Saturday, December 24, 2016

What I Wish I Gave Myself This Christmas



Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines. It is the season of giving! And more often than not, aside from empty pockets, knowing what to give has been one of the biggest dilemmas we always face. Right? So I will take advantage of this moment to tell you what I think is the best present you can give yourself and your loved ones!


... and I'll keep the chase short: TRAVEL INSURANCE. Don't get me wrong, I'm not promoting anything in particular, but I'm raising the awareness that as travelers, regular or not, we all need one. Life is unpredictable, and I'm not saying that we should expect the worst, however, even though it sounds cliche, prevention is always better than cure. May it be a business or leisure trip, we can't control e v e r y t h i n g. Nobody said it will be definitely easy traveling in a different province, city or country. And hey, ho! Hi to all solo backpackers like me, let's keep ourselves safe. Always


If you love someone, protect them!






Actually, it doesn't cost millions to have a travel insurance. There are travel insurance companies that offer their plans for as low as Php 50.00/year. Yes, you've read it right, it's that affordable. That covers both domestic and international. But for some countries like Europe, United States and United Kingdom, they are quite strict with their tourists' insurances. They have approved insurance companies, so do a research beforehand if you're about to set foot on these places. Not all travel insurance plans are the same, so don't be too over confident if you were able to obtain one. Read the coverage (how much is the principal rate and if it's just local, international, or both) and see if it suits you. Take note that plans can be yearly, monthly, or even be a specific number of days that you are traveling. Be smart and know what's best for you.

Here are some reasons why we need a travel insurance*:

1. Protection
You are not in your own country. If you encounter issues with your health, your Mom can't definitely be there in a snap! Remember that medical treatments in some countries cost more than you know. You don't want to be stranded in a hospital, don't you?


And when I say protection, this includes your luggage. Let's say you work wherever you are (okay, that sounds like me) and your luggage has been lost, damaged, or stolen, you are responsible for everything. But with an insurance, these can be reimbursed. 


By the way, some insurance plans offer 24-hour emergency assistance. So if you travel solo, and if you are in danger, you know who to call. 



2.  Emergency
Just in case you badly needed to be transferred to another hospital, or if you have to come home because of an urgent matter, having an insurance can save you. 

Also, disruptions such as delays in flights, cancellation or even things that get out of control are covered by some insurance companies. Some airlines offer such plans even while you're booking your flight.



3. Thrill-seekers
A lot of travel insurances don't cover risky activities, but some companies, like WorldNomads, believe that we "live for adventure." If you're a dare-devil, might as well check plans as such so that you'll be worry-free when you're into some action!




There are a lot of travel insurances to check out- WorldNomads, LonelyPlanet, Malayan, Pioneer, Travel Sure, and a whole lot more! Before enrolling yourself or a friend, it's best that you know what's suitable and what plans fit the most for all of you. Having an insurance secures you and throws all your frets away. To travel is to live, but to travel safe is a must. Your life matters most! Happy holidays and cheers to another year of adventures!




*policies differ per travel insurance company. Please contact your agent about it.

P.S.: I got myself an insurance this Christmas :) Title for attention.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Paragliding at Carmona Flysite

Fig. 1: Paramotor experience


Carmona, Cavite, Laguna, Philippines. It was the 5th of December last year, 2015, that I had my first paragliding experience. At first, I was bombarded with thoughts like "Can I make it?", "What if I fall?", "Will I survive?" and the list goes on. Nevertheless, I still tried it. 


Fig. 2: The best part: meeting new friends!


I accepted FlyXtreme Adventure Philippines and Paragliding School's invitation and joined a group of thrill-seekers. The fly-site is located at Carmona Ranch, Cavite. Since we had members from Manila, we all decided to meet at Alabang. The transportation is actually part of the package you can avail from FlyXtreme, but just in case you have an errand and you will be late:


A.) Private Vehicle: (recommended)
1. Take Southern Luzon Expressway
2. Exit at Carmona
3. Alight at national road going to GMA and you will see some signage going to Carmona racetrack.
4. After passing by Carmona racetrack, you will see a passageway (might something you can miss, so ask the locals to pinpoint it to you) going to the upper part of the ranch.

B.) Public transportation
1. Go to Buendia or Cubao, ride a bus going to Binan. Ask if it's exiting at Carmona.
2. After the exit, you can hop off and ride a jeepney going to GMA. Tell the driver to drop you off at Carmona racetrack. The problem is, the area is vast. You have to enter the ranch and trek going to the fly-site. You can ask some tricycle drivers at the ranch and negotiate if they can bring you there.



Fig. 3-4: You will undergo workshops before your attempt



Nobody wants to fall without having the assurance that someone will catch you, right? In paragliding, you never have to worry. You actually have to fall, before you can fly. It might be frustrating to discuss physics here in my post, so I'd rather leave that to the experience you will have. You don't have to worry because you will undergo a workshop session before you can try paragliding.



Fig. 5: Prayers, dear!



The school offers solo and tandem. But I must say, go for tandem paragliding. You will be accompanied by a licensed para-glider and you'll surely enjoy the view. Total damage:

Weekdays: 2,500 php
Weekends/Holidays: 3,500 php


Fig. 6: What did I get after falling? New friends to fly with.


Trying paragliding is somehow a step closer to skydiving. And yes, FlyXtreme also offers skydiving in different areas here in the Philippines. I know you're so much interested now, so I'll end my post with their contact details. Try it and see for yourself!







Contact person:
Michael Vincent 
FlyXtreme Adventure Philippines and Paragliding School
09063225304 09178980284

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Falling for Hulugan Falls

Fig. 1: Hulugan Falls from a distance


Hulugan Falls, Luisiana, Laguna, Philippines. Who says falling in love has to be expensive? Well, not at all the time! Prep your bags and have a getaway that will surely capture your hearts. I know the cold season is just around the corner, but hey, our hearts don't need to be frigid too.






If you'd like to have a rewarding experience of seeing Hulugan falls, the best months to visit are actually December-May. Rest assured, you don't have to worry much about the rain ruining your trip. Especially that the route to Hulugan falls, when it rains, can be a bit messy and difficult to trek (regardless of the rain, be on proper foot wear). However, if you could risk a little, June-August can actually be more surprising! The falls looks magical with more water pouring down after the rainy season.

HOW TO REACH THE AREA:

A. PRIVATE VEHICLE
Well, it's easier to have a car. The area doesn't have lockers for your baggage, so if you have a car, it's a plus. It's a 3 hour drive away from Manila. 

1. Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and exit at Calamba.
2. Take the national road, and you will pass by different towns (Los Banos to Pagsanjan). Before you get to the town proper of Cavinti, turn right to Cavinti-Luisiana road
3. Look for a signage that says "Hulugan Falls". This might be difficult to notice so keep an eye on it. 
4. You will see a long road once you see the Hulugan Falls signage. You can ask any local to guide you going to "Bahay ni Kapitan". You will pay the Tourism Fee (P20) after registering.

B. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

1. Go to Cubao or Buendia and ride a bus going to Santa Cruz (P140)
2. Ride a jeepney going to Lucena and tell the driver to drop you off at San Salvador (P30).
3. You will see a long road once you see the Hulugan Falls signage. You can ask any local to guide you going to "Bahay ni Kapitan". You will pay the Tourism Fee (P20) after registering.


Time duration of trek: 30 minutes - 1 hour depending on your pace.






THINGS TO TAKE NOTE: First, there's NO FIXED PRICE for the tour guide. But please, be generous enough to give a good amount. Next, if you want to do overnight, you'll pay P50 (bring your own tent). If you feel hungry, there are food stalls around the area. Lastly, there are houses where you can rinse after the long trek, so you don't have to worry going home muddy (P10).


This can be a tiring activity but you'll surely enjoy it! Perfect for weekday warriors (yes, not all people have weekend day offs, right?!) and perfect for those avoiding the weekend rush. What makes this trip more appealing is the budget damage- for less than P500, you get to fall in love with Hulugan falls. ***






Friday, November 18, 2016

Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura's Review

Fig. 1: Fukuoka Guest house Little Asia Kokura's reception

Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka, Japan. Visiting Japan is no joke- so, being good with your budget plan is recommended. Whether you know someone there or not, having emergency cash comes in handy! Yen might be low when it comes to conversion, but the cost of  living in this country is something that you should never underestimate. The good thing is, everything's worth it! From the transportation system, food, museums, Anime and Manga, people-name 'em! So after a long day, what will you need? A good night sleep!

When it comes to traveling, you might think that having a bed is all that matters as long as you're able to explore the area. Well, that's a fact. But, why be tight on budget if you can look for a good place with an affordable price? Right?

I checked Booking.com, and I was actually looking for a traditional type of place to stay. There were a lot, however, none can cover my whole duration of stay that time (I went there during Halloween week, and cultural day was also held the same week). Since I have no plans of transferring hostels to another, I searched further. There I found Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura. I found it strategic because one of my targets was Kokura Castle!





Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura
1-5-15 Sakaimachi, Kokurakita-ku | Nakamichi Bldg 4F, Kitakyushu 802-0005, Fukuoka Prefecture


Local name 福岡ゲストハウス リトルアジア小倉
Local address 〒802-0005小倉北区堺町1-5-15中道ビル 4階 
NOTE: Keep the local address! Just in case you don't speak Nihongo and you're having a hard time looking for it, ask! Keep a screenshot of the address, I know this will help.

How to reach the area:
From Fukuoka International Airport  > Transfer to Fukuoka Domestic Airport (bus, free of charge) > Take the subway going to Hakata Station (¥260) > Take shinkansen (bullet train) going to Kokura (¥2,110) or take the local train (which is cheaper), but that's going to take you an hour or so.
After you pass through Kokurajyo guchi, go along the monorail. You will find Kitakyushyu bank with a yellow mark on the left side of Heiwadai station's monorail. Turn left, walk into small alley (after a big car park). You'll find the hostel on the left side. It has a small sign, and is located at the 4th floor. Directions might be hard to digest, but I'm telling you, it's easier when you're there already.


CONS:

✘ Located in the red light district
✘ If you have an itinerary focused on Hakata and Fukuoka city, this might be the wrong place for you. Transportation budget back and forth will surely be affected
✘ Not much to see except Kokura Castle, Japanese Garden, Matsumoto Seicho Museum, Aru-Aru City (for Manga and Anime lovers), and Cha-cha Town. 

Fig. 3: Manga Area
Fig. 2: Area going to comfort room





















PROS: 
✔ Affordable price
✔ Has lockers 
✔ Has rooms strictly for girls - feels safe if you're a female solo backpacker like me!
✔ Free WiFi
✔ Non-smoking rooms
✔ Has a lot of comfort rooms (blow dryer and curler available)
✔ Free use of laundry machines
✔ Has a cool dining and sofa area- with PlayStation, guitar, television, Manga
✔ Free coffee and tea
✔ Free usage of refrigerator
✔ Shampoos, soap and even facial wash all for free
✔ A lot of hawkers nearby! Udon and other food at a good price
✔ Recycle shops every where (e.g. charity shops, ukay-ukay, pre-loved shops)




Fig. 4: Dining-sala area

Yu, the receptionist, will try her best to relay all necessary details you have to know. There are also posters with instructions (English) on areas that are frequently visited. Here's one:

Fig. 5: An example of the usual posters seen inside the hostel


The rooms are really clean. You have an option to choose your room- whether it's a mixed room (female/male), female, male and even with sharing, there are options. You can get bunk beds, or get a room for two or three. Bunk beds are spacious and are like capsule hotels. Inside one, there's a mini lamp shade and mini table. Comforter, sheets, pillows are provided as well. And oh, hangers for your clothes too!

Fig. 6: Sorry for my messy area

Fig. 7: Locker area

Fig. 8: Indoor slippers

Fig. 9: Hello, Winter!

So I stayed here for 5 days and 4 nights and got it for a good deal of ¥9, 200 only (roughly P4, 150.) Who said getting a decent place to stay has to be very much expensive? I have no regrets staying here and will surely come back! Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura, even if it's located in the red-light district never made me feel unsafe. It was close to feeling at home! 

Overall rating:



 










 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Applying For Japan Visa




Makati, Philippines. It was a sunny afternoon during that day. I'm sweating all over as I rode the MRT going to Ayala. My stomach was full of butterflies. I arrived at Dusit Thani and went upstairs to claim my passport. My heart was pounding as the receptionist took my receipt. He handed out my passport and I turned my back, too nervous to check the results. I opened it, and my heart was filled with joy when I saw cherry blossoms on print.

This was my first time applying for a visa. I know, I know, yes it was really nerve-wracking. I made this post because a lot e-mailed me. So let me keep your hopes high. I am a free-lancer, I have no guarantor (I was invited to teach Japanese students, but I don't want to undergo the hassle of submitting extra documents so I applied with No Guarantor) and yes, my visa was approved.


So let's make sure the steps will be easy to understand. Here are the steps as follows:

1.) Know your TYPE of Visa to know your requirements.

Yes sweetheart. Aside from knowing if you can apply for a SINGLE-ENTRY (meaning you can enter Japan once, with a maximum length of 15 days of stay) or MULTIPLE-ENTRY visa, Applicant with no guarantor VS. Applicant with guarantor has different documents to submit. Check them below:


A.) Visa Application with NO GUARANTOR 

  1. Philippine Passport. - Make sure it is up to 6 months valid, and has blank pages (to be sure, at least 3.)
  2. Visa Application Form. (Download the form here and read the Sample Visa Application Form).
    Make sure that your hand writing is legible! If it's possible for you to have your answers printed (you can use a PDF Annotator), that's much better.
  3. Photo 2 x 2 white background
  4. NSO Birth Certificate issued within one year. (You can't fool them. Our NSO copies have serial numbers at the bottom part which states the date it was published.)
    For late registration or unreadable NSO, submit the following:
    a) Certificate of baptism.
    b) School report cards/school record form 137.
    c) Graduation albums/school yearbook.
  5. Marriage Certificate, if applicable. Issued within one year.
  6. Daily Schedule in Japan. (Download the form)
  7. Proof of income
    a) ITR Form 2316 from previous year or the year before the previous if it has not been issued yet.
    b) If you have your own business, submit your Business Registration issued by DTI or also known as DTI Permit.
  8. Certificate of Employment if you have one 
  9. Bank Certificate (please remember that a bank certificate is different from a bank statement)

B.) Visa Application with Japanese Guarantor

You have to submit documents 1-9, plus:
  1. If visiting a friend, documents or photos etc. *** This is not required if visiting a family member. Text/Chat conversations are okay, and provide at least 2 photos.
  2. Invitation Letter completed and signed by the Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  3. Guarantee Letter completed and signed by Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  4. Residence Certificate (Juminhyo) issued within 3 months.
  5. Family Registration (Koseki Tohon) issued within 3 months.
  6. Proof of Income:
  •  Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae or Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
  •  Income certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho) from City Hall
  •  Tax return certificate (Nouzeishomeisho: Form2) from Tax office






C.) Visa Application with Non-Japanese Guarantor

You have to submit documents 1-9, plus:
  1. If visiting a friend, documents or photos etc.*** This is not required if visiting a family member. Text/Chat conversations are okay, and provide at least 2 photos.
  2. Invitation Letter accomplished and signed by the non-Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  3. Guarantee Letter accomplished and signed by the non-Japanese Guarantor. (Download the form)
  4. Photo copy of  the valid Residence card (both sides)
  5. Photocopy of his/her passport (including  pages of status items,  records of entry/departure, and of residence permit.)
  6. Certificate of residence with full details except for Individual Number (“My Number”) and Resident Record Code (please censor)
  7. Proof of Income:
  •  Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae or Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
  •  Income certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho) from City Hall
  •  Tax return certificate (Nouzeishomeisho: Form2) from Tax office

 NOTE: Just in case you lack any of the documents, you can submit a letter of explanation addressed to Japan's Embassy. I won't attach a template because I believe it has to be PERSONAL. Just be honest why you lack one. In my case, I haven't filed my taxes yet (I shifted from a consultant position to an ESL coach/blogger post) and I was not able to submit an ITR and COE (because, well, I'm a freelancer, technically!)

2.) Submit requirements to an accredited agency.

Yes, they have accredited agencies. The prices for visa application differ! I chose Friendship Travel and Tours located at 3rd floor, Dusit Thani. To check the rest of the agencies, click this link.


3.)  Chill and wait.

You have no choice but wait. Usually it takes 2-3 business days. The agency will call you when to claim your passport back.



FAQS:
Q: Does my bank amount matter? Do they require a specific amount before they approve my visa application?
A: Yes, it does! They are just concerned- they can't let a friend visit their country without sufficient money to support him/herself. But they don't require a specific amount. I've got friends who have  hundreds of thousands in their bank accounts yet got declined, and I've got friends who have around P50,000 yet got approved. My tip? Write an itinerary that matches your budget. If you have P50,000 in your bank, don't expect that you can have Tokyo Disneyland, then climb Mt. Fuji, then go to Hokkaido after. Be realistic.


Q: Will I know why I was declined?
 A: Sadly, no. So please, take your requirements seriously.


Q: If I get declined, how long will it take before I can submit an application again?
 A: 6 months.


Q: Should I include my plane ticket, hotel reservation, etc. in my application?
A: You may. I included my plane ticket and booking (you can use Booking.com, free cancellation hehe) school ID, registrar form,  and even the certificate of the house I bought to show that I have strong ties or reasons of coming back to the Philippines. (Specially that my clients are Japanese)


Basically, these are all the steps. But if you want to know more about it, visit Embassy of  Japan in the Philippines' website (click to view). If you're not a Filipino, you may have different documents to submit so please check the Japan Embassy's website of your country. Might as well check if your country is qualified to visit Japan visa-free. :)


I hope this blog post helps. If you've got any questions, please feel free to comment, or shoot me a message through e-mail. You can subscribe to my newsletter by entering your e-mail at the right panel of this site. Hoping to hear from you soon! ***







Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Escape From the Metro- Masasa Beach

 
Fig. 1: Majestic sunset at Masasa Beach

Masasa, Tingloy, Batangas, Philippines. Life can be really be stressing. Working 5 days a week or more, going to school and running after requirements, and the list goes on. We all somehow wish to have an escape from these daily routines.


However, thinking of having even a short vacation means having expenses too, right? We usually would burn our butts sleeping on coaches instead of running after majestic sunsets. But who said we can't do this on a tight budget?!


There's an adulterated beach located in Masasa, Tingloy, Batangas. It offers pure serenity as you spend the night there. The place is not crowded, and the locals enjoy spend time chit-chatting with visitors. The beach is a total get-away from the metro.

So let's get things working! You can actually reach the place with a P500 budget if you're from Manila, Cavite, Laguna (and/or areas nearby). But allot a thousand for your food. You can bring your cooking stuff and be a chef for a night. Grilling some fish and barbecues might complete your night, or toasting a marshmallow might give you a good night, sweet dreams sleep.

Break down:

(Transportation Fees)
1. Take a bus going to Batangas Grand Terminal. Price differs from whichever areas you are. We came from Laguna and we took a bus in Balibago. Manila and Alabang has a lot of buses that have routes going to Batangas too. Bring your student IDs if applicable. Price starts from P102-150.

2. From Batangas Grand Terminal, look for jeepneys going to Mabini. Tell them to drop you off at Talaga Port. Usual travel time is about 45 minutes - 1 hour. Price is P37.

3. From Talaga Port, ride a boat going to Tingloy Island. Price is P85.

Take note that they have cut-offs for boats going to Tingloy island. Earliest is around 10 AM, last trip is around 3 PM.

You will REALLY have an overnight vacation here because the boat schedule from Tingloy island going back to the port is from 6 AM to 9 AM only. Why? They make sure they get P5,000 a day whenever. They can make arrangements for you- if other visitors would like to go home, you can all talk about dividing the P5,000 mark price.


If you explore the area, you can discover places to have some jump-off sessions. They may not be as high, but can be fun. The place has a lot of sea urchins, so if you'd like to try them out, catch them!

You can opt to do camping or rent a place (price is negotiable depending on how you bargain with the locals). Usually, tourists prefer bringing a tent. If you need gas, food and drinks, stores are available too.

Going solo? If you're looking for a place to reflect, this is a good catch. If you're into winning friends, it's a nice place to do so too. This doesn't get flocked with a hundred of tourists, usually, less than 25 tourists stay on the island.

The best feature? The island dogs! They are so lovable!


Sharing some pics from our trip:







You don't really need to have a long vacation. It doesn't have to be very far. It doesn't even have to be very expensive. Sometimes, a short vacation filled of good memories can take all the stresses that you feel. These memories, in return, will fuel you up to get motivated again. ***

Monday, September 19, 2016

Singapore Travel 101

Fig. 1: at Merlion Park (Merlion under construction because of its upcoming 51st birthday)

Singapore, Singapore. After traveling within some areas of the Philippines, I've had numerous chances of meeting people of all sorts. Among these were female solo travelers. Yes, you've read it right: FEMALE solo travelers. I've never underestimated women, however, it is a reality that the world can be so much abusive of us-as if there's no safe place left anymore. I was in awe having the chances to speak with them. I've always wondered, "Can I make the cut? Can I do that too?"

I've been traveling domestically lately, sleeping on hammocks, yoga mats, or when there's no choice-floors. I've been on several motorcycles, bicycles, boats, even bare foot when traveling. Been on sleepless nights, bumpy rides, budget trips, and the list goes on. BUT, there's a big but- it was at the comfort of my own home country. It will always be FUN in the Philippines and that's a F-A-C-T. And so, I tried to challenge myself and schedule a trip outside the country.

Since I was a hundred percent clueless, I've asked assistance from a backpacking group named DLC Backpackers. They were very much responsive with all my queries and they really tried their best to share the best tips for backpacking. They booked my flight and made my dream come true to cross the boarder of Singapore and Malaysia. They gave me the best freebies too!  It was supposed to be last May, as a birthday gift to myself, however, some adjustments were made. Moving on, July came fast and voila! My backpacking journey began.

*** in case you need their contact number:
DLC Backpackers:
+63 917 858 7474


DISCLAIMER: If you're looking for a blog that has tons of itineraries, you're at the wrong page. But if you're into making your SG vacation memorable, we can go ahead and get a cup of tea afterwards.


 Okay. So let's stop the fancy talk and start discussing.

You won't get those butterflies in your stomach until you reach Changi Airport. Just in case you need to know, the flight duration was 3 hours and 45 minutes (of course, this est air time can change due to different conditions.) And once you've stepped out of the plane, you'd really say "Hello, Singapore!" And with that, let's start sharing tips for you to seize the moments!

1.) Arrival
You'll be submitting your disembarkation card to the Immigration. They'll scan your passport too. Once they give these back, keep your card. It's going to cause you trouble if you lose it.


Fig. 2: Disembarkation Card (image source: http://bit.ly/2cCkvjD)







Fig. 3: Never forget your cash!
2.) Currency
Rates changes time to time. 1 SGD to PHP ranges from P34-36. In case you forgot to have your cash exchanged before leaving NAIA, money changers are open at Changi Airport 24/7.


3.) Sim Card
One fatal mistake I did was not bringing an extra phone! Mine was from Japan, and it wasn't an open line one. Having a sim card gives you 24/7 net access (though some areas in SG have free access to Wifi) and of course, makes you connected to your loved ones. You'll definitely need this if you have to use Uber or Grab! (Some networks offer wide coverage including Malaysia and countries nearby. So if you're going to cross boarders, this is a good deal!)

4.) Be prepared
Being 'prepared' doesn't mean bringing your whole house. But it pays bringing a folder or portfolio with print outs of documents. And when I say documents, these include and are not limited to:
* Itineraries 
* Maps
* Hotel Reservations
* Plane Tickets
* Bus Ticket (if crossing boarders)
* Guide

For Singapore Guide print outs, I recommend  www.asiawebdirect.com (Thanks to DLC Backpackers CEO Trishie Dela Cruz for sharing this)

 5.) Be wise
And I'm talking about being wise in general- street smart, resourceful, has plans A-Z, has strategies.

Keep in mind that you should never ignore reading your print outs and system maps. Trust me, my system map became my best friend. Even the map displays on waiting sheds? READ THEM.

6.) Navigation
Honestly, I only planned going to Somerset skate park and Marina Bay. I had no other intentions. However, Singapore is too hard to resist. Since I've always been a fan of maps, it was easy for me to explore the area. It was never a task. I sat down for a few minutes, studied the system map and calculated my time.

Since I had no 24/7 net access, I had to load my GPS even before walking. Yep, you've read it right. You can open your Google Maps and it will gather information. Don't exit completely-you can minimize it or switch apps but don't cancel it. Even if your net is down, you're still on track. You'd know where you are. This is just for tracking purposes-from points A-Z. But if your goal is to have directions from a specific place to another, it won't work because you have to refresh your connection-which you don't have if you're not connected to the Internet.

Fig. 4: Some of the places I visited during my short stay


Get your Singapore Tourist Pass. YES, please! I'm glad I knew about this even before landing SG. This will save you bucks if you have itchy feet like me. If you're unpredictable, likes exploring a lot, never gets tired of seeing new places, this is your second best friend.


If you want to know more about what the SG Tourist Pass can offer, you can visit: https://www.thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg/ 

7.) Food and Drinks
Fig. 5: Street food at its finest
Save some bucks, go L-O-C-A-L! For a few dollars, you can eat good foooooood already or have some refreshments. Drop by Bugis and enjoy cheap food and drinks (plus pasalubong, ehem.) Just in case you'll be asking about their cuisine, all I can say is they have a diverse one! A blend of  Chinese, Indonesian, Malay and of course, Western! Go to hawker centers and you'll have a gastronomic experience! Don't forget to try their Laksa, Curry, Satay, Bak Kut Teh and Chili Crab!

Buying bottled water? Know that they're a bit, well, pricey.

Fast food? They've got KFC, McDonald's, etc.- but don't expect rice. If you crave for rice, go to hawkers. (I promise you, their Hainanese rice tastes like heaven)

8.) Checking In
If you won't be Couchsurfing, I recommend you trying backpacker hostels. These are like dormitory types-only be knowledgeable that these are mixed: men and women. NO sharing of beds, of course. However, you share rooms. You sleep on double-deck beds, but remember, sleeping isn't your priority when traveling, right? So if you just need a place to snooze off for a few zzzs, this is the best option.

Fig. 6: Essentials you should never leave and forget
Picky? Since hotels are expensive, try booking in advance. Lifesavers such as agoda.com and booking.com can help you. Feeling cozy sharing space in houses or apartments? Try Air BnB!


9.) Essentials
Never forget your essentials. If ever you'll be leaving your bags behind and will be strolling, going out for night life, shopping, or ANY activity-NEVER leave your Passport, Immigration/Disembarkation Card, and your pass. Better safe than sorry. 

And oh, should I add? Don't forget your power bank/s, cameras, wallet, and whatever you need to maximize your experience. 


Fig. 7: Once known strangers, now friends!

10.) Share a smile, win a friend
We all know that a lot of Filipinos work abroad. In Singapore, you'll bump into thousands of OFWs. And if you can, have some conversation with them. They're miles away from their homes and for sure, they're missing their loved ones. Spending some time with them won't hurt. After all, traveling is about touching people's lives, isn't it?



I know this isn't your picture-bombarded or itinerary-bombarded blog post. I believe that things will be more special if you experience it on your own. Knowing thyself-your limits and capabilities- and embracing them will be the best gifts traveling can offer you. You'd be losing a few bucks, but you'll get surprised of what you can do and how much it can impact your life. Especially to the women out there, having doubts, fearing exploring the world-GO OUT and have some fun! Let the wind touch your face, let your hair loose, and enjoy life! Happy traveling! ***






















Sunday, March 27, 2016

Looking For Treasures: Fortune Island

Fig 1: My friend who taught me Frisbee, Ricky Aurelia Cajefe, enjoying his beer and the view

Fortune Island, Nasugbu, Philippines. I just came home from my Coron Trip and I almost forgot that I have to prepare myself for another adventure again. Yes, you've read it right. I haven't spent an hour inside our home, yet I'm packing my bags to leave again.


So there's this place called Fortune Island, located at Nasugbu, Batangas which has been a "hot spot" for those who like Greek culture, and fans of pictorials. Dolphins are evidently seen in the area. At midnight,  groups of Pawikan (Sea turtles) appear too. Joining the bandwagon, I've decided to go and hopefully, be able to have a glimpse of Greek architecture while relaxing. Sounds like a plan, I've thought. But honestly, I have no idea why it's called as such. Do I go home with money? Treasures? Jewelries? I'm too old for those but this seems to be the real shiznit.

My itinerary:

Day 1 (October 24, 2015)
3:00 AM - Meetup (adjust your time depending where you'll come from)
6:00 AM - Arrival at Nasugbu
                - Buy supplies from the market

7:30 AM - boat ride going to Fortune Island
8:30 AM - camp set up
12:00 PM onwards - lunch time
                - Snorkeling/Swimming
                - look for wood supplies (for bonfire)

6:00 PM onwards - dinner, bonfire
12:00 AM- Pawikan sightseeing

Day 2 (October 25, 2015) 
8:00 AM - breakfast
9:00 AM - Cliff diving/swimming
12:00 PM- boat ride going back to Nasugbu
1:00 PM- lunch
3:00 PM- back to Manila

We were a group of 12, and we had chipped in 1,500 each. We had more than enough food and drinks. Nasugbu has affordable goods and for sure you won't go home without satisfying your appetite. Boat ride fee is about 2,500 or so. 


NOTE: Just in case you are commuting, upon arrival at Nasugbu, you can ask the locals to show you the directions going to the Korean resort where you can pay for the boat rides going to Fortune Island. 



Video: A short summary of our Fortune Island experience

We were able to accomplish everything in our itinerary. It was only an overnight stay, but we had more than enough time to socialize, swim, cliff dive and have some pictorials. I am not a fan of having fancy shots, but I will share to you some of my photos.









Fig 2-3: Along the ruins


Fig 4: After cliff diving!


The run down of events were good. We had enough socializing and bonding even before the water activities have started. I believe that socializing is very important and it establishes foundations.We had a lot of good food and drinks. After getting to know each other, we went up the area (yes, it isn't pure walking dear, you will climb up the area and it isn't a hundred percent safe-the stairs were not finished and you have to take extra measures). The view was breath-taking. Upon arriving, you have a choice of getting down the mini stairs then swim, or jump from the cliff. It was nerve wracking to try cliff diving but our organizer, April Esteban, made sure that the area was clear (yes, beware of water snakes) and safe (she had inflatables as you can see, and the group was full of swimmers too)


All in all, besides having the "Greek ala Batanggena" experience, I didn't only  have the chance of going home with tanned skin, also with a free-spirit. The cliff diving experience was the most liberating. The feeling of doing something you fear makes you feel alive (Always climb, jump and swim at your risks fellas). But, that experience was just a bonus. Why? Did I get money? Jewelries? A pot of gold from unicorn farts? A fortune unraveled bestowed with prosperity? Was it called Fortune Island because you leave with treasures after you conquer it?  NO. But I went home with treasures that no one can steal away from me-a braver version of myself, new memories, and real friends.  ***

Monday, March 21, 2016

Experiencing Coron, Palawan, Philippines!

 Figure 1: I whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery in Coron, Palawan

Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Almost every Juan and Juana dream of reaching this place. Oftentimes, if you are surrounded by groups of travelers in your family, school, or even workplace, you will get to hear this place. Since I've been stressed with a lot of circumstances in life during this time (yes, attempted rape and attending court trials), I've decided to take a step further and challenge myself-beat my thoughts and engage myself to more fun and healthy relationships. Well, who knows where my feet can take me? I already have wounds anyway, what's else to lose?


Since I am not in a "stable" state of mind, being traumatized and overwhelmed with things going on with my life, I said "YES" to a certain person I met online looking for joiners for their Coron trip. We were in the same travel groups on Facebook, and as I looked at her profile, she seemed legit. This was the only "foundation" I held on to and I was that crazy at the moment to entrust my first joiner and backpacking trip to her. Her name was Mench Berondo, a mountaineer, and she was nice enough to cover my round trip ticket (First joiner travel, free ticket?! Hurrrraaaah!). She made necessary sacrifices just to keep up with the group's quotation for accommodation. 


So here I am, clueless of what's the itinerary, things to bring, and the list goes on. Yes, I was this clueless and risky that time. But, life's too short, why not sin a little?


I have a copy of the itinerary and believe me, I wish I've read this. You'll know later why. Here it goes:

Day 1 (October 20, 2015)
Siete Pecados
Kayangan Lake
Twin Lagoon
Skeleton Wrench
Beach 91

Day 2 (October 21, 2015)
Banana island
Bulog Dos Island
Malcapuya island

Day 3 (October 22, 2015)
Lualhati Souvenir SHop
Mt. Tapyas
Cashew Factory
Maquinit Hot Spring



Travel and Tours: CALAMIAN ISLANDS 
Smart: 0908-913-2313
Globe: 0927-498-3309
E-mail: calamiantravel@yahoo.com


INCLUSIONS: 
  • Air-conditioned Van Transfers
  • Tourist Boats
  • Kayaks
  • Life Vests
  • ALL PERMITS and ENTRANCE FEES
  • Buffet picnic lunch and snacks
  • Breakfast
  • Cottage Rentals
  • Tour Guide Fee
  • Government Taxes
We got the CORON ISLAND TOUR which was 1700/pax. They have other packages such as ISLANDS ESCAPADE TOUR (1950/pax), REEFS AND WRECKS TOUR, (1850/pax) and CALAUIT SAFARI WITH REEFS AND WRECKS TOUR (2500/pax). For more info, please contact the travel group.


Going back to our story-telling, the only downside I had during this trip was the weather. It was very rainy when we came here. Living in a tropical country, always expect the unexpected. But still, that doesn't mean you won't rely on weather check. The Weather Channel and apps related are still a big help!

Not reading the itinerary has its cons too. It just so happened I was "lucky" enough that I have magic in my hands and I was able to pack my whole house in a sassy backpack (I was not using a travel backpack before). I brought my GoPro and its accessories, clothes, groom kit and medicine pouch (yes my dear people, always bring a medicine kit! meds for allergies, alcohol, wet wipes and even bandaids might be needed anytime).  My tip: ALWAYS READ your itinerary-you might forget something that you need along the trip.


The whole trip was intense and jam-packed -we went island hopping, kayaking, looking for pearls and discovering corals, trekking, motorycling (when at the back of my mind I thought I will just go to Coron for relaxation. SO please, again, always read your itineraries haha)-there was never a dull moment. We had good tour guides that really KNOW the history of the places and not just "doing" business. We were able to do everything in our bucket list provided in the package we chose and they gave us infinite memories to look back.  


Since dinner is not covered in our package, we had to go out and explore the place. Coron is small and not overwhelming. You can rent a motorcycle and see for yourself. As far as I remember, it costs 500 php. Also, for those who can't bring a cam, a lot of rent-a-GoPro stores are in the area. 

Sharing some photos! For the whole album feel free to visit: Coron 2015

Day 1


Day 2


Day 3



All in all, I really enjoyed Coron. I was blessed enough to be with people that are honest (which I really think is important if you are a traveler), practical and have sense of humor. This trip made me realize that though I may have lost my self-esteem and had trust issues, traveling CAN heal wounds. There may be scars, but they will JUST be scars after all.