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.

Portugal Kitang Hinintay

Dear Portugal,

Portugal kitang hinintay (can be translated as “I have long waited for you, Portugal)!, Was I happy? Are you kidding me? I wasn’t happy! I was enamored, over-whelmed (insert all superlatives here). Okay, so how did the desire to visit this travel destination start? Read along…

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2013. I was watching Leg 4 of the 23rd season of the Amazing Race. This Leg was filmed in Portugal, and the detour task then was a choice between putting together a life-size puzzle using porcelain tiles or retrieving a giant-sized compass at a monastery called Jeronimos (with which the team will use it to map out the distance traveled by Ferdinand Magellan). Search on Youtube should you be interested to see more of what happened during that episode. Because of this feature on Portugal, I randomly tweeted “makes me wanna see Portugal #AmazingRace”.

Since then, I always have Portugal in my list of “Places I want to Visit”. You see, I often jot down the things I want to accomplish, and that includes enumerating in my journal the places I want to see. (If only you’d get a peep at my personal notes, you’ll see a loooong list, hahaha). Last year, I managed to go to Europe for the first time. It was a 10-week backpacking across the continent. At the end of that one-of-a-kind solo adventure, I realized that I wasn’t able to put into fruition my desire to set foot on Portugal. (Magellan must be really disappointed in me). I, myself, was tad disappointed. I guess it wasn’t the right time, just yet.

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Fast-forward 2018. Another opportunity to visit Europe came about. This time, I made sure that Portugal is on top of my list. I asked my boss at work if I could go for a vacation after my work-related travels, and boy I was glad he would allow me to. Just this 1st week of May, my long-time longing of seeing, experiencing Portugal came into realization. And wow, what an experience!

The moment I set foot outside the Porto airport, and that time I left the Lisbon airport, everything that happened in between during my stay in Portugal was just beyond happy, memorable, and nothing short of amazing! My first post on my social media accounts about Portugal was all praises, and words of admiration. I was all smiles sharing stories about Portugal, and I feel genuinely happy reminiscing every bit of my experience. When someone asks me why I speak so much joy and love for this Iberian nation, I end up being speechless just because.

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You know that feeling when you are in love and you are being asked what made you fell for that person you love? You just can’t put it into words. I try, but, I think I am failing big time. I mean, I have lots of reasons in mind but I just can’t seem to find the proper way to put them into words. It felt like Portugal and I were fated for each other. Hahaha. Okay, I may be a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, I will try one more time in this write-up to share reasons why “a feeling of certainty” came over me when I was in Portugal. I hope that the photographs I took will suffice what you would perceive maybe lacking later on.

I find Portugal’s Porto and Lisbon to be vibrant, and really charming. It felt like these cities have a pinch of something from the various European cities I have visited since last year. I’d be hypocritical if I’d say I didn’t set some expectations prior to my visit. Having been elected as the BEST European destination for 3 years — 2012, 2014 and 2017, Porto, specifically made me really excited. But I had to manage my expectations as well since I was already getting jaded of seeing street murals, cobblestone streets, historical monuments, museums, and the like. BUT, both Lisbon and Porto will prove you and your anticipated boredom, mistaken!

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Porto is amazing BECAUSE:
The view overlooking the Douro River is just impeccable. The colorful houses that dot the riverside, the Dom Luis metal bridge, the sighting of the Rabelo boats, the unsullied cold air wafting at my cheeks while atop Mostero da Serra do Pilar – were just too good to be true. Except that they were real and really lovely.

Walking along the narrow (and sometimes confusing) cobblestone streets seem to have transported me back in time. Every corner of which is “instagrammable”, hence one MUST stop every now and then to capture some moments.

It’s romantic! How do we know that a place is romantic? We just do! Or maybe the old art deco cafes, the street graffiti, and other architectural wonders (from churches to museum to apartments) within the city all contribute to this romantic sense.

Just like Lisbon, the mode of transportation, especially their tram and train, are not just cool ways to travel but are also aesthetically delightful pieces you’ll see in Porto.

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Lisbon is love BECAUSE:

Food is splendid. From the renowned “Pastel de nata” (Portuguese tarts) to their bacalhau, and seafood risotto — every restaurant and cafe I ate left me feeling tremendously gratified, without being guilty of spending much on food.

I am such a big fan of murals and street art. Colorful tiled buildings are everywhere. One thing I have noticed while walking along the streets of Lisbon, graffiti on walls (even houses), and abandoned buildings (with some garbage) are everywhere. BUT, unlike other cities I have seen with this similar depiction, I didn’t feel perilous. Instead, the shabby vibe added to the charm I mentioned earlier. It made Lisbon have a more distinct personality.

I love long walks through meandering and hilly paths. Reaching the top portion of these hills (whether you are on a castle or some random viewpoint within the city), you will be rewarded with an all-encompassing view of the city and its picturesque classic red-roof houses.

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I love the people I have met. As my travels get more frequent, the people I meet in a certain place is now a big factor towards the creation of a long-lasting impression. And the Portuguese surely made a positive impact on me for they are genuinely helpful and approachable (especially in time s I find myself getting lost). Special shout out to the staff/people I met at the hostel I stayed at!

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There are other reasons why I fell in love with Portugal but I am leaving those for you to find out. I left Portugal with admiration and respect. The way it impressed me has been lingering since I got back home here in the Philippines. It made me realize that just like people, only a few places will leave a lasting impression. And now, I have come to recognize why a lot of people speak highly of Portugal. I do, too, now. And as my plane took off from the Humberto Delgado Airport, I said my prayers of gratitude and hoped that soon, I will get to see Portugal again.

Most of my travels started as a dream, which eventually became part of my goals. I did put them into writing, wrote down possible steps how to achieve them. I directly and indirectly claimed they will happen. And guess what? A lot of them already did.

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

 

Slow Down, Take It Easy.

The secret of living a happy life is to “slow down and do one thing at a time”, my grandmother once told me.

At this day and age what people call millennial generation, it seems that almost everything has been replaced by something “instant” or readily available. Various social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, and the like have served as the mainstream and traditional ways are rapidly being put into oblivion. Disappointing as it may sound but the era of fake and unverified information or news are becoming the standards of truth.

Nowadays, one could order food, clothes or whatever material thing one has in mind, online. Pay it online, and after a few days, they are delivered at one’s doorstep. One could also meet people in certain dating applications and voila, you are up for a romantic date or more, at an instant. Even in schools, some institutions would require their students to submit their outputs through emails. In workplaces, one could conduct trainings virtually. True enough, these things are indication of progress, and comfort to most.

On a hindsight, I have noticed that because of these convenience, people have become more demanding, and have lost grip of the essence of waiting, and yes, taking things at a slower fashion. These things are very evident specially in big cities wherein most individuals seem to be racing with each other – where everyone is in a hurry to book a ride home thru transportation apps, in a hurry to finish work inorder to accommodate and accomplish more tasks, thinking that being able to do more at a faster pace makes one more superior, admirable, and incredible.

I am guilty of these claims. I am aware that I spend a significant time checking on my phone for notifications in my social media accounts, checking on the latest news/things in Twitter or in Instagram, and would just prefer a quick hi/hello in Viber, Whatsapp and messenger to friends instead of meeting them in person.

My recent travel to Europe served as a timely reminder that I should take time to genuinely experience what life has been offering me all along. Things like taking my time to eat and to actually enjoy the food I am eating, to not worrying of getting up really early and hurrying myself to be dressed up in the morning so as to accomplish alot of things, to appreciating long, leisure walks while talking to random people, exchanging views about many things — are just some of those that I have learned to value more.

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While I have learned to set aside checking on my emails and socmed notifications for a few hours,  I am still guilty of being a gadget-dependent individual.

It is true that grabbing every opportunity coming our way is a good thing, and accomplishing more seem a really impressive idea, but then again, we should remind ourselves to enjoy and notice the smallest of the things around us. We should not be too preoccupied with our destination. We should learn to appreciate the journey per se and keep in mind the possibilities of encountering U-turns and dead-ends, and of course enjoying every moment along the way.

“Take it easy” — I always say this in most of my posts, and maybe it is time to practice it more whole heartedly. I guess taking time, taking a few steps back shouldn’t hurt our way towards achieving our main goals in life. Who knows, if we do these, we might just end up being happier and more satisfied.

***This write-up is a product of my jetlag. Since I cant sleep and these thoughts have been racing inside my head the past weeks, might as well jot them down here.

Lester out.

Santiago: Ilocos Sur (PH)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Get Here:

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

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

Riga, Latvia: An Art Nouveau Mecca

Art Nouveau architecture in Latvia’s capital, Riga, makes up about 1/3rd of all the buildings in the center of the city. This makes Riga the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the entire world.

Also called as Jugendstil, art nouveau ultimately gave this Latvian capital its trademark look. The various buildings with elaborate floral designs, weaving garlands, theatrical  masks, intricate sculptural figures (from flamboyant naked maidens to funky gargoyles), flowing lines, and elaborate geometric forms adorning the facade of buildings, has made Riga famous and a must-see Eastern European city.

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But this Baltic City is not only known for these architectural gems, Riga is also visited for its wooden buildings, and its lovely medieval Old Town. I personally enjoyed walking around the pedestrian-only Riga Old Town that offers alot of  shops and restaurants. The Livu Square, with its lively bars and nightclubs were also a delight.

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

Travel Memorabilia

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Casablanca (Morocco)

When I told a few of my friends that I am going to Morocco, majority of them said that I should go and see Marrakesh and Fez as these are the must-see places in this North African nation. I, however, opted to see Casablanca – Morocco’s economic and financial capital.morocco7Honestly, I wasn’t certain what to expect in Casablanca. My early knowledge about this city is that it served as an inspiration to the old Hollywood movie “Casablanca”. My mom used to tell me to watch the film. Since it was too old for me, I really didn’t give in to her advice to see it. However, when I was in college, I finally got the chance to see the Ingrid Bergman – Humphrey Bogart movie. And yes, it was romantic.

Fast forward: Last week, another dream was put into reality as I traveled my way to Africa for the first time. From Dubai, I took an Emirates direct flight to Casablanca, Morocco. Without much expectation, I allowed myself to be surprised and be satiated with what this Moroccan modern city has to offer.

morocco9 (1)My Casablanca trip made me realize how much I have changed as a solo traveler. If you have been following my posts in various social media, you’d probably know by now how much I like taking a lot of photographs, sharing travel stories, insights and more. My recent trip was quite different in such a way that I wasn’t too keen in pushing myself to explore all possible places to see/ visit. This time, I decided to take everything slowly. I took my time to enjoy every meal I eat, I took time taking my shower, cuddling up in bed longer than I used to do, and walking around without worrying much about my time. My friends were surprised when I told them I haven’t been taking as many photographs as I used to do. I even ended up not going to all the places I have jot down my list. Surprise, surprise.

So what did I personally enjoy and love during my 4-day visit? Read along.

I enjoyed marveling around the Grande Mosquee Hassan II. The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco (and Africa) and the 13th largest in the world. Its minaret is also the world’s tallest at 210 metres. I am not really good at describing details, but I am pretty certain everything about this mosque’s architecture is intricately and beautifully made. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go inside because when I was there, it was prayer time. Nonetheless, its exterior is beyond lovely.

Speaking of architectural designs, Casablanca is a feast to the sense of sight. The diversity of the buildings’ designs – art deco to modern would not only delight architecture enthusiasts but also regular travelers like me. Even their palm-dotted boulevards and corniche (a road cut into the edge of a cliff, especially one running along a coast) are artistically made.

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One place I enjoyed walking around is Casablanca’s Old Medina. A “medina” is a distinct city section found in a number of North African cities. The word itself simply means “city” or “town” in modern-day Arabic. Sauntering around a medina will give you a glimpse of the people’s life, culture and more. If you like to buy souvenirs, clothes, food, fruits and other stuff, a visit to the medina is a must. Why? It’s cheaper and you have an array of choices to choose from. The experience maybe quite topsy-turvy and grubby, but I like it anyway. I also bought 3 pairs of babouche (Moroccan slippers) because they are really good, comfy and stylish.

As in every country I visit, I look forward to tasting their local dishes. Some of the food I have tried (and actually enjoyed eating) include their couscous (kuskus) – is a Maghrebi dish of small steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina, usually served with a stew. It is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

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I also tried their version of kebab, Bolognese pasta (which is really really good!), some arabic bread, and another fave of mine, fish chermoula (a dish with a blend of lemon, fresh herbs, and spices that is perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood).

Then there is Ain Diab, one of Casablanca’s coastal districts. It boasts off a scenic promenade lined with modish hotels and beach resorts. The beach may not possess white sand BUT its brown colored sand is uber fine and clean. No wonder a lot of people flock their way to just stroll along or play football at the beach. Also, I have noticed that a lot of resorts offer surfing activities. Well it isn’t surprising as the waves seem really great for surfing.

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There are other places and activities you could do in Casablanca like dining at Rick’s Café (restaurant, bar and café designed to recreate the bar made famous in the movie Casablanca), Sindbad Park (an adventure-themed park with a roller coaster & other rides, plus a zoo with African & Asian animals), Park of the Arab League (place where one can get away from the busy city life because of its greenery, and an ideal place for jogging, strolling or even meditating), and of course, Casablanca can also serve as a jump off point to other Moroccan cities like Rabat (the capital), Fez, Essaouira, and Marrakesh since trains are easily accessible from the city.

So don’t be a wasted soul, be “juanderlust”. Take it easy everyJuan.

Philippines’ Beaches: What’s Not to Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baguio is Home

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right. — Maya Angelou

Sometimes I feel there’s a love-hate kind of relationship that exists between me and Baguio, the city I call my home. Occasionally I think it is too small and limited regarding opportunities and expanding my horizon. I once left the city for three years thinking it would be a real escape from forgetting the bad memories of a failed relationship. I thought leaving Baguio was a good excuse to explore the things outside my comfort zone. It made me believe that leaving my home will help me find where I want to be, and who I want to become.

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After ten weeks of backpacking around Europe, I was reminded that there is no better place like home… that there is no better feeling than being in the city that I love so much. So here are the main reasons why I will always be happy to stay in the City of Pine, Baguio.

The Weather: Baguio has the best weather from among the Philippine cities. Well, it may have gone a little warmer over the years, yet the weather here is incomparable. Moreover, the smell of the cold air is so comforting to my body and soul. You’ll feel it the moment you arrive in the city. It is distinct from anywhere else. I think this is the prime reason why a lot of people come to visit Baguio.

The Good Food: I want to believe that Baguio offers an array of excellent food. I am a self-confessed foodie and so exploring food possibilities with my palate is one thing I love doing. I go out and try new gastronomies whenever a new café or restaurant opens. I want to think that Baguio is one big food hub ideal for a food crawl. Home-grown eateries like 50s Diner, Vizcos, Arcas Yard, and Canto are some of my favorite. Just like Baguio’s unruffled weather, the food here is soothing to the soul.

The People: Baguio may have become a melting pot already, but Baguio people remains to be some of the most hospitable and genuinely kind individuals and families. Aside from having the best taxi drivers in the entire country, on a personal note, the people I have met here in Baguio are incomparable. These people I call friends and family, these people whom I have made a lot of memories, these people who have contributed much to my growth as a person – are the main reasons why I love Baguio to the core. Not all of them may no longer be here with me (as they are already living their own lives), but the moments we have shared together are here to stay no matter what.

Lastly, I love Baguio because this is where I get to enjoy my time and my space. I love that reassuring feeling that I will be fine whatever the circumstances are because I am in Baguio… because I am home.

Captivating Auckland City

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

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

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