Travel

Ilocos: Tourist Spots, Where to Eat, What to Buy

It was 9:00 pm and I was still a bit sleepy from my 2-hour bus ride from Laoag City to Vigan. I waited anxiously at the Partas bus terminal amidst the flurry of passengers and conductors. I had arrived earlier this morning from Manila and the idea that I am finally in Ilocos was still simmering.

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For years I have planned to go to Vigan as many people have been urging me to visit this heritage town once inhabited by the affluent Chinese-Ilocano mestizos. A town that is unparalleled in its preservation of Spanish colonial towns. After meeting Edmar Guquib (blogger and author of Explore Ilocos) during a previous fam trip in Puerto Princesa, my resolve to visit was stronger and we finally made time to plan a visit on April.

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The hidden beauty of Burias Island, Masbate

What constitutes an ideal beach trip? For me it’s being able sink my toes into fine, powdery white sand, basking in the sun whilst enjoying the cool breeze (and napping thereafter), swimming in the clearest azure waters, and enjoying simple amenities on a far-flung island with literally no data or mobile reception. Yes, Burias Island was this and more!

When I booked my trip, I had only one simple desire: to relax by the beach away from the big, bad city. I had researched previously and I knew the beaches here were exquisite, but had no idea they were this beautiful. The trip made me more grateful and proud to live in such a beautiful country. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s explore Burias Island together, shall we?

HOW TO GET TO BURIAS ISLAND

Burias Island is one of the three major islands of Masbate frequented by adventurers and backpackers. The other two are Ticao Island and Masbate Island.

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The jump off point to Burias Island is Pasacao Port in Naga City. From Manila, you can choose to drive (8 hours) to Naga City or fly. Not surprisingly, I chose the fastest and more convenient route:

  • fly to Naga City via Philippine Airlines (50 minutes)
  • take the jeepney to the terminal, take the padyak trike to Pasacao Port (approx. 1 hour ++)
  • take the public passenger boat to San Pascual, Burias Island (2 hours)

*If you’re coming from Masbate City, travel time to San Pascual is extended to 6 hours via boat. 

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Let’s go on a Bambike Ecotour!

Temperatures are rising and I bet the lot of you are planning either a beach escape or flying to somewhere cooler. If you prefer to stay within city limits, there’s actually a couple of fun things you can do — and going on a Bambike tour is one of them.

What is a Bambike tour?

It’s basically a tour around the ancient walled city of Manila (Intramuros) on a bamboo bike. Depending on how much time you’d like to allot, you can choose from a full 2-hour tour (Php 1200 per pax), Express Tour (Php 600 per pax), or you can just rent the bike and go exploring on your own (Php 200/per hour).

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I’ve always wanted to do this but you know, life would always get in the way. With Pepe Gaka visiting Manila, we finally had the chance to experience this popular attraction and a way for me to showcase the oldest district and historic core of Manila.

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Our Medical & Dental Mission in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City

As the propeller plane approached Naga City, I was half relieved and half disappointed: relieved to finally be landing after a tremendously bumpy ride (a storm was brewing), and disappointed because obviously it was very gloomy. So much for trying to get some sun, I thought to myself.

Still, I was thankful to be here. Naga City has been on the news as it was devastated last Christmas by tropical cyclone Nina (internationally called Nock-ten). Images of destroyed houses, trees and concrete blocks flung to the grounds, displaced locals flooded the news. When my friend, artist Pepe Gaka, said he was invited by Missionaries of the Poor for a commissioned project and a Medical and Dental mission was in the works, I said I would be more than happy to tag along. This was a good a time as any to come visit, see the damage myself, and help if needed. Given different circumstances, I would never have finally decided to visit Naga.

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The Medical and Dental Mission is a yearly event spearheaded by the Missionaries of the Poor in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City in partnership with Maronites on Mission of Australia (MOM), a Christian voluntary organization that helps marginalized sectors of society.

This year, they have 18 volunteers from different industries and professions. They flew all the way to Naga from Australia, sourced all the medical sponsors for the event, and did all the leg work. Most arrived on January 9th to help full-time while I arrived on January 11. The mission was an 11-day event which involved numerous charity works including medical and dental support, house building, and food relief. The medical and dental mission was slated for January 14 in San Rafael, Bgy. Cararayan and was the major event I helped out in.

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How to turn your trash into Eco Bricks

I feel that a lot of times social media bombards us with so many things: Save the environment! Ditch your desk and go travel! Plan for retirement! Love with all your heart! It can get frustrating and sometimes confusing. How do we live a meaningful, purposeful life without having to leave our jobs or relocate? Surely there is something we can do without having to make drastic changes.

The Eco Brick Challenge came at the perfect time: it was practical, it was easy, it was something I can do with my friends. There was an element of fun and a feeling of accomplishment after each task. And did I mention: it was so darn easy!

The Eco Brick Challenge

Spearheaded by The Circle Hostel, the task was to fill used plastic bottles with non-biodegradable wastes like candy wrappers, cellophane, styrofoam, cigarette butts, coffee or shampoo sachets, basically packing whatever waste we could find at home, at the office, or while on the road.

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Thank you Alex and Gera for helping out!

Initially I was skeptical I could fill even one bottle so I asked help from family members and neighbors. Little by little I started filling up one, two, three bottles per week mostly from press gifts, daily trips to the wet market, or from my own consumption of foil sachets from my wheatgrass drinks. And those oil clear sheets we take for granted? Yup those are plastic, too! I stuffed them right in!

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Shop Wonderland

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Summer: Well, you know, I guess it’s ’cause I was sitting in a deli and reading Dorian Gray and a guy comes up to me and asks me about it and… now he’s my husband.
Tom: Yeah. And… So?
Summer: So, what if I’d gone to the movies? What if I had gone somewhere else for lunch? What if I’d gotten there 10 minutes later? It was, it was meant to be. And… I just kept thinking… Tom was right.
Tom: No.
Summer: Yeah, I did.
Summer: I did. It just wasn’t me that you were right about.

Oh man. Even though it hurts so much, “500 Days of Summer” will still be my favorite movie next to The Godfather. So yeah, when I went to LA early this year I was search of a good deli to hang out in and a good coffee shop. Sadly, I am not a deli person but coffee was my forte so I was in search of the most interesting ones during my stay. But as fate would have it, I wasn’t impressed with the selection. I guess I would have to try my luck some other time.

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