The South of Luzon

Southern Luzon has a lot of things to brag about.  It is just as beautiful as its northern part and sometimes even more endearing.

Why, it is home to Mt. Mayon, arguably the most beautiful volcano in the world.  It is famous for its perfect cone.  One can already catch a glimpse of it from the plane.

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As we explored the City, we got to know more about Mayon.  This beauty is everywhere to be seen.

From the ATV Trail

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From the Airport

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From the Cagsawa Ruins. Here lies the ruins of an old church that was destroyed by the eruption of the Volcano.

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But the locals tipped us off that the best place to view her is from the Daraga Church.

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Can’t argue with the locals, can we?

It is literally, everywhere!

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Next stop: Misibis Bay.  This place is known to be really expensive. Luckily for us, we just went there for a day trip.  It was lovely place.  It doesn’t cost a thing except,of course, gas to just look around.

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One of the reasons we came to this trip the famous Caramoan Beaches.  They were really difficult to reach but absolutely worth all the effort- a van to the port, a 3hour boat ride and a tricycle ride to the hotel we were staying at.  All in all, they add up to the experience of being there.  And then the island hopping began.

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The islands were straight off a magazine. Talk about serenity.. we were the only people touring at that time. It was July and was supposed to be a rainy month but I guess we really got lucky.

We also visited a near by church.

We headed back to mainland to catch our flight but we still had time to fit one more activity so we went to the Quitinday Hills. Mt. Mayon could also be seen from there. Too bad, it was a bit cloudy at that time. You have to hike up to take in all these greenery.

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All-in-all it was a blissful day indeed.

 

Mt. Ulap

There is so much in this blog about my travels to foreign places but I have yet to come up with one piece about the Cordilleras, where I’m from.  In this place, the mountains kiss the sky and the clouds are their offspring.

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So what better way to start off than with my hike to Mt. Ulap or Cloudy Mountain.  It was a 6 hour hike for me and the gang. I’d say not bad for beginners.

So we started off at Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet where we had to register and get a guide.  And then, we were off. The elements greeted us right away. We were among winds, skies and soil. Communing with nature really does something for the soul.

Just twenty minutes on the trail and we were already getting these views.

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As we progressed, the views were getting more and more spectacular.

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Mt. Ulap’s very own Pride Rock

I couldn’t decide what view is better.  It was spectacular- all 360 degrees of it.

The end of the trail was the hardest part for me, it was 2 hours of rock and loose sands and it was even a descent.  I was bound to slip if I wasn’t careful.  Luckily I made it alive.  After the drudgery of that part, we encountered two hanging bridges.  Balance was key.  But it was more difficult when your knees are stuttering due to all the shock they absorbed on the descent.

All in all, it was a great experience.  And a blissful day indeed.

Reminded me of Psalm 8 which goes like “when I look at the Heavens, the Sun and Stars which you ordained, I wonder what is man that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You visit him?”

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PTL.

Olney MD

I spent the holidays in Olney. It was quiet town with much to offer.  Its located conveniently near Washington DC and New York.  Quite a number of attractions lie near by too.

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One of them is the Great Falls. It has a mystifying feel to it. The pathway is great and convenient.

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If you have time to drive, check out Sandy point beach.  It’s a haven for them seagulls and it offers a nice view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

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You could also visit Rockville and go Ice Skating or catch a movie at the local cinemas.

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Washington DC and Mt Vernon are also close by. Check out my separate blogs on them.

18 Hours in Dubai

In my most recent travel where I headed to the USA, we stopped over in Dubai and had a lay over of 18 hours.  I heard the airport was good enough to rest but the traveler in me did not let this opportunity of visiting another country pass.  I just had to get out.  A friend of ours processed our visa for a fee. We got it in a jiffy.

Our first stop, Dubai’s man made beach, where we could get a good view of the only seven star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab.

The tallest man made structure was also on our list.  The Burj Khalifa was just adjacent to the Dubai Mall, which is btw one of the nicest malls I’ve been to. They have a huge aquarium and even offer diving experiences. wow.

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Burj Khalifa

We also booked sand dune crashing! Now that was really awesome.  We rode on a Landcruiser and crashed some dunes in the desert. Totally worth every penny and second. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.  I would rate the experience 9 out of 10.

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The dune crashing came with a dinner banquet with entertainment like belly dancing, fire dancing and some more traditional dances.  It also came with a camel ride. It was really fun.  The food was on the traditional UAE side.  It was definitely an emulsion into the place’s culture.

And just like that, we were back at the airport finding ourselves in disbelief of what had just transpired in the last 18 hours.

I cannot believe I went from this view:

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To this view

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In just 18 hours.

PTL.

Windy City Chicago

I live in a tropical country.  We only get two seasons – wet and dry.  So when my mom told me were going to Chicago to visit my uncle, I packed my bags with excitement.  Even if facebook was full of news saying that Chicago was already colder than Mars, I didn’t fret.  I looked forward to it, nevertheless.

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The snowy neighborhood of Naperville

So first stop. Breakfast.  We tried this Jollibee joint. Its very popular with Filipinos. It was weird that they placed info on every meal’s calorie content.  HAHA. We didn’t have that kind of info back home.

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Jollibee in the snow. Now that is something new.

Then we went swimming.  At first, I thought -swimming in the middle of winter. CRAZY. And then I understood – indoor waterparks. How about that. This place was awesome. I hit the slides more than once. The kids loved it too. Although their slides are not for the faint of heart, I’d definitely recommend going on them.

But then the highlight of my Chicago trip was when we headed down town.  We rode the train from Naperville to down town. The scenery was really nice. Plus it was a convenient way to travel too.

The City proper was really beautiful although it’s not called windy city for nothing. The winds were like punishing whips. haha. Good thing I was dressed for the occasion.

I checked out the highest building in the area, Willis Tower, and got to go on The Ledge.  It was like walking on air.  The view was, not to mention, amazing.

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The Ledge

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Navy Pier was another stop of ours.  I was thrilled to know the architect was the same one who worked on my hometown, Baguio’s Burnham Park.

We hopped on the observation wheel. The sights were really fantastic.

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Capped the day off with the best deep dish pizza in town in Giordano’s. They serve 2inch thick pizzas filled with cheese and joy.

It was a blissful day, indeed.

Washington DC

The capital of the United States of America is no other than Washington DC.  It was just a short drive from Olney, where I stayed for the holidays. The route we took was my uncle’s favorite.  He calls it the scenic route.  We passed by Georgetown University and all the way, we were alongside the Potomac River.

They say the best time to visit is during April where the Cherry Blossom Trees are in bloom.  Here are some photos I took in 2011.

But its beauty during the winter did not also disappoint.  It’s amazing how the seasons kind of change the place.

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DC is home to a myriad of museums, my personal favorite is the Smithsonian.

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The boys prefer the Aerospace museum.  It’s like a man cave in there.

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Its buildings are architectural marvels. Just walking its streets is a feast for the eyes.  Although I visited DC in the Spring of 2011, coming back is just like the first time.  There’s the Capitol, the Obelisk, the White House…wow. It’s a showcase of architectural prowess. Even if the trees lacked foliage, I still thought the place was beautiful.

Mt Vernon

Even with out it being a historical landmark, Mt. Vernon is in itself a beauty.  It is a labyrinth of woodlands, greenery and blue skies and it is adjacent to the Potomac River.
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The very heart of Mt Vernon is the life of George Washington.  His story is inspiring to say the very least, captivating even the non-American. To give up power not just once but twice in his lifetime is extraordinary. In contrast, it reminds me of dictators who desperately tried to cling on to power.  A museum to better appreciate and understand his life also stands in the area.

It is amazing how well kept his home was. The visit to Mt Vernon included guided tours of the house. To even begin to think that the first president of one of the greatest nations in the world once walked its very floors enthralled me.  It was a huge Mansion with a number of bedrooms including Washington and his wife’s.  They also showed us his office.  Too bad they didn’t allow any form of photography once inside his house.

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His sprawling estate was designed to be self sustaining; complete with farm lands, a wharf, a thick forest and structures to house the slaves.

 

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His cattle would have looked something like this
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the stable

 

Washington’s grave also lies in the area.

All in all it was a lovely day at Mt. Vernon.

The Ilocandias

The Ilocandias is a part and parcel of me.  When I think of it, I think of my grandma, Lola Feliza.  She took time to tell me stories about her life in Ilocos when she was young girl.  She told me about the ghosts she encountered too. HAHA. It was so typical of Lola to tell her young grand daughter about the headless priest she once encountered on her way home.

So yeah, I’ve been to this place quite a number of times.  To keep Lola company was one of the major reasons we frequented the place. Now, we do it to keep her memory alive. And what better way to keep her memory alive than to write about the place she loved so much and share it with you guys.

So without further ado, here are the 10 things to do in Ilocos Norte.

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  3. Take a history tour of the Malacanang of the North in Paoay

4.Visit the Paoay Church

5. Swim in RiverMount’s infinity pool in Sarat

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6.Visit the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

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7. Take a selfie at the Patapat Bridge

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While you’re at it, visit the near by resort, Agua.

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8. Ride a Kalesa In Vigan’s Calle Crisologo

398968_408365815843409_959487335_n9. Step into history at the Bell house in Vigan

10. Dine at the best restaurants in the area.  Must try is their Longanisa and their Empanada 🙂

There is no need to visit fancy restaurants.  Local street food would do the trick!

 

 

Check out the Queen

Check out Cebu, Queen City of the South. It is hailed as the sixth most beautiful island on planet earth.

20160704_064154Another one of the Visayan beauties, it offers more than just beaches to sooth the soul and ground the spirit. It’s a bastion of adventure and entertainment perfect for adrenaline junkies.

Cebu is an art deco, museum and nature park all mashed up. Fifteenth century relics are preserved and progressive modernization stays affront, linked together by the very people who walk its ground. You’ll find archaic Philippine heirlooms like the Magellan’s Cross, yet in same region lies the biggest mall in the nation. The juxtaposition of old and new is what makes the Queen City of the South astounding.

Touring the City was like stepping into my 5th grade history book. Magellan’s Cross was among our first stops. It dates back to 15th century, (1521 to be exact) when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first discovered a group of islands. Fun fact: Ferdinand Magellan was actually Portuguese but he sailed in honor of the Spanish because the King of Spain was the one who granted him resources. He was denied by his own king.

One of the oldest forts in the nation, Fort San Pedro, still stands in Cebu.

Tombs of Queens around the world are honored but what of commoners? Witness the undying love of a husband to his wife when you visit the Temple of Leah. It’s like the Taj Mahal of the Philippines. It serves as a lavish memorial to the life of Leah.


Cap the night off with a dinner overlooking the whole City at Langkaw. They serve sumptuous Filipino food. The people visit the place for the view but they definitely come back for the food.
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Talking about food, DO NOT MISS CEBU LECHON. It’s the icon of Cebuano Cuisine. A trip to Cebu is never a trip to Cebu without it. Try Zubuchon or Rico’s. Try both. Yes. I could not stress that too much. Try both.

Perhaps, another foodie’s haven would be the pink-lit corner of La Vienne. It’s the only French restaurant I’ve been to but I’m very much impressed. Perhaps France will be too. The feel of the place is pretty special, ideal for dates and long talks over wine and croissants.


A neighboring town of Cebu is Oslob. It is home to a few places and encounters one should never miss out on. Probably the highlight of the entire Cebu trip was a thirty minute encounter with a gentle giant, the whale shark. It was surreal to be swimming beside them, for a second, I thought we were equals. Well, perhaps we are- curious but not overbearing and just minding our  business.  This attraction is shrouded by controversy but I would leave it to you guys to decide on it.

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Sumilon Island was a fifteen minute boat ride from the shores of Oslob. It’s famous for its white sands that comes with, wait for it, a sandbar.


Another favorite of mine was a little piece of paradise tucked into one corner of Oslob, the Kawasan Falls. It’s freezing waters were unbelievably the color torquiose. A 20-minute hike is to be taken before you reach the falls.
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So yeah, check out Cebu!

Warning: you might overshoot your budget.

Meandering Mindanao

This has been the year where I constantly traveled south. Every trip of mine has brought me more south than the last one.
This trip has marked my first footsteps in Mindanao.

Day 1: Arrival at Cagayan De Oro Airport

We were fetched by our relatives in CDO. After settling down, we travelled for almost 2 hours to Bukidnon. Going there was a sight itself. You’ll be greeted by mountains and a vast pineapple plantation.

Our destination was the Dahilayan Nature Park. It reminded me a lot of Baguio City’s Camp John Hay. It’s a buzzling park of greenery and fun.


The Park offers a multitude of activities for all sorts of people especially for adrenaline junkies. I recommend you try the 840 meter zipline and the drop zone.

Day 2: Camiguin Part 1

Traveling to Camiguin from Cagayan De Oro takes about four hours.

Our first stop was Mantigue Island.  This Island is home to a number of species of corals and other marine life. I regretted not having a good underwater camera almost every moment.


The island itself is a unique destination for on it is situated a dense forestry. We wandered through its pathways and marvelled at its plant species.

After bathing in salt water, we headed to the Katibawasan Falls to wash off with fresh (not to mention freezing) water. There were vendors selling a local delicacy called Kipping. It’s deep fried dried cassava.

After our water trip, we felt it was time to explore more of Camiguin’s mainland. We headed to the church ruins.  I was stunned to know that this church was built with nothing but corals and egg whites. Wow! Where on earth did they get these ingenious ideas back then?


We then headed to the sunken cemetery. The cemetery was actually a functional one until Mt. Hibok hibok errupted in late 1940.  Today, the tombs lie underwater and only a cross is left to mark their existence.


After the rather extraordinary ordeal of visiting ruins of churches and cemeteries, we had a walk through the old volcano’s pathway.  I expected the walk to be a liesurely 15-20 minute walk, it turned out to be an hour’s walk up to the peak. We were gasping for air as we reached the summit but it turned out to be a lovely view up.  We could see the cross of the Sunken Cemetery from there.

Day 3: Camiguin Part 2

We rose early morning to catch one of the first boats to the White Island. It was a short ride to the Island. This White Island is something else. Its a sand bar made of 100% white sand that stretches far and beyond with the mountainous Camiguin Island as its backdrop. It is simply gorgeous, probably the highlight of my Camiguin trip.

Our next stop was the Clam Sanctuary. This place is dedicated to the study of clams, especially their preservation. I’ve learned that clams are already considered endangered species and their number 1 predator, wait for it, humans.

They offer guided snorkeling tours. We got to see clams of all sizes from minuscule ones to huge ones that grew up to 2 meters.

I guess that concluded our trip to Camiguin. We headed back to Cagayan de Oro where we spent the evening. Don’t miss the Missy Bonbon shop. It’s got loads of fun flavors. haha.

Day 4: Departure

Awesome place this was. But I couldn’t wait to travel home again.

#Northbound