Picspam: Boracay’s Splendor

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Photos by Anie Carillo

Quickstop: Villa Escudero Resort and Plantation

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

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Last Thursday, my family decided to head to the Southern Luzon province of Quezon to try a unique Filipino cultural experience at Villa Escudero Resort and Plantation. I have heard of Villa Escudero since I was a little girl but I never had a chance to go until the past few days.

Getting there: Villa Escudero is located in the border of Laguna’s San Pablo City and Quezon province. People coming from Manila should take the SLEX to get here.

Rates: Villa Escudero offers day tours, which we availed. It costs 1200/ person inclusive of a buffet lunch, carabao ride, raft ride, and use of the resort’s amenities. For people who happens to visit on a weekend, they can watch what the call the “Philippines Experience Show”. For more information, please visit Villa Escudero’s website at http://www.villaescudero.com

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The whole plantation is filled with statues of people dressed in traditional Filipino costumes, doing farming, and other livelihood chores such as the man riding a carriage pulled by a carabao on the picture above.

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This pink building is a replica of one of Manila’s most famous churches, the San Agustin Church. It is not a church, rather, it’s a museum. Unfortunately, cameras and picture-taking is not allowed inside. The museum contained a wide collection of religious images, preserved animals, ancient pots and jars from China, foreign currencies, international traditional costumes, etc.

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Part of the Filipino experience in Villa Escudero is the carabao ride. It’s my first time to actually ride something pulled by a carabao and I really felt pity for it. Although it has been accepted that the carabao is a beast of burden and that it’s meant to aid farmers in plowing fields, I still felt sad for the poor creature.

The major attraction, and one of the most exciting parts of the place is actually having to dine with the cool and fresh water rushing on your feet! It was a very nice experience for me because it was definitely unique! The buffet lunch we had contained various Filipino foods such as: Grilled Chicken, Grilled Tilapia, Liempo, Beef Caldereta, Peanut-sauce Veggie Salad, Spring Rolls, and Pancit.

We also had some local Coconut Juice refreshments!

As a final activity, we decided to ride the bamboo rafts or balsa as we Filipinos call it. It was really fun paddling such cool and still waters. The water was relaxing, and since swimming is not allowed, it is very safe for the riders.

Sinulog 2012: Viva Pit Señor!

January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

One item on my “things-to-do” list is to experience at least one of the Philippines’ famous festivals. Because the Philippines is an archipelago, numerous islands varied in culture, beliefs, and celebrations. In Baguio, they celebrate the Panagbenga Festival where the locals prepare floats filled with flowers and dance wearing colorful floral-themed costumes. In Quezon, they celebrate the Pahiyas Festival; in Iloilo, the Ati-Atihan, etcetera. These festivals give the Philippines a really distinct colorful personality.

From all the popular festivals in the Philippines, my favorite would have to be Sinulog Festival of Cebu. I’ve always wanted to experience Cebu during the festival. Sinulog has been one of the most popular and most visited festivals in the country, both locals and foreigners fly to Cebu to join the celebration. This grand celebration is held in honor of Sto.Niño (the child image of Jesus Christ), who is the parton saint of Cebu.

The entire city is so alive and happy. The streets were filled with henna tattoo and face painting stations. Almost everyone had tattoos and paints on their bodies and clothes. The Cebuanos really know how to have fun. My cousins and I had our faces painted to feel more of the Sinulog vibe.

Various groups of drummers and costumed dancers joined the parade. Some of these groups are from Cebu’s local schools, while some came all the way from neighboring provinces.

That very night of the street dance parade, the whole city turned into a huge party place. Every street that we crossed were literally full of dancing people. The streets were so crowded with people who wanted to have some fun. Cebuanos definitely know how to party.

After the Sinulog Festival, my cousins and I decided to go around the good parts of the city. One of the famous places in Cebu City is a place called Tops. It’s high above a mountain which gives one a good view of the entire city, including Mactan island. For tourists, it’s advisable to take a cab going here. The drivers will ask if you want them to wait for you, and they should. Way up, there are no other way to go back down the city, so have the cab driver wait for you for an hour or so. Also, the park charges a 100Php entrance fee.

It’s amazing to watch the sunset from up here.

For dinner, we wanted to try the famous Sutukil. We ordered Baked Scallops, Bagoong Rice, Stuffed Crab, Tuna Panga, and Raspberry Iced Tea.

Another activity that we enjoyed while we stayed in Cebu was the island hopping. We decided to avail of Island Banca’s island hopping package. Compared to the non-commercialized island hopping services, it is relatively more expensive. Their boat is really beautiful with a wide deck, a couch, bean bags and comfortable chairs. 

For our last day’s dinner, we dined in Casa Verde, a famous local restaurant in Cebu. They serve steaks, ribs, etc. The meals were sumptuous!

In the few days of my stay in Cebu, it really made me realize that it’s more fun here. It’s more fun in the Philippines! I hope that in writing more about the beautiful parts of the Philippines, I can help promote it to more people.

Intramuros : The Walled City

December 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Intramuros is one of the landmarks that exhibited how much of the Spanish influence stayed here in the Philippines.

Sonya’s Garden

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last Sunday, my family and I visited Sonya’s Garden near Tagaytay, but it’s actually still part of Alfonso, Cavite. Sonya’s Garden has been creating buzz for offering organic foods grown right inside the vicinity. Tucked inside a very private and noise-free location, they also offer spa services and bed and breakfast for their guests. The ambience of the place is very relaxing. There are plants, flowers, and butterflies surrounding the place.

A fountain welcomes the guests before going inside the dining area. I really like the effect of the brick floor to contrast the greenery of the garden.

For appetizer, we were served a variety of leaves and vegetables with fruits and various dressings.

We were also served bread with 5 spreads to choose from. I loved the pesto!

We had pasta, capers, and grilled chicken for the main course.

A choice of red and white sauce for the pasta and some other toppings such at shitake mushrooms, rattatouille, black olives, etc. were also served.

Tarragon tea.

Sweets for dessert! Moist chocolate cake, sweet potatoes, and turon.

After our healthy and sumptuous lunch, we took some time wandering around the garden. I took some photos inside some of the greenhouses.

I’m not really a big fan of eating a lot of green leaves but I did enjoy this visit. It’s good to once in a while be able to eat healthy and appreciate different flavors nature can offer.

Coron: Island Adventure!

May 20, 2011 § 5 Comments

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a beach vacation with my High School buddies. We decided to choose Coron, Palawan as our getaway destination because none of us has been there and it’s not overly crowded like some famous beaches in the country. I was able to find an agent who would take care of our stay. They also took care of our itinerary for our 3 days, 2 nights stay.

Heads up: Sun Cellular is not available in the Coron Island. For Sun Subscribers, I suggest you have an extra communications provider like Globe or Smart.

Budget: Airfare , Coron Package (3,500php). The package includes hotel transfers, hotel accommodation, food (except dinner), tour guide, boat fare and all entrance fees. If you’re interested in the package, leave a comment so I can give the contact details of the agent.

We arrived in the afternoon of our first day; like most guests, we were first brought to the Maquinit Hot Spring.

FACT: Maquinit Hot Spring is 1 of the only 3 Saltwater Hot Springs in the world.

The hot spring is surrounded by thick mangroves as its water mixes with the salt waters of the South China Sea.

Our second day was scheduled for our Island Hopping around the Calamian Group of Islands. Our stops were:

1. Siete Pecados – This is a very good spot for snorkeling because of the rich marine life. The sea water is so clear you can actually see the corals without immersing in the water. The wonderful colors of the corals were vibrant under the summer sun.

2. Kayangan Lake – It’s enjoyable to take a plunge in this fresh water haven. Take your snorkeling gear and watch schools of baby Barracudas.

A view from the cave atop the hill going to Kayangan Lake. Guests must climb and descend on stone and mud built stairs to get to the lake. I suggest you leave the less important things on the boat.

Wooden floor edges were built on the side of the lake for guests.

3. Skeleton / Shipwreck Spot – This spot became our lunch place of the day because Beach 91 and Banul beach were both crowded. It was a good thing we had the island to ourselves that time, it’s like it was our private beach. A few meters away is a shipwreck; the vessel had been there for more than 60 years.

4. CYC Beach

5. Twin Lagoon – Take a plunge in this famous spot. It’s a relaxing spot to swim around because it’s shady and cool.

On our third day, we climed the 750-stepped hill, Mt. Tapyas. It gives a full view of the Calamian Islands collectively named as the “Sleeping Giant” because of how it looks from the horizon.

TIP: Bring liquids to hydrate while taking the hike.This trip added 13 islands to the ones I have visited. God is really awesome to have made nature in such beauty. I wish to feature more local scenic spots soon!

Magalawa Island, Zambales

May 5, 2011 § 9 Comments

Magalawa Island, Palauig, Zambales

Date: April 30-May 1, 2011

It’s summertime once again! Almost everyone wants to take a break from work or school and soak up under the sunny weather. It’s quite a blessing for Filipinos like me to live in a country surrounded by beautiful beaches. From cozy sandy beaches, to extreme surf spots; from pristine white sand beaches, to salt and pepper coves, you name it, the Philippines probably has it.

Last weekend, my friends and I visited a white sand/coral beach in the province of Zambales called Magalawa Island. We came across the place on Facebook; for details and rates, please visit this link.


The boat transfer from Zambales mainland to Magalawa island costs 100Php per person but this rate is already included in the package our group purchased.

The boat ride takes about 10 minutes to and fro.

Accommodation options: Guests can avail of rooms with airconditioner, which comes with a private comfort rooms. A manual water pump and public bath and toilet are for the guests who opt for kubos, electric fan rooms, and tents.


Since Magalawa Island’s rooms and rentable tents were fully booked, we brought our own tents to pitch.

The beach is just wonderful.
Snorkeling comes free with the package we purchased. If you’re not comfortable with wearing the island’s snorkeling gear, bring your own.

Tips:

1.Commuting: Make sure you come early to buy tickets for the bus. There are only limited trips going to Sta.Cruz and since most guests come in large groups, the seats can be sold out fast.

Head start: The trip takes about 7-8 hours. Make sure you don’t drink a lot of liquids to prevent the need for using the comfort rooms during the trip.

The tricycle fare from the National Hi-way to the shore used to be only 25php per person but recently, some oppotunistic drivers ask for 75php per person.

2.Food: Most of the food served were seafood dishes so if you have allergies, better have your medicines in handy.

A public grill is placed along the camping grounds for guests who want to prepare their own food. Just make sure the food won’t be spoiled after the 7 hour trip to the island.

3.Camping Must-haves: tent (if you’re not renting),flashlight, insect repellant, pocket knife, extra food

A long walk to Magalawa’s other side where mangroves flourish.Watch out for: Starfishes and the Mangrove stretch on other tip of the island. Also, stay up late at night to lay on the sand and go stargazing.

This trip is recommended for the budget conscious crowds. It’s fun, it’s cheap, and it’s not overly crowded. I will be visiting Coron, Palawan next weekend, please watch out for my upcoming post about it!

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