A Travellerspoint blog

Masbate City

Totally underrated!!!


My trip to Masbate was 3 years in the making :)

For this trip I was able to visit Ticao Island, check: https://neena329-cab.travellerspoint.com/17/, Masbate City and surrounds, camp under the stars at the Sese Ranch in Mandaon and run crazy on that little white beach in Balud. Of course this Masbate trip wouldn't have been complete without witnessing the Rodeo Masbateño!

Masbate is considered to be one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. It is not that popular to local tourists and if people hear you taking a trip there, they would say that there is nothing to see there. Au contraire! I found Masbate to be a gem, a cool green gem of a province with a heart of fire! A fiery emerald!

I loved every minute I spent there despite going home browner than a pili nut! Hahahaha!

Admittedly, there's still a need for massive work to have tourism organized to the level of, say, Puerto Princesa. But, I think the charm of Masbate's disorganized tourism is that it forced me to interact with the Masbateños more. Oftentimes a backpacker finds it daunting to find oneself at a loss as to how to get from one point to the other without an established guide. But the locals are very easy going, accommodating and very warm so that I found it easy to ask them about how to get from point A to point B. Some of them even gave me their numbers so that I can call them if ever got into a spot of trouble.

Below is an example of the helpful info I got from a chance met local in a restaurant in a mall



Aside from the Rodeo Masbateno which kept us hopping, we also had a chance to visit several MUST SEE places which made this trip to Masbate so special.

1. Mayong Payong Peak
My friends and I drove up the peak in the ungodly hour of 4:30am to catch the sunrise. A drive which was an adventure in itself. The road was challenging and required concentration or you'll end up in a bit of trouble. If you have to, you can hire a tricycle from the turn off for Mayong Payong or you can walk/ hike up to the peak (1hr or more depending on how fast you walk). they do have overnight accommodations there.


2. Buntod Reef

This is a to go to weekend destination for both locals and tourists. Buntod Reef is a well maintained "resort" which is part of the Buntod Reef Marine Sanctuary. The sandbar is made of fine, white sand and has a mangrove stand on one end and a clear sand beach on the other. It has several floating huts where visitors can rent tables and have their fresh seafood cooked for a reasonable fee. The local government manages the place and a flat rate of P200/pax is collected before you step into the boat which will take you to the sandbar. Needless to say, its popularity makes it crowded during weekends and holidays. One can rent, transparent canoes and paddle around to see the marine life, or rent a snorkel to swim in the shallows. Sunset is very dramatic on Buntod. :)


3. Judge Sese's Brahman Ranch in Mandaon

This vast ranch is located in Barangay San Juan, Mandaon, Masbate. It is a great way to see and try a slice of ranch life. Sleeping under the stars and talking around a bonfire is a great way to bond with family and friends.


4. White Beach in Balud

This is quite a drive (around 2 hrs) from Masbate City to Balud. But it is worth it!!! The beach is fine white sand stretching to forever. :) It was virtually untouched and uncrowded. In fact we were the only group of people there except for some kids and their pet dog. I heard that vans ply the route from Masbate City to Balud, v.v.


What to buy when in Masbate

1. Beef tapa and corned beef
2. dried fish
3. fruits
4. seafood
5. carmelados
6. fresh milk and mozzarella cheese from Fazenda da Esperanca (they have a store near the San Antonio de Padua Cathedral). Fazenda also sells pasta, pancit palabok and cookies.


Posted by neena329_cab 20:35 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

==Ticao, Masbate==


Ticao Island is one of the two more popular tourist destinations in Masbate, the other is Burias island. Ticao is about less than an hour's boat ride from Masbate City. From Masbate City I took the boat to the pier in Lagundi then took the "connection" (a non-a/c bus) to San Jacinto town where I was met by Otiza, the owner of Tacdugan Beach Lodge where I booked my accommodation.

Well, if you want a poshier accomodation you can stay at the Ticao Island Resort a few hundred meters from Otiza's place. But staying in Otiza's place led me to come in contact with the friendly locals some of whom turned out to be funny. AND the sunsets in front of the lodge were really something!!!


San Jacinto is just one of the five (5) towns in Ticao Island but I think it got more than its fair share of beautiful spots! You can go exploring the environs on a habal-habal (motorbike). Otiza can hook you up with a trust-worthy habal-habal driver who can also act as your guide in exploring the waterfalls and other scenic attractions of San Jacinto.



She can also organize a Ticao island hopping adventure for you. The tour will take you to:

1. Tacduyagan Falls (waterfalls which falls into the sea),

2. Halea Nature Resort,

3. San Miguel rocks,

4. Burobangcaso Islet,

5. Lapos-lapos with its hidden caves and coves on the way back to Tacdugan.


Cost of a 3 days/2 nights trip to Ticao

Boat fare - P120/way
Connection - P80/way
Habal-Habal - P350/pax
Stay at Otiza's place - P550/pax/night
Boat Rental for island hopping - P7,500/day
Boat fare from Otiza's place to San Jacinto pier - P250/pax

Posted by neena329_cab 01:38 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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)

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