Time to Explore Nueva Ecija this Summer!

When it comes to Philippine tourist spots, the first places that come to most people’s minds are Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, and Baguio.  But this does not mean that other provinces don’t have their own share of fantastic tourist spots which appeal to both foreign and local visitors. Actually, most Philippine provinces and towns have their own offerings and it’s just a matter of promoting them properly.

Nueva Ecija is one such place known to most Filipinos as a province that belongs to the Rice Granary of Central Luzon and a pass-through to reach famous spots like Sagada in Mountain Province and Baler in Aurora. But Nueva Ecija has its own hidden treasures to boast of, and you should make time to check them out this summer.  (Special thanks to the North Philippines Visitors Bureau for touring us around Nueva Ecija.)

The Minalungao National Park

This park houses the Penaranda River in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.  The river itself is a venue for many fun activities, like rafting, swimming, and cliff diving.  You will encounter interesting rock formations along the banks and spectacular scenery as you go rafting downriver. And for more thrills, try ziplining if you’re not acrophobic and feel yourself flying over the breathtaking horizon.

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

Minalungao National Park Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm

Another great key spot in General Tinio is the PMP Paradise Farm which allows you to have close encounters with various familiar and not-so-familiar farm animals, such as sheep, carabaos, horses, and ostriches.  You can feed the animals, harvest fruits and vegetables, ride on a carabao-drawn cart, or go on horseback.  If you are the domestic type, you can engage in catching and cooking your own fish, and have a picnic outdoors. The farm people will even teach you how to make kakanin (rice pastry) like nilupak and palitaw.  And the farm is a perfect spot for a nice long stroll and picture-taking among grazing sheep or carabaos.

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

PMP Paradise Farm Nueva Ecija

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant

Ice cream is a must-have this summer, and is everyone’s guilty pleasure.  If you are an ice cream aficionado, you should not fail to drop by this ice cream plant whose ice cream products have become iconic in the province for over six decades now. Aside from the main branch along Maharlika Highway, there are several other Puno’s Ice Cream branches within the city and other parts of the province.

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant Nueva Eciija

Puno’s Ice Cream Plant Nueva Eciija

People who have tried this ice cream claim that it’s even better than some leading brands in the country.  Puno’s Ice Cream has many diverse flavors like buko sherbet with lychees, ube cheese, langka, corn queso, and their bestseller, cheese cashew macapuno. And the delightful part is that a cup costs only Php13. What a steal!

NFA Grains Industry Museum

Also, located along the Maharlika Highway is another landmark – an agricultural museum.  This place highlights the evolution of this important agricultural product through various displays of artifacts about the whole process of producing, harvesting, milling, storage, and distribution of rice. Truly an educational experience!

NFA Grains Industry Museum

NFA Grains Industry Museum

PhilRice

Here’s another key spot in Nueva Ecija that puts focus on the province and the Central Luzon region’s main lifeblood – rice production. The place features experimental fields which apply new techniques in producing rice varieties. There are guided tours for visitors around the fields which showcases the center’s gene bank, plant breeding labs, and greenhouses. Be sure to check out the Future Rice Farm to see the various new technologies available for our farmers. A trip to PhilRice will make you appreciate more the hard work of our scientists and farmers to bring food to our table of the Filipinos.

PhilRice

PhilRice Nueva Ecija

PhilRice Nueva Ecija

Chanos Chanos

Drop by Chanos Chanos from some delicious baked bangus. It’s perfectly made and an ideal baon as you explore Nueva Ecija. Also, their rice tea and ube juice are a must-try!

Chanos Chanos Explore Nueva Ecija

Chanos Chanos Explore Nueva Ecija

CSLU Campus

CLSU stands for Central Luzon State University. It was set up as the government’s agricultural school and tourists are welcome to visit the 658 hectare campus.  CSLU houses several museums, each  with particular focus on one main industry in the region.

There’s a museum which features implements for rice and vegetable planting, hunting and fishing implements, and indigenous household tools. These displays are meant to enhance awareness and appreciation of the Filipino cultural heritage, with special focus on agriculture as the region’s primary industry.

Explore Nueva Ecija CLSU

Explore Nueva Ecija CLSU

The Biodiversity Museum features replicas of different types of ecosystems – terrestrial, forest, and freshwater.  There are exhibits of insect, macrofungi, invertebrate, and other bioresources. This place will truly spark interest in ecology.

The Living Fish Museum has collections of indigenous and tropical flora and fauna native to some provinces in Luzon, and will surely entertain as well as instruct visitors of all ages.

Other CLSU areas of interest are the mushroom and hydroponics centers which feature revolutionary gardening methods such as soil-less culture.

Milka Krem Carabao's Milk
Have you tried Carabao Milk? You can buy it in the Milka Krem factory in CLSU.

Milka Krem Carabao's Milk

Caffe La Tea

And while you’re in this neck of the woods, take a light meal or snack at the Caffe La Tea in Cabanatuan City. This fast-growing and increasingly popular diner’s haven has been expanding into other regions including Metro Manila.  Try their signature milk teas, smoothies, and coffees. Pair these off with their luscious cheesecakes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes.  For a fuller meal, try their various rice, pasta, and sandwich entrees. They even serve shabu-shabu. Check their menu here. So much variety to suit all tastes!

Caffe La Tea Cabanatuan

Caffe La Tea Cabanatuan

Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort

Want to have all the exciting activities in just one place? Try the attractions at the Crystal Waves Hotel and Resort.  You can swim at the huge Olympic-sized pool in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, swoosh down the five-storey slide into the pool, splash and sway at the wave pool, or slide through the air with a zipline.  There are just so many fun things to do at Crystal Wave.  The good news is that you can book a hotel room and dine at the restaurant here in case your fun activities run overtime.  Better yet, book in advance and make this resort your primary accommodation as you enjoy the other attractions that Nueva Ecija has to offer.

Crsytal Waves Resort and Hotel

Crsytal Waves Resort and Hotel

 

Places to Stay

Aside from the Crystal Wave Resort, there are other comfortable and luxurious hotels to stay while visiting Nueva Ecija.  There are budget hotels like Microtel, Hotel Consuelo, and Top Star which offer Internet access, flat-screen TVs, and luxurious bath toiletries at reasonable prices. For more fastidious travelers, there’s the Harvest Hotel with ultimately luxurious facilities.  Your choices are not limited to these. You can look up other accommodations at hotel booking sites like Agoda.com and Airbnb.com.

So, make Nueva Ecija your next summer destination!

*Photos by Martin San Diego courtesy of North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB)

6 Fun Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day 2016

Filipinos have a romantic streak and even as early as January, many are already thinking of the next month’s signature holiday – Valentine’s Day. Couples young and old look forward to Valentine’s Day 2016. Why not try something different this year? Here are some fun Valentines date ideas to make this occasion much more memorable than ever.

1. Attend the Valentine’s Day 2016 20th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

This hot air balloon fiesta is an international gathering of hot-air balloon aviators from all over the world and takes place in Clark, Pampanga from Feb. 11-14, 2016. The event is not only aimed at developing discipline and safety principles among hot-air balloon pilots but also a chance for them to mingle with other cultures during the fiesta. And those colorful balloons all flying in the air at the same time do make for a truly awesome photo shoot moment with your loved ones. Even though the event runs through Valentines Day, it is not just for couples but also for the whole family or barkada!

Entrance tickets cost only PhP350 per head for a good view of the participating balloons. Gates open at 5AM so be there early as seating is on first-come-first-served basis.

If you have money to burn, why not try a real hot-air balloon ride with your loved one for $350? Most balloons have only a 4-person seating capacity (2 pilots plus 2 passengers), so it’s perfect for couples. That will surely sweep you and your loved one off your feet literally! You can reserve and pay for your ride online. Before you go on board, you and your partner will be given a briefing on safety measures. Two pilots will be with you during the 20-45 minute ride. Availability of balloon rides is subject to prevailing weather conditions. Any cancelled balloon rides will be refunded. Buy your tickets here.

2. Watch a Valentine’s Day Concert with Your Loved One

If you love pop music, there are two upcoming concerts around Valentines Day this year. Veteran performing artists including Martin Nievera, Erik Santos, Regine Velasquez, and Angeline Quinto will be at the Mall of Asia Arena on Feb.13 at 8:00 in the evening to render OPM songs for you and your special date.

royals valentines day 2016

Get your tickets here

Internationally-acclaimed Boyce Avenue with special guest Savannah Outen will sing to your heart’s content this Feb.16 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Watch them perform their heart-throbbing hits “Every Breath”. “On My Way” and “Broken Angel”, as well as acoustic covers of romantic songs of other artists. With your Valentine date, of course!

boyce avanue valetines date ideas

Get your tickets here

And fortunately, these two concerts don’t exactly fall on Feb. 14, so you can still have that special dinner and intimate moment with your significant other, and have the best of both worlds!

3. Participate in the Panagbenga Festival

panagbenga festival street dancers
Panagbenga street dancers. Photo by Ohsie

Flowers are an integral part of Valentine’s Day. What better way to see flowers than in Baguio City, where their beauty is highlighted at the annual Panagbenga Festival held every February. This festival features floats of all sizes and shapes, decorated lavishly with flowers pretty much like those you see in the Pasadena New Year’s Day Rose Parade. There is also a lot of street-dancing which is performed by dancers dressed in flowery costumes inspired by an Ibaloi celebration dance. You practically have an entire month to see those lovely floral exhibitions. Baguio is also a great place to take your R & R, away from the heat and pollution of Manila. This year, make a point to drop by with your loved one and smell the flowers!

4. Go Trekking at Mt. Kiltepan

Here’s one of the most unique Valentines date ideas. If you and your loved are adventurous types, why not go up to Mt. Kiltepan in Sagada? This is only about a 40-minute hike from town. The best time to start is at 4:30 AM. Get there before sunrise so you can find a good vantage point to witness the glorious rays of the sun on the horizon over picturesque and almost-unreal views of rice terraces below it. It’s truly heaven on earth!

This trip is best before or after going to Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival.

5. Staycation in Manila at a Luxury Hotel

Who says staycationing can’t be fun? As with Christmas and New Year, many luxury hotels offer oodles of valentines promos for Manileno lovebirds. The special offer of Makati Shangrila‘s Circles at 1,280 nett has been extended! You can enjoy the best lunch and dinner buffet in the heart of Makati at its best price until February 29 only. Dusit Thani Hotel has special room packages complete with buffet breakfast, complimentary champagne and chocolates. Sofitel sets the Valentine mood with a spectacular sunset dinner by the open sea, a private serenade, and firework displays. Vivere Hotel in Alabang offers serenades and dinner under the stars.

For something more unique, try a palm-reading session at Midas Hotel and get free candy giveaways at the bar area, or stay the night and enjoy a free breakfast buffet as well as watch Rex Smith perform love songs for you.

Want something less draining on your pocket? Try Bayleaf Intramuros’s own Valentine package. For only Php1,200 per person, enjoy two buffets, two dinners, and two shows.

Check out other fantastic hotel dinner / room packages for Valentine’s Day.


6. Watch the Manila Bay Sunset

Sunsets on the bay are breathtaking moments that a couple in Manila should not miss. You can arrange with Sun Cruises to take a dinner cruise along the bay. Enjoy a sumptuous Filipino dinner menu which changes nightly, plus a serenade by a local band. After the sunset, watch the sparkling lights along Roxas Blvd. and Mall of Asia.

On a tight budget? Then just enjoy strolling along the newly renovated baywalk and still be able to capture that Manila sunset. You can also savor local delicacies from baywalk vendors or walk to two iconic restaurants, like Aristocrat and Emerald Garden for dinner.

Celebrate Chinese New Year in Manila’s Chinatown

Chinese New Year Philippines

Sometime around late January or early February of each year is a holiday that is widely celebrated in Asian countries. This year it’s on Feb 8, 2016. If you are in the Philippines, you would most likely hear “Kung Hei Fat Choy” or other similar Chinese New Year greetings not just in Chinatown Manila but also its outskirts.

Chinese lanterns #chinesenewyear #lunarnewyear #yearofthemonkey

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

This is because the ethnic Chinese has become a huge part of Filipino culture, as manifested in food, language, and traditions.  Just recently, Chinese New Year has been declared one of the non-working holidays of the Philippines. Hence, even non-Chinese Filipinos are quite familiar with Chinese New Year traditions.

Chinese New Year in the Philippines is celebrated pretty much the same way as in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia.  There are the iconic fireworks, incense burning in temples, sweet cakes (“tikoy”), dragon dances, and food banquets. Like their Asian counterparts, Chinese Filipinos (called Chinoys – ) value good fortune and maintain certain practices to attract it, like offering and serving round pastries and fruits to ancestral altars, and setting off fireworks to ward off evil.  People wear red, supposedly the color that attracts good luck.

For Chinese New Year 2016, how about visiting Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown?  The sights and sounds of this bustling area will really get you into a festive mood.  But be sure to get there early!

Binondo Food Trip – Walk and Eat

Lord Stow's Bakery Egg Tart in Binondo, Manila
The popular Lord Stow’s Bakery Egg Tart from Macau is also here in Manila

Binondo, a district of the city of Manila, is the hub of Chinese culture and is one of the biggest and oldest Chinatowns in the world.  The area abounds in restaurants, bakeries, gift shops, and jewelry stores.  Ongpin and Carvajal streets are filled with many of these, as well as street vendors selling fruits and delicacies.

If you want to go on a Binondo food trip, you should commute by jeep or taxi to the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arc, the landmark which welcomes you to the heart of Chinatown.  From this point, you should be ready to walk your way around the area, as the streets are difficult to negotiate by motor vehicle.

Right under the Friendship arc is already the iconic Savory Restaurant, best known for its fried chicken. But don’t just stop there because there are just so many more gastronomic delights awaiting you further down the road.

Make your way into Carvajal street where you can snap up delicious Chinese noodles or dumplings in Quick Snack.  Then make your way to Chuan Kee on Ongpin Street where you can gobble hearty ma-chang (sticky rice and meat wrapped in lotus leaves) and slurp up a thick meaty soup called maki mi.  Thirsty?  Go for the luscious almond shake that Chuan Kee is famous for.

Still got room for more?  Try munching on Tasty Dumplings and Shanghai fried siopao.  It’s so easy to find them because they’re just along your path. If you prefer roasted meat or asado, try it at Lido Restaurant.  There’s Wai Ying on Benavidez Street (it’s one tricycle ride from Ongpin) known for dimsum and Sincerity Cafe on Nueva Street with its best-selling fried chicken.

These are only a sampling of gastronomic delights in Binondo restaurants worth trying.

Watch Dragon and Lion Dances along Binondo Streets

Dragon Dancers - Celebrate Chinese New Year in Manila Chinatown
Dragon Dance
Dragon Dancers - Celebrate Chinese New Year in Manila Chinatown-0893
Lion Dance

Chinese New Year in Binondo won’t be complete without these whimsical creatures cavorting around the streets, eager to catch angpao (red envelopes with money) from stores and passersby.  Some shop and homeowners even tie the angpao onto a ceiling or window awning to make it more challenging for the dancers to get to them.  But don’t underestimate these dancers, because they have very creative ways and means of stretching the dragon or the lion to reach up high and capture the envelopes.  The dragon and lion dance to the rhythm of drumbeats and cymbals that accompany them on their route.

Too Full from Your Binondo Food Trip?  Walk it!

Feng Shui Good Luck Charms for Chinese New Year
Feng Shui Good Luck Charms
Lucky Charms for Chinese New Year
Lucky Charms

There are quaint little souvenir and gift shops along Ongpin.  Further down are numerous jewelry shops where you can find anything from infant coral bracelets to five-figure pendants.

There are deli shops and bakeries, the most noted of which is Eng Bee Tin, where you can buy preserved fruits, candies, cookies, and pastries.

You’ll be delighted to know that your pesos will go very far in Binondo, particularly if you shop in Divisoria’s Lucky Chinatown Mall and adjacent buildings.  From Ongpin, you will have to take a tricycle or cab to the mall and then walk your way to the buildings around the place.

The mall itself has modern boutiques featuring designer clothes and specialty goods not unlike other malls in the Philippines.  But it’s the basement area you will want to go to, as this is where the bargain area is.  From this point, you can also exit the mall to other multi-level buildings with zillions of goods at dirt-cheap prices.

Visit Binondo Church and Temples

The world’s largest Chinatown arch #chinesenewyear

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

We all hope for good fortune this year, and what better way than to pray for it at local Binondo churches and temples.  Right at the heart of Chinatown is San Lorenzo Ruiz Church, better known as Binondo Church.  Alternatively, you may want to visit another Catholic church on Plaza Sta. Cruz, known as Our Lady of the Pillar.

Many ethnic Filipino-Chinese, especially those who reside in Binondo, flock to the temples on Chinese New Year’s Eve, so that they can be one of the first to light incense at the stroke of midnight.  This gesture is supposed to bring tremendous luck to the first person who can manage to light the incense ahead of the others. Good luck trying that!

Or just for curiosity, do visit the Kuang Kong and Seng Guan temples along Narra Street, and try asking a yes-no question about any personal or business concern.  The monks at the temple will assist you in interpreting the answer to your question.

Kung Hei Fat Choy / Gong Xi Fa Cai to all!

The Best 5-Star Hotels in Manila for the New Year Countdown 2016

Next to Christmas, New Year’s Eve is the most-awaited event in Manila.  Almost all families celebrate it with food, get-togethers, merriment, and of course, fireworks.  For those who opt not to have fireworks at home, there are quite a number of 5 Star hotels in Manila to hang out at and spend a totally awesome New Year countdown.

Every luxury hotel in Manila has its own brand of dining and entertainment packages and unforgettable New Year’s Eve countdown events to ring in 2016.

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila

Welcome the New Year with a sumptuous feast at Spiral, rated as Manila’s finest and highest-rated buffet spread (PhP7,231.94 per adult, PhP3,615.97 per child).  There’s turkey, prime rib, and an array of other favorite buffet treats to cater to all palates and diets. Dinner also features a glass of 2006 vintage champagne.  DJ Abdel Aziz will be there to provide musical entertainment while you lounge and await the dazzling fireworks display at the stroke of midnight.

[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/sofitel-philippine-plaza-manila-hotel/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates[/button]

 

SPIRAL NEW YEAR LUNCH SPECIALSpiral is inviting everyone to enjoy a wonderful sumptuous lunch buffet feast with family…

Posted by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Saturday, December 26, 2015

You can also welcome the New Year in style with their Carnival De Venezia

Celebrate New Year here at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila and be transported to stunning Venice in a special…

Posted by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Sunday, December 27, 2015

 

Solaire Resort and Casino

This is one of the best hotels near the Manila airport to unwind at because it is in a wide-open area free from congestion.  For big appetites, there’s a really huge array of mouthwatering treats at the Fresh buffet restaurant nearby, one of the most affordable and satisfying dinner buffets at only PhP2,800 per head. Or if you prefer a lighter meal, try the five-course menus at Finestra (Italian), Red Lantern (Chinese), or Yakumi (Japanese).  Prices vary from about PhP1,700 per head for a 6-course meal at Red Lantern to PhP 3,000 per head at Finestra.  For a little more, some Solaire restaurants give you complimentary access to the New Year’s Party at Eclipse.  For the New Year’s Eve countdown, you also have two choices of lounges to hang out at – Eclipse and Oasis.  Both feature live entertainment numbers from Bituin Escalante, The Company, and various other performers. Solaire’s New Year’s Eve dinner and bar packages are all guaranteed to keep you wide awake and revved up to greet New Year 2016!

[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/solaire-resort-casino/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates[/button]

Be part of a sparkling New Year’s Eve countdown at Oasis, featuring performances by Aicelle Santos, Bituin Escalante,…

Posted by Solaire Resort on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

 

City of Dreams Manila

The party never stops at this newest hotel and casino in the heart of the Manila bay area. Start off your New Year’s Eve celebration with dinner at Hyatt for PhP2,988 per person featuring free-flowing selected liquors, cocktails, soda, and iced tea.  Watch Erok at the Pangaea, Mitz and Maya, Dream Sirens and Night Train at the Centerplay, and Bass Jackers at Chaos.  Come dressed to the nines and decked with bling!

Hyatt City of Dreams
[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/hyatt-city-of-dreams-manila/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ size=”small” color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates for Hyatt Hotel[/button]
City of Dreams – Crown Towers Manila
[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/city-of-dreams-crown-towers-manila/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ size=”small” color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates for Crown Towers[/button]
City of Dreams – Nobu Hotel Manila
[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/city-of-dreams-nobu-hotel-manila/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ size=”small” color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates for Nobu Hotel[/button]

 

Welcome 2016 with world-class entertainment and lots of bling! Live music, bottles of sparkling spirits and dazzling…

Posted by City of Dreams Manila on Tuesday, December 22, 2015

 

Fairmont Hotel

Indulge yourself with a dinner buffet (PhP4,995 per person) at Spectrum, and this will entitle you to cocktails and exclusive access to the 9th Floor pool bar New Year’s Eve Countdown Party.  Watch the shower of firework colors and lights line up the Makati skyline.

[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/fairmont-makati/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates[/button]

 

Nothing says “Happy New Year” quite like a luxurious feast of gourmet delights, with champagne and cocktails flowing,…

Posted by Fairmont Makati on Thursday, December 17, 2015

 

Diamond Hotel

For this year, Diamond Hotel presents A New Year State of Mind featuring Retrospect, DJ Marx Monterola, and Xarchy Band. In fact this hotel has several fantastic options for even the most discriminating guest.  You can have a 6-11 PM dinner at Corniche (PhP3,300 per person) which includes a chance to win two round-trip tickets to Bohol, or a late night buffet from 11 PM to 2 AM.  If you prefer a simpler dinner menu, try Yurakuen’s New Year’s Eve set dinner with a glass of Cava.  Or if you are coming from another party and have had dinner, go for the New Year’s Eve Party where you get one drink and party favors for only PhP 499 per person, or tapas and free flowing house wine for PhP1,300 per person.The New Year’s Eve bash is from 11 PM to 2 AM. at the Upper and Lower Lobby where drinks may be had at PhP250 each for walk-ins or PhP200 for in-house guests.

[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/diamond-hotel/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates[/button]

 

Diamond Hotel Philippines New Year Countdown 2016
A New Year State of Mind (Photo from diamondhotel.com)

 

Makati Shangri-la

One of the best hotels in Manila has its own special brand of entertainment for the countdown to New Year 2016.  Come in your best formal attire as you join other guests for cocktails from 6-8 PM, followed by a five-course dinner with live Broadway show and a live band at 11:30 PM.  All for PhP4,900 per person.  Alternatively, you can choose from another set menu (prices vary from PhP3,178 to PhP5,378 per head) at Shang Palace, or other dinner buffet packages at Inagiku (PhP4,200 per head), Sage Bespoke Grill (PhP4,900 per head), and Circles Event Cafe (PhP3,900 per head).

[button link=”http://www.agoda.com/makati-shangri-la-manila-hotel/hotel/manila-ph.html?cid=1658825″ rel=’nofollow’ color=”green” window=”yes”]Check the latest rates[/button]

 

It’s a Spectacular New Year as Makati Shangri-La, Manila takes you on an unforgettable evening on Broadway and Times…

Posted by Makati Shangri-La, Manila on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

 

For updated package prices and promotional deals, contact each hotel directly.

FREE New Year’s Eve 2016 Countdown Events

TV5 2016 Countdown

Kita-kits tayo sa Thursday, December 31 para sa pinaka-malaking pasabog ng taon, ang TV5 2016 New Year Countdown!…

Posted by TV5 on Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kapuso Countdown to 2016

Sabay-sabay nating salubungin ang bagong taon sa #KapusoCountdownTo2016! See you in your best costumes at MOA Seaside Boulevard!

Posted by GMA Network on Wednesday, December 30, 2015

7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Samal Island

I’ve also written an article about Samal island for The Australia Times Travel Magazine. You can read more about this beautiful island there too. Hopefully, this would inspire you even more to visit Samal island. And oh, that’s the first time my article got featured in an international travel magazine so I’m really happy!


I know very little of Samal Island before. All I know was, it’s where the popular high-end resort, the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, is located. I happily discovered that this island is more than just Pearl Farm.

This had been only my second time in Mindanao. During the first time, I visited Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin and Bukdinon. I’ve never been to Davao City so I booked a flight there and have it ticked on my list before 2015 ends.

While researching for Davao City tourist spots, Samal island kept coming up on the search results. I got curious and started looking for travel destinations in Samal island. I love what I see so far, so I decided to spend 3 of my 4 vacation days there.

I really had fun exploring the Island Garden City of Samal (yes, that’s its official name) and I’m sure my readers would love this island getaway too. Now, I’m excited to share to you the 7 reasons why you definitely should visit Samal island:

1. More bang for your bucks

Well, the plane flare from Manila to Davao City is never the cheapest but once you arrive there everything is actually pretty cheap. The taxi fare from Davao International Airport to Sasa Wharf (the port going to Samal Island) is just less than P100 ($2.25), ferry boat fare is only P10 ($0.25), habal-habal (motorbike) is just for P50 ($1.11) to P100 ($2.25) depending on your destination and food just cost about P100 ($2.25) per meal. A hostel in Agoda or Airbnb would just cost about $10 per night.

I booked 2 nights in an 8-bed dorm room in La Vida Orchard Samal for just about P479 ($10) a night. The rate already includes breakfast. A real bargain! The facilities are basic but everything is clean and looks new. Another great thing is, they’ll treat you as family. You can also use the kitchen to cook or reheat food. And yeah, I know you’re going to ask.. they have wifi in the common area 🙂 For security reasons, they lock the main gate by 10pm. Just make arrangement with them if you’ll be arriving late.

La Vida Orchard Samal dorm room
Papaya Dorm Room
La Vida Orchard Samal Dorm
Inside the dorm room
La Vida Orchard Samal room
Free water and toiletries
La Vida Orchard scenery
La Vida Orchard compound
La Vida Orchard Samal Dining Area
Dining area
La Vida Orchard Samal facilities
toasters and kitchen wares

2. No hordes of tourists

I’m traveling solo for this trip. I’m almost always the only one in a particular tourist spot in Samal… and I love it! I took my time to just take in the whole experience without having to compete with hordes of tourists. I would appreciate some company though so we could split the expenses especially with ferry boat from Kaputian Wharf to Isla Reta Beach.

I asked the locals when are the busy days for tourists. They say it’s usually during weekends or holidays, but even so it’s not as commercialized as other beaches I’ve been to. Samal is a perfect place for some ME time.

 

View post on imgur.com

3. Calm seas and fair winds

The island is located at the center of Davao Gulf and surrounded by mainland Mindanao which shelters it from strong winds. Also, this part of the Philippines rarely experience typhoon which makes its waters ideal for water activities like swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
The sea is not only calm but crystal clear too. I’m not kidding! Check out this video from the Kaputian Wharf.

I’m only on the port going to Talicud Island but WOW… the water is just so clear

A video posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

4. Guinness World Record Holder

Monfort Bat Cave
The bat cave with the biggest opening

It’s amazing to know that there’s a bat sanctuary in Samal Island. What’s even more amazing is it’s a Guinness World Record holder for the most number of Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats. The Monfort Bat Cave is home to 2.5 million bats!

 

 

 

 

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]
Some info about the fruit bats in Monfort that I learned from my tour guide:

  • The bat caves in Monfort are actually sinkholes and it was used as hiding place by the locals during the Japanese occupation. There are only few bats living there during that time.
  • Fruit bats are attracted to the strong smell of the durian fruit which they help pollinate and scatter the seeds.
  • Each of the bat cave serves different purpose:
    • a. Mating
    • b. Pregnant and Baby Bats
    • c. Teenage bats to practice flying
    • d. Male bats outnumber female bats that’s why male bats have their own cave to “hang” out.
    • e. Senior bats
  • After they exit their caves at night, they fly across the sea then go to the different provinces of Mindanao. They were reported to reach as far as Bukidnon.
  • The bat emergence, the process where the bats exits their caves, can take as long as 3 hours.
  • The caves emit foul odor (that is expected) but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Still, you should bring extra shirt.

[/box]

Best time to go there is at 4pm so you can still take photos of the bats and tour the area. Flash photography is not allowed during the night since it will startle and stress the bats. Wait until it gets dark then you’ll see one of the amazing sights the animal kingdom can provide. The bats would fly in circles as they get out of their caves and find food. It is kinda magical to see thousands of bats squeaking and flapping their wings at the same time.

To get there, just tell your tricycle or habal-habal driver to bring you to Monfort Bat Cave on the district called Babak.

Entrance fee is just P100 per person for day tour and P200 for night tour.

5. White Sand Beaches

Visit Samal Island
Isla Reta Beach

Who doesn’t like a white sand beach? Samal island have a lot of white sand beaches especially in Talicud island just 10 mins away from the main island. A popular resort there is the Isla Reta Beach Resort. The view is just perfect. It has white sand beach and turquoise water. The beach is lined with big Talisay trees. It’s very relaxing to just sit under the shade while the cool breeze is touching your face.

The resort charges P100 ($25) per person for the day pass. They have tents and rooms available. Just choose whatever suits you. I chose the day tour and just spent most of my day just admiring the beauty that surrounds me.

They have a restaurant there so you won’t need to cook, a meal would cost about P200 ($4.5) to P300 ($7), but they also have grilling stations if you prefer to cook. You can bring food and drinks from outside but I believe they charge a corkage fee.

To get to Isla Reta, ride a habal-habal from your hotel in Samal to Kaputian Wharf. In Kaputian Wharf, ride a bangka to Isla Reta, Talicud Island. The boat charges P600 ($13) per trip. If you have fellow travelers with you, you can just split the fare. They also have regular trips from Davao City to Isla Reta but I’m not sure about the price.

If you need me, I’ll just be here reflecting on my 2015

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

6. Get to see 3,500 giant clams

Giant Clams are in the endangered list because people harvest them for their shells and meat. So when I learned that there’s a giant clam sanctuary in Samal, I was super excited to visit. It’s difficult to find them in the wild anymore. I saw just a handful during my other snorkeling trips in the Philippines but this place has 3,500 giant clams in different colors and sizes. It feels so awesome to get this close to these beautiful and wonderful sea creatures. There were also starfishes and other kinds of fish. The coolest thing was these small and colorful fishes were surrounding me as I snorkel. It was like they’re touring me around their home!

Went snorkeling today to see 3,500 giant clams! Awesome experience!#taclobo #giantclam #ineedagopro

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@planyourtripnow) on

I wish I had a GoPro with me so I could have shown you how beautiful it is. I was being cheap so I only use my cellphone camera with a cheap waterproof casing which turned out to be totally useless. Yeah, it protected my camera but it only focused on the plastic cover and not on the subject so everything is blurred. I would definitely recommend that you get a GoPro or any other underwater camera so you could document your experience here. If you can’t get one, just remember to enjoy the whole experience and don’t stress yourself out with taking photos without the proper gear.

 

 

 

To get there, have your habal-habal driver bring you to the town of Adecor for the Taklobo (local name for giant clams) Tours. They have a small wharf there, where a boat would take you to the platform in the middle of the sea. They conduct a briefing first, then your guide will take you on a snorkeling tour.

Taklobo Tours Fees
The fees that you would need to pay for the Taklobo tours. I like it that they have published rates so tourists won’t be scammed.

7. Visit Samal island’s other natural wonders

The places I mentioned above are some of the must-see Samal island tourist spots but there are also other tourist destinations in the island which are equally beautiful. Samal island has so much natural wonders that I wasn’t able to visit them all. If you have more time and resources, you definitely need to check out the Hagimit Falls, Vanishing Island, Turtle and Dugong Sanctuary, Maxima Aqua Fun, Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Sabang Cliff Jumping, Kaputian Beach and Mt. Puting Bato. I hope that by mentioning them here will make it easier for you to plan your trip now to Samal island.

 

 

 

I really love my recent island vacation experience and this is easily one of my favorite island destination in the Philippines since I like nature trips a lot. How about you? What do you like most about this island?

Are there any other destinations I missed? Share it to us below.

Best Way to Explore Bangkok in 4 Days

Six years ago, I promised myself that I would come back and explore Bangkok a little bit longer. I’m really keen to be back since the last time I was only there for 1 day but immediately I fell in love with it. During that time, it was just our jumping off point for our backpacking trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

So when I found out that TBEX (conference for travel bloggers) would be held in Bangkok for 2015, I immediately bought a ticket and prepared for my 1st solo international trip. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out what other places to visit in Bangkok. I’m glad I did because this time I was able to explore Bangkok longer and met tons of amazing people.

Through TBEX, travel companies and our wonderful and gracious host – no less than the Thai tourism department, I discovered some of the amazing things Bangkok has to offer. I’m not required to write about these trips but since I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people, who saw some of my Instagram and Facebook posts, asking me to help them prepare their Bangkok trip itinerary. So, I prepared this mini travel guide to help you explore Bangkok in 4 Days (long weekend holiday).

Tips

Once, you arrive at the airport (either Don Mueang or Suvarnabhumi) look for the telecom booths and get yourself a tourist SIM card. This comes with free texts/calls and 4G internet which would be useful in accessing Google maps (to not get lost!) and of course, uploading those Instagram photos! I’ve used True Move but there’s not much difference with the 3 carriers so just get whatever you like. You can also get a SIM card at any 7/11 stores in the country.

To go to the city proper, from Suvarnabhumi take the Airport Rail Link. It’s the cheapest and fastest way.

For me, the easiest way to get around Bangkok and familiarize yourself with the city is through their BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (subway). No need to deal with those taxis who don’t use the meter plus tuktuk rides are more expensive than taxis, so I would just recommend you to take the train as much as possible. You can buy the stored value cards so you won’t have to buy a ticket every time you take the train.

Bangkok Train Map
Train Map of Bangkok (Click to Enlarge)

Just a reminder, the currency exchange rate at the airport is lower compared to those in the city so just get enough Thai Baht to take you to the city. Once you are in the city proper, there are a lots of currency exchange centers available. There are some in the train stations too.

4 Days Bangkok Itinerary

Day 1

Grand Palace

I was only able to see this from a far and pass by it several times but wasn’t able to get inside. Every time I attempt to go, it is always about to close so this is also part of the reason why I need to come back. It closes at 3pm or 3:30pm so keep that in mind. Also, they implement a strict dress code so wear pants and closed shoes.

I manage to take a video of the Grand Palace during our river cruise. It is a gorgeous sight at night.

The majestic Grand Palace in Bangkok. One of the landmarks that you’ll see during the Shangri-La Horizon River Cruise.

Posted by Plan Your Trip Now on Thursday, October 29, 2015

If you still have time, head to the other tourist favorites nearby. Here are some suggestions from TripHobo:


Expique

Jpeg
Tuk tuk ride

For a different kind of Bangkok city tour, join the Bangkok Night Lights tour of Expique. You’ll get to tour around Bangkok using their very sexy tuktuks. In this Bangkok sightseeing tour, you’ll get to interact with the locals, sample some of Bangkok’s street food, ride a traditional mode of transportation and have a qualified guide to tell you the history of each site.

ATM: Bangkok Night Tour aboard a tuktuk. Thank you Expique!

Posted by Plan Your Trip Now on Sunday, October 18, 2015

The drivers, guide and the owner are all nice and friendly. Don’t worry about getting hungry because you’ll be eating at different stops, they’ll also be providing water and some refreshing towels.

You’ll be well taken care of by the Expique crew.

Some of the places you’ll visit:

Krung Thonburi – Klong San Market – Wat Prayoon – Giant Swing – Loha Prasat and Democracy Monument – Wat Pho – Flower Market – Chinatown


Introducing our Tuktuk Drivers

With Petra (Restless Child Travel) and Jib (Tour Guide)

A type of Thai Sausage

Wat Pho at night! #bangkok #thailand #tbex Thank you @expique for the great #Bangkok tuktuk tour

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@markconrad) on

Bodh Gaya Foundation

Wat Prayurawongsawas Worawihan

Thipsamai's Pad Thai

Thipsamai

Flowers for everyones!

Expique's gift to all the participants

Follow Plan Your Trip Now’s board Bangkok Flower Market on Pinterest.

Day 2

Floating Market

The floating market is where you can buy food cooked directly from a boat floating in the canal. It is a very popular attraction during weekends. Well, I wasn’t able to go to any of the Floating Market because of lack of time (so that means I still have a reason to come back to bangkok). But, since I want to help you plan your trip I’ve made a short list of the Floating Markets you could visit that I heard from fellow travel bloggers who went there and a little bit of research.

Damnoen Saduak – the most popular among foreign tourists. Being the most popular has its disadvantage, it can get really crowded so you must arrive there early in the morning to avoid boat traffic jams.

Amphawa – this is the one Thai locals usually go to. It must be good if the locals frequent it, right?

Bang Nam Phueng – one that is always mentioned by friends is the Bang Nam Phueng, if you want a less touristy floating market you should go here.

Here’s a sample of the feast you can have from the Bang Nam Phueng from the Instagram of my friend Luke:

A photo posted by Mr Lukey B (@mrlukey_b) on

Shangri-La Horizon River Cruise

Have a festive dinner buffet while cruising along the Chao Phraya river! Who wouldn’t love that?

There are other hotels and companies doing a river cruises. All have different themes and offerings (some even have boat parties), but if you prefer a more relaxed dining experience Shangri-La Horizon Cruise then go ahead and book a tour.


Shangri-La Hotel BangkokShangri-La Hotel Bangkok

Just walking inside Shangri-La hotel is already a feast for the eyes. I hope I could book a night there someday.


Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok lobby

Shangri-La Bangkok Lobby

Shangri-La Bangkok Lobby orchids

Shangri-La Horizon River Cruise-190735

Oh there’s our boat!


Shangri-La Horizon Cruise boat

Just look at the amount of food waiting to be devoured.


Shangri-La Horizon River Cruise-

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

Shangri-La Horizon Dinner Buffet

After we finished our delightful meal, we went outside to enjoy the cool breeze while looking at some of Bangkok’s famous landmarks like Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Grand Palace, Rama VIII bridge (below) and many others.


Rama VIII Bridge during Shangri-La Horizon River Cruise

Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower

Sky Bar is also known as the Hangover Bar where a scene from the movie Hangover 2 was shot. It is on the 63rd floor of the Lebua State Tower. It is one of the highest bar in the world which gives you a perfect view of Bangkok. It is a very luxurious place so they implement a strict smart casual dress code. And if you ‘d like to splurge a little for a fancy dinner, they also have a restaurant that is perfect place to dine with your special someone.

I wouldn’t have known of this place if not for Deanna of Talk About Beauty. Here’s our group photo (grabbed from Deanna’s Facebook post):

Sky Bar Bangkok
with Suwisa, Deanna and Luke

That view though!

Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower
Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower

Day 3

Naj Thai Cooking School

Naj Thai Cooking School is one of the best culinary schools in Bangkok. They have received several awards and good reviews for their cooking class. They have their its own herb garden which is used to educate the students about the different herbs used in Thai cooking.

Mitch, Chef Ohm, Natasha, Natalia and Mark

Where we cooked

All prepped up

They also have an award-winning restaurant at the back which caters to Bangkok’s high society. What’s even more interesting is that the house where the restaurant is in, used to belong to one of the ancestors of the King (if I remember it right). You can book the restaurant for events and other small private functions.


Naj Thai Cooking School-6193

Naj Exquisite Thai Cuisine Restaurant

Naj Thai Cooking School-6201

This is my very first formal cooking lesson. I had a lot of fun learning how to cook some of my favorite Thai dishes: Tom Yum, Pad Thai and Green curry. It was really exciting. I felt like I’m in MasterChef.


Chef for a day

All excited to cook some Thai food

Ingredients for the 1st dish

Chef Ohm explains to us in detail the history of these Thai dishes, the use of each ingredient, as well as, clear instructions for each dish. He told us some of his childhood memories while learning from his grandmother how to cook. Plus, he also gave some cooking tips like how to cook properly using coconut milk and making the perfect sunny side up egg without the need for a non-stick pan.

Of course, we get to try our freshly prepared dishes. Yum!


Presenting...  the famous Pad Thai

Tasting time!

After our cooking lesson, we get to tour their herb garden, 5-star restaurant, and wine cellar.


Going underground

Inside the wine cellar

We also had the chance to taste this Thai appetizer. You pick it up using the toothpick and put everything in your mouth.

Thai appetizer

To finish it off, we get to enjoy these traditional Thai refreshments.


Thai refreshments

They also gave us the recipes of the food we cooked to help us replicate back in our own kitchen what we learned that day.

Flow House

I didn’t expect to see an indoor surfing facility in the middle of Bangkok and just a few blocks away from my hostel. The place is called Flow House Bangkok. You can ride the waves from 10am to 11pm. Just go their website to make a reservation. Please also take note of some of their house rules first before making a booking. Thanks to Tom and Meg of The Travel Freedom Network for organizing this event.

I’ve tried surfing in Baler and La Union in the Philippines before, but this was my first time to do indoor surfing or flow boarding. It’s quite challenging to control the board with the powerful jets of water constantly pounding you but I had a great time! It’s so fun! Just watch these videos to see how much fun we had:


Video by Nathan of Fit Living Lifestyle

They also had a bar which has some great food and drinks that you can enjoy while watching the surfers have fun on the waves.

As your muscles would ache the next day, it is better to have a Thai Massage on Day 4.

Day 4

RarinJinda Wellness Spa Resort

While you are in Thailand, why not get an authentic Thai massage?! As someone who works everyday sitting in front of the computer a lot, I welcome every opportunity to get a massage to relieve my aching shoulders.

RarinJinda is one of the best spa in Thailand. The branch that we visited is in Ploenchit, Bangkok. We tried the Siamese Himalayan Salt Therapy.


Building Lobby

RarinJinda Lobby

Some of their products

They welcomed us with a refreshing pandan juice drink. They gave us a brief orientation of the process then, we were led to the sauna room.


Pandan drink

After that, they brought us to their Himalayan Salt Room. This is where they squeeze out all the stress out of your body. For first timers, you might find Thai massage to be painful since the therapist would be kneading your body using their hands, forearms, elbow and sometimes foot; then, make your bones crackle with some incredible stretching techniques. If you could get past that, you’ll feel instant relief.

I enjoyed it a lot since I’ve tried Thai massage in Manila so I know what to expect. Once, the session is finished there’s no longer tightness in my muscles and I felt so relaxed.

After the massage, we were treated with the famous mango sticky rice and a refreshing drink.


Mango Sticky Rice

I hope this post gave you an idea of other interesting things to do in Bangkok. If you have recommendations for those planning a Bangkok trip, kindly post it below.

Camiguin Island – Where to Go, What to Do

Measuring about 29 hectares, Camiguin Island is the second smallest island of the Philippine archipelago. The island is only about 23 kilometers long and 14 kilometers wide and is located about 90 kilometers north of Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao.

Camiguin may be minuscule in size but huge in terms of topography. In it lie no fewer than seven volcanoes.  Interestingly, this tiny pear-shaped island province had been formed by natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

The province has five towns and a very low population of about 75,000.  The rich volcanic soil has given the province a lot of fertile ground conducive for vegetables and fruits. Its people boast of a very colorful and creative culture made up of various Visayan traditions.

Camiguin’s unique features attract visitors from other regions and countries, especially those with a passion for natural wonders and picturesque sceneries.

Getting There

There are many flights you can take from Manila or Cebu up to Cagayan de Oro City.  From Manila, the flight takes about an hour and a half.

Another option is by sea.  Some shipping routes stop at Cebu, Iloilo, or Bacolod.  From Cebu, it’s a 10 hour ferry ride to Cagayan de Oro.

From Cagayan de Oro airport, you can take either a taxi or bus to Balingoan, where you will take the ferry bound for Camiguin Island.  The ferry ride takes about 3 hours to reach Benoni Port in Camiguin.

Key Places to Visit

White Island.

 This is a sandbar across Rocky Village in Mambajao, capital of Camiguin.  It is made up of pure white sand with absolutely no other vegetation.  The surrounding waters teem with lots of colorful corals and fishes, so it’s a perfect spot for snorkeling.  To get there, you need to go the port beside Paras Beach resort in Rocky Village. This is generally accessible just by walking if your accommodations are in the area.  There you can rent a boat for about two hours to reach the sandbar.  The best time to visit the sandbar is from sunrise to about 9:00 AM.  Just a warning:  There are no shaded areas around the sandbar so you need to apply lots of sunblock on yourself.

White Island Camiguin

White Island

Camiguin white island

Mantigue Island. Located about 3 ½ kilometers from the coast of Barangay San Roque is the tiny white-sand beach of Mantigue. The surrounding mountains offer a picturesque backdrop.  Like White Island, this place also has a marine sanctuary rich with fishes and corals.  Here’s another perfect place to go snorkeling, strolling, or simply bumming around.

Katibawasan Falls.

 Want a really exhilarating cool shower? Visit the falls located about 5 kilometers southeast of Mambajao.  You’ll be greeting by a majestic 250-foot tall waterfall bordered by lovely orchids and ferns.  Just a few steps down from a concrete platform, and you’re right at the catch basin.  What a way to cool off!

Katibawasan Falls Camiguin HDR

Katibawasan Falls Camiguin

Ardent Hot Springs.

 While Camiguin is blessed with numerous hot and cold springs, this one takes the cake.  Its water comes from the dormant Mt. Hibok Hibok.  The water temperature can reach up to 40 degrees C.  Great for relieving those aching muscles!

Camiguin ardent hot spring

Cross Marker and Sunken Cemetery.

 A main landmark of the island is the huge cross marker that indicates a community cemetery which was sunken by a volcanic eruption in 1871.  Due to the eruption, the town’s cemetery is now below sea level.  You can hire a boat to bring you to the cross.  The best time to visit this place is during the late afternoon, so you can also catch the magnificent sunset.

Sunken Cemetery Camiguin

Catarman Church Ruins.

 Located in Barangay Bonbon,  an old Spanish settlement and its church was totally wiped out and submerged by debris from the 1871 eruption of Mt. Vulcan.  Only the bell tower and some ruins are left of this town.

The Old Volcano Trail.

 Religious devotees and pilgrims get a treat of hiking up a trail to the peak because they will encounter the 14 Stations of the Cross along the way.  Each station has life-sized statues depicting the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

Burias Shoal.

 This shoal is a real treat for nature lovers and explorers.  After a 30-minute speedboat ride, you will reach the perfect diving point where you will find hordes of marine life, like tuna, mackerel, and barracuda.

Giant Clam Nursery.

Located in Barangay Cantaan, this is a breeding center for various types of clams.  The place has glass aquarium displaying the varieties.

Oh if you’re looking for a place to eat, the must-try is Luna Ristorante – their pizza is the best in the island! It is just right off the National Highway. Just ask your tricycle driver to drop you there.

Luna Ristorante Pizza

10 Filipino Phrases Foreign Tourists Should Know

Welcome to the Philippines, dear traveler!  Visiting this beautiful country is one of the best travel decisions you can make.

Survival in any foreign country entails that you must have a working vocabulary of at least 10 words or expressions in the local language. This will not only be useful for communicating your needs, but will also gain respect and goodwill from the locals.

While about 56.63% of Filipinos are able to communicate in English in some way (speak, read, write and think), it would still be convenient for you to express some words in Filipino to make your message clearer.

Here are 10 of the most important Filipino phrases you should learn before venturing out:

  1. Magandang araw (Good day) — By nature a courteous people, Filipinos usually begin conversations with this greeting even among themselves, whether they are speaking to strangers or not. You can also say these greetings based on the time of day Magandang Umaga (Good Morning), Magandang Hapon (Good Afternoon) or Magandang Gabi (Good Evening).
  2. Kumusta (How are you?) — Here’s another conversation opener almost always used among Filipinos.  It is more casual and can be used any time of the day.
  3. Pwede pong magtanong? (May I ask you something?) — As a traveler, you may not always be able to rely on GPS or guidebooks to get around.  This question is handy for getting or confirming information about various things, from bus stop locations to restaurant entrees.
  4. Salamat (Thank you) — Saying thanks is a universal practice across cultures.  You need to thank people after you request for their services or for information.  This will surely bring cheer and positive feelings, no matter how inconvenient your request may be.
  5. Oo (Yes) — This is much better than just nodding your head.  It shows that you have made the effort to learn the language and will surely elicit admiration from your listener.  If speaking to a person older than you, use the more respectful “Opo.”
  6. Hindi (No) — Just like “Oo”, “hindi” helps you communicate your needs, especially if you are making purchases or dining at a restaurant.  It is used for expressing a refusal or a denial.  If speaking to a person older than you, use the more respectful “Hindi po.”
  7. Magkano? (How much?) –It’s always good to know how to ask for prices in any language.  Being able to say this may even warm you to the other party and can get you a good discount.
  8. Saan ang…? (Where is…?)  — This question phrase usually follows after “Pwede pong magtanong?” You can get information about locations and directions.  The local may even assist you in getting the right transport or show you the place if it’s nearby.  Be sure to say “Salamat” after you reach your destination.
  9. Paalam (Goodbye) — When you’re ready to leave a location and part from friends, this is the appropriate phrase to use. You’ll always be remembered for knowing how to say this (and other Filipino words) and you’ll expect a very warm welcome on your next visit.
  10. Po — This has no English translation.  It is a typically Filipino word used to show respect toward the other party.  It can be used with people your age or older.  (You don’t use it with children.)  You can use it after the other phrases in this list.  Use it often, and everyone will really be nice and accommodating in return.

You’ll be relieved to know that Filipinos are very forgiving and considerate if ever you mispronounced these phrases.  But it will always be good to practice them first with a Filipino friend before trying them on the street in order to avoid getting lost in translation. You can also watch this Youtube that I found so you could practice:

Enjoy your stay, and try learning even more Filipino words as you do!

What other Filipino words do you think foreign tourists should know? Share it to us in the comments.

How to Ride the Jeepney like a Pro – A Tourist’s Guide

Welcome to the Philippines! As you may already know, one of the star attractions of this country is the jeepney. Originally a military vehicle used by the Americans during the second World War, the jeepney has since evolved into the cheapest and most available form of mass transportation. In fact, your travel experience in the Philippines won’t be complete until you get the thrill (or horror) of riding one of these.

Philippine Jeepney Ride Tips 3
The jeepney, or “jeep” for short, is easily recognizable because of its excessive decorations, gaudy colors, ubiquitous signages and messages, and incessantly noisy engine. There are only two rows of long sofa-like seats at the back with capacities ranging from seven to ten passengers per side (depending on the perception of the driver). The front part can seat three people: the driver, the conductor, and one passenger. The start and end destinations of the jeepney’s route are painted on both sides and also at the lower part of the windshield. Most jeeps are non-airconditioned and have large open windows with either roll-down curtains or sliding panes to keep off the rain.

Philippine Jeepney Ride Tips 1
You may have also heard of the notorious guys who drive these monstrosities. They are marvelous multi-taskers, as they are quite capable of doing several things at once: drive, collect fares, count change, talk, listen to the radio, and keep track of any passenger who forgets to pay. In recent years, drivers also have assistants sitting next to them, usually their spouses who want to make sure that they are keeping their eyes on the road and not on the ladies. These assistants enable the driver to concentrate on finding the speediest and most reckless ways of reaching their destination.

The above descriptions may sound daunting to first-time jeepney riders, so here are a few tips to guide you and help make your jeepney ride a truly pleasant and memorable experience, if you live to tell the tale.

Know which route to take.

You can find these out from the hotel personnel, security guards, cops, or just about any pedestrian on the street. Also, know where to find the jeeps.

Get on and off with haste.

Jeepney drivers are willing to wait only several seconds for passengers to board or get off. The important thing is not to step on anyone’s foot as the aisle is pretty narrow. Find the nearest available empty seat and sit down immediately, or you could risk flying off your seat by the driver’s frequent jack-rabbit starts.

Take as little seating space as possible.

This is especially hard for long-legged or wide-bottomed folks. In the driver’s interpretation, a standard seat means only a part of your bottom is actually sitting, while the rest is jutting out. At terminals, drivers will often make sure that there are at least 10 people on each side regardless of their sizes. You can always hold onto the overhead bars to balance yourself during the rough ride.

Pay with small change if possible.

How to pay jeepney fare 1

As much as possible, pay the exact amount. You can ask the driver, conductor, or a fellow passenger about the fare. There have been cases of drivers who failed to provide the right change for large bills.

Use proper timing to pay.

Some passengers unwittingly insist on paying the driver while he is busy changing gears or making turns, not realizing that this can cause accidents. Take the chance to pay while the jeep is stationary, such as at stoplights, terminals, or jeepney stops. As a custom, passengers at the back can pass the fare to fellow passengers next to them, until the money reaches the front.

To pay, just say “Bayad po” (translation: here’s my payment). If you are seated far from the driver, people would usually pass your fare until it reaches the driver or his assistant. But sometimes, people won’t notice that you are already ready to pay. Try extending your hands and politely say “Paki-abot po” (translation: please pass my fare)

How to pay jeepney fare 2
Bayad Po

How to pay jeepney fare 3
Paki-abot po

How to pay jeepney fare 4
That’s how it’s done!

Don’t push or jostle.

Even in a crowded jeepney, courtesy is still the rule. Seats are usually given up to female and elderly passengers.

Use proper ways to signal a stop.

You can either say “Para po” or “Sa tabi lang po.” Some passengers knock or tap the ceiling or the sides of the jeep but many drivers detest this. For your convenience, most jeeps now have cords on the ceiling attached to buzzers to alert the driver. If you’re not sure where you should get off, immediately inform the driver or conductor at the start of your ride. Or if you know where to get off, alert the driver at least half a block from the stopping point.

LaBoracay 2015: What to Expect?

For those of you who haven’t been to Boracay, you should know that it’s one of the must-go places in the Philippines. In 2012, Boracay was awarded the title World’s Best Island by Travel & Leisure.

Only about 7 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide, little Boracay is the hub of parties and tourist activities every summer, especially around the months of April and May.  At the White Beach area,  you can practically engage in zillions of activities, like sailing, snorkeling, swimming, parasailing, diving, and island-hopping.  As the sun sets, you can visit the many bars and restaurants along the shore or go shopping at D’Mall.  There’s plenty of live entertainment at the bars where you can eat and drink your heart out.  Many entertainment places operate up to the wee hours of the morning.  There’s always something for everyone in this tiny island.  And if you want to explore further, you can go to Puka Beach where you can feast on sumptuous seafood delights, east to Bulabog Beach for watersporting, and secluded but serene Diniwid Beach.

May 1, a public holiday in the Philippines, happens to fall on a Friday this year. This long weekend would be the perfect time to visit Boracay because of the many fun and exciting activities already slated between the last week of April to the first week of May.  These series of events are collectively part of LaBoracay 2015.  So make a point to join any of these and be a part of the Boracay scene this year!

Nestea Beach – April 30 to May 3, 2015

Who's going to the #MyNesteaBeach this coming #LaborDay? #LaBoracay2015

Posted by Plan Your Trip Now on Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Nestea Champions League, a beach volleyball tournament, is already a staple in annual LaBoracay events.  Show your skills in volleyball by participating in games.

Non-aficionados can also take part in the Plunge Party and Secret Party (location to be announced) and Love the Beach cleanup activity.  There are also stations where you can refresh and chill with drinks and massage service.

Electro-dance artists Sander Van Doorn and Knife Party will be performing on May 2 and May 3, respectively.

You can buy access tickets for each separate event, or one all-access pass for PhP1,300.

SUNKISSED2015 – April 30 to May 3, 2015

A photo posted by Mark Conrad (@markconrad) on

<centerLaBoracay 2015 Events

This is an all-day and all-night party sponsored by the Department of Tourism, the municipality of Malay, Aklan, and Fearless Productions.  Deuce and Paris Blohm will grace the occasion and keep the beat going. The venue starts at Station 1.

The Red Whistle SaveSexy Lifeguards Laboracay Race – April 29 to May 2, 2015

LaBoracay 2015 Events
Red Whistle is an organization which advocates HIV and AIDS awareness among the youth.

This  competition involves 3  teams and 30 people.  You need to send a message to the Red Whistle’s Facebook page or text them at 0939-930-0430 for more details. More details can be found here.

Solar One Boracay – April 30 to May 3, 2015

LaBoracay 2015 Events
Solar Entertainment Corporation  will be hosting various activities that showcase its 8 channels. There will be lots of drinking, dancing, live performances, and party games.  It promises to be one big, noisy party!

Party Yourself into Shape – May 1 to May 3, 2015

LaBoracay 2015 Events
If you love Zumba, you’ll go head over heels with this Zumba-cum-party event held at the Best Western Boracay Tropics hosted by Regine Tolentino and other top-notch Zumba instructors.  Each day has a specific theme (Luau, Throwback, and Rave).

MAY 1-3, 2015 ; Tickets are at P200

Call Boracay Tropics Manila Reservations Office to avail of special discounts on your stay if you’re booking to join the Zumba Party! Contact numbers: +63 2 887-4652 and +63 2 887 0581. Get updates from their Facebook Events Page.

Pepe Smith and Wally Gonzalez – May 1 to May 3, 2015

LaBoracay 2015 Events
The forerunners of Pinoy rock are back!   Catch them at Charlie’s Steakhouse and Diner. Relive their hit songs from the iconic Juan de la Cruz band days as well as their own solo releases.  Rock on!

Jungle Circuit Party Boracay – May 1, 2015

LaBoracay 2015 Events
This will be held at the Roof Deck of Tides Hotel (D’Mall, Station 2) from 3:00 pm onwards.  The party will feature noted DJs Romeo Cavalcante, Ace Ramos, Brian Cua, Jay Santos, Jeck Magdato, and Travis Monsod.  You can get tickets for only PhP500 online through smtickets.com or at SM Malls, or call (917)861-5747.

For inquiries and tables reservations call/text 0908.1336976 Limited tables available.

DJ Rebecca and Fiona at Epic – May 1, 2015

Rebecca Fiona Laboracay
This DJ duo hails from Stockholm, Sweden.  They have released several successful singles such as “Luminary Ones” and “Bullets”, and won a Grammy in 2011 under Best Electro/Dance category.  Watch them perform at the Epic Boracay, Boracay’s premiere dining hotspot.

[hr]

Still don’t have an itinerary for Boracay?

Why waste your time researching when you can have everything that you need to know about traveling partying in Boracay through my Boracay Travel Guide?! It’s available in Amazon. Coming soon on Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd etc.
Laboracay - Boracay Travel Guide
[hr]
Are there any other events that I wasn’t able to include? Just comment it below.

Share this to your friends too. Have fun!