Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bataan on a Weekend

The year has just started, and I have been constantly traveling all the weekends that passed. We spent New Year in Baguio, followed buy a trip to Borawan in Quezon, afterwards a 4 day trip to Davao and just last Saturday, a day trip to Bataan.

We left Manila around 6:30 AM with a couple of friends to look for a perfect beach getaway for Summer.  Along the way, we passed by other attractions in Pampanga, like the San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, Pampanga.  We did not go down to check it out because of the bus load of tourist during our visit.

When we reached Bataan, we made a stop at the Dambana ng Kagitingan on top of Mt. Samat.  I have visited Bataan quite a number of times before but would just enjoy the view of the cross from below.  It was a steep drive to the summit.  I was glad that my Toyata Vios didn't gave up on me.  An entrance fee of 20 pesos per vehicle, per person is collected at the gate.  Some people would climb the summit at this point, but you can still drive up to the base of the cross where the parking area offers a breathtaking aerial view of the province.

The Giant Cross on top of Mt. Samat.  An elevator takes you to the intersection where both arms serves as viewing level.
View from one end of the cross's arm.

Inside the cross is a small elevator that takes passengers further up to its arms.  They would collect 10 pesos for the ride.  Here, there are windows that gives you a higher vantage point.

It was almost lunch time when we left for Bagac.  We passed by Balanga City along the way, the last area where you would find decent restaurants other than the big resorts.  We opted to have lunch at Montemar Beach Club and Resort.  From the gate, we made our way through the garden up to the reception.  Although the buildings look old, it has kept its rustic charm.  The landscaping are well kept, the pools are inviting and the beach view is so calming.  Initially, we thought that entrance fee of 1000 pesos was a bit too much, but after seeing the inclusions, it was worth it.  The restaurant also serves filipino food with a modern twist.  We enjoyed the Pork Binagoongan with Chocolate.  All agreed to go back, when were not in a rush and just want to escape the city.

La Marea Restaurant of Montemar Beach Club and Resort

Fried Chicken, Kare-kare, Pork Sinigang and their famous Pork Binagoongan with Chocolate

We were so full after eating that we almost didn't want to leave.  There's another beach we would have to visit that requires a boat ride.  After settling our bill, we were on our way to the town center of Bagac and parked our vehicles on one of the smaller resorts that line the shore.  We looked for a boat to take us to Matikis Beach, known to some as Playa La Caleta.  We were able to haggle the ride originally priced at 1500 pesos to 1100 pesos.  An entrance fee of 50 pesos per person is collected on the beach by the caretakers.

The cove has basic amenities with a few huts and sheds.  Toilet facilities are available, but only tent accommodation is allowed for those who wish to stay overnight.  You can bring your own food or arrange your meal plans with tour operators for the area.

Check out the contact details on the invite below:

After a short stay at the cove, we were on our way back to Manila, stopping at San Fernando's Everybody Cafe for dinner.  The restaurant claims to serve the most authentic Kapampangan Food since the 1940's.  We thought the meals are outrageously priced with small portions.  It's a must try but not worth going back.


Some photo's were grabbed from Heath's album without permission. Haha!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Davao City Tour: Day 3 Samal Island

Originally, we were suppose to go Pearl Farm for their day tour package.  The day before, the management suddenly decided not to take in day tour guest.  What was unreasonable, is that they can cancel day tour packages but does not allow cancellation of their overnight booking.

To compensate, we converted our activity to Maxima Aqua Fun Resort.  Like the previous days, our van and guide boarded the barge and took us to the resort.

Maxima is known for the water slides and the blob.  Please take note that the resort is located on cliff without a beach.  Meals are available, and our guide made sure that were well fed.

After swimming, we travelled by land to take our other companions to Pearl Farm where they will stay for the night.  I was dropped of at Camp Holiday Resort where I got a bed for 350 pesos a night in one of their dorm rooms.  It was intended for sharing, but luckily, I had it all to myself.  The resort have a small beach and two swimming pools.  One for the kids and an infinity pool beside the beach area.  A convenience store is located near the entrance for your mini gutom.  The restaurant also serves value meals for less than a hundred pesos.

There were not many visitors in the resort and I just used the time to rest.

My friends love the amenities at Pearl Farm, but was disappointed at the service.  The room was still charged in full, when I already paid 10% online.

Davao City Tour: Day 2 Wild Water Adventure and Abreeza Mall

Instead of having breakfast at the hotel, we opted to go to Macdonalds nearby.  When we got back, the van is already waiting to take us to the Crocodile Park for the White Water Adventure.  Going to the Park took us more than 30 minutes.  I think we could have gotten there sooner if not for the city ordinance requiring vehicles to have a maximum speed of 30km/hr within the city.  Inside the park where caged crocodiles, and other animals.  We were then ushered to the White Water Adventure Station.

There were only two groups taking the rapids.  Initially, we were made to watch a video on what to expect in the river.  After watching how the raft turned over many times, we were having 2nd thoughts.  We were then taught how to put on our gears and the do's and don'ts.  After the short introduction, we were taken to the jeep for an hour ride to the river.

When we reach the site, the water level was higher than normal due to continuous rain.  Before boarding the raft, we were given lessons on paddling and the different commands.  We were also given lessons on how to rescue other passengers.  One by one, we were asked to get off and do the proper floating position.  We were also asked to lift people from the water to the safety of our raft.

The entire white water rafting took less than 4 hours, but it seemed like minutes. Halfway, we made a stop on a shallow portion to have our lunch which was also included. Our boat turned over twice and I fell 3 times.  I can't describe the experience battling the current and waves.  It was such an adrenaline rush.

After a few rapids, we padded our way to pick up point where the jeep was waiting for us.  We were taken back to the station at the crocodile park.  Shower stations were located at the back where you can rinse off.  We were given the souvenir CD's and a free shirt.  So far, this was the highlight of our trip.

Helpful Tips:

1. We are on a package tour, but if you want to go White Water Rafting, you can visit their station at the Crocodile Park.
2. Leave your valuables and Gadgets at the lockers.
3. Bring towels and toiletries for rinsing.
4. If you think you can't do it, you can!

Our van picked us up after the river adventure.  We were supposed to go zorbing, but was not allowed due to the slippery condition of the site because of the rain.  Were were also given free tickets to the butterfly farm, but the rain also prevented the butterflies to show themselves.  Instead, we asked our driver to take us to Abreeza Mall for drinks and dinner at La Toscana for something Italian.

La Toscana reminded us of Bellinis here in Manila.  The Pizza and Pasta  was the perfect pair to end our day!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Davao City Tour: Day 1

I was so excited about the trip that I was not able to sleep until it was time for me to go to the airport.  Our flight was moved 20 minutes earlier.  I'm not sure about the benefits of the self check-in kiosk in the airport since, you would still have to line up to check-in your baggage.

Our flight departed on time and arrived in Davao around 7 AM.  We met with our tour guide Dangge and waited for our other companions coming from Cagayan de Oro.  As soon as the other two arrived, we were on our way to our first destination, Outland Adventure.

Outland Adventure

Outline Adventure is a Zip Line Park and used to be the longest in the Philippines.  This is how we started the day.  It was drizzling when we got there, but it didn't stop us from taking the ride at 830 in the morning!

Lola Abon's Durian Factory

After the Zip Line, we were then taken to the Durian Factory of Lola Abon.  Here the famous fruit takes on many candy forms and flavors.  I sampled the yema combined with mango, pineapple and buko.  They even have coffee flavored candies.  Mangosteen variants are also on the stand.  For picky eater like me, you can't help but love the fruit.

Davao Museum

After stopping by for pasalubong at the durian factory, we were then taken to the Davao Museum.  Inside are collections that documents the history of the city.  We were introduced to the many tribes, that up to this point are thriving and is actively participating in the cities affairs.  Each tribe leader is appointed as a deputy mayor by the beloved Mayor Duterte.  Also, artworks from the many artist of the city are on display as well as the the many awards received.

The only area at the museum where photos are allowed.
Wild Safari Grill

We haven't had a good meal and was starving by lunch time.  We were taken to Wild Safari Grill for their lunch buffet.  The menu were a mix of seafood and filipino favorites.  They even have a halo halo and ice cream station for dessert.

Ponce Suites, Kublai Cafe and Bar

After lunch, we asked our guide to take us to Ponce Suites.  We heard about the great works of this homegrown artist Kublai, and just have to see it for ourselves.  We were not disappointed.  Every nook and crannies of the building are filled with his works.  Large sculptures adorn the exteriors while the the interior walls and ceilings we filled with paintings.  The roof deck bar is a also charming, with a view deck made of bended iron.  Fortunately for us, we were able to see the artist himself during our visit.

Japanese Tunnel

The Japanese tunnel were dug by Filipino slaves of the Japanese Army.  The original tunnel was said to reach as far as Samal Island, but collapse due to recent developments.  Only 150 meters is opened to the public and life size models were placed on some portions.

Jack's Ridge

Jack's Ridge is a restaurant complex on a ridge that offers a view of the city.  Band Performers plays at night and on weekends.  Also, the night view is a must see.

Aldevinco Shopping Center

In spite of the many malls, Aldevinco still remains to be the best place to get souvenirs and pasalubong items that the city has to offer.  We we're able to buy a 10 set of wallets for 150 pesos.  They also have bags, T-shirts, Pearls and other handicrafts.  Pomelo stands are also located nearby.

Green Windows Dormitel

Finally, after our Day long tour of the city, we were able to settle at our discounted rooms at Green Window.

Matina Town Square

For dinner, we opted to try Matina Town Square.  Its a restaurant and bar complex with band performances during weekends.  What's good is that you can have your dinner and continue with beer afterwards.

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 ...