SAGADA Beyond the Usual Itinerary

For a couple of weeks now, I have been feeling stressful at work. I have been planning to go somewhere the past weekend to just chill and relax but I always end up staying in bed or just giving in to the whims of my family and some friends. Also, I have always been eyeing on a possible return to Sagada because it has been a while since the last time I was there. I guess the thought of that long bus ride during weekends is just to tiring. However, after acknowledging to myself that work has been really burning me out, I made a spontaneous decision to push my long overdue Sagada return. This was further ignited when a friend of mine recommended me to stay at a seemingly relaxing place that is not yet known from among travellers and tourists.

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The next thing I know, I was already inside the 3a.m. Lizardo Lines bus, sleepy and no concrete itinerary at all. However, at the back of my mind, my goals for this trip are: to gather my thoughts and have my dwindling supply of motivation be rejuvenated.Having been to Sagada 8 times between 2007 and 2014, I have to say I have done the usual “tourist activities. So here is my “beyond the usual Sagada itinerary” over the weekend.


Staycation. Staycation at a relatively unknown (slightly operating) accommodation a good friend offered me to stay at. They call it “Shire of Sagada” Looking at the photos, you will automatically decipher why it is called such. To my friends who’ve been asking about details, I will post soon contact number and possibly rates as the owners are yet to officially launch it.

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Bring a book to read. I brought with me a Haruki Murakami book that I get to read from time to time, even in between walking and resting while trekking my way to some unknown Sagada woodlands near my accommodation.

Explore off the radar restos. I went to eat at restos/cafes that are off the tourists’ radar. It is nice to try the unpopular one’s and you’ll be surprised as to how cheap they can be. Although I went to eat yoghurt at the Yoghurt House and have a slice of lemon pie at the Lemon Pie House because I can’t help myself not to. You can’t blame me if my palate misses them after not visiting Sagada for 5 years and 4 months.

Walk – whenever, wherever. I just walked around whenever I feel like doing it. I did not want to pressure myself that I should go see this or that place. I literally just walked wherever I wanted to without a certain pace. I walked the main street stopping every now and then checking out what is new, grab some street food to munch or just go randomly take photos. I even trekked my way to a relatively unknown pine trail passing by some rice paddies.

Sleep. Rest.Having just arrived from a 3-month Europe trip, my sleep hasn’t been going well. Jetlag must’ve hit me terribly. So, I promised myself to grab as much sleep as I could while in Sagada though it was tough not to wake up really early for the sunrise. But yes, I did a lot of lazing around while reading a book.

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Try local beer! Go drink a glass of beer… At a brewery… Inside a pine forest. I may have been to Sagada several times but it was my first time to go see the Sagada Cellar Door, known for their craft beer. And even though I ain’t a beer drinker, I just had to try it since a Php250 fee is a must pay (but is consumable). I had my beer with a delicious, spicy sausage!

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Wait for the sunset and sunrise.I wanted to watch the sunset at Lake Danum, something I have done during my 2nd Sagada trip. BUT, my legs were too tired from walking so I didn’t push through. But lo, and behold! The sundown was visibly stunning when I was at Sagada Door Cellar. Despite the high pine trees, the tangerine hue from the drifting sun swathed the forest.So yes – to watch the sundown somewhere I didn’t intend to watch it – CHECK!

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As an early bird, waking up early isn’t really much of a problem. Just like my initial plan for sunset watching, I wanted to wait for the sunrise at Kamanbaneng Hill (aka Marlboro Hills). However, the same excuse as to not going to Lake Danum applies. Marlboro requires extra time and effort of walking. So when I woke up the following day, I gazed outside my window and I was greeted with a pretty sunrise. I guess my wish to view the sunrise from some place no one knows happened! Yay!

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Laugh with locals.What makes an experience unforgettable is our encounter with people we meet along the way. As I was staying at a local family’s house (being turned into a homestay), I had a great time talking with the owners. It was a happy feeling laughing my heart out while sharing stories with locals around a fireplace, which in turn kept my sometimes cold heart and feet, warm.

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It was a short but relaxing weekend in my happy place. I pray that all these good things would happen again. So there, I hope you would have the courage to treat yourself a well-deserved getaway. Believe me, the mind, the heart and the body will love this kind of pampering.

Shout out to Mitch Pelayo’s fam for having me, and to Robin for the recommendation.

Cheers to spontaneous weekend getaways! Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy.

Agara Ramen: Fills the Tummy, Warms the Soul

If there is one thing I have been wishing to grow in number here in Baguio, that is for more ramen houses to open. Why? Well, hello! With Baguio’s perfect cold weather, having a bowl of hot ramen is what we need! Don’t you agree?

I am a self-confessed ramen person. I am fastidious with my ramen choices. I get easily disappointed if I learn that the ramen served looks and tastes like an instant noodle. My love for ramen is rooted in the fact that it is a culinary art – from the richness of its flavors, its aesthetics and the seemingly delicate techniques used on how they are prepared. A bowl of ramen holds a distinctive place in my tummy. When I slurp its soup and noodles, I feel the warmth filling my stomach, radiating happiness to my soul.I have always thought that Baguio’s weather is perfect for cafes and ramen bars/ restos. Unfortunately, we only have a few that serves really good ramen. I was delighted when Ramen Nagi opened but in the long run, one will feel burdened by the pricey cost of their ramen despite serving really good food. There are other Japanese restos here BUT the ramen they offer doesn’t come across authentic – taste most importantly.

So when I have heard of a new ramen bar (yes, it is a bar and not the usual resto) opening in my lovely city, Baguio, I got excited to try what they have to offer, hence I literally stormed my way one cold, foggy night. The place is called Agara Ramen, a 14-seater, industrial accented bar with a striking brick mural and tiled wall. Some people may have an impression that the place is a tad small in space but I think that is exactly what the owners have envisioned it to be (just like what most Japanese ramen bars are – small, intimate space for people eating ramen together).The menu of Agara Ramen is very straightforward. They offer 6 ramen styles. This includes the following:

  • Chuka Soba (a pork, chicken, fish, and vegetable broth noodles)
  • Tsukemen (a dipping ramen made with livestock, vegetable broth with soy sauce)

***These two are Agara Ramen’s menu flagship.

  • Tonkotsu Shio (sea salt base and pork broth) – if you like something light then this is for you.
  • Tonkotsu Shoyu (soy sauce and pork broth) – This I personally like.
  • Miso Ramen (strong pork miso soup) – My favorite. Because it is miso. I love anything miso.
  • Tantanmen (spicy pork broth soup in sesame seed paste) – Not my cup of tea, just because it is spicy.

Just like other ramen restaurants, you can also add tamago (Japanese soy sauce egg), chashu (braised pork belly), and/ or nori (seaweed). They also serve gyoza (dumplings) and karaage (fried chicken skin). All of these can be perfectly matched with a glass of Japanese barley tea (mugicha) or maybe a can of soda.My Agara Ramen experience was made more special because I got the chance to see how some of these ramen are prepared (and even eaten). The owner, Sir Ray Costa, gamely showed how it’s prepared. Please allow the photographs I took to further do the talking.As the weather here in Baguio becomes colder (and stormy), having a bowl (or two) of ramen is good way to quickly warm us up. I may just switch between ramen and some local noodles my brother makes (Ilocos miki). So if you are up for something “ramen-tic” belly-filling, and smile-inducing — a bowl of ramen goodness at Agara Ramen is what you probably need.

Agara Ramen is located at the Ground Floor of Rancho Guillermo Bldg. (beside Maybank), North Drive (where NBI’s entrance gate is), Engineers Hill, Baguio City. They are on their soft opening (grand opening will be on the 8th of September 2019). They are open from 11AM to 12MN (Monday to Thursday); and 11AM to 02AM (Friday to Sunday). You can also check out their social media accounts: fb.com/AgaraRamen (FB page), @AgaraRamen (both in Instagram and Twitter).So what are you waiting for? Fill your tummy, satiate your buds’ taste – “eats” a wonderful world after all. Take “eat” easy!

Cordova: Charming & Captivating (Cebu, PH)

The province of Cebu has a seemingly endless list of delightful attractions, both natural and man-made. Almost every town or city has something to offer to anyone who is visiting the island. One particular place that shouldn’t be neglected is the small, coastal municipality of Cordova. This town is located in the island of Mactan, the home of Cebu’s international airport, making it a very accessible place to reach.

So which places or what activities can one do when in Cordova, Cebu?

GO ISLAND-HOPPING.

Being a sea-side town, Cordova boasts off small islands with picture-perfect views and teeming marine life. When I visited Cebu in 2009, I got the chance to do island-hopping and was able to visit Hilutungan Island, a marine sanctuary that is one of the seven satellite islets that forms the Olango group of islands off the coast of Mactan; and the smaller Sulpa Island, a great place for beginners to dive and snorkel. These islands are low-lying coral islands with rich marine life and white sandy beaches.

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Hilutungan in particular, has a sand bar and a resort that is ideal for a weekend or overnight staycation. Although they are considered as protected areas, the local government allows snorkelers, divers and beach-lovers to experience the beauty of these islands. Besides Hilutungan, the nearby islands of Caohagan Island, Cabulan Island, Nalusuan Island, Olango Island, and Talima are also marine sanctuaries open to visitors despite some of them being private.

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There are sea patrollers (civilian volunteers) around the area who watches Philippine coastal waters from the shore. They are said to have trainings on conservation, protection, management and development of fisheries and aquatic resources; they also restrain destructive fishing practices and illegal fishing in the area.

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How to Reach the Olango Group of Islands:

From Manila, take a plane bound for Cebu. Upon arrival at Mactan International Airport, take a cab to either of the following options: You can rent an outrigger at the Hilton Pier in Mactan, or take the regular ferry at Angasil pier to Olango Island. From Sta. Rosa pier in Olongo, there are outrigger boats that ferry passengers to and from Hilutungan. There are also organized transfers when you’re booked at dive resorts. From there, one can go and see other nearby islands like Olango and Sulfa Islands. Another option is to go to Maribago area where one can take a traditional outrigger boat (called ‘pumpboat’ or bangka) that takes around 35 to 45 minutes to get there.

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After an entire day of island-hopping, make your way to the tip Lantaw Restaurant and 10,000 Roses Cafe where you can: (1) wait for the sunset, (2) have a sumptuous seafood dinner at Lantaw; and (3) marvel at the led roses at 10, 000 Roses cafe once darkness sets in.

10000 Roses Café & More has recently become a tourist attraction at this side of Cebu. The artificial, LED-powered roses are a sight to behold at nighttime or even during sundown. The café starts operation as early as 10:30AM and closes at 10:00 PM. You’d probably have the place to yourself early during daytime but you can’t deny the fact that it becomes more magical as the day comes to an end. By the way, an entrance fee of P20 per person is collected.

So there you go, a Cordova, Cebu experience that is filled with captivating moments from broad daylight til nighttime.

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

Kwentong Pag-Ibig ni Romulo

Itong blog na ito ay halos 5 buwan in the making. But the love story behind it is made to last for a lifetime.

BABALA: Kung babasahin mo ang blog na ito, siguraduhing handa kang langgamin. Bakit? Malalaman mo pag nagbasa ka. Isa pang babala, siguraduhing marami kang oras, may kahabaan kasi ang blog na ito. Ito na ata ang pinakamahabang blog na nagawa ko.

MGA BAWAL:

· Bawal ang “KJ” (kill joy) dito.

· Bawal ang hindi corny at cheesy dito.

“You will find love in the most unexpected place at the most unexpected time.” Iyan ang sabi sa akin ng isa kong kaibigan noong mga panahon na lugmok ako dahil ako ay isang BRO (broken-hearted). (Ooooops, hindi ito konektado sa blog ko na “Inagaw ang lahat Sa Akin”, eto eh totoong kwentong pag-ibig na).

First Day High

2003. Unang taon ng aking pagtuturo. Kakagradwyet ko lamang ng taong ding iyon, at nagrerebyu para sa nalalapit na board exams. Maaga akong pumasok sa Tuesday class ko ng 7:30 kung saan may mga nakatambay na mga estudyante sa harap ng Adenauer 401 (classroom ko). Napatingin ako sa isang babaeng naka-agaw ng sa aking atensyon dahil na rin sa mapupungay nitong mga mata. May mga tumakbong bagay sa pag-iisip ko ng mga oras na iyon gaya ng – “Magiging estudyante ko kaya eto? Dito kaya siya papasok sa klaseng papasukan ko?”

Nagfirst bell na, hudyat para pumasok na ang mga estudyanteng nakatambay sa labas ng classroom. Hinintay ko kung papasok ang nabanggit kong estudyante ngunit tumayo lamang ‘to at umalis. Hinintay ko ang second bell, nagbabakasakaling babalik at papasok ang naturang babae. Ngunit, subalit datapwat, umabot na sa 3rd bell eh walang magandang babae na mapupungay ang mga mata ang pumasok sa clase ko. Nalungkot ako.

Serendipity

Lumipas ang isang buong semester. Nakalimutan ko na ang naramdaman kong pagkamangha kay “Miss Tantalizing Eyes” (un ang binigay kong codename sa kanya mula nung una at huling araw na nakita ko siya sa unibersidad). Hindi na rin ako umasa na makikita ko pa siyang muli.

Umpisa ng 2nd semester SY 2003-2004. Tuesday ulit. 7:30 to 9:30 ulit ang oras at sa Adenauer 401 ulit ang pasok ko. Hindi kagaya nung unang semester, hindi ako maagang nakapasok. Tapos na ang 1st at 2nd bell kaya dali-dali akong pumasok at tumungo sa classroom. Pagkapasok ko ng classroom, sinabi ko sa mga estudyante ko na isulat nila ang pangalan nila sa isang 1/8th sheet of paper at ipasa eto.

Since unang araw pa lang ng pasukan, classroom rules at getting-to-know each other muna ang aming ginawa. Isa-isa kong tinawag ang mga pangalan sa papel na sinubmit sa akin, hanggang sa tawagin ko ang pangalan na ito —

“Ramirez, Maria S. – Where is Ms. Ramirez?”

May isang babaeng naka-red orange ang blouse ang nagtaas ng kanyang kamay. Mapupungay ang mga mata nito at isang matamis na ngiti ang ibinugad sa aking pagkakatawag ng kanyang pangalan. Mabilis na nagregister sa utak ko ang mukha ng babaeng ito. “Siya nga! Siya na nga!” Un ang paulit-ulit na sinisigaw ng mga neurons ko habang nakatitig sa kanya. Siya yung babaeng binansagan kong “Ms. Tantalizing Eyes”. Siya yung babaeng minsan ko lang nakita noong nakaraang semester na parang bula na lang na nawala dahil ni minsan, hindi ko na uli siyang nakita.

“And how would you like to be called in class Ms. Ramirez?” – pa-simple kong tanong na agad naman nitong sinagot ng –

“Maria SIR.”

Para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig ng marealize ko na SIR o guro nga pala nila ako sa klaseng ito at hindi isa sa mga kaklase nila. Problema nga ba yon? May “university rule” bang nagsasaad na bawal ma-inlab ang isang guro sa kanyang estudyante?

I Think I’m in Love

Mahirap bumangon ng maaga lalo na dito sa Baguio City dahil masarap matulog lalo na at malamig. Pero dahil may dahilan para gumising ng maaga at para na rin hindi malate sa pagpasok sa eskwela, eh talaga namang alas-singko pa lang eh ginigising na ako ng alarm clock ko.

In-short, inspired akong pumasok, lalo na tuwing TTHS dahil na rin kay Ms. Ramirez. Lumipas pa ang ilang araw at linggo, mas lalo akong napapahanga sa kanyang kagandahan at iba pang katangian. Maraming beses kong nahuhuli ang sarili ko na bigla-bigla na lang nakatitig sa kanya tuwing may quiz o seatwork sila… (Hindi ko lang alam kung may mga nakakahuli ding mga kaklase nya sa mga nakaw kong tingin kay Maria).

December na – ibig sabihin, Christmas break. Bigla ko siyang na-miss, hindi nakakatulog sa gabi sa kakaisip at nagigising na lang ako na humihiyaw ang utak ko na tila gustong irelease lahat ng mga kemikals gaya ng 5-HT o 5-hydroxytryptamine, serotonin at epinephrine na nagiging dahilan ng mabilis na pagtibok ng puso ko, at pagka-walang gana sa pagkain. Waaaaaaaaaah! Matagal ko ding di naramdaman ang mga eto…Eto na naman ang mga sinasabi sa kanta nina Jam Morales na ni-revive ni Lea Salonga “I think I’m in love, I think I’m in love with you.. Every single day, every single night, I want to spend them all, with you….” Haaay… I’m in-lab… Sabi ko pa man din sa sarili ko na trabaho muna, at tsaka na yang lab lab na yan…

You Changed My Life in a Moment

January 2004. Excited akong bumalik ng school. Napansin ng mga kabahay ko na sa pagpasok pa lang ng Bagong Taon eh, marami ding nakaakibat na pagbabago mula sa akin – gaya ng mga sumusunod:

· *Tumatagal na akong maligo (dati-rati 5 minutes lang ako kung maligo, 3 minutes kung masyadong malamig, ngayon 20 to 30 minutes na, pagshashampoo pa lang yun ha…).

· *Paglabas sa kwarto ay umaalingasaw ang amoy ng padalang pabango na Polo Sport ni Lola mula Tate…

· *Napapadalas din ang pagpapatugtug ng mga Lab Songs sa kwarto ko gaya ng Love is All That Matters, Falling atbpng sentimental songs na dati-rati naman eh di ko pinapakinggan.

· *Tuwing gabi, kung ano anung baduy na love notes ang sinusulat ko kung saan-saan – mula sa class record ko to my lecture notes hanggang sa kama ko, my mga post it na nakasulat ang pangalang “Maria”.

Nais ko na sanag ihayag kay Maria ang nararamdaman ko pero hindi ko alam kung paano. Medyo natotorpe din kasi ako, bukod dun eh, nag-aalangan ako dahil nga baka may masabi ang marami. Natatakot ako na baka may masabi ang mga kaklase niya o kaya ang mga co-teachers ko. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, ang hirap naman.

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Torpedo

Pebrero. Love month. Nataon ang February 14 (Valentines Day) sa araw na sila Maria ang estudyante ko. To break the usual scenario sa klase na lecture lecture lecture, nagkaroon kami ng activity. Tutal, Health Care naman yung subject, tungkol sa Caring ang ginawa naming activity. Gumawa sila ng mga messages of love and care, at dapat nilang ibigay etong mga ito sa mga taong nagbibigay ng inspirasyon sa kanila na nasa classroom. Bago ang dismissal, kinailangan ng ibigay ang mga ginawa nila – laking gulat ko ng iabot sa akin ni Maria ang heart letter na ginawa nya.

“The true measure of love is to love without measure.” – yan ang nakalagay sa iniabot niya sa akin na note. Gusto kong kiligin ng mga oras na iyon. Gustong sumigaw ng puso ko… Naramdaman ko ang pag-init ng mga tenga ko. Hindi ako makapaniwala. Napabuntong hininga na lang ako. Umalis ako ng classroom nila na may napakalaking ngiti sa mukha.

Pagkalabas, may mga nakita akong Valentines booth. Naisipan kong magbigay ng bulaklak na ipapadala ko kay Maria. Dahil nga sa torpe ako, ay hindi ko kinaya na ako mismo ang mag-abot ng rose kay Maria kaya’t inutusan ko ang isang kakilala. Binilin ko sa kanya na wag na wag niyang babanggitin na sa akin galing. Mabuti nalang at napapayag ko siya matapos pangakuan na ililibre ko siya sa Jollibee.

Eto ung nakalagay sa note na binigay ko sa kanya.

Dear Maria,

“The true measure of love is to love without measure.”

Anonymous

Para akong timang nuh? Syempre pa, magkaka-idea sya na ako ang nagbigay dahil kapareho ng binigay nyang note ung inilagay kong note sa bigay ko sa kanyang rose, kahit pa anonymous ang nakalagay. Pero syempre, idedeny ko kung magtatanong sya. Tanga? Torpe? Gago? OO.

Kinahapunan, nilapitan ako ng isang kaibigan niya na naging kaclose ko (si Cassie, na hindi ko estudyante). Tinanong niya ako kung ako daw ba iyong nagbigay kay Maria ng bulaklak. Syempre pa, itinanggi ko. Pero sa bandang huli, nahuli niya rin ako. Nagmakaawa ako na wag na wag niyang sasabihin na ako nga iyong nagbigay. Natawa na lang siya. Tiwala ako kay Cassie na hindi niya sa sasabihin. Sa katunyan, humingi pa ako ng favor sa kanya. Hiningi ko ang cellphone number ni Maria. Binigay naman niya ng walang pagaalinlangan. Ayos, solb!

Kinagabihan, binalak kong itext si Maria, pero mas nanaig ang pagiging torpe ko. Ilang araw pa ang lumipas bago ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob para itext siya.

“Hi, Maria. Musta ang school?” (message sent).

“hu u?” (reply ni Maria).Nakalimutan ko, hindi pa pala ako nagpapakilala.

“Ay, sori. Si Sir Rodrigo pala to. =)” (message sent).

“Ay, sir. Kayo po pala. Okay lang naman po.” (reply ni Maria).

“Ah, ok..mabuti naman. Sana hindi ako nakakaistorbo sayo…” (message sent)

Walang immediate reply. 5 minutes na, wala pa din. 10.15. Hay, nakastorbo nga ata ako.

Tooooootoooootooooot. Tunog ng cellphone ko.

“Hi sir, pasensya po, late reply. Gumagawa po kasi ako ng assignment sa Chem”. (text ni Maria)

Sabi ko na nga ba, nakaistorbo ako. Wrong timing. Siyempre, wala na akong nagawa, Kaya –

“Naku, sorry at naistorbo kita. Cge, tapusin mo na yang assignment mo. Goodnight. Sweet dreams… (kinikilig ako ng tinetext ko ang mga ito. message sent..sabay lundag sa malambot kong kama!)

“Kayo din po sir. Goodnyt!” (reply niya pero walang sweet dreams…)

Nahirapan akong matulog ng gabing iyon. Paulit-ulit na nanumbalik ang mga text messages ni Maria sa utak ko. Wala namang ibig sabihin ang mga texts nya, malandi lang talaga ako… ehehehe. Matagal-tagal ko ring hindi naramdaman ang mga eto… In-lab nga talaga ako kay Maria.

Nahirapan akong matulog ng gabing iyon. Paulit-ulit na nanumbalik ang mga text messages ni Maria sa utak ko. Wala namang ibig sabihin ang mga texts nya, malandi lang talaga ako… ehehehe. Matagal-tagal ko ring hindi naramdaman ang mga eto… In-lab nga talaga ako kay Maria.

Bawal na Gamot?

“Hindi ba bawal yan?” Iyan ang tanong ng isa sa mga kaibigan ko.

“Anong bawal dun? Wala naman akong asawa, wala din naman (ata) siyang boyfriend o boylets yun ang sabi ng mga friends niya)”.

“Bahala ka jan, ingat ka. Tsaka baka may masabi ung mga classmates niya…”

“Fair naman ako pagdating sa classroom eh, tsaka alam ko naman ang mga ginagawa ko.”

“Oo na, basta goodluck nalang…”

Iyan ang mga naging usapan namin. Aminado ako, medyo naaburido ako. AT naiinis. Bakit ba kasi may mga ganung bagay. (na kesyo bawal daw ang teacher – student relationship).

Chemistry Week. Kinuha ako ng Department Head ng Chemistry para maging judge sa Talent Showdown nila. Pumayag naman ako. Sa hindi ko inaasahang pagkakataon, kasama si Maria at mga friends niya sa Pop Dance. Ahem, pinagtatagpo ata kami ni destiny. (iyon ang nasa isip ko noon).

Natapos ang show, hindi sila nanalo dahil marami ang mas magagaling sa kanila. Sa labas ng theatre, nakita ko sila. Masaya kahit natalo (para daw sa plus points yun, kaya sila sumali sabi ng isa niyang friend).

“Sir, sama ka sa amin. Coffee tayo sa Klatsch!” – sambit ni Cassie (isa sa mga matatalik na kaibigan ni Maria).

Gusto ko syempre kaso nahihiya naman ako kasi, ilan lang sa kanila ang kakilala ko at hindi naman sure kung kasama si Maria, kaya tinext ko eto kahit na kaharap ko na siya.

“Sama ka sa Kaffe Klutsch?” (message sent)

“Opo, sama daw kayo sabi ni Cassie…” (reply nya)

“Okay lang ba?” (message sent – nananalangin na sana positibo ang reply). Wala siyang reply.

“Sir, sama ka na!” May nagsalita. Sino? Syempre, si Maria! Kinilig ako at siya na mismo ang nagsabi. Hindi na ako tumanggi pa.

Lumipas ang ilan pang mga araw. Matatapos na ang 2nd semester ng school year na iyon. Ilang gabi na rin akong balisa dahil habang tumatagal, para pahirap ng pahirapa ng sitwasyon ko. Namomroblema kasi ako kung paano ko ihahayag kay Maria na gusto ko siya. Sulatan ko kaya siya ng Love Letter? (Baka naman makornihan siya). O, sa text kaya? (Uhm, parang mejo rude ata yun). O personal na lang (hindi naman kaya ako himatayin sa kaba).

Napagpasyahan ko na ang huli ang aking gagawin. Pero – Kelan? Saan? Paano? At mas marami pang tanong ang isa-isang pumasok sa aking isipan.

Kung Okay Lang Sa’yo

March 20, 2004. Last day ng pasukan. Final exams nila sa akin. May ihinandang party ang mga estudyante ko kinagabihan. Pero bago pa ito (medyo fastforward ako ng konti), nasabi ko na kay Maria (sa pamamagitan ng text) na may imumungkahi ako sa kanya. Niyaya ko siya na kami ay mag-usap.

4:30 ng hapon. Starbucks sa John Hay. Dito namin napagpasyahang mag-usap. Kabadong kabado ako ng mga oras na iyon. Hindi ko kasi alam kung saan hahantong ang pag-uusap namin. May halong hiya, takot, kaba at excitement. Si Maria naman eh parang balisa. Kumain muna kami, hanggang dumating sa punto na –

“Ano yung gusto mong sabihin?” – Tanong ni Maria

Hindi ako nakasagot agad sa tanong niya. Lahat ng mga minemorize at prinactice ko noong isang gabi ay unti-unting naglaho. Mabilis akong nag-isip. May mga gusto na akong sambitin pero parang itinali ang dila ko.

“Ano kako yung gusto mong sabihin?” – Tanong ulit ni Maria.

“Ah, eh…” (unti-unit na akong pinagpapawisan).

“Huwag ka sanang magagalit ha, pero matagal na kitang gusto. Hindi ko alam kung dapat ko bang tanungin eto, pero… Pwede ba kitang ligawan?” (nanlalamig na ako sa mga oras na iyon. Hindi ko mawari kung tama ba na itinanung ko iyon sa kanya. Nagiinit na rin ang mga tenga ko, parang anytime eh sasabog na).

Napabuntong hininga si Maria. Ako man ay napabuntong-hininga din.

“Nakakagulat ka naman ssssii.. (gusto niya atang sambitin pa ang salitang sir, pero di niya ito itinuloy). Natutuwa ako sa iyo pero, uhm… Pero wala pa po sa isip ko ang mga sinabi mo. Sobrang strikto ng daddy ko… Wala akong maipapangako sa’yo pero.. ikaw, kung makakapaghintay ka ba…”

Naisip ko, basted na malupit ba ang tawag dito?! Hindi pa rin ako maka-imik. Paulit-ulit na umaalingawngaw sa pandinig ko ang mga kasasambit niyang mga kataga.

“Uy, baka naman hindi mo na ako pansinin niyan…” Sabay tapik ni Maria sa aking kanang balikat.

“Kahit gaano katagal akong manligaw, okay lang sa akin. Hindi naman ako nagmamadali eh…” – iyon naman ang aking nasabi habang nakatitig sa kanyang mga mata.

“Tsaka, bakit naman hindi kita papansinin?” (sabay subo sa kinakain ko).

“Eh malay ko ba kung kagaya ka ng ibang lalaki jan…” – pangiti nitong sagot. Sabay sabi pa ng —

“Naku! Mag-aalas-sais na pala. Baka hinihintay na tayo ng mga classmates ko.” – sabay tingin sa relos niyang suot.

Umalis kami ng Starbucks para tumungo sa class party nila. Napagkasunduhan namin na walang lalabas sa naging paguusap namin.

Kinagabihan, bago ako matulog, muling naglaro sa isip ko ang naging usapan namin ni Maria. Natanong ko ang sarili – “Naging kuntento ba ako sa sagot niya sa tanong ko o may inasahan ba akong ibang sagot?”

Aminado ako – medyo nalungkot ako pero naisip ko din, at least hindi naman talaga ako basted. Kumbaga, may pag-asa pa.

Getting to Know Each Other

May 3-weeks na break from school. At sa mga panahon na iyon, naging madalas ang pagtetextan namin ni Maria. Nagsimula ang summer classes, pareho kaming estudyante noon kasi imbes na magturo, nag-enrol ako para sa Masterals ko. Halos araw-araw ay nakikisabay ako kay Maria sa pag-uwi niya kahit pa sa SLU Men’s Dorm lang ako nakatira. Napapadalas din ang pagbisita ko sa kanya sa kanilang boarding haws. Hindi namin ito pinapahalata sa mga kaklase niya. Ang mga nakakaalam lang na nanliligaw ako sa kanya eh yung mga malapit niyang friends na sina Cassie, She at Jeoms; at syempre yung 2 kabahay niya na sina Jem at Sheryl.

Naaalala ko pa yung mga moments na gusto naming magsine o kumain sa labas, kinakailangan pa na lagi kaming “in-group”. Baka kasi may makahalata yung iba niyang classmates. Salamat kina Cassie, mas nagiging madali para sa amin kasi sinasamahan nila kami.

Matatapos na ang summer classes. Naging mas panatag na ang loob namin ni Maria sa isa’t isa. Naisip ko isang gabi – “Sasagutin na kaya niya ako kung tatanungin ko siya kung pwede bang kami na?”

Pero naisip ko din yung sinabi niya sa akin noon sa Starbucks na wala pa iyon sa kanyang pagiisip. Sabagay, nabanggit ko din naman sa kanya na, kayang ko namang maghintay.

Love Moves in Mysterious Ways

May 22, 2004. Last day ng summer classes. 7pm. Boarding House nila Maria sa Aurora Hill. Naka-black and white na stripes blouse si Maria. Naka-gray na jacket ako, black and white din na shirt at blue cap. Nag-take out kami ng dinner. Matapos magdinner, kwentuhan tungkol sa school. Sumagi ulit sa isip ko yung ideya na tanungin siya kung pwede bang kami na. Pero paano? (Kantahin ko kaya ang “Say That You Love Me” ni Martin Nievera? O kaya, magjoke ng –

Rodrigo: Maria, gusto ko T-shirt na lang ako.

Na sasagutin niya ng –

Maria: Bakit naman?

Rodrigo: Para naman itry mo kung bagay ba ako sayo…

Pero, yaiks!!! Ang corny ko pag ganun. Baka bigla pa niya akong palayasin.

Alas-diyes na ng gabi. Malapit na akong umuwi. 10:30 kasi curfew sa Men’s Dorm. Nakikinig kami ng radyo nun, K-Lite. Biglang tinugtog ang “Love Moves in Mysterious Ways” ni Nina, ng biglang magsalita si Maria…

“May gusto ka bang sabihin o tanungin sa akin?”

Nagulat ako. Gaya ng scenario sa Starbucks 2 buwan na ang nakakalipas, napipipi na naman ako.

“ Ha? Ano naman ang sasabihin o tatanungin ko sayo?” – pangiti kong sagot.

Ilang sandali pa ay nagsalita muli si Maria – “Tayo na!”

Para ata akong nabingi sa 2 salitang binitawan niya. Halong pagkagulat at saya yung naramdaman ko. Parang hindi ako makahinga, ambilis ng pintig ng puso ko. Niyakap ko siya ng mahigpit na mahigpit. Sabay tanong ulit –

“TOTOO??? Hindi ka ba nagbibiro?”

“Oo nga…” – buong galak niyang sinabi.

Sana ay nakita ko ang itsura ko matapos marinig ang sinabi niya. Wala na akong maalala sa naging reaksyon ko nang oras na iyon. Ilang minuto pa, kinailangan ko ng umuwi. Isang ngiti ang permanenteng tumatak sa mukha ko habang pauwi ng Men’s Dorm… Habang naglalakad, hindi ko napigilan ang sarili kong sumigaw —

“Woooooohoooooooooo! Kami na…sa wakas, kami na…” (Sabay talon, ngiti, at kampay ng kamay).

Mula noon, ang ngiting dinulot ni Maria sa aking mukha, ay hindi na umalis pa at sa tingin ko hindi na mabubura magpa-kailan pa man…mula sa simbahan hanggang sa aming magiging tahanan.

“Falling in love happens by chance not by choice.

Staying in love happens by choice not by chance.”

Nagmamahal,

Rodrigo

Reddoorz Baguio: Staycation Review

I have not always been a fan of staycation. I mean, why don’t you go out instead and explore what your surroundings get to offer. Then again, cliche as it may sound but some things change when we grow older. And that includes a changed perception about staycations.

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Living in a Baguio alone is already ideal and relaxing but these reasons didn’t deter me from choosing to “sleep over” in some hotels/ hostels/ BnBs from time to time. I have tried several bed and breakfast places and the experience was exquisite (especially at Lucia’s and The Old Orangewood BnBs). I also did a staycation with my family at a hotel near the Wright Park, and it was a happy one just cuddling and eating together with your mom, pops, and brother.

My recent staycation experiences are 2 Reddoorz Hotels near my place (actually both are just 5-minute walking from my home). These experiences are 2 totally different experiences – one highly pleasant, the other very terrible. I am writing this as a form of review, that may serve as a form of caution to people and at the same time, for me to vent out my frustration over  this very bad experience with one of these hotels.

I am not really promoting Reddoorz app but since this experience involves this app, it will be mentioned every now and then. (Also, I have other travel and accommodation apps i my phone since I am an avid fan of travelling with Bookings.com still being my personal favorite and Skyscanner). My 1st Reddoorz app experience was also beyond terrible that I ended up not staying in that hotel in Iloilo even if I booked 4-days and they would refuse a refund.

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Room at Reddoorz Aura One Hotel

I told myself not to use Reddoorz app again but when I got back home in Baguio, I got curious with Aura One Hotel being part of Reddoorz. I had a wonderful experience with this hotel back then during a Christmas party with my pharmacy colleagues. So I wonder how it was like to go for a staycation. Since I earned some rewards during my unpleasant 1st Reddoorz experience, I went on to use this in booking my stay at A1.

And woooow, woooow, wooow! My Aura One Hotel experience via Reddoorz was great. Everything was really great. Got the room for a really good price, the hotel room itself is lovely and the hotel staff are beyond nice and really kind. This 1st staycation at this hotel was followed up by 3 more bookings (that I didn’t notice I was already staying with them for almost a week).   I even went for a Red Club membership just because of my very pleasant stay at Aura One. (perks of being a member includes a special discounted price for every booking). So it is safe to say that my Aura One experience overshadowed that very bad experience in Reddoorz Iloilo.

After a few bookings at A1, I decided to try out other Reddoorz hotel hoping that the experience would be, if not as great as A1’s, pleasant and satisfying. And so I booked this Reddoorz @ Aurora Hill Hotel. It is just a stone’s throw away from A1. So the day of my booking at Reddoorz @ Aurora Hill came and boooy! I was shocked with different kinds of disappointments.

I arrived at the hotel at 12:43 noon. And I asked the receptionist if I can already check-in and she told me I cannot check-in unless it is 2pm. I asked why and she said just because that is what she was told. I understand 2PM is the standard check-in time in most hotels/ hostels around the world (not only in the Philippines) BUT in ALL past hotel/hostel experiences I have had, whenever I arrive between 12-2pm, and the room you are supposed to stay is already available, they allow you to do an early check in without paying extra. Some reception staff would tell you to wait for a while in case a room is still being cleaned up, nonetheless, they always allow early check-in. So I was in for a surprise of my life when I was told I can only check-in at 2PM.

I even wasn’t able to contain myself in comparing my Aura One experience. From the 4 previous stay with A1, 2 instances involves an early arrival at the hotel (around 12:15-12:30) and without batting an eyelash and raising an argument, was I allowed to check in immediately. I even asked if I could talk to someone about this and after a while, I was talking to someone who seems to be a “manager” of this Reddoorz @ Aurora Hill hotel. Talking to her over the phone gave me an impression that this person does not know how to properly deal with customers. SHE obviously does not know how to therapeutically and professionally converse with enraged clients and she just kept on insisting of their rules. This person even told me that Reddoorz allowed them to make their own rules when I asked, where in their written rules is this and that. I just really hope that what she said about Reddoorz, allowing them to incorporate rules they want to without their consent is true or else, this is a bad image for Reddoorz.

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Room at Reddoorz @ Aurora Hill

Then came the part where I had to pay a deposit. I understand that hotels usually ask for a certain amount. I paid Php500 in Iloilo Reddoorz, and I also pay Php500 whenever I check in at Aura. I gave Php1000 here at Reddoorz Aurora Hill. I was waiting for my change when the staff said that the deposit is Php1000.00. What a surprise!!! I felt enraged again! She said that is the usual deposit asked same as other Reddoorz Hotel, she even mentioned that it is the same amount asked by Aura One Hotel to which I vehemently denied and told her they only ask me Php500.00.

NO WONDER that out of the 5 Reddoorz Hotels in Baguio City, they have the lowest rating. Now I understand why! All these things happened even before me getting checked-in. So the time I got check-in to my room, I was no longer feeling the staycation vibes I have wanted. Instead of feeling relaxed, all I wanted to happen is for this 2-day staycation to end.

Assessing their room, I would say without a bias that they have a way inferior room to even the cheapest room at A1. I know this is way too early to say but I definitely will NEVER stay or book this hotel again. I will never recommend this to any of my friends coming to Baguio for sure!

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View from Aura One Hotel

Anyhow, I am looking forward to staying at Aura One again where my staycation experience was remarkably satisfying. Or maybe try this hostel I saw using my Zen Rooms App.

SUMMARY of Review:

Question Reddoorz Aura One Hotel Reddoorz Aurora Hill
ROOM – Temperature room comfortable upon arrival Yes Yes
ROOM – HVAC functional and in good condition Ceiling fan is ok Electric fan is ok
ROOM – DND Sign in good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – Entry door good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – Entry door functional Yes Yes
ROOM – Entry door lock functional Yes (makes use of a key card) Yes (makes use of a regular key)
ROOM – Entry door frame clean Yes Yes
ROOM – Telephone works Yes No telephone
ROOM – TV works Yes (+ they have Netflix and Youtube) Yes
ROOM – TV programmed correctly Yes Yes
ROOM – TV remote works Yes Yes
ROOM – Thermostat operational N/A N/A
ROOM – All electrical outlets functional Yes Yes
CLOSET – Safe instructions posted No No
ROOM – Minibar clean N/A N/A
ROOM – Minibar functional N/A N/A
BED – frame good condition Yes Yes
BED – Bedding clean and free of stains Yes Yes
BED – Frame good condition Yes Yes
BED – Headboard good condition Yes No headboard
ROOM – All flooring/carpet clean Yes A bit dirty
FURNITURE – Nighstands good condition Yes None
FURNITURE – Trash bin clean Yes No trashbin inside the room, just inside the toilet
FURNITURE – Desk chair good condition Yes Too low
FURNITURE – Desk chair clean Yes A bit
FURNITURE – Other chairs clean Yes No other chair
FURNITURE – Desk clean/ good condition/ functional Yes Not conducive
CLOSET – All accessories in closet present and in good condition Yes Yes
CLOSET – Light(s) functional No lights No lights
CLOSET – Doors open & close properly Yes Squeaky when opening.
CLOSET – Door good condition Yes A bit.
CLOSET – Interior clean Yes No
ROOM – Art hung straight/ good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – Mirrors clean/ good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – General area lighting clean/ functional. Yes A bit dim, not conducive for reading.
ROOM – USB charging ports work throughout room Yes Yes
FURNITURE – Tables good condition/ clean Yes Too high
FURNITURE – Sofa clean/ good condition N/A N/A
ROOM – Wall paint good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – Walls damage free Yes Some dent
ROOM – Windows clean/ good condition Yes A bit dirty, and one window cant be closed.
ROOM – Windows function (if they can be opened) Yes Defective
ROOM – Drapes/Sheers functional/ clean Yes Not so.
ROOM – Ceiling clean/ good condition Yes Yes
ROOM – WiFi functional throughout room Yes Yes
ROOM – Vents clean/ good condition Yes Yes
BATH – All  surfaces clean Yes NO
BATH – All bathroom tile and floor clean Yes NO
BATH – Shower glass streak free and clean Yes None
BATH – All drains in room clean and non-obstructed Yes Yes
BATH – Sink(s) clean Yes Yes
BATH – All countertops and surfaces clean and streak free Yes No
BATH – All lighting clean/ functional Yes Yes
BATH – Presence of foot rug and hand towel Yes None
BATH – All towels clean and in good condition Yes Yes
BATH – All amenities refreshed and present in bathroom Yes No
BATH – Trash bin clean and in good condition Yes Yes
BATH – Toilet clean Yes Yes
BATH – Toilet has functional bidet and shower Yes Yes
BATH – Water pressure functional Yes Yes
BATH – Hair dryer functional Yes None

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

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.

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.