A Travellerspoint blog

Homecoming is More Fun in the Philippines

With various reasons to visit home in Surigao!

sunny 39 °C


Home visit to Surigao will soon become our family's annual event primarily to celebrate the death anniversary of our patriarch, Crisanto Sr.


This visit however was more reasonable to attend various celebrations. Bro-in-law Jun celebrated with his immediate family their barangay fiesta on May 8. Mama Dulcing casted her vote during the National Elections on May 9. The Gastardo family celebrated the first death anniversary of Papa Tantong on May 15, along with the thanksgiving party of nephew Entoy who passed the Bar Exam (exam in November 2015 and the results released in May 2015).


Our very own barangay celebrated the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of land farmers just like Papa Tantong on the 15th of May. That same day, Auntie Isidra, the youngest sister of our father, also celebrated her birthday.


The whole week we were in Surigao del Norte, we kept visiting also the beaches. Actually of the same shoreline but in different points, Anao-aon, Ipil, Mabua, and Looc; all with unique pebbled beaches.


The most picturesque of all is Looc Beach. Looc, a local term, means that the small place is enclave of three city barangays, Mabua, Punta Bilar and Lipata, actually enclosed by mountains and hills. During my school years, the place was a secret paradise, that was what made us climb the Mabua or Punta Bilar hills to get there or swim the sea from Mabua to cross. But this time, the beautiful place is already accessible by car; a concrete road is in place crisscrossing the hills and connecting Punta Bilar and Mabua.


It was not only swimming that I enjoyed during this home visit. I attended birthday celebrations of some of my friends back home.


Posted by crisbernal 22:18 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches road_trip nature beach driving pebbles family roadtrip sunbathing white_sand surigao philippine_tours budget_travels day_tours daytour family_tour Comments (0)

Christmasing is More Fun in the Philippines

Part 2 - My Family's Tour to the Northern Philippines

semi-overcast 29 °C


This was the time of year when holidays were too long: Dec 24 & 25 fell on Thursday and Friday, while Dec 30 & 31 fell on Wednesday and Thursday. There were 2 working days left in December, so my sister En had filed leave of absence to join the whole trip.

Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Right before entering Vigan Heritage City, a wild adventure is catered to you by this bridge - the zipline ride - where fun is enjoyed more because of the green surroundings, luscious green silhouette of Bantay (local term for mountains) above and the deep emerald waters of the river below.


Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

Preservation of heritage is the greatest challenge we Filipinos face day after day. We aren't just citizens of the Philippines but of the world and so our customs and traditions easily evolve in the constant change of time. We are so adaptive that we keep abreast with latest trends, hips and chic. We are so creative that we fuse olds and news or transfigure old into new with ease. We are so resilient that we are able to stand the test of time. We are so forgiving that we have the propensity to forgetting the past.


Fortunately, some labored to keep it. And Vigan succeeded in one aspect - preserving the heritage houses.


En overlooked the distance over hotel booking and so Ilocos Sur was the first destination instead of La Union. We got reasonable room rate at the Cordillera Inn inside the heritage site.

San Juan, La Union

Sands and Waves are abundant in the area.

Known as the surfing capital of the north, the place offers beyond riding a surf board, standing willfully on it, and cutting waves by it. The fine sand shoreline is already a treat so conducive for a morning and/or afternoon stroll. The marvelous sunset view is another treat that you shouldn't miss. Dipping, picnicking, camping, drinking, and more definitely are must-dos 'round here.


We stayed for a night at Costa Villa Resort before heading back north.

San Fernando City, La Union

It is a wonder that maximizing nature and creating something out of it could result to a beautiful infrastructure. With Mediterranean as its architectural inspiration, the Thunderbird Resort exudes a European cum Middle Eastern beauty that blends in the Philippine climate. Perched on top of a hill, the design of the hotel cascaded down the cliff towards the West Philippine Sea. And the sunset, a nature's marvel!
One word to define it, Luxury. One word to describe it, Beauty. Well, Luxury and Beauty is definitely expensive. Therefore, it only caters to rich people or to not-so-rich but can afford individuals.

Security is tight here. Gate is always closed to onlookers. If you want to gain access to and have a feel of Mediterranean ambiance? Check in or get a pass from local government officials.


I wished the Thunderbird Resort was open for non-check in guest so that I can show the expensive resort to my family.

Paoay, Ilocos Norte

I don't wanna dig the history of the church here but know that Paoay's is one of the 3 old baroque churches in the Philippines.
The interiors is so cozy that one might think nothing has even been done since time
immemorial. The exterior design is already a treat, and with natural aging, its endurance to the test of time, has become even more wonderful. Be there before sunset to witness the color of the walls changes with the sun's hues.


Visit Paoay Church when you make a tour to Bagac and San Nicolas for the Marcos Museum and the Sand Dunes.


Laoag City, Ilocos Norte

The La Paz Sand Dunes in Laoag City was a surreal experience of a desert! I never thought Philippines has it... If you dreamt of a middle eastern sand dune experience, head to north. The desert-like land mass stretched from Paoay, Ilocos Norte to Laoag City; the aerial view (while the plane your taking is landing) would confirm its vastness.


Known to be the set of Panday Films, it now offers various adventure to enjoy the place: sand boarding or surfing, sitting or standing on the surf board, and the extremely wild 4x4 drive (up, down and around).
Another natural wonder!


Our room accommodation was actually located in the next town, Pasoquin, reasonably away from the city.

Burgos, Ilocos Norte

Never miss the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations, Burgos.

Best known for its white stone formed like a lion king pedestal, one could find the place more than limestones. Getting there is already an adventure, the way is adorned with giant windmills, the pathway is crammed with shops.


Experience a dramatic entry by riding a pony which footsteps cadence with the slapping of the waves against the rocks of different colors - yes, there's black, white and pink. The movement of the tides and the windy environment had shaped the rocks into natural sculptors. It's nature at its best!


Bangui, Ilocos Norte

The northwest is very windy and it is appropriate to harness such natural phenomenon to produce renewable and sustainable energy. The windmills has been there before the governments of the world intensified its drive against climate change. What made it more amazing is the way these giant fans were planted along the Bangui coast curve. The site is so beholding, a testament to preserving and maximizing nature and thus produce one natural wonder.


Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

With its prestine white sandy shoreline, Pagudpud's beachfront is indeed living up to its monicker, the Boracay of the North. The absence of bars and clubs, hordes of people, loud music, blinding lights, cafes and food stalls, is fully compensated by the presence of very affordable resorts, flocking of fishermen after the usual catch, slapping of waves, a beautiful sunset, and strange closeness to nature.


Include this destination in your itinerary when doing tours in the northwestern Philippines.


It was a very far vacation destination and a long ride, but it was a perfect family week.

Posted by crisbernal 14:34 Archived in Philippines Tagged landscapes beaches churches buildings people road_trip nature beach ruins driving family drive roadtrip white_sand laoag christmas_day heritage_houses philippine_tours budget_travels day_tours imelda_marcos city_tours landtrip daytour rockformations family_tour land_trip Comments (0)

Celebrating Mother's Day is More Fun in the Philippines

Giving Mama Dulcing a Birthday Trip to Davao City

sunny 30 °C

Mama Dulcing turned 70 on July 2, 2015. And so I gave her an unforgettable birthday celebration - a trip to Davao City.


Now that she's a widow, I thought of bringing her along with me in my trips as much as possible. The opportunity came when I got an engagement in Davao with the Padada Water and Sanitation Cooperation in Padada, Davao del Sur. I scheduled my final output presentation on July 18 so I planned our trip on July 17-19. This was Mama's first time in Davao City.


I hired my cousin Abeth, who operated a taxi in the city, to drive us around. He picked us up at Davao Airport when we arrived that morning of April 17. Curious about breakfast of Paksiw Tuna, we headed to Ah Fat Restaurant at Victoria Plaza. But paksiw was not served that time so we opted for Chinese foods, siomai in particular being Mama's favorite.


After breakfast, we decided to pay a visit at San Pedro Cathedral. This is the only place in the city where you find beggars of any age but mostly are old women. Then proceeded to Museyo Dabawenyo. The exhibits are enough to get a glimpse of Davao history and heritage. What amazed me was the fact that entry is free and a dedicated guide is assigned to every group of tourists.


Then I remembered an article about a Bone Collector in Davao. So I inquired from the museum the direction to get there because my cousin who lives in Davao for so long did not know about it. Finding the location of the museum was quite challenging, it is located in the remote community towards the seashore.

I advised my company that we rather have our lunch somewhere near the Davao Crocodile Park. Unlike the crocs farm in Palawan, here the people are free to roam around without a guide. We circled the park to find all animals other than the crocs, like turkey, sheep, birds, tiger, and butterflies. Tired, we then found a place in the Tribu K Mindanaoan, a venue within the area that serves meals.


Having enough for the first day in Davao, we asked our drvier to drop us at First Pacific Inn where I booked for 2 nights. Mama and I slept the whole afternoon and walked around the neighborhood to find a place to dine that night. We passed by the People's Park, durian fruit stands, and Gaisano Mall.


The next day was my scheduled presentation and I can't bring Mama to Padada. So I arranged my cousin to pick her up from the hotel and bring her to their place to meet his family and my other relatives in my father's side. And in the afternoon, I followed her there at my cousins' residences in Bangkal village. I met my cousins in Davao and Nanay Sinda, their mother, and later we shared together the dinner.


The next day was Sunday and I proposed to my cousin's family to come and share a tour with us after hearing the mass. Unfortunately, most attractions are closed on Sunday, so we ended up malling at the new SM Premier in Lanang. Then they sent us off to the airport that afternoon.


Before taking off, I asked Mama D if she enjoyed her vacation. Of course, she did, which made me feel so elated.


Posted by crisbernal 23:25 Archived in Philippines Tagged parks nature museum family birthday davao philippine_tours day_tours city_tours daytour family_tour bone_collection crocodile_farm birthday_gift Comments (0)

Observing Holy Week is More Fun in the Philippines

Holy days in GL Siargao with long-time Friends

sunny 30 °C

Since my immediate family relocated to Manila, our home vacation to Anao-aon, Surigao del Norte is now scheduled every summer. That summer of year 2014, Papa Tantong, Mama Dulcing, and En's family flew to Surigao via Butuan airport a day before the holy week ahead of me. I completed my deliverables first before flying home on April 2.


Upon having my itinerary known to my friends back in Surigao, my bestfriend Dupong posted an invite to visit Siargao Island this time with another bestfriend Jane Mellorin. Siargao Island is part of the Surigao del Norte and facing directly to the Pacific. Thus it is one noted destination for surfers, having big and better waves, especially during the annual international surfing competition every September or October. It was an attractive proposal, a 3-day stay in Dupong's residence in General Luna (GL), observe religious rituals in a different place, and celebrate summer in the island. Take note that my last visit in the island was yet in year 2003. I was sure that lots have happened in a decade's time. In fact I heard that the island's tourism development is running at par with Boracay Island.



And I said yes to the invite, of course. On Holy Thursday, I headed directly to the port area upon my arrival to the city straight from Butuan Airport. Jane and I still have to take a boat to the island and that trip to Dapa (a municipality with a port in Siargao island) was the last for the holidays; the next trip would be on Black Saturday. Being the last meant that plenty of passengers were vying for the limited seats. It was in fact fullybooked and we didn't have tickets. Fortunately, my older sister-in-law had connections in the ticketing management and managed to sneak two tickets for Jane and I. And so we're off with the overloaded Roll On-Roll Off vessel.


Dupong arranged a car transfer for us and we breezed away instantly upon arrival. In few minutes, we were at his residence and readied for the holy mass of the Last Supper. After dinner, we went to Isla Cabana Beach Resort which he partly managed with his cousins. We ended the day with a pizza and some bottles of beer at Baile Bar.


It was indeed a Good Friday. The three of us participated in the Walk of the Cross commemorating the road of Jesus to crucifixion. The weather is fair although naturally humid and I was treated to a free walk-tour around the GL town proper. Then we booked for an Island Hopping (minus Dupong who was busy with the religious rituals of the day) and I came to see anew the Naked Island, Guyam Island, and Daku Island. We did white sand rolling in Naked Island, took our sumptuous lunch of grilled tuna at Daku, and swam the clear seawaters in Guyam.


We intended to take an hour surfing lesson but it was cancelled. We instead exhausted ourselves dipping in the Isla Cabana shores along with other tourists. And that following night, we gulped more bottles of beer at Baile and enjoyed a very quiet bar ambiance in respectful observance of the Good Friday.


We left the island first hour of Black Saturday. It was short but remarkably wonderful escape during summertime in Siargao Island.


Posted by crisbernal 23:17 Archived in Philippines Tagged beaches nature beach island friends friendship surigao island_adventures island_hopping siargao holy_week Comments (0)

Christmasing is More Fun in the Philippines

Part 1 - My Family's Tour of the Subic Bay

sunny 28 °C


One memorable Christmas in my life!


My parents were in Manila to celebrate for the first time with me and my sister, En. So I decided to have an overnight escapade in Subic. And it was my whole family's first time in the area. En pre-booked a family room at Hotel Venezia for a night on December 25.


We left our place in San Jose del Monte City at six in the morning and arrived in Subic at around noon. We took the NLEX, then SCTEX, and TIPO Express with Jun (En's husband) driving. This was another road trip aboard our Toyota Innova.


We have literally a day to get around Subic so we wasted no time than headed straight to Ocean Adventure. En and I have been there once but it was like 8 years ago and many things have changed in the park. I was personally glad that despite Papa Tantong's delicate health condition, which by that time he experienced difficulty of breathing when in the crowd, he really enjoyed all the shows with Mama Dulcing. Even our little Wanwan did enjoy the Dolphin and Sea Lion shows.


We spent our half day of Dec 26 roaming around the Bay area, from the white beach to the US Navy port and the old fortress. We checked out at noon and headed back home.


I was so glad to have treated Papa to a vacation in the West Philippines as it was our last Christmas with him.

Posted by crisbernal 22:39 Archived in Philippines Tagged christmas_day family_tour land_trip Comments (0)

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