A Travellerspoint blog

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

Feeling at Home is More Fun in the Philippines

Strolling ("Suroy-suroy" in local dialect) around Surigao City and beyond

all seasons in one day 29 °C

Not because this is my Home, but because my Homeland gets a lot of simple things to offer.

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Beach view at Brgy Banbanon, Anao-aon, Surigao del Norte

I am born Surigaonon (that's how we call ourselves), hailed from the small town, Anao-aon, the nearest one which is a 5- to 15-minute ride to Surigao City in the province of Surigao del Norte. By the way, the term Surigaonon covers all residents from provinces of Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands also. Hopefully, Siargao will stay as part of Surigao del Norte province forever.

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Look, it's the island of Leyte: a view from Surigao

In case you cannot find Surigao from the map, after all the publicity made by typhoons frequenting the area, it is located in the northeastern peak of mainland Mindanao. Just about the islands of Leyte and Samar. Now, Surigaonons are sweet and friendly people. We entertain guests, both local and international, basically because we can speak Cebuano, which most people from Visayas and Mindanao islands speak, Tagalog, which is the common language for people from Luzon and southern Mindanao, and English.

Surigao City is accessible by sea, land and air travel. Landtrips from Luzon via the Maharlika Highway though may take days will all pass by Lipata Ferry Terminal. Seatrips that also take days will dock at Surigao Port Terminal. And flying guests may take daily flights from either Cebu Pacific Air or PAL Express and will land at the Surigao City Airport. From whatever point you arrive, you may take either the tricycle (a motorcycle with a sidecar) or multicab (a hybrid but shrunk jeepney). If you already knew your destination, you may take the multicab which has definite route. But if you don't and that your destination is unreachable by multicab, you better take the tricycle.

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The San Nicolas de Tolentino Cathedral

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The Surigao City Hall

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The Luneta Park is joyfully lit every Christmas time

Surigao has simple destinations for you. A city tour can be strolled by yourself, starting at the Luneta Park, you can sight from there the City Tourism Office, the City's Cathedral for Catholic's church visit and the City Hall. Take a tricycle ride and reach the Provincial Capitol and/or the Sto. Nino Shrine on top of the Cinesa Heights. If you love dipping in the seawater, you can either take another tricycle ride to Sabang Black Beach, or a multicab ride with route to Ipil to reach Mabua Pebbled Beach. Shorelines from Mabua are stony towards the west coast; it has tiny stones though. Mabua is the next locale from Ipil, so you still have to take another tricycle ride from the dropoff point. Or you can simply take the stroll along the shoreline. The view of the sunset from there is great!

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Resorts and Pebble Beach in Mabua, Surigao City

Should you have plenty of time, you rather spare extra day for this, hire a boat (check and arrange with the City Tourism Office) for an island hopping experience. The tour must reach the Sagisi White Beach with so crystal waters around, then Basul Island, the Buenavista Cave in Hikdop island, and then the Day-asan Floating Village.

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Floating Cottages in Day-asan, Surigao City

You really have to spend one night in the city to check out and enjoy other destinations, such as dinner with grilled chicken, which taste is distinct and one of a kind in Surigao Port area, nightout at any bar (like Kody's) along the so-called Boulevard fronting the docks in Pantalan Dos. Here cramps the bars and restos that cater cheap foods and drinks. Nighttime here is festive as the bars' tables and chairs are scattered tidily in the 4-lane road.

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Pantalan Dos dock points along the Boulevard

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The Kody's Music Bar at nighttime... gimmick time!

There's nothing to worry about the night accommodations, we have 3 major hotels of your choosing. The Parkway Hotel lies along the highway near the airport. The Gateway Hotel is adjacent to it that occupies the rotunda towards the city proper, the highway towards Lipata Port, Ipil-Mabua beaches, the way up the Cinesa Heights' Sto. Nino Shrine, and the way towards the airport. The Tavern Hotel located at the heart of the downtown with its back at the Boulevard facing the Surigao Strait. There are plenty of cheap accommodations, check this website for more information, http://www.surigaocity.gov.ph/Where-to-Stay/where-to-stay.html

Before leaving the city, try or bring with you our native delicacies, such as the infamous Sayongsong, a cake of ground rice that comes in cone shapes molded out of banana leaves.

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Daytime business at Pantalan Dos docks, in front of Kody's Bar

Make this your entry point for Siargao adventures. Spend a day or two before heading to Dinagat and/or Siargao islands. Surfing in GL and spelunking in Sohoton Cave in Socorro (Bucas Grande) are just less than 2 hours away from Surigao City.

Posted by crisbernal 08:00 Archived in Philippines Tagged home beach caving spelunking white_sand philippine_tours budget_travels island_hopping city_tours landtrip homeland daytour Comments (0)

Picture-Run is More Fun in the Philippines

Funrunning around Corregidor Island

overcast 23 °C
View My Birthday Run on crisbernal's travel map.

The name of the noted place is Corregidor. What more can it be more wonderful than even the name itself? It alone suggests many things: adventures, heritage, and getaway, to name a few.

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I have been inquiring about the day-tour package in the island since, but then of course, find it pricey. Having waited for quite too long, I finally find the right timing to reach the island and see with my naked eyes the marks of its history. Fortunately, the Corregidor International Half-Marathon was scheduling its annual running event in December 2013. Being an avid fun-runner, I decided to join this fourth half-marathon in the island. This was really it for me! The marathon was postponed to January 12, 2014, when l was already free and available, the final date in fact fell at my birthday week (rightly closing my birthday week) , and that I was planning to celebrate my unconventional 38th birthday this year somewhere new.

As l calculated it, the 3,000-peso registration fee is reasonably priced because the day-tour package which usually includes buffet lunch and round-trip boat ride currently cost 2,300 pesos. The downside though is that you won't get the guided tour for free; the upside was that you will get to roam around the island by foot, reaching all the spots unreachable by car, and marvel at the interesting sites all your while.

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The lack of sleep did not deter my energy to complete the 21km course in and around the Corregidor Island. Having dinner date with collegemates and friends at Namnam, Greenbelt 2, that eve, my body slapped the bed at 10pm already. Good thing, I woke instantly at the sound of my alarm at 1 o'clock dawn-break. I made sure that I had full stomach before the day began.

After devouring a non-fat recipe at nearby Chowking 24-hour foodchain, I was at the CCP Folk Arts Theater Star Cruise ferry terminal by 3 am waiting for the boarding call. We climbed the ship at 5am and reached the island 2 hours later. The windy morning made our boat ride shaky and bumpy, with occasional flashing of seawater at the cabin windows. When we disembarked at the island's north dock, the wild wind got colder. To rid of freezing feeling, I immediately proceeded to warming up; not too hard though to avoid injury before the run even start, so much so that I have not prepared much for this event.

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Whistled the gunstart at 8am, the course kicked off with a slight climbed towards the Malinta Tunnel. A welcoming treat; a tunnel complex built by US Army used initially as a military bunker and later became the underground hospital. The race course continued beyond the tunnel; a composite of concrete, smooth and rough routes, some even were walk trails, simple but challenging tracks.

I did this so-called "picture-run" which colloquial Tagalog translation would mean "piktyuran" meaning taking many pictures. Shoulder-slinging my SLR camera, I paused running at some picturesque spots, took the point, clicked and then ran again.

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Next stop was at the Philippine-Japanese Garden of Peace on my way down to the Beach Resort areas.

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Then the Filipino Heroes Memorial...

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There was this idle Airstrip...

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Beside it was the Mindanao Garden of Peace

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Then the route went on to the War Zone, where the Mile-long barracks laid in ruins...

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Even those various batteries...

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Youth for Peace campsite...

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What was interesting and a must-see for me are the disappearing guns...

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I reached the Pacific War Memorial,

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then the Eternal Flame of Freedom

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I surprised myself to have completed the 21km race course within 2 hours and 53 minutes. Most people I encountered or ran along with commented that they were impressed of what I did, managing to run the right pace while stopping from time to time to take shots of every tourist spots we passed by.

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2:53! I considered this an impressive performance after enduring the challenging, run-walk trails, where uphill routes are more than downhills', there were even steep routes, some with obstructing structures, amidst windy yet hot weather condition. All factors considered, my time deserved a high five, one, I did not have enough prep runs, two, I did photoshoots in every tour points, and three, my first time to experience steep downhills, uphills, and trail running, which basically involved walking.

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Tagging along my SLR camera while running was the right decision. And making tour around Corregidor Island on foot was a lot more fun than taking the tramvia.

Posted by crisbernal 07:16 Archived in Philippines Tagged ruins island marathon funrun daytour Comments (0)

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