Mt. Ulap (Into the Clouds)

Ulap is the Tagalog word for cloud. And in the most literal sense, we were in the clouds for almost the entire length of our hike, including the overnight camping.

Expectations were this:

-Sea of clouds

-Waking up early to watch the sunrise

-Milky Way

Well, reality had some other plans. But even if we’d been ‘fogged’ and rained and all that, it was still a memorable experience for all of us. We could have asked for a nicer weather, but then again, the rain and the cold wasn’t so bad.

But first, if you’re planning to go to Mt. Ulap, these things, based on experience, are a must:

-Dri-fit clothes; anything other than cotton 😂

-Extra slippers

-Lots of socks

-Gloves (2 pairs in case the other gets wet)

-Bonnet

-Cap

-Thermal jacket or raincoat would do just as long are wearing something warm underneath it

There are a few stores (that sells hot coffee, rice, canned tuna, ulam, noodles) at the camping area, so you don’t really need to bring food aside from the ones you need for the hike. There’s also a CR, don’t worry. It’s very decent and fit for your personal needs. I doubt that anyone takes a shower at the camping site, given the temperature.

We originally thought that since it was still summer (or just very the start of the rainy season), it wouldn’t be that cold. We were so wrong. We got rained a lot and it was really foggy. So expect the unexpected and bring those jackets. Don’t forget your raincoat.

Let’s start from the top. It all started at 1 in the morning; location: Cubao.

It was a long weekend, which, again, slipped our mind, so getting a bus ticket was a tough call. The earliest trip to Baguio City at Victory Liner was 11am. They weren’t the only bus station offering a ride to Baguio. So we kept on walking, hoping to buy a ticket, until we were approached by someone (this might be dangerous but then we were walking at a very crowded street and this really happens outside the bus terminals) and said that there was a van going to Baguio waiting to be filled.

We checked it. It was parked right outside Chowking. Then we decided that this might be the only ride available, so we went ahead together with a few group of friends who were also heading to Baguio. (Van fare: Php 600; Bus – Php 475)

It was around five in the morning when we’d arrived at Baguio City. We were hungry, so we asked the cab driver to bring us to a nice place to eat. He brought us to Good Taste, which was open 24/7. It was later on when we’d found out that it was a good thing that we went there early in the morning and got a seat, because the place was always full.

When the food was served, we realized why the cab driver brought us here. Their food is tasty and budget-friendly. We felt like we ate more than what we had paid for. Another cab driver told us later on that the owner had a farm, so he could offer the meals at a much lower cost.

After that, we went to the market to buy some things we needed for the hike, like gloves and bonnet and food. We didn’t know there was a store at the camping site. So yes, I would gladly inform you that you didn’t need to buy tons of food and take it with you. Saving you all the trouble, there were two stores at the camping site and you wouldn’t go hungry.

After that, we rode a jeep going to Ampucao Elementary School. The road was right beside the mountain cliff. But it was fun and safe. The locals were also very friendly. With no sleep at all, we dozed off for a while and they looked after us and our things. And then they made sure that we wouldn’t miss our stop. It was around an hour ride to Ampucao Elementary School from Baguio City. (Fare: Php 31)

At the Ampucao Elementary School, we registered for the hike and paid the fees. See their FB Page for updated list of fees: https://www.facebook.com/mtUlap/

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There, we had a short orientation and the mountain was introduced to us. We had been assigned Kuya Daniel as our guide.

Also, at the elementary school, if you’re a first-timer when it comes to hiking or a beginner, go buy that stick that they’re selling. It’s only Php 25. It will be a great help.

So yes, after the orientation, we were on our way and the raindrops started falling… just a little bit.

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See that heavy bag? We were in a rush to prepare everything that the porter would carry; that was why most of my stuff didn’t make it to the bag that they would bring to the campsite. And together with almost 3L of fluids, I was panting for air on our way up. Let me remind you again that there are stores at the camping site. Do yourselves a favor and just bring a small bottle of water and/or a small bottle of Gatorade. It will do. You can buy the rest at the store. 😂

So yes, eventually, we reached the start of the hike. To think that this was just the start. It was no joke climbing up here.

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After a few minutes of walking, we finally saw a glimpse of the sea of clouds from afar. We jokingly told ourselves that we could go home now because we already saw one.

 

This was when the walking saga resumed. Mt. Ulap was an easy trail, just up and down the hills. The only difficulties that we’d encountered were the rain and the heavy fog. It made the path slippery. We had to keep a close watch on our steps, or else we might slide down. Our guide, Kuya Daniel, made sure that we’d end up in one piece. We owe him a lot.

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This was the first scenic rock formation that we’d encountered. We honestly thought we were already at the Gungal Rock with all the walking we did. Nah, we hadn’t even reached the first peak. So much for our wishful thinking. 😂

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You know trouble is coming because the fog was closing in. Like what they said in the Hunger Games series…. fog is catching. 😂

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A few more hills later, we finally reached the first peak. This was when it got really, really cold. Raindrops started to fall again and the fog was closing in. In fact, by the time we were walking to the second peak, the fog was upon us.

With raincoats and gloves, we continued. The air was cold and strong at some parts of the trail.

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We made a stop and ate our late lunch at 3pm. We only had jellyace in our bags. 😂 All our foods had been carried by the porter to the camping site. We forgot to pack at least some breads. #magaling 😂

After eating jellyace, we went ahead and pressed on to the second peak.

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The fog covered the Gungal Rock when we got there. This was the second peak. The rock itself was also slippery. And yet, my friends climbed up there. 👏

I didn’t risk it because my backpack was so heavy and it was hard to put down without removing my raincoat and consequentially getting wet. Cold and wet was not what you were aiming to be with this kind of weather.

So I sat there and waited for them.

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After that, this was when we met the cows. They were so healthy. It was the first thing we’d noticed. Cows and cows later, we were on our way to the second campsite.

So yes, the path became tricky from this point on because of the rain. I slipped once, but gladly stayed on the path. Same for my friend. The muddy path made it hard to walk. Kuya Daniel pointed where we should walk instead. As much as we could help it, we walked on the grass.

 

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A few hills later, we finally arrived at the second camping site, just beneath the summit. But with the fog and rain, we didn’t get to look around the place that much. Plus we were so tired and sleepless. As soon as we ate that cup of rice and canned tuna, we got ready for bed.

We rented two tents, and that was where we were supposed to sleep. But given the strong winds, Kuya Daniel, whose cousin-in-law was the store owner, let us sleep inside the said store.

They were so kind and accommodating to us. 😭 If we slept inside the tents, I doubted if we would have any sleep at all. Even inside a room, it was still soooooooo cold during the early hours of the morning. I woke up several times because of it.

At this point, I’d already given up on seeing the Milky Way. I woke up at 11pm the night to use the CR and there was no star in sight. Oh, and the camping site was very safe and you didn’t have to worry about a thing, other than your tent getting carried away by the wind. There was a tent that got destroyed that night because of the wind.

The morning after…

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So yes, with almost zero visibility around us, we didn’t get to climb up to the summit and see the sea of clouds. We were in the clouds instead. They were around us.

By this time, we put on whatever clothes were available. My previous jacket got wet and I didn’t have that much choice but to put on my other remaining jacket that I was intending to use for Baguio and whatever shirts were in my bag.

After eating rice and canned tune again (we loved this combination), we packed our things and the porter carried them down ahead of us.

And then, we were on our way down… yes, all wrapped up.

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Let me show you a video of how thick was the fog and the strength of the wind:

Even if the weather was like this, it was safe to go down. You would see where you would be walking, plus there were steps. So even if the path down was steep, you only had to go step by step.

It was a new thing they’d placed because of the incidents of people slipping down, especially during the rainy season. Now, you didn’t have to worry about slipping. Just be careful going down the man-made stairs and you’d be fine.

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The scenery was also something. It felt like we were in a movie.

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Finally, we reached the end of the hike. We made it. 😍

There was a shower area at the end of the hike. That was also where the vans and the jeep were located. You could rent a van if you were in a hurry. But we rode the jeep and waited for it to be full. The fare was Php 50 back to Baguio City.

It took a while for the jeep to be filled and so the fourteen of us just divided the remaining fare among ourselves so that we could go back to Baguio City. We paid Php 71 each instead, and we were back in Baguio in an hour.

When we’d arrived in Baguio City, we headed straight to our lodging house, Lyn’s Trasient Homes, located at 79-B City Camp Alley, Baguio City. The first warning sign was this: When I was inquiring for room availability and such, their replies were fast. After I placed the deposit, they didn’t bother replying to any of my messages. This was the first red flag. I believe it’s only fair to warn fellow backpackers out there.

So yes, even if they didn’t reply after my deposit, we grabbed a taxi and went there. Maybe they were just busy (for the past three days) because we’d been accommodated when we got there.

The room we’d been assigned was Room 2-C. It was located at the second floor. For the amount of Php 1500 per night, the room was okay and worth it. The CR was clean and shower’s working.

After settling in, we hurriedly went to Bencab, because it would close in about two hours and we wanted to see the museum. The cab rate, including the waiting and picking us up because it was out of the usual way for cab drivers, was Php 300/hour.

We stayed for more than two hours and went to have our very late lunch/dinner. Our kind and witty cab driver brought us to 50’s Diner at Kennon Road. There were two 50’s Diner, but the other one was always full so he brought us to Kennon Road. And true to his words, we got a seat.

The food here was budget-friendly and very tasty. I don’t know but maybe all the food in Baguio are like this. 50’s Diner is a must for a hungry barkada.

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After that, we headed to Victory Terminal to get a bus ticket for tomorrow. The earliest we got was 5:05pm. We took it. Tip: buy tickets right away. We should have brought ours before climbing Mt. Ulap. We were aiming for a 2:00pm ticket.

And then we headed to the night market.

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The night market was really something. It is a must-try for those who are going to Baguio City. Fun and one of a kind experience. Plus, if you know how to look, you’ll get awesome bargains for a very low price.

After going around the night market, we reached the end of the road and saw the food stalls. We dared ourselves to eat the 1-day old chicken. 😂

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The vendor removed the bile for us, so that we wouldn’t be that traumatized. He wasn’t able to remove everything, but it was a dare-worthy try. The vinegar was very yummy, though. It neutralized everything. 😅

So yes, after this, things got really, really exciting. From vacation mode to action/thriller movie real quick.

So yes, we went back to our transient house. It was around ten at night. We turned on the TV and watched. After several minutes, we’d decided to call it a day and sleep.

It turned out that there were no blankets in the room, so we went outside to look for one. That was when we had heard it, a fight ensued outside amongst the locals who were drinking and several people we didn’t know. Later on, we’d found out that the victims were occupants of the same transient house where we were staying.

Based on the stories, the fight started when a taxi driver accidentally hit the table of the locals drinking right outside the transient house. And because the taxi driver was already out of the scene, a drunk local turned their anger to the ones who got off the taxi. Poor guys. They could have been us, to be honest. We also got off the taxi a few minutes ago.

We saw it ourselves because we were at the veranda and witnessed the whole thing. This certain man was shouting at two (?) guys across the street. Those two looked so terrified. We thought it was only a petty fight and the man would sober up a bit and go home. But then things got rough, and then we heard what seemingly sounded like gunshots.

Alarmed, we went back to our room and turned off the lights. We could hear people screaming outside and there was crying. We locked the door; there was no double lock and it could easily be kicked down if anyone would try. So we took our phones and hid inside the bathroom.

There was someone who climbed up the stairs and we didn’t know who it was. We also thought we had heard someone trying to open the doors. We were terrified.

Shaking in fear, we called the police. We told them where we were and what we heard. Their response had been quick, but those few minutes of waiting had been agonizing. We didn’t go outside until we could verify that it was safe; that those people were really the police.

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The police didn’t believe that those were gunshots and insisted that maybe we only heard it wrong. Thankfully, no one got hurt from what we saw. The locals also suggested that it must have been a broken bottle or something. But no, it was the sound of a fire after another. We could never be too sure, but we heard it and we wouldn’t be at peace staying for even a few minutes at that place.

This was also when we’d found out that there was no caretaker at the building. We were by ourselves, and the gate was open for anyone to go in and out whenever they wanted. It was very unsafe. The contact number they’d provided us was also unreachable at that time.

The police also insisted for us to stay, saying that they would be patrolling the area. But with the building like that, we told them that we would like to look for another room.

We packed our bags in a hurry. Getting on the police car, the police helped us find a safe place to stay that night.

The policemen were very understanding and kind. They patiently knocked from one transient room to another as we looked for a place to stay. We never thought that we’d be riding the police car at one in the morning.

One thing they’d suggested that we should do if we were looking for a transient place is to contact the police station and get a recommendation. True enough, the place they’d brought us had gates that were locked at night. The neighborhood was peaceful.

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Here’s the calling card of the place where we stayed:

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I would highly recommend this place. The rate was Php 2500/night. It was good for eight to ten people. They lock the gates at night and the rooms were clean. Very spacious. Plus there’s a double lock on the door.

With our minds at ease, we soundly slept that night. Come morning and we were strolling around Baguio City before departing later that afternoon.

While looking for a place to eat, we stumbled at this eatery–Panadero Street Bakeshop and Eatery. It was near the public market. Their food was so affordable and so, so good. I definitely enjoyed their adobong pusit. Awww, I suddenly craved for it. And Baguio’s kapeng Barako is a must try. I’m not sure if it’s the same one at Batangas, but I’m forever a fan of kapeng Barako (a local vareity of coffee beans).

And the flower shops around Burnham Park! I especially loved the carnations. So pretty.

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With the lack of time, we didn’t get to visit the other tourist destinations like Mines View Park and Botanical Garden. But we’ll be back here for sure! Except for what happened that night and the fact that it could happen anywhere, all of the people here are so warm and friendly. The weather was just right, so good. And who knows, we might go back for a sight of the Milky Way Galaxy, Mt. Ulap, when the weather’s fair. 💛

Paper Lanterns

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Synopsis:

When Anna Chelsea Lovette is fourteen, her mother dies in a tragic car accident. With her mother’s reputation tarnished after her death, Anna falls under the deciding eyes of the people. She has trouble facing the world alone, feeling that nothing matters anymore. But when a gentleman comes to her rescue at the day of her mother’s burial, Anna decides to stand up on her feet again.

Now nineteen and made it through high school, Anna can’t help but wonder who is that gentleman who’s been helping her through the years. She heads off to New Waulds, where the return address of the letters is located. Will she finally know the man who helped her? Or will she uncover one dreadful secret?

 

Read it here:

https://radish.app.link/mRwb9I33fC

Bohol and Cebu 2017 (A Solo Trip)

It started as a group trip. But unfortunately–because one of us wasn’t able to come due to work reasons–it ended up as a couple x couple plus me.

Deciding to give the couples a chance to have some quality time together and for reasons that I couldn’t join the canyoneering activity, I went on a solo trip.

And it got me so excited. This would be my first solo trip, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.

And here was how it went…

DAY 1

We arrived at the airport at around nine in the evening. After grabbing some dinner at Jollibee, we went ahead to get our boarding passes and checked-in.

After an hour plane ride, we arrived in Cebu at around one in the morning.

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And then we went straight ahead to Oslob. I didn’t get much sleep on the van, as I’m the type of person who hardly gets any sleep unless resting on a bed. But it didn’t even matter (at least for the first few hours), as I was used to staying up since our internship days back in college.

We arrived in Oslob at around 4:30 in the morning. The stars were bright. It was still early and the whaleshark watching activity started at 6:00am. While they were sleeping inside the van, I talked with our driver and the tour guide. They told me about the places I should go to during my solo trip and a few things about Cebu itself.

It was 6:00 am and the place was filled with people. I didn’t expect to see that much people for an activity, considering that it was early morning. There were around 100+ of us there at such an hour. Wow. I got stressed out for the whale sharks/butandings. Too many tourists for these sea creatures.

After some briefing, we paid for the activity (Php 500/snorkeling + gears) and waited for our schedule. I think we were the fifth group to go there. Rules were sunscreen was not allowed (w/c probably explained the early goers) and no flash photography and no getting near the butandings.

After thirty minutes, it was our turn to get on a boat. There were around twelve of us in a boat. Someone was feeding shrimps to the whale shark to make it come closer to our boat.

It didn’t take long until we’d seen the beautiful sea creature. It wasn’t as big as the others, probably a little smaller than a jeep. But the whale shark was so gentle you didn’t really have to panic when they were around, even if their mouths could probably swallow you whole. Maybe.

Underwater picture taking ensued. It was exhausting, since we had to let go of our life vests. You wouldn’t necessarily drown, but the waves kept on crashing on you. My greatest worry at that time was my glasses. I put it inside my shirt and I didn’t want to lose it. Why, why, why didn’t I leave it on the boat? I truly wonder. It made things so much harder for me.

Either way, I found the whale shark intimidating at first, but then it was so gentle. A friendly sea creature. There was nothing to be afraid of… unless you were probably seeing one as large as three-storey building.

After the whale shark activity, we went back to the shore and hunt down some breakfast. I didn’t have appetite that day (for the entire day, actually), so I only had coffee.

Taking a shower after, my friends and I parted ways. They were going to Sumilon and I was headed for whatever the day would bring.

To be honest, I didn’t do any island hopping activities for this tour. My heart is still in El Nido, Palawan. Like I close my eyes and I remember the beautiful beaches of El Nido. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not ready to see other beaches anytime soon. 😌

So yes, my itinerary consisted of going to unusual places and whatever the time permitted. My friends’ tour guide arranged a habal-habal ride/motorcycle for wherever I would like to go.

I wanted to see the Tumalog Falls. I’d seen pictures of the different falls there near Oslob, but Tumalog had the appeal that I was looking for.

My habal driver didn’t want to take me there at first, because it was almost summer and the falls didn’t have that much water at the time. He said that there were other falls with, perhaps, stronger water current, but I wasn’t interested with them. I didn’t want to see the current. I wanted to see the cascading water of Tumalog Falls. And it was a wise decision. Tumalog Falls was the prettiest falls I’ve seen in my entire life.

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Thank You for 2016 💛

Hi! On the last day of 2016, I just want to say thank you for everything. I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the years to come! I hope you’re having a wonderful time with your loved ones this season filled with hope and warmth.
 
All the love and with all my heart,
Happy New Year from Freesia Lockheart

‘Tis the Season to do a Drama Marathon (Best of 2016)

Since I’m a self-confessed Kdrama/Asian drama addict, here’s my take on the very best of 2016:

  1. AGE OF YOUTH

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    • It’s a coming-of-age drama about five university students who ended up living in one dorm. It’s very easy to fall in love with the characters. They’re all different, but their chemistry is amazing.
    • There are side-story romances, but it hardly even matters. These girls could talk about anything all day and I’d still watch it. They could be with anyone and break-up with anyone whenever they wanted, and I’d still root for them.
    • It’s more about the friendship that has been established while living together. How they started out as strangers to knowing each other’s deepest secrets. How they strive to be a better person, even if they don’t know what that is. How they help each other. All the angst, the struggles and mistakes, you’ll be able to relate some of them (if not all) to yourself. Because we all went through something like that. That’s one of the charms of this show.
    • I love how… it’s real. It will make you laugh and cry. And miss your friends so much. Season 2, please!
  2. SOMETHING ABOUT 1%

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    • It’s a typical contract marriage. A cliche, as you would have it. But the show flaunts all that it is so well and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. In the end, it’s still the show that you’d love to watch.
    • This has been my most enjoyable watch this year, but it ended up in number two because Age of Youth has a more solid and complex story. This show, on the other hand, is like your favorite cup of milk tea. It’s very simple, but it carries the perfect dose of romance and comedy.
    • I love how… giddy this show made me feel.
  3. CHEESE IN THE TRAP

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    • This is a story about complexities and all there is. It’s also a story about a boy and a girl and their friends and all life in general. And how the girl is in the middle of everything. But she’ll manage, don’t worry.
    • I’ve heard about the hype going around about this show, but I seriously enjoyed it. With all honesty, I really loved the show. I think the actors did their parts well. As a non-manhwa reader, I have enjoyed the drama as it was. Not much complaints.
    • I love how… it’s different.
  4. DOCTORS

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    • How much do I love this show, let me count the ways: infinity.
    • I love Park Shin Hye, period. I adore all her shows. She always leaves a mark for every drama that she makes.
    • This is a story about  a former teacher-student who both ended up as doctors. A troubled high school student and her mentor. A complication. Reunited later on. And 😍.
    • I love how… it’s very straighforward. And how it’s a very easy show to watch.
  5. W – TWO WORLDS

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    • Okay, right from the start, I’m already in love with the two cast. This is Han Hyo Joo’s comeback drama. And Lee Jung Suk has always been my favorite. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
    • Then comes their chemistry. It’s either they’re acting so well (since they’re both such wonderful actors), or they’ve fallen in love somewhere along the way. I don’t know. That’s how convincing they’ve been.
    • So this is a story that will make writers fear a bit. You know, just in case one of our characters decide to come out of the story and haunt us. And yes, at some point, it also made me believe that this all might not be real. LOL.
    • First seven episodes was solid. It would get you hooked. For the rest, it’s a rollercoaster ride to the finale. Enjoy.
    • I love how… it’s so believable.
  6. DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN

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    • It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Descendants of the Sun is a great show. I feel like I don’t need to say more. 😂
    • A highly fictional tale of a doctor and a soldier. Of abs and soldiers. Of disasters and medics. Of uniforms and syringe. Of everything good there is.
    • I love how… the two episodes every week starts strong and ends strong and opens up to another adventure next week. Constantly good. I love the four leads. *belts* You are my everything…
  7. REPLY 1988

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    • I am, still, in a love-hate relationship with this show.
    • I love that… it’s good. It’s a great contender to my favorite, Reply 1997.
    • I hate… the ending. The one she ends up with. I’ll never be able to accept it. I might. Not really. I mean, how? Why? I know Park Bo-gum’s the thing right now, but that’s it? That’s the reason? See the conflict? I’ll never understand.
    • But I still love you, Reply 1988. You’re wonderful. Maybe someday I’ll be able to accept you as you are.
  8. SIGNAL

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    • A very gripping show that transcends time. For me, this is the best story of the year.
    • When the past meets the present through a walkie talkie, cold cases will be resolved. But as much as you alter the past, some things are ought to remain the same.
    • I love… how the writer’s a genius.
  9. MOONLIGHT DRAWN BY THE CLOUDS

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    • When a girl goes undercover as a boy, count me in! This is a very endearing tale of a girl who needs to hide her complicated identity, that’s why she was raised as a boy. Somehow, she ends up working alongside the prince.
    • Then the complication. Funny moments. And hilarious antics.
    • I love… Park Bo-gum here. I might not have conflicting opinions about Reply 1988, but he owned this show.
  10. GOGH, THE STARRY NIGHT

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    • This made it to the top 10 because of the leads’ chemistry. It’s just a simple mini-drama about the struggles of a twenty something office girl about work, life, old flames, and love.
    • I love… the chemistry of the two leads. That episode 16? 😍

 

Other dramas that I’ve watched this year:

  • Ouroburos
    • Why?
  • Jealousy Incarnate
    • Okay.
  • Uncontrollably Fond
    • What happened?
  • Another Oh Hae Young
    • Tried.
  • Drinking Solo
    • Could have been.
  • The Entertainer
    • Not that entertaining.
  • Cinderella and Four Knights
    • What is this?

 

To watch:

  • Marriage Contract
  • Jackpot
  • One More Happy Ending
  • Goblin
  • The Legend of the Blue Sea
  • Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo

 

2016 has been such a wonderful year for Kdrama fans like me. Looking forward to a wonderful 2017! 😊

The Promise of El Nido: Beaches. Coves. Lagoons. 💚

A paradise for sea lovers.

Acclaimed as the most beautiful island in the world, Palawan has a reputation that speaks for itself. During the five days we’d spent on this island, it was hard not to fall in love with the luscious forest and white sand beaches. And of course, the most remarkable of all–the lagoons. Small, big, blue, secret, hidden, not so secret… majestic lagoons.

And this was how it all started…

A year ago, a piso fare promo went up on the Air Asia website. My high school friends and I had traveled here and there, but mostly we just went to places like Quezon, Zambales or Ilocos. These were places that could be readily reached by the bus. But like all travel enthusiasts, we all wanted to go to El Nido, Palawan. It’s a highly recommended, ultimate getaway destination. So when the opportunity came, we went ahead and grabbed it.

Fast forward to July 23, 2016.

10:00am

Scenario: Heavy traffic on the way to the airport.

Other scenario: We’re hungry.

Other, other scenario: We’re soooooooo excited.

It was my first plane trip in the last ten years. The last one was so eventful that I never forgot it. I kind of expected the same thing to happen. I was preparing my mind for turbulence or air pocket. Hahaha, thankfully there had been no such thing. It was a comfortable ride to and fro Palawan.

Thanks, Air Asia! What a budget friendly yet comfy way to get to your destination.

So the bags were ready and off we go. According to the weather forecast, it would be raining for the next few days. But anyone who lives in the Philippines knows how to hold on to some hope. As long as there are no typhoons, there’s always a chance that the weather will be good. But yes, it was a bit raining when we got to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where we would take a van to go to El Nido, Palawan.

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#rainyafternoon

There are several options on how to get to El Nido, Palawan. We chose the van option because… well, it was already there when we got out the airport. Haha! Well-thought. Well-thought. One thing that never gets old when it comes to creating fun memories during trips is doing things the spontaneous way. Like you know where you’ll be going, but taking chances on the how to get there is actually the fun part.

It was around three in the afternoon when we landed in Puerto Princesa airport. We made some arrangements for the van ride (which was expected to be five to seven hours). A little food hunting and off we go…

…or at least that was the plan.

We waited a bit more for a few more passengers to fill the van. So while waiting, we came up with this ‘brilliant’ idea–to draw the drawing friend who said he would come but he didn’t. 😂 ‘Drawing’ is the term we use whenever someone says he will do something but ends up not doing it, or when he says he will go but will not come all of a sudden. It’s literally like drawing on a piece of paper and that’s it. It won’t materialize. In the end, it will stay as a ‘drawing’.

Thus, the term.

So while idling around, Derrick (left part of the photo) started drawing Jem on pictures, as if he was with us. Wish you were here moment hahahahaha. And this was the first one:

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Eventually, this drawing event became known as the ‘Chronicles of Jem’. And wait for it… El Nido Arc! We were so proud of ourselves. 😄

Oh, and in the end, they had transferred us to another van, where a family was already waiting. So instead of sending off two half-filled vans, they all placed us in one.

At around six in the evening–for real this time–off we went to El Nido, Palawan! 🙊

We traveled on the long and winding (x1000) road. Keep a tablet of Bonamine (anti-motion sickness medication) ready. You’ll need it. Or sleep for the entire ride. Whichever way worked. Sitting beside the window did the trick for me. As long as I kept my thoughts entertained by the view outside, the rough ride to El Nido was somehow forgotten.

We had two stops. One was two hours later to grab some dinner. I doubted that we had enough appetite, but we did eat. Next was unremarkable because most of us were sleeping. But if you needed to use the toilet, this would be of some help.

Moths and one bat casualties later, at around eleven in the evening, we finally arrived at El Nido, Palawan. We had a reservation with Casa Cecilia, and five warm beds were waiting for us when we got there. Casa Cecilia was actually one of the nicest accommodation we’d had in all our trips. I’ll highly recommend it. It was just a few minutes away from the beach and located right in the heart of the small town of El Nido, Palawan.

There are three options when booking accommodations in El Nido, Palawan.

  1. Corong-Corong.
    1. Pros: A nice stretch of golden sand beach, and an amazing sunset view.
    2. Cons: The shore, where the island hopping trips starts, is a tricycle ride away.
    3. I’ll recommend this if you want to spend more time at the beach than go to island hopping tours.
  2. Town proper
    1. Pros: You’re in the middle of everything–souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, etc.
    2. You don’t get to see the shore right when you open the window.
    3. I’ll still recommend this one out of the three. After all, the beach is just a few minutes away.
  3. The beach area.
    1. Pros: You see the beach 24/7.
    2. Cons: The beach is crowded during the day, when all the activities start.
    3. I’ll recommend this if you want a bit of nightlife.

So there you go. Calling it a night after one rough van ride, we were asleep before we knew it. 😄

 

July 24, 2016

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Hello, El Nido!

 After breakfast, we went ahead to our first tour. The first ones on our list were Tour C and D. It was an all-in-one package. They gave it to us for the price of one. I didn’t know if it was because we would do all the tours or what. Instead of just one tour package, they combined it. Maybe there was really such a thing.

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And you know what we did all day? We went from one beach to another. It was a beach hopping galore. Imagine the perfect beach, and then imagine another one after. It was like that the entire time.

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Helicopter Island

Aerial shot of this island–drone, where you; right, I don’t own one–would give you a helicopter-like shape of the island. It’s also known as Dilumacad Island.

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That’s me sitting on the rocky shore. For day one, I didn’t get to take a dip in the water. Take a guess and you’re probably right why. Imagine the feeling of just watching my friends enjoy the water and go from here and there, while I stayed on the boat (taking pictures and falling asleep until I remembered that I’d brought my headset with me and wished I had an audiobook on my phone and listened to music instead). Bookworms! I suddenly remembered that an audiobook would be perfect for the five hour ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido. It would also be helpful if you were, like me, stuck on the boat or on the shore while they enjoyed the waves.

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Someone’s enjoying the sea so much.

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#tropagoals

After Helicopter Island, we passed by Matinloc Shrine. We didn’t get off, but instead we went ahead to the Hidden Beach. This was the start of my agony. And don’t even remind me of the Secret Beach. 😭

But I did enjoy taking pictures of them.

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From a distance, there’s the Hidden Beach. You have to swim all the way there or use a kayak.

Wish I was there moment…

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And from the view while sitting on the boat:

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Majestic. That was one word to describe these wonderful works of nature.

 

Lunchtime! I didn’t know where we were, but it was another beautiful beach. And happy me was able to go down and have a moment to sit on the white sand and take in the beauty of the place.

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Did I mention that we had a clear fine day for the first day of our trip? See? Ditch the weather forecast and hold on to hope when here in PH. 😂

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I could stay here on the shore for hours. Wake me up when you guys were done snorkeling.

We had a wonderful lunch (that was so well-presented). Unfortunately, no picture had been taken because we were so hungry at this point that Instagram was altogether forgotten.

p.s. Phone signals were good at some islands.

After this one, we headed to another beach… or they did. This was the Secret Beach. 😭 You have to swim all the way there and inside a little cave-like entrance.13738316_10208755533237638_86129336911722663_o.jpg

Next stop, Cadlao Lagoon!

This was my absolute favorite for our first tour. I was seriously mesmerized. I wished we could have stayed longer, but our boatman only drove us around the lagoon for several minutes. And of course, we hurriedly took pictures! 😁

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The jade-colored water was sparkling. And I seriously had no idea how that could be happening. It was like entering a fairyland.

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This shot was close to the real thing. The sun was resting on the waves as it glowed. Another more…

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That was why Cadlao Lagoon became one of my absolute favorites in El Nido, Palawan.

And after we exited  fairyland, we were off to another beach.

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This beach had the finest sand. It would remain unnamed until I’d be able to locate what it was called using Google. 😂

But if I was not mistaken, this might be Paradise Beach.

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If it was truly Paradise Beach, I wouldn’t be surprised. You could see how amazing and scenic the view had turned out to be in picture. A paradise, indeed.

Next, we went to Pasandingan Beach.

This was where I met the white crabs. And I was so holding a grudge because they didn’t let me take any picture of them. They were so fast. While my friends were swimming/snorkeling, I was hunting down those white crabs.

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The forest was so alive in this island.

And of course, the long stretch of white sand.

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And one more beach stop before we called it a day.

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#LifeinElNido

A candid shot. Not seen in the photo: a dog that Derrick was playing with. I was walking on the white sand, lost in wonder. The couple was talking near the boat. And Joyie was the one who took this picture, while she was enjoying her time in the ocean.

And a random drop off of passengers before going back hahahaha. Because they couldn’t get enough of the ocean, our boatman decided to let them enjoy the blue sea for the last time that day. Into the blue scenario.

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They were so terrified. 😂 They literally couldn’t see anything. It was like in movies when a shark would appear out of nowhere and take you alive. But you could see that they were enjoying it just the same.

For me, I watched the sun and the sea, a few minutes before dusk.

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Later that night, we were searching for a place to eat. Joyie randomly mentioned Art Cafe out of nowhere. I suddenly remembered Shim’s post about her eating in that cafe. So deciding that it might be a good place to eat, we went there.

It was a few minutes walk from Casa Cecilia. And that, my friends, led to us calling that place our hideout in El Nido.

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When in El Nido, this restaurant is a must try. You won’t regret it. We ordered five different meals that night and all of them tasted delicious. Service was also awesome.

Do order their bestseller–Seafood Pasta. And no one would ever forget their avocado ice cream. We ordered two scoops of avocado ice cream with one scoop of cheese flavored ice cream. It was so good.

And yeah, don’t ask what we did for the next two days. Clue: it involved  lot of avocado ice cream scoops. 😍

 

July 25 2016

The best Monday ever!

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El Nido during the day.

Don’t worry about toiletries and such. There were groceries stores here, even pharmacies if you suddenly felt a bit unwell.

So today was the day when I could finally join in the water activities. Agenda for today: Tour A. It was all about the lagoons.

But first, the Seven Commandos Beach.

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I was so excited to finally be able to join them in their underwater activities. So while Joyie was swimming and taking pictures (and she took off her life vest and snorkeling gears), I played with it, making it a flotation device here and there.

Until this happened…

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Um, that was my fault. I didn’t even notice that it fell while I was playing around with her life vest. We tried to pick it up using our foot, but to no avail. We had to call our boatman and ask for help. He got it in one dive. Okay. So much for our mundane struggle. 😅

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This was such a rare shot. Because one, I was afraid of underwater activities–fishes and all. The only thing that gets me interested when it comes to underwater stuffs are the corals. But we did see a lot of small jellyfish here. So tiny that you would readily miss them.

After the Seven Commandos, we went to Small Lagoon. This was my personal favorite for the day. I really did enjoy kayaking while sightseeing and gawking at these magnificent works of nature.

See vlog below for our 360 degrees turn. It was funny because we did it the first time and it turned out that the camera wasn’t recording, so we had to go back again and do it all over. It was fun.

And the place was so magnificent. My greatest regret was thinking that there wasn’t much to see, so I didn’t bring my camera. It turned out that the place was so beautiful for words. Never judge a lagoon by what you could see outside. Once you entered inside, you’d be out of words.

Lunchtime again! This was slowly turning to be our favorite time of the day. 13668642_10208756294936680_4239445064288250010_o.jpg

Menu for the day:

Liempo

Grilled fish

Pineaple

Watermelon

Rice

Crabs!!

After that wonderful meal, we were off to Big Lagoon!

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Need I say more? It was beautiful.

Um, shortly after, our boat encountered a small malfunction. It would have been nice to be stuck there in the Big Lagoon, but the boat untimely broke down a few distance from the exit of the lagoon.

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Well, aside from taking lots of pictures, the best person to see was the ice cream man, who was riding a boat, and yeah, selling ice creams. And the best thing to do? Enjoy a chocolate popsicle under the heat of the sun in the middle of nowhere.

A few minutes later, the boat was up and running again. We headed to the Secret Lagoon.

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It was a lagoon where you had to enter a small opening to get inside. Inside the Secret Lagoon:

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After that, snorkeling!

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Where there were fishes, you wouldn’t be able to find me. 😂 The fishes and I, we weren’t meant to be located together. I freaked out whenever they were near me. But my friends enjoyed this so much. You could tell by the amount of pictures with fishes that they’d taken.

 

Later that night, we were planning to try a local specialty here–the crocodile sisig. But funny thing was, when we got to the restaurant, they were close on Mondays.

Epic timing.

But we went ahead with our other plan: sunset viewing at Corong-Corong. It was a tricycle ride away from the town proper. And apparently, it had one of the best sunset views in El Nido.

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The golden sand of Corong-Corong. It was raining a bit where we were sitting.

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Why do you use an umbrella when watching sunset in El Nido during the month of July?

a. It was raining.

b. It was hot.

c. All of the above.

d. b more than a

Our answer: d  😂

So after the sunset viewing, we went back to town and searched for a place to eat. We badly wanted to go back to Art Cafe and end the search, but we’d decided to try another place.

We ended up in Squido, a local restaurant that had squid specialties. We ordered their bestseller–Mixed Seafood Curry. And yup, it was worth the long wait.

But then again, we couldn’t let go of Art Cafe yet. It’s dessert time!

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During our stay in El Nido, I think we were able to taste everything from the dessert menu. The technique was that all five of us would order different desserts and then we would taste everything. But I think that out of everything, the avocado ice cream won our hearts, hands down. And the espresso with ice cream. And the cheese flavored ice cream. And… well, you get the picture.

There was a thunderstorm happening a few miles away from where we were, but you could see it from the cafe’s veranda. I tried to take pictures of it, but to no avail.

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El Nido at night was peaceful. There was also a BPI ATM machine if you needed some cash.

And a view of the port:

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July 26, 2016

Last day! Sepanx kicked in a day before we actually left the place. This escapade was coming to an end, and you knew that you’d surely miss the place even before you left.

Tour B was all about caves and snorkeling and some more lovely beaches.

First stop, lunch. We were late for the last day of the tour. So the boatman brought us to Entalula Island and let us enjoy the beauty of the place while they prepared our lunch.

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It was simply breathtaking. And there was one funny story that happened to me while here on this island.

I really adore taking pictures. So they went ahead to snorkel while I took some more pictures of the place. I took my time, enjoying the scenery and going here and there.

When I was ready to catch up with them, I got bitten by something. It looked like a fly or a really unusual bee. It didn’t feel itchy or anything, but I got a bit paranoid because the bite was a bit painful compared to your average mosquito bite. And then I saw a reddish bump and a minuscule amount of blood. Nothing to worry about…

…well, until it decided that I was its prey for the day and wouldn’t let me be. It kept on biting me for some reason. I had no choice but to go back to shore and remove my life jacket. It turned out that it was attracted to my life jacket at first. And then, when I went to the other side of the shore, it kept on following me!

When I submerged myself into the water, it somehow decided to let me be. Finally, it went away. In the end, I didn’t get to join my friends while they snorkeled, as I got held back by this insect. Okay, I Googled it. It was a horse-fly. That painful bite! 😂

After that horse-fly incident, we went to Snake Island!

It was supposed to be a sandbar. But then, the water was high (up to waist-deep) that day and it was a bit raining at some places. So we got this situation instead:

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But whatever the situation was, when you were in the right company, you’d find ways to enjoy it. Like this one:

Now that’s what you call relationship goals. 😂 They weren’t real couple, but instead were childhood friends and neighbors. Derrick decided that it was tiring to walk all the way to the other side, so he asked Joyie to drag him.

On the way back, he was enjoying it so much that he buckled his life jacket with Joseph’s life jacket. 😂

Next one was Cudugnon Cave. The first cave for this tour. On the island, we saw some locals cleaning up the shore. We had a chat with them and asked about the place. You could actually rent the rooms on the island (I forgot for how much; I think it was around 12k Php) or camp overnight for only Php 200.

When it was our chance, our tour guide set up some life jacket in order for us not to get hurt by the rocks. Getting inside the cave was the tricky part.

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Forget about the cave smell (as all caves usually had the same smell), and take in this view.

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Creepy. LOL. That was the first part of the cave. It got better where sunlight was able to get in. Okay, it was still creepy there, for some reason.

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After this, another cave was waiting for us. Cathedral Cave!

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We were only allowed to pass by the cave and have a look. When my friends asked if they could snorkel, the answer was a big no. Our guides told us that there were sea snakes on this part of the ocean.

And last one on the list: Pinagbuyutan Island.

Coconut trees were everywhere. IMG_0665.JPG

However, the beach and the view remained splendid.

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With a heart full of memories and sand in the pockets of our shorts, we went back to shore washed over with melancholy and happiness just the same. 😊

 

And now, for the most-awaited crocodile sisig hunt. On our way to the restaurant for the second time, we met this friendly tricycle driver. And for the first time, we actually met a real tour guide. During the short trip from town to the restaurant, he told us stories about El Nido.

The original name of the place was Bacuit. I didn’t know if his succeeding story was accurate, and even the tour guide sounded unsure himself. But he said that the reason why it became Bacuit was that when the Spaniards first asked the locals about the name of the place, the local replied, “Bakit?” That was a Tagalog word for why. And so the name Bacuit.

“On June 17, 1954, Republic Act No. 1140 was approved changing the name of the town from Bacuit to its present name El Nido after the edible nests of swiftlets (collocalia fuciphaga), found in the crevices of its limestone cliffs. These nests, nido in Spanish, the main ingredient for the gourmet nido soup…” (from Wikipedia)

If only it was still early, we would have probably end up hiring him to take us on tour with his tricycle and just tell us stories. He was currently setting up a tour office with a relative of his. If he was the tour guide, I was certain that every trip would be enjoyable.

His contact details:

Mark Louie

0907-496-3413

Back to the crocodile sisig…

After a few minutes of waiting while watching Dolce Amore, the sisig was finally served. The texture was really good. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference right away, but it sort of had the same texture as chicken.

And guess what? We went back to Art Cafe to grab some dessert. This time, we got a table at their extension, the one facing the shore. It was such a tranquil place.

The avocado ice cream was so popular among us that we ordered everything with one scoop of avocado ice cream on top. 😁 This was what you called as panic buying. LOL. It was superb.

We had a great chat, which touched the topics of relationship, life, and eventually, ghost stories. There was no escaping this one. We stayed at the cafe until it closed at around eleven in the evening. And then we strolled around town some more before going back to our accommodation.

And you wouldn’t believe what happened later on.

We were watching the news and preparing to sleep, when all of a sudden, the lights went out. Hahahaha! What a great timing. We finally experienced the blackout in El Nido. And given our previous topic during dinner, we all huddled together on one bed. After a few minutes, the lights went on again. This time, it was the generator that had taken over while the blackout persisted.

I shortly fell asleep after. Two remained awake. One was using the bathroom when another blackout happened. LOL. Imagine that. Thankfully, our accommodation had a generator. The lights were back after a few seconds. And yeah, no ghosts or anything.

 

July 27, 2016

Goodbye, El Nido.

After having breakfast, we prepared for the ride back to Puerto Princesa. We left El Nido at around nine in the morning, and we arrived in Puerto Princesa at around two in the afternoon.

We had an ample time to see the city, before our 7:45 flight later that evening.

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We went to Baker’s Hill, a famous place here in the city. They were known for their breads and pastries. But we also came here for their…

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…which we didn’t get to eat. It was out of stock that day. Tamilok are shipworms. I was up for the challenge, but it was sadly unavailable. Maybe next time. Puerto Princesa City also has so much to offer.

Off to buy pasalubong (souvenirs).

Things to buy when in Palawan:

-Cashew Nuts

-Dried Squid (all kinds; they were all good)

-Breads and pastries from Baker’s Hill

-Crocodile sisig. The store could be found in the market. This one’s preserved and could last for three days w/o refrigerator or six months in freezer. Soooooo good.

-Pearl earrings

-Palawan rainmaker

-And whatever you feel like buying. Buy everything. 😂

 

For dinner, upon Janine’s recommendation, we went to Rene Saigon to grab some chaolong. It was a Vietnamese dish, which was very popular in Palawan. One word: delicious. And the staff were very friendly.

 

After that, it was time to say goodbye to this paradise. ‘Till we see you again, Palawan! ♥️

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THE CHRONICLES OF JEM (EL NIDO ARC)

#wishyouwerehere

Credits to:

-Joyie for her lovely pictures and videos that I also included on this blog.

-Derrick for the pics and for editing most of the pics in “Chronicles of Jem”.

We had a great laugh. 😄

 

Rough breakdown of expenses for those who are interested:

1,200 – Plane tickets (back and forth)

3,000 – Accommodation for four nights w/ free breakfast

1,400 – Tour C and D

1,000 – Tour A

1,000 – Tour B

1,000 – Van ride to El Nido (back and forth)

2,000 – Food expenses (Art Cafe, Squido, Crocodile Sisig, etc.)

300 – Tricycle rides expenses

Total: 10,900 Php

 

We did all tours when people usually do just Tour A and/or B. And then, when it came to food, we went all out. Told you, desserts. 😂

 

And here is the vlog:

 

Until next trip,

Freesia 💛