Palani Beaches in Balud, Masbate

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kilometers of white sandy beaches

I first visited this stretch of long, powdery white sand beaches in 2013. On a recent vist, I was not surprised that this paradise is developing quite fast, and I think that by sheer distance it will never go the way of Boracay or Puerto Galera. SoPpalani will forever be beautiful.

Palani is the crown jewel of the town of Balud, 68 kilometers from Masbate City, the capital of this island province. From the town proper, the beaches are 2.5 kilometers away. Habal habal (back-riding on a single motorbike) is the mode of transport for travelers without their own transport from Balud to Palani.

Today, I would rate Paraiso de Palani as the top resort in this long stretch. Right beside it is Palani Beach Park.

PARAISO DE PALANI

Paraiso de Palani lives up to its name. I like the thoughtful design that blends the facilities with nature. There are huts and shades with white curtains that dance to the wind. The accommodations are well appointed and inexpensive. The staff hospitable, as well as the dogs “Negro” and Negra”, And the amazing turkey that seems to have appointed himself as the official “one-man” welcome committee.

 

Accommodations, all airconditioned, are as low as P1,200 for a room with a bed for two. Two rooms, slightly bigger, rent out for P1,800 for 2 pax. Then there are the pricier “presidential” rooms with wider floor areas and queen sized beds at P2,500, also  for 2 pax. They have rooms for 6 that go for P3,000, with TV and ref. There is a dorm good for 24, with 2 toilets and bath in the room, for only P6,000. There are smaller dorms for 8 or for 10 persons at lower rates.

Room for 6, aircon, with toilet and bath, TV, ref, for P3,000

 

veranda of the room for 6

 

Room for 2, aircom, with T&B for P1,800

 

“Casita” room for 2, aircon, with T&B for P1,200

“Presidential”, a bigger room for 2 for P2,500

Dorm for 24pax at P6,000, with aircon plus 2 T&B

Three of us had lunch consisting of 3 big fried samaral, 4 legs of chicken inasal, rice and bottled water. The bill came up to only P730.

Pity that we were not ready for an overnight stay because our bags were still in the hotel in the city where we checked in. Paraiso de Palani is an “I must return and stay” destination.

Contact Grace Dalida for reservations at

0917 517 6998

0998 577 6818

email : paraisodepalani@yahoo.com

or check out their facebook        https://web.facebook.com/paraisodepalanibeachvillas/

 

 

OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS

 

Bocala Beach Resort

 

My Q

And then there is HORIZON at the far end on the right. I didn’t take photos –  personally I wasn’t impressed and I thought the huge colorful HORIZON sign, meant for groufies, was a turn off.

There are also some “unbranded” smaller resorts that visitors may check out, and maybe find even more bargain.

 

How to go to Palani

We went to Palani on our own vehicle. But there are vans that go to Balud from Masbate City, at the transport terminal in the market which locals call the mercado. The fare I think is around P200 per person, on a 1 1/2 to 2 hours ride over beautiful sceneries of hills and mountains that will remind visitors this is cattle country. There are ranches along the way and grazing cows on grassy hills are a common sight. The roads look immaculate while seemingly endless. From Balud it will be easy to arrange for transport to Palani – – – a solo traveler can take habal habal (on a single motorbike, as the passenger, for P30-50 per person).

 

How to go to Masbate City

 

Masbate City is beautiful. Check out the city before you go out of town. You may even want to prep yourself up for a Masbate beach experience by taking a short boat ride from the city center to Buntod Reef, a sand bar that is the center of a marine sanctuary.

so beautiful, so accessible

 

PAL and Cebu Pacific fly direct from Manila to Masbate daily. Fares on PAL average P5,000 one way, depending on the season

There are also roro buses from Cubao. Check out Isarog Bus, Raymond, and RORO. A regular aircon bus from Cubao to Masbate is around P1,200 one-way. Isarog includes some buses on its fleet where there are fewer seats and the seats recline like airline seats, with a toilet in the bus, for a higher fare.

You can drive your car to Masbate. Travel to Pio Duran Port past Ligao town in Albay and pay P2,500 per 4-wheeled vehicle to transport your car via roro. This will include the boat ticket for 1 passenger. Extra passengers pay the boat fare. Roro ships leave Pio Duran at 8pm, 3 am and 5 pm. Be there at least 2 hours before to arrange your transport.

Alternatively, drive on to the port at Pilar in Sorsogon. The roro fare for your vehicle will be P3,000. There are roro vehicles from 10pm, 2 am and 5am.

Palani, you’re for me

 

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN MASBATE:
I have visited Masbate so many times and have marveled at the sights, moving me to write about how beautiful and how underrated this province is.

https://boyplakwatsa.com/2016/01/10/masbate-so-beautiful-so-underrated-2/
https://boyplakwatsa.com/2014/05/03/masbate-so-beautiful-so-underrated/

 

Church of San Matias – – Tumauini, Isabela

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Tumauini is a first class town located at the northern portion of the province of Isabela, 68 kilometers from Tuguegarao, past the town of Cabagan.

The Tumauini Church  was built in the 1780s by the Dominicans, in the Baroque style, and is considered to be the best preserved church in the province. Made entirely of red  bricks, the  4-storey bell tower which was subsequently added was also done in bricks that some have described to look like a wedding cake.

 

The Church of Tumauini was declared a National Historical Landmark on February 24, 1989, and is on the Tentative List of Unesco World Heritage.

 

 

San Pablo Church – the most beautiful in Isabela

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nothing but a facade

 

Went to all churches in Isabela on a recent tour. I could say all of the churches were interesting. But one stood out.

 

San Pablo is a second class municipality 21 kilometers south of Tuguegarao via the Maharlika Highway. Travel time is 26 minutes.

This church is the oldest in Isabela and stands out because the whole facade and the belltower, the tallest in the whole Cgayan Valley, are what really remain of what was probably one of the biggest churches in the region. Behind the facade, and actually way behind is a re-built church that still uses the walls of the old church. To think that between the old facade and the new church is a wide area that looks like a patio. Then one would know that the whole church then included the re-built church and this wide front space !

the rebuilt church behind the facade. Note the huge front yard, part of the original church

 

inside the rebuilt church. Note that walls are those of the original structure, and these walls flow into the empty space in front

 

the walls from inside the rebuilt church continue into this, now the facade of the smaller rebuilt church. One concludes this space was part of the original structure

 

the stairway to the bell tower

 

HOW MUST IT HAVE LOOKED THEN?
In front of the facade is what one will conclude to be the original church frontyard. It is marvelous and eerie at the same time.

When other photographers finally find this church, they will agree – – it is the most photographable church in Isabela.

the oldest, and most photographable

 

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The Tuguegarao Cathedral

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The Tuguegarao Cathedral is officially known as  the  Saint Peter Metropolitan Cathedral. The historical marker tells the full story, more than I can ever attempt to do.

 

Architecture is baroque, typical of churches built in the 18th century. The details on the main door are impressive that one can not resist taking photos.

 

 

 

It is one of the largest churches in Cagayan Valley and, Tuguegarao being the nerve center of the province, the cathedral is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.

Waze brought me from Piat 42 kilometers away to Tuguegaro Cathedral in 30 minutes.

Our Lady of Piat, Cagayan Valley

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At first I thought this beautiful church was in Tuguegarao. Then Waze directed me to the town of Piat,  42  kilometers  from Tuguegarao City.

It felt like Manaoag with the hundreds of devotees. I thought this was going to be some sleepy town with a beautiful church.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Piat  is one of the twelve minor basilicas in the country, and is home to the 400+ year old Black Virgin Mary.

I went to several churches in the region and noticed that most of them, like the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat, are made of red bricks, unlike the churches in the Visayas made mostly of coral rocks and stones.

The altar looks like the one in Manaoag, with the image of Our Lady of Piat enclosed in a glass case. Access is at the rear of the church where pilgrims queue towards a staircase leading to the glass-enclosed image – – where they can touch the dress of Our Lady.

Notice the man inside the glass case on the altar – – he is one of the hundreds who queued at the rear of the church for access to touch Our Lady’s dress

 

Baler to Manila via Bongabon

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Everyone goes to Baler and back via Pantabangan. It is the easiest route, and the views are scenic – – with 2 dams along the way.

Not so many know that back in the old days, the road to Baler was via Bongabon in Nueva Ecija. In fact, during President Manuel Quezon’s time, the family would take this road to and from Manila. That is why it was also on this stretch of road where then First Lady Dona Aurora was ambushed. A sad footnote, but an important detail to illustrate that back then, Bongabon was the road to Baler. Thus in her honor was created the Aurora Memorial National Park, a protected area within the Sierra Madre mountain range covering parts of Aurora and Nueva Ecija. The road system stretches nearly 71 kilometers from San Luis, with an area (according to Wikipedia) of   5,676 hectares.

Left San Luis at 830am

Baler used to be part of Aurora Sub Province, which was then politically under Quezon Province. Imagine that the people of Baler would then have to go via Nueva Ecija, and then on to Pampanga, Bulacan, Metro Manila, and Laguna before they reach the provincial capitol in Lucena for a transaction with the government? Until of course Aurora became a province unto itself.

Last time I took the road back to Manila from Baler via Bongabon was in 2010, seven years ago. I wrote in my blog then :

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.

The Road 7 Years Later ( June 5, 2017)

Just the other day, I was in Baler from another route – – via Quirino Province. It was also some adventure. Thus, to complete the adventure, I decided to try what I then called the Jungle Route to Manila via Bongabon. Bummer. It was, after 7 years, a concrete road – – – or at least around 85% of the way.

Left San Luis, the town after Baler at 830am. Entered the Dona  Aurora Memorial National Park and was out of it by 11am, on a very leisurely drive, with some stops for photos and a stop at the marker of the site where Dona Aurora was ambushed. Thus, 2 1/2 hours for a distance of 71 zigzagging kilometers with portions of dirt roads.

the historical marker. I was there when this was unveiled by the National Historical Institute a few years ago.

This is obviously a low-traffic road such that dogs feel like they own the road. I must have spotted nearly 50 dogs on the route, with some of them comfortably lying down right in the middle of the road. This one I chanced upon (my cam was not always on) was, at least, on the side of the road.

Yes, there are still some portions that remain unpaved. Or maybe the concrete must have been washed away by landslides. Most likely, the unpaved portions will be done after cutting up portions of the mountain to widen the road, as most of the road system from San Luis to Bongabon are now wide. And there are plenty of spots and opportunities to stop and soak in the beauty of the forest.

Stop and marvel at the forest

Avoid the road after a typhoon as landslides could block the road

 

 

 

 

 

 

51kilometers to Bongabon, Nueva Ecija

 

There was only one point where my 4×4 crossed a narrow a shallow river, but only because the bridge was still being put up. In sharp contrast with my previous trip on this route where crossing rivers and streams was “normal”.

Crossing the shallow river

 

and up into a dirt road

Methinks that even when DPWH finishes all work, this route will forever be under repair. The terrain is just so different and prone to mudslides and land slides. Mental note to self : avoid this route after a really heavy downpour. Or be stuck when trees and earth block the road.

Otherwise, this is a route I can now take anytime. A welcome change from the usual Pantabangan-Baler way.

I strongly suggest you try this route.

P.S. On way home, we stopped in Zaragoza in Nueva Ecija, and had a wonderful lunch in a roadside carinderia. My driver and I ordered one steaming hot palayok of pink salmon, one sizzling plate of pork belly, and one sizzling plate of dinakdakan (an Ilocano delicacy made of pork and liver). Plus three (3) orders of rice, and 2 bottles of Mountain Dew softdrinks? Guess how much we paid.

After the meal, I was guessing how much the bill wpuld be, and I flashed it on facebook and asked friends how much the bill would be. Some guessed as much as P680, with others itemizing how much each item was to come up with a good estimate. And almost no one believed that the sumptuous meal cost us only P295.

I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, and the Baler-Bongabon Roadtrip

 

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Best Hotels in Isabela

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I last stayed in hotels in Cauayan and Santiago in 1978, back when these towns were “tertiary” areas when I was a newbie media buyer, checking on advertising placements on radio stations all over the Philippines. I remember landing in Cauayan airport then when the runway was not yet concrete but land that was just flattened by a grader and with tiny pebbles to harden the grounds. I then visited Bombo Radyo DZNC in Cauayan, and radio station DWSI in Santiago. I also visited Ilagan then. Those were the days.

Now, the hotels in these towns, now both re-classified as cities, are up to par with other hotels in bigger cities. Let these photos tell the story. ( I paid full rate for everything and did not even declare myself as a blogger to the hotel staff)

Hotel Andrea in Cauayan

Lobby

 

 

Front desk

 

Rooms

Rates and Details

 

HOTEL ORYZA in Santiago City

Front desk

 

Lobby

 

Room 301

 

Coffee Shop, Bar and Restaurant

 

 

Room Rates

Contact details

 

Room 301