Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Travel: Mt. Pinatubo

Lake in Mt. Pinatubo crater
Happy Hearts Day! When most of us does our BF/GF duties and went to Valentines dates we planned on going somewhere else. This is trip is about 4 or 5 years in the making (lol). February 14 is the day we went to Mt. Pinatubo.

You probably know Mt. Pinatubo right? The provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga share Mt. Pinatubo. This volcano erupted last 1991 and the effect of the eruption almost felt worldwide. The ashes that came from the volcano almost covered the whole world. As I remembered it, we have to close our doors and windows so that the ashes won’t go inside our house.

Enough with the history, here is a guide on how we planned our trip. First you have to contact the Sta. Juliana Tourism Office for reservation of the 4x4 ride. Do the reservation 2 weeks prior to your travel dates just to be sure. For less hassle you may contact TravelMakerPH (owned by a friend of mine, he arranged it for us) to help you with your Mt. Pinatubo trip.

On the day itself we started our trip at around 2AM coming from Pasig. Then we have a stopover in Mcdonald’s Capas Tarlac, this is the common drop-off point before going to Sta. Juliana where you will be riding the 4x4 to Mt. Pinatubo.
Take off from Sta. Juliana
You should be at Sta. Juliana by 5AM for the registration and other payments. After you are finished on the registration you will now be given a guide and they will guide you to your 4x4 ride and from the drop-off point to the crater. It is preferred to have 4 guests per 4x4 but they can extend up to 5 guests.

From Sta. Juilana, it is a one and a half hour bumpy ride to the foot of Mt. Pinatubo. From drop-off, it took us two and a half hour to reach the crater. Remember to have a pee break before starting the ride because the next comfort room is 5km from the drop-off point. It took us two hours to reach it.

After 5km of trek

The trail to the crater is full of rocks and sand, there are small rivers that you will pass through. I suggest you wear you sandals for the trek. You won’t  be bored while trekking the amazing beauty of the mountains and rocks will entertain you.


Once on top, you will the crater itself, there are food and drinks vendors but it is not cheap (considering they have to carry the goods from Sta. Juliana to the crater). There are kubos where you can rest. You can have your picture taking there, and if you want to be near the lake, you have to descend from that point to the lake. It is now prohibited to swim or boat in the lake.
Mt. Pinatubo crater

Our descend from the crater to the 4x4 ride drop-off point took us only one and a half hour, then from there another one and half hour to Sta. Juliana. There are shower rooms ready for 50pesos in Sta. Juliana, so if you feel like having  bath you can do that there.
Mt. Pinatubo is really one of a kind, you don’t want to miss this in your life. It is a real beauty.

4x4 ride: 3,000
Local guide: 500 per 4x4
Conservation fee: 500 per head
Aeta passway fee: 150 per head

What to bring:
Extra clothes
Mask (to protect from dust)
Food for lunch

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Food: Zoey's Burger, Pasta & Sandwich

Aside from being known for it's famous pancit and kakanin, General Luna street in Malabon (my hometown) is slowly beginning to be a food hub of the city. Just last week I tried to dine in one of the newly established burger house along General Luna corner Kalahi street.
Grilling area
Counter Table Top area
The burger house is an open resto that is just beside the road. Their grilling post is open probably to see, feel and smell the aroma of the burgers being grilled. They have a separate kitchen inside for deep fry and toasting inside.

Zoey's gives you a good price for a decent burger not just by any fast food on the vicinity. Though I could not say that this is the best burger I have tasted but their burgers are way better compared to those in fast food restos around and as to my surprise it is affordable too.
Gelo's Bacon Mushroom Melt Madness
Their burgers are served with their home made fries and a glass of iced tea. They are boasting a 100% imported beef patty. So we ordered to different burgers and I was not disappointed with the taste and with the size of the burgers, even the fries tastes good. The burger is handed to you on a wooden plank and before your order arrives utensils will be given to you. Condiments are complete from ketchup to mustard.

Maybe next time I visit I will try their other menu like pasta. I give Zoey's a 4 out of five considering their price and their neat burger patty.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Travel: Buscalan Village

Whang-Od the traditional tattoo
If you are looking for a butt-aching travel, this one is for (just kidding). Well literally my butt ache because of the time we spent going to Buscalan. This was the longest travel time I had. It's a whopping 20 hours travel! So you better get ready for that.
The main reason why we want to get to Buscalan Village was to meet Whang-Od (Fhang-Od to some), the oldest Mambabatok (a tattoo artist that uses traditional tools). Some say she is the last Mambabatok but I guess that is not the case. According to our guide Francis Pa-in, there are several Mambabatok in town as well as her granddaughter, Grace, is also a Mambabatok.
rough road to Buscalan
trek to Buscalan Village
We checked some sites on how to go to Buscalan. We did it the conventional way, by land travel. To go there you need to ride a bus to Tabuk. Victory Liner has a bus route to Tabuk but be sure to reserve you ticket 1 week before you go as there are just limited number of buses that go there. We experienced people sitting/sleeping in the aisle because there is not enough seats. Also be there 20 minutes before departure, They have a policy that is you are not there on that time they will give the seats to the chance passenger even if you have reserve tickets for your trip. Earliest trip is 7PM and it took us 12 hours to reach Tabuk. Drop off at Bulanao the first stop in Tabuk in front of Saint Williams Parish.Go straight and after you have passed by the Police station you will see a public terminal. Look for a jeep going to Tinglayan. Jeepneys going to Tinglayan is limited so be sure you are on time. Their first trip is I believe 7AM. We rode the jeep at around 8AM, It took us 2 and a half hours to reach Sleeping Beauty Inn at Tinglayan where we met Francis. From Tinglayan be rode a jeep to Buscalan Village, roughly more than an hour jeepney ride. Then you need to walk/trek to the Village itself. It took us an hour and a half to reach the village. As an alternate route, you may book a plane ticket to Tuguegarao and ride a van (1 hour travel) going to Tabuk. This will save you a lot of time.
Sleeping Beauty Inn
We met our guide, Francis, at Sleeping Beauty Inn where we had our lunch. He already arranged our lodging in Buscalan. We will have an overnight stay at Whang-Od's house (we believe that the house/room is Grace's room since she has a lot of stuff there). Upon arriving at the village we were welcomed by the locals and some kids asking for candies. Perhaps most of the people there have sweet tooth and I believe it is obligatory to bring a pack of candies with you.We stopped at small house where there are a lot of banners of Whang-Od, I think that is where the mother of Grace lives. They offered us the famous Kalinga coffee which I regret that I didn't buy one going home.
outside the house where we eat
Our homestay is at the place where Whang-Od and Grace does their tattoo work. When we got there, a lot of people were in line to get their tattoo. We did not get a chance to get ours at that time because of the long queue, we decided to get tattooed in the morning. Fancis told us that next time we want to go back, visit them during weekdays so that there are few tourists around. We just relaxed and watch others get their tattoos. The comfort room is located at the first house we visited and on that house also we had our dinner and breakfast. We had our dinner at around 7PM, we opted to buy canned goods so not to bother them cooking for us. They still offered us their meal, which is a combination of red beans and noodles and steamed rice.
Kubo where they do tattoo session
ash mixed with water for the ink

thorn from pomelo tree inserted in a small bamboo stick
Grace in action

Whang-Od in action
In the morning, after we ate our breakfast and drink our coffee, we proceeded to the tattoo workshop. Whang-Od is traditional, the tattoos she can do are those in there tribe (like snake, scorpion, crab, etc,) while Gace is a bit flexible, you may draw the tattoo you want and show it to her if she can do it or not. I chose a centipede tattoo because for them it symbolizes protection from travel. They harvest thorns from pomelo tree. They replace the thorns for each persons, though sometimes you have to remind them of replacing it. Frequently asked question was if it hurts, naturally it will hurt but is bearable. I think the technique is not to look at it while they are doing it, lol. After it is done, they will spread coconut oil on the tattoo. They prefer that instead of using some ointments. The tattoo price ranges from 100 pesos to thousands. Whang-Od is the one who gives the price value according to the size of the tattoo, mine was for one thousand pesos since it is a long one. After we had our tattoo, we packed our things and ready to go. Unfortunately, we were not able to explore the whole village because of limited time. I hope next time we visit we can roam around the village more.

Going home should be smooth sailing but it is not on our case. the Last jeep that will leave Buscalan is at 11AM and we finished our tattoo at around 2PM. Fortunately, there was a jeep but was not for hire so we rented the jeep going to Tabuk. We arrived at around 6PM at Tabuk and the last bus already left. The last bus from Tabuk going to Manila leaves at 5PM. We tried looking for alternative routes but there are no other buses in Tabuk, our option is to go to Roxas or Tuguegarao which is an hour drive from Tabuk. Upon contacting our friend from Tugue he said that it is dangerous to leave Tabuk after 6PM so he advised us to stay in tabuk and ride early to Tuguegarao and back to Manila. The owner of the food house where we ate offered their house for us to sleep because it will be a pricey if we will check in on a hotel. We grabbed the offer and stayed there. As early as 5AM we looked for a van going to Tugue and from Tugue we rode a bus to Manila.
Lesson of the story is if you will be going there be sure to leave early and have a back-up plan just in case.

What to bring:
-comfortable outfit
-water (for the trek)
-mosquito repellent
-wet wipes (for the tattoo)
-food (for your dinner and breakfast)
Additional for the locals:

-bus ticket Manila to Tabuk: Php700
-jeep to Tinglayan: Php100
-jeep to Buscalan: Php50
-guide fee: Php200 per person/per day
-barrangay fee: Php50
-lodging: Php250 per person
-jeepney rental Buscalan to Tabuk: Php4000
-van Tabuk to Tuguegarao: Php80 per person
-bus ticket Tuguegarao to Manila: Php860

Francis Pa-in contact Number: 09157690843

Monday, April 6, 2015

Travel: Calaguas | Bagasbas

Mahabang Buhangin beach
It's summer time! After going to some beaches on the North, it's time for me to explore the South. After tons of research we come up and decided to go to the Bicol region. Calaguas, a group of islands found in Camarines Norte was our destination.

There are a lot of packages that are being offered for the Calaguas tour. These packages includes an overnight stay in Mahabang Buhangin beach and then going to Bagasbas beach on the next day. Packages ranges from 2.5k - 3.5k depends if you will shoulder your own transportation or not. We preferred to do it on our own.

To go to Mahabang Buhangin you need to go to either Paracale or Vinzons in Camarines Norte then ride a boat to Calaguas Island. We decided to take the Paracale route since it is nearer to Calaguas than Vinzons. To go there, you can ride a bus going to Daet or some say that there is a bus that goes directly to Paracale. You have two options in going to Paracale, you may go directly to Daet and wait for buses or FX going to Paracale or you may drop off at Talobatib Junction and ride a tricycle. For us, we hired a van going to Paracale.

Before we went to Paracale I have already contacted a person that offers boat rides to Calaguas. If you are familiar with Kuya Ernie then he is your man. Upon contacting him I found out that he already got a job in the Middle East and the boat rides are now being managed by Ate Baby (his sister-in-law).

We are now bound to Paracale and that time there was a Tropical Depression in the region. And upon arriving Ate Baby told me that the coast guard does not allow any boats to sail due to bad weather. She told me that she will contact me once the coast guard allows the sailing of the boats. It is fortunate for us that we hired a van and was flexible on going anywhere at that moment. We decided to go to Bagasbas instead, It is still raining when we got to Bagasbas.
Bagasbas beach
Surfing Lessons
The Kubo
Bagasbas beach is a known surfing spot due to its waves. Since it seems that the weather won't be cooperative that day we opted to rent an overnight stay. There are several inns in the vicinity, we looked for a transient house but there was none. We then stay at White Wave hotel. They offered us there Kubo that is good for two persons with fan. We got the Kubo because we just need a place to stay and to cook since we have our own food to cook. In the afternoon the rain has stopped and we went to the beach. The beach is comparable to that of in Baler. Black sand and wide shore. They then decided to go surfing.
Paracale port
During dinner, Ate baby contacted me and said that the coast guard will allow the sailing of the boat the next day starting at 5am. We then get our things ready for an early trip to Paracale. We found out that the boats from Vinzons (where normally the drop off point for those who have tour packges) were allowed to sail yesterday afternoon. It is fine by us that we did not take chances because we know that it will be a heart stopping ride to the island. The boat that we rode is a simple motor bangka unlike the luxurious motor bangka of those tour operators. It took us nearly two hours to reach Mahabang Buhangin beach where we saw several tents and people on the shore.
We set our tents

Mahabang Buhangin beach

The beach is unlike any others I have gone to. Clear waters, fine white sand, and less people. We then set our tents (though we will not have an overnight stay). We paid an entrance fee and the care taker said that since we will just have a day tour the cottage is for free and also we have unlimited water from their poso. There are CRs and sari-sari stores in the island (better to have your own food and drinks as the price is doubled). It is a beautiful day, the sun is high and the water is calm. Perfect for the summer. Around 3pm we then got back to boat and go back to Paracle. There was some hiccups during our return. The waves are bigger and the motor of the boat was not functioning properly but we still made it to the port. Ate Baby said we can take a bath on their bathroom since we got wet during the boat ride. After freshening up, we then got back to the van and went home.

Note: If you are going there using a private car and is not yet familiar with to Paracale, Google Maps can only go as far as the highways (i think the map is not yet updated) once you are near Paracale use Waze instead.

What to bring:
- swim wear
- sunblock
- mosquito repellent
- water
- drybag
- towel
Below are the additional things we brought:
- tent
- sleeping bag or bedding
- portable stove
- kitchen utensils (pans and pots)
- paper plates, cups and disposable spoon and fork (though I prefer to use washable materials)
- food (rice, canned goods, eggs, etc.)
- trash bag
- tissue
- additional water

- roundtrip bus ride to Daet: Php1300
- tricycle rider from Talobatib junction per pax: Php100
- roundtrip boat ride for 8pax: Php4000
- coast guard fee???: Php50 (given before going to Calaguas Island)
- entrance fee on the beach: Php100
- environmental fee: Php20 (there will be an officer that will give you a receipt)
- kubo rental for 2pax: Php600
- surfing lesson per hour: Php450

Ate Baby's mobile number: 09471109451

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Travel: Baler

Sabang Beach
I have been back and forth to Baler several times with different set of friends. This time let me share to you my experiences in the town called Baler.
It will take 6-7 hours travel from Manila and you can either use your car or ride a bus. There is only one bus liner that goes directly from Manila to Baler. Genesis bus can be found in cubao and it has direct route to Baler. There are no reservations here so better go to the bus station early. They only have night schedules from 11PM-1AM other than that you can take any bus going to Cabanatuan and then another bus to Baler.
Museo de Baler

Donya Aurora's House
Baler is known because of Sabang Beach which is a surfing spot that others want to visit. Other than that Baler is the provincial capital of Aurora which is rich in history. This is where President Manuel Luis Quezon is born. Still in the town is their house. You may want to visit the Museo de Baler once in the town and go look for Donya Aurora's house.
Once finish on touring the town, you may want to eat on the famous eat-all-you-can buffet restaurant, Gerry Shan's place. There are a lot of food choices from pork to sea foods. Unlimited iced tea is included in your meal together with some fresh fruits.
If you do not have yet a place to stay, yo don't have to worry. Inside the town there are a lot of hotels and transient houses that you can rent. If you want to rent beach front they have several lodge and hotels that you can rent, but I suggest to contact them before you go because during peak season most of those rooms near the beach will be occupied. I can recommend you Pacific Waves Inn they offer affordable and comfortable rooms good for family, couple or even team outings.
Sabang Beach

Newly Constructed pathway

Once settled in your hotel, have a view of Sabang beach. It is a stretch of fine black sand beach with unlimited waves. Waves vary in the season, during June to October the waves will normally be higher because the wind will be coming from the Pacific Ocean. For dinner, there are a lot of restaurant in the beach front, though it will be a little pricey. Try looking for affordable meals at the back of the hotels. There is a newly established grill restaurant that offers variety of menu that is affordable.
For breakfast there is a carinderia that we also so for silog meals. it is located at the back of Surfer Girls Lodge. Meals there are 50 pesos and up.
Affordable Silog meals
Try surfing in the morning or until you get tired (lol). Then after surfing, go to Ditumabo Falls. It is the mother falls in Baler. They also get hydro power from the falls as a source of electricity. When going to Ditumabo you can use your van only up to a certain area because the road will be full of rocks and only tricycle, trucks and 4x4 vehicles can go on to the drop of point.
Ermita Hills

View of Sabang Beach from Emita Hills
Before going home, visit Ermita hill to see the nice view of Sabang beach and the other beaches in Baler.

What to bring:
- swim wear
- sunblock
- mosquito repellent
- trekking sandals
- drybag
Where to eat:
- several eat-all-you-can buffet style restaurant in town (200-250 pesos)
- beach front restaurants (200-250 pesos per meal)
- carinderias besides Museo de Baler (50 - 100 pesos per meal)
- carinderias at the back of the beach (50 - 100 pesos per meal)
- bus to Baler via Genesis Bus (standard bus) 450 pesos
- JoyBus by Genesis Bus (sleeper bus) 700 pesos
- tricycle within Baler town 10-15 pesos

If you're travelling without a tour guide, use your smart phone and Google maps, it is very easy to locate the tourist spots as long as you know how to navigate.
There has been a big change in Baler since the first time I went there. The building of a luxurious hotel and the pathway that narrows the beach. I believe it is good for the community but still not too much or it will ruin the spot.