A Travellerspoint blog

Philippines

Manila-Cebu-Bohol

From one island to another

Sunday (26/5/2019) - Today, I flew off to Manila on the 11.15am flight from Brunei using Royal Brunei Airlines. We landed at Manila airport at 2.05pm and I had made arrangement with Sarah and Jake to pick me up from the airport as we were heading straight to Baguio. It will be at least 4 hours drive depending on how bad the traffic is on the highway. On the way to Baguio, we stopped by Jinky's place to have dinner where Jake's mother who just came back from Hong Kong was also there. The home cooked meal was simple but delicious. Then we continued on with our journey and arrived to the apartment where we will be staying for the night around 9pm. Weather in Baguio was very cool where the temperature was 25.7 °C even though there was no air conditioner in the apartment and the windows were not opened. Since we had to wake very early tomorrow, everyone went to bed early.

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Monday (27/5/2019) - Today, we woke up as early as 4am to prepare for our trip to Mount Pulag. We had to go to Jollibee to be picked up by the driver organised by Tripinas at 5.30am. Since we were going to stay overnight at Mount Pulag, Jake managed to talk to the security guard of the apartment and we left his car there while we used a taxi to go to the pick up place. It was a good thing that taxis in Baguio is unlike those in Manila as the taxi drivers here use their meter so they do not cheat passengers. Initially, we thought we would be the only ones going up Mount Pulag since it wa a working day but when we reached to the pick up area, we saw quite a number of people with their backpacks, waiting for their transport to go to Mount Pulag also. When the driver came, we had the whole van to ourselves which was good because we had a lot of space. However, the driver drove very fast along the winding roads and I thought I was the only one who was having car sickness. It turned out that Sarah and Jake also felt the same and the good thing was none of us vomited in the car. The driver initially stopped at a simple eatery place but Jake told him to moved on until we stopped later at another eatery.

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The scenery at the second eatery where we stopped to eat was very serene and the wind was cool even though it was a sunny day, just like the last time I was here back in 2017. A lot of people going to Mount Pulag were also having their breakfast here. After we have settled down and getting ready to eat our breakfast, I asked Sarah and Jake how come they didn't get car sick because I almost felt like vomiting which I did not experience before when we used the same road from Banuae to Sagada, then finally to Baguio the last time I was in the Philippines. Then both of them told me that they also felt like vomiting which was why Sarah was sleeping and Jake was lucky because he had moved to the front seat halfway when the driver stopped for a while at the roadside so he didn't feel the effect as bad as us at the back.

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After breakfast, according to the itinerary given by Tripinas, we were supposed to go to Ambuklao dam and the hanging bridge but the driver told us that the dam was was closed on that day. Instead, we just went to Badekbek (Declan) sulfur spring. I have been to volcanic areas with sulfur before in Indonesia but I have never seen bubbling sulfuric muddy hot spring before. There is still a lot of development that can be made for this sulfur spring area to generate income for the local community. Basically they already have a small pool for the hot spring since it is believed that the hot water from the spring have some therapeutic effects but unfortunately, it was not maintained at all and there is only 1 hut for people to rest.

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In order for a person to be allowed to go up Mount Pulag, a medical certificate is required which was like when we went up to Mount Semeru in Indonesia. Since none of us had that medical certificate, the driver stopped by at a small house "clinic" with a small souvenir area for us to get it. There were only 2 ladies doing the check up where the first lady took our blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation and then the other lady looked through our readings and listened to our heart beat and breathing. After we got our medical certificate, we head to the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) registration office where the driver registered us and we had to listen to a briefing about Mount Pulag as well as what we were not allowed to do there. We were also shown pictures taken at the summit where the sea of clouds were just amazing and we were also hoping that we could see the same thing tomorrow.

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After the briefing, we drove to Babadak Ranger Station where we were dropped off at SJ Homestay, one of the houses along this road leading to Mount Pulag. This is a very quiet road with only few houses and small sari-sari stores to cater for the basic needs of the hikers. Since we arrived before noon time, we had to wait for our room to be ready. So we just stood outside the house and enjoy the peaceful scenery while watching people who were going to stay overnight at the camp site along the Ambangeg trail pass by. Even though it was noon time, the temperature was only 20.2 °C and the wind was cold as the sky was getting cloudy. After our room was ready for us, we put our stuff in the room and then ate lunch cooked by a local lady. Due to the cold weather, they put ginger slices in the pork with cabbage soup which was just nice. After lunch, we decided to head out for a walk just to check out the trail leading to Mount Pulag.

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It was already cloudy by the time we started walking but the weather was still cool. The road was not too bad but because of the previous rain, there were parts where the road was muddy. There was nothing much to see and not many houses as we walked further except vegetable farms. Since there wasn't much to do, we decided to just sit by the side of the road and just enjoy the beautiful and peaceful scenery around us. Then the hikers started passing by us. Jake was able to ask them how it was and they said they were not lucky enough to see the sea of clouds this morning. Although the weather was getting dark by now, we still hope that we would be able to see the sea of clouds (fingers crossed). After that we head back down towards Babadak Ranger station. There were a few small sari sari stores and a small eatery but nothing else. So in the end, we just sat at the roadside and ate chips while people watching.

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Since there wasn't anything else to do and it was still early, we decided to head back to the homestay and prepare our backpack for the hike. By 3pm, it started to rain pretty heavy and visibility was very bad. Inside our room, after packed my stuff for the hike, I decided to take a shower which took so long because the water was so freezing cold and the water heater was not consistent. Then I also took a short nap like Jake and Sarah and woke up not long after as the homestay were getting noisy with new guests.

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As we waited for our dinner to be served at 6pm, the rain had stop but the temperature had gone down to 18.4 °C. Our dinner was cooked by a village lady and she brought it over to our homestay. The hot chicken soup cooked with potatoes and pumpkin soup was just right for the cold weather. By 7pm, we were preparing to sleep as we need to wake up by midnight. By then, the temperature in our room had already dropped to 17.5 °C.

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Tuesday (28/5/2019) - We woke up at midnight while everyone else in the homestay were still sleeping. After waking up, we prepared ourselves and our female guide had already arrived early with our simple breakfast which consisted of a cup noodle, a hard boiled egg and a peanut butter sandwich for each of us. The temperature outside the homestay was 13.3 °C. By 1.03am, we started walking in the dark. At first it was hard because there were puddles of water everywhere and the wind was wet and cold. I had also stopped hiking for quite a while so my stamina had gone down a lot. As we kept on walking, another group caught up with us and we all just walked in silence, just concentrating on our steps on the uneven ground where some parts were just flooded with water.

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We kept on walking until we reached to a hut for a short break and for whoever needed to use the toilet. After a short rest which Sarah needed, we continued on towards camping ground 2. There were few campers sleeping there in their tents and I was wondering how they could sleep and stand the cold wind blowing through their tent since it was already quite cold inside our homestay which was situated at a lower altitude than where we were at the moment. We took a longer rest here since our pace was not bad as we already reach camping ground 2 in 2 hours only. After using the toilet which is the open air type with just bamboo walls and no door at all for privacy but with only 1 small hole to do your business like at Mount Semeru. Good thing there was one for men and one for women.

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After half an hour of rest, we head on towards the summit. We finally reached to the summit at 4.52am and we were the first few to arrive there. Even though it was still dark, the sun rays were slowly breaking out from the horizon and we could see the sea of clouds even though they were far away. 3 of us were so happy and grateful that we were lucky today compared to those who went up the day before. As time passed, more and more people arrived at the summit. While we waited for the sun to rise, we had to take shelter in between the dwarf bamboo plants because at a temperature of 11.3 °C on an elevation of 2,926m in open area, the wind was freezing cold that everyone had to wear gloves. When the sun finally rose, the view was just amazing that it was indescribable. I am glad that Jake told me about Mount Pulag or else I would have not experience and see the beautiful view.

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After taking enough photos. we started heading down at 6am before the weather got too hot. During day time, it was easier to see the trail and avoid puddles of water. It was also interesting to see what we have actually passed through in the dark and I didn't realise that all those short plants along the way at the sides of the trail were the dwarf bamboo plants. There were also not many trees and the grasses were pretty short. When we reached to camping ground 2, everyone who came down from the summit were resting there. We didn't rest long there as it was already getting hot so we kept on walking non-stop until we reached to the resting hut. By then Sarah was already tired and our bags were getting heavier and heavier. Since we were already getting hungry, we decided not to stop at all if possible so that we could reach to our homestay as fast as possible. By 8.30am, we have finally arrived at our homestay and we had to wash our shoes because it was so muddy. After taking a shower, we packed our stuff and went to one of the shop to buy Mount Pulag t-shirt for our souvenir since we still had time before we leave.

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We decided to leave by 11.30am and Jake told the driver that we will not have lunch until we arrive to Baguio which was a very good decision because when we came to Mount Pulag, he was driving very fast that we all got car sick. Now on the way back to Baguio, he drove even faster than when we came like as if we were in a Formula 1 race and Jake kept on talking to him so that he would slow down but no such luck. So Sarah and I used this opportunity to catch up on our sleep. After we reached back to the petrol station in Baguio where we were picked up, we quickly ordered Jollibee for our lunch and head back to the apartment where we stayed before we left for Mount Pulag to get Jake's car. We then head to another apartment where we will be staying for the night before we go back to Manila since all of us needed to catch up on our sleep. After settling down, we took a nap before heading out for dinner in the evening. For dinner, we went to one of the popular restaurants which serve mainly Chinese style meals and after that, we head to the Baguio Craft Brewery just to try out their beer since it is one of the recommended things to do in Baguio. We could have a taste of which beer we felt like we wanted to have first before ordering it. We tasted a few and most of them were bitter even though they have various taste so in the end, Sarah and I ordered the sweeter tasting fruit beer flavour while Jake ordered one of the India Pale Ale flavour as well as beef nachoes and chicken quesadillas just to munch on. By 10pm, we call it a night and went back to the apartment to sleep.

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Wednesday (29/5/2019) - Today we left to Baguio at 8am to head back to Manila. After a while on the road, we stopped halfway at a roadside carinderia to have our brunch since the journey from Baguio to Manila takes about 4.5 hours depending on the traffic. Although the food was simple, it was tasty and Jake ordered a bowl of clam soup which was pretty cheap considering it is only about B$1.50. Then we drove on to Pangasinan to stop by at Jake's house to take some thing before we finally continue on to Manila.

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Traffic was pretty bad going into Manila and we only arrived into the city at 4pm. Before sending me to Shell Residence, we went and had our late lunch since Jake said I must try kare-kare which all along I though it is curry so I didn't bother to actually try it when I was in Philippines the first time. On the way to Shell Residence, we passed by Shores Residence. Now all the shops on the ground floor of the 2 separate blocks were fully in business while a year ago, these spaces were still under construction. Since I am going to Cebu tomorrow, I quickly went over to Mall of Asia after doing my laundry to do some window shopping and also to have dinner.

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Thursday (30/5/2019) - Today I am supposed to meet up with Albert and Hazel at the airport to catch our flight to Cebu at 12pm. However, due to delay from their side, I only met up with them after 1.30pm. After checking in, we waited for our flight using Cebu Pacific and managed to catch a simple snack for our lunch since we decided to have it in Cebu instead. When we arrived at Cebu airport, we quickly catch a taxi to go to Lapu Lapu city to find the Tarmong coffee shop which specialise in making Tarsier shaped bread with white bean paste filling. Each tarmong bread cost 100 peso which is pricey for the locals but it is a very unique souvenir. After sitting down to have their bun and tasting their beverage, we then head to Express Inn Cebu in Mabolo for our accommodation.

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On the way to the hotel, we saw that SM City Cebu was just walking distance from where we will be staying. After settling in and putting our stuff in the room, we headed out to SM City Cebu to check out the stores there. For dinner, we ate at Tokyo Tokyo which serve Japanese food and they also sell cucumber lemonade and I have to say that it is very tasty. After dinner, we head back to our hotel and rested as we were going to be picked up as early as 5.30am the next day.

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Friday (31/5/2019) - The pick up time was supposed to be at 5.30am so we checked out and waited. We waited and waited and eventually a van pulled up in front of the hotel but no one came to us so we were not sure whether if they were supposed to pick us up. After a while of waiting, the driver then came down and asked if we were following the join in tour. So much for being on time. We were the second last group to be picked up so the best seats were already taken while the rest of the seats were so uncomfortable with no head rest at all. We drove about 2 hours before the driver stopped at a roadside carinderia where there were also other join-in vans already there. It was so hot even though it was just slightly over 7am as we were next to the sea. After everyone had their tummy filled and changed to their swimming clothes, we head on for our first activity. We took a boat ride to Pescador island to do snorkeling. The water was very blue and doesn't taste salty at all. Since the water was very calm, it was easy to swim and see the fishes as well as the corals underwater. Dolphin watching was on the itinerary but it was not done during our trip, probably because it wasn't the dolphin season.

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Then we head on to Panagsama beach to experience the sardine run. I would have to say doing the sardine run is one of the lifetime experience that I would never forget because the sight of just seeing hundreds of sardines swimming in a big school and their shiny body reflecting the light rays, it was just indescribable. It was very unfortunately that I don't know how to do free diving or else the sight would be even more spectacular to swim with the sardines. After the sardine run, we ate our lunch at one of the stall near to the bay. It was then that I started to notice that whichever carinderia we ate, the choices were only mainly pork and minimal choice of vegetables or even none at all.

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After lunch, we head to Kawasan falls where those who choose to do canyoneering were dropped off at a place where there are guides to bring them to do this activity. We opt not to do it as it is expensive for foreigners and both Albert as well as Hazel did not know how to swim and they were not fit enough to walk long distance. So the rest of us who did not do canyoneering went on to Kawasan falls where we could swim in the water or just sit around. It was so packed and there were no place to sit so we decided to swim in the water which was extremely cold! Everyone of us had to water a life jacket when we swim in the water. It was fun to swim in the blue water and even under the waterfall but unfortunately, we couldn't see anything under the water. After 1 hour of swimming, we had enough of the cold water so we went out of the water and found a place to sit. We had to wait for the others and also it was still early as those who were doing the canyoneering would only reach this waterfall around 5pm. There was nothing much to do except people watching and after a while, it got so boring. I was so glad that the guide finally told us that we could go and have a shower at the public toilet next to the church. The queue at the toilet were also long but since we were in no rush, it was ok. After everyone had taken a shower, we were brought to one of the canyoneering place where those who went for the canyoneering activity were given free dinner while those who did not do this activity had to pay for it. We had no choice but to pay for it because there were no other place to eat. Instead of arriving at 5.30pm, 2 hours had passed before those who did canyoneering only started to arrive for dinner. So you can just imagine 2 hours of nothing to do. It was so boring and time wasting! Dinner was so packed that some food had run out. It was just oily so it wasn't an enjoyable experience even though they serve a whole roasted piglet. After dinner, we head to the place where we will be staying for the night. Some of us were dropped in 1 place while the others were staying elsewhere. There was no air con in the room but at least it was not so hot.

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Saturday (1/6/2019) - We were told the night before that we were going to be picked up by 5am but once again, 5am became 5.30am before they came and picked us up. This is getting to be an annoying trend in Cebu. We wake up so early making sure we get ready on time and yet have to wait for at least half hour or more to be picked up. However, today is going to be another interesting day. I am looking forward to the whale shark watching in Tan-awan, Oslob. By the time we reached to the briefing area which is located on the beach, there were a lot of people already queuing up to get their snorkeling gear and life jacket before waiting for their turn to get on the boat. It was a long wait and by the time it was our turn, the sun was already getting hot.

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We reached to the place where 2 whales were swimming around a boat where the man was feeding them, it was so exciting to see them up close and personal. We were allowed to swim in the water to get a closer look at them though we were told not to touch them. However, the waves were so strong and the water was very salty unlike the seawater yesterday when we were doing snorkeling so it was very difficult to balance in the water and those who are not strong swimmers had to hold on to the bamboo floaters of the boat. The whales were not afraid of people nor did they care about how close you are while they were swimming so I was tail kicked by one of them while it was turning back to swim towards the boat that was feeding them. You definitely do not want to be hit by a whale because it was hard and rough. We were only given 15 mins to take photos and see the whales up close before we had to go up to the boat and go back to the shore since there were a lot more people waiting for their turn to see these whales. Once we reached to the shore, we looked for a place to have our breakfast.

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After that, we went to Sumilon Island to see the sandbar since the tide was still low. The water was very blue but unfortunately, you can't see anything underwater. Once again, like every touristic place in Cebu, this island was packed with local tourists taking selfies here and there. Even to go back to the shore again, we had to wait at least half an hour before it was our turn to go on the boat. Then we head back to the place where we were staying, took a bath, packed our stuff and waited to be picked up.

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We then head to Simala church which was 54km away from Oslob so by the time we reached there, it was after 1pm. The sun was so hot and we decided to find a place which is not crowded for our lunch before we check out the church. The church was also a very crowded place. Unlike a typical church, Simala church looks more like a castle. After taking some photos, we slowly head to the car park since it was very hot. After everyone was ready to move on, we slowly head towards Cebu city.

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On the way, we stopped at the roadside souvenir stalls in Carcar city to buy pasalubong such as the famous dry Cebu mangoes and the chicharon (pork crackling). I bought a lot of chocolate coated mangoes to give away as souvenir while typical Filipinos love to buy chicharon. After everyone had enough of shopping, we headed off again non stop this time until we reach to Cebu city area and stopped to shop for more pasalubong, this time t-shirts, key chains, bags, etc before stopping at Taboan Market so that they can buy danggit, a famous pasalubong from Cebu and other dried seafood products. I didn't buy any seafood products as they were smelly and I don't eat dried ones at all. Instead, I bought more dried mangoes, this time in small packs so that it is easy to give to a lot of people compared to the ones I bought in Carcar city. We were then dropped at the accommodation near the IT park where we were going to stay for the night. I have to say that it's not one of the most comfortable place to stay in as the room was pretty small for 3 person. For dinner, we decided to go to Ayala Center Cebu since there were no restaurants nearby.

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Sunday (2/6/2019) - Today we were going on a city tour around Cebu. After being picked up, we head for the Sirao Flower Garden first which is 30 minutes away and is located on the mountainous area of Cebu. The main flowers grown in this farm is celosia but they also have sculptures and Instagram worthy decorations. However, in order to take photos on each photo site, we had to join the queue and wait for our turn. The sun was getting hotter and more people were coming to the farm. As we were the first group coming out of the farm, we had to wait for the rest of the group before we head on to our next destination.

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After everyone had enough of photo taking, we went to Temple of Leah. I didn't look up what this temple was about but when we reached there, I was impressed with the design of the massive building structure as it looks like a Roman temple. Just like Taj Mahal which was built by Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife Mumtaz Mahal, Temple of Leah was built by Teodorico Soriano Adarna as a tribute to his wife, Leah Albino-Adarna. Unfortunately, it was not 100% finished yet as we could see all of Leah's collections just stored there unorganised in different rooms.

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After that we head to the Cebu Taoist temple. It is a small taoist temple on top of a hill for the Chinese community to pray. In order to reach to the temple, we had to climb up 81 steps (representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures). You can see the scenic view of the downtown Cebu from the top of the temple. There is also a wishing well for people to throw the coins into the pots.

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Next we went to the famous House of Lechon for lunch since the specialty of Cebu is lechon. We ordered 3/4kg of Carcar special which came on a wooden pig's head plate and gising gising na kangkong. The lechon was juicy and tender and the sauce that came with it really fit well with the taste. The price is also not that expensive as it is about B$12 since the lechon is mostly meat with thin crispy skin. It was a very filling and satisfying lunch.

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After everyone was done with lunch, we head on to Yap-Sandiego ancestral house, one of the oldest houses in the Philippines which was built in the late 17th century. We were dropped in front of the Cebu heritage monument and then we walked across the road to the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house. Even though more than 130 years had passed, the wooden house was still in good condition. Inside the house, the ground floor was not cemented but made of soil. The house is filled with a lot of antiques and locally made native furniture. On the top floor, there were a lot of saints and family photos. However, there was a weird smell which according to Hazel is the smell of the rice that was left on the table for days that was displayed with the other food eaten by the family. So it was probably the decomposition smell.

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Then we went to see Magellan's cross and Santo Nino church. Magellan’s cross is a Christian cross planted in 1521 by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers under the instruction of Ferdinand Magellan when they arrived in Cebu. It is kept in a chapel next to Santo Nino church, the oldest Roman catholic church in Cebu. We did not managed to see Santo Nino church because it was fully packed with Filipinos everywhere and there was a church service going on when we were there. So everyone was standing and listening to the sermon while a few others were lighting up candles. Since it was impossible for us to see the church, we head on to the next destination.

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When we arrived at Fort San Pedro, there wasn’t as many people as the other places we went to earlier. There wasn’t much to see at the fort anyway except for a few exhibition like the Magellan's ship made of wood. After going up the fort to see from the top, we headed down and out of the fort to wait for the others to finish going around the fort.

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Our final destination for the tour around Cebu city is the 10,000 Roses Cafe in Cordova which is an hour drive from the city. There were 2 lots of artificial LED roses, amounting to 10,000 of them. We quickly took photos before the sun set completely and by the time, the sun had already gone down, we were drinking inside the cafe. While waiting for time to go back to the van, we saw a guy proposing to his girlfriend with all their family members and other people who happened to be taking photos around. Pretty sweet and romantic actually. Then it was time to head back to Cebu city. After we were dropped off at the accommodation, we took a taxi to send our laundry to the Laundry Express near Mabolo so that it will be easy for us to pick it up once we move back to Express Inn Mabolo the next night. Initially, we were planning to do the laundry ourself but since there were only 3 sets of washer and dryer and people were still queuing to do their laundry, we had no choice but to pay for laundry service instead which we will collect the next day. Then we took a taxi back to the IT park and decided to eat McDonald's for dinner. When we got back to our room, while waiting for our turn to bath, we started packing all our stuff since we will be checking out tomorrow morning before we go to Bohol.

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Monday (3/6/2019) - Today we will be going on a day trip to Bohol to see the tarsiers. We were picked up from our accommodation around 5.30am with all our luggages kept inside the van. Then the driver drove us towards Cebu International Port but before we entered into the port, he stopped by the road to buy our ticket. We were to catch the 6am boat to go to Tagbilaran port in Bohol. When it was time for us to board Oceanjet, we had to walk by foot to the pier where the boat was parked. The boat was not bad, air conditioned with 2 decks. Our seats were on the bottom deck so it was like in an aeroplane for the next 2 hours.

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When we arrived at Tagbilaran port, we did not know who we were supposed to be waiting for but in the end, we found our driver. Before we start our activity, the driver drove us tovMcDonald's to have our breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the Chocolate Hills in Carmen first. It took us 2 hours to reach there and boy, was it packed with local tourists. It was already so hot even though it was only 10am and we had to climb up the stairs to the top of Carmen peak to see the full view of the chocolate hills. After the hard climb, the view from the peak was beautiful! All you can see are endless chocolate hills 360 degrees view. There are 1776 chocolate hills scattered over Sagbayan, Batuan and Carmen. These hills are actually limestones that are generally conical and symmetrical in shape. Since it was not dry season yet, the hills were still green in colour but in dry weather, the grasses become brown and that was how the hills got its name.

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Next, we went to the Loboc Wildlife and Nature Park. It’s a small park with some birds and furry animals like the little famous stars of Bohol which is the tarsiers. Tarsiers are the smallest primate (only 9 – 16cm long) with a tail that is twice its height and they can leap from tree to tree. What is so special about tarsiers are their big eyes which is a bit disproportional to their small head and body and well, their eyes can be very scary to people who have never seen them before because they look like they could pop out anytime. Since it had rained in the night, we were told that many of them did not come down but the park staff showed us 3 individual tarsiers taking shelter under the leaves which were bigger than them. It was difficult to spot them at first since they are no bigger than a hand and even more difficult to take clear photos of them since we were not allow to go very close to them. Well, at least I have finally seen how small the cute tarsiers are. On the way out, we also saw white civet cats (luwak) and bearcat (binturong) which I have never seen before. Then there is the albino python which people were eager to take photo with and the friendly macaw which kept on saying hello and goodbye while hanging upside down in its cage. A pretty nice park but not many animals in it.

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On the way to our next destination, we had to pass through the 2 km stretch of mahogany trees along Loboc to Bilar highway. That stretch of road was fully shaded by these trees so it was so cool to walk on the road. We had to take photos very quickly as cars were still passing by.

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Then we went to the Sipatan twin or the Tigbao hanging bridge which crosses the Sipatan river. These two bridges are 40m long and made of bamboo. One bridge is to go across the river and the other bridge is used to come back. Just at one look, the bridge doesn’t look safe at all especially if you see a lot of people crossing on it at one time while bouncing up and down. We went to try it ourselves and of course it was bouncy but pretty safe actually as they are supported by cables made of steel.

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After all these sightseeing, we were already hungry so it was time for lunch. We went for the Loboc riverwatch floating restaurant which is basically having lunch buffet on a big floating platform which pushed by a small motor boat at the back. The buffet cost 650P (about B$17) per head which is worth it because it consist of 3 types of appetizers, 2 types of salads, 1 type of soup, 8 types of entrees and 4 types of desserts. We were allocated specific boat to go on and once we were onboard, we chose a table to sit and then checked out the food before we started taking the food. The food was pretty delicious and enough for everyone of us throughout the cruise while we were entertained by singers on the boat They made 2 stops along the way for the people to watch tinikling where the dancers were prancing in between 2 bamboo poles and a traditional dance.

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After the 1 hour boat cruise, we went to Baclayon church. There were not many visitors so we didn’t go into the church but just looked at the building which was built from coral stones. There was a lady selling Bohol delicacies such as calamay and peanut kisses.

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Our last stop is at the Blood Compact monument and also at the same time, shop for pasalubong. I have never come across the history of the Blood Compact at all nor were the other people interested in it either so we ended up spending more time on buying pasalubong instead. After everyone was satisfied with all the shopping, we slowly head back to Tagbilaran port to go back to Cebu. Our boat was delayed so by the time we arrived at Cebu, it was around 7.30pm. Then we had to find the driver of the van who was supposed to picked us up and once we did, we got in and then once we reached to the city, the driver dropped us first before the others since we were staying in Mabolo. After checking in, we went out and walked by foot to the laundry shop to get our laundry. On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant and ate dinner before we went back to our hotel to pack and rest.

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Tuesday [4/6/2019] Today, we will be flying back to Manila so we were thinking of finding place to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, there was no restaurant around nor was SM Mall open yet since it was still early. So in the end, we ate simple breakfast at 7-Eleven before heading back to the hotel. After checking out from the hotel, we took a taxi to the airport. We were supposed to fly off at 12.35pm but our flight was delayed to 3pm instead. So we took the time to just have our lunch since there was no rush at all. The airport was already so crowded, then with a lot of flights delayed, there was just not enough seats for people to sit. When we were already waiting at the boarding gate, we heard an announcement saying that the plane that we were supposed to board had just taken off from Manila and I was saying like what! It just took off, so how long is our flight going to be delayed again! Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long to board the plane but it was already late and I had dinner appointment with Sarah and Sunny at 6.30pm.

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When we arrived back at Manila close to 5pm, we quickly took a van to Shell residence where I checked in and put all my stuff in the condo 1st before I walked with Albert and Hazel to MOA and then parted ways. I had to do a bit of shopping before Sunny came and pick me up. By the time I got back to the condo and took a shower, Sunny was already waiting for me. We went to 4 Seasons and met up with Sarah. The buffet was well worth the price because there were so much food that I didn’t even get to try all since I was already full after 1 hour. We had fun talking and eating and we also happened to be the last group to leave when the restaurant was about to close.

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Wednesday [5/6/2019] Today is a relaxing day as I am going to fly back to Brunei. It has been a very interesting trip with with Jake and Sarah to Mount Pulag as well as the sardine run and whale watching in Cebu. However, I would think twice about flying with Cebu Pacific if I have to catch another connecting flight.

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Posted by Lingering 09:59 Archived in Philippines Comments (4)

It's More Fun In The Philippines


View Manila on Lingering's travel map.

Sunday [10/12/2017] I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the afternoon after taking a 2 hour flight from Brunei. My friends came to pick me up and then we headed to Shore Residences where I will be staying for the whole trip. It's a new residential condominium with a resort style amenities located at the heart of the SM Mall of Asia area in Pasay. Since the amenities were not open yet, all I could do was to just the view of it from the 16th floor everyday. In the evening, we walked to Mall of Asia by foot which is not very far from Shore Residences to have dinner and so that I could buy some food and kitchen utensils to cook when I don't go out.

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Monday [11/12/2017] Today we walked to Shell Residences which is located on the other end of the same road where Shore Residences is. A lot of foreigners were staying there as it is very near to MOA. After doing some documents in the bank, we headed off to Quiapo Market. The train system in Manila is pretty old and not as efficient as other countries as there is not enough trains to carry passengers every few minutes. When we came out of the Carriedo station, I could see rows of tents arranged next to each other along both sides of a narrow road. There were also stalls set up just next to the roadside where cars and jeepneys were passing by along a crowded street. As a foreigner, one could not help but noticed the rubbish just simply thrown everywhere on the road and the people just went about doing their business as usual. You can also buy fruits, food and all sort of items on this street market which you can also find in other countries but at a cheaper price.

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We walked towards the Quiapo church (also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene) which is famous for the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ carved from black wood which said to be miraculous. Outside the church, peddlers were selling religious statues, rosaries and coloured candles for people to burn where each colour represent the wish they pray for (easy way of making money from what I see). The Quiapo church is like any other catholic church I have been to except that it is surrounded by open air markets. Inside this church you can also go up the narrow flight of stairs to kiss Jesus’ foot which was also carved from the black wood.

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Then we slowly walked to Quiapo bridge where there are stalls selling handicrafts under the bridge. I bought Filipina dolls wearing the traditional costume as well as a few star light decoration made of shells. On the way back to Quiapo market, we passed through another market area where this time, the peddlers were selling fresh food stuff like salted fish and vegetables. Our last stop was the Manila City Plaza where Jazel wanted to find mobile cover as well as Christmas presents. I was pretty shocked at the sight of that plaza as there were papers, plastics, food containers, etc. on the floor and the people were just walking on them like as if they don't see anything at all. Coming from a country where people don’t throw rubbish on the floor inside a shopping mall or shop, this is a shock for me as I also find it disgusting and it shows how the mindset of the local people are over there. Even people in China don’t through rubbish inside the shopping area or on the road where there are markets! We had dinner in Mang Inasal which is not bad but popular among the locals because there is a set where you can ask for refill of rice as many times as you like. So what the locals normally do is to order 1 set with the unlimited refill of rice while the rest just order the normal sets at cheaper price and after they had asked for refill of rice, they will share the rice with the others.

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On the way back, my friends bought balut eggs for me to try which was alright but probably some of the balut egg wasn’t that fresh because the first one that was opened smelled like it was a bit rotten already. I tasted the second one which did not have the slightly rotten smell. It tasted a bit like hard boiled egg as I couldn’t taste much of the young duck texture even though I could see fine black feathers and the eye socket but the yolk part was very hard to eat. I stayed overnight at Breeze Residences since I was going to following my friends to San Pablo and we had to catch the bus the next morning.

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Tuesday [12/12/2017] Today, we head to San Pablo’s SM Mall using the bus in the morning to meet up with my friends’ cousins. While we were waiting for their cousins to arrive, we did some shopping in SM Mall and then went to Shakey's Pizza for lunch. By the time their cousins came, we had already finished our lunch. We then headed back to SM Mall again for my friends to discuss about some business proposal with some people. By the time they finished the discussion, it was already evening.

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After that, we headed back towards Manila in their cousin’s car but it so happened to be the day where his car license plate number was prohibited from driving in Manila. License plates ending in 1 and 2 are prohibited from driving in Manila on Mondays between 7 to 10 am and 3 to 7 pm. Number 3 and 4 cannot be driven on Tuesdays, number 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, number 7 and 8 on Thursdays and 9 as well as 0 on Fridays. So we had to stop at the rest stop area and have our dinner while waiting for the curfew to be lifted. By the time we reached to Breeze Residence, it was already 10pm and we hung out there for a while before we went over to my unit in Shore Residence so that my friends could show off and try to persuade their cousin and his friend to buy a unit from them. When they decided to go over to Solaire Resort and Casino, it was already close to 1am and when we were in there, people were still gambling. We stayed there until 2am because we had to wait for my friend’s husband to finish gambling before they send me back to my condo first and then my friends back to Breeze Residence.

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Wednesday [13/12/2017] After a late night out, I had to wake up early to meet up with Sunny, a friend I have been communicating online since 2010. He asked me to meet up at Forum Robinsons in Mandaluyong as he was going to have lunch there with his staff. To go to Mandaluyong, I had to take a taxi so I walked all the way to Shell Residence because there was a line of taxi waiting at the roadside for passengers. However, I was shocked to hear that the taxi driver was going to charge me 600 peso (B$16) and giving the typical excuse of it is peak time already just to go there. I have been warned about taxi drivers in Manila refusing to use taxi meters and charging exorbitant price for such a short distance if they know you are a tourist so I walked off and tried to catch a taxi by the main road. The taxi driver I eventually got was better as he asked me first how much would I give him and he asked for a bit more which is half of the fare the first taxi driver was asking for so both of us were happy. The traffic was terrible at the EDSA area so I arrived late to Forum Robinsons. Sunny and his colleagues were already having lunch so I just joined them. It was fun talking to him as he's a cheerful, optimistic and funny man who speaks good English for a Korean. The rest of his female colleagues were also friendly and I learned that their company is similar to Kumon in our country. After his colleagues left (since they had to go back to the office), we stayed on and chatted. He was surprised to see me in Manila because I didn’t tell him that I was going there before until he saw the photos I posted on Facebook. After that, we headed to SM Light Mall since my friends said we will meet up there and Sunny had to go to his daughter's institution which was also near there. We didn’t go around the mall but just sat at the coffee shop and talked some more. It’s funny how we can click with some people so well on the first meeting. We talked and talked while waiting for my friends to come which they ended up not coming at all (which I wished they would have informed me earlier so I didn't have to wait for them there) until it was time for Sunny to go to his daughter’s institution. Unfortunately, he was not able to send me back as his car license plate was prohibited from driving on that day. By that time, it was after working hours and the traffic was horrible! It was difficult to get Grab taxi or even a normal taxi as the waiting queue was so long. So in the end, Sunny hailed a taxi cab for me before it went into the mall area but boy, was I charged 900 peso just to get back to Shore Residence because of the peak time. Oh well, I was glad to get out of the congested area but traffic towards MOA was not that different also.

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Thursday [14/12/2017] Today, we will be heading to Banuae in the evening so I have the whole day free for myself. After packing my stuff for the trip, I walked to the Mall of Asia to find the Science Discovery Center but was not able to find it. Finally, I was told by the security that it was temporary closed for renovation. Since it was closed, there was nothing else to do so I just went around each floor to see what shops were available. There’s an ice skating ring, cinema, entertainment playground for kids and a lot of shops. I managed to do some shopping in Uniqlo and get some thermal wear since Sagada is very cold at night but Uniqlo in Philippines is more expensive that in Malaysia. Most of the shops there were not really of any interest to me and even if they are like Marks & Spencer, it was more expensive than the ones in Malaysia and Singapore. Only SM Mall Hypermart were pretty affordable if you are talking about their locally produced products but not so for imported goods. So by late afternoon, I walked back to the condo and got ready for our trip later at night.

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I met up with my friends in MOA again around 7pm and had dinner with them first before we waited for the driver of the group tour to Banuae, Sagada and Baguio in front of Giligan's Island Restaurant & Bar. By the time the driver came, it was close to 9pm and we had to make another stop at the Caltex North Avenue petrol station to pick up some more people for the trip. When everyone was picked up, there were altogether 15 of us with the driver. It was going to be a long drive because we were expecting to reach to Banuae early in the morning.

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Friday [15/12/2017] After having some sleep on the way, the driver told us that we have to stop to eat something to fill our tummy first because we would not be able to arrive to Banuae early in the morning since there were also a lot of cars and vans heading towards the same destination. I was pretty surprised that there were a lot of cars at the rest stop area where people were having some hot food to eat or just for toilet stop. I don’t normally eat heavy after 12am so it was good to have a hot bowl of porridge at 1.30am. 30 mins later and after using the toilet, we continued our journey non-stop all the way to Banuae. I am lucky that I am used to travelling on the road at night, so it was not so much of a problem for me to get some sleep. Actually most of us slept because we trusted the driver who knew the road better than us and have been bringing people to these places frequently. However, my friend who had never travelled overnight before and is so used to luxury travelling said that she did not sleep at all because she was worried about the road since we were travelling at the sides of the Central Cordillera Mountains.

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By the time we reached to Banuae, it was only close to 7am and it was very cold. After taking some photos at the gateway of Banuae, we drove on to have our breakfast first. Breakfast was like in Indonesia, eating rice early in the morning. At the famous rice terrace, there was a native Igorot man who offered to pose with people for photo taking but expecting some money to be given to him as tip. After some photo taking of the famous Banaue rice terraces and souvenir shopping, we drove on to Sagada and by the time we reached there, it was already close to noon time.

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The driver parked the van at the back of the Church Of St. Mary The Virgin since there is no parking space in the town area. We went into the church first to borrow the toilet and boy, the water was freezing cold! When we started walking towards the town, the wind was pretty cold even though the sun was shining brightly. With a population of less than 11,500 Igorots, the town was very peaceful with people walking on the side of the roads as the road could only accommodate 1 car at a time. We passed by several small restaurants, a souvenir shop and some inns before deciding to enter a simple small eatery place. We tried the pinikpikan, a specialty dish of Sagada and ginsing-ginsing which was not bad. After lunch, we slowly walked back towards the church and on the way, we stopped at a souvenir shop to see what souvenirs to buy. There were local jams, wine, coffee, biscuits, t-shirts, magnets, keychains, etc but we did not buy anything yet as we still have the next day to come back again. So we headed back to the car park area and the driver told us that we will check into our homestay first before going to the Sumaguing cave.

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We were split into 2 groups since the homestay was not big enough to accommodate all of us. So for me and my friends, we stayed in Log-In Homestay which was very cozy because the interior is mainly made of wood and there is also a fireplace. There were 2 beds in my room which 3 person can sleep in and also a bathroom but unfortunately, the water heater was not working at all so the water was freezing cold! The other rooms had to share the bathroom on the first floor which had hot water so lucky them. The second group and the driver stayed in another homestay which was located at the other end of the town. The house wasn’t as nice and cozy as ours and their floor was tiled so it was freezing cold but they had hot shower.

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By the time everyone (including the 3 guides who were going to lead us) was ready for spelunking in the Sumaguing cave it was already 3pm. We had the option of doing the Sumaguing cave or the cave connect (this was more difficult and it starts from another cave entrance) but since the rest were not fit, we all ended up doing the Sumaguing cave only. It was ok but then there were some slippery spots so we were told to walk barefooted to prevent from slipping. There was a place where we had to walk in the water which fortunately was not that deep but the water was cold but not as freezing cold as the water in our homestay. We ended coming out from the cave close to 6pm and it was already dark. By the time we waited for the driver to pick us up, it was already 6.30pm and the wind was very, very cold!

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Before we head back to our homestay, the driver told us that we had to have dinner since the restaurant was on the way. Since our legs were still wet and we did not bring any jacket with us, walking from the road all the way down to the restaurant was like walking inside a big freezer since the wind just kept on blowing! Even when we were already inside the restaurant, it was still cold as the wind was blowing in until I closed the door. When we got back to our homestay, taking a bath was even more challenging! Since my bathroom didn’t have any hot water and I had to take a bath before going to sleep, it took me ages to even get my body wet and I had to get out as fast as I can before I freeze to death! I told the owner that the heater wasn't working in the bathroom in my room but she said to let the water run for a while then it will get hot. So guess what I did, I left the shower dripping a bit so that the water will be hot but when I woke up at 3 am to get ready to see the sunrise, it was even colder! No hot water at all!

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Saturday [16/12/2017] By 4 am, we got ready to go to Kitepan. We rode on a jeep where people can sit on the roof but since it was too cold, everyone just wanted to sit inside the warm jeep. It was a bumpy ride and by the time we reached to Kitepan, there were already people there and the wind was just howling like crazy. The viewpoint for the sunrise is actually at the edge of a hill so it was very windy and freezing cold. There were stalls selling hot drinks and simple hot soupy noodles just to keep the body warm. We had to wait until 6 am for the sun to rise so while waiting, we had to secure a good spot to view the sunrise. Everyone was trying to find ways to keep themselves warm and I tried standing behind someone so that person would block the wind but it was useless. When 6 am finally came, the clouds were still very thick and we couldn’t even see the sun rising but the wind had slowly became warmer. Without seeing the sun rising, we decided it was enough and headed back to the jeep but this time, some of them decided to sit on top of the roof all the way to the orange farm to pick some oranges. I didn’t go orange picking because I didn’t like that type of orange and I also thought the orange they grew were the orange coloured ones like from US but instead it’s the green ones which is even grown in Brunei.

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After orange picking, we were dropped off at the place we were picked up so all of us walked to town to have breakfast. Since it was Saturday, they have the open air market where people were selling vegetables and local snacks so it was interesting to see some of the things they sell like the smoked pork belly and also the various type of Filipino desserts. All of us decided to have breakfast at Salt & Pepper diner and while waiting for our food, a couple bought the famous lemon pies from the Lemon Pie House which they had booked the day before.

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After having our tummy filled, we did a bit of souvenir shopping before we headed towards the car park behind the church. We got ready to go to the Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins which I had wanted to see since 2015 when I first saw the photo in Bangkok. To go down to the Echo Valley, we had to walk pass through the modern Christian cemetery before going down the steps. At the viewpoint where we could see the hanging coffins already from far, this is the start of the Echo Valley where your voice will bounce back. Then we continued to walk down the valley slowly towards the hanging coffins. As we got nearer and nearer, I saw that the coffins were actually not hung from the top of the cliff as they were not very high and there were stacks of coffins inside a cave nearby. Up close, the coffins were just supported by metal rods which were stuck into the holes on the rocks. This traditional way of burying Igorot people is not carried out anymore as most of them have now converted to Christian and are therefore buried in cemeteries. We were told that there are other places with hanging coffins but this is the only place which is still accessible to people.

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Since we had late heavy breakfast, we decided to skip lunch and continued with our tour. We went to the northern part of Sagada to see the Bomod-ok waterfall which is 200m high. The driver dropped us at the parking area of the Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin where we went to the Parish Center first to use the toilet before going down to the waterfall. We were guided by 2 ladies who handed each of us a stick and we started our easy walk down the steps. We passed through Fidelisan village where we stopped to wait for the others who were way behind us. While waiting in front of a small stall for the others, we ate buko special ice cream. Once everyone was well rested, we continued on until we passed the rice fields before reaching to the waterfall. No one wanted to take a dip in the water as the water falling down was very strong and freezing cold at this time of the year. However, 4 men were crazy enough to get into the water but for a very short time. After having enough of photo taking, as we slowly walked back up, everyone stopped to have something to eat at the small stall set up not far away from the waterfall. I guess most of them were starting to get hungry as they kept on eating the caramelized banana and some sort of fried dough sold at the small stall. Then we slowly walked up the steps which was a long slow walk as not everyone was fit to continue walking. This time, instead of using the same way down, we walked up through another route which leads to a parking area where jeepneys were waiting to pick up hikers to go back to the parking area. While waiting for the rest to come, some of them started eating again a stall selling balut and lumpia. I only tried 1 lumpia which surprisingly tasted crispy and delicious even though the skin looked soggy, very different from the ones sold in Brunei. On the way back to our homestay, we stopped at the Sagada weaving shop which I only bought a small pouch since it was not cheap at all. After that, we were sent back to our homestay and got ready to sleep early that night since we had to leave Sagada by 4am to make it back to Manila by night time.

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Initially, my friend's husband planned to ask the owner of our homestay to cook dinner for us since he invited everyone over to our place to eat but little did he know that the owner was on duty that night. Since we didn't know what time she would be coming back, in the end he had no choice but to call the driver to pick us up again for dinner at the same place where we had dinner the night before. There were only 8 of us going for dinner as the others had already eaten or were tired. After dinner, we went back to our homestay and we chatted a bit, ate the delicious lemon pie as well as drank the Sagada fruit wine. The lemon pie was irresistible and I had 2 slices since it didn't taste sour at all but I felt the sourish effect the next morning.

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Sunday [17/12/2017] We left the homestay at 4am when it was pitch black. We slept in the car and after 3.5 hours drive on the curvy road of the Halsema highway, we reached the highest point in Atok, Benguet which is 7400 feet above sea level. The wind was so strong and colder than in Sagada that I can't help but shiver so it was difficult to get a good shot of the scenery from the viewpoint. Most of us were hungry so we ate cup noodle just to fill and warm up our tummy from the small shop at the viewpoint. From there, we drove on until we reach to a restaurant where we had our breakfast. It was another heavy one with fried rice early in the morning.

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With our tummy full, we continued our journey to La Trinidad strawberry farm. Everyone would stop at this place if they are heading to Baguio so the car park was full of cars. The farm was pretty big compared to the ones in Indonesia but I have seen enough of the strawberry farms in Indonesia so I didn't go to pick the strawberries. Instead, we checked out the row of souvenir stalls where people were buying strawberries, strawberry jams, peanuts, biscuits, strawberry ice cream, keychains, etc to give away.

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After everyone had done shopping for souvenirs, we drove non-stop to Burnham park which I don't find it interesting as people go there to play some of the rides. We just went on the boat ride where the men were the ones rowing the boat. The place was literally crowded with local tourists riding the bike, going on the boat, photo taking here and there or sitting down and just watching people. It wasn't an impressive place and I would give it a miss if I had the choice. By 4pm, we started our journey towards Manila and on the way, we stopped at Lion's Head statue along Kennon Road. I'm not sure why this Lion's Head statue is so popular that it is a must stop place for tourists to take photos when you can't even take photo of the whole head unless you go across the other side of the road.

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After 2 hours on the road again, the driver stopped at a rest area which has a restaurant for tourists to fill their tummy and use the toilet before continuing their journey. They had a huge variety of ready cooked food and all you had to do was choose whatever you feel like having as you move along the line and then pay for it when you reach to the end of the line. I was getting addicted to the Filipino crispy lumpia wrapper that I couldn't resist ordering the turon and I don't normally eat sweet snacks like that for dinner. It's so sweet and crispy! Oh well, too much of sweet snacks are also not good. After dinner, we continued on towards Manila and by the time we reached Mall of Asia, it was already midnight but there were still a lot of people being dropped off (probably after coming back from similar trips like ours) and people waiting for the vans to be filled before heading back to their province. It has been a very long journey on the road but I enjoyed Sagada very much and I don't mind going back there again some day.

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Monday [18/12/2017] After the long trip during the weekend, I woke up very late and just stayed in the condo. I did my laundry and some cooking while just resting for the whole day. I tried the local corn beef in the can and it was absolutely tasty and moist without even needing to add salt or pepper. I should have bought a few cans back to Brunei since I can't find that brand here.

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Tuesday [19/12/2017] Today, I went with my friends to Greenbelt in Makati. I'm not a big fan of high class shopping malls but it wouldn't hurt just window shopping around. There were a lot of stores and branded boutiques (which were pretty expensive compared to other countries) and Greenbelt 1 to 5 are just next to each other. There is a departmental store where things are of reasonable price and this is the place where you see a lot of people buying stuff. I just bought a few things because I was too lazy to carry bulky stuff around and then by 5pm, we left Makati area to avoid the rush hour as people were starting to get off work already. We took the train to Mall of Asia because my friends who are members of Okada casino wanted to show off to me. Before we headed to the casino using the free shuttle bus from MOA, we ate our early dinner at Jollibee. After our simple dinner, we headed off to Okada using their free shuttle bus and by 7.30pm we were already there since it's just a few minutes ride from MOA. The casino has nice interior designs but to me, casinos are just casinos. You see gamblers (mainly from China) sitting in front of slot machines or gambling tables the whole day trying to get rich fast. After watching the dancing fountain show which plays every hour and going around the whole place just to see the shops we managed to meet up with one of the lady who went with us to Sagada who is a supervisor working there. Since we had to wait for my friend's husband who was happily gambling away while people have to wait for him, there was basically nothing to do since there were no stage performance to watch. By 9pm, I was starting to feel hungry already and the only food which was affordable to everyone is Starbucks (full of people), Chatime and French baker. So I ended up buying danish pastries just to fill up my tummy while chatting with my friend in order to pass time and waiting for her husband to stop gambling. By 11pm, since there was no sound from her husband yet, we decided to find him because we were already getting very bored waiting for him. It was a good idea or else he would not stop gambling at all. After 11.30pm, there were no more shuttle bus to MOA so everyone either had to take a taxi or Grabcar back to where they came from. By the time I was dropped off in front of my condo, it was close to midnight already,

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Wednesday [20/12/2017] After spending a day with my friends yesterday, I needed a day on my own so I decided to check out Manila Ocean Park. I took the Marine Voyage 15 package which was on offer at that time where I have access to 13 different exhibits. I went to check out the Oceanrium first which was pretty interesting because you could see different types of marine fishes, corals, spotted garden eels (everyone was so curious as to what they actually are). The most interesting part of this exhibit is the 220° curved walkway tunnel where you walk through and see the spectacular underwater view of amazing sea creatures swimming overhead.

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Next I went to the fish spa which was on the first floor and just enjoyed the breeze while waiting for the hungry fish to nibble away the dead skin on my feet. 30 mins after my feet first went into the water, less and less fish were interested in my feet already and they moved on to newcomers which gave them more food so it was time to head on to the Back of the House. It turned out to be just an area where all the Oceanarium's operations depend on it so not many people were interested to check it out unless you are very interested to keep marine creatures in your aquarium. Since I was on the first floor, I decided to check out the Trails to Antartica which is a favourite for children because of the Humboldt penguins so the queue to get in was pretty long. Disappointingly for the long queue, the place where the penguins were displayed is just a small area because you have to keep on moving on to the Christmas Village (which is just a small room decorated with Christmas decorations, santa clause, snowmen, etc) since people kept on coming in.

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The Jellies exhibit I have to say is the most therapeutic exhibit I have ever been to. It was so relaxing to just watch the jellyfish swim inside each individual tank in slow motion. But since I was planning to catch the last Sea Lion show, I had to move on and get a seat before the show started. Apparently the show was outside in the open before you enter the Ocean Park building and boy, it was so hot at 3pm with the sun shinning towards us regardless of where we chose to sit. Since I haven't had lunch yet, I bought a jumbo hot dog and ate it while waiting for the show to start. The 2 sea lions from South America were very funny and entertaining and they won the hearts of small as well as big kids.

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Next, I went to see the Shark and Rays Dry Encounter which happened to be in same place where we watched the sea lion show. Disappointingly, the 2 sharks was not really that noticeable in the tank unless you really look for them and the stingray was held by the caretaker so we could touch its surface. By the time I was done checking out the sharks and rays, it was almost time for the All Star Bird Show but this time it was not as hot as before. Once again, the intelligent macaws, cockatoos and eagles stole the hearts of the young and the old. The lesser known Barnyard and Birdhouse exhibits were slight further way from the main building so there were not many people. The Barnyard exhibit was located on the ground floor and here, you can learn facts about the rodent family and see hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs as well as chickens. On the first floor is the Birdhouse exhibit where you see all types of budgies.

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The last bird exhibit is the Birds of Prey Kingdom where they kept the Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus). The last exhibit to finish off was the World of Creepy Crawlies. There were very colourful poison frogs (which you don't normally see), lizards, turtles, spiders and snakes. While waiting for the Symphony of Lights show in the evening which starts at 6.30pm, I had some time to have a quick dinner in one of the restaurant. By 6pm, everyone was already waiting for the show to start. When it started, everyone was enjoying it as they used the latest multimedia technology and the tallest water fountains in the Philippines which can shoot water as high as 40m to display the fusion of earth's basic elements - water, fire, air and light. It was actually more interesting than the dancing fountain show in Okada especially when they used fire because I could feel the heat from the fire even though we were sitting far away from the fountain area. After the show, everyone started to leave while I waiting for my transport back to the condo. Such a lovely day to to spend the whole day at this place!

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Thursday [21/12/2017] Next day, I followed my friends to Los Banos where we would be staying at their cousin's place. We left the bus station at 4.30pm and arrived at Los Banos around 7pm. After we were picked up by their cousin, we went to Isdaan Floating Restaurant which has a theme park like ambiance with a lot of huge sculptures. There were not many people having dinner here so we sat in a floating hut where you can actually feel it going up and down constantly like a boat rocking gently. We waited for the rest of the family members to come before we had boodle fight for our dinner where different types of food were placed on top of a long banana leaf-lined table. It was a very filling dinner as there were so many leftover food even though there were 9 of us. After that, we went to their house and stayed for the next 2 nights before heading north of Luzon.

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Friday [22/12/2017] After breakfast, we head to Makiling National Park and walked on the tarmac road instead of hiking to the summit. So much for being told that we were going hiking by my friend. There was no one except us and after reaching Station 3, it started to drizzle. We kept on walking until Station 7 where we then walked into a muddy trail to get to the hot mud spring where the volcanic heat and sulphuric acid break down the surrounding rocks into clay. The trail was so muddy and wet that it was impossible to prevent our shoes from getting wet and dirty but in we finally reached to the end where it was partly closed off to the public for safety reasons. The water was warm like the one in Papandayan but nothing special. The only special thing about this place is that there were a lot of leeches sticking to my face and raincoat which I normally never had any problems even when hiking through the forest of Temburong. After that, we slowly walked back down towards the flat rock riverbed near to Station 1. It was nothing impressive about the flat rocks but the current was pretty strong after the rain. Once we reached to the registration hut, it was time to spray off all the mud before we went inside the car. How I hate my feet in soggy socks! Before going back home, we went to the market because my friend wanted to impress them with his cooking but they couldn't find what he was looking for.

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After taking shower, we had a slice of buko pie which was delicious when it is still hot as a snack just to fill our tummy first because we were going to attend the church service in Diocesan Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus first which was held every night for the past few days until Christmas. The church service surprisingly was in English and it doesn't seems like a typical catholic church but I enjoyed the service. After the service, we went home and had western dinner prepared by the cousin's wife.

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Saturday [23/12/2017] The next day after a hearty breakfast, we started our journey towards the north to Vigan which was about 14 hour drive from Los Banos. On the way to Quezon, we picked up my friend's mother and uncle who will be joining us for this trip. By the time we reached to Vigan, it was already after 8pm so we checked into a low budget hotel before going to Vigan for dinner. When we arrived there, I thought the famous Vigan city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was very big from the pictures I see on the internet but it’s just a row of cobblestone street with old buildings that has the native Philippine, oriental building designs and colonial Spanish architecture. Since it was already Christmas holiday, there were a lot of local touists from Manila and elsewhere here. We had dinner in the open air of the cobblestone street which was catered for tourists and the food wasn't that bad. After dinner, we walked along the dimly lit street and checked out a few souvenir shops that were still open. There were also horse drawn carriages which they call kalesa where people can ride on it and go around the town.

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Sunday [24/12/2017] The next morning, after having breakfast in one of the restaurant in Vigan city, we went to check out the souvenir shops. We tasted Tongson's Royal Bibingka, a popular rice cake in Vigan which is pretty delicious when it is still warm. Then we went for the kalesa tour where we sat on the horse carriage to see places like the Bantay church and bell tower, the old Ilocos Sur jail which is now use to exhibit art, Burgos Museum which used to be the home of Padre Jose Burgos, one of the three martyr priests, RG Jar Factory and the Crisologo museum, the home of Floro Crisologo, a congressman who was assassination in 1972 while attending a church service. For our late lunch, we had fried prawn fritters which was as oily as the ones in Brunei and the tasty, oily fried empanada at the roadside stall which had meat, carrot and egg filling. Weather in the north was very hot but I was told by the bell tower guide that it is even hotter in June!

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Our next destination was to Laoag where my friends and I will be staying at their aunty’s house while my friend's cousin and his family will be staying in a hotel. After almost 2 hours on the road, we stopped at the Saint Augustine Church in Paoay which is one of the oldest church in the Philippines and part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then we stopped at the Paoay Sand Dunes because their cousin’s son wanted to try sandboarding but by the time we reached there, the sun was already starting to set so we didn’t do anything except just taking photos. One and a half hour later, we finally reached to their aunty's house. I always thought Christmas was such a big event in the Philippines because they are well known for putting up Christmas decorations as early as 3 months before December but in Vigan and Laoag you don't even see much of Christmas decorations. Since it was Christmas eve, I thought dinner was more special like having turkey or the typical Christmas dishes we normally would have in Brunei or other countries which celebrate Christmas but to my surprise, we just had the typical everyday food like pizza and pasta and local dishes. You just don't feel the Christmas vibe at all for a country that emphasize Christmas months earlier than any other countries. After the simple dinner and since it was Christmas eve, we went for the Christmas mass which was pretty different from the mass we have in Brunei. The pastor was funny though and once again, the sermon was in English even though they sung the hymns in Tagalog. I stayed up until midnight before I called it a night since there was nothing much for me to do while they chatted with each other.

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Monday [25/12/2017] Weather today was so hot even inside the house. After breakfast, we drove towards Pagudpud but on the way, it began to rain heavily. So we stopped at Hannah's Beach Resort and Convention Center which was so windy since it is located next to the beach and the rain did not show sign of stopping at all. While waiting for the rain to stop, we decided to have lunch and by the time we finished eating, the rain had stopped. Then we headed to Bangui first which is the home of the first wind farm in South East Asia. The first time I saw these type of wind farm was when I was on the train going towards either Munich or Berlin. The famous souvenirs you get from Pagudpud are the windmill keychains and fridge magnets made of wood.

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Then we went to see the Kapurpurawan rocks which were formed from years of the waves hitting on them. Nothing impressive about that place but a lot of local tourists go there for photo taking. There were also souvenir stalls selling local products and before we headed back, we ate Ilocos
empanada which was sold in one of the stall. The wrapper was different from the ones in Vigan but it was still delicious and just as oily as the ones we had before. We then went to see was the Cape Bojeador lighthouse which was a remnant of the Spanish colonial era. We took a look around before heading back to the car. Our last stop was to the La Paz Sand Dunes because their cousin's children wanted to try sandboarding. The sun was setting fast by the time they tried sandboarding and since it was getting dark to see anything, we decided to slowly head back home. On the way back, we stopped at La Preciosa restaurant, which serve delicious Ilocano cuisine.

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Tuesday [26/12/2017] Today, on the way back to Manila, we stopped by at Marcos museum to see the previous president’s history. Then we stopped at Vigan again to buy some souvenirs and Tongson's Royal Bibingka since it couldn’t last long if not refrigerated. After having a quick lunch, we continued on with our journey. It was a long drive back so we decided to stay overnight in La Union since it was already after 8pm and we haven't had our dinner yet plus it was another 4 hours drive to Manila. There was no elevator in the hotel and our room was on the 4th floor so you can imagine how we have to carry up our luggage.

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Wednesday [27/12/2017] After breakfast, we drove towards Manila. On the way, we stopped to buy garlic and shallots which was not as cheap as the ones in Brunei but since they are native to Ilocos, I was planning to try and grow them when I get back home. We also stopped by at a stall selling dried sea products, local snacks and desserts for souvenirs. After few hours of driving, we stopped by at the rest area to have our late lunch and we finally arrived in Manila close to evening. My friends dropped me off at my condo and they went on to Los Banos again and stayed there at their cousin’s place for another day. I didn't enjoy Vigan and Ilocos as much as I did with the Sagada trip.

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Thursday [28/12/2017] Since my flight was evening, after packing all my things and having lunch, I walked to the Mall of Asia and just spent my time there since there was nothing else to do in the condo until it was time to go to the airport. I was hoping to just sit down in Starbucks and enjoy my time drinking a cup of cold frappe since the weather was hot but no such luck because all coffee places as well as famous fastfood joints were full of people. After going around to find a place to sit down and enjoy something cold, I ended up in Tokyo Ice Cafe and had mango kakigori. After just relaxing and enjoying my shaved ice dessert, it was time to go back to the condo and get ready to go to the airport. The departure area in the airport was pretty unorganized even though it was small and there were very limited place to seat so after clearing the immigration, I bought a cold, pretty tasteless sandwich which happened to be the cheapest food inside the airport even though it costed about B$5 (I could buy 2 loaves for bread for the price of that one sandwich at the supermarket in Brunei) since I was starting to feel hungry and my flight was only at 9pm. Overall, I would say that it is not really safe to travel alone in Manila (unlike in Indonesia) but the highland (province) areas are pretty interesting.

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Posted by Lingering 07:27 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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