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Saturday, July 16, 2016

We woke up just a short moment after the morning sunshine began piercing the clouds. We had quick breakfast ad immediately prepared for the arrival of our guide.
The Journey
We left the city proper and took the main road. We made a brief stop to rent aqua shoes and snorkels (Php250 per person) and then proceeded to the wharf. We were informed by our guide that our boat has not yet arrived, as such, we would have to wait for some time.
Honda Bay
We were to visit three islands in Honda Bay, namely Starfish Island, Luli Island and Cowrie Island. Honda Bay is one of the numerous bays in the Philippines (Wikipedia). It is situated in the mid-eastern shore of Puerto Princesa City (Go Palawan Travel) and is home to several islands that are popular snorkeling and diving destinations.
The Boat Ride
From the wharf, there are numerous motorized bancas that take tourists to the islands. These are manned by a boatman and 2 assistants who also serve as lifeguards.
When we were already on our boat, we were given a quick briefing by our guide on what to expect from the tour, the activities that we can do and a little trivia about the islands that we will visit. We journeyed through the deep blue waters of Honda Bay for 45 minutes until we reached our first destination.
Starfish Island
As our boat slowly approached the island, we couldn't help but admire the crystal clear waters that surround the area. Our guide told us that the island serves as home to the biggest population of starfish in all of Palawan, thus, the name.
Starfish Island is dotted with numerous cottages. The sand is white but if you are expecting it to be as fine as Boracay sand, prepare to be disappointed because it was a little coarse. There was not really much to see around the area. Tourists can only swim on one side of the island because the other side is lined with a strip of mangrove clusters.
The sand was white but a bit coarse
Our guide said that we can already snorkel and explore the island, and then just go back to our cottage by lunchtime. We wasted no time and did as we were told.
We said hello to two starfishes. No animals were harmed in this photo.
By lunchtime, a buffet of seafood, grilled pork belly and vegetables greeted us. The food, though simple everyday fare, was good and did not disappoint both in quality and in quantity.
Luli Island
From Starfish Island, we proceeded to Luli Island. From afar, it looked like a long strip of land with a sandbar. The name of the island, according to our guide, is the condensed form of "lulubog-lilitaw" or, roughly translated in English, sinking and rising. This is because the whole island is totally submerged in water during high tide and emerges during low tide.
Not much to do here also but snorkel. We brought with us pieces of bread for fish feeding. Prepare to be swarmed by fishes once you start to put pieces in the water.
Luli Island from afar

Colorful flaglets line the beach
Cowrie Island
Our last stop for the day was Cowrie Island. It got its name from marine snails called cowrie that live around the waters surrounding the island.
Cowrie Island bustling with activity

Among the three islands, this is the most developed. It has cabanas, an activity center with a store and a spa area. Banana boat and flying fish rides are also offered here. We were a bit exhausted by the heat so we just decided to stroll around the island.
The massage area for those who want an hour of relaxation
Sand castle. You can have your photo taken here for a minimal fee.
The farewell
We bade goodbye to Cowrie Island shortly after 4 pm. While the islands were undoubtedly beautiful, I had mixed feelings about the tour. Because of the big crowd, it felt just like any other commercialized outings. I was just craving to see and experience something beyond the ordinary, something that would leave me breathless and in awe. Maybe in El Nido in the near future. Still, it was a fine day, a well-spent one. It was another happy memory for keeps.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We woke up early on our second day in Puerto Princesa. Our lack of sleep did not douse our spirits. After all, we were off to see one of the most iconic landmarks of Palawan; the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. Commonly known as the Puerto Princesa Underground river, this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts hundreds of tourists all-year round. In 2012, it was included in the New Seven Wonders of Nature
After our quick breakfast, a van from Maysons Travel and Tours picked us up. Our tour guide briefed us on what to expect from this tour. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

When I was recently searching for inspirational quotes about travel, I found two lines that perfectly encapsulate how I am as a traveler. One is by Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish essayist, novelist and poet, which goes, “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” The other is by English stage and cinema actor Sir Richard Burton who said that “The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.”

I am not a savvy traveler and I am not good in making itineraries. I do not know how to book a plane ticket, and I often miss out on some details of our outings. My wife takes care of most of the arrangements while my camera and trusted phone help me with documentation. I travel for the sake of wandering; I draw happiness out of being in motion.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A few months ago, we decided to celebrate our team’s success at Holiday Inn Makati, one of the newest additions to the roster of trendy hotels in Makati. We booked a function room with buffet dinner via a Deal Grocer promo.

Food was great-tasting, flavorful unlike other similar hotel dishes. Servings were also big and could absolutely satisfy even huge appetites. It was definitely worth every peso. We particularly enjoyed the roast beef, roast mixed vegetables and lechon kawali. They also served a good selection of fruits and pastries for dessert, as well as unlimited brewed coffee to pair with the sweets.  

Pumpkin soup

Friday, March 25, 2016

On 10:02:00 AM by Ivan Jose in , , , ,    No comments

On our way back to Manila from our Caliraya trip, we made a quick stopover at Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Calauan, Laguna. I was surprised to find out that there is one such restaurant in Laguna; I once thought that Isdaan only had a single branch located in Gerona, Tarlac.

On 12:19:00 AM by Ivan Jose in , , , ,    No comments

Caliraya Resort Club, Inc.
The province of Laguna, merely 2 hours away from Manila, is home to many private resorts and attractions. With its proximity to the Metro, it's no surprise that it's a favorite weekend destination for many families and groups of friends alike. One of the more popular resorts in Laguna is Caliraya, an enclave that features a man-made lake, swimming pools and various sports activity areas. It's also a popular spot for team-building activities.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An unplanned Friday night dinner led us to Apag Marangle at Park Square, directly behind SM Makati. I have not previously heard of that name but it definitely sounded Kapampangan.

Plates with banana leaves

We reserved a whole function room and placed our orders in advance. The restaurant's interiors are adorned with native materials, reminiscent of a plush provincial home.

After the utensils were set, rice was brought in served in calderos (metal pots) while the rest of the dishes were served in either clay pots or porcelain bowls. We ordered ribs adobo, fried native chicken, grilled tilapia, sinigang na cream dory, pork sisig and balut sisig. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Enchanted Kingdom
A sudden change of plans for our family weekend travel led us to Enchanted Kingdom in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. EK, as the theme park is popularly known, is arguably the most popular of its kind in the Philippines. It was my first time to visit, so I was quiet excited.

Blogapalooza 2015
Some months ago, I had the honor of attending Blogapalooza, probably one of the largest gatherings of bloggers and businesses. When I expressed my intent to attend, I was not really sure whether the organizers would accept me. For one, I was not really a prolific blogger. More than anything, I blog as a hobby, not as a business. Thus, when I was accepted to join, I was more than excited because it was an opportunity to learn something new, have fun and, possibly, meet fellow bloggers. The gathering was held at One Esplanade, a well-known event venue inside the Mall of Asia complex. It was held on a Sunday, which was good because traffic was not heavy.


Yielding to the behest of our intense craving for chicken isaw (barbecued intestines), we decided to have dinner at Charaptor one late Friday evening. A trip to UP for isaw would have provided a welcome change in atmosphere but it was unrealistic because of the Edsa traffic. Plus, of course, we wanted to try a buffet restaurant specializing in grilled goodies.

Monday, February 22, 2016

For the past two years, I have been an avid contributor of food and restaurant reviews as well as food photos in Zomato. What was initially a hobby and a creative outlet slowly turned out to be a passion. Aside from my love for writing, one factor that kept me contributing articles in Zomato was my belief in its growth potential, which I would want to be part of. 

For those who are not yet in-the-know, Zomato is a restaurant search and discovery application, providing in-depth information of over 1.4 million restaurants across 23 countries. In the Philippines, Zomato contains in-depth information for over 16,000 restaurants across Metro Manila, Antipolo, Tagaytay, Laguna, and Cebu.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

For those wanting a quick respite from the congestion, pollution and fast-paced life in the metro, Tagaytay is the destination to go. Tagaytay is only about two hours away from Metro Manila but the contrast in ambiance and scenery between the two locations is very striking. The former takes pride in its cool and chilly breeze, a picturesque view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano, exciting eco-tourism activities, beautiful churches and charming restaurants, just to name a few. And for those who love beef, meat is very affordable in Tagaytay’s Mahogany Market. For the last several years, Tagaytay is our go-to place for unplanned family weekends.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ocean Suites

During our visit to Bohol, we stayed at Ocean Suites, one of the more popular boutique hotels in Tagbilaran City. We booked a 3-day, 2-night stay via DealGrocer and paid Php7,000, with savings of Php1,000. We chose a Standard Room, located at the basement. It was a standard room with a queen-sized bed, a mini-bar, 24-inch LCD screen and a personal refrigerator. Standard bath amenities and toiletries were also included in the package. The room features a floor-to-ceiling glass door that opens up to an infinity pool.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Love Bohol Beach Club

A lazy day at the beach and a visit to the Bohol Bee Farm comprised our itinerary for our second day. We were to travel to Panglao to visit one of its famous beaches but before proceeding, we had a brief photo session at the blood compact (Sandugo) shrine. Here, life-size bronze statues of Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna, Bohol’s chieftain, stand to depict the blood compact between the two leaders. The blood compact ritual sealed the friendship between Boholanos and the Spaniards. 

When I was young, our grandparents would tell us that how we usher in the New Year would define how the rest of our year would turn out. So for 2016, we welcomed it with a weekend escapade in beautiful Bohol with the hope of many weekends of fun, adventure and traveling. It was also my first time in Bohol so I hope 2016 would also be a year of many firsts.

The flight to the City of Friendship

We booked an early morning flight via AirAsia. It was our first time to use this carrier, so we were praying hard for a smooth and problem-free flight. Notwithstanding the cramped legroom of the seats, it was a smooth flight with no delay. We left NAIA Terminal 4 at exactly 7:25 AM and arrived in Tagbilaran City Airport at 8:15 AM. The hotel driver from Ocean Suites, our accommodation in Bohol, was already at the airport waiting to fetch us.


Friday, January 1, 2016

On 7:24:00 AM by Ivan Jose in , , , ,    No comments
No out of town trip is complete without finding the best deals in pasalubong. We asked Kuya Boyet to take us around town to hunt for stores that offer the most affordable trinkets and souvenirs for our friends and family.

Here is a list of the stores where we found the best deals in Baler:

1.     LRT Store

Location: Quezon St, Baler, Aurora

We loved their affordable shirts and key chains. They also have an extensive collection of ballers, ref magnets, local alcoholic beverages, spiced vinegar and coffee.

Key Chains

Thursday, December 31, 2015

When in Baler, you can never run out of places to eat. There are numerous food stalls in the town proper as well as restaurants offering a good variety of flavorful dishes and price points that fit one's budget. Another thing that we love most about Baler was that food in most restaurants were affordable and of good quality.

Here’s a rundown of the best places to eat in Baler:

1.       Yolly’s

Location: Poblacion

We stopped by here for lunch. Yolly’s offers native dishes such as adobo, pakbet, pork and maya-maya sinigang, Bicol express and menudo, to name a few. They also offer grilled dishes like squids, crabs, shrimps and liempo. Food is around Php60 to Php150 per serving.

Yolly's also sells spiced vinegar 

Probably the highlight of our stay at Costa Pacifica was our buffet breakfast at The Beach House. As with our previous hotel breakfasts, we looked forward to this one, excited to taste the flavors Costa Pacifica had to offer. When we arrived for breakfast, we were not disappointed to see the huge spread with piles of crispy bacon as the centerpiece. 

We skipped appetizers and proceeded to mains. I filled half of my plate with strips of crunchy bacon, then got two scoops of garlic rice. I also got several spoonfuls of creamy scrambled egg, slices of Hungarian sausage and corned beef.


Too lazy to go downtown for dinner, we decided to try The Beach House, Costa Pacific’s signature restaurant. The restaurant was very roomy, with an open entrance and high ceiling. 

Globes of light hanging from the ceiling
Orbs of light hung from the ceiling, like glowing bubbles illuminating the entire space. Surprisingly, the restaurant was not air-conditioned although the large sliding glass walls were open, letting the sea breeze in. Despite the humid air, the sound of the waves from Sabang Beach provided a touch of allure and romance to our meal.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Casitas Bed and Breakfast
When I was searching for an overnight accommodation in Baler, Casitas Bed and Breakfast caught our fancy amidst the multitude of home stays, inns and transient houses because of its limited occupancy (which means no overcrowding), well-designed rooms and affordable room rate that is already inclusive of buffet breakfast at its sister establishment, Bay's Inn. Booking was a breeze because their staff was very accommodating and easy-to-talk-to, considering that we inquired four days before we went to Baler and booked a day before our trip.