Feb 15, 2015

House Decor Finds at Dapitan Arcade

Dapitan Arcade is a treasure trove for homemakers looking for affordable house decors. It's our to go place when hunting for reasonably priced house decors, handicrafts, wood furniture, kitchen wares and even plants and pots. 

We went to Dapitan Arcade last holiday season to look for Christmas decors and some items we could use for our home makeover and we did find some interesting stuffs that aren't usually available at department stores.

Dapitan Arcade
this section is inside Dapitan Arcade

Dapitan ArcadeDapitan Arcade is located at the corner of Kanlaon St and Dapitan St in Quezon City. It's a small building but outside and around the vicinity are several stalls who also sell some of the items you'll find inside but at better prices (well, that depends on your bargaining skills).

Dapitan Arcade
glass wares / ceramic wares / wrought iron crafts / Christmas decors
The area isn't overwhelming unlike Divisoria or Quiapo. You'll probably need 30 minutes to scan the place and source for what you need but most likely you'll stay longer because of the many interesting house decors you spotted while going around.
It's more ideal to bring your car when going at Dapitan Arcade because I'm pretty sure you'll buy things that are more than a handful.
Dapitan Arcade
interesting stuffs, right?

Dapitan Arcade
wood letters

Dapitan Arcade
lamps and vases

Dapitan Arcade
Himalayan Salt Lamps
 I was surprised to find Himalayan Salt Lamps at Dapitan Arcade. I bought one when I went to Nepal. You can find this at the 2nd floor of Dapitan Arcade, the only store on that floor.
Dapitan Arcade
Christmas Decors
Hanging Plant Pots
I've been looking for these hanging pots and luckily find them in the area. However, if you're also sourcing for this now, you can already find them in Divisoria, around Sta Elena and Juan Luna for 15 pesos a piece. I got this here at 20 pesos a piece.

Plants and Herbs

And while you're there, a few steps away from Dapitan Arcade, you can drop by at Suki Market for some fresh market finds. You'll also be surprise to see plenty of sushi shops inside and shabu shabu ingredients offered at more reasonable prices.

Suki Market
Suki Market

Sushi Stores around Suki Market


Dapitan Arcade Map

So, if you're doing a house makeover on a budget, Dapitan Arcade is your best source for affordable house decors.

Jan 6, 2015


While still reeling from exhaustion brought by the holiday season, and with a number of draft posts that can't get past a first paragraph, I realized a more fitting way to start the year is a thank you post to people who made my 2014 extra special. Here's a slideshow to cap my best travel moments of 2014 ... the best year yet!


With that said, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to friends and new found friends I met along the way, who made these experiences extraordinary. To one reader who originally left an intriguing comment in one of my posts and eventually become a friend who challenged me and sponsored two items on my bucket list, Thank You and God bless you always! You truly deserve a special mention :).

Year 2014 brought me to places I once dreamed about. May 2015 bless me with the same fortune and continue to keep me and my family in God's good graces.

To find out more stories about the places I've visited this 2014, please visit the links below:






To all my blog visitors specially the ones reading this post now, I wish you peace of mind and happiness. I may not be able to update my blog as often as I wish but I will try my best to come up with more informative posts to help you with your travel plans.

Here's an insightful quote from one of my fave authors that I'd like to share to everyone.

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.- F.Scott Fitzgerald, Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thank You 2014. 

Welcome 2015. 

Let us live each coming day with an attitude of gratitude. God Bless us all. Happy New Year!

Dec 9, 2014

NEPAL : Caught In A Time Warp At BHAKTAPUR

Still bewildered by the turn of events while traversing a dusty road on the way to Bhaktapur. Suspended in thoughts that perhaps getting trapped in a time warp isn't science fiction after all, I glanced at my watch for some reality check - 6:44PM? This early? For a moment, it skipped me that Nepal is in a different time zone. I looked for my phone and it showed 4:29PM Kathmandu. Suddenly, a loud thud totally snapped me back to my senses. Our driver alighted from the vehicle and announced "1500 Nepalese rupees each to enter Bhaktapur". He asked for our passports and our payments  and headed to the right side of the road to process our entrance passes. Hmmm, that's quite steep for an entrance fee, I thought. I heard my companions murmured the same concern. Just hoping all the proceeds from this tourism efforts are fully utilized for the preservation and restoration of this living heritage. 
Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley
1500 Nepalese Rupees for Non SAARC members and 500 NRs for SAARC and Chinese (Entrance fees to Bhaktapur)
Receiving our passes after a few minutes, our driver skillfully navigated the narrow and busy cobblestone streets of Bhaktapur leading to our guesthouse near Taumadhi Square. 

Bhaktapur, Nepal
Scenes while traversing along the narrow cobblestone streets of Bhaktapur
He dropped us off to the nearest possible spot where we had to walk a few meters more along a narrow alleyway passing by residential houses and busy locals tending to their poultry, or their day's produce, until we reached our accommodation for our first night in Nepal - the Heart of Bhaktapur Guesthouse. 
Heart of Bhaktapur Guesthouse
The vibe around this area reminds me of a marketplace scene from my fave TV series, Homeland, well, minus the element of suspense and danger.
As soon as we're settled, we headed out the door and explored this cultural gem, Bhaktapur. It is one of the 3 Royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley, tagged as the cultural capital of Nepal and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its best preserved palace courtyards, rich culture and impressive metal and wood artworks.
Nyatapola Temple at Taumadhi Square
Nyatapola Temple, one of the tallest pagoda style temple and a best example of engineering and architecture of multi roofed and square temples
Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur
A view Taumadhi Square taken from Nyatapola Temple and the Bhairabnath Temple on the left
Overwhelmed by such exotic happenings flashing right before my eyes since we entered Bhaktapur - ancient architecture, impressive Newari arts and crafts, regular folks in their traditional garb, beautiful painted faces and Nepali kids who kept tugging on my shirt, armed with a tale to tell and a request to make, I just kept my GOPRO rolling while mounted on the strap of my sling bag hoping to catch all the scenes that were simultaneously occurring while glued to the viewfinder attending to friends' request for some portrait shots to capture those charmed moments.

Bhaktapur, Nepal
Nepali kids agreeing to pose for my cam

When night time falls, the scent of burning incense lingered in the cold air and the glow of flickering candle lights illuminated our way. 
Taumadhi Square at Night, Bhaktapur

We checked the rooftop Cafe of Sunny Guesthouse just within the vicinity of Taumadhi Square and ordered the traditional Nepalese meal, Dal Bhat (which is by the way very similar to Pinoy's favorite Friday dish called Ginisang Monggo) with Chicken curry and pairing it with Chai Masala Tea to keep the chills at bay while enjoying a night view of Bhaktapur before finally calling it a night. 
Dal (Lentils) Bhat (Steamed Rice)
Sleeping through the night was effortless and waking up to the sounds of roosters crow and religious chants reverberating through the air signaled the start of a new day. While still dark outside and room mates still zzzzing, I grabbed my jacket and trooped into the hotel's rooftop terrace as soon as I realized the sun will rise anytime soon. I always look forward to witnessing the sunrise whenever I'm in a new place. Although sometimes it will hide behind the clouds, as is the case, still I knew it's there. Thank you for the new day Bhaktapur! I'm totally delighted to have met you!
A new day in Bhaktapur, Nepal
At the rooftop terrace of Heart of Bhaktapur Guesthouse

Still more of my Bhaktapur accounts on the next post.

Related Stories :

Nov 17, 2014

NEPAL : Finding Beauty Amidst the Mess

The plane circled a few times, allowing me enough time to appreciate a marvelous bird's eye view of Nepal before it's final descent. The Himalayan range was covered with thick clouds and nowhere in sight but that didn't dampen my spirit. The mountainous landscape of mostly hues of green and terracotta from below is more than enough to overwhelm my senses. I'm not climbing Mt Everest, I wish I can, nevertheless, I knew it's going to be a unique experience exploring an epic destination usually reserved for extreme adventures.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal

Air Asia Nepal flight
The nerve-wracking landing is one proof that every activity you experience in Nepal is an adventure in itself.

As we hold on to our seats before the final stop, triumphant mood filled the room as if we conquered something big when the plane skillfully completed a successful touchdown.
 Air Asia Nepal flight
Seemed like everyone braced their arms against the seats during the landing ... we're safe!;)
I wonder, did I just ride Air Asia or entered a time capsule? It felt like I'm in a time warp. I felt giddy when my feet hit the grounds of Tribhuvan International Airport, could be from excitement or the thin air, that, I'm not sure. But maybe it's the anticipation of the very long queues we'll have to endure to formally enter Nepal. 
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
We followed the huge crowd walking towards the immigration. There were several long lines of foreigners queuing up to secure a Nepal Visa. I'm glad I did my homework and applied online for the Nepal Tourist Visa, it saved us the hassle of filling up the forms and attaching a passport size photo to it. Still, we have to line up and pay the 25 USD tourist visa fee.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
fill up the disembarkation card and the Nepal Tourist Visa application form before lining up
Waiting in queue took forever until we found something to entertain ourselves with. 

Cooky, look behind me, I whispered. 
"Ohlalaaaah!", he muffled, obviously excited with what he just saw. 
I think he's following us, I whispered again and then we laugh like thrilled teenagers kidding ourselves.
paying for Nepal Tourist Visa
And before we become delirious, it turned out the tall, model-like, mestizo looking guy was indeed following us, well, not exactly how we envisioned it, hahaha.  He's also a Filipino and he saw us holding the same passport among a huge crowd of different nationalities. We exchange pleasantries and learned that he's there to model and compete for an event called Nepalinked. He showed us a photo of the huge tattoo on his back which reminded me again, I need to get inked real soon and I feel having it in Nepal would add value to that tattoo. Too bad, I missed that once in lifetime chance, time was not on my side.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
here's where you need to muscle your way to the front of the baggage conveyor
Getting past the immigration was a relief and waiting for our checked-in baggage was more challenging than I thought. The influx of people of different looks and varying built, all wanting to get in front of the lone baggage conveyor is hard to get past at. You need some manly force to muscle your way to the front (I did!), otherwise it will take us forever waiting for that baggage to arrive. After almost an hour, we got out.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
Finally, a breath of strange air welcomed us, as we stepped out of the airport. The weather is cold and dry, the dust-like atmosphere filled the air and the chaos outside tripled in number, everyone is busy doing their own business while we seemed lost in another dimension.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
feeling lost in another dimension
Several guys approached us offering a taxi ride. I said yes readily to the first guy who agreed to 1000 rupees who will bring us to the doorstep of our guesthouse in Bhaktapur. We need a bigger taxi to accommodate the four of us including our baggage.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
our taxi ride
Seeing everything peculiar happening right before our eyes is overwhelming enough. I knew this is going to be one helluva ride. Brace ourselves, NEPAL it is! Love it or hate it. My choice led me to find beauty amidst the chaos and the mess. You'll find out more in my succeeding posts.

Nepal is madness, as is love.

Nov 4, 2014

Malaysia - Nepal Trip Itinerary 2014

This itinerary might help those planning to do the same route as ours; Malaysia and Nepal for a total of  9 days. I've itemized our expenses per pax based on a group of four for easy reference and budgeting ideas. For now, while I'm still gathering my senses after the trip, this will serve as a primer for my Malaysia and Nepal series. 
Asian Map


1RM =14 PhP

1 USD = 98 Nepal Rupee 1 USD = 45 PhP
Date Time
Activities Particulars Cost / Pax
Day 1 (Oct15) 4:00 AM Leave for NAIA T3 Airport Fees 49USD

10:25 AM ETA KUL (KLIA2)

11:25 AM Airport  to KL - Hotel drop off Star Shuttle RM15
2:00 PM Check In Hotel Orange Pekoe Guesthouse 38USD
2:30 PM Lunch
10:00 PM Jalan Alor / Dinner 15 RM
11:00 PM
Back to Hotel

Day 2 (Oct16) 7:00 AM Breakfast unlimited basic breakfast

8:00 AM
Leave for KL's Bus Central Terminal Bandar Tasik Selatan Terminal

9:00 AM
Leave for Melaka TBS Bus Terminal
11:00 AM ETA MELAKA Sentral Shuttle Bus Ride 1.50 RM
11:30 AM Lunch at the famed JONKER 88 Full packed diners 15 RM
12:30 PM
Walking Tour while raining / eating 15 RM
7:00 PM
Leave for Kuala Lumpur Taxi /TBS Bus Terminal/LRT 18.3 RM
9:00 PM
Dinner at Nagasaki Curry House near our guesthouse 18 RM
11:00 PM
Overnight Orange Pekoe

Day 3 (Oct 17) 7:00 AM Breakfast unlimited basic breakfast Free
8:00 AM Leave for Batu Caves KL Sentral /KTM Komuter Line-Last Stn-Batu Caves 8 RM
9:00 AM Explore Batu Caves

11:00 AM Lunch at KL Sentral LRT / Pepper Lunch 30 RM
12:00 PM Explore Mercato Supermarket Milk Coffee & Tea Tarik 80 RM
1:00 PM Merdeka Square Masjid Jamek Station
3:30 PM Central Market 25 RM
6:00 PM Bukit Bintang / Dinner Chicken Rice 15 RM
9:00 PM Back to Hotel

Day 4 (Oct 18) 7:00 AM Check Out/ Breakfast unlimited basic breakfast Free
8:00 AM KLIA2 Airport Terminal

11:50 AM ETD KUL

2:00 PM ETA Kathmandu Taxi to Bhaktapur 1000 NPR
3:00 PM
Check in Hotel Heart Of Bhaktapur Guesthouse 16.17 USD
4:00 PM
Explore Bhaktapur Entrance Fee : 1500 NPR
7:00 PM
Dinner Sunny Rooftop Cafe 320 NPR
10:00 PM
Overnite Bhaktapur

Day 5 (Oct 19) 8:00 AM
Breakfast nice breakfast :) Free
9:00 AM
Explore Bhaktapur more

Checkout / Lunch Cafe Nyatapola 350 NPR
1:00 PM
Taxi to Nagarkot/ Check In Hotel Peaceful Cottage & Cafe De Mont 72 USD
2:00 PM
Explore Nagarkot / Sunset View
4:00 PM
Merienda Peaceful Cottage & Cafe De Mont 230 NPR
10:00 PM
Overnight Nagarkot

Day 6 (Oct 20) 5:30 AM
Sunrise Viewing at the terrace of Peaceful Cottage with free coffee/tea
8:00 AM
Breakfast very nice breakfast with a superb view :)) Free
Lunch Peaceful Cottage & Cafe Du Mont 520 NPR
1:00 PM
Walk Around Nagarkot

5:00 PM
Sunset Viewing / Merienda
150 NPR
7:30 PM
Dinner Peaceful Cottage & Cafe De Mont 230 NPR
9:00 PM
Overnight Nagarkot

Day 7 (Oct 21) 7:00 AM*
Breakfast very nice breakfast with a superb view :)) Free
9:00 AM
Check out Nagarkot

10:00 AM
Early Check In Thamel HOTEL TAISHAN 4USD/dorm
1:00 PM
Walk to Kathmandu Durbar Square(750NPR) then hire a taxi to Swayambunath(200NPR), Pashupatinath(500NPR), Boudhanath (250NPR) - (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES)
2:00 PM
Explore Thamel

5:00 PM
Pasalubong Shopping
7,000 NPR
8:00 PM
Dinner /Socials Hotel Cafe Norling 390 NPR
10:00 PM
Overnight Thamel

Day 8 (Oct 22) 8:00 AM
Breakfast Big Belly Restaurant 300 NPR
10:00 AM
Prepare for Checkout

11:30 AM
Leave for Tribhuvan Int'l Airport Taxi Cost is 400 NPR 100 NPR
3:15 PM
Depart Kathmandu

10:15 PM
ETA KUL / Dinner
16 RM
12:00 AM
Sleepover at KLIA2 Airport while waiting for flight to MANILA

Day 9 (Oct 23) 8:00 AM
Breakfast at Popeye
26 RM
11:45 AM

3:00 PM
ETA Manila


2USD - 5 USD Average Cost of Meal in NEPAL

6 RM - 15 RM Average Cost of Meal in Malaysia

NEPAL VISA on Arrival - 25USD

Sep 16, 2014


Bali is well known to thousands of travellers due to the vast amount of varied experiences there. The landscape is truly a sight to behold, with black and white sand beaches, volcanic mountains and amazing tropical sunsets. Bali is pure paradise! You can get sporty by trying your hand at surfing, diving or biking, or simply relax as the sun goes down. Bali offers something to suit all tastes - you shouldn’t miss one of the traditional festivals that commonly take place in the region. Balinese people are famous for their hospitality, so you’ll be made to feel right at home. There’s only one thing that could make a place like this even better: somewhere amazing to stay!
Bali Sunrise
Photo Credit : Rachael Taft
For ultimate privacy, there’s nowhere quite like The Legian Beach House. Staying as a family or with friends it’s impossible not to enjoy ultimate privacy in this gorgeous setting. It’s set between a walled tropical garden that fronts a calming looking view over Seminyak Beach. Want breath-taking views of the Indian Ocean? This place is the perfect backdrop to your precious time together - you won’t find anything like it in the world!
Beach House Wedding
Photo Credit : Legian Bali Images-GHM Hotel

Depending on the break you want, you might spend your day relaxing next to the 16-metre infinity edge pool, surrounded by wooden sunbathing decks and day beds overlooking the turquoise sea. The Beach House d├ęcor blends seamlessly with the rest of the hotel, while at the same time keeping an air of its uniqueness. There’s open living and dining rooms, a gorgeous bedroom overlooking the ocean, with an en-suite bathroom containing the most relaxing bath you’re ever likely to see, ready for you after a long day enjoying the culture of Bali.
Photo Credit : Legian Bali Images-GHM Hotel
Whether you’re here for a wedding, a party to celebrate a big anniversary or birthday, The Beach House is the perfect place to accommodate up to 50 guests. You also get plenty of services, facilities and exclusive benefits with the booking of this one-of-a-kind beach house. A smart LED TV, iPod units, a Bose Lifestyle Entertainment system and 24 hour in-room dining are just some of the aspects you’ll enjoy here. With your own personal butler service, as well as a daily laundry service and cocktails between 6:00pm and 8:00pm this is without question one of the best and most luxurious hotels in Bali.

Aug 28, 2014

DAVAO : 10 Ways To Experience Davao in 3 Days

This was supposed to be a blog post about crossing out an item from my bucket list; food trip in Davao, however my gastronomic adventures during our 3 days stay in Davao City were limited to whatever we came across with while in a hurry to hop from one place to the other. Moreso, having a travel buddy whose taste bud is confined to familiar fast food items and anything unusual is considered strange, therefore not fit for his consumption, otherwise a frequent trip to the bathroom might foil our plans a bit further. Having said that, I tried to work around our limitations and still managed to inject some food adventures with subtle effort and enjoyed our first time in Davao.

Below, check out how our 3 days in Davao went. 

Related Story : My Bucket List

1.) Checked In at The MANOR

Arriving early, we hailed a taxi cab from the airport and headed to the city center where our accommodation is located. The Manor is a decent budget place, strategically located near places of interests and became our home base while exploring Davao. Once settled, we asked for directions from the reception and walked our way to our first stop, The People's Park.
The Manor Hotel and Restaurant, Davao City

2.) Leisurely Walk At The PEOPLE'S PARK

It's refreshing to see a clean and green park at the heart of a busy metro. A perfect spot to cool off while sitting or taking a short leisurely walk checking the thousand species of plants and trees that came from as far as Africa and South America and posing side by side with the life size sculptures of indigenous people of Mindanao made by the artist Kublai Millan.
People's Park, Davao City

3.) Overlooking Davao City From The JACK's RIDGE

After our stroll at the People's Park, we took a cab and headed straight to Jack's Ridge Resort and Restaurant to get the best view of the city while enjoying our dinner. It's located at the Shrine Hills, Matina and offers a stunning view of Davao City. Among the restos, we choose TAKLOBO for the nice setting of providing a superb view of the cityscape while having dinner. The seafood meal I ordered isn't something to rave about, but the awesome view from there more than make up for it. For our nightcap, you shouldn't miss Karlo's Gourmet and Coffee and try the different exotic flavors (durian, mangoosteen, marang, guyabano, langka) of their coffee and cakes. I had durian frappucino and I loved it.
Jack's Ridge, Davao City

4.) Day Trip To The Island Garden City of SAMAL

On our second day, we scheduled a tour of the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte to escape the busy metropolis and experience the countryside vibe. It's great that you can actually do that just less than an hour away from Davao City. How to get there is easy and cheap. We took a jeep bound for SASA Wharf (always ask the driver to drop you off to your destination) and then a 10 minute RORO ride for 10 pesos to reach the Island Garden City of Samal. From there, habal habal rides are waiting to bring you to your destination. Be sure to have agreed with your habal habal driver the price and the places you'll visit before proceeding on your journey.

RORO Ride to Island Garden City of Samal

5.) Motorbike Ride Around The City of Samal 

Riding a motorbike is an awesome way to go around the Island Garden City of Samal. Just hop in at the back of your driver, savor the fresh breeze and enjoy the scenery around. Traffic is almost nil and the major roads are well paved.
habal habal ride around Island Garden City of Samal
our habal habal driver and dispatcher on the left photo

6.) Tour of The Monfort BAT Sanctuary

This place holds the 2010 Guinness World Record for holding the largest colony (close to 2 Millions or more) of Old World Fruit Bat called Geoffroy's Rousettes. Entrance fee is 100 pesos for adults and 80 pesos for children/ senior citizens. It's an educational trip and an interesting one at that. There are five sinkhole caves in the 23 hectare protected area, each with a colony of fruit bats that you can view near the entrance. Interestingly, our guide Ana mentioned that the bats grouped themselves according to gender or age, and they will find their way to which cave they belong. These fruit bats are responsible for the abundance of durian trees around Davao and important to the general health and existence of their rainforest.
Monfort bat Sanctuary, Davao

7.) Day Tour Of SECDEA Beach Resort

After our Monfort Bat Tour, we decided to chill out at this new beach resort in SAMAL Island named Secdea Beach Resort per recommendation of our bike driver. A day tour costs 650 pesos per pax with consumable food. The property is huge, the facilities and amenities are quite impressive. Ongoing constructions were happening during our visit for their expansion. We lounged at the infinity pool, took a dip, marvel at the beautiful setting while indulging in our food. A day tour is definitely not enough to explore the place, but we had a lovely time during our short stint and definitely will consider going back for an overnight stay.
SECDEA Beach Resort, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

8.) Try Davao's Chicken Barbeque at PENONG's

Like the usual open air grilled restaurant, the place is packed with diners of all ages even during the late hour we ate there. I had a feeling that half of the diners that time were also first time visitors of Davao with the manner they hold their Penong's chicken while snapping selfie shots. Well, the taste is like the usual Chicken Inasal, price is very affordable and they have many branches around Davao City. It's worth a try for the experience. 
PENONG's Chicken Barbeque, Davao City

9.) Souvenir Shopping at ALDEVINCO

ALDEVINCO Shopping Center is the best place for souvenir shopping. They've been around since 1965 and you'll find here mostly products of Mindanaon heritage, like batik wears, tribal ornaments and accessories, musical instruments, ethnic fashion accessories, antique products, durian candies and etc. To get the best deal, try to scour the whole place for better prices. We were in a hurry to buy souvenir products and bought a lot of our stuff from the first shop we saw only to find out that other stores inside the complex are selling the same items at almost half the price.
ALDEVINCO Shopping Center, Davao City


Bangkerohan Public Market is just walking distance away from our accommodation. Our last hours in Davao were spent roaming around Bangkerohan and feasting on Davao's tropical fruits like mangosteen, marang, pomelo and of course durian. Everything is fresh and cheap. Some vendors also sell exotic fruit flavored candies and durian pies that you can bring home as pasalubong.
 Fruit Trip at Bangkerohan Market, Davao City

Above list is how we experienced Davao while on a limited time and limited budget. I'm sure there are several other ways to enjoy Davao and I will definitely figure that out, once I embark on a more extensive food trip, the next time I visit the place.

Aug 3, 2014

Mt PULAG : This Way To The Clouds

“I’ve got to find my way to the clouds”, that’s what I promised myself when I first learned how majestic the sea of clouds phenomenon looked like at the summit of Mt. Pulag. More than a decade passed, that goal remained an idea, owing to several excuses I usually tell myself when doubt and fear of the unknown set in. Until the opportune  time presents itself through a reader’s dare which involved great perks when fulfilled, hence saying “NO” would be very foolish.

Sea of Clouds at Mount Pulag
Dream fulfilled! The sea of clouds in all its splendor ;)

Mt. Pulag is the highest mountain in Luzon, 3rd highest in the Philippines, with an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level. How I made it successfully to the summit without much trouble, I owe it to the right attitude, having the appropriate tools, some physical preparation, and God’s provisions. There are four major trails up the summit, the Ambangeg, Akiki, Tawangan from Benguet and Ambaguio from Nueva Vizcaya. We did Ambangeg, the easiest trail suited for beginners.

Preparation / Tips

Ambangeg trail may be the easiest trail, but it’s not like any walk in the park as others put it. An uphill walk for more than a couple of hours to reach the base camp was no easy task. My friend almost gave up midway the climb, exhausted and was gasping for air most of the time. Obviously, he took my reminders lightly in preparation for this climb. First time climbers will benefit from the following pointers below before going to Mt. Pulag:
  • If you can climb some flights of stairs without any difficulty then you can handle the Ambangeg trail to Mt Pulag.  Just develop the endurance to do that activity for 3 to 4 hours.
  • For beginners like us, joining an organized and experienced tour group made our Mt Pulag climb hassle free and stress free. We joined Travel Factor and their Conquer Mt Pulag tour package costs 4,100 pesos inclusive of transportation, food and tent accommodation.
  • Wear the necessary climbing gears, bring the right tools and be sure to have the appropriate clothing to withstand extreme weather.
  • Develop the attitude of gratitude, a happy disposition and a sense of adventure.
  • Don’t underestimate the cold weather at the base camp and at the summit. You’ll be sorry if you did.
  • Finally, remember this quote :
“Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.” - Nemann Buhl

Getting to the Ranger station

The ranger station is located at Kabayan, Benguet. We left Manila on a Friday night on board a Byaheng Victory exclusively assigned for Travel Factor participants bound for Baguio. We arrived Baguio at past 4am and transferred to our designated jeep with our assigned  group leader. Our 1st stop was at the nearest restaurant to have breakfast. This meal is still on our account, the succeeding meals, however were handled by Travel Factor. Next stop is at the DENR office to register for the climb and to hear a short briefing about the DO’s and DON’T’s of climbing Mt. PULAG. We skipped the talk in hopes of arriving earlier at the ranger station to secure a better spot in preparation for the climb. After 3 hours of winding road travel and one  more stop to buy water, we reached the Ranger Station.
Register at DENR for Mt Pulag Hike

At the ranger station, porters are lined up waiting for their names to be called, but given the ample number of climbers during that weekend, I bet everyone got hired. Cleaning up and changing to suitable outfit for the climb was first in the agenda while here. This is the last stop where we still have access to a basic bathroom and a running water. Porter service is not included in the package, but hiring one for 500 pesos made my Mt Pulag climb easier.
Porter Station, Ranger Station, Mount Pulag
Porter Fee is 500 pesos for every 15 kilos of load

Trek to Camp 2

Travel Factor, Conquer Mt Pulag
with the Travel Factor tour leader, Ron
After our hearty lunch, we started the trek at past 11am. There were several local guides to lead the group and assigned sweepers to assure that all the participants will find their way regardless of how slow they ascend. Apparently, we’ve became close with the sweepers, well, to put it lightly, hehe! Thanks guys.

Interestingly, the real adventure began when we entered the seemingly never ending mossy forest trail. "Aren't we there yet?", we quipped, each time our friend, Cooky would show signs of wearing down. But he carried on amidst the difficulty, step by step until we reached Camp 2. We were fortunate enough, it didn’t rain that day, otherwise a muddy and slippery trail would’ve taken us a couple more hours to reach our camp.

The scenic views and the cool weather made the hike bearable and engaging. Stopping numerous times to snap selfie moments, take a breather and then amuse ourselves with how laughable our condition was.
Mossy Forest, Mt Pulag

Under these favorable weather conditions, our leisurely pace took us 4 hours to reach Camp 2.

Camp 2, Mt Pulag
our tent, 2nd one at the top in an inclined position
LATRINE - an outdoor toilet that has a hole dug in the ground
You should be done with No.1 and No.2 before dark sets in because the latrines are above up there and bring plenty of wet wipes and sanitizer to finish the deed.

After dinner was served, all I can think of was dozing off in preparation for the hike to the summit tomorrow before dawn, but that alone proved to be a challenge. Lying down steadily at our inclined tent made sleeping difficult and despite wearing several layers of clothing and a sleeping bag the cold still seeped through the skin. A throbbing headache and an acid reflux made the feeling worse. I only felt better after throwing up and afterwards managed to sleep for 2 hours until we heard the wake up call to be ready in 30 minutes.

Trek To The SUMMIT

Armed with headlights, trekking poles, bonnets, gloves, thermal wear and wind breakers, we headed to the trail, mindful of our every step. The weather was perfect, the moon guided our trail and the lights coming from every hiker helped lead our way to the summit. 
Mt Pulag Trek to the Summit

After almost 2 hours, we reached our goal just before sunrise. And boy, you have no idea how elated we all felt upon reaching the summit. The rewarding experience was more than worth all the difficulties we endured.
Mt Pulag Summit
Summit, Mt Pulag
Mt Pulag Summit /2,922 meters above sea level
Thank you Mr. Patrick Paguyo for providing the way to make this adventure happen ;).

Sea of Clouds, Mt Pulag
The sometimes elusive sea of clouds phenomenon showed up in all its grandeur. Thank you God for allowing us to access your playground. :)

Grassland, Mt Pulag
Grassland, Mt Pulag
The magnificent view of the grassland unfolds as we trekked down from the summit. This was not evident during our hike to the peak and little did we realize the possible danger of losing your balance while navigating the narrow trail at night.

Camp 2, Mt Pulag
after breaking camp and heading down
"Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time."
Ranger Station, Mt Pulag
Finally back at the ranger station with our constant company, the guides/sweepers

Set the settings to HD for better viewing. This is how we found our way to the clouds. Catch our journey to Mt Pulag in action here in this video.

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