The Hike to Mt. Pinatubo

It was still dark when we left Manila. I was excited for this trip. Aside from the two lenses and a fully charged DSLR camera that I packed in my backpack the night before we left, I didn’t really make any serious preparations for the trip. It was my first out of town trip with the bagets, one of the few reasons to be excited.

The sun was already up when we reached Capas, Tarlac. Cai, Ada and I took advantage of the three hour trip to catch some sleep. It wasn’t too long when we were assigned to our own four-wheel ride. I’m not quite sure how things are normally done since all the trip arrangements were done by Rob and Dong.

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It took us almost an hour to get to the point where our 4×4 trucks can no longer take us. The first part of the trail to the Mt. Pinatubo crater was already stunning. For almost an hour, we have been traversing a seemingly endless valley of volcanic ashes and sand, what was left from the volcano’s eruption a couple of decades ago.

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Before, the hike towards the crater only takes an hour. The 4×4 riders used to have a sky way on top of the mountainous pile of ashes which lessens the hiking time. But after a portion of the sky way collapsed last year, the authorities have prohibited access to the shortcut, thus, doubling the visitors’ hiking time.

It nearly took us three hours to complete the hike to the crater. The terrain was rough but it wasn’t as inclined as I expected. The whole three hours were combinations of short rests, cam whoring and waiting for people to catch up the group’s pace.

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It was already noon when we arrived at the crater. The view of the picturesque crater with its emerald colored lake was our price after went through the long tiring hike. It was one of the most beautiful sceneries I have seen.

Food was not a problem for us since our tour guides have already brought with them pre-prepared packed lunch, which is part of the usual Pinatubo tour. Under the mango tree we sat while savoring the scenic view of the crater, we ate our hearty lunch.

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After resting a bit, we went down the crater to get a closer look of the emerald lake. The cold waters of the volcano was tempting enough to let it pass. After taking a few photos, we went to take a dip while the others went out for a boat ride to the other side of the crater. Too bad I didn’t get to see what the other side looks like.

At around 3pm, we started packing up and headed our for our return hike. This time, it was easier for us since the trail was mostly on a downward slope. It was already dark when we arrived in Tarlac.

It was a one good trip. I spent less than 3K and brought home an unforgettable experience and a card full of beautiful photos.

 

Postcard: Manila

I guess you don’t have to go abroad to shoot a scene like this. This photo was taken at the dock near the Cultural Center of the Philippines. You can see the Manila Yacht Club and the stretch of buildings along Roxas Boulevard in the background.

Snorkeling at Pambato Reef

After our lunch at Pandan Island and fish feeding in Snake Island, we went to our last stop in our Honday Bay tour — the Pambato Reef.

You would be surprised that beneath the pair of floating cottages lies an underwater paradise. You don’t need special training or special equipment to have a peek at the beautiful marine ecosystem; a pair of mask and snorkel will suffice.

Unlike the previous year wherein we get to freely snorkel within the confines of the calm waters of Pambato reef, the current was quite strong during our last visit. We had to be assisted by our reef guide throughout our whole snorkeling activity. Because of the strong current, we weren’t able to explore much of the reef. For most of the time, I had to make sure that I was still holding on the rope that our guide had set for us.

Aside from snorkeling activities, tourists can also fish feed. The second cottage is reserved for fish feeding activities. I’m not quite sure though on why the fishermen disallow fish feeding at the cottage near the snorkeling area.

We didn’t spend much time at the Pambato reef since the winds started to show signs of getting stronger. We left Pambato Reef and went back to the Honday Bay port where our van from the Maple Tours was waiting.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This post is part of our trip to Puerto Princessa with AirPhil Express. This trip is a sampler of AirPhil Express’ Puerto Princesa AdvenTour packages which you can avail together with your MNL-PPS-MNL tickets. If you wish to avail the AdvenTour Package that we had, please click here.[/box]

Snake Island

Snake Island is one of the most popular destinations in any Honda Bay island hopping tours. I have been here last year during my first visit in Puerto Princesa and the best I could remember about the place is that my left leg was bitten by an aggressive fish (or maybe it was hit by an aggressive fish’s fin) while I was feeding the smaller fishes with bread.

For this year’s visit to Puerto Princesa, Snake Island was our second destination. Right after having lunch in Pandan Island, our group headed to Snake Island. The island is a long stretch of sand bar with a small population of mangroves and patches of grasses. The entire island is shaped like a snake, hence it’s name. Getting to the Snake Island from Pandan Island didn’t take us long (approximately 10~15 minutes). Also, the waves weren’t as strong as it was on our way to Pandan.

Another part of the Snake Island that we weren’t able to explore the last time I was in Puerto Princesa is the mangrove areas. The mangroves are located on the side opposite to where tourists usually are. It was noticeable that Puerto Princesa is working on reviving the mangroves in the area. A large part of the island are planted with new mangrove trees.

Another thing we got excited about in going to Snake Island is halo-halo. The last time we were there, all of us bought a glass of halo-halo from the sari-sari store in the island. And we did the same thing on our most recent visit. Though the it’s not as good as the one’s you can buy from Razon’s, it’s still worth something specially when you’re under the heat of the sun.

 

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This post is part of our trip to Puerto Princessa with AirPhil Express. This trip is a sampler of AirPhil Express’ Puerto Princesa AdvenTour packages which you can avail together with your MNL-PPS-MNL tickets. If you wish to avail the AdvenTour Package that we had, please click here.[/box]

Lunch at Pandan Island in Puerto Princesa

It was raining hard the night before we left for Puerto Princesa. The announcement of the typhoon Falcon in Metro Manila scared us that the trip to Palawan might not push through. The streets in Pasong Tamo and Buendia in Makati were already knee-high that night and another set of heavy rains might bring the capital another round of “Ondoy“. After having waited for the flood to subside, I only had enough time to attend a meeting with my client in the US and prepare my stuff afterwards.

The strong winds and rain already stopped when I left the house the following morning but there were still signs that the street leading to the highway was filled with flood waters the night before. It was a good sign though. No rains, no winds…our trip will push through. After completing all our check-in requirements, the rain started to pour again. The next thing we know, several flights going to Mindoro and other provinces were being cancelled. Good thing we were flying with AirPhil Express‘ Airbus 320. The bad weather that day was not much of a problem for all AirBus flights. The last I heard, no Airbus flights were cancelled that day.

I checked the weather maps and satellite images before we left Manila. Puerto Princesa and the rest of Palawan was clear from the big clusters of clouds. True enough, when we stepped out of our plane after arriving in Puerto Princesa International Airport, we were kissed by the sun. The weather was as warm as any average summer day.

Upon getting out of the airport, the members of Maple Palawan Travel & Tours, our travel agency, gave us these necklaces.  VIP boost FTW! The driver brought us to our hotel, Marianne Home Inn, which was just a few minute drive from the airport. I love our hotel. It’s affordable, clean, cozy and homey.

After we settled and fixed our stuff in the our hotel, Anne, the tour guide from Maple, oriented us with our Day 1 activities. For our first day in Puerto Princesa, we will be spending the whole day in Honday Bay. I have been to Honday Bay last year but I haven’t enjoyed it due to time constraints. Imagine touring the Honday Bay for only two or three hours ‘coz we had to be back in our hotel before lunch so we won’t miss our flight back to Manila.

Honday Bay is one of the most visited attractions in the island. It’s famous for diving, snorkeling and island hopping activities. One of the islands that I missed to visit last year is Pandan Island. According to Anne, we will be staying in Pandan Island for our lunch. Picnic!

Roch got excited when she learned we were going to Pandan Island. We thought the island was shaped like pandan or it’s abundant with pandan juice because of its name, similar to it’s neighboring snake-shaped island. However, we were wrong because after all, the island was named after the Pandan Tree which is quite abundant in the island.

We arrived in Pandan Island an hour before lunch, just enough time for us to explore the beach and for Anne to prepare our lunch. Few of the activities that you can do in Pandan Island is fish feed, snorkel, and kayak. Kayaks are available for rent while in the island.

The trees on the right are the Pandan Trees.

It didn’t take Anne too long to prepare our lunch, most of which had been prepared before we left the city. Most of the food served were classic Filipino food. The photo below is chicken adobo, perfect for my #adobofridays.

After lunch, we went for a dip in the clear cool waters of Pandan Island. We also fed the fishes with the bread we bought from the snorkel rental shop in the city. After getting the most of our stay in Pandan Island, Anne called us off to leave for our next destination, the Snake Island.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This post is part of our trip to Puerto Princessa with AirPhil Express. This trip is a sampler of AirPhil Express’ Puerto Princesa AdvenTour packages which you can avail together with your MNL-PPS-MNL tickets. If you wish to avail the AdvenTour Package that we had, please click here.[/box]

Cruising the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

One of the attractions in the country that automatically translates to Puerto Princesa City is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The underground river which was once known as the St. Paul Underground River stretches itself within the 8.2-kilometer cave. It is also considered as one of UNESCO’s natural heritage sites and was nominated as one of the new seven wonders of the world.

The gateway to the underground river (UR), as it is commonly known, can be reached from the town of Sabang. It’s a small town ~50 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa an can be reached after an hour’s drive from the city. From Sabang, a motorized boat will take you to the Subterranean River National Park.

An almost an hour boat tour will take you to the tourist-accessible areas within the underground river. A boat cruise inside comes with a tourist guide that will give background on the attractions within the cave. A few of the attractions inside the cave are the different stalagmite and stalactite formations and the different huge chambers found inside the cave. A typical tourist tour will only cover barely half of the cave’s interiors. A thorough tour will require special permits and equipment.

The forest outside of the subterranean river park is home to different species endemic to Palawan. Some of which you can easily encounter during the short walk within the forest before getting to the underground river’s entrance. You’d be surprised to see giant lizards and petite peacocks along the way.

 

Punta Isla Lake Resort in the Serene Lake Sebu

Though I lived in Davao City for most of my life, I never had the chance to visit Lake Sebu. For one, it’s approximately 6 or 7 hours from Davao City and second, I never thought that Lake Sebu is a one big diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered.

Upon arriving in Tambler International Airport in General Santos City, the group immediately drove to Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. There was nothing much to see during our 3-hour land trip. Since most of us didn’t get enough sleep the night before, we took that opportunity to nap inside the car.
Continue reading “Punta Isla Lake Resort in the Serene Lake Sebu”

Swimming at Lemlunay Dive Resort in Saranggani

I was in General Santos City a couple of weeks ago for a short weekend vacation. We we’re supposed to attend the Tuna Festival but because the original festival schedule was moved, we took the opportunity to explore more of General Santos and its neighboring towns instead. One of the destinations we went was a dive resort with a familiar name. When I heard of Lemlunay Dive Resort, the resort’s name, I was sure I have heard it before. I wasn’t sure where, how and when. It was only after a few conversations with the owner that I realized some of my friends have been there while the resort was still in its early development phase.
Continue reading “Swimming at Lemlunay Dive Resort in Saranggani”

Davao Diving Spot: Angel’s Cove, Samal

 

Angel’s Cove is one of the few popular dive and snorkeling spots in Island Garden City of Samal. The tame shallow waters make it fit for snorkeling tourists. Also, a lot of divers visit the place for its rich marine biodiversity. If you have come to Davao for island tours, there’s a high chance that Angel’s Cove is part of your island hopping itinerary.

I have only been to Angel’s cove a couple of times. The tourist operators and locales of Samal must have preserved and maintained its pristine waters and natural beauty over the years since nothing much have changed each time I visit the place.

The latest visit I had was with ETours Davao during the Davao FAT earlier this year. ETours Davao is one of the few tour companies in Davao which offers island tour packages for tourists. The package we availed included the boat rental, one tour guide and free usage of snorkeling gears for the tour guests.

If you wish to experience Angel’s Cove in Samal, Davao, you may contact the guys who brought us there on these numbers:

ETOURS

Owner: Tom Claudio

Tour Guide: Jojo

Services: Davao City and Adventure Tours

Resorts/Islands Visited: Island Garden City of Samal (Samal Island), specifically Maxima Aquafun, Angel Cove, Coral Garden, and Babu Santa

Email Address: info@etours.ph

Contact Numbers: +63917-7011882, +63916-4333199, + 63922-8674779, +6382-2861173, and +6382-2861645

Burnham Park, Baguio City

We were blessed to have a fair weather when we arrived in Baguio City that morning despite the rains that shower the rest of Northern Luzon. Equipped with my camera, wide angle lens, and GPS phone, we started off our Baguio trip at the famous Burnham Park.

Burnham Park is located at the heart of the city. The park was named after Baguio City’s planner, Daniel Burnham?. The man-made lake in the middle of the park is its main attraction and made the park a favorite among local residents and visitors alike.

On a normal day, you will often see locales in jogging pants taking their morning walk and exercising in the park. Visitors go visit the park for boat rentals, picnic, biking or for just a leisure strolling around the lake side. The park is also a perfect subject for landscape photographers and tourists.