Category: Places

Up in The Air

HIGHlights of yesterday’s Clark and Subic trip:

15th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival

That tradition of a skydiver bearing the Philippine flag while the National Anthem is being played still gets me.

The first time we came here a couple of years ago, not a single balloon properly inflated due to strong winds.  We were so happy to finally witness balloons in flight this time around!

Night Glow

Too bad the wind interfered again so there was no night flight, but at least we still got to see a bit of a night glow.  This trip definitely made up for the disappointment two years ago.

Subic Treetop Adventure

Superman Ride

Dream come true! I was finally able to fly…sort of.  It was also fun flying with travel buddy Farah.  Now I can’t wait to do an honest-to-goodness zipline!

Sunrise Flight

Here’s why I love 5.30am takeoffs:





Mantalinga island (just a kilometer from shoreline of Baybay Beach, Capiz)

Mantalinga island (just a kilometer from the shoreline of Baybay Beach, Capiz)



I’ve finally found my version of Luke’s Diner – minus Luke.  For those not familiar with it, Luke’s is the iconic diner in the TV series, Gilmore Girls.  It’s one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and I always wished that I had a Luke’s.

Mama Chit’s Coffee House is our neighborhood’s Luke’s Diner, though “Coffee House” is such a misnomer.  They don’t serve the usual coffee variants, and they don’t even have pastries.  It really is a diner.  The specialties are the grilled burgers and sandwiches.

Aside from the really yummy and tummy-filling cheeseburger, it is the decor that gives character to Mama Chit’s.  The interior is decorated in 60s vintage pop.  Music from the 60s (Beatles, yay!) also plays in just the right volume – not too loud to get in the way of conversations, but loud enough to really complement the ambiance.  




One wall is decorated with large portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley surrounded by black and white photos of Old Manila.  The opposite wall and the rest of the diner contain posters and other 60s-70s pop culture relics.





The counter:







I miss the old black phone!  It was where I first learned numbers, but no one told me if I ever counted “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0”.  😀

The food scene in our neighboorhood is booming, with establishments that combine good food and perfect ambiance.  We have the Italian Bellini’s, Filipiniana Cafe Kapitan, and now the vintage 60s Mama Chit’s – all in the same street, within 3 blocks of one another.

To the mountains!

I’ve already written that I’ve been sadly neglecting the North in my travels around the Philippines, so now I’ve done something about it.  I’m off to Sagada in May, around the time of my birthday.  It’s with a tour group this time around (but still with perennial travel buddy, Tin), but it promises to be the different kind.

My last “mountain” trip was when our boss at the graphic design agency signed us up for a 4-hour jungle trek in Subic.  I don’t know if that really counts, since it’s not actually a huge or major mountain.  So, if we go by the term “mountain trip” in the strictest sense, then my last one was back in 2004 at the PNOC Geothermal Field near Mt. Apo.  I loved that place.

I love mountains because of the cooler climate and my fascination with heights.  In fact, I’ve always imagined my dream house to be in a place where I have the beach as my frontyard and the mountains as my backyard. 🙂  Still looking for that perfect place…

Once again, a storm had an impact on our beach trip.  This time around, it was the lingering devastation of last year’s Typhoon Frank.  Broken piers and rock-littered shores greeted us.  On the positive side, it gave the island a more romantic quality.

Kupo Wharf, Brgy. San Isidro, Guimaras

Kupo Wharf, Brgy. San Isidro, Guimaras

Western Pier, Nagarao Island

Western Pier, Nagarao Island


Guimaras had to endure two major catastrophes in 4 years – the Petron oil spill and Typhoon Frank.   But she survives, with an altered beauty but still charming, nevertheless.

The Journey to Nagarao

Nagarao is a private island, one of several tiny islands around mainland Guimaras.  Iloilo City is the gateway to Guimaras.  A ferry from Fort San Pedro takes you to Jordan Wharf in mainland Guimaras in less than 15 minutes.  From there, it’s an hour’s ride through narrow rough roads (with short stretches of paved portions) to Kupo Wharf in Barangay San Isidro.  Finally, it’s another 10-minute pump boat ride to Nagarao island.  Be prepared for really roughing it.  In the piers, expect to walk down steep stone steps carved out of a seawall and upon rock piles that resulted from a typhoon’s fury.

On The Island


That is one of the first things you see upon docking on the Western Pier.  We were greeted by Helen Stummer, the owner of the island/resort.  She’s a typical Ilongga, very friendly and charming.  It turned out that we were the only guests in the resort.  Well, there’s the German, Hors, but he doesn’t really count as a guest since he owns a cottage there and comes every year.

There is no electricity in Nagarao.  The lights are solar-powered, and a generator is used from 6pm to 6am, so you could still have air conditioning in your room at night should you prefer to do so.  It is very quiet around the island.  The only sounds come from the wind (and it is very windy!) and the ocean – and the occasional chickens and insects.

The light gold sand is fine enough, and there are plenty of beautiful shells to collect.  It is not as ideal for swimming like Boracay or the other sandy beaches in the Philippines.  You really have to wait for high tide, and then there are the rocks.  Not really sharp, but slippery especially the moss-covered ones.  We were only able to swim on our second morning, since the first one was spent settling in and exploring, while the last one was spent packing since we had to leave the island by 10am.

It was a lazy vacation for us.  I wrote in an earlier post that I’m not looking for adventure on this one, and indeed, we didn’t have any – except for the journey itself.  It was heaven to simply wake up at dawn, watch the sun come up, eat scrumptious meals, spend the rest of the day in beach and around the island, read and nap on a hammock, watch the sunset, and have a good night’s sleep.

To be continued…

Back from the island

Tanned and just a tad heavier. 😀  It was indeed 3 days of peace and quiet – and lots of food!.  We practically had the entire island to ourselves.  The only other guest was Hors, a retired 70-year-old German who actually owns a cottage in the resort.  More stories and photos after I’ve sorted them out.

Oh, and the island I’m writing about is Nagarao in Guimaras.  Here are some photos for now:


Lunch for two!

Lunch for two!



Bellini’s Marikina

Something’s making me (and my tummy) very happy! 😀 Bellini’s, that authentic Italian restaurant at the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao is now actually, truly in Marikina.  And it’s just literally around the corner from our house.  Bellini’s Marikina branch opened just last week.  Finally, a good pasta and pizza restaurant VERY NEAR where I live.

It’s funny how my dad and I got to try it out.  We had already planned to eat there one of these days, but the day – er, the night – came sooner than expected.  We got locked out last Monday when our maid attended the 9pm Simbang Gabi, leaving shortly before we arrived home.  My dad just came back from the 8pm Mass and I just arrived from work.  We both didn’t have our keys with us.  Since I badly needed a bathroom and was very hungry as well, we proceeded to the nearest restaurant, which was Bellini’s.

We ordered Pesto and Penne Arrabiata.  Both were good, but the Pesto was just a tad too salty.  The Marikina branch is managed by the son of the owner.  He is a nice Italian gent, with a very personal approach.  He makes it a point to talk to the diners, help out with unfamiliar menu items, and ask for feedback.  The rest of the staff are also friendly and competent.  The prices of the pasta dishes are in the P220-P350 range, pretty much the average for Italian restos here in Metro Manila.

I can’t wait to try out their pizzas and other dishes next time.  I’m so glad to have quick access to my favorite Margherita pizza. 😀

Bellini’s Marikina is at J.P. Rizal St., near the market, Krung Thai and Johnny’s Fried Chicken.  Telephone number is 646-5412.

There are only two things (barring an emergency) that would make me willingly get up from bed at the crack of dawn – an early morning departure for an out-of-town trip, and a countryside, mountain or ocean sunrise.

One of my Dumaguete rituals is to rise at dawn, watch the sunrise at the Boulevard (in front of Bethel Guest House), take a solitary walk, and then have breakfast (again at Bethel). This has become my favorite part of the day in the city. I thoroughly enjoyed this ritual when I was there last month. While Jeff and Trish caught up on their sleep after sunrise at around 6 am, I walked the length of the Boulevard from the lighthouse up to Silliman Hall. I turned left there, stopping at the corner of Hibbard Avenue. There were practically no passing vehicles, so I was able to stand right in the middle of the street and take a photo of the Silliman University entrance. It felt so good to do that in an intersection that would otherwise have been busy at any other time in the day.

I walked back to the hotel, only to find Jeff and Trish still sound asleep. I tried going back to sleep as well, but I was too invigorated by the walk. I was also feeling the beginnings of a headache (which usually happens when I wake up earlier than usual), so I grabbed my book and headed to the hotel cafe. I ordered coffee and toast and had a great quiet hour just reading, seated at a table facing the boulevard. All that time I was thinking, “Ahh, this is the life!” 😀

I love photographing the sunrise at the Boulevard because of how all the elements come together – the sunbeams falling on the stones in the water, light falling on the silhoutte of the trees, the combined reflection of the glowing horizon and lamp lights on the water by the pier, and yes, even the dark clouds. I also like watching the city gradually come to life.  I love observing the locals, sometimes even imagining myself to be one of them someday.

All of these make it worth the very early start to the day.  Here are some images from my sunrise-watching and early morning walk:

Sunrise Boaters

Sunrise Boaters

Dawn Lights

Dawn Lights

Colors of Dawn

Colors of Dawn






Yes, I’m claiming it as my own. I went to Dumaguete for a fifth visit, with officemates Jeff and Trish time around. It was a very relaxing trip – aimless, even. We had no prepared itinerary whatsoever. Well, except for a loose food itinerary, hehe. Trish and I had our must-eats, and we got to eat them all. We had our common danggit, budbud kabog and sans rival. Aside from that, Trish had her Persian Palate and Mamia’s, and I had my Chicken Inato and native tsokolate.  Jeff eventually had his own food discovery – Hoy Lugaw!  What initially caught his attention were the seats, which were actually inverted casseroles, complete with blackened bottoms.  Then he saw the name.  He vowed to try it out the following morning, and so he did – and actually liked the lugaw (rice porridge).

One surprise for me was the Body and Sole Spa at a new location (near Chin Loong).  Their previous site burned down and I never found out whether they rebuilt or transferred to a new place.  I was also surprised that the full body massage is still at P250 even after four years!

Of course, we took Jeff on an obligatory tour of the city’s landmarks, starting with what else – the boulevard!  Then we went to Silliman University, the Cathedral, the bell tower, and the Provincial Capitol.

We had a relaxing and fun time at Silliman.  Oddly enough, it was my first time to actually set foot inside the campus.  We went to Silliman Hall, then decided to just hang out under one of the big old trees in the field behind the building.  We played an alphabet game where we had to supply words from A to Z to match a specific category.  We would always get stumped when it comes to Q, X and Z, but those were also the funniest and most fun letters to do.

Under the trees at Silliman University

Under the trees at Silliman University

We also hung out for quite a while at the benches on the garden in front of the Capitol.  We stopped there on our way to Sidlakang Negros for the Buglasan Festival.  (More on the festival on another blog post.)  It was actually my first time to visit the Capitol, though I’ve always passed by the site on previous visits.  I love the perfect alignment of the park, the Capitol, and the Cuernos de Negros mountain range behind it.

This trip wasn’t as activity- and adventure-filled as my other travels, but I liked it because what I need most right now is a total relaxation getaway.  So even if sometimes we would just take long naps inside the hotel room or just laze under a tree, at a park or the boulevard, everything was still worth the trip.  In Dumaguete, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts, but hard to get lost in your way.  The city is my perfect place for just walking around, hanging out under the trees, inhaling fresh air, and smelling the tang of the sea.  And once again, I vowed to come back soon while taking one last walk down the boulevard before heading to the airport.

Our definitive Boulevard images:

Happy to be back

Happy to be back

Lazy Sunday

Lazy Sunday

Sunrise Leap

Sunrise Leap

SM City Marikina

After singing ourselves hoarse Saturday last week, Anna and I proceeded to the new SM Marikina in a spur-of-the moment decision.  We just wanted to see what stores and restaurants would be very convenient for us.  Last Friday evening, we decided to go back and have dinner at The Old Spaghetti House.  Finally, there’s a decent pasta restaurant in the area!

What impressed me most about this mall is the design.  It doesn’t look like an SM mall!  I especially love the façade from the inside.  Anna calls it the Marikina City Airport.

There’s a good number of shops, but their floor areas are smaller than usual.  The store that really got me excited was Power Mac Center!  There’s no opening date yet, but it’s really there, right at the corner of the Cyberzone entrance.  And speaking of Cyberzone, this one beats the one in Megamall, design and lighting-wise.  I hope they don’t eventually clutter it with too many kiosks.

Here are the photos:

Lobby a.k.a. Marikina City Airport

Lobby a.k.a. Marikina City Airport

Kinda looks like Shangri-La Plaza

Kinda looks like Shangri-La Plaza

Ceiling Details

Ceiling Details

Power Mac Center

Power Mac Center



Public transport routes

Public transport routes