Baguio Weekday Special

Last week, I had the opportunity to accompany my good friend and “Brother” from Turkey, Mustafa Ince on a road trip to the Northern parts of the Philippines. Our first destination, The Hundred Island in Alaminos, Pangasinan. It was also my first time to visit this amazing cluster of islands and the experience was just unforgettable. A highly recommended place to visit especially for tourists who are itchy to see the many beautiful islands in the Philippines.

Our second stop, Baguio, also known as the city of pines. We headed to Mount Santo Tomas, a point in Baguio where one could see the entire city. Best way to go there is to bring your own car with a local guide. To get to the peak it would take about 45mins. The view is just phenomenon.

Going up to Baguio. From Manila it would take 5-6 hours. But since we came from Alaminos, it took us about 4 hours with 2 to 3 stops in between for snacks and bladder breaks.

Going up to Baguio. From Manila it would take 5-6 hours. But since we came from Alaminos, it took us about 4 hours with 2 to 3 stops in between for snacks and bladder breaks.

Road trip to Baguio.

Road trip to Baguio.

Gallery

A quick stop at Vocas for some local choco and coffee drink. This white room is one of the Galleries of the cafe, displaying local art.

Vocas cafe/gallery

Vocas cafe/gallery main stage.

During our stay in Baguio, we stayed at Villa Cordillera. Away from the city’s noise and pollution. The kind of accommodation suited for people looking for a more peaceful stay in Baguio.

Outside Villa Cordillera.

Outside Villa Cordillera.

Inside the lobby of Villa Cordillera where we checked-in.

Inside the lobby of Villa Cordillera.

Just hanging out at the balcony of Villa Cordillera.

Just hanging out at the balcony of Villa Cordillera. Overlooking pine trees and nature.

The two giant radars on top of Mount Santo Tomas.

The two giant radars on top of Mount Santo Tomas.

Baguio January 2013 Baguio January 2013

Just like Benguet.

Vegetable terraces. Just like the rice terraces in Benguet.

Baguio January 2013 IMG_2236

The radars.

The twin radars at the peak.

Of course, a jump shot!

Of course, a jump shot!

Accommodations: Villa Cordillera – Highly recommended by LonelyPlanet Philippines; perched in the midst of pine trees, misty mornings, views the fog cloaked mountains of the Cordillera, where sights and sounds of nature call into the weary traveller for a warm and relaxing stay. (This is not a paid advertisement)

Location: Outlook Drive, Baguio City, Philippines, 2600
Tel. No. (63) (074) 619-2062 to 64

Watch our video during road trip to Mount Santo Tomas here.

More photos here.

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Mount Santo Tomas, Baguio City

Mt. Santo Tomas is a very popular destination in Baguio City. Known for offering perfect views of the entire city along with mesmerizing views of the South China Sea and the La Union Province, this mountain is widely appreciated and favored by trekkers, mountaineers and rock climbers as well. Presenting natural scenic views along with the enchanting and alluring beauty of Mt. Santo Tomas, this mountain attracts tourists from all round the globe. This is also a very interesting picnic spot for the families of the Baguio City.

The height of the Mt. Santo Tomas is around 2,256 meters above sea level, eventually challenging the trekkers and climbers to reach the peak. Accessible by Marcos Hi-way which is considered as the safest and the easiest road which will take visitors to the top of this magnificent mountain, Mt. Santo Tomas is also known for providing exotic and exquisite phenomena of sunrise and sunset at the same point.

(source: http://www.touristlink.com/)

The Hundred Islands

Alaminos is probably the most popular tourist spot in Pangasinan. About 5-6 hours away from Manila, the Hundred Islands National Park is a definite must-go-to place when traveling to or around the Philippines.

Where we stayed: Island Tropics
Good location, good service, good room size, good price. Boat trips to the hundred islands and other water sports activities may also be arranged with the hotel. Vegetarian friendly. Food may be requested from the hotel’s restaurant.

See video below during our island hopping adventure.
Gears: GoPro Hero2, iMovie (This is not a paid advertisement)

WARF

Lucap Wharf

Island Tropic Hotel

Island Tropic Hotel

Restaurant at Island Tropic

Restaurant at Island Tropic

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

Island Tropic suite.

Island Tropic suite.

Room rates

Room rates

They also accept credit cards.

They also accept credit cards.

Time check

Time check

Boat ride

Boat ride

 

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE

Special Thanks:

Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
Alaminos Tourism Office
Island Tropics

 

CMR January

This year’s first CMR by Firefly Brigade was a success. It was nice to see old-timer and new bikers again after the Holidays. I believe it was well attended because everybody missed everybody and maybe also because a lot of new riders made it their New Year’s resolution to be more active and healthier this year. It was a great start. Hopefully we continue to see this kind of number every month. The more the merrier. (CMR Schedule)

Assembly point. Greenhills Shopping Centre.

Assembly point. Greenhills Shopping Centre.

At 7am, Jeans and I arrived at the assembly point. During the assembly, Tina DC, the Firefly Brigade President made some announcements and gave an orientation on road safety and road ethics. Shortly after that, the ride commenced.

(Photo by Al Castillo)

(Photo by Al Castillo)

CMR January 2013

During CMRs, women are encouraged to stay in front to pace the peloton. (Photo by Al Castillo)

CMR January 2013

Doc Arman and Stephen on their folding bikes. (Photo by Al Castillo)

Emergency

Emergency

During the ride, Tina’s fender encountered a problem, thankfully many bikers were more than willing to help.

CMR January 2013

It was a perfect bike weather. (Photo by Al Castillo)

CMR January 2013

On our way to Binondo, Manila. (Photo by Al Castillo)

CMR January 2013

(Photo by Al Castillo)

CMR January 2013

Waiting for the peloton to regroup on the bridge. (Photo by Al Castillo)

Streets of Manila.

Streets of Manila.

Passing by Luneta

Passing by Luneta

Marshals on duty.

Marshals on duty.

What I admire most about the Firefly Brigade’s monthly CMR is that they have very committed marshals who make sure that all riders are safe and that no one is left behind.

CMR January 2013

The photographer, Al Castillo.

(Photo by Tina DC)

(Photo by Tina DC)

Kalesas roaming the streets of Old Manila.

IMG_1990

Binondo, the final destination.

IMG_1994

Folding bikes.

Advocafe, a new vegetarian and bike-friendly cafe in Manila.

Advocafe, a new vegetarian and bike-friendly cafe in Manila.

After the CMR, we had lunch at this new cafe near Roxas. Check out Advocafe.

FACTS ABOUT CMR:

  • CMR means Critical Mass Ride
  • Organized by the Firefly Brigade
  • It’s FREE, no registration fee.
  • Wearing a helmet is highly encouraged
  • Open to all kinds of bikers (newbies or oldies)
  • Usually 20km – 25km distance
  • Slow and easy pace
  • Mostly flat roads
  • Very few inclines

See you again fireflies. Ride safe. Cheers to a healthier lifestyle.

If There’s a Wheel, There’s a Way!

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino leads the opening of a bike lane in Manila. FILE PHOTO

Good news my fellow cyclists and bike commuters. We now have bike lanes in Makati. I smell progress.

MANILA, Philippines – The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Thursday opened a one-kilometer bike lane from Magallanes to Ayala Avenue along the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). Read more…

Source: PhilStar.com

The Great Zambales Experience

The day I found out about a Zambales ride being cooked up, I got excited immediately. I can’t remember ever going to Zambales as a child and from what I heard, it’s a nature trip. True to what they said, Zamba is the ideal destination for nature and beach lovers.

Zambales is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region. Its capital is Iba. Zambales borders Pangasinan to the north, Tarlac and Pampanga to the east, Bataan to the south and the South China Sea to the west. With a land area of 3,714.40 km2, Zambales is the second largest among the seven provinces of Central Luzon. The province is noted for its mangoes, which are abundant from January to April.

Zambales is served by the Subic Bay International Airport, which is located in Cubi Point in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The Freeport Zone is host to many tourist attractions which include casinos, beach resorts, parks, beachside huts and cottages and historical sites.  -Wikipedia

Photo by Jeans Cequina

Photo by Jeans Cequina

It’s one of those moments that I am glad I invested on a Flamingo London folding bike (folds like a Brompton bike). It’s very compact and it can perfectly fit in the leg space of a taxi.

Squeezing in 3 ladies and 3 folding bikes in 1 taxi. Quite complicated but it was fun.

Squeezing in 3 ladies and 3 folding bikes in 1 taxi. Quite complicated but it was fun.

My girlfriends, Tina and Jeans met up in Quezon City and the 3 of us took a cab to get to the Caloocan branch of Victory Liner where we met up with the rest of the folding bikers.

Caloocan bus terminal.

Caloocan bus terminal.

Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Bus fares. Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Getting to Zambales from Manila doesn’t really cost a lot. The best bus and terminal to take is Victory Liner Caloocan. This branch offers more option in terms of timing. The last trip leaves at 12 midnight.

Caloocan bus terminal.

Caloocan bus terminal.

All our bikes are packed are we're ready to go.Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

All our bikes are packed are we’re ready to go.
Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

The compartment of the bus was not enough for all the bikes, good thing they allowed us to bring it inside the passenger's area. Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

The compartment of the bus was not enough for all the bikes, good thing they allowed us to bring it inside the passenger’s area.
Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Waiting at the terminal was more exciting for the other passengers. Seeing a group of bikers with their folding bikes just wasn’t the usual thing they’d see at the terminal. Some even approached us and asked if we were serious about our trip.

Caloocan bus terminal.

Caloocan bus terminal.

With my girlfriends, the “Mamech”, Melissa, Jeans, Tina, and Carol. Bike rides are always more fun with the mamech!

Victory Liner, Iba, Zambales Terminal.Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Victory Liner, Iba, Zambales Terminal.
Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

The bus ride only took 4 hours from Caloocan, Manila to Iba, Zambales. Personally I think we left Manila too early but because we didn’t have a choice, we had to leave at 12mn. The last trip of Victory Liner to Iba was only 12mn. Upon arrival, we unloaded all our things and folding bikes and there we met up with the rest of the group and our hosts, Ms. Aleth and  Sir Mario.

Jollibee BreakfastPhoto by Tonnette Jacinto

Jollibee Breakfast
Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

From the terminal, we biked our way to Jollibee (about 3km away), the only breakfast place open at 6am in Iba. It was also there that we met up with more folding bikers, Stephen and Thanny.

Free shirts!Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Free shirts!
Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

The ride started immediately after breakfast. Every pedal was breathtaking. A lot of trees, well paved flat roads, nice weather, and most of all great company.

The beautiful landscape of Zambales.

The beautiful landscape of Zambales.

The beautiful landscape of Zambales.

The beautiful landscape of Zambales.

Riding with my folding bike buddies. Special thanks to Folding Bike Pilipinas and Polkit for organizing this amazing adventure!

Rolling in Zambales

A run down house along the road.

A run down house along the road.

Riding inside the town.

Inside streets

Just about 15kms away from the city, we reached an Aeta Village where we stopped to meet and greet the kids and the rest of the community. We were also fortunate to be able to give a little of happiness to them. A local vendor of buko ice cream came and we all pitched in to give away to all the kids in the community.

Sir Mario requesting the kids to fall in line.

Sir Mario requesting the kids to fall in line. Photo by Tonnette Jacinto

Falling in line for buko ice cream.

Falling in line for buko ice cream. Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Buko ice cream for the kids.

Buko ice cream for the kids. Photo by Melissa Sambajon

There were two lines, one for the boys and one for the girls. Tina and I took turns giving buko ice cream to the girls. What a great feeling to be able to give them simple joys.

Locals

Locals

With the Aeta kids.

With the Aeta kids.

With the Aeta kids.

With the Aeta kids.

The turquoise blue church inside the Aeta community.

The turquoise blue church inside the Aeta community.

Aeta Community

Aeta Community

Shortly after visiting the Aeta Community, we continued with the ride. Just about 10kms from the community, we “pedaled” our way to a church on top of a hill. There were 3 inclines, 2 of them minor but the last climb was the killer, where most of the riders dismounted.

Short break after the two minor inclines.

Short break after the two minor inclines. Photo from Melissa Sambajon

The last hill.

The last climb.

Church on top of the hill.

Church on top of the hill.

Top of the hill.

Top of the hill.

After pedaling our way up to the hill, we went back down to visit another church for prayers and bike blessing. The 2nd church was a newer church than the one on top of the hill.

The church at the bottom of the hill.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

The church at the bottom of the hill.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Resting while waiting for Father.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Resting while waiting for Father. With Tina, Jeans, and Carol (The Mamech).
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Bike blessing and prayer for the safety of the riders. Thank you Father.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Bike blessing and prayer for the safety of the riders. Thank you Father.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

After the ride, we went straight to a local restaurant to have lunch. It was quite a long ride back especially because it was getting hotter and most of us were already tired. I think we pedaled about 40kms in total. Exhausting but it was all worth it.

The last stop of the ride. Finally we get to rest and eat lunch.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

The last stop of the ride. Finally we get to rest and eat lunch.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

After lunch and a nice cup of local brewed coffee, we again pedaled our way to a resort nearby where we parked our folding bikes. It was also during this time that we said our goodbyes to most of the bikers who were leaving for Manila that same day. Those who stayed behind awaited a greater adventure in Potipot Island.

Before heading to the island, we stopped by a nearby supermarket to buy food, drinks, and other supplies. We were told that the island didn’t have electricity and sari-sari stores.

A quick stop at the supermarket for supplies.

A quick stop at the supermarket for supplies. Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Gentle breeze and warm placid waters of the South China Sea welcome travelers to this charming and peaceful little tropical island off coast of the town of Candelaria in the northern part of Zambales. Literally meaning “small white island”, Potipot Island boasts of lush array of coconut, mango, kamachile and talisay trees, coral shells, hermits’ crabs, starfishes, and the most spectacular sunsets ever witnessed in this side of town. And if the weather is just right, dolphins will honor you with their presence. This untamed and untouched island makes an ideal camping and picnic spot.

One such place is suited with Candelaria and is called Potipot Island. It’s the nearest island from mainland Zambales where tourists or travelers can simply rent a boat from any of the resorts.

After a 15 minute boat ride from the shore, I found myself on a small and uninhabited Potipot Island, an unspoiled haven that is completely surrounded with cream sand beaches and filled with trees. Many have enjoyed spending a day here, basking around the sun, enjoying its waters and solitude it brings.

Touring the entire island only took me 30 minutes where every inch of the shore is covered by the same cream-sand beach. Taking a closer look, I marveled at the distinct, pink-tainted shoreline that I haven’t seen anywhere else before. Potipot Island owes this to the rose-tinted corals shed and washed along its shores, adding charm that makes Potipot Island unique from other islands.

As there are only trees and sand in Potipot Island, tourists who want to experience its grandeur can stay at resorts in mainland Zambales and rent a boat to take them to the island. Tourists can claim the island for a day and reflect on Potipot island’s waters. Commune with nature and take in all the beauty of what an unspoiled island brings, for it offers a rare experience one would not normally find or afford.

(Source: http://tourism.zambalesnow.com/)

That's Potipot Island. Just 5 minutes away from the mainland.

That’s Potipot Island. Just 5 minutes away from the mainland.

On our way to Paradise.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

On our way to Paradise.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Speed boat happiness.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Speed boat to happiness.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Group picture upon arrival at Potipot. Unfortunately most of the troop left. Only 8 of us stayed overnight.Photo from Melissa Sambajon

Group picture upon arrival at Potipot. Unfortunately most of the bikers left. Only 8 of us stayed overnight.
Photo from Melissa Sambajon

The Campsite at Potipot Island.

The Campsite at Potipot Island.

We arrived at Potipot around 4pm. The sun was fast setting. So after a quick dip, we went straight to another corner of the island where we experienced an unforgettable sunset moment. I was joined by Tina, Melissa, Jeans, and Mark.

Beach time.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Beach time.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

"Pag mulat ng mata, langit nakatawa sa Potipot." -mamech. (Sing it!)Photo from Melissa Sambajon

“Pag mulat ng mata, langit nakatawa sa Potipot.” -mamech. (Sing it!)
Photo from Melissa Sambajon

In the evening, things got even better. The island was lit by the full moonlight. The setting was perfect for poi dancing. Jeans was prepared. She actually brought her fire poi kit and she performed for us, the cast-aways. It was another unforgettable moment for everyone who stayed behind especially for our friend, Stephen, who was seeing a fire dance performance for the first time. Thank you Jeans for mesmerizing us. (The hunt for kerosene was so worth it.)

Jeans, the poi dancer.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Jeans, the poi dancer.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Sleeping under the moonlight.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Sleeping under the moonlight.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

We slept on the beach under the moonlight. The weather was not too cold. A malong or sarong was enough to keep us warm.Photo by Melissa Sambajon

We slept on the beach under the moonlight. The weather was not too cold. A malong or sarong was enough to keep us warm.
Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Time stops when you're in Potipot.

Time stops when you’re in Potipot. We woke up to this sight.

Breakfast will never be the same again.

Breakfast will never be the same again. The early risers, Melissa and Tina prepared breakfast for everyone. Thank you mamech!

Breakfast by the beach.

Breakfast by the beach.

The morning after. More  beach time.

The morning after. More beach time.

Our lovely host, Aleth Velasquez arrived at 9am to pick us up with the speed boat to bring us back to the mainland. Then we rode the rear of the pick up truck to the resort where we left our folding bikes. Shortly after arriving at our destination, we packed our bags and bikes into Sir Thanny’s car. Before heading to Manila, we stopped by a local restaurant to eat lunch, then another stop in Subic for coffee, and then our final stop was at Mr. Kebab’s Place for dinner.

Off we go home.

Off we go home.

When in Zambales, go to Rizal St.

When in Zambales, go to Rizal St.

When in Zambales, go to Rizal St. where you can buy pastillas for pasalubong.

When in Zambales, go to Rizal St. where you can buy pastillas for pasalubong.

The Zambales experience was amazing. I would like to thank Ms. Aleth Velasquez and Sir Mario Velasquez for being such great hosts in Zambales, to the Folding Bike Pilipinas and Polkit group for organizing the ride, to Sir Thanny for allowing us, the Mamech, to hitch a ride back to Manila, to the Gov of Zambales, for sponsoring our Potipot experience, to all those who participated and supported ride, and most especially to the Mamech for making it more unforgettable. Until the next ride again. Happy New Year!

last stop before heading home

Mr. Kebab, where we ate dinner and our last stop before going separate ways. Photo by Melissa Sambajon

Projected Expenses:

P684 – Round trip bus fare with Victory Liner (Caloocan)
P100 – Potipot Island entrance fee
P500 – Round trip boat ride good for 8pax (Day trip)
P500 – Local meals and drinks (Lunch & Dinner)
P1,784 – TOTAL

Credits:
Photos by Nityalila Saulo, Melissa Sambajon, and Tonnette Jacinto