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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