Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘travel’

Breathing Adventure: Fully Satisfied in Baguio (Part 3 of the Atok-Baguio tour)

Our two-day escapade in Benguet would not be complete without dropping by in Baguio. Despite the rain, we did not let it spoil our last hurrah. A little food trip would be a great finale before we venture into our five-hour trip back to Manila.


I heard that this restaurant has another branch along Session Road in Baguio, but this one near La Trinidad is enough to curb the hungry dragon from within. My friend, who’s a native of Baguio, told me that “calajo” is derived from a word from their dialect which means “Welcome” or “Come in”.

Actually, meal prices in Baguio are way cheaper than those in Manila. Even so, their meals have huge servings. Most of what we’ve ordered are made for three people, but it seems that there’s more room for one more foodie.

Pumpkin soup and pancit. Just right for the cold and damp weather.

Their salad is made of strawberries, raisins, green apple and lettuce, topped with strawberry vinegrette. I couldn’t believe this is made for three, but we managed to finish it. The yellow fritters are called dokto. These are made of camote fritters, and they are made sweeter by cinamon sugar. My friend said they’re better with coffee, but we can try that combination in another recommended restaurant next time.

All of these cost less than Php500. Not bad for the tired and hungry traveller.

Baguio Craft Brewery

This brewery has been making unique crafted beers along Marcos Highway since 2014. The weather was getting a bit dull and boring, but the homey, garden-like vibe of the place made us feel warm and upbeat.

We were allowed to taste four beers before finding the one that is for our liking. Going beyond four would confuse the taste buds, so we have to choose wisely. I admit I’m more of a wine person and not a beer fan. But these crafted beers made me appreciate the drink as they don’t have a strong, pungent scent, and their flavors stand out from one after another without leaving a bitter aftertaste as most commercial beers do.

I went for a pale ale called Englishman In New York. One of my friends opted for a light, fruit beer called Fruit Swine while my other friend ordered a strong, black beer called Russian Stout, which has dark chocolate aftertaste.

We were lucky because we have arrived at the brewery’s happy hour. Visitors dropping by the place between 1 and 7 pm on weekdays are rewarded with a 10% discount. Not bad for first-time visitors.

I guess I have to wrap up at this point. Since there are more places undiscovered in Benguet, I’ll make sure I’d be a regular visitor. I just hope that tourism and industrialization would not fully wreck this province, which has brought so much romance and serenity to our souls polluted by Manila’s toxicity. I hope people my age would find the time enjoying a whole new world away from the lowlands and find a whole new perspective to our country’s hidden treasures.

Breathing Adventure: Unveiling the Heavens at Mt. Timbak (Part 1 of the Atok-Baguio tour)

The cold weather at Baguio was nothing compared to the freezing temperature at Atok in Benguet. Still, I was confident in my three-layered clothing as we arrive at Baguio’s Dangwa Station. The two-hour 74-peso ride to Atok was a thrill in itself. Atok is an almost untouched abode as the pine trees tower proudly along the meandering Halsema Highway, which goes higher and higher to one of the highest points in the Philippines.

The blanket of clouds, the lush green mountains, the cold, fresh air and the ocassional whiff of chicken dung were signs we were already in Atok. The region’s climate is perfect for farming and agriculture. Patches of cabagges and lettuce could be seen lined up on the side of the mountains. Wild flowers are vibrantly growing in some of the farmland. We were enjoying the view while getting a bit dizzy in this rollercoaster ride. The bus was old and a bit rugged, but the aged driver has managed to smoothly pass the freaky sharp curves and winding lanes that could go on forever.

We were instructed to register at Atok’s Municipal Hall in Sayangan before beginning any tour. My heart sank when we learned that the Northern Blossom Flower Farm was closed,* but the young tour guides have offered us two packages. We opted for the one with Mt. Timbak. It costs about Php1,500 because it includes three other tourist spots and a van that would take us to these places. The price is meant for five people, but my friend and I were willing to take it at any cost.

If taking that tour option, I suggest you should start with Mt. Timbak first. The travel time from the jump-off point to the top of the mountain could take about 15 to 20 minutes through car (or van in our case). Otherwise, it could be taken in an hour by foot (or two hours if you take loads of selfies). Ice, our tour guide, offered us to stay for a night at a transient house on the mountain before we continue with the rest of the tour on the next day. A night at a transient house costs only Php200. But if you are brave enough to brace the cold weather in a tent, one night in the mountain costs only Php100.

The potted plants at our host’s house. These are sold from about Php25 to Php100, depending on their sizes. I’m just afraid they won’t survive in Manila. 😦

Our host, Josie Camsol, told us that tourism plans at Atok has only started on February this year. She said her family is used to mountaineers dropping by their house. She admitted she does not want to charge her visitors, but representatives from the Tourism Department have instructed locals to do so. I believe these instructions are made to help Atok’s residents as tourism is a financially viable industry.

White astromeria are quite common in Atok, as well as other beautiful flowers.

Cactus thrive in Atok

Locals don’t advise you to eat these berries, but they say some are brave enough to try them and found out that they were edible…although not tasty.

The afternoon became lazier as the clouds have completely covered the scenery. We tried to pitch a tent on the balcony, but we ended up spending the night inside the house.

By the break of dawn, we trekked the summit to catch the sunrise. We were lucky because our host’s farm is located on the summit. I was amazed with the astromerias and the daisies that stood stoic in the cheery, cold wind. The cabbage heads, although not ripe for harvest, appeared sumptuous as they were covered with dew. They became more alive when the golden rays touched them. The sun was already stretching itself from sleep behind the nearby mountains.

As the third highest peak in Luzon, Mt. Timbak offers a grand view of nearby towns like Kabayan. The sea of clouds could be seen on the nearby mountains. Mt. Pulag clearly hovered the others on the other side. Hello, pet, it’s been three years since I first fell in love with you.

A station of the cross sits solemnly the other side of Mt. Timbak. One can pass there upon descending. Everything around the mountain is simply breathtaking and I cannot help but thank God for His wonderful creation.

We thanked our host and her family for accomodating us before we embarked in the second leg of our tour. It was 8 am, but the clouds were starting to descend upon the mountains again, slowly covering the lush farmland. The heavens seem to have given us a sneak peak of Mt. Timbak’s beauty only for today. But the place is enveloped into their sanctuary again because they want to preserve this treasure for generations to come.

From right: yours truly, Josie Camsol, her husband and my friend Tina.

* As of this writing, the Northern Blossom Flower Farm will re-open on Sept. 25, 2018. It is currently closed due to the replanting season as the flowers were already harvested.

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (The Night Life)

Our four-day trip is never complete without seeing Hong Kong’s night life. We tried to fit in our itinerary into one whole day, so we had kept ourselves awake from early morning to midnight. I guess HK will never fail to fascinate me even at night because the city is teeming with life and audacity, as modernity and traditional culture blend well together like oil colors on a lovely, black ivory canvas.

Enjoying Food In Public Places

I’ve already touched down a bit about food in my previous blog about Disneyland. A friend living in HK led us to a good hot pot restaurant called JKJ Pot at Tsim Sha Tsui. I’d recommended this place for groups like ours because you’d never leave this place feeling empty as the food is tasty and satisfying.



The hot pot waiting to be filled with meat balls, cow lungs, lettuce…


…as well as beef and eel.


Top the dinner off with a good bottle of Hong Kong beer.

I was amazed that customers can put their bags in bag racks beneath the table and their coats and hats in cabinets in the restaurant without the fear of losing them. I guess living in Manila made me a bit paranoid and suspicious towards people around me, especially in public places like restaurants. I had to understand by that time that I should never hold on to any apprehension while enjoying a sumptuous dinner in HK.

Temple Street Market

Filipinos love having a bargain and I’m sure this is one of those places they’d love to visit before going home. You can find all sorts of merchandise here like t-shirts and bags, as well as traditional artifacts like ramen bowls and tiny Buddha statues. Souvenir prices are really low but make sure to scout the long road in order to find a better deal.

The Peak

We decided to visit The Peak the following night. Again, the queue for those buying tickets for the tram was too long but locals and tourists alike were willing to wait.

I love how the tram station is littered with memorabilia and historical artifacts. These made the ride more interesting. The best part here is seeing the romantic night view of the city while the tram chugs along the old rails.

Stalls with various merchandise and antiques were also littered around the mall beside the tram station.
Small Madame Tassauds exhibits were also featured in the mall going to The Peak. At least, I had the chance to encounter Bruce Lee for once in my life.

I would have loved to see The Peak but tickets going there were sold at $50. My friends were not ready to spend much on that, so looks like I’d really have to go back to HK next year.

I can’t believe that our HK tour was short…too short to enjoy the whole country. Still, our last day would also be very memorable and awesome. It did not matter if we got back to our guest house late at night again. All we wanted was to make sure we’d have a grand time in our final day in Hong Kong.

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 3)

Let kids be kids but don’t let adults be adults. Our Hong Kong experience would never be complete without unleashing the kid in us. But that cheeky side does not stay in Disneyland forever because it continued to live on when we visited Ocean Park.


From left: Rachel, Em, Lans, and yours truly.

We opted to visit Ocean Park despite having its counterpart in Manila. I heard it is a recommended tourist site and I already had the impression it is more hi-tech and impressive than Manila’s Ocean Adventure. By the size of the place itself, I had the impression Ocean Park is more than what I had expected.

The Marine World At the Summit

Filipinos like our OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) friend, Em, would suggest to start at the far end section of the theme park, The Marine World. One could get there by express train or by cable park, whicb was a good choice because it gives a view of the Hong Kong scenery.

We started the tour by visiting aquariums like the Sea Jelly Spectacular and Shark Mystique. What I like most here were the state-of-the-art interactive modules that give interesting trivia about these sea creatures.

Inside the Sea Jelly Spectacular.

At the Shark Mystique.

The dolphin and sea lion show is held at The Marine World and the first one starts at 12nn. Encountering these animals would require another fee so we’re just happy to see them flip and wave at us.


What surprised me was that Ocean Park has loads of thrill rides…and mind you, some of them are not for scardy cats. Of course, I had dared myself to take The Abyss. But I ended up as the only passenger screaming after the ride was seemingly dropped from the air.

Darn, my friends left me here alone…

We would have tried the other rides like the roller coaster and the ferris wheel but they were closed for scheduled maintenance when we got there. I admire the staff for taking extra precaution by doing so. Too bad, we were not able to return to those rides when they had opened because we wanted to maximize our whole-day visit by not wasting our time through waiting.

The Ocean Park Tower was the most relaxing ride we tried. All we did was just sigh (while taking pictures) because it gave us a breathtaking, 360-degree view of Hong Kong and of the whole Ocean Park.

Part of the view was the top of the Thrill Mountain, which I’d talk about if you bear with me. 

The Thrill Mountain

The most memorable ride for me would be the Hair Raiser. If you could see the twisting, yellow line from the picture above, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s almost located at the edge of the mountain but don’t worry about it because it is safe…except that it will give some of you goosebumps.

Since no loose items like bags or cameras were allowed, just imagine the screams were made when our carriage began to twist, turn and go upside down in less than a minute.

The Animals

My favorite part of the tour. Since we don’t get to see sea lions, pandas and koalas everyday, we did not miss the chance seeing them. Guess what’s the story behind these two sea lions at Marine World.

Insert sea lion story caption. 😃


A real, live walrus at Polar Adventure!

If only I can dive with the seals.

Most of the furry animals are located at the lower part of the theme park like the Amazing Asian Animals and Aqua City. I never ever get to see a real panda, especially a red panda, in any zoo in the Philippines! Some of my friends said we were lucky to see them both hanging around. Although the red panda quickly scuttled into the bushes when people started to flock in. Who would have thought I’d get to see Master Shifu and Po entertaining guests at their lovely abode?

Kung Fu Panda fans would immedietely recognize Master Shifu.

At last, I have seen the Legend of Awesomeness.

Guests entering these places, including the Adventures in Australia, are required to be quiet and are banned from using any cameras with flash. Too bad, koalas are not meant for hugging here (looks like I need to go to Queensland to hug one). Signs around the place warn koalas are nocturnal animals sensitive to light and sound. We don’t want to stress out our sleepy, cuddly mate so we just said a quiet hello as we passed by.

Animal mascots are also everywhere. We don’t want to leave without taking a picture with them, of course.

I find Ocean Park bigger than Disneyland. Looks like one day is not enough to visit all attractions there. Maybe I have to return to Hong Kong next year to tour the whole place and visit the ones we have missed. There’s more in our itinerary but we only have one day left to check everything in our bucket list.

Breathing Adventure: Lost In Hong Kong (Day 2)

My friends and I wanted to snuggle in our beds until late in the morning as we were greeted by a cold start. Temperature was around 18 to 19 degrees in Hong Kong and it made me think I was living in a dream. But we have to get out of our beds early because we only have the whole day to spend in HK Disneyland.

Transportation going there is very accessible. Taking the train is the easiest way. I was completely impressed with how the whole MTR system is designed, as well as with the efficiency of its signs. These are tourist-friendly and they are easy to read because they are written in both Chinese and English.

Aside from that, Disneyland has its own train line! From the Sunny Bay station on Tung Chung line, the train would carry excited children and children-at-heart to the happiest place on earth! With the Mickey-inspired windows and handrails, we were even more thrilled to be there.

The happy kids: me, Rachel, and Lans. 😀

Even though it was a weekday (not just any weekend because it was a Monday), the queue at the entrance was very long. Actually, almost all rides at Disneyland have long queues. Wearing comfty footwear is the best advice I could give because I had to struggle in the end due to my chic boots.

Who says I was suffering at the hands…er, soles of my boots?

Some friends who had been to Disneyland have adviced us to begin at the end of the theme park. That would be at Toy Story Land where Woody was greeting us in both Chinese and English…

…tried to match up with Jessie and Buzz Lightyear…

…and screamed at rides that were seemingly mild.

Next was the roller coaster ride at the Grizzly Gulch.

We took at peek at Tarzan’s tree house.

But my favorite of all was the Mystic Manor (I don’t have a picture of the ride so you better see it for yourselves).

After all the thrill rides, we relaxed at It’s A Small World. I love it because it is a celebration of all nations where lovely toy children were singing it’s a small world in different languages.

The castle outside.

And I was touched that they have featured the Philippines.

Tomorrowland is also cool, especially Stark’s Expo and Star Wars.

Expect food to be expensive at Disneyland (and for the whiff of caramel popcorn to tease your noses everywhere). Nothing there would be lower than HK$35. Still, I tried the Minnie Mouse ice cream because I have to feel the Disney vibe.

And yes, I just ended up having a picture of Mickey ears that cost more than HK$100.

Our ultimate goal was to catch the Mouse…the Mice rather. Having a picture of Mickey and the gang would be a stroke of luck because there’s always a limit (I could only see Goofy and Pluto from afar huhu). But finally, finally! We were lucky to get into the queue just to get a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse just before we headed home!

The dream ends here. Too bad, there were no fireworks because some parts of Disneyland were under renovation. It does not matter because I have been to the happiest place on earth at last.

We capped off the night by meeting another friend living in Hong Kong, who then treated us with a good steamy hot pot at JKJ Pot at Tsim Tsia Shui.

Cheers for another day of adventure. I thought the dream was over but there’s more to come. 🙂

​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.



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.


And not to mention the lighthouse on the other peak.


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.



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).

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


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.

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