Going Back and Moving Forward

It may sound crazy to want to go back to the year that was after spending two fun-filled days (not to mention food-filled) in 2016. But as I stare at my ceiling and reflect on what has transpired in 2015, I realize that I have indeed done a lot of “going back,” and this has resulted into 2015 being my most adventurous year as of yet.

I started my love affair with mountains in 2014, and this has continued on to 2015. I climbed six mountains, one of which was the highest peak in Luzon, Mt. Pulag via the Akiki trail. I almost cried as I watched the sunrise from the summit, in amazement of the sea of clouds and the rest of God’s creations. I also did two repeat climbs – Mt. Natib, this time including Pasukulan Falls and Tarak Ridge in Bataan. A little over a year has passed since I scaled these mountains, but a lot has changed in the terrain and of course, the view. I still didn’t get bitten by the limatiks though. πŸ™‚

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I also went back to one of my favorite countries, Malaysia. I explored Kota Kinabalu and its lovely islands and beaches at a time when I badly needed to clear my mind and get a new perspective on things. The many similarities between our culture and theirs is one of the reasons I came back, and of course their food and their malls!

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In 2015, I have also gone back to my passion for teaching. I am a trainer by profession and after spending two fruitful years in Operations, I took a leap of faith, handed in my resignation without any concrete plans, traveled, rested for a month, and landed a job as a trainer for Camp Australia. Little did I know that this was just the start of big things, as I got promoted on my third month and was tasked to handle the training and quality team of the company.

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I found myself going back to the running field asΒ I completed two half marathons in 2015. I may not have beaten my 2014 PR, but I sure as hell felt so proud after completing the 21k run for Run United 1 and 2 without collapsing in the middle of the street (my legs were turning to jelly as I struggled halfway through the run). I am crossing my fingers that my 2016 schedule would allow me to complete all three 21k legs of my favorite marathon.

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I thought that 2015 would be a difficult year for me because I faced some serious issues and had to make tough decisions, which meant leaving my comfort zone and even a few of my good friends behind. Yet it turned out to be one awesome year, and I couldn’t help but be amazed at how each experience transformed itself into another unforgettable page of my 2015 book. And oh, I have just made another milestone when I turned 30 last year, and despite most of my friends not being physically around to celebrate it with me, I enjoyed their birthday surprise.

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It’s the start of another book, which means that we’ve just been given a new chance to make things right. I have written down my “little-things-that-make-big-differences” list and will definitely make sure to keep this list in mind each day:

  1. I will continue making my bed in the morning, no matter how sleepy I am.
  2. I will continue spending more time with my parents even if it means that I have to take them out for dinner at their restaurant of choice.
  3. I will make sure to check on my friends regularly, as most of them are already out of the country (thank you, Facebook and Viber!).
  4. I will hug my dogs everyday even if they have a goal in life to chew on all of my slippers.
  5. I will eat healthy and ditch soda and fries and chicharon (I’d have to TRY my best to not eat seaweed flavored Lays almost everyday though).
  6. I Β will start reading the books I bought or received last year (nine books, I think) and will finish them all this year.
  7. I will wear my retainers every night (okay, and every morning before I start my shift).
  8. I will limit myself to buying only two bags this year (promise!!!), and reallocate the money to my travel funds instead.
  9. I will continue with my workout routine everyday (except you know, that time of the month).
  10. I will remind myself of those nine must do’s and push myself to stick to them for 365, or rather 366 days.

 

I have taken a step back and embraced some parts of my past, but it doesn’t mean that I’m stuck and not moving forward. Not a big fan of the “new year, new me” thing because we always carry with us a little something from our past experiences. Yet I have never been this ready to welcome 2016 and wait for its thrilling surprises and twists. Cheers to a new year! πŸ™‚

 

Travel Journal: George Town, Penang 2014

In a couple of days, I will be turning 30. Like what I usually end up doing when my birthday draws near, I recall how the last year went, Β and I had to smile upon remembering how I spent my birthday in the beautiful city of George Town in the state of Penang, Malaysia.

My lovely birthday week started with a three-day stay in Coffee Atelier, a quaint and lovely gallery/residence/restaurant in Lorong Stewart. We took the bus from KLIA going to Penang (you may take a direct flight to Penang though), and another five-minute ferry ride to George Town to get to the center of the city. We were welcomed by the hotel staff who were fellow kababayans (imagine our joy upon hearing them say “Mabuhay!”) and who immediately served us coffee as both Cindy and I looked puyat.

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

 

The exhaustion from flying out that early in the morning was forgotten upon seeing our suite. We occupied the one on the ground floor and everything in the room was just so charming and welcoming, especially the bed and the pieces of furniture. A lovely bonus – Coffee Atelier also houses the Gehrig Art Gallery!

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

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george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery

 

We had three days to discover what made George Town a UNESCO World Heritage. The first one was spent walking around the nearby streets, shops, bars, local food stalls, and just taking in the sights and sounds of the city. On our second day, which was also my birthday, I felt like I was acting out a scene taken straight out of a Koreanovela! We biked around George Town searching forΒ what it is known for – street art!

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown

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coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

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coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

 

It would be unforgivable to spend a few days in this town without embarking on a gastronomic adventure. Hawker stalls and eateries and restaurants are all over the place, offering distinct cuisines from Malaysia and its neighboring countries. Looking back, I’d say that George Town is a haven for someone who likes to walk a lot and discover eccentric stuff and eat and eat and eat without worrying about spending a fortune.

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

coffee atelier, penang, georgetown, malaysia, birthday in georgetown, georgetown street art

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

 

We also learned that one of the coffee shops in the city makes 3D coffee art. On Lebuh Pantai we found Coffee on the Table, and since it was my birthday, they let me watch how they create 3D coffee art. Their coffee creations were really cute, and it broke my heart when I started stirring my coffee and the pig slowly vanished into the drink.

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

 

Thank God that the weather permitted for our last day in George Town to be spent by the beach. After a bus ride of about 30 minutes, we reached Batu Ferringhi which is said to be the most popular beach near the city. The beach is lined with hotels and stalls offering activities like canoeing and parasailing, but we chose to just enjoy the view and soak up the sun.

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

 

A little shopping was done in Gurney Plaza, but it would be a shame not to spend my last day (and my remaining ringgits) shopping in Kuala Lumpur. Hello there, Petronas!

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table, petronas, kuala lumpur

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

george town, penang, malaysia, coffee atelier, george town street art, georgetown malaysia, gehrig art gallery, coffee on the table

 

If I can choose a vacation that I could replay, it would be my visit to this impressive city that has a mix of old architecture with modern buildings and malls, with streets filled with IG-worthy corners and mouth-watering delicacies, and in which I celebrated another year in my life.

 

Looking Back and Moving Forward

It’s only been a few weeks since we welcomed the new year with hopes and wishes for a better life. But every time I say “last year,” 2014 feels like many months ago. Nonetheless, looking back at the year that was makes me feel contented and fulfilled. I daresay I achieved what I wanted before the year ended – peace of mind and a clean slate to start 2015 with.

I finally had the chance to catch up with my dear friend Cindy after the holiday break. We talked about 2014 and both agreed that it was the most magastos year ever! Why? We both spent our hard-earned money on our favorite activity – traveling. True enough, last year was exciting and fun-filled because of all the traveling I did with friends and family.

First stop – Banaue Rice Terraces, Sagada, and Baguio

The cold weather, the sights and sounds of Sagada, the simple life of the people up north. I will never forget how breathtaking it was to finally see up close the rice terraces built by our ancestors. A.MA.ZING.

sagada, banaue rice terraces

 

Second stop – Baler

I have a confession to make – I don’t know how to swim. Hahaha. But I loooove the beach, and it’s obvious naman, I went to Baler twice with my teammates. Proud first time surfer here who got on the board a number of times! Yey!

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Third stop – Caramoan Islands

It still surprises me how something this beautiful exists and takes my breath away. Because of the awesomeness of the islands that we visited in Caramoan, I vowed to make sure that I will visit more islands in our country in 2015.

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Fourth stop – Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It was a happy, happy birthday for me in October. I got to explore Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia. Corners and streets and walls with street art, yummy street food, and hospitable people – what more can I ask for in a birthday celebration? Maybe no more stalkers while biking around town. LOL. (Yes, I have yet to write about this travel to Malaysia. Soon. :))

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In between all the traveling, I also managed to discover my love for two new hobbies – running and mountain climbing. I never imagined that I’d fall in love with these activities. You see, I wasn’t an “outdoorsy” type of person before. I hated getting my hands and feet dirty with mud, I didn’t like running long distances, and I wasn’t a big fan of sleeping in a tent. But all that changed when I tried hiking and when I covered 5k, 8k, 10k, and finally 21k in marathons. At first, it was only for fun, only to veer my attention away from thoughts I don’t like lingering in my mind. Yet I found myself joining more marathons and wanting to climb more mountains. I started investing in mountain climbing gear and subscribing to all these websites where runΒ schedules are posted.

Girl vs. Mountain seriesΒ – Mt. Romelo, Tarak Ridge, and Mt. Natib

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Eat and Run series – AmCham Run for a Scholar, World Vision Run, Energen Healthy Run Manila Leg, Eco R3Run, and Run United Philippine Marathon 3.Β 

energen healthy run manila leg 2014

rupm 3

 

An important event that capped off the year and made it even more unforgettable was the wedding of one of my college best friends, Irene. I was blinking back tears as she walked down the aisle to the arms of her love. It was a simple yet touching ceremony of their union, and of course I was honored to be her maid of honor.

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I’d have to say that 2014 was unlike any other year. I let loose, I became more adventurous, I forgot my fears and embraced challenge. Looking back, I can sum up what I feel in one word: Thankful. I am thankful for the people that I met in one of the trails, on the road while running, or on the plane while on my way to one of my destinations. I am thankful for the changes that taught me that nothing’s really permanent, and you won’t be happy if you stay stuck in one place. Β I am thankful for another year, another chance to move forward and do right.

 

 

Girl vs. Mountain: Tarak Ridge, May 2014

I had a lot of firsts on this mountain.

This was my first major climb. It was also the first time I scaled a summit. I carried my own bag – with around four liters of water inside, a tent that could fit two people, a sleeping bag, canned food, clothes – without the help of a horse or a porter. It was the first time for me to join an organized tramping activity. I also remember this climb being the first ever challenge that pushed me to ask myself kung bakit ko ginagawa ‘to. Lol.

The mountain on which I experienced these first times – Tarak Ridge, Mt. Mariveles. When my dad said that we’re climbing Tarak Ridge, I looked it up right away on Pinoy Mountaineer:

Tarak Ridge in Mariveles, Bataan
Jump off point: Brgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles
LLA: 14Β°30.357β€²N, 120Β°30β€²E, 1,006 MASL (ridge); 1,130 MASL (peak)
Days required / Hours to summit: 2 days, 5-6 hours
Specs: Major climb, Difficulty 4/9, Trail class 3

It was a sunny Saturday morning when we reached Bataan. We started off at 9am and reached Manang Curding’s house after a few minutes. All mountaineers are required to register here. What excited me upon reaching her humble hut were the banners of successful mountaineers hung in front of it. I wanted so badly to see our group’s banner with my signature up there!

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I climbed with my dad, Ninong, and friend Cindy, and seven other people who joined the organized climb.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
See those banners behind me? Cool, right! You can hang your group’s banner after finishing the climb.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Ang cool ni Manang Curding! They serve free coffee to all mountaineers upon registration.

This mountain challenged my patience and endurance to their limits. The first hour of trekking was quite easy, but the difficulty escalated as we started climbing steeper slopes with the sun beating down on us. Armed with a strong resolve (and a chocolate bar in my hand) to move forward, I kept walking and walking and walking.

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Where’s Patty?
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
I’m up there! Had to hold on to rocks to get to the other side. Saya!
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
My little buddy holding on to dear life as I walked for three hours.

After about three hours, I heard the steady sound of gushing freshwater and it was like music to my ears! We reached Papaya River, which is the only water source on the mountain. Our guide, Romy, decided to tweak the itinerary so that we’ll set camp along the river instead of on the ridge. It was the best idea ever because it will take another two hours (or more) to the ridge, and we would definitely be slowed down if we had our heavy backpacks with us.

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The campsite where we spent two days.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
My favorite / mandatory sun shot (I also took one similar to this in Mt. Romelo).
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
My big backpack! It’s heavy, I swear.

After lunch and a nap in our tent, we set off towards the summit. Boy was it hard! We had to hold on to tree trunks and branches jutting out of the soil, steeling ourselves for a jagged landscape ahead. Our guide though was so proud of us because we were on the ridge in less than two hours. Yay!

Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
The rest of our group on our way up to the ridge.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Yay! Pagoda tragedy, nakaka stress drilon! But the view was breathtaking and made the hard climb worth it.

Like what my friend said about mountain climbing, there is immediate gratification upon realizing where you are and what you can see below you. The ridge provided a 270 degree view of Bataan. It was also amazing to see Corregidor Island and Cavite from a distance.

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The view from the ridge – Bataan, Corregidor, Manila Bay

I only had about two sips of water left in my tumbler, but that didn’t stop me from saying yes to our guide when he asked if we wanted to climb up to the summit. Ganon ako ka-competitive! It took another 20 to 30 minutes before we reached the first summit (apparently there are two summits – El Saco and Tarak). We were 1,130 meters above sea level and the view was really amazing, not to mention the air that was probably the freshest that I will ever get to breathe.

Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
A pause for a photo to capture the view behind me, before assaulting the summit.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
I wanted to climb up this tree but my dad will kill me if I did. It’s perilous to move to the edge so I contented myself with a photo of this beautiful tree near the summit.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
On the summit with the girls in the group. It was windy, and we were perched on a rock formation. Di naman halata na nanginginig na konti yung tuhod nila no? :p
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
The Basekamp Ligaya group relishing the achievement of reaching Tarak Ridge.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Pardon the tacky mountain climbing outfit. Haha! I transform whenever I climb – no make up, no matching clothes and bags, and yes, I always wear that cap. I even bought a belt bag! It feels good to change into this set of clothes every once in a while.

The descent wasn’t easy because of the slippery downhill paths, and the sun started to set as we trekked back to camp. It was another first for me, and I had to use my headlamp to be able to work my way towards the campsite in the dark. When I got to our tent I wanted badly to sleep, but of course part of the itinerary that everyone looked forward to was the socials. Oh and there was also a raffle draw! I won a drawstring bag from Basekamp. Another first! I’m never lucky in raffle draws. πŸ™‚

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Helping out with the raffle draw. I think I picked my name? πŸ™‚
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Happy campers!

Our second day was more relaxed as we got the rest we needed from yesterday’s assault to the summit. Our group enjoyed a bottle of whiskey while dipped in the river, and by 11am we were already on our way back to the foot of the mountain, thrilled to hang the banner after yesterday’s peat.

Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Good morning! My Ninong who prepared our breakfast – coffee and noodles.
Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
One of Manang Curding’s dogs. Ang galing nakakarating siya sa campsite!

And we got to the foot of the mountain safely, with Manang Curding and a glass of buko juice waiting for us. FYI – I don’t like buko juice but I finished one tall glass in less than a minute. I was thirsty and exhausted and feeling sore all over, but these paled in comparison to the immense feeling of scaling Tarak Ridge. The achievement made me want to scale more mountains soon!

Tarak ridge, tarak ridge bataan, mountain climbing, manang curding tarak ridge, mt. Mariveles
Hello again, Manang Curding!

Join us in our quest to explore more mountains! Add Basekamp Ligaya on Facebook to get regular updates and deets of tramping activities organized by the group. πŸ™‚

Travel Journal: Caramoan on a Budget

Caramoan for four days – one blissful experience indeed.

However, it took planning and coordination to ensure that everything was in order – from the bus tickets, to the itinerary, food, and accommodations, down to the things we had to bring so we can enjoy our vacation to the fullest. It was late in January when I received an email from Mommy Vids, an office mate of mine, and thank heavens for her because she literally took care of everything. She patiently sent us emails, even a list of things to bring. She was also the one who organized our Calaguas trip.

Our itinerary:

March 28
07:30pm Meeting at Araneta Center Bus Station (just right next to Shopwise Cubao)
08:00pm ETD from Cubao
04:30am ETA at Naga Central Bus Station, early breakfast at the station (per pax account)

1ST DAY
05:00am Pick up at Naga
08:00am ETA at Sabang port
10:00am ETA (Caramoan Port)
10:20am ETA (West Peninsula Villas) – Check in / Refresh
11:30am Lunch
12:30pm ETD from West Peninsula to Bikal port/jump off point for island hopping
-Tinago beach
-Matukad island
-Lajos Island
-Tinago beach
pass by Gota beach and Honunagan cove
05:00pm Back to West Pen Villas
07:00pm Dinner

2ND DAY
06:30am Breakfast
07:30am ETD (West Pen Villas to Tabgon) Visit Grotto of Our Lady of Peace
10:00am Start of Island hopping
12:00pm Lunch in an island
Whole Afternoon: Island Hopping
-Bag-ing island
-Sabitang laya
-Basud island
04:30pm Back to West Pen Villas
07:00pm Dinner

3RD DAY
07:00am Breakfast
08:00am ETD (West Pen Villas to Bikal Port)
08:30am – 12:00pm Manlawi Sand Bar: Lunch
Whole Afternoon:
-Cotivas Island
-Bugtong Island
-Lighthouse visit
-Other islands
04:00PM Back to West Pen Villas
– Visit Century old church
07:00PM Dinner

4th DAY
06:30AM Breakfast
07:00am Souvenir shopping at town proper
08:30AM West Pen Villas to Caramoan Port
09:00AM Caramoan Port to Sabang Port

We chose to travel by land to avoid the hassle of checking in at the airport, waiting for our flight, etc. By now I’m pretty much used to riding the bus and sleeping through the ride. It can get a bit uncomfortable but you can also book with a sleeper (executive) bus.
Almost everything went smoothly except for the lost ticket in Isarog Bus Lines, and thanks to the rude conductor, we spent about 15 minutes explaining to him that we have reserved and paid for our seats in advance and that we were all aboard the bus already.
Upon reaching Naga Central Bus Station, we were picked up by a van and for about two hours traveled to Sabang Port. There’s a two-hour boat ride after that, but don’t fret because you won’t lose sight of land and it’s not as scary as the boat ride to Calaguas.

Another minor setback that we had though on our way back home – the tickets in Naga Central Bus Station were sold out the day we were bound back to Manila. We had to go to Daet – DLTB Bus Co. and take the bus to Manila from there.

There were several instances when we didn’t follow the itinerary or jumbled the schedule; nonetheless, we visited almost all the islands on the list except for Baging, Bugtong, and Basud. These were replaced by Cagbalinad, Tinago and Tayak islands.

Accommodations:

We stayed at West Peninsula Villas which prides itself as “The Most Refreshing Haven in Caramoan.” I kinda agree and give it four out of five stars. What I loved about the place: the big pool where we lounged after island hopping (oo ayaw namin sa tubig), the food, especially the laing (it was the best laing I’ve ever tasted) and the crabs, and their yummy leche flan. Napaghahalataang matakaw ako. Of course, kudos to the friendly staff and the tour guide who patiently took our pictures, waited for us while we swam from the middle of the sea to the island (with life vests of course), and who answered all our questions about Caramoan. The resort gets plus points for their affordable rates and for the fact that we saw the production crew of Survivor as they were checking in a day before we left. Oh, and the small bar tucked in the corner of the resort. They sell beer for only Php40!

caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
West Peninsula Villas is at the heart of Caramoan
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
Survivor memorabilia – the staff and crew of the past editions of Survivor checked in at West Peninsula Villas

caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary

caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
The cottages/villas
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
We occupied three rooms, here’s our room with two beds (there were ten of us in the group)
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
There’s a pool table in the middle of the resort. Very nice!
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
You can swim some more in the pool on the far edge of the resort if you still have the energy after a whole day of island hopping
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
Laing, I love you! The yummiest laing I have ever tasted. I’m coming back for you!
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
They packed our lunch during our three-day island hopping. They cooked Bicol Express, adobong pusit, fried fish, and crabs for us.
caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary
The Lake Bar at West Peninsula Villas where you can chill after a looong but thrilling day

caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary

caramoan, caramoan camarines sur, west peninsula villas, caramoan itinerary

The only thing I dislike about the place – I encountered a freakishly big cockroach on the sink! I walked into our room, a bit dazed and sleepy after drinking at the bar and singing the night away, then found a cockroach crawling into the sink. I was panicking and praying that it won’t start flying, else I might run shrieking (I am perpetually afraid of and disgusted with this insect). My buddies in the other room had the same experience – only that the cockroach in their room was clinging on the curtain.

Our expenses for four days, three nights (I won’t be including the stuff I bought for the trip such as swimwear, toiletries, snacks, etc.):

Bus fare
-750php from Cubao to Naga
-150php from Naga to Daet
-650php from Daet to Manila

Accommodations (three days and two nights), food (three sets of breakfast, lunch, and dinner), boat and van transfers
-4,794.50php

Pasalubong – I am not a big fan of giving pasalubong, unless I am traveling abroad
-100php for two ref magnets

TOTAL: 6444.50php

Seeing the islands was worth every centavo I spent, yet I know that there are several other activities that we have to check out and try such as rock climbing and exploring other islands. Some friends sent me messages on Facebook right after seeing my Caramoan posts, asking how much I spent for the trip. Most of them were surprised that I spent around 6,000php only for a four-day vacation, and they started researching and booking their own trips.

If you’re interested to travel to Caramoan and experience sheer joy coming from island-hopping, eating, and swimming, head over to the website of West Peninsula Villas at westpeninsulavillas.com or contact them at +63 915 3295669 / +63 921 2642538 / +63 919 7901624. I’m pretty sure they will be more than happy to prepare an itinerary for you.

Travel Journal: Caramoan 2014

To keep my “shop less, travel more” resolution (resolutions are different from goals apparently), I have successfully explored Sagada-Benguet-Baguio in January, and with my teammates, had an early taste of summer in Baler last February.

My third out-of-town trip this year was with my office travel buddies, with whom I discovered a hidden gem in Camarines Norte last year when we visited Calaguas island. They sent an email late January and asked if I wanted to join them in yet another exciting vacation, this time, in Caramoan, Camarines Sur. Being the “kaladkarin” that I am, I filed my leaves, packed my bags, and prepared for a four-day escapade. Of course my travel buddy Cindy tagged along; we agreed last year that we’ll go to Caramoan if we ever get the chance.

Caramoan is located at the tip of the Caramoan Peninsula, and is (to my surprise) a first-class municipality in Camarines Sur. I have observed that some roads have yet to be paved, yet the schools, establishments, and even most homes are already made of concrete. The boost in tourism may have stemmed from Caramoan being chosen as the location of several editions of the reality show Survivor. In fact, our tour guide said that some islands will be closed to the public after the Holy Week to give way to another Survivor production.

During our four-day stay, we were able to go to nine islands and see for ourselves what the paradise island was all about. Each island was teeming with beauty, what with the white/pink sand as fine as baby powder, the pristine waters where we could swim all day, the lush trees, and even the jagged cliffs and rocks that we climbed. Caramoan made me hold my breath in amazement many times; it was sensory overload in a positive way.

Sorry for this picture-heavy post, but I can’t help sharing with you what I’ve seen and experienced. πŸ™‚

Island-hopping Day 1: Lajos – Matukad – Cagbalinad

caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, our lady of peace grotto
Lajos Island

caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
Lajos Island
caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
Matukad Lagoon – home of the infamous lonely bangus
View from the top of the rocky cliff in Matukad island
View from the top of the rocky cliff in Matukad island – you must never miss this!

Island-hopping Day 2: Our Lady of Peace Grotto and Chapel – Sabitang Laya – Tayak – Tinago

caramoan, caramoan island, our lady of peace grotto
Our Lady of Peace chapel on top of a hill
caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, our lady of peace grotto
The interior of Our Lady of Peace Chapel
caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, our lady of peace grotto
When you’re on top of that hill, this is the lovely view – the mountain roadside
caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, our lady of peace grotto
Our Lady of Peace grotto (a few meters away from the chapel) in Brgy. Tabgon
caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, our lady of peace grotto
My travel buddies – including my Mom! On our way up to the Our Lady of Peace grotto
caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary
Sabitang-laya island on a hot afternoon, whiling away time before lunch

caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
A hidden lagoon in Tayak island
caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
Tinago beach – if you’ll see it for yourself, it was obviously named that way because it’s hidden behind huge rocky cliffs

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

Island-hopping Day 3: Lighthouse with a view of Liwan beach – Manlawi Sandbar – Cotivas – Gota Village

caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary
An unfinished (and unnamed?) lighthouse on one island which the tour guide referred to as “sitio”
caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary
Feeling ko I’m in Batanes! View of Liwan beach from the lighthouse

caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, lighthouse

caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary
Cotivas island – one of the islands used in Survivor
caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary, starfish
Took a picture with a starfish (one of the many that you can catch because the waters are oh-so-clear). Don’t worry, I put her back in the waters after this shot
caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
Lunchtime on one of the balsas on Manlawi island/sandbar

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur

caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, gota village
Our last stop – Gota Village. Gotta go to Gota, indeed!

caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, gota village

caramoan, caramoan island, camarines sur, gota village

caramoan, caramoan island, caramoan itinerary, gota beach, gota village
This is the life. I can float all day in waters as clear as this. One of my favorite areas – Gota beach

We stayed there for four days, but I still had to drag myself from the bed on our last day. I didn’t want to leave because I know there’s a lot more to discover in Caramoan.

caramoan, caramoan itinerary, caramoan camarines sur
We ended each day with this – watching the sunset, in awe of God’s perfect creations.

I will be writing a separate post on our itinerary, as well as the accommodations and our expenses. Watch out!

Travel Journal: Aurora 2014

I have never included Aurora in my must-visit list in the Philippines. It didn’t sound enticing enough for me despite being part of the top surf spots in the country, but I didn’t pass up the chance to see the place for myself. I was initially thrilled just because I was traveling with my teammates, and this was our first time to go out of town.

Off to baler aurora with the unilever team, baler aurora

One of my teammates who planned this trip hails from Maria Aurora, Aurora. She sent the itinerary early January and all we had to do was block one weekend off of our February schedules because she took care of everything – from the van rental to our meals, to the list of places that we should not miss, even the booze! We left Manila Friday night, and after about six hours on the road, we started traversing a rocky, dusty path, signaling our arrival in Maria Aurora.

My expectations weren’t that high, so I was surprised upon discovering what Aurora had to offer. In just two whole days, we were able to explore Ditumabo “Mother” Falls in San Luis, Dicasalarin Beach in Baler, Dinadiawan and Ampere Beaches in Dipaculao, and of course, Sabang Beach in Baler. I have to say that I fell in love with everything – the falls, the beaches, and the food!

Our first stop – Ditumabo falls, more popularly known to locals as the Mother falls. Trekking for about 30-45 minutes, then swimming in the fresh, cold water from the falls were the highlights of our first activity. The road to Ditumabo is yet to be paved with cement, so it is more advisable to take a tricycle going there (Php100 fare).

Ditumabo falls, baler aurora

Ditumabo falls, aurora

Ditumabo falls, flower,  baler aurora

Ditumabo falls,  baler aurora

We were starving after our Ditumabo adventure, so we had lunch at Carlito’s Inn and Restaurant in Baler. This resto offers eat-all-you-can for less than Php200. We initially planned on eating at Gerry Shan’s, which is a popular eat-all-you-can resto in Baler. It was jam packed though at lunchtime, so we drove off to Carlito’s instead.
After a hearty meal, we proceeded to our next stop – Dicasalarin Cove in Baler. Now to reach this resort owned by the Angara clan, you have to drive uphill for about 20-30 minutes on a one-way road. There is an entrance fee of Php100 per person. I realized that I’d be willing to pay more after what I saw. It was such a breathtaking sight, and I can’t help but recall the view from the hilltop in Calaguas.

Dicasalarin, baler, aurora

Dicasalarin, dicasalarin cove,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin beach,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin, baler aurora

Dicasalarin beach,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin beach,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin,  baler aurora

Dicasalarin cove, baler aurora

Another tourist spot in Baler is the Balete tree park, which is home to the largest Balete tree in Asia. The 600-year old Balete tree is reportedly five stories high, and it was big enough that we were able to weave our way in and come out on the other side of the park. I even tried climbing a couple of feet up the tree. It is one of the most visited spots in Baler, and for Php10 you can go up the tree with the help of a guide.

Balete tree in baler,  baler aurora

Balete tree,  baler aurora

Our last stop for the day was in Dinadiawan Beach in Dipaculao, Aurora. We checked in at one of the small resorts there after a two-hour drive from Baler.
Being lulled to sleep by the waves was so relaxing. Waking up to the sound of the waters crashing on the shore that morning was one of the best feelings I’ve had. We woke up a little late, so we didn’t catch the sunrise; nonetheless the blue sky meeting the seemingly endless sea was such a sight to behold.

Dinadiawan, aurora

Dinadiawan, aurora

Dinadiawan, aurora

On our way back to Baler, we stopped over at Ampere Beach, still in Dipaculao. The shore is really rocky, so we didn’t go for a swim. We spent a few minutes taking pictures instead.

Ampere beach, aurora

Ampere beach, auror

A trip to Baler is incomplete without stopping by Sabang Beach and trying out surfing. I didn’t attempt though because of another possible trip to Baler in May, so I wanted to reserve this activity for my next visit. Nonetheless, I enjoyed swimming in Sabang and watching first timers at the Aliya Surf Camp getting stoked on surfing. One hour surfing lessons in Aliya including the board, free use of rash guard, and a baller band cost Php350.

Aliya Surf Camp, Baler aurora, surfing

Baler, aurora

Aliya surf camp, baler, aurora

Aliya Surf Camp, Baler aurora, surfing

Aliya Surf Camp, Baler aurora, surfing

We left Aliya late in the afternoon then dropped by the Pasalubong Center. My teammate said they didn’t have a special delicacy for us to bring back to Manila, but of course I didn’t leave the town without a ref magnet to add to my growing collection.

Two whole days in Aurora completely changed the way I looked at the province. The beaches and the falls were scenic spots that I wouldn’t mind visiting again, and the beauty of Aurora has occupied a special place in my memory. It is indeed true that it is more fun, more exciting, and more beautiful in the Philippines, especially once you open your eyes to the treasures that are all over our country.

Pictures taken by author using an iPad and GoPro Hero 2, edited using Aviary. Please do not use the photos without permission.