Friday, March 30, 2007

eat your heart out in pampanga!

got anything to do on april 14? if you're free, why not try out this gastronomical tour? (click on the photo to see high-res version)

viajeng cusinang matua is one full day of touring and eating in one of the country's "food capitals," pampanga. get the chance to invade the kitchens of these natural chefs and see how those yummy delights you always crave is prepared.

630am: depart metro manila
breakfast: cucina nang atching lillian borromeo
kabigting's halo-halo
lunch: cucina nang kong willy qng paralaya
a stop at betis church (sistine chapel of the philippines)
merienda: cucina nang atching wilma qng mahogany farm
dinner: cucina nang atching may qng gosioco house
10:00pm: depart pampanga

special thanks to the sleepy traveler. :)

reservation details:
contact tracey santiago
mobile: 0920-9235615 or 09228561972
tour fee: P2,000 per person, inclusive of all meals, entrance fees, lecturer's fees, and transportation

a nearby escape

for susie's birthday, i decided to take him someplace we've never been to before. i made the necessary preparations about a month ahead, but i was really afraid that something would go wrong.

thankfully, things went off without a hitch. :)

so let me tackle this one by one.

booking. probably the most painful of the entire process. though the website details the process quite well, there were some problems. they said that once you fax your deposit slip to their office, you'd be contacted, and your reservation will be confirmed. once i faxed the receipt, i didn't get any confirmation, even though i provided all the details that they needed. i had to text them to get a confirmation.

also, it would have helped if they mentioned that you can only fax your deposit slips during certain times of the day. it's not wonderful to hear a constant ringing sound on the other end of the line after a harrowing day at the bank.

but, at the end of the day, we got the room we wanted, so i guess that ended well. let's move on.

directions. as printed on their website, these are the directions to the place:
1. Take the South Superhighway. Exit at Lucena/Batangas Exit.
--> No problem finding this one. Some brochures of Viaje del Sol and Casa San Pablo might say it's Exit 50A, but it's really just exit 50.

2. Drive straight down the highway towards Batangas, passed the Makiling Conference Center, St James Academy and the Yakult factory (all on your right side). Upon reaching the Batangas junction, turn left, passing Junction Inn and the Laurel statue, towards Sto. Tomas.
--> landmarks mentioned are not in order. this might just be the o.c. in me, but i think it's more helpful if you write it down in order. it should be: st. james academy, makiling conference center, then yakult factory.
--> it might just be my frustration, but i did not see the laurel statue.
--> and finally, you don't exactly TURN left. there's a fork in the road, and you follow the road to the left. (yes, i believe there's a difference.)

3. Drive passed Jollibee, Rose & Grace Bulaluhan and the Pamilihang Bayan. After a few meters, you will reach the Batangas intersection, with an Isuzu Truck showroom across. Turn left toward YKK factory.
--> landmarks should be in this order: rose & grace bulaluhan, jollibee, then pamilihang bayan.
--> the ykk factory has no huge, visible sign. if you're not from there, you may not know where it is. but you'll figure it out.

4. Drive straight towards Alaminos. At the Alaminos boundary, follow the sharp curve of the road to the right and drive passed the Alaminos proper.
--> whatever you do, do NOT turn into that small road that says "san pablo city." that's not where you're headed.

5. After Alaminos, drive straight down the highway toward San Pablo City.
--> this one's pretty easy.

6. You will see a Caltex station to the left, right before a fork in the highway. The right side of the fork heads straight to Lucena, the left leads to San Pablo city. Take the left road, this is Colago Ave.
--> this one's pretty clear, too.

7. Drive down this street to Barrio San Roque. Watch for the PT&T office and the Community Hospital on your left. You will notice a welcome arch, immediately after this, to the right, is Kay Inay Resort. Turn into the resort gate, Casa San Pablo is inside.
--> and by "immediately," they do mean immediately. just drive slowly when you're close to the arch.

staff and service. no complaints here. they're part of the reason why i can erase the nightmare of the booking process from memory. from the guard that welcomed us at the gate to the all-around guy that hunted down delicious beer for us, everybody's just so friendly and courteous. eighteen thumbs up.

cleanliness. oh, the place is quite well-kept. even though the rooms are filled with collectibles and antiques, everything's free of dust and fully functional.

ambience. being around such a quaint environment does one a lot of good. the furniture, the accents, the rooms all merit closer inspection. you start to wonder who used to sit on the chair your sitting on, how that lamp was used, and what that p.m. carved on the table stands for.

as for the outdoor area, you're given a huge expanse of grass to run around in, hammocks to lie in, plenty of nooks to curl up and read a book in. the garden is filled with trees, the air is pretty clean, and though the highway is a short walk away, you only hear a faint buzz that reminds you of the chaotic world outside.

rooms. one of the things that makes casa san pablo stand out is the fact that no two rooms are the same. each room was painstakingly designed by boots alcantara himself (the owner), and his love for antiques and collectibles is evident in every room. to see the other rooms, you can check this out. we got to see some of the rooms after checking out. we asked mylene to give us a tour, and she gladly obliged.

food. what i love about this place is that the price you pay includes overnight accommodations and three buffet meals. as susie and i are very enthusiastic about food, this is definitely good news. i was a bit disappointed with lunch (rice, chicken kare-kare, liempo, and salad that has eggplants and onions), as nothing on my plate got me shovelling food down my throat.

dinner was a different story. they served pinaputok na tilapia and pork sinigang. i downed the sinigang right away, and concentrated on the tilapia. as mentioned, susie and i managed to go through three whole tilapias. do i still need to say that it was incredibly good?

we had binalot na kanin with chicken adobo, scrambled eggs with tomato, dilis, and native hot chocolate with pinipig. such a nice way to start the day. if only someone would cook breakfast this bongga everyday, i'd probably be up early all the time.

so, despite the booking glitch and the confusion with the directions, the experience was quite wonderful. how often can you find a getaway that's so close, yet gives you the feeling of being away from it all?

contact details:
casa san pablo
san pablo city, laguna
tel. no.: 0917-8126687 (boots alcantara)

stay in hong kong for a song

Ever since I found out that this year’s Chinese New Year falls on my birthday, I immediately made plans to go someplace where the Lunar New Year is celebrated with a bang. I settled on Hong Kong: airfare’s affordable, people speak English, and it’s only two hours away. I decided to drag a friend along to make the trip more enjoyable.

Our only problem was finding a place to stay. Hong Kong has become such a tourist’s paradise that hotel prices are pretty exorbitant. Thankfully, affordable accommodations are available for people who’d rather spend their moolah on visiting tourist spots than in expensive and lavish rooms.

A friend suggested checking out the different hostels online. So I did. After checking out ratings in various hostel sites, I learned that Wang Fat Hostel ranked pretty high in most criteria. So I contacted them and asked about reservations.

Booking a room was a breeze. I only had to provide them our details, the type of room we were getting (we got a room with two single beds and private bathroom), and the credit card number for the 10% deposit that is required to secure a room. The general manager replied to my email a few minutes later, confirming my reservation. I was told to print out a copy of the email so I can present it when we get to the hostel.

Fast forward to our trip. We left the airport via the Airport Express, got off at the Hong Kong station, then changed to the MTR Island Line. We got off at Causeway Bay, and followed the directions to Exit E. When we finally got to the street, we were surprised to find a bustling area, surrounded by clothes stores left and right. It wasn’t long before we found Paterson Building, where Wang Fat is housed.

The general manager greeted us warmly. I whipped out the printed copy of the email, and in a few minutes, we were being ushered into our tiny room on the sixth floor. The room was big enough to fit the two of us and our luggage. No other space for anything else, really. We were so happy to find that it was clean. The walls were wallpapered (there weren’t even any unpeeled portions!), no cobwebs and dust were in sight. The floor was squeaky clean, not sticky. The beds were covered with clean, home-style bedsheets, and they came complete with pillows and comforters.

After being mesmerized by the room’s pristine condition, we were able to take a closer look at everything else. We had a dresser, with drawers to put our things in. By the door of the room were a lot of hooks to hang our clothes and towels on. A tiny but serviceable TV was placed atop a tv stand-slash-closet (which we didn’t use).

Finally, it was time to face our fears: the bathroom. It was tiny (the entire bathroom would get wet when we took a shower), but it was clean, and that's what mattered. The toilet flush was working well, the water heats up, there was a mirror, and again, lots of hooks to hang your things on (I say most accommodation places do not understand this as well as Wang Fat does). I did have one night when the water suddenly turned cold, and I had to shower with freezing water, but that only happened once in our five-day stay.

Aside from giving us a clean bed every night, Wang Fat Hostel has a receptionist that’s pretty knowledgeable in the Causeway Bay area. Ask him anything, from tourist spots to money changers, and he’ll point you in the right direction. He speaks great English, which makes things a lot easier.

Being the Internet nut (Internut?) that I am, I was so delighted to make use of the hostel’s free Wi-Fi connection. Their signal strength reaches “excellent” heights, even. I find it ironic that this service is free in a “mere” hostel,while you're charged for the same service in most hotels. All guests are also entitled to free local calls, and some rooms, such as ours, even have phones installed in them.

This hostel earns another star from me for the daily room make-up service. They cleaned the room well, made the beds, and changed the towels, without touching our things. They left it just the way we did.

So next time we invade Hong Kong, we’re definitely staying in Wang Fat again. The location’s accessible, area is safe, the rooms are clean, and the service topnotch.

Wang Fat Hostel details:
Room Prices (per night):
Single room with private bath: HK $270
Single room with shared bath: HK $220
Twin sharing with private bath: HK $260
Twin sharing with shared bath: HK $202
Triple sharing with private bath: HK $350
Triple sharing with shared bath: HK $300
Dormitory: HK $98

Contact Information:
Address: Apartment no. A2, 3/F block A, Paterson Building, 47 Paterson St., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
Website: or
Phone: (852) 23926868
Skype: hkhostel

check out the park

one of my favorite things to do is to hang out in legazpi park, especially during the weekends. it's located in the corner of legazpi and rada streets in legazpi village, makati. the commute is pretty easy, since it's just behind the towering buildings in ayala.

from ayala, you will need to walk a few blocks to get to the park. the stroll will be pretty serene, as most of the office buildings are empty on weekends. you'll get to see makati sans the hustle and bustle.

the sprawling grassy grounds can be found beside the meralco building. there are tiny hills and trees, with a lot of room to run around in. a stage for outdoor performances is also provided. a play area was also built for the kids to use. fitness buffs can make use of their jogging path any time.

the park is open to everyone. benches are scattered in various parts of the park, and there are sitting areas under the bigger trees. for those who would like to feel the rays of the sun, you're also free to sit on the grass.

as for me, i would usually bring some munchies and a sarong, and find a spot on the grass where i can just sit and look around. sometimes, i'd have a book with me, to enjoy under the shade of a tree.

my friends and i have had quite a few fun times there, too. i once threw a surprise picnic birthday party for a good friend. everybody brought picnic treats (homemade california maki makes for good picnic fare, i found), and ate in the grass. we passed the time away by zipping, throwing a frisbee around, and just talking while we were all sprawled on the grass.

it's not something that we always get to do. before i "discovered" the park, i'd always be in the mall, shopping for things that i didn't really need. but i found that sitting on the grass and getting some sun is actually more fun and much, much more relaxing than jumping from shop to shop.

so check out the various parks that you can visit! these places are usually free, or at most, will charge a very minimal fee, but it's such a great way to spend the day.

here's a list of some parks that you can check out:

legazpi park

legazpi cor. rada streets, legazpi village, makati

nearby landmarks: union church of manila, greenbelt 1.

salcedo park

leviste street, salcedo village, makati

nearby landmarks: makati sports club, starbucks-leviste, coffee bean and tea leaf.

greenbelt park

makati avenue, ayala center, makati

paco park

san marcelino and gen. luna streets, paco, manila
tel. no.: 302 7381

rizal park (luneta)

roxas boulevard, bounded by t.m. kalaw, taft, and p. burgos streets, manila
tel. no.: 302 7381

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

how was the reggae fest?

in a word, steady. :)

i haven't been to a concert in years. the last one was when incubus was in town. so i'm not really an authority on these outdoor music fests, but i would have to say the whole thing went well.

i got to sofitel philippine plaza pretty early, as i was hitching a ride with one of the event's photographers (hi,

i was third in line for the P600 ticket holders, which gave me first dibs on picking my spot near the bay area. i decided to go for a maroo
n table which was close to the shawarma and hamburger stands. it also had a good view of the stage, and is pretty accessible to the bar.

i shouldn't have worried about the accessibility to the food stands and the bar. i was floored when the staff told me the prices of their drinks and food: P100 gets you one drink--whether it be water, softdrinks, or beer. your P300 will go as far as one hamburger, or one shawarma, or one hotdog. it was screamingly expensive.

none of my concertmates and i could bring ourselves to fork over P300 for the measly portions they were selling. so we staved off our hunger with a couple of cans of beer. when the rumbling in our tummy wouldn't go away, we got ourselves a tray of nachos, which was going for P120 with cheese and salsa dip.

but other than the dismal pricing, the actual concert went well. it's not often that reggae acts get together for just one show, so it was pretty exciting for me to see all of them in one night. ziggy marley just served as the icing on top of this reggae treat.

each band was given time for three songs. every band made it count, in my opinion. reggae mistress, as usual, was all high energy. it was my first time to see peace pipe (even after jeck's constant text messages to me re: their gigs. *sheepish grin*), and i was delighted with what i heard. coffeebreak island was fun as usual, and so was milagros dancehall collective (which i almost missed, due to the long line in the restroom). sammy asuncion of spy was also a delight to watch.

everybody was looking out for indio i, as it's been a while since they played with vic facultad. thankfully, the band didn't disappoint. everybody was singing along to
di mo lang alam while swaying to the music. pepe smith made a surprise appearance during tropical depression's set. seeing him wiggle around set the crowds on fire. jr. kilat added more fuel to that fire with their performance.

rachel lobangco and planetzips spun fire as ziggy marley and his band set up onstage. the fire spinners danced to the bangin' of brigada.

and then there was nothing else left to do but wait for ziggy himself. he seemed like a playful character, from what i saw of his eyes. his dreadlocks looked so well-groomed, and from susie's photos, the locks were equal in width. he played about 8 songs in total, with three remakes of his dad's famous songs. i was really hoping he'd sing
beautiful day and in love with you, but i was pretty happy with be free and tomorrow people. :)

and just like that, the show was over. i was pretty amazed that the show ended on time at 11:30. that doesn't happen here often. there was an after-party celebration at philippine plaza's spiral, but after starving ourselves, it just didn't seem right to eat all that food. it might shock our stomachs.

so we trudged on home, tired but happy from all that bouncin' around. the place didn't get too packed, which was great, and the grass was always there for us to sit on. it was a pretty steady night. nothing too spectacular, but one that will still give us good vibes for quite a few days.

Friday, March 23, 2007

make love not war - peace-lovin' outfits

what better way to greet the summer than with a brand new wardrobe? :)

just click your way over to make love not war
to see new stuff you can strut around in this season.

they've got clothes by n. estilo and srg,
twinkle ferraren bikinis,
dollyrocker shirts for both men and women,
one-of-a-kind handpainted shoes,
and summer footwear.

to name a few.

of course, it's always better to just go over to the store yourself:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

amazing smile photo contest

smile is cebu pacific's inflight magazine. and because cebu pacific is turning 11 this year, they're holding a photo contest to celebrate!

contrary to the title of the contest, entries don't actually have to have a person smiling in it to be qualified. the site says, "The photo can be a holiday snap, an amazing shot of your hometown or it could be inspired by having visitors yourself. Whatever great pictures you have, we would like to see them!"

so why not send in your favorite travel photos? one of the judges will be john chua (of adphoto) himself! :)

• Composition — 20%
• Artistic merit — 30%
• Originality — 30%
• Execution (exposure, sharpness) — 20%

deadline is on march 31, 2007--that's only about a week away!
photos only need to be in 72dpi and 600pixels max in length or width.
email your entries to

for more information, check

taipei for less

cebu pacific is having another seat sale!

to introduce their new destination, tickets to taipei will cost a measly P888!

i tried booking a trip, and the cost of a roundtrip ticket comes to about P4,500. that doesn't include the P1,620 philippine travel tax, of course.

you can purchase tickets from march 21 to 27, for trips from june 13 to september 30, 2007.

so if you still have moolah left from their last seat sale, spend it on this trip now! :p

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


this is definitely one of my favorite restaurants, mainly because, of the dozen times i've gone there, i've never been disappointed with their food.

the place is also not bad to look at. the seats are pretty comfy, the design is acceptable. nothing fantastic, but it's nice and clean. nothing too outrageous that it distracts you from your meal.

my favorite cascada treat is definitely their seared tuna sashimi (photo). the edges (or the borders) of the tuna squares almost taste like beef, and the soft, pink centers are all tuna. it's a mix that i happen to crave for on specific days. i love it that the soy sauce and wasabi are already sprinkled artistically on the plate. it makes for a great presentation, plus you don't have to dunk your precious sashimi cube into a separate container.

when my wallet's feeling a little thin, i just order their steak and egg meal. for just P180, you get a cup of garlic rice, a fried egg, and garlicky beef strips. it's a breakfast meal that you can have anytime of day!

their menu is full of choices; there's definitely something you will like. they have a soup sampler (three different types of soup) if you're not feeling too hungry. order one of their skewers (tuna, chicken, prawn) if you'd like something grilled. pasta, steak, rice meals, pinoy cooking--everything's there. the problem is actually narrowing your choices down.

the service is also pretty good. the waiters are courteous and attentive. i like it that they serve the dishes one at a time, and in the correct order. this makes sure the table is never filled with plates. the only downside is, they take quite a while when you request for the bill. it's like they don't want you to leave.

in the days to come, i hope to discover how their desserts are. usually, when i eat here, i stuff my face with their appetizers and entrees, that i never have room for dessert. but since it's just a short jeep ride away, i'm sure i'll get the chance to finally have a taste of their sweet goodies.

contact information:
level 2, greenbelt 3, ayala center, makati
tel. no.: 7574369

Saturday, March 17, 2007

lessons learned from the hong kong trip

there's always something to be learned from every trip. but the hong kong trip slapped a few lessons in my face. here are some of them:

1. never expect. no matter how well you've studied the place, chances are, things will never be as you expect it to be. unless you've been there every month, it's best to keep your expectations to a minimum. after all, surprises are fun, aren't they?

2. schedules are guidelines; they are not etched in stone. i learned this the hard way during this trip. i wanted to see a lot of places, but sometimes, you just have to give some activities up. while it's great to have a schedule so that you won't waste a day, don't be disappointed when things don't go your way.

3. take time to relax. ayeen and i almost killed ourselves the first two days, trying to see everything we were supposed to see. on the fourth day, we caved. if we had kept on following our schedule to the letter, i think we would have killed each other. we abandoned our plans on the fourth day, and decided to take things easy. taking time to just sit and watch the people go by is also a good way to see a city.

4. it's all in the mind. had quite a huge setback on this trip. of course, i felt broken for a while, but it's just not like me to dwell on the bad things. after a few hours of moping, i stood up, went to the closet, dressed myself up in my best garb, and told ayeen, "get up, we're going to watch the lights show! and we're eating good food and drinking!" after that, everything went splendidly well.

5. don't feel bad when you get lost. eventually, it's all going to be something you'll laugh about when you look back on the trip.

6. don't be afraid to go a little crazy. we did this lots during the trip. it made everything tons better.

7. don't scrimp on food. it's always been a motto of mine to go all out when it comes to food. it served me during this trip.

8. you still gotta love home. no matter how long i stay away from it, nothing beats going back home. though for this trip, i didn't exactly miss it, being back and seeing that everything is so familiar makes me appreciate it more.

(photo: me on the tram to happy valley)

hong kong behind the scenes

my friend ayeen and i went on a nine-day hong kong trip last february 12. while we have a lot of photos to document the trip, there were still a lot of moments that we weren't able to capture. such as:

almost missed the buddha. we enjoyed walking around happy valley so much that we arrived late in tung chung. when we finally got our tickets for the ngong ping skyrail, we were told that the place will close at 6. we were so scared that we wouldn't be able to see the buddha and catch the last cable car ride back to tung chung. thankfully, the map provided was misleading. what seemed to be a 30-minute walk on the map was only a 10-minute walk in reality.

leeping even when slippery. those seats on the mtr are too clean for comfort. since our trip was from tung chung station until the very last station at central, we tried getting some shuteye during the train ride. unfortunately, we couldn't keep still. we kept sliding across the seat, which basically ruined our chances of ever having a chance to rest onboard.

mean ol' taxi driver. these cab drivers take their traffic laws seriously. ayeen and i were walking on leighton road, and we saw a chinese restaurant across the street. even though the crossing sign blared red, we crossed the street anyway, since there were no cars. just our luck, that a cab turned on our street and caught us violating the law. he sped up when he saw us, prompting us to scream and run for our lives. it would also be funnier if i tell you that leighton road is a
very narrow street. yeah, yeah, i know we deserved that one.

finger-dipped water. this could be the only time that i will say, "thank god for
bottled water!" when we had lunch at stanley restaurant, we experienced the hospitality of the waitress. she served us two glasses of water... with her fingers dipped in our panulak.

getting lost in stanley. being up in stanley got me a bit turned around, which saw us waiting for the bus on the wrong side of the street. thank god for helpful locals, we were able to find the correct bus stop. geeeez!

mistaken for a local. happened quite a few times. a lot of them would speak to me in cantonese, and when i'd go, "sorry...?" they'd get so frustrated. walking along causeway bay in the morning, people from the different free publications would hand me all-chinese newspapers. to avoid further hassle, i'd take it, and even pretend to read while waiting for the crossing light to turn green. this cracked ayeen up immensely.

yes, i can understand that. ken, our friendly tsim sha tsui trinket stand guy patiently explained to us the chinese zodiac partners of each sign of the zodiac. he consulted his chinese zodiac book the entire time. we asked for various zodiac amulets, that he got a bit confused already. he made a mistake with one of my amulets, and i told him, "wait, wait! you got it all wrong. see, here *pointing to the chinese character for pig in his book* it says the pig goes well with... *pointing to the chinese character for tiger in his book* tiger. you gave me a dragon!" he looks at me and says, "oh, you can read chinese?!" and i reply with a proud "yes!" his expression turned to frustration, as if to say, "geez, you can understand it all along! why am i even explaining all this?!"

the language barrier. i don't know why, but ayeen and i put ourselves in plenty of "compromising" situations on this trip. even when we knew they wouldn't understand us well, we'd still go into one of those small chinese restaurants. after pointing out our orders, i decided i wanted hot soy milk. so i called the waitress and requested for "soy." a minute later, she places a glass of hot water in front of me. i was dumbfounded. then the realization crept in. the chinese word for water is shui, which sounds like soy. i had mistakenly ordered water.

so that's why it's cold! during our second night in our hostel, i look up and stare at the window for about two minutes. ayeen notices the look of confusion on my face. "what?!" she asks. after about five seconds, i reply, "may salamin ba yung bintana?" ayeen looks at the window, gets up, and reaches out to the window. "WALA!" she screams, then opens the curtains. "TANG INA! BUKAS YUNG BINTANA THIS WHOLE TIME!" we scream.

brrrrrrr. i don't know what it is, but luck just wasn't on my side this trip. at around 2am, after updating a blog on our second night, i walk to the bathroom. i turn on the shower to let the water heat up. it worked perfectly, and i was able to shampoo and get all lathered up. when it was time to rinse, though, the water had turned icy. i peek out the door to check if the heater light is still on. yup, still is. i wait for a few minutes, tinkered with the valves. no luck. i hate being in that state of soapiness. everything's so slippery. so i gulp, and prepared myself for the iciest rinsing i've gotten since my fever last month. i was trembling throughout the entire rinsing process. when i woke up the next morning, ayeen went, "baket balot na balot ka? di naman ganun kalamig ah." i nearly threw a boot at her. :p

not paying attention. our hostel was located in a building along fashion walk. it being a residential building, it had one of those security codes that you had to punch in so you can enter. apparently, our hostel receptionist told us about this when we checked in. he even wrote it down on our card, but we missed his instructions due to our excitement. this resulted in three nights of being nearly locked out. we waited for the doorman to wake up from his sleepy reverie so we could finally rest our tired feet.

the mtr luggage challenge. we started shopping early on in our trip, which meant our luggage expanded exponentially. we were wise enough to bring extra bags to put our shopping stuff in, but we didn't have enough foresight to think about lugging all of it around on the train when we moved to kowloon. we faced this challenge a few hours before we checked out. ayeen had bought brand new luggage for her impending singapore trip, which meant she had two trolleys to pull, and i had a tiny backpack, a duffel, and my lovely trolley. thank goodness for escalators, we were able to pull it off, but not without quite a few laughs. getting through those mtr turnstiles were quite a trip! our biggest hurdle was tsim sha tsui station exit a. quite a long flight of stairs, but we were able to surmount it.

ipis in hong kong. contrary to charlie's (ger's wife, who's lived in hong kong for about two years now) belief that there are no cockroaches in hong kong (because she hasn't seen one ever), i encountered an adventurous little roach on board the hkkf ferry to lamma. it did not make me very happy.

stepping on doggie doo. after our trip to lamma, ayeen and i walked back to the star ferry pier. it was a holiday, and lots of people were walking their dogs. when my right foot was an inch away from the pavement, ayeen let out a warning, "nooooo!" but it was too late. i felt the mushy blob as my foot landed on the ground. two tourists behind me couldn't help but scream "ewwww!" to my face. my shoe's bottom earned a pretty good scrubbing in the hotel, thanks to the complimentary toothbrushes provided.

(photos: ayeen and myself in various states of insanity. that's what traveling can do, i guess.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

brown shugga soul in m cafe

we ditched last night's saguijo plans and decided to check out something new: brown shugga soul in m cafe. i'm not a big fan of the place, as i find the beer too expensive for my pocket (P80 on most local beers, P220 for tsingtao), and the crowd a bit too upscale for my taste.

but last night was a pleasant surprise. for one, the place wasn't filled to the brim with people, as i've often experienced in the past. but what was noticeably pleasant was the music. no offense to trance/house-lovers out there, but i think i've pretty much had it with that type of "groove."

it was so refreshing to hear a different groove after a long day in the office. to down a few beers to some soulful, light tunes.

so if you're looking for a different change of pace, wait for thursday, and go check out brown shugga soul, featuring toronto selector jermaine brown.

m cafe
greenbelt 4, makati ave. cor. dela rosa street, makati.
tel. nos.: 7573000; 7576000.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


to say that filipinos love music is a gross understatement. from the day we can talk, we were taught to sing and dance in front of visitors. growing up, music is a very big part of our lives--there's always a song that defines certain points and milestones in our lives; every situation has a soundtrack.

that's why the filipino music scene is always alive, always changing. pop, rock, jazz, blues, hiphop, reggae, electronica--you name it, there's a group that does it. and does it well.

in saguijo, that's where you can find these groups. from tuesday to saturday, there's something going on, people swarm to the place to listen to their favorite bands, or to just mingle with other like-minded folk.

here, everybody's on common ground. you're all there for the music, but you end up getting more. you get to down a few bottles while talking to your favorite band's vocalist. you get to bounce up and down to great tunes with someone you just met a few minutes earlier. you forge friendships with faces you never thought you'd get along with. you engage in an hour-long conversation about your favorite band and the music that moves you. you meet up with friends and talk about nothing and laugh over bottles of cold beer.

all this happens in just a small space, as saguijo was just an apartment. it's actually located in a residential area, but thankfully, the residents don't complain about the rockin'. but the place is always filled, and somehow, you always find a place to appreciate the sound.

nights to take note of (at least, these are my recommendations) are jazz nights, which usually take place every first thursday of the month and sweetspot nights every first friday.

if you're in the mood for some contemporary art, you have a place in there, too! just walk in, walk past the bandstand, and go up the stairs. enter the door facing the staircase, and voila! you're in the theo gallery, where a lot of up-and-coming artists have their exhibits.

baul, the room beside theo gallery, is a quaint li'l shop with vintage clothing and accessories. you can also purchase a shirt with your favorite band's name emblazoned on it. just keep browsing, you might find something that catches your fancy.

music, art, and shopping, all under one roof. can you really ask for anything more?

(thanks to 'sus pernas for the photos.)

contact details:
cafe saguijo
7612 guijo st., san antonio village, makati
tel. nos.: 8978629
admission: P130-P150 with one free beer
you can park on the street if there are no more slots in the lot beside saguijo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

reggae fest by the bay

here's a treat for reggae lovers (like me!) out there.

ziggy marley will be performing at the sofitel philippine plaza on march 24, saturday. the jammin' starts at 4pm.

but wait! there's more!

aside from the legend bob marley's son, these local acts will also be churning out the reggae vibe at the philippine plaza's poolside:
coffeebreak island
dj red eye
indio i
junior kilat
la cucarasta
milagros dancehall collective
peace pipe
reggae mistress
tropical depression

the lineup is pretty much the a-list of reggae bands in the country. missing this concert is sacrilegious for any reggae junkie. :)

tickets are available at ticketworld outlets (tel.: 8919999). you can also try your luck at winning 'em, just tune in to mtv. :)

barbara's coffee shop

an inevitable part of any trip is the short break that you take from all that sightseeing.

and from my recent trip to intramuros, barbara's coffee shop just hits the spot. the quaint little nook it occupies is the best place to go to just cool down, sip something refreshing, and plan your next move.

in my case, though, i had to go somewhere that serves full meals, as i haven't had lunch yet
(i know, it was already 3pm. what was i thinking?!). luckily, barbara's does serve pasta, pizza, and other dishes, aside from the tempting halo-halo and other desserts.

i decided to go with something ordinary: fettucine carbonara, since i wasn't up to experimenting after walking around. susie ordered
mushrooms al ajillo and a salpicado meal.

i would have been highly turned off if an establishment such as barbara's could mess up
something pretty simple like carbonara. thankfully, no such thing happened. i was even pleasantly surprised that they included shiitake mushrooms in the mix instead of button ones. i loved how the shiitake taste mixes so well with the white creamy sauce.

the mushrooms al ajillo makes for a decent mid-day snack, though i would have loved a bigger portion.

now, the salpicado meal
was interesting. it came with square-shaped rice, and buttered vegetables that tasted so damned good! it's not often that you get to taste well buttered (read: salty!) vegetables. susie was ever-so-thankful to me for finishing his unwanted greens.

as for the beef, it was executed well--really tender meat, oozing with garlicky juice in every bite. yum. goes perfectly well with the bottle of beer that we had.

meals in barbara's aren't what you would call wallet-friendly, but you definitely won't walk out of there disappointed. the menu isn't extraordinary, but each dish is done well. plus the ambience, especially of the coffee shop, gives you a feeling that you're somewhere far, foreign, and exotic, and sometimes, that really contributes a lot to the experience.

if you're feeling more formal, barbara's restaurant is just a short flight of stairs away, also in the casa manila "complex."

contact details:


casa manila, intramuros

tel. nos.: 5274086; 5274083; 5274090

interested in going to manila? why not check out these manila hotels to see where you can stay!

Monday, March 12, 2007

san agustin museum

after having a snack at casa manila's coffee shop (also by barbara's), we headed back to san agustin and decided to raid its museum. okay, we just looked and gawked.

the museum is located in what used to be the monastery. it seems the monastery has been destroyed by every war that came its way: the british forces destroyed it in 1762, the americans had their turn in 1898, and the japanese and americans did their damage in 1945.
so when they restored it yet again in 1973, they said, "oh, what the heck. it doesn't have any luck being a monastery. let's just turn it into a museum." (of course, that's just how things played out in my head)

tickets cost P80 for adults. this includes a brochure that lets you know what to expect. you enter through the
sala recibidor, which used to be a classroom. here you will find ivory versions of different saints, christ on the cross, and even sto. ninos.

it's quite unfortunate that all the paintings that lined the walls of the church's ground floor corridors were undergoing restoration, so we weren't able to see any on this trip. we also didn't get to see the tomb of miguel lopez de legazpi in the church itself, as there was a wedding when we were there. but the beauty of this place is that it's just in manila. we can visit it again, without difficulty, even (save for the traffic).

while walking through the corridor, you can see the inner courtyard, where functions may be held.

we then reach a large wooden door, with a security guard standing beside it. he inspects our tickets, opens the lumbering door to what used to be the vestry, and reiterates, "no picture taking lang po sa loob."

we enter, and the door closes behind us. i felt a tiny chill creep through me. on the walls were humongous paintings of legazpi and other important figures back then. one corner of the wall had a bamboo crib that contained a teeny tiny replica of the baby jesus.

also in the room were various flags of the cities of old, as well as old language books (to help the spanish understand us better, i s'pose).
the room opens into the old sacristy, which is filled with various things that i can't find a unifying theme for. on one side, there's a miniature model of san agustin, as well as a model of an old house. there was also a list of schools back then. against the walls are large chestdrawers where the vestments were kept.

after that, we walked along another corridor, then went out to father blanco's garden, where we took a little break from the walking. the garden seems a bit surreal, like a fairy land of sorts, but with an old broken wall that jolts you back to reality. beside it is a courtyard that you can rent for various functions.

and then it's back to the museum, this time on the second floor. just going up the stairs that lead to it is an event. looking up, you can see a brick-laden dome. susie couldn't help shouting so he could hear how loud the echoes were.

the first hall we explored was where chapter meetings were held. i loved the terraces that looked out to father blanco's garden. the paintings up for restoration were also "parked" in this room.

we then enter a room where you can see plans for the san agustin church, or the san agustin complex, as i like to term it. this room is quite interesting, as it also includes photos and short descriptions of various augustinian churches built throughout the country. susie and i made an impromptu list of churches that we'd like to visit.

we then had to breeze through the other rooms, as closing time was just a few minutes away. susie wasted no time leading me to the oratorio, where the large wooden pipe organ was. this area was above the interior of the church, and had seats where dignitaries would sit and hear mass. but really, it was the pipe organ that was the real jewel in this room. i hope i get to hear it play.

and just like that, the adventure was over. the guard just couldn't wait till we left so he could close shop, so finally, we gave in and left.

contact details:
san agustin church
tel. nos.: 5274060; 5274061; 5266793; 5266794
open daily from 8am-12nn; 1pm-6pm
admission: P80 for adults

casa manila

my usual sunday routine of staying in bed and watching tv series after tv series was momentarily thrown out the window this week. susie decided to drag me over to intramuros and finally see casa manila.

i know, it's quite shameful to admit that i've been living here for 25 years, and i haven't even seen casa manila. the thing is, i didn't even know it existed. but no matter. fortunately for me, i had susie as my guide for my first casa manila experience. he knows a lot about history, and it was great to hear tidbits as we went through the house. these were things that the museum didn't exactly or wouldn't part with.

casa manila, according to the brochure that you get when you buy a ticket (P40
) is a "colonial lifestyle museum," meaning, they try to give you a window to how life used to be by recreating a house (of quite an affluent family at that) in the 1800s.

the ground floor, accessible from the street (just across san agustin church), is a maze of various establishments: a gallery, a souvenir shop, an antiques store, and a coffee shop (to name a few. i may have missed some establishments). the ticketing office is also in one of the shops there. you enter through a staircase that leads to the entresuelo, or mezzanine. but before you proceed, a museum employee checks your ticket and tells you, "no picture taking, and please walk on the red carpet only."

the entresuelo was where people who work or do trade with the family were received, and even made to wait. there are also rooms on this floor that could have been used by an extended member of a family (such as a drug-using uncle, perhaps? i kid. :p), or visiting guests. this floor is also where the office can be found. i saw the desk of the "boss," and he would always sit with his back to the wall. tsk tsk. very bad feng shui.
after marveling at the bauls, the old weighing scales, and even a very, very, very heavy-looking, black caha de hierro, we trudge on upstairs, where the antesala, the sala, the master's quarters, and the kitchen are.

and from this, i have learned that the antesala is a place for casual or informal "affairs." this is where the "family would play parlor games," the sign said. "what parlor games?!" my mind shouted quietly. i couldn't help but picture the entire family playing trip to jerusalem with their ornate, wooden chairs.

a few more steps, and i'm in the sala. in contrast with the antesala, this was where formal functions were held. because of that, this was where the nicest things can be found: the best furniture, european art, and whatever the family deems interesting and important enough to show off.

we walk along the red carpet and reach the master's bedroom. hu-wow. the wooden furniture! facing the door was an
aparador de tres lunas (armoire with three sections), with each section bearing a full-length mirror. over on the far end of the room, near the window, was the lavabo (washstand) made of marble. i was floored by that one. the room may not have its own bathroom (at least, i didn't see one), but that washstand was something else!

but the best part of the house has got to be the kitchen. oh, by the way, this one doesn't have red carpets on it, but you can walk inside. :) the minute i entered, i couldn't keep my eyes off the oven, which was shaped like a dome at the corner of the room. i don't bake nor cook, but if i had that in my house, i would be in the kitchen all day! and it's also interesting to note that they had cookie moulds even then. and when i saw them, the museum staff had to laugh at what i had to say: "ay! ang ganda! pero kung ganyan yung itsura ng cookie mo, parang ayaw mo nang kainin." the "body" of the usually round cookies would be decorated with carving-like designs. i'd probably spend all day just looking at them had i been served with a cookie like that.

the kitchen was also where the CRs of old were. one tiny room had the toilet bowls. it was quite interesting, as it looked like a bench for two with holes in them. hmm... so people of old would take a crap together. inseparable they were.

the bathroom, on the other hand, was a slightly bigger room that contained huge tubs, where people would submerge themselves for baths.

and after that, you exit through the door of the kitchen that leads you back to 2007. you go down the stairs, and take a peek at the horse stables, then follow the sign to the coffee shop, and have yourself a snack. :D

contact details:
casa manila
plaza san luis complex
corner gen. luna and real streets
intramuros, manila
tel. nos.: 5274084; 5274088
open daily (except monday) from 9am to 6pm
admission: P40

Sunday, March 11, 2007

san juan, la union

since i went there to learn surfing three years ago, the place has become so close to my heart. though my surfing has not vastly improved (through my own doing), i keep coming back.

true, san juan doesn't have the powder-white sand beaches of boracay, nor the loud bars of puerto galera. the resorts you'll find are pretty spartan, the beach is riddled with rocks, but ask me to go, and i will definitely go with you.

the place has a charm of its own: the people are friendly, fun, and laidback, the resorts clean, and the water quite perfect during the cold season (it's pretty warm!).

and of course, there's the surfing. it's proba
bly one of the closest places (to manila) to learn surfing in, aside from zambales. the waves are pretty stable, and there are lots of instructors on hand. board rentals can be found in all resorts.

how to get there

i've mastered the commuting route to san juan, as it's actually quite a breeze. i even find it more fun than driving there, plus the stopovers serve pretty good food!

i usually leave friday night, so i can get enough waves over the weekend. i choose from the 9pm, 11pm, and 12mn trips at the partas bus terminal in aurora boulevard. you can take any of the following routes: vigan, laoag, and even abra, as all these use the highway that passes through la union.

when you're already at the ticket booth, don't forget to tell the guy at the counter that you're getting off at san juan, la union. otherwise, you'll be charged for the entire journey. you should only pay P396 for a one-way trip.

partas buses are clean and comfortable, not to mention fast. some drivers are daredevils on wheels, but i've never encount
ered an accident in my three years of shuttling back and forth. their conductors are also pretty friendly. don't forget to tell your conductor that you'll be getting off at se-bay (pronounced sea bay), so he'll anticipate this stop and even wake you up should you doze off during the trip. he'll even help you with your bags at no additional cost!

where do i sleep?

so the bus has sped off and left you at the side of the street. the sun has barely risen. now's the time to wake yourself up, as you'll be crossing the two-lane highway. look left, then right. no cars? then cross.

that side you crossed to is
lined with resorts. behind them is the beach. yes, the sea is just right there. you can choose among the resorts in this area so you can rest. face the waves after about two hours.

my favorite resort among the lot is surfer's inn. it's simple, clean, and affordable. they have three townhouses that serve as inns. bedspace is at P250/person/night. for that, you get a clean bed and access to a clean bathroom that you may share with other guests. i've stayed here many times, and have never seen the bathroom filthy. if you'd like to try this place out, contact viva olalia at 09285588265. she can also organize surf lessons for you!

another resort that's quite popular with foreign tourists is san juan surf resort. they have bigger bedrooms with air conditioning. i've had quite a few not-so-pleasant experiences with them already, but i'm not completely scratching them off. you may contact them at: (072) 7200340. like surfer's inn, they offer surf lessons and board rentals.

waveriderz is another option. i've only stayed here once, and the room we got could fit in about 10. so this is pretty good for big groups who don't mind staying in tight quarters. the room we got contained a pretty run-of-the-mill bathroom. try contacting lemon at
09197650702 for reservations.

and finally, there's little surf maid (photo). this one's more
on the expensive side, especially for la union, but i assure you, you'll get your money's worth! if you feel like pampering yourself after getting battered by the waves, this is the right place for you. the resort is quite new, it just opened last january. i have no complaints at all about the service--from check-in to check-out, everything was superb. if you want to see photos of the place, click here. a room for two costs P2,000 to P2,500. just give omar a call at 09106870548.

my stomach's grumbling.
aside from the surfing, another reason i keep going back to la union is the food. grub fr
om the nearby eateries, such as aling norma's (just cross the highway again), costs about P28 to P40 per meal. that already includes rice, ulam, and a bottle of cold softdrink.

se-bay also serves bulalo (it's pretty ordinary, though), arroz caldo, and other dishes for about P60-P100 per meal.

but la union's best-kept dining secret has got to be midway grill. it's definitely pricier than aling norma's, but you'll definitely not be disappointed. you can feast on grilled blue marlin (photo) for just P120 (with garlic rice and buttered veggies), babyback ribs for P220, midway slam (breakfast meal of pancakes, ham, scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon) for just P98. they serve breakfast all-day long!

to get to midway grill, go to the highway and hail any jeep going in the direction of manila. the jeeps usually have a sign that says "sn. fernando" on the windshield. inform the driver that you'll be getting off at midway grill. landmarks to watch out for are the flying v gas station (this means you're about 2-5 minutes away), or the shell gas station (this means you just passed midway. sumigaw ka na ng "para!").

okay, now what?

so you've surfed. you've stuffed your stomach. now what? nothing, actually. la union doesn't have much of a nightlife. if you're with a bunch of friends, you can ask the locals to build you a fire. you can all gather round and drink the night away as you listen to the huge waves crashing against the shore.

if you're more adventurous and have already made friends with the locals, you might actually get an invite to one of their nightly get-togethers. these usually entail either videoke singing, or just hanging out on the beach and drinking. whatever happens, you'll definitely have fun.

which way is home?

you've had your fun, and now you want to go back home. you can either hail any bus bound for manila on the highway, or if you want to take the partas bus again, hail a jeep bound for san fernando instead. tell the driver to drop you off at the partas bus terminal. from there, you pay for your ticket (p396), you wait for your bus, and you ride it back home.

thanks for visiting la union!

summary of contact details:
partas bus company
aurora blvd. cor bernardino st., quezon city
tel. nos.: 7251740; 7251256; 7257303; 7249820

surfer's inn
tel. no.:
09285588265 (viva olalia)

san juan surf resort (surf camp)
tel. no.:
(072) 7200340

tel. no.:
09197650702 (lemon)

little surf maid
tel. no.:

visit manila surfers' association for more details on surfing events.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

pinoy passports: out of stock by june 2007

confused? bewildered? dumbfounded?

so was i. but the DFA said so. we're running out of passports!

here's a snippet of the story:

"...the DFA, together with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said there was no way they could produce new passport booklets as the '2007 General Appropriations Act does not provide for the production of the old passports.'

'The current supply of old, handwritten passport booklets would run out before June 2007. The risk that no passports could be issued after June 2007 is real and imminent,' the two government agencies told the high tribunal."

for the full story, click here.


the lack of foresight of the leaders of this country is simply astounding.

to this day, we remain the only country in the ASEAN with ancient passports, meaning, not machine-readable. and the international civil aviation organization has given our country an april 2010 deadline for upgrading our passports to electronic ones, or we'll definitely go through a lot in immigration counters wherever we go.

which means the e-passport project should already be under way. but the project is stalled by the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

thing is, the dfa had a build-operate-transfer agreement in february 2001 with bca international regarding the e-passport production, but the dfa terminated that agreement in 2005. there is still a pending case regarding that issue, so bca international petitioned for a restraining order on the project before the dfa could award the new contract for the production to bsp again, who makes our old passports.

so here we are, a few months away from being a country that cannot issue passports.

how fun.


this site is my attempt to both document my trips and to provide information about the places i visit.

like most of you, i've been heavily bitten by the travel bug, and i've been trying to see as much of our 7,107 islands as i can. i found, though, that there are very few reliable sources of information about the places that we can check out. i'm hoping that i can do something about through the help of this site. :)

so just browse around. click on any clickables. :) there still isn't much, but you'll definitely see more as the days pass.