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Manila Oceanpark

I found Nemo! I spent the afternoon at Manila Oceanpark to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a very interesting experience, except for the fact that there were a million people there. We got stuck in traffic at Quiapo because of a rally we didn’t know about so we arrived there past 2PM. Which was a blessing for us – we didn’t have to line up because our friends were waiting in line. The line outside was long, the ticket line was long, and the line going inside was long. It was worth it though because what we saw inside was amazing.

StingrayIt was a huge place! It showcased so many species of marine life, from stingrays to clownfish to sharks… It was awesome! They had an amazing underwater tunnel, albeit short. The kids were all going nuts when the stingrays swam majestically from one side of the tunnel to the other. When we were in the tunnel, 2 divers went into the water to feed the stingray, and my diver friends got all excited. The stingrays were all over the men! Right then and there they wanted to leave and go somewhere to dive. It was an awesome sight! Never mind even if the kids around us were all either shrieking in excitement or in fear.

AweThe fee for adults is P400, and it’s worth it. I just wish they had aircon inside – it was so damn hot! (Or was it on purpose that there was no aircon?) I also wish they could fix the system of the lines outside. It was horrible! Also, I wish they could be tougher on the visitors who don’t follow the rules. There were so many warning signs that flash photography wasn’t allowed, and the guides kept on repeating this, but there were still a LOT of people using flash. Their cameras should be confiscated!!!

When you go there in the afternoon, expect long lines. I’m not sure if the lines are shorter in the morning. But it’s worth it especially if you have kids. Remember, flash photography is not allowed! :)

Click here for the complete set of photos: Manila Oceanpark

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Vigan Heritage Mansion

Vigan Heritage Mansion

During our last roadtrip with Vigan as our destination, I wanted to be sure that our chosen hotel wasn’t “spooky”. You see, I’m a scaredy cat. And most of Vigan’s hotels are actually preserved old houses. I researched online, and came across several hotels. We ended up choosing Vigan Heritage Mansion because of 2 reasons – its location, and its supposedly “modern” feel even if it’s a restored, antique mansion.

…Click here to read the rest of the entry…

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Vigan


Vigan
Originally uploaded by Carambs!.

Jovan and I went on (yet another) roadtrip for the long weekend of August 25-27. We were supposed to go there last year but I got sick, and we passed it on our way to Pagudpud. So we’ve been talking about it, and decided to just go during the long weekend. It was perfect timing – I believe that you need at least 3 days to enjoy the place.

We left August 25, a saturday, at around 4AM, and got there at around 11:30AM. We only had 2 major stops – 1 in the North Expressway to have breakfast, and 1 in the Shell station before the right to Baguio. The trip was okay, except for the really bad traffic in Candon, because only 1 lane was functional.

For our accomodations, we chose the Vigan Heritage Mansion because it wasn’t “creepy”, based on the online reviews I encountered. Plus, it was right beside Calle Crisologo, which is a must-visit in Vigan. We checked in, dropped off our bags, and headed to Cafe Leona, which was supposed to be a popular restaurant there according to our (very worn out) Lonely Planet Guide.

There were a lot of people in Cafe Leona, which I thought was a good sign. Our guidebook did not fail us! First we had to go to the ‘display’ area where almost all of the available food was displayed, and we picked what we wanted. Be warned – orders were good for 1-3 people – I made a mistake of ordering embutido thinking that I could order 2-3 pieces, and was surprised when they served the whole thing! The food was good – they actually tasted like “home-cooked” food, and not commercialized food. We ordered embutido, chicken in pineapple sauce, fish fillet (which Jovan didn’t enjoy as much), and other viands which I forgot already. Obviously, we didn’t finish, so we had the food wrapped.

These were the Vigan destinations/activities that we were able to visit/do:

Calle Crisologo – A cobbled street where cars are banned, this street has small stores left and right where you can buy products of Vigan such as woven napkins, handtowels, blankets and bags

Padre Burgos Museum – The birthplace of Padre Burgos which showcases antique furniture, old photos of famous people from the Ilocos Province, paintings of the story of GomBurZa

Kalesa Ride – Not a lot of places offer kalesa rides anymore. But in Vigan, it’s one of the major modes of transportation.

The empanada from the plaza is *supposed to be* a specialty, but Jovan got a very upset stomach on the second day. We suspect it was because of the empanada. I heard that Jovan’s friend suffered the same fate. I took a bite and nothing happened to me, so we’re not a hundred percent sure. Just be warned.

Before we headed to Manila on the third day, we passed by the palengke (wet market) to buy the famous Vigan longganisa and bagnet. It was a different experience for me, but I truly enjoyed it!

We left Vigan at around 9:30AM. We visited the Church in Sta. Maria, the town after Vigan, because it was a Unesco World Heritage site. It was beautiful!

More pictures of our roadtrip here:

Kalesa at Crisologo Street

Along Crisologo Street

Calle Crisologo Sign

Sta. Maria Church

For the complete Vigan album, click here.


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Baguio Once Again

Jovan and I went to Baguio last July 28-29 for Tour de Baguio, this time. It was my first trip to Baguio for the year and Jovan’s second. It was a nice trip because Mom and Dad joined us. We didn’t stay at our usual hotel, Hotel Veniz, mainly because they didn’t have broadband wifi in the rooms. We stayed at El Cielito Inn instead. We left Manila at 4AM, made 2 stops – 1 for gas and the other for a bathroom break – and arrived in Baguio at around 10AM. El Cielito is a pretty decent hotel, but not as good as Hotel Veniz. There were no elevators, the carpet in the hallway was old, and the doors to the rooms were old as well. The bathroom was really nice though.

After a short nap we headed to Camp John Hay, for our usual strawberry juice from Strawberries and Ice Cream at the Filling Station. We had lunch at Little John’s – can’t seem to let go of that place, even if their food is getting greasier and greasier. Maybe it’s the ambience? We decided to do all the touristy stuff (mainly for my parents) on Saturday so Sunday can be a relaxing day. After lunch we shopped at Mines View Park and Good Shepherd, then went to mass at St. Joseph’s. By that time we were so tired so we decided to have an early dinner at Oh My Khan. The food was okay, they offered an above-average mongolian buffet and lots of desserts to choose from.

Of course at night we watched the Tour. We couldn’t afford to miss it because it was the final time trial. The wifi didn’t work at first, because the connection was down. But we were able to make it work after a while, just in time to watch the favorites.

The next day, Mom and Dad went around Baguio once more without us, as we decided to sleep in (which is what we usually do when we go out of town). We had breakfast, lunch at The Filling Station, excuse for another round of strawberry juice. Then we went home.

Here are some photos:

The best strawberry juice ever.
Best. Strawberry. Juice. Ever.

Beautiful

Pine

Baguio Flowers

Click here for my complete Baguio photo album.

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Tour de Iba (Iba, Zambales)

Tour de Iba

Determined to get higher marks in Lakbayan, Jovan and I headed to Iba, Zambales last July 21-22. It was the height of the Tour de France, but we went anyway, and were very lucky that our chosen resort, Palmera Garden, had wifi broadband. Coolness!

Aside from getting a higher mark at Lakbayan, I also wanted to take photos, so I brought my camera (which I have yet to learn, by the way). Here are some photos:

Almost sunset at Iba, Zambales

Time to fish.

Strolling along the beach.

Click here for the complete album.

Jovan and I left Manila at around 8AM. I was thinking of passing by Powerplant to get the Harry Potter book but decided against it. We arrived at Iba, Zambales at around 1PM. We had 2 stops – 1 at Total NLEX to have breakfast at Andok’s, and 1 at Luisita for a bathroom break. Palmera Garden is a nice, decent resort to stay at if you just want to get away from Manila. The rooms and the bathrooms are okay, and the food is better than average, though a bit expensive. The resort has a nice pool, and the beach at the back is good enough for sunbathing and swimming.

In the afternoon we slept, and went to the beach to take pictures of the sunset. We overestimated the time – sunset came way after 6PM. We couldn’t wait for the actual sunset because of hunger so we left. We went to the town proper to buy water and chips, and bought dinner from Jollibee, to save a bit. The whole night we watched the first time trial of the Tour de France, which Vino won.

We left at 11:30AM after having breakfast. Tour de Iba was officially over. We arrived in Manila after only 3 hours and went straight to Powerplant to get the Harry Potter book.

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Roadtrip with the girls!


The girls at C’ Italia
Originally uploaded by Carambs!.

I joined the girls last June 2-3,2007 and we went on a roadtrip to Subic and Clark. I was with Joe, Carmela, Cathy, Cookie, Yoj and Angie. We brought two cars, one driven by Cookie, one driven by Angie. First stop was Subic where we had lunch and shopped! Then we went back to Clark where we stayed for the night. We stayed at Monte Vista, in Mimosa. The villa was really nice, and we were lucky that we got it at a promo price of P4,500. We were really tired by then so we just ordered room service for dinner – and what a surprise! The food was actually good! The rest of the night was spent singing. We sang the night away using Yoj’s good ol’ magic sing.


Stopover at a gas station.


The villa.


Room service. Yummy food!

The next day, we had lunch at C’ Italia which I now consider as one of my favorite restaurants. The food was GREAT! Their best seller, the panizza, was a hit with the girls! We met the owner, Chris, who was very accomodating. He toured us around the restaurant and told stories about his famous customers, which included a couple of Philippine presidents (Ramos and Arroyo).


Cristina Panizza


With the owner, Cris.

We got back in Manila at around 6PM, and by that time we were really tired. It was such a fun roadtrip that we decided we would do it again sometime in the future. :)

Complete set of photos here.

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Roadtrip to Bicol – Part 2


We left Veramaris at 7AM the next day. Sorsogon City was a 1 1/2 hour drive from Gubat and we wanted to get there early. Ingko was nice, albeit motel-ish. Clarence really wanted to go to the beach, so they went on an adventure to Sta. Magdalena. I decided to stay at the hotel (I know, shucks) because I promised myself that I was going to lessen my unread emails. Well, it was a very productive afternoon because from 300 unread emails, I ended up with 80. Not bad at all. We had merienda-cena at Balkon, then we prepared for the Easter Vigil mass.

The Easter Vigil mass story is something for the books.

The plan was to go to Fatima church for the 10PM mass. Fatima was at the town proper so it was around 10 minutes away. We passed a Church along the way and stopped to ask what time the mass would start, and they said 10PM. So we decided to hear mass there instead. It was the “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” church, which said “Jesus, I trust in you – Our catholic church” outside. Inside, it felt weird. Only a few pews were occupied, even if it was supposed to be an Easter Vigil mass. And there was a table in the middle of the church, with weird-looking candles. I looked around – everything else looked normal. So we waited for the mass to begin. We were even given candles by the people in front of us. A lady approached Sharon, asking her about a ‘reading’ of some sort, so we assumed they wanted her to read. But another lady approached us, and explained to us that it was a members-only mass, and that there were confidential rituals that would take place. She said they all thought we were guests of the reader. She was really nice about it, she even said that it probably won’t be good for us because they’ll be up until dawn. Basically, nice as she was, the reality was that we were kicked out of the church!

Until now we can’t figure out what church it was. Our guess was that it was an Aglipayan church, but we’re really not sure. It’s a really funny story, and we end up laughing every time we talk about it. We ended up going to Fatima, where the mass lasted until 12:30AM.

We left Ingko at 8AM the next day. We wanted to go home on Sunday so that we still had Monday to rest. We bought Pan de Legaspi again, then it was one long roadtrip until Quezon, with some stopovers in between. We had late lunch at Yakiniku, Calauag, Quezon. And then it was again another long roadtrip until Manila. It was uber traffic starting at Sariaya, Quezon, so we went through Batangas instead. Though it was a long trip, almost 15 hours, it was so much fun because of the company. It was so much fun that no one slept the whole trip! We were laughing our hearts out, thinking of all the politicians we could set up with Sharon. That’s another story altogether. We arrived in Manila at 11PM.

It felt good to travel. I thought I wouldn’t be able to travel much this year because of my major trip in July, but I was wrong. I’ll blog about that some other time. :)

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Roadtrip to Bicol – Part 1

I just realized that I haven’t blogged about our Bicol trip yet. So here goes. A month before Holy Week we were trying to figure out where to go. It just so happened that Heidi, an officemate, was going home to Legaspi City. So we thought of going to Donsol, something which we’ve been talking about since last year. Since the roadtrip was going to be long, Holy Week became the perfect time to go. It was my very first time to go out of town during Holy Week. We usually just stay home and attend the triduum masses. But I told myself it was going to be different this year.

I went with Jovan, Clarence, Sharon and Cathy. We call ourselves the Butanding 5 (haha!) – primarily because it sounds funnier than the Sorsogon 5. We have this habit of naming the travel groups after the places we travel to – we have the Davao 5 (Mike, Clar, Jovan, Mads and me) and the Bohol 4 (Mike, Clar, Jovan and me). We left wednesday night. We felt that leaving in the afternoon would be a bad idea because of the traffic – everyone was going out of town. Plus, we wanted to arrive in Legaspi during the day. The trip was 12 hours long. It was fun at first, with everyone laughing and singing our hearts out. But of course I fell asleep after the stopover at Lucena, and was pretty much asleep until we reached Pili at 9AM. True to form. :) We had breakfast at Biggs, and afterwards made our way to Heidi’s house in Legaspi, where we had lunch. Free lunch – yey!


Breakfast at Biggs


Lunch at Heidi’s House

We stayed at Vista al Mayon. It was a decent place. The rooms were clean and the bathroom was okay. We slept until around 3PM, then off we went to Cagsawa Ruins. The boys stayed at Vista al Mayon to sleep – understandable for Jovan who drove the whole way! Sharon drove the CRV for the afternoon. (She’s a good driver, in my opinion.) The Cagsawa Ruins was really beautiful, and the view of Mt. Mayon was perfect. Too bad that it was cloudy that day.


Group picture at Cagsawa Ruins


What’s left…


View of Mayon Volcano

Heidi introduced us to Pan de Legaspi and it was so, so yummy! It would have been so much better though with butter! We went to Central Market, checked out some bags, but were not able to buy any. Then it was time for DJC Halo-Halo – the special thing about this Halo-Halo was that it had cheese on top. It was really good! Then we did some toiletries shopping at Gaisano. We picked up the boys then went to Heidi’s house again for dinner. Free dinner – yey again!


Yummy, yummy Halo-Halo!

Friday was Butanding day, so we started early. We were at Heidi’s house by 6AM. Free breakfast – yey for the third time! We arrived at Donsol at 8AM. Good thing that we had reservations, there were so many people and the line was long! Randy was the name of our interaction officer and he was great! We waited for a long time for the Butanding to show up – at one point Randy even asked us jokingly “sino dito may balat?” But, when they showed up, they came in droves! It was too bad that I couldn’t join them swimming – I REALLY want to go back to be able to swim with the Butanding.


Ready for the Butanding!

On a side note, this was a special experience for me because I wasn’t scared of the boat all! I’m scared of boats, you see. Especially small ones. I guess this is part of my practicing the law of attraction. It may seem small to some people, but it’s awesome for me!

We had late lunch at Balkon, at Sorsogon City. The food was GREAT! Lutong bahay right there. The owners were the ones who took our orders so the service was great too. To anyone who will be visiting Sorsogon City, I highly recommend this restaurant/bar. Great Bicolano food at relatively affordable prices. We headed to Jollibee for dessert, then off we went to Veramaris at Gubat, Sorsogon.


The girls at Balkon…


Posing with Jollibee!

It wasn’t a nice place. Which made us worry because were were supposed to stay there for 2 nights. Immediately, we walked along the beach to look for another place to stay. The alternative, Rizal Beach Resort, wasn’t better. The locals even said that we were better off at Veramaris. We accepted the fact that we were spending the night there, but we made sure we had a place to transfer to the day after. Thank God for Romy! We saw him at Rizal Beach Resort, but he was there with friends only for the beach. They stayed at his friend’s place in Sorsogon, so he looked for a place for us and found the Ingko Hotel.

While walking along Rizal beach…

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He who sings frightens away his ills. – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Yesterday was a great day. I spent it with the girls (Mads, Sharon and Cathy). We were together from 7AM to 10PM! We had brunch at Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay, then we went to the wake of Brig’s mom in Cabuyao. It was really fun in the car, we were laughing the whole time. The quote of the day goes to Mads (of course, who else), who said “Tandaan niyo, mayabang ako, kaya ako bida sa kwento ko!” The food in Sonya’s was really good, especially the adobo. Plus, there were lots of flowers so I took so many pictures!

Check out all the photos here: Sonya’s Garden, Tagaytay (Flickr)

In the afternoon, we were inspired to push through with our KTV plans after Sharon played her “Karaoke” playlist. So we were in IO by 4:30PM. We decided to go for the P450 package, with P350 consummable since we were really hungry by that time. And we sang, and sang, and sang. It felt good. It’s a form of release. It’s something I love so that adds to it.

So yesterday was about being with real friends, having fun with them, enjoying great food, taking beautiful photos, and singing. Yeah, it was a great day.

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A Year of Travel

As I’ve mentioned in my latest entries, 2006 was a year of travel for me. Here’s a summary of all our travels:

February 22-25: Davao
March: Bae Day Trip
April 29-30: Calatagan
May 13-14: Batangas, Caliraya
May 22-25: Canyon Woods, Punta Fuego, Tagaytay (Teambuilding)
May 26-29: Bohol
June 10-12: Banahaw (Birthday!)
June 23-24: Tagaytay Sleepover, EK
June 30 – July 2: Baguio
July 15: Binan Day Trip
July 29: Subic Day Trip
August 18-21: Davao (Kadayawan!)
September 9-10: Clark (Duathlon)
September 16-17: Pagsanjan
October 7: Batangas Day Trip
October 27-29: Bolinao, Pangasinan
November 24-26: Baguio
December 1-3: La Union
December 16-18: Baguio
December 26-29: Pagudpud

I love it! More to come in 2007! We already have 3 planned – Cebu (for Sinulog) in January, Kuala Lumpur in February, and Iloilo in March. Hopefully we can also travel during Holy Week.

Send suggestions my way please! :)