Flower Power

Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”

According to a behavioral research conducted at a State University in New Jersey, one way of improving the emotional state of a person – is by sending flowers. It is believed that the presence of flowers can stimulate happy feelings, and brings about positive effects on one’s social behavior and emotional being.

Here are some of my favorite flower photographs. Seeing them doesn’t require a study to convince me that they can alleviate one’s mood. These flowers are indeed nature’s way of laughing and providing laughter to people around them.

TULIPS: These flowers are often associated with Holland/ Netherlands. But do you know that they actually originated from Turkey? This quintessential spring flower, is colorful, cheerful, and a sign that warm weather is finally coming. One of the largest groups of tulip varieties, the Triumph tulip, is a classic. It is sturdy and great for cutting but also creates beautiful borders and clumps in spring flower beds and comes in a wide range of colors.

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Tulips at Emirgan Park in Istanbul, Turkey during the annual tulip festival.

ROSES. The National Flower of Morocco. Roses are considered the floral symbol of Morocco since there is a rose festival in the country every year. Roses are not just decorative flowers, but they actually have a number of health benefits too. Here are some interesting facts about the rose.

  • There are about 100 rose species and they have different colors, shapes and grow in different climates.
  • The most common species of roses is Tea Rose.
  • Roses were of great importance to Romans and Egyptians.
  • In ancient Rome, roses were grown in order to ensure that there was a yearlong supply of ingredients for cooking, ornaments and medicinal extracts.
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These are roses for drying which in turn are the source for rose oil and rose water. This was captured during a visit to Marrakech in Morocco.

SWEET ALISON. aka sweet alyssum or Lobularia maritima — a mat-forming annual or short-lived perennial native to the Mediterranean, and the Iberian peninsula (specially the Canary Islands and Azores), where it grows along the coast in rocky, sunny areas. Some says that the flowers and leaves are edible and can be added to salads, and the plant has been used medicinally in the past but people with sensitive skin may develop a rash when handling the plant, so it is probably best not ingested. This herbaceous plant in the mustard family is commonly used as a bedding plant, and is widely available in market packs at nurseries and garden centers in the spring.

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I think this variety is called “Carpet of Snow’ — a short, compact white-flowering form I got to photograph during a visit at a beach in Lisbon, Portugal.

PURPLE FOXGLOVE. From among the flowers I opted to feature in this post, this one is the closest to my heart as I have studied about this flower since my Pharmacy years at the university. My love for Pharmacognosy as a subject is due to interesting plants like the foxglove. The common foxglove, (Digitalis purpurea), is a biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennial from the figwort (some says, its plantain) family). This pretty plant is such a wonder as it is the source of various cardiac (heart) stimulants like digitoxin or digoxin, digitalin, and digitonin (collectively called cardiac glycosides) that are now used in modern medicine in the preparation of the drug digitalis.

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The purple foxglove. While it is of European origin, we actually have this in the Philippines. This one was captured at Norther Blossom Flower farm in Atok, Benguet.

Enjoy these lovely visual therapy! Take it easy everyone.

Buguias: Northern Philippines’ Vegetable Basket and More

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Most often over-shadowed by other Benguet towns, Buguias primarily serves as stop-over or just that regular town being passed by buses carrying visitors to Bontoc, and Sagada. Recently, its neighbor Atok is slowly gaining the limelight for its flower farm, and other growing number of attractions.

Truth of the matter, one would rarely find travel blogs or write-ups about this quaint town in the Cordillera. But if you truly have an eye for beauty, you would have probably noticed those beautifully planted vegetables along the Halsema Highway when you passed by this town. Besides, Buguias would not be considered the Vegetable Capital of Northern Philippines if not for these seemingly endless vegetable plantation. (By the way, around 70% of vegetable supplies – whether its potatoes, carrots, cabbages and the like, are grown in this municipality and is distributed across Luzon and some other parts of the country).

The vista of these vegetable grounds, plus the stunning serrate of the mountains being kissed by clouds, whenever I pass by this town has since then ignited my curiosity. There should be more to this town besides its vegetables. And so I tried to google information about Buguias, and to my dismay, very little information can be obtained. So the next thing I did was to seek the advise of some friends who are from Buguias or who have visited Buguias. Thankfully, Doc Cecille and Lenny (both of whom were my students before) gave some really interesting recommendations that led me to contact Buguias Tourism officer, Sir Payangdo.

So, with only a weekend to spare for a quick getaway outside Baguio, two of my very good friends (Claro and Robi), joined me in this Buguias trip. After communicating with Sir Payangdo, and a little more patience searching for information over the internet, we went to Buguias to explore a mountain and have an up-close encounter with their vegetable terraces.

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We rode a van bound for Buguias at a petrol station located in Km.5 La Trinidad proper. The earliest trip is at 4 am, and the time travel is around 3 hours with 1 stop-over at Sayangan, Atok. Since we were spending a night in Buguias, we stayed at Alpine G Lodge (which by the way, is the only one we could find when searching for an accommodation in Buguias). It is really a nice lodge with a café/ restaurant that serves good food with generous servings. After settling our things, Sir Payangdo said that the FX-like transportation that will take us to the jump-off site of Mount Nato-o is waiting for us outside our lodge.

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Climbing Mount Nato-o.

Based on what I have googled, Mount Nato-o is a potential natural attraction found in Sebang, a barangay that borders the provinces of Benguet and Ifugao. This is a small mountain located within the vegetable valley as described by the Benguet Province official website.

The travel to Mount Nato-o from Abatan took almost an hour. We were actually lost for a moment because our driver wasn’t sure as to where the exact jump-off is located. After asking some directions from the friendly locals, we managed to find what we were looking for. We were met by a local official that was contacted by Sir Payangdo. We were then given a local guide, who happens to be one of the barangay kagawad too, and off we went to climb Mount Nato-o without much expectations.

Along the trail, we were joined by 4 local kids. Our guide told us that it has been a while since the last time visitors came to Mount Nato-o (the last being students from a university in in Baguio who came not to really trek but to collect some plant samples for research purposes). You see, this mountain, just like most Cordillera mountains, are known for unusual and interesting flora.

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The trail to Mount Nato-o starts off with passing by vegetable terraces that eventually leads to a steep, grassy one. This to me was the challenging part as the trail was almost covered by tall grasses that could cut your skin. We had to make a few stops since the assault was quite tiring. The last leg of the climb is through a mossy forest reminiscent of Mount Pulag’s. Well, you could say that this is my personal favorite. We also passed by an area where a supposed tower will be put up, and a grotto site where a mass was once held. Our climb ended with an “apparent peak” surrounded by pine trees sans a view. I wasn’t really convinced that, that was the peak. Maybe, the mountain isn’t really that explored just yet. (And maybe, that is the reason why they haven’t officially opened this mountain to trekkers and visitors). The descent was pretty much faster and easier as to when we scaled it. In no time, we were already inside our ride going back to our lodge).

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Just when we thought our mountain escapade is all-good when our driver told us to pay more than double for our ride. The tourism officer said we were only to pay Php1000.00 but when we got back to our place, he was asking us to pay Php2, 500.00. He was a bit scary and aggressive. It really was disappointing. We ended up haggling and paid Php2000.00. I instantly messaged Sir Payangdo, the tourism officer, about the incident and told him that things like those would turn away potential visitors. I hope it won’t happen to other people visiting Buguias because it is such a turn off.

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“View”tiful Vegetable Terraces.

Of course the highlight of our Buguias trip is getting up-close and personal with endless vegetable fields. Almost every barangay we passed by have these man-made wonders. True enough, these terraces are Buguias ultimate gem. During our visit, carrots and cabbage were the main vegetables planted and being harvested. Walking along the fields is such a delightful experience – the air was unsullied and fresh, and the Buguias weather is cool enough to make one feel relaxed.

There are other potential attractions in this town. They are not yet fully opened to visitors and hopefully, I would be able to come back and visit again. Some of those that were mentioned by a local I have talked to are: several Burial Caves (with Apo Anno Cave as the most significant), a hotspring in the poblacion, other mountains like Mount Kitongan and Mount Apanderang; a waterfalls called Sabeng Anito; Tabeyo lake, and more vegetable terraces.

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

 

 

 

The Art and Sci of Bonsai

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As a kid, I have always been fascinated with plants, animals, and nature in general. Whenever I get to reminisce my childhood days, I smile recalling those weekends I get to do some gardening with my grandmother. My love and appreciation of greenery were major influences by my lola. How I enjoyed seeing a flower bloom or when one of our fruit-bearing trees start to produce lots of fruits.

As I grew older, I find myself enjoying even more when I have encounter with nature through mountain hikes, and strolling in parks and gardens. Later on, I have been particularly interested in bonsai, miniature trees I often see in Japanese parks in television or as indoor displays in some household.

Baguio City happens to hold a yearly exhibit of bonsai plants during the Panagbenga (Flower Festival) season. So when a good friend of mine invited me to see this year’s bonsai exhibit, I didn’t second guess myself in visiting it.

A bit of history: Bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in small containers. People who are into it also believe that besides being an art, growing bonsai involves science. The term bonsai comes from two words – “bon” meaning tray or low-sided pot and “sai” meaning plantings. I have read that while bonsai is emblematically Japanese, the art was said to have originally developed in China, other books claim it is from India, which was only adopted later on by the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan.

They say that the main aim of bonsai cultivation is the creation of miniature trees with a look of age in their overall appearance that includes its shapes, proportions, and details. The typical bonsai is a single, dwarfed tree in a small container. However, it has the appearance of a mature tree, but not of an entirely regular one. A bonsai artist or designer has worked on the tree’s shape and surfaces in order to improve the tree’s apparent age, and also to give it a distinct “facade” from which it is meant to be seen and noticed.

My visit to the Bonsai Exhibit gave me a broader perspective on bonsai, and a bigger love and appreciation not only to the miniature trees but also to the artists behind these aesthetically pleasing plants. It sure isn’t easy to come up with such artistry since by the looks of it, growing bonsai seems to require some rigorous horticultural practices and techniques.

I still have a lot of things to learn about bonsai. I am sure there is more to a bonsai than a fruitful fusion of art and science. While I was looking at the bonsai plants on display at the exhibit, it came to my senses that each one is unique; some of them even invites individual thinking – allowing you to interpret beyond the physical design itself. It is like listening to a poem, only that you are staring at it.

 

If you are interested in bonsai, you could visit the Baguio Bonsai Exhibit located at the Rose Garden, Burnham Park, Baguio City. There is a Php20.00 entrance fee that serves as a help to the bonsai artists whose masterpieces are displayed in the said exhibit. This exhibit will run until the 3rd of March 2019. In case you have any questions about these miniature trees, and the exhibit is over, you can contact the following from the Baguio – Benguet Bonsai Club. Ghaile Defensor – 0945 892 1375; Earl Candelario – 0917 395 4148; or Kim Fabro – 0917 985 2373.

The exhibit also showcases the following, should you be interested: Suiseki, the Japanese art of stone appreciation, which are small naturally occurring or shaped rocks that are traditionally appreciated; some artificial bonsai using bonsai wires; and some aquascapes too.

These are photos of some artificial bonsai and suiseki.

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

Betcha Bye BALI Wow

After a grueling 2-week, work-related trips around Central Thailand and Java in Indonesia, I spent my then untouched annual leave in Bali.  My original plan was to go to Jeju Island in Korea but I wasn’t sure if my body was ready for a winter-y holiday so I ended up doing a 6-day staycation in the famed Indonesia island getaway.

So what did I do during that almost one week trip in Bali? Here is a rundown:

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1. Chased some sunset, surfed, and strolled along the beach. I stayed around the Kuta Beach and Seminyak Beach areas so a splendid sunset view is a regular. Plus, these beaches have waves one can’t resist to ride so surfing is a good option to do. Also, you can go to Padang-Padang Beach, a famous small beach on the way to Uluwatu temples. It is one of those places Julia Roberts filmed in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

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2. Went nature-tripping in Ubud. Perhaps the best place to relax — the greenery, the gimmickry (think giant swings, infinite pools in the middle of forests, photogenic picture taking corners), and some friendly primates make Ubud a must visit.

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3. Jaw-dropping seascape of Nusa Penida island. From the very scenic Broken Beach to the uber-mesmerizing Kelingking Beach, this island’s wonders shouldn’t be missed. I wish I stayed longer in this island as it seems to have more to offer.

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4. Bali, predominantly Hindu in religion, is filled with temples. Some of which are found near beaches, and cliffs adding beauty to seaside views. I really didn’t explore much of the other well-known temples of Bali as I had an overdose of these structures during my 1-week Thailand trip. I only managed to see Uluwatu and Tanah Lot – perhaps 2 of the most frequented temples in the island.

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5. Experience Balinese culture at the GWK (Garuda Wisnu Kencana) Cultural Park, a cultural park about 10–15 minutes driving from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. It is devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu, and his mount, Garuda, the mythical bird who became his companion. Thanks to a very generous and kind local I met at the Jakarta airport, Sir Gunawan (an architect of the park) who invited and have shown me the beauty and vastness of this place.

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6. Lastly, probably the best thing I did in Bali — sleep and just laze around (doing nothing), and at times, spend some lovely time by the pool. Accommodation in Bali are some of the cheapest yet they have very comfortable, beautifully adorned rooms and relaxing pools!

So there… I may not have totally fallen in love with Bali, but I still enjoyed my relaxing and not so tight (in terms of itinerary) schedule. Maybe the next time I visit the island, the company of friends and loved ones would add more delight. Take it easy. Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust.

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.

Tales from Trakai (Lithuania)

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” ― W.H. Auden

Trakai, a town in Lithuania located south-west of its capital Vilnius and is a former capital city of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is a pretty small town surrounded by lakes, wherein the scenic Trakai Historical National Park can be found. To date, it has become extremely popular from among Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans as a vacation destination making it one of the most visited spots on the cultural tourism map. It has even become a major landmark of Lithuania.

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The town is small enough for everything to be walked on foot, but there are also buses running from the bus station (where the buses from Vilnius also arrive/depart) to the Trakai Island Castle. The Trakai Island Castle, a 14th-century Gothic residence with some Renaissance features of Lithuanian dukes, is the main attraction in the town and has become a symbol of medieval Lithuania. I have learned that during the summer season, a lot of concerts and plays are staged here.

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Locals would say that Trakai is full of myths and secrets. One version is that of the story of Gediminas, a grand duke of Lithuania and one of the strongest medieval rulers of Eastern Europe. One day, he decided to hunt near a place called Kernave, a medieval capital of Lithuania. During his search, Gediminas saw a stunning landscape with lakes and islands to which he decided to build a castle in the middle of one of the lakes. Another version is a more romantic one. It is about a lovely woman named Birute who was a wife of a local duke. She was born in a seaside town who felt lonely because she misses her hometown. To make her happy, her husband gave her a unique gift — a castle surrounded by lakes. So there. Of course, there were also historical accounts but I am not very certain about its details.

Other sites worthy to visit are the Trakai Peninsula Castle, (this is the older of the two castles of Trakai), the Saint Mary Church – an originally gothic church altered during the Baroque period; and Galvė Lake, a relaxing nature spot where sailing can be done.

There are also restaurants worth trying. Most of which are known to serve Karaitian cuisine. If you want to stay overnight, several accommodations are also found.

Trakai is indeed a fairytale-like town. The architectural, natural and cultural wonders all add up to a wonderful experience visiting this seemingly magical place. I have to admit that Trakai is one of my favorites during Europe travel because it was simply fascinating, and yes, romantic!

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.

I AmSterDam: The Netherlands

I’d be lying if I say I didn’t want to go and visit Amsterdam. My yearning to see this city intensified when I was reading the book “The Fault in Our Stars”. Three years after I have read the book and watched the movie, who would’ve thought that I’ll be living yet another dream, and that is to see Amsterdam up-close and personal.

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Amsterdam is regarded as The Netherlands largest city, and perhaps, the most popular as well. Prior to my trip, I had to research more about this city. I am pretty surprised to know that it has a lot of monikers aside from being well-known as the City of Canals.

So here are the titles given to Amsterdam that I myself was able to validate that indeed, the city deserves to be called such:

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Amsterdam as the City of Canals. Some would even call it as the Venice of the North. But since I haven’t been to Venice, that I cannot really verify. But it is so true that it has so many canals – clean ones! It is said that there are more than 100 kilometers of canals, and around 1,500 bridges within the city.

Amsterdam as The City of Bicycles. Well most of the key cities I have visited in Europe are bicycle-friendly but I guess nothing beats Amsterdam. While walking around the city on foot, it felt like there are more bicycles than people! Bicycles are literally everywhere. Well, I like it. Bike paths, bike racks, and bike storage garages are all-over as well. Who wouldn’t love these means of moving around – they’re fast and environmental friendly.

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Amsterdam as The City of Arts and Culture. One thing I have noticed during my stay in Amsterdam is that museums abound the city. They are everywhere – from Anne Frank’s House to the Van Gogh museum to the Rijksmuseum(Dutch art) and those that are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square). I guess the following are also part of the flourishing culture of Netherlands – the Redlight district parties, the Gay Pride, and even the Cannabis Cup.

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Amsterdam as The City of Architecture. My CS host and I were walking around the city when from time to time he would show off and tell stories about some of Amsterdam’s buildings. I can sense that he was really proud of the architectural designs of the buildings. Well, I could just agree as they are really lovely and interesting. I find the designs to be a combination of the 17th century and the contemporary style.


Amsterdam as The City for Shoppers. The city offers an array of shops from flowers (think tulips) to various kinds of souvenir shops, fashionable clothes, chocolate shops, and even sex shops. I was fortunate to have stayed at a place right in the middle of these shops.

Amsterdam: The City of Cannabis Coffee and Cake Shops. I have learned during my stay that coffee-shops cannabis use is tolerated by the local authorities (but of course in small amount). I also got to try a vanilla flavored cannabis cake.

So there… I hope these reasons be enough for you to consider coming to Amsterdam soon. Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

 

South Palms Resort Panglao (Bohol, PH)

Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.

Sumptuous and Paradisiacal: Two words befitting to describe my visit at this prime Bohol resort in the island of Panglao called South Palms.

4South Palms Beach Resort is a 9.3 hectare tropical paradise within a 45-hectare spread of a beachfront property. I have to say it is one of the ultimate beach destinations in Bohol as it boasts off a beach with the longest coastline in Panglao. Unlike other beaches teeming with people, Bolod Beach of South Palms guarantees a relaxing leisure walk along its white sand-dotted shoreline, and enjoyable swimming in its azure to turquoise waters. Definitely PARADISIACAL!

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The resort rooms display local artistry, with utmost relaxation and a stunning view of the beach as footpath provides easy access to the lovely coast. Each of these tropically adorned rooms have AC system, a flat-screen TV, a personal safety cabinet, coffee-and-tea making amenities, and a private bathroom with toiletries and hot/cold shower facilities.

They also have a variety of luxurious recreational activities and facilities that range from ball games, different water activities (snorkeling, SCUBA diving), and even day tours to other Bohol spots. Truly an ideal place for family and friends!

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And, if you intend to come in group for a business meeting or a company outing, the beach resort is also a perfect venue as they also have conference rooms and function halls. While I was strolling along their beach area, I was thinking that it is a great area for team building.

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Another thing I like about South Palms is that they have their own restaurant. A seafood restaurant at that! I am a seafood lover so I may have a little bias here. Its resto is called Oceanica Seafood Restaurant that serves both local and international cuisines. It is an open restaurant meaning you have a wonderful view of the sea (and the pool) while you are eating. It is in close proximity to the resort’s pool bars (which offers a selection of refreshing drinks). Here are some of the really palatine-satiating food I have tried at Oceanica:

Manok Inato – a local dish of grilled chicken cooked in coconut milk with aromatic spices. First time to try this and my palate agrees that it is tasty! Then there is this “Gambas-al-ahilo”, a prawn delicacy that is both sweet and spicy. I am a seafood lover so yes, I love this one. Both dishes were a great match to my “inun-un” or crab meat rice. I also had a healthy and refreshing salad called “Watermelon Summer” salad made of lettuce, mango, and watermelon. I had cucumber lemonade for drinks, an all-time favorite drink of mine. So, it is safe to say that I really had a gastronomic experience at Oceanica. As I have said earlier, everything is SUMPTUOUS!

DSC_00743Other features of the resort include the following: a souvenir shop, an ATM, a spa, a gym, laundry service, and outdoor pools. Wi-Fi access is almost everywhere (even along the coastline, I love it!) There is a free public parking that doesn’t require reservation. It is good to know that they have a 24-hour front desk, a 24-hour room service, provides airport transfer and shuttle services (that is if you want to go to Alona Beach), and they even have currency exchange. I am also pleased to know that they have facilities for guests with disability.

 

South Palms Beach Resort Panglao is indeed a destination to keep in mind when in Bohol. I can even imagine it as a lovely setting for a romantic date or beach wedding

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

Please refer to the images below for their rates and some promos:

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Vessel Hostel (San Juan, La Union)

Beyond beds, books and beers, hostel stay is life. — no_juan_is_an_island

When I was in college, La Union has been our go-to destination if we wanted a quick weekend getaway. With its proximity to Baguio, Elyu is one outright choice. Dotted with fine, grey-black sand, and a stunning sunset during the late afternoon, the coastal town of San Juan was then but a budding surf spot.

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The annual La Union Surf Break, the discovery and unveiling of more Elyu attractions (like Tanagdan Falls, Bahay na Bato, grape-picking in Bauang), and even a hit indie movie all contributed to the increasing number of people visiting the province. And in all of these, San Juan became an important hub for tourists and travelers alike. Year after year, this once quiet, the fishing town became more popular to surfers and beach campers alike. Also, a number of establishments (from resorts to restaurants and hostels) sprouted like mushroom through the years.

DSC_7309One awesome addition to this array of accommodations is a hostel built from shipping containers called VESSEL HOSTEL. So during a not so busy weekday, I got the chance to try this seemingly Instagram-worthy abode in Elyu.

Located in Urbiztondo, San Juan (which is where most of the surfing action, beach bumming, partying, eating and sleeping quarters are), this hostel created by Buji Libarnes and Nikki de la Paz, is pretty easy to find. Vessel is a 4-storey hostel all in all made up of 22 beds in dorm-type rooms. The ground level is where the front desk is. The rooms are found at the 2nd and 3rd levels. The beds are all double-deckers, each of which goes with a mini-desk, sockets for your gadgets, and a locker. Moreover, each room has an air-conditioning system and even electric fans. Each guest also is provided with a towel during his/her stay. Some rooms have a toilet and bath inside them, while those that do not have, may use the hostel’s very clean and complete bathroom.

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The 3rd level is also where a mini sala is found. Nikki, the co-owner, and I had a great time sharing our travel experiences and some random stuff from surfing to hiking. It was such an inspiring conversation wherein she also shared how Vessel started, and how she and her husband have envisioned this hostel venture of theirs. (Here is a quick trivia: Both Buji and Nikki are architects. No wonder, almost every corner of Vessel Hostel is aesthetically appealing! And both of them are surfers. Now that isn’t surprising at all).

The 4th and topmost level is where one finds the roof deck that offers a lovely sea view. If one doesn’t feel like going to the seaside to watch the sundown, this part of the hostel seems a perfect spot. Also, a small kitchen and dining area is found at this level. A stay at Vessel Hostel comes with a complimentary continental breakfast. During my stay, bread (and a choice of butter or strawberry jam to go with it), boiled eggs, banana, and coffee were served. (Do note that you just get what you can eat AND do not forget to clean/ wash whatever you have used).

Whenever I am in San Juan, I spend most of my time outdoors. Either I go and practice my dwindling surfing skills, or hop from one resto to another, and eventually wait for the sunset by the shoreline (as the sundown at this side of the Philippines is really spectacular). It spent it differently during my overnight stay in San Juan. I just went out to check the surf scene quickly that gloomy afternoon, then went to eat dinner at a nearby food nook called “Tagpuan” then went back to the hostel and spent some time in bed, reading, and yes, writing. (The bed is really hard to resist as it is really comfortable you’d doze off at an instant”.

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Other things you might want to know about Vessel Hostel:

  • They do have wifi. A good one I must say.
  • There are a lot of restaurants that are within walking distance from Vessel.
  • They also have shower rooms outside the hostel.
  • They have endearing staff who are always ready to help you out with your needs.
  • The bathroom has a bidet, the shower room with liquid soap/shampoo.
  • The dorm room I was staying had a mini terrace (not sure with the other rooms).
  • They sell some stuff like shirt and sando (which I’d probably buy when I come back).
  • The rate of an overnight stay is at Php980.00
  • You will be asked to give a Php500.00 deposit upon checking-in.

Vessel Hostel

Urbiztondo, Manila N Rd, San Juan, La Union. (from Manila, it is at the right side of the road).

Bookings maybe done through vesselhostel@gmail.com

You can check out their Facebook Page here.

So if you find yourself wanting to de-stress or soul-search up north, without compromising the need to stay at some place truly relaxing, make your way to La Union and aboard the Vessel Hostel. You need not bring much because when you are in La Union, #ElYuNeedIsLove… and who knows, you might end up saying #IFinallyFoundSanJuan. Cheesy? Yes! Fun? Yes, Yes!!!

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