Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Vios-venture, Tagaytay to Matabungkay

Matabungkay in Lian, Batangas has always been a favorite beach destination since its discovery in the 1950's.  But unlike before, with the recent developments in Laguna and Tagaytay, even the trip is an adventure apart from the destination.

Last Saturday, we made this Batangas destination our weekend getaway.  We planned our itinerary so that we will be in Tagaytay in time for lunch.  We left Manila around 10:30 am taking the South Luzon Expressway.  We only made one quick stop for breakfast and to gas up.  Also, to get something to nibble on and other provisions.

We took the Sta. Rosa exit and continued to the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay connection, passing Nuvali and Silang.  As planned, we arrived at the ridge exit around 11:30.

We are in search of a place to have lunch.  After having been to Tagaytay many times, we want to explore something different from the usual Tagaytay offerings.  Enough of the Bulalo for now.  Just a few meters  from the Rotunda, we found Pamana Restaurant.  I remember the countless times we pass by the restaurant to get to our favorite Bulalo places like Leslie's and the stalls at Mahogany Market.

We arrived early, and was the 2nd group inside the restaurant.  I personally like the nostalgic interiors of the place.  The white walls are filled with old photographs and framed mirrors.  The miss match wooden tables and chairs adds a rustic appeal complimented with antique ornaments.  The condiments served in a sungka board was genius!  It wasn't long till the place was filled with the lunch crowd.

The food they serve were modernized versions of Filipino Classics. We ordered the Inihaw na Bicol Express, Pinangat, and Bulanglang.  All in all, it was good, although the leaves used in the Pinangat could have been cooked more and felt a itchy as you swallow.

After lunch, it took us another hour to reach Matabungkay.  During weekends, the local community asks for a 5 peso per head donation as you reach the end of the road leading to the resorts.  We were given a family room when we checked in.  It has a spacious living room and dining area.  It has a small nook that can be used as a kitchen.  The mini ref is also located here.  The bedroom has a large bed, that can accommodate up to 4 persons with the addition of extra beds.  Next to the bedroom is the toilet equipped with hot and cold shower and the closet.  Both sections has a veranda that opens to the grounds and the beach at the distant.  We have to thank Joie Oliveros of Matabungkay Beach Resort for the lovely accommodation and their generosity.

We spent the afternoon at the restaurant sampling their Halo-halo and Puto Bumbong over a cup of Kapeng Barako.

We explored the resort and head for the beach in time for sunset.  We went to the Helipad area to capture the moment at break-water with our cameras.  Although it was a bit cloudy that day, it was one of my best sunset shots.

We went back to the restaurant for dinner.  This time we were in the mood for the best that Batangas has to offer.  We ordered the Bulalo, Kinilaw na Tanique, and Lechon Kawali.  

We also took advantage of their Happy Hour Every Hour Promo, where a choice of appetizer is included with a bucket of beer (6 bottles).  We continued our drinking at the Videoke Bar and the sang the night away.

We woke up early for breakfast. They have Filipino and Continental Choices.  We ordered the Filipino Set, that can a choice of Longganisa, Tapa, Cornened Beef, Daing na Bangus served with garlic rice, 2 eggs prepared the way you wan it, fresh fruits, and coffee all for 250 pesos.  After breakfast, we decided to try the swimming pool.  The water was cold since it was too early, but got warmer as noon approaches.

After the swim, we went back to our rooms to prepare our things and checked out around 11 am, so we can go back to Tagaytay in time for Lunch.

Just as planned we were back in Tagaytay by noon.  We made a quick stop at Mushroomburger for a quick sampling of their meatless burgers, and continued to look for a place to have lunch.

What caught our attention was Tootsie's right after the fresh vegetable stalls near the Rotunda.  Although the restaurant does not have a view of the lake, they made it up with the country inspired interiors and the food.  They serve Ilonggo favorites, on top of the Tagaytay favorites.  We ordered Kansi, Inihaw na Bangus, Stir-fried Vegetables, and Lumpiang Ubod as a starter.  The food was great and immediately we fell in love with place and can't wait to try the other items on their menu.

After Lunch, we went to Ilog Maria in Silang for the Natural Soap and other Products from bees.  We missed the corner and had to go back since the sign is now almost covered with the tall grass on the main road.  My favorite is the Spearmint scented oatmeal and honey soap.  The scent lingers after every shower.  Also, I got me a bath gel, since it's more convenient to bring along for travels and the gym.  I am yet to try the bee propolis that I got and my throat spray.

Instead of continuing the Cavite route to Manila, we decided to go back to the Sta. Rosa - Tagaytay connection.  We made a stop at Solenad in Nuvali for desserts at Conti's.  Since were in the area, we also took time to feed the fishes.

After dessert, we were back in Makati just in time to catch the 7:00 PM mass at the Sacred Heart Shrine in Saint Paul.  After the mass, we got invited to have dinner at a friends condo in Shaw Boulevard.  She makes a really good Strawberry Margarita and Mudslide.

It was a really long weekend spent with great meals, destinations, and great fiends.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hassle Free Coron Palawan Adventure on a Budget

I've been to Coron many times already.  I remember the first time I went there boarded a ferry for 14 hours.  I also tried going there via the San Nicholas ship which is literally a large boat for 24 hours one holy week.

Now, it’s so convenient.  Just take advantage of the promo fares to Busuanga.

Unlike my previous visits, where a friend from the province accompanies us, my trip last September was the first time we would do it on our own.  It's more than 10 years from my last visit.

Our original flight got cancelled, which was good since promo fares usually falls on weekdays, and with the cancellation, you can book it at your convenient date with the month period, even weekends.  We were able to move it to October 13-15, just in time for Carlo's birthday.

I'm already familiar with the attractions, but I was pretty sure a lot of things had changed from my last visit.  I want to make the most of the weekend, the reason why I decided to search for local tour package.

I read about Rudy's Place from another blog (sorry, forgot the link!) and thought that the 3,800 3D/2N package was reasonable.  They don't even ask for down payment!

The inclusions were:
  • Round trip van transfers
  • 3D/2N Night Accommodation
  • City Tour
  • Mt. Tapyas and Maquinit Hot Spring
  • Island Tour
  • 2 Breakfast, 2 Dinner and 1 Picnic Lunch
  • All entrance fees

We arrived around 1 PM, and found our names on one of the boards just outside Francisco B. Reyes Airport.  We were ushered to the van together with other guests.  The ride usually takes 30-45 minutes.  Rudy's Place Lodging House would come before the town from the airport, and we arrived around 2 PM.  Once settled, we were briefed of our schedule for the coming days.
Breakfast and Dinner is served at the Veranda just outside our room at 7AM and 7PM respectively.
Since we missed lunch, and most of our meals would be at the lodge, we thought of exploring the town and look for something to eat.  Although coastal, the town itself has no sandy beaches.  Remembering my last visit, Seadive's Restaurant has the best view of the ocean and Mt. Tapyas at the background and would be the best introduction of Coron to my first timer friend.

Coron remains to be laid back, considering it’s a weekend. But, a lot of development took place since my last visit.  Mt. Tapyas now has paved steps with a cross at the top, when it used to just a trail traversing through tall grass and bamboo trees.  They now have a bay walk, after reclaiming land behind the old market.

We ordered what were fast, Tapsilog and Longsilog!  But, to signal the start of the island getaway, we ordered ourselves a glass of fruit shakes.

We were back at the lodge around 3PM to rest a bit and at 4PM, our tricycle service for the Day 1 tour arrived.

He first took us to the Coron Harbor.  The reclaimed area I was talking about earlier.  It’s a popular hang out place for locals, plus the site of their newest attraction, a zip line.

We did not stay long since we want to watch the sunset on top of Mt. Tapyas.

Climbing the top is still a challenge even if they made it more convenient by concreting the 700 plus steps, and placing shades and view decks along the route.  Always bring water with you.

The view from the top is worth the effort.  You can see the town below and the islands across.  Going down was a bit easier. 

Just before we went to the Hot Spring, I decided to give the Zip Line a try.  Since there were not many tourists that time, I was able to haggle the price to 200php from the original 400php.  The line traverses parallel to the harbor to about 60 feet above the water.  It was smooth except for the abrupt stop at the end.  This is not part of the tour package; so all expense will be at the tourists account.

After the Zip Line, we went to Maquinit Hot Spring.  It’s a long tricycle ride through a narrow road that becomes rough halfway.  It’s a natural spring where the water pours directly to the ocean.  Pools were created with varying temperature and are surrounded with mangrove trees.  Dipping into the pool was a challenge.  It was really hot at first, but your body will eventually adjust to the heat.  After a few minutes, we were on our way back to the lodge to catch our dinner.

We were expecting something simple for our meal.  We initially thought that it was a plated Lauriat style meal with small portions of viands.  But, waiting for us at the table at the veranda was freshest catch of the day.  We were served with crabs, fried fish and Sinigang.   We were so tired with all the climbing, walking and rough road tricycle riding the first day, but it did not stop us from sampling the nightlife at Subasco Bar and Disco.  The Al fresco area with huts is popular to local tourists and balik-bayans.

On our second day, we were greeted with the breakfast allowing us to taste one of the delicacies of Coron, daing na danggit.  It’s not dried like the typical daing.  Its prepared like Bangus, wherein it’s packaged marinated, that when fried remains fleshy.

After breakfast, we prepared our things for the Island hopping.  Most of Coron’s attractions are off shore, and unlike 10 years ago where you can go to as many destinations you can cover in a day, nowadays, it’s divided into two different itineraries. We chose the one that included Kayangan Lake.

On the boat, we are joined by 3 other tourist from Cebu, and foreigners from the US and Ireland.  The other attractions we visited were the Twin Lagoon, Siete Pecados, Coral Garden all snorkeling areas and CYC, which is the beach.  Not included is the Sangat Wreck that can be viewed at snorkeling level where we paid additional hundred to cover fuel costs for the side trip.  You’re on the boat most of the time and always, lunch is served prepared by the boatman at entrance to Kayangan lake where, there’s a picnic hut.

The island tour may last until late in the afternoon depending on how long you stay on each stop.  Allow ample time for Kayangan Lake, for the iconic photo shots Coron is known for.

We were back at the dock near the market around 4 PM.  We flagged a tricycle t take us back to the lodge where we freshened up, rested a bit and waited for dinner.  For the second day, it now consists of grilled meat dishes and prawns.  The package ensures that we are well fed, and the food preparation reminds you of home.

After dinner, we went to get a massage in town.  There were very few establishments open on a late Sunday night that e just decided to rest in preparation of our flight back.

After another breakfast at the lodge, we went back to town for some pasalubong shopping.  I was able to pre-order a kilo of the danggit I very much enjoyed the previous morning and picked up at the market.  With a few more hours to spare, we decided to have lunch near the market.  I can’t remember the name, but its right smack at the corner painted blue.  You wouldn’t miss it!  Somehow, it has become a landmark at the town.

We just had a few minutes from the time we got back to the lodge until our airport service van picked us up to take us to the airport.

If you want to avail of Rudy’s Place Coron Package, please contact this number:
Website: http://rudysplacelodge.jimdo.com/

For advance orders of the best Daing na Danggit:
Beth’s Danggit
She will pack it flight friendly for you!

Day 5: Tito's Roadtrip Travel Guide to Bicol

Our last day in Bicol is dedicated to our long drive back home. We decided to leave early around 3AM in order to reach Manila late in the ...