Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Siquijor 2015: Exploring All of the Island in One Day

I know it has already been weeks since this trip happened, but what still baffles me in happiness is how clean all forms of water in Siquijor Island are. Everything is just unbelievably clean and clear. The moment we stepped foot on the port, I was already amazed at how blue green, not brown, the water was, to think that we were on the port. And this condition, I think, is not merely because the locals are taking utmost care of their falls and beaches but simply because these gems have not yet been ransacked or abused by outsiders knowing that the place has not yet been fully commercialized.
Diamond De Siquijor Beach Resort
We were prepped for a day of touring around the island, never on pause. We would either be in transit from town to town in our ever so comfortable multicab, catching our breaths after an uphill and downhill trekking, whisking water here and there while soaked in some naturally flowing water or taking photographs at whatever we would turn our heads to because everything was just photogenic.
Even when we didn’t go swimming at Lugnason Falls since it was a bit crowded with locals on the day of our visit, I have to say it was still great seeing this beautiful piece of nature. The area is just small enough that the moment you step in front of it, you can already see its entirety. It radiates calm from every angle, the kind of calm you only get when around nature, so I bet it would’ve been really nice to hang out there if not for the number of people that time.
Cambugahay Falls, on the other hand, was where we had more fun. Aside from swimming along two layers of cold flowing water while being blanketed by shady trees, it was really the long and thick baging (vine/creeper) that won us over. We would swing with it like kids in the wild, let go and end up swimming in the water. Then we’d do it over again. And again. This is how they spell out playtime in the province.

In between water activities were visits at some of the island’s architectural landmarks like that of St. Isidore The Farmer Catholic Church which is said to be the oldest church on the island and, just right across from it, an old convent which, though not functional anymore, still exudes historical value.
A quick stop at the old Enchanted Balete Tree was something of a break considering all the travelling we were doing around Siquijor. Instead of scaring us out, this huge tree which was said to have been there since hundreds of years ago was a rather marvelous sight. The natural fish spa by the area was another treat for us. 
Different kinds of fish nibbled on our toes, and none of us could endure such sensation for long because it was very, very ticklish. Well, except Joson. She had too much fun there.
Love potions on sale!
Truth be told, I didn’t know Siquijor has quite an assemblage of scenic beaches. We were lucky enough to enjoy two of them. The best spots were saved for last.

Kagusuan Beach was where we chilled out and talked the longest that late afternoon. As told by our tour guide, the beautiful Kagusuan Beach once catered to a commercial resort. There was very little left of the previous establishment, but the few remaining relics added drama to the feel of the beach. 
Kagusuan is like the cotton candy of beaches. It has the softness of pastel colors everywhere – the water, the foam, the sky. Yummy seas!
We capped off our tour at Salagdoong Man-made Forest and Beach Resort. 
It is a favorite among tourists because it’s a great spot for cliff diving and sliding. The resort has two ramp levels for cliff diving, one 25-feet and one 30-feet high from the water, and a slide lower for less adventurous tourists. But for really boring people like Jusz, Katrina and me, we opted to just watch and support our brave friends. Tita Pabs, Faith and Joson accepted the challenge of jumping off the 25-feet high ramp. This didn’t happen quickly, though, as it took all three of them a total of another three hours, more or less, before being able to let go and jump which also earned Tita Pabs a bruise so huge that made people think she underwent some frat initiation rite. Funny! But still, good job, you guys!
Contrary to what one may initially think about the people of Siquijor Island, the locals we met had been nice and accommodating during our entire stay. I guess we just expected worse because of all the weird stories we heard about this place. Oh well, so much for myths and urban legends.
Big thanks to Kuya Joam for being the informative and accommodating guide who really took good care of us. He also made sure we get our money’s worth by giving us the total Siquijor experience. He would stop where he knew we could take pretty photographs even when it was in the middle of the road. Faith found out about him through a blog, so I’m also going to recommend him here if you want your trip to be just as fun as ours.

At the end of the day, beyond all the urban legends attached to its roots and people, Siquijor Island is but a virginal beauty that has so much to offer. I am just so blessed to have discovered and experienced this paradise firsthand. I stepped foot on this island without a clue as to what would welcome us here and went home rich with memories and a newfound respect for this treasure. Siquijor simply blew me away.

*Photos by Erika Pablo, Katrina Tolentino, Faith Ugates, and yours truly!

You may contact Kuya Joam at 0927-693-2095.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lobo 2015: Lost Behind the Mountains

Oh, what beautiful paradise have I gotten lost in, so beautiful that I would not have minded not finding my way out.

The long travel leading to Lobo from Batangas City was roadtrip material on all counts – zigzagging roads, rural living nuances, fresh air, luscious green trees, and mountainside scenery. It has everything. Though the trip was long and draining, the view was able to lift my spirits up. Thinking that I went to Batangas just from Laguna with all the tiring transfers and travel experiences only makes it sound so ridiculous.  

Punta Verde Dive is a part of the two-division Punta Verde Resorts, the other one being Punta Verde Sands, found in Lobo, a gem of a municipality in Batangas. Dive is the hidden haven which exudes that raw, disconnected-from-all-things-citylike, home-away-from-home ambiance. It’s the perfect getaway that makes one think of all the things it’s missing by being away from a place this serene and pretty.
The beach resort didn’t feel crowded at all despite the other guests present the day we checked in. The huts were strategically built far from each other, as in many hill steps away (*panting to death* lol), while the lodges were on the other side of the resort. So even when there were other visitors, it still felt like it was just us in a world of our own, no bumping into random strangers, no breaking of moments. Amen.
While other beaches boast sands so fine and white, Lobo Beach is best known for being a pebbled beach. This is not to say that it’s all pebbles. There’s also another portion of the beach which has fine sand. Best of both – WOW, LOBO. It’s also a favorite spot for divers because of its rich marine biodiversity. The water’s clear. We saw it during low tide upon our late afternoon arrival and during high tide first thing in the morning on our second day. The pebbles of different shapes and sizes were nice to look at and play with. It’s also because of this stones that walking barefoot in this area is the worst you could do. We were alone in our own shell during that morning dip by the beach because it was just us there yet again, like all the world’s ours to take in.
The infinity pool is something else. This huge pool sits atop the resort cliff and offers water just the right mix or warm and cold. It’s also not that deep, so I definitely enjoyed swimming. Overlooking the entire beach, you can only imagine how beautiful the sight is. It is the spot to be for the perfect viewing of the vast ocean. And because it is so far from the city, there wasn’t anything that felt out of place in sight – no commercial building, no billboard, no cable wires. Even when I tried extending my view at the farthest part my eyes could reach, I barely saw anything unnecessary. We spent quite a long time in this area – lying on the pool benches, sitting on the poolside and floating along the edges while finally being able to shake and laugh off all that took us to get here.
The rooms and amenities are all very nice; I’d even say they are still somewhat new. They have pavilions, huts and lodges which are very affordable already, considering the quality of service and accommodation. Aside from swimming, activities like kayaking and museum visits are also being offered. Although we didn’t get to try out kayaking (kayaks were under repair), we were able to go to the small museum which houses the owners’ collection of photographs and other memorabilia that are a part of Philippine history. Pretty interesting collection, I must say!
Aside from the place being the paradise that it is, it was also all that we went through that made us appreciate everything that this place has and is even more. We almost didn’t make it to the resort. How I would have been so disappointed if that really were the case. No commuting jeepneys or tricycles were available. Apparently, only one tricycle (two at most) makes such trip daily. Luckily, one jeepney carrying grocery supplies from the city (I guess) along with other passengers passed by, and the driver let us hitch a ride. Province feels!

I guess it wasn’t really lack of information, as all necessary warnings have been laid out before us, that made us go through such ordeal. It was mainly just us really wanting so very badly to go because the place was so inviting for our taste. We made up our minds, blocked negative thoughts and worries off our minds then off we adventured, not minding the things we were about to face.
The popular lighthouse in Punta Malabrigo, Lobo, Batangas
And our spot, that part where our hut was stationed, I believe has the best view ever. This is what we would see every time we would come out. Need I say more?
I have a number of takeaways from this beautiful and experience-packed trip – that there still are places that enthuse rural living, that pebbled beaches can be just as calming as fine sand ones, that being atop the world is nothing short of a blessing, that destination sometimes more than makes up for the long, winding and harrowing journey, that Lobo is something else, and that a part of me hopes the place stays the same because there is beauty in its lack of things.

It’s never too late to celebrate birthdays.

Hope to be back! This time with a car of our own! :)

You may check the resort’s website at http://www.puntaverde.ph/



*All photos are by me!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

DISCLAIMER by RENÉE KNIGHT

Catherine Ravenscroft was dumbfounded to find her long-kept, dark secret exposed in The Perfect Stranger, a book she didn’t know existed. She was even more unnerved when copies landed in the hands of her husband and son. Who did it and why it surfaced when she thought it was just her left who knew about it kept on getting in the way of her life. She was bound to face her past one way or another in order to put an end to her nightmare even if it meant jeopardizing her relationship with her family.
The act of keeping the secret a secret has almost become bigger than the secret itself. – Catherine Ravenscroft

A thought-provoking and heart-wrenching suspense is what Disclaimer is.

It literally gave me the nerves. It was good like that. There was something rather eerie about the writing that made my heart thump as the anticipation grew. The darkness and weight of the story also lured me in deeper.

What a sad story – it was just heartbreaking to experience through words the tragedy of two families broken by secrets and further destroyed by revelations. I couldn’t consider it a common real-life scenario, but still it hit home and became relatable for me.

It is extraordinary how much strength anger gives one. – Stephen Brigstocke

Truth be told, it was a bit of a struggle for me at first because I couldn’t find the connection between what seemed to be two separate stories. I couldn’t get a hold of where the story was headed and what it was about. Disclaimer was told at different intersecting and overlapping time frames matched with alternating character points of view, most of which were Catherine’s and Stephen’s. It was easy to think that to confuse was one of the intentions of this novel.

You have to be cruel to be kind. – Stephen Brigstocke

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy such complexity. Though the play on the shifting time frames and character perspectives was very tricky, this was also one main reason this book had been way more intriguing and thrilling, as it really stimulated my mind to make my own assumption of what was going to happen and further focus on every event on the book. It just made me not want to miss any detail. Gripping!

The big twist in the end was a jaw dropper. I couldn’t believe how the characters were reversed and the plot turned upside down. What a twist! I also loved the little revelations along the chapters, which were real page turners as well. Because this book was, I think, intentionally slow-paced, they helped keep the momentum going. There goes the reason suspense will always come first before romance in my heart over and over again.

Basically, Disclaimer teaches us that our secrets can haunt us forever. And the truth, especially the uncomfortable and ugly ones, it will always have a way of coming out to catch up with us, so either act on it or let it trap you forever.

Are you done reading this book? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know them! Feel free to share them below!

Monday, July 20, 2015

THE WKND SPECIAL Vol. 3

Two days ago, the July post-birthday hurrah with the college mates took place at Nuvali Park, Sta. Rosa. This month couldn’t have ended without any celebration with them, almost obligatory because, hey, we’ve been doing these for several years already.
So, uhm, we were just four (Justine, Yvonne, Jerome and me), but it almost felt like we brought a whole bus with us because we were just so loud, too loud actually that some people at the restaurant turned their heads to us while we were eating and talking and the driver scolded us while laughing so hard because of some gross stories. LOL!
It was an afternoon of much-enjoyed carb meals at Buffalo’s Wings N’ Things, conyo comedy over late lunch, discussions of realizations from immature days back in college, strip walks, picnic on the grass sans the food (because we were already full), people-watching/judging (come on, don’t act the saint LOL), Yvonne’s camera moments while making fun of us, heart-to-hearts re: family matters, and frappes for a chill nightcap.
We all went home with pained jaws, ripped side lips and sweaty underarms in exchange for a dose of good old belly laughs, enough to get us through the days ahead until the next weekend social.

Happy birthday to us – Jusz, Yvonne, Jonas, Paul, and Joanah! July people are such balls of fun!

xx


Photos by Justine Dador, Yvonne Prudente and your truly!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

THIS GIRL by COLLEEN HOOVER

At long last, after all the drama that struck Lake and Will’s young love, they were finally able to tie the knot to officially seal their relationship. Relishing their much-awaited honeymoon, Lake asked Will to take her down memory lane to all their turning points and the unknowns, the good and the bad, that transpired from their first meeting to the days that led them in their honeymoon hotel room.
If I took every romantic poem, every book, every song, and every movie I've ever read, heard or seen and extracted the breathtaking moments, somehow bottling them up, they would pale in comparison to this moment. – Will Cooper

I have nothing but good things to say about This Girl.

Seeing that all the flashbacks were once again taken from Will’s point of view, This Girl easily became a no brainer, surefire hit for me. I think it was also because of this that I had found the scenes and emotions to be more intense. It was always ever so easy for me to relate to and feel for his character.

I have to say that of the three books in this series, this one has got to be my absolute favorite. It has such a cute retelling of Lake and Will’s tale. There were no heartaches anymore. It was hopeful instead, even during the moments of sad reminiscences.  Instead of taking away all the excitement, the mere fact that I already know there was a happily-ever-after for the leading characters only made it all the more inviting and stimulating for me. Knowing just how they get to that beautiful end, with this kind of story, was where the fun was at surely.

The only thing that can break the unbreakable is the unthinkable. – Will Cooper

The poems! Of course there were the poems again! Hearts were all over the place the whole time I was reading, and I couldn’t remember how many times I swooned and melted with them. It was nice falling in love once more with the poems from previous books while also encountering new ones which were either just as mesmerizing or better. Of all the poems, I realized there were two that just struck me right through the heart. Schooled and Because of You are the two heart-melting, second-chance-giving, love-winning pieces. Who could reject love after reading/hearing these two? I bet none.

A perfect closer to the story of Will and Lake, This Girl is but a lovely and enjoyable reading companion, especially during the past rainy days when cozying up under thick blankets with a hot chocolate feels about the only right thing to do.

Colleen Hoover did a terrific job at capturing my heart, and I couldn’t be more delighted that this was how she was introduced to me. I would love to open other romantic Hoover books in the future.

Are you done reading this book? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know them! Feel free to share them below!
  
Photo source: https://merrilanil.wordpress.com

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