Naga 2017

Here’s a one-minute video. Watch it in HD! :)

Early this year, I was able to visit Naga City in Bicol (southern tip of Luzon). What a way to start the year, right? First week of 2017, lakwatsa agad! Good job! We were actually invited for a wedding but since it was our first time, well at least for Darel and I (haha! we were with his sister), we decided to go there ahead of schedule and explore a bit. Maybe you’ve seen my IG stories back then and saw how fun it was to get lost and just allow where our instincts would take us. In case you missed it, don’t worry ‘cos I’m about to share the full story of our Naga trip.

Naga to Burias_

The initial plan was to explore the surrounding islets of San Pascual, Burias Island, and on top of the list are the islands of Tinalisayan and Sombrero.

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We tried to contact resorts and guides few days before the trip but unfortunately, we were unable to reach all the contact numbers we found in San Pascual. Just a little back story, a strong typhoon hit the Bicol area late last year so we thought maybe the cell sites were greatly affected. Having no choice but to skip the beautiful islets, we decided to go for Calaguas Island which is on the northern side of Naga.

A bit farther than San Pascual, but we really wanted a good salt, sand and sea for this trip so we didn’t care. Hahaha. The day before our flight, we’re all set for our Calaguas side trip. We’ve talked to the resort (Waling Eco Village is the place to be in the island if you’re not into camping. I was so convinced by the photos and reviews I found for the resort. HUHU. Will definitely plan again. SPOILER: No content about Waling Eco Village in this post because.. read on) and the boatman and everything’s all good. We were so excited! But that night, we got a text from the resort informing us that the coastguards were not allowing any boats to travel because of the unpredictable weather. Probably still a post-typhoon thing. What a real heart-breaker.

SO GUESS WHAT? We officially have no plans on what to do for 2 days and our flight is in less than 12 hours!

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I dread for early morning flights but its beauty always captivate me. There’s so much freedom on the wee hours of the morning and it offers such a serene soul. As the clouds slowly paint a stunning smile of the sun, I’m enchanted. Won’t you stay with me here for a little while?

I was awake when the plane was about to land. I love it when planes land at daytime. I feel like I’m seeing everything on a scaled version. Haha. Architecture blood kicking in. Anyway, I’m aware of the typhoon that hit Bicol last December but I didn’t know it was that bad. As the plane started to descend, I saw uprooted trees, ripped off roofs and to summarize it all, it was such a devastating scene. The ride from the airport to the place where we’ll be staying at gave us even a close-up view of how strong typhoon ‘Nina’ was. I can just imagine the nightmare Bicolanos had to endure during the surge of strong winds plus the heavy rain. I feel sorry for the affected families. I hope everything’s in good condition now months after the calamity. Btw, in case you’re wondering, the wedding pushed thru despite the situation. And it was beautiful! Yay!

At 7am (010517), we were already in Naga. Yep. Still got no plans. We stayed in Domer Residencias on the whole duration of this trip btw. Breakfast. Checked-in. We were so bummed by the thought that we got nothing on our itinerary. We’re almost ready to turn off our excitement but thank God for friends, we were able to borrow a car! Cars can take you anywhere right?? Before lunch time, we’re already on the road on search for White Pebble Beach Resort (high fiving Google and Waze) – the best beach Naga City itself offers. We decided to have lunch on a typical bus stop-over except that it was about 5x more eerie than your usual idea of a provincial road. Imagine seeing a roof of a gas station ripped off plus more uprooted trees, and fallen electric posts, and few people on this part of the route. Good thing we found some comfort on Mik-Mik. Hahaha. In case you’re wondering what the heck is Mik-Mik, it’s actually a sweetened milk powder where you need to use a straw that comes with it so you can enjoy eating it. It’s the best experience ever! 90’s kid represent!

At around almost 1:30 in the afternoon, we’re already on the off road part of the route (on the mountain actually) and were slowly greeted by this upsetting view:

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We decided to go on and filled our hopes up by expecting that at the end of this long, sad and muddy road, there’s a calm sea waiting for us. BUT, the road was not just sad. It was depressing, and frustrating.. and okay it was kind of funny. Haha. You see, we have a sedan type and just when Waze told us that we’re only about 1 to 2kms away from the place, the muddy road just keeps getting thicker up to the point that we can no longer pass thru. Waze: “Surprise!”

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Introducing the lady the in avocadoes. You can call her Danielle – Darel’s sister.
See how the struggle is so real in this photo??

Believe me, we did everything we can to pass thru every difficult turn just to reach that 1 to 2kms-away state. We even had these options: 1) drive back and find a house where we can temporarily park the car and hitch a ride maybe from a motorcycle because yes, there are some residents in that mountain 2) walk a few meters and hope that Waze is telling a lie and that the beach is only a few meters away, and just park the car where the road would still be passable — because we can take turns in swimming, sun-bathing and still look after the car right?? Hahahaha!

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And because we are some kind of crazy human beings, we decided to go for the second option. Ate Dane and I decided to walk and just see what we can get out of doing that. Strolling around that mountain and in the middle of the spoiled plants and trees, I really don’t know what we were thinking that time. Hahaha! After a few minutes, we saw a house and some people, and we told them our dilemma. Sadly, they can’t offer us any help. They’re probably thinking, who are these 2 ladies colorfully dressed with muddy feet in the middle of the mountain??

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And so we decided to go back and drove off thinking, “It’s only 3 in the afternoon, we can still find a beach somewhere.” And off we went. We decided to take the road near the ocean (We’re still in Pasacao I guess?) hoping we can find a good spot where we can take a dip, even for just a few minutes. So with the help of G-maps and a few questions to the locals, we managed to find a strip of small resorts. Yay! Imagine us asking, “Pwede po ba maligo?” Hahaha! We didn’t want to pay for a whole “daytrip” since it’s almost 4pm and we plan to leave by 5:30pm. Took us quite a while to find one who’s easy to deal with. And guess what, they even offered an island hopping!! Time check: 4pm. We said yes immediately, taking only with us the essentials – a plastic of Mik-mik, our phones, a bottle of water, and that’s it. We didn’t even bother to get towels. Hahaha.

About 10-15 mins later, we found ourselves in Daruanak Island. It’s a small island which offers a very cold, yet very clear and calm water. No fine sand but it has beautiful pebbles. We quickly got off the boat and enjoyed the place. And it’s almost sunset! (Enjoy the photos!)

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The next day (010617), we decided to go wakeboarding. But first, breakfast! The Bicolano cuisine is known for the prominent use of chili peppers and gata that’s why I was a bit disappointed when we ran out of time to try their ice cream! But I’ll be back, promise!

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Bigg’s Diner I think is the biggest food chain in the region which has Bicolano and American food choices.

Despite the typhoon aftermath, CWC was operational but some of their facilities were undergoing repairs. Probably the reason why there weren’t a lot of people when we got there. We even managed to have the beginner’s course all to ourselves! It was my first time to wakeboard and I did it!

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At around 5pm we decided to leave and headed straight to Panicuason Hot Springs. Another place we just saw on the internet. Getting there wasn’t easy though because the route involved driving on a 2 lane road, with bent power posts and power lines dangling on the road. What a way to relax after hours of wakeboarding! Sorry, no photos. It was already dark when we got there.

The following day (010717) was Marcus and Laiza’s wedding. Sharing to you some photos.

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Exploring Naga didn’t go the way it was originally planned but I’m still thankful for the kind of adventure we experienced. Til we meet again, Bicol! Still got to scratch off “Calaguas” from the bucket list. Haha. What’s your most memorable Bicol trip?

 

 

One of those spontaneous trips: Lucban, Quezon

Here’s a one-minute video. Don’t forget to watch in HD! :)

Last Saturday, we were in Lucban, Quezon for a mini-reunion/celebration with relatives in the South (my cousin just graduated, soon to be CE!). It was one of those spontaneous trips c/o the family, and I’m not used to it. Spontaneous trips only apply to friends (like most of the time) because, er, that’s just the way it is? Hahaha. At 11pm last Friday, we left Manila and it is only on the road where we decided to actually check a place where we can sleep for the night. First option was Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Hotel but they’re fully booked, so we tried Batis Aramin Resort and Hotel. They have available room good for 6pax. Yay! We arrived at 3 in the morning and we all can’t wait to get to bed and have a good sleep.

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Lucban is generally cold on normal days because it’s in the mountains (or atleast from what I remember from my childhood), but last Saturday was extra cold and gloomy because it’s been raining almost the whole day. If it wasn’t raining, we could’ve enjoyed swimming because the resort have nice pools. We’ve been here few years back and seeing it now, it sure had a lot of improvements.

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Way back 2012. Complete siblings photo! And my hair was orange and short. Haha.

The resort is a 25 hectare property but as of now, only 14 hectares are developed. We got a room good for 6pax for only 4,900php, inclusive of breakfast. Not so bad, right?

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I’d love to go back here next time, when the weather is sunny and bright. But all in all, it was a good day to be away from the metro and just spend time with family. Rafa was our mini entertainment btw.  Hihi.

P.S. Blogging about memories to be kept because there’s no other way to  dump good photos/videos aside from my personal blog. Also, an update to my “spring cleaning” (sorting out of files in my laptop), I have about 55GB worth of photos and videos (and I’m not even done yet!) Huhu. How to let go?? 

What To Do in Bacolod in 36 Hours

DAY 3 — NOVEMBER 7, MON:
1:00 pm – Head to Iloilo River Wharf > Buy Ferry Tickets

Our third destination on this ‘Backpacking Visayas’ is Bacolod, the City of Smiles (the nickname is for being a relatively friendly city *wink*). We arrived in Iloilo Ferry Terminal at 2pm and luckily, the next ferry leaves at 2:50pm. Weesam Ferries going to Bacolod costs 230php for tourist plus the 30php terminal fee.

There were a lot of people inside the terminal but they have plenty of seats so no problem. It actually looks like an airport, complete with charging stations, fair-enough restrooms and not to mention, the well-maintained facility. I dunno, it’s probably a newly constructed one.

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I think we left Iloilo at around 3pm and we’re thankful for the good weather. It was my 2nd time to ride a fast craft (the first one was from Cebu to Bohol). Got no problem with it, seats are fine, has TV on board, toilets and you can also buy snacks and drinks.

4:40 pm – Touchdown Bacolod
Someone picked us up at the BREDCO port (connections hahaha) and since we’re a bit tired from all the travel for the day, we headed straight to our hotel. We checked-in at Pleasant Travelers Pension House since it has a lot of good reviews online plus my dad recommended it as well. We got an airconditioned room for 780php a night and this one’s more spacious than our room at Raymen in Guimaras. (I’m mentally taking a note to take photos of our room next time. Haha.) We got 2 single beds, TV, vanity table, cabinet, plus hot and cold shower.

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Pleasant Travelers Pension House Common Area

6:20 pm – Dinner
Dinner time, we had quite a hard time trying to figure out where to eat. All we aim to try out in Bacolod is “Calea” and we’re really not sure if they serve meals so we ended up eating in a restaurant near our hotel. Good thing we’re near Lacson St., Bacolod’s main road I think (?) and it’s a busy one so it’s kinda safe to just walk around. There are actually a lot of restos/cafes in the area so you can actually have a lot of options.

After dinner, we headed straight to “Calea” and we’re so happy it’s just few blocks away — a huge help from Google Maps. Hahaha.

7:00 pm – Calea
They say that “Calea Pastries and Coffee” is one place you should not miss when visiting Bacolod City. We arrived at around 7pm and I was a bit surprised that there weren’t a lot of people at that time. I’m not really a fan of cakes/pastries so I was just totally there for the experience. In fact, I’ve totally forgotten what we ordered. Hahaha. The number of cakes on display was so overwhelming I had a hard time choosing.

 

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We were able to catch up about random things in life over coffee/tea and cakes. After probably an hour, we decided to call it a day and headed back to our hotel, but we had to pass by 7-Eleven to buy supplies like bottled water, toiletries, etc. So happy we found one along Lacson St.

8:30 pm – Back in Hotel
When we got back in our hotel, we decided to just chill-out as we prepare for the next day’s activities. We even had the luxury of time to put on face mask and fool around before going to sleep. Haha! We felt like we’ve done a lot yet we’re just on Day 3 of our 7-day adventure!

—end of Day 3—


DAY 4 – NOVEMBER 8, TUE:

Prior this trip, while I was doing my research on what to do in Bacolod, I was actually torn between Campuestohan and Mambukal. The choice got easier when I asked Karla if she’s up for an adventure resort, and she said pass. So maybe next time Campuestohan? Haha. Campuestohan is actually a theme park mountain resort. They have many rides to offer like zipline, rope courses, sky bicycle, horseback riding, hamster wheel and probably a lot more. A 5-hectare property situated at about 800-meters above sea level, I bet the they offer a breathtaking view and scenery. Know more about them on their website (http://www.campuestohanhighlandresort.com/).

So anyway, I got no problem choosing Mambukal since it was the original plan before I was able to read about Campuestohan. It’s a bit older than Capuestohan and if you prefer the more nature feels resort, this one’s perfect.

8:30 am – Bus to Mambukal
There are buses going straight to Mambukal. Terminal is somewhere near the market and fare is 35php. I was hoping we could leave at exactly 8am but we still had to look for an ATM and the traffic in Bacolod in the morning is somewhat comparable to what we have in Manila. Wait, what? Yes. Uhuh. I know right?

So anyway, we were the first passengers in the bus and we still had to wait for few more people before the bus finally decided to leave. It wasn’t an air-conditioned bus but no complains ‘cos we get to have some legit fresh air. Also, along the highway, sugar-cane plantations is a typical scene. That’s probably why there are a lot of good dessert shops in Bacolod.

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9:40 am – Mambukal
You won’t have trouble how to know if you’ve reached Mambukal already since the last stop of the bus is actually the Mambukal Resort itself. Haha. We’re the last passengers to get off the bus by the way and I even had to remind the bus conductor to drop us off at Mambukal, not knowing that there’s no way for us to miss our stop. Hahaha.

At the gate, there’s an entrance fee of 50php and they will instruct you to go next to the admin office so someone can assist you. When we got there, we asked what we can do in the resort for a day tour and the receptionist gave us options. They have swimming pool, hot sulfur springs, boating lagoon, butterfly sanctuary, waterfalls and etc. Know more about their facilities (http://mambukalresort.negros-occ.gov.ph/index.html).

We’re intrigued by the waterfalls so we decided to check it out first. There’s a total of 7 waterfalls in Mambukal. We had a tour guide with us for the waterfalls and it was quite a walk from the office to the entrance of the trail. We were able to know a bit of info about Mambukal thru our guide. We found out that it’s actually about 24 hectares and it is owned and managed by the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental. Wow.

Upon the start of our climb, I just had to ask our guide if there are snakes going up ‘cos y’know me, I have a phobia. He said yes, sometimes, but nothing to worry about ‘cos that’s why we have a tour guide with us. Well, I survived climbing 2 mountains already in the past and my fear of snakes didn’t stop me so why worry? And besides, what are the chances that we’ll actually encounter a snake in this place? Well, in less than 20 minutes of walking, I saw one and I freaked out. It’s just a small one, but I had to really compose myself before we continued. Hahaha! ‘Twas so funny, ‘cos I was so excited to have our photo taken on this bridge (photo on the right) and I was even skipping like a 5yr old when I saw the snake in front of me, and I freaked out, rushed back, screaming. Few moments after, I was just laughing ‘cos it all happened so fast. But hey, I was still able to smile in the photo, see? Hahaha.

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It’s actually good to see that there’s a path complete with handrails made by the guides themselves even if they’re not considered as regular employees of the resort. He said they live on top of the mountain and the local government decided to somehow “partner” with them by offering them jobs as tour guides, since they are already familiar with the trail. That’s a good thing right? Downside however is that they just live on whatever amount the tourists give them. There’s no fee for the waterfalls sight-seeing so it’s up to you how much tip you want to give your guide. We decided to give him 200php btw, since they only get about 1 shot to serve as a guide per day, and because he saved my life from the snake. Haha!

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See this rock formation? 100% Natural. So beautiful!

We were able to see 3 waterfalls and decided to not continue since the trail going to the remaining 4 is a bit far and I’d say it’s quite a jungle out there. Haha! More chances of seeing snakes so no thanks. Unfortunately they don’t allow swimming but it was refreshing to do a bit of trekking, even without warm-up (HAHA), and once you’re up there, all you can hear is the water and the birds and if I’m with you, you’ll probably hear my heart pounding ‘cos I’m always on the lookout for anything crawling like another snake. HAHAHA.

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Going down, we were able to enjoy a good view of the flying foxes. These are nocturnal bats and it’s said to be the largest bats in the world. They live by eating fruits and they can grow up to 1.5meters in length. Whuuuttss?! Well, that’s what our guide said. Haha. Felt like we were in Jurassic World just watching them fly above us and hear them make their bat sounds. Cool huh?

So after the waterfalls, we decided to check out the hot sulfur springs. I really wanted to try it out since it was one of the things I really looked forward to do in Mambukal when I did my research, but it was so hot that day and we’re afraid we’ll melt in the water (plus we don’t think we can take the rotten egg smell ‘cos of the sulfur) if we push the idea so we decided to just go with the big swimming pool. Wohoo! It was a Tuesday so there are not so many people in the whole resort. We were even able to enjoy the pool all to ourselves. Yay! The entrance fee to the swimming pool is 50php. Their facilities have separate fees btw.

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At 1pm, we decided to shower and dry our clothes beside the pool. Hahaha! We don’t have time to dry our clothes when we get back to our hotel since we’ll be arriving a bit late in the evening and we’ll be travelling very early the next day. Literal, nilatag namin sa sahig. Buti na lang talaga kami lang tao dun. :p

3:00 pm – Head back to Bacolod
After taking our lunch (they have a canteen), we’re ready to go back to the city and head straight to The Ruins. Since Mambukal is the last stop, there are plenty of buses waiting just outside the resort. It was a slow ride at first, I think we spent about 30 mins. going about 5-10km/hr (haha IDK, basta mabagal!!) because the bus is trying to wait for passengers. Grabe sobrang tagal. If I only knew it would be like that, we should’ve left Mambukal earlier.

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We arrived at the terminal at almost 5pm, and thankful we had someone to pick us up and drive us to The Ruins. BUT, we were stuck in traffic ‘cos it was City Mall’s grand opening. Huhu. I really wanted to be at The Ruins just right before sunset ‘cos it would be so beautiful, right? Google even stressed me out ‘cos when I searched on the internet until what time the place is open, it said, “TUESDAYS – CLOSED”. Wow! And we’re stuck in traffic. I was starting to get disappointed as I try to tweak our itinerary if we can squeeze The Ruins the next day before heading to Siquijor. I was able to have a plan B in my head but that would be so stressful. We just decided to still check out the place and see for ourselves if it’s really closed.

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Huhu. Sunset.

6:00 pm – The Ruins
We arrived at The Ruins at 6pm and we’re so happy it’s not CLOSED!! Waaaahhh! Imagine my stress thinking we’re going to miss a must-see place in Bacolod (I had to tell them that they need to clarify info with Google). So even if we weren’t able to witness the sunset, we’re still super excited when we got there.

The Ruins is also known as the “Taj Mahal” of Negros. In case you want to know more why it’s coined with that term, read more here: (http://www.choosephilippines.com/go/heritage-sites/2441/love-story-and-ruins/)

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When I first saw the structure, all I was able to say was, “Perfect lighting!”. It was so beautiful! All the stress before reaching the place was so worth it. There’s a live acoustic band at the restaurant which made the vibe even more romantic. Haha. We decided to take tons of photos (HAHA) before having dinner.

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8:00 pm – Back In Hotel
There’s no safer way to go back to our hotel than “Grab”(taxi). The Ruins is found in the middle of sugarcane plantation and it is a long, dark, (okay a bit scary) road before you’ll be able to reach the hi-way. There are tricycles available, but it was a cold evening so nvm. When we reached the hotel we packed our stuff and went to bed early since we’ll be leaving at around 6am the next day.

Overall, we had a nice experience. Too bad we weren’t able to stay for a few more days but I’m sure there’s still a lot of things you can do/explore in Bacolod. As for us, it was a perfect break in our itinerary from all the sea and sand and the island life.

We’re down to our last 2 stops in this trip. Next is the beautiful island of Siquijor!

—end of Day 4—


Breakdown of Expenses:

November 7, Monday
Weesam

      230.00

Terminal Fee

         30.00

Pleasant Travellers (1,560)

      780.00

Dinner

      132.00

November 8, Tuesday
Bus Fare

         35.00

Mambukal Entrance Fee

         50.00

Waterfalls Guide

      100.00

Pool

         50.00

Lunch

      125.00

Bus Fare

         35.00

The Ruins Parking

         10.00

The Ruins Entrance Fee

      100.00

Dinner

      175.00

Taxi

         70.00

TOTAL:

   1,922.00