Mirador Heritage and Eco Park: Experiencing a Taste of Japan in Baguio City

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Mirador Heritage and Eco Park is one of the newest attractions in the City of Baguio. The park houses the famous torii gate and bamboo forest that you probably seen online. If you want to experience Japan without flying, this is the right place to be. It is just located in Mirador Hill just near the famous Lourdes Grotto. So, if you are already in the area, you can visit both attractions to make your trip worthy.

How to get there?

From Kayang Street in Baguio proper, ride a jeepney bound to Mirador. Just tell the driver to drop you off in Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House.

You can also ride a taxi or bring your own car for your convenience. Parking lot is available in the area so there would be no issue if you bring your own car.

What to expect in Mirador Heritage and Eco park?

The eco park is open daily from 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM. Entrance fee is 100 Php while 12 years old and below are free of charge. No reservations needed. Mirador Heritage and Eco Park is a 5-hectare park managed by the Mirador Jesuits Villa. As the place aims, it is a good place to relax, unwind, meditate and reconnect with nature. Falling in love with the spectacular view from the hill is a plus experience!

A spectacular view from Mirador Hill

Many attractions can be found inside the Eco park such as Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Manresa Rock Garden, Our Lady of Aranzazu Rock Garden, Ifugao Houses, La Storta Garden, Blue Moon Gate and of course the famous Torii gate in Mirador Peace Memorial. For complete list of attractions and other details you can visit their official website here.

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

  • Our Lady of Aranzazu Rock Garden

  • Blue Moon Gate 

  • Mirador Peace Memorial

Bringing outside food is not allowed for better maintenance of the park but this attraction have their own café named Café Iñigo. You can visit their café if you wish to buy some meals and drinks.

Igorot Stone Kingdom Travel Guide: Newest Theme Park in Baguio

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There are so many tourist attractions that actually came to light at the mid of this pandemic. One of this attraction is the Igorot Stone Kingdom that officially opened to the public last June 2021 and became one of the popular destination when you visit Baguio City since then. It is an Igorot theme park based on the legend of Sab-angan, an Igorot Kingdom that once existed but lost a thousand years ago.

Knowing Igorot Stone Kingdom

This theme park is located in Long Long Benguet Rd., Baguio City, about 500 meters away from Tam-awan Village. The place is owned by Pio Velasco or also known as Ama Bag-owan as his Igorot name who saw a white carabao last March 1, 2020. It was said that this is a good omen for him to start the Igorot Kingdom. In Igorot culture, white carabao symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Hence, by March 15, 2020 the construction started for the Igorot Stone Kingdom. The attraction is made of piled stones forming a castle-like structure. Stone walls also resembles the famous Banaue Rice Terraces of Ifugao province because of its ladder-like layout.

How to get there?

Via public commute

Ride a jeepney bound for Tacay-Longlong in Otek St., Baguio City or Tam-awan bound jeepneys in Kayang Street, Baguio City. Just tell the driver to drop you off in Igorot Stone Kingdom

Via taxi

Taxis are pretty much available around Baguio City and more convenient mode of transpo going point to point around the city. Taxi fare here is much cheaper than in Manila so if you are traveling in group, I suggest you to take a cab like what we did for your convenience.

What to expect in Igorot Stone Kingdom

Expect a flock of people upon entrance of the theme park especially during weekends and holidays but the main park area is so huge that people won’t be crammed in one area. Entrance fee is 100 Php for adults, 80 Php for senior citizens and kids (4-12 years old) and free for toddlers (3 years old and below). The Park is open Monday to Sunday from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Going around the park will make you realized how rich the Igorot civilization is, exhibiting their prowess and history. The castle-like structure also houses a lot of attractions such as Bangan’s dome, Temple of Kabunyan, Igorot goldmine, Igorot Golden Bridge, Igorot Heroes Hall, underground garden, kape in the sky, view deck and many more! Take note that the construction in the park is still on going, so for sure the place will still provide us with more surprises next time.

It was also displayed on the park that it was dedicated by the owner, Pio, to his mother named Rita which he described as a fair and beautiful Igorota. The woman he admired and taught him to be strong despite all.

What I like also in this park is its vivacity. It has this positive and lively energy that would make your visit worthy. There are food stalls where you can buy food and pasalubongs, you can rent Igorot costumes for photo ops and a music that echoes all around the park.

When going back to Baguio Proper you can either ride a jeepney or taxi again. Have you been to Igorot Stone Kingdom before? Share your experiences below!

Atok, Benguet: Northern Blossoms Flower Farm Travel Guide

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It was few years ago when Northern Blossoms Flower Farm made a social media and nationwide TV craze. It was featured in several TV shows and since then, I did tell myself to visit it someday. Northern Blossoms Flower Farm is located in Atok, Benguet and so far, the most beautiful farm I ever visited my entire life. With its high elevation, colder climate than Baguio City and beautiful flower farms arising on its ground, Atok is now becoming a top destination among Filipino travelers.

Knowing Northern Blossoms Flower Farm

Northern Blossoms Flower Farm is located in the beautiful town of Atok in Benguet. It is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Baguio City and a popular go to destination if you are already in Baguio. The farm showcases many variants of blooming flowers such as everlastings, marigolds, snapdragons, hydrangeas, rice flowers and of course, the flower that made this place known to everyone, the cabbage roses! I think many of the visitors, got curious about this blossom that looks like a cabbage with colors and bigger in sizes but actually a hybrid rose. The farm is open from Monday to Saturday from 6:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

Here are the entrance fees:

Adult- P250

Senior/PWD- P200

Kids- P50 (6-10 yrs old)

Entrance fee includes brewed coffee and you can also hire a tour guide for P250 per group. Fees may change without prior notice so you can visit their official FB page for recent updates. Click here.

How to get there?

From Manila, ride a bus from PITX, Pasay or Cubao. Upon arrival in Baguio City, make your way to Dangwa Terminal at the back of Central Mall and look for vans or buses bound to Atok, Mankayan or Sagada. Just tell the driver to drop you off in Northern Blossoms. Fare is P200 and travel time may take around 1.5 to 2 hours.

*There are no buses available yet when we visited Atok early this year (2022), we got to ride a van bound to Atok for P200 each. First trip of van starts to rack up passengers at around 4:00 AM.

Getting around the farm:

We arrived at Northern Blossoms registration area at around 5:45 AM and in our surprise, there’s already a long queue of line for registration. We paid for our registration fees and we opt not to get a tour guide anymore. First stop upon entrance of Northern Blossoms is its greenhouse full of Snapdragon flowers. Then you’ll make your way down to the actual farm and you will be overwhelmed by the various blossoms right in front of your eyes. You’ll get baffled on which flower or point you’ll take picture with as every corner is a picture-perfect spot. Every site is so dreamy and can’t help to be mesmerized by every single detail of it.

It was weekend when we went there and it is understandable that there’s a flock of people all over the place. It was hard for us to take photos by ourselves so if you wish to visit with lesser crowd, I suggest to set your visit during weekdays or late afternoon. It is said that January to April is the best time to visit the farm when its flowers are in full bloom especially the cabbage roses everyone is talking about. I also suggest to wear comfortable shoes as a bit of trekking would be required going around and pathways can be muddy at times. Take your time taking photos with the blooms as there’s a vast number of it all around the place.

There are also resting areas downhill where you can sit for a while and appreciates the mountainous scenery of Mt. Pulag and Mt. Timbak right in front of you. Taking a nice shot would not require much effort as the place is effortlessly beautiful on its own. But of course, don’t forget to take IG-worthy pictures with the cabbage roses!

Right before you exit, you can go inside this area where you can get your brewed coffee. This is also the place where they sell plants in pots if you wish to bring one home.

People are lining up to get their cup of coffee

Overall, it was a fun, dreamy and heavenly experience visiting Northern Blossoms Flower Farm. As any flower would symbolize, it brought me delight and happy times.  I would definitely recommend it to everyone and visit it again next time. Nearby attractions within Atok area are Sakura Garden and the Highest Point, which used to be the highest point in the Philippine’s Highway System.

Flowers up close
Cabbage roses

Going back to Baguio City

From Northern Blossoms, we walked to the van terminal going back to Baguio City. Terminal is located in front of Marosan’s Eatery right after the Atok Municipal Hall. Travel may take around another 2 hours back to Baguio.

*On our way down back to Baguio City, we dropped by in La Trinidad to re-visit Mt. Kalugong (a cultural village with a coffee shop on top of the mountain). If you also wish to visit it, here’s the blog link.

Have you been to Northern Blossoms Flower Farm before? Share your experiences below!

Lanawan Rocks: A New Trekking Spot To Try In Concepcion, Iloilo

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Hiking seems to be popular to the young and old ones nowadays. Not only within Luzon but I noticed that even in the province of Iloilo, it is starting to be a hobby for many. But if your heart is not into a whole day hike, you can try visiting Lanawan Rocks that offers a spectacular view after a merely 15-to-20-minute trek to the top. Lanawan rocks is located in Sitio Tagbak, Brgy. Placido, Concepcion, Iloilo and a good side trip when you are visiting the beaches of the Northern Iloilo. Just located around 3 hours away from the City of Iloilo this could be your next weekend trip with your friends and family.

Knowing Lanawan Rocks:

As per our tour guide, Lanawan Rocks is a tourist attraction that features few rock formations and was recently discovered and opened at the mid of this covid pandemic. The place was posted by a tourist on social media that people on the internet became curious about this beauty hidden at the outskirts of Concepcion, Iloilo. People on the area is actually not into social media and didn’t even realize that posts on these platforms can make their place known to many. The rock formations were kept on themselves for so many years but now, they are ready for the world to finally see it. Thanks to the viral post of Lanawan Rocks that many locals were given a chance to earn an extra as a guide (like how our guide, who is a working student, was able to get extra money for his school allowance).

The trail going to the jump off is a dirt road composed of few ascents making it famous to bicycle riders looking for adventure trail. Many group of riders are visiting the place especially during the weekend. The Lanawan Rocks are being managed by Ate Anabelle who is the owner also of Anna’s Kitchenette located at the jump off of the trail.

How to get there?

From Iloilo City, make your way to Ceres Terminal located in Tagbak, Iloilo. Ride a bus bound to Concepcion (travel is roughly 3 hours). From Concepcion town proper, ride a habal-habal or tricycle that will take you directly to Lanawan Rocks. Travel time may take another 30 minutes and fare would be 100 Php each. Tricycle on Brgy. Placido is not pretty much available for commuters so we opt to ask our driver to just wait for us at the jump off and paid him additional fee.

Trekking going to Lanawan Rocks:

We reached Brgy. Placido at around 11 AM and met Ate Ana where we paid for a registration fee of 25 Php each and tour guide fee of 100 Php (for 5 pax). After paying, we left our things at Anna’s kitchen and started the trek right away. The trek is pretty easy but the heat of the sun makes it exhausting from time to time. It’s almost noon when we started the trail so I advise anyone planning to go there to start the trek early morning or late afternoon. There are couple of peaks or rock formations you could take pictures with. Just be extra careful as it could be heart trembling experience especially for those who have a fear of heights. From above you’ll be seeing the beauty of the blue waters of Concepcion and its nearby town of Ajuy.

Mesmerized by the spectacular view from above
What a beautiful view to fall in love with
A view of the nearby town of Ajuy
La Terraza de Agua Bendita Resort as seen from above

Take another 15-minute descent and you’ll reach the jump off.

Anna’s Kitchenette:

After you get tired of trekking, you can reward yourself with a sumptuous mean from Ana’s Kitchenette owned by Ate Anabelle. The food house serves silog dishes and beverages. Our personal favorite is their Buko Shake! You’ll definitely ask for more.

The food place is beautifully decorated. From empty bottles up to sea shells are all recycled and used to make the place feel homey while enjoying good food with a view.

The town of Concepcion in Iloilo is actually famous for its white sand island beaches but it is refreshing to know that aside from its beautiful waters, they have this vantage point from above that you could trek and appreciate the allure high up.

For additional inquiries, you can directly contact Lanawan Rocks on their official Facebook page here.

Have you been to Lanawan Rocks before? Share your experiences below!

Hinugtan Beach: Best-Kept Paradise of Buruanga, Aklan

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When we hear about the province of Aklan, probably Boracay Island would first bulge out on our minds. Indeed, the island of Boracay is one of the famous and pristine beaches of our country that we could showcase all over the world. With its white powdery sand, it is a must visit for the local and international travelers all-year round but if you are looking for solace that somehow Boracay can’t give due to its crowd, you might opt to visit Hinugtan Beach. Just around 30-to-40-minute ride from Caticlan Jetty Port, discover this hidden gem at the heart of Buruanga, Aklan. A secret we are ready to share to everyone!

Knowing Hinugtan Beach

Hinugtan Beach is located in Buruanga, Aklan that started to make craze online as an alternate beach getaway for those who wants to skip the crowd of Boracay. For me, Hinugtan is not just an alternate option because it has its own beauty that she can stand on its own allure. It has white powdery sand, though not as white as those found in Boracay, crystal blue waters and also have water activities that visitors can enjoy.

How to get there?

From Iloilo

Ride a Catical bound bus from Ceres Terminal in Tagbak, Iloilo. Fare is 500 Php and travel time may take around 5 hours. From Caticlan, charter a tricycle that will take you to Buruanga (fare is 100 php each). Upon reaching Buruanga, you have to take another habal-habal that will take you to Hinugtan. Take note that the driver will drop you off first on the area where you have to pay for an environmental fee and on the Hinugtan area, you still have to walk a bit on a downhill to reach the main beach.

From Manila

If you will be riding a plane from Manila, upon reaching Caticlan airport look for a transport that will take you to Caticlan port or probably they can take you directly to Buruanga. There are tricycles outside Caticlan airport and just negotiate with them. From Buruanga, ride a habal-habal that will take you to Hinugtan area.

Where to stay in Hinugtan Beach?

Emen's Paradise Resort

There are few beach resorts located in the shoreline of Hinugtan such as:

  1. Hinugtan Beach – Facebook link here
  2. White Beach Front and Cottages – Facebook link here
  3. Emen’s Paradise Resort – Facebook link here

 

We had our stay in Emen’s Paradise Resort. The rooms are maintained, staffs are accommodating, Comfort Rooms are not crowded, rooms and cottages are cheap in prices and overnight stay includes breakfast meal. Here are the rooms available in the resort with its prices:

 

DAYNITS (1st room) Beach Front (GOOD FOR 7 PAX) fan room shared Cr

7 persons: 4,000 (with free breakfast)

  • two kids is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

SHINE (2nd room) Aircon room (GOOD FOR 1-3PAX) Shared Cr

1-2 person/s: 2,200 (with free breakfast)

3 persons: 2,800 (with free breakfast)

  • one kid is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

SHIELA (3rd room) Aircon Room (GOOD FOR 1-4 PAX) Shared Cr

1-2 person/s: 2,200 (with free breakfast)

3 persons: 2,800 (with free breakfast)

4 persons: 3,500 (with free breakfast)

  • one kid is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

EM EM (4th Room) Aircon Room (GOOD FOR 1-4 PAX) Private Cr

1-2 person/s: 2,200 (with free breakfast)

3 persons: 2,800 (with free breakfast)

4 persons: 3,500 (with free breakfast)

  • one kid is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

AURING (5th Room) Fan room (GOOD FOR 7PAX) Private Cr Kitchen (gas stove, utensils) add 300 pesos per night

7 persons: 4,000 (with free breakfast)

  • two kids is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

MEMIE (6th Room) Aircon Family Room (GOOD FOR 15PAX) Private Cr Kitchen (gas stove, utensils) add 300 pesos per night

7 persons: 5,300 (with free breakfast)

8 persons: 5,500 (with free breakfast)

9 persons: 7,400 (with free breakfast)

10 persons: 8,000 (with free breakfast)

11 persons: 8,500 (with free breakfast)

12 persons: 9,000 (with free breakfast)

13 persons: 9,500 (with free breakfast)

14 persons: 10,000 (with free breakfast)

15 persons: 10,500 (with free breakfast)

  • two kids is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

LORNA (7th room) Aircon Room (GOOD FOR 7 PAX) Private Cr Kitchen (gas stove, ref, utensils) add 300 pesos per night

7 persons: 5,000 (with free breakfast)

  • one kid is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

EM EM KUBO (8th room) Fan Room (GOOD FOR 2) kubo kubo Shared Cr

1-2 person/s: 1,700 (with free breakfast)

 

MARILOU (9th room) Family Room (GOOD FOR 10PAX) Fan room Private Cr Kitchen (gas stove, ref, utensils) add 300 pesos per night

8 persons: 4,300 (with free breakfast)

9 persons: 4,600 (with free breakfast)

10 persons: 5,000 (with free breakfast)

  • two kids is free (add 200 each for additional kids)

 

Note: Prices may change without prior notice, please check their official facebook pages for recent updates. Click here.

There are still other resorts and cottages located around the area that I am not familiar with so you could search it online for more options.

Other rooms have their own dining and kitchen areas.
This is the room where we stayed. Below our room is the resort's sari-sari store.

Hinugtan Beach

We arrived at Hinugtan at around 2:00 PM, after a bit trek downhill to reach the main beach, you will be greeted by this secret gem that you didn’t imagine ever existed. We just walk around the place looking for Emen’s resort and one of their staff saw us along the way and asked where we are heading to. Maybe she seems to think that we are a bit lost and can’t find our way (lol). She assisted us on our way to our room. We originally reserved the Auring room which is good for 7 pax but unfortunately, only three of us pushed through the trip. Luckily, the staffs are kind enough to transfer us on a smaller room so we would pay less than the original reservation. We settled our things and went around the beach the same afternoon. We had a two-night stay and our first day was Sunday so there are more people than usual but I can say it’s still not that crowded.

One of the Pisonet Wifi available in Hinugtan Beach.

There is no mobile signal on the whole Hinugtan area but there’s a lot of pisonet wifi that pretty much works especially during the night. If you want to have a quick update on your social media feed, this is a pretty good option.

Second day

A father-daughter beautiful bonding moment.
This is how the shore looks like during lowtide.

I woke up early in the morning and saw the beach during low tide. A peaceful scene to ponder first thing in the morning. We took a lot more photos and explore nearby shores and points of Hinugtan Beach. There are rock formations that can be seen at the end of the Hinugtan area but better be careful when taking photos as the pointy rocks can cause you harm.

During lowtide in the morning, visitors also enjoy water activities such as kayaking and boating as the waves are still calm and water level is still a bit shallow. Also, in front of Emen’s Paradise Resort is where the swings can be found. When I searched online of Hinugtan Beach, a lot of photos show this big swing and the other two swings in front of the blue waters. But regardless where you are staying, I do believe you can still take photos in here.

Tourists enjoy kayaking
Boats and kayaks for hire
The giant swing in front of the resort

Monday afternoon during our second day of stay in this beach, only few tourists are left including ourselves. It was that afternoon when we just sat down on the white sands, stare on the azure waters and was calmed by the waves while talking about our lives. This is one of the perfect place and time to relax and share stories of wonderful times with our friends and family. It will give you serenity while wondering “what’s happening on the island on the other side?” I wonder how this secluded beach can be this beautiful and was not able to pay a visit all these years.

Slow afternoon by the beach
Life is meant for good friends and great adventures

Last day

It was Tuesday morning when we checked out of the resort and it was the same habal-habal drivers who fetched us but by this time they’ll take us directly to the Caticlan Port. From Caticlan Port, we made our way to the bus terminal and ride a bus bound back to Iloilo.

Things to know before going:

  • Mobile Signal is not available on the Hinugtan area, only pisonet wifi for internet connection. If you will be needing to have some work done online or you need to work remotely, wifi is not reliable so better plan your visit.
  • Arrange a pick-up of the same habal-habal driver who take you in Hinugtan. Set a time and day as you will not be able to communicate with him once you are there.
  • Contact the resort via facebook messenger earlier as they might not be able to get back to you as soon as possible due to limited internet and mobile signal. They might not be able to pick up a call due to lacking phone signal.
  • There are sari-sari stores on the resorts and you can order cooked food if you didn’t bring any with you, just tell the staffs ahead of time.

Have you been to Hinugtan Beach before? Share your experiences below!

Mt. Marami: Overnight Hiking Guide

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Mt. Marami may not be the word of mouth for some frequent and new trekkers but I assure that this mountain will squeeze out your desire for adventure. The said mountain is being compared to the more famous Mt. Pico De Loro located also in the province of Cavite as the two shares the same attributes. Being less visited makes this mountain more beautiful and a perfect place to ponder. Located in Maragondon, Cavite and jump-off can be reached for about 2.5 to 3 hours from Manila.

Knowing Mt. Marami

Mt. Marami is located in Maragondon, Cavite but jump-off lies in Brgy. Ramirez, Magallanes, Cavite. Please take note that there are two jump-offs going to Mt. Marami: one is located in Brgy. Ramirez and the other one is located in Brgy. Talipusngo. On our case, we opt to take the Ramirez trail and as advised also by our guide this trail is easier and shorter than the other one. As a running joke for some hikers who climbed this mountain the reason why it’s called “Mt. Marami” is because it requires “maraming lakad” (many walk) to reach its summit. Stands 405 MASL with difficulty level of 3/9, trekking may take around 3-4 hours to reach the summit where the rock formation also known as “Silyang bato” is stationed.

How to go to Mt. Marami

From Manila

Ride a bus from PITX bound to Naic, Cavite. From Naic, make your way to jeepney terminal and ride a jeepney bound to Magallanes, Cavite. Tell the driver that you’re going to Mt. Marami and drop you off at the Brgy. Ramirez junction. From the junction, charter a tricycle that will take you to the registration.

Our Mountain Guide

We reached Brgy. Ramirez at around 10:00 AM and went straight to the house of our tour guide Kuya Jeff. They own a small karinderya managed by his wife Ate Veron where we took an early lunch and prep ourselves before we start our trek. We first contacted Kuya Joel since his name is all over facebook when we searched for a recommended guide but due to a schedule conflict, he was not able to meet us that morning but instead assisted by his recommended guide Kuya Jeff. I highly speak of these guides as they are one of the best on their craft. We were assisted the whole time by Kuya Jeff but was able to meet also Kuya Joel along the way twice: one during our ascend and second during our descent the next morning. What I noticed with these guides, they are not merely guides who do it for a living but they are guides who are passionate on their field. They climbed series of mountains aside from Marami, gave us advices about overnight camping and talk about trekking aids.

Our tour guide, Kuya Jeff

You can contact these recommended guides here:

Kuya JoelJoel Vince Custodio

Kuya Jeff– 09650612594

Start of Trek

After taking our lunch and logged our visit on the registration booth on their barangay hall, we started our journey to the summit. Initial trail is quite easy as it’s composed of many flat courses with few ascents. Good thing that the weather cooperated with us, though it’s almost noon, weather was just cloudy and not too hot. Almost half of the trail were actually just a track going to the foot of the mountain which is mostly made up of flat trail, river crossing, skyward slopes that are manageable. You will be greeted from time to time by the mesmerizing summit as it can be seen on some parts of the trail. There are also few huts and a sari-sari store where you can buy stuffs and rest.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, this is where the more challenging part of the trail starts. You have to climb steep paths that might be exhausting for people like me (haha!) We actually took series of rest but it’s still a good thing that it is not hot and it’s slight windy during that time that eases our weariness. We reached our camping site at around 2:30 PM and took a rest first.

Take note that there are three camping sites available where you can pitch your tent for an overnight stay. First is located beside a sari-sari store and near a water source but it is still located 1 to 1.5 hours (depending on your pace) away from the summit. Second camp site is located for about 200 meters away from the first site. Third camp site is the nearest to the summit and with the most beautiful view as the peak can be freely seen from here but the area is open, far from the water source and can be too cold during the night. It’s up to you where you wish to stay for the night.

Signage put up by DENR
View of the summit from the third campsite

After taking a rest, we setup or tent and decided to just go to the summit that day (initial plan was to climb the summit by next day for the sunrise) and watch the sunset from there. As we go nearer the summit, the view was becoming more spectacular. It took us another hour to reach the summit and we were greeted by the view one would surely fall in love with and no one can resist. We were the only group on the summit during that time. And that’s what I love most in the places less visited, you can enjoy the moment without the distraction of the crowd.

It was too windy when we reach the rock formations of the summit so we were too careful when we were taking pictures because one misstep could lead into danger. The scenery from the top was breathtaking and the sunset made it even more beautiful! Kuya guide is also good in taking photos.

After taking enough photos and when the cold breeze of the strong wind started to gave us chills, we decided to start our descent back to our camping ground. It’s becoming dark so we were in a bit hurry to go back. We set foot back on our camp at around 7:00 PM and put out our camping cooking sets to prepare our food. It was our first time to cook during our climb since we usually bring cooked foods but by this time, we want to have the full experience. Kuya Jeff even taught us how to use the butane, he’s not just a guide but more of a climbing mentor to us. We just talk anything about life while waiting for our food. After taking our simple dinner, we decided to take a rest and sleep as we were very tired.

The Next Morning

We had cup noodles for breakfast that we just bought on the sari-sari store located on our camp site. While taking our breakfast, Kuya Joel (our original contacted guide) came with another set of trekkers. We just talked for some time and we started to pack our things. It took us another 3 hours to go back to the jump-off. We had our lunch again to the karinderya owned by our guide’s family. They also have clean comfort rooms where we took a bath.

Other Things to Know:

  • Overnight guide fee is 1000 Php for 1-5 persons, additional person needs to pay 200 Php each
  • Registration fee is 80 Php per head
  • If you were not able to contact a guide prior going, tour guides are available upon registration

Maniwaya Island Guide: The Hidden Gem of the Heart of the Philippines (Marinduque)

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Honestly, I haven’t heard much about Maniwaya Island of Marinduque on the past few years that I am traveling. Our country, being an archipelago, has so many pristine white beaches that we can show off the world but little did we know this silent province island of Marinduque has its own prime destinations that one would love to see and experience.

The Province of Marinduque is known as “The Heart of the Philippines” as the shape of the provincial island is in similar shape of a human heart.  Its location on our archipelago is also similar to the anatomy of where the heart is, in the human body. I often mislook Marinduque on my go-to destinations as I haven’t heard much of the public transpo going to the island not until I saw several travel and tour groups in Facebook that offers all-in tours on the island.

Knowing Maniwaya Island

Maniwaya Island is an island which is part of the town of Santa Cruz, Marinduque. It lies between the main island of Mariduque on the left and the Province of Quezon on the right. So, the said island is accessible through those provinces. Maniwaya Island is a home of several beach resorts that showcase cream to white powdery fine sands, blue and clear sea waters and offers island hopping tours to nearby pristine must-see stops like Palad Sandbar and Ungab Rock Formation. Located about 6 hours away from Manila, it is a worthy place to visit to please your thirst for beach waters and your desire to continue discovering secluded beautiful attractions of the Philippines.

How to go to Maniwaya Island?

Via General Luna Port

This is the easiest route with lesser vehicle transfers. Ride a bus from Manila bound to Lucena Grand Terminal (JAC Liner, JAM, A&B Liner etc.). From Lucena Grand Terminal, ride a van or bus bound to General Luna Port. From General Luna port, ride the public boat to Maniwaya Island or rent a boat that will take you directly to the island.

Via travel and tours

Since it’s pandemic and we were not sure about the availability of the public transportations, we opted to book a tour for our convenience. We directly contacted Wawie’s Beach Resort and they immediately arranged and assigned a travel coordinator for us. The tour already includes an overnight stay in the resort (tent accommodation) with three meals and all-in island tour to Ungab Rock Formation, Palad Sand Bar and a Snorkeling experience. Less hassle, all you have to do is to be there on the pickup points and enjoy the actual travel experience. You can also upgrade you accommodation into an actual room for additional fee.

You can contact Wawie’s Beach Resort directly on their Facebook Page here to assign you a coordinator or you can directly contact HAPPY FEET PH here if they have scheduled tour to Maniwaya on your desired date.

We were picked up at around 10:00 PM Friday night, had series of stop overs along the way and reached General Luna port at around 5:00 AM. We ride a boat going to Maniwaya Island at 5:30 AM and reached their barangay at about 7:00 AM to register our visit and checking of our vaccination cards.

Wawie’s Beach Resort

Wawie’s Beach Resort is one of the known resort on the island. It offers various accommodations from tent, native rooms, AC rooms and cabanas. The resort proffers taintless shores and blue waters. It was weekend when we went there and the resort is quite crowded. You’ll never imagine that at the middle of a somewhat secluded town, there is this tropical island everyone would enjoy. The resort is good, well-maintained, staffs and even the owner are very accommodating and friendly but comfort rooms should be improved (we even suggest it to the owner). Lining up to use the comfort room could take time especially during the weekend and holidays.

Ungab Rock Formation

Ungab rock formation is a natural rock formation in shape of an arc located on the Island of Mongpong. Better be careful taking photos on its rock formations as waves swashing fiercely on the area. We actually got some wounds on our knees and foot while trying to explore the vicinity. Overall, this distinct rock formation is worthy of our visit.

Palad Sandbar

A stunning sand bar with powdery white sand surrounded by turquoise clear waters. It only appears during low tide but don’t worry as the tour coordinators and boat operators are pretty much familiar of the low tide schedules on the area. On our case, we got to visit Palad Sand bar at around 10:30 AM.

Snorkeling

There’s also a snorkeling area around the waters surrounding Maniwaya Island (no specific name). Here you can enjoy snorkeling, swimming, feeding fishes and see the rich marine life of Marinduque. Snorkeling gears can be rented on a very affordable price to truly enjoy the splendid aqua life seen below waters such as living corals and peculiar fishes.

Maniwaya Island Sample Itinerary

DAY 0:

11:00 pm     ETD from Assembly Location to Gen Luna Port

 

DAY 1:

08:00am      ETA in Maniwaya Island

09:30am      Relax time at Maniwaya Island

10:00am-1:00pm  Island hopping to Palad Sand Bar and Rockformation

01:00pm      Lunch 

02:00pm      Lots of chill time [swimming/volleyball/sun bathing/]

07:00pm      Dinner 

08:00pm      Socials

11:00pm      Lights Out

 

DAY 2:

6:00am        Breakfast 

7:00-10:00am   Free Time

11:00 pm     ETD FROM Maniwaya Island to Gen. Luna Port

12:30           Lunch

9-10pm       ETA manila

More photos of us in the island

Atimonan, Quezon: Mt. Pinagbanderahan + Bantakay Falls Travel Guide

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Aside from the Atimonan Zigzag Road also known as “Bitukang Manok” which is a common stop over of private vehicles heading to the Bicol Region, Atimonan is mostly overlooked when in terms of tourism. This town of Atimonan that lies roughly 6 hours away from Manila could be a good venue if you would like to enjoy a place less crowded. For this adventure, we visited Mt. Pinagbanderahan also known as “Mt. Mirador” and Bantakay Falls over the weekend. These two attractions require trekking so better be prepared for a day full of cardio workouts.

How to get there?

From Manila (PITX Terminal) ride a Calauag/Guinayangan bound bus (A&B Liner). Tell the driver to drop you off in Brgy. Malinao Ilaya in Atimonan Quezon. Here’s the current schedule of Calauag/Guinayangan A&B Liner Bus:

For updated bus schedule please visit A&B Liner office Facebook Page

To Mt. Pinagbanderahan

After dropping off at Brgy. Malinao Ilaya, you can either walk or rent a tricycle that will take you directly to the jump off area (Atimonan Zigzag Park). Take note that you will be passing through the famous zigzag road of Atimonan so please carefully watch out for vehicles especially on the curve areas. We opted to walk so we started our trek from Malinao Ilaya junction and I must say that it’s quite challenging as the zigzag road is too slippery and very steep.

To Bantakay Falls

From Mt. Pinagbanderahan jump off, you can either walk again down to Malinao Ilaya Junction or look for an availale tricycle on the area. From Malinao Ilaya Junction, charter a tricycle that will take you to the registration of Bantakay Falls in Brgy. Sta. Catalina.

Mt. Pinagbanderahan

Mt. Pinagbanderahan which means “where the flag was hoisted” is part of the Quezon Protected Landscape and holds an important part of our country’s history. This is where American and Japanese flags were raised during their occupancies and eventually a Philippine flag when we regained our independence from the foreign oppressors. Trail difficulty is 1/9 which is perfect for beginners and to those looking for a laidback hike.

We started our trek from the Zigzag Road junction at around 7:00 AM. We opted to walk very careful as the road is really slippery and steep. We reached the registration booth at the Atimonan Zigzag Park and logged our visit. A tour guide is being required so you have to secure one before heading to the summit. Since the trail is part of a protected landscape and recognized as a National Park, it is mostly covered by trees and lushes. You’ll be walking through a rainforest milieu so no exposure on direct heat of the sun on most part of the trek. Trail path is also well maintained and mostly cemented but still be vigilant as there are few fallen trees along the trail.

It took us around 1.5 hours before reaching the summit. We were rewarded by a scenic view of Sierra Madre ranges, Mt. Banahaw and coastline of the nearby town of Pagbilao from the summit. I actually compared the rainforest limestones I saw from the summit to the scenes of Coron and the known Halong Bay of Vietnam and it was breathtaking just like other summits I visited.

It took us another hour trekking back to the jump off and upon reaching it, we decided to take our lunch before heading to Bantakay Falls. The Zigzag Park which serves also as the registration point, housed few food stalls and “kubos” where you can take a rest and eat meals. There are few stalls too that sells Quezon’s delicacies and travel souvenirs.

Bantakay Falls

After taking our lunch, we were lucky that there was an available tricycle along the Zigzag Road that we can ride back to the Zigzag junction in Malinao Ilaya. From there, we chartered another tricycle that took us directly to the Bantakay Falls jump off/registration point. Like in Mt. Pinagbanderahan, a tour guide is also required before heading to the falls (guide fee is 300 Php). They were able to established a new trail now leading to Bantakay that trekking would only take 15-20 minutes.

When we arrived at the Bantakay Falls, water current was a bit strong which is as per our guide was due to the rain on the area the other day. But regardless the water current, the falls is still majestic. Path is quite challenging due to the current but with the proper guidance and putting extra caution on each step, you could finish the trail up near the falls itself.

There are a lot of picture-perfect spots and you could enjoy swimming on its cold waters. A perfect place to bring your family and friends.

Have you been to Mt. Pinagbanderahan and Bantakay Falls before? Share your experience below!

Balboa’s Adventure Park Travel Guide: Iloilo’s Newest Outdoor Playground

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Another outdoor park in the province of Iloilo started to make a craze online when it officially opened to the public early this year. Balboa’s Adventure Park is located in the town of Barotac Viejo that will definitely load you with different adventure activities once you visit. I honestly been to this place way before it was developed to the adventure park that it is today and I was amazed how this farm eventually turned into a park full of exciting activities. It serves as a camping ground too so one can savor and take pleasure in the tranquility of our nature.

How to get there?

Ride a Barotac Viejo bound bus from the Ceres Terminal located in Tagbak, Jaro, Iloilo. Fare will be 89 Php each and travel time may take about 1.5 hours. Drop off at Barotac Viejo Public Market and then ride a tricycle that will take you directly to Balboa’s Adventure Park (Fare is 50 Php each).

Activities to try:

  • Zipline (30 Php/ride) – a recreational activity with inclined cable armed with pulley. Wearing a harness is a must for safety measures.
  • Archery (50 Php/6 arrows) – bring out your Katniss Everdeen persona by trying this bow and arrows sport.
  • Airsoft (P50/magazine) – players will use airsoft guns and hit targets on their very own shooting range.
  • Monkey Bridge (Free) – an obstacle bridge made of rope.
  • Wall Bridge (Free) – a wall made of heavy ropes that one needs to cross to finish the obstacle.
  • Cliff Swing (Free) – two parallel swings that stands beside a small cliff.
  • Jungle Swing (Free) – one would hold on a single rope and have to swing going on the other side of the course.
  • Spider Net (Free) – a web-like structure made also of ropes.
  • The Tower (Free) – also called “Wifi Station” located at the top most area of the park where you can reward yourself with the beautiful overlooking view of mountains surrounding the park.
  • Stairway to Heaven (Free) – a staircase made out of bamboo perfect for your instagram photos with sky as your backdrop.

Other Amenities:

  • Obstacle course
  • Adult Seesaw
  • Bike Trail 
  • Nature’s Trail
  • Dipping Pool

You can also do overnight camping by pitching a tent or rent one of their cottages with a dipping pool. For overnight camp and cottage rental, you can directly send inquiries on their official Facebook page here.

The park also serves meals and beverages perfect for your snacks and lunches after a tiring time of activities.

Other things to know before going:

  • Entrance fee is 30 Php each
  • The park is located in Vista Alegre, 5011 Barotac Viejo, Iloilo
  • Network signal is roughly not available on the park. You’ll be needing to trek up to the “Data Center shed” or to “The Tower” to get a good reception.
  • Park opens at 8:00 AM Monday to Sunday. For further details and inquiries, kindly message their Facebook page here.

Bucari Pine Forest and Campsite: Visiting The Summer Capital of Iloilo

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Bucari is an upland region situated on the highlands of Leon, Iloilo. Due to its geographic location, the place has a cool climate all year round that’s being compared to the climate in Tagaytay and Baguio. Bucari is being tagged now as “Iloilo’s Little Baguio” or “The Summer Capital of Iloilo” and a popular destination for anyone looking for an easy day trek or overnight camping.

Bucari Pine Forest and Campsite

Bucari Pine Forest and Campsite is located in Sitio Tabionan, Bucari, Leon, Iloilo. This is where the famous Mansiga view deck and pine trees are situated that resembles those pine trees that can be found all around Baguio City. You can enjoy here by having family picnics, trekking to Mansiga View Deck or an overnight camp to clinch an adventure trip.

How to get there?

Ride a jeepney bound to Leon, Iloilo (jeepney terminal can be found on Jaro Market or on Robinson’s Place Pavia Transport Terminal). Fare is P40 (from Rob Pavia) and travel time is about an hour. From Leon town proper, you can either ride a jeepney bound to Bucari for P50 or charter a motorcycle that will take you directly to Bucari for P250 good for 2 pax or P200 for 1 pax. Take note that as of now, the Bucari bound jeepneys doesn’t have a fix schedule of departure. On our case, we opt to rent a motorcycle for faster trip.

Leon Tourism and Information Center

With the recent re-opening of the Bucari Campsite after a series of restrictions, I learned through Leon Tourism and Information Center official Facebook page that tourists are encouraged to book prior to their visit in accordance to the guidelines set by the Department of Tourism. You can book your visit by messaging their official Facebook page here. On the date of your visit, please drop by on their office at Leon Tourism and Information Center across Leon Municipal Hall for the payment of fees and confirmation slips.

Environment Fee:

P50 (non-residents of Leon)

P30 (residents of Leon)

Entrance Fee:

P30 (Campsite and Mansiga)

P30 (Imoy and Kataw Falls)

*Guidelines may change from time to time so it will be better to check Leon Tourism and Information Center Fb page for recent announcements.

*If you opt to ride a motorcycle to Bucari, the tourism officer might ask you to drop off again on their office after getting a rider so they could record the details of your driver to ensure your safety.

Arrival at Bucari Pine Forest

It took as around 45 minutes from Leon Town Plaza to reach Bucari Pine Forest. You would know that you’re already in Bucari with the sudden change of climate. You’ll feel the cool breeze of air as an indication that you’ll already stepping foot to Iloilo’s Little Baguio. Upon arrival they just checked our slips, registered our visit and immediately started our trek to Mansiga View Deck.

They managed to have a hiking trail stairs also known as “The Mansiga Steps” so trekking could be easier even for non-hikers. You’ll pass through stations of the cross while being charmed by the different Flora and Faunas along the way to the top. After 30-45 minutes (depends on your pace), you’ll be greeted by the foremost scenery from the view deck. There are three distinct crest the view deck can offer. The first one has a flat land overlooking the mountains of Iloilo Province.

Take a few meters ascent and you’ll reach another view deck where the famous inclining pine tree resides. The leaning pine tree was caused by the calamitous Typhoon Frank way back 2008. They put a support so you could walk up to the edge of the tree. Carrying capacity is 2-3 persons and it is now a famous photo spot on Bucari.

Just beside the view deck is a garden and a sari-sari store where you can eat snacks and take a rest after a tiring trek. We followed the trail after the second view deck that leads us to the rock formation of Bucari Pine Forest. Please be mindful of your steps as the path could be slippery and muddy during the rainy days. Also, one misstep could make you stumble on the pointy rock formations and no one wants that to happen.

Reaching the rock formation is my favorite part of this trip. You’ll be served by the splendor of the view from this high point. You’ll feel reaching the top of the world by just staring on the stunner that surrounds you. It was really worth the hike and sweat!

Going down from Mansiga View Deck

Going down from the view deck could take you another 30-45 minutes but before going home, don’t forget to drop by on the vegetable stalls settled by the locals. Just go straight from the entrance of the Bucari Pine Forest and on your right, you’ll see the locals selling fresh vegetables on a very cheap price. Bucari, like Baguio, is also known for their fresh and cheap vegetables as the crops grow suitably due to the cool climate of the highland.

If you wish to do picnics, sheds and chairs are pretty much available on the area. There are also stores where you can buy foods and stuffs. If you wish to camp overnight, you can coordinate with the tourism office first so they could offer you their available setups.

There are also nearby waterfalls (Imoy and Kataw Falls) that would require additional slog that we didn’t able to visit (maybe on my next visit).

Have you been to Bucari? Share your experience below!