A Travellerspoint blog

Panay Roadtrip 2017

13 days on the road - Antique, Iloilo, Guimaras, Capiz and Aklan

View Panay Road Trip on neena329_cab's travel map.

Exploring Panay Island.
In 2017 my friends and I decided to drive around Panay Island to explore some of the beautiful places in the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, and Iloilo. It took us 13 days to drive from Manila and back (taking our van to Panay via 2Go roll-on-roll-off). A drive that seems to be guided by a higher being as we never experienced any kind of car trouble or any untoward incident.

This trip was a revelation to me! I have been to all of these provinces on business and never strayed far from the cities and big towns. Always flying in and flying out... Never having any idea of the beauty that awaits just outside of the city limits. :)

Day 1. Manila to Batangas and on to Caticlan by RoRo.

We left Manila at 10 am, and drove to Batangas Pier. The drive took us 3 hours because we had to meet up with a couple of travel buddies on the way, have a slow lunch and buy some supplies for the trip. Loading the van into the 2Go roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ferry at 9pm and sailing off to Caticlan Port in Aklan took 9 hrs. The fee for the van included the ticket and meal for our driver so that saved us some money. We took a cabin so we can rest and take showers before debarkation as Day 2 will start in earnest as soon as we all got off the RORO.

To pass the time while waiting for boarding call passengers may want to get a massage or a mani/pedi which my travel buddies did. I settled for people watching and talking to fellow passengers. :)

Day 2. Pandan Antique, Bugang River Naranjo Resort, Mararison Island

Our departure from Caticlan Pier was delayed due to the fact that the pier was too crowded. it took sometime for our ferry to get a berth so we had to wait for 1.5hrs. before we finally touched the ground of Panay. We had a quick breakfast and proceeded to drive to our first destination, Bugang River. We took a short raft ride to see the clean waters of the river and the interesting flora that lined its banks. We had lunch at Naranjo's Resort which was the jump off point for our river trip. This also gave us our first glimpse of the warm and friendly nature of the locals of Antique. A local family happened to be having their family outing at the resort and when they learned that we just got off the ferry and were about to take our lunch at Naranjo's, they gave us one humongous grilled fish and shared their barbecued pork with us.

After lunch we drove on to Culasi so we can leave our vehicle and hop on the boat for Mararison Island. We stayed on the family owned resort named Enrique de Mararison which occupies a rather spectacular stretch of beach frontage. sunset and sunrise are equally beautiful sights on Mararison. You can also take an early morning hike up the hills at the back of the resort if you want to walk off the extra calories. :)

Early morning on the beach

Early morning on the beach

The days following DAY 2 seemed to flow together as we took all kinds of vehicles to take us around the rest of Panay. Days 10 to 13 has nothing much to offer as Jawili Falls was a huge disappointment. There have been scads and scads written about Boracay so I am not going to waste your time with my blurb. Suffice to say that Boracay without electricity supply was hell on earth!!!

Day 3. Kawa-kawa, Tibiao
Hablon weaver

Hablon weaver

Day 4. Batbatan Island and Tobias Fornier
madonna and child

madonna and child

my constant companions

my constant companions

Day 5. Nogas Island
nature's child

nature's child

beach on nogas

beach on nogas

Day 6. Guimaras
vine and cross

vine and cross

salt making

salt making

Day 7. Gigantes island


sand bar

sand bar

Day 8. Se San Beach Resort.
sunset on se san beach

sunset on se san beach

Day 9. Bakhawan Eco Park
bakhawan eco-park

bakhawan eco-park

Day 10. Jawili Falls Tangalan, Ibajay

Day 11 and 12. Boracay.

Day 13. Travel back to Manila

Traveling back to Manila was completely reversing the drive out.

Will I do it again? YES! A big fat YES!!!

There are still a lot of places in Panay Island that remains to be discovered and explored by me. I barely scratched the surface!!!This trip had been one that bears repeating as we barely explored even 1/10th of the beautiful island. I bow to return to experience more of this eastern gem.


This quote (on my photo of the wooden walkway in Bakhawan Eco-Park, Kalibo) from author Cesare Pavese it reflects the entire Panay experience:

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

Posted by neena329_cab 18:43 Archived in Philippines Tagged islands beach vacation island philippines holiday summer sail swim roadtrip easter frangipani panay Comments (0)

Bongao, Tawi-Tawi




Traveling to Tawi-Tawi had been sent to the back burner for years due to news about kidnappings and unrest on that part of the Philippine Archipelago. But this plan resurrected when a friend registered for the 2nd Bongao Ultramarathon. I asked the help of a friend to book my accommodation as I had absolutely no idea of what kind of accommodation they had "out there". :)

The plan was simple:

1. fly to Bongao and go around town to see what's what;
2. support my friend's run;
3. climb Bud Bongao and feed the monkeys; and
4. step on the country's longest sandbar

:) check,check, check and check!!!


My friends and I flew in from Zamboanga to Bongao's Sanga-Sanga airport on the early Cebu Pacific flight to be met by a colorful group of traditional dancers. We arrived in time for the opening of the Tourist Assistance Office located right outside the airport. The mayor himself was there and an Imam offered prayers before the ribbon cutting. What a nice way to start our Bongao Adventure. After a little bit of taking pictures and talking with our guide from Layag Tawi-Tawi Tour Services, we proceeded to our hotel, Rachel's Place Hotel & Restaurant, located right in the center of town.

We were kept busy trying to cram as much experience as we can during our short stay in Bongao. Having engaged the services of Layag Tours made our trip easy to manage and made the most of time we had available to us. I would suggest that if you only have limited time, to do the same thing as we did. Wadz Ali, our guide from Layag Tours was a fount of information and since he was a local, we had an easy time traversing the otherwise thorny landscape that was the community of the Bajau.

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We left our hotel a quarter before 6:00 a.m. to climb Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi's prayer mountain and considered to be a must climb for all locals. It has a well-established path up and the 3,000+++ steps are a mix of concrete and stone. The vegetation is lush and at some points the trees form a canopy above the hikers' heads. We bought bananas from the public market the day before so we can have something for the monkeys.

It is said that you are not a true local if you haven't been to the peak of Bud Bongao. It is a tradition for residents to take the new addition to their families up to the peak of Bud Bongao. A lot of locals climb the Bud early in the morning to pray in the shrines located at the peak. They usually bring packed lunch and stay to relax among the trees and on the Rest Area overlooking Bongao town and the waters surrounding the island.

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We had a grand time going around town and taking photographs of places that piqued our interest. Panampangan (purported to the the longest sandbar in the Philippines) was a revelation. I only wished we could have stayed longer to explore. Sadly there is no overnight accommodation available on the island.


At the end of the 2 nights and three days Bongao Trip I accomplished everything I set out to do and learned a lot about Bongao and its people!!! I only wish I could spend more time there. I know that I barely scraped the surface of what Tawi-Tawi has to offer visitors. But this means that I have to make another plan to visit it again. :)



There are no direct flights to Bongao from Manila right now. So from Manila you'll have take a plane to Zamboanga City then take another flight to Bongao. Upon arrival at the Bongao Airport, you can take a tricycle to the town center. Some hotels have airport service but you'll have to pay extra.

On Bongao, I found that riding a tricycle is good enough to get around the town. But if you plan to visit some more interesting places you can either rent a car or jeepney to take you around. Renting a vehicle there is kinda pricey due to the cost of fuel.



Was the trip worth the effort? YES!!!
Would I do it again? YES!!!
Would I recommend it to friends? YES!!!

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Posted by neena329_cab 01:08 Archived in Philippines Tagged food hiking beach sand holiday bar tour climbing fruits traveling roadtrip tribal bongao tawi-tawi Comments (0)


Right on time!


(We actually did not have one!
We did have sort of one but it was so flexible that you can call it a contortionist instead of a plan ;)

Catanduanes moments

Catanduanes moments

It has been a long time since I traveled with old Virtual Tourist friends so this trip to Catanduanes is doubly special. Judith booked our accommodation through Agoda. We took public transport for most of this trip which worked just fine for us. :)


My friend Cyndy and I flew from Manila via Cebu Pacific arriving in Virac early in the morning. We were met at the airport by the staff of Twin Rock Beach Resort in Igang, Virac.

Upon arrival at the resort, we were not able to go to our rooms as we arrived too early in the day. So we went to the resort restaurant and had a late breakfast while waiting for our rooms to be readied for occupancy. The staff in the restaurant were accommodating and gave quick service. They were also very warm and quite open to the guests. After breakfast we took a stroll around the resort and ended up sitting on the hammocks hung on the trees along the beachfront until we were told that our rooms were available.

It turned out that our room was actually an airconditioned cottage large enough for four (4) pax. It was certainly roomy for just Cyndy and me! The restroom cum bathroom was clean although not that well appointed and the hot water was plentiful. The resort is well-maintained and still in the process of being added on to.

We were so captivated by Twin Rocks that we decided to stay for another night instead of going on the road after a night's stay in the resort. :) We stayed to take advantage of the clean, cream colored sand beach, the zipline and zipbike.


As we explored the shallows during low tide, Cyndy and I met some fisherfolk and we asked them if we can buy their catch. But they seemed to be reluctant to talk to us , so we just whiled our time climbing around the rock formations while a couple of our friends body surfed beyond the twin rocks.

We found out that there were sea urchins and we harvested 6 pieces for lunch. My friend Judith prepared the sea urchin and asked the staff at the restaurant if we can borrow some utensils and if we can have some calamansi and soy sauce. The uni was fresh and rich tasting and we had it for lunch together with the other dishes we ordered at the restaurant!

Twin Rock is popular to both locals and balikbayans. It is almost always fully booked so if you plan to stay there, you better book ahead.

After 2 days in Twin Rocks, we decided to go to Puraran Surf in Baras and Binurong Point. Getting to Puraran was an adventure in itself!

We managed to catch what turned out to be the last jeepney to Baras which was already full so Judith and I had to ride the topload and in the process met some interesting women from Baras. Independent, strong women who obviously had not had easy lives. They were curious about us and when they learned what we were up to, had a host of suggestions and one even invited us to stay at her house! When we got to Baras Town we took a tricycle to Puraran Surf which is about 30 minutes from town.

The owner of Puraran Surf was a very nice lady who told me stories of her childhood in Puraran and how she established her business. She still remains active despite her years and seems to maintain an interest of everything around her. I hope to be like her when i get to be her age. :) Sunset and sunrise in Puraran are dramatic and the surf is long. A lot of surfers seem to decide to prolong their stay once they get to the place. The food they serve is simple and use fresh ingredients. Our cottage is very basic and does not have a/c but it is clean and we were provided mosquito net.

Binurong Point

Binurong Point

The resort contacted a tricycle for us so we can visit Binurong Point which is somewhat like a wilder cousin of Malboro Hills in Batanes. Binurong can be hiked easily from the jump off point. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the ridge passing through a little forest with interesting flora. Sunset is dramatic in Binurong but some people prefer to go there at sunrise to get good photos.


Here are some of the details regarding the cost I incurred for this trip. I hope this will help you when you plan for your own Catanduanes adventure.

1. Plane fare (Cebu Pacific) - P2,600/way
2. Ferry from Virac to Tabaco - P270/way
3. Bus fare from Tabaco to Cubao - P800/way
4. Tricycle from Baras to Puraran - P200/way (4 pax)
5. Tricycle from Puraran to Binurong Point - P400 (4 pax)
6. Cottage (Twin Rock Beach Resort) - P900/night - (book through Agoda so you can have hotel pick up and drop off to the airport. Otherwise you have to pay P400/way)
7. Zipline/Zipbike - P300 (They were having a promo at the time)
8. Breakfast - P150/pax
9. Lunch - P275/pax (on average, and we did not stint on orders)
10. Dinner - P350/pax (on average, and one of those was a lobster dinner)

I know I've barely scratched the surface of the marvel that is Catanduanes... At the moment there are some nebulous plans of going back there in summer of 2018.

Catanduanes is one place that merits some slow time... for exploration and just being in the moment. <3

Posted by neena329_cab 01:19 Archived in Philippines Tagged cliffs sunset accommodation hiking beach rocks seascapes adventure white sand fun surfing budget point huts roadtrip zipline virac catanduanes binurong Comments (0)

Japanese Visa

Painless application and quick processing

If there is a place that's been in my bucket list for a long time, it is Japan. And this year i finally decided that it is time to go for broke and try to get a Japanese tourist visa. I expected to have a hard time but it was surprisingly easy to get one. All you have to do is to go to an accredited travel agency and comply with the documentary requirements, pay the facilitation fee which varies from agency to agency. The cheapest I found was Discovery Tour, Inc., at P800 the staff who evaluated my documents stressed that the fee was non-refundable in case my application was rejected. The staff at Discovery are very professional and courteous. Waiting time for their service is quite short.

Here are the documentary requirements for first timers like me who plan to tour Japan without a guarantor.

1. Passport. This must be in good condition, valid for at least six months, and with at least two blank pages left. If your passport is damaged in some way or about to expire in a few months, renew your passport first before applying for a Japan tourist visa.
2. Visa Application Form. You can download the application form but the accredited agencies can provide you with one. The form is simple and very easy to fill up. I filled up mine while waiting for my number to be called. You do need to have some essential information on hand as you fill up the form... like your flight details, address of you hotel in Japan, passport details, to name a few.
3. Photograph. 2 copies, 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background. Make sure that the photo complies with the guidelines. From my experience, the photo studios are well aware of the specific requirements of each embassy. So be sure to tell them what you need the photo for and what kind of visa you are applying for.
4. PSA-certified birth certificate. You can order it online here I paid P315 via Banco de Oro and the birth certificate arrived in 3 days. (This is not required with the submission of an old, used Japan visa.)
o If the PSA (NSO) certificate is not clear, a birth certificate from the local civil registrar is required. In my case, my PSA issued birth certificate had a tear so that the birth year was incomplete. I had to get a copy from the LCR of Manila. You need to fill out a form and pay P50, provide a photocopy of a government issued ID.
o If there is no registration of live birth in the PSA, submit a Certificate of Non-Record from the PSA and a birth certificate from the local civil registrar instead.
o If the birth certificate is a late registration, a birth certificate from the local civil registrar, the original baptismal certificate, the school record (Form 137 or school report card), and school yearbook are required. Note that you also need to submit the contact number of the church and the school.
5. PSA-issued marriage contract, if applicable. (This is not required with the submission of an old, used Japan visa.) If there is no record in the PSA, submit a Certificate of Non-Record together with a marriage certificate from the local civil registrar.
6. Tour Itinerary. The itinerary should cover your entire stay in Japan. You can prepare this yourself or have your travel agency prepare it for you.
7. Bank Balance Certificate. This should be recent (within 3 months of submission of the application) and the amount should adequately cover your airfare and your stay in Japan.
8. Income Tax Return. One original and one photocopy. In my case, I just provided one photocopy as I fear I might need my original ITR sometime in the future.

The process of documentary evaluation as undertaken by the staff of Discovery Tour is painless and quite brief. I asked her how long the processing will take and she gave the standard answer of 5-7 days. But when pressed, she said I can check and call after 3 days, which I did. When I called to follow up after 3 days of waiting i was told that my passport was ready for pick-up but that they cannot tell me the result. So i went to their office at HV dela Costa without a single hint of whether I succeeded or not. Butterflies in my tummy defied my orders to settle down. I shouldn't have worried! It was a success and I am now ready to fly and experience my first winter! How I will fare is another story waiting to be told.

Posted by neena329_cab 23:42 Archived in Philippines Tagged japan tours a to for tourist visa japanese discovery applying Comments (0)

Kalinga 2


Sunrise over Padjao Rice Terraces

Sunrise over Padjao Rice Terraces

Awichon on "fire" aka Sunrise surprise!

Awichon on "fire" aka Sunrise surprise!

After I wrote about my Kalinga travel experience here, I got a lot of questions about how long my trip was and how much it cost me. So I decided to do another blog to give some details as to the itinerary, cost and other information about this solo travel. I hope this will help you plan your own trip.


My pet

My pet

8:00 PM depart Manila for Tabuk

7:00 AM Arrive Tabuk
Breakfast while waiting for jeepney/bus
8:00 AM Ride a jeep/bus for Tinglayan
12:00 NN Arrival in Bugnay
Ride a habal-habal for Turning Point
Meet your guide, Register and pay the fees
Trek up to Buscalan
1230 PM Arrival in Buscalan, find homestay
1:30 PM Free time, tattoo session, buy tokens from local artisans
6:00 PM Dinner

5:30AM see sunrise in Padjao Rice Terraces
6:30 AM Breakfast
7:00 AM Trek back to Turning Point
Ride a habal-habal back to Bugnay
8:30AM Catch a jeep/bus for Tabuk

Mothers multi-tasking

Mothers multi-tasking

11:30 AM Get Off at Lubuagan Municipal hall
Quick stroll around Lubuagan to take photos of the old houses
Ride a habal-habal to Awichon
Check in @Awichon and talk with Mr. & Mrs. Saclag
Explore Awichon

5:30 a.m. Wake up to take photos of the surrounding of Awichon
8:00 a.m. Get into costume; have photos taken with Ma’am Rebecca
9:00 a.m. Travel back to Tabuk
Explore Tabuk
5:00 p.m. Get on the bus back to Manila (dinner on the way back)

This is just a sample itinerary. Since my trip to Kalinga I have time to rethink the itinerary I posted above. It would have been better to have done: Manila - Tabuk - Lubuagan (Awichon) - Tinglayan (Buscalan) - Bontoc - Baguio - Manila. The revised route will save you time because it will be straight route and no switch backs like my itinerary. Even more less time consuming in terms of travel time is for you to fly in from Manila to Tuguegarao, Cagayan (40minutes), then take a van to Tabuk (2 hrs) then Lubuagan (Awichon) - Tinglayan (Buscalan), back to Tabuk and on to Tuguegarao. The time posted in the sample itinerary above is very tentative. You have to make room for delays caused by vehicle breakdown, unscheduled rest stops, and road accidents.

Trail up to Awichon

Trail up to Awichon


Here is an itemized costing of my budget for this travel:
1. Bus fare from Victory Cubao -- (Manila- Tabuk- Manila) - P830/way
2. Trike fare from Victory Tabuk to bus station for Bontoc - P10/way
3. Bus fare Tabuk to Bugnay - P150/way
4. Habal-habal - Bugnay to Turning point - P150/pax
5. Guide fee (Buscalan) - P1,000/group of 5 -- this was the single biggest cost for me in this trip as I did not bother to look for anyone to split the cost with. If you want to save some money and you are alone you can try and get other solo travelers you meet on the bus to Tabuk or at Bugnay to split the cost of the guide with you.
6. Homestay (Buscalan) - P300/night
7. Environmental fee - P75/pax
8. Breakfast - P50/pax
9. Dinner - P200/pax
10. Picture with Whang-Od - P50
11. 1 liter bottled water - P50
12. Bus fare from Bugnay to Lubuagan Municipal Hall - P80/pax
13. Habal-habal to Awichon from Lubuagan Town - P300/way.
But by hindsight I should have paid more! I am such a skinflint!!! That is the difficulty when the other person not being upfront about the cost of his/her services!!!
14. Entrance to Awichon - P50/pax
15. Accomodation in Awichon - P500/pax
16. Van fare from Lubuagan to Tabuk - P80/pax
17. Tri-cut GLOBE SIM - P40

Note: This list does not include lunch since I brought bread, cheese, trail food and some bananas with me and somebody always seem to offer me a cup of hot brewed Kalinga coffee. That saved me some PPP . Having said that, I saw that lunch on the roadside carinderias (which seem to be the stop for PUBs) costs anywhere between P80/120.

On the trail back to Turning Point

On the trail back to Turning Point


Buscalan - Gaspar Laguinday CP No. 0999 180 5012 (Smart)
Kuya Gaspar is a guide and he owns a homestay which is located right on the Padjao Rice Terraces. You can watch sunrise while lying down on the 2nd storey balcony of the homestay or walk a few minutes to stand in the middle of the rice paddies.

Awichon - Rebecca Saclag CP No. 0948 540 9407 (Talk n Text) Smart

Dionica Alyssa Legasi Mercado 09052475300
Kalinga Provincial Tourism Officer

Jhonny Tiggangay 09152837885
Tinglayan Tourism Officer

It might make you antsy not to get instant response when you use those numbers I posted above. :) Please be patient as the signal for both Smart and Globe are chancy at best up in the mountains (read: Buscalan and Awichon). So if you are preparing for your trip, do give some block of time to the delay in communicating with the folks up in Kalinga.
:P If you cannot afford to be out of touch from your loved ones or work for a few hours/days, then you might have to rethink your Kalinga trip.

From experience, Kuya Gaspar's homestay is located right where one can get a signal from Globe but Smart signal is non-existent. In contrast, I was able to use both my Globe and Smart providers up in Awichon. Globe has stronger and more consistent signal though. Tabuk has good quality signals for both major service providers.

All in all, being off the grid for a few days is very liberating but it does limit your chances to brag about how great a time you are having up in the mountains! Hahahaha!

Western music with a flip: Guitar and native drum, "God must have been a cowboy"

Western music with a flip: Guitar and native drum, "God must have been a cowboy"

Posted by neena329_cab 15:27 Archived in Philippines Tagged food hiking travel native adventure roads accomodation music love budget transportation living dirt tattoo daily huts planning tribal wars solo treasures kalinga cordilleras whang-od Comments (0)

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