Saturday, April 28, 2007

greeting summer in san antonio, zambales

ah, to feel sand beneath my feet again!

i still can't believe it took me a few weeks to finally get to the beach. just imagine my envy whenever my friends would parade their tans around me and tell me tidbits of their beach escapades.

so susie and i packed our bags (we packed lightly! hooray!) and drove to zambales saturday morning. the drive was pretty long. the usual travel time to zambales takes 3 hours, but it took us 4 hours this time, due to the traffic.

we were billeted in megan's resort for the weekend. we both fell in love with the place when we first stayed there in august for manila surfers' association's zambapalooza. the resort is simple, pretty straightforward, and exudes a laidback, homey feel. we reserved a room with a king-sized bed, aircon, and clean bathroom. like i said, straightforward.

since we arrived at around lunchtime, we quickly dropped our bags off into the room (check-in was a breeze!) and headed to the carinderia that partly serves as the reception area as well. we chose a can of corned beef from the store shelves and brought it to the outdoor kitchen to have it cooked. cooking charge is a mere P15. we ordered rice to go along with our corned beef lunch, and ate happily on a bamboo table.

and after filling our empty stomachs, it's now time to enjoy the beach. pundaquit is a good jump-off point to exploring capones island, the camera islands, and anawangin beach. we put off visiting capones for the next day, and decided to explore a more private area: megan's cove. the cove is owned by megan's resort as well, and is a good thirty-minute boat ride from pundaquit. we asked our trusty boatman to drop us off the cove and to come back for us after two hours.

there isn't much to explore in megan's cove. it's a short strip of beige-colored sand with pretty rocky waters. the island itself is riddled with trees, and three huts are scattered on the island, hidden from sight. the only other beings on the island with us were a few goats. a large mountain looms behind, giving you a nice, calming view of browns and greens.

getting yourself marooned in a private cove is the best way to get a tan. we decided to spread our sarong under the scorching sun, away from the shades of the trees. we'd soak in some rays, then get into the water when it's getting too hot. swim and bake. loooovely. before we knew it, our friendly neighborhood boatman was back, and we headed back to pundaquit beach, a bit darker than when we came.

dinner was by the carinderia again. this time, we ordered one whole grilled chicken from the kitchen. while waiting for our meal to cook, we whiled away the time by swigging down beers and talking while sitting on the carinderia bar stools. it took them a while to serve the chicken, but the wait was worth it. the skin wasn't too burnt, it was just the right type of crispy. the white meat was tasty and soft, and went perfectly well with toyo and kalamansi.

one more thing i love about megan's is that you don't need to bring your wallet with you everytime. if you're ordering something from the kitchen or their carinderia, you can simply ask them to list it down under your room number. when checkout time comes, that's when you pay for everything. so convenient, and so professional for such a homey establishment.

dinner was shortly followed by sleep. we didn't realize that an afternoon of lounging around under the sun could take up so much of our energy. we didn't even remember how we dozed off. we just woke up bright and early the next day, excited for our trip to capones island.

you can see capones island directly from the shores of pundaquit. it's a strangely shaped island (actually, don't all islands come in strange shapes?), and as our boat brought us closer to it, we found that it's mostly made of rocks. we asked our boatman to take us to the capones lighthouse. it's at the tip of the island, far from the nice strips of beach.

to get to the lighthouse, first, we traversed rather rocky terrain, which led to a long flight of cement steps to the top. but the hike is well worth it: the view from there is amazing. the lighthouse won't immediately greet you when you reach the summit. you will have to walk along a grassy path to finally see the famous lighthouse.

the capones lighthouse stands 56 feet tall and is made of white brick. the keeper's house, on the other hand, is built of red brick, but could use massive renovation. susie had ideas for the keeper's house left and right, and it was fun to actually imagine the place as a hot tourist destination.

after a few photo ops, we were back in the boat and off to another beach. again, we asked to be marooned for two hours, as we wanted more time to fry. we asked to be dropped off at an area of capones that seemed secluded and clean enough. all around the spot were rocks and mountains; even the water was riddled with large corals, which made swimming out to see almost an impossibility.

we spent a good part of the morning just walking along the beach, taking a short dip every now and then. susie went off to go exploring on the other end of the island while i stayed put, soaked up the sun i so missed, and just looked out to sea. it's been a while since i spent time by the sea, and as always, the experience was highly calming. my nerves, fresh from a week of chaotic work-related stuff, were finally soothed.

after his exploration, susie came back and told me of his adventures. it turns out there was another beach on the other side, and a hut, too! so i finally relented and took the short hike with him to see what he was talking about. the beach had a shorter shore, but it did look more pristine and peaceful. we spent the rest of the time under the nipa hut, shielding our burnt skin from the noon sun.

our boatman arrived earlier than expected, which suited us perfectly. we rode back to pundaquit, our shoulders aching from all the heat. but no matter. the adventures we had: pretending to be marooned on an island, seeing the capones lighthouse, and exploring peaceful coves, are enough to keep us smiling despite our burnt shoulders.

to see more of zambales through my eyes, click here.

contact information:
megan's paradisio beach resort
bgy. pundaquit, san antonio, zambales
tel. nos.: (047) 6210507; (047) 7133784
mobile nos.: 09194808520; 09217936797

room rates:
room with 1 kingsized bed, aircon, and cold shower: P1,600.00
room with 1 kingsized bed, aircon, and hot and cold shower, and TV: P1,800.00
room with 1 kingsized bed, aircon, hot and cold shower, TV, and ref: P2,500.00
beachfront room with 2 kingsized beds, aircon, hot and cold shower, and TV: P2,800.00
beachfront room with 1 kingsized bed, 1 queensized bed, electric fan, and porch: P1,400.00
extra mattress: single: P100, double: P200

boat rides cost P600.00 per boat per trip
areas to explore: anawangin beach, capones island, the camera islands, and megan's cove

cooking charge: P15.00
rice: P15.00
bottle of beer (pale pilsen): P30.00
one whole grilled chicken: P300.00

Thursday, April 26, 2007

spindependence 3!

we're doing it again!

this time, spindependence is bigger and hotter! aside from free ribbon clinics, ribbon and fire performances, we're taking zipping to a whole new level!

there will be a fire spinning competition, where the best fire zippers can show us what they're made of. a photo contest is also open to all digital photographers!

the event will be held at the greenbelt 3 open area on friday, april 27 from 5pm to 1030pm. hope to see you there!

photo contest mechanics:
1. Registration time (zips booth) at Greenbelt 3 Park - 5pm-7pm

2. Registration will be on a first-come-first serve basis, until the
slots are all filled

3. There will be two categories - Professional and Hobbyist (10 per category, so 20 participants total)

4. Shooting period (zip/fire performances)- 5-9pm

5. Digital photography only

6. No photo manipulation

7. Two entries per photographer to be downloaded to Planet Zips laptop by cut off time (9pm)

8. Subject must be fire or ribbon performer

9. Once submitted, photo is property of Planet ZIps. But photos will always be credited when used in press releases, websites, posters, etc. with website or contact info of photographer.

10. At least 360 DPI

11. Photographers must bring their own memory card readers and flash drives (MAC compatible)

for more information about planetzips, just visit this site.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


i am very happy to announce that i am now officially sunbaked! :) shoulders are burnt to a crisp red, but i'm not complaining. i'd gladly go through this every time.

just came from a weekend romp at pundaquit in san antonio, zambales. got to enjoy the nice, laidback service at megan's resort, and also got to visit megan's cove and capones island.

both are islands of pure bliss. made me feel so relaxed and far away from this mad city.

of course there are photos! and there will be an article, too! stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2007

hk disney complimentary deluxe annual pass for 10-year-olds!

know anyone who was born in 1997? those lucky kids can actually get a complimentary deluxe annual pass to hong kong disneyland!

to celebrate hong kong special administrative region's 10th anniversary, hong kong disneyland is giving out free annual passes for kids born on the same year that hk was "returned" to china.

a deluxe annual pass allows multiple visits to the park for a period of one year. yep, you can use that pass as many times as you want! and because it's a deluxe annual pass, you not only get the pass for free, but you're even entitled to free parking, and discounts to disneyland hotel accommodations and disney restaurants. what a steal!

but of course, you have to bring that kid over to hk disneyland anytime between may 15 to july 1, which is the redemption period of this promo. make sure you bring the accomplished annual pass registration form (downloadable from the hk disneyland website), a valid ID, and their passport. they will only be issuing these passes to 10-year-olds who will show up in the flesh. no representatives, no authorization letters allowed.

for more information about this promo, just click on this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

honor the book

the idea for the international day of the book originated in catalonia, spain, where st. george's day meant exchanging a rose for a book. today, several european nations mark april 23 as a day of honoring that great source of everything: the book. interestingly, that date marks the death of literary greats miguel de cervantes, william shakespeare and inca garcilaso de la vega.

on saturday, april 21, instituto cervantes hopes to bring the tradition here in manila, with an event named dia del libro/araw ng libro. a bunch of events are in store for anyone who'd like to check out this special day: film showings, spanish food fair, photo contest, declamation contest, and of course, a book market! over 4,000 brand new books will be for sale at great prices! and to keep the tradition flowing, a rose will be given to anyone who buys a book.

it's going to be quite an event, and it's such a shame that i won't be able to go (because i'm finally going to the beach this weekend!). i've been longing for some new books, and this would have been a great place to hunt for them. but i hope you guys get to check it out. it looks like it's going to be a grand book fiesta!

more details:
dia del libro
april 21, 2007, 10am to 11pm
venue: instituto cervantes
855 t.m. kalaw st., manila
tel. no.: 5261282 to 85

if you want to know where you can look for accommodation when in manila, just click: manila hotels

more flights to hong kong!

according to this article from inquirer, hong kong airlines will be launching flights to clark starting this friday, april 20.

the perks? they're planning to provide free shuttle services between diosdado macapagal international airport (i just found out that's what the clark airport's called) and manila. though it doesn't eliminate the added inconvenience of a three-hour land trip, at least it does away with the cost of traveling from the airport. free stuff is always welcome, yes? :)

plus, they're also planning to increase the 20kg baggage limit to 30kg! so now we have no excuse to tell our friends and family that we're worried about our baggage limit. on the other hand, it means more stuff we can bring home!

and of course, this means we're more accessible to more tourists. which means more jobs for fellow filipinos.

so all in all, this tidbit is great news!

note: i just checked out hong kong airlines's website. they seem to have no news about their clark flights. hmm... let's wait until april 20.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

drawing lang ng drawing!

did you like to doodle on your notebooks when class used to get boring? well, these people did, and their doodles are taking F*ART by storm!

WeeWillDoodle is exhibiting its first collection of spontaneous doodles at the F*ART! gallery on friday, april 20, 2007, at 7pm.

see the random, spur-of the-moment works of artists and “feeling artists” on anything they can get their hands on! It’s demented, doodle-icious chaos as ideas collide in a convoluted collab of casual cartooning!

venue details:
k1 cor. kd streets, kamuning, quezon city

update: watch the weewilldoodle session video!

let's go, every juan!

once again, cebu pacific is offering their flights to all domestic destinations for the measly price of P1!

you can book and buy your tickets from april 16 to 22, or until seats run out. don't wait 'til the others get your seats! go to the cebu pacific website now and get a seat bound for your dream destination!

travel period is from june 16 to december 15, 2007.

check out lakbay lomo!

pinoy lomographers just can't seem to stop taking photos!

now they're here to show you what they've captured with their lomocams while on the road. check out lakbay lomo at the dpi photography center at the second level of the astoria plaza.

be there at the launch on saturday, april 21, at 8pm. exhibit runs until may 31.

to get yourself in the lomo mood (lomood?), check out this video!

dpi photography center
2nd floor astoria plaza
15 j. escriva drive, ortigas center, pasig
tel. nos.: (02) 6336095; (02) 6360167


Thursday, April 12, 2007

viaje del sol: kusina salud

kusina salud is one of the better-known destinations in the viaje del sol group. its rustic environment was created by renowned designer patis tesoro.

for those who've been to fat michael's in bangkal, makati, and enjoyed it, you will definitely love kusina salud, as it's a larger version of fat michael's, with an aviary and lots of plants to boot.

the place was interesting enough and highly photogenic. however, as for the food, i didn't find it spectacular as others claim it to be. don't let me change your opinion about the place, though. kusina salud is still worth a visit, and maybe the a la carte menu is better than the kambingan festival lunch buffet that we had last sunday.

here's the lineup of dishes we had that day:

traditional goat ceviche tossed with red onions and chili

ensaladang pako salad bar (photo)
fettlehead fern salad with marinated organic tomatoes,
roasted peppers and corn, julienne of carrots and jicama.
served with two choices of dressing: red onion or garlic mustard.

lumpiang shanghai
crispy pork and shrimp spring rolls with a chili guava dip

organic, farm-raised goat in a tart sampalok-broth
with traditional vegetables

kambing curry
spicy curry goat stew served with pineapple relish

kaldereta "shepherd's pie"
braised goat-kaldereta style, topped with mashed potatoes,
creamed corn, and cheddar cheese.

braised taro leaves stuffed with seasonal fish,
local green chili and topped with deep-fried crispy-pork

organic white rice

fresh buko salad
with market fresh fruits and luscious sweetened cream

they failed to include the only thing i thoroughly enjoyed: the bread pudding with mango sauce (photo). of these dishes, i was pretty satisfied with the kilawin, the salad, and the sinampalukan. i did not enjoy pinangat at all. i was actually pretty interested to try out something different. oh, the curry with pineapple relish tasted good, too, but there wasn't much meat to feast on. luckily, the pineapples were great.

kusina salud is also home to a branch of pillar plants & novelties, which was filled with various items and oddities, such as wooden heads of the apostles (sent shivers down my spine, i tell ya). there were also wooden furniture and antique stuff for sale.

even with my sub-par experience in kusina salud, i'm still not writing it off. maybe next time, i'll get to try their other dishes and finally see what all the fuss is about.

to see more of kusina salud, go here.

contact information:
kusina salud
bgy. sta. cruz, putol, san pablo, laguna
contact person: jerome
mobile: 0921-7726985
tel. nos.: manila: (02) 6995035; laguna: (049) 2466878.
rates: P410/head, sunday lunch buffet.
business hours: lunch: 11am-3pm; dinner: 530pm-9pm

viaje del sol: caffe curio

dinner on our second night was in caffe curio, colette's (as in the buko pie) venture into the cafe/restaurant business. this tiny little cafe stands beside colette's main store along the highway in san pablo, laguna.

don't be fooled by its size; this small wonder has quite a great selection of meals and coffee-laced drinks. i had a pretty hard time choosing my meal, because i didn't know which one i should try out. after a few minutes of internal debates, i finally settled on their adobo flakes meal, which was priced at P95.

susie had the beef stroganoff rice bowl at P90, shobe ordered the farmer's ham sandwich for P130, and zane decided on a smoked turkey sandwich for P140. susie treated us to an appetizer of mozzarella sticks with tomato anchovy dip. at P83, we got five cheesy sticks. it tasted pretty good!

while we waited for our meals, we took photos of the place. there's a corner with books, magazines, and some games, and one wall was decorated with a wooden shelf filled with various, well, uhm, curios. :) nice to see that they still dedicated areas for that, given such a small space.

after a few minutes, we settled on a table in the middle of the cafe, and our meals arrived one by one. the beef stroganoff portion seemed just right, the taste is good enough. i was the luckiest, as my adobo flakes came in quite a large portion for just one person. a spoonful confirmed that it wasn't just the size that was great, but the taste, too! the flakes reminded me of those dried beef flakes they sell in shin ton yon foods in binondo.

as for drinks, smoothies didn't seem to be their forte, though i was pretty satisfied with my calamansi smoothie. i think their smoothies are just made with fruit syrup, so for P60 bucks, i'd rather go for their iced tea (P45) or one of their coffee blended drinks. the white mocha cheesecake latte seems intriguing. maybe i'll try that next time.

dinner was short, but satisfying and fun. caffe curio gives off a light, fun vibe that makes sharing meals with friends even more fun.

i have more photos of caffe curio right here.

contact information:
caffe curio
san pablo, laguna
business hours: 6am to 2am

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

viaje del sol: ugu bigyan: potter's garden

i first learned of ugu bigyan from the now-defunct channel, juice tv. it had an interior design show, space, which was hosted by reema chanco. one particular episode featured ugu bigyan's tranquil garden.

i also read somewhere that augusto "ugu" bigyan used to be an accountant, but left the world of numbers to pursue pottery. he has transformed his home in lusacan, tiaong, quezon into a sanctuary where artists can seek inspiration, rest, and dine on his well-renowned dishes. everything in the garden is a result of ugu's hard work.

the potter's garden was scrapped from our itinerary, because we thought they would be closed during the holidays. but jun, one of the other guests in sitio de amor (our weekend headquarters), told us the garden was indeed open. so after kinabuhayan cafe, we headed for tiaong.

ugu's place is pretty hard to miss. his garden is guarded by a massive brick house that is simply awesome (but it looked hot). we pulled up in front of the house and entered the garden. nobody stopped us or came up to ask why we were there; apparently, they have indeed opened the garden to anyone who would like to explore.

the garden is a maze of paths leading to huts and gazebos filled with native decor. the largest pavilion had a couple of long wooden tables with matching chairs, where large groups can have their conferences, meetings, or workshops. some huts were smaller, providing shade and a sitting area for a couple or a group of four. wood, clay, and bamboo were the recurring theme in every nook.

in most of the huts, you will find an ugu bigyan creation or two. it's ugu's very own "open house," it's his way of letting you know how you can use his masterpieces in your very own space. a large portion of the garden was alloted for his shop, where his latest and best work is displayed, and is available for sale.

we inadvertently disturbed the peace while we argued about whether a frog we found on the table was a clay accent or the real, live thing. before i had a chance to poke it with the blunt end of my pen (i never meant to hurt it, okay?), the poor amphibian sprung up and left, causing us to yelp in surprise. i guess that finally settled the argument.

it seems while most are inspired, the four of us became insane in the stillness of the garden. we found one bright nook and played tableau using my camera's self-timer function. the result: a hilarious set of photos with the theme who killed djong?

we walked away from ugu's garden without any of his clay creations, mainly because they were a tad pricey, but also because... we didn't really have much space in our homes to put them in. but when the day comes that i have to decorate my own place, i'm hoping i'll have space for an ugu bigyan piece.

for more photos of ugu bigyan's place, click here.

contact information:
ugu bigyan: potter's garden
alvarez village, lusacan, tiaong, quezon
tel. no.: (042) 5459144
mobile: 0917-5605708
rates: P350 per person for one of ugu's famous meals, minimum of 5 persons. advanced booking is required for lunch. pottery workshops or demonstrations may also be arranged.

viaje del sol: kicking back at kinabuhayan cafe

when i think of quezon, i immediately think, "ugh, long drive. too far." but i found out that there are some parts of quezon that are actually pretty close. and there are interesting places to see there, too.

kinabuhayan cafe was one big, pleasant surprise. i had heard a lot about the place, mostly about how it was a backpacker's haven. it's one of the entry points if you want to hike up mt. banahaw, which is known for its mystical healing powers.

it took us only thirty minutes to get to barangay kinabuhayan, the place that the cafe is named after. i did not expect to actually locate the cafe in the middle of town, alongside concrete houses and paved streets. just goes to show you that reading about a place is never as good as being there yourself. all the while, i thought this cafe-slash-hostel stands proudly at the foot of mt. banahaw, surrounded by lush flora.

a couple of dachshunds were tied by their leashes near the entrance. we pat their heads and enter the cafe. there was a billiard table in the middle, a curious bar to the side, with various knick-knacks on it. the walls were filled with decorative curios: a round mirror with intricate carvings, souvenirs and collectibles from all parts of the country, and wooden accents.

a bespectacled, long-haired man in native garb approached me. i introduced myself, and told him that i had made prior reservations with winston. his face lit up in recognition. his booming voice greeted us warmly, and he led us into the cafe's "backyard." it was like stepping into a completely different place. two huts stood in the yard, providing comfy accommodations to anyone who would want to stay over. people were littered about, talking, sipping coffee, lazing about.

our host turned out to be jay herrera, part-owner and official chef of kinabuhayan cafe. he led us to a table covered in banig, and had us sit on the wooden benches. a nipa roof hung from above, shading us from the sun. jay offered us coffee, which was pretty good (though i'm not exactly a coffee connoisseur).

we spent a good part of the morning just exploring the place. it wasn't very large, you can see everything no matter where you sit. it's a pity i couldn't quite explore the huts, because there were still people in them. maybe next time, i'll get to stay and even climb mt. banahaw.

there's always something to do in kinabuhayan. just take jay's cue and you won't get bored. at one point, he took out a round plastic container, shook it, took its contents, and scattered it on the ground. pigeons and cocks came running, pecking at the corn that their master just gave them. you can even opt to pet the dachshunds. or if you're not an animal lover, why don't you head on over to the bar and pick up jenga extreme! and play it with your friends? we played three games of jenga extreme! (i lost twice. bah.) before lunch finally came.

kinabuhayan cafe is known for their pinoy gourmet meals. for P500, we got a heaping plate of two pastas and a salad, plus dessert. the salad was actually strips of carrots topped with tomatoes and a vinaigrette-type sauce. coming from someone who HATES carrots, i actually enjoyed the salad, and even finished it! one of the pastas was spaghetti with tomato sauce, which was good. the other one was fettuccini topped with creamy laing. the taste was simply unforgettable, i tell you.

dessert consisted of a scoop of ube ice cream, a chunk of melon, and ubeng halaya, all drowned in grenadine. though i have long gotten tired of eating ube (we would make them every christmas), somehow, having it in kinabuhayan makes it taste so different (or maybe it was just the grenadine).

everything about the place was just so pleasant--the host, the ambience, the food. we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. it's no wonder every single one of us is planning another visit.

and here's my gallery of the kinabuhayan cafe trip.

contact information:
kinabuhayan cafe
dejarme st., bgy. kinabuhayan, dolores, quezon.
mobile: 0917-3271106 (winston) or 0917-3680054 (jay)
tel. no.: (042) 5656858
rates: P500 per person for gourmet meals; P400 for a trek to the falls.
prior reservations are required. according to the website, it's their way of keeping costs down and to ensure that they will indeed be able to accommodate you.

Monday, April 9, 2007

viaje del sol: fun in the farm

after such a serene lunch in lake pandin, it was time for us to head to our weekend headquarters. sitio de amor farm resort is the bondad family's own farm which they opened to the public as a bed and breakfast.

unlike the drive to pandin, sitio de amor is a breeze to find. just coast along maharlika highway and look out for the following landmarks to your left: the meralco compound, the kusina salud sign, and ridge park hotel inn. pretty soon, you will find the sitio de amor farm sign on the left as well, pointing to a small street.

a small, bumpy dirt road greeted us as we bounced our way to the farm. it's just a short drive from the highway to the farm's iron gates. once we entered the sprawling grounds, a lady carrying fresh towels walked up to us and led us to our home for the weekend.

a handsome, long-haired dog walked up to the car and wagged its tail as a welcome to the family's new guests. it really felt like we were invited over for the holiday, and family friends were offering us their home to stay in. the house was located in the middle of the property. we entered through the kitchen, which had access to our room.

our room was lovely and homey, there were two double beds covered with fragrant, floral sheets. the fresh towels the lady was bringing a short while ago were now folded and placed at the foot of the beds. a daybed sat facing a large television set. a separate room that doubled as a storage closet also housed our bathroom, which was simple and clean.

everything about the farm made us feel so comfortable and welcome. the atmosphere was very friendly, almost like we were part of their family. breakfasts would be spent with the bondads, talking about their farm, their dogs, the other things they're planning for the farm. we'd share adventures while slicing our longganisas or forking salty fresh pineapple chunks from a large bowl. ms. amor even recommended other places for us to check out while we were there.

even with our busy itinerary, we still found time to explore the farm. we got to see the cozy nooks and gazebos where curling up with a book would be nice. there were some huts that had hammocks in them, where siesta would be ideal (susie actually took a nap in one of them!). and of course, we couldn't miss taking a dip in their lagoon, which was fed with fresh water from the river by the farm. i actually got to see the river, complete with playful children and a bathing carabao.

the farm also had a pavilion that was undergoing repairs. i think they're extending it so they can accommodate weddings and other special functions. there was also an unfinished house near the lagoon, which had wooden and brick accents. i found it so lovely, and i want to go back to see it when the whole thing is done.

the area was filled with trees and colorful plants. various animals also lived there. we found out that the dog who welcomed us is rocky, and the yappy mini pinscher that we're all scared of is called loda. my sister not only got to bond with rocky, but she also got to ride around the property on horseback. there were also bird cages near our room, one of them actually housed a young eagle.

at night, everything felt different. we'd always while away the time by playing cards and watching videos (the family had quite a huge collection of dvds) until we started drifting off to sleep. but at 4am, we would all be up, and feel an otherworldly presence in the room. we would hear rat claws scurrying up on the roof. at times, we'd hear a loud tap on the wooden door. i even heard noises inside the large porcelain jar beside my bed. whatever it was that woke us up had us waiting for the sun to come up before we'd go back to sleep.

still, though, i believe we all had a lot of fun while we were on the farm. the good times definitely outweigh the experiences we had in the middle of the night. the bondads' warmth and hospitality will be better remembered than our sleepless nights.

click here for more photos of sitio de amor farm resort.

contact information:
sitio de amor farm resort
km. 88.8 maharlika highway
san antonio 1, balanga, san pablo city, laguna
contact person: ms. amor bondad
mobile: 0918-9274346
manila tel. no.: (02) 5527340
san pablo tel. no.: (049) 2461565
rates: bed and breakfast: P900 per person per night; daytrip with buffet lunch: P600 per person.
prior reservations are required.

viaje del sol: tour of lake pandin

once there was a childless couple who prayed to the gods to grant them a child. after twenty years filled with prayers, a fairy appeared to them to tell them that their prayers will be answered, but they must make sure that their child should never set foot on earth.

thus, their daughter, pandin, was born, and she became quite a beautiful young lady. for some reason, even though this woman has never set foot outside her home, an ardent young man with the name yambo became her suitor.

one day, yambo asked pandin to spend time with him outside. pandin refused, for her parents told her never to set foot on the earth. but the stupid yambo took the ball of yarn or thread that she was using for her knitting (or was it needlepoint?), and threw it outside. pandin's anger at yambo's shenanigans caused her to forget her curse. the minute her feet made contact with the soil, the earth opened and turned her and yambo into seemingly identical lakes, separated only by a thin strip of land.

and today, those two lakes are probably the most picturesque of san pablo's seven lakes. howie severino pronounces pandin as "the cleanest and the least disturbed," and i would have to agree with him.

pandin lake was our first stop for our viaje del sol tour. we had made prior arrangements to tour the lake and have lunch there as well. it takes about an hour and a half to two hours to reach pandin from manila. once you're in san pablo, ask around for directions to sto. angel.

we got a little bit lost trying to find the clearing where we were to meet our guide. it was when we reached lake calibato that we found out we had gone too far. we drove back and finally caught a sign that pointed the way to pandin and yambo lake. several townsfolk seemed to sense our "lostness," and walked up to the car. apparently, our guide had been waiting for us, and they knew all about the four manilenos touring the lake. they pointed us to the right clearing.

so there we finally met jewel, our guide, who works in manila, but was on vacation for the holidays. he helps his family out with the lake tours while he's home. he led us to a 10- to 15-minute hike to the lake. when we reached the shore, jewel's family happily ushered us onto the raft that would take us across the lake.

and after a few minutes, our raft was off. the wind was against us that day, so about four to five rowers had to join us. while our raft made our way to the other side of the lake, a lady was already cooking our fresh tilapia using coconuts. never have i been so happy to sniff smoke.

the entire ride was so serene, with us just floating over the green water of pandin. our guides parked our raft by a wall of the lake, and that's where we had lunch. we were served rice wrapped in banana leaves, ginataang hipon, fresh tilapia, chicken adobo, and fresh buko as drinks. we couldn't resist eating with our hands. it seemed the best thing to do, and it made the experience even better.

we lingered at the spot for about fifteen to twenty more minutes, enjoying the sights, marveling at the lush greenery that surrounded the lake. being oligotrophic, lake pandin is home to quite a number of plants and fish.

the locals rowed us back to shore after we finished talking about a myriad of topics. it was such a nice start to a great weekend. it was such a shame that we didn't get to climb over the wall to see lake yambo. that just means we have a reason to go back.

click here to see more photos of our lake pandin adventure.
read more about the legends of san pablo's seven lakes.

contact information:
contact person: mandy marino
mobile: 0917-5016694
rates: P180 per person for the lake tour, P100-P150 per person for food.
prior reservations are required for this tour.
mandy can also arrange tours for sampaloc lake.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

viaje del sol for holy week

for the past five years or so, i have spent the lenten season baking myself dark under the scorching boracay sun. this year, i decided to go somewhere completely different.

and three other adventurers joined me on this journey:

susie, the other half.

shobe, the bratty sister.

zane, the demented friend.

for two and a half days, the four of us wandered around nearby san pablo, laguna, and its neighboring towns, dolores and tiaong quezon, and visited as many places on the viaje del sol route as our budget will allow.

so, what happened? stay tuned! :)

Monday, April 2, 2007

dig up your best summer snaps!

were you able to capture great moments from your best summer escapade(s)? then you have a chance to win a trip to boracay care of click the city!

all you need to do is upload your photo to their sun, sand, and snapshots gallery. if your photo gets chosen, you get a chance to win a boracay vacation.

images should be unaltered (though this word can be quite vague. they really ought to put a clearer definition of unaltered), in .jpg, and should not exceed 1024kb. you should also include a title and a short description of the photo.

contest period is from 28 march to 20 may 2007.

for the complete contest mechanics, click here.

(photo taken by nards, last year's sun, sand, and snapshots winner.)