Canvas Hotel Puerto Princesa

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It was decades ago when I brought my wife and daughter to Puerto Princesa for a cruise of the Underground River, a visit to the Iwahig Penal Colony, the Vietnamese resettlement community, a crocodile farm and a mall.

Progress is evident in the new malls, especially SM City where we held a bonsai exhibit.

Stayed before in what was then the best hotel in town. Passed by it and it still looked good, and won’t mind staying there again.

But the most pleasant surprise is the hotel recommended by friends.

Canvas is a boutique hotel. The rooms are of good size, well appointed, and with all amenities I expected. I liked the overall design concept, and was intrigued by the coffee shop’s name, Painted Table. Indeed there was a huge painted table, very well done, that served as the focal point.

The best thing about Canvas is the staff. All very professional, all very attentive. From the front desk, to housekeeping, to the Painted Table staff. They offered to bring my omelet instead of waiting for it to be done. They asked whether I wanted another cup of coffee. All these without feeling intruded.

Canvas will be my hotel of choice in Puerto Princesa.

Star Jewel Lodge in Apayao

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It is a jewel. And I am happy to have found it.

Star Jewel is, to me, the best place to stay in Apayao. It is in Luna town, the first town the traveler will hit when entering Apayao via the usual and fastest way – –  from Pamplona in Cagayan Valley.

 

First town from Cagayan Valley

The place is comfortable, homey, and friendly. No frills. No fuzz. I rate it 5 stars not because of its rooms nor its facilities. No, no way it compares with the best hotels. But it is perfect for travelers like me wanting to experience the rugged beauty of the province of Tuguegarao.

It is a nice place to come home to after rock climbing, after crossing rivers, after spelunking or just taking boat rides thru underground rivers. It is a nice place to have a beer, and a chat with other guests with the same passion and interest. And for warm, small talk with the owner, retired nurse Josefina, and her staff.

owner Josefina, retired nurse

Josefina tells me that when she started the business, it was billed as “homestay”. Because that was how the hospitality business started in Apayao when there were only a few visitors, and no real hotels. Realizing that homestays mean accommodating visitors into your own home, and because she has built private rooms for guests, she then called it, appropriately, a lodge. Star Jewel Lodge. And because of her facilities, the lodge is accredited by the Department of Tourism.

I arrived around 7pm because travel to Apayao is really long. Travelers from Manila will have to take NLEX SCTEX TPLEX and drive on all the way to Pagudpud and to the  Cagayan Valley towns of Sta Praxedes, Claveria, Sanchez Mira, and Pamplona. It is in Pamplona where there is a junction to Apayao with Luna as the first town.

The late arrival, tired from travel, was met with a pleasant dinner of crabs and adobo, plus seaweeds salad, and bananas for dessert.

My room was clean and nice, I mean nicer than I expected since Apayao is a poor and remote province. My room had aircondtioning, a nice bed (actually 2 beds), a proper toilet with shower and toiletries.

 

The common dining area was simple and folksy, complete with a videoke for visitors, at no extra charge. Coffee is always available and one only needs to get some from the thermos. Drinking water is purified.

Breakfast can also be arranged, as I did.

Exploring Apayao’s rock formations, underground rivers and other interesting spots will necessitae staying at Star Jewel at least two nights. Thus, plan your trip well, and book the nights you will need. Because you might otherwise have to stay somewhere with less than the comforts and atmosphere of Star Jewel.

Josefina does not always have her mobile phone with her. So you need to persevere and keep calling. Better yet, send her a text message so you know you get your reservation across, and continue to call to confirm, if she hasn’t returned the call.

As I checked out after 2 nights for my long journey to Kalinga, Josefina gave me plenty of suman (rice cakes)  as my baon. Wonderful, thoughtful lady indeed. 

I felt so enamored I wanted to review them on tripadvisor, but they were not listed. So I listed Star Jewel on tripadvisor and, hopefully, they will be so listed. I will be back to Star Jewel. For the suman. And for the warm welcome.

visit their facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/STAR-JEWEL-LODGE-830464200351918/

Sagada : suitcases not allowed here

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A prized possession : antique backpack bought 30 years ago. Must now be 50+ years old.

Sagada is a dream destination for backpackers. I dreamed this dream in the 80s when Sagada was just a small town in a mountain forest. To this day, I keep as a prized possession a local backpack that was already very very old when I bought it nearly 30 years ago. In one of my travels to Australia, a European backpacker tried to charm me and offered me her hi-tech backpack plus cash in exchange for mine. No way.

This beautiful town is part of the Cordilleras within the Mountain Province. The nearby town of Bontoc is the provincial capital and the nearest trade center.

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A most photographed Sagada landmark, the Episcopalian Church, taken in 2008

 

taken December 2016

taken December 2016

 

inside the church

inside the church

 

The Town Center
The commercial center of Sagada features the Tourist Information Center (where all visitor, locals and foreigners alike, are required to register, at a P350 fee, and where arrangements for guides to the caves or just tours to the different spots can be made), the market, the centrally located inns and restaurants, souvenir shops, and where travelers commuting to Sagada are dropped off.

the town center

the town center

 

On a recent visit (December 2016), the town was busy and the streets were crowded with visitors, the narrow streets congested by the vans and cars that one had to literally walk sideways to avoid being sideswiped by the vehicles. There were so many interesting finds on the street sides, including those selling “binatog”, suman and native Ifugao rice.

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Sagada from Banaue and Bontoc

I last went to Sagada from Banaue via Bontoc. It was after a damaging typhoon that practically washed away the road. The 4×4 we were driving gave us some comfort that we will somehow get out alive from the adventure we were in – – – driving thru mud in washed out roads with deep ravines on the edges. Occasionally there were concreted portions of the road and, seeing some form of civilization, I rejoiced and laid down on my back in the middle of the road. (Update December 2016: the road is now mostly paved)

My frayed nerves were soothed by the fantastic view of nature all around us, including more terraces on the way to Sagada, just after seeing the magnificent Banaue Rice Terraces. We finally made in into Bontoc, and Sagada.

Route to and from Baguio

Travel from Manila to Sagada is about 12 hours  via Baguio. I admit that when I was young, I thought Sagada and Banaue were next door neighbors of Baguio. Until I realized they were very different destinations, and can not be scheduled as just a day tour – – Sagada is 140 kms away from Baguio, and is a 4-5 hour travel.

To go to Sagada, drive thru  Halsema Highway and Mt. Data. We actually took this route when we returned to Manila via Baguio. When taking this route, make sure you stop at Mt Data Hotel, even just for coffee. This is the hotel with the highest elevation in the entire country.

Also a must-stop is the Highest Point view deck, the highest elevation within the entire Philippine Highway system. It is also a convenient  spot for a nature break and for some drinks from the roadside stalls.

Showbiz Sidetrip (2008)

When we last passed this route, the girls in our travel group stopped to pay homage to the tomb of teen star Marky Cielo who was interred in their backyard just the day before.  In fact, the staff at Mt Data Hotel said they were never as fully booked. The GMA7 stars came to the wake and the interment.

buried in a tomb within their backyard

Accommodations:

We stayed at St Joseph Resthouse, a charming cluster of cottages in a sprawling garden, run by the Episcopalian Church. Sagada is the only town in the country that is predominantly Episcopalian. The cottage had 2 bedrooms at the ground floor, plus an attic with several beds. There are only 2 units of this “big cottage’ that rents out at P3,500 per night, accommodating 8 persons. (not updated as of December 2016, please google contact details to check rates)

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The big cottage for 8 persons, with only 1 bathroom

 

beds on the attic

Well and good, except that there was only one toilet and bath and 8 people will have to queue. The smaller cottages opposite from ours looked charming, and had fireplaces. When the guests checked out, I asked the cleaners if I could see the room. I figured I would rather stay in this smaller cottage when I come back, and get 2 cottages when our group won’t fit in one unit.

The adjacent Cafe St Joe’s is probably the biggest restaurant in Sagada. Definitely not a 5-star establishment, but the food is tasty  and the ambience is nice. The tables outside became our favorite spot for breakfast  and snacks. And coffee.

I have since become a big fan of mountain coffee

We booked our St Joseph accommodations thru a lady named Mrs. Julia Abad who may be contacted at 0928 9517156, or 0918 5595934

While walking around Sagada, I checked other inns that I could stay in in next visits, if I decide not to book St Joseph. I thought that I will try George’s next time. Private rooms so cheap, with toilet and bath in the room. In fact, outside of St Joseph, rates in Sagada are the cheapest in the country. A backpacker can get accommodations for as low as P150 per person for the night. Rooms in most inns are priced within the P200-P600 range. Unless it is peak travel season (Holy Week), travelers do not need to make reservations, and instead just walk into the many inns and check out the accommodations that suit their style and their budget. The inns are just a few steps away from each other, especially on the main road where Masferre’s restaurant is located, and where the souvenir shops are  found.
Accommodations Update: december 2016:

Ganduyan, one of the first inns and is centrally located, charges P300 per head, common toilet and bath.

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Mother Mary

We were booked by the tour company for our December 2016 visit at Mother Mary. Quite far when compared to most inns, but I would highly recommend this inn for travelers who will visit Sagada on easier days, when visitor traffic is not expected to be terrible. So that you can take leisurely (albeit rather long) walks from the inn to the restaurants or even to the town center. Best to case the joint and decide whether to walk or to ride. But the inn is new, clean, with clean beddings and blankets. The host (and her grand kids who were assisting then (they study in Manila) were all nice and helpful. The toilets are clean. There are rooms with en suite toilets. Hot and cold water. Guests can cook on the common kitchen and use all the cooking utensils, plates, spoons and forks, etc. For a small fee. Best of all, the rent is sooooooo inexpensive. P300 per head if staying for 2 nights or more, P300 per head overnight. Quite a steal.

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They also sell beautiful red “bignay” wine for only P130 per bottle. In banaue, the same stuff was being sold for P200.

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Where to Eat

Other than Cafe St Joe, the popular restaurants that are worth going to include Ganduyan Cafe, where the guide who knew the owners brought us up the roofdeck. Not a fancy area, in fact plastic chairs were brought up. But it sure felt nice having a beer on a roofdeck.

Also Yoghurt House, where my friends went to while I was having a massage in my room. They said the place was busy, attesting to its popularity. (On a December 2016 visit, the place was filled to the rafters and there was only 1 flavor of yoghurt available). Yoghurt House also serves meals for lunch and dinner.

We also  went to Masferre’s restaurant primarily to pay homage to this great man from Spain who adopted Sagada as his hometown. His photographs of Sagada, mounted on the walls,  bring the guests to an era when Sagada was hardly visited by people from the lowlands. When only hard core adventure travelers knew about Sagada, and persisted in going in spite of the extremely difficult access to this town then. Masferre’s is now a fastfood restaurant. They officially open at 12noon, but get there as early as 11:30 as the tables may all have been taken by the early birds. Good food, freshly cooked, and you can pick exactly what you want from the food counter. A piano is available for anyone who plays.

The other popular restaurants are Lemon Pie and Salt & Pepper.

My favorite restaurant is Log Cabin. In this small town, this restaurant feels like you are in some small European country cafe. On a cold night, a fireplace provides warmth for the guests, on top of the warm reception provided by the staff. Diners need to book ahead, and even order from the menu while making reservations.

Log Cabin restaurant, my favorite

We were so glad we did. Good food, great place, low price. How can anyone go wrong? Log cabin also has a room for guests, but it was occupied when I wanted to check it out.

What to do

Or maybe what not to do. Do not expect a party place. Do not even expect bars and videokes. Sagada is a place where visitors trek, walk, and hike all day, with some red wine or cold beer after a good dinner, before going to bed early. A good night’s rest for more walks and hikes the next day.

foggy, serene, quiet. DO NOT DISTURB

On this short visit, we went to the Hanging Coffins, the Sumaguing Cave, Lake Danum, and the Echo Valley. Hire a guide from the guides’ center. All guests are, in fact, required to register at the Tourism Desk at the town hall. One guide is assigned for every 6 persons. The fees are reasonable, and definitely worth every centavo.

on the way to Sumaguing Cave

Sumaguing Cave will make you feel like Indiana Jones.You start the descent from the main road down to the mouth of the cave. And the thrill begins. The guide carries with him a hurricane lamp. We walk from spot to spot, hopping from rock to rock, holding on to crevices on the cave’s wall. I didn’t realize that the guide was actually observing each member of the group then. After wards, he organized us and made us explore the rest of the caves with the “weakest link”  at the front, and the strongest at the rear. For proper pacing, and also to make sure that the weakest link is always helped by him personally.

We went inside on our shoes. Slippers are not allowed because they won’t give you grip. However, at some point, we were all told to take off our shoes, to be left in one spot, and will be collected by us on our return. It is because as we went deeper down the cave, the difficulty level also went up. The grip provided by our bare feet was much better than the sole of our shoes. And besides, we had to wade into water at some portions.

The most exciting part of the caving experience was rappelling down another section of the cave, descending from a huge boulder. Don’t worry, the guide will give you all the tips on how to successfully negotiate this part. It was exhilarating.

inside Sumaguing

Sumaguing Cave gives explorers a feeling both eerie and peaceful. Making it back will give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

Lake Danum is postcard-pretty. It is a small lake where locals and visitors go fishing. Danum in Ilocano means water, so the lake is actually Lake Water. Eh?

lake “Water’

Echo Valley is an excellent trekking area. Some serious adventure travelers even go down deep into the valley and explore the caves, one of which has an underground river. Hanging coffins can be seen on the walls of the mountain.

Helloooo Helloooo

A local cemetery is along the way to Echo Valley. For some reasons, it is not an eerie sight. In fact, our group went around, taking photographs. Maybe the dead here are a happy lot.

Sagada Weaving
Only if really interested in weaves. Otherwise, I recommend to skip. They do not even allow photographs to be taken of the weaving process, nor of items inside the store.

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Sagada Pottery: Highly Recommended

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In sharp contrast with my admonition to skip Sagada Weaving, I urge visitors to check out Sagada Pottery. The potters Siegred and Tessie are so warm and welcoming. They explain the process to visitors and, for a group fee of P200, demonstrate how pottery is made. For P100, anyone can even go hand on. I loved this shop so much I ended up buying coffee cups, with prices ranging from P400 to P650 each. Same quality as Ugu Bigyan’s and cheaper.

Demonstrating how pottery is made

Demonstrating how pottery is made

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Backpacking next time

On this trip, I actually bought bus tickets from Manila to Bontoc, to go to Sagada. Because we decided to bring a 4×4 instead, we were unable to use the tickets. I was told I can use the tickets for another date.

My unused Year 2008 ticket, leaving Manila for Bontoc 8:30pm, P650 fare

Thus, on my next visit to Sagada, I will go by bus and have a backpack with just a few sets of clothes with me. Maybe wear the same set of clothes for 2 days or so. I think I can do this, and tell you how it feels.

Useful contact details:

Check out this site of the Sagada Genuine Guides association. Not only will you see how they are organized and are professionals, but the site will tell you more about Sagada, where to go, where to stay, and read stories about guest’s experiences share on this blog:

http://sagadagenuineguides.blogspot.com

Another site I found to be really useful and informative:

http://travel-philippines.com/locations/central-luzon/4-sagada/htm

(Sagada scene photos courtesy of a member of our Yahoo Travel group, Janna)

Degustacion and Tertulia

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The heritage town of Taal, Batangas, celebrated Philippine Independence Day with a weekend Art, Food and Fashion Festival.

The old homes were decorated with Philippine flags and the atmosphere was festive.

Villa Tortuga

Villa Tortuga

 

An art exhibit was nearby, with artists from UST on a reunion.

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Meanwhile, preparations for a fashion show were were being done at Paradores, the town’s premier hotel. A degustacion at Casa Feliza appealed to me the most so I went, having booked well ahead as there were limited seats.

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Why was it a must-go?

The menu is a mouthwatering version of dishes served during the Malolos Convention, prepared by Chef Giney Villar.

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

 

The event host was Elizabeth Angsioco, resplendent in a gown re-created from old gowns.

Beth with media person Howie Severino

Beth with media person Howie Severino

The town’s historian Dindo regaled the visitors with stories from the past, how Taal was also nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list, about the festivals in Taal, all in his interesting Batangueno accent.

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To highlist history and the link to the Malolos Convention, a delegation from that Bulacan town was present, headed by their vice mayor.

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The guests included actors playing guardia civil, General Luna, and then president General Emilio Aguinaldo.

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Casa Feliza was home to Feliza Diokno, then the secretary of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Today, it is open as a taverna at the ground floor, and B&B at the second floor. For the degustacion, the table setting was nothing less than impressive.

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I was lost in the bliss of this culinary experience that I forgot to take photos of the dishes. So I instead took a photo of the dessert corner.

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Towards the end, a friend of the hosts recited a poem in Spanish. His original composition in English that he translated to Filipino and Spanish.

An event to look forward to in 2017.

Masbate. So Beautiful. So Underrated. Updated Version

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This edit includes my recent visits. Including a camping experience atop a hill at Sese Brahmans in Mandaon, a visit to an ancestral home within the city center, and a hilltop viewpoint in Mobo.

Mayong Payong is accessed via an unpaved uphill road. It is advised, until the roads are paved, to bring only 4X4 SUVs. A friend of mine managed to go up on his sturdy Toyota Grandia, but it had to take an excellent driver like him to manage the rough, slippery road. Locals without transportation go up via habal habal, or backriding on single motorbikes.

Overnight accommodations can be arranged in huts that cost only P200 per night, but you will need to bring all your provisions because the kubos are rented out bare. A couple sells coffee and light snacks.

Mayong Payong

Mayong Payong

 

Buntod is probably the most famous Masbate destination. But it is best viewed from Mayong Payong.

Buntod is probably the most famous Masbate destination. But it is best viewed from Mayong Payong.

 

VILLA BAYOT

Villa Bayot is the home of what locals call Santo Entierro, actually the image of Jesus Christ enclosed in a glass case. It is a destination among the religious. But those wanting to merely appreciate the grandeur of this old ancestral house can make arrangements, like we did when we did a photoshoot.

A beautiful lass in period costume. She is actually one of the descendants of the old family.

A beautiful lass in period costume. She is actually one of the descendants of the old family.

 

NEARBY ISLANDS

If you can, try to arrange for island hopping from the port at Mandaon. In fact, one can go to Sibuyan and on to Boracay from this port. As this was a side trip for one day, we visited two islands most Masbatenos have never even heard of, much less seen,

Majaba is home to probaly only 5 families. Beautiful beach all around.

Majaba is home to probaly only 5 families. Beautiful beach all around.

 

Nabuktut is a sandbar. Here I met an old man that reminded of the story of The Old Man and the Sea.

Nabuktut is a sandbar. Here I met an old man that reminded of the story of The Old Man and the Sea.

 

TICAO ISLAND

I made a separate visit to Ticao and one may refer to the sights within this island. I thought that to complete a Masbate feature, I needed to show at least the most popular destinations.

Matang Tubig is the most famous local destination. It is a bathing pool from a natural spring. Refreshing.

Matang Tubig is the most famous local destination. It is a bathing pool from a natural spring. Refreshing.

 

This beautiful house is where the Bishop stays when in Ticao

This beautiful house is where the Bishop stays when in Ticao

 

There are many old, weather-beaten homes in Ticao. This one is in Monreal.

There are many old, weather-beaten homes in Ticao. This one is in Monreal.

 

MASBATE RANCH LIFE

The Rodeo Masbateno, Inc. has recently opened to the public, locals and visitors alike, an opportunity to experience Ranch Life. Stay on a tent on the hilltop overnight and gaze at the stars. Ride a horse down the meadow. Make your coffee cowboy-style. But the difference from a rough camping experience is that the venue has hotel-standard toilets and baths.

Be a cowboy or a cowgirl at the Rodeo Masbateno, Inc Ranch Life offer

Be a cowboy or a cowgirl at the Rodeo Masbateno, Inc Ranch Life offer

 

Our ranch life experience was highlighted by a bonfire on the hilltop with only the stars above us.

Our ranch life experience was highlighted by a bonfire on the hilltop with only the stars above us.

 

Rodeo Masbateno, Inc also hosts the Rodeo Festival, scheduled April 12-17 this year (2016). In photo is the Cattle Drive which ushers the start of the rodeo season.

Rodeo Masbateno, Inc also hosts the Rodeo Festival, scheduled April 12-17 this year (2016). In photo is the Cattle Drive which ushers the start of the rodeo season.

Come to Masbate. I am probably the only non-Masbateno who has traveled the most number of times and covered most of the province. Only because #MasbateProvince is beautiful, and the people are nice.

LAKWATSA

I first went to Masbate in 1978. I remember Masbate to be a very poor province. I always tell my friends that I then checked in at Crown Hotel near the pier and, when it was time for shower, the hotel staff would fetch me a huge pail of water – – brought to my second floor room from a pulley at the end of the hall.

Fast forward to 2013. Friends piqued my interest to watch the Masbate Rodeo and I thought it was an excellent subject for photography.

Image Bull riding

Image Barn dance at the Rodeo opening ceremonies

In between the rodeo events, my friends and I would go to “tourist destinations” but I did not have enough material then to write about Masbate. This year, I attended Rodeo 2014 and booked myself a much longer stay. In the process, I was able to explore more of Masbate.

From…

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Sonya’s Garden near Tagaytay

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At the onset, I say that Sonya’s Garden is near Tagaytay. Most people would think it is part of Tagaytay even as it is located in nearby Alfonso. What the heck, it is a prime Tagaytay destination !

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I started going to Sonya’s when it was nothing but a small structure with about 4 or 5 tables plus 2 or 3 tables on the loft. Guests then had to make a prior reservation, and one is actually privileged to secure a number to call from someone who has been there. In one of my earlier lunches, Sonya’s Garden had to (politely) decline a top matinee idol who came without prior reservation and, obviously, can not be given a table.  From that quaint set-up many moons ago, Sonya’s has become a complete destination, and can now house guests in their bed & breakfast.

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How did this place become hugely popular? I learned that in the beginning,  friends would have themselves invited by the gracious Sonya who served them delicious, healthy lunch. They came rather often that they started offering to pay for the food they ate as they did not want their friend/hostess to be bothered with her time and actually spend for the bother. Until these friends started bringing their friends, paying for their lunch. Thus, the business was born.

People go there for the salad

People go there for the salad

Again, in one of my earlier trips, a group of movie scribes were seated on the next table, together with a major actress then at the peak of her career. Apparently they came from a shoot. I chuckled (trying to hide this reaction) when I heard the movie scribes say “ayyy, puro damo naman pagkain dito, sana nag bulalo na lang tayo”. Indeed, the main draw of the place is their garden salad and Sonya’s secret dressing. Guests garnish the greens with fresh fruits like papaya, chico, langka, and other fruits in season. Plus shredded boiled eggs, olives, capers, and parmesan cheese. After the salad comes bread with dips of sun-dried tomato, pesto, anchovies, etc. The main course is pasta. Fresh dalandan juice is overflowing. Desserts include turon or camote. All these for something like P650 per person.

Main course is pasta

Main course is pasta

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From its humble beginnings, Sonya’s guests are now directed to one of its many pavilions, each one actually a garden. On some days, I have seen two wedding receptions being held simultaneously. And I have also seen busloads of visitors. Even the parking area has more than quadrupled from the first time I set foot in this beautiful garden.

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Today, they also have a Panaderia (bakery), a country store (where I buy my supply of Sonya’s secret salad dressing and some home accents), a spa, and a bed & breakfast.

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On a recent visit, Sonya herself toured me around the B&B.

Sonya’s B&B is one of a kind. It will make the guests feel like they are in an affluent provincial setting. A group of friends can actually occupy a house and assign themselves to the rooms and beds. And converse in its living room. And be amused when they shower in the very unique toilet/shower set-ups, with stones as floor cover. Indeed, everything is unique and the experience will be something friends will talk about for a long time. See for yourself.

 

one of the B&B facilities at Sonya's Garden

one of the B&B facilities at Sonya’s Garden

 

Come in! One of the B&B accommodations

Come in! One of the B&B accommodations

 

the living room of one of the houses at Sonya's B&B

the living room of one of the houses at Sonya’s B&B

 

view from the second floor

view from the second floor

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the bathroom, with stones on your feet

the bathroom, with stones on your feet

see the bathroom at the left end of this photo

see the bathroom at the left end of this photo

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I am writing about this amazing place without any favors. I have paid for all my lunches and dinners on all my visits to Sonya’s. Probably why she decided to give me this tour.

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How much does it cost to stay at Sonya’s B&B? P3,000 per person on weekdays, P3,400 on weekends and holidays, P5,000 for single occupancy. These rates include early dinner or lunch, with breakfast. The B&B has 14 cottages and 18 rooms.

How do you get there? From Tagaytay, drive south past Mendez and on to Alfonso. When you see Tagaytay Royale Estates on your right, immediately turn right on the next road which is called Buck Estate. About 2 kilometers onward and you will see the Sonya’s sign.

Or you can call to book: 09175335140, 09175291080, 09175161080

Visit their website : http://www.sonyasgarden.com

Legacy Suites Masbate

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Masbate is the venue for the  Grand National Rodeo Finals, with cowboys and cowgirls from all over the Philippines competing. Participants are students taking up Animal Science, or Veterinary Medicine, or Animal Husbandry etc. Professional cowboys from the different cattle ranches around the country compete in the professional category. Events  include bull riding, carambola, lassoing, etc. I have been attending the event since 2013. This year was my third.

Rodeo Event: Carambola

Rodeo Event: Carambola

 

 

Last year, I stayed in a hotel reputed to be the best — – even President Aquino was supposed to have stayed there when the search and rescue operation for Secretary Robredo was being done. I found that hotel inadequate, and actually lacked proper sanitation. The lavatory was leaking, and from indications it has been forever leaking and not being fixed. A very dirty rug was placed underneath to keep the water from spreading throughout the toilet floor.  Wet and dirty turned out to be smelly. Thus, the search for my Year 3 hotel.

I saw Legacy Suites last year when my FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group friends and I were having a bulalo dinner at the Boulevard by the Circumferential Road. It looked good, and I thought getting a room facing the ocean would be a good idea.

The hotel faces the ocean.

The hotel faces the ocean.

the view from the hotel

the view from the hotel

Early this year, I googled the hotel, looked at the photos of the rooms, and saw their contact details. They have single rooms and family rooms with 2 big beds. I thought that if they only took away one bed from the family room and added a sofa instead, plus a breakfast table where I could also work on my computer, that would be good. I sent a message through their website asking if my idea of reconfiguring the room would be acceptable. To my pleasant surprise, the lady owner (they are a hands-on husband and wife team) said she will. So I promptly booked the room for the Rodeo week which was 3 months away.

I arrived in Masbate April 14 early in the morning. And another pleasant surprise came in: the owner, Basil, was at the airport to pick me up. Had coffee as my luggage was being brought up to my second-floor room.

the coffee shop

the coffee shop

When I went up the room, I was happy to see the room with the sofa and the coffee table. And the room had two verandas, albeit small. One opened to the farm view at the back, the bigger one opened to a view of the ocean.

Room 8: my room, reconfigured following my request by email.

Room 8: my room, reconfigured following my request by email.

 

the sliding glass dorr opens to a small veranda facing the ocean

the sliding glass dorr opens to a small veranda facing the ocean

The rodeo took up most of my days. But I had the occasion to have lunch and dinner at the hotel. Basil, as it turns out, also cooks, and did my fish sinigang lunch and my steamed fish dinner the following day. How hands-on can an owner get?

Legacy Suites has a small function room that I figure is booked for meetings and private dinners.

Function Room

Function Room

 

My favorite spot is the row of al fresco seats outside the coffee shop, at the front of the hotel. A perfect spot to enjoy coffee. The area is also where the Souvenir Shop stands (at the far end). Realizing I forgot my shades, I was happy to buy one for P500.

my favorite spot for coffee or a refreshing bottle of beer

my favorite spot for coffee or a refreshing bottle of beer

I checked out after 6 days happy that I had a clean hotel room in a hotel with welcoming and attentive owners and staff.  Back in Manila, the lady owner emailed to thank me, and said they are open to suggestions, in case I have some. I suggested that they could build a clothes cabinet  – – – my clothes were piled up on top of my luggage on a luggage rack. I also suggested that a solid spring mattress would be more comfortable than the foam mattress I slept in. And some other small details. I figure the owners would heed my request, if my requests prior to my first stay is an indication. And Legacy Suites will then be the undisputed best hotel in Masbate when that happens.

Legacy Suites:

https://www.facebook.com/legacy.suites.masbate/?fref=ts

Phone: (056) 582 0210