Category Archives: Luzon

Of sandy beaches in a remote resort

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The white expanse of fine sand stretches a good hundreds of meters from the water’s edge. No exaggeration when it comes to the beaches of Cagbalete. At low tide, it stretches too far out that swimming in the clear blue waters of the Pacific will be fruitless. It makes for a lovely lounging spot though.

Still, Cagbalete Island is a great weekend getaway for a quick sun and sand date.

Easily accessible via public commute, buses ply the Mauban route via Lucena or directly from Metro Manila. Our group did the latter going to Mauban since the small buses from Lucena can drop off passengers at the marketplace near the pier. For the trip back to the metro, Manila-bound buses have a terminal right by the entrance to the town proper.

The boat ride to Cagbalete Island lasts between 45 minutes to an hour. The public boats are big enough to ferry around 40 to 50 passengers per way. Two public boats serve each scheduled time:

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Bicol express returns

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The train service to the southern region (from which the famous spicy dish was named after) is back. Chugging and snaking its heavy metal body through a 10- to 11-hour track ride, the Bicol Express makes a formidable competitor to the lazy boy bus rides and the quick plane trips.

Offering three types of service, commuters to Naga City can choose to ride in a reclining seat (Php548.00), a family sleeper (Php665.00) or an executive sleeper (Php998.00). Seeing that it was cheaper than a bus ticket (for the just-concluded CamSur International Marathon weekend), we tried the reclining coach going to Naga and the regular or family cabin on the way back to Manila.

It did not disappoint.

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Lucban’s annual fiesta

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We celebrate festivals in every region and province: to give honor to patron saints, to thank the heavens for a bountiful harvest, and to celebrate legends and folklore. One of the Philippines’ famous and most colorful celebrations is the Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon. Staged every 15th of May, this year’s festivities fell on a weekend.

A huge tourist crowd was expected to attend the Pahiyas. Every year, the local government changes the route to give the houses their chance to decorate with fruits, vegetables, palay and kiping. The kiping is a leaf-shaped wafer made of rice paste and dyed in bright colors. On the eve of May 15, most houses have already been decorated. It is a good time to see the beautifully lighted decors and to stroll along the night markets. In the morning, the image of their patron, San Isidro, will pass along this route in a procession along with the judges who survey the annual entries onboard SUVs.

To get to Lucban, you can either take the route via Lucena or via Sta. Cruz and Luisiana in Laguna. We took the latter route as it is faster and at the same time to avoid the weekend crowd.

Calaguas and its long beach

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view of Halabang Baybay atop a hill we braved

I first heard about the Calaguas Group of Islands from my Dad while he was sharing stories on how he heard it was really beautiful, who owns which island and which one’s for sale. Ironically though, I only read extensively about this gem of a spot from a non-Bicolano: in Lakwatsero’s site. Even awesome friend Gala Pinoy, who has had an article on the islands published in a major broadsheet, has been to this northern paradise years ahead.

Chances are, by now, you’ve been reading a lot of online entries writing nothing but ooohs and aaahs for the most famous beach in the Calaguas. Indeed, Halabang Baybay (as the locals call it) or Mahabang Buhangin has a very long stretch of fine golden white sand, aquamarine waters and interesting rock formations. Located in Barangay Mangcawayan, under the jurisdiction of the town of Vinzons, the beach is a piece of heaven for wanderers wanting a weekend of communing with the barest Mother Nature has to offer. Beach bummers, sun worshippers and stargazers will fall in love with the Calaguas.

Fast becoming a tourist spot, Mahabang Buhangin is now called the Boracay of the North (sorry Pagudpod). Well, at least they say it is going to be the next Boracay.

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Bagasbas beach and breakers

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Bagasbas Beach

Unknown except to Bicolanos since the 2008 Bagasbas Surf Camp, the beach is quickly gaining attention in the tourism and surfing circles.

Bagasbas Beach has a 2-km long and wide expanse of very fine black sand. It provides an alternative to the waves of Aurora and Zambales, with its year-round big breakers rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. The soft sands and shallow waters counter the strong waves making surfing in Bagasbas ideal for those wanting to test their luck (and, not to mention, “staying power”) in the water action.

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Anawangin and the almost-wilderness

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Scenery at the back of the cove

Again, Lady Luck was on our side.

In our first pathetic attempt at a spur-of-the-moment getaway, my officemates and I brought our beach denizen arses to Pundaquit in Zambales last April 9 and 10. Our chosen spot for the long weekend used to be the mountaineering community’s hideaway. Until about five years ago, the Anawangin Cove was an unspoilt weekend destination for campers.

I have heard so much about this place and have wanted to visit it many years back. The words camping, wilderness, remote and no electricity set off each group of friends I invited.

The beach of the cove is quite interesting as it is a mix of white, brown and grey sand which gives it an ash-like appearance and texture. Another surprising feature of the cove are the agoho trees that line the beach, dot the camping grounds and grow by the banks of the stream at the back. The absence of electricity and even mobile network coverage makes it appealing for those seeking remoteness.

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My first time

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Much has been heard and written about Binondo’s good food and cheap finds.

So I won’t go into that. Besides, I’m too lazy and I don’t consider myself a foodie nor a shopping junkie. :D

The second leg of Rediscovering Manila brought our wandering feet to the historical (cultural? ancient?) and (oh my) despondent streets of Binondo’s Chinatown. Last weekend’s rendezvous presented a lot of firsts for me:

1. (well, obviously) I’ve been in that side of Manila;
2. I crossed a big concrete bridge on foot (Jones Bridge);
3. I ate near an estero, and;
4. I realized, how lucky I am to have superb friends who are crazy enough to put up with me, my whims and my plans. :D

Cooling down

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Once called the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City has lost some of its legacy to the likes of Boracay, Cebu and CamSur. But with the impending heat of the summer season two months from now, the city still offers a welcome respite with its beautiful American country charm.