Quick Getaway

After a fun adventure in southern Luzon, my friends and I decided to head up north. We tried to maximize the summer of our friends who work in the academe because school will start soon.

We went to the surfing capital of the north, the town of San Juan in La Union.

We decided to leave for San Juan at 2 AM. We didn’t have much trouble going there and the ride was very much comfortable.

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We arrived well before our arrival time at the Pugad Pugo Adventure. It’s a big adventure park that offers a lot of activities from swimming to wall climbing and ziplines.

We were a bit disappointed that the activity we wanted to do, paintball, was unavailable. So, for the sake of doing something, I went wall climbing while the others watched.

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Since it was still too early, around 9 AM, we decided to go to our back-up side-trip. Our check-in is scheduled at 2 PM and we have nowhere to go.

We had to go to the mountain ranges in San Gabriel, La Union for a taste of the Tangadan Falls.

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A word of caution, this is not for the weak. It’s a very long and arduous trek to the falls. The effort going to it will be doubled once you try to go back.

Once you arrive, you won’t be disappointed, though.

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The water is so cool that you’ll be refreshed after a very long trek. There are cottages that you can stay in if you plan to spend a bit of time in the area. There are also stores which sell drinks and chips if you don’t have food.

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It was also a hard trek going back and you’ll really want a shower now. So, before eating lunch, we went straight to our resort and had a good refreshing bath.

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The beach in front of our resort isn’t suitable for swimming because of the uneven slope of the sand. It’s easy to be swallowed by the waves when you’re caught in the deep part of the ocean. So, we decided to swim in the pool of the resort instead.

The next day, we had to do what we went there to do, surf!

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Waves here were definitely stronger than the ones we encountered in Baler. However, the instructors we hired weren’t very friendly. They were impatient and snobbish. I hope this doesn’t apply to all other surf schools in San Juan.

Then we went to this short strip of road where major resorts and food places are located.

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We spent the rest of the day wading in our pool and preparing for our trip home. It was a short and sweet vacation.

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The thing is that San Juan looks like it’s not yet ready for a big influx of tourists. The number of food places do not look like it can accommodate the people going there. Most places seem to be understaffed. I hope that the government helps in the promotion of this place while ensuring the quality of the services being provided.

Calaguas Group of Islands

The Calaguas Islands (or Calaguas) is a group of islands under the jurisdiction of the town of Vinzons in Camarines Norte. Tinaga and Guintinua are two of the major islands in this group. And in Tinaga, there is Mahabang Buhangin (long beach) which houses most of the resorts in Calaguas.

There are a multiple ways to go to the islands:

  1. Ride a bus to Daet, Camarines Norte. Take a jeepney bound to Vinzons. Jump on a boat to Calaguas.
  2. Find a bus that stops by the town of Paracale. Jump on a boat to Calaguas.
  3. Take the plane to Naga, Camarines Sur. Take a bus back to Daet. Make your way to Paracale or Vinzons. Jump on a boat to Calaguas.
  4. Join a tour group specifically created to visit Calaguas.

We did the fourth option. When it’s a long land trip, it’s hard when you don’t know the availability of your transportation going from and back to Manila.

We joined several others in waiting for the van which arrived at 9:45 PM at EDSA Central. It was a bit of a long drive to Paracale. We arrived at the fish port at about 8:30 AM. We had stops at SLEX and Gumaca, Quezon.

We were asked to look for breakfast first before jumping on the boat to Calaguas.

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It takes around 1.5 hours from the port in Paracale to the beach in Tinaga Island. For some who aren’t very patient, you have to be. It will be an endless sea on some sides and the Calaguas Islands on the horizon.

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That’s part of Guintinua Islands. The moment I saw this, I was immediately awestruck. It is beautiful. It looks like New Zealand. It looks like Batanes. The rolling hills, the sea, and the cliffs are wonderful to me.

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Add to that the fact that the sea looks like stained glass. It was even frustrating that when you go to the deep parts of the water, you can see the bottom but you can’t seem to reach it with your feet.

The water is beautiful. In this regard, I could say that these waters are better than Boracay’s. Boracay has a problem with algea at certain months of the year. This, in comparison, does not.

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Calaguas doesn’t have a lot of electricity. Lights will turn on as soon as the sun goes down but will turn off the moment it hits 12 midnight. There are also parties around the island but they end at 12 midnight too. So, part of your kit should be flashlights. You can also make campfires if you can find enough wood to make it.

It is normal that most people who visit here will be living in tents. But there are also resorts that offer alternative means of accommodations like wooden houses with cushions. Or multiple story bungalows. But, none of these have any electrical outlets.

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The beach also offers a pretty sunset.

Other amenities in the island are:

  • Cooking area where you can use charcoal for fire
  • Toilets which requires you to get water from the pumps
  • Water pumps for your bathing needs
  • A store that sells chips, instant noodles, coffee in sachets, alcoholic beverages, and some other basic necessities

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Since the islands are made of hills and beaches, you can actually climb some of them. So, at around 5 AM of the next day, we decided to catch the sunrise atop one of the hills.

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It was a beautiful sight above.

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One thing I was surprised about Calaguas is the number of people there. I was expecting to see at most 100 something. But, it was like a small community or town. I hope, though, that it won’t be more commercialized than it is now – meaning, no fast food chains, no bars, no big hotels.

I just want it to stay simple and peaceful and quiet; like a sanctuary for those who want to escape their normal lives.

A trip to Calaugas is really energizing. But, you need a lot of patience especially if you’re doing land travel. In my assessment, I will rank it as second best beach in the Philippines – for all the beaches I’ve been to.

If only it is more accessible, then, I would rank it higher than Boracay.

 

 

3 Beaches 1 Day

Borawan is a portmanteau of Boracay, for its white sand beach, and Palawan, for its rock formations. Borawan Beach is found in Chicas Island under the Pagbilao jurisdication in the province of Quezon.

To go there, follow these steps.

I was enticed to go here because I read it as one of the best virgin beaches of the Philippines. The opportunity came when a friend, who now works in Australia, suggested that we go there to reunite and rekindle friendships.

It’s hard making this post because I just came from Boracay. As you may well know, Boracay is this country’s most famous and, subjectively, best beach.

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Borawan is beautiful in it’s own way. Being compared to Boracay and its powdery white sand is a bit of a disservice to the latter. Borawan doesn’t have a lot of sea to swim in. It is noted that big parts of the sea is jellyfish territory. We actually saw some on the way to the resort restaurant – which, prompted us to not continue with our plan of going there.

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What Borawan does offer is a chance to be in touch with nature. You don’t have a lot of resorts and you will, most often, use a tent to stay the night. It’s nice to see the stars and feel the fresh air. The rocks are beautiful and I really hope that they maintain the integrity of the place.

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Other beaches along the Pagbilao Islands are Puting Buhangin and Dampalitan Beach.

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Puting Buhangin was more crowded than Borawan Beach. Maybe it is because of the long weekend. But, their sand is better. Borawan’s sand is a bit coarse – as opposed to the comparison with Boracay’s powdery sand. Also, the sea is bigger and the sea clearer. I just hope that they can offer snorkeling services because I feel like the underwater world is enchanting.

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This rock formation is called Kwebang Lampas (in English, Extended Cave). There is a tunnel that passes through to the other side of the cliff. It is beautiful but there are a lot of vandalism on the walls. I hope that the local government can do something about this disrespect to Mother Nature.

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The most quiet of the three beaches is Dampalitan Beach. There’s a rock bar – a sand bar that is made of rocks. There’s more beach probably because there’s less people on it. But, the sea is very hard to swim in. Big and sharp rocks lie at the bottom so you should be careful in the water.

It was an enjoyable overnight stay on the islands. I just hope it was never right after Boracay because my expectations are high. Still, these beaches are beautiful in their own ways.

Getting to Borawan

Borawan Beach is found in Pagbilao’s Chica Island. Although under the jurisdiction of the town of Pagbilao in Quezon, the port nearest to it can be found in the town of Padre Burgos.

To get to Borawan from Manila:

Get on the bus to Lucena City in Quezon. The most recommended are DLTB Bus Company and JAC Liner. Both bus companies have terminals in Cubao and Buendia. Estimated travel time is 3 hours and 30 minutes.

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The drop off point for Lucena-bound buses is the Lucena Grand Central Terminal. This is the main hub for transportation within the province of Quezon and to nearby areas such as Laguna and Batangas.

You will ride a mini-bus bound for Unisan. Estimated travel time is 1 hour.

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You should then ask the barker that you’d like to go to Padre Burgos where the boats to Borawan are.

The bus will stop at the Padre Burgos town proper. Here you will ride a tricycle to Basiao Port. Most locals know that it’s where tourists flock to.

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There will be boats waiting for you at the port. But it is better if you already have a contact. We hired the services of Crisjay (+639055605947). Estimated travel time is 15 minutes.

Then, soon enough, you’ll have your first look of Borawan.

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Boracay

I may have to eat my words. I said that I wanted to go to Boracay just for the heck of it and I have no plans of going back there.

I am totally wrong. I want to go back.

Boracay is beautiful. It is exciting. It is full of adventure. And not to mention, it’s a feast for the eyes.

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I heard a lot of rumors about the powdery white sand. They’re not joking about. Those are not false rumors. The sand is really as fine as powder. They’re good for the skin and really comfortable to walk in.

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It was great that we were there from Monday – Thursday. No weekend crowd. The people aren’t that many. But it was enough to merit a validation that Boracay is really the best beach this country has.

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I am a lover of adventure. Boracay offers a lot of these for you. There’s beach volleyball, beach frisbee, water activities (e.g. flying fish, banana boat, jetski rental, helmet diving). You will never run out of things to do.

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You can also tour the whole island because the stretch of white beach isn’t the only thing beautiful about this island. The parasailing adventure give you a bird’s eye view of the whole Boracay island. An island hopping tour via pump boat will give you beautiful scenery and a taste of the underwater world.

And if you’re really a thrill seeker, there’s the Magic Island which offers cliff diving at the height of 5, 7, 9, and 10 meters. It looks scary because of the height and the strength of the waves. But, you just have to go for it. One jump will make you want to jump a couple times more.

Boracay is beautiful. It is a place worth going to over and over again. Plus, this view is certainly to die for.

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If you haven’t been there, you should.

Chinatown Food Trip

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Binondo, a district in the city of Manila, is also referred to as Chinatown. This is also the oldest Chinatown in the whole world. It was established in 1594 just across the Spanish settlement in Intramuros.

We started from Recto Station of LRT 2 and walked our way to Binondo. Our first stop was Shanghai Fried Siopao. For PHP 18, you get a piece of siopao with crispy skin and delicious filling. It was just an appetizer for a day that’s bound to be awesome.

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These are the lucky ones included in our list:

Follow the links for more information on the places we’ve been to.

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A trip to this place is another adventure on its own. There are lots to see – family-owned businesses, jewelry shops, fruit stands, weird and rare plants, and a lot of people. Saturday seemed like a normal business day because traffic was a bit of a problem.

So, if you’re feeling your Chinese side of things, drop by and enjoy.