A Day Trip to Corregidor

Since we still have time in Manila, I convinced my aunt that we take a day trip to Corregidor. I think the only way you can reach Corregidor is through Sun Cruises. Sun Cruises is located near the Folk Arts Theatre inside the CCP Complex.

The boat leaves Manila at 8:00AM and arrives Corregidor at 9:15AM.

IMG_1591

The package tour already includes a guide and buffet lunch. It is something you must experience at least once. I am already okay with this one trip. War history buffs will surely appreciate the tour. There were things mentioned by the tour guide which I have already forgotten.

Since I want you to experience the tour itself, I will just leave you with photos. You must take the tour to learn about the stories behind each photo.  ( Yes, this is the excuse of  a blogger with a lot of backlogs!)

ENJOY, CORREGIDOR!

IMG_1610 IMG_1615 IMG_1638 IMG_1640 IMG_1643 IMG_1646 IMG_1656 IMG_1660 IMG_1690 IMG_1721 IMG_1723 IMG_1765 IMG_1795 IMG_1806 IMG_1817 IMG_1832

Baguio in a Day

Since our trip to Bangkok was cancelled, my aunt and I had 5 days in Manila. We can’t be spending all those days in malls and traffic so we decided beforehand to go to Baguio. I have never been to Baguio. My aunt had visited Baguio several times in past but was still interested in going.

Traveling to Baguio was convenient. Right after we landed in NAIA 3, we took  our lunch at the airport and took a taxi to Victory Liner in Pasay. Victory Liner travels to Baguio every hour. We were hoping to catch their First Class bus but there was only one seat left so we settled for the regular air-conditioned bus. It was an 8-hour trip. Quite long but we were comfortable. My aunt loved that vendors are allowed to go inside the bus. She remembered going to Baguio with my aunts more than ten years ago and they were in a hired van. They were very hungry  but when they told the driver to stop for food they were always told, “Malapit na.” (It’s near.) She remembered how they devoured their meals when they arrived in Tarlac for a stopover.  With our trip, she was never hungry. We bought this huge sweet corn (the biggest corn on cob I have eaten in my life) and chicharon from vendors.  The food made us forget the 8 hours of travel.

We arrived in Baguio at around 8PM. I loved the twinkling lights of  Baguio as we approached the city from the mountains. Too bad I was not able to capture it on my camera. We headed straight to the hotel to rest.

We woke up early the following day. It was a Sunday (March 2) and the last day of Panagbenga. The first order of the day was to find a church.  My aunt who was with me had spent the whole summer in Baguio in her 30′s for teacher’s training.  So I asked her:

Me: Tita, what is the name of their cathedral here?
Tita: St. Peter

When we reached the cathedral, it was called “Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral”. Ang layo! I realized that I should not rely on her for directions around Baguio. Hehe!

IMG_1309

We had breakfast after the mass and walked along Session Road.  There were bazaars in the street.

IMG_1330

 We saw gorgeous flowers. How we wished we can bring them to Butuan!

IMG_1330b

How cool is this? They can grow strawberries in a planter!
IMG_1353
We really do not have an itinerary for the day. We walked where the road led us and found this busy intersection.
IMG_1356

My aunt said that she had been here before and that Burnham Park was somewhere near. When we were nearing what looked liked a park, I approached a law enforcer and asked where Burnham Park is. He amusingly replied with arms wide open, “Ito na po, Ma’am.” Ah ok. It really showed how clueless I was.

There were exhibits of the landscaping contest. We bought some shirts for pasalubong since there was a bazaar.

IMG_1356b

 

The park was teeming with people.  I initially planned to try boating but the sun was already up and I was wearing a sweater! I thought it was going to be cold during the day.  Pass muna ang boating!

IMG_1392

We found a neat opportunity to remember our Baguio trip: a photo in a costume! Our best Baguio pic ever! LOL!

IMG_1405

When I posted this on Facebook, one cousin asked how I was able to convince my aunt to wear the costume. The answer: only ten pesos per picture with your own camera!

After we were done with the pictorial, we went Mines View Park. I dunno how this looked before but there weren’t so much to see. Sorry, Baguio! Do not ban me for saying this. I love everything else. 

IMG_1425

The only consolation was that it was near the Good Shepherd where I bought strawberry jam, ube jam, peanut brittle and lengua de gato. We made a pitstop at the Botanical Garden and had lunch in the city proper. The bottles of jams were heavy to lug around so we went back to the hotel.

There were three things I wanted to do while in Baguio. Two of which did not happen: strawberry picking in La Trinidad and visit the Tam-awan Village.  The third one  I pushed to be there in the afternoon. I was glad we did. We visited the Bencab Museum!

Ben Cabrera is a National Artist for Visual Arts. He owns a museum in Tuba, Benguet, which is less than 20 minutes away from the city. The museum houses his works from paintings to sculpture.

There were works from other artists as well.  This photography exhibit by Emmanuel Tolentino looks interesting.

IMG_1487

 

This is Bencab’s muse, Sabel.
IMG_1503

I had to take a photo of this one.

IMG_1515

This is a digitally reprinted hand-colored lithograph by another artist. When I went to the museum shop, there is a similar digitally reprinted watercolor painting of a bird with BenCab’s signature. I asked how much it was thinking I might get one as a souvenir. The staff replied, “P 20,000″. I have to pick my jaw up from the floor. I should have taken up fine arts in college.  Hehe!

The museum had several floors. I forgot to count them. This is the view from one of the balconies.  I read somewhere that he bought the mountain across this to prevent anyone from ruining the view.

IMG_1507

I took this photo on our way out. No, this is not a painting. These are real orchids in the lobby. I love how it turned out in my photo.

IMG_1551

I really recommend visiting the place.

We had time to spare. I got a message from my other aunt asking if we have visited Camp John Hay. Not yet.  So, off the Camp John Hay! We rode the jeep to go there so we were dropped at the entrance. I never anticipated that the road up is on an incline. My aunt was panting while going up. The goal was to go to The Manor.  We only walked up to Le Monet Hotel. My aunt already refused to walk further. Ha!  Good thing they had a Panagbenga float on display.

IMG_1566
As expected, the flowers near the Le Monet entrance were gorgeous.
IMG_1569b

We went back to Session Road where I bought strawberries sold on the sidewalk.  From there, we called it a day.

IMG_1581

I will be back, Baguio!

IMG_1579

How I Claimed a Cebu Pacific Ticket Refund Without Going Crazy

cebupacgraph

There are horror stories. I have read lots of them. I know of people who vowed not to book flights from them ever. However, I am poor and kuripot (thrifty). I can only afford tickets from budget airlines like Cebu Pacific and, based on experience, I never had any untoward incident from them. Also, I knew what I was getting into when I booked the flight. I have read the fare rules: “Promo fares are non-reroutable, non-transferable, non-refundable and may not be stored in a Travel Fund.” However, I also know that if they initiate flight cancellation, I can opt for a refund. I have read stories how their refund took months to process. I wished it would never happen to me. I told myself that this is the reason I always book months before so that everything is planned smoothly. My schedule is fixed. I do not need to refund.

They say nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. This holds true for my Manila-Bangkok-Manila trip this March. Since January, I have been praying that protests will stop so we can visit Bangkok without worries. I have not planned the trip yet because I was following the news. I have also been following Richard Barrow on twitter. Richard Barrow is a blogger based in Bangkok and he has been updating the world on the protests happening on the ground.

 

A lot of travellers were able to enjoy their trip to Bangkok even with protests because he gives tips on where to go, what places are safe and what to avoid. It gave a little boost to my confidence knowing I could rely on this kind stranger for help.

 

  I believe God has other plans for me this March. Last week, I saw this announcement on Cebu Pacific’s Facebook page. My return flight was cancelled. cebupac I asked my aunt who is my travel companion which option we are going to take. She was not keen on travelling to Bangkok because of the protests. If it were up to me, I would have rebooked it to an earlier return date. However, my aunt is hypertensive and the trip might frightened her if the protests would not end. Earlier that week, I got these updates from Richard Barrow. I took these as  signs to postpone the trip until everything is back to normal.

 


I decided to cancel the trip. I have called the hotline before and it is a hit-and-miss thing. They have Manila and Cebu hotlines and I live in Butuan so calls I make are charged long distance rates by my phone provider. I always use my landline because rates are cheaper. I always prepare before I call. I sit in a comfortable chair. The electric fan is set at the right speed. The flight details are in front of me. I have a ballpen and paper.

I called the Manila hotline and I was put on hold. It helps to have something to do- read a magazine, play a game on your tablet, clean your nails, pluck eyebrows. This is because the recorded voice will be on repeat: “Your call is important to us. We will attend to call your shortly.” I understand how one could go crazy waiting on the line. When put on hold, I always give them 5 minutes. If no one answers, I hang up. On my third try, I called the Cebu number and I was able to talk to a person on the first try. I was happy that I was able to refund the entire trip even if only the return flight was cancelled. It is logical to do so but I am glad just the same. I was told to call again in 24-48 hours to confirm if my refund is ready. At this point, I wanted to protest. This meant that I had to call long distance again. However, I was too happy to get a refund that I let it stride.

After 48 years hours, I called again. I was told that the accounting department in Manila has not yet completed the preparation of the refund. I was asked to call again at 5pm that same day to follow up. It was a Friday. I decided I would follow up on the refund on Tuesday the following week to give enough time for whatever preparations they need. I also decided that I would follow-up the refund directly at the Butuan Airport since fare going to the airport would only cost P30 while calling long distance may cost a lot more.

Armed with the required documents- ticket, passports, IDs and authorization letter from my aunt, I went to the Butuan Airport this morning. I know that there is a 9AM Cebu Pacific flight and the next one is in the afternoon so I went at 10AM to avoid the crowd. I arrived a little past 10 AM. I was greeted by Jenny. She has a pretty smile and was accommodating. She was scheduled to have lunch so she endorsed my refund request to Al. She told me that she will get the documents and have them scanned. They would email Cebu for approval and once there is a reply in the email, I would get my refund. She told me to wait. She was nice. While I was waiting, she came back to tell me that Al was processing my request. Then I waited for 30 minutes. Another staff told me to wait a little more because Cebu had questions on my refund. Passengers started to arrive for their flights. After 15 mins, Jenny approached to tell me that they were still resolving the questions on my refund. They did not have a timeline when it will be resolved. She got my contact numbers (so I can do other things rather than wait at the airport like poor puppy). She promised to call me within day. True to her word, she called at 1PM. I arranged to go back at 3:30PM after the last flight has flown. True enough, I arrived at the airport as the plane took off. I arrived at an empty airport. It took a while to reach the airport because I took the jeep and I ran some errands, too. When I arrived, Jenny was already waiting for me. I filled up some forms and I got my refund. I found out when I checked my phone that I got a missed call from her and my uncle told me when I arrived home that Cebu Pacific called while I was away.

I can confidently say that: Cebu Pacific refunds in cash! This was thought to be impossible before.

On hindsight, there are circumstances that worked on my favor that prevented me from going crazy over their service. My friend who also had to refund her trip had an unfortunate experience. She was put on hold for more an hour and she got disconnected several times. She tweeted @cebupacificair and she was told to go to the Cebu Pacific office at the airport only to arrive at the Cebu Pacific office and read a memo that they no longer accept processing of online transactions and that clients should call the hotline.

These are the reasons why refund seemed easy for me:

  1. I had low expectations. Filipinos may be the most hospitable people in the world but customer service is still something to be desired. Most companies’ bottom lines are still revenues.
  2. I had a lot of reserved patience. If you think you are patient enough, that is not enough. You need more. Good thing that patience is one of my virtues. I have been waiting 36 years for my one true love. A Cebu Pacific refund is irrelevant. (Echus! I am kidding! I am only testing you if you are still reading at this point. Acknowledge it  in the comments. )
  3. I live in the province. Going back and forth to the airport twice was not much of a hassle. If that happens in Metro Manila and other big cities, I understand how that will increase the stress-level of any client.
  4. I was too happy to get the refund. The thought of being stranded in Bangkok was a burden off my back. I do not want to be stranded in Bangkok because I want to attend my friend’s wedding the day after I was supposed to arrive in Manila.
  5. I had a flexible schedule. I can understand how this can be a great inconvenience to those who have regular jobs.
  6. I do not own a credit card. I got an update from my friend. She said her refund will be credited back to her credit card in 30 to 60 days. Whew. That long? Good thing I have no credit card to speak of. I paid in cash so they had no choice but to give the refund in cash.

I think Jenny of Cebu Pacific Air in Butuan Airport was very accommodating. She knew what to do. She was the one who instructed her colleague on what steps to take when she endorsed my case because it was her lunch break. However, Cebu Pacific could still improve their system.

Here are some suggestions:

  1.  A toll-free number for their hotline. It can be expensive to call long distance. The Gokongweis used to own Digitel and Sun Cellular. They could have easily set up that toll-free hotline years ago.
  2. If we can book online to buy tickets, I guess they can create an online system for the refund.
  3. Since cancellation of the flights that is due for refund is initiated by them, they can be pro-active. They can identify these passengers. They can immediately prepare the necessary refund for the passenger so that all the passenger need to do is show proof and refund will be immediately issued. I wish they sent me email on the matter. I only found out about the cancellation because I was actively updating myself with the news.

To end these very long post, I need to write a disclaimer. This is just my experience. I am but one of their millions of passengers. I cannot guarantee that you will experience the same thing I did. I do hope you learn something from my experience and can strategize how you will have a better experience in the future. As passengers, we should know our rights.  Check out the infographics from the Office of the President.

rights01 rights02 rights03 rights04 rights05

 

Butuan City and the Mighty Agusan River

‘Biyahe ni Drew’  on GMA NewsTV featured my beloved Butuan City last Friday.  In one of the segments, he rode a boat along  the Agusan River. That is when I realized I forgot to write about my Abayan experience end of July.  Yes, I am that late in writing about it. Abayan Festival is a fluvial parade in honor of St. Anne, Mama Mary’s mother.  I have experienced boat rides along the river hundreds of times before.  However, I have not tried to ride the boat upstream.  This was the first time.

Here is an aerial view of the river which I took  in one of the plane rides home. Agusan River is the 3rd longest river in the country.

aerial view

We got to the PPA compound early after the Sunday mass. It was a last-minute decision to go there so I was not able to bring my camera. What I had was my Nokia 6230i phone which broke down after it was low on battery for taking all these pictures.

Anyway, free tickets were distributed for those who wanted to ride the boat. It is actually a fluvial procession with the pumpboat carrying St Anne heading the ‘expedition’
APhoto001

This is what the pump boat looks like.
APhoto004

I wanted to see what Agusan upstream looks like. There were a lot of greens but there were also some communities living by the river.The upstream ride approaches the second bridge.

APhoto005 (16)

One can only take this shot at this angle if one is on a boat so I took advantage of it even with my phone camera.
APhoto005 (31)

 If you want a glimpse of my city, watch this episode of Biyahe ni Drew. (Video by santoleater on YouTube)

The Unplanned Road Trip to Laguna

While we were on our Ilocos trip, Janine of Wowtrippers asked us when are we going back to Butuan.  When she learned that we still had two days to spare, she suggested a road trip to Laguna after a day of rest. The cool thing about Wowtrippers is that they treat us like friends. Since this was an unplanned road trip, no additional fees were collected. We just pitched in for the van rental and paid for entrance fees and all.  They even contributed their share! We would have pitched in for their share, too, but it was our last day of our trip to Manila. We were running low on budget.

We have no prior expectations for this trip since we do not know the itinerary. We just knew we were visiting some falls like Pagsanjan.

Our first stop was in Panguil, Laguna.  We visited Ambon-ambon Falls.  No,  it was  not the regular trek-and-pose-for-picture type of trip.

We trekked and crossed bamboo bridges.

laguna

Photo credit: Mau Rago

We waded the river.

Photo credit: Wowtrippers

We “climbed” boulders.

03 mau2 wow2

Photo credit: Wowtrippers

We rode a raft.

04 mau3 wow

Photo by Wowtrippers

Funny story about the raft: Only 5 passengers are allowed. My 5 friends went ahead (see picture below). When it was our group’s turn, I walked confidently to the middle and found myself sitting comfortably until I felt that I was sinking. Woah! Was I that heavy?  I tried to maneuver myself with my legs up. Poise forgotten. I was laughing my ass off.

05 mau3

Photo credit: Mau Rago

We swam. There are ropes to hang on to for those who do not know how to swim. (Me!)  Below is my friend trying to show me how to do it.  Nah, she was posing for the camera. :D

07 mau5

Photo credit: Mau Rago

No, this is not yet the falls.

06 mau4

Photo credit: Mau Rago

After another river trek and a few meters of swimming (using the rope), we finally reached Ambon-ambon Falls.

09 mau5wow2

Photo by Wowtrippers

But  wait, there’s more! On our way back to the starting point, we dropped by the river tubing area.  River tubing is an activity where a group rides on connected lifesavers (salbabida). It was a fun activity!

10 mau6

Photo credit: Mau Rago

We really had fun with this activity.
14 mau6a wow2

All the trekking and swimming made us hungry. Prior to trekking, we paid the guides to cook for us. There were no utensils so we had a boodle lunch. Yum! We even had soup. We took turns in using the cut-up plastic softdrink bottle.
12 mau6a wow2 mine

We had our lunch in a hut near the river. This was our view.
13 mau6a wow2 mine2

We were already full so off we went to our next adventure: Pagsanjan Falls. No, we did not ride the fancy boats to get to the falls. We used the alternate route where we walked 589 steps downhill (It should be called “downmountain”!).

15 mau6a

Photo credit: Mau Rago

We had to rappel twice. No, the rope did not break even with my weight. We asked Toto of Wowtrippers to take a photo of us. He already rappelled down. He climbed up again. We told him he should not have climbed up because he could take the photo from down there. He replied that the angle is better from the top because our faces will be seen. From the bottom, all the photos will be of our behind! Oo nga ano?

17 mau7b

Photo by Wowtrippers

When we reached the ground, we rode the raft going to the falls.

18 mau8

Photo credit: Mau Rago

Notice how happy we are? Notice also that the Korean tourists had life jackets on and helmets on their heads while we only had a rope to hang on to. Ha! The happy poor people still had fun.

19 mau8a

Photo credit: Mau Rago

My friend, Mau, had a photoop with the colorful Pagsanjan boats. This easy route costs P1,250 per person. You get to help the boatmen earn their living. They only get a fraction of the amount. I am not sure where the rest of the fee goes.

20 mau8b

Photo credit: Mau Rago

After this is another 589 steps up. I suddenly regretted the times when I did not exercise. HA! Each step was a challenge.

It was already getting dark when we reached the top. Time to go home!

We had dinner at Isdaan in Calauan, Laguna. It is also a nice place for picture-taking.

21 wow 9

Photo by Wowtrippers

We had dinner in one of these huts.
24 wow 12 bc

Food was a little pricey but it was good since the restaurant is owned by the same people who own Barrio Fiesta.
25 wow 12 c2

By the time we got to the pension house, I hit the sack without changing clothes. I was that tired.

Do you want to experience the Laguna road trip? Wowtrippers offers such an experience with white water rafting. Check out their Facebook page and get in touch with them.

I was not asked to write this post for Wowtrippers. I am just a happy client.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...