Travel Tips on Yahoo Answers

4 Comments

When you can’t find info on a travel destination on the net, you can post a question and get real answers from real people. Some of the answers are experiential, while some are just from wikipedia.

I also go to this site a lot. Asking, as well as answering. I think my answers about Laiya, Batanes, Tagaytay, Baguio, as well as Cavite beaches, etc have been useful to those intending to travel to these destinations.

You may want to visit this site. It is easy to participate  – – – you just need to create a Yahoo Answers name and create an avatar if you wish. In this forum, I go by the name “Lakwatsa”  and if you click on the category : Travel-Asia Pacific-Philippines from the USA site, you will find me on top of the Top Contributors list.

You can share your travel expertise, too. Or argue with some members seeking political points of view.

Warning: there are trolls on this site who are just playing, pretending to be asking questions. They have nothing to do. You can ignore them and just concentrate on travel-related questions and answers.

Here is the link, and you can start by clicking on ASK.

http://answers.yahoo.com/my/my;_ylt=Aq1v_940pXciOdKRNc5fR6MS7RR.;_ylv=3

And if you feel like reading up on a future travel destination, click HOMEPAGE above, on the right to see the places I have blogged about recently.

Happy traveling !

Legazpi, Catanduanes, & Quezon

7 Comments

Hard to miss . . . . .

You won’t believe this. I left my Tagaytay house with permission from my wife to go to Baguio to spend Holy Week there. As we were driving along Silang to SLEX, I toyed with the idea of going to Baler and Casiguran instead. Called my friends for accommodations. I was told the Vice Mayor of Casiguran will take care of me if I don’t get a room.

But as we approached SLEX in Sta Rosa, I just instinctively decided we will head south. Bicol maybe. Crazy, but those who know me will not be surprised that I travel without a fixed destination in mind.

Welcome to Quezon !

Quezon Province: Land of coconuts

No, the people are not nuts. But Quezon province probably has the most number of coconuts among all the provinces of the Philippines.

cocolandia

We stopped for lunch in a carinderia past Pagbilao, just before the ascent to the Eme, that zigzag road that leads to the Quezon National Park. Others mistakenly call this the Bitukang Manok, which is another long zigzag road leading to Daet in Camarines Norte.

After Atimonan, we drove along the coastline dotted with beach resorts. Next town was Plaridel, formerly known as Siain. Next was Gumaca, where we decided to stary for the night. We asked around and were told to proceed to Nellie’s Hotel, beside the Petron staion. The mestiza lady at the table outside the hotel door was munching on fresh jack fruit, and offered me some. I asked if she was Nellie, and said yes she was. She works at SunLife, and is managing the hotel which she inherited from her parents.

The rooms are cheap but not clean. For P500 per room per night, I did not expect even a 1-star standard of cleanliness. That is why I always bring with me my own linen, pillows, blankets and toiletries. What the hotel lacked in maintenance, they more than made up for in hospitality.

That night, I had drinks at the hotel cafeteria with Nellie’s husband, their son Jong who, in his travel to Vietnam knew my friends there. There were lots of stories to exchange. We were joined later by still another guest whose family was already asleep. They were going to Daet. And even later, we were joined by two call center guys who were also on a roadtrip. They drank Ginebra while I finished my 8th bottle of San Mig Light. When there was no more SMB, they shared their Ginebra with me. I learned that the guys and Jong went out much later in the night, after I went to bed at 2:30am. I woke up feeling normal, without any hangover. I was also surprised myself. Then we checked out and drove to Bicol.

Tabaco and Legazpi

We planned to take the 4×4 to Catanduanes Island via roro, so we first went to Tabaco Port to check how we could do that. After the clearances, we were set to take MV Calixta at 1pm the next day.

So we drove back to Legazpi and phoned a friend. My friend directed us to a brand new hotel owned by a mayoralty candidate. The hotel is called La Roca, near the airport. It is a beautiful hotel and at P2,000 per night is a steal. I figured a room like this would cost at least P3.000 a night, maybe even more.Maybe it was an “introductory”rate? Hmmmm, we will see.

my room at the brand new La Roca Veranda Suites

La Roca Veranda Suites Hotel is at Lakandula Drive, Gogon, Legazpi City. Telephone number is (+6352) 4803247.

My friend invited me to Embarcadero, the center of nightlife in Legazpi. This is their equivalent of Greenbelt and Eastwood combined. Live bands play on a stage al fresco, and one can pick a table outside and order drinks while watching the performance. Several Manila-brand restaurants are in Embarcadero.

nowhere but to Embarcadero for a fun night

Catanduanes

We were at the Tabaco port at 11 am, to allow for boarding of vehicles. I had to get myself a ticket to ride the ferry since only the driver of the vehicle gets in for free. Travel time from Tabaco to the Catanduanes port of San Andres was 3 hours. Getting off the ferry, I called my friend who is the daughter of the former governor, who promptly invited me to stay in their beach house for the night. Kosta Alcantara is huge and seemed like a hotel, with several air conditioned rooms, and an open area that can probably sit 100 people over dinner. We had grilled dorado fish for pulutan over San Mig Light. And dinuguan, bopis, etc for dinner.

Beautiful and very private Kosta Alcantara, Catanduanes

I suggested to my hosts that I stay in the center of town the next night, even as I loved the place. So the following morning, we drove off to different towns, passing Bato with its beautiful church facing the sea, Baras where I had merienda on a carinderia by the sea, and in Puraran, most famous among surfers, and is “the” destination in Catanduanes. From Puraran, we drove to Gigmoto where we found spectacular views of mountain and sea. In fact, Gigmoto can be Caramoan and Boracay rolled into one, if facilities can be put in place. The road is also largely unpaved.

From Gigmoto, we found ourselves in Viga, and then San Miguel before going back to the town center in Virac.

We stayed at Catanduanes Midtown Inn. I got a Royal Room for P1,400 a night, and a single room for P680 a night for my driver. Pretty nice hotel. I actually watched the Viernes Santo procession from the veranda outside my room.

The trip back to Tabaco was from the Port of Virac, via MV Penafrancia. It was a larger boat than Calixta, but the travel was one hour longer because of the different sea route. Still, it was a more pleasant trip than the trip to Catanduanes.

Back to Legazpi

We had to stay in Legazpi for the night. This time I stayed in the newly opened St Ellis Hotel, the former La Trinidad Hotel. I went there because La Trinidad used to be my favorite hotel in Legazpi, where I once checked into its Captain’s Suite on a trip to Legazpi just to watch Mayon Volcano “in action”, watching the lava flow at night, years and years ago. 

There is no trace of the old hotel, except perhaps for the second-floor pool that could not be relocated, and the one and only elevator to ferry guests to higher floors. The lobby alone will tell you it is a new hotel, having taken up the space of the adjoining mini mall to create a spacious 5-star lobby. The restaurant at the ground floor also looks and feels 5-star. I thought they were a sister hotel of my favorite Naga Hotel (Avenue Plaza), but I was told they were being operated by Genesis, a professional hotel management company.   I took a junior suite at nearly P6,000 per night. It was comfortable, and definitely a step up from the old La Trinidad.

St Ellis Hotel – – – no trace of the old La Trinidad

the new lobby extends to what was a mini mall

my junior suite

St Ellis Hotel is at Rizal St in Legazpi City, near my favorite mall in Legazpi, LCC. Book St Ellis at (+6352) 4808088.

Another good hotel is Pepperland, where I used to stay until I decided to try the new hotels La Roca and St Ellis. Pepperland is still a good place to stay, especially if you want some entertainment right in your hotel. The bar at the ground floor is always packed, and even upmarket locals go there for the band that always plays good music. Just be sure to get a room farthest from the bar if you can’t sleep unless it is totally quiet.I checked into a VIP room the last time I stayed, but realized that the rooms at the ground level, by the courtyard, are still the better (yet cheaper ) rooms. Unfortunately, these rooms were booked then.

Book your quieter room ahead. Contact numbers are (+6352) 481-8000 and (+6352) 481-4428

Pepperland Hotel - - - good band in their very popular bar

My driver was booked at Tourist Inn, near LCC Mall,  where air conditioned rooms cost P1,000 overnight. When my driver picked me up from St Ellis, I went to Tourist In to check this budget hotel. It is in a busy part of the city. The rooms are not 5-standard clean, but ok. Definitely good value at P1,000 per night, and I figure I do not mind staying there when I want to extend my travel funds.

Lunch when we arrived in Legazpi was in one of my favorite restaurants, Small Talk.  Make sure you order what people go there for : pinangat pasta. For the uninitiated, pinangat is what we Tagalogs call “laing”. Do not try to visualize it. You can even close your eyes while savoring this dish. And you will swear you will have it again, and again, when you are in Legazpi.

pinangat pasta, only at Small Talk Cafe

Get to know about Small Talk Cafe on their facebook :

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Legazpi-City-Philippines/Small-Talk-Cafe/186176090111?v=wall

Stopover: Naga

We decided to have lunch in Naga. On a tip from a local, we went to Basilica Kaffee Haus inside the Basilica compound. I immediately loved the place. We sat outside, in the fenced in area. There were other tables set outside. I went inside to use the toilet and saw that the place resembled a not-trying-hard Cafe Adriatico.

The menu was good. The food great. Seafood paella which could be had by three was only P180. We had as side order tuna sisig, which complemented the seafood paella well.

Quezon, Quezon

I wanted to take the trip to an island off Gumaca called Quezon Town in Quezon Province. I was told a resort has been built and therefore there are accommodations in the island. I am saving that for another trip.

Caramoan, Survivor Islands

7 Comments

probably the last of the unspoilt destinations

Caramoan Peninsula has been the filming site of several editions of Survivor programs, most notably Survivor France which has filmed in the peninsula twice. Three other countries have shot their Survivor editions in the many islands surrounding the peninsula.

Pick your own Survivor island

Easy route by boat

Most people go to Caramoan by boat from the Port of Sabang in San Jose, from Naga and Pili, Camarines Sur.

No, they don't use sailboats!

I knew about this after my Caramoan adventure, just to check out possibilities for less adventurous friends. I met a man who introduced himself as Bisaya, and he sure knows how you can park your car overnight or as many nights in one of the resorts in Sabang, of course with parking fees. This is the easier, lazy route to Caramoan.

4×4 Route


I took the route less traveled. We drove all the way to Lagonoy from where we started a 4×4 drive on practically non-existent roads. Ok, that may be a bit exaggerated – – there were cemented portions here and there, and mostly at the start of the journey. The view is fantastic, immediately after passing the long bridge that leads to Lagonoy Lake. About 2 hours away, which seemed like forever, we reached the small town of Presentacion. Lunch was in a carinderia beside the town hall. We asked how much longer, and were told that it was going to take another 2 hours to Caramoan. This time, the road got even tougher. There were sharp curves downhill on muddy, slippery unpaved roads. I was literally holding my breath, thinking we could turn turtle anytime. I was prepared for that. The trip was made worse because I went to Caramoan on the rainy season. The few trucks and Sarao-type jeepneys who dared take on this road were prepared – – apparently they are experts at handling the road condition! They would pour several sacks of rice husks (ipa) when the road is too muddied and slippery. They even had a ready crew with “bareta” and what nots to clear the mud, put some stones and ipa, to get out of being stuck in the mud. I figure this scene happens to every single truck or jeepney at least 10x on each one way trip.

my 4x4 Hi Lux survived the practically non-existent roads

Just as well I was on a 4×4. The only annoyance is that we naturally have to wait when a truck or jeepney is stuck, and we are able to pass only after they get out of being stuck.

About an hour away, we got a flat tire. The road was really punishing. While my driver was changing tires, I took the opportunity to use the bathroom at the back of the house of the old lady who sold bananas on the road. We were lucky we were in a populated sitio when we got the flat tire. I just bought all of the bananas, thankful of the relief after using their Antipolo-type toilet. It was clean, though. And no-stink because it was practically open, with just some sawali for cover.

Buy bananas, use their toilet

Accommodations

We finally got to Caramoan. Instinctively, I went to Gota Beach because my internet research showed Gota to be the place to go to. I was told by the guard they were closed for renovation. Survivor France was filming again in January, thus the renovations. Oh well.

It was raining and we had to do two things – – find accommodations and get the flat tire vulcanized. Or else we will have a problem going back, with no spare tire. We found a vulcanizing shop, but they didn’t have a tire gauge. We looked at auto supply shops, no tire gauge.

We were directed by locals to Rex Hotel, in the center of town. Climbed the concrete stairs carefully because the stairs were wet, and found a lady at the front desk. The rooms were at P1,500 for two. I negotiated for two rooms at P1,000, one each for me and my driver. The lady agreed, saying it was low season anyway.

The room was spartan.  Air conditioned, moderately clean. Food can be ordered at the nearby fast food, owned by the sister of the hotel’s owner. We feasted on cocido, barbecue, vegetables, all told dinner for 4 people (we treated the friendly hotel staff to dinner) and ordered daing, fried egg, and rice for breakfast for two. The total bill for all of these was just P400.00.  I don’t mind staying at Rex Hotel  again.

Rex Hotel can be booked by mobile phone 0919 8821879, 0919 3089675

Island Hopping


The next day, we drove to Paniman beach to hire bancas for island hopping. The banca hire was P1,500 but the trip was well worth it. We moved from island to island, each one different in character. One island, Matukad, is perfect for camping.

Perfect campsite

Another island, called Lahus, is  actually 2 islands with a sandbar in between, so visitors can swim on two beach options – – five steps away from each other.

Another island looked like a mushroom.

All island photos taken by my friend ABJ on a recent trip

My favorite is Matukad, and I shall one day camp in this island. Meanwhile, I had to settle for a souvenir taken from the island, a very very white stone that was probably from corals and got its fine edges from being constantly crushed on the shore.

Paniman beach

I like Paniman Beach. In fact, having seen Gota and the other El Nido -type accommodations in the different coves, I thought I’d stay in Paniman when I go back. And start from there for an overnight in Matukad. Paniman is a fishing village and some locals have erected cottages for rent.

Breeze & Waves in Paniman

I met a lady by the name of Myrna Rodriguez who opted for early retirement as VP at Philamlife. She and  family decided to go into the growing tourism business in Caramoan, and  built a few cottages near the beach. Their place is called Breeze & Waves. The cottages, as built, looked like mini bungalows, each one in a different color.

candy-colored cottages, photographed from their brochure

I engaged her in small talk about design for resorts, and suggested that she repaint the units in earth colors. And maybe have cogon on the roof, for a resort feel, She was taking down notes all along, and said she will follow my advise. She was so pleasant, and thankful,  I got a free “nilagang camoteng kahoy” for merienda.

This location allows visitors to engage the locals in some banter. Breeze & Waves has a little cordoned off area in between their rooms and the shore. There is even a karaoke, and facilities for barbecue.

Package Tours

photo of their brochure

Apparently, the Rodriguez  family  has also sent out brochures and posted information on the net for packages to Caramoan : island-hopping, accommodations, and meals all inclusive.

You may reach Mrs Myrna Rodriguez by phone 0918 9139623.

You can book package tours as follows:

1 day and 1 night, minimum of 10 pax:

P2,300 per pax, pick up at Guijalo port (in Caramoan)

P2,400 per pax if picked up in Sabang port (in San Jose, where you will ride the boat to Caramoan)

P2,500 per pax if picked up from Naga City.

2 days and 2 nights, minimum 10 pax

P3,400 per pax, Guijalo, Caramoan pick up

P3,600 per pax, Sabang pick up

P3,700 per pax, Naga pick up

Package inclusive of van (if from naga), boat (if from Sabang port), jeepney (from Guijalo), seafront room accommodation, boat for island hopping, all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

Rates for groups of less than 10 can be arranged;

Contact : Freddie 09082911072    Labeth 09198319497       Junjun 09265677770     email : labethsingson@yahoo.com

Here comes Ondoy

Testing my spirit of adventure, Ondoy came the evening before we were leaving Caramoan, taking the same 4×4 route. Imagine how tough it was going, and how much tougher after raining all night? I had visions of me being airlifted by my friends in Naga and Legazpi, thinking that maybe my driver can stay behind until the roads are more manageable. But then I decided to go for the drive. The downhill portions on our way to Caramoan proved to be the most daunting – – – driving uphill on unpaved roads made even muddier by Ondoy! Of course we made it through, or I will not be able to write about it. Will I take this 4×4 route again? You bet.

Casiguran, north of Baler

3 Comments

Here I am !

I went to Casiguran, 120 kms north of Baler, without knowing where to stay. My internet search yielded nothing. A friend texted me somebody’s name, but the text message remained unanswered.

Yet,  the thrill of passing through rugged mountain roads made me go.

I got what I wanted. While the road is slowly being paved to connect Baler and Casiguran, it doesn’t look like the project will be completed in the next 6 years. No, not even during the term of the incoming president.

The trip started out on well paved roads from Baler to the next town called Dipaculao. Shortly thereafter, it was dirt road. And it remained like that for most of the trip, with some paved portions here and there, mostly within the town and sitio centers. Imagine the sharp curves of Eme or Bitukang Manok in Atimonan, Quezon. Make the roads narrower, and take away the concrete or the asphalt. You get a pretty good peg of the trip to Casiguran, with the Philippine Sea on your right as a big bonus.

Breathtaking views at Dipaculao

The next town was Dinalungan, where a most interesting advertising signage hit me. On a bend through the rocky roads was a huge boulder with the words “Lily’s Restaurant – 6 kms”. How ingenious. There is some form of civilization some 6 kilometers ahead? True enough, another short stretch of paved roads was ahead of us, and on our right was Lily’s Restaurant. I wasn’t hungry, and the thought of feasting on seafood in the coastal town of Casiguran made sure I skip Lily’s.

No one brings a sedan on this drive. Not only because the roads are unpaved, but also because there are portions of the road network that slide deep down to serve as water passageways, from the mountains to the sea. Imagine driving your sedan through a large basin.

Within these largely unpaved roads, you will find just-finished bridges. Apparently, the contractor is starting with the bridges,  and then the concreting of the road starts right after. Methinks it is also wise, because Casiguran is very isolated and help can not come when bridges are downed by typhoons.

I knew I was in Casiguran when I saw the welcome arko ahead of me. It was a small town so I asked around for Ronie Montes, the name given by a friend. As it turns out, Casiguran has been blacked out for a week because there have been no deliveries of fuel to the electric cooperative. Thus, batteries of their mobile phones have been drained, rendering their phones inutile.

Ronie asked around, checking for available accommodations. We finally went to a mayoral candidate’s private beach house which he rents out to visitors. It was supposed to be the best choice because they had a genset in the place.

Off we went to Kapaspasan, and a campaign poster of “Curitana for Mayor” greeted us. We checked out the rooms. I was told the rooms can be rented at P1,500 per day. OMG! I never imagined having to pay that much for a room in the boondocks. No aircon, just a fan. No fresh beddings, just the bed cover that seemed like it’s been there for years. Even the silk pillow case gave me visions of mushrooms sprouting anytime. There isn’t even an en suite toilet – –  there is one outside of the room , for common use. Oh yes, maybe because it was a private house, not a hotel. But they were renting at hotel rates, and they did not even provide towels or toiletries. Just as well I had everything, including my own beddings, pillow case, towel and toiletries.

On the plus side, they had a wide covered veranda on the side facing the beach. And the house is on an absolute waterfront. A videoke can be rented for P200 for the whole night, no tokens required. All things considered, this was still the best possible accommodation in this God-forsaken town.I negotiated to pay P2,500 for 2 rooms so I can have a room for myself, and another room for Ronie and my driver. The caretaker reluctantly agreed to my offer.

We had drinks with blue marlin for pulutan. And videoke, with the caretaker couple as our audience.

Breakfast was left-over blue marlin, tuyo, scrambled egg and rice. Plus instant coffee using hot water from a blue colored thermos bottle. It was raining.

The whole day was spent on hiking around virgin forests descending on coves for more beaches. Casiguran is so isolated and so unexplored one can feel like Indiana Jones. I was told we could even explore caves, but I wasn’t ready for that on this trip. Maybe on the next visit, when I stand as godfather to Ronie’s child, right now three months inside his wife’s  womb. Maybe then I would rather pitch a tent.

Baler, birthplace of Quezon (and it is not in Quezon)

13 Comments

Baler is the capital town of Aurora Province, 230 kms northeast of Manila. I went there via the NLEX-SCTEX-La Paz-Zaragoza-Pantabangan route which took 6 hours because of farmers drying their palay on practically all roads within Nueva Ecija.

Pantabangan Dam is a nice overnight area for those traveling late and saving the trip crossing Sierra Madre for the morning. Uera Guest House allows guests a spectacular view of the lake-dam.

A minor annoyance is having to pass through an otherwise 2-way road that has been limited to one way travel, with concrete barriers on both sides allowing only one light vehicle, or a bus, to pass through. Trucks have to use the Bongabon-Aurora route through unpaved roads. I realize they had to limit the load within this road because the structure also serves as a dike for the small dam beside it.

Lunch was at a roadside cafeteria in the first town, Maria Aurora, named after the former president’s daughter. One pinakbet, one adobo, and 2 pcs of fried fish, plus a coke for my driver and a halo-halo for me was all of P118.00.

Decent Accommodations

Arriving in Baler, I was pleasantly surprised that accommodation(Bahia de Baler 1 (there is a Bahia de Baler 2, a taller structure) was good. For P1,500 I got a very clean air conditioned room with breakfast for 2, fresh linen, hot % cold water,soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Plus  TV with cable channels, and a small veranda outside, overlooking the garden that leads to the beach on Baler Bay.  There are other inns and surfers’ lodges nearby, at even lower rates.

Bahia 1 has 10 rooms

My room at Bahia 1

Garden and the sea

I went to Baler to join former officemates who went there on a company outing. The group took surfing lessons at only P150 per hour, the cheapest on the planet. Another trip highlight was the visit to Ditumabo Falls, also known as “Mother Falls”.

Ditumabo Falls

I researched about Ditumabo and found a blog of the locals :

http://www.ditumabo.ph/

Baler is an excellent destination because you get an “away from it all” feeling. Yet, it is a fun place  –  – –  drinking in bars facing the beach. Bahia de Baler’s Bar & Grill is a nice place for meals and drinks. A local band plays at night, and their music is good.

Jungle Route vs Scenic Route

Returning to Manila, we decided to take the Bongabon Road from San Luis in Baler. Why? Because the map showed it to be a shorter route. From San Luis, it said 77kms to Bn (Bongabon). Wow, must be a really quick return trip! And the roads were paved. I figured we will be in Nueva Ecija in no time. But it wasn’t meant to be.

The Bongabon route is what I will now call the “Jungle Route”. If you are not on a 4×4 and not adventurous enough, stay with the Pantabangan “scenic route”.

The paved road from San Luis ended way before I could rejoice at the decision to do this shortcut. Soon enough, we were traversing a dirt road carved out of the Sierra Madre, with deep ravines on our right. There were several portions that were so narrow and we had to stop to give way to trucks going up the mountain trail. Most of all, we had to cross two rivers, one was deep and wide enough to make me re-think of the sanity of continuing. But then,this wasn’t the first time my 4×4 was crossing a river, so what the heck. In my mind, I was more worried about  the van that we passed early on. It is one of those second-hand vans you can buy for P150,000,  and I was sure they will have trouble with their decision to take this jungle route. They probably also had a map, and decided to take this “shortcut”. I was glad I took this route so I can advise non-adventurous friends to stay away, and challenge my daring friends to take this road either to or from Baler.

All told, Baler is a place I would want to go back to. Soon.

Laiya, San Juan, Batangas: best beach south of Manila

22 Comments

just follow this sign and you will get there

Laiya, life in color. That is how the Landco panels describe Laiya. And one who has never been there will find comfort in these signs nailed on several “postes” all the way from the SLEX exit, through to San Pablo, Laguna , through to Tiaong, Quezon, and all the way to Laiya in San Juan, Batangas.

Another developer calls Laiya the best kept secret of Batangas. Well, not anymore.

Laiya attracts tourists, mostly locals – – – families, yuppies, solo travelers mainly because of word of mouth. The white sands of Laiya mesmerize the visitors, pleasantly surprised that such a spot existed along Tayabas Bay, only 2 1/2 hours away from Manila.

There are probably 50+ resorts in Laiya, about 25 kms away from the highway in San Juan where the Town Hall sits in the corner. There, signages of the different resorts compete for attention.  From mom & pop operations to high-end 5-star accommodations.

signages right there where the Town Hall is at the corner

more signages beside the main signage

The 25 km drive is pleasant, with the road lined with mahogany on one side, and a view of the mountains on the other.However, more travelers prefer to experience Laiya almost like the way the locals do.  I checked one cluster, and found out that at Moonlight Resort, the rooms cost P3,000 per day, negotiable. But they charge higher for the same room when there are more people within your party. The trick is to go from one resort to another and bargain until you get the best price. After all, they are all within the same mass of land facing the same body of heavenly water.

the beach at One Laiya

I went to One Laiya, formerly called Tayabas Bay beach resort. It is adjacent to the Porto Laiya.  It is easily one of the most popular destinations. Picnic sheds for rent dot the shore.  A  small raft with a shed and table  can be rented for one whole day’s outing on the water for P3,000.

an expensive raft: P3,000 per day at One Laiya

A boat for 10 people can be rented to take you to the Coral Reef for snorkeling, at a hire rate of P1,000. I actually found these rates to be expensive. The reef is just 10 minutes away. Negotiate! They also rent out nipa huts for overnight accommodations. A nipa hut with one bed costs P2,500 per night, and accommodates 2-3 persons. A hut with double deck beds costs P3,000, and can accommodate 6 . These huts do not have private toilets. No aircon, just fans.

overnight for P3,000, with double decks inside

can squeeze in 6 on the double decks

They also have airconditioned rooms, and a family can get into a VIP room with 2 queen size beds for P5,000 overnight.It doesn’t really look like it is fit for a very important person. Only, the rooms have airconditioning and a toilet.

inside the VIP room

banana boat at One Laiya (they also have jet skis)

One Laiya  also offers banana boat rides and jet skis for hire. Contact Diane at 0922 6197447

From One Laiya, I went to the far end of the resort area, past the concreted road. There is where 3 of the top resorts are clustered. 

The most expensive accommodations in this beach town is Acuatico. Guests love their well-appointed rooms, more like free-standing villas, around the infinity pool. The cheapest room goes for P6,300 per night for 2 persons, plus P1,575 for each extra person in the room. They also have a room called Estancia that accommodates 6 persons, at P21,000 per night. Room rates include breakfast and all-day complimentary coffee or tea, plus use of water sports equipment like pedal boats and kayaks. Acuatico is so popular that they do not have off-peak rates, nor group rates.

rooms, around the infinity pool

cafe-bar-resto overlooking the infinity pool and the beach

after all, it's the beach we went to . . . at Acuatico

Acuatico can be booked thru their Manila office : (+632) 4088383, 8927577 or email reservations@acuaticoresort.com.ph

My personal favorite is Balai sa Laiya, just next to Acuatico. While Acuatico looks high-end and busy, Balai has a restful, provincial setting even while the accommodations are comfortable and air conditioned. Tall trees provide shade around the property, and over the cottages.

it is peaceful here

sampaloc trees for shade

seaside rooms at a P100 premium per person

Single occupancy in a seaside room  is P2,900, twin or double is P4,300. Rooms under the trees are a bit cheaper, by P100 per person. These rates assume aircon is not used, and an aircon charge of P600 per night per room  is charged if guests want this convenience. Rates include 4 buffet meals plus free use of facilities like billiards and pool table, and volleyball.

Balai sa Laiya can be booked by phone 09216065572, look for Edith Egwaras. Or contact them thru their website http://www.balai-resort.com

UPDATE: Balai sa Laiya has just been bought by its next-door-neighbor Acuatico.

Own a piece of Laiya

You can also now own a piece of Laiya. Landco has bought what used to be Laiya Coconut Grove and is developing it, for sale as PLAYA LAIYA, thus, all those signages. Landco also developed Punta Fuego, Terazzas de Punta Fuego, and Canyon Woods. Expect very high-end pricing.

Activ Group, the real estate company that developed the high-end Malarayat Golf community in Batangas is developing Porto Laiya. Lot prices are at an average of P6,000 per square meter.

I knew about these as I was having lunch, and the owner of the place( na itatago na lang natin sa pangalang Tita de Castro) offered to sell me property. She thought I was looking for land to buy, not knowing that I always just drive on, aimlessly, without a destination and without any schedule to follow. (And no, she is not related to Gloria de Castro, the lady in Talisay that I mentioned in a previous entry).

Although she did mention a piece of land that seemed inexpensive. Hmmmmmm. I just might, one day, live my life in color in Laiya.

Question: How do I get to Laiya ?

The first route : SLEX to San Pablo to Laiya(via Quezon Province):

fruits along the way.. rambutan P80/kilo

lanzones at P150/kilo, and avocados

Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and drive on towards the direction of Sto.Tomas in Batangas. Drive When you hit Sto. Tomas, turn left towards Quezon province, hitting Alaminos, Laguna first. You will pass San Pablo City, and then you will hit the Laguna-Quezon boundary. You will pass by Dolores, and then Tiaong. Actually, as early as in San Pablo (Laguna), you will see signages from Landco saying “Laiya, Life in Color”. this is a good directional sign for you. Towards the end of Tiaong, you will make a right turn where there is a TURN RIGHT sign by Landco (Laiya, Life in Color) in that corner that says “San Juan”. Follow this road until you hit San Juan town proper, about 14 kms away. This road forks at some point, with a little bit of unpaved road towards the end. Take this unpaved road. The unpaved road is so short anyway and you will soon be back to cemented roads.  You will then find yourself at an intersection. This is the main highway, and you will see the San Juan Town Hall at the corner. Do not make any turns, just cross the road, and you are on your way to the beach area, around 25 kms ahead.  Even as you drive on this road, you will see several signages that refer to beach resorts and subdivisions being developed in Laiya.

The trip is approx 2 1/2 hours from the Villamor tollgate of the SLEX.

Route 2 : STAR Tollway to Lipa and onward to Laiya :

Take the same direction to Sto. Tomas, Batangas, as in the directions above. Drive on to Lipa, either via the old road or thru the STAR TOLLWAY, making your exit in Lipa. From Lipa, drive on to Rosario, the next bigger town. You will pass thru the towns of San Miguel and San Roque before you hit Rosario. From Rosario, drive on to Balugbug. The next big town after Balugbug is San Juan. If you are going to Laiya, then follow the directions I gave in Route 1.

Having taken the 2 routes, I will still recommend Route 1. It is easier to follow, and is not much longer. And then you can afford the adventure of taking the Lipa route on return.

Beyond Laiya

You may want to venture beyond Laiya. There is a pier in the area, past Acuatico and Balai sa Laiya cluster,  that takes passengers to Marinduque, another exciting destination.

Tagaytay Sidetrip: Around Taal Lake on 4X4

1 Comment

I thought it was going to be an easy ride around Taal Lake.

Mission: Drive around the Lake

In our previous descents, we always took the Ligaya Drive route from Tagaytay to Talisay. The view is fantastic, and the road is good.

Easiest access to Talisay from Tagaytay

This time, we took the zigzag road from the Tagaytay rotunda. A year ago, this was practically impassable. But it is now 100% finished, although some sections were only asphalted.

The 12 kms zigzag road to Talisay starts at the rotunda

At kilometer 59, I saw 2 bridges one after the other, both with strange names. How does Alingayngay Bridge or Pinaglintikan Bridge sound to you?

The zigzag road is about 12 kilometers from the top, ending in Barangay Leynes in Talisay. I have been to this part of Talisay before, countless times, each time having a drink at Gloria de Castro’s picnic place. Or having fried tilapya, ginataang tilapya, or inihaw na tilapya for lunch. And a cold beer while marveling at the view of the volcano at dusk. Aling Gloria pioneered tourism here, accommodating foreigners in her home, earning her consistent mention in Lonely Planet and other travel books.

Barangay Leynes in Talisay, end of the zigzag road

On this trip, we skipped Aling Gloria’s place, and immediately turned right. This brought us to the town of Laurel. I remarked that this spot around the lake is probably the best. It is not as “developed” as Talisay which now has probably a hundred resorts dotting the lakeside.

Taal Lake from Laurel, Batangas

There is a spot from Laurel where you can drive up to Tagaytay, passing through the area where Splendido stands. We decided to stay within the lakeside. The next town is Agoncillo, and this brought back memories when my friends and I used to visit an officemate who had siniguelas trees in her backyard. But we went to Agoncillo then via Lemery, not from the lakeside.

Siniguelas tree

close up: siniguelas fruit

Thus,I never imagined how rough the travel can be. Or maybe because Typhoon Ondoy has just hit the country, and did not spare this lakeside town. Within the lakeside, there were portions that seemed impassable, and the road literally merged with the lake. The maneuver is made worse when the road is on a bend, and you can hardly see where the road would go. And because the Toyota 4×4 Hi Lux is not an amphibian, I felt like we were, at any moment,  going to be submerged in the lake.

After successfully negotiating the lakeside, we found ourselves in roads that looked worse than feeder roads, or farm-to-market roads. Apparently, Ondoy caused all of these, washing away the asphalted roads, with several sections of higher ground eroded or washed out. I swear the trip took on the nature of a 4×4 trek around Pinatubo.

Road leads to the water's edge

My 4x4 trail : no government here?

The place is difficult to reach, to say the least. Thus, within Buso Buso, where, roads are for 4×4 trekking, there are no shops. Ambulant vendors try to make a living in the area. An entrepreneur thought that maybe a mobile grocery and sari sari store is just what is needed in this place.

A mobile 7-11

We stopped at past 12 noon in a “pondohan” where I saw kaldero at kaserola and tables and chairs. We ordered puso ng saging, one slice of pork chop, and one slice of afritada. Plus rice and 2 bottles of Coke. The bill went up to a princely P100.00 flat.

Moving on, it felt like driving in an uninhabited area where we only followed trails.Next we came to an area where roads got a bit better.

Fishing net : the lake is a source of livelihood

Coconut leaves are dried, for fuel

Until we finally saw civilization. Within Agoncillo proper, I saw some really beautiful homes. Big homes. Contrast this to the next barrio, just where we came from, which seemed like no man’s land.

We left Agoncillo for Lemery, and drove back to Tagaytay. Still, I couldn’t believe that a 4×4 adventure trail existed almost within my Tagaytay backyard.

________________

Update: May 27, 2010

With nothing to do, I thought I’d check out my neighborhood 4×4 trail. I found the water level in the lake has gone down, There is no more bend where “the lake meets the road”. Workers are doing the pavement, and, hopefully, the roads will be passable even after a typhoon. But when I say passable, I mean just that – – – passable. I couldn’t believe it that way after Ondoy, and even after the elections, the roads have not improved a bit. Now, I have concluded this may not have been caused by Ondoy. The flooded lake, yes. But not the status of the road itself. The roads are so bad you would wonder if this area is within the jurisdiction of any local government. It is as if the governor does not know that such road existed in this first class province. It feels like there is no mayor, no congressman. Or maybe they are not part of the Philippines. On a positive note, I will always have a place for 4×4 experience.

This time, too, I went on to Lemery town. Lemery is 45 kilometers from the Tagytay rotunda starting point., to complete the trip around the lake.

From Lemery, I drove to Lipa via Batangas, took the STAR tollway and made my exit in Tanauan, heading back to Tagaytay via Talisay.

From the Tanauan exit, the first barangay is Santor, and then Talaga. A good place to visit is the Mabini Shrine, the birthplace of the Sublime Paralytic.

a shrine in Talaga, Tanauan, built where Apolinario Mabini was born

A few kilometers away and you will get to the town of Talisay. Talisay is a destination in itself among garden enthusiasts. There are hundreds of backyard gardens selling plants – – from trees, to shrubs, from fruit trees to  ornamentals. I bought a mango tree from Talisay, and right now the tree has at least 50 mango fruits waiting to ripen.

Talisay marker, cut out letters to promote Tali Beach?

Corn on the cob by the Talisay roadside

I took a quick snapshot of the Talisay Municipal Hall and headed back to Tagay tay, this time thru Ligaya Drive.

Along Ligaya Drive, one can see locals on horseback, fire trees on the road, and three areas being developed by Filinvest as mid-to-high-end residential subdivisions. The 3 areas are collectively called Leuna de Taal. The area nearest the lake is called Orilla, with easy access to the exclusive clubhouse on the lake. The Bahia is at the midpoint of Ligaya Drive, and has views of the lake. The highest point among the Leuna de Taal properties is now being developed as a townhouse community. Units are sold for P3.6 million, with the splendid view of Taal Volcano and the lake as bonus.

Along Ligaya Drive