Costa Pacifica Baler

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This is my nth trip to Baler, but the last was when Costa Pacifica was still being constructed. My first was at Bahia, that beautiful resort with a swimming pool at the front, with beautiful rooms, but really very few. Next thing I knew, there was another Bahia, this time a 3-level structure. Costa Pacifica, built by the same owners, is right between the 2nd Bahia and the ocean.

Today, Costa Pacifica is without equal. Nothing comes close. The resort compares with the best resort hotels I have been to.

As one enters the lobby, the resort feeling immediately sets in. Very tropical. Open space plan, with the huge pool and the ocean right in front of the guests. Tables and deck chairs surround the swimming pool.

The rooms have verandas facing the ocean. Ours was a suite on the second floor with a perfect view of the whole grounds, including the pool and the beach.

The room has 2 comfortable beds, a wardrobe with a safety deposit box, a luggage rack, color tv, a nice big bathroom with a shower and a tub. Two lavatories. Spic and span. With all the bathroom amenities one finds in 5-star hotels and resorts.  Not all rooms have living rooms, but our suite has a good-sized living room with 2 daybeds that double as sofas, another TV with a DVD player, a round breakfast table for 4, a bar counter top with 2 bar stools, a kitchen counter, with coffee and tea facilities. And a fridge stocked with mini bar items. The veranda has two deck chairs and a clothes drying rack.

 

 

the pool deck as seen from our bedroom, on the right

 

when the blinds are up – – the view from our beds

 

the living room, and the living room deck

 

 

Costa Pacifica sits on a huge property that has a long waterfront, probably the longest waterfront property in Baler. The garden has colorful chairs grouped in one section, a gazebo with swing chairs, a swimming pool bar. And nearly everyone gravitates to the shore where surfers get the ooohs and aaaahs from awed guests. I understand that Baler still offers the cheapest surfing lessons, and there are surf boards for rent. And lost of surf instructors.

Buffet breakfast is served at the restaurant called Beach Club. The breakfast spread is sumptuous, with cereals, fruits, breads, omelettes, and rice plus many choices of dishes to go with fried rice.

Outside of Costa Pacifica are a variety of restaurants and bars. And alternative, albeit cheaper, accommodations.

 

But one can say that Costa Pacifica is the nerve center when one comes to Baler for a holiday. One can go around. But the spell of Costa Pacifica will stay in the visitor’s mind for a long time. And this view will probably stay for quite a while, until the visitor encounters another beautiful resort.  Costa Pacifica will have a place in in their guests’  hearts.

I booked online, and you can book thru their website:
http://web.costapacificabalerph.com/

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)

Crowne Plaza Ortigas

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Until I was invited by a good friend to attend his son’s birthday at Crown Plaza in Ortigas one weekend, I never imagined that one can enjoy luxurious accommodations in a top hotel’s presidential suite for a  rate one would pay for a regular room in Singapore.

And part of the benefits is breakfast at the club lounge, plus afternoon tea and cocktails in the same exclusive lounge.

The presidential suite is right beside the club lounge. The room is spacious, with a king bed, and all the amenities one would expect. The bathroom is adjacent, and is the size of another hotel room.

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The living room and dining is welcoming. There is a huge TV on the wall facing the sofa. The dining table sits 6. A bottle of wine and a selection of fruits and pastries welcomed me into the suite.

 

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Well I guess if the distinguished guest wants to prepare some food, there is a kitchen adjoining the dining room.

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I love the thoughtfulness. And the fact that there is a varied selection of beverages, including my favorite teas.

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The view may not be spectacular when you look down from your window, as the roofs of the nearby establishments are just at the bottom. But looking farther away makes one feel the magnificence of being on the top floor of this hotel, and in a presidential suite at that.

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As the hotel is quite popular and is easy to find, I am not doing a “How to get There” and not publishing their rates.

And by the way, the Seven Corners Restaurant is one of the top attractions of this hotel. Sadly, I was not able to take a photo as we were all busy partaking of the varied dishes around the many buffet tables.

I give this hotel a Perfect 10 for Value.

 

 

 

 

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.

Hotel Luna in Vigan

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I did not imagine Vigan will ever have a four-storey luxury hotel. And yet Hotel Luna blends with the heritage village perfectly.

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An old mansion has been converted into Hotel Luna, complete with a grand staircase leading to a spacious upstairs living room that has been turned into a museum. The rooms, typical of old-world mansions, are big. Mine was a Loft Suite (P11,000 per night) with probably 50+ square meters of floor area. It had a comfortable living room with an L-type soft cushioned lounge set, a desk, the coffee and tea bar, plus the wardrobe that came with a room safe. On the same level is a huge bathroom, the size of a room in budget hotels. It had a bathtub reminiscent of the old days, a bath tub with “feet”. The shower stall is separate from the tub. The lavatory is wide and came with a complete set of amenities. The toilet seat is high-tech, with all those buttons for the various functionalities, including warming the seat cover. They also have regular and de-luxe rooms. Please check the website listed below, where you can make inquiries on room rates.

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Breakfast was served at the COMEDOR, a lovely restaurant. The buffet  was sumptuous, and the choices were as varied as when I have buffet breakfasts in high-end Makati hotels. And artwork  enhanced the setting.

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A Ramon Orlina piece at the breakfast/dining area

 

 

The Museum

I first saw a hotel that had artwork by masters in a Baguio Hotel, and I found out Hotel Luna is also from the same group that owns and runs Le Monet in Baguio. The museum is at the second floor of the heritage building, from the grand staircase.

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La Mandolinera by Juan Luna, Year 1800

Lovers of art and culture will spend good time appreciating paintings and sculpture by national artists. Amorsolo. Vicente Manansala. Federico Alcuaz, Ramon Orlina.  BenCab. Eduardo Castrillo. Guillermo Tolentino. Arturo Luz.  Abdulmari Asia Imao. Malang. And even 1800s works by Juan Luna, plus a reproduction of his Spoliarium.

 

Sarimanok series by Abdulmari

Sarimanok series by Abdulmari Imao

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an Arturo Luz

an Arturo Luz

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Dos Marias by Federico Alcuaz

Dos Marias by Federico Alcuaz

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Guillermo Tolentino

Guillermo Tolentino, an untitled 1957 work

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BenCab

BenCab

 

Malang

Malang

 

a reproduction of Juan Luna's Spoliarium

a reproduction of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium

 

FOUR-STOREY HOTEL

Surely there were no tall structures in those days. The 4-storey structure must have been a beautiful addition beside the old heritage mansion. At the center of the 4-storey hotel area is a swimming pool with tables around for drinks and casual dining. On top of the     fourth-level , accessed via a scenic elevator, is the Azotea, the rooftop deck where my friends and I had drinks and bar chow.

The scenic elevator that leads to the AZOTEA

The scenic elevator that leads to the AZOTEA

Truly, Vigan has turned world-class with Hotel Luna.

portion of the ground floor lobby

portion of the ground floor lobby

Website: http://hotelluna.ph/

 

Subic: Ocean Adventure & Zoobic Safari and Convention Center

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Subic has consistently been one of my most-viewed blog posts. I guess it is because this R&R destination keeps on improving itself. The AdSummit #ADSUMMITPH2016 is actually being held now at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) which was built for these huge ad industry events many advertising congresses ago.

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit. He also said “Think like a fruit. When you mellow, you will start to rot”. How true.

 

words of wisdom

words of wisdom

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Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

The hotels have also mushroomed. The Mansion Garden Hotel where I am staying is one of the sought-after accommodations. Nice, clean, and most of all it is the closest hotel to Meat Plus, Subic’s most popular restaurant.

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my suite

my suite

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LAKWATSA

I have been to Subic a lot. In one of my trips, with my wife, my daughter and her nanny, plus my driver, I won so much in the casino that the cost of the entire trip was more than paid for. As I checked out, I was given a promo stub to fill up. Apparently, all guests were entitled to a raffle stub with a trip to Malaysia for 2 as grand prize. I won that, too. Tubong lugaw.

Ocean Adventure

This is my daughter’s favorite. Within the park, visitors can watch a seal show, a dolphin show, a whale show, and actually swim with the whales. And ride the whales. The handlers took my daughter from the shore to the raft in what I thought was not possible. The whales were beached on the shore, and my daughter was asked to ride it and hold on to the…

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Masbate: Big City

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I have always been wondering how others who have not been to Masbate think of this place. To confess, I also had images of my 1978 visit ( small, backward, very very provincial)  when I returned in 2013. Back in 1978 there was only one hotel, located near the pier, where hotel staff delivered to my room a pail of water when I took a bath.

MASBATE PROVINCE

Masbate Province has a booming population estimated at 950,000 in 2016. Made up of 20 municipalities and 1 city. Two big islands, Ticao and Burias form the province’s First District. Masbate City and the towns around it, including the province’s biggest town of Aroroy form District 2. The Third district includes the big towns of Placer and Cawayan, the two most populated towns after Masbate City, and Cataingan, the farthest town that is close enough to Iloilo.

Ticao Island Resort is within the First District

Ticao Island  is within the First District

 

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

 

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

Around 80% of land in the province is used for farms and ranches, making Masbate a cowboy country, and officially the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

 

THE CITY OF MASBATE

Masbate today looks like any provincial city. No, not like the premier cities of Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao. It is the capital city of the province of Masbate, and the center of commerce. It is big and at the same time small. No traffic typical of the big cities. But has all the comforts – – it has malls and department stores, as well as the fast food joints that “define” how cities and towns have progressed. There are banks and other financial institutions that visitors will need to withdraw cash from ATM, or transfer/receive funds thru any of the “pera padala” centers.

Gaisano Mall

Gaisano Mall

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

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LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

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as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

 

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

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FASTFOODS AND LOCAL RESTOS

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

 

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WHAT TO VISIT WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS

Masbate is not just the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. Within the city are tourist attractions, resorts, and resort hotels. Transport within the city is via tricycles and fare is only P8 per person.

Buntod Reef is a few minutes boat ride. White sands.

Buntod Reef is a few minutes boat ride. White sands.

 

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

 

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

 

the famous cowboy monument - - - this is rodeo country

the famous cowboy monument – – – this is rodeo country

 

the cathedral, at the city center

the cathedral, at the city center

 

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

 

The people are nice, and I have returned many times because of the many friends I have made. They have accompanied me to the different spots around Masbate and have had drinks with them in bars or in a “tambayan” at a friend’s carport.

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called "Kuya Nathan".

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called “Kuya Nathan”.

Another friend says he returns to Masbate every year not just for the rodeo, but to be with friends we have made. I personally truly believe that visitors go to a place to see interesting sights for the first time, and return to be with friends they made. Masbatenos are truly a wonderful breed of people, contrary to the image created in people’s minds resulting from the past. This is a New Masbate. Come visit.

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

 

WHERE CAN I STAY?

I recently wrote about accommodations options, to guide anyone wishing to see this beautiful island province.

https://boyplakwatsa.com/2016/03/09/20-masbate-hotels-and-other-accommodations-options/

 

HOW TO GET TO MASBATE

Philippine Airlines flies daily to Masbate, leaving Terminal 3 at 5:05 am. Visitors will have one full day when they get to the city.

You can also travel by land. Buses leave Cubao and are loaded onto roll-on-roll-off boats between Pilar in Sorsogon and Masbate City such that visitors can travel direct from Quezon City to Masbate City. Travel time is from 16 to 18 hours. Visitors can also bring their cars and take the roro so they can travel around Masbate in their own cars.

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilocos Tour : Vigan and Sta Maria

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I have done the Ilocos region countless times. And this northern tour remains on my Top 5 list of Philippine destinations.

Will share the beautiful Ilocos via photos, and you pick the destinations you want to focus on. Otherwise, prepare to spend 2 weeks moving from town to town.

VIGAN

Vigan is, to some, the essence of Ilocandia.

Vigan is, to some, the essence of Ilocandia.

The moon was full on the night of my last visit

The moon was full on the night of my last visit

Vigan Day 2 + Laoag Day 1 027

Visit a BURNAYAN and be amazed at the potter's skills. And buy a jar or two

Visit a BURNAYAN and be amazed at the potter’s skills. And buy a jar or two

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a calesa ride completes a Vigan visit

the lobby of my favorite hotel. Cordillera Inn

the lobby of my favorite hotel. Cordillera Inn

the coffee shop at the nearby Gordion Mansion

the coffee shop at the nearby Gordion Mansion

Hidden Garden is more of a restaurant than a garden destination.

Hidden Garden is more of a restaurant than a garden destination.

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Bantay belltower, outside of Vigan

Bantay belltower, outside of Vigan

at the Baluarte, the home of Governor Chavit Singson, the grounds are open to the public.

at the Baluarte, the home of Governor Chavit Singson, the grounds are open to the public.

STA MARIA

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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

Ifugao Native House in Tagaytay Paradiso

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I have always been a wanderer and one of the best spots I have visited is the province of Ifugao, peopled by Ifugaos. They make sure visitors know that Ifugaos and Igorots are not the same. Ifugao is home of the Banaue.

A native house is a coveted accommodations option when visiting Banaue. What could be more authentic than waking up to cool mountain air, opening your native hut window to the view of the majestic rice terraces?

Banaue is quite a drive. And now it doesn’t feel so, with my own authentic Ifugao native house. Built by Ifugaos who chew on betel nut “nganga” made up of ikmo, bunga, apog and maskada. I was tempted to try the nganga when one of them left his nganga box.

My Ifugao native house is not a local recreation of the real thing. It is real as real gets – – native Ifugaos actually crafting and building it the way they build in Ifugao. The pieces are made like one big LEGO structure where the pieces fit, without nails.

See how it was done.

Delfin, the maestro. He is a jolly Ifugao who spins jokes and spits the nganga around the area where the native house was being built.

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Starting to build

BUILDING THE NATIVE HOUSE

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No nails. Just tongue going into the groove.

The horizontal thing that keeps rates away

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

The house is done, and a canao is planned for blessings. Everyone must come in full Ifugao (or nearby tribes) costume. That only means bahag (g-string) for men, and tapis and blouse for women.

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For the housewarming, a native ritual called canao is scheduled on May 2, with authentic Ifugao people invited. All guests will also be coming in native attire. Non-costumed or partly-costumed friends will not be allowed, just for this party – – because the authenticity of the planned canao ritual must be followed.

Scorecard: House: done. Cool mountain air : done (Tagaytay has cool mountain air). Rice Terraces: major problem. But maybe a can build three short tiers of rice terraces beside it. Hahahaha.