Okay, we didn’t really climb Mount Samat per se—mountaineer-style—but still. Besides, there’s a perfectly good road leading up to the summit, so why would we I? So, if you’re planning to do a climb, look elsewhere. Otherwise, if you want the lazy, faster, with-aircon way, then read on.
By the way, when we planned our Bataan day trip, we only had Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in mind. Bataan is relatively near and Las Casas will only really take 4 hours of your time max, so we ended up with time to spare. As per the suggestion of the Las Casas staff and some googling, Mount Samat seemed like a legit side trip.
But wait, here’s a super blogger tip: if you want to do a Bataan day trip, do these three: Mount Samat National Shrine, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, and Pawikan Conservation Center. In that particular order, or in reverse. We were not able to do the three (labo) simply because we went straight to Las Casas, but at least we learned something. If you want to do Pawikan first, go via SCTEx. The other two will be on the way going home—but this time via the old San Fernando exit. If you want to do Mount Samat first, exit San Fernando and go home via SCTEx after Pawikan. However, might I suggest doing Mount Samat first because you wouldn’t want to arrive too late there and miss the elevator going up the cross (like we did). Super ninja blogging tip, indeed.
Wait a minute, I’m blogging about Mount Samat even though I didn’t really “climb” it, plus I was not able go up the cross? Sinong niloko nitong blogger na’to? That’s the thing. I was just really moved by the place.
Dramabels aside, Mount Samat, the entrance to, is about 20 kilometers from Las Casas (you won’t miss the sign that leads to it from the national road). From the foot of that entry, there’s an exhilarating drive of about 20 minutes until you reach the shrine area. That 20-minute drive will test your inner Schumacher (old school pati mga references). It’s uphill, downhill, zigzagy, narrow, and has very steep, curved short bursts—think downshifting to first gear ala Baguio. (Also, I could swear I saw some downhill skaters there.)
The road only leads up to the shrine area so you won’t miss it. Once you reach the gate, prepare to pay a whopping PHP 20 entrance. Go as far as you can because by this time you’re already looking for parking; and, the farther you go, the less uphill walking you’ll have to do.
You all know what this shrine is about, right? Yeah, the whole Bataan Death March thing. This is where the soldiers hid until they could no longer do so—because of hunger, I’m guessing—while the Japanese had all the exits covered. After that happened the Death March.
So yes, there’s a reason why this mountain gets to you. It may be the rich, haunted history, or the stunning view of Bataan, or the megastructure sitting on top of it; either way, it’s all very sulit. Sulit not only because you’ll spend a maximum of only PHP 50 there, but because—as simple as it is—it does not disappoint.
So once again, word of advice, try to arrive early because the elevator going up the observation deck (in the cross) closes early. (The shrine is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, so the last people to go up should be done by 5.)
By the way, between Mount Samat and Las Casas you’ll pass by a sort of Philippine-Japan friendship tower on an intersection that leads up to Bagac town proper. Take some photos there if you’re the type (and if you’ve totally forgiven the Japanese for their terrors). (Kidding.) Seriously, though, it’s nothing.
Eagle Point Beach and Dive Resort in Bagalangit, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
Warning: this post is bitchy.
Eagle Point. What an adventure; and by adventure, I mean the unexpected.
Being that our summer schedule is, on average, booked 365 days in advance (thanks to my wife), we had to find a quick getaway for the holy week with less than a week to go, just so we don’t get bored out of our minds repenting (our house). The criteria: ocean, hotel, within 200 kilometers, cheap.
We found two resorts: one in Subic, one in Batangas. Needless to say, choosing the latter was something we never deemed so regrettable, especially within only five minutes of arriving at the place.
Where is Eagle Point?
The resort is very easy to get to (Anilao in general, actually). With SLEX-Sucat as kilometer 0, it’s only about 120 kilometers away—70% of which will be spent driving pedal-to-the-metal at the now-connected SLEX and Star Tollway. All traffic aside, that’s an hour and forty-five minutes tops.
From the end of Star Tollway:
Take the 2nd roundabout and simply go about as if you were going to the Batangas Pier
Do not go up the overpass; stay to the right and make a right going to Mabini
Waste 15-20 minutes on this 5-kilometer stretch of pure traffic hell
Make a right on Jolibee
Follow the road and find the ocean to your left
Keep going until you reach a Y intersection
On the intersection, choose the road with the diver’s statue (right)
Go straight until you reach the end of the road
You are now at the Anilao Pier and you have no business there
Go back 50 meters and take the first right
Climb the mountain for about 15 kilometers
Be wary of the signs, Eagle Point should be on your right
Now, here’s where it gets odd
Once you finally make that right going towards the resort, you’ll be greeted by a sign that says: “Your adventure starts here.” Take a minute to digest every word of that sentence for nothing can be further from the literal truth.
Remember all that mountain climbing you did on step 11 above? You will now reverse that until you reach sea level once again, but this time in a hellishly steep descent that spans maybe 2 kilometers. So, that’s 15 kilometers going up compressed to 2 kilometers going down. All this on a one-lane road that can give even the most seasoned off-roader a run for his money. Incoming traffic? Forget about it. One tire slip and you’re dead.
Okay, if you make it alive (hopefully), you’ll finally reach the parking area. Take note: parking area. So, where’s the resort? As it turns out, the journey is just not over yet. You’re still going to have to ride their shuttle and go on an even steeper descent that only local drivers familiar with the terrain can handle. I guess they really need to do this to prevent accidents and to avoid being sued. By the way, by shuttle I mean pampasaherong jeep. This is where you’ll be literally holding on to dear life while preventing your stuff from falling off. Fun. Adventure indeed.
Going back to the parking area. There you’ll be greeted by a big sign reminding you of the resort’s policies. Corkage fees and the like. At this point, we’re like, “Naku, strict kaya?” Now, here’s where it becomes funny. You have to know that we traveled with my mom (and sister). My mom is a character—a classic tita/lola if you may. The baon na adobo is already a given among Pinoys. Bump that up 5 notches higher so you can imagine our baon game. Among our stuff—placed in open-top S&R shopping bags—are (with no exaggeration): a rice cooker (filled to the brim with cooked rice), cooked adobo (of course), cooked tocino, cooked talong, a set of plates and utensils, uncooked hotdogs, a styrofoam cooler, and a 5-gallon mineral water jug. Yes, the 5-gallon one, the round one that you put upside down on a dispenser, and not even the one with a built-in faucet. So, you can just imagine our reactions when they asked, “Ma’am, may baon po bang pagkain?”
Anyway—and here’s probably the only thing good that I’ll say about them—they let the corkage rule slip.
The actual review
Wait, what’s their favorite word? Well, you’re gonna have to read up until the end of this post. But first, I’ll give my thoughts on the resort itself.
The first thing that both me and my wife thought of when we set foot on the resort was that it reminded us a lot about Pearl Farm. Yes, Pearl Farm in Davao. Yes, we’ve been there. Yes, yung 14.5k/night (yabang mo, gago). Now, that’s saying a whole, whole lot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Pearl Farm (labo), but the layout is almost entirely the same—by the mountain, cottages facing the open sea, long walk to the cottage, swimming pools at both ends.
Now, make Pearl Farm much older (weathered) and bump the baduy factor up by 10 and you get Eagle Point.
Here’s another thing you need to know about the resort: there’s no beach. Although that’s typical of Anilao resorts, I still feel it’s worth stressing. What you get when you reach the land-sea divide are rocks of all sizes, and depths that are snorkeling-ready in just a couple of meters.
There are 3 swimming pools within the resort. A multi-level kiddie/adult pool with a slide, and another adult pool at the far end of the resort. There is also a saltwater diving pool of some sort, with actual baby sharks in it. True story. You can swim in it, but I think its main purpose is for newbie divers to practice in on before going open sea. What we didn’t like about the pools? They’re green. Having lived in houses with pools for most of my life, green water only means one thing: lumot. A clean, untreated pool will start blue, they slowly turn green after all the swimming action.
The rooms are okay. I can only speak for the double that we got. It’s a separated, 2-unit cottage with a balcony each. This means you’ll be making friends with your neighbor should you go to the balconies simultaneously. It’s quite spacious and we were able to fit 2 extra single beds with room to spare. There’s a mini ref, a safe, standard 32-inch (or bigger, not sure) TV, the works. Bathroom is okay in size, but water pressure is weak. Aircon is small for the size of the room.
What else? There’s a restaurant with a nice view (called Eagle’s Nest, I believe) that we only got to try during breakfast—because of our baon. The buffet breakfast is okay for the price (the selection).
Staff are courteous and will greet you every chance they get. That’s something.
By the way, being that it’s called Eagle Point, there are actual eagles in captivity (cages) inside.
Now, about their favorite word
Here you go: EXTRA
Yes, their favorite word is extra. As in, “Ma’am mayextra charge po.” “Ma’am, extrana po yun.”
I kid you not.
From the moment we set foot there, I swear to Judas. Okay, so there’s the corkage (which they let go, and we greatly appreciate it), then there’s the additional charge for extra persons which is PHP 1,000 per head per night (with breakfast, at least), so you better book a room that is one-is-to-one to your group.
When we finally got to the room, we were exhausted from the heat so naturally, we needed cold drinks. We didn’t have ice—not that we forgot about it, mind you (don’t underestimate my mom)—so we had to order from the front desk. Guess what? May extra. PHP 20 + 10% tax!
WiFi? No problem. PHP 168 lang per night, PER USER.
Snorkeling gear? Meron. PHP 300 lang. Additional PHP 200 for the aqua shoes. (Sino ba namang hindi mag a-aqua shoes doon eh bungad palang ‘sang damakmak na ang sea urchins.)
During checkout, my sister wanted to charge the butal via card just so she won’t have any change (barya). Guess what? Because she wanted to charge an amount that is below their minimum charge amount, may EXTRA.
Mura ang per night sa Eagle Point. (By the way, there’s a day trip option of PHP 500 per head.) We paid around 3.5k/night for a double room (not really sure if it’s a “double” cause the bed sure looks like a king). Nasira lang naman kasi 4 adults kami so we ended up paying +2,000.
Also, Eagle Point Resort is a dive resort. After all, Anilao is the diving capital of the…I don’t know. They have their own island if you want white-sand beach, but you have to pay extra.
Finally, here’s another reason why we disliked this resort so much. Last year we were also in Anilao. We went to a resort called Sea’s Spring. It’s a little bit farther but it’s basically in the same vicinity as Eagle Point. Same price, bigger, roomier place; bigger, better pools. It has a really, really hot hot spring; there’s no corkage, no stupid extra charges. All in all, so much better. Had we not gone there, we’d probably be quite okay with Eagle Point.
P.S. Bitin ka pa? Check mo yungphoto blogko kung saan mas maraming litrato at kwento!
That week between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time to travel—little to no traffic, most are already on VLs anyway, great weather, and the overall atmosphere is just light and merry. However, and unfortunately for us, nothing major (major, major?) was penciled up so we had to settle for a day trip. Amidst the post-Christmas rush and mandatory family get-togethers, we found a date: December 27, 2015. The place: Bataan.
Why Bataan? Because Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. Maybe it got too much media mileage. Heck, even I—who on a good week will spend an absolute maximum of 2 hours on the ol’ tube—chanced upon a feature. A show with Drew Arellano, if I remember correctly. That and the recommendation of some titas from the missus’ side of the family, and it was a go.
Simple: Waze the fuck it up. But okay, because people look up to me as a travel blogger (hihi), follow this: exit San Fernando, get past the Pampanga towns, then follow the signs. Seriously, it’s as easy as pie. What you need to know, though, is that the travel is pleasant and the roads are nice. Trust me. Bring your lowered car for crying out loud (wait, “stanced” na pala ngayon). All in all, the trip shouldn’t take you more than 4 hours.
Wait, commute ka lang? Ay, poor.
Let me tell you what this place is all about. It’s old houses from different parts of the country taken down, transported and rebuilt piece by piece in this rich businessman’s spare lupa. Imagine the lengths these people had to go through. Why they did it? Who knows, but it sure makes for a good and one-of-a-kind attraction.
There are 10 or so houses there, most without any significant historical importance except that they’re really old. The houses have been turned into makeshift museums (featuring more old stuff) and Bahay sa Balete-like hotels. Seriously, you can rent anything there from a room to a whole multiple-room mansion (enough for a small company outing). Prices range from medyo mahal to outrageously expensive. We heard rates going up to PHP 300,000 per night for the biggest ones. Truth.
When you get to the place, park your car at the designated parking area which is just before the main entrance. There you will also find a small, unpretty registration booth where you pay the entrance fee. It’s around 600 for a day pass and around 1,200 (I think) for a day pass with buffet (tanginang blogger ito hindi manlang iresearch ang tamang fees). I suggest you get the one without the buffet; all the foods we saw inside were overpriced so I fear for the buffet being not sulit.
By the way, all of this is under the assumption that you’re not going to sleep there.
Okay, once inside, the only logical thing left to do is join a guided tour. Guided tours are scheduled every couple of hours or so so there’s no rush, and there’s no extra charge. It is, however, entirely by foot (but you can ride the free service jeep going back to the starting point once done). The tour is nothing but a house-to-house. The guides speak of mildy- to semi-interesting facts about each house—where it was originally from, the family that owned it, the condition they found it in, yada yada—but they will not skimp on letting you know of its nightly rate, the amenities and/or special features (such as a full-time butler), and if it’s available or not.
Word of advice: wear easy-to-remove footwear. Shoes are not allowed inside any of the houses. There are 14 houses.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is one of those places wherein you can never take a bad picture. It’s kind of like Ilocos (or an old church). The houses are aliw to some extent, but most lack in historical significance to make you go “ooh”.
They have a small pool for the guests and the property is literally by the beach. The beach is okay, usable, and very long (both length and width), but is definitely not white. To my eyes they’re gray-brown.
Like I said, the snacks and drinks there are overpriced. Think Valkyrie prices. We did not get to try the buffet, but I’m quite happy (and relieved) with that decision.
A small tram that’s designed to go around the property is currently under development so that should be something to look forward to.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. We didn’t get to finish the guided tour. We also didn’t get to go inside all of the houses. The sun was super pasikat that day and for some reason, we all could not up our disposition to match the energy needed for all the walking, the removing of shoes, the wearing of shoes, the taking of pictures, etc. (well, except for my wife, maybe). Every time we’d encounter a big shaded tambayan, we’d stop for 10-20 minutes. Look, we’re not an old group; the aggregate current age of our group would probably fall in the mid-twenties. But it was so painfully gruesome. It’s like having all this magnificent architecture surrounding you but not having the energy to enjoy all of it. Weird.
It’s a good place. It’s a testament to one man’s love for old Filipino-Spanish architecture (as per research, a certain Gerry Acuzar). Being beside the ocean is a plus. The location is excellent; I love the fact that you have to reserve a day/road trip for it. Transforming it into a business is a necessity (for maintenance costs) but it takes away from the authenticity of the experience in a kind of “sellout” way, even though it is quite understandable.
P.S. By the way, you will not need an entire day for this. We were still able to visit another attraction—Mount Samat National Shrine—so watch out for that on the next post.
P.P.S. Shared Bataan gallery will be created when I finish the Mount Samat post.
Okay, what to say about this event-slash-day trip? Short and tiring, perhaps. I remember the need to be at the venue by 6:00 AM just so we can see the balloons pre-flight. I remember being promised a ride on one of the balloons only to realize later that even if it had happened—which is a long, long, long shot—it probably would’ve been the worst idea ever. Why? Because we’d end up in the middle of nowhere once the balloon runs out of steam (hot air?). Add to that its inherent lack of safety and/or life-saving plan B options in case something goes wrong.
I know now. This festival makes for great, colorful photos; you’d best unleash the photographer in you. It’s a good side trip; the events happen so fast that you’d be left with nothing else to do come 9:00 AM. The sun will burn you; bring loads of sunscreen and/or umbrellas. Bring a kite; the kite-flying conditions are perfect. Other than those, it’s a good 2-hour-tops drive from the metro (Lubao, Pampanga), and about an hour-and-a-half away from Subic.
I have decided to create a standalone gallery for this event because the photo colors are just so nice.
Privato is too hipster for its own good
There are two times in a year we’re sure to hotel it up: NYE and Holy Week. The latter is normally reserved for cheaper, boutique-style hotels that are enough to bring us comfort during itaga-mo-sa-batong-mangyayaring Maynilad holy week service interruptions.
Privato is a newish artsy-fartsy hotel along Shaw—a little before and opposite Capitol Commons/Ynares. It’s got a nice, modernistic, minimalist feel to it (I’m obviously not equipped to describe architectural things). Bottom line is it’s clean and stylish. The rooms are okay; the gym is small; the rooftop pool is small and cold. There’s also a restaurant with a nice overlooking view of the Kapitolyo area. Bonus when staying here: Kapitolyo hipster eats. (Look, I don’t really know what hipster means when describing people, let alone places, so whatever.)
Ark Avilon Zoo is barely a zoo
Let’s consider this a side note because this is just field trip for our baby’s summer class. I guess what I really want to say is, “Hey, there’s a small zoo in the Tiendesitas area that you probably do not know of. Check it out.” Bring your kids there. You’d be done in 2, 3 hours so there’s plenty of time to hit the Ortigas malls.
Forget Ilocos, there’s Pililla Wind Farm
Ah, me likey. Thanks to my tito’s odd place of choice for spending his semi-retirement—Sitio Bugarin, Pililla, Rizal—we got to see this hidden, relatively unexplored gem. My tito has an up-the-bundok, farm-like place that’s literally a stone’s throw away from the first few windmills.
The place is still being developed and the windmills are not yet fully operational. We were able to get up close to some of the windmills, though, but there were areas we weren’t allowed to go to because of construction safety issues. By the way, to add to the whole haciendero experience, we commissioned local workhorses for the trek.
I feel this is going to be somewhat of a road trip/day trip tourist spot in the near future. They’re just gonna have to develop the place with the public in mind, and maybe put up some restaurants. By the way, wind generators weren’t put up here for nothing. There’s an endless supply of nakakalunod na hangin everywhere. My uncle says it’s like that the whole year round, save for a couple of days during summer. Oh, and depending on your vantage point, you also get a super nice view of Laguna lake.
What’s not to like? The trip. You can reach the place two ways: via Laguna and via Antipolo. We went the Antipolo route because it’s significantly nearer. Unfortunately, you’re gonna have to traverse 2-3 hours of traffic, small, busy roads, palengkes, etc. so the travel is not that pleasant (for the driver).
Side note 2: The Mind Museum
Hey look, check out The Mind Museum at BGC. It’s a must-visit if you have inquiring minds.
Nothing more to add. The place is cool and sulit.
Sea’s Spring Hotel Resort, Anilao, Batangas
Sea’s Spring. Sea’s Spring. What an odd, hard-to-pronounce name. Well, it’s Korean so there’s that. I just realized that I wasn’t really in blogger mode during this trip, so I don’t have review-like photos of the resort.
So, what is the main selling point of this resort? The hot springs, I guess. Yep, they have 3 (maybe 2) small pools of varying burn-your-skin hotness. That’s in addition to the two big ones with water slides. The resort is huge; it’s quite nice, to be honest, but the beach area ain’t no beach. Anilao is of course a diver’s haven so it’s not really know for its beaches. We did some island hopping and were able to do some snorkeling, but like I always say, once you’ve snorkeled (is that even a word?) in Mindoro, you’d be hard to impress.
Terrazas de Punta Fuego Gilid
Keyword: gilid. We did a beach/seaside-themed Halloween this year. It was my eldest sister’s birthday celebration (and treat) and it was meant to be Verzo clan reunion of sorts. Okay, why gilid? Because the rest house we stayed in was literally out of the boundaries of Punta Fuego. However, because it’s so gilid, there’s no other way of getting there except via their gate/property. You can clearly see the chicken wire bakod that divides the two.
Okay, so Terrazas Gilid is in Nasugbu. I have to say, I didn’t expect the beach there to be that nice—I’m really confused with all the Batangas beach areas and how it varies from super ugly to super nice. The rest house is nice too. It has 3 rooms and is made for a big family/group. I’m not sure how we got it, nor if it’s open to the public, but it sure looks quite exclusive.
Date sa Hong Kong
Finally, an out-of-the-country trip.
I have one life goal that goes as such: visit Hong Kong at least once a year. Hong Kong is just such an addicting place. It’s clean, orderly, small, cold (oh right, I don’t like HK during the hot months), foreign but not too foreign, near, etc. So there’s all that, but this trip was made even more special because ’twas a date of sorts for me any my wife—naks! Sundan na ‘yan!
Look, I don’t really want to blog about HK because there’s really nothing about it that hasn’t been written yet, so I’ve decided to do two things: (1) create a gallery photo blog, and (2) write a short editorial-like post on my realizations from this trip. When the second one will be finished, I do not know.
How I wish I could make fun of travel bloggers but there are those who are really hardcore about it. And when you see their posts, it’s like, “Jesus, umuwi ka naman minsan!” Career talaga.
Any horse, I just want to post another update and the least I can think of is a travel compilation. Mind you, though, this is going to get a little boring at times. I just finished compiling the list of places we did this year and sadly, I may have to include Star City just to fill the page. Panalo.
Starting the year at Richmonde Hotel
2014-New Year’s Day
We are a hotel-staycation type of family. And because we’re so over firecrackers and fireworks (as in overly scared), we just see to it that we’re somewhere high enough to have a panoramic view of all the putukan action. We were lucky enough to get a corner room on the fronting-Megamall side, so we got to see the Chinese-Greenhills fireworks competition of whose-business-did-best-this-year.
Richmonde Hotel is quite old. You can easily tell by the condition of the carpets and upholstery of sofas and chairs. But overall, I guess it’s doing quite well for its age. Besides, four words more than make up for its minor shortcomings: heated indoor fucking pool.
Another good thing about Richmonde is you need not take your car out until checkout. You can walk to Megamall and Shang and buy anything you need or might need; there are also 7-Elevens, Family Marts, Mini Stops left and right.
For two nights on a two-queen room we spent about 10 grand which is really good (considering the dates).
Star City — oh, yes
So nakakahiya. You know what? Who cares. Prior to this we haven’t actually been to the place—I’m sure I have as a child, but I really can’t remember. Star City is an okay place that you should go to once and get over with.
Two things that stuck with me on this trip: the Ferris wheel and the artificial snow thing (Snow World). However, the artificial snow thing, that is something else. As for the Ferris wheel, there’s nothing really special about it but I think I remember it because of the view—bay area Manila—which no other local Ferris wheel offers.
Okay, let me tell you something about Snow World. It’s painfully brutally cold. Duh? No, you know nothing (John Snow!?). It should not be considered an attraction. It’s a fucking torture chamber. Yung sipon mo ba naman maging yelo. Saka yung anak ko, mangiyak-ngiyak na. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but still. Look, I like cold—I’m aircon royalty, hello—and I have a high tolerance for it, but this is a different monster. Although sorry ha, I’ve never experienced real snow kasi.
Buena Vista Park and Country Club, Talisay, Batangas
This is one of those places no one will ever go to unless they’re from the area, or at least know someone who is. Case in point: the place is close to my wife’s family’s place in Batangas called Cale. It is quite a shame, though, because the place is neat and provides a great view of Taal. It’s just not close enough to Taal—or anything else, for that matter—to be a side trip. It reminds me a bit of Punta Fuego, but with much less houses.
We went there to celebrate the 85th birthday of the head lola of my wife’s family.
Paradizoo, help me make a stand
On our baby’s birthday, we wanted to go to Fun Farm at Santa Elena (as per the recommendation of my idol blogger and hot mama crush). They were booked crazy—I guess from all the mileage they got from blogs and stuff—so we had to find something else. Hence, Paradizoo.
Paradizoo is a small zoo-cum-farm in Tagaytay. It’s close to the usual places and is very doable in half a day, so you can do that and visit whichever other Tagaytay attraction your heart desires after. It may be a small farm but do take the guided kalabaw tour anyway and spare yourself the walking exercise.
I wish I can remember more things about this place but it’s freaking nine months already. Oh, there’s a small entrance fee and you can buy stuff like fresh goat’s milk.
Visiting Boracay as a tatay
Finally, a peaceful Boracay—one where there’s absolutely no pressure to go out at night and party. The only trade-off? The having to carry the baby. Yes, our daughter is at this weird age where she’s heavy but not too heavy to be carried, and walks but is a little too slow. So, being that I was with 4 girls, punctuality is not high on the priority list. Now, imagine rushing from our hotel in station 2 to the boat docks on station 1 just make it to our 10:30 AM island hopping tour. Tanggal-kamay fun.
I want to mention two things about this Boracay trip: the annoying Astoria Boracay marketing tactic and helmet diving. The other events and/or places, well, they’re non-blogables.
That annoying Astoria Boracay marketing tactic
Do you guys know what I’m talking about here? I’m sure many have been harassed by these people. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter one of their marketing soldiers even before you ride the boat at the Caticlan Jetty Port. By the time you arrive at your hotel—especially if there’s some beachfront walking involved—you would’ve encountered at least 2-3 more of these Astoria people.
What they do to lure people to bite is to provide a free buffet meal. No strings attached, just a free meal. Imagine that. But because people are not necessarily dumb, it’s quite obvious that there’s a catch to it. If and when you accept the invitation—and you will—you up your defenses and promise yourself that you won’t give in to whatever they’re selling. And because you’re already a tad bit annoyed, you’re thinking, “Yeah, I’m gonna teach these people a lesson and waste their time and food.”
So you come to the buffet. A bit fancy; hotel style. Lots of food, the works. You eat with your peeps. For their troubles of filling your stomachs, you agree to listen to a short presentation. Keyword: short. Well, guess what? You just wasted 4 hours of your time. Yup, it’s fucking that long. That’s if you have no plans of buying anyway. Show some interest and it will get longer. If you bought, I’m sure you have wads of cash lying around and I won’t judge you.
Have you guys heard of Club Ultima? Same banana. Free hotel accommodation if you agree to hear out their presentation. What they’re selling are memberships to their exclusive hotel club; you use this membership to gain access and get discounts to hotels around the world which they have tie-ups with. These clubs are usually backed by some mildly successful hotel chain—e.g. Crown Regency for Club Ultima, and Astoria chain for whatever-the-fuck-club-name these Boracay people are part of. Truth be told, it’s probably a good deal. Heck, if people the likes of Manny Pacquiao are members, then thorough financial analyses must’ve happened. Har, har.
Helmet diving — I’m scurred
I’m not chicken when it comes to adventurous things. To tell you the truth, I did not hesitate one bit during the planning stages of this activity (I must’ve even pushed for it). My wife’s usually the one who’s reluctant to try these things and I’m the one who’s, “Sus.”
Look, it’s not scary. It’s just a bit uncomfortable. Way too uncomfortable. Helmet diving is having a super heavy helmet on you which acts as your personal air bubble under the sea. The idea is that this helmet is so heavy that it stays upright all the time and will not topple over, hence will not be filled with water. Because if it does, you die. Simple as that. Nah, you actually just go down maybe 20, 30 feet tops so there’s plenty of time to swim up to safety.
If you’re ears are sensitive, do not try this ever. The pressure will destroy your eardrums in no time. I exaggerate.
Now, for some reason, I could not keep my helmet perfectly upright. It wanted to lean forwards, which put tremendous pressure on my neck. I couldn’t enjoy the underwater scenic showcase. By the way, the guide divers there will also ask you to take the helmet off for 2-3 seconds for a photo op. If you’re with a sweetheart, they will even ask you to do a helmets-off underwater smooch photo op. Fucking baduy. But, we did it anyway. No wonder my wife enjoyed this activity a little too much.
That’s it. This trip was a bit short—3 full days—but wasn’t bitin by any measure. See, if you stay sober enough to be able to wake up early in the morning, you’ll be able to do lots more.
Once again, once I start blogging, I can’t stop blogging. I’m gonna have to cut this here because I don’t want to go past 1,500 words (which no one really has the attention span for anyway). Abangan ang part two.
March 22, 2014 — Having lived my entire life south of Manila, Enchanted Kingdom has always been part of the options for quick getaways—especially if we’re up for something a little more than mall bumming, but a lot less than a semi-impromptu overnight. The place is off-city so it’s definitely a lakad, it provides cheap thrills and group/family bonding scenarios, and you can be yourself without having to worry about anyone you know seeing you. For lack of a better term, you can go all out and be baduy—sling a belt bag balikbayan-style or wear man sandals with socks, for crying out loud. No one will care.
This may have been my 5th time to EK (6th, maybe). All I know is my last time there was in 2007; April 1, 2007, to be exact. My then-girlfriend, now-wife had a friend who had a Brit boyfriend. He had about 2 weeks here and we were tasked to fill the void between out-of-towners, so we mostly did doable-in-a-day, reachable-by-car trips. Hence, Enchanted Kingdom. I also remember this vividly because I was already blogging then, and I documented it photo blog-style. (Of course, I could’ve just said that.)
We went to Puerto Princesa, Palawan last March 4-8, 2014. With me were The New Mrs. V (wife), Baby Bagyo (baby), Ru-FB (sister 1), and Ninjanine (sister 2). You can read the first part here. That post was also my comeback piece after a three-year hiatus from blogging and needless to say, I enjoyed it a little too much. This is why I’m smacked right in the middle of a possible three-part epic post, detailing every activity we did and every place we went to.
So without further ado, let’s finish this bitch up!
We continue on the 2nd day circa 2pm after our short stint at Robinsons Palawan, about to check in to our 2nd and main hotel.
Read me – UPDATE
This post was supposed to be “Palawan virgins no more – part two”. I originally intended it to cover at least days 2 to 3 of our 5-day vacation. But, lo and behold, I didn’t realize I had so much to say about the hotel. So, it became a semi-review/rant about Microtel.
Microtel by Wyndham Puerto Princesa, Palawan – k lng.
Our relationship with Microtel Palawan did not start on the right foot. Influenced by my wife’s passion to harbor all-encompassing hate, I saw them as mapagsamantala in their marketing. I will not dive into the details of our scuffle with them but I will tell you that it all happened during the booking period. With that said, I will admit that my opinion of this hotel is slightly tainted.
Let’s start with the architecture and the ambiance of the hotel (naknamputs).
I guess I have nothing bad to say about the way the hotel looks in general. It’s not spectacular, but it’s definitely way above average.
Look at the 4th photo from the top. That’s the front of the hotel; there’s no visible form of sibilisasyon in sight. The hotel is located in the middle of nowhere and is one of those places you stay put on come nighttime. There was this one time The New Mrs. V ran out of smokes in the middle of the night and no one, not even the staff, advised us to go to the nearest sari-sari.
Looking back, I think we would’ve done okay if we settled for a non-beachfront hotel. Microtel’s beach is one that could use quotation marks. You could literally walk 2 kilometers without any usable, swimmable ocean. During low tide, you get a barren sea of sand the size of 10 football fields.
For some reason, I forgot to take detailed photos of the room. It was okay, though; I remember it having nice blue floor tiles that were easy to keep clean (yes, those are the things I remember). We got a room with 2 queen-sized beds and they were standard, hotel-issue ones (nice, in other words). It had a beach-view balcony that was really small, probably around 4 by 2 feet. It had a nice flat-screen, possibly a 32-inch one; it had a small ref, a lighted cabinet, and a desk. The bathroom is okay, but I can’t forget my one peeve about it—it didn’t have a removable shower head (the one with a hose), only a permanent overhead one. A removable one is very important especially if you’re trying to bathe a child or hose down sand-filled slippers, shorts, bathing suits, etc.
I expected so much from Microtel, especially because I wanted my preformed opinion of them reversed. Had the hotel been A+ at everything—location, amenities, service, etc.—I would’ve still considered them the right choice, but, sad to say, it didn’t.
Final thoughts – pros
They do have a free shuttle service that will pick you up from the airport, bring you back to it, and bring you to nearby spots such as restaurants. But I feel it was already born out of necessity due to its middle-of-nowhere location. Still, it’s a plus. They have shuttle schedules spread throughout the day that can take you anywhere reasonable.
Final thoughts – cons
Ah, here goes. Although explicitly stated on the terms and conditions, I still hoped they would forgo the extra-person charge. We booked a room for 3 that had two queen-sized beds; there were five of us (1 baby). Upon checking in, boom! We were charged Php 750/night per person, which meant 2 x Php 750, x 3 nights — an extra Php 4,500 added to our total cost. Ouch. Okay, why am I ranting about this even if it was already to be expected? Because hotels of this caliber (price range) should not charge for extra occupants, unless maybe if the guests ask for extra cushions or extra breakfast coupons. This, to me (based on experience), is an unwritten rule in hotel management 101 (but what the heck do I know). For one, how do you think people are able to stage bachelor parties in hotel rooms? They (bachelors) sure as hell aren’t going to pay extra for the strippers’ lodging, am I right?
Here’s another thing that pissed me off in a na natawa nalang kami kind of way. This hotel charges Php 150 for Wi-Fi access to the room. Wi-Fi is free at the lobby, but if you want it in your room…pay up, bitch! Seriously? Uso pa ba yun? Pati sa bus libre ang Wi-Fi, ah. Again, especially for a hotel of this caliber.
I also felt the staff did not go the extra mile. They weren’t rude or anything, and to be honest, they did not not do anything we asked or requested. They were polite, as expected, but I just feel a lack of sincerity behind their smiles. I really don’t know. Again, I was just looking for the extra mile or the rockstar treatment (rrraawwkkstar pa naman ako).
Holy ginataang tulingan, Batman, I didn’t realize I had so much to say about this hotel!
Pak shet. I may have to rethink this Palawan series of posts. I’ll just let this one be only about Microtel. This means I may have a possible 7-part novel in the making. Damn.
This trip had been in the offing since early last year and I’m glad it finally materialized. It’s one of those vacations you book just because of piso fares—which makes my wife even more cuckoo—but it was the first time to Palawan for everyone in our group so it was something we really wanted packed full o’ adventure.
Needless to say, we all fell in love with the capital city of the Philippines’ Last Frontier. We may have only visited 60% of what PP has to offer, but we covered all the biggies—PPSRNP, Honda Bay, Ugong Rock, etc. (Okay, Tubbataha Reef is not really kid-friendly so we Douglas McArthur’d it.)
This post is really nothing but a written account of our stay. This is not a guide (even though you might find it useful), this is not a review (although there are some), and this is definitely not a promotion. What this is is a freaking diary entry, and most of all, it’s a warm-up post as I have not written for three fucking years!
For the sake of storytelling (and to get a little more excitement to this comeback post), let me introduce you to the gang. To respect each one’s privacy, I’ve decided to replace real names with ninja-like code names. Here’s the group:
Boy Banal – yours truly, aka The Official Heartthrob of Parañaque
The New Mrs. V – ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko
Baby Bagyo – true love personified
Ru-FB (roo-ep-bi) – as in FB nang FB (sister 1)
Ninjanine – looks-wise, the sister who can give The New Mrs. V a run for her money
Because Ninjanine booked her ticket separate from ours, she got an earlier flight. We had to accompany her to the airport, though, since it was her first time to fly. Unfortunately, this meant waiting in NAIA-3 for 4 hours. NAIA-3 is our best terminal, right? I’m not going to go all Chuvaness here but the check-in area was hellishly hot. Then, the lower-level boarding gates wreaked of cigarette smoke. The smoking areas are sealed and separated but it did not matter. Had we known, we wouldn’t have waited there until the last minute especially since we had Baby Bagyo, who was then only a week shy of turning three.
There’s really not much to say about Puerto Princesa International Airport. It’s a small airport in a sleepy town but it serves its purpose.
We took two tricycles (at the drivers’ insistence) to our first night-hotel and paid Php 100 (Php 50 each) . We would later realize that we got slightly scammed here. We’d comfortably fit in one trike on our succeeding trips, maleta and all. The funny thing, though, was all throughout our stay we were in awe at how honest and trustworthy the Palaweños were. Little did we know, our relationship with them started with a raket. No biggie.
Greenspace Palawan Bed and Breakfast – Like!
We knew we’d arrive post daylight so we got a cheap B&B that was close to the airport for our first night. Greenspace was a top contender after going back and forth through all the online travel aids, and I think it was the professional-looking photo set that got us to finally choose it. Needless to say, it did not disappoint.
Greenspace is located 5 minutes away from the airport—on Dacanay Road—which is perpendicular to their EDSA-equivalent, Rizal Avenue (that is if EDSA were only 2 lanes, didn’t have buses, pollution, and allowed tricycles). What you’d never realize if you’d only look online, however, is that Dacanay Road is a one-lane eskinita. For me, that’s where this B&B gets its appeal. You have everything within a stone’s throw, yet you get the detachment only a semi-inaccessible road can offer.
The place, the main building (house) looks like it’s no more than 3 years standing. Paint looks fresh; furniture, hardware does not look abused. It has a minimalistic cum zen cum modern look to it (whatever that means) which I really dug. They had free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, the works. One of the signages says it’s a pension house but I’m not really sure about that. What I’m sure of, though, is it’s also the owner’s residence.
We spent around Php 1,600 for an overnight stay, officially for 3.
The succeeding photos of Greenspace were taken the morning after.
But first, we go back to the night of the first day, dinner time.
Balinsasayaw Restaurant – a meal worthy of the first
The plan was to unload at Greenspace and have dinner at a sikat restaurant. However, we were all very tired so we decided to look for a nearby eat. Luckily, the corner of Dacanay and Rizal housed a big, open, native-style restaurant called Balinsasayaw. It has this wordless signage that features a bird.
We all really enjoyed the food especially the Balinsasayaw Salted Rice. We had a good first meal and we all thought it was a taste of things yet to come. Little did we know it set the bar high and we’d be disappointed more than satisfied on our succeeding meals.
We asked a lot of natives for the best restaurants in PP. Looking back, I’m surprised no one ever mentioned Balinsasayaw. We were unable to go to all the recommendations, of course, but we did go to a lot. Personally, I think Balinsasayaw should be on that list.
We spent around Php 850 here – for 5 including Baby Bagyo.
After a night of Red Horse and a simple silog breakfast courtesy of Greenspace, it was time to pack move on to the next hotel. We rode a tricycle to their main mall, Robinsons Place Palawan, where we were to be picked up. There’s no SM in Palawan by the way, I think that’s worth mentioning.
Robinsons Place Palawan
We spent the time waiting for our sundo shopping for minor necessities and in this short period of time, we already saw the whole mall. I like their Robinsons. It’s sized just right, easy to navigate, has all the essentials, and does not look probinsya-ish at all. We’d go back there one more time when we got tired of local tastes and craved for unhealthy fast food.
Halt! I really did not think this through.
I’ve already passed 1,000 words and I’m only on the 2nd day. Since the next part will be a long, photo-filled section about our hotel (Microtel), I’ve decided to cut it short here. Watch out for the next part (maybe 2).