Monday, January 30, 2012

go hotel palawan. now open!

The Palawan as backwater remains only in distant memories. The forested long tropical island shaped like a closed umbrella has embraced tourism head-on in recent years. Despite the boom, nature conservation has never taken a backseat--the reason why I love Palawan!

Palawan, aptly called the Philippines' last frontier, has so much to offer. I barely scratched the surface actually. Sea to summit. Karst. Secret lagoons. Mountains reaching for the sky. Crocodile. Even giraffe and zebra. No kidding on the last three.

I got a mail from just in time for the summer. It reads: starting February 2012, Go Hotel Palawan will already be accepting walk-in guests. The timing is perfect!

Summer is just around the corner and Puerto Princesa Underground River has been officially declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (Nature Category) . With all the media mileage the underground river is getting (not to mention how blogs and every guidebooks known to travelers rave about the beauty of Palawan) domestic and international tourists will arrive in droves in a few months. Flights to Palawan (Puerto Princesa and Busuanga) from Manila and Cebu have been increased as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

roro schedule between Santander in Cebu and Sibulan in Negros

30 minutes. That's how long it takes now to cross Tanon Strait from Cebu to Negros!

Before the new route was opened, the only way to cross if one drove his own car or motorcycle from Cebu to Dumaguete in Negros was via Bato-Tampi. Ro-ro from Bato-Tampi takes 40 minutes then 30 minutes drive from the port of Tampi to Dumaguete. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

8 tips for a Filipino's 3-day skip trip around Cambodia

Less time and much lesser budget to see Cambodia? I have here 8 tips to make your experience hanep!

Angkor Wat came alive that summer morning! What I used to read only  in the pages of my history book in high school stood right before my eyes. I was breathless. It was a long wait but all worth it. I shall come back soon for the Angkor Wat Marathon happening every November. .   

"See the sun crawl up and bathe Angkor Wat with its honeyed light. Visit the eerily beautiful temple squashed by giant trees (arguably the most photographed tree in the world) where Angelina Jolie shot scenes in Tomb Raider. The South Gate and Bayon. There's a whole lot more so one day is never enough! "

one| 1. Sleep. Definitely your first order as soon as you set foot in Cambodia. Getting a decent and reasonably-priced bed in Siem Reap is easy. Save yourself the hassle by booking ahead. A location within a short distance from Pub Street and Old Market would be ideal. A room that offers free use of bicycle? That would be a very sweet deal. offers a wide array of accommodations that suit your budget.

two| 2. Spend. You don't really have to pay using the local currency called riel. All establishments in Cambodia accepts US dollar bills. It appeared to me that food, tuk-tuk and post cards have the same one dollar price tag.

three| 3. Squeeze. We have to weed out a few places and then squeeze-in a packed 3-day itinerary. Due to time limitations, let's just zero-in on Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat and Angkor Archeological Complex. If you planned to include a visit to Genocide Museum in the capital Phnom Penh, think again. It's a six-hour (230 km.) journey one-way.

four| 4. Getting Around. Tuk-tuk is the king of the road in Cambodia. You can hire it for a day and discover what charming Siem Reap has to offer. Fare from airport to downtown usually costs US$5.00 while temple tour starts at US$13.00.

five| 5. Angkor Tour. Experience one of the most beautiful sunrise. See the sun crawl up and bathe Angkor Wat with its honeyed light. Visit the eerily beautiful temple squashed by giant trees (arguably the most photographed tree in the world) where Angelina Jolie shot scenes in Tomb Raider. The South Gate and Bayon. There's a whole lot more so one day is never enough! Gates open at 5:00am. Tickets are priced US$20 for one day pass and US$40 for 3-day pass.   

six| 6. Eat, Drink and be Happy. Let Khmer dishes satisfy your hunger. Old Market is the place to be. And when you've had your fill, grab a beer and if you're with trusted friends, you might want to try the "happy" pizza everybody is buzzing about.

seven| 7. Shop. Don't forget the pasalubong for your loved ones back home. Good deals come plenty at the Old Market. 

eight| 8. Leave a good impression. You carry the name of the country wherever you go. By virtue of your birthright, you are, by default, an ambassador of goodwill. Carry it with dignity and pride.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A tip on how to get past the rope during Sinulog

There's one best way to beat the crowd and be safe from pickpockets during Sinulog--the Photo Contest ID! I got mine, with ID number in the 300s already, in mid-December.  On the day of the street dancing, the number swelled to more than a thousand in my estimate.

photographers swarm like locusts in every contingent winding toward the cebu city sports center 

At first, I felt like a fry in a big pond of professional photographers with their muscled single-digit model digital SLR cameras and bazooka of lenses. But in the end, I shrugged off the idea. After all, I wasn't really there for the contest. haha

happy to bump into fellow bloggers Andrew, Doi and Edcel |photo courtesy: Doi

Around lunch time, getting a prime spot became difficult. The crowd more than doubled and moved past beyond the cordon. The first and last time I did this was in 2000 when I was required to take photos of the Sinulog as project for my elective class in photography. It was way too different then. The maximum number of photographers at any given time back then wouldn't go beyond 20!

This year, I took around 2,000 photos. Below are few of the survivors during the weeding out process. Nothing close to the formula of a winning festival photo. haha. There's always next year.

It was just very disappointing to see uncouth photographers. Imagine the horror when a few seconds before I pulled the trigger, a photographer just popped out and stayed in the middle of a performing contingent?! Where was the ethics in there?! I couldn't blame the old lady (I think she is a teacher or principal of Gothong High School) who kept mouthing endless insults to photographers who blocked the way.  

she said something very unbecoming of a teacher but i couldn't really blame her.

The damage? I coughed up P1,000.00 for the registration (includes the ID and shirt plus 10 entries for the photo contest). 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Contemporary Cebu Art Exhibition

I chanced upon the exhibit Contemporary Art Cebu at Cebu City Museum along Osmena Boulevard. The exhibit will run until January 31. I'd have to say that it was actually more of a pleasant discovery. I did not know there was an ongoing art exhibit in the hall above the public library until I escaped the noise (ironically) inside the library!

It was one of many drab afternoons that I found myself reading the news. I was hoping I would find quiet once inside only to be greeted with a running-shouting kid once I pushed the door open. Surprisingly, the library personnel were tolerant. How laid-back, huh! Everyone played coy.

I went to the internet section and asked the staff if, by any chance, the library had wifi. The staff didn't know so she asked her superior, the stocky lady seated infront of the computer "facebooking." She coldly answered yes but there's something wrong with the connection without even bothering to look at me (she was "facebooking" the whole time in spite of the big note behind her that says it's not allowed!). In my mind's eye, the lady's skin is caramelized already, her fat dripping in red coal.

On my way out, I saw the streamer about an art exhibit. When I asked the guard about it, he said it's ongoing. I went up the exhibition hall:

No one was there but the door was left open. So, I went inside.

travel blogs I follow

10 travel blogs that left a strong influence on me would be apt a title.

Kung hei fat choi dear readers! How many moon cakes and red envelopes came your way? I’ve got none so far (hahaha). Last night, I welcomed the year of the water dragon by shooting the fireworks display over Waterfront Hotel in Lahug. I had access to an undisclosed venue a kilometer away. To say that it was fun is an understatement. I was there as part of my photography class under an ace lensman.

Here’s my year-ender post. It’s actually a list of blogs I follow. In the beginning of 2011, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of travel blogs. I read some for the novelty they bring but I dig really for those tender meaty substances complete with an explosive wasabi kick at the end. 

Throughout the year, these blogs entertained me, painted a smile on my face, touched my heart, pushed my own boundaries and most importantly, inspired me to erase the borders I built in my own world.

In any given day, I always go for blogs that piqued my curiosity on never before featured places and with entries written with spank and gravitas like Ron and Monette’s . Their rapport is Tom and Jerry. Their narrative is restrained with bravado only the two of them can execute with such an endearing flair. Their trip to Sri Lanka and Viet Nam simply nailed it.

The abandon-your-job and travel the world has already become a cliché. But the idea if done by a Filipino is still new. Gone were the days when world travel was prohibitive. Cheap airfares by budget airlines here and there plus the career mobility made easy by internet makes things which are unimaginable a decade ago now possible for a third-world backpacker. knows what he is doing and is doing it right. He has features about budget travelers every now and then. Though the set of questions remain the same from the very beginning, it makes readers look forward to knowing the movers and shakers in a parallel universe called budget travel.    

In a jungle of travel bloggers, there are always those who have come ahead of the pack. Nina of  simply leads the herd. The prestigious Nuffnang nailed her spot. Her blog was awarded best travel blog in the Asia Pacific region. Her entries are never bereft of budget breakdown which makes budget travel even more realistic and her entries never throw the fun part out of the window. Morocco is in the brim of my bucket list. She did Morocco last year.

On top of the heap, gems of beautifully written and equally engaging travel narratives are found in  One of the many interesting entries that left me a lasting image was Poliquit’s trip to Mon Hofilena House-cum-Museum in Silay City. I have heard many stories about Hofilena and his so-called “gossip” tour on a bus around Negros Occidental. The tour prohibits participants from bringing voice recorders and it only happens once a year. With that being said, I want to join that tour. For lack of time, I missed the chance to meet Hofilena when I went to Silay for a blogger’s tour. The engaging narrative by Poliquit hammered in such vivid details rings inside my head. 

It’s easy to spot their blogs in a sardine run as theirs have a tail that glides effortlessly like blogosphere is their second skin. Gael of, Claire of, Gay of  and tandem Lois + Chichi of are the magic five of the most prolific Filipina travel bloggers I’ve stumbled upon thus far. Two of them who are now hitched started out as solo female travelers! Their spirits roam free and wild. Their travels are off-the-beaten.

Gael has a poignant writing tone that borders on melodrama which actually translates to quiet strength. Her advocacy in responsible travel keeps her blog close to my heart.

Gay is a doting mother of a baby girl named Luna. Together with her hubby, they are all set to conquer the world once couch and one country at a time. This traveling family was recently featured in

Claire has adventure attached to her name. Her narrative about traveling with a close to expired passport made me stay at the edge of my seat.

Chichi and Lois quit their job and traveled Asia, exploring beautiful country after beautiful country at a time. Their glampackers to poorpackers story is an interesting read. They ended their 6-month tour with inspirational speaking engagements left and right in the homefront.

Never have I seen a travel writer his caliber graced the blogosphere like Edgar of His articles have seen publication in prominent inflight magazines like Mabuhay, Smile and Travel 360. I reckoned travel writing could be his full time job as he goes from one place to the next in a flash. The entry about Tawi-tawi put him in the pedestal as one of the most daring bloggers-travel writers I’ve ever heard of.

No frills, no pretensions. No pomp and no pageantry. She writes with brevity but within each sentence is a universe in itself. Kara of truly writes smashing narrative enclosed in a refreshing dewdrop.

The credits go to Lilianne Cobiao for introducing me to the world of travel bloggers in facebook. More than that, her blog has attained unprecedented heights as the first Pinay I have ever heard of to do a non-stop-round-the-world-trip. From New York to Prague to Morocco to Tel Aviv to unknown islands in the rim of the Pacific to forevermore, she does it with much gusto and unfailing energy.    

I liken post-reading the blogs above to that feeling after a night of good wine and mind-blowing intimacy. It leaves one with an afterglow and with no hangover. And yes, the afterthought stays even after sunrise the following day.

Next entry: 10 Emerging travel blogs that truly grows on me. My shortlist includes Doi's, Ed's, James', Mervin's, Robbie's and five others.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

72 Hours in Cebu for non-virgins

Sitting here, choosing words, letter by letter, on the keyboard with explicit intention of telling you about something I did or something I ate and making you as hungry and miserable as I can—surely that’s wrong. But fuck it. Who doesn’t want a good wank now and then?
--Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw

Ten secret places to eat, sleep and do everything else in between.  Information (probably) only the locals know or hear about.

For the uninitiated, Cebu is Magellan’s Cross, Sto. Nino, Taoist Temple, Lapu-lapu shrine, utap, su-tu-kil, mangoes and guitars—icons that define my hometown located in the heart of the Philippine archipelago. If you’ve been to the island more than once, you have pretty much covered a healthy dose of good finds, good food and gargantuan tourist traps. To complete the picture, throw in Moalboal, Malapascua, Kawasan, Bantayan and Badian Island and you will have an idyllic island complete with blue sea and sky and swaying coconut leaves reaching for the sky. Cebu was once referred to as an Island in the Pacific which created the impression that it was an island outside the Philippines. As such, it funneled volumes of tourist even during the turbulent Martial Law years.

Let all guidebooks and a whole nine yards of blogs written thus far take care of the usual information. In this “not the usual” edition, I will bring you to the hidden and well-guarded secrets (well, some) of the Cebu I know.

First 3 hours
After you have freshened up and have your appetite fighting tooth and nail for lunch, get ready to soak up some sun first and embrace the island vibe! Chill. After all, you did not come this far just to sleep, get a massage or go on a shopping frenzy, didn’t you? You could do that at the tail-end of your stay.

Assuming that you arrive in the morning and it’s a Sunday, don’t miss the tastiest, the best lechon there is in Cebu. It’s supposed to be a secret and only a few local foodies know about it. Now, I’m telling you, it’s not in Talisay or elsewhere and yes, the pig doesn’t fly. It’s up North. Be sure you get there in time for lunch because arriving there later than that is arriving in a porn set after a shoot! For complete information, click here.

First 12 waking hours
SEE| MUSEUM of Beautiful Accidents
Hidden behind a mountain of steel bars, soot and planks of wood, I have never expected for a moment to see before me a gem in the rough. Quite literally, the rough edges which is the neighborhood won’t give anyone a clue what rare and beautiful treasures the unassuming construction store warehouse holds. The only dead giveaway clue is the signage that reads Museo Parian that hangs on its gate.

It was business as usual when I arrived. Admin office phoned somebody presumably to tour me around the museum. I could sense the boss was on the other line. Unfortunately, the boss was somewhere else for lunch. It would have been awesome to hear backstories about the house—the discovery that it’s actually a heritage house (a national treasure at that), the restoration process and ahem, the paranormal experiences (in the course of the tour, I learned that the owners actually lived in the house during the early years of their marriage).     

After I walked past the industrial noise blanketing the warehouse, I was led to a nondescript stairway. It was the azotea. Breaking traditions, I was actually getting inside the museum in a fashionable back entry which makes the tour sneaky at its best while it unravels layers after beautiful layers of close to 300 years of history that left me mouthing all the ooohs and aaaahs I could muster in a day.   

The tour continued to the dining hall and organically flowed toward the bridge that connects the main house with the bedrooms, sala and comidor and snakes down to the centuries-old main gate fortified with steel. It rightfully ended in the restored basement which now hosts Sugbu Gallery—a collection of artifacts found during the restoration process and some other memorabilia found in Cebu.

The structural and design integrity of the house remain as it was in the 1700s. A few furniture were added simply to create an ambience replete with an Eduardo Ah Tay four-poster bed (Ah Tay was a very famous Binondo furniture maker in the 19th century).

There are more than a dozen of museums scattered in the city. Casa Gorordo, University of San Carlos Museum, Cathedral Museum, Fort San Pedro and San Diego-Yap Museum to name a few but none of them had me dropped my jaw in amazement like the Jesuit House of 1730. Thank you Venus for the guided tour!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Swim and Play with the Whale Sharks (butanding or tuki) in Oslob!

10| TEN fastfacts 

1.       How do I get there?

If you’re on a budget, the option is to take the bus. Head out to Cebu South Bus Terminal and look for the sign board that reads Liloan or Bato. Ceres and Sunrays ply the route. Departure is every hour starting at 3:00am. Travel time is around 3 hours for the 117 kilometer ride. Fare is Php156.00 plus Php5.00 terminal fee. 

2.       Where do I get off?
Tell the konduktor  (fare collector) you are getting off in Tan-awan, Oslob.  

Alternative: Another option is to cough up some cash. Hire a car or van for a more comfortable and scenic drive to the South. Travel time is around two hours. On the way back, you can swing by Boljoon, Argao and Carcar--beautiful heritage towns in the South. Don’t forget the torta sa Argao and chicharon sa Carcar, ha.

3.       How much do I need to pay?
Depends on which gate you pass through. On the left side of the road, there are two gates that empty to the shore: the plain red gate and then 10 meters away, there’s a blue gate with a whale shark drawing.