Bonsai Paradiso

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On land that used to be planted with pineapples, Bonsai Paradiso is not very easy to find. One can get there only with detailed directions provided by the owner, based in Tagaytay City.

The owner started collecting bonsai 15 years ago, starting with balete, Tagaytay cherry, and other species that were then generally available on the Tagaytay roadside stalls selling bonsai. Upon his retirement 3 years ago, bonsai has become his primary occupation

Paradiso is the name he gave to his retirement home. Originally, the landscaping consisted of mature earth-balled trees. Narra, mahogany, agoho, Benguet pine, arocaria, African tulips, and a few fruit bearing trees were planted all over the property, surrounding the house. Shrubs and flowering ornamentals completed the landscape, with carabao grass as ground cover.

But bonsai has taken over. Most of the tall trees were pruned since bonsai trees need full sun.

The collection includes many local species, from deciduous trees to fruiting and flowering ones. To those who are not into bonsai, tree species like bluebell, tugas, kambilog ( kamuning bilog), kamtulis ( kamuning tulis), suimei, yangya, Argao, mulawin, lemonsito, ficus and some more may sound strange. Then there are also bonsais that most people will be familiar with, like santan, bayabas, balimbing, and bougainvilla.

A best-in-show Mulawin Surot
An award-winning Bluebell
Argao Taiwan created as a forest
A Best-in-Show, Ficus and Pepper tree in a 2-point set-up
Bonsais all the way to the roofdeck

There are also trees originated from Taiwan and Vietnam.

The owner takes one on a tour, too, of the materials that start with cuttings as he promotes sustainable bonsai.

Cuttings for sustainable bonsai
Cuttings fir sustainable bonsai are all around the area where this authentic Ifugao native house stands

Workshops are conducted frequently among members of the Cavite Bonsai Club, where newbies are always welcome. Bonsai Basics are discussed, and newbies get a chance to witness and do hands-on participation on many phases of bonsai creation and maintenance. There are no entrance fees charged. And most visitors even get free coffee.

Bonsai Paradiso is located in Tolentino East, Tagaytay City.

Bonsai Show by Cavite Bonsai Club May 1-5


img_1081An unprecedented show is going to be mounted by the Cavite Bonsai Club (CBC) at SM Dasmarinas from May 1-5, 2019.

Dubbed as SANIB PWERSA, the show will feature over 100 bonsai trees, 40 suiseki viewing stones, and ikebana floral arrangements. The exhibit follows the national show of CBC’s mother club, Philippine Bonsai Society, Inc (PBSI) held at SM North EDSA where PBSI collaborated with the Natural Stones Society of the Philippines (NSSP) and the Ikebana Ikenobo Society of Manila, also a first-of-its-kind show in the Philippines featuring 3 Japanese art forms. img_1157

The exhibit is a joint project of the Cavite Bonsai Club and SM Supermalls. Thus the show is open to the public.

Mall goers, bonsai hobbyists, and all those interested in plants and gardens will appreciate seeing trees in pots, and will be treated to lectures and demonstrations on bonsai, suiseki, and ikebana by local experts, on different dates within the show. There is something to see and learn everyday. Visitors might even be lucky to win bonsai materials donated by members of CBC.

Remember: May 1-5 at SM Dasmarinas. Brought to you by Cavite Bonsai Club.


Sanib Pwersa @ SM North EDSA March 22-25, 2019

A first-ever show featuring three Japanese art forms will open on March 22, 2019 and will run up to March 25. Dubbed as Sanib Pwersa, the exhibit will feature around 200 bonsai trees from the members of the Philippine Bonsai Society, the country’s premiere and most prestigious bonsai club. PBSI is the lead organization, having mounted huge bonsai and suiseki (viewing stones) exhibitions and conventions annually, including exhibits hosted for the international organization called Bonsai Clubs International (BCI), regional conventions for ASPAC and for ABFF, plus national shows every year.

The 2019 exhibit is joined by partner clubs Natural Stones Society of the Philippines (NSSP) which will showcase suiseki, or landscape and figure stones collected from all over the Philippines and in other parts of the world, and the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of Manila which will display some ikebana arrangements.

I am showing some of my viewing stones collections to give readers an idea of what suisekis are. The exhibit and competition will be judged by an international panel of masters and experts from Taiwan, Japan and the USA. Bonsai Master Yen, from Taiwan is one of the judges, alongside another Taiwan master and another master from Japan, Kunio Kobayashi.

On the afternoon of the March 22 opening day, Master Kobayashi will do a live demo on how to create magnificent bonsais from raw trees. He will have Prof Amy Liang, another master from the National Bonsai Assn of Taiwan as partner in the demo. Here is how Master Kobayashi did his demo in the last national convention in Taiwan.

There are lectures and demos from March 22 to 24. Learn from the masters. This is a very rare opportunity.

The exhibit is open to the public, in partnership with SM Supermalls. Catch it at The Block Atrium, SM City North EDSA.

Ilocos Sur Rodeo at Kannawidan Festival

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The rodeo in Vigan, actually the 6th invitational amateur rodeo tournament, has just been concluded. This event has become the highlight of a month-long Kannawidan Festival.

This year, moe new teams participated, including teams from Visayas and Mindanao.

The VROoM (Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate) officiated the games, ran the stockyard, briefed the players, brought in its barker, and had Ilocos Sur use their bull riding gear for free.

Three events were held for the first time in Ilocos Sur: bullriding, wrestling from horse back, and lassoing from horseback.

Indeed the rodeo in Vigan has come a long way. And plans are afoot to invite rodeo teams from ASEAN schools in 2020.

Ilocos Sur has, de facto, become the Amateur Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.

Edible Garden in Mobo

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When my friend Mark and his girlfriend invited me for dinner while I was in Masbate for the rodeo, they said we were going to a restaurant outside of the city proper. Is this like Sonya’s Garden serving salads? Could it be they serve mostly veges grown from their garden restaurant?

We arrived at Edible Garden about 25 minutes from my hotel. The place looks very very simple, no frills. If at all, the decor is shabby chic, more the former than the latter. Appropriately shabby.

We took the long dining table with 2 wooden benches. On another table for four sat a group that obviously enjoyed their banter over dinner. Looks like the place is a magnet for friends planning lunch or dinner. My hosts also had close friends joining us. Shey cleaning up a table for us

We had so much food. Barbecue was apparently a house specialty that there wasn’t enough for each one of us. We also had bulalo and kare kare, among the many dishes ordered by Mark and Janine.

Can’t tell you how much the bill was. I can only surmise that the prices of the food items here are diner-friendly. It is not fine dining. It is away from the city. Ergo pricing must be really affordable. I must say everything tasted well. Such that I immediately recommended it to friends. Bico, fresh from a Hongkong trip, according to her diner-friends

The appeal is enhanced by the personal attention from sisters Bico and Shey and their mom. They cook, serve the food, and clean up. In between conversations about their pet doggies with diner-friends who seem to go just to be with the sisters, and have good inexpensive dinner at the same time.

Kannawidan 2018, Vigan


Kannawidan is the biggest event in Ilocos Sur, and Vigan starts the festivities as early as January 28.

The highlight every year is the rodeo where teams from Luzon and, this year, a team or two from the Visayas compete for honor and cash prizes.

Plan your trip and book accommodations now!

Lussok Cave and Underground River, Luna Apayao

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Prior to traveling to Apayao, I researched on “must see” places and Lussok is one of the Top 3. Thus, I made sure this was going to be part of my itinerary.

This cave and underground river system is in the town of Luna, the first town one will hit when traveling to Apayao from Cagayan Valley, the easiest access to this province. Thus, Luna town has become the de facto provincial capital. In fact, the government center has moved from the official capital town of Kabugao to Luna.

On the rocky slope of Barangay Dagupan one will find this  this multi-chamber cave  with beautiful centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites, with crystals embedded. Thus Lussok is also called Lussok Crystal Caves.  The visit is via a boat without outriggers, on calm and placid waters from the opening of the river unto the end.


Our boat had a boatman and a guide who brought in a flashlight, admittedly rather weak, but enough to show us the images created by the rock formations – the Blessed Virgin Mary, fruits and veges, animals, and faces . The water was so still our guide was standing on the front end of the boat.





The Lussok caving adventure has three options for spelunking, with easy, moderate and hard routes.  The trail eventually leads to a bridge  above the entrance to the caves, visible to everyone going into the cave by boat.

Start point for spelunking


I understand from previous stories that Lussok was difficult to access. But with roads done, this cave system will soon be more accessible. On my visit, we drove our 4X4 all the way to the compound where they accept visitors to the cave. But that was after traversing a shallow river and muddy roads because the road has not been completed. I assume that in the next many months, Lussok will be most accessible.


The Visitor Center


literally: Apayao, Be Proud of It (Apayao: Ipagmalaki)


Our Lady of Atocha in Alicia, Isabela


“Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens; yet no shrine better demonstrates how little it matters where we rank in the world or what we do for a living. One of her supplicants asks her for victory for his armies, one for rain for his thirsty fields; Our Lady of Atocha answers all, impartially and lovingly. “( lifted from

The Our Lady of Atocha Church sits in the town of Alicia known for its Pagay festival, a first class municipality in the province of Isabela. It was completed in 1849 and has been declared by the Department of Tourism as one of the country’s religious tourist destinations.

As Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine, Our Lady of Atocha in Isabela looks every inch a Spanish church.





Masbate Hotels and Resorts


As I keep returning to Masbate to attend the annual National Rodeo Finals, I find that more and more hotels have opened, and more are opening. In contrast with my first visit to Masbate in 1978 when the only hotel then was one near the pier, and is not anymore operational.

In 2013, I was happy to return with some room choices. And after many more visits, I am ready to share with fellow travelers the accommodations options on this beautiful island. As a Top Contributor on TripAdvisor, I find it strange that only the older, and rather decaying ones, are listed and reviewed. Last week, I caused the listing of a hotel that I thought should be there, so that fellow travelers can likewise share their experiences and prospective visitors will be better guided.

This blog is definitely the most comprehensive listing and review of Masbate hotels to date.


I stayed at Ranchelle two weeks ago and was so impressed, making me conclude it is the best hotel within the city,  that I immediately wrote a TripAdvisor review, only to find out it was not yet listed. Probably because I am a tripadvisor  Top Contributor, they eventually included Ranchelle in their listing, publishing my review.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.


native picnic huts near or facing the beach

native picnic huts near or facing the beach

The only downside is that the place can get so busy with weekend outings of local families. I was out most of the day anyway, and the place was blissfully quiet at night.

Room Rates: De Luxe P1,800, Family P2,300, Premier P2,600, Suite P3,300. When I was there, they had a P400 promo discount on the rooms. Includes breakfast, free wifi, and free use of gym. Contact: 056 5780929/09487165915
FB page:Ranchelle Beach resort Kainan sa Tabing Dagat



This hotel surprised me when they accommodated my request for a reconfiguration of a family room when I was deciding on which hotel to stay in when I attended Rodeo 2015. The owners (whenever around, as they are in the USA a good part of the year) are very hands on and quite friendly. The location is a plus, having drinks at the front of the hotel while watching the ocean.



My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8.

My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8. With verandas, albeit small, on both sides.


Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Address: Purok 8, Boulevard, Barangay Ibingay
Contact : (056) 582 0210, (056) 588 0423, 0917 600 9372

Rates: Single P1,350, Twin P1,600, Family 1,65o – P3,000


Website :




Novo Hotel is the only high-rise hotel in downtown Masbate, right smack at the city center. It is extremely popular because of its location and inexpensive pricing. Aircondtioned rooms go for P900 for 24 hours, and check out is dependent on the guest’s check in. The presidential suite goes for a mere P1,400, (but was racked up to P1,700 on the week of the city’s most popular event, the Rodeo festival. All room rates actually go up during this peak season). The bigger family room is just slightly more expensive.

Presidential Suite

Presidential Suite

Telephone number +63 56 578 0687. Call to check if they have a room: this hotel does not accept reservations.



I stayed at Greenview on my first rodeo in 2013. The top floor of the unit burned the other year, but the hotel has since been fully restored. Pretty nice hotel, nothing luxurious but good value.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Address: Nursery Street

Contact: (056) 33 6241, 0920 611 9650

Rates: My room was P1,500.



This is a new option, tucked away in Himomoro, within Masbate City. Best reference is Gagay Resort, right beside the new Safe House. Safe House at the moment only has two airconditioned rooms but accommodations for each room can go as many as 6 pax, with extra mattresses provided by the owner. Presently under construction is an events venue, plus two more rooms.


Safe House has become a destination. It has the “I Love (heart) Masbate” sign with the very famous Buntod Reef on the background. Even the province’s Vice Governor went to safe House for that beautiful photo op.


Another attraction is the steel railing where lovers can seal their love for each other with pad locks, inspired by how lovers seal their loves with pad locks on bridges in Paris.




Contact: Cliffords 111, phone number 09287786888

Rate: P1,200 per day



This is a preferred accommodation by sensible, budget-conscious travelers, including foreign backpackers and local executives who want local flavor in an old provincial home. No fuzz, just comfortable accommodations. Flowing coffee, mineral water, cheap wifi, free breakfast.

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center


feel at home

feel at home

Contact: (056) 333 6530

Contact: (056) 333 6530

7.  7-AR  RESORT

I instantly liked 7-AR when I saw this resort-hotel. Only, I was told by a friend that the rooms are small. And I personally like spacious rooms, so I have not stayed here yet. But I checked out the rooms two weeks ago and, while the rooms are not big, they I thought were good enough. The plus is the hotel’s location, and the beautiful swimming pool by the beach-side.


Not big, but I thought this is comfortable

Not big, but I thought this is comfortable




MG Hotel is described in old reviews as the best hotel in Masbate. Indeed, I was told that President PNoy stayed there when the plane carrying Secretary Robredo crashed, and the president and his cabinet trooped to Masbate. When i stayed there last, I noticed that the hotel was not well maintained, and I noted this poor maintenance in my review. Not really that bad, maybe it was just my room. But after seeing the other hotels, MG can not lay claim to being the best.

My third floor room

My third floor room

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

a kiddie pool?

a kiddie pool?



Bambi Hotel used to be Sea Blick, then managed by MG Hotel. As a stand alone hotel, they now have their own coffee shop. Room rates include breakfast, hot and cold showers, cable TV, wifi, transfers to and from the airport or pier, and they have a stand by generator. A pleasant surprise is that they accept all major credit cards, in very sharp contrast with most Masbate hotels.








Rendezvous is one of the earlier hotels in the city, and has been home to many famous personalities. However, with the opening of newer hotels, Rendevous has become a mid-range hotel. It was also a most visited destination when the wharf going to the famous Buntod Reef was still operational, but the wharf has gone down because of a recent typhoon. I chose to have lunch here on my last visit. The al fresco setting by the beach is always a nice lunch or dinner experience. A major plus is the amiable owner/manager of the resort hotel, an active community personality and a warm host.


Testimonials from past guests

Testimonials from past guests




Address: Punta, Nursery, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 4751, 0905 327 2778

Rates: P800 – P1,500. Breakfast not included. Wifi in Restaurant.




I have been seeing this hotel on my past visits and so I decided to check this out two weeks ago. It is right smack at the city center, along Quezon Street, the city’s main road.  The entrance to the hotel is a narrow hallway from the road, beside a restaurant. The hotel signage is prominent, and can not be missed.

the mosy expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the most expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the typical aircon room

the typical aircon room




Contact St Anthony Hotel at (056) 333 2180, 0946 821 2580


I once stayed at GV Hotel so that, as a blogger, I can share hotel standards and services from the best hotel to the least. I rate GV the least, until I come across a lesser hotel. Strange that this hotel which is part of a chain does not even have a coffee shop, nor a store. I had to go out of the hotel to buy biscuits, bread, and drinks tto tide me over when I get hunger pangs at night. The hotel’s maintenance also needs improvement. I asked to be transfered to another room because of the stink in the room originally assigned to me. For travelers on a budget, GV can be an acceptable accommodation. as long as you know how to cope. And make sure you get a clean room.


Address: Danao Street, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 6844

Rates: Fan Room P1,050, Standard AC P1,440, De Luxe P1,800, De Luxe family (4pax) P2,800. The hotel runs promo rates with 50% discount on some months.



When I visited, the signage was not even up yet. So if you go right now, you may not find it. The one in charge just mentioned that the name of the whole property will be Bach Cottages. In case you visit and not see the sign, look for the cluster of cottages beside the Magrovetum on the Boulevard, in between the mangroves and the activity hall of the Masons, before Rendezvous Resort.

country-style cottages

country-style cottages

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

Address: Robredo Boulevard, near mangroves (Mangrovetum)

Contact: Nathaniel Guadayo, phone 0915 5006330

Rates: P750 for 2 pax, aircon, P500 for non-aircon room






Bituon is 10 kms east of Masbate, in the town of Mobo. It is an extremely popular resort, with more than one kilometer of white sand beach. There are huts and tables for picnickers, as well as non-aircon and aircon cottages facing the beach. Yet there are cozy, well-appointed rooms that cater to the more discriminating. A popular TV personality who visited and taped for his travel show stayed at Bituon.





their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc

their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc


Address: Bituon Beach Resort, Bagacay, Mobo, Masbate

Contact: (056)3332 2197, 0917 548 3938

Rates: From P800 (duplex, non aircon, single bed) to P3,500 (executive room, aircon, cable TV, Ref, bathtub, hot and cold shower, breakfast for 2




This accommodation is on another island. I went there by boat from masbate City, and thru a habal habal (backride) on a single motorbike. Ticao Island Resort is popular as a dive resort and clients mostly come by boat from Donsol, Sorsogon. I was the only Filipino when I checked in at Ticao Island Resort. It is  high-end : P7,000 cottage that can accommodate 2 pax,  full board. If you travel solo you still have to pay the full rate of the cottage. It is beautiful, though, and worth the price.





the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

Address: Barangay Tacdungan, San Jacinto, Ticao Island, Province of Masbate

Contact Details: 0906 324 3116, 0906 324 3034




This is not a hotel nor a resort. But when I went there I found out that the cottages can be rented for P200 overnight. There are no provisions. The floor is made of bamboo slats. My friends who stayed overnight brought thick blankets and jackets with them as the temperature up this hill can drop in the evenings. A couple sells coffee and other canned goods. Best to bring your provisions. Visitors are not guaranteed of accommodations, and you may want to be ready to pitch a tent. There is a toilet within the premises.



Mayong Payong is on top of a hill in nearby Mobo. Visitors hire habal habal (back-ride on a single motorbike) from the turn off at the highway. Ask around how to get there.



Coco View Lagoon is a picnic destination featuring a series of fresh water pools from a waterfall that flows into the property. sections have been created to manage the depths of the pool such that there are kiddie pools. Picnic huts are rented for P200- P400 depending on size. Overnight accommodations can also be arranged in air-conditioned rooms.




overnight accommodations

overnight accommodations

Address; Umabay Interior, Mobo, Masbate

Contact : Darlene Torrecampo, phone 09084266077

Rates: P1,000 and P1,200 per room, aircon




Buntod Reef is a protected marine reserve. A marine sanctuary frequented by visitors during daytime. I have heard of friends who have stayed overnight. Check with the Tourism Office who can coordinate with the Marine sanctuary if you intend to camp overnight on this most beautiful Masbate white sand beach, actually a sand bar. If the authorities would not anymore allow overnight camping on the reef, just then try to visit for the day.




Masbate has many islands with pristine white sand beaches, many of them unknown to most locals. I went one such island then, actually with a long sand bar at low tide. The island is called Nabuktuk and is accessed from the pier of Mandaon. You might yet find your “old man and the sea” story.





This is a most unique accommodation, and available only in San Juan, Mandaon, around Masbate. Stay overnight on a pitched tent on top of a hill within a working ranch. A package of only P600 per head per day includes a pitched tent, with toilet and shower facilities, horseback trail ride, trekking/hiking within the ranch, opportunity to observe cattle herding, opportunity to try ranch work like grooming and feeding horses, fence repair and replacement etc. Be a cowboy / cowgirl !


see how cowboys herd cattle

see how cowboys herd cattle



My friends and I pitched tents then, had bonfire at night, and watched the stars as we enjoyed our drinks.



Ranch Life/Ranch Tour can be arranged thru  phone # 0906 2481108



Philippine Airlines flies to Masbate daily.

Visitors can also take a bus from Cubao and  go straight to Masbate, via ro-ro in either Pilar or Pio Duran ports. Regular buses cost P1,000 one-way, inclusive of the ro-ro. Special Isarog buses with toilets and reclining seats also ply the route at P2,000n fare one way.