That One Extraordinary Lake Holon Adventure

If one looks at my chat history, one would see that as early as 2013 I already asked my friend who lives in Polomolok about Lake Holon. Then I parked the idea at the back of my head because life happened. I had many things on my mind and I did activities that sounded less tedious than hiking. Ha! Fast forward to nine years later, my friend, Barbara, broached the idea of going to Lake Holon. It was still March then and we had three months to prepare our bodies for hiking. It did not take a lot of convincing for us. I told her that we should go while we still can. At a blink of an eye, we’ll be in our 50s and we may no longer be as adventurous. I think Barbara took my words to heart. Ha! Besides, this trip was also our revenge travel of sorts. For the past 11 years, Barbara and I have travelled to Naga, Sagada, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Coron, Bataan, Dumaguete/Siquijor and Aurora. We would gone to more places but the pandemic had hampered our annual trip together.

To prepare for the trip, Barbara went hiking regularly while I slept, ate and watched k-drama. Oh, I did some 5-minute plank exercises. I have a planking app that guides me through the process. Planking is one of the few exercises I can pull off. I don’t know how a strong core and a wonderful abs (which I still do not have, btw) would help in hiking but, in my mind, as long as I exercise, I am good to go. Boy, was I wrong! But more on that later.

Our call time for the trip was 7PM at a fastfood chain. We left Butuan at around 830PM and arrived at T’Boli, South Cotabato at around 6AM. There were stopovers and bathroom breaks in between but I remained on my seat trying to avoid anything that would trigger my motion sickness. I think I was successful in achieving that. No vomiting from me!

Look at our happy faces at the grounds of the T’Boli municipal complex.

This is me waiting to be assigned to a habal-habal (motorcycle) that will bring us to the jump off point of our trek to Lake Holon. This is me being clueless of what lies ahead of us. Ha!

The motorcycle ride to Brgy. Salacafe took us around an hour. Barbara and I were at the back of a speeding motorcycle relinquishing our dear life to our driver. My one hand was on Barbara’s shoulder and the other hand carried the water bottle with my arm hugging a pillow. There were paved roads and there were dirt roads around the huge banana plantation of Sumifru where our motorcycle driver navigated like those in motocross races. Our butts would bounce up and down while our thighs tried to hold on to our seats. Imagine that rough ride for at least 30 minutes. I remember that it was difficult for me to unmount myself from the motorcycle. I had to slide down with my leg up like a gymnast that I was not. My thighs went numb for bit. I felt relieved that I was not alone in that predicament. Others remarked that they were prepared for the all hiking but they did not expect that grueling motorcycle ride. On hindsight, I should have done lunges and squats for my workout and not the planking. Ha!

This was us after an orientation . We got our walking poles, hat and we were ready to hike. It is easy to spot me in the photo. Find the girl who was still hyperaware that COVID still lurks around. Ha! I was the only one with mask on. I removed the mask while hiking. I wanted to breathe the fresh air.

After that memorable motorcycle ride, hiking may prove to be a walk in the park. After all, we took the Salacafe trail- the easier trail, they say. One can even ride a horse up to the viewdeck which was the last stop before starting a descent to the lake. We had a porter to carry our things.

Look at me all beaming and raring to go not knowing what happens a few hours later.

See those dark clouds? Yes, it rained. Our trail was not easy after all. Ha! When it started to rain, the porter asked me if I needed to get an umbrella from my bag. Good thing I remember I had a raincoat in that bag. Years ago, when I used to travel without checked in baggage and umbrellas were not allowed on our carry-ons, I packed a raincoat instead. I got this raincoat in Taiwan when it rained there. Glad that I was able to use it again four years after.

Just when I thought the rain stopped, it did not and it remained relentless. We were in for a crazy hike. I remember asking Barbara the night before we left if we still have a chance to shower before hiking. I was thinking I might need another set of clothes. Well, well, well. The rain took care of our shower time. Kat, ginusto mo ito. (Kat, you wanted this trip.)

The guide had to push me a little when I had a hard time in the slopes.

Look at the raging water. This was a tamer version. We encountered slopes looking like waterfalls.

We were all in this together. We had time to smile, rest and take photos.

The sun was up when we reached the viewdeck of the trail.

We looked like we had an effortless climb. Who would have thought I was struggling an hour earlier?

An hour of descent later, we reached lake.

Our guides set up our tents.

When we were all settled, it was time to swim! Lake Holon was declared as the cleanest inland body of water in the country in 2003 and 2004. Hopefully it was still as clean when we were there. There were fishes. We were able to dip our toes in the shallow water near the banks and let tiny fishes nib at our dead skin cells. A fish spa!

We hopped on a boat to the middle of the lake.

This is the view of campsite from the lake.

And we swam! Of course, I had a life jacket.

Cleanest lake, right? That was my bath for the day (No soap, though. Bad for the aquatic life). There are rest rooms and showers in the campsite you can use for a fee.

It was cold in the evening. I was wearing a heattech top under long-sleeved pajamas but it was still cold. My friends, Barbara and Merichel, and I huddled together in our tiny tent and slept though the cold night.

We woke up to this marvelous sight.

And I did not wake up like this. Hehe! I already changed clothes waiting for breakfast.

This is near the breakfast area with my tour mates!

This is my one last solo photo with the lake.

Off we leave the camp.

This time, we followed the more difficult trail- the Kule trail. The payoff was the 360 degree view of the lake that Barbara and I wanted to experience. With all the troubles we went through the day before because of the rain and the day after seemed to give us better weather, the Kule trail looked like a walk in the park.

The trail was narrow but it was not really dangerous. It was manageable. Had I been a lot fitter, I would say it was uneventful. But in the survival of the fittest, I am definitely the first to say goodbye. You know that I am the last person in the pack when the guide was just a few steps behind me making sure of the correct head count. A huge thanks to my friend, Barbara, for not leaving me behind.

And the pièce de résistance in this trail is this view of the lake.

Never mind if my eyes were closed. I was in the moment. Honestly, I was too tired to check the photos. As long as I have a proof I reached this place, I am okay.

By the way, Lake Holon was formed when Mt Melibengoy (also known as Mt Parker) erupted in the 1600s.

Shoutout to my friend, Barbara, who looks stunning, while I look disheveled.

There were 10 of us who followed the Kule trail.

This was taken at one of the stops. See the dark clouds? Rain finally caught up with us. We were almost at the Kule trail jump off point. We rested at an awning of house in a community.

There are stories that I do not have photos to show but they made an indelible mark in my memory. I do not have photos to show because I was hanging on to dear life. When my priority was survival, I focused on the task at hand- stay alive.

Remember that dark clouds in the last photo? It rained. And we still have a motocycle ride going back to the Salacafe jump off point. Rain + dirt road= muddy dirt road. Imagine 30 minutes on a dirt road and on a mountain slope. There was even a point where our fellow travelers had to get off the motorcycle because the ground was soft and the motorcycle had to go uphill. Only their drivers were left in the motorbike to maneuver the slope. The passengers just walked uphill and rode the motorcycle when it was already on a flat terrain. Our driver said it was okay for us just stay on the motorcycle. We saw how difficult it was for the drivers who went ahead of us so we said our prayers and just trusted our driver. I did not close my eyes because, as a passenger, I had to focus where we were going. If it would not go as planned, I would be able to figure out where to land. Thank you, God, we were safe. We arrived unscathed. Having survived that ride, the one-hour motorcycle ride along the dirt road of the banana plantation back to the municipal complex where our van for Butuan was waiting was no longer scary.

I have been through the most challenging ride of my life. Literally. I guess I am ready for any rollercoaster. Ha! Now I know why they say that the Kule trail is difficult. For me, it is the death-defying motorcycle ride that makes it difficult. The motorcycle ride strengthened my faith in God. I had to convince myself that these drivers have lived their lives in these rough terrain. The years of experience with their vehicles and their land made them experts in their domain. There is a part of me who wished that they will have better roads soon and a part of me who also wanted to leave nature alone. I hope we find the balance in enjoying nature, nurturing it and earning a living.

Looking back, I know I survived the hike to Lake Holon because the guides were great at motivating even those who were not physically fit (me!). They would tell us that we will get there one step at a time. When it rained, we did not see panic in their faces. They looked like they know what they were doing. We asked them questions along way. It eased our worries knowing they knew the route like the back of their hands. The locals would ply that route effortlessly. There were pitstops (stations) along the way to the lake and there were locals selling food to famished and parched hikers or just somebody like me who loves to eat. I was craving coke when we returned from the lake that I told Barbara I would buy one when I see one. True enough, I bought a small bottle for Php 35. It was quite expensive but it was worth every drop. It was my reward for myself for this little achievement.

Thank you, Lake Holon, for the memories! I hope more people will able to enjoy your majestic beauty.

P.S. We traveled to Lake Holon with Wanderags Tour. Thanks to Barbara for almost all of the photos.


So Glad to be Back, Libjo!

Let us go back to 2020 when I planned to go with my friends to Dinagat on March 17. And we all know what happened. Lockdown due to COVID-19 in the Philippines started on March 15. So traveling was out of the question.

It does not help that my friend, Bryan, who works there frequently sends us wonderful photos. Imagine being locked down in an island paradise for a long time. While everyone is frantic over the uncertainties, he had the beach, all the seafood and away from the virus. Seems like a dream. Bryan lives that dream life minus the occasional burger and junk food cravings which is our only advantage over his island living. Every time he sends us photos, I would always say, “Please open the island. Let me go there.” Its neighbor, Siargao, had long been open before Dinagat decided to open its shores to non-residents.

So when my friend, Jen (who is Bryan’s best friend), invited me to join them in Dinagat (in particular, in Libjo, the town where Bryan works), I said yes! Finally!

This was my vantage point in the ferry going to Libjo.

We were already at sea when I got a call from my aunt that it was raining real hard in Butuan. She said that there was a low pressure area. She was worried about me crossing the Surigao Strait. Almost five months before this trip, Typhoon Odette happened so I understood the concern in my aunt’s voice. But where I was then, the sea was calm. I had to send her this photo to reassure her. Good thing that the mobile network was stable.

It did rain a bit but it did not dampen our trip. Look at this view. The weather was perfect.

We arrived at Libjo by mid-afternoon. My friend, Bryan, and his beautiful dog, Wolfie, waited for us. We were treated to a yummy and refreshing halo-halo.

Wolfie came with us to the resort we were staying.

We stayed at Luta’s Beach Resort. The resort has a building that can accommodate at least 8 adults which was perfect for our group.

Our accommodation has a beachfront. It was easy to watch over Wolfie and the kids.

We walked a bit to the other side of the resort to swim in the clear waters.

This is the sunset at Luta’s Beach.

The following day, we had breakfast at the beach.

The resort sent us grilled saang (conch shells or spider shells).

We eat this by taking out that meat…

…and dipping it in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and spices.

The day was young and we were off to another island. Bye, Luta’s Beach resort!

Hello, Pangabangan Island! Wolfie was raring to jump.

Our boat docked here.

This area used to have a wharf but Typhoon Odette destroyed it. This was in 2019

This is my favorite place in Libjo-the blue lagoon. Sounds like a Brooke Shields movie. (My age shows hahaha) No Brooke Shields in sight. Just us- equally beautiful in God’s eyes. *wink wink *

The Blue Lagoon is a body of blue-green water teeming with marine life. We took a raft to get to the deeper part of the lagoon.

I needed a pool noodle to swim. I think the pool noodle is a way better version of the usual life saver (aka tire interior hahaha) for non-swimmers.

Even Wolfie joined us in the raft.

I think we stressed him out. Whenever someone jumped off the raft to swim, Wolfie panicked and tried to save that person thinking that the person was drowning. Here’s Wolfie acting as lifeguard for everyone.

What a sweet, sweet dog!

We made the most of our time in the area by taking more photos.

All the swimming made us hungry. We sailed back to Libjo town proper and ate… lechon!

Our friend, Eireen, celebrated her birthday with her family in Libjo. I was really lucky to be invited to join this trip since I only met Eireen and her family during this trip. I was practically a gatecrasher. Haha!

The lunch venue was near the town square.

We went to another beach after lunch. I have only shells and corals to show for it. Sometimes you just enjoy the experience so much and just forget about the photos. And there are experiences you hope your friends do not remember. (hahaha Right, Amor? Just a little secret between travel mates.)

We stayed in the town proper on our second night. We strolled along the Libjo’s roads on our way to dinner at Eireen’s sister’s house.

This is where Bryan works.

This is Libjo’s municipal hall.

This is Libjo’s gorgeous sunset.

My trip roommate, Amor, enjoyed our walk in their boulevard. Libjo is getting back on her feet after the devastation from Typhoon Odette.

Libjo is easily one of my favorite destinations in the country. Truth be told, this was my third trip there and I will definitely go back since Bryan kept sending photos of some spots in Libjo that I have not visited.

Thank you to my wonderful travel buddies, our awesome host (Bryan) and the accommodating people of Libjo. I will be back!

catching up

Catching Up!

The pandemic really intensified my introversion but after nursing a cough in January and trying to isolate for long periods, I missed the outside world. I have slowly eased into going out and seeing people.

What better way to lure me out of my cave than the prospect of food. We went out to buy durian!

I had also a long overdue spa treatment with Mitzi . We went to eat arroz caldo and takoyaki at our favorite place after.

Lani came to cook us buntaa, a Butuanon crab dish.

I went out with friends to check out Malihao Forest in Bonbon.

I finally went out on Valentine’s day! Not on a date, though. Ha! Our friend got married on Valentine’s day and it was also a time for me to catch up with these group of friends since I have not seen them in almost a year.

We also continued the catching up until dinner because one friend did not prepare his shoes (please explain, Yoshi) for the wedding and missed the event. Another friend also only learned about it the night before and it was too late for him to file for leave from work so we met him after work.

My friend, Wilbert, was in town. Mitzi and Dinah wanted to show him what is in Claveria and I have not been there so I tagged along. Claveria is a beautiful mountain town in Misamis Oriental with Mt Balatukan mountain range as its hidden gem. There were different developments sprouting in the area- coffee shops, accommodations, gardens. I hope the people in the area benefit most in these developments and that the environmental impact of these developments was being thoughtfully considered.

Although it seems like everything’s back to normal, I do not go out every day. Much of my time is spent at home. Planning my next art piece, practicing some painting techniques and working on projects took much of my time. I have errands to run and bills to pay.

There are days that I leave my schedule open and let spontaneity carry the day. I have three stories to tell because I like to remember them and process what happened at the same time. Three characters from the three different stories have told me, “You better write about this day.” Flattered that they wanted to be exposed (hahaha) in my little space in the internet, here I am scrambling my memory of the moments.

Story Number 1: Gatecrashing

One fine Sunday morning, my cousin Azenith bombarded our family group chat with photos of food that she cooked since she would be having guests for lunch. They looked yummy but I did not insist going because the food may not be enough for her guests. Her brother, Arvin, thought otherwise. As I was about to change to my house clothes after attending Sunday mass, he convinced me to go to Doongan and just hang out in their brother’s home (Alan) which is beside Azenith’s home and bond with the niece and nephew. It was a spur of the moment notice. He said we would just surprise them. I just came from Sunday mass and in my Sunday dress. Off I went with Arvin.

And we were met with a surprise indeed.

The house was locked. The family went to the mall. Here I am sitting outside their house.

And it was raining. Such was our luck!

Azenith brought us food and we ate at the makeshift table and chairs outside the house. We looked like those uninvited party guests who were given food outside the venue. It was worth all the trouble because she gave me the best part of the dish.

This is paksiw ng mata ng isda. Paksiw is a vinegar-based Filipino dish. Mata ng isda is eye of a fish. I know it might be weird for some but I love these kinds of food- fish eyes, fish roe, pork and chicken innards, balut, chicken feet, etc.

The family came home after a few hours and they still caught up on us eating the food. They brought more food!

My niece showed me the toy her kuya got from the arcade game.

Hugs to the chef!

Mission accomplished! We achieve what we intended to do: eat well.

Story number 2: My much-loved umbrella.

I do most of my errands in the middle of the week. I avoid crowds and lines. It was an early Wednesday afternoon. I already finished my tasks for that day and I decided to drop by favorite takoyaki place for some food to go. It was past 1 PM and the place was almost empty except for these two! This was completely a chance encounter with Mitzi and Erns. (Oh, it was Ash Wednesday).

Both were almost done with their tasks for the day, too. We decided we hang out and catch up with our lives. It had been awhile since we last had a chitchat. We dropped by a bit at Erns office as she had some things to finish and we found another friend, Eulyn, there. She planned to go to a home store to check out some items for her house. We tagged along with her.

This is Erns trying to show stuff to Eulyn.

This is Mitzi and I just hanging out in one of the areas in the home store.

We went to the mall after.

We passed by some wall installation and had to take some photos.

We had dinner. Mitzi and Erns wanted to get a massage and I am not a massage kind of person so I went to the grocery while they were getting massages.

I was in the grocery when I realized I was no longer holding my umbrella. I know I had it when we had dinner because we used it to reserve seats. I was trying to think where I could have left it. I was buying takeout food when I got a text from Erns asking where I am. I had to asked her if they have my umbrella.

Translation: Hey, you guys got my umbrella. I am no longer holding an umbrella.

I sounded like I accused them of getting my umbrella. haha I missed the punctuation. The tone changed. If I had the question mark at the end, the translation would have been: “Hey, did you guys get my umbrella? I am no longer holding an umbrella.” I was thinking that Mitzi might have picked it up mistakenly. She was carrying a large bag. Hehehe

I suddenly remembered where I left it. I went to the rest room before going to the grocery and hanged it on a hook inside the cubicle door. I forgot to bring it when I finished using the toilet.

Just a little senior moment for me.

Later that night, when Erns sent photos from her phone, I got a reminder on how the day went. That is my umbrella. Hahaha!

Story number 3: Millennial bonding!

Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. My friends are these young people so who am I? A young person, of course! Truth be told, by the time I get my 20% discount card, they will still be at the peak of their careers and in pink of health. Ha! It is a wonder how I got along with these bunch when I am almost two decades their senior. Probably we meet halfway, they are wise beyond their years while I was stuck in my juvenile self. This I am sure, we all clicked and agreed to travel to Digos one March weekend.

I think I like this kind of traveling where all I have to do is pay for my share and show up. Ha! They all did the planning. You know you are traveling with a younger generation when you are given a 2 AM call time. Ha! I really showed my age by asking if it was safe to travel that early. I know some of my peers would ask the same thing for three reasons: security concerns, sleeping time, vision. The younger ones were more adventurous and in best of health with their future ahead of them while I worry about body aches, eyebags and hunger. I brought all my snacks from my stash like a certified tita.

Three friends took turns driving and all (except me) shuffled seats whenever drivers switched. I did not get special treatment for my age but for my condition. I have motion sickness. It is easier for me to get out of the car and throw up if I am seated near the right door.

By the time we arrived at the destination (Camp Sabros), we were already hungry and headed for lunch.

While waiting for the food to be served, we got ice cream first. Ha!

Our accommodation had a nice view of Mt Apo.

Much as I would like to just stare at the mountain, time is gold. We headed to the place that allowed us to do what we wanted to do that afternoon in the Apo- Talomo mountain range- swim! Ha!

Montefrio Garden Resort has an infinity pool that had this for a view.

The water in the pool was cold! It took a while before we acclimatize to low temperature. Eventually, we were able to adjust to the cold water.

We just stayed longer in the warmer part of the pool.

After we made the most of our pool time, we headed back to Camp Sabros and just chilled (literally). We huddled together to keep warm. Ha! That second floor unit was our accommodation.

Here we are in our jammies, chitchatting before we went to bed.

Before we checked out of Camp Sabros the following day, we needed fill our memory vaults with pictures. Off we strolled around the resort.

Our next stop was Jardin de Senorita, a flower farm.

They were telling me that only I, an artist who is fond of painting flowers, would be happy in this place. I was more interested in taking as much photos of the flowers than posing for pictures.

Sadly, it rained. We only got to take fewer photos than expected.

We also went to a cactus farm.

That night, we slept at the house of Pia’s brother in Davao City. We had samgyupsal for dinner. By the way, Pia makes authentic (and delicious) kimchi which she learned to make from her Korean hosts when she visited South Korea. Her pickled radish (danmuji) was also yummy. (I took a break from writing this post to message her to put me on the list of her next kimchi delivery. I also egged her to make danmuji. hehehe)

Pia’s brother’s family lives in this beautiful house. I love the design of their house- modern, minimalist, clean. More importantly, I love how the owners were so down-to-earth, kind and accommodating (pwede daw kami balik, guys!) and even entertaining us with funny and heartwarming stories about their lives. Plus points for them, they thought I belong to their age group.

Shout out to Rotchie Glen for the photos. He made me want to work harder to be able to buy the same phone (which I know I will hesitate to buy when time comes that I will have money hahaha; I will spend it for travel instead). Because I did not use my subpar phone to take photos, I did not have photos to show my aunts where I have been so I had to nag him to send the photos immediately.

The trip recharged me from my pandemic bubble. I realized I needed that trip to reenergize my body to this new life we have after a two-year slump.

A few days after the trip, I was out swimming with my cousins, nephew and niece.

March just passed by so quickly and it felt like we were slowly getting back to our routines just like a few years ago before the world slowed down.

I was able to force myself to paint some art studies for an exhibit. I still have to do more so I can finally decide on what pieces to make.

And I painted something to give to my friend, Erns, on her 46th birthday. I painted a piece based on a photo I took of her last year. I am glad she liked it. I also painted the used gift bag to hide my name written on it. Ha!

There were gatherings that I missed. I missed a cousin’s wedding ceremony and reception due to miscommunication and my introversion but I was in her virtual one. I even put on makeup. Ha! Here’s the proof:

Although I did miss a few gatherings for various reasons, I know there will be more of them in the future. For the ones I did not miss, I was happy to be there. It is nice to see people again!

Antipolo 01 (1)

Antipolo in a Day: Pinto Art Museum and Luljetta’s Hanging Garden Spa

After our trip to Baguio, my cousin, Azenith, and I stayed a little longer in Manila. My cousin has been working hard for two years straight and never had a decent vacation. I think she deserved a break and I had a free rein on where to go.  Manila is not really a perfect place to relax.  I never really adjusted to the traffic, pollution and the crowd of this megalopolis so I looked for places where we can conveniently spend a day to relax. I thought of Antipolo.

As a traveler, I always try to go to museums, visit art shows or watch theatre so Antipolo was the perfect place for me.  I have always wanted to see the Pinto Art Museum.  Azenith was game with whatever destination I choose. 

We stayed at an Airbnb in the Newport Area just across NAIA terminal 3. I think it is the most convenient place for non-Manila residents like me. There is a walkway towards NAIA 3 and there are many P2P buses at the terminal. For Antipolo, we had two options: take the NAIA 3 P2P bus to Ortigas and from Ortigas, take another P2P bus to Antipolo or take NAIA 3 P2P bus to Cubao and from Cubao, take the UV Express to Antipolo.  We missed the P2P bus for Ortigas  so we took the Cubao route. There was ample walking involved from the Araneta bus terminal (where the P2P bus driver dropped us) to the UV express terminal in Cubao. We were dropped at a side street near the Antipolo Church; we hailed a tricycle to bring us to Pinto Art Museum.

The museum grounds looked like I am in a hacienda in Mexico.  Notice the hand sculpture. Did you play that game as a kid, too?

And, sometimes, because of the white structures, the place looked Santorini-esque to me. But what do I know about architecture? All I can say is that the place was heaven for an art lover like me. 

The first painting that welcomed me to the museum was this massive piece entitled, Karnabal, from the Salingpusa Group. Salingpusa Group is a group of then amateur artists in the likes of Elmer Borlongan, Manny Garibay,  to name a few, who used to hang out at this Dr. Joven Cuanang’s property in Antipolo.  The good doctor would hold exhibits for these emerging artists then. Look at where they are now! These artists have now earned a place in Philippine contemporary art history. Thanks to Dr, Cuanang’s appreciation and support for Philippine art.

Shout out to this graffiti art because we were not those kids really. We come and go without warning.  Hahaha!

The museum housed a massive collection of art that I gave up taking photos or else it would take me the whole day to complete the tour.

Here are a few pieces that caught my camera.

This is Aiya Balingit’s “Bright, Cheerful and Pleasant Acts”.

This is Keiye Miranda’s “Intro the Realm of Consciousness”.  I love how we, as a viewer, would look up at the painting with a subject that is looking up.

This looks so familiar to me and when I looked at the label, I knew why.  It is because Arnica Acantilado’s work was part of the ManilArt2019 last October.  This is her “Dolls on the Landscape”.

I remember my favorite piece of art during ManilArt2019.  It was a painting by Efren Carpio depicting a child hold a santol with leaves growing in on ear. It spoke to me because I knew that old wive’s tale. These pieces from Demetrio de la Cruz had the same effect.  The box of shoes below is entitled, “Lolong and Loleng”. By the title, one immediately gets what it is all about. Lolong was the world’s largest crocodile in captivity that also died in captivity and these shoes are made of … take a guess. Yes, crocodile skin. On top of the “Lolong and Loleng” is a painting entitled “Holy Cow” by the same artist. If one looks closely at the painting, the frail cow has a monogram of a popular luxury brand on its skin with a handbag placed on a designer chair. Notice the skull of an animal.  These paintings made one think about the human acts that affect nature.

Pinto Art Museum has 7 galleries! Seven!  I only dream of putting up one small gallery for myself in my own house but a museum with seven galleries with massive collection of art owned by a private individual is incredible. 

This is the seventh gallery and construction is still on-going.

So huge.   Look how small I am! (This is a sentence I wanted to write for so long. Hahaha) 

There are installation pieces like this tens of thousands toy cars in one room.

More paintings are displayed at the mezzanine.

Thank you, Dr. Cuanang for supporting Philippine Art and building Pinto Art Museum!

I hope visit again soon and just spend a leisurely tour to view each art piece.

We only spent an hour or two in the museum because, in the afternoon, we went to Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens Spa. This resort has been on my radar for some time now. Facebook algorithm knows I am always on the lookout for nice places to visit.

From Pinto Art museum, we asked the tricycle driver to drop us near the Antipolo Church. We ate lunch at a local eatery.  After lunch, we hailed another tricycle for Luljetta’s Hanging Garden and Spa.

We availed of their day tour where we can access the different pools and jacuzzi.

We were given a robe to wear over our swimwear and a basket to hold our things. I did not bring slippers so I was given a pair to wear.

Our first stop was this area which was commonly photographed in many of the feeds that appear on my Facebook timeline.

It was the first week of February when we went. It was cold. And there were frog statues so I did not linger.  Ha!

I tried the fish spa. I lasted a few seconds before feeling ticklish.

Azenith was ticklish.

So we went to the infinity pool.

Look at those majestic views.

I hope the view remains green in the future. I can see some subdivision development. It is sad. It might not take long before this view will be replaced with concrete jungle. So we linger a little to store the moment in our memories.

Truth be told, it was still cold.

We need to look for some heated pools.  There were photo opportunities along the way.

We finally found a heated jacuzzi.  But there were couples in it so we waited for our turn.   There was a lounge area near the jacuzzi.   One couple left.  Then, I guess the couple who were left behind they felt awkward staying longer with two Titas as spectators. Ha! They left.  We had this jacuzzi just for the Titas. We stayed as long as we can here.

We left before we turned into stew.

I guess looking for another water feature/activity exposed us to the cold breeze because we tried the sauna next.

Then we took a last dip in the smaller infinity pool.

We called it a day by taking the free merienda that came with the day tour.

We waited for the shuttle that would take us to the reception area.

Off to the reception area!

Luljetta’s has a garden covered with umbrellas.

Outside the compound, we hired a tricycle to bring us to Robinsons Mall.  There was a P2P bus in that mall that will take us to Ortigas.

So here’s our P2P bus story.  We arrived at Ortigas a little past 6 PM.  The P2P bus for NAIA 3 already left so we decided to eat dinner in Galleria.  We read the sign in the bus stop that the bus arrives every 2.5 hours. Since the previous bus left at around 6pm, we expected the bus to arrive at 8:30 pm. To be sure, we started to wait for the bus at 8 pm.  Then 8:30 pm came, no bus.  It might be caught in traffic. Then, 9 pm came. We started to think if we should have booked a Grab earlier. We waited for an hour already. We should have thought this through. All my brain cells were left in Antipolo swimming into the cold and hot pools.  By 9:15 pm. the bus arrived. At last! As soon as we entered the bus, we were told that it would leave at 10 pm.  Oh, well. Lesson learned: Check the schedule. I remember also that the bus passes through all the airports with NAIA 3 as the last stop.  We anticipated the long commute. Because we chatted with the driver while waiting for the bus, he learned that we were staying at the Newport city area. When we passed by the area, he told us he would make a stop for us instead of us alighting at NAIA 3. It takes a little to be kind. Thank you, Mister driver.

We were dead tired when we arrived in our Airbnb.  Talk about forced relaxation the next day!

I love Antipolo. I should try to explore more of the Rizal area next time.

baguio blog (1)

My Three Trips to Baguio

Baguio, again? I got that reaction from friends and family. It is because in the span of 13 months, I have been to Baguio three times.

I went to Baguio at end of January 2019. At that time, I read reports about single digit temperatures and it really felt like that. It was that cold that I layered my clothes. Good thing it was a work trip so we stayed mostly indoors. We stayed in Baguio Country Club so staying indoors was not a problem since I got this view.

We had time to go to Mines View to shop for souvenirs and I bought some hand towels and jams.

When I posted a few photos of that trip, I got this comment from my friend, Wela.

Be careful what you wished for.

By March, there was a seat sale for a trip to Manila. It was only 1200++ round trip so off we booked that November Baguio trip to celebrate Shirly’s birthday. This was my second trip to Baguio for that period.

I was really looking forward to this trip because this was Wela’s first trip with friends and my first trip with both of them. Wela and Shirly are my longtime friends. They were my friends since grade school. Even when I went far, far away in high school, we kept in touch through letters. So this trip was special.

Because I am the artsy-fartsy friend, I need to visit something artsy during the trip. We went to BenCab Museum.

I have been to that museum before and I love it there. This is my dream if I have millions of pesos. I will build a gallery, cafe, studio with a nice garden. I put dibs on that idea.

And this is my beef with BenCab. I cannot afford anything I like in the museum but the entrance ticket and the meal in the cafe. Poor me!

We went to another artsy place. I have not been to this place before. This is the Tam-awan Village. The village features the rich culture of the Cordillera. This was also a nice inspiration to that gallery+studio+cafe+garden of my dreams.

Our driver suggested that we visit the Diplomat Hotel. I have no prior idea what the place is all about. It sounds like a spooky place to me but it was day time and Shirly who has been there did not look scared. She even told us that the courtyard was nice. I even had my picture taken at the courtyard.

The hotel was in ruins. If my memory serves me right, it used to be a monastery turned garrison turned hospital turned hotel turned government building and so on. My imagination did not run wild. Not until I posted my photo on Facebook and I get comments about its notoriety. I even watched a Jessica Soho feature and it was about a tourist who captured something on video while on that courtyard. Scary! Now that my innocence (ignorance) has been broken, I declare that that was my last trip to that hotel. Ha!

We went to the Baguio Botanical Gardens. I love flowers so this was a happy place. They have elephant statues which I think is better than riding those poor elephants in Thailand.

I posted this photo of me in the middle of these yellow flowers. My uncle commented in jest that there is a snake beside me.

Fast forward to February 2020, there is a snake beside me! There is an area in the botanical garden with all the Chinese zodiacs. Although I am surrounded by dragon-born friends, I was born on the year of a snake. I am a dragon at heart, snake by birth. Charots.

We also went to the strawberry farm in La Trinidad, ate ice cream and bought some souvenirs

We dropped by the colorful Stoboso houses.

In the evening, we went to eat some cake because it was Shirly’s birthday. We had strawberry shortcake from Vizco’s.

So everybody thought I was done with Baguio. Not quite. I got a message from Uncle Jing that he would be going home to the Philippines in 2020 to attend his 50th college homecoming. Uncle is the husband of my mother’s sister who lives in Canada. He is from Baguio. He would not be able to travel to Butuan to visit us so he suggested we go to Baguio instead. The easiest person to invite to Baguio is me and my cousin, Azenith. I already know how to go to Baguio and Azenith had too many leave credits. So off we went.

On February 1, 2020, Azenith and I traveled to Baguio. We flew to Manila, rode a taxi to PITX . PITX is the new Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange. The terminal is spanking new with modern amenities. It is like an airport terminal. There is a Solid North bus there that travels to Baguio non-stop.

It was already past 6pm when we arrived in Baguio. Look at our tired but happy faces!

We had dinner and went back to the hotel. (But at 9 p.m. , we wiggled our way to the night market at Harrison Road).

Our hotel was along Session Road so I woke up to this view every day in Baguio.

There was free breakfast in this hotel cafe.

And one can eat in this little terrace with this view. We didn’t though. The tables were too small for three people.

Our first day in Baguio was on a Sunday so we attended mass first. The cathedral entrance was a few steps (and three flights of stairs up! ha!) from the hotel.

Off we went to visit The Mansion…

… and Wright Park.

I saw paintings for sale at Wright Park. Should I start selling paintings this way in Guingona Park? Nah, the introvert in me can’t stand socializing with passersby.

Then, off to Mines View Park! I hoarded another set of hand towels. I think I have expressed before that there was nothing to see at Mines View Park. The view deck is narrow and crowded and the mountains there do not look magnificent but still I took a selfie because I wasted time to go up there. I might as well get something out of it.

It was Azenith’s first trip to Baguio so I brought her to the tourist traps. Ha! She looked stunning compared to my toothy grin.

Lunch was in the Vanilla Cafe at the Kamiseta Hotel. I read beforehand that Kamiseta Hotel serves buffet breakfast and lunch on weekends. Since we already have free breakfast at the hotel, I wanted to have lunch there. I wanted to see their sunroom with the colorful chairs and fancy decors that are easily associated with Vanilla Cupcake Bakery. If you happen to see their branches in Manila, this is the expanded version of the cafe.

This should have been my logo, don’t you think? Double K and a flower since I love botanical art. But then again, I use K squared for a logo because long before my math was at that level, my father already taught me what it meant and integrated it in my signature. Now, I multiply life by the power of two. Charots. (In case you do not know, it is a line from a song.)

We went to the botanical garden after. It was a quick walk from the Kamiseta hotel.

I want to have a canopy of bougainvillea in my dream garden. This is the inspiration.

On the second day of the trip, we went to Atok, Benguet. I wanted to see the Northerm Blossom Flower Farm. It was a Monday. I chose that day to avoid the weekend crowd but, alas, the farm was closed for maintenance every Monday. I did not know that. So, we went to other spots in Atok instead. We went to the highest point of the Halsema Highway. This used to be the highway with the highest altitude in the Philippines (until last year, the Kiangan-Tinoc-Buguias Road in Ifugao snatched that title).

This is the awesome sight from the view deck. Behind those clouds is Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon.

On my left is Mt Timbak.

We went to Bosleng Grotto after. The view was majestic- a far cry from the crowded Mines View Park.

On our way to the grotto, we passed by cabbage farms.

To maximize our trip since we were not able to see Northern Blossoms flower farm, we visited Haights Place. There were not much flowers so I insisted to have my picture taken among the snapdragons…

… and alstromelias.

This place is also where those cherry blossoms from Japan were planted. They are expected to bloom in a few years. I now have two reasons to go back to Atok- cherry blossoms and flower farm.

This trip was already my fourth trip to Baguio in my lifetime and I have not tried strawberry picking. Or should I say I do not have a photo of me picking strawberries until this time. Ha! Voila!

I spied another way of displaying and selling paintings.

After this, we drove back to Baguio city. We rested and took a stroll around Burnham.

The Panagbenga Parade was cancelled due to the coronavirus scare but the garden landscape entries were slowly being set up.

We had dinner and went back to the hotel to pack.

We left at 9 a.m. the next day.

Bye, Baguio! You are lovely. Hope to see you again someday!