That One Afternoon in Taal

That One Afternoon in Taal

I almost forgot to write about this trip. After that Taiwan trip last April,  my friend,  Gail, and I extended our stay in Luzon to go to Taal, the heritage town in Batangas. (We are from Mindanao, Philippines, btw.) Gail and our friend, Shirly, already went there months before and I wanted to visit the place, too.  Gail was so nice to accompany me even if she had gone there before and even if we were already very tired from our trip. (We have become Titas!) We both wanted to go home to our provinces but we also had to take this trip because we already paid for our overnight stay in Lemery. We decided to take our time. Rushing would only stress us. I think we left the Airbnb we rented at 9 AM. We did not rush. We were chill.

We arrived at a hotel in Lemery at around lunch time and I could not remember if we ate lunch. I think we skipped lunch (*insert a shocked emoji) because we planned to eat our way in Taal.

In Taal, we were greeted with these buntings.

That One Afternoon in Taal

It was the ‘El Pasubat Festival’, a celebration of its founding anniversary. There was a culinary contest at a plaza near the municipal building. While hanging out there watching the activity, we saw Kuya selling ice cream.

We had to buy ice cream! Yum!

Gail had been raving about Taal’s lomi so we had to get one. We just ordered from a random eatery and, lo and behold, we got the thick and savory noodle dish. This was lunch and it was filling.

That One Afternoon in Taal

We dropped by the church which is said to be the biggest Catholic church in Asia. This is the Basilica de San Martin de Tours.

That One Afternoon in Taal

There was going to be a wedding that afternoon.

That One Afternoon in Taal

It is a beautiful church.

That One Afternoon in Taal

There is a balcony attached to the church.

That One Afternoon in Taal

It overlooks a koi pond.

That One Afternoon in Taal

Another food to try in Taal is the halo-halo at a carwash. Since it was a long walk from the church, we figured our tummies were now ready for merienda.

The carwash/cafe was decorated with memorabilia.

That One Afternoon in Taal

The halo-halo was yummy! It was the type with finely shaved ice and minimal ingredients. It reminded me of Razon’s halo-halo.

After that halo-halo, we started our walk around the town.

This is Gregorio Agoncillo’s mansion. Now this space in the blog should be a brief story on who Gregorio Agoncillo was, but I took this photo outside a closed gate.  I could have written down the stories of the things I saw inside the house and the people who lived there. Ha! Now we all have to google.  Sorry about that.

That One Afternoon in Taal

We were really walking at a leisurely pace that it was past 4 PM when we reached Galleria Taal.

That One Afternoon in Taal

Galleria Taal is a museum with the largest collection (i think) of cameras in the Philippines.  I only took a few photos. (Nahiya ang camera ko sa camera nila!) Talk about my camera being camera shy!

These are just a really small sample of their collection.

That One Afternoon in Taal

I was only able to visit one museum.  It was already 5 PM when I exited the camera museum. So much for being chill and taking my time! Ha! Ha!

That One Afternoon in Taal

Even this place where we could dress up in Filipiniana was already closed.

That One Afternoon in Taal

We just said hi to Marcela Agoncillo, the woman who made the first and official Philippine flag.

That One Afternoon in Taal

We were following a Taal town map and we saw that there was another church.  This is the Our Lady of Caysaysay church.

That One Afternoon in Taal

The church was closed but the caretaker allowed us to enter. He had to get a set of keys for us to be able to get inside.

We said our prayers.

That One Afternoon in Taal

Since Gail had visited before, she also knew that there was a miracle well near.  The water from the well was believed to have miraculous healing powers.

That One Afternoon in Taal

The sun was about to set as we left the Caysasay church area.

That One Afternoon in Taal

We dropped by the basilica again and we were able to catch the wedding party as they were taking pictures. Now if we only knew where the wedding reception was, it would have been free dinner for us! Kidding!

That One Afternoon in Taal

The Basilica lit up at night.

We had dinner at a local restaurant and rode a tricycle back to our hotel in Lemery, Batangas.

It was a chill and no-frills trip.  Thank you, Gail, for being my tour guide!

Taiwan Trip: Video Clips Compilation

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So what do you do when you have lots of video clips from your travel? Stitch them together, add music, write captions and upload it on Youtube. I have not really planned these videos well to create a cohesive story of my trip but since these clips are all I’ve got, I compiled them anyway. The plus side of posting the video is that I can free some disk space from my phone and laptop. I still need a lot of practice in editing videos. My hands were shaky and my editing tools were very basic ( Hello, Windows Live Movie Maker! Hahaha).  This is more of a video for myself and Gail- something we can reminisce about the trip. So apart from taking photos, I also take these video clips (if I remember them).  I also value the experience itself so there were lot of times I forget to take the photos and video- taking a moment to just enjoy the place using my senses.

I hope you get a glimpse of what Taiwan has to offer even with my very amateurish video.

10 Noteworthy Places to Visit in Taiwan for the First-timers

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Taiwan is just a short plane ride away from Manila and yet it was never in my list of places to visit. When a temporary visa-free entry for Filipinos was offered, I started to become interested in visiting this country. My friend, Gail, and I decided to book a trip there when she saw a discounted fare from Eva Air.

I never regretted my decision to visit Taiwan. I even want to go back. There are still a lot of places in Taiwan that I want to explore.

Since I enjoyed my stay in Taiwan, I have listed the top 10 places we visited. We had 4 whole days to spend in Taiwan and we made sure we get to different interesting places. The list was written in random order.

1. National Palace Museum

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It is a vast complex.

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The museum houses three floors (and a basement) of artifacts.

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These are just few of the interesting pieces I saw. I took photos of non-blue ceramics because they had interesting colors that caught my eye.

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This one is an intricate carving of an ivory ball said to be made from a single elephant tusk. That is a huge tusk so imagine how large the elephant was.

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“Suzhou Fakes” This work is a forgery but it was so good that it deserved special attention in this exhibit.

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2. Nanya Rock Formation

The northeast coast of Taiwan has interesting seascapes. The sea creates a coastline of sculptures.

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I also love how awesome the mountains are in Nanya.

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3. Cape Santiago Lighthouse

We went on a Monday. Too bad the lighthouse was closed. We spent our time in this area. It was beautiful here.

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We chanced upon an artist trying to set up his tools. We were waiting for him to start painting but it started to rain. We hope he was still able to complete his work despite the rain.

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Bonus: We took a Klook tour. We spent time at the Waiao Tourist Center which overlooks the city of Yilan.

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This is my affiliate link to Klook:  Klook discount  You get a discount when you book through this link and I will get a reward, too.

4. Old Caoling Tunnel

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The tunnel was 2 kms long. My friend, Gail, was on a bike because she knows how and I don’t. This tunnel is now being used for biking.

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This was the moment when knowing how to bike was essential. I walked a total of 4 kilometers alone.

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Being alone in a cold, dark tunnel can feed scary thoughts into my imaginative brain. Good thing I met cycling people every several meters or so.

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This is what we can see after exiting the tunnel.

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There was another parallel tunnel for the trains.

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5. Jiufen

Jiufen is a mountain town known for its intricate alleyways peppered with different shops. It is also the inspiration for the animated movie, “Spirited Away”.

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I love the peanut ice cream in this shop.

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It was raining when we went there which made navigating the alleys a little harder.

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We found time to have tea and we had to go through some tunnel to find this tea place.

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6. Shifen

We went to this old street with a railway station.

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It is popular for flying sky lanterns. People wrote their wishes on the lantern and released it to the sky for good luck.

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These people were standing on a working rail track. A bell rings every time there was an incoming train and people would walk to the side for safety. Once the train passes, they would return to position and set up their lanterns again.

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7. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

We went here in the morning of the day we left Taiwan.

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We just wanted to visit the place since we saw how different the MRT station was. It had gold markers all over the station so it was really special which really showed how  important a person Chiang Kai-shek really is in the history of Taiwan.

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We were lucky to have observed the changing of the guards.

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It was a fascinating ritual/routine which made me wonder if the monument of Jose Rizal in Luneta had similar routine. (At a very young age, I learned from my mother that the Jose Rizal monument in Luneta had real guards- not a statue but breathing, living human beings. I was dumbfounded learning that bit of information.)

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8. Yehliu Geopark

It was unfortunate that it was raining real hard when we went to Yehliu Geopark. The park had all these interesting rock formation. We were given a leaflet which would help us identify the different shapes of rocks. I guess our guide was correct when she said that this would be a good reason to come back.

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We found some ways to still get a few photos in this park.

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9. Zhong She Flower Garden

Since we missed the cherry blossom season in Taiwan, we were searching for any park with flowers. We saw awesome photos of this flower garden in Houli, a town in Taichung. Taichung is located in Central Taiwan which means we have to take a few train rides from Taipei. We found no package tours to Taichung so we had to D-I-Y our itinerary. I am thankful to Gail who was very efficient and reliable in researching for directions and navigating different train systems in Taiwan.

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The flower garden was awesome. You may see me squinting at the sun but Gail and I enjoyed our time in the flower garden.

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10. Rainbow Village

This is a colorful village masterfully done by a military veteran.

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We were lucky to meet him! Meet Huang Yung-fu, the artist behind the colorful Rainbow Village. The story goes that when the government planned to demolish and transfer the residents of this village to another location as the complex had become an eyesore, this military veteran picked up his brush and started painting its walls and floors with vibrant colors. The village has become a tourist attraction that the government had no choice but to leave them alone. Clever, eh?

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Runner up on this list is the Longshan Temple. We spent a short time in this temple because we had a flight to catch.

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I know I did not mention Taipei 101 because Gail and I were both acrophobic so we did not visit the observatory. On our last night in Taipei, we realized that our Airbnb was actually near Taipei101. Look at us being touristy.

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These are but a few of the noteworthy sites to visit in Taiwan. There are still a lot more I am interested to visit!

‘Til next time, Taiwan!

That One Saturday I Joined a Matin-ao Trail Hike

After several Saturdays of planning to join this hike (which I always put off because sleep is life hahaha), I finally was able to push myself to wake up early in the morning and drag myself to McDonald’s where the agreed assembly area would be. My friend, Erns, was already there waiting for me. We would be joining a group of friends who bonded over hiking and alumni homecoming preparations (Hi, Saturday Warriors!). The start of the trail was in Barangay Bonbon since Matin-ao is part of the barangay. I think it was already almost 6 A.M. when we started hiking. The sun was up but the air was cool. It was a good day for a hike.

So let me show you the awesome views I saw along the way. This was primary reason I wanted to join the hike.

There was a community we passed by along the way which made me wonder what it was like to live away from the city.

I snapped photos of flowers which I shall use for future painting references.

Although there were a number of times that I found myself chugging my water bottle and catching my breath, it was a relatively easy hike especially for a newbie like me. We were chitchatting while walking. It was like a stroll in a park. Well, it was partly because Daryl, who frequents this trail, kept telling me that we were near the end of the trail. “It is near that next turn, Kat.” “Just a few more steps.” All lies. hahaha  The pedometer reading on my phone recorded my 16,417 steps that morning.

Saturday Warriors on a hike.

We met kids with a carabao. What a cheerful child!

I forgot the beads of sweat trickling down my face whenever I saw a view like this.

How marvelous Our Creator is!

At the end of the trail is a rolling plain that makes you want to sing like Maria in the Sound of Music!

Erns was happy to reach this place.

From this vantage point, you can see Mt. Mayapay.

The best part of this experience was sitting on the grass and eating breakfast. Ha! Who said we were on diet? Never mind the amorseco (Chrysopogon aciculatus) on our clothes, it was a wonderful experience.

Thank you, Saturday Warriors, for letting me tag along your hike!

Photo credit: Siegred Lumayag Colima

Living it Up in Libjo

I always look forward to visiting new places especially those off-the-beaten-path types. These places are not usually teeming with tourists so I feel like I own the place. (Yes, I have a very active imagination. Didn’t I say I was a dreamer?) So when an opportunity to visit Libjo in Dinagat Islands came up, I was thankful that I had no important activity in my calendar. I thank my friend, Bryan, for inviting me to talk about blogging and photography to high school students there. I had a wonderful time living it up in Libjo.

Libjo is a municipality in Dinagat Islands. Dinagat Islands is a province in Caraga Region in Northern Mindanao.  To get there from Butuan City,  we traveled by bus to Surigao City, took a jeep to the port and rode the boat for Libjo. The boat ride took us almost 4 hours.

Port in Libjo.

Libjo is a charming little town with so much potential for tourism.  We had time to just stroll around the town and the introvert in me just loved the peacefulness of the surroundings: no traffic, no crowd, no pollution.

This is the park and government center in Libjo. Children of all ages hang out at this park.

We walked further to reach an area overlooking the sea.

From this vantage point, I get to see these views. This is a great reward after walking a few kilometers.

There is a fishing boat docked below.

Libjo has rice fields that looked like small terraces.

Awesome, isn’t? Wait till you get to the beaches.

Beach hopping was part of the workshop so that the students can get some inspiration with their writing and practice photography.

So we hopped on a boat and we passed by this view  on the way to our first beach.

Don’t you want to just hang out here and relax?

How about sipping buko juice and scooping the yummy meat afterwards?

Say hi to my friend, Bryan, who made this trip possible. Thanks, Bry!

Libjo has white sand beaches with wide shoreline that we have enough space to jump…

… and do some yoga.

How about some quiet time in the blue lagoon?

I love hanging out in the grass under the coconut trees.

Oh, the students had fun, too.  I hope they learned something from this workshop.

My heart is full. Even for a short time away from the city life, I get to live a little better.

I will be back,  Dinagat!

Living it Up in Libjo

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