Solaire Resort and Casino

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I have seen posts from many friends. Typical of me, I almost always am the last to see a new place.

First set foot inside Solaire a few months back to watch Celeste perform at the Theatre. And then, Sound of Music came in and I booked tickets for the family, and a room. A Sky Suite, to be exact.

We were advised to enter thru the Sky Tower VIP entrance. I thought it was a special entrance, and it turns out it is the usual hotel entrance. Had to walk thru the hallway past the smoke-filled casino.

The front desk is at the lobby beside the PRADA store.

We got to our 12th floor suite. Hmmmm, nice room. Two queen sized-beds, complete amenities (as expected of a suite within a “luxury” hotel). A sitting room with fruits and chocolates to welcome us.

 

 

I only wished we had a room with a better view.

So we won’t have to rush for dinner, thinking it would take up so much time ordering and waiting for the meals, and waiting for the bill – – we ordered room service dinner a good two hours before. It came promptly, and both my wife and daughter liked everything we ordered so much that we finished what we thought was too much food to finish.

We didn’t get anything from the mini bar, though. And noticed that water is more expensive than beer.

 

The housekeeping and in-room dining service staff are excellent. I would not give as high a rating to the front desk staff who made us wait for our room, even when it was already available. And we were ushered to a smoking bar/lounge beside the front desk, for complimentary drinks, while waiting. Until I stood up to ask if the room was available, we were not being called, as they earlier promised to do once the room was ready.

Minus this check-in episode, I rate Solaire pretty good. And I don’t mind staying there again when a show I like gets to be scheduled at the Theatre.

Segara Villas in Subic

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This is a cluster of 10 or so villas. Actually single detached hotel rooms that provide utmost privacy. Guests do not have next-wall neighbors. On top of privacy, discriminating guests will find that the villas are so well designed, inside and outside. Guests walk through a shaded garden pathway with interesting accents like jars and water features. When one gets to his villa, a comfortable lounge awaits, and a wide, orthopedic bed with linen and pillows one finds in 5-star hotels.

Aesthetics. I have always loved things Balinese and I have enough of it in Segara. Even the bathroom features a small, narrow open space one sees through a glass panel, creating an outdoorsy feeling while in the tub or shower.

The swimming pool is immaculate, and never busy.  Or at least that is how I have seen it in my last four visits. It is possible that the swimming pool might go busy in summer, as it is also accessible to the guest of the adjoining Segara Suites. No matter. I have a good view of the pool when I am in the terrace of my favorite executive villa called Lovina.

wilderness, right within a meter from my veranda

 

The service is always excellent. Even at the restaurant.

No wonder Segara remains as my default home in Subic. And I continue to share experiences to fellow travelers while paying full rates in all hotels, and not getting anything for free, as I have always thought that bloggers should be honest in their review (not tainted by freebies).

I took photos using only my iPhone. For better photos and more details (rates, bookings, how to get there etc)

http://www.segaravillassubic.com/

Ironwood Hotel Tacloban

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I have been to Tacloban many times before. But I am visiting Tacloban for the first time after it was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) a few years ago. Local and internationl aid poured in. Government and the private sector joined hands in its rehabilitation. And today, I saw no signs of the havoc I was then seeing on TV.

I used to stay at Leyte Park Hotel. But even on a previous trip prior to Yolanda, I got disappointed with its state of disrepair, so I checked into another hotel then. That nice hotel, I understand, did not escape Yolanda’s fury.

And so I was pleasantly surprised finding Ironwood, from my research of the best Tacloban Hotels. And Ironwood did not disappoint.

Before the trip, I booked the hotel’s biggest room, an executive suite at the corner. As I pulled the drapes, I had Tacloban streets below me. The room was of good size and accommodated an extra bed which I ordered for the rodeo players who fetched me at the airport (we rode the Ironwood Hotel van). The room had a ref with drinks and a bar with snacks charged per consumption. Toiletries were sufficient. The room also had a safe. Everything I expected from a high-standard hotel.

 

We checked out the 5th Floor open terrace and had beer. The place is also the hotel’s smoking area as the city prohibits smoking in public (and the hotel of course disallows smoking in rooms and in the hotel’s public areas).

Breakfast was included in the room rate, as well as complimentary wifi. Breakfast was buffet on my first stay. But plated when I returned as buffet was not going to be cost-efficient for the hotel when the rooms are not all taken.

Coffee and cake is nice at the Seed Cafe by the lobby

I actually returned to Ironwood a few days later. That pretty much sums up the satisfaction I experienced with this hotel.

Postscript: ABOUT ANOTHER HOTEL I WILL NOT NAME HERE

I couldn’t resist this. Returning to Tacloban on my way back to Manila, I was supposed to stay in another hotel, booking the biggest suite that was to cost me P30,000 a night (lower than their usual rate). When I advised that hotel I might arrive early, like 9am, I was to be levied an early check-in rate. While this was that hotel’s policy, I felt it was not a friendly one since they could not have accommodated other guests between 9am and 12noon and therefore would not have lost any revenue. I have been allowed to check in early when the room is available. When a guest is till in the room booked for me, I leave my luggage and get into the room at the usual check in time, and this is all fine. But no hotel anywhere in the world has charged me for being 3-5 hours early. Thus, I cancelled, and stayed again at Ironwood instead

Tacloban after Yolanda

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Except for the ship ran aground that stays as a tourist attraction in Barangay Anibong, visitors will not find any trace of the devastation typhoon Yolanda brought to Tacloban years ago.

 

Tacloban City is robust and is like any other big city. There is a SaveMore, Gaisano, Robinson’s and a host of hotels fit even for the discriminating.

On arrival in Tacloban, I was met by members of the rodeo team from nearby Baybay, rodeo players from VSU. Together we found a place I was to go back to on the return trip to Tacloban to fly back to Manila. This is now my default drinking place in Tacloban. This barbecue area at the end of the road in Magsaysay, near City Hall, attracts foodies and drinkers as the sun is threatening to set.

 

We sat on a table with monobloc chairs as the area was yet being set up. We later on found out that the tables were to be covered with table cloth and an umbrella hoisted. Never mind, we ordered ahead and enjoyed our beer and barbecue a meter away from the water. What a sight. They also sold “puso”, cooked rice wrapped in what looks like pandan leaves so that diners can have rice with their barbecues. We ordered all sorts of barbecues – – pork, squid, innards, etc.

 

IRONWOOD HOTEL

The hotel I stayed in was Ironwood and I  would rate it high when I go to my tripadvisor account. The rooms are nice, the service good, plus the fact that they have an open terrace on the 5th floor where beer and food can also be ordered.

 

front desk of Ironwood Hotel

 

my favorite spot – – an open terrace at the 5th Floor

JAVIER MULTIPLIER FARM

We visited the nearby town of Javier and checked out the Javier Carabao Multiplier Farm. This facility was set up thru the Philippine Carabao Center and the farm produces carabao milk that the workers pasteurize into bottled milk, some with chocolate and also into pastillas.

(photo courtesy of Leo Gozum)

photo courtesy of Leo Gozum

 

SAN JUANICO

A tour around Tacloban is never complete without San Juanico Bridge. It was rainy but I was lucky to have taken some shots when the sun showed for a brief moment.

 

 

INTEGRATED FARM

Another farm we visited was Doctor Camenforte’s Farm at the north end of Tacloban. It is an integrated farm with goats, carabaos, ducks, cows etc and is frequently visited by students taking up agriculture or Animal Science.

(photo taken by Roy Briones Loreto)

 

 

 

Dr Floro Comenforte, the farm owner (photo taken by Roy Briones Loreto)

I think a parachute visit into Tacloban is not sufficient and I must return to photograph the other places I missed visitng this time.

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/

 

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

 

Baler Revisited

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This is another revisit. April 2017.

On a previous visit, Costa Pacifica was under construction. Now it is the best Baler has to offer, and nothing comes close.

Costa Pacifica has no equal. The 2nd best will be a far 2nd.

Aurora Beach Camp is a campsite no more. It has been developed into a resort called Coconut Plantation.

Not a trace of the old campsite, Coconut Plantation is now a proper resort, with air-conditioned cabanas.

 

There was just a pebbly beach before, now there is a swimming pool with gazebos

 

this cove is the only thing that reminds me of the old camp site

 

While the resort looks nice, I can not see my self staying in this place which is about an hour from Baler’s nerve center, Sabang Beach. The snacking experience was also bad. The “restaurant” is a shared space with guests checked into a room within the restaurant area. we were having snacks while the guests were comfortably slumped in the sofas right beside our table, applying make up, and doing things normally done in the privacy of their cottages. Not their fault. Just bad space planning.

 

I didn’t stay at this resort, and only went for snacks. Ordered “pako” hamburger. I thought it was expensive at P200, way more expensive than the better tasting (for me) Big Mac which even comes with fries.

PASALUBONG CENTER

For some reason, I missed writing about things to buy in Baler. The best place to go to is the Pasalubong Center at the back of the public market. The best buys are Pacing’s coco jam and also shredded beef. Look also for rice cakes and other kakanin in the stalls just outside.

vinagar, including pinakurat in stalls outside th Pasalubong Center. And suman (photo below). There are also several carinderias in the area if you get hungry after shopping

 

WHERE TO EAT IN SABANG BEACH

Yellow Fin : top favorite. At the back of Costa Pacifica

 

Good Food. Inexpensive. With healthy options.

at Good Food, blue marlin with rice (and it is a good size cut of marlin) is P200. Quesadillas was good. Taco was nice. No softdrinks here – – so we had lemon grass for drinks.

 

Vegetarian.

 

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS. 

There are plenty. Here are some of them just around (at the back, actually) of Costa Pacifica

wherever you end up staying, you will want to be on the shores of Sabang morning and afternoon. Enjoy Baler !

To and from Baler, there is Hillocks Coffee Shop and Restaurant. My favorite stop. Along Pantabangan.

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR LAKWATSA TO SEE MORE OF BALER

LAKWATSA

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

Baler surf2

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Baler resort

Baler Desiree's Inexpensive accommodations on the beach front

Baler Amihan

Baler outdoor Boracay feel – – food and drinks almost on the water

Baler outdoor 2

Baler store 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…

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