A Travellerspoint blog

Finding Chocolate Hills is still Fun in the Philippines

Rounding Bohol after the 2013 Earthquake

View ATSP in Bohol on crisbernal's travel map.

I miss doing sidetrips during out of town conduct of official business. I really subscribed to the saying, "Doing Business with Pleasure."


My latest trip to Bohol was an opportunity to do sidetrips to check out my favorite tour destinations after it suffered an intensity 8 earthquake in October 2013. My entry point was Tubigon, Bohol as I came from Cebu. With the Tubigon Church alone, which appeared to be crashed to pieces with tattered half of the roof remaining and an altar, I could already see what the rest of Bohol tour destinations would look like. That feeling was reinforced by the site of the Clarin Church, which only the facade remained standing whole. Had you been to St. Paul's Ruins in Macau, China? That's what you will find in there. So sad and pitiful!


After my 3-day official job was done, I asked my driver to pass by Carmen Chocolate Hills and then Sagbayan Peak before heading back to Tubigon on my way to Cebu. More devastation can be observed along the way to Carmen, Bohol. When I reached the Carmen's viewdeck, I noticed some damaged structures: the plastic roofing covering the stairways, the side trail, the bell tower, and the photo deck. The Sagbayan Peak however seemed intact.



But the famous Chocolate Hills still stand in hundreds. They stay majestically wonderful! On our way to Sagbayan from Carmen, we found one hill though cracked violently by the quake.


Posted by crisbernal 08:05 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Doing Pilgrimage is More Fun in the Philippines

Reaching the Regina RICA in Tanay, Rizal

sunny 29 °C

Gastardo Family

We are a family of Roman Catholics. We grew in the church, we learned many great things in the church, I earned many beautiful experiences that helped me grew to what I am now because of the church. My parents are devotees of Mother Mary, and they raced us the same. My sister and I are active members of the Association of Children of Mary Immaculate, even until now that we are far from our home parish.


To find a very special religious place dedicated to Mother Mary is such an exciting destination. In fact, I have been planning to pay visit to Regina RICA since I discovered it through a funrun invite. That funrun was supposed to be in Tanay and when I searched for anything more to do in the place, I have browsed the Regina RICA.

Private Car

You really need to charter a private car to get to Regina RICA.


For our family to come from San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, the trip took us about 2 hours to get there. I doubt if there's public transport that passes through or nearby. We followed the Marcos Highway all the way to the end (seems like the end though). My father kept asking how far it is yet every time we passed a village, an intersection, a corner turn. Just be patient though, since you will only notice some signage about the destination beyond San Jose, Antipolo.

Things to do

Be ready to walk up and down the hill. Start your climb through the St. Mary's Trail, then wait for the orientation (for firsttimers) at the foot of the 71-foot Mother Mary statue. A 10:40am holy mass is daily celebrated, should you miss it, say a prayer at the adoration chapel inside the statue.


Subscribe to ATM (Adopt a Tree Movement); light a 20-peso candle; and join the MOM - at least for us (don't know if this million signature campaign will last for a long time).

There's only one small restaurant inside the area, with limited choices, easily get crowded and emptied with food stocks. Better bring in foods and there are plenty of picnic areas and cottages to unload them all.


RICA by the way stands for Rosarii Institute of Contemplation in Asia. Take note, the place is closed on Tuesdays.

Posted by crisbernal 16:48 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Climbing Baguio with Family is More Fun in the Philippines

Being True to My Promise to Bring My Whole Family to Baguio City

overcast 23 °C

Nov 1 and 2, 2014 were the final dates. These were the days I fulfilled my promised to bring my whole family to Baguio City.


I have been mentioning the idea to my parents since September 2014 several days before Papa Tantong suffered another heart attack. After spending few days in hospital, he was sort of saying his last wills and goodbyes. We, his children, were trying to lighten up his mood and give him will to live on. And one of the things that inspired him is the thought of spending a day or two in Baguio City. This was my father's first time; second time for Mama Dulcing, my sister En, En's husband Jun, and Jun's sister Cel. Our little baby Wanwan and her nanny, Tatang, are also first timers in the summer capital city of the Philippines. I was quite confident this time to tug along the whole family (8 in total) because we have our private car.


Then we climbed the Cordillera Mountains on November 1, the All Saints' Day. We started the drive at 4am from our residence at San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan. We took the NLEX (Noth Luzon Expressway) at Bocaue entrance and then the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) at Clark entrance and finally the TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan Expressway) and exited at Carmen-Rosales point. We drove through the Maguilas Trail from TPLEX exit point (right turn) to Binalonan, Pangasinan where the trail merged with the MacArthur National Highway. Then we took the Kennon Road from Rosario, La Union on our way up the cool city. This was a drive that will put to test my bro-in-law's agility for a long drive, with Papa as the coach; Papa was used to be our driver but not for this tour. With senior citizens and a baby on board, we crossed the whole stretch of the way at 80 to 90 kph.


I booked our one night's room accommodation at the Baguio Teacher's Camp with the help of my colleagues in the Department of Education. Special mention goes to Sir Dakila Nadua of DepED Central Office. We reached the camp at around 11am and were given one whole 3-BR cottage. While waiting for the cottage to be cleaned and ready for us, we picnicked at the camp grounds to eat our breakfast provision.


Having settled our stuffs at the assigned cottage, we commenced our city tour by visiting the Wright Park, posing at the horse-drawn carriage, followed by a groupie at the Mansion, then we climbed up the Good Shepherds, shopping some ube jams from its souvenir shop. Then we decided to take rest in the afternoon. At night we visited Burnham Park and Camp John Hay and participated in the crowd at the Night Market. That following dawn, we indeed experienced chill of 15 degrees Celsius cool climate. We did our religious tour in the second day, starting the morning with holy mass at the City Cathedral and lighting candles at the Lourdes Grotto. That afternoon before we went down, we dropped by the Philippine Military Army's Camp. Back to Pangasinan, we also dropped by the Manaoag Church.


We made the wrong turn on our way back from Manaoag, Pangasinan. We ditched the Maguilas Trail because it was dark already and followed the MacArthur National Highway only to be trapped from Urdaneta City to Villasis to Carmen for 4 full, painful hours. We arrived home at around 1am. Nevertheless, my family enjoyed the Baguio trip.


Posted by crisbernal 16:41 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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