Mar 30, 2014

On 6:20 PM by Mich Borlagdan in , , , ,    7 comments
Baler Itinerary, please?
Where to Stay in Baler?
How much was your budget for Baler?

These are the questions that flooded my FB after posting a bunch of Baler photos over the weekend. Some even took time to send me SMS. :)

So, since I'm in the mood to be nicey-nicey today, I'll share our secret on how we were able to go to Baler for less than Php2500.
Chasing Waves at Baler, Aurora

How to Get to Baler:
via Public Transportation aka Commute

You may take JoyBus for a comfortable ride to Baler. It's a little bit pricey but it's an executive luxury non-stop trip with the ff: bus stewardess, blankets, pillow, snacks, and CR on board. Trip would be approximately 5 to 5 1/2 hrs.

Bus Schedule:
Manila to Baler: 12 MN, 2 AM, and 4:30 AM; Fare is Php750.
Baler to Manila: 4:30 AM and 3 PM; Fare is Php750.

Another option is to take the regular aircon bus of Genesis, Fare is Php450.00. Trip would be approximately 6 to 7 hours.

Bus Schedule: Hourly trip starting 1 AM to 8 AM.

For booking, you may call 7090803, 4211425.

via Private Vehicle
For this trip, we rented a van for Php12,000.00 only; we were originally quoted Php3000/day + Gas + Toll Fees so since we're just a total of 10pax, we asked the driver if we can close it to Php12,000 all-in for a 3-Day Trip to Baler, he agreed. Anyway, this rate already includes going around Baler. So, how can we not go to Baler with this cheap budget right? :)

From Manila, enter NLEX at Balintawak and exit at SCTEX (entry at La Paz, Tarlac toll gate). Follow the highway leading to Aliaga and to Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. From Cabanatuan City Town Proper, take the Nueva Ecija - Aurora Highway, passing thru the towns of Talavera, Rizal, and Pantabangan until you reach the Aurora  border; then thru the towns of Maria Aurora, San Luis, and finally... Baler.

Where to Stay in Baler:
There are a lot of resorts, transient houses, inns, and lodges in Baler. Since it's Peak Season, it was really hard to book even a night stay in Baler. Good thing, we found Desiree's Lodge located at Sabang. It's not located beachfront but it would just be like a 2-minute walk to the beach.

For reservations, please contact 09204800978/09217518490 and look for Tita Edith.

Things To Do in Baler:
* SURF! SURF! SURF at Sabang Beach

* Dip into the cool waters of Ditumabo Falls aka The Mother Falls
Ditumabo Falls

* Enjoy the white sand at Dicasalarin Cove aka the Angara Resort
At the leftmost part of Dicasalarin Cove

Baler Itinerary:
Day 1
05:30 AM     Assembly
06:00 AM     ETD Makati to Baler
01:00 NN      ETA Baler
01:30 PM      Check-in at Desiree's Lodge
02:00 PM      Late Lunch
03:00 PM      Roam around Sabang/Socials

Day 2
05:30 AM     Wake-up Call
06:00 AM     Buffet Breakfast at Bay's Inn
07:00 AM     Start of Baler Tour (Ditumabo Falls aka The Mother Falls, Balete Tree, Dicasalarin Cove)
03:00 PM      Go to Market, Pasalubong Center,
03:45 PM      Roam around Sabang Beach. Surf.
04:00 PM      Prepare for Dinner
06:30 PM      Dinner/Socials

Day 3
06:00 AM     Breakfast
07:00 AM     Socials
09:30 AM     Go to Sabang Beach. Get Ready to Get Stoked!
10:00 AM     SURF BABY! :)
11:30 AM     Back to Desiree's Lodge
01:00 PM      Check-out
01:30 PM      Lunch at Carinderia beside Museo de Baler
02:00 PM      ETD Baler Town Proper
08:00 PM      ETA Makati

Baler Trip Budget:
You can make it cheaper by slashing off the Buffet Breakfast at Bay's Inn and by renting the surfboard for half an hour only (Php150), for half day (Php400), and for one whole day (Php800).

* All mobile networks have strong signal. 3G is even available.
* If traveling by bus, you may go around Baler by renting a Tricycle. Rate is Php700 for one whole day tour good for 2 pax.
* You may roam around Sabang and Baler Town Proper by Bike. Rental fee is Php35/hour. Bike rental is available beside Yellow Fin's restaurant at the back of Costa Pacifica.
* ATM machines are available only in Baler Town Proper.
* There are no convenience stores/sari-sari stores open at nights in Sabang. But if you're hungry and at least you want to sip a hot choco/coffee, there's an available Coffee Vendo near Bay's Inn. Rate is Php5.00 only.

Mar 19, 2014

On 4:13 AM by Mich Borlagdan in , , , , ,    No comments
As the plane started to take off
I can see the excitement of the passengers aboard.
Reminders, laughters here and there
Music playlists everywhere
I'm wondering
Why can't I seem to hear anything at all?

Sitting by the window, I tried to evaluate what was going on
I let my eyes roam and saw dozens of people.
I even saw familiar faces taking selfies and laughing out loud
But again, I was wondering
Why they didn't create any sound.

"Maybe, the plane was on mute", I thought.

I knew it's coming... so I held tight onto my seats and closed my eyes. I had been hearing this furious sound every 5 seconds for the longest time now. After a while, I burst out in tears.

I snapped back to reality and that was when I realized that the plane was not really on mute. It's just that someone's voice kept playing in my ears, it couldn't be stopped. I felt so bad that the plane was not really on mute; that what I kept on hearing was the sound of my heart breaking which was too deafening it was louder than the plane engine.

D-A-B-D-A (Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression-Acceptance)
1, 2, 3 days. Days became weeks and weeks became months. I cannot remember how long but every second became tedious; I was bleeding, piercing, and grasping for every breath. Waking up every day had been a challenge...

That time, having to live another day was like another day of dying.

"Move on, move on din 'pag may time..." ("Move on.")
I had heard this in different languages, in different forms... from different people. Sadly, I felt like everyone left me. Exaggerated as it may seem, but, that time, I felt like the whole universe conspired to hurt me, to betray me, to leave me...

I died.
I thought I died.

It was tiring but I lived my life in that routine - wake up, breathe, cry, sleep. It was not working so I tried another routine - breathe, cry, sleep, HIDE. I liked the latter more that I think I enjoyed it too much that even I, can see myself no more... I cried.

As the plane landed, I saw the excitement of the passengers again
Maps and laughters everywhere
I started to wonder
"Nasaan na nga pala ako?"
("Where am I?")

I'd been lost for months now; for someone who hid herself in the four corners of her room, I stopped asking. An hour and a half flight, two-hour road trip, and a few more steps, the next thing I knew, I was in the middle of a forest in Danao.

I stared at the tarpaulin hanging near the reception and got intrigued with The Plunge; they say it's the highest canyon swing in the world. I looked at the platform where it is being done; it is actually mounted over a 200-meter-high and 300-meter-wide gorge. It is where a person would have a 45-second-free-fall before being launched on a pendulum swing. Seems like a death-defying and heart-pumping stunt, right? An extreme adventure that you won't ever like to try...

But I told myself, "I wouldn't care if I would die here, I'd died for a long time now." Examining how high it is, I whispered, "If I would fall here, I want to know if that fall would be more painful than my last fall. I want to feel it."

While waiting for my turn, I was thinking what I will be shouting during The Plunge. I thought of saying a dozen or maybe a hundred I love You's hoping that it would be enough to take away all the love I have in me. Another plan was to curse and say all the bad words that I could say; maybe by that it would take away all the pain. I decided not to do the latter...

Alas! The long wait was over.

There are 2 options to experience The Plunge: while sitting and the other one is what they call "The Head-First Style"

Since I wanted to feel the fall badly, I chose to do it "The Head-First Style."

The moment the staff shouted "Bombs Away!", they released the rope and let me fall. 

Everything went so fast. Actually, it was just a less-than-a-minute-drop but have you had any experience wherein things go in slow-motion? That's what I felt. It was too fast but the feeling was too surreal; I couldn't explain.

And you know what's surprising?
I did not utter anything; I did not curse, I did not mention any names, I did not hate.

As I was being swung in a pendulum after the free fall, that was the exact time I realized that, "Hey Mich, you're no longer hurting." It was funny that for a long time I was just too entangled with the thought that I was left clueless.

That maybe, I was no longer hurting but it's just that I was afraid to accept that everything came to an end unexpectedly. That maybe, I already moved on but I couldn't accept that I was the one left behind so I chose to feel the moment and be miserable.

Or maybe, just maybe, I did the right thing. That in times likes this, all we need to do is to feel every bit of pain, to face what we are scared to feel and then, let it go... let it go...

Woohoo! I survived the Plunge!

Oh see, you won't die in heartbreaks.

Until now, I keep on chasing places. This time, not because I am picking up the broken pieces of me but because somewhere along the way, I discovered that this is where I am happy at - traveling the Philippines, watching the people, accepting the diversity, and last but definitely not the least, LOVING THE NEW ME. :)

Mar 12, 2014

On 11:33 PM by Mich Borlagdan in , , , ,    2 comments
Longing for a weekend getaway? Craving for a fresh atmosphere? Take a quick ride to Tanay Rizal and look for Sierra Madre Resort.

Sierra Madre Resort's 10-feet deep pool

Sierra Madre Resort is located at Km 58 Marcos Hi-Way Mayagay Tanay, Rizal. This place is highly recommended for Team Buildings, Barkada Trips, Family Outings, or even for your solo retreat.

You may spend a day tour (Viewing/Picnic/Swimming) or Overnight. Fees are as follow:
Swimming..........................Php150 for adults/Php100 for kids

There are a lot of activities that you and your group can do in Sierra Madre Resort. The resort has its own Team Building Area plus guide/facilitator for free, you can also enjoy camping in the 17 hectare land, have fun crossing the 2 hanging bridges, and many more.

Adventure seekers can try Sierra Madre Resort's zipline for Php200.00 only.

Sierra Madre Resort Zipline

There are 2 swimming pools in Sierra Madre Resort. One is near the cottages and the other one, which is a natural pool is like located somewhere there near the jungle forest and falls.

At the far end part of the resort, you'll find Sto. Nino Falls.

Lovin' the cool water here

Parang Avatar lang! :p

For inquiries and reservations, you can contact the following numbers: 09087208234, 09173402630, 9132001, 4751320 and look for Ms. Cha.

Rooms can be as low as Php4500 good for 12pax. So what are you waiting for? Chillax now! :)

Mar 9, 2014

It's been a long time since I updated the 'Philippines in Focus' side of this blog. It's just that this time, I would simply like to share my sunset shot at Patar Rock Formation during the golden hour. For me, no words can ever describe how beautiful it was to watch the sunset on this side of Bolinao. Indeed, this is the PERFECT spot.

No filter, shot taken using my point and shoot camera.

Sunset at Patar Rock Formation

Feb 26, 2014

On 11:33 AM by Mich Borlagdan in , , , , , ,    12 comments
Bolinao is not as popular as Hundred Islands but I must say that Bolinao really won my heart. And, yes, Bolinao deserves to be listed on my "Sarap Balik-Balikan Places". Want to know why is it one of my favorite Philippine destinations? Hmm.. just read on. :)

Things to Consider When Planning a Trip to Bolinao:
Well, there's nothing much really... and, that is one of the reasons why going to Bolinao is highly recommended since it is not too complicated to organize. You may go there alone or by a small group without costing you extra bucks. Plus, you do not have to rent a boat unlike when going to Calaguas or to any other good beaches in our country. Therefore, no need for you to maximize the capacity of the boat to make it a cheap travel.

How to Get There:
For a month and a half, I had been typing 'how to go to Bolinao' in Google. Good thing, there are some friendly bloggers who generously share their how to's. (Shoutout to Ada of and Robx of Big thanks to you guys!)

via Public Transpo/aka Commute:
Manila to Bolinao would be approximately 6 to 6.5 hours travel time. For direct trips to Bolinao, you may take Victory Liner (available in Cubao station only) or Five Star Bus (available in Pasay terminal only).

Bolinao Bus Schedule and Rates:
Five Star Bus
Victory Liner
Upon arrival at Bolinao Terminal, hire a tricycle to bring you to the resort of your choice. Standard rate from Bolinao town proper to Patar is Php250 which is good for 4 pax.

Where to Stay in Bolinao:
There are hundreds of resorts in Bolinao. From high end resorts, transients, inns, open cottages, name it! Of course, my friends and I stayed in the not so luxurious choice - in cottages for only Php200/pax per night.

Aside from the reason that we're out of budget, staying in cottages along Patar Beach is the perfect choice. Yes, if you're a beach lover and if your idea of a relaxing getaway is a staycation near the beach (imagine morning sea breeze and the sound of the waves), then absolutely Patar cottages would be perfect! Staying in one of the cottages along the beachfront of Patar would also mean an all-day access to Patar's long stretch of white sand since some resorts will require one to ride a tricycle for about 15-20 minutes just to enjoy the beach.

Downside: The beachfront cottages along Patar do no have electricity from 8 AM to 6PM. Do not expect that there's hot and cold shower too.

Where to Eat in Bolinao:
You might want to try the Adora's at the back of St. James Church. Nothing really fancy here; it even looks like a small canteen but food is cheap and definitely affordable. Their CR is clean too which is ideal after a 6-hour long bus ride. On the other hand, while touring Bolinao, a stop-over at Sungayan Grill for lunch is a MUST. Sungayan Grill is a floating restaurant along Balingasay River. Food is definitely delicious, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. The ambiance is really good and refreshing, CR is clean, and oh, they have a free high-speed WIFI connection. :)

Must-See Places in Bolinao:
* St. James Church

* Patar Beach

* Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

* The 3 Waterfalls of Bolinao - Tara Falls, Bolinao Falls 1, Bolinao Falls 2

* Enchanted Cave

* Rock Formation

In exploring Bolinao, a tour package or a travel agency is not necessary. It's very easy to do it the D.I.Y. way. You just have to hire a tricycle to bring you to must-visit places in Bolinao and that's it. In our case, we just hired the same tricycle driver who brought us to our resort. Originally, we were quoted Php1200/2 pax which will cost us Php2400 since we were four. But again, there's nothing wrong to try the power of negotiation. :) Guess what, the driver gave it Php1500 only good for 4. Amazing!

Bolinao Itinerary
Day 1

07:00 AM     Assembly at Victory Liner Cubao
07:30 AM     ETD Manila to Bolinao
01:50 PM     ETA Bolinao Terminal
01:55 PM     Hire a Tricycle to Bring You to Resort 02:00 PM     Drop by Adora's for Lunch
02:30 PM     Visit St. James Church (3 min walk from Adora's)
03:00 PM     ETD St. James Church to Patar Resort
03:45 PM     Check in at Benjie's Kubo and Cottages
04:00 PM     Enjoy and Explore Patar Beach until Sunset
07:00 PM     Dinner at Benjie's Bicol Express Restaurant
08:00 PM     Sleep. Snore. Dream.

Day 2
05:30 AM     Wake-Up and Explore the Stretch of Patar Beach
06:30 AM     Breakfast at Benjie's Bicol Express Restaurant
07:30 AM     ETD Patar. Start Chasing the Other Parts of Bolinao
07:45 AM     ETA Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
08:30 AM     ETD Cape Bolinao Lighthouse to Start Exploring the Falls of Bolinao.
09:45 AM     ETA Bolinao Falls 1
10:15 AM     ETD Bolinao Falls 1
10:40 AM     ETA Bolinao Falls 2
10:45 AM     Secure a Cottage and Rent Floaters at Bolinao Falls 2
10:50 AM     Swim. Jump. Dive at Bolinao Falls 2
12:45 PM     ETD Bolinao Falls
01:30 PM     Lunch at Sugbayan Grill
02:30 PM     ETD Sugbayan Grill to Enchanted Cave
03:00 PM     ETA Enchanted Cave
03:10 PM     Swim Inside Enchanted Cave
04:30 PM     ETD Enchanted Cave
04:50 PM     ETA Rock Formation at Patar
06:15 PM     ETD Rock Formation
06:30 PM     Back to Benjie's Cottages
07:30 PM     Dinner at Benjie's Bicol Express Restaurant
08:30 PM     Sleep. Snore. Dream.

Budget for Bolinao Trip (3 Days-2 Nights)

Bus Fare Manila to Bolinao
Tricyle Fee from Bolinao to Patar (Php250/4pax)
Accomodation at Benjie's Cottages (Php200/pax x 2 nights)
Tricyle Fee for Bolinao Tour (Php1500/4pax)
Bolinao Falls 2 Entrance Fee
Enchanted Cave Entrance Fee
Rock Formation Entrance Fee
Tricycle Fee from Patar to Bolinao Terminal
Bus Fare Bolinao to Pasay

Total Budget

- Food Expenses are not yet included.
- If you do not know how to swim or is not that confident to swim in Bolinao Falls which is 20ft deep, you may rent a floater for Php40.00
- Entrance Fee in Enchanted Cave is Php120.00. There would be a Php30.00 Refund if you're not going to swim inside the cave. Effective March 1, new rate will be Php150.00.

- Benjie's Kubo and Cottages - 09108366257, 09213393975
- There's no signal in Patar for Smart, Sun, and Globe.
- Strong network signal at Cape Bolinao Lighthouse and Patar Rock Formation
- Do not forget to bring insect repellants
- Chase Bolinao during weekdays :)