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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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.

 

other-activities

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).

alfonso-farm

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.

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!

#TransformationTuesday

Are you a Filipino? Aside from Jollibee, you probably consider “Eat Bulaga,” the longest running noon time show in the Philippines, a part of your memories growing up. I do. And I follow them on Facebook.

And if you’re like me, you should’ve followed (cause it’s just in your newsfeed! Haha) Paolo Ballestero‘s journey to the #MakeUpTransformation stardom. It went viral and was picked up by international prints and websites including the Daily Mail in UK, Cosmopolitan Magazine and even MTV. It reached some celebrities that he copied like Tyra Banks and was shared even by Ashton Kutcher. Go on, Google his name and see the updates!

(photo from Eat Bulaga’s FB page)

Curious, I searched Instagram to see if there are other #makeuptransformation hashtags created from other Asian countries and found very few. How about the Philippines? I guess Filipino netizens enjoyed it the most and Kathrine Bernardo, a Filipino actress, was the most popular subject.

Look what I found via the #makeuptransformationph hashtag:

1. The Alaska Fan“Wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska..”

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2. Look for your favourite characters.

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3. Family fun!

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4. Favourite pet.

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5. Now, Ted-dy for real.

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6. And my friend turned into a man- donut.

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7. I think it’s only in the Philippines.

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8. Yes, the famous bee.

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And to prove my nationality, I’ve given art direction and volunteered my photography skills for this one. LOL.

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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).

 

Catching Up: Social in Asia

For all we know, digital and social is a very fast-paced industry and we- marketers, social media practitioners, entrepreneurs and even CEO, CMO, CFO-  all have to keep up with the changes. At some point, what we’ve mastered about Facebook ads or Twitter content best practices last year may not be applicable to our campaigns this year. So I thought of curating some relevant social media news, specifically in Asia (cause you’ll read those big news/changes in The Next Web, Mashable or Tech in Asia) so I’ll be updated together with you.

For now, I’ll be repurposing some of the content that I’ve written in We Are Social Singapore’s Tuesday Tune Up.  But will be curating more as much as possible in the days to come. Have fun!

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#Selfie leader in Asia: Philippines

Time Magazine’s map of the selfies in the Philippines Read more: Philippines and Malaysia took the most Instagram selfies in Asia http://www.techinasia.com/philippines-malaysia-instagram-selfies-asia/

Time Magazine’s map of the selfies in the Philippines

No wonder my social feeds are full of selfies! Haha.

According to Time magazine’s The Selfiest Cities in the Word report (via TechInAsia), The Philippines emerged as the selfie leader in Asia followed by Malaysia. TIME counted the Instagram photos with #selfie hashtags and geographic locations for two five-day periods between January and March through the site’s API. The high selfie rate may be attributed to the growing smartphone adoption in the Philippines. In 2011, the Philippines was considered the “social capital of the world,” when Facebook became more popular than Google. Malaysia is the second country that has taken the most selfies in Asia led by its Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who was recently spotted taking a selfie with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Selfies are definitely a popular trend in Asia with Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia cities making it to the top 100 ‘selfiest’ cities list.