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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blogging Influence

Being acquainted with the blogsphere has changed me in more ways than one. For one, it kept me company when I'm stuck at home (how pathetic!). It has opened my eyes into a world I never knew existed or let's say I never knew was of this great magnitude. A virtual world exists here with real people, unselfishly sharing their life experiences.

More than anything else, travel blogs have caught my attention. Reading these blogs makes me want to travel more than the usual. Traveling with great company has become my passion. As the designated organizer of the group, I handle all the headaches of planning a trip and the harder part of pooling in the right mix of travelers. Blogging got me acquainted with travel forums like virtualtourist and pex. Aside from that are real traveler's travel blogs like Anton, Tutubi and those in my blog roll. I also came across a couple of budget tour organizers like Owen's Diy Philippines and Travel Factor, that makes traveling more affordable and hassle free. I shall join them in the coming months. Hopefully I'll get a goodnight's rest during the trip unlike in the previous trips I've organized.

One more is having a travel mascot or as they aptly call as travel gnome. A travel mascot is a toy, a prop or anything that you bring around while you travel and perhaps take a portrait of them. Apparently not only Charlie Brown brings his blanket wherever he goes. My first attempt to travel with a travel mascot was four months ago. I named her Tokidoki simply it's from Le Sportsac's Tokidoki collection. I have to take shots candidly so that I won't draw strange glances from the people around me. I still have to overcome that shyness of doing it.

I've seen a few posts about travel mascots. I once saw a collection of island hopping trips with Disney's Lightning McQueen parked on those sand, that was so cute. I wished to share that here, but I can't seem to find that post over at Multiply. Of all that I've seen, I say Nina's travel gnome tops my list. These are no ordinary dolls, these are actually Pinky:St, a collector item. (This is another information discovered from blogging.) I love how these toys are portrayed on these pics, looking at them, I'm tempted to get one for myself. *wink*

How has blogging influenced you? You might want to share your travel gnome here too. :D

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hanging Rice

Puso or hanging rice or rice pouch is rice wrapped in shaped coconut leaves. Making it "portable", not to mention, biodegradable. If you're interested to learn how to make puso, check this out. It comes in different shapes and sizes.

I grew up in a household that eats puso when we go for a picnic at the beach in Mactan, Cebu. Everyday, on my way to work, I pass by a neighborhood that cooks puso in Barangay Day-as, along P. del Rosario Extension, Cebu City. It's best paired with lechon (roast pig) and street food like grilled chicken, pork or seafood and ngohiong (five-spiced fried lumpia). Many argue that it is not uniquely Cebuano. I didn't realize that it's not readily available in other parts of the country, not until a few years back, when my relatives have to order from here and have it shipped to Manila.

Puso sells between P2 to P5, depending on its size and the kind (quality) of rice used. The price hasn't gone up significantly. A restaurateur once commented that it's more viable to serve (simply) rice rather than puso. A cup of cooked rice can be priced P10 to P30 but never with puso.

During my frequent diving trips in Mactan, Cebu last year, I've been in search for the best tasting puso but I can't find any. During my trip to Kawasan Falls, I proudly introduced the puso to my friends from Manila which we bought at Carcar Market, unfortunately, it was too dry and hard, I'm sure my guests weren't happy about it. In my occasional indulgence of lechon at the mall's food court, I was disappointed with CNT Lechon's puso. 'twas dry, it can choke (an exaggeration maybe).

In my most recent island hopping trip in Mactan, my grand aunt brought puso. I haven't had that good tasting puso for a long time. She got it from Willer's Store. I can't help but ask for directions. Willer's Store is a small eatery that sells bar-b-cue, in one side street along Gorordo Avenue, Lahug (between JY Square & Sinangag Express). Puso is sold at P5, with generous serving size, they use ganador rice which explains why their puso tastes good and soft. They can be reached at +639163334779 or (032)4147145. They are open only at night, so you need to call if you need it during the day. I gladly volunteered to bring puso in our recent potluck dinner, I was sure a good puso was the perfect match for our tasty lechon and ngohiong. :D

(credits to the owner of these pics.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Donsol, Sorsogon Travel Guide: Whale Shark Interaction

I must admit, I've been rambling too much about my two failed attempts. At this point, I'll put them into good use... I have compiled this extensive guide for Whale Shark Interaction in Donsol Sorsogon, probably the most extensive you can find on the net.


The name "whale shark" or locally called "butanding" comes from the fish physiology that is, a shark as huge as a whale that shares the same filter feeder eating mode. As filter feeder, these gentle giants feed on planktons, algae, and small nektonic life.

Donsol Bay has the largest concentration of whale shark in the world.

The interaction site can be reached by outrigger boat in 10 minutes from the shores of Dancalan Beach Area (Baranggay),
Town of Donsol, Province of Sorsogon, Region of Bicol, Southern Luzon, Philippines.


These gentle giants are believed to migrate to the plankton rich warm waters of Donsol Bay between October to June. It's best to go on a sunny day, between March to May. Increase your chances when timed not on a full moon and when you go out at sea early in the morning. Early morning is feeding time and the sea is calmer.


As I spoke to a Butanding Interaction Officer, he stressed that it is not appropriate to say whale shark watching in Donsol but rather whale shark interaction in Donsol. It is their aim for tourists to actually interact with them.

All whale shark interaction tours are managed by the Donsol Tourism Office (Tourist Center), they are open from 7am to 5pm. One shall register and pay the fees at the tourist center, located by the seaside right next to Vitton Resort. Your assigned BIO will lead you to a two minute walk to the shore to board your outrigger boat. Outrigger boats are allowed to sail between 730am to 3pm. During peak season, trips are scheduled to leave at 730am and 1030am with a maximum of 20 boats at a time.

P3,500 per boat upto 7 pax
inclusive of 1 Butanding Interaction Office (BIO), 1 spotter, 1 skipper and lifevests
> children 7 years and below ride for free in excess of the 7pax count.
+ P100 registration for locals (P300 for foreigners) valid for 5 days.
+ P650 for additional BIO (optional)
+ P300 snorkeling set rental (optional)



When you contact your resort of choice, bank to bank payment transfers is generally required to confirm your reservation.

Accommodation in Dancalan, Donsol is very basic, no frills, no tv. I personally suggest Vitton Resort,
since it is located right next to the tourist center. Next option would be Amor Farm Resort (5 minutes by foot from the tourist center), contact them for reservations:

Amor Farm Beach Resort (rate updated as of December 2009)

Located some 5 minutes walk from the tourist center
Contact No. +63 9095181150
Email Add:
Room Rates:
AC with hot and cold shower - 1,800.00php
Ac Room (standard) - 1,700.00php
Fan Rooms - 1,000/ 1,300php
Fan Room with hot and cold shower -1,400.00php
ALL rooms are with ensuite bathroom and private veranda overlooking the beach.
MODE of payment to secure reservations: Bank-bank transfer / Paypal / Western union

Vitton Beach Resort
Located right next to the tourist center
Contact Nora Morales/Ann +639279126313
Rates (starting year 2009):
AC Rooms w/ Hot & Cold P1,800 (for 2 + P300 extra person)
Family Room (for 4) P3,500
Woodland Resort
Located some 5 minutes trike ride from tourist center
Contact Nora Morales/ Marichu +639219699544 / Mel +639182315420
(It may take a while for them to respond since telecom signal is weak in the area.)
Rates: Big Cottages AC (10 pax) P2,700.00
AC Rooms (2 pax) P1,700.00
Non AC Cottages P 800.00

Casa Bianca
Contact Hazel +639213687066/Jun Balmonte +63906-3099372/ Jun (fireflies) +639069320457
Rates: Fan Room P800
AC Room P1,500

If you're on a tight budget, you may pitch a tent, shower rooms are available for rent at the resort or opt to stay in Donsol town proper, about 3kms away, 10 minutes trike ride (P10/pax). The likes of Hernandez Guest House and Erna Guest house offers a bedspace for P200/head with common bath.

For Department of Tourism accredited homestays, please get in touch with Ms. Irma Jimenez (mobile: +63 906 7625955) of the Donsol Inn-Keepers Association (DIKA) or arrange with Salvador "Dudz" Adrao +639272330364


Feast on seafood and try out local delicacies like bicol express (pork strips with chilli cooked in coconut milk).

You may eat at Vitton Resort (order in advance, it takes a while for them to prepare), Amar Farm Resort (good and reasonably priced), Gennevie Resto and Barracuda Resto or opt to go to Donsol Town's Market and get some fresh catch to be cooked at your resort.


(click on links for updated flight/trip schedules)
MANILA - LEGASPI CITY - DONSOL is the best route.

(update: direct flights from Cebu to Legaspi resumes in January 2009)

Option 1. BY PLANE: daily flights from Manila to Legaspi City via flagship airline PAL or budget airline Cebu Pacific (45 mins). or 5 times weekly from Cebu City to Legaspi City via twin-turbopropeller of Cebu Pacific (asked to be seated at the front row or rear most part of the plane, the propeller can be noisy in the middle). If you're coming from other cities like Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Palawan, there are no direct flights, one must go through Manila or Cebu for a connecting flight to Legaspi City Airport. Then see Option A-C below.

Option 2. If flights are full, fly from Manila to Naga City. [You may opt to spend a day wakeboarding at Pili, Camarines Sur.] From Naga, take a trike to the Van/Bus Terminal, ride a van that will take you to Legaspi City for P140 for a 2 to 3-hour ride. Vans headed for Legaspi are in the van Terminal just across of the bus terminal. There are also buses for Legaspi from Naga but they take longer since they stop frequently. Private vans are also available for hire for about P4,000.

Option 3. BY BUS(10-12hours), daily trips from Cubao, Quezon City, Manila to Legaspi City on Philtranco for about P600-900 per way, other bus lines are also available. Transit from Legaspi through Option A or B below.

Option 4. By boat from Cebu to Masbate (P480-P1800, 10 hours) via Trans Asia Shipping Lines (Sulpicio Lines is cancelled as of this writing), take a ferry from Masbate to Pilar Town (P360, 2 hours), take a jeep from Pilar to Donsol Town Proper (30 minutes), take a trike to (Tourist Center) Dancalan, Beach Area (P20-30).

And then transit from Legaspi City to Baranggay Dancalan via Donsol town proper (1 hour):

Option A. From Legaspi airport take the trike (P50) to van terminal at satellite market/Pacific Mall (this is also where the bus from Manila stops), take a van to Donsol town (P60) for an hour and half ride. From Donsol town, take the trike to Dancalan or talk it through for the van to proceed to (Tourist Center) Dancalan Beach Area for a fee of P20 or

Option B. Rent/hire a private van at the airport or bus terminal. (Several drivers are waiting just outside the airport holding a van for hire sign.) You may opt to arrange with the resort for P1,200-1,500 per van, that comfortably fits 10pax sans oversize luggage. (Do request a side trip to Cagsawa Ruins, it's just 15 mins away from the airport.), or

Option C. Approach the tourist desk at Legaspi airport's arrival terminal, they will arrange a private van to pool other tourists, the cost of P1,500 per van shall be split among them.


* swimming attire (skimpy suit may not be appropriate)
* snorkeling set (rental available at P300/set)
* underwater camera
* cash (credit card is not accepted)

For more information, visit Albay Tourism or Sorsogon Tourism. More tips from real travelers .


* Plane tickets comprise the biggest chunk of your expense, fares can go as low as P1,500 or a high of P8,000 per way, so it's best to book early.
* It's ideal to keep your itinerary flexible, flight and bus schedule maybe delayed. You don't want to have the same story as mine.
* On the plane ride to Legaspi, request to be seated on the left side of the plane (facing the cockpit) to get a view of the Mayon Volcano when landing.

* Whale shark sighting is not guaranteed but with high possibility (5-7 sightings on the average). It's best to have at least two mornings in your itinerary to do the tour.
* Check the local weather here. It must be sunny. Bad weather or continuous heavy rain will affect water visibility and an overcast might be difficult for the spotter. The weather in the region is quite unpredictable.
* Avoid peak season, spotting one will be like a race. More than 20 boats will be chasing after one spotted shadow especially when water visibility is limited.
* Start early, the tourist center opens at 730am; limited number of boats is allowed to sail, next batch starts around 1030am and it can be rowdy when there are too many tourists.
* You will be asked to watch a 15-minute interaction guide video, you can do this a day ahead to get started early.
* The tourist center does not accept advance booking (or so they say). They will assign a BIO and his team on rotation. NOTE: Advance booking is not required.
* (But the truth is) Advance booking may be arranged with agents (for a fee) or directly to BIO or through your chosen resort. Contact in advance experienced Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) and spotter (the likes of Omar, Joel, Boyet, Bobby, Jack) [i'll PM you if you need it]
* If you're a solo traveller or small group, you can request the tourist center to match you with other travellers to share the cost of the boat.
* Children are allowed to join, you may request for additional BIO to assist them for a fee.
* Scuba diving is not allowed in Donsol Bay. (rent a boat to Manta Bowl, Ticao Island.)

This is the moment:

* Psyche up yourself to see a huge fish about 5 to 15 meters, as big as a bus! Don't panic these gentle giants are filter feeders. For your safety, observe the interaction guide at all times.
* Gear up once on board, your BIO shouts 1-2-3 jump! anytime. Interaction site is just 10 minutes away from the shore. You don't only watch or swim but interact with the whale sharks; strong swimmers will have an advantage but the adrenalin rush will help you through. An interaction can last from a few seconds upto an hour if you're lucky (5-10 minutes on the average).
* You may have to wait on the boat a few minutes or an hour in between sightings. Have a hearty breakfast and pack enough food and drinks to fill you up.


* Remember to get your Certificate at the tourist center after the interaction, signed by your BIO showing the number of whale sharks seen. (no longer available)
* Bring spare cash, souvenirs like hand painted shirts are available for sale.
* Give your BIO and crew a well deserved tip, interaction with the whale shark is priceless.


P6,992 per pax for group of 6 inclusive of:
* P1,982 Cebu-Legaspi-Cebu
* P240 airport terminal fees
* P1,800 two nights twin share at Vitton Resort (1800x2/2pax)
* P800 whale watching (P3500/6+100+tip)
* P250 fireflies river cruise (P1250/5pax)
* P1,250 meals (5 meals, P250/meal @ vitton)
* P420 private airport transfers with city tour - Legaspi to Donsol(P2,500/way/6pax)
* P250 private airport transfers - Donsol to Legaspi(P1,500/way/6pax)


Day 1
* 1245-1345 CEB-LEG/MLA-LEG
* 1445-1500 Side trip to Cagsawa Ruins and Daraga Church
* 1500-1600 1 hour land trip from Legaspi to Donsol
* 1600-1700 check-in and register at the tourist center
* 1900-2000 fireflies river cruise

Day 2
* 0730-1100 Butanding 1
* afternoon freetime

Day 3
* back to Legaspi for flight home
* or proceed to Camsur Watersports Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur

The locals are exceptionally hospitable so feel free to ask for directions. Communication should not be a problem since English is widely spoken in most part of the country. If you still aren't convinced to do-it-yourself and don't mind to spend a lil, i mean - much more, book package tours with agents or check out or contact Salvador "Dudz" Adrao +639272330364

Connect the Dots, volunteer, or donate in WWF conservation programs contact them.


In Donsol:

*Butanding Festival, in April
*Firefly river cruise (P1,250 per 5 pax)
*Snorkeling in Halea, San Miguel Island (P3,500 per trip)
*Dive in Manta Bowl, Ticao Island (Each resort has their own contact for a Dive Operator)

In Legaspi:

*view of Mayon Volcano along the road, or trekking tours up the volcano.
*visit Cagsawa Church Ruins, 15 mins away from the airport and be welcome by children who will offer their services to be your guide and take some fun poses of you.

In Camarines Sur (like our itinerary):
*wakeboarding in Camsur Wakeboarding Complex
*aquasports in Lago del Rey Camsur Wakeboarding Complex

If I missed out on anything or if you find this useful, do drop me a line. Enjoy discovering the Philippines. :D

(updated April 2009)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo

Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo is a Visayan dialect that translates to "going around Cebu". Cebu Province's Gov. Gwen Garcia has spearheaded the project Suroy Suroy Sugbo. It's a way to promote countryside tourism in the province of Cebu. They have organized trips like:
The Southern Heritage Trail, Northern Escapade, Discover Enchanting Camotes, Explore the Midwest and Urban Adventure...

If my memory serves me right, my parents have tagged along in at least three of these. As they narrate, no less than the Governor joins the group and with her around, the group is always met by local officials with unparalleled hospitality and elaborate showcase of the visited town's best talents. My mom swears the performances are of world class standard. Some says it's like going through a political campaign, while others welcome that added attention from the locals, every stop is like a feast not to mention, food is free flowing. Aside from that, what's nice about the tour is the flexibility to choose the type of accommodation to suit your budget and you may opt to take their bus or drive your own car.

The next Suroy Suroy Sugbo will be on August 16 to 17, 2008, called Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2008 Urban Adventure. It covers city tour of Mandaue City, Lapu-lapu City and Cordova, then island hopping around Mactan Island including Olango (bird sanctuary) and Gilotongan Island (fish sanctuary) and an overnight stay in a beach resort of your choice. The tour ends with a showcase of Cebu's best talents with over a hundred performers at Cebu Parkmall grounds, right across Cebu International Convention Center, CICC.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

UNESCO World Heritage

How much of the UNESCO World Heritage have you explored?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

Five spots are identified from the Philippines:

1 Baroque Churches of the Philippines (1993)
2 Tubbataha Reef Marine Park (1993)
3 Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (1995)
4 Historic Town of Vigan (1999)
5 Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (1999)

I've only been to one, the Rice Terraces in Batad and Banaue. I've been wanting to go diving in Tubbataha but I guess I'm not yet skilled enough to go there. I thought Calauit Island Game Reserve is listed but apparently it's not.

I somehow equate the identified sites of UNESCO World Heritage as a must see travel places. I regret why I passed the chance to see the Pyramids of Egypt!

As I browse through the list, I've been to more UNESCO World Heritage sites than I thought:

1 Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing, China
2 Yungang Grottoes, China
3 Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, China
4 The Great Wall, China
5 Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay, France
6 Vatican City, Holy See
7 Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing
8 Palace and Park of Fontainebleau, France
9 Cathedral of Notre-Dame, France
10 Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge, France
11 Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci, Italy
12 Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy
13 Historic Centre of Florence, Italy
14 Venice and its Lagoon, Italy
15 Cinque Terre, Italy
16 Works of Antoni Gaudí, Spain
17 Historic City of Ayutthaya, Thailand
18 Statue of Liberty, USA
19 Historic Centre of Macao, China
20 Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Canada
21 Palace and Park of Versailles, France
22 Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange
23 The Loire Valley

To add to my must see sites before I die:
1 Taj Mahal, India
2 Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, China
3 Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, Philippines
4 Halong Bay, Vietnam
5 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
6 Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, UK
7 Grand Canyon National Park, USA
8 Pyramids of Egypt

But why am I looking at the list? With too much work at hand, I can't seem to focus on what I'll do first, I can't even clear the clutter on my table, I can't stop thinking about the long holidays that is coming up.

I somehow came up with the idea of a 6 day trip to cruise Halong Bay in Vietnam and see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. As I googled, looks like 6 days isn't enough, uh oh. Won't this be anti-climatic for a follow on trip to Coron, Palawan? Hmm...If you have any tips, do drop me a line. :D

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening

I missed the opening salvo of Beijing Olympics 2008.  With all the good reviews, I am but curious how it went... wow, it really is impressive.

Only China can pull off something like this.

Notice the missing FUWA (Olympics mascots)?  FuWa litteraly means lucky dolls, but superstitious belief has spread that the recent misfortune of China are related to them.

Check out a slide show, video.  Many videos uploaded have been suspended due to copyright issues.

for full length vids, download from

credits to the owners of the pics -

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lea Salonga as Cinderella

My being a Lea Salonga fan dates back to when she first released her LP album entitled Small Voice. As a lil girl, every night I climb up on the sofa to reach the player and play and sing along with my favorite songs like the Alphabet Song, I Am but a Small Voice and Someone's Waiting For You. Those were the days when cassette tapes were scarce and CDs have not yet been invented. (how long ago was that?)

I have not followed her much as a teenie bopper on the big screen and on That's Entertainment, I know she too didn't like much of what she was doing back then. ;)

Her biggest break should be as Kim in Ms. Saigon, I flew to Manila from Cebu and watched her at CCP and I was so hoping that it should be her and not her alternate and YES, it's her! As the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney's Alladin and Fa Mulan in Disney's Mulan, I never thought she'd sound good for cartoons!

Over the weekend, I purposely flew to Manila from Cebu once again to watch her as Cinderella. I booked tickets and tagged along my aunt, 3 cousins and 5 nieces! I was so excited.

I am impressed with the production, performance, the lyrics & script and the whole cast. The carriage was oh so pretty; the rats were hilarious; i just love her gown for the ball and how it turned to rags ooh, they just made impossible things happen... everything is simply magical. Have a sneak peek!

Watching the show, brings me back to my happy childhood. I enjoyed watching these disney princesses finding their prince charming and lived happily ever after. I never realized their's was a case of whirlwind romance (ten minutes!), of course I didn't know anything about that back then. haha The story brings hope to anyone.

Nothing can dampen my spirit, not even a seven hour flight delay back home. Impossible things happen everyday in more ways in than one. :)

Rodger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella runs from July 29 to August 24, 2008 at CCP main theater. Tickets are available from P500 to P7,000 at or selected block sales agents. Their Asian tour will follow soon.

Do catch her...
*Lea Salonga will be performing on all shows sans injury or illness. According to Lea herself when I sent a PM on her multiply. ain't she so cool?! :)
*The show lasts for two hours. (There are 2 acts, each lasting an hour.)
*Show starts promptly as published (3pm or 8pm), late comers will be allowed entry minutes later.
*Cameras are not allowed.
*Be warned, there's a long line to the comfort room.
*Bring some cash, souvenir program (P200), a Tour Cast Recording CD (P550), caps (P400), shirts (P700), glass slippers key chains, charms, rat stuff toy (you'll appreciate it after watching the show) and more are available for sale.

More about Lea Salonga.

Watch and blog about Cinderella and win glass slippers!

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Give Up on Cebu Pacific

To add to my long list of Cebu Pacific's bad service...

9. Our flight this morning scheduled at 10:15am left SEVEN hours later.

Need I explain further? At least two aircrafts were down (or so they said), as their announcement goes, 30 minutes before the flight "flight number... is delayed to 11:15 due to the delayed arrival of turn around aircraft." an hour later, same announcement was made and moved the flight to 2:30.
Thereafter, the boarding gate was filled with disgruntled customers with indefinite flight status. The manager on duty never showed up until some passengers went down to their office and demanded for free meals. They were able to negotiate and lunch was served past 2pm. Several flights were cancelled that day, hundreds of passengers were stranded in the airport (the only consolation is they now operate in NAIA Terminal 3). Passengers on cancelled flights got free airtickets (excluding taxes & fuel surcharge), overnight stay and three meals, while passengers on delayed flights for more than 6 hours gets free travel voucher, but we didn't get any simply because boarding announcement was made a few minutes before 6 hours would pass. Boarding announcement was made around 4pm but it doesn't end there.

This is another ordeal with Cebu Pacific, it is such a shame to us Filipinos especially Cebuanos for them deliver such service. During the whole time, I didn't bother to argue with them, the same people who assisted me during my missed connecting flight, was the same person handling us! I tried to haggle with my softest voice for our tickets to be refunded and be moved to PAL to no avail since the manager on duty never showed up to approve my request. So I quiet myself and bought The Secret.
But I couldn't keep my foot down, I went around, eavesdropped and talked to several strangers and shared experiences. Several passengers missed important meetings, several passengers came from Bangkok, their 10pm flight left 4am and were connecting on the same flight as I am.

I befriend the check-in counter staff, had our bags retrieved and had my ticket rebooked to another flight hoping it will leave earlier. Hours later, my original flight's aircraft arrived so I ran back to the counter and had my ticket rebooked again to my original flight. So my checked-in luggage and I were on separate flights, however, my checked-in luggage arrived earlier than me since we were kept an hour more on the plane before it finally left the runway. Sigh!

As we leave the arrivals door, the security guard asked us "you still taking Cebu Pacific?"

I don't exactly know how this will appear on the news, abs-cbn was there to cover it. I hope they will deliver an impartial report, a wake-up call to concerned government agencies to take some action.


After much controversy which remained unsettled, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 3 opens its door to the public last July 22, 2008. I was looking forward to seeing the place and bet my fate again on Cebu Pacific.

-1. The main driveway leading to the departure terminal was not as wide as Terminal 2, this will definitely cause traffic once the terminal is fully operational.
+2. The area where the check-in counter are, is spacious and has high ceiling, much like the terminal 1 of Hong Kong Airport.
+3. Terminal fees remained at P200 per head for domestic flights.
-4. Immigration counter are in place even for domestic terminal.
+5. There are two operating x-ray machines, separate lines for male and female
=6. The hallway leading to the boarding gate are wide but there are no shops constructed yet, except for center aisle kiosks of Delifrance and Go Nuts Donuts and make-shift stalls of National Bookstore, a convenience store and Cinnabon. Shops are expected to open six months later.
-7. The waiting lounge wasn't enough to accommodate the passengers considering it is not yet fully operational. There were four rows of seat that lead to a long stretch of boarding gates. It's not well lighted, it looked gloomy just like the weather outside.
+8. There's one walkalator.
=9. The comfort room has more than ten cubicles but toilet papers aren't always replenished. I overheard the housekeeper complaining to NAIA supervisor how dirty it has been. Actually, I didn't find it dirty, maybe the old lady can't handle all cleaning by herself with the numerous passengers around.
+10. Public Annoucement facility was available with make-shift speakers spread throughout.
-11. LCDs were not yet operational on each boarding gate. One make shift screen using excel file was show on screen but wasn't updated.

I am quite disappointed with what I saw. It's trying hard to be of international standards, had it been opened many years back, it could have looked more impressive. Actually, it's not yet ready to service the passengers. There are no enough man power, there are 8 running tubes but only 3 operators are available. No personnel available to assist the sick and elderly needing special care like wheelchair. As the steward on flight commented, the President's state of the nation address (SONA) compelled them to operate unequipped. The SONA was delivered 7 days after it's opening, did she mention anything about NAIA3? (I didn't get to follow that.) Flights are delayed for at least 30 minutes since and it is expected to remain that way for the next two months.

More than anything else, as I push my luck with Cebu Pacific, it just added to my already long list of bad service by them.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bargaining prowess

I could say my bargaining prowess is weak. I don't usually get the best bargains unlike my friend T. Maybe I'm just not the type who wants to argue, I'd rather keep mum than go over a lousy argument (with some exceptions).

With my bad experience with the lousy service of Cebu Pacific I know I have every right to sue them, I'll just put that on the shelf for the meantime. Yes, just for the meantime, wait til I get some connection inside, someone deserves to be booted out. tsk tsk tsk Anyway, i should learn how others bargain with Cebu Pacific...

1. Our family friend J. was bumped off on his flight to Manila, his father-in-law was a columnist, so he had his experience written in the national papers. They were offerred two roundtrip air tickets. I called him during my ordeal, apparently, he couldn't care less since he has swear not to ever deal with them again.

2. My friend A, together with her family was bound for Guangzhou, they were bumped off but after refusing to leave the counter, demanding that their hotel bills be settled as well, they were able to get seats! I think concessions were given to anyone who'd give up their seats.

3. My friend J, was bound for Bangkok, her mom was refused to take the flight for the reason she didn't have visa to enter since she's holding a Taiwan passport. There's no need for a visa, they insist yet she never get to fly nor got any concession. Yes, visa is not needed as confirmed by Thai immigration officials.

4. My cousin B, booked a connecting flight to Macau. Their local flight was cancelled so they cannot make it to the flight. He was asked to pay for rebooking fees, but after repeated calls, they were able to rebook for free.

5. My friend's cousin C, received a call and was offered if she could take an earlier flight and since she can make it earlier, she said yes and proceeded to the airport. When she got on the plane, the passengers applauded her. She learned from her seatmate, the flight was delayed for an hour and the announcement made was they were waiting for a passenger. Humiliating! Her story was published in the local papers, I'm not quite sure if she got concessions.

6. My cuz B along with the rest of the passengers were kept inside the plane for 3 hours before it was announced that the flight was cancelled.

7. Me, I've written my story. I filed a complain at the airport and sent email twice to complain but never got a reply. Keeping my cool, I worked out some documents, called every day to follow-up the cancellation confirmation, I got my tickets refunded three months later with the help of my credit card issuer.

8. Me, I booked again with the same airline last June for it's irresistible all-in rate. I got two calls while I was abroad that my flight was cancelled. (grr, I had to pay roaming rate for that) Luckily, I alreay decided to forego that ticket beforehand, I alreay booked another flight with PAL. With that, I'll get a refund for that cancelled flight that I no longer intend to take. *fingers crossed*

From these experiences, I've learned:

1. To always keep your cool.
2. Listen first to what they can offer, take a stand then bargain.
3. Never leave the desk until you get what you want.
4. Free tickets are no good, you still have to pay for the taxes and fuel surcharge.
5. To call their hotline, use local phone with speakers, you have to wait for as long as 30 minutes before your call gets picked up. It's best to call at midnight.
6. While on the phone, be patient, sometimes they'll have you wait for 10 minutes before they can give feedback.
7. On the phone, manage your anger, the call center agent now has on their manual to say, "sir/ma'am if you don't stop, I will hang up."
8. Check-in early but even with a boarding pass at hand, it doesn't guarantee you a seat.
9. Credit card companies entertain complaints only when a cancellation confirmation is issued by the airline.
10. Contact Arnulfo Alivio, director for Manila operations at (02)8536781.
11. Don't fly with Cebu Pacific ever again.

Their promo fare is irresistible so prepare to face your ordeal... yes, I have booked a flight home for Monday. I'm not in a rush, but I hope they'll redeem themselves this time. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Happens in Boracay Stays in Boracay

No electricity, no night life, no fancy resort but simply a long stretch of fine white sands and sand bars and clear seawater,  this was Boracay twenty years ago.
I've heard so much how Bora has turned into a commercialized touristy area since, seemingly nice and sad reality.  I arrived in Bora greeted by no less than it's lovely sunset, i could not help but lift my flipflops and stroll on it's fine white sands barefoot.  Yes, 20 years later, I am happy to see the sand remained white and fine, thank God!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sunset at Boracay

After 20 years, I've finally set foot on the fine white sands of Boracay again. 'Twas indeed an exciting vacation greeted by no less than it's lovely sunset...

three days later, it never fails to leave a lasting impression...

(raw pix by sony t-100)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unbelievable Donsol Trip

Just as I thought I have something to brag about today in my quest to swim with the butandings (whale sharks) in Donsol, Sorsogon, my experience is unbelievable!

Last February 23-25, 2008 out of 20 boats out in Donsol Bay, we were one of the few who didn't get to see any. Visibility was very bad due to the two-week heavy rainfall that hit the Bicol Region right before the trip. We were warned by the locals to cancel our trip but we didn't listen. We accepted defeat after spending 6 hours at sea.

We were so eager to go back for a vengeance in April. I've booked our flights, checked out the weather, booked the best Butanding Interaction Officer (guide) in town and made land arrangements.

The day has come for Donsol-2, April 16, 2008 my sis and I took the flight on Cebu Pacific, for Cebu to Legaspi via Manila. Our flight to Manila was delayed so I approached the check-in counter if we could still make it to our connecting flight and after an hour's wait, we got confirmation from Manila that we can since the flight to Legaspi will also be delayed and our luggages are checked through and we had our boarding pass already. When we reached Manila at 1pm, we were denied transfers. I spoke to my cousins who were on the plane, (they can see us from the plane!), they have not left and the doors are still open. They were trying to lure with ex-deals for 6 passengers to deplane. So the ground crew confessed we were bumped off since the flight was overbooked and our seats were taken! On record, they made it appear that we missed the connecting flight since our flight was delayed. That was the last flight for the day. They denied booking us on the next day, we didnt get any offers of concessions, they refused to provide a status report, they denied for me to speak to the supervisor, not until 3 hours later when I caught him speaking to another complaining passenger. After another hour, I took a pic of him, that's when he offered to let me fill up a customer feedback form and signed a certificate of delay, but that's about it. So we were left with no choice but to fly back to Cebu with no assurance that tickets will be refunded.

The lies doesn't end there, the supervisor on duty insisted that when we arrived, the plane already left. Com'on I have 13 relatives who can testify otherwise. The certificate of delay contained incorrect information as to flight numbers saying we were accommodated on the next flight. duh!

This has ruined not just our day but the whole well-planned vacation. I'm furious, I need a lawyer!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Extreme Adventure Weekend - EAT Danao, Bohol

A visit to Bohol with no Tarsiers, no Chocolate Hills, no loboc river cruise...
We got news about this place from RCTV (local TV lifestyle channel) and Cebu Pacific's Oct-Nov 2007 issue of Smile Magazine. I wasn't so eager about the trip unlike my friend H since I've already had an awesome exhausting experience trekking in Batad Rice Terraces and spelunking at Sagada in Northern Luzon in 2006. But I can't allow myself to miss the fun while my friends are enjoying it... so I went along.


We left Cebu for a 2 hour boat ride to Tubigon, Bohol on JadeStar. From there, was another hour land trip up hill before we reached the Visitors' Center of Magtangtang, Danao. Out of nowhere was a newly built spacious Visitors' Center. That was such a pleasant surprise, all along, I thought we're in for a rough night out in the mountains.

Since we were not that excited about the trip because of our previous "experience", the guide decided to bring our group for an evening spelunking. I freaked out when I first learned about it (that was a few days before the trip). Isn't that crazy? We may have experienced spelunking but doesn't make us a pro. During the briefing, our guide tells us, we were the 2nd group to ever do this activity at night. I freaked out even more, makes me think am I this adventurous? And yes, I did it anyway!

The evening trek down the mountain with limited light was difficult, not counting the bees and ants around that left us screaming every now and then. The entry to Kamira cave was challenging I should say, the hole was small, we have to climb up then down just to get in, our sweat was dripping and it was just the beginning. Once inside, it was pretty easy for someone who has previous "experience" in spelunking like me. hehehe Except for that part where we have to do the duck walk since the ceiling was really low, that was painful on the legs! It took us more than an hour to explore the cave, and more than half of the time was spent posing for pictures not minding the bat dung that was on us! After spelunking, our group decided to skip the sunrise tour as we were so sure that we can't wake up early the next day. This is what we missed!

On day 2, we started the day hearing mass with a 45-minute homily! Proceeded with a (30ft)rappel by the falls late in the morning. Twas not as difficult as I've expected! You just have to have that go for it attitude and conquer your fear of heights, next thing you know, you've done it! So we continued the riverside activities... trekking by Wahig River, across boulders of rock with occasional drizzle... I had a hard time doing the trek with slippery wet sandals! Oh by the way, this activity is called bouldering! In between we had a dip in the river, with natural jacuzzi. To end the trek, we have to climb up the hill. We were actually not climbing but crawling up the slope! Since there was no trail, we had to grasp on whatever sturdy roots, branches or rocks we can find. With rocks falling from the footstep of the person ahead of me, the helmet served its purpose. We reached back to the visitors' center past 4pm for lunch... thanks to the camote (sweet potato) cue served before the activity it filled me up and the lemongrass juice was definitely refreshing.

Take a look at this last picture, imagine we trek from the top where this shot was taken, down to (Wahig) that river below and back up through that hill across. Whew, it's unbelievable. It was an adventure filled weekend and we look forward to their plan of setting up a series of Tyrolean Traverse (zipline). That should be worth going back.

It's a promising destination for eco/edu/extreme adventure tour for the Visayas or as they call it EAT Danao, Bohol. I hope they get the support of the Department of Tourism.

The EAT Danao tour costs P3,500/pax, all inclusive of transportation from Cebu to Danao, Bohol via Tubigon, full board and lodging (served all organic meals including snacks!) and choice of two activities, for more info check out their site.

We ended the trip with a 2-hour land trip from Danao, Bohol to Tagbilaran, Bohol on a Pajero with a Mayor's plate, a rockstar treatment don't you think?! We had a hearty buffet dinner at Bohol Bee Farm perfect to nourish our weary bones. We all managed to stay up late for a game of "catch phrase" before we snooze off in those cozy rooms of Bohol Bee Farm. We cancelled our early morning dolphin watching trip as we opt to bum around at the resort the next day before we take the fastcraft back to Cebu. :D

Updated rates per activity as of January 2010 from

Entrance Fee

* Adult - P25.00
* Children three (3) yrs. old below - free entrance

Parking Fee

* Motorcycle - P 5.00
* 4-Wheeler Vehicle - P 10.00
* 6-Wheeler & above - P 20.00
* Towing Equipment - P 50.00
* Heavy Equipment - P 50.00
* Bicycle - P 5.00
* Landing fee for aircraft - P 2,000.00

Charges for Recreational Equipments/Facilities and Activities

* Plunge - P700 per person
* Sky Ride - P250 per person
cable ride with a gorgeous view of the river and gorge.
The small open air cabin is suspended 200 meters above the ground, a 15 minute ride back and forth. The cable car has a maximum capacity of 6pax. It has a working load of 8 tons.

* Caving - P350.00/person (minimum of 5 persons)
* River Tubing - P200.00/person
* Kayaking - P200.00/person
* River/Mountain Trekking/Hiking - P200.00/person
* Wall Climbing - P100.00/person
* Rappel (60m) - P600.00/person (Minimum of 5 pax)
* Rappel w/ root climbing - P400.00/person
* Suislide - P350.00/person
* Suislide - P150.00/person same day ride
* Suislide & Rappel (60m) - P850.00/person (Minimum of 5 pax)
* Camping - P25 per camper
* Village Tour - P200.00/person

Rental Charges

* Rental of Water Proof Camera - P100.00/activity
* Dry Bag Rental - P20.00/activity

Transport Services:

  • Public Transportation:
  • Trips per day from Tagbilaran to Danao:
5:00 am, 6:00am, 8:00am
12:00 noon, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6:30 pm last trip
  • Trips per day from Danao to Tagbilaran:
4:00 a.m., 5:30 am, 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:30a.m.,
1:30p.m., 4:00p.m., 5:00 p.m last trip

  • Bus fare is P75.00
  • Buses are at Integrated Bus Terminal – Dao – Dampas, Tagbilaran City
  • Bus will only be at Poblacion, Danao. Motor for hire (habal-habal) are available to transport guests going to the Adventure Park at P30.00/person. We encourage guests to look for drivers wearing patch with Danao Adventure Park logo

Contact EAT Danao:

Local Government Unit -Danao
- 507-3106 local 187

Ana Loinda Saluan
Mun. Tourism Officer
- 0917-3021701

Ma. Weina Saguid
Booking Officer
0921-7594403 / 0917-3021700

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Last Supper

During the Good Friday Triduum yesterday, the painting of Leonardo Da Vinci came into mind. I had the chance to take a look at his masterpiece "Il Cenacolo" in the refectory of the Dominican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie*, Milan, Italy in 2006. We took the train from Venice to Milan just to see this. With the growing popularity of the painting after the release of Da Vinci Code** (the movie), it requires several weeks of advance booking. So I booked a city tour of Milan including a visit of Cenacolo for $54 (now the tour is selling at $74 in!) to get a guaranteed entry to the refectory. Ticket price is only 6.5Euros, so much for the service fee! But it was worth it, this was my fave stop (and we found several tourists begging to enter that day).

We've always had a jigsaw of it framed and hanged by the staircase but little do I know about the painting's history. All along I thought it was a framed painting like what I see everyday with the carpet and vase in front (notice it?).

Leonardo abandoning the traditional method of fresco painting, depicted the scene on the wall of the refectory. It was designed such that when they ate at the refectory, it was as if Jesus was having his meal in front of them. In awe, I can say it looked so real! Extensive measures have been implemented to protect the fresco from further deterioration. Visitor intake has been restricted to a group of 25 every 15 minutes passing through several security clear glass doors to maintain a certain room temperature and limit exposure to light.

**If you've seen Da Vinci Code they argued that John isn't John but was a girl in the person of Mary Magdalene. Our guide (who is a historical art major) during our visit at the Vatican Museum explained that young men were often depicted with long hair.

*Il Cenacolo Vinciano of Santa Maria delle Grazie is located in Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie nr. 2, in Corso Magenta. Opens from Tuesdays to Sundays. For more info, visit

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wow Cebu - There's no place like home.

It is such a shame to be a stranger to your own hometown, right? It was a pleasure being a host to visiting friends from Manila and Bacolod, because I got the chance to explore and tour Cebu City and its neighboring towns. So I thought I'd compile the interesting places in my hometown that I myself have set foot on.

SINULOG! Every third Sunday of January, Cebuanos celebrate the feast of Sr. Sto. Nino with a mardi gras. The street party is flocked by locals and tourists and it's the most feastive season in the island.

BASILICA MINORE DEL SANTO NIñO is the country's oldest church and the only basilica in the Far East. It contains the image of the Holy Child given by Magellan to Rajah Humabon's wife. Look up and you'll find fine artwork on the ceiling. (A block away is Cathedral Church.) Don't forget to say your prayers, miracles do happen!

Right next to the Basilica is MAGELLAN'S CROSS, an octagonal shrine with a red-tiled roof that have paintings depicting the events of Magellan's visit on the ceiling. The original cross in encased with a wooden cross to preserve it.

In the middle of downtown Cebu, next to the Pari-an Fire Station, stands a bronze sculpture showcasing the "HERITAGE OF CEBU", commemorating the historic events that unfolded since the arrival of Spanish conquistadors and the battle that ensued between Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu. I finally came up close to this masterpiece, I pass by it everyday on my way to work.

FORT SAN PEDRO, the smallest and oldest Spanish fort in the country that served as core of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. (Feel free to request the guard on duty to take your pics, he'll gladly take your photos and direct your pose!) Adjacent to the fort is a public park, Plaza Independencia (Freedom Square).

JUMALON BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY AND ART GALLERY the home of the late Prof. Julian Jumalon has the country's oldest butterfly collection from around the world and a display of his lepido mosaic art collection, so called because it utilizes butterfly wings as its medium.

TOP, high on top of cool Busay hills offering breathtaking view of Metro Cebu and the islands of Mactan and Olango. Best to visit on a clear night when the fog won't block the view. Entrance fee is pegged at P100, or find a local who has a discount card and pay half the price (they give that out for free on your first visit, but you have to ask for it)!

MACTAN ISLAND, where the airport is located, is a coral island famous for scuba diving where beach resorts of international standards are located. Go island hopping in pump boats and take along Cebu's specialty -lechon baboy (roast pig) and puso (hanging rice) for a hearty lunch at sea.

Two and a half hour drive from the city via the South Reclamation Project and detour at Carcar Market, takes you to MOALBOAL. Panagsama Beach, Moalboal has a strip of dive shops and restaurants, the tip off point to diver's haven like Pescador Island. A long stretch of white sand and live corals at White Beach is an option for non-divers.

Further drive along the coastline takes you to the next town, BADIAN. Visit Kawasan Falls, Badian for a refreshing bath in this ice cold three tiered cascade of crystal clear mountain springs. Rent a raft for P300 and go under the falls for a HARD massage. U can also take a plunge off the cliff next to the falls as high as 50 feet or trek up the mountain to the source.

Then there's also Taoist Temple, Bantayan Island, Balamban, Tuburan, Pinamungahan and wherever you go around the island, there's always good food, food and food!

I've been to more places than I thought! I'm a stranger no more to my own hometown Cebu. :D the adventure continues... I'm proud to be a Cebuano, there's no place like home.

PS. am lovin' my sony t-100 with underwater casing! ;)