A week or so just before I left for India in 2012, I visited this paradise called El Nido in the northeastern tip of Palawan. There, I met Stepanka (in picture), a Czech woman, and Pedro, her Portuguese boyfriend (they now have a baby!). I did a one-day tour of the islands off the El Nido coast and got my seat in a boat where I am the only Filipino. I still remember the Russian guy (who claimed to be an astronaut but chose to be a trucker as it’s a more financially-rewarding job), and this guy who joined the tour but stayed on the boat (as he already saw most “visible” creatures under the sea in past travels), and this Canadian couple (who didn’t really say much but seemed happy and content). The tour was really worth it, to experience what a day in El Nido can offer. I vowed to return to El Nido one day and finally, tickets are booked! Though it’s not for a few more months, I am already looking forward to once again marvel in the natural beauty and diversity of El Nido and Palawan, above or under the sea.
Four weekends ago, amidst the threat of Super Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit), my friend Silia and I headed to Sitio Liwliwa in Zambales for the SSSF 14 weekend. SSSF, short for Sun Surf Strum Festival, is a yearly event organized by Ukulele Manila together with partners and sponsors.
True to its name, the Sun Surf Strum Festival lived up to the expectations of festival patrons — bright and sunny days, awesome waves and chillax music!
Roughly 4-5 hours from Manila lies Fortune Island, a semi-isolated-used-to-be-super-private island off Nasugbu, Batangas. They say this is as close to Greek’s ancient ruins as could be possible, with the clear blue waters as your backdrop! Who would have thought that the typhoon destruction to an uber exclusive island paradise would result to a steadily becoming popular destination for beach bums and island campers? Known for its picturesque rows of Athens-like pillars and half-destroyed half-gorgeous statues, Fortune Island gives each traveler a nice reward for climbing atop the stairway-lined hill that leads to it’s “viewpoint ruins” and, as my friends saw and experienced, cliffs and caves. To reach Fortune Island, take the San Agustin Bus line at Coastal Mall in Pasay, going to Nasugbu (3-4 hours, PhP 200-220 AC (about $5), PhP 130-150 (about $3.5) non-AC). From there, take a 15-minute tricycle ride to Fortune Resort Dive Center (pre-booking necessary with caretakers Mang Dante 09394895292 or Chris 09087225628 is necessary) which is the jump-off point to Fortune Island. The 45-minute 10 pax-max boat ride costs around PhP 6000/$135, plus PhP 400/$9 island entry fee (overnight price, negotiable; day trip is cheaper). With upper limit calculations, that’s about PhP 1250/$28. Add in food, booze and other expenses, a beach camping (yep, no rooms) weekend at Fortune Island would be about PhP 1700/$38 which, I must say, is quite cheap to “experience” Greece and of course, enjoy the Philippines’ endless summer with the company of family and friends under the sun and stars. [Special thanks to Hazelle for organizing this CouchSurfing trip back in May and providing all these info I’ve already forgotten.]
Since, I was able to resurrect my Banana phone’s* memory card, it gave me a chance to check out the pictures I thought will no longer see the light of day — these pictures of Rock View Beach Resort in Bolinao, Pangasinan are some of them. And, before they get threatened to once again fall into oblivion, let me share these with you.
A few nights ago, some friends and I were talking about Sagada since some of them are planning to go. Of course, one of the top recommendations I can give them is to pay a visit to the Bomod-ok Falls, also known as the Big Falls. How big? Well, it stands 200ft high and at the time of our visit (March), water was really, errr, falling! Bomod-ok Falls, located about 30-minutes on a jeepney or van, is nestled at North Sagada, deep into the rice paddy terraces. How deep? Say an hour’s trek going down from the road to the falls, walking along the rice paddies, passing by villages and stream, and another hour going back up on the other way. Was it worth all the calories burnt? Definitely! If I am to visit Sagada again, I would still pay the Big Falls a visit, observe the villages and rice terraces we will pass by, chill at the secret pool on the left side of the falls (you’d have to do a duck walk or crawl through the gap to get there), brave the almost-90-degrees-buwis-buhay-rocks to go “cliff-diving” on the right side, swim till I can’t feel my toes, and just we awed by Bomod-ok Falls and its majesty.