Thursday, November 08, 2018

Roaming Laguna

Roaming Laguna led me to the historical and film and television favorite setting, Magdalena and to the Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines, Liliw. I get to visit these two municipalities on my latest visit to this province that is situated on the southern shores of Laguna de Bay where it is named after. Known as the "Resort Capital of the Philippines" because of its numerous spring water resorts, I roamed Laguna for many times but this trip is more about appreciating its history, art, culture and local discovery. A different face of Laguna is what I saw on this trip yet still filled with adventures and journeys for a travelling feet. Roaming Laguna this time was an unusual but a delightful trip as I get to explore its other charms from the usual.

Roaming Laguna led me to this charming landmark of Liliw.
My best friend who is residing in Magdalena municipality of Laguna province invited me for a visit while she's on vacation in their hometown. I just meet her there as I have been there 3 years ago. This municipality is quite one of the farthest municipality of the province. You have to take a bus to Santa Cruz then hop on a jeepney to Magdalena for a total of 4 hour travel from Manila.

Santa Maria Magdalena Church or simply known as Magdalena Church is the main sight to visit in Magdalena. This is a Roman Catholic Church built during the Spanish colonial era in 1829. It is mainly made of sandstone and completely built in 1855. One of the biggest church that I saw yet in Laguna, unfortunately it was close during my visit. And so I failed to explore its inside architecture and just contented in its outside Baroque-style facade.
Magdalena Church.
The outside facade is mostly colored in gray sandstone - which made it look dull in appearance but extravagant in its massive built and height. The church is located in central town plaza with the municipal hall of Magdalena just across it. What also make this church special is that it holds a special relic for revolutionary leader, General Emilio Jacinto who said to have take refuge in the church's convent after a revolutionary fight encountered in Magdalena. Jacinto has been coined as Brains of Katipunan and has an honored monument in the municipality's plaza.

The municipality of Magdalena is said to be a favorite setting of local movie classics that made the town famous by the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr where he shot Santiago (1970) and Sanctuario (1974) in the town. A Robin Padilla and Sharon Cuneta starrer romantic comedy film Pagdating ng Panahon (2001), Emilio Aguinaldo biopic film, El Presidente (2012) and Chito Rono's Spirit Warriors: The Shortcut (2003) was also shot here. The most recent film shot in Magdalena was the biopic film Heneral Luna (2015) and TV series like Wild Flower (2017).

Magdalena is a sleepy town in the province of Laguna. It is quiet, clean and time is not always in a hurry. I would be glad to explore the other sights of this town in the future.

Close-up view for architecture appreciation of Magdalena Church.
So many Filipino movies have been shot inside and outside of Magdalena Church.
Liliw is a 4th class municipality of the province of Laguna. It is popularly dubbed as Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines being tsinelas or slippers as the municipality's pride town product. In the main town, you will see a lot of slipper stores everywhere! It was hard to choose the right store to shop as most were quality slippers. They also sold quality shoes as well that can rival Marikina's own shoes products. I got my own pair of soles at Badong Foortwear. I love its design, quality and color plus its durability. Actually, I want to buy a lot shoes in Liliw since most of the shoes were truly in good quality and design!

Liliw Church also known as Saint John the Baptist Parish Church.
From the shopping of slippers and shoes, I my foot led to one of its main attraction site - Liliw Church. Saint John the Baptist Parish Church also known as Liliw Church is a Roman Catholic church known for its distinguish red bricked facade in baroque style architecture. Built in 1643, it was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist with a feast day celebrated every August 29. The red brick walls and columns of the church makes its striking appearance that is perfect for travel photography and architectural appreciation. 

Inside the church, you will feel its old yet rich cultural value. The high ceiling is colored white adorned with gold line accents and lamps. The altar is dominantly colored in gold while the side walls are predominantly in red brick walls. While the windows are colored glass of images of saints which gave the church a vibe of grandeur and vintage feel.

Interior corridor of Liliw Church.
Prayer candles at Liliw Church.
Lovely interiors of Liliw Church.
Close-up view of main altar. Feels grand...
Striking red bricks made up the whole building of Liliw Church. It is also its unique characteristic.
I recommend to buy quality slippers and shoes at Badong Footwear.
Shoes everywhere in Liliw!
Liliw - Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines!
Before I left Liliw Church, I did not just took a lot of souvenir photo of its beautiful facade but I also made prayer while lighting colorful prayer candles. I made a thankful prayer that I made it here in Laguna not just to get a good catch-up with my long-time friend but also I had a great time exploring the other side of the Laguna province.

How to reach Magdalena.
Ride a JAC Liner bus to Santa Cruz - Capital of Laguna in Buendia, Pasay Terminal. Travel time is 4 hours and fare is 140PHP as of January 2018. When you alight at the terminal, just cross the street and catch a jeepney ride with a signboard Magdalena. You also have the option to take a special tricycle ride to Magdalena from Santa Cruz but fare is expensive yet faster than jeepney ride. Travel time from Santa Cruz to Magdalena via jeepney is 45 minutes and via tricycle is 30 minutes. 

How to reach Liliw.
From Magdalena, take a jeepney at the plaza bound for Liliw. Travel time is 15 minutes and fare is 000 as of January 2018. The return trip to Magdalena is via taking a jeepney ride bound to Magdalena at Liliw's town jeepney terminal.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mui Ne, Vietnam Accommodation: Mai Am Guest House

Easily located along the highway and main beach strip of Mui Ne. You will never lost in finding this accommodation in Mui Ne as the SinTourist Bus Terminal is just beside it. So catching a ride back to Ho Chi Mihn City is not a hassle for visitors. 

It offers affordable but clean and well-maintained accommodation with free breakfast.  During my stay, the room designated to us were good for at least 5 people when we are just 3 in our group. Our room is very clean and no odor to smell during our stay. Mai Am Guesthouse offered us a rate of 35USD a night which is equivalent to around 1400PH. This rate also comes with free breakfast good for the 3 person quoted. I think the rate given to me is a good cheap deal already since this is a budget trip and considering Mui Ne is resort town of Phan Thiet City. 

Welcome to Mai Am Guest House!
Beach front of the accommodation.
Mai Am Guest House.
Beach front area of the accommodation.
Mui Ne Beach  portion at Mai Am Guest House.
They also cater for long stay accommodation like for European home care centers who does international travel with their patients. During our stay, we met these people from Switzerland who are also touring Mui Ne as part of their long vacation in Vietnam.

And they also cater tour packages to Mui Ne's spectacular sights like White Sand Dunes and Fairy Stream. We were offered 25USD for 5 hour tour of Mui Ne's sights good for 3 persons via jeepney (the strong wheels of jeepney are needed for a sand dune trip). This rate is equivalent to around 1000PHP which I find it an affordable deal already since we will be covering 4 sights of Mui Ne for the tour - White and Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne's Fishing Village and Fairy Stream. Tour starts at 4 in the morning so go to bed early to get an early start because part of that morning tour is sunrise watching in the sand dunes.

Room good for 2 plus extra bed for 3rd guest.
Triple sharing room.
Room good for 3 person.
Private bathroom in every room like ours.
They got free wifi and has a nice beach front area where you can either relax, take your breakfast or just swim in its inviting waters - though the sand is not white but golden khaki color. But nonetheless the beach is cleaned and maintained by the resort. Their best asset is the location of tourist terminal beside the resort. So it is no hassle in catching your 5 hour bus back to Ho Chi Mihn City upon rerturn. 

Outside facade of Mai Am Guest House rooms.
Our jeepney service for our Mui Ne tour owned by the hotel.
Open-air dining area of the hotel.
I recommend Mai Am Guest House for those who are going to Mui Ne for a short overnight stay like we what we did. It is also best for those an budget travels but want to experience quality accommodation on their stay Mui Ne like our experience and style of travel. But if you are picky and prefers grand resorts and has the budget to splurge then try to look for other options that will cater for you. But as far short stays trip to Mui Ne only, Mai Am Guesthouse is best for you.

Mai Am Guest House
148 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet City, Vietnam
Contact No: +84983618974 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Colors of Zamboanga

It may have been a brave and bold move to visit this city that is geographically located in Zamboanga del Sur but governing independently as a city, because it is tainted by media generalization of being an unsafe place due to its relation to terrorists hideout and bombing. Much more brave and bold move to spend choose it as your birthday trip and spend your summer vacation there. But come on, is there literally a safer place now? I believe caution is what more needed when visiting any place. As an open-minded traveler, I dare you to follow my move.   

My mom was the number one person who is against my visit to Zamboanga. What she meant is that what kind of thing that got inside my mind that I want to spend my birthday trip in the city along with my best friends! I just laugh. I just don't want adventure. I want something different this time for my birthday. And I think this trip was kinda dare - even my friends who joined me in this trip felt a little apprehensive about this. I want to prove something about Zamboanga. And the best thing to do it to see and experience it!

Vene ya aqui na Zamboanga!
And so I pushed thru with this "brave and bold move" trip to Zamboanga. Actually, Zamboanga feels like home to me. I can fairly understood the dialect Chavacano which is widely spoken in the city as my mother's tongue dialect is Chavacano de Cavite. So getting around, asking directions and buying something is easy for me. But do not fret, English and Tagalog is widely spoken and understood as well even Bisaya dialect.

Just like the colorful sail of vinta (traditional boats) that Zamboanga is known for, I want to discover what colors of this city are offering. I begin with color Green in Merloquet Falls. It is located in Barangay Vitali and Sibulao which is 2 hours away from the city where you have to take a mandatory habal-habal ride for 30 minutes upon reaching the drop-off point. Once at the jump point, you have to take 334 steps on concrete staircase down to a ravine into the waterfall area. Upon reaching the ground of ravine, the loud splash of water from the river flow and lush green forests will greet you. As you shift your view in following the source of river flow, you will be astound to the scenery of Merloquet Falls - a 3 tier waterfalls that is dominantly colored green by its surrounding of lush vegetation and forests.

From the visitors level of viewpoint, Merloquet Falls can be seen as a 2-tier waterfall yet it is originally a 3-tier waterfall. The first tier at the top is hidden from the view as you have to do a hike on top of the 2nd tier to see it. At the 2nd tier has two sections - from left is a strong fall of water current and from right is a calm and slow fall of water current - this feature uniquely defines Merloquet Falls among the waterfalls I saw around the country. What I also like in the 2nd tier is a stage-like area where you can either walk among the rocks, bath on small pools or get a natural shower while meditating or just playing around. The 3rd tier flows into the river. The 334 steps going up is tiring for a couch potato like me but it was worth it as my natural birthday cake on my special day!

The iconic airport of Zamboanga.
Seeing GREEN at Merloquet Falls.
A tiring noon led us to an afternoon stroll on probably the famous "plaza" in Zamboanga City. Paseo del Mar is the public promenade and gathering area in the city which faces the seafront. People stroll here and probably hang out here every afternoon up to sundown as this public square is a good recreational area for public visits. Not it only faces the sea but it also has numerous restaurants, coffee shops, eateries and bars for every visitors convenience. We tried a famous merienda slash dessert in the city called Knickerbocker. At first I thought it is similar to the familiar halo-halo dessert but the difference is that it uses fresh fruits like apple, mango, pineapple and watermelon plus jellies. It is completed by condensed milk and top with scoops of strawberry ice cream which makes it creamier and filing. For me, its not that to much sweet like the conventional halo-halo but a creamy and refreshing sundae that is a must-eat when in Asia's latin city! 

In Paseo del Mar, as afternoon progresses to evening the sun sets into the sea. But before sundown, the sunset bathed Paseo del Mar in color Yellow. The seafront paseo became more dramatic with the basking glow of sunset yellow that plays with the moving shadows of the people in the seafront promenade. Another color of Zamboanga has been discovered.

Junction drop-off marker of Barangay Vitali to Merloquet Falls.
Knickerbocker at Paseo del Mar.
By night time, restaurant bars and cafes along Paseo del Mar started to become active. In one of the restaurant bars, my travel buddies spend my birthday dinner over a live band singing one of my favorite OPM song - Por Que - popularized by Zambonguena band Maldita in 2011. It was a memorable acoustic birthday night! 

The following day, we went to Santa Cruz Island to experience National Georgraphic 2017 top 21 beaches in the world - Pink Beach. As the name of the beach suggests, pink is the color of Zamboanga here. We had an advance booking to visit the island and the beach, a day prior. This is a requirement by the tourism office and their office are found in Paseo del Mar premises. From the Paseo del Mar docking port, travel time to Santa Cruz Island is 7 minutes via a rented boat. Santa Cruz Island is composed of two islands - Little Santa Cruz Island and Greater Santa Cruz Island. Great Santa Cruz Island is the popular destination between the two since this is where are the Pink Beach is located and the facilities here are more developed. While Little Santa Cruz Island is prohibited from visitors by the Philippine Navy and Armed Forces.  Both islands are protected landscape and seascape by the Philippine government.

Seeing YELLOW at Paseo del Mar.
Nightlife in Asia's latin city!
Pink Beach is one amazing unique beach! Wide, clean and scenic, it is guaranteed to quench your mood for summer. Pink Beach is actually a white sand beach but it has a tinge of light pink in color because of pulverized Red Organ Pipe Coral that mixed within the white sand. On a closer look, you'll see the crushed red coral is mixed with the white sand that collectively becomes pink on the whole beach area. The pink hue of the beach becomes stronger especially when the sand crashes with the waves of the water on the shore.   

They said it is also dangerous to visit the island because of the labels that Zamboanga earned from the social media. But during my birthday trip there, I didn't feel threaten or danger in the island. I felt more secure as well with the presence of military outpost guarding in the area. So I frolic in the beach taking numerous scenic shot of Santa Cruz Island while my friends went into good swim. The only regret we  had is that we didn't try the tour into the lagoon and community area of the island where we can experience the culture of local tribe who were inhabiting the island and try a Vinta boat ride. Vinta is a famous symbol of Zamboanga City.

Seeing PINK...
Pink Beach - 2017 National Georgraphic's Top 21 beaches in the world!
That night, we went to BLOC1 bar, to celebrate my 2nd night of  birthday trip in Zamboanga City. The dominant neon blue lights that scatters everywhere at BLOC1 gives off the Blue hue of the city. BLOC1 is located in Tetuan district of Zamboanga which is quite far from downtown but nonetheless a loud party place to celebrate. Here, I got to taste what's nightlife in Zamboanga. Loaded with booze and food for the night, we danced away to the cool sounds and party music played by their resident DJ. There's no curfew in the city but bars here closes as early as 2 in the morning unlike in Manila which goes til 4am! And on security, the unusual is there 3 security personnel at the bar - a bouncer, a security guard and a military on-duty. After this night's celebration, we went home early.

Birthday celebration while seeing all colored BLUE in BLOC1.
The famous Tree House of Pasonanca Park.
We started early in the morning to discover the Green colors in Pasonanca Park, a public park that is 15 minutes away from downtown. In this park, you'll find the famous Tree House of Zamboanga which can be rented for accommodation. Other sights to see in the park are aviary, butterfly garden, boys and girls scout camp. And lots of greenery spaces of tall trees, grasses, flowering plants and shrubs.

In Canelar Barter Trade Center, colors of the city sprouts everywhere in its textile market. Endless rows of fabrics of various colors and designs are being sold here. It is also where you bought pasalubong (souvenirs) and cheap goods like chocolate, cookies and bags from Indonesia and Malaysia (Zamboanga is also a trading port near these countries) to bring home. It is 7 to 10 minutes away from Pueblo (downtown).
One of the sights in Pasonanca Park.
Los colores de Zamboanga in Canelar Barter Trade Center.
I find White color in Metropolitan Cathderal of Immaculate Concepcion which also known as Zamboanga Cathedral. The church is a modern structure right in the heart of Zamboanga that strikingly bathed in white color. The white imposing structure is the seat of Archdiocese of Zamboanga. It is one of the biggest church I've seen in my travels to Mindanao.

Then in Fort Pilar, I found color Orange as the last color to discover in Zamboanga. The orange tinge walls of the fortress dominates the whole structure from the ground up to its overlooking facade. We failed to look into its museum but we had a beautiful scenic viewing of the sea and the city from its overlooking facade. Fort Pilar is a military defense fortress built during the Spanish colonization of the city. It is originally known as Real Fuerza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Royal Fort of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza) in which on its outside eastern wall a Marian shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar. Today it is a regional museum of the National Museum of the Philippines.

Find the WHITE color in Metropolitan Cathderal of Immaculate Concepcion.
Seeing ORANGE color in Fort Pilar.
Adios Zamboanga!
Zamboanga is colorful. Asia's latin city for its Spanish creole widely spoken dialect Chavacano as one of the huge Spanish influences in its history and culture. Yet harmoniously living alongside with the culture and people of Muslim and Badjao. It has full of wonders to discover its colors in its sights like the pink of Sta. Cruz Island, green of Merloquet Falls and orange of Fort Pilar are some. Yet it still tainted black by terrorist threat and sensationalized media news that I wish will end soon. But all you need when you visit the city is caution and open-mindedness - just like in every trip you embark. See Zamboanga in its other side... It's colorful.

*How to reach Merloquet Falls.
Ride a van that plies to Barangay Vitali at Gateway Mall van terminal. The terminal is outside the mall building. Be sure to ride the van passes thru Barangay Vitali as there are other vans going somewhere else in that terminal. We almost rode a wrong one. Better ask the driver himself or the dispatcher for the correct van. Travel time is 1.5 to 2 hours and fare is 100PHP per person as of March 2017. Ask the driver to alight you at the drop-off of habal-habal terminal at Barangay Vitali. PNP Station is your marker at the drop-off point. Hire a habal-habal that will take you to Barangay Sibulao where the waterfalls is located. Note that habal-habal (2 wheel motorcycle which can accomodate 2 person) is the only public transportation to the waterfalls. Travel time from the terminal to the waterfalls jump point is 20-30 minutes and fare is 50-70PHP per person as of March 2017. At the drop point to the falls, you need to register and pay 5PHP entrance per person. A concrete staircase of 334 steps will lead you down to the falls for a 10-15 minute hike. Going back is still the same route. Just asked your habal-habal driver to wait for you and ask to drop you off to the highway where vans bound to Zamboanga City passes thru or to the van terminal that plies back to the city.

*How to reach Sta. Cruz Island.
Prior reservation is a must before visiting the island - like a day before the trip. Visit first the booking office at Paseo del Mar. The Department of Tourism office is also in Paseo del Mar for other inquiries. You must accomplish two booking forms with information provided on your visit to Santa Cruz Island. They will get your number in order to remind of your trip to the island the following day which is 30 minutes before your agreed departure time. Boat rental to the island is 1000PHP good for 10 person maximum and rate is back and forth trip. There's an entrance fee of 20PHP and terminal fee of 5PHP per passenger. A mandatory cottage rental is 100PHP good for a maximum of 6 person. During our visit, we don't have a military escort on the boat going to and leaving the island which was accustom and experience of other visitors, however in the island there is a post station of Philippine Police and Military Army. It is safe to visit the island. Visit to the island only is strictly for day trip only from 7am to 2pm as overnight trip is not allowed so maximize your visit by leaving at 2pm. Please note also that there are no establishment and stores in the island except for restrooms for shower and cloth changing. So bring your own food as this is allowed - just keep the trashes to the designated bins.

*How to reach Paseo del Mar. 
Hire a tricycle in the city and tell the driver to alight you to Paseo del Mar. Ask the fare first before riding as the standard rate per person is 9PHP as of March 2017.
*Accomodation in Zamboanga City. 
Cityinn Hotel
Governor Alvarez Street corner La Purisima Street, Zamboanga City
Telephone No: (062)955-4058/0936-6088777 (TM)/0947-7615734 (Smart)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Camiguin Accommodation: Pabualan Cottages

Simple aircon rooms with private bathrooms which is perfect for Camiguin budget conscious visitors. Their rooms has can accommodate group as well up to maximum in a room but depends on availability. They even have an extension of their compound of cottages for more rooms.

Pabualan Cottages outside facade.
Simple accommodation good for 3 person.
One of the room accommodation inside the compound.
Free breakfast of Tocino and Fish Danggit at Pabualan Cottages!

The free WiFi is fast enough for posting your photos and videos on social media. The owner Mr. Teddy Pabualan offers affordable packages with tour and accomodation in Camiguin just contact him thru email - or visit his blog - for information and for prior reservation. Mr. Pabualan is responsive to emails so you can discuss the rates according to your preferences.

They have their own private vehicle for private tour of the island. The staffs were friendly and accommodating. They only serve breakfast but a lot of restaurants, cateens and carinderias are nearby walking distance for other options.

Our mini jeepney tour services around Camiguin island.
Room are catered for budget travelers to Camiguin.
Breakfast at Pabualan Cottages!
We had an enjoyable stay in Camiguin because of Pabualan Cottages!
I have no qualms staying in budget rooms of this accommodation in Camiguin since this is just for a short stay. I just wished are "Kuya" driver assigned to us is more conversational but I think he's just shy since where from the city but nonetheless he's kind and polite to us. And their rooms are clean plus the location is just near the port of bancas going to the famous White Island. I highly recommend Pabualan Cottages for budget trips to Camiguin!

Pabualan Cottages
Barangay Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin
Contact No: 0917-5219391 (Globe)/0939-2440521 (Smart)
Website: Pabualan Cottages - Camiguin

Friday, October 12, 2018

Aurora Accommodation: Jamjen's Lodge

Jamjen's Lodge is one of the affordable accommodations in Baler town that is near the famed surfing spot of Sabang Beach. I was able to book a room via walk-in to this lodge in Baler by accident. When we arrived in the morning in Baler, me and my five other travel mates, we originally don't have an advance reserve accommodation in Baler. I went to my lodge that I originally stayed in 2013 on my first visit to Baler but they don't have a big room enough for 6 people. They are offering a split room but it is more costlier on our side. So I did a house-to-house check other accommodations nearby, until I accidentally found Jamjen's Lodge along the long street of Buton.

Jamjen's Lodge facade area.
I was able to book a bardaka room, good for 6 person for 3,500 a night. It's was quite pricey for us its already a good choice since the lodge is just newly open for months only during our stay. Plus the room is big enough for 6 person on a 2 double deck bed with aircon, TV and private bathroom. Room is also clean and maintained maybe because it was new at that time. But overall, the room is pleasant and spacious. You also have a private front terrace in your room. Unfortunately, there's no free breakfast or meal in their offered accommodations.

Jamjen's simple accommodation.
Our private terrace in our barkada room.
Double deck bed. Each bed is good for 2 person.
Maximum capacity of this Barkada Room is 6 person.
Jamjen's Lodge is also near Sabang Beach - just a street across the beachfront accommodations of Baler. On the side street of Buton Street are many eateries and stores for visitor's convenience. A little walk up front is Yellow Fin Bar - one of Baler's popular restaurant and bar in town. During my recent visit to their Facebook page, the loadge developed further. From 2 rooms during my 2014 stay, they now have around 6 rooms and a mini pool in their yard plus a space area for events like birthday parties, reunion and team building programs.  I recommend this accommodation when you are in Baler because it is affordable, clean and staffs are friendly especially when you are on a budget trip to Aurora. 

Jamjen's Lodge
#96 Buton St., Brgy. Sabang, Baler Aurora.
Contact no: 0929-2410298
Facebook: Jamjen's Lodge
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