Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Weekend Family Getaway via HomeAway


Tagaytay is a known place for Manilenos who are seeking for a quick escape from the busy city. Aside from the cool breeze and family-oriented spots you'll experience there, Tagaytay has become a food haven over the past years. Having said that, it's no wonder why the town has a lot of hotels and condos standing and being constructed around it due to its popularity to locals and foreign tourists.

I wanted to treat my family with an out of town trip and Tagaytay would be the best option for a weekend getaway. Now, the next thing would be, where will be staying? A five-star hotel would costs me a lot and merely out of my league. I simply don't want to put all my cash on accommodation for our trip. However, I maybe on a tight budget but I would still like my family to experience a fancy abode. It's really hard to find a place that is affordable and packed with amenities... luckily, I discovered HomeAway which has given me a discount with our booking.

The Rental Space

With HomeAway, I was able to find a place that is just right on my budget without compensating the quality of the place. Click the [link] to see the actual place I booked at HomeAway.

One of the room

Our family stayed at Cityland Tagaytay Prime Residences. It is a two-bedroom condominium with a retro inspired interiors. The room can accommodate a maximum of 6 which is ideal for a big family. Both rooms are fully air-conditioned. The master's bedroom has its own bathroom and shower room. Aside from that, it also has a walking closet which is amazing!

Master's Bedroom
Way to the walking closet/2nd bath and shower room

My nephew and niece really love the place. It is still spacious even we reached the max number of its occupants (which is 6). They were able to run and play around which is just nice to watch. The adults also had a nice time cooking and sitting while watching tv and surfing the net. Yes! This place has its own network connection which is a plus for tech-savvy guests.

Amenities

Some of the amenities are already mentioned above -- rooms that are fully airconditioned, has its own shower and bath rooms, a walking closet and has its own internet connection. But aside from that, it has another bathroom and shower room, LED television installed with cable, and a kitchen with basic cooking tools and appliances.

The living room
If you want to cook your meals... just go with it
The kitchen is installed with exhaust

Other than the room amenities, Cityland also has its playground and pool which is open and free of use for all its guests. There's also a convenient store which is open 24 hours just right in front of the building.

Location

Cityland Tagaytay Prime Residences isn't hard to locate. It is a well known place in Tagaytay and plotted to mobile applications such as Waze and Google Maps.

Another factor why we booked this place is because it is located in the center of the town so guaranteed that you're accessible to almost all of the popular sites in tagaytay -- Picnic Grove, Our Lady of Manaoag Church, People's Park in the Sky, Sky Ranch and such.

Experience


Overall, me and my family had a great weekend vacation and it was indeed relaxing. The place we stayed at relieved our stress we acquired from work. I'm so glad that I got to discover HomeAway. Booking was easy and specially, safe. Surely, this is not the last time that I will booked a place through HomeAway.

HomeAway Ph website: http://www.homeaway.com.ph
Hotel we booked: http://www.homeaway.com.ph/vacation-rentals/philippines/calabarzon/tagaytay/tm-Bq7Ij1yDyf6

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    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Miagao Church of Iloilo: A UNESCO World Heritage Site


    Popularly known as the Miagao Church, Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church is a world heritage site found in the province of Miagao, Iloilo. This Roman Catholic Parish Church is part of the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites along side with San Agustin Church of Manila; Nuestra SeƱora de la Asuncion Church of Ilocos Sur; and San Agustin Church of Ilocos Norte.

    How did I got there?
    Well, it is part of our Ilo Ilo city tour. Our group composed of 9 heads rented out a van for 2,500 and a visit to Miagao Church is part of that itinerary. We met the van owner at the airport of Iloilo. Price may vary depending on how good you are on haggling and to your itinerary. Our group decided to just rented out a van instead of getting tours from agencies because of two reasons: 1) We don't have to follow any time table. 2) We're the one to decide where we want to go. We just give a list of places we want to visit to the van owner and just let him decide the sequence.

    For further details, I will be creating a separate blogpost of our Iloilo city tour.

    Those intricate design of Miagao Church...

    Moving forward, Miagao Church is the last site we visited on our tour and probably the farthest site from the airport. It is approximately an hour away from Iloilo City.

    By the time we reach the Miagao Church, I couldn't help myself but to adore the beauty of this structure. It is enormously big and has elaborately-decorated facade and walls. The wall carvings in front of the church is such a work of art which is truly captivating. (I know this is wrong but...) As soon as we got off of the van, we waste no time and took selfies and group photos in front of the church. Since this is a popular site in town, expect it to be crowded. Luckily, there was no mass being held during our visit so there were only few people touring around Miagao Church. After our photo op outside Miagao Church, we then headed inside to pray.

    Know more about Miagao Church
    Side view of the church

    Despite being big and popular, the interior design of this church remains simple. It was not as grand as I thought it would be but it was elegant in its own perfect way. You can clearly see that the people of Miagao really put a great effort to preserve the church. Miagao Church has the typical set up of a catholic church. There's an alter in front, long benches with kneeling pad, and has wall fans on both sides. But what makes it stand-out among others is how spacious and humble it is inside. They do not over-do the interior design of Miagao Church. There were actually no design on its long ceiling except for its plain chandeliers. The fanciest thing I saw inside is its alter. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Look at how well maintained this church is...
    Simply captivating and a timeless classic

    Miagao Church is truly a world heritage site. It was built hundreds of years ago and survived through ages. This was the last site we visited before we went back to Manila and I am proud to say that we've saved the best for last. The long travel is worth it so do not forget to visit this site when in Iloilo!

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    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Inland Tour at Gigantes North: The Lighthouse and Bakwitan Cave


    If you happen to read my blog post about our island hopping at Islas de Gigantes, I mentioned on it that we had an inland tour at Gigantes North (Norte). And as promised, here's my detailed entry about it. The inland tour isn't that grand compared to the island hopping but it was a good trip incase you still have some spare time to spent. The whole tour took us 4 hours including photo op which covers a visit to Gigantes North Island Lighthouse and Bakwitan Cave.

    How did I got there?
    Well Gigantes North is usually part of the island hopping tour at Islas de Gigantes. This is where most of the resorts are located so basically locals are familiar to the island. Kindly refer to this [link] to know more on how we got to Gigantes North. So to cut the story short, the resort we stayed-in was located at Gigantes North and we discovered about the inland tour of Norte from Kuya Kim which happens to be our island hopping tour guide. His brother, Kuya Glenn, offers tourists inland tour which costs 200 Pesos per head which in includes transportation by means of riding a habal-habal (motorcycle).

    North Gigantes Island Lighthouse

    We started our inland tour at six in the morning. Kuya Glenn picked us up at the resort along with his habal habal drivers. We got ecstatic when we saw them because each one of us had our own habal-habal and a driver. We were 9 in the group therefore we also have 9 motorcycles for this trip. How cool was that?

    Off to the lighthouse

    Our first destination was the lighthouse. Gigantes North is still not that civilized so the road going to the lighthouse is pretty rough and bumpy. It also rained the day before our inland tour so most part of the road was still muddy. Although it was like a roller coaster ride, I was able to enjoy our way to the lighthouse. I was able to witness how simple the villagers lived here and how much this island is blessed with natural resources.

    Entrance of the lighthouse

    The place is ideal for sun rise viewing. Unfortunately, we reached the area around 6:30 am and the sun has already set itself high. Based on our guide, if we really want to witness the sunrise we should have been there around 5-5:30 in the morning. Despite missing the scene, our group still enjoyed exploring the site. The area isn't that big but I find it visually attractive specially the ruins part of the lighthouse. I simply love its old structure and how picturesque it is.

    Love the rustic vibe of this place
    Aim and pose!
    Just a random shot

    The gate of the lighthouse was locked during our visit so we weren't able to climb up. Nonetheless, you can still able to see the breathtaking view from the foot of the lighthouse and that was enough for us.

    The view at the foot of the lighthouse

    Bakwitan Cave

    From the lighthouse, it took us almost half an hour before we reached the jump off point of Bakwitan Cave. Have those feet ready and stretched out as you need to trek in order to make it on the mouth of Bakwitan Cave. It was a challenging trek to some of us as not all of my buddies are used to trekking and the trail is so muddy because it rained the day before we went there. The trail was so steep and muddy that it requires us to use our hands and sometimes slide-in in order to pushed through. As we reach the entrance of the cave, we are pretty much pumped up and just a bit covered with mud. Haha.

    Our habal habal drivers are also the one who assisted us on our to Bakwitan Cave

    Before we get inside of Bakwitan Cave, Kuya Glenn orient us the DOs and DON'Ts while inside of it. The photo below summarized the orientation and I suggest to everyone who will visit the cave to follow these rules to maintain orderliness:

    Obey these simple rules

    Just like any other cave, Bakwitan has stalagmites and stalactites formations scattered on different parts of the cave. We were also able to see how those things started as we saw small ones which about 5 inches tall. As per our guide, it will take hundreds of years to actually form so locals surround the small stalagmites with stones so visitors will not step and crash on it. That simple act is really admirable as I really saw how these people protect their own natural resources. Another highlight of the tour inside Bakwitan cave are the images formed in its walls and ceiling. All you have to do is use your imagination.

    What makes Bakwitan Cave special are the stories which formed during the years. Bakwitan derived from the word "evacuate" to "refuge". This cave serves as a hiding place for Filipinos during the Japanese colony to escape from slavery. And up until now, this place acts as an evacuation site for the residents of Gigantes North every time a strong typhoon hits the area.

    At the mouth of Bakwitan Cave
    The cave was so dark and I don't have the right tools with me that day. So I have no decent photos inside the cave. :| Shame...

    Entrance of Bakwitan Cave

    The two sites were pretty simple compared to the other sites surrounding Islas de Gigantes. Yet, I still recommend these to everyone to include them on your itinerary when visiting Gigantes. This tour thought me (even just a little information) about Gigantes and its people. It is also nice to know that it is not just about island hopping but they also have inland tours at Gigantes.

    If you also want to avail Kuya Glenn's service, you may reach him at 09124567959. I don't know if he can still remember me/us but if you can, please say hi for me!

    Breakdown of Expenses: 
    Inland tour - 200 Pesos per head
    Donation at Bakwitan Cave - **.**

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    Thursday, September 22, 2016

    Accommodation in Gigantes Island: Rosewood Place Resort


    If you have read my blog post about our island hopping tour at Islas de Gigantes (also called as Gigantes Islands) then you're probably wondering where did we stayed during our tour. Well, the title says it all. Our group stayed at Rosewood Place Resort found at Gigantes North.

    Note: If you are looking for a grand resort with generator, hot and cold shower, or cable-installed television on your room then I would say that this is not the resort for you.

    I would describe Rosewood Place as a plain and simple resort. Our stay here will gaves me peace of mind and somehow feels like living to basics again. I added the term "somehow" because although the rooms are air-conditioned and has faucet with unlimited water supply, Rosewood Place has limited access in terms of mobile and internet signals. There is no television on rooms. And lastly, it does not have generator which means there is no electricity from 6am to 6pm (which is implemented in the entire island).

    Wait! Please don't be discourage because of the simple things I mentioned above. The resort may not have the luxury of signal but it is located in the beach front. You're there to relax so maximize it and let go of your gadgets. It may not have electricity during day time but who cares? Go out there and explore Gigantes! And instead of contemplating on your room because it has no television, why not take it as an opportunity to bond with your travel buddies? But above all, Rosewood Place serves GREAT FOOD and my friends can attest to that!

    The Rooms

    I find the rooms at Rosewood Place Resort affordable. Their non air-conditioned room ranges from 600 Pesos (good for 2 pax) to 1,750 Pesos (good for 7 pax). As for the air-conditioned rooms they have 1500 Pesos room which can accommodate 4 persons and 2,500 Pesos room for 7 persons.

    Non Air-condition room for 4 pax 
    Air Conditioned rooms for 4 pax

    We were 9 in the group and wanted to stayed in one room so we asked if we could all stay on their 7 pax air-conditioned room and just add extra beds. They agreed to our request and charged us 3,000 Pesos per night. Although we were 9 and occupying their 7-pax room, I still find it big as if it can still hold up to 11 persons. We didn't have a problem with the ventilation and air conditioning.

    Typical room vibe at Rosewood Place Resort
    They can also provide electric fan for air condition rooms 
    Simple yet clean bathroom

    ** Note: Room rates vary depending on the season

    Amenities 

    Well there's nothing much I can say under this section. Like what I stated above, the resort is simple. It has an average comfort rooms, a small dining place where the only television in this resort is located, and a couple of nipa huts where you can hangout with your travel buddies. But the thing you'll love the most about the resort is, it is a beach front hotel. Meaning, you have an unlimited access to the beach to enjoy it.

    It is just a few roll away from the beach! 
    Staying here

    And oh! Before I forgot, you can also rent a videoke machine. Just take note that you can only use it until 10pm. Remember, you're not the only guest in the resort and they might be resting by that time.

    Others 

    Rosewood offers a lot in terms of packages that can ease up your trip to Gigantes Islands. We got our island hopping tour to them at the price of 7,500 Pesos which includes: 2-way transfer on Estancia Port to Gigantes North (where the resort is located) plus 1-day island hopping tour. Incase we decided to only avail their island hopping tour it would have only costs us 2,500 Pesos. The tour packages I mentioned here are for 15 pax and below. They have tour packages up to 30 pax.

    You can also arrange your meals at Rosewood Place. Food here are ordered and priced by kilos. During our visit, all seafood dishes are at 250 Pesos per kilo while meats are at 350 Pesos per kilo. The said price includes cooking fee. They will also suggest what they can do to your order. But if you have something else on your mind, you can request it to them but bare in mind that they might not be able to do it due to limited access on ingredients.

    These are just some of the food we had during our stay at Rosewood Place Resort: Steamed crab, buttered scallops, grilled fish (yellow fin), adobong pusit, tinolang manok and grilled liempo. And we really had a blast every time we finished our meals!

    Verdict

    I really had a nice stay at Rosewood Place Resort. It was relaxing and and I felt the province-vibe I am looking for every time I travel to a place like this. Facilities are something that can be worked on but its not of a big deal (for me). Specially when 70-80% of our time is, we're out exploring its neighbouring islands. They also offer low-cost accommodations and tours which are perfect for groups who are budget conscious.

    We also don't have any problem with the staff of the resort as well as with the tour guides they provided. Socializing with them was never an issue. Everyone was friendly, honest and warm. Lastly, we felt secured the whole time we were there -- from the time they fetched us at Estancia Port until they accompanied us back to the port. And again, they serve great food!

    Photo Op with Nanay :)

    For inquiries and reservations, you may contact Rosewood Place Resort at: 0907 955 1099 and 0910 710 1595

    Breakdown of Expenses:
    Estancia port to North Gigantes (two-way) and Island Hopping - 7,500 Pesos (good for 9 pax)
    Food - **.**
    Accommodation - 3,000 Pesos (good for 9 pax)
    Videoke - 150 Peos per hour
    Environmental fee at Estancia Port - 5 Pesos per pax
    Environmental fee at Gigantes North 150 Pesos per pax

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    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Island Hopping at Islas de Gigantes (Gigantes Islands) of Iloilo


    Islas de Gigantes (popularly known as Gigantes Islands) is one of my dream destination among the provinces of my country. It is located in the northernmost part of Iloilo province in the municipality of Carles. Gigantes Islands are known for its beautiful islands and islets packed with crystalline-like beaches and panoramic views. And just recently, I was able to crossed this place out on my bucket list and explored the province of Iloilo... specifically, Gigantes Islands.

    How did I got there?
    I strongly recommend that you book a flight going to Roxas as it is closer to Gigantes Islands. Unlike us, we booked our flights to Iloilo for which its airport is situated far away from Gigantes. Once you alight either of the airports, take any ride routing to Estancia Port. It is 2.5-3hrs away from Iloilo city. Since we went there as a big group, we hired a private van which we met in the airport. The Iloilo airport to Estancia port trip costs us 2,500 Pesos. Estancia port serves as the jump-off point for Gigantes Islands go-ers. You can avail public boats or you can also rent a private one to take you to any part of Gigantes.  We already had a contact that would take us to Gigantes Islands prior to our visit. We found a resort that is located on one of the islands that offered us a package which includes: 2-way transfer on Estancia Port to Gigantes North (where the resort is located) plus a 1-day island hopping tour at the price of 7,500 Pesos. This is a good price knowing that we're (9) nine on the group who will split up the said value. By the way, there is also a 5 pesos environmental fee per person at the port of Estancia.

    Update: Here's my blogpost about the resort where we stay-in during our visit at Islas de Gigantes [click this link]

    The Estancia Port
    Random island during our tour
    Moving on, the island hopping offered to us includes a visit to: 1) Gigantes North 2) Cabugao Island 3) Bantigue Sand Bar and lastly, 4) Antonia Beach. Usually, a visit to Tangke Lagoon is included on the tour, however, the lagoon is restricted to visitors until October due to rehabilitation activities.

    Gigantes North

    Gigantes North (Norte) is one of the mainlands of Gigantes Islands. Most of the resorts are located here which offer basic accommodation to travelers and explorers. A community is starting to grow in the island. Establishments such as schools, courts and halls are can be seen in the area. As for island activities, you have a choice whether you want to enjoy the beach while watching the sunset, enjoy the simple things on your resort, or do an in-land tour. In-land tour covers a trip to the lighthouse and Bakwitan cave. Again, another blog will be posted for our detailed in-land tour at Gigantes North.

    Update: Here's my blogpost about our inland tour at Gigantes North [click this link]

    A little sandbar at Gigantes North

    As you enter the island, you need to pay 150 pesos per head for the purpose of environmental fee. This is good for your whole stay in Gigantes North. The main transportation in North is the habal-habal (motorbike). A ride can carry 2-3 heads at the expense of 20 Pesos each.

    Cabugao Gamay Island

    I would say that Cabugao Gamay Island is the most popular and an Instagram-famous among the different islands of Gigantes. I haven't seen anyone who visited Gigantes Islands that did not post a photo (selfie or non-selfie photo) like the one below:

    Group shot at the view deck

    Yes! That is taken at Cabugao Gamay of Iloilo! It is characterized by two islands connected by a sandbar. Gamay is a local term for small. This island has two white sand beaches lined up with coconuts trees so visitors will not run out of shades when the sun strikes up. Both sides of the island is swimmable. Therefore, visitors have a wide area to do their swim.

    Just landed at Cabugao Gamay
    Yes, it has creamy white sand beach!

    Cabugao Gamay has a viewing deck where tourist can climb to have a bird’s eye view of the whole island. The deck is too small and can only occupy a couple of persons (an estimate of 15 persons at a time). As per our tour guide, this island has the tendency to be overly crowded during lean season due to its popularity. So please be very patient waiting for your turn while others are taking their photos. In our case, we went here during off-season (August) and I can say that we’re lucky because we had the chance to explore the island freely and took as many shots as we could at the top of the island without the hassle as there were only few people touring that day.

    Lastly, please take note that there is a 50 Pesos per person fee upon visiting Cabugao Gamay. 

    Bantigue Island (Sandbar)

    Bantigue Sandbar (some spelled as Bantigui) is the third stop of our tour. Before we got there, I have no any expectations considering it is just a sandbar. However, as we reach Bantigue, I was surprise of its size. It is enormously big and long compared to other sandbars I've been to. As soon as our boat landed, everyone jumped out of the boat and started taking pictures! Our photo op were hold off when the rain started to pour hard.

    Rain already started falling during this shot. Haha

    While raining, we rested in a nipa hut to grasp some rest. Locals of Bantigue just ask for some donations for the use of nipa huts. In parallel, our boatmen started to prepare our lunch. We ordered our lunch on the resort where we checked in and just ask them if we could have it while having the tour.

    Thea (author of The Prettea Traveler) and Kris also documenting our trip
    Claire and Donna having their own photoshoot at Bantigui
    Finally! A clear shot of the island

    The rain didn't stop even after we have took our lunch. So if we can't beat it, we just went with it! We swim and explore the area while raining. It was indeed a fun experience! It brought out my childhood memories back. We stayed in the island longer than I expected. Every one enjoyed the stay and just played around and swim our hearts out. As soon as we're off the island, the rain also stopped. What a freezing welcome we had at Bantigue Island!

    My Iloilo travel buddies

    Antonia Beach

    If Cabugao Gamay has that breathtaking view and Bantigue Island boasts its long and enormous sandbar, well, Antonia beach has is its gigantic rock formations. Those rock formations are found on different parts of the beach that compliments the island and makes it a picturesque site. If you have a hammock, I suggest that you bring it here. There are bunch of sprawling coconut trees in the area where you can set it up.

    This area looks more beautiful in person

    We were already tired when we got here so it was nice that there were benches near the beach. We just sit down, relaxed under the coconut tree, had a few drinks, and enjoyed everything our eyes can reached. By the way, there are tents available in the area in case you want to spend a night at Antonia beach. You can also find a small (sari sari) store and a working toilet room in the area.

    Simple things available at Antonia's Beach
    I had a good walk here
    The other end of the island

    Aside from camping, other activities available are: Banana boat, jet-skiing, beach volleyball, spelunking and snorkeling. Snorkeling gears are available for rent at 50 pesos. Also, There is a 40 Pesos per head fee upon entering Antonia Beach.

    Equipment rentals at Antonia's Beach

    My overall experience at Islas de Gigantes was exceptional. It was fulfilling that I was able to visit one of the top places on my (travel) bucket list. Each island we gone through has its special characteristics which makes it more interesting. Although it was off season and raining (on some part of our tour) during our visit, it didn't bother me much because the positive side is, there were only few tourists doing the island hopping. There were times where we felt like we rented the whole island because no other tourists were on it. Taking selfies and pictures of the views were easy. We seldom experience being photobombed. Lastly, I got the chance to have a selfie on top of Cabugao Gamay Island which is my ultimate goal for this tour!


    Breakdown of Expenses:
    Van transfer from Iloilo city/airport to Estancia port - 2,500 Pesos (good for 10 pax)
    Estancia port to North Gigantes (two-way) and Island Hopping - 7,500 Pesos (good for 9 pax)
    Estancia port environmental fee - 5 Pesos per head
    Gigantes North environmental fee  - 150 Pesos per head
    Cabugao Gamay entrance fee - 50 Pesos per head
    Donation for nipa rental at Bantigue Sandbar - **.**
    Food - **.**
    Antonia Beach entrance fee - 40 Pesos per head

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