Sunday, October 31, 2010
Picture from Wikipedia
Batanes, here I come!!!
Lj T. Salceda
I can not specifically recall the time my traveler’s feet have been awakened. Perhaps it was when I started participating at Girl Scout camps in grade school. Probably whenever I watch adventure films or browse through travel magazines in the library. Maybe when my family transferred to three different houses and I moved to three different schools in one year. My memory fails me in many occasions, however I do remember my passion for travel and adventure started at a very young age.
What they say is true, “If there’s a will, there’s a way or ways.” Being born in a solo-parent household in the province with limited resources trained me to exercise my feet and my faith. I was able to attend numerous religious, summer and girl scouts' camps all over Luzon and Visayas with the help of family, friends and even strangers. During my high school and college days, I baby sat after classes and during weekends, knocked on politicians and businessmen’s offices to solicit and worked as a service crew to earn money for my education and for extra-curricular activities like camps and seminars. I even borrowed bags, sweaters and shoes because my family couldn’t afford any unnecessary expenditures.
Now that I’m working, I scour airlines for budget-friendly fares, work on holidays for extra cash and join contests like this one to travel for free or at a minimal cost. I have been to some of my dream destinations both here and abroad such as Palawan, Boracay, Bohol and recently the USA in spite of my meager income.
There are times when I wish I could just travel to have a good time, to relax and to forget about work, stress and problems- but I can’t. No matter how much I try, I simply can’t.
I always bring work, family and friends with me. Not literally though, more like figuratively speaking. When I go to a new place I always have this “what can I share to our listeners and how could I incorporate this experience on my radio show?” mentality. My mind automatically shifts to research, program or writing ideas and mental notes. Except for pasalubongs, I always ask what is something good and positive or beautiful in my trip or destination that I can bring back to my people or my work?
My itinerary always includes a lot of picture-taking (earning me the title of a photoholic c/o of my boyfriend), bonding with the locals, trying delicacies, immersing in their culture and swapping stories about my place or my life. I even record interviews or conversations with their consent for future use or as references on my show and my blog.
Traveling is both a gift and privilege I believe. God used and continue to use different people and organizations so I could do what I want and reach my dreams. I vowed to thank God and honor these people for their sacrifices and help by being a responsible traveler and by sharing my experiences. This is one of the reasons why I often write about my journeys on-line and my personal journal.
Traveling has always been an integral part of my life. It excites me. It inspires me. It enlightens me. And it has enriched my life beyond measure. Now that I only have a few months left in the Philippines before I join my future husband and start our own family overseas, I want to grab every opportunity to explore and be awed by my beloved LuzViMinda and its Creator.
If I will be given a chance to go to Batanes, I will consider it an answered prayer, a present to be treasured and a dream come true.
This is an entry for SeaAir's Batanes Winter Bloggers Tour. To vote for this entry, like the link on SeaAir's FB page. Thank you very much and Dios Mabalos!
Friday, October 1, 2010
PICTURE PERFECT BOHOL (Part 2)
Read Part 1 here.
TOURS / ITINERARY
After the church service in the morning bags in tow, we rushed to the airport, grabbed our super expensive lunch at the terminal (we should have eaten elsewhere, but we didn’t want to be stuck in traffic and check-in late) and waited for our flight. We arrived in Tagbilaran on a Sunday afternoon and the sun was almost gone. Since it is Sept, sunset is typically early in Bohol. We only had a short time left for a little picture-taking, checking the beach, dinner at the nearby grilling station where they have the most delicious fruit shake I’ve ever tasted, before trying Dumaluan's pool and hitting the sack for the day.
We woke up at 8am, ate our breakfast (not much to choose from, but it was all you can eat) and prepared for our country side tour scheduled at 9am.
Our itinerary included the Blood Compact Site, Baclayon Church, Tarsiers, Man-made Forest, Loboc River Cruise, Chocolate Hills, Butterfly Farm (don't forget to try their unique ice candies made from carrots/durian/kiwi etc) and Hanging Bridge. After the tour, we decided to drop by at a nearby mall to buy some supplies- bottled water and snacks because they are expensive at the resort.
The nice thing about getting a package is you need not worry and arrange for the tour or look for a vehicle/driver for transpo (public transpo is rare in Bohol), entrance fees and even our lunch for the Loboc River Cruise because these were all taken cared by the resort. Sometimes, our driver also acted as our tour guide and photographer. Don’t forget to give him tip (P100) after his full day service especially if he has been nice and helpful to you.
For dinner on our second night, we tried the nearby Bohol Beach Club's menu and their swimming pool. We were too excited to taste their food since the first night we passed by the place they had a buffet at the shore and a great number of Koreans were lined up. So we settled for their group meal made up of sinigang, grilled seafood and meat, mixed veggies and rice. Disappointingly it wasn’t worth our money. Don’t eat there! The meat was hard (makunat), the seafood was stale, the broccoli was yellowish and the soup wasn’t hot when it was served to us.
Probably the reason why they had very poor lighting (candlelit lang) at the resto area- so we won’t see much of what we’re eating. We had a few miscommunications with our waiter who wasn't well-verse in Tagalog. They do have an appealing resort and a better shore, but the food is not worth it. We (non-BBC guests) were required to pay P300/person as entrance fee which is consumable and non-refundable- P200 goes to the food and P100 for the use of pool. After dinner, we went back to the grilling station beside BBC to have another round of fruit shake, before going back to BBC’s pool (included in our entrance fee.)
Our third day consisted of Dolphin Watching, Island Hopping and Snorkeling- but we decided to forego the latter in order to try the zipline and cable car at a nearby site.
Smaller islands in Bohol are quite distant from each other, it would take between 40 mins to an hour to get from point A to B. We were bored in between; all we can do was to take pictures since conversation was not possible because of the loud motor of the boat. Instead of spending longer time at the Balicasag island, where snorkeling and lunch are offered, (Btw, another tip I got from bloggers don’t eat on this island unless you have baon or packed lunch. Price here is outrageous! P350/kl of any seafood or meat, plus P250 cooking charge. Not practical.) Although, I later found out from another blogger that there is a nice diving resort situated here. We decided to cut our stay here short and head to The Virgin Island. Now this one, you shouldn’t miss! There’s a sand bar where you can walk, swim, take pictures, eat fresh sea urchins, drink refreshments and buy souvenirs from Manong who owns a small mobile store here.
After a lengthy boat ride, we went back to Dumaluan for lunch and inquired from the reception area about a nearby place that one our driver's told us that has a zipline and cable car (this is different from the one in Danao.) The resort staff said, we might want to avail of their Panglao tour instead of just renting a vehicle which we readily took. In lieu of the usual itinerary, we suggested to our driver to scrap the church-visits and Hinagdanan Cave and go to the Ostrich farm, Adventure Park and Bohol Bee Farm. Tip: Talk to your driver and make your own tour/schedule.
The Ostrich farm is a small backyard with caged animals like albino python, turtles, fish, birds and other reptiles. You need to pay P20/person as entrance fee. Here you can also take pictures alongside life-size images of Dora the Explorer, a gigantic tarsier and the ostrich.
Afterward, we went to a very new adventure site (some areas are still under construction but it is already operating) near the Loboc River. They offer zipline, cable car and horse-rides. It costs P350/person for the zipline and P250/person for the cable car. However if you avail of both rides, you will only pay P500/person. It was one of the highlights or our Bohol trip, so give it a try it if you’re not afraid of heights.
After an exhilarating ride, our last stop was the Bohol Bee Farm. I wished we had more time at BBF which is also a resort cum restaurant and souvenir shop. There are so many things to do and buy there! You can pay a minimal entrance fee for a farm tour. You can see the bee house where their honey is produced, you can watch them make ice cream at their factory, visit their green house where most of the veggies and food are grown and even make your own bag or keychain at their souvenir house/livelihood center.
I was considering housing us at the BBF, but I read that they didn’t have a shore only a viewing deck, a good number of mosquitoes and ants reside in the place and the road to and fro BBF is still rough. They are also situated above a cliff, so they are a little farther away from the airport and other tourist spots. We only had time for a little picture-taking and food-sampling at BBF. Dinner consisted of a vegan pizza and a meat pizza, halo-halo topped with malunggay, ginger, mango, buko and chocolate ice creams, muffins and their famous flower salad.
Btw, we paid an additional P2500 for the van/driver for our Panglao tour because it wasn’t originally included in our package.
On our 4th and last day, our short time was spent packing, settling our bills, taking a few more pictures and eating breakfast before checking-out and driving to the Tagbilaran airport for our 10am flight.
All in all, our trip was a memorable and fun time for me/us. It wasn’t without slip-ups, but you can choose to see the good/positive side in every situation.
1. Don’t buy souvenir items at the souvenir shops inside or near the resorts. They cost 2 to 4 times more than the ones available outside the resort. Buy from the stores near Blood Compact Site and the stores near the Hanging Bridge. Bohol shirts cost from P300-400 at the resort, the same shirt will only cost P100-150 elsewhere.
2. If you have the time and space in your luggage buy/bring bottled water, food and other necessities at the mall. A small water bottle costs P30 at the resort, when you could only get them for P10-15 at the mall.
3. Bring cash or prepare your credit card. There are no nearby ATMachines in Panglao area.
4. Bring more than one pair of bathing suit. Most resorts don’t allow people to use their pools without wearing proper swimming attire. If you plan to do a lot of swimming and picture-taking and don’t want to use a dripping/wet suit bring as many swim suits as you can.
5. Don’t forget to bring your sunblock, cap/hat, pamaypay and insect repellant. Mosquitoes and other insects abound in Bohol. Although, I haven't heard of anyone getting dengue there.
6. If you want to try jet ski, banana boat and other water sports, you will have to pay a considerable amount. 15 minutes of jet ski costs around P1500 (1-2 persons), while 30 mins of banana-boating costs P2500 (group).
7. And don’t forget to store extra battery or your camera/video charger.
Bohol is a picture perfect and postcard destination. But Tagbilaran airport still needs improvement, there are cunning drivers/businessmen and the way to the resorts are the typical provincial scene- lush trees/plants/narrow roads/cows grazing in the yard etc. Don’t expect perfection, we live in a fallen world after all.
If you see trash, pick them up and throw them in garbage bins. Be considerate to the next traveler/tourist. Arrive on time. Keep an open mind. Don just have a good time, make lasting memories. The Philippines is such a blessed country, enjoy it while we can with the people you love!
(More pictures on my facebook account.)
Picture Perfect Bohol (Part 1)
Lj T. Salceda
The Philippines is such a blessed country. This I realize every time I travel. We have beauty, treasures and endless potential from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao. I've witnessed and marveled how God has been SO generous to us Filipinos and even foreigners who come and enjoy our 7,107 islands, our people and our culture.
While I was preparing for the book fair and the book launch, I knew I will need a vacation after a such a stressful and hectic schedule. So an out-of-town trip is a must! My boyfriend was also coming to support my book- another reason to go on a trip/vacay.
I was torn between – Davao or Bohol. Both are in my list of “places-to-visit,” unfortunately I can only go to one place since I have a limited budget and time. I excitedly started doing research for my next trip. In any vacay or travel, planning is an integral part. Personally, I don't mind doing the leg work because I both love traveling and planning. I asked friends, read reviews and contacted resorts. After a few weeks of taking down notes and consultation (there were 5 of us in the trip, 2 of them have been to Davao before), we unanimously decided- it's time for a Bohol Adventure!
AIRFARE / FLIGHTS
Since I am a PAL Mabuhay miles member, boarding a different airline company was not an option for me. I used my accumulated miles and only paid P900 for a round trip ticket. But I had to pay P3,000+/person (round trip) for the rest of my companions. All in all, our airfare totaled P14,000 (5 persons). For your travels, remember to set aside a budget for cabs to and fro the airport (if you don't have a car/someone to drive you off), airport fee of P200/person and other possible expenses like food or drinks. Avoid eating at the airport if you're on a tight budget. The food there is pricey and it’s not worth your hard-earned money. Just to give you an idea, a regular rice meal with adobo as viand plus soda costs a minimum of P250/order. You could grab something to eat at a nearby fast food chain before checking-in.
Three weeks before our target date, I went to the PAL Office in Cubao to purchase our tickets. I later found out that if you use credit card and book online, you’ll save more moolah. That’s a difference of almost P500/ticket. Problem, is I don’t have a credit card, so I pay everything in cash.
Btw, from years of personal traveling experience one of the best times to go on a vacation or tour (domestic) in the Philippines is during the month of September. Although this time of the year is still considered rainy season, most islands in the Visayas or Mindanao areas don’t get rains/typhoons during in September. It’s not a peak season either as classes are still on-going and resorts usually offer Rainy Day packages. Some things to consider when you’re looking for flights: the weather, travel (peak) seasons, budget and even your airline’s arrival/departure time.
BUDGET and ACCOMMODATION
After securing our flight, we needed a place to stay. One of the good things about Bohol is there’s no shortage of accommodation. You can choose from the pricey, 5-star hotels or resorts to the affordable, basic yet still comfortable bed and breakfast inns. Majority of your budget will also go to accommodation especially if it's a package you want to get.
I asked friends and turned to travel blogs on-line for ideas. I narrowed my list to three possible “temporary homes” while in Bohol: Dumaluan Resort (as suggested by Ate Haydee, Ptr. Jay and FB Friends); Panglao Island Nature Resort and Spa (as suggested by Ate Maloi) and Bohol Bee Farm (from the reviews I’ve read on-line).
Things to remember when choosing for a place to stay:
1. FACILITIES - What are you looking for in a resort/hotel? Do you want it to have spacious rooms, a big pool, a stone-throw away from the beach, wi-fi accessibility, souvenir shops etc?
2. PRICE RANGE – Is it under your budget? Do they have packages/promos?
3. FOOD and DRINKS – Most resorts have canteens and restaurants, some even have bars, but not all of them have good food. If they don’t have satisfying or affordable food, can you get it somewhere near? Can you cook in your room? Is the resort located near a store/grocery/market?
4. SERVICE – Are the staff accommodating, friendly, helpful, respectful etc.? Can they offer alternatives or ideas regarding tours or transpo or other things you need?
5. ACCESSIBILITY – Is it near the airport or the beach or other tourist destinations? Do they offer transport service (airport/seaport pick-up)? If not, are they near public transpo/terminals/rentals? Is the road safe and comfortable for travelers?
6. OTHER OFFERS – Do you want to have a massage? Jet-ski? Banana boat rides? Snorkeling gear?
After weighing in all the options, I decided to avail of Dumaluan Resort’s Rainy day package which covers rooms, use of facilities including the pool, airport transpo, tours and daily breakfast. I deposited half of the total amount of our package to their bank account 2 weeks before our arrival.
Since we wanted to try everything that Bohol has to offer, we decided to add another day to our package. We paid a total of P30,000 for 3n/4d, 2 rooms, 3 tours for 5 people for our stay in Bohol. Lunch and dinner excluded, except for lunch at the Loboc River Cruise (part of the package).
Part 2: Itinerary and more tips from our Bohol trip.