Taal Volcano Trek & Tagaytay Itinerary

When I started backpacking before moving to Singapore, the hardest part of the trip preparation was “informing” my dad that I’m off to somewhere. After graduating university, he totally changed his rule- “do whatever you want without asking for my permission but inform me. After all, I’ve walked that road before and… I’m your dad.”

I knew he likes traveling and adventures but he was too tied up with responsibilities and stereotypes. I wish I had loads of money when he was still alive, I could’ve brought him to Russia or someplace that he’d fancy. Haha. Anyway, he used to tell me that places will be different depending who you’ll be seeing it with and I tell you, a trek to Taal Volcano might not be as exciting as swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob for most Filipinos, but to me, it was one tough memorable adventure.

Our wedding’s after party last year didn’t need the tenacity to drink and dance till 6am but to be ready to trek Taal Volcano at 8am.

We were with these special bunch who survived thousands of horse poops, heavy rain and a couple of hours trek for a killer view.

Together with JMX Travel and Tours, a very friendly and reliable travel agency owned by one of favourite cousins Kuya Jodel, we’ve put together a short and sweet day trip for our friends and families!

We boarded the boat at Talisay, Batangas early in the morning.

… where our dear Singaporean friend, Wei Yi, enjoyed boating. Haha.

Weather in the Philippines is unpredictable but definitely still rainy in October. Yea, we started our trip sunny.

Oh! I love these bunch!

Seeing skyscrapers everyday is energy-sucking to me so the journey to the crater was a moment of “replenishment and rejuvenation.” 🙂
There are raincoats for sale in case it rains. Just tap your friendly guide for one! But most of us opted for a good rain shower while we faced all the horse poops along the way.
And if you’re a science geek, this trek will be a good one! They said that the volcano island sank from three to ten feet as a result of the eruption years ago. There was light smell of sulfur, which came from the gases that escape from the crater. (Not sure if it was sulphur or horse poop that Wei Yi smelled though).

There’s a small sari-sari store on top in case you need some refreshments (and slippers like us). But try to come prepared and just carry loads of drinks and tidbits cause as expected, goods there are expensive.

The package that we’ve put together for the group was inclusive of the following:

  • van rental min of 12pax (Whole day tour then from Tagaytay to Manila, SM Mall of Asia)
  • boat rental + tour guide to Taal Volcano
  • Tagaytay side trip: Puzzle Mansion, Palace in the Sky, Bag of Beans
  • Lunch

Note: Entrance Fees to side trips are not yet included (Puzzle Mansion and Palace in the Sky) estimated around 200Php each.

Here’s the itinerary for the Tagaytay Day Trip that we planned:

0830  ETA Talisay, Batangas; BRIEFING & Board boat

0915  Start of trek (45-minute walk)

1000  ETA at the main crater’s ridge view deck; photo taking

1030  ETD from the crater’s ridge view deck; trek back (45 minute walk)

1115  Board boat back to Talisay, Batangas.

1145  ETA Talisay, Batangas

1200  Lunch

1400  Go to Puzzle Mansion, maybe Coffee in Bag of Beans, grab some fresh fruits and Palace in the Sky

1700  End of tour; Travel back to Manila (SM Mall of Asia)

Some things that we thought you should bring and wear:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes and clothing
  • Sun cream/ Sun block
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Swim suits (if swimming in Taal Lake)
  • Drinking Water
  • Towel & extra clothes
  • Small back pack
  • Waterproof casing or bag for your cameras

In case you’re looking for other activities in Tagaytay, there are water sports adventures in Balai Isabel & Taal Yacht Club.



If you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can also check out Alfonso Hotel Farm (Alfonso Hotel’s sister company). It is a resort for large groups, but guests of the hotel are free to enjoy the farm for the day. There is a minimal charge of P100/head (price was last year) for use of the pool at the farm.

On a sunny day, it is a beautiful place to just because its athletic course is enjoyable for both grown-ups and kids and you’ll witness a variety of birds soaring around the fruit trees native to Alfonso. There is also a creek on the property. If you don’t mind the steep stairs, it is absolutely rewarding to cool your feet off in this clean stream called Lilitan River (named after the plant that thrives there).


If you want to experience Tagaytay Eye, you can definitely try to check out Sky Ranch Fun Park.

For the foodies, go for the Tagaytay Food Journey by following this infographic done by ourawesomeplanet.com!

As for me, my usual Tagaytay day trip consists of a good coffee at Bag of Beans, a good meal at Alfonso’s, Il Gallenero Inn or Sonya’s Garden, a great massage at Nurture Spa and a long shopping for some daing, tawilis and much more at Mahogany Market.

For your personalised travel itinerary, please feel free to contact JMX Travel and Tours.

#MartinCyraGiveThanks: The Rustic Garden Wedding

I’ve been receiving messages from friends and strangers asking about our wedding suppliers and some tips on how to pull off a rustic garden-themed wedding in the Philippines so I thought of writing about it.

As you know, we’re both based overseas but it was never difficult for us to plan for our wedding with all the information readily available online. Plus, Email or Facebook as the quickest and easiest way of communication with our suppliers. They’re angels! Our hearts are still full and we hope your hearts will be, too.

Church: Calaruega

If you’re eyeing this tranquil chapel to be the special place to manifest your long-life commitment and you think your family and friends will enjoy the long drive, listen to what everybody’s saying, book in advance, esp if you’re like us, which the dates are non-negotiable (our wedding date is in-between our birthdays). Advance means a year ahead if possible. 🙂

Reception Venue: The Forest Barn

This is the perfect venue for us- rustic with a huge dance floor. Our families love singing and dancing so we made sure that there’ll be a huge space for everybody to exploit. Haha. The venue has nice drapings and can fit 400pax. Their management and staff are the best- very friendly and considerate to us. Special thanks to Ms. Maricres, Ms. Dimple and Ms. Laden.  They are more than just an event place, they’re like angels who’ll make the moment extra special- they have helped us with our catering, florist, band, lights and sounds and they strongly believe and work hard in making their clients happy.

If you’re considering this venue, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ms. Laden or Ms. Dimple at theforestbarn@gmail.com.

We thought our guests might need these (below screenshots) to keep them longer on the dance floor so we DIY them! Special thanks to the woman whom I trusted my entire wedding (haha), Dianne.

Catering & Styling: Passion Cooks Catering

The Passion Cooks Team has magical powers (shout out to Koni and Nariz!). They saved us from all sorts of stress and hassle. We reserved another caterer initially (had the payment forfeited also!) and we worried non-stop. After our “final food tasting” with the caterer we reserved, me and my husband decided to just change our caterer because of their bad service and bad food (my husband’s palate is hard to please).  So we rush to talk to Passion Cooks since they’re our first choice (we tried about 5 caterers!) and it was one of the best decisions we had. After talking to them, all worries went away and it was kinda of sad that I only needed to talk to them on the wedding day because they’ve prepared everything perfectly for us. Haha. We opted for basic styling and they delivered beyond our expectations.

The event managers are experts, respond promptly, very customer-oriented and I can attest that they know what they’re doing. Don’t settle for less. Food is one of the things that your guests will remember the most (Trust me, my foreign friends changed how they look at Filipino food after the wedding and kept talking about how everything was perfect).

Photo & Video: Ailette&Pierre Photography

Our brief was to never miss a beautiful moment and they captured everything perfectly. I felt like I’ve seen everyone’s emotions and they’re all perfectly stored on my hard drive. They were our first and only choice and there’s no doubt why. Even though the weather was quite bad that day, they still tried to take some aerial shots so that they won’t miss anything. Hands down to “AP boys,” really. Thanks to one of best friends, Ailette, who did our SDE though she just gave birth. Haha. Talk about dedication. 🙂

HMUA: Katchie Mejias

You might have seen her in fashion magazines. Oh, or you might have passed by her beauty supplies shop at Robinson’s or maybe you remember her in Mega Fashion Crew’s episode!

Katch is one of the most genuine and true talents that I’ve met in my life. She transforms everyone into a princess in an instant. Want an avant-garde look for your wedding? Just whisper it to her, everything’s possible with her makeup skills! 🙂

Oh, when she’s in the mood, she might even serenade you with her beautiful voice (ask her if she can bring Wolfy, her dog, along to sing something romantic on your wedding. Haha)

Flowers: By Joel Faller

Joel gave me a perfect rustic bouquet though I requested for his service last minute (because the florist that we reserved was not responding after giving the downpayment) and didn’t even meet him ’til now. Haha. I just sent him my brief for the flowers for the entire entourage, flowers in the church, car and my bouquet via Facebook and he delivered everything exactly how I envisioned them to be. Hope to meet you soon, Joel!

Invitation (Design): Sheila

She’s a part of me, probably that was why our wedding invitation was perfect. She’s not just a hot bridesmaid, she does websites too. Check out her portfolio by clicking her name above.

Bridal Gown and Groom’s Suit: Leslie’s Bridal

Leslie’s Bridal was heaven-sent to us. A friend of mine promised to do my wedding dress and I entrusted everything to her. 9 days before the wedding, and there was still no update from her. So I requested for a photo of my dress and it was not up to our expectations. 😦

Diane looked for a ready-made dress for me and suit for Martin the next day and Leslie’s Bridal team just came to rescue me, my husband and the rest of my entourage. In just a week, they realised my dream dress and I was really speechless. We’ll always be grateful that they saved our day!

Band (Ceremony & Reception): Appetite Music by Ryan Fortaleza

Whenever I think about our wedding party, Ryan and Appetite Music come to my mind. Martin was in charge of the band, and he said it was very convenient for him because Ryan just presented a long list of song choices for him to choose from. We opted for a violin for the wedding march in Church and it was so romantic. Martin couldn’t help but notice how meticulous they were to start singing at the right time as they look at my steps when I was walking down the aisle.

As you see from the video below, our wedding party was a blast because our family and friends couldn’t get their feet off the dance floor. Martin sang with them too!

Lights & Sounds: Stohnenky Pro Sounds and Lights (“bright lights, clear music”)

Didn’t have any problem with them and Sir Sonny was very prompt in his responses. They know Forest Barn well and that made everything so easy for us.

Cake: Entremet Boulangerie Patisserie + Cafe (Thanks Zha!)

It wasn’t just pretty, it tastes so good! They have nice bacon sticky bun that’s really awesome i their cafe in Oritgas, by the way!

Bridal Shoes: Vivian Westwood (Thanks Zha!)

Bridal Car: Pepay

Wedding Favours: Mom (if you want flowers as wedding favours, Amy’s Garden can help you, please feel free to reach us anytime)

Prep Venue: Discovery Suites Tagaytay

I love that all their rooms are suites and their team was very helpful. They have an additional fee of 5,000Php for wedding preps so don’t forget to factor that in your budget.

Overall styling & Coordination: Dianne Marie Combalicer (together with the best Maid of Honour in the world, Charmaine)

Everything was perfect because of Diane. 🙂 From my “foreign guests relations team” to all my props and coordination on the day.

I think the key to wedding planning and coordination is to assure the couple that everything will be alright so they can focus on what matters. Diane helped me in all the nitty-gritty DIY stuff that I wanted to do like the Kid’s table, signages, insect repellants, slippers, etc. She went to Divisoria when I was away and even stayed late at my house 2 days before my wedding just to do the checklist and assure me that I can sleep well.

On the day Coordination: Istudyo Juan

My college friends, Aiza & Juan, made sure that everything was perfect during our wedding and that we were well taken cared off.

Host/Emcee: Krist Atienza

For a perfect rustic wedding, hire an emcee as stylish as Kris. 🙂 Our friendship has come a very long way after that meeting at the airport on the way to Siem Reap, roughly 5 years ago. Kris is not just a hottie, without him, our guests might probably have fallen asleep. Thanks love!

More photos from our thanksgiving. 🙂



Happy wedding planning!


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:


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.


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!



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.