A Travellerspoint blog

Family Trip is More Fun in the Philippines

Gastardo Family Tours Around Tagaytay City

semi-overcast 29 °C

As promised that once the family car's in the metro I will tour the family around, so Tagaytay was first in line, considering that one, it's adjacent to Metro Manila, two, it's Sunday and the city's places of worship run aplenty, three, there's plenty of tourist points, and last but definitely not the least, the climate is colder.

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Our journey started with attending a Holy Eucharist at the Pink Sisters, then ala-picnic-breakfast at People's Park. Attending a Sunday Mass is free, it only cost us P20.00 for the parking space inside the church's vicinity. The picnicking however cost P50.00 entrance fee per head (free for children aging 4yo and below) plus P35.00 parking fee and P100.00 table charge. Fun rides here have separate charges at one's choice, but the viewing of the Taal Volcano and the lake is totally free.

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Followed by a visit to the Puzzle Museum and a lunch of "bulalo" at Mahogany Market. The entry to the Jigsaw Puzzle Museum was expensive, it cost P100.00 for each person (still free for children aging 3yo and below). We took home a souvenir photo in jigsaw puzzle pieces, so P500.00 was an additional expense of the trip. Parking space is free, though.

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The tour closed at Skyranch. It was far more improved than the last time I was here with some friends. There are plenty of funrides (e.g. zipline, skycruise, carousel, giant wheel, roller coaster) to choose from; they each cost a hundred pesos or more, plus the P80.00 entrance fee per head. We did not take any ride this time; we may have it some other times in the future.

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On our way back we had a short drop at Rowena's for the buko pie and ube tart. All in all, the family tour to Tagaytay cost me P4,825.00 as broken down below:

Parking fee at Pink Sisters P 20.00
Entrance fee at People's Park (7pax) P 350.00
Parking fee at People's Park P 35.00
Table charge at People's Park P 100.00
Entrance fee at Puzzle Museum(8pax) P 800.00
Souvenir photo P 500.00
Lunch of Bulalo & Tawilis P1,400.00
Parking fee at Skyranch P 50.00
Rowena's buko pie & ube tart P 370.00
Fuel (full tank) P1,200.00
Toll fees (to & fro) P 350.00

Posted by crisbernal 24.06.2014 15:41 Archived in Philippines Tagged parks tagaytay market driving museum family drive puzzle day_tours city_tours daytour family_tour Comments (0)

Learning Driving is More Fun in the Philippines

Taking driving lessons in Surigao means reaching good tourist destinations

sunny 33 °C

Being out of work or jobless gave me opportunities to do things I disregarded during busy times. I went home to my birthplace to pass the time while waiting for interview calls. The very first thing in mind was to practice driving.

Papa Tantong was my teacher and Mama Dulcing was my passenger. The pressure to perform well was high considering that my parents were my assessors or evaluators.

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During the first day of driving lessons, we headed to the adjacent town to the westernmost coast of Surigao del Norte, the Municipality of Malimono. This was formerly the route of my father when he was driving the passenger jeepney. I also had several memories of this town when I was active in the Surigao diocesan Catholic youth ministry. We sort of rediscovering the accessibility of this remote place as well as checking out the road condition in comparison to the improved access road our town, Anao-aon, is currently experiencing.

We noticed drastic improvements but still needs more, as the road construction was put on hold due to political instability. But yes, the road is passable and reaching this remote town is now seemed closer than was experienced before.

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The next day of driving lesson took the same route but reaching only the boundary of Anao-aon and Malimono. The following day took the new route within my hometown; we headed south to Barangay Macopa and then took U-turn and headed west to Barangay Banbanon. In Macopa, I reminisced my younger days when I with some friends swam at the barangay's water dam. In Banbanon, my parents and I marveled at the awesome rock formations along the beach.

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The other days of learning driving took the route to some barangays of the nearby Surigao City. I drove the hilly parts of Lipata, Punta Bilar, Sitio Looc, and Mabua. We just discovered that the road traversing Lipata and Mabua via Sitio Looc is now accessible. I remembered Looc to be still living up to its monicker (Looc means hidden valley), that one has to trek his way into it, both from Punta Bilar and Mabua. Now, a concrete road construction is ongoing.

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With the new road condition, the picturesque sunset at Punta Bilar peaks can now be witnessed any day, the pristine pebbled beach of Looc can now be experienced easily any time of any day, and crossing from any points (Lipata, Punta Bilar, Looc or Mabua) can now be done any time.

Posted by crisbernal 24.06.2014 11:49 Archived in Philippines Tagged beaches beach driving drive roadtrip landtrip rockformations Comments (0)

Tricycling is More Fun in the Philippines

Checking Natural Wonders in Malvar, Batangas via a tricycle

sunny 36 °C

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Call of duty, I reached Malvar, Batangas for a week to conduct another set of training-workshops. A week is too long to stay in the training venue, so I googled on the potential tourist spots or natural wonders in the town or nearby. Then I found one very interesting place, the Calejon Falls.

Located in Brgy San Gregorio (trivia: Calejon was the old name), I took the usual and only transport around here - tricycle. Those who have been here said in their blogs that the trip cost 50 pesos, but the driver charged me 55 pesos per way. It was around 10AM when we crossed the STAR Tollway and reached the dropoff point.

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There was no signage, nor guide posts. No indication of which way, where to go, what must and what not to do. There is this residence along the barangay road on the right side where the walkway to the river starts. I realized that this supposedly interesting natural wonder, which should have been a touristy spot, is not maximized by both the municipal and barangay local government. I suspect the spot is privately owned.

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The trek down the river is challenging as the stairways are old, dilapidated, not maintained, and abandoned. It was longer than I expected, may be because I was alone and the jungle gave me an eerie sensation. There were instances that tree fruits fell and caused movements in the grounds, grass and trees. My advice, go there in groups, or at least with a friend. At the riverbank, I noticed a hut on the right side and the small but wondrous Calejon Falls on the other side of the bank. A grotto was erected beside it. On the far left, you will notice a residence. That made me think of private ownership of the spot.

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I savored the moment of silence, the nearness of nature, the cleanness and clarity of water where waterfalls and the river meet, for about 15 minutes. I wish I brought with me pen and steno notebook to have everything scribbled in letters as they were formed then. The climb up the barrio was more challenging as the steps are eroding and concrete stairways are crumbling.

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I skipped checking the Elsa's Sweet Candies because people we inquired there claimed that many of them are now manufacturing sweet candies. They cannot even point for us Elsa, denying knowledge of any Elsa in the neighborhood.

My tricycle driver suggested to also reach Alulud Spring and Swimming Pools. Located in Brgy Bulihan, farther from the town proper than San Gregorio, he told me he will be charging 80 pesos a way. The road to the spot is hard for the tricycle, so we parked the vehicle in a spot close to the last house in the area on the way to the water point.

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This time I asked the driver to walk me to the Spring, where a number of swimming pools surrounds the area, he told me. A concrete hut welcomed us. That signals the start of the stairways down the spring point. This destination is quite new or adequately maintained because the concrete steps are new, in place, and looked strong.

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T'was a long steps down, but the view of the spring that falls down along the stairways was wonderful. All drops of water appeared foamy, looked pure and clean and felt cold. The 3-layered concrete swimming pools looked so inviting to a dive, a splash, and a dip. But I resisted because I just came by to photograph it, tag it, and enlist it for future getaways.

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As it is sunny days, plenty of people would love to dip in the water, so much so in here. Youngsters mostly composed the crowd today. The adults were inside the single hut or cottage in the left corner of the place, centered by the river and the pools in either sides. I bet it would feel eerie at night because the jungles covered the area. But the karaoke jam, available in this cottage, may compensate the quiet and eerie overnight ambiance.

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After quite a while of taking pictures, observing swimmers, and feeling envious of the dipping in this pure and clean body of water, I climbed up the same steps, then head back to the training venue. I paid the tricycle driver 220 pesos, but he seemed wanting for more.

I enjoyed my short trip in Malvar, Batangas! I believe I will return...

Posted by crisbernal 20.05.2014 23:26 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls road_trip nature falls spring pools batangas stairway budget_travels landtrip swimming_pools Comments (0)

Beaching is Still Fun in the Philippines

Boracay Island nowadays

sunny 31 °C
View Grad Gift for Keith on crisbernal's travel map.

Held to be one of the best beach destinations in the world, the Boracay Island hosted for years now millions of tourists, local and foreign alike. Along with this influx of beach goers is the mushrooming of hotels, resorts and restaurants. The Boracay nowadays has become a commercial center.

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Boracay is an island of 3 barangays of the town Malay in the province of Aklan, located at the northwestern peak of one of the major Visayas islands, known as Panay. The world-known white beach, stretching through the 3 barangays, measures 4 kilometers long. It is where hotels, resorts, bars and restaurants crowd, and thus where the crowds flock. That stretch of white beachfront is divided into stations 1, 2 and 3, with station 2 as the famous and thus crowded area. But then crowds brought in garbage and wastes. And as of late, the green and slimy mosses lined the beach waters. I just hope that the 75-peso environmental fee, plus the beach cleaning activities of some civil organizations, can help restore the natural beauty of the beaches and waters.

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I have witnessed the island transform in just a matter of decade. Long before, during my first visit in year 2006, the ferry terminal and port area was non-existent. The open canoes that carry at most 20 persons per trip dominated sea transport and they all docked at informal ports. You will wet your clothes or pants when you disembark. They were replaced with outriggered roofed boats with 40 to 50 pax capacity, some hotels even have yacht-type ferries, that docked at concrete port terminals at both sides. The good thing is that the trip to and from the island is safe, unlimited and uninterrupted. The port terminals in both sides have been very busy, tourists passing every now and then. But despite the fact that you will just pass by the terminal, you still have to pay for the 100-peso terminal fee.

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I have witnessed those mere nipa huts type of lodging houses and resorts converted to concrete and posh 3 to 5-star hotels lining the beachfront. There was only Crown Regency Hotel and Resort at Station 2 then, but now more and more of the same class of accommodations emerged around stations 1, 2 and 3. The amenities had vary from fine dining restaurants, swimming pools, to dance, shooter or party bars. It has become expensive though; well, luxury and comfort come with a price. If you travel in tight budget, you can still find the rightly priced accommodations. The D'Mall before which previously local eateries and souvenir shops, now houses plenty of known food chains and shops. And most products are a bit pricey.

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I have witnessed the pathways transform from simple sandy walkways to concrete tiled pavements. But as of late, due to ongoing constructions here and there for more hotels and related infrastructures, these pavements are drenched with smelly waters; all wet and muddy. Some broken spots still remained unattended, making your way to and from the beach inconvenient and uncomfortable. You have to skip your way, escaping muds and murky waters, hopping from one protruding concrete tiles to another.

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Nevertheless, the pristine beach is beyond compare, the shallow water that resembles a swimming pool is alluring, the beach and seawater activities unending, and the sunset view whether clear or cloudy is and will always be wonderful. Then at night, the party is on in many points, and the fire dances, ah, awesome!

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Posted by crisbernal 05.05.2014 00:18 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches parties night beach island boracay marathon sunbathing white_sand budget_travels island_adventures island_hopping Comments (0)

See(k)ing Miracles is More Fun in the Philippines

Celebrating EDSA People Power Revolution in Lipa City

sunny 33 °C

Philippines is predominantly Catholic. This is forever written in the history of the nation where Filipinos' devotion to Mother Mary resulted in a miracle, which happened during the well-known EDSA People Power revolution. The statue of Our Lady of EDSA Revolution is erected and towering over the Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA in memory of that miracle.

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I myself is born and raised one Catholic. I grew up with this unparalleled reverence to Mother Mary, the mother of Lord Jesus. I joined the Association of Children of Mary Immaculate, which members call ourselves CoMers, at age 11. "To Jesus through Mary" is and always will be our motto. In fact, I became the Parish President of the association for a couple of years. I was able to travel to other places within and outside Surigao del Norte because of the various activities of the organization, which has a nationwide coverage.

During my years as a member and officer of the local association of CoM, I acted as Catechist to children during May Cathechism. I also joined theater presentations during big feast of Mama Mary, like February 11, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, March 25, the Annunciation, September 8, the Immaculate Conception, November 27, the feast day of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, to name a few. These and more other religious activities I participated in has honed in me the leadership skills, the training management skills, the public speaking skills, and the congeniality character. These skills and characteristic has prepared me for the real world, particularly in the industry of professional consulting services.

Then I aged and was replaced by young ones in the organization, but I am still a CoMer by heart because "once a CoMer always a CoMer" so we proclaimed. My love and devotion to Mother Mary is unremitting. Though I disappeared from the scene where being a perpetual member of the association should remain alive and active, I still marvel at the memories and experiences through reminiscing.

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And then the devotion to Our Lady of the Mediatrix of All Graces finds its way to me. It was brought about by a mentor and colleague in consulting service, Madam/Mader Stella Maris Salas. This started in Baguio City when we met during a training (training usually connects the two of us) that she invited me to attend a morning prayer at Baguio Country Club, with another friend and colleague, Ms. Doreen Erfe. There I witnessed the shower of rose petals, all in dark bloody red petals, some imprinted with religious images. There I smelled the most adorable and sweetest smelling white rose buds. There I personally witnessed a blessing, a miracle. There I faced a statue of Mama Mary quietly placed at the center of a glass dining table. It was only then that I realized that Mama Mary in this form of apparition has drawn thousands, corrections millions, of pilgrims. It was only then that I knew of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces to be so famous for the miraculous shower of and the miracles brought by the rose petals. It was only then that I was informed of its shrine in Lipa City in Batangas.

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I was told that the shower of petals represents Mother Mary's divine presence, the appearance of rose buds declares Her unconditional love. There are even spread of gold and silver dusts, which means answered prayers.

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So, on February 25, 2014, me and my officemates decided to better celebrate the EDSA Revolution anniversary at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine in Lipa City. Since our project team leader was at that time attending a meeting outside, who also approved our excuse when I messaged him through texts, my colleagues Madam Nanette Durante tugging along her husband and Ms. Marisa Dahan bringing along her whole family (husband and children) and I, with Ms. Nanette driving, we departed from the office around lunch to pick up Ms. Stella at a hotel somewhere in Kapitolyo, Pasig. It had been the bestfriends, Ms. Nanette and Ms. Stella's plan to visit the shrine. It was therefore the perfect timing for us all to join at the same time co-celebrate one of Mother Mary's remarkable miracles - the EDSA People Power Revolution.

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We took the South Luzon Expressway, then the STAR tollway, and reached the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, where the Mediatrix shrine is located, after barely an hour. I noticed that even during work days there were still plenty of pilgrims. The church has a huge ground, apt for a million of devotees. Parking spaces are available. The church is reasonably big in size, complete with adoration chapels in both sides, one bigger than the other. A number of comfort rooms are available and clean.

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The apparition site was my ultimate direction. The ground level direct to the life-size statue of Mama Mary is closed to public. The viewing can be made through climbing the second floor of the building in the right most side of the church. There in the preserved garden stand Mama Mary beside the original vine where She appeared to the visionary Sister Teresita Castillo. Full account can be read at http://www.marianmessenger.ph/index.php/maian-feature.

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We stayed there until late afternoon.

On our way back, we dropped by the wet market to buy vegetables, rice cakes, and of course the "sinaing na tulingan" (charcoal cooking of a mackerel fish through boiling it with salt and wrapping it with banana leaves).

Posted by crisbernal 27.03.2014 19:07 Archived in Philippines Tagged churches road_trip shrine pilgrimage miracle batangas Comments (0)

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