One of the best road trips in the Philippines: Legazpi (Bicol)

“Let’s go home. I miss mommy and Daddy.”

“I miss Madam Amelia, too.”

And we were off to Manila from Singapore. Stayed a couple of hours in NAIA Terminal 3, then flew straight to Legazpi via Cebu Pacific to meet my family and in-laws.

I grew up in a province 4-6 hours from Manila and possibly, 4-6 hours as well to Bicol, where this gem is.

You don’t need to hire a tour guide to explore Bicol (specifically, Legazpi). There are so many articles about it online and all you need to do is to hire a van, list down the places that you want to visit and get ready for the long fun and song-filled road trip to Bicol.

Of course, the first thing that you should look out for is the perfect cone-shaped active volcano that’s usually found in history textbooks in the Philippines. 🙂 When we visited in July, the clouds were all around it, but it was still very beautiful.

If you’re ready to explore Bicol, here’s a quick list of the “must-go” during our family getaway.

Cagsawa Ruins

They say that you’ve never been to Bicol if you don’t visit the Cagsawa Ruins. If you want to see the Mayon Volcano up-close and chill with some halu-halo, this should be one of your stops.

Cagsawa ruins are the remnants of a 16th-century Franciscan church as per Wikipedia. It was originally built in 1587 but was burned down by Dutch pirates in 1636. It was rebuilt but was destroyed again during the eruption of Mayon Volcano in 1814.

Daraga Church

If you didn’t see the beautiful Mayon in Cagsawa, try snapping a photo of it in the vicinity of Daraga Church. Though this church is on top of a hill, it’s beauty is worth the climb. It was also built by Franciscan missionaries in 1773 and is definitely a living proof of Bicolanos unwavering faith.

Embarcadero

If you’re travelling with your parents or older family members, it’s expected that they’ll get tired of the long road trip. Embarcadero is definitely a good place to stop by, get some balut and walk around.

Kawa-Kawa Hill & Natural Park 

If you’re a Catholic (which is the religion of the majority of the Philippines population), you’ll be in awe seeing this hill and park. This is where the famous life-sized last supper is located. The view on top of the hill is breathtaking and you can go on a spiritual journey as you explore the entire place as it has 14 Stations of the Cross.

But regardless of your religion, this place has the best view of Ligao and is very serene and worth the climb.

PS. It will be challenging to push a wheelchair up so be prepared for some piggybacks!

Sumlang Lake

If you’re up for some fresh air and just want to chill and chat, try spending some time in Sumlang Lake. It has a beautiful view of Mayon, nice hammocks and benches, plus, plenty of local products to shop!

Bicol ATV Adventure

Spare a day or two to do the fun activities in Bicol (cause there’s a lot to do!). Because I think I’m lucky to have fun in-laws (HAHA), we’ve spent a day under the sun exploring Legazpi in ATV.

Black Lava Trail 

After lots of turns, uphill and downhill slopes, river crossings and beautiful scenery, we’ve reached the end of the trail which is also the  Lava Wall.

Be prepared for a bit of rock climbing if you fancy trying this out.

Zipline  at Lignon Nature Park 

This was where the magic all happened. 🙂

According to many, for many years, Ligñon Hill is known only for the PHIVOLCS observatory located on its flanks and an old lighthouse on its summit. Today, it has become one of the city’s prime destinations for sightseeing and countless of fun activities. The war tunnels during the Japanese era is here!

So when our parents and aunties got bored with just sightseeing and eating, they tried something that they said they never thought they will never do- trying out the zipline!

If zipline is a little less-exhilarating for you, try this one!

Don’t forget that this region has the spiciest dishes in the Philippines! So of course, we’ve tried the Sili Ice Cream. If you haven’t been spending time with Filipinos, you won’t know that they are the bunch who don’t really enjoy spicy food as compared with the other Asian cultures. So, this is really a hit! 🙂 It has different spicy levels so try it depending on your preference.

Plus, my brother in law woke up one of the nights wanting to explore the nearby towns…so we went to Sorsogon. 🙂

We concluded our trip with a visit to Our Lady of Penafrancia Shrine. I thank Him for a beautiful family, I didn’t know what I’ve done to deserve them. 🙂

I’ve put together in less than 3 minutes, the gang’s adventure. Have fun!

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Pacman survived the “bad weather”

I knew that this moment will drag me back here and write something that I’d love to remember years from now.

As an expat in the little red dot, everyone’s in awe whenever I tell stories of how Pacman turns the busy streets of Manila (and all parts of the Philippines) into ghost town whenever he has a fight. As crazy as it sounds, it’s like an unsaid rule that Filipinos are glued to their screens to watch the great boxer and pray for his “win” each and every fight.

I grew up with this. Haha. And I’ve shared a lot of great memories with my dad while watching the fight and drinking a cold San Miguel beer with his friends. I didn’t even like boxing. It’s violent for me. But a Pacman fight turns every Filipino around the world into a boxing expert everytime. Believe me, from Philippines to US, Middle East, Taiwan or UK, Filipinos are glued to their phones to catch up with families before and after the fight.

Amazing, right? At some point, Iknow Pacman brought heart to the boxing sport and united the Philippines in so many ways.

PROOF OF FILIPINO FANS DEDICATION

No need to go far, my news feed says it all.

(Screengrab from the hardworking businesswoman, Ailette)

(Screengrab from the hardworking businesswoman, Ailette)

(Nakaw photo of List from Perth)

(Nakaw photo of Liszt from Perth)

pacmay1

(Photo from @unikathija)

pacmay2

(Nakaw photo from Jopot @melvin_zamora)

pacmay3

Us earlier. LOL. #OFW Thanks to Kuya Macoy and to Ate Mhely for the live stream. Haha.

CLEVER AD, AS EXPECTED.

Working in the marketing and advertising industry, I know that there’s something clever that’ll come out from great brands in moments like this. This time, McDonald’s got the spotlight.

A couple of days before the big fight, McDonald’s Philippines released a clever ad to show their support to the Filipino champion. It’s very timely and sincere to the point of touching the hearts of every excited and nervous Filipino supporter.

  After the fight, McDonald’s impressed me even more by sending the message that captured what the shocked (somehow sad) Filipino fans would like to say. 

 

CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG.

Below is the screenshot of my Instagram feed minutes after the fight. 🙂 Photo credit to my IG friends but correct me if I’m wrong, McDonald’s message just blended in. It’s a brand that cares… makes you wanna say “let’s go have some McFlurry kasi mainit ang ulo ko!” Haha.

IG Feed

 

It was just clever.

Pano ba yan? Just like what McDonald’s said, “we’ve always survived the bad weather. We’re very proud of you, Pacman!”

Til next time!

No more #ChickenSad, #HaySalamat!

Jollibee is my childhood hero. Though I’m not a big fan of fast food, I crave for the regular yum, spaghetti and chicken joy every once in awhile. Up to now, there are very few Asian (except Japanese) brands that become “global brands.”  And for the Philippines, Jollibee is one brand that the country can be globally proud of and call its own.

I visited home 2 weeks ago and was so sad when the Jollibee outlet I visited had no chicken and spaghetti available. At some point, I really thought there was no sense of going home at all. Haha. Ok, that was an exaggeration but the trip did feel incomplete.

Then when I went back to work, I noticed that my newsfeed was flooding with #ChickenSad hashtags. That’s when I realized I was not alone, and it was the whole country feeling sad [or mad ?] having no Chickenjoy at all. According to Rappler, a major IT system change was to be blamed for the lack of the popular Chickenjoy in Jollibee stores. The change affected the fast food giant’s inventory and delivery system, forcing 72 stores to close.

Translation: “I don’t have a boyfriend, now I can’t even have Chickenjoy.”

Translation: “They don’t serve anything cause they’re updating their system….are they printing chicken?”  

Translation: Wait, I was able to buy a bucket of Chicken joy last week. What just happened?

Translation: “I should’ve taken a photo of the last chicken joy I’ve eaten on Saturday (Aug 2). Maybe it’s really going to be the last.”

Some panicked and called the police.

Translation: “(Police Twitter Handle) Help! Until now, we don’t have Chicken Joy, sir.”

Some just reenacted the BTS.

Some turned into entrepreneurs.

Communities in some universities jumped to learn from the issue right away.

And the OFWs participated in the fun.

But as expected, some brands will just take advantage of a competitor’s crisis. I’ve seen this becoming a trend and brands are not just trendjacking, they’re even crisis-jacking (trying my luck if there’s such word). But for this one, they chickened out and deleted the post. Read Marketing Interactive’s write up on this.

chickenedout

How did Jollibee handle the crisis on social? They responded on every negative tweet that they received.

And…today, told you how much they missed you.

I admit it. I had so much fun reading conversations on #chickensad but to be honest, this is a crisis turned out as a good publicity.This is my favorite post- The 8 stages of Grief. And here are some of my takeaways:

  • The strong affiliation of Jollibee as a brand to the lives of Filipinos has been proven
  • Just like what happened to Globe Telecom a couple of years ago, lack of communication or not informing the consumer on an upcoming upgrade will either make or break the brand.
  • Competitors or other brands tend to jump in conversations to take advantage of a brand’s lowest point during a crisis (So you better be ready to fight back!). 

But today, no more #ChickenSad. #HaySalamat! (“Hay” is a Filipino expression for “relief.” “Salamat”is thank you). I think below is a better move from a brand (Globe Telecom).

 

Tagaytay “Peaceful” Weekend Itinerary

It’s always nice to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city every once in a while and find some time to have some time alone for reflection and meditation. 

For me, Tagaytay is still the best place for keeping in touch with your self and be aware of whatever is happening in your surroundings and relationships. Because it’s just an hour (or two if it’s traffic!) away from Manila, it’s very convenient to just take a bus from the bus station under MRT Taft to go there. 

My idea of a “peaceful vacation” are having the following: coffee, books, pen and notebook to write random things and more and more quiet time. Here’s my Tagaytay Peaceful Weekend Itinerary:

DAY 1

Saturday AM:

As soon as you get there, breathe in and out. Feel the cool and fresh air. Starbucks got the nice spot where you could see Taal Lake and Volcano but quite noisy sometimes because many people prefer to stay there.

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Saturday Dinner: CAFE VERBANA 

This is one of the best restaurants in the Philippines. 🙂 The service is superb, food is really good and the place is just so serene. It would be nice to have another peaceful getaway by staying in Country Suites so I could just eat at Cafe Verbana over and over! 

MUST TRY: Bulalo 

QUALITY TIME: Taal Vista Hotel

With the Live Band playing familiar songs, a bottle of Champagne is surely the best complement to a wonderful conversation. Cheers!

DAY 2

SUNDAY BREAKFAST: Bag of Beans

I’ll never get tired of the “bottomless” house-blended coffee together with the apple pie and the beautiful view of Taal Lake.

My idea of peace is reading while having coffee in Bag of Beans. Haha.

Please be reminded that there are two Bag of Beans in Tagaytay. The photos were taken in the new branch near Olivarez. Don’t forget to bring home some cookies too!

Sunday Lunch: Sonya’s Garden


Aside from the famous spa that Sonya’s Garden offers, the food which the ingredients are all from their garden is my favorite. 

This is the menu for our Eat All You Can Lunch/Dinner for Php 683 per person:

  • Garden Salad Greens (create your own salad)
  • Bread (one of the best I’ve ever tried!)
  • Pasta
  • Dessert
  • Beverages (I want to bring home!)

It’s also open for breakfast from 8am to 10am for Php 427 per person where they serve Filipino and Continental dishes.

I always like the bricks in Sonya’s Garden, full of history. 

Finally, on the way back to Manila, maybe you want to drop by Ilog Maria for some souvenirs and for “personal toiletries” but don’t forget that you need to hike just a little bit:

Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm is very dedicated in proper beekeeping and advocates living “naturally.” Their neatly handmade soaps smell really good but aside from the soaps, my favorite is their lip balm. The bee pollen will definitely guard your health and increase your immunity.

Don’t forget to spend some time alone and reflect. Remember, this is peaceful weekend itinerary. Haha.

Some people think that eating “balut” is a challenge in X Factor, some people likes it too much that they even make it to several different dishes. As a Filipino, I prefer eating it the traditional way: boiled with vinegar or salt.  You might or may not agree with me, but the taste of balut brings me memories of home that only belong to the Philippines. (In the photo is Abu, a fun Indonesian Couchsurfer I met in 2011.)

What I learned about Surfing

On top of my list when I was in my early 20s (Goodness! I’m saying this now!) was to surf, first was to climb a mountain. I usually have a timeline for my plans, Climb a mountain: 18, Travel abroad: 25, (both were realized before the deadline by the way. haha) but for surfing, it was just in my list but I never believed in actually doing it. 

I learned lessons from my first ride (hoping to get a chance for a second ride) that remind me on how I should look at life when not riding the waves:

1. Impossible really becomes not possible if you never give it a shot. My list doesn’t say that I should be a professional surfer but for a long time, I was thinking that even just trying it… is absurd. 

The photo below shows how scared I was on my first try:


2. Patience is always a virtue. Life is not designed to be flat, it has ups and downs, right and wrong, but we have to keep the faith and keep moving. If you didn’t ride the wave the first time, be more alert and try it the second time. If you fall, hug the board tight and try again. After a few try, you’ll know. 🙂
As cliche as it is, “something that does not happen doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.”

3. Listen & use your senses. In today’s world, everyone wants to talk which oftentimes make things complicated. In surfing, you need to use your senses, don’t just look, listen and feel the waves coming. Listen to the wind blowing, look at the waves beside you, quickly close your eyes to feel the waves and concentrate on your senses. You can’t afford to lose a wave cause you might not experience one anymore!


4. Sometimes, you just don’t have the chance to backout, so rock it! Sometimes, life gives us things that we think we don’t need but is actually for us to experience and we have to be brave enough to try what’s in-store for us out there. Most of the time, we need to risk then our lives will never be the same again cause it just gets better.

5. It will always be hard to keep the balance, but only the wise can do it (Read: wise- with knowledge & experience of falling and standing up over and over. haha).


6. Be prepared (you can’t afford to miss one wave, remember?).

7. Enjoy the ride. There’s a feeling of euphoria when riding a wave, it’s addictive. The feeling before, during and after riding a wave is indescribable but you can never tell a story about only “after the ride,” it needs to be a whole process to make the story complete so you have to enjoy every second of it.


FREEDOM. It was a liberating feeling to ride the waves. 
Awesome Idea: What I always do is to imagine the feeling when I was riding a wave, then I imagine my worries as the wave- scary and huge…after a few breaths, rode over my worries, then they go away! 
Maybe that’s a good idea for you to try surfing, so you’ll know what to imagine when worries come again!

So here is what I’ve found out in my hard drive, my “chimpanzee” first ride:


*This was a quick trip to Zambales, read the whole story here.