Thursday, December 8


I have the city at my doorstep and the mountains at my backyard. 
I love living at the Junction!

For a public park, Daranak Falls can surprising exceed one's expectations. The pool under the waterfall alone is bluer than I expected (the water of course is not blue after the rains -- video below).


The place is so beautiful on a sunny day that the pool below will call on you to dive. Opposite the waterfall (facing this picture) is deep enough that you can somersault from the ledge and never hit the bottom of the pool. Ever since I learned how to swim, I've fallen for jumping off ledges and cliffs. I tried it first in a tubing trip with friends in Cotabato, back in college -- the feeling of being caught in the middle of an irrevocable decision to leave solid ground, yet still be too far from hitting the water and swimming . . . that suspended moment mid-air that always recall Wile E. Coyote in my mind, had been incomparable. It's liberating!

the water will call on you to dive -- I swear!
After your first plunge, you can either take the long route back up to the ledge via the steps for a second jump, or climb the rock-face directly from the water -- which is faster and shorter -- to increase the frequency of your jump; just watch out because the rocks are sharp and will cause injury to soles and toes softened by the water.

Since this is a public park, the best time to go here is on weekdays, when there are hardly any people. I recommend this because these days make it feel like the waterfall is your private place. Weekends and holidays though are a different story.

the small waterfall opposite the picture above
climbing a little of the rock-face of the waterfall

That's how you chase Daranak Falls!
Easy does it.

* Jeep to
Tanay, Rizal @ Crossing & get off the public market terminal.  Take a tricycle to Daranak Falls.

* About 1.5 hours by jeep
Additional 30-minutes or less by tricycle


* PhP53/head jeepney fare (terminal to terminal)
* PhP50/head one-way tricycle will get you as far as the turning to the access road from Sampaloc Rd (an additional PhP50/tricycle when you ask the driver to pick you back up will get you all the way to the entrance of the falls)
* Park entrance is PhP20/head

Chasing Waterfalls Series:
Pagsanjan Falls
Ambon-ambon Falls

Friday, December 2


I have the city at my doorstep and the mountains at my backyard. 

I love living at the Junction!

My sister said that as children, we went to  Pagsanjan Falls with playmates from the neighborhood. The problem with going to places like this below the age of 10 is that you don't recall it. Or at least I don't, with my poor memory. 

So I wanted to go back there because I wanted to see for myself the very-talked-about skills of the bangkeros maneuvering through river-rocks. 

And from that experience, I learned  it's possible to live in a tourism-commercial. It was truly breath-taking moving through a river between 2 walls; waterfalls revealed at almost every turn. I could imagine it from the eyes of someone not born and raised from a tropical place. I wonder how it all looks like looking down from the gully . . .

1 of 9 minor waterfalls on the way to Pagsanjan Falls

Seeing the foot-works live, pulling about 300-pounds (me, my friend Sandra, and the boat) of weight between them against the current, truly is impressive!

Whoever thought of paddling upriver and bringing tourists to the falls at the end of it, was brilliant!

on my way to Devil's cave

That's how you chase the Pagsanjan Waterfalls
easy does it!

* There are a few bus depots at Buendia, Taft with trips to Sta Cruz, Laguna. Then a jeepney to the town of Pagsanjan.

* About 3-hrs by bus & less than 30-mins by jeep
* The boat paddling to and from the waterfalls will take about 2 hours

* Bus fare is under PhP150/head one way.
* Jeepney fare is under PhP30/head one way.
* Some online resources will say the boat is PhP500/head but the posters in town says PhP1,000 -- so if you get a PhP500/head price, let me know!

Chasing Waterfalls Series:
Daranak & Batlag Falls
Ambon-ambon Falls

Thursday, December 1


I have the city at my doorstep and the mountains at my backyard. 
I love living at the Junction!

the falls, all the way from the top, at its source
Of the day trips I've made since I started this CALABARZON campaign, Panguil River Eco-Park is by far the best. There's light trekking, bamboo rafting, river swimming in varying depths (as deep as 18-feet), ledge jumping, waterfalls massage and a short tubing to top it all off -- Call that fulfilling and cost-efficient!

The getting there is slow -- a drive through the mountain highway of Rizal province will give you a scenic view of the beautiful Sierra Madre Range as a back-draft to Laguna de Bay. Then there's a hanging bridge to cross and a serene river to distract you before you go on 3 short bamboo raft rides to cross the  river.

 And when you're ready, you can take a plunge to the beckoning river

but not before you spot a snake hanging at a cliff 
-- don't worry, the guide will point this out to you hahaha

spot the snake

When you get there, I tell you, WOW would be an over-used word. 
Wow, because it's so accessible, you'd wonder how it could be there 
and you've never gone before this day.

taking my niece and her friends to see their first waterfalls, and taking them all the way under it
when your guide permits it, take a tube with you & ride the current
 Make sure to be friends with the guides, because they'll tell you the best spots to jump.
The best spots to swim at.
The places where you can drink the water from the leaves.
 and basically get away with a few fun stuff that only locals would do.

Once you're all exhausted from having chased this waterfalls,
you can then take a tube ride half of the way back to the hanging bridge.

easy does it!

* Route 1: Jeep to
Siniloan @ Big R, Cainta & get off the public market terminal.  Take a tricycle to the eco-park.
* Route 2: Bus to Sta.Cruz, Laguna @ Buendia, Taft. Then jeep to Panguil -- get off the church. Take a tricycle to the eco-park.

* About 2-hrs by Route 1
About 3.5-hrs by Route 2


* Route 1: PhP83/head to Siniloan and PhP80/tricycle (fits 6 people)
* Route 2: About PhP140/head bus fare, plus an estimated PhP50/head jeep to Panguil and a PhP15/head tricycle fare
* Park entrance for non-resident is PhP40/adult and PhP10/child -- same fees applies to foreigners.
* Standard rate of PhP180 (group package for 6) to go to Ambon-ambon Falls.

* Tubing is PhP20/adult and PhP10/child
* Optional: small nipa hut for PhP200

Chasing Waterfalls Series:
Daranak & Batlag Falls
Ambon-ambon Falls

Sunday, August 28


"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. 
I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." 
-- Robert Louis Stevenson 
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

Lake Pandin
(San Pablo, Laguna)

The goal was simple. 
Go somewhere close & on a low budget.
The reference was simple.
It's just a map that shows you what can be seen in the Calabarzon area.
Yet, it took me a year to find someone who'll actually do it with me via public transport.

I did my first leg with 2 friends: Lianne & Cocoy, August 2011. 
     The itinerary was:
          1. Casa San Pablo
          2. Ugu Bigyan Potter's Garden
          3. Bamboo rafting at Lake Pandin
Of the 3, I found the crater lake of Pandin (and its twin: Yambo), which was not in the original plan, the sweetest spot we saw that day. Simply because it was low key and inexpensive. I'm a sucker for what's less commercialized, and I'm always looking for a natural high.

Taytay Falls
(Majayjay, Laguna)
The 2nd leg was an 18-hour road trip (5 jeepney joyrides, air-con & non-air-con buses, and tricycles to get to our destinations -- sometimes I wanted to scream in my seat!) for me, with an  additional 30+ hours without decent sleep for my friend, Yay whom I've spent the day with last September 2011

Challenges of the day did not allow us to follow our planned itinerary:
     1. Breakfast at the Earthkeeper's Garden Restaurant turned to Tahanan ni Aling Meding (the tricycle driver had no clue where Sittio de Amor was GRRRR!) due to current renovations being done on the place.
      2. Majayjay Falls, which still puts a smile on my lips, is much more developed than I last remembered it 10 years ago. I guess the concrete brought more people to enjoy the place, but the unusable toilets not only wasted the effort of putting it down there, it ruined the pristine of the place!
          Going to Majayjay, I was excited at seeing the vast expanse of greenery under Mt. Banahaw and I thought neither Bali nor Vietnam could rival my home. I searched people's eyes to see if they are equally amazed at the sight, but once again, locals paid no heed at the beauty they gaze upon each day.
      3. Snack at Pillar Plants and Novelties, for their collectible antiques and art pieces, never happened because we got back late from the waterfalls.

Underground Cemetery
(Nagcarlan, Laguna)
The internet is a truly wonderful thing! Toni and I found everything we needed for the 3rd leg last mid-October 2011. 

From the way-point, we hit the following destinations within a 5-km radius:
    1. The Baroque Franciscan church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle (also known as Nagcarlan Church)
       2. Underground Cemetery
         So it's more of a vault than a catacomb as usually imagined -- probably due to the seismic activities expected in our part of the world -- but it is the only one in the country.
       3. Bunga Twin Falls where the water is not so clear
      4. Town of Liliw -- for the shoes, of course. I found heaps of the daintiest ballerina flats ever! Since the budget should be no more than 1k -ALL IN- though, I went home with only one pair of their specialty: espadrilles (a denim wedge with blue ribbons to lace around my calf) for only PhP280.

Panguil River Eco-Park
(Panguil, Laguna)

Of the day trips I've made since I started this CALABARZON campaign, this 4th leg at the end of October in Panguil River Eco-Park is by far the best. There's light trekking, bamboo rafting, river swimming in varying depths (as deep as 18-feet), ledge jumping, waterfalls massage and a short tubbing to top it all off -- all for PhP500! Call that fulfilling and cost-efficient. In fact, it wouldn't have reached PhP500 at all, had my trip-tandem and I not paid for the group-package-for-6 to go to Ambon-ambon Falls. 

My partner: Lhet, was also good company -- someone who was willing to go and wants to try everything. I had assumed she had an idea of what could possibly happen in a day trip like this, only to find out she had just brought her self & her bag from work (having come straight from shift that morning). Whereas I had my bathing suit on and some really comfortable clothes (this time, I brought underwear for the trip back -- a private joke between Yay and I from our Majayjay daytrip back in September). Regardless, she just bought  quick-dry shorts at the park, ready to get wet. She didn't know how to swim, but was game enough to ledge-jump with the guide (swallowing water and all). And she just picked up a souvenir shirt to wear on the way back home.

Just a week before this I had imagined myself walking on a bright sunny day, dress swayed by the wind and hair blown away. Vast space, green all around me. And I had all that in this trip. Have you seen how beautiful the Sierra Madre Range is as a back-draft to Laguna de Bay? Or sunset as you travel through the mountain highway of Rizal province? WOW would be an over-used word.

Kalayaan Twin Falls
(Kalayaan, Laguna)

The fifth leg was on the 2nd-Wednesday of November when we checked out the barangay operated resort of Kalayaan Twin Falls in Laguna, next-door to Paete. It's one of those all-natural, low-key and low-budget trip that's very accessible and effortless to take even for those who doesn't really lead an active lifestyle. 

As an afterthought for the day's activity, we also decided to go to Panguil River Eco-Park too. I love this place so much, I decided to bring friends over: Leah & Yra.
I imagine myself growing up just a stone-throw away from a place like this . . . I'll probably be here everyday after school. And like most locals I've met who live in places like this, I would probably bear too the emblems of childhood foolishness from having jumped off rocks and ledges with scarred knees and a split head (at one point).

Pagsanjan Falls
(Cavinti, Laguna)
Last November 21, I learned  it's possible to live in tourism-commercial when Sandra -- from work -- and I went to Pagsanjan Falls. It was truly breath-taking moving through a river between 2 walls; waterfalls revealed at almost every turn. I could imagine it from the eyes of someone not borne and raised from a tropical place. Whoever thought of paddling upriver and bringing tourists to the falls at the end of it, was brilliant!

My sister said that as children, we went there with playmates from the neighborhood. The problem with going to places like this below the age of 10 is that you don't recall it. Or at least I don't, with my poor memory. So I wanted to go back there because I wanted to see for myself the very-talked-about skills of the bangkeros maneuvering through river-rocks. And seeing the foot-works live, pulling about 300-pounds (me, Sandra, and the boat) of weight between them against the current, truly is impressive!

looking up at the hanging bridge entering Daranak
take-5 (or more) at Batlag Falls

Myles and I found another low-budget destination before the end of November just 1.5hours away from my place. For a public park, Daranak Falls is surprising -- the pool under the waterfall is bluer than I expected; and the rivers and pools of Batlag Falls is quite scenic.

Going to places like these makes me appreciate being based at the junction of the city and the mountains -- hence the conceptualization of the CHASING WATERFALLS series -- I love living here! The city is just outside my doorstep and I have the mountains as my backyard.

This one I will make an entry-in-progress.
A picture at a time for every spot I go to in the map.
A separate trip made with different sets of friends.
do you wanna come with me?

Saturday, August 27

Foresight. Survival. and staying amused.

An entry for Vague-a-bond:
 Cooking with Hannelore
(trying a Badjao dish with the locals)

I was in the middle of my trip in Borneo when Dang wrote about The Absolute Solo Must in onecentoneplace. I thought it ironic to be reading about security & independence, when I was doing the opposite, staying at a co-ed dormitory.

I'll tell you, this sleeping arrangement certainly is not "featureless" -- this is a place where the spice starts early, like before 7AM with an argument between a pushy Westerner and a Chinese who don't speak English. Now that's certainly fruitful!

One of the Asian girls I met was so relieved to have finally found another girl to share the 2-double-deck dorm with, she told me stories at a hand's breath distance away from me. She said for a week her strategy had been to stay out late, sneak in quiet as a mouse  in the middle of the night, tuck herself to sleep, and get up early the next day.

I could certainly empathize with her. On my first night in the backpackers' inn I was staying at, I walked into an old man in his underwear sharing the room with me. Apparently, Sabah is too humid for him he goes to sleep wearing nothing else but his brief. Now I tell you, that's not a good sight to see. I don't fucking care how liberal you are -- but a strange old man in his underwear, in close proximity, is not cool for me. I spent the next 2 nights tossing in my sleep, hunted by an image of him over my bed, laughing an evil laugh. 

I've always reserve days on my own when I go on trips with friends. Time only for myself to do the things I want to do, go to places I want to see, that I otherwise won't be able to arrange with the company I keep. This recent trip was the time I actually spent partially on my own. Sabah is a good place to travel solo (same with Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei) or with company. I've been here twice and I still haven't done everything there is to do there -- they offer so many things: islands, mountain, river, spring, falls, flora and fauna, and so much more! I'll still be back for the Tip Of Borneo, at least. 

Mount Kinabalu behind me
canopy walk
talk about isolated
I don’t know how others do it, but I thought, overall, I did pretty well on my own. I participated in every opportunity offered for a hands-on involvement in the culture or the tour -- dance, play games, compete against an Orangutan, light a fire with just wood, cook, smoke the local cigarettes, jump at the local trampoline, or shoot a target with a blowpipe. I took the public transport (buses that takes forever to leave I’ve struck conversations with the drivers, and kept it up too, mind you), my fares paid by strangers I met on the road on more than one occasion, pose as a local, bargained my grilled dinner at the night food bazaar (I didn’t think you could do that with food too until I tried), and get hit on by boys – literally – at the beach. I still have the cougar-effect LMAO!

play games
light a fire with just wood
smoke, anyone?

I guess my contribution to Vague-a-bond's blog entry is . . . when traveling alone, lose your inhibitions.

other traveling solo experiences:
1 is a COMFORTABLE number

Sunday, May 1

The unexpected when you’re traveling

Look what I’ve got: GREEN HORNED COW FISH!
(trip to Guimaras)

I love that bit part of traveling when you get to see the unexpected in the usual day-to-day living of other people. The shock of what’s different, and the slow or sudden smile that creeps across your face, or the outright laughter that it produces.

I saw some of that in India. 
lending a foot

a cow right outside the mall

a contemplative donkey at the side of the road
And in Bali.
Liquid Petroleum Gas

Malaysia: KL.
If the left one means 'Pregnant Women - Not allowed'
what does the right one mean?!?
"Bawal ang batang umiiyak dito?"

Malaysia: KK.
everyone would really have to be aware of any stinger this big!

Even at home, the oddities of the standard lives of others could be amazing!
loading up a live cow

I’ve lived in cities and the next suburb from it & the next province from it my whole life. Heaps of buildings crowd over me every day. I endure heavy traffic for an hour per destination. I am lost in the 11 million people of Metro Manila. I look back to my childhood and think of my days in our street: fishing out guppy from the gutter after the rain, relishing fruits meant for birds, played in its streets that are often under construction, precariously treading at the compacted black mud of an urban river, swinging at trees and running around under the midday heat. Traveling affords me an escape from my own daily existence and relive that carefree moments of childhood, 20 years later. So when I’m away, I do anything I can that is different from the life I now lead . . . 

driving Nina around in a 'cyclo' in the middle of the night
(Vietnam's old Imperial City - Hue)

even though most of the company I keep won’t do it, on account that they are now all grown . . .

ledge jumping @ the Hundred Islands National Park
fishing a baby snake out of the water (Casa Roro Falls, Dumaguete)

Monday, April 25


There are over 35 countries in the world we can go to and stay there between 14 – 180 days, without needing to secure a visa before leaving our homeland.

ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Non-ASEAN: Hong Kong, Macau, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka
South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
North America: Costa Rica, Dominica, Haiti, Turks & Caicos Islands
Europe; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
Middle East: Iran, Israel
Africa: Burundi, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia

No worries of being mysteriously rejected when the others you’re going with had been approved. No extra expenses, which means, you can use that money for buying items and artifacts of interests.

masks from left to right: Korea, Vietnam, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia

I myself, by standard, always get a mask in every destination I go to, where one is available – I have a line of them populating my wall at home. I also like textile, so a bed sheet/cover or blanket would be in my checklist. And last, a blank book for a journal – I have kept up with one since I was thirteen years old, and I am now a quarter through my 20th book. Aside from what I buy for myself, I have also recently started buying one for my niece, to encourage her to write and document the time she shares with people around her.

Most of the time, my friends think I spend heaps of money in my trips. I usually just get to spend half of what they imagine it costs. The trick is to plan ahead. By that, I mean buying your plane tickets ahead of time. Luckily now, we have very good seat sales from various budget airlines (as low as PhP1+taxes one way). For a trip that’s only 4-hours long at the most, there’s really no need to get the business class; and I must say, these budget airlines – with the exception of Jetstar -- had been commendable in all my trips so far.

sleeping off a migraine after a day of walking @ Angkor Park
As for accommodation, research is the key. Check the feedback and rating online. Compare all of them if possible in the area of your choosing. I mostly go for inns, hostels, guesthouses, backpacker’s lodge, bed&breakfast because my logic is: I’m not staying in the room. I’m just sleeping in it . . . so all I really need is a decent bed and toilet/bath.  This doesn’t necessarily translate to poor service and horrid hygiene. The Golden Mango Inn at Siem Reap, Cambodia has a Deluxe Twin A/C Room with 2 large Single Beds, Cable TV, Mini Bar, Hot&Cold Shower, inclusive of breakfast for only $20. You’ve got your welcome drink and heaps more free stuff such as Pick up and Transfer, Use of Bicycles, Tuk Tuk to Old Market & Pub Street, 24-hr High-Speed Internet Access and Wi-Fi in all rooms, with your Tea & Coffee all day -- that’s less than P500 per night for each of you & your friend!

I spend most of my money on transpo and sightseeing. Here, nothing beats Vietnam in affordability. $5 for a single destination half-day trip, and $7 for a 2 destination day-trip – talk about cost efficient !That’s the equivalent of going around Camiguin where you get to pay only about PhP20 for the natural attractions in the island.

This brings me to the food. In the Philippines, don’t be afraid/shy to eat at the local carinderia, especially in the provinces. I remember eating ‘ginataang page’ once, some 8years ago, in an eatery in Camiguin for about PhP50. I even had an amazing PhP16 meal in Dumaguete just last year – rice & veggie viand. Now that’s epic! I love trying food I don’t recognize. I’ll eat anything within the friendly food group of a Pescetarian diet. I don’t even mind if somebody had handled it with their hands, before & as it is served, to me. On this point, I love Indian food (tika nahi) and Vietnamese street food. 

eating Chickoo ice cream from Natural (India)
enjoying a yummy meal @ BenThan Market HCMC

My desire to travel had taken over my functions but I am unable to stop myself. I dream of that South American leg (ala Che Guevara in Motorcycle Diaries), or a partial African trip (Morocco & Madagascar), both of which could be considered as my most ambitious projection yet to date. I want to see more, know more, be more. I DESIRE.