Within a span of one week, I was able to climb three volcanoes; Mount Hibok-Hibok, Taal Volcano, and the mother of all mountains in the Philippines, Mount Apo. And in between that, I did white-water rafting along Cagayan de Oro River. Prior to that week, our family flew to Albay province, spent a few days at Misibis Bay Resort and views the magnificent Mayon Volcano.

Awesome!

Our trip to Misibis Bay was a very relaxing one as we spent all days just lazing around the pool and doing all water sports the resort has to offer. Included in our 3-day package were all the non-motorized activities. You’ll have to pay extra if you want to enjoy Jet Ski. This 5-star resort is a place to be if you want to get away from your busy and demanding schedule at work. A resort staff is readily available to tour you around the area free using a golf cart. Resort food is excellent!

Before flying back to Manila, we spent 2-days/1-night at Legazpi City proper and tour the City. Seeing Daragang Magayon aka Mayon Volcano without clouds covering her is a sight to behold. One has not to blink or you’ll miss it.

Magnificent!

Without any real plan, I flew solo to Cagayan de Oro and headed to Camiguin Island. I was hoping to tour the island, famous for its sunken cemetery and hot springs but I got an itch to climb Mount Hibok-Hibok, an active volcano more popular and famous than the other 6 around the island. While browsing the web, I found a blog with contact information of a guide named Biboy. With his nephew as my porter, the three of us decided to do the Yumbing-Ardent trail traverse spending the night tent-camping at the crater after 4 hours of intense climb. From the summit, it took us 5 hours to reach Ardent Hot Springs. Here where I spent a couple of hours dipped in really hot springs to cure my aching body. With little time to spare after the climb, I skipped touring the island altogether so as not to miss my ferry back to Cagayan de Oro. I spent the rest of my day and night at the hotel resting my aching body while contemplating if I can still do white-water rafting the following morning. And I did!

Exciting!

Upon return to Manila from Cagayan de Oro, my next stop was Taal Volcano the following day. This time I opted to ride the horse to reach the Crater Lake. My legs were too tired still from Mount Hibok-Hibok hike. With a group of friends, we spent the night tent-camping at Tall Yacht Club before taking the boat to the volcano island where the trail down to the lake starts. It was a lot of fun but…   

Hot!

My intention for my trip to Davao was to just to enjoy hot springs at Lake Agco Resort in Kidapawan City while at the foot of Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. I didn’t think I was prepared to climb this mountain let alone had enough time to do it but with my feet itching again for something, I searched the web for someone to give me some ideas about climbing this mother of all mother. I found Larry’s name and the rest is history. With him, Jon-jon and Mark, we spent tent-camping at Mainit Campsite for our first night. It’s about 5 hours away from the next campsite at Lake Venado which is a good 3 hours away from the summit of Mount Apo where we spent the next night. The hike was a challenged for me with a consistent 30 to 75 degrees incline and an 87-degree section requiring a makeshift ladder and a rope. All in all I took us 9 hours to reach the summit and 7 hours to go down using the Kidapawan Trail starting at Lake Agco. I cannot believe I was able to reach the summit of the highest mountain in the Philippines. But there I was.

Unbelievable!

 
 
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map from TaoPhilippines website
The more I read about Tao (meaning human or people) Philippines Palawan Expeditions the more I am convinced I was born in the right country. There’s no other place in the world I’d rather be than in this group of scattered islands, at least 7,107 of them and counting.

I have read so many great reviews about this not-your-typical-everyday-tourist-island-hopping-travel company. What they offer is an exciting albeit with fear ala-Robinson Crusoe adventures; total digital-free, no set plans no itineraries, just a set of open mind and an open wallet as it is admittedly not a cheap one, certainly for a local like me. Good thing I make my living working abroad that I can sometimes go toe-to-toe with Western foreigners who have had the luxury joining whimsical trips like these without reservation.

If you can “rough it” for 5 days 4 nights, letting the wind blows you and your not-so auspicious mind days away from civilization on a boat cruising from one rarely step-on island to another, on a constant diet of fresh fish, veggies and fruits, lazing around all day as you watch the sun rises and down silhouetting the open sea turquoise water, no flush toilets, no showers just a bucket of cold fresh water if you are lucky to rinse that salty taste off your body from all day snorkeling and swimming into every secret lagoons you’ll find along those tender waves of the Pacific Ocean, share if you will your life stories with similar fearless strangers as you sing and drink your night away on beers and local rums, sleeping inside a mosquito net every night between sometimes wall-less room, underneath some free-roaming roosters and pigs, in unchartered remote virgin islands where only a few lucky souls have ventured or seen, then this is your trip of a lifetime.

But those are not the only thing that gravitate me towards joining this one and only expedition of its kind in this part of Philippines. There’s more to it that just feeding your fantasy Pirates of the Caribbean adventure in mind. Part of the cost you pay for this adventure expedition goes to social welfare projects this organization is championing.

Tao Philippines has an eco-tourism advocacy while fulfilling social responsibilities to help out giving the local villagers the education they deservingly need and a source of living to survive their unbeknownst existence, seemed too far from minds of the local government.

So get out of your comfort zone and experience a true-island adventure in Palawan with TaoPhilippines. And if you are lucky to find a single hut and soul on those remote islands, try not-so suspiciously knock on their doors.

Just say Tao Po!

 
 
My idea of climbing Mount Pulag alone, officially the second highest mountain in the Philippines, was a little far-fetched to anyone’s imagination.  I was really determined to do it albeit uncertainties on many levels, logistically. It is always advised to join a hiking group for a lot of reasons but most importantly to secure rare transportation from Baguio City to DENR Office in Benguet province.

One guy shoes gave it away while waiting at the bus terminal in Cubao where my journey begun. Without hesitation, I asked him if he’s climbing Mount Pulag and without a doubt his answer already brought smile to my worried face.

Today is my lucky day I pronounced!

Six hours of bus ride in the middle of the night took us to Baguio City proper where a hired jeepney is waiting for the group of 15, now 16 as I invited myself to the group.

A four-hour scenic jeepney ride took us to DENR Office where we are required to register, secure environmental fees, and attend the mandatory pre-climb briefing.

From DENR Office, it took almost 2 hour of jeepney ride onto a very rough road to get to the Ranger Station where Ambangeg trailhead is located. Supposedly the easiest trail, Ambangeg trail is most commonly referred to as the Executive Trail; for beginners like me.

Did I say very rough road? That’s an understatement!

It is at Ranger Station where the initial hike to Camp Station 2 to spend the night before the summit assault at 3AM the following morning. Four hours or so of hiking some moderate and steep climb, we finally reached our camp site, pitched our tent, had some dinner before calling the night.

I was so tired, wet, and cold but managed to get a good sleep as I hear the trickling sound of raindrops on my tent before fading away. By 2AM I was already up and ready to meet sunrise at the top of Mount of Pulag but not before enduring another hour or so of another challenging hike to reach the summit.

I’ve never been physically challenged as we traversed for more than an hour towards the highest point of Mount Pulag. Rain, mud, rocks, wind, grass, and sheer darkness guided us along the way.

But the view on top of Mount Pulag is spectacular! We were so lucky to have witnessed these amazing clouds and greeted by rays of sunshine unlike the other group who climbed the day before. Unfortunately, the weather was not on their side. They only managed to be hugged by very thick fogs and the sun struggled to show himself to everyone waiting for him on that foggy morning.

I can only say she will always be there so better luck next time for those who missed the chance to witness the sun illuminating the beauty of Mount Pulag.

You are welcome anytime!
Please check out my video here.
 
 
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There’s one not-so-best-kept secret I’m sure most of you will enjoy doing while visiting Los Angeles...hiking to the top of the Hollywood Sign.

One of the most iconic man-made structures built, most people visiting LA would be contented seeing the Hollywood Sign from the distance. Little did they know if only they can spare no more than two hours with fresh legs, a camera, and a bottle of water to go along with, one can literally touch the sky and the famous sign.

Well, it used to be that you can even climb the letter sign if you’re crazy enough, but a fence was now built around it and video cameras on all angles were installed for security reasons. Don’t dare trespassing or a police chopper will be hovering you in no time.

Taking on a cue from peeps who’d done it, from the corner street of Franklin & Beechwood, I drove north on Beechwood until I got to the trailhead parking. Hiking the trail is easy and one wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost. On a clear day, views are amazing as you traverse the 1.5 mile-trail. The final leg of the trail before reaching the sign, one has an option to go to the front of the sign or to the back of it.

I did both!

You can enjoy the 360-view of Los Angeles any which way you want. Hike it in style or rent a horse from a nearby ranch if you don't have fresh legs to do it. 

Just another touristy thing to do while in Los Angeles. Great for photography and will definitely burn some of those unwanted calories.

And it’s free!

Click here for more pictures of Hollywood sign.
 
 
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Welcome to the "Bell House Rock" - Sedona Arizona. Bell Rock on the left, Courthouse Butte on the right.
I thought my second trip to Grand Canyon is no different than the first but when I took the East entrance as opposed to the more popular and much shorter South route drive from Los Angeles, I felt more awe seeing the magnificent “freak” of nature of cascading rocks towering the mighty Colorado River.

Considered one of the wonders of the world like the Niagara Falls and Underground River in Palawan, Philippines, I couldn’t stop admiring and loving nature even more. I was able to stop at Desert View Watchtower, Lipan Point, and Grandview Point, all offering highest viewpoints of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim along the 23-mile scenic drive. I would have loved to stop at Yaki Point but because private cars are not allowed and I don’t have much time to get off and take a short hike or perhaps take the free shuttle bus, I had to skip this one.

I would really suggest to anyone to take the East entrance as it offers a much more enjoyable experience sans the crowded tourists and traffic jams usually dominating the South entrance.

After enjoying Grand Canyon, one should not miss heading south to Sedona. Known as the "Red Rock Country", seeing those commanding red rocks in the horizon brought mixed feelings to me. I’m really excited to see this place for the first time and hike their many trails. But I am little intimated to conquer one of those humongous red rocks. I am a novice hiker much less a climber and so doing it alone going to the top of the saddle sounds like a suicide. But that didn’t stop me to get up very early in the morning before sunrise and hit the trail head in pitch dark to Cathedral Rock so I secure a parking spot as I know this trail head parking will be very busy at the first stroke of sunlight.

Well, for almost an hour I was sitting in my car waiting for a glimpse of sunlight....with no other souls around.

As I was sitting in freezing temperature trying to read my newspaper, I wasn’t able to properly use my winter gloves because I just realize the store where I bought the pair from forgot to remove the electronic theft-resistant wire connecting the left and right hand glove. I ended up alternately wearing one glove at a time. When one hand starts to get numb, I removed the glove I was wearing and put the other one. It’s really worth the freezing wait as other enthusiast and adventurers starts arriving.

For the next hour or so, I was very cautiously ascending the rock, securing both my feet and my precious camera making sure I won’t tumble down the rather steep incline. I didn’t want my obituary be written so soon :-)

Going down the rocks, I found it easier to just slide my "behind" down. It only took me half an hour to reach the bottom.

I must admit I was scared at first but when the adrenalin rush in, I didn’t look back and reached the very top, or at least the highest point where one wouldn’t need rope and equipment to reach. Watching the sun rises while sitting on top was just amazing and spectacular.

I was speechless! The pictures may speak for themselves.

 Please click here to view a slideshow of the pictures I took and here to watch a short video of my climb.

 
 
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I didn't plan of including on this website other trips I've made outside of the Philippines but managing a separate website for those would be daunting and time consuming on my part. I decided to just create a separate tab named "other trips" to give you a glimpse of places I've been outside of my home country Philippines.

So check out the new added tab "other trips". For now I only have Washington DC,  Maryland, and Pennsylvania, USA on the list. Also check pictures and videos of our Niagara Falls trip.

Just added Singapore in the list.
 
 
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Evening program at Plantation Bay
Year 2006 when we visited Cebu and the nearby famous Plantation Bay Resort & Spa. The place is amazing!

I remember vividly how beautiful the place and very environmentally-friendly. During that time we were there, it seems like we were the only locals staying in the resort. Most of them were from other Asian countries like Japan, China, and Korea. There's quite a few Americans and Europeans too enjoying the place.

Not surprisingly, Plantation Bay is an international destination with many foreigners in every corner of the world love to visit; hence English is the main language spoken, and dollar currency is mainly use for all cash transactions. It is really one of the best places I’ve been. Too bad I didn’t have yet a good camera to use back when I visited this place that’s why my pictures are not that impressive.

While there, don’t miss nearby tourist destination in Cebu City proper. There’s more to see after a great relaxing, fun, romantic stay at Plantation Bay. 

Next time I'm in Cebu, I make sure to check out this place again, with a better camera.

Not proud of the quality but you’ll get the picture here.
 
 
Lagen Island Resort El Nido
Lagen Island Resort, El Nido
Since Amanpulo is beyond reach for my bleeding pockets, I ended up in El Nido,Palawan as the place to visit this year, after Dos Palmas made a good lasting impression on us last year. Three years ago I planned to see this island but I was a bit reluctant because of transportation issue. 

There are only two ways I know to get there. First, taking a regular plane to Puerto Princessa then a 5-hour road trip to the port where you'll take another hour or so to get to the island, Miniloc or Lagen. The second option is to take a 19-seater small twin-engine aircraft directly to the port. A lot faster but having not taken a plane that small, I was a little scared. Ok, I was really scared.Well, guess what? Finally this year, I decided to take the second option. I just made sure to update my life insurance just in case...hehehe.

Nestled in a cove with a backdrop of awesome landscapes and humongous sheer limestone cliffs, at rustic and native-style Miniloc Island Resort is where we stayed for 3 days.

I actually preferred this resort than the more luxurious Lagen Island Resort.

Both are equally awesome but Miniloc is relatively cheaper and much closer to most activities such as kayaking in big and small lagoons, snorkeling, wind surfing, rock-climbing, island-hopping, among other things.

Now, if want to continuously feel connected to the outside world, then Lagen Island Resort is for you as they have tv’s in the hotel-type rooms and wifi connection for you Facebookers. Also, it has a swimming pool for those afraid of the open seas.

Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy both since guests are transport between resorts if one chooses to avail of its amenities.
 
 
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First, I apologize to those who don't understand the language I used in this story. It's more fascinating if I do it in my local dialect, more dramatic! :-)

10:30 ng gabi ng umalis kami puntang Banaue from Manila sakay ng Florida bus. Namputsa!... Tama ang nabasa ko sa mga blogs, para kaming isdang binebyahe papuntang palengke…frozen! Sobrang lamig sa loob ng bus. Merong di nakatulog pero ako naghihilik pa daw sabi ng katabi ko! May dala kasi akong blanket at pagod pa kasi kabababa lang eroplano ko galing LA, jetlag pa!

Medyo sumisikat na ang araw ng magising ako pero mas minabuti ko pang ipikit na ulit ang mata ko kasi para akong hinihila sa mga bangin na nakikita ko habang tumatakbo ang bus. Bilib ako sa driver, walang kahulog-hulog, nakarating kami sa Banaue saktong alas syete ng umaga, buhay pa! hehehe

Pagdating sa bus stop, hanap kami sasakyan papuntang “Saddle” kung saan magsisimula ang aming penitensya..maglalakad kami ng mga isang oras para marating yung Batad Village. Dun mo makikita ang pinakamagandang hayop err rice terraces pala...sa balat ng lupa.

Sa wakas, natapos din ang negosasyon sa bayad sa sasakyan namin. Php2500. May kasabay kaming mga kastilaloy. Malas naman, poquito lang ang alam kong espanyol. Sila naman walang alam na ingles..lalo na tagalog..So, senyasan na lang kaming mag-usap! Hati sa bayad. dibay dibay yung Php2500 sa siyam. 4 na  kastila, 5 ang pinoy. Lamang kami kung sinubukan nilang sakupin ulit ang 'pinas...hehehe

9AM ng mag-umpisa kaming mag-trekking kasama yung nephew nung may-ari ng tutuluyan naming inn, Hillside. Alam nya na darating kami kaya inabangan na kami sa “Saddle”. Di naman nakakapagod ang maglakad, ganda view eh tapos masaya pa! Dapat lang talaga wala kang masyadong dala para mas mabilis ang lakad. Yung isang kasama ko ang daming bilbil na dala. Ako naman beer belly ko ayaw paiwan! Yung tatlong bagets na kasama namin, ang bilis maglakad!

Ay sa wakas, narating din naming ang inn na aming tutuluyan. Gutom na kaya paluto agad ng tinolang manok at konting pahinga bago tahakin ang Tappiya Falls. Mga isang oras na lakarin na naman yun! Madali lang naman kasi pababa at dadaan ka sa rice terraces mismo. Nakita mo ba sa pics? Ang taas ng waterfalls, naligo kami! Sarap ng tubig eh tapos ang dami pang forein-ger, naliligo din na naka-2 piece pa!

Eto na ang masakit Kuya Eddie! Ang pabalik. Kasi pa-akyat! Di ko matandaan kung ilanmpung beses kong isinumpa kunwari! Hahaha…isang malaking pagsubok talaga! Mahigit 2 hours din kami bago kami nakabalik sa inn. Lahat ng makasalubong namin, laging tanong, malapit na ba ang falls? I-isa lang naman ang sagot naming…Oo, malapit na! Pero iba ang ibig sabihin. Malapit na kaming tumawag ng ambulansya sa sobrang pagod. Halos gumapang na kami eh…hehehe Tapos biglang may sumabog! Sabi nung tour guide namin, dynamite daw sa mining. Ahhh ok!

Kinabukasan, byahe naman kami pa-puntang Sagada. Nakita agad namin yung lodge na aming nireserba. Very kulay-ful eh! Maganda at malapit sa lahat, may hot water pa! Sama-sama na lang kaming lima sa isang kwarto…patong-patong...not! hehehe...Php200 a night!

Nag-lunch kami sa Yoghurt House…da best-est! Oks ang food and atmosphere ng place…di ka mapapahiya kung may ka-date ka! Tapos lakad-lakad after lunch. Syempre, may kodakang kasama! Punta sa munisipyo para mag-inquire about caving. 

Nagpa-register na din kami para sure na ma-identify ang body, just in case ...hehehe… 

After a short rest, spelunking na! Sinilip muna namin yung hanging coffins. Umuulan na ng makarating kami sa entrance ng kweba. Ang super dilim! Nakakatakot sa umpisa pero pag andun ka na sa kaloob-looban at nahawakan mo na ang dumi ng mga bats, mawawala na ang takot kasi baho na ang nasa isip at ilong mo! Hahaha….pero mahuhugasan naman sa malamig at malinaw na tubig na palagi mong lulusungan.

Exciting ang caving! Lalo na pag nakita mo na yung mga ibat-ibang rock formations. Just use your imagination ika nga! See for yourself…tapos kalog pa yung guide namin! Pinagapang ba naman kasi sa pagitan ng dalawang bato na may tubig pa. Yun pala may mas madaling daan papunta sa kabila!

May parte pa na aakyat kami gamit ang lubid na pag-nakabitaw ka ay tubig ang babagsakan na malalim daw sabi ni guide. Sa awa ni Bathala, dalawang beses nahulog yung isang kasamahan namin. Ayun, buhay pa naman kasi di naman pala malalim yung tubig. Hanggang waist lang! Loko talaga ‘tong si Satur guide!

Mga 2 hours din kaming nawala sa sarili! Nasa loob kasi kami ng kweba na super ang ganda! Wag kayong magugulat kung mapanood nyo kami sa Kapamilya station. Na-interview pa kasi yung dalawang kasama naming sa gitna ng aming spelunking.

Natapos ang caving na hindi naman masyadong madugo! Konting galos lang sa tuhod ang natamo at konting baho..hehehe. Masayang-masaya kami pabalik sa lodge para mag-shower kasi na-conquer naming ang mahiwagang kweba. Syempre pa, dinner kami sa fav restau. Sarap talaga lalo na yung famous yoghurt na may banana. Nag-SanMig kami after dinner. Isang bote lang..pampa-antok!

Tulog pa ang mga anghel at madre ng gumising ako at maglakad sa kalye dala ko ang aking camera. Napasok ko yung magandang simbahan! Nakipag-kwentuhan din ako sa mga ale na nagtitinda ng suman. Lakad-lakad lang kung saan saan…exercise na rin!

Pagbalik ko sa lodge, gising na ang mga anghel…nakapaligo at ready na mag-lakwatsa! Kaso alanganin ng magpunta sa Bomod-ok Falls na gusto kong makita sana so nag-desisyon na lang kaming sumakay ng bus after breakfast papuntang Baguio. Dun kami dadaan pabalik sa Pulilan.

Takbo ang bus sa Helsema Highway. Spectacular views! Yan ang road project ni GMA na bibisitahin nya kasama yung bumagsak na chopper. Sayang, di nakasama si GMA....hehehe..joke lang! 

Pero ang project na yun, Ok na ok pag natapos. Mas magiging madali ang byaheng Baguio/Sagada. Walang AC ang bus pero ok lang, di naman mainit kasi bundok. Kain ng balut along the way…pampalakas ng tuhod!

Nakarating kami sa Baguio after 6hours yata. Nagpa-book agad ng byaheng Maynila. Super deluxe ang sinakyan namin. Non-stop na, may pa-meryenda pa! Apat na oras at kalahati nasa Pasay ka. 2 seats on the left side, single seat sa right side! May CR, pwede ka pang humiga kung inaantok. First time kong nasakay sa ganung bus dito sa ‘pinas. 

Extra-special! Php700 ang bus fare. Soooo relaxing naman ang byahe. 

Dito natatapos ang kwento ko ng 3days2nights na di malilimutan sa Batad at Sagada. Sayang, di kayo kasama! Pero di bale, enjoy nyo na lang ang mga pictures. Ma-feel nyo rin ang adventure namin. Siguro sa susunod, kasama na kayo. You will not regret it…

I promise!!!
 
 
I’ve noticed there are two types of Filipino traveler:

First , those who prefer to explore other Asian places like Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau, and Hong Kong because for them, they feel they get their money’s worth and seem convenient for them to do so, logisticaly speaking. They were even saying, “ganun din naman ang gastos” if we travel locally, so we might as well spend our "moolah" somewhere else outside of the country, “mas feeling sikat pa kasi vacation abroad”. :-)

And you know the second type of Pinoy traveler: Like me! 

I’ve been asked many times (by foreigner friends and pinoys alike) why I love spending my hard-earned dollar and vacation time in the Philippines instead of other places in the US, Asia and even perhaps Europe. 

...and I give them the same answer year-in and year-out. 

I am seriously committed to discovering the beauty and hidden gems of the Philippines first before anywhere else. I am proud to put local explorations first before any foreign travels.

Ikaw , which type of Pinoy traveler are you?


 

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