Bicol

Went with the family on a year-ender trip on the roads of Bicol. We left late at around 9:30AM to avoid meeting the typhoon head-on. The sky was already clearing through our route and it was already sunny by the time we arrived at Gumaca by around 1. We we’re looking for Lita’s Eatery but we missed it. We ended up having our lunch at Jollibee.

From Gumaca, everything was fined. Except, rhe roads between Sipocot and Libmanan which were terrible. It made me think that no matter what you think of the Marcoses, at least they know how to take care of their constituents. The roads in faraway Ilocos were much better maintained. The people in charge in this part of Bicol apparently doesn’t.

Going into Naga, we got caught up in a traffic jam. That’s when we noticed the extent of the destruction wrought by the typhoon. Toppled posts, torn roofs, and pigs out of their pens. It was around 8PM when we finally got through to Naga. We quickly checked in to Nagaland Hotel. The hotel and its restaurant was crowded so we went out for dinner. Most of the places were also crowded and we ended up at Crown Park which was still crowded but we were able to get a table.

The next day, we had breakfast at Graceland then went around Naga. We went to San Francisco Church and Quince Martires ParkPorta Mariae and the Metropolitan Cathedral. After the walk, we went and had ice cream at First Colonial. The chili and pili ice cream flavors are definitely must tries.

To avoid traffic, we decided to leave earlier than planned and just have lunch somewhere along the way. But we ended up in a traffic jam nonetheless. And it was bigger and slower than the previous day’s. It only got better after Baao. By then it was dark.

Then at San Miguel, the road onward was flooded so we had to take a detour to Iriga. But even the way towards the detour was flooded. It was nerve-wracking driving slowly through the almost-knee deep waters. But thankfully we got through. We went on to the detour through Iriga and finally reached Guinobatan around 8PM. We quickly checked in to Casa Basilisa just barely making it before their restaurant’s last call. Because we  lost half a day, we decided to extend our stay in Bicol for another day. Luckily, there were available rooms.

The next day, we went to Cagsawa Ruins and then Legazpi City to have lunch at Sibid-sibid. We also check out Lignon HillSleeping Lion/Kapuntukan Hill, and Embarcadero. We tried to have dinner at Bigg’s Diner but the food looked like regular fare. We tried to go to First Colonial but they were closing (so early). We ended up at Shakey’s. Regular fare. Yesh.

The next day, we went back to Cagsawa to ride the ATVs. Best decision! The ATV ride was a blast! And the view of Mayon was even better than the previous day. The sky was clearer and, with the ATVs, we were able to move closer and have a less-cluttered (with people) view. Pretty much satisfied with our adventure, we returned to Casa Basilisa and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing.

We left very early the next day to avoid traffic. We made good time and had our breakfast somewhere past Naga. However, traffic was congested heading into Quezon. Still, we made good time and were in Gumaca by around 1. We had lunch. At Jollibee. Again.

After lunch we headed on. I decided it may be a good idea to pass through Lucban. It was actually good going along the back country roads until somewhere between Lucena and Lucban, James’ car suffered a flat. The whole tire was totaled as he hadn’t immediately noticed it had gone flat. His spare was in good condition but needed additional air. Good thing I had an automatic inflator in my road kit. After a few minutes, we were back on the road.

Then every town we passed, Lucban, Liliw, Majayjay, Nagcarlan turned out not to have bypass roads. We had to pass right through the narrow (and busy) roads of each and every town. We finally reached Calauan and had late dinner at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. After that we proceeded home through Bay, Los Banos, then SLEX.

Another fun road trip with the family!

Misamis Occidental

Went with the family on a year-ender trip on the roads of Mindanao. We left Iligan at around 5:30 and we were at the ferry at Tubod by around 7. Unfortunately, the queue of vehicles were rather long so we decided to take the land route.

It took longer but it was fine with me since it was my turn at the steering wheel and I’m driving Edong’s new Mazda 3. I didn’t like the steering at the parking or in city traffic because it is overly soft. But out in the twisty country roads, the steering stiffened and felt so much better, funner. Definitely lives up to Mazda’s zoom-zoom slogan.

Our first stop, after breakfast at a Jollibee along the way, was the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (MOAP) at Sinacaban. The place is famous (infamous?) for its dolphins. It’s not hard to imagine our disappointment when we got there and were told that the dolphins were gone, their pens blown away by a typhoon. A year ago. On the bright side, the dolphins are free! Yay to that!

We thought of having lunch at their restaurant since it was already noontime. But it was not available either because there was a private party. Double bummer. So we just walked around the grounds and wharf, checked out some caged monkeys, then left.

We proceeded to Panaon and asked around for a beach resort. We were directed to Punta Meriam which is supposed to be the best resort in the area. You pay for everything up front before entering the resort. This included the food which we were informed will take 45 minutes to prepare. We were already hungry but the alternative was going to another town for food so we ordered, paid, and went in.

The resort looked pretty nice and well-kept. The beach looked nice, too. The sand is black to gray but it was pretty fine. Unfortunately, the waves were strong so we didn’t swim. We just waited for the food. And waited. And waited. It took more almost two hours before the food was finally served! Fortunately, it was quite good. Or maybe we were just too hungry.

After lunch, we went back to Ozamiz to check in to our hotel, Royal Garden. We had a hard time parking but once we got in we decided it was a pretty good hotel. The parking was just full because a lot of people hang out at the attached restaurant, “Hukad sa Golden Cowrie”. We didn’t try the place but I’ve tried Hukad and I’ve tried Golden Cowrie so I bet this one is twice as good :P

When evening came, we headed over to Tangub, the famed Christmas village. It’s not really a village but rather a full-fledged city. There were Christmas decorations all over the city and the city plaza was lit up by themed Christmas (not simply Christmas-themed) displays. There’s Frozen (of course), Titanic, etc. Around the plaza were restaurants where we had dinner before exploring the displays. We didn’t stay long because it started to drizzle.

The next day, James, Jack, and I explored the area around the hotel. Everything was still closed except for bakeries and the usual fast food joints. We settled for Mr. Donut which actually turned out to have a pretty decent breakfast menu (they had bacon!). Back at the hotel, I recommended it to Michelle and we went back there with the kids for their breakfast.

After breakfast, we packed up, checked out and went to the ferry. The loading, the trip, and the unloading was pretty fast and efficient. We were in Tubod and back on the road in less than an hour. We had a quick lunch at a roadside restaurant at Maigo and were soon back in Iligan.

Bolinao

We along with James decided to go on a midweek trip to Bolinao to take advantage of the APEC holidays. Of course, it had to be up north because the south is gridlocked also because of APEC activities.

We decided to use Google Maps and Waze to guide us. I had deleted Waze a few months ago because of its tendency to lead me off the road (literally and figuratively) but James is still using it. Of course, both apps then proceeded to direct us to all the wrong places (as usual). We reached Bolinao a bit later than expected and it was almost lunch.

We checked out Puerto del Sol first. The tide was low and we were informed by the staff that it is rather low this time of the year. Optimistic, and having no real choice since we’re there already, we decided to push further on, bypassing resorts that had brown low-tide shores. Eventually we reached Treasures of Bolinao where we decided to have lunch. While there, we saw that the beach adjacent the resort was pretty good even at low tide.

After lunch we checked out the remaining resorts. GResort, which is well-recommended was unfortunately fully-booked. We checked out other beach resort (mostly basic huts and/or camping areas) until we stumbled upon La Parola who offered us a “transient” (essentially a house with kitchen) for the price of a room (P2500).  Since it was right beside Treasures of Bolinao and right smack at the pretty good beach we saw earlier, we decided to take it.

It was already siesta time and we were all tired from the long trip so everyone took a nap. Once we woke up, we immediately dressed up (down?) and went to the beach. The sand was soft, a bit coarse but not a problem. The water was clean and cool. And the sunset, the sunset was awesome!

There was no restaurant so we had to drive a short distance to the nearest â€ťrestaurant” for dinner. It’s actually walkable but it was dark and unfamiliar plus we had kids. The restaurant is basically just a small shed with a few tables (4?). But prices are reasonable and the food is what I’d call authentic. They don’t sell drink buts there are nearby stores that do.

After dinner, we went back and checked out the beach for anything interesting. Nothing aside from a few people drinking. Even the torches set up along the beach were not lit. We went back to our accommodations and very quickly slept.

The next morning, it was back to the beach for a quick dip before breakfast (at the same restaurant the night before) and departure.

We dropped by other sights along the way:

  • The Bolinao lighthouse which sits on top of a hill that offers a wide view of the coast. The lighthouse itself doesn’t seem to be operational.
  • The Enchanted Cave which charges P150 for entry. We didn’t take go in since we weren’t planning to swim inside the cave anyway
  • Bolinao church which is a Spanish-era church at the town proper
  • Maxine by the Sea where we had lunch. It is also by the Alaminos wharf which is the jump-off point for trips to the islands. The restaurant has a good, albeit far, view of the Hundred Islands where we had lunch. Food was fine but a bit expensive.

We didn’t go to Bolinao Falls anymore as it was a bit out of the way.

We got home almost midnight, tired but happy with the short adventure.

 

 

 

Laiya

We decided to go on a weekend trip to Laiya to celebrate Michelle’s birthday. We’ve been there before but this time we decided to use Google Maps and Waze which then proceeded to direct us to all the wrong places (as usual). As a result, we reached Laiya later than expected and we had to choose resorts with daylight running out (again).  After hurriedly checking out resort all the way towards far end of the cove, we went back and settled on Kabayan Beach Resort which we felt had more reasonable rates. 

Kabayan is your typical beach resort and is definitely not as fancy as the neighboring White Cove but they had a pool which we thought the kids would love. As it turned out we spent more time at the beach than at the pool. The sand is not exactly white but it’s white enough and pretty fine. The water is shallow for quite a long way and the bottom is soft and sandy. Definitely kid-friendly. They have a banana boat and other rides but those small-kid friendly so we skipped those.

The room we had was what they call “hotel type” which means it has what you would expect from a hotel room: a bed, a bathroom, a tv, and a refrigerator. I’m not asking for more and it’s nice and clean. That said, some fixtures and equipment are getting rather dilapidated. 

Food is available from the in-house restaurant. But the food is frankly nothing special and quite expensive for the quality. Unfortunately, there are no nearby standalone restaurants and we figured the restaurants at the other resorts either have the same fare or have costs commensurate to their room rates. 

Still, overlooking such minor niggles, you can have a great time at the beach. And we did!

La Paz Sand Dunes

Believe it or not, there are actually sand dunes in the country and they’re in Ilocos. I didn’t know about them until fairly recently. I really should go out more. Activities include sightseeing, 4Ă—4 rides, ATV rides, and sand boarding. We all rode the 4Ă—4 and even Jeanne enjoyed the slow climbs, banks, and fast descents. She didn’t enjoy the sand boarding as much though as she (and I) ate some sand on our first (and her only) run. I gave it a few more gos and stopped as soon as I successfully made a standing run. We then went to La Preciosa at Laoag for dinner. Jack treated us to another round of yummy Ilocano food and one of the best carrot cakes ever. Thanks, Jack!

Ilocos Sand Boarding Adventures - Glenn and Donna Guerrero at  0908-885-3669 / 0910-947-4129 / 0915-456-1133 / [email protected]