My Instant Family in Ho Chi Minh City

The Situation

I had a good job back in the Philippines, the pay was adequate, too, but I felt that there’s something missing, something I have yet to find. Purpose? Mission? Maybe. Love life? We’ll see. I have thought long and hard and decided to risk everything. So I quit my job and packed my bags for the “greener pasture.” There’s only one plan – that is, to land a job in Singapore before my tourist visa expires. 24 days later, I was still funemployed at the most expensive city in the world. You’ve read that wrong – it should be f’ing unemployed. But don’t curse, kids. Leave it to the adults, especially the jobless. Anyway, I needed to exit and so I booked the cheapest flight to Vietnam. I was all down, sickly and stressed the entire time I was in Singapore. I could easily say that was my lowest point – alone and far from my loved ones. To make matters worst, I learned that our puppy died back home mauled to death by her older sister and brother. Murphy’s law everybody!

There’s a famous saying from Mark Twain:  “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” But why do I feel like the universe is really determined to break me? Why do I feel like I made the wrong decision? A massive mistake.

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As depressed as I was, I had to move forward and pray. And by forward, I mean out of the country, else I might get deported. I prepared everything from my flights, to hostel bookings and itinerary. This way, I won’t have problems in the airport. I also posted my travel plans in Couchsurfing. I wasn’t expecting much from that app since I wasn’t able to find hosts here in SG but I was shookt with the responses from Vietnam. I got 2 hosts and a handful of local travelers willing to accompany me on my impromptu trip. I decided to cancel my hostel booking and accept Ricardo’s offer to host, I figured I can save money while living with the locals and learning their culture. I also didn’t want to celebrate my birthday alone roaming the crazy streets of Saigon.

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S A I G O N

I arrived at Saigon in a humid, Thursday afternoon, 26th of October. I took a Grab Bike from the airport to District 9. Lakas maka Hunger Games. Saigon boasts a lot of skyscrapers, soon to rise buildings (perfect for my rooftop climbs), and vast highways catering to the progressing economy of the city. The streets were overrun by motorbikes, undeniably alarming to a point when you’re literally rubbing elbows to a fellow commuter. But the riders were just chill and reserved, so I wasn’t scared at all – documenting the 22km ride through my Instagram stories. District 9 is situated 21km away from the more popular, touristy districts which only means it’s way cheaper here. Guhreat.

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Easy English Community

Finally, I met my host Ric and he introduced me to his cousins and students. Apparently, he’s a full time English teacher who rents an entire building for his company – Easy English Community.

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And yes, that’s where he lives and teaches at the same time. How cool is that? Later that night, I joined his classes and got to meet more of his students. They’re all warm and welcoming. I really felt that I didn’t deserve their kindness. This was the first time that I traveled with no concrete plans whatsoever. I just wanna get out of Singapore and get lost in Vietnam. But the Easy English Community found and took me in like I was no stranger. The following day, Paul brought me to all the famous spots in HCMC with his motorbikes, offered to treat me drinks then took me to must try restaurants and coffee shops.

I got to visit some of them in the University of Technology and Education (UTE) c/o Ric where we had small chit chats, a few get to know you’s and exchanged Ph to Vn cultures. They even greeted me a happy birthday which I really appreciated.

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From L-R: Diamond, Sally, Maria, Roger, Eric, Kid, Michael, Lufy, Paul, Dylan, David, Sarah, Julia, Ricardo, May and Richard. Whew!

The one thing I will never ever forget was the fact that Ric and his dear students prepared a mini party for my birthday, they cooked and stayed up late just to celebrate my birthday. They even let me watch them play Football.

Motorbikes in the City

The next day, I got not only one but four tour guides. They volunteered to join me as we all explore District 1. As it turned out, they are tourists in the city. Most of them didn’t have the time to see the famous spots and I was so happy they got to visit these places the first time with me. It also made the trip into an adventure slash Waze and Google maps dependent ride haha!

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Kicking it off with one of the many pagodas here in HCMC. Viện Minh Đăng Quang pagoda is such a beaut!

And then, I found out that Kid (this kid in white shirt) skipped his class to accompany me. More so, he can talk and practice English. Not an excuse but I’ll take it. Here’s a sneak peak of our fun times in Saigon Zoo.

I arrived in Vietnam alone and lonely but in a matter of hours I gained friends, a family even, I never thought possible. That was the first time in a long time that I felt genuine happiness.

Hồng Ngự and Nong Lam

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Sally’s parents preparing food for the goats in a laid back afternoon in Hồng Ngự

Ric’s kindness is never ending – he brought me to Hồng Ngự, his hometown, which is a 5 hr bus ride from the city. I got to experience the country side of Vietnam. I will be featuring more of this on my next article.

His students were just as kind. Kid, Lassu and Yumi insisted on bringing me to another university – Nong Lam. We had photo shoots, long walks, a quick volleyball game, interactions with a few students, had some good street food finds and lots of laughs.

I Can Get Used To This

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Speaking time with Clinton

Thank you Ric for reaching out, for doing the extra, extra mile in making sure I am enjoying my stay, keeping me involved in your classes and to Diamond for teaching me how to make Vietnamese coffee. I love talking to your students, sharing a bit about myself, my hometown and helping them in my little way to be confident in speaking the English language.

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Typical Speaking night here in Easy English Community

To cap off my stay here, Ric decided to bring me in the early morning to the infamous Black Lady Mountain (996 masl) and later that night, I got to be a teacher to one of his classes. I really didn’t want to leave HCMC but I know I have to.

My first ever international students, we pulled it off guys and girls.

Ric, keep doing what you do best, who knows I might join you in the future! I know it’s hard doing everything all by yourself, just ask if you need help and always take it easy. Til our next adventure my brother from another mother.

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Ric and I hiking the Black Virgin Mountain before I return to Singapore

Thank you for accepting this lost stranger and kept feeding me baby duck haha!

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Not as instant as their coffee but here’s my instant family in HCMC.

I am still on the process of figuring things out, we all are. I don’t know where my feet will take me next. But I have a pretty good idea where I might be next month.

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For now, quickies out…

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Credits to Noob GFX for the Lightroom Creamy presets I used for some of my photos here. Follow them and see their awesome stuff!

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Cam Norte – The Municipalities

Come Forth to Cam North – The Series Pt. 2

Day 2    Municipalities of Camarines Norte

Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo named this tourism gem, Camarines, which means “storehouse.” CamNorte is indeed a storehouse of cultural heritage, natural resources and untouched treasures. It is surrounded by the fertile soil of Quezon and the popular CamSur provinces. Hence, a melting pot of Tagalog and Bicol cultures.

CamNorte is the richest province in terms of gold deposits. When the Spaniards arrived, they noticed that locals were wearing gold ornaments. This discovery catapulted the 1575 expedition to amass precious metals (Gold and Silver) in the province.  With more wealth comes great power. Hashtag Mercantilism.

The 12 municipalities are grouped into two congressional districts, the Tagalog speaking which consisted the following – Labo, Capalonga, Sta. Elena, Paracale and Jose Panganiban; and the Bicol speaking – Daet, Talisay, Vinzons, Mercedes, Basud, San Vicente and San Lorenzo Ruiz. It was indeed amazing that out of the 6 we got to visit, 3 of which were Tagalog, the other three, you guessed it right, the Bicol speaking municipalities. Let’s get to it shall we?

DAET

First stop at the tourism office where we were warmly welcomed by Sir Bong. He was very eager to introduce us to the best attractions CamNorte has to offer. We couldn’t wait to see them all.
Bantayog Monument – a 20 ft tall majestic monument that forever memorializes Jose Rizal’s legacy along with the province’s unsung heroes. It was built 2 years after Rizal’s execution and the first ever monument built for our National hero.

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Did you know that CamNorte was the site of first ever KKK outside Manila?

Bulawan Museum – founded in year 2000 which houses a glimpse of the province history, culture and tradition from Amorsolo paintings, silver spoons, tea pot, wine glass, Katana, gold ornaments and filigrees. I am encouraging everyone to visit museums to continue heritage and culture awareness especially to our younger generations. Museums symbolize our care to our identity and race.

Moturista – 1st Tourism Extreme Challenge held in Daet where motorists were tasked to complete the 500kms in 12 hours. This initiative aims to drive tourism while promoting road safety through a seminar. The event concluded with a beach party, no less.
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Bagasbas Beach – This mile-long stretch is a top destination for surfers due to its consistent waves throughout the year making it the country’s first surfing spot and the world’s 62nd. Surfing lessons are offered at Bagasbas Aqua center at P400 per hour including board rentals.

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Dare to go extreme? Aside from surfing, Bagasbas beach is also a host to another extreme sport – Kitesurfing. International Kiteboarding Competition and Kiteboard Tour Asia were held here. Get your adrenaline pumping at Mike’s Kiteboarding during northeast monsoon season from November to March.

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Side note: LTE coverage in Daet is phenomenal! I got to watch Game of Thrones season finale when we stopped by the capitol.

JOSE PANGANIBAN

We got a courtesy call from the Mayor himself, Mayor Dong Padilla, and was gracious enough to host us in his ranch and answer all our inquiries regarding his work and future projects to the municipality. The mayor proudly declared that while promoting tourism, CamNorte will still preserve its beaches by avoiding commercial infrastructures. There’s also a 700MW power plant to be built thus addressing the intermittent electricity in the province. Insofar as accommodation is concerned, he’s aware that the province is somewhat behind from its neighboring lands. This needs to be pushed to be at par with other hotels, he said. I definitely agree, we were staying at Jocelle’s Garden and I was a first-hand witness to their shortcomings. Another challenge the mayor is trying to address is accessibility. And this is a major major, cue in Venus Raj who by the way was also here to promote tourism for CamNorte. The plan is to build a regional airport in JPang for domestic flights then connecting it to Bicol International Airport via skyway. He mentioned that there’s a Belarus company investing in this endeavour.

Here’s mommy Lariza interviewing Mayor Dong.

More of mommy Lariza’s discoveries at Moments Around the Corner. From formal to snorkeling real quick…

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After the courtesy call, we were summoned to the municipal hall for lunch. What better way to burn those carbs? Check out JPang’s attractions!

Bulalacao Beach
Pagasa Beach

JSM Yellow to Green Organic farm


Parola Island

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SAN LORENZO RUIZ

Calling all thrill seekers, this is the municipality for you.  San Lorenzo Ruiz offers the newest adrenaline attraction and longest zip line in the Bicol region! Going to the site was a bumpy ride, so if you can bring a moped or an ATV that would be perfect since the roads are still under construction. In any case, do check out the 750-meter Matacong Zip Line and conquer your fears for only 250php when sitting and 350php superman swoosh pose.

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LABO

What better way to cool down from the zip line rush? We headed over to Binuang Falls where we got to have not one but three levels of rapids, it’s just a 15-20 minute hike to get to the top so no biggie.

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These seemingly endless adventures took a toll to our rumbling stomachs. Good thing, Villa Eusebia was next in our itinerary that served a sumptuous feast.

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And this restaurant comes with a goddamn view of Lake Labo. Loboc River feels, I know.

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Nap time! Where to? Well, I can recommend two great resorts to check in and chill; Maria Fatima Farm Resort and Paradiso Verde Farm where everything is organic.

PARACALE

Before our day comes to a close, we’re off to Paracale where we were welcomed by Julius and the hashtag #ParacaLetsGo. If this sunset won’t make you make your way here, I don’t know what is. Paracale is known as the Gold Town which also means “canal digger.” There are still small scale gold mining operations persist in the outskirts of the town. Then Julius led us to Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, established in 1611, making it 406 years old! Still standing fabulous as ever and not a single scratch from the deadly earthquake that hit its neighboring provinces where century old churches were damaged and others totally destroyed to the ground. Perhaps it can be attributed to the protection from the canonically miraculous image of Our Lady of Candelaria. Not far from this magnificent church is another century milestone – the leaning light house.

Pulang Daga Beach

MERCEDES

#LoveKoSiMercedes is the municipality’s tagline but it was hard at first since we had a gloomy and wet welcome, no thanks to the tropical storm making its way out of the country. The group was supposed to visit all the seven islands, famously Siete Pecados: Caringo, Canton, Quinapaguian, Malasugui, Caringo, Apuao Pequeña. Apuao Grande and Caringo islands. Due to heavy rains, we just managed to explore the last three.

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Nonetheless, these islands are perfect if you are longing for peace and quiet. The islands will give you privacy and perfect spot for self-realization.  It’s pretty obvious on the faces of my blogger friends casually walking from one island to another – Kenneth our Dubai Travel Blogger, Jerny of TheJerny.Com and Rona of Travel With Maria.

Going back, you are welcomed by their busy fish port where fresh seafood are being transported for public consumption.

 

[Continue Reading]                  Day 3  Unspoiled Beaches

7 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

By Where’s Jason

I am one lucky guy who was able to live and study in Iceland from May to October 2015. My classmates and I went to several excursions throughout the course. On weekdays, we studied hard, researched, and did our paper works. On weekends, we traveled harder, explored, and did our IG works. LOL!

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What to do when at the top of Gulfoss? An IG selfie with friends, that’s right!

We saw several waterfalls, bathed in a lot of hot springs, hiked a number of mountains, drank a gazillion glasses of beers (whoops), and ate a million Icelandic hotdogs. It was an unforgettable experience and it was the best part of my life.

It was so freakin’ cool that I even went back to celebrate the New Year ’s Eve that same year. I booked the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for and it was worth it. Iceland became my favorite country. And I’d be more than happy to share this blog post to my friend, Dean, creator of The Quick Escape. (ed – next time share an Iceland ticket, bes Jason hahaha)

Check out the list below for 7 awesome things to do in this wonderful, wonderful country:

  1. GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

The most common and popular tour in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour. You can book a tour or rent a car to explore this route. It’s common because it’s the most reachable tour from Reykjavik, the capital city. You can visit up to four tourist hot spots this way.

I did this thrice by doing a field trip with classmates, renting a car, and booking a tour. For flexibility and to have control of your own time, of course, renting a car would be the most obvious choice. But if you want to relax, just sit on the bus, get off to see the guided attractions with limited time, then go ahead, and book a tour. This depends on your travel style.

The first stop would be Thingvellir, followed by the Geyser, the Gulfoss, and then Kerid. This is the usual sequence when taking a tour.

  • Thingvellir is a historic site and a national park. It’s known for its rocky cliffs and fissures. Take a look around and absorb the greenish, mountainous scenery. A scene from the TV series Games of Thrones was even taken here. DCIM108GOPROGOPR0073.
  • The Geyser is a hot spring that erupts every now and then. Wait for a few minutes and watch as it shoots up water and steam. It’s fascinating just to watch this natural phenomenon. DCIM106GOPRO
  • The Gulfoss is a big-ass waterfall. It’s not as big as the Niagara Falls in Canada but it’s still an amazing site to see, especially if there’s a rainbow above the waterfall.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Kerid is one of the prettiest volcanic craters I ever saw. It’s like Christmas sparkled on nature – a mix of green grass and red ash rocks. DCIM106GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Book your tour at www.grayline.is

  1. SOUTH ICELAND TOUR

After the Golden Circle Tour, the South Iceland Tour is the next big thing you ought to do. I did this twice, both by road tripping with a friend’s car and a rented one. You can either start very early in the morning to finish it in one whole day or spend a night somewhere for a two-day trip.

OPTION A: DAY TOUR – Start very early around 2 to 3 AM and drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon. It is a 5 to 6 hour drive. From Jokulsarlon, head back to the city while stopping for the hot spots.

OPTION B: OVERNIGHT TOUR – Start at 8 AM and stop at the selected attractions. Spend the night at Hofn by booking a hotel or Jokulsarlon by camping. We opted to park at Jokulsarlon and sleep inside our car. We were like the guardians of the glaciers – an extremely cold act I would not advise you to do the same!

ATTRACTIONS ALONG SOUTH ICELAND:

  • Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorite waterfalls because you can go behind the falls to experience its misty vibe. DCIM107GOPRO
  • Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Drink beers while you bathe  against nature’s backdrop. Skinny dipping, perhaps? DCIM106GOPRO
  • Skogafoss is a waterfall where you can climb up for that spectacular panoramic view.DCIM107GOPRO
  • Vik is unique because of its black beach. (ed – I think this was where Daenery’s set foot in the season premiere of GOT Season 7? One thing’s for sure, Gendry was spotted here!)DCIM107GOPRO
  • Fjadrargljufur is a magical hiking trail featured on Justin Bieber’s “I’ll show you.” Yes, I’ll show you the right angle in taking that perfect shot. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Svartifoss is another awesome waterfall known for its columnar structure. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Fjallsarlon is an odd place like Mars with ice and brownish landscape. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon filled with bluish ice bergs. DCIM107GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Rent your car www.citycarrental.is

  1. DIAMOND CIRCLE TOUR

If you have one week in Iceland, consider going to the North to do the Diamond Circle Tour. You need to have at least three whole days to do this.

DAY 1: Drive from Reyjavik to Akureyri

DAY 2: Diamond Circle Tour

DAY 3: Drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik

ATTRACTIONS ALONG NORTH ICELAND:

  • Akureyri is a laid-back town up north known as the capital of North Iceland. Sounds like my kind of town to just chill, literally. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Godafoss is an elegant yet dramatic waterfall, which was used as a film location for the movie “Prometheus.” Jon Snow, where you at? (dunno your name in the film ha)DCIM104GOPRO
  • Lake Myvatn is the quieter version of the Blue Lagoon. Do some rock balancing while you’re at it.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Hverir by Mt. Namafjall is a land of geothermal hot springs and mud pools. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Viti is a crater near Krafla Volacano. Safest spot to take a groupfie! #NoPun DCIM104GOPRO
  • Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. #PowerDCIM104GOPRO
  • Asbrygi is a gigantic horseshoe-shaped canyon. DCIM104GOPRO
  1. WESTFJORD TOUR

We covered the Northern and Southern parts of Iceland. Now, I’ll take you to the West. This can be accomplished on a weekend or a 2-day trip. Drive from Reykjavik to the West and sleep at Flateyri. In my opinion, it’s best to go here during the winter season. Just be mindful that you may need a 4by4 vehicle to get pass through the thick layers of snow.

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  1. HIKE MT. ESJA

To get the best panoramic view of the city, trek atop Mt Esja. I hiked this beauty three times – the first one with Filipino friends, the second with classmates, and the third one for a concert. A concert was held on top of a mountain?! You bet!!!

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  1. DIVE SILFRA FISSURE

This is my best dive to date. This dive site is located within the Thingvellir national park. It’s open all-year round. Get a chance to dive or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American plates which drift apart for about 2 cm per year. The water is crystal clear and refreshing; you can actually take a sip. Take note that temperature does go down to 1°C.

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It’s definitely a unique and rewarding experience. Get ready to experience the best brain breeze of your life! (ed – I wouldn’t mind getting brain freeze if I can be at two continents at once!!!)

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your dive tour at www.dive.is

  1. BATH IN THE BLUE LAGOON

The most relaxing thing to do in a cold country like Iceland is to bath in its geothermal waters. And the most popular geothermal spa in this country is the Blue Lagoon, which was formed by accident. The water is blue because it contains Silica, which is a by-product of the nearby geothermal power plant.

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I recommend you try this right after arriving at the airport. It will calm your nerves and your body. It’s soothing. Drink a beer while dipping your body in this geothermal wonder.

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your airport transfer plus blue lagoon admission at https://grayline.is/tours/blue-lagoon/

In sum, these are just 7 out of the tons of awesome activities you can do in Iceland. These are just the ones that pop up first in my head. Don’t think for a second I forgot about Aurora Borealis. Here you go folks – a bonus attraction that everyone has to see or at least if the skies allow you to – The Northern Lights! Those dazzling lights will definitely blow your mind.

Northernlights

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Jason Gotuato is the guy behind www.wheresjason.com. He writes technical reports during the day and travel stories at night – an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He has done a lot of crazy stuff from diving between the North American and Eurasian plates, to jumping out of a plane. Hats off to you bro!!!

His quest is to conquer this world and bring out the adventurer in all of us. Take a peek into his adventures @wheresjasong on Facebook and @wheresjason_ig on Instagram. Follow him as he lives his life, one adrenaline rush at a time.

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Quickies, out!

Baler Joiner

Dingalan view

I was browsing Byaheng Budgetarian facebook group on  a Wednesday night when I happened to come across a group looking for joiners in their Baler weekend getaway. I didn’t have plans, so I asked myself, why not? I messaged Ejay, the group organizer from The RunawayS Travel and Tour, if he had a spot for me. I got an instant yes. So it’s settled. I was bound for Baler in 2 days time. Just like that. No stir. No ifs. No bs. 😜

Can’t wait to surf these waves!

Hit the waves

If the event will push through, it would be the 2nd time I joined an event where I get to meet them on the trip itself. Pretty exciting and risky at the same time. But that’s the beauty of it – I get to lose myself around people who have no clue about me. Well actually, not all, I did invite Lex and Josh to accompany me. I can be paranoid too. 😅

Anyway going back, you can do it too. You can be as carefree as you want to be – even just for a weekend.

Fast forward to Friday night, Lex, and I were seated at the back of the van silently eavesdropping to our new friends, Ejay, Cielo, Cherry and Mark as they chatted away while waiting for Tim and Ruth. Fine, I was eavesdropping. Lex was sleeping. We hit the road at around 11:30pm. Picked up Josh and Jhune in QC and the rest of the gang, Ella, Sev, Marj and Mara in Bulacan. We arrived in Baler at 7am. Had breakfast at the eatery near Baler sign. Did some photo ops with a local kiddo photographer before heading to our rented house.

Aura pa

After settling in, the Baler tour commenced. We hiked for about 40 mins to reach the ever majestic Ditumabo Mother Falls. And mother dear, it didn’t disappoint. Matter of fact, her presence was overpowering borderline frightening.

Mother Falls

We weren’t able to hike further and see Father falls. I mean look how raging the water was.  After taking some photos, and by some, I mean hundreds, the group decided to descend and ate at the food stalls located at the base.

Mother falls side

Below is what I call the daughter falls. Now they’re a complete family of falls. Yes, ang mga paasa come in three’s!

Daughter falls :P

The next destination was Dingalan lighthouse. It’s just a 10 minute hike from the drop off point. Mid way to the lighthouse, I turned and witnessed why this is the “Batanes of the East.” How steep the trail may seem, I didn’t hesitate to capture these breathtaking views.

View from the top

Hello mighty Sun

Tower life

What made our hike extra special were these cute little tour guides who kept referencing us to Encantadia characters. Apparently that TV series was a hit here.

Hello there #alltoourselves

Of course, I had to take a selfie at the top. Who wouldn’t, right?

Yup we fit here

I’m pretty that was where all of us had sun burnt skin. Well, it was worth it.

Embracing freedom

Diguisit falls and Aniao Islets were the next spots in our itinerary. Compared to the first two destinations, these two were chill, less strenuous as we just strolled, took some photos and silently appreciated how jaw dropping these places are.

To get a better  overlooking view of Baler, head on to Ermita hill.
Why were we in Baler in the first place? To walwal. Kidding, that’s for later . Of course – to surf!

Lex,  Josh and I took turn in surfing for 1 hour over the same board. That’s 350/3 haha sulit! Hashtag kakuriputan unleashed. This is the sport I really want to pursue; well not professionally, i just wanna advance my skills here. Surfing was so much fun!

Surf <3

At last, our jam packed day came to an end. Beautiful sunset at Sabang beach!

Chasing Sunset
Well, not just quite yet. Ejay and our surf instructors prepared dinner then set up the karaoke and beer pong table with cards on the side. Idle time was not on this tour’s itinerary. The night is young and so are we, I said to myself. We sang, drank, played cards, and laughed out loud the whole night. Don’t even get me started on the vibrating chair only Jhune can do!
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By 9am, we already had breakfast and ready to hit Dicasalarin Cove. No room for curing hangover! In fact, let’s make it worse with the occasional bumps as we sailed the Dicasalarin bay. We set foot at this beautiful chunk of paradise at around 10:40am. We got the whole place to ourselves! Good thing, we brought surfboard and skim board.
Hello Dicasalarin!!!
Gateway to heaven
Well aside from the view, there’s just one thing that kept on catching my attention – that lighthouse! So I led the group and hiked to the top.

Yes, I didn’t let the opportunity pass, I climbed the tower with my wobbly knees and trembling hands. The view was perfect.

Adrenaine rush

Then we headed down and searched for the hidden cave in the island. It’s an enclosed sanctuary where soothing waves collided with the rocks. This was the view inside the cave.

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By 3pm, we headed back and had late buffet lunch at Picnic By The Bay (a Gerry’s grill branch) for just 200php. So sulit. Plus we got to enjoy the beachfront where kids surfed on the beach.

By 6pm where everyone’s freshened up, we set out for City tour (night edition). First on the list,  Donya Aurora’s house, then stood Baler church on the side.

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Of course, what better time to visit this infamous Balete tree – at night. 👻 Then, dropped by Hanging bridge for a quick photo op.

 

ITINERARY 
DAY 01
12:00mn – ETD Shaw to Baler
06:00am – ETA Baler and breakfast (pax account)
07:00 – Check in and tour preparation
08:00 – Start of Tour
●Ditumabo Mother Falls
12:00nn – Lunch (pax account)
●Baler lighthouse
●Diguisit falls
●Aniao islets
●Ermita Hill
●Sabang beach surf spot
07:00pm – dinner (pax account)
Free time, socials and walwal time
10:00 – lights out (not really, we walwal-ed til 03:00am)
DAY 02
08:00am – wake up call and breakfast (hosted)
09:30 – Dicasalarin Cove tour
10:40 – ETA Dicasalarin via rented boat (included in the tour fee)
03:00pm– ETD Dicasalarin to Baler
04:00 – Late Lunch at Picnic by the Bay 200 buffet
06:00 – Start of City Tour (night edition)
● Donya Aurora’s house
●Baler church
●Balete tree
●Hanging bridge
08:30 – ETD Baler to Manila
02:30am– ETA Manila
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Baler Aurora with Dicasalarin cove tour only for Php 1,999 all in na bes!

December 3-4, 2016 (weekends)

Inclusions
✔ Comfortable van transfers (Manila-Baler-Manila)
✔ One (1) night fully air-conditioned room accommodation
✔ All permits, entrance and environmental fees including Dicasalarin cove
✔ Roundtrip boat transfers for Dicasalarin cove tour
✔ Service of tour coordinator/ photographer
✔ Complete Baler tour with 10 tourist spots
✔ Exclusive mobile bar at night with fun games!
✔ Free breakfast on 2nd day
✔ Free use of gopro hero4

Optional activities and other exclusions:
Other meals not stated above
One (1) hour surfing with board and instructor (Php 350 per person)

EXPENSES
Tour – Php 2,ooo
Bottled water (2L) & Chips – Php 300
Breakfast (day 1)- Php 50
Lunch (day 1) – Php 50
Surf board rental – Php 350/3 (Php 117/pax)
Dinner, booze and breakfast (day 2) – hosted
Buffet Lunch – Php 200
Total Expenses: Php 2,717
Aside from the well organized event Ejay and the group organized, the all expense paid booze slash walwal party was what made me jump in and join hahahah! #KeepinItReal
I was really happy going back to Baler. I won’t mind coming over and over again especially with this group I just met but clicked right there and then.
What goes up must come down
Photo Credits to Tropang Lagalag and Frances. Hope to travel with you guys soon! Like next month soon?
Dicasalarin view
Bye for now, Baler.
No filter feet
Quickies, out x

The Beauty That Is – Isla Verde

Pastel Sunset
This is the place where my parents were born.
The place where I learn to swim and appreciate little things in life.
The place where nostalgia takes its full effect…Isla Verde.🌴 
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And no, we’re not in El Nido. We’re just 3 hours away from the Metro!
Alright, let’s go break these details down.
Budget: Less than 1k
Itinerary and expenses detailed below:
Day 1
4:00am ETD
📍Manila to Batangas Grand Terminal (Bus Terminals in Cubao, Buendia, Alabang) 🔸around Php127
6:30am ETA
📍Batangas City
Take a jeepney bound for Batangas Bayan 🔸Php12
7:00am ETA
📍Bayan
Do the last minute errands in the market
❗️Bring your own Drinking Water
❗️Bring your own Food (para tipid)
Take a jeepney bound for Tabangao Port 🔸Php15
7:30am ETA
📍Tabangao Port
Boats going to Isla Verde usually departs at 9:00am (latest is 10am). It’s better to be early than be left behind for they only have 1 trip per day.
9:00am ETD
📍Tabangao Port to Sampalukan, Isla Verde (via St. Paul) 🔸Php100
11:00am ETA
📍Isla Verde, Batangas
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⭕️We stayed at my Lolo Cadie’s place. He’s accepting guests just mention me, his apo, if you are going there. I will provide his contact information and detail the expenses below.
12:00nn Lunch
⭕️For day trips, it’s convenient and cheap to have packed lunch. For those extending their stay, you can rent utensils and cook your food there.
2:00pm Island Tour
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📍Ozone – swimming and snorkeling
📍Dos Palmas (Abandoned Resort) 🔹Perfect for photo-ops🔹

Here’s Niel doing a blogger pose:

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📍Mahabang Buhangin – swimming
📍Cueva – swimming, cave, lighthouse
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📍Diving (haven’t tried this – mahal fosho but if you can, go. Isla Verde is not the Center of the Center of Marine Biodiversity for nothing) #soon
5:30pm End of Tour
⭕️Just in time for a breathtaking sunset in Sampalukan
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6:30pm Freshen Up, Dinner
⭕️Pitch a tent ⛺️ (for those staying overnight)
⭕️Request for a bonfire 🔥
Day 2
📍Puerto Galera (side trip)
⭕️Rent a boat taking you from Isla Verde to White Beach
❗️Eh binagyo kami ni Bes Marce kaya ayun we rented Kuya Arnel back to Ilijan, Batangas
🔸Php2000 (4pax)
Then took a jeepney bound for Batangas Bayan 🔸Php45
Transfer to another jeepney taking me to Grand Terminal 🔸Php12
Bus to Alabang 🔸Php127
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Don’t forget to stop by my new found friends, tell them I say hi 🙂

Hey There Cutie Helllooooo

Selfie

Expenses:

Lodging Fee for 1 day: Php50 per pax
Water (Pangligo): Php100 (1 drum; good for 8 pax)
Utensils Rental: Php50
Bonfire setup: Php50
Ice and Booze (you might ask): Coordinate with Lolo Cadie prior your trip so he can order. You can pay him in the island.
Island Tour Boat Rental:
Php 1800 – 10pax
Php 1500 – 4pax
If you plan to go to Puerto Galera:
Php 3000 – 10pax
Php 2000 – 4pax
Contacts:
Lolo Cadie: +63 907 193 1256
Boat Rental (Kuya Arnel): +63 9171591312
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⭕️Should you want to be picked up directly at Tabangao port, kindly contact Kuya Arnel and make arrangements.
⭕️If you’re bringing a car, you can park at Tabangao port for 100php/day
Total expenses (including food and booze): Php 1500
Yup, we’re heavy drinkers (we shelled out a total of Php700 for a night’s session)
⭕️You can imagine how low will that go if we were a group of 10. If that was the case, our projected expenses would only be Php 950 including food and booze.
Comment or pm me if you have further questions. Apir!
And keep traveling! (swimming muna ko mga bes)
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Quickies, out!

Captivating Calaguas

“One hell of a ride yet heaven when we arrived!”

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I have used that line back when we went to Dicasalarin Cove; but I think, the trip to Calaguas toppled it all in every aspect.

Why is that? Let’s go back to where my quick escape started…

But wait, check out first our happy faces and the beauty of Calaguas caught on cam here:

I am always a DIY person when it comes to traveling and soul searching. But whenever I’ll be organizing a trip for more than 8 pax, I’ll ask for someone else to do it for me – hence; Cookies Travel and Tours is my go to agent. Full list of itinerary and expenses below.

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Our group met at 9pm Friday night in SM North and braved the place where forever existed – EDSA. We stopped at 2nd pick up point in McDonald’s Buendia to meet the other groups the travel agency was hosting. All in, we’re about 4 groups (40 people displaced in 4 Grandia vans). This was the major setback – we didn’t have control over our time. We had to wait for other people to arrive, not to mention, how frequent they insisted on having stopovers after a couple of minutes cause they wanna pee (they’re already drinking along the way). Another thing that prolong our already long agony drive was that one van lost his way and we had to convene and discuss the plan (which I thought, they already had since they won’t be a travel agency for nothing, right?) Our estimated travel time of 7 hours became a dragging 12 hours. It’s safe to say I am reverting back to DIY trips be it a large group or what not. We reached Paracale, Camarines Norte at 9am.

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But that was not the worst part.

We only got half an hour before we board our boat– our group dispersed in buying last minute essentials – (2) 5 gallon water, plastic bags for waterproofing our things, pulutan, coffee and booze. We hopped on to a 25-capacity banca hoping against hope – a safe, smooth ride.

Safe? Debatable. Smooth? That was the craziest, bumpiest,stomach- turning, worst boat ride I experienced to date. We’re like survivor castaways (yes we’re dripping wet, wet from the rain and waves!) with no staff and crew to help if the boat stumbled over. A normal person could’ve endured that ride given enough rest. Luckily, our case was entirely the opposite. Hashtag no pun. The other groups had it worse, yup the ones I mentioned drinking, you can imagine how comfortable their trip was –stretch it to freaking two and half hours of seesaw motion.

Finally, our faces lit up when we saw the captivating Calaguas’ coast!

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Huge surfer waves welcomed us as we alight the boat. I couldn’t care less since I was already soaking wet – I jumped off as soon as we reached the shore. The struggle was real when we needed to transport our belongings off the boat.
Tips: Waterproof your things! Bring raincoat or plastic jacket too!

We were exhausted from the trip that waiting for our travel agency to cook us food would drove us nuts. Good thing, one of our friends, prepared a packed lunch good for 10 pax. What a relief. Another tip right there!

Now a bit energized, we faced yet another roadblock – setting up the Vango (the humongous 10 people tent where you can glamp all night long). After an hour, we managed to erect the goddamn shelter. And the food from our agent were ready too. Round 2 of Man Vs Food commenced.

With no cellular service, we were left to enjoy what we have around – good company, majestic view, fine sand, amazing beach. who am I to complain right?! Sometimes, it’s exhilarating to disconnect from the world and strengthen your relationship to the real connections you got – your family, your friends. The virtual world will still be there when you get back, trust me.

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With our phones just for snapping pics, playing JB songs, and occasionally as flash light, time surely can pass slowly. We partied the night around in our rented nipa hut and drank til we drop in the sand. Dancing and shouting  in the shore like crazy, oh boy, hashtag no regrets. I remembered sleeping in the tent only to wake up an hour later. That’s my body clock telling me to sleep anywhere but here.

I was greeted by a cool island breeze as I step out of the tent. My friends and I decided to play volleyball and cap it off by a morning swim.

Ronnie of PlanB tours invited us for a quick 10 minute hike to a hill at one end of the island. We got to see an awesome scenic view of Calaguas and its neighboring islands. What a sight!

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The waters of Calaguas isn’t for the weak of heart – especially when you easily get sea sick. But for those who can endure the ride – this piece of heaven is for you. Boracay can boast its impeccable white sand and crystal clear waters but Calaguas can rival its spotless, powdery sand and the serenity this virgin island has to offer.

Itinerary 

Day 1

9:00 pm Pick up point SM North

10:00 pm McDonald’s/ Shell Buendia bound for Paracale

9:00 am Paracale, Camarines Norte

9:00 – 10:00 am Waterproofing, last minute shopping

10:00 – 12:30 pm Epic boat ride

12:30 pm Lunch, set up tent

1: 30 – 6:00 pm Beach time

6:30 pm Dinner

7:00 pm – 5:00 am Walwal aka party all night long

Day 2

7:00 am – Breakfast

8:00 am – 11:30 am Volleyball, swim, hike

11:30 am – Depart Calaguas

1:30 pm – ETA Paracale port

7:00 pm – ETA Manila

Expenses:

Cookies Travel and Tour: Calaguas

2D/1N stay at P 2,999/head

Package includes:

Roundtrip van transfer

Environmental fee

Entrance fee

Roundtrip boat transfer

3 Meals – Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast

Personals (transpo and dinner at McDo)  x contribution (booze, food, essentials): approximately P 1,000
I’m pretty sure my friends won’t be back here anytime soon. As for me, I am open for any invites!

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Mt. Pamitinan x Mt. Hapunang Banoy Twin Day Hike

I am always a beach guy without the beach body and I never liked hiking (of course I had no idea this view is waiting for me, I just placed it here to capture your eyes in finishing my blog laughs).

I don’t have the time for it”, “I just don’t like exhausting my muscles and sweating profusely” were my reasons why I didn’t partake with friends whenever they schedule a climb. Some of you (with brows raised) would ask, “Then why blog about it?

Simple. I thought, “Oh my god, look at that view, you look like my next mistake.” That would be a deadly mistake so be careful guys!

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After my first official twin day hike, I had a change of heart. I learned to love hiking in less than 12 hours (setting aside the gallons of sweat I excreted, multiple cuts I endured, sore muscles and dead toe nails).

Stay with me as we climb and quickly escape to the peak.

Peaks of Mt. Pamitinan (+426 m) left and Mt. Binacayan (+424 m) right.

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To do that, I will need a lot of help. Good thing my wanderjunkie, Daryl, basically did everything – itinerary x expenses x few reminders prior to the climb. She really pushed me to give hiking a go and I wouldn’t wanna see her efforts put to waste.

The original group of 10 hikers was trimmed down to just the two of us. I can’t blame them for backing out due to rescheduling and erratic weather.

Compromise was our ever young and fit, ate guide. You can call her Myrlyn. And yes we were older than her.This escape was a lot of surprises… Can’t wait to see what’s installed for me.

Since I was on a night shift, Daryl and I agreed to meet at the office when my shift ended at around 5am Saturday morning. We hopped on the bus that took us to Cubao. Dropped by McDonald’s for a takeout breakfast and aboard an FX (with Eastwood sign) that will take us to then Montalban, now Rodriguez, Rizal. Took tricycle instead of jeepney to Brgy. Wawa (jumpoff point) since we were running late.

Local guide was required for the climb and after registering at the DENR office, we’re good to go. We started the ascend at quarter past 8 am. I could only hope for a trail as inviting as this hanging bridge.

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And look at this lovely trail. I said to myself even though I had no sleep and drank a few beers (after my shift as I waited for Daryl; hashtag defensive), I would be able to keep up. I mean, this stairway to heaven, why would I not, right? Plus I have two lovely ladies as my guide. Couldn’t be any luckier than that.

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I was wrong. Zoom in to my face.

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So wrong I was already contemplating on how on earth will I reach the summit, let alone another mountain! But that’s not who I am as a person, I finish what I started. With no gloves on together with my very comfortable running shoes, I pushed myself further. And my shoes died after.

Myrlyn ate guide paved us the way to what seemed like an uncharted territory. Daryl, on the other hand, taught me some basic mountaineering etiquette. For one, always greet co-hikers you meet along the trail. A quick “Good Morning/Afternoon, Ingat po” wouldn’t hurt. To my astonishment, we did encounter a couple of hikers descending, “If they reached the summit, so can I.” The trail was comprised of assaults below and bouldering above.

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Be fully equipped, should you decide to conquer these trails – pack light, wear elastic and comfy clothes, slip on hiking shoes/sandals, thick gloves will be handy, prepare trail food and bring enough water. We reached summit at around 10:15 am, oh boy, the evergreen Sierra Madre washed my weariness away.

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I’m on the edge of glory.

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And here we were at summit 1 Mt. Pamitinan, casually laughing our worries off.

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Wait for me, wait for me!

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All smiles at summit 2 from these two gorgeous girls while I squeezed in my daily crunches slash fixing my cap. Yes we’re the crazy trio who laughed out loud the whole time we’re climbing – shouting acronyms to the hikers we met along the way PMYT to ate who’s having a hard time rock climbing – Push Mo ‘Yan ‘Te; SYL to confused kuya – See You Later among others. I even heard them murmuring as we passed, “That chick’s their guide?” and then I will look at them – “Why? Do I look like a guide to you?” Of course in a friendly way! No harm done – we’re just enjoying our climb 🙂

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We decided to descend at around 10:45 am and reached the Mt. Hapunang Banoy junction at around 11:15 am. Since we started the climb late, we decided to change the initial plan. Besides, Daryl got curious of that protruding rock (zoom in below) waving at us as we climb – Mt Hapunang Banoy (+460 m) it is! Itinerary x expenses listed below.

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We descended further from the junction and had lunch at the local tindahan instead, we had trail food but I begged to buy ice cold buko juice there (sorry na). By the time we finished lunch, the sky turned dark and let out its angry roars. I was hesitant since I was already stuffed and ready to hit the sack. But Daryl won’t back down. She said, “If this weather proved to be a hindrance halfway to our ascend then let’s go back. I just didn’t want to quit when we haven’t even tried it out yet.” And she’s right. F yeah let’s do it.

We started ascending again at 12:45 pm and were welcomed by slippery, muddy trails, plus zero visibility cliffs. We didn’t get the chance to take as much photos cause we’re dripping wet. Those slippery, sharp, 90 degree assaults and sharp limestone were the hardest parts of the trail. It took us about one and half hours to get to the peak. Blame it on the weather, better be slow than sorry.

Then again, the view was worth the risks! Thank God for clearing the sky when we climaxed to the peak.

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Let’s take a closer look…

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We descended at around 2:30 pm and reached jump off point by 4:30 pm. Since we’re all wet and dirty, Myrlyn insisted on having a quick shower at her crib with no extra charge. What an angel!

I’m ready for more harder trails. Til next time! Peace out!

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Itinerary x Expenses

August 29, 2015

5:45 am Bus (SM North to Cubao) – 12

6:00 am Take out breakfast at McDonald’s – 40

6:15 am FX to Eastwood Montalban – 50

8:15 am Tricycle to Brgy Wawa (jump off point) – 20

8:30 am Register at DENR – 2 (yes, just 2 friggin pesos)

8:45 am Ascend: Mt. Pamitinan

10:15 am Summit

10:45 Descend

11:15 Mt. Hapunang Banoy junction then descend to local tindahan

11:45 – 12:45 pm Lunch

12:45 pm Ascend: Mt. Hapunang Banoy

2:30 pm Summit

2:45 pm Descend

4:30 pm Jump off point

4: 45 pm Freshen up at Myrlyn’s

6:00 pm Tricycle to terminal – 30

6:15 pm Van to Cubao – 50

9:00 pm Cubao…let’s call it a day

Ate guide Myrlyn’s fee: 800 (400 per pax)

So call her maybe:

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I shelled out approximately PHP 800 for one whole day x twin day hike (I have added my trail food and additional transportation costs). The more hikers, the cheaper it gets!

All photos taken were courtesy of thewanderjunkie. Do check Daryl out, I mean the blog, not her.

Stay tuned to my next escape!