A Sohoton-Siargao Trip for the Introverts

My friends and I have this unwritten agreement to travel together every year. The last time we traveled in a huge group was in 2015. The same group agreed to travel to Batanes this year but it never materialized. I had work last year that I never had time to arrange trips for this year so I figured that the best way to get them together was to schedule a trip that does not require plane tickets. I had Sohoton and Siargao in mind. Alas, I scheduled it on a summer where many of them have office summer activities that are also in Siargao. In the end, there were only four of us traveling to Sohoton.

Then, three of us were left to travel to Siargao. Yes, three introverted individuals who do not like crowds and would love to be left alone to explore. Yes, it can be done. And yes, the trip can still be fun.

Day 1 to Day 2

We started our journey in a van to Bad-as, Placer, Surigao del Norte. It was funny that the 3 introverts (and agoraphobics!) found themselves inside a van with 12 strangers. It is the only way to reach Surigao a little faster. A van ride would take us around 2 hours to reach Bad-as while a bus ride would take around 3 hours. In Bad-as, we met our 4th travel buddy, Bryan, and we rode in another van together going to Hayanggabon Port. In Hayanggabon Port, we were met by the boatmen from Cinnamon Island.

Our trip to Sohoton in Bucas Grande was already pre-arranged by Bryan. An overnight stay in an air-conditioned cottage, 4 meals, island hopping tour and boat transfers (to port) cost us Php 3,200 each. We would have gotten a cheaper rate if we were traveling with a bigger group but we all felt the fee was all worth it. It was a stress-free time in Sohoton. The boat would wait for us. The sumptuous food would wait for us. Everything was ready. I remembered us saying, “I hope there is food. I am already hungry.” By the time we went down to the dining table, the food is already waiting for us. Five-star service. We highly recommend Cinnamon Island in Bucas Grande.

So what did we do in Sohoton?

Island hopping! We docked in a beach full of people so we asked the boatmen to find us another beach. So here we were! There were no other people but us in this beach!

It was that easy to find our own beach here.

Buried our feet in the softest sand.

Swam with the jellyfishes.

Swam inside the cave

Jumped. My friends jumped. I made an excuse that I would be the one to take their photos.

Spelunking. We went inside the Crystal cave whose stalactites and stalagmites were covered in crystals. They shimmered when they caught light.

Ate fresh and yummy seafood!

We had early lunch on Day 2 and we immediately asked to be dropped at the Socorro port to catch the boat trip to Dapa in Siargao. The boat ride from Cinnamon Island to Socorro port took us more than an hour on a large pumpboat. From Socorro, I think it took us almost an hour to reach Dapa. I was seated behind the captain of the boat. The sea was a little rougher than what I was used to. I felt seasick and was trying to keep my cool until my body gave in. I felt my lunch in my mouth and was trying to hold the food in while I patted the captain’s shoulder and motioned that I need a plastic bag. He hurriedly gave the plastic bag he had, unpacking his extra shirt inside. I threw up my lunch like a pro that I am. ( I have motion sickness so I am used to throwing up without much fuss.) My friends were unaware of what happened. I was that discreet.

From Dapa, we rode a tricycle to General Luna where we were booked in an Airbnb cottage. The cottage was perfect for the island vacation we imagined. We took turns in having our picture taken in this hammock!

We had our dinner at Kermit’s since it was highly recommended in many reviews we read.

After that, we called it a day.

Day 3

In this trip, we just list down the activities we wanted to do and just find ways to do them; no advance planning on where to book tours. We wanted to go to Magpupungko but we did not research tide forecast beforehand. One must go to Magpupungko during low tide so we opted to go to Sugba Lagoon instead. Sugba Lagoon is in the Municipality of Del Carmen. Many of the blogs we read said that the mode of transportation was through a habal-habal, a motorcycle with roof attached. While many drivers can accommodate the 3 of us in a motorcycle, we chose to hire a tricycle. An hour-ride on a motorcyle with 3 other people would be uncomfortable. Yes, we love adventure but we also wanted comfort. The tricycle ride cost us Php 1600 roundtrip. To reach Sugba Lagoon, one needs to hire a boat at the municipal tourism center. The ride costs 1600 per boat. We passed through a large mangrove plantation, the second largest in the country.


We reached the lagoon and there are already tourists ahead of us which aggravated the anxiety of the introverts! So we looked for a table and just observed the crowd. We waited for the area to be less crowded.

So what did we do in Sugba Lagoon?

Jump! Oh well. My friend, Arnel, jumped while I did what I do best- document the jump.

Stand Up Paddle. Because we were non-swimmers, we wore lifejackets!

Swim. I just watch people swim. There was intermittent raining when we went.

By the way, be careful with the pathways when wet. They were slippery. I slipped, I fell flat on my back. Thanks to my natural cushion (read: big butt) I only got a bruised ego. Ha!

We left early so we still had time to catch the sunset at the boardwalk in Cloud 9. We took a short cut from our cottage to the main road but it turned out to be a farther route to the boardwalk.

The mistake led us to this shore which was a nice detour.

After walking miles (it felt like that), we are finally here! Ha!

The introverts picked a floor in the deck with less crowd and watch the sunset and the surfers.

When evening came, we went to Mama’s Grill for dinner and then headed home to our rented cottage.

Day 4

We already arranged with the tricycle driver we hired the previous day to get us to Magpupungko. We planned to go to Magpupungko in the morning and go island hopping in the afternoon. Our tricycle driver suggested that we drop by Tayangban Cave Pool since it is along the way to Magpupungko. We were glad we listened to our driver because we enjoyed our time there. Entrance to the cave pool is only Php 70 per person and there is a guide who will help you navigate though the cave system. I really enjoyed this activity. I would say this is Siargao’s best kept secret.
Look at our beaming faces!

Once we were done with the spelunking, we were off to Magpupungko.

I love Magpupungko. In Magpupungko are tide pools left by the ocean when tides are low. Sea water and creatures are trapped inside the natural pools. My camera batteries needed recharging so I was not able to take my own photos in Magpupungko so I swiped off Arnel’s photos. ha! Enjoy!


We enjoyed out time there. We left when more people started arriving. Ha! Introvert problems.

Off to island hopping!

Our driver already arranged our boat for island hopping. It cost us Php 1,500 per boat. We will be visiting three islands: Naked, Dako and Guyam. Since we have not eaten our lunch yet, we bought pizzas from Aventino’s before going island hopping (there is so many branches in Siargao) which we ate at Guyam. We spent a lot of time swimming in Guyam.

It was already late in the afternoon when we decided to end our island hopping journey.

For dinner, we ate at Bravo. It was suggested by our Airbnb host, Martim. I love the vibe there.
After dinner, we headed back to our rented cottage to pack our things.

The following day was a long day. We spent the day traveling. We needed to go to the port in Dapa early to get tickets for the boat ride to Surigao. The boat left Dapa at around 11 am and we arrived Surigao past 1:00 pm. We were met by our friend, Bryan, for lunch. We also met up with friends while in Surigao so we left Surigao at around 4:00 pm and arrived Butuan past 7pm.

Some notes on the trip:
1. We love the services provided by Cinnamon Island in Sohoton.
2. We love our Airbnb cottage. I left a review on Airbnb and the host gave his feedback. He said that we were a nice group, very relaxed and independent. Ha! This clearly shows that we are introverts. We just like to be left alone. Hehehe
3. If I have the chance to go back to Siargao, I would skip Sugba Lagoon but I will still go back to Magpupungko. I learned from a friend that one can do Stand Up Paddle near the mangroves in Cloud 9. I will do that instead.
4. I made a mistake of renting a paddle board at the tourism office in Del Carmen. There are paddle boards for rent at the lagoon at a cheaper rate.
5. It used to take us 2 hours to reach Surigao from Butuan by bus. Now it takes 3.5 hours.
6. We did not choose the cheapest rates in the Siargao. Instead, we chose the hassle-free and most comfortable options we can afford.
7. Siargao is also a party place. Our friend, Bryan, would encourage us to go out at night and find the venue of the party of the day but the introverts just wanted to chill in the cottage and fiddle with the gadgets.

Here is our itinerary and the amount we spent on some of our activities:

 

** entire tour package: Port transfer, island hopping, accommodation, 4 meals, welcome snack and drink
*** Habal-habal ride within General Luna costs Php20 per person
**** I forgot how much we spent for food. We are all foodies so we really do not scrimp on spending for food.
***** I also forgot how much the bus ride cost.

Three days and 4 nights in the Airbnb Cottage cost Php 4,115.

Total trip cost: At least 7,788.33 per person (Food in Siargao was unaccounted because I forgot how much it cost us.)

It was an exhausting trip back home but I will take the trip again in a heartbeat if I get invited to go to Siargao.

If you have not been to Siargao or Sohoton, you must visit soon!

Some photos were taken by my friends, Bryan, Arnel and Gail. Thank you for being my cool travel buddies!
Btw, send me an email if you want a link to Airbnb which will give you discount on your first booking.

Oh, this is my travel video of that trip. Enjoy!

I have a YouTube Channel!

Three weeks ago, I decided to set up my YouTube Channel.  Clicking on the YouTube icon above will direct you to my channel.

So what do I have there? For now, I have three painting videos which you can follow to learn some of my techniques. This is my way of sharing what I know. This is also my way of giving back.  It was through a YouTube video that triggered my renewed interest in painting. I know that videos can be very helpful to others in pursuing their interests.  I know how videos helped me improve in painting.

In the future, I plan to include travel videos, recipe videos and just  about anything I want to share. I am still new to this and I hope I will be able to improve my videos as I go along.  Oh, there is so much to learn about making my videos better and I am excited to try them!  Please subscribe to my channel and let me know what you think of them.

These are the first three videos up on the channel. Enjoy!

OPPO F1s: #FeedGoals

When I signed up for Instagram three years ago, I had no idea it would grow this big. I was not even into it because I was more inclined to use Facebook. Lately though, I have been very active with Instagram compared to Facebook mainly because the pretty images I get from the feeds can truly make my day a lot brighter.  It is my happy place and I hope it remains as such.

I never really put much thought in what I share on Instagram until I found several feeds that are truly #FeedGoals. Look at these!

#FeedGoals

Notice that the first feed by @boywithhaemoglobin is all about architectural details which we sometimes overlook. These are things he noticed in the surroundings that might have escaped the untrained eye.  The second one by @studiodiy are pops of colors which can easily cheer anyone with a gloomy day. Are you not inspired by such photos?  I know I am.

So I have been experimenting on what I can do to my feed. I am all about art, travel, food and life in between.  One would find this set of photos in my feed whenever I am working on my art.

Art-centric feed

And when I am traveling, this is how my feed looks.

Travel-centric feed

My #FeedGoals would be to combine all my interests into one cohesive feed and do them instinctively.  I love feeds that tell stories like what my cousin, @kristineghia, and friend, @sandierpastures, do to their feeds. @KristineGhia often shares her journey with her faith, health and family. There is consistency in the way her images are presented. My friend, @sandierpastures, shares her journey with her kids in and out of Dubai where she is based.

How do I achieve my #FeedGoals?

  1. Finding a theme. Since I am into art, travel , food and anything in between. I need to find a balance between such diverse interests.
  2. Being consistent with the filters. It may take time to find the right kind of feel to the image composition that I like but once I find it, I should stick with it.
  3. Sharing the experience. Write the caption to tell a story of each image. This will engage followers into meaningful conversations
  4. Experimenting. I should always be inspired with the things I see around me. As much as consistency is important, I must not be afraid to veer away from what I am used to and try new things.
  5. Having fun. I may have #feedgoals to achieve. I need not stress over it. I will just enjoy Instagram and, surely, the experience would be more enjoyable that way.
  6. Getting a better device. I am thinking about the features of OPPO F1S.  It is dubbed as a selfie expert.  Although I do not need to pepper my posts with my selfies, I am assured I’d get a good one when necessary.  The OPPO F1s  has filters that will help me attain consistency in my IG posts.  The 13MP rear camera and 16MP front camera  make sure that I get crisp photos that are IG-worthy. These are ust few of the exciting features packed in one compact device! OPPOF1s is the perfect partner to achieve my #feedgoals.

More information on the device can be found on their website: OPPO Philippines. Do not forget to like or follow them on their social media accounts:

Twitter: twitter.com/OPPOPhilippines
Instagram: www.instagram.com/oppophilippines
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/OPPOPH

Keep creating those lovely feeds!

Create. Post. Rinse. Repeat.

*This is a contest entry for Nuffnang Philippines.

 

#IAmUrbanBrave

It was two years ago when I was actively into fitness. I was a lot leaner then. But then I had to stop, I had a small health scare which prevented me from doing exercises. With my health challenges already under control and managed, I should be back to doing some exercises.

With summer slowing making its presence felt, so does regrets; regrets that the past months could have been spent on getting back in shape. The round-is-a-shape reasoning no longer held its water when I struggled carrying my weight around while traveling to Bataan last month . Climbing stairs, jumping to the sea and other activities made me realize I was not as agile as before. With another summer getaway planned for next month, I feel that I need to be more active. I know can still push to shed a few pounds before hitting the islands and soaking up the summer sunshine.

To enhance that fitness regimen and unleash that urban brave attitude, I am trying to push myself to start working out again. Fitness essentials from Urbanize can surely make the fitness journey a little better. Here are five must-have for the gym warrior I am working to turn myself into:

1. Popband

Hair ties with a pop of color put me in a good mood. I will need that before every workout. Plus, no more stray hairs! These bands are designed to be gentle to the hair. So no stress to the tresses! With every muscle contracted and stretched, beads of sweat may roll but my hair will stay in place and away from my face so I can focus on what is essential: powering up!

2. Hydrapak

I need to be hydrated before workout, while working out and after working out. I need this handy Hydrapak that is easily collapsible when I already consumed all the water I needed. This very light device can be easily packed for urban fitness on-the-go.

3. The Camo Seamless Tote by Focused Space


Gym bags should not be boring. This tote is the perfect go-to bag to pack my gym clothes and other essentials. It is non-descript so this can be used as a gym bag and transition to a regular tote bag. I can easily carry this from gym to lunch with friends and still look as urban brave as I can be- as if I did not struggle through crunches and lunges!

4. Lewis N Clark Packing Cube


I want to keep my things inside my gym bag as neat as possible so I can easily find what I need. This comes in different sizes to accommodate the different items I need as an urban brave individual. I see myself packing my cables and electronic devices to prevent them in a tangled mess.

5. The Qliplet by Lulabop


I do not need to call McGyver should I need help in carrying stuff around. I plan to start jogging (okay, walking) around the block aside from working out in the gym and at home. I need some nifty device I can hang in my belt to carry the Hydrapak, for example. This Qliplet is the perfect device for simplifying my planned active and urban brave life.

Let us hope I sustain this fitness lifestyle. Summer, here I come! How about you? What are you fitness essentials? Check out the Urbanize Facebook page and website. You may find what you need for your urban brave lifestyle.

*** This is a contest entry for Nuffnang Philippines.

10 Reasons Why Bataan Should be Your Next Summer Destination

My trip to Bataan is the trip that I am least prepared. My friend, Bam, and I only decided on the destination around a month before the trip. We bought the plane tickets a year ago in the hopes that we will be able to book a Batanes trip. When it was clear that the Batanes trip won’t push through, we were clueless where to go so we did not book other friends due to the uncertainty of the destination. Good thing, Bam saw two TV shows where Bataan was featured. We were finally convinced that Bataan will be our destination. We did not regret the choice. There were only two of us traveling- a contrast to our Coron trip where there were 14 us – so we agreed not fuss with the details. ‘Chill’ was our theme for the trip.

Bataan as a travel destination is very much under the radar. Had Bam not tell me about it, I would not have any clue. Because of this awesome trip, I am now convinced that Bataan is the THE travel destination for summer and you should go now while it is not yet swarmed with tourists. Here are the reasons why you should visit Bataan:

1. It is only three hours away from Manila. We took a bus from Cubao to Balanga City in Bataan. It was a smooth travel. The bus took a longer route by going through the towns like Dinalupihan, Hermosa, Orani, Abucay. I think you would have a shorter travel time when you bring your own vehicle.

2. It has a functioning and well-maintained tourism center. Because Bam and I had no fixed itinerary except for the March 16 trip to Mariveles, we went to the Tourism Center to ask for guides and suggestions on where to go.

The tourism center also had this life-sized diorama depicting periods of history in Bataan.

3.  It is rich in history.  In 1942, an estimated 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war during the WWII were forced to march from  Mariveles and Bagac  to Tarlac.  We commemorate their courage every April 9 which is known as Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor).  The day is also known as the start of the Bataan Death March.

You would see all these markers around Bataan.

3. The City of Balanga has a beautiful plaza. The buildings surrounding the plaza have this colonial architecture which gives this old world charm to place. The buildings actually housed the city hall, a hotel and a mall. Across the plaza is the St. Joseph Cathedral.

At night, the colorful dancing fountain lights up the place. Bam and I sat in one of the benches every night just to people watch and relax.

5. The Balanga wetland park is just a tricycle ride away from the city center. I was looking at some of the souvenir items and the refrigerator magnet that I bought had birds on the picture. We were told that those were shot at the wetland park. The wetland park is an area that hosts migratory birds. The place had view decks for those who want to watch birds.

These are the birds we saw from the view deck.

The park also has pathways inside a mangrove forest. We saw this as an opportunity to take our photo together.

The sun was about to set so we witnessed hundreds of birds flying towards the mangroves, their shelter for the night.

6. Mount Samat National Shrine is a quick jeepney and tricyle ride away in the town of Pilar. It is also called the ‘Dambana ng Kagitingan’ (Shrine of Valor). It is a memorial site for those who fought in the Battle of Bataan.  There is a huge cross and a museum in the site.  One can ride the elevator toward the arm of the cross and marvel at the surrounding views (which we were not able to do because the elevator was being fixed at that time).

7. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar brings you to a journey around the Philippines during the Spanish times. The resort sprawls more than 400 hectares with around 55 houses in the property. What the owner does is buy heritage houses in different parts of the country and restores the houses in this resort.

The resort had guides who explained the history of the houses.

We met a group of friends who were looking for people to complete a group of at least 5 in order to get the better tour package. Lucky for us, we got to avail of the package which includes lunch, calesa ride, boat ride and Hotel de Oriente tour (on top of the regular tour package offered).

I want to bring my aunts next time.

8. Mariveles Five Fingers is the Bataan’s best kept secret. I was not aware of the place until Bam pointed this out me. This is the reason why we wanted to got the Bataan. Bam and I are always in search for not-so-familiar destinations and this is right up our alley.


The place is called five finger because this is how it looks on the map.


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So allow me to just let the photos do the talking.

And, Bam jumped off this 40-ft cliff. This is her 40 feet @40 feat! I have the video but it took time to load here.

We joined the tour arranged by Bataan Weather Page.

9. Bataan is very accessible. We all rode public transportation. We did not get lost. In fact, by the end of the trip, I have memorized all names of the towns in Bataan: Dinalupihan, Hermosa, Orani, Abucay, Pilar, Bagac, Orion, Limay, Mariveles, Morong and Balanga City.

10. Bataan is away from traffic! When we booked the Manila flights from Butuan, both Bam and I agreed that we will go anywhere that is away from Manila. We both wanted to avoid the traffic which we did. Well, until the last day when to tried to catch the plane home, it was a stressful 2 hours for me trying to pray to high heavens that we reach the airport on time. I am making a mental note to get a new phone so I have Waze or can book Uber/Grab.

Apart from the minor traffic stress, we had a smooth trip. Indeed, we just chilled and relaxed. And I hope you will, too, when you visit Bataan.

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