San Vicente (Palawan, PH)

Dubbed as the home of the Philippines “longest white beach”, the Long Beach in San Vicente, Palawan stretches to approximately 14.7 kilometers of undeveloped coastal wonder, a figure that is thrice the length of Boracay’s White Beach. Although not as white and fine as the sands of Boracay, this Palawan is on it’s way to gaining more tourism spotlight moreso that its airport has been inaugurated last quarter of 2018. Local and foreign tourists who are on the look-out for more places to visit in Palawan, besides the famous El Nido and Coron, will now have another destination to explore.

The uber crystal clear waters of Inaladelan Island in Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan.

And so for my birthday this year, I decided to go and see what San Vicente offers. Having been to Coron twice, El Nido once, and Puerto Princesa on two occasions, it was high time to go back to the Philippines’ last frontier and experience a new place. So without much expectations, I packed my bag (a 6.5 kg bag — the lightest I have packed in years), for a 3-day, solo getaway.

Aerial view of a segment of San Vicente’s Long Beach.

HOW to REACH SAN VICENTE, PALAWAN:

Before the building of their own airport, San Vicente is reached through the Puerto Princesa Airport. From there, one will have to take a van or a bus that would usually take around 3-4 hours. But now, San Vicente has its own airport.

***Philippine Airlines (PAL Express). From Clark to San Vicente, they have 1 inbound and outbound flight daily. They have been operational since October 2018. Travel time is around an hour 20 minutes. Soon, 2 other airlines will fly to San Vicente and these are Skyjet Airlines (which will fly from Manila to San Vicente; and a relatively new airline company operating in the Philippines, Royal Air.

The San Vicente Airport is pretty close to the poblacion and the Long Beach. You could just take a tricycle to your hotel or ask your hotel/ resort to pick you up at the airport. Tricycle fare is around P60-70 per person. But if you want to charter the entire trike, you can do so for around P250-300 depending on how far your hotel is from the airport.

Palm-dotted paradise.

Another bird’s eyeview of San Vicente as my PAL express plane lands at the newly built San Vic airport.

WHAT to SEE and DO in SAN VICENTE:

LONG BEACH: Of course the primary attraction is the seemingly endless Long Beach, touted as the longest beach in the Philippines. This 14.7-km beach with the spectacular sunset every afternoon at this side of Palawan is just amazing! However, you have to manage your expectations. The sand quality of the beach itself isn’t really that outstanding (in case you get to compare it with the Boracay’s or Calaguas’). The sand isn’t really white and isn’t that powdery .

Irawan Beach as captured from Bato Ningning.

If you want to visit all 6 areas, it is best to ride a motorcycle (locally known as habal-habal). From the center or the Poblacion, the fares will vary. It will of course depend which beach you want to visit. According to the receptionist at the resort I stayed at, they have motorcycle tour – slash – beach-hopping tour wherein the rate range would be from P250 to P350.00 San Vic’s ultimate charmer – it’s sunset!

San Vic’s ultimate charmer – it’s sunset! My Day 1 sundown view.


The palm-trees silhouette just made this sunset capture much more spectacular!

BATO NI NINGNING and IRAWAN BEACH: Compared to the beach near Poblacion and Alimanguan, Irawan has a better beach quality from the sand to the water. It also feature some giant rocks at one-end of the beach that looks fascinating for photos. Moreover, a small hill that could be easily trekked from the beach, stands at the northern end.

The top of the small hill has been called by locals as “Bato ni Ningning”, one of the filming locations of A Filipino television series entitled “Ningning”. I personally love the view from this area. It offers a lovely scene of the beach, the nearby mountains and a lot of coconut trees. Another sunset in paradise. Just lovely!


Another sunset in paradise. Just lovely! This view is infront of Lazuli Resort.

To reach Irawan and Bato ni Ningning, you can charter a motorcycle for P300 (at least that is what I paid for). That is already a roundtrip fare and so the habal-habal driver will have to wait for you and take you back to your hotel/ resort. Atop a hill where the now defunct ABS-CBN soap, “Ningning” was filmed.


Atop a hill where the now defunct ABS-CBN soap, “Ningning” was filmed.

One of the many activities you could do in San Vic is free diving/ snorkeling and you will be amazed to see these wonders. Good thing I brought with me my underwater camera. Taken while snorkeling at Twin Reef, Port Barton.

ISLAND HOPPING: Just like in Coron, El Nido and Balabac, the highlight of a Palawan visit is a tour if the smaller islands. According to the tourism center of San Vicente, the town has 22 islands off its coast. A great number of these island are accessible from the Poblacion where the centralized jump off area for boats are located. If you are travelling solo or in pair, you can join a group tour. If you are a group, you could charter a boat going to these island and may include Port Barton. I joined a group tour that I coursed through the resort I stayed. I paid Php 1,800 (a little higher than the standard). I guess because it was coordinated with the resort.


Day 3 of my San Vic vacation. Decided to just chill by the beach (in style). LOL.

On the day of my birthday, I went island-hopping. This is one of the islands we went to see. The water is just so clear! This one was taken at Cayoya Island (locals more often call it Exotic Island).

On the day of my birthday, I went island-hopping. This is one of the islands we went to see. The water is just so clear! This one was taken at Cayoya Island (locals more often call it Exotic Island). Some of the islands included in the island hopping are Inaladelan Island (formerly German Island), Exotic Island & Maxima Island, snorkeling at the Twin Reef and Turtle Sanctuary, Starfish Island, and the public beach of Port Barton (plus a trek to a waterfalls). There are other islands and coves to explore like Capsalay Island, Blue Cove, Daplac Cove, Boayan island, Velasco island and Paradise Island


Laid-back, serene – just the way I want it!

At a sandbar called Luli. As to why it is called such, you’re guess is good as mine. Hahaha!

Where to Stay in San Vicente:

So I opted to stay at Brgy. Alimanguan which is around 30 minutes away from the Poblacion and the airport. Here are 2 accommodations I recommend.

LAZULI RESORT: A relatively new beach resort located at a laid-back fishing village at Long Beach, Brgy. Alimanguan, San Vicente. Lazuli boasts off rooms with lovely wall art, a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. They also have an outdoor pool and an in-house restaurant that serves probably the best tasting thin-crust, brick-oven pizza! And there is more to that! Lazuli is a beachfront property! How lovely! The sunset and sea view are just a stone’s throw away from the resort.

You can contact them at +(63)9178125711 +(63)9171267180 or you can visit their website HERE.

VICTORIA’S BEACH HOUSE: Another option is this very homey beach house that is literally by the sea. Also located at Brgy. Alimanguan, Victoria seems to be a common choice for travellers’ who are in for a longer stay. It has its own bar-resto that serves affordable and sumptuous meals. (Heads up though, if you are up for a place with strong wifi connection, Victoria doesn’t have that. I could barely connect to their wifi). You can contact them at +63999 994 1332 or email them at victoriapalawan@gmail.com

Another shot atop Ningning’s Hill overlooking Irawan Beach.

A closer look at Irawan Beach where turtles have a sanctuary!

By the way, please make sure that your hotel/ accommodation is along the Long Beach area if you wish to stay at Long Beach and NOT Port Barton area. Port Barton, a farther barangay of San Vicente, is relatively far by land.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

Aigoo, Agoo Eco-Park (La Union)

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

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With the mere mention of La Union, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is the surf town San Juan. Ask further what else reminds them of La Union and most likely the following are the answers you’ll elicit: grape-picking in Bauang, Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel, the popular resto called Halo-Halo de Iloko in San Fernando City or even the Bahay-na-Bato in Luna. I am pretty certain that no one would mention about Agoo. Unless, perhaps, you ask a person what they think about this seaside town. Growing up in Elyu during my childhood years, I often associate the municipality with the following: the lovely Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, that giant concrete statue of an eagle called “Eagle of the North” (which is hard to miss when you take the Agoo – Pugo road going to Baguio, and the now infamous Miracle of Agoo that happened in 1993.

Recently, I have discovered (through my Instagram) a seemingly interesting place in Sta. Rita, Agoo. They call it “Agoo Eco-Park” which is a part of the Agoo- Damortis Protected Landscape and Seascape. I thought it is a newly developed area in this coastal town of La Union. I searched a little more, and I was surprised to know that it has been there since 2015. (Why haven’t I learned of this place earlier?)

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So yesterday, my brother, my nephew, and our pupperino Koukou went to check out this place. Since very little information can be looked up over the internet, we just took note of the barangay where it is located. This eco-tourism site is located at Sta. Rita West and Sta. Rita Central, in Agoo, La Union. If you are coming from Manila, you will have to pass by the town proper. The landmark you might want to take note is the Universal Leaf Philippines (a tobacco company that is hard to miss along the highway going to Ilocos). You will find a road on the left side with signage that says “Sta. Rita”. Go straight until you pass by the Sta. Rita Elementary School, and a local chapel. Then take that narrow, unpaved road to the left where a small guard station is seen at the left side. In here, you have to pay Php 15.00 per person as an environmental fee.

There is an on-going road improvement at the entrance. Go straight and the first part of the eco-park that will greet you are the lovely “agoho trees” beautifully lined on both sides of the road. Often mistaken as the common pine trees, these trees are actually flowering trees from the Genus Casuarina (Pharmacognosy 101 people) in contrast to Pine trees which are from the Genus Pinus. These trees have a resemblance with pine because of the apparent needles which are actually stems covered with dull-green scale leaves. These are the same trees one gets to see along the sandy shores of Zambales (think of Anawangin, Nagsasa or even Liwliwa).

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I personally like this part of the park. One can actually put up a tent or just bring out a picnic mat and you are ready to have a great time just staring at the trees and the nearby stream. There are no tables nor chairs (which I like) because it leaves that natural feel. I can imagine myself jogging or biking around the area too. Walking past this agoho-lined area are two eye-catching sceneries. To the left is a body of water (not sure if it is just a stream, a river, or a lagoon that adds beauty to the park; and to the left is a grazing area for cows with a small man-made like lake or lagoon (which I suppose is a source of water for the animals).

A few more meters of walking and you’ll reach the beach area. The very fine, gray sand – lined beach has a very wide and lengthy shoreline. It seems ideal for swimming, kite flying or just basking under the sun. There are also a few huts found, and a large space for parking is also available. If you still aren’t aware, this side of La Union offers a spectacular view of the sunset. That is why coming here in the afternoon is a perfect time – temperature wouldn’t be too scorching and of course, waiting for the sundown is a delightful experience.

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Another must-see area is the mangrove sanctuary of the eco-park. To get there, one has to exit from the road used as an entry point and go straight. A little over 50 meters, you’ll see a small road to the left, go inside until one reaches a small parking lot over-looking the mangrove area. Look to your right and you’ll find a beautifully constructed bamboo pathway to goes into the sea. Walk through it and I am pretty certain you’ll love the experience. This is perhaps my favorite spot. We further waited for the sunset at this side of the park. It was magical. I also saw a few birds in this part of the park and some locals fishing.

It was a surprisingly exquisite time spent at this eco-park. I wish to come back and maybe spend camping at night. It seems to me that this is a very promising eco-tourism destination in La Union. Kudos to those who have thought of planting the agoho trees. It really is a brilliant idea. In the coming years, I suppose, more and more people will come to see this area. I just hope that visitors (and the management) will do their fair share of keeping the park clean.

So there… Hope you get to relish this little adventure grounds La Union offers. Take it easy.

Santiago: Ilocos Sur (PH)

Whenever Ilocos Sur is brought up as a travel destination, the outright attraction that come up is Vigan with its ancestral houses, and cobblestone street, and old churches. But there is more to Ilocos Sur to this world-renowned heritage city.

A little south of Vigan is a coastal town called Santiago. This small town is often unnoticed by visitors going to the Ilocandia primarily because the other tourist spots of the region are more established and has graced almost every travel magazines and ads. But if you are up for some off-beaten destinations then one should consider Santiago.

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I first visited Santiago in 2011. A friend of mine suggested that I check out Sabangan Cove. So one time I was on an Ilocos Sur trip, I included this town in my itinerary. I went to first visit Pinsal Falls and Santa Maria Church in the town of Santa Maria, then I went to see Sabangan Cove.

It wasn’t love at first sight. But, I was just simply happy that I found a serene beach place back then. There weren’t too many people, only local fisherfolks and some children playing along the cove’s shore.

Fastforward: February this year (2018), during a long weekend. I decided to leave Baguio and go elsewhere that isn’t flocked by tourists. During day 1 of the 3-day long weekend, I went to San Juan, La Union. And it was a bad decision since the once quiet surf town is filled with people! So the following day, I traveled my way to Santiago.

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Seven years after my first visit, I am happy that the town has made more development and has opened more places to visit. Of course, there is still Sabangan Cove, where I spent my late afternoon marveling at the spectacular sunset. This is what I have missed during my first visit.

Then there is Vitalis Villas, a Santorini-inspired resort that boasts off a breathtaking view of the sea and Sabangan cove. The blue and white colored villas constructed on the cliff are such a beauty to behold.

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But the main highlight of my stay in Santiago is discovering a quainter side of this coastal town. A beach called Ambucao and a rock formation called Biak-na-Bato or Mapisi Rock. Ambucao Beach surprisingly, have a quite long stretch of white sand coastline with clear waters. Mapisi Rock, on the other hand, is comprised of huge boulder of coral rocks that looks like halved into two. It does have a cave-like structure. Atop the largest boulder are some Bangar trees (Sterculia foetida – oh how I love reminiscing Pharmacognosy with these things I get to see during travel)), a tree that is infamous for its flowers odor. These are places one would not hear about or has been flocked by visitors (both local and foreign). A certified off-beaten path. I had a great time in these places, which are total opposites of San Juan (where I first went to see).

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How to Get Here:

  • One may take any bus going to Vigan/ Laoag and inform the driver to drop you off at Santiago town proper. Take a tricycle and tell your driver to drop you off at Brgy. Sabangan. All 4 places (Sabangan Cove, Vitalis Villas, Ambucao Beach, Mapisi Rock) are close to each other.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

LA UNION: Immuki Island of Balaoan

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it... — Roald Dahl

Still tired from the seemingly endless travels I had for the past months, I was keen on staying at home until the year ends. Whenever someone asks me if I would want to join them climb a mountain or visit some place, I would almost always end up saying “next time” (despite my yearning to go on a climb or go bum around a beach).

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On the last day of the year 2017, I woke up wanting to cap off my year by exploring one more place. So the dilemma was choosing which nearby area to see. I thought of going to Atok (in Benguet) but I was afraid transportation would be a problem since its a holiday, and the town is not frequented by many public vehicles. I even considered doing a Mt. Pigingan climb in nearby Itogon (also in Benguet). However, I have read that a day hike would be quite tiresome.

And then I remember this conversation I had with a friend during the Lantern Parade here in Baguio about a place in La Union that is relatively new to the public eye. It’s called Immuki Island in the coastal town of Balaoan. My mom is from La Union, and I never knew about any island in her province, so I was surprised to learn about this place. I googled to seek more information about the it, and all I was presented with was a short description of the island at Balaoan’s official website. The other website is pretty scary to open because my laptop prompted me that there are some security issues if I continue opening it.

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So, despite the very little information about the place, I made a last minute decision to go and see the island for myself. Without any expectations, I hopped on a Vigan-bound bus and off I went to Elyu. Since it is in the town of Balaoan, automatically, I thought the best jump off would be its town plaza. To which later on, I’d realize, Bacnotan, a neighboring town, is a better jump off.

Upon arrival at the Balaoan town plaza, I asked around how to get to Immuki. I asked a tricycle driver if he could take me there. He first suggested that I go back to Bacnotan town and take a jeepney instead, as it will be cheaper. However, I decided to just take the tricycle, haggle a bit and off we went to Immuki. The road we took was familiar to me since it’s the very same road that goes to Luna town proper. If one intends to visit Balai na Bato, Namacpacan Church, Luna’s baluarte, and even Occalong Falls, it is actually the same route. Though I haven’t visited Darigayos Beach yet, I have learned from this trip that Darigayos is actually near Immuki.

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In about 30 minutes, we arrived at Paraoir’s barangay hall. I asked my tryke driver if he could wait for me since I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a ride back to the town plaza, but he was very assuring that jeepneys and tricycles ply the area frequently.

So, I did register at the barangay hall. You won’t be asked for any entrance fee nor any fees for that matter. From the barangay hall, just follow the signs that say “Immuki Island.” A narrow path will lead you to the coast, where you will pass by locals who have small stalls, where one can rent slippers and where people can buy some snacks and beverages.

A bit of “Immuki’s history”: Immuki is a word which was derived from the name of a sea creature called sea slugs, that can thrive only on the dead corals. Sea slugs in the local dialect (specifically Pangasinense) is termed “babao” or “bao”. If you translate that into English, it pertains to the female genitalia. And the Ilocano word for female genitalia is “uki’. So it may come across vulgar if you are an Ilocano. However, since then, the word “Immuki” has been associated with the island not only because of these slugs BUT also because of the shape of the main lagoon that resembles like the orifice of a female genital.

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Alright, much of that shocking history (it is to me because I am Ilocano, and that I wish they’d re-name it soon, hahaha). So I made my way to explore the place. There was no love at first sight feeling when I gazed at that piece of scattered land off the shores of mainland Paraoir. For one, it doesn’t look like an island to me. It seems that the place is just coral-like rocks scattered with some mangroves in between. I decided not to go to the central lagoon where most people were headed to. I walked my way to the southern part of the coast. Honestly, I was surprised that the seashore is made up of ivory sand mixed with shells and white pebbles.

From a distance, the rocky shoreline caught my attention. It looks like some of those landscapes I have seen in some parts of Keflavik in Iceland this year. I was drawn to come closer, and I was delighted to see that there were several stream-looking crevices in between these rocky portions. I am not good at choosing what better geophysical terms, but I hope the photos you will get to see in this post would help you out, my readers. Hahaha. The water from the sea goes into these crevices, creating some natural pools that are shallow and are surprisingly clear and inviting. I imagined, if only I can photograph this area from a high place or if only I have a drone, these narrow opening or fissures would look like a “penis” or ‘buto” (that is why, locals would naughtily call this place at times, “Bimmuto Island”.

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My fascination grew as I walk around the place. I was the only one exploring it. I guess that most of the people are having a great time at the main lagoon. There were also some parts that have mangroves (which I hope will grow in number in the coming years). Caution when walking around this area, since the coral rocks are sharp. I decided to walk my way to the main lagoon. (Yes, it is possible to walk your way). As I walk, I passed by more narrow crevices with super clear water to which at this point, I already am very eager to take a dip. Also, the sighting of people became more evident.

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I finally reached the “star of the island” – an emerald/ turquoise crystal clear, saline water that appears to me as a natural pool. It is enclosed by some rocks of varying sizes and a few vegetation. It was a delight to see, and the people swimming seem to be having a great time. I took some more photos before decided to finally make a quick dip as the sun was so scorching. There was even an area where one could go for a dive since the depth is relatively safe for such an activity.

At 3 pm, I decided to go back to the mainland. One may opt to walk (wade through water (it is just knee high), or ride a “balsa” that will cost you, Php10/ person. I also had a quick snack at a local store before hailing a jeepney that goes to San Fernando City. So there.

How to Reach Immuki Island, Brgy. Paraoir, Balaoan, La Union:
1. If you are coming from Manila, or Baguio (or anyplace south of San Fernando City in La Union), you have the following options.
* Drop by San Fernando (La Union), and take a jeepney that is bound for Darigayos, Luna. (just tell the driver to drop you off Brgy. Paraoir). Travel time may take around 45 minutes to an hour. Fare is around Php35.
* You can also drop by Bacnotan town plaza, from there, take a jeep that is bound for Darigayos, Luna or rent a tricycle. Travel time would be around 20-30 minutes.
2. If you are coming from the northern part of La Union or Ilocos, drop by Balaoan town plaza, take a tricycle to Brgy. Paraoir. Travel time is approximately 20-30 minutes. (My tryke driver asked me to pay Php150 one way).

***Please note that there are no resorts within the area. Please BE RESPONSIBLE enough to not throw your trashes. Respect nature and the people you share this place with.

Other places of interest that are near Immuki (in case you want to see more) are the following: Balai nga Bato, Baluarte and Pebble Beach, Darigayos Beach, Occalong Falls, Lady of Namacpacan Church (all in the town of Luna), Tangadan and Kapandagan Falls in San Gabriel, and of course, Urbiz Surfing Town and the new Camp Avenue camping site both in San Juan.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.

Travel Memorabilia

Hello friends! It has been more than a month the last time I have made an entry here. I just came from yet another pretty tiresome, but definitely fun-filled series of travels. I will try to post some of these recent adventures sometime soon. In the meantime, here is a short sharing of what I love to buy and bring home during travel.

Traveling is a very rewarding experience. After a trip, one goes home with innumerable mementos — from incomparable life lessons to new found friends, to of course uncountable photographs, and memories to cherish a lifetime.

Aside from these, I have also developed a habit of bringing home a physical memorabilia that comes in different forms. Before, I would make sure I get to buy at least a keychain or a fridge magnet as a souvenir from my trip.

Today, i have gone beyond these usual stuff. Whenever I go on a travel, I alot a certain amount of my money to buy some of the things I personally collect. Some of these include miniature building decors/displays like an Eiffel Tower from France, a Burf Khalifa and Burj Al Arab from my Dubai travel or a Milad Tower I bought in Iran from a recent trip and many more.

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Also, I make sure that I have a paper bill and some coins to spare for my currency collection. Some of my friends actually like these as my pasalubong to them since some of them also have this kind of colkection. I happen to collect also Starbucks tumblers and diecast planes. I am even starting to collect some books and dolls unique to a certain place I have visited. And lastly, I also bring home some paintings which I plan to use as wall decors when my dream of putting up my own cafe comes into fruition.

I know these are just material mementos and the memories that go with the travel are still far more important. Nonetheless, it feels good to see tangible reminders as to how awesome one particular trip was.

 

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Philippines’ Beaches: What’s Not to Love?

The Philippines, being an archipelago, is dotted with innumerable pristine, sparkling beaches. Some white, others black, a few brown, and surprisingly pink too! We have beaches that are as fine as talcum powder to gritty, sandy ones, while others are pebble lined. Majority of these tropical paradise boasts off crystal clear water that comes in azure to turquoise colors. Regardless of the color and texture of beaches’ sand and water, Philippines’ seashores will make one’s “beach escapade” memorable and fun!

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Besides the obvious aesthetics of our beaches, here are other reasons why bumming around the beaches of the Philippines is a must doPhilippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches have a laid-back vibe, especially the small-town beaches and the off-the beaten ones. They are the ultimate relaxation zones perfect for experiencing serenity and peace of mind. One can go for an afternoon walk along the shoreline or sit down under shady palm trees while reading a book. Or just lie down, let the crashing waves touch your feet and the gentle wind kiss your lips. Totally relaxing and an awesome escape to a stressful life!

Philippines’ beaches are home to various water sports and activities. From surfing, to snorkeling to SCUBA diving, kitesurfing, kayaking, island-hopping and many more. Plus, the marine life is teeming with wonders.  One will never run out of things to do. These activities can keep you fit and make your vacation more fun-filled.

Philippines’ beaches showcase some of the most jaw-dropping sunrise and sunset views. Everything turns into a picturesque, surreal nature art once the sun starts to rise. It is even more dramatic during sundown. Sunset by the beach is one thing I look forward the most.

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Philippines’ beaches are generally cheap. While some of our beaches are becoming more and more commercialized, I want to believe that majority of our beaches are still inexpensive, and some even for free. One could spend some time along the beach without worrying about spending much – paying for entrance fees or buying pricey food because again, the cost isn’t really high.

Philippines’ beaches are home to good and hospitable Filipinos. I want to think that Filipino hospitality is evident in almost all parts of the country – whether at the mountain villages, to seaside towns, and various rural areas. Most Filipinos are willing to lend a helping hand in whatever ways they could. Some families would invite you their homes, some would even cook the freshest sea catch of the day for their visitors to have a sumptuous meal.

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They say “life is a beach”. Whether you have a beach bod, dad bod or whatever kind of body figure you have, the beach is one welcoming place for you to experience life, to live life.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Captivating Auckland City

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From among the cities I have been the past 12 months, I have left a piece of myself in the City of Sails. The moment I have set foot in Auckland, I knew right there and then that I would love the city the way I have always loved my ex-girlfriend. I tried my best to think through the reasons why I have been enamored by Auckland but I almost always end up lost for the right words.

Because of this dilemma, I just opted to let you see this beyond alluring city through my lens. Here are some of my uncountable Auckland City photographs.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Alibijaban Island (Quezon, Philippines)

Alibijaban is a small, tadpole-shaped island located off the southeastern coast of the Bondoc Peninsula in Luzon, Philippines. It is part of the coastal town of San Andres in Quezon Province. Primarily known for its pristine mangrove forest and coral reefs, the island has slowly captured the attention of adventure seekers and beach enthusiasts. Alibijaban features white sandy beaches and abundant bird life.

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It is interesting to note that the mangrove forest (which boasts at least 22 mangrove species) covered about 140 hectares of the island’s central and northern portions and protected under the National Integrated Protected Areas System as a wilderness area. At the same time, the 225 hectares surrounding water is a habitat to a rich marine life and has been declared a marine protected area as well.

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The island is most accessible from the port of San Andres via motorized boat and will only take around 30 minutes of travel time. One may opt to camp in one of its beach areas or may choose to stay at simple homestays. During our visit, we only did a day trip as we were headed to the Burias Group of Islands for an overnight stay.

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It may have been a short stay in this promising backpacker destination, but it was sure fun bumming, and snorkeling. Maybe next time I should go for an overnight stay. I’ve heard both the sunrise and sunset are also great at this part of Quezon.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Romblon, PH

It’s a pretty lazy Sunday. So I opted to go through my Facebook photos and saw this Romblon album. It brought back memories of my stolen hard drive where all of my 2005 to 2013 HD travel photos were stored. Twas one of the most heartbreaking things that happened to me.

So I am reposting here the photos from my Hambil Island, Romblon in June of 2013. The photos were just downloaded from my FB so quality may not be very good.

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San Jose is a fifth-class municipality in the province of Romblon, Philippines. It is more commonly known as Carabao Island, or Hambil Island, and is located the southern tip of Tablas Island. It is in close proximity to the world-renowned Boracay Island, separated by a narrow body of water called Hambil Channel.

In June of 2013, during a trip to Boracay, I came to see what this Romblon paradise has to offer. I stayed 2 days and 1 night in this island and I must say that it is a more serene counterpart of its neighbor, and understated in terms of its natural beauty.

Once you are in the island, you can hire a habal-habal/ motorcycle for about P300-P500 per day. You can go visit notable spots like Lanas Beach (where sunset is amazing), be brave and do cliff diving at Kuding-Kuding and Angas Cliff (with a P100 entrance fee) or just stay at Hambil Beach which can rival Boracay’s white sand beaches (plus a spectacular sunrise view). You could also rent a boat that could bring you around the island and check some hidden caves and coves.  The over-all ambiance of Hambil is pretty laid-back… Really a great way to commune with nature.

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How to Reach Hambil:

From Caticlan Port: One may charter a tricycle to take you to Tabon Baybay, it is where you can find the port of boats going to Hambil (San Jose). A passenger boat leaves for Poblacion or Lanas, daily between 8AM to 9AM. So make sure you don not miss it. The travel time is around 1 hour (depending on the waves (which by the way can be really scary. The fare is P80-P100 per passenger. The trip back to Caticlan is between 5AM to 6AM. It is pretty early so you have to be early as well so you won’t be left behind.

Another option is from Boracay. In here, one may charter a boat good for 10 people for aboutP3,000 to P4,000 round trip day tour. Make sure to practice your acting and haggling skill. The travel time is about 45 minutes to an hour. Again depending on the sea condition. The boat will either dock at Brgy Lanas or at the Port of Said in Brgy Poblacion on the eastern side where Hambil beach is.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Memories of Anawangin Cove: Zambales, PH

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

– Dr. Seuss

This is a flashback post. It’s been 12 years and 7 months since the first time I have set foot in Anawangin. And today, I went on to visit memory lane and put into writing the memories of this trip with a group of friends.

It was January of 2005. Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City. For most of us living in the City of Pines, this means getting out of Baguio so as not to feel the congestion of the city. You see, people would usually flock their way to witness the annual flower festival. My friends and I decided to spend a 3-day getaway in Anawangin Cove. During this time, Anawangin was barely known as a beach destination. I have heard of it from my mountaineering friends who did an exploratory climb at this side of Zambales.

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So, 5 days before the Panagbenga, I did the planning for this getaway. Actually, the first plan was to saunter Mount Pinatubo. But then, I was more enticed to go on a beach escapade. So with limited time, I disseminated our itinerary hoping more of our friends will come join us on this trip. Luckily, 10 friends decided to come along even if most of them didn’t really have much of an idea on what to see in Anawangin. I remember myself assuring them that the place is something they’ll like just to make sure no one would back out on the last minute. Here goes our itinerary:

Day 1 – Baguio to Zambales: Mount Pundaquit Trek

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There are no direct trips to San Antonio, Zambales from Baguio. Since we have a friend from Pampanga who is joining us, we agreed that we would meet there. So we took a bus that passes by Mabalacat (Victory Liner), from there, Gladys (together with her cousin) fetched and all together we went to Angeles to take a bus that is bound for Iba, Zambales’ capital. It was a pretty long (and tiresome trip). All in all, it took us around 9 hours to reach San Antonio town proper.

Upon arrival, we decided to buy some fresh produce in the market since there are no stores or restaurants in Anawangin. After which, we took a tricycle to reach Brgy. Pundaquit – the jump off to Anawangin. Good thing I have a prior contact with a guide, Manong Alfring a local. We were asked as to how we would like to reach Anawangin. You see, there are two possible options. One is to trek Mount Pundaquit, and the other one is to ride a boat. Of course, the boat ride was the faster means however, we opted to do the climb. Some of our stuff was taken by Manong Alfring and his companions, who are taking the boat. So they will just wait for us at the beach camp.

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And so we went on with the hike. Our guide told us it was a pretty easy climb. Having climbed Pulag before this trip, I have to agree with what the guide claimed. However, as the sun goes up, the weather became warmer that eventually made almost everyone tired. It was a mistake on our end when we didn’t bring much water. The heat was sweltering and our water supply was rapidly dwindling keeping our pace slower. We had to motivate ourselves and patience became the key for us to reach our campsite.

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After 3 hours or so, we reached the peak and its breathtaking view made up for that very weary feeling we were all experiencing. It was a 360 degrees view and Anawangin Cove was already visible from where we were. The sea view further motivated the group not to give up. Two more hours and we finally reached Anawangin with the pine trees seemingly welcoming us. A few more minutes, and we were treated with a spectacular sun down. It was lovely. It made all the weary feeling melt down.

We did set up our tents (yes, there were no resorts/ cottages before in Anawangin), and cooked our dinner with the help of our guide. We had a simple dinner by the shore while sharing stories under the full moon. Recalling that night, it was so serene and really relaxing

Day 2: Anawangin Cove Explored

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Some of us woke up early, the others stayed a little longer inside their tents as they were still feeling fatigued from the other day’s trek. I went to stroll along the beach while taking some photos. Waking up to the sound of the waves and the smell of saline water was energy revitalizing! It is such a picturesque place. Looking back, Anawangin’s picture perfect backdrop contributed to my being a photography enthusiast. We actually spent almost the entire day wandering around. The waters of Anawangin was crystal clear and really refreshing so we had a great deal of time swimming or just wading in water. We also went up a hill where we had a jaw-dropping view of the cove and the mountains. The mini pine tree forest at the foot of the mountain is unbelievably photogenic. There is even an estuary that leads to the sea. And at the end of that day, we again waited for the sunset. It was yet another spectacular sundown.

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Day 3: Capones Island

Everyone had to wake up early on Day 3 because it was time to leave Anawangin. However, before going back to mainland Pundaquit, we went on for a side trip to a nearby island called Capones. There are actually two islands near the cove, however, we have to stick to our itinerary since we still have to go back to Baguio. It was a 30-minute boat ride amidst huge waves… From afar, the island looks like a shoe. The island’s main attraction is an old lighthouse. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we got there so we ended up taking photos along the shore amidst huge, exquisite rocks. I had an unforgettable experience here since I had a bit of an accident. I didn’t anticipate that some of the rocks were slippery that caused me to slip off and have some bruises. Nonetheless, the happy experience overshadowed this minor incident.

Before going back to Baguio, Gladys invited us at their home in San Fernando, Pampanga for a food treat and for us to freshen up ourselves. It was yet another long and tiresome bus ride. But who cares, we just had an awesome and adventure-filled trip! I told myself I’d be back in Anawangin. (And guess what, after 5 years since that first trip to Anawangin, I was able to visit it again. Plus, I was able to visit also another cove – Nagsasa and the other island near Capones, Camara). Yay! Cheers to more travels!

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*Thank you to Kuya Jerry for sharing some of his photographs to us.

Also, you might want to check my write up about other visit-worthy coves here in the Philippines.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.