Category: Travels

What To Do When You Got A Full Week To Travel The Philippines

When you have a full week to spend in Manila, Philippines, don’t just stay in the capital! Make time to visit the nearby provinces.

Via domestic flights, you can opt to:

1. Catch the hidden natural wonders of Palawan. The capital, Puerto Princesa is alluring but, if you want more enchantment, go to El Nido or, click to see what’s in store for you in Coron.

Puerto Princesa
One of the hidden falls on the road south from Puerto Princesa.
On the way up and down to Kayangan Lake, Coron, Philippines.

2. Fly to Bohol. From Tagbilaran, arrange for road transportation to see the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals and the one with the largest eyes, and witness the grandeur of The Chocolate Hills of Bohol. See the old churches around town, although many have been destroyed by the 2013 major earthquake that struck the island. Take the Loboc River Cruise and have your lunch on a raft. Proceed to Panglao Island or, in case you don’t have premium budget for an overnight stay, choose one of the resorts by the shore and just take a day trip to the island.

Philippine Tarsier in Bohol, Philippines
When in Bohol, have your photo taken with a Tarsier on your shoulder. Don’t hold if you’re too afraid so as not to harm them. They’re cute but very fragile. They are highly endemic, endangered and bred in captivity.
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol, Philippines
Watch The Chocolate Hills of Bohol from a view deck. You’ll keep wondering how such a magnificent natural wonder was formed by the earth’s violent movements.
Loboc River
Have lunch on one of the rafts or, simply take a cruise down this quiet, still, and historic river of Bohol.

3. Catch the sun in Bicol. Misibis Bay is located on Cagraray Island, Bacacay in Albay Province. To get there, fly Manila to Legazpi City. Feast at the sight of the majestic, perfectly shaped cone of Mayon Volcano and take an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or even hike up before proceeding to Misibis Bay after lunch or, early the following day.

Mayon Volcano
It greets you the moment you step out of your plane and arrive in Legazpi City, Albay — Mount Mayon, best known as the volcano with a perfectly shaped cone.
Mayon Volcano
Get up close and personal with Mount Mayon. Rent one of these cool ATVs. You can also choose to hike up to the peak. Make sure to check in with the locals before heading to the top as this is a very active volcano and there are danger zones off limits to trekkers.
Bigg's Diner at Embarcadero
Don’t leave Albay without getting a taste of the local “good food” favorite, “Bigg’s Diner”. Make it the branch located at Embarcadero where there is a viewing deck with telescopes so you can view the peak of Mount Mayon and the port below.


If you’d rather travel on the road, Boy, Oh Boy, you’re in for a feast for the senses — yes, that includes a rather extraordinary experience for your tastebuds and tummy too.  If you got just 1 week to tour around Manila and the provinces in Luzon, here’s an itinerary that you can use.

Day 1: Arrival.  Check in to Sofitel Philippine Plaza or Hotel H2O for a magnificent view of Manila Bay and the sunset laid out in front of you. Make sure to get a bay side view. If you’d rather see the bustling night life of Makati City or, The Fort in Taguig City, there are also plenty of hotels, both posh and business style, that you can choose from.

Day 2: Drive Out South. Leave your hotel early morning to catch the early morning sunrise of Tagaytay, located about an hour up to 1.5 hours drive from Makati or Manila Bay. Have a cozy breakfast at Antonio’s to experience the ambiance of the glorious Spanish Era in the Philippines or, have a filling buffet breakfast with a full view of the Lake and Taal Volcano at Josephine’s. If you love your Starbucks and just want to take shots of your espresso, there’s a bar located in the area also facing the lake.

Taal Volcano, Tagaytay, Philippines
Catch a view of the Taal Lake on any of the establishments fronting the lake. If you want a closer encounter, take a boat ride and head to Taal Volcano.

From here, you can drive up to a beach in Batangas or, try the hot springs of San Pablo or Calamba in Laguna. Batangas is a diving site. If you’re into that, then you should make time to spend a day or two in Batangas. If you’d rather take a relaxing dip in a hot pool of water, head to Laguna where manmade pools are filled with natural hot spring water coming from the lakes and mountains in the area. You can choose to stay or, go back late afternoon to your hotel in Manila.

Day 3: Drive Up North. Drive back to Manila on to C-5 or via EDSA, all the way to the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX). Make Pampanga your first stop. If you love the outdoors, most especially when you are traveling with grade school aged children, you should check out the activities at Sandbox, located in Porac, Pampanga.

Or, you can also just go on a gastronomic adventure in Pampanga. After all, it is recognized as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. You can’t miss Aling Lucing’s Sisig in Angeles City. Don’t fill up because you do have to try nearby Mila’s for their Chicharon Bulaklak and Paco Salad with Salted Egg too.

Mila's Chicharon Bulaklak
Mila’s Chicharon Bulaklak — the crunchiest, juiciest pack you’ll ever have!
Mila's Paco Salad
Balance out the grease with this local salad served with salted eggs and tomatoes.

If you want to go full outdoor fun then, you should drive up all the way to Mt. Pinatubo for a rugged adventure. This mountain last erupted on June 15, 1991, which buried several towns in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac, while the effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It continues to be the home of Aetas, a group of indigenous people residing in Luzon. Several tour packages are available which take you on a combination of a 4×4 drive and hiking to the mouth of this caldera for a view of the lake.

Stay a night in hotels inside or within the vicinity of Clark Field where one of two former US bases (the other one was in Subic) was once located.

Day 4: Head to The Hundred Islands. Former Filipina beauty queen, Charlene Gonzales, was asked during the Miss Universe Pageant, “How many islands is the Philippine archipelago made up of?” to which she wittingly answered, “High tide or, low tide?” The 100 islands in the 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. From Pampanga, it should take you half of the day to get there. According to Ms Gonzales it could go up to 108 or, experts claim, possibly more, on low tide.

Your target is to get to Alaminos by sundown because there are no hotels in the area. Instead, you should get a guest room from local homes of townsfolk. You need not worry as these are all registered by the local government. However, do not expect the convenience of a five-star hotel. You should also ask your host for a “bangkero” or boat’s man. It’s best for you to book your boat now and ask your boat’s man or host as well if they can market and prepare lunch for you on one of the islands the following day.

Hundred Islands
See one of the best offerings of Islands Philippines by visiting Alaminos, Pangasinan — your entry point to The Hundred Islands National Park.

Must-try food? Fresh Sinigang na Hipon or Isda (Shrimp or Fish in Tamarind Soup Base), Inihaw na Liempo (Grilled Pork Ribs), and Alaminos Longganisa — one of my most favorite sausages of all time!

Day 5: Sail to the Islands. Spend the early morning to around noon touring the many islands in the area. Take lunch and make room to befriend the locals. Dare yourself and your company to find your own island and practically really own it for several hours.

Make it back to shore by around two or three in the afternoon. Pack and drive farther up north to Baguio. You should be in your next destination by dinner time. To experience the best of Baguio, you should book a room in advance at The Manor or, Le Monet Hotel which are both located inside Camp John Hay. If you’d rather experience the city center, I personally recommend the newly refurbished Paragon Hotel on Otek Street just one block away from Burnham Park.

Warning: It can get really chilly at night so you better not be wearing the beach outfit you had on at Hundred Islands.

Day 6: Explore the best of Baguio. For a more detailed account of what you can do during your stay, check out this post and this post and this if you want to go all the way to Sagada. Baguio is only about four hours drive away from Manila so, you can either spend another night or, head out on Day 6.

Day 7: Visit Old Manila. If your plane leaves late evening, you can still catch the grandeur of Old Manila and go fully loaded on history by visiting Fort Santiago, Intramuros, and the National Museum.

Spoliarium by Juan Luna
Spoliarium by Juan Luna at the Main Gallery of The National Museum. Juan Luna topped other entries to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 held in Madrid with this painting. It was a defining moment for Filipinos where they beat the Spaniards, the colonizers, during the Expo. You should also take the time to go to nearby Intramuros and Fort Santiago or, even take a half day tour of Corregidor, a historic island just off the coast of Manila Bay.

Been to any of these places? Share your tips. If you found this guide helpful and actually used it to tour Philippines, whether you are a local or a foreigner, give your thumbs up, better yet, share the most defining moments of your trip with us! Happy vacationing!



Touring the Oldest Chinatown

Thinking about what you can do differently with your family or with the gang this weekend? How about taking a trip to the “oldest Chinatown ever built outside of China? It’s right here at the heart of Manila — Binondo.

Binondo holds a special place in my heart. While everybody wanted a piece of Ortigas and Makati, Binondo is where I landed my first job. I put together training modules for one of the banks in the area, received a lame paycheck for doing that but, my cravings and tummy were satisfied all the time. Simple life — those were the days, indeed!

How To Tour Binondo

My everyday Binondo life happened some two decades ago but, I keep coming back  for the good memories but, most of all, for the good food and the cheap buys.  Here’s how you can most out of a Saturday or Sunday trip to Binondo.

First Stop: Sincerity Restaurant

Drive to Sincerity on Yuchenco St. about 10 or 10:30 am. There’s a good chance you can get parked in the vicinity on weekends.  The place gets packed easily around lunch hours and you want to be done with yours before everybody else comes in. Tour groups also frequently book the place so expect the place to be cramped.

What to order: Don’t miss the Sincerity Fried Chicken, half (Php 160) will be good for 2 adults while a full order (Php 320) will be good for 4. It’s fried chicken like you’ve never tasted one before. The chicken is spiced with ginger, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside. Ask for a kikiam sauce to dip in your chicken. Best enjoyed with bare hands. Always order the Sincerity Fried Rice to go with it. It will have tasty chinese sausage and eggs in it. Order extra. Make it Kikiam (Php 55) and Oyster Omelet (small at Php 240, big at Php 300).

Second Stop: Binondo Church

Walk to Ongpin towards the park to reach the church. The original facade of the church was built in the 1500s. Successive foreign invasions brought down the structure several times. This is also the church where San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was said to have trained as a missionary.

Although only the Bell Tower remains from the church’s original construction, being inside the church gives you some sense of history of the Binondo that was. It’s always good to find time to praise and reflect.

Third Stop: Marketing at Ongpin

From Binondo Church, walk towards Ongpin or Carvajal (which is a few steps away though several stores on this side street are not open on weekends). Go ahead and cross that bridge. Lines of jewelry shops and Chinese pharmacy will be on the side buildings as vendors park their carts on the side streets.


Help yourself to the best and finest quality of fresh vegetables and fruits. The only limitation really is how much weight you can bear. Last time I was here in February, a week after the Chinese New Year, I got 3 flowers (1 small, 2 big) of broccoli for Php 100. Help yourself to fruits in season too.

Fourth Stop: More Pasalubong Shopping

Walk back towards the church, you’ll find a grocery store there where you can buy dried meat (pork jerky) per gram, similar to the Bee Heng Chiang you love to pack when you’re coming in from Singapore. Across the street, make a stop at Café Mezzanine for a cup of coffee, and maybe fill up again with snacks. This café is run by the firemen of Binondo.

Just beside it is Eng Bee Tin where you can get your hopia, siopao, siomai, and tikoy to take home. I personally find Eng Bee Tin hopia too sweet though so, I head over to Holland which is nearer Sincerity Restaurant or, to Polland along Quentin Paredes St. instead. We also like buying our Oolong Tea here which we find good for enhancing digestion following a heavy meal.

Fifth and Sixth Stops: Lucky Chinatown Mall and 168

You can’t leave Binondo just yet! It’s time for thrift shopping! If you drove to Binondo, it’s time to claim your car and drive to Lucky Chinatown Mall. You’ll find several shops here both similar and unique from your ordinary SM or Ayala Mall. Ask where the bargain shops are and you can start from there.


If you don’t mind braving huge crowds, walk to the back of Lucky Chinatown Mall towards 168. It’s a building full of everything from toys to clothes to housewares sold at retail and wholesale prices. You’ll find something for everyone here.

When you’re tired shopping, take a break. I recommend Ho Bing near the bridge way inside Lucky Chinatown Mall which serves refreshing Korean deserts that are the equivalent of our local halo-halo. Don’t get 1 order for everyone. Share because the servings are huge! I’d say 1 order is good for up to 3 adults.  Recommended orders: Caramel Coffee which comes with jellies, Mango Cheese, and Strawberry. This store is not unique to Binondo but, it’s a good way to refresh before you drive home because, chances are, you won’t be craving for hot coffee after sweating it out shopping.

Other recommendations

You should also try jewelry shopping along Ongpin. Walk the entire street which should end you in Plaza Sta. Cruz (LRT-Carriedo Station). Visit the Sta. Cruz Church, the original structure of which was first built in the 17th century. I’m not sure if there is any part of the church that remains from the original structure though.

From there, you can walk back to Binondo by taking Escolta — the original Central Business District of Manila — one of the most historic places in Manila where the first local Chinese businesses trace their roots, where several scenes from local classic films were shot, and one of the first few theaters and cinemas in the country were built. It also used to be known for its posh shops and shoe stores. You’ll find several buildings originally constructed at the turn of the century still standing, including Regina Building and Roman R. Santos.

Davao and my unsatisfied cravings

I miss hanging out in Davao. That was what I realized flying in and out for a conference a few weeks back. I miss Davao too but, it’s better when enjoyed with good friends.

I know what made me start to feel sentimental. It’s my unsatisfied cravings for the great food selections that I’ve had the opportunity to share with good people in my previous travels. It’s being in the company of somebody who knows Davao better than I do that was missing. Hay.

A series of unfortunate gastronomic experiences

With my flight from Manila to Davao scheduled for 7 am, Tuesday morning started really early and I’ve had just less than two hours of sleep! I had to wrap up a project for a client before flying out to deliver a presentation for a meeting in Davao. I didn’t have dinner the night before — toxic na.  So, you could guess how badly I wanted to be face-to-face with really good food first thing in the morning.

My half-closed eyes, my zombie skin and a quick snapchat at the backseat of a taxi.


I had second thoughts about taking my breakfast at the airport. “After all,” I thought, “I’ll be in Davao by 9 am and my presentation wasn’t due until 1 pm”. I’ll have plenty of time to find a nice spot to sit and polish my presentation before my time was up. However, I didn’t want to risk straining my body. Whenever I fail to give it enough sleep, I make sure I feed it well.

‘Chaikofi Xpresso,’ here I come! From my previous experiences ordering from this kiosk, I know it takes them a considerable amount of time to serve the food. There were only 40 minutes left before boarding time. I badly wanted to order a rice meal but I ended up asking the cashier what they would be able to serve in a few minutes. Well, sandwich, of course. I ordered chicken sandwich and a bottle of water.

As I scrambled through my external memory disk looking for some slides I wanted to add to my presentation, I almost lost track of time. After about maybe 20 minutes, the cashier delivered my order in a takeout bag. Less than five minutes later, she came back and snatched away the sandwich — me, still frantically searching my hard drives. “I gave you the wrong order,” she said. I didn’t mind.

We were down to the last 10 minutes before boarding time, finally, my sandwich (the correct one) was brought to me. My laptop bag was heavy! I wanted to keep my hands free. So, I started gobbling down my sandwich then, walked to my gate assignment. In my head, I promised myself, “Bawi ka na lang mamaya (make up for it later)”.

As soon as we safely landed, almost on time, at the Davao International Airport, my LTE was on. I was looking for a well-reviewed coffee shop near the event venue, the Waterfront Insular Hotel. Boy, I thought I got lucky! ‘Cafe Uno’ happened to receive really good reviews so I didn’t have to go anywhere else to get a good quality coffee.

Once there, I changed my mind about coffee and instead, helped myself to a full teapot of black tea mixed with hot milk and brown sugar. Yum! Then, I decided to order a Margherita Pizza, personal size. Barely 30 minutes after I sat myself down at ‘Cafe Uno,’ the organizer called to ask if I was ready to deliver my presentation — my slot was moved up! To make the story short, I didn’t get to spend my moment of calm, and I was sorry because the place had a nice ambiance to it even in broad daylight. Okay, I did quickly tore two slices of pizza into pieces and it was super thin and crispy. The pizza only cost Php 200 and ‘personal’ size meant family size in a local pizza joint. That voice in my head once again said, “Bawi ka na lang mamaya (make up for it later)”.

After I was done, lunch was served at the event hall. Let’s just say that I didn’t have high hopes because I generally don’t dig hotel food. Lunch lived up to my expectations.

When I decided to leave, there were still 5 hours left before my flight so, I decided to head to Abreeza Mall. It’s one place in Davao I haven’t gone to before. So, I went strolling with my heavy laptop bag on my back, my shoulders were already complaining. I was looking for a souvenir shop where I could get native goods because it was so hot I didn’t want to head all the way to Aldevinco.

I decided to try a local food stall. I was on my way to take my table at Margie’s but was beat to it by two friends who, turned out to have 10 other people in their company. “Goodbye, Margie,” I thought to myself.

I headed down to ‘Pastanni’ instead which had a nice, quaint corner squeezed next to where ‘Tinalak Home’ (absolutely a feast for the eyes, that store is) was.  I ordered Beef Risotto. When it was served, I was so speechless that I couldn’t even ask the waitress, “Where’s the beef?” I just surrendered — this was not a good day for my palate.

I got my 12 kilos of pomelos then headed to the airport. (I got a taste of that already and I can tell those beautiful pomelos will be my treat. Anyway, of course I checked them in. Once I made it to the gates, I was still craving for good food. I didn’t risk it anymore. I was done trying. This time, I helped myself to a Chips Delight Peanut Butter and a bottle of water — didn’t disappoint.

Memories of tasty treats in Davao

I may have to reserve the list of the good food I’ve tried in Davao for another post though. All I can say for now is that it’s not the end of Davao for my always hungry tummy. I’ll be back, and I’ll make sure to travel with a friend next time. Magkita unya ta pohon! (I will see you soon.)

I’ll be grateful if you happen to have any suggestions where I should eat and visit next time I’m in Davao. Let me know below.


Spending Christmas in Baguio


We never go anywhere during the Holidays but, this year, we decided to try celebrate Christmas in the City of Pines, Baguio.  It’s been a long and challenging year but all has been won by far.  Other than both seriously deserving a break, Junel and I wanted to treat the kids to a road trip.

If you’re planning to go up north, I hope this inspires you to make a stopover in Baguio.  For some reason, my SlideShare account doesn’t seem to be functioning well right now but, since I am too excited to sleep through getting this posted, I’m posting images here instead.  Enjoy viewing, and please share with us your unique Baguio vacationing experience too.













See also, Head to where you can stay cool – Baguio!


Typhoon ‘Nina’: Update from PAG-ASA as of 25 Dec 2016, 10:55 pm

Based on the Philippines’ weather bureau, as of December 25, 10:55 pm, typhoon warning signals have been raised over Luzon and Visayas provinces:

Signal #4:
Camarines Norte
Camarines Sur
southern Quezon

Signal #3:
rest of Quezon

Signal #2:
Metro Manila
Oriental Mindoro
Polillo Islands
Lubang Island
Burias Island

Signal #1:
Nueva Ecija
Nueva Vizcaya
Occidental Mindoro
Masbate including Ticao Island

What to do if the typhoon is headed your way

1.  Don’t panic. Keep calm so that you can preserve your better sense.  Consider your location and your situation. Evacuate to higher ground if flooding is expected. If you’re traveling, consider safety of travel. It may be safer to stay put rather than risk becoming stranded.

2.  Prepare your ‘Go Bag’. Ideally, you should’ve put together one for each member of your family long before this typhoon.

Your Go Bag must contain: transistor radio to keep posted on the latest weather bulletin; flashlight and whistle; fully charged mobile phones to stay connected; first aid kit containing small scissors, cotton, gauze, Betadine, alcohol, standard meds for fever, diarrhea, headache; lighter to make fire for cooking and to keep you warm; food, water and regular medication good for 3 days up to a week; floaters, if flooding should be expected; extra clothes, most especially rain gear, and sturdy footwear; basic swiss army knife; small, cup sized cooking pot; cash; and, personal documents such as birth certificates and land titles sealed in waterproof envelopes.

3. Follow the advise of authorities. Don’t endanger the lives of others, including persons of authority and volunteers. Listen and act accordingly.

4. Make sure that at least one person knows where you are.

5.  Turn off main switch when flooding occurs or is expected.

Be safe, everyone! I hope you all stay dry and out of danger. Pray for our common safety. Merry Christmas.

Head to where you can stay cool — Baguio!

I remember going up to Baguio inside a full packed Ford Laser that belonged to my late grandfather way back when I was four or five years old.  Nothing beats the thrill of the low, cold fog rapidly covering the mountain slopes and seemingly chasing after you on the paved zigzag roads of Kennon as you head up to the peak.  We would turn off the airconditioning and roll down our windows so we could breathe in the woody, fresh scent of pine trees while our eyes were filled by the envigorating sight of sunflowers that randomly grew on the mountain slopes.   If we were lucky, we’d even spot pockets of water flowing on the sides of the road.  The ultimate treat happens when you finally reach the top.  There were colorful flowers everywhere, and a strong breeze that made us all shiver will surely be there to give you a cold welcome greeting.

Baguio may be far from the fine state it once was but, it’s still Baguio, and it’s always worth the trip — which, by the way, now only takes about 4 hours to get there from Manila —  thanks to SCTEX and TPLEX.  Needless to mention, it’s that one place where you can put on your trench coat and zip up your boots without looking silly.  Remember though that daytime this season can also be seering hot in this summer outing spot so don’t forget to bring your short and sheer summer outfits too.

Head down to Forest House for a filling lunch or dinner.  If you’re low on the budget and willing to try Ilocano dishes that can sometimes be pretty out of the ordinary, head down to Slaughter House where Php 500.00 will be sufficient to happily fill the hungry tummies of a family of four.

Take a trip to the Crystal Caves where it’s the most ideal cool place to spend the hot afternoon.  Find time to go to Mines View Park but, don’t buy your pasalubongs there just yet, as they can easily double the price of your peanut brittle and ube jam here compared to how cheap these are being sold at Baguio Market stalls.

Spend your late afternoon at Camp John Hay where you and the kids can go horseback riding.  Feel cozy and classy at The Mansion where you can take your dinner or, simply spend the evening with a few glasses of wine and soft, live music in the background.  If you’re looking for a cheaper dinner, head down to Session Road or, go straight to Burnham Park — that’s one spot in Baguio that has somehow seen better days.  Paddle the night away after and don’t forget to take your photo by the fountain.

Before coming down the mountain the following day, pass by The Cathedral and then head down the market for goodies and, of course, fresh, cheap veggies that you can take home with you.  The real fashionista in you will also love the local woven cloth, ‘ikat’, which can be sewn into wonderful and unique wardrobe staples.

Go for a Sagada adventure


If you have teenagers or, if the gang is feeling more adventurous than usual, take a long road trip to Sagada in Mountain Province.  Be forwarned, this trip is not for the very young and the senior members of the fam.

Hitch a bus ride headed to Sagada from the Baguio Dangwa Terminal which leaves very early in the morning.  So, if you’re also taking a bus ride from Manila, you may have to take the 11 pm or midnight trip from either Cubao or Pasay stations.  There’s also another way going to Sagada via Banaue — that, I haven’t had the chance to take so please do share here if you’ve taken this route.

Okay, so the last time I was in Sagada was more than a decade ago but, this summer outing remains to be on top of my list.  Years after though, based on what I am finding out online, the major must-see sights are the same, though a lot has changed in the accommodations and gastronomic landscape.

Revel in the majestic stones standing proudly, side-by-side with the mountains of Sagada.  Sumaguing Cave is an adventure you will want to experience.  Wear comfortable, non-slippery shoes or strapped slippers when you trek this grand cave system.  Be ready to get wet.

The Hanging Coffins and the Burial Caves are also a must-see.  Keep in mind, these grounds are sacred to the locals so be respectful at all times.  Don’t step on the graves of their ancestors and don’t litter.

Go for the full experience — bring your camping gear.  Hike and pitch a tent on Marlboro Hills. You will encounter the wild cows of Sagada along the way.  Don’t engage or they’ll certainly chase after you! Let your local guide take you to the peak where you can light up a bon fire and sip a few drinks (a hard alcoholic drink is a must if you’ll be spending the chilly, wet night weather on the slopes of Sagada, anyways).  The morning after, wake up to the grandeur of the Sagada sunrise!  I promise you a morning like no other — you’ll be way higher than the clouds and it’s almost as if you can run and jump to it and let it catch you from falling to the cliff (hold your horses and absolutely don’t do that!).