Category Archives: Travel Diaries

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The story of Kagitingan: Looking back to the lessons of History in Corregidor

 

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by war – the heroism, the sacrifice, the toll on the human spirit and the lessons behind it. Often times, I would consume copious amounts of books retelling the various stories of war in the Pacific and even in Europe during the First and Second World Wars — devouring page by page by page. One of my favorites was the novel, “Helmet for my Pillow,” written by the World War II veteran and military historian Robert Leckie. Leckie’s book, along with another favorite, “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” provided vivid recollections about the war and how it took a toll on the life and spirit of the soldiers fighting for the islands, as well as the many people killed displaced and affected by war.  Both books were later on adapted for the small screen and were used as source material for the immensely successful war series, “The Pacific.”

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The Philippines is not a stranger when it comes to the stories of heroism during the Second World War. All throughout the archipelago, men died fighting for their homeland. While numerous lives were lost — what remains true to this day is the deep sense of patriotism and the lessons learned from the past. Nowhere is this more celebrated than in Corregidor Island.

Both Bataan and Corregidor are legendary in the history of war. Despite relentless attacks by Japanese forces in 1942, and without reinforcements coming from the United States, Filipino and American troops fought back for several months, from January to April of 1942, after being overwhelmed by superior Japanese firepower and troop numbers.

Corregidor suffered heavy bombardment from the Japanese Imperial Army for five months. Until finally, on May 6, the leader of all US and Filipino Allied forces in Asia, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, led his men in their surrender to the Japanese. They fought as long and as hard as humanly possible. The surrender resulted in 80,000 Filipino and American troops walking more than 100 kilometers from Bataan to Capas, Tarlac where they were interned at Camp O’Donnell. This was the infamous Bataan Death March where out of  80,000 prisoners of war (POW), only 54,000 made it to camp alive.

Today, attractions like the Pacific War Memorial with its Dome of Peace, and the sculpture, Eternal Flame of Freedom can be found in Corregidor in commemoration of the sacrifices and heroism of those who fought there. There’s also the Pacific War Memorial Museum that houses World War 2 memorabilia.  It is now considered the world’s biggest war museum.

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PACIFIC WAR MEMORIAL. This was built to honor the valor of Filipino and American soldiers who fought side-by-side in WW2, as commemorated through a sculpture showing a Filipino and American soldier. The Philippines and US flags fly behind them, while the Peace Dome can be glimpsed at the back.
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12-INCH (305mm) MORTAR on Battery Way.  This weighs 54 tons and fires a huge shell weighing 1,000 pounds. Battery Way has four 12-inch (305mm) mortars. The original mortars (already destroyed by Japanese bombs) effectively defended Bataan from invading Japanese forces. They pounded the enemy that tried to land on Bataan’s Southwest Coast.

As the Philippines celebrates its heroes –April 7th is Veterans Day, and April 9th is Araw ng Kagitingan or National Heroes’ Day — it is good to remember and revisit Corregidor. It has become synonymous with Filipino and American courage and determination in protecting our freedom.

Walking down history lane is made more engaging in Corregidor via the guided tram tour of the island.  Passing through the Malinta tunnel with lights and sounds show that simulates what it was like during the island’s darkest days during the second world war is something that visitors of the island should not miss.

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MILE LONG BARRACKS.  Measuring 1, 520 feet, This is reportedly the longest military barracks in the world. During the American Commonwealth and before World War 2, this structure housed some 8,000 U.S. troops. These ruins are all that is left after Japanese forces bombarded the area

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MALINTA TUNNEL. This tunnel is 831 feet (253 m) long, 24 feet (7.3 m) wide and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. It served as the residence of Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon and Vice-President Sergio Osmena along with their families after they fled Manila during the Japanese invasion. Quezon, Osmena, and their families were eventually brought to the U.S. along with Gen. Douglas McArthur via submarine. The tunnel also housed soldiers, medical personnel, and civilians left behind while Japanese forces laid siege to Corregidor.

Corregidor Island, which is a popular historical tourist attraction in the Philippines, is currently undergoing more improvements following a 10-month tourism masterplan by Palafox Associates.

Now categorized as an eco-tourism site, Corregidor is managed and operated by the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. (CFI) under its current chairperson and CEO, Ms. Cynthia Carrion.  It is strongly supported for development and marketing by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) under the aegis of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The DOT, TPB and CFI jointly manage Corregidor to remind us not so much of the horrors of war but rather, how high a price we must pay for our freedom and how we must all work to keep the peace.

As an eco-tourism site, Corregidor is not just a repository of history but an island full of fun and excitement.  A fully functional beach resort and campsites are available for families and friends to relive history, relax and unwind. Indeed, history is made more fun in the Philippines!

Like always, April 9 is a Holiday – what could be an even better way to celebrate it by setting foot in one of the places where the men and women before us truly sacrificed for the motherland? Going to Corregidor is easy. Head to the ferry terminal located from the Esplanade Seaside Terminal at the SM Mall of Asia Complex.

For more information, go to www.corregidorisland.com.ph 

 

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Capsule Hotel 101: Hacks & Etiquette

Thanks to the relaxed visa requirements enforced by Japan about two years ago, it has become easier and more convenient for Filipinos to enjoy Japan. The upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, slated for next year, has also seen a boom in new AirBnB’s, new hostels and new hotels being built — in fact, one thing I noticed is there are also a lot of new capsule hotels, especially around the Taito (where Asakusa is) area.

Capsule hotels were formerly a novelty — first gaining prominence in the early aughts for overworked, sloshed salarymen who missed the last train home. While Tokyo (and Japan) is considerably safe that you can literally plonk yourself on a train station bench to get some zzzz’s; capsule hotels provide a temporary respite with a clean, sterile bed, a place to wash up and brush your teeth preparing the harried salaryman to another day at work.

When it first gained prominence, everyone was fixated on the novelty of it all: the cramped, tight spaces was the stuff of nightmares for claustrophobics everywhere. A close friend even compared it to sleeping in a coffin.

Well, lemme break it down for you. A capsule hotel or sleeping inside a pod is very far from being inside a coffin — think of it as your typical bunk bed when you were still dorming in university, or a mean cardboard fort you used to sleep when you were five.

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I finally got to experience what it’s like to sleep inside a pod during a recent trip to Nagoya and Hokkaido with my sister. Our flight to Nagoya arrived at almost 6AM; following midnight departure from Manila. We landed in Chubu Centrair International Airport, (which is Nagoya’s main air hub) hungry, sleepy and a bit cranky since we’ve both been up since the previous name. After a quick breakfast, we weighed our options given that check-in was still pegged at 2PM: a) we could slum it at the airport and leave at 1PM so we could be at the city in time for check-in; b) leave for the city right away, drop off our stuff at the hotel and explore Nagoya or c) sleep at the airport first, freshen up before heading to Nagoya at noon. Of course, we chose C.

The solution to our problem came in the form of Tube SQ, a sleek capsule hotel located at the Welcome Garden on the first floor of the Chubu Centrair Airport. The friendly receptionist advised us that we could avail of their promo rates if we will book online – so, we parked our butts on the beaches nearest the hotel and started booking online. While the standard 3 hours rate was at Y2,900 (roughly PHP1,450), we were not above taking advantage of the Y1,800 (PHP900) 3-hour stay online promo. So, in between smiles and fiddling through the Japanese-language website, my sister and I were able to secure pods which the receptionist then dutifully honored. In case you’re wondering, here are the standard pod rates for the capsule hotel:

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courtesy of Tube SQ

Upon check-in, you will show your passport to the receptionist for record-keeping, confirm payment online and collect the key from the reception. The “key” was actually two keys hanging from a nylon rubber-scrunchy type that you can wear on your wrist for safety. You have a key for the locker where you will keep your stuff and another key which you will use to open the door leading to the ladies’ sleeping area. Before you head inside, you can freely pick a hot towel or wet wipe, a toothbrush kit and even hair ties on the side table near the entrance.

The first door you will likely see in the entrance is the women’s locker room. This is where you will deposit your luggage, coat and other stuff you have with you; and then change to the yukata provided for you. In the photo above, it’s the red top and pants neatly folded inside the locker. When staying at a capsule hotel, you are not allowed to use your every day outside clothes inside the sleeping area, hence the yukata. You will also need to change into slippers, and leave your shoes inside the locker. Aside from the yukata, you will be provided a bathrobe and towel in case you want to take a bath.

After changing: you have two options – you can take a bath or immediately head to the sleeping area. The bath is usually situated near the locker/changing areas; with a specific area for showers and for the toilet (should you need to do your business). The shower area also had beauty products (like shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner) per stall and a row of facial wash, lotion, hand soap on the sink, as well as cotton buds on the sink. There was also a row of blowdryers and baskets to keep your stuff in while you shower.

But since we’re really, really sleepy – we opted to sleep first and then freshen up later before we head to Sakai (which is central Nagoya and where our hotel was located).

Usually, capsule hotels have two large rooms, separating the men’s and women’s sleeping area. Tube SQ has a huge sleeping space and their pods are equally large as well. You will be allowed to carry your personal belongings (like a backpack or shoulder bag) inside the pod. Before parking your stuff just anywhere, look at the keys provided to you – usually, there is a number corresponding to the pod assigned to you.

The photo below was taken inside my pod, while I was trying to get work done before I become incommunicado for the day.

As you can see, it’s roomy enough to sit down and lay your stuff should you need to work. Inside each pod is a button to control the light and temperature; a hanger for your coat, an emergency flashlight, a small mirror, and really thick sheets and comfy pillows so you could sleep in peace. I was basically out of it for a good two hours, right after I’ve sent the email I was composing when I took the photo.  As someone who’s claustrophobic and hated tight spaces, I did not feel uncomfortable at all. Actually, I felt snug and comfortable and it was one of the deepest sleep I had. To think that just a few meters from where I sleep, planes were coming and going to and from the rest of Japan and the world. Instead of a door, we had plastic-like blinds which we pull down or up to open up to get in and out of the pod.

Promptly after three hours, we woke up and decided to head to the lockers to freshen up. We checked out as easily and went back to the concourse for our bus which will take us to the city.

A few things to remember when sleeping in a capsule hotel:

  1. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the pod area. Most capsule hotels have reception areas or dining lounges where you can eat in peace
  2. Silence and consideration for others are required when staying in a capsule hotel, especially when in the sleeping area. If you are with friends, avoid loud conversations. If you are on the phone, speak softly. Avoid unnecessary noises like playing music on your phone without headphones or rummaging for stuff in your bag where everyone can hear the loud rustling of papers or plastic.
  3. Observe cleanliness at all times. In the showers, clean after yourself and don’t leave used tissues or any stuff you discarded in the sink
  4. Basically, be considerate and always remember that you are sharing the space with other people.

 

So, if you have a Japan trip coming and looking for a cheap place to stay, why not try a capsule hotel?

 

A Fun & Easy Traipse through Yehliu, Jiufen and Shifen with KKday

I’m a proud “DIY-girl” whenever I travel and I revel in finding budget travel hacks whenever I can. I would revel in discovering far-away places and meeting new people on my own. I would work on spreadsheets, go on a mad research spree and serve as the lead in most of my travels. It’s fun – but you know, it can get tiring.

Doing all these and being responsible for the rest of the trip can be exhausting and sometimes, all I wanted to do is just sit down and rest – and let someone take the lead.

That’s why it was a nice surprise to get to have a full day tour of three of Taiwan’s biggest draws courtesy of KKday, a fast-growing travel activities platform. Offering numerous and unique travel activities and tours from a number of amazing tourist destinations like Taiwan, Japan, Korea, HongKong, Sydney, Melbourne to as far as  New York and Paris.

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I can even book a tour using my mobile phone – it’s that easy

Using KKday is easy as sign up is painless – you can actually use your Facebook account to sign in and from there, you just book your attraction and tour of choice.

I was travelling with a group of Taipei first-timers, so it’s good to cover the basics first with a day-tour of Taipeui:  Yehliu, Jiufen and Shifen. Out of the three, I have been to Yehliu and Jiufen during my first two trips to Taipei. I was able to find these places by sheer chutzpah: armed with a print out from an obscure reference and the determination to keep my eyes peeled as the Taipei bus hurtled towards the sleepy New Taipei county neighbourhoods.

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You can even download the KKday app to make it a whole lot easier!

This time, thanks to KKday, I managed to enjoy the trip from Taipei going towards the county – I slept and basically just chilled, and let our capable and gregarious tour guide Bobo explain the charm of these places.

YEHLIU Geo Park – Our first destination is Yehliu Geo Park, a sizable park right beside the Oceanside showcasing various rock formations that date back to the prehistoric era. Yehliu is one of my favourite places in Taiwan, simply because walking through it reminded me of foreign terrain from another planet, probably like Mars due to the deep red clay/soil prevalent in the area.

NOTE: The photos above were taken during my first trip to Yehliu. I just want to show you how it looks like. I was not able to take really good photos during this tour because of the rain.

The rock formations are a sight to behold: taking the shape of mushrooms, slippers and many others, but the most famous one is the Queen’s Head. Scattered along the area are also some fossils embedded deep in the soil and a viewing deck to better appreciate the place.

Unfortunately, it started raining really hard as soon as we alighted from our Poli Bus (the KKday bus decorated with a police car cartoon), and I had to buy a raincoat to shield my stuff from the rain. The rain ruined any remote possibility of us taking our photos along the other rock formations because it made the soil slippery. We just beelined it to the Queen’s Head, took the requisite photo and left.

(NOTE: Better to take your photo with the Queen’s Head since the constant wear and tear of the seasons has made its neck more fragile.)

 SHIFEN Sky Lantern – It must be magical being there when the quaint little town of Shifen celebrates its Sky Lantern Festival – imagine hundreds of lighted lanterns floating around the night skin, sending your wishes to the sky. Yes, it does give off major “Tangled” vibes.

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Forty five minutes from Yehliu is the small town of Shifen, nestled between the mountains and the train tracks. As mentioned earlier, Shifen’s most famous draw is the releasing of the Sky Lantern set amidst the middle of the train tracks.l For only TWD190, you will be given the  chance of writing your “Love, Career and Money wishes on colourful lanterns and set them out to the sky.

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We were drenched but very happy. Photo courtesy of my amazing friend, Allan of The Filipino Rambler 

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When you’re done releasing your wishes via the sky lantern, you can partake on the many delectable dishes that Shifen has to offer. You can also take the opportunity to get a glimpse of the train passing through Shifen’s narrow street (just be careful taking a photo!). You’ll see how time stops until the train has fully passed.

 

JIUFEN’S Winding Streets and Magical Tea Houses – I have written in one of my blog posts about the oft-quoted travel legend that many of Jiufen’s many winding streets, storefront houses and the famous Amei Tea House was the inspiration behind the magical world of Chihiro, Sen and Yubaba in Hayao Miyazaki’s well-loved animated film, “Spirited Away.” My love of Miyazaki and the film prompted me to search for Jiufen, on my own, more than three years ago – and now, going back, minus the hassle of the search (and worry of getting lost) made me fell in love with this maze of a town. Thanks to KKday, I was able to just appreciate the journey, take my time, focus on the sights, and marvel on the many overt similarities between the Yubaba’s spirit world and Jiufen.

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The town, with its many winding staircases, is a maze and the search for Amei’s tea house can be ardous if you won’t ask for directions. But once you finally get to find it, it’s worth the trek and the many missed turns.

 Taking a tour via KKday:

Tours via KKday begins at the Taipei Main Station. In our case, it’s at the East Gate where you will meet with the KKday coordinators in order to present a print out of your confirmation slip. After the coordinators have gone through the attendance, checked, and ensured that everyone on the list is present, you will be herded to the waiting KKday bus.

At the bus, your tour guide will brief you on your destination, give you your KKday identification pass (also doubling as a mosquito patch) and a bottle of mineral water. Do note that the cost of entrance fee for Yehliu Geo Park, the cost of the sky lantern activity and of course, your meal and drinks are not included in the tour fee. Price of this tour is just PHP1,174 so it’s really worth it.

Would I recommend KKday?

Absolutely. While I am still a fan of DIY travel and enjoys researching for destinations, I appreciate how KKday made travelling easy, more convenient and more enjoyable – thanks to a knowledgeable tour guide and a very efficient staff. I hope to be able to use KKday again when I go back to Japan.

Visit KKday at their website, or download the KKday app available for easier, more convenient booking,

I stayed in Homey Hostel while in Taipei – and it ticked off all my hostel must-haves

In the last five years, I have been travelling more and more frequently – often times, going out the country two times a year – depending on the funds available, or the level of stress and misery that I am in.

For 2018 alone, I went to Japan twice, starting the year in Nagoya and Sapporo; celebrated my mom’s birthday in Tokyo last October; before finally ending the frenzied jaunt across the ocean in Taipei, Taiwan in mid-November.

One of the things I learned during all my budget trips is that it’s not necessary to stay in hotels. Of course, if you have the money to burn and living in a lap of luxury is more of your thing – by all means, enjoy.

But if you are a budget traveler like me, staying in hostels is a sure fire way of landing prime accommodation, while meeting fellow travelers on the road and with more bang for your buck. So far, I never had any disappointments at all – with most hitting the mark (especially the hostels in Japan which sets the bar really high) and yes, even the one in Singapore who almost wowed me but missed the mark on cleanliness.

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That is why I am pleasantly surprised to know about Homey Hostel, a hostel that lives up to its name with its homey, cozy, chill vibe yet over delivers when it comes to function, service and style. Located in a busy neighborhood two blocks away from Taipei Main Station, this charming budget accommodation ticks a lot of my must-haves when it comes to slumming it out on a budget:

 Location, Location, Location – this should be a cardinal rule. Even if you have the most charming, most Instagrammable place in the world but if it’s far from where the action is, or the transportation source, then you are wasting time and money. Homey Hostel is about a ten minute walk to the Taipei Main Station and the Taipei Bus Station. You are centrally located, with many places in Taiwan only a bus or train ride away.

There’s also plenty of food options: fast food favorites like KFC and McDonald’s (open 24 hours), a 7-11, a mom and pop stores selling dumplings, sticky noodles and stinky tofu and a milk tea shop. So you will not be starved. You get a taste of your burgers and still have a chance of sampling local cuisine – so it’s a definite win-win

 

Cozy and comfortable sleeping spaces – Given that you will be tired and spent the whole day, you should be comfortable and safe where you sleep. Our dorm room had four bunk beds, plenty of room to man oeuvre, plenty of sunlight plus a locker room where each traveler can safely store their valuables. In spite the fact that it’s a dorm room, and there are three other guys who’s not part of our group, we never felt uncomfortable at all. After all, we barely get to see our roommates, as we had different schedules and they’re often out of their beds by the time we wake up in the morning.

Each bed is equipped with its own night light, your very own charging station, a pillow, two sheets and a comforter plus its own curtain to give a semblance of privacy. If you’re a light sleeper, Homey has ear plugs available on the reception which you can take free of charge. Towels are for rent at TWD40 while hygiene kits are for sale.

 

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Amazing facilities: inviting and functional common areas + clean yet efficient communal bathrooms – This is where Homey hits the mark high for me. I am in love with their communal space – which housed the reception, a game area (a game of fooseball anyone?), a work area, a dining hall and the super efficient kitchen. This is something I haven’t even seen in Japan so I really love this space and regrets that I didn’t maximize hanging out here.

There are long wooden tables where you can eat together with other fellow travelers. Or if lounging, reading or hanging out is more your thing, Homey has designed numerous nooks where you can curl up with a good book, or play one of the many board games that’s also available within the area.

I am really particular with bathrooms so, it’s a nice surprise that Homey has those electronic toilets common in Japan. There’s never a wait in any of the shower rooms which was also shared coed. Shower cubicles were designed with its own mini “dry area” where you can store your clothes, towel and toiletries before stepping inside the shower area. Bathrooms are kept clean and while it can get busy, you will never have to line up should you need a quick bath or use the loo.

 

Fun and FREE activities – The availability of fun activities that will expose to the local culture, landscape and scene is something that is inherent with majority of hostels. In Japan, I enjoyed the takoyaki and film showing nights. Homey Hostel offers a range of activities every Friday, including walking tours. During our stay, we joined a trek up Elephant Mountain to take in Taipei’s sights at night. We were joined by guests from Europe, HK and China and it was a treat exchanging stories — and discovering common interests and passion. I had a nice chat about conquering the 47 prefectures of Japan with Andy, a guest from Germany.  Homey offers these activities for FREE and even taps the help of knowledgeable and efficient guides from various Taipei tour groups.

 

Intuitive Customer Service – personal, warm yet professional. The reception counter of Homey Hostel promptly closes around 10:30PM and opens around 8:30AM the next day for service. Given we arrived really late, 4AM, our key cards were left in the counter with our names and a note to just approach reception in the morning for check in. In the morning, the hostel serves a simple breakfast of bread, a choice of spreads (chocolate, coconut butter, garlic butter and peanut butter, coffee, tea, juices, hot congee and an array of side dishes).

The check in process is quick and efficient, and you will be asked to pay for your stay and a TWD100 deposit for the key card which is refundable, should you manage not to lose it. The reception also doubles as a small “business center” where you can arrange for tours, ask for directions, buy postcards and send them (I did) and even pay for the snacks and the craft beer that’s available in Homey.

The team, led by the affable Jeffrey, is young, charming and English-proficient, always ready to give directions and insider tips. In our case, it was recommended we take the express train going back to the airport, which saved us 30 minutes in travel time. Jeffrey, meanwhile, recommends that the next time we are in Taipei and arriving late, we take the Kuo Kang Bus No.1819 which runs late nights from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to the city.

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Would I recommend Homey Hostel for the Taipei-bound. Absolutely! My first two trips in Taipei, I kept raving about a hotel (that will remain unnamed) due to its top-notch service; now that I experienced Homey Hostel, I have found a better choice which offers the same level of service that I expect, coupled with a fun, laidback atmosphere and most of all, can’t beat prices. How low? You can get a bed for as low as TWD600 a night!

Book now at Homey Hostel – they’re responsive on Facebook! And don’t forget to check out their website!

 

 

 

Sleep, Indulge and Discover: A weekend at Mt. Purro Nature Resort 

There is a reason why the word, “toxic” exists and why it’s use to connote a punishing schedule, non-existent work life balance, less-than-ideal relationships and even a general outlook in life. 

For some demented reason, my generation has made the word toxic like a badge of honor; to connote that you have so many things happening in your life and you can’t help but to be in the middle of it. 


But what will you do when you are given the option to disconnect from it all. Will you take it? 

This is the premise I had to face when I received the invitation to spend the weekend at Mt. Purro Nature Reserve, a promising new vacation resort hidden in the foothills of Mt. Purro in Antipolo, Rizal. 


The 36-hectare family-owned forest resort boasts of well-maintained cabins, it’s very own swimming pool, forest trails where guests are encouraged to commune with nature, home-cooked meals lovingly prepared by the family matriarch , a mini zip line and other nature-based activities including an experiential encounter with the Dumagat community which calls Mt. Purro and the surrounding mountains home. 

I will not lie. I was stuck with a very bad case of cabin fever when I first arrived. To put it bluntly, my too wired body was looking for something to do – there was no TV, or radio or even data connection so I can’t really tinker with my phone. With no other thing to do, I slept. And slept. And slept, giving me the best sleep that I had in a while. Maybe it’s the fact that nothing was screeching, ringing or even beeping to interrupt sleep; surrounded by the cool breeze, I was like a baby being lulled to sleep by the chirping of the birds and the soft swaying of the trees. When I woke up, it’s like six years of my punishing schedule was erased by a single nap. 

While today’s wired world pushes vacation houses and resorts to have that wifi connection and have all the trappings of technology; Mt. Purro Nature Reserve prides itself of being off the grid. Disconnect to Connect, the resort’s founder and the family patriarch Toti Malvar proudly shared and espoused with glee. Vacations were supposed to be about moments and memories shared with friends and family: catch up with friends, talk to your loved ones, commune with Nature, and more importantly renew your relationship with God. 


Sleep

Mt. Purro Nature Reserve maintains an array of beautifully maintained cottages sprinkled along the vast property, which can accommodate from 6 to groups of 12 or more. 




The cottages all have the comfort of spending your time in peace: soft mattresses, with pillows and sheets; two bathrooms, with one located inside one of the bedrooms and another on the living room area; the rooms have electric fans and doesn’t need air conditioning due to the open layout of the cottages with their large windows protected by netting to let the air in and keep the insects at bay. 

Each cottage is large, with enough space to sprawl on the floor (if you want to), it also has a dedicated space for reading as the window doubles as a love seat-slash-sleeping area.


Here’s what’s not available: there’s no TV, much less cable access. If you want to spend the week bingeing on your favorite shows, you have to download ahead and bring your laptop with you. Of course, there’s no WIFI and there’s no phone signal. If you are a SMART/TNT subscriber then you have a sliver of hope of even reaching the outside world; if you are on GLOBE, like I am, congratulations – you may now consider your phone as a very expensive paperweight or at most, a portable camera. 


But let me tell you something – having no access to the wired world made me more appreciative of the peace and quiet that MPNR has to offer. I recommend you bring a good book to read, or start on that journal you were hoping to work on. Bottom line – there’s a lot to do even without technology. 
We can’t deny it. While food at large hotels and resorts can be always sumptuous, however nothing beats a home cooked meal.
MNPR offers home cooked meals lovingly prepared by the matriarch of the family, Ms. Baby Malvar lovingly referred to as “Loli” by her family and us too. 

Relationship goals: Toti and Baby Malvar



 

The mess hall, often referred to LOLI’s KITCHEN, serves meals for all those who stay at MPNR. Since cooking is not recommended during overnight stays, meals can be arranged at the mess hall where healthy and sumptuous meals are served. Loli sources her ingredients in the resort’s surrounding areas like the greens and fruits served in the buffet; otherwise, Loli plans her meal offerings from what’s available at Farmer’s Market in Cubao where she sources ingredients that are not available in the self sufficient community. 





Both healthy and delicious – we indulged on the sumptuous spread prepared by Loli. As a testament on how fresh and how yummy the food were: I was tempted and finally tried eating variations of dishes that I always steered away from, like Pakó Salad, a mix of fresh pakó which a fern-like vegetable variety with onions and plump tomatoes; as well as Indonesian Talong Salad, which was a dish Loli learned from one of her travels.

And oh, always try their coffee. It’s to die for. I was told that the beans were harvested from the surrounding mountains. 

The meals, whether plated or from the buffet, can be arranged at the reception area when you arrive. Because the management is making sure that the cottages will continue to be clean and insect free, cooking is discouraged. You are allowed though to bring chips and snacks but full meals has to be ordered in-house. 

Indulge 

Other fun activities that you can do while at MPNR include: 


Have a full body massage scheduled
, you have the option of having your massage at their massage hut (P350) or at the comfort of your own room (P500). 

Like all the grounds and kitchen staff, MPNR employs certified and trained therapists from the surrounding Dumagat community so by staying at the resort, you are not only enjoying yourself but also helping the Dumagats have a sustainable livelihood. 

Take a trek at Kabunsuran Falls
– a highlight of the trip for me. Though, be forewarned – the water pressure from the falls during summer is just so-so, and hardly impressive. You also need to prepare yourself for a very arduous trek going down (and then up) to see the falls. Note that Kabunsuran Falls is outside MPNR, however they always assign a guide when you do want to explore. Instead of opting to go there via a 30-minute walk from the resort, ride the trike (P40) the rest of the way and save the trekking for the dirt road leading to the falls – trust me, you will thank me for it. 


While hiking at Kabunsuran Falls, I was reminded of the cheap iced buco of my childhood and was bemoaning of the fact that I can no longer buy it in Makati. Guess who we encountered on the trek back from the Falls: an iced buco vendor: 


Take a trek around MPNR
– now is your chance to recall high school biography and see if you can identify the many tree and plant species surrounding the resort as part of the nature reserve. You can opt for the services of an experienced guide when you book through the resort’s reception area. 



Meet and Dine with the Dumagats
– another trip highlight and cannot be missed. The Dumagats are the indigenous community that call Mt. Purro and the surrounding mountains home. For years, they have also helped Tito Toti and Loli as the couple worked tirelessly for nature conservation. 

To help the Dumagats earn extra livelihood, they were invited by the Malvars to be part of the “back to basics” advocacy of MPNR by doing cooking demos with the guests. The Dumagats use bamboo as their means to cook rice and viands, and even demonstrates starting fire without using matches or lighters. They also make a mean version of sinigang na baboy, which was a sure hit to us the guests. 
Aside from these, there is also a game room where guests can opt for a game of billiards, fooseball or table tennis. Please note that hourly charges apply. 

For those who want to cool off, MPNR also maintains a swimming pool with a great view of the surrounding mountains and forests. Beside the pool is camp site for guests who opt to sleep on tents. 


MPNR is a testament that like the Malvars, it is possible to have time to recharge and have fun while appreciating love nature. Honestly, after about 30 minutes of moping because i don’t have Internet or data connection, I decided to turn off my phone and in the process, forgot about it. I had so much fun just enjoying the surroundings and the company I keep. 
That type of connection is something no wifi signal can give. 

Interested to stay at MPNR? Contact them via their Facebook page: Mt. Purro Nature Reserve. The resort is still fixing it’s website so inquiries can be directed at the FB page. They strongly encourage visitors to reserve before going to the resort. 

Disclaimer: 

My stay at MPNR is upon invitation of the resort. The views and opinions indicated on this piece is mine alone. 

Pricelist: 


Travel hack: How to go from Nagoya to Osaka by Bus for less than 1,400 pesos 

I am writing this post here at the departure gates of Kansai Airport. I am waiting for my flight back to Manila and decided to share this post while passing time. 

Here’s the basics first. Nagoya is lovely – in a chill and laid back way. My hubby was smitten and vowed to move to Nagoya if they the hobby and gaming community in check. We spent three amazing days in Nagoya in the Aichi region before moving to Osaka in the Kansai region. (Will post a detailed itinerary separately). 

Oasis 21 area, Sakai, Nagoya

While there are many ways to go from one prefecture to another – you can take the plane, train or bus – it differs significantly between Osaka and Nagoya. Because the two areas are too close, there are only two options when you want to go from one to the other. One is the train and another one is the bus. This post will be about the JR Bus Service

Dotonbori, Namba, Osaka

What you need to do first is to go to the Nagoya Station in downtown Nagoya in order to buy tickets to the JR Bus. 


After alighting from the subway, proceed to the Taiko-Dori side (West exit) of the Nagoya Station. The Taiko-Dori side also holds the Shinkansen area plus ticketing booth for JR Rails along with JR Bus. 

Once you see the landmark, which is the large clock where people often meet up (pictured above),  you are already in the area. Proceed to the doors to your left leading outside. 


Upon exit, you should see a stairs leading down and to it’s immediate left is the JR Bus Ticketing Office. 

Go inside and approach the officer on duty. Ask for the bus schedules for Osaka-bound highway buses. You are free to choose the time which you want to arrive. Though do note that a trip from Nagoya to Osaka usually takes three and half hours. 

Once you’ve chosen your departure time, you will be asked to pay for your ticket. A one-way bus ticket usually costs Y3,000 (PHP 1313). You can buy your tickets ahead of time – so you the option of buying your ticket a day or two before your trip. 


Since highway and limousine buses have reserved seating, buying your tickets early assures you of good seats. 

On the day of your departure, proceed to the ticketing station which also doubles as the waiting area for upcoming trips. The ticketing station has vendo machines for drinks or snacks so you will be assured that you won’t get hungry waiting for your bus. 

There are display screens showing bus schedules and destinations, while the loading area is numbered – the screen will show which loading area is assigned to your bus. 

Once the bus arrives, show your ticket to the driver, load your luggage on the storage area and find your seats based on the number indicated on the bus. 

The buses are usually equipped with a charging dock for your devices, its own toilet and if you’re lucky, its own wifi service. 

At the stop over leading to Kyoto

Other bus services to Nagoya include Willer (much cheaper but needs online purchase for tickets), Meitetsu and Kintetsu service. 

Not exactly a light packer? PAL’s Carry Over Checked In Baggage Got You Covered

On the tail end of 2016, I had the pleasure of having a 2 day, 1 night trip in Anilao, Batangas to witness the 2016 Anilao Underwater Shootout, courtesy of the good people of Philippine Airlines (PAL). The event was the biggest underwater macro photography of its kind in the world and featured some of the world’s best divers and underwater photography enthusiasts. 

PAL was in its capacity as the event partner and as a purveyor and avid promoter of Philippine tourism

Celebrating its 75th year of flying Philippine (and the international) skies, the country’s flag carrier was also on hand to promote its latest product, the Carry Over Checked In Baggage which is a lifesaver for diving enthusiasts who usually lugs with them an average of 30 kilos per travel.

With the country’s status as the destination of choice for divers due to pristine waters and the best collection of corals anywhere in the world, divers worldwide are more than encouraged to visit the Philippines’ premium dive sites including Anilao (in Luzon), Cebu, Dumaguete, Bohol, Siquijor, Davao and General Santos. The abundance of coral reef can be credited with the Philippines being part of the coral triangle where the world’s best collection of corals are located. Also, the Philippines has the richest marine biodiversity anywhere in the world.

carry-over-fba_hero-desktop-inbound

The announcement of the launch of the Carry Over Checked In Baggage made by PAL’s Hazel dela Cruz was met with a hearty and enthusiastic applause by participating divers during the awarding ceremony. It was a move that will help out the community, who would love to see more of the country’s many beaches but are often prohibited by baggage restrictions.

Here’s how Carry Over Checked In Baggage (yes, it’s a mouthful) works:

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From the PAL Website

You can avail of the Carry Over Checked In Baggage as long as it’s covered by one itinerary and one ticket. At the time of the event, this feature can be availed when you book via PAL-authorized travel agencies.

The feature does not only apply to divers; as long as you have one ticket from your international flight going to your domestic destinations and vice versa, this feature applies to you. And even if you have a stop over anywhere in Manila, this feature still applies as long as your international or domestic flights are in one ticket.

 

Event Download: The Anilao Underwater Shoot Out 

Organized and sponsored by the Philippine Department of Tourism, the yearly event was held in Anilao, Batangas which is quickly gaining popularity as one of the premiere macro destinations in the world. 

anilao

On its fourth year, The Anilao Underwater Shootout attracted more than 172 participants from all over the world including Brazil, Turkey, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea and more. These experienced underwater photography aficionados battled it out for prizes spread out in four categories which included General Macro, Behavior,  Creative Photo and Portfolio.

Competition judges are multi-awarded photographers from around the world including Takaji Ochi (Japan), Takako Uno (Japan), Stephen Wong (HK), and Greg Lecouer (France).
The bad weather and the inclement rain did not deter participating divers to get their best shot. Aided by dive experts, divers brave the deep waters of Anilao see some of the most fascinating sea creatures and photograph them.
Here are some photos of winners from Anilao Underwater Shootout’s FB page:
For a complete list of winners, go to http://anilaoshootout.ph/

Anilao Underwater Shootout Photos from: https://www.facebook.com/pg/anilaounderwatershootout

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Source: From the Anilao ShootOut FB Page

For PAL, it is only natural to throw in their hundred percent support to the recently-concluded event. As the country’s national carrier, PAL brings a commitment in supporting and promoting local tourism. During my short discussion with company representatives, we all agreed that the Philippines is a rich country, so diverse in eco-tourism that it is a shame if this will remain unseen by foreign and local tourists.

PAL’s many destinations allows travelers to visit and discover more of the archipelago. It’s many innovations also highlight its continuing quest to better understand–and serve–its passengers.