BUNTOD REEF

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Buntod Reef is easily the top destination in all of Masbate. And why not? It is so beautiful and is so accessible. The reef is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, or to just hear the sound of the waves if one doesn’t want to be under the sun. It is reached via a short boat ride from Rendezvous Hotel right in the city.

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Take off point is a wharf from this hotel

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the crystal clear waters on white sands will call you to take a dip

 

The Reef is a marine sanctuary, run by volunteers in coordination with the Department of the Environment & Natural Resources. It used to be that local fishermen engage in dynamite fishing and other destructive methods until the DENR deputized some of them to be the protectors of the reef. Thus they had to stop the destructive methods, and also knew who to watch out for – –  their colleagues in the destructive fishing trade.

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The strategy proved successful. Local fishermen now have bountiful harvests from the sea. And us visitors get to appreciate a well-preserved marine sanctuary.

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SUTUKIL IN MASBATE

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Bar none, the best restaurant in Masbate. Nothing fanct, but the best food, and best value – – meaning iNEXPENSIVE. I went to this restaurant last year and came back with a group of 30 friends this year.Then it was just called Castle Kaunan, with SUTUKIL taking second billing.

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Photo taken in 2013 when I visited this restaurant first. There was still no air-conditioned section.

 

Going ahead of the story, the verdict was that they were all happy I introduced them to this restaurant.And why not?  The place is no-fuzz, nothing fancy. Just good food. The menu was varied.

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Our order consisted of the delicious fish called “malasugue” done three ways. Sutukil means SUgba, TUla, and KILaw. Sugba is grilled malasugue, TUla is malasugue in broth, and KIlaw means making a part of the malasugue fish chopped raw and only done in vinegar and some spices. On top of the 3-way malasugue, we also ordered scallops in butter, and seafood kare-kare. We had extra orders of rice, and several 1.5 liters of soda.

There were a lot of food on the table that I finished while there were a lot of food left. I figure we could have had 25% more friends with us and the food would still be sufficient. Thus, with overflowing good food that some of us tried hard to finish (what a waste if some of the food is left unfinished), the share of each one of us was only P200.00. I couldn’t believe it that a feast like that will cost us only P200 each.

I am sure my friends will also recommend this restaurant to friends who might be in this part of the world.

SUTUKIL is in Barangay Kinamaligan. All tricycle drivers know how to get there. Having no transport of our own, we all waited for our turns riding tricycles back to our hotels.

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Masbate scallops

Ticao Island

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On a recent trip to Masbate I made a side trip to nearby Ticao Island. I have not heard of Ticao from any of my traveler friends and there lies the allure of discovery. Not many people have gone to Masbate, and definitely even less would have even heard of, much less set foot on Ticao. A short one-hour boat ride took me to this island.Fare: P85

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The boat from the Masbate Pier

The boat I took sits 80 passengers cramped in a small space. There were enough life vests though, and this made me feel good somehow.

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Entry into the seats on the boat is via the bamboo planks on the side, and then you slide into the seats.

 

FOUR TOWNS

 

Ticao Island is home to four towns. The first town a traveler hits from Masbate City is Batuan, arriving at the Lagundi Port in Barangay Burgos.

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There are piers on all the 4 towns. I went to the Batuan pier at the center of Batuan, near the market, and saw fish being dried. Yes, Ticao Island folks have fishing as the main source of livelihood, aside from farming.

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must be a 7-kilo catch

I traveled the island on habal habal (back-ride on a motorbike) as there are no other means of transportation in Ticao. My next stop was the town of San Fernando.
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Next to San Fernando is the island’s mother town, the progressive municipality of San Jacinto.

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This is where the bishop stays when he is on the island

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The oldest church on this island was built in 1852, but the local parish had updated the church’s interiors, and repainted the exteriors as well – – to the great disappointment of this delights in shooting old churches and homes.

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This is a very old church, but the exteriors have been repainted and now looks rather new. The old design can be gleaned from this view, though

The last town is Monreal. The church was also renovated and updated, but the old homes got me worked up.

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This century house is open to visitors, but the owner was away when I came to Monreal

Monreal is also where one finds Matang Tubig, a spring resort on Barangay Real.
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a never-ending supply of fresh water from the bosom of the earth

Monreal is also the jump off point to island-hopping. The Halea Nature Park is famous and, I am told, a must see. But my limited time in Ticao prevented me from further exploring ( I could not afford to miss the opening of the Rodeo Festival the next day)

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CATANDAYAGAN FALLS

This is the only falls I have seen that empties its waters straight into the ocean. A friend jokingly said that he is surprised the sea level does not rise with the continuous flow of the falls into the sea. Catandayagan can also be accessed from Masbate City on a 1 1/2 hour boat ride.

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emptying its waters straight to the sea

 

WHERE TO EAT
My friend and I, both back-riding on habal habal, had lunch in a carinderia recommended to us by the people at the town center. When asked for directions, we were told to look for the carinderia in front of the Monreal Town Hall

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What we found was the best-value lunch I ever had. All four of us had longaniza (native sausages), half of a fried fish, and adobo. We also had two extra plates of rice and a 1.5 liter bottle of soda. And lots of purified water. Total bill came to only P320.00. I joked about this to my friends at the Rodeo, saying I will give a treat to the first 100 persons who sign up and would want a lunch treat from me in Monreal.

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weren’t we really hungry !

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WHERE TO STAY

There are inexpensive resorts and even cheaper homestays if you ask around. But having saved so much on food, I decided to stay on the best accommodations on the island. TICAO ISLAND RESORT is in Barangay Tacdugan on our way back from Monreal to San Jacinto. It is reached via a motorbike on a stretch of unpaved road that I reckon is about 4 kilometers long. The “ordeal” from that back-breaking ride is rewarded by this A-1 resort accommodation on cabanas facing the ocean. Image

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a waterfront cabana with airconditioning, 2 beds, a clean toilet and shower, and a small veranda

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the restaurant staff gave good service and wide smiles

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buffet dinner catered to international guets

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The air-conditioned cabanas rent out at P2,600 per pax, at 2 pax per cabana, inclusive of dinner and breakfast. Budget fan rooms are at P1,500 per pax, also inclusive of meals.

Strangely enough, the resort does not cater to locals, nor to people from Masbate mainland. It is actually fenced off and access is by boat as nearly 100% of its guests, also nearly 100% foreign nationals, arrive via boats from Donsol in Sorsogon, actually another, albeit nearby, province. The resort is packaged as accommodations for divers. Ask them about manta bowl and they will say Ticao Island.

Book Ticao Island Resort thru their website: Ticao Island Resort | Donsol Dive Resort | Ticao Island Dive Resort | Dive Donsol NOW!

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Boarded this ferry the next morning to arrive in Masbate City at 7am to catch the Grand Parade to open Rodeo 2014

 

 

Baler Revisited

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Baler is now more accessible after the roads have been completed and it now takes only a few hours from SCTEX. Before we hit Baler town, we stopped at the centuries old balete tree that is so huge and intricate it can literally carry 100 people at any one time, hanging around it.

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Baler now teems with visitors from Metro Manila, for that now-so-near holiday. Especially for those who love the beach and the surf. In fact, Baler is gives visitors a flavor of either Boracay or Phuket.

Baler Kahea

Baler Aliya

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Baler resort

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Inexpensive accommodations on the beach front

Baler Amihan

Baler outdoor

Boracay feel – – food and drinks almost on the water

 

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Store on the beach front

Other than the main beach lined with hotels, surf shops and restaurants, Baler offers tens of other beach locations. We had lunch in a rather quiet beach, at the Aurora Beach Camp. Here, there were no other visitors and we felt like Baler was ours.

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BALER RADAR STATION is a facility operated by the PAGASA. We visited this facility high up on a hill for fantastic view of Baler, particularly of the Dicasalarin Bay. We were all on top of the deck.

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THE BALER PIER was next, and we were rewarded with photography in time for a nice sunset, allowing us to shoot double and triple images of the sunset from water on the floor of the wharf.

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ISLA VIRGINIA is where we called it a night, ready for more photography the next day. This resort gave us generous discounts and so we had to suffer the little discomfort of being rather far from the main beach where Baler nightlife is more exciting. Oh well. Isla Virginia provided us a comfortable sleep and a nice breakfast.

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SABUTAN HAT WEAVING AT SAN LUIS TOWN was the group’s target the next day. Arranged by the good lady mayor and her tourism officer, we were treated to a demonstration of how sabutan weaving is done, right where the raw materials are grown.

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HISTORICAL CORRIDOR
Baler being the birthplace of President Manuel Luis Quezon has a rich history and the town actually created a Historical Corridor. Our group was privileged to be treated to this historical tour by no less than the grandson of MLQuezon himself, Ricky Avancena, who drove all the way from Manila to be with us. The tour started at the Church where a marker on the Siege of Baler is mounted.

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A replica of the young Quezon’s house stood near the Baler Museum.

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Over rituals the night before, a group of prominent sons and daughters of Baler adopted me into the clan, and had me pose with them as they were photographed with their illustrious grandfather

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DITUMABO FALLS

After getting a tan on the beach, visitors can take a refreshing dip at the pool created at the foot of Ditumabo Falls

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Caunayan Falls

Caunayan Falls

On my way back to Manila, and not anymore in a rush, I stopped for more photography on the road.

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RIZAL DAYTOUR

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My friends and I went on a daytour photography of Rizal Province, opting to pick just a few towns. We started from different points, with me taking the Laguna route, therefore starting in Pililla.

The travel from my Tagaytay home to Pililla took more than two hours and so breakfast was the first order of the day. My brother and I stopped at a roadside restaurant called Kawayan Farm and ordered breakfast. Their home-made corned beef made me happy, but the lumpiang ubod (from bamboo shoots) was hefty and glorious.

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Kawayan Farm Restaurant is found near the mountain road ascending Mabitac, Laguna

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BAHAY NA BATO

Next stop was the Bahay na Bato in Pililla. The gate was closed and so I knocked and the caretaker gladly showed us the property which is actually available as a private function venue.

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ST. MARY MAGDALENE CHURCH, PILILLA

Right beside the Bahay na Bato is the church of St. Mary Magdalene.

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SAN ILDEFONSO CHURCH, TANAY
Next stop was the church in Tanay.  From Pinoy Churches: “The 14 Stations of the Cross inside our church has an anomaly that can hardly be missed, The first twelve bear marks and features revealing the Malayan or native characteristics incorporated such as the somewhat squat appearance of the figures, including Jesus, the use of “Tambuli” made from carabao horn and of the “tabak” or native bolo instead of the usual Roman sword, while the last two bears features that are unmistakably Caucasian. Although the construction of the Stations of the Cross were not recorded in the books of the church, it is widely believed that the first twelve were done by a native artist of Tanay. Another anomaly is usually noticed in the 7 th station by visitors where Caiaphas, the High Priest wears a sunglass. All told, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Stations of the Cross in all of Asia.

The Church was declared a National Cultural Heritage on July 31, 2001 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts along with 25 other churches all over the Philippines.

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MASUNGI ROCK

From Tanay, I went to the town hall to seek help on how to get to Masungi Rock. To my dismay, the town hall was closed. I didn’t realize that government offices were closed on weekends. Finally found someone who was gracious enough to guide me and my brother to the rocks. Readers will be dismayed to know that the access is thru private property (my new-found friend knew the owners) but will be happy to know that access to portions of the rocks will be made available starting May 16 2014.

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I had to climb 600 steps (that is what we were told) but realized that there are 4 bonus steps on top for a better view of this magnificent formation. We negotiated our way thru cave-like crevices in what seemed to be a forested hill. It was an exhilarating experience, and I was thankful I brought with me two bottles of water to get me thru the climb.

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The view at the top is a fitting reward for the effort. Friends who have been to Tanay tell me they have never been to the Masungi Rocks, and so viewing it from the top was a wonderful feeling.

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PAROLA
Next stop was the PAROLA, probably the most photographed Tanay landmark. The boats around the lighthouse are so picture pretty we couldn’t stop clicking away.

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BARAS CHURCH
Next subject was the church in Baras, known as St Joseph, Husband of Mary Church.

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What is particularly interesting is that the trusses at the ceiling which seem to be temporary are actually decades old, adding character and interesting trivia.

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BALAW BALAW IN ANGONO

We capped our daytour with an early dinner at Balaw Balaw, a most interesting restaurant in Angono. I made the group interested by telling them that this restaurant, which I have visited more than 30x has been visited by presidents and princesses, diplomats, and ordinary folks like us. The menu is interesting as it includes rather exotic dishes even as regular pancit, adobo, and halo halo can be had.

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The restaurant was started by an artist who has since passed away, and so his artistic bent is still manifest in how the restaurant looks like.

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Our group ordered the house specialty SINIGANG NA KANDULI SA MISO plus BALAW BALAW. And a huge serving of MINALUTO, actually many different dishes on what looks like a paella pan.

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We were all in our homes at around 8pm, ready to retire for the night after a beautiful day and a sumptuous dinner.

You, too, can do this daytour. Take the East Road via Antipolo and hit Pililla and Tanay early in the morning, and work your way back to Manila via Ortigas, hitting first the towns of Morong, Baras, Cardona, until you get to Angono. Address and contact details of Balaw Balaw is on the photo right above this.

(DISCLAIMER: I am a blogger and have no relationship with the places and restaurants I review, making sure I always pay for all my food and transpo, as well as accommodations when staying overnight/s to be able to give an objective review of places).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nagcarlan and Liliw, Laguna

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Nagcarlan and Liliw are practically twin towns. Even from childhood, my memories of these two towns are of rivers and streams people visit for a refreshing dip.

From San Pablo, Nagcarlan comes first. Nowadays, the town’s biggest attraction is its Underground Cemetery.

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Liliw, on the other hand, has successfully promoted its Tsinelas Festival. But the allure of a dip is still there. I chanced upon a resort where the pools are filled with spring water. I thought they deserve a visit, even if only for a day or overnight. No great shakes, but then a dip in a pool of spring water is not an everyday experience.

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Lucban and its Pahiyas

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Lucban is a town in Quezon near the Laguna towns of Liliw and Majayjay. Lucban is best known  for Pahiyas, a festival celebrating the feast of their patron saint San Isidro Labrador.During the fiesta, homes are decorated, the church is filled to capacity with the locals thanking the Lord for their bountiful harvests, and marching bands roam the streets. The town’s muses are also paraded in floats throughout the town’s main streets. Thousands of visitors flock to Lucban to join the festivities. .

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During the event, the homes on the major streets of this small town are decked with kiping and other decoration, some including real produce – – – fruits and vegetables from their farms

 

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The Pahiyas Festival happens every 15th of  May to honor the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. . This festival showcases a street of houses which are adorned with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts and kiping, a rice-made decoration, which afterwards can be eaten grilled or fried. The houses are judged and the best one is proclaimed the winner. Every year, tourists roam the municipality to witness the decoration of houses. This year, I came with a group of friends from FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group, all toting their cameras to cover the event.

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ORIGINS OF THE PAHIYAS

Many moons ago, the locals brought their produce to the churchyard, as a thanksgiving for a bountiful produce. The produce kept on multiplying in volume year on year and so the parish priest suggested that the farmers just put their thanksgiving materials in front of their homes, and the parish priest was to go around to bless the produce. This led to the farmers assembling their produce such that they became decorative through the years. This post, therefore, is more of a photoblog featuring the decors in the Lucban homes.

Kids also have a great time posing

Kids also have a great time posing

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Next time, I hope to watch from somebody's window

Next time, I hope to watch from somebody’s window

 

DON’T MISS THE EATS

Lucban is famous for its pancit HABHAB, a noddle dish one eats without using utensils. Rather, you eat it straight from a banana leaf, using your mouth. Have fun doing this when you attend a Pahiyas. Make sure, too, you bring home some Lucban longaniza or bottled items like vinegar.

Pancit habhab

Pancit habhab

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If you happen to be hungry,a variety of local delicacies are available on the streets.

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Finally, Laguna is famous for cottage cheese, and vendors roam the town especially during the festival.

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