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Kawasan Falls, Cebu

My friends and I made a quick trip to Cebu once again last month for yet another adventure and this time, we chose to trek our way to a majestic tourist destination in the middle of a jungle — The KAWASAN FALLS.

Kawasan3Nestled in Badian, Cebu, the Kawasan Falls was, more or less, a 3-hour drive from the heart of Cebu City where we were billeted.

The short hike towards Kawasan Falls was mostly through a narrow paved road along the river. Rightfully so, the river was our guide.

The pristine, clear water was so inviting; such a huge respite from the midday heat we had to endure before the jungle swallowed us whole. Suddenly it was a medley of turquoise and greens around us.

Kawasan Falls is a feast of natural spring water cascading down the mountains of Barangay Matutinao in Badian.

From the entrance, we had to trudge uphill for about 1.5 km to get to the first waterfall. It was the biggest and the most crowded of all the waterfalls in the area. Despite that I would’ve preferred a more serene setting, I couldn’t complain, especially after putting on my life vest and started floating, to my delight.

KawasanThat was the first time in my life that I got to absolutely enjoy being in a body of water as deep as I couldn’t feel anything below me anymore. I later learned that it was 10-20 ft. deep near the riverbanks and approximately 45 ft. deep in the middle. Holy macaroni! For someone who can’t swim, it was pure horror.

It freaked me out upon realizing I was swimming in deep waters so, for the life of me, I struggled to waddle my way through the nearest rocks where I desperately clung for safety. But there were spectators and fellow tourists who were so encouraging to coax me into the water again, persuading me to just trust the vest with my life. They even taught me how to wear the vest properly (I didn’t know I had to fasten the belts from between my fat thighs to secure it.) Thank God for friendly people, they’re aplenty in Kawasan!

We rode the balsa (raft) for P300, and I have to say it was the best decision we ever did on that trip. (Whoever among my friends Carol, ate Carina, Abby, Luchie, and Marvin paid for it is heaven-sent!)

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Kawasan

Kawasan

If you ever go to Kawasan, be sure to ride the balsa. That would easily be the highlight of your adventures there!

Important: The water cascading from the 45-ft. high cliff is so powerful, make sure your swimwear is not prone to wardrobe malfunction once you get under the waterfalls. One tourist had the misfortune of getting stripped down by the cascading water while on the balsa. You don’t want that to happen.

And don’t forget to bring your GoPro camera or your smartphone sealed in a waterproof holder so you can merrily snap away photos of your adventures.

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Tips to maximize your Kawasan Experience:

1. Swim across the river. There are ropes for you to grab onto so you wouldn’t get swept away by the strong current. My friend Mars and I did just that, wearing our precious life vests, and it felt like a major feat for us non-swimmers, lol! One of our friends, Abby, boldly did too…without a life vest! (Don’t do the Abby way if you’re not a good swimmer. She swims like a shark.)

2. Hire a local tour guide and explore the smaller waterfalls in the area. (Yes, it pays to have one, so hire one!)

3. Bring food. Although there are food vendors and a restaurant in the area, it would be a good call to feast on your group’s baon in one of the tables there while marvelling on the majestic view of the falls. Promise, less hassle.

4. Rent life vests along the way, or buy trinkets and other souvenir items as you navigate your way to the falls for about 15 to 20 minutes from the highway.

5. There are waterproof phone holders being sold along the trail. They come in handy if you plan on taking photos in the water. Buy one!

6. Assign someone to watch over your things. It’s a no-brainer to NOT leave your things unattended but sometimes we, mortals, forget. It pays to be cautious.

7. Again, ride the balsa. Thank me later.

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Kawasan2

Credits to my #DavaoSisterhood friends:

  • Photos — Carina Manansala and Abby Fuentes
  • Hosts — Luchie Calalo and Rheb
  • Trip leader and major financier — Carol Yao
  • Instagramer, my swimming buddy and hairdresser — Marvin Gil
  • Sabit — me 😛
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Tambayayong and other side trips in Davao City and Samal

Tambayayong Davao 3

Tambayayong is a Visayan term for collaboration, for working together to achieve a common goal. In Tagalog, it is called pagtutulungan or bayanihan.

Last May 19, I went home to Davao City, tagging my friends along from Kiwanis Club of Cainta Greenpark to participate in an outreach project called Tambayayong which was organized by my High School’s Grand Alumni Association and widely supported by my batch, Batch ’92. Our batch, celebrating our Silver Jubilee this year, hosted the 8th Grand Alumni Homecoming which Tambayayong was part of.

True to its name, Tambayayong brought together several government Tambayayong Davao 4offices and agencies, private companies, and individuals to come up with free services offered to more than 300 locals in Toril.

The beneficiaries had the privilege to avail of free medical and dental consultation, tooth extraction, sugar test, cholesterol test, legal consultation, haircut, massage, and even cups of hot porridge (lugaw).

Following its success, our alumni association now intends to make Tambayayong an annual event where more services will be added and more people will benefit year after after.

Tambayayong Davao 2

Tambayayong Davao 1

But beyond the said outreach project, our small group of six managed to sneak in a few side trips. With very little time to explore the city before and after Tambayayong, we maximized it by going to a few go-to places in the city.

Vista View Hilltop

Overlooking Davao City and Samal, Hilltop also offers a nice view of Mt. Apo and a boodle package good for 8 people worth P2,000.

Tip: Better go there at dusk or at dinner time to appreciate the ambiance better. It was pretty humid when we went there but hey, it was summer.

Hilltop DavaoBoodle at Hilltop Davao

Dimple’s Lechon House

Dimple’s is the most popular and one of the oldest lechon sources in Toril, Davao City. Nothing fancy about the place. No frills, just tasty lechon. The skin was crunchy and the meat was tender and juicy. And that’s what we had to jumpstart our second day in Davao. Lechon for breakfast, yeah, why not?

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Eden Nature Park

For the thrill seekers and nature lovers combined. We conquered our fear of heights at Eden’s Skycycle (P200 per head), Skyrider (P150 each), and Skyswing (P400 tandem). We rode horses for P100 and filled our tummies at Skyview Café nestled at 2,500 ft. above sea level. Snacks were included in our P280 entrance fee so for me it was a good deal. Plus with the generosity of their operations manager, Celia, we got 5% discount in all of our transactions. We only stayed there for a couple of hours but the fun was so sulit.

I would recommend Eden to anybody who would like to explore Davao City. There are lots of activities you can do there with friends, family, whoever you wanna tag along. I’ve been there a few times and it feels like new to me every single time. For some R&R, nature tripping, swimming, fishing, or adventures, Eden is the place to be.

The place is huge so if you go there, better allot more hours to enjoy it.

Skycyle at Eden 3Skycyle at Eden 2

Jack’s Ridge

Similar to Hilltop, Jack’s Ridge offers an overlooking view of the city. However, Jack’s Ridge has more options in terms of dining and amenities. It has a pool, a playground, a coffee shop, a KTV bar, a conference room, cottages by the hills, and an open-ground amphitheater that’s ideal for wedding receptions and photo shoots.

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Marina Tuna

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One of the must-try restaurants in the bevy of choices in Davao City is Marina Tuna. Many celebrities visiting Davao City have dined there. Not cheap but you get your money’s worth, promise!

Feast on a platter of seafood and fresh buko juice. Their oysters, kinilaw, and fresh tuna are to-die-for.

PS: Try their Durian ice cream cake. For someone like me who doesn’t eat Durian at all, I loved it. Extra creamy and delicious.

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President Duterte’s Home

Inside Doña Luisa Village in Matina is a typical Filipino green house with a blue-green gate. That’s the simple residence of the most powerful man in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte.

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Costa Marina (Samal Island)

Costa Marina is one of the more affordable beach resorts in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS). Samal is another city, it’s not part of Davao City but its proximity makes tourists believe they’re still in Davao City.

Contrary to its neighbor Paradise Island Beach Resort, Costa Marina is less crowded and you can see different varieties of fish swimming in its shallow waters. Its beachfront is shaded with branches of trees.

Be sure to wear slippers when you get into the water, it’s peppered with stones and corals.

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Other places we went to: Luz Kinilaw at R. Magsaysay Avenue, Apo ni Lola Abon in Matina, Aldevinco Shopping Center in Claveria, Chinatown (Uyanguren), Redemptorist Church, Abreeza Mall, and the bomb site in Roxas Avenue where the famous Davao Night Market takes place every night.

I would have wanted to take my fellow Kiwanians to D’ Bone Collector Museum and the Davao Museum but it was a Sunday so they were closed.

There’s so much more to Davao City than the places we went to.

To give you an idea on the vastness of its land, Davao City‘s official website says: “Davao City, reputedly the largest city in the world, has an area of 244,000 hectares, or 8 per cent of the land area of Southern Mindanao Region or Region XI. It is divided into 3 congressional districts and furthermore divided into 11 administrative districts. Poblacion and Talomo Districts comprised District I, meanwhile District II is composed of the following districts, namely: Agdao, Buhangin, Bunawan and Paquibato, District III includes Toril, Tugbok, Calinan, Baguio and Marilog.” Check out Davao’s official website to know more about the city: http://www.davaocity.gov.ph/davao/profile.aspx?id=land

 

 

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Exploring Cebu in Two Days

The Challenge: Explore Cebu in 2 days

Sounds tough but, having regular jobs, my friends and I had to make do with a quick weekend escapade to the Queen City of the South as part of our spur-of-the-moment bonding adventures.

So what can you do in Cebu when you only have a couple of days to spend?

DAY 1

Crimson Hotel (Day Tour)

Lounge, bask in the sunshine, waddle in clear blue water, delight in the panoramic view, take a dip with friends in the pool, enjoy your favorite cocktail at Crimson Hotel.

Address: Seascapes Resort Town, Soong, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015 Cebu

Phone: (032) 401 9999

Website: http://www.crimsonhotel.com/mactan

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Around Pilipinas

The uber-delicious cake my friend Luchie got me for my uber-late birthday celebration at Crimson Hotel, Cebu. And yay, it had my radio airname on it! 😉

DAY 2

1. Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño de Cebu

Early morning Mass to welcome the Sinulog Festival

Address: Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City

Phone: 032 255-6697

Website: http://basilicasantonino.org.ph

Sinulog 2016 basilica-cebu

2. Miraculous Mama Mary

Say your prayers, offer your petitions to the Miraculous Mama Mary.

Address: Lindogon Simala, Sibonga, Cebu

Simala Cebu

3. La Nostra Pizzeria Napoletana

Enjoy authentic Italian dishes at La Nostra Pizzeria Napoletana, all prepared by an Italian chef from Naples. I’ve never tasted pizza and pasta this good!

Address: Ground Floor, Streetscape, Paseo Saturnino, Ma. Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City

Phones: 032 3507872 | +63 9175667872

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/lanostracebu

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A taste of Italy in Cebu! The best-tasting pizza and pasta I’ve tasted by far anywhere in the country. The chef who prepared our sumptuous dinner was from Naples. No wonder! When in Cebu and wanting some Italian food, I bet my two cents this place is gonna make your day.

4. La Vie Parisienne

All the wines and spirits to  cap the long day, at La Vie Parisienne.

Address: 371 Gorordo Avenue, Lahug, Cebu City

Phone: (032) 232 1311

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/lavieparisiennecebu

La Vie Parisienne

Wines, spirits, good food, music, and engaging conversations at La Vie Parisienne, Cebu.

In between itineraries, one of us got to buy Rico’s Lechon and the rest of us bought a couple more kilos in Carcar Public Market where lechons were sold for as low as P280 per kilo. It was heaven!

We also got to snatch a few packs of dried fish (Danggit) in Taboan Public Market on our way back to our hotel.

Looking back, I still crave for the authentic Italian pizza and Carcar’s lechon. If it were for these two alone, I can’t wait to go back! And for sure I will.

 

 

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Space Edsa: Live closer, live better for as low as P4,200 a month

Admit it, the horrendous traffic situation in Metro Manila is sucking the life out of us. It kills our productivity, ruins our schedules, affects our wellness. The struggle is worse for those among us living in far-flung areas.

Imagine if we live close by.

There’s a new and modern dormitory along Edsa that offers a huge respite from that pain. Space Edsa, centrally-located along EDSA Highway Hills, Mandaluyong, provides a convenient location one can call a home in the heart of the busy Metro. Space Edsa has all the modern amenities that a typical millennial (or even a gen x and a baby boomer) needs — a strong wifi connectivity, gym facilities, a common living area with multiple sockets for charging laptops and other gadgets, kitchen amenities, clean bathrooms, among others.

Space Edsa is perfect for young professionals and students who work and study in Mandaluyong and nearby cities.  It could very well be a smart option to go home to, to avoid the long commute every single day.  The convenience could far outweigh the cost of living in a dormitory, or better yet, it could even be more economical.

Space Edsa Rates

Grabbed from Space Edsa’s FB Page

“Rates are inclusive of a bed, locker, electricity, water, wifi & cable in the common areas and 24/7 use of the gym.” – Space Edsa

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Spending an average of 4 hours on the road everyday to get to one’s destination is a nightmare.

If you are one of the many people who brave the throngs of MRT and LRT commuters everyday, and who fight with cab drivers who refuse to take you to your destination because of the distance and heavy traffic, you might want to give Space Edsa a try — safe, clean, with wifi and cable, gym and all the basic amenities to support your modern lifestyle.

For more information, visit their FB page here: https://www.facebook.com/space.ph/?fref=ts

Space Edsa: 167 EDSA Highway Hills, 1554 Mandaluyong.

 

 

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Why I’m voting for Duterte

I have long wanted to write about this but I always ended up deciding against it.  I’m not a political analyst nor am I a prolific writer, but after seeing all sorts of black propaganda being hurled against Mayor Duterte from all corners imaginable after he surged to the top of the surveys, I feel it is my moral obligation as an ordinary Filipino to take part in this electoral process the way I see it from the grassroots level where I’m at. It is from this vantage point that I carefully shaped my decision on who to vote for President and why. And I refuse to helplessly watch from the sidelines any longer.

I was born and raised in Davao City. I lived most of my life there for over 35 years (I now live in Marikina). I have personally seen, heard, and experienced Mayor Duterte’s leadership.  I am one of the many living witnesses to his good governance.

Is he perfect? No. Nobody is.

Is Davao City perfect? No. No city in any part of the globe is.

Is he a dictator? Certainly not. A dictator is a ruler who wields absolute authority while Mayor Duterte has always worked hard for the people of Davao to enjoy their freedom — freedom to live, work, express themselves, have fun, and do business in a peaceful environment. Dabawenyos enjoy democracy just as anyone else in other parts of the country. Perhaps the only difference is that Davao City is strict with the implementation of laws and city ordinances. After all, what good are those laws and ordinances if we don’t follow them? Feel free to visit Davao City and see if you’d feel like your basic human rights are curtailed as if you’re under Martial Law. Not even close.

Does he kill innocent people on mere suspicion that they are criminals? Funny but that’s what his detractors are insinuating even in their political ads. If one political ad is to be believed, Mayor Digong’s brand of justice is the type that tortures and kills even kids suspected as criminals. That’s preposterous. But if only for a point of discussion, if that indeed is true, you think the people of Davao would feel safe walking around the streets if they believe that Mayor Digong would, at any given time, shoot them or their friends and family members for being suspected as criminals? You think the people of Davao would love and trust Mayor Digong this much if he’s anywhere close to being trigger happy? If there’s a shred of truth to a culture of impunity under Mayor Digong’s leadership, we should have feared him instead of respected him.

Mayor Digong, being a lawyer himself, has reiterated many times over that he is for imposing the law. If a criminal puts innocent lives in danger, he will bear the consequences of his actions. And what’s the problem with that? Would you rather put innocent lives in danger just to protect the human rights of criminals? If you haven’t heard it yet, Mayor Digong’s mantra is “Follow the law.” If that scares you, that’s beyond my comprehension.

His political opponents are sowing fear through distorted information. I’d rather go by first-hand experiences than hearsays that are meant to fool and scare people just to earn votes for themselves.

Does he shoot people in the streets for failing to follow curfew? You must have seen Mystica’s viral video which shows her spewing this scenario as if she has seen it happen under Duterte’s leadership and so will continue to happen if he wins the Presidency. I don’t know how she got that impression, it’s crazy to the point of ridiculous. Chill! Mayor Digong won’t “bratatat” you dead in the middle of the street for failing to follow curfew. Mystica dear, get back down to earth, for goodness’ sake.

So why am I voting for Duterte? Let me count the reasons:

1. He is the only Presidentiable that commands respect from all sides — the government, MILF, MNLF, NPA, ordinary citizens. He is respected by Muslims and Christians. He unites, not divides. He understands the plight of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao. I believe he’s the only one who can start the much-needed lasting peace in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.

2. He has the heart, the political will, and the competency to lead and serve the country. His track record is the glaring proof.

3. His passion for public service defies anything politics. His turf is Davao City but he is always quick to help other cities in need without brandishing his name to claim credit. He operates even under the media radar, which is the exact opposite of what a lot of politicians do. That to me is REAL public service.

4. He is a man of action. Again, his track record is proof. Aren’t we all tired of self-aggrandizing speeches? Of finger-pointing? Of leaders giving us excuses rather than solutions and results? I am.

5. He acts like a father to his constituents. Unlike other politicians, Duterte doesn’t act like a king who expects to be served. He serves. He is a simple man who has a soft spot for children and senior citizens.

6. His leadership is contagious. He has his way of affecting positivity in people. This is the only national election I’ve seen so far where I witness people going out of their ways to support a Presidential candidate, even printing their own marketing materials from banners to t-shirts, ballers, car stickers and anything they can think of. He brings out the spirit of volunteerism and discipline in us like no other Filipino politician has or can. That’s the mark of a true leader.

I could go on and on but I’d rather feature some of my friends from different parts of the globe about their take on the good Mayor. Here’s why Mayor Duterte is their choice for President:

Rob Rances

“I’m voting for Duterte coz he’s the only one who proposes to solve the problem. The other candidates are all part of the problem.” – Rob Rances, Business Coach / Social Entrepreneur

Bobet Alip

“He is not perfect and he was the first to admit it. But I know he can and will get things done. His heart and mind is in the right place.” – Bobet Alip, Agripreneur

Anonymous DJ

“Borrowing from General Patton, ‘As It Was Written So It Shall Be Done!’ His political will… That’s why.” – A Club DJ and Radio Presenter from a giant TV/media network (name withheld upon request)

Mel and Boyet

“We need him as a leader because he is not beholden to any oligarchs. We want our daughter to experience affluence that most of us never had for decades.” – Melanie Confesor and Pelagio Nalla III, Customer Service Associates

Brandy Allen Fuentes

“Aside from the fact that I am one of the many who enjoy the fruit of his hardwork, I’ll vote for him because he gets things done… specially if it benefits the many.” – Brandy Allen Fuentes, freelance host

Carol Yao

“Du30 because we not only need a man of integrity, we also need strong leadership.” – Carol Yao, true-blooded Bisdak

Restie Concepcion

“I’m voting for Duterte because I believe he will be strong for us dealing with China bullying us. 2nd, what we need right now is an action man, not a planner anymore. Would you give a cough medicine to someone ailing with LBM or upset stomach…that’s the analogy.” – Restie R. Concepcion, Marketing Director/licensed CPM (Certified Professional Marketer)

Jerome Faune

“After Flor Contemplacion and the burning of the Singapore flag it was then that I wished he were the president of the Philippines. Integrity, political will, courage, humility, love for country and his leadership is unprecedented.” – Jerome Faune, OFW

 

Dr. Roni Mines

“I am voting for Duterte because he has the kind of political will and leadership that this country needs. In my many years of living in Davao City, with about two decades of having him as our mayor, I feel safe and protected with his leadership. He really cares for his constituents and he is consistent! I like his crusade against impunity and I believe he will help us realize a better Philippines and turn the fortune of the country around. Having been plagued by corruption, drugs and crime for so long, this country needs someone like Duterte to make the needed changes.” – Dr. Roni Mines, Educator

Mayor Digong talks tough but he has a big heart to serve the people.  For me, he is the best chance we have to move this country forward. No other political candidate has ever moved me to be this vigilant and nationalistic.  And to think that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t even know I exist.  I’m sure there are millions of other Filipinos like me who tirelessly campaign for the Mayor in their own little ways without any political affiliations and self-serving expectations.

How about you, why are you voting for Duterte?

 

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When in Marikina: Dine like it’s your last meal at Caffe Piansa, the first jailed-themed resto in the PH

With all the restaurants mushrooming everywhere in the Philippines and fighting for a decent market share, one must not only offer good food and service to compete and thrive but also provide a fresh concept in terms of theme and ambience. All these contribute to a memorable, fun, and satisfying dining experience that keep attracting new customers day after day and keep luring old patrons to come back, with new customers in tow. Of all themes imaginable, who would’ve thought someone would choose JAIL for a restaurant concept? Caffe Piansa is exactly that, and it is one of the most pleasantly surprising restaurant I’ve been to by far.

From the outside, it didn’t look captivating to me although I got a little intrigued by its tagline “The first jail-themed restaurant in town!” Piansa means bail, which already gives you an idea about their branding. Still, the moment I stepped inside, I exclaimed in amazement like a child who just got an all-ride access to a theme park. Clearly I underestimated their concept until I got in for a “detention.”

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Caffe Piansa’s interiors are a replica of prison cells, a courtroom (with a magistrate in complete outfit), and a police station fused into one fun dining place. All the restaurant personnel were in character, except that they could be the coolest prisoners and magistrate you’ll ever meet. If I were an outlaw to be detained here, I’d rather enjoy languishing in my cell than post bail.

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You can take a mugshot upon entering and invent a funny case against yourself (It would make a wacky profile picture of you on social media).

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Happy campers, err, prisoners at Caffe Piansa — The only “prison” in the world where you’d be happy to be incarcerated.

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If you think the fun part is over, wait until you see their menu.

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caffe piansa, marikina

PASTA ALA PIANSA. And their food certainly didn’t disappoint.

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What better way to serve the sentence after the hearty last meal, lol!

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Clearly the restaurant game in the country has changed with the influx of concept restaurants and diners like Caffe Piansa. The playing field has gone beyond the taste, variety, and price points of food, but the total dining experience.

With food, service, and ambience this awesome, I wouldn’t mind being incarcerated at all. In fact, I’d pay my way to detention.

Caffe Piansa – 57 Dragon Street, Midtown Subdivision, San Roque, Marikina City

Their FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/caffepiansa

 

 

 

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Getting fit for less around Marikina

A lot of fitness gyms in the country require skyrocketing membership fees that could ruin your monthly budget, you’d lose pounds not from working out but from the lack of livable funds left in your wallet.  For fitness-conscious individuals who don’t have the financial capacity to enroll in expensive fitness centers (or simply don’t want to include preposterous gym fees in their monthly budget), there are other options to stay fit and healthy for less.

Fortunately for residents of Marikina, the city has a number of public places where one can jog, run, brisk walk, play outdoor and indoor sports with friends and family, or even join free zumba sessions like in our community every weekend.

Fitness Places in Marikina:

Marikina Sports Center

Photo courtesy of Marikina Sports Park’s FB page

1. Marikina Sports Center (Complex) — Built in 1969, it was renamed to Marikina Sports Park in 1995 and is situated in Sumulong Highway corner Shoe Avenue, Marikina also known as Bayan for locals.

Marikina Sports Center is one of Metro Manila’s cleanest and well-maintained public sports facilities. It is equipped with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 400-meter track oval.  It also has a sports building that houses indoor game facilities for boxing, sepak takraw, arnis, and martial arts. It has an indoor gym with basketball,  volleyball, and event centers.

Entrance to Marikina Sports Center is only P10. Some of the facilities may have separate charges which are several folds lower than those charged by exclusive fitness gyms in the Metro.

Marikina Sports Center has two grandstands with a total seating capacity of 15,000. Practically almost everything you need for your fitness regimen is here.

Photos courtesy of Marikina Sports Center's FB page

Photo courtesy of Marikina Sports Center’s FB page

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Photo courtesy of Marikina Sports Center’s FB page   

2. Marikina River Park –  Right outside Riverbanks Center in Barangka, Marikina, the Marikina River Park is a sprawling open space ideal for brisk walking, jogging, and running early in the morning or late afternoon. This part of Marikina River is usually clean unless during or after a heavy rain which pollutes the river with tons of trash from other places. On most days, it’s a perfect spot for your fitness routine.

Marikina River Park

Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Center’s FB page

3. Feetness Pad – (NOTE: This isn’t a public park like the other two mentioned but a low-cost fitness center with no monthly fees.)

Just this month, my friends and I agreed to take on a challenge to lose weight before our rendevouz in Cebu City this January. It’s our own version of The Biggest Loser, with bragging rights up for grabs. I figured I could use a fitness gym where I could be motivated to workout and lose more pounds than when I do it without a coach. I searched online for female-friendly gyms around Marikina and it led me to Feetness Pad located in Concepcion. Interestingly, their sessions are as low as P99 and up plus their programs looked inviting so I gave them a try. Feetness Pad’s Coach Ryya assured me that I wouldn’t feel left out even if I’d go there alone. And she was right. The atmosphere was warm and friendly at Feetness Pad.

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Photo courtesy of Feetness Pad’s FB page.  The pole is calling!

I went there on their first anniversary where they hosted a free zumba session. My first visit was primarily just to check out the place but while watching the zumba class, I couldn’t help but give in to the beat. I left the gym feeling happy, energized, and all worked out.  The next day, I went back for their Circuit Training which was also a blast. I have to say all the fitness coaches I met at Feetness Pad were accommodating, nice, and really good at their craft.

Other than Zumba and Circuit Training, they also have Pole Dancing Lessons (which I am so tempted to try), Yoga, and Boxing. Check them out on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/FeetnessPad, for more information about their fitness programs.

These are some of the fitness places in Marikina that you can visit without paying a fortune. Given that facilities like them indeed exist, excuses about high gym membership fees no longer hold water. At the end of the day, it’s your motivation to get fit and healthy that will drive you to your goal.

Tara na, kilos na! 🙂

 

 

 

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Trip up north: Manila to Sagada

Sagada is one of the best and most popular tourist destinations in the Mountain Province. Before it even took the spotlight due to the widely-celebrated film “That Thing Called Tadhana,” Sagada has been a favorite destination of choice by people seeking breath-taking panoramic views, cold weather, nice people, and tranquil environment where one could feel like he/she is on top of the world some 275 kilometers away from the urban jungle of Metro Manila.

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We had our trip up North to Sagada summer of last year and even though it was the longest land travel of our lives, it was arguably one of the best.

We rented a 12-seater van that accommodated all of us comfortably. It certainly wasn’t cheap but the convenience was priceless.  We took a Manila-Baguio-Sagada route which took us two days to reach Sagada from Manila (just because we stopped by Baguio for some sight-seeing and stayed there overnight).

Ways to get there other than through private transport:

By Bus

  • Western route (Victory Liner, Partas, Genesis, Dagupan  Bus Line) — Manila to Baguio

Fare (Manila to Baguio City): P455-P750 (around $10-$17)
Estimated travel time: 6 hours

Baguio City to Sagada (GL Trans, Lizard Transit)
Fare: P220 non-aircon (roughly $4.90)
Estimated travel time: 6 hours

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Bus ride from Manila to Bontoc, the capital of Mountain Province.
Estimated travel time: 12 hours. A jeepney ride from Bontoc to Sagada takes another 45 minutes.

  • Eastern route (Ohayami Trans) — This bus line passes through Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao. It doesn’t take you straight to Sagada but gets you close – at least up to the eastern edge of the Cordilleras.
    Manila Terminal: Lacson Avenue cor. Fajardo Street, Sampaloc
    Contact number: 09276493055, 02-5160501 (Manila); 09175617344 (Ifugao)

Fare (Manila to Banaue): P450 (around $10)
Estimated travel time: 10-12 hours

 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN SAGADA:

  • Picturesque winding roads worthy of cinematic exposure
  • Colder weather compared to most parts of the country
  • Caves, lots of caves to explore! One of the the caves we visited was an ancient burial cave of Sumaguing (Sumaguing Cave)
  • Clean, sparkling rivers and waterfalls
  • The famous hanging coffin and other historical sites
  • Smaller versions of the famous Rice Terraces in Banaue
  • Dining areas with lots of good food and some of them can only be found in Sagada! I would love to go back just because of Sagada Lemon Pie House which serves the best (lemon) pie I ever tasted.
  • Warm, friendly people
  • Clean, safe streets

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My niece and daughter enjoying the serenity of Sagada.

Sagada map

 

When you get there, it is best to go to Sagada’s Tourist Office and register as a tourist. Local guides are there on stand by to give tourists a hand in exploring the main attractions and provide local information about Sagada for a minimal fee. Highly recommended to get a local guide from there to maximize your Sagada experience. There are caves and other tourist spots there that are hard to explore without a guide.

On off-peak season, accommodation should be easy to find even if you don’t have any prior reservations. There are a lot of affordable houses and hostels for rent around the area.

My pictures could never give justice to the beauty of Sagada. I failed to capture a lot of panoramic views when I got consumed by the vast green slopes, tourist attractions, exciting trekking trails, and lots of good food and company but that’s the thing — Sagada is a place where you can be one with nature, or reflect on the things that happened in your life, release all your pains and shout all your angst to the clouds like in the flick “Tadhana,” or frolic around it with the people you love.  If you haven’t been to Sagada, you might want to include it in your bucket list and make new unforgettable memories of your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Malagos Garden Resort, Davao City

I often get asked by friends where to go and what to do when visiting Davao City. There are plenty of choices actually, depending on your kind of high. Here’s one of the go-to places for those wanting to bask in the beauty of nature when in Davao: Malagos Garden Resort.

Malagos Garden is a 12-hectare nature theme park located in Calinan, Davao City — about an hour away from the city’s downtown area. One may choose to stay overnight as there are cottages available. The nature park is a sprawling beauty of greenery, such a welcoming and relaxing respite from the noise, smog, and heavy traffic of urban living.

I brought my family there to unwind and dine last August in time for the Kadayawan Festival, and it didn’t disappoint.

What we enjoyed the most:

1.  The Interactive Bird Show – Imagine different species of eagles, owls, and other birds suddenly flying over you from nowhere to converge at the center to join the veterinarian-host; or a bird swooping over you to take the P100 bill you’re flashing and then returning it to you towards the end of the show (yes, it will remember you); or birds segregating trash and putting them in the right trash bins; best of all, ducklings, ducks, geese, and lastly a beautiful ostrich going out in throngs from the little ones to the biggest to manifest an animal evacuation when there’s a looming vulcanic eruption (which should serve as a warning to us humans). Very impressive! We never expected it to be as entertaining and informative as it was.

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2. The Lunch Buffet – A sumptuous lunch buffet for only P275 per person. Yes dear, P275 and you get awesome food choices from appetizers to desserts (drinks not included) while a talented pianist plays on the background. Worth trying are their fresh vegetable salads!

3. The Attractions – It was a vast area to cover on foot but the attractions where we stayed the longest were the View Deck Cafe and Grill, Koi Cafe (it was so windy and cool out there), Gardens of Malagos, the Butterfly Sanctuary, and the Bird Park. We also saw the Abueva Sculptures and visited the poolside. I would’ve wanted my parents to ride the Kalesa but we couldn’t find its station.

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Malagos Garden Resort is definitely one of Davao City’s tourist destinations. More than anything, it’s an awesome place to bond with your family where you can dine, play, talk, laugh, swim, learn, take pictures, and enjoy nature at the same time. To me, that’s priceless.

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Kadayawan Sa Dabaw 2015

The biggest festival in Davao City — Kadayawan sa Dabaw — culminates today with the highly-anticipated Floral Float Competition! Ironically I left yesterday after witnessing one entry at the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan, which is one of the highlights of the festival.

Kadayawan sa Dabaw 2015 is the 30th Kadayawan celebration and as usual, it attracted thousands of local and foreign tourists to Davao City.

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Prices of fruits drop at this season of bountiful harvest. I only spent a total of P200 for 3 kilos of mangosteen and 2 big pieces of marang.

Kadayawan is an annual festival in Davao City celebrating its bountiful harvests. You will find fruits that are fresh from the farms being sold on the streets and in public markets (the most popular and probably the biggest fruit market you could find is the Bankerohan Public Market) at very low prices: Mangosteen from P40-P50 per kilo, Marang and Rambutan at P20-P30 per kilo, Durian from P35-P65 per kilo, etc. If you buy directly from farmers themselves, you will get even cheaper deals. But as for myself, I don’t normally bargain with farmers because I can only imagine their tiny mark up. They need to earn too, you know.

Next time you plan your trip to Davao, be sure to be there during the Kadayawan week.  With fruits this cheap, you have no excuse not to eat fruits when in Davao.

Madayaw, Dabaw!

 

 

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Beautiful Bataan

Bataan: One of the country’s last stands before succumbing to Japanese forces during the World War 2.

So much have been said about this place in Philippine history, yet more of its beauty can be unraveled when you visit it yourself.

Perhaps most of us remember Bataan for the dreadful Bataan Death March where our Filipino fighters and American allies were forced to walk by the Japanese Imperial Army for 102 kilometers from Bagac and Mariveles to San Fernando then to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. They were beaten, starved, and some were summarily executed. Most survived, but many didn’t.

With Bataan’s important role in our country’s history, I found it imperative to be one of the places to visit in the Philippines. For me, it’s a symbol of our forefathers’ valor and their heroic fight for freedom.

A few amateur snapshots I took while marching around: Bataan bataan2 bataan3 bataan5 bataan6 bataan capitolUpdate: Bataan at night. Photos courtesy of UNDP’s Ryan Cuanan.

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Sunset in Balanga, Bataan.

 

 

 

 

Rescued cats draw cattraction for new café

Cattention: all paws on deck!

There’s a purr-fect haven for cat lovers just within Quezon City where one can enjoy good food and drinks and the precious company of their feline friends — Cat Café Manila.

Partnered with CARA Welfare Philippines, a non-profit and non-government organization advocating animal welfare, Cat Café Manila provides shelter for cats while looking for a fur-ever home for them.  Such a brilliant  ‘CATtraction’ that allows animal advocates to help give these furry fellows a better life and at the same time enjoy their company. The good eats are a plus.

Mama Cat and Shelly lounging while waiting for customers.

Mama Cat and Shelly lounging while waiting for customers.

Basu was found and rescued from a garbage bin (basurahan), thus the name

Basu was found and rescued from a trash bin (basurahan), thus the name “Basu.”

For only P200 per person (half of which goes to the cats’ welfare and half goes to your food/drinks), you get to enjoy a good serving of either pasta, cupcakes, cookies, or drinks. The invaluable side of it is that you help Cat Café in its noble ‘CATvocacy’ of caring for these rescued cats.

Yes, those are rescued cats by CARA, and most of them were found in the streets and garbage cans in horrible conditions. Now, you wouldn’t even think they had a sad past. They’re obviously well taken care of, neutered, spayed, and vaccinated.

The cafe is manned by two friendly people (forgive me for forgetting their names) but trust me that they’ll give you excellent customer service and loads of interesting information about the cats when you visit.

If you’re not a cat person, I would still recommend that you try visiting it.  The sociable and cuddly cats there like Ling Ling, Chaka, Bicco, Mama Cat, Basu, and all the others just as adorable might give you a change of heart.

You may even adopt one of the furfriends there.

My namesake Shelly was rescued from a Shell gas station, hence her name. Cat Cafe recently announced that Shelly is their first cat to be sent for adoption. Sad to hear that we won't see her again at the cafe but glad to know she has found a new family.

My namesake Shelly was rescued from a Shell gas station, hence her name. Cat Cafe recently announced that Shelly is their first cat to be sent for adoption. Sad to hear that we won’t be seeing her again at the cafe but glad to know she has found a new family.

Many years ago, I didn’t like cats. It was because my first encounters with them were unpleasant — some strays would sneak into our kitchen and steal our food; one of them ate the helpless bird I tried to rescue after it broke one of its wings; and the worst thing happened when we woke up one day to see all our hamsters gone, with no other suspect but that same stray cat we previously saw trying a few times to get to the hamsters in their cage (apparently the cat succeeded while we were sleeping).

Frustrated about that particular cat, my uncle opted to feed it to his pet snake. My younger brothers told me about it and without hesitation, I rushed to the snake’s pit and took out the poor cat. Though I hated that it wasn’t a tame cat, I thought it didn’t deserve to be a snake’s hearty meal.

Fast forward, I noticed that cats grew tame on me and I started to like them.

Check out Cat Café Manila at 2nd Floor, 189 Maginhawa St. corner Makadios St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City.

To avoid stressing the cats, Cat Café Manila limits the number of customers to 15 at a time so it helps to book ahead. Send them a message through their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/catcafemanila?fref=ts. Don’t worry, your curiosity would benefit, not kill the cats.

Good food plus feline friends are a purr-fect combination not only to bust stress but also to show that you care for those rescued cats.

Nuff said.  Meow. Cat Cafe_FoodCat Cafe_Glass

Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, Samal Island

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When you’re in Davao City and have enough time to bask in the sun, sea, and sand, make a quick trip to Samal Island and ask locals about Villa Amparo.  It’s arguably one of the most scenic and tranquil beach resorts on the island.

It’s about 20 minutes away from Babak Wharf, which means a quiet refuge from the more-populated beaches in Samal.  If you don’t have a private vehicle, you get there by a motorcycle or a tricycle once you reach Babak Wharf.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride so brace yourself.  The road going there is not yet fully developed.

The first time I went there with friends some two years ago, we thought we were being kidnapped because the road was getting narrower and farther from civilization, lol! We could see more trees and hills than the coastline.  And when the driver finally said we have reached our destination, we were welcomed by the resort’s security guard with a gun visibly hoisted to his side.

But seriously, there was nothing to fear there.  In fact, Samal Island as a whole boasts of a low crime rate and is arguably one of the safest places to visit and live in the Philippines.

All of Villa Amparo’s staff from the guard to the kitchen and office personnel were very accommodating.  Since it was a lean season, we had the place to ourselves!  Serenity.

We rented a nipa hut that could accommodate 3-4 people for only P750.  In the morning, we had our breakfast served at the Islet Gazebo without additional charges. Guests would have to pay P600 for a day at the Islet Gazebo but then again, we had the resort to ourselves and were given excellent perks fit for queens.

Their food was delicious yet inexpensive.

Their common shower rooms and restrooms were clean and well-maintained, and that was of primary importance to me.

Overall, Villa Amparo is worth checking out when you’re in Samal.

Tip: Don’t go there after a night of heavy rain because the sea’s current would wash loads of trash from Davao to this side of Samal. Go there on sunny days and enjoy the clear waters of Villa Amparo throughout your stay!

How to get to Villa Amparo, Samal Island from Davao City:

By bus:

1. Ride the Island City Express bus from the Magsaysay Park in Uyanguren. This will get you to Sasa Wharf and ferry you to Babak. Get off at Babak Wharf, not in Caliclic. (Around 15 minutes sea travel from Sasa Wharf)

Fare: P30

2. Ride a tricycle or a motorcycle just a few steps away from Babak Wharf. About 20-30 minutes ride from there to Villa Amparo.

Fare: P75-P100 per head on motorcycle or P375-P500 for a tricycle depending on your bargaining skills;

Some habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers may offer P200 per ride, but able to accommodate three passengers at a time. Jaw drop 😉

By private vehicle or taxi:

1. Pay P270 at Sasa Wharf (not sure if rate has changed).

From the Babak Wharf, turn left and be on the lookout for small billboards and road signs along the way that will help you get to Villa Amparo. If all else fails, stop and ask locals.

Address: Sitio Dasag, Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal.

The resort is pretty secluded from the other beaches in Babak Samal but when you get there, the breath-taking views, good food and customer service will let you know it’s all worth it.

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A comfortable overnight stay in a Villa Amparo nipa hut only costs P750.

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Boardwalk gazebo (P800 day tour). Take the spot upstairs for a fantastic view of the beach.

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Our stay in Samal Island, particularly in this secluded Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, was so relaxing and fun, and yet we didn’t break the bank. That’s the reason I went back last year and looking forward to going there again with more friends to tag along.

Debunking Myths about Mindanao

If you haven’t been to any parts of Mindanao, you’re probably one of the people who cringe at the thought of going there. I don’t blame you. Mindanao is generally and unfairly portrayed in the media as a war-torn island where gunshots are as common as firecrackers on Christmas and New Year’s eve.

I’ll tell you a story:

Many years ago, I was walking along a dimly-lit street in Pasay City when a stranger started taking my pace and tried to spark a conversation. I had this gut feeling that his intentions weren’t wholesome and I certainly wished he’d leave me alone. He asked me where I came from: I said curtly: “Mindanao.” “Ha? Muslim ka?” (You’re a Muslim?) His startled reaction was overrated. And he scampered away. Though I was glad to have whisked him off (albeit not intentionally by saying I was from Mindanao), I was surprised that he ran away at the mention of Mindanao.

What is it about Mindanao and Muslims that scare people? Myths. Unfair generalizations based on hearsay instead of facts.

Once and for all, let’s settle this.

1. Mindanao, which is the second largest island in the country composed of 26 provinces, is generally peaceful.  Only a small fraction of Mindanao is actually conflict-prone. Not even all of Cotabato (North or South) is risky, so to be scared of Cotabato as a whole is not quite fair. However, you might want to avoid Mamasapano in Maguindanao at this point. This agricultural area was unfortunately put in a bad light after a bloody encounter between armed groups and our law enforcers last January. Monitor the news first before you decide to visit that area.

But then again, it is but a small area in Mindanao. According to Wikipedia, the island of Mindanao is larger than 125 countries worldwide, including the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland.

2. Whenever Mindanao is mentioned, one top-of-mind association is “Muslims.” First off, Mindanao is not limited to the ARMM or the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) which are predominantly Muslim areas.

There are many other cities and provinces in Mindanao that are dominated by non-Muslims.  And even if there are many Muslims in some parts of Mindanao, so what? They are like everyone else, regardless of religion. Sadly, many of us have ingrained a certain degree of prejudice against our Muslim brothers and sisters as if they’re synonymous to terrorists and rebels. They’re not. I have Muslim friends and they are some of the nicest and most peace-loving people I know on earth. It’s not fair to brand people.

3. Modern Muslims and Christians are not the only dwellers in Mindanao. Mindanao is also home to lumads (indigenous people) who have distinctively rich cultures but are usually not under the media radar (except maybe during the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City where a lot of these lumads converge and participate in government-initiated activities). Filipinas Heritage Library lists these lumads as follows:

  • South Central Mindanao (esp. Davao, Bukidnon, Cotabato): Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Teduray, Manobo, Kulaman, Blaan, T’boli
  • Eastern Mindanao (esp. Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao, Surigao): Mandaya, Ata, Mansaka, Dibabawon
  • North Central Mindanao (esp. Bukidnon): Bukidnon/Higaonon
  • Western Mindanao and the Sulu Islands (esp. Zamboanga, Cotabato, Lanao): Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Tausug, Samal, Yakan, Kalibugan, and Subanen

I am a child of Mindanao and for more than three decades, I have never felt that my safety has been compromised. Was I just lucky? Not sure about that.  I’ve been to parts of Cotabato and Comval Province, places they tag as rebel-infested and war-torn, but I never heard gun shots nor have I been robbed nor assaulted.  There was a single instance though when our group was approached by a member of the New People’s Army somewhere in Compostela Valley but he didn’t bother us, maybe because our guide was a local farmer whom the group respected for creating livelihood in their area.

Still scared of Mindanao? Start with Southern Mindanao particularly Davao City, the 4th Safest City in the World led by our widely-respected Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, with a crime index of 13.27 and safety index of 86.73.

Experience not strife but the serenity of its nature parks and mountain resorts, the beauty of nearby beaches, the modern facilities around the city, the abundance of seafood, meat and other fresh produce, the diversity and unity of cultures, the hospitality of its people, the honesty of its taxi drivers. Before you know it, you’ll be wanting to visit nearby provinces and telling your friends that their perception of Mindanao being scary is not at all true. around pilipinas

Camsur Water Sports Complex

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Camsur Water Sports Complex is one of the top tourist destinations in the Bicol region and probably one of the most popular in the country.

This 6-hectare complex is the first world-class watersports complex in the Philippines and in Asia.

Our family spent our Holy Week there last year, and I could say that it was the most relaxing respite we ever had. We’re not even watersports enthusiasts, so why did we go there? I say there’s a whole lot of things that this place has to offer even if you don’t intend to do wakeboarding, kneeboarding, waterskiing, or wakeskating. We didn’t do any of that. We were as boring as that, haha! But we enjoyed the tranquility of the place, which was the main reason why we went there. Afterall, it was Holy Week.

The great side is that while the other guests flocked to the dining places and the wakeboarding area, we had the swimming pool all to ourselves!

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Waking up to a rainbow. A view from our wood cabin.

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Address:  Provincial Capitol Complex Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur, Philippines

Their room rates are surprisingly low for the kind of comfort and ambiance you’re getting. Prices range from P1,200-P4,950 for two persons. Check out their website cwcwake.com for more information.

How to get there from Manila:

1. Bus – Araneta Bus Station, Cubao (P700). Since it was Holy Week, there weren’t enough buses to accommodate all commuters. We ended up making friends with other stranded passengers so we could hire a van at P1,000 each. Travel time: 8 hours

2. Plane – The fastest and easiest way to get to Camsur, but not the cheapest. Check out available flights online and see rates.