Monday, October 21, 2013

Pilgrimage on a weekend.

Sunday. What a beautiful day to explore. We decide to go to Antipolo because my dad was going back abroad the week after and since the patron for Antipolo was Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. It's been a while since I've been there and many has changed, establishments have grown and the main pasalubong center has a new signage, plus there's a Starbucks just outside the church. What has not changed are the number of people going to get their vehicles blessed, people selling suman and cashews, and a crowded church.

Once you reach the town of Antipolo, a lot of people are waiting for you to guide you where to go with a catch that you will buy pasalubong from their store, which is not bad. If you don't go to the chruch often, it is confusing since most streets around the church are one way.

National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

Kasoy at Suman

Once we parked the car, we headed for breakfast to eat sotanghon and lechon (a healthy breakfast instead). After hearing, we went up to touch the veil of Our Lady. As part of our Rizal trip, we headed to Regina Rica in Tanay.

From Antipolo church, Regina RICA is about an hour and a half drive. You will pass by the route to Daranak Falls, Camp Capinpin and JE Camp. It's an easy route and you won't get lost, but of course I get to use a map.

Regina RICA is open everyday escept for Tuesdays. They hold mass every Sunday at 11:00 AM and 3:30 PM. The land is 13.2 hectars in area and has two chapels and a 71 feet high statue of Our Mother oft he Rosary. It was the perfect timing that we went during the month of the rosary. Inside the statue, called Sulod (an Ilonggo term for inside amd also an acronym that means Sanctuary of Universal Love and Devotion) is a place of prayer. A cruxific and the Blessed Eucharist is displayed. They call the crucifix as the Cross of Absence and Presence because there is no image of Christ on the Cross but etched is the body and blood of Christ. It is prohibited to take pictures inside to preserve its Holiness.

As the sisters will reiterate, the area is a place of Pilgrimage and is not meant to be a playground or picnic place.

Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia

Inside the chapel

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Rough Road to El Nido

August. Next time, I really should take the weather in consideration when I book when airlines posts their sale. A few days prior to our Palawan trip, there had been lots of rain in the metro and I was starting to feel dreary of trying to plan the trip while the rain keeps falling.

Finally the day came for our trip and a tropical depression was approaching Manila. My officemate asked me if I was excited, and was starting to feel down. Considering that major activities in El Nido requires riding a boat, I was really praying for calm waters.

Arriving late night in Puerto Princesa, we slept to prepare for an early trip to El Nido the next day. Going to San Jose terminal, there are two major van services that are known to locals. Euleen Joy and Lexus. Euleen Joy's earliest trip is 5:00am with roughly 2 hours interval on their schedule and the latest trip is 6:00PM. Lexus' schedule in about the same but off by about 30 minutes to allow travellers a choice on time. There are also vans at the airport if ever you have an early flight and decide to go direct. Rates at San Jose is around Php500 while the vans at the airport costs Php600.

Travel time is 5 hours by van. You can also take RORO buses that costs around Php400, cheaper but longer travel time of about 8 hours.

The road going to El Nido was long with 80% concrete and the rest rough. You will pass by several towns in Palawan like Roxas and Taytay and the van will stop twice. Transit time may have been shorter if the road has already been completed.

We left the terminal at 7:00 AM, but had to stop by several areas around Puerto first and started our journey 8:00 AM arriving at El Nido at 1:00 PM. We had already reserved rooms ahead of time but there are several inns that you can choose from some are located along the beach front of the town while others are at Corong Corong which is a few minutes walk to the beach front. I would suggest going for one near the beach front especially if you are planning to do some island hopping to give you enough time to have breakfast.

Arriving in the middle of the day, we opted to just rest for the day. We checked in at the alternative and dropped by the church. We were hoping to avail a combination of tour A and C given we only had 3 days in El Nido so we talked to the guide to schedule the trip. Unfortunately, the following day, the rain was falling hard and the waves were higher, thus the coast guard has decided to hold any trips.

Stuck at the main land, we started looking for other things to do within the island. We decided to go to Nacpan beach, which is one of the so called twin beach. Residents of El Nido are not familiar with the name twin beach as it was coined by the tourists visiting the area so if you have plans of going to the area, inquire about Nacpan beach. The name twin beach came around due to to beach coves next to each other namely Nacpan and Calitang.

Riding on a tricycle going to the beach, it took about an hour to reach the location. It is also the road going to Nagkalit-kalit falls which required trekking 30 minutes which, due the the weather, was difficult to do. Upon arriving near the beach, the road was so muddy the tricycle can no longer go in so we had to walk.

But the walk was worth it. Even though it had been raining, you will still enjoy the beach. How the waves would hit the shore, and most of all, we had the beach to ourselves. Aside from the trike ride we paid for, the beach was free for you to enjoy. There are some cottages that you can rent but you wouldn't really need it.

You can also climb a small hill thats at the end of the shore that separates the two beaches and from there you can see the two beaches side by side divided by a small shoreline.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Coffee at Vietnam

Vietnam is pretty famous for its coffee. When I was making our itinerary for our trip, I made sure that there will be free time for coffee.

We were going to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Located north of the country, Hanoi is known as the city between the rivers and the second largest city in Vietnam. Since we purchased out tickets during an airline sale, choice of dates was limited. Nite to self, check the yearly forecast o the country first prior to booking. September is the time where the season changes in Hanoi, from summer to fall. Summer seems to be also a rainy season for Hanoi, and since I was planning on going to Halong Bay, I was praying it doesn't rain so the view won't be ruined.

And finally, it was time for our flight. Since the airline only has a few flights going to Hanoi, our trip was set Saturday (late night) to Wednesday (early morning). And since this is the most ideal schedule, almost everyone that we rode with going to Hanoi were also the same as the ones we went home with.

Our flight arrived early Sunday midnight, just enough time to let us rest for a whole day of city tour for the rest of the day.

Suggested places to go is the Ho Chi Minh museum, followed by the One Pillar Pagoda, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential palace, the Flag tower, the the Temple of Literature which are actually walking distance from each other if you are up for it. It is important to note that the mausoleum is only open in the morning from 8:00 am to 11:00, and is closed Mondays and Fridays so it is best to start early and wear long pants rather than shorts.

Clockwise from the top: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Flag Tower

After a tiring but fun stroll along the area, you can head off to Old Quarter for lunch. After lunch, you can head off to Hoan Kiem Lake
Were the Turtle, the Huc bridge and Ngoc Son Temple can be found. The lake is also next to the water puppet show.

The Hub Bridge

If you are interested, you can visit St. Joseph's cathedral. The church was built in 1886 in the neo-gothic style. Near the church are coffee shops which are fillef with people sitting down on small stools placed on pavements around the street, which is the common site to see through out Hanoi.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

We decided to stop by for some coffee after attending mass. We chose a place that wasn't so crowded and order iced coffee and iced tea to cool down. We were curious at what the people were eating while drinking coffee and we realized that they were sunflower seeds, it seems that the snack is abundant in the place.

After coffee, it was finally time to head back to the hotel to rest our tired feet. After a quick rest, we headed off to old quarter to check out the night market, nothing really much to see though. Since all our energy was used up, we just ate dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel. Aside from coffee, your Hanoi trip will not be complete without trying their Pho noodles (both dry noodles and with soup) and rolls.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, September 7, 2012

Korea, Be Inspired.

Since I enjoy travelling, I also want to share one of my collections: the Starbucks City Icon series tumblers. Although my Seoul and Korean tumblers are not my first, this was the first international tumblers that I personally bought as an official collector (I bought my Singapore tumbler first, but I wasn't collecting yet).

Having to plan my trips myself with a lot of help from bloggers and other sites, I really made sure that no matter what, I get to visit all the famous spots in Seoul that I see in Koreanovelas. A bit die hard? Not really.

The Starbucks Icon series features famous "icons" that represents the city or country, and one of my goals, aside from completing the collection is too also have a picture of the real life icons, too bad I didn't have a picture of the mask with me in it. :)

The Seoul tumbler features the N Seoul Tower, officially the CJ Seoul Tower and commonly known as the Namsan Tower and Seoul Tower. According to wikipedia, it is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea.

The Korea tumbler on the other-hand shows Korean Masks. They were used in war, on both soldiers and their horses; ceremonially, for burial rites in jade and bronze and for shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits; to remember the faces of great historical figures in death masks; and in the arts, particularly in ritual dances, courtly, and theatrical plays. The present uses are as miniature masks for tourist souvenirs, or on cell-phones where they hang as good-luck talismans. (  

The other Cagayan

I read in an airline magazine, when you say Cagayan, people would normally think Cagayan de Oro. This seems to be true. It's famous for white water rafting, and also is the nearest airport to some Mindanao destinations. But I'm not blogging about CDO right now. Today, I will let you see the other Cagayan, or parts of it.

Cagayan in the north, is part of the region of Cagayan Valley (Region 2) in the Philippines.  Cagayan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of Smiling Beauty, its capital is Tuguegarao City. It is at least a 15 hour drive from Manila, or you can also opt to take a plane which only lasts 45 minutes. The ideal days to vist the place would be during summer because the whole Cagayan Valley may be the most visited region of storms and heavy rains.

So, what can you do in the place? You can visit Callao Cave in Penablanca, the most known tourist spot in the province. It is roughly 45 minutes away from the city. You can hire a van or trike to take you to the place. If you are in a large group, it is best to hire a van. The cave has 7 chambers, 5 of which have sky lights. The last 2 chambers are more harder to reach as you would need to go down a rocky pathway and is not advisable to visit during rainy season as the way becomes muddy, none the less, the first few chambers are sufficient enough for you to enjoy. There is a minimal entrance fee and a volunteer tour guide will assist you inside the cave.

From the entrance, you will climb stairs to the entrance of the cave which will take 15-25 minutes depending on your phase. The chambers are just a few meters away from each other so this is really not as strenuous as you may think.

The Chapel at Callao Cave

After trekking the cave, you can also go for a relaxing boat ride along Pinacanauan River just at the side of the cave. A both ride will cost you Php 500/boat and you can also eat at the end of the river where the boatman will pick you up after. At nightfall, you may also be able to see bats storm out of the bat cave near the river.

Once you are back in the city, one thing you should miss is trying out Tuguegarao's famous noodles, the Pancit Butil Patong. It got its name from patong or to put on top. The noodles, together with its toppings also comes with soy sauce, onions, calamansi and a bowl of soup.

For Catholics, the next activity you can do is visit some of Cagayan's churches. Cagayan is a great place during the Holy Week if you want to do some Visita Iglesia. Some known churches are the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat, Iguig Church in Calgary Hill, and St. Peter's Basilica in the capital. The Basilica Minore in Piat houses the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary while the Iguig Church has life size images of the stations of the cross and has a view of the Cagayan river.

Basilica Minore (L); Iguig Church (M); St. Peter's Basilica (R)
If you have run out of activities to do in the capital, you can also consider going to Santa Ana. Santa Ana is the home of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone which host casinos and other gaming facilities, some exclusive to Chinese visitors. You can also see several second hand vehicles for auction there. To know more of the place, visit the municipality's facebook page

Being on the northern part of the Luzon, there are many coastlines and beaches in Santa Ana. Port San Vicente is located at the edge of Santa Ana and is the entry point via boat to the place, across the Port, you will also have the view Palaui Island.

You can take a ferry trip from Santa Ana to Batanes, the farthest place north of the Philippines, during the calmest of weathers.

From the port, you can hire a boat that can take you to the three most famous destinations in the place; Palaui Island, Maninad Island and Anguib Beach.

Palaui is considered to have one of the great beaches in the Philippines. The view is breathtaking and can be compared to a mini Batanes. You can either trek the island which will take you at least 2 hours to reach the other part or you can ride a boat that will take you to the other side which takes 45 minutes. On the other side of the island you will see the lighthouse of Cape Engano.

As mentioned on the picture below, the lighthouse was inspired by 3 lighthouses: in Cape Bojaedor in Burgos, Ilocos Norte; in Capones Island, Zambales and Isla de Cabra in Mindoro.

The lighthouse is an additional climb of 20-30 minutes, which was really tiring especially during the time the sun rises the highest. Good thing the view of the island was really worth it.

After a tiring walk from the lighthouse, you can relax at Anguib beach (pronounced as angib). Half of the beach is private and offers an entrance fee of PHP 500 together with buffet lunch. The other side costs only PHP 20. According to the locals, you can also reach the beach via land but the gate towards the beach is normally closed, so the best option is still to take a boat ride to the San Vicente.

Anguib is tagged as the Boracay of the North. Don't get your hopes up as the sand is not as fine as Boracay, and there are also many weeds in the water. There is also not much to do in the place. During weekends, they say that the beach really gets packed with locals.

Maninad or Crocodile Island is a small island between Palaui and the mainland. From afar, it looks like a crocodile and the place is really stoney.

Well, can I say that the trip was worth it? Honestly, for me I travel to explore. I want to learn as much as possible, as they say, the more you travel the more open-minded you become. You get more experience. If you are after the beaches, I'd give it an 8. There is not much to do in Cagayan considering you will have to travel for 15 hours by land, but I recommend the place to people who wants to learn about caves, if you want a secluded place to enjoy on your own, if you want to hike and explore.

If you are planning a trip to Tuguegarao via plane, 4 days is enough (flights are in the morning only). An overnight stay at Santa Ana in the first night, rest on the second, then tour the city on the third day.

View of the Cagayan River from the airplane.