Palawan has been described as the Philippines’ last frontier and aptly so. I was able to visit Palawan last month after years of just looking at photos and reading travel stories. The province is really safe contrary to the dangerous image created by the kidnapping in Dos Palmas in May 2001. Armed with our Lonely Planet Philippines and information culled from the Internet, we decided to stay in Palawan for 10 days covering the Underground River and Sabang Beach, Puerto Princesa and Honda Bay and El Nido.

We took the flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa via Cebu Pacific and immediately went to the jeepney terminal bound for Sabang. The jeepneys (150 pesos one-way) didn’t have a fixed schedule so we left after 3 hours of waiting for the jeepney to get full. The supposedly 2.5 jeepney ride took 5 hours because we experienced 3 flat tires and tons of house to house deliveries from eggs, to cooking oil, to gasoline in huge containers. We were lucky to get seats in the front otherwise it would’ve been a tight squeeze at the back — not only with people but also with baskets and vegetables and chickens! The Underground River was worth the long, dusty and bumpy jeepney ride though.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park popularly known as the Underground River is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered to be the longest navigable river tunnel in the world. It takes 30 mins by pump boat (P700 pesos good for 6 persons) to get to the park’s entrance from Sabang Beach.

Visitors are only allowed to traverse 3km of the river’s length. Hundreds of bats await you once you go inside the cave. It was eery, scary and at the same time amazing. It was like a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings!

The guided tour itself showcased not only the cave’s and river’s beauty but also the guides’ sense of humor. We had to stretch our imaginations and creativity to make out The Holy Family, a cathedral and some other objects from the stalactites and stalagmites.

After the tour, we decided to stay in Sabang Beach to enjoy its other attractions. And yeah, we didn’t want to injure our butts for another bumpy jeepney ride.


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My friends and I are suckers for anything cultural – be it a classical piano recital, a jazz concert, European, French, German, Filipino, Indian or Japanese film festivals. Like travelling, these events provide insights into our own Filipino culture and other country’s distinct cultures. It is probably the closest thing to visiting these countries through their films, plays, songs, poetry, music and dances. And once you’ve actually visited these countries and immersed in its cultures, or you’ve actually interacted (and yeah, have fallen in love) with its people, you gain a deeper insight and understanding not only of the country but also of its people. Most of these cultural events organized by the embassies or the cultural centers are for free so that is also another motivation to trek to wherever the event is held.

Last Saturday, we found ourselves navigating through Taft Avenue for Instituto Cervantes’ Open House and Dia del Libro (International Book Day). The festival started at 10:00 a.m. but we arrived only at 1:30 p.m. just in time to catch the award winning film “La Colmena” or The Beehive. The film was about the lives of ordinary people in Madrid during the post-civil war years. I didn’t read the synopsis and just expected the film to be spectacular because it won an award. But yeah, I ended up somewhat disappointed. Maybe also because I forgot my eyeglasses (what else is new?!) and I had to squint through the entire movie to read the English subtitles.
After the movie, we feasted our senses with the saxophonist serenading at the lobby. Then we hopped to the photo exhibit. Since it was Dia del Libro, there were a lot of books on sale – from cookbooks (I was tempted to buy one :)), popular fiction and non-fiction to Spanish literature. The biggest steal for the day was the book on Filipino-Spanish Cultural Structure in the Philippines sold for only 100 pesos! Of course there were books for 20 pesos – but in Spanish :). Continue Reading »

Cross-posted from http://pinayinmanila.blogspot.com 

It seems like Metro Manila’s heat is getting worse everyday. I went to the bank during yesterday’s lunch break and I felt like an ice cream melting under the sun. This morning, I wanted to sleep some more after staying out late last night with SSEAYP batchmates in Greenbelt but I just couldn’t. The heat is really getting to me. I want to escape to Pagsanjan!

Pagsanjan in Laguna became famous as the locaition for some of the final scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now. Unfortunately, the place was notorious in the ’80s for the pedophiles who went there preying on unsuspecting children. So, I thought the place would be crawling with toursist traps – exorbitant fees, persistent boatmen and pesky vendors. But when I went there with my meditation friends, not only were there no traces of its sordid “place for pedophiles” past, the trip to the Pagsanjan Falls was actually fun and highly recommended for the family. The place is only one and a half hour drive from Metro Manila. Of course, there were the ever-present hagglers along the highway trying to entice us to hire their boats. But we chose the easy way. We went to the Pagsanjan Garden Resort and hired the resort’s boatmen.

The highlight of the trip for me was not the water falls but the bumpy ride going there. Two bangkeros or boatmen paddle each a canoe with 2 -3 passengers against the river’s currents, through a gorge with lush vegetation. At some point, the boatmen had to carry the canoe because it was impossible to paddle through jagged rocks. The Magdapio waterfalls, popularly known as Pagsanjan Falls beckoned to us after a 1 1/2 hour boat ride.

For 90 pesos per head, the boatmen took under the water falls for what an intense hydro-massage! It was such an adrenaline rush. My Indian friends got addicted so we went under the falls three times and felt like we had the best massage in our lives :). To recuperate from that hydro-message, we went behind the water falls and just chilled out in what seemed like a cave. We would’ve wanted to swim the lenghth of the waterfalls but the currents were actually strong and so I chickened out. Maybe next time.
Tips when visiting Pagsanjan Falls:
1. Bring plastic bags for cameras and other valuable or better yet, buy an aquapack
2. Wear aqua sandals or mojos – the rocks at the cave behind the falls are sharp
3. Wear lots of suncreen
4. And wear additional mexican hat (never mind if you look silly)
5. Ignore the ridiculous Korean tourists who visit there with full make-up and high heels!
6. Feed your boatmen or at least buy them Coke and bread when you reach the falls after the 1 1/2 hour tiring boatride
7. Take photos along the way, during the scenic boat ride. I was too scared to get the camera wet that’s why I don’t have any photos to share.
8. And yes, enjoy!

Cross-posted from http://pinayinmanila.blogspot.com

I feel lucky for having visited the places in my previous post. The Philippines is truly beautiful with a lot to offer to the discriminating tourist. When I was in Palawan with The Boy, my heart just swelled with Pinoy pride seeing El Nido’s wonders and the Underground River’s secrets. This is only the tip of the country’s natural wonder. There is much to explore and experience. Here are the rest of my favorite Summer Getaways. I will just reminisce and daydream of lazing around the beach while sipping my green mango shake, and waiting for spectacular sunsets since I am stuck here melting in Metro Manila’s heat.                          

4. Camiguin Island – Thanks to Cebu Pacific’s P10 promo, I was able to visit Camiguin last year via Cagayan de Oro on a shoestring. Camiguin has a mix of everything for the adventurer – volcanic hot springs (Ardent Hot Springs – I just wanted to soak in the warm pools the whole night!), cold springs (Sto. Nino Cold Springs), waterfalls (Katibawasan Falls), volcano (Mt. Hibok-hibok) and of course a White Beach which is actually sandbar of fine white sand.

5. Cagayan de Oro – I didn’t have time to explore Cagayan de Oro but the time spent in this city was one adventure after another. In Cagayan de Oro’s Macahambus Adventure Park, I walked through the hanging bridge, tried the exhilarating zip line but balked at rappelling the giant tree (also because I had to pay an additional 300 pesos J). I capped my stay with its main attraction – the White Water River Rafting along the Cagayan river. It was one big adrenaline rush and worth steep 1,100 pesos per head fee (discounted rate – inclusive of gear and lunch).

6. White Beach, Puerto Galera – I went there a few years ago and the crowd was still tolerable. The snorkeling was better than in Boracay and everything was just cheaper. The island hopping was also memorable (maybe because I was with friends) plus the cheap massage (200 pesos/hour) by the beach. White Beach in Puerto Galera is for those looking for a quick beach fix on a tight budget.

I don’t really have any plans yet to fly to one of the country’s 7,100 islands for a summer holiday. I guess it’s also because I had an early summer getaway when The Boy was here last March. Among the places I’ve visited in the Philippines, here are some of my top summer getaways:

Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan 1. El Nido, Palawan – the most beautiful place I’ve visited in the Philippines. Pristine clear waters, rich marine life, friendly locals, the intimate Small Lagoon and the breathtaking Big Lagoon, the Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Seven Commandos Beach, Simisu Island, Cadlao Lagoon – these are just some of El Nido’s attractions. It was like paradise on earth and for an affordable price! We skipped the high-end resorts and stayed in Og’s Inn in El Nido town itself for only 500 pesos per night for a double room.

Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan 2. Underground River / Sabang Beach, Palawan – traversing 3km of this UNESCO Heritage site was like going to the earth’s core. It was also an exercise in stretching your imagination and creativity — imagine seeing The Holy Family, Jesus Christ on stalagmite formations! Sabang beach is a good place to chill-out after or before the Underground River trip. No pesky vendors or annoying party crowds — just you, the sea and the stars.

White Beach, Boracay 3. White Beach, Boracay – Aside from its enviable powdery white sand- the finest I’ve seen this side of the world – Boracay is of course famous for its party atmosphere, international crowd and cuisines and yes, celebrity sightings.

To be continued…

It’s 12 midnight and I’m bitten by the cheesy bug. Blame it on an early morning meeting which lasted until 3 p.m. Thank God for The Boy never fails to cheer me up and make me happy in spite of the distance. Because we can’t hug each other, or cuddle, or kiss after a long day (like today) we compensate by being extra sweet (or sarcastic  – still makes me laugh) with our words. And his loving and sweet words were like a good rub to my aching shoulders today.  I was reminded of an article I stumbled across  during my “very productive” Holy Week vacation. It’s about “60 Words and Phrases that Would Make Men Fall Deeper In Love.” But I think these words and phrases are not exclusive to men. The Boy uses most of these words on me and they just melt my heart. Awwwww… I can’t believe I’m being so cheesy! 😀  I’m sharing it here for myself and yes for readers who are in need of some inspiration on keeping the love alive.


 Gute nacht, mein liebe! Continue Reading »

Weekend fun

The weekend saw me out in Greenbelt, staying up late just talking and savoring the company of good friends. It was a  fitting reunion worth the 3 years of not seeing each other. The last time I saw John was after the SSEAYP evaluation and after that, we’ve only heard from him sporadically. That he went to Australia, finished his Master’s degree… now, he is off to the US for another seminar and he is finishing his EdD at 24! I feel proud of his achievements. He was my partner both in the region and the PPY line up. It was really good to see him after all these years.


Here’s to finding The One, more get-togethers, more travels abroad, more success and yeah, more moolah! 🙂