A Travellerspoint blog

Tourguiding is More Fun in the Philippines

A peek inside Callao Cave

semi-overcast 27 °C


I was so excited that after tending my professional obligations I have spare time to pamper myself. What best to entertain me is to show myself around a place new to me or that I seldom pass by. I was in Tuguegarao City then for a work-related trip. And knowing that the Callao Cave is just a ride away, I really set the alarm at 5am to take a peek inside this renowned cave. I have seen many photographs, heard a number of good testimonies, and lately watched a scene from a Filipino movie, The Mistress, captured from inside the Callao Cave. Now, since I was so close, I cannot afford to let this chance pass me by.


Cold morning and alone. I travelled in the city with two other colleagues but they declined my invitation. I researched over the internet, mostly from travel blogs, that night before on how to reach the cave site at an affordable cost. That morning though, I opted to hire a tricycle driver at 500 pesos for a special trip to and fro, than wait for it to fill with 7 passengers, which definitely take a very long time. I have to be back at 10am to allow few hours to prepare before flying back to Manila at noontime.

At 6am, I was already on my way to Penablanca, Cagayan. Entering the barangay where the cave is actually located felt so far and remote.


Should you visit the cave driving your own car, you should take the concrete road heading direct to the reception and ticket area. This road was constructed for tour buses, private vehicles, and hired cars. Since I was taking the traditional commute via tricycle, the driver took me to this riverbank. I arrived there at the dock so early; that was before 7am. I knew through the browsed information that I still have to take a boat and cross the Cagayan River to reach the steps at the cave's entrance. This you will miss though when you go straight to the entrance hall.

The driver told me to find my tour guide who will ride with me in the motorized canoe. The ride was dramatic but super affordable. It cost me 20 pesos each way.


I was astonished to meet a teenager, a High School student, to guide my tour. His name is Johnrey. He's 15 years old. I never realized that this unique experience here having young tour guides was already featured in some TV documentary programs particularly those tackling travels and tours. A famous Andoy even was featured in the Maalaala Mo Kaya. And Johnrey is like Andoy. That he did tour guiding during his free time. That the money he raised from tour guiding helped his schooling. That he can even guide foreign tourists.


Johnrey and I climbed the steps towards the cave. The gigantic cathedral welcomed me and it was an awesome feeling to be invited in. There is supposedly lights along the way inwards but since I arrived so early, no staff can be found to turn the lights on for me. There were sweepers though but I believe they have no access to electrical stuff. Good thing the interiors of the cave is not that dark because it has seven chambers, each with crevices where natural light peeks in and illuminates the surrounding areas. The largest chamber with the chapel intentionally erected in its center is the best place to be, unless you are non-Catholic or anything of sort who believed in statues. This is the set where the wedding scene in the movie The Mistress was shot.


My guide was astonishing! It can be assumed that he had done this tour guiding for a long time now or he had burnt many candles to study the story, the history, the names, the discovery and the discoverer of this cave. I sucked in history or social studies or anything that involves memorizing names, places, dates, so I really cannot keep up with Johnrey. What really retained in my memory was the marvelous natural creation of this cave, the chambers, the cathedral. The walk into its interior was quite long; it made me sweat really. You have to climb up and down in some points.


I completed my tour in more or less 45 minutes. We dropped by the ticket booth on our way down but the cubicle was still empty. That meant I have free entrance then. So I added the 20 pesos to the 50-peso guide tip and handed it to Johnrey. I jumped into the waiting boat without much ado and was back in the tricycle ride towards Tuguegarao City.

My 700-peso trip was so sulit!

Posted by crisbernal 06:15 Archived in Philippines Tagged caves caving spelunking callao philippine_tours budget_travels day_tours Comments (0)

Bisita Iglesia is more Fun in the Philippines

Church in Liliw, Laguna plus some sidetrips

sunny 33 °C

My sister En and I have dreamt of visiting the infamous Liliw Church in Laguna. This town futhermore is known for as the "tsinelas" (slippers) factory, and thus hold a Tsinelas Festival annually.
I have this petition for a divine interference I bore within me for quite awhile; I just cannot pinpoint what specific intention. And a visit to a historic church was thought to be very necessary. And to realize the long-planned Liliw Church visit seemed to be just the time.
My sister cannot join me then since it was her very birthday and she has thrown a small party; so I went alone. I took the HM bus from Cubao that was bound for San Pablo City in Laguna. Around 3 hours later, I arrived and disembarked at SM San Pablo City. I was in the impression that the jeepney terminal was within the mall area. Having taken my lunch, I rode a jeepney en route to the city's downtown. The pick up point for passengers heading to Liliw was at a corner fronting the city's Cathedral. The jeepney ride from San Pablo to Liliw was so short and the driver courteously dropped me off at the right gate of the known baroque church in the "tsinelas" town.
Without much ado, I entered the church and marvel at the intricacy of interior design. The exterior even has this aging red bricks covering all around it. I offered my intent petitions and roamed around the picturesque surroundings.
Next attraction in the area are the slippers and sandals, the one and only product that made Liliw known also. The shops too laid side by side along the main streets. I was not able to get hold of myself and in fact bought a souvenir sandals for my sisters and mother.
My strolling was done early and so I took a jeepney and rode back to San Pablo City. And decided to check on the nearby town with equal fame as Liliw, it is Nagcarlan, Laguna. Without much knowledge of this town, so I dropped by its old Catholic Church. Its facade looked just like Liliw's except the interiors and with less intricacy. I offered again my intent petitions and took pictures of the surroundings.
Then I walked my way up and peeked into its municipal hall and of course its Underground cemetery. It was only there and then that I took notice of this tourist destination. Indeed, it was one of a kind and a must see. I was not able to really check on the underground since the spot was still flooding after the heavy rains in prior days.
The sweating strolls made me feel satisfied with this trip and another jeepney ride brought me back to San Pablo City. Since the drop off point was again at the front of the city's Catholic Cathedral, so I paid a visit in this white church. And for the third time of the day, I offered my intent petitions.
Having visited three churches in a day seemed a "Bisita Iglesia" to me. And it was worth it! Few months later, God helped me realize my parents requests --- the acquisition of a family car. In just three days of processing, my first Toyota Innova was released and in two more days, that car was handed over to my proud parents.

Posted by crisbernal 17:57 Archived in Philippines Tagged churches laguna philippine_tours budget_travels baroque_churches liliw nagcarlan underground_cemetery bisita_iglesia Comments (0)

Landtripping is more Fun in the Philippines

Breaking in My First Car (Toyota Innova J Dsl MT 2013 Model)

rain 26 °C

November 11
Today is my 15th anniversary of being a Certified Public Accountant. Only today that I owned a car of my own. Yes I owned it but I will not be using it. It was basically purchased for my parents. My father, Tantong the senior (let me remind you, I am the junior), has been wishing and pushing me to own one. It was initially a Hyundai Starex, but I opted a Toyota Innova. Now I am proud to hand it to my beloved Papa and Mama.


We departed from my sister's place in San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan at little past 4am. The couple Jun and En accompanied us until Lucena City. The ride through Lucena was so smooth, given that there were several diversion roads constructed and usable nowadays; one was in Candelaria, another in Siriaya. More diversion roads can be found in more areas beyond Quezon province. Thus I wrote an article entitled, "Landtripping is more fun in the Philippines!"


We were told not to overstretch the speed capacity of the car this early, so we travelled at 80kph max speed even in the South Luzon Expressway. We have some wrong turns made but I realized it soon enough that prevented us from getting lost. There have been some road spots where maintenance were happening that day and the delay was due to alternate pass using one lane, facilitated by workers waving red and green flags from either end. Manong Danny and I reached Matnog, Sorsogon where the Maharlika port is located at little past 6pm. We did not realized it that we already travelled Luzon for 12 full hours. This included stops for urinating and eating breakfast and lunch.

Mt Isarog

Mt Isarog

The freebies of landtrip are the zigzag and steep roads in Quezon National Forest Park, otherwise known as Imelda National Park in Atimonan, Quezon. It is known that the park is declared a Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary. The present area is 984 hectares (4 sq. miles) with its highest point at 366-m above sea level. More can be seen along the way, like the views of Isarog Volcano in Camarines Sur and Mayon Volcano in Albay. It was raining though when we arrived in Bicol and clouds hugged the two mounts tightly.

Mt Mayon

Mt Mayon

Manong Danny facilitated the boarding documents for the car and me as passenger; he is the driver and he is free of charge. He approached some of the fixers there and paid P1,500 for the freight. He gave the fixers and all other port personnels 50 pesos each for a charge they called "pangkape lang po". The boat ride which started at past 8pm took one hour and 30 minutes, we reached the port of Dapdap, Allen in Northern Samar at around 10pm.

Ferry Terminal

Ferry Terminal

Since Samar is famous for bad roads, so we decided to better sleep for the night in Allen. We checked at the nearby resort which name I cannot remember.

November 12

My brother-driver woke me up at 4am; the time to get ready for another day's ride south. I was actually on official business today and I have a meeting (courtesy call) at 9am in the DSWD Region 8 Office in Tacloban City.


The day was dark and wet! It may sound bad but we were surprised to pass through good roads traversing Northern to Western Samar. This roadtrack has been know to be problematic and never been repaired good that causes delay in driving. But the road was great, asphalted in most section, except for some spots were bridges are underconstruction and some road sections need repairs and maintenance. I arrived at the meeting late but at least I showed up for the courtesy call.

San Juanico Bridge

San Juanico Bridge

Later then, I excused myself to accompany my brother down south to deliver the car to Mindanao. We commenced our drive at 11:30am and arrived in San Ricardo, Southern Leyte's Ferry Terminal at 2pm. Leyte's road networks are known to be good and thank God the ride was smooth and easy.

McArthur Landing

McArthur Landing

The perks of riding the Eastern Visayas section are the drive through San Juanico Bridge, the bridge connecting the Islands of Samar and Leyte, thus forming the letters S and L at aerial view, the MacArthur Landing Memorial in Palo, Leyte, and the Agas-Agas Bridge in Southern Leyte section. It was creepy when we crossed the Agas-Agas Bridge because the heavy rains casted fogs over it. It was a scene in any horror movie that despite the car headlights, the half section of the bridge seemed unknown. That fear had me forsaken the chance to grab my Nikon 3100 SLR camera and capture the fogged bridge moment. I missed that, bigtime!

Agas-Agas Bridge

Agas-Agas Bridge

After clearance to board the ferry to Lipata port in Surigao City and paying around P2,500, I left my brother in the port and deliver the car to our parents himself. I rode a commuter bus back to Tacloban City where work is waiting for me. I need to work harder this time because I have a monthly amortization to pay for the new car.

Ferry Terminal

Ferry Terminal

Road tripping with my new car is a blessing... Driving with Manong Danny is a blessing... Experiencing the luxury of good road networks, philippine highways, natural landscapes is a blessing... Now the car - a gift for my Papa Tantong and Mama Dulcing - has been delivered and the driver is home.

Posted by crisbernal 19:57 Archived in Philippines Tagged landscapes mountains bridges driving tacloban philippine_tours budget_travels landtrip Comments (0)

Imedific Trip is more Fun in the Philippines

Tacloban as Glam as Madam Imelda Romualdez Marcos

overcast 33 °C

I highly appreciate Glam! And for that I am an Imelda Romualdez Marcos fan.
I once heard her on the interview and in Bio channel featuring her life saying that "beauty means love". And she loves to beautify.

I have been going back and forth to Tacloban City which famous landmark is the San Juanico Bridge, a pet project of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It alone exhibits beauty, states fashion, depicts glam. My first step on this bridge was in 1991 and I have passed through it several times already, but I only got to know it as Marcos Bridge this visit.

Imeldific is a trendy term coined after Madam Imelda Marcos' name, which means "ostentatiously extravagant". Indeed it is! Because every thing Mrs. Marcos thinks, speaks or creates is tremendously beautiful, fashionably tasteful, and ostentatiously extravagant. During this city visit, I dared to check the Santo Nino Shrine, paid the P200 pass plus P30 for the permit to use the camera, and savoured a surreal taste and experience of Glam the imeldific way.

A collection of everything best in the world:

From out-of-this-country murals!

To mystifying themes of every room, guests', ferdinand's, imelda's, and their children's! The beds, gosh!

To collectibles of antiques from around the globe!

To paintings of world reknown artists (which names I cannot remember)!

The lavishness of Imelda's creation, collection, glam can be seen in one of the 29 known rest houses the Marcos family had, that is the so-called Santo Nino Shrine in Tacloban City. The 30-minute tour with fabulous Annabel was such surreal, I felt like teleporting to Argentina to Austria to China and everywhere else in the world. I had an information overload that I have the propensity to intenchange the collections and their places of origin.

If you find yourself somewhere in Samar or Leyte, don't miss the chance to experience Tacloban which is as glamorous as Imelda Marcos.

Posted by crisbernal 18:28 Archived in Philippines Tagged museum tacloban philippine_tours budget_travels imelda_marcos city_tours Comments (0)

Commuting is more Fun in the Philippines

A journey to and from the historic Malolos in Bulacan

semi-overcast 29 °C

While it is true that I don't have my own car, it does not hinder me from venturing the historic destinations in the nearby province. I do not fear commuting, riding jeepneys, buses, vans, tricycles because riding with other passengers, no matter if they're all strangers, side by side is more fun.

I have been planning to visit the historic Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan. All I can remembers from our high school history class is that the said church hosted the temporary residency of General Emilio Aguinaldo. It also hosted several historic events, such as the convening of the First Philippine Congress (September 15, 1898), the drafting of the Malolos Constitution (September 29, 1898 to January 21, 1899), and the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic (January 23, 1899). Despite its proximity to Metro Manila, for several years the plan remained until this recent long weekend.

I stayed at my sister En's place over the weekend at San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan. The subdivision where they got a unit was near, a walking distance in fact, the Pacific Waves Resort. I started my journey from that point and proceeded to the Grotto at Tungkong-Mangga. I spent 16pesos already. I took one more shot of the spot and then asked the guard the way to reach Marilao. He told me that it cost me a double ride, jeepney from that point to Mozon then transfer to another jeepney to SM Marilao. So I did and cost me 25pesos.

I asked the guard at SM mall if there fx vans also take routes to Malolos but he confirmed that only jeepneys go there. So I took another jeepney ride worth P33 to reach Malolos Capitol. Antonishingly, the jeepney I was riding in passed through the North Luzon Express (NLEX) way. I never thought jeepneys are allowed in this highway. So my way to Malolos was express and smooth. The driver asked for anybody among us passengers will disembark before or after the flyover. But you better alight after the flyover, at the location of Malolos Capitol. There I was told to take another jeepney ride across the street, those passing through "Derecho" or Malolos "Bayan". To reach my ultimate destination cost me another 8 pesos.

I found the antiquity of the church amazing. There stand the statue of General Emilio Aguinaldo in front of the church and the convent. It was closed when I arrived there so I took the chance to roam around it and inside the massive convent. There I found out that the rickshaw Aguinaldo used then and there was this inland garden. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I found the statues around the place wonderfully unique. There was this Jesus cradling a baby dedicated for aborted children, a young Jesus with his parents doing carpentry, and more. See them for yourself.

There are plenty of ways to reach Malolos City. There are bus lines, fx vans from SM North Edsa (i guess there are still lots of terminals but only SM North Edsa's that I knew), jeepneys from Malinta in Valenzuela City. If by a private car, take the NLEX and exit through Tabang.

Being in Malolos was a chance to tour the city around. And to my amazement, I have found more spots recommendable to local and foreign tourists to enjoy. They were all adjacent to each other, so from the church, simply walk your way to the town proper. You will notice several heritage houses, one of which was owned by Jose Cojuanco, the former Representative of the 1st district of Tarlac in the Philippines. A little farther is the Casa Real --- a printing press during the Malolos Republic, the Casa Real was restored in 1852 and converted into a municipal library. It is now a museum under the management of the National Historical Institute and serves as the final repository of still existing memorabilia (check the bulacan website). You will see around, beyond the Casa Real, the Malolos Cathedral and its City Hall.

After 2 hours of walking under the intermittent drizzles of the rain, I head back to where I came from. I never thought that my way back to my sister's place was too long and winding. I was told that the way I came in will never be the same way to go back to Marilao. Most vans that will pass through the expressway were heading directly to Metro Manila area. Only jeepney passed through Marilao but in a different way. I hopped in one of the parking jeepney and handed in my 20peso bill saying SM Marilao. I noticed earlier that most jeepneys have signboard "Bocaue", and the driver confirmed he's driving me up to Bocaue only. It was my first time to travel around these places so I kept my eyes open.

It was good to seat in front; I noticed passing Guiguinto, Bulacan, then later Balagtas, Bulacan and then the jeep parked at Bocaue public market. The driver pointed to nowhere the terminal for Marilao he said. I followed other passengers who crossed the footbridge and through a flea market. At the foot of an old flyover, men were barking "SM Marilao! SM Marilao!" I really thought I lost my way. And the jeepney ride cost me P11. This time I was confident that I already knew my way. As soon as I arrived back at the mall, I followed a queue for San Jose Del Monte and was on the jeep few minutes later. That ride which cost me another P21 dropped me at Mozon. I initially thought of going the same way back however it will be so circuitous for me. So I tried the other route, the one that passed through Sampol, another barangay of San Jose Del Monte City.

It was such a very long way and a two-ride journey which I never anticipated. The 16 pesos carried me through Sampol, and another 16 pesos was paid for a bus ride towards Palmera area where the Starmall was, the nearest mall to my sister's place. I was glad I got home however late and breathtaking because the bus passed through some ravines, cliffs, deep valleys.

It was just a day to round the Bulacan province. All in all, the commuting was fun and cheap, nonetheless exhausting!

Posted by crisbernal 15:00 Archived in Philippines Tagged philippine_tours budget_travels malolos_bulacan baroque_churches Comments (0)

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