Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for the ‘Travel and Exploration’ Category

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!

Breathing Adventure: City Escape to Marikina (Part 2)

I tried to focus my attention on the bright blue sky and the long line of trees ahead of us as my feet were beginning to strain on my superficially, smooth flats. The searing heat was beating on the wide, concrete bikeway as bikers joyously passed us by. The river glimmered beneath the golden rays of the afternoon sun. Giant, fancy shoes loomed over the waters, upholding the pride of Marikina’s heritage as the Shoe Capital of the Philippines. Beside it was the statue of Marikit, the woman from whom this city has been named from, whose scars have reminded us how this city has been resilient during Ondoy’s dangerous floods in 2009. I thought the road was short enough to keep my feet from being strained even more. I guess my shoes were not the right pair for the long walk around the Riverbanks.

If Metro Manila was almost deprived of parks, Marikina has excellently preserved its Riverbanks. It’s the perfect place for joggers, bikers, and would-be bikers who ended up walking on the long road.

These leaf markings could be found on the concrete pathway. Some of them come in patterns like this.

Bike rentals are only at Php30 per hour. However, I was not in the mood to learn how to bike (especially when I was not ready to receive scratches). Walking was not actually boring because there were animal sculptures and exhibits that recreated popular tourist sites around the country. 

Crops planted by the riverside.

However, my feet ended up being too sore at the end of the site. Next time, I’d wear walking shoes and try to learn how to bike. Maybe still, I should have bought Marikina-made shoes! Still, this site is worth visiting because it is clean and beautiful. I hope my feet would be happier when I come back here.

Wonder where’s the food trip? The visit would not be complete without visiting at least a few of the best ones! Watch out for my next blog. 

​Breathing Adventure: City Escape to Marikina (Part 1)

For the most part, I’ve been doing my Breathing Adventure series for out-of-Manila trips, particularly those that include hiking and outdoors. This is the first time I’ll be including the cityscape in my Breathing Adventure blog because Marikina is a place worth visiting within the metro.

I had the impression there’s nothing special to see in Manila because it is jam-packed with skyscrapers, state-of-the-art malls, posh family entertainment centers, and monster traffic. I find Manila too exploited and polluted to be enjoyed. Eco-friendly spots like wildlife sanctuaries and parks are slowly deteriorating because the government seems to focus more on infrastructure and housing projects. 
Here’s one part of Manila which does not follow the footsteps of industrialization. Marikina, which sits near the border of the Rizal province, has maintained its pristine quaintness and cleanliness. It keeps on flourishing in its quiet and productive way, as it maintains ordinances that keep toxicity out of the city.

Touring Marikina is like visiting old Manila as old buildings and infrastructure line up the street. The bright blue sky could be seen in the central district because the council does not allow high rise buildings to be built. There’s strict enforcement against littering, so the only trash you would see in the city are fallen leaves.

Shoe lovers should to visit Marikina because it is the Shoe Capital of the Philippines. A little tour at their Shoe Museum would be recommended before you shop for your own pair.

For only Php50, you would find a vast collection of footwear made by Marikina’s finest shoemakers. Most of them are owned by popular personalities in the Philippines.

The shoe walk of fame outside the museum, most are named for big names in the entertainment industry.

A giant shoe that would welcome visitors sits near the entrance

About 80 percent of the collection of shoes belong to Imelda Marcos, wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos and now a congresswoman for Ilocos Norte (ok, if she’s not familiar to you, think where the word ‘imeldific’ came from). 

Being one shoe-obsessed first lady, she had 3,000 pairs of shoes during her 20-year stint in Malacañang. Marikina shoemakers have provided her with 10 pairs a week, aside from the Gucci, Chanel, Charles Jourdan and Beltrami shoes she had in her collection. About 800 pairs were in the museum. And they show that the size of her feet was at 8 ½. 

I couldn’t remember how tall Imelda was because she would be flocked and mobbed by the media when I covered the president’s SONA as an unknown reporter at a small TV station. So, maybe this portrait would give me a clue.

Small as it is, the Shoe Museum features more interesting pairs. From fancy contest clogs to remodeled ancient footwear, these showcase the craftsmanship and the world-class quality of the Filipino sapatero (shoemaker).

A glimpse of Marikina shoemaking history

Shoes made for shoe design competitions.

Another set of shoes made for various shoe design competitions

A set of recreated ancient footwear, proudly made in Marikina. One is a pair of cavalier or pirate boots and the other is a pair of Roman strap sandals.

The museum also keeps shoe-like ornaments from around the world which were kept by Marikina mayors. 

All in all, this museum highlights the skill and artistry of the Marikina shoemaker. It’s something that the city is proud of and I hope they can keep it for generations to come.

A visit to the city would not be complete without walking around and around the Riverbanks. More on my next blog! 

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