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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Travel Video: The Enchanting Lake Sebu

I've already created countless of  Lake Sebu travel videos in the past. I couldn't help, I always find myself visiting the place over and over again. Obviously, it's my favorite place on earth. The lake, the serenity of the place, its cold breeze and my dear relatives. Because there, I always feel I'm home.   

So, without further ado, let me share my enchanting Lake Sebu trip video (watch it in HD) :)


Check out my other Lake Sebu Videos: 2 Part TourismVideo, Mystical Fog Exhibition, Mountain hiking and T'boli dance.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tacurong City Celebrates Talakudong Festival 2013

September 18, 2013. Under the scorching heat of the morning sun, I patiently walk the streets of Tacurong as I struggle to find a decent spot to take photos and witness for the very first time the Talakudong Street Dancing and Field Demonstration. My burnt skin due to previous festivals and farm visits screams for some time out, but I just couldn't let the unforgiving sun ruin my excitement. It's another day to explore the city, my birthplace and my family's home province on this one festive day. Plus, this is after all, the fourth and last festival of my almost 3 month long Mindanao itinerary.  

performers swaying their vibrant kudongs

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sultan Kudarat: Not Your Ordinary Provincial Capitol

Provincial Capitol of Sultan Kudarat

The capitol carries a design that is a combination of Muslim and Christian symbols with a commanding gold painted dome. The exterior is magnificent, a far cry from the country’s usual capitols. This landmark, more so, is said to be Southeast Asia’s biggest. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Of Herons and Egrets: A Walk Inside Baras Bird Sanctuary

Black Crowned Night Heron

It’s been sunny for the past 2 days in Tacurong so I decided to push through with an afternoon visit to Baras. The day is good and the roads are dry, it's a perfect time to see those migratory birds. This simple barangay located west of poblacion, houses one of Sultan Kudarat’s most sought after tourist spot, giving visitors a one of a kind bird watching experience.

Friday, August 9, 2013

20 Awesome Ways to Enjoy South Cotabato’s T’nalak Festival


My first ever T’nalak Festival experience happened in 2008. Unfortunately, it was just a (half) day short as I booked my return trip to Manila the day the festivity started. Little did I know I would be missing on a lot of fun street festivity. I was able to do a quick tour though of the bahay kubo exhibit, the agri-trade fair and did last few minute pasalubong shopping inside the Protech Center. It was a very short introduction to T'nalak Festival but it sure did ignite my interest to watch the much talked about parade on my next visit. 

In 2010, I made sure to catch the Street Dancing Parade. I was on the streets of Alunan by 6am before the street dancing started with the tribal music pumping the festival vibe, I was extremely excited as it was my first ever festival parade experience. But rain poured, hard. Despite that, I was totally blown away to see student performers, still in full spirits, merilly dancing in the rain draped with t'nalak costumes. I wasn’t able to watch their showdown in the open field as me and my relatives had to visit our other relatives in Lake Sebu. 

This 2013, armed with printed festival schedule, I made sure to experience the many activities of T’nalak Fest. For the anxious Manileños, let me share with you a list on some of T'nalak Festival's best and brightest so you can fully enjoy South Cotabato's festival pride.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Packing For a Mindanao "Backpacking" Trip

I'm now in Tacurong city, Sultan Kudarat. I plan to embark on yet another long trip to this southern part of the Philippines. With just one way ticket, my first long trip to Mindanao, happened in 2008, right after I left my job. It lasted for a month. Then in 2010 I found myself wandering in South Cotabato again for 2 months hopping from one habalhabal to another. This 2013, I'm back in Mindanao.

my packs onboard Yellow Bus Liner from GenSan to Tacurong

For this particular trip, a Sandugo Ascent 45L Backpack will serve as my home for 3 months.

How To Prepare for a Mindanao Backpacking Trip

Who says you need a travel agent to put together a great vacation backpacking trip?


This post aims to provide some helpful tips for anyone who wanted to travel long term in Mindanao. While mine may not be a hardcore backpacking trip as most of the provinces I’ll be visiting comes with a relative living in the area, my plan could still be adapted and customized by whoever wants to go on a Mindanao trip. Without further ado, allow me to share some of my preparation plan for this Mindanao backpacking trip.

Plane Tickets 

Piso Fare roundtrip tickets for Mla-Gensan-Mla

I booked roundtrip tickets (Mla-Gensan-Mla) last August 2012 during their much awaited Piso Fare Promo. As you can see, that’s like almost one year before my travel date. Excited lang right? But hey, booking that piso fare promo way in advance meant I was able to save more or less Php6,000.

Approximate year round fares (roundtrip): Php7,000+
My Cebu Pacific Piso Fare Promo (roundtrip, with check-in baggage on my return trip): Php611.04
Savings of: Php6,000+

Tips for a successful Piso Fare booking: 
  • Be flexible with your travel dates. Stay away from holidays and weekends.
  • Be a 'fan' on Facebook and Twitter pages of Cebu Pacific. 
  • Book solo or just in small group (2-3 pax) per booking. It's quite impossible to book in groups of 10 or more.
  • Be decisive and book fast. Plan the trip in advance so once the fare is out, you'll be quick to act. Ready the names and birthdates of fellow passengers. Remember, you'll be competing with thousands of Piso Fare fanatics, so type quick. 

Travel Period 

July 11 – September 25, 2013. That’s roughly 3 months or 76 days to be exact. Why 3 months? I wanted to experience T’nalak Festival once again and to experience the Talakudong Festival for the first time, which meant I have to be there from July to September. Plus 3 months would allow me to really go back to my roots, dig a deeper understanding of my birthplace and nearby places barely explored. I will travel slowly.

Slow travel is about making conscious choices. It is about deceleration rather than speed. The journey becomes a moment to relax, rather than a stressful interlude imposed between home and destination. Slow travel re-engineers time, transforming it into a commodity of abundance rather than scarcity. And slow travel also reshapes our relationship with places, encouraging and allowing us to engage more intimately with the communities through which we travel. (source)

Why travel during the rainy season? I welcome rain as much as I welcome the tropical sun. And I did experience a couple of hard rains during my previous visits. But the thing is, it’s typhoons that really hinder a great outdoor escape. And generally speaking, there are no typhoons in the areas I plan to visit. The region is relatively more conducive to travel during these months than traveling in Luzon. Not to mention it’s off season, and that meant more savings. Rain or shine, I’m going outdoor.

Destinations 

3 Regions. 7 Provinces. 8 Cities. These are my target destinations (pre-trip).

SOCCSKSARGEN REGION
South Cotabato - Koronadal, Lake Sebu, Polomolok, Surrallah, Tboli, Tupi
Cotabato - Cotabato city, Kidapawan 
Sultan Kudarat - Tacurong, Isulan, Lebak, Kalamansig 
Sarangani - Glan
General Santos city

DAVAO REGION
Davao del Sur - Davao city 
Davao del Norte - Samal Island

CARAGA REGION
Surigao del Sur – Bislig

The Soccsksargen region is home, it’s pretty much my travel playground of choice so my itinerary is jampacked with a lot of return trips. I've been going back and forth here and still leaving the region with so many places left to explore. I know that every travel is different so I’m really excited to explore the region once more and see my relatives and friends that I dearly miss.

TIP: Afraid to start your first 'solo' backpacking? To ease the fear, why not start traveling on the region you have the most relatives. Yes you may have to do solo trips on day tours but wouldn't it be comforting to know you have familiar faces you can count on in case you need a helping hand.

Route and Itinerary


View Larger Map
(sample route)

Creating the itinerary is like making a taping and location guide for a teleserye episode (which has been part of my past production work), only this time, I have more places to cover and more time to explore. To start, I based my route and itinerary on these 4 Mindanao festivals (Davao’s Kadayawan, South Cotabato’s T’nalak, General Santos’ Tuna Festival and Tacurong’s Talakudong Festival). Here’s a glimpse of my schedule:

July: South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat
August: Sultan Kudarat, Davao and Surigao
September: General Santos, Sarangani, Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat

Budget

Since my plane tickets were secured one year before the scheduled flight, it’s more than enough time to prepare my budget. Here are some of my travel tips to help fund your wanderlust. Check out some of my posts on how to stretch your travel fund:

For my 2013 Mindanao trip, my goal is to only spend Php300/day or roughly Php20,000 for the entire 76 days.

Not enough? That’s obviously a shoestring budget and is not applicable to many, but I’ll be saving a lot on food and accommodation - one of the best things when you have relatives or friends from provinces you want to visit, in my case a huge clan all over Mindanao areas.

But just like in every trip, emergency fund is highly recommended in case you need to stretch your budget. Even if you go below or blow your budget, it’s comforting to know you still have funds available in case something goes wrong. They’re life savers!

Travel Tipid Tips:
1. Plan ahead
2. Use those free food treats from my credit card freebies
3. Communicate with relatives to let them know I’ll be visiting.
4. Be resourceful. 

My personal 'must haves': Credit Card (enrolled online for easier tracking), ATM Card, Cash (Do have COINS always) and GCash.

Research 

Many people who travel and don’t research beforehand tend to go over the top their budget. Oftentimes, these are the people who’ll say that traveling is expensive. And it can be, if you don’t arm yourself with the right information.

Where to get travel information?

1. Google is your bestfriend when it comes to researching. Here are some keywords you may also want to use:
  • Hot to Get from Point A to Point B (take note of bus schedules too)
  • Things to Do in your chosen destination
  • Cheap Local restaurants
  • Transportation cost, entrance fees, activity fees, tours, accommodation
2. I’m so lucky to be a part of Pinoy Travel Bloggers. PTB blogs has been my dependable guide.
3. Wikimapia is damn cool. Printing street maps and studying them is perfect for travelers who has tendencies to get lost, like me.
4. Travel guides (use those brochures horded from Philippine Travel Mart)
5. Ask any travel advice from relatives or friends living in the area. Locals know best.
6. Do check out TripAdvisor.com and ChoosePhilippines.com. Helpful local websites I regularly visit for this Mindanao trip includes SouthCotabato.org, Gensantos.com, Tacurongcity.net, Cotabatoprov.gov.ph

Packing List 
I am bringing my 45L Sandugo Ascent and a day pack. I packed clothes that I'm comfortable wearing and those that are quick to dry. Here's my detailed post on my packing essentials: Packing For a Mindanao "Backpacking" Trip 

Communication
I’m brushing up once again my Ilonggo skills. Having Ilonggo parents, I can very well understand Illonggo and Visayan dialects (thought I still couldn't fully grasp their difference up to now, parang pareho lang kasi). But no worries, most locals in Mindanao can understand Tagalog and English.

Final Tip
Layout the Plan but also make room for adjustments. Have your master plan printed out (mine’s in an excel format) and make sure to leave a copy of your itinerary at home.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Making A Travel Photobook

Imagine your most treasured travel photos printed inside the pages of a crisp, glossy coffee table book. House guests can flip through the pages filled with your own photo snaps like the mountain highway leading to your first destination, the vibrant indigenous flower, fiesta parties, the spooky forest trek and the scrumptious shot of your plate. That coffee table book would indeed be a great conversation piece.

I have scrapbooks filled with many 4x4 prints. That's before digital cameras happen. Today, we seldom print and simply upload our jpeg files it to our computers, photosharing and social media sites. I miss the art of creating a new scrapbook for my latest photos. The idea of slowly flipping through pages filled with images of my travels is just irresistible. So a month ago, I finally made one for myself and created my own Travel Photobook.

My Hardbound, Medium Portrait (8.5x11) Imagewrap Travel Photobook

My first ever photobook was ordered in 2008 showcasing our big family reunion in Mindanao. That's way before group buying sites was born. I remember it to be pretty expensive, not to mention the inconvenience I had to go through. Commuting all the way to the mall and personally give them the file in my usb to copy what I have lay-outed and then going back to their kiosk, 2 weeks after, just to get the ordered photobook. Thankfully we have group buying sites today, as they paved the way for photobooks to be more pocket friendly, fast and easy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Inside the Backpack

Every traveler carries a couple of staples as well as extra special somethings in their backpacks each time they hit the road.

Traveling has not only opened up my world to sights, people and food adventures, it also taught me how to appreciate the most important little things to be able travel light and move more freely. In 2008, when I decided to fly south of the Philippines and spend a good 2 months in the province, I bought this red SkyTravel trolley bag with a weight capacity of 15 kilos to carry all the things I THINK I NEED but still ended up paying a hefty Two Thousand Pesos excess baggage fee on my return flight to Manila due to stashing too much pasalubong. Obviously I was newbie on packing. From then on, I swore to myself there's no way will I ever pay again for an excess baggage and to strictly bare with the minimums. Four years of local and international travels later, I slowly learned the craft of travel packing strictly carrying just 7 kilos or less. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in packing but I always love the feeling of slowly putting things on my backpack, makes me start to feel I'm about to throw myself into another exciting adventure again. 

What I Pack?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Catanduanes: 3D2N Itinerary and Expenses

Puraran Beach

As it turns out, January isn't really a good month to see Catanduanes' full bloom beauty. The weather’s not cooperating and the breeze was too cold for us, we couldn't even gather the courage to drag ourselves into the water and swim. Not to mention the very strong waves. I passed the yearning to swim and bond with my camera underwater as the last thing I want is to find myself in the middle of Pacific Ocean. The water was  rough even near the shoreline.

Despite the gloomy weather (which happened all throughout our stay), we didn't pass the chance to see Catanduanes famous tourist spots especially two of the top beaches of the province, Twin Rock Beach Resort and Puraran Beach. Travelers shouldn't miss these two gorgeous beaches especially during the calm summer months and even during the rainy season for seasoned surfers.

The trip happened last January 18-20 with college buddy Yael.  Here's how we spent the days....

Monday, February 4, 2013

Majestic Waves of Puraran: To Surf or Not to Surf?

Yael at the splashy beachside of Puraran

(click here to read Day 1)

Day 2

'Ma'am maalon pa din po.' is what appears on the text message.

Ok fine. We give up, no Caramoan for us. No Matukad island, no island hopping, no caving, no beach bumming, no snorkeling, no secret lagoon, nothing! Guess we're left with no other choice but to give a particular surfing spot a chance, the Puraran Beach in Baras, Catanduanes. It's that one tourist destination we consistently hear from the locals. Problem is, we don't know how to surf!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Bittersweet Exploration in the Land of the Howling Wind

Rock Formations, Puraran Beach in Baras, Catanduanes

January. Virac, Catanduanes.

We're supposed to be doing island hopping in Caramoan, our main destination that weekend. A Bicolana friend recommended making Codon Port in Catanduanes our jump-off point, said to be the fastest way to reach the famed group of islands. Prior to the trip, being the "Ms. D-I-Y Planner" that I am, I was able to contact a boatman who offered us the cheapest rate among others for island hopping. I was expecting an epic Caramoan beach bumming kind of tour, thinking I was able to cover everything there is that I need to know for this trip.

swimwear - check!
waterproof camera - check!
cheap accommodation - check!
Cheapest Island Hopping Tour - check!
Super discounted plane ticket (Mla-Virac-Mla) - check na check at last year pa namin binili yung ticket!

There's just one big problem and a major factor I failed to (seriously) consider - the WEATHER!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Travel Video: Catanduanes

I am making 2013 a meaningful year. So I started the year traveling with my college buddy Yael along the splashy shorelines on the Pacific side of Catanduanes province, the Land of the Howling Wind. Isolated from its sister provinces in Bicol region, this slice of paradise has remained concealed from the invasion of tourists. Take a look what this laidback province has to offer.


Included in the video are clips taken from Bato Church, Maribina Falls, Twin Rock Beach Resort and Puraran Beach. This travel video marks the first of my Catanduanes series. Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

11 Great Ways on How to Travel Cheap

Travelling cheap need not mean sacrificing comfort and security. The idea is you want to get the best value for your money, and still get the best experience without having to drain much cash. Here are some ideas that may help you stretch that hard earned travel fund.

1. Get the cheapest plane fares

my Cebu Pacific Piso Fare roundtrip plane ticket

Manila - GenSan - Manila
(regular price "no check-in baggage" - Php7,200+)
(Piso Fare RT - Php579)

I can't stress enough the big savings one can get if plane fares are secured during airline promos, special mention on Cebu Pacific's Piso Fare and Air Asia's Free Seats Promo. These promos are offered for both local and international destinations. How to score these cheap offers? Like these airline companies on their Facebook and Twitter pages and you'll be one step ahead. Remember to check them during holidays as they usually offer these promos on "special days." Travel period are usually 6 months to one year after the sale period. The trick in booking is to be flexible with your travel dates. Net fare as I observe based on my trips, usually ranges from Php350 - Php500 (roundtrip with no check-in baggage). Told you it's really that cheap!

Friday, January 11, 2013

6 Ways to Boost Your Travel Fund

So you've taken down notes of Philippine Holidays for 2013, you've probably have plane tickets purchased during last year's Piso Fare waiting to be used, or you've just completed your To-Go list of provinces and festivites, question is, do you have enough resources to fund your dream trips?


How can you pay for trips if your budget is tight? I'd like to welcome 2013 by sharing some of my travel tips.
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