Saturday, September 30, 2017

Euro-trip-- Tips for first timer Filipinos

In my Parisian outfit in Paris
I was in my late 20s when I first became interested to visit Europe. When I hear the word Europe; I think of the Eiffel tower, the world-renowned artists and their works,  and the classy Parisian fashion. Since then, I already had a planned outfit if ever I go to Paris—a striped blue and white top, tailored blue pants, and colorful scarf. 

I never really thought I could visit Europe this soon. Being overly practical (I'd like to think I am) and half Ilocana, I’d rather put my money on investments or simply save it. But it’s been two years since my husband and I went outside the country and we were itching to go somewhere big. So after three months of deliberating, we decided to just do it. It was really something for the books-- memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives; definitely money well spent!

Here are some practical tips from our trip-- things we did well and some things we could have done better.

Europe Trip Tips for Filipinos:

1. Preparation is key

Three months prior our trip, everything was all set already-- our airfare tickets, transfers, accommodation, and even some museum, and event passes. For those places that had capacity limits, I had our tickets booked way in advance. Luckily, now we can get everything from the internet-- must-dos, where to stay, where to eat; and these are complete with hundreds of reviews. The apps I used were AirBNB and for accommodation-- I suggest to book accommodations at least six months before the date of travel. You would want to get the best rate and room available right?; TripAdvisor for what to do and where to eat; Waze for how to get in a specific location; Uber for transportation. 

I was in-charge for the overall planning of the pre-travel requirements, while my husband researched on how to go from the airport or train station to our hotel or AirBNB. Whether it was best to use Uber, taxi, airport bus, train, etc. Note that there were some countries that banned Uber (like Spain). 

2. Have rest days 

One of the main reasons we go on a vacation is to rest. So I didn't pack our trip with things to do. We weren't anxious to see all the popular places, as we knew that we will just end up exhausted. I put in a rest day every two to three days and even scheduled just one activity per day, i.e. Monday - Van Gogh museum, Tuesday - Keukenhof Garden, Wednesday - explore/ whatever. Walking around with no plans and exploring the city was when we were most relaxed. Even ended up discovering some really cool and  interesting places. Plus, being with my husband in a beautiful place was more enough. 

3. Be alert

This is basic in anywhere you go. We were 100%  alert at all times. We didn't even ask other tourists to take our photo. Not unless we meet a fellow nice Filipino. 

4. Bring a selfie-stick

Since we couldn't just ask random people to take our photo, this thing would have been very helpful. I know it may look very unglamorous. But it is better than just having photos of your faces with the attractions. 

5. Pack reliable, comfortable shoes 

There will be a lot of walking in Europe, or at least for the cities we went to: Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. I made sure I had my most comfortable pair of shoes or sneakers. As a sneaker-head, I suggest New Balance, or Superga. The weather was quite unpredictable when we were in Amsterdam. There was a day that started really cold, then it got hot at lunch time--28 degrees centigrade--and I was wearing boots. I ended up buying my first pair of super comfy Superga. I'm really glad I did. 

These may just be basic tips, but these things made our trip more seamless and therefore, more enjoyable. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Laguna Road Trip from Metro Manila

Itching to travel but low on budget? No need to wait for the next salary to go on another expedition. A road trip to Laguna from Manila is easy to organize, affordable and fun. It's best for families or group of friends. So go ask your car owner friends if they are up for a two day road trip to explore the wonders of Laguna.

First and foremost, make sure that the cars you are using are properly tuned up and well maintained. I leave that up to my husband, so I can't provide details on maintaining automotive vehicles. 

For this trip to be maximized, you should be going to your first destination by 6am, at the latest. 

Here was our itinerary when my in-laws and I did the Laguna road trip.

First stop: Pisong Kape for breakfast 

Arrival here was around 8:30am. Pisong Kape is popular among bikers who climb up to Antipolo, Teresa or Bugarin. But the carinderia in front of Pisong Kape called Cafe Carmen is the more preferred eatery by riders. It's just that Pisong Kape is more popular as a landmark. They serve different viands with rice, but the Lugaw (chicken porridge) is their best seller. In fact, the best Lugaw I had ever tasted! 

Second stop: Pililla Wind Farm
Pililla Wind Farm

Eight kilometers from Pisong Kape was the Wind farm. This was really something to see. Never thought that windmills were that  impressive. They were huge! And can turn wind energy to mechanical energy-- so that was really cool. 

Third stop: Paete, Laguna
Put in another 35 kilometers, 1+ hours and we arrived in Paete. Known for their wood carvings and handicrafts skills, Paete is a place full of unpretentious artists. I was quite surprised though that prices can go up to thousands of pesos. We also visited their local church-- well maintained and very accommodating. 

Church of St. James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna

Inside the Church of St. James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna  

Wood Carvings made in Paete, Laguna

Wood Carvings made in Paete, Laguna

Jeepney wood Carving made in Paete, Laguna

Fourth stop: Liliw, Laguna

From Paete, we set your Waze to Liliw, which was around 37 kilometers away, 1 hour 20 minutes in travel time. Liliw is known for making footwear. There is a 500 meter+ road near the church where sellers are located. 

I got really excited here because they sell good quality shoes, sandals and slippers from P50 to P500 only. I had to restrain myself from buying pairs of shoes that I don't really need.

Shoe store in Liliw, Laguna

Shoe store in Liliw, Laguna

Before shoe shopping though, we had lunch first at Chef Mau Restaurant. It's always a good idea to shop with a full stomach anyway-- it lessens impulsiveness. The restaurant was also in Liliw, along the highway before you reach the shoe shops. Chef Mau Restaurant was right up my alley-- good food, priced right (or even on the cheap side as servings are more than enough, and quality and taste are both grade A). I never really thought that there was such a place in Liliw. 

The facade and interiors though were very provincial. We went there right before Valentine's Day and there were heart cutouts pasted all over the place. In this case you shouldn't really judge a book by its cover. 

They said their bestsellers are the Chicken Cordon Blue and Eggplant Roll, but the Laing, Pako Salad and Crispy Pata were my top picks. 
Pako Salad from Chef Mau Restaurant, Liliw,, Laguna

Laing from Chef Mau Restaurant, Liliw, Laguna

Grilled Pork Spare Ribs from Chef Mau Restaurant, Liliw, Laguna

Sisig from Chef Mau Restaurant, Liliw, Laguna

Chicken Cordon Blue from Chef Mau Restaurant, Liliw, Laguna

Fifth stop: San Pablo, Laguna 

And for the last stop-- San Pablo. We also stayed there for the night and rented a villa in Sitio de Amor-- really nice place. You can get rooms or villas from P3,000+, which has breakfast included already. 
One of the Villas in Sitio de Amor

An open villa where you can hang out in during the day, or night

It was much colder in San Pablo compared to the other places we visited, because of the seven lakes all over the city. The next day, we toured the city, and went to the second largest lake and ate lunch in one of the restaurants alongside the road surrounding it. Once again, we chanced upon a good place to eat at called Cafe Lago. There was also a ginormous friendly good-looking dog in this restaurant. 
One of the seven lakes of San Pablo

At around 3PM, we were all set to go back to the metro. We got in our respective houses by 6pm.

What made this trip special was that we didn't even have to spend a lot. But still was able to discover new places and spend time together. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Siargao Travel Tips

Now is the best time to go to Siargao. Well, actually it is from March to September according to locals. There is less or no rain on these months. I went there on a January and downpour was on and off. Anyway, I'm saying you visit Siargao now since it's paradise there-- it still is. Unlike Boracay, there is no loud mainstream music and it is not crowded. The place is very accommodating and charming. And of course, really beautiful. But it might not be long before tourists begin flocking to the place. 

So, quick! Plan your Siargao trip now. I am already planning our third visit there. 


Airfare is expensive compared to other Philippine destinations. There is no one way ticket yet. You have to fly to Cebu first then to Siargao. Cebu Pacific Air is best for this destination--this is the only carrier that offers connecting flights to Siargao. Plan your trip months in advance to catch a fare promo. I got our tickets at P7,000+ (130 USD), while it can go as high as P20,000 per person.

Skyjet is now offering direct flights to Siargao. Round trip airfare is at P6,000+ (~120 USD).


Depending on your budget, there are a lot of nice resorts in Siargao. We stayed in three resorts already, which I booked via Isla Cabana, Sandy Feet and Ocean 101. All are located beach front. Sandy feet is our favorite: cottages are big and modern, yet very homey. The owner, Sandy, is really sweet and caring. Sandy Feet's rate per night is P5,000+ (~100 USD), with daily breakfast.

Sandy Feet Resort cottage
Our cottage in Sandy Feet
There are only four cottages in Sandy Feet.
If you are looking for a peaceful and quiet vacation house, this is the best.

Inside the cottage for 2 pax
The comfortable King size bed of Sandy Feet 

Very nice bathroom.
It also has an outside shower connected to this bathroom to wash off sand from your body.

I love how all the details in Sandy Feet was thought of.
The orchid is real! 

For our second stay, we got the family cottage (the smaller cottages are booked already).
This is the massive kitchen. 
Details, details, details.

Breakfast is served daily. Oh, I love the food in Sandy Feet.
They always serve more than enough.

Sunrise from Sandy Feet

Sunset at Sandy Feet

Isla Cabana has a nicer location as it has a clean beach with still waters. 

Location though doesn't really matter much because the resorts are not walking distance from each other. Like if you want to try the pasta in Kermit, you have to ride a habal- habal. Or better, ride your own rented motorcycle. Same if you are going to Cloud 9. 

Cottages are at P5,000+ (~100 USD) with free buffet breakfast. 

Beachfront of Isla Cabana

Ocean 101 is pocket friendly, but still okay. Facilities are very basic. You got a comfortable bed, two thin pillows and blanket, and functioning dated television. Only problem we encountered in our room was the mosquitos. We had to use katol and we ended up smelling like barbecue. We got the honeymoon suite-- P2,500 (50 USD) per night. There are other cheaper options. I suggest the beachfront aircon cottages. 

The front of Ocean 101 is rocky and has big waves. And one may already surf a few meters from the resort. The surfing spot is called Jacking Horse.
Front of Ocean 101
Ocean 101
Ocean 101's restaurant has a variety of options-- Filipino, Mexican, Italian, American, and Thai foods. One order is most of the time enough for two people. It's also nice to hang out in the restaurant, relax and watch the sea. 
Ocean 101 restaurant at night

What to do in Siargao:

Rent a motorcycle

Riding in style
This is a must to easily go around the island and to really appreciate the place. If you don't know how to drive an automatic motorcycle, then better learn before going to Siargao. It's very easy! The locals would probably push for a P500 (~10 USD) per day at first. But it should only be P350 (~7 USD) per day. 

Selfie on the motorcycle


Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines-- therefore, surf! Go to Cloud 9 and look for an instructor there, or just ask in the place you are staying at. Or reach this guy Jonard at 0912 161 9770. Also ask for his friend Ken. Both young local surfers are really good and fun to be with. They compete in surfing tournaments. 

Ken, my husband Paulo, and Jonard

Surf boards in Cloud 9

Cloud 9

Even if you are not planning to surf, but you should, you should visit this place. It has a 3-floor tower where you can go watch the surfers.

Surfers in Cloud 9

Where to watch the surfers

You can also paddle board in Cloud 9

Sugba Lagoon Day Tour

I booked our tour here via My Siargao Guide We paid P2,000 (~40 USD) per person for a whole day trip and it covers everything-- transportation; lunch; usage of snorkels, and paddle board; cottage and entrance fees, etc. All you need to do is book with them at least a day before and drop your 50% down payment in Bravo Resort. 

The tour will start 10:50am and end at about 5pm. What I like about this tour is that I don't have to think of the details anymore. I just have to show up. Plus, it is away from the normal tourist destinations. 

Lots of mangroves on way to Sugba Lagoon

Sugba Lagoon

There is a diving board in Sugba Lagoon. Not too high-- 10 feet maybe.

Sugba Lagoon

Paddle boarding in Sugba Lagoon

They say there are stingless jelly fishes in Sugba Lagoon too.
But when we went it was mating season so they migrated.

Where we ate at Sugba Lagoon

Our group while hanging out in Sugba Lagoon

Sugba Lagoon shed

Sohoton Cave

This is something I don't recommend. Nothing special about the cave. It's just an entrance to a lagoon and the guides have prepared stories to tell about the rock formations. Tour also start early (around 5:30am) as the cave is three hours away. There will be some stops-- pay fees, visit smaller less popular lagoons or lakes-- before you do the actual Sohoton cave tour. You have to transfer to a smaller boat to be able to pass the cave. During our visit, we waited an hour for our turn-- so not worth it!

Sunrise in boulevard. The best thing about waking up early is seeing the sunrise.

Sohoton Cave tour

Photo with our bangkero

Stingless Jellyfish

Yes yes yes, you should check these creatures out. It was really an experience. Imagine swimming with jelly fishes. Well, I got scared, but they really won't sting. 
Swimming with the stingless jellyfishes in Siargao

Stingless jellyfish

Tiniktikan Lake

Tiniktikan Lake is part of the Sohoton Cave tour. Only thing I like in this stop is this plank. Maybe it's 20 feet high. 

About to jump in Tiniktikan Lake

Tiniktikan Lake

Island hopping 

There are three islands to visit: Naked, Daku and Guyam Islands. I decided to just book our own boat rather than with a tour guide. It will be cheaper than to pay per person, since there are five adults in our group. Boat should only cost P1,500 (~30 USD). 

For lunch, I bought one whole  Mahi-Mahi fish at P270, half a kilo of liempo, and packed rice from our hotel. We had lunch in Daku Island and paid the locals a P400 cooking fee. Just be sure to be in the boulevard early morning, 6am, to get fresh meat. 

First stop is Naked Island. A small island with no trees. The water is really nice but we didn't stay long. There's no shade to stay on anyway. 

Naked Island

Naked Island

Traveling with the family is the best. 

Next stop is Daku Island. Since this is the best island, we stayed here for about three hours. Also, because this is where you will eat lunch. Tell your bangkero to book a cottage for you in advance. When we got there the nicer cottages were already reserved.

Daku Island

Daku Island cottage

Sunset in Daku Island

And then last stop is Guyam Island. I have a different feeling towards this island because a friend got married here. So I will always find this island a special one. 
My husband and I with the beautiful bride.
Love that she used local flowers for the lei. 

The lovely newlyweds

My husband and I in Daku Island, Siargao

My husband and I in Daku Island Siargao

Eat in Mama's Grill

This place is perfect-- affordable freshly grilled pork, chicken and fish. Even the foreigners eat here. Go here early. We went there one time at 7pm, it was very crowded and had to wait more than an hour for our food. 

Mama's Grill signage

Mama's Grill at day time

Other places to eat at are Ocean 101 for those who can't decide what to eat, Kermit for pasta, and Kalinaw for Italian (more on the expensive side).

There are a lot more things that can be done in Siargao like simply enjoy the view and appreciate nature, soak in your resort's beachfront, paddle board, and explore the island on motorcycle. All you need to do is book your flight and accommodation now!