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Tagaytay Revisited

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If you are looking for a mild cold weather on a hot weekend, I will recommend you to revisit the famous relaxation and vacation place in Cavite – Tagaytay. I called this a “revisit” because I know most of us have already been to this famous destination of Cavite province. I myself have been in Tagaytay for a countless times but I still find it worth to have a revisit to this place. Definitely because of the mild cold weather but with some new sights, good old cuisine to taste and the ever-charming overlooking scenery of Taal Lake and volcano, Tagaytay will always be worth for a revisit.

In Panorama: The famed postcard photo of Taal lake and volcano overlooking view from Tagaytay.
The proximity of Tagaytay from the metro makes it an ideal quick escape for those like me who are looking for a short vacation. So after my work shift together with my workmates, we hop on the earliest bus ride to Tagaytay, Cavite. Travel time is just one and a half hour coming from Pasay area and at the early hours of the morning. We arrived early in the morning and to enjoy the most our quick visit; we planned to do what Tagaytay visitors normally do like food trip and sightseeing.

Since we arrived in the morning, we sample first the famous Bulalo (Beef Shank Soup) to refresh our senses at Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant which is open for 24 hours. Bulalo is made of a hot stew from beef shank with beef meat, corn cob and vegetables like cabbage and potatoes. Just the aroma of Bulalo is perfect enough for withstanding the cold weather of Tagaytay so what more in indulging its hot stew. It was perfect for the cold weather of the place!
 
Tagaytay's famous Bulalo!
The sun starts to shine...
Cavite sunrise...
Green Ats has a perfect terrace view deck of Taal Lake and volcano so we waited until sunrise to enjoy the popular view of Tagaytay. After enjoying our Bulalo meal and dawn has passed, the sun started to rise. It slowly lighted the beautiful view of Taal Lake with Taal Volcano, known as the world’s smallest volcano in the center of it. I know this view has always been popular in postcards and travel magazines already but this view of Tagaytay is it timeless charm. And though, Taal lake and volcano geographically belongs to Batangas province, you will never get tired of this beautiful view from the ridge of Tagaytay. For me, this view of Tagaytay is a view that every visitor will never forget.

It's more fun in Cavite!
Overlooking view of Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant.
Each one of us dreams to fly.
We were still full from Bulalo, yet we continue our food trip at Mushroom Burger. It is 10 minutes away from Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant and along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway. Mushroom Burger is famous for its burger made of organic mushroom! For me, it was a perfect breakfast treat in combination with hot coffee. The burger patty seems to be like an ordinary meat patty burger but very mushroom in taste! And I find it healthy too! Since it is made of mushroom and organic vegetables, it promotes good digestion. After finishing our “heavy” breakfast and a few chats, I usher my travel mates to proceed to our next destination in Tagaytay.

Perfect combination for breakfast - Mushroom burger and coffee.
Pine trees around Tagaytay City.
Located in Barangay Asisan is Puzzle Mansion. The mansion is a museum that boasts a Guinness Book of Records for the most number of collection puzzles on display. The museum has two floors of halls of collected puzzles of different pictures that will fancy, entertain and amaze the visitors.  Some of the most attractive puzzles found inside Puzzle Mansion are portrait of famous Philippine politicians like President Aquino, famous paintings like Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh and world famous landmarks like Taj Mahal of India and Red Square of Russia. The museum facilities also boast hotel accommodation for its visitors, a wishing well and souvenir shop full of puzzles, of course. Most of the activity that you can do in Puzzle Mansion is to have souvenir photos with the numerous puzzles of all sizes but aside from it, there is nothing to do in the museum.

How many puzzles can you count at Puzzle Mansion?
Record holder.
Van Gogh's Starry Night in puzzle version.
Souvenir shop of Puzzle Mansion.
More puzzles, more fun!
Our last destination is another famous place in Tagaytay, the Tagaytay Picnic Groove. The park has great recalls of my childhood memories for it has been a popular place for our family trips and outing. The park also has a perfect view of Taal Lake and volcano too, where visitors can do picnic in the huts located in a slope facing the view. The park also has cable car ride and zipline for an exciting activity. And for the adventurous, it has an eco-trail where explorers can do canopy walk and concrete platform walk as an optional activity. But the famous activity in Tagaytay Picnic Groove is horseback riding activity that I’m sure most of us have a fond childhood memories of. Souvenirs shops are all abound around the park. Some parts of the park were poorly maintained that I hope its management will do action soon since the picnic groove is still a popular place in Tagaytay. The picnic groove until now still appeals to a lot to Tagaytay visitors so hopefully its improvement will happen soon.

The stunning view at Tagaytay Picnic Groove.
We could still visit People’s Park Palace in the Sky which is another must-see attraction in Tagaytay too but our time is limited. I hope there will be changes already to this mountain peak park because the last time I went there it was badly neglected and in need of maintenance. Or visit the famed gardens of Sonya’s Garden and taste their organic treats in Alfonso, also near Tagaytay. But I definitely enjoyed my revisit to Tagaytay! I get to explore it enough to satisfy my senses. And it still has a lot of fond memories of my childhood trip memories. It was worthy to revisit Tagaytay again. Its charm goes beyond the scenic view of Taal lake and volcano but soars to great travel memories now and then. Tagaytay is a great place to revisit again and again in my home province of Cavite.

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Tagaytay Revisited is the narration of my first trip of the year that happened last February 3, 2014 with my workmates. It happened just out of thinking where to go a quick escape from the city which happens Tagaytay as the nearest place to go. It was a wonderful revisit to the old time popular destination in my home province for all this time it still has a charming way to call you for a visit. After all, it's more fun in Cavite! 


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Concepcion: Iloilo’s hidden gem

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Nestled in Northern Iloilo, is the steadily tranquil municipality of Concepcion. It is a laid-back town with cheerful and kind Ilonggos living in a quiet community. But beyond its quietness and charming character, Concepcion is a hidden gem to discover. It is a hidden gem of Iloilo province for its underrated sights and undiscovered beauty that I’m glad to uncover.

Who wouldn't jump to see this stunning beauty of Concepcion's hidden gem?
Concepcion has been fascinating me ever since I read about it on online sites, particularly in Explore Iloilo. So when I had a chance to visit Iloilo, I really tried to include it in my trip to it even though I know it is quite far from Iloilo City. We travelled to Concepcion, via a 3 hour bus ride on Ceres Liner at Iloilo’s Tagbak Terminal – where buses bound for Northern Iloilo are stationed.  The 3 hour bus ride is plies through the scenic rice paddies and forestry ranges of Iloilo’s northern municipalities of Barotac Viejo, Ajuy and Sara.

The municipality of Concepcion is a coastal town located at the northeastern part of Iloilo Province. The municipality occupies the territorial water towards Visayan Sea where on its bay are 16 islands that are considered gems for its beautiful beaches, coral gardens, mountain islands, land formations and rich marine life. The islands mostly appeared as half-drowned mountains jutting out from the sea but mostly surrounded by white sand beaches, azure waters and rocky stones. It is in these islands lies the true beauty of Concepcion being lead by the commanding view of the tallest point of Pan de Azucar island or Mount Manaphag from the sea that makes it the landmark of the municipality.

Hotel Junbee facade.
Around Hotel Junbee - our accomodation in Concepcion.
After a long road trip, we alighted at Concepcion Public Plaza on where Hotel Junbee is just a short walking distance. We were gladly received by its owners, Mr. Jun Garilva and Mrs. Rubenie Garilva whom warmly welcome us in their charming hotel. Hotel Junbee is a three floor hotel which faces the shores of Concepcion Bay. It has a view deck for its visitors to appreciate the sea and the bay, where one can already see the islands of Concepcion from the distance. They also arranged our island hopping tour to the Concepcion islands since they have a contact with boat men who offer this kind of trips.

Breaking dawn in Concepcion.
My exploration of Iloilo’s so called “hidden gem” starts a view of dawn from Hotel Junbee’s terrace view deck. I woke up 5 in the morning expecting to catch my first Concepcion sunrise from the terrace balcony of our accommodation room.  I still felt dizzy from a morning wake along with recovery of tiredness from our trip yesterday from Iloilo City. But the view I saw from the terrace was something gorgeous to make up my first great morning and sunrise hunt in Concepcion. From the terrace, I marvel on the view of Concepcion’s coastal port with cloud patched sky from upper view, a middle view of mountain islands and down to a view of vast calm sea - all bade in blue hue of morning dawn. I thought while in marvel that everything seems to be touched by the Goddess of the Dawn.

This view is something new for me as I used to view sunsets in coastal beaches. I love sunset views for its magnificent and stunning moment. But dawn is a beholding sight that cannot be ignored! I did not expect my sunrise hunt will turn to witnessing a beautiful dawn in Concepcion. It was my first dawn catch and it was a grateful morning I ever had. It can be suitably called blue morning but as blue dawn color painted the whole beautiful scenery of Concepcion’s coastal port.  Aside from the vast sea and islands that as far as my eyes can see, even coconut trees standing along the port and bancas (outrigger boats) docked in the shore were all painted in blue. It was a like a royal moment for the Goddess of the Dawn – Aurora.
 
The 16 hidden gems of Concepcion is waiting...
The beauty of Agho Island. It will capture your heart literally!
I wish every morning I always get this kind of dawn view. It evokes feelings of calmness, serenity and clear thoughts. I don’t get this kind of stunning view everyday or even every morning at least. So I quickly decided to get my camera to capture this beautiful morning moment in Concepcion that “goddess Aurora” is offering!

At six in the morning, we started our island hopping exploration of Concepcion’s gem islands. It was so early because we learned that islands are 20 to 30 minutes apart from each other and our time spent on the island will definitely consume our travel time. As we sailed through the Concepcion Bay, I can already see islands which mostly are mountain islands jutting from the sea. And the most visible of them all is Pan de Azucar. It is the biggest and most popular among Concepcion’s 16 islands. Its tallest point is Mount Manaphag which was clearly visible among the islands of Concepcion which makes Pan de Azucar Island a popular scenery of the municipality. Mount Manaphag was actually the star of my dawn viewing and everywhere you go, this mountain point will capture your attention. No wonder Pan de Azucar was the landmark of Concepcion. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the island as part of island hopping trip due to limited time we had.

The rocky side of Agho Island.
I was instantly challenged to do a mountain climbing for this activity with Suba looking at how I will face the challenge.
Malangabang Island while exploring Agho Island.
It was still quite dark but the sky from dawn but it started to shed light after 30 minutes of sailing through the sea and we arrived to our first island destination – Agho Island.  The island is an undiscovered island gem for its beautiful white sand beaches and sand bars that is beautifully surrounded by a 360 degree seascape view of other island gems of Concepcion. Half of the island is bounded by white sand beach and stunning sandbars and half of it are dotted with rocky formations and black rocky beach. What a unique combination of land formation in one island!

Agho Island is beach-lovers and sun-worshipper's paradise!
The caretaker and her family who are the sole inhabitant of the island warmly receive us and guided us on a round-the-island tour of Agho which we were surprised because the island is big enough but can be tour around for 30 minutes. We were also welcomed by Suba, the family’s pet dog who also join in our tour of Agho Island. Our tour started with a walk through the clam garden being taken care of the caretaker for sometime already. Then, we proceed with an exploration of the island’s rocky beach side which was mainly composed of black smooth rocks by the beach. I had difficulty walking on the rocky terrain but I easily passed it! We reached the rocky north point end of the island where there’s a challenge first before you proceed to the next side of Agho – you have to do a mini rock climbing down a side cliff. Though, the cliff is not that really high, it was still a challenge and life risky because if you fall, you fall to the rocks first before the water. The caretaker, said it was the easiest way to cross the other side of the island, the other one was going through a thick forest of small palm trees which will take time. And so with quite nervousness, I had to do it! Slowly, yet careful holding on the wall rocks, I did it with flying colors! But Suba was way more quick and easy in crossing the cliff!

Touchdown Bolobadiangan Island also known as Sandbar Island.
Resident resort of Bolobadiangan Island.
 The other side of Agho Island is mostly composed of smooth black rock formation by the seaside where we walkthrough with a thick forest of trees going to the inner side of the island. As you walk towards south of the island, I saw Malangabang Island, another gem island of Concepcion. Reaching the south side which where we started, we are greeted with a marvelous and stunning sandbar of Agho Island facing Pan de Azucar and its nearby islands. It was the most priceless view of Concepcion that I have seen! It made do a jump shot with almost a shout of “I’ve seen an ocean at last!” like any kid seeing his toy at last. The south point of Agho island is also dotted with numerous palm trees and a kubo that makes up a truly paradise scene for visitors to enjoy. And what a gorgeous seascape of Concepcion islands it has that you can enjoy in a 360 degree viewing while on a standpoint at Agho Island!   

Welcome to Bolobadiangan Island!
Danao Danao Island - one of the 16 island gems of Concepcion.
Then, we travel for 30 minutes for our next island to visit. Once you arrive in the island, what you will notice is its long stretch of powdery white sandbar where at the tip, you’re boat will dock. It’s popularly known as Sandbar Island but for its sandbar beauty but it is accurately named Bolobadiangan Island (also spelled, Bulubadiangan).  It is home of Sandbar Island Beach Resort where visitors can rent nipa hut rooms for overnight stay at the island. Just be sure to bring food to cook in the island since it is far from Concepcion mainland. The best thing to do in Bolobadiangan Island is to frolic in the vast white sandbar of the island and appreciating the scenic seascape around the island just like what we did. One of the beautiful islands you’ll appreciate its beauty is Danao Danao Island which is the nearest to Bolobadiangan Island. These activities are enough to appreciate this island but the real beauty of Bolobadiangan Island is its huge and long sandbar. And I’m glad that the caretaker of the island is maintaining it clean and beautiful.

Exploring the sandbar beauty of Bolobadiangan Island.
3 hours on the road again is worth it!
 After Bolobadiangan Island, we returned to Concepcion mainland feeling delighted with the exploration of its hidden gems. The beauty of nature I found there is priceless and marvelous. I hope the people of Concepcion continue to preserve and maintain its beauty so many can witness and experience it. As I traveled back again to Iloilo City for three hours with my travelmates, the beauty of Concepcion’s islands plays repeatedly in my mind. Stunning seascapes, charming islands and sun-kissed white beaches, Concepcion is truly a hidden gem of Iloilo. I’m sure anyone would agree whoever comes to experience it. 

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Concepcion: Iloilo's hidden gem is part of my trip series of the same title that tells about my travel stories on my visit to Iloilo's northern municipality of Concepcion last July 10-11, 2012. To learn more about Concepcion, read Explore Iloilo's website. You might also like the other parts of the series: 
1. The Goddess of Dawn in Concepcion
2. Concepcion: Iloilo's hidden gem
3. Agho Island: An undiscovered island gem
4. Bolobodiangan Island's sandbar beauty


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Baguio: In fresh start and new beginning

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Everyday is an opportunity to have a fresh start. It doesn't matter what happened yesterday. All that counts is today. When you wake up in the morning, know that today is full of opportunities waiting to be grabbed. It is a new day, a new start, the beginning of a new life awaits you.

We cannot start over again, but we can begin now and make a new ending.

Today is Easter Sunday.

Chasing the sun at Mines View Park, Baguio.
My morning visit to Mines View Park of Baguio City last October 2012 let chase the sun for a postcard-perfect photo set against the shadow of the ever popular pine trees of the city. Yet, whether chasing the sun or sunrise, morning is always an opportunity to make a fresh start and new beginning. This photo of Baguio reminds me that each day is a new beginning.

Baguio: In fresh start and new beginning is part of my Going Lenten series. It started from my Instragram account where I share travel inspiration thoughts and quotes with travel photos that can be reflected upon and ponder about in this special season of Holy Week. Today's last share for Lent season is about fresh start and new beginning. Happy Easter everyone!


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Cabanatuan: In death

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The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside us while we live. – Norman Cousins.

You don’t live once. You live everyday. You only die once. We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.

Today is Black Saturday.

A river in Cabanatuan City while enroute to Baler, Aurora. 
I captured this photo of a river while passing in Cabanatuan as we travel to Baler, Aurora last December of 2013. It's simple beauty caught my eye especially the interplay of dawn and sunrise colors in the sky set against the river. The dark colored river and bluish dawn sky signifies the sadness and mourn of death yet promises that everyday we live to make a fresh start and leave a forever mark in this world.
 
Cabanatuan: In death is part of my Going Lenten series. It started from my Instragram account where I share travel inspiration thoughts and quotes with travel photos that can be reflected upon and ponder about in this special season of Holy Week. Today's share is about death.


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Going Lenten

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I'm doing a Going Lenten series this week. It started from my Instragram account where I share travel inspiration thoughts and quotes without being too much religious tone with travel photos each day that can be reflected upon and ponder about in this special season of Holy Week. It started last Thursday here in Going Places but I started sharing it since last Palm Sunday. 

Here are other topic thoughts that I shared throughout the Holy Week that might help you reflect in life in this special season of April:
 
Palm Sunday is about Change.
 
People hate change, or so I hear. But the change we generally resist is the kind that we think will make our situation worse rather than better. We eagerly change jobs when it means higher pay. We happily move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood. So it's not change in general that we hate; it's change that involves loss - sometimes physical; other times emotional or psychological. 

Change is both inevitable and necessary. If everything stays the same, no one is growing. 
 
Cowrie Island of Palawan: In changes.
*I choose the coconut trees for the picture not only it is related to palm tree but the coconut trees symbolizes a lot of changes to it as grows older.


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Holy Monday is about Friends and Friendship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. 

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief. Friends are important. Friends serve as confidants, counselors and burden-sharers.

Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro: In friends and friendship.
*I choose a photo of my first out-of-town trip with my early group of friends from my hometown because this photo shows a great bonding of friends and share of genuine friendship.


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 Holy Tuesday is about Respect.

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. -Benjamin Franklin. 

Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human. No greater honor can come to any man than the respect of his colleagues. Be curious, not judgmental.

Anilao, Mabini, Batangas: In Respect. 
*Two bancas in equal footing shows the aspect of respect.


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Holy Wednesday is about Maturity.

Maturity is not measured by age. It's an attitude built by experience. The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back.

Thai Orchids: In Maturity.
*Flower when they bloom from a bud signifies a change in the life stage of a plant just like when we reach maturity.
 
Sorry for being not updated quickly on travel stories. But soon I will share a lot travel stories as I have been busy traveling this summer. But for now, I hope I helped you reflect and think this Lenten Season upon reading my Going Lenten series. I know most of you are on a trip this Holy Week for Summer vacation but in case you stumble upon my blog, here are some things that you can reflect while on travel. Enjoy the week everyone and happy travel whenever you are right now!


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Sagada: In love and compassion

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Love is always bestowed as a gift - freely, willingly, and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love. We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.

Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. Love is meant to heal and to renew. It is meant to bring us closer to God. Love stands by each other on good days and stands even closer on bad days. 

Today is Good Friday.

A lone strawberry at Strawberry Cafe, Sagada, Mountain Province.
During my trip to Sagada last 2012, my travelmates went to Strawberry Cafe for breakfast. Wondering, why is it called such cafe name when there is no strawberry around nor strawberry being served at their menu, I roamed around. And suddenly, I found strawberry plants in their garden with one of them has a lone heart-shape fruit dangling down from a stem that invites me to pick it up. But I refuse to. I just took a souvenir photo of it since it is my first and only time to see a strawberry in Sagada. Though Sagada's cool weather is suitable for strawberries, it's not really being focused for cultivation but more in Benguet and Baguio. That lone strawberry that made me wonder and awe in beauty of nature is just like love, a formidable force that changes you, transforms you and offer you joy than any material possesion could.

More about my trip to Sagada, Mountain Province, here.

Sagada: In love and compassion is part of my Going Lenten series. It started from my Instragram account where I share travel inspiration thoughts and quotes with travel photos that can be reflected upon and ponder about in this special season of Holy Week. Today's share is about love and compassion.


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Guimaras: In taking risks and chances

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The greatest mistake we make are the risks we didn't take. If you think something will make you happy, go for it! So you won't live your life asking what if and telling yourself if only...
 

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take. It's never too late for a second chance.

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Ave Maria Island, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras

Just like the boat that sails through the sea, it takes risks and chances to get to its destination. Just like in our life and in making decisions - We take risk. If you win, you'll be happy. If you lose, you'll be wise. We only regret the chances we didn't take. And it's never too late for a second chance.

Ave Maria Island is part of the island hopping itinerary in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras which starts in Alubihod Beach. Ave Maria Island is called by its name because of the Virgin Mary grotto like rock formation that can be found at the tip of the island. But aside from the unique rock formation, the island is beautifully surrounded by white sand beaches, clear waters, picturesque nearby islands, stunning seascape and lovely rock formations to wander about. More about my Guimaras trip here.

Guimaras: In taking risks and chances is part of my Going Lenten series. It started from my Instragram account where I share travel inspiration thoughts and quotes with travel photos that can be reflected upon and ponder about in this special season of Holy Week. Today's share is about taking risks and chances.


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Escape to Aurora

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I am looking forward in exploring the province of Aurora ever since I‘ve read a lot of travel stories about it online. Aurora wasn’t just all about “surfing” which is still the province’s main activity. But it’s also about natural sights, historical discoveries and adventure trips which will definitely delight its visitors. So when I had a chance to go there, I did not let pass an opportunity to escape to Aurora.  

Genesis Transport is the best way to travel to Aurora. It directly plies daily to Baler, the capitol town of Baler on a 6-7 hour regular aircon bus or on a 5 hour executive bus trip. For regular air-conditioned bus, it stops at Cabanatuan City, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija but for executive buses, it is a non-stop 5 hour trip. I tagged along my trip buddies to join me in this escape to Aurora for a fun and memorable road trip and adventure!  

Surfing Baler.
I arrived in Baler on a rainy morning with my friends for a quick getaway trip before the holidays. I thought the rain will stop that morning but it ended raining the whole day so we end singing on videoke the rest of our day at our accommodation in Pasilyo Lodge and Surf. By evening, the rain stopped but since we had nothing to do a night, we just resorted for booze night at Yellow Fin Bar and Grill.  Though, it was a bad rainy day, I enjoy my first night in Baler because of Yellow Fin Bar and Grill. I enjoyed the cool music played along and relaxing ambiance of the bar.

Baler bound!
Only Genesis Transport has daily routes to Baler.
Relaxing ambience of Yellow Fin Bar and Grill.
 The following morning, it was still raining but it is less drizzle this time. So it’s a good opportunity to try the prime activity in Baler – surfing. We went off to Sabang Beach, the playground of surfer lovers in Baler. Sabang Beach is a surfer’s beach for its endless flow of waves as it faces the Pacific Ocean therefore it is not a beach good for swimming. But it is very ideal for surfing activity! The waves are calling the surfer lovers at heart. And it’s inviting for a surfing. But the waves at that time starts to become violent as rain starts to pour again. I opt to have a souvenir shot of Sabang Beach after my trip buddy almost got drown in braving the waves of Sabang Beach. But even though I didn’t try surfing or even swimming, Sabang Beach still has a charm of a scenic natural sight in Baler.

The waves are calling...
Surfing lessons is offered at Sabang Beach. Here are amateur surfers with their teachers.
He surf Baler!
Braving the waves...
My contact tour tricycle driver, Kuya Romel (0938.2760737) was our guide in this escape to Aurora. He fetched us since our day one in Baler and was our service in exploring the sights of the province. He is an accredited tour driver of the local tourism office and he was very kind to us. Because of the rainy weather we were unable to visit some sights of the province since our day one in Baler. So we just started on the second day only to those places that are available for visit. We ate first our lunch at Rolling Stores, the famous eatery (carinderia) in Baler that offers affordable but delicious home-style cooked food.

The outside facade of Museo de Baler. It is Baler's historical trip.
Viewing historical artifacts in relation to the historic Siege of Baler.
Painting murals displayed at the 2nd floor of the museum.
Meeting President Manuel Quezon for the first time!
We start our exploration of Baler by discovering the town’s history at Museo de Baler. Hundreds of historical artifacts and mementos are preserved in the museum for viewing and appreciation. A trip to Museo de Baler is a discovery to the colorful past of Aurora province itself. The most notable historical account presented at the museum is the “Siege of Baler” which narrates the almost a year of Spanish contingent struggle with Filipino revolutionary forces around the walls of the church of Baler. The Siege of Baler was the inspiration of the movie about it, titled Baler (2008) which starred by Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis. The movie garnered many awards at the 34th Metro Manila Film Festival for its beautiful story, directing and acting performances. It was an honor movie for the town of Baler that’s why a lot of the movies props were displayed at Museo de Baler including the costumes used and the trophies it won at the 34th Metro Manila Film Festival awards night.

We met President Manuel Quezon in Baler!
On the second floor, paintings of local artist were on displayed. Most of the themes of the paintings were Filipino daily life, historical events and historical people in which the most recognizable political figure is former Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon. He was born in Baler that’s why he is the most revered political and histotical personality of the province. Though a visit to Museo de Baler is a historical trip on memory lane, there is still a unique fun here at the souvenir spot area of the museum. You can freely use the props provided by the museum like a makeshift Facebook profile board where you can fit your face in or use the various fan sign messages for a souvenir photo shot at the museum’s studio like spot area. It was a fun and a great bonding experience with friends at Museo de Baler.

Dona Aurora House - one of the historical sites in Baler, Aurora.
Yours truly as President Manuel Quezon... Inside Dona Aurora House, just mocking.
Our next stop is Dona Aurora House which is the house of Dona Aurora Quezon, wife and then-First Lady of former president Manuel Quezon. Like Museo de Baler, Dona Aurora House is also a repository of historical artifacts and things belonging to the Quezon family. But the most notable property displayed was the 1936 Chrysler Airflow Limousine – the presidential car of Manuel Quezon. Just street across Dona Aurora House is the historic Baler Church. Officially named as San Luis Obispo Parish, Baler Church is famous for the Siege of Baler (1898-1899) that happened inside the church and its outside grounds during Philippine Revolution where the fight between the Philippine Revolutionary forces and the last remaining Spanish troops struggled for one year.

Baler Church or officially known as San Luis Obispo Parish, the central site of Siege of Baler.
Our last stop of the day is the 600 year old giant Balete Tree also dubbed as the located at the town of Maria Aurora. It is 30 minutes away via tricycle from Baler. It was dubbed as the “Millenium Tree” because of its age and gigantic size that I think 50 people hand in hand will complete a circle around it. I did not feel afraid nor scared during my visit at the famous Balete Tree as I’m quite skeptic about the superstitious stories about Balete Trees as dwelling place of supernatural beings or creatures. I’m more amazed by the giant size of the tree because I usually see only regular tall Balete tree but not enormous as this one in Maria Aurora! I’m also amazed at its age. Its giant size tells that it surpassed a lot of period in time.

The 600 year old Balete Tree of Maria Aurora.
The tree is not only about its size, age and surrounding folk stories about it, you can actually explore the inside of the tree to view it on a different way. In a small and quite difficult pass to thru opening, visitors can go inside it and see what’s behind its giant body. I’m surprised that there is a big hollow opening inside the Balete tree. At least 10 to 15 people can go inside it at the same time. Inside the Balete tree, I saw numerous long intertwining roots of the tree that stretches from the soil upwards taller than me. I’m amazed at the view of the tree from inside even some section of it are dark and quite paranoia-inducing that some might be lurking there.  The guides also invite us to climb the tree and have photo souvenir of it. But we decline to do so since, it just rained and the roots are wet which could lead to accident. Plus I have an injured and wounded foot as earlier in the trip I slipped in Museo de Baler because of the wet tiles from the rain.  After lots of souvenir photos, we return to Baler again via a 30 minute drive by Kuya Romel.

The trio meets the "Millenium Tree".
Piliting pasukin ang makipot na daan paloob ng Balete Tree.
Inside the Balete Tree... see the intertwining roots of the tree.
Yours truly, having a difficult time getting out of the tree and made more difficult with my injured and wounded foot.
It was passed six in the evening when we reached Baler. We decided to take a dinner at Gerry Shan’s Place, Chinese and Seafood Cuisine. I have to say that this is the best buffet in Baler I had! Mainly because it is a very affordable buffet dinner and I enjoyed most of the Filipino cuisine served at their buffet tables. (185PHP per head including iced as of December 2013). It was a satisfying dinner to cap off our tour of Aurora province.

Dinner buffet table at Gerry Shan's Chinese and Seafood Cuisine restaurant.
Dinner buffet at our last night in Baler with our trike and tour guide, Kuya Romel.
When we return to our lodge, we still had enough time as our departure time is set at 3 in the morning.  So I rest for a while before one of my friends, invited me to drop again at Yellow Fin Bar and Grill for a one last time booze at Baler. I enjoyed again the ambiance of the place and cool music played at the bar. I drink moderately and we settled early because Kuya Romel will fetch us early to Genesis Bus Terminal. But nonetheless, it was a great night spend on my last night in Baler.

A friend in need is a friend in deed!
Inside the executive bus of Joy Bus.
Suman de Baler with bits of ube... I find it delicious and sweet!
Our bus trip to Manila this time is via Joy Bus, the executive deluxe bus product of Genesis Transport. Joy Bus is a deluxe bus plying to Manila non-stop for only 5 hours. It has an onboard restroom, wide reclining seats like airline’s Business Class seats and an attendant to facilitate your trip concerns.  You also got free snacks and drinks too onboard Joy Bus!  Before we board, I bought Baler Suman (sticky rice) for pasalubong! I also thanked Kuya Romel for the good service we had and told him that we will come back to explore the other sights we didn’t see in Aurora.

My freebies snack at Joy Bus!
Enjoying the comforts of Joy Bus, but - Goodbye Baler, but I shall return on a good weather time in Baler!
As the bus rolls out of Baler, I started to recline my seat and lean on to feel the comfort of the deluxe seats of Joy Bus. I may not have fully explored the other sights of the province on this visit but it’s good enough for me to realize that I still had a great time in this escape to Aurora. Despite of the bad weather and mishaps, I still had a great time discovering Aurora – just some thoughts I had in mind before I shut my eyes close to sleep for the entire road trip.


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Escape to Aurora was my 5th travel of 2013 last December 12-14, 2013 with my friends as we are looking for a quick getaway trip before the holidays starts. My first time visit to Baler, Aurora was made gloomy by 2 days of consecutive rainy weather, therefore making my trip failed to see the other sights of the province that slowly becomes a destination of choice of travelers. That's why I vowed to visit it again on a good weather time for me to appreciate Aurora province fully. And guess what, I might visit it this Summer 2014 on one of my birthday trips!


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