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.¬†ViŠĽán Minh ńźńÉng 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.

HŠĽďng NgŠĽĪ and Nong Lam

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Sally’s parents preparing food for the goats in a laid back afternoon in HŠĽďng NgŠĽĪ

Ric’s kindness is never ending – he brought me to HŠĽďng NgŠĽĪ, 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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Finding Boo In South Cebu

Couchsurfing, popular site for travelers and backpackers, paved the way for me to meet new friends from all over the world, be exposed to different cultures and changed the way I live my life.

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I was doing my rounds in that site, casually helping (and promoting my blog) to travelers going to the Philippines. Then I found Megan; and right there and then, we clicked. I found myself spontaneously booking a flight for Cebu with her host ‚Äď Mark. Crazy? No. That‚Äôs just an ordinary day in my book.

The group‚Äôs first meeting was at the airport before our flight to Cebu. No turning back now. Usually, I would have a vibe and know if I could get along with a person, when I met them; everything was just a perfect fit. Upon landing, we made our way to SM Seaside City Cebu, had a quick breakfast, took a shuttle for 100php/pax bound for Moalboal. We arrived at around 1pm, hired a tricycle for 100php/ 3pax taking us straight to Moalboal Backpacker Lodge in Panagsama Beach. This is a dormitory type of lodge with public restrooms & shower rooms, dirty kitchen, refrigerator, multiple electrical outlets and hammocks everywhere! I would definitely recommend this lodge ‚Äď it‚Äôs cheap, clean, and walking distance from sardine run and sea turtles! So dope, right?!

After buying fresh fruits from the market, the three of us wasted no time and went plunging straight to Moalboal waters. There was a storm brewing at the time bringing currents; hence, the sardine run wasn’t as exquisite in the photos. Nonetheless, the experience itself was marvelous. Go ahead, dive in, and see for yourselves.

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Walwal Night

The Chili Bar is one of the busiest pubs in the area – and yes that’s pretty much where I ended the day. Hashtag shocking. I have found new friends, delved into deep conversations, discovered I can be a Colombian, exchanged travel tales, danced like no one was looking, sang til my vocal chords gave up, walked deserted streets at wee hours of the night. Thank you Jessica, Kyle, Doug, Jordin, Lisa, Wout, and especially to you Ana. Ana – you’re just sneaky cute – I actually thought of ditching Oslob and accompanying you one more night in Moalboal haha. I guess, I will have to book a flight to Shanghai and let me couch surf at your place. Then tour me around and teach me how to dance and I will sing whatever you requested. [Update] You’re back in the Philippines and we haven’t met again, how frustrating ūüė¶

Woke up 2 hours later with a massive hangover – but it didn’t stop me from seizing that brand new day. The group had complimentary coffee with Lisa joining us. Thank heavens for the caffeine fix. After quick chit chats, we hopped on a nearby tricycle that brought us to the market then paid 29php each for the bus to take us to Matutinao/ Badian. There, we were welcomed by our guide to Kawasan falls. We had three activities lined up – falls jumping levels 1-3 (running jump, 50ft and 15ft jump); bamboo rafting and water slide w swing. It also included life jacket, entrance & guide fees. All for 600 php per pax, not bad.

Series of Unfortunate Events 

Here I was. Again. Finding myself at the edge of the cliff with wobbly knees but ready to jump. So I did. The camera wasn’t. When I surfaced, I immediately checked if the gopro was on the right angle. To my horror, it was gone. Our guide didn’t think twice, jumped after me and dived to retrieve it. Thank heavens he found it. Not long after that commotion, Mark and Megan jumped. We hiked to the next cliff – probably 50-60 ft high. The view was surreal.

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 After the jumps, I found a spot and captured some shots for my blog. Mark and Megan did some photo shoot on their own. Later when I joined them, my pole being broken was just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the shit the group fell into. Mark and Megan slipped while doing their shoot. Pretty sure Megan said she had a mild concussion while Mark, on the other hand, wounded himself and soaked his thousand dollar camera!

Alright, enough bad luck for one day (or so I thought). To counter these, I say coffee, I won’t get tired of coffee. Right, Megan?

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Crazy Travelers

Mark, being the very generous one, hired a taxi from Moalboal to Tan-awan, Oslob. What a selfless gesture! Thank you Mark. We arrived at around 9pm give or take; unfortunately, all of the hostels were fully booked. This was a Saturday night, so it’s given. Lo and behold, there’s a one good find (or probably just good luck) – Lirasan Store in front of Brumini Resort. We paid Php 800/night for the entire group; that’s roughly Php 270 per pax ($6!!). Oh did I mention, the back door cases of the GoPro were stolen in the lodge and I almost lost my phone. No biggie.

Allow me to introduce the final, integral part of the Crazy Travelers group РFabio. Yes, out of nowhere, after we were settled in, he showed up alight a bus looking for accommodation. And by settling in, I mean rush fumigation of our room. It  would be best if I kept the specifics to myself. Good thing, our stay-in compound has one vacant room left. After catching up over dinner with our lives scattered across the world, we called it a night. For tomorrow, we are in for a sight of the mights.

Encounter With Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks is definitely one of the heated issues in the traveling community. Thanks to these gentle giants, I was able to fully grasp what travelling is all about – coexistence. It’s in this experience I saw how grand these life forms were and how intimidating their presence could be.

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 I have faith in our government and organizations that there will come a time where we can freely enjoy their humongous company without endangering their very existence.

And nope, our streak of bad luck continued when Megan’s flipper was kicked by one of the guides and was forever lost to oblivion.

[Tip]: Stay at a lodge near the whale sharks (Tan-awan, Oslob). Be early. Like 5:30 am early.

The Adventure Continues

Shrugging off the negativity, we set off to new adventures. We were done with the whale sharks by around 7:30 am. By 8:00 am, we were on our way to Samboan to see some majestic falls.

The falls took a toll in our rumbling stomachs. Our guide slash driver took us to a restaurant in Pebble Beach, Santander (the southern most part of Cebu where Dumaguete is a stone throw away). That might be a little exaggerated, but what I am exaggerating now is the fact that we saw dolphins casually passing through as we lay on the beach! What a treat!

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And we’re not just done yet. Not only the dolphins passed through but also this storm. Storm has no chill.

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We ran to the restaurant and grabbed a few beers. It’s Fabio’s last night in the Philippines so we’ll make the most out of it.

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We thought we lost you, gorgeous sunset. Hells yeah! FYI sunset in Pebble beach is stunning!

The Private Island

Fabio jetted off quite early in the morning bound for Cebu. We haven’t said goodbyes just see you later in Barcelona, right bruh? ¬†By 7:30 am, we arrived at the reception (it’s just a 20 minute walk from Lirasan). After we paid 1,500 php per pax, off we go to the private island!

I highly recommend you guys to stop by this resort! Loads of stuff to do here, perfect for families, couples, backpackers; basically, everyone. You can snorkel in a marine protected area, kayak, fish feed, trek, play beach volleyball, badminton, chill in their pools or in the sand bar, why not. Loads of stuff to do – and did I mention there’s a lunch buffet included in the package? GUHREAT.

The City

Due to operational malfunction, Air Asia scheduled us on a separate, later flights. Mark and Megan took theirs while I opted to stay for one more day to explore the city. Hashtag one more.

Itinerary & Expenses

Day 1 (Cebu City – Moalboal)
6:00 am  Flight to Cebu via Air Asia
Transpo QC to NAIA (bus – 30php and cab – 100php)
Coffee – 53php
7:30 am   ETA Cebu
8:30 am   My Bus to SM City Cebu Р25php
9:15 am    Breakfast @ Sunburst Р100php
10:00 am Cab to SM Seaside – 120 php
Popcorn – 130php
10:30 am PUV to Moalboal – 100php/pax
1:30 pm    Moalboal market
Langka – 30php
2:00 pm   Moalboal Backpackers check in (400php/pax/day)
Snorkel rent – 150php
Unli Brewed Coffee – 80php
M O A L B O A L   A C T I V I T I E S
Sardine Run + Turtle Sightings
9:00 pm  Chili Bar
Beers – 500php (my total share)
Day 2 (Moalboal – Tan-awan, Oslob)
7:00 am Ride trike to market – 100php/3pax
Water – 25php
Paracetamol – 80php
7:30 am Market to Badian – 30php
8:00 am Badian
Breakfast – 50php
K A W A S A N   A D V E N T U R E
9:00 am Kawasan jumps + slide – 600php/pax
Tip to guide – 50php
Chips – 90php
Lunch @local eatery – 50php
2:00 pm The Coffee Shop -120php
3:00 pm Free time (Sardine Run)
7:00 pm Cab to Tan-awan, Oslob
8:30 pm  Lodge hunting at Oslob
9:00 pm Lirasan Store dinner – 100php
Beers – 90php
Day 3 (Oslob – Samboan – Santander)
5:30 am   Snooze off/ freshen up
6:00 am  Shuttle to whale shark drop off point -500php/pax (local); 1000php (foreigner)
6:30 am  Orientation
W H A L E S H A R K S   E N C O U N T E R
7:20 am  Brisk walk to our lodge to shower
8:30 am  Off to Samboan, Cebu
Tricycle rented for 1 day – 300php/pax
S A M B O A N   F A L L S
9:00 am  Aguinid Falls
Entrance – 20php/pax
Tip – 50php
Parking – 25php
11:00 am Hidden Falls
Entrance – 20php/pax
Tip – 50php
1:00 pm   Lunch at Pebble Beach Р160php
C H I L L I N ‘ ¬†A T ¬† S A N T A N D E R ¬† B E A C H
4:00 pm  Meryenda (beer + fries) -100php
Another round on me – 155php
6:30 pm   Back to Tan-awan
8:00 pm  Dinner at Brumini Resort Р280php
Day 4 (Sumilon – Cebu City)
7:00 am   Breakfast Р80php
7:30 am    Walk to Sumilon Resort reception Р1500php/pax
S U M I L O N   P R I V A T E   I S L A N D
1:30 pm     Back to lodge
Lirasan Lodge – 533php/pax for 2D/2N stay
2:30 pm    Bus to Cebu City Р149php
6:30 pm    Check in at Tr3ats Р350php/pax overnight
9:00pm     Dinner at Larsian -140php
Jeeps – 21php
Day 5 (Cebu City)
E X T E N D E D  S T A Y   I N   T H E   C I T Y 
Tr3ats 1 day stay – 900php
Breakfast – 100php
Jeeps – 21php
Lunch at Robinson’s Cyber Gate – 200php
Bar hopping – Booze – 1000php
Day 6 (Cebu – MNL)
B A C K   T O   R E A L I T Y
Cab to airport – 250php
Breakfast – 100php
Grab NAIA to Pasay terminal – 125php
Lunch – 170php

My Take Aways

Yeah, I may have not found my boo in south Cebu. But, to have these friends and the experience can somehow make up for it. Well, maybe not. But you get the point. ūüėÄ
S/O to Mark for that cab ride treat and some of your shots here were lit. Carol, as always, thank you for being generous – I still owe you dinner!
PS. Fabio, I still have the 70K IDR. I might have to use it in Bali someday haha ūüôā
Quickie tip: Enjoy life like a kid!
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Cheers everyone!
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Quickies, out!
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INIDU ELNIDO

When one hit rock bottom, feel that pain, make it your drive to rise up and be whole again.¬†I found myself in that state again. I said to myself…I do need you, El Nido.¬†

Travel. Make new friends. Enjoy.

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The Planning

Thanks to social media, it has now been really easy to spot on cheap af flights. When I saw promo flights from Air Asia almost a year ago, I immediately booked my entire famliy (we’re just three, maka-entire) bound for Puerto Princesa (PPS). They’ve been bugging me about my travels for the longest time – why am I the only one who traveled to nice places, rode a plane, you know the drill. So I figured for my mom’s 62nd birthday, I’ll take them to the place where I discovered my passion and love for traveling, Couchsurfing and travel blogging – El Nido.

Tip#1: If you’re planning to go to El Nido, allot at least 4 days in Palawan. Breakdown: 5-6 hours land travel from PPS to El Nido town. That’s 10-12 hours for round trip alone (combined with R&R that’s 1 day already). 3 days in El Nido is painstakingly enough to cover two island hopping tours then an inland tour on your last day. Remember to plan your travels ahead. It will definitely, definitely save you a lot of money and worry. Also for travelers on a budget, I suggest booking cheap inns in El Nido – island hopping will consume most of your energy, then what’s left off it for beach parties. Probably 2-4 hours will be allocated for sleeping, so. I always say why sleep in paradise when you can sleep at work? Well, this is just me.

Scratch that, forget everything I said. There won’t be enough days to digest these majestic slices of heaven.

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How much did I spend on the airfare? Roughly 700 pesos per pax. Yep, roundtrip. Here comes the hard part, I am a DIY traveler slash backpacker slash I can sleep on the beach if I have to – but my mom isn’t. This is our first ever trip together and I wanted them to have the best time. I am pretty sure El Nido won’t disappoint but the little things must be detailed and planned. Good thing, I have a wonderful friend. She hooked me up with an awesome, cheap quote from Kalipayan tours (below). Thanks, Lisa! Next up, Balesin? ūüėā

Note though, island hopping tours aren’t included in the quote. Pretty understandable, hence, I used another outlet – the DIY Travel Philippines facebook group. This group is amazing. I have never been active to any page or group til I came across this one on my feed. I highly encourage my traveler friends to add this group. Members and admins here were very helpful. So I was following a PPSxEl Nido thread on this group when I saw Michael Yao’s of Tripidito Travel comment. He mentioned 1900php per pax for Tours A&C – I immediately pm-ed him. Normally, Tour A cost 1200php per pax and Tour C for 1400php so it’s actually quite a nice deal. Yep, there are still way cheaper tours on the group but mostly are DIY on the island itself. I wanted to avail those but then again, I have a senior citizen in the midst – I opted for pre-booked tours for a smooth sailing trip. Thanks again Mike for making our lives easier on the island. Before I forget, you need to pay 200php as environmental fee once you start the tours. This is just a one time payment. So if you have multiple tours (say A,B,C), you’ll pay 200php that covers all those aforementioned.

Shall we start?

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The Arrival

We landed in Puerto Princesa on a one fine, humid night of June 8th. We checked in to Circon Business Inn and after settling down, went straight to Kinabuch’s for dinner. Kinda pricey but you’ll get your money’s worth. They even have this humongous TV screen – playing the NBA finals. Service was moderate to slow but the food made up for it. Es muy delicioso!

The Underground

Our van picked us up at around 7:30am the morning of June 9th then made our way to Sabang. We arrived at around 10:30am cos we had numerous stops ¬†(picking up other people included in the tour and finalizing our permits) Even the Balikatan forces were there waiting for their cue to ride the boat that would take them to the infamous underground river. Good thing our fellow tour mates already had a reserved boat, we didn’t wait that much longer. This was my second time underground and I must say, the tour has improved a lot. Now we have this audio device where a synchronized voice over talked to us over our earphones as we pass through this magnificent creation. I found it very relaxing not to focus on what your boat guide had to say when you are seated in front of the boat. You just have to sit back and enjoy the view as you have a personalized voice guide muttering the underground wonders. The tour is about 45 min long and concluded in a sumptuous buffet lunch. I had a pleasure of talking to Fabi, my new found German friend. He introduced me to a place called Port Barton. Yes, that’s in Palawan. And I had no idea – shame on me.

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The City

The city tour is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t take it if I was with my friends. But I wasn’t- so. Our half day city tour started at 9am of June 10. We visited Binuatan Creations, Mitra’s mansion and ranch, Baker’s Hill, Crocodile farm, bay walk, Plaza Cuartel, Puerto Princesa Cathedral and my favorite and last stop – Pasalubong center (souvenir shops). At the end of the day, I pondered and realized, oh yeah, I did enjoy the city and discovered things on a more personal level than just reading them online. So hurry book a city tour if you have ample time in PPS- plus it’s one of the safest cities in the Philippines so why the hell not, right?

The Last Frontier

Right after we had lunch, the van picked us up for our 5hr journey to the highlight of our weeklong trip – El Nido. We safely arrived at our lodge – El Nido (Bacuit) Sands Inn at around 8pm night of June 10. Note that this inn is for backpackers, solo travelers, travelers on a tight budget- they have public toilets and showers. Since it’s our first night in paradise, we decided to splurge a bit and ate at the beach front. Food’s bordering on the average – guess we’re just paying for the ambiance and this view:

What a sight to behold – picturesque view from our balcony.

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The Tours

Tour A – Day 1

7 Commando Beach (yes, senyora was commanding me 7 times at the back, magsaing na daw ako)

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Paglugaban Beach (Shimizu at the time was so crowded; this was where we had lunch )

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Secret Lagoon (pardon my orgasm face)

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Big Lagoon (candid moment as we head out of this lagoon hashtag priceless)

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Small Lagoon (our first kayak!)

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Tour C – Day 2

Helicopter Island (the island all to ourselves)

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Talisay Beach / Matinloc Shrine (we just passed through¬†since we don’t wanna pay¬†entrance fee – had buffet lunch on the boat instead)

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Hidden Beach

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Secret Beach

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Snorkeling Area (wait for the underwater photos below, it’s so good!)

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Inland Tour – Day 3

Nacpan Beach (yup, my Nacpan-Ko-Daw-Nipples-Ko shot)

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Calitang Beach (Twin Beach) actually for me, that’s a trio beach – 3rd beach on the left side

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Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls

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Las Caba√Īas

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It’s a completely different world down under:

The Itinerary

Kalipayan Tours РJune 8 to 15, 2016 (Island Hopping tours excluded)                            Contacts: Venus Р+63977 711 4332 | Grazel Р+63917 526 2008 (Kalipayan Tours & Circon)

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Tripidito Travel – Tours A & C

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Inland Tour
Contact Kuya Wames Niel – (0950) 500 5419
Negotiated 1500php (for 3 pax via his tricycle whole day) for the tour mentioned above. He even volunteered to be our guide for Nagkalit-kalit waterfalls where there’s a 200php charge per head. Trek to the falls took us 30 minutes one way (blame my mom ha! nope, amazing she managed to finish the trek at her age – well folks, age is just a number!) We saved 600 bucks! Started the tour at 9am ended at around 6:00pm.

The Expenses

Kalipayan Tours Php 20,100 (3 pax)

Tripidito Travel: Tours A&C Php 5,700 (1900 per pax)

Night 1 (PPS)
400 Grab Bacoor to Terminal 4, NAIA
200 Toll fee
350 Airport food
30 Tricycle to Kinabuch’s
930 Kinabuch’s (dinner for three)
30 Tricycle back to Circon Inn
105 Beers before bedtime
300 Essentials & groceries

Day 1
200 Shakes at Sabang
120 Environmental fee (40php per pax)
45 Bottled water
60 Coffee sachets
218 Take out dinner from guess what, McDonalds

Night 2
97 Essentials & groceries
265 ChowKing dinner

Day 2
135 Baked goodies from Baker’s Hill
294 Lunch – Jollibee
70 Plastic Bag for pasalubongs and extra baggages
110 Lunch part 2 at Halfway restaurant (roughly 100km to El Nido)

Night 3 (El Nido)
660 dinner by the beach; hence the expense  (first night so we splurged)
30 wet wipes

Day 3
170 water & coffee

Night 4
320 (8) RH beers at Bacuit Grill #happyhour
120 fries
180 sisig
140 (2) SML beers
140 (2) SML beers
100 mom’s dinner
50 tip
70 sprite
320 junk foods

Day 4
90 groceries water
90 meds for hangover and flu like symptoms

Night 5
250 dinner at a local carinderia
388 groceries

Day 5
60 water
100 entrance nacpan
10 bata
1700 inland tour (200 tip)
30 gate pass wfalls
320 food in nacpan
40 water in waterfalls

Night 5
66 Bottled water
60 Mom’s dinner
100 Beer from somewhere I can’t remember
720 Happy hour RH beers from Las Caba√Īas
150 Hotdog – recovery food
100 trike back to El Nido town

Day 6 (El Nido – am then PPS – pm)
30 Water
240 Lunch at local carinderia
122 Essentials & groceries
360 Lunch part 2at resto beside halfway
50 Tricycle to terminal
100 Tip to Bonbon (Sands Inn front desk)
20 Tricycle to Pasalubong center
16 Tricycle back to Circon Inn

Night 6
340 Lunch again at Jollibee
2110 Pasalubongs
500 Cake

Day 7
60 Tricycle to airport
600 Terminal fee (200php per pax)

Air Fare RT  Php 2,203.20 (all in for 3 pax)

Grand Total of Php 43,078.20 (for 3 pax)

Expenditures Analysis

We definitely saved a lot in terms of the tours I already pre-booked and thanks to my haggling skills on the inland tour I negotiated with Kuya Wames. However, half of the cost of our 1 week itinerary is attributed to the miscellaneous items we bought in the island which can be trimmed down exponentially with careful planning.

Tip#2: Before you start your way to El Nido, make sure to bring your essentials (or buy in the city) with you – water (if you rented a van or taking a public shuttle, bring those 5L gallons with you), toiletries and miscellaneous stuff for your rituals. Trust me, you’ll save a few hundred bucks!

Tip#3: You can definitely spend less compared to what was written here. I, myself, is a poor traveler. This trip is one exemption to the rule cos it’s a first of many – first family travel, their first time in Palawan, let alone El Nido, their first airplane ride, among others. There are many carinderias (local eatery) in the area just 3-5 minute walk from the beach where prices are comparable to carinderias in Metro Manila. Go explore, talk to people.

Tip#4: If you love alcohol like me, utilize the Happy Hour! Bars and restaurants scattered across the beach front had this happy hour from 4-7pm. Beers and cocktails were cheap af!

Tip#5: Take pictures, build memories, mingle with people i.e, below.

Shout out to my new found friends from around the world. See you around beautiful people.

Fabi – I have a contact now in Port Barton, I think she’ll give me discount. Hi Ma’am Josie hehe. I met her the day after we did the underground tour haha!

Linda & Candice – It was so nice meeting you ladies from our first night in El Nido to your last. So happy bumping with you in the streets from time to time ūüôā

Jon – Don’t ever slip again haha you got me out of breath for like 2 seconds! See you in Guam or back here? You decide and stay alive! ūüėõ

Pablo, Greta/Carla, Crusti – Thank you for being such an accommodating group. You made our last night in El Nido extra special! I’ll invite you in my “resort”, you tour me in Madrid? Deal?

Kuya Bangkero and Kuya Chefs, thank you for serving a sumptuous feast! Sa uulitin!

It took me 4 years to go back here. I’m surely hoping it won’t take another 4 years for me to experience another slice of heaven here on Earth. *cough* sponsors *cough*

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Til my next quick escape, El Nido.

Photos were taken using iPhone 6S+, GoPro Hero 4 and SJCAM 4000. Special thanks to Tinai and RB for lending their awesome gears. Videos and mini vlogs coming soon!

Cheers!

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Since there’s no Laboracay 2018

I have created a short video on my trip last year to one of the most pristine beaches in the country, in the world rather.

What’s Laboracay though? It is a summer beach party there in Boracay during the Labor Day weekend. Hence, the coined term Laboracay is born, Labor x Boracay, you don’t say?!

Escape with me and take a quick plunge to Boracay, Philippines!

PS. Videos taken using GoPro Hero4 and Hero3+. Check out the entire adventure here.

PPS. Laboracay can kiss my ass!

Til my next travel, quickies out!

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Super Siam (Part 1/3)

Let loose and let go of your inhibitions. Lose yourself in the process- for this is when you get a grip of what’s important in your life then you hold on to it. Tie it up, tight..Where else? In Tie-land. K.

October 24, 2015 (Manila ‚Äď Bangkok)

It has been 2 years since I got a passport and for the longest time I had been itching to have it stamped. Jumping to first quarter of 2015, I pitched an idea to my friends – celebrate my 26th overseas! Oh boy, we’re ecstatic! One of my friends, Mac, works in Thailand; the other, Krista, in Singapore. We agreed to start the trip in Bangkok then fly to Kuala Lumpur then cross the border to Singapore. Country hopping it is!!! I could pretty much sum up my 2015 to the anticipation of our epic out of the country. Yeah I guess I’m the virgin – in international travel that is!

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Sawa(s)dee indeed!

I made it a point to be always involved in the pre-travel shennanigans – planning, booking hostels and finalizing itineraries. Well since it’s my birthday, I let my friends do the most of the dirty work. Come on, I was the one visiting them – technically Nikko (the guy who passed the test of friendship) and I were the guests of honor.

Fast forward to the night of October 24 with bags wrapped in my arms, we rode a pedicab to the airport hence avoiding these scalping cab drivers and the notorious laglag bala gang.

Since we had quite some time, Nikko and I had dinner before going to immigration. And so we ate and chill. Voila, we only had 15 minutes left prior boarding and we haven’t even passed the immigration! Let the running and rushing begin. Thankfully we were interviewed for at most 60 seconds then we ran to our designated gate and there they were already boarding the plane. Lucky us! Little did we know, we had set the pace of our entire travel – the Amazing Race Asia!

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Our friend Marcris welcomed us at Suvarnabhumi International Airport at around 12am BKK time. Our flight ETA was 11:50pm Manila time. Wait, what? (BKK time = Manila time minus 1 hour) Thus, complaining of waiting for us Рcan’t blame him. We took a cab; went straight to his place at Nontabhuri and introduced us to the legit mama (noodle soup) and drank a few beers to conclude my first and last peaceful night in Thailand.

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October 25 ‚Äď Day (Bangkok)

We were greeted by a warm Bangkok sun telling us to get ready and fetch our dear friend Krista who’ll be arriving from Singapore. We insisted on commuting to immerse ourselves in the local scene. How did we go there?

  • Public utility van (PUV) to The Mall Ngamwongwan to exchange currencies (1 USD = ¬†35.73¬†Baht)
  • Bus to Victory Monument.
  • Victory Monument BTS skytrain station on the Sukhumvit Line in Ratchathewi District to BTS Phaya Thai
  • Airport Link (Phaya Thai) to Suvarnabhumi

Krista was already waiting when we got there. Hashtag blame the traffic. Of course since we had the airport all to ourselves, we took our first group photo! More to follow, sorry!

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Yes, like Singapore, they have an efficient mass transit system – the BTS which is elevated while in SG it’s underground.

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We wasted no time exploring Siam Paragon (below) while stopping by Food Hall to take a quick lunch.

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And by lunch, I mean these…

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Kidding! Yes, I can jump from a 5 story building yet¬†I can only look at these for 5 seconds, let alone eat it! Sorry, not my cup of tea. Well I might consider, if the price is right or I’m drunk. Most likely, the latter.

Why use cabs? They have tuktuk here!  We headed back to Victory monument where our next adventure awaits .

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Publishing the next part hopefully next week! For now, you can watch our adventures by clicking on these links below:

BKK x KL x SG (let’s take hopping to the next level)

 

Tuktuk ride!

 

Full Moon Party  (Haad Rin, Koh Phangan, Thailand)

Stay tuned to our next escape!

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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‚Äôll be organizing a trip for more than 8 pax,¬†I‚Äôll ask for someone else to do it for me ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď EDSA. We stopped at 2nd pick up point in¬†McDonald‚Äôs Buendia to meet the other groups the travel agency was¬†hosting. All in, we‚Äôre about 4 groups (40 people displaced in 4¬†Grandia vans). This was the major setback ‚Äď we didn‚Äôt 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôt 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‚Äď our group dispersed in¬†buying last minute essentials ‚Äď (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 ‚Äď a safe, smooth ride.

Safe? Debatable. Smooth? That was the craziest, bumpiest,stomach- turning, worst boat ride I experienced to date. We‚Äôre like¬†survivor castaways (yes we‚Äôre dripping wet, wet from the rain and¬†waves!) with no staff and crew to help if the boat stumbled over. A¬†normal person could‚Äôve 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 ‚Äďstretch 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 Рsetting 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 РDepart 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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4D/3N Boracay in less than 7K

Yeah! You read it right! I spent less than 7 thousand pesos (< $150) for my 4 days/ 3 nights stay in Boracay. Well if not for my katangahan and alcohol addiction (that’s overstatement; an exaggeration for this literary piece), anyway, I would have spent way less.

Boracay in all its glory can shut you up and take all your hard-earned money. BUT my quick escape will show you that it’s possible to spend less and enjoy more…

Boracay has been consistently named one of the best, if not, the best beach in the world. And I felt terrible having to live with the fact that most of my friends got to set foot on that island. Even other nationalities fell in love with Boracay while I sulked in misery.

But not anymore.

A friend from Couchsurfing hooked us up with a roundtrip ticket (dated July 25-28) to Boracay via Cebu Pac. It was worth a staggering 700 pesos. I was skeptical at first… Kidding! Hahah I jumped right in the second he offered to book me one.

I’m guilty of the airport selfie… (sungit ni ate)

We landed on a one fine, hot afternoon in Kalibo. Opposite to the Pagasa forecast, thank God. It took us about an hour and half to reach Caticlan port and about 20 minute boat ride to get to my dream destination this year.

Day 1

The boat selfie… (I can see you Boracay)

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Well now it’s a dream come true! I’m in frigging Boracay!

My jaw dropped as soon as I saw the beach front. Since it’s off peak season, less hotties, cheap hotel rates, affordable foodporn certainly went unnoticed. Yeah, there will always be a compromise. But on second thought, less populated Boracay allowed me to fully enjoy the island (which was really the point why I was here in the first place and not the sizzling bods I secretly hoped for… Hmmmm)

Okay enough selfies for one day (sorry I just can’t help taking these picturesque views with myself spoiling it hahah)

My friends and I hopped from one station to another. We really took our time to see all the establishments this island has to offer. And we can conveniently choose where to eat,  to chill,  to drink due to low volume of tourists on our goddamn time. How cool is that?!

Might I add, we also stayed here in Station 1. No silly, I didn’t go to Boracay to waste money on hotels. But I’m not kidding either –¬† we did stay in Station 1 for three days and I paid 1350 pesos for my entire stay!¬† That’s 450 per night and it’s an A/C room of course.

Imagine I get to drink beer for 39 pesos in Station 1.

39 pesos for a beer, Station 1 and this goddamn view. I cannot stress it enough. This is the life!!!

Perks of off-peak season.

Since the night’s still young, I managed to invite a friend I haven’t seen for 13 long years (he’s now living here in Boracay). We’re friends during our freshman year in high school but due to personal matters he transferred in Kalibo. Thank you Rian for dropping by! I will see you again when I get back.

L-R: Mark (the I.T guy soon to be PAL cabin crew), Mik (Chief Finance Officer of Sen. Nancy Binay), Rian (Concierge in this freakin island!), myself, Darren (Attorney & businessman)

Please check out Fairways & Bluewater Resort and look for my buddy there. He gives discount! (Kidding!)

Day 2 

The “I woke up like this” selfie…

Behind is Balabag beach where the sun sets, while on the other side, Bulabog beach is where the sun rises and most of the water activities take place.

Speaking of water activities, Kuya Ferdinand and our group agreed on paying P1,700 for 5 activities which include:

Helmet diving (make sure to equalize!)

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The fifteen minute Fly Fish ride that will drain the shit out of you (so much competitiveness not to fall)

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Snorkeling (be careful not to step on anything, well that’s not really a problem here…it’s crystal clear!)

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Puka Beach (sea shells everywhere, perfect for pasalubong shopping!)

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10 meter cliff jumping in Magic Island (of course I jumped! Video will be posted if I have the funds to upgrade this site hehe)

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That my folks was a whole day run of fun activities. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world! Such a hot, tiring, yet exhilarating day in paradise.

We had so much fun during the day, it’s just right to reciprocate that during the night. Hashtag equality. This is the ever jampacked Exit Bar (at first I thought the bar was named that way cos people are already at the exit partying).

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To minimize beer expenses, you can buy a handful at sari-sari stores then bring those to the bar of your choosing. Voila, the rave is on! You can easily lose yourself in this island; just know your limits and you’ll be fine.

Day 3

My friends were knocked out last night so I sneaked out the room and started another selfie journey. Don’t waste that precious time on your bed people! You can do that at work (hehehe)

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Well I stand corrected as my friends¬†did catch up with me. We scoured the shores of Boracay til we reached this far end of Station 1…

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Apparently, we are not alone. Look at that, you can even see the shadow of that guy snorkeling. So frrracking amazing!

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Thanks Mik for letting me borrow your breathtaking shots.

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And why would I not include the infamous Willy’s Rock where the grotto is situated:

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This sanctuary all to ourselves…

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I realized that even if we didn’t avail all the water sports being sold in our faces as we took the shores of Boracay, the feel of the water hitting your soles is more than enough.

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My first attempt on stand up paddle boarding. Mik and I got this deal for 275 pesos for 1 hour.

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Struggled at first but hey got to take this priceless cloudgasm. And yes I was standing when I took the photo, not defensive.

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Savoring our last night in paradise…

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Day 4

Last selfie stretch before I leave this already-taking-a-special-place-in-my-heart island..

I can lie on this beach for hours (or before the sun roasts my fair skin).

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So long, Boracay! You know I love you…

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Itinerary x Expenses

Day 0: Php 700 Air fare via CebuPac (roundtrip)

Day 1 (approximately Php 1,600)

Breakfast at ILLY: 245

Kalibo to Caticlan (taxi + boat ride): 1,000 / 3pax (333/person)

Environmental fee: 100

Lunch at Island Chicken Inasal: 175 for inasal w rice, 90 for unlimited iced tea

Dinner at Victory Diver (seafood buffet): 280

1.5liter bottled water: 50 at station 3

Beer at Gerry’s (in front of Mito’s place): 70

Club Paraw entrance: 100 + 90 (san mig light)

Day 2 (approximately Php 1500)

Breakfast (beside Mito’s place): 130 (chicksilog w coffee)

Water activities 10am – 4:30 pm: 1,700 / 4pax (425/person)

Pasalubong: 100 (I have matured and definitely have the will power to limit myself from over spending on pasalubs)

Bottled water: 15 at Crystal Clear

Dinner at D Mall: 200

Beers at Exit Bar and District rooftop: 700 (sorry for party rocking)

Day 3 (approximately Php 650)

Breakfast at Jasper’s: 80 (cornsilog w coffee)

Jonah’s shake: 120

Lunch at Big Meal J: 130

Stand up paddle boarding: 275/pax for 1 hour

Dinner at Caruso, Station1: Mik’s treat so hell yeah

Day 4 (approximately Php 2,500)

Breakfast at McDo: 130 (forgive me, this is my last day here)

Mito’s Inn: 1,350 for 3 day stay

Caticlan to Kalibo (boat x van): 250

Terminal fee at Caticlan port: 100

Terminal fee at Kalibo airport: 200

Pasalubong 2.0: 200

Dinner at Burger King, NAIA: 110 (I advised not to but we’re starving, so there)

Cab to Pasay: 100

Total Expenses: Php 6,950 (roundtrip air fare included!)