The Walks of Kulot


I WOK’D IN PADRE BURGOS.

I haven’t blogged anything for quite sometime. To make-up for my backlog posts, here’s a quick beach fix suggestion perfect for this Summer season. So read on and plan that long due weekend getaway with your friends.

Quezon’s quick beach fix destinations

Most of the time you have to travel far and wide and spend a lot to enjoy pristine white sand beaches with clear blue waters. But if you’re a weekend warrior on a budget looking for the best weekend beach trip relatively close to Manila then head to Padre Burgos in Quezon for an island hopping adventure! Moreover, the beaches of Padre Burgos is slowly getting attention as a beach camping destination for weekend adventurers who want to stay on the beach without the frills of luxury accommodations. Just pitch a tent and you’re all set!

Three of the well-known beaches in Padre Burgos are Borawan, whose name is a portmanteau of Boracay and Palawan because of its white sand shoreline and tall rock formations; Puting Buhangin/Kuwebang Lagpas, known for its powder white sand, clear turqouise waters perfect for swimming and cave situated at one end of the island which has an opening to the other side of the bay; and Dampalitan, which has a longer shoreline than the previous two making it a perfect venue for beach camping and not to mention it also the perfect spot for a picturesque sunset.

The islands are yours for the picking. Just bring your tent, food and drinks, your friends and an adventurous attitude and it will surely be one of the weekends you won’t forget.

Here are some of the photos of the islands:

The sight of white beach and tall coconut trees (sans the tower in the background) is a delight to any sun worshiper.

Obviously, Puting Buhangin got it’s name from it’s near perfect white sand.

Just bring a frisbee and you’re all set with your friends.

During low-tide, you can enter the cave at the other end of the island.

You can stay overnight in the island, just make sure to bring your own tent.

DAMPALITAN Island.

Dampalitan has a bigger area for pitching tents. The beach is less crowded compared to Puting Buhangin.

A sandbar? Not quite. But yeah, this area in Dampalitan is perfect if you just want to laze around the beach.

The steady waters of Padre Burgos.

Then again, nothing beats a perfect afternoon sunset by the beach. So if you’re planning for a no-frills, low-budget, and short trip this Summer the beaches in Padre Burgos is a must-visit.

How to get there: Take a bus at Jac Liner Cubao/Buendia station going to Lucena (3-4 hrs). Drop off at Lucena Grand Terminal. Take a Van going to Padre Burgos/Unisan (approx 1 hr depending on road conditions). Drop off at Crossing going to Basiao Beach. Make boat arrangements for island hopping (boat rental may vary depending on the number of islands to be visited, if all three (Borawan, Dampalitan, Puting Buhangin) it would cost approx. P2,200

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WOK’S PICK [GOOD SHEPHERD PASALUBONG]

Pasalubong treats that keep on giving

One of the most clicked tags in my blog is Baguio’s Good Shepherd pasalubong. Some would even ask for the prices of the products. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it before. So during my previous visit to Baguio, I made sure to get the prices of the famous Good Shepherd treats and publish it here.

One of Mountain Maid's famous products - Ube Jam

The Religious of the Good Shepherd was established in the year 1912 in the Philippines. It was founded by St. Mary Euphrasia whose main mission was directed to the most neglected and marginalized. To concretize the mission, the Mountain Maid training center was established. Supervised by the RGS nuns, the training facility provides livelihood and education to chosen youth in the Mountain province area. They are also responsible for the production of Mountain Maid products. The sister’s strawberry Jam remains to be a favorite since 1953 when people from the convent’s neighborhood exclaimed that “the sisters made the best jam in town!”.

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WOK IN LUZON [MOUNT PINATUBO]

Pinatubo once rebellious scattering its wrath has now come of age and gracefully turned out to be refined and elegant.

Lahar-filled Saturday

2:00 AM. At a very ungodly hour, I was cramming packing my things for a trekking trip to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. Two weeks before, I got a text message from a good friend inviting me to join her and her officemates for a trek to the crater lake. I was apprehensive at first because I will be joining a group of ten whom I will be meeting for the first time but I told myself that this year will be all about new experiences – and meeting new people is one of them. I gave it a shot and off I went to our meeting place in Ortigas. The fast-food chain, which is the tour organizer’s unofficial meeting place was jampacked with enthusiastic climbers – mostly amateurs like me. It was the Saturday of a long weekend so it was expected that a lot will be joining the trip. Two tourist buses brought the group to the jump-off point in Capas, Tarlac where our adventure will begin.

Lahar dirt road going to the foot of the Mountain.

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WOK SIDETRIP [CHINESE NEW YEAR]

Celebrating Chinese New Year at the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple

I have never attended a Chinese New Year celebration before. So when my friends invited me to join them at the Fo Guang Sha Mabuhay Temple in Manila for the Chinese New Year festivities I made sure not to pass out.

The Fo Guang Shan International Buddhist Center was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun whose main philosophy was to promote Humanistic Buddhism which actualizes the values of altruism, joyfulness and universality. Their main headquarters is in Taiwan but they also have temples in the Philippines (Manila, Cebu, Ilo-Ilo and Bacolod).

The main shrine at the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple in Manila.

The theme of this year’s Chinese New Year Celebration is the cultivation of the mind. The FGS Mabuhay temple has prepared various activities to those who attended the special celebration. At the temple reception area, I was given a sheet of paper with four blank circles and I was told that I have to visit the booths inside to complete four stamps to get a special prize. The activities included Prostrating to the Thousand Buddha, Sutra Transcription, memorizing three statements from Ven. Master Hsing Yun’s calligraphy exhibit and taking part during the incense offering.  Being a first timer I found these activities very engaging since this is something new to me. I was very enthusiastic to complete my stamps and I got a special golden envelope with Chinese prayers inside. I have no idea what it was for but it must be a lucky charm!

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The Parade of the Higantes

It was raining hard that Tuesday morning and I am having second thoughts if I should push through with my plan of attending the Higantes Festival in Angono. The cold weather wouldn’t allow me to get out of my bed but my mind was telling me to go. I was so lazy to get up that I kept on pressing the snooze button of my alarm clock. Around 11 am I have finally decided to go on with my trip and for once experience the festival. It wasn’t actually my first time to visit Angono (Check out my previous blog entry about Angono here). The last time I visited, we checked out the Balaw-Balaw restaurant and visited a few art galleries around town. When I knew about the Higantes Festival I promised myself that I will go back and witness the parade.

The Miraculous Rain

When I arrived at the San Clemente church in Angono, the rain started to pour. I was a bit late for the Higantes parade so I just decided to wait outside the church for the procession to come back. I talked to some of the bystanders outside and told them that the celebration would have been better if it didn’t rain. I was surprised when one of the old ladies told me that the rain was actually part of the feast. “Naku! Hindi piyesta pag walang ulan. Taon-taon umuulan. Kasama yan sa biyaya ni San Clemente sa bayan. Kaya okay lang mabasa!”  (It wouldn’t be a feast if it didn’t rain. Every year it rains. It’s part of San Clemente’s blessings to our town. It’s fine to get wet!”) she said. That moment, I felt I was lucky to have experienced such miracle and be blessed by the rain.

The image of San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen (below Crucifix). This is the altar/retablo of the San Clemente church in Angono Rizal.

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I WOK’d in ANGONO.

The Art Capital of the Philippines

When I was still in elementary I joined our school’s Art Club and as part of our art appreciation class we had an exposure trip to the town of Angono. Later did I know during my last visit, that Angono was actually the Philippines’s Art Capital. A lot of local artists such as Botong Francisco, Nemiranda and Jose Blanco have built their own art houses in Angono which also serve as their exhibition space for their paintings, sculptures and art installations.

Life-size sculptures installed in one of the art galleries in Angono.

Balaw-Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery

Not to be missed when visiting the town of Angono is the Balaw-Balaw Restaurant. The eccentric restaurant might be a bit strange because dozens of hanging masks with arrogant looking-expressions are suspended in the ceiling which made the restaurant look like a tree of masks. But what’s more strange is the menu that Balaw-Balaw offers. Different exotic dishes such as Soup No. 5 (Cow butt and balls), Bibingkang Abnoy (cake made from unfertilized egg with a rotten smell), Uok (beetle larvae), Kamaru (crunchy crickets), frog legs and a lot more are being served in the restaurant. But if you’re not adventurous enough to try these stuff you can always opt for local Filipino dishes which never fails to satisfy the palate.

Things to do at Balaw-Balaw restaurant and art gallery: Try-out their exotic dishes, appreciate (or if you have funds) purchase paintings or sculptures made by local artisans and paint your own higante figurine.

Balaw-Balaw restaurant interior. *Notice the hanging masks

Balaw-Balaw was built through the initiative of the late Perdigon Vocalan who is an Angono artist himself. The restaurant also houses an art gallery where local artists show their paintings and sculptures. Bust sculptures of different religious icons can be found on the second floor of the art gallery which includes the complete set of the Last Supper. On some occasions, the restaurant also serves as a venue for art classes initiated by a group of Angono artists to harness the artistic skills of the youth participants.

Wooden sculptures at the gallery's second floor.

A lot of sculptures in the art gallery are religious icons like the bust sculpture of Jesus Christ pictured above.

Sto. Entiero: Life Size image of the dead Christ.

Colorful recycled plastic bottles made into plant containers.

The Higantes Festival

The town of Angono is also known for the Higantes Festival which the town celebrates every 23rd of November in honor of San Clemente. Colorful higantes (giants) made from paper mache which measures ten to twelve feet in height are being paraded and danced on the street as a symbol of merrymaking which marks the start of the town fiesta. The festival was actually the idea of Mr. Vocalan, the owner of Balaw-Balaw restaurant to encourage more tourists to visit the town.

Giant paper mache higante masks.

The higantes are characterized having an arrogant-looking facial expression (mostly male) with their hands on the hips. Wondering why? This tradition started during the Spanish era when the town of Angono was headed by arrogant Spanish hacienderos who prohibited any form of celebration. As a way to make fun of them without them knowing, the townspeople of Angono created an effigy of Spanish landlords as a way of mocking them.

Make your miniature higante

If you want to bring home a souvenir from Angono, why not make your own miniature Higante? Balaw-Balaw restaurant offers its guests to create and paint their own mini higantes for a fee of P250.00. They have a work station where you can paint and recreate what the town is famous for!

The work station at the third floor of the Balaw-Balaw art gallery. This is also where giant masks used during the Higantes Festival are stored.

Miniature Higantes for sale. P250.00 each. *I think you can still bargain

You can paint decorate your own mini higantes at the Balaw-Balaw restaurant and art gallery.

Found this wooden puppet carved by Angono artisans.

How to get to Angono, Rizal:

Take an FX or jeepney in SM Megamall or Edsa Central (Crossing) going to Angono.

Visit this website: https://sites.google.com/site/angonoph/theroadtoangono

But it’s better to bring your own car so you can go visit all the art galleries in town and visit the Angono Petroglyphs.



I WOK’D in CARAMOAN.

Come South, Cam Sur!

Caramoan is slowly getting attention as one of the most sought after tourist destination in the country today. Its well deserved recognition can be attributed to the success of CamSur’s tourism campaign-promoting the province as a hub for water sports enthusiasts and a destination for island adventures in the Caramoan peninsula. Not to mention, Caramoan found its place in the map after the media hype it got for being chosen as the venue of the hit reality TV series Survivor by countries like France, Belgium and Israel. But with its instant popularity among local and foreign tourists, Caramoan remains to be an underdeveloped sleepy town and most of its islands unexploited from commercialization.

 A news feature in 24 Oras about Caramoan being chosen as venue of the French version of Survivor.

Rustic Simplicity

From Naga City, the heart of CamSur, it took us an hour by bus to reach the San Jose Port – an alternative drop-off point from the other port which is Sabang. From there, we rode a medium-sized outrigger boat going to the Guijalo port in Caramoan where a land transfer to our resort was arranged beforehand. On our way to the sentro or the Caramoan town proper, we passed by a long stretch of rice fields and coconut trees. The countryside breeze was indeed very refreshing. It was evident that development and commercialization hasn’t reached this isolated town which added more charm to the place.

En Route to Caramoan

Caramoan countryside. Aside from fishing, farming is the main source of livelihood of the people in this province.

When we reached the aplaya (seaside), I noticed that a community was living by the beach and there were only few resort type accommodations available mostly inns and guesthouses. I appreciate the fact that the place was still undisturbed from major developments. One can truly enjoy the rustic simplicity of the small town – no fancy bars and establishments – everything was back-to-basics. Even the rooms and cabanas of our resort were made from the indigenous nipa and kawayan and just a stone’s throw away from the rooms was the beach. The view of the islands and rock formations floating from afar was really inviting. After we unloaded our bags, we had a quick lunch and started our island hopping adventures to what is known to be the Survivor Islands.

Rock formations in the Caramoan peninsula

Discovering the Survivor Islands

Having been gifted with stunning beaches, hidden coves, majestic lagoons, turquoise blue waters and towering rock formations comparable to the islands in Palawan I was really looking forward to our island hopping tour. Unfortunately, one the most prominent and famous island in the Caramoan peninsula –Gota – which also houses the famous Gota Beach resort was closed during our visit because the hit reality TV series Survivor was filming in the island. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from exploring the other islands. Our first stop was the Busdak Beach which was just beside Gota. It was actually a cove embraced by rock formations covered with green plants facing the sea. The sand was not powdery white as I expected but we spent most of our time in this island playing frisbee.

Busdak cove. The beach embraced by lush mountains.

Island hoppers playing frisbee in Busdak island.

There was a part in Busdak beach close to the shore, where the sand's consistency was like mud because of seawater mixing with the fine sand.

Another prominent island in the Caramoan penisula is the Matukad Island. Aside from its near-perfect white sand, the view of floating rock formations from nearby islands is a sight not to be missed. But if you’re the adventurous type, climbing the steep and sharp limestone cliff from one side of the island is something you might want to try out. A mystic lagoon awaits the brave climber which according to our bangkero, a big bangus (milkfish) lives. Unfortunately, we’ve only known about this when we have already left the island so we were not able to check out the lagoon.

The fine white sand at Matukad Beach. From Matukad beach you will have a glimpse of nearby islands and rock formations in the Caramoan peninsula.

The limestone cliff on the right side of the "WOK" logo is the place of the mystic lagoon.

Rock formations near Matukad beach.

An interesting rock formation which looks like an alligator head near the Matukad beach.

Our last island stop that day was at the Lahos island. During our visit to this island, the production team of Survivor was setting up an obstacle course and we were advised that we can only spend 30-minutes on the island. Lahos was more akin to a sandbar but elevated from the sea. A shoreline can be found on both sides of the island and the waves were bigger. Compared to the other islands, the sand in Lahos is more fine and white.

The powder white sand of Lahos island.

Lahos is more akin to a sandbar but elevated from the sea. As seen in this photo are the Survivor staff setting up in the island.

Since we weren’t able to spend much time in Lahos we just decided to go back near Hunongan cove – a resort facility offering premiere accommodations in the island – where we spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling in the open sea.

For more info about Hunongan Cove visit: http://www.caramoanislands.com or http://www.gotavillage.com

We got back to our resort just in time for sunset. I am always fascinated with this phenomenon as the sky suddenly transforms into a huge canvass and strokes of orange, blue and purple dramatically changes the entire horizon. The phenomenon evoked a feeling of serenity and added to the rusticity of the place as silhouettes of fishermen docking their boats on the aplaya and kids playing on the shore can be seen from afar.

The aplaya (seaside) at sunset.

The sky suddenly transforms into a huge canvass and strokes of orange, blue and purple dramatically changes the entire horizon.

Early the next day we headed to Sabitang Laya which is also one of the most popular island in the Caramoan peninsula. From a bird’s eye view, the island forms a triangular shape with two wide stretches of white-sand shoreline forming a letter V. Among all the islands we visited, Sabitang Laya is my personal favorite because of the expanse of its beach and shallow waters ideal for snorkeling and swimming. You can also take a nap under small trees which serve as temporary shelter and protection from the afternoon sun. At lunch time, we camped by the shore as our boatmen prepared lunch for us which included the Bicolandia favorite – Bicol Express. It was island life at its best!

The wide stretch of white sand beach in Sabitang Laya.

Island hoppers camping at Sabitang Laya during lunch time.

The rain is coming! The weather suddenly turned gloomy during our stay at Sabitang Laya but after a while the sun was up again.

Low-tide at Sabitang Laya.

Before we left Sabitang Laya, we saw another group from the Survivor production team setting up tribal flags and props in the island. Maybe the set was for a reward or immunity challenge.

The opening credits of Survivor Serbia. One of the countries that shoot the hit reality TV series in Caramon.

One of the Survivor sets in Sabitang Laya island. (Disclaimer: This photo is for blogging purposes only and is not intended for promotion or publicity. The set and props is property of its respective Survivor franchise)

Immunity Challenge? (Disclaimer: This photo is for blogging purposes only and is not intended for promotion or publicity. The set and props is property of its respective Survivor franchise)

We had to rush to our next destination – the Manlawi sandbar which submerges under water during high-tide. Our boat was parked a few feet away from the sandbar because the water was shallow near the island. The water surrounding the sandbar was still and a bit murky because of sea grasses underneath. Nipa huts were built on the island where some tourists spend their lunch time and siesta.

The still waters and sandbar at Manlawi.

Fight Club Series at Manlawi.

When we got back to our bangka, we asked our boatmen where our next destination was. Unfortunately, he told us that because of the low-tide some of the islands were not accessible because our boat couldn’t pass by shallow waters. We just settled going back to Sabitang Laya and concluded our island hopping there. The other islands in Caramoan are Cotivas, Minalahos, Tinago Cove. The grotto in Mt. Caglago gives you a panoramic view of the entire Caramoan peninsula.

Bikal is one of the ports in Caramoan and is the main thoroughfare of outrigger boats for hire that bring tourists to the islands. Leading to the open sea is a mangrove forest.

Tricycles can be rented in Bikal that will bring you to the main town or sentro where inns and guesthouses are available.

A view of Bikal port from our guest house.

As an emerging tourist destination, I am sure that Caramoan will continue to gain attention from both local and foreign tourists. I just hope that in the coming years, it will continue to preserve its natural beauty untainted from the streaks of commercialization. The rural atmosphere complemented by the wonders of its islands is worth coming back to. I just hope the Survivor crew would take a break so we can explore Gota and its other islands!

*How to get to Caramoan:

From Naga City going to Sabang/San Jose port: Take a van, jeepney or bus from Naga going to Sabang port/San Jose port. Travel time is approximately an hour. Fare ranges from P60.00 (jeepney/van) to P80.00 (bus).

From Sabang port/San Jose port to Guijalo port in Caramoan: Ride an outrigger pump boat going to Guijalo port. Take note that the availability of boats is from 7AM to 12NN only. Travel time is approximately 2 hours and fare is P120.00*/per person (*subject to change without prior notice). Pay P30.00 environmental fee at the Guijalo port. Jeeps and tricycles are available at the Guijalo port that will bring you to the sentro.