Puerto Galera: Boracay near Manila

I was going through some pictures and I found these – three years and 25 pounds ago, we went to Puerto Galera. Puerto Galera is this small town in the island of Mindoro, Philippines. It is known for its dive sites and beaches. Puerto Galera, to me, is somewhat the mini Boracay near Manila. I’ve been here a few times, but this is the only trip I could remember. So I thought I’d write about it.

Puerto Galera is this small town in the island of Mindoro, Philippines. It is known for its dive sites and beaches. Puerto Galera, to me, is somewhat the mini Boracay near Manila. If you’ve heard or been to Boracay, you know how nice it is – white sand beach, hotels, parties all night – it’s the same thing. The only difference is, it’s near Manila and the sand is not as fine as Boracay. I love Puerto Galera! It’s easy to get to, and you can just take a day trip if you want.

First things first! Getting to Puerto Galera from Manila is really easy. It takes three hours, tops!

  1. From Manila, you can ride a bus to Batangas Pier. We always take the bus from JAC Liner terminal in Gil Puyat, Pasay, because it’s easier to get to. The Gil Puyat LRT station is right there, and buses pass by there too. From Manila to Batangas Port, it would take you 2 hours tops, with moderate traffic. The bus ticket cost around PHP 200 ($4) per trip.
  2. When you get to Batangas Port, you can get a ticket for the boat. If you’re going to White Beach, you can take the boat to Balatero. If you’re going to Sabang Beach, you can take the boat going to Muelle. You can choose to get one way ticket or roundtrip, but it’s always cheaper to get the roundtrip ticket – it cost around PHP 550.00. The boat ride is 30-45 minutes. The first trip from Manila is at 6am, and the last trip from Puerto Galera is around 3pm. If you’re as crazy as me and this is a day trip for you, then you should ask the boat people as soon as you dock, what time is their last trip and what is the boarding time.
  3. The boat will take you directly to the beaches. When you get there, you need to pay some fees such as environmental fees, terminal fees, etc. It’s been a long time so I don’t really remember how much those are. But it’s around PHP 25 – 125 ($0.50 – $2.50). Most of the Philippines Islands have these fees, especially if it’s a tourist area.

We stayed at Gina’s Hideaway, a place we found on AirBnB. The place had two bedrooms, it comes with Wi-Fi, and it’s a good size. There were four of us that time, so split into four, the price was not that bad per night. They kept the place really clean too, and the host, ate Gina, was really nice and approachable. She really made sure that we did not get lost getting to her place.

Maybe my only concern about this place was, it was a little too far from White Beach, where the happenings are. But ate Gina was kind enough to reserve her tricycle for us. We pay them around PHP 50-80 (it was 20 minutes away) per trip, and they are on-call, if we ever want to get picked up anywhere in the island, they will be there. We have our own Uber-trike! LOL. Also, that time, the signal for the Wi-Fi wasn’t that good inside the house. But we didn’t mind chillin’ by the porch at night – fresh air, quiet night, not gonna complain.

On our first day, we just had lunch by the beach and took some photos. We also did some groceries because it was quite hard to get to the airbnb. I mean, we’re already at the beach, so let’s just make the most of it!

On our second day, we did a little island hopping. Almost every [tourist] beach in the Philippines has island hopping activities. Aside from, of course, island hopping, they usually include snorkeling or diving, and sometimes cave excursions. This had snorkeling and cave excursions. For Island Hopping, they usually cost PHP 1,500 – 2500. This one is the same amount. Normally, PHP 1500 is mainly for renting the boat exclusively for your group. Sometimes they add PHP 100 per person, for the snorkeling gears.

I am not really into snorkeling, but Raine paid for it so I had to do it! Normally, the boat would just stop in the middle of the water for 30 minutes and let you swim around. But then our boat men told us to hold on to the boat handles (?) and they drove around the area. It was way more easier than swimming by yourself. This time I actually enjoyed snorkeling.

After snorkeling, they took us to a cave.

Last stop is at a small island nearby the cave. Of course, more photoshoots happened!

After a long day of touring, we had dinner by the beach. There’s a strip of restaurants and bars by the White Beach. We opted to do some barbecue and fresh fruit shake take outs and eat them by the picnic tables.

After dinner we tried the famous Mindoro Sling! It’s Mindoro’s signature drink. It has Tanduay Rum as its alcohol base, and then some juices. It wasn’t that amazing for me, but it was definitely strong! There are also some night performances happening such as fire dances. If you walk by the shore, you can also have some massages.

This trip happened three years and 25 pounds ago, when I was regularly going to the gym with these ladies. They’ve been my inspiration and also health compass when I was going through a lot that year. I badly miss the Philippines, and I do hope I get to visit these places again. Or maybe find somewhere like this.

Upstate New York Adventure: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. For the second part of our mini honeymoon, we drove up to Niagara Falls! 🙂

Can I just say — I googled Niagara Falls and these are new knowledge for me. LOL, let me share with you: Niagara Falls is a city (apparently lol) in Niagara County, New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was recognized as the oldest state park in the United States. The falls are shared with Canada. You can literally see Canada on the other side of the river. Niagara Falls has 3 waterfalls – the Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and a portion of Horseshoe falls.

Following our Green Lakes Park trip, we went further up to see the famous Niagara Falls! It is 7 hours away from New York City and around 4 hours away from Syracuse. After we checked out from the hotel at Syracuse, we drove up and arrived at Niagara Falls around 2pm. We decided to book a room at the Sheraton Niagara Falls. Going back a week before we left home, I was browsing through Groupon travel promos and I found a good deal for $70/night at Sheraton Niagara Falls. But then, Gerald saw a certain room that he liked so we decided to book that instead. We also had a special rate from Marriot Bonvoy, Marriot’s loyalty program, since we registered for it.

So we parked our car at the hotel’s parking lot. It cost around $20 per day. And since we were too early for the 4pm check-in time, we decided to take a stroll around Niagara Falls State Park. It was a ten-minute walk from the hotel.

We explored the park for two hours, did the trails and saw some views. Gerald wanted to take me down the river but we were worried that all the attractions might not be open during that time — but luckily, the boats’ operations went back on three days before we arrived! You have no idea how happy I was! I thought it would be a waste to travel seven hours and not see everything. So anyway — We immediately bought our tickets for Maid of the Mist Boat Tour for the next day. They have trips from 9:00am to 5:00pm. It was easy getting the tickets too! You just log on to their site and purchase the tickets.

the two hour stroll made us really hungry, exhausted and thirsty. We walked to find a place to eat and sit. We found this Chinese Restaurant called Royal Dragon by Rainbow Boulevard. It was the best Chinese food I have ever tasted. We had the Chicken Fried Rice – it was tasty, not too oily, a really good amount of serving for I think $12, we wished we just shared the meal. Also, the service was really good and they served the food really fast. Up until today, Gerald cannot forget about that place. I really hope they open a branch in the city.

Anyway, it was already 4:30pm and the hotel haven’t called us yet. The check in was supposed to be 4:00pm. We didn’t really mind since they said they are thoroughly sanitizing the place. We headed back anyway, and we were just in time! We were just happy to finally be able to lay down and rest — oh and by the way, we booked the Spa Suite so we were excited to see that too. To our surprise, our room was absolutely… just wow! —

I really thought it was expensive to be paying almost $200 per night, but Gerald was okay with it. He said it’s cheap to have a room like this. It’s just sad that I cannot have my breakfast buffet or room service, still! Originally, when you book this room, you’ll have access to the exclusive Club Lounge, daily breakfast and happy hour, as well as HydroSpa with VIP treatment for personalized experience. We just enjoyed the night together watching episodes of #90DayFiance with wine! It was the perfect first day in Niagara Falls.

As soon as we woke up, at 11am, we prepared for Niagara Falls! The hotel restaurant was closed, so we just went to Starbucks, which was down at the lobby connected to the hotel, and had coffee and some bacon and eggs sandwich. Oh, so if you want to go down the river and closer to the falls, please remember the following

1.You will be wet. The falls’ mist will get you wet, like it’s a shower. We didn’t really know what to wear, if there is anything proper to wear. So we just opted to wear shorts, shirt and sneakers. Maid of the Mist will give you disposal raincoats anyway, so you’ll be fine.

2. Wear your mask, and observe protocols. For the pandemic, at least. It was quite hard to wear masks and have them wet when we are on the boat. Take them out to take photos, then breathe. It was a little bit challenging, and I was super scared to drop my mask. LOL. Avoid staying on the edge and always watch your step. It gets a little bit slippery and the boat rails are safe enough to keep you on the boat, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.

3. Maybe a good tip to stay at the back of the boat so see the Horseshoe falls fully. People are going to crowd in all sides of the boat but if there are two of you, stand your ground. The boat is going to turn around going back anyway, so you’ll see everything twice. As for me, I was just speechless and mesmerized, so I didn’t get to take really good pictures. I did take good videos though.

4. Stay for the viewing deck. After the tour, you will be led to the viewing deck to get a better view of the falls and the whole park. We had to stay for another 5 minutes because it was just so beautiful for me, I wanted to look at the view one more time.

So that’s it! We just went back to the hotel after that. Oh, by the way, that time, the restaurants upstate had indoor dining. But they were by reservations only. We ordered food at The Hard Rock Cafe but since they only take reservations and not walk-in, we cannot stay. I was looking forward to dining in an actual restaurant. But oh well, so we just did take-out. Since I was sad about Hard Rock, Gerald and I had some drinks at The Rainforest Cafe. They had some food too but Gerald wanted Hard Rock food. The next day was our check out day. We just had to go back to Royal Dragon for food on the road.

Maybe this is, to this day, the best place I went to since I came to New York. Maybe next time I can cross the borders! Hoping that will be soon.

Upstate New York Adventure: Green Lakes Park & The Craftsmann Inn

Drove upstate for our little honeymoon last summer. A little R&R at The Craftsmann Inn and Green Lakes State Park.

The first half of 2020 has been really hard for all of us and the pandemic has driven us crazy at some point. So since we are newly weds (kind of), and it’s summer, we decided to take a road trip upstate New York. It was kind of hard looking for a place to go since you have to really check and call establishments to be sure that they are open. After two weeks of researching, we’ve settled on two places – Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse, and Niagara Falls in Buffalo.

Gerald has always wanted to take me to Green Lakes State Park. He saw these photos online when we first started dating, and we planned to go when I was supposed to visit last year (2019), but since I was not able to go back to USA that time. Anyways, Green Lakes is known for its two lakes and man-made beach. It’s perfect for a quiet morning jog because you can just pick your trail. It’s up north, a little over four hours away from NYC. And yes, the lakes were green.

So the struggle of trying to find a hotel is another thing, also we are a bit picky with hotels. For me, I have been to the worst hotels back home but I am not taking the risk during this pandemic. Well, we are already taking a big risk traveling. Gerald is a bit picky when it comes to hotels too. Luckily, I found this hotel 15 minutes away from Green Lakes – The Craftsmann Inn. I am so glad I did and here is why —

They have kind staff. Everyone working in the hotel were very nice. They were always smiling and genuinely happy to assist you. Before getting there, I called them and asked for their protocols and what are the inclusions (LOL, I really want to have that breakfast buffet! It’s why I go to hotels!) – that time unfortunately, they do not serve breakfast. They do, however, give some yogurt cups and unlimited water.

They upgraded us to Signature Suites. I tried booking them on Expedia. That time, their rate was $125. It’s a decent rate for Standard Room, right? I was excited to go because their website had really good pictures, and it had a 3D Virtual Tour thing. I know, I’m like a kid lol. When we got there, they upgraded us to their Signature Suite since I mentioned we are on our honeymoon.

The room had one bedroom. Which was small, but I mean, you’re just sleeping. I love the big windows! There’s a living room and a mini kitchen. I didn’t take a picture of the bathroom, but it was a good size. Overall it was very clean, and cozy, and we had a comfortable stay. The room comes with complimentary coffee, that you can make using their coffee maker. And of course, water.

Their restaurant food and service are the best! Craftsmann Wood Grille & Tap House is the restaurant located right in front of the hotel. That time, we had to do reservations because they had limited capacity. So, the front desk told the restaurant that we are newly weds, so they gave us complimentary wine. They gave us the Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero, topped with a slice of strawberry.

Their food is also amazing! For starters, I had the Craftsmann Salad – heirloom tomatoes, baby cucumbers, pickled red onion, carrot, radish,
wood roasted shallot vinaigrette. And then for my main, I had the Grilled Salmon Fillet. It was topped with fire roasted pepper sauce and some crispy onions. Gerald had steak, the man loves steak! He had the Flat Iron Steak, with fries on the side. They had pretty big servings (hello, I’m Asian! LOL) but we destroyed this!

After that night, we were so tired but we decided to go to Green Lakes Park early because we have to drive to Niagara Falls after that. We wanted to go super early, but the park opens at around 8 in the morning. But, LOL, we just slept until 8am and got ready. It was drizzling a little that time, but we didn’t really care. We arrived at the park around 9am. There was parking right outside. You have to pay around $8, and you’re good for the day. I mean, not sure but we did stay until 10:30am.

Since everything was closed, there was nothing much to do but to walk, or jog, and take pictures and just enjoy the nature. I was fine with it. I was just so happy to be outside, somewhere not inside our room, and just to be able to smell the fresh air!! The park had two lakes, as I mentioned. Those lakes total to I think 2-mile trail around it. You can find the map here. We just walked around it, that’s the only thing to do.

If it was a normal day, there are a lot of activities to do at the park like Beach/Swimming, you can rent a boat, camping, there were also barbecue grills there. There’s also a golf course nearby. You can find all the list of activities and rates here.

Over all, I think Syracuse is such a nice place upstate. It was quiet, and people were very nice! There is not much happening there but at least you get to relax! I love upstate! I hope you guys will consider visiting the Green Lakes State Park, and stay at The Craftsmann Inn. I mean, this is not a sponsored post but we had a really good time! 🙂

Badian Canyoneering and Whale Shark Watching

The reason we went to Cebu is because he wanted to see and swim with the Whale Sharks. Since we are already in Cebu, we also wanted to try the Canyoneering. This one I wanted to try before but it was closed due to some accidents back then. We booked this activity through Klook. Click here to see the exact booking package.

Okay, you all should know by now that I really suck at planning trips. This is the only thing that we did not do DIY and Gerald was the one who planned this, so it went really well.

The reason we went to Cebu is because he wanted to see and swim with the Whale Sharks. Since we are already in Cebu, we also wanted to try the Canyoneering. This one I wanted to try before but it was closed due to some accidents back then. We booked this activity through Klook. Click here to see the exact booking package.

Swimming with the Whale Sharks

Oslob, where the Whale Sharks are, is in South of Cebu. It is four hours away from the city. Swimming with the whale sharks is very time sensitive since they only come out to play during the morning between 6am-9am. So we had to leave the hotel around 3am to be able to make it to 7am.

When we got to the place, there was some briefing. You are not allowed to touch the whale shark; in fact, you are not allowed to be near them for less than a meter. You can only take a picture with them and admire them. If you touch them accidentally, the panic and that causes the water to have big waves. So be careful.

I didn’t want to go down the water because I was scared and this is already my second time. The first time I was there, I guess one of my friends touched the whale shark and it panicked and flipped our boat accidentally. But I had to be a stage girlfriend, lol. I wanted to really get good shots for this moment because he waited a long time for this encounter. So cute. Gerald got a few good shots.

The duration of the encounter with the whale sharks is just 30 minutes. They take you in a small boat; let you swim freely for 30 minutes. Don’t worry, they provide life jackets, snorkeling gears, shoes and the manongs in the boat are very attentive and will be watching over his sakays.

After the encounter, you can rinse yourself. It’s your choice if you want to wash up fully or just rinse. We just rinsed ourselves because we were still going to do Canyoneering. Oh, our package included breakfast after the activity. If you’re doing it DIY, there are actually some stores/restaurants that sell breakfast meals. It’s quite a lot of 200 pesos. Also, they have WI-FI.

Badian Canyoneering

After breakfast, we headed straight to Badian. It’s like two hours from Oslob. We woke up pretty early so we were out the whole ride. The tour guide only woke us up. It was around 10 or 11 in the morning, I think.

Upon arrival, they will give you the gears that you will need – helmets, life vests, and DIY safety gears for your cameras. They tied ours to an empty water bottle. They will take you to the briefing area. Canyoneering is more like a free fall into the waterfalls, rivers, so it’s pretty dangerous. You need to listen to the tour guide and really follow instructions.

After the briefing, some kuyas will take you on a motorcycle ride going to the start of the trail. You have the choice if you want to do the shortcut – a two kilometer zipline and 10 minute walk to the first fall, or you can do the long way – 45 minute trekking. Of course, I wanted to trek! I have severe fear of heights. You’ll see.

So we did the trekking and reached the first jump. It’s like a 6 feet stone, then there’s a lower level, which is around 3 feet. I couldn’t jump the five feet one so the tour guide suggested I go from the lower one. This happened. Gerald couldn’t stop laughing. I’m such a pussy, I know.

The jumps get higher as you go further. We had our own tour guide and he was only taking care of us. He is very nice and he really made sure the two of us were taken cared of. We really listened to his instructions. By the way, wearing the helmet and life vests were a must! They are included in the Klook package too. Well, they are required throughout the tour.

I stopped jumping after the first one, haha! I actually bumped my head because the current was super strong and it pulled me. I fell on a rock and slipped and bumped my head. Good thing our tour guide was quick to hold me. There were also slides which I really enjoyed because they were short and low ones.

The highest jump, you really gotta be careful because there’s like just a very small step and you have to jump really far so you won’t hit any rocks. There were those jumps where you have to run first, as a head start.

Look at my brave baby! He has a fear of heights too, according to him! But he overcame all those that day! 🙂 I am so proud! After the highest waterfall jump, you’re going to take a twenty minute walk to the end of the trek. Everyone can swim and relax there. There is also an eating area. Please, please if you ever come here and eat at the end of the tour, please dispose your trash properly!

So the trip last for three almost four hours. They give us time to shower, clean up and eat. The food was good – there was soup, chicken and rice. After that, our tour guide dropped us off at our hotel. This concludes our trip to Cebu.

Top of Cebu & Rico’s Lechon

After the trip to Bantayan Island, we rushed to the city because we arranged a little tour with kuya Jeremy.

After the trip to Bantayan Island, we rushed to the city because we arranged a little tour with kuya Jeremy. Kuya Jeremy is a Grab Driver who drove us from the airport to the hotel the night we arrived. We kept his contact just in case we needed a ride during our stay. He is actually very nice and decent. Since we arrived in the city around 5pm, the tourist attractions that he lined up for us were already closed. I had kuya Jeremy meet us at the bus stop. He waited for two hours since our trip met a lot of traffic. He offered to take us to Rico’s Lechon and Top of Cebu, just so the trip would not be wasted.

Rico’s Lechon

Gerald wanted to try the legit lechon since I told him Cebu is the home of Philippines’ best lechon. Well, to me at least. So he wanted to try it. Also, he wanted to compare their Spanish version called Pernil.

He had lechon during his first time in Manila and he loved it. You know what, after that very long trip, we were totally out in the car so I don’t really know where kuya Jeremy took us to get Rico’s.

We ordered lechon (not the spicy one but I’ve had the spicy one and I love it), chicken skin, and some seafood. I was kind of disappointed because the lechon was not that crispy. I remember, four years ago, we went to Rico’s and it was crispy. It was still good because I was slowly dying of hunger. Okay, sorry we don’t have photos of the food because we were so hungry!

Top of Cebu

Top of Cebu is like the Baguio of Cebu. It’s up in the mountains. They have restaurants there where you can enjoy the view of the entire Cebu City while having a meal. We didn’t really go to the restaurant since we went to Rico’s Lechon first. There were also small stalls of snacks and some stone tables where you can actually chill if you want to.

We ended the day after that. It was such a long day. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to keep kuya Jeremy’s number. But I’ll find it in my old phone and post it here. But in case you’re wondering, we paid him PHP 3,000.00 originally it was for the whole day, but even though we only had him for 3 hours, we still paid him in full. He offered to be our on call driver for the entire trip anyway.

Bantayan Island, Cebu

I’ve always wanted to go to Bantayan Island since I saw Camp Sawi. So when Gerald visited Asia, we took a 6-hour bus ride to check one thing off my travel bucketlist!

This is almost a year delayed in posting, I’m so sorry. I’m still writing because this might be useful to some of you guys. Okay, I am not really a travel blogger so I will make this short, simple and as helpful as it can be.

Gerald went to visit me in the Philippines last October. Of course, he stayed in Manila while I work. But we planned the whole two weeks – our first stop in his trip is Bantayan Island in Cebu. I have always wanted to go to Bantayan Island and have been planning to go several times and for some reason, it is always getting postponed. Since Cebu is on our itinerary, Gerald insisted that we go to Bantayan Island. To be honest, I kind of regret it for the main reason that it was a lot of travel time, and we only had three days in Cebu. It was not a smart move but he still enjoyed it so it’s still worth it, I guess. So tip, do not do land travel if you’re only going to this place for three days. Bantayan Island is in North of Cebu and it is 6 hours away.

How to get to Bantayan Island:

  • Go to North Bus Terminal. You can either take a cab or a jeepney. We were staying in Lapu-Lapu City, so we opted to take a cab.
  • Next, you need to ride a bus going to Hagnaya Port. It would take around 4-5 hours travel time going to Hagnaya Port. So it would be best if you go early.
  • Go down at Hagnaya Port and take a ferry going to Santa Fe. The Ferry trip usually takes an hour to 1.5 hours, but since we came late and it was raining, the boat had to go slow so it took us two hours.
  • When you dock at the Santa Fe Port, you can take a tricycle going to your hotel. We booked our hotel and transfer ahead of time.

We stayed at Camp Sawi – or Kota Beach Resort. We took the standard room so there was no television (though I don’t think there is a television in their rooms anyway). I think it’s fine because people would be out all day anyway. The room came with complimentary water for two and an umbrella (which came in very handy because it was raining when we arrived).

We had to transfer rooms because the roof in this one was leaking. It was kind of hard because there was no reception after 7pm, so the guards had to wait for the decision and all that, if we can transfer. They were kind enough to assist us. They transferred us to a room for three since it was the only vacancy. Photos from the resort website.

It rained all night so I was kind of anxious if our trip was really wasted. Good thing we were blessed with good weather the next day. We had free breakfast at the Kadlawon Restobar. Photos from the resort website.

So, our day tour went like this:

1. We had breakfast around 7 in the morning. I can get used to morning like this! The restaurant was right beside the beach and you can see and hear the sea, feel the fresh air. They also have a pool table right outside the restaurant – you know, to chill with your friends at night. Anyway, they had a number of breakfast sets; the traditional Filipino -silog breakfast sets, or the American bacon, eggs and toasts; all of them came with fruits and juice. Photos from the website.

2. We booked an island tour. It cost us PHP 1,500 plus tips. We went snorkeling – Gerald did not really like it. I for one am not a fan of snorkeling because I am scared of what’s under the sea. Haha!

3. We went to the Virgin Island. This is a small island about 30 minutes from the main Bantayan Island. And we had to pay PHP 500/2 heads then I think extra PHP 100/head.

If you ask me, it wasn’t really a virgin island. It has pretty decorations. There were some accommodations in the island. Our tour guide said that each cottage cost around PHP 3,000 for 24 hours. The electricity is only on for a certain number of hours.

According to the tour guide, there were cliffs where we can jump, but we chose not too. We’re saving the cliff diving for Canyoneering.

This cliff was one of the locations for the movie, Camp Sawi. You can actually jump off at some part of this. We chose not to.

We went to swim for like fifteen minutes, just so Gerald can experience the water. He loved it. He said it’s just right for swimming. We wanted to stay a little more but we don’t have much time.

4. Before leaving Bantayan Island, we went to visit The Ruins. To be honest, I expected it to be a little cleaner – Production Design really does Magic!

We had to hurry back to the city because we wanted to have a little tour if we still can. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for that. We went to the Top of Cebu and tried the infamous Rico’s Lechon!

Poblacion: Manila’s own Williamsburg

Poblacion has always been my comfort zone since I kind of grew up there. My school from pre-school to high school was there, right next to a church and several strip clubs down the block, LOL. Overtime, it evolved into a party and artsy area, so it was a very convenient place to go to since it’s also close to home. Whenever I want to just chill, or have a wild night, I would just go to Poblacion. If you’re visiting Manila and looking to have a little night life fun, do drop by Poblacion.

Poblacion has always been my comfort zone since I kind of grew up there. My school from pre-school to high school was there, right next to a church and several strip clubs down the block, LOL. Overtime, it evolved into a party and artsy area, so it was a very convenient place to go to since it’s also close to home. Whenever I want to just chill, or have a wild night, I would just go to Poblacion. If you’re visiting Manila and looking to have a little night life fun, do drop by Poblacion.

Dulo is this artsy space located in P. Guazon Street. I loved going there because it was pretty chill and away from all the clubs in Poblacion, the drinks were really good. During the day, they serve coffee and food, night time is for bar chows and cocktails. Their Pork Belly Bao was amazing! I kind of forgot the name of my favorite drink there – but this I say – their sake sour was good but kind of a traitor.. you’ll see! They often hold events in there too – art exhibits, wellness yoga or RuPaul viewing parties, it could also be private events!

Across Dulo, when you open the red metal door, you’ll enter the handcrafted cocktail heaven – Run Rabbit Run! It’s a lot smaller than Dulo so it gets a little too crowded sometimes. I love going there because of the drinks plus the bartenders let me shake the Cocktail Shaker (LOL!). My favorite drink was Off With Their Heads, one of their signature cocktails. To be honest, when we order drinks, we just say Surprise me! – the bartenders never fail!

Run Rabbit Run | P Guanzon Street

So my used-to-go-to place was Poblacion Ruins – it’s an old house turned art gallery. There is something about it that feels like home for me. I know, it’s weird. Probably the smell of old wood, the sound that wooden floors make, and the capiz windows remind me of my great-grandmother’s house. They have been closed before I left Manila. I guess they only open for events or if there are exhibits.

I remember there was this small window right next to Ruins where we order Spicy Mango Rum or Calamansi Vodka – and they were the best most affordable cocktails in Poblacion! Wait! They were a part of The Workshop – a small boutique and retail shop for unique local made products – before that small-window-mini-bar moved to Annex House, a restored post-war Filipino house turned bar and club featuring great unique music, sometimes art exhibits, good food, a good time and most especially — Spicy Mango Rum!

If you’re looking for some good wine, you can check-out Dr. Wine Manila or the rooftop bar in the same building – Kartel. Wine, cocktail, quiet time to catch-up or date, plus a good Sunset view while enjoying the Happy Hour at Kartel. They are our go-to place for mid-week Fake Fridays or anti-stress quick dinner breaks.

Let’s not forget the famous Z Hostel which is not only a hostel but also everyone’s go-to rooftop bar for some good music, dancing and socializing. I’m not really a fan of Z Hostel but all the times I’ve been there, I met a lot of new people. And while we’re on the topic of hostels – Lub’d also offers good accommodation plus they have a co-working space where you can entertain your guests if you’re staying there, mingle with other hotel guests, play pool, drink beer or eat some sandwiches.

Perfect me-time place for me was Antidote, the rooftop bar of I’M Hotel. I used to love going there, have a glass of Mr. DOMango (sometimes the bartender’s surprise me drink, whatever it was) and just enjoy the view – 360 degrees view of Metro Manila from the 40th floor. Oh! They also have well-lit jellyfish aquariums! Just had to mention it because they look cool, lol. Another thing about Antidote is that they have the nicest restroom I have ever since. You know those airbnb photos with tubs beside a huge window with a nice view – well, they have their own version except that it’s a toilet plus this view!

View from Antidote Roofdeck Bar | I’M Hotel

Poblacion is a whole lot more than parties and bars. It has art, culture, good food and history. Whenever I go to Williamsburg, I remember Poblacion and all the good times we’ve had there. People can probably say it’s nothing compared to Williamsburg – sure! But if asked where to go for a nightlife, I would say Poblacion. It’s my place to be. It’s just sad that since Pandemic struck, some of our favorite places had to close their doors forever. I do hope that they can come open again after recovering. I’ll just be here dreaming about Manila, ’til I get to visit again.

If you’re visiting Manila, send me a message and I’d be happy to give you recommendations on places to go.

How we survived a spontaneous trip to the beach

To those of you who know me can agree that I suck at planning anything. I spoil my own surprises and I don’t have a fixed plan on a Friday night. I am a very impulsive and spontaneous person – and that makes my life more fun and entertaining, even for me. Here’s what you need to know and what I need to remind myself whenever I go on a spontaneous trip again.

San Juan, La Union | 2018

To those of you who know me can agree that I suck at planning anything. I spoil my own surprises and I don’t have a fixed plan on a Friday night. I am a very impulsive and spontaneous person – and that makes my life more fun and entertaining, even for me.

So, there was a long weekend where I didn’t really know what to do with my life and I have just been stressed at work. I asked my friend Eric if he wanted to go to La Union with me. It started as a joke (Sorry E, but it was half-meant!), but then we ended up going. That long weekend was one of the busiest summer weekend in the Philippines so all the beaches are packed and hotels nearby were booked. We didn’t have a plan – we just looked for the bus trip schedule, packed our bags, met up and went on our way.

Here’s what you need to know and what I need to remind myself whenever I go on a spontaneous trip again.

Research about bus trips

Okay, so we did research about what time the buses will leave Manila. From Manila to San Juan, La Union, you can take the Partas bus going straight to San Fernando, La Union. But we took the Laoag bus (if I remember correctly, it’s going to Ilocos) and told the conductor to drop us off at Sebay, right in front of the beach area. The trip would take about 4-6 hours, depending on the traffic. My research ended there! LOL.

Anyway, so when we decided to go home at 2 o’clock the next day, we didn’t really know how to. It was 2 in the morning, and the first trip of the bus would be a little bit later than that, and we would have to travel from San Juan to San Fernando – where the bus terminal is located – and it was a twenty-minute trike ride. We had another choice, which is to wait for a bus – coming from Ilocos and it may or may not be full of passengers – just outside the beach area. It took us an hour of waiting before we got on a bus.

Check for possible hotel accommodations

We arrived at 2 o’clock in the morning. I kind of overestimated the travel time. We left Manila at 10pm and we arrived in LU around 3. It took us shorter than 6 hours, obviously. Before we left, I told Eric we can just sit by the beach and have beer while we wait for the sunset, we’re probably gonna arrive at 4. But no we did not.

Upon arriving, we tried to look for a nearby hotel where we can check-in. There wasn’t really a good phone reception for internet, so we can’t search and book online. Plus, it was 3 in the morning, so we were not really expecting to find anything. So we just decided to go with the plan of taking some beer by the beach. Also, since it was 3am, most of the stores were closed and we had to take a tricycle to the nearest 7Eleven.

We found an accommodation and it was a 20-minute walk from the beach.
We had to walk back because kuya driver was not replying to us by 6am. Guess he fell asleep.

Oh! And funny story

Do not be afraid to ask around

So we got our booze and headed back to the tricycle (by the way, in provinces, you can ask the trike drivers to wait for you or make a contract to be your service for the next two days, it’s fine with them) and we just randomly asked kuya driver if he knew some hotels or maybe someone renting a room in their house – which is common too, in some places – and coincidently, he has a spare room that he just renovated and was renting for tourists. I lost his number, unfortunately. But it was clean and comfortable, and we had our own bathroom.

This was actually the start of my friendship with Eric, and I was kindda thinking he would freak out but he was fine with it. LOL, so okay. I got super shy though, so I had to ask my friends if some of them were in the area and are willing to adopt us – and luckily, some of my college org-mates were also there. So they adopted us for the rest of the trip.

Have enough cash with you

I don’t really bring that much cash usually because I got used to paying using my debit card. It was also easier that way since I don’t like bringing wallets so sometimes I drop cash. I know, I’m clumsy like that! But if you’re in the province, most of the establishments unless they are hotels, they only accept cash. So be sure to bring enough cash with you. By the end of the trip, I only had enough to buy a bus ticket home and I didn’t even have enough to pay for my Grab going home.

Yes, he found a twenty-peso bill in the water. LOL

Pack light but not not too light

Yes, it’s a spontaneous trip and nothing was planned at all except for the place that we wanted to go. Since it was the beach, we packed for a beach trip, yes. But there were one or two things that we brought that we did not need to bring, and things that we did not bring but we absolutely need.

One, we brought our laptops. Because, we’re workaholics. I know, it’s weird. Next, I did not bring my sunscreen. I don’t really get sunburns so it doesn’t really bother me at all. And Eric forgot his slippers. He can lend me his sunscreen, but unfortunately, I can’t lend him my slippers unless he has small feet – but he didn’t. So we spent sometime trying to find a pair of slippers and he was wearing chucks at the beach. I wasn’t that helpful.

Most important part of the trip –

Enjoy the crazy idea you had and just have fun!

La Union or Elyu is one of the known surf towns in the Philippines. It was super accessible to Manila too. It later on developed to be a tourist spot and party town, and there were a lot of establishments that became famous and became everyone’s go-to place in Elyu. Since it was Eric’s first time and we didn’t really have a place to stay during the day, we hung-out at some of those places.

Take pictures with some of the graffitis

Well, they have good ones! We can’t help ourselves!

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam is one of the well-known hostels in Urbiztondo, La Union. With its cool artsy vibe and chill spots to hangout, it is always packed. They have a restaurant with beanbags, hammocks and tables where they hold dance parties at night, and a bonfire afterparty at the beach by 1am.

Swim at the beach, or at least play in the water

Because who goes to the beach without at least taking a dip in the water, right? Well, I do. I just like looking at the water. We actually had some drinks at night – yes, you can drink by the beach in the Philippines! Although, I wouldn’t encourage it because I have had crazy drunk instances with friends – I wasn’t the one dying, but still..

There was a concert that night, so there were a lot of people at the beach.

Go on a food trip in some of the restaurants

Or in our case, we did not really have a place to stay, so we really needed somewhere to chill.

You must try: Ol’ Pub La Union (their adobo was good!), Tagpuan sa San Juan (they have the best lugaw and bagnet, perfect for quick sober-up), Surf Shack (for some iced cold beer and open mic fun), Flotsam & Jetsam (for some chill social-artsy vibe and unique afterparty), and Coffee Library (well, iced coffee on a hot summer day is nice!)

To be honest though, I never thought I would ever do this. First, because La Union was far and it’s the kind of trip that one goes to for the whole weekend because La Union has everything – food, party, surfing (which we did not try), there was also those temples, nearby farms and Tangadan Falls that we didn’t get to visit – so 24 hours is certainly not enough. Also another confession: I did not really remember entirely how to get to La Union because it was only my second time, and everything was arranged for us because it was work. So this was like a DIY-cross-the-bridge-when-we-get-there trip. So, sorry E! Well, we survived!