Category Archives: Travel

Hello again, Baguio

Baguio continues to surprise me. Even though I lived there for four years, every time I come back, there’s always something about it that makes it interesting all over again. I see new things in the places that I’ve been to and feel I know so well.

I discover charming nooks and crannies in a road that I pass by many times.

I taste something new and enjoy the freshness that somehow only Baguio and its nearby provinces can give.

I learn new things.

I reconnect with family.

Baguio was, is and always will be a home for me.

It’s been a week. I miss you already.

Cagayan De Oro Adventure: Day 1

Nez and I have barely recovered from the Amazing Race we did the week prior when she invited me to go along with her for a weekend trip to Cagayan de Oro. It seems that it’s becoming a tradition for the two of us to have last minute trips. Because of the expense and other worries, I nearly passed the opportunity. Thank God I didn’t.

We left Manila on Saturday morning. Travel time is about an hour and twenty minutes. From the airport, we went straight to Cagayan de Oro river for our white water rafting adventure. Thanks to the awesome crew of Red Raft for arranging to pick us up and take us on.

Not Quite Like the ride in Enchanted Kingdom
In theory, I know how to swim. However, I am prone to panicking when the water closes in on me, hence my fear of falling into the water. More so if I’m unfamiliar with the water and if I cannot feel the ground beneath me. My worst fear for this trip was a capsized boat and being carried away by the current. I immediately told our guide, “Kuya, kung matangay ako, rescue mo ako ha?”


From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

We suited up with personal floatation devices (PFDs, or life vests) and helmet, and grabbed our paddles. Nez, Char and I were the last of the group to arrive. Everyone else was already by the river and being briefed by Alan, one of the guides. We were also the only girls in the entire group. The Red Raft team had four rafts: Two with three people each, the other two with more than six (I didn’t take count). Because of this, we were dubbed the “Tres Marias”. Alan, however, called us “boys”.

After being briefed for water safety (I made sure to listen well), we were off. Each raft had one lead guide and an assistant guide. They’ll be the ones to tell you when to paddle and what sort of paddle you should do. There’s three basic paddles: the forward, the fast forward (I’m not sure if that’s the real name, but it’s similar to the first) and back paddle.

Cagayan de Oro’s rapids range from level 2 to level 4, so it shouldn’t be hard for a beginner. Nez decided to pick the advanced course, which had me in a panic. However, at the end of the course, I feel like an old hand. I do admit that there were times when I’d scramble to find a solid handhold if I feel the boat will tip or if our guide had this certain grin that indicates he was up to something.


From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011
From Cagayan de Oro – July 2011

In the end, he pulled Nez out of the raft and into the water. I have to give him props for taking my fear into consideration and did not try to tip the boat (well, he did try once). We easily exchanged jokes with them, although when they start talking in Bisaya I feel they’re making fun at our expense. No problems though.

The guides of the other rafts were also game to joke around with us. Most of the other riders were quiet, and my best friend was very chatty (she commented on their quietness and the guide said, “Ma’am, we’re on a spiritual river tour. Nagba-Bible study kami.”). When their rafts would float near us, they’d talk to her and joke around.

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The Great Singapore Adventure: Day 5

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 4.

Our last day came on a rather somber tone, what with the events of last night hanging over our heads. Plans of heading to the Philippine embassy was scrapped due to the lateness of the day, so it was decided that Nez and Everlo would go to the Singapore Tourism Board while everyone can do some sightseeing.

I didn’t really have plans for the day, as I was quite hesitant to go about on my own. I still haven’t done some things on my list, namely: eat Hainanese chicken, go to Funan, find some Pinky St. toys and explore Kinokuniya. We headed off to Orchard Road.

Orchard

Orchard reminded me of Ayala and Buendia Avenue. Only instead of offices, the street is lined with malls and shopping centers. Our first stop was the Louie Vuitton shop near ION, where we bought a bag for someone back home.

It’s my first time to enter an LV store. I’m not a fan of such designer labels, and I’m quite intimidated by them. A friend related a story of how her mother went to one LV store and the attendants looked down on her like she couldn’t afford to even buy the cheapest item (she can, and more). I was worried that we’d have the same treatment, especially since the attendants looked like they were earning more than I am.

However, we were warmly greeted as we entered the store, and someone immediately came up to us to ask what we wanted. She immediately showed us the bag, answered our questions and even helped facilitate a certain request. In less than thirty minutes we were done.

It was nearly noon. We just walked along the street looking at shops, stopping at a $1 ice cream stall. I spotted a Kinokuniya sign and told everyone that I needed to go there for a few minutes. Since there was a line for the ice cream, they let me go.

My kind of store
The building happened to be Takashimaya, a branch of a well-known Japanese department store. I made a beeline for the bookstore on the 3rd floor, and immediately went to look for Dianne Jacob’s “Will Write For Food”. As luck would have it, there was one copy left. I grabbed it, browsed a little more a wished desperately I had more than $50 left to spend. Kinokuniya is massive. While it’s not as big as the Fully Booked flagship in Bonifacio High Street, the selection here is massive. I found several books that I’ve been wanting to get but could never find in any of the bookstores here. However, due to budget constraints, I had to make do with this one book.

I decided to do a bit of exploring, so I headed up another floor. Here there were toy stores that had a lot of Japanese character products (no figures though, it was mostly plushies and cartoon characters). The best place on this floor was the massive art supply store called Art Friend. 10,000 square meters of art supplies. I wanted to genuflect and weep. Deovir had nothing on this place. The section near the entrance alone had me gaping in awe for a few minutes. Fabric paints of various sizes and brands had me imagining the projects I could do. Sadly, as I was pressed for both time and funds, I had to leave empty handed. I did promise to myself that I’ll come back and splurge heavily here.

Note: I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I didn’t know if it was allowed.

Hainanese

Lunch was at the Food Republic at Wisma Atria. I like how it looks like it’s all hawkers but it isn’t. The prices don’t seem very far from the ones you see in hawker places, so we settled on having lunch there. I ordered some roasted Hainanese chicken, and discovered that drinks really seem to be sold separately here.

Verdict on the chicken hasn’t changed. I still prefer tinola.

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The Great Singapore Adventure: Day 4

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 3.

Good morning!

I woke up to the sounds of crinkling plastic. I tried to tone it out but it got the better of me. I peered over my bed’s protective guardrail and saw Belinda fixing her things. I also saw a foot — roughly size ten or more — dangling over the bed below me. I took a peek and hello, there’s a man. A really good looking, scantily clad and rather built young man.

While we were told that our rooms would be shared, it didn’t occur to me that our roommate would be a guy. Well, it sort of did but not this guy. I think we spent a good chunk of the morning ogling him and his friend, who was sleeping under the other bunk bed. Guys, if by some weird chance you read this, hi. I’m not crazy and I don’t bite. I just appreciate God’s beautiful creations. :p

Oddly enough, no one thought of taking a picture. Personally, I think we all felt it would be intrusive, as opposed to just looking and committing them to memory. Sadly, when we got back, they’ve check out. Either they were really moving on or we’ve scared them.

IKEA
Our first stop was IKEA at Alexander Road. Belinda wanted to go there and since she was leaving later that day, we decided to go their first. When I was a kid, Mama had an IKEA catalog, and I loved browsing through it. There’s something about the clean lines of the designs that I really like.

We got off at Red Hill station and took the #33 bus. Can I just say again that I love Singapore’s transportation system? We purchased two day passes for the MRT and it works with the bus as well. All you had to do was tap the card on the receiver when you get on, and tap it again when you get off.

I have a rough idea why there’s no IKEA here. It would quickly put the furniture department of the local shops out of business. IKEA has an awful lot of things going for it: great design & quality, practical pieces, sturdiness and relatively affordable prices (I say relatively because if you take into consideration the other factors then convert the price, it’s pretty worth it).

The store is known also for serving great tasting Swedish meatballs. Goes to show just how ignorant I am. I didn’t know that IKEA had a cafeteria and that they sold food stuff. I only thought they had furniture and home appliance. We raided the small food section at the ground floor (I only got some chocolates), then headed back up to the cafeteria for merienda-slash-lunch.

Nez and I shared an order of Swedish meatballs and salmon with broccoli (I was looking for vegetables, because I feel that I’ve been eating nothing but meat for the past few days). I was surprised to see the meatballs were served with something that looked like strawberry jam, only it was less sweet. I later learned that it’s lingonberry sauce, and it complements the salty tang of the cream sauce that comes with the dish.

For dessert, Bel shared this delicious chocolate cake. With our stomachs happily full, we headed off to our next adventure. However, while crossing the street to go to the bus stop (I had once again forgotten that SG traffic goes the opposite way), more “SALE” signs at the building across caught my friends’ eyes. Needless to say we just had to go there.

Cotton On, Crocs, Charles & Keith and even Pierre Cardin were among the few stores that had products on sale. I browsed a little at Cotton On and got a pink shirt, but while my friends were enjoying themselves trying on shoes at C&K, I spent a few blissful minutes resting my feet.

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The Great Singapore Adventure Day 3

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 2.

We got up early to wait for the sun to rise. Well, if you can call 6:30 early. By our standards, the sun should’ve been high in the sky by then.

We went for a final dip in pool and spent a few minutes relaxing in the jacuzzi before heading to eat. Breakfast was a hearty meal at the Mediterranean restaurant where we had our breakfast the day before. The Filipno crew greeted us and gave us the best service we could ask for. Our party was seated very near the edge, with a wonderful view of the sea and under the full glare of the sun. Like it or not, I got a tan.

There really wasn’t much to do from here on, so we fixed our things and prepared them for the crew to take off the ship. While we waited for our turn to check out (they had to stamp our passports and we had to pay the whopping tax), we did a final tour around the ship’s shops (again, mostly manned by Pinoys), lounged about at the deck and played bridge.

It felt weird to leave the ship that had been our home and playground for three days. We bid farewell to the friendly and helpful staff and made our way back to terra firma.

New Adventure
We took the MRT to our next destination: our hostel, where we’ll be staying for the remainder of our stay. Sky Orchids Axis is located a short walk from Aljuned Station. I didn’t do any research because I didn’t have an idea where we would be staying until we arrived in Singapore.

The hostel is pretty much like a boarding house. Rooms are mixed, so you’ll never know who your roommate is (something we discovered when we woke up the next morning). It’s great for backpackers or folks who aren’t expecting much from the place, but I wouldn’t recommend it to families or people who have certain requirements when it comes to accommodations. There’s free Internet (you can use the common PC or connect through Wifi), bathrooms are clean and a simple breakfast of bread, coffee and cereals are offered. Laundry services are also available for a fee. If you’re not picky and you just really need a place to crash for a few days and you’re on a budget, this is a good place for you.

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The Great Singapore Adventure Day 2: Malaysia

Continued from The Great Singapore Adventure Day 1.

The slight smell of curry wafted up my nose, making me think our room was near the kitchen. Being very tired the night before, I didn’t notice it, but now it somewhat bothered me. I got up, grabbed my camera and journal, and climbed back to my bunk bed.

I peered outside the cabin’s window. The sun was just rising, lighting up the sky. I estimated it to be around 6 AM or so. My bunkmates were still asleep, which gave me enough time to jot down my thoughts in my journal.

Cabin view

Soon, everyone was stirring. Someone was knocking on our door. It was Caryl, telling us that we should head down to the Mediterranean deck for breakfast. Right. We got ready, and I was surprised to see that it was already around 8. I had forgotten the difference of the sunrise and sunset.

Breakfast was buffet, and while I was admiring the pastries, one of the cooks greeted me “Magandang umaga.” I kid you not about the number of Pinoy crew on board Virgo. I think they outnumber the other nationalities combined. It’s easy to identify them though, not just by their looks, but also by their name tags. Aside from names that you can easily recognize, the word “Philippines” is written underneath it. In fact, the entire staff had their home countries written underneath their names. The staff is generally friendly and accommodating.

Breakfast: Round 1

Members of our group slowly trickled in to have breakfast. We were discussing last night’s adventure, where one cousin was missing for a few hours (he fell asleep inside the movie house), and our plans for the day. Someone wanted to go around Malacca which was one of the ship’s stops, but it turns out that because we woke up late, we actually missed it. So plans for a quick stop at Kuala Lumpur was made.

But first, we make use of the ship’s ammenities. We went exploring first, checking out the various places, restaurants and services the ship had. There was a library (which I ironically wasn’t able to visit!), a spa and beauty wellness center, a gym and a dance hall/bar. Of course, there’s an onboard casino which Resort’s World is known for.

Everyone wanted to try the pool and the slide. As I didn’t really like swimming with a lot of people around, I said I’ll just go for the slide. It shouldn’t be scarier than the one in Fontana, but there was a part that was hanging over the boat. Not only that, you’d be sliding through clear glass. If you were going slow you’d be able to enjoy the view of the sea twelve stories below, but generally, you’d be going too fast to appreciate it.

I went for two rounds on the slide before I decided I was good.

Hello, Malaysia
We decided to skip the tour the ship was offering. At SGD 77 per person, we would rather explore on our own and use the money to buy souvenirs. We docked at Port Klang and from there, took a cab to Kuala Lumpur. The trip took one hour, sort of like from San Pedro to Manila.
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The Great Singapore Adventure

Mga Kasabwat: 16 people, ages ranging from 14 to 90.
The Challenge: To survive in a six day trip to Singapore, including a three day cruise on board the Star Virgo and a jaunt in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Challenge accepted
Early this year, I was toying with the idea of going somewhere abroad. I figured it was about time I step out of the country, even for a bit. Someone offered me free tickets to any Asian destination, and, I told my best friend Carmenez. She invited me to join her family on their planned trip to Singapore.

I never got the free airplane ticket, but I got something else. I spent the rest of the months between February and June saving up all that I can for the trip. Then Nez said we’re changing our departure to earlier dates because we were going on a cruise.

How’s that for someone who has never stepped out of the country? My first trip abroad comes with a sea cruise. It was hard not to be excited, but with a tinge of apprehension. Just days before I was to leave, friends told me stories of how some people were denied at immigration. Then there’s the recent incident of two Pinays who went through bad treatment in Bali, Indonesia. I was assured that I shouldn’t worry, but I couldn’t help it.

Finally, the day arrived. I packed my bags as best as I could (I seriously had no idea what to pack) and rushed to my best friend’s house. The scene was quite like that of Home Alone I, where the entire family was scrambling to get ready for a trip and not leave anyone behind. It took us about thirty minutes to get checked in at the airport, and immigration couldn’t seem to believe that all of us were going. Think of it as Amazing Race, only instead of competing in teams of two, we were all working together as one big team. Chaos, I tell you.

Our passports

Worst Seat Ever
It’s a common knowledge that the worst seat you can get is near the wing, if you wanted a good view. I still think that our row had the worst seats in the history of modern aviation: last row, with no window at all. Therefore, no admiring of the Manila and Singapore skyline for me.

Touchdown, Singapore
My excitement of my first trip abroad was dimmed by exhaustion. We arrived at 1:55 AM, and had until 6 AM til we can check in our bags at the cruise center. Most of us had been awake since 6 AM Tuesday. We made the best of our situation by finding the best positions for sleep. It wasn’t an easy thing since the airport seats were hard and not really meant for lying down. I don’t know how I did it, but I got an hour or so’s sleep.

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Easter Sunday

The fondest memories I’ve had of Easter Sunday was waking up really early to join the Salubong. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember my grandmother gently shaking me and my brother awake. We’d slip into our street clothes and even don some light jackets to ward off the early morning chill.

My Lola was active in the Catholic Women’s League, and it’s thanks to her (plus Super Book and Flying House) that I am familiar with Catholic traditions and Bible stories. While I’m far from being an active church-goer these days, I still find comfort in these traditions.

This year’s Easter Sunday didn’t fall into the regular route of the years past. I woke up late, missing the Mass (I try to make it a point to go during special occasions) and barely making breakfast. Still, I had a nice morning talking with Lolo, and I went around the house taking pictures.

Plants are among my favorite subjects, since you didn’t have to pose them or worry about how they look (they’re always pretty). Plus, there were a lot of flowers in bloom, so it made for an interesting subject. Originally, I was going to take photos of Danbo, but he got tired fast.
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My Lola was an avid gardener, much like her mother. She used to have a lot of orchids and bougainvilleas around the house. As a kid, we’d help her trim them or water them in the afternoons. I usually would pick the latter duty because I knew that digging through the plants would mean meeting up with a worm or two.
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Still, I learned a lot during those hot afternoons. Lola was a patient teacher, and if we made a mistake, she didn’t get angry. I had a healthy respect for plants and animals, including my much hated bugs, insects, worms and frogs.

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I hope you had a wonderful Easter. I’m grateful for mine. It’s always a great time to reflect and be thankful.

Casa San Miguel

When I was a kid, I wanted to play the violin. My mom, however, enrolled me in piano classes, which I didn’t fully appericiate at that time. My teacher was my mom’s teacher, and she was pretty good but like a typical kid, I didn’t have the patience to sit and learn the technical side of music. I wanted to sit on the piano and be able to play the piece that I wanted without hesitation.

Little did I know that it would’ve done me more good to have learned those things. I did go on to study that in school, but it wasn’t as intensive had I took it seriously.

A few years ago, my mom enrolled my two youngest siblings in Casa San Miguel to study violin. How ironic is that? The instrument I wanted was the one my siblings will learn to play.

Established in 1921, Casa San Miguel is the family retreat house of Ramon L. Corpus, in San Antonio, Zambales. In 1993, Corpus’ grandson, Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata established an art center after returning home from the Julliard School of Music in New York.
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It was an experiment of sorts to put up a structure to provide a community where locals can learn to enhance their talent for classical music and appreciate it as well. Most of the kids who are studying music and art there are children of the local residents, whose livelihood depend mainly on fishing and farming. In the city, these folks will have to pay thousands of pesos for their kids to learn how to play the violin. Here, thanks to the benefactors and the board of trustees, they will only have to shell out a fraction of the cost.

A few years ago, I went with my siblings during one of their lessons. I fell in love with the place. This big, rambling brick house stood in the middle of a mango orchard didn’t look like a typical Filipino ancestral home, but it was beautiful. I later learned that this was a newer structure as the actual Corpus family home burned down years before.


Casa San Miguel in 2005

That one visit was not enough. I’ve gone back to see it with my friends, and to attend the yearly performance of the Pundaquit Virtuosi for the Holy Week. But still, I keep wanting to come back.

The land is sprawling. Several structures have cropped up since then my last visit, and the main house itself has changed on the inside. To one side is the home of Mrs. Bolipata, and on the other end is the blue and orange home of artist Plet Bolipata-Borlongan. While visitors are welcome to visit the Casa, those two places are, I believe, off limits. There are several other structures: a building dedicated to visual art, and a smaller structure that didn’t seem to have changed the last time I was there.
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More Weekend Adventures

I realized that I’ve been around Metro Manila around enough to not get lost. At least, I know how the streets and places look like. I’m not so sure if I know the names of those places.

When Plurk buddies Ryan, Yue and Drew decided to go check out the Gashapon selection in Robinson’s Ermita, my first question was “Is that the same as Robinson’s Place Manila?” My best friend confirmed it, so I was confident we’d get there without mishap.

Except the cab driver asked, “Sa Pedro Gil o sa Padre Faura ba kayo?” (Are you going to Pedro Gil or Padre Faura?) Hala. I wasn’t sure so I went with the first that popped to mind. “Padre Faura!” I figured once inside the mall I could just ask where the store was. Then I remembered the last time I was there, I got lost looking for Bistro Ravioli. Oh joy. I prayed hard that we wouldn’t get lost on the way or be stuck too long in traffic.

We did arrive in good time and the fare was just below a hundred bucks. Not bad, considering we came all the way from Makati.

Gashapon Galore
Ryan told us that the gashapon place was near Toys ‘R Us. We went inside the department store and was disappointed to find not a single one. We ended up inside an amusement arcade with rather disturbing rides, but was a source of hilarity for all of us.

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Finally, we decided to ask one of the attendants at the toy section if she knew where the “toy vending machines” (I didn’t know how else to describe them) were. She pointed us to the direction of another amusement arcade… which was right next to the actual Toys ‘R Us of the mall. And there they were, the gashapon.

Yue and her sister were ecstatic. I wasn’t looking for any particular gashapon, since I already have a Kurama from Shabby. I did, however, had a few moments of uncertainty when Drew said, “Ayaw mo ng Youko?” (You don’t want the Youko?) but I somehow managed to pass it up. Besides, I had already spent half of my budget on the magazine… *ninja*

Some of the gashapon Yue was looking for wasn’t available. Thankfully, the Toys ‘R Us staff were accommodating and allowed her to buy the remaining Pentax gashapon that was on display. I think the staff was amused at us and mistook all of us for tourists.
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