A Travellerspoint blog

Spelunking is more Fun in the Philippines

Caving the long-stretch Puerto Princesa Underground River

semi-overcast 30 °C

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I tried spelunking at Buenavista Cave in Surigao City as my first and at Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, Mountain Province. I did it on foot, grasping at stone walls for balance, touching stalagmites and stalactites. I have tried dipping in the cold water inside or down under the cave. But the Puerto Princesa Undergroung River aka PPUR is a different story, another unique experience. Firstly because you enter the cave on boatride; secondly, you cannot trust dipping even just your fingers into the water for fear of biting snakes; and thirdly, you cannot touch the stone walls. And foremostly, the four-kilometer ride inside a cathedral-sized cave is tremendously a wonder.
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I have been to Puerto Princesa City many times now, but this was only my chance to experience the Underground River. Even on the way to the river site is already a treat of nature, the limestone mountains, some rock formations and more.
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Group tour is highly recommended to reach the PPUR otherwise it will cost one at least P1,600. Our arranged group tour cost each of us about P800.
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When you are in PPP (Puerto Princesa Palawan), do not miss the city tour. I once did it via a motorized tricycle ride, from the Cathedral, Baker's Hills, Mitra's Ranch, to Crocodile Farm and the Penal Colony. Try the day tour package to the Dos Palmas Resort and Hotel or even the Honda Bay Island Hopping.

Posted by crisbernal 18:39 Archived in Philippines Tagged caves spelunking philippine_tours budget_travels ppur puerto_princesa_palawan Comments (0)

Being Castaways is more Fun in the Philippines

An Apo Island Experience in Negros Oriental

sunny 32 °C

We are voluntary castaways. It was that weekend that followed the training-workshop our present Project hosted in Dumaguete that we decided to reach Apo Island in Dauis, primarily due to its proximity to the city.
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We booked a night's accommodation at Apo Island Resort which cost each of us P800. The same resort hired for us a round-trip boat transfer to and from the island at a rate of P2,000.
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After paying the visitor's entry pass of P200 each, we deposited our baggages at the hotel, since the check in time was after lunch. We proceeded immediately to snorkeling and swimming along with the sea turtles. T'was such a wonder to see big turtles at arms' length.
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There were plenty of rock formed in many shapes and in different sizes in various locations. We took our best pictures and best poses with them.
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Tired of snorkeling, swimming, picture-taking, we rested at the home-made cottage fronting the shore, owned by our tour guide, waiting for the early lunch serving. The isdang tinola, inihaw at kilawin flavored the sumptuous lunch.
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Re-energized by seafoods, we trekked around the islands. We peeked at the marine sanctuary and butterfly farm, climbed the eco-trail and hilltop viewdeck, reached the path to the "secret" white sanded beach, harvested and ate seaweeds, walked over and under the boulders of rocks.
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There are so much to do in the island, that small. After a nap, we climbed the hill overlooking the Apo Island Resort and reached the lighthouse. There were two, the old and the new. Curious, we climbed the old one and saw the world in 360 degrees.
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Commuting from Dumaguete City to Zamboanguita, where the port to the Apo Island is situated, is easy and cheap. There are lots of buses or jeepneys going to and fro anytime of the day. Pre-arranged boat transfer however is highly recommended.

A budget of P2,500 a person is more than enough to enjoy being a castaway... moreso that it is Apo Island.

Posted by crisbernal 17:36 Archived in Philippines Tagged dumaguete philippine_tours budget_travels apo_island island_adventures island_hopping Comments (0)

Chocolates as Dessert is more Fun in the Philippines

Chocolate Hills and every thing tourism in Bohol province

all seasons in one day 25 °C

What I love going back and forth to Bohol is the organized tourism industry. That if you are to visit the province entering through Tagbilaran City, without pre-arranged tour package, you won't get lost. Simply check in a hotel and have them arrange your tour around the province. Or simply pick from barkers outside the airport, trust that they won't cheat you, and choose from the tour menu they flash at your face. Trust more that the rates are regulated and most cab drivers are tour guides themselves.

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I have been to Bohol many times since my first step in year 2001. More than a decade ago, the only attractions known to tourists were the Blood Compact Monument, Python in Alburquerque, Baclayon Church, Loboc River Cruise, Caged Tarsiers in Loboc, and the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. It was a sidetrip during a convention of Government Accountants in Tagbilaran City. I was with some Local Government Accountants from Surigao province. But nowadays, the tourist destinations in the province is limitless.

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The projects I happened to work with, after my 2-year stint with local government, concentrated their efforts to develop Bohol. I reached Calape, Getafe, Buenavista, Talibon and Tubigon in Bohol in year 2003. I visited Antequera, Alburquerque and Jagna, Bohol in years 2009 to 2011. One time, our project held a conference in Tagbilaran City and the staff scheduled a tour in the afternoon of April 28 and the whole day of April 29. The group tour started a visit at Dauis Church. When my sister En and I scheduled a visit to the city, I also brought her to the same church.

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When my senior consultant, Madam Stella, travelled with me in Bohol, we used to spend our dinnertime at the Manga Market every time. It's a sort of Dampa around Metro Manila, wherein you buy fishes or any seafoods you liked in the market and have it cooked at the nearby carenderia. This time that our whole company staff were in, we ushered them to the same venue for one big night meal. The other favorite venue to dine at nighttime for Ma'am Stella and I was the barbecue station along Burgos Street near the Cathedral. My sister is fond of pork or chicken barbecues, so I treated her for a meal at the same place, and as expected we did feast a bountiful dinner. These dining venues offer budget meals and won't hurt your purse.

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The usual chocolate hills tour covers all tourists spots en route to Carmen, Bohol where the National Park is located. The whole day tour starts at the Blood compact monument, the church and museum visit at Baclayon, if you are not scared of snakes then the Alburquerque python is worth a visit, the Butterfly Farm, the Tarsier Conservatory, the man-made forest in Bilar, and then the ultimate destination, the Chocolate Hills.

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If Loboc River Cruise is part of the tour, the best time to reach the spot should be between 10 to 11 in the morning in order to beat the traffic at lunchtime for the floating restaurant experience. If Loboc seems crowded and the line is thick and long, then Loay River Cruise and Floating Restaurant is worth a try and one good option. Some drivers or tour guides would adjust the itinerary in such a way that the tourists arrived at the floating restaurant at lunchtime. The experience on the floating resto is not solely gorging but includes serenade on board. More entertainments await tourists while floating along the river, chorale singing can be witnessed at different points in the Loboc area while tribal dances coupled with fire spitting exhibitions can be seen in Loay area.

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Long before, there were lots of venues to see or view caged tarsiers from private individuals. Now, thanks to conservation efforts, the tarsiers are concentrated at a Conservatory Center. I also tried the Corella Tarsiers Sanctuary once.

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There are other tour packages that include reaching the Mag-aso falls in Antequera, Bohol. Located on the other side of Bohol Island, you need to pay it separately or have it along with other tours such as Chocolate Hills viewing via Sablayan peak. Danao Eco-Adventure is worth another rate and would require a whole day to accomplish.

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Another tour can be availed of at the Panglao area, other than the Dauis Church. Me and my sister went down the Hinagdanan Cave, hit the Alona White Beach and taste-tested the products of the infamous Bee Farm Resort. One more must-see in Panglao is the dophin watching, and if you got lucky, whale watching. My colleagues and I were so fortunate to have personally witnessed a school of dolphins. It was such a God's grace! Seeing them swimming along and over the waves is superbly wonderful. Of course I did not bother asking my sister to experience that because she has this undefinable fear of swinging over the waves.

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There are more to see, reach, experience in the island. What amazes me is the fact that Bohol has lots to offer. I have been to this island many times as I have said, but it never fails to surprise me; it never runs out of tricks and treats. The well-rounded knowledge of our driver-tour guide, Kevin, added to the money value. He is able to convey stuffs, from myths and legends, to politics and showbusinesses.

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There is one more, the shiphaus. This house was once featured in the TV program, Rated K, being owned by one ship Captain who resided in Bohol. The house is craftly constructed and in fact resembled a ship, the rooms as cabins, the storeys as decks, there is even the captain's deck, and the view deck.
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I will definitely go back to Bohol many more times. Maybe with families, maybe with friends, maybe just myself. Bohol tour is indeed a palatable dessert beyond Chocolate Kisses!

Posted by crisbernal 01:16 Archived in Philippines Tagged bohol chocolate_hills tagbilaran philippine_tours budget_travels day_tours Comments (0)

Sunbathing is more Fun in the Philippines

My Several Visits to Boracay Island

all seasons in one day 24 °C

Swimming in the natural pool of Boracay Island is beyond compare. Doing it over and over again is unrelenting. My first experience was simply a sidetrip from an official travel around the Aklan area.
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I had the best time of my life then, even just simply walking barefoot from station 1 to station 3, taking wacky pictures at the grotto, or dipping at waistdeep seashore. It was just an overnight experience. So I kept on looking forward to have a tour around the island the next time around. 27019_3240..42685_n.jpg
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My second taste of Boracay's prestine white sand in year 2007 was with my sister En with our officemates. It was sort of celebrating her birthday in the famous beach since our 3-day stay coincided with her birthdate 26 October. It was such a very dramatic experience, our friendship bond was put to test, En's fear of waves was aggravated. I did make a tour around the island in exchange for the unremitting wails of my younger sister; waves brought about by the October monsoon. Whatever has happened, I was so grateful for the treat from the municipal government of Makato, Aklan which owned our resort accomodation.
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Two is never enough and so in May 2008, the Project I worked with then hosted a training-workshop in Washington, Aklan and included a day at Boracay Island. Still excited, the whole training participants crossed the summer sea from the Panay mainland to the islet of Boracay. Considering the number of company, the beach, the pool, the bar, whenever we went was such a party, a crowd. Nonetheless, it was super-enjoyed by yours truly.
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When my nephew, Entoy, graduated in college, I promised him to treat him a travel to Boracay. I scheduled our flight in February 2010 and booked an accommodation at Surfers Home Boracay, located at the Bulabog Beach. This side of the island was one of my undiscovered areas, and I was glad to witness for the first time the international kite boarding competition. The visit was supposedly for Entoy but I took part of the enjoyment bigtime.
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Entoy and I enjoyed the night swimming, despite the cool february breeze. We ate full dinner of seafoods and drunk San Miguel Beer Pilsen until we met Imelda, a balikbayan from US. She said she hailed from Davao and so we speak the same Bisaya dialect. She owned a piece of Boracay so she toured us around the following two days. The three of us partied the whole nights, danced the night away at Cocomangas, bar hopping, eating seafoods. During daytime, Entoy and I tried hena tattoos painted on our chest or shoulders or arms, walked the stretches of white sands from both sides of the island, windowshopped at the d'mall or talipapa, and took pictures from one hotel to another.
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Spending vacation time with my nephew was worthy, and spending P10,000 more or less is value for money. Going to and from Boracay is pricey yet the experience is priceless.

Posted by crisbernal 22:29 Archived in Philippines Tagged boracay sunbathing white_sand aklan philippine_tours budget_travels island_adventures island_hopping Comments (0)

Island Hopping is more Fun in the Philippines

Captivating Caramoan Isles in Camarines Sur

sunny 33 °C

A sidetrip after the conduct of workshop for municipal governments with water utilities at Villa Caceres Hotel in Naga City. A respite worthy of note for three busy people: Madam Alma, Ms Doreen and I.
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Caramoan Islands are known for hosting several "Survivor" series, from Italy, Israel, France, Sweden, Bulgaria to Serbia and now the US. During this tour, the Gota Village Resort - the noted sort of hotel accommodation in the area - was closed for another survivor shooting. As the in-charged, I booked the three of us at the so-called Breeze and Waves Cottages located at the Paniman beachfront.

It was a long way to the municipality of Caramoan in the province of Camarines Sur. We took the Van ride from Naga City to Sabang at a cost P120 per head. We then transferred to a boat ferrying us to the Guijalo port for another P120 per pax. We hired a tricycle to carry us to the Breeze and Waves Cottages for P300. The road from the port to Caramoan town proper is concrete, but the barangay road towards the Paniman beach is rough and potholed. All the stresses brought about but the long journey were fully compensated by the wonder and unsullied beauty of the place and its surrounding islets.
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There is nothing to expect much of the room accommodation. But fortunately we were ushered to the upper floor of a concrete, new building. The three of us occupied one room costing over a thousand pesos a night. The owner also served as the housekeeper personally tended to our needs, from food to gadgets, like snorkel, to boat rides for island hopping. We arranged everything at the cottage except for the first dinner which we opted to spend at the nearby La Playa Camp and Picnic Grounds.
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On our first day, of course we arrived at lunchtime, we took a stroll along the sandy beach. I myself wonder why still plenty of villagers thrive in the remotest place such as this. We came across fishermen hoisting their boats to and from the sea; women washing clothes along the beach, children playing around. On the other hand, since they earn a living from the sea then definitely they have no choice but to live next to it. When we tired, we ordered afternoon snacks at La Playa Camp and spent some time singing the videoke before strolling our way back to the opposite side of the village. This time we passed by the Survivor Workshops, took a pose and went on. We arrived at the stone walls separating the Paniman from the Gota village. We entertained ourselves with picture taking until the dusk fell on us. That night we drunk ourselves with brandy to sleep.
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Rising early to catch our scheduled island hopping, we gathered all our snorkelling gadgets, packed snacks and lunch, eye shades and sunblock lotions, and settled on the boat. We hopped on 8 islets, 2 of which are the famous venues for Survivor tribal council. These are the Naglahos and Matukad. We intended to do snorkeling at the islet fronting the high-end resort called Hunongan Resort, just to have a peek of its grandoisity. Rocks forming littlest isles added to the wonderment of the surroundings. It is such God's wonderful creation!
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The 2 nights-3 days trip was a complete getaway, absolutely business-free, yet a definite respite at a very affordable value of roughly P2,000 a person. We were all happy to have experienced the world class adventure of a very captivating Caramoan Islands.
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Posted by crisbernal 21:49 Archived in Philippines Tagged naga philippine_tours budget_travels island_adventures island_hopping caramoan_islands camarines_sur Comments (0)

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