Tag Archive | Philippines

Malangaan Cave: Spelunking in Bulacan

          Let’s start by saying we wasted too much gas trailing the wrong highways. We started our trip from Tabang Guiguinto Bulacan. I knew in the beginning that Plaridel Bypass Road is the fastest route but since we had to grab breakfast and packed lunch at a fastfood in Sta. Cruz, Guiguinto, we took the highway passing through SM Baliuag instead. As a result, travel time going to the cave took additional 1 hour. Going home, we purposely took this route again as we intended to watch Matt Damon’s “The Great Wall” at SM Cinema. Good movie, by the way.

           One good advice when lost is to might as well enjoy the view of your own path. Bulacan is a probinsya but these parts of San Rafael offers really luscious views of greens with all its mango farms, rice and vegetable fields. I am a promdi by heart and our own house in Malolos has a vast yard of forest-like tableau but I couldn’t help but be amazed by San Rafael’s distinctive charm.

I even saw old houses like that of my Lola’s before it was renovated. So the view going to Malangaan offers a free trip down memory lane of some things cheery about my childhood. Let’s stop at that as I could get more sentimental and corny than necessary. There is a resort named Mango Farm along the way and that got me curious. Maybe one of these days we could side trip there.

Here we go…

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After 2-3 minutes of trek from the spring, we already reached this prominent rock formation of Malangaan. This spells and smells spelunking already.

           We went to Malangaan Cave and Spring in San Rafael, Bulacan on a Tuesday. I just felt like January, though really productive and rewarding at work, was too darn long (because it had 31 days perhaps?). So I took this weekday on a vacation leave then set Patrick, though unwillingly, and I for an adventure. I was researching blogs on this. Some of the blogs I found helpful were that of Pusang Gala and Justin Vawter.

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Cave has water and mud in it but nothing that a good sturdy rubber shoes can’t handle. By its physical appearance, the rock formations are sedimentary. Please comment below if I’m wrong. What I’m sure of are the vandals on the cave walls.

From blogs, I found out there’s no need to actually look for a guide as any local would be willing to serve the purpose. There is no registration nor entrance fee on the cave and spring. Even the cave guide fee isn’t fixed. In our case, before we could even park near Malangaan spring (parking fee was also free that time, we were the only visitors), a local guy already approached us and asked us if we would be going to the cave. We said yes and right and about he ordered his around 10-year old niece whom we later known as Mylene to get his flashlight. Both he and Mylene, who uses the cave as her everyday playground, accompanied us during spelunking. We paid them Php300 plus food (just an extra burger from our packed lunch) for less than an hour of their service.

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Just look at how easily Mylene ascend the rocks like their actual stairs and how a weakling like me was able to do it as well.

           Yup, that’s just how much time it takes to explore the cave, maybe even faster since I’m a relatively slow hiker plus I wanted to document each adventure through pictures. I’m a proud social media mountaineer, by the way. I have no qualms to prove anything else or otherwise.

           This is a very easy spelunking I should say. I was wearing a trek shoes and Patrick was just on his slippers but we both successfully managed to get by without injury nor scratches, just a little mud on my bum and that was all.

           Before you know it, you’re already descending to some wildflowers and tall grass to be greeted by this unexpected panorama.

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There isn’t much to see inside the cave to be blatantly honest. But I thought these rocks are amazing! Malangaan is surely one chill adventure.

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On a bright day, the white rocks are magnificent on a dark blue sky contrast.

            The sad part is, while we were spelunking, we kept on hearing loud fireworks-like sounds and you guessed it right, the noise was coming from the area’s quarrying activities.

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Nothing is truly black and white but these rocks rock!

            A few more minutes of walking and we’re back on our starting point, Malangaan Spring.

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Mt. Pinatubo: Nature’s Beautiful Disaster

 

What   : Mt. Pinatubo Trek (daytour joiner through a tour organizer)

When   : Sunday (12MN – 11PM), January 22, 2017

Who    : Nath (my favorite sister) and Len (my post-college friend as she endearingly terms it)    img_6672

        This was a hike I long wanted to do and thanks to these two I was able to tick off this one particular item on my bucket list. Here’s to sharing with you our experiences so you can minimize the avoidable blunders and appreciate the gift of nature on this side of the planet.

     Call time was 2AM in Ortigas. If you’re not familiar with being a “joiner” of an organized tour, as a start you should know that all joiners shall be pooled or fetched from a single point. In most cases as in our case, we met at a 24-hour Mcdonald store. Because we had to prepare food, double check our packed bags and shower, we woke up at 12 midnight. My travel buddies did not sleep at all anymore.

     We paid the fee in full upon meeting our tour coordinator, grabbed super early breakfast, then load one of the 4 vans assigned to us. Here we had the chance to catch forty winks.

2:16AM-6AM

     Travel from Ortigas to our base camp in Botolan, Zambales took roughly four hours. There is another base camp in Capaz, Tarlac where you can also ride 4×4 rides but to where your base camp would be depends on which tour organizer you’ll get. The trek – its difficulty and view – of course varies with each base camp.

View from the 4x4

Sun was barely up when we started our adventure from Zambales base camp.

     A short briefing was done by our coordinator then we loaded our assigned 4×4 trucks. Put on your sunblock, leave things you won’t use during the trek inside the van to lighten your load. Do not bring backpacks which are much heavier than you could actually carry then punish your poor tour guide by having him carry your entire group’s excess baggage! Be responsible. It’s called adulting.

6:22AM-8:45AM

     You have to take this 4×4 off –road ride seriously. You will cross streams, go on deep dive and climb steep curves in this 4×4 truck for 2 hours (or more if you’re unlucky to be assigned on a slow and malfunctioning truck such as ours) amidst all the lahar (mudflow of lava) dust. A face mask or anything that can help you cover against dust is surely a must. And prepare your upper body for some major stretching before the hike with this ride.

We greeted the beautiful sunrise inside this truck.

We greeted the beautiful sunrise inside this truck.

     Comfort rooms won’t be a problem as there are lots in the base camp, at the jump off point of your hike after this 4×4 ride, another on 800 meters before the reaching the crater and on the crater vicinity itself. Sanitation is the problem and we cannot tackle that without going deep into Philippine society’s social fiber.

This is where vans stop and where the 4x4 ride begins (above). There are comfort/bathrooms at the base camp and on the starting point of the trek (below).

This is where vans stop and where the 4×4 ride begins (above). There are comfort/bathrooms at the base camp and on the starting point of the trek (below).

8:45AM-11:30AM

     Yup, it took us this long to reach the crater and we’re not even the last group to arrive. Normally this should take 1.5 hours -2.5hours. The trail view was stunning!  Going up isn’t really hard due to lack of steep assaults you might have already experienced with climbing mountains of 2/9 difficulty.

   The trail was a very gradual assault and because on the first few parts, you would be walking on lahar sand, you may still feel a toll on your legs. Plus you would have to do this for hours so endurance is really the name of the game here. I’d say it again, pack light.

The stunning trail view using Zambales route.

The stunning trail view using Zambales route.

     Len and I wore sandals without socks but you can still opt to wear shoes then change into slippers when the parts where you have to cross rivers/streams come. In our case, given that it was January, the river parts came after the registration stop.

rocks all around

More rocks on this part of the trek. Registration is done at this point. Fee is already included in our package.

The Watery Trail

She changed into slippers during the stream/river part.

        We came upon an Aeta village. Actually that was just 4 nipa huts and a basketball ring. A Filipino village won’t be complete without a basketball court no matter what happens! You will find in these Aetas the purest traces of Filipino hospitality. Their warm smile they wear as they welcome hikers with English phrases such as “Good morning!” and “Goodbye” cannot be ignored.

Aetas kids playing with rocks, having the mountains as their playground.

Aetas kids playing with rocks, having the mountains as their playground.These kids can talk short english phrases and one of those is “I love you”. They told me that after they asked for my name.

a small community of Aetas

You’ll pass by this small Aeta village and somehow you’ll have hope that the crater’s near.

11:30AM-12:43PM

     We ate our packed lunch here beside the crater, rested for some 10 minutes lying down on concrete, and went down to the crater itself through some less than a hundred step of stairs to see it more up close. All these in less than an hour.

Rest beside the crater lake

10 minutes of rest after a hearty feast of home-cooked adobo

     I recommend trying to go to Mt. Pinatubo by forming a group of 5 then go on a DIY trip so you own your time. Our group and the other joiners felt that we were so hurried by the organizer. Most joiners did not even had the time to go down to the crater because even before you can actually regain strength, you had to go start your way back to base camp already!

Edge of Crater Lake

Edge of Crater Lake. With other guests who made it a point to go down near the crater.

     I have confirmed it with my own eyes. Mt. Pinatubo is a beautiful disaster. Whenever I travel especially if it the destination is either sea or mountain, I can’t help but sink into my deepest reflections and utter my most honest adoration. You tell me now that there’s no one supreme being out there who created the beauty such as this.

   The mountain tells a story. There’ll be days when everywhere we look at, our surrounding environment is the same shade of grey. Those who feel like their world’s erupting, or their sanity exploding any time, those who are losing breath due to sulfuric acid haze of their own hate and mistakes should look forward to how God can create something beautiful out of all the mess. He will allow problems to shake you, spew hot tears and blood out of you only to rise as powerful and as exquisite as Mt. Pinatubo. Charmed but dangerous. This volcano’s appeal comes from being boastfully lovely with the whole world knowing how tough it can get when necessary. Pretty much like a life peg for me!

A Beautiful Disaster

Lesson learned from this beautiful disaster: make forecasting what you’ll do next a challenge even for experts

      As I hurriedly stare at it for one last time to fight another battle of grit going down it whispered an art-of-war tip: make forecasting what you’ll do next a challenge even for experts. ^_~

12:43PM – 3:07PM

     For me, descend was more challenging. I’m already tired, and because there were around 3 slopes downwards going to the  crater, this time around, it’s time for some climbing action. The trail going back to the base camp is the same so I was glad that the mesmerizing view has a rewind.

A glimpse of the trail's level of difficulty.

Since the trail going to and from the crater lake is the same, we had to both descend and ascend on these rocks.

        If it weren’t for the 1991 eruption, the second most destructive volcanic eruption of the 20th century, the trail won’t be there. What was once a forest is now varying pits covered with trees and plateaus of rocks and streams.

3:07PM – 5:20PM

When the road ends, the journey begins.

When the road ends, the journey begins.

          After your leg workout, be in again for some upper body exercises. Since we barely had sleep, all I really wanted was to catch some nap inside the 4×4 ride. Admittedly, I was a fool for even thinking that was possible! Halfway through, all the sleeplessness I felt was erased by the rough ride. You will be rewarded by the view of beautiful sunrise and sunset during both 4×4 rides.

5:20PM- 6:30PM

         We could have taken a bath before our van takes us back to Manila but we chose to just change clothes. We grabbed some hot instant noodles and crackers being sold by a pop up store in the base  camp. Certificates of conquest were also distributed by our tour organizer.

6:30PM-11PM

          Travel time back to Ortigas. When the van took a stop in a gasoline station in Subic, we grabbed some fast food and ate dinner inside the van.

Tour Organizer Review.

           There are a lot of tour organizers for Mt. Pinatubo. We booked through TRIPinas and I do NOT recommend them. Though they are cheaper, take into consideration the service and most importantly, your safety. This isn’t some juvenile, irresponsible rant as our group was able to voice out what we have experienced to the tour organizer face to face before we packed home. Unfortuantely, the organizer did not respond at all. No consoling words, no apologies nor action whatsoever.

          I won’t go into the details of how other tour organizers could make the trip more fun and informative and more concerned in their approach to their guests and will just focus on safety.

Safety should be number one priority.

What is this piece of wood doing inside a 4×4?! Apparently the organizer also do not know why. Talk about safe practices.

     The 4×4 ride assigned to us was slow, somehow malfunctioning as the driver had to stop more than 4 times just to check its condition (prolonging the ride). What made it worse was the wooden log placed unattached inside the truck for some unknown reason. So when the truck made sudden stoops, that log randomly hits the passengers and my sister was one of the victims. It must be with the driver or the 4×4 itself, either way that is the tour organizer’s responsibility. Our 4×4 ride on the way back to the base camp is exceptionally rough that passengers are already bumping on and hurting each other. The driver said no warning, no apologies and even blurted out, “Dapat kasi kumapit!”. He has a point as it was an off-road ride after all but just as with the coordinator, I didn’t like his approach. I have a high standard when it comes to customer service as my job involves heavy client interface and that’s just not how you respond to inquiries, concerns, issues, etc. I’m not saying they’re way too bad but surely you can find better  from the plethora of tour organizers out there.

     Another of their 4×4 ride got stuck in one major river crossing and that’s fine and definitely part of the fun and adventure but oil splattering out from the exhaust to your skin and clothes is definitely unsafe.

         The beauty of the trail and the crater itself, the company you are with, the experience, the Aetas’ warm welcome, the adrenaline rush, the memories, tons of instagram-worthy pictures, and that sense of fulfillment of conquering yet another mountain would be more than enough to feed your travel hunger. Mt. Pinatubo is a great way to start a series of 2017 travels. I hope you also enjoy as much as we did when it’s your turn to gaze at Mt. Pinatubo’s allure.

       More photos of our adventure below:

a segment of the trail

When I think about it, I may not be that weak after all.

Goofing time at a stop in the Aeta Village

We passed by what they call Aeta Village though we only saw 4 houses. Judging from the number of Aetas we passed on by, there must be a larger village off route the trail.

The trail won't be as it is today had it not been for that 1991 eruption.

The trail won’t be as it is today had it not been for that 1991 eruption.

Orange stream of sulfur

I thought this was mineral deposits disturbed from possible mining/quarrying in the area. One noticeable thing from the trek is the denuded forests. But this orange spec is from sulfur spewed out from the volcano, according to our guide.

Sisters on Trail

Our second mountain to conquer together. We took it slow. Anyway, it’s the journey, not the destination. ^_~

Your body age according to Mt. Pinatubo

Your body age according to Mt. Pinatubo

Overlooking the beautiful disaster.

Kid at heart overlooking the beautiful disaster. Do you see Song Joong Ki?

Philippines’ 118th Independence Day

IMG_20160612_190149          For the past months, my boss and I were constantly meeting with a Canadian partner regarding this business we are starting. Every time we meet with him, a discussion regarding our Filipino culture and politics will be more than brushed upon. He has a lot of not so good comments regarding the Philippines and if it’s the first time you’ll hear him talk or if you are the sensitive, defensive type, it wont take much effort to retaliate by punching him on the face. He is unabashedly honest, based on his around 7 years of staying in the country traveling back and forth to Manila, Subic, Iloilo, and other provinces to attend to his business ventures.

          So once we asked him, “Why do you still stay here in the Philippines?” He said followed by some giggles, “Well, in as much as you’re all pain in the ass, I love it here!”

          He didn’t answer the question directly but I understand him. In my heart, I know what those giggles mean. Foreigners choose from a couple of countries they can afford and fancy. Some choose the Philippines. Most Filipinos, though, if given the chance would choose another country they want to live and work in. But as for me, I’m staying. Like our Canadian partner, I may not have a direct or even logical reason to stay here in our country. I just have this lame reason that I love it here, or that not-so-lame reason that basically everything I have in life happened here in my native land.

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Date at Luneta.

          As a child, I loved history. Blame it on my elementary school days when I had to memorize facts to compete with other schools for history quiz bees, fascination with Philippine history has been inculcated in me. I was the girl, who, if asked by the teacher when Jose Rizal was executed, can answer with the date and hour and minute his  walk started. Now that I’m a grown up, I’m glad to revisit Fort Santiago, trace Rizal’s footstep from his prison cell on his way to Luneta, look back on our history, armed with some decades of life experiences, faced with a 6-year administration which no one can figure out yet for sure, exactly 118 years after our independence from 333 years of Spanish rule. Breathe!

          My sister again went out of the country for a 1-week business trip. My parents and I saw her off to the airport, we all grabbed early breakfast in a Chinese restaurant, then bid my sister goodbye. In time for the 8am wreath laying ceremony of the outgoing President Benigno Aquino Jr., we decided to wait and watch before heading to Intramuros. My mother wanted to go in the walled city thanks to the documentary shows she had watched months ago.

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Photo c/o http://www.philstar.com. PNoy at Luneta on celebration of 118th Philippine Independence Day held every 12th of June.

          It’s different when things are live. The simple loud commands of the troops or platoon leaders sounded differently in a really cool way. It has been years since I last heard someone made those commands. And some fighter planes flew above us right after the last note of Lupang Hinirang. Its sound and the canyons and guns being fired meters around and above us made the experience of watching the ceremony felt like “4D” cinema. It was also the first time after a long while that I saw Girl Scouts, high-flying Girl scouts at that, since their sash had no more space for more badge; men-in-uniform who were actually looked upon as respected men. Pedestrians whom I always hear blaming every single thing to the government are nowhere in sight, just patriotic citizens waiving their little flags, glad to still see that national symbol still being raised  in its right color scheme.

Now there will be a debate whether we truly are independent. But there is no doubt we are not yet free from poverty and here and there we are being struck by disasters brought upon by too much liberty (throwing litters everywhere, violating traffic rules, online bashing, etc.) For now, I’ll take Independence day literally, thank the many Filipinos who died for us by living like how they aspired the future generations to be.

Many non-democratic countries are rich and maybe some foreigners are right one way or another – democracy should only be given to people who can handle it well. Democracy is dangerous. In my mind, though, I still think we Filipinos deserve it.

The ceremony ended. Some streets are not yet passable so we had to walk our way from Luneta (Rizal Park) to Intramuros through Roxas Blvd. to Anda Circle then entered through Soriano Ave. For our Intramuros trip, please click here.

Misfortunes of Raped Beaches

 

Fortunately(2)I don’t know with you but for some drama queens like me, music and scent can teleport me into a different space and time.For this another quick beach get-away, Modest Mouse’s “Lampshades on Fire” was on my playlist big time.The melody is catchy and just kind of get you on the groove for some adventure and exploration. When you dissect the lyrics and meaning, though, it will strike you with guilt and realization.It speaks of inhumanity to our common home and calls for care for the planet we live in.

I have a spiritual approach to traveling so I decided to make this Fortune Island post revolve around parts of this song’s lyrics.  As it had been with my other travel posts, this isn’t so much about directions, itinerary or budget. There are other blogs who are better at that purpose.  There, I just made a disclaimer.

We’re all goin’, we’re all goin’

2

Well, the lampshade’s on fire when the lights go out
The room lit up and we ran about
Well, this is what I really call a party now
Packed up our cars, moved to the next town

Joy, my best friend from college, joined a pool of travelers last January at Bato Springs. We decided to join them once again this time for a daytour at Fortune Island in Nasugbu, Batangas. I was hearing this island last year from my officemates but I wasn’t able to go with them since I was scheduled for a Hongkong Macau trip that time.

We just paid Php1,680 and that includes all transportation, island entrance fee and  hosted lunch. Two vans and two boats took all 24 of us to Fortune Island. We left Manila at 4am.

PhotoGrid_1461844136168Well, the lampshades’s on fire when the lights go out
This is what I really call a party now
Well, fear makes us really, really run around
This one’s done so where to now?

It’s fun! Just the idea of hopping from one beach to another sends chill to my bones (beneath my already sun-burnt skin). I had been to Calaguas just two weeks ago and here I am again on another adventure. Tourism is in bloom, it’s summer, and a lot of people aside from me are making rounds on these “unspoiled” beaches. You know, just about anywhere but the already super populated, Divisoria-like Boracay or Puerto Galera.

received_1003345089754821Our eyes light up, we have no shame at all
Well you all know what I’m talking’ about
Shaved off my eyebrows when I fall to the ground
So I can’t look surprised right now

This “unspoiled” beach isn’t that unspoiled after all. When you look back at this island’s past, you’ll discover that it has been a place where a luxury hotel was erected. After that business did not become successful, it has been a place for campers and backpackers.

7Pack up again, head to the next place
Where we’ll make the same mistakes
Burn it up, or just chop it down
Ah, this one’s done so where to now?

3Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh-duh-dah
Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh-duh-dah

We’re all goin’, we’re all goin’

The ruins of the hotel, the swimming pool, the heliport, the remains of a shipwreck and a displayed skull which served as the island’s former attraction and unique selling points are still present. And that’s okay. What will sadden you is the garbage on the white sand beach and in what was left of the old hotel’s cottages. The island is being raped at the moment, not screaming yet, because naive as she can be, she still doesn’t know what’s happening.

4Well, the lampshade’s on fire when the lights go out
This is what I really call a party now
Well, fear makes us really, really run around
Ah, this one’s done so where to now?

Denuded forests because of illegal logging and building of residential subdivisions are old music now.  Crystal water with floating sanitary pads and beer bottles, white beaches turned to burnt sand because of bonfires, garbage-filled campsites, these are all the rage now. We’re blessed to have 7,107 islands. I’m proud knowing that I cannot keep up in exploring all those in this lifetime. But really?8Our eyes light up, we have no shame at all
Well, you all know what I’m talkin’ about
The room lights up, well, we’re still dancing around
We’re havin’ fun, havin’ some for now

1Pack up again, head to the next place
Where we’ll make the same mistakes
Open one up and let it fall to the ground
Pile out the door when it all runs out

I’m glad that there are beaches aside from that of Boracay, Palawan and Puerto Galera which offers a more serene and less commercialized vibe. But seeing Fortune Island now, it will make you wonder just how short people will get to enjoy this beach. It won’t be long before we need another Calaguas and Fortune Island, and it’s all because of man. Bantay-salakay. The creatures assigned to take care of the environment are the same creatures abusing it.

20160424_143817-01We’ll kill you off and then make a clone
Yeah, we got spines, yeah, we have bones
This is how it’s always gone
And this is how it’s goin’ to go

At least for the time being, there’s no other habitable planet yet. One traveler who was with us in this trip suggested that travelers should have licenses! And she has a point. Without proper education on how to care for yourself and the environment, training, tests and sworn obligations, maybe people should not be allowed to travel after all. Be responsible travelers.  Let’s not wait till all the world is just ruins.

Spend some time to float in outer space
Find another planet, make the same mistakes
Our mind’s all shattered when we climb aboard
Hopin’ for the scientists to find another door.

Think of Paradise

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure     There are lots of ways to do it but this post  revolves around what to expect on going and staying in Calaguas – based on my 2 days and 1 night stay through Best Calaguas Tour.I’m gonna mention the good and the not so good parts but don’t get me wrong. Calaguas is paradise! It’s a must see for everyone.

BASICS

Travel Time: 12 hours from Manila

How We Got There: Bus from Pasay or Cubao to Daet (9hrs); tour-provided jeep from Daet to Vinzon’s port (30mins); boat to Calaguas island (2.5hrs)

Tour Organizer: Best Calaguas Tour (details here) or contact 09179595985

Budget: Bus fare PhP1100 two-way through DLTB and Philtranco, Php2300 for 2D1N tour package

SOME TIPS

Bus
Going to Calaguas, we rode DLTB.Below are the schedule of bus trips of DLTB from Pasay to Daet as of April, 2016. Be on time as the buses have very short grace period for late-comers. Reservation is recommended.

     You will be given tickets like the one also shown below. Do not lose it until you have reached Daet!

DLTB Bus schedule for Daet, Camarines Norte and sample reservation ticket.

DLTB Bus schedule for Daet, Camarines Norte and sample reservation ticket.

     Upon reaching the terminal in Daet, best if you could already purchase ticket from Daet back to Manila. Most of the travelers to Calaguas leave the island by batches and especially on summer time or weekends, seats are a scarcity.

     Going back to Manila, all DLTB trips were fully booked. Across the street is Philtranco terminal. It has newer, better seats but air-con was always on full blast.It’s way too cold for comfort and you must endure it for 9 hours. We have blankets and jackets on us but the cold still creeps in.

Superlines also has trips to and from Daet.

Boat Ride

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure

Top loading the 2.5hours boat ride is not from your sense of adventure but from necessity.

     Speaking of peak season, it can get congested on Vinzons port. You may have to wait before your boat load and unload because of the number of boats lined up on the port.

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure

Heal your mind and soul with the view.

     The view 1 hour away from Calaguas is stunning, it will help you endure the butt and back hurt you might experience in the boat.

Tour Package
I usually don’t get tour packages in the Philippines and abroad because I want to “own” my time. But I think Calaguas is something that’s more cost-and-time-efficient and less-hassle when taken as a package from organizers. Basically, all you have to do is show up and pay a fair price.
If you’re like me who will go to Calaguas from Manila or farther, take the 3 days 2 nights package to make the 12 hours or more travel time worth it. We took the 2 days 1 night first just to “test the water”. The shower room and lack of accommodation was one of my main apprehensions before booking. But since now, I get the whole picture already, when I came back, I’ll stay longer. Yes, Calaguas is that beautiful, you’ll plan your next visit even before leaving the island.

Church

     Most people would take Calaguas on a weekend trip. As for us, we had plan to hear Holy Mass before our supposedly 7PM trip back to Manila. Sadly, we had to give this up because of the unexpected traffic at Vinzons port. And oh, Paracele where the Our Lady of Candles Church is located is a whooping 38kms or 1 hour away – that is if you could secure a bus or commuter van immediately. I think Calaguas Island has a chapel, but I doubt it if they celebrate Mass there.

Weather

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure

Get your scouting mode on!

It’s hot in the island! Since there are almost no shades (no super big trees) and not much accommodations you may be forced to sleep or take shelter in the dining cottages. Tents can be so hot that I worried about my phone and other gadgets inside the tent. I chose to just leave them on our open cottage, risking theft.

Security

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure

Fire Dancers and the restaurant on the beach. Calaguas is becoming commercialized, a thing I support, but that’s just me.

Luckily, even if our phones and powerbank were exposed, folks in Calaguas can be trusted. When tourism gets even bigger here, of course, security will also be a problem.
There are barangay patrols which roam the island. I saw them checking if some tents aren’t pitched where they aren’t supposed to be. They were also there during the fire dancing show where crowd gather on one part of Mahabang Buhangin.

Food

Tips for Your Calaguas Adventure

Spend 2 days and a night with strangers and learn a lot about people.

      Food is great! I have to commend the cook of Best Calaguas Tour. I saw him and all the other people who prepared our food as their kitchen is situated at the back of our cottage. People preparing food are equipped in food handling and are well-groomed, wearing proper headband,  apron, etc. Servings were big and tasty, composed mainly of rice, 2 seafood and 1 vegetable dishes. There was also unlimited instant coffee and hot water for breakfast and supply of potable water and ice during our entire stay.

     Special fruit salad ice candy priced at Php20 per piece is a must-try!

Itinerary

     This is provided by the tour organizer. Warning: don’t expect that it will be followed. For the waiting time alone in the meeting place (Jollibee Centro, a tricycle away from Daet bus terminal) I knew it’s going to be delayed. True enough, we did nothing on time. But we were able to cover everything inclusive on the package e.g.the trek to Sitio Tinaga around 4pm on the first day instead of early morning on the second day.

     Please click here for details of what to do in Calaguas.

Shower Rooms

     Comfort rooms can be a problem.You have to line up for post-swimming shower, for hours, if you’re unlucky to fall in line with 4 or 5 girls before you. One water boy takes care of transferring fresh water supply to the shower rooms. Put your Girl/Boy Scout mode on! There’s nothing flashy with this facility and if you’re OC, you might not survive here.

     Give a tip to the boy who delivers the fresh water. Maybe he’s already commissioned to do that by our tour organizer, but he works real hard. By the way, some shower rooms are designated for a specific travel organizer. If you are a joiner of their group, you may use the shower rooms for free but if not, you have to pay a certain amount (Php75 for unlimited use).

Electricity

     The genset in the island works most of the time, but for the water supply only.Starting in the afternoon, you can start having your batteries charged for a fee.

Accommodation/Supplies

     There is Waling Waling Resort if you want to take Calaguas a bit luxuriously. You can bring and pitch your own tent, rent a tent upon reaching the island, or rent the tent as an inclusion in the tour package.
Sand where the tents are pitched can be hard which means sleeping on it can cause backache. Best if you could bring blankets to cushion the tent. How you’ll do that while packing light, I don’t know.

     There are stores in the beach where you could buy supplies – toiletries and food. There is one restaurant, too. These same store offers charging phones for a fee, during the late afternoon. Powerbank charging  are at Php50.

Souvenirs

     At Vinzons Port kids sell low-priced pasalubong. If you will be offered small bread with pili nuts inside and that slice of custard with pili cake, buy lots of them. It will be hard to crave for those when you’re back in Manila.

     Souvenir shirts are somehow costly at ph350 each.  Don’t be a cheapskate! Tourism is one of the main sources of income for this underdeveloped community. Let’s love our beautiful country and fellow countrymen. That’s not to say that we should be stupid but every chance we get to help our countrymen, let’s grab it.

Coffee Shop Side Trip

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     If you have some 2-3 hours spare time (waiting time for you bus departure back to Manila) I highly recommend Cafe Morga situated between the bus terminal and the Centro of Daet. It can be reached by riding tricycle. Their caramel macchiato is better than the most popular coffee store. Ambiance and customer service is good. They have some nice books to serve as good reads if you’re reserving your phone’s battery for the long ride ahead. You can charge gadgets here for free and most of all,it has clean restroom where you can freshen up and do your thing comfortably.

Final Note

     See and experience Calaguas for yourself! When you island hop from Mahabang Buhangin you’ll see lots of other white, beautiful beaches which can make you think , how many other paradise are waiting to be discovered. Don’t forget to be responsible travelers. Treat the sea and mountain like cathedrals. They are given to us as God’s gift, allowing us to commune with heaven, here on earth.

Bato Springs in San Pablo Laguna

Bato Springs in San Pablo, Laguna

First out-of-town getaway for year 2016 is also the first “packaged” trip I ever got to join. By packaged I mean, I just had to reserve a slot, pay a certain amount then all is done and arranged for me. I just had to pack my own personal things then show up on the set rendezvous. That means I also had the chance to be mixed with a group of people who were entirely strangers to me. Now it must take me a lot of more packaged trips to fully decide if this works for me (personally) but this first time is good that it makes me want to plan the next trip I’ll join with the same trip organizer.

The Foton View Traveller which carried our group to and fro Bato Springs departed from Buendia at 10:20am. We stopped by an eatery in Sto. Tomas, Batangas for lunch then went on the road again for 2 hours more of travel to Bato Springs.

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Cottages are spacious and are convenient for grilling and cooking. To say that videoke is a hit in this place is an understatement.

A few tips:

  • It is advisable to either bring food and water supply or to buy from stores outside of Bato Springs Resort premises. The nearest store outside is around 100m away and that’s where our group bought gallons of mineral water, toiletries, chips and other stuff. There are vast choices of food, beverages, liquor, and even cooked food from Bato Springs but they come very expensive.
  • Big pots for cooking can be rented with Php500 deposit. Appliances can be taken in at Php50 each. Though it has made the area a bit full of flies,the place is convenient for grilling and washing dishes.
  • There are lots of free power outlets for charging mobile phones per cottage. In our case, we had six plus the ones intended for the adjacent empty cottage. We just had to take turns.
  • Life buoy or salbabida are also for rent at Php50. I assume those are for kids even though 2 adults from our group seriously considered bringing their own. Water is at 6feet deep maximum.
  • Videokes are so prevalent (can be rented at Php500 per day, up to 10pm) in various cottages that it’s a bit difficult to sleep at night. The only counterattack is to make noise as loud as nearby cottages with your own laughter during drinking session.
  • There’s a common/public hall very near the springs which has videoke at Php5/song (also until 10PM only) for everyone’s use.
  • Consider a day trip, just leave Manila really early. I think it’s convenient also for day trippers as the public shower rooms are also well-maintained.

My concern with water pressure in some resorts is no problem here; modest toilet and bath are equipped with very useful hot shower. Water in Bato Springs is veeeeeeeery cold it creates shiver to the spine with just a half-hearted dip of your toes. Night swimming here is only for the brave.

 Deepest part is just 6 feet deep.

Bato Springs is famous for its coooool water.

Bato Springs is a fusion of natural and man-made springs. The swimming pool (usually dominated by kids because it’s shallow) is obviously man-made. We spent the first afternoon guessing which parts of Bato Springs are man-made and which parts are natural.

Dinner and socials a.k.a. drinking session filled the night. I have high regards for well-travelled people because they always have the most interesting stories to tell. Life is really lived differently by people who choose not to live life in a single place. I don’t drink and I’m a.k.a. Ms. Tulog so after eavesdropping  I was the first to retire to bed.

Breakfast is hosted by the organizers on our second day. We explored the rest of Bato Springs until 4pm then headed on our 3.5 hrs way back to Manila.

Some cottages, we noticed, are still under construction. The land is vast and there are still lots of spaces for potential commercial development.

Joy and I camera whoring in the place.

Us, cam whoring.

 

It's not just about springs if you know where to look. Explore!

It’s not just about springs if you know where to look. Explore!

Personally, this trip for me will be memorable because I was with Joy, my college best friend and Karen, my BFF since first day of high school.

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And it’s such a miracle that you and me are still good friends. After all that we’ve been through I know we’re cool. As cool as the water.

For more information on the entrance fee and cottages rates visit Bato Springs Facebook Page.

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