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Entries about hiking

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)

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)


Half a day Adventure


KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

KM 47, Baras, Rizal, discreet signage on the side of the highway

My friends and I visited the Masungi Georeserve last week and it was a revelation! I never thought that there was such an adventure destination so near the city! We left Cubao at a little past 6:00 a.m. with the watery sun peeking out of a rather dark cloud and we arrived at KM 47, Baras, Rizal at 7:45 a.m. almost an hour earlier than our 8:40 a.m. slot. The day turned from overcast to drizzly as we started our tour but it was refreshing and kept us cooler as we went on the hike. The final half of the tour was done in a down pour. Not bad, really, but it kept us from using our DSLRs. Good thing I brought along my waterproof point and shoot.

Masungi got its name from the limestone krast formations that dot the landscape. These formations looked like crooked or uneven teeth -- sungki (in Tagalog) hence, Masungi! :) At least that's the story our "Park Ranger", Reynante told us.
The original of the Masungi logo

The original of the Masungi logo

We booked our reservations through the Masungi website: http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/. It is cheaper to visit during weekdays (P1,500.00/pax) than during weekends (P1,800.00/pax). The tour lasts 3-4 hours and the activity is a mix of hiking and climbing through the varied terrain of the reserve. The area's forest cover had been destroyed by illegal loggers and charcoal makers. It's fauna haunted almost to zero. Right now, the reserve is trying to restore the place (I don't know if they will succeed, but I hope they will). The plant life is interesting and varied, making for an interesting trip through the whole trail which is composed of eight (8) interesting stops.

1. Sapot - a giant spiderweb made of steel which serves as a deck for viewing the canopy and the limestone karst formations. It was a great start to the tour. The giant spider web kinda pumped you up for the next stage. A lot of photo ops could be generated just from this spot alone! Hahaha


Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

Resting after the photo ops on Sapot

2. Yungib ni Ruben - a small cave discovered by, drumroll please.... Ruben!!! A good place to take refuge during downpour. The cave itself is lit by tea candles and there is a pleasant smell of floral oil to dispel the dank.
Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

Taking refuge inside Yungib ni Ruben

3. Ditse - a swaying bridge of black and white that spans across the forest canopy to connect you to Patak. It was kind of motion sickness inducing :) but before you get dizzy from the height and swaying of the bridge you get to Patak and you can get some relief.
Crossing Ditse

Crossing Ditse

4. Patak - a little tree house shaped like a raindrop. A good place to take a rest and have some down time before forging on to the next destination. They discourage jumping inside the tree house because of the glass windows :)


5. Duyan - a rope bridge that sways and flexes (with the movements of the people crossing it) just like a giant macrame cradle. It is easy to navigate because they provided rope handholds at convenient intervals.
Taking a breather on Duyan

Taking a breather on Duyan

6. Tatay - tallest spire of blocks of limestone. Good vantage point to see the surrounding area and the rest of the trail. Tatay afforded us a good view of Nanay too. The climb from Patak to Tatay is interesting but not that difficult. The gradient is steeper but quite manageable.
The route to Tatay

The route to Tatay

View of Nanay from atop Tatay

View of Nanay from atop Tatay

7. Nanay - a lower spire topped with a giant rock that looks about to topple over with a single itty bitty push. There is a bridge connecting the five limestone columns that is a good spot for photo ops with the surrounding mountains as backdrop.
Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

Standing on one of the bridges spanning Nanay

8. Bayawak - or monitor lizard. A giant macrame shaped like a giant monitor lizard climbing up the side of a limestone cliff. It is the final stage of the tour before the guests are welcomed to the rest area were they will be served a heavy snack of healthy sandwich, fruit and freshly prepared juice.
Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak

Last stage! Going down the back of Bayawak

Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

Done!!! Now posing for posterity. We conquered Masungi!!!

In between the main stops along the trail, there are interesting spots which the Park Ranger points out to the guests and there are flora that are worth checking out. This prolonged our time a bit and we ended up spending more time on the trail than we bargained for. The rain also made our time slower and most of my friends came out of the georeserve cold and wet (my rain jacket worked great and kept me dry the whole time). But having said that, the Masungi Georeserve tour is really worth doing specially if you want an active half-day and you are all beached out! :) I highly recommend it!
Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Collage of some flora and fauna in Masungi

Posted by neena329_cab 23:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged and fauna nature hiking walk climbing flora spelunking masungi georeserve Comments (2)

Caving and other Activities at theBiak-na-Bato National Park

-- worth a day trip


Biak-na-Bato National Park is located in San Miguel, Bulacan about 2.5 hours drive from Manila. This protected area is more than 2000 hectares and covers the towns of San Miguel, San Ildefonso and Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan. In 1937, President Quezon declared it a national park due to its ecological and historical significance (it was the site of the Biak-na-Bato Republic).

The park is of mixed use... there are hundred of caves (some still remain unexplored), rivers and well established hiking trails and picnic areas. Some of the most popular caves for day hikers are the Aguinaldo Cave (where President Emilio Aguinaldo used to have his headquarters), Paniki Cave, Reception Cave, Hospital Cave, Ambush Cave, and Storage Cave.

It is also popular destination for bird watchers and photographers. Several species of birds, bats and mammals make the national park their home. There are also interesting trees and other flora that grows spectacularly well inside the park. Having said that, do not be surprised to see thriving vegetable gardens and orchards while out on a hike inside the park. Our guide told us that the farms and orchards were established long before Pres. Quezon declared it a national park .

There are picnic spots dotting the whole trail going to the Bat Cave which is convenient for families who opt to bring their own food into the park. There are also a couple of carinderias serving simple fare for park visitors. The vegetable dish I tried for lunch tasted quite good because of the fresh ingredients sourced from the vegetable gardens located inside the park perimeter.

Weekends are busy and the park office prefers that guests book ahead so that they can arrange the tours properly. The entrance fee is P50/pax and the guide fee (max 10pax/group) at a sliding rate depending on how many caves you want to see. BTW, there is an additional standard entrance fee per cave (P150). The park management does offer a great all-in price if you want to explore several caves in one go like what my friend and I did when we went to the park on a day trip.

All in all, Biak-na-Bato National Park is worth a day trip with an option of staying overnight for a more thorough exploration of its caves and wilderness trails.

Posted by neena329_cab 00:05 Archived in Philippines Tagged hiking picnic spelunking Comments (3)

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