The COVID19 pandemic caused a number of businesses to close down as an after effect to strict community quarantines. On the other hand, it also paved the way for creative enterprises to be born where old ideas are given a fresh take. The coffee business is one of the enterprises that grew together with the increased interest in biking and the need for people to take a breather from the restrictions. In celebration of International Coffee Day, I went around popular coffee shops in a destination that made merged coffee and sights, making it a hit among metro residents.
The province of Rizal sits on the eastern borders of Manila. With the Sierra Madre ranges on its side, the rugged mountain terrains of the province is a favorite destination for local travelers, bikers, day trippers, or those who simply want a quick escape from the city. It offers a whole range of activities for any kind of traveler - from a chill brunch with a view in Antipolo to the mountain explorations of Tanay. With the province attracting of hundreds of guests weekly, it was not a surprise that coffee spots started popping up in the area and, more importantly, getting a lot of attention on social media.
Kaulayaw Cafe (Sumulong Highway, Antipolo)
Kaulayaw Cafe is the challenger of this cluster since it sits right beside a soon-to-open international coffee brand. Established in 2019, it prides itself to being a homegrown brand that supports local coffee farmers. It’s name is a Filipino word that means intimate companion that embodies the intimate vibe of the place best enjoyed by friends, family, and couples, and the intimate love for coffee.
The cafe sits on the famous ridge along Sumulong Highway that offers a breathtaking view of Metro Manila. The strip has long been popular and has been a fave spot to watch the metro’s city-lights. Kaulayaw has three floors and all floors have a good view of the city. Each floor has a designated view deck so you don’t have to worry about getting ahead of everyone for the “perfect” cafe spot.
They have a wide selection of coffee drinks, beverages, and meals. I got pork BBQ and an iced caramel macchiato. I enjoyed the meal and the coffee while enjoying the view of the city. I mean who would not enjoy having late lunch with a beautiful view.
Overall, Kaulayaw Cafe is great spot to unwind to break away from the stress. You get a good mix of good coffee, good food, and a great view. You would probably find me working or reading a book in the cafe if I live close to the area. Be forewarned, though, that it is a popular spot in Antipolo and getting a table may take some time, especially on a weekend.
Getting there: You can take the LRT 2 to Masinag and take public transport to Antipolo. Ask the driver to drop you off at Kaulayaw Coffee.
Playlist Cafe (Grand Heights Subd., Antipolo)
Tucked in a secluded corner of a subdivision in Antipolo, Playlist Cafe was born on the year of the pandemic. It is interesting that it has managed to keep itself on the ground despite the business and quarantine situations. It was one of the cafes that hit the mark of the public when the economy started to open after ECQ was lifted.
Playlist Cafe sits on a more secluded spot along the hillsides of Antipolo. The three-level cafe offers an overlooking view of the metro matched by the greens of the untouched hills of the city. The view of the city though is not as striking as that of Kaulayaw and Cafe Augusta. It does get an extra star for having a more relaxed ambiance compared to the other cafes in the area.
If you have plans of exploring the city, Playlist is the best way to start your day. They have an all-day breakfast menu and good coffee to with it. The food, the view, and the relaxed ambiance starts your day slowly with a kick of caffeine. The third level of the cafe is a view deck where you get to peek at the metro and enjoy the view of airplanes on its final approach of Runway 24 of NAIA.
Playlist Cafe is ideal for those looking for a chill spot where you get to enjoy a cup of coffee and a meal whether you are alone, with family, or with friends. The place is void of the usual chatter which makes it good for the talks that go with a round of coffee. The cafe, though, caps on their guest’s stay in the same way that your spotify playlist has a start and finish. I guess this would allow more people to be accommodated. I just wish that a little consideration be given during the down time of the cafe where there are no guests waiting to come in.
Getting there: You can take a public utility vehicle to Antipolo simbahan where you need to transfer to another PUV for Ortigas Extension, Cainta, or Tikling. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Provincial Capitol. Once you are at the Provincial Capitol, walk to the Clean Fuel Gas Station along the Sumulong Memorial Circle. You can them take a trike stationed at the gas station to Playlist Cafe.
Cafe Augusta (Grand Heights Road, Antipolo)
Cafe Augusta is THE breezy coffee cafe in Antipolo. Established in 2016, Cafe Augusta is my preferred coffee stop from this coffee run. I guess it stood out out for me for its perfect mix of accessibility, vibe, food, and metro view. The laidback and relaxing ambiance made me stay longer than usual.
Located atop a hill along Grand Heights Road, Cafe Augusta is a Greek-inspired cafe that offers an amazing view of the metro’s skyline facing the Makati - Laguna de Bay area. Its location and how the cafe was designed allows the breeze from the Sierra Madre ranges to flow freely through the compound which “cools” down the place even at the hottest time of the day. It was like enjoying the sunny weather while sitting on a patio at home and sipping an ice cold drink.
I was not able to try out their meals and coffee since my visit to the cafe was between breakfast and lunch. But I was able to try out their Blue Ocean Cooler, sansrival, and nachos which was perfect for the hot weather. The food selection was perfect as I enjoyed the relaxing ambiance of Cafe Augusta. I guess, the place is good for evening get-togethers.
Cafe Augusta was a perfect spot to slow down on a weekend in Antipolo. It is an easy escape that made me feel like I was at a cafe by the beach because of the breeze. If they played beach-themed music, it would have completed the vibe.
Getting there: From the Playlist Cafe, take a trike to Cafe Augusta.
Coffee Rush (Eastridge, Binangonan)
This is another coffee spot in Rizal that took day trippers, riders, and the general public by storm. It was in 2019 that Coffee Rush was established and has a number of cafes under its portfolio but the branch in Binangonan is taking social media by storm for fusing coffee and an overlooking view into one photogenic spot. Among the cafes that I visited for this coffee run, Coffee Rush Binangonan is, no doubt, the most instagrammable.
Similar to Playlist Cafe, Coffee Rush Binangonan is tucked inside the posh village of Eastridge. The cafe sits along a ridge that overlooks the metro and the Angono-Taytay area. Its dining area is al fresco and arranged around its a central garden area giving the place a homey feel. It was designed and landscaped to allow guests to be creative with their shots with the hope that it will end up on social media feeds.
Coffee Rush has all-day breakfast and main entrees in its menu. They also have a variety of coffee and non-coffee based drinks to match up with their meals. One thing that caught my attention was that their service is fast. The vibe is more upbeat but you also get the usual influx of socmed users moving around for pictures.
Coffee Rush appeals to the younger audience probably because of its socmed appeal. This is a coffee spot where you can enjoy coffee, the view, and countless photogenic spots at your disposal. My take though is having a table or picnic umbrellas along its outdoor dining areas would be appreciated by its guests. You also need to make sure that you bring a fan and a lot of patience especially on weekends where you can expect the rush and longer waiting hours to enter the outdoor cafe.
Getting there: From the Rizal Provincial Capitol, take a PUV to Cainta and asked to be dropped off at McDonald’s Tikling. Cross the walkbridge to other side and take a PUV for Binangonan and ask the driver to drop you off at SM Angono. Once in SM Angono, cross the highway to the waiting shed across SM Angono. That is the pick up point of the Coffee Rush shuttle. You can check their FB page for the shuttle schedules.
Kape-hingahan (Harmony Homes, Angono)
Kape-hingahan is not your usual kind of coffee spot. It is a rustic and no-fuzz outdoor coffee hangout whose main draw is its panoramic view of the Ortigas skyline. Its usual patrons are cyclist and riders who traverse through the area and Kape-hingahan is a rest spot where they get to rest and relax before they continue on with their planned travel itinerary.
Located in one of the highest points of Harmony Homes in Angono, Kape-hingahan is an outdoor cafe that offers the bare necessities - your preferred beverage, a snack to go with it, and a wide space where you can find your own spot. Its biggest pull is it panoramic view of the Laguna de Bay and the Ortigas skyline. You get to enjoy the breeze because of the open space but they do not have any shaded area to protect you from the sun especially at high noon.
The coffee spot has a limited menu to offer. Unfortunately, I was not able to sample any of their coffee drinks because they have a cut-off at 11am and resumes operations at 3pm. I reckon that riders drop by in the morning and locals come in the afternoon to enjoy an unadulterated view of the sun setting behind the cityscape.
Getting there: From SM Angono, you can take a jeep for Tikling or Cainta and ask the driver to drop you off at the Shell Station. You can hire a trike to bring you to Kape-hingahan. Make an arrangement with tricycle driver to either wait or return for you since there are limited tricycles in the area.
Cafe in the Sky (Muzon, Angono)
I first came across Cafe in the Sky on social media and the post gave an impression that it was a hit, most especially among riders who ply the route on this side of Rizal. It was another spot that offered a panoramic overlooking view of the metro and was said to be a perfect rest spot for those who are looking for a quick break. It piqued my curiosity that I included it on my list of coffee spots to check out.
Located on one of the highest points of a village in Angono, Cafe in the Sky is one coffee spot that got hyped on social media. It is not exactly a coffee spot for coffee lovers but more of a resting spot for cyclist, riders, and locals. It is actually just one of the makeshift stalls in the area that offer meals and snacks for those visiting the place. The place does offer a panoramic view of the metro and Laguna de Bay but don’t expect it to be as good as the views of the cafes mentioned above.
They have a limited menu list that includes the usual silog and snack meals. Their flavored iced coffee list are the ready-made powder drinks that we have in the market. What stands out though is how friendly the manangs are. The space has limited seatings but their are other stores in the area.
Similar to Kape-hingahan, Cafe in the Sky is a no-frills coffee shop. It is a good spot to rest after a long bike ride where you can enjoy a no-frills drink while enjoying the view. It has its own rustic appeal that may caters to a no-frill-no-thrill kind of person.
Getting there: Ask your driver from Kape-hingahan to drop you off at Cafe in the Sky. Both rest stops are in the same area.
Typica Coffee (Rodriguez Ave., Taytay)
Typica Coffee merges two concepts in one coffee stop - coffee-on-the-go and a neighborhood store. Reading through its story, the coffee shop was originally a sari-sari store that was converted into a coffee cafe. Its good coffee, cool exteriors, and concept caught the attention of the public.
The shop is not exactly the kind where you find yourself cozily warming up on its chic interiors. In fact, you cozy up by the road side. Think of its vibe as that of a sari-sari store with tambays only this time the exteriors are chic and the tambays are chic coffee lovers. Like what I said, Typica managed to fuse two concepts in one amazing business idea that is a hit.
The cafe’s menu has a selection of pasta, pastries, and coffee and the place has a small area for those who want to “dine in”. The space though can only accommodate a small number of diners. Their food selection and coffee are good that you won’t mind bringing home another batch to enjoy.
Typica Coffee’s unique styling, concept, and good coffee make it stand out despite having deviated from the usual coffee shop set-up. It is a minimalist in its truest sense that majority of its guests do come and go. It may have not the usual set-up or the amazing view but it has managed to keep conversations going over a cup of perfectly made coffee.
Getting there: From the Shell Gas Station in Angono, take a PUV for Cainta. Ask the driver to drop you off at Tropical. Take a trike on the side of Tropical Hut Hamburger Restaurant to Typica Coffee.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I am a coffee drinker and my day doesn’t start without having a cup of coffee. It is a day starter for me and a perk me up drink when work starts getting a bit messy. I prefer it hot when the day starts and cold when its midday. The beverage is a good companion when I am reading a book alone and makes conversations easier when I am with my family and friends.
Interestingly, coffee shops and stations have been on a steady increase the past year. The popular cafe brands are getting challenged by local stores that offers something different, be it in terms of concepts and/or cafe locations. In a sense, it has become an attraction in an attraction. It has created its own attention by fusing good coffee with a good view and a good conversation.
Getting there: You can take the LRT 2 train to the last station (Antipolo). From there you can take a jeep or FX to Antipolo. Alternatively, you can take a jeep or FX in Cubao, Robinsons Galleria, or Shaw to Antipolo or Angono.
The eastern side of Bulacan is turning out to be an exciting destination to explore. Its rugged terrains have long kept its secrets of natural beauty that is slowly getting the attention of local travelers. Thanks to the current health crisis and community restrictions that we have started to appreciate destinations that are equally beautiful and close to the metro.
The Malaangan Cave is one of the destinations in Bulacan that started to make a buzz when travel restrictions were lifted. Its picturesque limestone formations, online, was enough to pique anyone’s curiosity. Located along the eastern boundaries of San Rafael, the cave and spring is popular spot among locals. The cave largely remained untouched by both tourism and quarrying.
The hiking trail weaves through the community and along the banks of the river. The timing of our visit was not ideal as a typhoon recently hit the area that inundated the river’s banks. Most of its tree covers were damaged that it was not able to provide us with protection from the sun. Our guide was explaining to us that water from the mountains flooded their area carrying with it debris and that the community was still recovering from the calamity.
A clearing along the trail will give you a perfect view of its karst landscape. The towering rock formations are beautiful from the ground that it was like you entered a totally different dimension. Its beauty was captivating that a TV station had turned the clearing into a set of an enchanted village for one of its shows. The set was partly damaged by the typhoon.
Some of us clambered up the limestone formations to get a perfect view of the landscape of its surrounding areas. There is small trail to the top but take extra precaution because the ascent is steep with jagged rocks. The view from the top is also amazing and made the climb worth it.
We headed further up the trail to the cave opening. Malaangan Cave is a pass through cave where you can enter from one point and exit the other. The entrance of the cave was partly hidden by foliage. We had to slowly go down into mouth of the cave before we could traverse through the cave.
It was pitch black inside the cave. It did not help that we didn’t have any flashlight with us so our phone lights had to suffice. The passage way was small and we really had to watch our steps throughout the traverse. It did not help that we came in after a typhoon so mud has accumulated inside the cave. We had to crawl like spiders and balance our weight on the small crevices on the side of the cave. We had to get a good grip on the rocks lest fall face first on knee-high mud. It was physically challenging and fun at the same time.
As we exited the cave, we were treated with the amazing views of its popular rock formations. The rocks formation was a perfect reward after hustling through the narrow cave. Clean water was flowing through the formations so we got to clean ourselves with fresh spring water.
The towering rock formations was a real beauty to admire and to capture. It took hundreds of years for nature to craft such natural beauty for us to explore and admire. It gives you that kick on nature’s immense creativity.
After getting all mudied up with the cave adventure, we decided to cool down by the river. The freshwater from the caves flows out to merge with the river. It is the perfect place to just relax after getting yourselves exhausted from spelunking.
The riverside is also an attraction in itself. The community has built picnic huts and tables along the banks for their visitors who want to enjoy a relaxed provincial ambiance. The water of the river is clean and cool to the skin so we really took our time to just enjoy a relaxing dip.
Some deeper parts of the river resort was off limits because of the debris that came from the uplands when river overflowed. Our guide said that this was the part where one can actually jump off from a tree branch into the water. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to do it but, who knows, I would probably get to do it soon.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Malaangan Cave and Springs is just one of many destinations in Bulacan that is getting a lot of attention this pandemic. Owing to its accessibility matched by the thirst to explore or simply go out of our homes, it was a perfect spot where one can simply take a breather from all the craziness happening around us. The timing and the need both aligned to bring this side of Bulacan into the tourism limelight.
Our economy is slowly opening up with more vaccines being made available to us for free. Getting the majority of the population vaccinated is a key point in getting us out of this health crisis. This would allow us to start getting back some normalcy into our lives, and that includes getting a window to travel and explore. Get vaccinated when you get to your turn. Getting vaccinated and practicing health protocols diligently protects you and the community of the destination you plan to visit and explore.
Getting there: You can take a bus in Cubao to Baliuag. Once in Baliuag, proceed to the jeepney terminal near the Iglesia ni Cristo church and take a jeep to Tukod in San Rafael. You can hire a tricycle in Tukod to Malaangan Cave. Make sure that you make an arrangement with your tricycle driver to pick you up at a later time.
This city is one of the popular destinations in the Philippines. With the city located at 1,470 meters above sea level, it’s cool climate and rich history attract thousands of local and international tourists especially during the Christmas and dry season of the country. It has its own fare share of popular urban legends and stories that go with a visit to this tourist destination, the latest of which is the controversial meet-up with a “friend” by a celebrity after a highly controversial break-up. What’s the latest from this city? Let us go around and explore, as a friend, and discover what’s new in Baguio City.
Baguio City was once a rancheria or a rural settlement during the Spanish period. It was originally called Kafagway with its original community located along the area where Burnham Park is now located. It was the Americans that established the city as a hill station to escape the summer heat of Manila - a move that prompted the its development into a highly urbanized city. Baguio has grown from a simple community to a bustling and highly populated city. It has managed to fuse its colorful history with its advancement as a premiere urban center in the Cordillera.
The city has a collection of all-time favorite destinations - Mines View, Botanical Garden, Session Road, Wright Park, etc. But beyond the usual, there are also “subtle” attractions in the city that can spark a different way of appreciating the cool weather of Baguio City.
Kennon Road View Point
The Lion’s Head in Kennon Road is probably the most iconic image of Baguio City. Every tourist traversing this highway would always make a stop at this landmark for a quick photo op as a confirmation that they are already close to the City of Pines. Locals and Baguio enthusiasts have seen how the Lion Head have changed and shifted its look as efforts and attempts to beautify and give it a fresh look. Personally, I still prefer its original look.
Further up the road is another stop that is as interesting as the Lion’s Head Landmark, the Kennon Road View Point. The viewing deck gives you a panoramic view of the surrounding rugged terrains of Tuba, Benguet and Kennon Road. The view point is a multi-level structure that you can explore and enjoy the rustic views. I hope that the management can improve the facility like setting up a small cafe to make it more appealing. I mean it would be great to be sipping coffee while enjoying the view of Kennon Road snaking through the mountainside.
Baguio Orchidarium and Athletic Bowl
At the heart of the city is Burnham Park, famous for its iconic boating experience along Burnham Lake. The urban park, originally designed by Daniel Burnham, featured the century-old city pond (Burnham Lake), the Igorot Park, the Melvin Jones Grandstand, an Orchidarium, a Children's Park, and the Althletic Bowl. It is the “center of fitness” in the city where you can improve your fitness by boating, biking, walking, or running in open air. You get to breathe in the fresh air while working out in the open.
Baguio’s version of Central Park is not just for kids. There is a corner for green panthers, or what we know more today as plantitos and plantitas. The Baguio Orchidarium is an enclave located in one of the corners of Burnham where local plant entrepreneurs have their produce on display. The garden has gazebos where you can have a dose of plants of varying sizes and kind - from flowering plants to hard-to-find ones. Plant lovers need not go far from the city center to enjoy and get their hands on plants to add to their growing collection.
Fitness enthusiasts can also have their field day in the Burnham Park area. We are not talking about the Melvin Jones grounds but we are referring to the Athletic Bowl located on the other side of the park. The compound has a track oval, tennis courts, volleyball courts and a swimming pool that is open to the public with minimal fees. The great thing about this city is you can start your daily runs from your hotel to the sports compound, do your usual workout routine at the Athletic Bowl, and walk your way back to where you started. If you are still up for it, you can still rent a bike and enjoy a leisure ride with kids and kids-at-heart at Burnham Park.
Baguio Bamboo Sanctuary
The east side of the city is home to another cluster of the city’s tourist destinations. Mines View Park, The Mansion, Baguio Botanical Garden, Wright Park, and Good Shepherd are all located on this side of the city. Apart from the city center, this area is probably the most visited by new and returning tourists here in the city.
The Baguio Bamboo Sanctuary is a new destination to add to this group. Located at the St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Pacdal Liteng, the bamboo garden is a collection of different types of bamboo species that line along a series of trails within the seminary grounds. The growth of the plants created an amazing garden that refreshes your mind and spirit as you walk along the trails. The place is very photogenic that it allows your creativity to play with it as you take photos along the way.
The garden is a sanctuary and there are spots along the trail where you can sit down and just breathe in the tranquility that the place has to offer. There’s even a nearby hill that you can hike up where you can get a view of the community in its immediate area. The Baguio Bamboo Sanctuary is a perfect place to slow down and relax after hours of exploring.
Camp John Hay Forest Bathing
I remember Camp John Hay, when it was still an American Base, as a place where you catch a glimpse of the “American” lifestyle. You are talking about Sundays spent with Coney Island Ice Cream, fluffy cotton candies, picnics, and running around the nice children’s playgrounds inside the camp. However, the camp has changed much now that the Americans have left. It remains to be a good destination to visit and explore for its more laidback vibe.
There are a number of things that you can do in John Hay. It is a good place for a picnic because of its wide open areas. You can also go on a food trip in the area trying out the mainstream and local restaurants in the area. But did you know that John Hay is a good alternative to go horseback riding?
The Yellow Trail in the camp is a popular hiking trail in the area. It snakes through the forested area of the camp where you get to breathe in the fresh air and the beauty of nature. There are a lot of trails to explore and you can actually go from one spot to another inside the camp via the trails. You can enjoy Forest Bathing as you take on these trails, either on foot or on a horse.
Filipino-Japanese Park and Pine Trees of the World Park
Have you ever wondered what was the triangular park at the foot of the hill leading up to the Baguio Convention Center? It is that small space that you see on the left side as soon as the bus goes down from the flyover to turn right going uphill. That is the Filipino-Japanese Park.
The memorial stands to honor both Filipino and Japanese soldiers who fought for their respective countries in World War 2. The small tower stands as a reminder of the renewed friendship between the two countries regardless of the cruel war history that placed the two nations into different sides. It is one of the well-maintained Filipino-Japanese Memorials in the country.
Just right across the memorial is the Pine Trees of the World Park. I have heard about the area before because of a Peace Tower that serves as its focal piece. My curiosity got the best of me to discover a picnic place that is void of the crowd, especially during this time. The park sits within the Burnham Park Reserve and is a perfect spot for a picnic, without the usual crowd and under the shade of the trees that Baguio is known for.
Baguio Art Installations
Baguio City is a UNESCO Creative City so do not be surprised to find art installations in and around the city. Blank walls become canvasses of local artists where they get to showcase their creativity. While you get to see a great deal of history and culture at the Baguio Museum or the Museo de Kordilyera, artistry is infused in the daily lives of locals.
Session Road blooms into an artist and merchant haven on weekends with its regular weekend flea market. The whole stretch becomes a venue for artists and would-be artists, both young and old, to showcase their talents in music, movement, and art craft. Even the street becomes an art canvass where anyone can pour out their artist in them.
Art cafes and murals have become a common attraction in the city. Street murals is part of the urban scene that it challenges your own creativity to capture the image with your own flare. Art exhibits find their way in areas frequented by locals and tourists. Baguio City breathes creativity in every space available making it a huge canvass for self-expression.
Mirador Heritage and Eco Park
On the western side of the city is a small cluster of heritage attractions that includes the Diplomat Hotel, the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, and the Mirador Jesuit House. These attractions sit close to each other along one of the city’s highest points. Their location provides amazing views of the city and its surrounding areas.
The Mirador Jesuit House has taken steps to develop the area around their enclave. Officially opened in the last quarter of 2020, the Mirador Heritage and Eco-Park is one of the latest attractions to hug the limelight. The park sits on the Mirador hillside to showcase a rock garden, its own bamboo sanctuary, and meditation areas along its terrace that offers amazing landscape views of its surrounding areas. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes as going around its steep trails can be quite challenging.
Its main attraction is the Mirador Hill Peace Memorial that overlooks the western part of the city and Tuba. A Torii Gate was installed, facing the Lingayen Gulf, with its bell made from an unexploded bomb that landed on the grounds of the Jesuit House. It was installed to remind us of the horrors of World War 2 and to serve as a symbol of peace and spiritual healing.
The terraces, where the memorial stands, offer an amazing panoramic view of the rugged terrains of the western side of Cordillera. The views and the fog slowly reeling in gave a feeling of flight when I was there. I sat down by one of the benches to just enjoy and take in the fused beauty of nature and urban set-up. I plan to head back here just to sit down, read a book for hours, and hopefully to catch the sunset.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Baguio City has been getting new monickers as a destination - ““Break-up Capital of the Philippines” and the latest being the “Friendship Capital”. These tags come with stories and urban legends that more often than not we just laugh at and shrug off. But the city is more than just these stories. It is an urban destination that is constantly moving to re-invent itself to provide something new while keeping its old charm. It is a city of pines that is an all year-round destination, not just for summer, that is best enjoyed with family and, of course, friends.
As the Philippines enters the longest Christmas celebration in the world, we all look forward to be able to travel again. Baguio is definitely on the list where we expect to see an influx of tourist these “ber months”. I understand that we all need to take a breather but that comes with a responsibility when we travel. The responsibility to keep yourself safe and the people around you. Follow local health protocols, mask up, keep your distance, and get vaccinated. Remember that the way out of this pandemic largely depends on our behaviors and discipline.
Getting there: Victory Liner, Genesis Bus Line, and Solid North have regular trips to Baguio City from Manila and vice versa. Although, only Victory and Genesis have limited trips as of this writing due to the national and local travel restrictions. Guests needs to register at Baguio City’s Visita App prior to their intended date. RTPCR test or proof of vaccination is required to be allowed into the city.
As of this writing, ALL non-essential trips to Baguio are NOT allowed.
Family vacations are part of our annual plans. We always map out a trip every year where we get to bond while exploring and enjoying a new destination. We plan to either to get lost in the maze of a bustling city or go on a day trip by the beach. There is a unique thrill of getting “lost” together as a family.
My previous blog post had me stumbling on one of our pre-pandemic trips - Guimaras. It was an unplanned day trip that we squeezed in when my wife attended a medical conference in Iloilo. Guimaras is an island-province located in the Panay Gulf that is popular for having one of the sweetest tasting mangoes in the world. It is also an island that is blessed with pockets of white sand beach coves where one can enjoy the perfect mix of sun, sand, and sea.
How do you enjoy a day in Guimaras? Read on.
The first attraction to welcome you in Jordan in Guimaras is a 300-sqm plaza that holds the recognition of being the smallest plaza in the country. The plaza was once the holder of the Guinness record of the same recognition. The triangular plaza sits on the fork of the road that connects the Jordan pier to the Guimaras Circumferential Road so it is definitely not hard to miss.
The triangular plaza has a small statue of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, as its main centerpiece. It is properly maintained with small flowering plants to give it an added vibrant touch. I guess the place is a good afternoon spot for locals to enjoy a lazy afternoon.
Guimaras Provincial Capitol
From the smallest plaza, we headed up to the sprawling Guimaras Provincial Capitol. The center of governance of the island is located at the heart of the town of Jordan. The province was initially a sub-province of Iloilo until it was proclaimed an independent province in 1992. It has 5 municipalities under its jurisdiction - Jordan, Buenavista, Nueva Valencia, San Lorenzo, and Sibunag.
The best spot to enjoy at the Capitol Grounds is the huge “Guimaras” sign. I guess most Philippine destinations have this kind is sign where you get to enjoy the tourist vibe. We did not miss this one out and it did help that we had a very creative and innovative guide to take our pics.
Foodstop: The Pit Stop
A visit to Guimaras is not complete without having a taste of their world-famous mangoes. After all, the island is known for this sweet tasting fruit so it is not a surprise that locals have infused the produce into their delicacies. You would be surprised how mangoes give a different twist on normal dishes.
The Pit Stop is one food stop that you should check out when you visit Guimaras. It has managed to use mangoes on popular dishes like pasta and pizza giving it a unique and sweet twist. Most of the dishes they serve have the local fruit fused into usual dishes. Mangoes go beyond fruit shakes and salad at The Pit Stop in Guimaras.
Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery
The Our Lady of the Phillipines Trappist Monastery is another popular spot in Guimaras. Established in 1972, it is home to 35 monks and is the only Trappist Monastery in the Philippines. The monastery makes and sells local goods from the produce that they harvest in the monastery.
The sprawling grounds of the monastery is very calming. You can visit the church and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. There are also prayer and meditation spots where you can enjoy the tranquility that the monastery has to offer. You can then cap off your visit by shopping for the souvenirs and produce at their shop.
Guisi Lighthouse and Beach
The Guisi Lighthouse is probably my favorite spot in Guimaras. This Spanish-period lighthouse never failed to give me that thrill and excitement with exploring it even if this was my second time visiting the place. I guess my interest and fascination with local history have always kept a hold on me.
The Guisi Lighthouse is an 18th-century lighthouse built to guide ships traversing the Panay Channel. The old octagonal lighthouse stands at a height of 17.5 meters with a keeper’s house made of stone. The Spanish structure is now in ruins with the lighthouse still standing but all rusty. I remember climbing up the old lighthouse and getting awed by the view from its decks.
The lighthouse in ruins gave it a more dramatic vibe in pictures. We were lucky that our guide was creative enough to choreograph our poses for our photos. We enjoyed the views and the story that go with the place. I just hope that they can take on a more proactive approach in the preservation of the Guisi Lighthouse.
Natago Beach and Floating Cottage
Guimaras is also an island that is blessed with beautiful beach spots that make it a good weekend or day beach destination. We did not miss out on this and we hired a boatman for a quick beach escape. Weekends in the province is not complete without a saltwater dip.
Natago Beach is a secluded beach spot that we enjoyed for its cream-colored sand and rock formations. The beach can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride from Alibuhod Beach. You can walk around the sprawling resort grounds before settling in along the shaded part of the shoreline to enjoy the beach.
We had a great time getting our dose of the sun, sand, and sea at Nagtago Beach even if it was only a few hours. We were treated to the wonderful views of Guimaras’ rugged shoreline before we capped off our day adventure with a quick snack at one of the floating cottages on Santa Ana Bay.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Family trips, planned or spontaneous, create opportunities where you get to enjoy exploring destinations and bonding with family members. It creates great memories that the everyone gets to share and reminisce through the years. The destination may be varied but the shared memories stay with everyone.
This pandemic hit us hard and I am pretty sure that we had family travel plans that were shelved until better days come. But that should not stop us from creating new memories. A quick trip to a nearby park, movie binging together, or quality family time while dining out can make new ones. This is actually the best time to create these new memories. We all need it. Everyone does. Be creative in finding new spots within the neighborhood. Remember, the destination does not make the lasting memory, the shared experience does.
Getting there: The gateway to Guimaras Island is the City of Iloilo. There are regular flights to Iloilo from major Philippine cities. Once you are in Iloilo, you can proceed to the port of Ortiz where you can take a 20-minute ride via a pump boat to Jordan in Guimaras. There are guides available at the port of Jordan.
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Today marks the second time that NCR goes on the strictest quarantine classification in the Philippines. The next two-weeks will be a complete shutdown of the country’s biggest metro effectively halting its businesses and confining its residents inside their homes. The hard lockdown would also mean that only authorized individuals are allowed to go in and out of Metro Manila.
Unlike last year where I spent more than half of the year locked down in Metro Manila, this year I am locked down in Baguio City. Thanks to a bout with dengue a few weeks back that I got locked out in a city with a more relaxed quarantine classification. The latest update had me thinking that, if I were to be quarantined out of Manila, what Philippine destination would I like to be locked in? Here are my top 7 preferred destinations to be locked in.
The northernmost province of the Philippines is probably on everyone’s travel bucket list. The picturesque views are enough to make you want to visit Batanes. But more than its rustic beauty, its rich culture and laidback community life make Batanes a perfect location to spend a lockdown.
Batanes’ land and seascape is hands down one of the most beautiful in the country. I have always described it like a scene from a movie set. It is breathtaking and will hold you in awe for its ethereal beauty. If you know how to bike or drive a motorcycle, it would be an advantage for you because you can take the time discovering each destination while on “hiatus”.
There is a lot to see and experience in Batanes. It is laid back and rustic.
I guess the best “lockdown” asset of Batanes is its homey and warm community vibe. Everybody was friendly and was wearing a smile. Locals make you feel that you are part of the community. I enjoyed going around Basco on a bike because it felt like you’re biking around your village. Getting locked down in Batanes makes you feel that you never left home.
Read my three-part blog on Batanes here: Batanes (Part 1) / Batanes (Part 2) / Batanes (Part 3)
Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan
If I were to get “stuck” in Dona Remedios Trinidad, I would want a bike to be quarantined with me. This would allow me to ride and discover the hidden wonders of this municipality in Bulacan. I get to enjoy exploring and enjoying the laidback vibe of the place.
Dona RemediosTrinidad is this pandemic's biggest revelation.
DRT came out as a winner during this pandemic because it rose to fame when the first strict lockdown was lifted. Who would have thought that Bulacan has a rugged beauty on its eastern borders? Its unassuming but beautiful destinations, laidback vibe, and proximity to the metro made it one of the biggest discoveries during the course of the pandemic. It is still a new destination with a lot to discover.
Dona Remedios Trinidad is a good destination to escape the metro. The laidback vibe gives you a relaxing vibe to enjoy the lockdown without losing out on enjoying the outdoors. You can plan out days where you can bike out, explore, and discover its nature trails and attractions. You are guaranteed to have your days busy exploring.
Read the three blogs about DRT here: Tila Pilon Hills and 13 Falls / Talon ni Eva
San Vicente, Palawan
The beach is probably the most attractive destination to be locked out for me as I am a beach bummer. Hence, it won’t be a surprise that a beach destination like San Vicente is on my list. This beach destination is getting a lot of attention and development but it has managed to keep its rustic provincial vibe.
San Vicente is just one of the many destinations to explore in Palawan. It boasts of the longest white sand beach in the country spanning 14 kilometers from end to end. It also has a lot of beach spots, islands, and inland natural attractions to discover. You get to enjoy a variety of activities and attractions that you wouldn’t mind getting “quarantined” here.
You get to enjoy the simple beach life on this side of Palawan.
Having a beach accessible to you during a lockdown is a very good idea and having 14 kilometers of white sand to enjoy is not bad at all. It would be nice waking up and enjoying a cup of coffee by the beach. I wouldn’t be missing out on the beach and working from the beach would be awesome. I get to enjoy the rural ambiance of San Vicente while enjoying its popular beach strip.
Read my 2-part San Vicente blog here: San Vicente (Part 1) / San Vicente (Part 2)
Tibiao is famous for having pioneered the infamous kawa bath. This unique way of bathing will have you enjoying a warm dip in a kawa or a large wok. Heated through wood fire with leaves and flowers as aromatics, it is a nice experience as you enjoy the relaxing dip surrounded by nature.
I loved the simple and rugged living in Tibiao.
Staying in Tibiao is living the provincial life in its true sense. I stayed in a bahay-kubo in a secluded area along its hillside. The only sounds that you will hear at night are the sound of crickets, the river water flowing, and the occasional sound of the tuko. It was Philippine rural living at its finest.
I have said it before and I will say it again, Tibiao is a perfect destination to disconnect with the fast-paced urban life. The place makes you appreciate simple living and that most things that we have are actually privileges rather than needs. When things get monotonous, you can choose to explore the many natural wonders of Tibiao or enjoy an afternoon of splashing around the river. You get to enjoy a full day passing by that you realize that the best things in life are indeed free.
Read about my Tibiao experience here: Tibiao
The island-province of Guimaras is another destination that is worthy of more attention. It is an island that will keep you entertained throughout the lockdown because of its numerous attractions, both natural and man-made. It is laidback where you will get to enjoy rustic living with the occasional island exploration.
Guimaras is an island that can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride from the city of Iloilo. It is popular for having the sweetest mango variant in the country and the fruit is the province’s primary tourism draw. The island is also a popular beach destination in the region with its pocket beach spots around Guimaras.
Guimaras Island can keep you busy discovering its spots while locked out.
The pocket beach spots make Guimaras a good location to be locked down. The beach strips are easy escapes when things get monotonous and you get to variety of these to explore. The history buff in me will also enjoy the colorful story of Guimaras’ past. Not to mention, enjoying the delectable mango dishes that locals have prepared using the sweetest tasting mangoes of the province.
Read about my 2-part blog on Guimaras here: Guimaras (Part 1) / Guimaras (Part 2)
Siargao is one of my favorite island destinations in the country. I simply love its tropical and community vibe that you get when you walk around town. Interestingly, it has maintained its rustic feel despite the attention and interest that it is getting from local and international tourists.
Siargao is an island of adventure and I love it!
This tear-shape island on the eastern side of Mindanao is THE surfing capital of the country. Surfing is the main tourism draw of the island and most of its guests come here to try out this adrenaline-pumping activity. So you can expect to spend some time at Cloud Nine where you are either enjoying the views of surfers doing their thing or you are riding the waves.
Siargao’s vibe is different and unique. It is a top Philippine destination and yet it has maintained its rural vibe. You get to enjoy the simple provincial life without losing touch on the fun and vibrant nightlife. The island is more than a surfing spot because you can go around and explore its popular and hidden attractions. If I get locked down in Siargao, I would probably end up learning how to ride a motorcycle and the waves of Siargao.
Read about my 2-part blog on Siargao: Siargao (Part 1) / Siargao (Part 2)
I fell in love with Lake Sebu after I visited it in 2019. It was a place that I would not have any qualms visiting again anytime. I loved the subtleness and bucolic life of the T’boli - the richness of their culture and colorful traditions. Lake S’bu is a verdant destination where you get to enjoy their simple ways of living in the midst of its natural beauty.
Located in South Cotabato, Lake S’bu is the ancestral domain of the T’boli tribe of Mindanao. Lake Sebu is at the heart of its tourism draw and the lake is popular for the magical blooming of its lotuses. The place is also blessed with natural attractions that one can explore and enjoy. It is a destination that gives you a perfect mix of Philippine culture and beauty.
The T'boli culture is worth learning and immersing while in Lake Sebu.
Time slows down at Lake Sebu. Its vibe, their way of life, and its natural beauty will make you enjoy getting locked out of Manila. You can slowly take each day learning something new about our culture or exploring the natural beauty of the place. By the time you wind back to the metro, you are coming back with a new appreciation of Philippine culture and beauty.
Read about my Lake Sebu travel here: Lake Sebu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I know that most of us have grown impatient with this new round of community quarantine mandates. It has restricted our movements and, for some of us, hoped that we were in a place with a more relaxed restriction. I was fortunate that a bout with dengue in mid-July locked me out of Manila and I am sitting this quarantine out in Baguio. This was the very reason why I thought about writing down this blog. I know that we all miss going places so let us visit these places virtually.
Most of us are finding these restrictions difficult. I feel the same way. There are some restrictions that I find unnecessary but I find this current one imperative. Let us all sit this through safely so we can get to travel safely in the future. While we are still waiting inside our homes, let us share our travel memories virtually so we can inspire others through these challenging times.
Malate is probably the most colorful district in the city of Manila. Its humble beginning started when the chiefs moved to this enclave after losing Intramuros to the Spaniards. The arrival of the Americans saw its development as a posh residential area only to be rundown by the Japanese during the liberation of Manila. As it rose from the ruins of the war, it evolved to become the center of commerce and tourism of the city of Manila, together with Ermita.
Located on south west end of Manila, the district prides itself for having one of the best views of Manila Bay and the skyline of Manila. It serves as a home to many institutions - the Department of Finance, De La Salle University, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, to name a few. I took an afternoon walk in Malate to discover how it creatively fused urban life and its rich history creating its own distinct metro vibe.
Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Standing on the former site of the Manila Carnival Grounds, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex is home to many Filipino athletes. Inaugurated during the 1934 Far Eastern Championship Games, the land it sits on was donated by the family of Vito Cruz. Its four stadiums - track and field, swimming, baseball, and tennis; were designed by renowned architect Juan Arellano in art deco style. It is the biggest sporting venue styled in art deco in the country.
The complex was damaged during World War 2 since it witnessed one of the fierce fighting between Japanese and liberation forces. It was reconstructed in 1952 just in time to host the 1953 Asian Games. The 11-hectare complex has since hosted sporting and civic events including the only Beatles concert in the country in 1966. It was home to many great Filipino athletes that include Flash Elorde, Lydia de Vega, and Eric Buhain.
Just recently, I had the chance to watch our very own gymnast, Carlos Yulo, compete during the SEA Games in 2019 at the sports complex. It was great to see that a public clamor to stop its “development” has succeeded to preserve its cultural and historical value. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was declared a national cultural landmark in 2017 ensuring its preservation for the future generation and their Olympians.
The Harbour Square is probably one of the popular destinations in Malate as it offers a magnificent view of the Manila skyline. I initially thought that the area, including the adjacent ASEAN Gardens, was part of Pasay City. I got corrected after my research showed that it serves as the boundary between the two cities, favoring the city of Manila.
Harbour Square is a complex that houses a number of restaurants prior to the pandemic. It became an instant hit among locals because of its panoramic skyline view of Manila, be it a day or evening shot. It has become a good spot to relax and unwind after a day of exploring the city.
Naval Station Jose Andrada, Roxas Boulevard
Located along the southern end of Malate’s portion of Roxas Boulevard, the naval station serves as the general headquarters of the Philippine Navy. This government institution is the branch of the Armed Forces that patrol and defend Philippine waters. I was surprised that their HQ was a lot smaller and was located in Malate.
The Navy Head Quarters was once known as Fort San Antonio Abad, after a restored Spanish-period fort close to the area. The front lawns of the station has a canon and a navy chopper on display. The display is to honor the valiant men and women who served the naval force.
Manila Yacht Club
One of the most striking views at Harbour Square are the neatly lined yachts along the shores of Manila Bay. These boats are under the care of one of the oldest elite clubs in the country - the Manila Yacht Club. It was established in January 1927 and has also represented the country in the Olympics. The club has been actively supporting the Philippine Navy and in training our athletes.
The view of the yachts lined up along Manila Bay is striking and impressive. One cannot help but to slow down and admire the view and I could just imagine the beauty of the Manila Bay sunset from its docks. I will probably swing by to this spot along Roxas Boulevard one od these days to catch the sunset.
MET Museum / Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas
One of the most striking structures along Roxas Boulevard is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Its concrete buildings look like a fortress guarding the country’s fortune. Well, it is the treasury office so its fortified structures are understandable. It does look grand when you pass by it along Roxas Boulevard.
Within the compound of the BSP also stands the MET Museum, home of the country’s modern and contemporary arts. Its three floors houses cultural and historical artifacts including artworks of Felix Hidalgo. Unfortunately, the museum was still closed during the time that I was exploring Malate and that makes this museum part of my museum bucketlist in Manila.
Marcela Agoncillo Ancestral House
Tucked in the busy street of MH del Pilar is the ancestral home of Marcela Agoncillo. She was the heroine who sewed the Philippine flag that was raised in Kawit, Cavite. The Malate residence was where the family stayed after their return from their exile in Hong Kong. The house was later burned down during the liberation of Manila.
The house now function as a regular office and a laundry shop. The only sign to remind you of its historical value is the historical marker that was installed at the front of the house. The house is where Marcella Agoncillo lived in her senior years until her death in Taal in 1944.
North Sy-Quia Apartments
The North Sy-Quia is one of the posh pre-war apartments in the Malate area. It was built in 1938 and was one of three apartments built by the family. It was designed with a mix of modern and art deco style and had the installation of the first private elevator.
The North Sy-Quia Apartment still stands to this day with the same posh vibe. It is the oldest apartment in the Malate area. It is amazing that this quirky apartment has hosted some prominent artists and personalities.
Who would have thought that the vibrant Remedios Circle was once a cemetery? The Malate Cemetery was a Spanish-period cemetery that has a similar design as the Paco Cemetery. It was destroyed during World War 2 and was demolished to become a open air park/rotunda.
Unlike other nightlife areas in Manila, the party scene in Remedios Circle grew organically where local businesses took the risk in opening in the area. It was the opening of Cafe Adriatico that started the development of the vibrant nightlife of the area. It is also in this area that the LGBTQ movement started taking a stronger presence in the country.
Our Lady of Remedies Parish
More popularly referred to as Malate Church, the Our Lady of Remedies Parish was created in 1588. The church, headed by the Augustinians, was in charge of taking care of the faithful locals of Malate. The area back then was defined as an aristocratic barrio because it served as a meeting and recreational place of the Spaniards and Filipino meztizos.
The present structure was constructed 1864 and is the third to be built after the first two was damaged. The church was rebuilt completely and only the facade, which was designed with a mix of Muslim influence and Mexican Baroque, was retained. Again, the Japanese burned down the church and only the walls were left standing. The priests who lead the church and some parishioners were taken by the Japanese and were never seen again. Restoration of the church started during the 1950s under the auspices of the Columban brothers.
The Malate Church was dedicated to the Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, the patroness of childbirth. An image of the Our Lady of Remedies, that was brought to the church in the 16th century, remains enshrined in the church.
Rajah Sulayman Park
At the heart of Malate is a public square facing Roxas Boulevard and Manila Bay - the Rajah Sulayman Park. The place was a popular bathing spot along Manila Bay during the Spanish period and the reclamation and development of Roxas Boulevard, during the American period, cut the plaza from the shorelines of the bay.
The park was improved in 2002 to make it another Malate night life area complementing the nearby Remedios Circle. However, the project was eventually cancelled by the preceding city mayor. The plaza is now one of Malate’s centerpiece with a statue of Rajah Sulayman and a dancing fountain. Adjacent to it is the famous family restaurant - The Aristocrat.
Manila Bay Walk
Malate has the longest share of the Manila Bay Walk along Roxas Boulevard giving the place the best view of the Manila Bay sunset. One of the best memories of my stay in Malate was being able to watch the majestic sunset of Manila. I fondly remember enjoying the view of the sun going down while munching on a pint of ice cream.
The Manila Bay Walk is a strip of walkway that lies parallel to the breakwaters of Manila Bay. Walking along the strip, you would be treated with the beautiful Manila skyline on one side and the view of the Manila Bay on the other. It is a favorite afternoon spot for joggers and bikers.
The Bay Walk is a great place to catch an unadulterated view of the Manila Bay sunset. The experience will also be enhanced further once the beautification and restoration of Manila Bay is completed.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Who would have thought that I would be surprised at my new discoveries when I went for a second look at one of the places where I once lived and roamed around? I remember back then how we enjoyed dinner at Aristocrat, not knowing that a few meters away was the ancestral home of hero. You could also have partied the night away at Remedios Circle not knowing if the person you are dancing with was a real person or a spirit that was once a “resident” of the circle.😝
One good opportunity that the community quarantines opened for me was that I got to explore the metro more. The limitations in travel had me exploring travel spots that are close to home and within my “neighborhood”. It gives you a remarkable insight of hidden gems that lives under your nose. Traveling does not need to be a plane or a bus ride away. You can start in your own area and discover where your feet will take you.
Check out my Malate Youtube video coming out on July 10, 2021 (Saturday) on my YT Channel: #ByahengOffTheGrid
Getting there: You can get to Malate by taking the LRT 1 and you can go down at either Vito Cruz LRT Station or at Quirino LRT Station.
The past 14 months of quarantine has been a challenge for everyone. Most of us try to find a semblance to the lifestyle that we were used to. For those who love to travel just like me, we were suddenly confined in our small spaces with very little travel options to consider. We miss riding planes, buses, or boats, getting lost somewhere in the Philippines, trying out local delicacies, and going local in unfamiliar places. It does not come as a surprise then that we grab on every opportunity to get lost and that was my case when I went on to slide it out to chase the falls of Mount Romelo in Siniloan, Laguna.
Siniloan is a humble town that was established in 1583 by two Spanish friars. There are three narratives on how the place got its name but the story that caught my attention was the story of three brothers who equally divided the land that they acquired. Impressed by the move, locals referred to it as “Siniloang”, a local word that meant justice, fair, and equality. The name later evolved to Siniloan as the town’s official name.
The town’s strategic location, along the Sierra Madre mountains, gave Siniloan a playground with nature. It has a handful of natural attractions that it got the nickname of “A Waterfall Sanctuary”. I guess, with our adventure of chasing its 3 of its 4 waterfalls, I could say that it has a unique way of keeping its waterfalls safe and sound.
Chasing the falls of Siniloan starts with an early morning trek up Mount Romelo. Standing at 300 MASL, the trek would take around 45 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness level and the how muddy the trail going up. You will be treated with amazing views of Laguna de Bay and the surrounding areas along the way which is a great way to relieve your mind and body from the hustling and puffing through muddy trails.
Relatively defined as an easy hike, the trek starts off with a steep ascent. It did not help that it rained the night before so the trail was pretty muddy. We jostled through the initial muddy ascent stopping briefly just to admire the view. Then, there was more mud. This time it was more slippery so keeping our balance was getting to be a challenge. We reached the first view deck where we caught the sun’s early morning rays. We were also treated with an amazing view of the town of Siniloan and Laguna de Bay.
We got back to the muddy trails to get further up Mount Romelo. These trails are on point when it comes to challenging your balance and your ability to holding off a slip, going for a well-calculated slide, or simply rolling up on the mud with a splat. We came up on a steel clearing where we enjoyed the sun and the fresh air before heading down to its chain of waterfalls.
Sampaloc Falls is the first of the four waterfalls of Siniloan. Located upstream, water cascades down a 40-foot rock surfaces into a round catch basin where you can enjoy a quick dip in its cold waters. The cold dip is a soothing relief after hiking up and then down Mount Romelo.
Find your spot to cool down and enjoy the scenery. The sound of the cascade and the view of the falls and its surrounding greens will re-charge you for the trek to the other falls. It was nice to see the falls in its full glory with its strong cascade.
Trekking down Sampaloc Falls was relatively easy from the “peak”. It was a bit slippery but, once you reach the riverbed, it will be easy heading up to the falls. The sound of the cascade got me really excited and its beauty energized me after a tiring hour of trekking.
Among the three waterfalls that we explored, Batya-Batya Falls was probably the most exciting because it involved crossing on chest-deep waters. The traverse from Sampaloc to Batya-Batya was relatively easy that involved trekking and clambering through rocks and tree roots alongside the river. The trail leads you from above the walls down to it entrance. The challenge is getting across the deep waters at the entrance of the falls.
A few meters of walking, from it entrance, one will be treated to the majestic view of Batya-Batya Falls. The two-tierred waterfall has a smaller cascade compared to Sampaloc Falls but the view of the two cascades will amaze you. The waters drop into a round catch basin that is said to be 18 feet deep before running downstream.
The place was like a scene from my fave movie “Jurassic Park” with its rock surfaces and the greens surrounding me. It was surreal walking the trail up to the falls because it seemed like I was in different place. It may not be as majestic as the other falls visited but Batya-Batya Falls has a unique and charming character of its own.
Buruwisan Falls is the most popular waterfall in the area. Towering at 180 feet, water cascades into a wide catch basin surrounded by lush greens where you can enjoy a quick dip in its cool waters. The falls got its name from the hardwood that once grew abundantly in the area.
Buruwisan sits on a ravine and can be accessed via a steep trail from the campsite located at the top of the waterfall. One would need to clamber down the rocks carefully to get to the base of the falls where you can get a full view of Buruwisan. She is a natural beauty to admire with her single cascade flowing down it enormous rock wall. After getting the initial rush of awe and taking pictures, I recommend that you find your spot where you can simply admire the majestic beauty of Buruwisan Falls.
The falls is the central area if you plan to stay overnight because the campsite is located at the top of the falls. Its rock walls are said to be ideal for rappelling although there are articles that it has caused injuries and even death. I guess some of these stories were true because locals have installed safety barriers at the campsite as a preventive measure.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Time constraint did not permit us to check out Lanzones Falls, which was another 15-minute trek from Buruwisan. I guess the physical requirement of chasing a peak and 3 waterfalls got the best out of our group that we were already good. We got our high of exploring and getting lost in nature. It was tiring and yet it was fulfilling. It was challenging but, in the end, we came out with a big smile amidst the mud and dirt of getting to the peak and chasing the falls of Siniloan. It was a great day of escape from the city!
One good thing that came out of the pandemic is that it opened an opportunity for local travelers to look around for destinations that is close to home. Exploring became a “backyard” activity where we get lost in destinations that we admittedly take for granted pre-pandemic. Since we have limitations with movement, these spots start getting the attention which is good at jumpstarting local economies where tourism is a main driver of revenue.
In the end, traveling is not about the destination. It is what you make of the destination.
Checkout my Mount Romelo Youtube Video on my #ByahengOffTheGrid YT Channel - #ByahengOffTheGrid Siniloan.
Getting there: Our Mount Romelo daytrip was organized by FB travel organizer, Trabesh. Check out their FB page here. Huge shoutout to Hull and Stern for my backpack that kept my stuff safe and dry.
The heat in Manila was getting to be unberable and what’s worse is getting stuck within the bubble with limited movement. I seriously thought that this year’s summer was going to breeze by without a much-needed dose of the sun, sand, and sea. So when I got the chance to make a quick weekend run to take in some vitamin SEA after a more relaxed quarantine was announced, I did not pass up the chance.
Catanauan is a municipality along the western coastline of Quezon, facing Tayabas Bay. The town was first established in 1686 but was first recorded as a pueblo on the map in 1734. However, there is evidence that supports that its existence pre-dates the arrival of Spaniards with the discovery of ancient burial sites artifacts in the area.
But Catanauan has more to offer beyond its rich history. Its rustic coastline offers a quick weekend escape to beach bums who are looking for laidback beach spot where you can just relax and unwind. Its close proximity to the island province of Marinduque also gives its guests the advantage of exploring two of the famous tourist destinations at the heart of the Philippines.
Camping it out in Catanauan
Catanauan’s coastline remain rustic and laidback despite having a steady tourism business in the area. I guess the popularity of nearby destinations have left Catanauan under the shadows of these spots giving it the opportunity to retain its pristine natural beauty. This is a good proposition to those who are looking to experience a raw beach adventure.
The best way to enjoy this side of town is to camp out along the white sand shoreline where you get to enjoy the views of the sea and the silhouette of the nearby Marinduque. The calm waters of Catanauan is inviting but take extra precaution because there are seasons where jellyfish abound. Some resorts have set-up safety nets to keep their guests safe from these sea creatures.
Strolling along the beach, you can explore the mangrove areas located on the right side of the beach strip. There are rock formations that you can explore on this side. The best time to explore the area is during the sunset where you get to enjoy a show of shifting color hues, just a bit short of the actual sun setting down the horizon.
Evenings are relaxed and amusing with the usual late night chats over a couple or cases of beers. Campers get to enjoy the cool wind from the sea and the gentle sound of waves rolling into the shoreline. We were lucky that night that we caught a glimpse of the Milky Way and we were able to capture it on photo.
The close proximity of Catanauan to Sta. Cruz, Marinduque give them shared access to two of Marinduque’s iconic attractions. It does not come as a surprise that locals offer island hopping trips to these spots as part of their tourism proposition. I did not miss out on the chance because these were also the two spots that I did not get to explore during a trip to Marinduque a few years back.
Palad Sandbar is a famous strip of white sand in the middle of Tayabas Bay, close to the island of Mongpong Island. The sandbar sways to the cycle of the waves as it only appears during low tide so timing your visit is crucial. Local guides are familiar with the timing so it is best that you heed their instructions.
Unfortunately, we missed out on the sandbar by a couple of minutes. The sandbar was already submerged by the time our group arrived at Palad Sandbar. Its white sand was still visible under a few inches of saltwater that allowed us to explore the submerged bar. Its clear water were inviting that I enjoyed taking my first beach dip for 2021, along with many beach goers.
Ungab Rock Formation
Ungab Rock Formation, located on the eastern coast of Mongpong Island, is the iconic natural rock formation of Marinduque. Its famous “arch” was naturally formed through soil erosion molded by the wind and waves of the waters that surround it. The centuries of molding by nature produced a beautiful natural rock arch that is now an attraction on this side of Luzon.
The Ungab Rock Formation is an interesting spot to explore but it did not really got me excited. I don’t know if it was the weekend crowd but it really looked like a normal beach spot that happened to have a cool natural arch. Don’t get me wrong, the rock formation was fascinating but I guess the surrounding area needs to look more appealing to its guests to complete the vibe. The crowd also made it difficult to find a spot where we can capture its best angle.
I would also recommend that the LGU and the locals work together in keeping the area clean. The beach spot has a lot crevices where you can see pieces of trash left by island hoppers. The locals should take the reigns of taking care of this Marinduque tourism icon.
On the Road: Girasole Flower Farm
Since we joined a weekend organized trip, we made a short stop to the Girasole Flower Farm in Candelaria, Quezon. The 1-hectare tourist destination prides itself for its sunflower plants that bloom the whole year round. In fact, its name was derived from its sunflower attractions.
The festive and fair-like atmosphere of the flower farm is highlighted by the different variety of flowers being cultivated and propagated. Couple it up with colorful structures from a kid’s storybook and you got a perfect IG-worthy attraction that people will line up for. It is a perfect spot where you can play around with your imagination to come up with that perfect profile picture for your social media platforms.
Girasole Flower Farm is undeniably a plantito/plantita heaven. The flowers are there to be admired and, if the admiration turns into wanting to own one, they can purchase to start their own collection. The farm caters to all ages and have something to offer from play areas to plant selections for hobbyist. If these stuff are not your thing, don’t worry because they have a small cafe where you can enjoy a snack and a refreshing cold drink to keep you relax while watching people do their thing.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
For a brief moment, I seriously thought that my summer 2021 was going by without my dose of vitamin SEA. But I am thankful that a last-minute decision to join an organized tour had me discovering a new destination where I got my dose of sun, sand, and sea. It was a a much-needed relief after months of having to stay at home with limited movement. The best part of it is that I also got to enjoy my first May rain shower while taking my saltwater dip!
The pandemic has changed much of our lives. I saw the excitement in the eyes of the joiners of the trip of having some sort of break from the confines of the quarantine restrictions. But what struck me the most was the excitement of locals whose livelihood were affected because of this health crisis. Again, let us travel locally first and help rebuild lives. Let’s help revitalize local tourism safely by traveling responsibly. And when you get your chance, get vaccinated. This is the only way that we can keep the people around us safe and the solution out of this pandemic.
Check out my Catanauan video blog on my Youtube channel - #ByahengOffTheGrid.
I clearly remember how relaxed I was last year when I checked in for my flight to Butuan City. It was an early morning flight in March and I was brave enough not to wear a face mask at a height when news of COVID19 hitting the country. I brazenly walked the halls of T3 without a mask. I only felt the need to wear a mask after seeing a fellow passenger boarding the same flight and she was carrying two crisp Japan Airline Duty Free Bags. I remember thinking… “shoot, may balikbayan from Japan at baka may dala (virus)”. Who would have thought that it was the start of a grueling year that changed the world?
The COVID19 pandemic changed the landscape of our lives. It managed to stop the world and keep us all inside our homes. In doing so, a lot of travelers, like me, were all confined in our corners daydreaming about our cancelled trips and planning future ones. Experts say that it will take us years before we can go back to the pre-pandemic normal that we once got used to. It is safe to say then that the health crisis has and will change the way we travel and how we travel.
Here are some of the major changes that we can expect now that we are slowly reviving our tourism industry.
> > > Research on your destination and its local health protocols. < < <
Research is one of the skills that seasoned travelers are very good at so this part of traveling will come very easy. The way we do our research will have to expand to include local health protocols of your destination. It would be a walk in the park if you are going to just one destination but can be quite tricky if you are planning to go on a multi-destination trip. At this point, local government protocols vary from
one destination to another.
Things to check are requirements on COVID19 test, health certificate, quarantine procedures, accommodation and itinerary, and the procedures when you arrive at the destination. This will help you save on time and money once you have these additional details with you. This can help you plan out your trip better in terms of time and additional expenses.
Planning your trips is not just about researching where to go, where to eat, and what to do. Knowing the health protocols of your local destination is THE most important part of the preparations. You can check out the social media pages of your destination or our local airlines’ website for an updated list of requirements. Remember that these protocols can spell out a great vacation time for you or wasting time on quarantine.
> > > COVID19 Testing is going to be a travel requirement. < < <
Get your nose ready for the nasal swab for that COVID19 test before taking a trip. This test is going to be staple in the coming years whenever we travel. Again, different LGUs have different approaches with some asking for RTPCR tests while others are okay with Antigen testing. You would have to include this additional cost in your travel budget although there are some government agencies that offer discounted rates for local tourists.
Based from my experience, RTPCR tests are more expensive based on the schedule that you need the results. Antigen is more cost and time efficient because you get the results within the hour at a lower rate. Again, you would need to check with the LGU regarding their testing requirement because you don’t want to spend on a test that they won’t consider and acknowledge. If nasal swabs are not your thing, the Philippine Red Cross offers saliva tests which some LGUs acknowledge upon entry. The swabs take a little time to get used to but, if you are a frequent traveler, you will get accustomed to it in no time. Hahahaha! And yes, please do not be a selfish a-hole by fabricating your COVID test results. Don’t put the lives of locals at risk. This kind of action smells of cheap desperation.
> > > Register on the LGU’s Contact Tracing / Visitor Registration App < < <
I have seen different local governments launching their own contact tracing apps and, most of the time, they also require visitors to register for easier monitoring. Some of these apps serve as digital repositories of your travel documents, monitoring your entry and exit from your destination, and can also function as a contract tracing mechanism as you go around exploring. They also have updates on travel requirements so this apps or online links can be useful to local travelers even before embarking on the trip.
It is also important that we take contact tracing mechanisms seriously for our safety and the locals that we interact with during the trip. I also recommend that you have your own personal log of where you have been and who you interacted with during the day. These simple mechanisms of recording can significantly help in controlling the spread of the virus in the event of an infection. Let us be responsible travelers by proactively recording these details.
> > > Alcohol, Facemasks, and Face shields are not part of travel necessities. < < <
Apart from your OOTDs, personal accessories, and mobile phones and gadgets, these three will now form part of our travel necessities. We all know that self-discipline on personal hygiene is very important in keeping you safe from COVID19. I guess most of us may have gotten used to it already and have already created hygiene behaviors around it. What is important is that you need to pack extras for the duration of your trip. If you can bring a little more to share with the locals that would be very much appreciated.
Apart from these new travel necessities, keeping your distance when interacting with locals and fellow travelers is also a major shift in our travel behaviors. We always need to keep in mind that we might be carrying the virus so keeping our distance is our way of showing that we care and respect the people around us. These may be hard in a certain set-ups but it is best that we enjoy each other’s company with the distance. One would probably argue that you had a negative test when you arrived. That is true but what you don’t want to happen is to bring the virus home with you. If you can’t help it, keep your mask on.
> > > Get vaccinated. < < <
The best way to beat COVID19 and help us get back to the old normal is to get vaccinated. There is no known cure yet on COVID19 and our best armor against it is to get inoculated. Vaccines, whatever brand it may be, have been proven to prevent the severe cases of COVID and death. This is our best protection especially for us travelers who love to wander around where we get to interact with different people, be it locals or fellow tourists.
A lot of countries are opening their doors to tourists who are already fully vaccinated. It is the safest way that they can protect their people and keep their tourism industry afloat. I hope that we can also do the same here in the Philippines and, more importantly, I pray that you would do your part of protecting yourself and the people around you by getting vaccinated against COVID when you get to your turn. This patriotic act will save your life and will keep you safe as you go around exploring the Philippines.
We can expect these changes to stay for quite a while and there is also a huge chance that additional protocols be imposed as time goes by. As much as we hope for a uniform approach on tourism protocols, there are a lot of variations and it is best to first check with the LGU of your destination. What is very important is for travelers to respect and abide by these protocols. Please do not be a pain in the as* and act boastfully as if your presence in the area is a right. Remember that you are just a guest in their place. Also, responsible travelers do not take shortcuts especially on tests. We don’t put other people’s lives in danger.
Beating COVID19 is easy if we take on the responsibility of having the right disciplines inside and outside our homes. We need to develop the behaviors needed to lessen our chances of getting and passing on the virus. All these changes involve self-discipline and that plays a huge part in the bigger picture in controlling this pandemic. Entitlement does not have a part in this crisis and your cooperation and discipline will determine how fast we can go back to our usual way of traveling.
I don’t know if you have observed it but the heat of this year’s dry season seems to be more bearable compared to last year. I have already managed the now one-month quarantine with my ever-dependable hammock to start me up with my summer vibe. Unlike last year where my summer opener got cut short, I still have to catch the view of the beach this year.
While #NCRPlus residents are locked up inside their homes, the rest of the country have already started enjoying the sun, sand, and sea. I guess, it really boils down to the discipline of people in the midst of this pandemic. Well, that is how it is and we can only hope for a more relaxed quarantine in the coming months.
Some of us, me included, are probably back on the drawing boards for our summer plans. Hence, I decided to blog about 7 must-do dry season activities here in the Philippines. We will be going around the country to enjoy a full summer day here in Pinas!
Watch the sunrise at Binurong Point, Catanduanes
Let us start our day in the province known for its howling winds - Catanduanes. This island-province is located on the eastern side of the country and faces the Pacific Ocean. It is usually the first to be battered by typhoons coming from the Pacific hence its monicker. But the beautiful and rugged terrains of Binurong Point is a great place to catch the first rays of the rising sun.
The trek to Binurong Point takes about 30 - 40 minutes from the jump off point. It usually starts very early in the morning just in time for you to catch the beauty of the sun rising in the east. Once you get to the viewdeck, you can pick your spot and get ready to be amazed by the sun theatrics from its first morning rays to its play of golden yellow to finally bursting into full morning brightness. Expect to be awed by its beauty as you watch one of the first rays of the sun breaking out from horizon.
The sun’s early morning rays will also show you the rugged beauty of Binurong Point. You will be amazed by the views of its sloping hills meeting the waters of the Pacific. It gives you a glimpse of the rugged and pristine beauty of Catanduanes.
You can read about my Catanduanes adventures here: Howling with the Winds of Catanduanes
Watch the Blooming of the Lotus at Lake S’bu in South Cotabato
Another great morning activity is hopping on a boat and watch the blooming of the lotus at Lake S’bu. This activity offers a different kind of calmness and peace in the morning. The views of the pink lotuses against the rustic backdrop of South Cotabato make it a perfect way to start your day.
The blooming of the lotuses is an iconic tourism draw of Lake S’bu - the home of the indigenous T’boli group. To fully appreciate the view, one would need to wake up early, board a wooden canoe, and paddle through the calm
waters of the lake onto the site. The soft and warm morning rays and the cool weather completes the serene vibe of being surrounded by the beauty of the pink blooms. It is a nice way to enjoy the peace and quiet that Lake S’bu offers its guests.
But Lake S’bu is not just all about chilling and relaxing as it also has other activities that could get your adrenaline pumping. Its scenic waterfalls and its rich cultural heritage make it a unique destination that not only makes you smile but also fills your heart with pride. I seriously think that a trip to Lake S’bu should activity that every Filipino must make in his or her lifetime.
Read about my Lake S’bu travel here: Lake Bloomers of S'bu
Kayak around El Nido’s Big and Small Lagoon
El Nido is a beach paradise. The once off-beat destination, known only to adventurous travelers, has steadily captured the hearts of many until it has fully come out of its shell. Its amazing limestone formations, secluded beach spots, amazing underwater scenes, and local stories that go with these spots have easily made El Nido a favorite, not only among foreign tourists but, among local travelers.
But El Nido is not just about beach-bumming and island hopping. Paddling up on two of its most popular lagoons is one of the great way to enjoy the summer sun - the Small Lagoon and the Big Lagoon. These two major attractions in El Nido sits adjacent to each other on island of Miniloc and its names best describes its size relative to each other. The best way to explore its nooks and crannies is by paddling up aboard a kayak. The Small Lagoon can be accessed via a small rock opening while the Big Lagoon gives you a more majestic way of greeting as you wade through its wide banks on its entrance.
You can paddle around and explore the nooks and crannies of the lagoons before finding your own corner to relax and enjoy its peaceful vibe. You can also enjoy a quick and refreshing dip in its cool waters before heading back to your boat. Be conscious of the time though because once you get into the serene vibe of the lagoons, time seems to be on a standstill in El Nido.
You can read about my El Nido trip here: #ElNidoFortified
Swim with the Jellies in Surigao
We all love heading down to the beach at we have here in the Philippines. Beach is LIFE, especially during the dry season. Philippine summer is not complete without a quick beach dip!
But you can actually spice up your beach trip by going on a swim with sea creatures in the wild. You can start off with that experience with the stingless jellyfish of Sohoton in Surigao del Norte. Located at Bucas Grande Island, the sanctuary gives you the unique experience of being able to swim with the stingless jellyfish - a perfect way to get close with nature. The laidback and serene atmosphere of the sanctuary adds up to the experience of being close to nature. It makes you experience that oneness with nature.
Surigao del Norte is a destination that has something in store for any kind of traveler. From the adrenaline junkie to the nature-tripper, they got everything covered. On top of your preferred adventure, you get to enjoy that unique and warm provincial hospitality that only Surigao can offer.
Read about how I enjoyed my trip in Surigao here: #SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso
Get relaxed and warmed up in Tibiao, Antique
Getting your muscles relaxed after a long day full of activities is definitely a must. Nothing beats an aromatic warm bath to slow down your day before enjoying a nice and calm evening. And the best place to get that is where the kawa bath was born - Tibiao in Antique!
Tibiao is a rustic municipality on the western coast of Panay Island. This is where the original “kawa bath” was born. The process begins with a large cauldron that is filled with water that is heated over fire. Flowers, herbs, and leaves are added as aromatics. Once ready, guests take a dip in its warm and fragrant waters to relax their body after hustling the whole day. The kawa bath is soothing for both mind and body as you get relaxed while being surrounded with nature and disconnected from the rest of the world.
The rustic mountainside of Tibiao is a perfect getaway when you want to disconnect. It allows you to unplug from your busy city life and connects you with nature to get you refreshed and energized. It makes you realize that the simple joys are the best part of living.
Read about my Tibiao adventure here: Alamat ng Gintong Takipsilim At Mainit na Kawa
Bar Hop in Lakawon Island
Imagine yourself getting onto a floating bar just to unwind as you prepare to watch the sunset. Nice, right? This is why you should not miss out Lakawon Island in Cadiz City. It has redefined bar hopping with one of the largest floating bars in the country.
Conveniently anchored a few meters from the island, the Lakawon Floating Bar is one of the major attractions of the island. The barge was redesigned into a bar complete with a bar and lounging chairs that faces the sea. You can enjoy sipping on your favorite drink and munching on your fave snack while enjoying the view of the island and the waters around it. If you want to take a quick swim, you can just jump off from the lounging chairs into the inviting waters of the island.
Lakawon Island grew out from the devastation of a typhoon. The island was, initially, popular among locals who go to there to camp out. It took a typhoon to unwrap its beauty to a larger audience and it has grown from a mere camp site to a world-class resort island.
Read about our Lakawon adventures here: Lakaw Lakawon
Watch the Sunset at San Vicente
They say that every sunset is unique and I would have to agree. I love watching the sunset more than the sunrise because it tends to be more dramatic and poetic. And one of the best spots to catch the drama of the setting sun is at Long Beach in San Vicente, Palawan.
San Vicente prides itself with having the longest white sand beach in the country, with a length of 14.7 kilometers. It faces the West Philippine Sea and is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. You will get an amazing light show as the sun sets on the horizon. The shifting colors of pink, orange, and blue hues will keep you awe. Interestingly, the beach also comes alive during that time when locals go out and enjoy the waters of the beach. You’ve got locals walking by the beach, fishermen preparing for a night’s work, kids skimboarding, and tourists enjoying the view of the day ending. All these adds to the drama of the sunset. It gives you that peaceful vibe that tomorrow is going to be another exciting day of adventures.
San Vicente is a rustic destination where you get to enjoy the bucolic life. The people are friendly, life is laidback, and there’s so much beauty around. It is very easy to fall in love with the place because, for a beach person like me, it has the recipe for a perfect beach day.
Read about my San Vicente trip here: SanVic sa Pagbabago
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The Philippines is a country that has a lot of amazing destinations. Some of these spots are enjoying its popularity, others are starting to get recognized, and there are still those that needs to be given the attention. No matter what kind of traveler you are, there will always be a Pinas destination that will be perfect to your taste. I guess with more than 7000 islands to choose from in the Philippines, one can never go wrong.
I would have to say that this new round of community quarantines can be frustrating especially for a traveler like me and on a season like this. This is the perfect time to explore and discover. But I also understand that part of being a seasoned traveler is understanding that we also have to be responsible when we go around. This is the time when being a responsible traveler matter. Traveling can wait for the safety of others, especially for those who have limited access to healthcare facilities in the province. While waiting, I choose to reminisce the fun in traveling while planning my next adventure rather than sulking and complaining. That is where the fun of traveling begins!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.