Farmstay at Numana

Kubo at Numana Farm

I have always been keen on spending a weekend in a farm, so when I found the opportunity for a farmstay through Numana Farm in Facebook, I reached out to them right away. The farm is in Angat, Bulacan – close to where I grew up when I was a kid. It’s the Angat Dam and about an half an hour away (with traffic) from La Mesa Dam – so it’s pretty much located in a place filled with trees. Coordination with the owners of the farm was smooth and fast, and they even helped me reach out to the manager of the Hound Haven Philippines, a non-government organization whose advocacy is caring for and looking for forever homes for retired K9 dogs from the Philippine Army. Hound Haven is located in the same compound as Numana Farm.

After a bit of an impromptu adventure (in other words, we got lost), we finally found the farm. I got all excited as soon as I saw the kubo we were going to stay at for the weekend. Kubo is the traditional Filipino hut mostly made of bamboo and cogon, a tall tropical grass which is dried to create the kubo’s roof. You see, when I was young, my dad had a kubo built next to our house, and I have a lot of good fun momories of playing with my siblings and friends in our kubo.

Numana Farm’s Kubo experience
Numana Farm’s Kubo experience

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Here’s our room in the kubo – check out the kulambo, the net enclosing the bed. The kulambo used to be widely used especially in the province, as it protects people in the bed from mosquitos and bugs. I remember when I was a child, I felt suffocated sleeping in the kulambo when we visited relatives in the province. Now I find it dream-like to sleep in a kulambo, as if I am in a princess’ bed.

Numana Farm, home for the weekend
Numana Farm, home for the weekend

A rustic retreat a couple hours away from the city
A rustic retreat a couple hours away from the city

And here’s the view from the kubo’s balcony, overlooking the farm. In the farm there are various animals like hens and chicks walking around, rabbits, turtles and fish in the koi.

Weekend farm feels
Weekend farm feels

View from the kubo porchKubo stairsWhat I like most about Numana is the relaxing vibe, being close to nature, and the childhood memories it brought me. I was able to use one of their bicycles which I drove to get to the nearby Three Lucky Mountains Dragonfruit Farm. I also enjoyed the swing and the duyan. I remember back in my hometown, my lola had a playground built for me and my cousins, and everyday we would ride the swing.Farm directionsThis bunny at Numana reminds me of little OliveKoi at Numana Farm

At night, I heard the sound of geckos and crickets. In the morning, I woke up to not just the sound of chirping, but literally a symphony of birds. My attention was also caught by the hoard of butterflies flying from one flower to another of a tree – it was mesmerizing!

And that, my dear friends, is a recap of a restful, laidback weekend at Numana Farm. It’s truly a hidden gem, a breath of fresh air, a couple of hours away from Makati City. I’d do this again in a heartbeat.

Numana Farm is located at Pulang Yatok, 3012 Angat Bulacan. To book a stay with Numana, you can send them a message in Facebook, or you can find them in AirBnB to book a casita or a kubo room.

 

 

 

Weekend Market: Street Meet, Makati

Sunday market

Have always been curious about Makati’s Street Meet, a weekend night market at Paseo De Roxas. I kept seeing the teasers posted around Ayala Triangle whenever I walked from and to the hotel during an long staycation a month ago. For some reason the plan on dropping by kept being put on the back burner.

Finally last Sunday D and I were able to check it out. Street Meet Makati was set up right beside the Ayala Triangle park, in front of Paseo Center. A part of the street was closed off to traffic to allow for the different stalls. The mood was quite festive: Christmas songs were being played and the Christmas lights show was happening at the same time at the Ayala Triangle which added to the fun. Luckily most of the crowd was at the lights show. It was just us foodies hopping from one stall to another at the Street Meet.

Sunday market

There were various stalls to choose from, most of them offering free taste or samples. The first food that we bought was the Korean fish cake with soup – reminded me of the street food in Seoul. D got isaw, a local barbecue delicacy made of fish intestines. We also had takoyaki and coconut juice. For takeaway we bought frozen vegetarian gyoza and dimsums, and chili sauce. I wanted to buy bibingka, a local baked rice and coconut milk cake that is abundantly sold during the month of December. I ended up dropping the idea when the seller gave me a tired look and asked me to fall in line (when there was no one else). Oh well, that means I have to be on the hunt for a good platter of bibingka from elsewhere. Will let you know when I find em!

Street Meet items

VegFest 2018

Vegan

Yesterday was my first time to go to the Veg Fest held at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City. A couple of years ago I skipped this. I remember seeing the booths when I used to work in Eastwood in Quezon City, and I was just so busy I couldn’t spend time checking it out. This year, after volunteering at PETA I had the chance of not only being able to go to the 3rd annual Veg Fest, but also taking part and manning the PETA kiosk for a few hours. I started at 8AM and helped distribute the Vegan starter magazine, some stickers and flyers; talked to people dropping by inquiring about the animal adoptables, and the different animal campaigns; and putting on temporary tattooes. PETA

I’ve cut off all kinds of red meat from my diet since 2011, after watching the movie Contagion (there was a short scene there that pulled my heartstrings – big time). Lately, I’ve transitioned to a more plant-based diet and it’s getting kind of boring because I keep making the same food over and over again. One of the challenges I have is the distance I had to go to be able to get some of my ingredients. They are not readily available at our neighborhood supermarket or at the nearby convenience stores. If I opt to skip cooking and just buy my meals, I’d also have to go far because not all restaurants nearby offer plant-based food. Sometimes I would daydream about the vegan burgers I’ve eaten in my travels abroad. We don’t have that many options here in the Philippines. Yet. So I was so happy when some people at the Veg Fest approached me asking me to sign a petition to include plant based options in Philippine fastfood chains and restaurants. I signed the petition of course, no questions asked.

Man, I was overwhelmed by the food options at the Veg Fest. They were so many, how was I to choose, knowing I get so full easily? I had to walk around two times to be able to decide – every time I go to a new stall I see something that beats the one/s I initially thought I’d get for my lunch. After much deliberation I ended up getting laing (dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk) and veggie barbeques. I also got a bottle of Diwa Kombucha (strawberry flavor this time), some veggie chips and a scoop of dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream. For my takeaway, I bought frozen pizza so I can pop them in the oven before binging on Netflix. Stalls

In the Veg Fest there were also some stalls by animal welfare groups just like PETA. I was able to go to the CARA booth; and the ARF (Animal Rescue Family) Manila. There were also activities like talks and yoga.

I’m so glad to being part of the Veg Fest and look forward to more of these. This motivated me to check out the Mandala Park which is done Sundays at Mandaluyong – I was told there’s a lot of food options there too. What I saw from the Veg Fest also inspired me to learn more recipes so I can add more variety to my homecooked meals.

Two Days in San Diego

sunset

My first week during my 1-month visit to the United States was spent with my mom at my Aunt Noellie’s home in San Fernando Valley, California. I got to explore Los Angeles and Malibu, and we drove for about 3 hours to visit San Diego.

Because we were pressed for time, we booked somewhere near the Marina and the Balboa Park so we could be near these two destinations. We checked in at the Hyatt beside the Seaport Village and I was fascinated by the view from our hotel room – we just had to stop for a cup of tea, while taking in the beautiful midday view. viewview

After checking in our stuff at the hotel, off we drove to the Balboa Park. It was a big interactive park with lots of things to do and to discover. It was a busy Saturday too, and there were lots of people having a picnic, playing at the park, or walking around exploring like us.

From where we parked we walked past the San Diego Air and Space Museum (couldn’t miss the jet displayed at the museum’s front); had a peek at the Starlight Bowl theatre; and walked into some countries’ houses in the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Here I read through the different countries’ information and browsed the items on exhibit. Germany

Germany Cottage

Afterwards, we had lunch at The Prado. We waited to be seated for about 5 minutes which wasn’t so bad given how busy that afternoon was. I was immediately impressed by the restaurant’s interiors. I liked my sandwich and greek salad. Lunch wouldnt’t be complete without a glass of their sangria which was a bit strong (but good!) for me. The Prado was located in The House of Hospitality – one of the most honored structures in Balboa Park which was built in 1915, using Spanish Baroque style. A few meters away from the resto is the lovely Japanese Friendship Garden. Balboa

The House of Hospitality

Sangria

Sangria and lunch at The Prado
Japanese Garden

When we headed back to the hotel after lunch, my mom, aunt and uncle opted to rest and have their afternoon nap. I, on the other hand, needed to complete my ten thousand steps for that day so I walked to the Seaport Village. I liked the quaint little shops, cafes and restaurants in the Seaport Village. I kept walking and eventually reached the U.S.S. San Diego Memorial sculpture by Eugene Daub and Louis Quaintance. It was an artwork in commemoration of the U.S.S. San Diego and her crew who played a big role using courage and selflessness during the World War II. Seaport VillageSeaport Village

A few hundred meters more, I reached the bronze monument dedicated to Clifton A.F. Sprague; and then the kissing statue called Unconditional Surrender. When I was a child I saw a photo of a this in my dad’s coffee table book. Clifton A.F Sprague memorialkissing statue

Close by is the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military – a cluster of sculptures with a recording of Bob Hope’s speech being continiously played. It was almost dusk when I got to this place and the view of the sunset was spectacular.Navy Pier

The next day I woke up early and had a bit of a walk to go to Little Italy. I went to attend service at a nice little church called Our Lady of the Rosary. It had beautifully painted ceilings.church

When we checked out of the hotel I brought the folks to the Unconditional Surrender, and we drove off to have lunch at National City where there were several Filipino restaurants clustered together.

If you liked what I’ve written on this post, check my other trips in North America: Montreal, Chicago, and Turkey Run State Park.

Day Trip to Turkey Run State Park, IN

woodlands

During my recent trip to Chicago, I grabbed the opportunity to meet up with a good friend from way back, Roselle. Two decades ago, when we were still at the University,  we became close when we joined an academic organization, and since them she and I shared an apartment until we graduated. A few years after we started working, she and her husband moved to the US, and we kept in touch through social media. We met up every several years thereafter when she would visit the Philippines. I was so excited I get to be the one to visit her this time.

Before we met, Roselle asked me what I would like to do for the weekend. I asked if we could do something that involved exploring the outdoors. She said she’d bring me to the Turkey Run State Park in Indiana – it’s where her family goes to regularly to trek. It sounded enticing, so I said let’s do it!

So on a Friday night, she picked me up after my paint party at Park Ridge, IL. We drove to her home in St. John, IN. We had an early start the next Saturday morning, where we drove a couple of hours (108 miles) from St. John to Marshall, IN. We arrived at the Turkey State Park at 11 o’clock in the morning – Marshall had a one hour difference from our point of origin.

It was a beautiful day – the weather was perfect for walking – even though it was late spring/early summer, it was not yet too hot, and the shades of the trees was enough to keep us cool.

As per the park’s map, there were 11 trails – each having different levels of ruggedness. We planned to take Trails 3 and 5. The map said that Trail 3 was very rugged, and was 1.7 miles long. Trail 5 was moderate, and was 0.7 miles long.

So off we went, and crossed the footbridge over Sugar Creek. I watched people canoeing and swimming in the water.

I had to be careful of my steps as we passed through the ravines of Trail 3. There were steep and rough rocks at the trail, with some parts having water passing through. There were small pretty falls because it was still late spring. I was told in a few weeks they would dry up in time for summer. I met some furry friends along the way – one of them had to be carried by the fur-parent as they climbed up a rock.

We passed through lush woodlands for Trail 5. I love how the sun would peak through the canopy of the trees. There was hardly any people in that trail – the place was peaceful and quiet, and left me to my imagination. Several times while walking I would imagine I was an actor in a scene in movies that crossed my mind – mainly involving forests.

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trail through the woods

It took us about 3 hours to finish the trails – because along the way we got lost and ended up doing some parts of Trail 9. At the campsite we rested under the trees, munching on light snacks and refreshments. We headed off shortly after and had barbecue with Roselle’s friends at a small park halfway through St. John.

It was a fun, tiring day – and what better way exploring the beautiful outdoors than to spend it with a good old friend! We had some giggles reminiscing college days, and I’m happy Roselle and I got to spend time together during this trip. It’s the simple things like this that I cherish the most. Rosel6

 

 

 

Five Faves from a blissful weekend in Sagada

backyard

Sagada – the beautiful place on top of the mountains that’s so far away – 456 kilometers from where I live to be exact. About 9 hours’ nonstop drive – that is, if there would be no traffic jams. And light traffic is quite rare when going through the streets of Metro Manila. My only challenges in going is that one, D wouldn’t drive that far (not with the traffic), and two, I’ve seen discouraging news about landslides and road accidents affecting folks going to or back from Sagada.

Yet, Sagada constantly beckons. Its lush mountains, caves, clear streams, organic food, picturesque surroundings are just too hard to resist.  So, having checked the weather forecast, I looked for tour packages from Manila, and booked a trip for my brother and me. We got a 3 days/2 nights tour package on a good deal. We left by van at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, and woke up in the far north of Luzon on Saturday morning. We were supposed to have breakfast at Banaue Rice Terraces, at the Ifugao Province, but we got stuck in a traffic jam en route to Banaue that morning. Wikipedia describes Banaue Rice Terraces as “occassionally called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World‘”. It’s majestic views were even used in the Avengers: Infinity War movie ending, where *spoiler alert!!!* Thanos was enjoying the view from his hut one fine day after he wiped out half the universe’s population. Remember that scene? That background was the Banaue Rice Terraces.

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Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao

Oops, I digress. Anyway, our van reached Sagada at around 2PM that Saturday. So much for the 9 hours’ drive. We were relieved and excited – we were finally there! Our first stop was at a restaurant. Our late lunch included veggies and brown/red rice that Sagada is known for. At the backyard of that resto was old Igorot hut. It was awesome!

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old Igorot hut

After lunch, we checked in to our hostel. The rest of the folks in our tour opted to go to the spelunking activity. My brother and I stayed behind and explored the town instead. We reviewed must go to places in Sagada town and checked them out.

These are the places in Sagada that are my favorites, and I highly recommend them all.

Sagada Lemon Pie House

I loved the concept of the restaurant. Guests can choose between sitting on the floor or on short stools. We were surprised to see that they sell their lemon pie and tea for cheap price. A slice of lemon pie costs 30 pesos (around 60 US cents); and a cup of tea costs 20 pesos (around 40 US cents). The lemon tea was sweet, and the mountain tea had a gingery taste to it. I preferred the mountain tea over the lemon tea. As for the lemon pie – it was simply delicious! I guess that’s why the resto was named after this specialty, right? I saw a sign at the counter saying it’s best to order the pies in advance as they sometimes run out of stock. I’m not surprised.

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Sagada Lemon Pie and tea

Yoghurt House

We read good reviews about this place. We had a bit of a wait when we got there as there was a queue. I’m not really into yogurt (I like kombucha more), so I’m relaying what my brother thought about it. He liked his yogurt, and the price was also affordable. For a healthy daily dose of probiotics, this place is worth checking out.

Strawberry Cafe

I did see strawberries grown in their garden, but for some reason I did not see any strawberry cake in their menu. I asked the owner and they did have it – it just wasn’t listed. My brother and I shared one huge slice which we bought for only 80 pesos (around US $1.60). Wow the cake was so good! It was not too sweet and the strawberries were fresh. If I had not just eaten late lunch and a slice of lemon pie I would have loved to have another slice of the strawberry cake. I’ve looked far and wide for this taste, and Sagada is where I found it.

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Home grown strawberries at the Strawberry Cafe, Sagada

Sagada Market

Just like what I did when I was in Baguio, I brought eco-bags during the trip to Sagada because I anticipated some marketing to be done. I was going to the vegetable capital after all, so why not make the most out of it. I was delirious with the low prices of the merchandise in the market that I ended up asking my brother to carry some of the items in his bag for me. I bought persimmons, mountain tea, sweet potato, broccoli, and other vegetables. I wanted to get more but I remembered my commute back in Manila when I get home. So I bought only what I (and my brother) could carry. Oh, if we only drove in our car!

Sagada Brew

Went here the next day for a quick breakfast. Their service was impeccable, and they offered a wide variety of food choices at reasonable prices. Of course, being named Sagada Brew, I expected their coffee to be good. It surely did not disappoint. Interesting what came with my wheat bread toast was something that looked like kimchi but tasted like jam. I think it’s their homemade strawberry preserve. It was so yum!

Echo Valley and The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

Just walking distance to the main road of the Sagada town center is the entrance to the cemetery. An interesting trivia about the cemetery is during All Souls Day (which is today, 2 November), people remembering their dead light up acorns instead of candles.

We walked past the cemetery to get to the Echo valley.  Echo valley is a beautiful place – cool weather, fresh air, nice scenery. The only downside when we went here with a tour group on a Sunday was that there were so many other tour groups that came with us. We could not take a decent photo because people were lined up and taking their time to get their selfies and different poses taken.

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overlooking view of the Echo valley

After the Echo valley we took a short trek going to the hanging coffins. On the first landing I saw 18 hanging coffins. Our guide told us that anyone who has reached at least 100 years old can be buried through the hanging coffins. The most recent one was placed there in 2010. Some of the coffins were small because these were for bodies who were ‘buried’ in fetal pose – there is a belief that since they were born in the fetal pose, then that is the way they will leave the world. Along the short coffins were chairs which are called death chairs (hope I remember it right). This is where the bodies were prepared prior to ‘burying’. The longer coffins are for the ones who have been Christianized.
On burial day, the coffins are hang first, before the bodies are put in.

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The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

After the first landing, we went further down to see other coffins placed way up higher.  My brother and I were just amazed at how our ancestors were able to apply this practice and maintain the tradition throughout the ages.

We took a different way back where we passed through a clear stream and a cave. It was quite fun walking through the cool waters of the stream (and trying hard to maintain balance). img_5537

There you have it, my five favorite places in Sagada. People who might have already visited Sagada would probably ask why I did not include Kiltepan. This is where people go to very early in the morning to get a view of the beautiful sunrise (just like the Sunrise Tour that I did in Borobudur). When we went, the sun failed to show up as it was masked by clouds. I was a bit disheartened at Kiltepan because it was packed with hundreds of people and I saw a lot of tourists littering.

Overall, Sagada is one of my favorite travel destinations in Luzon. I would love to go back, so I will persuade D to schedule a tour so we can drive there – on a sunny weekday so we can get away from the crowd. I really hope that Sagada will not be commercialized and that its beauty, simplicity, serenity and cleanliness can be preserved. It truly is spectacular as it is now.

 

 

Day Walks at the Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria

Wilsons Prom

Recently I went with my sister and brother-in-law for an out of town weekend trip to Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria, or as it is more commonly called Wilsons Prom. We drove 230 kilometers from Melbourne (around 3 and a half hours) to the southernmost tip of Australia’s main island.

Our first stop was at the Whisky Bay, where we walked up a trail of about 500 meters to get to the viewing deck. It was windy and cold at the time, but I was just astounded by the beautiful view of the beach and the gigantic waves. There was only a handful of people in the area which allowed me to contemplate more during that walk.

Whisky Bay
Whisky Bay at Wilson’s Prom

Next we went to the Visitor Centre to get a map of the different trails. I read through a lot of information about Wilsons Prom in the Visitor Centre. There is also a souvenir shop and a convenience store next to it. The highlight of that short stopover at the Visitor Centre was the flock of colorful birds lounging around, like the Crimson Rosellas and Laughing Kookaburras. There was this especially playful juvenile Crimson Rosella that instantly felt close to me – that he literally perched on my shoulder and my head! It was so funny, and at the moment I missed my doggies at home. Animals are so awesome (and charmingly cheeky at times)!

On our drive to the next trail, we had to slow down because of some animals crossing. In this photo there was a couple of emus crossing the road as we were about to park for our next trail: the Wildlife Walk.

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Emu crossing

The Wildlife Walk was a trail that took about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Here, we saw several kangaroos eating their afternoon snack. We were really hoping to get a glimpse of wombats, but since they are nocturnal and shy animals, we didn’t see any (even when my sister and brother-in-law went back to the trail the next day). The closest that we could see to a wombat was the entrance to their burrows and their poop.

Although overnight camping can be done at Wilsons Prom (so as long as a permit is secured at the Visitor Centre), we opted to drive to the nearby town of Foster and stayed at the Prom Country Lodge. The owners of the lodge also run a cafe called Cafe Max, named after their lovable labrador retriever named Max. Being the good host that he was, Max the labrador greeted me when I asked the cafe owners what time dinner was to be served.

The next morning, we drove to our next trail: Miller’s Landing. Kangaroos were having breakfast as we parked the car. Miller’s Landing trail was an easy 2 kilometers walk where we passed through lush greens and trees to get to the Corner Inlet Conservation Reserve. We ended at the beach to watch birds and look at the mangroves. It was a lovely morning walk for our healthy dose of sunshine. Again, no walk was complete without us attempting to see a wombat – which as usual ended with us only seeing the entrance to their burrows.

Going back to the city we had lunch at one of the towns at a quaint restaurant called The Rusty Windmill. I enjoyed a latte, scones, and my mixed vegetable curry with apple chutney and yogurt.

Some things that we kept in mind during our visit to Wilsons Prom: to do an overnight hiking a permit needed to be secured; no dogs, cats and other animals allowed; no feeding or interfering with the wild; respecting the surroundings and the creatures at all times. Wilsons Prom is also surrounded by marine protected areas.

Five Faves in Baguio

Camp John Hay

Back in the day, Baguio was considered a summer destination. Because it is located at a higher elevation, it is cooler there than in Metro Manila. But then, a trip to Baguio took a longer time of planning and preparation – because the drive was about 8 hours. Now, thanks to the new highways connecting Manila to the northern part of Luzon, driving to Baguio takes normally just about a little over 4 hours.

D was always hesitant to go because he had been hearing horror stories about the bad traffic and the pollution. After months of convincing he finally agreed to drive with me to Baguio provided we go on a Sunday (with the hopes that tourists coming up for a weekend getaway would be going home to Manila by then) and I have to book a hotel away from the city center. I reserved our rooms right away before he could even change his mind.

So very early Sunday morning we drove northbound, enjoyed the views of rice paddies, took a couple of stops for breakfast and took photos of Mt. Arayat and some bridges.

We checked in at Forest House Bed and Breakfast, which was a close drive to Camp John Hay. Our room was cozy with an overlooking view of their backyard garden.

Bencab Museum

This was our first stop, because I cannot get enough of museums. And pretty much because it was also the farthest from the city so we drove there first. Bencab Musuem exhibits the works and collections of Ben Cabrera, a National Artist, renowned for his Philippine contemporary art. If not for D, I would have spent a whole day admiring the different paintings and artwork. We also spent time appreciating the view of their garden and koi, and the adjacent hills.

The Bell House

Walking inside Camp John Hay was reminiscent of what I saw Baguio as when I was a child. Though there are new establishments, it was not crowded and I am glad the place is still filled with hundreds of pine trees.

Inside Camp John Hay is The Bell House. My understanding is that it used to be a residence when the Philippines was still a colony of the USA. Nowadays it stands as a museum. It has an amphitheater next to it, which was beautifully lined with flowering plants. I had fun taking photos of the amphitheater.

The Bell House is big and the atmosphere inside was light and airy. D and I began exploring the house going separate ways. I was amazed at how the furniture was maintained and preserved. As I walked out the patio I pretended I was living in the 50s and wondered how I could have made each day productive without my gadgets back then.

There was also a secret garden next to The Bell House. I can’t recall if it was called ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’. We were just told by the museum staff to check it out so we did. It felt almost magical as I walked through the garden, with trees and mist enveloping us.

Baguio Market

A visit to Baguio will not be complete without going to the market at the city center. Sure, it was crowded, but it wasn’t as crowded as, say, Mall of Asia or Megamall on a payday weekend sale. We could still walk comfortably around, though we had to be careful of our belongings because we had to, as signs around the market would say, Beware of Pickpockets.

We bought vegetables and fruit, which sell much cheaper in Baguio compared to Manila. I was able to get all my salad ingredients here. For fruit we got strawberries and native berries. We also bought jam and ube (purple yam). We took a Grabcar on our way from and back to the b&b because this is one part of the trip that D would not have the patience driving to. Traffic wasn’t bad but parking would have been.

Diplomat Hotel

Now going here entailed use of our car. Atop Dominican Hill is the old and abandoned Diplomat Hotel. The spooky facade and the mist surrounding the place makes it a popular go to by tourists seeking some ‘scary’ thrills. Its history is narrated next to the entrance. It was built by the Dominicans as a vacation house on 1913. It was then converted to a school and named Colegio Del Santissimo Rosario from 1915-1918. During WWII it served as a refuge for families and Dominican priests from 1942-1945. In 1945, the Japanese used it as their last stand until it was bombed by the Americans. After reconstruction, it became the Diplomat Hotel which operated from 1973-1987.

Laperal White House

Since we were in the mood for scares we also went to the Laperal Guest House. We passed this anyway as we headed to the Pink Sisters’ Convent and Chapel. One wouldn’t miss this mysterious-looking old white house. I heard ghost stories about this place, even saw some documentaries about it many Halloweens ago. Unfortunately they were closed at that time so we weren’t able to get in. Pink Sisters’ Convent

So those are my five favorite spots in Baguio. I’d say it was worth driving to, and though it wasn’t as secluded and pristine it was decades ago, I was still able to enjoy the sights, the food and the cool temperature with my D.

Take Me Back to El Nido

Secret Beach

“I’m moving, I’m coming. Can you hear what I hear? It’s calling you, my dear, out of reach. Take me to my beach. I can hear it calling you. I’m coming, not drowning swimming closer to you.” – All Saints, Pure Shores

Yes, the beaches of El Nido had been calling me for years. I have always been keen on going, but I was just waiting for the right time – in other words, a seat sale. You see, direct flights between Manila and El Nido are usually expensive, and as far as I know there is only 1 airline (AirSwift) that flies direct. A cheaper alternative is flying to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, which is 230 kilometers away from El Nido. From Puerto Princesa, it would be another 5 to 9 hours’ land travel to El Nido.  So when earlier this year AirSwift announced a limited offer seat sale, I immediately booked tickets.

Sunblock, shades, and swimsuits in my backpack, I excitedly went to NAIA Terminal 4 for our weekend getaway. The flight to El Nido was smooth and took less than an hour. El Nido airport was a charm on its own. It was simple, clean and had a modern Asian architecture.

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AirSwift airlines at El Nido airport

Day 1: Getting around by motorbike

Public transportation in El Nido can be quite expensive, especially if one wants to roam the different beaches. For us to get to our Corong Corong beachfront bungalow from the airport, we paid 300 pesos (US$6) for a 30 minute ride. When I was doing my research, I read that daily rental of tricycles to be able to get around El Nido can cost up to P1,500 (US$30).

It’s good that my husband is an adventurer, and whenever we go to beaches in the Philippines the first item on his list is to rent a motorbike. We have done this in Batanes and Baler and he is comfortable getting lost and finding our way (so as long as we have enough gas left in the tank!). We rented a motorbike for 500 pesos for a day, and headed off to our 3 main beach destinations.

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The bike we rented to explore El Nido, Day 1

Nacpan Beach

Nacpan is 20 kilometers north of El Nido town proper. It is a beautiful 4 km long white sand beach that has a “twin” called Calitang Beach. Prior to our trip, I have read several raves from tourists citing Nacpan as the most beautiful beach in the world for them.

The beach was almost empty that afternoon. There are several restaurants next to the parking space. We had lunch at the Mad Monkey hostel and bar, where we had a nice view of the beach and the coconut trees. Everyone in the restaurant was friendly and relaxed. At the bar, there was a ‘Pacquiao Punch (Do It For Your Country) contest’ that looked like fun – they had a running tally of which guests from what country had the most number of shots. I wish we could drop by at night and join in on the party, if only Nacpan just wasn’t so far away. At that time, the country leading the ‘contest’ was Canada….

Duli Beach

Next stop was Duli Beach, considered to be a surfer’s destination in El Nido because of the huge waves. This is by far, the most beautiful and secluded beach for me in El Nido, and we had the long stretch of white sand lined with coconut trees all to ourselves.

It is northeast of Nacpan, 14 kilometers away. It was not easy to access. We stopped several times to ask for directions, and the dirt road was narrow. Because we drove through rough roads, it took us 30 minutes by motorbike.  Driving to this paradise alone was an adventure, and I’m happy we braved through almost crashing through the mud because this beach was just awesome!

Duli
We had the beach all to ourselves!

We hung out inside a ‘kubo’ (Filipino word for ‘hut) and drank juice from a freshly picked coconut.  We got to chat with a regular surfer and he said that the best months to surf are from November to April.  I hope that Duli Beach will not be commercialized – its raw beauty is astounding as it is.

Marimegmeg Beach

After heading back to our B&B in Corong Corong and resting for an hour, we headed out again for late afternoon drinks and dinner. The locals referred us to go to Las Cabanas for a perfect view of the sunset. We learned that Las Cabanas is also called Marimegmeg Beach, just a few hundred meters away from where we were staying. It was a downhill hike from where we were parked. There were many bars and restaurants in the area, and the Sun Bar caught our interest because of the lively vibe and good music. Everyone secured a spot facing the sea while enjoying their drinks. The sunset, I must say, was spectacular. Vibrant colors of pink, violet, orange, and yellow filled the sky – it’s the picture perfect sunset, like the ones I try hard to paint (but have never succeeded in completing yet).

Beachsunset
Sunset at the Las Cabanas beach

Day 2: Island Tour – Tour C

Island tours are popular in El Nido. Below are the most popular tours, along with the price per person at the time I was there:

Tour A (P1,200 or US$22) – a 7-hour tour with the following destinations: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island , and 7 Commando Beach

Tour B: (P1,300 or US$24) – a 7-hour tour with the following destinations: Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave and a snorkeling activity

Tour C: (P1,400 or US$26) – a 7-hour tour with the following destinations: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach

The tours include buffet lunch, snorkeling equipment and bottled water for drinking. I asked the locals what tour they recommend, and most of them answered Tour C. So, yep, that’s what I signed up for.

On Day 2, my husband and I were picked up from our B&B and we headed to Bacuit Bay at the El Nido town. This is where our tour commenced from. There were several boats filled with tourists like us, and most of them were headed out for Tours A and B. Our boat for Tour C only had 4 pairs of guests – which was good because we were not crowded. For safety, were all required to wear our life vests at all times.

Helicopter Island got its name because the island was shaped like a helicopter. Its real name is Dilumacad Island. We spent about 20 minutes snorkeling here. The water was clear and I saw a lot of fish. After snorkeling, I had fresh coconut juice. It was so refreshing!

All 8 of us in the boat opted to skip Matinloc shrine as it required a bit of a hike and additional payment. So we hung out on the Star Beach, and snorkeled some more while our tour guide and captain cooked lunch. We had a sumptuous meal on the boat (and I had another fresh coconut juice, because I just couldn’t get enough of it).

For the Secret Beach and Hidden Beach, we swam in deep water about a hundred meters to get to the beach. The beach could have been beautiful if not for the big crowd – turned out they’re not so secret after all. It pained me to see some of the tourists step on the corals of the Hidden Beach. I wish this part of the tour could be skipped altogether to preserve the corals.

Boodle Fight Restaurant (and B&B)

After the 7 hour trip, we headed to our new B&B at the Boodle Fight Resto & Bar. They offered a simple room with private bath and WIFI, and their food options from the restaurant were yummy. The owners of this B&B were very helpful and friendly. They are located along the main road of Corong Corong and was close to other restaurants and establishments. I found my kombucha drink at an organic store close to the B&B. What I liked about the store is they promoted recycling, and asked for me to return my bottle after I finished my drink.

Day 3: Lio Beach

On our last day, we rented a tricycle to get to the El Nido airport. Our driver was kind enough to let us stop over at the Lio Beach which was close to the airport, while he waited at the parking lot. Lio was more commercialized, but was empty at that time. There were several restaurants in the resort, and this is so far only place I have been to in El Nido that accepted credit card payments for our quick lunch.

Lio
Lio Beach and pier

Everything I’ve written so far are the good things about El Nido, right? If I’m asked what are the cons of going to El Nido, I can only think of 2: sand flies and the looming commercialization. First, the sand flies, which I realized only on Day 3 (via the signs at Lio Beach). I noticed bug bites at the end of Days 1 and 2 and thought all along they were mosquito bites and they were soooo itchy. As for the looming commercialization, I say this because I saw some ongoing construction on the island. In Nacpan and Duli Beach, we were asked for parking fee and ‘entrance’ fee by locals. The price was not the issue, it was just fishy for me because they did not issue any receipts at all. I don’t know what those ‘fees’ were for, really.

As for the majority of our El Nido trip, I can say, hand on my heart, that it truly is more fun in the Philippines. I can’t wait to go back to this beautiful place, and I wish that its beauty and simplicity will be preserved. It would break my heart if it becomes another Boracay. I hope not.

To book with AirSwift, check out their website at https://air-swift.com/. To book a room with Boodle Fight Resto & Bar, check out their Facebook page here. And lastly, for more information on Duli Beach, check out their Facebook page here.