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Scattered Gem of Alaminos; Hundred Islands

IMG_4814Philippines, a country consist of 7,107 islands. These islands offered different sceneries and panoramic views to those who want to explore its beauty. Being an archipelagic country, Philippines is well-known for its beaches and beautiful underwater world. If you are Filipino, you are familiar with the group of island they called “Hundred Islands”. With the promotion of national and local government, the sets of islands became famous around the globe for its beauty and unique formation.

IMG_4815Hundred Islands is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. The islands (124 at low tide and 123 at high tide) are scattered in the Lingayen Gulf and cover an area of 18.44 square kilometers (4,557 acres). Many legends narrate the origin of the Hundred Islands. One legend says that the island originates from the over turned boats and bodies of one hundred warriors that engage in a fierce mortal sea combat against invaders. To commemorate the braveness of the warriors, their god immortalized them by turning them into islands.

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According to scientific study the islands are estimated to be two million years old. The islands are actually ancient corals that extend well inland, in an area previously comprising the seabed of an ancient sea. Lowering sea levels have exposed them to the surface and the peculiar “mushroom”-like shapes of some of the islands have been caused by the eroding action of the ocean waves. Of all the 124 islands only three of them have been developed for tourists: Governor Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island.

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To get there, you need to rent a boat that will bring you to the islands from Alaminos port. The rent depends on what package you choose, but always beware of fixers. From the port, you will see the islands from afar. The islands look like common mass of land and seemed to nothing special.

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The travel from the port to the first island you pass is approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As you approach the first islet, you will be amazed on the breath-taking views. The islands that look like long mass of land from afar, but when closely approach looks like drops of emeralds floating in sapphire blue sea. Looking down in the water you can see the bottom of the sea. The crystal clear sea-water provided a glimpse of marine biodiversity. The white sand underneath the sea looks like pulverized corals.

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One by one the hidden islands from afar were being uncovered. Islands that seemed to be lump mass of soil are made up of limestone. The rocky islands were been sculpted by the waves of the sea and the top of each island is magnificently adorned of greeneries. The foliage has provided shelter for animals. Different shapes of rocks that surround every islands added marvelous sights and memorable beauty. Every island has a name. Some of the islands were named after the president and notable people of the Philippines.

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You may request the boat driver to drop you off in islands but some islands are not suitable for hoping. Some islands are really rocky and no beach to serve as parking space for the boat. One of the islands that you may set afoot is the Governor’s Island. You can see partial view of scattered islands on the top of Governor’s Island. But before you can see the panorama, you need to climb series of rocky steps to reach the top. The spiky rocks and deep ravines are present while climbing that’s why you should be extra careful and you should at least wear sneakers. I must admit, if you are not used to climb high places you will be having a hard time to reach the top. But as soon as you reach the view deck of the island a picturesque and paradise view will be the showcase of your climbing. Islands of various sizes, atolls and rocks that have white sand beaches are surrounded by beautiful blue water. If you want to stay a little bit longer in Governor’s Island at want your skin to be tanned you may swim around the island.

Another island that you can hop-in is the Quezon Island. Quezon Island boasts white sand beach and wonderful rock formations. Inlets and cavities of rocks added beauty and pristine on the island. Since Quezon Island was one of the three islands developed for tourist, there are available facilities and resort in the island.

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You may also visit the Cathedral Island that really has a resemblance in a cathedral. It is a hollow cave that echoes your voice as you speak. The cave interior can be compared to a massive cathedral with rugged features. The coralline limestones hanging in the cave’s ceiling are like chandeliers that give sparkles as the light from your flashlight illuminates the cave. If you are into spelunking, Cathedral Cave is ideal for you.

Marcos Island offers another view compared to other island. Inlets and hollow cavities is a must see feature of the island. In my own opinion, it has the most powdery white sand and crystal clear water among the entire island. You should try swimming in the dark Imelda Cave of the island. But always remember to wear life vest when swimming, the water inside the cave leads you back to the shore. If you love adventure diving in Imelda cave and plunging into its deep water will also give you a great experience.

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Hundred Islands is protected by the government. It is a fragile gem of the archipelagic Philippines that contains role in economy, biodiversity, solaces for those who love Mother Nature and formation of the world.

The hundred islands, being a nesting place for various fishes and sea creatures nurtures and restore their population. Migratory birds also nestle in the island. Since most of the foliage of the islands was not coveted by humans, animals have found shelter.

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(Yours truly in Alaminos Port Light House)

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Secret of Panguil; The Beauty of Buntot Palos Falls

(It is given. Laguna is a province blessed with unique landscapes, green mountains, cool bodies of water and rich historical treasure. We all know the mighty Pagsanjan Falls, Mount Makiling, Rizal Shrine and so many attractions that you must see. But ever heard of Buntot Palos Falls?)

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If you think that Pagsanjan Falls is the only must-see waterfalls in this province you are very much wrong. Buntot Palos (Eel’s Tail) is the hidden grandeur located in the town of Panguil. Finding a perfect place for weekend escapade have made me browse hidden wonders of Laguna; and Buntot Palos Falls not that famous like Pagsanjan Falls topped the list. With my curiosity and wandering feet itching to see this wonder made me plan and write-down itinerary for the whole trip. Together with my officemates, off we went to see and marvel in this hidden beauty one fine Saturday morning.

We met-up in EDSA Shaw and upon completion of the group, we rode jeep bound to Tanay, Rizal. It was still early when we depart from Shaw yet traffic was all over. Non-stop chitchats and celebrity gossips, healed our boredom of being caught in traffic. It took us at least one hour to reach Tanay. From Tanay, we need to ride another jeep bound to Siniloan. Since it was weekend, the roads in Rizal were not congested.

On the way, I just realized that Rizal boasts good landscapes, beautiful view of Laguna de Bay and bursting green hues from trees. It was already 10 a.m when we arrived at Siniloan. The driver of the jeep helpfully assisted us to ride again on the jeep that will pass Banlian Panguil. Our driver aided us to alight at Banlian Barangay Hall. You have to pay for the registration fee which is 20Php and have a guide that will take you to the falls. Since the way through that awesome falls is full of robbery stories, securing a guide (complete with walkie-talkies) is a must.

So it was 11 a.m when we started the hike. The trail is shady since trees are lined up and it was a little bit cloudy when we went there. On the way, we encountered farmers with their horses transporting their crops (bananas and coconuts) down on the plains.

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(View while ascending. Mountains of Sierra Madre, ricefields of Siniloan and the peaceful Laguna de Bay)

Some part of the trail are easy, some are combinations of rocks and boulder and some are muddy. We were so hungry because we didn’t take our breakfast yet. Since it was too late for breakfast and upon finding a very shady area we ate our packed lunch. Our guide being accommodating never lost stories to share about the place. (Sorry, I forgot his name). When we were nearing the falls, the booming sound greeted us. We were hyped at the moment upon realizing we were already near on our motive. A few minutes more, we already saw the river and the falling waters. But before reaching the waters you have to descend on the steep ravine which you can’t hold anything but twigs and rocks. Few minutes of rock hopping and…Tadahh!

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(The mighty and grand Buntot Palos. Standing in approximately 80 meters.)

Marveled in beauty and stunned in awe. This 80 plus meters falls is simply breath taking. The clear and cool waters, irresistible and shame if you don’t plunge.

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(Boulders filled with moss, vines and creeping shrubs carpeted the walls of rocks.)

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(Camera wh*ring. Yours truly in the basin ground of the falls. Glad no falling stones!)

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(Playing like a kid. Just excuse my facial expression.)

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(One more photo!)

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(Simply breath taking)

How to go there?

1. Ride any jeepney bound to Tanay, Rizal. (Jeeps and FXs are available in EDSA Shaw or Santolan Station LRT2.

2. Upon reaching Tanay, ride another jeepney bound to Siniloan. Ask the driver to alight you to the terminal of jeep that will pass Banlian.

3. From Banlian, register on the Barangay Hall and secure your guide.

Mount Batulao: The Barren Wonder

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Yes, I am into Mountain Climbing this past few days. 5 mountains in two months. We’ll not bad for a beginner.

Okay. School days is fast approaching and I want to make adventure on the remaining days of my school vacation. I just focused in my work and enjoyed the summer. So together with my officemates, we geared up for climbing Mt. batulao.

Giving you some info, Mt. Batulao is a mountain standing in Nasugbu and Balayan, Batangas. Well known for its unique mountain contours and ridges.

5:30 in the morning we departed in Metro Manila and been asleep till we reach Evercrest. The entry point to the barren wonder of Batulao.

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(rolling terrain and unique edges)

The summer heat was at its peak, even the rainy season is fast approaching. The mountain was dry and almost dusty. Thirsty, dry land was covered with black ashes of burnt cogon grasses. If the grasses, the trees and all life forms could speak, they would probably cry for the rain to fall from the heavens.

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(easy trail!!)

Throughout the trail, the soil was loose and the dust could flow as the warm air blows. I don’t know if it was beholding in the sight to see mirage and the illusions of wave they make. Fortunately, the blowing of wind and the clouds soothed the perspired body of the climbers. Amidst the warmest season of the year, none can stop us from our journey towards the peak of Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas.

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(the view as you’re traversing up)

Actually, the climb is easy and we took the new trail. Along the trail we met many first time and professional climbers. The sun is piercing our skin even we were well-equipped with garments that can protect our skin. But we don’t mind. Our chat and  laughter filled the air as we one by one reached Batulao’s minor peak.

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(with other climbers)

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(remarkable ridges and terrains!)

Batulao offered us remarkable ridges and rolling terrain. As the wind blows, grasses billow and dance like they have their own rhythm. But every steps you should be careful, the path is quite treacherous. One wrong step or your end up rolling in the terrain. It might be the hotness of the weather that we stop on some shades that we passed to take a rest and cool our body. Glad that every shades that we stopped, someone was selling water or soda.

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Few more hours we are reaching the summit, the trail is getting tougher. The assault is almost 70 degrees that you need to rappel or hold on the rope just to climb. You must double check the step you make or you’ll end fallin in rocky bottom of cliff.

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Few minutes more, the 360 degrees view greeted you. Finally, the summit. Spectacular view on above, the beautiful minor peaks, unique curves and outlines of the mountain are much more beautiful on the summit.

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(on the summit!)

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(Walls of rocks)

We took pictures of us and we decided to climb down. Climbing down is much tougher than the ascend. Even it is not muddy, the trail is slippery and dusty. As we descend many more climbers are assaulting the summit. Of course, plenty of rapeling is needed to descend.

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We ate our lunch in camp 7 and we appreciate the mighty wall of rocks and soil covered with cogon grass right in front of our eyes. We traverse the old trail to reach EverCrest again. Traversing back was hotter than expected but again we don’t mind.

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(looking at the top as we’re going down)

 

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We reached the Evercrest again at 4pm. We paid Php20 for a shower and put on new clothes again. And then that’s it… back to Manila again 🙂

Pulag: Into the Playgrounds of the Gods

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(Blanket of clouds)

If Greece has Mount Olympus to be the haven of their immortals, the Philippine lower mythology has Mount Pulag to be the playgrounds of the gods.

Listening to the stories and tales of Mt. Pulag when I am still a kid leave wonder and fascination in my young mind. Plus, numerous feature stories I watched on television about this mountain made me dream of climbing it one day. Okay. Before continuing my adventure, let me give you an overview about Mt.Pulag. Dubbed as the Playground of the Gods and Sea of Clouds, the mountain stand 2922 meters in the province of Benguet. It is the coldest point of the Philippines that reach below zero degrees in the month of December to February.

Then came the perfect time I was able to climb this dream mountain of mine. A package of 2,800 including fare and fee was laid upon my table! I am very excited, that the day before my trip I was not able to sleep well 🙂

10 o’ clock of Friday evening I met up with my fellow tourist (my professor, long-time friend and other new faces I’ve never met before) in Cubao Victory Station. With some lively chats and pulling of jokes, the trip was not boring. 6 o’ clock we arrived at Baguio City, ate our breakfast and prepared our things in the jeep that will escort us to Mt. Pulag.

I do love adventure! I have done so many adventures and daredevil adventures that I always charge to experience. But the ride on jeep (topload baby!) off to Pulag had given a lot of experiences that I enjoy!

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(Coaster ride? hell of a ride. Feels like Im about to throw up! With Sir Norman in the front)

We arrived at the DENR center for a quick orientation about this mystic mountain. The orientation was informative, we were told that Pulag is a sacred place for the natives and we must respect the sanctity of the place. After the orientation we traveled for 30 minutes to reach the ranger station. Oh well, the ride from DENR to the ranger station was really bumpy. Prepare your butts to get hurt. Don’t worry, the beautiful surroundings and ravines will greet you (just don’t think negative things like falling down)

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(Register and attend the orientation. Best tasting banana chips!)

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(With the gang!)

As we reach the ranger station we prepared, ate our lunch and hired some porter guys that will carry our stuff to the base camp. As we were preparing, suddenly the hail pellets began to fall! First time experience of rain of hail in this tropical country! After the rain, fogs began to envelope the whole place. Feels like we’re in heaven!

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(could you ask for more?)

We started the hike to the base camp on exactly 2pm. Of course, as our team walk we couldn’t resist to do camera whoringJ. We want to enjoy the moment that finally we are touching down this beautiful mountain. Every curves and steeps of the mountain offer great variety of paronama from the billowing moving clouds down to the luscious flora of the mountain. I couldn’t help but to say “thank you Lord!” as we traverse the trail.

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(in luscious green I found pax)

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(pine trees all over)

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 (fill your lungs with the fresh fog covering the place)

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 (terraces? We’re not in Banaue!)

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(wow!)

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 (pitcher plant? I don’t have any idea.)

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(some wild flowers)

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(reaching the base camp 2)

The mountain is simply fantastic, it host several plants I am not familiar with and easy trails that I never expected. It was 6 o’clock when we reach the camp 2. Tents scattered everywhere. Our porter told us there are 500 people that were registered to assault the summit at 3 am. Together with my group we settled to spend the night. We changed our clothes, ate our supper and had a little chit chat.

It’s time to sleep then suddenly, it was raining! It was non-stop! Unexpected turn of events, the water went inside our tent! Soaking wet all our belongings and sleeping bags! Flood inside our tent? Yes! We’re panicking and we decided to go to the tent of our organizer.

Our group organizer let us in and told us they were about to go in our tent to stay coz the water also drench the thermal sheets of their tent. Then that’s it, seven people crammed inside the tent with wet thermal sheets and with capacity of 3 person only. Charge to experience.

We couldn’t sleep, no good sleeping position is good for us to rest. We stayed so close that our body heat serve as protection from the deadly cold outside. We tried to get rest but its futile, for us to entertain ourselves we made fun of our condition. Then a brilliant idea was made, we will sleep in soldier position. That ladies and gentlemen is the best one hour of my night in that mountain. I was able to sleep for one hour before 3 a.m.

At 3 a.m, people who camped were awake. It’s time to assault the summit. With nothing but strong conviction to reach the top and beat the cold we join the hundreds of people on climbing the top. It’s almost a 3 hour walk and the trail is illuminated by flashlights. It is like a dawn procession, only this is no Catholic tradition.

Then as we are reaching the top tadahhh!!!

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 (sunrise!)

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(supreme sun in the vast sky)

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(playing the light)

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(uncovering the place!)

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(side 1)

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(the ascend to the top)

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(closer look on dwarf bamboos)

Finally, 2922 above sea level. We have not seen the sea of clouds but the view was really amazing and breath taking!

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More camera whoring moments.

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More bonding with my groups.

Appreciating Mother nature more and more and more!

As the sun perch and melt the mist clear view of the mountain greeted us. Dwarf bamboos carpeted the whole summit and its small peak below mossy forest and pine forest are in their liveliest green.

Truly, jaw dropping.

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After that we climbed down to the base camp. As we traverse the same trail, the beauty of Pulag slowly uncovered.  Unlike the climb ascending in the dark dawn which I couldn’t see the view, I like the descend more.

The view? Wonderful and so exquisite! I’m speechless!

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After reaching the camping area we ate our breakfast and packed our bags and tent. Time to leave the mountain.

Hiking down, I feel that I don’t want to leave the place. I feel in love with the serenity, peace and sacredness of the mountain. But, my life below the mountain is waiting for me.

I will definitely go back to climb this mountain. Other part of my adventurous soul was left in its summit. I may not have seen the sea of clouds, but every cold wind that blew in my body, every hail that rained in my coat and the priceless bonding with new found friends, that what I call “a must experience”.

Talamitam: The Teletubbies Mountain of Batangas

After our climb at Pico de Loro, we traverse the trail for us to reach the bus station that will bring us to Bayabasan. (Bayabasan is the entry point on reaching Talamitam) Since we were advised that traversing the way to Talamitam is not as hard as Pico de Loro, we have to wear comfy clothes that will block the sun rays. And so my get up is…. Image   Talamitam have a reputation of having a hot trek and sun piercing trail. And also, being compared to Teletubbyland. As we ascend upward, the beautiful view below surprises you. The locals said the mountain’s color during summer is brown due to dried grass that blanketed the mountain floor. But during rainy season, the mountains turned into beautiful green because new grass carpeted the mountain. Image

(The mountain could turn into farmland, the grass are little bit dried-up. Maybe because it’s summer here in the Philippines)

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 (Ascending. Looking in this view. Dehydrating)

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 (SO glad that more Filipinos are now becoming aware and participating in tree planting activities of private and public institutions)

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 (With the rest of the team. Getting closer to the summit!)

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 (Wild flowers scattered everywhere)

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 (Just a little more!)

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 (No. Still not the summit, but I’m looking at the vast surroundings 630 meters above.)

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 (Getting there!)

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(Summit at last! Never mind my belly! Haven’t exercise for a month. My abs are gone 😦 )

Check out more photos in my Facebook page.

Pico de Loro: Reaching the Parrot’s Beak

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(Pico De Loro or Parrot’s Beak)

I received a gift from my very close college friend. A trip/adventure of climbing three exquisite mountain for only one day. First climb is the Mt. Pico de Loro (in English Parrot’s Beak). At 1 A.M, together with the group of mountaineers we drove to Ternate, Cavite to traverse the way on reaching the Pico’s peak.

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(Big trees and heavy vegetation blanketed the forest. It’s still dark and my camera couldn’t capture the rich flora of this rain forest)

3 A.M we started the hike to reach the mountain. The trail is very dark, it is advisable to bring flashlight to see the trail. The whistle and sound of nocturnal birds and insects seemed to be the music of silent dawn.

Rocky and muddy, the trail ascend to reach the registration camp is quite hard. At 4 A.M we arrived and our tour guide paid needed fee for us to continue the climb. We continued the trek till we reached the Alibangbang Camp. The trail from Alibangbang to the Camping Site near the summit is hard. Big rocks that you need to climb, almost 70 degrees angle of ravine that you need to crawl, and dusty steepy soil that you need walk. I’m sweating like crazy and a little bit hazy. I haven’t sleep yet for 25 hours but I am determined to reach the summit. Upon reaching the thick bamboo forest and few more step the view is marvelous.

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(Fogs blanketed the air.)

The summit is very visible and the horizon is breath taking! You can actually touch the clouds and feel the cold air embracing your whole body. We ate our breakfast in the camp while viewing the “dance of the clouds”. At 7:30 AM we assaulted the summit of Pico de Loro.

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(With hundreds of meters above the sea level, here I am in deep awe. Marveling the beauty of being near the sky and watching the lowlands.)

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(Densely covered by fog and cold breeze. I could not ask for more!)

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(Careful, one careless step and you’ll be doomed!)

The Trail to the summit is harder than the other trails we passed. With nothing to hold but the rocks and our backpacks that adds gravitational pull you must find your balance. But nonetheless, on the summit… Tadah!

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(Vee looming in the monolith and the 360 degrees view of Cavite, Batangas and the South China Sea)

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 (The feeling of seeing this kind of wonder? Simply priceless!)

Check out my Facebook page to see more pictures 🙂

 

Potipot Island: Camper’s Paradise in the Sea

Image(Pristine, virgin and exquisite. Piece of heaven for your weary soul.)

Potipot Island, the lone and pristine island in the blue waters of Candelaria, Zambales. Often called as “little boracay of the north”, its powdery white sand, clear water and beautiful greeneries has attracted hundreds of visitors to explore its hidden beauty.

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Since I want to maximize my 5 day vacation with my family, we’ve decided that we’ll have our outing in this island.

Located in Candaleria, Zambales you can reach the island five to six hours travel from Manila and four hours from Clark Freeport Zone. The  island is small where you can literally walk around it  in just an hour.  The island shore have fine white sands and multitudes of tropical fruit-bearing trees and shrubs can be seen as you stroll the island.

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(Relaxing green colors of the trees, shrubs and grass meets the blue hue of the sky and the sea)

There is an entrance fee for the island, 100php for day trippers and 300php for overnight campers.

There are two options for you in visiting the island:

  1. You can stay in one of the hotels across the mainland in Brgy. Uacon for accommodation and have the bangkero drop you off and fetch you by nightfall or whatever time you want to. (Potipot is just a 5-10 minutes ride from the mainland).

Image(View of the Mainland Candelaria and the Zambales Mountain Range.)

– or –

  1. Go camping in the island and have the bangkero fetch you the next day. In this option, you can enjoy sleeping with the blanket of silence and peace as Potipot is regarded as a virgin island—no electricity, no major infrastructures or hotels.

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(Campers are all around the island. If you wanna savor the taste of paradise in this island, go camping!)

Image(Clear water isn’t? Have a dip!)

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(Coral formation in shallow parts of the island. Snorkling anyone?)

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(Enjoying the white sand in my feet. Instant Foot-spa.)

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(Pimple-alert! Tanning time!)

How to get there?

Public Transportation

1. Ride a Victory Liner bus bound to Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

2. Coordinate with the bus conductor to drop you off in Brgy. Uacon, Candelaria or in Dawal. If you haven’t bought your supplies, you can ask the conductor to drop you at Candelaria Public Market and just ride a tricycle to bring you to the resorts in the area.

3. Upon finding a resort of your choice, hire a bangka (boat) going to Potipot island.

 Private Vehicle

  1. Use the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) all the way to Dau exit then continue to the Subic-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).
  2. Travel all the SCTEx till Tip Exit, passing through the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and on to the Subic Town.
  3. Take the National Road where in you will pass the towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe, Cabangan, Botolan, Iba, Paluig and Masinloc before reaching Candelaria. You can easily ask for the directions/suggestions for accommodation.