is the view from our 1000 bucks/night suite. Our chosen resort shares the same shore as BBC. "Why not go for the cheaper one?," said manong driver. Our sentiments exactly.

And of course, our lovely cottage. One word: Presko. Who needs the airconditioned room when you can enjoy the fresh cool air blowing in from the sea. We walked the entire shoreline from our part to the farthest, the expensive Eskaya and Amorita resorts.


Paanod sa Suba...Loboc River, Bohol

bohol-philippines.com )
Let the current take you away? :D

Part V - Bohol series

The first thing you see upon arriving in Loboc is the church. And the unfinished bridge which was said to be "only" completed at the expense of the church's ruin (hope I phrased that right). Good thing it was only 'said so.' It awkwardly stands across the river serving no real purpose than to obviously state the misuse of public funds. 

Anyway, the Church of San Pedro is old but not as old as Baclayon church of course, and is a worthy visit as it boasts an admirably painted ceiling, a collection of old treasures and artifacts, was made of old stones though no longer original as it burned down several years ago, and of course, trophies and prizes won by the famous Loboc Children's Choir. I personally haven't experienced their awesomeness yet but if and/or when you get lucky, as they say, you might catch the music when the choir's serving during the mass or on special occasions. 

The church stands adjacent to the river where the floating restaurants are waiting for us. Just right across. We scheduled everything such that we'd arrive just in time for lunch. Still, we arrived an hour early, I think. The very first ones! The jeepney guys were so kind to drop us off right exactly at the 'departure area.' One of the ladies manning (or is it wo-manning?) the registration stalls was with the ride with us so naturally we were ushered to her stall. So we paid for the ticket & other fees for around 400 bucks and waited at the air-conditioned Tourist Lounge..a great escape from the heat! We also got to update our facebook and twitter stats for free via the provided consoles! Really nice. Every departure area should be required to be like this one. Haha.. 

Finally..boarding time. We, as usual, were the first ones to board our huge bangka. Even before we sailed away, the mouthwatering buffet of Filipino food was already open to the now-hungry passengers. And again, we found out too late that each floating restaurant serves a different food specialty as well as music. We din't even really choose! We just bought tickets from the first kiosk. Well. It was good anyway. But we would've loved the coconut drinks in the coconut shells! 

first round
Green was much of what we saw during the cruise. A now-you-see-it-now-you-don't road and buses here and there. Interesting nipa huts and some sort of camping ground or resort called Nuts Huts. And tourists coming and going from that place! Will definitely check it out next time. lol Anyway, I was also waiting for kids climbing up coconut trees and jumping off into the river. Unfortunately for me, they weren't out playing that day. :( But we made stops at floating rafts where dancers from some non-government units play music and dance for tourists. We, as I was playing tourist, gave donations in return. Though you're never obliged to. :) The tour was very relaxing, in fact I was gonna suggest that the management hang hammocks so we can take a nap if we want to. lol The restaurant finally made a u-turn to head back to the dock of origin when we reached Busay falls.

All in all, the tour wasn't what I expected. Maybe because I grew up seeing similar river views. Nevertheless, it was quite nice and relaxing. A good thing to do to unwind. And enjoy good food. 


Baklay ta bay!

Let's hike mate! :D

Part IV - Bohol series

After an almost-all-night of being glued to the tube, still woke up to an early start. 'Twas an okay-night's sleep but still a bit expensive for 700 bucks. Anyways, after a very light brekky of biscuits and milk, we set off for the first leg. Another tricycle ride..and a bus ride from the same one, coincidentally, from Dao terminal to Carmen for a mere eight pesos (if I remember it right).. passed through Barangay Bool and the Sandugo Monument and got dropped off at Baclayon Church.

The oldest catholic stone church in the Philippines, the church was constructed during the Spanish era some 300 or more years ago. It is one of the best preserved in the region and is actually formally known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It was completed in 1727 and has a dungeon where catholic violators, usually the natives, are housed. Presently, it has a small museum on the side where picture-taking is very much prohibited. Artifacts to see are mostly religious in nature such as very old statues of saints, antique candle holders and similar church paraphernalia, and even gold-embroidered church garbs.

There's a port just a very short walk from the church. The church itself is situated along the highway with the sea on the other side. Such a picturesque location. Then there's a municipal hall as well as a small tourist center where bookings for watersports in I-don't-know-in-what-area in Bohol are available. We walked the entire 'walkway' and it was low tide. The water was very clean and clear. A far cry from what I'm used to when walking along Manila Bay. lol The sea-floor can be clearly seen from where we were standing. I was honestly tempted to jump in! But I didn't. :D

After walking back to the bus stop, we then hailed a jeepney, since it took the bus too long to pass us by, to take us farther down the road to the second leg, to try out the Loboc River tour. The ride was pretty relaxing as we enjoyed the cool wind and the nice by-the-sea scenery. Conducive to napping. 


Hershey's kiSses

Part III - Bohol series

The Chocolate hills are, if not the E.T.'s very shy relatives - the tarsiers, the most famous must-sees of Bohol. Legend has it that these over-a-thousand unique and uniformly formed land formations were made by giants throwing sand and stone at each other. Covered with grass most time of the year, these only turn chocolatey-brown under the baking heat of the summer sun.  When I last set foot - literally, on two of these kisses (you can't relate if you're not into Hershey's kisses), I din't consider myself lucky back then. But I do now. As I don't think they still allow climbing up any of these hills.

The 60-70 pesos bus ride from the city to Carmen was about 2-3 hours. We made the mistake of grabbing the front seats where there's very little leg room so we had to live through pins and needles and a sore butt before getting off. The scenery's, at least, worth every minute of the ride specially when you're cruising through the man-made forest of Bilar along the way. Very very cool. This was a prep for the 10-minute winding walk up  the Chocolate Hills complex. which was then followed by the 214-step climb to the viewing deck. Great exercise! Wish had a really good camera with me. Again.




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