Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for the ‘Travel and Exploration’ Category

​Breathing Adventure: Crashing Into the Waves at Dingalan, Aurora

Having a dose of vitamin sea is never too late when taken on a fair but moody October day. It can be maddening as it can become a concoction for excitement and anxiety. You will never know when the weather might throw some tantrums at you. But it did not matter. All I wanted was to see the clear, blue waters and feel the summer jive of Dingalan, Aurora.

Known as the Batanes of the East, Dingalan is a paradise of tropical beaches, sleeping caves and emerald green landscapes. It’s your preferred breakaway from the toxic city life. Travelling there from Manila would be four hours at most. It is recommended you take along a big van and a battalion of friends to get there.

Travel cost was around P1300. That includes van, boat transfers, lunch, and tour guide. It would be best if you leave at around 1 or 2 am, especially if you’re planning a day tour for this one.

From Dingalan Feeder Port, we were transferred to Dingalan island. We left our bags there before heading off to the Lamao Cave.

On the boat with our tour guide, Kuya Bong Reyes (in grey shirt)

While the others were freaking, I could not help but raise my arms in anticipation at the humongous waves cradling our boat. All I could hear in my head was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries while we were flowing with the giant tide. The cave was not too far but even so, we had to swim at the mouth of the cave because the boat couldn’t dock near it.

These rocks look pretty but they are actually painful when stepped on…ouch!

Rock climbing (and picture taking) is a must at the Lamao Rock Formation. Just take caution because some parts of the rocks are edgy and sharp.

We decided to leave the island when wild winds were already blowing. Five of us were on the boat when the weather had thrown a nasty fit. She made the boat spin a bit wildly until one of its outriggers was broken when it crashed unto the rocks.

I was calm all along because I trusted in God’s saving grace. The other girls wanted to jump off in panic but I waited for the right timing to jump off the boat. Leaping at the wrong time could lead to something even more fatal. Fortunately, another boat had rescued us back to the island. All that time, I could not help but think of His promise that He’s keeping us sheltered under His wings.

 

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The nasty wound I got from the rocks…I was literally bleeding when we were already on the boat…ouch!

We were all a bit shaken but I could not help but be amused by the thought, “This is more thrilling than Survivor.” A little food can ease the panic off. Maybe a boodle fight of the best seafood and the freshest fruits can do the trick.

But nothing could be worse than a shipwreck than wrong expectations. I was too foolish to expect this was all sand and sea (because I overlooked some details of the itinerary). The highlight of this tour was the Mountain View Deck and it could only be seen if you take a little trek going there.

It would have been an easy thirty-minute trek if it were not for the mud caused by that morning’s rain. As expected, I was already grumpy, mostly when I had to take my slippers off (wrong footwear, folks. Just. Wrong.) Still, just like every other climax, that view of the Pacific can take all despair and breath away.

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And not to mention the lighthouse on the other peak.

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Muddy and tired, we had the tour capped at around 4 pm. If I could take home something, that would be some nasty wounds, sand on your flip-flops, and a good story to share.

I will never expect my adventures to be the same again. They’re not textbooks outlined with the same pattern because each has a different impact in our lives. I was amazed I was calm in the midst of danger and I kept myself levelheaded during a crisis. An adventure would never be an adventure without some thrill in it. We need that to break our mundane life. We need a little bit of test to improve our resilience in life.

But next time, I hope my next trip would be a bit more peaceful.

My regards to Khaye Satur for organizing this trip, as well as to our tour guide Kuya Bong Reyes for being such a caring guide for such a mountain slowpoke like me. Also, our trip could not be even spicier without the Hugot Van Manila of Kuya Gherz.

 

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A glimpse of that awesome hugot van…you will find more lovestruck hugot when you jump into the ride. 🙂

Watch out for their next trip through Khaye’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/khayesatours/) and Gherz’s page (https://www.facebook.com/gherz.brizo).

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Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka

Liempo

Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

Breathing Adventure: The 8D 1D Challenge At Cavite, Batangas and Tagaytay

Visiting eight destinations in one day may sound tiring but it’s worth the try. This travel tour on Facebook gave us the chance to take a day tour around three places in South Luzon: Batangas, Cavite, and Tagaytay.

1. Marian Orchard

This sanctuary in Batangas was our first stop. This place is perfect for peace seekers, as well as for those who are camera-obsessed. It would be good to stay here to medidate but that would be impossible if only 40 minutes were given to roam around.

2. Taal Heritage Town and Taal Church

These two are joined together as the 2nd and 3rd destinations in our bucket list. Like this picture below, many of the old Spanish houses in the town are well preserved. I would have loved to visit each one just to see what’s inside.

The church itself is the main site to visit in this area. But we were not able to come any nearer because we only had an hour…

…to enjoy a bowl of Batangas’ hot, steamy, special lomi. Lunch time, folks!

3. Villa Jovita

Participants in this trip were given the chance to take a dip and relax in this resort in Batangas. However, most of us were not in the mood to wade into the water, although we were given two hours to enjoy the moment.

I guess we love to capture every moment in our lenses instead.

The river beside the pool.

4. Fantasy World

Visiting this place is a wish come true for me. Who wouldn’t be curious to know what’s inside this mini-theme park? When we came in, we were stunned to see…

…fairies and wizards unleashing their power…

…monks of great wisdom gathering for a revolution…

…and, my, my! Be a queen for a day!

What’s best in this place is to be in your best OOTD with your friends.

Sadly, the theme park rides were all closed because of the rain and strong winds.

5. Gingerbread House

If ever Hansel and Gretel would visit Cavite, I’m sure they would poke their noses in this place. Fortunately, there’s no wicked witch to fatten them up. Visiting here is like having an early Christmas because everything here reminded us of sweet, childhood days.

The rain was a spoiler because it had caused a power outage around the place, making it quite a bit dreary. Still, it did not stop me from looking around the bakeshop that was peppered with everything cheery like this giant gingerbread man.

A Christmas dining table and other Christmas decors.

Make your wish upon this wishing well. The wish below is not mine, by the way.

If there’s something I would wish for, I would wish for loads and loads of money to buy everything here.

Instead, I had found out it’s free to fit in this gingerbread house.

They also have a souvenir shop (especially for the ref magnet hunters like me).

6. Diner’s Bulalo House

Any trip would not be complete without dinner at Tagaytay and any dinner in Tagaytay would not be complete without bulalo. It’s like a fitting salvo to the cold, drizzle that was pouring at that hour.

7. Sky Ranch

The last destination was this huge theme park. I would have been excited if it were not for the rain. Besides, it was already quite late to get in. At least, we had the chance to see it…finally.

Visiting eight places in a day is surprisingly possible. I just felt some of the visits were too short because we were given very limited time. I believe we could have had more time to roam around some of the places if the tour group was not late because of the early morning run. Still, I appreciate our tour guides because they were very accomodating and friendly. For a P1000 budget, the experience was not bad at all, especially when you’re with people you enjoy road tripping with.

​Breathing Adventure: Many Reasons, Many Complaints and Many Lessons Found At Mt. Marami

It’s been months since I have laid myself back from the rugged adventurer I’ve become. I wanted some chill moments and most of the times, I’m not in the mood to hike mountains. I was trying to keep my cool, complacent being in me until I nearly lost it at Mt. Marami.

Mt. Marami comes from the Tagalog word “Many”, given by the countless rocks sitting on the peak. Located in Cavite, it’s can be reached by taking a two-hour travel from Manila. It only sits at more than 450 masl (meters above sea level) but I have many, many reasons to complain about it.

The horror began when we reached the beginning of the six-hour trek. That’s only one way. As expected, it’s muddy, given the rains that poured the day before. Even worse, the mud go on for the rest of that dire stretch of pathway.

Horses are major contributors to the mud path. These animals are an integral mode of transportation to farmers or storeowners who own businesses in every mountain we have visited in the Calabarzon area (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal except Quezon). Their hooves would mash the wet ground, leaving no opportunity for it to be dried beneath the sun. 

Lans trying to catch (maybe to ride) a pony loitering around.

If this were an interactive trip, I would immediately click my mouse on the summit. The trek is not easy as Dora’s map that would go like, “Jump-off, registration, summit!” We have to pass by three rivers, rainforests, another separate registration (different from the baranggay), an endless muddy trail and a whole lot of complaints. 

But we won’t complain during picture taking…😀

Many picture-worthy moments have temporarily suspended many regrets for being in this trip, though.

This is how to clean muddy shoes.

If you think you’d see the tip of the mountain at the jump-off, don’t. Your many expectations will die before your reach halfway. Five hours later, we’re still a long, long way to the trek and we still have many, many rants to spew out. 

One reason we were so tired is because the climate was humid and windless. I cannot help but compare it to similarly long treks at Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ulap. If I had the chance, I’d be willing to take long treks and higher assaults at Benguet because the weather there is cooler. This kind of climate in Calabarzon would dehydrate the body and my two-liter water canister. 

I have crawled up the summit like a ravaged zombie…

Except when taking life-threatening poses for many, many pictures to be posted on IG and FB.

One thing I have enjoyed on this trip is my attempt to catch a few butterflies – on camera. I find it lovely when a whole bunch of them flutter around you, especially they are of different colors and sizes. These are the reason to believe nature is still alive.

I was expecting the trek returning to the jump-off to be lesser than six hours…

Until I lost my way…

Until it rained three times…

Until the horseman did not agree to let my almost injured friend ride on his horse because we can’t keep up with his expensive demand…

Until our lethargic tour guide just stared at my friend while she was struggling on the slippery descent with her strain knee…

Until I could not scream anymore because I only had the last drop of strength remaining in me.

We have many, many reasons not to go back here. I don’t know if this is part of ageing up or it was a bad choice mixed with awful timing.

Despite of the trauma, I had to keep the many good reasons I had gathered there. I had discovered my many limitations in regards to endurance while I had discovered the many good qualities of my friends, especially the boys who were very helpful with the girls in the group. Many lessons? Maybe it is about knowing I have many friends who have been worried for me while they wait. And these many friends who would cheer for me the moment I have survived the trek.

Breathing Adventure: Touching the Heavenly Abode At Mt. Ulap

There’s no other place like Benguet. Sitting beside Baguio, many have fallen in love with this place because of its fresh air, scenic views, and alpine-covered slopes that resemble a bit of Europe’s fairy-tale forests. Besides that, Benguet boasts of giant mountains that defy the deities by touching the heavens. Among these is Mt. Ulap, which lives up to its name because it welcomes its visitors into the cradle of the heavenlies. 

Is it a deer? Nope. It’s a cow hiding as a deer. How’s that for an enchanted forest? 🙂

We left Cubao at 10pm to ensure we’d arrive at Benguet by 4 or 5am. First-timers are estimated to take an 8 to 10-hour trek on the mountain. 

The glorious sunrise was a wonderful opening to this long hike. Ever since my old phone has been damaged due to this poor writer’s absent-mindedness at the beach, I never imagined I would be able to catch again a momentous moment that actually happens everyday.

The hike was not as tiring as I first expected. It was one of the most refreshing hikes I had since I had my first taste of wonder at Mt. Pulag in 2015. 

The wind was cool enough to lessen the sting of the rising sun. I was surprised I did not consume a liter of water as I only brought a small canister with me. I decided not to tire myself with a backpack. I wanted to have the liberty of freeing my back from such heavy load. Besides, I enjoyed having my own stick, which I had bought at the registration area. I can be a good memorabilia after the hike.

There are three peaks at Mt. Ulap. The first peak already has amazing views itself.

Stone markers that tourists would like to build as proof they were once here.

Along the way, I took a moment to listen to the bird that was singing its praises to the Creator, who had artfully sculpted the beauty that I saw all around.

The Gungal Rock, which was the second peak, has been the most challenging one. One has to be loaded with guts to cross the sloping rocks to pose for a rocking profile pic.

Most breathtaking of them all is the last and highest peak.

Mt. Ulap would never be called as it is without the clouds that had slyly curtailed our wide-eyed, sun-kissed faces. The evergreen slopes beyond was playfully peeking behind those rising white pillars while we pranced and jumped around to get that perfect, perfect shot!

After going down a short but very steep portion of the mountain, we were finally relieved when we dropped by Mt. Ulap’s 7-Eleven. Oh, yes! More ref magnets to collect!

The descent at Mt. Ulap has been developed by installing makeshift wooden stairs. Lans, my friend who organized this trip, told me there were no manmade steps when they first trekked here in 2016. Mt. Ulap has just been officially opened in 2015 so it only took only awhile to improve the more dangerous path.

What I’ve appreciated most in this trip was the camaraderie that has been developed among the group. Most of us were unknown to one another at the start but most of us have became clingy to one another at the end of the trek. That’s why hiking is more enjoyable than beach. The challenges we face in the mountains are actually refining us to become stronger individuals and to make stronger bonds of friendship. 

​The Magic of Dinner Over Movies (Eleventh Bite): Food Feast At The Carnival

This blog was supposedly written a few weeks ago but it was delayed due to a number of circumstances and loads of procrastination (sorry about that, guys!). But I still find this food hub worth sharing…and returning to again.

Food hubs are becoming popular in the Philippines and the city of Marikina would not miss out on this trend. There are loads of food hubs around the city, but The Carnival is one of the flashiest places to drop by and enjoy.

Brightly lit up, it can be easily spotted beside the road when taking a jeep going to Montalban, Rizal. Flocks of people kept on filling the site because everybody seems excited with what it has to offer. Its festive air and colorful atmosphere have brought thrill to every hungry foodie like me.

Each food stall has its own unique offer, whether it would be shawarma, burgers, sizzling dishes or fried ice-cream. At my first night, I already had my personal favorites. One of them is the Brewskie Pasta Hub.

Each pasta cost around P150 to P200. This creamy, chicken pesto was so good, I nearly cried at its first bite. But because it’s so heavy, I had to bring half of it home for breakfast.

My second favorite would be the Milkshake Lab.

Milkshakes go around P80 to P150, and one is also very heavy because of its abundance in sweet pleasures that overflow from the brim of the cup. This red velvet milkshake nearly knocked me down because it is really,  really tasty.

These two were paired with nachos which would be best shared with friends.

Because I did not have the chance to try the others, looks like I need to comeback. Visiting The Carnival is the perfect wrap up to our Marikina trip. But it seems to be also the perfect prelude to more visits to Marikina.

​The Magic of Dinner Over Movies: A Picturesque Lunch At Pan De Americana

Our trip to Marikina would not be perfect without eating. Marikina is filled with restaurants and food hubs that are worth visiting. Here’s one that I would recommend for everyone, especially families and friends who would like to make food (and ambience) a special part of their gatherings.

The mellow beat of the bossa nova was softly playing in the background as we crossed the small timber bridge that hovered over a small pond surrounded with colorful pinwheels. The whole place seemed to have transported us back in time. A hammock, landscape portraits and a calesa sitting in a small garden gave us a glimpse of childhood memories and bliss. Black and white portraits of 1950s actors and actress have reminded the elderly of their younger days. Visiting Pan De Amerikana was like visiting your grandma’s house in the province. It brings more than food, it brings back wonderful memories.

One will not be bored while waiting for food because the place was adorned with fancy, vintage decors and furniture. Visitors can take time by playing the giant chessboard or crossing the hanging bridge on the top deck. Everyone is enjoying this place because of its historic vibe that is very instagrammable. 

Because of the place’s name, one might think that Pan De Amerikana serves American food. Instead, it has brought in the ambience of the American Commonwealth period during the 1930s, with a tinge of post-war feel of the early 1950s. 

The menu is very Filipino. We’ve chosen a group meal of Bicol express, tilapia (a kind of freshwater fish), vegetables and seafood enough for five people which costs only Php895. Fruit shakes (made with real fruits) cost around Php60 to Php80. 

The music faded away as an elderly lady was allowed to play the old piano on the small stage. It reminded me of an old piano we had in the house before. Had I mastered it, I would not be shy in playing a tune right there and then.

We left the place feeling full because of the food and the experience. This is a good place where I could take my mom for a date next time, and a good spot where friends could gather, eat and have fun.
The quiet lunch is without a colorful night life! Watch out for my next blog on our Marikina tour!

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