Of Riding Trains

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My brother and I traveled to Japan last spring and it gave us the opportunity to check off various items in our respective bucketlists. This includes riding a shinkansen (bullet train). I’ve seen various travel shows, movies, animes, and other media about Japan and I’ve always been fascinated by their extensive rail network and various train types (the trains even have names!). This only led me to conclude that in Japan, train is life.

Our trip involved hopping from one to city to another and we did that by riding trains. Because of this, we were able to ride different types of trains from the fastest shinkansen to the more leisurely local train. Oh, and we were also able to ride a sightseeing train! The train rides in itself were a treat for us and I can’t help but wish that we also have the same in our country.

I feel fortunate that we didn’t get lost or had a hard time finding our train since some of the major train stations are so vast. This is all thanks to months of research as well as Hyperdia. Hyperdia is a website where you can search which train you can take to go to a certain place, it even includes the cost of the train ride and the train schedule. Pretty useful if you’ll be riding the train a lot.

Now, enough of the technical stuff, this post is actually for sharing all the precious experiences I had while riding and or trying to ride Japanese trains. Mostly funny memories and some troubling but exciting at the same time.

First Impressions Last

First up is our first shinkansen ride. I can still remember our awe when we first laid eyes on the actual thing. My brother and I were grinning like lunatics! Haha. When we got on board and the train started to move, you can’t really feel that you’re going at speeds of up to 300kph (we rode The N700 Series Nozomi, the fastest category along the Sanyo/Tokkaido Shinkansen line), it was comfortable and you can even eat on board. Imagine traveling more than 600kms in just 2 hours and 30 minutes, that’s how fast these trains are. It was kinda scary when two trains pass by each other since there is this force which causes the train’s body to move. This is to be expected though given the speed the trains are moving. The experience was very pleasant over all and I felt safe all throughout the journey.

Cancellation Troubles

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On our fifth day in Japan, we woke up to a rainy Osaka morning. We were bound for Kanazawa that day but will stop by the Nissin Cup Ramen Musuem first. After our tour of the museum, we were back in Osaka Station is search for the midoro no maduguchi where we will redeem our Hokuriku Area Pass. There we were informed that the train going to Kanazawa from Osaka (Ltd. Express Thunderbird) has suspended operations until further notice due to strong winds coming from the west. The attendant asked us if we will still buy the pass and we did. It was a gamble since there was no assurance that the strong winds will stop that day but we had no choice since we had to reach Kanazawa for our hotel reservation and we had to travel to Tateyama the next day. We had to regroup after getting the pass since we planned to go sightseeing in Kanazawa that day and we can’t push through with it. In the end, we decided to visit Himeji earlier than planned since we did not want to waste half the day. With our cup noodle haul in tow, we took the shinkansen to Himeji and explored Himeji Castle’s keep and castle grounds. We traveled back to Osaka around 5pm and we rushed to take the earliest Ltd. Express Thunderbird to Kanazawa when we found out that train operations had already resumed.

Up Close and Personal

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By the time we were in Himeji we already had a few encounters with the shinkansen but mostly by riding in it and seeing it stopped at big train stations like Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. While we were waiting for our ride going to Osaka, we were so surprised when a speeding Nozomi passed and left us in awe and somewhat terrified. I figured it was a Nozomi train since it only stops at major train stations. Then I thought, so that’s how it feels like when a train speeding around 200-300kph pass you by! There was this booming sound and you can feel the wind force (I don’t know how you call it. haha) and it was quite an experience that I chose to write it here.

Almost Miss

So we made it to Kanazawa without any more trouble. Sad that we didn’t get to go around though since it was already around 9pm when we arrived. We were able to get to our hotel and of course, we got to travel to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route the next day! I felt so lucky since we didn’t have a problem reaching Tateyama Station and the snow wall was even open to pedestrians that day. Ahhh, luck was on my side I thought. There were a lot of people since we visited on the first week of opening (the full Alpine Route is only open from mid-April to November) and the waiting time at some stations would reached up to one hour. It was so cold but we didn’t mind especially when snow started falling while we were at Kurobedeira. I was so distracted that I didn’t check the train schedules going back to Kanazawa. We finally arrived at Tateyama Station around 5:30pm and saw that the next train going to Toyama is at 6:19pm. Little did I know that I should’ve been already panicking when I found out about this. While on board the train going to Toyama, I decided to check the shinkansen schedule going to Kanazawa and that’s when I found out that we only have around 30 minutes allowance to get our bags from our hotel in Kanazawa and buy food or else, we will miss the last train going to Osaka. While in Toyama Station waiting for the shinkansen going to Kanazawa, I realized that the schedule posted in Hyperdia is wrong and that we actually only have around 15-20 minutes window time to get the bags and buy food. We were so scared to miss the last train that I told my brother that we should already be at the door before the train stops at the station and run like crazy to the hotel to get our bags. After getting the bag from the hotel we stopped by a shop selling packed food then rushed to the train platform. We made it to the train with 10 minutes to spare! Luckily, our hotel is just next to the train station, imagine if it was farther, we would have been stuck in Kanazawa that night.

I’m looking forward to visiting Japan again in the near future and I’ll be sure to ride more types of trains and share my experience again.

Camiguin: The Island Born of Fire (Part 2)

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So I didn’t get to post the Part 2 of my Camiguin article as promised. (Not that there are people waiting. Haha!)

Continuing on with the places worth visiting (or atleast what we visited), here they are in no particular order:

Ardent Hot Spring

Yes, there is a Hot Spring in Camiguin! Being an island born from volcanic eruption, the vents of the active volcano heats up the spring water that flows here. There are 3 pools with different depths, the water from the first pool flows to the second pool then the third and eventually gets disposed through canals. An evening visit is suggested since you don’t really want to bathe in hot water when the sun is shining down tremendously.

Walkway along the Old Volcano

This is a path carved along the mountain that you can take a stroll in. Along the path are replicas depicting Christ’s Station of the Cross. I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to the top since the heat can be exhausting. The path also provides a good view of the sea.

Sunken Cemetery

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Marked by a large cross made of concrete, the cemetery went underwater when Mt. Vulcan erupted in the 1800’s. This landmark is located in the town of Catarman, and it can be viewed along the seaside when travelling from Mambajao to Catarman. The viewing deck and jump off point going to the actual cross is only a few steps away from the main road. You can opt to rent a boat which will take you to the cross or just take you picture in the view deck with the cross as a background.

Soda Swimming Pool

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The name of the pool itself should give you an idea on what differentiates this pool from others. Camiguin is abundant with natural spring water which flows from the mountain and the water contained in this pool is natural soda water which flows continuously. The water here does not contain any chlorine and I guess they don’t have to clean it all the time since the water is continuously running. They also have natural soda water which is for drinking and you can get it for free! Locals say that the natural soda water is good for people with heart ailments, diabetes as well as other disease.

Sto. Nino Cold Spring

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If I were asked to describe this place in one word, I would say, Refreshing! Similar to other springs here, the water flowing here is also natural and is free flowing. Its difference from the others is the temperature of the water, it is very cold! It can be compared to bathing in ice water, much, much needed during the summer months here in the Philippines. Among all the springs that we visited, this is probably the one I enjoyed the most. How I wish we also have a pool as cold as that at home so I can dip in it to battle off the unforgiving summer heat.

If you are coming from Manila or other areas in the Philippines not located in Mindanao, you can reach Camiguin by taking a plane going to Cagayan de Oro City (CDO). There are buses in CDO which can take you to Balingoan Port where you can ride the ferry going to the island.

 

Life in Camiguin is serene and goes in a much slower pace, perfect for relaxation for people  who want a respite from bustling city life.

 

Camiguin: The Island Born of Fire (Part 1)

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It’s been ages since my last blog post – blame it on lack of inspiration – but I’ll try to make up for it this year.

Last week, I traveled to the beautiful island of Camiguin with my family. It is the second time to visit the island but is the first for most of the fambam. Here are some ‘fun’ facts about the island:

  • Camiguin is actually the second smallest province in the Philippines in terms of population and land area, the first being Batanes.
  • The island’s motto, “Island Born of Fire”, was derived due to the fact that it is volcanic in origin. In fact, the center of the island is mountainous since it is composed of several volcanoes. Only two volcanoes, Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan remains active.
  • During the month of October, Lanzones Festival is held in the province since it is considered one of its major produce. The lanzones grow here is said to be the sweetest in the country.

The province’s main attraction are the two islands namely White Island and Mantigue Island.

White Island

Located of the coast of Mambajao, White Island, is actually a sandbar. There is no vegetation whatsoever in the island and sometimes during high tide, it is completely submerged in water. It was low tide when we came there so most of the island is visible. Mt. Hibok-hibok and Mt. Vulcan provides a picturesque view aside from the setting sun. I recommend to go there just before sunset when the temperature is a bit mild since there are no trees that can provide shade. There are umbrellas though that can be rented in the island for P50.00.

White Island can be accessed through boats beside Paras Beach Resort.

Mantigue Island

It is also known as Magsaysay Island but oddly, locals do not know this name so if you are heading here, tell them you want to go to Mantigue Island. This island is located off the coast of Mahinog. In contrast to White Island, Mantigue is vegetated and actually has a 4 hecatre forest in the middle with walkways for your to enjoy a stroll if you want to escape the heat of the sun. There are tables for rent here and I think they also serve some food but we didn’t stay that long so we didn’t order any. There is a marine sanctuary located near the island and the boatman will ask you incessantly if you want to go there for snorkeling. Note that there is a separate fee that you have to pay if you go snorkeling in the protected area.

Mantigue Island can be seen from the boat going to Benoni Port. It can be accessed by boat through the port in Mahinog.

I will my post about Camiguin for now and promise to post the other attractions tomorrow 🙂

 

Dumaguete and beyond

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I’ve already posted about my trip to Oslob and Siquijor, now it’s time to narrate my trip to our jump off point, Dumaguete City.

There was an impending storm set to cross the Visayas a few days before our trip. Thankfully, the storm stayed stationary for a week and thus, we were able to make and enjoy the trip. Upon arrival at Sibulan Airport, we immediately went in search for a tricycle which will take us to the city proper. Just a short ride from the airport, I was able to spot the very first St. Paul School in the country, too bad I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it (die hard Paulinian here). The ride to the city proper wasn’t that long and soon enough we were already at Hotel Palwa.  To be honest, I was hesitant at staying in Dumaguete City at first since there isn’t much to see. However, I found out that a colleague of mine went there recently and he showed me a photo of a beautiful falls found in a town which is just a 30-minute drive from the city. Because of that, we stayed longer in Dumaguete than initially intended. After checking in and leaving our things in the hotel, we set off to Valencia to visit Casaroro Falls.

My colleague told me that I can catch a jeep from Dumaguete which will take me to Valencia and then take a “habal-habal” to the drop off point going to the falls. Since we have no idea where those jeepneys are, we hailed a tricycle to take us to the terminal. Turns out, the terminal is only a 5-minute walk from our hotel. (tee hee) We rode the jeepney and when we alighted at the terminal in Valencia, we were greeted by a bunch of “habal-habal” drivers looking for customers. A persistent man followed us and offered to take us to our destination. We haggled the price of the ride and I was really thankful that he offered to guide us going to the falls. As to why I was thankful, you’ll find out later on. After buying water, we rode the “habal-habal” going to the falls. The ride took around 15-minutes and most of the roads are paved, the road leading to the stairs going down the falls however is very rough. In fact, about 30 meters from our destination, the driver told us to meet him at the top since it was impossible to drive up with passengers.Image

A sign bearing the name of the falls told us that we have finally arrived at our destination.

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The walk going down the stairs was easy.

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Upon arrival at the bottom, we were greeted by endless rocks. Lots of it. Did I mention the rocks were huge? At first glance you wouldn’t really know where to go since there was no path at all. I’m not used to climbing huge rocks, right? That’s why I’m very thankful that the driver acted as our guide here. He didn’t really help us per se but he did show us the way which saved us time.

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I read that there used to be a concrete path which leads to the falls but it was destroyed during the onslaught of typhoon Sendong.

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After 15 to 20 minutes of walking/climbing rocks, the falls came into view and boy was it grand! They don’t allow swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls though since a few people already died there. I think it may be due to whilrpool (huge rocks + raging water = whirlpool, right?). There is no local manning the area and you can definitely sneak a swim but better be safe than sorry. The lady who collects the entrance told us that 3 people already died just since November last year. Still want to be a daredevil and take a swim? Think again.

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We passed by these magnificent, huge acacia trees at Valencia town proper. The loading bay of the jeepney going to Dumaguete City is located along this strip.

Casaroro Falls may be the highlight of our trip in Dumaguete, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy our stay in the city. Here are the sights that we visited:

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Dumaguete Belfry

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Silliman University

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Plaza (located in front of the church)

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Dumaguete Baywalk. This landmark commemorates the arrival of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres in Dumaguete.

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THOU SHALL NOT MISS THE SILVANAS FROM SANS RIVAL (the best!). I also tried their Salted Caramel Cheesecake. Mmmmmmmm.

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We found this cute Korean cafe, 2 Story (i think they meant storey though since the concept of the cafe is that it consists of 2-storey booths).

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Try the fried ice cream at Panda Ice Cream House.

 

 

Swimming with the Whale Sharks in Oslob

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During our second day in Dumaguete, we found ourselves traveling to Oslob, Cebu to see the famous whale sharks and take a tour of the surrounding area as well. We were supposed to leave at 5 in the morning but unfortunately, my alarm didn’t go off so we left around 6 am instead. From Dumaguete City, we need to go to Sibulan Port where we are going to ride a boat going to Oslob. Since we were on a hurry, we decided to hail a tricycle to take us to the port. We asked him how much the fare is and he told us that minimum payment is 100 pesos since the port is quite far. It was far indeed, and I think the tricycle driver should have asked more fare from us but he didn’t. Upon arriving in the port, we bought tickets immediately and then waited for the boat to set sail. After 30-40 minutes we have arrived in Oslob and surveyed the transportation offerings. There were tricycles, “habal-habals” (motorcycles) and Ceres bus waiting for passengers. I reckoned that the cheapest way to get to the drop off point for whale shark watching is to get on the bus so I asked the conductor if they are passing by that area, he said yes but we will have to wait since we didn’t reserve our seat at Sibulan Port. We stayed at the waiting area for around 5 minutes before the conductor called us and we finally got our seats in the bus. The bus fare in only 30 pesos, we would have been asked to pay hundreds if we chose to ride the tricycle or habal-habal so it was a good choice.

The journey from the port to the resorts which offers swimming with the whale shark experience is not that long. We alighted in front of Aaron’s Beach Resort and arranged the trip with them. The fee for swimming with the whale shark is 500 pesos but we had to pay an additional 100 pesos for use of the resort’s facilities (locker, shower, etc.). After paying and securing our valuables in the locker provided to us, we made our way to the orientation area. The place is only a few meters away from the resort but we rode a boat to get there. In the orientation area, a local explained to us the do’s and don’ts while in the viewing area. They were very clear that we could serve jail time or be fined if we violated any of the rules. Yikes! Once finished, armed with my camera, a life vest (provided) and snorkel (also provided), we made our way to the viewing area by boat. From afar, I cannot make out where the whale sharks were but when we finally reached in the swimming/viewing area, I was surprised by the number present. My cousin told me that they are feeding the whale sharks in order for them to surface and indeed, that’s what we found there. They were feeding the whales with krill, lots of them. In fact, the smell of the krill is lingering from where we were staying. The boat men helped take our photos which was very nice of them but I guess this is expected when you pay 500 pesos for the experience, right? 😀

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We had a hard time in the water and I didn’t get to snorkel much since the current was strong. Too bad I can’t swim… I’m such a loser. Due to the strong current, we were advised to hold on to the boat and to take our picture with the gentle giant, the boat man takes us on a spot near the whale and dunks us in the water. I still laugh whenever I remember this… it’s just too funny. Haha!

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We were taken back to Aaron’s Beach Resort after the encounter and we tried hard to get rid of the fishy (or should I say krilly) smell by taking a shower. The guy in-charge of looking after the lockers then asked me if we are planning to go to the nearby waterfalls and told us that the fee for a habal-habal to take us there is 120 per person round-trip. We took it since we had no choice as there are no other vehicles going there because we are not part of an arranged a tour. He then introduced us to the driver taking us there and I asked the driver if he can also take us to Oslob town since we wanted to see the Cuartel as well as the old church. The driver told us he can if we add 100 pesos each for the ride. I can’t believe he only asked us for 100 pesos each since I heard the town is quite far but I won’t argue with that. 🙂

Our first stop was Tumalog Falls. It’s a short ride from the resort but there’s a 5 minute walk going to the falls itself. The road is paved and it goes downhill so you don’t have to worry about going there, you just have to worry about walking back uphill. Hehe. When we reached the falls, we were at awe by its grandeur. Truly, I haven’t seen a falls that looked like this. Since the water cascades down several rocks before hitting the bottom, the falls create a mist and you can actually get close to the water source itself. The experience of having the water cascading down your body is like having a shower but much stronger.

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After cooling down in the waterfalls, we made our way to Oslob town proper. The ride took around 20-30 minutes but we didn’t get bored since the view of the mountain and the sea while on the road is gorgeous. We also got to see Sumilon Island on the way and our driver was nice enough to stop and take a picture of us with the island as backdrop.

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When we got to the town, we were greeted by the imposing Cuartel. When I saw pictures of this structure in the past, I actually thought is was a ruin but research told me otherwise. The construction of the Cuartel started sometime in 1850 but it was never finished. Much like old structures during the Spanish Era, the building is made of coral stones.

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A few meters from the Cuartel is the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Also made from coral stones, the construction of the church started in 1830. The church was destroyed by fire twice, first in 1955 and the last only in 2008. The foundation of the church however, is still original.

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Past the church, you will see what is left of what once was a watchtower or “baluarte”. Built in 1788 as part of the town’s defenses against Moro raiders.

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I’d say Oslob was the highlight of our four-day trip even though we only spent half day to go around this town. To redeem myself, I want to take swimming lessons so I can swim with the whale sharks for real next time :p

Isla del Fuego: Siquijor

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My friend and I went to Dumaguete recently and decided to take a side trip to Siquijor. The place, known for it’s mysticism due to stories which says that the island’s inhabitants practice witchcraft and sorcery is not frequented by travelers. This is the very reason why I was hesitant in visiting the island in the past (boo hoo). Thankfully, something in me changed and I finally decided to have it a go.

A few days before we set for Siquijor,  there was an impending typhoon set to cross the Visayas anytime. Thank heavens it stayed put during the days we were traveling (oh, my lucky stars!). Thus, we were able to get around without a problem 😄.

Our jump off point for the trip was Dumaguete. From Dumaguete Port, it takes around 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours to get to Dumaguete depending on which boat you take and the weather. There are several boats which plies the Dumaguete -Siquijor route and a few, Dumaguete – Larena (Larena is a major town in Siquijor). It is advisable that you check the port for the schedule before your trip as they vary from day to day, but to give you an idea, this link will show you which boat companies go to the island: http://www.siquijordirectory.com/ferryshipping.html 

We rode the Aleson boat scheduled to depart at 8:30 am. The fare is 120 for the air-conditioned cabin and we took that. I learned though that it’s much better to ride al fresco since the smell inside the air-conditioned room is quite nauseating (it’s a mix of cheap air freshener and gasoline fumes). It was quite unexpected that the boat left on the dot and we actually reached the island at exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes as promised by the ticket seller. We were greeted by crystal clear water and a small stretch of white sand beach as soon as we disembarked from the boat.

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Outside the port area are tricycle drivers trying to get customers. This is where we found someone who would take us to our hotel and then, the tour of the island. I didn’t do much research for this trip and haphazardly chose the hotel we were going to stay at. Big mistake. Apparently, the resort is a 40 minute drive from the port and although its right by the beach, the beach there is not really that good for swimming (this we learned later on). So much for planning! We had to haggle with the tricycle driver since he was asking for 300 pesos for the ride going to the hotel and 1000 pesos for the tour. We finally agreed at 1100 all-in which I think is a pretty good price considering the distance of our hotel. 

The ride to the resort we were staying at in Larena was quite long, and when we finally reached the side street leading to it, that’s when I realized we booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere. There was no way we could find food elsewhere on foot, and there was no public transportation available by the resort. You will have to walk through a 300 meters(?) rough road planked by trees and scanty houses to get to the main highway which by the way, very few multicabs and tricycles pass by. So the chance of me going anywhere outside the resort is NIL. Call me scaredy cat for all I care. Anyway, we managed to check-in the reserved room even though it was quite early for the check-in time. When we reached the garden cottage that we reserved, lo and behold, it looked like it wasn’t occupied for quite sometime. The room had a rustic appeal but it wasn’t kept clean. Imagine the surface of the bathroom with reptile droppings here and there. Oh it wasn’t occupied a lot most likely and they didn’t even check to clean it before we arrived. What a waste.

After we left our things in the room, we sought out our ride for the tour who patiently waited for us by the reception area. From here on, the adventure starts! Since there were only two of us traveling, we decided to take the coastal island tour which took us to the following places:

Salagdoong Beach

Our driver told us that this beach is controlled by the local government. Here we took our lunch as we were starving when we got here. They have a restaurant, rooms for visitors staying overnight, cottages for day trip travelers and there’s even a diving board by the cliff for those who are looking for some adrenalin rush (it’s for free by the way). They don’t have a lifeguard though or I didn’t see one so you dive/swim at your own risk. The beach on the right side is not only picturesque but has fine white sand. The limestone formation on both ends of the beach adds to it’s charm.

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San Isidro Labrador Parish (Lazi Church)

The church and the convent in front of it (I didn’t get to take a picture of it) are both National Historical Shrines.

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Cambugahay Falls

A short ride from Lazi Church and we arrived at Cambugahay Falls. You have to go down 100 or so steps to reach the falls itself. Once you have descended from the steps, you will be amazed by the turquoise blue water. You can swim, cliff dive (be careful though since some parts are shallow) and jump off the top imitating Tarzan by using a natural “baging”.

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Century Old Balete Tree

This Balete or Banyan tree is said to be 400 years old. Beside is a small stream with doctor fish swimming freely. Yes, you can sit down and have a foot spa for free!

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Capilay Spring Park

Perfect place for a relaxing swim! Not for those who can’t swim though since the pool is deep. Did I mention that you can swim here for free? Where can you find something like this in the city? Nowhere!

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St. Francis de Assisi Church

This is our last stop. You can actually see this church upon arriving in Siquijor since it is right by the port, thus the sign, Welcome to Siquijor.

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We were transported back to our resort after the tour. The plan was we were going to swim by the beach to watch the sunset but it prove futile since we were greeted by low tide and cloudy skies! The water on the beach barely reached my mid-calf and we just decided to stroll along the coast. The place was quite secluded, perfect for a private getaway but that was not I was looking for. It was probably better if we stayed somewhere in San Juan since it is where the backpackers inns are located and it probably has the longest strip of white beach in the province.

We found what looked like mating starfish while walking in the beach and there were lots of them. That night at our cottage was kinda scary since we can hear the gecko, locally known as “tuko” outside. We were afraid that reptile might find its way inside our room.

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The landscape of Siquijor is very much like other islands in the Visayas, what sets it apart is the tranquility and the feeling of seclusion that you find since there are not a lot of tourists there. The place is yet to be commercialized and the rusticity of the island is what draws in foreigners and locals alike. I must say, the place is kept very clean, probably one of the cleanest provinces I have been. And contrary to the rumor that the inhabitants practice witchcraft, they are actually very nice and accommodating people.

Til next post 😀

 

 

A Week of Food Exploits

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I’ve been going around town sampling scrumptious food last week. I feel fat and bloated right now but I’m more than willing to eat good food in case anyone offers me one 😉. Where have I been? The restaurants I visited are not exactly new to the market or hidden from the public’s eye since I’ve seen them showcased in TV a few times. Without further ado, here are the restos in no particular order:

SILANTRO: Fil-Mex Cantina

Craving for nachos, quesadillas or burrito? Drop by Silantro Kapitolyo for a cheesy-meaty fix. I’ve seen this restaurant featured on TV a few times which means that the food is really that good. That’s the reason why my bestfriend and I decided to go out of our way to visit this much talked about restaurant. The place itself is not that big and it is always packed. We went there at 5pm on a weekend and almost all tables were occupied, a few more minutes and there were people waiting in line outside. That’s how popular this place is!

Since it was our first time here, we didn’t really know the serving portions. We ended up ordering beef quesadillas, beef nachos (we love beef), chicken wings and margarita for each of us. I was quite shocked when the nachos arrived since it was a monstrosity! It will be a feat finishing this one up, I thought. And we ordered two other entrees so go figure. The quesadillas were not what we were expecting too, there were two tortillas overflowing with meat and cheese (it was probably half an inch thick). I’ve never seen a quesadilla like that. I told my bestfriend that they should probably call it beef and cheese with tortilla. The chicken, well, it was quite what I was expecting.

The food is really good and it is noteworthy to add that they actually use meat chunks (probably braised since they’re really soft) for the nachos and quesadillas which is so cool (and delicious). I didn’t really like the chicken wings, they’re not exactly as tender as I like and it’s not so flavorful. The margarita was mixed just right and the alcohol isn’t that strong (i think). We didn’t finish all the food not because we didn’t like it but because there was too many for two!

The verdict? This place gets a two thumbs up!

Do I recommend the place? Yes! Be sure to get there early though, otherwise, you might wait in line for a long time. Another problem is that you’ll have to eat faster and probably have no time to socialize with whoever you are with since there are a lot of people waiting. This, I have observed, is a typical problem with restaurants in Kapitolyo. But I assure you though that the food is worth waiting in line for. Plus, it wont bust your bank! We only paid around 700 bucks for all the food and drinks we ordered and it was probably good for 3-4 persons.

Will I visit again? Definitely!

Location: East Capitol Hills Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig

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From top left to bottom right: Beef Nachos, Chicken Wings, Beef Quesadillas and Margarita

YABU: House of Katsu

 

I’ve heard this place from my brother way way back but I’ve never really gotten a chance to eat here despite them opening up a branch at The Block. And it’s because the food here is not exactly on the cheap side and right now, I’m all about cheap eats. Hehe. Anyway, a friend of mine owes me bigtime for cancelling on me quite a few times last year so when we met last Thursday for her treat, I told her that we should try Yabu. Finally!

So we were there and they gave us the menu. When I surveyed the offerings, it was indeed the house of katsu. Haha. Different types of pork, there was chicken and seafoods as well. All of them battered and deep fried. The price was stagerring, one set can cost you 570 bucks and that doesn’t include service charge. Their premier katsu set is Kurobota pork and the most expensive on the menu. I went for Rosu which they say is pork sourced from America. A katsu set comes with unlimited rice, shredded cabbage, miso soup and watermelon. After me made our order, a server approached us carrying a small bowl full of sesame seeds with a pestle. She then though us how to prepare our own katsu dipping sauce by grinding the sesame seeds then putting 2 scoops of their special sauce.

After waiting for 5-10mins, our food finally arrived. A whole tray of it. I was quite overwhelmed especially with the size of the katsu (I ordered 180g 😜). The pork was tender and flavorful, rice was perfectly cooked, cabbage and seasoning was addictive and the miso soup was soothing. One word to describe the experience: HEAVENLY. It was definitely worth the price I’m telling you.

I only had one refill of my cabbage since I was already full halfway through my meal. My tummy was busting but it was all good. My friend had seconds for her rice and a third serving of cabbage. It was that good.

The verdict? Obviously, this one passed with flying colors.

Do I recommend the place? Are you kidding me? Of course! If you’ve got the cash, why not? This is also a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

Will I visit again? Yes, when I find someone who will pay for the bill (kidding).

Location: The one I visited is at SM The Block. They have branches in SM Megamall, SM Aura, Glorietta and MOA to name a few.

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IKKORYU FUKOAKA RAMEN

Do you love ramen to the point that you dream about it? I do! I looove ramen and I’ve been on the lookout for good ramen houses here in Manila. Thank goodness for the recent increase in ramen offerings in the city, I’ve got a lot of ramen place to choose from and visit! I’m craving for ramen practically everyday so when a friend of mine told me there’s a ramen restaurant at that new mall not too far from our office I decided that we should go check it out. He forgot the name of the restaurant so we were taking a chance that it’s really good. Before we went, my friend searched it and said that the name of the place is Ikkoryu Fukoaka Ramen. I instantly flipped when I read that since I’ve read reviews of the place and an officemate told me to try it.

So on the Friday night, I set foot on the newest mall in Makati. It was pretty much empty. I think not a lot of people knows about the place at the moment. Ikkoryu is located on the 3rd floor, thankfully there was no line outside and we were seated as soon as we arrived and were given the menu. I looked at the offerings and they all looked good. Ikkoryu specializes in tonkotsu ramen and their offerings are varied types of the original. It was quite hard to choose from all of them because I want to try a lot until I finally settled on Black Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen. It was recommended and I hoped it really taste good.

It did not disappoint! When a huge bowl of ramen appeared before me, I was so freakin’ excited to dig in. One sip took me to ramen cloud 9. I opted for soft noodles and wow, their noodles was perfect. There is a piece of melt-in-your-mouth chasu served with the noodles together with wood ear, green onions, bamboo shoots and dried seaweeds. All together, it was the perfect combination. I could eat another serving of that ramen but that would be gluttony!

The verdict? Even ramen-non-believers could be converted!

Do I recommend the place? Ramen enthusiasts or not, you will love this place for sure. A bowl of ramen is a bit steep at 380 bucks up but totally worth every sip.

Will I visit again? I can live here.

Location: I visited the newest branch which is at Century City Mall in Makati. They also have branches at SM Aura, Power Plant Mall and Shangrila Plaza.

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Project Pie: Design. Build. Eat

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Pizza lovers rejoice! There is now a place where you can choose whatever topping which goes on your pizza, the sauce too! Heck, you can choose to top your pizza with loads of cheese, just cheese and that’s pretty fine! This place is Project Pie. They opened their first branch along Shaw Blvd. last year and recently opened one in Bluebay at Metropolitan Park which is along EDSA-Macapagal.

We went there on a Friday night and the place was packed! Imagine waiting in line for 30 minutes then waiting again for another 10 minutes before you can get your pizza, fresh out of the oven. It was madness! We saw a lot of people turning back when they saw the line. Not us though, we were determined to get our fill of our personally designed pizza.

Let’s go down to business now. What do they offer? That’s a no brainer right there, the menu is all pizza! You can choose to Build Your Own pizza for P285 or if you don’t really want to make your own, Order by Number among 7 variants (they don’t have names, just numbers). For weight-watchers, they also sell a few salads and for dessert, hold it…. How does Banana Nutella in a pizza pie sound? Yes, they actually have dessert pizzas!

Let’s go back to the main attraction, the Build Your Own Pizza (which is quite an experience). Once you get to the ordering area, you will see that there is a different person manning each area in the pizza production line process. One is in-charge of operating the dough pressing machine which makes the pie crust and she’s also the one who will ask you if you want white or red sauce in your pizza. After that is the cheese area, meat area and finally, the greens area. You’re not done there though, because before they bake your pizza, another person will hand you a paper with your name written on it and all the toppings that went into your pizza. Make your way to the cashier, hand over the paper and pay for your order. We realized later on that they write all the ingredients that went into your pizza to determine who owns which after baking. Tough job! I wonder if they’ve already made a mistake there? Hmmm. Anyway, once your pizza is already cooked to perfection, they will announce your name so you can claim it and you can finally dig in!

Here is the list of toppings that you can choose from:
Cheese: mozzarella/feta/gorgonzola/ricotta/parmesan
Meat: pepperoni/italian sausage/crumpled meatballs/bacon/grilled chicken/canadian bacon/prosciutto/anchovies
Greens: red onions/green bell peppers/jalapenos/cilantro/roasted red peppers/tomatoes/caramelized onions/fresh mushrooms/garlic/rosemary/pineapple/artichokes/freshly chopped basil/black olives

You can also add Pesto and BBQ sauce if you want.

What’s the verdict? Since I chose my own ingredients, I’d say my pizza tasted pretty good. The crust is also nice and crunchy (thin crust). I’d probably steer clear of the crumpled meat balls (really not that tasty) and the garlic too (no scent or taste whatsoever) next time. Everything else was okay though.

Do I recommend the place?
Yes, but only to those who really likes to try new places. This place is quite hip and I think will hit it off well with younger people. Not exactly for those who are very impatient due to long lines/waiting time.

Will I visit again?
Yes. I love pizza.

Location:
Bluebay Walk, EDSA-Macapagal

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One day getaway to Baguio

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A friend of mine recently got married in Baguio and I was invited to witness their union. This gave me a reason to visit the City of Pines once again and enjoy the cool climate. Baguio is a 6-hour bus ride from Manila, however, we were greeted by what seemed like endless road works along the way which prolonged the trip.

Since we arrived later than expected, we had to rush to the hotel to change into formal clothes for the wedding. It turned out that we weren’t late though since the bride’s pictorial session was extended. After the wedding ceremony at Baguio Cathedral, we made our way to Baguio Country Club for the reception. It’s my first time there and the place looks amazing.

What transpired after the wedding is a series of events I never thought we could pull off since we had very limited time, 13 hours to our ETD to be exact. We went back to the hotel after the reception and arrived around 10pm. After freshening up and changing our clothes, we went back outside to hunt for a good place to chill. It was late in the evening but there are still a some people on the streets which kept me at ease. Enjoying the cool weather, we made our way to Session Road on foot and spotted a bar with an acoustic band performing. The Bohemian is the name the place and it is located at one of the side streets along Session Road. We shared a bucket of beer among us, chatted and sang with the band as the night passed. While making our way back to the hotel, we saw a night market and decided to check it out after that we had some good ‘ol “isaw” (grilled chicken intestines) from a hawker near our hotel. But we didn’t go back to the hotel just yet! There is this store selling “lugaw” (rice porridge) across the hotel and we ate there before calling it a night.

The next day was a breeze! After washing up and having breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and made our way to Good Shepherd, this is where they sell the famous Ube of Baguio and some other good stuff. I didn’t go there for the Ube though since I wanted Angel Cookies and Alfajor! Satisfied with our purchase, we checked out some fruit vendors outside Good Shepherd and I bought some huge Sagada Oranges for my brother. We made our way to Mines View Park on foot and took some pictures in the view deck. Since it was almost noon after our trip to Mines View Park, we hailed a cab and made our way to Sizzling Plate (which is only across our hotel) to grab some lunch. They offer mostly steak and other types of meat. I had Australian Rib-eye and wasn’t dissapointed especially because the price is only P250! Since we could still squeeze some sightseeing before heading to the bus terminal and Burnham Park is only a few minutes walk from the hotel, we decided to walk there and take some pictures. We made our way to the bus terminal 40 minutes before our reserved time and arrived 35 minutes before the departure time. While the sitting on the bus and waiting for the other passengers, I realized that we had exactly 24 hours in Baguio and we were able to make the most out of it. Who knew we would be able to enjoy the trip even though we had a very short stay? It was time well spent indeed and worth the 14 hour back and forth bus ride! I’ll be back some other time Baguio!

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Bullchef

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Since I wanted to start off the year trying out new restaurants and posting my review on my blog, this is probably the best time to announce that I’ll be posting monthly installments about food under the subject, Foodgasmic. To start off, here’s my very first post on the subject and I hope my love of food will rub off onto my readers as well 😉.

What’s with the title? No, I’m not cursing you. Bullchef is one of the quaint eateries that I recently visited in Kapitolyo. I was able to learn about this place through a GMA News TV’s Poptalk. Their specialty, brace yourself… BULALO! *drool* thus the name Bullchef which is short for Bulalo Chef. Yes, when I heard and saw the bulalo footages on TV, I know right away that I’m bound to visit the place. With no hesitations even though I’m still trying to lose the holiday weight gain, I set off to Kapitolyo, Pasig.

My first impression when I saw the place is that it looks like your typical
hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The interior is simple with only the basic wooden tables and chairs, the walls covered with pictures of celebrities among others and on another wall is a cool graffiti of Bull Chef.

When they gave me the menu, true enough, most of the dishes that they serve are variations of bulalo. I already know what to order even before coming to the place. In Poptalk, they had asimBULL or Sinigang na Bulalo, intrigued by the dish I decided to give it a go. A serving of asimBULL is good for 2 persons and is served with 2 cups of rice. All for the costs of only 225 pesos! Not bad, eh? After a few mintues, a steaming bowl of soup with various vegetables was served and it didn’t disappoint. The soup was flavorful and doesn’t need additional condiments. There was a good serving of bulalo meat inside and they are very generous on the vegetables. The best part, the soup also comes with a bone marrow! Come to think of it, it isn’t bulalo without a bone marrow!

Do I recommend the place?
Yes. Not for those who are hypertensive or on a diet though.

Will I come again?
Definitely! I’ll try the original bulalo next time 😄

For the menu list, you may visit: Zomato

Location: 4 East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City

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