MT. ULAP traverse/reverse Sta. Fe

One of the easiest hike in the Cordilleras is Mt. Ulap. It can be a day trip traverse from Barangay Ampucao, Itogon to Sta. Fe, Itogon . However I suggest that you experience both daytrip and overnight.

DAYTRIP TRAVERSE

Since I am a Baguio resident, I am one of the first to hike the eco-trail. Back then, the trail was unestablished and the burial caves were open for viewing. To preserve its mummies and other artefacts, they are now off limits to hikers.

It launched on October 31, 2015

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The teletubby land facade is picture perfect!

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One of the preserved burial caves

From Baguio City, take a jeep heading to Samoyao. There are Samoyao or Philex jeepneys parked across Baguio Patriotic School/SSS building/Caltex gas station downtown. Fare is 50 Php/head. Some jeep can take you directly to the barangay hall or covered court which is the registration area. Travel time is more or less 40 minutes from Baguio City.

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Entrance fee is 100 Php per head while guide fee is 800 Php for a group of 8-10 persons.

OVERNIGHT TRIP

A camping fee of 500 Php must be settled at the jump-off point.

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The rented out beach tents…

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…versus my Apexus tadpole ūüôā

Rent of tent is 200 Php good for 4 persons but I strongly suggest that you bring your own tent because these rented tents are publicly used. Having your own tent is a great long-term-invested for hygiene and comfort purposes.  Also, they are beach tent without wind breakers and flysheet protection for rain or extreme cold. Bear in mind that the temperature in any mountain drops depending on the season. It can be unpredictably cold from the evening to dawn and extremely hot in the afternoon or the other way around. The stores at the campsite have the same tents rented out for 100 Php but not guaranteed especially during peak days.

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If you are not picky with food, boiled eggs, chips and cup noodles are available at the mountain stores. You can also heat up some food or brew coffee with a cooking fee. In my case, I always bring marinated meat, hotdogs, pre-cooked meals and lots of coffee to enjoy the camp and fellowship.

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TIP: Ziplocks are so useful for campers. You may create a trail mix of nuts, chips, chocolates and so on. I also use it for marinated meat and freeze it so it still stays fresh by the time I reach the summit. Bring your camp essentials like cookset, toiletries and warmers. Bonefire is permitted at Mt. Ulap designated campsites. It is still best to visit the place on off peak like weekdays. It can get noisy and crowded on weekends and holidays. If you are easily cold like me, grab an insulator at the nearest ACE hardware. You won’t be hassled carrying it since it is lightweight and serves a number of functions in survival. The grassland and campsite are moist; that should keep you dry.

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BEWARE: Cows are agressive during night time. You might be terrified seeing a cow’s head on your tent vestibule or hear them eating your food especially chips! Avoid leaving anything edible outdoors and seal your salty food properly. Trust me, I’ve experienced chasing a runaway cow over a ziplock of boiled eggs and meat. According to the locals, they are fed salt for fluid retention. Avoid any form of contact with them and keep your tents CLOSED. They loiter all night long.

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GUNGAL ROCK is similar to The Lion King’s bed rock where Simba was raised and hailed. ¬†It is considered the highlight of the hike as hiker queue for hours just to have a photo. If you are blessed with a great weather, you can get a heavenly shot just like this.

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Hiking the ridge, you will see Philex Mines, its dam, Sto. Thomas, Mt.Ugo and so on. Mt. Ulap can be trekked for 4-6 hours depending on your pacing.  It is undoubtedly the mini Mt. Ugo and a resemblance of Mt. Pulag due to the abundance of engulfing clouds. There are 7 peaks in the stretch of 8 kilometers. Find the best spots for summit-like-photos.

Here are other fascinating shots for photo junkies.

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GUIDE: I have climbed this mountain several times mostly as my sweet escape. Try requesting for Mr. Lito Danao. He is an old funny man who is patient and kind. Contact him ahead of time so he can meet u at the registration site. Here is his number: +639397706070.

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Kuya Lito, a veteran guide.

For an afterhike shower, there are available comfort rooms for 10 Php per head. There is a nearby store owned by Ms. Rona Camti. You may reach her at +639283964581 and rent her pick up truck to head back to Samoyao. Don’t risk your luck finding a jeep because most of them are full from Philex mines. You can also dine in their canteen or ask them to prepare “PINIKPIKAN” a cordilleran dish at a special cost of course.¬†After returning the rented tents, wait for jeepneys going to Baguio for 50 Php/head.

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You never climb the same mountain twice. There is always something new or probably something you missed out. Climb with caution and be a responsible hiker.

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Don’t rush into any summit. Play along the way and feel the beauty of God’s creations. I have been to so many mountains and what I learned is to enjoy every fascinating spot. Take photos and reminisce when you are back to the stressful work and look forward to your next adventure.

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The trail features grasslands, pines trees and magnificent views of the Cordillera mountains and nearby villages. The trail is perfect for beginners and quick city escape.

If you like my tent, contact Mr. Terry Villas for customized tents and other camping needs. Here are his numbers: +639194607150/+639165931910

Check out my Baguio itinerary: _______

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“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

NSOCCSKSARGENM: NORTH COTABATO’s Asik-Asik Falls

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ASIK ASIK FALLS of Alamada, North Cotabatoūüíö¬†The most secluded & best waterfalls lies at the lower slope of Mt. Ragang (Blue Mountain-active volcano). Asik-asik Falls is located at Sitio Dulao, Upper Dado, Alamada, Cotabato. ALAMADA¬†was named after the brave hero¬†Datu Amaybulok Alameda. He fought against the foreign invaders and summoned hundreds of his men from the south.

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I have to show you this funny looking local transportation in Cotabato. So far, it is the second fascinating sidecar I have seen. First is Pagadian’s unique tricycle.

HOW TO GET THERE?
ūüõ¨Fly to Cotabato Airport,¬†ūüöćVan to¬†Midsayap¬†ūüöúmotorbike to¬†Upper Dado and walk the flight of stairs heading to the secret waterfalls

You may include the neighboring provinces in your itinerary, read along: NSOCCSKSARGENM: Sultan Kudarat NSOCCSKSARGENM: Lake Sebu and the T’boli Tribe

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TIPS AND REMINDERS:

  1. I wouldn’t recommend Asik-Asik falls to solo travellers as it is a secluded tourist spot. It would be best to form a group of 6 or more and feel safer. Get a reliable and legit contact. Always register at designated tourism offices or barangay hall for security.
  2. It is quite a hike. From Midsayap, the road is unfinished, steep and muddy especially if it rains. Although there are public jeepneys heading to Upper Dado, I suggest you hire a private vehicle. In our case we took an equipped 4×4 to mount the North. A motorbike would be the fastest mode of transportation yet safety is not guaranteed due to the unfenced, clay road. You will also notice that tires are chained to give them a better grip on the slippery road.
  3. Waterproof your gadgets and money, bring clothes post bathing and a pair of slippers.
  4. Wear your sturdy hike boots preferably high cut, gore-tex with great sole grip.
    Even the chained tires of 4×4 couldn‚Äôt reach it nor a habal-habal (motorcycle/skylab as they refer) so we had to climb BAREFEET in the muddy trail for hoursūüźĽ¬†and face the unpredictable rain.
  5. Bring trail food. I love making my own mix of corn bits, green peas, raisins, M&M’s, nuts and sometimes jelly beans. It serves as fuel and emergency food along the trek. ¬†Put it in ziplock and partition according to the days of your trip in Mindanao. Don’t forget your drinking water. There aren’t potable water source, just a small store at the registration area and a few wild berries while trekking.

Since my visit in 2016, it has then become the most popular tourist attraction in North Cotabato and neighboring provinces. The grand curtain of waterfalls is said to be the product of earthquake while some believe that nature took its course through time and produced the majestic 130-meter of fine waterfalls. Enjoy the cold water and don’t forget to leave no trace of non-biodegradables. Prepare to get dirty, stumble and fall!

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” I’ve seen the majestic beauty of nature and the overwhelming perfection of it. To me, there is nothing closer to God than that.”

-Cote de Pablo

NSOCCSKSARGENM: Sultan Kudarat

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This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with my venturous friends. It woudn’t have been possible without the people who helped us as these places are known to be risky for tourists.

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HOW TO GET THERE SAFELY? Fly from Manila to General Santos City then head to the bus terminal leading to Koronadal City. Ask for a connecting bus to Sultan Kudarat’s capital which is Isulan. Otherwise, you may begin your itinerary with South Cotabato’s Lake Sebu in the morning (see my related post), then take a van to Surallah in the afternoon and explore the area, lastly ride a trike or van to Isulan and look for a local hostel within the city. You may Also stay overnight at Lake Sebu:¬†NSOCCSKSARGENM: Lake Sebu and the T‚Äôboli Tribe

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You will notice that Mindanao has a strong cultural significance as depicted in every park or rotonda.

Take note that there aren’t much modern restaurants in Sultan Kudarat but you can find a number of grilled meat along the streets of the city center. Very unusual in Luzon, they stick them on banana shoot/trunk like this in most parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

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NSOCCSKSARGENM stands for our DIY trip: North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, General Santos and Maguindanao. See my other posts on every province in these links: NSOCCSKSARGENM: NORTH COTABATO’s Asik-Asik Falls

The province was named after the courageous Muslim hero who conquered many parts of the Philippines from the Spaniards. He is considered as the greatest Sultan of Maguindanao and most powerful person in Mindanao during his time. Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat lived between 1581-1671. He died at 90 out of old age. He was declared as a national hero under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

The 7th sultan of Maguindanao, Sultan Muhammad Kudarat’s legacy is honored in every part of the province. Visit the provincial capitol and check out its grand and gold interior. ūüĎĎ‚ú®

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“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

-Mark Twain

 

SINGAPORE: cool places to stay

HERE ARE MY TOP BACKPACKER’S INN FOR SINGAPORE: (Number 1 being the best!)

Without endorsing any of them, here are my honest opinions that could hopefully help you have a comfortable stay around Singapore. Before booking at these hostels, I did my research on the ratings and travellers’ comments.

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  1. Budget, amenities and location-wise, IūüíóCapsule Pod Boutique Hostel. It is strategically located at Chinatown MRT (5-minute-walk), Hawker and Shopping centers. I met a number of new friends at their open veranda with cool umbrellas and wooden seats for wifi users. Plus, there is a desktop for googling needs. The entire place is neat and well-maintained. The ¬†majority of comfort rooms are located on the upper floor. Indoor slippers are provided to guests and keycards. The linens are always fresh and the hostel is well-manned. There is a common kitchen equipped with a refrigerator and microwave for reheating take out food. This is really practical ¬†for breakfast since most servings in Singapore are good for 2-3 persons. What I love most is the unlimited cold water and hot drinks.¬†Every coffee lover’s joy is a free refill. I will definitely prioritize it on my next stay because of the attention to details of neatness and 24 hours front office. I had a perfect 2 nights! Address:¬†38 Upper Cross St, Singapore 05834129496237_1755704577784208_8489353702754796133_n
  2. Look at my state-of-the-art home for 2 Nights ūüß°¬†Chic Capsule Otel right at the heart of Chinatown, Hawker centers and MRT. A personal computer on my podūüėć, RFID wristbands/ electronic-bracelet-key card, free light breakfast (they have cereals too), unlimited drinks plus the Malaysian staff is extra Filipina-friendly! It is just a few walks away from ¬†Capsule Pod Boutique Hostel. ¬† For socials, shopping and food trip at hawker centers in Chinatown, this is ¬†the perfect place. ¬† Con: The comfort room is limited yet wide. Address:¬†13 Mosque St, Singapore 059493 ¬†29468685_1755716731116326_7046286964738385404_n
  3. My home for 2 days is probably one of the coolest if not the coolest in Singapore. They have the “Transformers” elevator as I call it. The door folds and it feels like riding Optimus Prime.¬†ūüĖ§¬†COO Boutique Capsule Hostel has free walking tours too. I only had one struggle though: going home late. MRT is quite a walk yet near ¬†the Outram Park and Pearl Hill’s City Park. It is ideal for morning and afternoon joggers and group booking. They have the coolest industrial hang out place. ¬†Address:¬†259 Outram Rd, Singapore 16905629468271_1755759581112041_7648665285537022407_n
  4. My home Five Stones Hostel for another 2 days’ PROS: It is just along the popular eats, Haji LaneūüēƬ†and¬†every street wall is insta-worthy!ūüﳬ†They provide unlimited free breakfast at the self service counter and cool hang out lounge for netflix or reading books. ¬†I like how they separated the entrance of the accommodation (with elevator) from the receiving area. However, they’re still using the typical metal keys for rooms and lockers that produce annoying sounds considering a shared room of 6.¬†I hope they replace the squeaky metal beds, metal lockers, multiple keys and where are the cute pyramid pillows presented on the website?ūü§ĒIt is quite a walk from Bugis MRT station too. But just 5 minutes away from the best night socials.ūüíú¬†Address:¬†285 Beach Rd, Singapore 199550

See my post about the nearby attractions: SINGAPORE: Fun at Little India and Kampong Glam

Food guide for Singapore is available here: SINGAPORE: Food trip guide

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“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Neale Donald Walsch

SINGAPORE: Fun at Little India and Kampong Glam

Little India is as colorful and interesting as you can imagine. It is the center of the Indian community in Singapore. From the people to the colors and smell, you can tell that it is their territory. Take their very efficient and easy to understand MRT and alight at Little India or Farrer Park. Walking won’t bore you at all due to the several interesting finds.

Kampong Glam is just as vivid as Little India. There are striking colors in every wall art or building. It is the home of Malay and Arab merchants.

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FUN THINGS TO DO AT LITTLE INDIA AND KAMPONG GLAM:

A. SHOPPING! For thrifty shoppers like me, head on to Mustafa Centre. You can find perfume, food and toiletries sold at a really reasonable price. Yes this is the time to hoard. It is the best area to buy condiments and all sort of nuts. You may visit other malls like: The City Mall ( which is their first eco-mall and a family friendly place to eat), Sim Lim Square (gadget and electronics area) Tekka Center (largest wet market with hawker center) and Little India Arcade (if you love Indian souvenirs like elephants, scents, tapestries, dresses and colorful bangles then this must be your priority.) DCIM101GOPROGOPR6476.JPG

 

As for me, I couldn’t go home without the personalized flip flops made by Mr. Fickle Shop. It cost me 157$ for 3 pairs and lots of hand-picked trinkets of my chosen design for my mother and younger sister. Yes it may have caused me compared to the popular Philippine slippers but these are must haves in a tropical country. Not to mention, they’re uniquely customized.

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Can you blame me? These are lovely and comfy! Beside me is the owner of Fickle. Follow them on Instagram or visit them at Haji Lane.

 

B. PHOTO OPS! There are so many uniquely painted photo walls in Little India. Each section depicts the melting pot culture of Singapore, their lifestyle and impressive creativity. There are too many murals to mention but here are some of my favorite wall art. DCIM101GOPROGOPR6852.JPGDCIM101GOPROGOPR6849.JPG

C. FOODTRIP! Aside from the hawker centers left and right in Singapore, I suggest that you try out the gourmet restaurants in every street. In my opinion, hawkers in Chinatown, Singapore are the best. So for a change, why not try out the mutton and curry viands in Little India.

On a related post, watch my VLOG on the random foodtrips in Singapore. SINGAPORE: Food trip guideDCIM101GOPROGOPR6508.JPGDCIM101GOPROG1116589.JPG

 

D. KAMPONG GLAM! Some pilgrims go to the Sultan Mosque or Masjid Sultan at Muscat Street but my favorite along this landmark are the streets that surround it. 28577942_1735438959810770_313197775032332052_n_1735438959810770

Arab Street, Haji Lane, Baghdad Street and¬†Bussorah Street prior to the ¬†Sultan’s Gate are fascinating places for shopping, hang out and pictorial. There are themed restaurants, quaint cafe, backpacker’s inn, trendy boutiques and souvenir shops everywhere.

 

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I had to go back the next day after passing by Haji Lane and took home one of these.

Mochila Bag: What makes it so special that I couldn’t sleep the moment I set eyes on it? These are 100% authentic handmade bags from Columbia. It takes special skills to crochet one bag for 14 to 21 days depending on the pattern of weave. The braided strap is also made by hand using an intricate technique. These Boho style bags were seen worn by Victoria’s secret models, Kardashians, Katy Perry and so on. Their drawstrings are sturdy and straps are way comfortable for beach trips and long travels. Can you guess which one I got? For 125$, it will definitely be used for a long time or handed down to my future daughter. haha ūüôā

 

TIPS:

  1. It would be best to look for an accommodation at Kampong Glam since it is strategically between Little India and Bugis. You will save effort and maximize time discovering secret eats and shops by foot or via MRT just a few stations away. I will show you another itinerary on the other side of Singapore for Clarke Quay, Chinatown and Sentosa on a related link. SINGAPORE: cool places to stay
  2. Always bring tissue as they don’t serve it with meals. Since the weather is humid and you will be thirsty most of the time walking, I suggest you bring a tumbler or packed water for hydration. This will save you extra dollars better spent on precious finds!¬†28471832_1731352653552734_6304271128387351627_n_1731352653552734DCIM101GOPROG1136606.JPG
  3. Wear light and comfortable yet decent clothes. Avoid denim since you will be shopping all over the place. A handkerchief for wiping sweats or extra clothes to change are perfect ideas. Oh, and a backpack for all your hoards.
  4. Avail of the 3-day-tourist pass. EZ link MRT pass is 30$ (Singapore dollars) inclusive of the 10$ deposit for the card. If you are planning to stay more than 3 days, you can reload at MRT stations for 20$. The 3-day-pass is unlimited so I assure you that if you are a walker like me, you will love Singapore. Otherwise, download the applications and use an SG bicycle. Everything in singapore is logical, efficient, neat and easy to understand. The color-schemed lines and exit points at MRT stations are tourist friendly. Download the railway system map.

 

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5. Although it is an English speaking country and officers are everywhere to assist you, it is best to buy a sim card for wifi purposes. You can never go wrong with google and waze. Sim cards and activity tickets can be bought via Klook.

6. Bring your universal charger. If you don’t have one yet, now is the time to buy because it will be a good investment for international travels. You can find it at 7/11 outlets or online shops.

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7. Prepare your printed vouchers/tickets, accommodation bookings and printed itinerary for faster Immigration screening. Be a responsible traveller and always bring the necessary documents to avoid hassle.

8. Pack light going to Singapore and head home with extra baggage. Don’t forget to look ¬†for the most affordable chocolate groceries at Mustafa Centre and Chinatown.

9. Book your accommodations at Traveloka and look for artsy backpacker’s inn with socials to meet new friends and discover more. On a related post, read the places I have stayed in.

10.¬†Don’t forget your escalator etiquette. It is an unspoken rule to stand on the left and walk on the right side. ¬†Singaporeans are disciplined and fast walkers. Do not litter, chew gum or spit anywhere. Observe common rules. Know that there are cameras everywhere and police officers as well. No wonder I love this country and feel the safest!

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“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE:Dapitan & Dipolog City

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DAPITAN CITY:¬†It became popular as it was regarded as the “Shrine City in the Philippines.”¬†Dapitan is a peaceful city that seems very simple and organized. Heritage houses are still inhabited by most residents.¬†There are a number of accommodations along Sunset Boulevard at a reasonable price. Every scenic spot is just a tricycle away and people are very welcoming.

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ST. JAMES CHURCH: What makes this landmark special? Firstly, it is a historical spot where our National hero Jose Rizal was spotted regularly attending mass while he was exiled in Dapitan. It is just across Dapitan City Plaza and a few minutes walk to another tourist spot, the Ilihan Hill (A concrete hike to the achieve a 360-degree-view of the city). Secondly, the 1827 German-European pipe organ was preserved at the choir platform of the church. Thirdly, unlike most baroque style churches in the Philippines, the ceiling is truly captivating. The apex of the central dome is hypnotic.

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RIZAL NATIONAL PARK: Interesting finds include, Jose Rizal’s house while he was in exile for four years between 1892-1896. The entire place was preserved and declared as¬†the¬†Jos√© Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape. His works where kept in a museum just within the vicinity. You can freely read his letters which are now laminated and projected on the wall. From Sunset Boulevard, tricycle will take around 10 minutes to reach this elevation, located at Talisay facing Dapitan Bay.

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DAKAK BEACH RESORT: You will love the beach front and white sand beach. For day trip, entrance is 1000 Php/head. For overnight, it ranges more or less 5,000-20,000 Php depending on your villa. This place is perfect for couples and large families who want to engage in activities such as diving, kayaking, zipline and so on.

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FANTASY LAND/GLORIA DE DAPITAN: If you miss the city, head on to the nearest theme park. It consists of more than 30 rides and food stalls. They have a rollercoaster for the extremes and a classic carousel but the highlight is their 5D shows similar to Hong Kong’s Disneyland. This is the perfect place to do grocery shopping too.

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RIZAL’S LANDING SITE:¬†Also known as “Punto de Dissembarco De Rizal en Dapitan”. Perhaps this is the most famous landmark in Dapitan as it is found along Sunset Boulevard. The former landing site became a hang out spot for the locals and tourists. You will see a lot of people gathered to watch the sunset by¬†Sta. Cruz Beach while others are feasting on grilled meat and seafood.

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OTHER PLACES TO VISIT:

  • Heritage Houses
  • Aliguay Island
  • Restaurants along Sunset Boulevard

DIPOLOG CITY: It is the home of the most delicious spanish sardines! Everytime I set foot on this city, I take home quite a few bottles. The “Bottled Sardines Capital of the Philippines” has flavors in oil, tomato and chilli. Aside from that, the price is half lower compared to the groceries we find in Luzon. Dipolog is the “Gateway to Western Mindanao” making it the capital of Zamboanga del Norte.

IMG_0339.JPGST.VINCENT: It is said to be designed by Jose Rizal during his stay in Dapitan. His former professor urged him to conceptualize the church’s total look. The ceiling has remarkable details carved from wood. Just across is the main park of the city where you can see giant cartoon and movie characters.

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OTHER PLACES TO VISIT:

  • Hike at Linabo peak Sitio Dinginan, Brgy. Lugdungan to for a 360-degree-view of Dapitan, Dipolog and parts of Zamboanga del Norte.
  • Visit Plaza Magsaysay at¬†Herrera Street
  • Trek and swim at Sungkilaw Falls at¬†Barangay Diwan
  • Cliff dive at¬†Sicayab Cliffs in Sicayab-Bucana
  • Spelunking in Libuton Cave at¬†Manukan, Dipolog

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  • GOODTIMES CAFE: It is an artists’ guild mosaic themed cafe located at C. P. Garcia St. Cor. Lopez Jaena St. Biasong, Dipolog City. Visit early for better lighting and bring insect reppelants.

See Related travel post: ZAMBOANGA CITY

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“If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots not feet.”

NEGROS ISLAND: Bacolod,Talisay and Cadiz City

HOW TO GET TO BACOLOD CITY FROM SILAY? See related post: NEGROS OCCIDENTAL: Silay City Heritage Houses

A. BACOLOD CITY: MassKara Festival is held every fourth week of October to commemorate the rich culture of Negros. It started in 1980 during a period of crisis yet the Negrenses decided to carry on an optimistic outlook in life and put on smiles. Since then it was called the “City of Smiles”. Like in any festival in the Philippines, the program include dancers in costume and colorful face masks. They could be hand-painted, beaded, adorned with various ornaments and even feathered.

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WHERE TO EAT?

  • MANOKAN COUNTRY IN BACOLOD is my favorite “chicken inasal” place. Inasal is roasted chicken marinated in calamansi and secret ingredients. I have tried various versions already but whenever I set foot in Bacolod, this place is where I head first. Aside from being affordable, the meat is flavorful, tender and juicy; grilled perfectly. Don’t forget to drizzle annatto oil on your rice and create a dip of chilli, kalamansi/lemon and soy sauce. Annatto oil/Achioto oil/Atsuete is a common ingredient in Latin America. It is red-orange in color, gives a good grease ¬†and enticing appearance to grilled dishes. It is also known as the “poorman’s saffron”.¬†Apart from ordinary oil, annatto is an antioxidant and bowel cleanser so you can enjoy it freely! To be specific Nena’s Beth is the best place in Manokan Country.
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From left to right: Pecho, paa, corazon, isaw(small intestine), longganiza, isol(chicken ass),pusit

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chicken wings are the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. TALISAY CITY: Perhaps the most popular tourist destination here is The CAMPUESTOHAN HIGHLAND RESORT. Located on a higher part of Negros, its climate is comparable to tagaytay or little Baguio in Summer. Mt. Makawili is visible on this 5-hectar-resort. Enrance Fee is 150Php/head for a day with free use of swimming pool and playground. The Indian Village is the perfect place for family overnight. Canopy tents and log cabins can be rented for a day trip or overnight. Price ranges between 2,500 to 5,000Php for a small group. For specific rates and updated activities check out their website.

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The Indian Village accommodations

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3rd photo: The Bonita Hut is my favorite! It is like a Hobbit’s house. Packages include airconditioned rooms and free breakfast. Such a great deal with this ambiance!

HOW TO GET THERE:

  • Via car, From Lopues East/McDonald’s east head to the road that leads to the mountains. When you reach barangay Granada follow the signage and take a turn. It won’t be difficult to find as there are stores and vehicles parked outside.
  • Via Tricycle: All you have to do is haggle for a reasonable price and even rent it out roundtrip.
  • There is a shuttle on weekends that travels to the resort at 100Php/head. From Lopeus East/Jollibee East.

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C. CADIZ CITY:¬† LAKAWON ISLAND¬†is the biggest floating bar in Asia located off the coast of Cadiz. Though it is a party bar, I think it is perfect for an afternoon nap or siesta. Afterall,“TAWHAI” means relax.

TAWHAI FLOATING BAR (285Php/head) is best enjoyed in the afternoon where you can take a nap and witness sunset. Check out their website for roomrates.

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HOW TO GET TO THE ISLAND: Take a taxi to the Bus terminal. Ride a bus heading to Cadiz City and get off at Barangay Burgos terminal. If you are planning a day trip, travel early because boats are between 7:00AM to 5:00PM only. Take a tricycle (120/6persons capacity) going to the Lakawon Port/ Cadiz Viejo Port. Register at the windows and get your boat ticket for 310 Php/head.

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D. TALISAY CITY: Your stay will never be complete without visiting the “Taj Mahal of the Philippines”. It was built in the 1900s by Negros’¬†sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson in memory of his Portuguese wife Maria Braga Lacson who died by giving birth to their 11th child. It is dark in color because it was intentionally burnt by the guerillas in World War II. That is because they were trying to prevent the Japanese from using it as a headquarters. The ruins of this Italian architecture has been preserved up to this day. General admission fee is 100Php, 50 for students and 20 children. From the City center, taxi meter will read around 150 Php but you may haggle and rent it roundtrip for less hassle as there aren’t much tricycles heading back to the city.

Going in the morning or afternoon will be the best time for photo ops. However, the sunset or night visit creates a more romantic vibe. The downside would be the photobombers. They’re open everyday between 8:00AM-8:00PM.

TIPS: Look for the glass table and set your camera there for a mirror effect shot. Dont miss the sugarcane juice being sold at the side of The Ruins!

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OTHER PLACES TO VISIT:

  • Before heading home, I encourage you to drop by THE NEGROS MUSEUM¬†then buy pasalubong/souvenirs. The museum displays the historical Negrense lifestyle and art. The Negros Museum is open from 10:00am-8:00pm, Tuesdays to Sundays at¬†the Former Agricultural Building (historic neoclassical capitol building built in 1925) along Gatuslao Street, Bacolod City. ¬†General admision fee in Pesos is 50, 40 for Senior and 20 for students/children. The Provincial Capitol Building of Negros Occidental and the Hall of Justice are the perfect landmarks at the city. Take a 5-10 minute-walk to reach it.

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  • There is a baroque style 19th century church at the city center. From here, you may check out nearby pasalubong stores by foot.

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HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP:¬†Do not forget to try the city’s authentic “Kansi”. For dinner, I had native chicken inasal, calamares, gambas and the sumptuous kansi! KANSI is an Ilonggo dish that is popular in Negros. It is a sour bone marrow soup with extra tender beef that is like a fusion of Filipino viands: Bulalo ¬†and Sinigang.

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“All you need is the plan, the roadmap, and the courage to press on to your destination.”

-Earl Nightingale

 

 

 

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL: Silay City Heritage Houses

REASONS TO VISIT SILAY CITY?

  • It is referred to as the “Paris of Negros” and¬†“seat of arts, culture and ecotourism”¬†due to the numerous preserved heritage houses, artists, cultural shows and its rich history.¬†No wonder it was acknowledged by¬†the Department of Tourism (DOT) as¬†one of the top travel destinations in the Philippines.
  • 31 Ancestral Houses¬†are declared by the National Historical Institute as cultural landmarks.
  • The world’s oldest Steam Locomotives(train) is at Hawaiian Philippines Co. a.k.a. ‚ÄúIron Dinosaurs‚ÄĚ are found and can be rented here (15,000/day).
  • Home of Kansilay Festival (A legend:¬†the heroism of Princess Kansilay and her love story with Lawaan) and Adobo Festival (November 5: people showcase various versions of Adobo).

HOW TO GET THERE?

Silay City is more than 25 minutes away from Bacolod City and vice versa, hence the traffic. Exploring Silay is best done via pedicab or trike. Ancestral houses can be reached by foot if you are a walker like me.

If you are heading to Bacolod City: I personally prefer to take a taxi though it may cost more (200-250Php) due to the distance. However, you may take a shuttle van service (150Php) from Silay International Airport with drop off points at nearby hotels within the city, Robinson’s, SM or Bus terminals. From Bacolod City, Robinson’s is a major pick up point going to Silay.

MUST VISIT ANCESTRAL HOUSES:

Silay is like a Museum City with a laid back ambiance and Spanish feel. It is like Marinduque and Ilocos wherein you can see well-preserved ancestral houses mostly turned into a museum or cafe.

A. BALAY NEGRENSE or Victor Fernandez Gaston Ancestral House:¬†It is the first museum in Negros Occidental. The house was owned by¬†Victor Gaston, son of Frenchman Yves Leopold Germain Gaston. Before sugarcane became a staple crop, he discovered Negros’ fertile land and was the first to bring an iron mill for sugarcane production and produce quality sugar. He was regarded as the “Father of the Sugar Industry.”

This literal “house of stone” (bahay na bato) housed his 12 children and was later on donated to the¬†Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) repaired and opened for public viewing. This¬†Neo-Renaissance architecture was built in 1897. ¬†Entrance fee is 60/adults, 40/students or seniors and 20 /children. Open between 9:00-5:30 PM and closed on Mondays at¬†Barangay III, Cinco De Noviembre Street.

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B. BERNARDINO JALANDONI HOUSE/MUSEUM: This is called the “Pink House” probably because of the notable color.¬†Don Bernardino Jalandoni and Do√Īa Ysabel Lopez Ledesma were the original owners but now in the care of¬†Silay Heritage Foundation, Inc. It is walking distance from the¬†Church of San Diego de Alcala. Nowadays, this 1908 house is a common venue for cultural and artistic events.¬†It is located at Brgy II, Rizal Street open between Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

C. SOLEDAD AND MARIA MONTELIBANO LACSON ANCESTRAL HOUSE: This landmark is owned by the family of Montelibano Lacson sisters: Soledad and Maria. According to history, it was where General Lacson and revolutionary leaders constantly secretly meet and where they first raised the Philippine flag. It is just at the corner of Rizal Street stop light.

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D. MARIA LEDESMA GOLEZ HERITAGE HOUSE: The house was restored in 1992 and is being used by Silay Branch of Republic Commercial Banking Corporation in 1992. Today it serves as a bank and shops building.

There is a popular backpacker’s inn across the road and an old cafe on the ground floor. It would be a perfect homestay if you are planning a day at Silay then head to Bacolod.

E. HOFILE√ĎA ANCESTRAL HOUSE: This beautiful home was built in 1934 by Hofile√Īa for his 12 children and former Miss Silay wife. These days, it serves as a museum exhibiting the work of popular Philippine artists, antiques and private collection of Ramon H. Hofile√Īa. The world’s smallest dolls are found in their collection too.

F. BALAI VERDE or¬†Angel Araneta Ledesma Ancestral House:¬†This 1933 “Green House” is an American clapboard-Colonial plantation architectural combination. It was later on sold to the local government. Currently it serves as the Office of Culture, Arts and Tourism of the City of Silay. It is located along Plaridel Street near The City Hall and San Diego Pro-Cathedral.

G.¬†EL IDEAL BAKERY or Cesar Lacson Locsin Heritage House: This is the oldest 2-storey-home or “bahay na bato” in Silay.¬†The ground floor is concrete while the upper floor is classic wood with metal grills and glass windows. Silay’s original bakery was established in 1920’s located at¬†118 Rizal Street. They serve home-made pastries and Filipino-Spanish viands. Their guapple pie is a must!

Foodtrip at Silay

Left Corner: Cubana, porkchop, empanada and cassava at El Ideal bakery and Restaurant. Right Corner: ison, atay, corazon, pakpak and sizzling gambas with egg at Silay Food Park

H. GENEROSO GAMBOA ANCESTRAL TWIN HOUSE: A very interesting twin house wherein the other is painted while the one next to it retained its original wood finish.

I. JOSE LEDESMA ANCESTRAL HOME: This 1917 house has a beautiful entrance of two. The flights of stairs connects in the middle of the veranda.

J. DR. JOSE CORTEZA LOCSIN ANCESTRAL HOUSE: He graduated at University of Sto Tomas with a degree in Medicine at 21 years old and¬†also became the President of the Philippine Medical Association in 1938. He was elected in various government positions and is¬†considered the ‚ÄúFather of the Filipino First‚ÄĚ policy. His Art-Deco architectural house has 3 prominent elongated arcs in each floor facing the entrance.

Other additions are: LEANDRO DELA RAMA LOCSIN ANCESTRAL HOME, HOUSE OF RENE AND JESSICA VELEZ DIMACALI and you may visit SAN DIEGO DE ALCALA PRO-CATHEDRAL, a Romanesque design by architect Lucio Bernasconi.

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“A mind that is streched by A NEW EXPERIENCE can never go back to its old dimensions.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

 

 

PANAY ISLAND: Roxas City, Capiz to Aklan

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THINGS TO KNOW:

  • Roxas City is known as “The Seafood Capital of The Philippines”. It exports to neighboring countries as well.
  • Roxas City was honored by (DOH)Department of Health with the Red Orchid Award for being 100% tobacco free. The local government has managed tobacco control by enforcing bans, investing on public Education and promotion of pulmonary health.
  • It is the birthplace of the 5th President of The Philippines: Manuel Acu√Īa Roxas.

A. La Playa de Roxas People’s Park: Located at Brgy. Baybay, Roxas City faces the Sibuyan Sea. It is one of the best place to watch sunset and sunrise while enjoying the best seafood. It is 3 kilometers away from the circle so I prefer to take a tricycle and stay at nearby accommodations for a couple of days.

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What I love the most is their open seafood foodcourt. Their Managat fish is the best. You may have it grilled or in soup in traditional “sinigang” way. Their scallops are fresh from Carles; no wonder they are huge. When I went to Islas de Gigantes, I ordered scallops (surprisingly 1 peso each) cooked in every way.

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B. Sta. Monica Church: It is popularly known as Panay Church. This stands in Capiz, which is just near Roxas City. This baroque style church is made from coral blocks and declared as a National Historic Landmark. Aside from that, the largest bell in the country is found here which weighs more than 10 tonnes!

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IMPORTANT LANDMARKS:

  • The Roxas City Hall
  • Capiz Provincial Capitol
  • Roxas City Bandstand
  • Manuel Roxas ancestral home (Rizal and Zamora Streets)
  • The monuments of Manuel Roxas and Jose Rizal across the Roxas City Museum
  • The Panubli-on Roxas City Museum
  • The Roxas City Fountain (dancing lights)
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral located at Rizal Street
  • Roxas City Bridge (century old)/Spanish City Bridge

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HOW TO GET THERE?

  • From Iloilo City, take the Capiz bus at Ceres Bus terminal. Travel time is 3-4 hours though it is just 2 hours via van, the leg room is uncomfortable.
  • From Caticlan wharf (Boracay), get on a bus/van bound to Kalibo. From Kalibo transfer to another bus heading Roxas City. Total travel time is appromixately 4 hours.
  • From Kalibo to Roxas City vans and buses available. Travel time is 1-2 hours.
  • From Roxas City to Carles/ Islas de Gigantes is just 1.5 hours. See my other posts about the itinerary.

IMG_9676Capiz is known for Placuna Shells (Kapiz) that sounds like Capiz. These shells are edible but have been historically used as decoration for making lampshades, ornaments, windowpane, doors and substitute for glass due to its durable, shiny and elegant characterictics. The reason why I keep on coming back to this city is their OYSTER LANE. If you have been to several parts of Panay Island then you will definitely agree that they have the largest and fattest oysters in the Philippines. What’s more? They sell one bucket between 20 to 35 pesos at the most!

C. Barangay Tambak has an entire street of oyster-selling-stalls fronting the sea. Just take a jeep from Kalibo Rotonda heading New Washington. However, the easiest way is to ride a tricyle and stay overnight in one of the accommodations adjacent the seawall.

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Jackstones on Low Tide

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Jackstones on High Tide

These giant jackstones are placed by the shore to break the strong waves before they reach the sea wall. This is my view for two days across a humble abode & seafood haven. Glad to witness its low & high tide, sunrise & sunset of calm & raging water.ūüíô

Check: PANAY ISLAND: Antique

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

-Mark Twain

PANAY ISLAND: Antique

HOW TO GET TO ANTIQUE?

*From Iloilo City: Ride a cab going to the Ceres Terminal (Notable yellow terminal). Take the bus going to San Jose, Antique. Remind the conductor to drop you off at Brgy Importante, Tibiao or “the¬†crossing‚ÄĚ.¬†Travel time is 2-3 hours on non airconditioned bus (130Php). Ride a habal-habal/motorcyle around 15 minutes (70 Php) to various kawa bath resorts.

*From Caticlan Airport walk to the bus terminal across Jetty Port. Ride a bus bound to San Jose, Antique. Travel time is 2 hours at 100Php then motorcycle (70Php).

*From Kalibo Airport, take a trike for 100Php to Ceres Bus Terminal. Make sure to ride a bus bound to San Jose, Antique. Travel time is a little more than 2 hours then take the motorcycle (70Php).

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I personally prefer the Kayak Inn for the Kawa Hot Bath because of the picturesque view. Aside from its popularity among travellers, it was also featured in some TV programs. Give them time to prepare every kawa because they need preheating. During peak season, kawa sharing is advised at 250 Php per head for 30 minutes. On weekdays given that there are minimal or no next customers, you can have an entire kawa for yourself at an extended period of time. Overnight accommodation ranges between 250-1,500 depending on the resort.

REMINDERS:

  1. Signal is limited in Tibiao.
  2. Bring insect repellants, a hammock or sleeping bag, drinking water and snacks.
  3. It is best to hire habal-habal if you are planning to engage in two or more activities.
  4. Avoid crowded days and always consider the weather if you are opting to do sidetrips on neighboring islands.

IMG_9682.JPGOther activities and places to visit:

  • Tibiao Eco Adventure Park (TEA): Entrance fee (50Php), Zipline fee (300Php)
  • Bugtong Bato Falls: Tour guide fee (100)
  • Tibiao Fish Spa: Entrance fee (20Php), Habal-habal ride (30Php)
  • River kayaking in Tibiao River (P3000)
  • Soak in hot kawa (other resorts have flavored baths like milk, coffee and flowers)
  • Seco Island; rent a boat: Kite surfing, snorkeling or Camping
  • Malalison Island: Van from Tibiao to Culasi Town (20Php); rent a boat : Trek the Rolling Hills, check out pitcher plants
  • Malumpati cold spring and Bugang River
  • Visit Boracay, Roxas or Iloilo City

 

KAWA is a huge fryer turned into a tub for bathing. It is traditionally used in “fiestas” or large gatherings in the Philippines to cook dishes. The practice of cooking in a kawa is still widely done especially in the provinces. KAWA HOT BATH has recently been popularized as a traditional jacuzzi wherein dried coconut leaves and some twigs are set on fire for a few minutes to warm up the tub. It is said to be therapeutic in so many ways. It relaxes tense muscles while the aromatic add ons like flowers or bath flavors relieve stress. It is said that it even cures some skin diseases and promotes sleep. I couldn’t help it, I brought my own loofah!

Check: PANAY ISLAND: Roxas City, Capiz to Aklan

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“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

-Dale Carnegie

CAMIGUIN: Mantigue island

CAMIGUIN: MANTIGUE ISLAND

*It is the island “Born of Fire” with 7 volcanoes and part of “The Pacific Ring of Fire”.

*It is the second smallest province in the Philippines by population and land area.

*It is the home of sweetest lanzones and Lanzones Festival every 3rd week of October.

*Mt. Hibok-hibok, an active volcano is a protected landscape that has been declared as ASEAN Heritage Park.

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Behind me are Camiguin’s two highest: Mt. Timpoong and Mt. Mambajao as seen from the other side of the island on a sunrise.

From Laguindingan Airport/ Cagayan de Oro, ride a van to Agora market (200 Php). Take a bus or van (150-200Php) to Balingoan Port for around two hours. The Ferry port is just walking distance from Balingoan Terminal. We preferred to sleep at the nearest vintage homestay right at the terminal to catch the next day’s first trip. Trips are between 4:00 AM to 6:00 PM so it is possible to enjoy a sweet escape of daytrip itinerary for the busy people.

A. Balingoan Port to Benoni Port (5:45 AM to 6:00 PM): Heading to Camiguin

B. Benoni Port to Balingoan Port (4:00 AM to 6:00 PM): Return to mainland

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Get on board for (150Php); the Balingoan Ferry to Benoni, Camiguin travel time is more or less 2 hours. Ride a multi-cab to where you are headed. Standard tour is 250Php depending on your itinerary. Their cute multi-cab has a seating capacity of 12 persons.

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MANTIGUE ISLAND: On the other side of the province is a marine declared sanctuary with white sand beach and full-grown-mangroves located 2-3 km off-coast Camiguin. Mantigue Island is just a 20-minute-boat ride from the mainland. Some people refer to it as Magsaysay island. The island is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is best to bring packed food to enjoy the island fully. However, caretakers offer freshly caught fish at a reasonable price.

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IMG_9598Hibok-hibok Volcano and Mt. Vulcan in the background as seen from the adjacent island.

Other places to visit are: Gui-ob Old Church Ruins, Sunken Cemetery, Clam Sanctuary, White Island, Mt. Hibok Hibok Ardent Hot Spring, Sto. Nino Cold Spring and Katibawasan Falls.

Must take home pasalubongs: VjANDEP Pastel ((pronounced with silent ‚Äúj‚ÄĚ) this box of¬†bread stuffed with creamy, sweet yema is perfect with coffee. Don’t forget to try the unique locally produced Lanzones Wine.

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“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea!”

-Isak Dinesen

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY

WHY VISIT ZAMBOANGA CITY?

*It is known as Asia’s Latin City.

*Zamboanga is the 3rd largest City by land area and 3rd oldest City in the Philippines.

*It is widely acknowledged as the Sardines Capital and Chavacano Capital as well.

*The biggest and most modern seaport of the Philippines is in Zamboanga.

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WHERE TO GO?

A. MERLOQUET FALLS: From Zamboanga City Integrated Bus Terminal, take the bus bound to Pagadian, Dipolog or Ipil. Travel time is roughly 2 hours or may take longer depending on the traffic. Get off at Vitali Bus Stop and ride a habal-habal. We hired it roundtrip to lessen the hassle. Prepare for a downhill trek on the stairs for 10-15 minutes before reaching the hidden beauty of Merloquet Falls. It is best to visit on weekdays to avoid the crowd. Don’t forget to bring snacks especially drinking water because stores ¬†are not availble yet.

Budget in Php: (Bus 150, habal-habal 100 roundtrip, 10 parking, 5 entrance fee)

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B.YAKAN WEAVING VILLAGE: I keep on coming back to Yakan Village for the intricate designs and colorful weave. Some of my favorites are their table runners (350-1500 depending on the seater), fashionable body bags secured with zippers, cellphone pouch, purse, coasters and hairbands. Visit in the afternoon when they’re actively weaving and witness how they create the impressive geometrical designs. I strongly encourage you to patronize local products; they‚Äôre not just sturdy and cultural but patiently hand-woven by the locals.

From Zamboanga City, go to Valderosa Street at the public market and ride a jeep headed to Upper Calarian. It will take more or less 30 minutes. The Village is on the right side of the road.

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C. STA. CRUZ GRANDE ISLAND: (Little Sta. Cruz Island is restricted to the public due to military use). The bigger Island is called the Pink island of Zamboanga due to the presence of¬†red organ-pipe corals (Tubipora Musica). Its pinkish coraline sand illuminates in broad daylight. There are usually some Vinta/s (traditional boats with colorful vertical sails) along the shore. This is the perfect place to find South Sea Pearl sellers of all kinds. It is a must-visit-island because The National Geographic recently recognized it as “one of the 21 best beaches in the world”.

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Register at the Department of Tourism Office of Zamboanga located inside the Lantaka Hotel By The Sea, Valderosa Street. You will be escorted by designated personnel or armed police officers. Camping and overnight are strictly not allowed for security reasons. You may bring packed meals or ask the care takers to cook freshly caught seafood if there are any available. In our case, we had a large bucket of crabs.

Budget in Php: (Roundtrip motorboat costs 1,000/group of 10 persons, 5/person terminal fee, 20/person entrance fee, 100 small cottage for sharing)

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D. CANELAR BARTER TRADE: This is the best place to buy souvenirs like sarong, malong, cloth bags, duster/bestida and local goodies. What I hoard the most every time I visit are assorted coffee. To be specific: macadamia and almond; noodles, chocolates and matcha sweets that come from neighboring countries in the south are my take home. It is just one trike away from the city center or walking distance to most backpacker’s inn.

Other places to visit are: The Pasonanca Park, Pasonanca National Park, Fort Pilar, Pettit Barracks, Plaza Pershing, Tagbilat Falls, Bayangan Island, Pandilusan Island.

FOOD TRIP:

1. Curacha at Alavar: Curacha is often referred to as the red frog crab or spanner crab. Curacha is sold per kilo like most seafood servings. Zamboanga visit is hyped by these must-eat-seafood (Curacha, ginataang shrimp & seafood platter) in special sauces. My favorite is Alavar’s sauce which base on my tastebuds consist of the dominance of coconut milk, chili, ginger and crab roe. Try their lychee shake; it complements every viand.

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2. Knickerbocker is a dessert similar to halo-halo only that this seems healthier considering the tropical fruits in it (ripe mangoes, banana, watermelon, melon or apples depending on the season). Gelatin and milk are part of the ingredients topped with strawberry ice cream; heavenly! Try their version at Paseo del Mar (Valderosa St. beside Fort Pilar) or Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant (Sta. Maria Rd.)

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3. Dennis Coffee Garden: This cafe and restaurant serves Kahawa Sug (Authentic Sulu coffee). It is a family heritage business that started in 1962. They specialize on Tausug cuisine and sells native pastries like: Pastil, Daral, Wadjit and Panggih-panggih. I tried their Chicken Pianggang (marinated in charcoaled spices), Chicken Satay (marinated in spicy peanut sauce) and Beef Kulma (curry paste) all served with Sambal (hot paste mixture of spicy condiments) usually found in Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore. For the adventurous: try the special Tiula Itum, a Tausug soup dish made with charcoal. Their branches are at KCC Mall and San Jose Road, Balisawan-my preferred ambiance.

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4. Bay Tal Mal: According to the locals, ‚ÄúBay Tal Mal” was derived from the Arabic word Bayt-ul Mal meaning “House of Wealth”. The atmosphere itself felt grand and rich yet the menu is affordable. It is the first Muslim restaurant in the region that is¬†Halal Certified by HICCIP thus accredited¬†by the Department Of Tourism.¬†I¬†had to try the Moro cuisine: the Patier Rice, Indo-Malay Beef Adobo, Shrimp-coconut cake and Chicken Kiyaliya. They’re at a very accessible location: Mayor Jaldon Street Canelar.

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“Today, power is gained by sharing knowledge,not hoarding it.”

-Dharmesh Shah

BUSCALAN’s Apo Whang-Od

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ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY

WHY VISIT ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY?

  • It is the home of Sibug-Sibug Festival, a colorful ethnic street dancing filled with various activities.
  • It is known as ‚Äúthe Kalamansi Capital‚ÄĚ, 2nd largest rubber plantation ¬†and 1st on export.
  • Surprisingly, few do know that it is the official ‚ÄúTALABA/oyster capital of the Philippines‚ÄĚ.¬†They produce the largest, freshest, heaviest, export-quality oysters. It was awarded as the home of the world‚Äôs longest oyster grillūüíôūüíôūüíô¬†Read about the seafood capital of the Philippines:¬†PANAY ISLAND: Roxas City, Capiz to Aklan
  • It is strategically located at the heart of Zamboanga Peninsula.
  • It is the 4th youngest province and the 81st in the alphabetical arrangement of provinces.

HOW TO GET THERE?

Point of entries are: Zamboanga, Pagadian or Dipolog. There are buses heading to Zamboanga Sibugay. Ipil is the capital; tricycle and jeepneys are common transportation.  It is easy to get to places since people are friendly here.

 

KALAMANSI is the counterpart of lemon in the Philippines. They are commonly used as a dip or marinade to sour the meat or as juice drink. It is also best squeezed on pancit, a local noodle. In Zamboanga Sibugay, softdrinks are not the most sought after thirst quenchers but kalamansi juice.

If you haven’t seen stilt houses and are afraid to visit the farther south like Tawi-tawi and Sulu, then Sibugay is the perfect place to witness and experience them. Read about:¬†TAWI-TAWI:the backdoor of the Philippines

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If you think that this province is small, think again. It is one of the underrated tourist destinations in the south yet one of the best.

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OTHER PLACES TO VISIT:

  • Tagbilat Falls
  • Buluan Island in Ipil
  • Moalboal Cave in Titay
  • Litayon Island
  • Sibugay Sinking Island in Alicia
  • Bangan Island
  • Looc-Labuan in Tungawan
  • Baluran Falls in Imelda
  • Pandilusan Island in Payao
  • Tigpalay Falls in Tungawan
  • Sea Snake Sanctuary in Olutanga
  • Crocodile Sanctuary in Siay
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This is what it looks like inside the most beautiful capitol in the Philippines (in terms of facade/exteriors). Interior-wise, Sultan Kudarat’s capitol tops it. This is just my personal opinion.

For comparison, check out: NSOCCSKSARGENM: Sultan Kudarat

Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) is divided into three regions: Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur. Read my adventures on the other provinces and you can base your travel itinerary from my experience.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE:Dapitan & Dipolog City

ZAMBOANGA CITY

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“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.”

-Rachel Wolchin

NSOCCSKSARGENM: Lake Sebu and the T’boli Tribe

 

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The view in the resort is similar to Sampaloc Lake of Laguna with tilapia fish pens overlooking the mountains of the said province.

WHY VISIT LAKE SEBU?

  • It is a prime eco-tourism destination in South Cotabato for dining, activities like hiking, riding a zipline, boating, siteseeing and staycation.
  • You can dance with the T’boli and Ubo tribes and try their local clothes.
  • Try out the various tilapia recipe served at Punta Isla Lake Resort on a floating restaurant.

HOW TO GET THERE?

Best point of entry is via General Santos City. From there, you may ride a bus to Koronadal then van to Lake Sebu or why not take advantage of an early itinerary and head first to Surallah via bus then jeep ride to Lake Sebu and allocate some time to visit Sultan Kudarat before 5:00 PM. Don’t miss the last trip in Lake Sebu unless you are planning for an overnight stay. Read my related posts:¬†NSOCCSKSARGENM: Sultan Kudarat

Lake Sebu is a natural lake that serves as a major watershed in Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.¬†It has the 3rd longest zipline in Asia after Davao’s Zip City and Eden Nature Park. Lake Sebu’s zipline is the highest in southeast Asia standing at 600 feet. You can take a quick yet perfect topical view of the seven waterfalls upon riding the zipline. For those who are acrophobic, waterfalls view decks are provided for a closer look.

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Overnight at Punta Isla Lake Resort and other lodges are affordable. For 1,000 Php you can have a decent room for two. But what I really enjoyed is the variety of tilapia dishes to choose from. I was too preoccuppied with the mouthwatering viands that I forgot to try on the T’boli clothes and jam with the indigenous people. You may dance with the locals while on the garden or just listen to them play their wooden instruments.

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MY FAVORITE PART: The Food Trip

TILAPIA is a common term for¬†cichlid fish. These are freshwater fish that are mostly seen in rivers, streams but mostly raised in pond lakes. In the Philippines, we commonly fry, grill or steam it. I like it stuffed with tomatoes and onion, wrapped in aluminum foil and grilled. Tilapia fillet is quite a work that’s why I loved the menu at Punta Isla Resort.

They serve tilapia in sweet and sour, sizzling, kinilaw and fried but I chose the most uncommon ways for a change.

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Tilapia fillet in creamy vegetable sauce

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Crispy Tilapia chicharon dipped vinegar

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Tinolang Native na Manok ( Native Chicken)

TIPS:

  1. Don’t forget to plan your mode of transportations and point of entry/exit before the trip. Avoid staying outdoors after dinner. It is best to be safe than sorry.
  2. Bring your sun protection spray or lotion, shades, cap and towelettes. It gets really humid in the afternoon and insect repellants help a lot as this is a forest reservoir.
  3. Wear rubbershoes and leggings if you are planning on riding the zipline. You will be sliding from 600 feet.
  4. There are no ATMs in the area so prepare sufficient cash for souvenirs and food.
  5. You could either stay at Lake Sebu overnight or head on to Sultan Kudarat for overnight depending on your itinerary.
  6. Wifi and cellphone reception is intermittent.
  7. Check out neighboring provinces to include in your itinerary: NSOCCSKSARGENM: NORTH COTABATO’s Asik-Asik Falls

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“Grace is finding a waterfall when you were only looking for a stream.”

-Vanessa Hunt

SINGAPORE: Food trip guide

Is Singapore really an expensive country? YES and NO. Yes in the sense that luxury hotels ¬†and restaurants are everywhere. The quality of service is excellent and they always exceed expectations. No, if you know how to budget and stay within your means of income. It is important to research before travelling as there are more economical ways to cut down on expenses. Take for example, affordable hostels in Singapore are just as good. Hawker centers are in every mall and servings are usually good for sharing. The EZ link 3-day-pass is a huge breakthrough. You don’t really have to splurge during your stay in Singapore but I am not encouraging you to be extra stingy as well. ¬†The purpose of travel is to experience and taste what they have to offer.¬†Travel within your means and travel responsibly. No one wants to go home broke.

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HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE EATS WHEN IN SINGAPORE:

A. CHINATOWN: Like in any country, Chinatown always offer a wide variety of dishes. So it is a top visit for the foodie. Head on to 335 Smith Street and feast with all kinds of mouthwatering viands. You can burn all these calories anyways. Walk! Walk! Walk!

Salted egg fried chicken in curry leavesūüß°ūüß°ūüß°¬†and crispy sweet and sour baby squidūü¶Ďūü•ö ūü•Ę. Since I’m asian, white rice is a must! ūüôā Total meal value: 16$(Singapore dollar).

 

 

I’m an oyster lover whether it is raw with lemon/vinegar or panfried. Their extra plump oyster omelet is a staple everywhere I go. This plate is just 6$. Although there are times I may have overeaten meals that are good for two. Forgive me, I had long days walking around ūüėõ

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Kung Pao Chicken, Oyster omelet, coconut juice, white rice (28$)

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Hainanese Chicken, bok choy, white rice, sugarcane juice (23$)

 

B. LITTLE INDIA and KAMPONG GLAM: If you really want to explore the entire community, I strongly suggest that you book an accommodation within the area for 2-3 days. A day trip won’t be enough to enjoy every spot. Aside from the lively wall art, their spiced dishes are a-must-try! Read my related article for more details:¬†SINGAPORE: Fun at Little India and Kampong Glam

Mutton meal at Serangoon Indian Resto (6.50$) It goes with spicy mutton, vegetables in green curry, fried bitter gourd and a lot of carbohydrates good for two. They enjoy the meal by eating with hands or in plastic gloves. I had to try it and it was fun!

Do not be afraid to ask for help and explore. The locals would know what to try best. Although it may seem awkward to eat alone or eat with them, just go with it. You will be surprise how friendly they are. I did get extra servings for free. Another tip would be to follow the long queue of people in hawker centers. Chances are, they really serve the best.

 

Steamed Curry Fish platter in lemongrass, coconut juice and white rice (35$). Actually, this meal could serve 3-4  people. I was just curious about their best seller so I ordered it for lunch and took it out for dinner.

 

C. BUGIS: If you are more into gourmet and restaurant-type of dishes, Bugis is a great place to explore. Bugis Street Market is the hottest, cheapest and largest shopping area. Everything you can think of is here. Also it is very accessible via MRT Bugis Station.

The sumptuous Peking Duck Platter (35$) at Bugis Mall had me full.
TIP: There are many Filipino professional workers in Singapore. I am so blessed to be referred to Rolly, a friend of my churchmate Anne. Meet new people and ask for their recommendations to maximize your stay. This meal was just supposed to be a regular platter but the chef gave me extra servings after a happy chat with him. It pays to smile, be nice and friendly.
Have you heard of the rare Silkie Chicken? They are highly prized breed that have beautiful silky white plumage and startlingly black skin¬†ūüĖ§ūüĖ§ūüĖ§¬†up to the bones and internal organs. This traditional herbal chicken was boiled in so many special herbs and spices. I had to try this fall-off-the-bone-meat and paired it with spicy leek shrimpsūüĆ∂ūüć§ Oh heavenly!

D. OTHER MUST TRY: They say you must try the National Singaporean breakfast style. Never leave without trying the Kaya Toast and Singaporean coffee. There are several chains that offer these. Kaya Toast is toasted bread filled with butter and kaya.

Kaya is a local jam made from sugar, coconut milk, eggs and pandan leaves for aroma. It is best paired with poached or half-boiled eggs, hot tea, hot chocolate or black coffee.

 

 

Choco Mint icecream sandwiched by wafers (1.50$). Yes, you will see a hardworking old woman selling ice cream and being queued by many in the midst of signature shops at Orchard. Happiness doesn’t always have to be expensive.

 

There are a number of hostels to choose from but make sure that you book walking distance or at MRT friendly locations. Where to stay near the best foodtrips in Singapore? SINGAPORE: cool places to stay

G0525961.jpg“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat the food that you like.”

-Mark Twain

LEYTE: Kalanggaman Island

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sunset boatride to Kalanggaman Island

On a related post: _________ We crossed the Camotes group of Islands in Cebu to Palompon, Leyte. However on a normal basis, you can take a ferry from Cebu City at Pier 1 and head to Ormoc, Leyte. Travel will be around 2 hours. You may take a van for an hour or so (100-150Php) or bus (50-60). Alight at the Tourism office of Palompon. It won’t be hard to find since it is a tourist spot. Pay the necessary boat registration and entrance fee. Travel will be an hour or less. Rates depend on the status of visitor. Non-local foreign visitors are charged higher. For students, bring your ID for discount.

KALANGGAMAN ISLAND: It is ranked as the 9th longest sandbar in the Philippines. The island is shaped like a bird or letter “V”. It would be best to fly a drone to perfectly get that shot. The sand isn’t powdery white nor fine so it would be best to bring scuba shoes especially if you are planning to walk the long sandbar.

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The left side of the island is rocky but a great spot for sunrise and sunset

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The sandbar is filled with dead corals so better wear scuba shoes

The Tail of the island gives a magnificent sunset view. Most of the time, the tail is busy with people so I opted to wake up early to avoid photobombers.

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THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  1. There are no ATM at the island so prepare cash.
  2. There are some stores in the island but I suggest you bring camp essentials and food.
  3. There are cottages and tents for rent but for comfort’s sake, bring your own beddings. If you are planning a day trip only, there are nearby accommodations at Palompon mainland.
  4. You may buy seafood or meat at the Palompon Market just walking distance from the Tourism office before riding the boat to the island.
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  5. Sadly, the island is congested with people during summer so be extra careful with your belongings and don’t expect deep sleep. Most campers are drinking until dawn so choose a camp site meticulously. I suggest the front part near the rockies for a more conducive sleep.

6. Bring your own water. The water source is not potable for drinking.

7. Arrange a return trip to avoid inconvenience during peak season.

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OTHER THINGS TO DO:

  • You will find fascinating obsolete-looking vehicles but are still being used. They are colorful, sturdy and pretty unique.
  • Check out the public market and find something peculiar. Try out local dishes from neighboring stalls.
  • You may plan an extended itinerary to the eastern part of Leyte connecting Samar.

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“Love the life you live and LIVE the life you love.”

-Bob Marley

TAWI-TAWI:the backdoor of the Philippines

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WHY VISIT TAWI-TAWI?

  • It is the southernmost part of the Philippines; part of the ARMM.
  • The oldest mosque in the Philippines is found here.
  • Interesting stilt houses stand in the sea.
  • The longest sandbar in the Philippines is Panampangan Island via Celebes Sea.

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Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao is the gateway to Tawi-Tawi. The safest way to get to Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi is via Cebu Pacific from Zamboanga City. Upon arrival, register at the Tourism office for safety reasons. It is best to have a local contact and arranged accommodation beforehand. Bongao city center is just a few minutes away, tricycles are everywhere.

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A. SIMUNUL ISLAND: ¬†The distance of islands are quite far so when they say island hopping, it won’t be the typical boats we have in Luzon and Visayas.¬†We took a private speed boat to Simunul Island and assisted by armed men. Notice that most household carry guns. We were advised to go home before sunset as they ususally shoot suspicious strangers from the sea.

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so this is how it feels like to hug a 400-year-old-pillar!

Karim ul-Makhdum was an Islamic preacher/trader from Johor now known as Malaysia. He brought Islam¬†in the year 1380 CE in this island.¬†Just nearby is his fenced tomb believed to be the size of a giant man. Simunul is known as the “Dubai of the Philippines” due to the thousands of pilgrims¬†from neighboring countries and Mindanao visiting the mosque.¬†He established the Sheik Karimal Makdum Mosque making it the cradle of Islam.¬†This is now acknowledged as the oldest mosque in the Philippines¬†located in Barangay Tubig Indangan, Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. The original mosque was burned so the pillars were reconstructed.¬†¬†The four pillars from the 17th century are regarded as sacred and historic islamic artifacts said to be 400 years old. No wonder it has been declared as a National Historical Landmark and National Treasure.

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B. PANAMPANGAN ISLAND: Despite Tawi-tawi’s fearsome reputation, the most beautiful islands and longest sandbars are found here. Transportation outside Bongao is limited and off shore is dangerous so military escorts are provided. Panampangan is officially the Philippines’ longest sandbar. You can reach it in less than an hour via speed boat. This island is just barely shaded so better bring your essentials. The sand is powdery fine and white. It is one of the best I have been to, considering my habitual island hopping. This 3-km-long sandbar is also called¬†Basibuli Shoal along ¬†Celebes Sea. It is best to bring packed lunch as it is a secluded area and no potable water source.

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OTHER THINGS TO DO:

  • Check out the gigantic wooden ships being made by the locals. They are customized for Malaysian buyers that costs millions of pesos and atleast a year to accomplish by hand.
  • Look for some locals harvesting seaweed or drying them. Learn their ways of life.
  • Walk on stilt houses and check out the place where they found the controversial giant alligator.
  • Trek Bud Bongao/ Mount Bongao: The locals call it the Sacred mountain of Tawi-Tawi a pilgrim site for Christians and Muslims. It is the highest point for viewing Celebes Sea. It has 6 peaks of limestones and along the trail are Philippine macaques so this is not for the faint hearted. ¬†Avoid bringing too much food and captivating gadgets that could hype their interest.
  • Go to Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol.
  • Check out the wet market for the most peculiar and giant seafood at a very low price. Have it cooked on your homestay.
  • The Philippine Turtle Islands: This is still on my bucketlist because it is a huge nesting ground of green turtles and a protected area by the government.
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Everything here is huge!

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made to order vessel

REMEMBER:

  1. Register at the Tourism office and do not go on your own off coast. Always ask for assistance.
  2. Most people are equipped with guns so avoid playing with them. Behave properly and respect their culture.
  3. It is best to stay indoors before sunset.
  4. Travel as a group. Do not wear revealing clothes as it is a conservative muslim territory.
  5. You may be surprise to witness improper waste disposals in the mainland especially in the stilt houses. Hold it and avoid arguements.

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“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.”

-Benjamin Disraeli