Countdown to New Year 2015 in Metro Manila

So you decided to spend your New Year 2015 in Metro Manila? Are you looking for some new and exciting ways to celebrate the New Year?

I’ve compiled here some of the best place in Metro Manila to welcome the New Year 2015! Choose from the different events and parties happening all-over the metro.

Resorts World Manila: Star-Studded New Year Countdown

5 pm onwards, December 31, 2014
The Plaza – 2F Newport Mall
Check for more info:
https://www.facebook.com/rwmanila
http://www.rwmanila.com/events/star-studded-new-year-countdown

Resorts World Manila New Year 2015

Philippine Arena: Chris Brown New Year’s Eve Concert

Well, this one is on in Metro Manila but the event is so big that I have to include it in this list. I’ve been thinking of going here for the 2015 New Year Countdown not only to see R&B superstar and Grammy Award-winning artist Chris Brown but also to get inside the world’s largest indoor arena – the Philippine Arena. There are also a bunch of well-known Philippine artist who’ll be joining Chris Brown.

Chris Brown Philippine Arena New Year Countdown

Philippine Arena New year countdown 2015

Here are the ticket prices for the Chris Brown New Year’s Concert:
Patron – Php 3605
Lower Box A – Php 3300
Lower Box B – Php 2165
Upper Box – Php 1340
Gen-Adm – Php 725

It’s actually a 2-day event so this one is one big party!

Buy your tickets here: http://www.ticketnet.com.ph/

Solaire Resort: Countdown to New Year

Solaire Resort and Casino is a beautiful place that I visited this year (check the previous post here) and for they’re giving away Apple iPad Air, Apple Macbook Pro, P250,000 and a brand new Toyota Fortuner for their New Year 2015 event.
They also have other events in their Eclipse Lounge and Oasis Cafe. Check the details below:

Eastwood-Quezon City New Year 2015 Countdown

The New Year Countdown in Eastwood City is one of the most anticipated annual events in the metro. This year’s celebration would be led by Sarah Geronimo. The other artists set to perform are: James Reid, Nadine Lustre, Pupil, Sandwich, Top Suzara, Jinky Vidal, DJ Ace Ramos, Anja Agular, Jason Farol, Donnalyn Bartolome, Shehyee and hosted by MTV Pinoy VJs Yassi, Chris & Kito

Be sure to be at the Eastwood Mall Open Park before 6PM so you could find a good spot.

Sarah Geronimo performs at 8:00PM. Experience the Grand Fireworks Display and Dazzling Stardrop at 12MN.

Quezon Memorial Circle: Happy sa 2015

TV5 and Quezon City government teamed-up to bring one of the grandest New Year Countdown in the Philippines. The highlight of the event is the world class fireworks display and the 3D mapping show.

Check for more info:
https://www.facebook.com/TV5manila
TV New Year 2015 countdown at QC Circle

The Bayleaf Intramuros: New Year’s Eve Penthouse and Roof Deck Party

Welcome the New Year right at the heart of Old Manila. The Bayleaf Intramuros provides a panoramic view of the Manila Bay sunset and Manila’s skyline. Imagine watching the city light up with fireworks on New Year’s Eve from their roofdeck. Inquire at +63 2 3185000  (or +63 2 3283170)

Check for more info:
https://www.facebook.com/thebayleafintramuros

Bayleaf Intramuros Roofdeck New Year Eve PartySM Mall of Asia: GMA7 Countdown to 2015

Join GMA 7 New Year Countdown on December 31, 10pm onwards at the Seaside Boulevard at the SM Mall of Asia. Welcome 2015 with the grandest shows, biggest stars from GMA 7, and one awesome celebration.

Check for more info:
https://www.facebook.com/smmallofasia

GMA Countdown to 2015Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila Hotel: New Year’s Eve Dinner at Spiral

Give your palates a taste of the world and let your imaginations run wild as sumptuous international dishes are served in a first-class interactive dining setting that is uniquely Spiral – the best buffet restaurant in Manila by Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

Spiral’s 21 dining ateliers present a New Year’s Eve feast of holiday offerings from around the world, seasonal delicacies and Champagne to toast to 2015. Featured string quartet serenades guests with classic and modern musical rendtitions in this magnifique dining experience.

Php 5,450+++ per person from 7pm to 11pm

Rates are subject to 10% service charge and 12.825% government tax

Sulong Manila 2015 New Year Countdown

Manila Bay skies will burst with magical colors through a grand display of laser lights and massive fireworks playing to well-loved Christmas songs.

A similarly colorful pre-event activity at the Rajah Soliman Plaza, Malate, will usher in the Sulong Manila 2015 Countdown from Dec. 24 to 30.

Audiences will have the chance to savor the magic of Christmas by way of a 3-D video mapping projection skit that will bring life to buildings around the area. The 10-minute showcase will feature one family’s inspiring Christmas story.

Manila New Year 2015 Countdown

SKYE New Year’s Eve Party

Privé New Year’s Eve Ball

Hyve New Year’s Countdown

Valkyrie New Year’s Eve Ball

 

Countdown to 2015 at the Deck at Vask

Imprerial Ice Bar: NYE 2015

Banner image by christmasstockimages.com

10 Reasons Why I’ll be Coming Back to Tune Hotels

Lately, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Tune Hotels popping up. I always wanted to try staying in one since I’ve heard good reviews about it.

The opportunity came when I needed a place to stay for an early morning exam. I live in the north of Metro Manila and the exam would be in Heritage Hotel which is in the south. Since I don’t want to be late and be stressed out by the traffic, I booked a room in Tune Hotels Aseana City.

Tune Hotels Aseana 24

Tune Hotels Aseana was just opened I think a month before I checked-in on September 2014. I really enjoyed my stay and when there’s a Tune Hotel on my next destination it would be on top of my list. And the following 10 are the ones why you should consider it too.

1. ‘Pay As You Use’ System

The unique thing about Tune Hotels is they give you the freedom to choose the services or amenities that you would like to avail.
The basic room would be with just a regular fan room. You can choose whether to have avail of air conditioning, wifi, towels and toiletries. I availed of the Cozy Package which gives a huge discount compared to getting the add-ons individually.

tune hotels addons
Tune Hotels Add-ons

There are also extra charges for early check-in, late check-out and luggage storage. The early check-in and late check-out bloated my fees incredibly but I needed it so I just added these extras with my eyes closed.

I encountered a problem though with this set-up. I availed of the early check-in so I arrived there about 11am. I also availed of the late check-out so my check-out time is 2pm. When I went to my room after the exam at 12nn, the TV is no longer working. I guess the 24 hours was already consumed since I think their timer started at 11am. Although, I opted for the late check-out it doesn’t necessarily mean that the add-ons would be extended too. Too bad because it’s supposed to be my time to relax and watch TV after the exam. This is something to keep in mind when availing of the add-ons.

2. Electronic Key Card

Tune Hotels Aseana 25
Control Panel inside the room

An electronic key card is something you don’t find in budget hotels. Tune Hotels really take it up a notch by using this technology. It is easier to store than keys. You don’t need to take it out of your wallet to use it. All you need to do is to tap it on to the sensor to enter your room. You also use this to turn the electricity on your room.

Tune Hotels Aseana 17
Key card Sensor at the door
Tune Hotels Aseana 18
Just tap your key card to open the door

I had a hard time using it in elevators though since you also need the key card to use the elevator. I was kinda ‘trapped’ in the elevator with an old lady since we’re having difficulty on how to properly use it. It didn’t register the floor that we wanted to go to even though we’re tapping and pressing the buttons like crazy. Luckily, one helpful staff noticed our predicament (going up and down several times without reaching our desired floor) and showed us how to do it properly. Apparently, you have to tap and press the button of your desired floor at the same time and NOT tap then press since a delay of a few microseconds then it would no longer recognize the number that you pressed LOL.

3. Super Comfortable Bed

Tune Hotels boasts of their 5 star beds. Indeed, it was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on. If only I don’t have to review for the exam, I’d be sleeping like a baby all day on this super comfortable bed and oh so fluffy pillows.

Tune Hotels Aseana 27
The comfy bed
Tune Hotels Aseana 28
Bed with a big mirror headboard

4. Power Shower

Another thing that I really enjoyed is the power shower. All rooms have ensuite private bathrooms with heated power shower. You don’t need to pay extra.

Tune Hotels Aseana 7
Power Shower
Tune Hotels Aseana 8
Power shower with the soap and shampoo holder

Here’s what the bathroom looks like:

Tune Hotels Aseana 26
The bathroom. Please note that the door is glass frosted door.
Tune Hotels Aseana 3
The sink
Tune Hotels Aseana 4
The toilet with bidet sprayer

Tune Hotels Aseana 5

Tune Hotels Aseana 6

5. Large Windows

Every floor has large windows with a good view of the city.

Tune Hotels Aseana 10

Tune Hotels Aseana 21

Each room also has a window which is useful if you won’t be avail of the air conditioning. There’s nothing spectacular about the view from the room since all you’ll see is the the neighboring building on one side and some old buildings near Baclaran on the other side.

6. Safety Deposit Box

Every room has their own safe where you can store your valuables. Again, such a nice touch for a budget hotel.
Tune Hotels Aseana 19

7. Hassle-free Booking and Loyalty Points

Booking for a room is easy. Just go to their website http://www.tunehotels.com/ph/en/ and reserve a room like booking for a flight. It is also here that you’ll select the add-ons for your room.

***Update*** I did some additional research and I found out that you can get huge discounts from Agoda. I was able to book a room at 50% discount. Go to Agoda website, just click here and you might be able to steal a bargain too.

If you decided to just walk-in without booking in advance, you’ll have to book using the computers in the lobby.

From what I know, the rate starts at P888 per night. Please note though that there are additional charges: 10% service charge and 12% VAT.

tune hotels room features
Check thoroughly the available features

They are also part of the AirAsia Big Loyalty Programme which give you points for every. The points can be redeemed for free flights or rooms. Just make sure to file a claim for the points to be credited to your account within 30 days. This is what happened to me the 30 day period expired and sadly, I didn’t get any points.

8. Friendly Staffs

The moment I entered the hotel, I was greeted and assisted by their courteous and friendly staffs. The receptionists assisted me for my late check-in and provided me the electronic key card and wifi access. They also wished me luck for my exam the next day.

Tune Hotels Aseana 23
Tune Hotels Aseana lobby

The staffs are well-trained and always have a smile on their face.

9. Accessibility

All Tune Hotels that I know are accessible to malls, airports, tourist attractions and business centers
Tune Hotels Aseana is just a few steps away from Jollibee, 7-Eleven and S&R. There are no shops yet on the ground floor when I stayed there but I saw some available spaces for lease.

Tune Hotels Aseana 13
Tune Hotels Aseana near S&R
Tune Hotels Aseana 15
Tune Hotels Aseana near City of Dreams Manila

10. Parking

If you’ll be bringing a car, there’s a parking at the 2nd floor of the Tune Hotels Aseana City for their guests.

I didn’t know that they have a parking since I didn’t see any in their picture gallery. I just found out about it when the elevator opened at the 2nd floor.

These are the reasons why I’ll be checking-in again to Tune Hotels. They had set the standard high for budget hotels in the Philippines which would only make things better for us travelers and the whole tourism industry.

Here are some more pics of the room and hallway:

Tune Hotels Aseana 1

Tune Hotels Aseana 2

Tune Hotels Aseana 9

Tune Hotels Aseana 11

Tune Hotels Aseana 12

Tune Hotels Aseana 14

Tune Hotels Aseana 16

Tune Hotels Aseana 20

Have you stayed at one of the Tune Hotels in the country? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments.

Catch Jason Mraz Live in Manila 2014. Possibly, Get Free Tickets Too!

Looking for a more fun way to use that 13 month pay? Why not treat yourself to a Jason Mraz concert? But if you’re lucky, you might be able to keep that shopping money by winning free tickets from the contests I found. Read on to find out how.

Jason Mraz, an award winning singer and songwriter, would be doing a concert on November 27, 2014 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Jason Mraz Manila concert 2014

Jason Mraz is an awesome performer. I watched his concert last year. I really loved how he engages and connect with his audience. Jason wanted the crowd to feel as comfortable as he was onstage. He would make jokes and lead chants.
Some of the songs that I like are
Lucky
The Woman I Love
A Beautiful Mess
You and I Both
I Won’t Give Up
I’m Yours

Here are some video clips from last year’s concert so you get an idea on what to expect

You can buy tickets from TicketNet

And I found out that you can win free tickets from

Inquirer

Yahoo

Monster Radio

 

Philstar

So just try to join these contests to catch Jason Mraz live in Manila. I hope you win and have a great time!

Have you watched Jason Mraz concert too before? We’d love to hear about your experience.

Shopping Destinations in Manila

The Philippines is a shopper’s paradise.  Metro Manila alone already teems with numerous shopping places where you can find the best bargains in clothing, accessories, food, housewares, and electronics.  Here are the most noted shopping destinations:

Divisoria – With its proximity to the port area, Divisoria is the convenient dumping ground of all kinds of merchandise from all parts of the world, but mainly from Asian countries. And with lower freight costs, the merchandise can easily be sold at dirt-cheap prices in Divisoria outlets. This cheap items can be found on the stalls and alleys. It can be quite confusing if you’re a noob so it’s best to have a local to guide you through the shopping maze.

Be careful of pickpockets. Don’t bring your valuables. I usually don’t bring my mobile phone when going here. If you are shopping with a group, designate an area where you would meet after an hour or two so you could do your own shopping and not drag everyone with you.

The area has several large buildings, each with several floors of stores.  The best buildings to visit are Tutuban Mall, 168 and 999.  The stores in these buildings feature the latest fashion and technological trends, but be very wary of imitations.  Warning: You must be willing to do a lot of walking between buildings and floors. But the goodies that you can get is worth it.

Nearby is the Lucky Chinatown Mall which features high-end retail outlets and dining establishments.

If you’ll be bringing a car, you can park it in Tutuban Center Mall’s multilevel parking area where you can safely leave your vehicle.

Greenhills Tiangge (AKA Flea Market) – If you don’t fancy doing a lot of walking under the hot sun in Divisoria, then the Greenhills Shopping Center is a better alternative. Greenhills is chock full of all types of shopping goods, albeit slightly higher in price than those in Divisoria. Popular items that you can buy here are clothes, bags, home accessories, jewelries, cellphones and electronics. There is one full floor of electronics outlets waiting to be snapped up. Prices of gadgets will depend on how well you can haggle with the sellers.

SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria, Shangri-la Plaza and Starmall Edsa-Shaw – The Ortigas area, in the middle of Metro Manila, hosts these malls which caters to different budgets. Starmall for cheap finds, SM Megamall and Robinsons Galleria for the midrange budget and Shangrila for upscale shopping.

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Shangri-La Mall #Manila #Philippines #shopping

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Baclaran – Situated near the Redemptorist Church in Paranaque, Baclaran is yet another haven of merchandise ranging from garments to traditional medicine. But you must be prepared to brave the thick hordes of people.  Also watch out for your belongings as petty theft is pretty common here.

SM Mall of Asia (MOA) – Just a jeepney ride away from Baclaran is the 10th largest mall in the world, SM Mall of Asia is made up of shopping and dining establishments including a department store, a hypermarket, theaters, retail outlets and restaurants.  Some restaurants have open-air facilities where you can view the magnificent Manila Bay sunset.  The mall has standard anchor stores found in many other malls in the country.  A main attraction is the IMAX theater with 3D and 2D screenings, as well as several state-of-the-art cinemas.  The mall also houses the first Olympic-sized ice skating rink in the country which is used for ice skating and ice hockey training.  An open-air music hall is used for concerts.

SM Makati, Glorietta and Greenbelt Malls – These malls in Makati are a hodge-podge of contrasting retail outlets, from tiny flea market style stalls to department stores and posh designer shops. Ayala Malls have two large malls here to be explored: Greenbelt and Glorietta. Each mall has its own major sections (Greenbelt 1-5 and Glorietta 1-5).

SM Makati has some renowned global and local brands and is connected to the MRT Ayala station.

These 3 malls are all connected to each other by footbridges so you can easily consume a full day shopping on the many shopping options available.

TriNoma Mall (stands for Triangle North of Manila) – Up north in Quezon City is yet another sprawling mall developed by the Ayala Malls. It carries the same anchor shops that are found in the Glorietta and Greenbelt.  There are four shopping levels which are complemented by alfresco areas featuring mini waterfalls and picturesque landscaping.  It is home to both big-name international stores as well as home-grown ones.

Just across the street is SM North Edsa, the 4th largest mall in the world and the 2nd largest mall in the country. It’s the first mall by SM Group and it solidified the “mall culture” in the country where everything you need is in just one place (supermarket, department store, cinema and restaurants). It is also the largest solar-powered shopping mall in Southeast Asia. This is the mall which I grew up going to with my family so I kind of know all the stores here.

Bonifacio High Street – Across the Makati area is a shopping mall surrounded by residential and office condominiums.  The mall follows an old-town concept where buildings are just two stories high and contain small high-end retail shops. In the center is a park where shoppers can walk their dogs.  There are also coffee shops and restaurants featuring indoor and alfresco dining.

Market Market – Though not as huge as the other malls, Market Market is well-liked because of its mixture of contrasting shops which feature either affordable bargain items or high-end products.  There’s something for everyone in this mall.

Eastwood City– Right on the eastern side of Metro Manila is another shopping mall complex surrounded by tall residential and office buildings. There are several malls in this complex, including Eastwood Mall, Cybermall, and Citiwalk.  Each of them have their own parking spaces.  The complex offers shuttle service for the convenience of shoppers. Some clothing shops and retail outlets in Citiwalk and Cybermall are not found in other areas.  The entire area is pet-friendly.  You can easily access each mall through elevated footbridges.

How about you? Where’s your favorite place to shop in Manila?

Solaire and AirAsia, what are they up to?

Have you heard about the awesome news? Solaire Resort and Casino is partnering with AirAsia!

This is really exciting! Two companies that I admire are joining forces. These companies put emphasis on quality and value to their clients. Before I share with you about their partnership and what’s in it for us, let me share with you first my experience with them.

AirAsia
It was a lot of first for me: my first solo travel, my first in Boracay, my first to fly from Clark Airport and my first to fly with AirAsia. I decided to have a stress free 3 day escapade by myself and book just a week before my travel date. No detailed itinerary! I was anxious on how this trip would go and if I would be able to achieve my goal of a stress free travel.

I was really impressed on how straight forward the booking process of AirAsia and the online check-in is a breeze. No more long lines. The staffs are very friendly and accommodating. I like how elegant and professional their flight attendants. Air Asia didn’t disappoint me. I had a stress free flight. They took good care of me and I felt special eventhough I’m just traveling solo.

Air Asia schedule
Early morning flight
Clark Airport
Clark Airport
Air Asia kalibo
Touch down Kalibo

Solaire Resort and Casino
Solaire has been creating a buzz since it opened. I really wanted to go there. Luckily, my friend invited me to attend the Playboy anniversary last Thursday. What a great excuse to visit Solaire, right?

I’ve been to several casinos in Macau. Solaire’s grand design is what you would expect to see in Macau with an added touch of Filipino hospitality. The warm smiles and welcoming atmosphere won’t make you feel intimidated whether you are there to try your luck, attend an event or just look around.

It’s great to see that we have this amazing place in the Philippines. I would definitely be back to hang around longer, try out some of the restaurants and see the new developments which I think would be finished this year.

Now, let’s go back to see Solaire and Air Asia is up to:

SOLAIRE RESORT AND CASINO UNVEILS ITS NEW PLANE LIVERY

Sky Solaire
#SkySolaire

Solaire Resort and Casino, the Philippines’ premier integrated resort, in partnership with Air Asia unveils a breakthrough branding project in the Philippines.

Solaire again raises the bar as it wraps its brightly colored livery on Air Asia’s popular Airbus A320, which is scheduled to embark on its maiden flight this July. Solaire is the first-ever consumer brand in the country to fully wrap and brand a commercial airline, with an underlying thrust of further promoting tourism in the Philippines and in greater Asia.

This dynamic collaboration between Solaire and Air Asia represents another step forward in an on-going journey towards providing modern travel and leisure experiences for its customers, with a fresh new approach to their target market. This partnership will facilitate more passenger and cargo traffic in both regional and domestic flights, and foster stronger trade, cultural and tourism ties within Asia.

Solaire owner Enrique Razon Jr. and Air Asia Global CEO Tony Fernandes
Solaire owner Enrique Razon Jr. and Air Asia Global CEO Tony Fernandes

“This milestone is a key undertaking between two passionate brands with entrepreneurial and dynamic mindsets. This unprecedented branding project in the Philippines may be taken as a “leadership statement,” which attests to Solaire’s strong growth momentum in the industry. Yes we are again raising the bar; this time we’re taking it to the skies.” says Donato Almeda, Board Director of Solaire Resort and Casino.

 

 

Currently, Solaire’s brand colors are donned by just one airplane, but nothing is stopping them from further rolling out this innovative wrap on additional aircrafts in the future with broader partnership arrangements. The campaign will continue until 2016 and it is envisioned that this high-impact ad in the sky will generate more hype and publicity as the partnership progresses.

Jasper Evangelista, Vice President of Brand & Marketing, Solaire Resort and Casino said, “This aircraft-branding campaign is a strategic branding initiative which would allow us to literally take our brand to greater heights. We have created amazing moments for our customers since Solaire launched last year, and now we’re aiming to further connect with our local & foreign guests and travellers by reinforcing our brand presence in the country’s airports. Sky Solaire will enable us to get immediate traction on this effort and even take it to a level all its own.”

SkySolaire
Solaire Resort and Casino and AirAsia Philippines bring you Philippines’ first corporate-branded commercial aircraft.

In-line with Solaire’s “Create Your Moments” campaign, which highlights Solaire as the perfect place to create unforgettable memories, this fitting partnership with AirAsia, one of Asia’s leading and multi-awarded airlines in their category, harmoniously evokes the key thrusts of customer service, hospitality, and excitement for both their industries. This marketing initiative is also primed to open up new revenue streams for both the integrated resort and the airline carrier.

AirAsia Philippines Chairman Maan Hontiveros said, “AirAsia Philippines is a sociable and innovative brand. We also take pride on our collaborative nature. This new livery demonstrates our creative approach to partnerships and marketing opportunities especially with companies that support our vision to grow tourism. We are thrilled to carry Solaire’s brand in the sky and on the grounds at the airports here and abroad extending to as far as our destinations in Malaysia, China and Korea.”

The Solaire experience is stamped with an unparalleled brand of service style, world-renowned Philippine hospitality, top-of-class luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options and impressive gaming facilities, which have all contributed to the way people people view resort casinos in Manila. Many have opted to extend their stay at the resort, to have simply grown to embrace the aspirational and stress-free lifestyle offered to them at Solaire. Solaire Resort and Casino clearly offers the utmost experience of comfort, elegance and luxury in the Philippines right now.

About Solaire Resort and Casino:

Solaire Resort & Casino, the primary property of Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, is a USD $1.2 Billion integrated destination resort on an 8.3-hectare site in Manila, Philippines opened March 2013. Solaire, a luxury destination casino resort, is the first property to open in the Entertainment City, a government sponsored (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) economic development zone.

Solaire’s Phase 1 features 500 luxurious rooms, suites and bayside villas, 18,500 square meters of gaming space, a wide range of award-winning dining experience and signature restaurants, sophisticated bars and lounges, and an ample multi-level car park. The property has additional 258,721 square meter expansion project under development which is expected to open 3rd quarter of 2014. For more information and reservations, please contact a travel professional or access the website at www.solaireresort.com

I told you it’s an exciting partnership. I’m always excited to see more tourists coming in to visit Manila and have a good time in our capital. I hope this partnership would attract more and more people to discover the Philippines.

See you in Sky Solaire!!!

Mount Pinatubo Trekking – An Unforgettable Experience Inside a Volcano

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking

Are you the type of traveler who loves to hike? With its breath-taking views of a volcanic lake and vast ash fields and lush rivers, Mount Pinatubo can be your next trekking destination. Located almost 90 km north of Manila at the borders of Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac provinces, Mount Pinatubo used to be regarded as a negligible and almost-extinct volcano until it shocked the world with its devastating eruption back in 1991. The impact was felt not only locally but in other parts of the world. In the vicinity and neighboring town, people found their homes and cars all covered with powdery ashes. Billions of crops were also destroyed. The bizarre presence of volcanic ash in the air was felt for many months thereafter. In pictures, it looked as if a bad snowstorm just happened.

But that fateful event also put Mount Pinatubo on the map. Growing consciousness about the volcano attracted many tourists to explore the area more deeply, and it is now one of the most sought-after destinations in the Philippines. With the reward of viewing its picturesque crater after more than two hours of hiking, more and more people are now booking local tours to the area. Swimming and riding the boat is no longer allowed.

Getting There

From Manila, you need to take a bus from the Cubao or Pasay bus terminal (like Genesis Bus or Victory Liner) up to Capas, Tarlac. Get off at McDonald’s Capas which is in front of Caltex gasoline station. Then, take a tricycle to Sta. Juliana and ask the driver to drop you off at Tourism Office.

After paying a small fee and registering with the center, you will receive a briefing. It is also mandatory to hire a tour guide (see the fees below).

For more convenience, you can pre-book a tour where you’ll arrange to be picked up from a Manila location (or even at your hotel) by an air-conditioned van and taken up to the Sta. Juliana tourism office. The pick-up is usually scheduled in the pre-dawn hours of the morning, some as early as 3:00 AM. From the visitor’s center, you will board a 4×4 jeepney to go to the foot of Mt. Pinatubo.

Depending on the arrangements, the tour agency can already facilitate everything for you — the road trip, the guide, and any applicable fees.

The drive from Manila to the visitor’s center is roughly about 3-3.5 hours. From there, the ride on board a 4×4 jeep will reach the foot of the volcano in 1 ½ hours. It will then take another 2 hours of hiking to reach the crater. For more adventure, you can start hiking from the visitor’s center, but that’s about 3 hours or more, not to mention the heat and dustiness along the way.

What to Expect During the Trek

You can either hike all the way from the visitor’s center to the summit, but this will be a very dusty, hot, and dry affair taking about 5 hours to the crater lake. Another option is to hire a 4×4 jeepney to take you most of the way and thus shorten your trek to about 3 hours.

You will drive across Crow Valley, a terrain which resembles the moon’s surface because of its vast lahar deposits.

You will then hike towards the volcano’s summit via a single mountain trail. This takes another 2 hours before you reach the summit. If the skyway is available, it will only take you 30 minutes to reach the top.

Most of the trail is level and easy, with some rocky and sandy parts. But the last 20 minutes of the hike is more challenging as the path gets steeper.

At the summit, you will be rewarded with an awesome view of the crater lake. Colors of the lake vary each season, usually from teal to deep blue. You can hang around, take pictures, eat lunch, and go boating. There’s also a restroom at this point. To some extent and depending on current regulations, you may also be able to swim in the lake.

For the descent, you’ll go through the same route as when ascending. This takes about 2 hours or so. The 4×4 jeeps will be waiting right at the foot of the volcano. It should take another 1 ½ hours from there to the jump-off point / visitor’s area. Showers and restrooms are available there. You can also take meals of home-cooked food.

Depending on the tour, you might also stop by a local eatery or hotel (if you choose to do an overnight trip instead of heading back to Manila). On the trip back to Manila, some tours also have the option to stop by the Capas National Shrine, a memorial to Filipino and American soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Breakfast stop over – Sta. Juliana

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
with the 4×4 Jeep in Crow Valley. This is where the 2-3 hours trek begins.

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
The road to Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Prepare to walk in this kind of landscape. I would recommend hiking shoes. If you’re only using trekking slippers, the sand would get stuck between your skin and slippers and will scrape your skin.

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
You will get wet!

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Long walks.. Best to enjoy the view!

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Sulfur deposits – Sign that you are near your destination.

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
15-20 minute mark. Almost there!

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This magnificent view would welcome you!

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Happy kid!

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Fair warning

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
Water is really refreshing but now I read that they totally prohibit swimming.

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
So tired from hiking up and down

Mt. Pinatubo Trekking
After a long, hot, and adventure-filled day, the site of these Jeep which would take us back to civilization is priceless.


Sample Itinerary
4:00 AM Departure from Victory Liner Cubao Bus terminal

6:00 AM Arrival Sta. Juliana Capas, Tarlac
*Breakfast
*organize transfer to 4×4 off-road vehicles

7:00 AM Depart for Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake
*Journey across Crow Valley begins

8:00 AM Arrival at the trekking jump off point ( trekking starts)

11:00 AM First Sighting of the stunning beauty of Mount Pinatubo

12:00 PM Lunch time

2:00 PM Trek back down the mountain.

4:30 PM Arrival at Crow Valley Pick up point of 4×4 off-road vehicles

5:30 PM Arrival back to Sta. Juliana
*shower, snack time and buying of souvenirs.

7:30 PM Journey Back to Manila

9:30 PM Arrival in Manila

Summary of fees:

  • 4×4 jeep – P3000 for 4 pax
  • Tour guide – P500 per jeep
  • Aeta Passway Fee – P150/person
  • Conservation Fee – P500/person
  • Shower after trek – P50/person

Tips for the First-time Visitor

  • Do bring the following: at least 2 liters of water, towel, at least one change of clothes, personal medications and first aid kit, raincoat / umbrella and food for snacks and lunch (be sure it doesn’t easily spoil).
  • Drink lots of water along the way, especially during the hike. There is a spring near the crater to refill your water bottles. I’m not sure if water is available all year round and how clean and safe it is but to be sure just bring adequate amount of water for hiking up and down.
  • You may also need other provisions like toilet paper, and don’t expect toilets and showers to be spanking clean.
  • While it’s rated suitable for beginners, the hiking trail may still be physically challenging to people with weak hearts or other health conditions.
  • Follow your guide closely and listen carefully to instructions. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or to request stops if needed. And most of all, don’t be left behind by the group.
  • Pack your things securely. Use belt bags to carry valuables such as phones or cameras. Bring very light and easy to dry garments.
  • Do bring extra cash aside from the tour and registration fees. You might need to buy extra food or other provisions.
  • Wear sports shoes of sturdy material and good traction to avoid slipping. Those rocky parts can hurt your feet if you don’t wear the right shoes.
  • Use sunblock, hats, scarfs and/or arm sleeves to prevent sunburn.
  • There is NO electricity and cellphone signal at the crater.
  • Bring camping mats or tent so you would have a place to rest.

What to See and Do in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

It’s a city surrounded by a whole forest and natural ecosystem.  With its lush forests, unspoiled beaches, tranquil lagoons, and rich culture, Puerto Princesa should be part of any traveler’s bucket list.

Whether you want to stay within the city limits or go island hopping, Puerto Princesa has oodles of surprises in store for you.  And there are numerous attractions to thrill every visitor, whether it’s about nature, culture, or history.

The city is located right in the central part of the province of Palawan, which stretches out to the South China Sea.  It is about 567 kilometers away from Manila and about 460 kilometers from Zamboanga City.

The city is the least densely populated even though it is the second largest in the region.  It is also acclaimed as the cleanest and greenest city, and it is where the Underground River, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites as well as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Getting There

The best way to get to Puerto Princesa is by air. From Manila, it takes less than one hour to reach Puerto Princesa.

If you don’t mind spending more travel time, you can board the Superferry or Negros Navigation cruises from Manila, which takes about 18-22 hours to reach Puerto Princesa.

You can make arrangements for airport/seaport transfers and tours with your travel agent or hotel.  You can get around the city proper via tricycles, multicabs, and jeepneys are readily available but with specific routes.  If you want to go out of the area, you need to take jeeps or minibuses.  You can also arrange for private car or van rentals to get to many tourist destinations. You need to use motorized outriggers if you want to go island hopping.  Special tours can be arranged with your hotel or a transport operator.

The Underground River / Nature Trail / Caving at Sabang

Don’t miss the Underground River as it is the main attraction of Puerto Princesa. You can book this tour at the Underground River Tour Booking Office located 10 minutes from the Puerto Princesa airport before heading to Sabang, the jump off point. Identification cards and payment are required upon registering.

From the city, take a jeep or air-conditioned shuttle vans to Sabang.  Then you will take a 20-minute ferry to the beach area near the cave’s entrance.  The river itself is navigable up to 4.3 km. You take an hour’s tour of the cave where you’ll see stunning rock formations and various species of bats inhabiting the cave’s interior.

Fit travellers can take an alternative 5.3 km trek from Sabang instead of the ferry. Aside from the physical challenge, you will encounter the sights and sounds of an unspoiled wilderness and its inhabitants. There are designated areas to go bird-watching, and if you’re lucky you can spot up to 165 different species including 15 which are endemic to Palawan, such as the Palawan peacock pheasant, the hornbill, and parrot. You might also come across monitor lizards and monkeys along the trail.

You can use paddle boats to observe the mangrove forest in the area.  You can contribute to the ecological cause by planting mangrove saplings.

Caving is yet another unforgettable adventure.  You can climb Ugong Rock to view some awesome formations and drink in the picturesque surroundings.  Explore the Kawili Cave, the Daylight Hole, and the Lions Cave.

As you rest after exploring the river and caves, do visit the Ethnographic Museum at the visitor’s center to learn more about the Batak and Tagbanua ethnic groups native to Palawan.

 Sabang X Zipline

Want a really exhilarating experience?  Try the Sabang X Zipline, an 800 meter long zipline about 150 feet above sea level.  It is 10-15 minutes away from the Underground River’s wharf.  To get to the starting point, you need to hike through the mountainside trail for about 15 minutes  From the starting point, you will zip through the ocean and mountains and land on a small dock right in the middle of the ocean.

After landing, you can walk across a sandbar and then take a rope-controlled raft to get to the other side.  From there, a jeep will take you through rough roads to get back to the wharf area.

The wharf area has numerous small eateries where you can try local cuisine such as tamilok (wood worm) if you dare!  Less daring eaters can partake of more common household food such as pancit and adobo.

Honda Bay Island Hopping

This is another highlight of Puerto Princesa that shouldn’t be missed. To get to Honda Bay, you need to take a 45-minute tricycle ride for about PhP300 from the city to the wharf.

To make the most of this activity, you should stop by some shops (especially the Roadside) and rent snorkeling equipment and aqua shoes for about PhP150 each.  You can also rent digital cameras for PhP600 or waterproof underwater cases for your iPhone or camera for PhP200.

At the wharf, you pay and get your boat and guide. Boat fees vary depending on how many islands you want to visit, and whether you want to do other activities like fishing and scuba diving. A short island hopping (3 islands) for 6 people costs about PhP800.  There are also entrance, environmental, and terminal fees (range: PhP150-200).  Here are the most popular islands:

  • Pambato Reef – You can go snorkeling and view beautiful coral reefs and fishes.
  • Starfish Island – You can walk atop a long sandbar bounded by mountains on one side and mangroves on the other.  The place abounds with beautiful starfish you can just pick up.
  • Cowrie Island –  Unwind here with an alcoholic drink, a sumptuous lunch, or a relaxing massage. Very reasonable prices.
  • Luli Island – It’s not really an island but a sandbar.  The name is derived from “lilitaw” (surfaces) and “lulubog” (sinks).  The beach is covered with fine sand that feels gentle on your feet.  There are huts where you take lunch with your feet submerged in the cool water.

Local City Tour

For a more cultural taste of Puerto Princesa, you can rent a tricycle or private van and visit these key places:

  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral –  a pastel-blue church where the first mass was said in 1872
  • Plaza Cuartel – site of the infamous Palawan massacre during WWII where 150 American soldiers were burned alive.
  • Baker’s Hill – quaint park lined with lovely houses, well-manicured garden, and lifelike statues.  You can buy fresh-baked hopia in various flavors.
  • Crocodile Farm – a conservatory for crocodiles with a zoo and souvenir shop
  • Mitra’s Ranch – situated on the hilltop where you can get a breathtaking view of the city.  Ziplining is an option.
  • Butterfly Garden – net-covered mini-zoo where you can encounter not only butterflies but also caterpillars, walking sticks, and even scorpions.
  • Iwahig Penal Colony – a sanctuary where prisoners freely roam and live with their families. Handicrafts and souvenirs are available for sale.
  • Palawan Museum – full of archeological relics of the Tabon Cave.
  • Irawan Eco Park – offers zipline, canopy walk and carabao ride, as well as a nice place to dine because of its ambience.

Baler Surfing Adventure

Baler is situated in Aurora province (named after a former President’s wife) which is one of the last frontiers of the region.  It is nestled among the formidable Sierra Madre mountains so you feel sort of cut off from the rest of the country.

Plan Your Trip Now Baler-2

Recently, Baler has become increasingly popular because people have been discovering its many wonders, especially its rugged, picturesque coast and powerful waves that make for a surfer’s dream come true. There are currently numerous establishments in the area providing accommodations, shops, and even surfing lessons.

Getting There

From Manila, you can take public transportation from various bus stations located on Cubao bus terminal.  There are non-stop de luxe buses with on board attendants, free snacks, and even a restroom. Cost is about $15 per person.  For slightly less, you can ride a regular bus without the amenities.  Departure times are usually around 2:30 AM, 4:00 AM, 5:30 AM and 7:00 AM.   The ride from Manila takes about 5-6 hours depending on the time of day.

One route uses the North Luzon Expressway, connecting to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway just a bit past Angeles, Pampanga.  Then from Tarlac, you’ll take Sta. Rosa-Tarlac Road, Carmen-Cabanatuan Road, Pan Philippine Highway, Pinagpaanan-Rizal-Pantabangan Road, Pantabangan-Canili-Basal-Baler Road, and finally the Nueva Ecija-Aurora Road which leads to Baler.   This route leads to the town of Maria Aurora.

Alternatively, you exit into Cabanatuan City from Carmen-Cabanatuan Road, and take the Nueva Ecija-and the town of San Luis before reaching Baler.  You’ll be cutting through the lush virgin forests of the Sierra Madre mountain range on this route. This is the more common route for most buses, but also passes through many rough, narrow, and zigzagging roads.  It is generally not advisable to drive your own vehicle because of the road conditions.  Efforts have been made to gradually improve the road conditions by paving with cement.  On occasion, some parts of the route may not be accessible due to typhoons or landslides, so always verify the conditions and best route before heading off.

As a more expensive option, you can catch an 8:00 AM flight via SkyJet Airlines from Manila to Baler on a Monday or Friday.  The return flight is at 9:30 AM.  It takes about 45 minutes each way. The plane lands on an airfield in San Luis.  From there you can take a bus and reach Baler in 20 minutes.

What to Expect

Once you reach the town of Baler, there are several options depending on your surfing level.  Sabang Beach on the north side is more ideal for beginners. Advanced and adventurous surfers can try Cemento Wharf, Cobra Reef or Dapa where waves reach 4 meters or more.  There is a wide array of surf shops along the beach areas, so you can take your pick and haggle for the best prices. Then be ready to enjoy the waves!

During off-season times, you can opt for tamer water activities, such as snorkeling, diving, boating, and wind-surfing.  You can visit Dibut Bay with its picture-perfect cliffs and rock formations.  Casiguran Sound stays calm throughout the year and you’ll enjoy its white sandy beach. Or you can visit the Cunayan Falls and Ditumaho Falls in San Luis for an exhilarating hike along or through the river.

There are numerous hostels and hotels in the area which cater to all budgets ranging from PhP900 to PhP2000 per night.  You can also opt to take local tours by boat or through the town.

Places of Interest

Sabang Beach

Surfing Baler Aurora 14
Sabang Beach – perfect for beginners

Baler-Surfing-Adventure-Plan-Your-Trip-Now
Baler-Surfing-Adventure
Obviously a beginner! haha

Daguisit Beach

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Plan Your Trip Now Baler-5

Caunayan Falls

Surfing Baler Aurora 15
Surfing Baler Aurora 16

Dicasalarin Cove and Lighthouse

Surfing Baler Aurora 3

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Surfing Baler Aurora 4

Surfing Baler Aurora 6

Surfing Baler Aurora 8

Surfing Baler Aurora 9

Other Tips and Precautions

  •  Best time for surfing is between September to March.  But do check local weather conditions first, as some typhoons may also occur during these months.
  • If it’s your first time to Baler, go with someone who is familiar with the place or get a local guide to help you find the best bargains in tours, water activities, food, and lodging.
  • Most accommodations are along Sabang Beach. You can choose either air-con or fan rooms.  Some places may also feature live music at night, so consider that this might disturb your sleep.
  • You need to know how to swim and be physically fit to even try beginner’s surfing. A good stretch before and after surfing is helpful.  You must also be a strong swimmer if you want to try the more advanced surfing areas.
  • Surf at least one hour after meals, and never after drinking alcohol.
  • Watch out for rip tides which may suddenly pull you out into the sea.  If you do get caught, don’t resist it.  Instead, move along with the flow of the rip until it lets you go. Then you can swim safely back to shore.
  • Talk to the surfing instructor about the safest place for you to surf, given your own level.
  • Wear a wetsuit or rash guard during surfing to prevent hypothermia.
  • Wear sunblock on your face and exposed body parts.
  • It’s best to go surfing with a companion.
  • Even the best surfers can get injured.  Never let go of your surfboard as much as you can, and never dive off the board.
  • Take surfing lessons first if you’re a beginner.
  • If in trouble, signal with your arm and keep to your board.  Don’t panic.
  • It is best to stay overnight because of the tedious drive from Manila to Baler and back.

Video: 30 days of Traveling in the Philippines

I found this video of Nick Levin in Vimeo. He wonderfully documented his vacation here in the Philippines. His adventure consists of 30 days of traveling in the Philippines, hopping around 176 islands,  swimming with the whale sharks, experiencing the local culture and tasting Filipino cuisines.

This is worth watching guys to have an overview of what your adventure here in the Philippines would look like 😉


Into the Philippines from NICK LEVIN on Vimeo.

If you got similar videos about your adventure here in the Philippines, please message me with the link so I could post it here too.

Casa Santa: Santa Claus Museum

Merry Christmas from the Philippines!

Casa Santa Santa Claus Museum

The Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season in the world starting from September (-ber months) until January (Feast of the Three Kings). It just briefly pause to make way for Halloween, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Crazy!…I know.

But, there’s a place just 30 minutes away from Metro Manila that feels like Christmas all year round, it’s called – Casa Santa which is located in Antipolo City (full address below). It is a house full of Santa Claus collection. In fact, it is one of the most extensive private collection of Santa Claus items in the world. It contains over 3,000 Santas in every imaginable size and configuration. It has been featured several times by local and international media.

The place is perfect for photo-ops. We went there with my 4 month old cute little nephew and had fun posing for pictures, exploring the Santa collections and wearing Santa costumes.

Casa Santa Contact Details

Address: 276-279 San Jose Extension, Antipolo City, Rizal
The entrance fee is P180. Check the latest rates here: Casa Santa rates. They said in their website that the tour last for 1 hour but they don’t strictly enforce it when we were there. Maybe they’ll be more strict with that rule during peak season.
Phone number: Makati: +632-576-4358 / +63917-4358 or Antipolo: +632-584-3199 / +63917-8912208
Website: Casa Santa website
Email: info@jardindemiramar.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/casasantamuseum

Casa Santa Claus Museum schedule
Casa Santa Museum schedule