Mention the word “Elyu” and the first thing that comes into people’s mind are the swells of San Juan. After all, it is the hippiest and the hottest place to be, on this side of Luzon with its waves, food, and festive nightlife. It is the province’s tourism draw at this time after having stayed in the sidelines for quite a while. But beyond the beers and cheers, we discovered a more subdued nature spot tucked along the hills of Pugo - Balay Mamboo.
Nestled along the slopes of the hills on the more rugged side of Elyu, Balay Mamboo is a homey enclave that is perfect for those looking for a tranquil spot to relax. It is about 3 hours away from Manila and about an hour away from San Juan or Baguio. This quaint resort can accommodate a maximum of 15 persons and has complete amenities - bedrooms, veranda, kitchen, a bonfire place, and a dipping pool for kids and adults. It is a great place where you can enjoy a slow weekend with good company.
Urban Detox Spot
Balay Mamboo is in the quaint town of Pugo so you can expect to enjoy a provincial kind of living. Apart from your internet connectivity, it is very far from the usual humdrum of the city. There is nothing much to do so you get to enjoy your me time or sharing stories with your family and/or friends. You get to watch the whole day pass and you get to choose what you want to do and when you want to do it.
You can go for a walk around town and enjoy the hustle of their market. You can choose to walk around and explore the area around Balay Mamboo. You can also choose to just take the time off and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place. Bottomline, Balay Mamboo and Pugo slows you down. It gives you that needed break from the “noise”. You learn to appreciate a more laidback kind of living that you won’t get in the city.
Balay Mamboo was designed as a modern nipa hut. The second floor is a large living room/bedroom area that is open so air freely flows through the structure. The first floor is where you would find the kitchen and dining area. Adjacent to it are the veranda, the dipping pools, and the bonfire area. The best part of it is that the place is surrounded by lush greens which gives the place a tranquil vibe.
The place gives you the opportunity to commune and get re-energized by nature. You get to be serenaded to sleep by the nature’s evening sounds and you wake up to the lively chirping of birds. The fresh air and spring water pool gives you a refreshing break from the
usual chlorinated water and musky air of the city. You get to enjoy the sun with nature surrounding you. You get to feel, see, hear, and breathe in nature’s beauty and bounty at Balay Mamboo.
Balay Mamboo gives off a homey vibe. The design of the house opens opportunities to interact with your family and friends. You get to cook together, share meals, and even sleep together. You get to spend time chilling with your companions in a comfortable and relaxed ambiance.
You can also enjoy sharing stories while toasting marshmallows or enjoy a quick dip at the pool under the canopies. Since the place is tucked along the hills, you can enjoy laughing your hearts out or singing to your favorite songs from sundown to sun-up. You can share drinks while enjoying a round of games. Balay Mamboo is a great venue to make relationships stronger in a fun and relaxed vibe.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Social media has been pivotal in bringing forward destinations that are interesting and worth exploring. This has been my case when I first came across Balay Mamboo in Pugo. It was a simple a tiktok post that I turned into a venue of a birthday celebration. It was a perfect spot that describes me in general - exploring, nature lover, chill, and loves to have fun.
Let me be clear, this is not a paid partnership. It is an honest review and part of my advocacy to promote destinations and spots that deserve to be highlighted. As a local traveler, it is not just about locations. It is also about small businesses that leave a smile on our faces. This was the first time that I celebrated my birthday out of the usual and Balay Mamboo gave me exactly what I was looking for - a fun and tranquil enclave away from home.
Getting there: You can contact Balay Mamboo through their Facebook page: Balay-Mamboo. The enclave is located along the national highway in Pugo La Union. You can go down at Brgy, Ambangonan at the road leading to the Ambangonan Elementary School where you can walk to Balay Mamboo. Alternatively, you can go down at the junction in Pugo and take a trike to Balay Mamboo. If you are bringing a car, you can use Waze for the direction.
With a few more provinces to explore to complete my #GOTPH81 project, it got me thinking on what PH destinations I would love to re-visit. The Philippines has a thousand reasons to make you fall in love with it but there will be destinations that will live an imprint on you. This are not the usual destinations that you frequently visit but these spots have charmed their way enough that makes you want to return and explore it again and/or discover more. In short, you got captivated and you want to see more.
In my case, eto yung mga lugar na tumatak sa akin as I went around getting lost around the Philippines. I have only been on these destinations once but I was captivated that I want to visit and explore it again, even if it has been years since I visited these spots. A common denominator among these PH destinations is having me fall in love with its laidback and rustic vibe, far from my usual day. These spots slowed me down and gave me a different understanding of the phrase “the best things in life are free”.
Sagada is totally a different world. It is rustic and ethereal where its culture and natural beauty perfectly blends homogeneously. Tucked in the rugged mountains of the Cordillera, Sagada got its reputation as a destination for those who are soul searching. The place is laidback where time seem to standstill. You get to be surrounded by the beauty of nature while getting immersed in their culture. Sagada slows you down and gets you grounded on yourself and nature.
What I loved about Sagada was its laidback community vibe. Visitors are treated like family and adjusts to the ways of the community. Locals were able to preserve their way of life and imbibes the same respect to its visitors towards their way of life. Its natural attractions are simply breathtaking. Whether you are an outdoor kind of guy or a food geek, there is always a corner for you in Sagada.
Sagada is developing and there are more attractions catching the attention of travelers. I would like to catch the sunrise at Kiltepan Point and then marvel at the beauty of its blue soil. I would like to delve my hand on Sagada culture. I would try my hand on pottery and then find my own corner in Sagada to enjoy the peace and quiet on this side of the Philippines.
You can read about my Sagada travel here: #GOT81MountainProvince: Sagada In Its True Form
Marinduque is the geographical heart of the Philippines. With that said, it is also interesting to note that the island is also shaped like a heart. It is an island province that was made popular by its Moriones Festival - a Holy Week celebration where locals go around town in their Morion outfit as part of their “panata” or faith promise. Part of the celebration includes the re-enactment of the suffering of Jesus Christ. But beyond this popular festival is an island that is proud of its history and natural beauty.
Exploring the eastern side of Marinduque on two separate occasions have given me a glimpse of its natural beauty, from its white sand beaches to a sandbar to an amazing rock formation. There is no doubt that it is a beautiful island that nature blessed and its laidback vibe complements its natural beauty. I guess it is safe to say that it is an island where you can choose to chill down in its beach spots as you enjoy a drink while watching the sunset.
There is more to this island that I want to experience. I would like to explore Boac and its collection of old houses. I would like to enjoy the beaches and the islands on the west side of the island. I would like to go face-to-face with one of its Morions and join in with the colorful celebrations of Marinduque.
You can read about my Marinduque travel here: The Unexpected Twist, Roadblock, and Detour of Marinduque and Natanaw Din Ang Summer Sa Catanauan
This group of islands is more than just its renowned marbles. From the high peaks of Guiting-Guiting to the clean spring waters of Catingas to the white sands of Cresta de Gallo, Romblon has something to offer to any type of traveler. This is destination where you get to enjoy the old town vibe as you immerse in its history and natural beauty.
Romblon is a no frills destination. It is a place where you get to enjoy the small town community vibe where everyone knows each other and everyone knows you are a “dayo” or visitor. You get to explore the town like a local and you get to eat like a local. If you feel like hitting the beach, you can just take a quick trike ride to Bonbon Beach. If you are up for a history and a view, you can go check out Fort San Andres that offers a panoramic view of the town and its waters. Don’t forget to swing by Cresta de Gallo where the island defines how getting marooned on an island can be fun.
I would like to see the different facets of Romblon. I want to explore their own version of Boracay and take the plunge by its cliff. I would like to enjoy a no frills trip where I get to experience the simple town life where you get to interact comfortably with locals. One where you can enjoy a really quiet evening. I would like to also to head back to Cresta de Gallo and once again enjoy the sunset on one side and the sunrise on the other side of the island.
You can read about my Romblon travel here: #LaBoRomblon
Among all the PH destinations that I have been to, Guiuan is turning out to be my favorite. This Eastern Samar destination perfectly blends my love for history, nature, and adventure. I think it is a place that I can always enjoy chilling down. It is a no-frills destination with a lot of beach spots to visit - from crashing waves to still waters.
Guiuan is an unassuming destination with a lot of activities that you can enjoy. You can choose a tame adventure of beach and/or historical church hopping to a more adrenaline-pumping activity like jumping off a bridge or sliding under it. These activities are just within reach from its laidback town center. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these activities seem to be a normal day-to-day life of locals.
I would like to visit Homonhon Island one day and immerse in its history. I would like to see what Magellan saw. It would also be nice to try riding the waves on this side of the Philippines. I would like to stay here for at least a week and enjoy living like a local and enjoying the place like a local. Guiuan locked me in its charm with its laidback and rustic vibe. This is the kind of place where you get to chill and enjoy the best and simple things in life for free.
You can read about my Guiuan travel here: #GOT65EasternSamar: Guiuan And Only and #GOT65EasternSamar: Guiuan And Only Pa Din or you can check out my YT travel channel here: #ByahengOffTheGrid Guiuan
This island is on fire! Siquijor exudes a different kind of appeal with its charm and its mysticism. Blessed with the beauty of nature, it is this same nature that fueled the fire of its local folklore - the mambabarangs. This destination was once feared but was weirdly interesting for me because of these beliefs and stories.
My visit to Siquijor was a quick one. You can enjoy the island in a day by tricycle or motorbike where you get to see the island’s highlights. I enjoyed swinging into Cambugahay Falls but conked out in Salagdoong cliff jump. I loved the history of Lazi Church and the mystery that surrounds the church in Maria. I love its chill beach vibe while swinging on a makeshift swing made from a used rubber tire. Siquijor is a real beauty shrouded in “mystery”.
Dark tourism is something that really interests me. This is the reason why Siquijor has indulged my curiosity. I would like to visit this island again and come face-to-face with a mambabarang, not to ask for charms or potions but to get an understanding of this unique island culture and belief. I mean, Siquijor is an island that is really beautiful and the mysticism that surround it makes it more appealing.
You can read about my Siquijor travel here: De-mystifying Siquijor
Siargao was a birthday treat and the trip did turn out to be a treat. Located on the eastern side of the country, this teardrop-shaped island initially gained popularity as a surfing destination. But beyond its rolling waves is a collection of natural attractions that will sweep you off your feet. It did not come as a surprise that, once these photos and videos hit social media, Siargao will be on almost everyone’s bucket list.
One thing that I loved about Siargao is being a one-stop shop for its guests. It is an all-in-one destination for adventure, nature, party, and food. Yet, it still manages to keep everything “under the sheet” to maintain its rustic and laidback vibe. This is a place where you can walk barefoot along the road to your favorite restaurant or party the night away, in hidden in plain sight. You can face your fear of heights at Sugba Lagoon or enjoy a nice dip with the jelly fish. You can watch surfers catch the waves or be one of those catching the wave. Better yet, you can choose your own solitary spot to just enjoy the laidback vibe.
More than just a treat, Siargao is a place that teaches you that there is a proper time for everything. There is a time for work, for your family or friends, and for yourself. It is a place where you can stay within your comfort zone or get out of it. It also teaches you to be nice to others because you would need the others to find out where tonight’s party will be.
You can read about my Siargao travel here:
#SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapNgPuso (Part 1)
#SiargaoNaNgaAngHinahanapngPuso (Part 2)
or you can check out my YT travel channel here:
#ByahengOffTheGrid Siargao (Part 1)
#ByahengOffTheGrid Siargao (Part 2)
My trip to Hinatuan would always be well-remembered as this was where I received the news of the country’s COVID19 lockdown. The announcement cut short a trip that was suppose to take me across the eastern side of Mindanao. Hinatuan was the last destination that I visited pre-pandemic lockdown. I vividly remember having to stay out at a 711 store at 8pm as I toned down on the news. Why 711? It was the only store open at that time. That’s how provincial the vibe was of the place.
The “entities” of Hinatuan must have blessed the place so much that its natural beauty continues to enchant its visitors. Its river, where fresh water meets sea waters, amazes you with its blue hues as you enjoy a quick dip in its cold waters. Further out to the sea, you can also enjoy interacting with stingrays at the Sibadan Fish Cage. You can also choose to just enjoy a day by the beach in one of the islands that dot the Hinatuan Bay.
Although my trip was cut short, it gave me a glimpse of the rustic town of Hinatuan and its surrounding areas. There’s much to see and enjoy in this place. It would be good to one day go beyond the usual and enjoy the lesser known attractions in the area.
You can read about my Guiuan travel here: Suri-WOW-ed or you can check out my YT travel channel here: #ByahengOffTheGrid CARAGA
POST TRAVEL NOTES
These are 7 destinations that gives you a glimpse of why I #LoveThePhilippines and the destinations of my preference. These places are just 0.09% of the total spots that you can explore in the Philippines. Our country has cities and provinces that cater to any kind of traveler, whether local or foreigners. You just need an eye for appreciation and a sense of Filipino pride.
You can find your own reason to #LoveThePhilippines and you can always start in your home city or provinces. Do not be afraid to go out and explore the areas around you. Travel should start from your “home” because that is where you get to appreciate spots that on a regular day looks just the usual.
My first encounter with this destination was a grueling 13-hour run, walk, and hike around the island. The race around the island had me surprised and amazed of its raw natural beauty. I vowed to visit it again. Who would have thought that on my fourth visit to this island, I would be doing my own version of race that got my guys lost in the island of Tingloy.
Roughly 3 hours away from Manila, Tingloy is an island-municipality along the Batangas Bay composed of the islands of Marikaban and Caban and smaller islets in the area. It is a beach destination that has caught the attention of local travelers because of its raw beauty and proximity to the metro. It is a perfect escape from the huff and puff of the city that could easily quench your thirst for sun, sand, and sea. We were lucky to have enjoyed all three as we took a quick beach break from our usual day inside our workspace.
The Port of Tingloy is the first to welcome you to the island. There are regular fast craft ferries that ply the route to the island from Anilao or Talaga Port. Chaos ensues as passengers disembark with officials giving instructions and trike drivers offering their services to its visitors. The one thing that will strike you the most is the peaceful and simple vibe as soon as you set foot on the island. The warm smiles and hospitality of its locals is easily felt as you explore the poblacion.
The Poblacion area is a simple community by the shore facing Mabini in the mainland. The vibe is very homey and welcoming as each person that you would meet would always flash their warm smiles. It is the center of commerce, religion, and education of the municipality as this is where you would see the main church, the schools, and most of the businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, and homestays. Interestingly, it also has a couple of well-preserved ancestral houses that date back to American period. The Rosales Ancestral House is one of these houses that date back to 1922.
The warm hospitality of the locals has not changed from the time that I first set foot on Tingloy to my fourth visit. It was something that does stick out every time and that I always carry home with me. The quaint town vibe gives you that relaxed feel that lingers days after you have left the island.
Coastal Hot Spring (Barangay Papaya)
About 15 minutes by trike from the port, Barangay Papaya is an unassuming community on the other side of the island that faces Mindoro. Life here is relaxing and simple. It is a close-knit community along a rugged coast where time slips by very slowly and you get to enjoy the chill beach vibe. It has a small damaged port where you can enjoy the perfect view of its coast against the backdrop of the sun setting behind a hill.
The rugged beauty of its coast are revealed when the tides draw out to sea. Its rocky features give its shoreline a melo-dramatic landscape, especially with the sun setting or the silhouette of Mindoro in the background. But beyond its rocky features, the low tide reveals a secret - a hot spring by its rocky shores. The rock formations on the coast will amaze you especially on the section where a straight line perfectly halves the formation. As you explore the rock pools, you would notice hot water bubbling to the surface. The water temperature ranges from comfortable to almost boiling hot. Locals say that hot mist can be observed in the early morning around the area when the tides are low. It made me wonder where the hot spring is coming from… perhaps an underwater volcano?
Tingloy is an island destination and the waters surrounding it are teeming with underwater life. It has white sand beach spots that has gained popularity through the years. A great way to explore the island’s spots is to hire a small boat and enjoy the sun, sea, and sand. We were lucky to have the sun on our side when we visited Tingloy that gave our team a well-deserved last minute summer escape. Our first stop… Sombrero Island.
The island got its name because its shaped like a hat or a “sombrero” jutting out from the sea. It is located off the western coast of Marikaban and is a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. We donned our life vests and masks to enjoy its underwater beauty. I marveled at the life under its waters teeming with schools of fish with the livery of its rich coral reefs as its backdrop. I enjoyed the tranquility of just paddling out and enjoying the underwater views of Sombrero Island.
Sepoc Beach and Kweba ni Dugong
Among all the spots when I first “explored” Tingloy, it was Sepoc Beach that REALLY made a mark on me. I still can still vividly recall the view that opened up to us after we came out of the lush vegetation covers protecting this beach spot. It was a perfect unspoiled white sand cove that you only see on movies. I had to stop and just breathe in its beauty. Unfortunately that side of Sepoc is already privately owned and guests are no longer allowed to visit.
The adjacent side of Sepoc Beach is the one that is accessible to the public. This beach cove is surrounded and protected by rocky cliffs and has a mix of stone and sand shoreline. The round stones of different shapes and sizes are found along its shores that, when our banca docked on shore, some of my guys started collecting stones as “panghilod”. Talk about bringing home a unique pasalubong from Tingloy.
The rock cliffs that separate the private and public beach strips of Sepoc have cave spots. Aptly dubbed as “Kweba ni Dugong”, the three caves sits along the rocky coastline of the beach. Getting to the caves is tricky as one would have to traverse the sharp rocks along its cliff walls and swim across the mouth of the first cave while the waves crash you onto the rocks. There is a huge chance that you would end up with minor cuts and bruises.
Two of caves are single opening caves and the third having 2 entry or exit points. The first cave was a challenge to explore because of the depth of the water and the waves continually pushing you inwards. The two other caves had a more chill vibe as it had sandy spots where you can sit down, rest, and relax before going for a return traverse. Despite the challenge, cuts, and scratches, our team enjoyed the whole experience of finding dugong.
A rock formation by the coast with two turquoise-colored pools and a panoramic view of the sea is a great spot to chill down in Tingloy. The twin pools are surrounded by rock formations that create a still sandy pool where one can enjoy a quick dip. You get to enjoy its waters with the shade from its cliff and a full view of its blue waters.
The rock formations also provide a good backdrop for those IG-worthy beach photos. The rugged landscape provide a good contrast to smooth background of the sea. If you just want to chill down, you can find your spot and enjoy the breathtaking views as the sea breeze cools you down.
Masasa Beach is the main tourist draw of Tingloy. With its white sand shore and relaxing beach view, it is THE most popular beach spot in the island. It has maintained its beauty despite the influx of tourists and commerce in the area. It was good though that the LGU have placed policies to maintain its upkeep.
This beach cove facing the Mindoro area boasts of white sandy shores and still waters so you really get to enjoy wading in its waters. Commerce have been regulated so you don’t have much structures around except for a couple of beach huts, rock covers, and tree covers. You get to enjoy the beach in its almost unspoiled beauty. On one side of the beach is a rock formation that you can climb up to capture a panoramic view of Masasa Beach.
The biggest discovery on my fourth visit in Masasa was that beauty above its waters run parallel to the beauty underneath its waters. A snorkeling activity where we were dragged by our bangka along the deeper parts of Masasa Beach revealed the colorful underwater life beneath its waters. It was teeming with beautiful corals and sea creatures. If you are lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea turtle grazing along its sandy shores.
Masasa Beach was a real surprise for me on this trip. It revealed its beauty beyond what I already knew. Not only was it able to preserve its old charm, it was also able to share another facet of its beauty. It gives you more reason to explore Tingloy again and again.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Tingloy have kept its old charm and has given me another facet of its beauty. I never thought that I would discover something new on my fourth visit to the island - a hot spring and rich coral life right at the doorstep of Masasa River. I discovered its beauty when I first got lost in Tingloy and getting my guys lost this time revealed more sights to enjoy. I guess getting #LostInTingloy is not a bad idea after all.
Re-discovering a destination is not a bad idea. It gives us the opportunity to overturn stones that previously stood on to reveal something new about the place. We get to see the place from a different lens that makes us appreciate the place more. Kung bibigyan ka ng pagkakataon, anong lugar sa Pinas ang gusto mong balikan? Share mo naman sa comment ykung saan.
Getting there: You can take a bus to Batangas Grand Terminal from Metro Manila (Quezon City, Makati, and Paranaque). You can then take a jeep from Batangas Grand Terminal to either Anilao Port or Talaga Port (Prevailing weather or season determines which port will be used as jump off points to Tingloy). Jeepney drtivers would know which port would be in use. Fastcraft vessels are available at the port to take you to Tingloy. Tricycle is the mode in the transportation within the island.
There are a lot of homestays on the island. If you want a laidback vibe, you can stay at Waterfront Beach House in Barangay Papaya. For an easy, complete, and organized trip to Tingloy, you can check out Masasa Beach Transient House on their Facebook page or you may contact Edric Cepillo at (0909) 1998174.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.