Sunday, December 5, 2010

One Tagaytay Place

One Tagaytay Place may not be known to many, since the Genesis-managed hotel is located at the other ned of Aguinaldo Highway, on the way to Highlands. And there's really no clear signboard. So when we were looking for the hotel, we were keeping our eyes open.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heaven Found in Thunderbird Poro Point

From the South, all the way up North. Friends, let me take you to another spontaneous trip up the famous coasts of La Union, to a place that I called heaven for 2 days. That heaven is called Thunderbird Resort in Poro Point.

A Quick Trip to Saranggani

I'm a crazy traveler, and I think I have inspired others to follow my craziness. Hence, one day, when we were in Davao, our group decided to just head off spontaenously to Saranggani province, which is just 3 hours away. Well, think it's just Batangas if you're living in Davao, so it's not that bad.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Maxima by the Sea: Pure Bliss in Samal

I have been open about my love relationship with Samal, and again, she impressed me with this place. Around 30 minutes drive from the roro port of Samal from Davao City, we arrived at a dark night at Maxima by the Sea, a house that literally is built on water.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another Pitfall on the Road to Tourism Greatness

I began exploring the Philippines and sharing my experiences because I felt that the government is not actively promoting our beautiful country as it should be. I felt the need to contribute, hence The Island Explorer was born. I tried to pick up some of my past travels around the country and show everyone how much can be seen. And I am just focusing on islands, beaches and natural wonders. I'm not even touching much on festivals, cultural monuments and the like. I featured restaurants, resorts, hotels, tours and destinations that are deserving attention.

I expanded my blog to featuring my travels in South East Asia, which is more of a frustrating release after seeing how the tourism industries in our neighbors are flourishing. I remember hiking in China, and being asked by a group of European backpackers who were traveling the world: Where is the Philippines? Imagine, they didn't even know where it was. Like we were out of the map. And we were, to most of these travelers, since we have not made ourselves known.

A friend told me the reason why we stopped airing TVCs on the Philippines in CNN is because we were in debt with the news station. That was during the time of Gordon. I don't know if that was true. In any case, we weren't showing anything on TV, until the Take Me To the Philippines campaign with MTV. That was it. I was also told that the DOT was aggressive in campaigning in other countries, like Japan, Spain and France. As a result of the incapability to advertise on international TV because of budget constraints, they went out and joined several tourism conventions. Well, I guess sending a delegation to Europe and other parts of the world is cheaper than advertising.

I have been featuring how we are recognized in the internet. Tripadvisor ranked Boracay as the number 1 beach destination in Asia. That was a feat. Others followed, like CNN, that touted Marinduque as one of the emerging Asian hotspots. Of course, it was because of Bellaroca. Do you think we got these because of advertising? I don't think so. It's just because of one thing: the foreigners who took a risk to visit our country were amazed.

And I have seen their amazement. I had friends from other countries visit, all of them extended their stays. There are those who email me anonymously through my blog, asking for advice on backpacking Philippines. They share some bad experiences while traveling the country, especially how Filipinos gawk at them, or how difficult it is to travel around the country because of the lack of safe and comfortable transportation, or how ridiculously expensive our hotels are, given their standards.

However, they all end up saying that they will come back. No matter how much they had a difficult time, they tend to remember the best of times. I always advise them to visit Boracay last, so as to give the best final impression.

Now that the new tourism slogan is launched, and with everyone attacking it, I wonder where our tourism industry is truly headed. I have been a staunch believer that tourism dollars will solve our economic problems. Look at Thailand. Tourism dollars benefit our microentrepreneurs, our boat men, our tricycle drivers, our souvenir producers, our small restaurant owners in these tourist destinations. The bigwig resort and hotel groups also benefit of course. But when there is a stable tourism infrastructure, we are more marketable as for foreign investments. Retail will flourish as shopping is a must for travelers. Our malls will get more visitors. There will be more restaurants, there will be better modes of transportation. And these all because of a flourishing tourism industry.

I hope the current government understands the value of tourism. I heard that during GMA's term, tourism was not even in the top 10 list of priorities of the government. I think it should be in the top 5, along with agriculture, manufacturing and business process outsourcing. Having a new campaign was a bold move, a welcoming one. But the execution was flat ignorance, as Miriam said.

When I heard about Pilipinas Kay Ganda, I was speechless for a moment. I thought it was a joke. They explained the rationale behind the slogan, and I became furious. If you look at all my entries, and see the beautiful islands and beach destinations of our country, would you say, Pilipinas Kay Ganda?

WOW was way better. I admire that they wanted to be different from the rest of the slogans of the world, but still, poor execution. They compared it with Aloha of Hawaii. Aloha is understood by the rest of the world already. Kay Ganda isn't. They should have used Mabuhay.

So, like everyone, I am releasing my frustration. I might as well get back to writing more entries, as our country needs more people to share their experiences about the Philippines, than spend time and effort into making a slogan that is just plagiarized artwork.
PS. I work in the advertising industry, and I believe Filipinos are some of the most creative in the world. What happened??? May adjective description pa!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ending Happy with El Nido

Our short vacation in El Nido was coming to an end, and believe me, those days were not even close to enough to truly enjoy and explore this beautiful place.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Exploring El Nido

We woke up to a beautiful day in El Nido, with the sun now shining. The Miniloc Resort glittered with life as the morning's activities were beginning. It started with feeding the jacks found on the resort's house reef. The jack's were huge, probably averaging at almost 2 feet long. It was an experience to be swimming with them as well. The feeding of the jacks happen only here in Miniloc, thus, making the resort again a better place for kids.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Miniloc Island Resort: El Nido, Palawan Series

Finally, I am on a journey to one of the most desired tourist hotspots in the country. And it begins in this small plane, similar to the plane I took to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, only more luxurious. I was so anxious to land safe and sound in the northern part of Palawan, in a place called El Nido.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

UP NEXT: Guess where?

It is one of the most desired tourist hotspots in the country, and I can't believe I had just visited this place this year. The limestone formations are a giveaway. Stay tuned!

Smallville: Iloilo City

Since we're in Iloilo already, I just want to take you guys to the best nightspot in this part of the country. Welcome to Smallville.

Agho Island: Concepcion, Iloilo

After working in Malangabang Island, we just had to pass by one of the alluring islands of Concepcion. The nearest to our route was this island.

Malangabang Island: Concepcion, Iloilo

I've always wanted to visit the islands of Concepcion in Iloilo, but never found an opportunity to go there. So, I was pleasantly surprised that one of my shoots was located there - and on an island. Concepcion is in the Northern part of Iloilo, around 2 hours away. It is found before Miagao, so if you're headed to the Miagao Church, better pass by this group of islands.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kenyama Resort, Guimras

I guess you all know by now that most of my travels are actually side trips from work. I extend my stay for a couple of days, especially on weekends. As a result, I get to explore a lot of places. One of my most recent extended stays was in Guimaras, one of my favorite islands in the Philippines.

Balaw Balaw: Folk Food, Folk Art

Around 30 minutes away from Ortigas without traffic is one of the most talked about restaurants in the country. It is located in the art capital of the country as well, in the town of Angono in Rizal. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Day Across Bukidnon

We had to conitnue on with work the next day, this time to the neighboring province of Bukidnon. I have never explored Bukidnon, and my friend tells me there's really nothing much to do there. On the way, I was amazed at the breathtaking landscapes of green fields amidst a mountainous backdrop. After almost 2 hours of travel, we arrived in the capital, Malaybalay.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Divine Mercy Shrine: El Salvador, Misamis Oriental

Going back from Iligan City, our driver suggested we visit a shrine that was nestled on top of a hill. The shrine was of the Divine Mercy. Being apathetic about shrines and temples that time, I didn't take interest. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Power of Maria Cristina Falls

2 hour away from Cagayan de Oro is the progressive city of Iligan in Lanao del Norte. Now while some may reject the idea of going to Lanao all together, I was eager enough to discover what the province has to offer. And of course, there was one place that I had to go to, the grand Maria Cristina Falls.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

UP NEXT: Guess where?

Guess where this is. Our version of Brazil's Christ the Redeemer, up next!

Hotel St. Ellis, Legazpi City

My very brief stay in Legazpi was made memorable because of the hotel I stayed in. When my tita who was managing the hotel told me to visit her, I didn't expect to see this. 

Revisiting Legazpi

Legazpi City in Albay is familiar city to most Filipinos, because of Mt. Mayon. The last time I was in Legazpi, I was still a teenager. Now, probably after 15 years, I arrive at the hometown of my father, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the most prominent cities of Bicol.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Phuket: The Ultimate Asian Beach Destination

Let's get our of the country for a while, and visit one of the most desired Asian destinations. It is the largest island in Thailand, and an hour's plane ride south of Bangkok. Despite its reputation for being the most tourist infested beach capital of Asia, it still remains to be one elusive destination. Join me as we touch down in Phuket.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Callao Caves: Cagayan North Series

I almost forgot this part of the trip. Well, it's not already part of Sta. Ana. After that memorable trip to Palaui and its surrounding islands, we headed back the next day, refreshed and recharged to Tuguegarao for our flight back to Manila.

Most of us were able to visit the Callao Caves way back in 2008, but we decided to revisit the place, for the sake of those who haven't experienced it yet. Callao Caves is located around 30 minutes away from Tuguegarao, in the town of Penablanca.

There is an entrance fee to the caves, and the last time we visited, there was this boy wonder of a tour guide, who followed us through the caves with stories and descriptions of the rock formations. We were looking for boy wonder, who spoke fluent English, but he wasn't available.

You go up around 100 steps to reach the cave entrance. Then, in the second chamber, you will fall upon this magnificent chapel inside. You may have seen this photo in most magazines, but it's still different if you're already there. The chapel is not maintained though, and curses to all those who have vandalized the pews.

The last time we went here I think was at 3PM, so the sun wasn't shining high. Now, we arrived a the perfect time of noon, where the sun beams straight down its glorious rays through massive openings on the rocks.

There are 7 chambers in Callao Caves that are accessible by visitors. The rest are closed down. It's really not difficult to navigate your way, since the place is huge. It is best to wear rubber shoes though, as the ground can get slippery especially when wet.

The Callao Caves may not have the best rock formations, but it has the largest chambers. The grandness of the chambers makes up the enchanting appeal of the entire place, that should be visited by anyone who finds his way to Cagayan Valley.

Crocodile Island: Cagayan North Series

Crocodile Island was called as such because it did look like a crocodile with its head above the water. The long island revealed a wide beach as well because it was low tide.

Crocodile Island was actually a rock that formed the reptile's head. We climbed the rock and savored the spectacular view of Sta. Ana and Palaui Island.

The island as I've been told is a popular picnic ground, because of its proximity to San Vicente port. The island was free of litter though, and only shattered corals piled up on the beach.

The island also had a rough terrain on one side. The rock was kind of soft though, so one should be careful when climbing.

We did our mandatory group photo to capture the memory of this trip. The sun was beginning to retire, so after that, we headed back to the resort.

We were dropped off at a jetty away from the resort. We used a makeshift suspension bridge to cross to the resort.

As soon as I hit the beach of the resort, I rushed to capture these wonderful images of the sunset. The sea was like glass, that reflected the hills and sky that was drenched in golden splendor.

I think I took around 30 minutes just taking pictures while the others were already preparing for dinner. This was the best way to end one of the most adventurous days of my travel year.

This ends my series on Sta. Ana and Palaui Island. It's really more of a speed tour, since we had to digest everything in one day. We vowed to come back, and explore more of the enchanting Palaui Island. We were told of more beaches and islands that had more adventures in store. This unplanned and spontaneous trip was definitely satisfying, and it opened our eyes to the beauty of isolated Cagayan North.

Anguib Beach: Cagayan North Series

The waves grew rougher when we left Cape Engano, and the dark clouds started to roll in. Most of us dozed off in the boat, and after what seemed to be 40 minutes, I heard our boatman telling us that we were approaching Anguib Beach.

Back in Jotay's, we were told that Anguib Beach was closed, because they were "cleaning" it. So when we  saw people swimming in the wide beach from afar, we were pleased that we didn't listen to that warning.

Like most wide white beaches in the Philippines, Anguib Beach was touted as the Boracay of this side of the world. I've been hearing of testimonies of white sand and spectacular sceneries. Well, as soon as locals describe any beach as Boracay, I tend to ignore these descriptions. True enough, Anguib wasn't like Boracay. It was more like Pagudpud. However, they got the scenery right.

We told our boatman to drop us off at one portion of the beach that didn't have many vacationers, and that's to the east end of the beach. Anguib Beach was huge, long and surprisingly calm, probably because it was located within a cove. The hills behind it were lush with greens making the landscape very peaceful.

After buying some supplies of snacks and beer in the busy part of the beach, we settled in a secluded area. We had a quick dip, before deciding to explore the beach. The beach looked virginal. There were no resorts or establishments, except for the end of the beach where the road to Sta. Ana lies. I hope the beach remains this way.

We walked past the curve of the cove, and discovered another beach. It was low tide, so it was easy to explore the shore.

The water was clear and calm. The place was really spectacular, and very tranquil. It reminded me of Calaguas for a moment, because of its isolation.

We found more secluded coves, narrow beaches and rock formations on the sea that were perfect for capturing dramatic photos.

It was getting late already, so we headed back to our boat. We met up with the rest of the gang who were   still swimming. We had a few beers and snacks, before asking our boatman to take us to our next island.

The water was so clear when we left, that the corals were showing off their beauty. You didn't need to snorkel here anymore to see marine life. We just had to look at the natural aquarium below our boat.

It was already 5PM, and the sun was beginning to set. We could see rain from a distance. The result was a dramatic view of the sea, with rays of sunlight peeking through the dark clouds far away.

And because of the rain, nature had given us a treat. As we were approaching our next island, which was already near our resort, this view opened up on the horizon.

We were awestruck at the display of nature that afternoon. And we had one last island stop left - Crocodile Island - that amazingly was one end of the rainbow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cape Engano Lighthouse, Palaui Island: Cagayan North Series

And so the adventure began. We escaped mainland Luzon and rode a boat to Palaui Island. The island is said to be rich in flora and fauna. The relatively large island had dramatic coastlines, with hills and cliffs jutting out into the open Pacific. Beaches line the shores, and there was green everywhere.

The waves got rougher as we moved further, and more smaller islands showed up. There were rock islands, that made you feel that you were invading Jurassic Park. There was no human life in sight, no boats, no tourists, no activity.

Suddenly, the view of a lighthouse came into sight. This was the famous Cape Engano Lighthouse, regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country. Built in 1888, the lighthouse served ships crossing the Babuyan Channel and the Pacific Ocean.  

We hit a coral sand beach that was the start of our shortcut trek to Cape Engano. Our boatman tells us that most hike from another entry point in Palaui Island for two to three hours to get to the lighthouse. We're glad we took the shortcut, since we didn't have much time.

We found a trail going up, but before that, we were treated to this wonderful meadow scene. It reminded me Caramoan at some point. I wouldn't know if Batanes looked the same, since I have never been there.

The trail going up was orchestrated, as there were even steps along the way. The local government may have set it up to promote tourism. We were the only souls in sight, so I guess, it is still a relatively unknown destination.

After a grueling climb due to the heat of the sun, we made it to the lighthouse. And what a sight it was!

I feel that we were transported back in time. The lighthouse at Cape Engano was beautiful indeed, andvery mysterious. The complex was relatively huge as well, compared to other lighthouses in the country. I don't know if it was still in operation, because there was no caretaker.

We took a while to take in the fresh sea breeze and enjoy the magnificent views. From the lighthouse, one could also see a better view of Dos Hermanos, two islands that we passed by on the way to the cape.

The lighthouse was a perfect place for a photo shoot, so we took as many pictures possible. It was also a great place to meditate, as you will feel you are really a million miles away from civilization.

The 360 degree view of Palaui Island was breathtaking as well. You could see the rugged beauty of the island.

We spent almost an hour on top, and decided to descend since we wanted to explore more islands. We had one last look at the mysterious lighthouse, that seemed to put us in a trance. We went down with high spirits, rejuvenated from a very satisfying excursion.

We took some time to swim at the coral beach. The water was clear and refreshing. It was perfect after an exhausting hike up ad down the lighthouse.

It was already 2:30PM and we still wanted to go to another beach, that was already being touted as the Boracay of this part of the Philippines. We left Palaui Island and Cape Engano with a promise of a return.


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